Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Her Guts, No Glory (Book Review: Guts, Kristen Johnson)

Kristen Johnson's memoir, "Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster" has been recommended by so many people that I felt compelled to check it out. I don't consider myself a fan of hers, if only because I don't know if I have seen a lot of her work. I was never a watcher of "3rd Rock From the Sun," so there goes that . I think I might have seen her on stage, and I quick check on ibdb shows that she was part of the 2008 cast of "The Women" which I disliked, and now I vaguely remember her in that production. So I went into the book not knowing much except for the fact that she went through addiction, an experience not entirely uncommon for celebrities and celebrity memoirs. Well, I didn't know that the book was specifically about her addiction. It was well-written - you can hear her voice in the writing - but kind of thin. Maybe I wanted more from her because I didn't know much about her. There were a chapter or two from her childhood and high school years, but she skipped through her whole 3rd Rock years - she only quoted  John Lithgow in passing, and didn't even once mention Jane Curtin or Joseph Gordon Leavitt. I know that maybe that was not the point of her memoir, but for better or worse, I expected. I sympathize and empathize with what she went through, and commend her for her recovery, but was the whole experience really worth a book? As far as addiction memoirs go, it was a whole lot less interesting than Bill Cleggs, for example. This felt more like a vanity project than anything else, and as I thought about it more - some of the people who were raving about the book, like Andy Cohen, were her friends. 


All About Ronnie (Television Review: "The Song," SMASH S02 E04)


And so, the weekly Smash, and I am getting misty-eyed. And scared. SMASH is hurting in the ratings, and I am very very concerned that we may not see the rest of the season should they cancel it prematurely. As much as I criticize this show, I really honestly love the fact that there is a show in network television that deals with Broadway, and has Broadway songs. I don't think it's as bad as people say it is, and every week there is always a moment for me. And obviously, it's still appointment television for me. I have even started to not delete episodes on my DVR just in case I get wistful later on and want to re-watch the musical numbers.

Last night's episode was All About Ronnie (I do love that Chris Connor song)  The "Bombshell" storyline is sidetracked for Veronica Moore's one woman, one night only show, directed by Derek, of course, and musical directed by Tom. Pray, tell, why would Tom accept this project if he despises Derek? "I am doing this for Ronnie," he explains. Did anyoen else realize that they were close? No, I didn't think so. But there they are, setting "I've Got Love," that great Melba Moore number from "Purlie" and setting it Fosse style so it could be a sexy number for Veronica. I don't like this sexed-up arrangement, and wish Hudson would just sing it "straight." And while we are talking abotu Jen Hudson, as much as I do like her, I can't help but say that at times she does oversing. Can we at least for one time, have her sing songs as written, melodically? This song would have been the perfect opportunity. 

There's Deb Messing still struggling to find the tone of the "Bombshell" book with the dramaturg. There's a scene where Peter has his pretentious drama students critique the play, and blah blah yawn. over wine, Julia has a realization and blah blah we are supposed to care about the sexual chemistry between her and Peter. Yawn. And Eileen has to give a deposition regarding the "Bombshell" financing, and blah blah yawn yawn we get a big reveal at the end that Ellis (remember him? Of course you do) is behind all the shenanigans. Lazy writing, sure let's blame it all on Ellis if we can't think of any other way to wrap up story lines. 

But back to Ronnie. She needs to show that she has range and she has grown, against the wishes of her Mama Rose mom, stiffly played by Sheryl Lee Ralph in a stiff wig. Now ponder for a moment that SRR was the original Deena in the original production of Dreamgirls and Hudson of course is the most recent Effie. (I kind of wished they had gotten Jennifer Holliday instead. Wasted Opportunity!)  Anyway, I digress. Karen, now a saviour of all saviours, enlists Jimmy and Kyle to bring songs for Vernoica to sing. Tom pooh poohs them all - nice but not for Ronnie - so she calls both boys to write a song for Ronnie pronto , on the spot. Hey, they argue, Sondheim wrote "Send In The Clowns" in a day. If only they knew The Master hates that song. Jimmy gets to write one, but Derek refuses to even listen to it, because he has chosen Broadway standards like "If I Loved You " and "Ease On Down The Road." (Yes, yes, yes, please!)  Jimmy gets mad, so just like the rest of the entitled bunch of his generation, he decides to get high ("Some weed, some cook," he asks for earlier) and seriously, Jimmy is becoming the Ellis of this season: annoying without any redeeming value. It's just good that Jordan has charm to spare. Cut to: yes Jennifer has a realization, while singing Billy Joel's "Everybody Loves You Now,"  and goes back to the slutty repertoire, and ending with the ultra sexy (I roll my eyes) "I Can't Let Go" which, thankfully, sounds more Marc Shaiman than Jonathan Larsen. 

