Friday, May 29, 2015

Review Me Twice: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

For the first 1/6 or so of this book, I was really interested, totally on board, ready to hear more. For the next 4/6 (or 2/3 if you prefer), I was irritated with Piper for being... I'm not entirely sure what. She didn't seem to be connecting with her situation very well. Granted, she admits that she was very lucky to have high-end legal representation, and people on the outside with far more resources than the loved ones her fellow prisoners had outside, but it doesn't really seem to sink in for her. Until, of course, the last 1/6, where I felt like some kind of redemption happened. She really got it.

I think that maybe if this had been written during Piper's time in prison, instead of after it, the whole book would have a very different tone. She was lucky; she didn't experience any immense hardships or abuse during her year in prison.

Certainly, I learned things from this book. I would love it if more prisoners wrote similar memoirs about their time inside, to present a wide spectrum of experiences and viewpoints. I also appreciated the list of organizations and contacts at the end of the book that address different ways of helping prisoners and their families (my favorite is "Book 'Em," which is Pennsylvania-based and provides books to prisoners and prison libraries).

I wouldn't run around telling everyone I see to read this book, but it is quite good, and if someone asked me about it, I'd say that yes, they should read it.

For a book that's as famous as this one is, and that's been a bestseller for as long as this one has (seriously forever.  It's still sitting on the bestseller list.  I'd say it's been at least a year.) I was expecting a little more out of it.

It took me awhile to get into the book, and then it took even longer to figure out why she had written it.  Thank goodness it's not that long of a book.

However, I admit I grew very attached to the characters, to these women that she spent a year plus with, that she shared some of her most intimate experiances with.  You found yourself rooting for these women in a way you never really thought pssibly and seeing these "criminals" in a whole new light.  Have they done things wrong in their lives, sure, but about half of them would be better suited to a true rehabilitation program.  Or better yet, a program that helps them get jobs and housing and gives them ways to stay off the streets so they didn't have to sell drugs and land themselves there in the first place.

I will admit that the book sheds a harsh light on the growing problem of our prison system.  Kerman's prison had a litany of its own problems and, compared to what she had to deal with when she went to high security prisons in Oklahoma and Chicago, it really wasn't bad in comparisson.  The book showed how much money is wasted on prisons instead of maybe putting it toards our school.  That we incarcerating instead of teaching.

It was an enjoyable book, that I'm glad I read, mainly because I think it's a good idea to read the books that everyone has read, be they good or bad.  But it has been added to my "to be donated" pile.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Based on"

I'm all for artistic license when it comes to adapting books to film, video games to film, film to book, film to video game, real life to book... whatever. But sometimes it doesn't seem like anything from the original (the adapted-from) remains in the new version (the adapted-to).

Image result for i am legend movie poster

If you're a long-time reader of RMT, you know that, while I enjoyed both the book and the movie of I Am Legend, I recognize that basically nothing other than the main character's name and his general circumstances remained the same between the two. (If you don't like the dog part of the movie, go read the book. No, really. Do it. Trust me.)

I've never read nor seen this one, yet I have been told the ending of both, and I know that they are essentially polar opposites. This is an example of the kind of change I'm fine with: one major piece that they thought played better on film in a way that was different from the way it played in print. It's a choice the screenplay writer, director, producers, etc. have to make; sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it backfires.

Speaking of making hard choices that change the screen version drastically from the print version... I recently (last night) started reading Game of Thrones again. (You may recall that I didn't make it too far last time I tried.) Before, I hadn't watched a single second of the show when I tried to read it. Now, I keep gasping because I think I found some huge thing (I keep mixing up all the dead Targaryens who were kings and princes and whatnot, and I realized only after seeing it in print that Ser Ilyn Payne is actually related to Podrick, even though it's just as distant cousins). Most viewers know that by now, the little changes here and there in past seasons have added up, leading to bigger and bigger changes. This is an example of an adaptation that is drastic, but I still think it's great. I've been warned that there are long swathes of these books that are... Lord of the Rings - like. You know what I mean: long walks, followed by more walking, and some walking interspersed with walking. HBO wouldn't be able to sell that. Or the hundreds more characters the books seem to have by this point. At any rate, you know the ending to the show will be different from the ending to the books, which is good, because can you imagine how pissed the readers would be if the show told them the end before they could read it?!?

