The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

thebutterflygarden

 

“The trouble with sociopaths, really, is that you never know where they draw their boundaries.”

 

This book popped up in my Goodreads recommended list months ago. It had a dark creepiness factor that I just couldn’t resist. Not to mention the amount of overly sensitive people hating on it for questionable themes. If you find the topic offense, then don’t read the book. It’s that simple. No need to hate on others for being entertained by a work of fiction.

And, oh, what a chilling work of fiction this is.

I really didn’t expect to love it. Sure, I was hoping for some entertainment and to suspend my own reality for a bit but not to love it. But I did. It is a layered, thought provoking, chilling work of horror and I loved every damn page. It’s one of those books that just reached out, pulled me in, and wouldn’t let go.

We begin with Special Agent Victor Hanoverian. He and his team have brought a girl, a victim, in for questioning. She and over a dozen other girls were rushed to the local hospital after being rescued from a horrific fire. What Hanoverian doesn’t know is why the girls were there and what horrors they faced in that building.

The girl’s name is Maya and it is evident to the police that the others that were rescued from the blaze look to her as a type of leader. All of the the girls but one had detailed, intricate butterflies tattooed on their backs. It is up to Maya to explain to the police what she and the other Butterflies were doing there. The tale she tells to the police is one that would send any mother home to hug her children.

It is Maya’s job to get the police to understand what had happened to them in their garden prison. Each girl had come to the garden when they were 16 or 17 years old as captive victims of the Gardener and his son. He is an older gentleman, obviously of some wealth, that kidnaps young women and makes them, in essence, sex slaves. The Gardener loves the girls in his own way and tattoos each of them with their butterflies and re-names them as a reminder that their previous lives no longer belong to them. They then live in his beautiful garden.

 

“Like beauty, desperation and fear were as common as breathing.”

 

Sure, the kidnapping is terrible. And the rape. But what, at least to me, makes this a horror novel is what inevitably happens to the girls. Each and every one he takes only lives to be twenty-one. On their twenty-first birthday he escorts the girl to a locked chamber. A few days later she is on presentation in the hallway, completely encased in resin, her butterfly tattoo on display. For him it is art and the presentation of absolute beauty before it begins to decay. In the Gardener’s warped mind he is doing them a service preserving their beauty. It never occurs to him that he is a rapist and murderer. He is, in his own demented way, an almost likable character. Any good villain should be.

For being under 300 pages this book sure packs a punch. This psychological thriller had me absorbed until the very last page. As much as I loved this book I will admit that the ending didn’t meet the excellent story telling of the rest. It felt a little forced, like the author felt obligated to give a twist in the plot. The thing is it didn’t really need any twists. The rest of the story easily had the merits to stand on it’s own. The end just took a little bit away from an otherwise wonderful, if disturbing, story.

Admittedly, this book isn’t for everyone. As I mentioned it is not for the sensitive or those easily prone to nightmares. But, if you are into horror and cold thrillers, this is a fantastic book and I would definitely recommend it.

 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

sixofcrows

 

“We are all someone’s monster.”

 

You ever meet that one person that is disagreeable and goes against everything you think is right and correct in the world? With this book, I feel like that person. I had been wanting to read it for some time but my local library didn’t carry it. Finally I gave in and asked them to get it on inter-library loan for me. I hate doing that. I always feel guilty. I know effort has to be put into getting whatever book I ask for which makes me feel obligated to like the book. That is just pressure. I don’t like book reading pressure. But, I relented and the library brought Six of Crows in for me last week and I dove in like a kid in a candy store.

What makes me disagreeable, as I previously mentioned, you might ask. Well, let me tell you. On Goodreads this book has a 4.45 rating as of this date. Nearly everyone seems head over heels in love with it. Even another reviewer whom I trust to be honest gave it a 5 and she is very stingy with those five star ratings.

You know what? I didn’t really like it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good points, but it just didn’t do it for me. In the spirit of James May, it just didn’t give me the fizz.

