Tag Archives: humor

Review: Scrappy Little Nobody

scrappy-little-nobody-9781501117206_lgRecap: Actress and singer Anna Kendrick proves she’s as funny as you think she is in this bestselling memoir about her path to becoming a Tony and Oscar-nominated actress, best known for her role in Pitch Perfect. Like Tina Fey’s BossypantsScrappy Little Nobody reads as if Kendrick is speaking to you with silly lines that you can hear in her voice like “if i saw ‘advanced’ in the corner of a Martha Stewart Living recipe, I’d think, Bring it on, you crazy bitch” or “Player WHAA.”

Her memoir tells her story, including growing up in Maine and becoming an unlikely child star on Broadway, being nominated for a Tony, continuing to work in theater and then movies, dating guys, losing her virginity, meeting celebrities, and being nominated for an Oscar while still not being able to afford food or toilet paper. But it also includes more introspective stories as well, about mourning her grandmother while shooting a movie, about witnessing Drew Barrymore having a “moment” to herself after winning an award, about getting advice from acting legends, about dealing with her anxiety.

Analysis: It’s too much for me to count the number of times I laughed out loud while reading this. She’s witty and silly while still being analytical and finding subtle ways to let the reader into who she really is. She also tells stories in great detail. She described premiere dresses, scenes from movies, references to camera shots during awards shows in such a fun way, I found myself Googling photos and YouTube clips so I could see everything. She wrote the book, knowing that would happen too, specifically when she includes a photo of her stoned at that red carpet and wrote “Here’s a picture of my stoned face, so you don’t have to Google it later.” (How does she know? She just does.)

Scrappy Little Nobody includes all the things a celebrity memoir should: fun facts about shooting her most famous movies and skits — like how she lost her shoe while performing at the Oscars, the complete ridiculousness of being famous — like how she showed up stoned to a red carpet about a brief hospitalization,  what it’s really like to work with Zac Efron (spoiler: every bit as incredible as you think), and the fact that she’s just a real person who often can’t believe her life is her life.

Get Scrappy Little Nobody in paperback for $8.06.

Or on your Kindle for $13.99.

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Review: Losing It

1024x1024Recap: It’s a premise we’ve seen before. Part 40-Year-Old Virgin, part American Pie, Losing It tells the story of a 26-year-old girl, Julia, who is yet to lose her virginity. Still a little lost in life and determined to have sex, she quits her job and moves to North Carolina for a summer to stay with her Aunt Viv, who she barely knows and of whom she only has vague childhood memories.

Not so much focused on connecting with her aunt, Julia instead gets a part-time job, joins several dating sites and attends a regular art class all in the hopes of not finding her one true love, but finding a one-time lover. First, there’s Elliot in her office, but he’s married. Then there’s the crazy — and rude! — guy from the dating app. Then the one she meets at a funeral. Each relationship starts off promising, but turns sour. Quickly.

In the midst of all this, she learns that her Aunt Viv is also a virgin. Finally! Something about which she and her aunt can connect! But as time goes on, she loses the nerve to share with her Aunt Viv that she, too, is a virgin. It seems the more Julia tries to connect with people, the less she’s able to, and by the end of the summer, things rapidly spin out of control.

Analysis: The premise is great. Everyone loves a good losing-their-virginity story. They’re funny and charming. That would be the case in Losing It except Julia is a deeply unlikable character. She’s awkward in a hypocritical way. For instance, she’s willing to put herself out there and get a job and sign up for random community classes, and she has no problem flirting with strange men; and yet when her Aunt Viv talks to her about her artwork, all Julia can muster is “Oh. Okay.”

Aside from being a poor conversationalist with Aunt Viv, she’s misses events with her, doesn’t come home for dinner, attempts to sleep with someone at her friend’s funeral and snoops around her bedroom. She’s completely ungrateful to a kind woman who’s put her up for free all summer.

Julia is so completely self-involved, she can’t see past her own virginity. The way it consumes her every waking thought does not come across as funny; it comes across as desperate and sad. I appreciated the effort the book made in its attempts at wry humor but frankly, they just didn’t work.

MVP: Aunt Viv. She’s easily the most generous person in the book and gets the least credit for all that she does. I do wish we learned more about her and her background, but with the book coming from the point-of-view of Julia, there was little chance of that happening.

Get Losing It now in hardcover for $16.30. 

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Review: The Stupidest Angel

Recap: Just in time for Christmas, an angel wants to grant a wish to a child. And that wish comes just in time, since a little boy from Pine Grove, California recently witnessed “Santa Claus” get killed in a cemetery. What better timing than now, so the boy can ask the angel to revive Santa from the dead? All of this happens while the townspeople in Pine Grove are getting ready for their annual Christmas party at the local church, near the cemetery.

Really, what could go wrong? Except everything goes wrong, when the boy’s wish is granted and not only does Santa come back from the dead — so do many other bodies buried in the cemetery. And to top it all off, they come back as brain-eating zombies.

Analysis: If you’re in the mood for a light, silly book, this is the book for you. With Christmas around the corner, it might be just the right time to read it. The book is funny, and it’s completely off its rocker. Some people might be into that. I am not. I had a rough time reading this book, and in fact, almost gave up finishing it entirely. But because it was for a book club, I kept on reading.

There were some funny jokes, but all of the characters were pretty warped, generally obsessed with sex, drugs or things that are just plain weird. The plot itself is psychotically silly and very focused on death in a comical, twisted way.

I’ve read that author Christopher Moore used several of his characters from his previous novels in this one, so maybe had I read some of his other books, I would have enjoyed this one more. If you already know you’re into Christopher Moore novels and his style, then I imagine The Stupidest Angel would be right up your alley. But it’s sarcastic, dark humor was too ridiculous for me to wrap my head around. I mean, read my recap again — and you be the judge.

Get The Stupidest Angel in hardcover for $13.59.

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Review: A Fool Among Fools

foolRecap: Michael Gregoretti hates most aspects of his life. He hates his job. He hates his love life, or lack thereof. He hates AIDS, which is spreading like wildfire within Manhattan’s gay community in the 1980s — of which Michael is a part. He also hates that he’s about to turn 30. But such is life, and Michael is determined to figure it all out and make the most of it.

Things start to turn around when he is promoted to a copywriter at the advertising agency where he works. Then he meets an attractive man, Craig, and goes on a couple dates with him. But as it turns out, he becomes more of a booty call to Craig than a boyfriend. And the projects he’s working on at the ad agency, along with the people he’s working under, are nothing to brag about. He wants to get another job, but his portfolio isn’t good enough, and his bosses won’t give him better projects to manage. Luckily, he has two close friends, Irene and Anthony, to commiserate with and lean on, something crucial for this fool among fools.

AnalysisA Fool Among Fools is a black comedy about a lost twenty-something guy. It’s a story filled with cringeworthy anecdotes and enough career rollercoaster downturns to make your head spin. But as sometimes happens, this black comedy was more black than it was a comedy.  With a title like A Fool Among Fools, it’s evident that even the author thinks Michael Gregoretti is a mess, but I found his mess of a life to be more pathetic than it was funny. I felt sad for him through most of the book, and I didn’t feel as though the anecdotes were humorous enough to make up for his sadness.

Not to mention, the random mention of AIDS in my recap section of this post is as random as it seems to appear in the book. It is discussed somewhat frequently in the novel, as many of Michael’s friends and acquaintances are dealing with the awful disease, and it is always discussed very seriously. But the mention of it comes and goes, too fleeting to make enough of an impact on Michael’s life to get him involved with AIDS research, awareness, or support groups, etc. It feels like the author is trying to make a point about the disease, but never quite reaches it.

Without giving away any spoilers, the borderline deus ex machina ending feels like an easy throwaway.  But the friendships between Michael and Anthony and Michael and Irene were what kept me going, and coincidentally, that’s the same thing that keeps Michael going as well.

MVP: Anthony. Anthony is easily my favorite part of the novel. He’s a good friend to Michael and gives him the swift kick in the you-know-what that Michael so often needs.

Get A Fool Among Fools on your Kindle for just $3.99.

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Review: Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Recap: First, we’re given a report card. Then, a letter. Next, some emails. A little dialogue mixed in. And suddenly, we’re piecing together a puzzle full of characters coming at the reader from a wide variety of sources. This is the organized chaos in which author Maria Semple tells the story of architect-turned-stay at home mom Bernadette Fox, her Microsoft whiz genius husband Elgin Branch, and their bright, ahead-of-her-years daughter Bee.

The report card is Bee’s. The letter was sent home to Bee’s parents by her established private school. The emails are between Bernadette Fox and her virtual personal assistant who lives in India and earns less than one dollar per hour. Yes, there’s something not quite right here.

So begins the story of Bernadette Fox, a woman who appears to have a serious case of neurosis, social anxiety, and a general fear of life — a woman who, initially, seems a little wacky. But as we learn more about her and her architectural experience, her award-winning work, we come to understand that maybe she’s a little unstable. Or maybe the instability is first, then the wackiness. The point is, it doesn’t matter.

This is a seemingly dark, but actually comical story about a woman who plans to take her family on a trip to Antarctica, until her husband confronts her about the information she’s been giving to her virtual assistant (a person who is so close to stealing everything from her that the FBI gets involved). Suddenly she escapes and is nowhere to be found, while Elgin and Bee attempt to deal with a number of other problems. So the question is, where’d you go, Bernadette?

Analysis: Again, the point is, it doesn’t matter. Where Bernadette went is probably the least important part of the book. It’s the funny, distracted telling of the story and the background of each character that hold far more significance. The scatterbrained format of the novel — a mixture of emails, letters, notes — helps move the book along in a fun way, and mirrors the scatterbrained mind that belongs to Bernadette.

The last few sections of the novel become a more straightforward narrative, told by Bee. She fills in the blanks for the reader and  gives us a glimpse into how she feels about everything that’s happened to her and her family. Ultimately, the book is more about the relationship between a mother and her daughter, between a mother and her family, than it is about anything else. That, and maybe the laughter to be had along the journey. Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a mystery story that I never wanted to solve — because unraveling it all was just so much fun.

MVP: Bernadette. Though seemingly unstable, she is easily the strongest and most resourceful character in the book. Her oddities only make her fun to read and laugh about — and that’s never a bad thing.

Get Where’d You Go, Bernadette in paperback for $9.14.

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Review: Rome For Beginners

Recap: When three women have moments of crises, they decide it’s not time for an escape, but for a new life altogether. So begins Rome for Beginners, set in modern-day Rome, telling the stories of three American women who have left the States only to meet and befriend each other in Rome. They have become close, and together, they struggle with everyday problems — work, ex-husbands, children, and dating. But to add to it all, they’re in a foreign country, attempting to learn a new language and culture.

Suzanne has been living in Rome for years. Her ex is Italian, and her son is a problem child. Lilian is divorced and dating a younger Italian man named Massimo, but she’s supposed to be working on a big project for her job back in the United States. Brennan is a runner who has found work but could be deported at any time. Sex And the City meets Eat, Pray, Love, this is a story about women searching for love, happiness and self-actualization. They rely on their friendship to achieve it all. But can they? And can they do it in Rome of all places?

Analysis: On the surface, Rome for Beginners is a sort of combination of SATC and Eat, Pray, Love but not quite on that caliber. There’s a group of middle-aged friends attempting to get in the dating game and find themselves. But to that end, we don’t see a lot of character development or growth during the course of the novel. Brennan is the only character who faces the most significant changes at the end — and all at once — but the others more or less continue living their lives. Maybe that’s just realistic. But I found myself, waiting for this big turnaround moment to happen that never seem to came.

That’s not to say Rome for Beginners doesn’t have its fair share of charm and humor; it does. Each chapter of the book takes the perspective of another woman, so the reader gets an in-depth look at each of the characters. But it’s the moments when the women are together that are the most enjoyable. Their friendships are strong and hysterical in ways that female friendships often are. When embarrassing or seemingly tragic things happen, they have each other to make light of it and help each other out.

Rome for Beginners is light and cute — a good, quick summer read. But at the end, I found myself wondering what was the point? But maybe, that was the point.

MVP: Brennan. On a personal level, I could relate to her the most. But the best thing about Brennan is that she comes closest to achieving self-actualization, even though other events force her to get to that point. At the end of the novel, I was proud of and happy for Brennan.

Get Rome For Beginners on your Kindle now for just $4.40.

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David Sedaris Scrutinized for “Realish” Nonfiction

When you’re a humorist who writes memoirs, how much of your storytelling must be true? That’s what NPR is asking themselves about David Sedaris, the bestselling writer who reads some of his stories for the radio station. Sedaris is best known on NPR for his now classic Christmas story about the time he spent working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s.

But Sedaris is now under fire for how much of his stories are true and how much is fabricated. It all started when, according to The Washington Post, another writer, Mike Daisey, fabricated some of the facts in his story, which aired on NPR’s This American Life, as Paul Farhi explains.

According to host and producer Ira Glass, “This American Life” began discussing Sedaris’s contributions to the program after an embarrassing episode in March, in which it acknowledged that a monologue by writer Mike Daisey contained numerous fabrications. The show “retracted” the program it aired in January, in which Daisey described harsh working conditions in the Chinese factories that make Apple’s iPhone, iPad and other products. Glass told listeners that Daisey had invented scenes, facts and people — which is exactly what Sedaris has said he’s done.

In fact-checking some of Sedaris’ tales, NPR found that he, too, had fabricated some details and characters. Sedaris admittedly called his stories “realish.”

But Sedaris is a humorist. Daisey is a journalist. Therein lies the difference. Is Sedaris — who has never been considered a journalist — allowed to exaggerate parts of his stories? Or does his title not play a factor since his work airs on NPR’s This American Life program, which airs true stories about people? It’s a tough call, and one that NPR is now closely investigating to decide the best way to proceed.

I personally think NPR should just label Sedaris’ work as partly fiction or “exaggerated” before it airs. What do you guys think? Would love to hear your opinions on this one.

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