BOOK REVIEW: PAMELA HART – A LETTER FROM ITALY

 

A Letter from Italy is a romantic story that isn’t just ruled by its heart. It’s a novel inspired by Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent who worked during the First World War. It’s a book that shows how a determined and strong journalist negotiates the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and also through a time of tumultuous change.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/226447

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FILM REVIEW: LOVING

 

Loving is a film that shares a few things in common with A United Kingdom. They are both based on true stories and at the centre of each film you have a married, interracial couple who just want to live together as husband wife and leave the politics out of the bedroom. Loving is a beautifully-shot and subtle drama about one inspiring romance.

The film is named after the real-life couple, Mildred and Richard Loving. Ruth Negga is really sensitive and expressive in her Oscar-nominated performance as Mildred and she shares a noticeable chemistry with our very own Joel Edgerton who plays Richard. These two actors should be commended for their respectful and convincing performances.

The Lovings were married in Washington in 1958. They married here because they feared they would encounter problems by getting married in their home-state of Virginia. The latter state still had a draconian law that was a relic from a bygone period (where slavery was the norm) that banned mixed-race couples from marrying. The couple were dobbed in to the authorities and eventually arrested.

Mildred and Richard Loving were released without having to serve prison terms because they agreed to leave their home-state and extended families in order to live elsewhere. The pair initially agreed to this proposal and lived in Washington. But they eventually returned to Virginia because they were homesick and they just wanted to live a quiet life and not bother anyone.

The couple that were the inspiration behind this film were also rather reluctant civil rights activists and stars. Richard Loving was a man of few words. Joel Edgerton dons a blonde buzz-cut and portrays him as a quiet and devoted construction worker who has a keen interest in drag-racing. When asked what he wants his lawyers to say in court in the couple’s defence he simply responds, “Tell the judge I love my wife.”

The Lovings were also rather reserved and dignified throughout the entire ordeal. Mildred would write to the then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy seeking an intervention and eventually the American Civil Liberties Union took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967. Director and writer Jeff Nichols’ (Mud) script does not take cheap shots and nor does it play up the melodrama, the courtroom tactics or other histrionics involved in this case. Instead, Nichols leaves the audience to witness the quiet moments of tender domesticity between these two lovebirds as their love grows and they build a house, family and life together while also tackling the U.S. bureaucracy.

Loving is not a film that is filled with beat-up drama or other unnecessary bells and whistles, instead it is quiet meditation on true love, courage and commitment. This story about racism and politics remains an important one today as the government continues to try and wield power over who can marry (to think that Australia still does not have gay marriage is utterly deplorable). Loving is ultimately a subtle and nuanced domestic drama that is a study in the true power of love.

Originally published on 12 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/sxsw-film-review-through-the-repellent-fence-usa-2017-uses-art-to-make-an-important-political-statement/

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

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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

DVD REVIEW: CAFE SOCIETY

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It seems that La La Land is not the only film to look affectionately at some halcyon days in Hollywood. Woody Allen’s Café Society manages to do this as well as celebrating the jazzy nightlife of New York. This is a light yet fun film that is like a love letter to old money and its trappings, even though it is set in the thirties, a time where most would normally stop and think about the Great Depression.

Café Society once again sees the famed director doubling as the film’s narrator. It is also brimming with the kind of witty repartee that Allen and his work have become synonymous with. It also finds time for some navel gazing, posing some existential questions and sticking the knife into organised religion. This is a funny and romantic story but in true Allen fashion, it’s one that rules with the head rather than the heart.

Jesse Eisenberg does his best Woody Allen impression and stars as Bobby, a kid with stars in his eyes. He is seduced by Hollywood’s bright lights and leaves his family behind for L.A. Steve Carrell is a Hollywood heavyweight and Bobby’s Uncle Phil. The latter takes pity on his nephew and offers the boy some work doing odd job at the company he owns.

Bobby initially enjoys the girls, glamour and debauchery of la la land but eventually he comes to see through it all. He realises that a lot of it is excess, fakery and vanity. This sentiment is shared by his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart who actually cracks a smile for once and puts in a decent performance.) The chemistry between these former cast mates is quite obvious and really makes the romance seem plausible.

