Wednesday, May 20, 2009

50 Books - The Conclusion

This year, I'm endeavoring to read 50 books in a year. I began in June of 2008, and as it's just a few weeks short of being June, 2009 we can all see that I've fallen woefully short.

That kind of bums me out, actually. For the first few months, I really had it in the bag. My pace was perfect. And then NaNoWriMo happened. And then the holidays. And then I traveled for two weeks. In between all of that, I was probably reading TV Guide, Glamour, Vogue, Reader's Digest, and maybe some sections of the newspaper. Oh yeah--and BLOGS. Yeesh. So that's where all of my reading time goes. Now that I'm ready to update again, I'm in the middle of the few books (more on that later) but nowhere near 50 books. Know what that means? Gotta start all over again in two weeks. For now, here's the updated list:

1) The Bostonians, Henry James
2) A Drink Before the War, Dennis Lehane
3) Darkness, Take My Hand, Dennis Lehane
4) Sacred, Dennis Lehane
5) Gone, Baby, Gone, Dennis Lehane
6) Prayers for Rain, Dennis Lehane
7) Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
8) The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, Elizabeth Berg
9) The Apprentice, Tess Gerritsen
10) Skin Deep, Gary Braver
11) Proof: A Play, David Auburn
12) The Exonerated, Jessica Blank
13) All My Sons, Arthur Miller
14) Black Sunday, Thomas Harris
15) Just One Look, Harlan Coben - I'm actually surprised to learn that this guy's kind of a well-known name in the thriller genre, because I've never picked up anything by him before. If you're familiar, I'd compare him to Steve Martini--you know, the easy-to-read beach book sort of thing. Just One Look is about a woman who finds a mysterious photo of her husband tucked into her recently developed pack of photos (ah, the days before digital cameras) and shows it to her husband, and he freaks out and runs away. So she begins to investigate, of course. And begins uncovering a lot of things about her own past, things which aren't always what they seem...yada, yada. I actually thought that the ending was pretty awesome with its reveals, it just took a lot of plodding around and turning corners to get there. I wasn't really sure if I cared about the heroine, and of course, there are a bunch of times that you're just like WHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? but then again, there were some decent false leads and interesting characterizations, too. Anyway, if you want a decent easy read, check out this book and probably anything else by Coben. You can probably read this in like, a day.
16) Invasion (1997), Robin Cook


17) Shock (2001), Robin Cook

First of all, did you know that 'Robin Cook' is also a British politician? Well, now you do. Second of all, the thing with Robin Cook is that he is soooo hit-or-miss that I usually dread starting one of his novels. It takes about 2/3 of the book before I realize if it's any good or not, and by then I just have to finish it. And, if you've got a shelf of Cook's books in your house as I do, sometimes you can get 1/3 into them and then remember that you've read them before (or maybe you did; it's so hard to tell). If you read more than one at a time (as I did), the pacing and characterizations kind of blur together and wear on you. I think that Cook's strengths are in the science, plotting and social messages, but they lack individuality. In fact, if you've been reading his works for the past 30 years since he started publishing, I dare you to look at a list of his titles and correctly match the plots with the titles, describe what any of the books are about or name memorable traits about the protagonists. Try it!

Anyway, I read these two back-to-back before promptly burning out on Cook's writing. One was about aliens taking over the Earth, but I didn't really care for any of the characters and the premise wasn't exactly new. The other was about two reeeeeally dumb and frustrating girls who try to make money by selling their eggs and then start investigating the clinic for somewhat ambiguous reasons. Seriously, they're risking their lives without going to the authorities for reasons like they just have to know! Or: let's just gather more evidence to CONVINCE the authorities! Whatever. Shut up, heroines. I liked a few of the twists and turns of both novels, but the others were easy to spot. I do recall that I had to keep re-reading physical descriptions, because I just couldn't always picture buildings, rooms, people, landscapes or what-have-you. I guess that's another problem of Cook's writing. Sigh, anyway...I'm sure I'll finish all of his books one day--especially since I have a handful left on the shelf, and they're always like $.25 at thrift stores and libraries--but I'll need big breaks in between each novel, for sure.

So yeah, seriously, sadly, I think that's all I've finished so far. Meanwhile, I'm in the middle of a Ray Bradbury novel, a nonficton book about economics, a nonfiction book about blogging and this month's Glamour. The trick is to finish all of those by June and then...well, I'll have completed 20 books in a year. SO SAD. But I didn't quit, and now I'm prepared to hit it again with renewed vigor. I actually bought eight new books lately, not including the three I mentioned, so I have plenty of ammo and I'm ready to go.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Good Buys at Goodwill

Did anyone see the episode of Real Housewives of New York where (Countess?) LuAnn de Leseppe's daughter tells her mom that she's never heard of Goodwill? I wish I could find a clip of that for you, because it's truly a priceless gem.

