What I Read in May 2016

blood butterflysnow

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark (Yes, THAT Marcia Clark)
Our main character, Samantha Brinkman, defends criminals. Sometimes she defends very bad criminals and this time she’s caught a grisly murder case involving a hollywood starlet, an LAPD detective, and the celebrity’s unlucky roommate. Of course that’s just the broad strokes. A number of bizarre, dangerous, and usually implausible (but they work in this context) events go down. Samantha is pretty badass and I grew rather attached to her. I really enjoyed this book and I was a tad disappointed when I realized that the next title in the series doesn’t come out until November.  I ended up impulse pre-ordering book two which is something I seriously never do. So, quick — go fetch a copy for yourself!

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
If you’re squeamish, don’t read this book. If you live alone, don’t read this book. If you get goose bumps every time someone says, “put the lotion in the basket” — you guessed it — don’t read this book. That being said, I couldn’t put it down. The Butterfly Garden was an Amazon Kindle First selection and I rarely like or even finishing reading whatever free title I select each month. This creepy book ended up being an overwhelming exception to that rule. The story unfolds in a series of present day interactions between two FBI agents who are interrogating a survivor of a horrible crime. Essentially a very wealthy and powerful man has a thing for butterflies and kidnapping young girls to be his sex slaves. He then tattoos them with intricate butterfly wings and treats them as his own private harem. A few dozen girls exist in his revolting yet thoroughly well appointed prison. Inside his sinister dome you’ll find a waterfall, a garden, and a personal cook/nurse. That all sounds a little nice, right? Except for the fact that you get to walk by your dead friends every single day. You see, when a “butterfly” reaches the age of 21 they hit their captivity expiration date and get stuffed in a resin filled display case. I’m sure seeing that every morning on the way to breakfast is an awesome way to start that day. But is our evasive survivor, Maya, really what she seems? Hmm….

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon
This is book six in The Outlander series and I’m exhausted. I absolutely loved the first four books. The last two have been a bit of a chore. I go back and forth between being hooked and bored in equal measures. I think that if I’d read them as they were published, with a few years in between each one, it would be easier. I’m starting to feel like Claire Frasier is the historical novel equivalent of Jessica Fletcher. How many times can a person really be kidnapped, put in jail, stab someone, and be accused of witchcraft? Could we just let the woman sit in peace for four or five chapters? Anyway, I’ve definitely overdone it a bit so I’ll be taking a break from our time traveling friends, Jamie and Claire, for a little while so I can eventually bring myself to find out what happens in books seven and eight. I feel like there’s very little I can write here specific to this book’s plot as, if you aren’t caught up, everything is a huge potential spoiler. However, please don’t let my current Outlander novel fatigue get you down! The television show on Starz is absolutely stunning and you have so many extremely cool adventures coming up.

Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
This is sort of like Mememto but with a middle-aged British woman and less tattoos. That being said I was incredibly into this book. I think I probably knew on some level who the actual “bad guy” was right from the start, but even so the storyline and characters were really tightly woven and extremely fascinating. The premise is also absolutely terrifying if you start to ruminate on it in the middle of the night (not that I’d ever do that, of course…). What if, every time you went to sleep your memories erased and you only remembered events that happened in your early twenties and prior? I guess on a personal level I’d be really annoyed that I couldn’t find my choker necklaces and chunky heeled shoes. This book has been out for awhile so it already has a film version starring Nicole Kidman and Mark Darcy — I mean Colin Firth. I haven’t watched it yet but you better believe it’s in my Netflix queue.

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
*Sigh* OK. This new YA novel has a slew of rave reviews and I really wanted to like it but I unfortunately kind of didn’t. There were parts of the book where there were echoes of really excellent storytelling surrounding Cassie and her struggle with coming to terms with the realties of her extremely dysfunctional family, but much of the plot felt too hurried. I think this might actually have been a more appealing tale had it been longer. The themes of abuse, mental illness, self-esteem, breaking free from bad patterns etc… need a lot of space to be fully realized and Cassie’s healing process felt very forced and much too tacked on. Plus, there’s a “secret” throughout the book that we’re supposed to be uncovering with Cassie (as she’s blocked it out) but it was pretty easy to ascertain what this lost memory entailed. I don’t think it’s that I didn’t like the basic plot or the writing (let’s be clear, the writing is lovely) I just needed more development and time with the characters to really connect. Have you read this book? If so, I’d be curious what you thought.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
I listened to the audiobook version of this title and I just loved it. The reviews are all over the place. I think that people are being way to hard on it. Sittenfeld has written a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice that I thought was spot on. I’d rank this right up there with Clueless. The present day versions of the Bennet sisters have been updated as follows: Lizzie is a writer for a magazine in New York, Jane is a Yoga instructor also living in New York, Kitty and Lydia and obsessed with the Paleo diet and Crossfit, and Mary obsessively takes online classes and racks up degrees. Mrs. Bennet is a shopaholic bordering on hoarder, and Mr. Bennet is well…still Mr. Bennet. The novel mainly takes place in the Bennet’s hometown of Cincinnati and it’s here that they meet Darcy and Bingley. The dashing duo are doctors. Of course. There are many fabulous twists in the novel but a major one happens to be that Chip Bingley is famous for being on a Bachelor-esque reality tv show. I thought the entire story was heartwarming, hysterical, and very unique. People need to take a chill pill. Pick this up immediately for your next lazy afternoon at the beach, lake, or your back deck.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
The amazing Kate Mulgrew is the narrator for the audiobook version of this novel. I’m not usually a traditional “horror” novel fan but I really enjoy Joe Hill’s books. If you haven’t read any of his work before then I’d definitely recommend picking up his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts. The Fireman takes the whole a plague hits and the end of the world is nigh trope and gives us some rather unique twists. This plague isn’t zombies, or ebola, or Donald Trump. This time humanity is faced with a disease called “Dragonscale” that marks people with swirly, black and gold designs and eventually causes them to spontaneously combust. Cool! As the disease progresses and the world starts burning down, Harper, our heroine, takes shelter with a group of fellow infected people hiding at a summer camp in New Hampshire. Things get weird fast. What makes me chuckle though is that 80s MTV VJ Martha Quinn is an integral part of the book. She’s mentioned so many time that if you made a drinking game for the book she’d definitely be on the list and you’d be drunk. I also learned that even though I grew up in Maine I’ve been pronouncing the Town Machias incorrectly my whole life. Here’s how you’re supposed to say it. Thanks Kate Mulgrew!

