BOOK REVIEW: MESHEL LAURIE – BUDDHISM FOR BREAK-UPS

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There are many people who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” but in the case of Meshel Laurie, it was, “What would Buddha do?” The Australian writer, comedian and radio personality was looking towards her Buddhist faith as a way of making sense of the end of her 19 year marriage. Except that there were no self-help manuals on successfully separating, not from a Buddhist standpoint, so she wrote her own and it’s a thought-provoking, relatable and compassionate read.

Laurie’s book finds the right balance between offering her own personal tale as well as the fundamental principles that Buddhists believe. She describes her separation from her ex-husband, Adrian Lewinski in some detail, whilst also offering a template for navigating through the negative emotions of fear, grief and loneliness that are synonymous with heartbreak.

If you’re sitting there dismissing this book as a bunch of hippie nonsense then think again. This book is instead a rather practical and logical collection of different chapters. Early on Laurie has us considering the fact that we will all lose somebody close to us someday: “No relationship – romantic, familial or platonic – is absolute and forever. We will all lose someone we rely on at some point in our lives. Sometimes the other person chooses to leave us, sometimes they’re taken from us tragically, and sometimes we discover that they were never ours to begin with. But one way or another, the relationship will end.”

This means that the ability to deal with the loss of a relationship is a useful skill. Another handy lesson that Laurie offers is to learn about the Buddhist principles of “impermanence” i.e. understanding that everyone and everything is constantly changing and “dependent arising” or understanding that we never actually stop evolving or changing and that this process is shaped by the conditions around us. For Meshel she simply wants us to consider and focus on the positive aspects of a break-up – even if it’s just being able to lie in a large bed and watch your favourite shows on Netflix – you should seize this opportunity for happiness and growth.

Meshel Laurie offers us some very practical pieces of advice in her second book, Buddhism for Break-ups. This combination of well-written, well-explained and considered Buddhist teachings as well as her own real-life experiences can offer some real comfort to readers in much the same was as Chicken Soup For The Soul has done. You can really get a sense that, “If Meshel can do it then perhaps I can too.”

Buddhism for Break-ups should be essential reading for anyone that finds themselves broken-hearted and open to the prospect of learning new things and becoming a better individual. Buddhism for Break-ups may not answer all of your questions but it is certainly clever and therapeutic enough to steer you in the right direction. Namaste!

Originally published on 28 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-meshel-lauries-buddhism-for-break-ups-is-the-buddhist-dating-equivalent-of-chicken-soup-for-the-soul/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: HELEN RAZER – THE HELEN 100 – HOW I TOOK MY WAXER’S ADVICE & CURED HEARTBREAK BY GOING ON 100 DATES IN LESS THAN A YEAR

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There was the bride stripped bare and now there’s the dumped stripped without a care. In The Helen 100, broadcaster and writer, Helen Razer is disarmingly honest in recounting the aftermath of the breakdown of her 15-year relationship. It’s a tale that thumbs its nose at traditional, dating self-help guides and instead offers something more funny and grounded in reality (the pain and heartbreak may be real but Razer sure does know how to make ‘em laugh).

Razer begins her dating odyssey by describing the day one dry Melbourne afternoon when her partner announced without warning that she was leaving and “Needed to grow.” It was only later on when Helen reflected on things (and hacked the ex’s Facebook account) where she learned that the writing had been on the wall for the relationship for some time. Her ex-girlfriend had been cheating on her and there were several occasions where these love trysts happened when Razer was standing several metres away.

Razer takes some tentative steps into the crazy and occasionally frightening world of online dating. She does this with her sweet cat, Eleven by her side and the pair share a diet of barbeque chicken and sadness (it’s a dish best consumed in sorrowful, elasticised pants like pyjamas.) Razer also decides to publicly criticise Coldplay (thank God) and embark on 100 dates inside a year. It will be one point per date and a maximum of five per individual and no, this isn’t an Australian Bridget Jones.

This book is not a gritty tell-all. Do not expect Helen to sit there writing about date one and his bad breath or that date two didn’t turn up. Instead, Razer recounts the exchanges she had with potential suitors on a XXX app (males and females) as well as the recent events in her life (like chucking in her soul-destroying job writing copy for a discount beauty website.) She also describes her world views on politics, which make this book not unlike Lee Zachariah’s Double Dissolution: Heartbreak and Chaos on the Campaign Trail.

