The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Thanks to The Nerd Daily and the publisher for an arc to review..

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling is a gothic horror novel about a marriage between a logical accountant and a charming young doctor, set in his crumbling and creaky manor with its’ ghosts in the walls. Jane Shoringfield picked out Dr Augustine Lawrence for a marriage of convenience that was more like a business arrangement that suited the both of them. He agreed on the condition that she would never spend the night at his home, Lindridge Hall. Well, a change in the weather puts an end to that, and it’s not long until Jane starts to wonder what kind of marriage she has gotten herself into.

Caitlin Starling has said she was inspired by the 2015 film Crimson Peak (directed by Guillermo Del Toro and starring Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska) and having seen the film, I can definitely appreciate the spooky and creepy gothic goodness of both works. They both feature the tropes of the mysterious husband and the eerie isolation of a decrepit old house. If you liked Crimson Peak, I’d absolutely recommend that you pick up The Death of Jane Lawrence and take a trip to Lindridge Hall.

I don’t usually read too much of the gothic horror genre as in the past I have found it a bit slow, but I enjoyed Caitlin Starling’s previous book The Luminous Dead so much, and that wasn’t my usual genre either, so I wanted to give this a go. Plus it was just in time for the spooky season.

I think my favourite thing about The Death of Jane Lawrence lay in the writing. I liked the way the house was made to feel like a character and constant presence brought to life throughout the book. The writing takes you there without overloading on the description. It really built up a picture of the house in my mind, I could feel the weather, and hear the bumps and creaks in the night. The gore was also very vivid and there were times when I felt like I was seeing what Jane was seeing.
The pacing was near enough perfect. There were some lulls but I felt this was necessary to allow the reader to catch their breath. The writing was easy to follow even when talking about things such as surgery and medical things that I don’t have any real knowledge of. There were parts of the book where the writing felt hectic and rushed but I felt that may have been because that was because there were times were Jane was rushing and becoming almost delirious. If anything this added to the tension.

Another strength was the characters. Both Jane and Mr Lawrence particularly. Mr Lawrence was always keeping me guessing and I loved Jane, she was no-nonsense and took no shit. I liked her methodical approach to things. Her motivation to get married wasn’t setting out to find a love match, she had criteria she wanted to meet for a partnership and convenience and she went out and got it. She observes, sees more than people think she does and isn’t afraid to ask questions. She isn’t the girl from that time period that faints at the sight of blood. When it got to the part in the story where you are reading about her character having to question things and then seeing her become more frazzled and verging on deranged really had me rooting for her, like come on Jane you can do it!
I also enjoyed many scenes with Jane and Mr Lawrence together and I wish there had been more. I liked how she was falling for him despite herself. I enjoyed the romantic part of the story where you could see them being drawn towards each other despite their initial arrangement.

When it comes to themes, I may be wrong, but I feel like the book was trying to blend the lines behind scientific medicine and ritual. I like magic in books to feel realistic and like it could be possible, and whilst I didn’t quite get that from this book, it did get me thinking a number of times about how different belief systems and rituals have things in common with science in maths, like how it can be so methodical. I felt like Jane was the perfect character for this, as she has to take her logical and practical side and apply it to the fact that things around her are happening that really should be a fantasy.

After finishing the book I felt a bit confused, a bit unsettled. Although I knew I didn’t completely “get” the ending, I still felt satisfyingly spooked. Whilst I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Luminous Dead, I am still a fan of Caitlin’s writing and ideas and I will definitely continue to read whatever she brings out.
I would recommend this book to fans of the gothic horror genre, but also to readers that like a bit of dark romance, to readers who like their female protagonists tough as nails, and also to anyone that’s just looking for a spooky read.

September Wrap Up

A little bit late but I still want to try writing wrap ups just to get back in the swing of things. I have tried to get some normality back into September, I’ve been working back in the office one day a week, and I even went to my first live concert/gig since 2019, and it was one of my favourite bands, The Maine! I’ve also discovered the game, Among Us, which I find a really fun way to de-stress at the end of the day.

