Friday, July 25, 2014

All But my Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

All But My Life is the unforgettable story of Gerda Weissmann Klein's six-year ordeal as a victim of Nazi cruelty. From her comfortable home in Bielitz (present-day Bielsko) in Poland to her miraculous survival and her liberation by American troops--including the man who was to become her husband--in Volary, Czechoslovakia, in 1945, Gerda takes the reader on a terrifying journey.

Gerda's serene and idyllic childhood is shattered when Nazis march into Poland on September 3, 1939. Although the Weissmanns were permitted to live for a while in the basement of their home, they were eventually separated and sent to German labor camps. Over the next few years Gerda experienced the slow, inexorable stripping away of "all but her life." By the end of the war she had lost her parents, brother, home, possessions, and community; even the dear friends she made in the labor camps, with whom she had shared so many hardships, were dead.

Despite her horrifying experiences, Klein conveys great strength of spirit and faith in humanity. In the darkness of the camps, Gerda and her young friends manage to create a community of friendship and love. Although stripped of the essence of life, they were able to survive the barbarity of their captors. Gerda's beautifully written story gives an invaluable message to everyone. It introduces them to last century's terrible history of devastation and prejudice, yet offers them hope that the effects of hatred can be overcome.

This insomniac's review:

I had never heard of this memoir until it was leant to me by a good friend(thanks Aileen!). I am so, so glad that she leant it to me!

I have an utter fascination with holocaust survivors. I am constantly amazed to hear what the human spirit and body can survive and find myself fervently praying that there will never be such atrocities again(yes, I do know such things are happening even today).

Gerda's story was so intensely moving and I believe that I managed to feel every, single human emotion during my reading. So very deeply sad and, also, inspiring. Gerda is one amazing, amazing woman.

Also, best love story ever. EVER.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Hell, yes. With a pack of Kleenex.

Rating: 5 stars.

ARC review: The Tumble Inn by William Loizeaux

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Tired of their high school teaching jobs and discouraged by their failed attempts at conceiving a child, Mark and Fran Finley decide they need a change in their lives. Abruptly, they leave their friends and family in suburban New Jersey to begin anew as innkeepers on a secluded lake in the Adirondack Mountains. There they muddle through their first season at the inn, serving barely edible dinners to guests, stranding themselves in chest-deep snowdrifts, and somehow, miraculously, amid swarms of ravenous black flies, conceiving a child, a girl they name Nat. Years later, when Mark and Fran are nearing middle age and Nat is a troubled teenager, Mark's life is ripped apart, forever changed, and he must choose between returning to his old home in New Jersey or trying to rebuild what is left of his life and family in the place of his greatest joy and deepest sorrow.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Syracuse University Press for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. ***
This insomniac's opinion:
Emotionally driven, quick read about life, love and moving on. It was rather surprising to me that this was written by a man, due to the emotionality of the plot. The characters were believable and likeable.  
It skipped forward a bit too quickly for me, almost as if the author was on a mission to complete the plot line. Overall, though, a solid and believable read.                  
Rating: 3 stars

ARC review: The True & Spendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
It is the age of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, when Europe burns with a passion for long-flowing locks. And when seven sisters, born into fatherless poverty in Ireland, grow up with hair cascading down their backs, to their ankles, and beyond, men are not slow to recognise their potential.

It begins with a singing and dancing septet, with Irish jigs kicked out in dusty church halls. But it is not the sisters’ singing or their dancing that fills the seats: it is the torrents of hair they let loose at the end of each show. And their hair will take dark-hearted Darcy, bickering twins Berenice and Enda, plain Pertilly, gentle Oona, wild Ida and fearful, flame-haired Manticory – the inimitable narrator of their on-and-off stage adventures – out of poverty, through the dance halls of Ireland, to the salons of Dublin and the palazzi of Venice. It will bring some of them love and each of them loss. For their past trails behind the sisters like the tresses on their heads, and their fame and fortune will come at a terrible price...
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Bloomsbury for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***
This insomniac's review:
Do you ever hear reviews about a novel that are so wonderful that you know you're going to love it? Then you actually read it and feel perplexed because you cannot get into the novel at all? That's exactly what happened with this one, friends.
This simply could not hold my interest and was not, in any way, as interesting as the story of the Sutherland sisters that inspired it.And, Sweet Baby Jesus-let me never read a book with so much talk about hair ever again. Ever. Again.     
Rating: 2 stars, only because I'm nice(sometimes).