And so that's it. I like the episode, even though it was all abotu Jen Hudson, who I suspect will disappear after this episode. I kind of wonder what the point of her guest starring role in all this, but hey she sang well even though she had shifty eyes while acting. Now can we go back to "Bombshell"? 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are The Stars Out Tonight (Music Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight, David Bowie)

David Bowie released a new single today, "The Stars Are Out Tonight." It's the second song he has released off his forthcoming album, "The Next Day," due out 12th of March. I like Bowie a lot, although I can't say I am as big a fan as some friends of mine, who know every breath of his discography. I have one of his Greatest Hits on my iPod, and whenever a song of his comes on,  I always seem to sit up and pay attention. This song is a rocking one - there's an immediate burst of guitars just in the opening.  A friend of mine posted the song and video on my Facebook wall this morning, and my first thought was - isn't it incredible that Bowie still sounds like Bowie after all these years, and I cannot, for example, say the same thing about Paul McCartney or Rod Stewart. This song can very well fit in any of his 70s iconic albums, and once you hear one note of it and you know it's unmistakeably his. It's very melodic, catchy, and very modern sounding. I bet it will still be relevant ten years from now. I cannot wait for the album. 

Here's the fantastic video, with the very great Tilda Swinton. 


Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Shade Of Amber (Scent Review: Ambre Gris, Balmain)

When Ambre Gris first came out, it was a Europe exclusive, so the perfume community was craving it badly. Then all of a sudden, it was available at a discounted price and it became a mad rush for everyone to get it. Then it became discontinued, and then everyone else who didn't get at a discounted price wanted it more. I was one of those people who got it discounted (I can never resist a good bargain!) but for some reason or another, my bottle languished in my "forgotten" pile. I remember it being a solid ambre, a note that became a flavor of the month for me. I think it came to a point that I thought I already had too much ambre in my wardrobe, and maybe that was the reason for my neglect of Ambre Gris. The bottle just spoke to me the other day, and I wore it (I love the bottle, too, and the bottle is a solid crystal) The first thing I noticed is how sweet this was - not  a woodsy ambre, but more a floral one - it has pink pepper in it, and that's probab;y what sweetens the whole thing. I don't get woodsy as much anymore, but more floral. The immortelle is more pronounced (perhaps today's cold weather brings it out) and yes, now I do get the ambregris rounded by a bit of tuberose - not the indolic kind, but, again, a sweet interpretation. It's perfectly blended, if a bit, shall I say it, dated already? It smells like something that was big maybe ten years ago - I am thinking it's the pink pepper that's making me say this. I want to say it is unmemorable, but I don't know if I really feel that way because I am getting a whiff of it now, and it is appealing. Solid but unexciting perhaps is more apt.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A You're Adorable (Book Review: My A List Boyfriend, Kyle Laforge)

Sometimes you just want to read fairy tales. Kyle Laforge's "My A-List Boyfriend" is one. Kate works for a teen magazine and in a stroke of fate gets handed a last minute job interviewing Tom Andrews, a burgeoning A list hottie. There's chemistry, there's sparks, and before you know it, she finds herself dating this guy. Bad news or good news? Well, what do you  think? Haven't we all fantasized that we were with someone rich and famous? I dare you to say no, and I will say that you are lying. This book offers no surprises, but once in a while, it is always fun to go on a shallow ride.  A funny thing happened while I was reading this book: I found myself smiling, giggling like a little school girl. This is a cute love story, and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. That's not the worst thing in the world, is it?


The Book Doctor (Television Review: Smash, "The Dramaturg" S02 E03)

This episode is titled "The Dramaturg" and I actually had to look up the definition of the word, and here is the official definition according to Wikipideai. 

A dramaturge or dramaturg is a professional position within a theatre or opera company that deals mainly with research and development of plays or operas. Its modern-day function was originated by the innovations of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, an 18th-century German playwright, philosopher, and theorist about theatre.

