Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Confession of the week

I'm really, really, really into Fox's Skating With Celebrities. I mean, really into it. I'm not a TV person, but there's something about the most cheesy, dreadful, horrible, over-the-top pathetic shows that really draw me in.

Deborah Gibson and Kurt Browning got eliminated last night. I was sad. I mean, it's Debbie Gibson! 80s pop sensation. Singer of "Foolish Beat." 90s Broadway star (yes, she played Eponine in Les Miserables!). Too bad that loser from Full House didn't get the boot.

I feel better, getting that out there.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Nor do I understand this

Desperate for money now that Everybody Loves Raymond is off the air, Patricia Heaton saves a few bucks by stitching together a dress made from the top of her old prom dress and her grandmother's fancy tablecloth.

I just don't understand

Hilary, let's face it. You're hot. And unbelievably talented. And I just think you and your husband are adorable; I'm rooting for the two of you. Now, I understand that you're probably going through a difficult time, especially with that nasty comment at the Golden Globes by one Isaac Mizrahi.

But why on EARTH did you decide to wrap yourself up in your bedsheet and wear it to the SAG awards????

(image from gettyimages)

Who's yer Jesse?

After an intense e-mail exchange about Before Sunset with the delightful Julia yesterday afternoon, I haven't been able to shake the thoughts of my Jesses. I have three Jesses: One from when I was too young to realize what a Jesse is; the second a stepping-stone in ending a painful relationship; and the third -- and probably the most Jesse of them all -- the most intense love affair I have ever had. Unfortunately, we kept on too long, and I was left broken hearted when he left me to go back to his ex-girlfriend, a woman he had no passion for but who offered his life stability and safety.

I must confess. Years later, I still think of him. I still think of all of them, sometimes waking up empty, feeling like I've just had a dream I can't remember but know was about one of them. In moments like these, I feel my life is missing something, like I should know where they are, who they are, what they are doing.

Of course, in this world of the internet, finding my Jesses is always a possibility. Just type "Jesse" into Google, and there he is. Though I'm far too chicken to do anything beyond that. I wonder if Celine and Jesse would have Googled each other, wonder if they would have found each other and taken the chance on love?

Is it even possible, outside of the movies?

Three I Love

One from Chanel...

And two from Armani Prive...

All three from Style.Com.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Now Fabulously Available

A special 45th Anniversary Edition of Breakfast at Tiffany's is set for release on February 7th. Based on Truman Capote's brilliant novella of the same title (based on -- in the novella, Paul's gay, sorry to inform you!) Breakfast at Tiffany's tells the unforgettable story of the delightful callgirl, Holly Golightly (played, of course, by the unforgettable Audrey Hepburn) and her struggles to find a place where she belongs. It isn't Hepburn's best performance, but perhaps one of her most memorable as she shines in the role and brings great complexity to a character who could have been portrayed solely as a party girl. The edition has lots of bonus features, including the original theatrical trailer, so it looks like an edition worthy of owning (even if you, like me, already own the film -- but perhaps it's time to upgrade from VHS to DVD!)

And it goes without saying, that this long-term Truman Capote fan also highly recommends picking up the novella for a quick read!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Distracted at the Gym

He kinda looked like Taye Diggs.

A hot, sweaty, half-naked Taye Diggs.

Kinda like this. Only at my gym.



Julia sent me this link last night and said she was just too horrified to post about it herself.

Is that? Could it be? Really? The divine Karl Lagerfeld wearing....UGGS?!?!?!

If there's one thing that the Aussies have taught me through the years (well, there are many things, but only one worth printing here at the moment) it's that UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD UGGS EVER BE WORN IN PUBLIC!

Even when you're Karl Lagerfeld.

Especially when you're Karl Lagerfeld. Er, Karl. Just because they're black does not make it acceptable!

This public service announcement was brought to our attention by the always insightful Manolo's Shoe Blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

2:29 a.m.

and I am totally and absolutely wide awake...

and knitting...

kinda pathetic, isn't it?

my entire sleep/eating/waking/living schedule is sheer chaos right now!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Results Are In!

Drumroll, please....

I had a very nice first date with Mr. On-Line. We met at Zazie, a French bistro in Cole Valley. At first, when I had been waiting for fifteen minutes for him, I thought I was being stood up (trying to work on not being on the defensive!) but it turns out he had arrived early and was waiting for me in the back patio. We were originally only going to have coffee, but both of us were hungry, so we had a light dinner and wine and dessert.

He's a bit of a shy one, but very sweet (and kinda cute) and perhaps even a gentleman (what a concept). We seemed to have much in common, especially with regards to travel, and we spent much of the evening exchanging travel stories. We wound up chatting for 2 1/2 hours and left when the restaurant was closing (which may have been good; first dates, especially internet-inspired dates, should never last much longer than 2 hours).

Not sure if there's a potential future, but I had fun. And really, that's all that matters for a first date, right?

Confession of the week

I love reading my site meter. I know I don't have tons of visitors here (a few loyal fans and friends and a few lurkers) but it's still fun to try and figure out who is coming here -- someone from France for 18 minutes, from Italy for 21...someone popped on from Brazil or Spain or Japan for a few seconds. Seemingly regulars from California or New York or Texas who I can't figure out who they are.

Makes me wonder what their stories are!

Tis the season


Yesterday, the lovely Julia sent me this link with some chocolate ideas. So today I thought I'd share my own.

From Bay Area chocolatier, Scharffen Berger, how about this confection box? There's a pretty wide assortment inside (depending on what size you get) so you can sample a variety of beautiful chocolate.

The Gatsy Collection from Vosgues Haut Chocolat is romantic and delish all at once (I'm not a big white chocolate fan -- the white being Daisy truffles, and the dark being Gatsby -- but it's just so pretty!)

And from one of my favorite places in New York City (first store in Brooklyn, now there's one in Manhattan) how about Jacques Torres's brand new Champagne Kisses? (Don't forget to stop for some Wicked Hot Chocolate!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

First Date

The re-run
The sequel
Part Deux

Yes, I'm giving Mr. On-Line a second chance after our dating disaster a couple of weeks ago. I figure, if nothing else, it'll give me a chance to apply my new dating skills from the weekend's seminar.

How'd I get to be such an optimist?

I swear, I have such a respect for us single people. No matter how many times we get knocked down and beaten up, we get right back up and keep going. And going. And going.

Wish me luck!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Quote of the day

From FashionWeekDaily (as citing an anonymous fashion publicist):

Fashion is like Madonna; you have to hate it a little bit to love it.


My favorite mug, that is! Darn these slippery fingers...

No, this isn't it; I found this here. My favorite mug, on the other hand, is in a thousand pieces in my trash can. Guess I should have joined in Beth's tea cup exchange afterall!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dancing in my seat!!!!

At 7:41 p.m., I finished the first draft of my novella!!!!!

The Dating Seminar

The Outfit: My best jeans, brown boots, funky red/white t-shirt, red beret, black & white striped cropped vest, silver chain and rings.

The Outcome: Initially I thought I was simply out of place when on the initial questionaire, in response to: How will finding your soul mate enhance your life?, I wrote: I don't believe in soul mates...is that okay? (I never got an answer, of course.) Then, I was horrified when the speaker began talking in stereotypes -- men are this way; women are that way. Men were taught this; women were taught that.

The room was filled with mostly middle-aged women (heavens...is that me?) crouched on uncomfortable hard-backed chairs, all frantically scribbling notes on venue-provided notepads. There was a sense of desperation in the air, an aura of hopelessness.

But I made myself put aside my cynicism. And fortunately, things got better. Nothing she said was revolutionary. In fact, most of it was pretty much common sense. However, hearing it all at once made it resonate more deeply. And seeing the resistance of some of the women in the room was what struck me the most -- the woman who refused to believe that men are just as good as women. (But there are so many men who are just stupid compared to women, she said. The speaker replied, Well, then you don't like men. The woman said, Oh, I do like men. They're just not as smart as women.)

I won't bore you all with the details unless you want me to, but I'll say that the best thing she said was this (and it's pretty simple): When you're with a man, any man but perhaps especially a man you're interested in, cut and paste the image of a woman you've recently met who you deeply admire onto his face. We should approach men in the same way we approach women, open and kind and trusting. And we shouldn't give them the power to hurt us, just like when a female friend disappoints us, we move on. And we don't allow this disappointment to taint the next female friend we meet.

Simple, isn't it? (Though there isn't a line of men at my door, I expect this to be the case in the next week!)

Friday, January 20, 2006

It sounded like a good idea at the time...

This weekend's project? Paint.

More specifically: Paint my bathroom. My plan is to re-paint my apartment over the next few months, and I thought that it would be easier to start with the smallest room. Makes sense, right?

Ha! I forgot that there's a sink, toilet, and bathtub that, even at 5'10", I can't seem to reach over. I can use one of those paint arm extension thingies (a technical term, I'm sure), but I have to tape where I don't want to paint or it'll be a painting disaster. (Damn these Victorians and their fabulous wood detailing.)

How am I going to get a ladder in the bathtub without breaking my neck?

(My colors are at Ralph Lauren Home -- Light Orchid and Bright Amethyst -- couldn't get the color swatches to show up. Of course the only colors I really liked were the most expensive. Kinda like shoes.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006



One Isaac Mizrahi for Target Ebony Tulle Skirt, Size M, off the clearance rack (yes, for only $12.99 instead of $24.99). It's actually very very cute, fits well (might want a sash at the waistband) and looks much more luxurious than Target!

I didn't think I'd be able to find it!

(photo from InStyle)

About a dress

Okay, by now we all know about my obsession with movies and awards shows (much thanks to all of you who have put up with my mad posting about movies these past few weeks). And we also all know that I love, love, love fashion. Therefore: Fashion + Movies + Awards Shows = Supremely Divine. However, when it's reported as near scandal that Reese Witherspoon showed up in the same Chanel dress that Kirsten Dunst wore to a Golden Globe afterparty three years ago, I have to wonder: Don't we have more important things in the world to worry about?

Here's Kirsten in the dress...

And horror of horrors, here's Reese in the same dress...

As reported on ET.online, Chanel has issued the following statement:

CHANEL apologizes for the oversight that Reese Witherspoon's dress was previously worn to a Golden Globes after party three years ago. We are honored that Reese chose to wear CHANEL and thought she looked beautiful. We congratulate her on her well-deserved win.

I mean, does it really really matter????? Is there some sort of conspiracy going on? Is Ms. Kirsten sitting in the wings, cackling, saying: Damn you, Reese! Damn you! I may not have gotten a Golden Globe for Elizabethtown, in fact, it's possible that nobody even saw Elizabethtown, but at least I wore it first!

Oh, please. The dress isn't even that flattering. What is that silver thing anyway? Why on earth would you choose to wear something that cuts your boobs in half? Why out of all the dresses in the world? And more importantly, why on earth would this happen twice?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Music Request!

This afternoon, I've been slowly (very slowly) trying to ease myself back into the writing.

For the past three years, when I write, I've been listening to Tori Amos's, Little Earthquakes. That's it. Nothing else. At peak writing days, I'll listen to it for four hours solid, day after day.

I'm starting to work on something new, so I need something new to listen to. I'm thinking that it needs to be a female vocalist, but more upbeat than the brilliant Tori.


Another Celebrity Horror

According to this week's In Touch (a fine piece of journalism), Britney Spears:
wants another baby with [Kevin Federline]. Britney is eager to give Preston a sibling, and the sooner the better, as In Touch has reported. She thinks baby No. 2 will strengthen their union.

Strengthen their union? Strengthen their union? Did I just read that? Can she really believe that?

My. Those babies are going to need a lot of therapy.

Ah. Love. Sweet love. Those two crazy kids. What will they do next?

(photo from movies.yahoo)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Two Golden Globe favorite looks

I just loved Anne Hathaway's dress. And her hair. And her shoes. And her lipstick. Very classy but also very youthful. She looked fantastic.

And while we all know that Scarlett Johansson isn't my favorite, she looked stunning in this red dress. The back is just gorgeous. (Though she needs to practice walking in heels!)

(both from gettyimages)

Hmmmm....a bad idea?

Getting one's haircut while severely hungover. (Post Golden Globe party; damn that last glass of wine!)

Should I reschedule?

