Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A very young woman's first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate...An estate haunted by a beckoning evil. Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls... But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil. For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

 Publisher: Audible | Narrators: Emma Thompson with Richard Armitage (intro) | Length: 4 hrs 40 mins | Genre: Psychological Thriller | Source: Audible | Rating: 3.5 

When a young governess takes a job at the remote Bly Manor, she wasn’t prepared for the odd and distant children or the phantoms haunting the halls. To make matters worse, it doesn’t seem that the children are frightened by the ghoulish creatures. As her time at Bly Manor stretches on, the governess begins to grow frantic in her need to save the children. But what is she saving her young charges from?

The Turn of the Screw starts with an unknown narrator recalling a ghost story he heard at a Christmas Eve gathering. From there a note from the unnamed governess recounts the events that occurred during her time at Bly Manor.

From the start, there’s a lot of ambiguity in this novella. Is the governess mad? Is she seeing things? Is she sane and there’s a real threat? Do the children commune with evil spirits? Was the governess inappropriate? The only thing that’s certain about this novella is that the relationship between the governess and the children is volatile and there’s some type of danger lurking in the halls of Bly Manor.

This story has never wowed me. The unreliable narrator leaves an unreliable story where the context changes based on the readers mood. One minute I’m convinced the governess is mad and the next I’m certain she’s actually seeing ghosts.

The Turn of the Screw is the Schrödinger's cat of literature. The ghosts are both there and not there as long you don’t peer into the story. The box is never opened and the truth is never revealed.

While this book is neither spooky nor gothic, it’s been the inspiration behind many modern gothic novels and horror movies because it builds up suspense and plays with the readers minds.

This is the first time that I’ve listened to this on audio and I highly recommend this rendition as Richard Armitage’s intro pulls you in and Emma Thompson’s performance has the right amount of desperation, urgency, fear, and panic that grips on to you and allows you to truly experience the plot.

Overall, this is never going to be my favorite classic. I’m always going to walk away from this one feeling that it left me a bit meh. At times there’s a lot going on in this book yet nothing happens. At times it’s repetitive—again, it’s going back to the fact the governess is unreliable.

When I read the physical book, it always came across as overly dramatic; everything the governess does/says is overly urgent, overly fearful, overly panicked. Where the physical book became grating, the audiobook allowed me to enjoy it as a dramatization. I highly recommend trying out this particular audiobook version. 

Have you read The Turn of the Screw?

Are the ghosts real?

Is the governess mad?


Monday, May 17, 2021

One Fine Fae by Molly Harper

Charlotte McBee knows she’s in for a challenge when she accepts a job as midwife for a dragon and a phoenix shifter. Being a fairy herself, it isn’t the supernatural world that scares her. It’s the thought of delivering a giant metal dragon’s egg, which has her gritting her teeth in pain for poor Jillian, the anxious mother-to-be.


While preparing for the big event, a handsome town resident catches her eye. Leonard is kind, charming, and a little bit mysterious. He’s also suffering from a highly unusual condition brought on by an ancient fairy curse, and he’s too wary of Charlotte to allow her to get close.


Will love overcome fear before the end of her assignment?

 Series: Mystic Bayou #4.5 | Publisher: Audible  | Narrators: Amanda Ronconi and Jonathan Davis  | Length: 3 hrs, 10 min | Genre: Paranormal Romance  | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5

I love heading back to Mystic Bayou and the zany—but lovable—residents.

Charlotte’s a fae in town to help Jillian deliver her giant metal dragon’s egg—yes, you read that right—but she’s can’t help to notice Leonard. While the guy is charming, the poor thing is a klutz thanks to an ancient fairy curse. The good thing for Leonard is that Charlotte can correct the curse—but first she has to convince him that she’s into him for him and not just to ‘fix’ him.

There’s a lot going on in this book—Charlotte’s midwifery duties, Jillian and Beal’s metal egg delivery, Leonard and his klutzy curse—and while I enjoyed it, I don’t feel as though Charlotte and Leonard had a lot of page time. I feel that in the other books we see more of the relationship and the development whereas this one seemed a bit mixed in with Jillian and Beal’s situation.  With that being said, the one thing that’s always consistent in a Molly Harper novel—besides the snark—is the sense of community and I do enjoy seeing what’s happening with the other characters.

As always, Amanda Ronconi and Jonathan Davis nailed the narration.

Overall, I still had fun with this one and found it to be a great addition to the series. I can’t wait to see what happens next in Mystic Bayou. 


Friday, May 14, 2021

The Duke Heist by Erica Ridley

Chloe Wynchester is completely forgettable—a curse that gives her the ability to blend into any crowd. When the only father she's ever known makes a dying wish for his adopted family of orphans to recover a missing painting, she's the first one her siblings turn to for stealing it back. No one expects that in doing so, she'll also abduct a handsome duke.


Lawrence Gosling, the Duke of Faircliffe, is tortured by his father's mistakes. To repair his estate's ruined reputation, he must wed a highborn heiress. Yet when he finds himself in a carriage being driven hell-for-leather down the cobblestone streets of London by a beautiful woman who refuses to heed his commands, he fears his heart is hers. But how can he sacrifice his family's legacy to follow true love?

 Series: The Wild Wynchester's #1 | Publisher: Forever |Genre: Historical (Regency) Romance  | Source:  Publisher | Rating: 4.5

What happens when a Duke on a mission is caught in a Wynchester’s web?

When Chloe accidently kidnaps Faircliffe in an attempt to retrieve her family’s painting, her gift of being invisible in a crowd goes out the window when she realizes that Faircliffe actually sees her. Changing plans, Chloe decides to implore Faircliffe to help her, a Wild Wynchester, to ‘fit into society’ so that she’ll have access to his estate in hopes of reclaiming the painting. Faircliffe’s agreed to helping Chloe but he never intended to fall for her—it simply wouldn’t do. He has a plan to repair the damage his father caused to the estate and he needs an heiress to do that not a Wynchester.

I had so much fun with Faircliffe and Chloe. They both have well thought up plans that they intend to see through. He is determined to be the model of society to fix the problems his father caused and he’s not going to allow anything to get in his way. Chloe will stop at nothing to get her family’s painting back, even if that means entering the enemy’s (Faircliffe’s) lair. Both are determined and headstrong so it was interesting watching these two fall for each other all the while saying that this was temporary and they had to stick to their goals.

I also enjoyed meeting the Wynchester family. They’re such an eclectic group but they’re the closest of families and I really enjoyed seeing how they interact and how willing they were to help each other.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I was kind of hoping that Chloe would confess her plan to Faircliffe when they started getting close. I was also hoping that Chloe would have her ‘pick me, choose me, love me’ moment but she was content to step aside. Although I do have to say that she did have a moment of growth where she finally figured out who she wanted to be and I really enjoyed that for her.

Overall, I really enjoyed this The Duke Heist and Erica Ridley’s writing style. I’m eager to see more from the Wynchester family. 

Wild Wynchesters Series

1-The Duke Heist  


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box (April 2021)

Hello Lovelies,


I have a thrilling new book box to share with you and it’s the Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box. This book box is a bit unique because it’s a box that’s been curated around a dark read (more about dark reads in a bit). As someone who has always loved dark, gothic novels, I was intrigued by this book box.  

Here’s a little more about the box before we dig in.


What is Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box? Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box is a monthly book box that sends you one dark, mesmerizing, and gripping read (either paperback or hardback) along with 4-6 individually wrapped gifts that’s been curated around the book.


Price: $34.99 (plus shipping) at the moment this is only offered in the US

Use the coupon code SIMPLYANGELA10 for 10% off your first box or a year's subscription. This code is not an affiliate code.

How is it shipped and packaged? The box is shipped via USPS and the last two months it has arrived  in a plastic poly mailer. The box itself contains shredded paper packaging that protects the items inside. Each item inside the box (other than the book and pamphlet) is individually wrapped and numbered.

What is a dark read? Per their website, they define dark books as a book without a happy ending. The books we will choose for you will have scary and dark plots, not so nice protagonists that will leave you questioning the world as it is.  There will be no books with happy endings coming from us!

Genres included (but not limited to): Southern Gothic | Dark Fantasy | Psychological Thriller | Horror | Mystery | Dark Fiction | Crime

Because of the content of the dark reads, the website does recommend that this book box is for those 18 years of age and above.

Can I find out the title of the book? Unlike other companies, Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box makes it easy to discover the title. Each month hints will be revealed on their website and Instagram. You can also email the company directly to discover the title. 

Each month you receive a pamphlet that tells you the theme of the month, a little about the author, and how to open your gifts. Because this is an Immersive Experience Book Box, it’s best to open the gifts as you read (you’ll find a little sticky tab on the page telling you which gift to open).

What is an Immersive Experience Book Box? It’s a box that’s been curated to pull the reader further into the sensory experience of the story with sounds, scents, tastes, and objects of interest from within the story. While items like candles, drinkware, and jewelry could be included, it also includes story specific items such as letters, photos and such. 

Here’s what’s in April’s Down the Rabbit Hole Book Box.


