Review: Weird But Normal | Mia Mercado

Nothing makes me happier than knowing I’m not the only one who adopted the personality of a fictional character when I was a kid (it’s been a long year so it takes very little). For Mia Mercado, it was Annie. For me, it was Wednesday Addams. I also enjoy relating to someone on the ridiculousness of our AIM screen names.

SIDE NOTE: for all you “I wasn’t born yet/I was a baby back then” assholes, AIM stands for AOL Instant Messenger. It was basically text messaging with dial-up.

What I’m getting at is, it makes me happy to relate to someone who is both normal and weird at the same time – hence the name of her appropriately titled book, Weird But Normal. Relatable stories are where it’s at and for me, Mia Mercado’s book is full of them. From adventures in hair discovery and shaving to people getting confused about our ethnicity to quitting a job and changing your life (she lasted 2 months, I quit after 3 weeks – story coming soon), her book made me feel like I was in the company of a friend.

BONUS: Weird But Normal includes some of her published essays, including my favorite, “I’m a Guy’s Girl” – it’s accurate and absolutely hilarious.

Funny and full of essays that can jog anyone’s embarrassing, repressed adolescent memories, Weird But Normal is a book that reminds all of us weirdos that there are more of us than we think. Everything and everyone is weird, and that is perfectly normal.

Do yourself a favor. Take a break from the horrors of 2020, buy Weird But Normal by Mia Mercado, and enjoy some weird normalcy in a time where everything is horrifically weird.

Read more reviews that are WAY more review-y than this and buy Weird But Normal here.

Review: Ready Player One | Ernest Cline

Other than books, video games have been a much-needed escape for me, particularly the ones where I’m killing zombies and saving humanity. Video games get a bad rap, often being referred to as “time-wasting” and “mindless”. Obviously, I would hardly call them “time-wasting”. This is 2020; if you’re not prepared for anything – and I mean ANYTHING – then I’d argue that you’re the one wasting time (this argument sounds better in my head). Also, anyone who calls them “mindless” has clearly never played any of the Resident Evil games. Give one a try without Googling the walkthrough. That’s not a dare, it’s a challenge. Sure, you can learn dances from Fortnite and post your version (or whatever it is you think you’re doing) on TikTok, but let’s see you solve some of the puzzles in these games without using hints. I think you’ll find it a bit harder than flailing around like an idiot for your iPhone camera.

Anyhoo, video games: they’re the best. When Ready Player One hit theaters I could not wait to watch it, and here’s where it’s my turn to look like an idiot – I didn’t know it was a book. In fact, I didn’t find out it was a book until about a year later. And I didn’t read it until a little over a year after that. Consider this revelation my TikTok dance.

I love this book but before I explain why, allow me to begin with this: it’s almost nothing like the movie. The few things the book and the movie have in common are the characters, the 80s (best decade EVER) references, and a couple of scenarios. That’s about it, and the book is still incredible.

The protagonist, Wade Watts is a teenager in the year 2044 who is living with relatives in a run-down mobile park that is described to look like something a 6-year-old would build with those large legos (probably something we’re headed for, at this rate). Like the majority of the nation, Wade is an active participant in the hunt for video game designer James Halliday’s Easter egg that’s hidden in his creation, the OASIS. What’s the OASIS, you ask? It’s a virtual world that sounds about 98 times more fun than ours. In the OASIS you can be anyone you want. There, Wade is known as Parzival and early on, becomes even more known for becoming the first player to figure out and complete James Halliday’s first challenge.

Throughout the book, Wade/Parzival moves through challenge after 80s challenge – one being an entire walkthrough of the movie WarGames where he has to recite Matthew Broderick’s lines word for word and I’m sorry but that sounds like the greatest. All the while he’s trying to stay alive in the real world as a company known as IOI is trying to track him down and stop him from finding the egg (and winning billions of dollars) before they can find it.

Beyond gaming and being surrounded by everything 80s, there’s plenty of depth to the story as well. Along the way, Wade/Parzival makes friends, falls in love, and discovers that the most important things in life don’t necessarily involve money.

This book is a real page-turner; if you haven’t read it, I highly suggest you give it a chance. It’s a fun and temporary escape, even if that escape only lasts until 2044.

Review: Open Book | Jessica Simpson

I used to sing. Shut up, I did. I started with Tejano music then moved on to Freestyle music (it made a comeback in the 90s and you had to have zero talent). Then I opted for pop music because it appeared that that’s where the money was at. If Britney Spears could get a record deal, how hard could it be?

14-year-old me got to work. I had no mom-ager and no social media, but I did have the internet. I began signing up for toll-free numbers so I could record myself singing on them and then promote them on forums for people who wanted to be popstars (a very popular career choice at the time). I checked the numbers multiple times a day to see if anyone left messages of praise, which is really no different than the way social media works now. Just like my social media accounts, I had none.

I signed up for talent shows, with my most memorable performance being the one where I sang a Pink song and forgot the words the minute it started. I mailed letters, hand-written letters, to every record label I could find on my wonderful dial-up. Nothing. My last straw came when I began cold-calling record labels and the receptionist at Jive Records told me I needed to “buy a book on how to break into the music business” before hanging up on me.

That was it. At 14-years-old I was washed up and done. No record deals. No millions of fans. No mom-agers trying to act like my bestie. Nothing. Meanwhile, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears were stealing all of my applause. I swore off pop music then and there. What a stupid genre anyway. “I’m a genie in a bottle”? I didn’t know the writers for the Mickey Mouse Club were bound to the actors for life. That’s some price to pay for a Disney career. Pfft. Anyway, when Jessica Simpson came along she stood no chance with me. Don’t even ask me about her show Newlyweds; I watched The Osbournes.

Then, a shift. She got divorced. The woman who was forced to talk about her virginity ad nauseam was now exploring her way through Hollywood, at least according to the tabloids which I believed.

Finally, she’s cleared things up for us, years after I’d forgotten all about her “bad girl” time. I read Jessica Simpson’s memoir Open Book and I loved it. Here’s why.

First, she was pretty honest about her skank days as well as her marriage to Nick Lachey – the cute guy from the B-team boy band 98 Degrees. Honestly, that was all I wanted to know about. She. Spills, y’all. And not just about Nick. Tony Romo. Jerk John Mayer. Her alcohol addiction! It’s all in there! She talks about other stuff but let’s be honest, we want the tabloid stuff.

Here’s why you should read it: for years Jessica Simpson has been a laughing stock for everything from her intelligence to her weight, yet she’s happily married and owns a multi-billion dollar company that SHE BUILT. Hahaha LOL yeah, she’s a real joke ol’ Jessica Simpson is.

She’s been through it and actually has a great story to tell. Through it all, she’s remained committed to being herself, as well as finding herself when she got lost. Question her intelligence all you want, but the woman is always learning. I think you’ll enjoy her memoir.

Also, from this day forth I hereby declare it illegal to criticize her “mom jean” look. That look came back and now everyone looks terrible. Take it from me, you don’t see me in the tabloids.

Review: The Last Black Unicorn | Tiffany Haddish

I have a dream. And that dream is to one day be a guest on Comedy Central’s Drunk History, both as an actress and as a drunk person. No, really. I realize most dreams consist of purchasing homes or getting a Master’s degree. Not me. I want to be drunk on national TV talking about Sacagawea. I love that show. Believe it or not, it’s very educational. Beyond history lessons that may or may not be accurate, I’ve discovered comedic writers and comedians that I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t know about – one of those being the incredibly funny Tiffany Haddish. That’s correct. I’d heard of her before but didn’t really know who she was until I saw her episode of Drunk History.

She absolutely cracked me up so I immediately wanted to know more about her. And what do you do when you want to learn more about someone? You read their memoir. (Anyone who is anyone has a memoir. Wake up.)

Co-written by the hilarious Tucker Max, I read her book in two days. I would’ve read it in one but I had to work. Some bull.

To begin, the entire book is written in her voice, literally. It was like the audio version was playing in my head as I read it. At first, it was a little odd but once I got past the Invitation I understood why it was written the way it was written: this was Tiffany’s story being told her way.

