What I’ve Been Reading, October 2016

kindleI’ve been reading. (Surprise, surprise!)

Mostly on my Kindle, mostly free fiction I pick up from my Book Bub subscription (also free, and you can subscribe for e-book bargains here, and btw I’m not affiliated but I’ve been pleased). Also books from the library. By the way, most of the links in this post are to Goodreads, except the one to Book Bub, the one to IMDB, and the one to an author page. Not pushing you to buy anything. 🙂

I told you how I finished The Wheel of Time recently, but I also read Room and Bastard out of Carolina (both heartbreaking, both worthy).  I started Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, whose prose can sing when she’s not flat-out hectoring people, but she began to hector, and I stopped reading.

Kingsolver’s technique reminds me of the story about the minister newly installed in a church in Virginia horse country. The first Sunday he preached a sermon warning of the evils of alcohol, and afterwards was greeted by an elderly churchgoer at the door. “Mighty fine sermon, preacher, mighty fine,” she told him. The next Sunday he warned of the dangerous risks of dancing all up-close-and-personal, the way people do at honkytonks (how shocking!), and his parishioner pronounced his sermon “mighty fine” again. On the third Sunday, he preached against the uncouth and troubling habit of cursing, and again his favorite member of the flock congratulated him on his fine sermon.

On the fourth Sunday, fired up from his success at renouncing ordinary evils, he preached an inspired message against the evils of gambling. He warned against playing cards for money, or gambling on a game of pool, or betting on the ponies. Even those $1 lottery tickets down at the Piggly Wiggly, he claimed, were instruments of the devil, for making people believe they could gain riches from anything other than the word of the Lord, and for taking the bread out of the mouths of babies. He shook hands at the door afterward, already planning his next sermon to address the sin of smoking tobacco and expecting to be congratulated again by this elderly lady.

However, she set her cane close to his toes with a thump and pointed a finger at his chest, and said, “Preacher, you have quit preachin’ and gone to meddlin’, and that’s about enough of that.” He watched her high-dudgeon exit with his mouth open, and it was only then that one of the deacons explained to him that she owned a string of racehorses and had been involved with the racing industry since her childhood, and any criticism of gambling on her beloved horses was bound to meet with stony disapproval.

Am I criticizing Kingsolver for having an opinion on issues and trying to convince people that her view is the right one, through her novels? Nope. I’m not. I am, however, criticizing her for going at it all ham-handed and pretending that she’s “just telling a story,” when she has a thinly-disguised agenda. Her subtext has become her text, and it’s clumsily done, poor noveling, and I do not approve.disapprovalI have also been reading some lightweight romance novels – largely because that’s the genre that most often shows up for free on Book Bub. #sorrynotsorry Some of them aren’t bad. Some of them, are just awful. Unbelievable characters, improbable plots, ridiculously perfect best friends… Sigh. Trouble is, you never know just from the description which ones are going to be good, and which ones clunkers. You have to get at least a couple of chapters in before you can tell. I think I won’t bother to tell you which ones I enjoyed and which were duds; it’s kind of pointless because these books are like popcorn and it’s hard to distinguish between kernels.

The other thing I’ve been reading lately is The Circle of Ceridwen, by Octavia Randolph. This is a four-book series set in Angle-land (England) of 871, a time of war and politico-cultural upheaval on this island that would become so powerful centuries later. Ceridwen, aged 15 when we first meet her, is the acknowledged illegitimate — and only — child of a Saxon thegn (thane, a minor lord) in Mercia. Her mother was Welsh, enslaved through war, and Ceridwen thinks she might be dead because she has never met her. Her father died a few years before, and the local priest seized his lands on the grounds that he was a heathen, devoted to his Saxon gods. Ceridwen came of age in the priory, having been taught to read and write, as well as to perform tasks expected of a highborn wife and hallmistress: spin, weave, direct servants, and oversee a household. As the book picks up, she has decided to refuse both of the choices for husband the prior has offered her, and to run away to find a situation more acceptable to her. On the road, she meets Ælfwyn, daughter of a higher-ranking Saxon lord who has promised her as peace-making bride to one of the most powerful Viking raiders now gaining a foothold in the country, and proposes to serve her as friend and companion in the Norse town where Ælfwyn is bound.

The four novels cover the next 12 to 15 years of Ceridwen’s life, which not only involves the marriage and childbearing that would have circumscribed the life of a typical woman of her time, but some extensive travel, war experiences, and changing circumstances. She’s an enjoyable character — quick to take sides and make judgments, brave, resolute, and warm-hearted. Sometimes that warm heart and impulsive judgment gets her into tangled situations, but her deep desire to improve the lives of those around her allows her to salvage much. 

The mixing strains of Welsh, Saxon, and Norse cultures point out how much of a “melting pot” England itself was, back in the day. Interesting. Much food for thought.

The series was recommended to me thusly: “If you love Outlander, you’ll enjoy The Circle of Ceridwen.”  It’s not a terribly valid comparison, except that they’re both historical novels that also have elements of romance, everyday life, battles, and strong heroines. I can see them appealing to the same kind of reader, but it’s more a Venn diagram thing; there will be people who like one and not the other, as well some who have overlapping tastes. You might try if it you liked Karen Cushman’s YA historical novel-in-journal-format, Catherine, Called Birdy. Bookworm had to read it for class in middle school, and liked it so much that she bought a copy at the book fair, and then she made me read it too. How do you not love a teen novel that begins, “Corpus bones! I utterly loathe my life”?

