To say that I knew very little about Hawaiian history prior to reading this book would be saying too much. I knew Hawaii was a state, that it became a...moreTo say that I knew very little about Hawaiian history prior to reading this book would be saying too much. I knew Hawaii was a state, that it became a state in 1959, that it is a group of islands located in the Pacific Ocean, and that's about it. This book isn't just about the strict history of Hawaii, though; it's more about the political, cultural, and economic influences on it that turned it from a group of nearby islands to a unified kingdom to a US territory to a full-fledged US state.
One of the big focuses of Vowell's book is the increasing Westernization of Hawaii over the years, brought about by both the development of economic trade and the changes in industry that caused and the the arrival of missionaries and the book learning they brought with them. The missionaries were not just an influence in religious and moral issues, such as the worshiping of one God versus many, or their strange insistence on wearing clothes, but they also brought about the most literate culture in the world for a time. Once the missionaries had developed a written form for the Hawaiian language (which was necessary at first just for Bible translation), they set about teaching it to both the royalty and the common folk. At one point, 75% of the population in Hawaii could read and write their own language, an astounding figure when you consider that at the same time, less than 60% of Europeans could say the same thing.
Unfortunately, literacy and knowledge were one of the few improvements the missionaries and other haoles (aka white people, including the military and traders) brought with them. Epidemics of disease swept through the country, as did the alcoholism that increased exposure to strong drink brought. As the native Hawaii population decreased, their bloodlines became so intermingled that fewer and fewer full-blooded Hawaiian babies were born. Eventually, even Hawaiians with only partial native blood were in the minority in their own country.
The saddest part of Hawaiian history, though, is the slow loss of control over their own country. If left to their own devices, the Kingdon of Hawaii had a feudal system so entrenched that the lower classes would never have even thought of rebelling and seizing control of their own country. Eventually, when control was stolen from the monarchy, it wasn't given to the people, even if their new country was called a "republic." Instead, it was taken by the white sons of those first missionaries and traders that moved to Hawaii in the 1700s, and it was never given back.
Sarah Vowell writes with her typical dry, humorous style, stating the facts while still letting us know her underlying opinion of those facts. Really, the only reason why I have to rate this book a "liked it" instead of a "really liked it" is because in the end, the story of Hawaii made me pretty sad. This is definitely a book I'd recommend if you are interested in Hawaii, but not one for light reading, I'd say.(less)
Do you love Tina Fey? Have you seen her one time, maybe, on YouTube? Do you even know who I am talking about? Yes? No?
Regardless of your answer, you n...moreDo you love Tina Fey? Have you seen her one time, maybe, on YouTube? Do you even know who I am talking about? Yes? No?
Regardless of your answer, you need to read this book. Actually, you need to do what I did and LISTEN to this book. Tina Fey is funny, engaging, refreshing, and honest. I was laughing out loud within the first five minutes.
Tina Fey is one of the few women in entertainment that I really feel like I can relate to. Not because I am hilarious (I am not) or famous (I am not) or run my own television show (I do not) or have a kid (I do not). It's more of a feeling than anything specific; I feel like, if I happened upon Tina Fey somewhere, and was, for example, sitting next to her on an airplane, or waiting for our clothes to dry at the laundromat, or waiting for our kids' school play to start (again, I don't have a kid), we would be able to comfortably have a conversation. Just chat, no pretensions. And that's what this book felt like. Tina Fey, sitting next to me in the car, telling me about life as a working mom (I am not a mom, but I am also not a witch), growing up as the youngest of a middle class family (hey, that IS me), and what's like as a woman thriving in a predominantly male world (yes, that's you, comedy). And she does all that with self-depricating humor and truth.
This is one of those rare books that I actually want to replay right away. And who's to say I can't? The library says I can keep it for 2 more weeks. Yippee! :)(less)
A mostly delightful mix of history, modern experiences, and details from Rosemary Mahoney's quest to row the Nile by herself. This was a great book to...moreA mostly delightful mix of history, modern experiences, and details from Rosemary Mahoney's quest to row the Nile by herself. This was a great book to read in preparation for my trip to Egypt this summer, as she beautifully describes some of the places we will be visiting. Her personal experiences, however, are frequently colored by her obsessive need to do things on her own, by herself, without the help of men. As you can imagine, in a male-dominated society, she finds this to be quite difficult at times, and has to make a few compromises here and there to read her goal.
My favorite parts of this book are the history and descriptions of the places she is visiting, but a close second would be the accounts of her interactions with Amr, with whom she seemed to develop a special and unexpected friendship.
I am excited to see how modern Egypt has evolved in the last 10 years since Rosemary's journey. Even though I will not have as much interaction with Egyptians, I'm sure I will be able to form some comparisons. (less)
I really enjoyed this book, an honest and frank look into life in the federal prison system. Piper Kerman's experiences before and during her prison s...moreI really enjoyed this book, an honest and frank look into life in the federal prison system. Piper Kerman's experiences before and during her prison sentence was both unique and average. She didn't look or act like most everyone else in prison, but her difference in background provided her with a better perspective to view the women she met in prison and the prison system as a whole. In the end, what Piper discovered was that she actually wasn't that different from the other prisoners she met. She survived on the inside not by being a lone wolf, which was how she had always pictured herself; instead, with the support of her family and friends on the outside and the assistance of the new friends she made on the inside, she built a life for herself that kept her sane that year she was locked up.
I found Piper's descriptions of prison life, her fellow inmates, and the ways that occupied themselves in the camp fascinating. Everything I knew about prison, I'd learned from movies like The Shawshank Redemption, aka, I didn't really know anything about prison. What impressed me most about Piper was her humble spirit throughout the book. She knew and admitted she had knowingly broken the law, and was prepared to pay for her crime. She knew she was extremely lucky to have so much love and support on the outside, including her family, friends, and her great lawyer. She knew her good looks, size, and ethnicity predisposed many, including guards and fellow prisoners, to like her and give her special privileges. Despite knowing all these things, Piper never took anything for granted. She knew she lived at the whims of the justice system that was flawed and guards that for the most part couldn't care less, and so she had to live carefully to survive her stay.
What Piper was clearly most critical of was the justice army stem itself, from the absurdity of locking up non-violent offenders with minimum sentences to the flexibility of the sometimes random "rules" in prison. The point of this book seems to be to draw attention to the fact that the justice system isn't doing it's job because the people in charge of running the system just don't truly care about the well being of the women and men in their care. Some of the living situations were appalling, most of the guards were either uninformed, mean, or apathetic, and the "reeducation classes" provided to inmates on their way back into society are a joke.
My favorite parts of this book were hearing about all the different characters Piper made friends with during her stay. Danbury really seemed like a family, albeit a very strange, controlling, dysfunctional family. Her friends felt like my friends, and I want to know more about them. How many are still in prison? Is Piper still in touch with any of them? What did Pop think when Piper never showed up the halfway house in Brooklyn? When I finished the book, my first thought was, "I wonder if she has a blog, so I can catch up with all these friends of mine."
In the end, other than trying to expose the terrible federal prison system (I didn't even mention ConAir, Oklahoma, or Chicago, yuck!), it seemed like that the main thesis of this book was don't try to live your life alone. Life is better when you make connections with those around you. Don't make assumptions about anyone based on their appearance, because hiding behind a rough exterior might be your new best friend. Make friends, treat your friends well, and always be grateful for what you have and the life you live. It can always get worse.(less)
Really adorable and lovable. I've always found Mindy Kaling's character on the Office, Kelly Kapoor, hilarious, and loved that she was also a writer f...moreReally adorable and lovable. I've always found Mindy Kaling's character on the Office, Kelly Kapoor, hilarious, and loved that she was also a writer for the show, but didn't really know much about her. When I saw that she had a book coming out called "Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?", I knew I had to read it, not only because she seemed like a cool person, but because I sometimes think that myself. :) Also, I knew I had to get the audiobook to listen to, because what Tina Fey has taught me is that I LOVE celebrities reading to me, especially their own books. It's like they're sitting in the car, and we're just chatting, because we are such good friends. And you know what, I think we really would be! Good friends, that is.
I loved the stories from Mindy's childhood, growing up as a studious, non-party girl, partly because her experiences in many ways mirror my own. Not that I wrote my own comedy sketches as a teenager or anything, but more that I was less consumed with boys and parties and more with things like band and reading and television. Neither of us had the stereotypical "high school" that you often see portrayed in movies and on tv, but I share Mindy's point of view on that - if high school was the highlight of your life, then that's pretty sad. If you show up at your high school reunion saying, "Remember that time in high school when..." instead of "My life is awesome! I've done this and that and gone here and there...", then you are the one that should be pitied, not the girl who didn't go to the cool parties.
I also loved the stories of Mindy's early career and how she got her big break on the office. I soooo wish I could go back and time and see her show "Matt and Ben" because it sounds awesome and amazing. Hearing about behind the scenes at the Office is especially delightful as I love that show. Particularly hilarious was the story of how she got kicked out of work one day, only to sneak back in when she realized, she loved her job and would hate to lose it. :)
My favorite story in the book is perhaps the one from her People photoshoot, not only because it's a pretty funny story, though sad and heartbreaking at times, but also because Mindy really stood up for herself. Standing up and saying, "No, I will not wear the ugly navy dress just because I'm a size 8," might not be the most revolutionary thing in the world, but the courage it takes to do that is really inspirational, and a good lesson for all of us to learn. Love yourself, and don't let anyone else take that away from you. Don't let other people minimize who you are, and stand up for what you deserve.
The only thing I wish this book had was more stories. More from Mindy's childhood, more from the Office, more from her early struggles to make it as a writer and actor. The lists of things, while hilarious at times (revenge fantasies while jogging! funniest moments in comedy! the unofficial best friend rules!) could also sometimes get confusing. Really, I just want to hang out with Mindy and have her tell me all about her life, forever, until the end of time. :) Don't worry, I'm not a stalker, so I won't actually track her down, kidnap her, and make that a reality. But, you know, if you ever come to Seattle, Mindy, I'm just saying, it would be fun to hang out. ;) That is all.(less)
In April 1999, when the attack on Columbine High School took place, I was a Senior in high school. I was in another state, 1,000 miles away, but the s...moreIn April 1999, when the attack on Columbine High School took place, I was a Senior in high school. I was in another state, 1,000 miles away, but the shooting instantly changed the way even our school operated. I remember after the attack, we starting having "school shooting drills" instead of fire drills. A special alarm sound was chosen that would alert us when someone with a gun was spotted on school grounds. When the alarm sounded, the teacher would lock the door to the classroom, cover the window on the door, and everyone would have to practice hiding under their desks and remaining silent. They just wanted to be prepared.
Like most people, I followed the case through the news, and knew the basic facts about the case. When I read a review of Dave Cullen's book, though, I realized there was a lot more to know, and I was curious.
This book is intense, detailed, and chilling, drawing you into the minds of Eric and Dylan, the 2 shooters. Finally, we get a glimpse into why they decided to shoot up their school, and shockingly, it's not what the media and the police told us 10 years ago. After the actual loss of life, I was most saddened and angered to hear about all the lies and cover-ups by the County Sheriff's department in the hours and years following the shootings. They continually lied to the media, the public, and even the families of the victims. Also, that the slow response of the police and the SWAT team eventually caused the death of one of the victims, teacher Dave Sanders, as he bled out over 3 hours in a classroom is heartbreaking to hear.
Also sad to read about was that Cassie Bernall's famous "She said Yes" moment didn't actually happen to her. The boy who thought he heard Eric ask her the question "Do you believe in God?" was mistaken - he didn't ask Cassie that at all. That question, and the subsequent answer, came from a different spot in the room entirely. After shooting and injuring a girl, and then hearing her pray to God, Dylan turned around and asked her if she believed in God. SHE said yes, and Dylan spared her life. But despite the mistake, the general consensus in the public today is that it was indeed Cassie who said those words, because that is what the media spread, and the church latched on to it.
It was particularly frightening to read that Eric & Dylan had planned on killing many more people that day - the only reason so many survived was because the bombs they planted failed to explode. Also, many more would have died if they had shot everyone they saw, instead of random people here and there. It seems bad to be thankful for these things, but I can't help feel this way.
In the end, this book is not only about the shooting, but about the minds of the boys as they prepared for it, and the aftermath in the community, as friends, family, and victims tried to cope with the life they had left.(less)
The main issue with any biography of Cleopatra is one that Schiff addresses immediately - the vast majority of what we know about her was either propa...moreThe main issue with any biography of Cleopatra is one that Schiff addresses immediately - the vast majority of what we know about her was either propaganda produced by her enemies or stories told by men that didn't like her or even know her at times. We don't really know what is true and false about her, and are left with assumptions and guesses based on the vaguest sort of outline of her life.
While telling the story of Cleopatra's life, you also have to tell the stories of both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, the most influential men in her life. Though the focus of the book is clearly Cleopatra, I was surprised by how much time was spent telling the history and fate of each of these men. I suppose their lives were just so intertwined that it was impossible to separate them. Overall, this book had a lot wider scope than I expected. I don't know that I necessarily wanted to know that much about Roman politics and war, but now I do. :) I found parts of this book a bit dry, but in the end, it covers an important part of Egyptian history. Cleopatra was one of the most powerful women in history, and I only wish we could have a better, more complete picture of who she was.(less)