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!