(I do love Diana Gabaldon’s massive Outlander series, now comprised of 8 giant enormous main novels, 3 shorter emergency backup novels, 6 tangential novellas and a short story. Very highly recommended, but only if you don’t read slowly.)

So what have you been reading lately?

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Scent Diary, Sept. 25 – Oct. 2, 2016

boys-airport-raceSunday, Sept. 25 – Pretty day for a race! The New River Valley Airport (open to cargo and private aircraft) has been under construction to improve its facilities. It had to be closed to air traffic due to the construction, and the manager offered the airport as the site of a 5K race to benefit the high school cross country team. (Thanks, Keith.) SOTD was Chanel No. 19 EdP, delicious. I helped register runners and do administrative stuff; all three of my boys ran in the twilight, with the airport lights shining. Gaze won! And Taz came in first in his age group. The CEO, who ran in high school, finished with a decent time as well. I’m proud.

Monday, Sept. 26 – SOTD was the lovely and comfortable Mariella Burani. Thing’s an aldebomb, but the drydown is just gorgeous. Sigh. I managed to get all the race results tabulated.

Tuesday, Sept. 27 – I am glad to see the end of September (though not quite as grateful as I was for the end of Hateful August!) and the beginning of cooler weather. The CEO brought me some lovely pumpkins and potted chrysanthemums to decorate the porch, and I am happy to be wearing Sonoma Scent Studio Tabac Aurea again. I also picked up a “Pumpkin Spice” Paddywax scented candle at TJ Maxx recently, and it has a mellow tobacco note to it that blends really nicely with Tabac Aurea. Yum.

mvc-noms-sept-2016This seems to be a very good season for Gaze, as well. He was selected as one of the five nominees for Most Valuable Cougar (the cougar being the high school mascot). The program honors students who were voted by their peers as being engaged in many aspects of student life, intellectual, athletic and/or talented, of good character, and friendly. Bookworm was also nominated for this honor her senior year as well. He just won that 5K race, and has now been selected for the Homecoming Court.

Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit! Homecoming Court. Huh. Who’da thunk?

Wednesday, Sept. 28 – Sent off Gaze’s applications for Senatorial recommendations to the service academies today — FedEx. 2-day service, $34, ouch. His application to our Congressman isn’t due until the second week of October; I suspect that if he receives the necessary and sought-after recommendation, it will be from Morgan Griffith and not from Sen. Kaine or Sen. Warner. Virginia’s a tough state to get that recommendation from a senator, because there are just so many students applying for it. Virginia has a large contingent of military families. SOTD is Cuir de Lancome, and I smell faaaabulous.

Thursday, Sept. 29 – I wonder where I put my vintage mini of Lanvin Arpège extrait? The weather is absolutely perfect for it. The box is in the cabinet, but where’s the juice?? Puzzling. Arpège is technically a floral aldehyde, but to me it is far more woody than it is aldehydic. That drydown… sandalwood and vetiver and totally addictive. I am sampling Chanel No. 5 L’Eau today, and while I don’t think it is a total disaster or a stupid waste of time — for some reason, I just don’t like it, due to the presence of that dreaded baby-aspirin/Tang-dust note. Bleargh.

Friday, Sept. 30 – The marching band was not required to attend the football game tonight, so Gaze stayed home to study for tomorrow’s SAT exam, and I didn’t go either. The CEO went, and watched the football team’s first loss of the season. I cuddled up in Ralph Lauren Safari instead. PSA: Safari is Just SO Good.

autumn-bridgeSaturday, Oct. 1 – YAY OCTOBERRRRR!! All my Facebook friends are posting cozy soup recipes and links to cute Halloween crafts and talking about Peak Fall Foliage. I love autumn, too, but I’m just trying to avoid the ugly political beast right now, and I’m sorta skimming through my FB feed with one eye closed (and hiding every single political post that pops up, because UGH NO). SOTD is Soivohle Centennial, because it’s chilly and Centennial is gorgeously fuzzy and warm. I could have worn Organza Indecence, but I think it’s tucked away in a purse I haven’t worn since, like, February.

Sunday, Oct. 2 – I have been reading the series The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan (later books co-authored by Brandon Sanderson). I’m still puzzled as to how I missed reading it when it was new in 1990, fantasy-book freak that I was. Maybe I was too busy? Maybe I heard they were too involved? Not sure. As for now, I’m glad I’ve read them, but I’m also glad I waited until the series was complete, because A) I had none of the impatience of having to wait six years for the next book to be published, and B) I don’t love this series. Why not? I don’t know. I don’t mind the ridiculously long cast of characters, nor the glacial pace of the books in the middle of the series (okay, Book 11 was frustratingly slow and very little plot development occurred), or the excruciatingly detailed descriptions, all complaints that have been leveled at the books. I think it’s just that I don’t love any of the characters.

I have, to be honest, given up on GRR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. I have grown tired of seeing my favorite characters either killed or grown hopeless in the face of loss and despair. I will read no more of that series – and yet I still somehow care what happens to Jon Snow and Arya Stark.

The difference? I have no idea.

SOTD was lovely Teo Cabanel Early Roses, although Late Roses might suit the scent better, with its deep ambery-woody drydown. I still have bright pink blooms on my Knockout Rose bush.

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Scent Diary, Feb. 8-14, 2016

snowflake closeup
Photo by Alexey Kljatov, via Flickr Creative Commons

Monday, Feb. 8 – Cold! I headed out to the grocery store, and on the half-mile drive from the house to the main road, I came across Taz, who had ridden the bus home instead of staying for indoor track practice, because he won’t be going to the conference meet.

This past Friday, Gaze qualified for the conference meet in the 3200M, with a new PR. Unfortunately, he had to skip All-District Band to attend the meet. We didn’t realize until a few days before that the two conflicted; the band director, when he mentioned Districts, used the phrase “the first weekend of February,” and in the past, this two-day clinic and concert event has been held on Saturday and Sunday. This year, however, its location was moved and the dates moved to Friday and Saturday (possibly to avoid a conflict with the Super Bowl on Sunday?) – so no Districts for Gaze. I suppose he can still put on his resume that he was selected for this honor by audition, but he missed out on the learning experience. I’m very glad the meet turned out well for him.

Scent of the Day, in accordance with the weekly challenge at Now Smell This, was the lovely Guerlain Apres l’Ondee. The theme for Friday was announced as “wear a fragrance rated as five stars in Perfumes: The Guide,” and several regular commenters at NST including myself decided to make it a five-star week. Apres l’Ondee is a silk scarf in watercolors of blue, periwinkle and violet, as soft-edged as any Debussy étude or Impressionist painting, with which the scent is contemporary. I had to reapply at least twice for all-day wear, because this soft dewy thing of violets, iris, and heliotrope wears very delicately.

It began to snow and sleet (sneet?) in the evening, and it took The CEO about an hour to get home from Blacksburg, twice as long as normal.

Tuesday, Feb. 9 – Snow day, and The CEO does not teach any Tuesday classes this semester, so everyone was home today. The snow is only about two inches deep on the grass, and none of the roads in my immediate area are covered, but there are pockets in the school district which are difficult for buses to traverse in poor weather.

We built a fire and watched “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.” Ate Mexican for supper. I worked on revising The Long Road Home – which needs a new title, in fact, since its focus has changed a great deal in revision.

Photo by Len Langevin, via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo by Len Langevin, via Flickr Creative Commons

Scent of the day, in keeping with Five Star Week, is the only Serge Lutens I really adore – La Myrrhe. It always reminds me of a pink-and-gold sunrise on blue-shadowed snow.

Wednesday, Feb. 10 – Quite cold, with temperatures in the low 20s F. These past couple of weeks have been reminding me of my childhood winters in the 1970s! School was two hours late, but Gaze has started going to rowing practice early in the mornings. Taz, who ditched band for drama this year, and I discussed “Little Shop of Horrors,” which he’s never seen, and I’ve promised to rent it for him sometime so we can watch it together. I think his sense of humor would appreciate this show.

I worked on revision again. The scent of the day was once again a P:TG 5-star, Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête. (Oh, hey, and how about my attempt to use the diacriticals for once?) I love, love, love LTdF. If I absolutely had to choose only one scent to live my life in, I’d be happy in it.

Also wore a dab of Dame Perfumery Narcissus (soliflore) along with it, and they played very nicely together. I only have samples of two of this six soliflore series, but am wishing for all of them. I also wish for samples of all of the Eric Buterbaugh scents, having sampled only the Apollo Hyacinth (which is gorgeous, very green, very long-lasting), but that ain’t gonna happen. The Buterbaugh scents are easily a dozen times the cost of the Dame Perfumery soliflore counterparts.

Thursday, Feb. 11 – Cold and blowing snow this morning; school was delayed two hours. But there’s a MACC (academic team) match this evening anyway.

I struggled to choose a scent for the day, having several options – even if several of them are only in sample size. I finally decided on 31 Rue Cambon, and it was lovely. I reapplied once, and then later at bedtime decided that I wanted to sleep in L’Arte di Gucci. I do wonder what rating it might have gotten in P:TG. LT blasts every rose chypre he reviews in it, calling them all “thin.” Estee Lauder Knowing, reviewed by TS, gets 5 stars and a comment that other rose chypres overdo the rose, while Knowing “just lets the rose peek out” of the greenery. I think that’s a personal preference thing – I like ROSE in my rose chypre, thanks very much. (Mind you, I think Knowing is excellent and would wear it if it didn’t do that Blasted Horrible Nauseating Lauder Base Thing.)

The more I get into researching self-publishing, the more I realize that it isn’t the same as the old vanity press idea. With ebooks, a self-pubbed author can actually get paid. I’m not giving up on traditional publishing, not yet, but independent publishing is seeming like more of an option for me at this point. It’s heartening. Sure, there are still a lot of really crappy self-published books out there (I’ve read at least a few), but I’ve read some good ones, too. The Martian – yes, the book that was made into a movie starring Matt Damon – was originally self-published, and it’s excellent.

The Social Studies MACC team won, 80-30, and both Gaze (team captain) and Taz did well. I’m proud of them.

Friday, Feb. 12 – Still cold. BRRRRR. Snowflake the lamb’s new Favorite Thing is to leap around in the laundry room, banging into things and knocking the laundry sorter around on its wheels. He’s pretty funny. Getting bigger, too. We’re supposed to keep having cold weather for the next few days, but after that he may go back to the rest of the flock, to catch-as-catch-can milk from all the other sheep mamas.

SOTD wound up being Chamade. Glorious Chamade – there’s nothing like that lovely drydown. I got whiffs of it hours and hours after it should have been long gone.

Saturday, Feb. 13 – The CEO went to the conference indoor track meet with the boys. Gaze was running the 4 x 800m and the 3200m and Taz was an alternate (just in case one of the relay team broke a toe or something). The relay team finished 3rd, and Gaze finished 5th in the 2 mile, so he’ll get to go on to the regional meet. The high school’s boys’ team came in a close second, and the girls’ team won the championship! Big congrats to Coach Sirak, who along with Coach Day has done a wonderful job of training and motivating these kids.

I revised. WHY IS IT SO HARRRRRD IT IS SO HARDDD. (That should teach me not to write so much crap next time…)

SOTD was Safari. Again. I’m not sorry.

Sunday, Feb. 14 – happy birthday to my favorite favorite brother! Best Valentine I ever got. I started out the day in No. 5 Eau Premiere, but started craving Soivohle Centennial‘s fuzzy warm florals, so I put that one in the afternoon.

Brrrr, in the low teens today. The CEO has a fire going. This weather reminds me of what winter was like when I was a kid in the ’70s! I sort of love it. Gaze is miserable – and my poor sister in Texas, comfortable in 70F weather and wishing it were cold enough for sweaters, would trade places with him in a heartbeat.

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The Five-Stars, Pt. 1 – According to Perfumes: The Guide

Five stars - CopyThe Friday challenge at Now Smell This this week was to wear a fragrance rated five stars in Perfumes: The Guide. Some readers, including me, made it a five-star week, and in fact I’m going to continue wearing one five-star scent for as long as it’s still fun. We’ll see how long I can keep going before I want something else.

Part One of this series is the list of five-star fragrances according to Perfumes: The Guide.  Part Two will be the list according to me. Five-star fragrances are described in P:TG as “masterpieces.” From my reading, additional criteria seem to involve things like distinctiveness, coherence, consistency, decent raw materials, and possibly innovation.

I won’t get into critique of the book that had the perfume blogs buzzing, or of the criteria used by authors Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, though I would recommend that everyone who’s interested in perfume at least read it. Today I’d like to talk about the fragrances instead.

However, I will point out that even though the authors undoubtedly have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the industry as well as of the heart of perfumery, they’ve got their own personal biases. So do I. So does everyone with a nose, so if you disagree with anyone on perfume, take their judgment with a grain of salt. Your own judgment is what matters most.

Tania Sanchez addresses the preference issue head-on when she says, “… one can certainly admire a perfume without necessarily loving it. Love, of course, is personal (but best when deserved).” She hits the issue from the side when answering FAQs, in this fashion:

Q: Why has Amarige got only one star, when it is in a top ten list in the back?
A: Amarige is a genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But we hate it. In the end, we figured this was the fair thing to do.

Well, okay then. There you go, bias is acknowledged so you are allowed to disagree.

Here is the Perfumes: The Guide’s list of five-star fragrances (in alphabetical order by house, not by perfume name), and what I think of each one of them. If there is no description, I have not smelled the fragrance.

Amouage Gold Wearing this is like walking into a football stadium or some other giant enclosed space, albeit in the case of Gold, the AstroDome ceiling has been gilded and carved into rococo shapes. Enormous, colossal, too big for any one person to wear. (The body lotion, however, is wonderful.) Four stars.
Amouage Homage (now d/c)
Amouage Ubar I own a 5ml decant of this and am always forgetting I have it. It reminds me of my small bottle of Lancôme La Collection Climat, and of Parfums Divine Divine: creamy civet lemonade. Nice, but there are other fragrances I love better, and other Amouages I prefer. Four stars.
L’Artisan Parfumeur Dzing! Yep, virtual circus. Fun, but who really wants to smell of stale orange circus-peanut marshmallow candy, sawdust, and tiger pee? Three stars.
L’Artisan Timbuktu
L’Artisan Vanilia (now d/c)
Azzaro pour Homme Instant headache. So. Much. Lavender. Two stars.
Badgley Mischka Fruity chypres never suit me. They always seem curdled; I always get nauseous. Two stars.
Bond No. 9 Chinatown Fruity chypre/oriental. See “Badgley Mischka.” Two stars.
Boucheron Boucheron Pleasant, but muted. Basically floral soap with very sharp edges. Described by LT as “huge floral,” but he’s wrong. Three stars.
Bvlgari Black I like Black. I do. It smells mostly of new sneakers, or new bike tires, plus a powdery vanilla that reminds me of flavored coffee-creamer powder. That’s fun. Genius? Nope. Four stars.
Cacharel LouLou For once I’m in total agreement with LT’s description of it as having a texture like those glass Christmas-tree baubles that look like velvet and feel like sandpaper. We just differ in our enjoyment of that texture. Also, this sucker is really loud. I lived through the 1980s; I don’t necessarily want to revisit them. Two stars.
Caldey Island Lavender
Caron Pour un Homme
Caron Le Troisième Homme This is a floral (jasmine) fougére. Not my thing, and actually I find it sort of creepy. Three stars.
Caron Yatagan
Chanel 31 Rue Cambon For full disclosure, TS gave it four stars and I’m with her on that. It’s lovely, I enjoy wearing it, but I don’t think it’s groundbreaking or classic. I’ve gone through a 10ml decant (of which the last ml was unwearable, after six years), but to be perfectly honest, I could probably get by with just my Téo Cabanel Alahine for a floral amber.
Chanel Bois des Iles Lovely, lovely stuff. I first tried it from a sample of pre-Les Exclusifs eau de toilette, and it lasted at least four hours, dabbed. The Les Exclusifs version lasts about two hours on me, sprayed-until-wet. The parfum lasts better but hovers only two millimeters above skin. I’m taking half a star off the P:TG rating because of the longevity and sillage issues.
Chanel Cristalle Citrus chypres are not my thing, but in any case Eau Sauvage kicks this thing’s butt all over. Four stars.
Chanel Cuir de Russie As I’ve commented before, smells like our cattle working pens: live hides, dust, iodine, dry manure, sweat and fear. Just no. Two stars.
Chanel No. 5 eau de toilette Absolutely. The Guide nailed it.
Chanel No. 5 parfum Ditto.
Chanel Pour Monsieur
Chanel Sycomore
Clinique Aromatics Elixir As I’ve commented before, AE smells like somebody took a wiz all over a rose hedge. On paper, two days later, it’s absolutely wonderful; too bad I can’t skip that opening. Great stuff, unwearable by me, and a real bludgeoner into the bargain. Three stars.
Clinique (formerly Prescriptives) Calyx (now reformulated) I can’t manage the opening, which smells like overripe, rotting fruit. Once it’s past that stuff, it’s a wonderful sweet juicy floral with good intentions. Four stars.
Davidoff Cool Water This is the men’s version. Groundbreaking and all that, sure, but I think it smells a bit bare and chemical. Four stars.
Dior Diorella Fruity chypre. See “Badgley Mischka” and “Chinatown.” Two stars.
Dior Homme (now reformulated) Nice stuff. I don’t love it, but I think I may have tested the current version, which seems thin to me. Four stars.
Dior Dune Like a lot of powdery vanillas, it sits there on my skin being boring and flat. On my SIL, it’s great, warm, cozy. Four stars.
Dior Eau Sauvage This is what Cristalle wants to be when it gives up merely pretending to be nice and trims those lethal fingernails. Five stars.
Dior Poison (now reformulated) Man, I used to hate this thing back in the day. Dorm halls reeked of it. So did the university buses. Now that it’s been tamed and everybody isn’t wearing six spritzes too many, I rather like it. It has, however, lost its poisonous edge and they’ve upped the orange blossom in it so that it’s almost soapy. Four stars, unless you’ve got the old, soft, esprit de parfum concentration, in which case it gets five.
Elternhaus Unifaith (MoslBuddJewChristHinDao)
Estée Lauder Azurée Gin with lemon, driving gloves, a full ashtray, pointy fingernails and a steely gaze. Scary. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Two hours of lovely flowers, becoming barer and shriller after that thanks to whatever jasminoid aromachem. Like all the other classic Lauders, has something in the base that turns my stomach after a couple of hours. One of my aunts wears this, and she always smells lovely; I think it’s my skin. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Beyond Paradise Men
Estée Lauder Knowing Gives me the same nausea issue as the others, but it’s probably my favorite from this house. I love a nice rose chypre and wish I could wear Knowing as well as another one of my aunts does. Four stars.
Estée Lauder Pleasures Pale flowers and laundry musk. It might be the first and best of this kind of squeaky-clean thing, but leaving aside the usual Lauder base, this might be one of the most boring things I’ve ever smelled. Three stars.
Estée Lauder Private Collection I so wish I could wear this; green florals are right up my alley. Alas, the Dreaded Lauder Base pops through at T-2 hours. Four stars anyway.
Estée Lauder White Linen I like aldehydes, but White Linen has always smelled sour and vinegary too me. My private name for it is “Mildewed Laundry.” Three stars.
État Libre d’Orange Sécrétions Magnifique In The Little Book of Perfumes, which wound up being largely a stageshow revue of the five-stars in P:TG (plus reviews of four classic fragrances you can only smell at the Osmothéque in Paris), TS admits that she disagrees on SM and describes it as “absolutely revolting, like a drop of J’Adore on an oyster you know you shouldn’t eat.” Bang on, lady. It’s horrifying. One star.
Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel Classic, conservative, reassuring, absolutely masculine. Five stars.
Givenchy III I agree with LT that it smells like dirt under the flowers. We just disagree on how appealing that should be. Three stars.
Givenchy Insensé (now d/c)
Gucci Envy (now d/c) Metallic enough to make my back teeth hurt. Two stars. Yeowch.
Gucci Rush
Guerlain Après l’Ondée (recently reformulated) Impressionist perfection, at least in the version available in the mid-2000s. Now it’s more irisy and colder, less wistful with its heliotrope toned way down. I’d give it four stars now, but the older stuff is amazing and absolutely deserved its five stars.
Guerlain Chamade The epitome of romantic surrender, starting cold-shouldery as it does in galbanum and hyacinth and aldehydes, moving through rose, jasmine and other assorted flowers, and then gradually melting into a powdery-creamy mimosa-vanilla-woods comforter. Five stars.
Guerlain Derby
Guerlain Eau de Guerlain
Guerlain Habit Rouge
Guerlain L’Heure Bleue The EdT is Hell’s Medicine Cabinet. The parfum is medicinal pastry, but in a really good way. Five stars.
Guerlain Insolence eau de parfum Horrifying shrieky attack parrot with knives attached to its beak and feet. One star.
Guerlain Jicky Lavender and bad breath. Two stars for being groundbreaking and influential, zero for smelling good.
