Posted in #SBPT

Sweet Stories and Bookish Cupcakes

Happy Sunday, Y’all! For today’s #SBPT post, Brooke and I have made y’all something extra sweet! We decided to make cupcakes based off of some of our favorite reads!

Tay’s Treats:

I had so much fun whipping up these bookish bakes. Thanks for everyone who helped me decide which books to serve as my inspiration. I definitely want to bake bookish cupcakes again soon, and play more with flavors and different frostings!

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Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

For this poignant contemporary novel about art and family, I baked a fluffy vanilla cupcake dyed two shades of purple and topped with vanilla buttercream and purple and blue sugar crystal sprinkles!

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The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

For this twisty, surreal novel about a boy looking for an alternate trajectory in life, I baked a vibrant and fun vanilla cupcake dyed pink, yellow, green, bright blue and purple, topped with vanilla buttercream frosting and a neon rainbow of sugar crystal sprinkles!

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Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

For this feminist, twisty thriller, I baked a rich chocolate cupcake with a hidden surprise of a layer of blood red vanilla cake on the bottom topped with vanilla buttercream frosting and green and yellow sugar crystal sprinkles!

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Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

For this funky Parisian fantasy book filled with witches, goblins and more I baked a chocolate cupcake with a pop of white vanilla cake on the bottom, topped with vanilla buttercream and red sugar crystals!

Brooke’s Bakes:

My cupcakes definitely didn’t picture as well as I would’ve liked but hey! They were both still delicious and I think they captured the essence of both books.  

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

For my Anna Dressed in Blood cupcake, I made a black velvet batter with a cherry pie center, and buttercream frosting splattered with “blood”(cherry pie filling!) on top!

Click HERE to see my review on why I loved Anna so much! Click HERE to find out why Lies You Never Told Me turned into an insta fave!

Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson

For my Lies You Never Told Me cupcake I used the same black velvet batter, but this time I made a “fiery” cinnamon cream cheese frosting!

What books would you like to see transformed into cupcakes?

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Posted in #SBPT

Guest Review: Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton

7EB3DE4F-9962-476D-8561-FF4D812A79EA.jpegFrom the very first page I could tell that Heart of Thorns was going to be special. Not only did the opening scene hook me, the writing itself had me mesmerized. Barton’s prose is lyrical and sharp, captivating and tantalizing.   

I adored Mia. I thought she was sweet, intelligent, and humorous. Considering all the trials Mia is put through, she stayed incredibly level-headed. I mean, can you imagine believing something is true your whole entire life only to find out it wasn’t? This poor girl has her entire set of core values turned upside down, yet never loses her sass or spirit.  

I also really enjoyed Quin. He and Mia are forced into a harrowing journey that becomes one of survival. They go from barley speaking to having to trust and depend on one another—it was gratifying to see the change in their dynamic. Also, the amount of swoon these two create?! Immense.  

The magical element of Heart of Thorns was incredibly unique. I loved learning about the Dujia. Healing hearts, stopping hearts, stealing breath, intensifying lust—rare and wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about it.  

In true fantasy fashion, this book is not without its villain—but read cautiously it may not be who you’d expect.

Heart of Thorns is a debut that can’t be missed!  I’m highly looking forward to the next installment!

Posted in #SBPT

Top Ten Characters We’d Love to Go on a Date/Have Dinner/Be Stuck in an Elevator With

Welcome to our post for the second week of #SBPT! Characters make a book…quite literally. Some characters stand out more than others, leaving you wishing that they existed in the real world and not just on the page between the covers of a book. Here are ten characters that we would love to get to know a little better, either on a date, in an elevator or over dinner:

Here are Brooke’s Picks:

303127001. Porter RothHonestly, I’d want to be stuck in an elevator with Porter, for no other reason than, he’s SEXY AS HELL. And we would totally be making out. Hopefully. God, he’s so attractive. Even if we don’t make out, I’d stare at this boy for hours. *thud*

336439942. Alosa & Riden— I would LOVE to experience their swoony banter in real life! Plus, they’re both completely kick-ass at combat—trapped in an elevator seems like the perfect opportunity for them to teach me how to fight. Or, ya know, they could teach me about sailing—that’d be amazing too!

