Friday, December 30, 2011

A hairy situation

On the eve of New Year's eve I'm considering what champagne to bring along for the festivities, what nail polish will carry  me through to the new year, and of course what coiffure I will sport on my soon to be 2012 head.  Looking back at some nostalgic hair choices, I came across some rather "hairy" trends, and of course some that have stood the test of time, fashion, and style trends.  So before we ring in the new year, here are a few of them, along with my champagne choice, my nail polish, and a great shop on Etsy that I have bought two wigs from for when I don't feel like dealing with my own hair.
  1. "Crown Me Already" Nail Polish by OPI $9
  2. Dreamstone Pink Moscato from Fresh and Easy $8 (or less if it is on sale)
  3. Airship Captain Customized Long Wig by MissVioletLace $73.60 (on sale for Christmas)
TIME Magazine Cover August 19, 1935 from LIFE Photo Archive
1930's hair trends:  finger wave curls, rolled pinned curls fastened to the head with pins, hair kept close to the head, use of hats worn on top or diagonally, hair parted in the middle or to the side, and waves, waves, and more waves (Pictured: Jean Harlow, other leading ladies with 1930's do's: Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Myrna Loy, Diana Dors, Greta Garbo )

Photo by Peter Stackpole from LIFE Photo Archive
1940's hair trends: shoulder-length or shorter hair, thickening agents applied after shampooing, a larger roll in place of bangs, using rollers and even aluminum cans to roll the hair, small hats worn with bangs/roll in front, "peek-a-boo" hair style à la Veronica Lake (Pictured: Gene Tierney, other leading ladies with 1940's do's: Veronica Lake, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Ava Gardner)

Photo by Loomis Dean from LIFE Photo Archive
1950's hair trends: shorter hair styles, chignons or french pleats, ponytails, sculpted curls, the poodle cut (à la Lucille Ball), the soft bob or a page boy hair cut, permanents (Pictured: Debbie Reynolds, other leading ladies with 1950's do's: Connie Francis, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly)

So out of these hairstyles, which have you seen lately?  I know the bob is still a classic cut, as are hair styles like the understated pony tail or french twist, but thank goodness we don't roll our hair in tin cans or pin each curl up with a bobby pin any more.  I'm also glad to see the hat and fascinator making a come back too.  Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Movie Review: The Philadelphia Story, 1940

Katharine Hepburn on the set of the Broadway Play The Philadelphia Story, 1938
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt from LIFE Photo Archive
If there is one thing that I love about classic movies it's the witty dialogue, and The Philadelphia Story is no exception.  Katharine Hepburn is young, vibrant and utterly charming as Tracy Lord, a wealthy divorced socialite about to be married once more.  But the handsome and also charming Cary Grant, as C.K. Dexter Haven, has other plans for the egotistic and proud Ms. Lord.  In come Jimmy Stewart, as writer and reluctant reporter Mike Connor, and Ruth Hussey, as photographer and girlfriend to Mike, Liz Imbrie.  The pair have been assigned to cover the Lord wedding, but Tracy Lord is adamant that the press does not belong behind closed doors.  However, Lord's father is embroiled in a bit of a scandal with a young dancer, so with a little black mail the set up is complete.  Tracy's mother and younger sister wholeheartedly believe that her divorce from Haven was a mistake, so when he shows up, they are not so secretly pleased to have him back in Tracy's life.  At the core of the story is Tracy's "goddess" personality.  In a matter of minutes her ex-husband, her fiancé and her father all tell her that she comes off as a big snob and isn't the most understanding of souls.  This pivotal moment shifts the story and pretty soon Tracy is in the middle of a four sided love triangle between herself, Haven, Connor and her fiancé.  I really enjoyed the scenes between Hepburn and Stewart, especially when the two have too much champagne and end up dancing and swimming the night away under the stars.  Grant and Stewart's performances are also fun to watch as they play off of each other perfectly.  I did not know before watching this film that George Cukor had directed, and since he directed The Women which is one of my favorite films, I am not surprised how much I enjoyed The Philadelphia Story.  Add to that the pleasure of the costumes, sets, and all the supporting cast, and I am a very happy girl.