Guerlain Mitsouko Mitsy hates me. It took me over twenty tries to really “get” Mitsouko. I tried current EdT, I tried EdP, I tried vintage EdT, I tried vintage parfum, I tried current parfum. I tried different times of year and different weathers. Finally I tried some parfum from the early 1990s, and then I got it: round, full, autumnal, tapestried. I still don’t love it the way I love the vintage Coty Chypre parfum I tried – Chypre made me cry tears of overwhelmed happiness – but Mitsy is a force to be reckoned with. Five stars.
Guerlain Nahéma I have trouble smelling Nahema. The first time I tried it, I could tell there was something on my skin but could not smell it. The second and third time, all I really got was scented soap. I feel cheated, but there it is. I can’t give something this inane five stars; I’ll go with two. Word is this one’s discontinued anyway.
Guerlain Shalimar Lemon-vanilla-tar-and-sex. Utterly distinctive; in all its variations it’s always Shalimar and it’s always far too sophisticated for me. A marvel of perfumery. Five stars.
Guerlain Vol de Nuit I don’t understand this scent at all. If I look at the notes, I should like it if not love it: galbanum, jasmine, narcissus, moss and woody notes. On paper it sounds like my beloved Le Temps d’une Fete. I’ve gotten two different samples from the decant services (both edt, both relatively recent), and they smell like… nothing. Musty nothing. As if I opened the trunk that belonged to my great-great aunt and a moth flew out of it. I can’t be smelling what everyone else smells. One star.
Hermés Osmanthe Yunnan Gorgeous apricot-tea floral that lasts all of 2.4 seconds on me. How can they charge $200+ for this? Three stars.
Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade (now reformulated)
Issey Miyake Le Feu d’Issey (now d/c)
Jean Patou Joy parfum Heh heh heh. This thing is raunch in overdrive on me – amazing, alive, and thoroughly unashamed to be walking home the morning after, with hair bedraggled and makeup smeared, missing her panties. I can’t wear it, but it’s a five star if anything is.
Kenzo Ça Sent Beau “Beau” as in beautiful? No. This struck me as being like Calyx for Dudes. The melon-mango-flower-shaving cream thing is just Too Weird. Three stars.
Knize Ten
Le Labo Patchouli 24 (now reformulated) Smells like the 150-year-old stone smokehouse behind my grandparents’ house, which produced many a Virginia ham in its day. Fascinating, but who wants to smell like that? Three stars.
Lolita Lempicka I resisted trying this one for ages, as I’d read that it was a takeoff on Angel. It’s only tangentially related, and LL is both interesting and really pretty. Four stars.
Lush (formerly Be Never Too Busy to Be Beautiful) Breath of God
Missoni Missoni Off-putting, like a soft chocolate with an incompatible flavor center (lemon? Kiwi? Mango?) Two stars.
Montale Oud Cuir d’Arabie
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Man
Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman Wonderfully coniferous for three minutes, violet for one, and then amberamberamberamber. Dull and considerably overrated. Two stars.
Paco Rabanne Calandre (now reformulated) I was taken aback by TS’s “wire mother” review of Chanel No. 19, particularly because this hissy, metallic, narrow-eyed parody of femininity should have gotten that review instead. Three stars.
Parfums de Nicolaï New York
Parfums de Nicolaï Odalisque (now reformulated) Doesn’t move me, but is really wonderful. Delicate yet strong in nature. Okay, fine, I’ll call it five.
Parfums de Nicolaï Le Temps d’une Fête (reformulated twice and now d/c*) If you held a gun on me and told me to choose one bottle, just one, of all the ones in existence in the world, I’d pick this one. Magical. Eight stars. 😉
*For a time, you could special-order it through the PdN website. However, when I emailed PdN in November to ask about it, I was told it was not available. I have backup bottles, but I mourn.
Parfums MDCI Enlèvement au Sérail Reminds me of Joy. Different flowers, same raunch, same aliveness. Still unwearably skanky for me personally. But given my reaction, how can I give it fewer stars than Joy? Five.
Parfums MDCI Invasion Barbare
Parfums MDCI Promesse de l’Aube Absolutely gorgeous. As innocent as Enlevement is carnal and just as florally overwhelming. Five stars.
Pascal Morabito Or Black
Robert Piguet Bandit How can I give this perfume that always rushes at me with a scimitar five stars? (shudder) Sure, it’s got galbanum. Sure, it’s amazing and influential and all gender-bendy kewl, but I hate it. I can’t wear it. Four stars, and that’s because I’m allowing for history.
Robert Piguet Fracas Everybody always says Fracas is The Quintessential Tuberose scent, but that’s not so. However, you can make a case for it being The Quintessential Big White Floral, because of that metric crap-ton of orange blossom in there. Basically, on me it smells like tuberose cold cream, and wearing it is like whacking a guy you fancy over the head with the heel of your marabou kitten-heel slipper and dragging him into your boudoir to have your way with him, once he wakes up all disoriented by your cloud of scent. Five stars.
Rochas Tocade (now reformulated) I liked Tocade at first. I used up a good 30 ml of it when I first bought the bottle, because it was awfully friendly. Then That Slut Tocade started hanging out with the smokers, and every time she came home her bottle smelled like ashtray. Maybe this fragrance doesn’t age well, but whatever. I’ve gone right off her and am ready to kick her out of the sorority. Three stars.
S-Perfumes 100% Love Hissy, screechy geranium-y rose backed by pungent patchouli and dusty chocolate-milk mix. Dear God, kill me now. One star.
S-Perfume S-eX
Serge Lutens Bois de Violette Nice. Faint and timid version of Feminité de Bois. Way overrated. (And I even like violets.) Three stars.
Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist Reportedly the earthiest, driest, rootiest, most pallid and ethereal iris evarrrrr. I don’t know why it makes me think of pigtailed little girls with freckles playing hopscotch. I find it cheerful. Four stars.
Serge Lutens La Myrrhe Like a pink-and-gold sunrise over blue-shadowed snow. Pristine, cold yet warm. Astonishingly beautiful. Five stars.
Serge Lutens Sarrasins Filthy jasmine leather. Who wants to wear this? Smells like what I imagine the back room of a strip club would smell like. (Also, it’s purple. I hate purple.) Three stars.
Tauer Perfumes L’Air du Désert Marocain A very calm, meditative, yet comfortable scent. I wouldn’t have called it transcendent, but I can’t really name a reason I would knock a star off, so all right, five stars.
Theo Fennell Scent (now d/c)
Thierry Mugler Angel Like I drank an entire bottle of cherry cough syrup and fell into a vat of Drakkar Noir. I do not give two flips that Angel started the whole gourmand trend and the fruitchouli trend and the gender-crossing Coco Mlle. trend. Famed perfumer Guy Robert is quoted at least a couple of times in P:TG as saying “A perfume must above all smell good.” This? Doesn’t. One star.
Tommy Hilfiger Tommy Girl Like drinking lemony iced tea in the sunshine in an American garden. Pretty, unpretentious and easy to wear. (Hello, Angel? This one smells good. Take notes.) Five stars.
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros
Yves Saint Laurent Opium (now reformulated) If I may use someone else’s words: “A genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished, and spectacularly loud. But [I] hate it.” One star, and I’m not sorry.
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche This aldehydic floral packs every bit as much metal as a factory floor and is considerably less warm and fuzzy. It has rose in it? Where? That’s no rose, that’s a very screechy geranium, plus a hyacinth note so metallic it twangs. Two stars.
Yohji Yamamoto Yohji Homme (now d/c)

