Sunday, December 31, 2017

What Was That All About?

Book 73 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 27 - 31

What Was That All About?: 20 Years of Strips and Stories by Jerry Scott

Summary (via Goodreads)
What Was That All About? is the perfect celebration of Zits'twentieth anniversary! Always spot-on, sometimes chaotic, and often messy comic moments are immortalized by the true-to-life give and take between Jeremy and his often befuddled parents.
Authors Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman have sifted through the highlights (and some lowlights!) over the life of the strip and have created a unique behind-the-scenes, insightful view into the history of Zits. They have selected their all-time favorite cartoons to fill the collection along with special features, including stories about:

• How they met in Sedona, Arizona, and came up with the crazy idea of creating Zits

• The teenagers in their own lives

• Choosing the title Zits

• Strips that newspapers declined to publish, or words they censored, etc.

• Creating a Zits Sunday strip

• Sucks, bites, and blows: staking out territory on the comic page

• Fish paste and other reasons our kids don't want to travel with us anymore

Excerpts from their sketchbooks will also be shown.

My Opinion
This was a quick, enjoyable read for me as a longtime fan of the comic but it was definitely more comic strips and less actual writing/memories.  I probably would've been disappointed if I had purchased this but I received it as a gift and know many others in my family that it will be passed along too now that I've read it. 

An Object of Beauty

Book 72 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 25 - 29

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

Summary (via Goodreads)
Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby's and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights--and, at times, the dark lows--of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.

My Opinion
I was absorbed.  I didn't always like Lacey but I did always understand her.

I will definitely be looking for more of Steve Martin's writing.

Quote from the Book
"I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else."


Book 71 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from December 16 - 25

Amy by Peg Sutherland

Summary (via the book jacket)
A golden wedding usually means a family celebration. But the Hardaway sisters drifted apart years ago. And each has her own reason for wanting no part of a family reunion. As plans for the party proceed, tensions mount, until it even begins to look as fi their parents' marriage might fall apart before the big event. Can the daughters put aside old hurts and betrayals...for the sake of the family?
Amy Hardaway has managed to persuade her older sister, Megan to come home to Hurricane Beach to help talk some sense into their parents. Now she has to work on Lisa, the youngest Hardaway. It shouldn't be too difficult. After all, Lisa's gorgeous ex-husband, Jon, is back in town. 
Jon Costas has come home to help deal with his missing brother's teenage daughter. He's not interested in seeing his ex-wife again. But he's finding Amy harder and harder to resist. Could he be falling in love with another Hardaway woman? If so, his timing couldn't be worse!

My Opinion
I picked up this book at Goodwill solely because I was with my friend Amy when I saw it. 

I'm just realizing as I'm looking at the summary that the anniversary party didn't actually happen in this book.  I know this is part of a "Sisters" trilogy set so I guess I'm lucky that I picked up the first one if the others build off of this one.  If I happened to see another book from the set I'd pick it up to see how they settle everything but will not be putting any effort in searching it out.

For what the book is, a Harlequin Superromance, it is fine and there is way more plot than romance.  The plotline involving the niece was a little heavy and wrapped up too neatly - there were probably other, lesser things she could've been getting involved in that would still lead to the need for the search and such that wouldn't be a felony.

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015

Book 70 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from November 4 - December 23

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015

Summary (via the book jacket)
For the past year, a group of high school students met at a publishing house in San Francisco every Monday night to read literary magazines, chapbooks, graphic novels, and countless articles. This committee was assisted by a group of students that met in the basement of a robot shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together, and under the guidance of guest editor Adam Johnson, these high schoolers selected the contents of The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. The writing in this book is very essential, if not required, like visiting the Louvre if you're in Paris. In any case, nothing in this book takes place in Paris, as far as we can recall, but it does feature an elephant hunt, the fall of a reality-television star, a walk through Ethiopia, and much more.

My Opinion
As with any collection of stories written by multiple authors, there will be some stories that will be more enjoyable than others and the opinions will vary with each reader.  For myself, there was only one or two complete duds in this book so I liked it overall.  I wasn't familiar with this series when I found this book on the discount shelf of a bookstore but I would seek out another year to read because I like the format and apparently have similar tastes to high schoolers (not surprising given the amount of YA I read).