The two youngsters bond over a mutual love of Mexican food. Vonnie initially plays her cards close to her chest because she’s intelligent and street-smart and because she has an elusive boyfriend she started dating shortly before meeting Bobby. The latter was always going to be hooked on his Uncle’s secretary, he was smitten early on and it’s almost inevitable that he will have his heart broken.

Eventually Bobby returns to New York to work with his gangster brother in a nightclub. It’s here that he meets a divorcee (a fresh-faced and bubbly, Blake Lively.) A new romance blossoms but this bliss doesn’t last for long because Vonnie soon visits New York and the club with another unwelcome visitor in tow.

Café Society celebrates style, youth and beauty. It’s a rather flimsy, predictable and lightweight film but it’s also one that offers enjoyment in spades thanks to its beautifully-shot scenes and witty dialogue. This is a look at a rich part of America in the thirties and it shows where professional dreams can clash with romance (although this is nothing new.) This is the sort of film that will not profoundly affect you but one where you can sit back, relax and enjoy as a sort of date with the society set with all of the trimmings.

Originally published on 6 February 2017 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/cafe-society-dvd-review/

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

BOOK REVIEW: BEATRICE COLIN – TO CAPTURE WHAT WE CANNOT KEEP

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If you’re looking for a wonderful romance novel to consume on Valentine’s Day then To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a worthy candidate. This historic fiction book by Beatrice Colin is a good, old-fashioned love story set in the 19th century in Paris after building has commenced on the Eiffel Tower. Some of the real-life characters star in this novel and at the end of the day it’s the kind of tale that makes you realise why Paris is considered the city of love.

The story’s main character is the complex but likeable, Caitriona Wallace. She’s a young and mostly smart widow from Scotland. Her husband succumbed to an untimely death so in order to make ends meet she agrees to chaperone two annoying, little rich kids to Paris. Nice work if you can get it!

Catriona’s charges are the disorganised, lazy and privileged lady’s man, Jaime and his flighty younger sister, Alice. The latter is silly and quite often obsessed with appearances and keeping up with the Jones’s. There are quite a few occasions where Alice feels like she could be considered Lydia Bennett’s (Pride & Prejudice) Scottish clone. The similarities to Austen’s novel do not end there, as Colin’s work is also a multi-faceted one where love, revenge, lies, society and manners are all deftly-tackled, albeit in a historic setting.

This story looks at the burgeoning romance between the low-class, Caitriona and Emile Nouguier, a Frenchman who is an engineer working on the Eiffel Tower and a member of high society. The two have to keep their courtship a secret due to their marked differences in social standing. There is also pressure from Nouguier’s elderly mother because she wants her son to be betrothed to the “right girl.” These ingredients make for a beautifully-written slice of sexy escapism where rules are broken almost as often as they’re followed.

To Capture What We Cannot Keep is a novel that’s as vibrant, charming and atmospheric as the city of Paris itself. It also shares a few things in common with great romance stories by Austen or more recently Natasha Lester’s A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. To Capture What We Cannot Keep is an absolute treat, an evocative and easy read where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the warm embrace of a sumptuous historic drama and a beguiling romance that is tres magnifique.

***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-to-capture-what-we-cannot-keep

BOOK REVIEW: NADIA MARKS – AMONG THE LEMON TREES

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Love is a wonderful thing. We all want to experience it. Many musicians, artists and writers have used it as inspiration, but it was perhaps Darren Hanlon who put it best when he sang, “Love is just a lazy generalisation that we use for a hundred different feelings and as many situations.” Journalist and author, Nadia Marks knows a lot about this kind of love, as she proves in her debut novel for adults, Among the Lemon Trees. She says that the Greeks have no fewer than four different types of love: Agápe is the big love, storgé the tender other love, philia friendship, and éros sexual love.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201701/218733

Visit 100% Rock’s homepage at: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/

BOOK REVIEW: JOHNNY MARR – SET THE BOY FREE

autobiography

 

Here’s Johnny! For years Johnny Marr has created great music and influenced multiple generations of guitarists by wearing various musical hats. Set The Boy Free is the first time the former guitarist of The Smiths has committed the story of his life to paper. This book is a cracking read and it proves that Marr is one charming man, indeed.