Here's the trailer:

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Look Back: 1930

Mother photographing her son in the snow in Switzerland, 1930
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt from LIFE Photo Archive
Now I know I'm talking about the Great Depression here with 1930 and all, but I don't want to focus on the negative and instead I'd like to take a look back at positive things that happened in 1930, because amongst tragedy, you can usually find some beauty.
  • In Los Angeles the Blakely Bros. (an interior decorating and painting contractor) took discarded toys and furniture items, restored them and then distributed them to needy families for Christmas. 
  • The first heat sealed tea bag (resembling more of a pouch) was invented by William Hermanson of the Technical Papers Corporation of Boston, he sold the patent to the Salada Tea Company in 1930. 
  • The planet Pluto was discovered. 
  • Cellophane or "sticky tape" was invented by Dick Drew, a 3M researcher.
  • Did you know you could buy a parade?  Well apparently you can. In the early 1930's D. Earl Comb bought a Christmas parade, including all of the props, animals and costumes for a hefty $1,800 dollars.  He then exhibited the parade throughout the Midwest and Southeast of the United States.  
  • The first analog computer, called a differential analyzer, was invented by Harold Locke Hazen and Vannevar Bush at MIT.
  • By a very fortunate accident, Ruth Wakefield invented the chocolate chip cookie. She was the proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts (where Toll House Cookies come from).  And guess what? She sold her recipe to Nestlé for a lifetime supply of chocolate (well, in exchange for Nestlé printing her recipe on their semi-sweet chocolate bars, she received a lifetime of chocolate).  Pretty sweet deal I must say, pun intended. And she worked as a dietician at one point.
  • Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his novel Babbitt (1922). He was the first American to win this prize.  
  • The first jet engine patent was submitted for approval by Air Commodore, Sir Frank Whittle
  • The first ever World Cup was held in Uruguay in July of 1930 and Uruguay won.
So thank you Mrs. Wakefield for giving us the Toll House Cookie, a sweet treat that has withstood the test of time and two great depressions. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Book Review: The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Dial, 2008; 372 pages; ISBN 0803731000
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
I've found that historical fiction written for teens is actually pretty great for adults too, and The Red Necklace is a great example of that.  At first I didn't know what was going on in the story, but once I delved into it, I was hooked. There are actually two heroes in the story - a gypsy boy with supernatural powers named Yann and a young heiress named Sido who is despised by her greedy & narcissistic father, the Marquise.  Yann travels with Tetu and Topolain entertaining crowds with their magical act, but Yann's magic is real.  Sido was until recently living in a nunnery because her father has no interest in her, especially because an accident caused her to have a permanent limp.  When Yann arrives at the Marquise's châteaux for a special performance, he is met not only with Sido, but also with the story's heartless villain, Count Kalliovski.  In the Count you get a true villain, which made the story much more intriguing and foreboding.  Some say he is the devil incarnate, and he uses people's secrets to bind them to him with debt, blackmail them, and in turn gain power. When he spots Topolain and his magical act, he challenges him to an almost impossible feat: to survive a bullet.  From there the story progresses to Count Kalliovski setting his eyes on the young Sido, who is, to say the least, utterly repulsed by him.  Her father promises her hand in marriage nonetheless.  The French Revolution setting brings the whole story to life. I don't know much about this period of time, but I will certainly be reading more about it now.  Although Yann comes across Sido and her situation early on, and his story separates and alternates between some of his formative years and the drama that is building up in Paris, the story never feels discombobulated or boring. You get to experience both the story of Sido and the story of Yann and then their stories come together in a way that completely makes sense.  The ending was tied up nicely without being too neat.  There is a follow up to the book entitled The Silver Blade (Dial, 2009) and it is on my to-read list for next year. If you like historical fiction, I think you will enjoy The Red Necklace.

Photo: From website

Friday, December 2, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 12

Photo from
Woo-Hoo, a whole year of book and cocktail pairings!  I'm halfway to my goal (see my first post here).  For this, the last installment of 2011 I'm going with a Devil in the Mud in honor of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.  Now, I read this book way before Anne Hathaway made Meryl Streep cringe wearing clunky loafers and blah sweaters in the movie version of the book.  I will admit that the movie is entertaining, but the book is SO much better.  The book captures all of the nuances of the characters in a way that the movie just didn't.  I also felt like all of the satirical qualities of the book were lost in the movie, and that was a big part of why I enjoyed the book.  Alas, I still recommend both the novel and the movie, but definitely read the book first (and drink this cocktail while you're at it).

