Thoughts on Books (#15): Turn of the Screw / The Peacock Summer / The Little Stranger / Her Pretty Face [Audiobooks]


The Turn of the Screw
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Another ambiguous ending in this gothic fiction classic…

When a governess is hired to care for two children at a British country estate, she begins to sense an otherworldly presence around the grounds. Are they really ghosts she’s seeing? Or is something far more sinister at work?

Has the governess succumbed to madness? (If so, why?) Or are there really malevolent spirits out to get her young charges? In the end, it’s up to the reader to decide. I understand why authors do this, but sometimes it feels like a cop-out. Are there ghosts or not??

The writing was beautiful and descriptive, and there was definitely a strong creepy vibe throughout the story. I listened to this on audiobook, and Emma Thompson’s performance was amazing. Very passionate and entertaining.


The Peacock Summer
The Peacock Summer by Hannah Richell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If she could reach back through the years and warn the person she once was, what would she say? What would she say to the ghosts who now inhabit her days? So many of those she has loved are now nothing but dust and memory.

I listened to this lovely and heartbreaking novel on audio last summer, narrated by Elisabeth Hopper. It was just the right blend of mystery, historical and Gothic fiction. Dark family secrets are hidden in the walls of Cloudesley. Can Lillian save granddaughter Maggie from her same fate? Wraps up with a bittersweet ending. Enjoyable ♥


The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

I’ve had THE LITTLE STRANGER on my wish list for years, so I decided to use an Audible credit and listen to it in October. The audio was narrated by Simon Vance, and I enjoyed his performance very much. I love his voice – first heard him when I listened to BRING UP THE BODIES (which was wonderful!).

THE LITTLE STRANGER is a slow-burn, atmospheric novel of suspense. I thought it was beautifully written, quite absorbing, and downright creepy at times. It was a story that I looked forward to jumping back into. That said, I also thought it was a bit too long and drawn out, and the ending doesn’t wrap up with a tidy bow.

Set in the late 1940s, this book centers around an English physician’s relationship with a down-on-its-luck aristocratic family and their crumbling ancestral home called Hundreds Hall. Odd things are happening in the house, and family members suspect the cause is a malicious supernatural presence, but the doctor is not easily convinced.

Like I mentioned before, there’s no neat and tidy ending where everything is explained, which is a bit frustrating. I drew my own conclusions from the evidence given, and I suppose I’ll have to be satisfied with that.


Her Pretty Face
Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Awkward Frances doesn’t fit in with the snobby moms of elite Forrester Academy, so she’s surprised when the beautiful and perfect Kate wants to be her friend. The two women become very close. However, neither one knows that the other is harboring a dark secret, and one of them is a murderer.

HER PRETTY FACE is very much a slow-burner; there’s not a big mystery to figure out or fast paced suspense. The story alternates between past and present, and between three characters’ points of view: Frances, Daisy (Kate’s teenage daughter), and DJ (the wild card). Can criminal sociopaths change, and if so, should they be forgiven after serving their sentences? Do they deserve anonymity, or does society have the right to know who and where they are?

The subject matter is dark and disturbing, and according to other reviewers, this book was inspired by true events. I was hoping for a stronger mystery element, though the identity of DJ revealed at the end threw me for a loop. I listened to this on audiobook, with performances by Rebekkah Ross, Cassandra Campbell, and Kirby Heyborne. I’m already a fan of Ross and Campbell, and all three voices fit well with their character.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


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THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#10): Something in the Water / The Dress Shop of Dreams


Something in the Water
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This anxiety-inducing book was A LOT of fun to read. It’s gotten major buzz since it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick. There were 200 holds for it at my library, but I noticed ONE copy was available on the Limited Loan shelf at the branch across town. Of course, I’m there when they opened that morning to elbow my way to the top. I had to know what’s in the water!!

The opening chapter starts with a bang. You’re left wondering, how in the heck did it come to that?? The set-up: A honeymooning couple make a shocking discovery on their trip to Bora Bora. OK, so after the stunning opening, the pacing was very slow until about the 30% mark. I think I was just TOO impatient – waiting, waiting, waiting – to find out what was in the water. And then, thunk thunk thunk…

SOMETHING IN THE WATER was such an entertaining book, but also made me very nervous! Some of the decisions the characters made (especially Erin) made me STOP to blink my eyes repeatedly. What were you thinking??

After the big discovery, the author did a fantastic job keeping the suspense going and the pages turning. I can’t think of a more perfect “beach” thriller to read this summer. This is Catherine Steadman’s debut novel (wow!), and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.


The Dress Shop of Dreams
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a sweet and enchanting love story! Etta runs a very special shop where she sells dresses stitched with a wee bit of magic to help her customers’ wishes come true.

One person Etta longs to help is her granddaughter, Cora. Cora’s parents died when she was young, and for most of her life, she’s hidden herself away doing research as a scientist. She’s oblivious to the fact that her lifelong friend, Walt, is madly in love with her.

Worried that Cora will lose Walt, Etta does a little magical meddling with the best intentions. But, of course, things don’t always go as planned…

This book is a lovely blend of mystery, romance, and magical realism. Many characters are introduced, each with a compelling backstory to share. There are four separate romances happening in this book, and some overlap, but each one remains unique.

I would like to have learned more about Etta’s magical gift and where it originated, but I guess that will remain a mystery.

If you’re in need of a whimsical and uplifting novel, I’d definitely recommend THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl

THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS by Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs
THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS by Catherine Lowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jane Eyre ♥ and Wuthering Heights ♥ are two of my favorite novels, so I couldn’t pass this one up. THE MADWOMAN UPSTAIRS is about the last living Brontë descendant, and her quest to find the family’s missing literary estate – if it actually exists at all.

Samantha Whipple is a new student at Oxford. Soon after her arrival in England, she starts receiving obscure clues to finding the mysterious Brontë inheritance. Samantha was an okay character. She’s young and awkward, and tries to compensate with sarcasm and funny zingers. She had me giggling several times, though I was hoping that eventually she’d act more mature. Something that drove me nuts was the vast number of times the characters said “Pardon?” and “Sorry?” to each other. It’s like no one could understand what the other was talking about.

What I liked about this book was how the actual novels of the Brontë Sisters tied into the story. I loved hearing the characters talk about Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Agnes Grey, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Lots of interesting theories about the books and where the sisters got their inspirations.

Overall, this was a fun read, geared toward Brontë fans. {Borrowed from the library.}