Friday, March 28, 2014

ARC review: The Memory Child by Steena Holmes

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

When Brian finds out that his wife, Diane, is pregnant, he is elated. He's been patiently waiting for twelve years to become a father. But Diane has always been nervous about having children because of her family's dark past. The timing of the pregnancy also isn't ideal - Diane has just been promoted, and Brian is being called away to open a new London office for his company.

Fast-forward one year: being a mother has brought Diane a sense of joy that she'd never imagined and she's head over heels for her new baby, Grace. But things are far from perfect: Brian has still not returned from London, and Diane fears leaving the baby for even a moment. As unsettling changes in those around Diane began to emerge, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems.

A woman's dark past collides head-on with her mysterious present in this surreal and gripping family drama.

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Amazon publishing for providing me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel was published on March 18, 2014.***

This insomniac's review:

This novel sucked me in from the very beginning. There is almost an immediate mystery of Diane's past and a burgeoning mystery of what is even happening in the present. I admit that I foresaw the "twist" and the ending was a bit too tidied up for me, but this was a great, suspenseful read!

***Do not read the next bit if you do not want to have a possible spoiler***
As a nurse and someone who had a very severe case of postpartum depression, myself, I feel that I must say that the portrayal of both cases of postpartum psychosis in this novel were extraordinarily extreme and unrealistic. I would hate to think that a pregnant or postpartum mother would be terrified by this novel and think it were anything but fiction. Also, who still uses electroshock therapy? This is, and should only be taken as, pure fiction.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heft by Liz Moore

Book summary(via Goodreads):

Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn't left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that jostles them into action. Through Arthur and Kel’s own quirky and lovable voices, Heft tells the winning story of two improbable heroes whose sudden connection transforms both their lives. Like Elizabeth McCracken’s The Giant’s House, Heft is a novel about love and family found in the most unexpected places.

This insomniac's opinion:

Oh my goodness, friends. This novel nearly killed me. It was beautifully tragic and the author has such a unique voice. It is a dual narration novel, and the convergence of the narrators was breathtaking.

I consider this a must read, if you can tolerate a deeply solemn book. Truly beautiful and melancholy in a way that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 4.5 stars

That Night by Chevy Stevens

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent
complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn't relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren't easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni's innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni's life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.

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

This insomniac's opinion:

You know those author's that you love so much that when they come out with a new book, you squeal with delight and bite your nails in anticipation of the release date? Chevy Stevens is one of those for me. Her books are uniquely written and include a shocking twist(my favorite part!).

I was thrilled to receive this ARC and devoured it in one night. The characters were well-fleshed out and there was a mystery from the very first page. I could not stop reading until the mystery of who actually murdered Tori's sister was revealed. I have to admit that I saw the twist coming and knew who the murderer before the book was halfway through. That was a disappointment, as I love to be surprised, but the book was highly readable anyway.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 3 stars.

ARC review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it's the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn't believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake's owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake's magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and St. Martin's Press for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***
This insomniac's review:
I know many readers that just adore Sarah Addison Allen and her way of weaving magic into her stories. This is my second SAA novel, and I'm not really sure how I feel about them. What I mean is- I don't really love them and I surely don't hate them. They are just out there in book limbo.
This novel fell flat for me. The character's were not well-fleshed out and the story was predictable. I was hoping for a magical lake experience and received only a mediocre cast of quirky-ish characters living in place that was decaying with age. Not so magical.
I would be open to another SAA novel in the future, but this one wasn't so great.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Not so much
Switzerland. Absolutely neutral.

I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Can you commit the perfect crime?

Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation.

But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder - and Pilgrim wrote the book.

What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Atria books for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***

This insomniac's opinion:

This is, most definitely, not my preferred genre. However, a Goodreads friend(shout out to Lori, whom I only "know" via that site and our shared love of books) rated it very highly, so I thought I would give it a try. I am trying to read books out of my usual genre this year to expand my mind, or whatnot.
This novel is intelligently written and obviously well-researched. The bioterrorism is shockingly real and made me feel more than a little bit scared for the future of our world. I'll admit that it took me awhile to get into the book, but once halfway in, I could not put it down. It was a brutally and unflinchingly honest look into a world full of terror.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes, if you don't mind being frightened with very real scenarios of terrorism.


4 stars.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Why Reading Makes Me a Better Person

I'm writing a post that is not a book review, tonight. I hope you'll agree with what I am saying, my beloved bookish buddies!

We live in a world that is often full of hate. Full of people who are different from ourselves. Sometimes so fundamentally different, that we cannot wrap our brains around their understanding. The internet has allowed all of us to have a voice, maybe even those who maybe should not(I am not condoning that anyone should lose their freedom of speech, quite the opposite). There are a lot of people out there with a very narrow idea of how we should live and they are often very vocal about telling us all their opinions. Sometimes I just want to shut out the world and hunker down with just my family and my books. (Okay, okay- everyday I want to shut out the world and hunker down- you caught me!) I often feel deeply unsure of how to navigate the hate-filled posts that tend to fill our social media feeds. Do I scroll past? Start a discussion with someone that is not open to changing his/her opinion? Unfriend them? Post a bunch of loving memes to balance out the hate? I don't have the answer, friends.

Today I perusing Facebook and there were anti-gay memes, a post against Muslim children living in the US and a few other less than savory posts. I felt deeply saddened. This wasn't just random internet postings, these posts were made by my Facebook "friends", people that I have known personally at one time in my life. And, I don't believe that any of them are bad people, just very closed minded.

So, I'm outing myself- I used to be closed minded, too. I was easily influenced by what others told me as a child. I've always been a voracious reader, but didn't always open my heart to be changed by what I had read or even what I was experiencing for myself. I did not have enough confidence to form my own opinions.  And, I always took the opinions of those I knew personally over what I felt when I was reading. So, I allowed my priest, my teachers, my family to form my opinions for me, even when my heart protested.

As a teenager, however, I began to feel  my heart opening with each novel or non-fiction book that I picked up.  I felt as though the blinders were torn off my eyes and suddenly I felt my heart and mind open to viewpoints that I had never before considered. This "mind and heart expansion" has never stopped, or even slowed.

Those who chose(or do not know how) not to read live only one feeble life. Just one. Those of us that read live hundreds, thousands even. We open our books and fall down the rabbit hole into a world we had never before imagined. We turn the last page and know that we are fundamentally different from when we had turned the first page.  We are better. Wiser. More open to humanity. Feel that we  have traveled to a different time, a different country. Worshiped a God that we had never before heard of. Loved a person that in your "real" life you never would have chosen,  Knew what it may be like to live as another gender. Felt that you had mothered a child, fathered a child, met a famous historical person....the list is endless.

We only are given only one true life. We get to choose what to with it(God willing that you live in a country where you are free to do so). That is such a blessing. We are also given the choice to lose ourselves in books and come out bigger and better people. Let us all open up our hearts, forget all that we have learned and been taught thus far in our little lives and open up a book today. May we all be a little more understanding when we close the final page.

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
New York City, 1924: the height of Prohibition and the whole city swims in bathtub gin.

Rose Baker is an orphaned young woman working for her bread as a typist in a police precinct on the lower East Side. Every day Rose transcribes the confessions of the gangsters and murderers that pass through the precinct. While she may disapprove of the details, she prides herself on typing up the goriest of crimes without batting an eyelid.

But when the captivating Odalie begins work at the precinct Rose finds herself falling under the new typist's spell. As do her bosses, the buttoned up Lieutenant Detective and the fatherly Sergeant. As the two girls' friendship blossoms and they flit between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the precinct by day, it is not long before Rose's fascination for her new colleague turns to obsession.

But just who is the real Odalie, and how far will Rose go to find out?
This insomniac's opinion:
I loved this one, bookish buddies!
The roaring twenties. Gatsby-ish intrigue and a smoothly written plot line with a delightful twist at the end. Lovely.
Rose is the rather unlikeable and flawed typist who gets taken under the wing of the smooth, beautiful and fascinating Odalie. The mystery of who the mysterious Odalie is slowly unravels throughout the novel, ending in a searing twist.
If you like novels set in the roaring twenties or novels with a twist, this one is for you!
Worth staying up all night to read?
Good luck stopping once Odalie arrives on the scene!
Rating: 4 stars

In One Person by John Irving

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

A New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love; tormented, funny, and affecting; and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a "sexual suspect," a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of "terminal cases," The World According to Garp.

In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy's friends and lovers; a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself "worthwhile.
This insomniac's opinion:
I rather adore John Irving. His novel A Prayer for Owen Meany is in my top ten favorite books of all time. ALL TIME, people!
This novel was typical Irving, in that he took characters that would never be accepted by our narrow-minded society and made them the main characters in his book. I was halfway through this novel when I had an epiphany about just why John Irving's novels resonate with me so. It is because he, much as myself, loves the unloved. That is a beautiful thing.
I have to admit that the characters in this novel were deeply flawed and not terribly kind in a way that made it hard for me to get into the novel initially(when I say deeply flawed, it is not in reference to sexual orientation, rather their character and kindnesses). However, I loved the twists and turns and the unpredictable, nontraditional story arc and was rooting for all of the underdogs, even the unkind ones. I found it to be a very down-to-Earth and honest novel.
Worth staying up all night to read?
If you are open minded in regard to sexual orientation, transgender and very honest sex scenes, it might be a stay up all night read for you(it was for me!)
4 stars

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

The day the First World War broke out, Alfie Summerfield's father promised he wouldn't go away to fight - but he broke that promise the following day. Four years later, Alfie doesn't know where his father might be, other than that he's away on a special, secret mission.

Then, while shining shoes at King's Cross Station, Alfie unexpectedly sees his father's name - on a sheaf of papers belonging to a military doctor. Bewildered and confused, Alfie realises his father is in a hospital close by - a hospital treating soldiers with an unusual condition. Alfie is determined to rescue his father from this strange, unnerving place . .

***Many thanks to Net Galley and McMillian Childrens Publishing Group for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review***

This insomniac's opinion:

Leave it to John Boyne to again not shy away from very serious subject matter when writing a children's book. This book was deeply heartfelt and poignant. It was written from a child's point of view and I feel that any child would relate greatly to Alfie. It was very readable for an adult, as well.

Alfie was loveable and honest as a child adapting to a world that he does not understand. His imperfect family was also loveable and relateable.

I would avoid this book if you have highly emotional children that do not process sadness well, but otherwise would highly recommend this to older children and adults.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 4 stars

ARC review: Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

A novel about two mothers and one daughter who are linked by tragedy and bound by secrets, from the acclaimed author of Heart Like Mine. Now, in the provocative Safe with Me, Amy Hatvany explores controversial and timely issues with astonishing emotional complexity.

The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose child, Maddie, survived only because hers had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.

The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of the successful transplant that saved their fifteen-year-old daughter’s life. Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Atria publishers for the opportunity to review this novel. ***
This insomniac's opinion:
I've read quite a few Amy Hatvany novels and find her novels to be consistently well-written and emotionally driven. I always find myself moved by the character-driven novels and this one was no exception.
I connected well with both families in this novel and, although I felt that most of the novel was unrealistic and a bit too dramatic(a la Lifetime movie) for my taste, I was really engrossed in the novel and satisfied by the ending.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Definitely, if chick-lit is your thing- this is a good read.
3 stars

ARC review: The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona

Novel Synopsis(via Goodreads):
A sweeping story of 1492 Spain, exploring how what we know about the world shapes our map of life Valencia, 1492. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella issue an order expelling all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity. Amalia Cresques, daughter of a Jewish mapmaker whose services were so valuable that his faith had been ignored, can no longer evade the throne. She must leave her beloved atlas, her house, her country, forever. As Amalia remembers her past, living as a converso, hiding her faith, she must decide whether to risk the wrath of the Inquisition or relinquish what''s left of her true life. A mesmerizing saga about faith, family and Jewish identity.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***
This insomniac's opinion:
This novel was sweeping, over a long period of time and several different countries. It was challenging to read at times, as many were killed and discriminated against simply for their religious views.
Amalia was a strong woman and I felt so much compassion for her, as it seemed that every time she gained foothold in her life she was again brought to her knees by tragedy.
Overall, a fascinating and somber look at a perilous time in history and a reminder that we have not seemed to have learned much from history's mistakes as we continue to persecute others based on who they are.
4 solid stars

Saturday, March 1, 2014

ARC review: The Enchanted Emporium by PD Bacclario

Book summary(via Goodreads):
 Have you heard of Cinderella’s glass slipper? What about Sinbad the Sailor’s Flying Carpet? In this world, there are many magical items—but only one place where they’re safe: the Enchanted Emporium. For centuries, seven families have competed for ownership of the Emporium—and some of them are willing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on the powerful items housed within. Only Aiby Lily and her friend Finley have what it takes to stop the Emporium from falling into the wrong hands.
**Many thanks to Net Galley and Capstone Young Readers for the advanced reader's copy of this novel. The novel is currently available for purchase**
This insomniac's opinion:
I read this book with my 8 year old daughter. We both love books that are infused with magic.
We adored the illustrations of the items in the Enchanted Emporium- the illustrations were whimsical and magical. Finley was a lovable and relate able boy from the start. However, the last half of the novel lost steam and my daughter lost interest. I wish there had been more about the items housed in the Emporium and less action-movie type sequences. But, overall, a very enjoyable read.
Rating: 3 stars

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.

Kate can't believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who's never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate's faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead.

Seemingly unable to cope with what she'd done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of "spontaneous" suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text:

She didn't jump.

Sifting through Amelia's emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall's roof that day-and why she died.

Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It's about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

This insomniac's opinion:

I read this novel on recommendation from my fabulous bookish buddy, Christine. She was not wrong in her assumption that I would love it.

A very well-written, suspenseful novel full of twists and turns that will grab you from the first chapter! Highly and easily readable. It's hard to call it enjoyable, as it was fairly heart wrenching. However, definitely worth reading, in my opinion.

Worth staying up all night to read?


Rating: 4 stars