Book Review #32: “Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison”

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

At the end of April, during a long weekend with Al and his parents, I found this paperback while visiting the Virginia Avenue Mall in Clarksville, Virginia. There were so many books – It was a really cool indoor, two-story flea market. I was hunting for something else, but for $4.00, I couldn’t pass this up!

I haven’t watched the series on Netflix, but I’ve always been curious about it. I knew it was based on a true story / inspired by true events, but I didn’t realize that Piper Kerman had written a book about it!

This was another book that I finished quickly, but forgot to write the review. I’m trying really hard to break this habit! I think it only took me about two weeks to read.

It was crazy to read about how Piper’s unfortunate globe-trotting escapades caught up with her several YEARS later. She was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison, and served her time in three different facilities.

Having only learned about prison from books and other media, reading a first-hand account from a woman who was not a typical inmate was eye-opening, and oddly fascinating. I say “not typical” because Piper was well-educated (She graduated from Smith College before getting involved with her criminal activities), and had an immense support system on the outside.

She did a fantastic job of painting the experience for the reader – I felt like I was right beside her the entire time. I really got to know Piper, as well as all the women around her. I went through many emotions – I laughed, I teared up, I wanted to scream. Mostly, I laughed. I personally think Piper tried to make the very best of her not-so-desirable situation, and I think she handled it really well.

I didn’t want to put the book down. I started to limit myself to only 1-2 chapters per night, because I wanted to read 5-6. It’s no wonder that this book has transformed into a successful series on Netflix.

Kerman did a great job with details, and made sure that the reader got as much of the full experience of her 15 months between Danbury, Connecticut; Oklahoma City; and Chicago as possible. It was also really interesting to go back in time, in a way, reading about headlines and news from 2003 through 2005.

She displayed a significant amount of courage by writing this book. She gives the reader an inside look into a tough place, and she does a really good job of showing honesty, sympathy, and advocacy.

I highly recommend this book. It’s definitely not the easiest read, but it really opened my eyes. I have a better understanding of what these women go through, and how those on the outside should be better about treating them. There’s still a huge stigma around incarceration, and these women deserve better.

5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #31: “The Da Vinci Code”

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

In short, I liked this book MUCH better than Angels & Demons. It was significantly shorter in length, and I got through it much faster than the first one.

I actually finished the book at the end of April, but I dove head-first into my next book and basically forgot to write this review!

This installment involving Robert Langdon was centered in Paris, with London thrown in. It was another fascinating thriller. I liked Sophie better than Vittoria, and I wasn’t as turned off. The ending was more satisfying, too.

I felt I was more interested in this story and I wanted to learn more. I wanted to read at least one chapter every night. This book was also less graphic, and it had more adventure!

The Da Vinci Code focused on cryptology, another secret society, a heavier emphasis on religion, and so many fascinating facts. Brown does a good job of balancing facts with action. Having had the opportunity to visit The Louvre, I was thrilled to see it play a big role on paper.

I don’t have a lot of criticism for this book. After my frustration with Angels & Demons, I’ve experienced renewed excitement to see what happens to Robert next. I’m actually excited to pick up book three! I’m ready to dive into The Lost Symbol very soon.

4 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Getting Personal #67: Second TBR Recap

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Image Credit: Bookicious

Welcome back!

In case you’re interested, here are the links to my previous TBR posts:


This is what I’ve read since my last update in January:

  1. The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
  2. The Whistler, John Grisham
  3. Angels & Demons, Dan Brown

And, here’s my updated list!

Laura Beth’s To Be Read (TBR) List, as of April 2017:

  1. The Language of Silence, Tiffany Truitt
  2. Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase
  3. Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  4. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
  5. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
  6. Tropic of Cancer, Henry Miller
  7. New Boy, Julian Houston
  8. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling
  9. 11/22/63, Stephen King
  10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  11. Hollow City, Ransom Riggs
  12. Library of Souls, Ransom Riggs
  13. Tales of the Peculiar, Ransom Riggs
  14. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  15. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  16. Music in My Heart: My Journey with Melody, Erin Falligant with Denise Lewis Patrick
  17. Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Emma Straub
  18. Modern Lovers, Emma Straub
  19. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  20. You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott
  21. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
  22. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  23. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
  24. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  25. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
  26. Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  27. Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson
  28. The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr
  29. Loving Day, Mat Johnson
  30. American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst, Jeffrey Toobin
  31. The Run of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Jeffrey Toobin
  32. The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future, Gretchen Bakke
  33. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J.D. Vance
  34. A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression, Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe
  35. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney
  36. Bright, Precious Days, Jay McInerney
  37. Underground Airlines, Ben Winters
  38. A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad, Del Quentin Wilber
  39. Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story (True Colors – Volume 1), Allie Marie
  40. Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, Lily Ledbetter
  41. Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  42. The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  43. Read All About It: A Kit Classic Volume 1, Valerie Tripp
  44. Turning Things Around: A Kit Classic Volume 2, Valerie Tripp
  45. Full Speed Ahead: My Journey with Kit, Valerie Tripp
  46. Autumn Street, Lois Lowry
  47. The Giver, Lois Lowry
  48. Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry
  49. Messenger, Lois Lowry
  50. Son, Lois Lowry
  51. Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  52. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  53. Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
  54. Emma, Jane Austen
  55. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
  56. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  57. The List, Patricia Forde
  58. Hello Me, It’s You, Anonymous; edited by Hannah Todd
  59. Use The Force: A Jedi’s Guide to the Law of Attraction, Joshua P. Warren
  60. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
  61. The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
  62. Inferno, Dan Brown

That’s all, for now!

I’ll publish my next TBR update / recap in July!

What have you read recently?

Happy reading!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #30: “Angels & Demons”

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Image Credit: Amazon

I originally thought The Da Vinci Code was the first book to feature Robert Langdon, but I was proven wrong!

This was a HUGE book. I wanted to finish it last week, but it was so dense that it took me until 11:00 p.m. last night to finally finish. It’s 616 pages total!


To be blunt, I have several praises, as well as several criticisms.

I was instantly drawn into Robert Langdon’s world. Brown hooked me within the first few sentences. I was along Langdon’s side from Harvard, to Switzerland, to Vatican City, to Rome. It was a bit of a whirlwind at first, and then you get plunged into the worlds of CERN,  Vatican City, the Catholic Church, history, and symbolism.

Trying to figure out the puzzle that Brown laid out kept me interested. A scientist at CERN is brutally murdered, and he has connections to both the scientific and religious communities.

I liked Vittoria Vetra almost immediately. She’s feisty, gorgeous, and a great addition to Langdon. Langdon is the main character, but there were times that Vittoria was faster, and took control, and I liked it! She’s a smart cookie, and I knew Robert would be attracted to her.

The menagerie of twists and turns made me feel like I was on a high-speed ride through Europe! It was exhilarating. There were several days where I flew through multiple chapters and dozens of pages.

I applaud Brown’s dedication and commitment to historical accuracy, and being totally up front about not fictionalizing any locations, historical figures, or places (There’s a disclaimer in the very beginning). It felt even more real!

However, I had several issues with this book. There were three particular instances where I feel Brown is almost too graphic in his writing. As an aspiring writer of fiction, I know that, at certain times, it’s necessary to be graphic to illustrate and illuminate, But, Brown’s style was too much for this reader. I almost gave up every time. I almost didn’t want to find out what happened next. Some of it almost made me sick.

But, I pressed on.

Toward the end, as the intensity was reaching its peak in Vatican City, where decisions needed to be made quickly – Brown inserted this multiple-page speech by the Camerlengo (papal chamberlain) that just dragged on and on. I got the significance – The man was addressing the cardinals at a critical point in the conclave – but it could have been much shorter! Maybe dedicate a page or two, but not five or six! I felt so impatient during that section. I wanted to skip the entire speech and get just back to the action!

Finally, I hated the ending. It felt abrupt, it felt weird, it left me hanging a bit. It wasn’t a cliffhanger, but I hated how nonchalant it felt. I won’t give it away, but I felt a bit empty when I closed the book.

My first thought was, “That’s it? That’s how you end this ridiculously long book? Wow…”

After sleeping on it, I realized this morning why he ended it the way he did, but I still wasn’t happy about it!

If you’re looking for a thriller that involves conspiracy, mystery, secret societies, art history, exploring historic sections of Europe, and learning a lot about the Catholic Church – This book is for you.

Overall, I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone for this one. I’d heard of the movies, but haven’t seen them. The first few pages of The Da Vinci Code I read about a month ago made me curious about who Robert Langdon is and how he got himself into such a twisted web of history, religion, and murder. It’s an exciting book, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him, and what happens next.

Despite my issues with Angels & Demons, I’m still motivated to read the other books with protagonist Robert Langdon – The Da Vinci Code (2003), The Lost Symbol (2009), Inferno (2013), and Origin (October 2017). Look for these reviews over the next few months.

3 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #3: John Grisham

John Grisham Quote

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

This installment of Awesome Authors covers one of my all-time favorites, John Grisham. I give partial credit to him for leading me to pursue my Paralegal Studies degree, and developing my initial interest in the field of law. I aspire to own all of his books, someday! I need to pre-order his newest book, Camino Island.

He’s smart, sharp, and he writes really good books!


The Pelican Brief (1992)

The Pelican Brief

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This was the first Grisham book I read. My own copy is well-loved. I tend to re-read it at least once or twice every year.

The movie adaptation (1993) is one of my absolute favorites! Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington were perfect co-stars.

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town (2006)

The Innocent Man

Image Credit: Wikipedia

This book sparks the clearest memory for me – I stumbled upon it in high school, at the Chesapeake library, probably right after it was published. I love true crime stories, so I remember flying through it. I have my own copy, so I’ll probably re-read it at some point in the near future.

The Whistler (2016)

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Image Credit: Amazon

You can check out my review of Grisham’s latest work here:

A Time to Kill (1989)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I don’t remember when I first read it, but I didn’t realize it was his first novel until much later!

Theodore Boone series (2010-present)

I have some catching up to do, but I’ve read Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer (2010), and Theodore Boone: The Abduction (2011) thus far. I found both of them at the Chesapeake libraries, and I’m working on getting copies of all six books.

I need to read Theodore Boone: The Accused (2012), Theodore Boone: The Activist (2013), Theodore Boone: The Fugitive (2015), and Theodore Boone: The Scandal (2016).

Theo is a good kid, and Grisham is a decent writer for kids!

A large number of Grisham’s novels / original works have been adapted for the screen:

  1. The Firm (1993 film, 2011-2012 TV series)
  2. The Pelican Brief (1993)
  3. The Client (1994 film, 1995-1996 TV series)
  4. The Chamber (1996)
  5. A Time to Kill (1996 film, 2011 stage play)
  6. The Rainmaker (1997)
  7. The Gingerbread Man (manuscript, 1998)
  8. A Painted House (2003 TV movie)
  9. Runaway Jury (2003)
  10. The Street Lawyer (2003 TV pilot)
  11. Mickey (2004)
  12. Skipping Christmas (Christmas with the Kranks, 2004)
  13. The Associate (TBA)
  14. The Testament (TBA)
  15. Calico Joe (TBA)

He’s also published four collections of short stories, and three works of non-fiction.


What about you? Have you read any of John Grisham’s books?

Come back in late April for another installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Book Review #29: “The Whistler”

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Image Credit: Amazon

This was another book that I picked up with the generous Barnes and Noble gift card from my parents. John Grisham has always been one of my favorite authors – I give partial credit to his writing for getting me interested in the legal field!

When I bought this book, this marked one of the first times I bought an author’s newest book within a few months of its release. With Grisham, I’ve typically found copies of his books at libraries and thrift stores. However, as I’m wrapping up my Paralegal Studies degree, I’m finding that I want to read as many new legal-themed books as I can get my hands on, even if it is fiction.

The Whistler is a powerful thriller, full of twists and turns. I liked the setup of the Board on Judicial Conduct (BJC) – Grisham followed a different angle of the legal profession with this one. 

I liked Lacy and Hugo working together. I’m partial to books set in Florida, too.

No spoilers – But there’s a big bombshell almost smack in the middle of the book that made me stop reading for almost a whole week. It was too painful!

To be honest, I almost gave up on the book altogether.

However, once I picked up the pieces from the bombshell and soldiered on, it got better. At the end, I felt it was a very long book. I thought it could have been about 100 pages shorter. There were several characters that weren’t crucial to the overall story, and they muddied the waters quite a bit. It got a bit confusing to keep up with, and that always bothers me with novels.

Despite a few pitfalls, I liked the structure of the book. When I got completely engrossed, it was really hard to put the book down. I found myself flying through 4-6 chapters for several nights in a row!

Grisham disappointed me a bit with this latest work, but The Whistler had enough drama, mystery, and intrigue to keep me interested!

3.5 out of 5 stars.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Awesome Authors #2: Lois Lowry

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Image Credit: QuotesGram

This installment of Awesome Authors is all about Lois Lowry. She is a prolific writer. Fun fact: She lived at Fort Jay on Governors Island for a while, which is where I lived for the first two years of my life!

She’s written over 30 books!


A Summer to Die (1977)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I can’t remember when I first read this one (probably in high school), but it’s always stuck with me. This is one book that I think about often, and I definitely want to get my own copy. Without fail, I always cry when I read this one.

Anastasia series (1979-1995)

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Image Credit: Amazon

I loved these books as a kid! They were so funny. There are nine books in all.

Lowry also wrote a four-book series about Anastasia’s brother, Sam (1988-1999).

Number The Stars (1989)

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Image Credit: Amazon

I was assigned to read this in either fourth or fifth grade; I can’t remember which one. At the time, I struggled immensely in understanding this book. I remember how frustrated I was with the quizzes and tests on it!

A few years later, I re-read it, and it struck me how she beautifully told the story of a little girl in a tragic time. This is a hard book for me to re-read, but I have read it multiple times. I find that I gain a greater appreciation for it each time I do.

The Giver (1993)

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Image Credit: Amazon

Confession: I’ve never read this book the whole way through. I started and stopped several times while I was in school. The last time I tried, I think I was in high school.

However, I watched the movie adaptation (2014) with Al last year, and seeing that inspired me to finally read it all the way through. It’s on my TBR!

The other thing I learned, in researching for this post, is there’s actually a full quartet of books:

  1. The Giver
  2. Gathering Blue
  3. Messenger
  4. Son

The whole quartet’s going on my list.

I’m also a big fan of the Dear America / My Name is America / The Royal Diaries books – I want to own all of them, someday. Because of this post, I just realized that Lowry wrote Dear America: Like The Willow Tree (2011).

Another book of hers that I want to read is Autumn Street (1980).


What about you? Have you read any of Lois Lowry’s books?

Come back in late March for another installment of Awesome Authors!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