Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review - "After You" by Jojo Moyes (#14 - 2016)

After You by Jojo Moyes

This is the sequel to Me Before You (my review here) it picks up about 18 months after the events of the first book occur. Louisa is lost and depressed and just all around stuck.  I'm not going to say too much so I don't spoil anything, but I will say that she meets a few people that completely turn her life upside down and hopefully can help her move forward.  Okay, I'm going to say that this was a somewhat underwhelming sequel.  I didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either.  I love Louisa but I guess I wanted a bit of a different story.  Though part of me understands why she wrote the story the way she did.  If you loved the first book, you will not love this one as much, but it's completely up to you if you want to pick it up.  You won't miss out if you don't read it and just want to leave the story/characters the way they were in Me Before You.  Proceed at your own risk.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Book Review - "Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography" by Meryle Secrest (#13 - 2016)

This was a very comprehensive and extremely interesting look into the life of famed Couturier Elsa Schiaparelli.  From her somewhat isolated childhood in Rome, a failed first marriage to a conman, to her rise as a star in the Paris fashion scene.  She was tough, she was resourceful, she befriended artists and other interesting people who inspired her work.  Unfortunately, she often gets lost in the Dior/Chanel cult of personalities, but trust me her work was so important and her creativity should not be overlooked.  Her fabric innovations, the way she designed pieces to be worn in different ways, zippers and statement buttons and lots of embellishment, her designs were distinct and lots of fun.  The book has lots of pictures which really help (especially if you are unfamiliar with her work).  She wasn't an open book and it was really hard to get a firm handle on exactly who she was.  However, if you are interested in fashion history at all pick this up!

A couple of side notes, Marisa Berenson (actress/model) and Berry Berenson (photographer who was married to actor Anthony Perkins and who sadly died on 9/11) are her granddaughters.  Also, here is the link to the Christie's 2014 sale that Marisa had of her grandmother's belongings.  The label does live on, showing Couture collections now designed by Bertrand Guyon.  I absolutely LOVE what he is doing there, it's modern and still pays tribute to the legend.  One more thing, I really wish they would have made dust jacket's background her signature Schiap "shocking" pink instead of the blush pink. ;)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Book Review - "Wake Up Happy" by Michael Strahan (#12 - 2016)

Wake Up Happy by Michael Strahan

I picked up this book because I like Michael Strahan a lot and wanted to learn more about him.  This was a short book, easy to read but not lacking in information or stories.  He talks about his childhood on an Army base in Germany and how inspiring his parents are to him.  He covered how he was determined to play football in high school in the hope of getting a college scholarship.  To do that he had to leave his family in Germany and come to live with his Aunt and Uncle in Houston, Texas.  Plus he had played football only just a little bit, so it was a huge learning curve for him.  It taught him focus and determination and also to not give up.  I really like how he was honest in his "failures" and how he learned from them and how he took those lessons and built upon them to better himself.  He wasn't worried about not succeeding, he was more worried about not trying.  I like that a lot!  Anyway, I liked the book a lot for an easy, breezy and very positive and inspiring read!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book Review - "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Daily Lives" by Gretchen Rubin (#11 - 2016)

Ever since I read The Happiness Project (my review of it from 2013 is at the bottom of this post) I've been a huge Gretchen Rubin fan.  She takes what may seem like dry subjects and makes them interesting and informative.  I find her books so easy to read and digest.  I loved this book, LOVED it.  She takes an in depth look at how and why we form habits (and how we can form more good habits and ditch the bad ones).  Now habit formation and execution is not a one-size-fits-all thing, she bases it on how we respond to expectations.  She calls these "tendencies" and there are four types (I'm an "Obliger").  Knowing how we respond to expectations and being self-aware, we can then come up with strategies to make habits "stick".  I'm overly simplifying things, but trust me there is so much insight in this book.  I highly recommend picking it up!  Side note she has a podcast too that I enjoy.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin - I've been wanting to read this book for quite and while.  I've heard some good buzz and let's face it, who doesn't want to be happier (or at least read about someones journey towards more happiness)?  Bottom line, it's totally worth your time.  You may not have the same happiness journey (in fact she points out that you probably won't), but it will help you to think about your own keys to happiness and what you can do to help make yourself happier.  I really liked how she didn't sugarcoat or shy away from being self aware enough to point out her flaws/weaknesses/what she wanted to work on.  I could totally relate to the whole "being snappy, yelling and nagging" issue she had.  I loved that the book made me stop and think a lot and I'm going to work on my own resolutions, mindfulness and happiness.  Totally and completely recommend this book!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review - "My Journey" by Donna Karan (#10 - 2016)