Golden Globe Predictions and Desires and Results

Yes, folks. It's finally here! I'm only giving my Golden Globe predictions for the movies as I don't really watch TV and can't be bothered to care who wins in television (beyond who wins "best" (or "worst") dressed, but that's another story entirely). Winners in purple!

Brokeback Mountain
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, and Good Luck
A History of Violence
Match Point

My Pick: Crash (Okay, it's not a nomination, but it's still my pick. Kinda like Hotel Rwanda last year. Bastards can't get these things right all of the time.)
My Prediction: Brokeback Mountain (assuming it will survive the hype; otherwise, Munich, but that's not nominated either!)

Actress, Drama
Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Gwyneth Paltrow, Proof
Charlize Theron, North Country
Zhang Ziyi, Memoirs of a Geisha

My Pick: Felicity Huffman
My Prediction: Felicity Huffman

Actor, Drama
Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

This is one of the best categories of the year and should also be interesting at Oscar time (add one Joaquin Phoenix to the mix).
My Pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman (dammit!)
My Prediction: Philip Seymour Hoffman (dammit!); otherwise, Heath Ledger

Musical or Comedy
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
The Producers
The Squid and the Whale
Walk the Line

My Pick: Walk the Line
My Prediction: Walk the Line

Actress, Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale
Sarah Jessica Parker, The Family Stone
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

My Pick: Reese Witherspoon
My Prediction: Reese Witherspoon (though favorite Judi Dench might fare well with the foreign press)

Actor, Musical or Comedy
Pierce Brosnan, The Matador
Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale
Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Nathan Lane, The Producers
Cillian Murphy, Breakfast on Pluto
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line

My Pick: As much as I love my Johnny, I say Joaquin Phoenix -- this might be the only time I agree that all musicals should be lumped with the comedies as it's doubtful he'll win at Oscar time. But he deserves something.
My Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix

Foreign Language
Kung Fu Hustle, China
Master of the Crimson Armor, aka The Promise, China
Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel), France
Paradise Now, Palestine
Tsotsi, South Africa

My Pick: I haven't been able to see any of these thus far, but I'll say: Tsotsi
My Prediction: Tsotsi

Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johansson, Match Point
Shirley MacLaine, In Her Shoes
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

My Pick: Michelle Williams
My Prediction: Michelle Williams (Though Rachel Weisz is looking good, too; please don't let it be Scarlett Johansson!)

Supporting Actor
George Clooney, Syriana
Matt Dillon, Crash
Will Ferrell, The Producers
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents

Another really great category! It could be any of them.
My Pick: Matt Dillion
My Prediction: Paul Giamatti or Will Ferrell (either of which I'll be thrilled for!)

Woody Allen, Match Point
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Peter Jackson, King Kong
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener
Steven Spielberg, Munich

My Pick: Still don't like him, but I must say: George Clooney
My Prediction: While a part of me wants to say Steven Spielberg, I'll predict: Ang Lee

Woody Allen, Match Point
George Clooney and Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco, Crash
Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, Munich
Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain

My Pick: Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco
My Prediction: Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco (please give them something for such a brilliant film; why is it that the best film is always overlooked?)

Original Score
Alexandre Desplat, Syriana
James Newton Howard, King Kong
Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain
Harry Gregson-Williams, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha

My Pick: John Williams
My Prediction: John Williams

Original Song
"A Love That Will Never Grow Old" from Brokeback Mountain
"Christmas in Love" from Christmas in Love
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" from The Producers
"Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica
"Wunderkind" from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

My Pick: "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway"
My Prediction: "There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway"

Monday, January 16, 2006

This Week. My confession.

Has it really come to this?

This week, I'm going to a dating seminar. It's called "How to Make Any Man Fall For You."

Seriously. I kid you not.

I've never ever been one of those desperate-to-be-in-a-relationship type of woman. The whole idea for this emerged from a writing project I started last summer and that has continued into this winter. So going to this is really about research. However. But. You saw this one coming. This morning, already a bit anxious about what shoes one should wear to a dating seminar, the first thought in my head was: I want a boyfriend.

Such a thought has not crossed my mind in many, many, many years.

Has it really come to this?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I'm leaving on a jet plane!

Is there anything more exciting than buying airplane tickets?

FINALLY, I've bought my tickets to Spain for May! Hooray!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Movie Review -- Brokeback Mountain

Adapted from the E. Annie Proulx short story, Brokeback Mountain is the tale of two cowboys, Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist -- played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal -- and their forbidden love for each other. They meet one summer while working on Brokeback Mountain, and the film traces their struggles and joys over a relationship that spans 20 years.

It was odd seeing a movie like this in a city like this, in a city where a movie like this is being so embraced. Unlike some counties in this country -- and around the world -- where the movie is being banned, here in San Francisco the film is showing in multiple theaters and multiple screens within individual theaters. I was almost worried about seeing it because of the hype. When D (a gay man in the Bay Area) saw it the first time, he said he didn't like it all that much because it didn't meet his expectations; the second time, he fell in love with it.

The movie starts at a slow and mellow pace, as the two men meet and establish their secretive relationship. Director Ang Lee takes his time with developing the bond between the two men, and he lets the sublime landscape of Wyoming create a rhythm that carries the viewer through the film. After their job on the mountain ends, the two men go back to their real lives. But it is clear that neither of them will ever be the same. After a few years, they cannot stay apart. Jack sends Ennis a postcard asking if he wants to meet up; Ennis's response is a two-word: You Bet. From this moment on, I was more involved with the story and the characters than virtually any movie I have ever seen.

The movie is about love. It is about passion. It is about fear. It is about isolation. It stuns me when people say this isn't a "gay movie." Of course it's a "gay movie." It's a movie that others can relate to, no doubt -- to the themes of the barriers that one faces with love, of the power of love, and of the tragedy that love can lead us to -- but to say it's not a gay movie is like saying Uncle Tom's Cabin isn't about race.

