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Cynically Sweet (Booklikes)

I'm not the most active user here on Booklikes. In fact, sometimes I forget that it even exists. However, I endeavor to come back and post more stuff that I enjoy.

My reviews aren't guaranteed to be something you agree with and my perspective on books isn't something most people generally want. However, I still hope that there's something you can gain from them and you don't feel as if you've wasted your time reading them.


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Your Iowa Grandmother's Recipe Book

Your Iowa Grandmother's Recipe Book - Rachael Gatling An important figure in town, Trudie Melody, has passed away. She was well known for her cooking prowess. After her death, two of her granddaughters are caught up in a legal battle to determine the rightful owner of the recipe book Trudie has left behind. The judge rules that, in order to try and sort it out, the recipe book will be read out in court by members of the jury. As the trial goes by, more and more people turn up to listen to the stories and recipes of the deceased, each person taking pleasure in Trudie's life.

I'll begin talking about the plot first of all. I think that it was pretty interesting in theory and the author presented us with the interesting portions of this lady's life. Though, I think that many aspects of the plot were completely unnecessary; I think there was little that came out of The Seekers' hunt for the book and thus I found it to be somewhat useless. I think that, with The Seekers, it was even more unnecessary because we didn't get to find out more about them and their own reasons for trying to hunt for the book. It was simply just a game for them and, though the author tries to justify it by commenting that it has brought families together, we don't see enough of their hunts or theories, even much about the places they're looking. We, personally, don't see these families coming together to hunt. Going on with that point, I thought it was a bit silly for so many people in the town to make little creations of the recipes and bring them to court. Especially considering that they were mostly just giving these creations away (though asking for a small donation); some of these ingredients can be expensive, just going by what I've seen in my own grocery shop, so why go to such an expense just to give the food away? I know the author was trying to make it look like they're all coming together to celebrate the wonderful cooking prowess of Grandma Trudie, but it just seems odd to me that all sorts of random people have just brought a LOT of food to court like this. I didn't enjoy the plot lines with the Con Sys and the shady lawyer. It just seemed really tacky, like it was some sort of corporate scheme to get a hold of the recipes of some dead lady, when really those things wouldn't matter. If Sheryl really wanted to contribute to this recipe book the company was creating, she could have just gone on the internet to choose some good ones and make the claim that they were family recipes. There was just no need for the entire Con Sys plotline.

A few other irrelevant things relate to the main character herself, Margot Smythe. Her job, a maker of garden gnomes, could have been far better introduced. If I hadn't have read the blurb before beginning the book, I wouldn't have known about her occupation and I would have been a little confused when they first turned up outside the courthouse. In simple terms, it sort of a "oh, there are gnomes outside. By the way, I make gnomes" type of thing. The author didn't present us with Margot's job; instead let us "find out", which leaves it to be a little bit confusing. However, by the end of the book, I think that Margot's job was completely irrelevant. She occasionally mentions that she has made gnomes for people, but there's little to do with gnomes in the plot. She doesn't seem to work in the time she spends away from court, choosing not to because of exhaustion. She seems to have made a lot of them, yes, but save for a few gratuitous mentions that many of the people about town are her clients, it just seems like she isn't really interested in them. Also, with the gargoyle thing (that she was considering making customised gargoyles); I think it was even more irrelevant because nothing ever came out of that in the plot. I didn't think there was a need for the gnomes to turn up outside; nothing really came of that portion either. It just seemed like the author wanted to give the character an interesting occupation, but just couldn't be bothered following through with it properly. The other thing I thought was really irrelevant was the entire portion of Grandma Trudie being Margot's (best and only- according to her) friend and Margot's supposed love for cooking. Despite the many hours Margot supposedly spent in the kitchen with Grandma Trudie, it just seems like she has little interest in cooking. She spouts great interest to Clint (the Chicago reporter) about the food about town and, to us, she emphasises her love for cooking with her grandmother. However, she just can't be bothered cooking in her time off from the trial and she rarely even goes out to eat in the restaurants she claims to enjoy so much. It just mystifies me that because of her love for food and her grandmother's recipes, that she's willing to fight for them in court and even break into a house, yet she can't even bring herself to eat more than cereal or reheated soup for dinner.

