The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Review: The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince

XMy life with Prince

Mayte Garcia was Prince’s first wife. They were soulmates whose love transcended space and time. She was the inspiration for much of his 90s sound and music.

This memoir is so much more than a voyeuristic journey through a celebrity marriage and death. Mayte was a teenager when she met prince, and over the next decade she influenced his life in ways neither of them could have imagined. It’s not just about a marriage to a rockstar at the peak of his career; this memoir could be about any couple. They had good times and the most tragic of times, ultimately tearing their relationship apart.

Mayte writes with pure honesty, making this memoir more than an attempt to cash in on a celebrity death. Her revealing insight offers a glimpse into the mind of a creative genius and a woman who forged her own career long before she was even on Prince’s radar. She writes with honesty, candid about the most tragic days of her life and the aftermath of losing their son, a pregnancy and her marriage.

There are several quotes that stuck with me whilst reading this book. One in particular was from Prince when his film Graffiti Bridge tanked: “You can’t look at yourself through the eyes of others.” It’s a powerful sentiment.

This is the sort of book which will stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page.

9 out of 10 bookmarks


March 19, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F-k

The subtle art of not giving a fuck

Forget self-help gurus. Forget affirmations. Forget looking in the mirror every day and telling yourself you’re special and one day the world will reward you with fame and riches. Mark Manson is here to tell you: stop giving a fuck.

Mark Manson is a blogger who has turned his attention to authoring books based on his blogs. Although I have not read his blog, this book feels very much like an extended blog post, especially one that sort of drifts off into tangents in order to meet a word limit. It could do with an abridged version, a pocket sized handbook to refer to when you find yourself in a situation you’re not sure whether to give a fuck or not. it does seem a bit ranty and righteous at times, but as Manson himself says, Future You will not hold the same values Present You does, so take it or leave it.

The book itself does have some good advice. Generally speaking, the world is being fed lies in order to feel happy and content. Many people are giving a fuck about things that don’t warrant giving a fuck about. Not that you should be indifferent, because nothing would ever get done and you’d kinda be like a psychopath and no one wants that. There are definitely things you should give a fuck about.

Much of the advice is a regurgitation of other advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff, you’re mediocre (if everyone was extraordinary, we’d all be average), take responsibility for your actions and emotions, and sometimes the worst rejections are the best thing to happen in your life (depending on how you choose to react to them).

There is, predictably, a lot of swearing, so if you’re a bit of a snowflake who offends easily, this is not the book for you. If you’re not ready to own your shit, stop blaming others and give up easily, this isn’t the book for you. If you’re in a cycle of failing and you don’t know why, if you’re worrying or anxious about everything, or you’re just feeling like you’re on a treadmill of life, you should read this book. If you’re ready not to give a fuck about unimportant things and ready to rumble, this is your book.

8 out of 10 fucks. Or should I not give enough fucks to rate it…?

March 10, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Downsizing

Film: Downsizing starring Matt Damon

If you’ve seen the trailer for this film, you’ll know it’s about Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig choosing to become smaller for the sake of saving the environment. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know 3/4 of the film is nothing like the trailer at all.

This film could have been so many great things: biting satire, social commentary, political statement, hilarious comedy, bleak drama. Instead, the film is rather like three separate stories smooshed into one very strange film. The premise of becoming small in order to preserve the environment is an intriguing idea, but unfortunately it only lasts for a quarter of the film. The rest of the film could be set in any time, any circumstance and has nothing to do with being small. Or anything else for that matter.

Even if you’re a fan of Matt Damon, as I am, this film offers very little. Give it a very wide berth.

4 out of 10 popcorns (and that’s being generous).

March 10, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: I, Tonya

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in I, Tonya

There are two sides to every story.

Everyone knows the scandal: Tonya Harding served a life ban in figure skating for knowledge of an attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan. If, like me, you only know of the scandal and not the nitty gritty, you’ll view most of this film as an eye-rolling attempt at making Tonya look like the victim.

And this film absolutely portrays Tonya Harding as a victim. A rough childhood, raised by a single mother, suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband, unfair scores from skating judges because she’s not “America’s Sweetheart” material… Tonya came through it all.