What I Read in April 2016


fellsideI adore Mike Carey. Well…I adore his Felix Castor series and have been waiting for what seriously feels like eons for the next book to be released. I have a calendar item that pops up every few months and reminds me to do a Google search to see what the current status is. In case you’re wondering, it’s still a bit up in the air. In the meantime though he’s published The Girl with All the Gifts, which was a phenomenal and extremely unique take on zombies (sort of) and will soon be released as a movie. Then, last month, his new book Fellside made it’s way into my life. The premise is utterly bizarre but I think you should seriously consider giving it a go. It’s billed as a haunted prison story but really it’s so much more than that. At any rate it should tide you over a bit more until we can find out Felix Castor’s fate.

Hidden Bodies


This is the second book in an utterly insane (aka amazing) series by Caroline Kepnes. Caroline’s narrator “Joe” is unlike anyone you’ve ever read before. Being deep inside his head while he rationalizes yet again who is authentic or fake, whether you’ve wronged him or if you’re on his side, and finally who lives or dies, is not a fun place to be but it’s certainly very entertaining – in a Dexter Morgan, meets Holden Caulfield, with a big dose of Patrick Bateman way. Fair warning: when you start either of the books you will not be able to put them down and you’ll find yourself saying things aloud like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Seriously!?” and “Leave him alone, Joe!” So maybe don’t read it on the subway.

Ashley Bell


I’m not even sure what to say about this Dean Koontz novel. I really hated it at first, but then something switched (ok a whole bunch of very weird events began happening in the book including something called scrabblemancy) and I read frantically trying to figure out what was really going on with Bibi. Hang in there. Eventually even the surfer lingo will grow on you. Really. The payoff is pretty unique — especially if you were an English major. In the end you’ll want to call up some friends and have an impromptu book club session ASAP.

The Passenger


I read this book like it was my job. I couldn’t put it down. The writing is fast-paced and the action is non-stop. There’s a nice thread interwoven that hints at the main character’s troubled past, but the craziest part is that I’m pretty sure we now have a great work of fiction that walks you through how to successfully disappear yourself, steal a new identify, and keep-on-keeping-on. It’s a bit like Jason Bourne lite but with a lot more hair dye. Tanya/Amelia/fill in the blank here is a compelling narrator and I wish that there was something left unfinished so we could have a sequel. Also, I can’t wait to see this as a film as there’s no way this isn’t getting optioned.

A Study in Charlotte


I was absolutely dying to read A Study in Charlotte as soon as I found out about it and promptly placed myself on the waitlists at all my libraries. When I finally had my turn with it I was definitely not let down. If you have Sherlock and Benedict Cumberbatch withdrawal then this is a great stopgap. Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson are the modern day teenage descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In this world the famous mystery solving duo were actually real people. Charlotte and Jamie meet at boarding school (how perfect!) and almost instantly have a murder on their hands. Both Charlotte and Jamie are extremely well constructed characters. The book has excellent dialogue, more than a few unique twists and turns, and even delves into some pretty heavy stuff, including sexual assault and drug abuse, with a deft hand. Just this once I’m actually glad that a novel is part of a Trilogy!

What I Read in March 2016

This blog hasn’t been updated since 2013 (!) so in the interest of just getting something up I’m going to recap what books I read or listened to last month. The first thing you should know is that I always have at least two books queued up. Generally this means I’ll have one book on my Kindle and one audiobook either from Audible or, if it’s something I’ve pulled from a library, I use Overdrive. On a side note, if you aren’t taking advantage of your local library’s eBook and audiobook lending services then you’re really missing out. I’m a bit spoiled and have access to the library sites from the various places I’ve lived over the past decade. I also have a weekly recurring time scheduled on my calendar to check each of the sites for new listings so I can get on hold lists. This is especially great for audiobooks as I tend to get through those much faster.

