Monday, May 28, 2012

Need To Read

I have a lot of books in my "To Read" pile that I really need to get to. Some have been there for a while and some have been loaned to me. Here's what's up next:

"We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building's tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there's Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma's trust and to see through Renée's timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us." (from Goodreads)
John loaned this to me quite a while ago, and I feel bad that I've had it so long, so it's at the top of the list. It's not my usual kind of book, but John said it was really good so I'll give it a try. I'll let you know what I think.

"The Hours tells the story of three women: Virginia Woolf, beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway as she recuperates in a London suburb with her husband in 1923; Clarissa Vaughan, beloved friend of an acclaimed poet dying from AIDS, who in modern-day New York is planning a party in his honor; and Laura Brown, in a 1949 Los Angeles suburb, who slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home. By the end of the novel, these three stories intertwine in remarkable ways, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace." (from Goodreads)
Next up is The Hours, which I bought a hundred years ago from the $2 book store. It seems kind of heavy but comes highly recommended.

"With Felipe de Castro, the Vampire King of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), in town, it’s the worst possible time for a body to show up in Eric Northman’s front yard—especially the body of a woman whose blood he just drank.
Now, it’s up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl’s fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who’s out to make Sookie’s world come crashing down." (from Goodreads)
After what I expect to be a heavy read in The Hours and before the next expected heavy book, I'm going to go for some light, paranormal romance, just-for-fun reading. This is the second-to-last book in the Sookie series from Charlaine Harris. I'm kind of excited for the series to end, I feel like it's time. Though I still enjoy the books, I feel like the last few haven't been as good as earlier books in the series. 

"In The Hour I First Believed, Lamb travels well beyond his earlier work and embodies in his fiction myth, psychology, family history stretching back many generations, and the questions of faith that lie at the heart of everyday life. The result is an extraordinary tour de force, at once a meditation on the human condition and an unflinching yet compassionate evocation of character.
When forty-seven-year-old high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his younger wife, Maureen, a school nurse, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, Caelum returns home to Three Rivers, Connecticut, to be with his aunt who has just had a stroke. But Maureen finds herself in the school library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed, as two vengeful students go on a carefully premeditated, murderous rampage. Miraculously she survives, but at a cost: she is unable to recover from the trauma. Caelum and Maureen flee Colorado and return to an illusion of safety at the Quirk family farm in Three Rivers. But the effects of chaos are not so easily put right, and further tragedy ensues.
While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers a cache of old diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in an upstairs bedroom of his family's house. The colorful and intriguing story they recount spans five generations of Quirk family ancestors, from the Civil War era to Caelum's own troubled childhood. Piece by piece, Caelum reconstructs the lives of the women and men whose legacy he bears. Unimaginable secrets emerge; long-buried fear, anger, guilt, and grief rise to the surface.
As Caelum grapples with unexpected and confounding revelations from the past, he also struggles to fashion a future out of the ashes of tragedy. His personal quest for meaning and faith becomes a mythic journey that is at the same time quintessentially contemporary -- and American.
The Hour I First Believed is a profound and heart-rending work of fiction. Wally Lamb proves himself a virtuoso storyteller, assembling a variety of voices and an ensemble of characters rich enough to evoke all of humanity." (from Goodreads)
This looks really heavy but I've been told it's a must read. I also can't remember who loaned this to me, so hopefully it will find its way back to its rightful owner eventually. After watching the horror of what happened at Columbine High School happen right here and knowing people who knew people there, this book hits close to home. 

In addition to these paper books, I have a bunch of books being delivered to my Kindle automatically upon release that I know I won't be able to ignore for long. Those include the newest Anita Blake from Laurell K. Hamilton - Kiss the Dead (June 5), the new Bloodlines from Richelle Mead - The Golden Lily (June 12), Nicole Peeler's latest addition to her Jane True series - Tempest's Fury (June 26), and the follow-up to Deborah Harkness' A Discovery of Witches - Shadow of Night (July 10). Happy reading for me!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective

"Fashions fade, style is eternal." - Yves Saint Laurent

Me in front of the iconic "Paris Rose" evening dress used in the advertising

A few weeks ago, the Denver Design Center hosted an exclusive night at the Denver Art Museum to tour the Yves Saint Laurent exhibition. The event was for all sorts of people from the design community, including interior designers, kitchen designers, reps, showroom staff, etc. It followed on the heels of a day of learning and new product showings at the Design Center itself. After a cocktail party in the lobby, we all lined up to make our way through the exhibit.

The Denver Art Museum is the only U.S. venue for the sweeping fashion exhibition that chronicles the designer's 40 years of creativity, and is showing through July 8. It features a stunning collection of two hundred haute couture (high fashion) garments along with numerous photographs, drawings, and films that illustrate the development of Saint Laurent's style an the historical foundations of his work. It explores the full arc of Saint Laurent's career, from his first days as head of the House of Dior in 1958 through the splendor of his evening dresses from 2002.

It was really quite an amazing show and I really learned a lot about the history of women's fashion as well as about Saint Laurent himself. I highly recommend getting the headphones and listening to the blurbs about some of the items if you're interested in the history of fashion and the "stories" that go along with these pieces.

This outfit was in the "Gender Revolution" room, and though it's not one of the most revolutionary outfits there, I thought it was absolutely beautiful. I loved the applique on the chest and the gorgeous hat. Most of the outfits in this room had amazing hats. This room included Saint Laurent's pantsuits, which were one of the most revolutionary aspects of his designs. Before this, women did not really wear pants in high fashion. He transformed traditionally masculine clothing to have feminine appeal. One of the stories I listened to was that a woman once wore one of his pantsuits to a high-end club and the doorman wouldn't let her in. He said that women could not wear pants inside, so she just took them off and went inside. Hahaha! (UPDATE - After seeing the show again yesterday, I realized that I remembered this dress wrong. It was actually in the "YSL and Women" room and was a gift from Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco. Though it seems a little daytime to me, it is described as a cocktail dress from 1964, natural and black shantung with a black silk applique rose.)

This dress is completely embroidered with gold beads and fake diamonds. It's amazing and beautiful, and I'm sure incredibly heavy! Such a simple form, but totally extraordinary!

One might think this dress was lingerie, as the lace was completely see-through and the pink bows on the side were the only thing holding the front and back together, but it's not. It was a made to order evening dress for an wealthy, but culturally conservative, Indian woman. The story was that she absolutely loved Saint Laurent's designs and commissioned many of them, though she wasn't allowed to wear them out because they were so risque. So this gorgeous dress was never actually worn out in public. Such a pity!

The Torero outfit in in the "Imaginary Journeys" room. From 1979, it showcases a pink gazar cape, gold and pink lame bolero and knickerbockers, and a bright pink satin and taffeta blouse. It's totally crazy and I love it. Especially because of the pink.

This is when I got in trouble for taking pictures. Whoops! I should've realized that I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but I'd seen others do it and I wasn't using a flash. Oh, well. So I didn't get any photos of some of the most iconic YSL fashions, like the Mondrian inspired cocktail dress, or his Van Gogh inspired bead and sequin embroidered jackets that looked so much like the actual paintings they were amazing!

Two of the most stunning rooms were the "Shock of Colors" and the "Iconic Tuxedo" rooms. The "Shock of Colors" was an all black room featuring six silk evening dresses hanging alone in little black boxes. Pinned on all the walls were 750 swatches of fabric that showcase Saint Laurent's use of color for the evening dresses, to an almost ombre effect. The little silk squares flutter with the air movement and is really a stunning visual, and the evening dresses are from his final collection in 2002. (UPDATE - I remembered this room wrong somehow. The fabric swatches do not flutter in the air as they are actually protected behind plexiglass. I must just want to see them fluttering. Still a fabulous visual.)

The "Iconic Tuxedo" room is also visually stunning. You come into this room from the relatively close quarters of the "Shock of Colors" room and you're greeted by a sweeping three-level display of women's tuxedos. Saint Laurent was the first designer to alter the classic men's formal suit to fit women. Some of these designs are very similar to the men's suit, but many more are evening gowns inspired by the suit. I was able to sit down on a bench, listen to the recording about the tuxedos and just gaze up at all of the beautiful designs.

The last bit of the exhibition is called the "Last Ball", a collection of enchanting ball gowns. The display is beautiful, with many gowns "spilling" down a stair case and ending with the iconic "Paris Rose" dress from the advertising, which was also used in an ad campaign for a Paris perfume in 1983. I busted out my phone and slyly took one last picture when none of the exhibit staff were looking.

I couldn't not take a picture of the dress! It's so beautiful in person. The top and the bow are YSL's signature pink satin and the skirt is sumptuous black velvet. Absolutely gorgeous!

As a designer, I really wanted to touch the fabrics and feel their weight or softness or the texture of the beading. I asked some of the people who were walking around with me and they all felt the same way. I think it must be an occupational hazard kind of thing. It was hard to not touch anything.

I really loved this exhibit. I'm going to go see it again with a group of friends soon. My only complaint was that sometimes the lighting wasn't really that good. I wanted to be able to see some of the fabrics and details better, but a lot of the rooms were really dark. Also, in the "Last Ball" room, some of the gowns were quite far away, so you couldn't see them well at all. But, all in all, it was really a pleasure to see and I'm so excited that it came to Denver.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Fifty Shades Darker" Book Review

My review of "Fifty Shades of Grey" has proven to be very popular, so I figured I'd continue with reviews for the other books in the series.

"Daunted by the singular tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house.  But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades. While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life." (Amazon's Description)

**You should only read this if you've already read "Fifty Shades of Grey" or if you're not opposed to some spoilers (not really bad spoilers, but some).

"Fifty Shades of Grey" ends with Ana leaving Christian. She's determined, after letting Christian whip her with a belt, that she is so not cut out for this lifestyle. Though she was once curious (uncomfortably so) about the lifestyle and even liked some of their "scenes", was willing to try, and in love with Christian - the pain and humiliation, as well as the realization that Christian really enjoyed hurting her - was all too much for her to take. 

"Fifty Shades Darker" begins just days after the big break-up. As any girl can tell you, those first few days are hell and I feel like E.L. James does a really good job of conveying that hell. Ana doesn't have the option to completely fall apart as she has started her new job at Seattle Independent Publishing and needs to prove herself to her new boss. Christian is never really gone from her life though, sending her flowers to honor her first day, and eventually emailing her as well.

Since we already know that there is a third book, and it also follows Ana and Christian (and Amazon's description gave it away), I'm not really giving anything more away by saying that obviously Ana and Christian work it out and get back together.

After Ana left Christian, he did some serious soul-searching and determined that he wanted Ana in his life, even if she couldn't be his sub. Ana knows that she will never be able to be his submissive, but she enjoys the "kinky fuckery" part of their relationship. It seems as though they've found a happy medium. Or have they?

There is still a ton of sex in this book (and HOT sex at that), but there is also a much needed secondary story line. In addition to the continuing development of Ana and Christian's relationship, there is now a big mystery happening. Ana and Christian have a ton of drama to deal with as well. It's almost like these kids can't catch a break and relax. Everything seems to happen in one week - every day is another huge drama. I swear, they have more drama in the span of a week or two than I have in an entire year!

There's a psycho ex-sub of Christians (who we were briefly introduced to in FSoG), Ana's touchy-feel-y boss at SIP, and we finally meet Mrs. Robinson. Of course drama surrounds all these characters. We also continue to deal with Christian's controlling tendencies, jealousy, and issues stemming from his childhood, as well as Ana's insecurities and self-doubt. Then you throw in some really big life-changing decisions Ana needs to make and a serious accident. As Ana would say, Jeez! 

I kept thinking that there was too much going on in these characters lives to be realistic. All the drama, all the sex, plus full-time jobs - I mean really, how on Earth is Christian able to run his incredibly successful empire? How do they fit it all in? Is it because they don't watch TV? And how is Ana so well-read when I think she's only shown reading a book once or twice? They have such fun, flirty email exchanges at work, so how do they actually get any work done?

The other thing I felt was a bit unrealistic is the super-quick progression of Ana and Christian's relationship. I don't know anybody in this day and age whose relationship would progress like Ana and Christian's does in the span of a couple months. Even if they're so completely in love, I feel like any man in a similar place in life (being a young, hot, billionaire businessman) would be a little more cautious inviting a women to share in his life. It does make for enjoyable fantasy reading, though. Like a modern-day Cinderella fairy tale.

In the first book, I was annoyed that James would use the same descriptive words repeatedly, and though she doesn't use those exact same words in this book, she is still a bit repetitive. I was also still looking up definitions, but I like that. I like learning new words. Also, I felt like there weren't as many British words used, so that was better this time around.

I was, again, left wanting more at the end of FSD. Some dramas were resolved, some weren't, and the mystery is definitely on-going. I wanted to read the third book immediately to know how everything would turn out. So I did. :) Like I said in my FSoG review, I didn't get much else accomplished when reading these books. I was also left wanting more information about some of the secondary characters. Specifically about Christian's sister, Mia, and Taylor. I felt like they had backgrounds and potential story lines I'd be interested in reading.

I know some people didn't want to read the second and third books because the sex in the first book made them uncomfortable. I want to ease your mind - the sex in FSD is quite a bit easier to take. There's not as much of a BDSM element or undertone. It's really just kinky sex. Hot kinky sex. Hopefully that will help some people out and they'll continue reading. It's well worth it!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Normal People CAN Dress Like Celebrities!

Or maybe an more apt title would be, A Celebrity Wears an Affordable Dress!

Ginnifer Goodwin wore this cute ruffled dress to the White House Correspondent's After Dinner Party. It is really quite fabulous. She added the black belt and I think that was a good choice (as is her on- and off-screen boyfriend, Josh Dallas!).

Lo and behold, us regular folks can afford this dress! It's from H&M and only costs $295!!!

I believe this is made of raw silk and the edges of the ruffles are unfinished, so there's a bit of fray happening. But if you can deal with that, this is a awesome deal!