There were two stories that stood out as favorites for me - "An Inventory" by Joan Wickersham and "Fear Itself" by Katie Coyle.  The best out-of-context line, "The elephant huntress herself dodged the vomit entirely as the bird set a course for the sun.", is from the story "Who Wants to Shoot an Elephant?" by Wells Tower. 

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN

Book 69 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from October 24 - December 21

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN 
by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

Summary (via Goodreads)
It began, in 1979, as a mad idea of starting a cable channel to televise local sporting events throughout the state of Connecticut. Today, ESPN is arguably the most successful network in modern television history, spanning eight channels in the United States and around the world. But the inside story of its rise has never been fully told - until now. 
Drawing upon over 500 interviews with the greatest names in ESPN's history and an All-Star collection of some of the world's finest athletes, bestselling authors James Miller and Tom Shales take us behind the cameras. 
Now, in their own words, the men and women who made ESPN great reveal the secrets behind its success - as well as the many scandals, rivalries, off-screen battles, and triumphs that have accompanied the ascent. From the unknown producers and business visionaries to the most famous faces on television, it's all here.

My Opinion
Note: this book was published in 2011 so don't use it as a source for stats.  The fun thing about reading the book years later is reading their opinions on technology, especially the Internet, and where it is going.  The sad thing about reading the book years later is reading interviews with people that have since passed away, particularly when Stuart Scott was talking about his cancer being removed but worrying that it will come back and how that causes him to live each day to the fullest.

I picked up this book because the authors' book on Saturday Night Live is one of my favorite reads.  This book gives the same behind-the-scenes in-depth treatment to ESPN so someone that is as interested in ESPN as I am in SNL would really enjoy this book.  For me, the later years were especially interesting because my son's favorite show is PTI and one of the ESPN channels is on almost constantly at our house but I skimmed parts as well.  Not because of the writing, just because of my interest.  It was a great book to take along with me to appointments or school pick-ups because I could read it in short spurts and put it down very easily.

Quick things I learned...nobody sees the point of the ESPYs.  Keith Olbermann doesn't drive because his inner ear was damaged when he hit his head leaping onto a train at Shea Stadium, affecting his depth perception.

Bottom line: it is very straightforward what the content of this book is so if you're interested in the subject this is well-written and very informative and I would recommend it.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"That twelve-and-a-half month experience of going from the idea on August 16 to on air September 7 was incredible. There were days, lots of 'em, when my father was convinced it was going to die. There were days when I believed it was going to die. But there was never a single day when we both believed it at the same time." ~ Scott Rasmussen

"At ESPN, you find the other people who cried when a team lost. If you had never cried when your team lost, you really shouldn't work at ESPN. You just won't get it." ~ Jean McCormick 

Turtles All the Way Down

Book 68 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from November 30 - December 9

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Summary (via Goodreads)
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts. 

My Opinion
One of my favorite things about this author is the authenticity of his writing.  It's not always easy, as when I was reading about her anxiety, but it was a good read and I would highly recommend it.

Quote from the Book
"But I was beginning to learn that your life is a story told about you, not one that you tell....You think you're the painter, but you're the canvas."

Glory Days

Book 67 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from November 14 - 27

Glory Days by Melissa Fraterrigo

Summary (via Goodreads)
The small plains town of Ingleside, Nebraska, is populated by down-on-their-luck ranchers and new money, ghosts and seers, drugs and greed, the haves and the have-nots. Lives ripple through each other to surprising effect, though the connections fluctuate between divisive gulfs and the most intimate closeness. At the center of this novel is the story of Teensy and his daughter, Luann, who face the loss of their land even as they mourn the death of Luann’s mother. On the other end of the spectrum, some townspeople find enormous wealth when developers begin buying up acreages. When Glory Days—an amusement park—is erected, past and present collide, the attachment to the land is fully severed, and the invading culture ushers in even darker times.
In Glory Days Melissa Fraterrigo combines gritty realism with magical elements to paint an arrestingly stark portrait of the painful transitions of twenty-first-century, small-town America. She interweaves a slate of gripping characters to reveal deeper truths about our times and how the new landscape of one culture can be the ruin of another.

