The Maddie Diaries: A Memoir

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Author: Maddie Ziegler

My Rating: 2/5

 

Okay, so for the record, I am a MASSIVE Dance Moms fan. I’ve been watching the show since the very first season and have been following Maddie, McKenzie, Nia, Kendall, Chloe, Kalani and JoJo on Facebook for quite a while now.

So, I just had to buy Maddie’s new book. While purchasing this book, I was fully aware this was a memoir written by a young teenager, so I did not expect incredible life stories and experiences in this book. Instead, I was eager to read about Maddie’s perspective on rising to fame while she was on Dance Moms, as well as working with Sia.

First of all, I would like to make it clear this book is geared towards children and young teens. This is an excellent book for young girls, tweens or teens who are fans of Maddie, Dance Moms or dancing in general. Because of this, I didn’t find the content that interesting. I did like how Maddie had several chapters filled with advice to other girls her age when it comes to dealing with family, friends, school and boys. So hey, if this book was written when I was ten years old, I am sure I would’ve loved it.

Now….for the major downside:

I became quite annoyed that many of Maddie’s friends, dance teachers etc wrote short essays about her and they were sprinkled all throughout the book. Each essay felt the exact same. Every singe one involved constant praise about how talented, friendly, mature and hardworking Maddie is. Um, I’m sorry, I didn’t buy this book to listen to Maddie’s BFF’s gushing about her. These essays came up frequently; and to me, they became very irritating.

I don’t know, perhaps I am just too much of a Dance Moms freak and wanted to read more about Maddie’s experiences when it came to being the center of such a popular reality tv show. Maybe it is because I am just not a dancer. I am not sure.

In the end, this memoir began with promise but ended with me being disappointed. But hey, I would still recommend this to any young girl who wants to follow their dreams.

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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 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.

Let the Right One In

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Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist

My Rating: 5/5

To sum up this book review in one sentence it would have to be that this is a real vampire novel.

Not meaning to bash Twihards, but this is what I would consider to be an excellent vampire story. (So no sparkling vampires or everyone falling head over heels in love with a girl that has virtually no personality.)

This is a vampire story that is raw, creepy and chilling. (With no Mary Sue protagonist, thank God.) Let the Right One In is not by any means for children or young teens. The novel covers issues such as bullying, pedophilia, prostitution, alcoholism and drug use, despite the fact our main characters are twelve years old. (Or have been twelve for a long time.) And do not think that these issues are simply glossed over, they are very detailed and incredibly disturbing.

The story itself was a a quick page turner for me and I didn’t find there to be any fluff or fillers. A truly classic horror story.

Let the Right One In is one of those books that clings onto you for a few days after you finish reading it; it is just that haunting.

I absolutely loved it, 5/5 hands down. This book is also in my Top 10 for best books I ever read, ever.

Seriously, I can’t highly recommend it enough.

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Or if you are more of a movie person, there are two movie adaptions, the original Swedish version and the American version. Watch the Swedish one, the settings are better and the actors are more talented and portray their characters very well.

Here is a really good clip, one of my favourite scenes: