“A Little Bit Wicked” by Kristin Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


In this lively, laugh-out-loud book, Kristin shares her journey from Oklahoma beauty queen to Broadway leading lady, reflecting on how faith and family have kept her grounded in the dysfunctional rodeo of show biz.

Goodreads


I am admittedly one of those people who’s seen Wicked on tour… oh, 3 or 4 times? That’s not too bad, right?

Kristin Chenoweth writes a pretty straight-forward memoir here, which talks about her childhood, theatre and TV experiences, love life, etc. It’s roughly in chronological order, with sidesteps here and there.

I thought the story of her adoption – and a possible sighting of her birth mother later on – were riveting. She grew up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma with one older brother and tons of first cousins. Like many girls, she started dance lessons from a young age. She later started singing, often in church.

Chenoweth briefly competed in some local pageants as a way to win money for college. She was often one of the shortest competitors, but she knew her talent – singing – was stronger than some of her competitors’ talents. She never took first place, but earned some money to help her out in her school days.

One story I found funny was about her needing a tonsillectomy in college. She was training under a demanding vocal coach, and was worried that her soprano voice might change. In the end, it did – it got higher.

After her undergrad years in Oklahoma, Chenoweth moved north to study opera in Philadelphia. But she had other friends moving to New York, and it was so close… that she often found herself tagging along on musical theatre auditions in the big city. And, she was cast almost immediately!

(She did eventually finish her Master’s degree, to please her dad.)

Getting cast in a show is only one step, though, and the rest of Chenoweth’s story will remind readers what the “struggling actor” life is all about: crappy apartments, long hours, physical accidents and injuries, etc.

Obviously, she gets gigs that are better and better. She starts getting work on the West Coast, as well – first on TV, then in a few movies. She does a lot of charity concerts, performs on the Oscars, and dishes on her boyfriends (most notably, Aaron Sorkin). She also has a dog named after Madeline Kahn.

This memoir will mostly appeal to people who already find Chenoweth charming, or people who love hearing the backstage gossip on their favorite Broadway shows.


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“On Time – A Princely Life In Funk” by Morris Day with David Ritz – Review

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK


“Brilliant composer, smooth soul singer, killer drummer, and charismatic band leader, Morris Day, has been a force in American music for the past four decades. In On Time, the renowned funkster looks back on a life of turbulence and triumph.”

Goodreads


A few weeks ago, I tackled Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.” So it seemed only logical to follow that with Morris Day’s memoir, which was published the same month (October 2019). If you don’t know Morris, please take a break and go watch Purple Rain. (Or even Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, for that matter!)

This is another memoir that is written in a unique style. In this one, the story is (thankfully) told in chronological order. There are three “voices” in the book, though – Morris, Prince, and MD (who is Morris’ onstage persona). Obviously, they were all written by Morris, but he uses these voices to kind of argue with himself on certain points where there are conflicts or confusion.

Morris was born in Springfield, Illinois, but moved to Minneapolis when he was still young. His parents were divorced, and he had several step-dads and half-siblings. His older sister was the rock to him, and continued to help him out of trouble well into their adulthoods.

Morris started out as a drummer. He met Prince in high school, and became the drummer for the Purple One’s band. There were several other funk outfits going at the time, and he admired certain players and singers in some of them. He was constantly in search of a good groove.

When Prince created his first signed band, The Revolution, he did not invite Morris to be the drummer. But, he did offer Morris a completely different gig, if Morris wanted to go on tour with them – videographer. Of course, Morris said yes, despite not having any experience. In the early eighties, this meant lugging around a heavy camera. He stuck with this gig for three years, just to be close to Prince’s creative genius.

Eventually his loyalty paid off, and Prince wanted to make a Morris album. Morris had never been a lead singer, but Prince convinced him he could do it. They produced the whole album themselves, and then Prince revealed that he envisioned Morris with a band, not as a solo artist. So Morris dipped into his Minneapolis funk favorites to come up with band members for The Time (even though none of them actually played on that first album).

This story sets an important precedent for many of the stories that follow, and I’ll quote Morris directly:

“Naturally, that made me crazy, but being driven crazy is the price you paid for being around Prince.”

Most people know Morris Day from his performance in the movie Purple Rain. His character has the same name, Morris Day, but was a little more bombastic than the real Morris at that time. This came out of figuring out how to make Morris the foil for Prince in the movie, and the idea that – since Prince would obviously be the sexy one – Morris could be the funny one.

