Tag Archives: reviews

Orange County [repost]

Irvine sunset traffic driving

And every good writer has a conflicted relationship with the place he grew up. ~ Marcus Skinner in Orange County

I saw this movie yesterday and enjoyed it. There were a lot of funny moments with Jack Black and the superstar cameos (Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase). It also had some things to say about Orange County ~ the wealth, the drugs, the surf “culture,” etc. Any sensitive, aware person, writer or no, is going to be conflicted about growing up here, which is why my daughters skedaddled out first chance they got.

But overall, the movie focuses on a young man’s passionate dream of becoming a writer and getting accepted to Stanford. (A famous author, Marcus Skinner, who inspired the protagonist to begin writing, is a Stanford professor.) The protag used his own family as characters in his first story because they’re interesting kooks, and this made his story a standout. But in the classic twist, these same people seem to be preventing him from achieving the rest of his dream: getting out of the OC and going away to college.

I’ve been thinking about the quote at top and if it applies to me, not that I’m necessarily a good writer. I don’t have a conflict with the East Coast, but let’s say I grew up in Illinois (age 13-22). A case could be made for conflict there. I don’t write about that though. My stories (romance or otherwise) always take place in California.

~*~

Image is mine.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Bubba Sweets [repost]

Bubba1

As promised, I have tried a new cupcakery ~ and it’s right next door in Huntington Beach. Bubba Sweets has kind of an over the top feel, both online and on-site, but that’s okay. They all can’t be Sprinkles. And the price is cool ~ $3 per cupcake or a great deal on 6 for $18. Hey, do the math.

First I tried a vanilla/vanilla, pictured above. See what I mean? Too much pink, even for me. And there was no need for the cinnamon candy deco. The cake was super-tasty though and not oily at all, just moist and delish. The frosting was buttercream (yay!) and a perfect texture/taste combo with that little snap. The sprinkles were a nice touch. Great cupcake.

Bubba2

Next I tried this complicated mango concoction. First let me state that this cupcake had maximum curb appeal, possibly the prettiest cupcake I’ve ever seen. The thing is a freaking work of art! And the cake was simply heaven. HEAVEN! There was a graham crust to die for. The cake itself was dense and rich and nom. Then there was a blob of (NO LIE) cheesecake filling. Omg yummy! But then idk what happened ~ some doofus decided to use whipped frosting. It had no texture, no snap, was just total soft mush. Yucky. The flavor was full of tangy mango goodness, but even so. The (lack of) texture ruined the frosting experience. Plus those seashells? Adorable but they tasted like plastic. This is one case where you’re gonna hear me say: give me the cake and hold the frosting.

Bubba3

Red velvet is up next. I ate this one the next day and sad to say that even though I sealed them away, the last two cupcakes went stale. Unacceptable! (Sam’s cake was excellent for several days.) The cake was tasty despite being slightly dried out, and the cream cheese frosting was totally noms. Yet, I was majorly disappointed that I couldn’t fully enjoy a Bubba’s cupcake 24 hours after purchase. This cupcake was super-pretty as well, despite its ridiculous name of “Rush Limbaugh.” (Whyyy?)

Bubba4

I saved “Coconut Bliss” for last. It had chocolate cake that went stale, as noted above (36 hours after purchase) and a choccy filling that was tasty. The frosting however ~ omg WOW! Wonderful buttercream with a super-rich flavor and loads of sweet coconut. I would have loved this frosting on the vanilla cupcake OR OR OR !!!

THE MANGO CUPCAKE WITH THE COCONUT FROSTING.

Enough said. I think the idea is “out there” now.

Well, anyway. You can’t tell me that some silly old triangle of pie could be this interesting. No, not even with ice cream. Just not going there with you. I may return to Bubba’s to try a couple other flavors, but I’ll need to go on a different day because like many cupcakeries, they do same flavors/same days.

I have to say though that places like Sam’s Club are giving bakeries a lot of competition because it’s tough to want to shell out $3 for a cupcake when you can get 4 for $5 and they are many times just as good.

PS: I originally wrote this in April 2013. Maybe I will try them again soon.

~*~

Images are mine.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Quickies 12

coffee notebook pen write list

And we’re back to book reviews this time. I was considering dumping the Quickies because they don’t get many likes or comments compared to my other posts, but then I remembered idgaf about stats. I do care about writing stuff that people enjoy though, even if it’s only a few views at a time. So that’s all right. Besides, as you may remember, I have a goal of reading 100 books this year. I’m sort of on target at 60 right now, but that doesn’t give me much wiggle room ~ eight books per month for the rest of the year. Writing these mini reviews keeps me in reading mode. Oh, I almost forgot. I will include one movie! These three are all mysteries, of one kind or another…

1. The Influencer by Miranda Rijks. This 2021 novel has such a crazy mix of reviews on Amazon. But the most important review is right here, natch. I loved it. The story was jumpy and wacky, and I had no idea what was going to happen. Once again, we have to deal with the multiple first-person POV style, but I suppose I’m getting resigned to it. Loved the super-fast pace and unpredictable, fairly unlikeable characters, so I gave this novel 5 stars for holding my attention in a unique way. Every book doesn’t have to be bursting with lyrical prose and philosophical insights. This is simply a fun mystery. Well done.

2. The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner, 2021. This novel takes place around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. It’s told in first person by “Sophie,” an Irish immigrant who is living in squalor in NYC and answers an ad for a mail order bride in California. Sophie is a quick learner, both in managing a household and also in mothering her new stepdaughter. She cuts her new husband a lot of slack, both because she is so grateful to have a decent place to live, enough to eat, etc., and also because he is a recent widower. There’s something extra-strange about the guy though and it’s interesting to discover along with Sophie exactly what that is. Funny thing (to me) is while this book doesn’t seem at first glance anything like the previous one, they have one huge element in common. Of course, I’m not saying what it is, for that will spoil the mystery of both! I recommend this one too. Reading about old San Francisco was as interesting as following Sophie’s story.

3. Pig, the 2021 film starring Nicolas Cage. Absolutely incredible movie. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Cage is fabulous as the strange recluse in the woods whose only companion ~ a truffle pig ~ is violently stolen. He revisits his past in Portland in order to investigate gourmet restaurants (they’re the ones serving frou-frou truffle dishes), and this journey brings him to terms with a tragedy that occurred there. We’re never sure exactly what it is, though we get a few clues. This is a hard movie to watch at times, with the main character always in a disheveled and beaten state, but it’s worth the discomfort. And it was great to return to the theater and view a movie on the big screen (I wore a mask). Looking forward to more!

~*~

Image from Pexels.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Romeo, Romeo [repost]

couple kiss fireworks

I received Romeo, Romeo (by Robin Kaye) as a gift and read it last weekend. I really enjoyed this romance novel ~ I appreciate that Kaye attempted to make her main characters a little different from the norm (without having them be vampires, thanks) and I am always predisposed to like an East Coast Italian setting, even if it doesn’t have any mobsters in it. WAIT! It did have a couple, um… OK, not gonna give anything away here. 🙂

I gotta tell you that Kaye immediately broke one of my commandments and mished up POVs right off the bat within the same scene. But guess what? I forgave her! No, this does not mean you get to do it. It just means that the story hooked me from page one and I was so eager to find out what happened that I thought, well poop, and moved on anyway.

The protagonists are not super-likeable when you meet them. They’re involved in other relationships that make you go wtf? But they’re interesting. And their attraction to each other feels real and compelling. The minor characters shine in their own right and the side plots do not resolve predictably. One thing though ~ did there have to be an Aunt Rose with the heroine named Rosalie? There are other Italian names, for Pete’s sake.

I did have a huge issue with this book, and it’s a peeve I have with a lot of fiction ~ Rosalie’s career. She’s a 27 year old “corporate turnaround specialist.” She waltzes (on 4-inch heels) into failing companies, glances at their balance sheets, and fixes them. YEAH SURE. Kaye doesn’t specify Rosalie’s education creds, but it doesn’t even sound like she has more than a BA or that she put in time slogging away for someone who knows anything. She just does her fixing with one assistant. Snort.

Romeo’s career isn’t any more believable. He was a teen bad boy who through some sort of financial magic is now the most desirable bachelor in New York because he really knew his way around cars, which makes him different from all other Italian guys, natch. (But he cooks and cleans and walks Rosalie’s dog… ) How he got the money to buy his first auto dealership? Look, we don’t ask. Capice?

