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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Cheap Makeup Removal Wipes!

When I have finished a closing shift I usually get home around 10:30 pm. I’m hungry, tired and frankly, at that hour, I just don’t want to thoroughly wash my face with a washcloth and soap to scrub the makeup off my face. I also have to wash the washcloth and rinse the makeup out after I’m done as well. Otherwise, I would have to face the morning wrath of my mother for leaving a foundation covered washcloth in the sink. I know, I’m super lazy.

So, I turn to makeup remover wipes in time of need. The thing is, I find they are pretty damn expensive. For example, at Walmart, a pack of 25 NEUTROGENA® makeup wipes costs you 10 dollars. 

But do not fear, for I have found the cheapest and best deal on makeup removal wipes. For me at least. (If you have any other good deals on cheap makeup wipe cleansers be sure to comment on this blog post below!!)

For a while, I was buying makeup wipes at Forever 21. These cost roughly 6 dollars, for a pack of 60 wipes. YES, not 25 wipes, but 60! 

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The one above was one of the kind I would frequently buy. They had all kinds of different scents besides this one. They were decent, cheap and would get the job done. However, they were nowhere near perfect. I would often find they were dryer than other makeup wipes I had tried out, and sometimes, they were just too dry. At the end of the day though, they were fine, and there were 60 of them. I really couldn’t complain.

A few months ago, I was dismayed to find out Forever 21 did not sell this line of makeup wipes anymore. I was very worried they were just going to be selling their small 30 makeup remover wipe sets. 30 wipes is still good and all, but you get a much better deal getting the 60 piece one since it was only a couple of dollars more than the 30 piece.

Last week I visited Forever 21 and was super pumped to find out they were back to selling their 60 wipe set. Forever 21’s makeup Love & Beauty label was still stamped on the packaging; but the design and name of the wipes were different and cost 8 dollars instead of the original 6. I still didn’t hesitate to pick one up to test out.

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Behold, my new favourite item at Forever 21.

 

I am very glad I did. These wipes are so much better than the previous ones I used to purchase. They are better because, sigh, they are perfectly….moist. I cringe as I type this out. (I really hate that word and I hate to use it, but I must in this case.)

They take the makeup off much easier than the ones I used to use and they smell way better. They are a bit more expensive, but heck, 60 wipes for 8 dollars is still an awesome deal compared to 25 NEUTROGENA® wipes for 10 dollars. (And that is how much they cost at Walmart. Can you imagine how much they must cost at Shoppers Drugmart?!)

I try to minimize the waste I cause, so I don’t use makeup wipes every day. But if you are like me and get home late from work some days and just want to hit the hay without covering your pillowcase with makeup, these are a great life hack. Especially for those on a budget.

 

AliExpress is the New Crack

So I’ve never been a huge online shopper. Apart from books, I rarely considered ordering anything online mainly because everything seemed so damn expensive. (And most of it still is.) I’m sure this has something to do with me working at a thrift store AND benefiting from the 50% off employee discount. Aka, I am not spending more than seven dollars on a t-shirt, no matter how cute it is.

 

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This isn’t EVEN a cute t-shirt; and damn, then there is shipping as well. I rest my case.

 

There are many websites I love to browse such as Etsy and Storenvy. But unfortunately Etsy can be quite expensive because most of the items on that website ARE handmade, so the pricing is justified (most of the time.) Although, the shipping can get quite extreme. I saw a really cool zombie girdle the other day and the shipping ALONE was over 40 dollars.

And then out of nowhere, the solution to all my online shopping problems were resolved. It was the day AliExpress entered my life.

 

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The first AliExpress wig I bought

 

Now, to be fair, if I stumbled across AliExpress with no prior knowledge, I would’ve easily assumed it was a scam website. Why? Because the website carries everything. And I mean, everything. Not only that, the prices are super low and almost everything comes with free shipping. Even though there is so much to choose from, the website offers tons of filters such as if the item is in your price range, the colour you are looking for, the material, style, if it comes with free shipping or not and more! Fortunately, one of my friends had purchased a few items from the site and was quite pleased with what they received, so I decided to give it a shot.

 

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An American Horror Story t-shirt for five dollars

 

AliExpress is basically my worst nightmare at the same time. Because so much on that website is cheap and the shipping is free, I tend to spend WAY too much too fast. When you buy 9 things that are each five dollars you are still spending 45 dollars, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the time!

I’ve mostly been getting into their wigs. The selection is massive, and the wigs can run super low. (I got one for five dollars with free shipping, naturally.)

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^This is the one^

Of course, like anything when you shop online, you have to be smart. Check the ratings and reviews for the item. I never order something off the website that doesn’t a decent amount of positive ratings/reviews. I also like to check how long the “shop” has been open on the website.

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I got this meter long wig for eleven dollars and the black lipstick for one dollar

 

The downside to this website? You pay with your time. You can be waiting up to a couple of months for your items to come, and at least none of my items have come with a tracking number. However, some of my items have come in just a couple of weeks, so the shipping time will vary. If you don’t mind waiting the extra weeks to save money, then AliExpress is for you!

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My favourtie wig so far

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.

Down a Dark Hall

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Author: Lois Duncan

My Rating: 5/5

It’s Halloween! So what better day would there be to review a deliciously spooky read?

Down a Dark Hall begins with our main protagonist, Kit Gordy, starting her first day at a Blackwood, a boarding school for girls. She is hesitant at first because while she planned to attend the new school with her best friend Tracy, only she out of the two of them was accepted into the exclusive academy.

Blackwood is a massive and gorgeous mansion, renovated by the headmistress of the academy, Madame Duret. Madame Duret expresses he love for the arts by incorporating her passion into her school’s curriculum.

At first glance, Blackwood appears to be an ideal boarding school; beautifully furnished rooms, private tutors and many things to discover and learn.

In the beginning, everything starts off fine, but Kit begins to have a nagging sense that something is off with Blackwood. Kit also is shocked when she finds out only three other students were accepted into the school.

And why are the bedroom doors only lockable from the outside, instead of the inside?

This novel was a really quick and enjoyable read for me. Not only because it is under 200 pages in length, but because of its riveting speed. There is never a dull or fluffy moment in Down a Dark Hall, and as cliche as it sounds, it really was a very hard book to put down for me.

Down a Dark Hall is a creepy and mysterious thriller that I wouldn’t be surprised rereading it, 5/5 stars.

The Selection #1

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Author: Kiera Cass

My Rating: 2/5

“35 Girls. One Crown. The Competition of a Lifetime.”

I first heard of Kiera Cass when I stumbled on her awesome YouTube channel a couple of years ago. Her videos are hilarious, witty and entertaining.

I figured I’d give her fairly newish series a shot.

Basically, it’s The Hunger Games (minus the killing,) and The Bachelor (except you’re trying to steal the heart of a prince.) Ok, so for some, maybe that is a really sweet combination, but for me, the whole idea and plot fell short. Maybe it’s just the romance aspect that bored me to death, I rarely read any love triangle/romance novels. The Hunger Games had a love triangle arguably, but come on, there was oppression, rebellion and survival as well! I think the reason this book reminds me of the THG is that in both dystopian worlds, their societies are heavily controlled by a caste/class system. Similar to THG, in the Selection, you are born into a caste/district and the chance of climbing up in terms of careers and lifestyle are slim to none.

Or perhaps it was the cringe worthy names Cass decided to use that really made me shake my head in disbelief. One of the female character’s is called Tuesday, I shit you not, her name is Tuesday, after the day of the week. Oh, and the female protagonist of the series is called America Singer, who just happens to be a talented and paid singer, wow, didn’t see that one coming. And somehow, despite being a paid singer, America is in a low caste level…um, you would think jobs of the poor would be something less glamorous and more hard labour, or maybe that is just me?

I know a lot of people have been raving about this series, and maybe I would’ve enjoyed it too when I was a young teen, I’ll never know now.

I recommend this to teen girls, those who like romance novels or those who just enjoy The Bachelor in general. I, on the other hand, will not be continuing with this series.

(I still love her YouTube channel, so if you want, check it out here.)

My Parents are Sex Maniacs: A High School Horror

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My Rating: 5/5

Author: Robyn Harding

The title of this novel is quite misleading. When I first picked this up, I was half expecting a story of a teenage girl who discovered her parents were part of a swinger lifestyle or participating in some massive orgy. My Parents are Sex Maniacs was far tamer than I had expected.

I enjoyed this book far more than I expected. Based on the summary given, it appears to be your classic YA story. My Parents are Sex Maniacs is told in first person by sixteen year old Louise Harrison who is struggling with family issues and friendships. This may sound pretty typical, so you may be asking yourself: Why should I read this one? It sounds pretty much like a million other YA novels I’ve read before.

Well, I am pleased to share that the plot does not revolve around a teen romance or a story of a teenage girl meeting an amazing teenage boy that changes her complete outlook on life. I also found Louise to be a very refreshing and hilarious character, who is far from your perfect, skinny, long haired Mary Sue.

Yes, there are themes of popularity and teen partying, but I found the novel focused mostly on Louise (who is not a popular party girl herself,) and how she deals with her current dysfunctional family.

I read this novel in one sitting and found it to be a very easy and humorous read. I recommend this for those looking for a light and funny young adult novel.