 

thefizz

 

I’m not going to lie to you here, I barely remember the first 200 pages or so of the book. It is the first book in a duology so I expected there to be a bit of world and character set up. There was more than a bit. I swear to you nothing worth mentioning happened for nearly that first 200 pages. Just setting up the story. I got really bored. You could pretty much skip that whole first part and not miss a bit of the actual story line.

There are six people, all in their late teens, who form a…team? Task force? Gang? I don’t know, whatever it is, to liberate a man from a very well guarded prison.

Kaz is the leader of the group. He is mostly devoid of all emotion, does everything logically, and hates being touched. Inej is a very talented young lady who can scale walls and move without making a sound. She has a thing for Kaz but with his “don’t touch me” thing it makes any type of romance a bit difficult. Jesper likes gambling, guns, and being a general pain in the tuckus. Wylan is the son of higher class merchant who is good with explosives. Nina, to keep it simple, can do certain kinds of magic. She can manipulate emotions, appearances, and alter bodily functions such as slowing the heart. Last, but not least, is Matthias. He was formerly part of a military that tracked down, captured, and often killed people with abilities such as Nina possesses. He is sort of kind of not really reformed from that behavior after spending a bit of time in prison.

Together the six of them under Kaz’s leadership are to rescue a scientist from a prison, in a fortress, on a frozen island. The reward for his rescue is several million kruge and it will not be easy. They are met with numerous seemingly impossible tasks that have to be conquered in order to break the scientist/alchemist out. Each task is more difficult than the last and they are all certain that at least one of their group will not survive for the return journey.

What I will say is that this book really has an interesting and fun story to it. I really think my main problem is that none of the characters you are following around are likable. They just fall flat for me. They all have their point and purpose and everything they do is predictable. I was never taken by surprise or engrossed by any of their stories. They are exactly what they look like at face value. Maybe later on in the next book they become more complex and relatable, I can’t judge that, but for just this book I didn’t give a horse’s patoot about any of them. Did they succeed in their mission? Don’t care. Did they all make it back alive? Don’t care. Did Kaz get over his weird “don’t touch me” phobia in order to further pursue Inej’s affection? Still don’t care.

If I had to sum up this book in one word, it would be…

mehpanda

My Fictional Valentine

valentinesday

With Valentine’s Day being this week, I wanted to take a look back at some of the books I’ve read and the romances, both good and bad, that have blossomed in their pages.

heartless

 

I’ll start with Heartless by Marissa Meyer. The prequel, if you care to call it that, of Alice in Wonderland. The romance in this book damn near broke my heart. Jest and Cath were amazing, even if sometimes sickeningly sweet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I ugly cried through the last 100 pages or so of this one. It is an excellent book but have the tissues handy.

 

 

 

 

adarkershadeofmagic

The world crafted within A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab takes my breath away. So do the characters. While romance is far from the characters mind’s you can’t help but try to mentally shove Kell and Lila together. I adore Lila’s strength and bravery and Kell’s desire to do the right thing. Together they can save the worlds or doom them. The third book in the series, A Conjuring of Light, comes out on the 21st of February and I can not wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens to our dynamic duo.

 

 

 

24690

Going a bit off the deep end on this one. 24690 by A.A. Dark is one of the darkest, most violent books I have ever read. However, within the blood, bondage, murder, and cannibalism lies love. A twisted, slightly deranged love by most standards but it is there none the less. It’s certainly not the kind of affection that the majority of people associate with. Whatever it is, it works for Everleigh and Bram, even after his death. While I did find this to be an interesting book it is not for the feint of heart.

 

 

 

TheBoneSeasonLast, but certainly not least, I give you The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. We have Paige whose special abilities makes her a target for the government. She is captured and sent to a penal colony inhabited by people like her, other people with abilities that are greater than human. Abilities that cause them to be feared by the mass population. Warden houses her in this colony and teaches her but he is of the race that is quietly enslaving mankind. Their relationship as captor and captured develops into something more and I’m looking forward to seeing how it further develops through the series. Shannon plans for there to be seven books in this world. The third, A Song Rising, has a march 2017 release date.

 

 

Have you read any of these? What do you think about them? What books have you read where the relationships speak to you?

