Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

Book summary(via Goodreads):

The moment the second line on the pee stick turns pink, women discover they've entered a world of parenting experts.
Friends, family, colleagues, the UPS delivery guy -- suddenly everybody is a trove of advice, much of it contradictory and confusing. With dire warnings of what will happen if baby is fed on demand and even direr warnings of what will happen if he isn't, not to mention hordes of militant "lactivists," cosleeping advocates, and books on what to worry about next, modern parenthood can seem like a minefield.
In busy Mom-friendly short essays, Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay delivers the empathetic straight dirt on parenting, tackling everything from Mommy & Me classes ("Your baby doesn't need to be making friends at three months old -- you do! But not with people you'll meet at Mommy & Me") to attachment parenting ("If you're holding your baby 24/7, that's not a baby, that's a tumor"). Stefanie Wilder-Taylor combines practical tips with sidesplitting humor and refreshing honesty, assuring women that they can be good mothers and responsibly make their own choices. A witty and welcome antidote to trendy parenting texts and scarifying case studies, Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay provides genuine support, encouragement, and indispensable common-sense advice.

This insomniac's opinion:

Gah! This book was so frustrating! The author basically mocks and makes fun of all women who do not mother exactly like her. I can hardly believe that I finished it, it was a bit like "Mean Girls" done Mommy style. Gag! Boo! Hiss!

Beyond the rudeness, this book was full of bad advice. I am a pediatric nurse and was flabbergasted that she would advocate for the use of thick blankets and bumper pads, even though she knows the experts say you should not use them. SIDS is serious business, folks. Let's not risk our children's lives so that your nursery looks pretty. Seriously. And, I am supportive of whatever baby feeding choice that a mother makes but this book bashes breastfeeding and mocks those mothers who make the choice to breastfeed. It's just very wrong. This book should come with a disclaimer: DO NOT TAKE ANY ADVICE FROM THE PAGES OF THIS BOOK!

Beyond the above issues this book is also badly written and is not at all funny, which is I think what the author was going for.

I picked this book up for $3.00 on the clearance book rack at Target. I want my money back!

Worth staying up all night to read?

No. No. And, no.


1 star

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell

Book summary(via Goodreads):

A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the new year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbors, the authorities, and even Gene’s nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.
This insomniac's opinion: 
Holy macabre beginning, Batman! I am a nurse, so it is pretty hard to turn my stomach. The description of Marnie and Nelly moving their parents bodies at the beginning of this novel was stomach-twisting for me, however. This book may not be for everyone.
I really did enjoy the writing and the pace of this novel. I think that some authors romanticize poverty, so it was oddly refreshing to see this kind of situation represented more honestly. The majority  of this novel is bleak but there are bits of hope woven into the story that prevents the reader from finishing the book in a state of massive depression.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, I really enjoyed it. Definitely not for those who would be troubled by a gritty novel, though.
Rating: 4 stars

Monday, April 22, 2013

Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much by Colette Baron-Reid

Book synopsis:
Weight Loss for People Who Feel Too Much" focuses on the keys to weight loss for sensitive people: managing empathy, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries, eating to support well-being, and dealing with challenging situations that can trigger disordered eating. With a simple, practical program, Colette shows you how to release the extra pounds and create a new, healthy relationship with your body, your weight, and food.
This insomniac's opinion:
Okay. Moment of truth over here, my friends. I read self-help books. I admit it. Lets face it: I could use a lot of help!  However, I do not usually review them. It just tells everyone a little bit too much about me. For instance, now that I am reviewing this title you know two things about me: I'm chubby and I'm sensitive. Sigh.
Net Galley was kind enough to give me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, so I took a leap and here we are.
So, I should preface my review by saying that this book is very crunchy, granola, New Agey stuff. Meditation and journaling, visualizing your childhood and Himilayan salt water baths. I'm a fairly crunchy mama- you know, yoga practicing, organic eating, baby wearing... but this was just a bit much for me. I am a working mother of three and don't really have time for a daily 4 pm salt water bath to get rid of the "emotional detritus" of my day. With that said, I really liked the journaling exercises and learned a lot about myself. In the end, however, I don't think that this book really assisted me on my weight loss journey. Thanks to the journaling exercises, I do now know the root of some of my weight loss issues, and that is pretty invaluable.
Worth staying up all night to read?
This book is written in sections to be read over several weeks, so please don't stay up all night reading it!
Rating: 3 stars, informative in part but a bit out there for me

Evan Burl and the Falling by Justin Blaney

Book Synopsis:

My father abandoned me when I was an infant.
My friends have turned against me.
My uncle beats me.
The most powerful people in the world want me dead.
They all have one thing in common.
They think I’m turning into a monster.

