THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#10): Something in the Water / The Dress Shop of Dreams


Something in the Water
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This anxiety-inducing book was A LOT of fun to read. It’s gotten major buzz since it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick. There were 200 holds for it at my library, but I noticed ONE copy was available on the Limited Loan shelf at the branch across town. Of course, I’m there when they opened that morning to elbow my way to the top. I had to know what’s in the water!!

The opening chapter starts with a bang. You’re left wondering, how in the heck did it come to that?? The set-up: A honeymooning couple make a shocking discovery on their trip to Bora Bora. OK, so after the stunning opening, the pacing was very slow until about the 30% mark. I think I was just TOO impatient – waiting, waiting, waiting – to find out what was in the water. And then, thunk thunk thunk…

SOMETHING IN THE WATER was such an entertaining book, but also made me very nervous! Some of the decisions the characters made (especially Erin) made me STOP to blink my eyes repeatedly. What were you thinking??

After the big discovery, the author did a fantastic job keeping the suspense going and the pages turning. I can’t think of a more perfect “beach” thriller to read this summer. This is Catherine Steadman’s debut novel (wow!), and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.


The Dress Shop of Dreams
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a sweet and enchanting love story! Etta runs a very special shop where she sells dresses stitched with a wee bit of magic to help her customers’ wishes come true.

One person Etta longs to help is her granddaughter, Cora. Cora’s parents died when she was young, and for most of her life, she’s hidden herself away doing research as a scientist. She’s oblivious to the fact that her lifelong friend, Walt, is madly in love with her.

Worried that Cora will lose Walt, Etta does a little magical meddling with the best intentions. But, of course, things don’t always go as planned…

This book is a lovely blend of mystery, romance, and magical realism. Many characters are introduced, each with a compelling backstory to share. There are four separate romances happening in this book, and some overlap, but each one remains unique.

I would like to have learned more about Etta’s magical gift and where it originated, but I guess that will remain a mystery.

If you’re in need of a whimsical and uplifting novel, I’d definitely recommend THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl

DREAMS OF FALLING by Karen White {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.


“We are made by those who have built and broken us.” Set in gorgeous South Carolina lowcountry, DREAMS OF FALLING is about the strongest friendships and the painful secrets that test their bonds.

This is a multi-generational story told in both the past and present. In the early 1950s, three friends, Ceecee, Margaret, and Bitty, hide their wishes in the trunk of a magical tree, but the outcome was nothing like they’d expected. Be very careful what you wish for! Keeping secrets, even with the best intentions, can be so harmful even many years down the road.

In present day, Larkin returns to Georgetown, South Carolina, after nearly a decade in New York. Her mother Ivy is badly injured, and Larkin believes she wants to tell her something – about the past, their ancestral home, and Larkin’s grandmother. She’s been kept in the dark for so long that learning the truth will finally be a reprieve…

DREAMS OF FALLING is beautifully written Southern fiction with a Gothic touch, and a bit of mystery and romance too. It took me a few chapters to really get into the flow of things, especially trying to keep characters straight (ages, relationships, etc.), but once I was familiar with everyone, the story flowed nicely. The ending is sure to tug at your heartstrings.

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

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#8): Every Single Secret / Then She Was Gone (Audiobook) / The Storm King


Every Single Secret
Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Always us.” Daphne and Heath are an engaged couple, seemingly perfect for each other. Both have a dark, troubled past, and both are fine with keeping the secrets of their childhoods hidden from each other.

Their system works until Heath starts having terrible nightmares in which he becomes downright violent. Daphne begrudgingly agrees to go with Heath on a week-long retreat with an unorthodox psychologist. What could possibly go wrong in this remote mountain manor house cut off from the rest of the world? Daphne will soon find out…

EVERY SINGLE SECRET was a wonderfully creepy book that kept me on edge. The author did a great job creating suspense by gradually revealing these unsettling little tidbits, both in present day and also Daphne’s past. The ending was a whirlwind that I did not see coming!

I’ve read one other book by Emily Carpenter – Burying the Honeysuckle Girls – which I also enjoyed very much. She knows how to write compelling Southern Gothic Fiction.


Then She Was Gone
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this was a brilliant and haunting and gut-wrenching thriller. To say it was gripping is an understatement! I listened to most of THEN SHE WAS GONE on audio, and I have to say first that narrator Helen Duff gave a stellar performance voicing the many characters in this book. Loved the audio. However, at about the 70% mark, I had to switch to the eBook so I could read FASTER!

Ten years after her teenage daughter Ellie disappeared, Laurel is still struggling with her loss. Not surprisingly, it took a heavy toll on Laurel’s life and relationships. Not long after new evidence is discovered that may lead to some sense of closure, she starts dating an intriguing man called Floyd, who has a precocious young daughter named Poppy. While Laurel is completely swept off her feet by Floyd, there’s something unsettling about Poppy that she can’t overlook…

This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I’ve read, and I was totally riveted! Her characters and their reactions and interactions felt so real. I enjoyed how the mystery was more of a why/how situation and it kept me wondering how Laurel was going to fit all of the puzzle pieces together. The whole book was dark, emotional, and suspenseful, and yep, I’ll call it haunting again. Definitely a story that will stick with me now that it’s finished. Can’t wait to read more from Lisa Jewell!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Audiobook borrowed from the library.


The Storm King
The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Storm King returns… Nate McHale left Greystone Lake 14 years ago, just after the disappearance of his high school girlfriend, Lucy. His sad and turbulent childhood led him and his small band of friends to punish those whom they felt had wronged them. But at what cost? How do your actions in the past ultimately affect other people? When human remains are found in the lake, Nate returns for the funeral only to find the tables have turned, and now someone is out for revenge on him and his band of vigilantes.

THE STORM KING is part coming of age story and part mystery/suspense. A rather complex mystery, at that. I do enjoy Brendan Duffy’s writing style — it’s descriptive and clever, and easily pulls the reader into the story. While the intertwining mysteries in this book had me curious, I felt like the plot moved too slowly and things were too drawn out. It was hard, too, because it was difficult for me to sympathize with any of the main characters or their motivations, which given Nate’s childhood tragedy, shouldn’t have been the case.

While this book didn’t grab me quite like his first, House of Echoes, I think readers who enjoy slow burn, atmospheric tales should give it a try. It definitely highlights the point that actions have consequences, even many years down the road.


“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#7): The Death of Mrs. Westaway / The Summer That Made Us (Audiobook) / The Secrets She Keeps (Audiobook)


The Death of Mrs. Westaway
The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

★ This was my 500th review posted on Goodreads! ★

First, I want to point out that stunning Gothic book cover: bleak foggy weather, black iron gate, and menacing magpies looming overhead… It fits this dark, atmospheric tale perfectly!

Harriet Westaway, who goes by Hal, ekes out a living as a tarot card reader on the pier in Brighton. Hal is alone in the world, and life is a struggle, especially during the off-season when clients are scarce.

Things are pretty bad for Hal, until one day she receives a letter telling her that she’s been named as a beneficiary in her grandmother’s will. However, the deceased Mrs. Westaway isn’t her grandmother – but does that really have to matter?

Hal thinks that maybe her years of reading tarot cards will help her pull off a grand deception and walk away with the inheritance money. So, she’s off to Mrs. Westaway’s creepy ramshackle estate and the dark secrets hidden there…

This was an eerie, suspenseful, and well-written Gothic mystery. I could definitely see influences from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (which I loved). I enjoyed trying to figure out how Hal’s puzzle piece fit in with this haunted family. The sinister atmosphere and delicious twists kept me glued to the pages.

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The Summer That Made Us
The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Robyn Carr’s books. She’s one of my favorite authors, so it was a joy being a part of her new family of characters in THE SUMMER THAT MADE US, even though these women were dealing with some major dysfunction!

