March 26th, 2017


Book Critique 2016 – 10/15/2016: Sinful In Satin (The Rarest Blooms #3)

Note: It's 2017 and I still have three months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

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

Stars: 3.5 / 5
Recommendation: Historical Setting, Mystery, Murder, Scandal, Love and Sex surrounding a Rake and a Woman to make him kneel - what else one would need to complete a successful recipe to keep one glued to the book.

Sinful In Satin is the third of the books in The Rarest Blooms series by Madeline Hunter published in September of 2010. This sinful plot is set between Celia Pennifold and Jonathan Albrighton who are forced by fate to stay together under a roof famed for the most scandalous profession. Like all of her novels, Madeline set this series also in the historic period when arguments were dealt with duels while passions with fire under the shade of skirts and breaches.

Celia Pennifold had been educated in worldly matters and also groomed in the art of pleasure by her mother, Alessandra Northrope - a famed London courtesan who had a successful brothel establishment as well. However, before even she was pulled into that world, five years ago she had run away and hid with her housemates at The Rarest Blooms. Now that her mother has passed away, she inherits all of Alessandra's properties - a small house in town, the brothel she ran and a lot of debt. And she inherits Jonathan Albrighton as well - who claims he had signed a lease with her mother for usage of the back room alone when he was in town. But there are debts to clear still. What else could she do but accept his tenancy rather than deplete her funds.  Reluctantly she permits him to stay as a tenant even though she suspects that there was no lease and that there are ulterior motives for Jonathan to be there in that house. Only she did not know what.

Jonathan had been hired by his Uncle Edward on another espionage activity that put him right in tracks of Celia - for the noble suspected that Alessandra had exchanged more than sex and pillow talk with the enemies during her rendezvous as a courtesan during the war. His goal is to find if Alessandra had kept any record of any of those conversations and names that would lead back to any nobles and  cause scandals unwanted. And if she kept he would need to swipe them from under the nose of Celia. Did Alessandra really have such kind of accounts stashed away somewhere? Did she really commit espionage with the enemies?

Her last weeks with her mother have been poignant, but no matter how much pressure Celia had put in, Alessandra had not revealed who Celia's father was. And Celia is now determined to find who her father was. Jonathan also has a personal quest that he has been trying to resolve - get a family acknowledgement so ambiguity about his life can be cleared once for all. And his Uncle Edward had been using that as a bait to get Jonathan to do all the espionage stuff for him. However this time he had fear that he would be crossing more than one line that he would either regret doing so or find redemption if possible. Another thing Jonathan had to settle was the attack on him that happened in Cornwall - which almost caused his life. Perhaps this investigation in Alessandra's stuff, albeit secretly, will give answers to him for more than one quest. How will both these quests land Jonathan and Celia in? Will the answers give them more questions or keys to unwanted doors that they could have kept locked? But someone else also was looking for the same thing that Jonathan and partly Celia was after. Who was that? Will that person cause any harm to Celia suspecting she might know the truth?

With all that was coming at them, Celia also had to face the scorn of many people in her neighborhood who knew her past and had shun many patrons who assumed that she now walked in her mother's footsteps. And also dragged the old flame Anthony Dargent back into her life who still expected to be the first patron of Celia when in fact Celia had loved him and thought he want to her to be his bride. Will she brave this weather and come out shiny?

In the sinful rendezvous between Celia and Jonathan, few parties aid and few strive to cause harm - Daphne and Katherine (Remaining residents of The Rarest Blooms), Lord Sebastian Summerhays and Lady Audrianna (we met them in the first book Ravishing In Red), Lord Grayson Hawkeswell and Lady Verity (we met them in the second book Provocative In Pearls), Mr. Mappleton (Alessandra's solicitor and executor), Tristan St. Ives Castleford (a one-time friend of Jonathan and part of the quartet of rakes and scoundrels), Marian (a one-time courtesan who worked for Alessandra and had aided Celia when she needed help, now she is housekeeper and cook for Celia) and Bella (a young girl who is lost and saved by Marian and now handmaid to Celia).

All of Madeline Hunter's plots are based on the same concept - some involve the hero and heroine getting married while some involve them in a relationship and end up in marriage at the end, some involve murder and scandal tying to the hero or heroine or both, more than often the hero is a Lord or a Marquess or a Bastard Son of a Lord or Marquess while the heroine is tied with the scandal to begin with involving herself or her father, and above all almost all the plots are set in historic period in England, Ireland or Scotland regions. Yet the characters are so very unique and so very complex.

This time around she had both of the hero and heroine to have scandalous backgrounds - one a bastard son of an earl and one a courtesan's daughter. How well they matched in every way - secrecy, worldly matters and even in sexuality. It was a pleasure to watch these tiptoe around until they fall-over each other. I also loved the easy camaraderie that the author shows the quartet of rakes share - Summerhays, Hawkeswell, Albrighton and Castleford. Initially when Castleford was introduced in the first book, I had an irritated feeling towards him. But as the series progressed, his character is evolving into something different, almost likeable if I may say. So once again we have a marvelous tale between one of her rake and scoundrel of a hero paired with a scandal-filled heroine who wade through the sea of conspiracies and murder / mystery and eventually find love and honor. And like always comes with surprising twists and turns that don’t make the reader bored of this plot.

Another easy breezy romantic-mystery plot that one can enjoy while lazing by that favorite reading spot in your home.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) The plot of this book reminds me another of Madeline Hunter's book that released years after this book was published. The second book in The Wicked Trilogy published in October of 2015 - Tall, Dark and Wicked - has a similar plot where the heroine Padua Belvoir inherits a brothel that her father had a partnership in. My review of this book can be found here. I wonder why the author repeated a similar plot.
2) Now that three pairs have been completed - one woman each coming from The Rarest Blooms housemates, that last book would most definitely be about Daphne. And I wonder if it would be with Castleford since he is the remaining rake of the quartet of rakes - Summerhays, Hawkeswell, Albrighton being the remaining three.
3) I am still curious to see if the final book will have a sub-plot atleast involving Morgan Summerhays - older brother to Lord Sebastian Summerhays and the Third Marquess of Wittonbury. We met him in the first book Ravishing In Red and he had been away in foreign lands hoping to heal his injured legs after being pulled into a scandal.
4) Jonathan Albrighton is introduced in this plot and Celia seems a bit surprised and thoughtful when his name is seen in one of the newspaper articles that Verity collects. Also Jonathan is considered as one of the four in the group that consisted of the most handsome rakes and scoundrels on that time - Summerhays, Hawkeswell and Castleford being the other three. I am inclined to believe there will be a plot between Jonathan Albrighton and one the two remaining women from The Rarest Blooms - either Celia or Daphen.
5) Katherine Johnson joins The Rarest Blooms - being rescued and helped by Verity. Will there be a plot for Katherine as well? I wonder.
6) This entire series though historical, reminds of The Garden Trilogy by Nora Roberts. Although her books had more detailed description of gardening, grafting, green houses, conservatory, etc and dealt with ghosts and legends from past.  Check my reviews of this trilogy here
7) Audrianna is pregnant in this plot and as it ends it is shown that so does Celia.
8) Grammatical / Geographical / Editing Errors:
a. On Pg 65, Albrighton gets a note from Castleford to be at his home on Tuesday at 8pm. However on Pg. 84 the author shows that Albrighton had arrived at quarter past nine, only 15 minutes late. That should be full hour and fifteen minutes late. Perhaps the author forgot the original time while the plot proceeded.