This is a mud I wouldn't mind being stuck in
 Devil in the Mud
1 1/2 oz. Raspberry vodka
3/4 oz. Chocolate syrup
2 oz. Milk
1/2 oz. Chambord*
1/2 oz. White crème de cacao
How to:  Prep your martini glass with a drizzle of the chocolate syrup.  In a cocktail shaker mix ice, vodka, chocolate syrup, milk, Chambord, and the crème de cacao.  Shake for at least 20 seconds.  Serve in the prepared martini glass.  *Chambord Liqueur is a black raspberry liqueur from France that is made with raspberries, blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and cognac.

This gives the drink some of its tart and sweet raspberry flavor
Getting my swirl on before I poured the martini
Very fashionista, don't you think?

Friday, November 25, 2011

What did our grandmothers covet on Black Friday?

Women crowding around a nylon stocking display at Gimbel's Department Store, 1947
Photo by Same Shere from LIFE Photo Archive
I am staying far, far away from any Black Friday madness today, but, I did wonder what our grandmothers were into as far as fashion decades ago in the days before Black Fridays dominated our Thanksgiving weekend (Black Friday dates back to Philadelphia circa the 1960's, read more here).  So here's a look at some of the most influential fashion designers and fashion looks of the 30's, 40's and 50's.  Classic is one way of putting it because frankly I would not mind wearing any of these pieces now and good thing I can from the comfort of my own home and the beauty that is vintage Etsy.

Influential Fashion Designers: Madeleine Vionnet, Elsa Schiaparelli
Popular Looks: exaggerated shoulders, pants and slacks for women, more widespread use of zippers and man-made fibers, bias-cut dresses, capelets and bolero jackets
Hollywood Fashion Icons: Fred Astaire, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, Carole Lombard
Carole Lombard, 1938 Photo by Eisenstaedt from LIFE Photo Archive

Influential Fashion Designers:  Vera Maxwell, Bonnie Cashin, Christian Dior
Popular Looks: Knee-length, flared, straight and pleated skirts, thick and low heels, subdued colors, sweaters, accessorizing with hats, purses and gloves, structured undergarments
Hollywood Fashion Icons: Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, Vivien Leigh
Ingrid Bergman, 1944 Photo by John Florea from LIFE Photo Archive
Influential Fashion Designers:  Hubert de Givenchy, William Travilla, Cristobal Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain
Popular Looks: Full circle skirts, saddle shoes, Dior's "new look" featuring a feminine silhouette of longer skirts, a fitted waist and soft rounded shoulders, narrow pants and shorts, petticoats, stiletto heels
Hollywood Fashion Icons: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe, 1953 Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt from LIFE Photo Archive

Friday, November 18, 2011

Movie Review: BUtterfield 8, 1960

Elizabeth Taylor after winning the Oscar in April, 1961
Photo by Grey Villet from LIFE Photo Archive

This is one of my favorite Elizabeth Taylor movies (even though it was NOT one of her favorites).  She won an Oscar for her performance and she wears another iconic slip dress (for the other one, see my previous post on iconic movie fashion).  You could say this was another story similar to Breakfast at Tiffany's since we are talking about a call girl here, but this movie has a completely different tone and Elizabeth Taylor is no Holly Golightly.  She plays Gloria Wandrous, a woman about town who doesn't take $#*&! from nobody.  She is independent for that time, driving her own car, making a career out of modeling clothes at hot spots around town, and sleeping with wealthy men (although this is not said right out at first, until Gloria herself confronts her mother about it and she and her lover argue about it).  Gloria receives calls from Butterfield 8, which was the phone code for New York's upper east side at the time.  These calls are usually from her beaus and her current one is Wes, a married man who both intrigues her and infuriates her.  She's also friendly with Steve, a down and out composer who has sincere feelings for Gloria but also has a girlfriend who is the complete opposite of sultry and slinky Gloria.  After having spent a night with Wes but being insulted in the morning upon discovering a wad of cash on a table and his wife's luxurious fur coats in the closet, Gloria seeks comfort in Steve.  He disapproves of how she is leading her life and the disapproval continues when Gloria pays a visit to her mom (lying to her about where she spent the night).  Pretty soon Gloria and Wes are embroiled in a passionate affair, but Gloria can't let go of her own self-identity as an unworthy woman (in the eyes of society).  She tells Steve of a sordid story that happened when she was only thirteen years old and of how she feels ashamed not because of what happened but because she enjoyed it.  In the morning Steve proposes to his long time girlfriend.  Gloria decides she needs a fresh start and leaves for Boston, but her past is not far behind and tragedy unfolds.  

The movie is based on the book by John O'Hara, published in 1935.  Elizabeth Taylor was 28 at the time of filming and had just married Eddie Fisher after a very public affair and his divorce from Debbie Reynolds.  This was part of the reason Taylor admonished the film.  Both her and Fisher disliked that the public was referring to her as a home wrecker and she was playing one in the movie.  They called the movie "Butterball Four" for laughs.  Another reason Elizabeth Taylor disliked the movie was because she was basically forced to complete it under her contract with MGM.  She wanted to leave the studio in order to film Cleopatra with 20th Century Fox, but was denied until she completed BUtterfield 8.  Frankly I'm glad she did.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

Mira, 2006; 528 pages; ISBN  0778325318
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

This was an enjoyable easy read that captures the idea of family and the difficult choices you make that can re-shape your entire life.  CeeCee Wilkes made a difficult decision when she was very young and now that she is older she has to face her past in order to deal with the repercussions that have only now surfaced.  I love books that have semi-salacious back stories, and this is one of them.  I'll be the first to admit that I am an avid watcher of the I.D. channel (Investigation Discovery), so I love a good mystery and crime story - 48 Hours, and Dateline are two of my favorite shows.  Now this book isn't a mystery per se, but it does have a great crime story in the background that is crucial to the entire plot.  

When CeeCee Wilkes was a young girl she fell in love with the intelligent and charismatic Timothy Gleason (I also found him to be a bit creepy).  But Gleason isn't all that he appears.  He has a plan that involves a politician and his damaged sister.  After CeeCee and Timothy get close, he draws her into his plan and she agrees reluctantly only after he assures her that nothing can go wrong.  But sadly, everything does go wrong and in the process CeeCee is forced to make a very tough decision.  

Fast forward years later to CeeCee's daughter Cory who is now expecting a baby and is in the middle of a fight with her boyfriend and the father of her unborn baby.  It is then that CeeCee must face her past when Timothy Gleason comes back into her life.

I don't want to reveal too much of the plot since that is one of the best parts of this novel, but I also have to say that I liked the characters in the story too, they aren't cookie cutter personalities - they are much more complex and flawed, which makes them relatable to the reader.  I'm interested in reading more from this author, especially the just released The Midwife's Confession, which is already on my to read list.  I highly recommend this book for a great escape that isn't frothy or one-dimensional.

More by Diane Chamberlain:

Photo from website

Friday, November 4, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 11

Photo from
For this month's pairing I'm going back to my favorite - vodka.  In keeping with the title of the book, The Blood of Flowers, I created a blood orange martini using vodka, blood orange syrup, pomegranate juice and some orange bitters.  I also added a tiny splash of fresh grapefruit to give it a little bit more of that sweet bitterness.  So far I think this is my favorite cocktail based on looks alone - I almost didn't want to drink it.  Almost.  Then I discovered it is actually my favorite cocktail of this year based on taste as well.  As for the story of our nameless protagonist in The Blood of Flowers, I really enjoyed this look into rug making, seeking prestige, learning a trade, and ultimately doing something that you love no matter what the sacrifice (including never really being able to take credit for it).  I highly recommend the book for anyone who enjoyed reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant or Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji.  Since the protagonist in the novel is nameless, I'm not naming this cocktail either.
The deep, blood red color of this martini is amazing to look at and even better going down
The Cocktail with No Name
2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Blood orange syrup (I used Torani)
3 oz. Pomegranate juice (I used Pom light)
Dash of orange bitters
Granulated sugar and grapefruit rinds, for garnish*
How to:  In a cocktail shaker mix ice, vodka, syrup, juice and bitters.  Shake for at least 30 seconds.  Strain into a chilled martini glass that has been rimmed with sugar and grapefruit rinds.  *Make your own rimming sugar using fresh grapefruit rinds and some granulated sugar (or raw sugar).

