Publisher: Random House Children’s Books/Delacorte Press
Page Count: 352 Release Date: December 1, 2020
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
I have not read any book by Julie Buxbaum before, but know a couple of friends who quite enjoy her style and I was excited to check out Admission. As far as I gathered, this story was inspired by the very much real admission scandal but is an entirely fictitious version of similar events. Neither research nor any association with real people exists and since the author makes a point of mentioning that very clearly, I thought I should too.
Julie Buxbaum did not choose an easy topic, that much was obvious from the get go to me. You have this family steeped in privilege and while you do want to allow the reader to connect to the characters, you don’t want to redeem them or excuse their actions. I am not quite sure how, but Buxbaum managed this balancing act phenomenally.
With an alternating Now and Then POV, you get to explore the events that led up to Chloe’s life and that of her family imploding, while at the same time seeing the very concrete fallout from it. I didn’t really wonder whether Chloe knew what was going on or not, but I enjoyed the debate on what it means to be complicit. Buxbaum managed to humanize her without sugarcoating that she is the villain in a lot of people’s stories. I feel like a lot of authors have that need to not just give their characters a redemption arc, but also one that absolves them of their wrong-doing, which thankfully wasn’t done here. I don’t want to say you empathize with what happened, because I was downright disgusted by some of the conversations that family had, because screw them for their entitlement, but it made you understand how their thought process was and that weirdly made sense in turn.
I don’t think this is one of those books where you fall in love with very many characters, however, I have found great pleasure in the way friendships and family are portrayed. I liked how inconsequential the romantic love interest was, because in the end, it’s very doubtful that it would be a priority in such an extreme situation. Instead it focused on so many different kind of relationships and I especially appreciated the one between Chloe and her best friend Shola as well as the one to her sister Isla (both of which were my favourite characters if I am being completely honest).
While definitely not the easiest of topics and quite frustrating to read about sometimes, it was still a page turner I quite enjoyed. I’m glad that no excuses were made and consequences were implemented. It once again made me really, really, really glad that I did not have to deal with the stress of going to university/college in the US though.
Fazit: 4/5 stars! An intense look at how far some people go for their children and how it all blows up!
Do you want to read Admission? Do you have university admission horror stories of your own? Feel free to ask questions about the system in my country if you want to!
As many of you know, I’ve really dug deep into the world of watercolour art this year. I would like to point out that I am still, in absolutely no way, an expert on the matter, but I do enjoy myself quite a lot. I have focused on portraits, so, bear in mind that that’s mostly the viewpoint I am talking from in the following post. And what is this post?
Well, I’ve now been approached a couple times about how I do things and I thought, why not share my “insights”? I’ve also done a poll on Twitter and had quite a few people interested in it. I will try and do a short summary of this post on the platform as well (hopefully).
First off, let’s talk basics aka materials. I am of the strong opinion that you don’t need to spend loads of money when you start out. Try using a basic watercolour palette, like the ones you might use for school, and regular paper to work on your technique. If you like what you’re doing and find yourself enjoying the process and would now like to dig deeper, there’s a whole world of different papers, brushes and colours you get to explore. Everyone needs to find the materials they are most comfortable with, so, here are my favourite products and the reason why I like them so much:
paper: I’m currently mostly working on 100% cotton/300g/cold-pressed paper in DIN A4 size. It’s my preferred size, because I neither like to do very small artwork nor do I have the space for big projects. The other components are important, because you’ll want to look for durable paper that can hold a lot of water.
brushes: I don’t go for certain brands, but I found I prefer round brushes. I have them in all different sizes, but my saving grace has really been an investment in detail brushes (the kind you’d use for model making). I could not imagine having to botch my way through a drawing without those anymore.
watercolour palettes: as I said above, I think you can do a lot with a very basic palette. The colours might not be as durable and rich, but you can still mix a great many shades out of them. Only after I had worked with regular colours for a while, did I front some money for higher quality palettes. I went for a 24-colour-White Night palette and then different palettes (e.g. metallic colours …) from Van Gogh. I personally don’t work with colours in tubes, I prefer them solid.
masking fluid: this is one of my favourite gadgets ever. I have a masking fluid pen with which I mark certain areas that will be highlighted later on (this is done before you start working with watercolours). You can go into great detail with those pens and make sure single hairs are noticeable even in very dark areas.
masking tape, paper towels, several vessels containing water: believe me, you’ll need those!
This varies from person to person and, again, I can only speak to how I do things. There’s people who really enjoy drawing on their sketch pad directly, but I like to draw on single sheets of paper. I fix that sheet of paper to my drawing base with the above mentioned masking tape.
