Not A Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

My favorite thing about this book is the detail.

Amelia falls apart after being deafened in an accident. 2 years later she’s sort of pulling herself together when she discovers a body. Immediately Amelia becomes sucked into solving the murder mystery (when she truly has no damn business doing this at all). Each of the characters has traits that make them nuanced and interesting. Amelia is a bit of a mess, and that makes her relatable. She also has a pretty kickass dog.

I had some ideas about who did it. I was wrong(ish). And then it became really obvious, but that was sort of the point.

There was a fun thrill factor (I definitely didn’t love reading it at night while my husband was at work). This book was really easy to read.

I didn’t give it 4 stars bc 1) Amelia jumped to some ridiculous conclusion and 2) she did some really dumb stuff. But it was awfully close to a 4 start read.

Troublemaker by Linda Howard

Must Love Dogs! Seriously. I have 5 of the jokers (and volunteer for a rescue), and even I thought the dog storyline was pushing it.

Story – someone wants to kill Morgan. They almost do. So he’s sent to live with Bo (a part time chief-of-police and technical writer with some emotional walls but a really cool supportive community) to recuperate while his government agency figures out who wants to kill him. Morgan is my favorite kind of bad-ass – super alpha and capable without being overly chatty or braggy. He’s also damaged (in this case mostly physically). There’s no Insta-love (HURRAH!) bc Morgan is near death with he meets Bo. They take the time to develop a kick-ass relationship.

And then there’s Tricks…Tricks is Bo’s dog. And she has the largest role in this book. No lie. The dog is the star of the show. Had she played a slightly smaller role I would have given the book 5 stars. I LOVED it. I finished it in one day and didn’t want to put it down. I just could have used a teeny bit less storyline involving the world’s most precocious dog.

Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

First and foremost, ignore that stupid title.

Second, I have earned a few happy books, and I plan on indulging. Holy crap. This book was bleak. Filled with that pervasive New England moroseness – death so matter of fact. Stiff upper lip and whatnot. I’m reeling from reading this thing.

Plot – Arlyn thinks her marriage is fated, and then it turns into a disappointment and awfulness happens to pretty much every character. It wasn’t a teary-book. I didn’t get attached to the characters. But I do feel like I want to lie here and stare at my ceiling and contemplate everything. My angsty 15-year-old self has emerged for a visit.

I think it may take me some time to shake this one. It was like less awesome Steinbeck. A pervading sense of fatality that’s left me a little adrift. Time to move on to something cheerful…or maybe just go to bed.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

Snarky, snobby and nothing happens – usually a recipe for disaster for me, but not this time. It’s just a story about Graham and his wife. And his ex-wife. His doorman. His neighbor. His son’s piano teacher. Origami. Visiting labradors.

There’s a New York-assumption tied to the book – surely the reader knows her way around the city. Or at least has a healthy respect for all that is Manhattan.

And Graham is not a good person. Not serial-killer level. But a degree of self-absorption with no self-awareness that makes half the book so ironic. I would read a page then reread it and laugh at the irony. There was such a snarky, in-on-this-joke undertone to this book. I can see it being off-putting to some readers, but I loved it.

There are similarities between this book and The Nest (which I loathed). To me this felt happier and moved more quickly. This book didn’t take itself seriously at all.

Julia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

I liked the female characters, the fast moving story, the sweet romance. I hated the talk of vagina vagina vagina. I’m a somewhat reserved person. And there’s no way I’m going to be flaunting my vagina at a dinner party. Ever.

Julia escapes a bad relationship by driving cross-country to the home of her Aunt Lydia. Lydia has a farm, a booming voice and a large personality. The scenes with her were so contrived and so uncomfortable they ruined the book for me. Some of the scenes without her weren’t a lot better – just unrealistic while also feeling trite and over-used.

But because I liked some aspects of the book I’m going to try something else by Cathy Lamb. I’m not ready to give up on her so let’s cross our fingers that there’s less vagina and less been-there-done-that in the next one.

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison

Dark, taut and awful without veering into the macabre or melodramatic. A horrific plot line made enjoyable by an author who doesn’t get mired in the bog of toying with her reader’s emotions. At first the book felt dry and confusing. Smug. I thought the author was being cutesy and the main character felt distant and unrealistic. As the story developed and became more appalling the emotional separation provided by the writing style made everything more palatable. I don’t think that I would have gotten through this book with a touchy-feely main character.

Plot – a man kidnaps young women and keeps them in a garden – his butterflies to be protected, revered and never allowed to grow old.

I wasn’t sure about this book. It was a very quick read, but there’s so little emotion that I nearly quit in the first 75 pages. By page 200 I was nearly wrecked – swamped by a kind of sadness that comes with a really good dark read. I highly recommend this for the literary-thrill-seekers out there.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

I am such a softie! Despite my snark and absolute impatience with bad writing I adore sugar and spice and everything nice. This little book had those in spades.

It was somewhere btwn a 3 and 4 star read for me, this book was light and fluffy and sugary sweet. Absolute brain candy and oh-so-enjoyable.

Josey lives like the town princess – locked away in a tower to be speculated over and murmured about, but with no friends and no love. A fairy-godperson of sorts arrives to shake everything up.

I usually hate the mom-drama plot line bc it’s overdone and unrealistic. Here it felt real, and it was low-key.

This is an absolute fluff of a book. Mystical realism. Candy. Crushes. And snowball fights. However, the writing is lyrical and easy, the characters are charming, and at points the love story actually made me go “awwwww” as I read. It was the right book at the right time. I’ve already requested two more books from this author.