February was a good month for books, people! I’m so excited to be able to highly recommend a few of the books on this month’s One Woman Book Club list. I know the suspense is killing you, so let’s dive right in.
By Abigail Haas (pseudonym) Abby McDonald
Goodreads rating: 4.13 stars
Wouldn’t we all look guilty, if someone searched hard enough?
I don’t even know where to really start with this book. Because I am a monster, I typically read books in a single sitting. It’s usually around 4am after starting a book four hours earlier that I realize hmm, maybe this was a mistake. That being said, this book made it easy.
A group of best friends decide to spend the Spring Break of their senior year getting trashed in a luxurious beach house in Aruba. Soft spoken, easy-going Anna is having the time of her life celebrating with her dream of a boyfriend Tate, and her wild and free, don’t-give-a-fuck BFF Elise along with a few other close friends. That is until Elise is found stabbed to death in her bed, and Anna and Tate are declared the prime suspects. Now Anna is stuck in a foreign country, fighting for her innocence in a system unfamiliar to her.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking- this is totally an Amanda Knox meets Natalee Holloway type of story. You’d be right. The similarities are definitely there, but the originality certainly isn’t lacking. This book is so much more than the murder of a pretty blonde on a vacation. Haas writes with a deep understanding of complex young-adult relationships; love, sex, deceit, jealousy, friendship, guilt, innocence. The murder was simply the catalyst, with both that and everything in between executed to near perfection.
The story reads as a stream of consciousness from the perspective of Anna. It bounces back and forth between her memories and recollections both before and during the event, and her understandings and emotions during the aftermath and pending trial. Throw in a few police reports, documented transcripts of phone calls and interviews as they are being presented in court, and you’ll find yourself invested in a captivating thriller that you might as well be a jury member on. You will find yourself empathizing for Anna, scared for Anna, wishing the best for Anna. You will feel her emotions and anxieties as if they were your own, simply because she comes across so flawed, and therein, so real. But most of all, you will find yourself questioning Anna. How reliable is your narrator? What exactly do you believe, when the only story told to you is one you know to assume to be the truest version? I enjoyed everything about this book, and the feeling it left me with resonated for days afterwards. I would say to throw any reservations you may have about this book out the window, and give it a shot.
By Josh Malerman
Goodreads rating: 3.98 stars
It’s rare to stumble upon a truly original psychological horror, but Josh Malerman delivered. People around the world are seeing… something. Pregnant Malorie is at home with her sister when the first case breaks out in Russia. Before she knows it, the phenomenon has spread to a global scale. No one has answers. All that anyone seems to know is that if you see this something, you will quickly be driven to madness, murder, and finally, suicide. People begin blacking out their windows, boarding up their homes, and living their lives in blindfolds, all in the name of survival. What makes this book so bone-chillingly scary is that the unseen is so much more terrifying than the seen. It’s like being in a horror movie where the camera purposely doesn’t pull back large enough to see what’s standing directly behind you for the entire novel. There is something absolutely terrifying about not being able to give your fear a face.
Presently, Malorie has two small children in tow. She spends the first several years of their young lives training them- teaching them to live in the dark. The children have essentially lived their entire existence without the use of their eyes so that they might stand a chance at surviving upon leaving the house.
For full disclosure, I will say that you shouldn’t go into this book expecting answers. There is no, ‘why did this happen?’ or ‘how did this happen?’ which I believe is something to be appreciated. In this book, it couldn’t matter less. Our protagonist Malorie’s only goal is to find safety in this dystopian setting, and she’s all the more determined to now that she has something to lose.
If this sounds like a book you’d be interested in, I’d go pick it up ASAP and give it a read before the movie, starring Sandra Bullock as Malorie, is released later this year!
By Rachel Caine
Goodreads rating: 4.32
After reading Killman Creek’s predecessor, Stillhouse Lake, I could not wait for this book to arrive. I was tracking my package on Amazon constantly like the impatient brat I always knew I was.
By the opening of this novel, Gwen Proctor has successfully transitioned from victim to warrior. She may have won the first battle against her murderous ex-husband’s psycho accomplices, but the war has just begun. Now Melvin Royal himself has escaped from prison and is determined to destroy his ex-wife and shatter the new lives that her and her children have attempted to create for themselves. This time, however, Gwen decides that a game of cat and mouse isn’t permissible. She’s tired of hiding and waiting around for the worst- of Melvin having all of the power. No, she’s decided to save him the trouble of finding her, because she’s coming for him.
After being so utterly in love with the first book, I almost felt like this sequel didn’t stand a chance of living up to it. Don’t get me wrong, Killman Creek had all of the elements that made Stillhouse Lake such a hit for me, but there were a few things I struggled with throughout. Stillhouse Lake is told exclusively from the perspective of Gina/Gwen, whereas this book expands its narrators to include fellow revenge seeker Sam Cade, as well as both of the children, Lanny and Connor. Caine definitely had her reasons for doing this (which I won’t divulge for the sake of spoilers), but I still found myself missing the well executed simplicity of keeping the thoughts of a single narrator straight.
I also struggled with the fact that Melvin had escaped prison, because of course he did. The only time that was even somewhat realistic to me was in The Shawshank Redemption. That being said, if you manage to suspend your disbelief, you’re bound to enjoy this pulse-pounding thriller. I’ll definitely be purchasing the third book in the series upon it’s December 2018 release.
The Butterfly Garden
By Dot Hutchison
Goodreads rating: 4.06
The Butterfly Garden is another one of those books that takes place in the present, but is consistently flashing back to past events in order to give us an understanding of what had to happen to get us to where we are now. This is extremely common, and in this case, extremely effective.
Hidden away there exists a garden. This garden is filled with “butterflies.” If the quotations there didn’t tip you off that we aren’t talking about insects, then let the record show that no, we aren’t talking about the little fluttering kind. No, the butterflies in this garden are young women- all drugged and kidnapped and brought to live in this twisted community where they are forced to sing and dance and have sex with their self-proclaimed keeper, The Gardener. He tattoos intricate and individualized butterfly wings onto their backs, and, past a certain age, has the women permanently preserved. Preserved, you ask? What do you mean? Well, if you’re thinking the worst, you’re correct.
Our story opens with the FBI questioning a particular butterfly, Maya. One would think that the fact that the reader is so quickly assured that The Gardener is caught would almost certainly guarantee a happy ending, however that shred of hope is ripped away just as quickly as it is introduced.
The character development in this story is outstanding. Almost every butterfly introduced plays a unique role in the unfolding of the novel, and Hutchison effectively captures the different ways that individuals can attempt to cope with trauma. This is a story about the lengths some will go to in order to survive, and the deeply ingrained desire to preserve beauty at any cost. While I wouldn’t say you need to rush out and buy this little guy, it’s definitely a unique and easy-to-read novel in its own respect.
See you next month!