Friday, April 18, 2014

The SUNNY DAY: A GEOGRAPHY of KARAOKE, GREAT with FAMILY & FRIENDS

I was scrambling for some way to connect all the events that have transpired so far since last Friday in the title of this post, and this was the best I could come up with. It's been a busy week, in spite of the not-so-great weather we've been having. (Can we take a moment to pause and state the obvious: It's freezing. It's not warm. It's NOT FAIR.) 

Ahem. Anyway, like I said, it's been a busy week, so I'm just going to break it down for you all real quick today so you can see what I (and by default, my friends/roomies) have been up to!

SUNNY DAY

Last Saturday, the weather was absolutely glorious. We knew we couldn't spend the day just cooped up at home doing nothing! 

Looks like summer! (Also, hi Ephy!)
To make the most of the weather, we headed over to Sheep Meadow in Central Park for a spontaneous picnic-slash-soccer session (for Mel, Jaymee & Ephy)-slash-reading session (for me). It was just really nice to lay out in the sun, and everyone who was around seemed to be in such wonderful, bright moods too. 

lazing about on the picnic blanket

Orange you glad it's time for some grilling?

After lazing about in the warmth for a while, we decided to head on over to E's apartment for some grilling time. We picked up ingredients at Fairway, and us girls snacked on chips and dip while Ephy fired up the grill to make some really good cream cheese-filled pepper wrapped in bacon thing, and some citrusy shrimp. I stayed till the sun started to go down, and then I left for home.

GEOGRAPHY

On Tuesday, during a day that was cold and rainy, I met up with Estelle & Rachel in front of McNally Jackson. We popped into MacBar for a quick bite before heading back to the bookstore in time for Jennifer E. Smith's event for the launch of her newest novel, The Geography of You and Me. I was particularly excited about this event because I'd enjoyed the book and couldn't wait to snag a copy! 

the adorable Jennifer E. Smith talking about her book!

Jen read a brief excerpt from her novel (a scene that happens early on during the part where it's still a blackout in New York), and then we moved on to the signing portion of the evening. I was really glad I got a chance to see Jen again, and to get this particular title signed by her!

Other bloggers/book friends spotted that day included Julie, Mitali, Jeremy, Jeffrey, Lili and Tabitha.

KARAOKE

girls! (photo c/o Pat)

On that same Tuesday night, even with the sleeting rain-that-was-almost-hail, I ventured over to EVR to meet up with Mel, my best friend Pat, and Mel's friends John, Joel & Mark. We hung out at the bar, chilling and chatting (and me eating dinner) until our friend Antoinette arrived. After spending an hour or so there, we moved on over to Chorus for a few hours of karaoke. It was a fun, spur-of-the-moment outing!

GREAT

The next day, the weather looked nice (read: there was sun) but was still pretty cold! Since I had the day off, I spent most of it lazing around (because I could). But eventually, I left the house to head to Books of Wonder to meet Estelle for Sara J. Benincasa's East Coast launch for her debut YA novel, Great

the awesome Sara J. Benincasa

I need a cake like this in my life.

cookies! and a slice of cake!

It was really fun to see Sara interact with her audience. She got the ball rolling by introducing herself and talking a little about Great before she read an excerpt. Sara's reading was awesome because she gave each character a particular voice, and she totally made me want to read it again. She then answered questions from the audience, before the signing started (and cake and cookies were given out to the people at the launch!).

Book friends who were there that day were Mitali and Adam.

FAMILY & FRIENDS

Last night was all about reunions! My best friend and second cousin, Bianca, is in town with her family. 

Bianx, Bea & Renzo in Times Square

Jaymee, Ephy, Mel & I met up with Bianca, her sister Bea and her brother Renzo for a quick dinner at John's Pizzeria. 

Renzo, Bea, Bianca, me, Mel, Jaymee & Ephy at John's Pizzeria

We then hopped on over to Cafe Un, Deux, Trois for dessert, running into the adults (Bianca's dad/my uncle, my godmother, Mel's godfather, our other aunt) along the way. It was a fun, relaxed night, and we just chatted a lot about anything and everything! Plus, before we went home, we were able to see our other cousin Kristina and her dad.

friends & family :)

We left a space for you, Pam!

Today, Friday, I'm headed to the book launch for Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before (which, as of my typing this, I am 50% through and thoroughly enjoying) with Rachel & Estelle. Plus, I'm also planning to meet up with Bianca and her family again, and Jaymee has a friend coming into town too. It's set to be a busy weekend in spite of the cold, so there's tons of fun ahead!

Wonder - RJ Palacio (Review)

Wonder - R.J. Palacio
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: February 14, 2012
Source/Format: Borrowed from the library || Hardcover

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances? (from Goodreads)

It is a wonderful thing to be surprised by a novel. That was my experience with Wonder, a middle grade novel I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time and finally got around to. The novel tells the story of August, a boy born with a misshapen face who is finally going to a real school for the first time in his fifth grade year. I was delighted, appalled, angry, sad, and hopeful in equal measures, a testament to the author’s ability to write her characters so that they leap off the page and come to life.

August has had a rough go of things, and has lived a mostly sheltered life with the family who loves him dearly. The challenge of attending a real school, where there are children his age that might not necessarily treat him nicely, is daunting. But August makes a brave choice to attend classes, and be among these people who act like he’s got the “Plague” (initially anyway).

