The Midnight Library

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Nora is going through a rough patch in life. She is fired from her job, she has a bad relationship with her brother, her cat died, her depression is worsening, and no one appears to even need her. She also has a long list of regrets that she has never come to terms with. So, one night she decides to end it all and attempts suicide. But she doesn’t die. Instead, she wakes up in the Midnight Library, surrounded by books that contain the lives she could have lived if she made different choices. Nora can choose any of the books on the shelves, and once she begins to read a book, she is transported into another life. In some lives she is famous and in others she is worse off than in her root life. Nora can ultimately choose to continue in existing in any life she chooses as long as it is the one perfectly suited to her, but is any life truly perfect?

I loved this book, but I wouldn’t recommend it to readers currently struggling with mental health or suicidal thoughts. While it does have a hopeful ending, it can bring up some dark thoughts along the way. For instance, I consider my life and mental health to be quite stable right now, but I have struggled with depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety a lot in my life. Reading this book reminded me of many dark times. Although this is my first time reading from this author (and I don’t know much about him), I think it is clear that he has a very good understanding of how depression feels, which makes Nora a very realistic and relatable character, but it could disturb some readers.

Having read some book with a similar theme, I guessed where the ending was going, but it is the journey that matters. I enjoyed seeing Nora’s possible lives, and it of course made me wonder how my own life would be if I made slightly different decisions. The book makes the reader reflect a lot, so my enjoyment did not only come from the text itself but also the way the book made me think about my life. Nora learns some hard lessons through her journey through her lives, and she sees the good in bad in herself, her choices, and in other people. It is a really beautiful and heartfelt story that was difficult to put down. I mourned and celebrated alongside Nora’s losses, accomplishments, and discoveries.

Speaking of Nora, she is a great character. She is well developed and shows growth over the course of the novel, but as the reader I found it easy to sort of insert myself into the story as I reflected on the choices I would have made in my own life. It was a delicate balance, but I thought it was done well. It was also fun to see Nora’s friends and family through her different lives. These different perspectives made it easier for Nora (and the reader) to see different aspects of their personalities as well as their flaws and redeeming qualities. So, even if her brother was cruel in one life, she saw reasons for his actions in another life, and piecing the iterations of him together gave Nora and the reader a clearer picture of who he really was, which I thought was a brilliant way of creating character development.

I gave The Midnight Library five out five stars because I can’t fault it. I related to it so much and it gave me so much to think about. It made me laugh, cry, and think. I can’t ask for much more than that from a book. So, as long as you can handle the conversations on mental health, I would recommend it to just about anyone. It made me appreciate the life I am living a bit more than I did before.

The Revenant

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I grew up watching old Westerns on TV with my dad, and I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the stories about the gold rush and the fur trade in the U.S. It fascinates me that there was a period of time in which much of this country was unknown to settlers and danger lurked everywhere. Once in a while I enjoy media that portrays the wild, untamed land and the (often violent and unfair) treatment of the Native Americans realistically. I believe that The Revenant does this quite well, though I am no expert on the accuracies of the novel.

The Revenant is based on the real-life account of Hugh Glass, a trapper in the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, though the author admits to being creative with Glass’s story when the recorded history of his life gets fuzzy. The Rocky Mountain Fur Company was trapping beaver and avoiding hostile Native American tribes when suddenly Glass was attacked by a mother bear. Glass was mauled into unconsciousness. His fellow trappers tried to take care of him and revive him, but it became clear that carrying Glass around was slowing the group down and winter was on their heels. When it was clear that Glass was not recovering, the leader of the group tasked two trappers with staying behind with Glass until he died so that they could bury him with dignity. However, that doesn’t happen, and the two men leave Glass to die in the forest. Glass miraculously survived and began a quest of seeking revenge on the men who betrayed him.

At the end of the day, this is truly a story of revenge. Glass could have survived and went about the rest of his life in peace, but he didn’t. He risked his life to chase down the two men that betrayed him. While that may not be the smartest decision for his continued wellbeing, it makes for a very interesting tale. The book is violent, obviously. The land itself does not have any mercy. Glass and his group fight against wildlife, the elements, and hostile tribes. And of course the white men themselves always find a reason to fight one another. Although not every part of the plot may be the truth, the author weaved together his research of this man and time period to make an engaging story. The novel’s pacing was dynamic. One moment everything would be peaceful and then sudden violence would break out. Other moments would have slowly building tension with a satisfying climax. I liked many of the characters in the novel and thought the author did a great job of brining them to life on the page. However, I wouldn’t get too attached to any one of them… it’s a harsh existence!