352974693. Lennon—After reading Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett I had some serious camping fever! I wanted to go buy some equipment and head out on a hike. Lennon would be THE PERFECT instructor—stuck in a elevator, nothing to do but focus on absorbing useful information (No funny business with this boy—he’s cute but totally taken by Zorie!)

69637494. Clarity— An OG in the magic scene. This girl has been a favorite of mine for years! I simply adore her and would love to just chill, see what she’s been up to, talk about boys and books and our futures. Gosh, I miss this girl! Get me on an elevator with her STAT! We need to catch up!

278832145. Dante— This guy. *swoons* His tattoos. *drools* His stories. *dies* Ehem…I mean, Dante has experienced a lot and being trapped in an elevator with him would strictly be for learning purposes! I swear! He’s a super interesting character and I’m kind of dying to know more of his backstory (If he’d be willing to share!)

 

And Here are my picks:

307346316. Penelope (Penny) Oakman – For me, Penny was what made the difference between The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik being an excellent book to one of my all-time favorites. Noah’s younger sister, Penny is authentically herself, loyal to her big brother and just a tad quirky. If I had to be stuck in an elevator with any character (hi, I hate elevators), it would be Penny so we could talk about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, all kinds of nerdy things and airdrop each other memes from our phones.

174533037. Glory O’Brien – Picking just one A.S. King character that I would want to get to know better is agonizing. However, the moody, whip-smart Glory O’Brien would definitely be my pick. If we were stuck in an elevator together, I can imagine us talking about photography and how to fight a sexist war against women in the future. Can’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday.

306538438. Frances Janvier and Aled Last – Is this cheating? Maybe? But sorry, I couldn’t imagine hanging out with Frances without her best friend and podcast partner-in-crime Aled far behind her. I would love to have dinner with these two nerdy British teens about a year after Radio Silence ends to see how they’re doing and what they’re up to. I would have so much fun blabbing with Frances and trying to get quiet Aled to talk.

282178029. Pen – Honestly? I would love to go out to dinner with Pen and talk about all things video games and gender identity. Pen read as questioning her gender identity and being genderqueer to me. Plus, she has such a strong, energetic personality and just seems like a really cool person to be around.

3695259610. Page – Blanca and Roja are both super interesting girls, but to be honest Page totally stole the show (well, book) for me and I would love to get to know him more! I would love for her (yes, Page is a boy but uses he/him and she/her pronouns) to take me to her family’s orchard so we could try all different types of apples!

 

We can’t be the only ones with characters we want to know better. What character would you love to have dinner, go on a date or be stuck in an elevator with?

Posted in #SBPT

Kicking off the Summer Blogger Promo Tour!

I love to blog, but blogging by yourself and having the motivation to make content is hard. That’s why I was thrilled when I found out that The Book Bratz (Jessica, Emily and Amber) were hosting the Summer Blogger Promo Tour. How it works is we all got a partner and we’ll be working with them this summer to bring you fun, exciting bookish content every Sunday now through August! Get ready for a bunch of fun interviews, reviews, bookish memes and more! Also be sure to check out all the posts and buzz about it on Twitter by searching for #SBPT.

My partner is Brooke @ Brooke-Reports! You can also find her on Twitter here! She is so sweet and I’m so excited to have the chance to introduce her to all of you this week. Brooke, take it away!

g4JfMVsm_400x400Hey there, y’all! Like Tay said, I’m Brooke from over at Brooke-Reports! I’ve been blogging about YA novels since 2011, crazy right!? Time flies when you’re swooning over fictional boys. Ha! I absolutely adore a YA romance; friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, lab partners, neighbors… YOU NAME IT I AM SO THERE FOR IT. I will go down with that ship. Some books that I’ve recently fell in love with include Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, Heart of Thorns by Bree Barton, and Lies You Never Told Me by Jennifer Donaldson.

Besides obsessing over fictional characters, I’m an avid crafter, a cupcake connoisseur, and mermaid junkie. You can either find me at Target or on my phone tweeting way too much.

Be sure to check out our blogs every Sunday for collaborative bookish content! We have so many great posts coming your way all summer.

Posted in Tay on Theatre

The Broadway Show of My Heart, “Spongebob Squarepants”

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I’m not even going to attempt to write a clever opening or be professional in this post. fucking love this musical with every fiber of my being, and I hope it wins so, so, so many Tony awards tomorrow.

Here’s the deal. I’ve seen this musical three times and it’s not enough. I have four t-shirts from the show (soon to be five because I can’t deal with not having them all—I know I have a problem and I can’t stop, but that’s okay). I listen to the full album a few times every week.

I was flabbergasted once the show was over.

I went in with super low expectations. I thought I would have fun, have a few laughs and then go home. Instead, I was changed forever by this little gem of a musical and I will fight anyone who says it isn’t good, okay?

I saw it for a second time on February 3. And then a Third time on June 1. If I could, I would see this musical every week (that would be excessive, but not necessarily unheard of for me). In order to organize my thoughts, because I could go on forever about this show and just be a mess, here are my favorite things about Spongebob Squarepants: The Broadway Musical, tied into why it means so much to me and why I think it deserves all the things.

This musical is probably one of the happiest and hopeful shows I have ever seen on a Broadway stage. The show stars all of the original Spongebob characters from the title character to Patrick Star to Sandy Cheeks to Mr. Krabs and more. It features a storyline where a volcano is threatening to destroy Bikini Bottom I can see why you wouldn’t like the show if you weren’t a fan of the original TV show. However, I vividly remember the first episodes and I loved it as a kid, so I have that connection to it.

Affectively, this show is remarkable and unlike anything else I’ve seen on Broadway. By affect (because I’m an affect theorist in my academic life) I mean the attachments and orientation of physical sensation, feeling and emotion in relation to people, places and things. So many shows that I see on Broadway capitalize on loss or grief in order to power the show. Spongebob, though, ran expressly on hope and optimism. “(Just a) Simple Sponge” is also probably in my top three of all Broadway show tunes I’ve listened to. I love the hopeful message of that song so much.

This infectious hope and optimism, which permeates everything from the set to the costumes to the music to the choreography, is what made me fall so madly in love with this show. It’s two-and-a-half hours of pure optimistic fun where the underdog good guy wins. It’s two-and-a-half hours of color and brightness and fun that I’ve never really encountered in theatre before, not like this.

This musical breaks boundaries. Men and woman dance together in a pink-sequined chorus line. Spongebob is anything but the stereotypically masculine hero. The show smartly pokes fun at religious zeal, corporate greed, xenophobia and government inefficiency. It is the silly, fantastical musical we didn’t know we needed in 2018 during the Trump presidency.

Besides that, I also love that romance isn’t a part of the plot. Not in the way that it’s not part of the plot in Frozen. It’s just absent from the show. Instead, Spongebob and Patrick have the most intensely pure and platonic friendship. Seeing male characters bond and love each other on stage without romance or sex is so refreshing and relatable and needed. The show also plays with gender roles. Spongebob, played by Ethan Slater, is a tiny guy with a huge heart and without any distinct talents. He’s just a dude that loves his town, friends and job. That’s why it’s so inspiring to see him ultimately save the day.

Ethan Slater is also my favorite actor on Broadway right now. The range of voices, noises, hand gestures and athletics that he needs to perform to bring Spongebob to life is incredible. This show could have very easily become cringy and corny, but performances by actors like Ethan saved the show and gave it an authentic sense of fun and its overall wow-factor.

The rest of the cast is equally fun to watch. It’s a joy to hear Jai’Len Christine Li Josey, who plays Pearl Krabs, belt out her notes so incredibly, and she’s just a teenager. It was fun to finally get to see Lilli Cooper on stage. Danny Skinner is the perfect Patrick. Everyone in the cast so fully embodies and embraces their character, bringing some of my favorite childhood characters to life.

The other aspect of the show that brings it to life is the gorgeous set and the immersive experience of the show. I remember the first time the doors opened and I saw the stage, lit gorgeously in blue. Seeing this show has always felt like escaping to a happier place, if only for a few hours. When I’m in a bad place or having a shitty day, the Spongebob Squarepants Original Broadway Cast soundtrack is the first thing I turn to now. Listening to the music and reflecting on my memories of the show brings me so much happiness.

Whatever happens tomorrow night, this show will always have a special place in my heart.

Posted in Tay on Theatre

Self-Love and the (Human) Heart of “Once on this Island”

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Content Warnings: Discussion of mental illness including depression and implied suicidal ideation

Full warning: this post is gonna get hella deep.

Something that I love about theatre is that it feels so intensely intimate. There’s something about sharing the room with people who are all experiencing what you are and also sharing the air with the people on the stage that makes seeing a show so, so special. There’s a kind of energy that gets charged in the room. At least once during every show that I really love, I get totally lost in the show and it feels real, like it’s really happening, and in a way, it is.

Theatre is also one of the places I turn to in order to work out my emotions. There’s something comforting about the way stories are told on stage. I trust it. When I see the right show at the right time, it ends up being transformative. I started going to see Broadway shows regularly when I was fifteen and especially in the past five years. I’m pretty sure that if you cut open my heart, the show tunes that I love most would flow out like a Pandora’s box, with just as much hope at the bottom.

Theatre resonates with my heart, whether I’m sad, angry or happy. It’s always there for me. I’m always able to find the perfect song that describes how I’m feeling. I also pull a lot of strength from theatre. If I have my earphones in, I’m more than likely listening to a show.

This past week, I went to see Once on this Island with one of my best friends. I had seen it shortly after it opened in January with another one of my best friends, but didn’t know much about the show before I saw it. I was so impressed and amazed with the set and the cast and the music, though, and the power of the story, that I promised myself I would go back and see it again.

A beautiful, smart musical about love, family and Caribbean racial politics (specifically in the French Antilles), Once on this Island tells the story of Ti Moune, a girl who is orphaned after a terrible storm, saved by the gods and raised by a peasant family. The gods, after hearing Ti Moune desire for some kind of purpose, arrange for her to fall in love with Daniel Beauxhomme, one of the lighter skinned grands hommes that lives on a different part of the island. Chaos ensues, as it does in any great love story, and the musical leaves off on a note that shows the worlds of the island being somewhat reunited.

The entire musical is framed as being a tale told to a small girl frightened during a bad storm and is about the power of love and stories. It’s about learning your history. It’s about using the power of storytelling to overcome adversity. It’s about the all-consuming power of love. It’s wonderful, and if you live near New York City you should definitely try to see it at Circle in the Square right now (plus the cast is just phenomenal). It’s done in the round and Circle in the Square is just such a special venue, especially for a story like this.

My post won’t touch upon the racial and class politics or the French Caribbean culture represented in the musical, though. It’s not my lane to talk about those elements of the show anyway in a post, although I appreciate the way that the culture is celebrated in the show and how deeply attuned to history.

Instead, I’m going to talk about how I connected personally to Ti Moune’s intense devotion and love in the play, and how it made me reflect on issues I’ve been thinking about lately in my own life. This show has taught me about the value and importance of self-love, and the consequences of ignoring its importance.

I am a very intensely emotional person. I also have a bad habit of putting other people’s feelings ahead of my own. I am not the kind of person that instinctively puts on her own oxygen mask first in a time of crisis. My instinct is to make sure everyone around me is okay first. All I want to do is take care of other people, even if I get hurt in the process. I used to think that was love. I’m starting to learn it’s foolishness. Once on this Island helped me see that, but from the safety of a cushioned theatre seat and with the comfort that other people around me were just as emotional (the woman sitting behind me and I were sniffling together and it was comforting).

