Review: Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hilarious short stories for every letter of the alphabet accompanied by spare and witty illustrations that brought many smiles. The kid says “I like this book!” The teenager says “I don’t think this is for children.”

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Review: Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart

Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart
Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed learning about Jon Stewart’s early career and the evolution of The Daily Show. Nothing stunning or groundbreaking here — I would say this one’s primarily for fans, especially those who don’t mind the same quotes and anecdotes repeated a few times and some weird jumps in chronology. The major disappointment was that many brilliant masters of comedy writing were interviewed for this book but all the quotes from them that got included were completely mundane.

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Review: How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loving this so far. I highly recommend to anyone who loves a spunky heroine with lots of optimism who is unhampered by reality (as long as the reader isn’t put off by -ahem- language and plenty of wanking).

“As soon as I actually find something to believe in, I’m going to believe in it more than anyone else has ever believed in anything, ever. I am going to be devout.” (p.30)

After describing her writing projects in which her main character prevents several historical disasters (Hitler and the Black Death), “I’m very into the idea of sorting things out through superior paperwork. This is my favorite transformatory power.” (p.31) I am going to have to steal that.

“In the end, I go where I always go when I need information on something baffling, poisonous, or terrifying: the library.” (p.44)

“All my life, I’ve thought that if I couldn’t say anything boys found interesting, I might as well shut up. But now I realize there was that whole other, invisible half of the world – girls – that I could speak to instead.” (p.105)

“This is the terrible thing about learning everything from books – soemtimes you don’t know how o say the words. You know the ideas, but you cannot discuss them with people with any confidence. And so you stay silent.” (p.289)

“I feel excitingly . . .free. Things were going to happen to me last night that I did not like – and I stopped them. I have never prevented my own doom before. I have never stood in the path of certain unhappiness and told myself – lovingly, like a mother to myself – “No! This unhappiness will not suit you! Turn around and go another way!” (p.299)

So, what is this book about? It’s about a girl who sets out to make herself, allows other people’s agendas to cloud her vision, and then begins to figure it out. Pretty cool. Very entertaining. Awesome overall message but not at all preachy. A bit raw for recommending to teenagers we love but I wouldn’t object if they found it on their own. I only wish a few more pages were devoted to Johanna post epiphany.

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Review: Snatched: A British black comedy

Snatched: A British black comedy
Snatched: A British black comedy by Bill James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

George LePage is new to his post of Museum Director. He is ready to bring in a coveted traveling exhibition of ancient Japanese medical tools, bask in a little glory, and retire young(ish). But then there’s the matter of the disgruntled paleontologist former museum employee who may have gone mad, live nudity in the prehistoric Britain display, and an art curator who may have wasted a big pile of money on fake El Greco paintings, which are subsequently burgled, anyway. The relaxing last years of his career are not to be.

Quite hilarious if you have been an academic or a museum employee — Lots-of-behind-the-exhibits-discussion of departmental prestige, bringing the past alive, engaging the public and the endless quest for funding, promotion, and international acclaim.

If you liked crazed and ridiculous “Fawlty Towers”-style comedies, you may like this. Lots of impossibly smart people behaving like boobheads and lots of wordplay and endless conversation. Fun.

If there is ever to be a movie, there are roles here for Stephen Fry and John Cleese, to be sure.

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