Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles follows twenty five year old Katey Kontent, a working class New Yorker, as she sets out in the male-oriented society of 1937 to make a life for herself. She inadvertently finds herself becoming friends with the the upper echelons of New York society and meets Tinker Grey, a handsome banker,who she becomes smitten with. She will soon find out that all is not as it seems.

This insomniac's opinion:

I found this novel to be quite agreeable. I truly enjoyed the main character, Katey Kontent and her ferocity and general disdain for the treatment of women in 1930's society. I have to say, though, that her name was more suitable for that of a low-class stripper than a strong female character. It is rare that I enjoy a female character who is written by a male author, so that was a very pleasant surprise. There were several small twists in the story that I did not see coming and I enjoyed the plot as a whole.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. This is one of those books that I devoured for the first half, and moved much slower during the second half for me. So, maybe stay up to read the first half and leave the last half for tomorrow!

Rating: 4 stars

Want to add this to your Goodreads shelf?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson is a true story about a grown woman trying to find happiness after a screwed up childhood.

I'm on a quest. Not a dangerous Indiana Jones type quest, but a quest to find as many nonfiction books in which the parents of the author raised them in awful, sad or simply whackadoo ways. I'm going to collect said books and keep them in a chest in the house, unknown to my children. Then someday, when my children are teenagers, and they start to think I am awful- I will pounce! I will gather these books from the secret chest and force my ungrateful spawn to read them. Then, only after they have read at least several of these books, I will say to them "See, see how gloriously wonderful your mother is?" This book is going in the chest, my friends.

This insomniac's opinion:

I enjoyed this book(as much as one can enjoy hearing about a young girl whose parents did not love her as they should). I admired the author's ability to stay optimistic even under dreary circumstances. Even in the worst of times, she is able to find humor. The book is yet another example of why we need care for those who are mentally ill. As a nurse, I found myself diagnosing her mother with a myriad of mental illnesses. I hope that Ms. Winterson has continued to find peace in her life and understand that she was deserving of much more as a child.

Worth staying up all night to read?

I certainly think the book is worth reading, but it couldn't hold my interest for long periods of time. I read it piecemeal over a couple of weeks.

Rating: 3 stars

Want to add this to your Goodreads shelf?

Leave a comment if you know the perfect book for my chest o' horrors....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Anatomy of Wings

The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee follows Jennifer Day, a young Australian girl reeling after the death of her older sister, Beth, and certain that the answer to her sister's death and her own lost singing voice will be found in a small box of Beth's possessions. This book alternates between the months leading to Beth's death and the months after, as Jennifer and her friend try to unravel the mystery of Beth's last days.

This Insomniac's opionion:

Okay, okay- I have a confession to make. I purchased this book solely based on the recommendation on the back cover. Because the recommendation wasn't made by just anyone, it was made by Markus Zusak! If you don't know who Markus Zusak is, I am going to do you a great, big, whopping favor- get yourself to the nearest library/bookstore/friend who has a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and read it. Bam! Your life has been changed- you can thank me later! Unfortunately, this little gamble of mine didn't really pay off, as I didn't really dig this book all that much. If you are wondering what Mr. Zusak's recommendation said, here it is: "Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished, just to stay near it. The Anatomy of Wings is one of those books." Really Markus(I can call you Markus, right? I'm sure you stay up on date on my blog in your spare time.)? Really? You would need an IV drip of Prozac and constant sunshine to ensure that you do not become suicidal if you dwell on this book for too long. I realize that "Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness"was actually a Smashing Pumpkins album(only spelled Mellon Collie, because that of course if much more cool), but it would have been a PERFECT title for this book! It is a depressing downward spiral of a teenage girl who makes mistake after mistake and ruins not only her life, but the lives of those around her. I am a mother of two little girls and this book had me constructing elaborate plans for the sound-proof rooms that I could lock my daughters in for the duration of their teenage years. So, while this book was surely well written, I did not enjoy it. In fact, it was painful to read and left me in a funk.

I just realized how long the above paragraph was. Apparently I can have very strong feeling regarding mediocre books- who knew?

Worth staying up all night for?

Uh, no. But, if you do crack open a bottle of wine to numb your emotions.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars- 3 instead of 2 for the supreme ability to be able to change my mood dramatically while reading- that is a talent, my friends!

