Sunday Book Club! Bossypants by Tina Fey

Hello again!
Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.

Initial Thoughts:
For a long time, I had no idea who Tina Fey was because I didn’t watch too much TV. Eventually, even I couldn’t miss the impact she was having on pop culture with her skits on Saturday Night Live, especially her impression of Sarah Palin. Still, I never formed too much of an opinion on her. As I became more interested in working in the Entertainment industry, her name popped up more & more as a Feminist alley. She was different from other female celebrities. She was intelligent, funny, hard working, a writer! She was a woman in power in a male dominated industry! She has remained relatively scandal free which has helped me remain neutral, yet curious to dig deeper, hence my interest in her autobiography, “Bossypants”. Thank you to my friend Marcela for buying me this book for my birthday! Keep reading to see if I’ve been converted to a Tina Fey super fan!

Plot:
“Bossypants” doesn’t necessarily have a plot. The book tells anecdotal stories ranging from Fey’s youth to her time before SNL to her marriage & eventual journey into parenthood, among other topics.

Quotes:
– Pg 53: “I only hope that one day I can frighten my daughter…Right now, she’s not scared of my husband or me at all…How can I give her what [my dad] gave me? The fear of getting in trouble. The knowledge that while you are loved, you are not above the law. The World-wide Parental Anxiety System is failing if this many of us have made sex tapes.”
YES! I have been saying something similar to this since I was a teenager. I would watch my friends get into shenanigans & ask them, “Aren’t you afraid your parents will kill you!?!” The answer was always a laugh & a shrug, or a straight up no. I’ve never experienced that carefree feeling. Even when I do something relatively small but “bad”, I think, “Better not tell Mom I stayed up all night, ate a carton of ice cream, & drank half a bottle of wine!” because I live in fear of her judgement & disappointment. My mom is by no means harsh or strict, she just has high expectations. Perhaps Fey & I experienced this Parental Anxiety System because we have older parents that didn’t feel like they needed to be our friend. Whatever the reason, I was happy to find finally this connection with someone!
– Pg 225: “If Darrell [Hammond] is da Vinci, Will [Ferrell] is Monet, & I am me, in a wig.”
I found Fey to be a bit TOO self deprecating. Of course if she was full of herself, I wouldn’t like that either, so there’s no winning. I just feel bad for her – how silly is that! Seriously though, she fights this battle that females are just as funny as males & does a great job praising her friends, but often talks about how she’s not funny. It’s meant to be tongue in cheek but it was a bit off putting like, why am I reading your book if you don’t even believe in yourself?

Overall: B+
I gave “Bossypants” a B+ because Fey’s stories are well written, funny, & easy for me to connect with. However, I found that without a solid storyline to follow, no drama, no climax, I occasionally lost interest. The most interesting stories centered around Fey’s career before SNL & behind the scenes stories of SNL & 30 Rock. However, I might be biased because that’s where my current interest lies. If I was a new parent, I might find Fey’s tales of parenthood way more entertaining, I guess it just depends on the reader. Definitely a good choice for those interested in the Entertainment industry with a Feminist edge to it & of course, fans of Tina Fey.

Have you read “Bossypants” or another Autobiography of someone in the Entertainment industry? If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is August 7th & the book is “Turn of Mind” by Alice LaPlante.

Sunday Book Club! The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “The Fates Will Find Their Way” by Hannah Pittard.

Initial Thoughts:
Marketed as a cross between “The Virgin Suicides” & “The Lovely Bones”, “Fates…” promises a mystery surrounding a teenage girl & all the boys who loved her. I enjoy mysteries, although I find stories involving young girls almost always include scenes of sexual violence that I find too graphic. I was hoping that Pittard wouldn’t find it necessary to create a plot that centers around rape, although the comparison to “The Lovely Bones” didn’t fill me with great confidence. Also, I don’t generally like stories about teenagers because as a “grown up”, I find it hard to sympathize with teenage rebellion/whiners/young love. However, the intrigue behind the mystery plot was too strong to throw me off of this book so despite the potential negatives I began reading, albeit with trepidation, nervous to see what would unravel…

Plot:
All the boys are obsessed with Nora. She’s a mystery to them, the perfect girl they all long for yet can’t have. Nora becomes an even bigger mystery when she disappears, never to be heard from again. Told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys, the story follows how the people in her hometown handle her disappearance & how rumors of what happened to Nora represent a tale of caution, adventure, & intrigue for years to come.