My Journey by Donna Karan

I'm a HUGE Donna Karan fan (have been since day 1, oh yes, I remember when she showed her first collection), so I was eager to pick this one up.  Memoirs/biographies are sometimes a double edged sword.  On one side you are excited to find out more about the person and how they work/live and on the other side you are afraid that you might not like them and/or might not live up to your expectations of them.  There was a little of the latter in this book.  I loved finding out what inspires her and how she got her start but the way she treated and handled her first husband was appalling.  She's quite the character and honestly she would drive me nuts with all the mediums, psychics, retreats, etc. what she calls her "woo woos".  She is self-aware enough to admit that her late husband and daughter roll their eyes at that stuff too.  I most enjoyed the way she outlined how her business started and how it grew.  She really was doing stuff that was so groundbreaking, it's hard to describe it if you didn't live during that time, but she truly created clothes that were both feminine, easy and comfortable yet structured and powerful.  Her fabrics really played into that, I owned a pair of dress shorts by her (obtained at a major discount) that held their shape, moved with you, and I wore them until the fabric literally fell apart.  She knew how to cut a garment, how to drape, she knew what flattered a woman's body.  This is what is sorely missed now that she's not involved with the company.  I 'm not sure we will ever see someone like her again, which is very sad for me.  I know, you are thinking, but we see stuff like what she was doing everywhere now.  Yes and no.  We are seeing the "look" but we are not seeing the fit, the drape, the chic layers that all work together, the mindfulness of what women need.  Overall this book is totally worth your time if you are interested in Donna Karan or fashion history.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Book Review - "A Window Opens" by Elisabeth Egan (#9 - 2016)

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

I had heard so many glowing reviews of this book that I couldn't wait to pick it up.  I'm totally the working-mom-in-her-40s that this book is aimed at.  I had high hopes.  Those were quickly dashed by Alice, the main character whose lack of self-awareness is breathtaking.  Alice's husband decides to leave his high-powered law job in Manhattan which means Alice has to find a full time job (she was working part time at a woman's magazine).  She finds a position at a book selling start up.  But it's hard, yo.  It's so hard when you have a nanny and your husband works for himself now close to home.  You have to work long hours, check emails outside of work and deal with difficult bosses (the horrors).  Her best friend is a book store owner and when Alice takes the job at the competition (that she needs to pay the bills - keeping up with the Jones's ain't cheap) her friend totally turns into a bitter a-hole.  Guess she's not that great of a friend?!  But then she is?!  The characters are really awful.  Yes, there is a touching side story about her father and his cancer battle and how stressful it is.  But then she gets all bent out of shape about her lawyer husband helping her mom and dad get their affairs in order.  It's honestly hard for someone like me who doesn't have the help she does (example, she never has to make dinner, the nanny or her mother does that every night) to muster up much sympathy.  She got sad one day because they were sharing toothbrushes at home (?), like there aren't 1000 Duane Reades in Manhattan that you can't walk in and buy some toothbrushes in 5 minutes (?).  It's head scratching. It's like she wants to be a stay-at-home mom but doesn't want to actually admit that or something.  I couldn't figure out if this was a thinly veiled memoir, because it came across as a bit of that, which comes off as sour grapes.  I honestly cannot recommend this book at all, it's insulting. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review - "Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit" by Sean Hepburn Ferrer (#8 - 2016)

Audrey Hepburn: An Elegant Spirit by Sean Hepburn Ferrer

I'm a big Audrey Hepburn fan (my daughter is named for her) so I had to pick this up when I was wandering through a used bookstore last week ($4.20 - in pristine condition - score!).  This was a super fast read, I pretty much read it all in an evening.  It's not a biography, it's more of a tribute in words, pictures and family mementos, of a mother who happens to be an icon.  Full of photos and stories it's a lovely book that highlights her humble, kind and generous spirit.  This is a must for any Audrey fan.  I highly recommend it!
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