Ledger shines as Ennis. He is a man who pushes everyone away from him and lives in a world of total solitude. For him, the moment with Jack on Brokeback Mountain (and the repetition of that moment throughout the years) seems the one time where he can feel fully free; yet he lives in terror of crossing over fully into that freedom; this terror seems as much -- if not more so -- an internal terror than an external one. On the phone with D, he asked me if I thought their relationship would have worked had the two men been able to/chosen to live their lives together? Or would Ennis have pushed Jack away? The complexity to his character makes the story more than a story of unrequited love. Here I'll say: Yes, it IS about more than being gay; it is about his inability to fully connect to another human. It is about life. In addition to Ledger's performance, Gyllenhaal and Michelle Williams (as Alma Del Mar, Ennis's wife) are stunning in their supporting roles. Williams, in particular, is able to carry an entire scene -- and to convey multiple layers of emotion -- without having to utter a word. She is brilliant in the role and deserves the recognition she is getting.

I walked out of the movie theater, found a huddle of gay men, and said, "Will one of you hug me, please?" It is that powerful. My heart is still aching. Just like any book worth reading is a banned book, any movie worth seeing is a banned movie. Go and see it, okay? FIVE STARS!

(FYI (I just can't stop thinking about this) here's a link to the short story from Barnes & Noble.)

Don'tcha just love a sale at ZAPPOS!

I love these funky Geoffredo Fantinis!

And these peep-toed pumps from Marc Jacobs are too cute.

How about these Jean-Michel Cazabats?

Or these from Etro?

Finally, who can resist Roberto Cavalli?

(All shoes from Zappos Couture.)

Better late than never....

....better never late!

It's 12:37 a.m., 13 January 2006.

Finally, my Christmas cards are all written and stamped and addressed and ready for me to mail them.

Kinda pathetic, isn't it?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Movie Review -- King Kong

Let's get right to the point about King Kong. It's a movie. There was a big, scary monkey. There were also big, scary dinosaurs. Oh, and not-quite-as-big, but still scary island people. Naomi Watts was there. She screamed a lot (though not as much as one would expect) and did some juggling, all the while keeping her hair bouncy and fresh. Jack Black was there, too. He was kinda mean, but still funny. A lot of people got killed. Everyone got very dirty and scratched up. Peter Jackson directed.

Now, for the important stuff.

We all know that any movie starring Adrien Brody is simply a better movie than any movie not starring Adrien Brody. Lookey, here he is (from the BBC) acting brilliantly in The Pianist (rightfully winning the Oscar, like I knew he would).

And lookey, here he is again (from the Guardian) after rightfully winning the Oscar (like I knew he would). Isn't he so cute? I must confess that I cried during his Oscar acceptance speech (like you knew I would).

This one is just plain sex. (Can't read this, can you?)

So, what's all of this have to do with King Kong? Everything. Think about this. At one point in the movie, Adrien Brody is typing on a manual typewriter. Everyone knows that one of the sexiest things in the world is a man typing on a manual typewriter. Then, at another point in the movie, Adrien is typing on a manual typewriter wearing an undershirt. Even sexier. At still another point in the movie, Adrien is just plain shirtless. Okay, it's not as sexy as that shot in the blue briefs in Summer of Sam, but still. Sexy.

So, because this movie is both Brodylicious and Brodyfied, it gets the highest mark: FIVE STARS!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Double Feature -- two reviews

Steven Spielberg's latest offering, Munich, tells the story of the aftermath following the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. Eric Bana stars as Anver, an Israeli who is hired to assassinate 11 Palestinian terrorists who allegedly helped plan the murders.

Walking out of the theater, I found the movie hard to shake. While of course, the conflict between Israel/Palestine is central to the film, I think that the thematic issues the movie raises are far larger and more thought-provoking. I found it notable that the book the film is based on is called, Vengeance, for this notion is at the heart of the film. The questions hover around the characters: What will these assassinations really accomplish? Are these killings somehow justified? When will it all end? And in a subtle yet profound performance, Bana's character struggles with these questions as they pass through his character, causing him (and his fellow assassins) great turmoil, anxiety, and fear for his wife and child.

Spielberg takes us all throughout Europe in the 1970s, to Lebannon, to Israel, to the United States. Visually, the film is dark and filled with contrasting moments of high action and powerful drama.

For me, this movie is far more complex than Spielberg's Schindler's List. They are, of course, very different films, but I have a feeling Munich is going to stay in my mind for a long time. Four and a half big stars.

Terrence Howard stars as "DJay" in Craig Brewer's Hustle & Flow, the story of a Memphis pimp who attempts to turn his life around and become a successful rap artist.

You probably remember Howard from last year's brilliant Crash, playing a middle-class African-American man who must face the realities of being African-American in modern America, when his wife is molested by a police officer (played by the Golden Globe, SAG, and Critic's Choice nominated Matt Dillion). Seeing Howard's performances side-by-side gives the viewer a stunning glimpse into his range as an actor. His critical recognition for this role is well earned. Howard's DJay is, in many ways, completely unlikeable, but he manages to reach deep inside the character to extract his heart. We may not agree with some of his actions, but we wind up rooting for him to get out of his situation and transform his life. In complex and emotionally raw supporting roles, Taryn Manning as "Nola" and Taraji P. Henson as "Shug" make the viewer ache; we want them to rise above the world they are living in, but we realize the near impossibility to do so.

DJay's music, of course, creates a solid foundation for the film; I'd think that even a non-fan of rap will appreciate the rhythm and tone that music sets for the movie. Seeing the process of how DJay cuts his first demo -- from the words to the recording -- made this viewer understand the music all the more.

A solid character-driven film. Four stars.

Baffling Behavior

While watching Munich yesterday (yes, review to come) I had the lovely opportunity to witness a man who:
  1. Checked his cell phone for messages every 1-5 minutes;
  2. Laughed throughout the entire movie. ("Oh, those terrorists are so funny! Look at them and their big guns." (I'm not kidding. He laughed throughout the entire movie. Match Point deserved more laughs than this.))

Why? Why? Why?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Great Truffle Search 2006

Inspired, in part, by Beth's search for the world's greatest cupcake, I have decided to go on my own quest for the world's greatest chocolate truffle.

I need your help! I mean, really, what could be wrong with eating chocolate for a blogger in need?

Those who want to help me in my desperate plight, please let me know. You should sample as many truffles as you possible can (torture, I know) and report back to me with the results. You can sample whatever kind of truffles that you want (though this little writer prefers dark truffles and can't fathom the thought of a truffle dipped in something like nuts or coconut). Should anyone care to exchange their findings, I'm sure that can be arranged.