But this isn’t merely a Robin Kaye problem ~ so many writers have wrong ideas about careers and money. Forex, they have every lawyer making at least $500K per year and driving a Mercedes because they read that OJ Simpson’s lawyer bla bla. Or they’ll have a waitress living in a giant apartment in New York City that only someone making $500K per year could afford. They consistently have people too young being too successful. It only takes a few minutes of googling to find out the average salaries for careers and the kind of education needed for particular jobs. Writers should do this so their characters look more believable.

Otherwise? Romeo, Romeo was a fun, fast read and I’m gonna buy at least a few more of Robin’s books to review. Also, I’m finally getting used to reading on my Kindle Fire! I think my days of buying paper books and dumping them off at the library are finally coming to an end.

~*~

Image from Shutterstock.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Philomena [repost]

Philomena

This movie starred the incomparable Judi Dench ~ and I absolutely loved it. Steve Coogan was great as well. I’m not good at movie reviews, so I will lazily direct you to this one, which is perfection.

One thing I want to specifically mention though is Philomena’s recap of a romance novel as she and Martin (Coogan) were traveling. I died laughing in the theater. (Yes, I died and am poasting from the beyond with my special code.) First, it reminded me of when I’d sum up bodice rippers for my friend Elizabeth back in the day, in my special way, and we’d crack up to bits. Second, not only is it hilarious when a woman tries to explain to a man why she likes a romance novel, but here is a “lowbrow” woman cheerfully and cluelessly jabbering on to a cynical, smug intellectual about this book and he’s about to shoot himself. It is so fab. You should see the movie just for this scene.

Well no, that’s wrong. You should see Philomena because it’s wonderful. It begins small and gets huge. Do you know what I mean? So many movies start out with a ginormous explosion and a bunch of guys going, “Zomg, we’ve got less than twenty-four hours to save the planet!” Philomena begins with a sad woman who is missing her son and a journalist who needs to find a gig. As it proceeds, the themes become larger, deeper, and more philosophical.

Just excellent. Go see.

~*~

Image from Philomena.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Two for Tuesday [repost]

movies film projector

SPOILERS!!!!!

1. A Simple Favor.

This is one of the movies I was really looking forward to seeing. The previews were so tantalizing… and after watching Henry Golding slay in Crazy Rich Asians, I wanted to see him in another role. Plus, I was predisposed to like the female leads: Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. Am I now going to say boo I hated it? Nope! I loved it. It was fabulous!

However. I would not have liked it as a book. Generally, I say to myself, self, I like the written version best and the screen is never as good as what I can imagine from the words. But not this time. There were several elements, one in particular (which I hesitate to reveal even to those who don’t mind spoilers), that are on my hate list. If I see this on a novel description, I won’t read the book. Yep, that bad. But I didn’t mind it in this movie.

There were other things that would have annoyed me as a reader ~ I would have paused and thought wtf? Why is this here? Gratuitous backstory weird sex scene. Unnecessary veering into the possibility of the supernatural. But the movie was too fast-paced to pause and think. It was just damn good fun with a satisfying ending.

I walked out grinning like an idiot. Love these three actors. Blake was especially great.

2. Puzzle. This is another movie I had been trying to pin down on Movie Pass and finally gave up. So I just went and saw it on Sunday with a few friends. Odd flick. Not what I had expected.

I didn’t much like the protagonist. She’s supposed to be some sort of repressed genius whose mind works too damn fast for her mundane life, yet apparently not fast enough to pick up a book or any kind of smart hobby all these years until someone gives her a jigsaw puzzle. And then she doesn’t know where to buy another puzzle without traveling an hour or so by train into Manhattan to a special puzzle store. Because this genius has never heard of Target.

But they need her in the big city for the plot to work, so okay. And it seems we are supposed to dislike her husband, except I don’t. I actually dislike her new man, so there’s that. I don’t like people who jabber psychobabble at you that ostensibly is supposed to make you feel good about yourself, but is ultimately designed to manipulate you into doing what they want all along. I have a big thing about that actually! Ooh, Paula’s issues! But it was still an interesting movie overall about family dynamics and such, and I’m glad I saw it.

I’m looking forward to Colette, A Star Is Born, The Old Man & The Gun, Serenity, The Nutcracker & The Four Realms, Bohemian Rhapsody, Robin Hood, Welcome To Marwen, Mary Queen Of Scots, and Mary Poppins.

Geez, that’s a lot of movies. Good thing I have my trusty pass!

