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16141924The Pitch:

Jim Gaffigan laments on the perils of fatherhood to five children – and hot pockets.

The Pros:

The chapters are incredibly short and to the point, which made it a funny, quick read.

There were several parts of the book that were laugh out loud funny, and several other that gave me a chuckle.

Lots of pictures in the book, which I loved because it put a face to all his kids when I was reading.

Even though I only have one child reading his torments and victories made me incredibly sympathetic.

The Cons:

The book reads like a collection of blog posts rather than a novel.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I was looking for.  If there would have been a more cohesive flow I think it would have helped the book be a little more literary.

The short, blog-like, chapters were incredibly repetitive in the first third of the novel.  It only took one chapter to inform me that he’s happily married with a beautiful wife, five kids, in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City, and a successful comedy career.  Yet, he tells me this almost every chapter for the first third.

The Soapbox:

There is a lot of talk in the book about both the pros and cons of having five children.  I came from a family of four, my husband is from a family of four, all of our parents came from big families – so much of what he spoke about resonated with me.  Yet, he kept coming back to the same point that he had “no idea” why they kept having children, other than being Catholic.  I just felt that was an easy out for him instead of being reflective and vulnerable about the reason they continue to have children.  Whatever he said wasn’t going to be wrong, it’s his life, his wife, his marriage – but this personal, real moment was lost in this book because he just fell onto a joke every time instead.  I really wish he had dug just a little bit deeper on some parts.

 

The Breakdown:

Rating:  Four Stars

Reasoning: Quick, easy, summer read, funny and topical (if you have kids) and, other than the repetition, worth your time.

Recommend For: Fans of Gaffigan, fans of comedy writing, parents, summer readers, pretty much anyone.

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Okay – I finally managed to FINISH A BOOK!  So I’m going to make this review as short and sweet as possible because I’d like to hit my Goodreads goal this year.  It took me about ten months but I realized that maybe watching re-runs of “Ridiculiousness” wasn’t the best use of my time.

The Pitch:

Autobiography of Tina Fey’s personal life and writing and acting career so far.  Minus “Mean Girls”, which made me sad.

The Pros:

Chapters were mercifully short which made it a very quick read.

Pictures!!!  As well as copies of scripts, etc.  LOVE that kind of stuff in a non-fiction.

Fey’s voice was very strong and came through on every page.  You can almost hear her reading it to you, which was very entertaining.

There were a couple of very funny lines/moments that made you want to keep reading.

There is a very strong message that is weaved throughout the book and emphasized at the end.

The Cons:

While Fey’s voice was strong the comedic timing/sarcasm needed for some of the jokes/points is lost on paper.  Unfortunately it made her come off as condescending and a little too ‘New Yorker’ for my taste.  I’m almost positive this would have never crossed my mind if I listened to the audiobook instead.

Fey being such a hilarious lady, I (wrongly) assumed that this book would be a laugh a minute.  While it was very witty and tack sharp smart it was not a hilarious book.  So buyer beware if you’re looking for a barrel of laughs – the reviews all over the cover lie.

I was very conflicted about the message that Fey leaves the reader with, but not for the reasons you might think.

The Soapbox:

The main message that Fey was trying to convey is feminism – more like women empowerment.  While there are several amazing chapters/sections that really illustrate this point, her parting words felt a little off to me.  She gives several examples (Amy Pohler’s joke, men in drag on SNL, the shift on SNL, Hilary Clinton comment on Weekend Update, Sarah Palin campaign/SNL skit) of how women empower themselves and how women NEED to empower themselves, she ends the carefully matured message with a ‘crazy bitch’ joke.  From what I gathered, her final thought on the topic of women empowerment/feminism was that, in the entertainment industry, when women get to a certain age the become ‘crazy’ which translates to ‘unhireable’.  She felt that if more women would strive to be in positions of power then we could promote more likeminded women who could still see the potential in women ‘beyond a certain age’.  The main point was that in order for women to get ahead we needed to help out other women and not be afraid to be assertive.  This all still fits with her theme – but as I closed the book I thought to myself, ‘Does that mean that I need to say I loved her book?’  My initial reaction was, ‘Of course not!’ But it has continued to sit strange with me.  I appreciated all of her insights, her struggles, her ambition, but in the end her book wasn’t all that impressive to me.  So am I not helping ‘feminism’ if I say I didn’t like her book?  I don’t know.

The Breakdown:

Rating:  Three Stars

Reasoning: While the message was clear and the novel was well paced and witty, it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.  Another example of not believing the hype.

Recommend For: Feminists, Humorists, Tina Fey lovers, busy mom’s that only have five minutes at a time to read!

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I’ve had a very hard time trying to write a review for this book.  Not because it was bad but because it brought up so much for me.  Every time I tried sitting down and writing a review it was a rambling of ideas and thoughts that this book created for me.  It was a strange list too:

-The dangers of ‘celebrity’

-Princess culture

-How this relates to my nieces

-How princess culture translates throughout childhood and into teenage years

-The gender polarizing toy industry

-What this means for me as a future mother

Now that I have completely pushed this book from my mind and have gone back over it I think I finally know why I’ve had such a hard time reviewing this book.  This investigation into the ‘girly-girl’ culture that American society, in particular, seems to be entrenched in raises nothing but questions for us all.  The author is unable to come to any kind of conclusions; the reader is left filtering through their own thoughts about the investigation, and in the end that is okay.  There is no answer to the questions poised by this book – only bringing awareness to the subject and educating anyone that is interested.

Orenstein explores the marketing, research, education, and speculation about whether or not allowing your daughter to get lost in the entire ‘princess’ madness is healthy in this non-fiction investigation.  It’s actually a little sinister when you realize that companies like Disney have entire anagrams and made-up words specifically for all this princess stuff.  Yet, when it comes down to it, most girls grow out of this phase with no lasting negative effects.  That’s what it is – a phase.  What parents SHOULD be concerned about is what comes after it – the ‘girlz’ culture and pre-tween marketing.  If you’re not getting any visuals on ‘girlz’ or what a pre-tween could be let me remind you of Bratz dolls.  Marketed to impressionable minds as being ‘fierce and independent’, a movement away from the ‘baby toys of princess’, yet they look like hookers on a good day.

While it can be annoying and tedious to have to watch “Beauty and the Beast” five times a day and have every dress be a ‘princess dress’ it only gets much, much worse.  If you are not policing what your children are watching after they exit that ‘princess’ phase you are in for a world of trouble and fighting; because the pre-tween market moves into the tween market which is Hannah “Pole-Dancing” Montana.

There seem to only be worse examples provided to our daughters, as they get older.  Of course it all cumulates with being a teenager and the laundry list of problems that brings up.  If I’ve learned anything from my mom it’s that you consider killing your children for the first time as they move through the teenage years.

What I’ve pulled from my reading of this book is what Orenstein finished the book with – there needs to be that distinction made with girls in the pre-tween to tween market between what is REAL and what is celebrity.   Celebrity has no rules, celebrity is a horrible example to live by – celebrity should not be something to strive for.  There is nothing wrong with watching a Disney movie and wanting to pretend to be a princess as long as our daughters know that isn’t what happens in the real world.  Being able to escape into fantasy is what builds creativity and character within someone and to take that away from anyone is soul crushing and bleak.  But I just don’t see many parents making that distinction – and honestly how could you with a three year old?  Which is why I think most of the time you should just let it go with all the little girls.  It is said over and over again that it’s just a phase that girls grow out of, and we’ve all had our moments.

It’s when girls – like my 8-year-old niece –reveal a desire to be ‘famous’ that I think they should be gently moved toward something more productive.  To hear my niece tell me that she needed to be ‘famous’ like Hannah Montana or whoever that girl is on iCarly was like a kick to my chest.  She didn’t want to be famous for the usual reasons; she wanted to be a celebrity – a Kardashian!!! – and that is where the marketing and research done on pre-tweens and tweens becomes dangerous in my opinion.  We all want to be famous, we want the accolades, the recognition, the feeling of being set aside or set above, but I feel it should come with a desire to contribute.  Be famous for finding something, building something, helping with something – be famous for contributing.  You should never want to be famous for reasons other than that because that’s not being famous, it’s being infamous – it’s celebrity.  Let’s get real here Kim Kardashian is a celebrity because she made a sex tape and leveraged that into a series of lies and questionable businesses.  We need to make sure girls don’t look up to horrible examples like that and think that celebrity is something to strive for.

Needless to say I told my niece that she could and would be famous if that is her desire in life, but that it should be for something substantial because SHE is something more than fame.  She is smart, she is kind, she is funny – and that should be enough to help her toward fame.  We all want the seemingly easy life of celebrity but that should not be a goal of an 8 year old – it should be something much more substantial.  The day that we stop encouraging our young girls to be more than just pretty is the day that we doom ourselves.

After all the thoughts and ideas that this book brought up for me the bottom line seems to be that you need to be an active, conscious, and consistent parent.  Know what your children are watching and reading.  Pay attention to what is actually being presented on the shows and books and toys they are playing with and what kind of play it is creating.  Finally, don’t ever be afraid to tell them no and KEEP telling them no.  iCarly might be what everyone is watching – but if your gut is telling you that it’s not appropriate for your six-year-old child then DON’T let them watch it.

Rating:  4 Stars

Reasoning:  A very intelligent investigation that doesn’t give any kind of finite answer but instead challenges ideas and norms that we have come to accept about ourselves and our daughters.

Recommended For:  Anyone that has a little girl in their life that they care about.

 

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