This is where we see the birth of MD, the more exaggerated version of Morris. The character from the movie became his onstage persona, and often blended into his real life. Over decades, Morris fought with drugs, alcohol, and women. He did get married, and had a family. He did have some successful albums, both with the band and as a solo artist. He feels he had an ongoing struggle between MD, who wanted all the fabulousness of being a celebrity, and Morris, who wanted a family and to just play good music.

But his other lifelong struggle was with Prince. He wanted to get out of Prince’s shadow at some points, but also knew that Prince was a genius. Prince would invite him to play at some shows, then change his mind at the last minute (when the band had already traveled to the city of the show). A later incarnation of The Time actually had to record under a different name, because Prince claimed he owned the name – even though they were still touring as The Time at the time.

Morris eventually gets clean. He also gets divorced, and remarried. He sees Prince one last time – for the first time in a decade – a few months before his death. He still considers him a brother, albeit a hard one to deal with sometimes.

This is a fun and easy read, especially if you like music. The hardcover edition comes in at just over 200 pages, and the conversational tone is easy to digest.


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“Move on Motherf*cker” by Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


Your negative inner voice is a total assh*le. Tell it to f*ck off with this irreverent, laugh-out-loud guide!

Goodreads


Self-help books are so subjective – I feel like a good book in this genre is any one that you find at the time that you need it. The same book may even hit you differently at different times in your life! That being said, I read this one all the way through in order to review it.

What drew me in first was the title. I assumed it was your average self-help book that had a sassy title to get your attention. (And I’m ok with that – I’ve read Jen Sincero’s “You’re a Badass” series!) But, in the foreword and introductions, we learn that cussing is actually part of the point. There’s a newer concept in psychology that says swearing is good for you – it can help relieve stress, and it can be fun!

All the real concepts you need to understand the MOMF (Move On Motherf*cker) methodology are in the first chapter. The key one is the idea of the second arrow. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to quote the author’s explanation:

If you are struck with an arrow, it hurts like hell. You can’t change that the arrow struck you. That part is done… When you bitch and moan about the tragedy of the arrow striking you, you create your own suffering – in addition to the original wound. In other words, you are striking yourself with a second arrow.

The opening chapters also talk about mindfulness and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) – which seem like big, fancy terms. But it really comes down to noticing when you’re shooting yourself with that second arrow (through moping, dwelling, and negative self-talk), and jarring yourself out of that mental state (by getting up, moving, breathing, replacing negative talk with positive affirmations, etc.). This second part is where MOMF comes in – it’s a statement you say to yourself to jar yourself out of your moping/dwelling thoughts.

The author is also quick to point out several caveats to this method. Firstly, it’s meant to be a funny little jab at yourself, not abusive. If swearing isn’t your bag, make up another statement instead. Also, it’s not meant to be used in cases of severe trauma or grief. You wouldn’t tell a friend to just “get over” losing a loved one, would you? So, don’t treat yourself that way, either. It’s literally for moving your mental state away from dwelling on things – or blaming yourself for things – that are out of your control.

Once you get the concept down, the rest of the chapters are about applying it to different situations. There are stories gleaned from the author’s experiences as a therapist, and journal prompts. The chapters include ones on: sticking up for yourself, being a control freak, your love life, parenting, work, illness/injury, bad habits, and having a rough past. Obviously, not every single chapter will apply to every individual – so, you could easily pick and choose, and not tackle every scenario in the book.

This book is coming out on November 3rd, and I got a preview copy through Books Forward.

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“The Beautiful Ones” by Prince with Dan Piepenbring – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


From Prince himself comes the brilliant coming-of-age-and-into-superstardom story of one of the greatest artists of all time—featuring never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets, and the exquisite memoir he began writing before his tragic death.

Goodreads


To say that this book was a multi-sensory experience may seem odd, or even cheesy – but I knew I was in for a new experience just from picking it up. The pages are ultra-thick, the page numbers aren’t in the usual place, the typeset was large and unique. From the moment you feel this book, you know you’re in for an adventure.