Well anyway, the other day my car broke down across the street from a Goodwill store. As I waited nearly an hour for the mechanic to show up (in the Florida heat no less) I had plenty of time to think about how my one remaining denim skirt had recently broke its zipper, and decided that, since I was going out of town that weekend, I should really pick up a new denim skirt and why not check out what Goodwill had to offer?

You all probably know where this tale is heading, but after my car was fixed (new battery, oil change, tire rotation, new wipers--$$$--SIGH) I stopped by Goodwill to try on skirts. I walked out with the following:

Two t-shirts, a denim skirt, a brown peasant skirt, a jersey skirt, a military-style bolero jacket, a knit cotton shrug, and a pair of black pumps. Oh! Plus, three books not pictured here.

Total cost? $35.00 The shoes? $4.50

And to make matters better, half the clothes had original price tags still attached, including the shoes.

You just can't knock Goodwill, especially in these dire economic times. And luckily, a new one just opened up much closer to my house!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Metropolitan Museum Costume Gala

Footage from the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala
Monday, May 4th, 2009

(thanks to

Friday, May 08, 2009

Exclusive Fashion Club Membership for Style Bard Readers!

Hey guys! I'm really excited to let you know about an exclusive membership opportunity that's currently available to you just for being Style Bard readers. This has been in the works for over a month, so I'm happy to finally spill the beans about it. Here's the deal:

Luxe Club One is a members-only site that grants fashion-savvy users access to special online deals, promotions and sample sales--members not only hear about these offers first, but they're often the only people allowed to take advantage of these special deals. For example, right now members of Luxe Club One can take advantage of 80% off the S/S Collection at Juliette Longuet by using a code that's only available through the LC1 website.

A year-long membership typically costs $99, while a VIP membership costs $399. But Style Bard readers are (for a limited time) able to join as VIP members for free for an entire year by signing up here:

Here's the official info about Luxe Club One:

Luxe Club One is an online, members only club for affluent fashion lovers. They negotiate special offers with luxury and contemporary brands and inform their members via an easy-to-scan email. While other clubs sell you last season’s inventory, Luxe Club One only brings you offers on fashion items that are currently on the brand’s website!

(BTW, Style Bard is receiving no monetary compensation for posting this information; this is not a paid advertisement. I've only made this offer available so that my readers can take advantage of a remarkable opportunity. Go check it out now! I'm already a member and I'm eager to hear what you think about the Luxe Club One specials and services.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Product Review ~Clinique's Even Better Makeup SPF 15~

Sigh. Would that I could tell you specifically why this makeup failed so critically when I tried the sample packet that came tucked inside my Glamour magazine last month. But I lack the scientific knowledge to clearly articulate why this formula--which claims to 'erase the need for makeup'--failed me so utterly.

Here's the story. About to run out to a very casual sports bar by my house, I didn't feel like getting out of the shower and putting on a full mask of makeup. But, if you know anything about the Style Bard, she's not going to even the most dimly-lit hole-in-the-wall without something on her face. That's when I remembered that my latest Glamour offered a sample of Clinique's newest liquid makeup (concealer? foundation?) that supposedly shows 'improved clarity, a more even skin tone, [and] visibly diminished age spots' with one layer of application. So I used the whole sample-size packet and carefully distributed it evenly over my face and neck with my fingertips (since the final packaging doesn't seem to come with an applicator, I assume this is how it would be put on). At first glance, all went well. The 'Neutral' color that came in the sample (ostensibly the most ubiquitous skin color) matched me well enough, and my complexion did seem smooth and monochromatic. I thought I would wear this (and maybe some lip gloss) out and see how it performed.

At the restaurant itself, I forgot to check on the progress, but as soon as I got home I went to take a look. Oh my goodness! It must have been only two hours since I applied the makeup, and this stuff had suctioned itself to every pore and wrinkle in my 20-something face and made me look about 50 years old. I looked like the bad end of a failed botox experiment, or a Theatre major's first trial with aging makeup, or the witch-queen at the end of Snow White. Clinique's Even Better Makeup SPF 15 dried against my skin like cake makeup and decided to point out every little flaw on my face. After two hours.

If you can't tell already, I was absolutely aghast that I'd been seen in public like that. I washed the stuff off my face immediately, and I will remember to never try it again. It not only doesn't do anything that it promises to do to make you more beautiful, it actually makes you look older and uglier.

I have to say, if this is the even better formula...I'm just glad I never put a drop of the even worse stuff on my face.

To my readers, I strongly recommend avoiding any version of Clinique's "skin-improving" Even Better Makeup SPF 15.