So in September, I read 4 books, which included an ARC and a trilogy. So I’m happy with that, I also bought two which I will read….at some point!

First I read The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling. I reviewed this for The Nerd Daily so I will share my review once it’s been posted there. After that I read the Truly Devious series by Maureen Johnson which I really loved. I think it’s just what I was looking for, a bit of a cozy, sort of fun mystery to escape into.

truly devious box set

Truly Devious was such a great read, I’m glad I had the trilogy to binge as I think it was more fun that way. I think I’ll post a little review of it soon. I found it so comforting, snuggled up in my chair whilst the weather went bad, whilst also reading about the cold weather in the book. I also thought the way Maureen Johnson writes about anxiety was quite accurate and very touching. So yeah, a murder mystery set in a rural boarding school ended up being my comfort read this month!

October TBR

daughter of smoke and bone laini taylor

I didn’t have a TBR last month and ended up in a good mood for reading and finishing the whole Truly Devious trilogy that I really enjoyed. I am going to go with the flow again this month. I’ve already read some great spooky/dark books which would have been perfect for the spooky season, including Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo.

So all I have on my to read list is Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – it was on sale £2 so it was a bargain! I adore Laini Taylor’s Strange The Dreamer duology (one of my favourite books of 2018) so I am interested in reading her earlier work.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

summer sons book cover on kindle

September brings you Summer Sons from Lee Mandelo; A haunting, slow burn of a novel that explores grief, loss, denial, and a hunt for truth set against an atmospheric backdrop of the humid heat of the south.

Thanks to the publisher and The Nerd Daily for an ARC to review, you can also check out my review on their site here. Synopsis from Publisher Tor;

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom that hungers for him.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble.
And there is something awful lurking, waiting for those walls to fall.

Summer Sons takes some of the characteristics you would find in a southern gothic such as flawed characters, the use of horror imagery, ghost stories, and secrets and uses them to create a layered and lingering tale. There are a fair few spooky and eerie moments. It’s unsettling at times but that’s what can make a book go from good to great, because it gets to you.
The book also attempts to show the darker side of academia and privilege, but the story isn’t all set on campus, it tries to straddle both worlds, Andrew struggles to attend college in the beginning as his primary motive in being there is to follow in Eddie’s footsteps and he is going round in circles and hitting dead ends.

The pacing creeps slowly at first but then it soon starts to drip with suspense and tension as both the reader and Andrew delve deeper into what Eddie left behind and try and figure out the people he was spending his time with. It is worth talking about these characters – I found that I started to like them more as the book progressed, as Andrew started to let them in, which felt very natural. Andrew is wary of everyone at first and so is the reader. Andrew is grieving, he’s confused, his head is not the best place to be in, it’s raw and straight-up sad at times. You have Riley as a roommate living with Andrew, wanting to help, asking questions, and encouraging Andrew to continue with Eddie’s research and academic path, then at night, there is Sam, who provides the party, the gasoline, the drugs, and the late night texts.

We need to mention the chemistry between Andrew and Sam, the CHEMISTRY.

“Sam Halse had cocaine and a fast car and apparently a goddamn death wish— inviting scabs on his knuckles, plus a mouth that could peel paint off a wall. The appeal was obvious // Andrew understood where the hook had sunk in because it had pierced straight through the meat of his cheek, too. He wanted to race Halse again, and that was a strange sensation: want. He also wanted to break his knuckles on Halse’s jaw.”

These men will be the death of me, I swear. I wanted to bang their heads together.

Yes, so I was hooked in from reading the blurb, but I found that there is so much more to find in the story that all weaves together. It is a ghost story (maybe both physical and metaphorical), it also becomes a search for the truth, about friendship, self-discovery, unpacking trauma, re-evaluating relationships and looking towards recovery. I found it to be a very memorable, and yes, haunting read and I am already looking forward to re-reading it again with new eyes.
I am not the only one to think this, but I would compare this to The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (one of my all time favourite book series) perhaps not in writing style, but definitely because of the vibes and some of the characters. Think of the fast cars, night drives, and the street racing with Ronan Lynch in The Dream Thieves, and of the ghostly presence of Noah Czerny. I would even stretch to say it is similar to Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo in the way that the character of Eddie is similar to Ninth House’s Darlington – in that he may be missing physically but is very much present and the reader finds out more about him through the story.

