Orange is the New Black, Piper Kerman

Orange is the new BlackWell, I wanted to see what all the hype is about. It was on the express bestsellers at the library, and you gotta snatch up those books while you can! I didn’t regret it.

This story, off of which the netflix series of the same name is based, is the autobiography of Kerman’s year-long(ish) stay in a minimum-security prison for a ten-year-old drug charge. After graduating Kerman had, well, explored her wild side, you could say, by dating a girl who lived the high-flying lifestyle of a drug distributor. After being roped in to launder money, Kerman cut her ties with that crowd, broke up with her girlfriend, moved to the west coast and fell in love with a nice guy, and began a normal life. A path which would have continued until she was named by her old associates a decade later and sent to prison.

I never knew that I wanted to know what it would be like in prison, but I certainly did. It was fascinating to see what a different world it is. Her experience is a decade old by now, but it still feels fresh. You can feel Kerman’s fear and apprehension. While a minimum security prison can give you many ‘freedoms’, it still clamps down on so many others.

Kerman details her day-to-day existence in prison. She introduces a myriad of characters that are hard to keep track of, though they all feel vibrant and real. Which, you have to remind yourself, is because they are real. Each chapter roves around various happenings and subjects, kind of like a stream of consciousness which flows and develops.

Above all this book made me feel claustrophobic and frustrated. Like I needed to vent out my feelings, as if I were the one being repressed. Few services are well-provided in prison, surprise, surprise. It can be hard to keep sane there, and from Kerman’s experience I get that you need sense of purpose, a routine, and as much control over  your life as possible in order to survive there. Advice I will hopefully never need!

A few weeks after reading this I watched the Netflix series. I was impressed with where they took the story, and how some of the characters came to life. If you enjoy this book, you’ll likely enjoy the show as well (and vice versa).Orange is the new Black netflix

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Another Non-Fiction Book From Kaite on the Friday 56

the-friday-56Hosted by Freda’s Voice, The Friday 56 follows these simple rules:Brysons Dictionary

  • Grab a book, any book.
  • Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
  • Find any sentence (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  • Post it.

Not that I’m trying to bore you readers to tears, but my current read is, yet again, of polarizing interest to the lovers of literature. Bill Bryson, one of my favourite authors, wrote this 2002 book after his experience as a copy editor for the London Times. Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words provides real examples of the many times writers fall into the numerous traps the English language. Full of misused, misunderstood, or misquoted words or phrases, Bryson’s book is full of interesting tidbits, and provides clarity for many.

decimate. Literally the word means to reduce by a tenth (from the ancient practice of punishing the mutinous or cowardly by killing every tenth man). By extension it may be used to describe the inflicting of heavy damage, but it should never be used to denote annihilation, as in this memorably excruciating sentence cited by Fowler: “Dick, hotly pursue by the scalp-hunter, turned in his saddle, fired and literally decimated his opponent.” Equally to be avoided are contexts in which the word’s use is clearly inconsistent with its literal meaning, as in “Frost decimated an estimated 80 percent of the crops.””

Excruciating!

Happy Reading,
Kaite

The Friday 56: The Rough Guide to the Royals

Having been back in school for two full months already, my bookish habits have certainly changed. Despite my teacher telling my class we would have no time to read (who does he think we are?!), I’ve been picking up a wide variety of books (all at the same time, and taking a long time to finish them – aka not finishing them). I’ve been especially drawn to some non-fiction books for the first time; courtesy of my shelving job at the public library. Which is exactly where today’s Friday 56 comes from!

A refresher on the rules, as detailed by our host, Freda’s Voice:

  • Grab a book, any book.
  • Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
  • Find any sentence (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  • Post it.

The Rough Guide to the RoyalsRough Guide to The Royals
Published by Rough Guides in 2012, 280 pgs.

