Monday, January 9, 2012

Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy

I must admit, when I think of Jenny McCarthy, my mind goes back to her MTV days. I pride myself on the fact that I grew up on MTV during the 80's but was sad to learn via wikipedia that McCarthy's MTV heydays were in the mid to late 90's. Did I really watch MTV THAT LONG?!? Or maybe I'm romanticizing the whole 80's era...maybe it was more 90's watching I did. But that's not as cool in my opinion. Does this make sense to ANYONE?

Anyway, the second thing that comes to mind is that Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carey were an item. Not really a big fan of either, whose faces and personas seem like caricatures more than real, interesting, complex people. What must the sex between the two have been like? I can only imagine Jim Carey ala Cable Guy, "free cable is the ultimate aphrodesiac, Jenny" (insert contorted facial expression here - met with McCarthy's over the top exaggerated O face here).

But I suppose McCarthy is a comedian of sorts. So maybe her book about her pregnancy (with now ex-husband John Asher) would provide some comic relief, if not insights into the glories of being knocked up. Each chapter is an anecdote on some kind of pregnancy symptom, like nausea, constipation, gas, you name it. Thankfully for the book, McCarthy had a HORRIBLE pregnancy in terms of experiencing the widest range of unpleasant side effects you could pick up at the pregnancy symptom buffet. Thankfully for me, she keeps each "chapter" short, to only a few pages (although I'll give her arguable status as a comedian, I won't go so far as to say she's a talented writer).

But, as a pregnant lady myself, the book was entertaining, and a quick read. At the very least, it made me feel triumphant in my own pregnancy since I've been pretty symptom free so far (knock on wood). And her saving grace? That glorious picture of her on the cover! May all pregnant women at least feel as good as she looks at some point in their pregnancy. If you believe her book, that's all she had going for her during that time in her life!

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (CBR book #31)

If you're into Twilight or other angsty teenage supernatural type books, then you'll probably dig Beautiful Creatures. Now that I've mentioned Twilight, some of you die-hard fans (I am not one of them) might want to know which is better...honestly, I'm not sure. I think Twilight fans would still prefer the Twilight books to Beautiful Creatures, but with three books already in the series, Beautiful Creatures may be worth a deeper look.

Okay, now I'm talking to normal people. This book is along the lines of the Twilight series so...possibly an entertaining, brainless read with a cup of annoying and over dramatic mixed in.

Basically, Beautiful Creatures takes place in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where the civil war is still the biggest news of the day. Ethan Wate, a sophomore in high school, has his friends and basketball team. But then Lena Duchannes comes to town. The niece of the town's mysterious recluse, Lena's welcome in Gatlin is anything but. Ethan, however, is strangely drawn to Lena. Haunted by a recurring dream, Lena seems to be the clue to Ethan understanding it. As their friendship develops, Ethan learns more and more about Lena's family and all of its supernatural secrets.

I think this story focuses more on the relationship between Ethan and Lena (read: a love story) as opposed to really exploring and understanding Lena's supernatural world. In that sense, I found the book lacking. I love being immersed in new worlds but the perspective is Ethan's, so you feel just as in the dark as he does about all the interesting things Lena is privy to. Of course, things are slowly revealed throughout the book, but I still had a lot of questions and wanted to know more. I suppose that's the point of a series though, isn't it? Perhaps I'll read the second book to discover more. But I'm not sure the first book entranced me enough to go to the trouble.

Zarqawi's Ice Cream by Andrew Goldsmith

I had a war kick a couple years ago where I read books written about an Army Ranger, a Navy Seal, and reconnaissance Marines. So it was a no brainer that I might be interested in hearing about Army infantry soldiers. Whether or not you agree with the US involvement in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, you have to admit that those who have served overseas have some pretty knarly stories to tell.

Zarqawi's Ice Cream is a collection of stories, impressions, and memories of Goldsmith's time in the Army, and specifically, Iraq. This book is written differently from the others I had read. Although each book has a distinct voice and personality, Goldsmith's quasi stream of consciousness style definitely stands out. Although I'm not sure if I like it or not, it definitely gives his story telling an interesting style. Rather than a straight out narrative, "Hi, I'm Andrew and this is my story..." Goldsmith journals each chapter independently. There is a loose connection from chapter to chapter, but each really is its own story. He has an artful way of conveying his message, even if he IS talking about something gritty or even disturbing. The downfall, however, is that I didn't feel a real connection to Goldsmith or the other people he writes about. He seems detached from the narratives, and it made me feel a bit detached to the book as a whole.

So while I feel like the book is well-written, it's not my favorite military read.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (CBR Book #30)

I'd seen the Disney cartoon, the Johnny Depp version, and a creepier version on TV back when I was I thought it appropriate to pick up the actual book and experience Lewis Carroll firsthand.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was written by Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865. Apparently Carroll was a man of many hats (author, poet, mathematician, that a word?). And this book showcases all of these hats, although with characters like the mad hatter wearing them, things get a bit...strange. Apparently, according to wikipedia, and I'm sure a host of other web sites, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is rife with literary allusions and symbolism. But it was all lost on me. I suppose this book would be more interesting studied and picked apart in an academic setting than just as a summer read. Because as the latter, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But I guess that's the point, since Carroll specializes in the literary nonsense genre (didn't make that up).

Alice's story begins in her garden, where she finds a rabbit hole and falls down into a fantasy world. Each chapter is a new adventure in Wonderland, with new characters and silly situations. A lot of what happens in the book reminds me of a dream. Events are random, don't make a whole lot of sense, and crazy seems to be the norm. I won't go into details about the story itself...I think most of you are familiar with Alice in Wonderland in one way or another. I'll just skip to my impressions. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. In fact, it took me awhile to read - I'd pick it up between reading other books. As silly as the story is, I didn't find myself that interested in it. I guess a lot of the humor and irony was over my head.

Would I recommend it? Not for a casual read. And definitely not as a children's book. I think of all the versions I've seen, the one that I liked the most was the 1985 Alice in Wonderland movie which also included a sequel, Through the Looking Glass. I just remember they were creepy as all hell and Through the Looking Glass featured one of my favorite poems, Jabberwocky (also written by Carroll). Of course, I was only 6 when the first movie came out, so it's probably cheesier than a can of whiz. But given the source material, I can't really say it's too far off base.