Attention: if you use light paper/lower quality paper, there’s a danger of the masking tape ripping it!
Even before that though, I make my initial sketch/outline of the person I want to draw. I use a mechanical pencil for my sketches and am always careful that I don’t press down on the paper too hard. These sketches help me to get proportions right before I put something irreversible on the paper. You have to make sure you don’t need to erase too much, because that will likely irritate the paper and make things harder for you once you get to the water-stage of things.
Sneaky tip: if you are unsure about your proportions and getting the initial sketch right, just turn up the brightness on your laptop/computer screen and trace whoever/whatever you want to draw.
The amount of detail you go into is completely up to you. Hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and difficult patterns are things I like to put into my pencil sketch. As I said above, I make sure to not press down too hard with the pencil, because you want it to be a guideline for you later on, but not something that is noticeable through the watercolours. The outline helps guide the water a little bit and I like that, so I don’t erase it all, even though I have seen several artists do sketches just to erase them so that they are barely visible at all.
Above you can see examples of my outlines and the finished projects!
There is no way for me to tell you just how much water vs how much colour you should use. As always, it very much depends on what you are trying to do and what effect you are trying to accomplish. There’s a couple things I can try to explain though and I just really hope that they make sense.
General rule of watercolour: always go from light to dark colours and not the other way round!
When I tackle my drawings, I like to work in certain blocks. You should always choose whether to start with the background or the object/person in the foreground. I prefer doing the background first, because I feel like I can make less “mistakes” that way. There’s really nothing worse than having done a beautiful portrait just to go a bit overboard with the background …
Here’s how I do backgrounds:
First, I wet the areas I want to colour with a brush. I use quite big brushes to get a moderate amount of water on there, but always make sure not to cross over the outline of the person’s face or clothes. Sometimes I get a bit too cautious, which can leave an unlucky white area later on.
After the paper has been wetted, I mostly use the colours directly on paper without much mixing or watering. I enjoy the way they merge with the water create all sorts of patterns.
Handy trick: when you aren’t yet confident with your colour intensity and selection, always have a piece of paper ready to try your colours before putting it on for good. I still do this all the time!
As mentioned above, I like to work in blocks. So, after the background is dry (and really only then), I start on the face. If you are impatient and want to work on several areas, make sure that they do not touch! Water is sneaky and colours will easily bleed over. Since you work from light to dark colours, you will need to work with several layers and wait so that they can dry as well.
When I work on faces and clothes, I never apply the colour directly on the paper/canvas. I always mix it with water first, use paper towels to adjust the wetness of the brush and only then get to work. Watercolours are pretty unforgiving, but having paper towels at the ready can make a difference sometimes. Or, if you accidentally used too much colour, you can always try to soften it with more water.
As a benchmark, I need about 4-5 hours in total per portrait I do. Compared to other artists I know, who use the medium as well for their art, this is actually on the lower end of the time spectrum. There’s people who do their watercolour work over the course of several days!
Never forget: Watercolour art requires a lot of patience! Let layers dry!
Final details can be done with detail brushes and watercolor, but I like to do a lot of the finishing touches with a white gel pen and coloured pencils (which I sharpen with a knife for more precision). It’s a balancing act to make sure the pencils’ structure on the paper doesn’t overtake the delicacy of the watercolours.
SOME EXAMPLES OF MY WORK
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please, let me know in the comments if you would like to see further insights into how I create art etc. Are you working with watercolour as well? What’s your favourite medium?
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Page Count: 256
*I was provided with an eARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!*
CW: depiction of anxiety/panic attacks
I’ve currently really been on a roll when it comes to Dash & Lily, reigniting my love for the characters by binging the Netflix show (several times) and following it up by reading the sequel and now this book that places them in London. It’s as if the authors allow you to watch them grow up a little more with each book and I appreciated that the most in Mind the Gap.
There was much I loved, but also a couple things that bothered me. A lot of it came down to one of my biggest pet peeves – bad communication. Despite being miles and miles apart, Dash and Lily really make the long distance thing work. They seemed so solid in their relationship that their troubles once they reunited felt … strange to me. Obviously, they were busy living their lives and struggling or thriving (depending on who you’re looking at) and didn’t talk about every little detail that happened while they were apart. Where Dash got disappointed by his own ambitions, Lily was turning into a little dog mogul without her family or friends noticing. All of that is understandable and just warrants a bit of time to talk it all out, catch up on the things you missed, but what does Lily Bear do? Once again she runs away. I was so frustrated with her, because poor Dashiell was just too overwhelmed.
