Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

So, what do you know about Chris Farley? I’ll admit, I didn’t know much. I thought he was funny, I LOVED Tommy Boy, and have repeated the line “in a van down by the river” from the famous Matt Foley Saturday Night Live skit. I knew he died way too young due to an overdose at 33 – the same age as a man he idolized, John Belushi.

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts is an amazing oral history pulled together by Chris’s older brother Tom Farley, and Tanner Colby – who also wrote a biography about John Belushi. This account starts with Chris’s growing up and living in Madison, Wisconsin. He was known even in grade school as a comedian – always doing something to get a laugh. It also takes us through his college and rugby days, through doing improv comedy at ImprovOlympic and Second City in Chicago, and his 5 year reign on SNL.

Much of Farley’s addiction problems stem from a obese alcoholic father, whom Chris would do anything to please. At almost 600 lbs by the time of Chris’s death, his father was an enabler of the worst kind. Chris once took his father to a weight loss clinic, where they left during the group session after his father claimed that they didn’t have a problem like those other people. After the session, they went on a binge weekend in Florida.

Chris would spend a number of stints in different rehab centers, once staying sober for three years. Some say that he did some of his best work during this time of sobriety. He was on to some great things while he was battling his demons – he was cast as the original voice of Shrek (he had almost finished the voice work when he died, Mike Myers was later cast), and he was in talks for a movie about Fatty Arbuckle, a silent film star whose life had similar characteristics to Farley’s.

The power of the words from the people who knew him best – his brothers, friends, mentors and costars – is amazing. Not everything said in the book is positive, but you really feel like you get a sense of who Chris was, and the things he was dealing with. At the end, I couldn’t help but tear up – I really felt for this good hearted, talented, loving man.

Definitely check this out, if you are looking for a good oral history. I am so glad that I read this book.

Thanks to Caitlin for sending me this book for review!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Review: The House on Fortune Street

Margot Livesey’s novel, The House on Fortune Street, is a wonderfully written tale about love and choices. It follows four very different characters, but yet these characters are all connected in distinct ways. Sean, a scholar working on his dissertation about Keats, has recently left his wife to be with Abigail, an actress who has started her own theater company. Sean was all Abigail wanted and pressured him hard to leave his wife. Now, there is no time to see each other, and regret might be seeping into each of their consciousness. Dara, Abigail’s best friend from St. Andrews University, has recently moved into the downstairs apartment in Abigail’s house on Fortune Street. She’s a social worker with some emotional damage of her own. When she was 10, her father, Cameron, left for unknown reasons, and she has dealt with feelings of abandonment since then. Cameron, himself, has some secrets as to why he left his family.

Livesey’s writing is so personal, the characters are so intertwined in each others stories. It flows through Sean’s story, into Cameron’s, into Dara’s and finally Abigail’s. Each one reveals something new, which then relates to the next story, and it’s all weaved together until you get to the end and you are hit with a powerful and touching ending that will stay with you long after you put the book down.

I highly recommend this heartrending story. Thank you so much to Stephanie for sending me a copy to read and review!!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review: Mercury in Retrograde

When I was contacted by Paula Froelich (yes, by Paula HERSELF!!!) to read her new chick-lit book, Mercury in Retrograde, I have to admit, I was totally excited. I love chick-lit – those great summer reads that just let you fall into them. This book was no exception!!

It follows three very different women – Penelope, a reporter who is stuck in a thankless job doing whatever her editor deems worthy, Lena “Lipstick,” a socialite who works at a high fashion magazine and spends her time going to social events and checking her popularity rating on the internet, and Dana, a corporate lawyer on her way towards partnership.

There were several things that I enjoyed about the book. I loved how the book flowed seamlessly between the three characters. They each were able to tell their own stories, and how their lives intersected each others. Also, at the beginning of each chapter, there was a little horoscope for the upcoming pages.

The character development in the story was great, too! Usually in chick-lit, the central characters are totally involved and obsessed with men and their relationships, and while there were some great relationships in the book, these women were primarily focused on their careers, which was kind of refreshing. The growth of these three women throughout the story was totally believable – they really learned from what was going on around them and what was happening to them, and changed for the better.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves chick-lit – or if you just want a light fun summer type read!!