I’d recommend Summer Sons to fans of the southern gothic as well as those new to the genre, and I think readers who like a good mystery would enjoy this too. I’d also recommend it to those who enjoy character focused novels, as well as anyone looking to read more queer literature by queer authors.

Definitely worth mentioning a content warning for adult content: Alcohol, Drug Use, Drink Driving, Profanity, Sex, Suicide References, plus trigger warnings for death and gore and some homophobic slurs.

August ..

Just checking in, to any one that may still read this thing, and just to log my reading. I haven’t posted for a while as I have not really read a lot to need to post a monthly wrap up, and unfortunately I haven’t read much worth shouting about! My last few reads were not great unfortunately.

However, there have been a couple of excellent reads. I read Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince series, along with her Modern Faerie Tales trilogy which were both pretty fun and I can’t believe I didn’t read them earlier. I also finishing reading Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo which is not out until the end of the month so I will share that review then, it’s a very good book!

It’s difficult to write this, but there was a death in my family this month, and it looks like I will be going back to work soon so I am feeling all kinds of emotions at the moment and just hoping to handle September and the rest of the year as smoothly as possible.

June Wrap Up and July TBR

Errr, it’s June already? I also think we have had our summer already as we had 2 nice weeks of sunshine which I spent getting sunburnt in the garden or in my lazy spa-pool. It’s grey and raining now as I write this…..oh well.

So in June I have been watching Panic on Amazon Prime which is an adaptation of a great book by Lauren Oliver which I read many summers ago. It’s so good, and I’ve watched it twice already. I have also started re-watching Teen Wolf for the third time and I’m on to Season 4 already. It’s my comfort show now!

reading wrap up june books

I read a chunky trilogy of 3 books in one, a 500+ page graphic novel, and a book on my kindle. As June was the first time I ever read a Holly Black book, I enjoyed it enough to treat myself to the Folk of The Air trilogy I’ve heard so much about and I’ve started on The Cruel Prince already. I’m also excited to have a review copy of The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider (queer Merlin retelling), and Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (southern gothic) to review for The Nerd Daily.

The Modern Faerie Tales by Holly Black – Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside.

I was recommended this by a friend and I’m so glad they did. I like urban fantasy and this hit the spot. I bought all three books in one so it was nearly 800 pages. This is an early 00s book and you can tell (goth fashion… Or what someone thinks goth fashion is… You so edgy!) . It was sweet and nostalgic and reminded me of some older books I read as a teen (no cell phones!) It’s full of people doing things they shouldn’t, and no one is really good or likeable, but you like them anyway right?

On A Sunbeam Graphic Novel by Tillie Walden

This a was a fun,cute “space opera” about a crew that go to different planets and restore old buildings, but its also a two timeline story, and the second story is about a girl’s time at boarding school and her first love. The universe and potential for this is large, and I enjoyed reading the book, but visually I would like it to have been a bit more detailed and clearer in places.

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

This was the June pick for The Queer Book Crew. I’m not really sure how I would describe what its about because I don’t think it really knows itself yet, maybe book two will be stronger? The plot was okay but I wasn’t really hugely interested by it until the last 5,10% of the book. I only really liked one character – Nirrim and wasn’t really clicking with Sid. The writing was beautiful though and is what I liked most.

July TBR

For July I will be reading In The Ravenous Dark by AM Strickland for our Queer Book Crew pick, and I’d like to continue with the Folk of the Air trilogy, and make a start on one of my ARCS for review.

I’m so so sooo looking forward to Summer Sons, it sounds right up my street!! Happy reading everyone!

