Portlandia Cook Book by Fred Armisen

portlandiaFood plays a very special role in Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s award-winning satire Portlandia – and the way Portlandia’s residents enjoy and talk about food are a huge part of the show’s personality. Fred, Carrie, and director Jonathan Krisel take you to the dishes that define the show, from cult-raised chicken to Stu’s stews, from pickled veggies to foraged green salads.

Complete with new full-color finished food shots and illustrations, and paired with humorous stories, head notes, and sidebars from the loveable food-obsessed Portlandia characters, The Portlandia Cook Book is a funny cookbook, with serious recipes, for people who want to bring Portlandia right into their kitchens. (description from publisher)

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

calling invisible womenCalling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray is a delightfully funny novel packing a clever punch.

A mom in her early fifties, Clover knows she no longer turns heads the way she used to, and she’s only really missed when dinner isn’t on the table on time. Then Clover wakes up one morning to discover she’s invisible – truly invisible. She panics, but when her husband and son sit down to dinner, nothing is amiss. Even though she’s been with her husband, Arthur, since college, her condition goes unnoticed. Her friend Gilda immediately observes that Clover is invisible, which relieves Clover immensely – she’s not losing her mind after all! – but she is crushed by the realization that neither her husband nor her children ever truly look at her. She was invisible even before she knew she was invisible. Clover discovers that there are other women like her, women of a certain age who seem to have disappeared. As she uses her invisibility to get to know her family and her town better, Clover leads the way in helping invisible women become recognized and appreciated no matter what their role.

Smart and hilarious, with indomitable female characters, Calling Invisible Women will appeal to anyone who has ever felt invisible. (description from publisher)

The Most of Nora Ephron

most of nora ephronThe Most of Nora Ephron is a whopping big celebration of the work of the late, great Nora Ephron, America’s funniest – and most acute – writer, famous for her brilliant takes on life as we’ve been living it these last forty years.

Everything you could possibly want from Nora Ephron is here – from her writings on journalism, feminism, and being a woman (the notorious piece on being flat-chested, the clarion call of her commencement address at Wellesley) to her best-selling novel, Heartburn, written in the wake of her devastating divorce from Carl Bernstein; from her hilarious and touching screenplay for the movie When Harry Met Sally . . . (“I’ll have what she’s having”) to her recent play Lucky Guy (published here for the first time); from her ongoing love affair with food, recipes and all, to her extended takes on such controversial women as Lillian Hellman and Helen Gurley Brown; from her pithy blogs on politics to her moving meditations on aging (“I Feel Bad About My Neck”) and dying.

Her superb writing, her unforgettable movies, her honesty and fearlessness, her nonpareil humor have made Nora Ephron an icon for America’s women–and not a few of its men. (description from publisher)

Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation by Elizabeth Beckwith

raising2If you’re not a fan of traditional parenting books (or even if you are) you might want to check out Elizabeth Beckwith’s Raising the Perfect Child Through Guilt and Manipulation. This book is laugh-out-loud funny and with chapters such as “How to Scare the Crap out of Your Child (in a Positive Way)”, and “Mind Control: Why it’s a Good Thing” Elizabeth Beckwith offers a new spin on the traditional parenting books.

Despite the title, Ms. Beckwith has some pretty sound advice to offer. For example, “speak loudly and disparagingly of people who do bad things”. See a guy speed through a parking lot? Make sure you tell your kid what a moron that guy is, and that that’s how people die. As Ms. Beckwith says “it’s always good to sprinkle the fear of death into these lessons whenever possible”.

This method lets you pepper lessons into daily life rather than having sit-down conversations about topics such as drugs or smoking. See a scantily-clad woman on the street? Make sure you mention that she looks like a hooker. This not only shows your daughter that it’s not ok with you to dress this way, but it also sends the message to your son that this is NOT the kind of girl you bring home.

Each lesson is illustrated with colorful stories from the author’s own childhood. So whether you’re looking for parenting advice or just want a great memoir to read Raising the Perfect Child through Guilt and Manipulation is definitely worth checking out, as long as you don’t mind a little colorful language.

 

Library to Begin Dating Service

redrosesLooking for that special someone? The library can help you with that age-old question! Just go online to your library account and check the “Find Compatible Mate” box, fill out the simple three question survey and click submit. It won’t be long before you are on the path to Happily Ever After.

In addition, the library can help smooth the path of true love for you – romantic poetry is in non-fiction under 821 and you’ll find Shakespeare’s sonnets at 822.33. And did you realize that date night can be even more special when you spend it at the library? Snuggle together in front of the fireplace at Fairmount! (both pairs of feet on the ground at all times, please and thank you); stroll hand-in-hand along the giant windows at Eastern; climb together to the second floor at Main where you can share that special view of 4th and Main.

For more tips on dating and falling in love, check out our special guide!

Follow the Money by Steve Boggan

follow the moneyWhat do you do if you want to really understand a country, to understand its people and feel its heartbeat? You can follow the rest of the tourists, or you can take the advice of Watergate reporter Bob Woodward’s source, ‘Deep Throat’, and ‘follow the money.’

