My Life as a Doormat by Rene Gutteridge

It was a hard thing to shake. Edward thought I needed help with conflict. This was just another sign that this relationship was not what it should be.

Leah Townsend, a playwright and the protagonist of the novel, is right, but not for the reasons she thinks. Her boyfriend (gaslighter!), Edward, is also right, but not for the reasons he thinks.

I learned about this book because of the TV movie it was based on (incidentally, in retrospect, Holly Marie Combs did an amazing job portaying Lea) and read it afterwards. It’s a layered, psychologically insightful novel in which the experiences and feelings of the main heroine are sometime so relatable, so visceral in their descriptions that I had to lay the book aside to process. It’s also scary to realize how there will always be plenty of people ready to pounce on you as soon as you become that thing, a doormat.

Leah is a woman who has everything in her to be who she wants to be. In fact, she might already be that woman, only she got lost along the way due to ever-deepening habits of not wanting to disappoint people and destructive contributions from her boyfriend (gaslighter!). The number of times I was shouting to myself “No! That’s not what you should have done! Don’t give in! Do the thing, do the thing, aaaahhhh…” One consolation on the journey to finish the novel is that, ironically, precisely because of Leah’s submissiveness she has developed an inner voice in the form of her play’s main character, Jodie, a creative alter ego that lives in Leah’s head as Leah’s actual life becomes more complicated. But the complications are ultimately caused by Leah trying to get out of unhealthy patterns, and I was reading as fast as I could to find out if she would.

The conflict resolution class Leah gets signed up for by Edward (gaslighter!) proves to be a turning point for her in more ways than one. There are no hard-and-fast, magical solutions presented in the book. This is not a romantic comedy, though it has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (actually did that on the subway one day while reading) that look as if someone took note of the absurd experiences in your own life.

This is one of the most engaging books I’ve ever read and it leaves you thinking after you’re done, because Leah, in my opinion, has been nicer to the people walking over her than necessary even after her breakthroughs (like to some gaslighters, but I might be thinking that because I was reading a book about gaslighting parallel to the novel), and there might still be some things in her attitudes to wrap up, BUT all of this contributes to a rare effect and the mark of a good novel: you may have finished the book, yet you know the character still has everything ahead of her.

 

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Iconic: The Masters of Italian Fashion by Megan Hess

Another gorgeous book by the talented Megan Hess, the next one I read after The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion. It is about fashion I will most likely never be able to afford, nor need to afford, but it is beautifully, captivatingly illustrated, and written with attention to detail, while still being absorbing and amusing at the same time.

Once again, the illustrations remove some of the sense of unattainability and aloofness when you see photos or videos of the designs, instead bringing to life that which is actually inspiring or entertaining: colours, lines, shapes, humour, combinations, prints. They can also be looked at again and again, whenever and whereever you like, no networking or money spending required.

Italian fashion gives you permission to play, to fall in love and to dress as if life were always utterly glamorous.

A good motto regardles of what you wear.

My Top Ten Gifs for (Describing) Any Situation

The glorious emphasis of a gif, quotes and acting all rolled into one, changing texting, chatting and blogging forever…

Credit for the idea for this blog post goes to my sister.

For me, the gifs below just keep on gifing. I know, but I had to go there. This is a general list, but it already got me thinking about gifs by occasion or category…Thanks goes to the bottomless and wonderful Giphy.com, which probably makes up 75 percent of the links on this blog since its inception. So here we go! In no particular order. Obviously each gif is not limited to the occasions and emotions mentioned.

If you want to go beyond the hugging emoji, express sympathy, congratulations, joy, thanks, make someone laugh or just like monkeys:

Feeling like a flirty geek, talking about hair stuff, being at the beach, getting ready to go out, trying to fit in:

Anything related to the joys of reading and dreaming about your own library room at home:

Anything, just let it go (I know, but I can’t not):

Jubilation, cheering, any kind of exaggerated happiness, frenzied applause that you can’t do out loud in the moment, adoration, mocking:

What??