Want to add it to your Goodreads shelf? (Please, please make sure you are not on the verge of suicidal ideation if so, this may push you right over the edge!)

If you

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford follows Henry Lee, a Chinese American, from the 1940s to 1986(going back and forth frequently between the 40s and the 80s). Henry, a recent widow, begins remembering his long lost friendship with Keiki, a Japanese American that he had known during his boyhood. Soon he finds himself on a journey to find a long-lost object whose value is immeasurable.

This insomniac's opinion:

Oh, what a lovely novel! It is written in the most eloquent and moving way. From the very beginning of the book you find yourself swept up into Henry's world and desperately hoping that he finds what he is looking for. For the truth is, Henry is not only looking for a beloved object, he is searching for truth and love.

This book takes place in(if you have read this blog you can probably guess what is coming!) the World War II era, with particular emphasis on the treatment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor. I have long felt that the placement of Japanese Americans in internment camps during the war is a subject that we as Americans do not face enough. It is deplorable that we shamed the Nazis for the placement of Jews in concentration camps while doing the same egregious deeds here on American soil. I thought this novel dealt with this perfectly. We can not learn from our mistakes until we first face them.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Absolutely! The love story of Henry and Keiko is one of my absolute favorite love stories. Their love is based not on appearance or societal acceptance, but on the true connection of two souls. The last scene of this novel will make your heart swoon!

Rating: 5 stars

Wildflower Hill

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman was a very enjoyable read. The story follows Emma, a prima ballerina in London, whose injured knee just ended her career. After returning home to Australia, Emma learns of a mysterious inheritance left to her by her grandmother. Emma's story intertwines with that of her grandmother, Beattie, as Emma discovers secrets of her grandmothers life- and in doing so realizes how she wants to live her own life.

This insomniacs opinion:

This year's reads are changing my view on dual-narrated novels. The two narrators in this book, Beattie and Emma, both were believable and enjoyable characters and I loved them both. Generally, I feel bored by one of the narrators but that was not the case with this book. I loved Beattie's bravery and strength in living the life that she wanted even in a time period which did not embrace women doing so. I also loved Emma's journey to find her true self after her dreams appeared to be lost. So, long story short- enjoyable and lovely novel!

Worth staying up to read?

Yes! I know that once Beattie's story started to unravel, I couldn't wait to hear the rest!

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I know what you all are thinking right now....she is reading ANOTHER book about the World War II era??? Yes, yes- I am, or was, as it were. And, what a grand book it was!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows takes place on the island of Guernsey just following World War II. Juliet Ashton, a writer, is looking for her next subject. She finds it in a letter from a man she's never before met, from Guernsey, the British island that had previously been occupied by the Nazis. This book is entirely made up of a series of letters from many people, in which the amazing story of the Guernsey occupation come to light.

This insomniac's opinion:

An absolutely delightful read. Even when dealing with a very serious subject matter this book is full of heart and humor. It also made me long for the days of long letters via snail mail. How I long for Juliet to not be a fictional character so that we may become beloved pen pals!

Worth staying up to read?

Absolutely! Warn your spouse that your reading light may stay on all night long....

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Crystal Cove

I received an advance reading copy of  Crystal Cove by Lisa Kleypas as a Goodreads First Read.

I have to say that this is not necessarily the type of book that I generally gravitate to. It is pretty heavy on the romance with a bit of a cliched male character(dark, brooding and handsome). In this book, Justine(a natural born witch) realizes that someone has cast a spell on her and she is unable to fall in love. As she works to break the spell, the mysterious Jason Black comes into her life. You can see where this is all going, right?

This insomniac's opinion:

This was a great light read and I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. I liked the author's writing style and and the paranormal aspects were subtle, for the most part. There were some pretty steamy sex scenes, so best to avoid this if that is not your thing(or place it at the top of your to-read list if is is, indeed, your thing- you know who you are!).

Worth staying up to read?

Yes, this would be a great light read for the beach or a relaxing weekend.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Lover's Dictionary

I'm pretty sure that The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan is one of those books that readers either love or hate, with very few in the middle. It was written in a very unique and creative way- the entire book is a series of dictionary entries, with words in alphabetical order. In the definition of these words is written the story of a couple's love.

