Sunday, March 31, 2013

ARC review: Swimming at Night by Lucy Clarke

Katie’s world is shattered by the news that her headstrong and bohemian younger sister, Mia, has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in Bali. The authorities say that Mia jumped—that her death was a suicide.

Although they’d hardly spoken to each other since Mia suddenly left on an around-the-world trip six months earlier, Katie refuses to accept that her sister would have taken her own life. Distraught that they never made peace, Katie leaves her orderly, sheltered life in London behind and embarks on a journey to find out the truth. With only the entries in Mia’s travel journal as her guide, Katie retraces the last few months of her sister’s life and—page by page, country by country—begins to uncover the mystery surrounding her death. . . .
I gratefully received this ARC from Net Galley and Touchstone in exchange for an honest review.
This insomniac's opinion:
I have to admit that I am a sucker for novels that have two sisters as the focus. I have a sister and I know how complex and lovely that relationship is. It has been a powerful force in my life.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler

Playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler has devoted her life to the female body—how to talk about it, how to protect and value it. Yet she spent much of her life disassociated from her own body—a disconnection brought on by her father’s sexual abuse and her mother’s remoteness. “Because I did not, could not inhabit my body or the Earth,” she writes, “I could not feel or know their pain.”

But Ensler is shocked out of her distance. While working in the Congo, she is shattered to encounter the horrific rape and violence inflicted on the women there. Soon after, she is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and through months of harrowing treatment, she is forced to become first and foremost a body—pricked, punctured, cut, scanned. It is then that all distance is erased. As she connects her own illness to the devastation of the earth, her life force to the resilience of humanity, she is finally, fully—and gratefully—joined to the body of the world.

Unflinching, generous, and inspiring, Ensler calls on us all to embody our connection to and responsibility for the world.

This insomniac's opinion:

This memoir was a stunning work of art. It is simultaneously brutally honest and beautifully eloquent. It should have been a short read, but I had to keep stopping to read and reread passages that stopped me in my tracks and made me think of the world in a completely different way. Eve Ensler is, without a doubt, a brave pioneer of a woman. She calls herself a "force of nature" in this memoir. Underneath that tough veneer is a vulnerable, emotional woman and she let that lesser known part of herself shine in this exquisite book.

As I mention quite a bit on this blog, I am a nurse. As I was reading this memoir my primary thought was that every medical professional should read this book. Ms. Ensler has a lot of very profound things to say about the way we treat our patients here in the United States. It is time to listen. Time to treat our patients for what they are- people, not diseases. Whether or not Ms. Ensler meant for her painfully honest account of her experiences to be a war call- I believe it is. May we all demand the care that is deserved by all of us- ourselves, our children, our parents and those who have no one to speak for them. Let us come together and demand better for the sick and ailing in this country and around the world.

Just a few of my favorite insights from the memoir:

"Doctors never believe how simple it is to give patients dignity. It takes a sentence. It takes a short walk around the table."

"What if our understanding of ourselves were based not on static labels or stages but on our actions and our ability and our willingness to transform ourselves?"

"We are the people of the second wind. We, who have been undermined, reduced, and minimized, we know who we are. Let us be taken. Let us turn our pain to power, our victimhood to fire, our self-hatred to action, our self-obsession to service, to fire, to wind."

And, here I am- crying again just typing that last passage out.

This memoir will be published on April 30, 2013. It is a do not miss memoir, my friends.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. You must. Especially if you are a woman.


5 stars

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio


August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

This insomniac's opinion?

Okay, so I don't usually review juvenile fiction, or any juvenile books for that matter. However, my Goodreads feed was blowing up with five star reviews from fellow readers and I decided to give it a try.

I do have to preface this review by saying that I am a pediatric nurse who has spent the majority of my career working with special needs kids. In fact, most of my favorite people on this planet happen to be special needs kiddos and their families, so I am biased in the most beautiful of ways. I could not separate my career and my life's experiences from my reading of this novel(of course, none of us can do that with any novel, can we?).

I absolutely, unequivocally adored this novel. It was simple and beautiful. Auggie's bravery and honesty was unforgettable. His family and their love took my breath away. I also loved that there was not a cliché ending - i.e the bully gets to know Auggie and suddenly becomes a completely different person and the two friends ride off into the sunset forever. Life doesn't really happen that way, does it? The bully, Julian, was written in a very real manner. He is one of those children who appear kind when adults are around and are nasty when left with only his peers. He is the worst type of bully, and few children's book authors are brave enough to write about a bully that is both aware of and enjoys the pain he is inflicting.

I really liked that the author does not divulge a description of Auggie's facial deformity until later in the book. By the time the author gave the details of Auggie's deformity I already loved the character so much that I didn't even know if I cared about the truth of his appearance.

There were also so many lines in this book that made me pause and read them again and again. Just a few:

"I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks."
“It's like people you see sometimes, and you can't imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it's somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can't talk. Only, I know that I'm that person to other people, maybe to every single person in that whole auditorium.
To me, though, I'm just me. An ordinary kid.”  
“Learning who you are is what you're here to do.”
Simple story. Simple truths. With a hell of a lot of heart. That's what Wonder is. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

You better believe it, my friends. Throw out your outdated ideas of what "adult" literature should be and mosey on over to the juvenile section if you don't mind a simple, beautiful story.


5 stars

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between a beautiful Indian nun and a brash British surgeon at a mission hospital in Addis Ababa. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, bound together by a preternatural connection and a shared fascination with medicine, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. Yet it will be love, not politics—their passion for the same woman—that will tear them apart and force Marion, fresh out of medical school, to flee his homeland. He makes his way to America, finding refuge in his work as an intern at an underfunded, overcrowded New York City hospital. When the past catches up to him—nearly destroying him—Marion must entrust his life to the two men he thought he trusted least in the world: the surgeon father who abandoned him and the brother who betrayed him.
This insomniac's opinion:
First, lets get something out of the way. Instead of just referring to this as a novel, a more accurate word would be tome- as in a large book that reads in such a way that it takes you hours upon hours to finish it. This here is a marathon, not a sprint, dear friends.
My sweet friend Lindsey has been wanting me to read this book for awhile. I tried twice and couldn't even get past the first chapter before throwing it aside for another book. But, she continued to pester- er, I mean encourage- me to read this tome, so I did. And, for the most part, I am glad that I did.
This novel is very well written. The characters are incredibly well fleshed-out and have a depth that you simply don't see very often in contemporary fiction. I will warn those who may be a bit queasy that there is a lot of medical information and much of the book takes place in an operating room. The author is a doctor and spares no detail in the hospital scenes. As a nurse, this did not bother me. However, it did lend the book a very clinical feel at times, much like the Grey's Anatomy book that they speak of often in this novel.
So, I am left feeling a little off about the book. While I recognize it as a great piece of literature, it was not at all enjoyable to read or reflect on. I will place this tome with many of the novels that I was made to read in my college literature classes- I am quite glad that I read them, but have no desire to ever read them again.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, but good luck staying awake!
Rating: 4 stars

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Dinner by Herman Koch

It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse -- the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

     Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
This insomniac's opinion:
I read this novel after my dear friend Kris, a.k.a. the book fairy, gifted the members of my book posse(no, you didn't misread- we are a posse, not a club!) and I with copies of this novel so that we all could discuss it. I pushed it towards the top of my to-read list, because usually if Kris recommends it, I will love it, too. You can read her review of this novel here.
About a quarter of the way through the book I get the sinking feeling in my stomach that can only mean one thing- I am not going to like the book that my friend loves and gave me, and now I'm going to have to tell her that. The good news is- she still loves me! Phew- bullet dodged.
Okay, back to the novel. There were things  that I both liked and hated about this novel. In fact, when reading this review it may sound as though I have multiple personalities. I just can't seem to get all of my feelings in one place regarding this book. I am also going to do my best to not giveaway any of the twists in the novel, but I will say that there are multiple horrific acts.
 To start, I must say that while this is often compared to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, it is not even in the same ballpark. Using the ballpark metaphor, it is very much like comparing little league baseball to major league baseball(Flynn obviously being the major leaguer). While the somber, bleak tone and presence of psychopaths is similar- this just didn't pack the same punch or have the same wow-factor as a Flynn novel. Another similarity with a Flynn novel is that, by the end, not a single, solitary character is likeable. Unlike Gone Girl, this author lacked the ability to make us like them first and then shock us with the truth of their character. I liked that the novel was unlike any other that I have read, but struggled with the very slow pace. Also, I'm not sure if I have ever said this before, but the book was far too descriptive. One scene, in particular, was a bathroom scene in which another man's *ahem* manly parts were described in great detail. I'm still quite unsure what that had to do with anything at all pertaining to the plot.  I loved the fact that I was surprised by the plot twists. I was horrified by the fact that no one, anywhere at all among the terrifying actions of the novel, seemed to have even a sliver of a conscience.  As a nurse who has worked with numerous trauma victims, I know that these psychopaths exist. So, maybe what was most offensive to me about this novel is that these horrible things happen and maybe, just maybe, somewhere in the world someone is casually discussing them over dinner.
*So, I just read the above paragraph and realize that it does, indeed, sound like it was written by two separate people. Sorry about that. I wasn't lying when I said I was conflicted by this novel!*
Worth staying up all night to read?
I simply can't recommend this book, but I do know that others have loved it. It is a bit scary for night reading for me, as well(I do like to sleep at some point in the night).
Rating: 3 stars -  I can see why others are talking about this novel, but it just wasn't for me.

ARC review: The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

I gratefully received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from Net Galley and Touchstone publishing. This novel was published March 5, 2013 and is currently available. 
The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.
This insomniac's opinion:
As you may already know, I have a deep fascination with the time period during and just after the second World War. This nonfiction book was perfect to feed my unending curiosity for the women of that time period. This book was unique in that parts read like a novel and parts read more like an encyclopedia-chock full of information. I very much enjoyed getting to know the women in this book-their bravery was incredibly admirable. The women were recruited to work for the government, and went without knowing what their jobs would be or where they were going. They left their families, their hometown, and even their own young children to help their beloved country to win the war. It was yet another reminder of why we call this generation "the greatest generation." I simply do not believe that our current generation(myself, included) would respond in the same manner.
I do have to say that you would have to really have interest in this time period or particular event in our history to enjoy this book. Parts of the book were very dry and tough to get through. However, if you do have any interest, it is absolutely fascinating!
Worth staying up all night to read?
It took me about a month to get through this book, but it was extremely interesting.
Rating: 3.5 stars

ARC review: Love Water Memory by Jenni Shortridge

I gratefully received an advance reader's copy of this novel from Net Galley and Gallery books. The expected publication date of this novel is April 2, 2013.
Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can’t answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be.
This insomniac's opinion:
I loved this novel. The characters were very realistic in their imperfection. The mystery of Lucie's past is slowly and believably unraveled throughout the novel. There was much to love about this novel. What I loved the most was the very idea of losing all of your memories and how post-amnesia Lucie was completely different from pre-amnesia Lucie. It had me thinking- how much of my personality is a product of my experiences and memories and how much is innate? Without my memories, who would I be? It is something that I had never before thought of, and I found myself fascinated with the thought.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, and I sure did!
Rating: 4 stars

Sunday, March 17, 2013

ARC review: A Certain Summer by Patricia Beard

Note: I gratefully received and advance reader's copy of this novel from Net Galley and Gallery books. This novel will be available on May 21, 2013.
It is 1948 at Wauregan, an idyllic island summer community. Helen Wadsworth, whose husband has been declared mysteriously missing on an OSS operation in France, is seeking the truth about his disappearance.
The mystique—and the myth—at Wauregan is that “nothing ever changes here,” but that is mined with the traumas of husbands returned from the war, and wives who cannot imagine the horrors they experienced in combat. Scarred by battle, these men longed for their families and their island refuge, only to find themselves emotionally distant, and struggling to reenter society.
This insomniac's opinion:
Both the title and the cover of this novel leads the reader to believe that they are about to read a romance novel set in an idyllic setting. This is a bit true, as the setting is idyllic and there is a romance embedded into the story. The core of this novel, however, is anything but romantic. It is about those who return from war, but as different people. And, most of all, those who never come home, and the people whose lives are forever changed by the missing.
I was incredibly moved by the bravery of the women in this story. Their husbands may have perished in the war or came back as completely different people. These women bravely put on a happy face and held their families together even when it seemed as though the world was continuing to fall apart. I think that we minimize the life-long effects of war on both the soldiers and their families. We forget that it is not all wine and roses after the soldiers come home.
I found this novel to be beautifully written and really loved the characters. I did wish to get to know Helen a bit better. She is the focus of the novel, yet I felt that we never saw completely what was underneath her brave veneer. I also felt that the ending came suddenly and had a different tone from the rest of the novel. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and it made me think of the war in a different way than I ever had before.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, it is a lovely novel. This would be a perfect summer read.
Rating: 4 stars

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

This insomniac's opinion:

In typical Zusak fashion, this book was written in a very unique style. I knew that after reading The Book Thief,  I would read more of Markus Zusak's novels. His writing style is arresting and original. He can weave sadness and humor together in such a flawless way that the reader is left simultaneously crying and laughing(i.e. the crazy person cry).

I must place a bit of warning in this post for people who read, love and worshiped at the alter of The Book Thief. This book is not nearly as great as that novel. Few novels are. However, if you are not comparing this novel to  The Book Thief, it really is a bit of a masterpiece on its own. I read the majority of the novel in one sitting, only stopping because I could no longer keep my eyes open and wanted to savor the ending, not rush through it.

The mystery of who is sending the cards with the cryptic messages kept me reading at an almost frantic pace. However, there were typical Zusak moments of revelation and beauty in the simplest of things that would make me pause and reflect for a moment- before quickly diving back in to the mystery. The core of this novel was in finding the beauty in this sometimes bleak and lonely life. It was inspiring.

You may be reading along this glowing review and be surprised to find out that I gave this novel four, not five, stars. This was because I felt the ending, the solving of the mystery, to be a bit contrived and ruined the fantasy of the novel for me. In fact, it had me throwing the book across the room in anger(okay, not actually throwing the book across the room- that would be book abuse. But I wanted too!). The last line, however, redeemed the book. In my opinion, one of the best final novel lines I have ever read. And, no- I'm not giving you the line- you must read it for yourself, it means nothing outside of the context of the book.

Quote that sums up the novel:

 “Sometimes people are beautiful. Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.”

Worth staying up all night to read ?

Oh yes. It most definitely is.


 4 stars. Compulsively addictive and wonderfully readable.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Feature & Follow Friday

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Hooray for Friday! Which means that it time for the Feature and Follow Blog Hop hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read. The Feature and Follow Blog Hop is an excellent chance to connect with other bloggers and answering questions about our favorite books.
This weeks Follow Friday question:
Q: Activity! Hopefully warm weather for most of us is here soon…so tell us about your favorite outdoor reading spot. Or take a picture.
A: I love reading outside anywhere that my three children can be entertained while I dive into a good book. During the warm weather months here in Iowa, you can frequently find me in the backyard next to the playset or at a local park devouring a book with one eye while the other watches over my rugrats!
What is your favorite outdoor reading spot, my friends?

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt

Two women running away from their marriages collide on a foggy highway, killing one of them. The survivor is left to pick up the pieces, not only of her own life, but also must go back and deal with the devastated husband and fragile, asthmatic son the other woman left behind. Together, they try to solve the mystery of where April was running to, and why.
This insomniac's opinion:
This is the second Caroline Leavitt novel that I have read and this is what I have learned: do not start one of her novels before bedtime, because you will stay up all night reading and be very, very tired in the morning. This novel was compulsively readable. Every character was flawed, yet like able. I read many parts through tears, desperately blinking away the tears so that I didn't miss a moment.
I do have to admit that I did not love everything about this novel. The ending, while more realistic than the romantic ending that the reader hopes for, was unsatisfying to me (I won't say much more, as I don't want to spoil the experience for someone who has not yet read this novel). I also felt that there were some inconsistencies in the characters, particularly April, who was portrayed simultaneously as a wonderful and  detached mother. However, I did feel that overall the characterizations and the writing were wonderful. Another win for Caroline Leavitt!
Worth staying up all night to read?
Well, I sure did!
Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Pearl Tull is nearing the end of her life but not of her memory. It was a Sunday night in 1944 when her husband left the little row house on Baltimore’s Calvert Street, abandoning Pearl to raise their three children alone: Jenny, high-spirited and determined, nurturing to strangers but distant to those she loves; the older son, Cody, a wild and incorrigible youth possessed by the lure of power and money; and sweet, clumsy Ezra, Pearl’s favorite, who never stops yearning for the perfect family that could never be his own.

