book report: april 2019

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Where in the world did April go? Heading into May, I’m doing well with my reading goals for the year. I read six books this month, one being a reread. Next month, I’m traveling and likely won’t get as much reading done but luckily, the summer is coming and I’ll be able to catch up then. What are y’all reading right now? Anything good lately?

Total Progress: 22/70

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (A)
Okay, so this is a reread for me. I first read it a few years ago on a flight to Paris and it was seriously the best way to pass the time (besides watching and falling asleep to the beautiful movie “Once”)! I read it again last month for two reasons: 1) Ashley Brooke chose it for her March book club pick and 2) I’m heading to London next month and this book is really good inspiration. If you haven’t read it yet, please do! It’s a story very loosely inspired by Kate & Will’s romance except in this version, the girl is American (plus many other differences). Not only is the plot interesting, but the writers developed the most entertaining characters that feel so real, I actually think about them even when I’m not reading the book. Plus, a sequel is coming soon!

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger (B+)
This story was so not what I expected! Not in a bad way, but in a wow, I didn’t expect that twist and that twist and THAT twist way. It reminded me of when I read “No Exit” earlier this year because the action just kept going until the end, although it didn’t give me nearly as much anxiety as “No Exit” did! 😅 So, the story is kind of Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raider. The host and crew of an exploration/conspiracy TV show set off to find a mysterious cave that no one believes exists. What they end up finding is super unexpected and things get super crazy in the second half. I wouldn’t say this was a heart pounding thriller, but it was a book I definitely couldn’t put down and I’m excited that he’s writing a follow up.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (A)
This is a classic that I’ve been studying for awhile now and I genuinely hope that every human should read it. The four agreements are life changing. Following these four principles will improve your life, I guarantee it and I feel like they’re just what our world needs at the moment.

Star Power: A Simple Guide to Astrology for the Modern Mystic by Vanessa Montgomery (A)
This is a great little astrology guide that’s helpful when reading your birth chart. I don’t have a whole lot to say about it other than if you’re interested in analyzing your astrological birth chart, this is a great go-to. Plus, it’s super aesthetically pleasing.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter (B+)
Immediately after I finished this book, I saw an article about how it’s being turned into a Netflix miniseries which I think could be really cool! Karin Slaughter’s books are always ones that I can’t seem to put down. This story is about a woman and her mother who find themselves in the middle of a shooting at their local mall. Surprising everyone, the woman’s mother jumps into action and handles the situation with military like precision. This leads the woman to delve into her mother’s past to find out why she was able to do that. It’s less of a violent story than some of Karin Slaughter’s other books and more of a mystery/thriller, which I really liked.

So, Here’s The Thing… by Alyssa Mastromonaco (B)
I’m a huge fan of Alyssa’s. She’s the former White House deputy chief of staff under Barack Obama and I absolutely adored her first book which was essentially a book of anecdotes from her life in politics and in the Obama administration. Seriously, so good. Read it now! Her second book is more focused around growing up and her life after the White House. To be honest, I liked it a little less. It’s nothing against her at all because she’s still my fave, but the anecdotes just didn’t speak to me as much as the ones in the first book did.

style inspiration: brooklyn (2015)

One of my favorite things to read on the internet are Jane’s posts about fashion in film, likely because I too gain so much inspiration, visual or otherwise, from movies and always love a brilliantly shot film with a distinct aesthetic. For instance, as soon as the opening credits rolled in the theater for Call Me By Your Name, I said to myself, “Yes. I know I’m going to love this.” There are just some movies where the visuals stick with me long after.

One of such movies is Brooklyn (2015) starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, and Domhnall Gleeson, a movie set in the 1950s about a girl who immigrates from her small town in Ireland to Brooklyn, New York, based on the book of the same name by Colm Tóibín. The main character, Eilis, played by Saoirse Ronan, wears the most incredible outfits throughout the film that give so much inspiration for the loveliest spring wardrobe you can imagine.

