Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Wrap-Up

Books I Read

Girl: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Karen Rayne and other various authors


This is kind of like the grown up version of any American Girl "guide to life" kind of books. It covers a wide variety of topics, but for the most part, I found that the practical advice in most areas were fluffy, basic, and didn't dive deep into anything. I learned very little that was new to me. A good chunk of the book was also dedicated to personal stories from the authors, but they were done in a cutesy journal art style, so I was forced to skip most of them since I could barely decipher the handwriting. I think this book is a good first step for those who might be clueless on a lot of areas in sexuality, but I have the feeling that most girls who pick this up will find that they know everything in it already.

Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge by Lisa Jensen


What could have been a very unique "Beauty and the Beast" retelling was instead problematic and filled with terrible writing. Read my review HERE.

Death Note, Vol. 1: Boredom by Tsugumi Ohba


I had to read a manga for Ivy's book bingo challenge, and my brother had been begging me to read the Death Note series for a while now, so I thought I'd pick it up. It exceeded my expectations! The premise is super dark and unique. While I don't like any of the characters in the series so far and Light's motivations seemed to be unrealistic and out of the blue, the plot is addictive. It has that same feeling that a murder mystery miniseries has, like "Broadchurch" or "How to Get Away With Murder." You can't help but keep reading.

Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings


I read this on audio, which I think is the way to go about reading a memoir if you have access to it, because you can literally hear the book in the author's voice. While I did enjoy getting a closer look at what it's like to grow up transgender, I have the feeling that Jazz's experience is pretty rare. She had ultra supportive parents from a very young age and access to a lot of medical procedures that I know for a fact not all transgender teens are lucky enough to have or be able to afford. She was also one of the first transgender teens recognized by the media, which thrust her into the role of a public figure and activist. I do admire Jazz's optimism and ambition when it comes to fighting for transgender rights. The main thing that prevented me from rating this book any higher is that Jazz is so young. How can you really write a memoir when you've barely lived a fifth of your life? While she did have a lot of unique struggles and stories, because she was only fifteen when the book was published, a lot of the stories were kind of boring and repetitive. There were a lot of stories about either unrequited crushes or brief romances that didn't work out. Because she was only fourteen or fifteen when she wrote these, I'm sure they seemed like a huge deal to her, but in reality, adult memoirs hardly have any of those kinds of stories because they're such a tiny blip in the grand scheme of things. Another thing that bugged me was her writing style. It came off as being very young, which is understandable, but it was clear that she hadn't had any experience with writing a book. It was too conversational and simple. All in all, I think Jazz's story is an important one, but I question the decision to write a memoir so early in her life when she still has years and years to go.

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews


I was so excited to finally read a book by Cait, but I was also just a tiny bit nervous on the off chance that I wouldn't like the book. For the most part, though, I was sure I would love it, and luckily I did! It reads exactly how you would expect a book by the creator of "Paper Fury" to read. It's full of snark and sass and food and feels. There's an adorable little sister by the name of Joey whom I would like to hug and feed chocolate. The sibling relationship was so cute and fun to read. August and Beck have the perfect friendship (and I would like to emphasize this point: yes, there are romantic elements to this book, but most of the story simply focuses on the importance of their relationship as friends first!). You love to hate Beck's mother, the maestro, who is awful. It isn't your typical contemporary because it is so dark, but it also has all the elements a good contemporary needs. While Beck's love-hate relationship with music confused me sometimes (I wasn't sure if he actually liked music or despised it--there were times when he seemed to go back and forth, so I couldn't completely understand his motivations), the important thing is that I always felt exactly was Beck was feeling. I was completely connected to him. Also!!! Beck is the perfect example of a sweet and sensitive male protagonist that we don't get enough of in contemporary stories! I'll make one last note about the plot twist (and I'll be annoyingly vague since I don't want to spoil anything): There was a point in the book when I was sure I'd guessed the main plot twist, and when the reveal finally came around, I was honestly a little disappointed because I didn't get to have that *gasp* moment. BUT. At almost the very last second, there's a plot twist that comes out of nowhere that builds upon the previous twist and it is brilliant. I actually gasped out loud. That is exactly how you execute a plot twist. Please go read and review this book immediately!