The Hempstead sisters (who married two brothers) were once very close, and they spent every summer with their daughters (three each) at the family’s idyllic Minnesota lake house. Then during the summer of 1989, tragedy strikes. As a result, the family is torn apart; lives are turned upside down. It’s not until decades later that the women dare venture back to the lake house and attempt to make amends – some more willing than others.

THE SUMMER THAT MADE US is an emotional and complex family drama, with the characters dealing not only with their estrangement from each other, but also with difficult personal issues. The author did a beautiful job constructing this story, especially with so many voices. There were a couple of characters that I wished we’d heard more from, but overall I think the focus stayed where it needed to be. Fantastic summer read!

(Parts of this book I listened to on audio, and as always, Therese Plummer did a fabulous job of bringing Robyn Carr’s characters to life.)

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The Secrets She Keeps
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Agatha and Meghan, two women with very different lives, have one thing in common: they’re both pregnant with due dates close to each other. To Agatha, Meghan’s life seems perfect. Meghan already has two beautiful children, as well as a handsome and successful husband, while Agatha must get by on a grocery store clerk’s salary and a detached boyfriend. But, as so often’s the case, not everything is as it seems.

THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS is an absorbing psychological thriller, and the first book I’ve read by Michael Robotham. The story alternates between Agatha and Meghan’s points of view, and I was impressed with how well-developed their characters were, and how quickly I was wrapped up in their web of secrets and lies.

This book isn’t as twisty and fast paced as most thrillers. It’s more a suspense novel that makes you think about the characters, their actions, and what has brought them to this point in life. Victim or villain – who should we sympathize with?

Listening to this book on audio was an enjoyable experience. Lucy Price-Lewis gave distinct voices to Agatha, Meghan, and the cast of supporting characters.

Thank you to the publisher for providing me a copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.


“There is something at work in my soul, which I do not understand.” ― Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#1): Bonfire / Snowfall on Haven Point / Our Little Secret


Bonfire
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was impressed with Krysten Ritter’s debut novel. I’m kind of out of touch with TV & movies, so I didn’t realize the author was an actor until finishing. I quickly grabbed this title when I saw it was suspense and didn’t pay much attention to the blurb. Anyway, I enjoyed it.

Abby Williams is an environmental lawyer who’s returned to her tiny hometown to investigate possible contamination by a plastics company with a whole lot of influence in Barrens, Indiana. Abby hasn’t been home in ten years, not since her friend-turned-bully disappeared just after graduation. Barrens is full of bad memories for Abby, but her relationship with the town and people in it is unresolved, which is why this troubling pollution case is important to her.

I liked the author’s writing style and her ability to hook me with her flawed and not-so-likable characters. The overall atmosphere of the book is dark and foreboding, perfect for this gripping mystery/suspense. Looking forward to more from Krysten Ritter.


Snowfall on Haven Point (Haven Point, #5)
Snowfall on Haven Point by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a freebie from Harlequin on Christmas Eve. I was in the mood for a sweet small town holiday romance, and SNOWFALL ON HAVEN POINT was just what I was looking for. Sheriff Marshall Bailey is laid up with a broken leg at his sister’s house, recovering from a hit and run. With his family out of town, his sister’s friend Andie is saddled with caring for the stubborn, grumpy man. While Marshall’s wounds are physical, Andie is dealing with emotional ones, starting with the death of her husband two years ago. Along with the developing romance between Marshall and Andie are two intriguing side stories, including the mystery surrounding the hit and run. This is the fifth book in the Haven Point series. I read the first one a couple of years ago, and now I want to go back and read the rest. I love RaeAnne Thayne’s realistic, relatable characters and cozy small town settings. Enjoyed.


Our Little Secret
Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A woman is questioned by police after her ex-boyfriend’s wife disappears. Lots of great reviews for this book, but unfortunately it wasn’t for me. The story lacked suspense, and the characters didn’t grab my attention. I usually enjoy unlikable or unreliable characters, but not so much this time. I couldn’t understand the reasoning behind many things the characters did or said. Maybe if I was clearer about who the “our” was in the title, and also which “little secret” it’s referring to. I liked the final twist though.


“No two persons ever read the same book.” ― Edmund Wilson