This one is not a straight-forward memoir. The beginning is the 50-page odyssey of the book’s invention, explaining that Prince had the idea to write a memoir (or several), but died before it came to fruition. He had already picked a co-author (Dan), and signed the book deal. So, upon his death, the people involved in the deal were among those allowed to look through his extensive trove of notes and pictures and other momentos left behind at Paisley Park.

They decided to use some of the stuff they found that interested them in the following way: After the intro, there is what Prince had written so far of his proposed memoir. This is mostly about his parents, growing up in Minneapolis, and other things about his early years. They include scans of the actual, handwritten pages – but fear not, it’s typed out afterward, for easier reading. But, they did type it as close as they could to the way Prince wrote, including using an emoji (for lack of a better description) of an eye for the word “I.”

After that is a photo album, with annotations, from his earliest years getting a recording contract. He and some bandmates went out to California to record, and he took pictures of random things like their hotel room. It’s cute to think of this huge personality as having once been a young kid viewing a new place for the first time, in awe of its different terrain and style.

There are mountains of other pictures and notes, often paired with quotes from interviews, that show the artist coming into his own and doing things his way. Then we have another handwritten tome, a synopsis of what he first envisioned the movie Purple Rain to be about. Following that are a few more pictures, notes, and fun finds.

I want to leave you with some fun/funky quotes from the mind of Prince himself:

“…the bass & drums on this record would make Stephen Hawking dance. No disrespect – it’s just that funky.”

“Try to create. I want to tell people to create. Just start by creating your day. Then create your life.”

“If there’s something out there that U want – Go 4 it! Nothing comes to sleepers but dreams.”

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“Invader Zim: The Best of World Domination” – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


WORLD DOMINATION. That’s the goal for ZIM, the Irken invader stationed on Earth. But even an Irken as talented, beloved, and humble as ZIM occasionally has trouble getting his plans off the ground. A brand new collection featuring four favorite stories highlighting ZIM’s greatest plots to take over the world.


This anthology has several authors and illustrators, including Zim creator Jhonen Vasquez. Other contributors include Eric Trueheart, Aaron Alexovich, Megan Lawton, Rikki Simmons, J.R. Goldberg, Warren Wucinich, Dave Crosland, and Fred C. Stresing.

The collection comes out on October 6th. I got an advanced reader copy from Oni-Lion Forge Publishing. (If you’re already a fan of this comic series, spoiler alert: these stories were already presented in issues #3, #8, #18, and #20.)

I hadn’t read any Invader Zim comics before, but I did watch the old cartoon. A familiarity with the characters and style of humor might make this an easier read, but it’s not entirely necessary. If you like absurd scenarios and outlandish egotistical aliens, you shouldn’t have any problems jumping right in.

There are four stories included: Star Donkey, Pants!, Burrito King, and Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy.

“Star Donkey” has Zim playing the part of a pretentious artist, whose latest installation (at the Museum of Natural History Museum) is really a cover to take over Earth. One of my favorite lines, spoken by a member of the public who is trying to interpret Zim’s great work, is “He’s commenting on the utter banality of commenting.” If that doesn’t sum up life on social media, I don’t know what does! Zim is joined by his companions Gir and Mini Moose in this one, and is thwarted in part by his human neighbor/nemesis Dib.

(But really, isn’t Zim’s biggest obstacle always his own ego and/or Gir getting distracted at an inopportune time?)

In “Pants!,” Zim has invited some aliens to come to Earth and zombify all the humans. The aliens are living pants, and the people who put them on turn into zombies. The story focuses mostly on Dib, as he survives the zombies at his skool and communicates with the alien queen. He and Zim face off in an inevitable Pants Pants Revolution battle.

“Burrito King” sees the return of The Tallest, the overlords Zim is always trying to impress. When Zim sees that another invader is getting recognized for his achievements, he sets out to conquer something he thinks will be an easy win: the local burrito restaurant. He makes all patrons swear loyalty to him in exchange for their burritos – but, of course, Gir is in the kitchen and does not know how to make burritos.

“Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy” mocks the laziness of good, long TV binge. Zim creates a “conquer blob” to subjugate the human race for him, and then starts watching cartoons with Gir while the blob does the work. They end up watching cartoons for YEARS, though. The blob gets the job done, then gets bored waiting for Zim to come outside, and rebuilds society while he waits. The story ends with Gir saying, “Ooooh, it’s so pretty outside!” and Zim replying, “Yessss… It’s disgusting.”