Update: Movie Pass is no more. I haven’t seen most of the movies on my list, except Star and Rhapsody. Both good.

~*~

Image from Pixabay.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Quickies 10

coffee notebook pen write list

Welcome to my quick reviews ~ a mix of short takes on some of the movies and books I’ve recently watched or read. Note that I don’t have a problem blabbing spoilers, so if that bothers you, skip this post.

1. Serious Moonlight. This is a 2009 romcom directed by Cheryl Hines (Larry David’s wife in Curb Your Enthusiasm). Wikipedia labels it a “black comedy,” but it seems like a standard kooky Meg Ryan romantic comedy to me. Meg plays workaholic attorney Louise whose husband Ian (Tim Hutton) has grown depressed with their life, cheats on her, and wants to split up. Louise isn’t having any of that ~ she literally ties him to a chair and forces him to remember their good times together. Complications ensue in the form of a lawn care dude (Justin Long) who opportunistically decides to rob their house while they’re fighting. He ties up Louise and dumps her in the bathroom with Ian, and he invites his friends over to party. It’s obvious that Ian still cares about Louise at this point. When Ian’s girlfriend shows up all pissed off because he didn’t meet her at the airport to fly to Paris as he had promised, she gets thrown in the bathroom too. But now Ian has decided that Louise is right and their marriage can be saved, they should try for a baby again, etc. During the ordeal, I wondered if Louise orchestrated the robbery, but then it seemed she didn’t. However… at the last scene, I wondered again. Hmm! Fun flick, though preposterous.

2. A Friend Like That by Marissa Finch. This 2021 novel literally kept me up all night. Well, that’s not really fair ~ I was simply having one of my bouts of insomnia and grew bored of playing Scrabble and solitaire on my phone so I began to read a book. I absolutely admire any mystery type novel that misdirects so skillfully that I incorrectly predict how it will end. That’s not easy to do! And I’m not talking about slapping on a random solve that has NOTHING to do with the preceding clues because that’s a hideous cheat and the writer should be dealt with a la Stephen King’s Misery. Finch wove a complex character-driven tale that kept me wondering while at the same time going deep into the mindset of the protagonist. I guessed right abut one of the revelations, but the big reveal was a complete shockaroo. It made total sense though, which is the most important thing. I went aha of course it would be like that… clues abounded. I enjoyed this book so much and highly recommend it.

3. Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult, 2005. Late to the game, I recently “discovered” Jodi, who has been popular for over a decade ~ and my own daughter has read tons of her books. I love Jodi’s writing! It’s so infused with meaning ~ this is what I try to do and generally fail because I’m too addicted to snappy dialogue that barrels along into clever wordplay. Jodi stops and ponders the implications of each thing, which makes the book almost like a philosophical treatise at times. The book is structured like so many lately ~ multiple POVs in first person, alternating between chapters. I have given up hating that because apparently this is how things are now, and it’s pointless to fight it. Hell, maybe I’ll join in and write a novel with this annoying structure just for laughs. And I’ll kill off people too! Remember how our English teachers told us never to write “And then I died?” Now we can, woohoo! Not that Jodi does, but some have and I’m just ranting. Vanishing Acts kept my attention from start to finish. It’s a “tight” book overall, focusing on the intricacies of one family’s dynamics, except for the prison scenes. I really enjoyed those and learned many random facts about prison gangs and drugs and such, none of which I’ll probably ever need for either bar trivia quizzes or my own poetry, but one never knows!

~*~

Image from Pexels.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Quickies 9

coffee notebook pen write list

Welcome to my quick reviews ~ a mix of short takes on movies and books I’ve recently watched or read. Note that I don’t have a problem blabbing spoilers, so if that bothers you, skip this post.

1. Scoop, 2006. OK, so I am right there with all y’all in believing that Woody Allen is a disgusting creep. No argument there. I don’t need to make a legal judgment on this, since I don’t know the facts ~ I can react purely to how he’s used younger women in his earlier films (gross). I never was a huge fan of his in the first place, though there were a few films I loved, such as Midnight in Paris and Café Society. However, I am sick of shitty movies on Prime and I am especially sick of clicking on descriptions of dreck ~ I spend more time searching for a fun flick than actually watching anything. So when this came up in my list, I gave it a shot. That’s my disclaimer, excuse, whatever.

