Once Upon a River – Diane Setterfield [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★

‘’A river no more begins at its source than a story begins with the first page.’’

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is a story that had the perfect plot potential to be amazing, but it didn’t deliver at all. As a huge fan of storytelling, this was a big disappointment for me, the biggest one so far in 2019. 

‘’There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers, and there are stories that are never told at all.’’

The story happens in a small city, on the river Thames. It features the pub Swan, where people gather every night, and everyone knows each other, and they all tell stories all night and enjoy their company.

If you have ever been to England, it is so easy to imagine the setting of a pub, warm place, crowded with people laughing and talking loudly, glasses clinking and people singing random songs in the background. A lot of positive noise and enchanting atmosphere.

And one night, the usual setting is being disturbed, when a man enters the pub with a little girl in his arms, and then passes away. The girl appears to not be breathing for a while, and everyone thinks she is dead, but suddenly, she is breathing again. And the man that is with her is not her father.

As the town is used to, they make stories of it. How it happened, who is the father, does she have a family, why was she drowning in the river… The plot entangles when the family is to be found of the little girl, but a few people claim she is their relative.

‘’Something happens and then something else happens and then all sorts of other things happen, expected and unexpected, unusual and ordinary.’’

The storytelling and the writing of the author was beautiful. At times. The beginning was a paradise for booklovers. The best first chapters I read this year. But after the plot opening, everything started going downhill.

It felt like being on this rollercoaster,excited, going slowly upwards, slowly reaching the top, ready to fall so fast, ready for an adventure, only for them to tell you that there is a fault, and you have to get back and exit the ride without even making the adventure out of it.

I wanted to love it. The writing at parts was great, and I am including a lot of quotes throughout the review, because I loved those parts. But the chapters and characters were too many, and things were happening too fast and without a purpose, that it was hard for me to pick up the pace. I had to leave the book and pick it up again, and it took me three months to complete it. A hard book to swallow and process.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Random House UK, Transworld Publsihers for sending me an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★★★

I haven’t read much classic reads this year, and a few days before the end of 2018, I decided to go for a classic short story, and I chose The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

This classic has been written by a woman in the 19th century. A time when women weren’t treated the same way as today. A difficult time, where women couldn’t express their opinion as they wished, but they were suppressed by the male authority in the family.

When The Yellow Wallpaper came out, it was considered a Gothic Horror Tale. It is hard to believe for me, knowing the world we live in today, and how we, as women can express our opinions openly. But back in the days, this is how it was. It wasn’t easy for the woman, and I am glad we have a lot of brave women from that time, that gathered the courage to tell stories for the next generations.

This is a story about a woman, who seems to suffer of post-partum depression (a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth). She has been forced by her husband and doctor to stay in her room until she is ”mentally capable” again to take care of her baby. I am not a mother, but I can imagine the pain and suffering of not being allowed to see and hold your unborn child. And people thought this was okay?

The woman is constantly staring at the yellow wallpaper and the window, constantly reassuring herself that this is all happening for her own good, and that the husband and doctor know best, until a point where we are not actually sure if she is in her right mind anymore.

She starts to see a woman inside the wallpaper, and believes the woman is struggling to break free. I loved the metaphor used, as her subconscious knows she is trapped, and the end is so painful to read, but oh, so powerful.

Even though such a short read, The Yellow Wallpaper is an impressive view on cultural traditions, and the position of women in the family. A classic and a must-have for every woman!

Do you know any stories similar to this? I would love to explore them?

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Carrie – Stephen King [BOOK REVIEW]

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★★★★

I am probably one of the last people on Earth that hasn’t read a Stephen King book. Carrie is the first book I decided to read. People have been suggesting it to me for a while, and it seemed like a nice short bit of introduction to Stephen’s horror world.

Also, a special thank you to my friend Dave, for constantly recommending Stephen King books to me, until I finally decided to listen to him. He seemed to be right! Don’t forget to go and follow him – he is amazing!

Now – Carrie.

A book about a girl that lives with her crazy religious mother in a creepy house. A girl who is being bullied at school all the time. A story about a girl that has the ability to move objects as she wishes. And a prom night, where everything escalates.

Carrie is a sixteen year old girl. And she has been raised by her mother, who is a religious person in a – not healthy way. When Carrie misbehaves, she is sent to a closet to pray for the whole day. Even though Carrie doesn’t share her mother’s beliefs, she can’t really stand up and fight for herself.

The plot gets a grip when Carrie has her first period at the age of sixteen. She thinks she will bleed to death. And all her classmates are laughing at her, because she is stupid. And throw tampons her way. And as I am reading this, I keep thinking – what kind of mother won’t tell her child about menstruation, and puberty, and all the normal teenage phases a kid has to go through while growing up?

This moment, in the school bathroom, is the moment Carrie finds out about her powers.

And a few weeks later, a terrible thing happens.

This is a horror story, but the horror doesn’t lie in what Carrie did, but what led her to do that. Who it is to blame, and why things escalated the way they did.

Stephen King described bullying in its most painful and real way, and the consequences it can lead to. And it does happen, in every school, to a lot of children all over the world each day. A sometimes, most of the times, they are bullied only because they are different, not because they are bad.