Don’t we all feel like that some days?

Check out the new Invader Zim compilation, “World Domination,” wherever you get all your fave comics.


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“Eliza Hamilton” by Tilar J. Mazzeo – Review

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK


Fans fell in love with Eliza Hamilton—Alexander Hamilton’s devoted wife—in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s phenomenal musical Hamilton. But they don’t know her full story. A strong pioneer woman, a loving sister, a caring mother, and in her later years, a generous philanthropist, Eliza had many sides—and this fascinating biography brings her multi-faceted personality to vivid life.

Goodreads

If you’re the type to find history hard to focus on, this read might not be for you. Even I found a few parts to be a bit dry, and I actually like history. But, for the most part, there are a lot of great stories in Eliza’s long life.

The Schuyler sisters grew up on the Hudson River, with family land in both Albany and Saratoga. Their father had long been involved in military and political machinations, and was even a liaison with the local tribal communities at times. (The book “Last of the Mohicans” was written by one of Eliza’s distant cousins.) Also of note was that most of the region was being settled by families connected to the Schuylers – they knew just about everybody in New York state during this era, it seemed. Eliza was described as “outdoorsy,” and loved to ride horses.

There is one story about Eliza’s mother, Kitty, that stands out from these early years. When Philip (Eliza’s father) learned that an opposing army was going to pass by one of their properties, Kitty drove there from the other with a team of horses and a few slaves. She loaded up all the good silver at that house, and then got word from her husband to burn all the crops in the field so that the army couldn’t eat their food. None of the slaves wanted to do it, so Kitty did it herself. Then she sent her horses to Philip, because she figured he’d need them on the front lines, and hitched her carriage to some oxen, instead, for the return trip. Apparently, the story of a lady in all her finery setting fire to her crops was a regional legend for years.

Eliza and her sisters also got an education, in New York City. They learned a little reading and writing, and how to manage a household. But they were mostly concerned with finding husbands.

While Eliza had a few crushes, we already know who she ends up marrying – a military man with no family or money, one Alexander Hamilton. Thankfully Hamilton had a good reputation in the military, and Philip Schuyler approved of this son-in-law. The newlyweds would have to rely on Eliza’s side of the family for support, as Alexander had no family.

There are a couple key points from their early years together. One is that Alexander was a prolific writer, and wrote an almost constant stream of letters home to Eliza during both their courtship and early married years. Eliza, on the other hand, did not have a lot of confidence in her spelling, and wrote back to Alexander less often than he would like. This was actually one of their ongoing disagreements.

Another idea that comes up in this part of the book is that of the “Roman wife,” who would sacrifice for the good of the Republic, and the idea of the “American wife,” who was more of a romantic, dedicated to her husband and also to being a socialite. Alexander, in the midst of trying to help establish the new country, wanted a “Roman wife,” and Eliza agreed to be one. The idea was that getting the nation founded was even more important than the two of them always being together.

A good portion of the middle of the book (around 20%) is dedicated to the Reynolds Affair. For those who don’t know the basics: Evidence of payments made from Alexander to a man name James Reynolds lead some to believe that Alexander was engaged in insider trading while he was heading up the national Treasury. Alexander claimed that the payments were made because he had slept with Reynolds’ wife, and Reynolds was blackmailing him.

The author here leans toward the belief that Alexander did not really sleep with Maria Reynolds. This was actually the belief most of his accusers still clung to at the time, to varying degrees. Many thought the love letters from Maria to Alexander were forged. Maria herself claimed this, and offered to give a writing sample for people to compare – yet, one never given. Later, some historians proposed that Eliza burned her own love letters to Alexander because the wording and spelling closely resembled that found in the Maria Reynolds letters – so perhaps Alexander modeled the letters after the real ones from his wife?

Whether or not Alexander was trading for his own benefit or that of others is also at question. He was still acting as the lawyer and executor of all his brother-in-law’s American holdings while (Eliza’s sister) Angelica and her husband were in Europe, and had business and familial ties throughout the widespread branches of the Schuyler clan. Would it make sense for Eliza to go along with a lie in order to be a good “Roman wife,” and protect her husband’s political appointment at the Treasury – even if it made their marriage seem crappy to those looking at it from the outside? Would it give her more incentive to also be protecting her father, sisters, and various other family members?