This insomniac's opinion:

Ugh. Just ugh. I did not enjoy this novel at all. It seemed as though nothing was happening and none of the characters were changing. Pearl starts mean and stays mean. Ezra is loveable and a little ignorant and never changes. Cody is self-absorbed and mean spirited from start to finish. You get my point- no one changes, learns a lesson, makes the reader reflect on life.... just nothing. It follows a family through years of benign, typical daily life. There is not a single character memorable enough for me to remember them long-term. I'll be honest: if this had not been a book club selection, I wouldn't have made it past chapter two. To give you an idea of the tone and pace of the book- let's imagine in our minds Ben Stein, the actor with the intentionally drab, monotone, slow-paced voice.Now, let's take this further and imagine him reading the telephone book. That pretty much sums the way I feel about this book,my friends.

Worth staying up all night to read?

No. In fact, it just may put you to sleep.

Rating: 2 stars, I didn't like it but the writing wasn't egregious enough to warrant 1 star.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Good American by Alex George

Note: I gratefully received this novel as a Goodreads Firstreads in exchange for an honest review. 
This is the story of the Meisenheimer family, told by James, a third-generation American living in Beatrice, Missouri. It’s where his German grandparents—Frederick and Jette—found themselves after journeying across the turbulent Atlantic, fording the flood-swollen Mississippi, and being brought to a sudden halt by the broken water of the pregnant Jette.    A Good American tells of Jette’s dogged determination to feed a town sauerkraut and soul food; the loves and losses of her children, Joseph and Rosa; and the precocious voices of James and his brothers, sometimes raised in discord sometimes in perfect harmony.    But above all, A Good American is about the music in Frederick’s heart, a song that began as an aria, was jazzed by ragtime, and became an anthem of love for his adopted country that the family still hears to this day.
This Insomniac's opinion:
For the most part I very much enjoyed this novel. My great grandparents would have immigrated from Germany and Switzerland around the same time that Jette and Frederick immigrated to the States in this novel. I was fascinated by their journey and their first experiences with America. I found myself imaging my ancestors on a very similar journey. The first half of this novel follows Jette through her experiences as a new American and I devoured this part of the novel. I was in awe of her strength in even the worst of adversity.
Unfortunately, I wasn't such a fan of the second half of the novel. The narrator of the novel, James(Jette's grandson), comes of age and becomes the main character. I recognize that Jette and James lived very different lives in very different times and that would warrant a marked change in the pace and tone of the novel. I feel that, having the same narrator throughout, there could have been more consistency with the tone. The novel felt like two separate novels hastily sandwiched together. We go from Jette's valiant struggles as a new American in the first half to discussions of James' frequent masturbation and a, shall we say...amorous, high school teacher in the second half. I just couldn't reconcile the differences in the two halves.
Worth staying up all night to read?
I could not read the second half straight through, but I did stay up very late reading the first half.
Rating: 3.5 stars; not a glowing review, but worth a read if you are interested in immigration stories.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

 I don't think this book really needs a synopsis. The title says it all: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

This insomniac introvert's opinion:

I found the information in this book to be fascinating. I am an introvert. In fact, there is a quiz at the beginning of this book to see if you are an introvert and I answered 'yes' to every, single one. This came as no surprise to me. I also know that all three of my children are introverts, although they vary on the spectrum of how introverted they may be. So this book is very relevant to my life.

