Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea

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Author: Barbara Demick

My Rating: 5/5

 

It all started when I was watching the ABC 20/20 episode about what happened to Otto Wambier. (If you’re interested in watching the episode, you can look it up on YouTube.) Before, I knew North Korea was kind of a crazy country, but I had no idea it was an extreme communist country; and after watching the episode I just had to learn more about this “hermit kingdom.”

Nothing To Envy is a nonfiction book in which the author tells the stories of six North Korean citizens who managed to escape the most secretive state. This book is an incredible source of information of what life is really like in North Korea.

I really enjoyed this book because before, I had finished watching lots of documentaries on North Korea. It is not only hard to get into the country, having permission to film and interview citizens is even more difficult. When I watched the documentaries, I saw that the North Korean government wanted the films to only show the very best that North Korea has, not the bad and ugly. When you watch a documentary on North Korea that interviews the citizens, you do not get the personal opinions from the citizens; you get a propaganda machine spewed from the mouths of the citizens who claim to have a perfect life and have “nothing and nobody to envy.”

This book tells the true stories of so many North Korean citizens who do not live comfortably in the city Pyongyang, the wealthy capital of the country. A cushy and rich city where health care, food and shelter is easily accessible. This is the only city North Korea will let foreigners visit and documentary crews film; simply because they do not want people to know the poor and awful standards of living the rest of their country suffers in. This book engrossed me, and it read like a novel. The author extensively interviewed and researched the topics she covered. Because of these points, I easily gave this book a 5/5 star rating.

I honestly believe everyone should read this book, especially those who moan and groan about the evils of capitalism. Now, before I get your panties up in a twist, I am not all pro-capitalism or pro-Trump. All I am saying is, after reading this book, it gave me a fresh perspective on the advantages of capitalism, and above all, reminded me how fortunate I am to live in a capitalist country with internet access and free speech. Something, North Koreans, would be killed if caught participating in.

I recommend this to anybody and everyone. I strongly feel this is an essential book to read.

To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home

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Author: Chris Hansen (duh!)

My Rating: 4/5

 

Dateline’s To Catch a Predator has always been a classic guilty pleasure of mine. To this day, I still rewatch the episodes on YouTube. While the technology used in the show is basically outdated nowadays, the humour is always golden. I figured since Predator is Chris Hansen’s magnum opus of journalism, he probably wrote a book on the subject as well. I was right. I eagerly ordered this book off amazon and was not disappointed.

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Like the television show, this book is light and entertaining. Let me clarify that: the subject matter is, of course, far from light, but the writing and organization of this book is much easier to read over many other true crime books I have read in the past. Like the show, the technology the book contains is pretty much outdated. (Unless tons of people still use Yahoo chatrooms, but I think all the kids are with the smartphone apps nowadays)

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One of my favourite lines from the show

 

The book contains situations and scenes from the show, but also gives you a more behind-the-scenes look into the production and execution.

I really enjoyed this book mostly because like the show, I love seeing these asshole predators being questioned on the spot by Chris Hansen and stammering as they get caught in their own lies.

I gave this book 4/5 stars because it is an important look how easily online predators can find kids, but also how much extra information Chris Hansen includes in the book that you wouldn’t have known from just watching the show.

I would’ve given this 5/5 stars, but I felt many of the scenes were just repeated and retold from the show.

Apart from that, an excellent book to to consider reading if you enjoy the genre of True Crime and of course, if you have watched the tv show as well.

 

(I’m just going to leave these here as well:)

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The Sallie House Haunting: A True Story

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Author: Debra Lyn Pickman

My Rating: 5/5

Hauntings, more specifically; American Hauntings, seem to come a dime a dozen. I’ve read many, and the majority of them have never kept my interest. I don’t know if it is the same old ghost cliches or my serious doubt of their authenticity.

Here is the thing about The Sallie House Haunting: it has the same old poltergeist activities that you will find in any house haunting account. The Sallie House also gave me lots of doubts on whether this family were truly haunted or wanted to get their 15 minutes of fame.

However, there was an eerie feeling that kept me reading this book. Do I believe in ghosts? Yes and no. Do I think the majority of families claiming their house to be haunted is nothing but BS? Absolutely. And usually, those thoughts tend to make me lose interest in whatever “true story” haunting I am reading at the time.

So, what made me give this traditional haunted house story a 5/5 rating?

I’ll have to point out this book has a lot of typos, so the writing itself is far from perfect; but the way the story is written from a first person account, the way the author dealt with the supposed haunting….it was hypnotizing for me.

The author pours out her thoughts and feelings about what she is dealing with. I suppose what really was appealing about this haunting was that the author is an incredibly curious person. She doesn’t become super dramatic about how terrifying her ordeal was. While she believes in the paranormal, she wants to find out how, what and why. I also enjoyed this book because the author (the mother and wife of the family,) talks a lot of about the fact that her and her husband have completely different beliefs and views when it comes to the paranormal and their overall experiences.

I won’t give out spoilers for this book, but these are the basic facts: Debra and Tony Pickman and their newborn son move into a new house. They first realize the teddy bears in their son’s nursery start to move into the centre of the room by themselves. As time goes on they discover their house is haunted by a little girl named Sallie.

Tony is skeptical, while Debra embraces the new lonely little ghost girl into their family. Whether that was a good idea or not, you have to read the book to come to your own conclusion.

This is the first haunting account I can say actually scared me. For me, this book is exactly what I was looking when it comes to creepy and spooky. The story made me think after I finished reading it. Do I believe the Sallie House is actually haunting? I don’t know. All I know is the book scared the shit out of me, and I am quite shocked I have never heard of this haunted house before.

In The Sallie House, the author also describes her experience in having a paranormal tv crew come into their house to investigate. This part was also very interesting. I was  excited when I found out the actual documentary the author describes in her book is on YouTube. While the documentary itself is a cheesy and traditional paranormal show, it was cool to know I had read the behind the scenes information before watching the documentary.

Of course, if would rather watch a movie than read, I heavily recommend The Heartland Ghost. (I’m going to link the youtube video of it at the bottom of my review.)

5/5 for spooky. 5/5 for giving me actual goosebumps and 5/5 for making me wonder about this story days after I finished reading it.

The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World

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Author: Nancy Jo Sales

My Rating: 5/5

My favourite movie director is without a doubt, Sofia Coppola. (I loved her Marie Antoinette and The Virgin Suicides; my two favourite movies of all time.) Learning she recently directed a film starring Emma Watson kind of made it impossible to turn it down. At the time, it was on YouTube, but a couple of days after I watched the movie, it had been taken down. I’d just like to say that the soundtrack for Coppola’s Bling Ring, was epic. Also, Emma Watson starring in it was a gift from the heavens, god bless.

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*Swoons*

The movie trailer.

Anyways, a few weeks passed and while in the Bargain Books section of McNally Robinson, I stumbled across The Bling Ring…the book edition. It was written by the same author who wrote the article that Ms Coppola based her film on.

Let me just start off by saying the book is a very light and has a teenage-magazine kind of vibe. It certainly is not a great piece of literature, but that is why I liked it. It felt like I was reading a reality tv show instead of watching one, which was a new experience for me.

In case you are not familiar with “The Bling Ring,” it is a story about a gang of teenagers who broke into the homes of Hollywood’s rich and famous back in 2008-2009. They robbed Paris Hilton’s house multiple times, and stole Orlando Bloom’s Rolex watches.

The teenagers themselves, are very self-absorbed and Hollywood obsessed kids. This made them feel like any ordinary group of spoilt rich kids trying to reach A-list fame through a ridiculous avenue.

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Above: The Hollywood portrayals.

Below: The Real Bling Ring.

The book itself, was engrossing. I gave it 5 stars for that reason. The Bling Ring has a fairly low rating on Goodreads, and I can understand why. The book feels chopped into multiple articles; but I feel given the story, the style worked.

While the real kids above really did break into Hollywood’s rich and famous (including Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, Megan Fox, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom and Audrina Patridge, to name a few,) I kind of felt myself cheering them on.

Obviously, there is nothing right about breaking into people’s homes. But when you find out how much designer crap Hollywood stars have, you can’t help but not feel any sympathy for them.

ESPECIALLY given the celebrities never turned their alarm systems on and Paris Hilton left her friggin house key under her welcome mat!!! I shit you not, this is how the Bling Ring kids got into her mansion multiple times. While every celebrity mansion had a high-tech security system, none of them were turned on. Some of the doors weren’t even LOCKED! Dude, I’m sorry, but if you don’t even bother to lock your doors, what do you expect would happen?

The Bling Ring had the assumption that since these celebs had so much materialistic things, if the Bling Ring only took some stuff, the home owners probably wouldn’t notice. And you know what? They were right. They robbed Paris Hilton multiple times before she discovered she was a victim of the infamous Bling Ring.

I’ll be given crap for this, but I really have no sympathy for Paris Hilton or the other celebrities they robbed. (I won’t give out any spoilers as to what happens in the end.) All I can say is I didn’t find them terrible criminals. This may be because most of my True Crime reading involves murderers. They were just thieves; stealing from people who honestly could do just fine with a fraction of what they own.

What I took away from this story is really how much the Hollywood elite has. The Bling Ring stole millions of dollars of jewelry along with tons of designer clothes and accessories with none of their victims noticing in the beginning. They have THAT much designer crap.

