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.

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.