A Yearly Rewind

Hi friends!

Did you have a wonderful holiday? Isn’t this vacation the best? It’s flying by at a rate far too quickly for my liking, but I am nevertheless enjoying the chances to spend time with friends and family, read books aplenty, and plan for the coming year – I do love any opportunity to organize :)

With the start of 2017, however, is also the chance to reflect on the previous year. 2016 was a whirlwind, and a rather fun one at that, but I’ll admit, I’m ready to start anew. And so, I’ll keep this introduction brief; I’ve simply listed a few of my favorites forms of media from the past several months – a “rewind,” if you will. What made your year special?

2016-booksB O O K S: I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to in 2016 – that’s a junior and senior year workload for you – but I still found a number of stories that warmed my heart, prompted conversation and thought, and made their ways to my favorites shelf.

Additionally, the time I devoted to my assignments and extracurriculars left less time for my regular schedule of reviews, and consequently, I’m not feeling as excited about my typical “style,” so to speak, of reviewing. I’m still working through how and how often to talk books on Ciao Bella, but know that the eight above have all earned my full recommendation, published review or not!

{Listed: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie Sue Hitchcock, You in Five Acts by Una LaMarche, Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas, The Lonely City by Olivia Laing, The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar, and True Letters from Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan}

2016-moviesM O V I E S: My year in reading may not have been remarkable, but my year in movies certainly was! My sister and I made an effort to finally watch the movies that had long been on our list to see, as well as make it to the theater for highly anticipated titles.

It seems I have a soft spot for films with excellent soundtracks {just look to gems Sing Street, La La Land, and The Last Five Years to see why}, as well as historically based movies: Love and Friendship is a delight; Brooklyn lived up to its high praise; and A Royal Night Out is a hidden treasure on Netflix. You can be sure I’ll be watching these again in the coming year.

{Listed: Brooklyn, Zootopia, Sing Street, The Last Five Years, A Royal Night Out, La La Land, Love and Friendship, and Southside with You}

2016-musicM U S I C: I felt I had many a terrific discovery in music this past year too! It helps that I finally set up a Spotify account for myself {I know – I’m years late to the party}, making listening to my favorite tracks all the easier while studying, baking, or working out.

If you didn’t know of my love for theater already, I think the albums above make it clear: the soundtrack for Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is terrific; I adore any and all songs from Waitress, and I could listen to the Dogfight tracks for days on end. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed the songs from singers Leslie Odom Jr. and Andra Day. Is it bad that I still want to listen to Simply Christmas into the month of January?

{Listed: The Hamilton Mixtape, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, Solange Knowles’ A Seat at the Table, Leslie Odom Jr.’s Simply Christmas, Dogfight, Beyonce’s Lemonade, Waitress, and Andra Day’s Cheers to the Fall}

2016-television-showsT E L E V I S I O N: Finally, if you’re need of a television show recommendation, not to worry, I have plenty. I typically don’t watch episodes the same night they air, so streaming proved mighty useful, allowing me to catch up with my favorite programs in my pockets of free time.

A few highlights: I fell in love with New Girl, a mere six seasons after it first premiered, and laughed my way through the hilarious Jane the Virgin. I also realized why Shonda Rhimes’ shows receive so much praise after binging Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder in the winter. And Grease Live! deserves a shout-out because it had me smiling from beginning to end – I look forward to FOX’s next televised event!

{Listed: This is Us, How to Get Away with Murder, New Girl, Grease Live, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane the Virgin, Scandal, and Quantico}

Have a lovely start to your 2017!
Bella

July 2016 Monthly Recap

Hi!
Monthly RecapHappy August, friends! How’s life? This start to the new month begs the question: where has summer gone? While I still have several weeks until I head back to the classroom , I feel as if I just wrapped up my junior year – and now I’m working on my college essays and opening a new planner! Fortunately, I think the next few months have plenty of fun in store. Before summer slips through our fingers, though, I wanted to give a proper recap to July; I’ve skipped over the past few months so a recap post is long overdue. What are your plans for August?

Poison is Not Polite{Find intelligent detectives, charming characters, and a mansion setting in Robin Stevens’ adorable newest release.}

Reads: Book reviews have been sporadic and spaced out throughout the summer, so excuse the mash-up of posts from May, June, and July! From a touching, well-written memoir to a funny and heartwarming YA anthology, good books were aplenty – and made writing reviews all the more fun.