Then comes The Incident. Tonya’s ex-husband Jeff and self-appointed bodyguard Shawn cook up a plan to send threatening letters to Nancy Kerrigan as psychological warfare in the lead up to the Nationals, on the path to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics. Someone somewhere doesn’t get the memo and Nancy is struck on her knee. Tonya is implicated as knowing about the plot to disable Nancy. Whether or not it really happened this way is anyone’s guess; the director has deliberately left it up to the viewer to judge.

But enough of that. Let’s get to the film. Alison Janney steals her scenes as overbearing mother LoVana. Janney rightfully won the Oscar for Actress in a Supporting Role. Margot Robbie is brilliant as Tonya; nailing that redneck attitude and accent. No one would ever guess she’s an Aussie. Robbie was also nominated for an Oscar. Personally I think Robbie’s wigs deserve nominations of their own. That crunchy perm look is perfect.

The film itself doesn’t follow a traditional narrative. It is based on several interviews with Jeff and Tonya, which often contradict. Characters regularly break the fourth wall to let the viewer know this or that may not have happened.

There are times when the audience does feel for Tonya despite knowing all along that she’s allegedly behind the attack. After a spate of disappointing scores, Tonya confronts a judge as he’s getting into his car. She’s at the peak of her skating career yet still receiving disappointing scores. The judge replies that he will deny this, but Tonya just isn’t the wholesome, family-oriented girly girl they expect. As an aside, I viewed this film on International Womens’ Day. This particular scene really struck a chord with me about how a female’s narrative is supposed to happen and what is expected of us. The second scene is Tonya applying makeup before a competition. As she’s smearing on the stage makeup (which is heavier than regular makeup), she’s trying very hard to smile though she’s obviously crying. Anyone who has ever smiled through tears will feel this scene.

Overall, the film is well-made. It is one-sided: Nancy’s story would be vastly different. However, this is firmly Tonya’s story and should be viewed as such. There’s no denying Tonya has had a rough life, but the film present Tonya as an innocent party to knowledge and execution of the attack.

8 out of 10 popcorns

March 8, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hair Update: New Wash

Tea tree oil and apple cider vinegar

You’ll find the original review here.

All was well for about a week. Then, something went wrong and my hair was always greasy. Where was the thick, luscious, lustrous hair I’d been promised? Instead it looked like I’d dipped my hair in a fryer full of oil. Was I using too much or too little? Was I not rinsing properly? Was I leaving it on too long? Or not long enough? This fancy shampoo replacement was not going to get the better of me… or my hair.

But soon there was an even more annoying problem. After about a month, my scalp was so itchy I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Prior to using the New Wash, I was using Aldi brand anti–dandruff shampoo. So I started using the anti-dandruff shampoo again. I used small amounts frequently but my scalp remained itchy. I also tried Lush’s Soak and Float, but even that couldn’t calm down the burning scalp.

Something in my brain started pinging… try apple cider vinegar. I Googled some handy hints and found the perfect solution (literally).

A tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar mixed with a couple of drops of tea tree oil, dabbed with a cotton ball onto my scalp. Cover with a towel (or hair turban), leave for 40-60 minutes, rinse off with water (no shampoo!) Use New Wash twice after rinsing out the apple cider vinegar and bingo! My hair is finally becoming the luscious mane I’ve been promised. Oh, and the vinegary smell disappears fairly quickly, usually as soon as my hair dries. As an added bonus, the tea tree oil will help keep lice and nits away – anyone with kids in daycare or school will know what fun it is when they come home with those nasty critters!

I’m not sure there is a moral to this story. This is only my experience; my sister hasn’t had any such problems and her hair is amazing. I’m not yet quite convinced I’ll buy another bottle of New Wash (hello, expense!) but at the moment I seem to be winning the battle.