This is one of my most used. Enthusiasm, anticipation, fangirling of any kind, sarcasm:

Full House was part of my youth, and after watching all the seasons again recently, I have to conclude that Michelle’s catchphrases are as relevant as ever, so if you want to add a little pop culture to your “Will do” or “Of course”:

Fireworks are lovely, great gif to send someone on their birthday before you actually meet them to give them their real present:

And finally, the always cute pick-me-up after all this excitement:

The Innkeeper Chronicles: Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews

Breath caught in my chest. I realized with absolute clarity that one day I was going to die. One day I would no longer be here. All the things I wanted, all my thoughts, all my worries – all of it would be gone with me, lost forever. There were so many things I wanted to do. So much I still wanted to see. I had to hold on to it. I had to hold on to every short second of life. Every breath was a gift, gone forever to the cold stars the moment I exhaled.

This is expressed so well, it makes me want to cry just like the main character, Innkeeper Dina Demille, owner of Gertrude Hunt – not exactly your average, everyday hotel.

I seem to be reviewing sequels lately, or at least not the first book in a series. But sometimes books need to sit with me a little, or I’m reading a couple of things at the same time and I just want to sort through my thoughts and feelings. With Sweep in Peace, my review started forming as soon as I read the paragraph above, and this is one of many poignant moments in a novel packed with action, mirth, drama and excitement, but a novel that still stops to think.

Dina knows how to put down roots, literally, and her magic, the profession that she was basically born into, is a reflection of who she is as a person. She is hospitable, hard-working, occasionally desperate, realistic, witty, and she’s a deeply loving, loyal human being. Whether it’s the special attachment formed between her and Gertrude Hunt, for the Inn is a living being of its own kind, or the fierce love that drives her to search for her missing parents, Dina’s heart is in everything she does. What’s also appealing about her are her moments of immediately relatable vulnerability, popping up among all the skills, talent and magic that make her a true Innkeeper.

So I’ve scribbled on quite a bit about the main character, because I don’t want to spoiler about the plot, though let’s just say that Dina definitely has what seems like an impossible task on her  hands, and the conclusion had me tearing up. Final revelations make you stop and think about current events or even relationships inside families, how we can hurt each other, how hard it sometimes is to open someone’s eyes to the truth. Yes, deep!

Dina’s relationship with the Inn and the Inn’s with her is intriguing and heart-warming, taking me back to Russian folklore and understanding of the home as such in particular (that’s my roots talking), magic within four walls (or more) influenced by the people living in it and the environment around it. Brooms, as Dina’s own proves, are not to be underestimated.

Enjoy your stay.

The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion by Megan Hess

To catch a thief must be one of the most stylish movies in the history of Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock’s romance mystery depicts Grace Kelly in ten costumes, each more beautiful than the last. My favourite, however, is this flowing, draped blue gown by Edith Head. The dress, inspires by Dior’s ‘New Look’, features a gathered skirt and variegated chiffon swathes, and was worn with a matching clutch, white open-toe sandals and a floaty blue stole.

Yes! Megan Hess said it. I have also loved that dress the moment I first set eyes on it in my teens and it is one of the reasons why I still hanker after light-blue frocks. This is one of the many enjoyable moments had while reading The Dress: 100 Iconic Moments in Fashion, that “my” dress made the list happiness, as well as discovering numerous delicious tidbits and trivia about 99 other gowns from the 20th and 21st centuries. Sounds grand, doesn’t it?

The book is lovely to hold in your hands, with it’s gold framing against black and white on the cover, and gold page tips, like a gift ready to be unwrapped again and again. It’s divided into sections covering specific dresses within them – designers, female icons, weddings (with another shout-out to Grace Kelly), music, film and the Oscars. For me the film chapter was especially fun to read, as I recognized many dresses that had also caught my eye in various movies, or got curious about others, especially in older movies I hadn’t seen. But the best part is that the book is not simply about the dresses themselves. In a warm and engaging style, Megan Hess shows with a few well-chosen sentences, just like the strokes in her gorgeous fashion illustrations, the women who gave life to the dresses by wearing them and putting them in the context of a memorable occasion.

The illustrations themselves give the whole representation a different quality then photos do, because while many stories, names and gowns might be instantly familiar, or conjure up specific real-life or cinematic images, removing them slightly from being documented, and illustrating instead makes it all just a tad more magical and imaginative. I may never afford any of the outfits in this book, but I loved the creative approach to showing the potential and the power a dress holds simply for ourselves, whatever dress it is.

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

I switched off the light, and lay there thinking how all my sisters teased me about being the spiritual snowflake of the family. I couldn’t really blame them, because when I was young I didn’t understand that I was ‘different’, so I’d just speak about the things that I saw or felt.