  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi | “Kalanithi achieved his dream of writing a complete work, but he passed before he could see and touch a finished copy. What Kalanithi proves to be meaningful through it, though, is something I think he’d take pride in: deeper conversation on life and death and the relationships among us all.”
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins | “This anthology nails depictions of the summertime. Not all the stories are hits, but as a whole, they are a terrific option for anyone seeking a summery escape.”
  • Poison is Not Polite by Robin Stevens | “With or without the well-written case, I could easily see budding detectives and avid readers devouring this book in one sitting, but even I found it hard to put it down once I was invited into Fallingford Mansion – a testament to the novel’s addictive nature if I ever saw one.”
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord | “[Lord] weaves details together to evoke the five senses, painting pictures of a bonfire on the beach, a moonlit dinner party, and open pottery sessions. In other words, she makes it easy to immerse oneself in the charming town of Verona Cove.”
  • Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee | “I enter contests on a whim, happy to win any book I have interest in, but I’m oh-so delighted to have Gemini on my shelves, as I have a feeling Clara and Hailey will last in my memory for months to come.”

July BooksFrom day trips across New England to afternoons outside on the porch, I’ve been lucky to have so many opportunities to read in July! It was a rare month where I have something good to say about all ten books, but if I had to pick favorites from the bunch, I’d give the title to hidden gems True Letters from a Fictional Life, a compelling coming out story, and The Square Root of Summer, an interesting twist of physics in a contemporary narrative. I have my fingers crossed I find August’s pile just as good.

The Cookies and Cup CookbookEats: The summer heat isn’t very friendly to the oven, so I haven’t posted a recipe in recent months! I did, however, receive The Cookies and Cups Cookbook as a birthday present, and I’m so excited to experiment with Shelly’s recipes; I already tried one – the cookies and cream cookies – with my sister and friend, and the family gave it a thumbs-up.

Jen Sievers{I love the bright colors in Jen Sievers’ abstract art collection.}

MoreOutside of reviews and recipes, I have plenty to share! For the bookworms, I listed the beach reads I can’t wait to get to – complete with matching swimsuits – as well as the novels I want to read before the year ends in two new Top Ten Tuesdays; for the artists, I posted yet another edition of Eye on Art {get a preview above} and a summery version of Picture Perfect. In earlier birthday fun, I shared some of the items I was crushing on – catch them all HERE – and finally, you can take a peek at my summer list for the year HERE.

Smitten Kitchen Chocolate Chip Cookies{via Smitten Kitchen}

Favorites: Whether you need something to brighten your day or something to keep you thinking, I have a few pieces picked out! Here are my recommendations from around the web.

  • Take a peek at the newly redesigned Smitten Kitchen website and bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies at the same time! The five-inch treats look scrumptious, and I’m looking forward to baking them come the fall.
  • Topaz’s writing is magic, a skill she demonstrates in her blog posts, her free-write pieces, and most recently, in her poem collection, Heaven or This. I’m all about supporting other bloggers in their writing endeavors – particularly when they’re as talented as Topaz! – so give it a download HERE.
  • Jo’s Motherhood Around the World posts are such an interesting glimpse into cultures outside of the United States. While each interview is biased to a certain degree, I look forward to reading them, like this recent take on parenting in Iceland, all the same.
  • There’s no hiding that writer’s block makes writing anything tough, let alone a book review! I’ve bookmarked Emily’s post, complete with nine suggestions on how to start a review, for the next time I stare at a blank screen with nothing coming to mind.
  • Finally, I loved reading this interview between author Megan Abbott and blogger Kelly Jensen. So many excellent points were made, convincing me to grab You Will Know Me next time I’m at the library!

August Looking Ahead{via My Cute Graphics}

Looking Ahead: I think I will finish my summer off on the best note! This coming weekend brings four more and the final performances of You’re Perfect, I Love You, Now Change at my local community theater where I’m stage managing; I start my job at a new ice cream shop downtown; and I have plenty of outings and books to get to before I start my senior year {and college stress!} in September.

Have a lovely Tuesday!
Bella

April 2016 Monthly Recap

Hello friends!
Monthly RecapHappy May! How are you? Celebrating the arrival of a new month? Enjoying a tasty breakfast? Listening to Lemonade on repeat? {I’m with you there}. This weekend has been a welcome chance to catch my breath – I like my down time when things get busy – and I’m excited to have a quiet Sunday to kick off what is sure to be a wonderful month. April, of course, can’t go by without a brief recap; these small trips down memory lane allow me to share the posts and highlights of the past few weeks. How is your spring coming along?

