Orange Is The New Black – My First TV Show Review

As I had said in a previous post, I want to start reviewing TV shows and films as well as books. I’ll probably still focus on books but I feel that digital forms deserve to be bashed over too!
Anyway, I know that Orange Is The New Black isn’t exactly on the television because it’s exclusively on Netflix but it needs to be spoken about. First of all, this show is not for everyone! Not just due to its exclusivity to Netflix users but also because the humour and the immense amount of nudity and sex scenes will probably only be appreciated by a select few. I would like to say that the nudity and sex serve a decent purpose but I’m not entirely sure they do…
Having said that, OITNB does treat some interesting issues. Obviously, being set in a prison, it deals with such issues as drugs and bad house holds and broken families but it also deals with other issues such as transsexuality. Laverne Cox, a transsexual actress, plays the character Sophia and seems to tell an emotionally accurate, illegally inaccurate version of her own troubles as a transgender man. It also deals with the idea of a transsexual woman, who used to be a man, in a female prison…and her wife and son outside. So, in a way, you could say that, despite all the vulgarity, OITNB is almost educational…or at least that it offers up some serious thinkin’ fuel.
The main character, Piper, is the first inmate we meet. At first, she seems fairly innocent and sweet and we gradually learn why she doesn’t seem to be your typical criminal. Her ex-girlfriend, Alex, seems to be to blame for her current situation and, to be honest, by the end of series three it’s even more unclear as to whether or not Alex is the only guilty party. There are also many other characters whose stories are all so different and make their actions seem almost justified. A lot of them have just made silly mistakes that have left them in serious trouble. The general format (with some exceptions) is that we meet the character in the present, get to know them, love them, hate them, and then we gradually see little snippets of what happened to land them in jail. Sometimes it’s not totally, explicitly clear but I kind of like that!
I think one of the crucial parts of this series is the fact that, amongst the prison staff, there is also sex, scandal and corruption. We see their lives too! The prison itself is pretty poor, especially as they abuse the use of solitary confinement (known as the SHU),  but it kind of adds to the show and the characters’ situation. There are many theories thrown about about how to survive in the prison and each person finds their own way. The ones with the big jobs seem to be the best off because, as it is in the real world, there are leaders and they seem to do pretty well for themselves! Other people, of course, try to play the game of thrones because they also want to stop themselves from drowning in that place.
Friendships, enemies and “prison wives” are formed and they all come with their own perks and complications. However, there is always a great sense of community amongst them, despite what they call the racial “tribes” which separate the tightknit families.
I think this show is amazing, but I know not everyone will feel the same. You have to look past the crude humour and boobs and see the characters’ stories and personalities become clearer as the story goes on. The storyline is often gripping and the writers have created some amazing cliffhangers, especially in the season finales.
It deals with many issues and deals with crime from a criminal point of view, which really does put it all into a different perspective.
I apologise if you go to watch this/have watched it and think that it’s just nonsense but the chaotic nature of the prison is what makes this show truly unique.
Another perk: as a Brit, I sometimes find that American comedies are a bit too obvious (especially with a laugh track of a laughing audience). I think if you need to be told when something is funny, it can sometimes ruin it. However, the humour in Orange Is The New Black is really subtle, sarcastic and extra, extra dry. I love it.
I recommend this show, and I think it should be given a chance, even by those who are strongly offended by the first episode or two, because it grows on you!

Happy watching,
Carenza x

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My First Tag Post: The How I Read Book Tag

Okay, so I’ve never done a tag before but this seemed like a good place to start and writing it now I’m actually quite excited!  I found this tag by The Bookie Monster so a big thanks to them!

1) How do you find out about new books to read?

Well, I often like to miander around Waterstones and literally judge books by their covers. Yeah, yeah, I’m a shallow book reader. As I explain in my review, I came across The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul  in WHSmiths and thought “oh my goodness that cover is so adorable I bet it’s so quaint and sweet!!” without actually taking notice of the big clue as to why I was totally wrong: Kabul! However, despite this massive oversight, it is one of the best books I have ever read and it’s absolutely wonderful.

In other cases, books are either recomended to me (by friends and teachers) or bought for me by my dad as lovely little surprises! Two of the best surprise books were The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (expect a review for this when I’m done with it) and The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (for which, I have realised, I have not yet written a full review…expect that one too!!) which also had wonderful covers. I just cannot read a book unless it’s pretty! I’m sorry…ugly books deserve a chance too!