Thanks so much to Paula for sending me her awesome book!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

And the winner is...

First - I am SO sorry I am a couple days late announcing the winner to my "The Mad Ones" giveaway!!! And now, without further adieu...

A Stationary Addict!!!!

Congratulations!!! I've sent you an email to get your snail mail address!!!

Stay tuned for some more awesome reviews - I've got some great ones in the works!!! Thanks again to everyone for reading my blog and entering the contest!!!

Winner chosen using sequence generator.
Timestamp: 2009-06-12 15:12:10 UTC

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Review: Best Intentions

After reading the dust jacket, I have to admit I was thinking that Best Intentions by Emily Listfield would be just another novel about a cheating husband and what happens to a family once he has been found out. I wasn’t expecting this novel to grab me with its twists and turns. The story builds, step by step, as we continue to learn more about each of the main characters, and I came to realize that this was so much more than what I expected.

Lisa and Sam seem to be the perfect couple living in New York. They met in college and have been happily married for years. Through a series of missteps and bad investments, are now feeling some financial pressure. Adding to that pressure is their daughters’ private school tuition.

Deirdre is Lisa’s best friend since college. She is a free spirit, single, but looking to settle down. Unfortunately, her current boyfriend – a popular and well traveled photographer, Ben – isn’t interested in that. Their on again, off again relationship is shaky at best, but factor in some rough sex, and it borders on dangerous.

Jack, who had moved away and married a much younger woman, completed the foursome of friends in college. Deirdre and Jack were in a serious relationship that ended in an ultimatum. Then, Jack comes in to town and gets the old gang together for a 40th birthday celebration.

Lisa is faced with some major trust issues at the beginning of the novel, when she hears a voice message on her husband’s phone – a soft whispering voice, suggesting a meeting at the same time, same place. The evidence seems clear that her husband is having an affair, but throughout the novel, different pieces of evidence can be interpreted in different ways. I went back and forth thinking “CHEATER!” and “no, he’s telling the truth!” Through Emily Listfield’s writing, you can really feel the struggle between trust and mistrust, and it was easy to sympathize with Lisa’s character during her struggle.

This novel poses a few questions such as, “how well do you ever really know a person?” I guess you have to read on to find out!!!

Emily Listfield is the author of six novels, including Waiting to Surface and the New York Times Notable Book It was Gonna Be Like Paris. You can read more about Emily Listfield and her work at her author website, or visit the Who Killed Deirdre? web pages.

Thanks to Lauren for sending me this book to review!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Review and Giveaway!! The Mad Ones

Joey Gallo was an interesting kind of guy. He wrote poetry, painted, rubbed elbows with celebrities such as Jerry Orbach. But, he was also a gangster. He and his brothers, Larry and Kid Blast were considered “mob muscle” in Brooklyn.

Now, I have never read a book about the mob or gangsters before. I always meant to pick up “The Godfather” but never got around to it…yet. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Mad Ones: Crazy Joe Gallo and the Revolution at the Edge of the Underworld by Tom Folsom – and I sure didn’t expect Crazy Joe Gallo to turn into a sort of “antihero.” Yes, the brothers committed murders for their Don, and yes, they sort of bullied others into doing what they want, but they also fought for the little guy. The people in the neighborhood where they lived adored the brothers because they saved six children from a burning building and put out the fire with a bucket brigade.

These brothers were different from other gangsters – they stood apart with their “hip style, fierce ambition and Crazy Joe’s manic idealism.” Bob Dylan wrote a song about Crazy Joe – and 11 minute ballad called “Joey.” Dylan is quoted as saying “I never considered him a gangster. I always thought of him as some kind of hero in some kind of way. An underdog fighting against the elements.”

Though I found a couple parts to be a little slow (after Joey gets sent to jail, for instance), and a little hard to keep up with some of the characters in the book, I thought is was a interesting read and an insightful look into a world that I could never imagine. This book is definitely worth picking up and checking out!!!

In fact, I’ve decided to do another giveaway!!! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post. Please include your email address so I can notify you if you win! If you don’t leave your email, you will be taken out of the running, and you don’t want that to happen!! The contest will run until Tuesday, June 9, and I’ll pick a winner on Wednesday, June 10. This contest is open to anyone who wants to enter!! Good luck!!!