 

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas

minetillmidnight

 

So, yeah, you know that holiday that is coming up? The one where the menus at restaurants shrink yet become more expensive and roses go from 9.99 for a dozen to 29.99 a dozen. There will also be over the top wedding proposals along with some brutal rejections. What’s that day called again? Oh yeah, Valentine’s Day. I’ll be honest, it’s not my holiday. Stop with the snarky comments, it’s not because I’m single. I’m happily married, thank you very much. When I think of Valentine’s Day what usually comes to mind is the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 in Chicago. Capone and Bugs were involved and seven men were brutally murdered in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. In the spirit of that I considered reviewing a horror novel. I even had it picked out. But I was feeling like a softy and changed my mind. So instead of brutal murders and mystery I went with a romance novel.

Here is a fact for you- I don’t really like romance novels. Just not my cup of tea but according to Goodreads this one promised a strong leading lady, historical romance, and some steamy scenes between the sheets so I figured I would give it a shot.

Our story begins in London where Miss Amelia Hathaway is searching for her drunken, possibly drug addled, brother. Upon the death of his fiance, Leo had lost himself and spent most of his time in the bottle or in houses of ill repute. So Amelia makes her way to a drinking and gambling club meant only for the aristocracy where she is confident she will find her brother. There she meets Cam, the gypsy club manager, who obviously has more on his mind than assisting Miss Hathaway. *Hint hint nudge nudge wink wink*

Miss Hathaway believes the only way to save her brother is to remove him from the temptations that the city has to offer. So Amelia, Leo, and their three younger sisters move to an estate in the country. The house is in desperate need of repair but Amelia is convinced they can fix it despite Leo drinking and whoring away their funds.

But really, this is a romance novel, so…

Amelia was wronged by her former love so now she has determined to live her life as a spinster though she is not even 30. Cam, being half gypsy, feels like he belongs neither to the gypsy culture or among the more typically structured society. However they are certainly drawn to each other and even though Amelia and the Hathaways fled to the country they still keep bumping into each other. Amelia resists Cam’s attempts to assist her with the house (even when it catches on fire) but he persists. He is one determined kinda-gypsy.

Really, it is kind of sweet even though he is overbearing and, quite frankly, a bit of a male chauvinist. For the time period the book is written in that is really not much of a surprise. Although it is a little annoying. I kept waiting for her to whoop him. It would have been way better if she had whooped him.

Long story short, Mr. Gypsy saves the day because he has inexplicable good luck, Leo has suicidal tendencies because his dead fiance is haunting him (I think, that didn’t make a lot of sense), and Amelia gives into the chauvinist.

You know, maybe I’m jaded but didn’t seem like much of a romance novel. Man thinks he is above woman’s societal norms, man changes his mind, man expects woman to comply with his demands, woman pretends to be strong willed but is really a patsy in sheep’s clothing.

Yup. I’m jaded. Either way, for a romance novel it wasn’t half bad. Now, I’m going to go pick up a psychological thriller or something. I deal better with murder and mayhem than, “Oh my God, I love you!” and “Hey, I didn’t think I did but you are an overbearing putz who is acceptable in the sack so I’m giving in to you because I am weak willed. I love you, too!” Can’t. Deal.

 

 

Goodreads Book Tag

goodreads-book-tag

 

I’ve been a bit behind on my reading this week so when I saw that The Orangutan Librarian had tagged me for this I jumped on board the procrastination train. Toot toot!

What was the last book that you marked as read? 

acuriousbeginning

 

What are you currently reading?

sixofcrows

 

What is the last book you marked as TBR?

readyplayerone

 

What book do you plan to read next?

thebutterflygarden

 

Do you use the star rating system?

Absolutely. I wish I could give half stars though. I end up giving a lot of books a 4 because 3.5 isn’t an option. I’d be handing out 3.5s like candy on Halloween.

Are you doing the 2017 Reading Challenge?

Again, absolutely. As of this date I am on 11/52. You can see my up to date Goodreads progress here.

Do you have a wishlist?

A Goodreads wishlist? No. Is that a thing? I’m going to go see if that is a thing.

What book do you plan to buy next?