All of this brings me to why I brought this up this week:

I know it must be difficult to adapt an autobiography to fiction... and comedy, at that. Especially when the subject is so... non-comedic. Piper Kerman wrote a fairly serious book about her experiences during a year in prison. Someone at Netflix thought that would make the perfect basis for a comedy series. I read the book first, then tried to start watching the show. I made it three minutes. The tone is all wrong, the scenes that are similar to the book are just weird because they're so displaced... I don't know, maybe I have to see a whole episode, or maybe something other than the first episode, but I feel like just making a totally separate prison comedy would have been a better idea. But making the show "based on" her book means Piper Kerman is famous now, and a lot more people have read her book, so I guess that's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Author Bio - Piper Kerman

This will be our last author bio for awhile (and it's the last of our Memoir books!)  We're now going to be posting reviews monthly, so the usual stuff we do during the week won't happen until the week that we review the book.

And since we're doing a memoir, I don't want to give too much away about Kerman.  She grew up in Boston, into a family of doctors and lawyers.  She had a short stint in prison, for a ten year old crime, which is what our book this week, Orange is the New Black, is about.

She currently will talk to many criminology students and law students, along with serving on the board of the Woman's Prison Association.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where's The Review?

I know that most of you are expecting a review right now because, well, Alex and I have been reviewing books for close to three years now.  We have some GREAT followers and readers and read some great books over those years (and even some not so great books.)

The only photo of Alex and I that wasn't from 2008
(and also illustrates what an awesome friend she is because 
she's helping me get my veil off.)

But, when Alex and I started this blog we both had a lot less going on in our lives.  Now we have jobs  (which I was lacking when we started) and we have husbands (which we were both lacking when we started) and a million things going on, so the blog is going to go through a little bit of a change.

Does this mean the blog is disappearing?  NOT AT ALL!  Alex and I will still be around, telling you about our favorite books.  We're just going to be shaving it down to about once a month, instead of once a week.

We're still going to all the great things the week of the review we've always done (author bios, favorites, little tidbits of info from both of us), but our lives have gotten to the point we can't do it weekly anymore, just the last week of the month.

But that doesn't mean you should totally tune us out!  We still want to share great books, and great writing events with you and even want to still give you things in the future.  Even though we will only be posting a REVIEW once a month, Alex and I are going to be sporadically posting throughout the month about books that we really love and you might even start seeing some new faces around here.

So stick around and we'll keep bringing you books.

Like this one!  Next week is the last week of the month, so keep and eye out for our review!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Favorite World War II Book

I hardly even had to think about what book to choose for this.  And I've only talked about The Book Thief about a million and one times.  The book is beautiful and wonderful and makes me sob like a baby every time.  It has one of the best friendships in it of all time between Rudy and Lisel.  And the best part is the narration.  Zusak has Death narrating the whole book, which gives it that extra poignancy.

Honestly, I really just like Zusak's writing (he has this way of ending his books so everything just comes together in the best, most perfect fashion), but this book just really is beautiful and it's because, despite all the horrors going on in the world, despite everything happening, there is so much love in this book, so much friendship, so much devotion, it just makes your heart ache.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Author Bio - Laura Hillenbrand

This week we're reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is technically a biography, not a memoir, but it was a book that had been only TBR pile for way to long, and this was really the only month that it made any sort of sense.

But on the flip side, that means I can tell you a little more about Hillebrand without spoiling the book.

Hillenbrand has two books to her repertoire, Seabiscuit and Unbroken, both of which have been made into movies.  They've also both been best sellers, so whatever she's doing as a non-fiction writer, she should keep it up because it's obviously working out really well for her.  The two books combined have sold over 10 million copies. (I feel like now is where I insert a statistic of "that's enough to circle the earth ten times!" but I don't actually have such a statistic.  I'm sure someone could figure it out though.)

Hillenbrand was born in Fairfax, VA (which, I want to point out, is pretty much near where I live.  So that's awesome.) and was the youngest of four kids.  She went to college in Ohio, but ended up dropping out due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, something she still suffers from.

Currently she lives in Washnington, D.C., keeping much of the time to her home due to her condition.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review Me Twice - The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam

One of the best things about this blog, I think, is that it has expanded my non-fiction horizons SO MUCH.  As in, I used to never read non-fiction and now I pick up a lot of it.  OCD is one of those things that, in reality, I don't know a lot about.  There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding it, one being that OCD means insane cleaning.

But I think the best thing about Adam's book is that he showed his reader that OCD isn't about being clean.  It's about something small, something negligent in our lives, becoming something all-consuming in his.  For him it was AIDS.  He would obsess about ways that he might contract the AIDS virus, and the ways he thought he could were insane, but that didn't stop him from thinking about it over and over, from it stopping him from living his life.

I like the fact that it was written more like a biography than like a "let me tell you about OCD" book.  I mean, he did tell me about OCD, but by telling HIS story, Adam's made it so much easier to really learn about the disease, to get that it's not just this weird things where you wash your hands to much, and I think that was really great.  If you're making a list of non-fiction this year, pick this one up.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


You have less than 24 hours to enter to win a SIGNED copy of The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson.

Enter through the widget below and you could WIN!  Good luck!

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Review Me Twice: Hack by Melissa Plaut

I really enjoyed this book. I like autobiographies and memoirs because it's like having someone tell you stories over drinks (if it's written well). I can picture Melissa Plaut sitting at a table with me, starting each chapter of this book with, "Oh that reminds me of the time..." or "You wouldn't believe this one thing that happened..."

To be entirely honest, I never thought much about what it's like to be a New York cab driver, because I've only ever met two of them (LaGuardia to my hotel and the return trip when I went to New York Comic Con last October). They were both really nice and I made sure to tip well, and the guy who took me back to the airport showed me the UN building on the way... beyond that, it's not something I've ever dealt with. So not only was this book interesting and funny, but it showed me something new that I hadn't thought about before.

I also feel very much like Melissa Plaut is a real person. You know how sometimes, someone writes from their own point of view and you can just tell that they're molding the story to make themselves sound a certain way (be it more moral or smarter or in the right all the time)? I didn't get that from this book. Even in stories where Plaut clearly feels that she was right, she seems to realize that the reader may disagree. It's like having a friend tell you about a traffic incident they were in, and you may know they did something stupid, but it doesn't matter. I hope that makes sense.

One thing I really didn't expect from this book was to feel emotional connections with some of the other people (it feels weird to refer to them as "characters" because they're real people out in the world somewhere). I want to give meet Helen and give her a hug. I want to hear some of Allie's stories about her own job and life. I want to avoid some of the guys from the garage, or hang out with some of the others.

I picked this book up at this huge discount bookfair that I go to about once a year.  It's about an hour and a half from my house, but I never walk out with less than like four books (and usually more towards ten), and it's always worth it.

I paid a big four dollars for Hack, picked up on the recommendation of a friend.  And oh, what a great one it was.  Hack is surprising for a number of reasons.  One, you wouldn't think driving a taxi would be all that entertaining, but the amount of people that you meet doing the job is unprecedented.

Two, I LOVE the picture that it paints of NYC.  NYC is one that, sometimes, gets such a bad rap, when really, it's such an amazing city.  And I love that there were so many stories, so many experiences in her book that show what a GREAT place it is.  At one point, she talked about the Public Transit strike and this mood the city got, this comradery, that you can only get in NYC, but when you get it (and it's rare), man is it unlike anything you've ever felt.  There are some experiences, I feel that can only happen in New York City.

The part that surprised me the most those was the kind of stress this job takes on you.  I mean, she got to the point that she was angry ALL THE TIME.  It would seep into her very bones, into her being, and the hair trigger of her job was seeping into her very life.  Cabbies are the bottom of the barrel, the lowest of the low in NYC, for no real reason.  So they get hassled the most, and targeted by cops the most, and looked down on by customers the most and really just take the most amount of crap.  Eventually, it all just kind of builds up and explodes.

It's a great memoir and really well written and one you can breeze through pretty easily.  It's really a lesser known book, so I really like to let people know about it as much as possible when I can.

Don't forget to enter our contest!!!

Also, just for clarification, if you don't enter through the rafflecopter widget below, you're not actually entered.  It's the only way we can keep track!  (rafflecopter is telling me no one has entered and I know this is, in fact, not true, so I just want to let you guys know.  If you HAVE in fact been doing this all week through rafflecopter and it just hasn't been working, PLEASE EMAIL US with the amount of entries you should be credited at reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com.)

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Favorite Blogs into Books

Technically my favorite blog into a book is a Tumblr into a book, but I feel like it's all counts.  Internet media into a book.

Alex and I reviewed this book quite some time ago (about two years ago, actually!), and really, there's nothing I don't love about it.  Mostly because, as someone who now works in a bookstore, I can relate to pretty much every single thing that goes on in this book.  I have worked retail for a large portion of my life, and the way that people act towards you when you work retail is... well actually kind of insane.

That's not to say that it's all bad, and that's what I like about Campbell's book.  It's not a whole book about all these terrible things that happened and all these terrible customers she's had.  But it's certainly a book that makes you question what people are thinking sometimes.

She still keeps up the tumblr here, but it's more a promotional type space than a recording of crazy things customers say.

My favorite blog-to-book is also one that we've read here on our blog:

Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half. I love her humor, her drawings, and her stories, which makes an excellent combination. She has slowed down a lot with posting to the blog lately, but the internet explodes a little every time she does post, which is pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blog to Book

There are a lot of books that started out as just humble little blogs.  Our book this week, Hack by Melissa Plaut is one of them.  She started her blog (, where she documented all of her stories in her cab.  Eventually, culminating them into a book.

So what makes a blog good enough to transition into a book?  Well, as much as Alex and I love our blog, it would be a terrible book transition.  We, for one, talk a ton about other books, so the copyright laws would be a nightmare to get around, and, let's face it, while there are some quirky fun things in here, and our reviews are (we like to believe) original, for the most part, our material is a lot of informational stuff we get from other places on the internets.  We frequently (and loudly because we don't want people to sue us) proclaim that we pull our information from places like Wikipedia and the authors pages and the like.

However, Hyperbole and a Half, which we reviewed awhile back, transitioned very well into a book.  Not only does was it original in the sense that it was taking from her every day experiences, it was also original in the sense that she was using a lot of poorly drawn web comics to get her point across about some very serious topics.  It's probably why not only was her blog hugely popular, but so was her book.

What If?, the book we reviewed just last month, is another one that transitioned well.  Though not a true blog to book, it was based off of Randall's web comic xkcd.

The key seems to be originality.  A lot of the blog to book authors are talking about their lives, or putting their everyday lives down in the blogs.  Their every day lives also happen to usually be pretty interesting.

Don't forget to enter our contest!!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Author Bio: Melissa Plaut

Welcome to May, the month of memoirs and biographies here at Review Me Twice! This month will make the Monday posts a little bit tricky, since telling the story of the author is basically the same as summarizing the books, since that's the idea of memoirs and biographies.


Our first author of the month is Melissa Plaut, who wrote a book called Hack, about her choice to start driving a yellow cab in New York. And that's just about everything I'm going to tell you, because you'll hear more about her interesting life come Friday when we review the book!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Win a SIGNED copy of The Rithmatist

So Alex and I fully realize that we have been super busy and, maybe, just maybe, slacking a little as bloggers.  We are human and both are married with full times jobs.  I know; crazy.

But, we want you to know that we appreciate you guys for sticking around these past couple of months and want to do something to welcome new readers, so we're giving away a signed copy of The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson!

I know!  It's because we love you guys so much and want you to know it!  So, now the rules!

-You can do each thing once per day (So you can retweet us, share us on FB, comment, etc., once a day.)

-As much as I hate to say this, you must live in the contiguous US, as per usual, because unfortunately, neither Alex, nor I, have won the lottery or inherited a large amount of money since the last time we had a contest, so we STILL don't have the money to sent it outside the contiguous US.


-And it ends on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 11:59 PM  We'll announce the winner on Sunday.

-Winner must provide us with a valid US address within one week of winning the prize.  If the winner does not claim the prize, we will pick another winner and the same rules apply.  If BOTH winners do not claim it, we can do with the book as we please.

-The prize will be mailed via USPS, no signature required, with a tracking number.  The number will be emailed to the winner the day that it has been mailed.  Alex and I are not responsible for delivery errors made by the USPS.

-All the rules/regulations/whatever else you can think of as a loophole are up to Alex and I.

If there are any questions or comments, just let us know.  Otherwise, we'll be giving it away in ONE WEEK!  Good Luck!

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Review Me Twice - 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

When I was listening to the introduction of this book, Clarke said that he wanted to write a book that would still be plausible when 2001 came around.  He didn't want the book to seem dated as the years went on.  And, other than the fact that he was referring to Russia as the USSR (and really, who could have predicted that), I'd have to say he did a pretty good job of that.

There's a lot in the book that is futuristic, but no so out there that it's unfamiliar to me as a reader.  Sure, we haven't been to Saturn, but the fact that they're getting there by rocket power makes it seem like it's something that we COULD do soon.

However, you know I'm all about endings and I felt this book left more questions unanswered than it answered them.  The book just kind of... ended in a way that made me feel like it was ending mid sentence.  I realize that there are sequels to the book, and maybe I need those to get some sort of satisfaction, but usually even when it's a series, there's SOME sort of ending to the book, and I just didn't feel like this had it.  I didn't feel that by picking up the next book, I was going to get the answers I was looking for.

In terms of the sci-fi books this month, I'd say this was the biggest disappointment.

I didn't like the movie, but I recognized that Kubrick tends to have a... let's call it a "unique interpretation." (I haven't read all of The Shining but I know it's different from the movie.) So I knew I should read the book separately.

I didn't like the book either. I don't know if I just couldn't force my brain to forget about the movie, or if I wouldn't have liked it in the opposite order, but it just didn't grab me.

One thing I did like is the same thing Cassy mentioned: continuing plausibility. For the most part, Clarke made good predictions based on at-the-time current knowledge.