I didn’t start listening to audiobook regularly until the spring of 2014. Initially I used to just listen to them while I was walking or running but then I realized that I could listen while I was cooking, cleaning, sorting the recycling, doing my hair — you get the picture. Audiobooks are a fabulous distraction for me, although all the mindfulness books I’ve read are probably giving me the evil eyeball for admitting it. Sorry, mindfulness, I’m just not ready to be one with my thoughts right now.

Anyway, in March I consumed the following:


The Martian
I so wish I had read this before I saw the movie. In the end I think it was really excellent though. It’s not often you can say that about a film and a book. I can’t believe it was originally a self-published novel. That’s just nuts. The narrator of the audiobook kind of sounds like Matt Damon too which was nice.

Try Not to Breathe
I’m so glad Gone Girl was written and became super popular so that zillions of writers now churn out lots of twisty, topsy-turvy, weird, suspenseful books for me to read. If I had my way I’d only read this type of novel. I love, love, love them. Of course, some are better than others. This one, thankfully, is one of the well done ones. The main narrator, Alex, is so painfully self-destructive that my discomfort level while reading some of her scenes would best be compared to how I feel watching The Real Housewives have yet another high heeled, cocktail fueled, brawl on national TV. Total train wreck. The girl in a coma mystery was actually intriguing and nuanced, and I ended up very entertained.

The Hypnotist’s Love Story
Liane Moriarty is my new favorite author and this novel was the last one I had left to read so I was “keeping it” until I just couldn’t stop myself. Now I want to be or go to or befriend a hypnotist. The other thing that really stood out for me was the main character’s ability to actually use and apply things like thought stopping techniques and really pointed self-observation (why am I acting like this right now…what is the real problem) whenever she was uncomfortable or flipping out about something. I also feel an overwhelming need to move to Australia and I’m happy to report that just as I finished this last novel Liane announced her new book. This means I have just a few more months until I can fall back into this fantastic writer’s extremely well plotted and uniquely populated world.

Black Eyed Susans
I really didn’t see the twist coming in this one. Really. It was also very atmospheric and creepy. Read it. You’ll like it. You’ll probably never trust anyone in your life ever again but it’s a great book.

The Duchess
When I was growing up, I read way too much Jude Deveraux. This is one of my favorites in her very large catalog of romance novels. I didn’t read the Outlander books until recently so this is how I learned about how sexy Scotland, the highlands, kilts, and whiskey were. The dashing gentleman in the book is a bit of a departure from the usual hunk and there’s a household full of quirky and bizarre family members. Even revisiting it now, many years later, I still think it’s one of the more creative and unique romance novels I’ve ever read.


The Last Coyote
I loved the show Bosch on Amazon so much that I started reading the books. They’re great hardboiled detective stuff. There are also 21 books in the series and this is book 4. Book 4, as you can imagine, was published awhile ago so I am endlessly amused by people using fax machines and ancient computers. In case you’re wondering, yes the tv show and the novels differ enough so that you can enjoy both. They aren’t just a repeat of one another.

The Widow
OK. A lot of people loved this book. Stephen King even tweeted about it. That’s great. However, I don’t understand why this is being marketed as a book to read if you liked Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train (both of which I loved) when it’s absolutely not a psychological thriller. If it hadn’t been promoted in that manner I’d feel like it was a perfectly fine novel. It’s very well written, but there is nothing truly twisty in it and because I kept waiting for one of those “you’ve got to be kidding me” moments to appear I just ended up being a little let down.

A Madness So Discrete
This is historical YA that revolves around a very wealthy young woman, Grace, who has been confined to an insane asylum by her father. The asylum is horrifying (remember those scenes with Eva Green in Penny Dreadful) and eventually she begins to assist a doctor with a series of serial killings. The secondary characters are very well fleshed out. We even have an ex-prostitute who is treating her Syphilis with mercury. Fun. I bet the book banning nuts will be all over that. I feel like this is going to be a series? If it happens to become one I’d read the next book. I think there’s a lot of promise here.

The Light of the Fireflies
Oh. You thought your family was dysfunctional? Well wait until you get to know these people. They live in an underground bunker, everyone except the youngest child has horrible disfiguring burns, and the daughter (who wears a mask) just had a baby. Guess who the dad is?! This was so disturbing and not in the way I like. I was hoping for an apocalypse but what I got was very different and unfortunately almost as emotionally awful. The book is very well written but I never want to read it or frankly think about it again. I suppose that makes it a success?

The Walls Around Us
This is a gorgeously written book with unreliable narrators galore. I just loved reading it. It’s a little supernatural, a lot twisty, there are ballerinas, and a juvenile detention center. Wait. Is this a show on the CW? I kid…but it is really atmospheric and it’s also one of those books that you can finish and just feel tremendously satisfied.