Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler

Book summary(via Goodreads:
Ira Wagler was born in 1961, the ninth of a Canadian Amish couple's eleven children. At seventeen, in the dark of night, he left the religious settlement, but it was only nine years later that he finally left the church for good. His favorite Bible verse is from Psalm 34: "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." In this new memoir, he tells what it was like growing up Old World Amish and what it felt like leaving it for a strange new world. Far more than picturesque; Growing Up Amish conveys one man's heartfelt experience.
This insomniac's opinion:
Well, I finally did it. I lost my virginity.
No, no- not THAT kind of virginity. My audiobook virginity. Sheesh, get your mind out of the gutter!
My friend Krissy has been telling me that I should start "reading" audiobooks for a while now. I am a visiting nurse, thus spending a lot of time in my car. Time that Krissy believed could be better spent by listening to audiobooks. I have balked for so long because it simply feels like cheating. It's not really reading, right? I mean, it's a little like watching an exercise video and proclaiming that I worked out. There may be some truth to that theory. However, I am now a convert!
This book was fascinating. If you've read much of my blog, you know that I am fascinated by a wide range of subjects. Let's go ahead and add Amish living to that ever-growing list. The lifestyle is completely different and, therefore, fascinating to me. This book did not disappoint in that regard. I learned about different Amish communities and their way of life. Unfortunately, parts of this book were a bit slow going for me. Overall, though, an interesting and well thought out read.
Worth staying up all night to read?
If you share my fascination for all things Amish, it is!
Rating: 3.5 stars

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

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

Book summary(via Goodreads):

The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other.

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he's the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He's even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max's mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won't his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he's starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him — desire him — once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

This insomniac's opinion:

Max is my absolute favorite character so far this year! And, this is saying something as I am on book  number 84 as we speak. He worked his way into my heart in the very first pages and I am certain that he will live there for eternity.

This book starts with a bang. Immediately there is a violent episode. Generally, I don't like when such a thing happens at the very beginning of a novel. However, this episode is the catalyst for the unfolding of events that makes up the body of this novel. I could not stop reading this novel once I began. It was well-written with wonderfully quirky characters and a unique plot. I simply adored it.

 I truly believe this novel to be a must-read and hope that you all will add it to your to-read piles! Happy reading!

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! Yes! Yes! What are you waiting for????


6 stars - What? You say there are only five stars? Well, then- 5 stars. Big, twinkling stars.

ARC review: The Violet Hour by Katherine Hill

I gratefully received an advanced reader's copy of this novel from Net Galley and Scribner in exchange for an honest review.
Book summary(via Goodreads):
Life hasn’t always been perfect for Abe and Cassandra Green, but an afternoon on the San Francisco Bay might be as good as it gets. Abe is a rheumatologist, piloting his coveted new boat. Cassandra is a sculptor, finally gaining modest attention for her art. Their beautiful daughter, Elizabeth, is heading to Harvard in the fall. Somehow, they’ve made things work. But then, out of nowhere, they plunge into a terrible fight. Cassandra has been unfaithful. In a fit of fury, Abe throws himself off the boat.

A love story that begins with the end of a marriage, The Violet Hour follows a modern family through past and present, from the funeral home in the Washington suburbs where Cassandra and her siblings grow up to the San Francisco public health clinic where Abe and Cassandra first meet. As the Greens navigate the passage of time—the expectations of youth, the concessions of middle age, the headiness of desire, the bitterness of loss—they must come to terms with the fragility of their intimacy, the strange legacies they inherit from their parents, and the kind of people they want to be. Exquisitely written, The Violet Hour is the deeply moving story of a family suddenly ripped apart, but then just possibly reborn. 
This insomniac's opinion:
Sigh. I loved the first chapter of this novel. Unfortunately, I really did not enjoy the rest of the novel. In fact, I found myself daydreaming about reading other books while I was reading this one. Double sigh.
It is possible, although rare, that one can love a novel that has no endearing characters in it. This novel, however, had no endearing characters and it was the true reason that I could not lose myself in the story. The plot was mainly relationship based, and such a plot really has no promise without likeable, or at the very least quirky, characters.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Rating: 3 stars, but barely.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

(Book Summary via Goodreads):

A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

This insomniac's opinion: 

This novel was recommended to me by a book club friend. I am so very glad that she mentioned it to me.

Even though much of this novel deals with the often rough life of a foster child, it is eloquently written and the story unfolds beautifully. The author manages to write even the roughest of characters in such an endearing light that it is impossible not to love them. Victoria, the main character in this novel, will surely live in my heart forever.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! I think this novel is a must-read!


 5 stars

ARC review: The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan

Note: I gratefully received a copy of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 Book Summary(via Goodreads):

When a tragic car accident ends the life of Richard Glass, it also upends the lives of Evie and Nicole, and their children. There’s no love lost between the widow and the ex. In fact, Evie sees a silver lining in all this heartache—the chance to rid herself of Nicole once and for all. But Evie wasn’t counting on her children’s bond with their baby half-brother, and she wasn’t counting on Nicole’s desperate need to hang on to the threads of family, no matter how frayed. Strapped for cash, Evie cautiously agrees to share living expenses—and her home—with Nicole and the baby. But when Evie suspects that Nicole is determined to rearrange more than her kitchen, Evie must decide who she can trust. More than that, she must ask: what makes a family?