I do have to say that parts of the book are very dry and I found myself wanting to skim over those sections. You can tell that the author is extraordinarily passionate about this subject and did an incredible amount of research. She profiles different celebrities that were famously introverted and the amazing contributions they made to society. My favorite was Eleanor Roosevelt, because she is my idol and I had no idea before reading this book that she was an introvert. I love that she was able to overcome her introversion in order to focus on her passion for change in this country. That was the most inspiring this that I read in this book.

If you are an introvert, like me, you may learn something new about yourself in the reading of this book. I am a pediatric nurse and was speaking to a co-worker about this book while I was reading it. She seems shocked when I said that I was an introvert. We've worked together for three years, so I was very surprised that she didn't realize how uncomfortable I am in social situations. She made me realize how extroverted I seem during patient care. My passion for working with children overrides my introversion during my work hours.  I am what the book calls "an introvert masquerading as an extrovert", but this does come at a cost to me personally. I come home from work mentally exhausted and in desperate need of down time to calm down. However, with three children, down time rarely happens. So I have developed insomnia, among other negative side effects. I realize that I need to continue to balance my passion for my job with my innate need to have a lot of quiet, introspective time.

So, if you are an introvert or a parent to an introvert, this book may be for you. It has great suggestions to overcome your introversion in social, work and school situations. They discuss the overwhelming use of "groupthink" in our schools and how that affects our introverted children. I found this discussion to be very relevant to my children's school career.

There were great quotes about introversion in the book, as well. My favorite is from Anais Nin:
"Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for center. So we lost our center and have to find it again."

Worth staying up all night to read?

I read this over the course of a month and it was not a book that I would be able to read straight through. However, it was definitely an interesting and informative read.

Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Paper Towns by John Green

Quentin Jacobsen has loved his neighbor Margo for as long as he can remember. Margo, however, seems out of reach. Then, late one night Margo climbs in Quentin's window and takes him on an overnight adventure. The next day, Quentin awakes to find that Margo is missing. Quentin soon realizes that Margo has left him the clues to unraveling the mystery behind her disappearance.

This insomniac's opinion:

I should not have read this novel so soon after reading John Green's novel The Fault in Our Stars, which I adored. This book simply did not live up to that masterpiece. In fact, they are not even in the same stratosphere. This novel was written four years before The Fault in Our Stars, so I am truly impressed by the improvement in John Green's writing in between.

I did really enjoy the characters in this novel(except Margo who by the end of the novel is nearly unbearable). Quentin and his friends Ben and Radar have a really enjoyable humorous banter throughout the book which I found to be very entertaining. I just wish the mystery had been a lot more interesting and Margo had been a little more likeable. It felt a bit stretched, as though there wasn't quite enough for a novel and maybe this story should have been in short story format instead. But, if not comparing to The Fault in Our Stars, this novel is enjoyable and very easy to read. I continue to look forward to reading more John Green to see the progression in his work.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 3 stars

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Hig survived the flu that killed everyone he knows. His wife is gone, his friends are dead, he lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, his only neighbor a gun-toting misanthrope. In his 1956 Cessna, Hig flies the perimeter of the airfield or sneaks off to the mountains to fish and to pretend that things are the way they used to be. But when a random transmission somehow beams through his radio, the voice ignites a hope deep inside him that a better life—something like his old life—exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return—not enough fuel to get him home—following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face—in the people he meets, and in himself—is both better and worse than anything he could have hoped for.

This insomniac's opinion:

The fact that I read this novel at all is a testament to Goodreads, because this is a novel that I would have never chosen on my own. However, it keep popping up in listopia lists and on my friends Goodreads lists and when I saw it at the library, it seemed to be kismet.

Before I tell you what I thought of this novel, a bit of a warning. The author has no regard for punctuation. At all. So if proper placement of punctuation is very important to you, or if utter lack of punctuation bothers you, this may not be the novel for you. I struggled with the lack of quotation marks and commas and the excess of periods, at first. After a few chapters, however, I think this unique punctuation was helpful in "hearing" the protagonist's voice.

As you can imagine, with this being an apocalyptic novel, the world is very bleak and unforgiving. I am someone that  cringes at physical violence, so the scenes where people are killed were very tough for me to stomach. I realize that these scenes were crucial to the novel, however.