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater

mister impossible book cover

Ahhh Mister Impossible. How do you review this book? Like Call Down The Hawk, I think this is one that you need to read twice. Once for enjoyment and the vibes, and once more again to find all the little bits you missed, and for the moments that make you shout out AHA!
This isn’t an issue though as I have no problem re reading Call Down The Hawk (or The Raven Cycle) as I love Maggie’s writing and characters. I am looking forward to re reading Mister Impossible, but I wanted to write a short review first..

So this book didn’t really answer many of my questions from Call Down The Hawk and then left me with many more… So of course I can’t wait for the final book!

This is a very “Maggie” book and it looks like she’s had fun with it, and gone wild with all the possibilities. The world of the dreamers seems much bigger now, and not just contained to Ronan and his barns as we once knew.
One thing I can say about Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is that she can make me interested in things I wouldn’t normally be too bothered about. For example, this book is about art. Art is very important to it. I do not know much about art and painting and artists, its not something I dabble in. However, with Mister Impossible, because I’m invested in the story, and I’m still curious about learning more about the characters, I want to pay attention to everything. In my opinion the amount of art related stuff in Mister Impossible isn’t dull or uninteresting to me because a good writer can take something like that and her passion and detail with it is infectious. I might not get all the references, but I bet with a second read I would see more. Another example with this is cars in The Raven Cycle. Cars and driving are a hobby of the author, however I don’t even know how to drive. But when reading The Raven Cycle, Gansey’s beloved camaro was written so perfectly into the book that it felt like a character and I found myself attached to it.

Overall I thought Mister Impossible was not as dramatic or as fast paced as I thought it would be for a middle book, but I was very happy with what I did get. There was a good mix of little scenes and happy and sad moments. Like many, I have grown attached to Declan Lynch, plus I am also really enjoying Jordan’s story. I am one of the few who thought reading about Jordan and Declan’s parts were better than Ronan, Hennessy, and Bryde’s sections.

Again, wonderful writing as always, and let’s see how I feel once I’ve read it again.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club is a coming of age / romance / historical fiction story about an American Chinese girl named Lily in 1950s San Francisco who discovers a gay / lesbian bar. Lily has to navigate school, family, racial prejudice, rumours and threats of communism, and her first love. Although there’s still a way to go, throughout the book it made me think how far we’ve come since then with regards to being inclusive of LGBTQ+ people and how difficult and different it must have been for them in the past.

I’m not 100% sure if the writing style was for me, whilst it was detailed and descriptive, I sometimes found it to be maybe a little too long and maybe too much on the narration. It could have probably been 50 pages less. However this is just my opinion.

You can really see the details, heart, and research the author has put into writing the book, and she has included a section at the back of the book that details this should the reader want to know more. I mainly read to be entertained, but books like this remind me that we can be both entertained and educated. This part of history wasn’t really talked about during school. It was good to read about something from a time and place I don’t often get to read about. On top of that, I liked Lily as a main character, I liked that she was interested in pursuing science / mathematics as a career, and there was a few interesting supporting characters that were great too. 

First love is always so powerful and consuming and I think we never forget it 

May Wrap up and June TBR

May is over… that went fast, not going to lie I wasn’t up for reading much at the beggining of the month as I was waiting for Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater to be released, and finishing playing Soulstorm on the playstation. I think reviews to come on both of those!!

The weather is getting nicer, and I turned 30! Here is a photo of yours truly with some of my books and a birthday Pusheen;

So in May I have read 4 books, DNF’d one, started one, and bought 6!!

Check out what I bought below (not pictured is Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series or The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutoski)

book stack showing 4 blue books this is how you lose the time war, mister impossible, last night at the telegraph club, and on a sunbeam

I think those books I bought are perfect for Pride Month in June as I wanted to get some more sapphic reads, but I have already read The Last Night at The Telegraph club, Mister Impossible, and This Is How You Lose The Time War, maybe I got too excited aha. But every month is a good month for LGBTQ+ books, not just June.

May Reads

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

See my review here, but a really empowering, interesting, fantasy fiction story following three very different but very loveable sisters.

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater (Dreamer Trilogy #2)
mister impossible paperback book

Review to come! But my spoiler free thoughts were that this was a very “Maggie” book, it really is wild and imaginative, and once again its going to be even better when I read it again. It didn’t really answer many questions from the first book, and raised a lot of new ones. It felt like not much was happening but then everything sort of started happening at the end!

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
Last Night at the Telegraph Club paperback

This was a group read for the Queer Book Crew Discord server. An own voices, queer romance, coming of age story about an Asian – American in late 50s San Francisco. It was really interesting, descriptive, and you could tell the author had put so much thought into her research too. I also love the cover it’s so pretty!

June TBR

For June I am going to continue with Tithe by Holly Black (Modern Faerie Tales) which I have just started, and I also want to read The Midnight Lie for the Queer Book Crew’s June read. I also want to get to the massive chonkyyy graphic novel I have called On A Sunbeam, for Conquer a Chonker readathon by Asha at A Cat, A Book, And A Cup Of Tea

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

the once and future witches book cover

Good concept, nice writing, interesting characters – no complaints here!

I know I haven’t posted for a few weeks but I’ve only recently been reading again after a very short break. I looked forward to curling up and reading The Once and Future Witches each evening and it took me a whole week to read.

Having read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I already knew that Alix E Harrow’s way with words is just wonderful, so I didn’t mind taking my time with this book. I enjoyed how magic was found and used here. I felt like it got more and more “witchy” throughout. I also really liked how even though it is a standalone, by the end of the book I really felt connected to all three sisters and there was something different I liked about each one.
The story may have started to lull for me in the middle but it soon picked back up. I liked Beatrice Belladonna Eastwood the most so enjoyed reading her chapters. I found I saw little parts of myself in the librarian and loved following her journey through this book. Feisty James Juniper Eastwood kept me on my toes, and Agnes Amaranth Eastwood kept me grounded. Family meant everything to these three, they’d all experienced trauma and wrong doing – and I felt like I owed it to each one to keep reading to find out what had happened to them in the past, and how they could find their way back to each other, move past, and a way to move forward and stay together.

So yeah, witches, power, feminism, all very intriguing and interesting to me. Bit dark in parts, but I liked that, it made it more real and reminded me what the stakes were (no pun intended) I kinda felt like there was a bit of taste of revenge, or at the very least, taking back what was owed which left me feeling very empowered.

April Wrap up and May TBR

the raven cycle book stack with sword in the stars book cover

So April has absolutely flown by, and now we are into May…..I turn 30 this month!! But it’s okay because I won’t be forced to grow up…although I am getting tired and can’t see a thing without my glasses!

So I haven’t managed to read much at all this month as I’ve been spending time in front of the TV screen instead. I’ve finished re-watching all six seasons of LOST (an amazing show that’s stood the test of time, go check it out if you haven’t already) I’ve also (probably along with a massive amount of the book community) watched Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone on Netflix which is EXCELLENT. I have only read the Six of Crows duology and not the Shadow & Bone series, but I enjoyed seeing the Crows on screen, even i I wish they had more plot from the book in it…Season 2 anyone!?

Lastly, I’ve been playing Oddworld: Soulstorm on PS5, I’ve been playing Abe and Oddworld games since I was six years old and I could talk about or play them all day! I’m not a very skilled gamer but I don’t care, I have fun!

So book – wise, I have read 4 books and started one more, I’ve also bought 3 and was gifted one!

Finished re-reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater – the fourth time maybe?

Read The Sword in The Stars by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta (to complete the Once & Future duology)

Started Cute Mutants Vol. 4 by SJ Whitby

the raven boys book tattoo bee tattoo ley lines flowers
My Raven Cycle Tattoo


Big plans for May! I’m going to finish Cute Mutants Vol. 4, and then start The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow whilst I wait for Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater which is out on May 18th. Then after that I’ll be reading Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo for a group read.
Who knows..I may even get to start the Truly Devious series I bought this month..

the once and future witches books cover