Thoughts on Books (#16): Northern Encounter / Edgar Allan Poe: The Complete Short Stories / A Discovery of Witches


Northern Encounter
Northern Encounter by Jennifer LaBrecque
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I needed an uplifting change of pace from my usual dark suspense/thriller reads, and NORTHERN ENCOUNTER fit the bill perfectly. A romance set in Alaska is the perfect escape. I’ll probably never get there, so reading about it is the next best thing.

Clint is a Native Alaskan and wilderness guide who’s hired by Tessa, a videographer from Arizona. She’s come to the town of Good Riddance to film the magnificent landscape for her latest project. They feel an attraction to each other, though both have reasons for not wanting a relationship. The characters were strong, and their conflicts were realistic. Of course, I absolutely loved the small town Alaska setting. The secondary characters were likable and interesting too. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series!


The Complete Short Stories
The Complete Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A motley collection of short stories from Poe (the complete collection!) – horror, suspense, comedy, detective, general life observations, even science fiction. At times the stories are too wordy, but Poe always entertains with his grand imagination. I greatly enjoyed Bob Thomley’s narration of the audiobook. ♥


A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m finishing up this chunkster book today. I liked it, though maybe not as much as I thought I would. The world building was quite interesting, and I was impressed with the scientific and historical research. I’m very curious about the magical book Diana found, and why the various creatures want it.

On the flip side, the many descriptions of things — rowing, horseback riding, food, wine, hunting, etc — slowed the pace down. I liked witchy Diana, but never warmed up to Matthew. Does he get more likable in future books??

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES has been sitting on my TBR shelf for 8 years (!!!), so I’m glad I finally read it. Will definitely continue the series at some point.


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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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Reading Wrap-Up {3}

Happy New Year’s Eve!! It’s time once again for Reading Wrap-Up, my “book thoughts” post for non-review books I’ve read recently. I’m trying to squeeze one more of these in before the year ends.

2015 wasn’t the best year for me for number of books read – 50 total – but it was a great year quality-wise, which to me is most important! I read (or re-read) several classics by Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and Edgar Allan Poe. I read some really good suspense/thrillers (my favorite fiction genre), and some amazing historical fiction, like Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell series, books one and two.

Since the clock to New Year’s is ticking, I’ll move on to the wrap-up:

LineofBlood A Line of Blood
by Ben McPherson
★★★

Great murder mystery, set in London (yay!), BUT it had some of the most unlikable, insufferable characters you’ll ever meet. They were nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying, but I couldn’t quit reading until I knew what really happened to that poor neighbor.

Brother Brother
by Ania Ahlborn
★★½

I absolutely LOVED her last book (Within These Walls), but this one – not so much. BROTHER was dark, which I like, but it was really gory and violent, with nothing in the end that made all that worthwhile. I suppose it was a look at what the endless cycle of abuse can bring about. Sad.

TheGrownup The Grownup
by Gillian Flynn
★★★★

This was an intriguing short story (or novella?) by the author of Gone Girl, one of my faves from last year. I enjoyed it. It was fun trying to figure out if there really was some paranormal woo-woo going on or not. Nice creepy Gothic vibe.

PrideandPrejudice Pride and Prejudice (Audiobook)
by Jane Austen
★★★★★

What can you say about Pride & Prejudice that hasn’t already been said? For my re-read, I listened to the audiobook narrated by Carolyn Seymour. She was fabulous with the voices! I especially loved her performance as Mrs. Bennet. Wonderful.