I don’t remember exactly how I discovered The Seven Sisters books by Lucinda Riley – the cover of the first one might have been popping up in various social media feeds until I read about it and got curious, but a few months later here I am, finished reading book five, The Moon Sister, in this absorbing, detailed series with a myriad of stories about six sisters separately adopted and lovingly raised by a mysterious man in a beautiful Swiss mansion. The women are all named after the the Seven Sisters constellation and The Moon Sister is about the second youngest, Taygete, or Tiggy d’Aplièse.

It’s Christmas shortly into the novel, and it was also Christmas when I opened the book, which strengthened the feeling of being immersed in Tiggy’s experiences early on. The story sweeps between rural Scotland in the winter and sun-drenched Spain (both past and present), two contrasting countries, but with common themes of second sight and intuition coming alive through the characters living there. Tiggy is open to what comes her way, all the while listening to her instincts with quiet acceptance. She’s calmly assured in her introversion, yet she’s sociable and empathetic at the same time.

Like her other sisters, Tiggy is not only discovering the (as always mesmerizing and rooted in exciting history) truth of her parentage and heritage, but also learning to be truly independent while remaining connected to the people she grew up with as a family. She has a distinctive voice and it’s easy to hear. Tiggy’s book is satisfyingly thick, like the other novels in the series, and I asked myself why it reads so quickly, besides obviously being a very engaging and well written story. The answer is, perhaps, that the novel is not overdone with length in individual scenes, even when we think there could be more said – this works with packing in multiple storylines and timelines in one book. The history in the novel is not heavy, while based on fact and clearly excellent research, it conveys what it was, namely a real life lived by Tiggy’s ancestor at the time.

The landscapes in Scotland and the views from Granada in Spain, as we see the city through Tiggy’s eyes, come alive with the same exhiliration that she feels. It’s easy to imagine walking down paths and streets with her as she comes closer to uncovering the story of her birth, and there’s a disarming quality about her kindness and introspective connection to the world around her. As with the previous books, I might just have to go back and re-read after a while.

 

 

 

Santa Baby covered by Lindsey Stirling

Both the song and the music video have been up for a while, but I’ve been listening and watching on repeat, that’s how much I love how this cover by Lindsey Stirling turned out! And now it’s time to pour out my feelings. My favourite line is I want a yacht and, really, that’s not a lot, just the way she says it with that saucy look, and the dance moves match it perfectly. It might become a daily quote. Oh, and I want that shower cap with sequins on it and, really, that’s not a lot. Of sequins. I just love how they catch the light…

Focus!

Since being uploaded on November 29 the music video has already had almost 2.4 million views at the time of writing this blog post, way to go Lindsey! There are so many things I love about the video, where to start…

Lindsey co-directed and her trademark attention to detail and concepting, not to mention her individuality, are all immediately obvious. From the colour palette switching between pinks, lilacs, whites and blues in various intensity, to the nods to her inspiration sources which she talks about in this behind the scenes video, it’s three and a half minutes packed with gorgeous, fun images.

The opening notes that repeat themselves throughout the song click at once with the imagery of  floating soap bubbles, balloons and lights and lend a modern touch to a classic. And then Lindsey sings! She does, and what a great job. In this inspiring interview on the Build series she talks about her vocal work in particular, saying that she ended up liking her voice on the demos she recorded at first and sticking with it.

I love her confidence as well as the whole tone of her singing, how it ties with the music in her interpretation, the balanced execution and the coquettish, feminine vibe. The fact that she went on to do her own vocals also makes me incredibly excited for what she will produce in the future. In addition, she spoke about the challenge of covering a beloved Christmas classic that many others have covered before as well and coming up with a way to do it that had her mark on it.

Just when you’ve managed to digest it is indeed Lindsey singing Santa Baby, she makes my jaw drop even more by dancing en pointe in ballet shoes! She’s been known not just for her mind-blowing simultaneous violin playing and dancing, but also as an amazingly talented, sharp dancer, especially after her season on Dancing with the Stars in 2017. Her movements are precise and beautiful, you can tell she’s trained, but at the same time the choreography doesn’t look studied or mechanical. Her enjoyment of what she is doing shines through in the scenes, which I’m in awe of even more now that I have a (very) slight inkling of how hard ballet sequences can actually be.

Been an angel all year… Merry Christmas!