Monday, July 16, 2018

Paris


After the events of yesterday, today seemed like a good time to share my photos from France. And while I'm thinking of the World Cup, I told my mom during the Round of 16 that the final would be between France and Croatia, which she doesn't remember, but let it be noted that I got it correct! I also got a France jersey during my stay and I wore it at every opportunity during this WC. Anyways back to my trip, I really loved Paris. There was so much that I wanted it to see and do, and we were pretty successful in managing our time to get a lot out of the 4 days we spent there.


Although we relied pretty heavily on the Metro, we mostly explored the city on foot. Our hotel was really close to the Sacré-Cœur, which we ended up visiting several times because there are just some things you'll want to see both during the day and lit up at night. We also walked from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre in the humid heat, but it ended up being worth it because the walk allowed us to see so much of the city. 


We went to so many museums while in Paris; the Rodin, the Sainte-Chapelle, Versailles, the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre. There's just so much art in the city, but it was important to me, to see as much as possible.


Detail shots from the Jardin du Luxembourg.


It was so hard to narrow down the sunset pictures, because I took a lot, but standing on the Pont des Arts and watching the sunset along the Seine was my favorite moment of the Paris trip. - Jessica

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Books I Read in June


I read 8 books and one short story in June. It wasn't my best reading month, but I still felt like I read enough for the month. So here are the books I read and some of my thoughts and opinions on them.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli - This is a spinoff novel that revolves around Leah from Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I recently reread Simon in anticipation of this book, and I'm really happy I did because I had forgotten so much of these characters and their story. I really liked this book and the LGBTQ+ elements. Leah was one of my least favorite characters in Simon so it was nice to get to know her more and learn about her character.  

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson - This book revolves around Andie, after her summer plans are canceled and she has to learn to renavigate her life. This was my only reread of the month, and I wanted to revisit this book before I read Matson's latest book, Save the Date. This is one of my all time favorite books, so I loved getting the chance to revisit the characters and gain a new perspective from reading this book again. 

Opal by Maggie Steifvater - This is a short story that takes place after the events of The Raven King. This was a fun addition to the series and allowed the reader to revisit two of their favorite characters from The Raven Cycle, but other than that I don't think it truly added much to the overall story of the series.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson - This book follows Charlie and her family, on the weekend that the oldest daughter is getting married. As I have mentioned before, Morgan Matson is my absolute favorite YA contemporary author, her books mix coming of age with summer reads and they're just perfect. So I obviously had a lot of high expectations going in to this book, and it did not disapoint. This book is not as romance heavy as her previous books, but I really liked that element and how it fit the story. I also loved the family dynamic of this book, which is something Matson does so well in all of her books. I'm also so happy I reread The Unexpected Everything almost immediately before picking this book up, because Matson also does a really good job with adding in cameo appearances. Overall I loved this book and I'll be patiently waiting for the release of Matson's next book.   

From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon - This book follows aspiring filmmaker, Twinkle, as she works on her first student film. I absolutely loved Menon's debut, When Dimple Met Rishi, so I did go into this book with some high expectations. The storyline was fun but I had trouble liking Twinkle's character. Overall this was a fun and quick read.

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan - This is the final book in the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series. Out of all the books in this trilogy, I definitely liked this book the most. I've gradually started liking Magnus' character throughout this series, and I liked how this book explored more of the side characters. I'm going to be honest my favorite part of this series has been Alex, who I think is one of the greatest characters in Riordan's universe (they are up there with Percy and Annabeth). Overall this was a fun read, and I'm really interested to see what myth Riordan focuses on next.

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody - This book follows Enne after she travels to the City of Sin, in an effort to find her lost mother, and joins forces with Levi, a gang leader. This was a great first installment in a trilogy. I really loved exploring New Reynes, a.k.a the City of Sin, and how it has a similar vibe to Ketterdam from Six of Crows, but is also completely different. I'm really looking forward to the next installment in the series.

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman - This book follows Elio as he develops an attachment to his father's summer guest, Oliver. I really wanted to love this book, because of all the praise this movie has, but it ended up being different from what I expected. I thought this book would revolve around a coming of age story, but it mostly tells the story of desire. Overall it was a quick read, and I listened to the audiobook that is narrated by Armie Hammer, which really added to the experience.

Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond - This book surrounds around the relationship between Walter and Naomi as they have to overcome their families approval and issues surrounding race. I liked this book, the characters were enjoyable and there is art interspersed within the book that gives it a graphic novel feel, but doesn't add a lot to the plot. This book raised a lot of questions about police brutality and racial profiling, but didn't provide any concrete answers. Overall, I found this to be a good read and fulfilled some of my interests after reading The Hate U Give.

And those are all the books I read in June. I have some books on my radar that I want to read in July, but ultimately I'm planning a big Harry Potter reread for the month. - Jessica  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Amsterdam


After spending a couple of days in Brussels, we made our way to Amsterdam. I loved how much culture the city holds, and we invested in a museum pass and were able to see so much fantastic art at the Rijksmuseum and also the Van Gogh museum. 



