THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#5): Wicked Plants (Audiobook) / An American Witch in Paris


Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical AtrocitiesWicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WICKED PLANTS was an Audible Daily Deal, and with that title and cover, I couldn’t resist downloading it. The book is a curious and often unsettling encyclopedia of plants that have caused harm in one way or another throughout the centuries. I don’t think a lot about plants being dangerous, but after reading this I definitely should. I was surprised that even some everyday foods can be harmful. (There’s a reason cashews aren’t sold in their shell.) However the most harmful of plants kills nearly 6 million people per year. (You can probably guess what it is.)

The audiobook was narrated by Coleen Marlo, and she did a fabulous job making each culprit plant seem down right sinister. I will say that I also checked out the hardcover of this book so I could see the illustrations and read the scientific names of all the plants. There were many presented and they moved by quickly, so it was nice to have a physical copy to reference.


An American Witch in Paris (Harlequin Nocturne)An American Witch in Paris by Michele Hauf
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A straight-laced vampire and a saucy American witch come together in Paris to save humanity. Vampire Ethan and witch Tuesday are memorable leads, with an intriguing supporting cast aiding their perilous mission. The world-building and conflicts were exciting. I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long time, so this book was a lot of fun. One thing that didn’t work for me was some of what Tuesday was saying or thinking didn’t fit with a centuries-old witch. (Example: She would call troublesome men “Richards” instead of … well, you know.) AN AMERICAN WITCH IN PARIS is loosely tied to others Michele Hauf has published with Nocturne, though it can easily be read stand-alone. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#4): The Perfect Nanny / Into the Water


The Perfect NannyThe Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Ugh, from the very beginning, this book was chilling. Unsettling. It’s not a typical thriller, more character-driven, maybe a character study of sorts. None of the characters were likable, but they were fascinating.

A young Parisian couple, Myriam and Paul, hire Louise as a nanny for their two small children. With a good reference from her previous employer, and being somewhat desperate to find childcare, they quickly welcome Louise into their lives. Oh, dear. Louise seems perfect on the outside, but she has hidden issues, which are slowly reveled as the story progresses.

While reading this book, I felt like I was watching the characters from a distance rather than being a part of the story. I wonder if it’s because this is the English translation from French, or was that the intent. The writing was good…just had a distant feel. The ending, well, I wanted more. Too many questions unanswered.


Into the WaterInto the Water by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I lost patience with INTO THE WATER early on. By page 32, I counted seven different POVs. Confusing! A few more POVs were added after that. Basically the story was about a place called “The Drowning Pool” where several women died, beginning in the 1600s. The latest death is a woman who was writing a book about this seemingly cursed place. Sounded promising, but turned out to be dull. Needed more suspense. I was looking forward to this book, but in the end it was just meh.


“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself.” – Angela Carter

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


And Then There Were NoneAnd 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 FortuneEmpty 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 BookshopsWeird 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. 🙂 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.” – Haruki Murakami