The Haters{With hit-or-miss humor and a jumbled plot, Jesse Andrews’ sophomore novel, The Haters, sadly fell short of my expectations.}

Reads: My book reviews will get back on track someday soon – I have my fingers crossed for the start of summer vacation – but in the meantime, it’s best to focus on the novel I did review: Jesse Andrews’ The Haters. I found it a disappointment, but as I wrote in my post, “that’s not to say another reader won’t fall in love…  music experts will appreciate the jazz references and industry jokes, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl enthusiasts will find comfort in Andrews’ writing, [and] readers in need of a lighthearted novel will enjoy Wes’ narration.” If its summary sparks your interest, I’d recommend you take a peek.

April 2016 BooksApril vacation proved beneficial to my reading schedule, allowing me to finish six books in the time that would have otherwise been dominated by studying for those pesky AP exams. All of the books in the bunch, which included the fun Sherlock-inspired romp A Study in Charlotte and the harrowing collection of short stories, I See Reality, were incredibly well-written – so much so that picking a favorite would be impossible! Here’s hoping that May’s novels will be just as good.

Cinnamon Crinkle CookiesEats: I only posted one recipe in April, but if my family’s compliments are any indication, Cinnamon Crinkle Cookies is a recipe worth making again and again. Due to everything from the deep cinnamon notes to the delicate dusting of sugar, I wouldn’t be surprised if these cookies earned the accolades of your household too.

Picture Perfect 05{I’d buy any house with a garden as pretty as the one pictured above.}

More: Features more your thing? I have plenty to offer. In a trio of art-related posts, you’ll find: a new edition of Eye on Art, featuring the work of talented illustrators and painters; another round of Font Freebies, because I have yet to find someone who can deny a pretty typeface; and a springy Picture Perfect, for the shoppers and art lovers. I also posted a Do Tell on bookish buzzwords – the words or phrases that make a novel an automatic must-read – if you want to join the conversation.

Studio DIY{via Studio DIY}

Favorites: If your Sunday plans exist of nothing more than catching up on blog posts over a cup of coffee, I think you’re in good company. Here are a few of the posts, articles, and sites I bookmarked throughout the month.

  • Breakfast is, by far, the best meal of the day, a fact illustrated no better than Sarah in her recipe for Hummingbird Pancakes. I’m tempted to run to the store for pineapples and bananas to make a batch in my own kitchen!
  • Turing your handwriting into a font, as explained in this handy-dandy Rookie piece, is far easier than it sounds – and plenty of fun too! Whether it becomes your new font of choice for essays or projects or simply remains on your computer, unused, having your own typeface will, at the very least, be an interesting conversational topic when the weather gets boring.
  • While my sophomore English class may care to disagree, I think there is no finer writer of witty romance than Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is a classic beloved by many, myself included, so I look forward to reading the P&P adaptation Eligible. Tiff’s review has me thinking I’ll enjoy it.
  • Free downloads and easy crafts are right up my alley, so is it any wonder that I fell in love with these printable notebook covers from Studio DIY? I’m an advocate for decorating office supplies, but the uses of these patterns are endless.
  • I love the idea behind 12 Kinds of Kindness, a social experiment developed by two NY-based designers in an effort  “to open [their] hearts, eyes, and minds.” The project wrapped up a few weeks ago, but their website offers plenty of gems to explore and ponder.
  • Moodboards are my idea of fun, and am I happy that Xan agrees! Her tips on creating book-themed aesthetics are top-notch, and I can’t wait to give them a whirl myself {The Penderwicks begs to be put into visuals}.
  • Finally, cutie Renee had me dreaming of summer when she posted a stylish shirt-shorts combo earlier in the spring. Her patterned shorts pair perfectly with the dotted white top – the popsicle only finishes the outfit off!

May Looking Ahead

{via My Cute Graphics}

Looking Ahead: May is looking good: I start attending rehearsals for my school’s production of Footloose tomorrow; I wrap up my AP courses soon, leaving nothing but projects until the end of the year; and I have prom coming up in just a few short weeks! Of course, what’s most important is the release of Morgan Matson’s new novel – I’m an impatient fan, so I hope to purchase it as soon as it hits shelves :) What’s planned for your May?

Have a terrific rest of your weekend!