My sister was able to book  a tour for the Anne Frank House and then afterwards we walked to the TIFoS bench, which we spent way to long trying to find. I highly recommend going to the Anne Frank House if you can book your trip early enough, because it was so moving and emotional to see.


We also went on a windmill tour in the countryside of Amsterdam. We visited Marken and Volendam, which was a fun tourist excursion. 



And here are some of my last shots from Vondel Park, which was lovely to walk around during sunset.  - Jessica

Belgium


I finally found the motivation to edit the photos I took in Europe! Here's my favorite shots from Belgium, where we visited Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. I definitely took way to many photos of the castles (cause they look like Hogwarts!), and not pictured is the insane amount of waffles and frites that I ate. 


- Jessica

Sunday, June 17, 2018

HP Haul


I decided that a good use of my time would be to take photos of all the Harry Potter stuff that I got while in Europe, instead of go through and edit all three thousand photos I took while I was there. As soon as I knew that I would be going to Europe, I knew that there would be a ton of Harry Potter merch that I would want to buy. And in all honesty, I could have brought back way more stuff, but I was able to exhibit restraint and here's what I got...


Buying tickets to see The Cursed Child was one of the first things that I did after I booked my flight. When I first read the script, I recognized that the plot had a lot of problems, but I loved how the script captured the environment of the wizarding world, and I knew that I would have to see how the play comes together live. I highly recommend seeing the play live, because the magic of the series is so well transferred on stage. I also love the art direction and I had to get some merch featuring the reimagined Gryffindor crest. I was so surprised that they still hand out the #keepthesecrets pin (especially since the script has been out for so long), and it was an excellent addition to my growing pin collection. UK links to merch (US store): program (not sold online), patch, Gryffindor pin, Cursed Child pin, postcard, Gryffindor shirt (not pictured).


House of MinaLima was another place that I knew that I needed to go to. MinaLima is the duo that created all of the art in the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films. The store was originally a popup store in London, but it is now a permanent fixture and it is a block away from the Palace Theater, where the Cursed Child plays. I was able to pick up a few cards and postcards from the shop, which I'm hoping to add to my Harry Potter wall soon. One day, I would like to own one of their limited edition prints, which I loved seeing in person because they are stunning. Even the quality of the cards is stunning, the foiled detail is beautiful, and the postcards are extremely sturdy. Links to merch: Hogwarts a History card, Hogwarts crest card, Fantastic Beasts card, Gryffindor button, Hogwarts series postcards.


Pro tip: if you're planning a trip to the Harry Potter studios, I suggest booking tickets early. Due to sell outs, I ended up having to buy tickets through a third party company, which was fine and ended up being a good experience, but we were only allotted three hours at the tour and being the massive fan that I am, I could have benefited from spending more time there. Because of this, I only spent 15 minutes in the gift shop and I didn't get to look at everything, which was probably a good thing for my wallet. Plus I didn't want to go too crazy, since the studio tours sells most of the same merch as the Wizarding World does, and I'm itching to take a trip to Orlando in the near future. I did cave by getting the sweater (which is so soft and I'm sad that it's too hot in TX to wear), and I knew I wanted to get a new lanyard since mine broke a while ago. UK links to merch (US link): Gryffindor sweater, time turner keychain, lanyard, Hogwarts express ticket ornament (only at US shop). 



Another place that I really wanted to visit was the Platform 9 3/4 store at King's Cross Station, but unfortunately we weren't able to make it. I was able to go to the store at Heathrow Airport, and I picked up a couple of things there. Links to merch: magnet, chocolate frog keychain, philosopher's stone keychain (not online). 


Definitely one of the worst things about being a US Harry Potter fan is that so much good, affordable merch comes from Primark, which doesn't ship online and third parties will sell some stuff online but at inflated rates. So I was happy that I got to visit 4 different Primarks and raid some of their Harry Potter displays. I definitely had to restrain myself, because they sell so much stuff, but I already have so much Harry Potter clothing that I limited myself to other merch. A lot of what I got was merch that I'd previously seen on instagram posts, and the candle and the satchel were two of the items I wanted most. 



And here are the two items that I definitely did not need to buy, because they are my 9th and 10th copy of the first book. I had previously ordered the 20th edition hardback, but I caved when I saw the paperback edition at Waterstone's. I also picked up a French edition at this small bookstore called La Librairie des Abbesses. I loved that this particular edition features the ebook covers, because I love that artwork and they currently do not sell those covers on any physical editions. I also really wanted to get a Dutch copy while I was in Amsterdam, but I wasn't able to search for one. So that is all the stuff I got, I know it's a lot, but I saw so much stuff that I wanted to buy and because I have little self control when it comes to Harry Potter, I treated myself. - Jessica