The backstory to Tiffany’s success includes an upbringing most of us couldn’t fathom. From surviving the mistreatment by her mother who suffered from a brain injury to leaving a physically and mentally abusive husband, the road to comedic stardom was a rough one. It’s not all heartache, though. She also includes hilarious anecdotes, one of which details the revenge she got on her ex-boyfriend that involves a sex tape, a holiday, and the movie Charlies Angels.

While I would’ve liked to have seen more about her career, the point of her book is to deliver hope. Deep and honest, Tiffany’s book provides inspiration for anyone who has been or is in a place where it’s hard to see the light. It’s there, and some of it is found in her book. Give it a read and also, watch her episode of Drunk History – there’ s a whole lot of learning between the two.

Review: Next Level Basic | Stassi Schroeder

Next Level BasicAs all 5 of you know, I used to write about the show Vanderpump Rules – first on my site then for the entertainment blog Taste of Reality. Writing about the show was fun but there’s like 28 episodes a season and they’re in season 7 – there are only so many jokes you can write about these people before you start to plagiarize yourself. These days I’m more of a fan, and Stassi’s book is now included.

I could not stand Stassi the first, oh, 4 or 5 seasons of Vanderpump Rules. I believe I used to refer to her as a satanic wizard in my early days of writing about the show. She was awful. Bossy, conceited, a complete asshole – traits that, I’m sure, are what got her on the show. Then, something happened.

In season 3, she left her job, her friends, and California to be with her then-boyfriend Patrick, and you know what happened? It didn’t work out, which some people would refer to as karma. She returned to L.A. and had to beg for her old life back. A humbled Stassi was better than an entitled Stassi. After a season (5) where she became follow-the-leader-Stassi, she emerged as the Stassi we all love today. Hilarious. A little more self-aware. The woman you can go have a drink with or take in a seance.

In a time where we’re told to “not be ‘basic'” (euphemism for ‘yourself’), Stassi preaches the opposite. Love all things horror (me)? Embrace it! Did cartoons take a backseat to Tales From the Crypt (I’ll sing the Miss Autopsy song at the drop of a hat)? Tell people about it! Still into Ed Hardy? Thank Jesus I grew out of that but if that’s your thing, wear it! Being basic is all about doing what makes you happy, and that’s what this book is all about.

If you’re into feeling good, laughing, and reading, this is your book: Next Level Basic by Stassi Schroeder. Enjoy!

Review: Just the Funny Parts |​​ Nell Scovell

As avid a reader as I consider myself I have to admit, my book collection isn’t very diverse. My bookshelf and everything I check out from the library consists of comedian memoirs and anything horror. I have a few business books but that’s only because a former boss of mine made us read them. Not implement any of their teachings – just read them and then do nothing. Anyway, comedy and horror are pretty much my happy place. (I strayed once before when I got tricked into reading Twilight and I’ve never forgiven myself – neither for being tricked nor for reading Twilight)

What I’m getting at is I love to read and I have a type. And for a while, I was able to share my favorite books on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, last year I had a job that limited my time which led to zero book posts in 2018. It took a year but I was finally able to call it a day with that job (don’t you worry – there’s will soon be a post about it) and get back to my website as well as Typical Jenn’s Unofficial Book Club.

My first entry since my hiatus: Just the Funny Parts by Nell Scovell.

First, an introduction: Nell Scovell is a television writer, producer, and director whose work has been featured on a multitude of shows including Late Night with David Letterman, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and The Simpsons. She’s also contributed jokes to Bette Midler’s “It’s The Girls!” tour, The Kennedy Center Honors, and former president Barack Obama’s speech for the 2013 White House Correspondents Dinner.

These mentions are less than a fraction of what her resumé consists of. Just the Funny Parts details her writing career that spans over three decades and offers a look into Hollywood and what it’s like to write comedy in a male-dominated industry. In addition to learning more about Nell and how she’s held her own in comedic writing for over 30 years, I learned quite a bit about a few of the areas I hope to write in as well as the processes. Every writing job she writes about offers knowledge, insight and, of course, humor.

Other than the fact that she’s hilarious and hardworking, she’s also incredibly supportive of other women writers. I found out about her book from Jill Twiss, a writer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver who was actually scouted for the show by Ms. Scovell. Back in 2017, I reached out to Jill for advice on comedic writing and you know what she did? She responded. And not with one of those bullshit motivational quotes you see on Instagram. You know the ones – “Keep shining bright and your dreams will explode” or whatever. No. She took the time to write out an entire email that included a bulleted list of ways to get my writing out there.

She had no idea who I was and yet took the time to show genuine interest in my passion and provide me with any information that could help. I still have that email; her kindness inspires me daily to show others the same courtesy she showed me when I’m presented with the opportunity. Since receiving her email I’ve gone on to spend a year writing for the website Taste of Reality where I wrote jokes about reality shows, and am currently co-authoring a book that I was given the “OK” to incorporate my style of writing and humor.

If you’re an aspiring writer I highly recommend this book. You know what, if you’re a reader I highly recommend this book. Everyone should read this book. Nell Scovell started a chain reaction she may not even be aware of. Jill’s email introduced me to McSweeney’s. Her email is what gave me hope. Her email is the reason I took a job as a content writer for a start-up, left it, and now have another story to tell.

Thank you, Jill, and a big thank you to Nell!

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll be discussing my adventures in working for a start-up with a bunch of 20 year-olds all while trying to start my career as a comedic writer at the age of 35. If that shit isn’t Instagram-motivation worthy, then nothing is.

 

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin

So, as you probably don’t remember, I have set a goal of reading at least 35 books this year. While the next 34 will be ones I’ve never read, the first one I chose for the year is one I’ve read more times than I can count. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of her this is still one of my all-time favorite books. First, it’s hilarious. From beginning to end it’s like you’re having a comedic conversation with her about her life. But aside from just being funny I found it to be pretty inspirational. I don’t mean inspirational like it’ll make you stop turning tricks and get off the smack (or maybe it will, I don’t know I’m not a counselor), I mean inspirational in that it’ll make you feel lazy and make you want to get off your ass and get to work. At least that’s what it does for me. If you’ve read it you know what I’m talking about. Since purchasing it when it first came out, anytime I’ve lacked motivation or needed a pick-me-up I’ve turned to it, so I decided to kick off my year by re-reading it. It still makes me laugh. And it still reminds me that no matter how tired I am, if I really want to accomplish something then I better get to fucking work. My first selection for the Typical Jenn Unofficial Book Club is Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin. Enjoy!
Griffin_Back_Cover_lg

Hilarity Ensues by : Tucker Max

 

image1On Sunday I begin Typical Jenn’s 31 Days of Halloween, but before I do I wanted to post what I’m currently reading. I’m almost finished with it but so far, I’ve enjoyed it. Tucker Max is an asshole, or was back in the day, but this book is genuinely funny. It’s definitely not for everybody, though. Hi sense of humor isn’t for everyone and some of what he says may be offensive to others. Fortunately I am not one of the others and if you’re not either and want a good laugh at some unbelievable stories, this is your book. I wish I would’ve read his first book I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell before I read this one but I’ll get to it after Halloween, because from here until November 1st it’s all about the horror!

I Forgot to Die by: Khalil Rafati

So I originally purchased this book to learn more about a company called Book In A Box and how they format their work. Khalil is one of their authors and to be honest I’m not really sure why I chose this one out of all of the books the company has published. Turns out it’s a pretty damn good book. I Forgot to Die is a dark yet inspiring retelling of his life as a drug addict, his recovery and the successes he’s created for himself. Books like this aren’t usually for me but I’m glad I read it. It’s available on Amazon for $13.00 and is worth it.

image1

Scrappy Little Nobody by: Anna Kendrick

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched very many of Anna Kendrick’s movies. In fact I can probably only name about four movies she’s been in. In all honesty it was her Twitter account that made me want to read her book. If she’s that funny on Twitter her book has to be just as hilarious and readers, it is. While she talks about how she got her start and many facets of her career it’s her honesty about who she is that I loved because basically she’s like all of us. You’re not alone, Anna, I’m an adult-child too! It’s nice when people admit they’re still trying to get their shit together, aren’t we all? I am, and Anna Kendrick’s book made me feel better about it. I highly suggest this read.

image2