Thursday, August 17, 2017

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Book 52 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 15 - 17

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Summary (via the book jacket)
Delving deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when outside forces disrupt their delicate way of life. Mary Katherine "Merricat" Blackwood - among the most memorable narrators in twentieth-century fiction - lives in the Blackwood family home with the reclusive company of only her sister Constance, once accused of fatally poisoning her own family, and her Uncle Julian, confined to a wheelchair and obsessed with the ongoing memoirs. Together, they have grown comfortable with a quiet, isolated experience, despite continual persecution by the townsfolk. But when their estranged cousin Charles arrives at the estate armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into her father's safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect her remaining family. At once disturbing and delightful, Shirley Jackson's masterful final novel may be her best of all.

My Opinion
The fact that I read this over a span of 3 days doesn't tell the whole story.  I read 25% of it in one sitting, was busy the next day, and finished the rest in one bleary-eyed session that technically took 2 days since I finished around 3 a.m.

I took no notes while I was reading because I was so engrossed.  This was an excellent read that held up surprisingly well.  Highly recommended for those that like creepy stories where things aren't explicitly stated but everything feels off so you know something is coming.

Quote from the Book
"Blackwoods had always lived in our house, and kept their things in order; as soon as a new Blackwood wife moved in, a place was found for her belonging, and so our house was built up with layers of Blackwood property weighting it, and keeping it steady against the world."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

If You Give a Man a Cookie

Book 51 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read on August 15

**I received an electronic copy of this book from NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

If You Give a Man a Cookie: A Parody by Laura Joffe Numeroff

If you give a man a cookie...he's going to want milk to go with it...God forbid he should get it himself.
If You Give a Man a Cookie is a woman's commentary about her helpless man and the chain of events that leads him on a journey from the bed to the bathroom to the couch and back to bed at nightfall.

My Opinion
The illustrations were great and the book was funny.

Normally I would end with a quote from the book but this was pretty short and everything was connected so I won't do so this time.

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Widow for One Year

Book 50 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from July 28 - August 14

A Widow for One Year by John Irving

Summary (via the book jacket)
Ruth Cole is a complex, often self-contradictory character - a 'difficult' woman. By no means is she conventionally 'nice', but she will never be forgotten. Her story is told in three part, each focusing on a critical time in her life.
When we first meet her - on Long Island in the summer of 1958 - Ruth is only four.
The second time we meet Ruth it is 1990, when she is an unmarried woman whose personal life is not nearly as successful as her literary career. She distrusts her judgement in men, for good reason.
The book closes in 1995 when Ruth is forty-one years old, a widow and a mother. She's about to fall in love for the first time.

My Opinion
This is the first John Irving book I've read and I can't believe it's taken me so long.  I loved his descriptive writing style.  It's a long book but none of the words felt unnecessary and it passed so quickly.  668 pages and I wasn't ready for it to be over; that's a huge statement.

This experience represented everything I love about reading, when time passes and I'm lost in the book.  I can't wait to read everything he's written.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"She might not know what to do about boyfriends - especially one who wanted to marry her - and she might not know how to deal with her father, about whom her feelings were sorely mixed. She might not know whether to hate her best friend, Hannah, or to forgive her. But when it came to her writing, Ruth Cole was the picture of confidence and concentration."

"[Ruth] struggled to summon that state of calm in which she composed her novels. Ruth thought of a novel as a great, untidy house, a disorderly mansion; her joy was to make the place fit to live in, to give it at least the semblance of order. Only when she wrote was she unafraid."

Blood Memory Society

Book 49 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 6 - 14

**I received an electronic version of this book from NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it**

Blood Memory Society by D.A. Field

Summary (via NetGalley)
What if you could inherit your ancestors' memories?
What implications would such an inheritance have on society?
A young fertility doctor is pulled into a national security crisis and haphazardly becomes responsible for protecting a brilliant young woman who possess her ancestor's memories. A fast-paced thriller, you'll have your heart in your mouth as you follow Field's character, Dr. Will Dunbar, from the Abacos Islands to Washington, D.C. and through the Florida Keys, Atlanta, Mississippi, New Orleans and Malibu. Tapped for his expertise in reproductive medicine, Dunbar finds himself in the cross hairs of national and international secrets, intrigue and conspiracy.

My Opinion
What a fascinating premise.  The action started right away and it held my interest from the beginning to the end.  It had good pacing and I didn't want to stop reading.  There were some lucky coincidences that stretched belief but it was a good story so I just gave in to the ride.

I did roll my eyes at some of the lines that felt like I was reading the script for an action movie.  I also rolled my eyes at the descriptions of Victoria...too beautiful to be so brilliant, really?!?!

It looks like the author will be writing a second book and I would read it because there is definitely room for continuation with this unique concept.  But the ending of this book was satisfactory in case the author doesn't write it or a person doesn't want to commit to a series.

A Few Quotes from the Book (may be different in the final published version)
"Team X was the name given to this secret group of eight men and nine women, this collection of individuals with supreme intelligence that on this day was on the technological precipice of changing the world forever."

"Will squared his eyes to the general, clenched his jaw and replied, "Sir, it is not lost on me how dire the situation must be, whatever it is. You have brought me a long way and I sense the urgency in this room. I'm a soldier and a patriot at heart. I am at attention and I'm here to serve my nation. You may proceed to brief me on the status of affairs."

"That's the tough part about Inherited Memory. With the good, always comes some bad. Their brains are brilliant but their souls are tormented."

