May 2017 Hiatus

Hi friends!

May 2017 HiatusHow are things? Terrific, I hope. I’m popping in to share a short announcement: I’ll be taking a brief blogging break! So what does that mean for Ciao Bella? While posts have been sporadic throughout the spring, I’ll officially be on hiatus for a few more weeks, with new content returning Tuesday, May 30. It’s my hope that after my final spurt of senior activities {prom, spring musical, Top Ten Breakfast, and the like}, I can devote plenty more time to both blogging and reading, hobbies I’ve sorely missed over the past several months.

In the meantime, I wish you all the most wonderful May and a happy spring! :)

Pros and Cons / Geekerella

Hello friends!

Pros and ConsHow are things? Doesn’t it feel like April has just zipped by? I return to school today after a wonderful spring break spent with friends and family, and it’s now only a month away until the last day of school, a fact that is all sorts of exciting for this graduating senior. As much as I can’t wait for the spring musical and other end-of-the-year events, I’m also looking forward to the lazy summer days that allow a bit more time for reading and blogging! We’re long overdue for a catch-up—I have a “Currently” post slated for later in the week—but in the meantime, I wanted to share a review of an adorable new release, Ashley Poston’s Geekerella. What have you been reading lately?

Geekerella

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win… unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. {Goodreads}

P R O S
+ A fun-loving plot that embraces modern fan culture Looking at conversations on social media, the latest products that fly off the shelves, or even the most recent issues of Entertainment Weekly, and it’s clear: fandom has a heavy influence on pop culture. And in this lies Geekerella‘s biggest strength: that it embraces and praises the idea of modern fandom to its full extent. For those of us who do not participate—or perhaps better said, don’t go to the extremes—in fandom, I think it is easy to write off the cults, contests, and conventions as “nerdy” and nothing more, but Poston paints a bigger {and better!} picture through the passion and love that Elle and Darien share for Starfield. It’s a love letter to fan culture, with references to fandoms that exist outside of the novel, and who could say no to that?

+ Use of a classic story as inspiration, not dictation As the name suggests, Geekerella is inspired by the beloved fairy tale, Cinderella. It’s a classic story used time and time again as inspiration for new material, but what I appreciated with Poston’s take is that she never allows it to dominate the narrative between Elle and Darien. Their relationship, in other words, is not driven by what the plot of Cinderella dictates, but rather, what feels most natural to their characters. I applaud Poston for flexing that skill, as it’s hard to come by among veteran authors and even harder to master with only two published novels under your belt.

Realistically drawn teenage protagonist and supporting cast Finally, it’s all too frequent of an occurrence in YA for the teenagers to read false, as if the author modeled their characters only after the portrayals of high school seen on television. This, fortunately, wasn’t a problem here: Elle is a sweetheart with concerns and complaints known by many an adolescent; Sage’s sharp sense of humor mirrors that of many of my peers; and even Darien, who has a job few teenagers can share, was drawn realistically, right down to his worry over whether or not he texted the right thing. Such attention to realism makes up for any moments of disbelief and furthermore, the strength in the protagonists’ character development complements the fun, fandom-loving plot.

C O N S
The story could further improve with more depth. The area where Geekerella might benefit from improvement is in its sense of depth. I love a lighthearted story as much as the next person, but it should never lose its purpose in the fun. I don’t think this is problem unique to Geekerella, however, as I believe it frequently strikes adaptations {it’s easier to go light when using a story with such a rich history}. With that said, Geekerella remains a delight. We need more novels that explore and share in fandom, because if there is anything the young adult book industry needs to learn, it’s that readers like to see themselves reflected on the page.

Have a terrific start to your week! :)

High Five / 13

Hi friends!

High Five 13
Happy Sunday! How was your week? Are you finding time to read and relax? I have a few assignments to wrap up and a number of emails to catch up on, but my Sunday otherwise looks quiet, a welcome pace after a busy week at school. All that said, it’s been a few weeks since I last shared a High Five – we’re long overdue for a chance to catch up! Here are a few highlights from my March, but tell me first, what’s new on your end?

[1] To start, if you’re in need of a new artist to add to your spring playlists, let me recommend my current favorite: Nadia Reid, a talented singer and songwriter from New Zealand. I stumbled upon her second album, Preservation, earlier this month, and it was, as they say, love at first sight. Taking an alternative approach to the folk genre, Reid lends her gorgeous, haunting voice to each track, including my favorites “Richard” and “Te Aro.” Her first album, Listen to Formation, Look for the Signs, is just as good, and both, I’ve found, are perfect to listen to while baking or studying. In short, she deserves a listen – or more! What music have you been enjoying lately?

[2] My sister and I are slowly, but surely, making our way through this past season’s set of Oscar nominees: Arrival was a stunning depiction of language and science, Loving brought history to life through a stellar cast, and Moonlight, as promised to us, was nothing short of incredible. Our latest pick? Jackie, the biopic that takes audiences into the life of Jackie Kennedy in the week following her husband’s death. Starring Natalie Portman as Jackie herself, the film deserves the high praise it has received; the costumes and sets are both impeccable, the cinematography had my eyes glued to the screen, and Portman carries the story with a breathtaking performance. I want to watch it again to catch the little details, but after that, it’s on to Lion. Have you seen Jackie?

[3] If I’m not in a show, the next best thing is seeing the work of my pals who are! A number of my friends were cast in a local production of My Fair Lady, the classic musical that follows Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle and phonetics professor Higgins. I haven’t seen many musicals outside of the contemporary realm, and so, I was curious to see how they would pull it together. I needn’t had feared; the company never fails to put on a good show, and this one was no exception, with high-energy numbers, a neat set, and terrific leads {I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have “With a Little Bit of Luck” stuck in my head all day}. Furthermore, seeing the story on stage has me wanting to watch the film adaptation once more. Thankfully, I’m never one to turn down an Audrey Hepburn movie night :)

[4] I too was recently involved in a show: Eurydice, my school’s one-act play festival entry. The cast and crew competed in the semi-final round among several other talented schools last weekend, and though we didn’t move on, we all enjoyed making friends with students who love theater just as much as we do. For me, it was a bittersweet end to an activity that defined my four years of high school {we former directors are all above}, telling of how quickly this school year is going by! It wasn’t the only sign that senior year is entering its end: I was accepted into one of my top schools this past week {Go Ephs!}, my friends and I have picked out our prom dresses {I have this floral piece now hanging in my closet}, and my fellow class officers and I are already discussing our unofficial traditions {Senior Skip Day, anyone?}. With the last day of school only two months away, I’m doing my best to soak each and every memory in.

[5] Finally, if you have an hour to spare today, consider reading the first issue of Stay Bookish, a new online magazine devoted to YA literature. I was delighted to join the staff – headed by the wonderful Hazel – as a designer, and I was even more excited to see the hard work of the entire team come together! I don’t want to speak for the entire group, but I certainly had a blast working on it, and with everything from an interview with Becky Albertalli to a playlist based on this spring’s releases, I believe there’s an article in there for every bookworm. Rehearsals and homework prevented me from designing more than a few articles this time around, but I look forward to contributing more for our second edition. In the meantime, do you have any zine recommendations?

Have a lovely rest of your weekend!
B