Whatever book I am desperate to read that my local library can’t find for me in an appropriate amount of time. Even though they don’t carry Six of Crows they brought it in for me in under a week. I ❤ my local library.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

Opening that particular tab in Goodreads these are the first three that pop up for me:

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough – Mae West

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much – Oscar Wilde

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe – Albert Einstein

Who are your favorite authors?

V.E. Schwab, Philippa Gregory, Samantha Shannon, Edgar Allen Poe, Christopher Fowler, Susan Wittig Albert, Keats, Oscar Wilde… (this list could continue for a few paragraphs)

Have you joined any groups?

I hadn’t looked at that in a long time. Seems that I am a part of one. /r/52book

 

putthebookdown

 

Well, that was an enjoyable procrastination! You are supposed to tag people to do this next but I’m not going to. If you want to do partake in this tag, do it!

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

acuriousbeginning

 

The story begins with the lovely Miss Veronica Speedwell burying her beloved aunt who had, along with another aunt, raised her. I know, a bit morbid, but stick with me here. It is 1887 and it is common knowledge that a woman’s place is in the home. She is to be biddable, innocent, virtuous, and have no intellectual opinions to speak of. Miss Speedwell is having none of that nonsense. She is a free spirit and does as she likes, not what is expected of her.

What she likes is to travel the world on expeditions collecting rare and lovely butterflies to sell to collectors with deep pockets. She makes her own way in the world and lives by no one’s rules but her own. In my mind I pictured her a bit like Indiana Jones except with a butterfly net instead of a whip. I’m sure she could have handled the whip quite well, though, if she had a mind to.

After burying her aunt, who was her aunt in name only and not by blood, Miss Speedwell intends on securing funding for another expedition. She longs to leave the damp weather of Britain behind but her plans are quickly curtailed when she finds her home being ransacked. Once he is spotted the robber also attempts to kidnap Miss Speedwell. With the assistance of a mysterious gentleman she breaks free and from that point on her life is irreparably changed, though she doesn’t know it yet.

The mysterious fellow turns out to be Baron Maximilian von Stuffenbach and after some discussion she travels with the Baron to London. The Baron impresses upon her that her life is in danger and leaves her with his friend Stoker in London while he does some research into the matter, confident that Stoker will keep her safe. Miss Speedwell went along because she wanted to go to London anyway and if the Baron took her then she wouldn’t have to pay for a train ticket.

Unfortunately while Miss Speedwell is with Stoker the Baron is murdered and Stoker, who is a bit odd himself (he brings to mind a surly pirate), fears that he will be blamed for the murder due to some past indiscretions. He and Veronica then flee the city. She only goes with him out of curiosity and for adventure. I got the impression that you cannot force Veronica to do anything that she does not truly want to do. What she gets is certainly an adventure.

They find themselves in a traveling circus where Veronica is accidentally stabbed, being harbored as fugitives by two aristocrats, and kidnapped on the Thames. All along the journey they have many intelligent and witty debates. The dialogue in this book is wonderful. The characters also stick to their themes, you won’t find the strong Miss Veronica Speedwell cowering in a corner. That is something I loved about this book. The characters know exactly who they are and stick to it. There is no waffling wondering who they are or doing things that break the continuity. Thanks, Raybourn! I don’t encounter that as often as I’d like.

So much happens in this book that I can’t address it all here. There is action, wit, mystery, sexual tension, and so much more. Stoker is a lovable if broken man, Speedwell is intelligent and determined and together they find themselves solving murder and mysteries. I will definitely be picking up Veronica’s next adventure, A Perilous Undertaking.

The Mystery Blogger Award

After last night’s horrifying Super Bowl disappointment, I wanted to do something this morning to perk myself up. I was lucky enough to be nominated for The Mystery Blogger Award by two wonderful folks. Thank you Allie of Often Off Topic and Kourtni at Kourtni Reads! The award was created by Okoto Enigma.

mystery-blogger-award-banner

 

Here are the rules for The Mystery Blogger Award:

– Put the award logo/image on your blog
– List the rules.
– Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
– Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
– You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
– Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
– Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
– Share a link to your best post(s)

Three Things About Myself
1. I have an unhealthy obsession for binge watching TV shows. I plowed through all 11 seasons of Supernatural currently on Netflix. I’ve been through the entirety of the Jeremy, James, and Richard era of Top Gear multiple times. I am currently plowing my way through Gilmore Girls. Once I start I just can’t seem to stop. It’s bad.