This insomniac's opinion:

The description of this novel screamed chick-lit to me, and that is indeed what it is. Some people are turned off by the very idea of reading chick-lit, but I love a book that I don't have to think too much about sometimes. This book was very well written and easy to read. I loved the characters, especially Evie and her twins, immediately. I look forward to reading more novels from this new author!

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 4 stars

ARC review: The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

Note: I gratefully received this book from NetGalley and Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.
Book summary(via Goodreads):
It’s an idyllic New England summer, and Sadie is a precocious only child on the edge of adolescence. It seems like July and August will pass lazily by, just as they have every year before. But one day, Sadie and her best friend play a seemingly harmless prank on a neighborhood girl. Soon after, that same little girl disappears from a backyard barbecue—and she is never seen again. Twenty years pass, and Sadie is still living in the same quiet suburb. She’s married to a good man, has two beautiful children, and seems to have put her past behind her. But when a boy from her old neighborhood returns to town, the nightmares of that summer will begin to resurface, and its unsolved mysteries will finally become clear.
This insomniac's opinion:
I am not usually a big fan of mysteries, but this novel was well written and entertaining. It did take me quite a few chapters before I truly felt interested in the characters, but around a third of the way in I found that I was taken. I voraciously finished the remaining two-thirds in a single sitting. The author did a great job of weaving the story of the past securely into the story of the present. I found the ending to be a little less than desirable and maybe a bit to tidied up for my taste, but overall a very enjoyable read.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, I think so.
Rating: 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for Goodreads.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Book Summary(via Goodreads):
Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes.

Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past? 

Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.
This insomniac's opinion:
I believe that summertime is a time of magic, when anything is possible and wonderful happenings abound. So, with the Iowa temperature rising, this novel was the perfect weekend read. I have never before read a Sarah Addison Allen novel and was pleasantly surprised. This novel was compulsively readable and had a wonderful touch of wonder and magic weaved in to the story. Now, this novel isn't high-brow reading. It is simple, fluffy chick-lit. Every now and again, don't we all need a little of that kind of reading?
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, but even better  when read sitting in the sunshine!
Rating: 3.5 stars

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads)

Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.

This insomniac's opinion:

This novel is a Young Adult(YA) novel and appropriately so. The writing is simplistic and the lessons of the book are clearly laid out for the reader in the final chapter. I've seen quite a few reviews where this novel is harshly judged for these issues. However, I find it only fair to realize that a simple writing style is more appropriate for this genre.

I very much enjoyed Bruno's character and the way that his young, innocent mind processed the happenings around him. It was a unique perspective on the holocaust. The last chapter of this novel, unfortunately, was awful. It was terribly put together and felt as though everything was tidied up rather hastily. It was an unfortunate end to a novel that I had thoroughly enjoyed up until the end.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. It was quite engrossing.


 4.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Good House by Ann Leary


Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Ann Leary's The Good House tells the story of Hildy Good, who lives in a small town on Boston’s North Shore. Hildy is a successful real-estate broker, good neighbor, mother, and grandmother. She’s also a raging alcoholic. Hildy’s family held an intervention for her about a year before this story takes place—“if they invite you over for dinner, and it’s not a major holiday,” she advises “run for your life”—and now she feels lonely and unjustly persecuted. She has also fooled herself into thinking that moderation is the key to her drinking problem.

As if battling her demons wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Hildy soon finds herself embroiled in the underbelly of her New England town, a craggy little place that harbors secrets. There’s a scandal, some mysticism, babies, old houses, drinking, and desire—and a love story between two craggy sixty-somethings that's as real and sexy as you get. An exceptional novel that is at turns hilarious and sobering, The Good House asks the question: What will it take to keep Hildy Good from drinking? For good.
 This insomniac's opinion:

I very much enjoyed this novel. However, I think this is likely one of those polarizing reads- either the reader will love it or hate it. Hildy is not a likeable character at all. Every time I felt that I was beginning to become endeared to her, she would do something selfish or cruel. The novel was a long downward spiral of an alcoholic that is in deep denial and will sacrifice her entire life to keep drinking. I felt it was a brutally honest portrayal of alcoholism.

Worth staying up all night to read?

I do think this novel is worth reading. However, the slow pace of the novel is likely not conducive to late night reading.

