Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch

Book Summary(via Goodreads):
Paint it Black" captures that throbbing ache that is being a young girl faced with a great tragedy...made worse by the fact that the tragedy is a Prince Charming-ish first love. Josie, the art model main character, longs, pines, grieves with keen intensity. Her process of mourning is set against a vibrant back drop of 80s punk/alt Los Angeles. Plenty emo. Though the backdrop is vibrant and exciting, the reader can't help but feel the emptiness of this scene when reminded of the heroine's loss. When you don't have that special person to keep sharing life with, is anything worthwhile? Fitch also crosses into territory that is much in need of exploration in terms of class. This book delineates class differences in America in a very real way...no one talks about this enough. We blindly pretend it doesn't matter. Josie finds out in subtle ways how it does and when it doesn't.
This insomniac's review:
Oh, Janet Fitch.
How you make me go all Fan girl after reading your gritty, dirty amazing writing.
Gritty, dark and starkly beautiful in that unique way that only this author has. 
 Janet Fitch writes with such a unique style and uses words in such a grippingly bleak way that I find myself rolling the phrases over my tongue again and again, enamored her writing. It takes me far longer to read the novel than I should but I cannot help compulsively re-reading the most stunning sentences.
Gah. So good in such a bad way.
Worth staying up all night to read?
YES! Be sure that you are okay with very gritty, real dark fiction, though. It is not for everyone.
4 1/2 dark, glittery stars.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

West Hall, Vermont, has always been a town of strange disappearances and old legends. The most mysterious is that of Sara Harrison Shea, who, in 1908, was found dead in the field behind her house just months after the tragic death of her daughter, Gertie. Now, in present day, nineteen-year-old Ruthie lives in Sara's farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister, Fawn. Alice has always nsisted that they live off the grid, a decision that suddenly proves perilous when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished without a trace. Searching for clues, she is startled to find a copy of Sara Harrison Shea's diary hidden beneath the floorboards of her mother's bedroom. As Ruthie gets sucked deeper into the mystery of Sara's fate, she discovers that she's not the only person who's desperately looking for someone that they've lost. But she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.

This insomniac's opinion:

If you like suspenseful, creepy fiction- this ones for you, bibliophile buddies

Deliciously, compulsively readable and creepy in the most wonderful and intelligently thought out way! I devoured this novel the way a starving person devours a plate of food in front of her for the first time in days.

So. Freaking. Good.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes! Word of advice though- don't do it when your partner/roommate/spouse is out of town like I did. I was hearing bumps in the night for sure!


4 shivering, goose bumped stars.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Book summary(via Goodreads):

Meet the Bird family. They live in a honey-colored house in a picture-perfect Cotswolds village, with rambling, unkempt gardens stretching beyond. Pragmatic Meg, dreamy Beth, and tow-headed twins Rory and Rhys all attend the village school and eat home-cooked meals together every night. Their father is a sweet gangly man named Colin, who still looks like a teenager with floppy hair and owlish, round-framed glasses. Their mother is a beautiful hippy named Lorelei, who exists entirely in the moment. And she makes every moment sparkle in her children's lives.

Then one Easter weekend, tragedy comes to call. The event is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear the family apart. Years pass as the children become adults, find new relationships, and develop their own separate lives. Soon it seems as though they've never been a family at all. But then something happens that calls them back to the house they grew up in -- and to what really happened that Easter weekend so many years ago.

Told in gorgeous, insightful prose that delves deeply into the hearts and minds of its characters, The House We Grew Up In is the captivating story of one family's desire to restore long-forgotten peace and to unearth the many secrets hidden within the nooks and crannies of home.

*Many thanks to Net Galley and Atria books for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.*

This insomniac's review:

 Gah. I loved this so much. I've always had a fascination with hoarders.

As a public health nurse I often venture into houses such as these. It is shocking and disgusting and sad. I leave the home and find that I cannot stop wondering how one gets to such a point?

This novel slowly unraveled the why. And, I got it. The way life changes, evolves so very slowly underneath your feet, morphing as you move slowly towards your purpose-eyes to the ground. And, when you finally allow your weary eyes to drift downward, everything has changed. No one is recognizable.

The characters were at once likeable and horrifyingly screwed up. Not only were the physically hoarded objects burying this woman alive, but the objects were symbolic of the pain within the family unit that had never been dealt with and were gathering heft through the years.

Simply fascinating and wonderfully written.

Worth staying up all night to read?



4 stars


ARC review:The Awakening of Miss Prim

Book summary:
In this #1 international bestseller, a young woman leaves everything behind to work as a librarian in a remote French village, where she finds her outlook on life and love challenged in every way.

Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbors, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside.

Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't suspect that she might find love—nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky or would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery, and fireside debate. Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, and lovely company, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy, and the search for happiness.
*Many thanks to Net Galley and Atria for the copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.*
This insomniac's review:
Ugh. Tedious to say the least. Underdeveloped characters and a desperately sad attempt to be philosophical that was utterly predictable.
Worth staying up all night to read?
God, no.
Rating: 2 stars. If I'm being kind.

Miracles Now by Gabrielle Bernstein

Book Summary(via Goodreads):

Miracles Now by New York Times best-selling author Gabrielle Bernstein will help readers eliminate stress and find peace—even if they only have a minute to spare. Bernstein knows that most of us don’t have time for an hour of yoga or 30 minutes of meditation, so she has hand-picked 108 techniques to combat our most common problems—from addiction and anxiety to burnout and resentment. Inspired by some of the greatest spiritual teachings, Bernstein offers up spirit-based principles, meditations, and practical, do-them-in-the-moment tools to help readers bust through blocks to live with more ease. She breaks down each technique Spirit Junkie style—with meditations, assessment questions, and step-by-step guidance—while incorporating lessons from A Course in Miracles and Kundalini yoga.
As readers benefit from the techniques they’ll be able to share them. Each practice has been boiled down to a 140-character description—or Miracle Message—which can be tweeted, pinned on Pinterest, posted on Facebook, or shared on Instagram. Each Miracle Message will end with the hashtag #MiraclesNow. Ebook readers can share right from their device.
Readers familiar with Bernstein’s fun and innovative take on spirituality will scoop up her latest work. And those who are discovering her will appreciate her easy-access approach to spirituality and transformation.

*Many thanks to Net Galley and Hay House Publishing for the advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

This insomniac's opinion:

I have a confession to make.


I'm an unabashed fan of Gabrielle Bernstein. Her book May Cause Miracles was life changing for me. It introduced me to daily meditation and made affirmations an accessible way for me to change my negative inner voice.

Life changing, folks.

So, I was THRILLED to receive this ARC. And, she did not disappoint.

I realize that Gabrielle is a bit new agey and that is not for everyone. However, this book gives the reader a great "tool box" of life tools to take your life to the next level. I really love having a copy to keep.

Worth staying up all night to read?

This isn't that kind of book to me. I think a few tips per day is the way to go.


4 stars.



ARC review: Little Lies by Heather Gudenkauf

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
When the body of a woman is discovered in a local park—with her bewildered four-year-old son sitting beside her—veteran social worker Ellen Moore is called in to assist in the police investigation. Positioned beneath a statue of Leto, the goddess of motherhood, the crime is weighted with meaning and, Ellen discovers, remarkably similar to one from a decade past.

Ellen's professional duty is to protect the child, but she's not equipped to contend with a killer. As she races to connect the dots, she knows her time is running out. And the stakes are high: if she fails, another mother is sure to make the ultimate sacrifice.
(Note: this novella is a prequel to Gudenkauf's upcoming novel Little Mercies)
*Many thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin for the copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review.*
This insomniac's review:
If the author's intent with this novella was to whet the reader's appetite for her upcoming novel, it was a success.
This novella was highly readable and the characters engrossing. However, the "twist" was apparent to me long before it should have been.
Worth staying up all night to read:
Hey- good news! It's a novella! No need to stay up all night. Hooray!
3 stars


ARC review: Incendiary Girls by Kodi Scheer

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
Incendiary Girls" explores our baser instincts with vivid imagination and humor. In these stories, our bodies become strange and unfamiliar terrain, a medium for transformation. In ?Fundamental Laws of Nature, ? a doctor considers her legacy, both good and bad, when she discovers that her mother has been reincarnated as a thoroughbred mare. In the title story, a mischievous angel chronicles the remarkable life of a girl just beyond death's reach.