One aspect I didn’t like was that a lot of Glass’s past before joining the Rocky Mountain Fur Company was glossed over in a “tell instead of show” way, but I can forgive this because going into too much detail would distract from the main plotline, yet leaving it out completely would leave Glass’s characterization lacking. At the end of the novel the author suggests books for further reading about Hugh Glass, which I appreciated. I also found the ending to be less than satisfying after the long journey that Glass had. Still, this is also something I have to forgive since most of the book is written from historical accounts, and real life doesn’t always end up the way we think it should.

I gave The Revenant four out of five stars. It was a lot of fun and had me on the edge of my seat. I haven’t watched the movie based on the book yet, but I hope to do so soon.

My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Thank you to Turner Publishing for providing a free ARC for my review.

I was given this book for review several weeks ago, but I got a bit too busy, so I’m breaking my “every other Sunday” schedule to get this review out a bit sooner.

The setting is 1920 on Ellis Island. Immigrants are pouring into New York Harbor with just the clothes on their backs and dreams of a new life. World War I is over, but the world is still feeling the aftereffects, and as we all know, old hatreds and fears die very slowly. Stephen Robbins has a special talent for finding people, and when his mysterious contact shows up at his workplace with the story of a pregnant Irish girl gone missing, he somewhat reluctantly takes on the task of finding her because he is dealing with his life issues. Stephen stumbles upon not just one strange vanishing but several. He, along with Lucy Paul, one of the nurses on Ellis Island, work together to get to the bottom of the disappearances.

I’m not a big fan of books that deal with the World Wars, but this book focuses on the aftermath of WWI, which I found to be a more unique perspective. In the 1920’s (like now, and probably like always) racist, classist, ableist, and of course religious tensions divided people, and this tension is a major theme of the novel. Some of the characters working on Ellis Island have strong opinions about who should be considered an American. In many ways the book felt timeless because we’re still dealing with these prejudices today (which is also depressing– do we ever learn from history?). The antagonists in the novel are disturbing because their motivation is so realistic, especially considering the arguments regarding immigration we have seen in the past few years. I’ve always found that the most chilling “bad guys” are not fantastical monsters; instead they are regular people with monstrous motives.

I also enjoyed the protagonists. Stephen is certainly an interesting character. He appears in the novel with a specific job to do, but it is clear that he has development off the page that fleshes him out more. The same can be said for Lucy. Lucy and Stephen worked together well, and I liked that their respective talents were utilized throughout the plot. It felt like one could not have solved the mysteries without the other. There is a bit of a romance within the novel, and though it wasn’t a major point of interest to me, it didn’t take over the plot and it felt genuine if perhaps a bit quick for my taste. But keep in mind I’m not a big fan of romances in general, so your mileage may vary.

The plot was interesting, and though I saw a few events coming, I wouldn’t call it predictable. Even when I thought I knew where the story was going, I still had questions about exactly how these things would play out, and I was surprised by some of the answers. I wasn’t entirely on board with the plot’s pacing though. There was a very dramatic event around halfway through the book, and after it happened, I was surprised that there was so much of the book left because it felt like things could wrap up rather quickly afterwards. After this tense event there was a lull in the pacing and the book left the mystery/thriller genre and started to feel like a courtroom drama, which I’m not as into. However, there were a lot of reveals during this time. Then tension built up again, and the sort of “second climax” at the end of the novel wrapped up quickly.

I found My Mistress’ Eyes are Raven Black to be a very solid historical mystery that had me turning the pages fast once I got into it. I gave it three and a half stars out of five.

Sharp Objects

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Camille Preaker’s Chicago newspaper tasks her with reporting on a string of child murders happening in her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri. During her visit, Camille stays with her controlling mother, Adora; her quiet stepfather, Alan; and her beautiful and wild half-sister, Amma. As Camille seeks to unravel the mystery brewing in her small hometown she also battles her own demons, including her mental health and the memories of the death of her other little sister. The grisly details around the Wind Gap murders cast suspicion on many of the town’s residents, but the most puzzling detail is the removal of the victims’ teeth.

There are many female characters in this book, but they aren’t the stereotypical female characters you often see in these dark thrillers. Camille is headstrong, vulnerable, and flawed. I disagreed with many of her choices, but most of them felt realistic given her personality and history. Though at one point I was internally yelling at Camille, “Why would you do that?!” The book takes place in a small Midwest town before cell phones were widespread, and it isn’t surprising that the men in the story all seem to have an idea of what a lady should be, but very few of the female characters fit into this “box.” This is one reason why I really like Gillian Flynn’s novels. She knows how to write very complex and realistic female characters that defy tropes, and she doesn’t flinch away from portraying the dark or un-lady-like sides of life. Specially, I liked that her female characters used sex in ways that male characters often do; for example, as a sort of selfish release without strings attached and as a transactional act. The characters in this book– even the “good” ones– do morally questionable things. Many of the characters are morally gray, which adds realism to the cast.

Coming from a small Midwest town myself, I thought Flynn’s portrayal of the people and culture was mostly spot on. For example, the rich families get away with a lot, the residents are wary of outsiders, the kids are more wild than their parents realize, and though a small town may look charming on the outside, covered up crimes and hidden addictions are below the surface. I felt immersed in the story because of the mystery itself, the characters’ secrets, and the overall dark atmosphere.

A lot of messed up things happen during the plot of the novel. Aside from the actual murdering of young girls, there are many descriptions of sex, drug use by minors, self harm, child abuse, and prescription drug abuse to name a few. The pacing is fast and tense, with most of the events happening within a span of a few days, perhaps a week. Thrillers are known for their twists, but I could see some of the plot points coming. However, I believe this was Gillian Flynn’s first book, so it is clear that she has since made her writing even less predictable. Also, this book was published in 2006, so there have been many newer books that have overused some tropes and it may be a bit unfair to judge an older thriller for such things. Despite that, some of the twists near the latter half of the novel still took me by surprise.

Though it may not be Gillian Flynn’s best novel, it still had me hooked from the first chapter, and especially if you’re a fan of hers and haven’t read this one, I would recommend it as long as the darker parts don’t bother you too much. This is certainly a solid mystery/thriller for those who enjoy the genre. I’d give Sharp Objects somewhere between 3.5 to 4 stars.

Recursion

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Blake Crouch has several other books out, but I have only read one other by him which was Dark Matter. I really enjoyed Dark Matter, but looking back I remember being lukewarm about its ending. Without spoiling the novel, I felt that Crouch had an excellent plot idea for Dark Matter, but it was very complicated and became too big to wrap up satisfyingly. However, it was a really fun read. When I learned about Recursion‘s plot, I worried that I would feel similarly, and I did.

In Recursion, Helena Smith has committed her life to developing the technology to record and save people’s memories in an attempt to help those with degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, regain their memories and live a fulfilled life. Another timeline follows Barry Sutton as he investigates a suicide. The suicide victim is said to have had FMS, or False Memory Syndrome. False Memory Syndrome has been popping up all over the country, and it usually involves people suddenly remembering that they have another life that is different from the reality they are currently living. This can lead to the victim having an identity crisis which often results in suicide. Helena and Barry come together to figure out the cause of FMS and to figure out what is real and what isn’t.

Like Dark Matter, Recursion‘s plot is difficult to summarize because it is complex, and I didn’t find the characters to be nearly as engaging as the plot. The main characters, Helena and Barry, are quite well written, but within the supporting cast I have already forgotten most of their names. Perhaps it is because there are multiple timelines with different events in each, but I had a little trouble being connected to most of the characters. There was also a romance in the novel that I didn’t feel strongly about. Overall, the characters were okay to good, but I think that the plot and themes are where this novel excels.

Any book that plays with time and alternate realities can become messy, but I felt like Recursion was written clearly and was easy enough to follow, especially if you pay attention to the dates provided in the book. I was excited to keep reading because there was a feeling of urgency throughout the story, and there were plenty of twists that kept me guessing. Although I could see where the plot was going at some points, other events were a complete surprise to me. I found the latter half of the novel slightly repetitive because there was a section in which the characters kept reliving a part of life over and over, but those scenes did serve a purpose. And, as I hinted to at the start of the review, the ending was a little disappointing. I felt like it made me sense and wrapped up a bit better than Dark Matter, but I definitely questioned how the author could reign in such a wild plot when I was almost finished with the book. And although I didn’t connect as much to the characters themselves, I enjoyed the book’s themes. It is quite introspective. I teared up a little at the end just because there is so much focus on time, past decisions, and reliving one’s life that it made me a bit sad and nostalgic for my own past. This book made me think a lot– both about the complex plot and to reflect on my own life.