Starting out in Lebanon, Kansas – the geographical center of America –  journalist Steve Boggan did just that in Follow the Money by setting free a ten-dollar-bill and accompanying it on an epic journey for thirty days and thirty nights through six states, across 3,000 miles armed only with a sense of humor and a small, and increasingly grubby, set of clothes. As he cuts crops with farmers in Kansas, pursues a repo-woman from Colorado, gets wasted with a blues band in Arkansas and hangs out at a quarterback’s mansion in St Louis, Boggan enters the lives of ordinary people as they receive – and pass on – the bill. What emerges is a chaotic, affectionate and funny portrait of the real modern-day America. (description from publisher)

It’s a Disaster

it'sadisaster

I picked up It’s a Disaster because I saw David Cross on the cover, and went in with low expectations (I mean, he was in all three Alvin and the Chipmunks movies). The cover on the dvd looks cheesy (a shame, since the theatrical poster is so fantastic) and the premise seemed a tad forced:

Four couples meet for Sunday brunch only to discover they are stuck in a house together as the world may be about to end.

But I was pleasantly surprised.  Julia Stiles, America Ferrera, David Cross, and Erinn Hayes are all fantastic in this dark comedy. Written and performed with the pacing of a play, It’s a Disaster is for fans of live theater and comedy shows.

What makes this movie stand out from other independent comedies is the fantastic build-up.  The first part of the film is paced slowly and leads the viewer to believe that this will be a standard examination of the relationships of people in their thirties.  As the story progresses, there are a smattering of twists and surprises (some much more surprising than others) that help build on the film’s twisted sense of humor.   Don’t be surprised if you’re left asking, how would I react if I knew I only had a few more hours to live?

Fans of The House of Yes, Igby Goes Down, and Election or anything featuring David Cross should give this movie a try.

The Frank Show by David Mackintosh

frankshowGrandpa Frank is just a grandpa and he doesn’t seem to like anything (except pickled onions), so how could his grandson possibly talk for a whole minute about him in front of his entire class?

In The Frank Show by David Mackintosh, Frank’s grandson is nervous about presenting about his curmudgeon grandfather during show and tell.  Especially since his friends have exciting people to introduce, like Fay’s cousin who “tells you if your bag is too heavy at the airport” and Hugo’s stepbrother who’s sports car has an eight-ball gearshift knob.

The Frank Show is the perfect example of a picture book that seems to have been written more for adults than for kids. I see the jokes flying right over younger kid’s heads, and not many children are going to spot Edgar Allen Poe and his raven in the illustrations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t recommend this book — because it is fantastic.  Mackintosh’s illustrations are funny and child-like, filled with subtle references and jokes. This story is as much about the generational divide as it is about taking people for granted — both topics rarely explored in picture books. Grandpa Frank’s exaggerated stories and cranky advise are entertaining, and his grandson’s fears are completely understandable. Seriously, pick up this book. You won’t be disappointed, unless you’re Frank. I’m sure he’d say that they don’t make them like they used to or something as equally crotchety.

Veep

veepJulia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, New Adventures of Old Christine) and Tony Hale (Arrested Development) recently won Emmy’s for their roles on HBO’s Veep. Dreyfus plays former Senator/current Vice President Selina Meyer, who is constantly surprised by the banality of her new job. Hale plays Gary, Selina’s extraordinarily loyal personal aide.  The cast is rounded out with Selina’s staff played by Anna Chumsky (My Girl!), Matt Walsh (Upright Citizen’s Brigade), and Reid Scott (My BoysThe Big C).

Veep features exceptional satirical writing, but what makes it work is the chemistry and experience of the cast.  It would be easy to write off Dreyfus’ Selina as Elaine Benes 2.0, with her nervous energy and superficial nature, but despite her lack of power outside of her office, she has true power over her staff (a power dynamic that Elaine never had). Their deference to her leads to influxes of ego, which are deflated by having to comply with the President’s expectations and perform mundane tasks.

I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how great Tony Hale plays Gary.  He deserved the Emmy he won for this role, because he somehow quietly, often in the background, overshadows Dreyfus (not an easy task!).  Hale’s Gary is Buster from Arrested Development, if Buster could function outside of his mother’s living room.  Hale and Dreyfus bring out the best in each other’s characters and the writing.  I would recommend this series to fans of Arrested DevelopmentSeinfeldParks and Recreation, and Louie.

 

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

As a personal challenge, I have taken on the task of reading all of the Iowa Children’s Choice 2013-14 nominees before voting ends in March 2014.  I am currently seven books down, with 18 books left to read.  I’m really fascinated to see how my reactions to the books compare with the voting of Iowa’s 3rd-6th graders.  I am taking this opportunity to highlight some of the books that stand out from the pack.

belly upTwelve-year-old Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt Fitzroy lives in a zoo.  And not just any zoo, but FunJungle, the largest animal amusement park in the world, where his parents work.  When the FunJungle mascot, Henry the Hippo, turns up dead, Teddy is convinced that it was murder. Written by Stewart Gibbs Belly Up, is a funny, clever first novel.

Stewart Gibbs has a degree in biology, and worked in a zoo while in college (at one point he was the foremost expert on capybaras).  He has also written a number of screenplays.  These two occupations are evident in his writing.  This book is filled with interesting animal and zoo facts, cleverly sprinkled throughout the story. The action in the novel is fast paced, well-timed, exciting. Overall, the book feels a lot like a well-informed animated movie, which seems to be a pretty great selling point for a children’s mystery novel.  I would recommend this book for fans of Swindle by Gordon Korman, Scat by Carl Hiaasen, and M.T. Anderson’s Pals in Peril series.