Tag Archives: mystery

“The Perfect Girl” by Gilly Macmillan

perfect girl

Summer is perfect to not only catch up on your reading list, but give yourself time to stumble upon something unexpected.  My favorite part about this time of year is going to the down-town Madison Public Library (MPL) and leisurely browsing their “Too Good to Miss” section.  From best-sellers, to adaptations, to obscure picks, the dear MPL librarians never fail to maintain a revolving collection of books that includes something that will appeal to any literary appetite.  The reason why I seem to always leave the library with more books than I came to return is because the “Too Good to Miss” section lives up to its namesake.

It was at this section where I stumbled upon The Perfect Girl.  As someone who likes to brag that I read Gone Girl and Girl on the Train (by the way, what is it with thrillers using the word “girl” in their titles?) before they became super ultra best-sellers, I am always hunting for the newest thriller sensation.  My guilty pleasure are books that include: mystery, unreliable characters, murder, messed up families with secrets, and plot twists.  This title initially caught my eye with it’s dark cover and that at first glance I thought the author was Gillian Flynn (which begs the question: When will she bless us with another book?).  Then I read the back and saw it was about: mystery, unreliable characters, murder, messed up families with secrets, and plot twists.  Say no more.

With the sudden surge of books like Gone Girl, I can imagine that before long this sort of genre will become cliche and tired.  For now though, I am one of many who are hooked on this type of novel.  However, it presents a challenge to authors: it’s hard to take a troupe that sells but avoid your book being lost in the noise.  The Perfect Girl didn’t seem to get great reviews on Goodreads, but I think it is the perfect summer book.

Very short summary: Music prodigy Zoe was involved in an unfortunate accident a year ago that broke her family and sent her to juvenile detention.  Tonight she’s performing a concert with her new brother in law to try to get her life back on track.  Little does she know by the end of the night, her mother will be dead.

Dum dum dum!!

Mystery/thriller lovers will see that this book takes a lot of strategies from Gone Girl.  It is told in multiple perspectives, you aren’t sure who is a reliable character or not, there are a lot of family secrets, and everything is revealed in spurts.  The paperback version is about 430 pages, but it took me only 3 days to read.  It’s fast paced and has decent character development.  My only critiques would be that the ending is somewhat predictable, and the character Sam (a police officer) didn’t really seem necessary to the overall plot.

While we wait for Gillian Flynn (hint hint Gillian!) to crank out her new book (right now would be great!), The Perfect Girl is a satisfactory thriller that will provide you with a few days of literary entertainment.  Take it with you on a trip this summer, or as you sit by the pool.

What books are you reading this summer?  Let me know in the comments!



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The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson


Where do I even begin?

I’ve read my fair share of books that scared me, scarred me, haunted me.

But until now, I had never encountered a book that managed to do all of that while also being mesmerizing and surprisingly readable.

This book is a young woman’s (Maya) confession in a police station.  All we know at the beginning is that she and many other girls were kidnapped and endured unspeakable horrors at the hands of a man referred to as “The Gardener.”  Though reluctant at first to open up to the cops, Maya slowly shares her heartbreaking account of her childhood and life as a prisoner with the other women.

Soon we learn that the gardener tattoos each woman with large butterfly wings (each woman’s unique) on their backs and refers to them as his “butterflies.”  As Maya confesses to the cops, the reader is taken with her on the same twisted, terrifying path of discovery as to what being a “butterfly” for the Gardener entails.

We know from the beginning that Maya and other women ultimately escape.  The purpose of the story and the impending climax is how Maya eventually became free and why she seems to hesitate at incriminating her captor.  As the novel builds up to this, the author develops through Maya’s account the characters of the butterflies and the gardener, giving them a raw humanity that sparks conflicting emotions.  It’s not a victim versus villain scenario.  It’s a complicated exploration of the dichotomy of the human condition.

This book with scare you, scar you, haunt you.  Its superior writing and storytelling are worth every emotion.

Have you read this book?  Let me know in the comments what you thought!

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Filed under Fiction, horror, Mystery

Fall Reading Finds

In my last few posts, I have poured my heart out and addressed aspects of my past that have lead me to where I am today.  Today, I am going to take a break from writing about my journey of self discovery and am going to focus on one of my favorite hobbies: reading.

Over the past month(ish), I have finished four books.  Go ahead, call me a nerd/dork/bookworm/introvert.  However, when I lack inspiration for writing, I read as much as I can.  If i want to be a writer someday, I feel that reading is as important to training myself as writing is.  So what has Hilary been reading?


First up: Catch-22.  A classic book that I somehow was not forced to read in high school.  Since one of my life goals is to read all the books on the BBC book list challenge and since this books is on my list of classic books I should be ashamed I haven’t read yet, I decided it was about time I read it. To give a very brief review: this book was extremely slow moving until the last 70 pages.  I had to keep reading Sparknotes to understand just what the heck was going on.  Not that it is a hard book to read, but I kept finding my eyes glazing over every other page.  However, to give the book credit, it is supposed to be a unique novel in that its style was very different than other WWII novels at the time.  To give the book credit, some parts were funny and it had a strong message about the absurdity of war.  I wish though that I had read this book in high school to fully understand the historical and literary context.


Gillian Flynn is a phenomenal writer.  I’m sure most of you have heard of or read her newest book, Gone Girl.  I read that book too and thought it was great, until the very end.  However, I love her development of characters, the dark themes she writes on, and the shocking twists in plot.  This book came highly recommended to me by a fellow reader I have high esteem for (my mom).  It was the beginning of October and I was looking for a creepy, dark book.  Every October I get in the mood for gory slasher flicks and twisted, suspenseful books.  Sharp Objects had everything I was looking for.  Basic premise: a woman goes back to her home town to investigate the murder of two young girls.  Like Gone Girl, this book hooks you right away and keeps you guessing until the climatic end.  It’s a short book that can easily be read in one day if you have nothing else to do, or cancel all your plans because you are so enthralled in the story (which is what happened to me).


After reading Sharp Objects, I was hungry for more Gillian Flynn, more messed up protagonists, more crazy families, more twists, and more darkness!  Again, my reading guru suggested that I must read this next Gillian Flynn book.  Basic premise: one night a girl’s mother and two sisters are brutally murdered.  She escaped and survived.  Her brother gets blamed for the murders based on her testimony and is sentenced to life in prison.  Years later, desperate for money, she finds a group of people willing to pay her to find out what exactly happened to her family to seek justice for her brother.  Again, there are imperfect characters, a crazy family, and plot twists.  What I like about this book and Gone Girl is that the stories are told from different perspectives.  It switches from the present to the day leading up to the murder.  This book is longer than Sharp Objects, but I finished it quickly because the suspense hooks you in.  As I got closer and closer to the time of the murder, I forgot basic things like eating and sleeping.  For anyone looking for a dark, well written read, I recommend these two books.


It was still October, and I was still on my creepy thriller kick.  After doing some Amazon.com research, I came across this book.  I remember it from working at a bookstore because I thought the cover was intriguing.  Reviews of this book said that it was a lot like Gone Girl.  Since Gillian Flynn can’t come out with new books as fast as I am reading them, I decided to give this book a try.  Basic premise: a mom finds out her daughter committed suicide at her posh high school. She then gets a text saying her daughter didn’t jump.  For the rest of the book, the mom is trying to find out what happened to her daughter.  As she does this, she starts to learn there is a lot about her daughter she didn’t know.  I went into reading this book expecting the same great writing Gillian Flynn puts out.  That was a bad idea.  This book only compares to Gillian Flynn in that it is told from multiple perspectives and is suspenseful.  I expected huge plot twists.  There were a few, but they were revealed rather casually rather than hitting you hard like Gillian Flynn’s books.  I didn’t really like the mom character.  I found her kind of flat.  The daughter, Amelia, slowly became a more complex character but compared to Gillian Flynn’s books, she was pretty tame.  Compared to Gillian Flynn’s books, the plot twists seemed very mild and not that shocking.  Maybe they  would seem shocking if you were a very sheltered person.  Additionally, there were a lot of plot holes at the end.  The whole book seemed to build up to a huge climatic ending with tons of intrigue, but then it seemed like the author got tired of writing and just ended the story as quickly as possible.

Conclusion: read Gillian Flynn. So far, I haven’t found any other books that compare to hers.

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