The ultimate 1%.

The characters were vain, narcissistic at times, but hey, I think the celebrities they robbed deserved it to some degree.

I also have to give these kids credit for actually having the guts to pull these robberies off.

And hey, they kind of got what they always wanted, they got their 15 minutes of fame in the end.

I recommend this True Crime story to people who like trashy Hollywood stories, rebellious partying teenagers and just generally can’t stand Paris Hilton and her stupidity.

No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine

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Authors: Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt

My Rating: 5/5

 

Columbine. One of the worst and well known school shootings in North America. Years later, the same question still lingers: Why?

Brooks Brown and Rob Merritt attempt to explain some of the reasons what could have led the two high school seniors (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold,) to plan and take out a massacre at their very own high school before turning the guns on themselves.

Like the title states, there are “no easy answers,” as to what caused the boys to commit such a crime, but I found this book to be very informative and compelling.

If you’ve seen any Columbine documentaries, chances are you have seen Brooks Brown being interviewed. He was not only just a student at Columbine at the time of the massacre, but also a childhood best friend to one the shooters, Dylan Klebold. Brooks also had a long history with Eric Harris.

I honestly feel this is one of the best true crime novels I have ever read. Some of it does have to due with the fact that the authors knew the shooters personally; but most of it was because of Brooks being able to recount the warning signs the boys displayed before the shooting  as well as explaining the truth about the bullying in Columbine and what it was like to be an outcast (like Eric and Dylan.)

There are so many theories as to “why” Eric and Dylan did what they did. Some claim it’s the graphic and grotesque video games that kids are playing these days. Some say it’s the obscene musical lyrics that blast on the radio now. Others say it’s the easy access to guns.

In my opinion, something so complex as teenagers being motivated to shoot up their school and committing suicide afterwards would never be driven be a single factor. We may never know what exactly was going through the minds of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold as they planned out their killing spree. Then again, maybe that is just why this case has been talked about for so long. Almost two decades later and people are still trying to look for answers. There may be answers, but they certainly will not be “easy.” In the end, all we can do now is speculate and wonder.

The Fifties: A Women’s Oral History

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Author: Brett Harvey

My Rating: 5/5

This is an incredible collection of unique stories told by different American women who all were coming-of-age in the 50’s. I knew very little about the 50’s before I read this book. I had a naive assumption that the fifties was the “golden age” of families. I guess thinking Leave it To Beaver was the average 50’s family was a stupid assumption to have, on my part.

In reality, behind the awesome cars and colourful clothing, the 50’s was an incredibly difficult time for women. Each woman interviewed in this book talks about the societal and peer pressures they felt as they were figuring out what the wanted their lives to be. (Aka: If you’re a women, you go to college, get married and then settle down and have kids.) While this book does feature women who tried to go against the flow, such as attending graduate school, each run into the same sexist, financial and/or racist struggles. With the already obvious financial issues and peer pressure, most admitted to falling back on the traditional marriage and family route. I was quite saddened by this, as many of these women were incredibly gifted and intelligent. I’m not saying they were “less” by becoming wives and mothers, but it is sad that they couldn’t reach their full potential in those areas, whether it was academics or their preforming arts dreams.

There was so much more pressure back then for women to be the same when it came to their futures. Each women discussed pregnancy (or their incredibly fear of it,) abortion and general reproductive rights. Each rather had nearly no knowledge or went through very sketchy and painful procedures.

What I especially loved about this book was that black and lesbian women were featured, not just straight white women.

Brett Harvey really covered every area of being an American coming-of-age woman in the fifties.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in Women’s Studies and/or 19 century history.

F*ck! I’m in My Twenties

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Author: Emma Koenig

My Rating: 5/5

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Today is my twentieth birthday, so what better day then to review a book on the subject of the new decade I have just entered.

This is a hilariously brilliant book filled with flow charts, graphs, illustrations and checklists illustrating the wonderful time for those who are no longer teenagers and are coming to realize adulthood has begun to creep into our lives, whether we like it or not.

Despite it being only the first day of being in my twenties, I relate to this book to the point that it actually creeps me out. Especially this LInkedIn one:

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And I’d like to mention how on point this page is on relationship statuses. It would be nice if Facebook had something like this list to choose from:

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I currently identify best with the eighth option.

The accuracy of this book is incredible as well as comforting to know that I’m not the only person who doesn’t really have any set plans on what their career and lifetime goals are, and that is just fine.

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This is also a wonderful day for me to celebrate the fact that I never became a teen mom, such an accomplishment!

One never really grows out of trashy talk shows.

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(Since I missed Selfie Sunday this week here is a cringe worthy “swag” one of me when I was approximately 13 years old.)