Rating: 4 stars

Crossed by Ally Condie

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake. Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.
This insomniac's opinion:
This book was simply not as enjoyable as the first book in this series. I also found myself rather annoyed with Cassia and not endeared to her at all in this novel. I really didn't want to finish the last half as I was rather bored, but I pushed through.
Worth staying up all night to read?
No, I don't think so.
Rating: I am wavering between 2.5 and 3 stars, but I'll go with 3.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Book summary(via Goodreads):

 Pat Peoples has a theory that his life is actually a movie produced by God, and that his God-given mission in life is to become emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending – which, for Pat, means the return of his estranged wife Nikki, from whom he's currently having some 'apart time.' It might not come as any surprise to learn that Pat has spent several years in a mental health facility. When Pat leaves hospital and goes to live with his parents, however, everything seems changed: no one will talk to him about Nikki; his old friends now have families; his beloved football team keep losing; his new therapist seems to be recommending adultery as a form of therapy. And he's being haunted by Kenny G. There is a silver lining, however, in the form of tragically widowed, physically fit and clinically depressed Tiffany, who offers to act as a go-between for Pat and his wife, if Pat will just agree to perform in this year’s Dance Away Depression competition.

This insomniac's opinion:

I'm a quirky gal, and also a quirky reader. First quirk(which many other readers share, I believe) is that I will not see a movie until reading the book. And, this movie looks fab and is now out on video, so I knew that I needed to get on it and read the novel already. Quirk number two(on a long list of quirks, my friends!) is that I will NOT buy movie covers of books. Seriously, I can hardly look at the damn covers as I pass the Target book section! So, this book is on a long hold list at my library and the only copy I can currently find for purchase without venturing online  is the #!?!% ing movie cover. Thank goodness my dear friend Krissy gifted me an e-copy without the movie cover. Phew! Quirky book nerd tantrum averted!

I am so terribly glad that I read this novel. I have never read anything quite like it. The writing was so well done that I could truly feel the narrator's mental illness as if I were experiencing it. The ending was a little to perfect for me but otherwise a really enjoyable, thought provoking read. Also, the author is an obvious book lover who speaks about several of my favorite novels within this novel and that is always a plus!

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! I know that I did!


 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for Goodreads to compensate for the no half-stars allowed policy(yes, I'm going to keep bitching until they change it!)

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

Book summary(via Goodreads):
From as early as he can remember, the hopelessly unreliable—yet hopelessly earnest—narrator of this ambitious debut novel has wanted to become a writer.

From the jazz clubs of Manhattan to the villages of Sri Lanka, Kristopher Jansma’s irresistible narrator will be inspired and haunted by the success of his greatest friend and rival in writing, the eccentric and brilliantly talented Julian McGann, and endlessly enamored with Julian’s enchanting friend, Evelyn, the green-eyed girl who got away. After the trio has a disastrous falling out, desperate to tell the truth in his writing and to figure out who he really is, Jansma’s narrator finds himself caught in a never-ending web of lies.
This insomniac's opinion:
This novel started out so promising. I devoured the first three chapters, giddy with the promise of what I thought had the potential to be a five star novel for me. Then came chapter four...and every chapter after. Sigh. It became a slow spiral into a discombobulated novel in which the narrator lies so often that even the reader is confused as to what is true and false.
On a positive note, the writer's style is fresh and original. I look forward to seeing if his work progresses in the future.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Unfortunately not.
Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie

Summary via Goodreads):
Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate... until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.
This insomniac's opinion:
I have wavered for many months over whether or not I should read this book. My Goodreads friends had reviews that were all over the place. However, today was a rainy, cold Iowa Saturday and the library called my name. I had a long, long list of books that I wished to check out. Unfortunately, they did not have a single one. Not a single, solitary book on my list. Waaaahhh! As, I was headed for the exit, this book was propped up on a shelf screaming at me to pick it up. So, I did.
I am an absolute sucker for a dystopian novel. I have no idea where this fascination comes from, but it is fierce, my friends. This book fed my weird love of all dystopian things. The story was original(other than the love triangle, which has been quite overdone since the Twilight series) and well-developed. I devoured it in three hours while snuggled under blankets with my four-year-old daughter. Lovely afternoon, indeed.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, if you like dystopian novels and don't mind venturing into the YA section.
Rating: 3.5 stars rounded up for Goodreads

Shoot the Moon by Billie Letts

Novel summary(via Goodreads):
In 1972, windswept DeClare, Oklahoma, was consumed by the murder of a young mother, Gaylene Harjo, and the disappearance of her baby, Nicky Jack. When the child's pajama bottoms were discovered on the banks of Willow Creek, everyone feared that he, too, had been killed, although his body was never found.

Nearly thirty years later, Nicky Jack mysteriously returns to DeClare, shocking the town and stirring up long-buried memories. But what he discovers about the night he vanished is more astonishing than he or anyone could have imagine. Piece by piece, what emerges is a story of dashed hopes, desperate love, and a secret that still cries out for justice...and redemption.
This insomniac's opinion:
I have read a couple of Billie Letts' novels before and I really enjoyed them. This one was perfectly readable but, unfortunately, just a mediocre read. I did not suspect who the murder was in this mystery and I usually have it figured out long before the end, though. So, kudos to the author for surprising this avid reader!
Worth staying up all night to read?
Not for me.
Rating: 3 stars