Scoop was effing hysterical. I loved it! I knew in the first five minutes this was a gem and I would not be abandoning it in the middle as is my SOP lately. Scarlett Johansson was adorably ditzy as the reporter, and Woody himself was perfect as the old nervous magician. I can’t bear any love story with him as the protagonist, but this was not about that. Scarlett naturally had a love interest, in the delicious form of Hugh Jackman. Is he the “tarot card killer” or not? It was a beautifully screwball comedy and I need more of these on my screen and fewer garbage romcoms and dumb, pointless dramas. Highly recommend!

2. Broken In is a well-written book by our very own blogger Jadi Campbell. I’ve always enjoyed Jadi’s blog writing, so I was thrilled to purchase one of her books. This work is written in one of my favorite formats too ~ long short stories that can stand alone but are also interconnected so they create a whole tapestry when finished. She did a great job! The characters are meticulously described and interesting. Jadi spends a lot of time inside their heads, exploring why they are the way they are and how their past motivates each nuance of their behavior. The plots are quirky and unpredictable too, with an entire universe unfolding from one creepy guy’s grin in a restaurant. Here is my favorite section from Broken In:

“Pain relents a little because it has to in order for us to survive. It turns into a permanent parasite that never kills the host but just lives on inside us, feeding off of us.” ~ Jadi Campbell

3. Bacchanal by Veronica Henry flipped me out of my usual book genres. This 2021 novel is a weird mix of supernatural horror, voodoo, and shape-shifting fantasy elements… and it was also a love story. It reminds me a little of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep with the crazy cast of characters and the demons’ need to consume souls to survive. But Bacchanal focuses primarily on Black characters and African spirits, which is at times confusing with their unusual names, but overall it kept me hooked throughout.

More reviews soon.

~*~
Image from Pexels.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Thank You, Ashley [repost]

fiona's fling anna fondant

I’m so excited! One of my favorite bloggers Ashley of Mental Health @ Home has written a lovely review of Fiona’s Fling. Please go check out what she says! She also includes some interesting info about the romance novel genre itself.

Thanks so much, Ashley.

~*~

Image is mine.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.

Rockumentaries [repost]

lights

I love musical movies… Hair, Chicago, Walk the Line, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Across the Universe, Mamma Mia (1 & 2), The Lion King, Grease, Fiddler on the Roof, etc. There are lots I haven’t seen and still want to ~ Meet Me in St. Louis, for heaven’s sake!

But that’s not what I came here to talk about today. Lately I’ve seen a bunch of rockumentaries, which is a class of movie I’ve avoided in the past because it seemed eh boring, like something from the History Channel. But first I watched one on Joan Jett and it was interesting! Last summer I saw The King in Long Beach and enjoyed that too. It was more an overview of the times than a laser-focus on Elvis, but even so. Good stuff, despite the history content.

Then I meant to see Bohemian Rhapsody on my Movie Pass, but it died so I didn’t. I watched it on Prime for $6 last month though, and it was great! I’ve always loved Queen’s music. RIP Freddie.

Next I went to see Rocketman. Wow. It was incredible. Taron Egerton did such a fab job portraying Elton John. The music. The costumes. All spectacular. And Elton as a little boy was just heartbreaking too.

Last weekend I saw Yesterday, which isn’t in the same category because it’s a romcom with a fantasy element, but regardless it’s entirely themed on The Beatles, so I say it goes in this post. I dare you to disagree! I loved it, btw. Super fun and adorable. Lots of Beatles’ songs throughout to keep a fan happy.

Yesterday I saw Echo in the Canyon, which is about the California music biz in the 1960s. Jakob Dylan interviews a bunch of old-timey musicians and plays clips of their songs, and he also recreates some of their tunes himself. He’s super talented… wonder where he gets that from? I’ve loved him since the first Wallflowers album, so I may be biased there. I highly recommend this movie to all music fans. Honestly, Jakob needs to do a sequel because there’s just so much more!

During the previews to Echo, we saw that there’s a new movie coming out in August sort of like Yesterday but without a fantasy element and themed on Bruce Springsteen. Guess who is gonna put Blinded by the Light on her must-see list?

[Originally written in July 2019. I didn’t end up seeing Blinded by the Light.]

~*~

Image from Pexels.

©️2021 Paula Light and Light Motifs II. No unauthorized use permitted. Please check out Paula’s books for sale on Amazon. Thank you.