Death Note, Vol. 2: Confluence by Tsugumi Ohba


As I got more sucked into the story, the initial cheese factor and my inability to suspend belief started to fade away. While manga isn't my preferred form of storytelling, I'm definitely hooked!

Everland by Wendy Spinale


(And no, the irony isn't lost on me that a woman named Wendy wrote a Peter Pan retelling.) I loved the initial concept for this Peter Pan retelling: a dystopian, steampunk London that's succumbed to a horrible virus that wiped out all the adults, leaving the children to fend for themselves? It was dark and creepy and totally unique. The story was never slow, I'll give it that, and I was hooked right away. It was a great audiobook (told by two narrators to fit the dual perspectives of Gwen and Hook) and it succeeded in waking me up and entertaining me on the long drives in the early mornings to my internship at a community theater. My main issues with it were: 1. The romance (I couldn't buy it. It seemed like the only reason it worked is because there's a long history of Wendy/Peter romances.) 2. Hook's character (He was reduced to a cliché villain instead of the interesting character he usually is and could have been. Smee, for that matter, was also reduced to your typical bumbling henchman and he retained none of his humor that could have been used for great comic relief.) 3. Tiger Lily's character (She was a throwaway character who served little to no purpose for the plot except to provide a convenient reason for Gwen to be jealous of somebody getting close to Peter. If the author wasn't going to utilize Tiger Lily in an interesting way, she should have been left out all together.) I really enjoyed all of the action, the fresh take on Neverland, and the perfectly placed references to the original Peter Pan story (the iconic quotes were used at exactly the right times), but I didn't have quite the connections to the characters as I should have had.

Movies I Watched

"Ocean's 8"


Fun, full of humor, and featuring a great cast of strong and quirky women (and also James Corden who totally steals the show at the end of the movie), I highly recommend this movie if you're looking for something light and entertaining this summer. It has all the elements of a great "Ocean's" movie while still providing a fresh take on the concept.

"Humor Me"


For a movie called "Humor Me," it was actually pretty heavy. It's relatively short, but super quirky and definitely character-driven, which I love about indie movies. While I didn't connect as much with our sad sack of a protagonist as I hoped I would, I could at least sympathize with him and enjoyed watching him try as hard as he could to organize a musical and theatrical event with a bunch of old ladies in a retirement home. Ingrid Michaelson, who is in the movie, also provided a couple songs for the soundtrack, and her music is always excellent.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"


This was a really sweet and heartwarming documentary, but be warned, it's way heavier than I would have expected! About fifteen to twenty minutes from the end of the film, the entire theater was full of the crinkling sounds of travel-sized tissue packages opening. I loved getting an overview of Mister Rogers' show, seeing how it changed over time, and getting a closer look at how it deeply affect people's lives. I would have liked to know more about Fred Rogers as a person when he's not on camera, especially about what his childhood was like and what led to him being the person everyone loved, but I still really enjoyed the movie.



I wasn't sure how I felt about this movie when I first finished it. I was pretty sure I liked it? But mostly I felt ambivalent. I think part of the reason why I felt conflicted was because I went into it with such high expectations. The whole film was super artistic. There were some interesting camera angles and it had a great score. A lot was shown visually instead of through dialogue, which ended up being good in some areas, but that's also where it fell flat for me. I didn't get a good sense of who any of these characters were, so I couldn't care about them in the way it seemed the movie wanted me to care about them. I should've loved the romance, but I didn't completely buy the chemistry. It felt like instalove instead of genuine love. The plot was simple and character-driven, which I usually really enjoy, but it felt slow to me. If there had been fewer shots of Carol or Therese looking longingly through a car window and more time spent on dialogue and fleshing out their characters, I think I would've loved the movie a lot more. I do think it's great that a movie about a lesbian romance got Oscar attention and a lot of buzz, and we definitely need more mainstream lesbian romance movies, but I don't think this one was for me.