This insomniac's opinion:

I love words. Really, I do. I get a secret thrill when I find a new word and practice it in my head until I get the chance to use it. I have been known to peruse dictionaries and thesauruses(for fun!). And, the quickest way into my heart is to use a word that I am unfamiliar with in the course of conversation with me. So a book titled The Lover's Dictionary seemed perfect for me.

I loved this book. It is a very quick read(about an hour and a half for me) and reads beautifully, like poetry. The author's observations on life and love were astute and I found myself reading several pages over and over again because they so resonated with how I feel about the world. I do think that this novel is not for everyone. But, it certainly was a great book for me!

Worth staying awake to read?

Yes, and it is short enough that you will still have time for a full night's sleep! Hooray!

The Soldier's Wife

I'm a sucker for novels that are set during World War II. Strange, but true. So, it was natural for me to gravitate to The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy. This book revolves around Vivienne de la Mare, a young mother caring for her daughters and ill mother-in-law while her husband is away at war. The small island that they live on, Guernsey, is taken by the Germans and they must learn to live beside them and follow the rules set for them by the occupation forces. Slowly, Vivienne develops a friendship with a German soldier,Gunther, which soon develops into a love affair, which will have consequences for everyone.

This insomniac's opinion:

This book was so beautifully written. It was written in a very lush and sensual way. The description of life on the island, even after the occupation, was slow and languid, much like a lazy summer's day. I was immediately sucked into the story and the story stayed compelling to the very end. The only thing about the book that I did not like was that the main character, Vivienne, was very rash and constantly making stupid decisions. It seemed that I was constantly cursing her decisions in this novel. Of course, without Vivienne's lousy decisions there would not have been much drama in the book, so this was easily forgiven.

I know that many of my bookworm friends, particularly married women, refuse to read books that involve infidelity. If this is you, this would definitely not be the book for you. This sentiment always surprises me, as infidelity certainly happens often in everyday life and I don't feel that by reading a book about infidelity, that I am supporting it in any way. With this said, I did feel that the author made this infidelity okay for the character by telling us about her husband's infidelity and about the Gunther's sad relationship with his wife. This seems to be a common theme in books written about cheating spouses and it always causes me to frown a bit. If one chooses to cheat, it is unfair to lay the blame on the other spouse. The illicit relationship is, indeed, the center of this passionate novel and I did find myself rooting for them to find a way to be together.

Worth staying awake to read?

Yes! I truly enjoyed Margaret Leroy's writing style and this book felt much like a warm summer's breeze during this cold Iowa winter.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blackberry Winter

In Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio we meet two Seattle women. The first, Vera Ray, is a single mother in 1933 whose son, Daniel, goes missing in the midst of a May snowstorm(known as a blackberry winter storm). The second, Claire Aldridge, is also a Seattle woman but in the year 2010. Claire is a journalist covering a freak May snowstorm that is happening in Seattle. She finds out that there was a similar snowstorm that hit the city in 1933 and decides to include this information in her article. Upon investigating her story,Claire happens upon the story of Vera and Daniel Ray and becomes obsessed with solving the mystery.

This insomniac's opinion:

Ugh.This is one of those books where the reviews seem unilaterally great, but I just did not enjoy it. This is yet another case of the dreaded "dual narrator syndrome." You know- where you just adore the story of one narrator and am bored to tears with the other and find yourself speed reading through the boring narration to get to the fascinating one? I loved Vera's story and liked her character. Of course, as a mother myself, I desperately wanted her to find her son, Daniel.Claire, on the the other hand, just did not resonate with me. I found her to be insipid and whiny and her character to be just plain unreal. Everywhere Claire goes another piece of the puzzle just falls into her lap in an absolutely unbelievable way. She doesn't really have to do any work at all other than give herself frequent pats on the back to reward herself for being such a wonderful investigative journalist. Again, ugh. The ending is saccharin sweet and when the mystery is unraveled, it is truly unbelievable and not grounded in reality.

Worth staying up to read?

Not unless you really like mediocre chick-lit.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (again, no half stars allowed on Goodreads, darn it!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dark Places

In Dark Places by Gillian Flynn we meet Libby Day, whose mother and two sisters were murdered when she was a young girl. Her testimony helped to convict her older brother, Ben, of the murders. Twenty-five years later, Libby questions if he was truly the murderer and embarks on a quest to find the truth.

This insomniac's opinion:

The title for this book ,Dark Places, is absolutely appropriate. This book is incredibly bleak and twisted. This is the second Gillian Flynn novel that I have read(Gone Girl being the first). I am sure the real "dark place" must be inside Gillian Flynn's mind. I have a distinct urge to break into her brain, power wash the cobwebs out until it is sparkling clean and paint the walls yellow(you're welcome, Ms. Flynn!). So, be warned, ask your doctor to call in a temporary anti-depressant and/or sleeping pill script while you tackle this book(or do what I did and crack open a bottle of wine!).

I'm not sure what adjective to use to describe my feeling about the book. I can't really say enjoyed, because it's not a book that makes you feel warm and fuzzy. But, it was incredibly compelling and well-written. I read it over two days(and believe me when I tell you that I could not sleep on the night in between!) and wanted to know who the killer was so badly that I was tempted to flip to the end. Gillian Flynn has an uncanny knack for building suspension and adding in twists that even the seasoned reader didn't see coming.

Worth  staying awake for?

Yes! And, if you are like me- it will definitely keep you awake at night!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars for an absolutely twisted, freaky romp through the dark mind of Gillian Flynn.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Family Pictures

I won an advanced reader's edition of this novel through Goodreads Firstreads.

What's it about? 

Family Pictures by Jane Green is a story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined. Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school. They're both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like. They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected. But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart. As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves?

This insomniac's opinion:

 Overall, this was an enjoyable read. It was well written and had an interesting subject matter. I did have two grievances with this book Firstly, I knew exactly what the plot twist was going to be from the very beginning of the book.In fact, you may have already guessed it by reading the above blurb. However, I still felt anticipation at when and how the the twist would happen and did not expect some of the ramifications that happen after the twist. Secondly, there were two many subplots which felt hastily wrapped up near the end. I did really love the ending, even as unbelievable as it was. For light reading that won't overtax your mind, this book is a good pick.

Worth staying awake for?

 Yes, if you are in the mood for light reading.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars(4 on Goodreads, because it deserves to be rounded up instead of down. Goodreads staff- please, please, please give us a half star option!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sugar in the Blood: A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire

I received an Advance Reader's Copy of this book through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review.

I was very excited to get a copy of Sugar in the Blood:A Family's Story of Slavery and Empire by Andrea Stuart. I really wanted to like this book. I have a huge amount of respect for the massive expanse of research that the author must have undertaken in the writing of this book. It is evident, in every single page, that she very thoroughly researched the time period and every aspect of her ancestors lives. Unfortunately, it was nearly painful to read. It is not well-written and feels like reading a textbook for your least favorite class. If you are fascinated with the sugar industry in the 1600's and don't mind slogging though a text-book style book, this is the book for you. If not, skip this book and keep those precious hours(many hours!) of your time that you can never get back.

Final rating: 2 out of 5 stars. I am being generous with the stars, because I truly am impressed by the amount of research done by the author.

Ready Player One

Warning: Only read this book if you are fully comfortable with your inner geek! This book is highly addictive nerd candy, and once you get your first taste you can't stop reading!

I'll be honest here and tell you that I would have never read this book if it had not been recommended and given to me by a friend(Shout out to Krissy here!). I am not a gamer and video games seemed to be a big part of this book. However, I am a child of the 80's and the references to the culture that I grew up in did seem intriguing. So, I gave the book a try- and I am soooo glad that I did!

Brief Summary: Wade Watts is a teenager in the dystopian realm of 2044. Much of the time of Wade(and everyone else) is awake is spent on OASIS, a virtual utopia where humans can interact with each other without ever actually coming face to face. Wade's real life is spent in a bleak, poverty stricken and dangerous environment, as there is a great recession and energy crisis affecting the entire planet. OASIS is the respite from this bleak world that everyone needs. The creator of OASIS dies, leaving a cryptic message which, when unravelled, will lead to the discovery of a very well-hidden "Easter egg" within OASIS. Whomever finds this egg will be the heir to the massive fortune and will have complete control of OASIS. Let the roller coaster adventure begin!

I truly loved this book. I read it through in one sitting. I was absolutely delighted by all of the 80's references, which is the decade that I grew up in. I was shocked to found that how much I enjoyed the video game aspect of the book. The riddles and quests are so well done that I found myself forgetting that I am not a gamer. In fact,the riddles and the quests were reminiscent of Indiana Jones to me, except set in the 80's and much, much nerdier(you didn't think there were things much nerdier than Indiana Jones, did you?). I found myself carrying my e-reader with me so that I could read all evening, even through the family dinner(Sorry, Mom!).

Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars(although Goodreads doesn't allow 1/2 stars, darn it,so 5 stars there) for the pure, addictive, nostalgic romp that is this book.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chanel Bonfire

Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless was a challenging book to read. It is the true story of the childhood of Ms.Lawless, whose mother suffered from mental illness and took out the brunt of her anger and sadness on her two daughters, Wendy and Robbie. As a mother, I cringed as I read the horrors that this mother subjected her daughters to. Their mother, Georgann, cared only for herself and dragged the girls from home to home on only a moments notice. She cared only of appearances and kept the girls in fancy clothes, but always withheld love. There are so many horrifying stories in this novel. Georgann lying to them about their father not caring for them and not allowing them to see him for 10 years was possibly the worst. But, sleeping with their high school crushes, giving away their Christmas presents because they weren't appreciative enough and telling them that they would all be better off dead are just a few of her endless offenses.

The book was very well written. I read the book in a single sitting because I could not tear myself away and not know what would happen next. It was an unforgettable, searing novel about the high cost of mental illness, not only to the person suffering but also to those around them. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars and, if you like roller coaster reads, this one is for you!

On a lighter note, I think I will purchase a copy of this book to keep. Then when I am having a bad Mommy day, I can take out the book and read a scene or two. Then I will know, without a doubt,that in comparison to Georgann Rea, I am the most wonderful mother that ever walked the Earth! And also, I will  never wear a blue nightgown again!

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

The Autobiography of Mrs.Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin was a hard book for me to rate. This book has been on my to-read list for quite some time and I was excited to read it. As a pediatric nurse who has worked with special needs children, I am equally fascinated and disgusted by the way that "oddities" were treated during this time period. This book was eye-opening for me in many ways.

In this book, Melanie Benjamin weaves the historical information regarding Mercy Lavinia "Vinnie" Warren Bump(better known as Mrs. Tom Thumb) into a well-written piece of fiction. Vinnie was only two feet, eight inches tall and came to fame first as an "oddity" on a traveling barge on the Mississippi river and,more memorably, traveling with the infamous Mr. Phineas Barnum. At the time of her wedding to the equally petite General Tom Thumb, Vinnie was the most famous woman in America.

I decided on a rating of 3 out of 5 stars for this book. I really vacillated on my feelings regarding the book as I read it. On one hand, Melanie Benjamin obviously did extensive research and seamlessly blended the research into a book of fiction that felt very real and was easy to read. On the other hand, I just could not, as hard as I tried, like the main character-Vinnie. I wanted so badly to like her and I felt enormously for her struggles. However, she only thought of herself, never of those around her. She had a desperate need for fame and I felt that this came before everything else, even family and friends. By the end of the book I was simply frustrated with her and could not feel any further compassion.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I found The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce to be an absolutely delightful read! What seems to be a rather simple, mundane story of a middle aged  man walking many miles to see a dying friend slowly transforms into a story of love, connection to others and, above all, forgiveness.

Summary: Harold, a middle-aged retired man in a stale marriage, receives a postcard informing him that a former co-worker and friend, Queenie, is dying in a hospice home. He heads to the mailbox to mail a reply, instead finding himself embarking on an epic journey to visit his friend. Throughout his journey, he meets people who inspire him to look at his life in a completely different way.

This book is written so very simply that I fear many readers may turn up their noses and choose not to read it. However, I believe that much of the beauty in this novel is indeed the sheer, wonderful simplicity. How many times in our lives have we set out on what appears to be a "normal" day only to have our lives turned upside down by an occurrence or a revelation? I found myself cheering Harold on throughout the books ups and downs, desperately wishing for him to reach Queenie and receive his miracle. There are few characters in the hundreds(ahem, thousands?) of novels I have read in my lifetime which touched me the way that Harold did. I do believe I will tuck him into my heart and take him with me on the rest of my life's journey.

Quote of the book(Extraordinarily hard to choose!): "Harold could no longer pass a stranger without acknowledging the truth that everyone was the same, and also unique, and that this was the dilemma of being human."