Razer is an opinionated individual with some very clear ideas about politics. It is unsurprising then that we see her discussing Marxism with a man in possession of a “Big Slavic cock” (in his humble opinion). We don’t find out if Razer agrees with his assessment because she actually spends her night with this Russian man and his daughter. She is also forcibly restrained in order to watch the Barbie Live show (I may have made up the part about the restraint.)

The Helen 100 is an antidote to love just like Adam Sandler singing “Love Stinks” in The Wedding Singer or if you burn rather than listen to a Cure album. Razer is one cranky and messy lady but damn, she is one we can all relate to. Her story is a fresh take on love and heartbreak in all of its complicated wretchedness. The Helen 100 is an unfiltered and bold conversation that we all need to have and we should be glad that Helen wasn’t afraid to go there- chicken, cat hair and all.

Originally published on 22 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-helen-razers-the-helen-100-is-a-brutally-honest-look-at-heartbreak-and-bbq-chicken/

Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/

BOOK REVIEW: J.C. GREY – LOST GIRL

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Lost Girl is like a gift wrapped up in an enigma, topped off by a riddle. The novel is a wistful romance by J.C. Grey. It is a first person narrative where the titular character is the narrator. What ensues is a dark and mysterious novel filled with love, loss and heartbreak.

To outsiders, Emerald Reed-McAllister has it all. She’s the “it” girl around town. A successful model and stylist, she’s nabbed herself an adoring and clever husband in the form of a sexy man named Marc McAllister. But all is not as it seems. Em is the kind of girl who runs away from her problems and they don’t get much bigger than the one she suddenly finds herself in the middle of.

So Em seeks sanctuary in the form of a strange, old house named Lammermoor. This building has had a chequered history to say the least. Some of its previous inhabitants have been subjected to unfortunate accidents or other inexplicable things. The locals are scared and convinced that the place is haunted. Em is encouraged to leave but she wants to fix the place up and remains steadfast in her plans.

Over the course of the novel we learn more about the house as well as Em’s own history and the nature of her relationship with Marc and his family. The prose is well-written and nicely-paced and overall it is a rather clever, romantic mystery. The beginning is a bit of a slow burn as things are put into place and the alternating timelines can jar a little bit but if you can see past these things you will be rewarded with an intriguing and extraordinary novel. This book is so much more than your average love story, it’s ultimately a mysterious and atmospheric look at the past and it proves that some relationships are in fact, built to last.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-lost-girl#comment-286418

BOOK REVIEW: TRICIA STRINGER – A CHANCE OF STORMY WEATHER

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A Chance of Stormy Weather was originally self-published in 2004 by Australian, rural romance writer, Tricia Stringer. It was also one of her most requested books, as some readers thought it was good at distilling what life in the country is really about. This fictional story is not Stringer’s best work but it is still a well-written and pleasant-enough novel.

This book is about the marriage between a Sydney girl named Paula and a farmer from South Australia named Dan. The two had a whirlwind romance and got married not long after they initially met (and why this was the case is not properly explored.) This then sets things up for a fish-out-of-water tale as the book takes in the events that surround their first few months of marriage.

Paula is a naïve city girl when it comes to her new life. She doesn’t know much about the country (even basics like what kind of meat mutton is allude her) and she’s not used to driving along dirt roads. Paula is sometimes a difficult character to warm to. She is pretty idle when she initially arrives at her new home (granted some of this could be chalked up to the culture shock that she experiences) and she is sometimes quite silly (it’s hard to believe that she was burned in a previous relationship only to rush into the arms of another man.)

Dan on the other hand is an easier person to like. He’s a hard-working guy who’s trying to forge out a living and be self-reliant. But he is also hiding some secrets from the past, most importantly the present status/nature of his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Katherine. There is also Dan’s meddlesome aunt, Rowena who is always on hand to offer her two cents worth and Paula’s parents are occasionally present to interfere with their daughter’s relationship under the guise of “meaning well.”