I’m starting to worry they’re right.
This insomniac's opinion:
I gratefully received a free copy of this novel via the author in exchange for an honest review.  I felt that the premise of the novel was very original and creative. However, the writing left much to be desired. The characters were not well-developed and when the narrator's voice would change it was so subtle in the differences that it was confusing at times. I also felt that the details of the situations were not well described and also sometimes felt confusing.
So, while I did not truly enjoy this novel and will not be reading the sequel, I feel that this author has promise. I love his creativity and originality and will be interested to see what he does in the future.
Worth staying up all night to read?
No, but I'll be curious to see the author's next works.
Rating: 2.5 stars rounded up to 3 for Goodreads

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

 1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

This insomniac's opinion:

I adored this novel. It is nearly impossible to believe that this is a debut novel. June was a flawed, quirky and perfectly adorable protagonist. Her relationship with Finn was believably imperfect. June's family was loveable but could also be deeply selfish at times.

The one aspect of this novel that I really struggled with was Toby's sometimes inappropriate relationship with June, who is only fourteen. Toby asks June not to tell her parents about their meeting and gives her alcohol and cigarettes. As a mother of three and a pediatric nurse, I struggled to like Toby when I felt that he was being terribly inappropriate. In the end, I knew that he was desperately lonely and unsure how to deal with a child that age, so I did end up endeared to Toby. If you are a parent, however, you may struggle with this issue when reading.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Absolutely. I woke with tear-stained cheeks the next morning, as evidence of how powerful this novel was.


4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for Goodreads

Friday, April 12, 2013

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

 Katherine V thought boys were gross
Katherine X just wanted to be friends
Katherine XVIII dumped him in an e-mail
K-19 broke his heart
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type happens to be girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact.

On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun--but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl. Love, friendship, and a dead Austro-Hungarian archduke add up to surprising and heart-changing conclusions in this ingeniously layered comic novel about reinventing oneself.

This insomniac's opinion:

Oh, John Green. How can you write such a literary wonder as The Fault in Our Stars and also write such a tedious and boring novel such as this one? Sigh.

I can think of dozens and dozens of awful things I would've rather done than finish this novel. However, bigger and better novels await me and perservered. Where to begin? Colin is possibly the most boring of protagonists in the history of books. Yes, we get that he is a genius, a child prodigy. But, does he have to constantly regurgitate non-interesting facts? If it were possible for an encyclopedia to get the stomach flu and vomit up it's contents into a pile of useless knowledge all mangled together, that would be the best descriptive for Colin's character. And the Katherine's- all of them - boring, as well. To sum it up, this is a book all about the boring summer of a bunch of boring characters. Sigh.(I did a lot of sighing while reading this novel, and not in the 'oh, wasn't that lovely' sense.)

Worth staying up all night to read?

No. No. No.

Rating: 2 stars

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

In eight incantatory sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the picture brides’ extraordinary lives, from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photographs of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land; to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; to their backbreaking work picking fruit in the fields and scrubbing the floors of white women; to their struggles to master a new language and a new culture; to their experiences in childbirth, and then as mothers, raising children who will ultimately reject their heritage and their history; to the deracinating arrival of war.

This insomniac's opinion:

This novel is written in first person plural. I'm fairly sure that this is the first novel I have ever read that is written in such a way and it cannot be an easy style to pull off. However, Julie Otsuka has written a stunningly beautiful novel that reminds us that this harrowing journey was not taken by a single, solitary women but a myriad of brave individuals. I think this novel is truly a masterpiece. It is a very short read and is well worth taking the time to read it.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes, and it is short enough that you can still fit in a good night's rest!


4 stars

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer befriends an old man who's particularly beloved in her community. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. They strike up a friendship at the bakery where Sage works. One day he asks Sage for a favor: to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses…and then he confesses his darkest secret - he deserves to die, because he was a Nazi SS guard. Complicating the matter? Sage's grandmother is a Holocaust survivor.

What do you do when evil lives next door? Can someone who's committed a truly heinous act ever atone for it with subsequent good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren't the party who was wronged? And most of all - if Sage even considers his request - is it murder, or justice?

This insomniac's opinion:

This is exactly the type of book that makes this Mama an insomniac! Holy intensity! I could not sleep until I knew if Sage was going to forgive Josef and find Josef's truth.

Now, I know that Jodi Picoult is not high-brow literature. But I can nearly always count on her for a compulsively readable novel that evokes strong emotions in me. I was disappointed by both Lone Wolf and Sing You Home(Picoult's most recent offerings), so I was thrilled that this novel was everything that I had hoped it would be. I adored the story of Minka, Sage's grandmother, which encompasses a great deal of the middle of the book and the way Minka's story was intertwined with the book within this book(you'll have to read it to understand what I mean). I do believe this is Ms. Picoult's finest work to date.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Absolutely. Keep tissues nearby.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff

An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Harrington, two fiercely independent attor­neys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working to defend the brother of a Holocaust hero against allegations of World War II–era war crimes.

The defendant, wealthy financier Roger Dykmans, mysteri­ously refuses to help in his own defense, revealing only that proof of his innocence lies within an intricate timepiece last seen in Nazi Germany. As the narrative moves from Philadelphia to Germany, Poland, and Italy, we are given glimpses of the lives that the anniversary clock has touched over the past century, and learn about the love affair that turned a brother into a traitor.

This insomniac's opinion:

Note: I gratefully received this novel from Goodreads Firstreads in exchange for an honest review.

I really enjoyed this novel. It was a nice, quick read. I did enjoy the narrative from the past far more than the narrative which was in current time. The modern day romance between Charlotte and Jack did nothing for me and did not seem genuine. It also had many characters over several generations and not all of the characters seemed well developed. However, I fell in love with Roger and his story.

All in all, flaws aside, this was a nice short read.

Worth staying up all night?

It may not be fascinating enough to lose sleep over, but it was enjoyable.

Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, April 6, 2013

ARC review: The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Many thanks to Net Galley and Hachette books for the copy of this novel in exchange for and honest review.
A rare meteorite struck Alex Woods when he was ten years old, leaving scars and marking him for an extraordinary future. The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn't had the easiest childhood. 

 But when he meets curmudgeonly widower Mr. Peterson, he finds an unlikely friend. Someone who teaches him that that you only get one shot at life. That you have to make it count.
So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he's fairly sure he's done the right thing ...

Introducing a bright young voice destined to charm the world, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is a celebration of curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.
This insomniac's opinion:
This book is being buzzed about like mad right now, so when I saw it on Net Galley, I jumped at the chance to read it. Being a book that it talked about long before it's release is a double-edged sword though, isn't it? On one hand, the author likely sells more books because of the publicity and the buzz in the literary community. On the other hand, it is impossible to read one of these books without having your hopes set very high before the reader even begins the book. I'm afraid that with this book, my hopes were higher than the reality of the novel.
First, let me say that I do not believe this book should be marketed towards youth. Or, at least, not unless a parent has screened the book first. There is much talk about drugs, suicide and assisted euthanasia amongst other adult topics. I had initially planned to read this novel and pass it on to my son, but that will most definitely not be happening.
This seems to fall into the newly emerging category of having a protagonist who is a pre-teen/teen, thus is marketed to this age, but is really more appropriate for late teen/adult readers. As a mother, this frustrates me greatly. Let's just let our children be children for a wee bit longer, okay?
*Steps off soapbox*
Other than the aforementioned issues, however, this book is a mostly enjoyable read. Alex's character was lovely and his voice was distinct and unique. There was quite a bit happening in the book, and much of it was unbelievable. At the core of this novel is simply the relationships in our lives, some which seem most unlikely. The relationship between Alex and Mr. Peterson was a beautiful example of two very different people learning to love one another, differences and all.
Worth staying up all night to read?
I think so. It was an interesting read.
Rating: 3.5 stars