ARC review: The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

The year is 1946, and all over the world, young women are crossing the seas in the thousands en route to the men they married in wartime - and an unknown future. In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other brides on an extraordinary voyage to England, aboard the HMS Victoria, which also carries not just arms and aircraft but 1,000 naval officers and men. Rules of honour, duty, and separation are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier's captain down to the lowliest young stoker. But the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined in ways the Navy could never have imagined.

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

This insomniac's opinion:

If you've read this blog before, you may know that I am a HUGE Jojo Moyes fan. However, I really haven't enjoyed much of her "older" work that is being released for the first time in the US. This novel was a great exception to that rule!

This novel was fascinating and the characters were very different and well fleshed out. The real facts about the true 'ships of brides' kept me wondering about what it truly had been like for those women.

Overall, a great summer read!

Rating: 4 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes, if you love female driven literature.

ARC review: Bittersweet by Colleen McCollough

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
This is the story of two sets of twins, Edda and Grace, Tufts and Kitty, who struggle against all the restraints, prohibitions, laws and prejudices of 1920s Australia. Only the submissive yet steely Grace burns for marriage; the sleekly sophisticated Edda burns to be a doctor, the down-to-earth but courageous Tufts burns never to marry, and the too-beautiful, internally scarred Kitty burns for a love free from male ownership.

Turbulent times, terrible torments, but the four magnificent Latimer sisters, each so different, love as women do: with tenderness as well as passion, and with hearts roomy enough to hold their men, their children, their careers and their sisters.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***
This insomniac's opinion:
Ugh. I could not get into this. At all.
At first I was a bit excited as the sisters chose to go into nurses training, as I am a nurse myself. The story quickly dissolved into a trashy, soap opera like drama, however. It would hold my interest for a moment, then quickly lose it again. Had I not committed to reading this for Net Galley, I never would have finished it.
Rating: 2 stars.

ARC review: The Girl with All the Gifts by MR Carey

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):


Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.

When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.

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

This insomniac's opinion:

Ok, bookish buddies-let's have a moment of honesty. Had I realized that this was a post-apocalyptic novel in the same vein as The Walking Dead, I would not have requested it. Just not my bag, baby.

However, it was utterly fascinating and engrossing. Also, just plan gross at times.

The story was interesting and full of twists and turns. So, surprisingly, it was overall a good read for me. I did have to suspend ALL disbelief during the read, though. Forgo common sense during reading, friends.

Rating: 3 stars

ARC review: When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):
What marks the boundary between a miracle of God and the imagination of a child?
Nine-year-old Leah’s invisible friend seems harmless enough until he aids her in upsetting the tranquility of her new town, a place where her parents desperately hoped she’d finally be able to make friends and fit in. Hidden within a picture she paints for a failed toymaker are numbers that win the toymaker millions. Suddenly, townspeople are divided between those who see Leah as a prophet and those who are afraid of the danger she represents. Caught in the middle is Leah’s agnostic father, who clashes with a powerful town pastor over Leah’s prophecies and what to do about them.
When the imaginary friend’s predictions take an ominous turn and Leah announces that a grave danger looms, doubts arise over the truthfulness of her claims. As a violent storm emerges on the day of the annual carnival, Leah’s family and the town of Mattingly must make a final choice to cling to all they know or embrace the things she believes in that cannot be seen.
****Many thanks to Net Galley and Thomas Nelson-Fiction for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***
This insomniac's opinion:
Highly engrossing and readable novel. The mystery of what was happening to Leah and who her imaginary friend unraveled as slowly as a hot summer's day, which was appropriate for the setting of the novel.
I have to say that I am a Christian, but feel that the novel could have been a little less Christian themed and would've packed more of a punch. The ending fell flat for me as I suddenly felt that I was inside of a mediocre Sunday school lesson.
Overall, an interesting read but could've been better.
Rating: 3 stars
Worth staying up all night to read?
The beginning was stay-up-all-night reading, but I lost interest as I read.