2) How did you get into reading?

Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading. There was a breif period in Year 4 when I had grown out of books aimed at my age group and couldn’t find anything that was good enough for me. Like many people my age, Harry Potter saved me from that dark, bookless time and I quickly got back on track.

Before that, there were a couple of series that I really liked. One of them was a bit Narnia-esque and the other was Geronimo Stilton, the story of one adventurous little mouse. If you have young kids I would absolutely recommend it!

3) How has your taste in books changed as you’ve gotten older?

Well, I wouldn’t say that my preferences have changed so much as I’ve aged and the genres I’ve always loved are now age appropriate. I’ve always had a “darker” taste in fiction than most of the people my age. I’m not talking about blood and guts, zombies everywhere and bowls in jars on mantel pieces kind of “dark” because, frankly, if it’s unrealistic it doesn’t even faintly appeal to me. I mean, I’m all for magical realism but anything past that and it doesn’t grip me at all. Having said that, when it’s fantastical and set in a different world such as Discworld or Middle Earth I am totally engrossed. There’s a fine line and maybe that’s hard to describe without completely contradicting himself.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I like to be hit hard in the face with the harsh realities of the world found in books such as To Kill A Mockingbird and A Thousand Splendid Suns but I also like to escape into an entirely different world where hobbits fly on the feet of giant birds and suitcases trot alongside their owners. I think that’s what I’ve always wanted from books but only now can I read them without being overly distressed by what I read.

4) How often do you buy books?

Surprisingly, not that often! Having been a Literature student for the past two years and, in the last year, having to learn quotes for The Bloody Chamber, Frankenstein and Macbeth of by heart, I’ve been unable to remove myself from those texts so have, therefore, been unable to read the books I want to. However, most of the books I have lined up to read have all been gifts from my dad or my boyfriend.

For my eighteenth birthday, last September, I asked my boyfriend for a couple of books I fancied reading and, being the excessively generous guy he is, he practically bought a library for me. From that point on I have been inundated with books and it’s glorious! My dad also buys me books…not because I ask for them, just because he sees them and thinks I’ll enjoy them! You could say I’m rather spoiled in the book department but that will all change if I get to Uni (to study Scandinavian Studies and English Literature at Edinburgh) because then books will be my largest expenditure.

If I ever do buy books I tend to buy them online and second hand. I did this for all my Literature texts and I still do it now I’m finished. I usually buy them on eBay through World Of Books; the books are always in an amazing condition considering they’re second hand and besides, I love to read pre-loved books! In my Literature class some people were totally shocked (and a bit offended it seemed) by the fact my books looked kind of battered but I think it adds to their character! If a book doesn’t look like it has been read then what’s the point?

5) How did you get into book reviewing?

I’ve always fancied the idea of blogging but, frankly, my life isn’t interesting enough for any old blog so I needed to find a purpose behind it. One of my career goals/ideas is to become a journalist of some sort and one of the best ways to demonstrate your writing ability is to create a blog, maintain it and consider it a part of your portfolio. At first I was using Blogger but, to be honest, I feel like the quality is somewhat lacking on Blogger and I couldn’t have an unattractive blog, I just refuse!

So, anyway, I suddenly realised that I do have something interesting to write about: books! And so, here I am!

6) How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

As I was talking about The Hobbit earlier, I’ll use it as my example here. The Hobbit is an absolutely amazing read in which I was totally engrossed from start to finish…but the ending was somewhat disappointing. Of course, at the time, this was devastating. However, in retrospect I don’t think I was so much disappointed by the ending, but more by the fact that story itself had ended. I had the same feeling with To Kill A Mockingbird but Go Set A Watchman may make up for that (expect a review for that by the way – it has been preordered and I intend to devour that book and not sleep until it’s finished…and then possibly be even more disappointed that it’s all over). To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve come across a book I’ve been totally blown away by due to some amazing ending, but more because of the preceding events that make it hard for me to let go when the characters’ lives stop in time while mine goes on. Why must books end?!

Having said all that, the ending to A Thousand Splendid Suns was absolutely phenomenal. I’m not saying whether it’s happy or sad!! But it was incredible! I will say that I cried but I sobbed all the way through that book so that’s probably no indicator as to whether the ending is happy or sad.

7) How often do a “sneak peek” at the end of a book to see if there’s a happy ending?

Never. The writer has written their work with care, attention and, most importantly, gripping suspense. Why would I rob them, and myself, of the gently crafted effect the author intended?

I hope you enjoyed my very first tag!

If you want to hear about the reviews coming up, follow me on twitter: @CarenzaReads

Reviews to look forward to this summer:
Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee
The Rabbit Back Literature Society – Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
The Guest Cat – Takashi Hiraide

Happy reading,
Carenza x

The Kabul Beauty School – Deborah Rodriguez

I started this blog with a review of Rodriguez’s first book, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, so I have decided to restart it with a review of her second. Following a long build up and eventual season of A-Level exams which essentially determine where I’m headed in life, I can finally get back to reading my own books, watching Netflix and reviewing my finds (yes, I would also like to start reviewing TV shows and films and such like).

Anyway, back to Debbie’s turbulent times in Afghanistan:

Unlike her first book, which was an incredible novel full of twists, turns and tears, this wonderful book is a rather frank and elaborate description of her own Afghan experiences. I don’t know for certain how she managed to record all that happened there but it’s very thorough! It does make me slightly doubt whether or not it’s all entirely true but it still makes for a fantastic read.

The story is told by Debbie so obviously it revolves around her own experiences as she struggles to open up a Beauty School for Afghan women so that they can make a living for themselves. One of the most amazing things about both of Rodriguez’s books (that I have read) is that you can learn so much from them! I mean, I put that with an exclamation mark as though it was an exciting learning process but it’s actually incredibly sad to hear about these girls’ stories. And I’m not saying “girls” in a derogatory way either because a lot of the stories we hear about are those of how young women (the youngest being only fifteen!) are abused and oppressed as bargaining tools, baby makers and punching bags. It’s horribly unjust but there is some hope and some small signs of progress shown in this book.

Another lovely aspect to this book is the addition of coloured photographs of her time there. These show the wonderful array of colours and people of Afghanistan and evidence of the glorious work that Debbie helped make possible, despite the many obstacles she had to face. These obstacles range from the basic troubles such as money and logistics to the more delicate issues such as ethical conflicts and cultural confusions.

When I was younger (not by much, probably like three years ago) I didn’t really understand why Afghanistan was in such a mess. It was on the news nearly every day that some terrorist attempt had been made or somebody had been killed, kidnapped or tortured etc. etc. etc. every day. Relentless. Heartless. There was all this news and actually no explanation as to why it was all happening. This was really confusing and pretty frustrating. I tried to care about these people losing everything but I couldn’t understand what they were upset or angry about to cause them all to fight so hard and jeopardise or victimise the lives of the innocent. However, now, although it’s still very confusing, I understand it all a lot better with the help of this book, The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini because they all take a personal and informative approach to their stories and provide a little more clarity. In fact, these books are one of the reasons I have chosen to become a Digital Advocate for the World Humanitarian Summit, further information on which will be shared soon.

For those of you who have read my other reviews on the other Afghanistan-based books, I’m afraid you may be sick of hearing about it because I am yet to read Khaled Hosseini’s other two novels, And The Mountains Echoed and The Kite Runner, in the near future. However, for now I would like to highly recommend to you the works of Deborah Rodriguez! They are thrilling, sad and deeply touching. One thing I might say is that I definitely prefer The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul but that may just be because I like coffee a great deal more than I like haircuts and manicures. Having said that, I absolutely admire the work gone into The Kabul Beauty School and am impressed by Debbie’s resilience and ambition.

Permit me a word or two about Twitter as I feel I’m entitled to some small bragging rights on this one. Despite the fact I have a grand total of four Twitter followers on the account linked to this blog, Deborah Rodriguez just so happens to be one of those many, many followers. So, if you would like to follow her example by following me on twitter, I would be very grateful! Now I’m up and running again I could do with just a hint of publicity.

Follow me at @CarenzaReads

Sorry for the long wait!

Happy reading,

Carenza x

Gorgeous cover…but I literally won’t buy a book unless it has a pretty cover. I know, I’m so shallow!!
Deborah here, clearly being left at the mercy of her own students.