ONCE UPON A RIVER by Diane Setterfield {Review}

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release Date: December 4, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★½

From the instant #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “eerie and fascinating” (USA TODAY) The Thirteenth Tale comes a richly imagined, powerful new novel about the wrenching disappearance of three little girls and the wide-reaching effect it has on their small town.

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

Once Upon a River is a glorious tapestry of a book that combines folklore and science, magic and myth. Suspenseful, romantic, and richly atmospheric, the beginning of this novel will sweep you away on a powerful current of storytelling, transporting you through worlds both real and imagined, to the triumphant conclusion whose depths will continue to give up their treasures long after the last page is turned.

Once Upon a River, a grown-up fairy tale that celebrates the art of storytelling. On a winter solstice night, 1800s, an injured stranger stumbles into an inn near the river, and in his arms is the body of a young girl. One moment she’s dead, and in the next — she lives.

The members of the small community are fascinated with the girl. Who is she? What happened to her? And more important, how is she now alive? Families come forward claiming her as their lost loved one, but the girl only focuses on the river.

The writing in this book was quite lovely and lyrical. The story itself moved at a languid pace like the meandering river at its heart. While I was very curious about the mystery surrounding the girl, there were parts where I felt the story was too wordy and my interest waned. Still, Once Upon a River is a unique read that will appeal to lovers of magical folklore.

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


The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There was A LOT going on in THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY, the first book in a series by the same name. It’s a combination of steampunk, fantasy, time-travel, and adventure – not genres I usually read, though I was curious nonetheless.

Main character Irene works for “The Library” as a librarian spy, someone who travels to the many alternate worlds surrounding the library and finds important and rare books for their collection. Some worlds have supernatural beings, some are more science based, some are chaotic, some not.

The world building was good. Solid and complex. On the flip side, I felt like the characters could have been developed more. I couldn’t quite click with them. Again, there was a lot going on this book, and the first half, especially, was all over the place. A fun fantasy adventure with some cool elements, though I’m not certain I will continue on with the series.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program.

ROSES AND ROT by Kat Howard (Audiobook)

Roses and Rot
ROSES AND ROT by Kat Howard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If I had to label this book, I’d call it a New Adult Fairy Tale, which I know some readers will devour. For me, ROSES AND ROT was an okay story, though not as “Gothic” as I was expecting.

Two sisters, Imogen and Marin, are accepted into an exclusive artists’ colony called Melete. Only the best of the best are invited to join. It seems wonderful in theory, especially since the sisters have different talents and wouldn’t be in competition with each other. Well, not everything is as it seems at Melete.

I had a hard time connecting with the characters – they weren’t that interesting to me, though the crazy fairy tale their lives became was entertaining. What really kept me listening was the narration by Madeleine Maby. I love her voice, and she knows how to expertly tell a story.

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


Series: Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1
Publisher: Quirk Books
Released: June 7, 2011
Source: Borrowed from the Library

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


Sometimes it’s good to read outside the box. I can count the number of Young Adult books I’ve read on one hand, so MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is not something I’d typically pick up, but I’m glad I did. I gave it a chance just because I was intrigued by the title and was drawn in by the creepy cover, and I ended up greatly enjoying the story.

It’s difficult to categorize this book – maybe a Gothic fantasy? Not scary really, but overall there was a dark, eerie atmosphere that I loved. Plus the setting is a remote, rocky island off the coast of Wales, complete with spooky bogs and sharp, jagged cliffs which adds to the unease. And, at the heart of the book are these amazing unaltered vintage photographs, and the story is told around them. It’s very unique to say the least.

I don’t want to say much about the plot – just read the blurb. I knew very little about this book going in, and I think I enjoyed it even more with the element of surprise. A suspenseful mystery, strong, memorable characters, and an ominous setting make this a great read for adults as well as teens. Looking forward to the next book, Hollow City.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Book Review: DARK WITCH by Nora Roberts

Series: The Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Released: October 29, 2013
Source: Purchased by me

With indifferent parents, Iona Sheehan grew up craving devotion and acceptance. From her maternal grandmother, she learned where to find both: a land of lush forests, dazzling lakes, and centuries-old legends.


County Mayo, to be exact. Where her ancestors’ blood and magic have flowed through generations—and where her destiny awaits.

Iona arrives in Ireland with nothing but her Nan’s directions, an unfailingly optimistic attitude, and an innate talent with horses. Not far from the luxurious castle where she is spending a week, she finds her cousins, Branna and Connor O’Dwyer. And since family is family, they invite her into their home and their lives.

When Iona lands a job at the local stables, she meets the owner, Boyle McGrath. Cowboy, pirate, wild tribal horsemen, he’s three of her biggest fantasy weaknesses all in one big, bold package.

Iona realizes that here she can make a home for herself—and live her life as she wants, even if that means falling head over heels for Boyle. But nothing is as it seems. An ancient evil has wound its way around Iona’s family tree and must be defeated. Family and friends will fight with each other and for each other to keep the promise of hope—and love—alive…


Why was this book momentous? Because it was the first one by Nora Roberts I’ve read! *woots* It took long enough, didn’t it? Unfortunately, it turned out to be just an okay read. Not bad, but not great. Admittedly, I set the bar pretty high. Magic, witches, Ireland, a romance with a sexy Irishman. This story had all my favorite things, and there were parts I enjoyed, and parts that could have been better.

I loved the first couple of chapters that gave readers the history of the Dark Witch, a woman named Sorcha. Sorcha’s story took place in the 13th century, and we learn that an evil sorcerer is pursuing her and threatening her three children. Fast-forward to present day County Mayo. Three of Sorcha’s descendants are preparing to do battle with the sorcerer, who has returned to seek revenge for what happened to him 700 years ago.

I definitely enjoyed the secondary characters in this book more than the hero and heroine. The heroine is Iona, and she’s come to Ireland to find her cousins, find a home, find love, be loved… She was kind of desperate and needy. I felt like I was missing a big chunk of her back story to understand her. Unfortunately there wasn’t much remarkable about the hero, Boyle, and I couldn’t feel much chemistry between him and Iona. Now, the secondary characters I loved, in particular Cousin Branna and Fin. Branna is a talented witch and one of Sorcha’s descendants, and Finn has his own connection to the Dark Witch, too. They were once a couple until something went horribly wrong, but the passion between them is still there.

The setting was gorgeous, the magic was intriguing, and even though the romance fizzled between Iona and Boyle, I plan to read the rest of the trilogy. Branna and Fin!

Rating: 3 Stars