Well, I think what Eileen really wanted for "Bombshell" was a book doctor. Bombshell's is apparently a hot mess, based on the Boston reviews, so she has hired Peter (played by Daniel Sunjata) to help out. Of course, Julia And Tom are taken aback, and Julia is offended, which is a natural reaction. Sunjata seems miscast. On paper, I am sure it was good but there was something off about him in the role. A little fey? Too cocky, or not cocky enough? (Perhaps I am remembering his scene in 'Take Me Out" and it's ruined me for life?)  In any case, his banter with Julia seems forced, though we can all agree that we all know where that is going. (Of course, just to hammer it, they are talking about the book not having enough sex appeal in it)

The Hit List sounds like a horrible musical - one of those Rent rip-offs (with a touch of 'Next to Normal' thrown in ) that proliferated off Broadway in the late 90s (Brooklyn, The Musical, anyone?)  and even the songs sound sophomoric. I don't really see why Karen is so attracted to it, and why is she championing it so much, and shouldn't she be focusing on her Marilyn role anyway? Her scene as Marilyn with JFK (played by both Matt Bogart - in rehearsals - and Julian Ovenden - in the run through) was atrocious, and if I were in the creative team, i would have fired her on the spot based on her performance there. That scene needed sex appeal, and she was a wet noodle. The duet version of that song, though, sounds great on the cast recording.

And speaking of bad acting, it really does seem that Jennifer Hudson is one. Her line readings are horrid, and I read in a gossip site that she was being spoonfed all her lines. This is an Oscar winner? But, her brief singing of "Home" was fantastic, I must say, and I love that she was singing some of the alternate lyrics, away from the pop version of it. And also good: Megan Hilty's slowed down melancholy version of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" set to Karen rehearsing Marilyn scenes. Of course, both these songs are not available as singles. 

Over all, not a bad episode, but not great either, as it seems to just set up plot points. I hope the show pumps up its wow factor, as the overnight ratings show even more audience erosion. I am still rooting for this show.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cover And Warble (Music Review: Telly Leung, I'll Cover You)

Telly Leung is probably best known for his stint in "Glee" as one of The Warblers, but I know him more from the Brodway productions of "Rent," (he was in the last Broadway company," as well as the "Godspell" revival. I also saw him in San Diego in the World Premiere Production of "Allegiance."  Leung possesses a thin tenor voices, and it sometimes can be tinny. But that is no problem, for he uses his voice in the most appealing way, as evidenced by this album. I'll mean this in the most flattering way: he sings like a girl singer. I am not saying he sounds feminine, but his inflections, his phrasing - there is a softness, intimacy in them that I normally get from female singers. The album also has a great, eclectic selection. Each song is a winner, and you can tell that he loves each and every word of everything he sings here, and it would beinfectious if I didn't already love them. My favorites include a jazzy arrangement of "I'm Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life," and a bouyant "Knocks Me Off My Feet." (I keep on playign the latter over and over) There is no shortness in diva songs: he does a string acoustic "Firework," and a rousing "Papa Don't Preach." He even throws in unknown ditties like The Indigo Girls' "Gallileo" and Holly Cole's "Cry If You Want To." But the tops of all tops for me is midnight live version of "I Believe In You And Me," which has all the shadings of Whitney's version. (I am reminded of the bonus track in the Godspell revival cast recording where he does a soulful 'Learn Your Lessons Well') Leung is a great interpreter of song, I can't wait for more.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fakin' Feelings (Book Review: Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance, Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin)

Yes, I wanted to read something light, something fun, something i could just breeze through so I started reading "Jenna & Jonah's Fauxmance," by Emily Franklin & Brendan Halprin.  Jenna and Jonah star in a family network sitcom, but they also have to pretend that they are dating off-screen to give their show and their characters a little more oomph. So I figured, the book would have those zany situations, like how are they going to hide their real feelings to protect their fauxmance? But the book is actually a little more than that. Around the beginning of the novel, their show gets cancelled and they have to deal not only with their fauxmance, but with their future as actors. And wait, is the fauxmance really faux? Do they really have feelings for each other? To further hammer the plot in our heads (as if we couldn't figure it for ourselves) the authors(s) device a plot intervention: to cast the actors in a Shakespeare festival, playing the will-they-or-won't-they characters Beatrice and Benedick from "Much Ado About Nothing." It all kind of works, and I like the fact that the book doesn't dumb down the audience. Sure, the whole thing is ultimately predictable, but the settings are not as. I liked it, and provided a much needed distraction. 


Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Hear The Bells (Television Review: Ring Them Bells, A Tribute To Kander & Ebb, Live From Lincoln Center, PBS)

I am loving the "Live From Lincoln Center" series more and more. This week they pay tribute to John Kander and Fredd Ebb (better known as 'Kander & Ebb') and their wonderful shows. The show features Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley with special guests Joel Grey and Chita Rivera. The show was presented at the wonderful Allen Room, overlooking Columbus Circle in New York City. The show features one wonderful song after another. Grey starts with a performance of "Wilkommen," an iconic performance of an iconic role he originated. You want to talk about star power? He hasn't lost his touch. Some of my other favorite numbers: Danieley singing "Sara Lee" (originally composed for Kaye Ballard about the dessert brand) and a wonderful "Seeing Things" (from the musical "Happy Time")  It was a wonderful switch to have Danieley sing "Maybe This Time," with understated elegance instead of the usual bombastic version the song usually represents. Chita - just Chita - brings the house down with the definitive "All That Jazz." Seriously, no one else comes close. And then you can see Grey do such a character piece like "Mr Cellophane" and marvel at how he makes every character his own. It was also great to hear "Love And Love Alone," from "The Visit," a musical that hasn't quite made it to Broadway just yet (and hopefully at some point will) It's a beautiful romantic song with a sweetly melancholy melody. Mazzie gives enough justice to "Ring Them Bells," but I just associate that song with Liza and Liza only.  "I Miss The Music" is a song from "Curtains" and Danieley sings it here. It's about a composer who misses his songwriting partner. Presumably, Kander wrote the lyrics, reminiscing about Ebb, who passed away in 2004. Mazzie then sings probably my favorite song from the Kander & Ebb canon, "A Quiet Thing," and it's maybe a little too frenetic for my taste. All four of them close the show with a medley of more ditties: "Yes,"  and "Cabaret." I know it's only an hour show, but I thought they left out a lot: nothing from "Kiss Of The Spider Woman," and yes it is ubiquitous, but a smidgen of "New York New York" would have been nice. But of course, I am more than thankful that this show exists. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

NSFW: Not Safe For Wisepeople (Film Review: Safe Haven)

I despise Nicholas Sparks and his novels, but truthfully, I kind of like some of his movie adaptations. I always say the best actors can mold something from the cheesiest script - if they can make you *believe,* then three cheers. (A lot of people consider 'The Notebook' to be a modern romantic classic, for example) Without Julianne Hough as the star of "safe Haven," the movie is dead on arrival. She is quite possibly the worst young actress I have seen - she's dead behind the eyes, has dialogue delivery of an acting class flunkie, and range for her means crinkling her nose. For a character who is dark and troubled, she seems to be relentlessly cheery, and always reaching for that cutesy angle. (Julianne, start clearing your mantle for your Razzie)  Josh Duhamel is fine enough, he works hard to flesh out his cardboard character, but ultimately he's not good enough to save this catastrophe.(He does fill his Diesel Jeans pretty well, though )  The plot is ludicrous, and the direction is by-the numbers. Billed as a romance thriller, you can tell which genre is being mined by listening to the musical score. Once the ominous music starts playing, you know you're getting to the "thrill" part. And you can't say that director, Lasse Halstrom, is a hack. He directed "Chocolat," and last year's very charming "Salmon Fishing in Yemen." (The latter is one of my Top 10 favorite films of 2012)  There's this "twist" at the end which is laughable if it wasn't scary (and no, not in a thrilling way)  I hope guys didn't take their girlfriends to see this movie on Valentine's Day, because if they did, I am sure they ended up empty-handed by the end of the night. It's only February,  but this would be hard to beat as the worst film of 2012.

Cold (Book Review: The Cool Part Of His Pillow, Rodney Ross)

I was recently touched by death, and I am still in some part of the grieving process. I had gotten Rodney Ross' "The Cool Part Of His Pillow" a while back, but never read it until I randomly started it a week ago. I am glad I did - reading it has helped me deal. Maybe subconsciously I never read it before because it was waiting for a time for me to fully appreciate it.  It wasn't the easiest read, for sure. It's dark and depressing (with thankful hits of black humor) and it is written a bit excessively, but it also touching, meaningful, and it is staying with me. It is one of those novels wherein each sentence is layered, and I am sure I have missed some anecdote, or hidden joke somewhere that I should probably re-read it to get another layer. It is a story of loss, and how one man deals with it. The novel spans a year in life, how one lives and overcomes, and deals with change. I always bemoan the loss of internal novels I used to read when I was younger, and this is very similar to those. I just wish it was edited a little better - it feels overly long and could have been a little tighter. But still, it's fantastic on its own.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Orange You Romantic (Perfume Review: Seville A'Laube , L'Artisan Perfumiere)

So here goes another Valentine's Day, or in my case another SAD (Single Awareness Day)  I was looking for an appropriate scent this morning, and was going to reach for something rose, but thought, wearing a rose scent today would be so boring, so expected, so trite. So I searched and told myself, get something that would give a vibe of romance, but make it unexpected. I found the perfect perfume: Seville A'Laube by L'Artisan. It is based on a love encounter, after all, specifically perfume blogger Denyse Beualieu. 

"I am in Seville, standing under a bitter orange tree in full bloom in the arms of Rom├ín, the black-clad Spanish boy who is not yet my lover. Since sundown, we’ve been watching the religious brotherhoods in their pointed caps and habits thread their way across the old Moorish town in the wake of gilded wood floats bearing statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary. This is the Madrugada, the longest night of Holy Week, and the whole city has poured into the streets: the processions will go on until the dawn sky is streaked with hunting swallows. In the tiny white-washed plaza in front of the church, wafts of lavender cologne rise from the tightly pressed bodies. As altar boys swing their censers, throat-stinging clouds of sizzling resins – humanity’s millennia-old message to the gods – cut through the fatty honeyed smell of the penitents’ beeswax candles.

And it's centered around orange blossom (which is one of my favorite notes) a note that is normally strong and heady. But the perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour has created an orange blossom that is subtle, poetic, sweet. It's romantic, just like Ms. Beauliieu's copy. At first, the interpretation seems literal - all the other prominent notes are incense, (for the church) violets (Spanish men love violet cologne) and beeswax (candles)  But brought together, it creates something smooth and fragrant - the violet doesn't smell barbershop-like, the beeswax gives it a finesse and shine, and the orange blossom is still a blooming one, the citrus fueled by a moon not a sun. It is so good I want to hoard bottles, and I may, because this is a L'Artisan "limited edition" release, and for all I know it may already be gone. So today, on Valentine's Day, I may not have the most romantic experience, but I will smell as romantic as can be.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Forever Can End (Film Review: Celeste And Jesse Forever)

Is Rom-Com dead? Nowadays, it is used more as a punchline than anything else.  Very few people nowadays do the traditional romance, you know, like the ones that sweep you off your feet. Valentine's Day is tomorrow, romance is literally around the corner so I might as well write about "Celeste And Jesse Forever," a movie I saw on Blu-Ray the other night. Celeste and Jesse are getting a divorce, but they are still always together. You see, they are best friends, above all, and they still enjoy each other's company. It irks their friends (Ari Gaynor as Celeste's friend is fantastic - someone give this woman her own movie already!) and they think it's unnatural, which, come to think of it, is right. Essentially, the movie is set up as anti-rom-com. These two people, instead of getting together, are breakign apart. Written by Rashida Jones, it's a complicated yarn of a story. It sometimes takes a lot of time when lovers fully untangle themselves from each other, and more often than not, it's a tricky road. There are residual feelings that get in the way of moving on. This movie highlights those perfectly. Jones and Samberg have perfect chemistry, you believe they should be together. But you also see how they different they are, and as they try to let go of each other, the internal conflict becomes unbearable. You want them to stay together, you want them to stay apart. That is love: a complicated grey area of being, and it has never been shown more vividly. I found these characters stayed with me after, and now that I am writing about them, I find myself still pondering. I particularly was smitten by Samberg, who I thought was very effective in a role that has him being more than a juvenile man-child. What I liked most about the story is that you never really know how it ends. Usually on romantic comedies, you sense the ending ten minutes into the movie, This is readily available on Netflix and Amazon - I can't think of a perfect romantic date on Valentine's Day for those seeking some love.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Still As Easy To Love (Theater Review: Anything Goes, Touring Company at The Smith Center For Performing Arts)

I'll be the first to admit I am a Broadway snob, and believe it or not, I have never seen a touring production of *anything.* There was never a need to, since Broadway was very accessible to me, and I thought why go for next best when I can get the real deal? So when I got an opportunity to see "Anything Goes" at The Smith Center For Performing Arts, I approached it with a little bit of trepidation. I got it to the show just in time, so I had really nil knowledge of the production, except for the fact that it is by The Roundabout, which I have seen. (My original review is here. )  The first thing I thought of : well, it really does duplicate the Broadway production at The Stephen Sondheim Theater, and the quality isn't skimped. My second thought was: who is this woman playing Reno Sweeney, and she is much better than Sutton Foster! I never really got why she was such a hot potato - she is certainly competent and a great dancer, but her singing tended to be sharp and borderlining off-pitch. Ms. York fixes that, with a creamy voice that improves on Foster's. I have this cast recording on my iPod so I know the tracks well, and even though Foster's vocals have grown on me, it was nice to hear it sung better. And her dancing was also great, just as good as Foster's, and all in all, this production is great throughout. It really does preserve the integrity of the Broadway production, down to the details of the sets and costumes. I have loved it before, and it's much easier to love now.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not On Broadway (Music Review: Songs From the First Two Episodes of SMASH)