A Chance of Stormy Weather glosses over some important elements in the main characters’ romance (as well as their lives before they met one other) and it is ultimately a rather predictable story of a fish out of water. It’s also a book where the characters are not the most endearing or easy to warm to. Stringer has a fine reputation for telling engaging stories about the lives of individuals living in rural Australia and while this book seems to tick some boxes well, there was also room in this vast country expanse for some additional improvements.

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-a-chance-of-stormy-weather

DVD REVIEW: INDIAN SUMMERS

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The chapter in India’s history when it was subject to colonial rule has been shown on our screens before. It was the theme in The Jewel in the Crown television series and there have been countless films and things about Mahatma Ghandi. Indian Summers is a TV series that covers this well-trodden path. It may not be the most original rendering of this story but it is one pleasant, beautiful and nostalgic drama.

The second series begins some three years after the first one left off. Some things have changed with respect to the characters in this time. The most noteworthy is that civil servant, Aafrin Dalal (the gorgeous, Nikesh Patel) has become a rebel and is promoting terrorism. The private secretary, Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) is married and has designs on the viceroy’s role. Whelan’s sister, Alice (Jemima West) is shackled by an unhappy marriage to one angry and careless man named Charlie (Blake Ritson) while her heart is somewhere else.

This series deals with a number of different storylines and threads including matters of the heart and the state. Club owner, Cynthia Coffin (Julie Walters) is as manipulative as ever while Sooni (Aysha Kala) is the most inspiring. The plots also throws up a number of different moral dilemmas. Over the course of ten episodes there are a few deaths, one marriage and some reunions. The series is supported by a great cast who capture the full gamut of different emotions. Indian Summers also succeeds at chronicling an important chapter in India’s history and maintaining a certain pace while keeping the tensions high.

The setting is absolutely stunning. The story and series is set in Simla in the foothills of the Himalayas but Indian Summers itself is shot in Penang in Malaysia. We can forgive this artistic licence when we consider how much care and detail has been applied to the creation of props and the wonderful costumes. All of these things add up to make a sumptuous period drama that is like pure eye candy. The special features include an adequate making of featurette that reveals some good insights into how this show was made, but there was also room for more information.

Indian Summers is a colourful drama that is brimming with some spice and so many different threads that at times it feels like a tapestry. This is not the most crucial series you’ll ever watch but it does cover a significant part of India’s history as it seeks independence from the British rule. This serial is an interesting look at the politics and the personal proclivities of the locals and individuals living abroad as they face all manner of different challenges that life throws at them. In short this is a sprawling story told in a way that is as pleasant as a stroll through the English countryside.

Originally published on 24 October 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/indian-summers-season-2-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com

BOOK REVIEW: COLLEEN HOOVER – IT ENDS WITH US

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It Ends With Us is a title that hints at a certain sense of finality or ending. But in reality this novel is only the beginning. This bold book from New York Times bestseller, Colleen Hoover is an important one that slowly reveals itself to be a rather hard lesson in love, told by an excellent storyteller with a deft hand and a sensitive heart.

The cover of this book reminds me of Charlotte Woods’s The Natural Way Of Things. Both books are works of fiction but they are also so raw and honest that they often feel as though they could be real stories. They also deal with some difficult subjects that are hard to discuss or raise, so hopefully this gets readers talking about them.

Colleen Hoover has offered us a story about an engaging young woman named Lily. At the beginning of the story she is reeling from the recent death of her father. It’s a bittersweet moment for her because their relationship had been a rather fraught one.  At the same time she also meets a handsome neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid. The two connect and he literally sweeps her off of her feet. But the honeymoon doesn’t last forever because Lily also has to process some stuff to do with a previous relationship. It is material that will make her reassess things and challenge what she previously thought. It’s also something we can all learn from.

This novel is a bold one from Colleen Hoover and a very personal story. In her author’s note (which you should only read after finishing the book) she reveals her true connection to this tale. This intense book will tug at your heartstrings and thrust you onto an emotional rollercoaster that will take you through every emotion on the spectrum of feelings. To reveal anything more would ruin things but suffice to say the naked truth is that this is one excellent book full of depth, pathos and grit.

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-it-ends-with-us

BOOK REVIEW: SEÁN DE GALLAI – THE DANCER STEPS FROM THE DARK

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The Dancer Steps From The Dark is the debut novel from Irish author, Seán de Gallai. It’s also a fictional book about the little-known world of Irish dancing. de Gallai certainly knows a thing or two about this area because his brother was a former member of Riverdance. This novel is ultimately a refreshing one about a strong-willed teenager named Alex and proves that de Gallai is an author that is worth keeping an eye on.

