Saturday, October 26, 2013

ARC review: Money A Love Story by Kate Northrup

Many thanks to Net Galley and Hay House publishing for providing me with the advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Book Synapsis(via Goodreads):
   Having a good relationship with money is tough—whether you have millions in the bank or just a few bucks to your name. Why? Because just like any other relationship, your life with money has its ups and downs, its twists and turns, its breakups and makeups. And just like other relationships, living happily with money really comes down to love. In fact, love is such an essential part of getting and keeping your financial house in order that money maven Kate Northrup made it the basis of her book.     After taking the Money Love Quiz to see where on the spectrum your relationship with money stands—somewhere between “on the outs” and “it’s true love!”—Northrup takes you on a rollicking ride to a better understanding of yourself and your money. Step-by-step exercises that address both the emotional and practical aspects of your financial life help you figure out your personal perceptions of money and wealth and how to change them for the better. You’ll learn about thought patterns that may be holding you back from earning what you’re worth or saving what you can. You’ll learn how to chart your current financial life and create a plan to get you to where you want to be—whether that’s earning enough to live in a penthouse in Manhattan or a cabin in the Rockies.     Using client stories and her own saga of moving from $20,000 in debt to complete financial freedom by the age of 28, Northrup acts as a guide in your quest for personal financial freedom. She’ll teach you how to shift your beliefs about money, create a budget, spend in line with your values, get out of debt, and so much more. In short, she’ll teach you to love your money, so you can love your life.
This insomniac's opinion:
I read this book because I've realized lately how negative my thoughts and feelings are toward money. Even though I live very comfortably, money is a constant source of stress for me. I am always worried about not having enough and it is not a comfortable place to be.
I am conflicted on this book. On the one hand, Kate's story is not relatable to the average Joe. She has always been wealthy and went into debt by living way above her means. However, she is down-to-Earth and honest. On the other hand, there are some great suggestions and thoughts in this book.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Much like any non-fiction book, it's not really a page-turner!
Rating: 3 stars- good information at times, but not relatable to most.

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Sunny Mann has masterminded a life for herself and her family in a quiet Virginia town. Her house and her friends are picture-perfect. Even her genius husband, Maxon, has been trained to pass for normal. But when a fender bender on an average day sends her coiffed blonde wig sailing out the window, her secret is exposed. Not only is she bald, Sunny is nothing like the Stepford wife she’s trying to be. As her facade begins to unravel, we discover the singular world of Sunny, an everywoman searching for the perfect life, and Maxon, an astronaut on his way to colonize the moon.

Theirs is a wondrous, strange relationship formed of dark secrets, decades-old murders and the urgent desire for connection. As children, the bald, temperamental Sunny and the neglected savant Maxon found an unlikely friendship no one else could understand. She taught him to feel—helped him translate his intelligence for numbers into a language of emotion. He saw her spirit where others saw only a freak. As they grew into adults, their profound understanding blossomed into love and marriage.

But with motherhood comes a craving for normalcy that begins to strangle Sunny’s marriage and family. As Sunny and Maxon are on the brink of destruction, at each other’s throats with blame and fear of how they’ve lost their way, Maxon departs for the moon, where he’s charged with programming the robots that will build the fledgling colony. Just as the car accident jars Sunny out of her wig and into an awareness of what she really needs, an accident involving Maxon’s rocket threatens everything they’ve built, revealing the things they’ve kept hidden. And nothing will ever be the same.

This insomniac's opinion:

This was one of those novels that is painfully beautiful. It resonated with me on such a level that I had to put it down several times to reflect on my life. There have been a handful of novels this year that hit me in the same manner. It felt as though the novel was a mirror reflecting back to me some of the uncomfortable truths of my life-the fact that I try too hard to fit in(even as I pride myself on being different), the way that I have never truly fit in with the suburban mothers around me, no matter the energy I put into it and the amount of time and energy I spend acquiring things so that I can attempt to fit in and be "invisible".