Lily went to London surprising Dash without his knowledge. While he was glad to see her (because he is always glad to see her), it was also really bad timing. He didn’t want her to see him in this state of despair he found himself in. Oxford had drained him to the last drop and only his previously estranged grandmother, Gem, could raise his spirits. Instead of being glad that Dash had finally found a family member to connect with, Lily was jealous. She was legit jealous of Dash’ grandmother, a woman who is basically a slightly British version of Mrs. Basil E.
But once they got over those initial hick-ups, however annoying I might have found them, especially on Lily’s part, the book was really fantastic. I felt Dash’ state of being lost to the core. The way his world seemed to close in on him and he just did not know what to do now that what he had always envisioned for himself wasn’t as fulfilling as he thought it would be. I think that’s somethinga lot of young adults have to face. Their expectations of college/university aren’t always going to match up with reality and it takes a whole lot of strength to muster up the courage to find a new path.
Simultaneously, you have Lily’s own struggle with what the future holds. I think I found it a bit harder to connect to her here, because she is so much larger than life sometimes. Where Dash is relatable in his quiet despair, Lily has suddenly made mountains of cash (without her very meddling family knowing?) and has become a dog influencer who is even recognised on the street outside of New York City. I always knew her happy demeanor was contagious, but she basically had become a celebrity without the people in her life realising it. Maybe because she didn’t communicate clearly what she was doing and just how successful she was with it, her family kept pressuring her to go down a more traditional academic route. I enjoyed that she stood her ground in the end, but I never really had to worry about her not being okay. She was doing great for herself, Dash was much more worrisome.
The book ended with their relationship stronger than ever. While the story as a whole was not as fluffy and cutesy as the previous ones, it still filled my heart with a certain warmth that only Dash and Lily can provide. Those kids are not kids anymore and you just know they’re going to find their way.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars! It was lovely to see them grow up like this.
Do you want to continue on with Dash and Lily’s epic love story? Does it convey the holiday spirit to you as well? Let’s talk!
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Page Count: 226
**This is the second book in the Dash & Lily series. Please proceed with caution if you haven’t read the first one yet!**
I feel like I should start this review with a little disclaimer. I have read almost every single Rachel Cohn-David Levithan-collaboration there is. Honestly, I think there’s only one book missing, and I have enjoyed all of them. However, Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares was always my very favourite one. Now that Netflix released it’s series adaptation of the material, I realised just how much I had forgotten about the book though. I watched and I adored the show, but I couldn’t remember much more than the general premise it turned out. Still, I wanted more, so, I turned to this little sequel, that I never actually intended to read, because I was quite fond of whatever the first book gave me. So, what I am trying to say is, my knowledge from the first book is basically non-existent at this point (am I getting old?) and I completely based off my feelings for the characters etc. on what I had seen on the show.
Here’s a look at what Netflix has done. I can really only recommend it to get you into the spirit:
Now on to the actual bookish thoughts for The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily!
When I learned what the sequel was going to be about, I actually thought it sounded like a neat idea. Adding an element of angst that would lead to the characters having to grow up a bit as well as giving them a chance to repeat the formula from the previous book sounded promising, but it wasn’t delivered in the right.
I feel like the book could have been a lot more clear cut in its timeline. Albeit maybe a bit formulaic, I would have loved to actually see them embrace the twelve days of Christmas theme, but it was abandoned after day one in favour of lots and lots of miscommunication and sulking. Dash and Lily were on the brink of breaking up so many times that, at some point, I actually wanted them to take a break in order to see clearly again. While I do understand that they are teens and maybe have some misconstrued ideas about love, it was ridiculous how Lily expected Dash to read her mind and say all the right things, when everyone else could see that he was trying his very best to DO the right thing at all times.
The grand gestures felt a bit strangely placed this time around and often ended in disaster, but I will give them that they really made it work in the end. The message came through clear and that’s something that saved the book for me. It was right then that I felt like we were finally at a place that was interesting and where the characters were more themselves again, but that’s also right when the story ended. (And how cruel it did end, they are SUCH a tease!) Dash and Lily really do have that annoying habit of making you want more of their cutesy love, so, on to Mind the Gap I go.
Rating: 2.5/5 stars! The ideas were all there, but the execution wasn’t it for me.
Have you read this sequel? Do you want to? How about watching the show? Feel free to chat in the comments!