Movie Critique 2016 – 10/16/2016: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Note: It's 2017 and I still have four months of reviews to go from 2016. I am hoping I should be able to finish it soon but we have to wait and see how far into 2017 this will go into. :)

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

Stars:  5 / 5
Recommendation: Sixteen Years or Sixteen Hundred Years, this movie will still bring out that romantic in you and make you love it all over again and again and again

October 16th 2016 marked 16 years of the release of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ( = Something Just Happens) is a Hindi (Indian Language) romantic-comedy drama film. It starred Shah Rukh Khan aka SRK , Kajol and Rani Mukherji, written and directed by Karan Johar. This was the fourth film pairing SRK and Kajol. Salman Khan has special appearance while Farida Jalal, Sana Saeed and Anupam Kher have supporting roles.

This movie was Karan Johar's directorial debut with a unique plot - two triangle love stories set years apart. The first half of the film covers the first triangle love story between SRK (portraying the role of Rahul Khanna), Kajol (portraying the role of Anjali Sharma) and Rani Mukherji (portraying the role of Tina Malhotra). The plot ends with Rahul marrying Tina although Tina feels that she had come in between the friendship of Rahul and Kajol which could have turned differently if not for her. The second half of the film covers the second triangle love story between SRK, Kajol and Salman Khan (portraying the role of Aman Mehra). This happens eight years after Rahul and Tina's daughter Anjali (portrayed by Sana Saeed) is born. Anjali pursues her mother's dying wish to reunite Rahul and Anjali but now Anjali is engaged to Aman. With interesting twists and titillating romances filled with heartbreaks and reunions the plot proceeds on.

However, I am not here to talk about the plot or the story cause after 16 years of it being watched by millions of viewers and with melodious songs, that would be on everyone's lips by now. This post is to honor and recognize this beautiful movie that talks about friendships, love and the matters of heart that touch one and make mushy and weak in a very good way.

Prior to this movie, Karan Johar had acted in the 1995 blockbuster hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge ( = The Big-Hearted Will Take Away the Bride) aka DDLJ - which was incidentally directorial debut of his cousin Aditya Chopra. I haven't reviewed on this movie but have had watched it enormous time though. And DDLJ completes 21 years on October 20 2016 since it has been released. However, back to the movie in question for this review, Karan Johar ventured onto directing his own movie with this one that went on to garner him many many awards including the Filmfare Awards that year. This was third film to win the four major awards (Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress) at Filmfare at that time - the other two being the 1966 blockbuster hit Guide and 1995 hit Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. Although at present time, two other movies add this lineage - 2002 hit romantic drama film Devdas (starring SRK, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai-Bacchchan) and 2005 hit family-drama Black (starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee).

Karan Johar had mentioned in several of his interviews that he had two different stories that he had shelved a long time ago, but then he merged them to make the plot for this movie. I am glad he merged them, cause individually both the plots would have been a flop or retired to a low-appealing movie rather than becoming a blockbuster when combined. The merging of the plots also created a spin on East meets West, added challenges involving personal choices and honoring last wishes of one's parents. The movie also shows an easy-going campus where there is less hazing and more camaraderie, onset of Hinglish (Hindi + English being spoken together in the same sentence), colorful clothing sporting brands from west and stressing on the values of being a Hindu even though one might have been educated West. According to Karan Johar he had made the set for the movie that looks similar to Riverdale High School of the Archie Comics. And true to that the first half of the movie is so similar to the characters from Archie Comics too - Rahul is Archie, Tina is Veronica and Kajol is Bettie.
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With all that said above, I am only attesting to the fact that this was indeed another Indian fairy tale well spun by director Karan Johar and well-played by every single character. Like any fairy tale, I do see some flaws, albeit very few - an eight-year old girl is shown to have so much maturity that she understands love and friendship in that depth; prayers are shown to answer some questions when in reality that doesn’t always happen, a girl waiting for her first love to come back despite time passes away - sounded silly for me back then too and even now. Yet, it's a fairy tale and what can I say - all is fair in the game of love and war. And the fairy tale definitely leaves you wrenched emotionally in good way and sad way. Be prepared to keep some much needed tissues beside you while watching this one.

Sixteen Years or Sixteen Hundred Years, this movie will still bring out that romantic in you and make you love it all over again and again and again. A true masterpiece and cult classic by Karan Johar.
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