This is a story that silently stands up to bullying, and by doing that raises such a strong voice in every corner of the world.

And remember – if you are the bully – think twice before you say things. Words can hurt, and they can result in bad things happening. Think twice about why you say what you say. The classmate of yours might have a talent you don’t know of.

And if you are the bullied child – also remember – you are kind and beautiful, no matter what everyone says. You shouldn’t let people bring you down. And we have all been bullied while growing up. Once you reach a certain age, people stop caring, and you stop caring what people think, and then, finally, you can be comfortable and happy with who you are!

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Read and Gone – Allison Brook [BOOK REVIEW]

This is the second book of the series, and even though I haven’t read the first part, I was able to follow this book quite easily. There are a few references to the past and you can quickly realise what happened. Though, if you wish to read the series, don’t start with #2, because there are a few spoilers here that you wish you hadn’t read if you read book #1. I won’t be reading #1 because the spoilers kinda ruined it for me. But I am sure it’s an amazing story as well.

Carrie works in a library and has a cat that brings with her at work. Her father is a famous bad guy, that spent all her childhood in jails. One day, he returns to town, trying to get his share of a box of jewellery that he stole with another man. But a murder changes everyone’s plans, and Carrie has to make some dangerous decisions. It is a wonderful story about family, love, Christmas and tragedy that ends well. 

This is a book full of mystery and crime, but it also is warm and family-oriented. I loved the mystery – crime part of it, I loved the scenes where everyone, mostly Carrie plays out to be a detective, but there were also scenes where things were so obvious, and she made terrible choices that made me cringe.

I struggled a lot to understand and like Carrie –  I didn’t like the way how she gets quiet and doesn’t talk and just cries, and suddenly when she leaves the situation, she bitches about everything and how things should’ve been done differently. WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE, THEN? But then, there were also moments when she would come up with some interesting hypothesis and actually succeed into making a right choice, and I would think – YEAH, that’s my girl.

All in all, definitely a beautiful read, with a few tweaks here and there. I would love to read something similar to this, and for you that love chick-lit and detective stories, you would most probably enjoy this read 🙂

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books  for giving me a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Quietus – David Sellars [BOOK REVIEW]

Sometimes, we don’t search for a particular book to read. It just finds us. That happened to me with “Quietus”. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

I connected to Nick immediately, and the story was appealing, so it was a struggle to close the book. This is one of the books that you read in one breath. I could connect with all the characters, with Nick, with Carrie, even with Sophie. The description about them made me like them in a different way, all of them, yes, even Sophie.

All Nick ever wanted, was to be accepted – to fit into society, to be noticed by his parents, and to fall irrevocably in love.
One out of three wasn’t bad. And Sophie: beautiful; passionate; impulsive Sophie; said she loved him too … up until the day she killed herself.
Wracked by grief and desperate to abscond, he moves to Jersey where he meets Carrie in the woods that surround his new home. She challenges Nick to confront his nightmare, and in doing so, risk insanity as he is besieged with deeper, darker, more sinister revelations about the girl he thought he knew.
He can run away from his girlfriend’s suicide but can he ever escape Sophie? Or the fact that her death … was his fault?

The author describes not only the physical part, but also their thoughts and how their mind works, and before you even realize it, you have this strong bond with every single one of them. The personality of Sophie is so well described, that’s it’s almost unbelievable. All the sociopathic characteristics, the whole building of this character is so appealing to read, it makes you want to know what’s wrong and how it can be fixed, and it is told by Nick, by someone who has affection towards this person and it tells both sides of the story, how a person can make you like them and make you hate them at the same time. The scenes are so realistic, that I felt like I was there. Each chapter is left unfinished, and it only makes you want to read more and more.

The whole death-life thing made this book special to me. It made me think way deeper than just how the scenes are put. Maybe I didn’t get the point of the story… I just wonder now. It will bother me for days, that’s for sure. It will haunt me and make me think again and again, deeper and deeper about what was the character’s purpose in this book. Why they were exactly where they were, and why did Nick went to Jersey right after his death in the first place. All in all, this indeed was a story that has a deep meaning behind her, that reaches into people’s minds and hearts and certainly stays there for a while, like I’m certain it will stay in mine too.

It is a story that makes us realize things about life, and then ask ourselves if what we believed in up until now is really true. It made me think how sometimes dead people can influence us, like Carrie influenced Nick, and Nick influenced Sophie. It makes me think how, in fact, it isn’t the dead people that influence us, but just us ourselves. When you think about it deeper, you’ll realize we don’t change because someone is influencing, but we change because someone woke up some thoughts in us, and it’s us that realize it all and then change.

Did Sophie kill herself, or they were actually there, because the whole trip was their imagination. Did they influence her, or it was only Sophie herself? I guess I’ll never answer some of those questions, but I still do think sometimes it’s us ourselves that realize some things, even though Nick and Carrie’s deaths had a purpose too. If there wasn’t a Carrie, there wouldn’t be an imaginary trip to Sophie’s hospital. And if there wasn’t a Nick, we’d never realize that she’s a sociopath.

Find out more about this book by clicking the image above or by visiting the author’s website.