This list does not include anything released after 2009; nor does it include anything Dr. Turin has reviewed since the publication of P:TG in his Style Arabia columns. It was a vast undertaking, and yet it is now (and always was, really) inadequate to the current flood of perfumes on the market today. Still worth a read for information and entertainment, if you ask me.

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Excerpt from “Bright as Day,” Part One, Chapter One

Yippee, I felt like sharing.  This is the first chapter of the first segment of that novel I’m working on.  I’d love feedback, and if all you want to say is “Hey, I enjoyed that,” that’s fine – but I’d really love it if you commented with questions or things that confused you or things that didn’t make sense.  Think of this as your chance to critique, and know that I’m grateful.

From Bright as Day:

Part One: Home for the Summer

Chapter One

Monday, July 4, 2011

Meredith hadn’t seen him coming. But then, she never did, not even when they’d been kids. You looked down at your ice cream pop, or your bike on the grass, or the baseball in your glove, and then when you looked up, there was Day Donovan. Mostly, you were glad to see him, never mind that he’d snuck up on you. More often, it was annoying, as it was now.

Hi,” somebody said to Meredith’s dad, in a voice she thought was familiar but couldn’t place. The somebody was wearing khaki shorts and white sneakers, she saw out of the corner of her eye. “Can I sit with you, Mr. Harper?” And then she had it, she knew it was Day, and it had been nearly three years since she’d seen him last but she knew the sound of him.

Don’t bother to ask me,” she murmured to herself, deliberately not looking up, and then her dad ruined everything by exclaiming with pleasure and inviting Day to sit down, of course, Day, howareya, buddy, saw your dad last week but he didn’t mention you were in town.

Fine, thanks. Hey, Mere,” Day said, leaning around her dad to greet her before sitting down and starting a conversation with Mr. Harper about what a dismal year it was likely to be for the Royals, and how he’d be spending the summer working at Tanner’s Pharmacy, and how were Mrs. Harper and Tess? And would they be watching the Independence Day fireworks at the fairgrounds, or at the lake beach? Meredith pulled her hat down a little farther onto her head and tried not to remember how bright a green Day’s eyes were, with all that gold in them.

Day sat with them and they talked about this season’s Royals (dreadful: they couldn’t hit, they couldn’t field, and they only had one decent pitcher, so of course he’d be snatched up out of the rookie league as soon as some minor league manager got wind of him) and watched the game. Mr. Harper handed over two of their six hot dogs to Day, insisting that he take them, and Meredith watched them change hands with a strange feeling in her throat, like she couldn’t eat one now where ten minutes before, she’d been hungry for the chili-and-mustard dogs. Day leaned around and said to Meredith, smiling, “You still look like a gymnast; do you still eat like a linebacker?”

Still annoying. “Yep,” she said and turned back to the (dismal) game. Continue reading Excerpt from “Bright as Day,” Part One, Chapter One

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Book Review: Catching Fire (second of the Hunger Games trilogy), by Suzanne Collins

As I mentioned before, I like to try to read what my teenage daughter’s reading, so I can keep up with her thoughts. I thought the the original novel was well worth reading, and was eager to continue with the rest of the series.  Review of The Hunger Games here.

I’ve realized that what I’m doing here with these Hunger Games book reviews is not so much reviewing them as analyzing them. I shoulda been an editor. I shoulda gone into publishing… I shoulda told my dad that no matter if he refused to pay for a useless bachelor’s degree in English, I’d get a loan and pay for it myself. I didn’t. (Oldest children tend to want to please their parents. I blame Dad a little, but I suppose at this point I blame myself more for not being willing to suffer for what I wanted, to the point of making him unhappy.)

Synopsis (Warning, contains spoilers. I don’t think this is a big deal, given that the book was released in 2009, but if you go ahead and read anything in blue and find out things you didn’t want to know before reading the book yourself, it’s your own fault.): Continue reading Book Review: Catching Fire (second of the Hunger Games trilogy), by Suzanne Collins

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Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

I frequently read the same Young Adult books that Bookworm does, partly because I like to know what sort of stuff she’s putting into her head on a voluntary basis, and partly because, to be frank, a lot of YA fiction can be more emotionally significant than adult fiction.  There has been a sort of explosion of the genre over the past fifteen years or so, and I tend to think it’s a good thing: when I was a teenager, the things that were being written for young adults ranged from the truly wonderful novels by Katharine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved) to cotton-candy fluff things like the Sweet Valley High series. But the Paterson books tend to skew younger, and while they touch on serious topics like friendship, death, and discovering one’s true self, the books are rarely edge-of-your-seat exciting.