I pretended I didn’t have like a billion tags in my drafts and looked one up that was writing related. I found the Writer Tag: 20 Questions on a blog called InkBlots and IceBergs and just thought “this fits the NaNo month!”, so, here we are! Let’s do this!
What type of writing do you do?
I write exclusively fiction. I’m not sure that’s what was really asked for, but to expand a little on it, I write long formatted fiction and every once in a while a short story. However, as much as I enjoy essays and poetry, I could never …
What genres and/or topics do you write about?
A lot of my stories focus on the found family trope and by that I really mean A LOT. I dabble in YA as well as in adult and like to switch it up with Fantasy, SciFi and regular contemporary stories. It’s really a “whatever strikes the mood” kind of thing for me.
How long have you been writing?
As corny as it may sound, but I am pretty sure I’ve been writing since I learned how to write. Even in grade school, I was the one who had to get up in front of the class and read out loud the story I had fabricated and I just never stopped creating ever since.
Are you published?
I am not and I am super undecided whether I want to be.
What was the first story you ever wrote?
That feels impossible to answer! I can, however, talk about the first really long story I attempted to write and even shared with some friends. It was called Elementals and about a group of teens who could each control one element (aka water, fire, air and earth). Their enemies were the Society of the Iron Mask, as they believed that metal was not affected by the element wielders. Little did they know that the main character, who could control the element of earth, also discovered that she could manipulate metals. She also had about three love interests. I was super proud for writing this before Avatar, the Last Airbender aired and everyone wanted element stories.
Why do you write?
To me, writing is like a necessity. When a story or scene or character pops into my head, they won’t let me go until I write them down somewhere. It doesn’t always have to amount to anything, but it would never leave my system unless I jotted it down somewhere.
How do you find time to write?
Honestly, this is something I struggle with a lot. I wish I could write all the time and make it a priority, but a lot of the time I am just tired. And when I am tired, I do not want to write. I also don’t think that I can write anything I’d actually like in those cases.
When and where are the best times to write?
There is no such thing as a bad time to write (unless you are at work and not doing your job or behind a wheel or something else where it’s just not logical to write in that particular moment). Whether it be night or day, if you have an idea and you want to work on it – go for it!
Favorite food/drinks while writing?
No such thing for me. I generally either drink water or tea and nothing else. And I am not really that much of a snacker. Maybe some wallnuts?
Your writing playlist?
I actually do have one. Click here to listen to it!
What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing?
I think they approve? I’ve been told that I am not a bad writer (not gonna actually praise myself here), but I am also pretty sure they’d like for me to actually finish something for once.
Here, for example, is something I am currently working on. Judge my writing ability for yourself:
Parts of writing you enjoy the most?
There are few things that I adore more than when a scene just spills out on the age effortlessly. That moment, when choices I made before and was unsure about suddenly make sense and everything fits together like the perfect puzzle pieces they are. Sometimes I really do lay bread crumbs throughout my own story that I will not have realized I put there until I get to a certain moment and it’s pure bliss.
Parts of writing you find challenging?
I often really wish I could connect my brain to my laptop and that the words would just spill out the way I intend them to instead of me actually having to formulate sentences. It’s not always hard, but sometimes some scenes just don’t want to work the way you want them to. And it annoys me to no end.
What do you write with and on?
Technically pretty much anything and everything, but most often my laptop for sure.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
If only I knew … hit me up if you got tips!
How do you motivate yourself to write?
I think my stories motivate me and I have a habit of sharing my stories with people I trust, even the ongoing rough drafts. Hearing their thoughts and reactions to what I write really gives me a boost!
Authors who inspire you as a writer?
This doesn’t really mean that I think I write like them in any way, but here are some people I’d read a grocery list from:
Books that inspire you as a writer?
There’s so many books I appreciate and try to learn from, but here are some that always stay with me:
Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?
I never quite liked the whole “write every day” and “write about what you know” mindset, because I cannot for the life of me write every day and there is way more that I do not know than what I do know. My experiences are still so limited and while I am sure there is value in that, I also need to step out of my little world every once in a while. I write about many things I do not actually know about. Frankly, I write about things I want to know more about sometimes or things I wish for. More often than not, I write about things I have dreamed about.
And that brings me to the advice I got, which is to write down my dreams. To not wait until I have had my morning tea and am fully awake, but to always have a pen and notebook ready at my bedside table and just jot down those ideas my brain fabricated in the night. Alternately, if it’s too dark to write yet and I am super groggy, I will make a quick note on my phone.
Writing goals this year
Finishing just about anything would be great!
Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this month? Are you currently working on a story? Feel free to steal this tag if you want to!