Monthly Archives: April 2021

Book Review: When The Stars Go Dark – I could not put it down

By Paula McLain

Anna Hart has suffered a deep loss, setting her adrift in a sea of her own making. Leaving her husband alone with his grief, she flees to Mendocino. The small town is set idyllically on the ocean where she lived with the only foster family that actually cared for her. Sadly, it was also the place that one of her friends disappeared from and was never found.

Tragically, history has repeated itself. This time, more than one young girl has gone missing. Armed with a law enforcement badge as well as her successful career saving children that have been abused Anna joins the local sheriff in the searches. She must face her fears, as well as overcome her personal demons. The underlying anguish of Anna is palpable. Perhaps it is why she is determined to help the missing girls. Maybe she will feel redemption if just one of them is not murdered.

The characters come to life on the pages, along with the emotions the author artfully brings to the story. Often fiction is based upon facts. When the Stars Go Dark, while a work of fiction, weaves in the heartbreakingly true story of the kidnapping of Polly Klaas. Be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end of the novel as she writes about it as well as touching on her journey in the foster care system and being a survivor of child abuse. The setting is based on a town that exists. The year is 1993, before cell phones, DNA and the internet became the norm.

This is the first book I have read by Paula McLain. She is a New York Times bestselling author of several novels as well as a memoir and two collections of poetry. I am certain When the Stars Go Dark will become a bestseller as well. I highly recommend it because the plot is page turning and the prose is often to be savored. Put it on the top of your list of must reads. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult, you will love Paula McLain as they both have the same depth and powerful emotion threaded throughout their novels.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Good Sister – One of the Best Books I’ve Read this Year

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

Fern and Rose are twins. But they are as different as night and day. Rose is plump, married and has a job that demands a large portion of her life. Fern on the other hand, is tall, slender and has sensory issues, bordering on autism. She lives on her own, but depends on Rose when life becomes too overwhelming to handle or when she forgets to close the front door when she leaves the house. Fern works at the local library, loving the routine that is essential to her well-being. She meets an interesting man whom she instantly calls Wally due to his hat that resembles the one that is worn by a character in a children’s book. They soon begin a relationship of sorts.

The reader learns from the journal Rose keeps that the girls have a dark past. She writes of the way her substance abusing mother treated the girls. The trauma of the mother who changed moods like her shoes and mistreatment of Fern and Rose is well outlined. She can no longer hurt them, but what’s done is done and it has deeply changed both of the girls forever. But Rose is determined to keep Fern out of trouble by taking charge as if Fern is her daughter, not her twin.

Watching one sister thrive and the other spiraling downward is interestingly portrayed by the author. The characters ebb and flow with and against each other throughout the pages. The anguish is palpable and further deepens an already complex plot. Conversely, the story is easy to read. It is perfection. There is a twist at the end that I did not anticipate, elevating this book to another level. As someone who reads many books, this one will stand out in my mind for a long time.

This is the first book I’ve read by Ms. Hepworth, but will not be the last. Based in Melbourne, Australia, she has written four previous books. The Secrets of Midwives, in 2015 is her best-selling novel. I daresay The Good Sister is destined to become a best-seller as well.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Glitter End – Fast and Fun Cozy Mystery

The Glitter End by Vivian Conroy

Delta Douglas has an idea to bring more people into the stationery shop that she owns with her close friend Hazel. She has agreed to have Tilly Tay, a famous miniature artist, bring one of her works to the shop. It is a tiny world showcasing the small town’s gold rush history, featuring tiny replications of actual structures from the Old West days.

Unfortunately, Tilly is an eccentric character that quickly irritates the town folks. Shortly after arriving she is arrested for murder. Delta thinks Tilly is quirky, but doesn’t believe she is a killer. Ray Taylor, a man that Delta would love to be more than friends with, agrees with her. He is a retired football player with ties to law enforcement so they quietly begin to investigate the case running under the radar of the cops. Hopefully no one will get hurt if and when the killer catches on to their plan.

This cozy mystery is a fast and fun read. The setting is beautifully brought to life and the characters are interesting. Like most cozy mysteries there is a hint of romance, however difficult it is for the main characters to connect and share their feelings.

Ms. Conroy is a prolific cozy mystery writer, having written several series in addition to this series, the Stationery Shop Mysteries. This is the first book I have read by her and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is the second book in the series but reads well as a standalone cozy. I can’t wait to check out her other series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Complicit – Riveting Thriller

Complicit: by Amy Rivers

Forensic psychologist Kate Medina quit her job with the correctional department, fleeing from the job and life she loved after a brutal attack. Settling back in her hometown, Kate finds a job as the psychologist in the high school she and her sister attended. Helping teens has helped her, but the past is never far from her mind.

When one of the girls she is counseling disappears, Kate is determined to help the students deal with the trauma of the event as well as helping the police with the investigation. But digging into the life of the missing girl unwittingly puts her in danger. The lead detective on the case, coincidentally her ex-boyfriend, Roman Aguilar, contacts Kate to see if her counselling sessions hold any clues about the missing student. Kate is compelled to help, but her unresolved feelings for Roman keep getting the way.

As the investigation unfolds, it is evident that the missing student is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a sinister group behind the missing girl’s disappearance that involves sex trafficking, kidnapping and murder. Will Kate and Roman find those responsible before one or both of them die? And, as if she didn’t have enough on her plate, her father is diagnosed with a terminal illness. This results in a visit from her long absent sister, who grudgingly appears at the family home when she hears he is sick.

Complicit is a fast-paced thriller and full of twists and turns that exposes the underbelly of human trafficking that is happening in the United States today. I literally could not put it down. The realistic characters and realization that these events could be pulled from today’s headlines is chilling. I loved the plot and characters, each of them fully developed and their transition thorough the pages was realistic and believable.

I highly recommend Complicit. Ms. Rivers, in addition to being an outstanding author, is the Director for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) and has worked with law inforcement on cases much like this work of fiction. By bringing the issue of human trafficking to light, she is helping others speak up and hopefully get the help they need. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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