April’s Book: Death on the Nile (A Hercule Poirot Mystery) by Agatha Christie (paperback)—When I heard April’s theme, I had a feeling this was the book and I couldn’t have been more excited. This was actually next on my ‘to buy’ list so I can read it before the movie comes out next year. Very happy to have this and I love the cover!

April’s ThemeMurder and Betrayal Among the Pyramids

Item #1—Earl Grey Agatha ChrisTea from Tea Book

Item #2—Hercule Poirot Enamel Pin

Item #3—Newspaper

Item #4— Reticule

Item #5—Faux Pearl Necklace

Item #6—Scarf 

Also included is a bookmark, which happens to be a ticket for the cruise, and a card introducing you to Hercule Poirot. 

My thoughts on the April box: this has to be one of my favorite Down the Rabbit Hole boxes. The scarf is simply exquisite—I love tying these in my hair or hooking them on the strap of my handbag. The reticule is well made and I was actually looking for one to use with my Renaissance outfit so this is the perfect fit. The faux pearl necklace is a more of a choker-type, which I’m a bit too claustrophobic to wear but this will work great as part of my headdress for my Renaissance outfit. The enamel pit of Poirot is adorable and the newspaper article will make a fun addition to my book journal.


I’m always up for getting tea but can we just take a minute to appreciate the Agatha ChrisTea. How adorable is that?


One of my favorite things about this company is the thought and detail they put into each box. The themed labels, the art deco (nice quality) envelopes, and they even took the time to make a cruise ticket for the bookmark. They really do go above and beyond with each box and it’s truly one of my favorite bookish subscription boxes. 

Number of Items received: 6 Gifts (1 story specific and 5 bookish) plus the book.

OverallI loved the theme, the book, and how well matched each gift was not only to the book but also to the era of the book. April’s box was outstanding and bonus point because I was able to build-up my Renn Fest outfit!


The tranquility of a cruise along the Nile is shattered by the discovery that Linnet Ridgeway has been shot through the head. She was young, stylish and beautiful, a girl who had everything – until she lost her life.


Hercule Poirot recalls an earlier outburst by a fellow passenger: ‘I’d like to put my dear little pistol against her head and just press the trigger.’ Yet in this exotic setting’ nothing is ever quite what it seems…

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Secrets of Colchester Hall by Sophie Barnes

As one of six possible candidates vying for Viscount Sterling's hand, Lady Angelica has been invited to stay at his grand manor for a weeklong house party. But an unpleasant feeling lurks within Colchester Hall, and while Angelica tries to explain the chill creeping up behind her as merely a draft, she can't shake the feeling that something disturbing might be at play.


When Sterling decides she's the woman he wants, will Angelica accept her new home and the sinister secrets she fears it might hold, or will she give up on true love because of something she might be imagining?

Publisher: Author |Genre: Gothic Romance | Source: Purchase | Rating: 3.5

In need of a wife, Sterling invited a dozen eligible young ladies—and their chaperones—to stay at his estate for a fortnight in hopes he finds one of them suitable to marry. When Angelica catches his eye, she’s not thrilled at first but he soon wins her over but there’s the tiny matter of something haunting the halls of Colchester Hall. Sterling and Angelica must figure out if something from his past is trying to tear them apart.

This was a fast, fun, slightly gothic Regency mystery with hints of the Bachelor. While it had its moments of ghosties and things that go bump in the night, this one was missing that atmospheric feeling that gothic novels have. Still, it made for a solid, quick read.

I thought the bachelor aspect—where Sterling set up random dates and group outings—made for a fun adventure and let their personalities come through in a short time. The mystery aspect, while easy to figure out, was well fleshed out. Of course, because this was a novella, the romance while not insta-love was still a bit faster than normal but didn’t come across as too rushed.

My only problem with this one was the ending—the setup of the book had a nice pace and was interesting/eventful but the ending just fell a bit flat. I guess I wanted a bit more.

Overall, this was a nice little novella but I think this would have benefitted from being a full-length book. Everything in this book was tied up nicely but I feel like it could have been explored more and some of the aspects like the gothic atmosphere could have brought out more. Still, I did have fun with this one and think other will enjoy it as well. 


Monday, May 10, 2021

Bout of Books 31 Starts Today!

Hello Lovelies and Happy Monday!


Bout of Books 31 starts today and I’m so excited to dive into my book pile.


I’m aiming for 6-7 books—I’ve selected 5 that I definitely want to finish this week and I’m hoping I’ll manage to pick up two romances but I’m not sure which ones I’ll be in the mood to read.


I’ll be updating daily on Instagram @simplyangelarenee and I’ll have updates on the blog Thursday the 13th  then the final recap post will be on Tuesday the 18th

Here’s the 5 books I’m reading this week


The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey—originally published in 1951 this is about a recuperating inspector looking into whether or not Richard III murdered his nephews. Seeing as this is from 1951—long before finding Richard’s remains was even a thought—I’m expecting this to be dated but I’m still eager to see what it contains.


Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys—originally published in 1966, this is a prequel to Jane Eyre that tells the story of Bertha—the wife in the attic. I’m a massive Jane Eyre fan and I’ve been eager to see how Rhys portrayed Bertha.


The Bones of a King: Richard III Rediscoverd –this was composed by the Greyfriars Research Team and I’m eager to see what insights this sheds on the dig and the discovery of Richard III.


The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner—dual timelines, a tale of poison and revenge…that’s all I need to know for this to pique my interest.


Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson—I have no idea what this mystery/thriller is about but the cover has me curious. 

Are you joining Bout of Books?

Do you participate in readathons?


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box (February 2021 & March 2021)

Hello Lovelies,


I have a thrilling new book box to share with you and it’s the Down The Rabbit Hole Book Box. This book box is a bit unique because it’s a box that’s been curated around a dark read (more about dark reads in a bit). As someone who has always loved dark, gothic novels, I was intrigued by this book box.  

Here’s a little more about the box before we dig in.


Friday, May 7, 2021

Vine Oh! Oh! Happy Day! Box

 Hey Lovelies,


I have my third Vine Oh! box to share with you and it’s the Vine Oh! Sips & Surprises Seasonal Box.  While I’m not a wine drinker, I love this box because the ‘Surprises’ are curated to help women unwind. I’m all about self-care, so having a box that gives me comfy, cozy items and fun gifts/treats is right up my alley. The wine, well that makes the perfect gift to give to friends and family members.


Before I get into what was in my box, let me tell you a bit more about Vine Oh! 

Thursday, May 6, 2021

How To Catch A Duke by Grace Burrowes

Miss Abigail Abbott desperately needs to disappear, and the only person she trusts to help her do that is Lord Stephen Wentworth, heir to the Duke of Walden. Stephen is brilliant, charming, and—when he needs to be—absolutely ruthless. So ruthless, that, he proposes marriage instead of a pretense of murder, to keep Abigail safe.


Stephen knows that Abigail has the dignity and determination of a duchess and the courage of a lioness. When she accepts his courtship of convenience, he also discovers she kisses like his most intimate wish come true. For Abigail, their arrangement is a sham to escape her dangerous enemies. For Stephen, it's his last, best hope to share a lifetime with the lady of his dreams—if he can convince her his love is real.

 Series: Rogues to Riches #6 | Publisher: Forever | Genre: Historical Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5 Cups

"I have come to ask you to kill me, my lord."


How could I not dive into a Regency Romance when that’s the opening line?


Here’s what’s going on. Needing to disappear to protect herself, Abigail—an inquiry agent—seeks Stephen’s aid in ‘killing her off’. Although Stephen has another plan, one that includes a marriage proposal, which Abigail sees as the perfect solution to protect her but Stephan wants more. Now he must convince her to be his future duchess.


It’s been a minute since I’ve read Grace Burrowes and, I must say, that I’ve missed her writing style. Her character’s always have a flawed realness to them and it’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.


Stephen and Abigail have met in a previous book (that I’ve, sadly, not read) and there seems to be an attraction that they’ve been carrying around.  So there’s a ton of chemistry at the start of the book but as the plot progresses and things start to move and get revealed I feel as though they lost some of that chemistry. It was almost as though so much was going on in the romantic connection was lost.


I’m on the fence about this book. I liked characters and I liked that they were very unique—he’s disabled and she’s built like a warrior queen, you don’t see that often in Regency romances—I liked the essence of the plot and I did like them together, most of the time. I struggled with how much of the character’s past relationships were brought to the forefront of this one. It bogged the current romance down and had me questioning their feelings for each other.


There’s also some things in the book that had me questioning how they went unobserved for so many years yet Abigail spotted them right off the bat. There’s also some things in this book that I felt was added just to make the book feel current but didn’t add anything to the plot.


Overall, I liked Abigail and Stephen—they were brilliant together—but I wish there had been less of their past included. I still enjoyed this one and found it to be an easy, quick read but there wasn’t that extra spark that I expect in Grace’s books. 

Rogues to Riches Series

1-My One and Only Duke

2-When a Duchess Says I Do

3-Forever and a Duke

4-A Duke by Any Other Name

5-The Truth About Dukes

6-How To Catch A Duke