As if this blog isn't "Smash"ed enough, here am I reviewing all four songs that were released to iTunes from the first two episodes.

"Broadway Here I Come," by Joe Iconis was the 11 o clock number from the first episode. It's sung by Jeremy Jordan, playing the character of Jimmy Collins. Jordan sounds good here, and I think he is a very good recording artist - his voice registers well, and is very unique (when you hear his voice, you instantly recognize it as his) In the context of the show, and because it was truncated, the song didn't register as vividly for me, but the single does. It's a great song, poppified by Jordan's performance, and is instantly my favorite among the four songs. 

"Caught In The Storm," by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul is sung by the character of Karen Cartwright, which is played by Katherine McPhee. It is the one song I was most looking forward to, and after several playings, still not sticking to me. It might, still. I have not lost hope on it. I am also not loving McPhee's vocal fries on it, and dare I say it, her voice sounds a bit generic. 

"Mama Makes Three," By Marc Shaiman is from the fictional show "Beautiful," and is sung by Jennifer Hudson. It's a Broadwaycentric gospel-ish dittie, and it would fit right in on a show like "Leap Of Faith," or "Memphis." It's good, it's character driven and it tells a story. Aided by a spirited by Hudson, it's fun and it has a good recall. 

"On Broadway," sung by Jennifer Hudson and Katherine McPhee is the weakest in the lot. It goes nowhere. Hudson sounds strained, and McPhee is barely there. Even in the scene from where it comes from, the song sounded tired. Though it gives a visual of two American Idol "losers" making it big, the good ends there.

I wish they released Megan Hilty's version of  "They Just Keep Moving The Line," but that may be coming in the "Bombshell" cast recording.

Love Is A Fortune (Book Review: Fate And Ms. Fortune, Saralee Rosenberg)

 Saralee Rosenberg may or may not like it, but "Fate And Ms. Fortune" is a [perfect example of the genre Chick-lit. I mean that as a compliment. I know that genre has been insulted and ridiculed, but for me it is  still a great description of a wonderful woman-based novel, and it usually is a story of a strong woman who is navigating a road of life and love. Robyn Fortune just got divorced, is coasting as a makeup artist for a difficult news woman, and is trying her hand at being a stand up comedienne. All this as she juggles familial problems, and on top of it, trying to make sense of new relationships in her life. I loved this novel a lot. It was one that I did not want to finish in one sitting, because I loved the company of its main character, as well as the colorful people around her. But what I loved about it most was how spiritual it was, how it tied pieces of magic and religion and energies together, about how welcoming fate and faith in someone's life can accomplish something close to happiness. I liked how Ms. Rosenberg tried to throw us off about her love life, but I still trusted her to give me the ending we wanted her heroine to have. This novel was published seven years ago, and there are fewer novels of its ilk nowadays. This is one of those books I have had for a long time, ad even though it took me a while to finally read it, it was worth the wait.

BC- 10

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

At The Fall (Television Review: SMash S2E2 The Fallout)

