Archive for September, 2018

21
Sep
18

In the immortal words of Doug Judy, “So why don’t you just chill and eat some sexy-ass lobster?”** CBR10 Review 35.

Unknown-1Craig Robinson, truly a “man for all seasons,” continues to prove that he’s a national treasure with his debut children’s book, Jake the Fake.

Did you love Craig on The Office?

 

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Or in his recurring role as Doug Judy, the Pontiac Bandit, on Brooklyn 99?

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How about his annoying, and yet charming, commercials for Dodge?

Did you ever hear him sing Radiohead’s Creep (with an all-Office backup band. Creed!)?

And he was even great on Ghosted, which was really quite terrible.

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Long story short, Craig is great.

He used to be a school music teacher, and he uses that experience here in his debut graphic novel/middle grade story (similar to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, but with more text). Craig (and his two co-writers/illustrators, Adam Mansbach and Keith Knight) introduce us to Jake, who is about to start middle school, and is scared to death.

Jake won’t be going to school with any of his friends, he’s going across town to the prestigious school for the arts that his amazingly talented sister goes to. Somehow, Jake got in after he played a song on the piano and sang for his audition…but it’s the only song Jake knows how to play and sing. He’s in a panic that the school is going to realize that he has no musical talent and that he’s a fake, and he’ll be kicked out.

Jake soon realizes that this new school isn’t what he expected, and that everyone has a talent, but they just might not realize it yet.

I’ll be honest, this book made me laugh out loud. The illustrations were ridiculous (if I were a 10 year old, I would probably think this was the most hilarious book of all time) and the jokes were smart.

This book has clearly been written as the first in a series of stories about Jake, and I look forward to reading what this crew puts out. The humor used here is a great way to let kids know that that the things they worry about are things that all kids worry about, no matter who they are.

Tagging for #cbr10bingo as #underrepresented. Jake and his family are African American, although it is never mentioned. Jake is a strong, funny, smart character, and his family is wonderful. His background shouldn’t — and doesn’t — matter, but I loved seeing him as a potential role model for all of the kids who pick up the Wimpy Kid or Big Nate books and think they are fun, but don’t quite connect with them.

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**and yes, maybe my review title isn’t 100% in line with a blurb about a book for kids, but dammit, I just love Doug Judy.

11
Sep
18

If they make a movie of this one, I hope it also has Tim Daly in it. CBR10 Review 34.

51LksqJCXXL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_Way back in the olden days (the 1990s, gasp!) there was a little book called The Object of My Affection about a kind of fat and lonely girl who falls in love with her gay best friend while she’s pregnant and they decide to raise the baby together, and then life gets in the way, etc. Everybody read it, I think it was mandatory book club fodder at the time, even though I’m not sure anyone really loved it, or really even liked it.

They even made a movie about it, with Jennifer Aniston as the fat and lonely girl (so we all know how true to the book that went), Paul Rudd as the gay friend, Tim Daly (sigh) as his bastard boyfriend, and even Nigel Fricking Hawthorne was in it, pretty much stealing the entire movie in his few minutes on screen.

The author of that book was Stephen McCauley, and admittedly, I kind of forgot about him until my current book club decided to read his newest book (#soshiny), My Ex-Life. Two chapters in, and I began to wonder, does Stephen McCauley ever write about anything that isn’t a confusing platonic/romantic relationship between a gay man and his best female friend?

I’m guessing he doesn’t. And I’m not going to read any more of his stuff to find out.

I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it. I found it exceptionally average. I read lots of reviews (NYTimes, NPR, EW), calling it a “comic novel,” which was interesting to me, because I didn’t really think it was funny. I found it to be a sort of sad look at life when middle age has past you by, and you realize that your life isn’t quite what you expected or even wanted.

David is a somewhat successful college placement advisor (for truly the worst humans in the world and their equally despicable offspring), living out in San Francisco. His much younger boyfriend has recently dumped him for another man, and David is depressed and has put on a lot of weight. On top of all of that, he finds out that his adorable apartment is for sale, so he has nowhere affordable to live. Things aren’t going great for David.

Meanwhile, Julie is getting over a divorce way out on the North Shore of Massachusetts. Her husband has left her for a younger woman, her daughter doesn’t really talk to her anymore, and she’s renting out rooms in her house on Airbnb in order to attempt to buy the house from her husband. Things aren’t going well for Julie, either.

OH. And it just so happens that Julie and David used to be married, a long time ago, before David realized he was gay. They haven’t talked in decades. But out of nowhere, Julie decides to call him and ask for his help getting her daughter Mandy into college.

David needs a change of scenery, so he flies off to the east coast, moves into Julie’s house, and becomes a part of her life.

Its all fine and good. But was it “witty and sparkling” as NPR promised? Meh. It was pretty predictable and straightforward (except for one plot, which I’ll get to in a minute). I was glad to see the main characters slowly start to figure out what they wanted out of life, and how to get it. I was happy to see real middle-aged friendship portrayed. But it didn’t grab me and make me say HEY WOW I LOVE THIS BOOK.

And there was one plot thread — with Mandy, the daughter — that I downright despised. SPOILERS. Mandy is a bit lost. She doesn’t really know what she likes or wants out of college or out of life in general. She somehow gets involved with an older guy who has a video sex chat line run out of his basement. UGH. This whole plot didn’t work for me. At all.

As a former Massachusetts resident, I did appreciate the feel and descriptions of the seaside town and the tourists there. I also gave a little chuckle (JUST THE ONE) at this description of my former hometown:

Renata looked out the window of her Uber and shook her head. Boston. As she saw it, there were certain cities in the country that were pointless. Yes, they had their fleeting beauty, their esteemed institutions, but on the whole, looked at objectively, they were inessential and pointless. Boston was one of those places. The city made sense only if you thought of it as a sprawling college campus decorated with historic sites and with a few hospitals tossed in for the convenience of Saudi princes in need of cancer treatment.

Yup. Also, Dunkin Donuts. And Tom Freakin Brady. Go Sox!

06
Sep
18

Yes, she can be a little “extra.” But the food is delicious. CBR10 Review 33.

Unknown-4I think at this point, most of humanity is familiar with Chrissy Teigen. I follow her on Twitter and Instagram. I enjoy her comment round-ups on Comments by Celebrities. I love her obsession with Walter(Owen’s Grandp), who may or may not be real. Her kids are adorable and her mothering is relatable. Her husband seems cool and pretty normal for a massive celebrity. And like a lot of others, SOMETIMES I CANNOT GET THE RIDICULOUS HEADBAND OF THE DAY SONG OUT OF MY HEAD.

Sure, she can be annoying with her no-holds-barred tweeting. But I find her amusing.

I also love to see the pictures of what she is eating and cooking. She has a crazy palate — sometimes she is making a super-fancy fish dinner, and sometimes it looks like she’s trying to create the ultimate hangover food. I have no idea. But I’m into it.

And Cravings is pretty much exactly what I expected and exactly what I wanted. Her recipes range from challenging (where am I supposed to get some of these Thai ingredients???) to so basic I wondered if she was joking (hello, Ramen Dump Salad). Each recipe has a little blurb included, explaining why the recipe is included and how she tested it. Yes, her blurbs are very Chrissy. If you aren’t pro-Chrissy, this book isn’t going to change your opinion.

Look, I’m not a chef, or even much of a cook. Luckily, my husband is, so my children don’t suffer. I can handle basic cooking, but complex recipes stress me out. I’m happy to report that so far, I’ve made three of these recipes, and all were easy and tasted delicious.

I made the Dump and Done Ramen Salad. Actually, I’ve already made it at least 5 times. It couldn’t be easier and is a great side dish for literally any casual meal. I don’t know how I lived without this salad in my life.

I also tried the Sweet and Salty Coconut Rice. I loved it. I could have eaten the whole pot. And I almost did, since my kids didn’t like it and my husband was on South Beach at the time. I’ll try it again when he’s back to loving carbs.

The crowd pleaser that I tried was the Yellow Cake Baked Oatmeal. Fruit, a boxed cake mix, and oatmeal. It was idiot proof and SO. GOOD. Look at it. Bow down to it. Thank me later.

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I plan on trying more recipes from this book soon (when all of this Back to School nonsense finally dies down), and will definitely be picking up Chrissy’s second book when it comes out in a few weeks.

 

05
Sep
18

I didn’t love this, but its one million percent worth the purchase simply to hear HJB make up potential titles for the porn he accidentally appeared in. CBR10 Review 32.

Unknown-3You probably know H Jon Benjamin from his voice. He voices some of my favorite animated characters and some of my favorite cinematic cans of vegetables.

He’s Archer:

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He’s Ben, the disinterested and lazy son of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist.

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He’s also Mitch, the philosophical can of mixed vegetables from the Wet Hot American Summer stuff.

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(And yes, I know he’s also Bob Belcher, but I have yet to watch Bob’s Burgers. Please don’t hurt me.)

His voice is a god damned delight, and his dead panned delivery never fails to kill me.

So, now he has a memoir about the many failures in his life. And…I thought it was fine. It was like a 10 hour long episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where HJB’s choices made me so uncomfortable, I often had to turn the audiobook off. I didn’t want to know what ended up happening when he let burglars into his neighbors house or when he lost control of his bowels in a rental car. It was just too much and I couldn’t take it sometimes.

But, there were some AMAZING moments in here, including:

*A short tale about why Jews don’t do much farming.

*An excerpt from his post-graduate thesis on the Holocaust, including his take on the Eriq Lasalle movie Biker Boyz and the outlandish ending of St. Elsewhere.

*The story about how he ended up in an amateur porn video with an ex-con and the ex-con’s cousin, which he titled “A Room with a Jew”.

*His dad’s INSISTENCE that PF Chang’s is simply a local “gem in the rough” Chinese restaurant in his neighborhood and refusal to believe it is a mega-chain.

Sadly, the uncomfortable bits outweighed the funny for me. I cringed more than once and his poor decision making skills really made me like him less as a person.

But his voice is still pure gold, so I’m not sorry I listened to this book. I just wish I had enjoyed it more.

I’m including this review for #CBR10bingo. For those interested, HJB hails from Worcester, MA. I was born and raised in Newton, MA and went to college in Worcester. #Homesomethinghome




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