Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

When the Stars Go DarkWhen the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wracked with grief after a personal tragedy, Missing Persons Detective, Anna Hart, flees from her regular life in San Francisco, in order to give herself time to heal.

She heads back to the town she grew up in with her loving foster parents, Mendocino, in Northern California.

Once there, she rents a modest cabin in the woods and actually ends up taking in a new canine companion, who she names, Cricket.

Obviously. this enhanced my enjoyment of the story.
((Just kidding. Kind of, not really.))

Anna also reunites with her childhood friend, Will, who happens to now be the local Sheriff.

Knowing how successful Anna has been in her career, Will enlists her help with assisting him finding a teenage girl, Cameron, who has recently gone missing.

This new investigation is a good distraction from Anna’s own tragedy, but her involvement means more to her than that. She quickly becomes engrossed in the case.

Having survived very significant childhood trauma herself, Anna has dedicated her life to helping other children and survivors. As stressful as it can often be, it’s her calling.

We watch the investigation unfold, as Will and Anna work together to try to find out what happened to Cameron. Maybe they can get to her before it’s too late.

They end up tying her case to that of other missing girls in the area and the intensity definitely begins to build from there.

This is a great story. It’s subtle, dark and heart-wrenching.

It really reminded me a lot of Rene Denfeld’s, The Child Finder and I mean that as a heavy compliment.

It’s quite nuanced, more than your average book in this genre, which I appreciated so much. McLain packed a lot in.

I loved the investigatory elements and learning more about Anna’s background as a character; how her early life lead her to the point where she is at.

Overall, this story has good action, a compelling mystery, layered, well-established characters and a satisfying conclusion.

There were some areas that felt a little slow for me, but that didn’t overshadow any of the other fantastically done elements.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Ballantine Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and hope this author writes more in this genre!

View all my reviews

Review: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Is Killing ItFinlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is a hilarious, modern-day Cozy Mystery, that will leave you simultaneously at the edge-of-your-seat and clutching your sides with laughter.

As a start to a series, this story succeeded in making me fall in love with these characters. I cannot wait for more!

Finlay Donovan is a struggling novelist. She is also currently single-moming two small children, as her jerk ex-husband left her for the hot, blonde, real estate agent he had been having an affair with.

Making matters worse, on the morning of a very important meeting with her agent, to discuss her barely existent new novel, Finlay discovers her ex-hubby has also fired their nanny. Without giving her any advanced notice!

Not a great start to the day. As single-moms are known to do, however, Finlay figures it out, all whilst barely holding herself together on the inside.

She makes her meeting with her agent, at a Panera, of all places, and they have a great, albeit slightly stressful discussion about Finlay’s career.

Unbeknownst to Finlay, another patron was listening in on the conversation.

Not understanding they were discussing the plot of Finlay’s floundering novel, this woman now mistakenly believes Finlay to be a successful contract killer.

She then proceeds to try to hire Finlay to kill her husband. He’s a scoundrel, she says; he won’t be missed and she is willing to pay a hefty sum. While Finlay is intrigued, she obviously sees the problems with this plan.

However, somehow, as turns out to be common in Finlay’s life, she ends up in over her head. Before she knows it, she is embroiled in the dark underbelly of her community, where murder abounds.

This novel is fun from the first chapter. You are immediately thrown into the chaos of Finlay’s life and into her hilarious inner musings.

Not long after the Panera incident, Finlay is able to rekindle her relationship with their fabulous nanny, Vero and the two become, quite literally, partners in crime.

The relationship between Finlay and Vero gave me life. They played off each others personalities so well. I loved how they worked together and became like family.

There were great side characters, red herrings, action and drama. It is just pure fun to read; light, funny and full of over-the-top hijinks.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

I cannot wait to see what Finlay and Vero get up to next!

View all my reviews

Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Lost VillageThe Lost Village by Camilla Sten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1959, it was discovered that all the residents of the defunct mining town of, Silvertjarn, Sweden, had mysteriously disappeared.

Well, all but the woman found hanging, stoned to death in the town square, and an infant located in the local school.

For decades, the mystery has gone unsolved.

Aspiring documentary filmmaker, Alice Lindstedt, has become obsessed with The Lost Village, as her Grandmother’s entire family were among the disappeared. She decides to tackle the mystery as her first solo documentary project.

