Posted tagged ‘book reviews’

Book Review: Good Night New Jersey

January 25, 2011

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs, rabid racoons, or guidos bite!

When I first heard of the book Good Night New Jersey, I assumed it was a depressing tale of some downtrodden loser aching for his chance to get out of New Jersey and say good night to this state once and for all. After borrowing Good Night New Jersey from my four-month-old niece, I found out that the book is nothing of the sort.

Rather than being some dark story of someone trying to get out, the book celebrates all things New Jersey. It presents a whirlwind tour of the Armpit of America, from morning to night, culminating in the climactic, if rather predictable, “Good Night, New Jersey” ending.

But before that, we say good morning, hello, greetings, good afternoon, and good evening to a variety of attractions throughout the state. The beach, a blueberry farm, Lucy the Elephant, Adventure Aquarium, and Asbury Park (with requisite Springsteen reference) are all visited. The book also pays tribute to the Lakota Wolf Preserve – something I didn’t even know existed.

Good Night New Jersey is a quick, easy, and fun read. The pictures are very colorful and accurately portray the various New Jersey attractions. I think the book is a great vehicle for New Jersey’s youngest residents to take pride in their state. And it can be used to teach those mini haters from other states just how good New Jersey really is. (more…)

Snooki’s Book Doesn’t Suck

January 12, 2011

I actually enjoyed it. Really.

I recently read Snooki’s writing debut, A Shore Thing. And it was a lot better than I ever would have imagined. Snooki[’s ghostwriter] did a wonderful job of capturing the essence (beer and sweat) of a summer at the Jersey Shore.

The novel revolves around Gia, a short, slutty guidette (can you guess who she is modeled after?) and her cousin Bella. Bella seems to be a combo of Snooki’s Jersey Shore castmates J-WOWW and Sammi. She has implants, wears skimpy shirts, and knows how to fight (a la J-WOWW) yet is pretty naïve and has bad taste in men (like Sammi).

Snooki[’s ghostwriter] does a decent job at telling the story of the cousins who leave their home in Brooklyn to spend a month at the Jersey Shore – Seaside Heights to be exact. We see all of their troubles and triumphs, from searching for summer jobs to hunting for “Italian gorilla juiceheads” to hook up with. Regarding jobs, Gia secures employment at a tanning salon, and for some reason, upon being hired, gives the arm of the couch in the waiting room a lap dance. Seriously. Meanwhile, Bella gets hired at a gym to lead dance classes. (more…)

Book Review: Living on the Edge of the World

March 2, 2010

NJ is the edge of the world? More like center of Hell!

Time for another book review! Last time, I wrote about the bible of the Turnpike, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike. For today, I’m reviewing Living on the Edge of the World, edited by Irina Reyn. This book is a collection of short stories all about life in New Jersey.

There are 19 stories total, including Reyn’s introduction, each by a different author who grew up in the state. Anyone from New Jersey will probably relate in one way or another to these stories. And anyone who isn’t from New Jersey can read this book to get an in-depth look of what our state is really like.

What’s great about the book is that each story can stand alone and still be a wonderful read. Whether the author loves or hates his or her native state, each story is equally passionate. Of course, people from New Jersey aren’t known for their subtlety.

Another cool thing about the book is how each story provides not just the name of the author, but also the town and exit number of where the story takes place. Though Reyn doesn’t point out whether the exit is on the Parkway or Turnpike, she doesn’t have to. Us New Jerseyans know instinctively.

Though each story is good, some stand out a little more than others. Here are just a few of my favorites. If these pique your interest, go read “Living on the Edge of the World” yourself. (more…)

Book Review: Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike

November 11, 2009

This book gets two armpits up!

Recently, I made a trip to my local Barnes and Noble. Like anyone crazy enough to start a blog about life in New Jersey should be, I was perusing the “local” section, which was full of books about the Armpit of America. Just out of curiosity, do all Barnes and Noble stores have a local section? I guess that means the local sections of stores in Oklahoma would only have two books, if that. Ha.

Back to the story. In between books about ghosts of New Jersey and dog parks in New Jersey and bird watching in New Jersey, there was one book that really stood out. And I mean it literally stood out. With bright yellow letters against a loud teal background, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike was hard to miss. And with a name like that, inspired by the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel song “America,” I couldn’t pass it up.

The book was written by two Rutgers University professors: Angus Kress Gillespie and Michael Aaron Rockland. I actually had the former for a class back when I was in school. Anyway, the book talks about all aspects of the hellish highway. It starts with the Turnpike’s construction in 1950, at which point beautiful farmland and forests were cleared away and covered with asphalt and steel. The authors then walk us through stuff like the toll system, the accident rate, the rest stops, etc. And, of course, they touch on the corruption of the Turnpike’s management and its law enforcement. Basically, the book has all the information you could possible want to know about the Turnpike but never really cared enough to ask.

Since the book was written by two college professors, it can, appropriately enough, read like a text book at certain points. They definitely pack a lot of information into the 200 or so pages. Still, there are some really fascinating parts, like when they discuss the life of a toll collector. There are also plenty of random and interesting facts. For instance, did you know it is illegal to take pictures while you’re on the Turnpike? I also bet you didn’t know that this camera rule and all the other Turnpike policies are posted on small signs in front of each entrance ramp. And, yes, Gillespie and Rockland point out how ridiculous it is to have a sign loaded up with fine print that no one can actually read while driving by in their cars. Only in New Jersey.

The highlight of Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike, for me at least, is how the authors include references to the Turnpike from the pop culture realm. While the title is just one example, they cite no less than three Bruce Springsteen songs (which is to be expected from two Rutgers professors). The works of poet/dirty hippie Alan Ginsberg also make appearances, as do songs by people I’ve never heard of like Joseph Cosgriff and Dan Fogarty. Another part I love is when the authors describe how people, both in and outside New Jersey, view the Turnpike and the state itself. Indeed, it is clear from the book just how intertwined New Jersey and the New Jersey Turnpike really are.

Despite all the good things, I have to confess something. The book was published in 1989, making it 20 years old. Don’t let that scare you though. It is still a great, interesting read. If anything, it almost makes me want to learn more about the Turnpike. Like how many toll collectors’ jobs were cut once EZ Pass came into the picture? And how has the security of the road changed since September 11? Perhaps an updated version is in the works…

To sum it all up, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike is essentially the bible of the Turnpike. Though it can be a little dry, and is somewhat outdated, the book is still entertaining and informative. Despite all the bad things that people say about the Turnpike, Gillespie and Rockland somehow manage to elicit some sympathy for the Armpit of America’s most hated road.