Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Love On The Danube (Book Review: Royally Lost, Angie Stanton)

There were a couple of things about Angie Stanton's "Royally Lost" that appealed to me. First of all, it's set on a river cruise on the Danube. I have done the exact same itinerary as here so I was able to identify with the tour aspect of the book. I wish the descriptions were more vivid, but I guess that was not the main purpose of the book. Secondly, this was a cute love story between a commoner and a Prince, and that's always fun to read. But this was more than that, there was a lot of suspense about half way through and you root for the main characters. Sure, this is far from perfect. Some situations are contrived and forced, but who cares? This is a great summer read, with a dash of European history in it, so for me, it's all good. I could even imagine this as a cute television movie for ABC Family, with telegenic teenagers in the lead. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Move Your Body (Perfume Review: Burberry Body)

I have a plethora of perfumes, and  some really exotic and complicated, but it never fails that when I wear the commercial ones, that is when I get the most compliments. There's the contrarian in me, of course, who hates popular choices, but I have to admit that wearing some of the accessible ones bring me a lot of joy.  Take for example, Burberry Body. If you judge it as a perfume per se, it really is on the common side: a fruity floral, with rose and peach notes in the heart, with a hint of a liquor note on the side.  There is nothing ground-breaking about it, and that detergent/shampoo accord can be infuriating for a perfumista. But I put it on today, knowing it will be a hot day, and it just brought a prettiness to my day.  I have always loved the Burbrerry house and their scents, and I think because they make their scents so well. They aren't a niche line, and they don't pretend to be one.  But the materials they use are good, and you get that feeling when you wear their scents that you are wearing perfume. It complements my outfit of the day, it completes my internal and external look. So yes, call me a plebeian, but I adore wearing Burberry Body.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Addicted To Love (Book Review: Twelve Steps, Veronica Bartles)

"Twelve Steps," by Veronica Bartles, reminds me of those Sweet Dreams books I used to read when I was in High School, but updated to today's times, of course. I enjoyed it, although there weren't really not many surprises in the story for it to be really meaningful. Plus, the main character and narrator, Andi, wasn't really that likeable: she was conniving and manipulative, which makes it not so easy to root for her. But, this book is has enough cute moments to keep anyone's interest, and is kind of a good summer novel. Bring it to the pool.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Words And Music (Film Review: Begin Again)

I find that there has been a dearth of films for adults this summer so far so I was excited to go see "Begin Again." Plus, it's an extra bonus that the film was written and directed by John Carney, who was responsible for "Once."  "Begin Again" has that film's charm, although this one is not as small. It has a fairly starred cast headed by Mark Ruffalo and Kiea Knightley. It even has pop superstar Adam Levine in it, so that's sure to attract attention. (A group of young girls seated behind me would sigh whenever he appeared on screen. The film has a pretty basic story of people finding each other, and making music in the process. The storyline borders on sap, but never crosses the line to treacly. This film's main song, "Lost Souls" has a chorus that gets repeated over and over, not unlike what Carney did with "Falling Slowly" from "Once."  What make you believe here is the great chemistry of the actors. Mark Ruffalo is great as a hot mess producer (does he ever give a bad performance?) and Keira Knightley exudes charisma and sex appeal as a singer-songwriter who is dumped by her singer boyfriend (Adam Levine) once he got famous. Levine doesn't really get to do much but look pretty, but for what he is given he is fine. Tony winner James Cordell provides some fun spots.  I loved the fact that the music permeates throughout the entire film. While the songs do not necessarily forward the plot for this to be considered a musical, they complement and add flavour to the story. (If this was a play it would be a play with music)  I found myself touched, and entranced by these characters, and found it a great cooler on a hot summer's day.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sometimes There's Snow (Book Review: The Snow Queen, Michael Cunningham)

Michael Cunningham is one of my favorite writers of all time, and he is certainly up there among the contemporary ones. So I always rejoice whenever he is out with a new novel. I enjoy reading his words as much as I cherish the stories he writes. That is most evident in his new novel, "The Snow Queen." I know his style can be overbearing for some, but I just love it, what can I say. The stream of consciousness, wordy, flowery style - I admire it, I emulate it, I copy it. In this novel, he explores slices of life between his characters - young-ish people who live in hip Williamsburg. Barrett sees a light one evening in Central Park and this sparks a series of events. But really, the book explores more human emotion, and how we interact with family, friends, strangers. You don't really care as much about what happens to these character as how they will react to what happens. This is a very internal book, and I loved getting into the minds and hearts of these people.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Staggering Stigers (Music Review: Curtis Stigers, Hooray For Love."