Quotes I Wrote

Nothing I wrote this month was particularly quote-worthy, unfortunately.

Obsessions I Acquired

No new obsessions to report.

Pictures of the Month

Get ready for oh-so-many pictures . . . There are a lot of "Peter Pan Jr." photos since most of the performances were at the beginning of June. I'll be writing a blog post solely dedicated to the show soon!

With John Darling.
Fight scene!
It's a rare sight to see both Peter and Hook smiling with each other. :P
With my brother Max, aka Mr. Darling!
Our Darling family.
I love all of their faces in this picture. x'D
After the performance! My PTK advisor came out to see me.
Friends from "A Christmas Carol" came out to support us.
My friend Sam from writer's camp. She was very excited to see me playing a villain.
Friends from our homeschool group!
More homeschool friends!
It was especially fun playing a main character in the show because afterwards, a bunch of younger kids wanted to take pictures with the leads (Wendy, Peter, Hook, etc.). Although one little girl was too scared to get in the picture with me! x'D
Tyler, my Hook counterpart (he played a pirate on his off nights).
TJ, aka Smee!
My friend Sammie, who I met through a "Supernatural" roleplay group, drove all the way from Virginia to surprise me and watch the show! She even helped out with hair backstage before the performances.
With my family.
She wanted to shake my Hook. xD
She had a whole Captain Hook outfit on one night and it was too adorable not to get a picture with her.
Our artistic director snapped this during dress rehearsal.
A promo for the show. ;)
Our artistic director (she was behind the awesome costumes!).
Our fabulous director.
TJ's mom is the one responsible for saving this theater company after its previous director left.
Our vocal coach! She helped me to figure out how to make Hook's songs fit my range since they were originally written for a male actor.
The directors recognized the graduating seniors after our last performance. We're all pretty much bawling in this picture.
Our stage manager from "A Christmas Carol" came to see the show!
One of my longest friends from our homeschool group.
Our awesome vocal teacher, who helped us prepare our audition songs, got to see us!
"Geek Girls!"
Another longtime friend from our homeschool group.
This was one of the only times Tyler and I were both in our Hook costumes at the same time, so we had to get a picture.
Our friends Scott and Kelli came to see us. It was fun getting to share the show with them, especially since they're big theatre fans!
A mom from our homeschool group. It was the first time her son saw "Peter Pan" and he loved it!
She posted this soon after the show and I couldn't stop laughing!
This was our audition group. It was so cool getting a picture of us in our roles and comparing it with our picture right after auditions!
John and Tiger Lily jumped in for another picture.
Cast party!
Still riding high after our last show.
Our artistic director made adorable Peter Pan hats out of Hershey Kisses and gave each cast member personalized notes. It was so sweet and such a fun surprise to get it!
TJ's grandfather took really nice pictures of the show and was kind enough to share them with us. I loved getting to see the show from an audience member's point of view!
"Pirate March"
"Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick . . ."
TJ may look like he's dancing but he's actually blowing a bosun whistle to call the crew back.
"Hook's Tango"
"Hmm . . . a tarantella!"
"Hook's Tarantella"
Kidnapping Wendy . . .
. . . and attempting to poison Peter.
"Hook's Waltz"
Curtain call! (Those are TJ's legs straight up in the air on the right. For our bows, I let Smee bow, then I shoved him over.)
Sammie got a ton of pictures and used a photo editor to add cool filters and effects to some of them. I love this picture from the tango.
Once we could relax after the show was over, a bunch of us went swing dancing!
Tonys party! We got a backdrop and props to take fun pictures.
We were miraculously able to fit everyone into one picture.
Lunch date with my dad!
Spotted this at mini golf and naturally had to take a picture of my future final resting place. :P
I got a ton of fun stickers to dress up my laptop. The Enjolras one is my personal favorite. x'D Hopefully you can read it by blowing up the picture . . .
I had an absolute blast the past two weeks interning at the Hershey Area Playhouse for their Theatre Academy classes. The 1st-3rd graders were adorable and even managed the memorize most of their lines by performance night; the 4th-6th graders had tons of fun with their show and were so cooperative with each other backstage to help with entrance cues and costume changes (and they helped without me even having to ask them to--I was so proud!); and the teen group (which I got to participate in) worked so hard to pull together not one, but two shows in just two weeks! It was really rewarding to hear the audience busting up during the performances after so many rehearsals and hoping we'd be funny. :P And to top off all the craziness of getting the performances together, one girl in my class got sick on performance night and just hours before, I was asked to step into her role. Miraculously, I was able to memorize over 6 pages of lines and blocking and went on without a script. It was a simultaneously nerve-wracking and thrilling experience.
Maria John from "Maria John Writes" wrote a blog post about creating book covers and I thought I'd take a crack at it, just for fun. I was pretty pleased with the results!
Time for pictures of Scout!