In Scheer's hands, empathy and attachment are illuminated by the absurdity of life. When our bodies betray us, when we begin to feel our minds slip, how much can we embrace without going insane? How much can we detach ourselves before losing our humanity? Scheer's stories grapple with these questions in each throbbing, choking, heartbreaking moment.
*Many thanks to Net Galley and HMH New Harvest for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
This insomnic's opinion:
I'm left with an unsure opinion of this collection of stories, and that is very unusual for me. I appreciate the author's dynamic and somber method of storytelling. However, many of these stories were just plain bizarre and seemed to be strange without any meaning for the oddity.
Let's just say I was flummoxed by this one.
 Worth staying up all night to read?
Not so much for me.
Rating: Gah.
I don't know.
Do I have to choose??
That's neutral. Or indecisive. Or whatever.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

ARC Review: Before I Wake by C.L.. Taylor

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
A mother risks everything to uncover the truth behind her daughter's botched suicide attempt

To the outside world, Susan Jackson has it all-a loving family, successful husband, and beautiful home-but when Charlotte, her teenage daughter, steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma, she is forced to question all of it.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte's suicide attempt, she discovers a horrifying entry in her diary: "keeping this secret is killing me." As Sue spins in desperate circles, she finds herself immersed in a dark world she didn't know existed-and the closer she comes to the truth, the more dangerous things become.

Can she wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will Charlotte's secret destroy them both?
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Sourcebooks Landmark for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel will be published on June 10, 2014.***
This insomniac's opinion:
Phew! This novel kept my heart a-thumpin'! I was on pins and needles wondering if Susan was crazy or if her convoluted beliefs of a maleficent ex-boyfriend were true. My mind would be solidly in one camp one minute and the other the next. It was very well written and suspenseful.
Worth staying up all night to read?
Rating: 3.5 stars

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

With the end of summer closing in and a steamy Labor Day weekend looming in the town of Holton Mills, New Hampshire, thirteen-year-old Henry—lonely, friendless, not too good at sports—spends most of his time watching television, reading, and daydreaming about the soft skin and budding bodies of his female classmates. For company Henry has his long-divorced mother, Adele—a onetime dancer whose summer project was to teach him how to foxtrot; his hamster, Joe; and awkward Saturday-night outings to Friendly's with his estranged father and new stepfamily. As much as he tries, Henry knows that even with his jokes and his "Husband for a Day" coupon, he still can't make his emotionally fragile mother happy. Adele has a secret that makes it hard for her to leave their house, and seems to possess an irreparably broken heart.

But all that changes on the Thursday before Labor Day, when a mysterious bleeding man named Frank approaches Henry and asks for a hand. Over the next five days, Henry will learn some of life's most valuable lessons: how to throw a baseball, the secret to perfect piecrust, the breathless pain of jealousy, the power of betrayal, and the importance of putting others—especially those we love—above ourselves. And the knowledge that real love is worth waiting for.

In a manner evoking Ian McEwan's Atonement and Nick Hornby's About a Boy, acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence, and devastating treachery as seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy—and the man he later becomes—looking back at an unexpected encounter that begins one single long, hot, life-altering weekend.

This insomniac's opinion:

I have quite a few book "rules" i.e. arbitrary leanings that I hold myself to for no reason at all. One of the aforementioned rules is that I try, at all cost, to read a novel or book before seeing the movie. I want my imagination to fill in all of the holes and subtle notions of a story before a director, actors, etc. have their way with the story. Labor Day will soon be hitting the video store and, in order to be prepared, I snapped up this novel at a used book sale and promptly read it.

If I wouldn't have been in such a hurry to read this novel, summertime would have been a perfect time for reading it. This novel takes place during a heatwave, and is sultry and sexy in a way that no novel set in the wintertime can be.

I have seen many reviews of this novel and it seems to be one that many love and many think is mediocre. Judging by my reader friends that have read and reviewed this one, I would say that those who adore it are generally people who are philosophical by nature and can see past the relative simplicity of the plot of this novel. Those that think it is mediocre seem to be concrete thinkers that couldn't see the depth of the story hiding underneath the shallow waters of the story. So, if you are a concrete thinker, this one may not be for you.

After I suspended my disbelief of a mother willingly allowing a convict into her home with her son, I quickly dropped into the story and lost myself in the sultry romance that permeates nearly every page of this novel. Joyce Maynard manages to convey the confusing burgeoning sexuality of the thirteen year-old narrator and the deep stirrings of reborn sexuality of some of the other characters in the novel. There were scenes in which sex was not at all mentioned, such as the peach pie scene, that dripped with such sensuousness that I, the reader, was stunned.

Overall, I thought this novel was stunning in its ability to weave the reader into an unlikely story and leave them forever changed in their idea of love.