The issue of pop stars singing standards is a non-issue with me. I am a purist in a lot of sense, but in this sense, I am flexible, even welcoming. I kind of like it when pop stars sing songs from The Great American Songbook, because it means more often than not that you can sense their affinity for the songs in their renditions. (I had no problem with Rod Stewart's standards albums, for example) Aren't these songs so adaptable that they would work in any context? (Bossa versions, for example, are as welcome) Stigers is of the singer/songwriter vein, and had a couple of hits in the 90s. He went more jazzy as a natural progression, or perhaps he was always inclined. "Hooray For Love" is his latest in these jazz outings, and it's fantastic. I love the gravely edge to his voice, it has a folky/jazzy tinge to it, and paired with an intimate setting - a quintet, I believe - we see him in his element. His original songs stand well with the standards. The title track swings and lilts, and is a great paean to love. The same is true with the adorable "Give Your Love To Me." There is understated elegance in this album - the kind you play at a dinner party while having drinks, but not background music enough to play while you are eating. He even duets with the fantastic Cyrill Aimee in "You Make Me Feel So Young." (she's been a long fave of mine)  I can't think of a bad track really.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Orange You Smelling Orange? (Perfume Review: Tory Burch)

I remember a couple of years ago, everyone and their sisters were wearing those ubiquitous Tory Burch flats.  There they were - in the office, in the subway, in the streets. I couldn't figure out what was so special about them: they were just flats with her round gold logo on top. God, I hated them. It represented to me what fashion hype was all about: no substance, no inventive design, just a big logo that was embraced. Burch worked for Ralph Lauren, so her fashion aesthetic is preppy chic, though I really don't know where those flats fit in with her fashion sense. My point is, though, I am and always have been very cynical of Burch, and of course, when she came out with her own perfume last year, I was apathetic towards it. But today, as I was rifling through my samples, her scent popped up by accident, and I said, sure why not, I am in the mood to be bitchy. I looked at the picture and said, well, this is really a nice bottle, and that stupid round logo is not as obtrusive as I would have thought. So I sprayed. Hmmm. As much as I was ready to trash it, I didn;t really dislike it. Did I like it though? Not really. it's pleasant, a citrus/floral combo we have all smelled before. 

Top Notes: grapefruit, pink pepper, cassis, mandarin orange, neroli
Heart Notes: peony, mimose, jasmine, tuberose, sweet alyssum, carrot seed
Base Notes: vetiver, cedar, sandalwood, white musk

Maybe because it's another scorcher of a summer day, but the citrus blast on top was kind of welcome. The orange-y theme of the bottle extends: there's fresh neroil there, and orange, but not too strong of each to make a real presence. The floral heart is weak, I keep trying to discern the tuberose and jasmine but they just faintly make an appearance. The base is uneventful - the noted vetiver base strains to be smelled. Mostly it smells generic, smelling only slightly more expensive than, say, Bath & Body Works. To its credit, its not screechy, and not too plastic smelling. I would never go out and reach for it, but if a very cheap bottle comes up, I may succumb. but it has to be very cheap, though.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Loving You Is Not A Choice (Book Review: Loving Jay, Renae Kaye)

"Loving Jay," by Renae Kaye is one of the cutest reads I have experienced in a long time. I more of ten than not tire of these M/M fiction that reads more pulp, but in this story Ms. Kaye has struck the right balance of funny and romantic without it being too high fructose corn syrup. And in the world of men's fiction, it has a unique hook: a mostly straight-acting man falling for a gay man who is femme-y but still a man. In a lot of these stories, you can see a lot of testosterone flying so it was refreshing to see a character that is just a little girly because, well, aren't a lot of gays like that? Self-loathing homosexuals need not btoher reading this. But if you are comfortable with who you are, you will find the character of Jay/James funny, and utterly adorable. Plus, it was great to see a purely love story, without any agenda or politics mixed in. I totally recommend this book - it will make you feel like you are falling in love!

