Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don't Let Me Go


Book Summary(via Goodreads):



GRACE

Ten-year-old Grace knows that her mum loves her, but her mum loves drugs too. And there's only so long Grace can fend off the 'woman from the county' who is threatening to put her into care. Her only hope is...


BILLY

Grown-man Billy Shine hasn't been out of his apartment for years. People scare him, and the outside world scares him even more. Day in, day out, he lives a perfectly orchestrated silent life within his four walls. Until now. . .


THE PLAN

Grace bursts into Billy's life with a loud voice and a brave plan to get her mum clean. And it won't be easy, because they will have to confiscate the one thing her mum holds most dear . . . they will have to kidnap Grace.


This insomniac's opinion: 


I'm sort of having a love affair with Catherine Ryan Hyde right now. I read Pay it Forward last year and it stole my heart in such a way that I rushed out and bought a handful of her other novels. This novel did not disappoint. 

I fell absolutely, unequivocally in love with Grace at first sight. And then with Billy. And, well- with EVERY character, one by one. Catherine Ryan Hyde has a unique gift for writing about those that society often turns her cheek to- the unloved, unwanted that live on the outskirts of society as social pariahs. She makes us realize the importance of each and every one of us. 

I shed a tear as I turned the final page of this novel and then tucked these beautiful characters carefully into my heart to carry them for always. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

YES!

Rating: 

5 Stars.  A touching reminder that, often, if you bring broken people together they will fill the empty holes in one another.




The Well by Catherine Chanter


Book Summary(via Goodreads):


Ruth Ardingly has just been released from prison to serve out a sentence of house arrest for arson and suspected murder at her farm, The Well. Beyond its borders, some people whisper she is a witch; others a messiah. For as soon as Ruth returns to The Well, rain begins to fall on the farm. And it has not rained anywhere else in the country in over three years.

Ruth and her husband Mark had moved years before from London to this ancient idyll in the hopes of starting their lives over. But then the drought began, and as the surrounding land dried up and died, and The Well grew lush and full of life, they came to see their fortune would come at a price. From the envy of their neighbors to the mandates of the government, from the fanaticism of a religious order called the Sisters of the Rose to the everyday difficulties of staying close as husband and wife, mother and child;all these forces led to a horrifying crime: the death of their seven-year-old grandson, drowned with cruel irony in one of the few ponds left in the countryside.

Now back at The Well, Ruth must piece together the tragedy that shattered her marriage, her family, and her dream. For she believes her grandson's death was no accident, and that the murderer is among the people she trusted most. Alone except for her guards on a tiny green jewel in a world rapidly turning to dust, Ruth begins to confront her worst fears and learns what really happened in the dark heart of The Well.

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


Publication date: May 19, 2015

This insomniac's opinion: 

I am always in awe of author's that have a way of creating a very specific mood, especially when they can manage to hold that mood, the sensation of being present in the aura of the characters, throughout an entire novel. The mood of this novel just dripped with the tense, dark energy of fear. It permeated every paragraph. 

The mystery unfolded deliciously slowly in the novel. I never truly came to love the characters, but I felt that this was reasonable after learning all that we do before the final page. 


My only qualm with the novel was that there was something about the ending that just didn't feel concrete, but I can't quite put my finger on what it was. 


Worth staying up all night to read?


Maybe. It really is a solid novel, especially for those who enjoy a little mystery. 



Rating: 


3.5 stars. 







The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister


Book Summary(via Goodreads):


Water for Elephants meets The Night Circus in The Magician’s Lie, a debut novel in which the country’s most notorious female illusionist stands accused of her husband's murder --and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence.

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.
 


***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: 

Highly enjoyable, mysterious, imaginative fiction with a lovely twist of magic. I voraciously devoured the novel in a short span of days. It was full of suspense and had a unique twist on magic. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Yes. 

Rating: 


4 stars. If you love to read about otherworldly things, this may be the novel for you. 






The Here and Now by Ann Brashares


Book Summary(via Goodreads): 



Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins. 

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. 

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves. 


This insomniac's opinion: 

This novel started out with promise. A sharp, eerie air of mystery surrounded the characters and quickly drew me in. 

However, I(as a woman in my thirties) am probably not the audience that the author was writing for and I kept finding plot holes. I also never quite felt the spark between Prenna and Ethan that would have been needed to fully carry the novel. 


Overall, a good read but likely better for the younger crowd. 



Worth staying up all night to read?



Maybe



Rating: 



3 stars. 






Saturday, January 10, 2015

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper


Book Summary(via Goodreads):


I've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. I will try to remember to come back.

Etta's greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water. 


Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently - and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Simon and Schuster for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. This novel will be published on January 20, 2015.***

This insomniac's opinion:

I finished this beautiful novel yesterday and have my first book hangover of the year. You know the ole book hangover, right? When you turn the last page of a divine novel and cannot bear to begin the next because you are still stuck inside the pages with the characters and cannot bear to part with them? I fell in love with each and every main character of this novel. 

This novel exquisitely pairs deep sadness and profound tenderness so carefully twisted together like a candy cane, so that one can not be separated from the other. It takes you on the highs and lows of life but leaves enough mystery so that the reader can come to his/her own deductions on some aspects of the characters lives. 

Simply perfect. 

I cannot wait for more from this author. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Hell yes!

Rating: 


5 stars. 5 blissfully truthful and emotional stars tucked forever in my heart. 





Property Of by Alice Hoffman


Book Summary(via Goodreads):



The Night of the Wolf. On the Avenue in the bleak area where New York City blends into suburbia, the Orphans, their fast Fords and their Chevys 'coated by ice and leather and white dust', prepare to engage in deadly, intricately structured games of combat. It is a world of grotesque, horrifying violence, fear, bravado and drugs, redeemed in the minds of its inhabitants by codes of honour, by chivalrous intentions and by the purity of their struggle for power, dominance, territory. This is the setting of Alice Hoffman's unsparing and unsentimental novel. Her heroine, 17 years old, quick witted yet vulnerable, falls helplessly in love with McKay, the Orphan's 22 year old president and their doomed love story is told in desperate counterpoint to the punk lyrical flippancies of throbbing car radios and jukes.


***Many thanks to Net Galley and Open Road Media for the advanced reader copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.***


This insomniac's opinion: 

Ugh. This is one of those novels that probably should have been a short story. It started out with such promise and then petered out as it went along. I honestly wasn't sure if I could finish it. Very unlike the bulk of Hoffman's work. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Not really. 

Rating: 


3 stars, if I'm being generous. 



Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman


Book Summary: Via Goodreads:

Nora Silk doesn’t really fit in on Hemlock Street, where every house looks the same. She's divorced. She wears a charm bracelet and high heels and red toreador pants. And the way she raises her kids is a scandal. But as time passes, the neighbors start having second thoughts about Nora. The women’s apprehension evolves into admiration. The men’s lust evolves into awe. The children are drawn to her in ways they can't explain. And everyone on this little street in 1959 Long Island seems to sense the possibilities and perils of a different kind of future when they look at Nora Silk...This extraordinary novel by the author of The River Kingand Local Girls takes us back to a time when the exotic both terrified and intrigued us, and despite our most desperate attempts, our passions and secrets remained as stubbornly alive as the weeds in our well-trimmed lawns.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 



Solid Hoffman. 3.5 stars. Monotonous reality weaved with just a touch of magic. Realistic, likeable characters. Not my favorite of hers, but solidly readable. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Maybe.

Rating: 


3.5 stars


The Undertaker's Daughter by Kate Mayfield


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):



What if the place you called 'home' happened to be a funeral home? Kate Mayfield explores what it meant to be the daughter of a small-town undertaker in this fascinating memoir evocative of Six Feet Under and The Help, with a hint of Mary Roach's Stiff.

The first time I touched a dead person, I was too short to reach into the casket, so my father picked me up and I leaned in for that first, empty, cold touch. It was thrilling, because it was an unthinkable act.

After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for thirteen years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, Mayfield draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts.

Kate's father set up shop in a small town where he was one of two white morticians during the turbulent 1960s. Jubilee, Kentucky, was a segregated, god-fearing community where no one kept secrets, except the ones they were buried with. By opening a funeral home, Kate's father also opened the door to family feuds, fetishes, and victims of accidents, murder, and suicide. The family saw it all. They also saw the quiet ruin of Kate's father, who hid alcoholism and infidelity behind a cool, charismatic exterior. As Mayfield grows from trusting child to rebellious teen, she begins to find the enforced hush of the funeral home oppressive, and longs for the day she can escape the confines of her small town.

In The Undertaker's Daughter, Kate has written a triumph of a memoir. This vivid and stranger-than-fiction true story ultimately teaches us how living in a house of death can prepare one for life.
 


***Many thanks to Net Galley and Gallery, Threshold and Pocket Books for the advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on January 13th, 2015.***


This insomniac's review: 

As a nurse I have little to no fear of death. In fact, during my brief stint as a hospice nurse(most of my career has been in pediatrics) I saw many things that led me to have a rather odd fascination with death. One of my very favorite shows of all time is Six Feet Under and that began my fascination with those who live in funeral homes. So this book seemed right up my alley- and did not disappoint. 

The author has a very distinct writing voice and I was sucked in immediately. She did a wonderful job of showing all facets of her family members and friends and of the life of a family living in a funeral town in a small town in the south. 

I read this novel quickly, as it was terribly engrossing, and felt a touch of sadness for it to be over when I turned the last page. 


Worth staying up all night to read?


Yes!

Rating: 


4 stars.





Good House by Peyton Marshall


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

With soaring literary prose and the tense pacing of a thriller, the first-time novelist Peyton Marshall imagines a grim and startling future. At the end of the twenty-first century—in a transformed America—the families of convicted felons are tested for a set of genetic markers. Boys who test positive become compulsory wards of the state—removed from their homes and raised on Goodhouse campuses, where they learn to reform their darkest thoughts and impulses. Goodhouse is a feral place—part prison, part boarding school—and now a radical religious group, the Holy Redeemer’s Church of Purity, has begun to target these schools for attack, with purifying fire.
     We see all this through the eyes of James, a transfer student who watched the radicals set fire to his old Goodhouse and everyone he’d ever known. In addition to entering a new school with new rules, James now has to contend with Bethany, a wild tech genius with a heart defect who wants to save him, and her father, the sinister director of medical studies. Soon, however, James realizes that the biggest threat might already be there, inside the fortified walls of Goodhouse. Partly based on the true story of the nineteenth-century Preston School of Industry and the boys who lived and died in its halls, Goodhouse explores questions of identity and free will—and what it means to test the limits of human endurance.


This insomniac's opinion: 


This is not a typical read for me. I do tend to gravitate somewhat to dystopian novels for mind-bending reads, but those that really veer towards Sci-Fi are not usually my bag. However, I was recently attending the Iowa City Book Festival with some of my bookish buddies and this author had a reading which we attending. The reading piqued my interest and I left the reading with a signed copy of this novel. 

My immediate thoughts when starting this novel was that the writing was crisp and clear, which is not always the case for a debut author. The premise of the novel was unique and as the novel progressed there were many heart-stopping moments. However, the characters all could have been a bit more fleshed out and parts of the novel were simply not solid enough for me to suspend my disbelief at this dystopian, future world. 

My overall takeaway thought was that this unique novel created deep thoughts within the reader of the serious ethical implications of rushing to judgement and pigeonholing an entire group of people. It is definitely worth the read if you enjoy a little dystopian fiction in your life. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


It might be if you enjoy this type of novel. 

Rating:


3.5 stars, solid debut novel





Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top Reads of 2014

Here it is, my bookish friends! I read 162 books in the year and the lists below are my favorites that I read in the year. They are not ranked in any order.



Fiction:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (note: I read an advanced reader's copy and this novel will be available February 3rd)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Pay it Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


Non-Fiction:

All But My Life: A Memoir by Gerda Weissmann Klein
I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World by Eve Ensler
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand


YA/ Younger Readers:

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne
My Girl by Patricia Hermes


Here's to a fantastic year in 2015! My we all find love, laughter and fabulous books!


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):



 FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime. 


***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 novel will be published February 3, 2015.

This insomniac's opinion: 


This novel can best be summed up in a quote pulled from it's very pages: 

"In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are."

Kristin Hannah has written several novels about sisters, but none as complex and harrowing as her new novel. Vianne and Isabel are two sisters who could be no more different from one another. The horror of World War II will show them both just how different and, more importantly- how alike they truly are. 

This novel tore my heart into a thousand pieces over and over again. Yet, in the end, all the pieces were pasted back together in the most bittersweet of ways. 

I ended my reading of this novel by weeping unabashedly over the last page. 

Worth staying up all night to read?


Yes. Yes. And, Yes.

Rating: 


5 weepy stars. 




Love: The Saint and the Seeker by Christina Stevens


Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

“God will write through you.” Those were almost the last private words Mother Teresa spoke to acclaimed filmmaker Christina Stevens ~ urging her to share her story with the world. A similar calling had come months earlier, when Mother Teresa appeared to Christina in a dream, summoning her to India to film her message to the world. Without hesitation, she gathered a film crew and boarded a plane for Calcutta.
Little did she know that when destiny beckons and a Saint-to-be takes your hand, startling events and profound discoveries are around every corner. Told through the lens of Christina’s colorful youth, her mind-expanding adventure may prod you to recognize your own life’s calling, and that will lead you to the most powerful and transformative place in the cosmos ~ love.

***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 really wanted to like this book. I have had a life long fascination with Mother Theresa and her life and work. However, this novel was much more about the author and her own life than Mother Theresa. The book was meandering and went from topic to topic and place to place and left the reader feeling a bit lost and discombobulated. 

I highly appreciate what seemed to be the author's purpose with this book and was certainly inspired by many of the author's experiences but was left feeling a sense of disappointment during reading. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

Unfortunately, no. 


Rating: 


2 stars