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· Insomnia & becoming addicted to books (+ book reviews!)

Insomnia Becoming addicted to books book reviews

Hello there! :)

Here's the story of how I went from reading (not even) a book a year to over 20. It's a story of insomnia, routine, relief, and a growing obsession. This will also include a 3 part non-expert book review! :D

THE INSOMNIA, AND MY PROCESS TO ALLEVIATE IT


Summer of 2015. Intense frustration. My insomnia was as bad as ever, three nights out of four, staying unwillingly awake 2-3-4 extra hours, tossing and turning, the palpable frustration building as minutes ticked by. Hours, hours, hours before being able to shut my eyes finally, and swim blissfully into unconsciousness. With the crazy double-hours busy Holiday season coming closer and closer, I needed to find a solution, and quick. A solution that would not piss me off, that would not make me drowsy the next day (no pills, thanks.), a solution that I would WANT to keep up.

One August day, I went at my friend Melanie's for afternoon chat and tea (and a cat presence dose). As I was out the door, my eyes wandered to her library. Now, this is kinda a strange in itself, because remember, I am (was) not a reader. I'd read basically mostly one author, Paul Auster, because he mostly writes as quick as I read, something like a book a year. So... No idea why, but a particular book spine jumped out at me. It was This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper.

This book, with it's understated but intriguing title, with it's spine full of colorful letters, grabbed my attention and I picked it up. Melanie went on about how it had been a great entertaining read, with funny and fluid writing, and offered to lend it to me. I didn't know it yet, but it was the answer I was looking for. I wasn't thinking it would help me go to deep sleep faster, I just thought it might help diminish my frustration of being awake, and thus, maybe, perhaps, hopefully, shave off an hour of insomnia. Well, it just happens that — I guess this is logical, but to me it sounded like a myth — reading tires you out. First night, one hour shaved. Second night, 2 hours shaved. By the fourth night, I was sleeping in under half an hour. And sleeping hard, too, waking up energized and everything!

On the tenth day, insomnia crept back. So I then started installing a simple routine: on hour before bed, watch low-brain-activity TV, drink herbal tea. Then, in the bedroom, place the book on the bed, open the small light and close the big one, glass of water. Go brush teeth AFTER all this (why? I have no idea, it seemed right, and I still do this to this day. lol) Come back to the bedroom, prop some pillows, and read.

But mostly, I have an extra very strict rule: DO NOT look a the clock. Read. Simply read more if you're not falling asleep. Get lost in the book. Read as much as you can. Read until your mind goes blank. Read until your eyelids can barely keep themselves up. Then I would force myself to read some more, until once again my eyelids couldn't stay open. DO NOT LOOK AT THE TIME! Because see, the clock only awakened my frustration. The more I was aware of the minutes passing by, the less I'd sleep. So why even look at it? I figured that even if I ended up reading for 2-3 hours, at least the frustration would not be part of the deal, and in the end, once I did sleep, I would sleep more soundly anyway.

We are now well over a year — and 25 books — later, and it's still going well. I'd say insomnia pops back it's ugly head about once every two weeks, which is such a HUGE improvement. Even when it does come around, I'm so much more relaxed about nighttime altogether, and so it's never as worse as before.

What is great too is that reading is now part of my life. I have found a new passion (obsession), something I enjoy doing that doesn't involve my work at all, which is quite rare for me to find. I can't help myself from buying books, mostly secondhand. In the past few weeks, there were a lot of Fall secondhand sales around Montreal, and I went crazy. Something like 25 "new" books entered my library, for around $60 (what a steal!!!). A lot of thrillers/crime/suspense (my favorite, I've discovered), but also many diverse non-fiction and literary novels.

I love to hold the object of pages in my hands. Even the books I sorta appreciated are still dear to my heart — it takes skill, patience, determination, and  creativity to write, and that is precious. Also, public transportation has become much less laborious. I also enjoy talking about them with my boyfriend - who reads very different kinds of books, but who's interested anyway. I am happy to have found reading, and happy that reading found me, too.

Now, on to the books!

books

I've separated my 21 reads into 3 global categories — The humorous, and then the thrillers (included are crime and suspense novels), and finally, the literary (basically all the other genres mixed together). I am very aware that these categories are quite large, and that genres are more complex than this, just as for music. However, I wanted to group them for the benefit of blogging clearly, and I simply bundled up the genres that bring similar emotions to me as I read.

*Please note that I won't really be giving you complete resumés of the books, since those can be found super easily online. I prefer simply sharing my global impressions of them. I'm no pro — just a regular reader, like you. I don't plan on spoiling you either (if ever some comments *might* do so, I'll say so beforehand). Also, I was NOT asked to give reviews for these, and all the books were acquired by my own means.

The Humorous

Book review: humor

I've read only 3 books in this category, because I find myself being a little bit more demanding as far as humor goes. It seems — I am still discovering my reading preferences — that just as in life, I enjoy more subtle, sarcastic, dry and witty humor in books. For some reason, I seem to have more difficulty finding those...

This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
This is the first book I read during that year (it's the one I stated earlier). The humor throughout the book is dry, and I absolutely loved it! We see grief (about his father's passing and his home life situation) in the eyes of Judd. I went to read a couple of online reviews before starting it, and a lot of men wrote that this character's thoughts and emotions were very similar to those they truly have. And so, I found it quite insightful as well as entertaining. I think this might be one of those "LOVE or HATE" books. So try it, and see if this is to your liking as well!

How to Talk to a Widower, by Jonathan Tropper
I remember that I was reading this during Xmas break. Isn't it funny that sometimes you can remember what was going on in your life when you were jumping into a specific book? I truly appreciated this other novel about grief (a recurring theme for Tropper), altho I would suggest the previous one first, if you have to choose.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
This Swedish book, translated to English, was a nice surprise! You can't help but be a little annoyed with Ove's attitude towards life (and people) at first, but then without quite noticing the shift, he begins pulling at your heart strings every new chapter! I sometimes "felt the translation" (or was it conscious stylistic translation choices?), but it wasn't so strong as to disturb my attention away from the story. I suggest it as a light and fun read!

What humorous reads have you enjoyed? Feel free to drop suggestions in the comment box below! :)


The Thrillers

9 thrillers book review

Defending Jacob, William Landay

I'm beginning with my favorite of them all, and the only court procedural in the bunch. I'm pretty sure it's the first of this genre I've read. Ever. It could have been complicated or laborious to read, but it truly was written smoothly. It is a couple hundred pages of "did he or did he not" — "he" being Jacob, the son of father Andy, also an attorney — but it goes deep in the psychological point of view of both parents and the son, which was perfect for my taste. Give me a suspenseful plot + psychology and I'm there!

I'm unsure why precisely, but I still think about this book over 6 months later. No spoilers, don't worry, but perhaps it was the ending, which I found really satisfying (in a non cheesy way) as far a tying loose ends goes. I don't mind a little unknown at the end, but too much and I feel tricked by the author somehow. Perhaps it was also the right/wrong dilemmas in this books that made it very compelling... As you can guess, I REALLY recommend it! :D (I read somewhere that a movie from this book is supposed to come out in 2018. I might have to see it!)

Mission Flats, William Landay

After reading Defending Jacob, I had to check out Landay's other books. He did write two others before that, and so I read Mission Flats soon after. This one is more a classic police investigation taking place in Boston and Maine. You can tell Landay truly loves Boston (same as his other book, The Strangler). It took me about 100 pages to really get into it, map out all the characters in my head like on a map, but when I got attached to the plot, I was hooked! And it did keep me guessing.

Since this "year of reading", I have also read The Strangler, which was my least favorite of the three. Landay is apparently working on a new novel, and I hope the new one will go in the general direction of Defending Jacob, his latest, in which I think he found the "it" he was most likely looking for in the two previous ones. ;)

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn

OH MY GAWD, this was delicious! Like a creamy cheese cake with a wonderfully fruity coulis on top....... haha! It was my first read of Flynn (can you believe it?), altho I've since read Gone Girl as well. And I REALLY want to read Sharp Objects soon. I think this tells a lot in very few words, right? I don't want to say much for fear of spoiling you, but I can say that to me, the characters were believable (in the way that they have qualities but also a lot of flaws, like pretty much actual people) and I didn't end up precisely predicting the outcome of the plot. What a fast paced exhilarating read! If you like imperfect main characters, this book is perfect for you! I think I need to see the movie version (with Charlize Theron) too!

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

This one truly needs no presentation, I'm sure. The movie was released recently, so you probably have an idea of the story line thru the preview.

I've read quite a few negative comments on the web about the main voice of the book, Rachel, mostly because she is not a very likeable one. Which is overall true, I guess: she drinks a lot, she blacks out, she lies, and her life is pretty much a mess. But then again, unreliable and flawed characters are kinda endearing to me. Am I weird? lol

So anyway, it is a very fast paced one, told from 3 female voices within the time frame of about a year, from a bit of a "dear diary" perspective. The mystery grabbed me instantly and I never let go until the end! I didn't precisely guess the ending, altho I also kinda did. Isn't that what the fun is about in thrillers and mysteries? You guess, and guess again, and change your mind, and stick to your instinct, or not... For me, that's what it's about, and not necessarily about if I've guessed right or not. And so, once again, I LOVED this one! (Yeah, I know, I'm a totally easy-to-please reader. And I'm okay with that. lol)

The Widow, Fiona Barton

I read this one right after The Girl on the Train. I chose it because I wanted to read another with a mystery vibe, but in a more relaxed version. The main character is Jean, and you've guessed it, she is the actual widow. The widow of a man suspected of a crime long ago, but who was never convicted of anything. She basically adjusted her personality to stand by him, hiding her true self. But after her husband dies, she's a bit torn between her real self and the persona she's put on over the years. I really enjoyed the main character, with her imperfections and repressed anger, battling internally with who she was and who she really is.

The book is divided from the perspectives of the widow, the detective and the reporter, but it is also spread between the past and the present (as in, the dates are written before each new chapter). I love this kind of format! The pace was good and steady, but not frantic. I recommend!

