The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison – Book Review


The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison (Thomas & Mercer)

Unlike my other reviews, this was not provided by Netgalley. I simply read it and felt it deserved some advertisement.

Genres: Thriller, Trauma, Abduction

RATING: 5/5

 

The Story

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviours, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding.…

The Review

WOW. Loved this book. Just going to put it straight out there. Original, thrilling, enthralling, horrific, un-put-downable. I can’t decide whether it’s an extremely tragic story, or an ultimately uplifting one…maybe it can be both?

This novel is not for the faint of heart. It deals with neglect, abduction, rape, torture and murder. Why, you ask, do you want to read about that? Because Hutchison also writes about hope, love, family, bravery and heroism. The Butterfly Garden is a story about courage in the face of extreme adversary, people coming together just when they feel like they want to fall apart, and the power of one’s own convictions to see justice done.

The heroine of this story is Maya. She’s sassy and doesn’t take crap from anyone, but is also loyal to a fault, fiercely protective of those who need her help, and has a streak of charm that I’d challenge any reader not to fall for. She is extremely relatable and sympathetic, but with enough hard edges that I believe every bit of her story.

Speaking of the story, I love how it plays out. The novel opens with the discovery of the garden – most writers would leave this until the end. What Hutchison does is take us through Maya’s story along with the FBI investigators, unravelling each tantalising clue to her experience through detailed questioning. There is nothing chronological about the telling, and I love that. It’s very refreshing, and definitely keeps me engaged as a reader.

Alongside Maya is a brilliant supporting cast. It would be far too easy for Hutchison to create carbon copies of Maya for all the victims of the garden – after all, some people may think that there’s only so much variety to be had in a group of 16-21 year old females. The author, however, uses hobbies, speech and personality traits to create very distinct characters who each have their own roles to play in this story.

I must also praise Hutchison for her male characters. There are a lot of horrible men in this novel, but she doesn’t make a sweeping generalisation that all men are dangerous. In fact, I believe one of the kindest people is Agent Victor Hanoverian, who questions Maya relentlessly but also with compassion and understanding.

Even the Gardener isn’t black and white. He may be a fundamentally evil person, but even he has moments of softness – she gives him a humanity other authors may not have deigned to bestow, but that’s what makes this novel so great. It is firmly grounded in reality. According to Parents.com, every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted. There are thousands upon thousands of people all over the world with stories like Maya’s, and it’s important that we hear about them. Whether fact or fiction, it is important that the world never forgets the dangers children face in this world. Stories like The Butterfly Garden prompt us to remember those who are lost and bolster the search for those who may still be found.

This novel is a triumph.

The Butterfly Garden is out now and can be purchased here. Be sure to also look out for Roses of May, a semi-sequel due to be released later this year.

Dot Hutchison can be contacted via her website and twitter.

Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard- Book Review


Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard (Legend Press)

Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Genres: Thriller, Trauma

RATING: 4/5

 

Story

Reeling from a brutal attack that leaves her best friend dead and her badly injured, Lisa Fulbrook flees to the countryside to recuperate. With only vague memories of the event, she isolates herself from her friends and family, content to spend her days wandering the hills with her dog, Riley.

However, Lisa is soon plagued, not only by vivid flashbacks, but questions, too: how did their assailant know them? Why were they attacked? And what really happened that night?

As she desperately tries to piece together the memories, Lisa realises that there’s another truth still hidden to her, a truth she can’t escape from. A truth that may have been right in front of her all along.

Review

In many ways this is a horrible book. We spend a lot of time experiencing Lisa’s flashbacks and fear, and there are very few laughs. It’s sad. Of course, what would you expect with this subject matter?

But don’t let that put you off. Were it any different, it would be awful. As it is, the novel is a triumph.

Beard has managed to portray a realistic, well-rounded victim of trauma in an accurate and respectful way. Her psychological difficulties are at the forefront of the story, but Lisa is still a real human being and she isn’t defined by that one experience. She has depth and personality, and I think I really understand her.

I think the success of this novel is partly down to its pace. Although the storyline of Dare to Remember spans approximately 2 years, it takes a long time to get there. We spend a lot of time with Lisa immediately after the event, as she struggles to come to terms with what’s happened. It is a great way to really get your claws into the mindset of the character, though the subject matter and slowness does make it a bit more difficult to stay engaged with the book for long stretches. I’m a read from 8pm to 3am sort of person, so that didn’t suit me, but you may be a 10-page at a time person, in which case it’d be perfect.

Despite taking a little longer to read the novel than I would usually, there is a great air of intrigue which kept me coming back. Lisa can’t remember what happened that night, or even who Fergus was, though there is something, as my brother would say, ‘on the tip of her brain’. Her struggle to find out what that something is definitely keeps the pages turning, and when it is revealed it’s a worthy surprise.

I’m also delighted that Beard didn’t feel the need to give Lisa a man to ‘help her through’. Well, the psychologist is a man, but that doesn’t count. She is her own knight in shining armour, and that is a truly refreshing thing to find, even in this day and age!

It’s a great read for any fans of the thriller genre, and I’d definitely recommend. Just don’t expect a laugh.

Dare to Remember is available to purchase NOW!

Susanna Beard can be contacted via her website and twitter.

Always by Sarah Jio is out TODAY


A beautiful story of a lost love, found again. If you like a good romance with an air of mystery and intrigue, this is the one for you.

Read my comprehensive review here.

You can buy the book from any good book store – links are available on Jio’s website here.

Gingernut x

 

Always by Sarah Jio – Book Review


Always by Sarah Jio  (Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine)

Review copy provided by Netgalley.

Genres: Romance, Drama, Mystery

RATING: 4/5

 

The Story

Kailey is in love with life, her city and her handsome fiance. Her life is perfect. At least, until an encounter with a homeless man drags her straight back into the past. The man is Cade, once the owner of a successful music empire, and the love of Kailey’s life. Devastated at what has happened to Cade, she takes it upon herself to help him. Cade barely recognises her and has no idea why his life turned out the way it did – it is up to Kailey to piece his life back together, but in doing so she risks tearing her own life apart.

You never forget your first love. The old adage certainly holds true in this beautiful, thoughtful novel by Sarah Jio.

 

The Review

From the very first page, I feel like I know who Kailey is. That is Jio’s gift. Writing believable characters is hard at the best of times, but being able to do in a subtle, nuanced way is a real art. Jio uses the words and actions of this cast to show their personalities and emotions. The novel is a rollercoaster of emotion, and we live it inside Kailey’s head. Being able to accurately portray Kailey’s thoughts and feelings during some quite traumatic situations is key to the success of this novel, and Jio nails it.

From the very beginning of this novel, I felt like I understood Kailey’s situation. She has a great fiance, an exciting job, a fantastic future awaiting her, but there’s an air of hesitation about her. In a way, it all seems a little too perfect. The opening chapter does a brilliant job of making me curious, and I love a book that makes me curious.

This intrigue is maintained for the entirety of Always, helped immensely by Jio’s clever use of time-jumps. We live through Kailey’s present and past in alternating segments, slowly piecing together her story. These flashbacks to the past are great not only for providing context to Kailey’s current situation, but also for explaining to the reader all that Cade has lost, and how difficult it is for Kailey to see him like he is.

It’s a novel which is uplifting, emotional, thoughtful and at some moments truly heart-wrenching. What it isn’t, however, is a sappy, wet tale of stereotypical love. It’s nuanced. Kailey ends up in an impossible situation; helping her first love to get his life back together, whilst also making sure her new love doesn’t think she’s abandoning him. Always is a novel that makes the reader think. What would I do in this situation? Often there is no right or wrong answer, but in the end we are left with a satisfying story which feels like everything happened the way it should.

It’s a very unique idea for a novel, but one which I think every reader could relate to in one way or another. My only criticism? Though intriguing, the novel is, on some occasions, a little predictable.

Always is released on 7th February 2017, and is available for preorder now.

Jio can be contacted via her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

Final Girls by Riley Sager – Book Review


Final Girls by Riley Sager (Random House UK, Ebury Publishing, Ebury Press)

Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Drama, Mystery

 

RATING: 5/5

 

The Story

Quincy is a baking blogger living a picture-perfect life with her lawyer boyfriend in central New York. At least, that’s what an outsider would see. When Quincy was in university herself and her friends were brutally attacked at Pine Cottage, a trauma which Quincy has carried with her, along with a media label she can’t escape – she is a ‘Final Girl’. This name links her with two other survivors of violent crime, Sam and Lisa.

The famous trio have never met, but that will quickly change with Lisa’s apparent suicide and Sam’s arrival on Quincy’s doorstep.Alongside her Final Girl companions comes the past Quincy wants to forget, and some hard truths which make her question even her most steadfast beliefs.

Final Girls is a compelling mystery thriller with a intricate narrative that keeps the reader hooked until the very last page.

The Review

The first thing I thought when I picked up this book was that it was extremely well written.

This may seem obvious –  after all it is a published novel. Sadly, that is becoming less and less indicative of quality literature nowadays. When I started reading Final Girls I could tell within the first few pages that it would be an easy read. Sager’s prose has a diversity and fluidity which makes it interesting, engaging and yet not so complicated as you have to work out what she’s on about. Even better, it’s not so simple that you feel like you’re reading a book aimed at tweens.

By no means, however, does an easy-reader mean that we are faced with a simple chick-lit novel for people who aren’t interested in a good plot or character development. The story is one of the most compelling I’ve read in a long time.

Sager has actually managed to write a novel full of twists which I didn’t see coming. I don’t mean to bang my own drum here, but I find imaginative twists more and more difficult to come by. Perhaps I’ve read too many books, so I expect the unexpected. Or maybe quality authors who still have the ability to surprise a modern audience are just harder to come by. Whatever the reason, I’m delighted to have come across Sager. She’s one of those authors who gives you just enough information to make you think you’re clever and that you’ve worked it out, and then throws not one but ten curve-balls at you.

I will admit, I wasn’t always happy about those curve-balls. The ending of the novel is not as satisfying as I’d like it to be, because it results in Quincy losing someone who I thought was a brilliant, admirable character. I felt a little cheated, and I’m not sure that the decision really benefited the novel. That, however, is personal preference.

 

Final Girls is an intriguing, harrowing, uplifting and occasionally tragic story, which sensitively illustrates the reality for many real victims of violent crime. Sager provides a unique opportunity to delve into the psyche of the ‘victim’, not with one character but with many, and reveals just what we would expect; no two victims are the same, and they may, in fact, be something entirely unexpected.

In many ways Final Girls is a by-the-numbers mystery novel. As you proceed through the story you discover, alongside the protagonist, the gratifying and horrifying truths of life. What helps it to stand out from the crowd, however, are clearly defined characters with real motivations. They are the backbone of this novel. The reader feels for them, understands them, envies them, hates them, and has to find out how their stories end. The plot is compelling, but without this strong cast of characters I’m doubtful the story would have the same impact.

A review copy of this book was sent to myself via Netgalley – the novel is released to the public on 29th June 2017.

I hope you put it on your reading wishlist, and please let me know what you think!

You can follow Riley Sager on Twitter.