Wednesday, June 28, 2017

We'll Always Have Senior Year • Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Lara Jean Song Covey is having the best senior year. She’s come into her own, she’s in love with her boyfriend Peter, her father is also in love and getting remarried, her sister Margot is coming home and she’s about to graduate and head on off to college. The future looks very bright! But the truth is, change is hard – especially when things don’t go exactly as you planned. I’ll take a page from the actual summary on Goodreads and use this quote to end my summary – “When your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?”

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past couple of years, you’ll know that I adored the previous novels in this series. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before brought the Song girls into my life with its adorable romantic comedy shenanigans; P.S. I Still Love You coaxed the complexities of teen romance to life with the complications in Lara Jean’s own. So, it’s likely not going to surprise you when I tell you that I adored Always and Forever, Lara Jean. Though it isn’t entirely necessary to read this book (or the second one, for that matter), it is an absolute delight to do so if you love Lara Jean and the people in her life as much as I do.

I’ve always loved and related to Lara Jean, particularly her introvert tendencies and the preference to be at home or with her small groups of intimates. It was nice to see that she had become more confident in herself, and open to embracing experiences that weren’t necessarily her cup of tea… all while still being the girl who preferred comfort and coziness and familiarity when it comes right down to it. I genuinely enjoyed spending time with her again, as well as with her inner circle: the wonderfully sweet and devoted Peter K, her feisty little sister Kitty, her dependable older sister Margot, and their doting father who only wants the best for his girls. It was like settling in among family friends that I’ve known forever and ever to hear what has been going on with them while I was away, and I was happily ensconced in that familiarity for the entirety of the novel.

The best thing about Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the way that Han integrates so many things into the actual story. The desire to live life to the fullest and to preserve all those memories. All the  changes associated with figuring out where you’re going to college (should you choose to go). The shifting of family dynamics when someone new becomes a part of your lives. Another facet of first love and romance, particularly if you are one half of a high school couple. Lara Jean has a lot on her plate, to be sure, and Han wrote everything in a way that felt real and relatable. I have been where Lara Jean has been in my own life, so I liked seeing my experience reflected so perfectly.

I enjoyed Always and Forever, Lara Jean. I laughed a lot, I teared up at times, I swooned more than once. I just loved being with Lara Jean one last time and seeing her through the end of her high school experience, and would 100% consider it a perfect ending for this series.

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han | Series: To All the Boys I've Loved Before #3
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Source: Hardcover purchased from Amazon

This was my fifth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge! Even though I fell a wee bit behind schedule in the past couple of months, I'm pleased we were able to catch up properly for June (and do an entire week of posts). I obviously loved this book, which makes me really happy! Anyway, apart from reading one TBR book (at least) a month and reviewing it, Hannah & I are also answering a set of questions related to the month's category.

1) How long has this book been on your TBR? I pre-ordered this one, so it came in on release day! I read it nearly a whole month later, so that's probably the answer to this question - a month.

2) What made you want to keep reading the series? I love main character Lara Jean so, so much. I've always found her relatable, and loved seeing her grow and change with every book. I just needed to know how things would turn out and spend one last novel hanging out with her (and Peter) (and her family).

3) Will you continue reading this series? Sadly, this is officially the last novel in this series! If there had been more books, I probably would have read them. But I will happily reread the books that are currently published, since it's now a story that's come full circle.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Call to Creativity • Big Magic

Big Magic is a non-fiction book by author Elizabeth Gilbert that centers around one thing: creativity. It is Gilbert's belief that all people have creativity within them, and that it is possible to tap into and embrace that creativity in whatever form of expression it might take - anything from dancing to art, from building things to writing. She goes on to share her thoughts on different aspects of living a life with creativity, which form the five sections of this book. Filled with anecdotes, whimsical notions and simple yet inspiring thoughts, Big Magic is a great encouragement to any reader looking to get more in touch with their creative side.

The reason I had picked up Big Magic was two-fold: 1) I really liked Eat, Pray, Love back in the day and 2) I'm always seeking advice about creativity. I did feel like the book had a muddled structure and took on an odd, imperious tone at times; it also happened to be a book not specifically geared towards writing.

