A Paranormal Women's Fiction with a bit of class, and a lot of sass, for anyone who feels like age is just a number
Divorced, desperate, and destitute, former restaurateur Defiance Dayne finds out she has been bequeathed a house by a complete stranger. She is surprised, to say the least, and her curiosity gets the better of her. She leaves her beloved Phoenix and heads to one of the most infamous towns in America: Salem, Massachusetts.
She’s only there to find out why a woman she’s never met would leave her a house. A veritable castle that has seen better days. She couldn’t possibly accept it, but the lawyer assigned to the case practically begs her to take it off her hands, mostly because she’s scared of it. The house. The inanimate structure that, as far as Dephne can tell, has never hurt a fly.
Though it does come with some baggage. A pesky neighbor who wants her gone. A scruffy cat who’s a bit of a jerk. And a handyman bathed in ink who could moonlight as a supermodel for GQ.
She decides to give it three days, and not because of the model. She feels at home in Salem. Safe. But even that comes to a screeching halt when people begin knocking on her door day and night, begging for her help to locate their lost objects.
Come to find out, they think she’s a witch. And after a few mysterious mishaps, Dephne is beginning to wonder if they’re right.
I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of A Bad Day for Sunshine (Darynda’s upcoming release following the end of her Charley Davidson series) so color me surprised when Amazon informs me that Darynda has another new book and it’s available now. And even though I make it a hobby to sign up for Kindle Unlimited and then promptly never use it, I downloaded Betwixt and started it. Same day.
Betwixt introduces us to forty-four-year-old Defiance Dayne who is still reeling from the recent brutal divorce that left her destitute. Drowning in uncertainty about her bleak future, she’s shocked to discover she’s been bestowed an old house in Salem, Massachusetts from an elderly lady she never met named Ruthie Goode. Deciding to take a chance and see this house for herself, she hops in her vintage mint green Volkswagen Beetle and leaves Arizona behind. She arrives to find not only has she been left a house that is named Percival but that the town seems to know more about Defiance than even she does, including the fact that she might just be magical.
You ever finish a story with a smile on your face, thinking about how great it was, how fun it was, when suddenly the critiques start invading your mind and you start realizing all the things that just didn’t work? I’ve often wondered if becoming a book reviewer lessens your enjoyment of a novel because of your natural inclination to analyze the details, sometimes overly so. But I feel that while overanalyzing can uncover the bad it can also help to highlight the good and this book did have both in almost equal measure.
What this book got right… It’s a charming and whimsical type of paranormal mystery with just a hint of a potentially steamy romance. Darynda’s writing style retains its standard ease making this entertaining story one you’ll fly through. It also happens to be overflowing with snark.
“This house is gorgeous, Nette. It’s ancient and dank and dusty, yet it has so much potential?” “Like your vagina?” “What’s strange is that, even though Mrs. Goode only passed away three days ago, it’s like no one has entered it in years.” “Oh, then it’s exactly like your vagina.”
What this book didn’t get right… While I love her Charley Davidson series, the overabundance of parallels between that series and Betwixt cannot be ignored. The snarky meme type chapter headers could be dismissed as a style choice by the author but the characters are literally carbon copies of one another. There’s the super special snowflake lead character, her equally funny side-kick best friend, and the overly protective alpha male love interest who she has a connection to from when they were younger and she saved him as a child. There’s also the fact that the forty-four-year-old sounds nothing like any forty-four-year-old I know, but maybe I’m not hanging with the right crowd. Would these critiques have been such an issue if I hadn’t read Charley Davidson? Maybe not. But if I had read Betwixt first and then picked up her Charley Davidson series then I still would’ve been disappointed by the similarities. While those similarities were quite distracting at times, the witchy plot was enough to retain my interest and I’m still intrigued by the possibilities for where the story could go, I just wish I could view Defiance Dayne as her own character rather than Charley 2.0.
Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?
Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.
When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.
And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?
As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.
‘Questions, question, question. It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.’
Everything about this story and its summary scream “typical suburban drama” but Behind Her Eyes is far from anything you’ve ever read, I can assure you. Sure, Louise is a single mom who meets a man in a bar. They share a kiss, but nothing more. When she gets to work on Monday to meet her new boss, David, it ends up being the man from the bar… who is married. Desperate to make everything less awkward, they both admit to it being a vast mistake in an attempt to make sure it’s never brought up again. But when Louise makes a new friend named Adele who ends up being David’s wife, Louise’s life becomes vastly complicated.
The present-day story progresses as David and Adele’s past unfolds which further complicates matters. It’s constantly alluded to that David is overly protective of Adele, that he keeps her literally locked inside their house, that he limits her access to her own personal finances, and that their relationship is far from anything healthy. Adele involves Louise in her personal drama but leaves vital pieces of the puzzle out in a desperate attempt to earn Louise’s empathy. But to what end?
Here’s where things get dicey and where I understand the negative opinions of many even though mine differ. The whole initial setup of this story appears very formulaic, establishing some preconceived notions of where the plot could possibly go. The massive emphasis by Flatiron Books Marketing team on the twist at the end is worthy because it’s one that absolutely no one could have seen coming. It didn’t come out of left field, so to speak, it wasn’t even playing on the same field. No, this twist is practically conjured out of thin air and while this would normally leave me feeling cheated (again, based on all those established preconceived notions) it was such an extremely bizarre and outlandish approach to transforming the a-typical suburban drama into something different that I really couldn’t help but love it. Pinborough never fails to surprise me.