At the opening of the novel, I thought I was going to hate it. Sunny seemed to be the antithesis of everything that I believe it. She seemed snobby and shallow. However, the unique writing style of the author drew me in and, as Sunny's layers were peeled back, I realized that she was just like me.

This book is a must read for the Suburban misfit Mom struggling between being herself and fitting in so that her children can fit in.

Worth staying up all night to read?



5 stars

ARC review: The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

Many thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin publishing for providing me with the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel has a publication date of October 29, 2013.

Book summary(via Goodreads):
In a riveting exploration of the power the past wields over the present, critically acclaimed author Antoinette van Heugten writes the story of a woman whose child's life hangs in the balance, forcing her to confront the roots of her family's troubled history in the dark days of World War II… 

It's the stuff of nightmares: Nora de Jong returns home from work one ordinary day to find her mother has been murdered. Her infant daughter is missing. And the only clue is the body of an unknown man on the living-room floor, clutching a Luger in his cold, dead hand.

Frantic to find Rose, Nora puts aside her grief and frustration with the local police to start her own search. But the contents of a locked metal box she finds in her parents' attic leave her with as many questions as answers and suggest the killer was not a stranger. Saving her daughter means delving deeper into her family's darkest history, leading Nora half a world away to Amsterdam, where her own unsettled past and memories of painful heartbreak rush back to haunt her.

As Nora feverishly pieces together the truth from an old family diary, she's drawn back to a city under Nazi occupation, where her mother's alliances may have long ago sealed her  own and Rose's fate.
This insomniac's opinion:
I enjoyed this novel but would have enjoyed it much more if there had been much more of the stories of those around Amsterdam during the second world war. The title of this novel is derived from the stories of the Jews during the Holocaust who were forced out of their homes and, in desperation from starvation, dug up tulip bulbs to eat. The historical pieces of this novel were truly fascinating and led me into deep thought about how brave(or weak) I might have been if I had been there during those times.
Unfortunately, the core of the story-rooted in the present-was not as fascinating. In fact, the ending was far too action-packed and unbelievable for me. I was so frustrated that I hesitated to finish the last few pages. However, overall this was a good read. I liked it, but did not love it.
Worth staying up all night to read?
If you like mystery with a touch of history, it might be.
Rating: 3 stars

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

A sweeping story told in letters, spanning two continents and two world wars, Jessica Brockmole’s atmospheric debut novel captures the indelible ways that people fall in love, and celebrates the power of the written word to stir the heart.

March 1912: Twenty-four-year-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, has never seen the world beyond her home on Scotland’s remote Isle of Skye. So she is astonished when her first fan letter arrives, from a college student, David Graham, in far-away America. As the two strike up a correspondence—sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets—their exchanges blossom into friendship, and eventually into love. But as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers as an ambulance driver on the Western front, Elspeth can only wait for him on Skye, hoping he’ll survive.

June 1940: At the start of World War II, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, has fallen for a pilot in the Royal Air Force. Her mother warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn’t understand. Then, after a bomb rocks Elspeth’s house, and letters that were hidden in a wall come raining down, Elspeth disappears. Only a single letter remains as a clue to Elspeth’s whereabouts. As Margaret sets out to discover where her mother has gone, she must also face the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

This insomniac's opinion:

I found this novel to be vaguely reminiscent of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, so if you loved that novel- give this one a try!

This novel is written entirely in letters, which may be a turn-off to some. However, I truly loved it! The letters lend to give the reader a unique sense of the characters and an entirely new dynamic to the relationship between the characters. The forbidden, war-time romance leaves the reader swooning and desperate to finish the novel so that she can find out if they end up together or not. Lovely read.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. Especially if you are a romantic!


4 stars

The Last Summer(of You & Me) by Ann Brashares

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):
Set on Long Island's Fire Island, The Last Summer (of You and Me) is an enchanting, heartrending page-turner about sisterhood, friendship, love, loss, and growing up. It is the story of a beach community friendship triangle-Riley and Alice, two sisters in their twenties, and Paul, the young man they've grown up with-and what happens one summer when budding love, sexual curiosity, a sudden serious illness, and a deep secret all collide, launching the friends into an adult world from which their summer haven can no longer protect them.