I think I enjoyed Recursion just a bit more than Dark Matter, but they are both great reads. Crouch has a knack for writing exciting, fast-paced novels that also inspire the reader to think more deeply about certain topics. I gave Recursion almost four stars and would recommend it widely. However, if you are sensitive to the topics of suicide and death, it could be troubling to read.

The Pull of the Stars

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Yes, I know I said I would start writing reviews on Sunday mornings instead of Saturday mornings now, but it was a holiday in the U.S., so that is my excuse for again being a day late. Incidentally, I had a great holiday yesterday– I went for a 5 mile hike in a local park, had an ice cream cone afterwards (cookies and cream with a waffle cone!), and did some upkeep on my plants. So, I’m sorry but not too sorry for taking a day off. I hope my fellow Americans also had a relaxing holiday.

I read The Pull of the Stars on a whim. I have been enjoying having an audiobook to read while I water my plants (I have a lot of plants now), and since I have read a few books by Emma Donoghue before (Room and The Wonder), I thought I would try this author again. The Pull of the Stars takes place in Ireland during 1918, when the world was at war and also battling an influenza pandemic. In the book we follow Nurse Julia Power who works in a very small ward for women who are pregnant but also have the flu. Everyone in her hospital is stretched thin and works long, hard hours. The hospital is even desperate enough to employ a feminist rebel doctor, Dr. Kathleen Lynn. When Julia finds herself in charge of her ward one day, she is given a helper, Bridie Sweeney, who she quickly becomes close to. The book follows Julia and the lives of the women, both patients and staff, who get her through the days ahead.

I would say that the characters and themes are the main draw here, while the plot is rather subtle. Julia and Bridie tend to the women and their babies while also battling the women’s’ flu symptoms. It is interesting to see how both flu and childbirth were dealt with during this time and despite the shortages from the war. It is tough to read at times because of this, but it is also hard to listen to how women were treated in general. Throughout the book we see Julia, who wasn’t the most “traditional” woman to begin with, have her eyes opened to the atrocities that women and children in her country face every day. There are only a few major plot points, but it can be quite tense to read how Julia and Bridie’s quick thinking impacted the fates of the women in their ward.

I liked all of the main characters: Julia, Bridie, and Dr. Lynn. As It is very interesting to see how both Dr. Lynn and Bridie influenced Julia’s perspective of the world. Julia and Bridie have good character development and form a great relationship throughout the novel. I liked Dr. Lynn because she was sure of herself and her opinions despite those around her judging her, but she wasn’t given a lot of time on the page. The patients in the ward are featured too, but they weren’t fleshed out very much. I have a hard time remembering their names, but I do remember their stories and backgrounds. One is wealthy, some have had many children while others are first timers, and another is an unwed mother. They felt like they were there to show the reader how different women are viewed and lived at this time rather than being fully formed characters.

I am finding it a little difficult to justify why I gave the book a three and a half out of five stars when I haven’t really said anything negative about it, but my ratings are always partially due to my enjoyment of the book. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed this read, but it was insightful. And though it touched on many important themes (healthcare, grief, feminism, etc.), it didn’t do anything too unique and it didn’t emotionally impact me as much as I thought it would. This is a pretty dreary novel overall, though it ended on a somewhat hopeful note. If you like female-led historical fiction that focuses on everyday life during a time period, The Pull of the Stars might be more for you.

The Winter People

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’m going to try to switch my review posting date from every other Saturday to every other Sunday. It seems like I have been finishing up books on the weekends, so this gives me an extra day off of work to finish reading and write up a review. It feels weird since I have uploaded on Saturdays for years, but let’s see how it goes! Hopefully I will miss less upload dates this way.

Now, to the review of The Winter People. There are two timelines in this book. One timeline takes place in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s following Sara Harrison Shea. Sara shares her perspectives on the people and events in her childhood and during her young married life through her journal. However, Sara’s death was very odd. Some say she went mad after the death of her daughter, and in Sara’s journal she claims that her daughter came back from the dead. Sara’s journal was published and became part the area’s local legend. In the present day, 19-year-old Ruthie stumbles upon Sara’s journal after her mother disappears, which leads Ruthie down a rabbit hole of other mysteries. As Ruthie and her little sister, Fawn, search for their missing mother, they uncover family secrets and discover things that perhaps would be better left buried.

The characters didn’t do a lot for me, sadly. Sara and Ruthie (arguably the main characters though there are sections from a few other characters’ perspectives as well) were just fine. I preferred reading from Sara’s sections because I found her childhood and adult experiences more interesting. As a side note, I think I might have also enjoyed a book solely based on Sara’s life. Since we read from Sara’s journal, it makes you wonder just how reliable she is as a narrator, which is something I often enjoy. And with a few chapters from her husband’s perspective mixed in, this adds to the reader questioning Sara’s stability. Ruthie and the present day sections were interesting enough, and they add a whole other layer to Sara’s story, but I didn’t find the present-day characters or storyline quite as engaging. There are a few other women tangled up in the mystery of Ruthie’s missing mother, but I found them forgettable beyond their role of advancing the plot.

For me, the best parts of the book were the plot and atmosphere. Sometimes multiple perspectives and timelines can make a plot feel muddled or confusing, and sometimes one timeline/perspective is clearly stronger or more interesting, which makes the narrative feel unbalanced and/or makes the reader bored with one side of the story. I liked the way they were integrated here though. Despite having a preference for Sara’s perspective, the alternating timelines built tension, and when one gave me a new answer about something, it would often raise more questions, which made the book a very fast read. The twists are fun, but I guessed several reveals in the latter half of the novel. The author is quite good at setting up tense moments. I read this via audiobook though, so the narration probably also helped increase the tension via tone and pacing. I was hooked until the end, yet I don’t think that I will remember this book a year or two from now.

In the end, I gave The Winter People 3.5 out of 5 stars. It was a quick, entertaining read that made me think about grief and loss, but in my opinion, it didn’t do enough to set itself apart from other, similar stories I have read.

Stiletto (The Chequy Files #2)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t usually review sequels (I feel like I’ve said this before/recently…), but I’m reading very slowly lately, so I don’t have anything else to post about this week. If you haven’t read the first book in this series, I recommend that you do so because it is a lot of fun, but I promise I won’t spoil anything about it.

I read and reviewed the first book in this series, The Rook, in 2018, which really doesn’t seem like it was that long ago… Anyway, I really loved The Rook. To briefly summarize it, it takes place in England and follows the Chequy. The Chequy is a sort of supernatural police force– supernatural in that the members themselves were born with powers and that they also protect normal people from supernatural beings and happenings. The Rook mainly follows one character, Myfanwy Thomas, who wakes up on a park bench surrounded by dead bodies with no memory of what happened or who she is. The book is filled with twists, it’s pretty funny if you like dry humor, and it has very interesting world building. I would say that The Rook is a slightly stronger book overall, but I enjoyed Stiletto.

Ok, enough about book one. Stiletto features many of the characters from the first book, and I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces and getting to know my favorites even better. This second book also expands the world building a lot more. There is an enemy faction from the first book that is explored much more in the sequel, but this also leads me to the downside of this novel. While I enjoyed learning about the “supernatural history” of the British Isles, and I love how the author weaves in real-world events by giving them supernatural causes, there were a few sections that were a bit too focused on these things. For example, the novel is told in a few perspectives from different characters, but there were chapters in which the main plot is put on hold to tell some history or to tell a side story. Though these sections add to the plot and character development, I found myself getting a little impatient about returning to what was happening in the present. This book is about 100 pages longer than the first, and I have to admit that I feel like it could have been a tighter story if it had dropped those extra pages. Still, I am torn because I enjoyed learning more about everything, but I think there could have been a better way to concisely add those details without pages and pages of being “out of the action.”

The characters development is still great. Like I said, I loved seeing familiar faces. I found myself missing being so close to Myfanwy since the first book was so focused on her, but I liked many of the new characters too. The different perspectives all felt unique and genuine. The author is very creative with how he designed the different powers they all have, the actions scenes, the political intrigue, and the enemies and creatures that are encountered. I’m a big fan of stories that include the “hiding in plain sight” aspect, which is what the Chequy organization and its operatives do. The humor is also right up my alley and is in the same vein as the first book, but of course that type of humor may not be for everyone.

I really can’t think of any other cons. This was a really solid sequel, and even though there is going to be a third book, I don’t feel like this one was an unnecessary bridge between book one and three, like some second books can be. Overall, I’d give Stiletto four out of five stars.

The Queen of Blood

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

There are six different types of spirits in Aratay (wood, earth, water, ice, fire, and air), and they have murderous feelings towards the land’s residents. However, the people’s queen is responsible for keeping them in check. Because of this, Aratay goes to great lengths to train new heirs. Any girl can be an heir, so young girls who show promise with controlling and communicating with spirits are enrolled in a school that trains both their powers and their demeanors. Trained young women are useful in protecting the land, even if they do not becoming queen. So, after Daleina’s hometown was attacked by rogue spirits when she was young, she made a promise to hone her powers and use them to protect others. What the people of Aratay do not know is that these rogue spirit attacks may not be rare incidents and that their queen may be faltering.

Overall, I quite liked this YA novel, which is something that I haven’t been able to say for a while, partly because I haven’t read much YA lately, and partly because there have been so many run-of-the-mill YA fantasy novels in the past few years that just don’t stand out. I would say that this book has unique aspects and doesn’t really fall into many tired YA tropes. For example, the main character is fallible and is even quite unskilled with her control of her powers. She’s not the typical female protagonist that rises to the top because she’s just that good naturally. And unlike some recent YA fantasy novels, Daleina’s plain yet somehow beautiful looks aren’t constantly described, and she doesn’t get caught up in a romance that dominates the plot. (There’s some romance, but it isn’t like some novels that are romances masquerading as a fantasy story.) Some of the other main or second tier characters were written well enough, but many side characters were rather forgettable. For example, I wish there had been a little more time with Daleina and her friends in the academy, and you may feel the same if you really enjoy magical school settings with a large, developed cast. I didn’t feel very connected to the other students, and I can’t really remember their names or descriptions either. Since this is a series, I imagine that several characters will get more expansion in the rest of the books though.

I would say that the plot and world building are the main draws in this series. As I talked about a little already, the magic is interesting, but since it is element-based it’s nothing too ground breaking. I loved the forest setting though. I enjoyed how the tree dwellings and wooden bridges between homes were described. How the characters traveled through the forests and made their lives within the trees was inventive and often cozy to read about. I also think that the fact that the people live snuggly within a forest filled with killer spirits is an intriguing dynamic. Getting back to the plot, it has some neat reveals, and some of the mysteries kept me turning the pages, but I didn’t always like the pacing. At one point it felt like a chapter ended with Daleina completing her first day at the academy and the next chapter was two years into her schooling. There’s a lot of plot packed into this fairly short first book, but I wouldn’t have minded some smoother transitions and further building of the characters in between everything else that happened.

I’d give The Queen of Blood three and a half our of five stars. There were areas that I felt were lacking, but it stands out a bit in a sea of subpar YA fantasy novels produced in the last decade. I do wish that the title was more unique since we all know that there are many, many similar sounding YA titles out there. But since I own the rest of the series, I may continue it because it was an easy, enjoyable, and quick read.

Once Upon a River

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This will be a short review, but it’s just because I am writing this on Friday at midnight. I still enjoyed the book quite a bit, even if it took me about a month to finish.

So, I read, reviewed, and enjoyed Diane Setterfield’s other book, The Thirteenth Tale, a while ago. Both books are similar in that they have a very dreamy, fairy tale-eques feel with a plot that leaves some open ends and is more about the journey than the destination.

A dead little girl and an injured man are brought to an inn that is known for its storytellers one night in the middle of winter. The patrons are surprised to see such a sight, and though they are used to tall tales, they are even more surprised by what happens next. Miraculously, the little girl appears to come back from the dead, and by the end of the night there are many more questions than answers. The most important questions are who the little girl is and where she came from. Three different families claim that she is theirs, but the little girl cannot answers questions herself.

I think Setterfield really excels in portraying the fairy tale atmosphere as well as in her characterization. There’s a dreamy, on-the-edge-of-reality feel to the entire novel. And I like that some aspects of the plot are left up to the reader’s interpretation. This book perhaps isn’t for people who like clear cut explanations in their plot lines. Also, since there are a lot of characters and separate storylines, you have to be okay with not quite knowing where the plot is going at the start. We are introduced to several different families and their pasts near the beginning. The characters feel well rounded and realistic, but at some points I was wondering how it all tied together. So, you have to be okay with going with the flow and trusting the author will tie the plot lines together. And eventually she does in a way that I felt was satisfying.

To me, the novel felt like taking a ride along a winding river– you take it slow, enjoy the scenery, and you just float along enjoying the experience. Then eventually the river merges with other tributaries and they all come together into the main body of water– of the main thread of the plot. So, if that doesn’t sound like fun, then maybe the book isn’t your thing. There’s some pretty writing and descriptions, which again, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a book that feels cozy somehow. There’s also a common theme of the power that a person’s story can have and the way that different people interpret events can lead to unique perspectives of the same events.

It’s a really brilliant bit of escapism. I would say that it is definitely my kind of novel, similar to something like The Snow Child or The Night Tiger, so I gave it a solid four out of five stars.