The fresh rimming sugar - a perfect combo of sweet and sour
The first of two that I enjoyed. Cheers!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Look Back: 1957

The Edsel Lineup
 Photo by Frank Scherschel from the LIFE Photo Archive
It's time to look back at 1957 (in keeping with my last post of the movie Desk Set which was released in 1957).  So what better way to remember 1957 than with the Ford Edsel and E-Day, which took place on September 4, 1957.  I mean they even tried to give away 1,000 ponies to children to try and get families on board the Edsel bandwagon (it didn't work).  I guess it was just a big oversell that had set way too high expectations and in the end the car was unimpressive, poorly designed and not of high quality.  Bummer, because it is actually kind of a good looking car.  Here are some other events that all took place in 1957:
  • The Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles, California and the New York Giants to San Francisco, California
  • Leave it to Beaver and the original The Price is Right premiere on television
  • Toyota begins exporting the Land Cruiser and Crown to the United States
  • The laser is invented by Gordon Gould
  • Elvis Presley purchases what will become Graceland
  • American Bandstand premieres
  • The average monthly rent is $90 dollars
  • The New York City trolley car service ceases to operate
  • Gloria Estefan, Frank Miller, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie Sioux, and Matt Lauer are born
Using ponies to bring families into an Edsel dealership 
Photo by Stan Wayman from the LIFE Photo Archive

Take a look at this commercial for the Edsel too.
It actually showcased many features that were unknown to other cars, like a remote trunk release, shifting from the steering wheel (the electric "Teletouch" drive feature) and a speedometer that would flash red when you were above the safe maximum speed that you would pre-set.  So why was this poor design I wonder??

Friday, October 21, 2011

Movie Review: Desk Set, 1957

Photo from the AMC TV Blog
The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!! Well, according to the weather here in California, it still feels like summer, but I still say the holidays are coming because realistically there are only 64 days until Christmas and Targé already has ornaments and holiday cards on their shelves.  

In the spirit of the holidays I'm posting my movie review for Desk Set (1957) starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, directed by Walter Lang.  I love this movie not only because it is a great film with the right mix of romance and comedy, as well as charm and nostalgia, but I also love it because it is about librarians and it is set during the holidays.  Never mind all the great acting, I mean c'mon, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, as well as Gig Young and Joan Blondell!  The story centers on Katharine Hepburn as Bunny Watson and Spencer Tracy as Richard Sumner.  Bunny is head librarian of the reference department of the Federal Broadcasting Network.  When news hits that a computer will be integrated into the department, everyone assumes that they are being replaced, especially when Richard Sumner breezes in and makes it seem like it is no big deal (he is not supposed to say anything definitive about it).  This leads to some witty dialogue and great writing in the film, especially between Hepburn and Tracy.  Once the machine is in place everyone gets a pink slip, so of course their suspicions were true! But it was just a glitch and even the president of the company received one. 

When you think about it, the story is kind of ahead of its time.  Richard Sumner is trying to replace a living and breathing librarian with an electronic machine that spits out answers (sort of like the internet).  But as we have learned, not everything can come from a whirring, processing machine.  Yes, we can read books on a tablet and yes search engines can research people and places for us, but libraries are still places where you can freely browse books, magazines, newspapers, journals, and the like.  You can also attend lectures, cooking demonstrations, story times, book club meetings and even watch classic movies like Desk Set.  So it's nice to know that movies like these remind us that nothing is meant to be infallible and that the human connection is still the best medium to explore the world (in this librarian's opinion).