Margot Smythe is the main character of the book and we essentially follow her around.

At the beginning, I liked her. However, as the book went on, I found that I really came to dislike her and she just gets nastier and nastier as the story goes on.

Firstly, she is a very selfish person. She doesn't want anyone else to read the book or to know these recipes. At first, it's something I could understand, being that the time she spent cooking with her Grandma Trudie was very important to her. However, it becomes clear that she doesn't even want other members of her family to read it, when surely they have just as much right to them as she does. Going on about the family aspect, she's even angry at them because they weren't there for her during this court case. She is spiteful towards her mother and sister for being friends with each other and that they went away on holiday while Margot is stuck in a court case. It also seems, to me, that she doesn't really care much about Trudie. Yes, we're told over and over again that she and Trudie had many happy times in the kitchen, but the only times Margot thinks back to seem kind of miserable. She doesn't think of Grandma Trudie in a good light; Margot's angry that she might have left the book to Shirley, she's annoyed when Trudie took Shirley's side in arguments and throughout the court case, she doesn't seem to be mourning her loss. She simply wants the recipe book for selfish reasons and it that it doesn't seem like she cared for Grandma Trudie much, save for the recipes.

Margot seems very rude in that she passes judgement on all sorts of people. She mocks the jurors for their appearance, what they wear, their voices, their comments. She has mental nicknames for many of the jurors, based on these rude mental comments. Not only that, but she mocks all sorts of people in the courtroom, the camera crews and reporters. She makes fun of her own family. I think the surprising thing is that she makes several comments that she feels she's alone in the world. However, by the end of the book, I can certainly see why people wouldn't want to be her friend; it just seems like she's really hateful and she's somewhat of a bully. The first ironic thing about all of this is the one-sided nature of the trial. About 95% of people at the courthouse are on her side. The other ironic thing is that she, of all people, claims that she respects people. She goes around the town and pretends she's friends with everyone (despite claiming she doesn't have any friends). However, mentally, she always has some rude point to make or something nasty to say about them. By the end of the book, she has little character development. One night, she's found that she's received a heap of emails giving her support and she has a change of heart. After which, she gives a speech to the court about how she's happy to have shared these recipes with the town, but it just seemed very insincere to me. She only had these new thoughts the night prior and, up until that day, she had been a bully to everyone. She had made numerous thoughts to herself, mocking everyone who came into that courtroom. She didn't even choose to share these recipes, yet she's acting like she's done a favour to everyone by letting them be read out.

Though being a huge part of the book, I think that the parts Grandma Trudie has to play are underwhelming. The first few stories were really kind of sweet. However, as the book went on, the stories just kept on getting kind of mean. She stole the crush of one of another girl; the story making it out as if the other girl wasn't good enough for him because she doesn't know how to cook. Because she can speak the language of people at a carnival, she lost some guy a huge chunk of money, which he rightfully earned because her friend had paid the guy for the game play. She doesn't like her own children eating chocolate because it gives them gas and she, selfishly decides to keep it to herself, even going so far as to trick them. As the book goes on, she just gets more devious. Not in a good way, either. She just gets meaner. She goes through great lengths to get her recipes, even stealing. For ingredients, she steals as well. She stole berries as a child. She also kept the dog, despite knowing that it belonged to someone else. She, like Margot, doesn't seem to be a very nice person. In her diary entries, she also makes many rude comments about people. She's somewhat rude about her children and husband. I, personally, wouldn't want her as a relative.

The jurors oughtn't really be an important part of the book, in my opinion. Their only real role ought to be that they're reading the book out. Yet, the author feels it necessary for Margot's narration to incessantly bully them. The other thing is that the author, in every single story, has the juror reading the passage and making their own comments. I hugely disliked the jurors often adding their own input at the end of each story. It was just so unnecessary and I thought it was also disrespectful. The juror that annoyed me most was the grocer who, before reading his part of the book, claimed that he was completely impartial. Yet, after reading it, he advertised his own shop in order to make a quick sale. What a... *ahem*. That's not impartial! An impartial person wouldn't do that! An impartial person wouldn't try to make a few quick bucks off a dead woman.

I just don't understand the author's writing of Sheryl. She seems like a poorly written character, to say the least. It just seems like she has no motivation for any of the actions she's done. I understand that she's just meant to look like the bad person and completely evil, but none of what she has done makes sense to me. Even the storyline with the corporation she works with makes little sense. So, from what I gather, they're writing some sort of recipe book to sell. I understand, but it just seems odd that Sheryl is fighting so hard in court for it, even if Grandma Trudie's recipes supposedly are the best. The other reason I dislike the way her character has been written is that we have so little of these events from her side. Every single thing she has done in the plot, Margot acts like it's some sort of evil thing to have done. Margot even goes so far as to mock her for wearing a hair bow, mentally telling her to grow up. For everything Sheryl does, we only have Margot's comments and understanding of the events. An example of this is when Sheryl isn't invited to a party (for reasons not explained), but turns up anyway having made the assumption that her invitation was lost (which is fair enough, in my opinion). She gets rejected and a while later, she gets to go around to help out somewhere and finds that two people have been having an affair. Margot makes the assumption that Sheryl was just lying, as do many other people in the plot. However, we (as an audience) have no proof that this was a lie. All we see is Margot making assumptions and just trying to make Sheryl look bad. Pretty much everyone is against Sheryl, and I just don't understand why. Later on, we find out that she's been having sex with a few people at work. The way it's presented is basically gossip so we have no idea about the real story behind that. In any case, who cares if she's been sleeping her way to the top of the company? Lots of people do that in this day and age, both males and females. Why are the people in town looking down and shaming her for doing such a thing?

I think there are two primary characters, Janice and Clint, who are both very underutilised. Ms. Janice Stake is Margot's lawyer in the trial. However, the author has sought fit to give her some odd sexual streak. She splits her legs wide open to get someone's attention as a signature "move", she comes back from lunch after (what Margot considers) phone sex, and more gratuitous sexual things that the author has added. Overall, I liked her, but she really didn't need to be so overly sexual, especially when it had no relation to any kind of plot. It was just some weird characterisation that the author decided to add.
As for Clint, there was far too little time spent with him, considering that he is Margot's primary love interest. Essentially, it's meant to seem like he's fallen in love with her, even though he's only been to lunch with her one time and spent a minor amount of time talking to her. We find out very little about him and he's somewhat forgettable. Overall, he might have made a great love interest, but he's pretty lame because we spend so little time with him. The author could have spent so much more time on him and a lot less time on Margot's self-indulgent ranting, I feel.

Overall, my thought is that I'm kind of disappointed with the book. Going back to the writing style and plot, the book is pretty much just so one-sided that the ending is so obvious to anyone reading. Despite the worries Margot has, it's utterly obvious that she's going to come out on top and there's no real mystery or surprise to it. I just dislike how one-sided it is. Even the author doesn't see fit to explore more into the relationship between Sheryl and Margot and there's no explanation as to their hating each other. Margot claims that it's because Sheryl is rude to her, but Margot is pretty nasty too. I found that many characters in the background had the potential to be interesting or important, but the author chose to somewhat ignore them. Many plot points were unnecessary and a lot of side plots that the author opened up amounted to nothing, so they seemed like kind of a waste of time. I enjoyed the start of the book, but my enjoyment dwindled because of the way characters behaved, primarily. It just felt so disappointing to have a few people, Margot and Trudie, who were meant to be ever so important to the plot. Yet, they just both turned out to be bullies and I wouldn't want to know either of them. I can't empathise with their lives or even many of their choices. When deciding what to rate this book, I automatically thought two stars; my enjoyment of it was just squashed by horrible characters. However, I think that the author had an interesting style of writing. Many sentences and paragraphs work well. I appreciated the idea of the book and some of the short stories were a little bit entertaining. So, considering that, I'm bumping my rating up to three stars. I received a copy of this book through a First Reads giveaway. These are just my honest thoughts of it.