Johnny Marr was born John Martin Maher to two young, Irish immigrants in Manchester in 1963. At the age of five he got his first guitar and he grew up to be a lad that was obsessed with music and clothes. As a teenager he would work at a few different clothing shops while he toyed with the idea of forming a band.

In 1982 Marr tracked down Steven Morrissey, whom he’d met through a mutual friend some years earlier. This meeting marked the beginning of a chaotic and important few years where The Smiths would release four studio albums and numerous hit singles. The group helped revitalise interest in guitar rock and independent music in England and their songs are anthems that continue to get played to this day. This period makes up a significant portion of Marr’s book, although he does tend to gloss over the band’s rather acrimonious break-up.

Marr sounds like the quintessential English gentleman in this book. He also sounds like a wonderful and affable chap that you’d love to have a beer with (or an orange juice, as he is now a marathon-running teetotaller and vegan). Unlike Morrissey’s more bitter and cynical, Autobiography, Marr’s story is instead one that is filled with a kind of romantic and misty-eyed optimism. When Marr does tackle a difficult subject like the lawsuit brought against himself and Morrissey by his former Smiths-bandmate, Mike Joyce, he gives the story short shrift, instead choosing to focus his words on sunnier things like music and songwriting. (Although in a curious twist, Marr does say that he met up with Morrissey in 2008 and that they discussed the possibility of a Smiths reunion but that this did not eventuate into anything).

This autobiography may take a positive stance towards things but this could be due to the fact that Marr realises that he has a lot to be thankful for. He met his wife, Angie when he was 15 and the pair remain happily married and together to this day. He’s the father to a grown-up son and daughter, Nile and Sonny, and there was a period where Marr and Morrissey’s friendship was a close and happy one. These elements of Marr’s memoir do not prevent him from being frank and honest at other points. Marr admits that he told a journalist he didn’t like Michael’s Jackson’s Thriller album and he describes the Twitter storm that erupted after he forbade David Cameron, the then Prime Minister of Britain from being (or claiming to be) a Smiths fan.

This book is not the most polished one in a literary sense but it is all of Marr’s own work and it is a fun and easy read. Marr is friends with and has collaborated with lots of people. There are stories involving no less than: Hans Zimmer, Paul McCartney, Neil Finn, The The, Talking Heads, The Cribs, Modest Mouse and Electronic, to name a few. Marr has a great anecdote about the time he discussed some important things with the former Beatle that’s worth the price of admission alone. Marr’s stories are interesting to read and are often filled with great advice and wisdom. For example, Marr received some advice from a teacher when he was a school boy and that was: to find something he liked, be good at it and be an artist rather than getting bored or in trouble. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it with the benefit of hindsight.

Set The Boy Free is a must-read for any self-respecting fan of The Smiths. It is Johnny Marr’s direct and grounded account of a wonderful life in music and his forays into the world of fashion. This rock autobiography is a romantic story from an energetic and enigmatic Englishman who isn’t content to just sit back on his laurels. Johnny Marr wants to continue making great music and he’s revved up by fans who know that in Messer Marr there is most certainly a light that never goes out.

Originally published on 23 January 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/books/book-review-johnny-marrs-set-the-boy-free-is-an-honest-fun-look-at-the-energetic-life-of-the-former-smiths-guitarist-and-quintessential-english-gentleman/

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

BOOK REVIEW: KARLY LANE – THIRD TIME LUCKY

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Karly Lane’s book, Third Time Lucky is a lovely adaptation of a Christmas novella. It’s a story that translates well to the longer format but it’s also one that is difficult to write about without revealing some crucial plot points. It is perhaps best if we consider that this is a rural romance that poses and solves a number of questions, including: is it possible to forgive the past? Can you learn to love after you’ve been duped by your partner and left a widower?  Can young lovers that were once torn apart rekindle their relationship? Do you choose revenge or forgiveness after being slighted?