As wise, compelling, and endearing as her Traveling Pants series, and as lyrical, thoughtful, and moving as the best literary women's fiction, this novel is sure to win an entire new generation of adult fans.
This insomniac's opinion:
Ugh. I think Ann Brashares should probably stick with the YA genre. This was painful. An entire book of characters whining about how awful it is to grow up. Then, the one likeable character dies and the reader is left to finish the novel with the remaining characters whining AND grieving. Sigh. I can't believe I finished it.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Decidedly not.
Rating: 1 star

ARC review: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

 *Many thanks to Net Galley and Atria books for providing me with an advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel will be published on November 5, 2013*

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

Caught up in a moment of boyhood competition, William Bellman recklessly aims his slingshot at a rook resting on a branch, killing the bird instantly. It is a small but cruel act, and is soon forgotten. By the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, William seems to have put the whole incident behind him. It was as if he never killed the thing at all. But rooks don’t forget...

Years later, when a stranger mysteriously enters William’s life, his fortunes begin to turn—and the terrible and unforeseen consequences of his past indiscretion take root. In a desperate bid to save the only precious thing he has left, he enters into a rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner. Together, they found a decidedly macabre business.

And Bellman & Black is born.

This insomniac's opinion:

Diane Setterfield.

Swoon. Setterfield. Have you read The Thirteenth Tale? If not, run right out and grab it. IT is Diane Setterfield's first masterpiece of a novel. Fabulousness. But, I digress. Because I  adored Diane Setterfield's first novel, I was thrilled to be provided with her second novel Bellman & Black. She did not disappoint.

Bellman & Black has a decidedly different feel from The Thirteenth Tale. It is dark from the very opening pages and continues in its stark bleakness until the very last. However, there are light points and many lessons throughout the pages. In fact, at the ending of the novel one begins to wonder if the entire novel is a lesson and an important life reminder from the author. The reader is, in no subtle manner, reminded of how precious and short life is and not to squander those precious years and things that are of no importance. Mr. Bellman, the focus of the entire novel, is often unlikeable. Yet, the reader finds herself rooting for him and hoping, against all hopes, that he will find his way in the world. This is a starkly beautiful and intricately told story that I will not soon forget.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. In fact, I dare you to try to stop reading once you begin. The mystery of Mr. Black will draw you in and not let you go until the last page.

Rating: 4 stars

Love Anthony by Lisa Genova

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):
Two women, each cast adrift by unforseen events in their lives, meet by accident on a Nantucket beach and are drawn into a friendship.
Olivia is a young mother whose eight-year-old severely autistic son has recently died. Her marriage badly frayed by years of stress, she comes to the island in a trial separation to try and make sense of the tragedy of her Anthony’s short life.
Beth, a stay-at-home mother of three, is also recently separated after discovering her husband’s long-term infidelity. In an attempt to recapture a sense of her pre-married life, she rekindles her passion for writing, determined to find her own voice again. But surprisingly, as she does so, Beth also find herself channeling the voice of an unknown boy, exuberant in his perceptions of the world around him if autistic in his expression—a voice she can share with Olivia—(is it Anthony?)—that brings comfort and meaning to them both.
This insomniac's opinion:
I loved, loved, loved this novel. However, I feel that much of my feelings regarding the characters had to do with my personal experiences as a pediatric nurse who works with special needs children and their families. Therefore, others may read this novel and wonder why I loved it so.
I admit that this novel is a bit chick-litty(yes, chick-litty is a word. Or, it should be). And, I generally wouldn't give chick lit 5 stars. However, something about the intensity of the characters rang true with my soul and I adored the book. Lisa Genova writes eloquently but does not stray from tackling true, raw emotions of a mother grieving her son. In this novel, she takes the reader along on a journey to the very depths of that grief. And yet-somehow, at the end, the reader is left with a feeling of resolution and hope. Perfection.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes. Have a box of tissue ready.
Rating: 5 stars