Something Blue – Emily Giffin

If you are a regular follower on my blog for any reason, you know I read Something Borrowed and Love the One You’re With — both by Emily Giffin. I noted in both that Giffin seems to have an affinity for writing about stories involving cheating. Which immediately elicits images of Dolly Parton belting out Jolene…and makes me very angry…

Anyway, I didn’t even want to read Something Blue — the sequel to Something Borrowed — because I am so bothered by the affair route as a means to finding love. But, I finally decided to give it a try and breezed through it pretty quickly. Friends who have read the book told me I would change my mind about the main offender — Darcy.

If you have seen the movie adaptation of Something Borrowed, Darcy is played by Kate Hudson and the very thought of how she is portrayed makes my skin crawl. Selfish, shallow, completely egotistic — everything you could possibly hate in a girlfriend.

Something Borrowed is written from the perspective of Rachel, the beloved character who falls in love with Darcy’s fiance, Dexter. Something Blue is told from Darcy’s perspective and though I gritted my teeth and rolled my eyes enough to have a headache the next morning when her early exploits and justifications are described in the book…turns out my friends were right. But only because Darcy has a transformation.

The book was interesting for sure — and I won’t lie in saying that the description of Darcy’s misfortunes didn’t gave me pleasure for a while, because they certainly did. The story ready like watching a movie very slowly, and that kind of mindless reading is always fun.

All in all, the story was a decent chick lit read and I’ll probably even give Babyproof a try…

Les Miserables – The Musical

Last week, I had the distinct privilege of seeing Les Miserables live for the first time. I was not raised on Broadway tunes, but my brief show choir career introduced me to the wonderful world of musicals — and I was hooked. I got to see my first show as a senior in high school when we took a trip to New York to perform — Phantom of the Opera — and I have looked forward to every other opportunity since.

I love to sing, I love the plots, and I love the way a stage can transform your imagination such that you nearly forget you are seated in an amphitheatre viewing one space that is somehow able to tell an amazing story.

I think the first time Les Mis was on my radar beyond seeing its famous image inscribed on t-shirts and the like was when Susan Boyle sang “I Dreamed a Dream” on the X Factor. While some people were amazed at her talent, I was amazed by this beautiful song I had never heard before. I immediately downloaded the soundtrack on iTunes and listened to the Broadway version, with tears in my eyes that I didn’t even understand, knowing nothing of the plot.

And a few years later, after Glee picked up the trademark song in an episode, Dixon told me the whole story of the plot while we listened to the soundtrack on a journey from Maine to South Carolina. I could not wait to see the play.

Being in Greenville certainly has its perks, and the world is starting to notice our fair city, but I am sometimes most delighted that we have the Peace Center in Greenville. This theatre has brought Wicked and Spring Awakening — and will bring The Lion King and Jersey Boys in the next year. And now it brought Les Mis to my back door.

The play was phenomenal — just as wonderful as I had hoped, and my only comment was that everything was happening so fast! I wanted it all to slow down so I could absorb it. The vocal talent was earth shattering and the story alluring. I loved it.

But the greatest surprise of that night was the backstage tour and introduction to the stars that Dixon had arranged without my knowing. We were able to travel through the land of Les Mis and learn the inner workings of the production from the 30,000 feet level from one of the audio directors. We even met Jean Valjean! Though I was mildly (ok…severely) starstruck, it was just awe-inspiring to be in the midst of such talent. I was frozen in admiration for their abilities and for their ability to convey the story so beautifully and energetically, as if they were performing it for the first time.

Needless to say, I loved it and would recommend it if it comes to your city!

The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson

ImageI just finished reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson — perhaps best known for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This book was recommended to me by Dixon and I jumped into it with little knowledge of Thompson’s style, and the fact that Johnny Depp’s mug is on the cover since he starred in the feature film was also a timely encourager.

Overall, this book was a shattered illusion most of all. When I talked to Dixon about the book after I finished it, one thing that we both came to separately is that the book takes your idea of a perfect vacation (drink in hand, toes in the sand…you get the picture) and carries it out in a way that it becomes the normal. And the days blended into nights of drunken debauchery lead to serious consequences, one more frightening and life-shattering than the next.

The book chronicles a New York City transplant’s journalistic foray into writing for an island news source in Puerto Rico. My research tells me it was actually written in 1950 but not published until 1998 — which explains why my shock over just hopping on a Pan Am flight without so much as a real ticket wasn’t unfounded. Said journalist (Paul Kemp) fumbles into the island lifestyle maniacally, alcoholicly (I made that word up), and violently.

Overall, the tale is a string of drunken remembrances, impotent desires, and an insatiable lust that no manner of sex or drink can appease. After I finished it, I felt unsettled. Unsettled is perhaps the perfect lingering feeling that Thompson leaves on the final page but that did not make me dislike the tale. It was just a different style, a not so neatly wrapped package of a story, and one that made me wonder if the illusion and lure of the island life and all that would encompass that vision truly does lose its shimmer after time. Of course, the answer is yes. And that is a sad thought…

Midnight in Paris – Directed by Woody Allen

Wow…I have not seen a film that charmed me so much perhaps since the first time I saw Love Actually. And I must say, I loved this one more. Maybe because it was an English major’s fantasy, and maybe because it was so lightheartedly existential, but I truly adored it. I am talking about Midnight in Paris and if you haven’t seen it, you better rent it soon because it is a delight.

The story features some of my favorite actors — Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Kathy Bates, and a new favorite, Marion Cotillard. It is just delightful and tells the story of an engaged couple (McAdams and Wilson) visiting Paris while Wilson’s character (Gil Pender) works on a book. McAdams (Inez) is the ever-spoiled, shallow shrew of a woman whose judgmental and sardonic parents complete her ever-insulting thoughts.

Gil Pender is fun-loving, the ultimate example of a disheveled, scattered artist, and a perfect Woody Allen personification. (Allen directed the film) And each night at midnight, Gil is mysteriously and miraculously transported to the era of his beloved idols — Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald, Picasso…and on. It is as magical as it is mysterious and absolutely captivating.

As a lover of literature, the very thought is tantalizing and Allen directed it in such a way that it fulfills that desperate itch we can never scratch of imagining what it must have been like to live among such greats.

The film has its twists and turns, of course, moments of witty snippets littered throughout. But it also has a moment of epiphany — of recognizing that the present is never the “golden age” that you think a prior era must have been. Which jolts us back into our present worlds — the lives we live outside of enjoying a film such as this — with the reminder that sometimes the present is not all that bad…

Please go see this movie! It is a winner!

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

It has been a while since I picked up a piece of fiction-fiction. Meaning, a book filled with wonder and possibility — where reality doesn’t really matter. I think the last fiction adventure I had like this was Hunger Games, and I read the series nearly a year ago. At any rate, I have had Life of Pi for a few months and decided to pick it up while I was getting over being sick.

Wow, I was in for such a surprise and delight. I love picking up a book and beginning to read it without a clue as to what it is about. Such was the case for Life of Pi. I was immediately entranced by the telling of a tale, the stories of animals, and the journey of a castaway at sea. It was absolutely fascinating and I read it in three sittings.

The book also surprisingly deals heavily with religion and is thought provoking, to say the least. I believe Life of Pi is often used by book clubs and maybe even in schools because it offers so many opportunities for further discussion and the exploration of many high-minded topics.

And at the end, you are left with a choice as to what you think is the truth. (Read it and you will know exactly what I mean). This opportunity for imagination to flourish is rare and I valued it immensely as I finished this book. My only complaint? The book is quite graphic at times and I had a few unwanted nightmares. But that is just par for the course when you are reading such wonderful stories that expand your imagination so.

I would wholeheartedly recommend reading this book, but do so with an open mind and with the expectation that it won’t necessarily make sense or appeal to your rational senses. ┬áThat will make for a much more enjoyable experience.

Downton Abbey

ImageAfter five days of a miserable cold, there are few things I achieved on the old “to do” lists I am always keeping. However, one thing I did achieve is that I fell in love with a new story, the story of Downton Abbey. I am thankful to this story because it kept my mind distracted when I was down and out. There is nothing better than being wrapped up in a wonderful tale when you can’t do much else. So, i wanted to write a bit about it on the blog so that you might discover it as well, if you are interested in the subject matter.

Downton Abbey is a television series that comes to us by way of PBS (yay public broadcasting!). You can even watch full episodes on PBS for free. The best way I can explain Downton Abbey when I told some friends about the series is that it is basically a Pride and Prejudice style of tale enjoyed like you were actually reading the book versus in a two-hour film segment. The main differences, however, are that the series isn’t as much a love story-centric tale as Austen’s lauded work. To me, Downton Abbey is the story of a house through the ages and all that goes on within it.

The house is Biltmore on steroids — and having recently toured the Biltmore home, it was fascinating to see some of the very elements of the Vanderbilt’s home in live action in Downton Abbey. You follow the storylines of the main family that lives there, the lines of inheritance, the stories of the maids and servants, and of course the common theme of wedding daughters of a prestigious family such that they can live comfortable lives being provided for by men of means.

While some have called the series a glorified soap opera dressed up in Victorian clothing, I think it is more than that. It is a cultural study of its time and it is truly fascinating. Certainly there are melodrama moments, but that is what makes the storyline so insatiable. And, one of my favorite actors plays a leading role, Maggie Smith — and she is just exquisite.

If you haven’t seen any of the episodes, you can watch most of Season 1 on Netflix or Hulu and you can watch Season 2 on PBS. Enjoy!

Kris Jenner and All Things Kardashian

So before you jump to any judgments about the title of this post, let me tell you one thing about myself. I am unabashedly and sometimes dangerously curious. I have been that way since I was little and I just want to know what is on the other side of that door…what happens when you touch the hot stove…and what is the deal with those Kardashians?

In all truth, I find them fascinating. I am reading The Tipping Point right now and to me, the Kardashian phenomena is a perfect example of an epidemic-style fame that has consumed pop culture — particularly the E! network. So, this curiosity led to a little exploration. It started with re-runs of Keeping up with the Kardashians to keep me company on the treadmills at the Y. Then a little Google research. And then, the book.

As you may recall if you pay attention to the Today Show or any sort of news genre that covers pop culture in some degree, Kim Kardashian had a huge wedding last year (that some irreverently called America’s “royal” wedding — YUCK) and then got divorced 72 days later. Her mother’s book conveniently came out roughly a week or two later. I ordered it shortly thereafter and breezed through it because I really think a fourth grader could have written a better book.

But, that was not the reason I picked it up, of course. So let me tell you a little bit about it…First of all, the Kardashian/OJ Simpson connection is fascinating. I was so young when that murder case was happening that there were many details I didn’t really know about — and hearing it again through Kris Jenner’s memory was really interesting. I still do not know how he was determined to not be guilty.

Second, Kris Jenner is very open about her infidelity to Robert Kardashian prior to her marriage to Bruce Jenner. It is interesting and revealing. As a reader, you appreciate her honesty and straightforwardness on the topic. I think it was the first time I actually considered what it might be like to be on the other side of an affair (if you have read my blog before, you know I consider that the unforgivable sin in a relationship).

And finally, the family is inconceivably self absorbed. Sure, we knew that, but reading about it in such detail takes it to a whole new level. I was disgusted with them and baffled by the coinciding statements of faith.

Ultimately, the book was pure trash — but I knew it would be from the beginning. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about and how they came to be who they are today. So, unless you have similar tendencies, don’t waste your time. You can get all the information I gleaned from the book in a quick Wikipedia reference without suffering through some of the worst prose ever written.