Once Upon a River: my thoughts

Hey, fellow readers! Unrelated to the review, but totally related to the cover of this book: this book had been on my shelf for over two weeks and I was probably a good 100 pages in before I realized that the river on the cover is actually a swan. 😆 See, what had happened was with the lighting being dim and all and with my eyesight… ok fine, I just didn’t notice.

A brief synopsis: On a cold winter’s night, Mid Winter’s night in fact, a group of regulars are gathered at their favorite inn on the river, drinking and telling stories when a severely injured man bursts into the inn with a drowned little girl in his arms. When the little girl, who is clearly dead, awakens several hours later, it sets off a chain of events and the reader is left to guess whether something supernatural is at work here or whether there is a rational explanation.

My thoughts:

I really loved the characters in this book. They were so fleshed out and complex and with the amount of main characters, that was no small feat. I think Robert Armstrong is my favorite character I’ve come across in years. Rita Sunday was also a favorite of mine. I love how Ms. Setterfield managed to make a strong female character without trying to make her “edgy” and unpleasant. I was so invested in everything that was happening to all of these characters that I even shed a few tears when they encountered certain situations. I also thought it clever how she incorporated a black main character in a book that takes place in Victorian England. She managed to make me hate the antagonist(s) and love the rest of the characters so I’d say she nailed the characters.

As far as plot is concerned, I could not put this down once I picked it up. The atmosphere was perfect and I love how the different character’s paths intertwined to create a real suspenseful read. The whole book was incredibly mysterious and for most of the book I was wondering whether something paranormal was going on or whether there was some rational explanation for everything that happened. There were also a lot of difficult themes in this book that could potentially trigger some people but I really felt it was worth it. I found the parts dealing with the loss of a child to be especially difficult but the end result was so worth it.

The book was also very beautifully written. It came across like literary fiction without being to flowery and over the top so I really think people who shy away from LitFic would enjoy it if they like a good mystery.

It may only be February but I can tell this is going to be one of my favorite books this year and I will be recommending this book to everyone I know.

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Daughters of the Lake: My Thoughts

Brief synopsis:

Kate Granger has the perfect life. She has her dream job and her dream husband all the while being an heiress.

This all changes when she begins having strange dreams about a mysterious young woman and also finds that her husband is having an affair. She runs home to mom and dad to regroup and is shocked when a young woman’s body is washed up on the shore by her parents’ house. Nobody can figure out who the woman is but Kate recognizes her as the woman from her dreams. Now it is up to Kate to figure out what happened to this woman as she rebuilds her own life.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book enough that I kept reading even when I was thinking “REALLY?!”. The main character was as relatable as an attractive Caucasian heiress with a home on Lake Superior and free access to a quaint Bed and Breakfast and Open Bar can be to me. That being said, I actually did like her and did relate to her struggles. The book is technically a ghost story and I enjoyed the melancholy aspect of it. I enjoyed how the dreams were incorporated and how the book switched between the past and present. The actual writing was ok. Not too descriptive that I learned how the different shades of red on a flower made a character feel and not completely lacking in description either.

The plot was interesting if a little far fetched (but hey it’s a ghost story so I guess that’s ok) and there were a handful of very likeable characters. HOWEVER, there was so much in this book that was a little too good to be true. There does end up being a slight love interest in the book but it strikes me as being too good to be true. The utterly freaking perfect gay guy confidante who happens to be on hand and gives Kate access to open bar at his beautiful bed and breakfast all the while gushing over her was wayyyy too perfect. I found myself wishing he was my best friend and I really enjoyed his character but man if it wasn’t hard to believe.

The ending was a little… much… but again it’s a ghost story so ok. As far as the supernatural is concerned, there are a couple of spooky moments but nothing really scary so I would not consider this horror or even hardcore suspense. I would recommend this book to anyone who’d be interested in a light gothic read.

All in all I enjoyed it and give it 3/5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

Creepy (but not too creepy) books for fall…the classics

Greetings fellow readers! I am beyond excited we recently said goodbye to summer and hello to fall. Even though I typically veer towards gothic reads, I am still a mood reader but fall always tends to put me in an even more gothic mood than usual so I find myself reading a lot of more melancholy books this time of year. So today I thought I’d discuss some books that are creepy enough for this time of year but are considered classic literature.  Being the fan of Gothic fiction that I am, this is right up my alley and I had a lot of fun coming up with classic titles that embody the eery atmosphere that we all like to come across in books during this time of year.