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

It is probably best if I preface this review with a warning. In fact, quite a few warnings. But, first and foremost- IF YOU ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THE WORD "VAGINA" DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. And, it might be best not to read the rest of this review. Because you simply cannot review this book without saying the word vagina. See how may times I've already said it? To give you some perspective on how often Jenny Lawson uses the word in her book- I was an OB nurse for three years, and in those three years I am pretty sure that I did not hear the word vagina as often as she uses it in this book. Before reading this book it is best to also make sure that you are comfortable reading about all kinds of socially inappropriate humor, taxidermy, artificial cow insemination, the f-word(and every other swear word known to man),drug use,...ah, heck let's just say if you are easily or moderately offended, this may not be the book for you.

However, if you are still interested in reading this book and love a good laugh- you are in for a treat! Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson(also known as The Bloggess) is a hilarious, laugh-out loud journey through the author's crazy life. Even though she is often telling socially inappropriate and just plain crazy stories, throughout the entire book I was thinking to myself how fantastic it would be to be friends with her. Life could never be boring with Jenny Lawson around. Sadly, I am not actually friends with the author. It's a good thing that reading this book is the next best thing.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars. Not because it is Steinbeck quality literature, but because it made me laugh: uproariously, stomach-grabbing, hope-my-bladder-isn't-full laughter. And that is worth a heck of a lot,my friends!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Best Kept Secret

Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany is a book about Cadence, a young mother who is newly divorced and finds herself drinking far too much. Very quickly her life spirals out of control as loses herself(and her life) into the darkness of alcoholism. The reader follows Cadence on her journey to hitting rock-bottom and through the recovery that brings her back to herself.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I truly enjoyed the book and all of the characters. It felt believable and didn't sensationalize the disease of alcoholism or the treatment process. I devoured this book in one sitting and for a book that was predominately bleak, I was uplifted by the ending.

Favorite quote of the book - " Cancer is tangible. People feel compassion for you if you get cancer. Not so much if you're an alcoholic. And a mother who drinks? Forget it. Straight to hell. Big fat scarlet letter branded on our foreheads for life. Me and Hester Prynne? Same letter, different sins."

The 19th Wife

This book is this month's pick for my book club. When I saw the title, and realized that this was a book about polygamy, I got a little excited(weird,I know). I have a strange fascination with polygamy and in specific, sister wives. Maybe it's just the fact that I am an exhausted mother of three talking, here. But, the idea of having other women to share the burden of the housework, childcare and all of the other millions of things that need to be done(your husband wants some extracurricular after-dark marital bonding and you're too tired- send him over to the next bedroom...guilt-free!) sounds, well- freaking amazing! Of course, I must be the first wife. You know...the one in charge. Then, I am reminded of the fact that these women actually have to like, live with me. And that our menstrual cycles will synchronize and we will all be PMSing at the same time! Oh, the horror- daydream over!

Whew! You didn't expect to hear about my disturbing views regarding sister wives on a book blog, did you? On to the book...

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff is a story told by dual narrators - Ann Eliza Young(a fictional character based on a true woman- the 19th wife of Brigham Young in the late 1800s) and Jordan Scott, a modern day young man who has been thrown out of the fundamentalist polygamist sect he has grown up in. Jordan spends the entirety of the book investigating the murder of his father, determined to set his mother(whose been accused of the murder) free. Jordan's search for the true killer of his father intertwines with Ann Eliza's narrative of her journey out polygamy.

I vacillated about how to rate this book. For the first half of the book, I was loving and relishing reading it. Unfortunately, the second half felt tedious, and I felt that the author was giving far too many details about inconsequential things. In fact, the last few chapters felt like work, and I was ready to move on to the next book in my library bag. Still, I think it is a book work reading. David Ebershoff is a talented writer and accomplishes the rare feat of having two narrators whose stories are both equally compelling. I certainly think that this story is relevant today in light of the horrific stories coming out of polygamous sects around the country. I just wish the book had been about a hundred pages and a few characters lighter. Goodreads rating - 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

If you are any kind of reader, I have some advice for you. Stop whatever it is that you are doing for the rest of the day and run to the bookstore to pick up a copy of The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. Come home,put on your favorite jammy pants and fuzzy socks and snuggle in for a life-changing read. Well, what are you still doing here? Okay, okay- I suppose you can read this post first.

