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Mini-reviews: Sweet Black Waves + Save the Date

pub 6/5/18 by Imprint
Young Adult - Fantasy Retelling
Received ARC from pub
This book, you guys. Sweet Black Waves had me so emotionally riled up by the end that I didn't even know how to rate it at first. At one point, I actually had to put the book down and text a friend who already read it (Hi DJ!) because my stomach was so in knots over what I was sure would happen next. (I was right.) But let me backtrack. Sweet Black Waves is inspired by the story of Tristan and Eseult and it's one I'm very familiar with. I read the Rosalind Miles books (but didn't finish because the 2nd book was meh) and even watched the movie featuring James Franco (it's not the worst movie I've ever seen) so I was excited to see how debut author Kristina Pérez would interpret this star-crossed tale. And she really did an amazing job. The writing is lush and beautiful and I loved how the book felt like historical fantasy (this feels like a new thing and I'm here for it). If you know the story, then you'll see where she remains true to it but she gives us a much different heroine in Branwen. That's right, Eseult is not the protagonist! Branwen is the best friend and lady-in-waiting to Princess Eseult. She's driven by devotion to her homeland (including the princess and queen) and by memories of her parents, who were killed by raiders. When she accidentally saves the life of her enemy (sound familiar yet?), it opens up her heart and her eyes to a different perspective. But more importantly, it awakens ancient magic within her that allows her to heal. Together they begin to dream of a future with peace between their kingdoms but there are forces against them. As Branwen's powers begin to overwhelm her, she makes decisions that set her, the princess and the man she's now in love with on a dangerous path. And for the record, I'm Team Branwen.

Do I recommend? I do! I will say again that if you know the story, you'll know where it's headed but that doesn't take away from the reading experience one bit.

pub 6/5/18 by Simon Schuster Books
for Young Readers
Young Adult - Contemporary
Received from pub via Netgalley
I've read every Morgan Matson book and consistently given them 4 stars (my favorite is still Amy & Roger's Epic Detour) so I'm just going to come right out and say it, Save the Date was my least favorite. Charlie Grant is the youngest of 5 siblings and she can't wait for all of them to be together under one roof for her older sister's upcoming wedding at their family home. It's an emotional weekend for Charlie because their childhood house is being sold and she sees this weekend as one last nostalgic hurrah. But then everything about the wedding weekend is a disaster. The book takes place over the course of three days and literally every little thing you can imagine going wrong, goes wrong in the most catastrophic of ways. Which is actually my first problem with the book. I can imagine a few things going awry. I can maybe even imagine 5. But when it's literally every possible thing, the story just started to feel like a slapstick comedy and unrealistic. I think that took away from the heart of the book which is this family. It was the siblings and the parents that drew me in the most, even when I didn't like some of them very much. But the complexity of their relationships rang true – even though family can drive you up the wall, you love them anyway and Matson certainly captured that. My other problem was with the main character, Charlie. I just didn't get her? I didn't understand where some of her actions and feelings were coming from, especially in terms of her family and the crush she's had for years on her brother's best friend. I know the story is meant to take place in a short period of time but I think the book would've benefited from showing more of Quinn and her family's past to get why this weekend was both a happy and heavy one.

Do I recommend? As always, Matson's writing is engaging and I certainly flew through the book in spite of everything I just said. I liked it enough but I didn't love it.

Ballet Season

How is it possible that our ballet season is over already? I feel like it went by so quickly! For the third year in a row, Alexa and I bought 3-show season tickets to American Ballet Theatre. We tend to choose shows featuring our favorites Stella Abrera, Jeffrey Cirio, and Misty Copeland and preferably ones we haven't seen before. I can't say enough how much I love this summer tradition of ours! There's something exciting about getting dressed up, going to the Metropolitan Opera and waiting for the lights to dim right before the dancers take the stage. Every show I watch only increases my admiration of these ballerinas and we're already talking about what we want to see next year!

La Bayadère • This was the first and my favorite of the ones we watched. It's a love story filled with revenge, gods and set in India. What appealed to most about this ballet was the story and of the three we saw, it was the most interesting and intricate. Dancing-wise, Jeffrey Cirio completely stole the show. Last year he caught our eye as a secondary character but seeing him as the lead was something else. Every time he had a solo, the whole audience erupted into applause. It was also our first time seeing Isabella Boylston dance, who we thought was quite good too. Misty Copeland was in this one as well as the secondary love interest. She has such a stage presence, I just wish we could've seen her dance more!

Harlequinade • This ballet was much more comedic than any of the other ballets we've seen. It's about Harlequin, played by Jeffrey Cirio, who fights for his one true love, Columbine, as her father tries to marry her off to a wealthy suitor. Stella Abrera is also in this as Columbine's close friend who her to defy her father's wishes. Honestly, neither Alexa or I were impressed by the leading lady's performance. She came across as very amateurish, which surprised us both. But at the same time, she's also on stage with Cirio and Abrera, who are both so good at inhabiting their characters and emoting. Honestly whenever they're dancing, even if they aren't the leads, I just don't notice anyone else. 

Romeo & Juliet • I've seen Romeo & Juliet as a ballet a few years ago but it was with The New York City Ballet instead of ABT. I enjoyed it a lot but honestly, it pales in comparison to this version featuring Stella Abrera as Juliet. Remember what I said about her inhabiting the characters? She IS Juliet in this. She's playful, passionate, and mournful. Her dancing is exquisite and I am in awe every single time she dances. She really is the epitome of graceful. If you ever only go to one ballet in your life, make sure Stella Abrera is in it. (Sidenote: This is a very close second for favorite because of Stella but I've just never loved the Romeo & Juliet story.)

I can't wait to do this again next year!

Stacking the Shelves (59)

Between my decision to splurge on books this month, BookCon and generous publishers, I accumulated a lot of books in the last four weeks! But as always, no complaints here. Just very thankful and wishing I could adult less and read more ☺

So, onto the books!