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 (#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

THE LIAR’S GIRL by Catherine Ryan Howard {Audiobook Review}


Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★¼


Will Hurley was an attractive, charming, and impressive student at Dublin’s elite St. John’s College – and Ireland’s most prolific serial killer. Having stalked his five young victims, he drowned them in the muddy waters of the Grand Canal. Sentenced to life imprisonment when he was just 19, Will is locked away in the city’s Central Psychiatric Hospital.

Freshman Alison Smith moved to the Big Smoke to enroll in St. John’s and soon fell hard for Will Hurley. Her world bloomed…and then imploded when Liz, her best friend, became the latest victim of the Canal Killer – and the Canal Killer turned out to be the boy who’d been sleeping in her bed. Alison fled to the Netherlands and, in 10 years, has never once looked back.

When a young woman’s body is found in the Grand Canal, Garda detectives visit Will to see if he can assist them in solving what looks like a copycat killing. Instead, Will tells them he has something new to confess – but there’s only one person he’s prepared to confess it to.The last thing Alison wants is to be pulled back into the past she’s worked so hard to leave behind. Reluctantly, she returns to the city she hasn’t set foot in for more than a decade to face the man who murdered the woman she was supposed to become.

Only to discover that, until now, Will has left out the worst part of all.


Poor Alison Smith. She couldn’t wait to move to Dublin and attend St. John’s College with her best friend Liz, but her happiness was short-lived. Will, the charming boy Alison fell in love with freshman year, turned out to be a serial killer, and worse yet was that his last victim was Liz. A decade passes with Will locked up and Alison trying to forget that terrible time, when a copycat killer strikes. Will has new information to share that may help police, but the only person he’s willing to talk to is Alison.

THE LIAR’S GIRL is an absorbing slow-burn novel of suspense. I was easily wrapped up in the lives of the characters. The author has an engaging and descriptive writing style that makes the reader feel like part of the story. The mystery was constructed well and kept me guessing. I loved that final disturbing twist which brought everything together.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Alana Kerr Collins, with smaller parts by Alan Smyth and Gary Furlong. Ms. Collins’ performance of Alison was fitting with her character – not overly dramatic, yet emotional and expressive when the situation called for it. Alan Smyth narrated Catherine Ryan Howard’s previous book DISTRESS SIGNALS, and I loved, loved, loved his performance. Though his part was smaller in this book, he was just as wonderful. I’d listen to anything he narrates.

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


★ Happy Blogoversary to me! Book of Secrets was launched on St. Patrick’s Day 2010. ★

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#5): Wicked Plants (Audiobook) / An American Witch in Paris


Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WICKED PLANTS was an Audible Daily Deal, and with that title and cover, I couldn’t resist downloading it. The book is a curious and often unsettling encyclopedia of plants that have caused harm in one way or another throughout the centuries. I don’t think a lot about plants being dangerous, but after reading this I definitely should. I was surprised that even some everyday foods can be harmful. (There’s a reason cashews aren’t sold in their shell.) However the most harmful of plants kills nearly 6 million people per year. (You can probably guess what it is.)

The audiobook was narrated by Coleen Marlo, and she did a fabulous job making each culprit plant seem down right sinister. I will say that I also checked out the hardcover of this book so I could see the illustrations and read the scientific names of all the plants. There were many presented and they moved by quickly, so it was nice to have a physical copy to reference.


An American Witch in Paris (Harlequin Nocturne)
An American Witch in Paris by Michele Hauf
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A straight-laced vampire and a saucy American witch come together in Paris to save humanity. Vampire Ethan and witch Tuesday are memorable leads, with an intriguing supporting cast aiding their perilous mission. The world-building and conflicts were exciting. I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long time, so this book was a lot of fun. One thing that didn’t work for me was some of what Tuesday was saying or thinking didn’t fit with a centuries-old witch. (Example: She would call troublesome men “Richards” instead of … well, you know.) AN AMERICAN WITCH IN PARIS is loosely tied to others Michele Hauf has published with Nocturne, though it can easily be read stand-alone. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero