top ten tuesday: favorite non-book websites

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

January 20: FREEBIE

Hey everyone, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a FREEBIE! I’ve chosen to list my top ten favorite non-book blogs/websites. In no particular order:

  • KCMetropolis.org … Kansas City’s online journal of the arts! (yes, I’m biased 🙂 )
  • The Nation … oldest weekly magazine in the US: politics, culture, society, etc.
  • Wonkette … ALL TEH POLITICAL SNARK!
  • Green Bay Packers … I bleed green & gold, life-long fan, no matter what!
  • Daily Kos … Liberal website with political analysis of current US events
  • Think Progress … progressive, independent American blog; politics, climate, etc.
  • Tom and Lorenzo … “fabulous & opinionated”—Love them!
  • Vox … all-purpose current events site: politics, science, world affairs, culture, etc.
  • Reductress … hilarious satirical women’s magazine
  • Thrillist … food and restaurant lists, city/state-specific

What are your favorite non-book sites online?

as you wish

Our fantastic indie bookshop Rainy Day Books hosted actor Cary Elwes a couple weeks ago here in Kansas City on his book tour for As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, and I couldn’t resist attending! From Goodreads:

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

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Confession: Fred Savage was my first celebrity crush. [Photo]

Who doesn’t love The Princess Bride? It’s definitely a film I hold dear to my heart, one I’ve seen countless times and bonded over with friends and family. Somehow this movie never gets old! I finally got around to reading the book as a sophomore in high school in one sitting on a plane ride to Europe, and it was just as beautiful as the movie, of course. After reading Cary Elwes’s As You Wish, I had the natural urge to watch the movie again and eventually I’ll have to dig out my copy of the book and reread it.

The book tour event with Elwes was a lot of fun! There was medieval music performed by musicians in period dress, an elaborate sword fighting demonstration, a short documentary, and an hour-long conversation with Elwes before finally a book signing. Elwes was just as charming and good humored as you would expect. He related some of the stories we could expect to find in the book, answered questions, and even did a few impressions of Rob Reiner and AndrĂ© the Giant. When I got up to the table for the book signing, Elwes immediately noticed my Green Bay Packers shirt (it was a Sunday, I always wear a Packers shirt to support the team on game days!) and excitedly gave me a high five! “I love the Packers! Aaron’s a fan.” (Cue cute, irresistible smile.) I had a great time!

As for the book itself, it was the nicest book about the nicest people having the nicest experience making the nicest movie. It’s a sweet, uplifting read, and any fan of the movie or original novel will love going behind-the-scenes with As You Wish. The stories of AndrĂ© the Giant off-camera, the intense preparation for Elwes and Patinkin for the “Greatest Swordfight in Modern Times,” and the saga of getting the film made in the first place especially captured my attention. Now, I can’t say it’s the greatest piece of writing I’ve ever read—the continual praise of everyone and everything hinged on being a bit too saccharine and quickly became repetitive. Elwes would note something in the narrative, then another person on the film (or two) would repeat it in an inset. But I do believe it’s all genuine. This tactic may come across better in the audiobook version—I bet it would be cool to listen to the cast and crew recount all these great memories.

Read it! As You Wish was great fun and conjured up wonderful memories for me.

Read from November 2 to 4, 2014.

yes please

It’s pretty rare that I end up buying a book the same week it is released, but with Yes Please by Amy Poehler I couldn’t resist! From Goodreads:

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.

I ended up devouring nearly all 329 pages in one day, it was such a charming book and so hard to put down! I’m not sure I completely agree with the blurb above, though—”full of words to live by” and “real life advice.” Some other reviews I read accuse Poehler of being preachy with her “life advice,” but I didn’t get that sense… I suppose there is a short section about sex tips, but it’s all so humorous, it reads more like an “it’s funny ‘cuz it’s true!” type of bit rather than Poehler actually advising on the subject.

Poehler both confirms my impression of her as a person and reveals herself more in Yes Please. I loved the chapters on her upbringing and family, and I thought she showed real class and integrity when describing her divorce. Poehler’s down to earth, relatable, and endearing. I appreciated that she cops to her own foibles and errors in judgement, learning from them, admitting her privileges yet demonstrating her tenacity, ingenuity, and hard work along the way. One little grievance I have with the book, though… her repeated griping about how hard it is to write a book became tiresome.

I would love to reread this one day, preferably on audio next time, which I’ve heard is fantastic (although I’m glad I read it on paper, too, the photos really enhanced the experience for me). You’re not going to find riotous humor or the most graceful prose necessarily, but it’s really heartfelt and a delightful, enjoyable read overall. Any fan of Poehler will be a fan of this book.

Read from October 31 to November 2, 2014.

bad feminist

Back in late September (where did October go??) I ordered Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and finally got around to reading it a month later. From Goodreads:

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django Unchained) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.

I was so, so excited to start Bad Feminist. First off, though, the title is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t find Gay to be “bad” at all in regards to feminism, because it’s clear she holds its core values: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” The word feminism has become warped and demonized (“man-haters,” compared to nazis, etc.), which is really unfair to the movement and inaccurate. Feminism is about HUMAN equality and progress, social justice, for the good of society as a whole—it’s not just a movement for women because, of course, everyone benefits from women succeeding and flourishing.

Further, in the book Gay tackles feminist issues as a woman of color. Many of her essays deal with issues of gender and race, especially in relation to pop culture, like Girls, Fifty Shades of Grey and Django Unchained. A few subjects didn’t resonate so much with me, like Girls and Fifty Shades (never saw/read myself), but it was fascinating to read her perspective on them and so many other topics, like The Help, for example. I both read the book and saw the movie a few years ago and enjoyed it cautiously… I remember feeling a little weird about it but couldn’t quite formalize my thoughts as to exactly why. But Gay voiced her criticisms of the film in a way that totally clicked with me. Before, I feel like I had an inkling of how poorly the black experience has been portrayed in film and TV—and again not that I can speak from any personal racial experience—but Gay really drives the point home in her essays especially about Django Unchained and the Tyler Perry movies.

There are a few essays that really stand out to me: “How We All Lose,” “Blurred Lines, Indeed,” and “Tragedy. Call. Compassion. Response.” in particular. I think I might have shouted out loud YES! when I read this in the “Blurred Lines” essay:

It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. … These are just songs. They are just jokes. It’s just a hug. They’re just breasts. Smile, you’re beautiful. Can’t a man pay you a compliment? In truth, this is all a symptom of a much more virulent cultural sickness—one where women exist to satisfy the whims of men, one where a woman’s worth is consistently diminished or entirely ignored.

After a huge rush of excitement and fervent reading in the beginning, the middle third of the book started to drag just a bit for me, I think mostly just because it was super-critical essay after super-critical essay, and it just brought me down a bit one after another in succession. The ending, though, when the final two essays return to being more personal, clicked with me, too—that you can have contradictory feelings and still be a feminist. For example, I admit that my husband does much of the so-called “men’s work” around our house (garbage, car stuff, etc.) BUT, that doesn’t mean I’m not a feminist. Sometimes, gender roles are gender roles and it doesn’t mean anything. I do the majority of the cooking, and my husband and I split the laundry and dishes. So what, right?

I’m so glad I came across this collection—Gay’s writing is phenomenal and accessible—I’ve appreciated her viewpoints on social media recently regarding current controversies surrounding Lena Dunham and the viral NYC catcalling youtube video. I definitely look forward to reading Gay’s An Untamed State soon!

Read from October 20 to 30, 2014.