Wednesday, December 30, 2015

100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

100 Years of The Best American Short Stories

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


The Best American Short Stories is the longest running and best-selling series of short fiction in the country. For the centennial celebration of this beloved annual series, master of the form Lorrie Moore selects forty stories from the more than two thousand that were published in previous editions. Series editor Heidi Pitlor recounts behind-the-scenes anecdotes and examines, decade by decade, the trends captured over a hundred years. Together, the stories and commentary offer an extraordinary guided tour through a century of literature with what Moore calls “all its wildnesses of character and voice.”

These forty stories represent their eras but also stand the test of time. Here is Ernest Hemingway’s first published story and a classic by William Faulkner, who admitted in his biographical note that he began to write “as an aid to love-making.” Nancy Hale’s story describes far-reaching echoes of the Holocaust; Tillie Olsen’s story expresses the desperation of a single mother; James Baldwin depicts the bonds of brotherhood and music. Here is Raymond Carver’s “minimalism,” a term he disliked, and Grace Paley’s “secular Yiddishkeit.” Here are the varied styles of Donald Barthelme, Charles Baxter, and Jamaica Kincaid. From Junot Díaz to Mary Gaitskill, from ZZ Packer to Sherman Alexie, these writers and stories explore the different things it means to be American.

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Houghten Mifflen Harcourt for the advanced reader's copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.***

This insomniac's opinion: 


I love short stories. As a busy working mom of three, a short story anthology means that I can catch a story or two while waiting in the school drop off line, the doctor's office or while waiting  for a dance class to finish. 

I enjoyed this mix of stories that are full of recognizable writers of this century. I would have liked a few on the more modern end but overall very much enjoyed it. 


Rating:


4 stars. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Hey- that's the joy of short stories! You don't have to stay up all night to complete the story. 


                                                     

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

This Raging Light

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):


Can the best thing happen at the worst time?

Her dad went crazy. Her mom left town. She has bills to pay and a little sister to look after. Now is not the time for level-headed seventeen-year-old Lucille to fall in love. But love—messy, inconvenient love—is what she's about to experience when she falls for Digby Jones, her best friend's brother. With blazing longing that builds to a fever pitch, Estelle Laure's soulful debut will keep readers hooked and hoping until the very last page.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 


This was one of my favorite YA novels this year. It was simple and beautiful and full of lovable characters. 
Lucille is hard-headed and rough around the edges, but the reader falls nearly instantly in love with her anyway. You will root for her every inch of the way as she struggles to simply survive and keep her little family intact against all odds. 

I highly recommend this read to young and old readers, alike. 

Rating: 


4.5 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?


YES.


                                           

Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain

Instructions for the End of the World

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, her life is completely turned upside down.

It’s not that Nicole isn’t tough. She’s learned how to hunt, and she knows how to build things—she’s been preparing for the worst-case scenario for what seems like forever.

But when she and her sister, Izzy, are left alone in this remote landscape to fend for themselves, her skills are put to the ultimate test. She’s fine for a while, but then food begins to run out, the pipes begin to crack, and forest fires start to inch closer every day.

When Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help, Nicole feels conflicted. She can take care of herself. But things have begun to get desperate, and there’s something about this boy she can’t shake.

As feelings develop between these two—feelings Nicole knows her father would never allow once he returns—she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and start living for today?

***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:


I'm in two separate camps in regard to this novel. 

In one camp are the facts that this novel had strong, young female characters and an interesting plot. 

In the other camp is the facts that this novel was very slow-moving and had several plot points that were very hard for me to believe and the story arc was unusual. 

So, I guess this one could go either way for it's readers. I found myself intrigued for some of the novel and bored to tears in other places, but overall thought it was worth the read. 

Rating: 


3 stars

Worth staying up all night to read?


Maybe. 


                                                  

Until We Meet Again by Renee Collins

Until We Meet Again

Book Synopsis(Via Goodreads):


Cassandra craves drama and adventure, so the last thing she wants is to spend her summer marooned with her mother and stepfather in a snooty Massachusetts shore town. But when a dreamy stranger shows up on their private beach claiming it's his own—and that the year is 1925—she is swept into a mystery a hundred years in the making.

As she searches for answers in the present, Cassandra discovers a truth that puts their growing love—and Lawrence's life—into jeopardy. Desperate to save him, Cassandra must find a way to change history…or risk losing Lawrence forever.
 

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

This insomniac's opinion: 



If you are a die-hard romantic who believes that if two people are destined to meet even the rules of time and space will bend to allow them to be together, you'll probably enough this novel. Apparently, however, I am not one of these people. I simply could not suspend my own disbelief long enough to even enjoy a single chapter of this novel. The writing was fine, I just couldn't wrap my brain around the context of the book.

Rating: 2 stars


Worth staying up all night to read?


Nope.
                                              

The Lies We Tell by Meg Carter

The Lies We Tell

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


Can we ever escape our past?

The last time Katy saw Jude was on a school trip, when Jude was attacked by a stranger and Katy ran away. Twenty years later, Jude is back, and her reappearance coincides with a series of unsettling incidents: a stranger appears in the downstairs flat; one night Katy’s house is vandalised; her mother is mugged and her home ransacked. And Jude seems to know an uncomfortable amount about Katy’s current life...


For fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, THE LIES WE TELL is an addictive, complex and completely gripping psychological thriller in which present and past intertwine to devastating effect. Forced to revisit the same rocky waters of friendship and power they inhabited when they were fifteen, as the story reaches its explosive climax, Jude and Katy realise that when it comes to memory, truth and family – nothing and no-one are what they seem.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 


Slow moving to start, but picked up the pace rapidly about a third of the way in. While riveting in many ways, there were too many holes in the story for it to be a completely believable and satisfying ending. The characters were in many ways one-dimensional and the meandering story couldn't hold my attention for long. 

Rating: 3 stars


Worth staying up all night to read?


Probably not. Best to read it in stops and starts. 






                                                                                   

Sunday, December 6, 2015

On The Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube

On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light: A Novel

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Harriet is 11 going on 30. Her mixed-media art is a source of wonder to her younger brother, Irwin, but an unmitigated horror to the panoply of insufficiently grown-up grown-ups who surround her. She plans to run away to Algonquin Park, hole up in a cabin like Tom Thomson and paint trees; and so, to fund her escape, she runs errands for the seniors who inhabit the Shangrila, the decrepit apartment building that houses her fractured family.

Determined, resourceful, and a little reckless, Harriet tries to navigate the clueless adults around her, dumpster dives for the flotsam and jetsam that fuels her art, and attempts to fathom her complicated feelings for Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus. On the other hand, Irwin’s love for Harriet is not conflicted at all. She’s his compass. But Irwin himself must untangle the web of the human heart.

Masterful and mordantly funny, Strube is at the top of her considerable form in this deliciously subversive story of love and redemption.
 

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

This insomniac's opinion: 

I fell in love with Harriet from the first chapter. She has the most unique way of looking at the world and the book is nearly laugh-out-loud funny at parts, but in the most morbid of ways. I was so moved by Harriet's story and, even as my heart was breaking, I was so delighted to get to "meet" her and her brother Irwin. 

This is a must read for me, this year. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yes. Keep tissues nearby. 

Rating: 

4.5 stars. 


                                                            

Note: this page may contain affiliate links. 

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights

Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


From one of the greatest writers of our time: the most spellbinding, entertaining, wildly imaginative novel of his great career, which blends history and myth with tremendous philosophical depth. A masterful, mesmerizing modern tale about worlds dangerously colliding, the monsters that are unleashed when reason recedes, and a beautiful testament to the power of love and humanity in chaotic times.
Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment, this is a spectacular achievement--enchanting, both very funny and terrifying. It is narrated by our descendants 1000 years hence, looking back on "The War of the Worlds" that began with "the time of the strangenesses": a simple gardener begins to levitate; a baby is born with the unnerving ability to detect corruption in people; the ghosts of two long-dead philosophers begin arguing once more; and storms pummel New York so hard that a crack appears in the universe, letting in the destructive djinns of myth (as well as some graphic superheroes). Nothing less than the survival of our world is at stake. Only one, a djinn princess who centuries before had learned to love humankind, resolves to help us: in the face of dynastic intrigue, she raises an army composed of her semi-magical great-great--etc.--grandchildren--a motley crew of endearing characters who come together to save the world in a battle waged for 1,001 nights--or, to be precise, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights.
 

