{Review} Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

May 18, 2015 Review 2 ★★★

{Review} Orange is the New Black by Piper KermanOrange Is the New Black: A Memoir by Piper Kerman
Published by Spiegel & Grau on March 8, 2011
Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
Pages: 314
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system. From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance. Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

I picked up a copy of Orange is the New Black at my library’s spring book sale last month because 1) I like non-fiction, and it seems to be one of the very few things that can still draw me in while I’m in this god-awful book slump and 2) I wanted to see how it faired to the TV show.

When I first heard about the TV show I was slightly curious. My mother said she wanted us to try it out as one of our new shows, but upon further investigation, I discovered it was not really the kind of show I was comfortable watching with my family, haha! Over the next year or so though, I kept hearing how great of a show it was, from the great acting to the complex lives of the female characters, and I was loving what I was seeing on my Tumblr dashboard, so I figured I’d give it a shot in the frigid months of January and February. Tumblr was right (really, has it failed me before on TV shows? Nope), of course, and I’m now anxiously awaiting Season 3!

But back to Kerman’s memoir. I think is the case of the TV adaption being way better than its source material (could it really shine without the amazing presence of Laverne Cox though?), although Orange is the New Black isn’t a bad read, not at all. It held my attention and was informative and funny. I didn’t really learn a whole lot more than I already knew about the prison system though, and I think illustrating statistics among the system via each character’s lived experiences on the TV show works better than having Kerman rattle off information about race, class, sexuality within the prison industrial complex. One thing that I did like compared to the TV series was that Larry was much less annoying, haha!

Overall, a solid read but it doesn’t hold a flame to the TV show!

3 Stars

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{Review} Take Them by Storm by Marie Landry

January 12, 2015 Review 0 ★★★★

{Review} Take Them by Storm by Marie LandryTake Them by Storm by Marie Landry
Series: Angel Island #3
Published by Self-Published on 01/06/2015
Genres: New Adult
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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This book is a standalone companion novel to Waiting for the Storm and After the Storm.

Sadie Fitzgerald has always been different, and not just because she makes her own clothes and would rather stay home watching Doctor Who than party with kids her age. When it’s time to leave Angel Island for college, Sadie is eager to put her old life behind her. Small-minded people and rumors have plagued her for years, but with the love of her adoptive family, the O’Dells, Sadie has learned to embrace who she is. Now she’s not afraid to admit the rumors about her are true: she’s gay.

For the first time in her life, Sadie feels free to be herself. She dives into college life and begins volunteering at the local LGBT center, where she discovers her small-town upbringing left holes in her education about life outside Angel Island.

The world is a bigger and more accepting place than Sadie ever imagined. She’s finally found where she belongs, but with the reappearance of someone from her past, an unexpected new friendship, and a chance at love, Sadie soon realizes she still has a lot to learn about life, friendship, and love.

Cover Talk

Purple is my favourite colour, so I may be a bit biased here, but I love the cover. It’s eye catching, and quirky, just like Sadie. It actually matches very closely the descriptions of the clothing she wears and makes in the book, so it’s not another girl in a pretty dress cover that has NOTHING to do with the book. Nothing against those covers, because hey, they can be absolutely BEAUTIFUL, but after a while they become overdone when they have no connection to the plot. Alas, I digress.

My Expectations

I love Marie Landry’s books, and have been looking forward to Sadie’s story since she first told me about it so I was pretty sure I would like this book. However, 2014 had me in a god awful slump, and I didn’t want to read anything with dead mothers in it at the moment. That said, I decided to persevere and read Take Them by Storm since I had been looking forward to it for a while now.

My Thoughts

Marie Landry has done it, yet again! Take Them by Storm had me captivated from the first chapter, and I found myself reading for long stretches throughout the day and night, pushing aside other things to make time for Sadie, Ella, and River, as I returned to those loveable group of friends one last time.

While Take Them by Storm picks up a few weeks after After the Storm ends, it can be read as a standalone novel. Sadie is the protagonist, or I should say star of the book, as she really does shine. Whereas in After the Storm, Sadie was bubbly but self-conscious, and dealing with a lot of heavy things, in this book, she has the chance to truly get outside of her comfort zone and expand her horizons, as she starts at Loyola College while living with her best friend, River. Away from her unloving and bigoted parents and cruel high school peers, Sadie has the opportunity to volunteer at a local LGBTQ Rainbow Centre as part of her placement, allowing her to further grow confidence in herself, her identity, and to develop a sense of community for the first time in her life. (And if you’ve read any of Marie’s other books, particularly The Game Changer, you also get to see some familiar faces in Bellevue which was SO fun as a fan and reader!)

I really appreciated the complexity that Marie Landry gave to Sadie’s story, and character. She wasn’t defined by her sexual orientation, but identifying as a lesbian was still important to her. Not every relationship worked out picture perfect with a happily ever after story, nor was Sadie’s story one of doom or gloom. There was a little of both, and Sadie spent a lot of being happy, making mistakes, and just generally trying to figure out who she was and what she wanted – in other words, she was a typical college student! I also LOVED that the LGBTQA+ spectrum was represented, or discussed, including bisexual, pansexual, intersex, asexual, trans*, queer, and two-spirited identities. There was also a bisexual character (she actually read more pansexual to me, but nonetheless), and thankfully there was no bi-erasure, as can often happen. Sadie also gets served the same treatment as Landry’s other female protagonists, with a few steamy bedroom scenes of her own. No fade to black just because it is a LGBTQ romance, yay!

Although a LOT of things worked for me, one thing that didn’t really was one of the romantic relationships Sadie has towards the end of the book. Without spoiling anything, I had just never gotten the same kind of chemistry with the character as I did with some of the other female characters. It also seemed to happen very quickly, and then there was about a month’s jump forward in time, which made things seem even more rushed and made it a bit difficult for me to be all swoony and excited over them. That said, this was one thing in a sea of many things that I did really like!

In the end, Take Them by Storm was a whirlwind ride through Sadie’s first few months of college, and the highs and lows that came with it. I’d recommend this to anyone who is looking for a great contemporary read, whether you have read Waiting for the Storm and After the Storm and are looking to continue the story, or are looking for a great read about a young woman coming into her own with a wonderful group of friends. Also, being the last book, I am sad to leave this series behind! I’ve had some good laughs and cries over all three books. But I can’t wait to see what Landry has up her sleeve as she moves on to new characters, places and stories.  I’m sure they will be just as swoon, cry and laughter worthy as her others!

4 Stars

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Re-Read Challenge 2015

December 17, 2014 Challenges 2

Re-Read Challenge

I have been following So Obsessed With and Belle of the Literati for some time now and I love the challenge they’ve created for 2015. The point of this challenge is to “relive the magic of your favourite books. Return to your favourite stories, characters and worlds. Remember what it was like the first time around, and see just how fun it can be to re-read.”

I have enjoyed rereading favourite books my entire life, but that has fallen off the rails a bit since I started university four years ago. This year, I will be transitioning into the “real world” and while that’s going to be hectic, I hope that also means there will be time for revisiting childhood favourites as well as special books I enjoyed studying at school. I’m aiming for 12 books – one per month – but really, I’m fine with any number as long as I am ultimately doing more rereading. Here are a few of the books I hope to be revisiting this year:

  1. Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels
  2. Ida B by Katherine Hannigan
  3. The Wicked Years series by Gregory Maguire
  4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  5. The Books of Bayern series by Shannon Hale
  6. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
  7. Pat of Silver Bush series by L.M. Montgomery
  8. Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce
  9. Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter
  10. Headhunter by Timothy Findley
  11. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  12. Zink by Cherie Bennett

A lot of this list is comprised of series, and I’m not sure I’ll get to all of them, but I would like to! If you’re interested in signing up – which I hope you are! – go check out the sign-up page on Hannah’s blog. Happy re-reading!

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{Cover Reveal} Take Them By Storm by Marie Landry

November 11, 2014 Cover Reveal 0

I’m very excited to take part yet again in a cover reveal for one of my favourite Canadian and self-published authors, Marie Landry! Take Them by Storm is the third and final book in the Angel Island series (but it can be read as a standalone), and so now I’ll have helped reveal all of this series covers. Read on to view the wonderful cover, and see my 5 reasons why you should read this book or the entire series.

READY?

… 3 …

… 2 …

… 1! ..

cover for Take Them by Storm (Angel Island #3) by Marie Landry - features a girl in black lace stockings, purple converse shoes and dress sitting on old suitcases against a purple backdrop.

Take Them By Storm by Marie Landry
Series: Angel Island #3
Published by Self-Published on January 6, 2015
Genres: New Adult
Format: eBook
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This book is a standalone companion novel to Waiting for the Storm and After the Storm. The books do not need to be read together or in order, but please note that this synopsis contains mild spoilers for After the Storm.

Sadie Fitzgerald has always been different, and not just because she makes her own clothes and would rather stay home watching Doctor Who than party with kids her age. When it’s time to leave Angel Island for college, Sadie is eager to put her old life behind her. Small-minded people and rumors have plagued her for years, but with the love of her adoptive family, the O’Dells, Sadie has learned to embrace who she is. Now she’s not afraid to admit the rumors about her are true: she’s gay.

For the first time in her life, Sadie feels free to be herself. She dives into college life and begins volunteering at the local LGBT center, where she discovers her small-town upbringing left holes in her education about life outside Angel Island.

The world is a bigger and more accepting place than Sadie ever imagined. She’s finally found where she belongs, but with the reappearance of someone from her past, an unexpected new friendship, and a chance at love, Sadie soon realizes she still has a lot to learn about life, friendship, and love.

5 Reasons You Should Read Take Them by Storm & the Angel Island series

  1. Sadie is my all-time favourite character from the series and this is HER book. This girl is FIERCE and dances to the beat of her own drum, but she isn’t some manic pixie dream girl. She’s got a cool sense of style, stands up for her friends, and also identifies as a lesbian. I’m looking forward to seeing a relationship unfold for Sadie as Landry does romance so well (see point #5).
  2. Like books that will make you cry? I’ve cried reading every book in this series! Both happy and sad tears have been shed.
  3. Numerous swoon worthy book boyfriends. That are all respectful and caring. No asshats here! Or love triangles (not that I’m entirely against love triangles, but let’s admit, it can be a tad overdone).
  4. Each book features great depictions of family dynamics, and friendships – both the good and the bad. All different kinds of love are covered, and romantic love isn’t praised as the only kind of love or the most important.
  5. I used to say I’m not a fan of romance books and that I don’t read them, but Marie Landry’s books, and in particular, this series, have made me reevaluate my feelings against the genre. I’m a convert! So even if you don’t think you like contemporary romance, I still urge you to give these books a try!
Not convinced?

Check out my reviews of the previous two books (which can also be read as standalones) below by clicking on the covers.

 waiting for the storm   after the storm

 

About Marie Landry

Marie-Landry-Author-Pic

Marie has always been a daydreamer; since early childhood she's had a passion for words and a desire to create imaginary worlds, so it only seemed natural for her to become a writer. She resides in Ontario, Canada, and most days you can find her writing, reading, blogging about writing and reading, listening to U2, watching copious amounts of TV on DVD, or having grand adventures with her nephews and niece. She's a hopeless romantic, an unapologetic eavesdropper (occupational hazard), an equally unapologetic squeeing fangirl, and a lover of swoonworthy book and TV characters.

Cover Reveal Organized by: YA Bound Book Tours

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{Review} Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

November 5, 2014 Review 2 ★★★★★

{Review} Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by HarperCollins on September 9, 2014
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Science Fiction
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as the Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame and the beauty of the world as we know it.

I recently picked this up for an assignment on Canadian literature. I’d read numerous positive reviews – from JamieHannahKaren, and Blair – so I was really looking forward to this book. While literary science fiction is not a favorite genre of mine, the dazzling reviews were enough to sway me. Station Eleven is about a lethal flu epidemic that plagues our world and the ensuing aftermath. The narrative focuses on several characters each related, in some way, to a famous Hollywood actor who dies onstage during a production of “King Lear” in the opening pages. In an interview with the New York Times, Mandel said, “I wanted to write a love letter to the modern world, and a way to write about all these things we take for granted was to write about their absence.” I was pleasantly surprised by this insightful look into our world, our culture, and our humanity.

Part of what made this book so rich for me was how well Mandel developed a response to what exactly happens when 99% of the world’s population dies from an influenza epidemic. It’s about resilience, of the body, of the mind, and of the heart. I loved the multiple narratives in this book because it demonstrates so well how many different reactions are possible. A recurrent theme is that survival is not enough, and while Mandel writes characters who embody this concept, there are others who aren’t as mentally resilient.

These characters, though – they’re insanely realistic. I LOVE THEM. I ached for them. Their stories felt so tragic but so beautifully expressed. However, I don’t think there’s any way to explain these characters or their plots without ruining it all. Part of the enchantment of this book is the suspense: you don’t know how everything links together, and it seems to take forever to figure it out, but you do eventually.

The narrative has a wonderful sense of self-consciousness. You always have a sense of where you are currently in the timeline of the novel (which is long). I love this passage, which really exemplifies what I’m trying to describe:

“standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching: a woman giving birth to a child who will someday pull the trigger on a gun, a designer sketching the weapon or its precursor, a dictator making a decision that will spark in the fullness of time into the conflagration that Frank will go overseas to cover for Reuters, the pieces of a pattern drifting closer together.”

We jump around from the moment the epidemic was unfolding and 20+ years after it happened, as well as a few memories from way before the epidemic. It really conveys a sense of shock when you go from completely normal – like our current world – to complete devastation and craziness. Super, super scary. I love when Mandel described the world 20+ years out, though, because it was so interesting to compare people who’s attitudes and experiences are so similar to mine, to a generation who grows up without any of the “modern conveniences” we are accustomed to (i.e. electricity, plumbing, gasoline, Internet).

For me, this book ticked every box: while the pacing is slower, it’s elegant and unique, and the characters and plot are expressed beautifully. Mandel is a wonderful storyteller. Her writing demonstrates that she put a lot of thought into the story, and it is completely controlled. That is the mark of an extremely talented writer; she knows everything but isn’t overhanded by revealing it all at once. If you enjoy books with interesting characters and emotional narratives, this one’s for you.

Collected Quotations

“‘It’s like the corporate world’s full of ghosts. And actually, let me revise that, my parents are in academia so I’ve had front-row seats for that horror show, I know academia’s no different, so maybe a fairer way of putting this would be to say that adulthood’s full of ghosts. . . . I’m talking about these people who’ve ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed. Do you know what I mean? They’ve done what’s expected of them. They want to do something different but it’s impossible now, there’s a mortgage, kids, whatever, they’re trapped. Dan’s like that. . . . You probably encounter people like him all the time. High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially.'”

“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

“Something I’ve been thinking about, which will sound harsh and I’m sorry: you said you’d always be my friend but you’re not, actually, are you? I’ve only realized that recently. You don’t have any interest in my life. This is going to seem bitter but I don’t mean it that way, V., I’m just stating a fact here: you’ll only ever call me if I call you first. Have you noticed that? If I call and leave a message you’ll call me back, but you will never call me first. And I think that’s kind of a horrible thing, V., when you’re supposed to be someone’s friend. I always come to you. You always say you’re my friend but you’ll never come to me and I think I have to stop listening to your words, V., and take stock instead in your actions. My friend C. thinks my expectations of friendship are too high but I don’t think he’s right.”

“Survival is insufficient.”

5 Stars

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