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.

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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.

Princess

Princess is a modernized children’s series based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic: A Little Princess.

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Author: Gabrielle Charbonnet

My Rating: 5/5

 

I first came across the first book: #1 Molly’s Heart, when I was very little, and fell in love with the story. At the time, ebooks were not a thing, and I couldn’t find the other two books in the series.

Recently, I have been getting back into reading on my kindle. While browsing the amazon ebook section I was delighted to find the two remaining books in the Princess series were available to download; and at a great price! I quickly downloaded them both and finished the series in less than a week.

To sum up the series in one word for me would be “cute.”

Molly is a young girl who is the daughter of a very successful and wealthy film director. When her father is called to film a documentary in a location that isn’t best suited for children, she is sent to a prestigious boarding school in Boston.

If you have read A Little Princess, you will find this retelling adorable and entertaining. I generally do not enjoy retellings of classics, but this one was so charming and excellent.

The series is broken into 3 children’s chapter books. From looking at the back of the first book, it says the series is aimed towards an 8-12 reading level age.

I liked how the author of this series kept the characters very similar to the characters in the classic. Molly is imaginative, loving and caring; just like Sara Crewe in A Little Princess.

I really enjoyed the modernized version and would recommend this to any young girls or those like me, who love the original classic.

Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

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Author(s): William Shakespeare (Creator) Richard Appignanesi (Adaptor)

Illustrator(s): Sonia Leong

My Rating: 1/5

 

My past few book reviews have all been all 5/5 reviews, so I figured it was time I review something I just detested.

First things first, I did not take the illustrations in account for this 1/5 rating. If I was to rate the story just based on the illustrations, I would give it 4/5. The illustrations were great.

For the story/adaption side of things, I just couldn’t finish the book. I only give 1/5 stars for books I just can’t finish out of boredom or frustration. (Sometimes both.)

Because I didn’t finish this manga, this review is going to be pretty quick.

I read Romeo and Juliet when I was in 7th grade, and when I came across this manga at work I wondered how a combo of Shakespeare and Manga would turn out. For me, they just don’t mix.

The Romeo and Juliet of this manga is sped up to modern times. I don’t think that was the problem. I just couldn’t like it or bother to continue and finish the story.

My take on this manga is this: If there is a recreation of one of the world’s biggest classics; especially turning it into manga form, there are always going to be a ton of mixed opinion about it. Some will love this story as it is a neat new spin on such a well known play. Some will think it was a meh attempt. Others just don’t think something as classic as Shakespeare should be adapted, period. And then some readers just didn’t like it; which is the category I fell into. I don’t know exactly what it was, I just couldn’t get into. I’d rather reread the play, to be honest.

However, I am writing this review to mention how I think it is very important and an excellent idea of putting classics such as this one, into a manga/graphic novel form. It is a great idea way to get kids, teens, adults (anyone really,) introduced to the world’s greatest classics.

For my personal reading enjoyment though, I won’t be picking up another classic-themed manga anytime soon.

 

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.

Criminal Minds: Finishing School (Criminal Minds #3)

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Author: Max Allan Collins

My Rating: 5/5

In case you are new to my blog, I am a true crime addict. I research serial killers in my spare time. I read case files. I love documentaries on famous murderers and villains. I even check out /r/CrimeScene on reddit. This subreddit allows redditors to submit crime stories with actual crime scene photos.  (View at your own risk, it is NSFW.) I have a fascination with the darkest of human nature. This all started when I was 12 or 13 years old when I was flipping through tv channels, I stumbled across Criminal Minds. I can confidently say this show has changed my life.

If you are unfamiliar with the television show, it centres around the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit (BAU.) They investigate and solve the most complex murder cases. They deal with terrorists, pedophiles, murderers and their specialty: serial killers. Now, I am going to admit this book review will be biased because Criminal Minds has always been my all-time favourite show. I can honestly say I have watched every single episode at least three times. (And to give you an idea of the episode count, the show has been renewed for it’s 12th season.)

Because I have been a fan of the show for so long, I was quite surprised to find out I didn’t know there is a book series based on it. I came across this book at my local thrift store and squealed. So as a die-hard Criminal Minds fan I had to get it.

Even though this is the 3rd book in the series, (and to my recent discovery, the last,) you do not need to read the first two to understand what is happening in this one. Like the television show, the book begins with the BAU team given a new case to solve.

The first thing I noticed and liked about this book is that the author gives you a quick rundown on what the BAU is and does; as well as explaining each member of the team. So, if you have never watched the television show, you will still understand the characters and what they bring to the team as individuals.

On the flip side, if you are just as a massive fan of the show as I am, you will be pleased to find out this book does NOT repeat an episode from the show, it is a brand new case! This book features my personal favourite BAU team combo. We have: David Rossi, Aaron Hotchner, Derek Morgan, Emily Prentiss, JJ Jareau, Penelope Garcia and Dr. Spencer Reid. (Who are all briefly described in the first chapter.) Whether you know about the tv show or not, you can pick up this book and understand it.

For a quick summary of the book, here is the rundown: The BAU is called into Minnesota where a horrifying graveyard is discovered in a forest. Three bodies are found, each a young girl wrapped in blankets and sheets. The BAU soon discovers that each girl disappeared ten years ago from different parts of Georgia. They also find out these bodies are not the only victims of this perpetrator.

The BAU works on building a profile of the unsub. (Unknown Subject.) Who he is, his background and why he is taking these girls and holding them for a decade before killing them. Hence, Criminal Minds‘ tagline: The way to a criminal is through his mind.

I gave this book 5/5 because of it kept my interest all through the story. There was no fluff/fillers and the author did an excellent job of portraying the characters. He clearly did his research on the show and characters, as everything was spot-on all through the story.

As I mentioned earlier, this case has not been an episode of Criminal Minds, which impressed me. The case is just as twisted, unique and complex as the ones on the show.

That being said, this story is very dark and parts are very graphic. If you do not like stories about children being abducted, murdered etc, then this is not a story for you. Trigger warnings for this book would be sexual abuse.

However, if you like dark fictional crime books, this is definitely something worth considering picking up.