I know it seems like I’m turning into a hippy…

March 2, 2018 Posted by | Reviews, Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: My Journey With Farrah

My journey with Farrah by Alana Stewart

Let me preface this review by saying I went into this book in a completely wrong mindset. Ninety nine percent of people who pick up this book already know that Farrah Fawcett died in June 2009 (the same day as Michael Jackson, in fact). When I started reading, I kept thinking, ‘when does she get really sick?’ ‘When do they realise she’s terminal?’ ‘She’s only got x months to live.’ Once I distanced myself from the voyeurism of a celebrity death, the true story revealed itself.

Alana Stewart has been Farrah’s best friend for over thirty years. They’ve seen men come and go, marriages formed and broken, kids born and get themselves into trouble. Through it all, they remained closer-than-sisters to each other.

This is a memoir based on Alana’s diaries during the time Farrah had cancer. The book begins the day Farrah got the news and ends a few days before she dies. During those two years, the women endured physical and mental pain together. Farrah’s treatments in Germany took their toll on both of them; Farrah’s ongoing battle to vanquish her tumours while Alana faced her own cancer battle as well as the battles of her (grown) kids and an international romance.

It’s wrong to critique how one feels during such a time. Alana is honest, optimistic and studious in recording everything that happens, both good and bad. Farrah requested Alana film her treatments and the aftermath, which became the documentary Farrah’s Story, earning Farrah a posthumous nomination as she was credited as being producer. Each moment is documented in Alana’s journals and in the documentary. I have not as yet seen the doco, however the book easily stands alone.

Anyone who has been a carer to a cancer patient, or really anyone with a chronic illness, will find this very difficult to read. For the rest of us, we all know someone who died from cancer and Farrah’s journey is heart wrenching. Cancer is a terrible disease, ravaging its victims from the inside. Nothing is sacred, nothing is off limits, and modesty is not protected.

Alana writes as well as she knows how during the worst time of her life. I’d like to have seen an epilogue, an update on how she is nine years after Farrah’s death and how this journey has continued to affect not only her family but Farrah’s also.

8 out of 10 bookmarks. Have a box of tissues beside you.

February 17, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Home Fire

This is a modernised version of classic Greek tragedy Antigone, so if you’re aware of the basic plot, you’ll probably be able to guess what’s going on with this novel.

The Pasha siblings are on their own after their jihadi father was killed on his way to Guantanamo and their mother died not long afterwards, leaving oldest sister Isma to raise her twin siblings, Aneeka and Parvaiz. As adults, each makes choices affecting their identity and their home country of Britain.

There’s not too much I can say without revealing the plot. Kamila Shamsie’s novel is thought provoking; what does it mean to live in the shadow of a terrorist’s legacy? What choices can one make to bring honour back to their family? How can the choices of one family member affect not only their family but national security and the future of politics?

Each character is given a section of the novel which intertwines with everyone else’ stories to bring the reader into the narrative without deviating from the central plot. Antigone is a play, whereas this is a novel, yet the narrative structure allows the reader to feel as if they’re watching the plot unfold in front of them from the viewpoint of each character. It works well for the most part; it’s good to be in the central character’s shoes as they each form decisions and, later, how those decisions affect everyone else which the reader sees from another viewpoint.

Personally, I found Parvaiz’s narrative the low point despite it being the central plot point of the entire novel. The ending was quite abrupt yet the actual climax wasn’t entirely unexpected. I felt like there needed an epilogue with reactions from the characters to effectively close the narrative. It needs closure, which I felt it didn’t achieve. However, closure is rare in life so perhaps this is the statement the novel needed to make.

If you’re looking for a light read, Home Fire isn’t it. You need to, and will, become intricately involved with the narrative.

7 out of 10 bookmarks.

February 10, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Bird

Cover of young adult novel, Bird, by Crystal Chan

Jewel has been living with the ghost of her deceased brother her entire life. After twelve years, her family are still shattered by Bird’s death. Is it too late to fix her broken family?

Bird is a novel targeted at young adults, however adults will also find something in the novel’s messages. The novel is reminiscent of Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes with similar themes: grief tearing a family apart, a secret, sacred place where nature speaks, and how sometimes people just need to figure life out on their own.

The main theme of the novel is identity. Jewel feels like the unwanted burden in her family, born the day her older brother tried to fly off a cliff. Her mother is sad and angry, her father hides behind superstition, her grandfather cursed not to speak since the day Bird died.

