ENCHANTING READ: “CARAVAL” BY STEPHANIE GARBER

Inspiration

There is perhaps nothing better than curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee on a cold winter’s night. Living in Central New York, I love using the cold, dark winters as an excuse to catch up on my reading.

I adore getting lost in a book. But it’s not always easy to find out one that I can get lost in. One that presents the ideal blend of unique, like-able characters, suspense and an original story line.

For me, “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber hit all of these high points and then some. Truly, I could not put this book down.

Revolving around sisters Scarlett and Tella Dragna, “Caraval” is the story of their adventures as they are presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to attend Caraval – the magical once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show. Readers should not be fooled by the fairytale mystique, however, as the story quickly moves from magical to treacherous, and the girls learn that Caraval is so much more than just a performance.

There were many great elements to this read, but what I enjoyed most was the pace of the story. It constantly kept me guessing. Every time I thought I had solved the mystery, the story took me for another loop.

I am so thankful I picked up this read at the bookstore and hope that you enjoy it just as much as I did! I definitely feel more inspired for having read it.

Here’s to eagerly awaiting the release of the sequel, “Legendary” on May 29!

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Hedgehog-Cupcake Drawing

Art

Those of you who know me, know that I was SUPER excited to receive a set of Prismacolor Premiere pencils from Andy this Christmas. Having already owned a small set of Prismacolor’s scholar grade pencils, I was eager to test the quality and capabilities of the company’s professional product.

(Plus, it was really past time I owned a set, given how much I use colored pencils in my work).

The piece I’m featuring today depicts a hedgehog residing in a cupcake wrapper and was inspired by a painting I did freshman year of college, titled “Bittersweet.” Said painting has been well received over the years and informally noted as being one of my most-loved artistic ventures.

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“Bittersweet,” 2012

Although my first hog is sitting in an ice cream cone, viewers often mistake the creature for a makeshift cupcake. This time, I decided to give the people what they want, putting the little critter within a cupcake wrapper.

As this latest hedgehog-inspired artwork is one of the more complete pieces I’ve done with my new pencils, I can definitely say that the Premiere pencils are better than the Scholar grade hands-down. Aside from providing a much wider physical array of colors, the actual pigments of the Premier pencils blend exquisitely, allowing for greater range still.

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Furthering the product’s capabilities, I invested in a set of blending pencils post-Christmas to complete my set and can easily say they were well worth the $7.00 I paid on Amazon. If you’re going to invest in the pencils, invest in a set of blenders.

I’d also recommend the Prismacolor brand sharpener, though truth be told, opening said sharpener to empty the shavings is anything but intuitive (you have to pull the top as hard as you can, by the way).

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So while this post is titled after one of my latest drawings, it’s really about my thoughts so far regarding this much sought-after pencil set. Conclusion? If you’re an artist or just enjoy using colored pencils, then this is the product for you.

Expensive? Yes. An artistic commitment? Yes. Life changing? For a third time, yes.

Christmas with the Celts

Holiday, Inspiration, Review

To get into the holiday spirit, my family and I decided to attend a show brought to our local Arts Council: Christmas with the Celts.

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If given the opportunity, I would highly recommend attending this show, as it was a combination of lively energy, festive music and the perfect amount of Christmas that you are looking for during the holiday season!

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The performance even incorporated local Irish step dancers during a handful of songs and a local elementary school chorus joined in during the group’s rendition of John Lennon’s “So This is Christmas.”

With the tickets only costing $31.00 per person, I’m was very happy with the quality of the show! Seriously, how can you listen to Celtic music and not be happy?

Here’s to checking off that Christmas season checklist! 

P.S. Only 7 days until Christmas!

Reviewing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (No Spoilers!)

Inspiration, Pop Culture, Review

I’ve been so busy writing Christmas and Fall inspired posts that I haven’t had the chance to reflect upon Fantastic Beasts. Having seen the film two weeks ago, I’ve been itching to write down my thoughts on the film and share them with the creative and wizard-loving community.

The first thing I’m going to say is this: Go see the movie. If you have not yet seen it, but believe that you may possess even just the slightest interest in doing so, then stop reading this and go to the theater immediately.

Because my overall review is that Beasts was, truly, Fantastic. 

Clearly very different from the Harry Potter story, this film brought something new to the table: A plot line and experience of the wizarding world seen through the perspective of an adult, littered with maturity and the vibrancy of early-1900s New York City.

Though I could absolutely rant and rave about this film, I’ll keep it simple with my top three favorite things:

1. The Beasts. Anyone who reads this blog knows of my love of mythical and fantastical creatures. If you loved watching Harry fly over the lake with Buckbeack, or perhaps secretly wished for Norbert’s prolonged residence in Hargrid’s hut, then you will love the creatures brought to you in Beasts. While the niffler provides sufficient humor, the thunderbird emanates wonder and encourages imagination.

With so many other creatures also presented during the film, the beasts are a large part of what makes this film fantastic.

2. Character Development. Without a doubt, Eddie Redmayne makes this film. Socially awkward and enraptured by seemingly “dangerous” characters, Newt Scamander is a character for whom you find yourself rooting for.

Also captivating is our first muggle/no-maj main character, Jacob, who adds an immense amount of humor to the periodically dark storyline.

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Sisters Porpentina and Queenie also make for well-developed main characters, playing like-able, as well as complete and total opposites.

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3. Storyline. This storyline, while playing into Harry Potter, was also completely fresh. It was also a great balance of light-hearted humor and serious, symbolic themes. Although this was her first screenplay, J.K. Rowling has outdone herself once again.

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This year has been a big one for the wizarding world, bringing us the release of  Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well as the beginning of this new Fantastic franchise. Ultimately much more pleased with this film than I was with the Cursed Child play book I look forward to seeing it one more time before it leaves theaters and ultimately encourage you to do the same.

Early Christmas gift perhaps?

Until then, so the fan art begins…

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