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sprinkle with Murder

Book 48 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 10 - 13

Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKenlay
Book 1 in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series

Summary (via Goodreads)
Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura are finally living out their dream as the proud owners of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes bakery. But their first big client is a nightmare. She's a bridezilla who wants 500 custom cupcakes for her wedding.
When Mel stumbles upon the bride-to-be dead-by-cupcake, she becomes the prime suspect. To save themselves and their business, the ladies need to find the real murderer, before the cupcake killer ices someone else.

My Opinion
How this random reader ended up with this book...while shopping with my 11 year old daughter at a consignment store, she found this book in the kids' section and wanted it (the front cover is bright with cupcakes and the title is catchy).  I knew it didn't look like a juvenile book but she really wanted it so I told her I would read it first and let her know.  It is definitely an adult book but there's no language or sex in it so I would let her read it if she really wants to; she just may get bored because I don't think she'd be able to catch any of the clues.

I liked the characters which always helps mysteries like these stand out.  The mystery itself in this book was fine and there was a surprise connection I didn't expect, but there was also a random thing thrown in (Tate's proposal story) that felt off and wasn't really resolved; maybe it was to "let him off the hook" emotions wise as the series continues?

I would continue the series if I saw the books but won't make a huge effort to seek them out.

Quote from the Book
"Mel was hit again by the power of what she and Angie provided to their customers. Memories. When people bit into one of their cupcakes, they were enjoying a moment that recaptured the magic of childhood, nurtured their sweet tooth, and gave them something to share with a loved one.
 Were they curing cancer? No. But were they making the world a better place to live in? Quite possibly. At least, Mel liked to think so. She couldn't imagine a world without cupcakes, and she hoped her customers couldn't either."

A Really Good Day

Book 47 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from July 27 - August 9

A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life by Ayelet Waldman

Summary (via Goodreads)
When a small vial arrives in her mailbox from "Lewis Carroll," Ayelet Waldman is at a low point. Her mood storms have become intolerably severe; she has tried nearly every medication possible; her husband and children are suffering with her. So she opens the vial, places two drops on her tongue, and joins the ranks of an underground but increasingly vocal group of scientists and civilians successfully using therapeutic microdoses of LSD. As Waldman charts her experience over the course of a month -- bursts of productivity, sleepless nights, a newfound sense of equanimity -- she also explores the history and mythology of LSD, the cutting-edge research into the drug, and the byzantine policies that control it.
Drawing on her experience as a federal public defender, and as the mother of teenagers, and her research into the therapeutic value of psychedelics, Waldman has produced a book that is eye-opening, often hilarious, and utterly enthralling.

My Opinion
This is the kind of book that I don't have much to say about before a person reads it.  It's fairly clear what it's about so if you think you'll find it interesting, the author has a good writing style and you won't be disappointed.  I do have reactions and thoughts that would only make sense to someone that's read it, so if anyone else reads it and would like to discuss, I'm game.

Although parts of her research dragged along, I still rated this book 4 stars because I really enjoy her writing style and have a lot in common with her personality-wise.  I haven't struggled to the extent she has but I also have anxiety, chronic pain and fluctuating, bipolar like moods.  I completely agreed with the sentence, "So exhilarating and fruitful were these [hypomanic] periods that I sometimes thought they were sufficient compensation for the other, dark side of the disease.", because that's my approach as well.  I've taken medicine for anxiety and pain but as far as my moods go, I tolerate the lows because I get so much done on the highs and would only seek medicine if the lows became intolerable, which luckily they have not for me.

I don't understand how she is able to freely admit that she was using an illegal drug, both for this experiment and when she said her and her husband have used Ecstasy as a form of couples therapy in the past.  It's not just her I wonder this about, I also feel this way when celebrities talk about it as well.

This book was well-thought out and interesting, both for her own personal experience and for the thoughts/research on the "War on Drugs" in general.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"But I was suffering. Worse, I was making the people around me suffer. I was in pain, and I was desperate, and it suddenly seemed like I had nothing to lose. I decided to try a one-month experiment...A single month out of fifty years. What harm - or what help - could there be in that?"

"Humans live forever on the Hedonic Treadmill; whatever our life experiences, whatever our transient miseries or joys, we eventually revert to a mood set-point that depends not on circumstance but on individual predisposition."

Monday, August 7, 2017

Utopia, Iowa

Book 46 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from July 18 - 29

Utopia, Iowa by Brian Yansky

Summary (via the book jacket)
Jack Bell has an unusual gift - or curse, depending on your point of view. And he's not the only one. In Utopia, Iowa, anything can happen.
For the most part, aspiring screenwriter Jack Bell is just your typical Midwestern kid. He's got a crush on his hot best friend, Ash. He's coping with sudden frostiness between his parents. And he's debating where to go to college - or whether to go at all. But then there's his gift-slash-curse: Jack can talk to ghosts.
Lately, the ghosts are more distracting than usual, demanding that Jack get to the bottom of their mysterious deaths. Meanwhile, the straitlaced Detective Bloodsmith, who doesn't believe in gifts or curses, puts Jack at the top of his suspect list. (Why else would Jack keep turning up at the crime scenes?) To add to Jack's troubles, his grandmother, who happens to be a witch, warns that an evil presence has come to town and is looking for him. As Jack is threatened by both human and supernatural forces, his ending is suddenly looking less The Princess Bride and more Braveheart.

My Opinion
I picked this book solely because I'm an Iowan.  It was a quick read and I would read more about these characters if the author decided to make this into a series.  I think it's geared to a younger audience and I will pass this along to my teen girls now that I'm done with it.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Principal Thompson was not happy to see me again so soon. I wasn't happy to see him, either, but unlike him, I wasn't rude enough to say so directly."

"I got on my bike and rode off to the park. That was my first mistake."

"Other grandsons took their grandmothers to church or brunch. I saw mine off to the spirit world."