"The Fallout"  is technically the second episode of SMASH for the second season, and was shown as the second half of the two hour premiere last night. It was seamlessly transitioned. We get more of Jimmy Collins (Jeremy Jordan) . Karen has gotten obsessed with Jimmy's music, based on that one song she heard him singing late one night. He seems to be resisting, though. and it's a puzzlement. He is a struggling bartender and this is a chance for his music to be heard, but he doesn't want someone with connections to hear it? Jordan is a good enough actor to pull it off - he mixes some charm with his darkness that you believe. And what of "Bombshell"? Looks like the Fed got involved, but they can continue rehearsing, if they can get a theater. And Harvey Fierstein does a wonderful two scene cameo, with him stopping Tom in the street for theater gossip (yes, that happens all the time with the theater folks, and I am not being sarcastic) and it's such a bitchy, real cameo (including the red backpack he carries around) that it instantly became my favorite scene from last night's episode. There's the bit of subplot about Ton and Julia being "invited" to speak at the Theater Wing event (Harvey calls it "Theater Wing Ding Thing") and it was kind of funny, ending with them "manipulating" to perform a number at the event. Totally unbelievable, but ultimately forgivable, if only we get to see Megan Hilty perform "They Just Keep Moving The Line,"  knocking it out of the ballpark. People keep on talking about Jen Hudson, but I still think Megan Hilty is better - she is a much better actress than both Hudson and McPhee, for starters. Karen tries to sing a song at Jimmy and Kyle's Brooklyn party, which oddly reminds me of a scene from "Girls." (I half-expected to see Andrew Rannell's Girls character to be a guest) I liked that song, "Caught In The Storm," and I liked how it sounds very different from Marc Shaiman's songs, but still sounding theatrical. Somewhere amidst the episode was a fantasy sequence with Derek imagining girls dressed as Robert Palmer back-up dancers (in hot pink stilettos) singing the Eurythmics song "Would I Lie To You." It was such an unexpected camp moment, and I enjoyed it immensely. It brings just the right punch of humour in last night's pretty soapy premiere. There's hope for the show, and I will be watching every week.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Incense Is Best (Perfume Review: Leau Froide, Serge Lutens)

I reviewed L'eau the other day and gave my thoughts on how I was underwhelmed by it. But I must say, though, that his second scent in his L'eau line, L'eau Froide, has become an instant favorite. And I could only credit one thing for that: incense. I have a particular weakness for any scent that incense-centric, like Commes De Garcon's Avignon, or Kyoto, or my particular favorite, L'Artisan's Passage D'Enfer. I even say sometimes that add an incense note to any perfume and I will buy it. Well, Christopher Sheldrake added incense to L'eau, and it made the perfume so much better. L'eau Froide picks up where L'eau leaves off: the crisp minty fresh opening is still there: a myriad of bergamots and citrus with that transparent watery feel. And then, the frankincense takes center stage: it's resinous, but the citrusy background gives it less of a dirty feel, and it matches. L'eau Froide is a sporty fragrance with a lot more character, and yes, it is very commercial. This could be marketed towards the alpha male demographic and could be very well be successful there. And it is infinitely more interesting than any of the department store counterparts. I have been wearing it recently during the cold weather, and the minty incense-y cloud suits the weather, but I think this is more suited to the summertime where the whiff of smoke will make someone smell prayerfully cool.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Escape To London (Book Review: The Holiday, Kate Perr)

Susan Miller of Astrologyzone wrote on my Astrological forecast that January would be a good month for me, in terms of romance. Now it can be told: last month wasn't really the best one for me, in any sense. But it made me think, it made me want to run away, and I found that I could kind of accomplish that by reading one of these "Destination Love Stories," which I got from Amazon for free. It's called "the Holiday," written by Kate Perry. I keep on mistaking her for the young pop star, and of course she is a different person. The book is set in London, to boot, which is probably my favorite European city. You can have Paris, I take London. This is an escapist romantic tale, and has no pretenses otherwise. Leilani lives in Maui, and she meets Colin, who lives in London. It wasn't instant love, it was instant lust. Cut to her flying over to London, and he wants more. After a couple of encounters, he proposes. What is she to do? Let's not kid ourselves and pretend that we do not know where the book leads. It was fun getting there, and fun to take a tour of London. I even discovered some places in Londontown I haven't visited. All in all, this book was a nice escape, something I definitely needed right now. 


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Dear Diary: I Still Love Carrie (Television Review: The Carrie Diaries, Mondays, CW)