The Life We Bury, Allen Eskens

It's been quite a while since I read this one. I got it because of all the rave reviews online, and I wasn't disappointed! In a jiff: for a school project, Joe Talbert meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran. However, the man is also a convicted rapist and murderer. I was a little worried the "war stories" parts of the book would not be my cup of tea (it's just not my thing), and altho they weren't my favorite, they still were reported in a way that kept me going, which is probably quite difficult to do well for mostly a crime novel audience. The pace is quick, especially half way in it, at which point I just couldn't put the book down at all. I was so very much under the spell! Eskens' writing is fluid, natural, and the story as a whole really glides along effortlessly. So much so that as soon as I finished it, I immediately purchased this author's second book, as you can see right below! ;)

The Guise of Another, Allen Eskens

And there I was, a couple weeks later, reading Eskens' second novel, also a crime one. Detective Max Rupert, from previous book The Life We Bury,is also in this one, but without much focus on him at all. The focus is actually on his brother James, which I found more likeable and enjoyable as company on a journey of 265 pages. Also a detective, James is, I guess you could say, being punished by the department by being reassigned to the Fraud Unit for an event that happened previously, and which we learn about slowly throughout the book. The main subject isn't about that tho: a man dies, but he had a false identity — why? The book is secondly told thru the eyes of Drago Basta, a ruthless Balkan wars veteran. I found this different point of view raw (in a good way) and it absolutely enhanced the overall story.

Overall, for me, it's a tied race between the two novels. Eskens' writing seems once again effortless. Which means I want to soon read his third novel called The Heavens May Fall (two of the characters from The Life We Bury are back), which was just launched this October. YAY! :D Eskens seems to be going the route of a series of stories... Let's see if I'll follow along the path! As for now, I'm on the right track! ;)

The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty

My first Moriarty read! The title says it, it's all about the husband's secret. It is told from a couple of character's point of views, past and present. As I wrote earlier, I really love this format, so I was happy when I started reading and discovered this. However, I found there were quite a lot of secondary characters, and it took me a while to mentally piece together who was what to whom — at first, I kept going back to check "did I actually read about his person yet"? Bare with me, I didn't read this in one sitting, not even in a week, as I was working a lot at the time, reading only before bed. Ayyway, the "going back to check" did not get me annoyed about the book, far from it! The story tangles up in many way, with many characters, and so it was sort of like a relational puzzle.

This is for sure a psychological thriller, and I truly enjoyed "being in the head of" the women who narrate. They were imperfect, and I can only conclude that I seem to find this important in most characters. In conclusion, I will definitely read more from Moriarty in the future! Probably Little Big Lies which has some rave reviews in it's favor. To be followed... ;)

I Let You Go, Clare Mackintosh

Another psychological thriller! And another one told from different perspectives! Can you see a trend in my preferences? lol :D

The back of the (paperback) book qualifies it as "atmospheric", and I would have to agree. There's the city side, and then there's the sea coast country. About half way thru, there's a killer twist I didn't see coming, and even tho I was already into it previously, it really got me addicted. I enjoyed the characters, with their obvious flaws and strengths. Yes, many flaws, again. I can't seem to wrap my head around the interest in too-perfect-and-shiny people. In life just as in books. lol! Also, the sea side setting was like a character in itself, a nice change from most of the other thrillers I read that occur in the city.

Mackintosh has now written another novel called I See You, which has been released in the UK and the US since this summer, and was planned for Canada in February. But YAY, they pushed it forward to next week (Nov 29th 2016)! I'm sure it'll make my 2017 cut! ;)

Now I wanna know...
What is your FAVE thriller/suspense story?! Because I'm sure to want to add it to my reading list! :D

THE LITERARY

literary book review
Coming shortly...! :)
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2 Responses

Janick
Janick

November 12, 2016

Paule,
Oh yeah, un commentaire!!! :D Hadn’t had one since April. ahaha!
Tu devrais totalement faire un petit 10min de lecture before sleep, si c’est quelque chose qui te tente évidemment! Pas que je pense que tu as de la misère à dormir toi… haha ;)
Ohhh I’ll take a look à ta biblio à ma prochaine visite chez toi! And I’ll try to be brief… I kinda get lost in it when in front of bookshelves (discovering so much new stuff…! haha)
<3

Paule
Paule

November 11, 2016

Nice JAJA!! J’adore ton post, ça me donne envie d’aller revoir ton blog, j’en lis plus aucun ces temps ci. (dah je sais pourquoi ;) Personnellement, mon intérêt (passion) borderline trop intense pour le tricot a bouffé tout le genre de temps que je mettais à la lecture avant. Mais je pense que 5-10 minutes avant de me coucher serait super réaliste. J’ai plusieurs livre ici qui m’ont été preté que j’avais super hâte de lire en plus. Et je vais régulièrement à la biblio pour estelle faque j’ai aucune excuse! Si tu as fini ta stash, tu peux venir looker dans ma biblio, j’ai juste gardé mes livres préférés, et ça me ferait plaisir de t’en prêter! xoxo Pis je suis très contente que tu dormes mieux, surtout.

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