Anyway, let’s take a step back. On Monday, I was talking to my friend while we were walking to a bookstore. Venting, actually, about mental health stuff, because I’d been having a hard weekend. I talk and write things out to think. At one point I insisted that I knew I hurt myself in an effort to save my friends from the emotional shrapnel that I send flying during my worst moments. And my friend snapped back at me, that no, I didn’t know that. It was quick, but it was like someone pinched me hard enough to wake me up.

Because oh shit. He was right. So right. But I always do such a good job of masking my insecurities. It was the first time someone I really love ever saw past that and reprimanded me for being foolish. I needed that.

Fast forward a few hours and I’m watching Once on this Island. The whole show, because it’s just so sad, makes me so emotional. It didn’t hit me the first time, but it sure as hell did the second time. I’m a person who believes in love and fate. I’m a hopeless romantic. But this time watching the show was different. During “Forever Yours,” a song in which Ti Moune takes care of Daniel obsessively after he’s in a bad car accident, I started to feel tears form in my eyes. Ti Moune and I, as people, are very different of course. But I connected to the way she devoted every ounce of her energy to take care of Daniel. It felt like I was watching myself on the stage, sacrificing my own strength and energy for someone else. What theatre does is it allows me the distance to understand my own feelings and work through those emotions. Catharsis.

As the musical went on, the knot that had formed in my stomach tied tighter and tighter and tighter throughout the show. When Ti Moune leaves her loving family to chase love. When she takes care of Daniel. When she is ultimately forsaken by the grands hommes and they kick dirt at her. I felt the tears build and build and build until “When We Are Wed” started and that’s when I just lost it.

It’s the moment when Ti Moune’s selfless love and displays of emotion come back to bite her.

As a survivor of sexual violence, too, I felt all the shame and guilt of having the rug pulled out from under me. I felt every little bit of the way that loving someone so strongly and so deeply, putting other people’s needs ahead of your own, can destroy every fiber of your sanity. I felt like that emotional through-line of the show was a caution to me, that if I kept on the path I was going on, I would eventually emotionally exhaust myself and eventually I would go too far and I would never recover.

So I started crying even harder during “A Part of Us.” Tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t make them stop. It was a mix of sadness and joy and admiration at the beauty of the show’s end. Every time I tried to wipe away my tears, more came.

It was the moment I realized I need to change my life. I need to take care of myself. I need to put myself first. Because while it’s beautiful how Ti Moune sacrifices herself and ultimately returns to the gods, I want more than that. And I knew watching this scene that I had a choice. I could continue to be self-destructively selfless and end up like her, as a story, as a tragic, cautionary fairy tale. Ti Moune will never get to experience real, validating love. She will never get to see her loving family again. She will never walk among the trees or in the surf again. She sacrifices herself for love and that’s the end. She lives on in a way, but her light still goes out.

Or I could stop. I could slow down and look around me and breathe. I could put my oxygen mask on now because I need it. Because if I kept going the way I had been, I knew I was going to burn out. I could feel it. And I could feel myself starting to prepare to say my goodbyes, even if I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing.

I want to live. I want to be here for a long time. I want to make so many memories with friends. I want to love others deeply, but I want to love myself too. I’m always going to hold Once on this Island close to my heart now, because seeing it might have saved my life, even in just a little way. It’s so beautiful, so hopeful and so magical. That’s the power of theatre.

When I hear the music, I will always now remember the power of love, but also the importance of knowing to balance a love of others with a love of self. Self-love is more important than anything else. I’m going to fight my mental illness head on this year. I’m going to get help. I’m going to deal with my shit. And love will win, but it won’t destroy me, because I’ll have self-love on my side.

That is why I tell the story.

