Humor

Book Review: The Baby Owner's Manual

The Baby Owner's Manual
Author: 
Borgenicht, Louis and Joe
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

You might be shocked to learn that some men do read the instructions. There have been numerous products that I have purchased over the years which necessitated a read-through of the instructions provided. Usually, these were items of extreme complexity or of thorough interest to me to require fully understanding the items before beginning to use them. The Baby Owner’s Manual might seem like a humorous fusion of a parenting book with a repair manual for a vehicle, but somehow the fusion of these two works better than I would have ever expected.

Published by Quirk Books (who have created other genius mash-ups like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Shakespeare’s Star Wars ), The Baby Owner’s Manual takes the complicated and frightening task of keeping a newborn alive and presents the necessary information in a format that any guy can understand. In fact, aside from a few choice substitutions that make a baby seem more like a car than a human, I’d probably keep this book as a useful reference any time something I don’t know how to handle comes up. This will likely be often considering my first child is due near the end of the year.

The only qualm I might have with this book is that some studies have come out since 2003 that have changed a few suggestions the book gives these new parents. Of course, any well-prepared parents will probably be able to pick these inconsistencies out and follow the more current recommendations. In the
end, though, the direct and straightforward method this book uses to convey its information makes it far more useful than just as a gag gift (I’m looking at you, How to Traumatize Your Children).

An instruction manual every man should read, I give The Baby Owner’s Manual 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
Author: 
Doescher, Ian
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

I said it for my review of Shakespeare’s Star Wars , and I’ll say it again: this combination of old verbiage and meter with popular science fiction is a match made in heaven. The follow-up to the first part of the original trilogy, Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back continues to be an amusing exercise that anyone who loves Shakespeare and/or Star Wars will enjoy. Some consider Empire to be the best part of the original trilogy, and its adherence to the plot won’t disappoint. Additionally, the audiobook version continues to use music, sound effects, and voice acting to recreate an experience as close to the source material as possible.

While the audiobook did provide a robust experience of the text (especially the voice actors who recreated Han Solo and C-3PO’s speech patterns), the author’s explanation at the end made me realize there were some aspects that weren’t quite as clear as they would have been if I had just read the book normally. For instance, Yoda’s typically backward speech wasn’t as backward as I would have thought—mostly because the Shakespearean cadence sounds a little backward. Instead, Yoda spoke in haiku, which I’m sure would have been more evident if I was reading the words on the page.

As I mentioned above, Empire is the favorite of many Star Wars fans. However, I’m one of the rare few (like the author) who find Return of the Jedi to be their favorite of these first three films. Consequently, since this book held close to the original plot, it seemed to sag a little between the opening act on Hoth and the third act in Cloud City. At least the added soliloquies from ancillary characters like the AT-AT walkers, random Stormtroopers, and the dangerous creatures of the universe added in some humorous elements to the narrative that weren’t strictly canon.

A fantastic audiobook that still might require a read-through, I give Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Interrupting Chicken

Interrupting Chicken
Author: 
Stein, David Ezra
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Papa is trying to read little red chicken a story at bedtime, but she keeps interrupting. She can’t help herself! She inserts herself into the story of Hansel & Gretel. She jumps into the story of Little Red Riding Hood. She changes the story of Chicken Little. Will little red chicken ever stop interrupting and go to sleep? Find out when you read this story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Carol

Book Review: That Is Not a Good Idea!

That Is Not a Good Idea!
Author: 
Willems, Mo
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

A very plump goose is met by a hungry fox who invites her to dinner. Will dinner go as planned? This humorous book by Mo Willems reminds us to listen to our inner gosling and expect the unexpected. The book involves simple text and a minimum of words allowing readers to explore the pictures to understand the story.

Reviewer's Name: 
Carol

Book Review: There's Something About Sweetie

Cover
Author: 
Menon, Sandhya
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Sweetie Nair is fat. She doesn’t care, but her mom cares. Like, a lot. A lot a lot. Definitely too much. So much that so when Ashish, a hot local boy from a good (and crazy rich!) Indian family tries to date Sweetie, Sweetie’s mom shuts it down. But Sweetie won’t give up without a fight, and so she, Ashish and Ashish’s parents hatch a plan in which the kids will go on four dates. If it works out, they’ll tell Sweetie’s parents. If not, no harm done. Plus, what can happen in four dates? Turns out, a lot.