I read much,much more fiction than non-fiction. I always have and probably always will. I do not usually read a non-fiction book without a fervent recommendation from a friend. When I saw my Goodreads buddies all rating this with five stars, I knew that I must jump on the ole bandwagon and read this book. I am so glad that I did.

The author of this book and his mother, Mary Anne, begin a book club to pass the time as she is treated for terminal pancreatic cancer. Both the author and his mother were avid readers, but had never intentionally read the same books and discussed them. It is through their shared love of books and this book club that the two become incredibly close and learn things about the other that they never before knew. This was one of the most profoundly moving books that I have ever read and the author's love of his incredible mother and his great love of books is evident in every, single page. A bonus to this book is that they read so many amazing books that the reader can then read after this book(the author was kind enough to leave an appendix at the end of the book). In essence, you can become a member in the "End of Your Life Book Club" and compare your thoughts to theirs.

Absolute favorite quote of the book - "Mom taught me to make a difference in the world and that books really do matter:they're how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others."

And I will leave you with this(yet another) word of advice- Have a tissue handy for the end of the book. Happy reading, my friends!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Discovery of Witches(All Souls #1)

I've always had an affinity for authors who can weave magic into a story in such a believable way that the reader forgets that such things are impossible. I adore Alice Hoffman(one of the few gifted authors that I speak of) and will happily devour one of her novels in one sitting. When my friends were telling me of this book, The Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, I was hopeful that this novel would be in a similar vein with my favorite Hoffman novels. Unfortunately, it was not.

Now, this review is by no means negative. In fact, I quite enjoyed the book and would recommend it to the right reader. It is just that the magic in the book is by no means subtle and weaved into a tale that seems as though it is happening in reality. This book is full of witches, daemons, vampires and even a haunted house complete with ghosts and rooms that rearrange themselves.

The book centers upon Diana, a young scholar who also happens to be a witch. She discovers a book that all of the otherworldly creatures of the world (the aforementioned witches, vampires and daemons) all want for the secrets bound by magic within it.  Soon her life is chaos, full of creatures that wish her harm. Into her life walks Matthew Clairmont, a vampire. As you probably see coming, Diana and Matthew become romantically involved and join forces to keep Diana safe.

I felt that the romance between Diana and Matthew seemed a little too similar to Twilight for me, a fact that bothered me for the entirety of the book. However, by the end of the book I was hoping for a happy ending between the two. Of course, as this is book one in a series, there really was no ending at all. It left you hungering for book two and the answers to all of the questions left open at the end of this book.

I rated this three stars on Goodreads, but it was more of a three and a half star book. If I had not been bombarded with vampire romances since the coming of the Twilight series, I would probably have enjoyed the book even more. I was entertained enough by this book that I will certainly be reading the next in the series.If you are a fan of the paranormal, this would be a great book for you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best of 2012

I thought we would start the year of 2013 with a bit of reflection of the year of 2012. I may be getting older, but I can remember 2012 as if it were yesterday....oh, yes- it WAS yesterday. I had better write down my top books of 2012 before it gets lost in this motherly mind of mine filled with dance,boy scouting, sports and school schedules.

This past year I read so many wonderful books, most of which were recommended to me by my fellow bibliophile buddies. It was very challenging to choose a top ten. I must preface this list by telling you, my book loving friends, my rating criteria. I do not rate books based solely on the quality of writing(although, of course, this is taken into consideration). I rate primarily on the enjoyment of the read and the emotions evoked within me. The best books, in my humble opinion, are those in which you are a different person after reading them.

With that said, here is my top ten of 2012. I did NOT rank them. It was a challenge to simply come up with a top ten list- ranking them would have been impossible!

Drum roll, please.......
 Under This Unbroken Sky by Shandi Mitchell
The Girls by Lori Lansens
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud by Ben Sherwood
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
If you have a book recommendation for me, I would be delighted to hear it! May the upcoming year be full of love, joy and bountiful reading for us all!

Peer pressure

Well, the ever persistent members of my book posse have managed to persuade this rather shy, reserved mother that I must start a book blog. Few things have ever made me so nervous as to publicly post my thoughts regarding the books that I read. However, any daunting task is made more manageable with friends beside you. So come sit beside me, my friends. Pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and let me pour you a cup of coffee. I'm so glad to have you with me on this new journey.