Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman

book_orange-is-the-new-blackIf you own Netflix or don’t live under a rock, you have certainly heard of a recently popular show: Orange is the New Black. What not everyone knows is that the show was inspired by a novel called Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison. As a fan of the show myself, I was dying to know what was true and what wasn’t. The book answered some of those questions for me and also provided a bit of a surprise.

Piper Kerman was in her 20’s when she fell head over heals for a woman named Nora. Nora was exciting, adventurous, flirty…and a drug dealer. Piper knew these things and eventually, she took on a task for Nora: smuggling drug money. It was a one time event and eventually Piper left that life behind and began to settle down with a man named Larry. Fast forward 10 years and the law has caught up with Piper and her old drug offense. She is sentenced to a little over a year in a women’s prison. This memoir chronicles many brave and inspiring women that she meets, the trials that she faces and the problems with our prison system today.

This book was way more than I expected. Having seen the show, I thought it would be about crazy stories of prison life. And while yes, it is stories of prison life, it is really eye-opening. Piper gives us a look into what prisoners really face every day and asks the tough questions: Do these people deserve this? Is there a better way? How are we failing prisoners? These are things that the average person never has to think about but really, we should. Our tax dollars go towards housing prisoners and our society is made up of ex-convicts. Is locking these people up enough or should we be doing more? And how should prisoners really be treated? I give this book a 5 out of 5. I have really begun to think about these answers for myself and I hope this book will make you think too!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

landlineI have been looking at this book for quite some time. After finding out that Rowell has published some adult fiction, I knew that I had to read it. So yes, this is my second Rowell book this summer but there is no shame in that!

Georgie has always dreamed of writing and producing her own show…and that dream is about to happen. Unfortunately for Georgie, though, in order to make this dream happen, it means not joining her husband and two kids on their family trip to Omaha for Christmas. Everything seems to be okay at first but Georgie quickly realizes that her husband, Neal, isn’t happy with her. In an attempt to try to repair things, she calls Neal from an old rotary phone in her childhood home but the person who picks up on the other line isn’t who she expected… This phone seems to take Georgie to the past. Is there any way she can fix her marriage? Or does interfering with the past make more problems?

This book is a fast, fun read. If you are looking for a summer read for the pool or beach, this is definitely for you! Like all of Rowell’s books, you will find that the characters are unique and slightly quirky. They are a couple you can relate to and a marriage you can look up to. It’s real. It’s raw. I give this book a 5 out of 5. I was captivated by this relationship. I loved that the romance wasn’t a stereotypical/fantasy marriage. Despite this, the book was still upbeat and hopeful. Rowell has once again impressed me.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

dark-places-book-coverBy now we have all heard of Gone Girl and the name “Gillian Flynn” might even send shivers down your spine. At least, it does for me. A while back I read Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects and it gave me literal nightmares. I swore off reading Dark Places but eyeballed it on the shelf at every bookstore I visited hoping one day I could muster up the courage. Well, World, I finally did it.

Libby Day was a little girl when her mother and two sisters were massacred in her family home. Libby escaped and her brother, Ben, was charged with the murders. Years later, Lyle, a member of a “Kill Club” which investigates and looks into famous murders, asks Libby to answer questions for some of its members. Libby wouldn’t normally do this type of thing but the “pity money” she earned when the crime went viral is running out and Lyle is offering compensation. Now, the memories Libby has refused to touch and the questions she never asked are at the surface and Libby isn’t prepared for what she sees.

If you have read any of Flynn’s novels or even seen the movie Gone Girl, then you know that Flynn has a wicked imagination. If you are squeamish, if you hate cussing, if you don’t like vulgar things – back away now. Seriously. If you like an author that will make you cringe and uncomfortable in your seat: welcome. Honestly, though, I really enjoyed this book. I read it in exactly four days, it was such a page-turner. I found it to be less terrifying than Sharp Objects but it definitely had Flynn’s typical disturbing imagery. That is what makes her books so raw, however. I think in a way, it can be refreshing. Not many authors are able to describe things the way she does. Essentially, she has a strong literally voice. I give this book a 5 out of 5. I was left with no disappointments. If you love a mystery, this one is for you. You may even be able to spot the killer!

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

vanishinggirlsWhen I was in high school, I read Lauren Oliver’s book Before I Fall and it literally helped change me. At the time I struggled with a lot of anxiety and something about the book really spoke to me. Of course, when I came across another one of Oliver’s novels, I was hoping to be just as impressed and inspired. It was big shoes to fill but Oliver lived up to it.

Nick and Dara have lived their entire lives together and wouldn’t redo a single moment of it. They are sisters, after all, and they are best friends. That is until Dara falls for Parker. And before the accident. And before Madeline Snow went missing. Now, the sisters hardly speak. What would it take to reunite these sisters?

Ugh. That was painful. I have to be so cautious to not give anything away! First of all, this book reads really fast. You will be flipping endlessly. Not only is it engaging, but you can tell there is a mystery. If you really pay attention, you can even begin to catch when characters offer up hints. The ending is a twister, however, and you may not see it coming. Now, I’ll admit, the ending was surprising but it wasn’t like “OMG no author has ever done this before!!” Because been there, read that. BUT, I love Oliver’s insight. I would be lying if I said I didn’t tear up. Oliver does what she does best in this novel, which is connecting to real life situations. Making us really think and feel things that we’ve never thought/felt before. It is powerful. I give this book a 4 out of 5. These aren’t characters you will love but it is a story you can feel for and say, “yes, I understand you.” Your heart will ache with this story because Oliver places you right in their shoes.

Lock In by John Scalzi

lockinscalziAfter a long period of time, I finally picked up another Sci-Fi book! When I first discovered my love of reading, sic-fi was my go-to genre. I love the inventive worlds and the escape it provides. After seeing many good reviews of Scalzi’s Lock In, I let myself rediscover the joy that sic-fi brings me.

It is Agent Shane’s first week on the job as an FBI agent and already, things are out of hand. In a world where meningitis has caused altered brains and, in some cases, locks people into their own bodies, there is a shift in the way that people live. While some humans are never affected, those who experience lock in must use threeps or robots to get around. Things seem great until the government decides to cut down on the funding which supported people who lived with the illness. Now, things have done awry. Strange events begin to occur. People are dying. Can Shane and his partner, Vann, discover what’s happening before it is too late?

So, I did the best with the summary. In all honesty, you can’t even begin to describe this book in one paragraph. There is so much background information, BUT that is what makes this book so great. This book is definitely a page-turner. The chapters seem to fly by and you find yourself quickly immersed in their world. The only challenge I found with this novel is there are a lot of characters introduced very quickly. At times, I found myself confused with all the different names and felt a little lost. However, most of the time, Scalzi made it easy for the reader to follow along. Because of this, I give the book a 4 out of 5. This is one of those books you won’t regret picking up and, actually, it will get you thinking. At least, it got me thinking! Technology can be a scary thing…