Posted in Book Review

Review: Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs by Jason Porath

35887203Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

As a girl and as a staunch feminist and lover of female accomplishments throughout the ages, I love stories about kickass girls. I also like pretty pictures and well-researched historical writing. If you’re like me and love these things too, you’re going to love Jason Porath’s new Rejected Princess book, Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs. Filled to the brim with fifty stories of badass women who got shit done on their own terms, beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched and cited, this book is a feat. The book features women who were mothers, literally and figuratively, and centers on this idea of the fierce maternal instinct. You need this book in your life because you need the stories of these women, and Jason’s funny, thoughtful writing and carefully, gorgeously rendered art in your life. 

I’m a huge fan of Porath’s first Rejected Princess book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics and if you want to know why, check out my review of it. I’m also a huge fan of the online project, which features lots of free, awesome content about girls just as badass in the books as well as bonus content and other goodies!

But you should buy both of the books. Seriously. Before I even begin to tell you in detail why these books mean so much to me, add the book on Goodreads. Buy it from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or your local independent bookstore (you all should know that this is the way to go). Strapped for cash? Go and reserve it from your library.

All set? Got your future hands on a copy of this book. Cool. Let me tell you why it’s so fantastic now.

Rejected Princesses, in its online and book iterations, is something I desperately wish I had as a teen girl and even as a kid. Even coming of age in the aughts and teens of the new millennium, I was constantly told by the adults in my life to be “more ladylike” and to “act like a girl.” I was not thrilled with this. I loved Disney movies, especially Disney Princesses growing up. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but basically I dressed up as a Disney Princess every Halloween and had Disney Princess backpacks, shirts, etc. It was bad. And it was especially bad because they were badass in their own ways, but they weren’t…revolutionary to say the least.

The women–young, old and everywhere in between–that Jason writes about in Rejected Princesses aren’t just revolutionary. They’re also real. These are the ladies you should have learned about in history. They come from all over the world. All across time. Reading Jason’s work isn’t just enjoyable and entertaining. It’s downright educational too. I promise you, you will learn so much from this book and it is so worth the wild ride of reading every single story.

I also have to talk about the design of this book, and where do I even start. The cover is beautiful, to begin with. I love the deep, royal blue they chose. It gets even better when you open up the front cover. I loved the inclusion of a map that shows where all fifty of the women are from, and it shows that Jason really picked women from all over the world. My only point of critique is that I wish more South American, African and Southeast Asian women were included, since the map reveals that, while included, these areas are more sparse of inclusion than say, the United States and Europe.

I also love the system of content warnings. It makes it easy for readers to avoid potential triggers or topics they just rather not read at that moment. The ordering by level of maturity and clear indication with color coded and labeled warnings make this SO easy and it is so seamless in the design (these are also included in the online project).

Moreover, the page design of the stories is pure perfection. I loved the inclusion of all the little illustrations in the watermarked frame on each page. This just goes to show the level of detail Jason put into the design of his own book and how seriously he takes this project, its style and its atmosphere. Pushing this level of detail even further, the corners have a fun surprise. Flip the pages to generate a fun little animation. It’s fun and addictive, and so darn cool.

As an art historian and visual culture nerd, the illustrations are my favorite part of the book. They’re colorful. They’re dynamic. And they’re super detailed. Reading the art notes at the end of each vignette and getting to see the thought, the time and detail that Jason put into his images is one of my favorite parts of the project.

This brings me to another aspect of the text that I love: the writing style. The vignettes about each woman is fun and fresh to read. It’s written in an accessible way that people will get, with a touch of humor and ample amounts of empathy. We need more men like Jason in the world, not just as authors but as people. He puts in the time and the work to highlight these historical women. He listens to his readers. You can tell from reading about the project and from one or two entries that he deeply cares about the work that he’s doing, and that in turn makes the experience of it and the joy of reading his vignettes all the better. I am so grateful that these books, this project, exists. I hope you are–or soon will be–too.