As a huge fan of the "Sex And The City" franchise, I knew I had to at least check out the new CW series "The Carrie Diaries."  I remember reading the Candace Bushnell prequel book and was kind of disappointed by it, so I truly wasn't expecting much. As a matter of fact, I was dreading hating it that I waited three weeks (the episodes sat on my DVR) before watching the pilot. I shouldn't have waited - the pilot was fantastic, a perfect launcher to this series, which may just be my favorite new show of the season. Set in 1984, Carrie is a High School Junior, with her troika of friends, and has just gotten a part-time internship at a law firm in Manhattan. I can't help but feel a kinship to the character, as I myself came to the NYC area in 1984, and like her, fell in love with the city instantly. I really hate that the setting is now nostalgia, but the series really does do a great job of setting Manhattan in the 80s, an era in the city I was very familiar with. (Oh, how I miss my city in the 80s)  And I even had my first job at 120 Broadway, the exact same location where she gets a job. And of course, the building is across the street from Century 21,  a story that is featured in the pilot. (Although in the 80s, it's not as big a store as it is now, and as depicted in the story)  I wasn't as lucky to get invites to Indochine my first day out, but still, there are times when I feel like the series is narrating my own story.   On the second and third episodes, the action stalls, as it sets up story lines for the characters. Make no mistake, though, I am definitely hooked on this. Die hard fans of SATC may find it off-putting, as they already have their own manifestations for the character of Carrie so it may be best to look at this fresh. AnnaSophia Robb isn't really a Sarah Jessica Parker doppelganger, but I think she gets the character's spirit. I am now fascinated to see her journey to being the Carrie that we know.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Out Of Africa (Book Review: Forgotten, Catherine McKenzie)

"Forgotten," by Catherine Mckenzie, is one of those books that instantly grabs you from page one. We instantly meet Emma Tupper, a successful lawyer whose mother has just passed on. She finds out that she is bequeathed an African trip by her mother, since it was her life-long bucket list item. She is reluctant at first - she is immersed in her work, and was scarcely given approval by the partners in her firm. Cut to six months later, and Emma is just leaving Africa. Somehow the tour has left her behind, amidst a devastating earthquake in the fictional country of Tsawanaland, where she has been stranded. She finds that she has to reboot her life - her apartment has been rented to a strange man, and her work at the law firm has been co-opted by Stephanie, her nemesis. I was riveted, and raring to find out what happens to her. The action is fast-paced, and you sympathize and empathize with Emma. Catherine McKenzie navigates this tale efficiently, with enough heartbreak and triumph to keep you glued to the pages. About two-thirds of the way in, I disagreed with some of the plot points in the story, but it never stops interesting. I kind of wish the ending was less predictable, but this is not that kind of book. Still, it's a great page-turner that will keep you up, wanting to know the plight of its main character. 


He's Got His Love To Keep Him Warm (Film Review: Warm Bodies)

Even Zombies fall in love, apparently. Of course, they do, why wouldn't they? I mean, doesn't *everyone* fall in love at least once in their lifetime, or in this case, even in their post-lifetimes.  "Warm Bodies" is the first (that I know of) movie in that new genre, the zom-rom-com. Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer play star-crossed lovers - he's a zombie, she's a human. In this age of Walking Dead fanatics, why not? They are even named after that other star-crossed lovers, Hoult plays "R" (he couldn't remember his full name) and Palmer plays Julie. They even meet cute: they lock eyes after he has eaten her boyfriend's brain. The movie even follows the formula of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and ... well, you know the rest. I wanted to like this movie, and even went out of my way to see it, as I am not the biggest fan of the horror/zombie genre. And I think it's cute enough: it's droll and witty, and the director Jonathan levine (he did the wondeerful "50/50") strikes the right balance between cutesy and not taking itself too seriously. The performances, especially by Hoult (he's going to be a huge star, I bet) are charming and appealing. This is the perfect date movie: girls will go gaga over the love story, while their dates will be entetrained by action sequences and the gore. And guess what - it was the number one movie in the country teh day it opened. But for me, it isn't "rom" enough for my taste. I thought it was fine, but forgot about it instantly. Ultimately, I wasn't the target market for it. There's still a bit of action-movie formula in it that, frankly, bored me. Like a dish, it was just warm, when  I like my food piping hot.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mr. Clean (Perfume Review: L'eau, Serge Lutens)

While packing for a trip recently, I was looking through my samples for scents to travel with me, and I realized I had multiple vials of Serge Lutens L'eau. They must have been really pushing this when it first came out, because I literally had five or six of those pre-packaged samples, and I guess I never used them because I remember getting a bottle instantly when it first came out. I mean, it was such a novel idea, for Serge Lutens anyway, at the time: a "clean" fragrance from the master of spicy orientals! But, while I initially didn't dislike L'eau, I also don't remember it. When I wore it during my trip, it still didn't resonate. I look at the notes: aldehydes, magnolia, white mint, white musk, and do not recall them. I wish there was something that stood out: a floral note, or the mint, but nothing. It's pleasant, but so unmemorable. I know that Serge himself has been quoted in interviews that he was going for a more "steamed iron" accord, but that was done much better in the fantastic (but discontinued) John Galliano signature scent. (I will treasure my bottle of that forever) So in the end, Mr. Clean is really Mr. Bland.