June 16th, 2016

Me

Book Critique 2016 – 03/22/2016: Grave Apparel (Crime of Fashion, #5)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of books in the entire series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: An easy mystery read that is weaved through the world of fashion, style and dressing from the view point of a fashion stylist.

Grave Apparel is the fifth installment in the Crime of Fashion series by Ellen Byerrum published in July of 2007. Lacey Smithsonian - the fashion reporter The Eye Street Observer in Washington, D.C. - gets pulled into another mystery woven through the world of fashion and news. But, this time it is too close to home or rather should I say to the paper where she works.



It's Christmas time, but Lacey is not having any fun or peace. Her article on tacky sweaters created a "Sweatergate" across Washington, D.C. and blaming her that she is ruining Christmas. But it was Cassandra Wentworth - the new addition to the paper in the editorial section we saw in the previous book - was the one who had written the article. And adding to that Felicity Pickles - who always wore the fun and tacky sweaters for the festive season - took it very personal about the article. Lacey gets caught between these two and their bickering.  Lacey wondered why Cassandra hated Christmas so much.

However, that was all not that happened with sweaters and Cassandra. The fire between Cassandra and Felicity shifted between Cassandra and Lacey, when Lacey wrote her Fashion Bites related to Christmas Sweaters followed by Mac's apology to clear the confusion on who exactly wrote the earlier article. Cassandra waged an open war of words with Lacey on that although Lacey avoided as much as she could. And one night she receives an urgent call from Cassandra's phone, but it's not Cassandra calling. A young boy uses Cassandra's phone and asks her to come to help the lady as she is hurt. Lacey runs outside only to find Cassandra lying on the floor with a head injury and hurt badly - and wearing a very tacky sweater that was singing "Jingle Bells" that looked very similar to what Felicity wore. The only witness was the young boy who does not divulge any details about him and instead goes on the run.

Now Lacey takes upon herself to find the boy as he had been seen by whoever had hurt Cassandra. The cops think he is a suspect when he is a witness. And since the boy's life is in danger, Lacey puts her life on the line for him. And she was also curious to know why someone wanted to hurt Cassandra? What was the motive? Will she survive? Who was framing Felicity? And she also had to deal with what to make for the Christmas Party that she was invited to at The Donovans - not to forget that her romance with Vic is full on now that he is free of Montana.

Read further to see where all this ends. Signing-off this review with a snippet from another of Lacey's Fashion Bites.

Lacey Smithsonian's Fashion Bites: It's an Organization Town, Right? So Get Organized for the Holidays!
Plan ahead! You're already planning the events, so strategize your looks to suit. Create comfortable and stylish outfits for those meetings and parties and shopping trips, so you won't have to reach into that last minute grab bag called your closet.
Me

Book Critique 2016 – 03/23/2016: Armed and Glamorous (Crime of Fashion, #6)

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a book review.
Prologue: Go here.
For review of books in the entire series: Go here.

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: An easy mystery read that is weaved through the world of fashion, style and dressing from the view point of a fashion stylist.

Armed and Glamorous is the sixth installment in the Crime of Fashion series by Ellen Byerrum published in July of 2008. This time Lacey Smithsonian is taking a PI class so she can hone her sleuthing skills. Why not, she keeps running into murdered victims, killers and eventually capturing them. :)



The plot opens with Lacey's first class at the PI school run by Bud Hunt - an ex-cop and a close friend of Vic Donovan. With her are other characters in the class - Snake Goldstein, a bounty hunter; Edwina Plimpton, who won the class over a bet with her friend; Willow Raynor, a very shy woman; Martin Hadley, who believes the US Government had put him in an experiment of mind control and finally Damon Newhouse - perhaps Brooke leaked Lacey's idea of taking the class or Vic ordered Damon to be her bodyguard but he was there to annoy her further.

But the biggest surprise for Lacey was Bud's guest speaker, Greg - a surveillance expert. He was no ordinary person but infact was Gregor Kepelov, an ex-KGB spy and a jewel thief, whom she had tangled with when she was in Russia looking for the lost corset in the book The Raiders of the Lost Corset.  Now what was he doing in Washington, D.C. thought Lacey.

As the class concludes for a lunch break and everyone headout, they come across a very dead Cecily Ashton in her silver-blue S-Type Jaguar just outside the building where the class was. Cecily was one of the notorious Washingtonian socialites, the former trophy wife of an aging billionaire, Philip Clark Ashton, who once owned a baseball team in D.C. She often tended to get the wrong kind of publicity in press causing the inevitable divorce. Lacey had interviewed her for her fashion article not just a week ago.

Now this makes it more mysterious for Lacey's sharp mind. Was there a connection between Gregor and Cecily? What was Cecily doing outside the class in Falls Church, Virginia - a place Cecily would never be found visiting? Was she trying to contact someone here? Gregor? Bud? Lacey? Was the break-in at Cecily's home had to do anything with her murder? Why would a robber steal just one item - a one-of-a-kind makeup case, piece designed by Louis Vuitton for Rita Hayworth in the 1940s and contained a hidden compartment that housed a very expensive pearl necklace belonging to the movie star? Why did he steal just that one? Why not her expensive clothes that probably costed more than the makeup case?  And Lacey's mind spins further pushing her deeper into the investigation much to the chagrin of Vic and the danger that posed to her and her friends.

Another good murder-mystery by Ellen with fashion clues. It was thrilling to visit Aunt Mimi's magical bottomless trunk again, filled with fabulous vintage clothes, fabrics, patterns and fashion memorabilia. My taste for vintage clothing had increased page by page as I read these books. One day perhaps I will wear a vintage clothing too. :P We alos get to hear the story behind Lacey's last name "Smithsonian" - definitely not related to the museum. :P I recommend that you pick this book for a easy read of murder and crime in the world of fashion. And here's another snippet from Lacey's Fashion Bites.

Lacey Smithsonian's Fashion Bites: Shopping Safari: Hunting for the Elusive Little Black Dress

The first rule of hunting and gathering the right little black dress is commitment. Commitment to trying on as many black dresses as it takes until you find the one that fits, whether that means two dresses or twenty dresses.
Me

Movie Critique 2016 – 03/24/2016: Blue Oranges

Continuing with the critiques I started in 2015, here is the next in series – a movie review.
Prologue: Go here.

Stars: 3 / 5
Recommendation: Good for watching sitting on couch and don’t expect too many variations in notes.

Happy Holi! Yes, on Mar 24th this year, the festival of colors Holi was celebrated by Indians all over the world. So for this day I wanted to post something related to Holi. On a search a link took to me to a list of movies that should be watched this Holi and one of the movie listed was Blue Oranges. I picked this only for the sake of the color name in the title that relates to festival of colors. However, this is a crime-thriller involving murder and mystery released in 2009.



I don’t remember this movie releasing anywhere so it was a new one for me. Added to that Rajit Kapur in the role of Detective Nilesh Bhargav piped me up to watch this movie. I am a huge fan of him for his role as Detective Byomkesh Bakshi in the TV Series of the same name. So, I had to watch it. And now for the review of Blue Oranges on the occasion of a happy festival of colors - Holi. **Wicked Grin**



Blue Oranges opens with Commissioner Dixit asking Detective Nilesh to take up the case of wrongly accused Kevin Travasso in the murder of his ex-girlfriend Shalini Chauhan. Nilesh believes that it is an open and shut case but on request from the commissioner he starts looking into the case. And it doesn’t seem all so simple an open and shut case anymore. A myriad of suspects open up for Nilesh along with many coincidence that he could not just ignore them. Thus begins the chase to find the killer of Shalini Chauhan? Was Kevin innocent? Or was there someone else framing Kevin? What was Shalini afraid of?

Well directed by Rajesh Ganguly keeping the viewers on the edge of their seats from the beginning. No over the fence acting by anyone but none memorable either except for Rajit Kapur. He fit seamlessly into the role of Detective Nilesh Bhargav although at times he looked a bit constipated - which I will attribute to the age. :P It was also a pleasure to watch Rati Agnihotri on screen again. The last I had seen her was in 2004 Hindi film Hum Tum ( = Me And You). She had acted in several movies after her re-entry to Hindi films in 2001 but I had watched only one or two of those in which she acted.

Although the plot was very good - almost a Poirot or Mason kind material but it seriously lacked comic relief. A bit of comedy could have freshen it up just like those sprigs of mint or cilantro garnishing a spicy biryani. Another thing that confused me was the tagline of the movie "Miracles are like Blue Oranges. They exist only in the realms of one's mind" - Where does it fit. I kind of get it a little but would have liked it explained a bit more.

More than once it is shown that Detective Nilesh and his daughter read from a book titled Blue Oranges. And I wondered if it really was an actual book. Turns out it is not but I had got tons of references to the 1964 French film Tintin and the Blue Oranges. On my list next to watch this soon, of course an English version of it though. :)

Opening scenes and sequences reminded me of the video of the remix song "Chaandni Raatein" where the girl falls in love with a poor artist but leaves him and marries someone else. Although in the movie its not exactly so.



Coming back to the movie, certainly this thriller will keep you on toes and does not get you sleepy or boring as the suspect count keeps on increasing. At one point it just becomes a guessing game to the viewer not knowing who was the actual orchestrator of the sequence of events here. Enjoy it lazing on your sofa sipping a refreshing drink!