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 (#6): Five Mini Reviews


Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye – especially one that sounds like a combination of Heathers and The Craft. I wasn’t wowed by the book, though it was a quirky read, with some fun parts and sad moments too. With such an interesting premise – a novice witch raising a gang of zombie girls from the dead to solve their murders – I was hoping for a little more. I’m bummed that the mystery got lost in a lot of the stereotypical high school drama and caricatures (which slowed down the plot for me). Good book, not great. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a review copy.


Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CLOSE TO HOME was part contemporary domestic thriller and part police procedural, though probably too heavy on the investigation side for my liking. DI Adam Fawley is the main investigator, though it flipped back and forth between him and other detectives. I felt like it didn’t matter which detective did what, as they needed more personality or back story to grab my attention. The mystery of the missing girl was intriguing and had plenty of twists. The big reveal at the end was great but kind of out there. This book has gotten lots of great reviews, though for some reason I had a hard time really getting into it. Not bad, but didn’t wow. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for a review copy.


Blackwater Lake
Blackwater Lake by Maggie James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read of 2018! What secrets are hidden at Blackwater Lake? I was very impressed with this novella. Though short in length, the book’s characters and plot were well developed. Great mystery/suspense, and a freebie from B&N too. Would love to read more from Maggie James.


A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, you can’t love them all. Almost DNF’d this book at 33%, but decided to skim the rest just to see where it went. The premise was certainly intriguing, but the slow pace, implausible situations, and wooden characters turned me off. I’d maybe give this book 1.5 stars? I thought her first book, The Couple Next Door, was entertaining, suspenseful, and fun, but unfortunately A Stranger in the House didn’t work for me.


Tin Man
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, dreamy almost, and heartbreaking subject matter. Nevertheless, I’m in the minority as I didn’t love this book. It lacked a strong plot and felt disjointed, and I also felt like I was observing these characters from a distance instead of being a part of their stories. In the end it seems like I missed something in Tin Man that everyone else easily found.


“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” – Alan Bennett

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