Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

Book Summary(via Goodreads):

With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize. 

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

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

This novel will be published in December of 2015.

This insomniac's opinion: 

I'm gonna take a moment here to admit that I am not the core audience for this novel. I'm likely about twenty years older than the reader that they are targeting. So that will definitely be a factor in this review. 

I found the writing to great, if simple, and the characters were mostly likable, although also a bit simplified. What I really struggled with was that the plot was very thin. It truly could have been wrapped up in a short story. I was rather glad to turn the final page. 

However, I think that pre-teens/early teens would likely enjoy the dynamics between characters. 


2 stars

Worth staying up all not to read?

Not for me. 

Find this novel on Amazon: The Trouble with Destiny

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed up crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback. So when he’s promised exclusive access to notorious cult leader and death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the opportunity is too good to pass up. Lucas leaves New York for the scene of the crime—a split-level farmhouse on the gray-sanded beach of Washington State—a house whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners; runaways who, thirty years prior, were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. Lucas wants to tell the real story of Halcomb’s faithful departed, but when Halcomb goes back on his promise of granting Lucas exclusive information on the case, he’s left to put the story together on his own. Except he is not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

Full details on Amazon: Within These Walls

Many thanks to Net Galley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket books for the advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

This insomniac's opinion:

This novel was super creepy and imaginative. It is reminiscent of the work of a young Steven King and is written in a very visual manner- the reader can almost see exactly the scene that the author is trying to paint. I found myself nearly screaming aloud to the characters to get out while they could, as I was completely enveloped into the story and the characters. 

If you enjoy a good creepy novel- this one's for you!

Worth staying up all night to read?

Yep! And, good luck getting to sleep after the last page is turned!


4 stars

Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live

 Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

WHEN A YOUNG WRITER named Lorne Michaels talked NBC executives into taking a chance on a new weekend late-night comedy series, nobody really knew what to expect-not even Michaels. But Saturday Night Live, launched in 1975 and still thriving today, would change the face of television. It introduced brash new stars with names like Belushi, Radner, Chase, and Murray; trashed taboos that had inhibited TV for decades; and had such an impact on American life, laughter, and politics that even presidents of the United States had to take notice. Now, Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Shales and bestselling author James Andrew Miller bring together stars, writers, guest hosts, contributors, and craftsmen for the first-ever oral history of Saturday Night Live, from 1974, when it was just an idea, through 2002, when it has long since become an institution. In their own words, dozens of personalities recall the backstage stories, behind-the-scenes gossip, feuds, foibles, drugs, sex, struggles, and calamities, including personal details never before revealed. Shales and Miller have interviewed a galaxy of stars, including Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Bill Murray, Tom Hanks, Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, Jon Lovitz, Jane Curtin, Billy Crystal, Martin Short, Dana Carvey, Tina Fey, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Garrett Morris, Molly Shannon, Damon Wayans, Chris Elliott, Julia Sweeney, Norm Macdonald, and Paul Simon-plus writers like Al Franken, Conan O'Brien, Larry David, Rosie Shuster, Jack Handey, Robert Smigel, Don Novello, and others who got their big breaks as part of the SNL team. The Coneheads, the Blues Brothers, Buck-wheat, Wayne and Garth, Hans and Franz, the Cheerleaders, Todd DiLaMuca and Lisa Loopner, "Cheeseburger cheeseburger," Mango, the Church Lady, Ed Grimley-they're all here. And for every fabulous character on-screen there was an outrageous maverick, misfit, or rebel behind the scenes. Live from New York does what no other book about the show has ever done: It lets the people who were there tell the story in their own words, blunt and loving and uncensored. 

***Many thanks to Net Galley and Little, Brown and Company for the advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.***

This insomniac's opinion: 

I'll admit that I no longer watch SNL on a regular basis. However, I watched religiously as a teenager and up until the last 7-8 years or so. So, I was thrilled to review this book and was hoping for some dishy reads. I was not disappointed. 

I don't think its a secret that the early casts were rather wild and crazy, so it was not surprising that most of the juicy bits were from this time on the show: drugs, sex, parties- you name it, it was happening. 

The book was extremely thorough and the reader was left feeling as though they were right their with the cast through the years. 