If you’ve read any of Menon’s other books, this one is completely on brand. I’ve read her other two books, and this one might be my favorite? It’s up there with Dimple, for sure. It’s a funny romantic comedy with endearing, mostly believable characters from a culture that’s different from mine. In addition to reading an adorable book, I get to learn a little bit about Indian Americans. This one has an added element of pointing out our society’s horrible ways of treating fat people. The way a folks react to Sweetie will have you seeing red – but you know it’s unfortunately totally realistic. Luckily, Sweetie is a self-confident young lady, and it was a joy to see her grow throughout the book. Ashish isn’t too bad himself! He has a very believable journey through the course of the book, and was a male lead you could root for even as he made a few terrible decisions.

TLDR: If you’re looking for a light, funny and very swoony read, this one will do it for you. I know it put a smile on my face.

Sandhya Menon is coming to PPLD to be the keynote speaker for Mountain of Authors! Meet her, listen to her give a talk and get a book signed on 27 April at 21c. More information about the event can be found here: https://research.ppld.org/mountainofauthors

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon Pulse for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. There’s Something About Sweetie will be available for purchase on 14 May – don’t forget to put your copy on hold!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens

Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

After reading through the last two books in Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz series, I was hesitant to continue with the fourth book, Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens. What I found innovative and hilarious in the first book had become a bit more annoying by books two and three. Book four, however, was a refreshing addition to the series. It helped that the jokes were funny enough that I actually laughed out loud. Moreover, the lore and overall arching plot of the series seemed to coalesce into something that made sense and was actually driving toward a satisfying conclusion.

While I can’t completely disregard the previous two books in the series, I felt that there was probably enough backstory explanation in Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens that these other books could be potentially be skipped over altogether. After all, we learn a lot about Alcatraz, his family roots, and the Smedry talents in this book, and I almost wonder if some of these plot points couldn’t have been spread out into previous volumes. It also helped that this book had a clear goal and objective to drive the story toward its various conclusions.

In previous books in this series, Alcatraz has announced that he is awesome or a liar. Here, he admits to being “stoopid,” which adds some humility to the character that had perhaps been missing earlier in the series. There were plenty of other things I liked about this book, including the chapter numbers, the “Shakespearian chapter,” and Alcatraz’s cousin who is really bad at math. The twist near the end also added some realism to both the protagonists and antagonists that I’m now invested and want to see how the series finishes out in the next (and I assume final) volume.

A hilarious return-to-form and vital link for the Alcatraz series, I give Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Reviews: The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest
Author: 
Wilde, Oscar
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Over the years, I have been assigned to read a multitude of books and plays for English classes - some of those writing pieces I have never committed to and read thoroughly. This year in AP Literature, The Importance of Being Earnest was assigned and was not amongst those writing pieces. In many of the English classes I have enrolled in, there are numerous books or plays - especially Shakespeare - that I have read which might be interesting but the diction is archaic. The words and phrases are not used modernly and therefore, what is written is difficult to understand in the absence of translations or SparkNotes. Despite being published in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest was an easy read because the play is easily humourous.

The play pursues wealthy and bored protagonists, Jack Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, as they court two women, Gwendolen Fairfax and Cecily Cardew, pretending to be men named Ernest. Their “Bunburying” depicts the theme that idle hands indulge in mischief. Jack, who resides in the country, introduces a devious and unruly brother named Ernest who resides in the city so that he can be reckless in one place while also being arguably mature in another. Algernon pretends to have to check in on a pale and sickly fellow named Bunbury when he is introduced to responsibilities or events he does not desire to participate in. Eventually, upon hearing of Cecily Cardew, Jack’s ward, from Jack, he pretends to be Ernest as well. The two characters utilize their separate versions of "Bunburying" for their own pleasure rather than for being productive, depicting their own values of dishonesty and deceit.

The characters are self-concerned which is unfortunate because during the 1890s, the time in which this play is set, the Victorian Era endured multiple widespread conflicts including overpopulation, poor sanitary conditions, child labor, and religious insecurity - none of which are mentioned by any of the four characters.
Ultimately, the theme of the play may be applied to the modern era which permits The Importance of Being Earnest to be more relevant when you compare the Victorian upper class to, for example, the Kardashians or other celebrities.
The humorous aspect of the play was Oscar Wilde’s use of epigrams, or clever and paradoxical expressions. Predominantly delivered by Algernon, my favorite of the epigrams was “The amount of women who flirt with their own husbands is scandalous. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.”

Additionally, this play is a short read with only about 75 pages.

Reviewer's Name: 
Isabella W

Book Review: Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid

Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid
Author: 
Emerson, Marcus
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY***

Once again, I seem to have jumped in on the second book of a series. Fortunately, there was plenty of exposition detailing the events of The Super Life of Ben Braver. Maybe a little too much exposition. This sequel took a little long getting to its own story because of this, along with a bit of heavy-handed foreshadowing as well. Regardless of its slow start, Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid is a pretty standard middle-grade book that calls upon the success of the superhero genre to package a lesson about pride between action set pieces.

While there are some parallels between the X-Men series, I feel the main character’s arc is perhaps a little more similar to early My Hero Academia. Plus, it wouldn’t be a middle-grade story without a bit of a Harry Potter feel to it as well (i.e., a unique main character with a semi-bumbling male friend and an incredibly smart female friend). At the very least, I found the illustrations sprinkled throughout to be well done. They certainly contributed to the comic book hybrid feel of the story, which is probably what draws the X-Men comparisons.

I won’t fault this book too much for its heavy-handed approach toward the main character’s social faux pas since this book is basically for children. That being said, I did find some of the lore and intricacies of the greater story arc to be perhaps a little elaborate. I’m sure if I’d read the first book, this would be less so, but it still seems slightly overcomplicated at times. In the end, I liked some of the unique (if not sometimes gross) superpowers of these kids, and I’d recommend this series for any children who might want to make the jump from comic books to chapter books, and vice versa.

A comic book/chapter book hybrid with a semi-standard take on superheroes, I give Ben Braver and the Incredible Exploding Kid 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

Book Review: Good Omens

Good Omens
Author: 
Gaiman, Neil
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Good Omens is humorous take on Armageddon and the final battle between Heaven and Hell. Complete with an angel and a demon, who get along better with each other than with their immortal counterparts, two witch-finders, Satanic Nuns of the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, aliens, and an eleven year old Antichrist, Good Omens takes a completely different take on the Apocalypse. All predicted by a witch that lived 300 years ago, Good Omens is full of sarcasm, humor, fun, and adventure along with a moral that tells us to look for the good in everyone, even demons. I highly recommend this book for any high schooler or adult looking for a little bit of humor in life.

Reviewer's Name: 
John B

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia
Author: 
Sanderson, Brandon
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

You know, it’s difficult to review a book that already highlights its flaws in the text itself. Part of me wonders if the reviews from the second book in the series were bad enough to warrant this kind of meta self-awareness. In the end, while Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia does take the time to address these weaknesses in its story and characters, it still doesn’t excuse the fact that they’re in there in the first place. These winking soliloquies seem to gloss over the fact that the book knows what’s wrong with it, but instead decides to gloss over it with self-reference instead of fixing the root of the problems themselves.

By this point in the series, I have come to terms with its middle-grade silliness and occasional bathroom humor. I loved the rule-breaking first book in the series, only to become annoyed by this constant fourth-wall breaking that happened in book two. By book three—this book—I finally came to terms with the fact that I’m not the target audience for this book, despite how well-written it is and how intricately its fantasy world has been created.

Perhaps due to my acceptance of this series for what it is, I felt the plot and character development were better in this part of the series—even if it did seem to trend toward “after school special” territory more often than not. Not only did we get to see more of Alcatraz’s parents (although, not nearly enough in my opinion), there was a lot more world-building that helped to flesh out this strange land introduced in previous volumes. Plus, the character who was a former librarian was (and is) probably my favorite character in the series right now.

More of the same self-aware silliness from Brandon Sanderson, I give Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: 
Benjamin W.

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