The Reynolds affair came and went, many times over. Alexander’s political enemies would continue to bring it up for years, even after his death. Alexander almost fought one duel over it in 1795, but that one was averted. The Hamiltons moved out of the inner city, and started building a farmstead north of town. They were mostly happy there, despite family health issues and their older teen children getting into trouble from time to time. Eliza didn’t know how far in debt they’d gone building this home until after Alexander’s death in 1804.

Eliza’s father, Philip, promised to help support her and her children financially after her husband’s death – but he died shortly after. All of her Schuyler siblings were in tight financial positions, and fought bitterly over their inheritances. Eliza was eventually able to keep her house, only because Alexander’s allies and admirers started a fund to help her.

Eliza had always had a soft spot for widows and orphans – this went back to the days of the Revolutionary War, when she had many friends who’d lost their husbands. But after being left to the charity of others in the wake of her own husband’s death, she took on a more formal role in helping others in these situations.

She joined a society of ladies who were trying to start an orphanage, and over the years took on more formal and public roles. (One such promotion took place because one of the founding ladies, Elizabeth Ann Seton, was ousted by the others for converting to Catholicism. Seton would later be canonized as a saint of the Catholic church, the first American to have this honor.) There were constantly more orphans than space, and Eliza used her fame and respect in the community to raise funds for more and more buildings. She served on the board of the society for several decades.

She had one last big adventure when, at the age of 80, she traveled “out West” to Illinois to see one of her sons. She had been in the city for most of her life, but still considered herself a daughter of the frontier. Much of the trip was by boat, and she didn’t love every port they visited – but she was happy to be out of the city for a few months.

Eliza did eventually give up her farm north of Manhattan to live with some of her children – at first in New York City, then in Washington, D.C. She was still mentally sharp, and presidents and other people of influence often sat with her to hear stories of the founding of the nation. One of her final projects was to help raise donations for a monument to be built to honor George Washington – she was in the audience as the first bricks were laid for the Washington Monument on July 4, 1848.

Eliza Hamilton lived to be 97 years old.


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“Emma” by Jane Austen – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


“Emma Woodhouse is one of Austen’s most captivating and vivid characters. Beautiful, spoilt, vain and irrepressibly witty, Emma organizes the lives of the inhabitants of her sleepy little village and plays matchmaker with devastating effect.”

Goodreads


“Emma” is a classic, first published in 1815. Many of you have probably read it, maybe in a lit class at some point, but this was my first time tackling Jane Austen. A quick refresher, for those who read it too long ago to remember the details:

From a 1909 version of Emma

The story is broken into three parts. In Volume I we meet our main characters, including Emma Woodhouse, aged 21, who lives with her father near the town of Highbury. Their closest neighbors include the Westons and Mr. Knightley. Her older sister, who now lives elsewhere, is married to Mr. Knightley’s brother, referred to as Mr. John Knightley. The main story in this volume is that Emma tries to fix up a new friend, one Harriet Smith, with the new hot bachelor in town, Mr. Elton. Harriet is an orphan, attending a boarding school nearby, and comes off as somewhat simple. She is also a few years younger than Emma. Emma is convinced that her own good standing and knowledge of society rules will rub off on Harriet, and that she should “aim high” in finding a suitor – which is why she thinks Mr. Elton is perfect. Also of note is that Emma has sworn off marriage herself, presumably out of duty to tend to her father. Emma thinks her matchmaking plan is working, as Mr. Elton hangs around her and Harriet more and more, but is surprised to learn that he was actually interested in her, not Harriet.

In Volume II we meet a few new characters and get expanded views on other townspeople who were periphery to the story earlier. One of the key figures in this section is Jane Fairfax, who is close to Emma in age. Although she has family in town, she was raised with another, wealthier family elsewhere. Emma dislikes Jane, mostly because everyone else likes her so much and talks about her all the time. It’s a jealousy thing, from what I can tell. Another important figure is Frank Churchill, who was also raised elsewhere, despite being the son of Mr. Weston. Emma was predisposed to dislike him, because of his prolonged absence from his father, but finds that she actually likes him very much. And, she thinks he likes her. Mr. Elton, having been jilted by Emma, comes home from a vacation with a new wife, and Emma cannot stand her. Mrs. Elton talks incessantly and acts haughty, like she is too good for most people in the town.