My Opinion
I picked up this book after listening to the author read at the Iowa City Book Festival.

Holy shit, Fredonia the Great!!!  So unique.  5 star read.

Quote from the Book
"She lets the college guy twirl her around the floor, his hand tucked in the back pocket of her skirt. She tries to keep track of the drinks he buys, what she'll later owe him."

The Cider House Rules

Book 66 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 30 - November 10

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

Summary (via Goodreads)
Rich in characterization, epic in scope, The Cider House Rules is the heart-wrenching story of orphan Homer Wells and his guardian, Dr. Wilbur Larch. With nods of affection to both David Copperfield and Jane Eyre, Irving's novel follows Homer on his journey from innocence to experience, brilliantly depicting the boy's struggle to find his place in the world.

My Opinion
I bought the paperback at my local library's sale and I found an Amtrak ticket from 16 years earlier.  Even better, I actually know the person whose name is on the ticket and look forward to seeing the look on her face when I return it!  Another reason I love print over electronic and used over new.

I like the subtle, natural way the author marked time passing.  I'm always absorbed in the world the author creates.

This passage still rings true today:
  "These same people who tell us we must defend the lives of the unborn - they are the same people who seem not so interested in defending anyone but themselves after the accident of birth is complete! These same people who profess their love of the unborn's soul - they don't care to make much of a contribution to the poor, they don't care to offer much assistance to the unwanted or the oppressed! How do they justify such a concern for the fetus and such a lack of concern for unwanted and abused children? They condemn others for the accident of conception; they condemn the poor - as if the poor can help being poor. One way the poor could help themselves would be to be in control of the size of their families. I thought that freedom of choice was obviously democratic - was obviously American!"

A Few Quotes from the Book
"...Larch knew he had made a promise; he had established a routine. "Here in St. Cloud's," he wrote in his journal, "security is measured by the number of promises kept. Every child understands a promise - if it is kept - and looks forward to the next promise. Among orphans, you build security slowly but regularly."

"I have made an orphan; his name is Homer Wells and he will belong to St.Cloud's forever."


Book 65 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from October 29 - November 3

What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire

Summary (via the book jacket)
On the darkest night, amidst a terrifying storm, Dinah listens to her cousin Gage tell an unlikely story - about tooth fairies, known as skibbereen, who are living in warring colonies right in the neighborhood. Dinah is skeptical, but as the story unfolds and the storm rages, she begins to believe.

My Opinion
I thought the book was fine, especially for the time of year that I read it. 

It was refreshing to read a book and know it's a stand-alone and I'm not committing to a full series.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"I met him when I was ten. That's the story, really. But first I should tell you about where he came from."

"Wishing is the beginning of imagination. They practice wishing when they are young things, and then - when they have grown - they have a developed imagination. Which can do some harm - greed, that kind of thing - but more often does them some good."

The Liars' Asylum

Book 64 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from October 13 - 24

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

The Liars' Asylum by Jacob M. Appel 

Summary (via NetGalley)
The frustrations of romantic love in its various guises - a domineering kindergarten teacher for a dashing artificial foliage designer, a suicidal physicist for his star student, a dialysis patient at a sleep-away camp for the camp owner's daughter - provide the common theme for the stories in Jacob M. Appel's seventh collection. We meet a psychiatrist dabbling with infidelity during a crisis in which rain turns into truth serum, a Finnish-American soldier charged with facilitating his commanding officer's extra-marital affair, and a couple transporting a wealthy, "locked-in" patient across the Piedmont to his new nursing home. 
Appel's literary short fiction offers a quirky window into the pangs and promise of love.

My Opinion
I loved the line, " 'I'm the cart,' I answered. 'Not the horse.' "

I enjoy the author and will continue reading him.

Mississippi Sissy

Book 63 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 30 - October 24

Mississippi Sissy by Kevin Sessums

Summary (via the book jacket)
The American South of the 1960s was no place to be different, much less a freak. Back then, boys grew up to become football heroes and marry girls who were taught to be perfect Southern belles. Segregation ruled, and you never voted for a Democrat in a national election, especially not a Kennedy. As far as music was concerned, you never sang anything in public other than a hymn. 
But Kevin Sessums knew he was different. His hero wasn't Mickey Mantle. It was Arlene Francis. He knew the lyrics to Broadway show tunes as well as he knew the Baptist hymnal, and his grandmother's African American maid, Matty May, taught him that the color of a person's skin was not as important as what was underneath.
In his growing up, Kevin Sessums was a decidedly different resident of Forest, Mississippi, a solitary little boy whose parents died by the time he was eight years old. But he learned how to survive by drawing his family close to him, keeping deep secrets others feared to tell, and learning how to turn the word sissy on its head, just as his mama taught him.

My Opinion
The author is really good at cliffhangers and the story got deeper and deeper as I read.

Quote from the Book 
"Even encumbered with our brief and tragic history, my brother and sister had not forgotten how to summon [laughter]. I was jealous of the ease with which the very hum of their happiness always hovered about me."


Book 62 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from October 11 - 13

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

Generations by Flavia Biondi

Summary (via Goodreads)
After three years in Milan, Matteo returns home to the provincial country town where he was born and from which he had fled. Coming out as a young gay man in a provincial country town had led to ugly clashes with his conservative father, and the urban metropolis of Milan had been a welcome change from the stifling small town life of his childhood and the anger and bewilderment of some members of his family. But now, Matteo finds himself with little choice but to return home, with no money, no job, and an uncertain future, like so many other young people of his millennial generation. Afraid of encountering his estranged father, he instead takes refuge with his extended family, at a house shared by his grandmother, three aunts, and his very pregnant cousin. As he tries to rebuild his life, reconnecting with the women of his family and old hometown friends, he warily confronts a few truths about the other generations of his family-from their bigotry to their love, and tolerance, and acceptance-and a few truths about himself, including his fears of confrontation and commitment.

My Opinion
5 star read.  Again, I struggle reviewing a graphic novel because it's a full experience and I can't boil it down.  But like adults that avoid YA, anyone that automatically dismisses graphic novels is missing out.  The genre is growing and I recommend this read.

MAD Librarian

Book 61 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 17 - October 11

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

MAD Librarian by Michael Guillebeau

Summary (via NetGalley)
When the city cuts off funding for her library, Serenity Hammer embezzles from a neglected city fund that turns out to be the conduit for all state political corruption. Now she has all the money she needs to build the library her city deserves - if she can do it fast and stay alive.

My Opinion
I'm a fan that half of the book's profits go to a librarian fund.

As a former librarian there were many points where I was yelling "Preach" as I was reading and sending lines to my friends still working there.  Both frustrating points about funding and quiet moments about finding peace in the shelves (personally, my place of Zen I go to in my mind will always be opening the library on Sunday afternoons when I would be the first one there and walk around taking an extra second in the stacks before turning the lights on).

Haha, the first rule for writing and sex: Keep your hand moving.

Perfect out-of-context chapter title: "need to check out a placenta? call your librarian."

It went off the rails a bit but suspend your belief and enjoy a little vigilante justice from unexpected places.

Necromancing the Stone

Book 60 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 11 - 30

Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride
Book 2 in the Necromancer series

Summary (via Goodreads)
With the defeat of the evil necromancer Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn't exactly planned to be a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?
Well...not really. He's pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can't help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a were-bear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he's not exactly sure how to use it. Which turns out to be kind of a problem when someone close to him turns up dead.

My Opinion
I love this series and this second book didn't lose any originality or humor from the first.  Everything from the chapter titles to the dialogue makes me smile and I look forward to seeing what's next.

Quote from the Book
"Sleep had become a treasured commodity to me the last few months. I'd been short on it before - I went to college briefly - but that wasn't the same thing. There's a difference between missing a few hours to finish a paper or cram for a midterm and losing sleep because someone is trying to kill you and your loved ones." 

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Book 59 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 3 - 30

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific 
by J. Maarten Troost

Summary (via Goodreads)
At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the Earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better. The Sex Lives of Cannibalstells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish, and worst of all, no television or coffee. And that's just the first day. Sunburned, emaciated, and stinging with sea lice, Troost spends the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options. He contends with a cast of bizarre local characters, including "Half-Dead Fred" and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who's never written a poem in his life), and eventually settles into the ebb and flow of island life, just before his return to the culture shock of civilization. 

My Opinion
Great title.  Boring book.  One star.

Lady Stuff

Book 58 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read on September 17

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

Lady Stuff: Secrets to Being a Woman by Loryn Brantz

Summary (via Goodreads)
A collection of Loryn Brantz’s vibrant and relatable Jellybean Comics about her everyday experiences as a lady. 
Home manicure tips, awkward seduction techniques, scoping out the snack table, and—most important—prioritizing naps: Lady Stuff reveals these womanly secrets and more. In sections like "Grooming and Habitat Maintenance," "Mating Habits," and others, these brightly colored, adorable comics find the humor in the awkwardness of simply existing.

My Opinion
This isn't really the sort of book that can be reviewed but I like the author's work so I enjoyed this collection of her cartoons.  

It's not clear if the material is new and I'm not familiar enough with her work to say so I can't make a recommendation on if this is worth purchasing or not.  But I would definitely check out her stuff online if you haven't already. 

All Those Things We Never Said

Book 57 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from September 6 - 13

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

All Those Things We Never Said by Marc Levy

Summary (via Goodreads)
As far back as Julia Walsh could remember, she always had a difficult relationship with her father. They hardly ever saw each other. Hardly ever spoke, and on the rare occasions they did, they never seemed to agree on anything.
Three days before her wedding, Julia receives a phone call from her father's personal secretary. Just as Julia had predicted, Anthony Walsh will not be able to attend his daughter's wedding.
However, for once, Julia has to admit that her father's excuse is irreproachable.
He's dead.
Julia cannot help seeing the tragic-comical side of the situation. From one second to the next, her nuptial dreams transform into funeral plans. Even beyond the grave, it seems, Anthony Walsh has his own particularly effective way of disrupting his daughter's life. 
But the day after his funeral, Julia discovers that her father has one last surprise in store for her. Without a doubt, the journey of a life-time, and an opportunity to say, at last, all those things they had never said.

My Opinion
It was a really interesting concept.  It's weird because it's not like the writing is spectacular but something about it grabbed me and I couldn't stop reading.

I was super annoyed with some of the lying but don't see how the story could've progressed without it either.

I can't really say anything else without giving away plot points but would be interested in discussing with anyone that has read this.

A Lucky Life Interrupted

Book 56 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 27 - September 11

A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw

Summary (via Goodreads)
Tom Brokaw has led a fortunate life, with a strong marriage and family, many friends, and a brilliant journalism career culminating in his twenty-two years as anchor of the NBC Nightly News and as bestselling author. But in the summer of 2013, when back pain led him to the doctors at the Mayo Clinic, his run of good luck was interrupted. He received shocking news: He had multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. Friends had always referred to Brokaw’s “lucky star,” but as he writes in this inspiring memoir, “Turns out that star has a dimmer switch.”
Brokaw takes us through all the seasons and stages of this surprising year, the emotions, discoveries, setbacks, and struggles—times of denial, acceptance, turning points, and courage. After his diagnosis, Brokaw began to keep a journal, approaching this new stage of his life in a familiar role: as a journalist, determined to learn as much as he could about his condition, to report the story, and help others facing similar battles. That journal became the basis of this wonderfully written memoir, the story of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, contemplating what means the most to him now, and reflecting on what has meant the most to him throughout his life.
Brokaw also pauses to look back on some of the important moments in his career: memories of Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York City, and more. Through it all, Brokaw writes in the warm, intimate, natural voice of one of America’s most beloved journalists, giving us Brokaw on Brokaw, and bringing us with him as he navigates pain, procedures, drug regimens, and physical rehabilitation. Brokaw also writes about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and of the vital role of caretakers and coordinated care.