From the dresses and printed skirts to the little cardigans and super chic bags she carries, there are so many ideas to pick up from Eilis’s looks that can easily be made appropriate for a more modern girl. My go-to when seeking out pieces that fit for this story was Julia Engel’s brand Gal Meets Glam. Her vintage inspired dresses look so similar to a lot of what’s seen in the film that it makes me wonder if she used it as inspiration. Look below for some pieces and four outfit ideas to give a little pop of ‘50s to your spring/summer wardrobe.

ten movies to get into french cinema

Pierrot Le Fou, 1965

Pierrot Le Fou, 1965

Are you all as happy as I am that it’s finally officially spring? Granted, the weather here in my area has been pretty springy for quite awhile but I’m happy to know that everyone else is finally feeling in the mood for warm weather and pastels. Something about spring always makes me want to watch my favorite French movies. I’m not entirely sure why but it might have something to do with all the pretty colors that tend to be in them and the overall quirky vibe they tend to have.

So, why should you even get into French cinema? I heard someone recently say that their idea of having a fun, fulfilling life was to follow the concept of having ‘majors’ even after you’re out of school. Whether it be wine, music, or in this case film, it’s fun to pick a thing or two then going all out to learn as much as you can about it. One of my life majors has always been French film, so I wanted to put together a little list of some of my favorite French movies to potentially inspire someone else to get into them!

Mon Oncle (1958)
It’s maybe not the most “accessible” on the list, but Mon Oncle is such a visual feast full of modern design and architecture from the ‘50s that it’s beautiful to look at. It’s about a man who lives in the city and doesn’t get why his sister moved her family into a super modern house in the suburbs. But then, his sister conspires to convert him to the suburban lifestyle, trying to set him up with a wife.

The 400 Blows (1959)
I’d argue that The 400 Blows is the most iconic film of the new wave and a must see for any film lover. It’s a gorgeous Truffaut film about a young boy who lives quite a hard scrabble life in Paris among neglectful parents and irresponsible adults. Afterwards, watch The Florida Project and draw some comparisons.

Breathless (1961)
Tying with The 400 Blows for what I consider the most iconic new wave films, this one by Godard stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a Parisian thug who idolizes Humphrey Bogart. After committing a crime, he goes on the lam with an American journalist played by Jean Seberg who doesn’t yet know why they are running.

Band of Outsiders (1964)
One of my very favorite Godard films, this one is about two cinephiles Franz and Arthur who idolize characters of classic film noirs and Westerns while pining over Odile (played by the iconic Anna Karina). After many gorgeous sequences including a run through the Louvre, the trio pulls off a heist of their own.

Pierrot Le Fou (1965)
I love the visuals of this film so much. Jean-Paul Belmondo stars in this as well with Anna Karina. Ferdinand runs away with his family’s nanny Marianne. They travel across France in a beautiful red car and end up being chased by thugs before going on a crime spree because what more can you expect from Godard?

Day for Night (1973)
Directed by and starring Truffaut who, of course, plays a director making a movie all the while observing the persona lives of the actors in the movie. It’s one of those movies that everyone in Hollywood loves because it’s all about the inner workings of the industry.

Amelie (2001)
This is probably the most universally popular movie on the list and for good reason. It’s a great entry point into French film as it’s really entertaining and fun to look at but has the quality of classic French films. It’s about a girl named Amelie who lives in her own fantasy world as she navigates Paris. It’s super quirky and feel good, perfect for a sick day.

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
I love that I’m able to throw an animated film into the mix. I believe I first saw this in one of my high school French classes and just fell in love. It’s about a woman whose cyclist grandson is kidnapped. She sets out with her dog to find him and meets three sisters who are former vaudeville actresses. It has such a distinct, grotesque look that you can’t take your eyes off of it.

Rust and Bone (2012)
This movie has a very contemporary sounding plot but it’s actually so different than what you’d expect. It’s ultimately such a beautiful, slow, graceful kind of film. Marion Cotillard plays a whale trainer who loses both of her legs in an accident at work. She meets a former boxer who saves her from a bar brawl and they go on to fall in love and continue saving each other in different ways.

Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
Okay, so this is a slow, deliberate movie that may not work for every taste but I hope you’ll give it a chance because it’s one of the most stunning films I’ve seen in the past few years. Juliette Binoche is a once very famous actress who reprises her breakout role 20 years later. The movie is about her relationship with her assistant played by Kristen Stewart as well as the actress’s painful self-reflection on herself.

three creative exercises to do on your next museum visit

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I read a stat that said the average person spends significantly less than one minute looking at a single piece of art in a museum. Sure, there isn’t necessarily a right length of time to spend looking at an artwork, but less than a minute makes me think about people shuffling mindlessly through museums almost as if the visit was simply to check a box on the itinerary of what they think they should be doing which makes me sad.

On the flip side, I also kind of get that mentality. I studied Art History in college so I’d say I have more contextual knowledge of art than the average museum goer, so of course I’m spending more time looking at a painting. I don’t mean that in a snobby way, it just makes sense. If you don’t know the history or the context of an artwork, then looking at it for a moment purely from a visceral perspective would be the likely thing to do.

Thinking through this, I wanted to give you some ideas of creative things you can do the next time you’re in a museum so that you’re being intentional and getting a whole lot out of the visit. Museums can be such inspiring places that can really open your mind, your heart, and engage your creative muscles, so here are a few things to try.

take notes for later
My best friend Caroline and I went to The Met earlier last year and she mentioned this idea to me. While she’s exploring the museum, she writes down the name of three pieces of art that jump out at her and when she’s back home, she’ll do research on those pieces. This way, you’ll get to dig more into the history and context of the piece and then you can journal about what you find and try to discover what it is about the piece that drew you in. This is a great way to build your critical thinking skills when it comes to art and it’ll also help you draw connections and develop your personal taste.

sketch in your art journal
Take along your art journal and take some time to work on sketching sculptures or even scenes taking place in the museum. So many people say they can’t draw, but if it’s a skill you’re interested in developing, this is a great way to do it. Sculpture is a great place to start because it’ll help you start to understand the shape of the human form and how light reflects off of it to create those contours that are necessary in drawing.

capture with photography
If you’re not into drawing, photography is another great way to be creative in the museum and it’s one of my favorite things to do. Be careful with this though, keeping in mind that flash photography and shooting video are typically not allowed in museums. But, you can take flash-free photos with your phone. Museums are really a perfect place to get some interesting shots because they were literally designed to be visually appealing. Try playing with perspective and composition to get some interesting shots. See below for some beautiful museum photography.

Bookshelf: Summer Books That Aren't Overexposed

Photo via Oracle Fox

Photo via Oracle Fox

I look forward to using this summer as time to get caught up on my fifty books challenge. My research for new summer books seems to have turned up all of the same recommendations from multiple websites, which isn't very helpful in creating variety. My criteria for a good summer read include being fairly lighthearted, very engaging, not overly romantic, and preferably a bit glamorous.

Whether you are taking your books to the pool, the beach, the lake, the park, or just staying in bed all day, here are eight books (that you haven't already seen everywhere) to try out this summer as well as a few of my favorites from summers past. 

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
One of my all-time favorites, I tend to re-read Gatsby every summer. Not only is it endlessly thought-provoking, but the parties and dark glamour make it my perfect beach read. One could argue that Gatsby is overexposed, but it isn't necessarily published on reading lists that often anymore. 

2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Every summer requires a good gothic novel and this one is arguably the best. A girl meets a widower in Monte Carlo and accepts a spontaneous proposal. She is swept off to his estate where things begin to get dark.

3. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
This will satsify the obligatory contemporary thriller on your checklist. A travel journalist takes an assignment on a luxury cruise. Everything seems great until she witnesses a woman being thrown overboard.

4. The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee
This novel is about three women living as expats in Hong Kong. The story explores expat life as a temporary social situation akin to university where there is a sense of detachment from the real world.

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I am so excited about this particular book as I love stories that span generations and long periods of time. Homegoing is about two half sisters in Ghana who are led down very different paths which impact their entire respective family bloodlines.

6. The Nordic Theory of Everything by Anu Partanen
In the non-fiction realm, I'm excited for this book which gives an overview of the Nordic way of life. It touches on everything from interpersonal relationships to taxes. As someone who is slightly obsessed with Sweden and Denmark, I think this will be a good one.

7. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
This story is about a painter and other passengers on a private plane departing from Martha's Vineyard which crashes into the ocean. We learn the backstories of the passengers as well as the aftermath of the crash and potential conspiracy.

8. Monsters by Emerald Fennell
A dark comedy, set in Cornwall, about a strange 12-year-old girl who is fascinated by murders. She and a friend investigate the murder of a young woman but things get weird.

Past Summer Favorites