2. I am completely and utterly antisocial. I hate going out. Going out means putting on something besides my super comfy sweat pants. It means ignoring my box of wine in the fridge (don’t judge me). It means making face-to-face conversation. I can type all day but man I hate talking.

3. I love American football. There are Baltimore Ravens themed items all around my house. My favorite water glass is a Ravens stein. The banner over the door into my daughter’s play room says Ravens Ave. Sundays you can bet your bippy there is a game on my television. I ❤ football.

I’ll start with the questions from Often Off Topic:

1 – How long did it take you to come up with your blog’s name?
I actually originally had this blog under a different name run through Google’s blogger. At the time I called it Read.Laugh.Love. When I decided to change platforms early in 2016 I wanted to change the name as well. The current name just suited my personality better.

2 – What was the last movie you gave up on and didn’t finish?
Hm. This one is a little tough. I don’t watch a ton of movies although I do have an unhealthy obsession for binge watching TV shows. I’m pretty sure the last movie I started and didn’t finish was James Bond’s Spectre. I love Daniel Craig as Bond but other things got in the way and I never finished it.

3 – What’s your favourite Disney song?
I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite but the one that sticks with me most is Let it Go from Frozen. My daughter LOVES that movie so I’ve heard the song enough to sing it in my sleep. Another one would be Poor Unfortunate Soul from The Little Mermaid.

4 – Who’s your biggest movie crush right now?
Like I said, I don’t watch a lot of movies. I wouldn’t be able to pick Ryan Gosling out of a lineup. But, there are a couple that spark my interest: Jason Momoa, Johnny Depp, and Daniel Craig come to mind.

5 – Do you have any tattoos? If not, what would you get?
I don’t currently have any due to an apocalyptic fear of needles. If I did get one it would be my daughter’s name and birthday on the inside of my left wrist. Not that I’ve thought about it or anything.

mysterybloggeraward

Questions from Kourtni Reads:

1 – What is your favorite book that you’ve read so far this year?
Another opportunity to talk about my favorite book of 2017 so far? Don’t mind if I do! I absolutely loved A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The world Schwab crafted is vivid and entertaining, her characters have depth and strength, and the story itself just sucks you in.

2 – If you had to choose one genre to never read again, what would you choose? 
This one requires absolutely zero thought. If I had to choose, I would never read a romance novel again. Sure, every now and then I enjoy a bit of smutty nonsense but I could happily live my life without it.

3 – What is a popular book you read and didn’t like? 
Too easy. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I have no clue why this is a popular book. None. I hated it. I hated it so much that when I wrote the review I didn’t even bother to look up the correct names for the characters. To this day I am livid that I spent good money on it.

4 – What book would you make required reading for everyone? 
1984 by George Orwell. I won’t start lecturing on it but if you haven’t read it you should pick it up. I feel that the story really speaks to the direction the world is currently going.

5 – Sum up your thoughts about books in one gif/picture. 
brutalbook

I’m certainly not going to nominate 10-20 people as the rules request, but I would like to nominate a couple of folks whose blogs I thoroughly enjoy. (Please do not feel in any way obligated to do this)

Cátia @ The Girl Who Reads Too Much

Krysti @ YA and Wine

The Orangutan Librarian

My Questions:

1 – You have to be stuck in a single book’s world for the rest of your life. What book do you choose and why?

2 – You may only interact with one fictional character for the coming year. Who do you choose and why?

3 – What is one book that you’ve read that you would like to completely wipe from your memory?

4 – If you had the opportunity to sit down with any author, living or dead, for an hour and ask anything you’d like, who would it be?

5 – Weird – What are your favorite taco toppings?

Share a Link to your Best Post

I’m not certain it is my best post but it has been my favorite book this year, so here you go.
A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Thank you again for nominating me Often Off Topic and Kourtni Reads! I had fun doing this.