Saturday, August 16, 2014

ARC review: The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them.

When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to...

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

This insomniac's opinion:

Holy buckets. This novel turned my heart inside out. I'm not sure if(even with my WWII obsession) that I've ever read a novel from the perspective of the family of a Nazi soldier.

I have to admit that, as I expected, most of these characters seemed to be conceited assholes. However, they were(mostly) likeable assholes. Yes, yes-likeable assholes exist. Sigh.

This was a gritty and well written read. I read it in a single sitting. The ending is not what the reader would hope, but seemed realistic and fitting, if desperately sad.


4 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?


ARC review: The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donohue

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Ever since he nearly drowned in the ocean three years earlier, ten-year-old Jack Peter Keenan has been deathly afraid to venture outdoors. Refusing to leave his home in a small coastal town in Maine, Jack Peter spends his time drawing monsters. When those drawings take on a life of their own, no one is safe from the terror they inspire. His mother, Holly, begins to hear strange sounds in the night coming from the ocean, and she seeks answers from the local Catholic priest and his Japanese housekeeper, who fill her head with stories of shipwrecks and ghosts. His father, Tim, wanders the beach, frantically searching for a strange apparition running wild in the dunes. And the boy’s only friend, Nick, becomes helplessly entangled in the eerie power of the drawings. While those around Jack Peter are haunted by what they think they see, only he knows the truth behind the frightful occurrences as the outside world encroaches upon them all.

In the tradition of The Turn of the Screw, Keith Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters is a mesmerizing tale of psychological terror and imagination run wild, a perfectly creepy read for a dark night.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Macmillan-Picador for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. ***
This insomniac's opinion:
I rarely read suspenseful books, but was definitely in the mood during a dreary rainy day last week so I picked this one out.
It was certainly suspenseful. It was pensive and slow-moving, with just enough action to keep the reader engaged. I enjoyed the characters and felt they were just likeable enough to keep me invested in their fate.
However, as the mystery finally unraveled, it just wasn't believable enough for it to be scary.
3.5 stars
Worth staying up all night?

ARC review: We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed.

When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream.

Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future.

Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away.

Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction.

***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:

The end started out in a very promising way. I instantly felt moved by the characters and wanted to know more. However, once we get past Eileen's childhood, the story became slow-moving and melancholy.

I did not feel truly invested in the characters until the final half, and still found most unlikeable. However, the ending held a solid, if depressing truth.


3 stars

Worth staying up all night?

I'm torn on whether or not to recommend this one. It really does have redeeming qualities but was quite hard to slog through much of it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

ARC review: The Seventh Mother by Sherri Wood Emmons

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):

A young girl searches for a mother's love amid unfolding secrets, in this riveting and emotionally complex novel from acclaimed author Sherri Wood Emmons. The summer that her father falls in love with Emma, Jenny Bohner is just turning eleven. Jenny was three when her mother died, and since then Brannon Bohner has traveled with his daughter from one seasonal job to another, picking up girlfriends along the way. Cara, Ami, Trish--all were sweet and kind, but none ever stayed for long. Somehow Emma is different, traveling with them from Idaho to Kentucky, filling Jenny with hopes of a real family at last.

Emma's warmth and optimism are contagious, defusing Brannon's flashes of temper and making their first weeks together everything Jenny has dreamed of. Yet something still troubles her, surfacing through years of memories--tempting her from within boxes Jenny has been told never to touch, filled with hidden mementoes from long ago. And somewhere among them Jenny will find answers that compel her to choose--between the home she longs for, the love she craves, and the hard truth she can no longer ignore. . .

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

This insomniac's opinion:

LOVED the first 3/4's of the novel, with likable characters and slowly building suspense. However, I was truly unable to suspend my disbelief of the drama at the end. It felt as though the author was contriving to have too many loose ends tied up all in one dramatic final scene and it absolutely lost credibility. Still, highly readable and I would recommend it if you enjoy suspenseful novels.

Rating: 3 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?

It is, even with the flaws. Good, suspenseful read.

ARC review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children's advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends' couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin for the advanced reader's copy of this novel. ***

This insomniac's review:

Trust Heather Gudenkauf to write another novel that I cannot.put.down!

I admit that this was incredibly hard to read as it dealt with a very tense child neglect situation(I'm trying desperately not to give away any "twists"). It was well-written and very emotional. I admit that this is not a novel for everyone due to the emotional nature of the child abuse/neglect story lines, but it is good read if your heart is up for it.

Rating: 4 stars

Worth staying up all night:

Just try not too once the first "bomb" drops!

ARC review: The Girls of August by Anne Rivers Siddons

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):
Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.
***Many thanks to Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing for the advanced reader's copy of this novel.***
This insomniac's opinion:
I really wanted to like this novel. Really. It seemed like ideal summer fodder. The beginning was so promising and I was swept into the wealthy islander life...
And, then...I realized that none of the characters were likeable. There was so much drama that I was beginning to wonder if I was reading an episode of Maury Povich(however you spell his name, I don't actually care enough to Google it). And, the plot was jumping around like a bunny on steroids. Sigh.
Rating: 2 stars
Worth staying up all night to read?
Wellllll....maybe-if you like Maury whats-his-name...