This book could have been renamed, “She’s A Rebel.” Alex is a feisty 15-year-old who is sometimes quick to anger and voice her opinion but she also has a heart of gold. She is forced away from her house and has to live with her aunt, uncle and their family. She has never met these relatives before and at times she has difficulty adjusting to her new home and school life.

Alex’s saving grace is her nine year old cousin, Kate. These two girls often speak with a wisdom that is far beyond their years. Sometimes this means they sound precocious and at other points it verges on being unbelievable. An edit and a polish would have helped tighten up these minor flaws with dialogue and structure. Kate is enthusiastic about Irish dancing and is preparing for the state championships. Alex is a former ballet dancer and the two bond over their senses of humour, jibes at one another and a love of the dance.

The prose by de Gallai is light, witty and fun and he often mixes this with quite serious themes about families and teenage girls. This book is an engaging little tale about relationships, love and domestic bliss. It’s an amusing book with a strong lead character and shows just how much fun you can have “D.A.N.C.I.N.G in the U.S.A!”

 

***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Goodreads giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25767969-the-dancer-steps-from-the-dark

iTunes Review: The Escort (Film)

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If you combined parts of Pretty Woman’s plot with two characters using each other not unlike those in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days then chances are you’d get The Escort. The film is a rom-com about two unlikely people finding each other. While the film is not an original one and it is predictable and clichéd at times, it is still rather pleasant and easy to watch.

Lyndsy Fonseca stars as Natalie, a sassy Stanford graduate who earns a crust by being a tutor by day and a high-class escort by night. She seems like a rather strong and independent woman until you learn her back story. While Natalie can hold her own at times, there are other moments when things can get a little out of hand, especially when she’s on the job.

Enter Mitch (Michael Doneger), a sex addict and unemployed 27 year old journalist. He is trying hard to get his foot in the door at a glossy magazine but in order to convince the editor that he’s the right candidate, he needs a good story. So Mitch calls on Natalie to be his subject matter and she in turn uses him as a bodyguard. But the pair soon get more than they bargained for.

This film is directed by Cold Turkey’s Will Slocombe and is written by Brandon A. Cohen and Doneger. It could have been terrible but it’s actually not that bad. It’s a nicely shot little number with scenes of LA and a spectacular mural providing some real highlights. The performances by Fonseca and Doneger are good as the two bring a certain vulnerability to their characters and the pair also share an obvious chemistry. The same praise cannot be said about Bruce Campbell who plays and acts like a caricature of a seventies, has-been rock star.

The Escort is a light-hearted and emotional rom-com that touches on important issues like cyberbullying, technology, sex, love and addictions. The two main characters are quite sweet and easy to root for (no pun intended) and the whole thing is surprisingly tasteful and charming. The film may not be the funniest or the most original rom-com out there but The Escort is saved by its big heart and some lighter moments.

 

Originally published on 21 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-escort-itunes-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

DVD REVIEW: HOW TO BE SINGLE

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How To Be Single should be renamed, “Single White Female” or “Straight White Female”. The film is an episodic one about four single heterosexual pals in New York City (does this sound familiar?) It’s an unoriginal film that isn’t excellent but it’s also not as bad as you’d expect.

The film was written Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox and it shares a certain style and feel to the group’s other works (He’s Just Not That Into You and Valentine’s Day). The story is actually an adaptation of a novel written by Sex In The City writer, Liz Tuccillo, meaning comparisons between the two seem inevitable. But How To Be Single also tries to tackle some new dating phenomena (emojis, internet dating) while ignoring others (Tinder). At its heart it tries to answer the question of why people always tell their life stories through their relationships while presenting four independent women at work, rest and play and a lot of the time it seems to show said women pursuing either a relationship or a casual hook-up (or the kinds of things it was supposed to be rallying against!)