This novel stars December Doyle, a strong and relatable character who lives in a small and mountainous town in country NSW called Christmas Creek. Doyle is a kind character that only sees the best in people. She’s also the only female to be born into her family for some time. As a result of this, she is often protected by her well-meaning but stubborn father and brothers.

Doyle finds herself newly single. Her childhood sweetheart, a former bad boy-turned-successful businessman named Seth Hunter returns to town just as she is beginning to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life. What ensues is a period where the main and supporting characters meet again and reassess their past relationships, rights and wrongs.

Third Time Lucky sees Karly Lane penning another intriguing romance novel. Lane is a country girl and it is obvious in her authentic prose and descriptions that are quite detailed and multi-faceted. Third Time Lucky is an easy and breezy read that will make you want to kick off your heels, relax into a couch and enjoy a simple but satisfying romance tale.

***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/blog-tour-book-club-third-time-lucky

FILM REVIEW: A UNITED KINGDOM

a-united-kingdom

 

A United Kingdom could be renamed “Politics and Prejudice.” This film tells the extraordinary true story of when Seretse Khama, the King of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), fell in love with and married a determined English woman named Ruth Williams.

This film stars David Oyelowo (Selma) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) as the two lovers in this bi-racial marriage, and they put in strong performances and share a persuasive and lovely chemistry.

The union between this African man and white woman was challenged by the South African government of the day, which had just introduced its apartheid legislation. That government also put pressure on the British to publicly intervene. The couple had to deal with with society’s conservative ideas at the time, as well as mounting pressure from their respective families.

When Williams gave birth to their first child in the sweeping African plains, Khama was exiled and stuck in the UK.

Sure enough, A United Kingdom offers an inspiring and sentimental story of love conquering all, with geography, politics, family and the establishment failing to keep the couple apart.

It’s a beautifully-shot and convincing dama from director, Amma Asante (Belle) and a safe yet moving look at an important chapter in history. This was a brave couple who united and took on the world, and such a story of unity seems more timely and relevant today than ever.

Originally published on 7 December 2016 at the following website: https://issuu.com/furstmedia/docs/brag_692

Visit The Brag’s homepage at: http://thebrag.com/

BOOK REVIEW: ANNA ROMER – BEYOND THE ORCHARD

beyond-the-orchard

 

Beyond the Orchard is an Australian saga spanning multiple years, taking in different generations and perspectives. It seems to have a lot in common with the late Bryce Courtenay’s work insofar as it’s an epic slice of Australiana. The book is the third novel by Anna Romer (Thornwood House) and a rich and detailed tapestry where some different characters lives are all interwoven together through a series of secrets and lies.

The story stars Lucy Briar, a young woman whose mother passed away when she was just a young girl. Briar is now all grown up and has been living in London for the past few years. She is also newly engaged. Lucy left Australia for the UK a few years ago after a relationship with an older man (the father of a friend of hers) had gone awry.

Lucy is called back to her childhood home after she is invited to her friends’ wedding. Before Briar arrives in Victoria she receives a message from her estranged grandfather that is completely unexpected. He wants to meet her and set the record straight on a few things regarding the past. Sadly, Lucy’s grandpa does not get the opportunity to follow through with his promise. But little by little Lucy undertakes he own detective work and uncovers a rich and complicated family history and some life events that involve her relatives as well as love, loss, death, despair and redemption.

Anna Romer’s novel is a rather ambitious one that threads together the perspectives of various characters living at different points in history. She also adds additional textural flourishes in the form of extracts from a book written by Lucy’s father Ronald. These extra storylines add greater depth and meaning to the existing characters and their motivations because it is a case of art imitating life.

Beyond the Orchard feels like it’s a real story because it is so atmospheric and emotional. It’s a testament to Romer’s fabulous writing that the characters seem as rich and complex as real people. Romer’s prose is well-written and sometimes quite poetic and beautiful. This book is a well-constructed one where mystery and romance make for one haunting and intriguing family history.

***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-beyond-the-orchard

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