Various society shindigs happen near the end of Volume II and into Volume III that celebrate these characters – the marriage of the Eltons, and the visits from Miss Fairfax and Mr. Churchill are both reasons for people to get together en masse, and frequently. One key tidbit is that, while at a dance, Mr. Knightley offers to dance with Harriet Smith. Mr. Elton was the only other male not dancing, and he refused to dance with her because of their past – so, Mr. Knightly wanted to save her from being embarrassed. Later, on her way home, Harriet apparently gets jumped by some would-be muggers, who are run off by Frank Churchill.

A colorized portrait of Jane Austen

In talking afterwards about the night’s events, Harriet confesses that she has a new crush. Emma assumes she means Mr. Churchill, as he had saved her from the mugging. As Emma has refused to ever marry, she is supposedly ok with this turn.

The first big twist in Volume III comes when we learn that Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill were secretly engaged all along, even before their arrival in Highbury. Most people are convinced that Emma will be crushed, as it was obvious that she and Frank were close. She is worried, of course, that Harriet will be crushed – in her mind, she had already moved on from Frank so that Harriet could have him.

The next twist comes when Harriet confesses that her new infatuation was actually Mr. Knightley. Suddenly, and seemingly without any previous thought on the matter, Emma is not ok with Harriet aiming quite that high, and decides/realizes that she wants Mr. Knightley for herself. Just as surprising is the fact that Mr. Knightley wants to marry Emma, too!


The first thing I want to address is that, when I started reading this book, I heard a lot of people say they weren’t a fan of Emma – as in, the character. They thought she was spoiled, and meddled too much in everyone else’s business. I definitely see that, but also think – she’s 21. I see her as thinking she knows everything, and figuring out that she does not. That could be said of a lot of 21 year olds.

(Back when I reviewed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I gave Coriolanus Snow some similar leeway, for being young and naive. Am I just getting soft as I get older, or is the current state of the world forcing me to be more forgiving? Things to ponder.)

So yea, I had a head’s up that Emma is a bit of a meddler, and I didn’t let it bug me. The book on the whole is decent, and would especially entertain people who like hearing about society balls and the like. It’s not exactly action-packed, but I didn’t expect it to be. Some of the foibles and mix-ups I could see coming from a mile away, and other seemed to just pop out of nowhere.

I knew – again, because the book is part of the pop culture lexicon and referred to in other literature – that Emma would end up with Knightley. And yet, that is the part that seems to just appear, rather than develop over time. Her realization that she wants to marry him comes up about eighty percent of the way through the story. He’d certainly been around the whole time, and had shown himself to be a stand-up kind of guy, but they’d mostly disagreed on all sorts of things throughout the bulk of the book. It was almost like he was trying to correct her on certain things along the way as a method of molding her. She, being fiercely independent, felt free to disagree with him often. And yet, I guess that dynamic “worked” for them? Opposites attract, I guess!

A friend of mine* had said that Emma was her favorite Jane Austen book, and specifically that Mr. Knightley was her favorite love interest of Austen’s writings. Her reasoning:

“I think what I like about him is that he’s very tolerant, tends to do charitable things, doesn’t mind chatting with all sorts, is usually perceptive, and doesn’t mind checking Emma though no one else will. I like his tolerance.”

To which, I replied:

“I could get on board with that.”

Overall, the book was pretty good. And I don’t want to come off like I am against Emma and Mr. Knightley getting together – but I do wish that aspect of the story didn’t seem so hurried.

Do you have a favorite Jane Austen book? Or did you read a classic book this summer? Let us know in the comments!


Check out my friend’s cool stuff at: https://cognizantcreative.com/


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“The First Time” by Cher, as told to Jeff Coplon

By: Angie Haddock


“Cher. There’s really no one else quite like her.
She’s been a pop star, a TV star, a movie star, and a wife and mother, yet as “The New York Times” has written, she’s still “a funny, gutsy woman” who is also “genuine” and “down to earth.”
And now, in “The First Time, ” Cher tells about the important first-time events in her life.”

Goodreads

Let’s start out by saying that I’m biased – Cher is my idol. I love Dolly Parton, too, and Bette Midler is great. But Cher will always be the prime diva in my mind.

This book is not a straightforward memoir, per se, but more a collection of vignettes that are sorted into a roughly chronological order. It’s super easy to read, as most of the stories are 1-3 pages long and include pictures!