It's Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It's the one-year anniversary of his parents' deaths, he's stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries.
But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri is assigned to cover a seance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion. There, Dimitri meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer he falls hard for. But just as he's about to ask her out, he unwittingly unleashes malevolent forces, throwing him into a deadly mystery. He wakes up in the morgue -- icy cold and haunted by a cryptic warning given by a tantalizing female spirit.
As town residents begin to turn up gruesomely murdered, Dimitri must unravel the connections among his family, the Aspinwall Mansion, and the secrets held in a pair of crumbling antiquarian books. If he doesn't, it's quite possible Lisa will be the next victim.
“Two weeks. Everything you love, own, and cherish, can be gone, liquidated, and lost forever in two weeks. Give or take a day.”
Dimitri Petrov is a would-be novelist and current obituary writer for an irrelevant newspaper. He gets tasked last minute with covering a séance at a local haunted house on Halloween (of course), he meets his dream girl, and there’s a lot of awkward conversation where he manages to win her over… somehow. But his life admittedly goes a bit downhill from there when he manages to fall through the floor, wakes up in the actual morgue, and finds that he has a new ghostly friend he dubs Poe that won’t leave him alone. Add in the mystery behind the haunted house, the strange family history of his new girlfriend, the truth behind the tragic deaths of Dimitri’s own parents, some curious ancient books that seem to possess powers, and a spleen-eating serial killer and you’ve got the plot of Poe. All in just over 300 pages.
“I have watched enough cheesy detective television shows in my young life to know that when one is presented with an inexplicable mystery, the first order of business (after procuring good donuts and coffee—check) is to create a wall of clues with photos of suspects and article clippings, preferably in an artistic yet seemingly random fashion.”
In the beginning, this story was entertaining, fast-paced, and fun, but just as it started out fine for Dimitri, unfortunately, the book went downhill as well. The characters themselves were never fully formed except for Dimitri who was the stories requisite guy who found humor and sarcasm in anything and everything (and reminded me a lot of the guy in The Last Days of Jack Sparks.) The mysteries were excessive and mildly convoluted, yes, however the horror elements brought about some very well-written pieces of terror. The descriptions were on point and were enough to churn even the hardest of stomachs. The biggest issue I had was how the author chose to focus more on the cutesy relationship aspects in a plot that didn’t require anything of the sort. Adding a romance factor certainly helps to appeal to a wider audience but it just didn’t work for me.
Having already read Fenn’s sophomore novel, Dead Souls, I can see how far she’s come with her plotting and characterization(Dead Souls is absolutely incredible — read it). Her debut may not have been my favorite but she’s definitely fallen onto my radar on authors to watch out for.
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 saviors, 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.…
“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.”
FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are put in charge of interviewing a kidnap survivor that goes by the name of Maya who was recently rescued. According to her, she was one of many “butterflies” who lived in a garden. They were all girls who over the years had been kidnapped and brought to the garden by a man only known as The Gardener. He tattoos beautiful wings on their backs, renames them, rapes them, and cares for them until their expiration date of 21-years-old at which point The Gardener would kill them and preserve them in resin such as one does with perfect specimens. The Butterfly Garden switches back and forth between past and present and unveils the ordeals of the years that Maya spent behind the walls of the garden.
First off, yes, this is some sick and twisted sounding shit but whatever, I’m weird. Considering The Collector is one of my all-time favorite books, this story was immediately appealing to me and there were vast similarities. The kidnapped girl(s), the obsession with preserving butterflies (actual butterflies though), and the acclimating the victim(s) to transform their abnormal environment into something normal. Where The Collector was straight forward and quietly disturbing, The Butterfly Garden worked very hard at establishing the belief that we were working with an unreliable narrator and that there was clearly a big twist to anticipate. This was a most unsettling read and the author never flinches away from describing the brutality the girls were forced to suffer through. Also written well (and equally unsettling) was the mentality of The Gardener and how effortlessly he was able to convince himself that he was doing what was right for these girls by taking them in and caring for them.
I did have some serious issues with the technicalities of The Gardener’s whole operation that I’m sure could be easily overlooked with a little suspension of disbelief but sometimes I just can’t be that kind of reader. I’ll add in spoiler tags just in case: View Spoiler »The garden itself was described as if they lived in a bio-dome (they were able to see the night sky but the rain never hits their faces) and they were able to see outside but no one could see in? Maya would often go to caves and climb some hill… this place is clearly massive. I don’t care how rich The Gardener was, I feel like this isn’t something that could have been hidden easily. But the girls themselves was what really disturbed me… I can understand the mentality of being in a situation like theirs and not wanting to upset your captor to make a bad situation worse, but if there are twenty of you, I feel like you could band together and beat the ever living shit out of him. But no, they pretend like everything is okay, they put on performances for him, and it was all just mildly sickening. Plus the whole thing with allowing his sons to come in and have free reign with the girls too… ugh. And where the fuck was his wife? And even if she couldn’t see into the garden, she had to of known something was up, right? « Hide Spoiler All in all, I had a lot of questions that didn’t come equipped with a whole lot of answers.
And then that ending.
I’M SO ANGRY. I don’t remember the last time I read such an immensely enthralling book that captivated me from page one, had me searching for extra time in the day just to read it, only to have it fall flatter than a fucking pancake at the end. I mean seriously, what even was that? Don’t market your book based on some hidden secret if all you’ve come up with is that. There’s apparently a second book too. No, thank you, please.