I’m keeping track of every book I read this year, month by month.
Just in case anyone does fancy reading something I’ve mentioned, I’m giving details of the books (no more of a spoiler than you’d read on the blurb) and a rating. My rating system is 1 – 5:
- 1 Awful, the writer should be banished to a far away land
- 2 Poor, I didn’t die of boredom but it was a struggle to reach the end
- 3 Average, fine but I’ll have forgotten about it in a year
- 4 Good, I enjoyed this
- 5 Excellent, hot damn this is a great book and the writer should be knighted
NB I’m also reading some books as research for my own, non-fiction publication which is due out next year. I’m omitting anything read for that, here.
Title(s): The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
Category: Fiction: Kidnapping, Horror, Sexual Abuse
About: A twisted guy and his son keep young women imprisoned in a garden, tattooing them with butterfly wings and regularly abusing them.
My Rating: 3, Average
The story is told from the perspective of ‘Maya’, a survivor from the garden, recounting the events of the past few years to the police.
The story wasn’t badly written, but it mostly just felt uncomfortable to read. Not only the awful subject matter (when will violence and sexual abuse ever be comfortable to read about…) but it was the characters that made me uncomfortable.
I find it hard to believe that with the number of women in the ‘garden’, as well as their access to all manner of weapons, couldn’t have overpowered one man (or two men, if he son was there) and beat the merry hell out of him.
They all seemed to accept their fate a bit too easily and had no plan to try to make their escape, particularly as once they hit a certain age, he kills them anyway!
Read this if you like: The Missing by C.L Taylor, The Accient by C.L Taylor
Title(s): The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Category: Fiction: Crime, Thriller
About: Ted Severson meets Lily Kintner on a flight from London to Boston and they make a pact to get rid of Ted’s wife Miranda.
My Rating: 4.5, Very good
The book is told from a number of perspectives, which keeps it fast-paced and interesting. I kept rolling my eyes thinking I knew what was going to happen, but the author always managed to steer me in another direction and had me rooting for the bad guy.
This is fun (in the murdery kinda way) and you’ll race through it until exhausted and wishing for more. Definitely worth a read.
Read this if you like: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, The Girl With a Clock For a Heart by Peter Swanson.
Title(s): The Birthing House by Christopher Ransom
Category: Fiction: Ghost story, Thriller, Horror(?)
When Conrad Harrison impulse-buys a big old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn’t share his enthusiasm, reluctant at the idea of leaving their LA life – so Conrad is left to set up their new home as she ties up loose ends at work. But Conrad’s new purchase is not all that it seems. Soon Conrad is hearing the ghostly wailing of a baby in the night, seeing blood on the floor and being haunted by a woman who looks exactly like Jo. With his wife away, Conrad becomes obsessed by the pregnant girl next door, Nadia, who claims to be a victim of the evil in the house. The crying leads him to a bricked-up body, and the mystery of the Birthing House unravels, pulling in Jo, Nadia and leading Conrad to a nightmarish conclusion…
About: Conrad Harrison buys a house in Wisconsin and after his wife leaves to work, becomes obsessed with his pregnant neighbour. They’re both soon drawn into a web of weirdness by the ‘evil spirit of the house’.
My Rating: 2 Poor
I’d have rated this even less, but I kept reading it in the hope that it would get better (it didn’t) or that the end would be satisfying (it wasn’t).
The characters are awful and the story is poorly written. The back story as to why the house is a bit weird/possessy is weak and not at all as frightening as I think we’re supposed to find it.
Read this if you like: Poorly written stories with terrible characters (see Entry Island from last month).
Title(s): Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Category: Fiction: Coming of age, Paranormal
When Elspeth Noblin dies she leaves her beautiful flat overlooking Highgate Cemetery to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina Poole, on the condition that their mother is never allowed to cross the threshold. But until the solicitor’s letter falls through the door of their suburban American home, either Julia nor Valentina knew their aunt existed. The twins hope that in London their own, separate, lives can finally begin but they have no idea that they’ve been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt’s mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them and works in the cemetery itself.
As the twins unravel the secrets of their aunt, who doesn’t seem quite ready to leave her flat, even after death, Niffenegger weaves together a delicious and deadly ghost story about love, loss and identity.
About: Elspeth Nolan dies and leaves her London flat to her twin American Nieces, Julia and Valentina on the condition that they live there for one year and aren’t visited by their parents.
My Rating: 4, Good
I like the way Niffenegger writes and you really feel like you know the characters. I can’t talk too much about the plot, as I think that’s something you need to read and see develop for yourself, otherwise you’ll be second-guessing what happens all the way through.
Of the twins, Valentina is the one I felt for most, but that flipped to Julia as the story progressed. My allegiances to other characters also changed through the book, so credit to the author for completely flipping things around.
Read this if you like: The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
You can catch up on September’s Reads here.