THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#6): Five Mini Reviews


Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye โ€“ especially one that sounds like a combination of Heathers and The Craft. I wasn’t wowed by the book, though it was a quirky read, with some fun parts and sad moments too. With such an interesting premise โ€“ a novice witch raising a gang of zombie girls from the dead to solve their murders โ€“ I was hoping for a little more. I’m bummed that the mystery got lost in a lot of the stereotypical high school drama and caricatures (which slowed down the plot for me). Good book, not great. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a review copy.


Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CLOSE TO HOME was part contemporary domestic thriller and part police procedural, though probably too heavy on the investigation side for my liking. DI Adam Fawley is the main investigator, though it flipped back and forth between him and other detectives. I felt like it didn’t matter which detective did what, as they needed more personality or back story to grab my attention. The mystery of the missing girl was intriguing and had plenty of twists. The big reveal at the end was great but kind of out there. This book has gotten lots of great reviews, though for some reason I had a hard time really getting into it. Not bad, but didn’t wow. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for a review copy.


Blackwater Lake
Blackwater Lake by Maggie James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read of 2018! What secrets are hidden at Blackwater Lake? I was very impressed with this novella. Though short in length, the book’s characters and plot were well developed. Great mystery/suspense, and a freebie from B&N too. Would love to read more from Maggie James.


A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, you can’t love them all. Almost DNF’d this book at 33%, but decided to skim the rest just to see where it went. The premise was certainly intriguing, but the slow pace, implausible situations, and wooden characters turned me off. I’d maybe give this book 1.5 stars? I thought her first book, The Couple Next Door, was entertaining, suspenseful, and fun, but unfortunately A Stranger in the House didn’t work for me.


Tin Man
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, dreamy almost, and heartbreaking subject matter. Nevertheless, I’m in the minority as I didn’t love this book. It lacked a strong plot and felt disjointed, and I also felt like I was observing these characters from a distance instead of being a part of their stories. In the end it seems like I missed something in Tin Man that everyone else easily found.


“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” โ€“ Alan Bennett

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#3): And Then There Were None / Empty Mansions (Audiobook) / Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops


And Then There Were None
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two things I can’t believe: (1) That it’s taken me sooo long to read this book (being that I’m a big mystery fan), and (2) that I’ve been able to avoid spoilers given how popular this book is (and has been for the past 75+ years)! It’s an amazing, complicated, intricate, puzzling mystery, and I enjoyed it very much.


Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

EMPTY MANSIONS is my first audiobook of 2018. (The plan is to dedicate most of my audiobook listening to nonfiction this year. We’ll see how it goes!) Abandoned places are fascinating to me. While the mansions in this book weren’t abandoned entirely (there were caretakers on-site), the eccentric owner – Huguette Clark – hadn’t lived in them or seen them in decades. In fact, she spent her last 20 years living unnecessarily in hospital rooms, until her death in 2011 at age 104.

The first part of the book was all about Huguette’s father, W. A. Clark, who amassed a great fortune in copper mines and railroads during the late 1800s. Mr. Clark had quite an exciting life, going from a humble Pennsylvania farm boy to an extremely wealthy industrialist with a passion for art and the finest things money could buy. When he died in 1925, his fortune was split equally between Huguette and her four older half-siblings.

The rest of the book focused on Huguette and the ways she spent her inheritance. She was an unusual person, private to a fault, and very generous to people and causes close to her heart. She seemed happiest when she was hidden away from the world, among her art and her dollhouses.

As she got older, I think there were some who took advantage of her generosity. She gave away millions and millions, but was she manipulated by those few who were close to her? Conflicting wills written close together bring her mental state into question.

EMPTY MANSIONS is a well-researched blend of American History, biography, and family drama. The audiobook was performed by Kimberly Farr, and she did a fantastic job keeping me engaged in Huguette’s story. It also contained snippets of phone conversations between Huguette and her cousin, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the co-authors of this book.

Overall, I enjoyed EMPTY MANSIONS, though given how insanely private Huguette Clark was during her life, I think she would cringe knowing this book is out there.


Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Customer: If I came to work here, would I get a discount at the liquor store next door?” (Ah, sure.)

Customer: Do you have any books by Jane Eyre?” (If only!)

I had a very brief career as a bookseller just after college, so reading this book was a fun reminder of some of the weird things customers say. ๐Ÿ™‚ A funny, quick read. I borrowed this book from the library, though I should have bought it from a bookstore!


“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” โ€“ Haruki Murakami