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

I love the format of this book and it remains one of my favorite books of all time.

2. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier

Melancholy and full of suspense. The setting and the suspense make this story a great fall read.

3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I have a love/hate relationship with this one. Dr. Frankenstein is a character I want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into but it is fascinating and has very creepy parts.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Another all time favorite. Typical gothic fiction complete with mansion, brooding man and young female heroine.

5. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The book that kindled my love for Agatha Christie and scared the pants off 13 year old me.

6. 1984 by George Orwell

The paranoia in this book makes it terrifying. Definitely enjoyed this.

7. In a Closed Room by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Nothing at all like her other works (which I love). This one has ghosts and children. Spooky and sad.

8. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe

I am still reading this one but definitely worthy of being on this list.

9. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

You can’t get much more gothic and suspenseful than this book. A worthy classic that I loved.

10. Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell

I am currently reading and enjoying so far. This is a collection of shorter stories that are all creepy in a different way.

So that’s it. I decided to keep this shorter because I could have kept going on and on. If you have any creepy classics you think I should try please recommend them to me!

My Agatha Christie Collection

I have enjoyed Agatha Christie since my middle school days. Call it a fondness if you will (or maybe an obsession).

Ever since I was 13 years old and my school’s summer reading list included And Then There Were None. I remember clearly when my mom handed me $10 and I walked to a little used bookshop in New York and asked for any title off my list. I remember the elderly shop owner who asked me what kind of books I liked (I was into Goosebumps and the Boxcar Children at the time). He said “ah, you like mysteries so why not try this one” as he handed me an old copy of And Then There Were None. I was intrigued and with my $8 change I was able to get myself some snacks (yayyy) and I rushed home to read my new book. I couldn’t have planned it better because that evening there was a thunder storm and I settled in with my snacks and started reading. My friend called me to come over and I remember telling her I was grounded. I wasn’t. I was engrossed in my new book. I was creeped out and terrified. I was hooked.

Very few books hold such vivid memories for me but reading And Then There Were None was a milestone in my reading life. It was my first experience with an adult mystery book and I loved it. When I looked on the inside cover and saw how many other books she had written I was thrilled. Of her 80 something works I have now read 75 of them. I am not sure if it’s nostalgia, a love of cozy mysteries, or the quality of the books but these are books I have come back to again and again. Whenever I’m in a reading rut I can always pick up an A.C. and I’m all better. I think she had such an understanding of human nature and it reflects in the genius of her mysteries.

Fast forward 20 years and I’ve acquired a few of her books. When I started collecting her books, I had mainly used mass market paperback versions of her books and I still have quite a few of them. But when I saw these William Morrow Harper Collins versions, I decided to start slowly collecting them.

They are a very nice size and feel great in my hand but I don’t think I can bring myself to get rid of my older books.

I also recently acquired this beautiful leather bound version of Murder on the Orient Express.

These endpapers are just the greatest.

My shelf stats are as follows:

Print copies: 40

E-book: 1

Standalones: 5

Ms. Marples: 7

Hercule Poirots: 29

Spin-offs: 2

So there’s my modest collection. Eventually I will own all of her books and short stories. And while it will probably always be a mismatched collection, I couldn’t care less. I love them all.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, feel free to check out my post on Project Poirot (a reading project I saw on booktube) as I read through all of her Poirot books in order.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

R.I.P. Readers Imbibing Peril XIII

 

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As usual, I am late to the party.  But at least I freaking got here… right? Anywho, I came across this seasonal challenge on the Classics Club page and I really wish that I had found this, I don’t know, YEARS ago.  I practically live on mysteries and gothic suspense novels. This challenge originated with Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings but is now hosted by Heather at My Capricious Life.

About the challenge:

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:

Mystery.
Suspense.
Thriller.
Dark Fantasy.
Gothic.
Horror.
Supernatural.
There are several categories depending on your level of commitment but I chose to participate in Peril the first which will require me to read 4 books that fit within these categories.  While I don’t sign up for challenges all that often, this will work splendidly for me because A. These are usually my preferred type of books and B. This will work well and in line with the few other challenges I participate in (Project Poirot, Back to the Classics, and The Classics Club Challenge)
My choices:
1. Dracula
2. and 3. will probably be the next couple Agatha Christie’s on my Project Poirot list
4. The Hazelwood
I may change my selections, but I feel pretty confident that these will be the ones.  I am so excited to participate in this challenge for the first time! If you are also participating (since everyone seems to have already known about this challenge) please let me know what your selections are or drop a link to your post!

February wrap up

I’m probably the only one who will comment on how February seemed to drag but I felt like it did. I did some reading this month and it felt like this month was much more about quality than quantity. Some months I fly through 10 or more books but this month I read 5. Though I may have read a smaller number of titles, it was still a great reading month for me, as I read a couple that I have been meaning to get to for years and I enjoyed everything I read. Even the book I liked the least was still a book I’d recommend.

So without further ado, here are the 5 books I read in February:

Since I have already reviewed or will soon review all of these, I will not include mini reviews. Instead I will briefly mention a couple.

Longest book: The Luminaries. All 600+ pages

Shortest book: Utopia. All 85 pages.

Favorite book: Tied between The Little Prince and The Luminaries.

Least favorite book: Eternal Life

Book I’d be least likely to recommend: A Study in Scarlett

So that’s it. A quick wrap up of the books I read in February. I would recommend all of them. If you have read or plan on reading any of these I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Til next time!

The Luminaries: my thoughts

Having heard so many things about this novel, I have been wanting to read it for over a year. So I borrowed it from the library and attempted to dive in. I quickly realized that this was a book I wanted to take my sweet time with and so I returned it and bought my own copy.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A brief synopsis:

Walter Moody, a young Scottish lawyer, arrives in a gold mining town in 1866 New Zealand on a stormy night. He walks into a lounge at his hotel and disturbs… something. Inside the room are 12 men of different races and different walks of life discussing a series of mysterious events that occurred on the same day two weeks prior. A man is found dead, a prostitute is found collapsed in the street and a rich man goes missing.  When it is discovered that Moody has a slight connection to the events in question, they take him into their confidence and attempt to figure out what happened.

My thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The book was written in the style of a Victorian novel which I really really enjoyed.  It was done so well that I could really have believed it was a Victorian novel.  The structure of the novel was great.  Basically the first 300 something pages were dedicated to that night in the hotel lounge learning of the mysterious events that had taken place two weeks prior.  The whole rest of the novel takes place afterwards.  The book is divided into 12 parts and sections with a different character the focus of each.  At the beginning of each “part” there is a kind of zodiac chart that I’m afraid was lost on me but I did not find it necessary to the story. Though I did notice that the parts of the story “waned” like the moon. (Though I mean to look into it in further depth and maybe come back and amend this review) As we see a little bit more into each character’s life, a little bit of the truth is revealed, piece by piece.  It was wonderfully done in my opinion.  For a book this large – all 832 pages of it- it never dragged.  Every page was necessary to the story.

Catton’s choice of setting was spot on and she managed to bring an 1860’s goldmining town to life. She also focuses attention on the opium trade and the life of Chinese workers in a mining encampment.

I should also point out that I have never read a book with such a well crafted cast of characters.  Before this, I had considered Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express unique for its large cast of interesting characters.  Until now. There were TWENTY main characters in this book. TWENTY. I have read books with only a handful of characters that the author still manages to make flat.  I guess with an 800 page book, it’s kind of hard not to get to know the characters but Eleanor Catton managed to create 20 well rounded characters and every single one of them was integral to the story.

I guess to sum it up I’d say that there is a reason why this book won the Man Booker Prize.  I thought it was a really remarkable book.  I loved the writing, the structure, the characters, and the plot.  I highly recommend this book and I hope people are not turned off by the size.  I don’t often give 5 stars but this book I gave 5 stars, hearts, or whatever unit of measurement we are using these days.

If you have read this book, please tell me your thoughts.  I’m dying to discuss this one with someone!