I very much enjoyed this novel, somewhat to my surprise. Even in this, the bleakest of worlds, it showed that what matters is friendship, love and connection to others. I always love to find beauty in the midst of suffering.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 4 stars


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

 I gratefully received a copy of this novel from Net Galley and Atria books in exchange for an honest review.


Four years after losing her parents, best friend, and boyfriend in a drunk driving accident, twenty-year-old Kacey Cleary runs away to begin a new life in Miami. Hardened by the tragedy, she's determined to keep everyone at a distance—until she meets an irresistible and mysterious neighbor who is determined to melt the ice over her heart.

This insomniac's opinion:

This is a book that is in the new genre "New Adult". Apparently, publishers have decided that readers need a bridge between YA (young adult) and adult fiction. A stepping stone, if you will. From what I have read in this new genre, I think it is pretty much YA + sex scenes. So, when reading my review, keep in mind that I am not the core audience. I have *cough, cough* been an "adult"(level of maturity not withstanding) for quite awhile.

This book was just okay for me. It was very readable. In fact, I read it in one day(it only took 2 hours for me to read cover to cover). What I did not like was the cliched romance. Now, there are women out there who want an rich alpha male to sweep in and save them from all of their problems. I, however, am annoyed by this helpless-princess-in-the-tower-waiting-to-be-saved mentality. The author makes a point to make Kacey physically tough, but she is always placing herself in bad situations and needs saving. Gah! With that said, I did mostly like Kacey's character and those of the other characters in this novel. Of course-another romance novel cliche- everyone, absolutely everyone, is breathtakingly beautiful in this novel. And we spend a lot of time hearing about descriptives of bodies, outfits, etc. Again, some people like these details. I prefer to learn more about the non-shallow parts of the characters.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you realize that I love a good plot twist. I did like the twist in this novel, even though I knew exactly what it was a couple of chapters before it happened. The ending was a bit too tidy for me, though.

In closing, if you are the kind of reader that loves the New Adult genre and enjoys a romance with hints of erotica, you will probably like this novel. If you prefer high-brow literature, this novel is definitely not for you.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Eh. It only took me a couple of hours to read, and was mildly enjoyable.

Rating: 3 stars. Very readable for the right kind of audience.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

 Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This insomniac's opinion:

Shhhhh.......Do you hear that?

Do you?

That sound is this novel busting its way into my top five favorite books EVER. And, even though I average over one hundred books read per year, this is a rarity folks. The books on my top ten/top five have been there for a long time. Last year The Book Thief by Markus Zusak(Thank you for the recommend Miss Lindsey) crashed into the top ten, but otherwise it has been undisturbed for quite some time.

Back to The Fault in Our Stars. This was the most exquisitely written novel. You can read the blurb and know that it is going to be sad. And, it is. Even more sad than you think it may be. Yet, it is so beautifully hopeful and shows the reader just how wonderful life can be. It was a  reminder that there is a great difference between living(i.e your heart is still beating) and being alive(living in such a way that you enjoy your life, make a difference to others, etc.).

Do not let the fact that this is a YA(young adult) novel scare you off. It is not written down, stripped of its intelligence as some YA novels are. It is highly intelligent, full of both humor and sincerity. John Green has written a literary masterpiece.

And, the characters. Oh, the characters.Augustus is one of my absolute favorite characters in (my) literary history. Everyone needs a friend like a Augustus. Hell, I could use an Augustus(no offense to my friends). Fiercely loyal, with a wickedly intelligent sense of humor and  a heart of gold. I loved him from the page that we first meet him on, and my love grew with every chapter.

I could go on and on and on, my friends. But, I hope you will read this book yourself. Then, lets have a chat. I have a feeling that I will always have the time to discuss this novel. An absolutely unforgettable journey with characters that will work their way into your heart and stay there-forever.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! In fact, I plan to reread this one after I have passed it on to all of my friends. I can sleep when I'm dead, right?


10 stars. What? There are only 5 stars? Well, then- 5 stars. Brilliantly glittering stars.