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 (#14): The Last Woman in the Forest / Séances Are For Suckers / The Witch of Willow Hall / Cross Her Heart


The Last Woman in the Forest
The Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Marian is a conservationist who works with rescue dogs in research projects, often in very remote and dangerous locations. After her boyfriend Tate is killed on assignment, she begins to suspect that he was responsible for the unsolved murders of four young women. Marian enlists the aid of a retired criminal profiler in hopes of putting her mind to rest.

The cold, desolate, and quiet natural setting of this book added an eerie sense of dread to the story. The writing was beautiful, and the ending was not what I expected. The story jumps around quite a bit, before and after Tate’s death, and also snippets from the victims leading up to their encounter with the murderer. There was a big focus on descriptions of the natural world and conservation projects which were enjoyable, though I would have liked the characters to have been fleshed out more. It was a bit slow moving for a mystery/suspense, but it held my attention and kept me guessing until the end.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.


Séances are for Suckers (Eleanor Wilde Mystery #1)
Séances are for Suckers by Tamara Berry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eleanor (Ellie) Wilde doesn’t believe in the paranormal, but that doesn’t stop her from making a living as a medium. She doesn’t consider herself a fake, because she really can solve pesky ghost problems. The ghosts, however, are typically rats in the attic or rattling pipes — but her clients don’t need to know that.

Ellie is flown to England to the ancestral manor home of Nicholas Hartford III. His mother is convinced they’re being haunted by a spirit called Xavier, and Nicholas wants Ellie to put Xavier to rest. Before that happens though, Ellie stumbles across a dead body. Now she’s charged with solving the mystery of Xavier and that of the stranger’s corpse that disappeared in the blink of an eye.

I enjoyed this first book in the Eleanor Wilde Mystery series. Ellie was a great character — witty, astute, clever, and likable — even if she is a bit of a con-artist. There’s a touching side story with Ellie and her ailing sister, and you can see how much she cares about her family. SÉANCES ARE FOR SUCKERS is a charming cozy mystery mixed with romance and a touch of “real” paranormal, which I’m excited to see what happens next with that!

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


The Witch of Willow Hall
The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

THE WITCH OF WILLOW HALL is a wonderful throwback to those beloved vintage gothic romances. Set in 1821, the story follows the Montrose family as a scandal in Boston sends them retreating to the small town of New Oldbury. Their fresh start in the country is anything but peaceful, as a malevolent force seems to be plaguing their home, Willow Hall. Will middle daughter Lydia’s inheritance of a powerful family legacy be able to save them? Unfortunately, I was in a rush to finish this book and get it back to the library in time, so I didn’t get to savor it like I wanted to!! Still, I thought WILLOW HALL was an enjoyable witchy read and an impressive debut from Hester Fox. Just the right about of spooky goodness and sweet romance. Borrowed from the library.


Cross Her Heart
Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unfortunately this book didn’t work for me. I found it slow and repetitive, and lacking any big surprises that made me want to keep reading. The twist at the end was so far-fetched, which sometimes can be entertaining (like in her previous book, Behind Her Eyes), but this time I was just shaking my head. I see lots of positive reviews for Cross Her Heart, so probably an “it’s me” situation here. Borrowed from the library.


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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.