Characters:
– The neighborhood boys: It was a little bit difficult for me to keep track of all the names & stories, but I think that’s pretty true to life. Imagine a group of boys from your youth or current neighborhood. There are certain kids that just fade to the background or others that you had/have more of a connection with so they stay in your mind – same concept for this group of characters. Also, some of the boys are ultimately more important to the overall storyline so they get more “face time” with the reader but then another kid will pop up & you’re thinking, “Wait, who is he!?”.
– The Narrator: About halfway through the book I realized, I didn’t know who the Narrator was. It’s an interesting storytelling device on Pittard’s part because it kind of keeps the Narrator safe from any scrutiny because you don’t know what his backstory is or what role he plays in certain events. I felt like the Narrator was an anonymous boy, but in the Author’s Notes, Pittard says the narration was moving from boy to boy. For example, George tells a story about Trey & Danny, & later Danny tells a story about George. I almost want to go back & re-read the book focusing on which boy is NOT mentioned & using a process of elimination, figure out which boy is speaking.

Quotes:
– Dedication: “For Malcolm Hugh Ringel, who disappeared from our lives 6/16/06”
This doesn’t have anything to do with the actual story, but started the book on an intriguing note. I assumed this was someone important to the author that passed away or went missing, perhaps the inspiration for the story, & was prepared to do some follow up Google searching of my own, however, the author addresses the mystery in her Notes at the end of the novel. I was pleasantly surprised she did this & was happy to have at least one mystery resolved. I won’t say any more, but the dedication is a very touching tribute.

Overall:
Pittard kept me intrigued & eagerly reading. As I predicted, there is a storyline centering around a rape, but I appreciated that she didn’t describe it in any detail. It has nothing to do with the disappearance of Nora, but provides another layer of complexity to this group of kids & how that horrible event weighs on them as they grow up. I think that’s kind of the main point of this story – the idea that life is a series of wild & crazy events & sometimes we misinterpret their meaning. Events that seem huge at the time reveal themselves to really not matter, or small things really mean a lot & can change everything. The continued mystery of who the Narrator is & some other plot points that I don’t want to spoil is maddening but references the idea that we never really know each other or what goes on behind closed doors. Overall, this story isn’t really a mystery. Nora’s disappearance serves as a backdrop but ultimately the plot doesn’t revolve around solving her case. The main focus is on those left behind & how they move on & grow up.

Rating: B-
I rated “Fates” down a bit because I was disappointed that – SPOILER! – there is no resolution to Nora’s disappearance, but I suppose it gives the story an air of realism as many similar real life cases go unsolved all the time. As mentioned above, it was hard to really get to know the characters & that kind of keeps you disconnected. The mystery was definitely the driving force of the story, that’s what kept me reading, hoping that eventually Nora’s disappearance would become the main focus again. I didn’t really connect to the story in a big emotional way & I was a bit unhappy that it turned out to be a reflection of life rather than a “real” mystery but it was still well written & entertaining.

Have you read this book or another Mystery I might like?  If so, what are your thoughts? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments!

The next Sunday Book Club is July 24th & the book is “Bossypants” by Tina Fey.

Movie Review!: Cinderella 2015

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

Promotional poster from Disney with my graphic add ons

My childhood took place during a time in Entertainment known as “Disney’s Golden Age” or “Disney’s Renaissance”. I was raised on princesses and sing alongs. I saw Beauty and the Beast in a movie theater at least 30 times, according to my mother. For Halloween I have dressed up as Chip (the teacup from Beauty & the Beast), Belle, Ariel (The Little Mermaid) both mermaid and wedding version, Megara, Esmeralda, Pocahontas, Snow White, and Jasmine. I was an Annual Passholder to Disneyland and later, Disney California Adventure for many years. I completed 2 internships with the Disney College Program and worked at Disneyland for 2.5 years. To say that Disney is part of my life is an understatement. More recently, my love for Disney has waned somewhat as their prices go up and my bank account gets smaller (thanks, college education!), but I knew I wanted to see their live-action version of Cinderella ASAP!
Without further ado…here’s my Likes/Dislikes/Final Thoughts & Rating which contains SPOILERS! if you’ve never seen any version of Cinderella. Proceed with caution…

Likes:
– The cinematography/graphics/costumes/hair/makeup of the film are really beautiful. Disney’s huge financial resources were definitely put to good use. Supposedly one of Walt Disney’s favorite scenes of animation was Cinderella’s transformation & they definitely did it justice in this version.

– Disney is famous for controversy because a majority of their stories revolve around conventionally attractive Caucasian women waiting for a man to save them. This is a sticky issue for me because I understand they’re trying to be faithful to the original source material which in this case was written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Obviously in this time period society had certain rules & expectations. He could only write about what he knew. However, as a modern audience we know more and want to see films that reflect society as we know it. So I say to Disney, if we can believe that fairies exist and pumpkins can become carriages, give your audience some credit that we could suspend belief a little more to include other races & get rid of certain gender expectations, even if they don’t conform to society at the time the plot takes place. Also, there are other Cinderella stories throughout history, Perrault is not the only author, he’s not even the earliest author. Many cultures have their own version of Cinderella that fits their customs. These tales could have been blended together. Like I said, it’s a sticky issue everyone has a different opinion on. Getting back to the movie! I thought it was interesting that they tried to include other races through the inclusion of a African American/Black Captain of the Guards/best friend to the Prince and a Latina Princess that is engaged to the Prince. They also kind of changed the genders of Cinderella’s mice friends. As I recall, in the animated version there is Jaques, Gus Gus, and Suzy. In this version, there is Jacqueline and Gus Gus. She might have mentioned some other names but I didn’t catch them. My bottom line here is I appreciated their small attempt to include other races and use female characters – because let’s be real, they certainly didn’t have to & people still would’ve seen the film.

– There was a scene when Ella’s father is leaving for a business trip & asks Ella what gift she’d like. Her stepsisters ask for frivolous items, but Ella asks for a sentimental item. That scene is certainly not in the animated version, but perhaps is from the source material or another version. I like this because there is a similar plot point from an original version of Beauty and the Beast. I took it as a nod to Disney’s next live action fairy tale & my favorite Disney movie, so I was happy with that.

– I liked this version’s Prince Charming aka Prince Kit. He stood up for what he believed in and took charge of his own destiny. I appreciated the realistic relationship he had with his father.

– I appreciated the effort Disney put into creating a more in depth explanation for Lady Tremaine’s hatred for Ella. The message of the movie was obviously, “Have courage & be kind”, but also how love makes life beautiful and helps people be the best version of themselves. There was a scene where Ella confronts her stepmother and asks why she’s so cruel to her. She responds with something along the lines of “Because you are young, innocent, beautiful” etc. She trails off, and the implied rest of that sentence is “…and I’m not!” She was a very bitter woman and in another scene she explains why. Her first husband was the love of her life and she was completely destroyed by his death, not only emotionally, but financially. She touches on some of the societal expectations for a single women in that time period – she was basically required to marry again in order to keep her family alive. Her marriage to Ella’s father was a business decision – not a marriage for love. Marriage for love vs. marriage for advancement is a huge theme in this film & many other fairy tales. Imagine how hard her life must have been, to live every day grieving over the death of her husband plus have it constantly thrown in her face that her new husband and step-daughter would never give her the love she was missing because they were still grieving over Ella’s mother. Lady Tremaine lost love & lost herself. While I don’t condone the enslavement of your stepchild, learning a little more of her backstory made her a much more sympathetic character.

– I liked this version of Ella because she knew the way she was being treated was wrong. Eventually she stood up for herself somewhat, which was a vast improvement over animated Cinderella who didn’t really ever complain, if memory serves me right. I always felt that animated Cinderella was an airhead. She let her family push her around and she accepted it all with a smile & a song. I never felt like that made her brave or kind, I just thought she was dumb. At the end of the film when Prince Kit comes to take her away, Ella looks back at her stepmother as she’s leaving the house and with a little smirk says, “I forgive you” & that’s the last we see of the stepmother. In some versions of Cinderella, she totally forgives the family and marries them to Lords of the Kingdom. In other versions, Ella is not as forgiving and has them murdered. This ending was the perfect amount of polite sass, like, “Thanks for all the abuse! It put me on a path to marry the King who, in a twist of great fate, I’m genuinely in love with. Bye, have a great life!!”

Dislikes:
– Everyone kept hyping up Lady Tremaine’s laugh like it was spot on just like the animated film, but I’m not sure what they were listening to. It didn’t impress me.

– As mentioned above, I loved the extravagant costumes used throughout the film. HOWEVER, they needed to get the Captain of the Guards/Prince Kit’s best friend a bigger uniform. He was a big dude & every costume they stuck him in looked extremely unflattering and uncomfortable with his belly hanging out over the top of his pants. I felt bad for the actor.

– The dress tearing scene was really tame compared to what I remember from the animated film. That scene was a chance to really show the cruelty of the family towards Ella & it just fell flat.

– While I enjoyed the cast as a whole, Lily James (Ella) reminded me too much of Mia Wasikowska (Alice from Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”). I know that’s random & not necessarily a bad thing, it was just odd. She did a lot of heavy breathing, a lot of chest heaving breathing throughout the movie that was kind of distracting. I kept looking at her collarbones moving around. I’m a weird person. I know that, & I’m fine with it.

– One plot point didn’t get resolved for me. Many wonder why Ella didn’t just run away/move out. In this version, Ella explains that she didn’t want to leave her house because that’s where her parents lived and all her memories of them were there. However, she didn’t seem to care about that ONE BIT when Prince Kit came to take her away. They never addressed what happened to her beloved childhood home after she left and she never hesitates to leave it all behind. I would’ve liked at least one line between her and Kit, or maybe her Fairy Godmother, about how the house doesn’t hold the memories, her heart does.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
I really enjoyed this film. It’s the right mix of modern and classic. I don’t have a soft spot in my heart for the Cinderella story, so I won’t be rushing out to buy this, but I still thought it was a well made film.
My Rating: B+

What do you think? Did you see Cinderella 2015? Are you planning on seeing it this weekend? Please let me know in the comments below – thanks for reading!

Book review! Beastly by Alex Flinn

Hi everyone,
Sorry I’ve been gone for so long, I was just in the process of moving from the Bay Area down to Southern California & I’m still somewhat adjusting & settling down so I’ve been REALLY busy. It’s taken me over four days to get this post up because I keep stopping & starting. :/ I’m not sure I want to reveal exactly why I moved down to SoCal for privacy reasons, but I’m sure as time passes I’ll end up talking about some stuff.

Anyways, I’m a HUGE fan of Beauty & the Beast, so any type of re-telling or story that’s vaguely associated with it, is going to grab my attention. That’s exactly what Beastly is! Also, they’ve made this book into a movie that’s yet to be released, although from the previews, it looks a LOT different from the book so that’s going to be annoying. I’ll still probably see the movie anyway just for comparisons sake.

Available for $8.99 at Borders. Pic Credit goes to: lafemmereaders.blogspot.com

Beastly is a modern day re-telling of Beauty & the Beast told from the Beast’s point of view. This book is a Young Adult novel so it’s geared mostly towards pre-teens and teenagers. Despite the fact that, in my opinion, it’s not really meant for someone my age to read – I’m 20 – for the most part I enjoyed this book for a bit of light reading. Haha, saying that makes me feel like Hermione, & if you understand what I’m talking about you totally ROCK! I’m not going to talk about the plot because probably everyone knows the story of Beauty & the Beast & if I get too detailed about the way the book retells the events of the stories then we’ll get into spoiler territory!

Pros/Cons: I liked the way Flinn wrote Kyle (the Beast). I felt like his voice was really honest & typical of a teenage boy. Unfortunately, I felt the complete opposite about the way Linda (Beauty…I liked the use of this symbolic name. Linda in Spanish means beautiful!) was written. Her voice felt very fake & forced. This is ironic to me because the book was written by a woman & usually women are better at tapping into their own gender. I liked how the story was sort of a mix of the original tale, plus the Disney version, & many other aspects from transformation stories. I feel like the author really did her homework when researching fairy tales. Another thing I really liked was the chat room sessions. I thought they were SO clever and a great way to incorporate other transformation tales & subtly encourage readers to read those other stories. I did think the ending of the book was kind of just thrown together/rushed. The rest of the book is paced very well so you aren’t getting too much information all at one time, but for some reason the ending felt like WHAM! BAM! LET’S TIE THIS ALL UP, GOTTA GET THIS BOOK FINISHED!! & yes, the twists are somewhat predictable, but that’s kind of hard to escape with a book that’s retelling an already popular story.

Rating: B+. For me, this book was just okay. You can’t really mess with the perfection that is the original story, so I didn’t anticipate this book being outstanding, but it was fairly decent. I can appreciate the author’s version of the story & the obvious hard work she put into it, but this book isn’t making it on my bookshelf. My bookshelf is home to the “A” grade books such as Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Home, a memoir of Julie Andrews’ early years & Spencerville by Nelson DeMille, just to name a few. I’m glad I read it & I may even go pick up some other books by Flinn, she has several other fairy tale remakes, just to see how she interprets/modernizes those stories. Also, at the end of the book there’s a little author’s note in which she talks about some of the books she read to help research for Beastly & they all sounded pretty interesting, so I’ll probably add those to my list of books to read. All in all, if you’re into fairy tales, go pick up this book & give it a try. It never hurts to read more literature, unless it’s Twilight. In all seriousness, it never hurts to add more literature into your life & we’re all entitled to our likes & dislikes 🙂

Let me know if you’ve read this book, plan on reading it, plan on NEVER reading it & your opinions. Tell me if there’s other books you’d think I’d like based on this review. Thanks for reading, stick around!

Love, Al-Leigh

Movie review! Gulliver’s Travels 3D

I’ll generally try to keep these posts short & to the point but seeing as how this is my first one, I’ll do some extra explaining. I’m going to start out with only reviewing movies I see in theaters, but if people start asking for it, I’ll review any movie I watch – I’m a big movie buff & my family watches at least one movie every night so you guys could end up with a movie review post every night! We’ll see..but for now..here’s Gulliver’s Travels 3D!
The movie: Gulliver’s Travels 3D
Movie rating: PG
Date released: 12/25/10
Date seen: 1/1/11
Audience: My mom, my boyfriend, myself & literally one other couple.
My rating system: I give this movie a B. I’ll explain my rating system in this post so you guys can kinda understand my point of view, but from here on out I’ll just give a rating. Of course this is just my preference & some movies, I can understand how OTHERS would like it, but it’s just not for me & that’s what my rating is based on. For example, my boyfriend LOVES Star Wars as do millions of others, but I’m just not drawn to them, so for me they’re a C movie. Yes, I understand it’s a good story, & the technology behind it is impressive especially for when the first set was made, but they’re just not for me.
A = AMAZING! Favorite movie that I MUST own so I can watch it over & over! (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Goonies)
B = Pretty good! I’d recommend this, but not sure if I’d run right out & buy it. (TRON:Legacy, Bandslam)
C = Average, typical. Meh. Not really a movie I care about. Don’t necessarily have to own it. (Megamind, What Happens in Vegas)
D/F = NOT excellent. I generally would not want to see this movie again..ever. (Valentine’s Day, The Love Guru)

Notable Cast: Jack Black (School of Rock, Kung Fu Panda), Amanda Peet (A Lot Like Love, 2012), Jason Segel (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I Love You, Man), Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Sunshine Cleaning) & Billy Connolly (Known mostly for his comedy routines, but can be seen in The Last Samurai & The Boondock Saints).

Trailer: *This movie is based off the book by Jonathan Swift written in 1726. The book is divided into four parts, & the movie only deals with two sections, & one of the two only VERY briefly. I haven’t read the children’s version in a really long time, but I’m going to go out on a limb & say it’s VERY different, other than the general basic story line. The trailer does give a lot of the story away, but there’s still some key plot points it doesn’t talk about.

My opinion: I thought this was a really cute funny feel good movie – I’m happy I went to see it. Obviously this is not a serious art film, it’s a kid’s movie, so it’s supposed to be a little ridiculous. There’s a few musical numbers, good music, a good message (although I’m not sure young kids will really understand it), & just enough mix of robots & princesses to appeal to boys AND girls. One thing I didn’t think was done very well sometimes was the mix of adult & kid humor. For example in Shrek, the humor is more layered. There’s one situation, & the adults see a couple things that make it funny, but kids only see the G-rated thing. In Gulliver’s Travels I felt like the humor was more transitional. There would be a scene of adult humor, not TOO adult, but just like, certain pop culture references that a child might not understand & then there would be a scene of kid humor, like stupid wedgie jokes. So it was like a tug of war between the different types of jokes. Also, keep in mind that the Lilliputians are supposed to be a parody/satire of the British government in 1726 so the acting is supposed to be hyper-pompous/dramatic with elevated speaking. At first I was surprised & thought the acting was just really bad, but then I thought about it in context with the book and it made more sense lol. All in all, I say, if you can/want to stop taking yourself so seriously for a few hours, you’re a child at heart, or you have some kids to entertain, go see this movie!

Leave a comment & let me know what you thought of this movie or if there are any other movies you’d like me to review – even older ones that have already come out on DVD/VHS (VHS..what’s that!?! lol)

Thanks!

Love, Al-Leigh