Here are a few bits of trivia about the film, as well as a Desk Set movie trailer from YouTube.
  • The role of Bunny Watson is based on the real librarian that built up the research library at CBS.
  • The movie is adapted from the Broadway play, which opened in 1955 and held 296 performances.
  • The machine in the movie is called "EMARAC", which stands for Electromagnetic Memory and Research Arithmetical Calculator.  It is based on the actual first general purpose electronic computer, ENIAC, whose slogan was "Making machines do more, so that man can do less".
  • The sound effects that were created specifically to depict the EMARAC were re-used in several future films, including Fantastic Voyage (1966).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Review: The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

MacAdam/Cage, 2003; 518 pages; ISBN  1596921536
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

It took me forever and a day to get through this, but I did, and I'm glad. First off I was confused half the time just trying to figure out which Henry was time traveling, if he was going to the past or to the future, and if there were two of him walking around. The little date and age notations the author included were helpful, but also confusing because sometimes I would go back and see what had already happened to find out if there were clues given to foreshadow what was happening in the present (confusing, I know). The story centers around Henry, a time traveling librarian who meets Clare when she is just a little girl on one of his time travels.  The way he travels is not really up to Henry and this affects the relationship he has with Clare.  But nonetheless both of them love each other and accept the time traveling as inevitable and expected.  There are subplots and minor characters, but I can't possibly explain what else goes on in the story - it is something that you just have to experience as a reader. 

Since I knew of the movie (but hadn't watched it yet when I read the book), and the actors who portrayed Clare and Henry, I couldn't really separate their images from the characters as I read the book. This proved to be OK though once I watched the film (which I did right after I finished the book). I thought the film was cast really well, and although many key components were missing from the film's storyline, I thought they did a great job of capturing the novel on screen. I really enjoyed the love story aspect of Clare and Henry's story and all the twists that appeared. I cried near the end and thought it was so unfair that they didn't get a longer time together. I enjoyed this one much more than Her Fearful Symmetry, see my review for that one hereThe Time Traveler's Wife is not a book to read beach side with a strawberry daiquiri by your side, but more like a book to read on a rainy night in cuddled up to a fire and sipping on some Earl Grey tea.  There really isn't anything else I've read that compares to this book.

Here's the movie trailer (have your tissues ready)

Photo: From website

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review and Giveaway: Birds of Paradise by Kathy Handley

*Congrats to ChocoLibrarian for winning this giveaway. Thanks everyone*

Turns out my last giveaway wasn't the last one of the year because luckily I got the opportunity to read the recently published book Birds of Paradise by Kathy Handley and I am also giving away a copy of it to one very lucky reader (see giveaway details at the end of this blog post to enter).  Also, see the entire Blog Tour schedule on the Women on Writing website: Kathy Handley, author of Birds of Paradise, launches her blog tour.
Photo from
In Birds of Paradise, the story centers around the family of Joe-Mack, his wife Gloria and their two daughters Jen and Amy, and then it radiates out from there after Joe-Mack discovers that his wife is being unfaithful to him.  Joe-Mack then decides to leave with no real plan in sight.  Before he knows it eleven years have passed and he is now a truck driver making trips all over the west coast.  On one of those trips he picks up a hitchhiker named Freddie who is on his way to Hollywood from Vegas.  Joe-Mack takes a liking to him because he is reminded of his two daughters since Freddie is about their age.  Before they part ways, Joe-Mack gives Freddie his cell phone number, in case he ever needs it.  Cut to Starlet, a newly arrived runaway that dreams of making it big in Hollywood.  Starlet soon meets a plethora of characters, including another runaway, a hooker, and Freddie.  By now Freddie is going by the name Vegas and the two fall in love.  The twist is that Starlet is actually Joe-Mack's eldest daughter Jen and she has left her mother Gloria and her new sleazy boyfriend Ralph back home worried to death (well, Ralph isn't worried, just probably sorry he didn't get the chance to make a move on Jen).  This cast of runaways, homeless youths, and streetwalkers is definitely not a good mix to ensure a pleasant plot line, and before you know it there are pimps involved and a shooting.  I believe this part of the story is drawn from the author's family and her own experiences working with young kids in L.A. (see author's note in the back for more information as well as the blog post on the Women on Writing website).

Overall I liked the book but I felt that some things were unnecessary.  The amount of runaways could have been reduced to tighten up the plot and explore more of their characters.  Also, the names were a bit on the cheesy side (Joe-Mack = mack trucks, Starlet = Hollywood starlet, Vegas = just sounds like that Vic Vegas guy from the Food Network, and Frenchy = well, that one is just unnecessary period).  The language between the characters was not always natural sounding too.  I did enjoy the imagery the author used to describe scenes and locations though, which gave the story some lushness and appeal.  I could really see her skills in poetry enlightened in these parts of the story.  Birds of Paradise I think achieves the goal of giving new perspective to runaways and those that have been displaced by life's circumstances and for that I commend the author.