Good luck!

(truffle image from here)

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Quartet of Reviews

Transamerica tells the story of pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, Bree (played by Felicity Huffman). Prior to surgery, Bree must go to New York City to meet the son, now a teenager, she didn't know she fathered while in college. The son Toby (played by Kevin Zegers) and Bree wind up on an unexpected and unpredictable journey cross-country.

Huffman brings a sympathetic, honest, multi-faceted quality to the role. What is most striking about her performance (outside of the physicality of the role) is the subtle yet profound way the character changes over the course of her journey. One of my first thoughts with this film was wondering why film-makers cast a woman in a role of a male-to-female transsexual, but Huffman is perfect in the part and is always convincing. D's comment upon leaving the movie theater was, "It ceases to be about her being a transsexual; you essentially forget that she's a pre-op in light of the story." I agree. The interaction between the reluctant parent, Bree (who keeps the information a secret -- oooh...wonder if Toby finds out?) and the rebellious Toby is at times amusing, at other times maddening, and still at other times opens the audience's eyes to the realities of what it means to be a parent.

The movie slips easily into the genre of "road trip" and "buddy movie." It isn't as memorable as, say, Thelma and Louise, but the uniqueness of the story itself adds a fresh twist to a been-told story. I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Let's start by saying that I simply do not get Woody Allen. Everyone said, "Oh, Match Point isn't your typical Woody Allen movie." I believed them, so I went to see it. Conclusion: I simply do not get Woody Allen. Match Point tells the story of former tennis pro, Chris (played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) as he transitions from the world of professional tennis into the corporate world, and the changes to his persona that come with his life changes. After becoming connected to a wealthy British family, he meets and falls for Nola (played by Scarlett Johansson) who happens to be engaged to the family's son

My problem (in addition to utter boredom -- was that 4 hours long?) is that I had absolutely zero sympathy for any of the characters. I didn't care about their lives, their mistakes, their personalities. Honestly, I just wanted them to all shut-the-fuck up. The only difference between this and any other Woody Allen movie is that they all had accents (well, except for Johansson). Other people in the theater were laughing; what on earth was so funny? I thought maybe I'm just a clueless wench, but then A (bless her) confirmed that the movie was, in fact, pointless.

In all fairness, there were a couple of good things: the men were cute; Woody Allen wasn't actually in the film. I'll give it 2 stars, just because it's over (and better, I suppose, than Mr. & Mrs. Smith). Please don't try and explain Woody Allen to me. I know why I'm supposed to get Woody Allen; I just don't.

The Producers is one of Broadway's all-time favorite musicals brought to the big screen. Reprising their Broadway roles as a Broadway producer and a former accountant turned producer, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick play two men desperate to produce the world's biggest Broadway flop in a mad attempt to make a million bucks. The result, Springtime for Hitler, brings them everything they don't expect.

The rule when one goes to a crazy musical like is this: do not take yourself seriously. It's okay to laugh when full-grown men and women suddenly break into song & dance routines in the middle of their office. It is not meant to be realistic. It is not meant to teach a great moral lesson. If you can accept this rule, you will love The Producers. Yes, it's a bit cheesy. But it's supposed to be cheesy. It's a musical, dammit! Nathan Lane has got to be the funniest man alive (well, second only to Martin Short); Matthew Broderick is a damn good dancer (who knew? okay, if you've seen him on Broadway, perhaps you already know). But my favorite treat from the film is Will Ferrell as Franz Liebkind, the writer of the musical. His comedic timing is spot on, and I found myself wishing he were on-screen even more.

Yes, we would all love to see Broderick and Lane on Broadway. But not all of us have this chance. So go see them on screen. So worth it. Four stars!!!

Cinderella Man is the true-life story of boxer Jim Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) and his struggle to take care of his family during the height of the Depression. After what seemed like the end of his career, Braddock finds himself back in the national spotlight as a hero for overcoming even the worst situation.

This kind of movie usually turns my stomach. I see the name "Ron Howard" attached to it and immediately think: Oh no. Sentamentality, here we come. To make things worse, I see the name, "Russell Crowe," attached to it and immediately think: No way. Kind of like George Clooney, I just don't get the appeal of Russell Crowe.

But, the movie surprised me. Yes, it's sentamental and sappy and predictable. But Crowe's performance is genuine, and I found myself cheering for him in the end. (No, not on the level of Rocky, but c'mon...there's only one Rocky.) What annoyed me the most was Renee Zellweger as Mae Braddock. She was just so flat and disappointing. Give us something we haven't seen from you, Renee!

Yes, the fight scenes got a bit long (as I was watching the film on DVD, I found myself fast-forwarding through many of them) but Depression-era New Jersey and New York was vivid and real, and I found myself most drawn to the scenes between Crowe and his children and between Crowe and the always-delightful Paul Giamatti as Braddock's trainer. Will someone please just give Giamatti an Oscar?

I give it 3 1/2 stars.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

What I'd like to wear to the grocery store

Because I feel like I've been avoiding the glory of fashion lately (for the glory of the cinema), here's a tasty morsel for your viewing pleasure from Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring 2006 line (image from Style.Com).

Friday, January 06, 2006

This Weekend

  1. Drinks & Transamerica with D (review to come!)
  2. Saturday morning gym
  3. Yet-another movie (TBA)
  4. Dinner and drinks with the girls
  5. Sunday-morning gym (again)
  6. Brunch w/A
  7. Internet date!!!! (gasp! details TBA -- the first in a year-and-a-half (hopefully will not be filed under "will I ever learn?"))

Review -- Double Feature

Memoirs of a Geisha is the fictional story of a geisha in 1930s/40s Japan. Chiyo (played by the delightful Suzuka Ohgo) and her sister are sold by their struggling father and are quickly separated from each other. Chiyo finds herself trying to make her way into becoming a geisha.

It's tough to see a movie based on such a wonderful book. The story is so rich and complex and mysterious, it seems difficult to figure out how one would narrow down the focus and translate the story into film. Visually, the movie is stunning. The costumes are beautiful, and the scenery serene. Li Gong as Hatsumomo manages to be both spiteful and yet sometimes sympathetic, and Ziyi Zhang as Sayuri is all-at-once beautiful, elegant, sad, and strong. I think the film is worth seeing in the theater, if for no other reason than to experience the richness of the cinematography. But at times, the film overall fell flat. The pacing seemed too slow at times, and a bit rushed at others, and I felt that some valuable elements of the book were left out. Of course, this seems inevitable when adapting a novel into film, but I found myself a bit disappointed.

I give it three stars.

Capote takes us on the journey of American writer, Truman Capote, from New York City to rural Kansas mid-century, as he researches the story of the brutal slaying of the Clutter family for what will eventually turn into his masterpiece: In Cold Blood.

Okay, we all know that I love, love, love Truman Capote and I love, love, love Phillip Seymour Hoffman. So perhaps I'm a bit biased when I say: Run, don't walk, to see this movie. It isn't the greatest movie of all time, but Hoffman's performance utterly blew me away; he entirely transforms himself into the role with intricate details. In a role that could have easily slid into one-dimensional charicature (for Capote was on the surface, after all, an over-the-top character!) Hoffman manages to balance flamboyance with genuine emotion; the motivation behind his actions, as he becomes obsessed with the murders, is complex and not easy to pinpoint. True, we know Capote is driven by the quest for fame; true, we know he isn't upfront with necessary information to Perry; but to simply label Capote a narcissist doesn't seem complete. Most intriguing is the relationship -- and the chemistry -- between Capote and murderer, Perry Smith (played by Clifton Collins, Jr). Perry's character is the driving force of Capote's book, and the relationship between writer and soon-to-be character is the driving force of the movie.

The contrasting settings of the energy of the New York City literary elite and rural Kansas is beautiful to see; the up-close, smoky shots of Capote and his admirers at various bars and parties immediately following/preceding the vast, dark landscape of the midwest creates a distinct mood to the film and a clearer image of Capote's persona.

I hope people go and see this film. Doubtful that it will make it to many places in the country, but it is worth seeing on many levels. I give it 4 1/2 stars!!!!!

Thursday, January 05, 2006



*4 pair Victoria's Secret low-rise undies (at 75% off)
*2 super sexy Victoria's Secret bras (at 50% off). I actually have cleavage!
*3 stationary sets (at such a discount I got all three for less than one would have cost)
*1 Coach wallet (not on sale, but since my mom gave me money for Christmas, it was a splurge well-worth it!)

Did not buy:
*any of three pair of Prada pumps I tried on (1/2 size too small)
*the Gucci pumps I tried on (just not right -- even though 75% off)
*the red suede Ferragamo pumps (1 size too small -- this is a tragic loss!)

Apparently, the shoe fates were not on my side yesterday.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Is it bad that in the past three weeks I have read the following?

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Queen Bees & Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman
Bestseller by Christopher Knight
Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophia Kinsella
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Will finish by tomorrow: Naked by David Sedaris

I didn't think so!

Okay, so it's a bit heavy on the fluff, but I have to say it feels DAMN GOOD to have a huge stack of books just waiting to be read. It's their bibliodestiny, afterall.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Review -- Mrs. Henderson Presents

Dame Judi Dench stars in this lovely little comedy about a recently-widowed, wealthy woman in the late 1930s who decides to purchase and refurbish a rundown theatre to put on musical revues. When the shows are less than successful, Mrs. Henderson suggests to her theatre manager, Vivian Van Damm (played by the ever-delightful Bob Hoskins) to put nude women in the revues. It's a hit!

Mrs. Henderson Presents was reminiscent of last year's Being Julia, and though I must admit that I was more blown away by Annette Bening's performance as Julia, Dench was shining in the role with her perfect timing and her ability to balance the comedic with the tragedy surrounding the character and the historical situation. The chemistry between Dench and Hoskins (though a strictly platonic relationship) was extraordinary, and the ensemble cast was lively and full of energy. Visually, I enjoyed the period costumes (well, what costumes there were! but, oh...the hats!) and the pre and during World War II London setting, and the staging of the song and dance routines brought me back to my own days in the theatre.

I'm sure that the film won't be seen by many as it probably won't make it to many screens, but if you like a quiet, honest, fun, and underrated cinema experience, I highly recommend it. It gets 3 1/2 stars!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Holiday Update

Funny how different life is when I spend a few days with my brother and his family. Simple. Quiet. Domestic. Surburban. I spent the week playing "pretend" with my nieces (5 & &) and eating pre-packaged, chemically-enhanced, easy-to-make meals; we didn't go out to dinners in quirky, out-of-the way restaurants; we didn't dash out the front door to explore hidden bars, cafes, or shops.

As I arrived pretty late on Christmas Night, and my mom arrived even later, the 6 of us (brother, sister-in-law, nieces, Mom, me) had Christmas Part Deux on the 26th. It was a pretty mellow affair, and just lovely. Nothing fancy beyond a traditional American dinner followed by a viewing of Little House of the Prairie (the DVD I bought for my Little House-obsessed nieces; the girls have great taste!) followed by early sleep. The rest of the week found me and the girls playing downstairs (for downstairs is always better than upstairs) and the family eating Christmas Dinner Part Trois and Quatre (before, sadly, even the mashed potatoes became beyond unappetizing).

Christmas Present Highlights:

Money. Thank heavens.

These two-tone Chuck Taylors (the greatest shoes ever invented).

An adorable little piggy from Julia. And a fashionable book. And Tim Tams to fuel my addiction.

Champagne and chocolate from friends who know me too well!

A too-big t-shirt from the legendary Traverse City eatery: Don's Drive In. (Am looking for suggestions for how to alter t-shirt).

Finally, quite possibly the funniest and most adorable gift I have ever received (from my neices): An autographed copy of a picture of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood's, Mr. McFeely, addressed to "Aunt Theresa." I'll hang it in my entryway and cherish it (and my nieces) always.

I don't think it's a kind of life I want to live. I love the high of my big city living. But for a few days, it was perfect to step away from the chaotic, rushed, always-on-the go life that I live in San Francisco.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Book List -- 2006*

*Feel free to add your book suggestions to the comments! I'm always looking for new titles!

(I am so behind on keeping up with listing my books -- it's been a dry few months with reading as I've been so swamped with work; here's what I have so far!)

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Violence by James Gilligan

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

Nickel & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

A Little More About Me by Pam Houston

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion by Julie Campbell

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby: Another hilarious tale from Mr. Hornby, A Long Way Down tells the story of four very-different characters with one thing in common: a desire to commit suicide. The foursome are brought together one New Year's Eve when coincidentally they all four plan on jumping from the top of a 15-story building, and their journey to the ground is both funny and enlightening. Told from all four first-person points of view, this is well worth reading.

Henry and June by Anais Nin: People are always surprised to hear that I've never read any Anais Nin, and this summer seemed a good time to start. While I wasn't as impressed with the story as I wanted to be, Nin's prose is fluid, poetic, and beyond honest in its telling of her love affair with writer Henry Miller and her love obsession with Miller's beautiful wife, June. A passionate tale of a woman's awakening to desire.

Sight Hound by Pam Houston: I'm a long-time fan of Houston's prose, and while this wasn't my favorite of hers (check out Cowboys are my Weakness or Waltzing the Cat), it's still a worthy read. Sight Hound is the story of a woman and her dog, Dante, who has been diagnosed with bone cancer. It's from multiple points of view (at least 15, I'd guess) and gets a bit confusing because of this, but what the story reveals about love, fear, and human (and cainine) relationships is wise and memorable.

Fashionistas by Lynn Messina: A neighbor of mine is Messina's cousin, and she suggested I pick up Fashionistas the next time I was craving chick-lit. As is typical with chick lit, we meet a character, Vig Morgan, who is working for a fashion magazine. Vig isn't interested in fashion and her boss is nasty (er, sound familiar) and she gets involved in a plot to overthrow the evil one. It's good plane reading, but not that memorable. Still, a fun and easy romp.

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: Can you believe I've never read this? Slaughterhouse-Five is considered by some as one of the greatest anti-war novels out there. In it, we join Billy Pilgim for his journey through time -- from the horrifying firebombing of Dresden to his abduction by aliens to his life after the war and beyond. Reading it forces one to consider the meaning in our own lives, our fears and own fragmentation.

Stop That Girl by Elizabeth McKenzie: Stop That Girl is the fiction debut of a colleague's wife. It reads like a series of short stories but is also pieced together in the form of a novel in that the stories all focus on one character, Ann Ranson, and her coming of age from childhood into adulthood. This is a fairly light read, but it should not be relegated to the world of chick lit as it delves into serious issues of identity and family and love.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Another travel book, A Walk in the Woods tells the tale of Bryson's attempt at hiking the Appalacian Trail. In the true Bryson spirit, we are humorously treated to the trek of a middle-aged, fairly out-of-shape man who huffs and puffs his way along the 2,100-mile trail (well, he doesn't quite make it the whole way but his attempt is inspiring, nonetheless!) The book's second half sort of fell apart for me, felt a bit redundant, but it's still an excellent read for the outdoor adventurer in all of us (even for those who never make it out of the city!

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk: Yes, once again we encounter Chuck Palahniuk in 2006's book list. Choke is about Vincent Mancini, a med-school dropout who needs to pay for the care of his elderly (and deranged) mother. His scam to make the money is to fake choking in upscale restaurants; the wealthy patrons who save him, take pity on him and send him checks to support him. Oh, did I mention that he hangs out in sex addiction recovery groups to get women and also works at a bizarre (rather sadistic) colonial theme park? Strangely brilliant and brilliantly strange.

Bone by Fae Myenne Ng: Read about this book through my BBC book review!

Reading Sex and the City: I've long been obsessed with analyzing popular culture, and when I encountered this book of essays on Sex and the City, I immediately knew I had to get it. This book contains critical essays on SATC's depiction of relationships, love, friendships, fashion as well as its role in relation to the third wave of feminism. This is not fluffy stuff, but for those who love the show and love to think critically about the cultural impact of the media, it's a great read.

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson: The Lost Continent is Bryson's story of his journey through small-town U.S.A. Characteristic of Bryson's writing, we get the luxury of unique wit combined with a genuine affection for his subject matter. For those who have never road tripped through the back roads of this country, this book provides you a realistic glimpse into sights unseen by most, into places most travel books never even mention.

Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk: Survivor tells the testimony of the last surviving member of the "Creedish Death Cult," Tender Branson, as he cruises solo over the Pacific Ocean in an airplane that will surely crash somewhere in the Australian outback when it runs out of fuel. But first, Tender tells his life's journey in a hilarious and unpredictable satire on the absurdity of the modern world.

April (partial list!):
About a Boy by Nick Hornby: About a Boy the book is far better than About a Boy the movie. Sure, I loved the movie, but the book devotes equal time to Will and Marcus, alternating point of view chapter by chapter. The ending is far more rich and complex and far less cheesy than the movie. It's the story of Will, a man whose life is devoted to doing nothing (from work to relationships), who meets (and slowly befriends) a young boy, Marcus, who is suffering through his single-mother's depression. Through their unexpected friendship, both discover who they are and what is really important in terms of friendships and love.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophia Kinsella: What can I say? Kinsella is one of my favorite chick-lit writers. Sure, it's fluff, but it's fun fluff and I can blast through it in a day-and-a-half with little (or no) thought. This is the story of Samantha, a hard-working lawyer who suddenly loses her high-profile job in London and flees to the countryside to restart her life as a housekeeper. Ooooohhhh....does this mean that, in the process of her career shift, she may discover herself? A fun read for a long plane ride or a boring night in.

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby: High Fidelity is the story of 30-something, music (but not life) obsessed Rob's investigation into the five worst breakups of his life after his relationship with long-term girlfriend, Laura, comes to an end. At first, he claims to be happy to be single again, but as he attempts to move forward, he finds he can't. A fantastic exploration of one man's mind in terms of life and love. If you've seen the movie, I think the book and movie are more close than About a Boy, though the book is, of course, is set in London. Just FYI.

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh: Read full BBC review here!

Diary: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk: Diary is a bit of a creepy, thriller, mystery. It's the story of one-time artist turned traumatized wife, Misty Marie Kleinman, and the frightening predicament she finds herself in one summer on Waytansea Island, the summer her husband has found himself on his death bed after a failed suicide attempt. Palahniuk's prose sucks you in immediately and never lets go. It's dark, funny, visual, and never predictable.