4 stars

Visualization for Weight Loss: The Gabriel Method

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

In Visualization for Weight Loss, Jon Gabriel expands on the most talked about tool in his best-selling book, The Gabriel Method: visualization. This powerful technique helped Jon drop 220 pounds without dieting or deprivation because it didn’t depend on calorie counting or extreme exercise—rather it changed his biochemistry and neural pathways. In turn, this helped lower stress and its associated inflammatory chemicals in his body, allowing him to lose weight easily and naturally.
Examining the importance of visualizing for weight loss, Jon takes readers through the latest research on the power of the mind in order to show why this technique works. And then he lays out concrete, unintimidating advice about how to implement visualization into their lives. In addition to teaching readers how to move into the most powerful brain state for enacting change, Jon includes visualizations to help readers:

Overcome disempowering beliefs surrounding food and weight loss
Melt away stress
Conquer fears of losing weight
Rediscover the joy of movement
Create healthy new habits
Kill food cravings and addictions
Achieve better sleep
Jon not only provides readers with these visualizations but also teaches them how to create their own personalized visualizations that can be even more powerful. He then presents a four-month visualization strategy that can be easily included in anyone’s life—no matter what time constraints they face.
As Jon found in his journey, the biggest challenge in weight loss is not finding the perfect diet or the perfect exercise routine; the biggest challenge is convincing your brain that your body needs to be thin.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 

I've struggled with my weight for years. Even when I religiously count calories and exercise regularly, the pounds don't really seem to budge. So, I've been wondering for a long while if there was more that I could do. Thus, this book seemed a good place to start. 

I really enjoy Jon's down to Earth writing style and he made a lot of great points. The book includes some audio recordings of the meditations which were wonderful and I found myself using them everyday. 

I truly believe that there is a mental connection to not only our weight, but everything in our lives. So, I haven't had any miracle success yet, but will continue using these techniques as I find them really helpful!


3.5 stars

Full details on Amazon: Visualization for Weight Loss: The Gabriel Method Guide to Using Your Mind to Transform Your Body

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.

Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.

Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy.  

Full information on Amazon: The Same Sky: A Novel

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

This insomniac's opinion: 

I don't always care for dual narration. The reader always finds herself resonating far more with one narrator than the other. This novel was very well done, however, and I quickly fell in love with both Alice and Carla, all while wondering when their stories would intersect. It was a bit jarring to go from Carla's deeply bleak world to Alice's rather comfortable American life but I feel that this element added to the story. 

I am drawn to stories of immigration, legal or not. As a public health nurse I work with many refugees, legal and undocumented immigrants. Their stories never cease to humble me at a very deep level. This story felt as real as any of those stories that I have been told. I hoped for Carla. I wept for Carla. And, when her story ran smack into Alice's- I put down my kindle and cried until my eyes hurt. 

This is certainly one of my favorites of the year thus far. Highly recommended, deeply emotional read. Bring Kleenex.

Worth staying up all night to read?

Hell yes!


5 stars

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

Possession. Power. Passion. New York Times bestselling novelist M. J. Rose creates her most provocative and magical spellbinder yet in this gothic novel set against the lavish spectacle of 1890s Belle Époque Paris.

Sandrine Salome flees New York for her grandmother’s Paris mansion to escape her dangerous husband, but what she finds there is even more menacing. The house, famous for its lavish art collection and elegant salons, is mysteriously closed up. Although her grandmother insists it’s dangerous for Sandrine to visit, she defies her and meets Julien Duplessi, a mesmerizing young architect. Together they explore the hidden night world of Paris, the forbidden occult underground and Sandrine’s deepest desires.

Among the bohemians and the demi-monde, Sandrine discovers her erotic nature as a lover and painter. Then darker influences threaten—her cold and cruel husband is tracking her down and something sinister is taking hold, changing Sandrine, altering her. She’s become possessed by La Lune: A witch, a legend, and a sixteenth-century courtesan, who opens up her life to a darkness that may become a gift or a curse.

For full information, see Amazon:  The Witch of Painted Sorrows (The Daughters of La Lune)

***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 review: 

I'm all in for a mythical novel. I like to be transported to another place altogether and a magical tale set in Paris sounded lovely to me. The crux of a magical novel is this- believability. Right? I have to be able to completely suspend my disbelief of all reality. Unfortunately, there were quiet a few parts that just did not ring true enough to me in this novel. 

The writing of the novel was lovely. No qualms there. It was a slow beginning, but as it began to unravel I was engrossed. I read it all the way through in just a few days and admit that it was unique and fascinating. Paris was not only the setting, but a character of her own. 

I just cannot give a glowing review due to the fact that I kept raising my eyebrows in disbelief. Still, worth reading if you enjoy a bit of the mystical. You may not feel the same as I. 


3 stars. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Craft

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

After enduring years of a struggling marriage, Ronnie Farnham has decided to divorce her husband and is beginning to hope for a happy future--until the morning Jeff is supposed to move out, when he locks himself in their barn with a rifle.

When a massive police presence arrives to control the 12-hour stand off, the women in Jeff's life are pushed to their breaking points. Based on the author's harrowing personal story, The Far End of Happy is a powerful novel about the way one man's spiral towards life's violent conclusion tests the resolve, love, and hope of the women he will leave behind.

See Amazon for complete details on the novel: The Far End of Happy

***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: 

I have to admit that I fell in love with Kathryn Craft's writing when I read The Art of Falling in September of 2013. She writes wholly authentic, flawed women characters. Thus, I was thrilled to receive a copy of this novel which will be published May 1, 2015. 

This novel takes no time in sucking the author in. I was instantly regretting beginning the book so late in the evening. I could instantly feel that I would be up half of the night and would be ever so tired when my alarm clock rang in the morning. *sigh* The sacrifices we readers must make. 

I have to admit that some parts of the novel, certain relationships in general, felt a bit clunky and unrealistic to me. I can't quite put my finger quite on why. However, as a whole, the people were very real and authentic to me. I wanted a happy ending for all of them so badly. 

I'm not sure how to really review the novel without giving away anything, so I will end with this general review: Engrossing, emotional novel with complex characters that is dripping with suspense and leaves the reader with a melancholy sense of what might have been. 


4 stars

Worth staying up all night:

Hey, did you even read the above review? I'm still yawning a couple of days later. ;)

The Fear Cure by Lissa Rankin

Book Synopsis(via Goodreads):

 Not many people in the medical world are talking about how being afraid can make us sick—but the truth is that fear, left untreated, becomes a serious risk factor for conditions from heart disease to diabetes to cancer. Now Lissa Rankin, M.D., explains why we need to heal ourselves from the fear that puts our health at risk and robs our lives of joy—and shows us how fear can ultimately cure us by opening our eyes to all that needs healing in our lives.
     Drawing on peer-reviewed studies and powerful true stories, The Fear Cure presents a breakthrough understanding of fear’s effects and charts a path back to wellness and wholeness on every level. We learn:
How a fearful thought translates into physiological changes that predispose us to illness

How to tell true fear (the kind that arises from a genuine threat) from false fear (which triggers stress responses that undermine health)
How to tune in to the voice of courage inside—our “Inner Pilot Light”
How to reshape our relationship to uncertainty so that it’s no longer something to dread, but a doorway to new possibilities

What our fears can teach us about who we really are     At the intersection of science and spirituality, The Fear Cure identifies the Four Fearful Assumptions that lie at the root of all fears—from the sense that we’re alone in the universe to the belief that we can’t handle losing what we love—and shifts them into Four Courage-Cultivating Truths that pave our way to not only physical well-being, but profound awakening. Using exercises from a wide range of mind-body practices and spiritual traditions, Dr. Rankin teaches us how to map our own courage-cultivating journey, write a personalized Prescription for Courage, and step into a more authentic life.

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

This insomniac's opinion: 

I really enjoy Lissa Rankin. I have seen her PBS specials and follow her on Facebook, where she often delights me with her posts. I think she has an enormous amount of insight and wisdom on our broken medical system in this country. As a nurse, I share her concerns on a very deep level. Thus, I was supremely excited to receive this ARC for review. 

The name of this book is a bit of a misnomer. This book is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a "cure" for fear. However, it has an enormous amount of information, personal stories and tips for the reader to stretch beyond his/her past ideas of fear. 

I was most enamored with all of the fascinating personal stories in this book. Our intuition is a crazy amazing thing, isn't it? Listening to the subtle whispers in our lives can be life changing and even life saving!

Some of the phrases the author uses seemed clunky and silly. Phrases like "inner pilot light", "small self", etc. It is simply my personal preference that authors don't need to stoop to this level of making an idea their own by ascribing a unique term to it. Most other people probably will not have the same sense of inorganic pause when reading these terms, its just my own pet peeve if you will. 

Overall, fascinating take on fear and how we can learn to embrace it in our lives. 


3.5 stars- rounded up to four for Goodreads. 

Worth staying up all night to read?

Non-fiction generally doesn't move me to stay up all night reading, but this one sure is fascinating!