Identity is important to Jewel; she does not know who she is within this broken family. She meets a boy who has his own identity issues. As a black boy adopted into a while family, he has never felt part of his own family either. He invents an identity to befriend Jewel, ultimately betraying he with his lies.

I really liked this novel. I loved the imagery and Jewel’s narrative of how the cliff’s secrets speak to her. Having an interest in science, I did find a couple of paragraphs I wanted to draw a red line through and send back with a “This needs more research!” Written in the margin… but that’s just me being pedantic. I loved how both John and Jewel want to be scientists when they grow up. I loved their intelligent conversations about geology and space exploration (except for the bits which were clearly and obviously wrong). Their friendship was platonic, which was refreshing: usually Young Adult novels with a twelve year old protagonist revolve around how cute the boy is and which lip gloss she imagined he’d like to taste when he kissed her.

If you loved Tiger Eyes, you will also love Bird.

8 out of 10 bookmarks

February 3, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: The Party

Janet has been elected Shadow Minister, with hopes to one day become England’s Prime Minister. To celebrate, she throws a dinner party with her nearest and dearest. Of course, everything goes wrong.

Despite the cliched premise of secrets spilled during a dinner party, this is a very good film. The story is tight and very well acted by a stellar cast; very unusually for a film, the entire cast is made up of just seven people. No extras, no narrator, no one lead character. Ensemble casts are quite uncommon in feature films so it’s a credit to the screenwriter/director and the cast to pull off the feat.

Writer/director Sally Potter also chose another unusual quality for this film: it is shot in black and white. As a film student, I am able to appreciate the lighting to reflect the narrative, highlighting whichever cast member is spilling a secret at that moment. Very well done.

If you’re a fan of dark comedies or any of these actors, this film is definitely worth a viewing.

8 out of 10 popcorns.

January 28, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: A Bold Life by Kerri-Anne Kennerley

I can hear your groans from here. KAK? Really? What’s so interesting about her?

KAK, as she is affectionately known, is undoubtedly the Queen of Aussie TV. Twelve years hosting Good Morning Australia and two years hosting Midday (including enticing Peter Costello to dance the Macarena) plus countless other appearances, have endeared the bubbly blonde to so many Australians.

Fun fact: Kerri-Anne grew up not far from where I now live, in a little town called Sandgate, just across the peninsula from Redcliffe. She stubbornly fought her way into Brisbane’s children’s television and, as she writes in her memoir, fought for every other entertainment gig she’s ever done.

There are some things in her memoir that are relevant today: gender bias and enormous pay gaps, sexual harassment of females in the workplace, bullying because of her hair colour and gender, and cultural misappropriation, such as when she dressed in blackface.

However, that’s where the interest stops. Her memoir is littered with name dropping on every single page, interspersed with stories about wildly fun parties, her perfect relationship with husband John and not-so-subtle reminders about how rich they are. Kerri-Anne is known for her optimism but this 370 page tome just comes across as arrogant. I can see what she’s trying to do: mix personal stories with her pioneering journalistic abilities, but all she really succeeds in doing through this memoir is demonstrating how many famous people she’s friends with.

There are moments of heartbreak: Kerri-Anne suffered a miscarriage, later paraded on national television as choosing career over family. Her first marriage was punctuated by domestic violence and drug abuse. Her battle with breast cancer. And now, her beloved hubby John is a quadriplegic facing numerous health challenges every day.

Yet somehow, these moments are glossed over with the benefit of hindsight and Kerri-Anne’s personal philosophy of just getting over and on with it. The things that make her relatable are mentioned then tossed away, ready for more stories about fabulous celebrity friends.

It’s hard not to roll your eyes at the over-the-top-ness of it all, but then again, KAK is OTT. For me, I’m interested in the humanity of celebrities, not how they came to snag George Harrison’s only Australian interview.

I advise reading this book wearing high heels and a lot of sequins whilst drinking red wine. It’s the only way.

4 out of 10 bookmarks

January 4, 2018 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment