Play Review: Wicked: The Musical

I got my daughter tickets to see Wicked: The Musical for Christmas while it was on tour here in Florida.

For those who don’t know, Wicked is based on the book of the same name by Gregory Maguire. I read it many years ago when it first came out and here’s what I remember:

  • The book tells how Elphaba became known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Maguire explains how she gets around the whole bathing thing since water destroys her in the end.
  • Glinda’s (the Good Witch of the North) name is actually Galinda.
  • Dorothy is a very peripheral, non-entity of a character until she, of course, liquidates the witch.
  • It’s sad. And long. Good, though!

Yeah, so the play is nothing like that. I mean, yes, we still find out how Elphaba becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda is Galinda. But the play focuses more on the friendship between the two women and is way, way, way more upbeat and funny.

There is nothing (nothing!) I didn’t like about the play, so some of the things my daughter and I enjoyed:

  • Seeing the people turn into the iconic creatures: Tin Man, Scarecrow, etc.
  • Galinda. She is so shallow and funny. I want her to teach me to be popular. *tosses hair*
  • The song “Loathing”
  • Actually, getting context for all the songs was fantastic. We had listened to the soundtrack before but didn’t follow the plot through that. Much like Dreamgirls, hearing the songs sung in context gives them more power and meaning.
  • “Defying Gravity” is an absolute showstopper.
  • The set was amazing.
  • Media manipulation is real. Poor Elphaba is just a victim of bad press.

Basically, the show is awesome. If you’re a fan of female friendship, fairy tale retellings, musicals, showmanship, strong female characters, fun wordplay, and exceeding cleverness definitely check out Wicked when it tours near you.

Book Review: My Unfair Godmother

Wishes are powerful things. You can’t expect them to change the world without changing you too.

Chrysanthemum (Chrissy) Everstar is back in My Unfair Godmother, the sequel to My Fair Godmother (one of my favorite reads of 2009), by Janette Rallison. Just like in the first book, Chrissy is trying to prove herself as a fairy godmother. This time, her charge is Tansy Miller, a girl who is very, very angry about her parents’ divorce and continues to piss her father off. When her current boyfriend, Bo, vandalizes a building and lets her take the rap, things spiral downhill pretty quickly for Tansy. Enter Chrissy and the kinds of chaos only her granted wishes can create.

What I Liked

– I love Chrissy. I LOVE HER. I wouldn’t mind seeing a whole book about her and the wacky fairy adventures she gets into when she’s not popping into her mortals’ lives.

– I like that Tansy is so different from the main character of the first book. And! The story is very different, too. I mean, yes, fairy tale, etc, but I was really expecting it to follow the exact same formula–and while there are some similarities–they are really almost nothing alike.

– Tansy has to figure out the moral of her story to right Chrissy’s magic, and, while I like the one Tansy settled on, there were actually several used throughout the story that were nice.

– Nick, Tansy’s stepbrother, is so great.

What I Didn’t Like

– Tansy needs to forgive her father and learn to love/accept her new family, right? Except she spends little to no time with them and all of her time with the love interest. I love a good romance as much as the next person, but I would really like to read stories about girls who don’t figure things out through boys. It would really be nice is all. Not to mention, the glimpses of Tansy’s family we do get after the magic mayhem starts are really freaking fascinating. So, while the story is about Tansy, it really is about the boy moreso than her journey to her family. I don’t like that very much.

– I really didn’t like Tansy all that much. I was caught up in the story but not because of her. It was more the premise than anything. She’s realistic and all; I just didn’t connect with her.

– Not enough Nick or Chrissy, alas.

In conclusion: A fun read in line with the other Chrissy book. I just would’ve liked to see a little more focus on the family aspect.

Source: ILL

Book Review: Getting Over Garrett Delaney

I can’t keep doing this to myself: getting my hopes up so high, only to have them come crashing down. I can’t keep waiting for him to come to his senses, having my whole emotional state rest on what he decides. What if never wakes up to how perfect we’d be together? What if I spend another year pining for him–or longer even?

In Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald, Sadie is in love with her best friend Garrett. When he goes away to camp for the summer and falls in love with yet another girl who isn’t Sadie, Sadie realizes it’s time for her to move on.

What I Liked

– I love, love, love, LOVE that the women Sadie works with band together to help her get over Garrett. In that way, the story becomes all about female friendship. To which I say YES PLEASE.

– Sadie reconnects with her old female bestie, Kayla.

– Awesome female characters. Between Sadie (who is, of course, kind of annoying in the beginning because she is so wrapped up in Garrett), Kayla, LouAnn, Dominique, and Sadie’s mom, fantastic women abound.

– Sadie does not get over Garrett by getting a new boyfriend!!!!!! YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. Nor does she need a boy to show her the way to enlightenment. It’s all about her, her female posse, and her mom.

– The format is ace. Once Sadie gets for real about getting over Garrett, there are little self-help type chapters between the main action to preview what Sadie is working on, and the progress she’s making.

– The emphasis on discovering your own interests and figuring out what you like and who you are outside of your friends–male or otherwise.

– Dominique, the black character has an Afro. Yay for natural hair.

– Literary references abound in this book. So much so that I started keeping a list of authors/books mentioned throughout. The books/authors (that I caught):

  • Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
  • Atlas Shrugged
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Lolita
  • Collected poems of Rainer Maria Rilke
  • Elaine Dundy
  • Lorrie Moore
  • Emma Forrest
  • Matilda
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • John Donne
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • Anaïs Nin

– Because navigating relationships always involves compromises, there are no easy answers or black and white situations. McDonald addresses that through the characters without being preachy or condescending and by letting them work through the answers themselves. The key is, according to the book, to know yourself and then you can know your boundaries.

What I Didn’t Like

– I thought the ending was a little abrupt. It’s not a bad ending or anything; I just wanted a little bit more. Which is also a good thing because it meant I wanted to spend more time with the characters.

– Dominique, the only black female character, is bitchy. She’s also French, so her bitchiness may have more to do with that than anything. At least she wasn’t sassy, I guess.

In conclusion: Very solid contemporary YA. Realistic and believable characters with a good, non-preachy message.

Source: NetGalley

Book Review: Ditched: A Love Story

“What are these stains? You an intern for Bill Clinton or something?”

Ditched: A Love Story by Robin Mellom is a prom story. I love prom stories! This one follows Justina who wakes up in a ditch by 7-11 (home of the Slurpee! There are no 7-11s around here and it makes me sad) and recounts her prom experience for a patron and employee of said 7-11.

What I Liked

– I love the pacing of the story and the way the plotting is handled. We start at the end with Justina using the stains, bruises, and tattoos (!!!) she received as a road map for detailing her disastrous prom night.

– Another reason I like the framing device of Justina talking to the two women at 7-11 is it allows the insertion of two grown-up voices into a pretty neurotic teenaged angst-fest. I’m not saying the two women are founts of wisdom or anything, but outside perspective is always nice.

– I like that there’s a reason for Justina’s bad decision making–namely, that she has low blood sugar. As someone who tends to get super cranky when I haven’t had enough food AND has a daughter who tends to get hyper emotional when her blood sugar dips into the dangerously low range, I found it plausible. I also like that we’re reminded constantly that Justina hasn’t eaten, so (some of) her idiotic behavior makes sense.

– I think this would make a fun movie. It reminds me of Can’t Hardly Wait.

– Outstanding supporting characters. And when I say that I mostly mean the Mikes and Serenity. LOVE Serenity.

– Someone on Goodreads or Amazon complained about the contradictions in Justina’s character, but I think Mellom handles her characterization well. Justina claims not to care what other people think, but everything she does is to not draw attention to herself because she does care what people think. Also, the other characters–particularly Ian and Hailey–call her out on her false bravado throughout the entire novel.

– The situations Justina gets in are so ridiculous, but so fun. Also, drunk people are idiots. FYI.

– I didn’t think I would, but I bought the love story. I even found myself smiling and giddy about it. This is pretty spectacular considering…

What I Didn’t Like

– …Justina got on my nerves throughout pretty much the whole book. Yes, low blood sugar. Yes, kind of insecure. But she was seriously neurotic like Mia from The Princess Diaries AT HER WORST. Yeah, Justina was that kind of neurotic, and I didn’t have several books of goodwill preceding this one. I mean, this book is it!

– Also, I didn’t feel like I knew Ian that well outside of some kind of romantic ideal. AND considering the fact that he left her alone most of their prom night made me spend most of the book wondering whether or not her describing him as a Professional Boyfriend was completely unwarranted. I didn’t trust Ian is what I’m saying.

But, in spite of both of those points, I really did fall for them as a couple in the end, and I guess that’s all that matters.

– Not enough Hailey! She’s Justina’s best friend, and we don’t meet her until a quarter of the way through the novel and then she disappears when prom starts. I mean, I guess if she were around, Justina wouldn’t do a lot of the dumb stuff she does, but still. What a waste of awesome best friendness. Sigh.

In conclusion: Fun and engaging read with a plot that overcomes its main character, perfect for a study break.

Source: NetGalley

Book Review: The Romantic Obsessions & Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier by Louise Plummer

I don’t like being an immigrant. I think of coarse-faced peasants in burlap pants carrying a couple of chickens in  a basket and leading a goat down a gangplank when I hear “immigrant.”

I picked up The Romantic Obsessions & Romantic Humiliations of Annie Sehlmeier by Louise Plummer at the library book sale because I really enjoyed The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman, which I picked up on a whim. So! Why not spend ten cents on an author I enjoyed before?

This book is about a girl whose family immigrates to the US (specifically, Utah) from Holland and what happens to her during their first year in the US.

There’s nothing about the book I didn’t like, so some highlights:

– I realized that I really want to read more realistic fiction that deals with slice of life stories. By which I mean, no heightened craziness, no wacky stuff, just…life. So I really appreciated this story for that.

– I loved the look at what it’s like to live with a senile grandparent and how difficult it is–especially dealing with the feelings of loss, anger, resentment, and sadness.

– Bras are for old women!

– The romances and obsessions of Annie and her sister, Henny, are fantastic. I loved that Annie could really like one boy and enjoy his company, but also be completely infatuated by the complete pretty and charm of another boy.

– Great exploration of sisterly relationships and, again, more resentment, but also forgiveness and love. Annie is the favorite, which causes, understandably, lots of issues.

– Awesome female friendship stuff here.

– Plummer also covers concerns of immigrants. Annie and Henny speak English, but their parents and grandmother don’t. They also had more money in Holland than they do in the US. The way the homes are laid out is different, the streets, the schools. Also, the pain of translation when doing homework is addressed. Annie has to translate all of the directions before she can do her work, so her math homework especially winds up taking her hours and hours even though she can do the work and understands the concepts. Oh, and the bra thing of course. Annie is pissed she has to wear a bra.

– I really love every single thing involving Oma, heartbreaking as they may be.

– Annie and Martha read The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCollough and suh-woon over the steaminess of it all.

– The cover fits the story perfectly. Perfectly.

Off the Shelf: 2/30

Book Review: The Future of Us

What’s a blog?

In The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler set way back in 1996, some glitch with Emma’s AOL CD allows her to see her Facebook page. Freaked out, she shares her page with her estranged male best friend and neighbor, Josh.

What I Liked

– Obvs, I liked all of the ’90s references. I also quite dig that Emma and I are the same age. AND that this book is set the year I graduated from high school. Class of ’96, represent!

– I also liked them trying to understand Facebook and future technology in general. My favorite quote is “What’s a blog?” because blogs are everything! I am using one right now! But if you had told me that back in 1996, I would’ve reacted just like Josh.

– Even though this book involves time travel, the novel stays firmly grounded in contemporary realism. I guess because the future is all glimpses through the real life internet…that won’t exist for fifteen years. Hmm. What I’m saying is, I’d be very, very reluctant to call this novel sci-fi in any way, shape, or form. I mean, it’s speculative but not on any grand scale.

– Emma and Josh have different reactions and responses to their future selves and even knowing about their future lives.

– I was going to say that Emma clearly has never seen That’s So Raven because if she had she would know that trying to change the future can sometimes lead to the thing you’re trying to change, but, OH YEAH, THAT’S SO RAVEN DOESN’T EXIST YET.

– Discman! Dial up! Going to do something else while the internet boots up! Using a CD-ROM to load AOL! AOL! AOL DISCS THAT COME IN THE MAIL. All of those things were great for me because, duh, teen of the ’90s.

– Okay, okay, setting aside, I really enjoy the character work here. It took me a while to really get into the story, but after a certain point I was hooked and really wanted to find out what would happen with Emma and Josh, even if the ending was predictable.

– Loved the two best friends, Tyson and Kellan (I think; I returned the book already). I also liked seeing glimpses into their futures.

– I like that the future remains unresolved. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler; that’s basically the conceit of the entire book.)

What I Didn’t Like

– The book is all concerned with boyfriends and girlfriends and “I’m married in the future and unhappy, so clearly it’s because of my mate choices!” And there’s so much more to delve into here. Josh finds out something pretty big about his brother that isn’t really dealt with. Emma has more issues than Time magazine, yet instead of addressing any of that in a significant way…boys, boys, boys. I don’t mind teen romance at all, but this seemed to want to do more than that.

In conclusion: Great premise with interesting characters, I just wish it would’ve gone a little deeper.

Source: Library

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Chapter 8

Recent HP observations:

– Stephen Fry’s Hermione is much, much better. There was no way it wouldn’t be since I hate Jim Dale’s Hermione very much. But yes. Fry’s Hermione sounds bossy and like a know-it-all, but she doesn’t sound absolutely annoying. If any of the Harry/Hermione shippers ever heard the way Dale has Hermione say Harry’s name, I’m pretty sure they would all find the pairing absolutely unbelievable. That’s how terrible Dale’s Hermione is.

Of course, the true test of Fry’s domination over Dale will come when Luna appears. Nowhere to go but up there either.

I should add that I enjoyed Dale’s reading of HP overall, but I hated the way he voiced Hermione and Luna and maybe one other character. Those were the moments that took me out of the story. All of his other voice work and character work was just fine. But, omg, Hermione and Luna are just terrible. Terrible.

– I love Percy. I really do. I know people don’t, but he makes so much sense to me, and I love that Hermione is able to talk to him about classes. Also, Percy’s comment that Peeves won’t even listen to prefects is perfection.

– Hagrid hints that only losers have toads as pets. Enter Neville with a toad for a pet. Oh, Neville. I love you. I really and truly do.

– Snape is a terrible teacher. TERRIBLE. I’m not even counting how he treats Harry (which is, of course, awful). He calls Neville “idiot boy.” That is not on. Also, Hermione raising her hand so high she lifts out of her seat in his class is, again, perfection. I feel you, Hermione.

– Harry’s first dream at school is that Quirrell’s turban talks to him and tells him join Slytherin, which makes his scar hurt. Oh, and Quirrell doesn’t want to talk about what happened to him when he faced zombies in Albania. But he’s fine with the vampire questions.

– Hagrid is delightful when read by Fry. I think this is the most I’ve ever liked that big guy.

– James’s wand was excellent for transfiguration and Lily’s was perfect for charms. Never noticed either of those details before.

Also, because everything exists on the internet, here’s a comparison of Jim Dale and Stephen Fry reading from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (Seriously, what did we do before YouTube?)

Book Review: Fatherhood

I finished Fatherhood by Bill Cosby last week, but I didn’t really know how to review it aside from saying Bill Cosby is great! I love him! He looks just like my grandpa (RIP, GRANDPA)! (No lie, kids in the store would always do double-takes when they saw my grandpa, all, “Is that MR. COSBY????”) Oh, and this book is the blueprint for The Cosby Show and also features bits from his stand up act.

With that in mind, I have decided that the best thing to do would be to just provide links to videos that parts of the books reminded me of. (I put the running time of each vid because I hate, hate when people link me to YouTube stuff without letting me know how long it’ll take to watch the video.) (Like my friend who linked me to a video of her kid saying “shh” for 8 minutes. Eight! And I kept waiting for something to HAPPEN. But I digress.)

1. Bill Cosby – “Chocolate Cake for Breakfast” (His wife tells him to make the kids breakfast; he makes them chocolate cake.) (9 minutes 28 seconds)

2. The Cosby Show – “It’s Not Easy Being Green” (Rudy tries to play her parents against each other so she can wear a dress.) (4 minutes 23 seconds)

3. The Cosby Show – “The Night of the Wretched” (Claire tells Vanessa to “shut up” and “answer me!” all at the same time.) (2 minutes 16 seconds)

4. The Cosby Show – Theo and Monopoly money (Theo says “no problem”; Cliff gives him a lesson in money.) (4 minutes 28 seconds)

5. The Cosby Show – “Vanessa’s Bad Grade” (Cliff discovers Denise has been wearing his clothes to school.) (4 minutes 41 seconds)

So that’s what the experience of reading the book was like for me: it constantly made me think of Cosby’s stand up or TV show.

Off the Shelf: 1/30

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – Chapter 3

Random HP observation of the day: “Dudley’s second bedroom”

Oh, Dursleys. You never cease to amaze.

That said, so far Stephen Fry is great. The difference between him and Jim Dale at this point is that Fry’s voice is slightly more melodic, like listening to a bedtime story. Also, my daughter and I are just as engrossed as we were the first time we listened. And my daughter says that Fry “does a good Hagrid.”

Oh and we had to have a talk about how just how and why the Dursleys are abusive.

2012 Harry Potter Reading Challenge

I added one more challenge to my list for the year. The Harry Potter Reading Challenge, which is a challenge to read all seven HP books before the end of the year.

I know, I know. I said I wasn’t doing any un-challenging challenges this year. And I’m not, truly.

I mean, yes. I have read the Harry Potter books before. But this time I’m going to listen to them all on audiobook. And, okay, yes, I have listened to all of the audiobooks before. I know that.

But! BUT. I haven’t listened to the Stephen Fry (i.e., British) version of the audiobooks.

Here is a true story: Some years ago a friend sent me the Stephen Fry books and I, shamefully, have never listened to them. I know. I KNOW. I KNOOOOOOW. Even though I said that I wanted to listen to them. Even though I had them when I listened to the Jim Dale audiobooks.

I don’t even understand it myself.

But I want to listen to them! I do! Especially because I was talking to a British friend of mine who said she loves the Fry version so much and it makes her so happy to listen to, and I was like, “Maybe I should listen to mine.”

So here we are. 2012 is the year I listen to the Stephen Fry narrated HP audiobooks. I have already ripped them to my iPod and everything so I can listen to them in and out of the car.

Also, since I have already read the books several times, I won’t do straight reviews but will instead just post observations I make (however random they may be) as I listen. All spoilers will be marked.

For example, I already started listening to the first book. How much do the Dursleys suck? They are terrible. I mean, the most exciting part of Vernon’s day is drills. DRILLS. No wonder they hate imagination so much. Also, they could be any kind of bigots, couldn’t they? I mean, we don’t really know what kind of sort the Potters are to start with, do we? Plus also, it takes a lot of work to be as cruel as they are to Harry. Just wow. WOW.

And it just goes to show: you never know who is sleeping under your roof, do you?