The more recent crop of YA novels tend to fall into one of two categories. Either they are present-day stories of love and friendship, but with a supernatural sort of twist (the Twilight series, the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series), or they are stories of ordinary teenagers in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic or dystopian society.  In either case, the “trappings” – the sparkly vampires or magical jeans, or the world  in which love is defined as a disease and all “family units”are arranged by the government according to personality compatibility (Delirium, by Lauren Oliver) – serve only as a frame or backdrop for the real story, which is often very simple.  The reasoning behind it, I judge, is so that the books don’t read like moral tales.  Teens have typically had enough of getting told what to do and how to do it, but they get sucked in by the unusual created-world in the novel, and then (hopefully) learn something about themselves and the choices they’ll need to make. Setting the action in a different arena can highlight what is universal about being human.  Sci-fi and fantasy writers have always known this truth, but I think I first noticed this tack for YA with the Harry Potter novels; the story of a teenager who lays down his life for his friends and his world is, in itself, very simple.  It is the treatment of the story – the flavor, if you will – that makes the story memorable or not.

If what you’ve heard about The Hunger Games is only that teenagers are forced to kill one another in a grisly televised battle to the death in which there can be one victor, and you’ve recoiled in horror, here’s what you need to know: it’s true.  That is indeed the framework.  Teenagers do die in the Hunger Games arena in dreadful ways – poisoned by berries, stabbed with knives or spears or swords, necks broken, hit with rocks, stung repeatedly by wasps, eaten by scary genetically-created beasts.  It’s horrifying.  Even more horrifying is the knowledge that people are watching this all on TV, some of them with relish.  But we are seeing these deaths through the eyes of Katniss, our protagonist, who’s forced to participate in the Games and is desperate to survive them.  She’s sickened, she’s horrified, she’s frightened, and yet the Games is in essence only a more intense version of her life at home in District 12, where miners routinely die in explosions or cave-ins, and where nearly everyone is susceptible to starvation and disease.  People die easily and all the time, she knows that all too well.

Her challenge is not only to survive the Games, but to do so in a manner that will allow her to retain her selfhood. Continue reading Book Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

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Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube

Oranges bénites / Blessed oranges

The subtitle for this book, by the author of one of the most long-running and influential/well-read perfume blogs, Grain de Musc, is “A Personal History of Scent,” and that’s a succinct description of what you’ll find inside its pages. We get all kinds of scented anecdotes, from perfume being banned from young Denyse’s home due to her father’s dislike of it, to her first exhilarating visit to a Paris perfume shop, to the shared bottle of “men’s” fragrance used by her university social group of young, intellectual punk-rockers as a sort of identity badge, right through descriptions of what she wore as a young freelance writer in Europe, what she wore at her wedding, and what scent became the symbol of a torrid love affair.

Perhaps more compelling to perfume fans than these stories is the story of how Seville a l’Aube came about, which is woven into the book. First there’s a chance meeting with Bertrand Duchaufour, then an invitation for her to come by his lab and learn more, followed by the story of how “the most beautiful night of [her] life” smelled and Duchaufour’s comment that it would make a terrific perfume. The seed – Ms. Beaulieu’s description of a Holy Week night spent in a Seville orange grove not far from the cathedral, standing with a Spanish boy and watching the religious festivities – fell on fertile ground, and much of the book is a step-by-step telling of how, exactly, a perfume is created. Continue reading Book and Perfume Review: The Perfume Lover by Denyse Beaulieu, and L’Artisan Seville a l’Aube

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Hot Fudge Sundae Cake recipe, and review of The Girl Who Chased the Moon

It’s another TBR!  Thursday Blogger Recipe or Thursday Book Review, and because I’m feeling generous today’s a twofer: you get one of each.

Taz and I made this cozy treat after dinner last night. Yum.

Hot Fudge Sundae Cake (from Betty Crocker) Continue reading Hot Fudge Sundae Cake recipe, and review of The Girl Who Chased the Moon

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No TBR post today…

After two weeks of TBR Thursday Blogger Recipes, I had this absolutely scathing book review ready to go, for a book my sister-in-law gave me for Christmas. (No, she hadn’t read it – just looked at the subject matter and thought it would be up my alley.  And it should have been.)

But I began to have qualms about publishing a nasty review without a good one to go along with it, and I hadn’t had time to write a good one, despite having read some pretty good books lately.

True, several of them were written for the YA market, because I like to keep tabs on what my kids are reading.  Also because the best fantasy stuff, according to me, continues to be written for young adults rather than for the adult fantasy fiction market.  (Feel free to disagree with me if you like – and give examples, please: I’m always looking for a good fantasy read.) 

So what have I been reading? Read Bookworm’s copies of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins and found them amazing; haven’t yet gotten to Mockingjay and am dreading it because I can tell that there’s no way the ending is going to be happy.  Finished up the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan – and those books are terrific for the preteen set, by the way.  Taz devoured them. Also, he’s been getting the Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer (how on earth do you pronounce that?? I’m dying to know), and we enjoy those as well.  Gaze is also reading through the Ranger’s Apprentice series and likes those; they’re not as fantasy-focused as a lot of things that Bookworm, Taz and I enjoy, and Gaze prefers realistic fiction. 

So what was that book that I just hatedContinue reading No TBR post today…

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