Cher’s writing style is also of note. Often self-deprecating, she’ll slide little third-person observations into the parentheses, commenting on her own wayward decision-making or wardrobe choices. (Like, “What were you thinking, Cher?”.) This style made it feel like you were hearing the story from a friend, just dishing around some snacks and mimosas.

It was fun to learn more about her earlier life, growing up in California, and her early days with Sonny Bono. She got to hang with a lot of cool people, even before Sonny & Cher were a duo – The Rolling Stones, Phil Spector, Darlene Love, and many other known names make appearances. She even sang backup on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin” by The Righteous Brothers!

She got into show business young, and was naive. It’s hard to think of her that way now, since she’s… ya know… CHER. But she comes across as pretty dumbfounded by a lot of the stuff she encountered getting started. She didn’t want much to do with drugs, which were a big part of the scene at the time. She really wanted to be famous for the cool clothes and cars, it seemed. (And let’s be honest, no one else could pull off some of clothes that she’s worn!)

Eventually, she wanted more, and had to really work to prove herself as an actress. I loved this part, too, as she was in some great movies. She learned a lot from various co-stars and directors she worked with early on, including the likes of Meryl Streep and Sam Elliot.

The book occasionally gets into serious topics, including some charity work she’s done – but the heaviest chapter is the last one, dealing with Sonny’s unexpected death.

Overall, this one was quick and enjoyable.


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“All Heart: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World” by Carli Lloyd and Wayne Coffey – Review

BY: Angie Haddock


In the summer of 2015, the U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup behind an epic performance by Carli Lloyd. Carli, a midfielder, scored three goals in the first sixteen minutes–the greatest goal-scoring effort in the history of World Cup finals.

Goodreads

While I am not much of a sports fan in general, the singular sport I do follow is soccer. My favorite soccer to watch, specifically, is the World Cup.

All Heart, by Carli Lloyd

Last year, I was with a few friends at one of those wonderful library book sales. There were racks and racks of books – too many to even look at. But among the hardcovers, I found an autobiography from Carli Lloyd. For those who don’t follow the game, Lloyd was a top scorer on the US Women’s National Team during the 2015 Women’s World Cup. I had not known that she had written an autobiography, but I was excited by this find! It was only a few bucks, and I was supporting the library! Win!

I decided to start my current biography challenge with this one because, despite the absence of most sports for the past few months, soccer is sort of back for the summer. (The current MLS tournament follows the standard World Cup format – more info here.) Only after diving into this one did I find out that Lloyd actually published her story in 2016 – and then released this one, the young reader’s version of the original.

So, needless to say, it was a pretty easy read.

Lloyd details her rise as a soccer player – from playing as a kid in New Jersey, through college teams, the U-21 National Team, and the full Women’s National Team. While the text was pretty straight-forward, I will say that she does not spend any time explaining soccer terms to the reader. If you don’t know the basics of the game, be ready to Google.

The story itself is one of constantly striving for more. Lloyd is a perfectionist, and sometimes that works against her by leading her to overanalyze things and be self-critical. But mostly, she uses it to constantly push forward.

I love quotes, so here are some that I highlighted:

“It is not how you start that matters, it’s how you finish.”

“I know that I am the most free, having the most fun, and playing my best when I am focused completely on my own game, not worrying about what everyone else is doing.”

“You don’t start fixating on the finish line of a marathon when you’re steps into the first mile.”

“Negativity is like quicksand: you hang around it long enough and it will take you all the way down.”

“I don’t want to be satisfied, ever. That may sound grim, but it isn’t at all. It is joyful, because the pursuit of progress is joyful. Playing the game I love is joyful.”

So, that should give you some idea of the vibe of this book – motivational, especially to young people or athletes who like to train hard.

I had only a minor gripe about this one, and it is in two items that seem to be missing from the story. On both the dedication page, and in picture captions, she refers to her husband. We meet him in the book, obviously, but she only tells up to them getting engaged. Maybe it’s the “girl” side of me coming out, but I wanted to know the rest of that story! Did they elope? Girl, details! The other omission is similar, in that the book includes a picture (and caption) about the USWNT’s fight with US Soccer about earning equal wages with the Men’s Team… but it isn’t talked about at all in the text of the book.

Overall, an uplifting and breezy read for a hot, quick soccer season!


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