Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan

 *Many thanks to Net Galley and Random House publishing for this advanced reader's copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book synapsis(via Goodreads):

In her masterful new novel, Nancy Horan has recreated a love story that is as unique, passionate, and overwhelmingly powerful as the one between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney depicted so memorably in Loving Frank. Under the Wide and Starry Sky chronicles the unconventional love affair of Scottish literary giant Robert Louis Stevenson, author of classics including Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and American divorcee Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. They meet in rural France in 1875, when Fanny, having run away from her philandering husband back in California, takes refuge there with her children. Stevenson too is escaping from his life, running from family pressure to become a lawyer. And so begins a turbulent love affair that will last two decades and span the world.

This insomniac's opinion:

I really wanted to like this novel. As I do every novel, of course, but even more when a publisher so kindly allows me to read it in advance of the publication date. Sigh. It was not to be.

This novel was supposedly based on some lively written communication between Robert Louis Stevenson and Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne. If so, it is quite unfortunate that this novel was not at all lively or likeable. There was only one endearing character, who dies near the beginning. Then we are left with the rest of the selfish, uninteresting characters for the duration of the novel. Truly, by the end I just wanted it to be over.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Not for me.

Rating: 2 stars

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

*Many thanks to Disney/Hyperion and Net Galley for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Book summary(via Goodreads):

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

This insomniac's opinion:

This novel is an awful lot like the movie Titanic. Except on a spaceship. Have I lost your interest yet? Because these facts almost made the book lose my interest at first. Almost.

However, the characters became quickly likeable, then loveable and soon I was entrenched in the journey of Lilac(clichéd rich girl, except-you guessed it- in space) and Tarver( clichéd poor kid, exept...okay, okay you get it). I really did enjoy it- the novel moved quickly and was compulsively readable.

Worth staying up all night to read?

If you like romance and don't mind a novel written more for the YA crowd.


3.5  stars

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Summary(via Goodreads):

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry's brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father's money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma's research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

This insomniac's opinion:

I have a love/hate relationship with Liz Gilbert. Meaning that I loved Eat, Pray, Love and hated Committed. Despite this juxtaposition of feelings, I was anxious to read the new Gilbert.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It was a sweeping novel which takes place over the long life of it's protagonist, Alma. I admit that I am not very interested in botany, and that did make for some slow sections. However, I loved the whole of the novel and was endeared to nearly all of the characters by the end. Thoroughly readable and worthwhile piece of fiction to pick up and read!

Worth staying up all night to read?



 4 stars

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Lake Shore Limited by Sue Miller

 Book synopsis(via Goodreads):
Four unforgettable characters beckon you into this spellbinding new novel from Sue Miller, the author of 2008’s heralded best seller The Senator’s Wife. First among them is Wilhelmina—Billy—Gertz, small as a child, fiercely independent, powerfully committed to her work as a playwright. The story itself centers on The Lake Shore Limited—a play Billy has written about an imagined terrorist bombing of that train as it pulls into Union Station in Chicago, and about a man waiting to hear the fate of his estranged wife, who is traveling on it. Billy had waited in just such a way on 9/11 to hear whether her lover, Gus, was on one of the planes used in the attack.

The novel moves from the snow-filled woods of Vermont to the rainy brick sidewalks of Boston as the lives of the other characters intersect and interweave with Billy’s: Leslie, Gus’s sister, still driven by grief years after her brother’s death; Rafe, the actor who rises to greatness in a performance inspired by a night of incandescent lovemaking; and Sam, a man irresistibly drawn to Billy after he sees the play that so clearly displays the terrible conflicts and ambivalence of her situation.

How Billy has come to create the play out of these emotions, how it is then created anew on the stage, how the performance itself touches and changes the other characters’ lives—these form the thread that binds them all together and drives the novel compulsively forward.

A powerful love story; a mesmerizing tale of entanglements, connections, and inconsolable losses; a marvelous reflection on the meaning of grace and the uses of sorrow, in life and in art: The Lake Shore Limited is Sue Miller at her dazzling best.

This insomniac's opinion:

I can review this book in two words- Melancholy monotony.

Worth staying up all night to read?

I dare you. Double dog dare you! Just try and stay up all night while reading this slow-moving novel. You can report back to me later with your failure. Or, success, if sleep is what you are looking for. However, your dreams will be sad, sad, sad.

Rating: 2 stars.

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane, and Sukie, bewitching divorcées with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious. Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream. Their happy little coven takes on new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play. Thenceforth scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick—and through the even darker fantasies of the town’s collective psyche.
This insomniac's opinion:
Dear Mr. Updike(and all male authors)- Your masculine idea of what a "strong" woman is seems to always be a nymphomanical bitch. When you write a group of women and all of them seem to have this personality, it cannot be a coincidence. And, it disgusts me. So much so, that I cannot get past my disgust to get into your novel. The writing was fine, the plot was intriguing- yet, I am left with only disgust. And, that's a hard taste to get out of your mouth. Blech.
Worth staying up all night to read?
No. The movie, however, is entertaining and less offensive.
2 stars. My friend Christine rightfully thought I should lower my rating to 1 star. However, the writing isn't egregious enough to warrant this. Assholery alone doesn't warrant a one star review. Sigh.