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

This insomniac's opinion: 


This was my first Rushdie after hearing several people wax poetic about their love for Salman Rushdie's literature. I found it to be beautiful in many ways, but a tough book to read. There were so very many characters and such depth in each page that I had to read several pages twice. I loved the descriptive prose but really was very ready to turn the last page.

Worth staying up all night to read?


If you are a Rushdie fan, it may be. 

Rating: 


3 stars.


                                                            

Note: This page may contain affiliate links. 

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):


From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Secret Keeper and The Distant Hours, an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heartstopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.
 

***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 one of those novels that other readers seem to love but just did not resonate with me. I was fascinated with the mystery at first but it quickly dissolved into a discombobulated mess of indistinct characters and a plot that was muddy and often hard to follow. Ugh. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Nope.

Rating:


2 stars.



                                                                            

Note: This page may contain affiliate links. 

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain


Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can't have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly's past and her family—the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison's Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father's death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?

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

This insomniac's opinion: 


I've always enjoyed the fast-moving novels written by Diane Chamberlain so I was delighted to receive this galley before the novel was published. This novel did not disappoint. 

As usual, the main character in this Chamberlain novel is a strong female character with an element of mystery about her. I really enjoyed Molly's sometimes strong personality, especially as the mystery of her childhood unraveled. I was very surprised by the multitude of topics that were handled in a compassionate way and turned the final page with a great sense of closure and a feeling that the characters will stay with me always. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Yes.

Rating: 


4 stars 


                                                         

Note: This page may contain affiliate links. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem



Book synopsis(via Goodreads):


Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 


I'm a feminist. Yep, I just dropped THAT f-word. The one you likely love or loathe-few feel anything in-between. I'm proud to raise my daughters in a way that they each know that they can do and be anything that a boy can do in this world- well, maybe night write their name in the snow, but....just about anything else. 

So, as a feminist(yep, gonna keep using the word- if you don't like it, this book probably isn't for you), Gloria Steinem is kind of a God to me. She's blazed trails that have allowed me, as a woman, to have more choices in this world. Obviously, I snapped up this book when I saw it come across my screen. 

Even as a self-proclaimed lover of all things Gloria, I found this book surprisingly warm and lovely-even more so than I had expected. There are a myriad of stories from all of the world and I found her tone to be very down to earth and honest. It was a very enjoyable read and was the type of read that was very to stop anywhere and pick back up at a later date- which is perfect for a working Mama of three. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yep.

Whether or not you are already in Camp Gloria, I highly recommend this read. 


Rating: 
5 stars 


                                                              

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Thousand Nights by EK Johnston


Book synopsis(via Goodreads):



Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.
 


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



This insomniac's opinion: 



I am fascinated by other cultures so this novel was a perfect fit for me as I was instantly transported into the dry heat of the desert in the very first pages. The characters were fascinating, but it was the culture and the way of life that kept my rapt attention as I turned each page. 


If you are able to be nonjudgmental towards a culture that is unknown to you, this is a fascinating read. 



Worth staying up all night to read?



It was for me. The descriptions of the heat of the desert sun warmed my bones on the cold autumn nights. 



Rating: 



3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for Goodreads.



                                                           

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Bridge is an accident survivor who's wondering why she's still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody's games--or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade? 
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl--as a friend? 

On Valentine's Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

This insomniac's opinion: 

Somehow, Rebecca Stead has managed to write a novel that sends it's reader smack back into adolescence. This was a brutally honest and warm novel about Bridge, a seventh grader that had a recent accident and is wondering why she is alive and second-guessing everything about her life. I was in love with her awkward sweetness immediately. 

The novel progresses as Bridge's friendships begin to change and she finds herself seeking out peace anywhere that she can find it. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

This is truly lovely adolescent fiction and I think most readers will want to read to the finish in one sitting. 

Rating: 

4.5 stars - honestly, if you have a middle schooler/early high school girl in your life- get them a copy, stat!


                                                                

The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young


Book synopsis(via Goodreads):



When New York journalist and recently bereaved mother Charlotte “Charlie” Cates begins to experience vivid dreams about children she’s sure that she’s lost her mind. Yet these are not the nightmares of a grieving parent, she soon realizes. They are messages and warnings that will help Charlie and the children she sees, if only she can make sense of them.

After a little boy in a boat appears in Charlie’s dreams asking for her help, Charlie finds herself entangled in a thirty-year-old missing-child case that has never ceased to haunt Louisiana’s prestigious Deveau family. Armed with an invitation to Evangeline, the family’s sprawling estate, Charlie heads south, where new friendships and an unlikely romance bring healing. But as she uncovers long-buried secrets of love, money, betrayal, and murder, the facts begin to implicate those she most wants to trust—and her visions reveal an evil closer than she could’ve imagined.A Southern Gothic mystery debut that combines literary suspense and romance with a mystical twist, The Gates of Evangeline is a story that readers of Gillian Flynn, Kate Atkinson, and Alice Sebold won't be able to put down.
 


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



This insomniac's opinion:


This certainly isn't typical reading fare for me. Mystery with a side of paranormal would not be something that I would typically choose. However, I kept hearing such wonderful buzz about this one that I stepped out of my comfort zone. 


I was immediately in love with Charlie as we find in the first pages that she has just lost her only child and is desperately trying to find another life on the other side of that tragedy. Ms. Young is a wonderfully descriptive writer and I flew through the first half of the novel in one sitting. Unfortunately  the second half was a bit less fascinating as I found myself guessing every twist before it happened. 


Overall, I think those who like mystery and southern atmosphere will really enjoy this novel. 



Worth staying up all night to read?


It is creepy and mysterious enough to keep one up past their bedtime. 



Rating: 

3.5 stars
                                                                                

Abundance Loop by Juliana Park


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):



Understanding money is crucial in today’s financially driven world. However, attaining wealth has more to do with internal motivations and experiences than with external circumstances. The Abundance Loop reveals what blocks you from achieving the prosperity that is your natural birthright. By breaking free from a fear-based mind-set, you will learn to cultivate gratitude and awareness, and take conscious action to create the life you want.

Juliana Park, a Certified Financial Planner and financial advisor for over 13 years with major Wall Street firms, offers a step-by-step approach for you to shift from scarcity to abundance. Here, she walks you through 30 practical exercises and shows you how to:
Reframe your life through the lens of the Abundance Loop—and radically change your relationship with money, with others, and with yourself;
Align with your divine wealth and authentic purpose; and
Find financial security and spiritual serenity.This groundbreaking book will challenge your beliefs about what is possible and lead you on a clear path to enrich both your net worth and your self-worth.


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


This insomniac's opinion: 

This book may have been useful to a very, very newcomer to the world of mindset/law of attraction thinking. However, it had very little new information for me and seemed very repetitive. I was very disappointed. 

Rating: 

2 stars



                                                                        

Awake by Natasha Preston



Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):


Scarlett Garner doesn't remember anything before the age of four-until a car accident changes everything. She starts to remember pieces of a past that frighten her. A past her parents hid from her...and a secret that could get her killed.

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



This insomniac's opinion: 



Ugh. This novel was a mess. Characters that seemed one-faceted and cartoonish versions of people, an unbelievable and poorly executed plot and a resolution that seemed slapped on. I'm sorry to say that it while the first chapters were interesting, I had trouble even finishing the novel. This one was not for me. 



Worth staying up all night to read?



Um, no.



Rating: 



2 stars, if I'm being kind.