Come Together Right Now (Movie Review: They Came Together)

To be honest, it took me a bit to realize that "They Came Together" was a parody movie, as I had not read anything about the movie prior to seeing it. I only knew that it starred Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler, and I just thought that in this movie, they were playing it straight. The movie sends up a lot of the romantic comedy cliches - the meet-cute, the costume party, the woman deciding not to wear so she has a fashion show montage. Jokes come and go like spitfire, and a lot of time you don't even realize it until its gone, but I have to say the funniest bits made me laugh out loud a couple of times. There's a little bit with Christopher Meloni at the costume party that left me in tears from laughing too hard. This film was directed by David Wain, who earlier parodied summer movies in "Wet Hot American Summer," so he knows what he is doing. Rudd and Poehle are perfect - they get to flex their impressive comedic muscles here, and you will fall in love with them here. The st-up sometimes get too obvious but who cares. This is a great adult comedy, and we don't get too many of those nowadays, so rejoice.

Friday, July 4, 2014

It's A Mad Mad Joan (Book Review: Joan Rivers, Diary Of A Mad Diva)

I had a lot of fun reading Joan Rivers' "Diary Of A Mad Diva," because I like Joan Rivers and her humour. Her comedy has always been irreverent, and this book clearly represents her brand. Nothing and no one is spared, even Anne Frank and Heller Keller. Yes, I know making fun of those two can be really bad taste, but sometimes we just need to laugh at everything and not take things too seriously. In all fairness, she would be the first one to laugh at herself and poke at her worst traits: her numerous plastic surgeries, for example. I do understand how some people may dislike this book, though. If you think Joan is not funny, then I can't even fathom why you would read this book. But if you have liked her, as I have, then there's plenty of things to enjoy here. You go with your bad self, Joan!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

And So This Is Christmas (Movie Review: Happy Christmas)

I know that Joe Swanberg is one of those up-and-coming directors and I have his critical hit last year, "Drinking Buddies" on my to-be-watched queue. When I started watching his new movie "Happy Christmas,"  I was ready to dislike it. It starts two actresses I am really not fond of: Anna Kendrick and Lena Dunham: two millennials who just rub me the wrong way. And about twenty minutes into the movie, I was ready to give up. But I am glad I stuck with it, for in the end, it was really a rewarding experience. This is one of those personal films that would either speak to you, or alienate you. I thought, frankly, that I would be in the latter, but found myself relating to the characters in the film. Kendrick plays Jenny, who arrives in Swanberg's house after a breakup. She stirs these people's lives on the first night of her arrival. And we see how she subtly changes their life. There really isn't a story in the movie, more consequences. Swanberg did not even write a screenplay. I read he had more of an outline, and the actors improvise their dialogue. Funny, though, because I found it more stilted in the beginning, but I (and the actors) eased into the process as we got into the movie. Kendrick is good. She may be a younger Gwyneth Paltrow for me - an actress who always wins me over despite reservations. And Melanie Lynskey is good, too.  Even though this movie is set around Christmastime, it isn't really a Christmas movie. I thought I was going to be ironic as I was watching it on a hot Summer day.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Let's Have A Kiki (Music Review: Kiki Ebsen, Scarecrow Sessions)

I thought the name Kiki Ebsen sounded familiar, so I googled it. She is the daughter of Buddy Ebsen. Mr. Ebsen was the original Scarecrow for "the Wizard Of oz" but got allergic to the makeup. Perhaps people associat him more from the television show "the Beverly Hilbillies," though, or from his brief role in "Breakfast At Tiffany's."  In anye vent, "Scarecrow Sessions" is Ms. Ebsen's tribute to her father, and it is peppered with standards that are kind of associated with him. For example, "If I Only had A Brain."  And "moon River." Ms. Ebsen posses a nice smooth voice, if a bit too vanilla. She breezes through these songs with assured competence, and I really cannot complain. At the same time, it didn't really wake me up. The one original song, "Missing You" was unmemorable. The rest sounded like something you would hear from the W Hotel lounge. They are good at the time, but forgettable.

The Rentboy With The Heart Of Gold (Book Review, Charlie, Rentboy, J. P. Barnaby)

All sex workers have a heart of gold, right? Well, didn't you see Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman?"  J.P Barnaby's "Charlie, Rentboy" rehashes the same themes here, but though it is set in modern times, this one feels like it is set in the 1950s. Charlie gets a call to service John (subtlety is not used here) and...wait for it...they fall in love. Them they get photographed in public together, and John has to resign his CEO job. I can't remember the last time the paparazzi were stalking CEO types and since I am playing along, would someone resign in this day and age because of their sexual orientation? In any event, this was a good page turner by the pool for summer reading. It's entertaining, though sometimes in not the way the author intended it to be.