Review: “A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages” by Kristin Chenoweth

a-little-bit-wicked-kristin-chenowethMemoirs by funny, hardworking women are the best.  They just are.  There are a lot of parts to Kristin Chenoweth that I’m not so much a fan of: so much Jesus, a super strange speaking voice, she’s made more money from being short than I have.  But I cannot deny that she is hardworking, funny, and positive.

Her memoir is the story of her life thus far.  We get stories of her upbringing in Oklahoma, her adventures through college (did not know she had a Masters), and eventually on to New York and Hollywood.  Interspersed are stories of her love life, the most interesting of which is her on-again/off-again love with Aaron Sorkin.  Who knew?  I would have never put those two together which just goes to show you how little I know either of them.  I thought it was really interesting that (at least in the audio book), Sorkin tells the story of meeting Chenoweth from his point of view.  As in, he recorded the story for her audio book when they were in an off-again status.  Interesting, right?

It was a read that kept my attention and went by quickly but didn’t change my life (accept for Sorkoweth; that fascinates me).  I would say it is a good listen but I don’t think I would have taken the time to sit down to read it.

Review: “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli

maniac-mageeJerry Spinelli is another youth fiction writer I missed in my “I’m in fourth grade so I should be reading John Grisham” phase.  I had the opportunity to read this work with a crew of my fourth grade students.

It follows young “Maniac” Magee.  Orphaned early on, he goes to live with his warring aunt and uncle who refuse to speak with each other, let alone interact.  Fed up with the divisiveness, Maniac runs away from home.  After days of quite literally running, he finds himself in Two Mills, PA where he lives in a zoo pen.  He eventually meets Amanda Beale, a voracious reader and the two become friends.  Magee doesn’t realize it but Two Mills is a town divided by poor race relations.  The Beale’s, a black family, discover that Magee, a young white boy, is homeless so they invite him to move in with them.  While the Beale’s are a loving family and Magee loves them back, he eventually leaves their comforts and moves back in the zoo for fear that they will become the victims of racially charged abuse.

He meets Grayson, the groundskeeper, and the two form a friendship that lasts through Grayson’s death.  Following his death, Magee has a whirlwind of adventures and living situations and becomes ever more familiar with negative race relations, vandalism, and homelessness.

My fourth grade students handled this book well and had interesting things to add.  I am proud of them for making connections from the book to the real world but I’m also very sad that they were able to make such connections so quickly.  The first mention of race (as a so-called “negative” thing) brought about immediate comments on the shootings of unarmed black men in our country.  Racial violence should not be such an easy thing for kids to find an example of.

Review: “Bossypants” by Tina Fey

Tina Fey is my spirit animal.  I’m pretty sure.  In this festival of character-building and awkward situations, we discover just how ridiculously hard-working Ms. Fey really is (in case you live under a rock and didn’t know about all the brands she has in the fire).  The book is a mix of stories from her youth to her college days, from wandering about Chicago working the improve scene to proving her metal as a writer at SNL.  I would absolutely recommend this work and as always, I would recommend the audio book.  There are few things quite so inspiring as Tina Fey telling you what a brilliant sassy pants she is herself (she never once says that, she’s actually really humble and hardworking).

Review: “Stuart Little” by E.B. White

I was able to finish this little diddy with a two hour car ride.  Honest to goddess, I love audio books.

While I am glad to have read this classic, I’m sure I’ll be fine not picking it back up.  I’ve been informed that despite the plot of “Stuart Little” I should take note of White’s command of prose and should try a few others.

Stuart comes into this word a little bit mouse-sized and a little bit-mouse shaped and perhaps just as a mouse but no one seems to say it.  His big brother, human-sized and -shaped George is kind of a floozy and never does what he say he will.  Meanwhile Stuart gets into all sorts of trouble from having difficulty turning the faucet on in the morning to getting tossed into the garbage and sent away on a trash barge, from getting rolled up in a window shade to quite nearly being eaten by a sassy alley cat.

My biggest problem (besides the mouse thing) was that Stuart’s aging seems questionable.  He starts the story shortly after being born and perfectly capable of walking about and talking but ends the story ruining what could have been a perfectly lovely date for himself; all within a few months.  And he ends up being a total cad about it.

Review: “Attachments” by Rainbow Rowell


Finally I have read a book by Rainbow Rowell that I love.  I’ve had this fictionalized friendship with Rowell for over a year now.  According to my perusal of her Twitter account one might say we’re BFFs.  I even had a moment where I thought that John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Gene Luan Yang were my crew and Tweeted as much (Yang tweeted back saying he’d wear a top hat; I swooned).

“Attachments” is lovely.  It takes place at newspaper towards the end of 1999 with the Y2K “crisis” in full swing.  Beth is funny, engaging, writes for the entertainment section, and has been dating a local rock star for nine years.  Her best friend Jennifer is delightful, witty, works as a copy editor, and has a anxiety-ridden fear of maybe being pregnant someday.  And Lincoln is the tech guy; working the graveyard shift monitoring staff e-mail and preparing the tech team for the inevitable global meltdown.

Beth and Jennifer’s e-mails to one another keep getting flagged and popping up in Lincoln’s inbox.  Through their fun, witty, eye-opening, and not at all work-appropriate conversations, Lincoln falls in love with Beth; a woman he has only loved through her words.  Ultimately Lincoln cannot decide if he can summon up the courage to go meet her or if he even should (honestly, how far would he get with Hi!  I’m the guy who reads your e-mails and thinks you’re too good for your boyfriend whom, by the way, I’ve seen in concert like five times.

Please read this book if for no other reason but so that you youngsters can learn all about the tragedy that was Y2K.

Also, be prepared for a forthcoming ranking of Rainbow Rowell’s works.

Review: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl

As I’ve been working in an elementary school library, I’ve made a valiant effort to read what they are reading and so much of it is a new reading experience for me.  For the most part I went from “Clifford the Big Red Dog” to “Trixie Belden” to John Grisham.  Let me tell you, not many middle schoolers were reading their mom’s “Trixie Belden” collection in the late 90’s.  So there has been a lot I’ve missed and a lot I am hopeful to get caught up on over the summer break.

Along that same vein, I have a confession: I’ve never read a book by Roald Dahl.  Until this passed week when I listened to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on my work computer.  I am a huge fan of “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder and as a purist I have a visceral hatred for “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp.  So you might imagine my absolute disappointment and begrudging appreciation to “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Johnny Depp for following the book.  In fact, it’s one of the closest book to movie adaptations I’ve ever encountered.  And I’m a little bit pissed.

I do however have a question that I realize has been asked before: what is up with Grandpa Joe?  Bedridden and sickly for so long and as soon as there is an opportunity to bounce around with a choc-illionaire he’s up and dancing.  Jerk.
I would recommend the audio book as it is narrated by Eric Idle.

Review: “Landline” by Rainbow Rowell

Firstly, Rainbow Rowell is coming to Cedar Rapids this summer!

Secondly, I did not care for “Landline” and that little fact makes me very sad.  The story followed the Stan Lee-esqe named Georgie McCool and her potentially unraveling marriage.  Georgie is a television comedy writer who adores the writing process and holds tight to the dream that she and her best friend Seth, will write and produce their own show and not just the slapstick show they are stuck with.  While Neal loves and supports her dreams and her work, he has grown very tired of Georgie never being home, never being with him, and the girls.  It all comes to a head two days before they leave to spend Christmas in Omaha to visit his family.  Just two days before that plane takes them to a snowy wonderland, Georgie and Seth discover they have the opportunity to write a pitch for the studio; a chance to make their dream finally come true.  Neil, disgruntled, takes the girls to Nebraska and Georgie begins to crumble.  Never remembering to charge her cell phone, she uses the old land line phone at her mom’s house to call Neil’s parents home that night.  Neil answers, but not Georgie’s husband.  Georgie’s boyfriend from college answers the phone – nearly fifteen years apart.  The two have a series of phone conversations  in Georgie’s time where Neil has left for Omaha with their daughters and in Neil’s time when he has arrived in Omaha for Christmas having just broken up with Georgie after finals.

It was a moderately sweet story with pithy wisecracks all around and though I know it is meant to have some sort of fantastical element, some of the characters were just not convincing.  I had no feelings for Georgie specifically and though I wished her no ill-will, I wasn’t rooting for her to succeed either.

Thirdly, I’ve started “Attachments,” Rowell’s first adult novel and I am hoping it follows the same lines that her YA novels did for me: I was indifferent to “Eleanor and Park” but loved “Fangirl.”  I am indifferent to “Landline” and have really high expectations for “Attachments.”  Regardless, I’m still very excited to meet her this summer.