Thursday, January 30, 2014

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

 Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

I Am Malala will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.

This insomniac's opinion:

There are not words to tell you how I feel about Malala- her bravery, kindness, compassion and intelligence are astonishing. Anything even in the slightest way negative that I have to say in no way reflects the way I feel about this AMAZING young lady.

Malala's life story(she is just a young woman and already has lived so much!) = 5 stars.

Unfortunately, this book was not terribly well written and was convoluted at times. I wish it had been better edited so that it was more representative of Malala's story. I do understand that Malala is a young woman who has a brain injury and English is not her first language, so this criticism is not for her as a writer but for the other writer and the editors on the team.

Still, this is a story worth reading. An important story for all in the world to read, not just the middle east.

Malala included a poem in her book, written by Martin Niemoller who lived in Nazi Germany:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out  because I was not a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

This poem, for me, is why it is important for all of us to read Malala's story and similar stories all across the world and not turn a blind eye to the injustices all around us.

May God bless Malala with a long life so that she can continue to speak out in such an important way.


4 stars. Read it!

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):
'As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I'm still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me ...' Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.
This insomniac's opinion:
Holy buckets of suspense, Batman! What a romp!
This novel was so thoroughly enjoyable for me. I read it in one sitting and could not stop guessing what was going to happen. The twist at the end was delightful and, even though I knew a twist was coming, I was shocked!
I am so glad that I happened upon a copy of this at the used bookstore! Delightful!
Worth staying up all night to read?
I dare you NOT to stay up all night reading!
4 suspenseful stars

ARC review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.
*Many thanks to Net Galley and Disney publishing for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. *
Anticipated release of this novel is April 18, 2015
This insomniac's opinion:
This was a very enjoyable and unexpected YA mystery. I've never read a YA novel that explored same sex relationships in such a frank way, and I really appreciated that. I enjoyed the twist at the end, even though it wasn't terribly believable. All in all, very enjoyable if a bit too edgy for YA in my opinion(drug use, vivid sex).
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes, very enjoyable, but definitely for the crowd that enjoys the YA genre, there isn't much substance to the novel.
a solid 3 stars.

ARC review: Life Interrupted by Denise Brennan

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Life Interrupted introduces us to survivors of human trafficking who are struggling to get by and make homes for themselves in the United States. Having spent nearly a decade following the lives of formerly trafficked men and women, Denise Brennan recounts in close detail their flight from their abusers and their courageous efforts to rebuild their lives. At once scholarly and accessible, her book links these firsthand accounts to global economic inequities and under-regulated and unprotected workplaces that routinely exploit migrant laborers in the United States. Brennan contends that today's punitive immigration policies undermine efforts to fight trafficking. While many believe trafficking happens only in the sex trade, Brennan shows that across low-wage labor sectors—in fields, in factories, and on construction sites—widespread exploitation can lead to and conceal forced labor. Life Interrupted is a riveting account of life in and after trafficking and a forceful call for meaningful immigration and labor reform.
*Many thanks to Net Galley and Duke University publishing for an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publication date for this book is March 14, 2014
This insomniac's opinion:
This book is most assuredly well researched and the topic is very important in this country right now. However, the book is written like a textbook-all facts and I felt like I was just slogging through it. I would have liked to have heard more of the survivor stories. In order to stay with a reader, more than facts are needed and I simply won't remember this book weeks from now.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Again- very important topic. However, staying up all night with this book would be a challenge.
2 stars

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Little Wolves by Thomas Maltman

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that’s pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor’s wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America from the award-winning author of The Night Birds, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery; a page-turning literary triumph.

This insomniac's opinion:

I "read" this novel via audiobook and it was tough to get through. I must say that the writer's voice was impeccable and he had a way of using descriptive terms that was so unusual and poetic. I just loved the way he described characters and their surroundings. It was truly marvelous.

The story, however, I just did not love. It was dark and convoluted. It was so bleak that I found it leaving me in a funk after listening to the audiobook for a few hours. And, I can deal with bleak if, and only if, the story is fascinating or, at the least, redemptive. This just didn't do it for me- I just wanted it to be over. However, the writing was so distinct that I would give the author another try.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Ummm, No.

Rating: 2 stars(which I truly feel badly about, because there were paragraphs so beautifully stunning that they stopped in in my tracks!)

The Last Letter from your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
It is 1960. When Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital, she can remember nothing-not the tragic car accident that put her there, not her husband, not even who she is. She feels like a stranger in her own life until she stumbles upon an impassioned letter, signed simply "B", asking her to leave her husband.

Years later, in 2003, a journalist named Ellie discovers the same enigmatic letter in a forgotten file in her newspaper's archives. She becomes obsessed by the story and hopeful that it can resurrect her faltering career. Perhaps if these lovers had a happy ending she will find one to her own complicated love life, too. Ellie's search will rewrite history and help her see the truth about her own modern romance.
This insomniac's opinion:
Oh, how I love me some Jojo Moyes. If you haven't read Me Before You or The Girl you Left Behind, than you absolutely must do so. Oh, Lawd- were they great reads!!
Unfortunately, this novel did not resonate with  me in the same way that those two novels did. The romance felt forced and the plot "twists" were too easy to see coming. I did enjoy the read, but would've loved a non-transparent twist or a stronger love story that really reached out and held me.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Ehhhhh, maybe. Solid premise, but not well carried out.
3 stars.

The Spectacular Now by Tim Sharp

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

This insomniac's opininion:

I, like many bibliophiles, insist on reading the book before seeing the movie, if at all possible. I've been hearing great things about this movie and knew that I would be renting soon when it is available.

This is a very challenging book to rate, for several different reasons. So, if my review sounds a bit Bi-polar, I apologize. When I first began to read the novel, Sutter(the main character) seemed like a charismatic simpleton and I wasn't sure that I wanted to read an entire book about an alcoholic teenager that charms everyone around him. It seemed too shallow and oversimplified. However, the novel quickly progressed(very readable) and I became endeared to Sutter very quickly. It was extraordinarily challenging to watch Sutter throw his life away(and drag Aimee along with him). As a nurse who often works with pregnant teenagers, I recognized in Sutter the desperation for love that he wasn't getting anywhere and the desperate need to numb himself when his needs weren't met. I wanted so terribly to reach into the novel and hug him(yes, yes- I know this is a work of fiction, folks!).

I read this novel almost compulsively and found the ending to be lacking. Perhaps that is because I so desperately wanted someone, God- ANYONE!, to help Sutter. I wanted resolution and had none.

So, I'm left feeling at odds about how to rate the novel. I think its well written and painfully realistic. I do not believe that this should be categorized as a young adult novel and that fact laid heavily on me throughout the reading.The novel takes a very laisse-faire attitude to sex, drinking, drunken driving, drugs and higher education. I do realize that many teens feel the same way and it may be very realistic, but there were little consequences for Sutter in this novel and it lends the wrong idea of how life is. It is well-written, but leaves the reader wishing for more resolution and unsure of how Sutter's life will truly end.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Well, if you're going to watch the movie, yes! If you watch the movie without reading the book first, the bibliophile police might show up at your door and who wants that?


I'm gonna go all Switzerland with my rating and be perfectly neutral because I am feeling vexed by my myriad of feelings after reading it.  So, 3 stars it is!

American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat's mother's oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah's doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat's skeptical father can't deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family's Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina's side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act -- with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.

American Dervish is a brilliantly written, nuanced, and emotionally forceful look inside the interplay of religion and modern life. Ayad Akhtar was raised in the Midwest himself, and through Hayat Shah he shows readers vividly the powerful forces at work on young men and women growing up Muslim in America. This is an intimate, personal first novel that will stay with readers long after they turn the last page.
This insomniac's opinion:
I very much wanted to like this novel(as with every novel that I read). I am infinitely interested in other cultures and particularly how those other cultures assimilate into the American culture, so this novel seemed like a good fit for me.
The first few chapters seemed very promising, with likeable characters and an unknown, mysteriously alluded to conflict. However, the characters and the writing were inconsistent and my interest had waned before the novel was not even half-read. So, overall, this novel is not worth the time to read, friends.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Rating: 2.5 stars

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

*Many thanks to Net Galley and Algonquin books for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.*

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

This insomniac's opinion:

This review is going to be an  anti-climatic review, folks. Because I'm going to tell you my rating first- 4 stars. The reason that I am telling you this, is because I am about to wax poetic about the novel and you might be surprised that it wasn't a solid five stars. It just simply wasn't, I don't know the reason, it just wasn't. However, I loved it and believe that it is a must-read for a bibliophile.

This novel has been on quite a few "must read upcoming books of 2014" lists. And, rightly so. It is a delightful read, full of quirky and loveable characters and, most importantly, copious references to wonderful books. It wasn't a very serious read and I fear that it may be mistaken by some as beach fodder. However, the ending was so magical for me, as an avid reader, that I will never look at my book stash in the same way and am determined to leave my children with my favorite books after my death. Even though it isn't the best written novel I will read this year, it resonated with me in a very intense way.

Rating: 4 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

This insomniac's opinion:

Holy buckets of bravery, Batman! What an amazing book!!!

I rarely read non-fiction, so I waited far too long to follow up on my bibliophile buddy's suggestion to read this book. What in the hell was I thinking?

If you have not read this amazing, inspirational book, for God's sake- get your ass to the bookstore!!

I loved Louis in a way that doesn't seem rational because I never met the amazing man. It was a honor just to read his story. But, it wasn't just Louis- I loved all of the men and women in this story. This is a brutal war-time story, so there are so many deaths and each and every one struck my heart and I would have to stop reading and catch my breath. I will never forget any of these men that so bravely gave of themselves to better our country. I am so very grateful that their story has been told.


