Yes Please

Occasionally, I like to take a little break from my standard fare of children’s, middle grade, and YA literature. That break generally takes the form of a romance novel or a memoir. This time, I chose to read a memoir, specifically Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

This book could be classified in a number of ways: nonfiction, autobiography, humor, and, of course, memoir. What I’d like to emphasize here, though, is that it is a book for adults. Unlike most of the other books I feature here, this is not a read that belongs in a YA collection. Are there certain elements that will appeal to teens? Sure. But this is a book written for adults and should be treated as such. It contains frank talk of marriage, sex, drug use, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, parenthood, and simply navigating life.

Now, all that being said, I did like Yes Please. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I guess that’s a good thing. I started this book thinking that I would be getting something similar to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (which I loved). To a certain extent, that’s what I got, but there was also a more serious side to Poehler’s book. It wasn’t the laugh-out-loud experience that I anticipated. Sure, there were moments of hilarity, but, at least in my opinion, the book was more about Poehler reflecting on what led her to where she is today.

Amy Poehler takes readers through her admittedly wonderful childhood, through her early days in improv, on to her time with the Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL, and Parks and Recreation. She paints a very vivid picture of how difficult and exhilarating it was to be a young comedian in both Chicago and New York, and she doesn’t shy away from the–in my eyes–darker aspects of the world she inhabited. There was a great deal of partying and lots of drug use, and Poehler did her share of both.

Things began to change for Poehler when she got married and became a mother. In this book, she talks more about the latter than the former. She only briefly glances on her divorce from Will Arnett (which I totally understand), but the love she has for her two boys pours from this book. It’s clear that those boys are adored by their mother…but also that she works to make time for herself. She admits that she has no desire to be a stay-at-home mom, and she cautions women to stop shaming each other for their choices. Her motto of “Good for you, not for me” is one that could serve us all…and maybe help some people to mind their own business.

I like to think I know a fair amount about the entertainment industry, but I have to admit that I’m not familiar with a lot of the names Poehler dropped in this book (and she dropped a lot of them). I knew some of them simply because I’ve watched Saturday Night Live for years, but others were completely new to me. I’m not sure what that says about me or this book, but I’m guessing other readers may also feel like they need to bone up on their “Who’s Who of Improv” after reading Yes Please.

Aside from the name-dropping, if I had to make a complaint about this book, it would be that it felt a bit choppy. Poehler jumped from event to event and back again fairly regularly. I eventually got used to it, but the frequent back-and-forth was a bit jarring at times.

All in all, Yes Please was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to adult readers who want an inside look at the world of comedy, particularly how a young woman worked like mad, paid her dues, and went on to become one of the most beloved and recognized comedians in the world.

 

 

El Deafo

This weekend, I dove into another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, El Deafo by Cece Bell. (It’s also the April book for my faculty book club…which meets this week.) It was wonderful, and I look forward to talking to both students and colleagues about it.

To my knowledge, El Deafo is the first graphic novel to ever make it to the SCCBA list, and I’m hoping that it will encourage many educators–some of whom don’t consider comic books and graphic novels to be “real” books–to really embrace these types of books and use them in their classrooms.

Not only is El Deafo a graphic novel, it is also a memoir. It truly is Cece Bell’s story. This story–which depicts young Cece as a rabbit–tells of how she lost her hearing and adapted to the world around her. It shows her difficulties fitting in as well as her triumphs. It’s hilarious at times and heart-breaking at others, and anyone who sees himself/herself as different will relate to Cece in some way.

But you don’t really need me to tell you about this book. Let’s hear from the author herself…

I think El Deafo is a great book for introducing a variety of concepts. Some of those may include:

  • telling stories in a variety of formats
  • exploring the relationships between art and writing
  • memoirs
  • accepting/celebrating differences; tolerance
  • empathy
  • self-confidence
  • handling conflict

In short, El Deafo is an awesome book, and I’m thrilled it made it onto the 16-17 SCCBA nominee list!