An excerpt on King Louis I of England (“Reigned for one year, forgotten for many more.”):

One name that tends to get missed off the roll call of English kings is Louis I (son of King Phillip II of France and himself the future Louis VIII), lorded it as King of England for a full year before giving way to Henry III. His successful invasion of England in 1216 rarely gets a mention in the school history books, though it provides the main plot of Shakespeare’s seldom-performed play King John … Louis’s [sic] claim to the throne was pretty tenuous (his wife was one of Henry II’s granddaughters), but he had been invited over by the English barons, who’d had enough of King John reneging on the promises he’d made when signing the Magna Carta the previous year… By October King John was seriously on the run, famously losing the crown jewels at high tide in the Wash, and dying of dysentery (and a surfeit of peaches and cider) a few days later. Paradoxically, King John’s death did for Louis, too – with King John gone, the rebellious barons had no more need for Louis. John’s nine-year-old son was hastily crowned King Henry III using some of his mother’s  jewellery.  [Louis I went on to gain 10,000 marks in exchange for agreeing he had never been the legitimate King of England.]

Pretty dry, right? This book definitely takes some time to get through, though I find it incredibly interesting. The guide covers a variety of topics, gives a summary of the all the members of the Windsor family, and answers the numerous questions  about what goes on and why.

The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth, Alexandra Robbins

Woo-hoo! Deborah tackles her first non-fiction read since…since…well, since university I guess. I don’t generally read non-fiction, at least in book form. Newspapers, magazines, and other short dosages of reality are okay, but for some reason I just don’t read as much non-fic as I feel an intelligent person should. Conclusions about my intelligence aside, this is because, in my humble opinion, non-fiction books are categorically boring. Yet, if The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth taught me anything, it’s that our categorizations can sometimes be wrong.

Geeks follows a year in the life of seven social outcasts, highs and lows carefully documented  by journalist Alexandra Robbins. Because they exist on the margins of the high school social scene, Robbins terms these individuals the “cafeteria fringe”. The “fringe” cast of this book include Danielle (The Loner), Whitney (The Popular Bitch), Eli (The Nerd), Joy (The New Girl), “Blue” (The Gamer), Regan (The Weird Girl) and Noah (The Band Geek). At first glance, each of these individuals seems to fit neatly into an arbitrary category, but by following their choices and struggles throughout a school year, we soon learn of all the ways these students are really standouts. In short, Robbins presents seven living examples of “quirk theory”, which posits that those traits that make kids seems like “outsiders” in high school are the very traits that will help them thrive in the “real world”.  What makes many kids “different” in the weirdly homogenous high school landscape is what adults and future employers will value them for: things like creativity, an ability to think outside the box, individuality, and nonconformity. It’s a really heartening, positive message, and one we should be sending our kids.

I enjoyed Geeks mainly because of the addition of the “main characters”. Between each of their chapters, which read like stories, there is an explanation that includes social-psychological research and further real life examples.  Robbins addresses questions about what popularity really is, how cliques are started and maintained, why high school generally sucks, and what we as adults should be doing about all of it. This is psychology that’s entertaining, readable, and most of all, relevant. For everyone who works in a high school, or plans to in the future, it’s essential reading.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns), Mindy Kaling

Originally I was content, once I had finished this book, to leave it at that and get going on my next novel. But it kept coming back in random conversations or news, apparently begging to be reviewed by my very self. So here goes what will undoubtedly be a short but sweet review of Mindy Kaling’s autobiography.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) was a great autobiography. It was funny, girly and honest just like Kaling herself. (I know because I know, ok?) She paints an entertaining picture of her childhood and her experiences trying to make it as a comedy writer; letting the reader get a good sense of the person she is and the kind of life she lives. I enjoyed the casual format, with her rambles and nonsense and random observations. It wasn’t really a laugh out loud book, but I enjoyed it in the same way that I enjoy Hello! magazine. The obvious comparison here is Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and I have to say that IEHOWM?(AOC) fell a little short. It felt a bit more forced, and just not as funny. Despite that, Kaling was an interesting person to read about, and fans of The Office, especially the girls, should give it a shot.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, Rhoda Janzen

Holt Paperbacks, 2009

Sometimes I wonder what authors are really like. There are some pretty kooky people out there, and some of my favorite books must be written by a few of them. But this question never came up when I read Mennonite in a Little Black Dress. A Professor of English Literature, Rhoda Janzen bares her soul in her writing, giving me an exact portrait of the person she is. This introspective 2009 novel (as the cover tells us) is a memoir of going home. Which happens to be a Mennonite family. While reading the book I was often reminded that the cause of this upheaval was the break-up of Janzen’s marriage, when her husband left her for Bob from Gay.com.  To pick up the pieces of her life, the renegade Mennonite heads home and reconnects with values she had never given a chance. As she notes, sometimes you have to go back in order to move forward.

With a healthy dose of sarcasm, Janzen explains what it was like to grow up in a Mennonite home and shows us how she ended up in her position. Though I was constantly shocked at the brutally honest and sometimes-disrespectful description of her family, I understood why it was in the book. This is certainly a novel that either hits home or totally drops the ball, and for me, it hit home. Though the book is brimming with Janzen’s wonderful sense of humor, it has an undercurrent of self-exploration and a need to understand and grow. While making fun of the traditions she grew up with, we get the sense that she honors them at the same time. And while poking fun at an absurd mother, we know that she is very dear to the writer.

While I loved every bit of this story, I noticed that there were some that didn’t.  Coming from a modern-Mennonite family I understood many of the cultural references, but some felt they didn’t get a sense of what it is like to be a Mennonite. Knowing a bit about the subject, I can at least say that the Mennonite culture can vary greatly from family to family. Many found Janzen’s snarky attitude a bit much, along with her tongue-in-cheek humor and penchant for big words. And in case you forgot, her husband left her for Bob, from Gay.com, (she does repeat it a bit too much.) The scattered approach to story-telling Janzen displays is not usually my favorite, but it works for this book. It’s the story of her life, and it’s not always a nice and tidy retelling.

As Janzen comes to terms with her past and her potential future, we understand the soul-searching that has occurred for her to come to this position. Though she broke free from her roots in her youth, she came home to find herself again, to be herself, and be happy. I appreciated the rational approach she took on this journey, but most of all the honesty she shared. By writing this book she was able to find peace, and we are able to see the evolution on the pages. Janzen grew up with a religion that (like in many cases) was forced upon her, and after taking a step back, gaining some breathing room, she finally became able to find real meaning in faith.

Bossypants, Tina Fey

“Tina Fey is an ugly, pear-shaped, bitchy, overrated troll,” is one of my favorite statements in this book.  And before I put my 400 words of adulation in, I just want to say…I really enjoyed this book. And I wish I was funny like Tina Fey. And I’m trying to somehow make this review more than a list of things I liked about this book.  And I think I’ve already failed.

Bossypants is an interesting, autobiographical, quick read by Tina Fey which humorously follows many chapters of her life. She doles out advice on topics like beauty, improv, raising a child, juggling work and family, working in boy’s clubs and the joys of Photoshop which all professional women (or people with a sense of humour) should find useful and entertaining. Included are her experiences with 30 Rock, SNL, her honeymoon, college years, and her first jobs at YMCA and a Chicago comedy club.  She speaks of growing up, her father, becoming Sarah Palin, and how a down-to-earth celebrity like her actually lives her life.  My favorite chapter of the book, Dear Internet, comprises of her hilarious responses to comments made about her online. Her topical chapters vary in length depending on how much she has to say on the subject, but all flow well and even a slower reader could polish Bossypants off within a couple days.

This was obviously not a hard book to pick up and read, and I enjoyed it for what it’s worth.  Do I need to know how to be a successful Improviser or learn how to suffer through photo shoots? No, not really, but it doesn’t hurt when it’s an entertaining read, I s’pose. It was interesting to see how she became such a famous comedienne, and it is thankfully evident that she hasn’t let that get to her head. I always enjoy learning something new from books, and though most of the accounts given wouldn’t necessarily pertain to me, it was still a joy to read. I would recommend this book to most of the women I know, especially those who enjoy some intelligent and sarcastic humour. For those in need of a good ole break from reality (who doesn’t?), this’ll definitely do the trick.