Despite those things, I found Big Magic enjoyable. I wasn't expecting to find so much of what Gilbert talks about resonant with my own experience and thoughts on creativity and my creative process. I was shocked to hear her state things that I had felt in my gut but never known how to say, and surprised when she would insert challenging/encouraging statements now and again that had my heart and my mind sitting up to take notice. Her discussion of creativity with its main tenets, her perspective on ideas, the positivity with which she generally describes the creative process - all these things were really appealing. It was, all in all, a very quick read that provided a jolt to my creative heart, and I'm truly glad I finally took the plunge and read it.

Publisher: Riverhead Books | Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Source: Hardcover purchased from Book Outlet

This was my fourth read for The Picky Pledge Reading Challenge! Even though I fell a wee bit behind schedule in the past couple of months, I'm pleased we were able to catch up properly for June (and do an entire week of posts, starting today). I obviously loved this book, which makes me really happy! Anyway, apart from reading one TBR book (at least) a month and reviewing it, Hannah & I are also answering questions related to the month's category.

1) How long has this book been on your TBR? I checked the order history on Book Outlet, and it looks like I bought it in April 2016. So, I've basically had it on my TBR for a year.

2) Do you remember how much you paid for this book? Since this was off Book Outlet, and since I could look it up in my order history, I can tell you that I got this one for $10.

3) If you bought this book secondhand, will you keep it or replace it? I'll be keeping the copy I read, as it's in pretty great condition and I already marked it up with page tabs to keep track of the quotes and anecdotes I particularly enjoyed (and will refer to in the future).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dance! Dance! Dance! • Three Nights at the Ballet

I love going to the ballet! Rachel & I once again secured season tickets for the American Ballet Theatre's performances at the Metropolitan opera this year. (You can check out last year's post if you're curious!) We chose our three shows - Giselle, Swan Lake and Onegin - based on the dates, the dancers we wanted to see in the lead role (Misty Copeland and Stella Abrera, who are our favorites!) and the story behind each show. And I must say that all three were incredible! I'm so glad we decided to do this again, and look forward to securing next year's season tickets for another three nights at the ballet.

I had heard of Giselle prior to seeing it, but this was the first time I'd ever seen it performed - and it was breathtaking. It certainly leaned heavily towards the classical orchestration and dance techniques, but Stella Abrera was transcendent as the lovely, innocent, romantic lead Giselle. I couldn't take my eyes off of her whenever she was onstage, and I'm sure many of the people in the audience felt the same way. (Also, this story is so tragic, which surprised me considering how lighthearted the beginning of it happens to be.)

I was so excited about Swan Lake, mostly because it's my favorite ballet ever. (Fun fact: I actually performed in our ballet school's edition of Swan Lake when I was little. There are videos and photos somewhere...) It was such a treat to see the story I know and love so well come to life so beautifully onstage. It was also surprisingly nostalgic to hear the music I was so familiar with (partly because of childhood memories and partly because I listen to the ballet every so often). I certainly think Misty Copeland was a powerful choice for Odette/Odile (and I loved the danse des petits cygnets).

Onegin was a surprise, and in the best way, too. The music, first of all, is equal turns playful and heartfelt with every note. The dancing, second of all, was phenomenal, with plenty of nods to the classical techniques but also a lot more movement and speed than I'm accustomed to seeing on the stage. The story, third of all, reminded me of a historical romance novel (and had me craving one while I watched it). And, fourth and probably most important of all, Stella Abrera was breathtaking. She transformed into Tatiana in front of our eyes, dancing in a way that was fluid and graceful, passionate and impossible to look away from. There's a particular moment - Act I, Scene II - where she had me feeling all the ups and downs of her character's feelings, and it was so perfect. In case you couldn't tell, I really enjoyed this one, especially because of Stella and her dancing.

I'm really glad that Rachel & I did this for a second year - and look forward to many  more years of our summer ballet tradition to come. Have you ever been able to see a ballet performance by the American Ballet Theatre? What's your favorite ballet?


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