My Opinion
I was disappointed that there were no pictures to go with the memories.

A good read.  He's aware of how much having money and access can impact care; it's sad but true.

Quote from the Book
"A new clock was ticking in my life and I didn't have a clue. In about thirty minutes I went from the illusion of being forever young to the reality that life has a way of choosing its own course."

Rose & Thorn

Book 55 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 17 - September 2

Rose & Thorn by Sarah Prineas
Book 2 in the Ash & Bramble series

Summary (via Goodreads)
This beauty isn’t sleeping! Discover the true story of Sleeping Beauty in Sarah Prineas’s bold YA fairy-tale retelling filled with thrilling adventure and romance, perfect for fans of The Lunar Chronicles and The Girl of Fire & Thorns trilogy.
After the spell protecting her is destroyed, Rose seeks safety in the world outside the valley she had called home. She’s been kept hidden all her life to delay the three curses she was born with—curses that will put her into her own fairy tale and a century-long slumber. Accompanied by the handsome and mysterious Watcher, Griff, and his witty and warmhearted partner, Quirk, Rose tries to escape from the ties that bind her to her story. But will the path they take lead them to freedom, or will it bring them straight into the fairy tale they are trying to avoid?
Set in the world of Sarah Prineas’s Ash & Bramble fifty years later, Rose & Thorn is a powerful retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale where the characters fight to find their own Happy Ever After.

My Opinion
I would recommend reading Ash & Bramble first to get everything out of this book.  

It seemed like a lot of setup to get to the travel but once they start traveling together it picked up.  There was also a very natural way of how they all ended up traveling together so  although there were some coincidences needed to move the story along, overall it was a good read.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Story will have its ending.
 And this is how it begins:
 Once there was a girl who lived in a forest cottage.
 Upon her wrist she bore a birthmark in the shape of a newly opening rose.
 A ticking triple curse was cast at the moment of her birth, and her
 Time is running out."

"Alone, in the darkness, I was a little frightened, but I was excited to go on, too.
 That's the way it was with stories - you went on because you needed to find out what happened next."

Ink in Water

Book 54 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 17 - August 27

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

Ink in Water: An Illustrated Memoir by Lacy J. Davis

Summary (via Goodreads)
As a young artist living in Portland, Lacy Davis’ eating disorder began with the germ of an idea: a seed of a thought that told her she just wasn’t good enough. And like ink in water, that idea spread until it reached every corner of her being. This is the true story of Lacy’s journey into the self-destructive world of multiple eating disorders. It starts with a young and positive Lacy, trying to grapple with our culture’s body-image obsession and stay true to her riot grrrl roots. And while she initially succeeds in overcoming a nagging rumination about her body, a break up with a recovering addict starts her on a collision course with anorexia, health food obsession, and compulsive exercise addiction. At the request of her last real friend, she starts going to a twelve-step Overeaters Anonymous course, only to find that it conflicts with her punk feminist ideology.

My Opinion
The graphic novel format was perfect for her memoir.  She was really raw about the ups and downs of her recovery.

I found it especially interesting when she was talking about the struggles of recovery and finding a program that worked for her when she was unsure about God so she used her grandmother as a source of power.


Book 53 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from August 9 - 27

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

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Summary (via Goodreads)

From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
 In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.
The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.
Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.
Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

My Opinion
Must. Read.  His description of the project, as well as the research that he put it (literally walking the walk) bumped this to 5 stars for me.

I hesitated ordering this because I knew it would be brutal and I was right, especially Part 2. There were so many people interviewed and affected it was good because the reader doesn't get too involved in one person's situation but also bad because it shows what an epidemic this is.  In the end I knew I couldn't ignore this read and I'm glad I read it.

There were success stories and the epilogue gives some solutions and hope.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Some kids born into poverty set their sights on doing whatever it takes to get out. Jori wasn't going anywhere, sensing he was put on Earth to look after Arleen and Jafaris. He was, all fourteen years of him, the man of the house."

"If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out."

"If a poor father failed his family, he could leave the way Larry did, try again at some point down the road. Poor mothers - most of them, anyway - had to embrace this failure, to live with it."

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."