5 gigantic stars!

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes, Yes, Yes!!!

The Midwife of Hope River By Patricia Harman

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

A debut novel featuring Patience Murphy, an Appalachian midwife in the 1930s struggling against disease, poverty, and prejudices-and her own haunting past-to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world

As a midwife working in the hardscrabble conditions of Appalachia during the Depression, Patience Murphy's only solace is her gift: the chance to escort mothers through the challanges of childbirth. Just beginning, she takes on the jobs no one else wants: those most in need-and least likely to pay. Patience is willing to do what it takes to fulfill her mentor's wishes, but starting a midwife practice means gaining trust, and Patience's secrets are too fragile to let anyone in.

A stirring piece of Americana, The Midwife of Hope River beats with authenticity as Patience faces seemingly insurmountable conditions: disease, poverty, and prejudices threaten at every turn. From the dangerous mines of West Virginia to the terrifying attentions of the Klu Klux Klan, Patience must strive to bring new light, and life, into an otherwise cruel world.

This insomniac's opinion:

I think most of my readers know that I am a nurse, and I think this fact is important as I do believe that it influenced my feelings as a reader of this novel. I do have a fascination(ahem, obsession) with old school midwifery.

I adored this novel. Patience was a wonderfully strong woman who is also incredibly compassionate and brave. She is ahead of her time with her thoughts of equality and I would love to believe that I would've been the same if I had been around in this time period.

It is very hard to believe that this is a debut novel- the characters, even those that we meet only briefly, are incredibly well fleshed out and very diverse. I loved the untraditional arc of the story, with multiple conflicts  as opposed to the more traditional large conflict woven throughout the novel. The ending was perfect in is subtlety and left me with a smile on my face.

Patience is one of those characters that I found a kinship with and will never forgot.

Rating: 5 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes!!! Lovely, slow-moving novel to read in the dead of winter.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Nearly eighteen, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. Just months from "aging out" of the child welfare system, and close to being kicked out of her foster home, a community service position helping an elderly woman clean out her home is the only thing keeping her out of juvie and worse.

Vivian Daly has lived a quiet life on the coast of Maine. But in her attic, hidden in trunks, are vestiges of a turbulent past. As she helps Vivian sort through her possessions and memories, Molly discovers that she and Vivian aren't as different as they seem to be. A young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City, Vivian was put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies would be determined by luck and chance.

The closer Molly grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life. A Penobscot Indian, she, too, is an outsider being raised by strangers, and she, too, has unanswered questions about the past. As her emotional barriers begin to crumble, Molly discovers that she has the power to help Vivian find answers to mysteries that have haunted her for her entire life - answers that will ultimately free them both.

Rich in detail and epic in scope, Orphan Train is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, of second chances, of unexpected friendship, and of the secrets we carry that keep us from finding out who we are.

This insomniac's opinion:

This novel was receiving quite a lot of buzz in literary circles and I was dying to read it. The hold list on the library was quite long so when I received the email stating that it was my turn, I hustled my rump immediately to the library to pick it up and settled in for a night's worth of reading.

Vivian's story was wonderful and I have long been fascinated with orphan trains and the story of the children who where on them. The present story and the friendship between Vivian and Molly was weak for me and lacked substance. If this novel was based solely on the story of Vivian's childhood journey, I would have liked it much more.

I did enjoy the novel, and it was a solid read. There was something missing in the story, however. An electricity of character that all the great novels have was simply not present.  It will not make the cut for a favorite of mine for that reason.


 3.5 stars, rounded up for Goodreads

Saturday, January 4, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See

Many, many thanks to Net Galley and Scribner for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This novel will be published on May 6, 2014.

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

This insomniac's opinion:

If you are new to my blog, you may not know that I have a weird-ahem, unique- fascination with books that take place in the period during World War II. Not because of a fascination with war itself, but because of the incredible acts of bravery and kindness that happen amidst the violence and desperation. But, I digress- on to the novel.

I fell in love with Marie Laure right at the beginning. She is so beautifully kind and sweet soul. Her relationship with her father was also incredibly beautiful. I dreaded the knowledge that the war was coming and their lives would soon change.

Werner was not quite as loveable, but, as a reader, I found myself inexplicably understanding why he ended up as a soldier and made the choices that he did. It was an eye into the mind of an orphan who desperately wanted to belong and would even become a Nazi killer to do so.

This novel chewed up and spit out my heart over and over again with its quiet desperation and connections between people amongst the horror of war. There is a moment near the end between Werner and Marie Laure that was a pure balm on my sorrowed heart. It was, perhaps, the most sadly beautiful moment in a novel full of beautiful moments.

