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 ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️

The most disturbing book I’ve read this year…so far

Hello fellow readers. Today I wanted to discuss a book that really disturbed me. I am still gathering my thoughts and I am unsure as to whether I liked or hated this book. The book in question is… the Dumb House by John Burnside.

A brief synopsis:

Young Luke is fascinated with the secrets of the human soul and how it relates to human language. He becomes obsessed with a story his mother told him as a child about the Dumb House, a palace where children were raised in complete seclusion and never hearing human speech. He decided to conduct his own experiment with children and creates his own version of the Dumb House.

My thoughts:

The book is told from Luke’s perspective and I have to say that it was very disturbing to be inside the mind of a psychopath. The book opens where it eventually ends and we go back into Luke’s childhood and his relationship with his parents. From the onset it is very apparent that his family environment is unhealthy. Without over analyzing, I saw that he was governed completely by his mother who haunts the rest of the story. His relationship with his father is almost nonexistent. As he grows older, his twisted tendencies go unchecked (you might even say that they were encouraged) and he takes it upon himself to begin experimenting on animals seeking answers about life and the question of where soul comes into play. His later relationships with other characters are twisted and when he performs his biggest “experiment” I was appalled.

As a human and especially as a mother I was completely disgusted and uncomfortable throughout the whole book. I found certain parts very difficult to read.

The writing was excellent. The sentence structure and language were well done and narrating the book from Luke’s thoughts were a great way to present such disturbing content. I was inside his mind the entire time and I was uncomfortable even while I kept reading. Beginning the book at the end and then working from his childhood to the end was probably the best way this story could have been told. While I would consider it a psychological thriller, it is not the quickest paced book out there. Nevertheless, even with the disturbing content and relatively slow pace, I found myself turning pages wanting to know what happened next and hoping it wouldn’t get any worse. It did.

All in all I found it to be disturbingly interesting though I probably won’t read this again. This is not a book I’d recommend to everyone but if you are looking for something disturbing to read that isn’t as gory as some other more horror type books than this might be worth your time (though I’d recommend checking out my warning below).

Warning ⚠️

This books contains elements of child abuse, possible child molestation, rape, exploiting of mental illness, and cruelty to animals.

If you’ve read this book please tell me what you thought. I’m still gathering my thoughts and can’t tell how I’d rate it but I’d love to discuss with someone.

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!

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!