Monthly Archives: October 2008

Sara, Book 2 by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks

As I mentioned in a review below for the first book, this series is fantastic, and I can’t wait to read them to children I might have in the future. Book 2 follows the adventures of Sara and Seth, who has just moved to town. Sara takes all of the principles she learned in the first book about how to shape your own reality and teaches them to Seth. Seth is a very willing learner. The two set out together and turn seemingly insurmountable events into wonderful, beneficial ones for everyone involved.

Seth builds a tree house near the river, with a rope swing as well. Sara and Seth have many wonderful days after school there learning, swinging over the river, and climbing the tree. One day the owner of the property finds out they have been swinging from the tree and forbids them from going there because he is worried they will fall and seriously hurt themselves. Sara and Seth use the Law of Attraction principles to control what they can and eventually the events turn in their favor. 

Reading about how Seth and Sara’s friendship develops is one of the highlights of the book. It’s exactly the kind of friend I want to have – one who only fosters the best from you. This book, and the first, are some of my favorites and I will be reading them over and over.

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Sit, Ubu, Sit by Gary David Goldberg

Sit, Ubu, Sit is the autobiography of Gary David Goldberg, the creator of Sin City, Family Ties, Brooklyn Bridge, and many other TV shows.  The book is a chronological look at his childhood, wandering 20’s, his rise in television writing, his abundant success, and eventually his retirement.  Anyone who watched television in the 80’s knows the line “Sit, Ubu sit. Good dog” from the end of his shows.  In one of the most touching parts of the book, Goldberg talks about his beloved black Lab, Ubu.  I don’t know why I was so surprised Ubu was a real dog, maybe because 99% of everything in Hollywood is fake.  I actually shed a tear to learn when Goldberg was at the height of his success, he just didn’t have the time to care for Ubu properly.  At eight years old, Goldberg sent Ubu to live with family friends in Missouri. Goldberg says giving Ubu away is the only regret he has in life.  As a dog owner, I would have to agree.  

This book is a very lighthearted, quick read with many great jokes just like his TV shows.  Throughout the book, Goldberg emphasizes that having a good time and loving the people around him was more important than the multi-million dollar syndication deals.  It really comes across well that Goldberg was in the business only because he loved to write.  This book is such a good example of doing what you love and the money will come to you. 

There are so many touching stories throughout Goldberg’s life.  He ran a day care with his wife when their first daughter was born, long before writing for TV.  How heartbreaking it was when they learned Michael J. Fox had Parkinson’s.  Fighting the city of Brentwood so he and his wife could start a school for girls.  Each story is told so well.  The only downside of the book is at the very end when Goldberg does a retrospective, but it is only bad because I wanted him to keep going.  He’s the kind of story teller that leaves you feeling so good after hearing the stories and yet a little depressed because the story ended.

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Sara, Book 1 by Esther Hicks and Jerry Hicks

This is an amazing first book in a series of children’s books by the authors.  Sara is the main character, and in this book, she befriends a talking owl who teaches her how to change bad days into good ones. Sara learns how to handle an annoying little brother, bullies at school, nagging teachers, demanding parents, and the usual assortment of everyday people.  This book takes the happy, shiny, abstract concepts of the Law of Attraction and weaves them into a concrete, fictional story that illustrates how to use the concepts on an everyday level to improve one’s life.  

Most books that tackle this topic come across as overly simplistic with the message “you just need to be happy, ok, now be happy!” without ever mentioning how, or their message is wrapped up in repetitive cannon fodder for housewives to get through the afternoon.  Sara Book 1 is more of a guidebook using specific examples that can easily be translated onto one’s own life.  I don’t even have children yet, but when I do, I will be reading this and its two sequels over and over to them.

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Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Wicked is essentially the unauthorized biography of the Wicked Witch of the West.  I never read any of L. Frank Baum’s original stories, so I have no idea if this character in Wicked is anything like the original.  I did watch “The Wizard of Oz” every year at the height of tornado season, just to recharge the nightmare batteries.  The Witch in Wicked is definitely not the witch from the movie, but I think that was the point of the novel.  

Wicked started out so promising.  I normally hate fiction, but I started reading this for a long plane right and was immediately enthralled.  The story begins in such detail about the Witch’s childhood, her parents before she was born, what it was like to raise a green baby, her first words, and the family trying to deal with the hardships.  We learn about her sister, her Nanny, her brother, the weird foreign guy who humped their mom and later their dad, and just some amazing backstory that helped shape the Wicked Witch.  She herself isn’t really evil or wicked at the beginning of the novel, it’s more like people didn’t know how to treat her since they’d never seen a green baby.  There’s some fascinating play with the fact the Witch’s dad was a minister, the mom’s a slut, and the poor green baby was some kind of punishment for their sins.

But the awesomeness ends about 100 pages in.  The story skips from the Wicked Witch being two years old to eighteen and going off to college.  We meet Galinda, the Witch’s sister Nessarose aka the Wicked Witch of the East, and a truck load of college buddies.  One of their professors was a Goat, and he’s killed because the Wizard passed a law that animals should be seen and not heard.  Here’s where the book went mind-numbingly boring.  This was only due to the fact, that in real life as well as imaginary life, I strongly dislike politics.  If you watch CSPAN or Fox News, this may be the novel for you.  For me, it was torture trying to read through all of the imaginary politics of Oz.

All the talk of political assassins, military troops, secret planning, brainwashing, and the like just made my brian go, “Blah, blah, blah” as I read over all 250 pages in the middle talking about why they all hated the Wizard of Oz.  It was so hard to believe the Wicked Witch became wicked from some spurned political activist. It’s to the point I don’t even care if that’s the right analysis of why she became wicked.  I just stopped caring and wanted to get the heck through the book.

Around the final 100 pages, the story showed signs of being interesting again and shifted back to being about the Witch and how she became an actual witch, possibly wicked.  There’s never really enough believable evidence that she ever was wicked.  Finally Dorothy shows up, kills someone, yada, yada, yada.  But by this time I was in such a state of “Yeah right” with all of the events that happened, I normally wouldn’t have done this book the courtesy of finishing it (if it wasn’t for the goal of reading 100 books in a year).   

It was intriguing to see how religion weaved its way through the Witch’s life.  From the prophecy of her birth, to her becoming a nun (like I said “Yeah right”), to her sister being truly wicked by justifying her actions in the name of her Unnamed God.  That part was subtle enough to not be annoying yet compelling enough to build character.  But another annoying part in Wicked, besides all the political mumbo jumbo, is how the author flip flopped between an elegant writing style and that of a Penthouse Letters generic writer.  Some of my favorite gems:
“A foot kicked him square between the buttocks and his bowels released.”
“He took some coconut oil and warmed it between his palms, and slid his hands like leathery velvet animals on her small, responding breasts. The nipples stood, the color flushed.”
“He caught himself with a mammoth erection just remembering the last time, and he had to hide himself behind some ladies’ scarves in a shop until it subsided.”
“His bowels turned suddenly to water, and it was only with effort he managed to make it to the chamber pot. His insides slopped noisily, wetly out.”
“The Kumbricia Pass looked like a woman lying on her back, her legs spread apart, welcoming them.”
“She moved her right thumb to her mouth, and with her left hand felt the cloth of Sarima’s gown just below the torque, until she found a nipple, and she ran her thumb over it lovingly as if it were a small pet.”
“She held on tightly; her legs, especially in the upper thigh, felt as if they were swelling, the better to clench the handle between them.”

This book will not be on my shelf for much longer. Blah!

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The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley & Tanner Colby

This book is set up in interview format with contributions from most of Chris Farely’s family, friends, coworkers, and others.  It gives a very detailed, entertaining, and emotionally exhausting view of what being in Chris Farely’s life must have been like.  Chris seemed to be one of those kids born to make others laugh.  It came so natural to him that choosing any other career choice would have been blatantly slapping destiny in the face.  It’s amazing to read that so much life was lived and wasted in only 33 years.  

It’s hard to believe that Chris’s career only spans roughly five years.  In that time he went from Second City, to Saturday Night Live, to block buster movies to household name.  He was supposed to be the voice of Shrek and had recorded all of the voice work for the first movie.  After he died the studio went with Mike “One Voice Wonder” Myers because of the sequel potential.  

I read this book in one sitting.  It is so engrossing even though the ending is obvious.  I turned from page to page searching for any reason as to why Chris was so determined to destroy himself.  He had been to every rehab clinic in the US, some more than once, all of his friends and family begged him to get more help, and yet there was always something about him that seemed resigned to the inevitable. Reading through each person’s account of what happened is so telling and emotionally exhausting that you really feel like you knew Chris personally by the end of the book.  

One of Chris’s brother’s is the author of this book, and he drives the story away from Chris being his own worst enemy and puts the blame on their father.  The point is put across several times that their father was oblivious if not encouraging of alcoholism and overeating because of his own addiction problems.  Chris had such a childlike desperation to please his father and to be like his father that he picked up his father’s demons.  In a very dysfunctional way, Chris’s death almost seemed like the ultimate sign of how much he loved his father.  

The intrinsic problem with this kind of biography is that we never truly get Chris’s actual point of view, so there’s always the issue of trusting a third party narrator.  One of Chris’s close female friends claimed that towards the end of his life he told her the specific reason why he could never get clean and told her to never tell anyone else, ever.  Technically I could make that claim as well, so there’s no validity to those kinds of statements in the book.  It is still worth it to read how much Chris meant to his friends and how his death still affects them.

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The Necklace: Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives by Cheryl Jarvis

Thirteen women go together and by a $34,000 diamond necklace that they share between themselves. The ladies would each get the necklace for the month of their birthday which oddly worked out with only one overlapping, but it’s never discussed how that got resolved. Every month all of the women would get together to discuss where the necklace was worn (skydiving, body boarding, to Paris, while having sex), how it made them feel, how it changed them, etc. It gets to the point that the women start using the necklace for fund-raising and humanitarian pursuits and eventually raise far more money than the necklace cost in the first place.

The book gave it the old college try to document the adventures that ensued and to a much lesser extent how the necklace changed each of their lives. It does do a good job describing how each woman felt about essentially owning a time share in a diamond necklace. We only get a superficial glance at the larger societal issue of how most people never get to buy and enjoy luxury items of this kind for themselves. The verdict among all of the women seems to be that they would have never dreamt of buying a diamond necklace on their own, but the inconveniences of sharing made it worthwhile.  The entire time I was reading the story I kept thinking, “I would gladly overlook other peoples’ views of squandering money, buy the necklace for myself, and never share my precious.”  But that is coming from the kid whose first word was “Mine”.

The structure is what made this book boring.  It reads as if the author had to suppress the story that wanted to be told, so she could make sure to give each person their own chapter.  It gets to the point toward of the end of the book that some women get two paragraphs about themselves in their titled chapter while the story from the previous chapter’s person gets continued through.  When the author does tell the back story about some of the ordinary women, it’s so boring.  It’s as exciting as the life of a small-town girl, who’s never left the small-town could be.  The book flounders too much to get the reader engaged, and I normally love this genre.

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