Eventually, August is revealed to be smart, funny and kind – and perfectly normal, in spite of the way he looks. He accepts the way he is, learns to interact with others and basically, teaches all of us – his classmates and readers alike – that it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you act.

This, essentially, is what makes the novel excellent. Using not only August’s point of view, but that of the people who surround him – his sister Olivia, his sister’s boyfriend Justin, his friend Summer, his other friend Jack, his sister’s former best friend – Wonder takes readers on a journey that will break your heart, and put it back together again.

There are plenty of ways to react to someone who is different, ranging from kind to not-so-kind. And different perspectives are touched upon in the novel, embodied in a variety of characters. Wonder is about how each person, no matter what they look like, should be treated with respect, kindness and consideration. But what the novel showed me, in the end, was how our actions towards others have consequences and we can choose whether or not to act in a way that is good. It’s a simple life lesson, but an essential one, and Wonder tackles it beautifully.

Honestly, I’d recommend Wonder to just about anyone. It isn’t a long read, but it’s the kind of story that’ll punch you a little bit in the gut and make you reevaluate how you see and treat other people. With a main character that’s easy to root for, some great secondary characters and a pretty simple but awesome story, I’m sincerely glad I finally took the time to read Wonder.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love and Chaos - Gemma Burgess (Review)

[This is the second book in a series, though you don't necessarily need to read these in order. Check out my review of the first book Brooklyn Girls!]


Love and Chaos - Gemma Burgess
Love and Chaos by Gemma Burgess
Series: Brooklyn Girls #2
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Source/Format: Publisher, for review (Thanks!) || ARC
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]


Wild child and secret romantic Angie wakes up in a hotel room with $3,000 and no memories of the night before. Her best friends aren’t talking to her, she can’t get a job in fashion, her parents are divorcing, and she’s about to turn twenty-three. And life is about to get much worse.

Brooklyn Girls: Love and Chaos continues the story of our five favorite grads sharing a brownstone and starting out in New York City through Angie’s eyes. On a journey from private jets and yacht parties to dirty subways and hipster bars via crazy storms, flash floods, and retail jobs from hell, Angie discovers who she is, what she wants, how she’s going to get it —and a crazy little thing called true love.

Meanwhile, her roommates lives are imploding, too. Coco’s self-medicating and self-loathing, Pia’s breaking up and cracking up, Madeleine’s finding her voice and Julia might—just might—have met someone she can actually date. (from Goodreads)


After professing my love for Brooklyn Girls last year, it is no surprise that I was looking forward to reading Love and Chaos. Gemma Burgess hits it out of the park yet again, with a vividly told tale. Complete with emotions and situations that I found easy to identify with, Love and Chaos has certainly earned a place as one of my favorite reads this year.

This second installment of (mis)adventures is narrated by Angie, the wild child, the party girl. I was worried I wouldn’t connect with her, since she and I are basically polar opposites. But I shouldn’t have feared – Burgess managed to make Angie easy for me to identify with by writing about familiar situations, particularly the hunt for a “dream job”.

Sure, Angie is brash and frank. She’s impulsive, and prone to the flee instinct in lieu of staying to fight. Her partying habits, and tendency to drink too much, made me wrinkle my nose a time or two. But all these things are a result of her upbringing, especially the way she understands love and craves it for herself. This isn’t an excuse, however, just an explanation.

It may appear that Angie isn’t the most likeable character, but that’s not true. Angie is also a talented designer, to whom fashion is like breathing and style is as natural a facet of her personality as breathing. She is loyal and extremely protective, with the capacity to fight on behalf of her friends. She can be brave, and funny, and also the kind of person who just lights up the room. My favorite thing about Angie? She harbors a secret stash of romance novels that she enjoys reading.

Apart from the five girls still living together in Rookhaven, the one other thing Brooklyn Girls has in common with Love and Chaos is the search for a job. While Pia was unsure of what she wanted to do, Angie has known that she wants to be involved in fashion. It’s a competitive industry, especially in New York, and the novel chronicles Angie’s journey to finding her way to a job she loves. I seriously thought this part was the easiest of all to relate to – the constant trying and failing and trying again, settling for a job just so you can pay your bills, feeling hopeless because nobody seems to want to give you a chance. Burgess wrote it well, wrote it real, and I think many readers will feel the same way I did.

Clearly, reading Love and Chaos was no hardship. It was fun to tag along with Angie as she goes through life, through the good moments and the not-so-good ones. The extremes to which her misadventures went to made me decidedly uncomfortable (and angry on her behalf), but it also felt fitting that she would end up in these crazy dead-ends because of her actions. I loved it all – the drama, the gasp-inducing twists, and the appearances of the other girls.

The Brooklyn Girls series is seriously one of those series that I feel is underrated. It’s written so well, even though certain turns of events might be a little over the top (which is not a bad thing at all). Plus, the five friends – Pia, Coco, Julie, Madeleine and Angie – are seriously awesome to read about!

I might not have done the best job of book pushing Brooklyn Girls last year, but rest assured I’m going to fix that after reading (and loving) Love and Chaos. Obviously, I highly recommend these two! In particular, they’re good reads for fans of chick lit, books about friendship and books about self-transformation and self-discovery.

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