How was your June?


Dr. Mark said...

I'm still amazed that you were able to read that many books, see that many films, and do that many things after coming off of a show run and jumping into two more! What a month it was! I'd say "here's to a more relaxing July!" But we both know that's not happening. :P

Boquinha said...

You were "hooked" on a Peter Pan retelling? :P

Love these pictures! What a fun month!! And your book reviews are fabulous. I enjoy hearing your thoughts on all the books you read. I'm amazed you squeezed in any reading/movies in all that (especially with camps). Audiobooks for the commute - great idea!

The Magic Violinist said...

@Dr. Mark

I'm not really sure how I did it myself. Oh yeah, there's no way July is going to be relaxing, haha. Fun, for sure, but not relaxing. :P


Ha! I didn't even notice that until you pointed it out.

I had a hard time "narrowing down" pictures (though I didn't narrow it down that much, as you can see). I had a lot to say about the stuff I read and watched this month, it seems. Usually my mini reviews aren't that long. Audiobooks definitely helped with how much driving I've done lately!

Jimmy said...

Looks like so much fun. And I could never memorize like you did to pull off that play.

Have to say that it looks like you're part of a great community.

The more pictures I see of Scout the more I'm certain that our Minnie would really love meeting you.

Oh! And I love your book cover!

Maria John Writes said...

Death Note is one of my favourite animes! I didn't read the manga like I usually do but omg it only gets better. I hope you enjoy the rest!

And the pictures from your Play are so cool. I used to be part of the Theatre Group of my department - I even wrote and directed a play before actual 'drama' took play and I had to leave because it got to me,.

Your stickers are really cool and I wish i had some of my own.

And oh wow - thanks for linking to my blog post!!

The Magic Violinist said...


Thankfully, I've always had a pretty good memory when it comes to things like that, so it worked in my favor!

Aww, yes, I'd love to meet her!

Thank you! I was a little surprised it turned out as well as it did.

@Maria John Writes

Death Note does seem to be one of the more popular animes/mangas. I feel like I see the name thrown around a lot, more so than others. I'm on the fourth book now. It's really good!

Thank you! Oh wow, that sucks that real life drama seeped into your play, because writing and directing your own show sounds awesome. I'd love to do it someday!

Check out Redbubble. They had a sale going on for a while (I don't know if it's still going now), but if you bought ten stickers, you could get them for a discounted price. It was pretty cheap.

Of course! I wouldn't have known how to make the cover without it.

Ivyclad Ideas said...

Ocean's 8 is glorious! I love a good heist story!

I read Death Note a while ago, and I watched it a couple of summers back. It's one of my brother's favourites. :)

The Magic Violinist said...


Me, too! Heist stories are always tons of fun and full of morally gray characters. This one was no exception.

It hasn't disappointed me yet. It's very addictive and appeals to my inquisitive side. It reminds me a lot of "Sherlock" in the sense that it delves deep into the psychology of different characters.