Now for the giveaway!  
To enter, please leave a comment on this blog post with your e-mail address and your answer to this question: Besides the home you live in, where else do you feel "at home"?  
For an extra entry tweet about this book using the hashtag #BirdsParadise and leave the link here as well.  The last day to enter is October 23rd, 2011 and the winner will be announced right here on this post on Thursday, October 27th, 2011.  Good luck!!

*Note: If you purchase this book, the proceeds will go to organizations that sponsor activities for children with cerebral palsy.  Thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for hosting this blog tour and giveaway.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Read a Book, Sip a Cocktail No. 10

Photo from
So far I've been taking a lot of classic drinks and re-working them, or introducing new cocktails with ingredients based on the books that they are being paired with.  With this installment of the read-a-book, sip-a-cocktail series I'm taking one of my tried and true drinks and applying it to this month's book selection, which is the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, Dead Until Dark.  The series is also the basis for the HBO show True Blood (of which I am a fan of from the very beginning, even before I read this book), so you could say this is my version of a Tru Blood drink as well.  I'm simply calling it a Bloody Sangria.  Inevitably after I make a batch of this sangria I always get asked for the recipe, and I'm including the original one here, but believe me, you could vary the ingredients any way you like to suit your taste or your pantry. This would also be a great drink to serve at an upcoming Halloween soirée
Bloody Sangria
1 bottle of Spiced rum (any brand)
1 cup of Simple syrup
3 cups of Orange juice
3 cups of Lemon lime soda (or a clear, fruit flavored soda)
1 1 1/2 liter bottle of Blackberry merlot (like Arbor Mist)
1 1/2 cups of fresh fruit (like grapes, sliced peaches, sliced apples, cherries, etc...)
1 Orange and one lemon, thinly sliced
How to:  In a large pitcher, or better yet a 1 1/2 gallon beverage dispenser, pour rum, simple syrup and fruit and let it sit for at least 3 hours.  Right before serving the sangria, add ice, orange juice, soda, merlot and the sliced orange and lemon.  Stir well and dispense (and I always add some of the fruit to each person's drink, since the whole point of letting it sit with the rum is for it to absorb some of the rum's flavor). 


Friday, September 30, 2011

Teen ARC Giveaway + Handmade 'Vintagey' Jewelry

**Congratulations Aurora Celeste and MollysMuses for winning this Teen ARC Giveway!!**

Since this will probably be my last giveaway of the year I thought I would make it a little more special with the help of some jewelry made by moi.  :)  Two lucky winners will receive one of the following sets of books + an adjustable ring from my Etsy Shop, RIPE .  The first set includes Web of Air by Philip Reeve (Hardcover publication October 1, 2011) and iBoy by Kevin Brooks (Hardcover publication November 1, 2011).  The second set features Steampunk!: An anthology of fantastically rich and strange stories edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant (Hardcover publication October 11, 2011) and Liar's Moon by Elizabeth C. Bunce (Hardcover publication November 1, 2011). 


Fill out the form below to enter, and if you are so inclined:

These additional actions will provide extra entries, but are completely optional. Winners will be picked at random, and entries are valid only for United States residents. The deadline for this giveaway is October 13th, 2011 at 11:59pm (PST).  Winner will be announced right here on this post on October 21st.  Good luck!! :)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Please, Judge the Book by Its Cover

1950 edition of 1984 by George Orwell
(Published by Signet Books, New York)
In this case I say do judge the book by its cover since I'm taking a look at some vintage book covers.  These are all classic books published at least 40 or more years ago, and I was curious to see the early renditions of their book covers compared to the book covers you might find today if you purchased the book online or at a book store. 

Starting with The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (published 1951)
Early cover and the cover most widely available today:
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (published 1925)
Early cover and a more contemporary cover:
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (published 1936)
Early cover and a more contemporary cover:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (published 1963)
Early cover and a more contemporary cover:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (published 1960)
Early cover and a more contemporary cover
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (published 1962)
Early cover and a more contemporary cover:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (published 1967)
First cover and a more contemporary cover:
Also, check out these limited edition posters inspired by classic book covers:

All images of book covers from