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.

YULE BE DEAD by Lorraine Bartlett with Gayle Leeson {Christmas Cozy Mystery Review}


Series: Victoria Square, #5
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★¾


A Christmas crime shocks the merchants of a quaint shopping district in this latest installment of The New York Times bestselling Victoria Square series.

It’s Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly–especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan’s Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne’s mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered.

Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many–but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she’s attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.


Yule be dead — is that a great Christmas cozy mystery title, or what? This is the fifth book in the Victoria Square series, with Katie Bonner and her Artisan’s Alley merchants gearing up for the busy holiday season. Things get even more hectic when the tea shop owner’s daughter is murdered, and the questions Katie starts asking put her in hot water.

I’ve read one previous book from this series, so it was a delight to reunite with these characters. YULE BE DEAD is part mystery and part Victoria Square saga. Katie has so much going on in her life. She’s managing her business, entertaining her visiting mother-in-law (mother of her late husband), dealing with two romantic interests, and eyeing the tea shop that’s now for sale. While I enjoyed reading about all of those elements, I felt that the murder mystery got somewhat lost in the shuffle, and Katie’s investigation didn’t actually lead to the killer’s identity.

While I was hoping for a stronger mystery, I still greatly enjoyed this book. The characters and their relationships are real and complex, and I’m also looking forward to seeing where Katie’s new venture takes her.

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

LEAVE NO TRACE by Mindy Mejia {Review}

Leave No Trace
LEAVE NO TRACE by Mindy Mejia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mindy Mejia’s latest novel is part mystery/part survivalist story, set in and near Minnesota’s wilderness area called the Boundary Waters. A boy named Lucas disappeared with his father in this place, and a decade later at age 19 he makes a rather violent reappearance. Where has he been for 10 years, and what happened to his father?

Unwilling to communicate with authorities, Lucas is sent to a mental health facility, where he’s assigned to Maya Stark, a young speech therapist, in hopes she’ll make a connection with him. Maya is struggling with her own troubling secrets and personal issues, and on top of that Lucas proves to be a very difficult patient.

I’m left with a lukewarm feeling towards this book. I was drawn in by the unique premise and loved the survivalist aspects of the story and the wilderness descriptions. I did keep wondering how the pieces of the puzzle would fit, and I liked the twist that brought everything together.

On the other hand, I felt like this book was too slow paced to be a suspense/thriller. I struggled to become invested in the characters, and Maya, in particular, I never cared for. She wasn’t that interesting and her actions were downright unethical. I also never understood why a 23-year old speech therapist with little experience would be put in charge of a high-profile, dangerous patient.

I adored Mindy Mejia’s first book, and though LEAVE NO TRACE didn’t thrill me as much, I will definitely keep an eye out for her next novel.

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