To learn more about this amazing book and author Cece Bell, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half has been on my staggering TBR pile for quite some time, and I finally finished it on Christmas Eve. Now that the craziness of the holidays has (mostly) passed, I can take a little time to tell you what I think of this funny, strange, and thoroughly relatable book.

*Disclaimer: Normally, my posts deal with books for middle grade or YA readers. This is not one of those. This book is intended for an adult audience.*

In this book, Allie Brosh takes her fantastic blog and transfers it to a book that, if I’d been reading it in a group of people, would have elicited some rather strange looks aimed my way. Many parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny. (The cartoons–some of which have earned Internet meme fame–only added to that.) I particularly enjoyed her near-constant battles with her dogs. Hilarious stuff.

Other parts of the book, however, made me think, “Wow. Someone out there gets me.” Brosh isn’t shy about addressing her depression or the terrible thoughts that sometimes invade her head. Anyone who deals with any form of depression or anxiety is sure to find something to relate to in Brosh’s work, and those who’ve ever wondered about the toll mental illness takes may just have their eyes opened a bit.

Of course, Hyperbole and a Half isn’t all about one woman’s battle with depression. It’s about her childhood, her family, her daily struggles with somewhat difficult pets, and simply navigating through life with some humor (and profanity). Who doesn’t need a little of that?!

If you’re a fan of the Bloggess (who wrote Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy), I suggest you give Hyperbole and a Half (both the blog and the book) a try. This book is a quick read that I think lots of adult readers will enjoy…if they haven’t already. (Apparently, I’m a little late to the party on this one. Oh well. Better late than never.)

Furiously Happy

After following Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, on her blog and Twitter and reading her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I knew that I would absolutely read her second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, as soon as possible. (Also, who doesn’t want to read a book with a lovely, ecstatic, taxidermied raccoon on the cover? Who, I ask you?!) Well, “as soon as possible” turned out to be this week. (The book came out last week, so I guess I’m doing okay.)

Furiously Happy is a candid–and hilarious–look at Lawson’s own struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other issues. As it turns out, I really needed that this week. Like this beautifully broken author, I also deal with depression and anxiety, and the depression hit me pretty hard this week. (And no, I cannot pinpoint why. That’s not really how depression works. At least, not for me.) This book was just what I needed to make me laugh until I cried and to let me know that I was not alone. I have a whole tribe of weirdos out there who are just like me. (Well, maybe not just like me. I don’t know of any other 36-year-old spinster librarians with depression and social anxiety who have a fondness for Star Wars, Doctor Who, and playing the tuba.)

If you have a somewhat twisted, irreverent sense of humor–or if you’re broken in your own particular way–I strongly suggest you read Furiously Happy. It’s crazy, uproariously funny, eye-opening, comforting, and just plain awesome. I love it.

For those who are still not convinced to read this amazing book, check out the video below. It brings me to tears–and gives me hope–each time I look at it.

*Note: Furiously Happy is NOT a YA book. I would not put it in a high school library or YA collection. This book, in my opinion, is meant for adult readers.*

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

People often ask me what my favorite movie is. Most of those people expect me to name The Empire Strikes Back, Ghostbusters, The Avengers, The Goonies, or Monty Python and the Holy Grail as my all-time favorite. And while I do adore those movies (and many others), there is one that leaves them all behind.

The Princess Bride. My feelings about this movie (and the book) go way beyond adoration. I can (and often do) quote entire passages from the film, much to the dismay of those around me. Even my three-year-old niece has told me to be quiet while we’re watching The Princess Bride together. (She loves it, by the way. The kid has good taste.) I have a framed poster of Buttercup and Westley hanging in my bedroom. I have several t-shirts featuring quotes from the book/movie. I watch the movie at least once a month, and I try to reread the book every year (and this has been my pattern for the past 20+ years). So, yeah…I LOVE The Princess Bride.

I tell you all of that to explain why I picked up my latest read, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride. This book, written by Cary Elwes (better known as Westley) and Joe Layden, takes a peek behind the scenes of what I would argue is one of the greatest–and most underrated–movies of all time. (I was even reading this book while I had The Princess Bride on in the background. I may have a small obsession.)

Now, I’m not going to go into the plot of The Princess Bride here. No, you really must experience that for yourself. Instead, I’ll discuss As You Wish just a bit in the hopes that those who enjoy this movie as much as I do will find something to fall in love with all over again.

In As You Wish, Cary Elwes–better known as Westley or the Man in Black–takes readers on a journey. We see the earliest days of this movie, which many studios did not want to touch. We see Rob Reiner work to get a film close to his heart to the big screen. We see amazing casting decisions that would play a large part in vaulting the film to cult status (eventually). Through it all, we see that each person who had a hand in making The Princess Bride knew it was something special.

As You Wish gives readers a look at the intense training that went into the Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times, the laughter that took over the set whenever Billy Crystal (Miracle Max) opened his mouth, and the awe generated simply by being in the same room as Andre the Giant.

Cary Elwes shares some very personal, funny, and often poignant memories with fans of The Princess Bride, but we also hear from such notable figures as Rob Reiner (director), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdink), Carol Kane (Valerie), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), William Goldman (author/screenwriter), Andy Scheinman (producer), and, of course, Billy Crystal. Their contributions to this book make it so much richer than it may otherwise have been.

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I can’t possibly touch on everything that is covered in this book, but I can tell you that I laughed, I teared up a bit, and I reminisced about The Princess Bride‘s place in my own childhood (and my adult life). As You Wish is a gentle reminder that this movie means as much to those who brought it to life as it does to the fans who love it so much.

If you love The Princess Bride as much as I do–or even if you’re just a casual fan–I strongly urge you to read As You Wish. Having this small glimpse behind the scenes makes me appreciate this beloved film even more, and my hope is that you’ll feel the same.

If you’d like to learn more about all things Princess Bride–and find your own bit of tweasure–I urge you to visit princessbrideforever.com. It’s a good place to spend a couple of hours.

“Have fun storming the castle!”

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

*Note to regular readers of this blog: This is not a YA/middle grade book. It’s a memoir (intended for adult-ish readers) packed with irreverent humor that the easily offended will not be happy with. (Those people need to lighten up.)*

Every once in a while, I have to put aside books that I just can’t get into and read something different. It’s usually because I need a break from the seriousness of many YA books…or I need a good laugh. The book I finished last night, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (also known as the Bloggess), definitely qualifies as different…and it was so over-the-top hilarious that I’m still laughing.

When even the dedication page makes you laugh-snort, you know you’ve got a winner.

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It just got better–and weirder–from there.

Now, I’ve only been reading Jenny’s blog, The Bloggess, for a short time, but I still thought I knew what to expect in this book. Yeah…not so much. From her childhood in rural West Texas, through her struggles with anxiety both as a teen and an adult, and her life with her daughter and husband, Jenny addresses just about everything with irreverent humor and her own brand of crazy. I loved it, and I laughed so much that I gave myself a headache and had to take some Advil and a nap.

I’m not going to go into everything I liked about this book. I don’t have that kind of time. But, if you think you might be interested in reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened–and learning more about taxidermy, impregnating a cow, sadistic turkeys, couch etiquette, the wild world of working in human resources, or what it’s like in the head of someone with an anxiety disorder–you might want to check out Jenny’s blog first. If the Bloggess seems to float your boat (and you’re not easily offended), you should definitely read this memoir. I don’t usually even read memoirs, but I’m now recommending this one to every crazy person I know. (And there are a lot of us. I work in public education. I’m pretty sure being medicated is now a job requirement.)

After reading this insane (in a good way) book, I feel like Jenny Lawson and I could be great friends…who never meet and only communicate via email/social media because our anxiety issues make actual physical meetings awkward and unpleasant. Welcome to the blogging community. We’re great in print.

If you’d like to learn more about Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and the Bloggess, check out Jenny’s blog (obviously), Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You’ll likely never be the same. You’re welcome.