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.

R.I.P. XIII Reading Challenge

Happy Labor Day to my USA friends! Today I’m joining my favorite reading challenge, Readers Imbibing Peril, which is celebrating its 13th year!

This past month has been crazy busy with real life commitments, and I haven’t had much time for reading and blogging. Hopefully things will return to normal soon so I can get back to my books…

For this year’s challenge, I’m aiming for the PERIL IN THE FIRST level, reading four books that fall into one of these categories: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, and Supernatural. (My favorites!!)

Sounds fun, right? I’ll be posting my progress on this post below, and also on Instagram, so please find me there too → Instagram: @bookofsecretsblog

R.I.P. XIII Books Read:

  1. THE EXES’ REVENGE by Jo Jakeman
  2. CROSS HER HEART by Sarah Pinborough
  3. THE LIES WE TOLD by Camilla Way
  4. A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS by Linwood Barclay
  5. LEAVE NO TRACE by Mindy Mejia
  6. THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters
  7. THE WITCH AT WILLOW HALL by Hester Fox

Thoughts on Books (#12): The Fifth of July / Where the Crawdads Sing


The Fifth of July
The Fifth of July by Kelly Simmons
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The well-to-do Warner family has been summering on Nantucket for decades – it’s tradition, after all – but this year tragedy strikes over the 4th of July holiday. The story is told from the points of view of several characters, including different family members, the housekeeper, and the caretaker, of the imposing, timeworn beach house.

Right away you can feel the undercurrents of dysfunction in this family. It keeps you wondering what tragedy is lying in wait for these troubled people, and who among them could be responsible? They may not be the most likable bunch, but I found all of their stories compelling. Actually we’re presented with three mysteries that may or may not be connected, one decades old and two recent.

Overall I enjoyed the writing style, setting, and story (Nantucket Gothic?), though I was disappointed that there were unanswered questions in the end. I felt like two of the three mysteries weren’t truly solved – or maybe they were? Anyway, the ending was confusing, but I still feel like THE FIFTH OF JULY was a worthwhile read.

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


Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here we have it, my favorite book of 2018! I think this one will be hard to top. Amazing!!

A swamp and a marsh are very different environments. A marsh is a thriving and nurturing place, and it’s there, along the North Carolina coast, that Kya lived and survived after being abandoned by her family as a young girl. Kya spent her days alone, observing the surrounding natural world, and it served her well.

Though she loved her marsh dearly, sometimes the loneliness was too much, especially as she grew into a young women. But after being abandoned by everyone she loved and shunned by the locals, who could she trust with her heart?

I don’t want to ramble on too much about the plot. This stirring, character-driven novel is part coming of age story, part mystery, and part love story — between Kya and two young men who she allows in her hidden world, but most of all, between Kya and her treasured marsh.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is a gorgeously written and haunting novel with an unforgettable heroine, the Marsh Girl. What a bittersweet ending!! Tears, tears, tears. Just lovely.

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


“Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson