Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Two weeks ago, I binge watched season 1 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix. And then I needed more, so I read the book!
Orange is the New Black is Kerman’s story of her 13 months in prison. In her younger days, she got mixed up with some shady business with drug trafficking. She came to her sense fairly quickly and turned her life around. Cut to 10 years later, her past caught up with her.
Kerman had to come clean to her family, friends, and new fiancée about her former life. She also had to come to terms with going to prison.
Orange is the New Black focuses on how Kerman adapted, the social order/groups in prison, and the women she met. She does touch on the failures of the prison system and the inefficiencies. I was drawn more to the stories of how she just gained some normalcy in day-to-day life.
One thing Kerman talks about a few times in the book was how the women kept wondering if Martha Stewart would be in their prison. Kerman was imprisoned during the Stewart trial. And it seems that Stewart wanted to go to her prison in Danbury to be close to her Mom. But no prison wanted Stewart for fear of the extra attention/scrutiny that may come to the prison. So Danbury was “full” until Stewart was sentenced elsewhere.
Another part of the book that I found interesting was how creative the women would get. Since they are without many things, they’d think outside of the box. Think microwave for gourmet cooking. Or think mixing lead shaving with vaseline to create eyebrow liner.
It made me wonder how I would cope if I was locked up. Would I use my time to read and do yoga like Kerman? Would I learn to make prison cheesecake? Would I just sleep most of the time? My bet would be on the sleep.
4.5 out of 5 stars
If you’ve already watched the show, I still highly recommend the book. But do not think that it will be completely similar. Although there is a Russian cook character, a transvestite, and a Pennsatucky in the book…many of the names are different in the book or stories different. Which did not bother me at all, just be prepared.
How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
My parents got me this book for Christmas. They know my style. A chick-lit book about childhood friends that open up a bakery? Sold!
How to Eat a Cupcake is the story of Annie Quintana and Julia St. Clair. Julia comes from a life of privilege and wealth. Annie grows up on the outside, yet inside of that life as Annie’s mother is the St. Clair’s housekeeper.
The girls grew up very close until a falling out in high school. The story begins ten years later as the two find themselves back into each others lives. In an attempt to make amends, Julia offers to help Annie open a bakery. Although prideful and suspicious, Annie needs the financial help and agrees.
I found myself comparing this book to Something Borrowed, which isn’t a fair comparison except it’s both about childhood friends. This book is not nearly as good as Something Borrowed. I wasn’t especially drawn to either Annie or Julia. I found Annie a bit whiny and Julia was definitely not my cup of tea.
My favorite character was a farmer, Ogden, that supplied food to the bakery. The book is a quick read though….and it did make me hungry. Mocha cupcakes, Chocolate persimmon spice cupcakes, lemon cupcakes, etc.
3 out of 5 stars
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Brain on Fire was the last book that I read in 2012. I was hoping for an interesting book that kept me turning the pages. This book did not disappoint.
Brain on Fire is a memoir of what Cahalan went through after contracting a very rare brain disease. It follows her from the first on-set of symptoms to the battle of finding what was wrong with her to the even longer battle of recovery.
I didn’t focus too much on the medical terminology in the book. That part was quite over my head. But her personal story and that of her friends/family was very interesting. This disease masked itself with systems of paranoia, hallucinations, and extreme up’s and down’s in mood.
Following her struggle to find normalcy and seeing how different people reacted to her was an interesting case in fight or flight. Her first neurologist was adamant that Cahalan was just drinking too much and was overly stressed. Other doctors simply chalked it up to being schizophrenic.
I couldn’t help but wonder…how would I react if I was suddenly losing my mind while baffling doctors? How would people around me react? How would you react?
4.5 out of 5 stars
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
I just finished reading Gone Girl tonight! Exciting Friday night, eh? But considering I usually wait eons to blog about things, you have to take my word for it….great book!!
Gone Girl is the story of married couple, Nick & Amy. Nick & Amy have been married for 5 years. They were living the high life in NYC, but downsized and moved to Missouri about a year prior. On the day of their 5th anniversary, Amy goes missing. There are signs of a struggle. What happened? Where is Amy? Who took her?
The husband did it! Or did he….????
If you want to read a summer thriller with twists and turns, then read this book. It definitely had some “OMG I didn’t see that coming” twists for me. I both found myself thinking that couldn’t happen and then in the next moment…oh man, what if that sort of thing DOES happen??
And then the ending….ah you’ll have to find out yourself.
5 out of 5 stars
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Description from Amazon:
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.”
I’m finding it hard to describe this book, which is why I referenced the Amazon description above. People seem to either love or hate this book (at my book club, most of the gals were on the hated spectrum). I was one of the in-betweeners. If you love imagery and long descriptions, you’ll love this book. I usually loathe description and crave fast-paced dialogue, which this book is not. But I was intrigued by the story!
Two older magicians (true magic, not illusions) wager that they can both train a superior magician. For the years of their youth, Celia and Marco are the chosen trainees. I really enjoyed the chapters about the young magicans and the training they had to go through. Once they are adults, they find out that the circus is the the stage of their competition.
Interesting concept, right?? Confusing concept too though! The unique premise kept me reading this book. The slow pace and reliance so heavily on imagery left it short for me.
3 out of 5 stars
How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway
“As a young Japanese lady, you have been schooled in all the way of housekeeping. Your high school taught you how to arrange flowers, the fine art of fan dancing, and how to launder and store kimonos.
Now that you have married an American, you might be at a loss as to certain American customs. How to iron a Western shirt. How to make a bed properly. If you were lucky enough to have worked as a maid in a Western-style establishment, you may already know these things. But for those of you who do not, or do not know the details of American culture, this book will provide all the higher education that you need.”
How to Be an American Housewife follows the story of Shoko, a young Japanese woman trying to survive during WWII. Shoko’s father believes that her best opportunity in life would be to marry an American GI and leave Japan. Shoko gets a job at a hotel where many GI’s are staying. She even makes a portfolio of her suitors to get the input from her father on who to “woo”.
With her father’s blessing and her brother’s grave disapproval, Shoko moves to American with her American husband, Charlie. Dilloway’s book follows Shoko as she tries to acclimate to life in America. Her only help is a book to guide her: How to Be an American Housewife.
The book bounces from Shoko’s past to her present. It’s many years later and Shoko wants to return to Japan to try to patch things up with her brother. Shoko’s poor health prevents her from traveling, so she enlists the help of her daughter, Sue, to travel on her behalf.
I enjoyed this book. It was really interesting learning about Shoko’s past in Japan and how she coped with culture shock as a new bride. Each chapter started with a passage from the “guide book” like the one above.
If you enjoy historical fiction wrapped in family bonds, you’ll be a fan of this book as well.
4 out of 5 stars
Since moving to Austin two months ago, I’ve met around 20 new people already. I’ve been a busy bee! I’ve been asked a few times about how I’m meeting so many people so fast.
A book!! A book helped me!! A book saved me!! A book has helped me and made me so happy!! Shortly before I moved from Wichita to Austin, I saw MWF Seeking BFF sitting on a table at Barnes & Noble. The timing was so great. I read this book the week I move to Austin and then I was off!
MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
MWF Seeking BFF is a memoir by Bertsche. Bertsche was living in NYC, but moved to Chicago to move in with her boyfriend and got married soon after. She was a newlywed in a new city with a new job and a new spouse. But she was really missing her girlfriends. What do you do in a new city with no one to call for brunch or to grab a glass of wine with? You can still call your BFF’s out of state to randomly talk about stray chin hairs or confess the amount of Biscoff you ate in one sitting (enter Sarah for me, she’s my person). Woman can’t live by phone calls to friends alone though!
Bertsche set a goal for herself. She’ll goal on 52 friend dates in a year with the hope of finding a Chicago BFF. I love this book so much because I learned how to get out of my comfort zone. Is it initially awkward to ask a virtual stranger out for lunch? Yes. But if you were on the receiving end of this invitation would you be flattered and happy? I would!
Bertsche really got out there even more than I currently have the guts to do. For example, she asked out a salesperson at a clothing store to meet up. And she wrote her number on a receipt after she really hit it off with a waitress that she enjoyed. Both ladies said yes though!
I’ve had the most success with Girlfriend Social so far. Bertsche actually had no luck with this site, but I’ve met 6 ladies through this site. And yes, I do feel like I’m on a platonic Match.com site. But once again, would you rather get out of your comfort zone or sit at home alone? Of the 6 ladies, I really enjoyed 3 of them and have seen 1 more than once. There was only one that I felt was totally not a good “friend fit” for me.
Here are some highlights that I took away from the book:
–Women are BUSY. Don’t get discouraged/take it personally if you don’t hear back for awhile or if you get cancelled on. It’s frustrating, but unfortunately if a woman has a family/job/etc, friends are one of the 1st things to get put on the back burner. As a very sensitive person, this insight really helped me.
–Try not to get too annoyed if you make a friend date and the woman brings a friend with her! It’s kind of rude actually, I feel. But that woman is probably very nervous and did it to help her comfort level. This happened to me already, so I tried to roll with it.
–You’re not alone!! As a woman in your 30′s, it’s HARD to make friends. Most friends are made in school and at work. Many women may be in a same boat as you yearning to make a new friend. To be successful, you may have to make the “first move” though. Although online dating is so commonplace now, saying that you need more friends has a stigma attached still. So women may be suffering in silence, but if you’re brave enough to reach out, you may be making the other lady’s day!! I found the “first move” to be very important on Girlfriend Social. All the woman I met, signed up for the website on a whim but then never did anything about it. We’ve been conditioned to wait for a man to make the first move….so on a friend site, it was a stalemate situation. If I hadn’t have emailed the women, I don’t think anything would have come from the site.
–Follow-up is KEY! If you meet a new friend, you have to follow-up! Since you are the one making the plan from the beginning, they will kind of expect you to follow-up if you want to meet up a second time. Once again, I think this goes back to women being conditioned to wait to see if a guy wants a 2nd date. I’m now focused on following up with the woman that I had a blast with to see if they want to get together again. At some point, it has to become a back & forth/give & take situation to be a real friendship though. I think I’ll have to play that by ear.
I have so many pages that I’ve marked in MWF Seeking BFF that were light bulb moments for me. I could talk about this book for hours. My advice: BUY THIS BOOK….. and do you want to meet up for coffee?? ;)
5 out of 5 stars
Did you read and love The Hunger Games?
Are you looking for another trilogy to reel you in?
Look no further!
Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Similar to The Hunger Games triology, the Divergent series follows a female lead character and is set in a dystopian society. And also similar to The Hunger Games, I sailed through both books in less an a week and loved them. Roth has yet to come out with the final book in the Divergent series. Hopefully, I won’t have to wait too long! According to IMDB, the Divergent movie is tentatively slated for 2015.
Divergent is set in a future society based in the former city of Chicago. There are different factions of society: Erudite (intellectuals), Dauntless (adrenaline junkies), Candor (truth speakers), Amity (polite, happy go lucky), and Abnegation (selfless). At the age of 16, each youth takes a test to tell you which faction you are best suited for. Each youth then has the decision to make: stay with your family in the faction you’ve grown up in….or switch factions and never see your family again.
Divergent follows the path that 16 year Beatrice (born into Abnegation) aka Tris makes. During Tris’ test, she finds out she has an equal aptitude for a few factors which makes her “divergent”.
I found Roth’s two books to be so interesting! I kept thinking what faction would I be in if I lived in this dystopian world. If you know me at all, it would be Candor hands down…for good or bad. :) There’s even a quiz at the end of the book to find your faction.
I can’t wait for Roth to realize the final book!
5 out of 5 stars
I joined a book club group! Finding a book club was one of my top to-do’s when I moved to Austin. It was a fun, diverse group…very Austin-y. :) There was even a guy there!
It wasn’t the gossip & wine-filled book club that I’m used to, but maybe that’s a good thing. We actually talked about the book!!
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter follows Silas “32″ Jones. He’s returned to Mississippi to become constable in his small town. Silas spends most of his days handling traffic duty during shift change at the mill and giving out speeding tickets. But a girl in the town has now disappeared.
The disappearance brings up old memories of an unsolved missing girl from 20 years ago. The suspect was always Larry Ott. Larry still lives in the small town, but has been shunned by the community convinced of his guilt.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter shifts from the past to the present and intertwines the lives of Silas and Larry. I enjoyed the plot lines of this novel, but it left me wanting more. I found the “surprises” in the book to be predictable. Franklin could have taken the story in a few different directions that I would have preferred. Similar to a “choose your own adventure” book, I wish I’d read through another path of this story.
I did like Franklin’s portrayal of Silas and Larry. Neither character is particularly likeable, but you got to know them well. I found myself wanting to shake Silas for some things he did. And I felt such sadness for Larry living his life of solitude.
3 out of 5 stars
Three years ago, I started a book club with friends in Wichita. My friend, Amy, told me that when it was her turn to pick that she was going to pick How I Became A Famous Novelist.
I promptly went and bought the book. Cut to Amy dropping out of book club. Cut to current time…I finally read the book!!
How I Became A Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
Pete Tarslaw is a writter who is making a living writing college essays for rich kids. He’s talented, but apathetic. He receives a wedding announcement that his college girlfriend (Polly) is getting married. Tarslaw decides to write a best-selling novel just to spite his ex-girlfriend and show her up at her wedding!
How I Became A Famous Novelist is definitely cynical, much like myself, so I enjoyed it! It’s funny and shocking to think (and know it’s probably true) that some authors just methodically crank out novels that they know will be popular but…void of feeling.
Tarslaw has no dreams of writing the great American novels.
His Goals As A Novelist:
2. Financial Comfort
3. Stately Home By Ocean (Or Scenic Lake)
4. Humiliate Polly At Her Wedding
One part that I really enjoyed especially since I just blogged about TV getting in the of my blogging:
“Writing a novel–actually picking the words and filling in paragraphs–is a tremendous pain in the ass. Now that TV’s so good and the Internet is an endless forest of distraction, it’s damn near impossible. That should be taken into account when ranking the all-time greats. Somebody like Charles Dickens, for example, who had nothing better to do except eat mutton and attend public hangins, should get very little credit.”
In a nutshell, Tarslaw researches many popular novels and finds a theme:
“You invent the awesomest hero you can think of, pit him against dark, mysterious forces, and let a secret spill out as he crisscrosses the globe. You write about something that people know is important but that they don’t really understand, and you make it seem diabolical. You don’t bury your action under a lot of nuanced characters or artful prose.”
The Da Vinci Code anyone?? Which I loved, by the way.
I enjoyed this book for it’s tongue-in-cheek humor. Hely is a comedy TV writer for David Letterman and it seems fitting. A humorous read that you’ll enjoy, but won’t love. And I think that’s exactly what Hely was going for.
3.5 out of 5 stars