A Certain Age by Tama Janowitz: Here's the thing. I found this book on the street in front of my apartment. It had been sitting on my bookshelf for months, untouched; but when my mood shifted to fluff this month, I pulled it out. Florence Collins is a single woman in NYC (aren't they all?) who has some, shall we say, errors in judgement while visiting her married friends in the Hamptons that set her world in a seemingly endless downward spiral. This at first seemed like your typical "chick lit" crap, but it had a dark side to it that made it more thoughtful and interesting. Florence is utterly unlikeable but at the same time, it's hard to hate her. Jamowitz uses dark humor to reveal the depths to which one will sink to not lose one's status in this world.
Skinny Bitching by Jenny Lee: I picked this up in the bargain books at Target, looking for some laughs. Lee is a newly-married 30-something woman who write humorous chapters about the transition into the world of being in your 30s. At times, I must confess, I found myself quite literally laughing outloud. Yes, the book is at times superficial fluff, but her honesty about some of the angst that 30-something women face, pulls the reader through.

The Bad Girl's Guide To Getting Personal by Cameron Tuttle: I've read a couple of the "Bad Girl's Guides," and while they're all pretty much the same, they're all very fun and a good way for a girl down in the dumps to perk up her spirits. This one reveals funny tidbits about improving one's relationships: with men, with friends, with family, with the outside world, and perhaps most importantly, with oneself. Good rainy afternoon reading.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson: My mom sent me this to pump me up for my upcoming travels in Australia. Bryson is a travel writer with a humorous edge, and he details the history and culture of Australia in a real, honest, and loving way. At times I found myself bored with the details, but his personal (and historical) stories are vivid, funny, and enough to make one (well, me) want to go there....maybe even tomorrow!

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I normally avoid best sellers, but when my mom suggested this, I gave in. I was very surprised at how much I loved it. It's the story of a young privileged man, Amir, who grows up in Afghanistan in the 1970s. He suffers from guilt over the way he treated his only true friend, and when he and his father move from politically-troubled Afghanistan, he must deal with his guilt. The ending is predictable to the point of being trite, but the story is brilliant, well-written, and the characters and their relationships with each other and the country they love are richly developed. Read this!

The Girlfriend Curse by Valerie Frankel: More chick-lit fluff. I'd read another book of Frankel's and thought it was terrible, but got this one for 49 cents, so why not? It's the story of a woman who leaves NYC for Vermont when she realizes she suffers the "last girlfriend syndrome," meaning her exes get married within months of breaking up with her. She winds up at a retreat for relationship-dysfunctional people. It's still poorly written, but I found myself intrigued by some of the insight into the patterns that people have in relationships. Good enough for a bubble bath and a night in.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire: I picked this up because I've heard great things about the musical and great things about the book. I love the idea of reclaiming the "Wicked Witch's" story, and definitely appreciated her character and the characters of her family and friends. However, I thought the story dragged on and on with too many details and plot points. It wasn't that well written, in terms of the prose, though the story was good. Honestly, if you want a reclaiming story, I'd read Grendel by John Gardner!

Audrey Hepburn: A Celebration by Sheridan Morley: I found this as my favorite used bookstore and thought, "What the heck. It's Audrey." If you're new to Audrey, this is a good biography, filled with a lot of details of her film career, especially the early year. But I thought Morley glossed over the post-film career, in particular her work with UNICEF. There are better bios out there!

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes: A friend gave this to me years ago, and I've only now gotten around to it. In terms of a travel memoir, there isn't much to the story beyond her settling in the Tuscany; unlike the movie (which I actually enjoyed) the character isn't suffering an internal conflict about life. She simply moves to the Tuscany with her partner and refurbishes a house. The images are beautiful, especially regarding the people and the fabulous cuisine, and there are several recipes that I'm planning on making (wish she had included more). If you're a fan of the region, I'd pick it up.

Get Your Tongue out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Good-Bye! by Cynthia Heimel: This isn't my favorite Heimel book, but again, her insight to the ever-changing (ever-staying-the-same) lives of women is sharp, hilarious, and almost always accurate. However, if you haven't ever read Heimel, I'd start with the classic Sex Tips for Girls.

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson: This is Winterson's first novel, and I was stunned by how well-written her first attempt is. You can see how her style as an artist emerged from this. It's the story of a girl who was adopted into an evangelical home in the Midlands, and details her struggles as she comes to the realization that she prefers the company of her own sex. A great rite of passage story. Winterson's the best.

Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella: Okay, it's silly chick-lit, but I love it. And this actually was better than some of the other Shopaholic stories as it breaks (well, just a bit) from the shopping-obsession and looks more deeply at Becky's character. In this one, she finds out that she has a long-lost sister who (oh horror of horrors!) doesn't like to shop. This, of course, creates a wild conflict between the two, but if you're a fan of Becky's perseverance, you know she won't give up on the relationship.

The Bone People by Keri Hulme: Quite a depressing story that follows the lives of three seemingly-differenct characters in New Zealand: Kerewin Holmes (an isolated outsider), part-Maori foster father Joe (abusive but loving), and the wild, mute, part-European child Simon. The three come together and realize that perhaps they need each other for their very survival. This is a sad book, but absolutely beautiful. At time the prose seems a bit too self-aware and pretentious, but the story is so worth the effort it takes to read.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Beautiful story of seemingly-impossible, eternal love. Henry DeTamble is a unintentional time traveler who meets Clare Abshire, first in the past and then finally in thei present. Their love affair spans decades and different time periods, and the unexpected ending is a testimony of their love. This is one of my favorite books I've read in years.

Naked by David Sedaris: More witty, eccentric, and profound essays from Sedaris mostly about self and family; his voice is distinct, at time hilarious and still others heartbreaking(ly hilarious).

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett: At an unnamed South African country, a birthday party is taken hostage by a terrorist organization. What seems to be an inevitably tragic situation transforms into a story of love and friendship and understanding. Read this. It's just lovely.

About Grace by Anthony Doerr: This is the story of David Winkler, a man suffering from the gift of premonition, who dreams his daughter's death. He flees from his family, desperate to avoid the dream's outcome, and the remainder of the story tells his slow attempt at rebuilding his life -- with or without his family.

Misery by Stephen King: What can I say? Annie Wilkes is one scary bitch!