Dakota Johnson from Fifty Shades of Grey stars as Alice, a girl that was restless in her long-term relationship with the man she met at university. She tells her boyfriend that the pair should take a break in order for her to do some soul-searching. Except that this journey of self-discovery actually involves being taken under the wing of an obnoxious and drunken hedonist (Rebel Wilson at her most irritating). The latter’s character is like SITC’s Samantha on steroids and while she does offer some brutal advice here, often the context is all wrong because she is too over-the-top and ridiculous to really matter. (I’m sure we’d all love to work at a legal firm where you can arrive three and a half hours late and introduce the new girl to the office environment by showing her all the best places for a snog or a shag).

Alice’s sister’s story is actually a lot more interesting. Meg (a sweet, Leslie Mann) is working as a doctor delivering babies but she does not want a child of her own. One day she changes her mind and decides that she needs to have a baby stat and she will go down the IVF route. This story could have been a touching drama between the two sisters but instead it is too lightweight and trying too hard to be funny in other parts. Lucy (Alison Brie) has nothing to do with the other girls but she is an online dating obsessive who often finds herself in the company of a womanising bartender (Anders Holm) because she resorts to pinching Wi-Fi in the bar downstairs from her apartment. The special features on the DVD are disappointing and include only some deleted scenes.

How To Be Single is a film about identity but it’s a little unsure about what it actually wants to be. It can’t decide whether it wants to empower women or play into the cliché-ridden status quo of society- or whether it wants to be fun and comedic or make some serious, social points. In trying to be so much it often fails to do anything really well. It means it’s pleasant but ultimately a forgettable chick flick. In all, this unoriginal, straight and conventional rom-com could have been sassy and clever but instead feels like a second-rate Sex In The City where the big in this big apple is the overwhelming number of characters, plots and themes.

Originally published on 4 June 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/how-to-be-single-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

DVD REVIEW: LUKE WARM SEX

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Let’s talk about sex baby. Luke McGregor’s doco-comedy, Luke Warm Sex is a raw, honest and no-holds-barred approach to copulation. It also promises to educate viewers in how to get better at or to have a more satisfying sex life. Across six episodes the viewer embarks on a journey with the most awkward comedian in history to learn a lot about lovin’.

Luke McGregor has graced our small screens before in sitcoms like Utopia and Please Like Me. The Tasmanian-born funnyman is a naturally rather anxious guy with nervous chuckles punctuating his speech. This man has a very awkward persona and some people may have thought this was all an act or something that would not have helped in making a program like Luke Warm Sex.

It may come across as a bit of a surprise but this nervy guy is actually quite a charming presenter. McGregor was – by his own admission – a complete novice when it came to matters of the bedroom, having only had sex twice in his 33 years on earth. To this series he brings an eagerness, enthusiasm and a natural zeal to learn more and to improve himself. He lays his insecurities out in the open and in doing so is actually quite endearing and wins over the audience. Luke Warm Sex is ultimately quite a relatable, entertaining and informative program.

In Luke Warm Sex McGregor tackles his body hang-ups and overcomes his fear of being nude while in the company of some kind-hearted naturists. He becomes comfortable with the idea of touch and contact and learns how to prepare the body for sex. The final stages he learns about are pleasure, intimacy and creative ways of getting down and dirty. In this series, McGregor speaks to various individuals including sexperts like: sex therapists and educators, tantric practitioners, sex coaches and naturists, to name a few.

The special features on the DVD include an eclectic mix of titbits. Dr Judith Glover offers a history of vibrators while Roger Butler gives us the “flip board of love”. Academics, Thiagarajan and Gomathi Sitharthan discuss porn while Amanda Lambrose makes a “sex” smoothie and Cindy Darnell and McGregor discuss sex toys. There are some comedic moments like “The STI House” (starring Dave Hughes, Hamish Blake and other comedians), “The Consent Sketch” and a little segment where McGregor visits his hometown and old school. There are also some outtakes, promo trailers and some vox pops that McGregor did in Melbourne.

Luke Warm Sex offers the viewer a light-hearted and educational look at sex. In an age where a lot of people learn about sex through porn, it is refreshing to see a program tackle some real experiments and offer facts from a guy who is painfully honest about his lack of know-how. This series is a brave one that should be mandatory viewing by everyone because we could all learn a thing or two from this endearing, gentle and original show.

Originally published on 27 April 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/luke-warm-sex-dvd-review/

Visit Impulse Gamer’s homepage at: http://www.impulsegamer.com/

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