The ending was slow-moving and appropriate for a novel regarding war. Too many novels that take place in war-time button up the endings with sugar sweet happenings and the reader is left with a feeling that all is right in the world again. Not this novel. It reminded the reader that even many, many years after the war had ended, those who survived the war will be haunted and will take those egregious memories and happenings to their graves.

This novel was incredibly moving and compulsively readable with characters that will live in your heart forever.This was my first 5 star novel of 2014 and I will not soon forget it or the characters in it. Kudos to the author- I look forward to reading more of his work!

Worth staying up all night to read?



5 great, big shining stars!

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Book summary(via Goodreads):
This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning. 
This insomniac's opinion:
This was January's pick of the month for my book club. Before it was chosen to be a book club pick, I had never even heard of it. I'm so glad it was chosen as I am not sure that I would've found it on my own.
Rachel, the protagonist in this novel, is an incredibly strong girl who becomes ill and is sent to a leprosy settlement to live amongst fellow lepers and be segregated from her family and friends for the rest of her life. The novel follows Rachel from childhood to her death. If you just read the dry facts of Rachel's life, you may feel badly for her and think of what a sad, loveless life she lead. However, Rachel finds herself and her strength on the island and develops a web of friendships so strong that they become her family. The author also does a wonderful job of weaving in Hawaiian and US history regarding the time period. Truly evocative and wonderful novel full of well-fleshed out and inspiring characters.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes! Wonderful read!
I vaccilated between 4 and 5 stars, but did decide on 4 stars, due to a couple of slow parts. However, this is a solidly wonderful novel and well worth the read!

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarity

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Alice is twenty-nine. She is whimsical, optimistic and adores sleep, chocolate, her ramshackle new house and her wonderful husband Nick. What's more, she's looking forward to the birth of the 'Sultana' - her first baby.

But now Alice has slipped and hit her head in her step-aerobics class and everyone's telling her she's misplaced the last ten years of her life.

In fact, it would seem that Alice is actually thirty-nine and now she loves schedules, expensive lingerie, caffeine and manicures. She has three children and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick. In fact, he looks at her like she's his worst enemy. What's more, her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her either. And who is this 'Gina' everyone is so carefully trying not to mention?

Alice isn't sure that she likes life ten years on. Every photo is another memory she doesn't have and nothing makes sense. Just how much can happen in a decade? Has she really lost her lovely husband forever?
This insomniac's opinion:
I started of the year with a nasty cold. Not good for my body or my productivity at work or home. However, great for the start of my 2014 reading! I stayed home from work with a fever and dove into my library bag. I wasn't sure about this book going in. The cover looked a bit too chick-lit for my taste, yet my Goodreads friends had given this 4-5 stars each. And, my Goodreads friends are usually spot-on. So, I gave it a whirl.
This book doesn't spend a chapter or two giving the reader background information, it dives right in with Alice having an accident and losing her memory. I was a bit worried this was going to be like one of those myriad of Lifetime movies in which the mother loses her memory, finds herself stuck in a life she didn't remember and, oh the saccharine tears!, finds the true meaning of life within her "new" life. Gag! Boo! Hiss! Thank goodness that wasn't the case.
This novel really hit home for me. It was about losing yourself in parenthood and suburbia and being unable to find the true you underneath the person that you feel you must present to the world. It did have  a bit of a chick lit feel at times, and I felt the ending was a little off, but overall a very enjoyable read that does not take itself too seriously.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Yes. Great way to pass the time when you are feeling under the weather(or if you feel totally well).
4 stars

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Ten of 2013

It's the moment you all have been waiting for. I know that you have been waiting on pins and needles and gnawing your fingernails to nubs with the anxiety of waiting.

 Well,here it is, friends! The official count of my books read for 2013 was 163 (52, 590 pages!!!), the majority of which was fiction. It's been a great year of reading and it was no small chore for me to whittle the list of fiction down to ten.

 This list is not numbered, because it would be impossible to rank them- they all stand on equal footing in my top ten. Some of them are not highbrow literature by any stretch, but are on my list because of how they struck, and changed, my heart. Isn't that the most wonderful thing about reading? That one book can actually change you as a person, so that when the last page has been turned, you are not the person that turned the very first page? I am not a book snob and will read just about anything that is recommended to me or strikes my whimsical fancy. Enough blabbering from me, on to the list!

Drum roll please........

The insomniac bibliophile's top ten fiction of 2013:

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer
Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd(note: this book has not yet been published, I was lucky enough to receive an advanced reader's copy from the publisher)

Notable Non-fiction:

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler

There it is, my bibliophile buddies! As always, be sure to share with me any great books that you have read/are reading so I can continue to read amazing books.

If you are on Goodreads and are curious about the other 150 books I read that are not on this list, see here:

Happy reading, friends, and may 2014 bring you peace, joy and fabulous books! Cheers!