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.

Short Story Review: THE LOTTERY by Shirley Jackson

TheLottery
Original Publication: The New Yorker
Publication Date: June 26, 1948
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★★


The Lottery is a short story by Shirley Jackson which caused quite an uproar when it was published in 1948. It’s about an annual lottery held in a seemingly idyllic village, and readers don’t find out the winner’s prize until the end.

On the day of the drawing, the weather is gorgeous, and the townspeople happily gather in the square for the drawing, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. They talk about how this event has been a part of their village’s history for as long as anyone can remember, and though surrounding towns are doing away with the lottery, this particular village doesn’t want to mess with tradition.

This tale is short, but it packs quite a punch. It only took reading a couple of paragraphs before I got an ominous feeling about the whole thing, and the conclusion was nothing but disturbing. While a 21st century reader may or may not be as affected by the ending as the original audience, the underlying message of Jackson’s story is just as relevant today as ever. The Lottery is definitely worth reading a time or two.