She plans to travel to the remote village, along with a small crew, to search for the truth of what happened to the residents. She does have some information on the town based on letters from her Grandmother’s little sister, Aina.

Together with her friend, Tone, who also has a connection to the village, her ex-best friend, Emmy, an experienced production manager, Emmy’s technician and significant other, Robert, and the financial backer of the film, Max, Alice is finally able to reach her destination: Silvertjarn.

The plan is to shoot on location for six days. That’s all the time they have with their rented equipment. The project is low budget to say the least, but could be life-changing for Alice if the documentary is received well.

They travel to the town with just enough supplies to last through the six days. The location is quite remote; they won’t be bothered by anyone and should be able to focus and hopefully get enough good footage to kick the project off.

From the very start, the town has an ominous feel. It’s creepy being in an abandoned town. The houses and buildings still hold all of the belongings in place like time capsules. It seems the residents got up one day, walked out and never returned.

What could have happened here? All of the crew feel uneasy about the location, but decide to put their heads down and just work through it.

Tension is running high and some bickering ensues. The team seems to be coming apart before they’ve even started, but Alice is willing to do anything to salvage what time they have left.

Everything begins to spiral though and soon some on the crew suspect they are not alone in the village after all.

Together with the present day timeline, we get a past timeline as well, told from the perspective of Alice’s Great-Grandmother, Elsa, in the days leading up to the mass disappearance.

This past timeline ultimately concludes with the truth about the town and its dark secrets being revealed.

The Lost Village is an interesting story. While it started out slow for me, it did pick up quite a bit after the halfway point.

I enjoyed the overall mystery of the village and the alternating timelines; although I actually enjoyed the past timeline more.

In the present timeline, the characters and some of their choices were aggravating to me. I found the petty bickering annoying and some of the relationships didn’t make sense to me.

With this being said, it didn’t overshadow the other content too much. I was still able to enjoy the journey to the conclusion.

The ending definitely toed the line of eyeroll territory for me. I was shaking my head a bit, if I’m being honest.

Overall, though, this story has a lot of strong points. The atmosphere and overarching mystery were both very good; as well as the idea of a documentary film crew trying to unravel the mystery on location. I loved that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinions!

View all my reviews

Blog Tour: Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison

Her Dark LiesHer Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

From the start of their relationship, Claire Hunter, knows that by marrying Jack Compton, her life will change dramatically.

The Compton family is extremely rich and powerful; we’re talking the top 1%. Claire is an up-and-coming artist with a studio in Nashville and not much else. She’s new to their world and the circle of predators that comes with it.

The couple are set to wed at the Compton family’s luxury villa on Isle Isolde on the coast of Italy. It is planned to be an intimate occasion, with just family and a few very close friends.

The night prior to departing for Italy, the couple surprises an intruder in their home. It doesn’t end well and Claire is rattled by the whole incident. It’s not setting a good tone for her wedding weekend.

Even after arriving in Italy, her nerves are still rattled. The property is intimidating and Claire feels unsettled from the start.

As she begins to meet Jack’s family and the property’s many servants, she slowly starts to let her guard down. It’s clear they all love Jack very much and want him to be happy. That’s how it appears anyway.

It doesn’t take long before odd things begin happening; scary things. To Claire it seems that someone is trying to sabotage her and their nuptials, but who?

Terribly inclement weather sweeps in, adding more fuel to the fire. Everything has to be rearranged; the villa is in chaos. Then the bodies start dropping.

Her Dark Lies is an over-the-top, locked room Mystery, with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. You better grab your Dramamine before you go on this ride!

The author made some interesting choices in deciding what perspectives to follow; you actually get the perspective of the antagonist. I wasn’t crazy about this, as to me, it felt like it took all of the suspense out of it.

I liked the setting, but could have done with even more of the lore and history of Isle Isolde. We did get a few glimpses into the past of the Villa and there were a lot of skeletons in those closets.

While this is a good story, I was hoping for just a little more atmosphere and suspense. Technically, it has everything that makes up a good Thriller, but somehow it still felt a little anticlimactic for me.

With all of this being said, I know a ton of Readers are going to love the fast-paced drama of this novel. Just because it wasn’t the perfect book for me, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I did and most likely, you will too!

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

View all my reviews

Review: Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

Dear ChildDear Child by Romy Hausmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Dear Child is a taut Psychological Thriller that will leave you scratching your head until the very end.

It immediately drops you into this puzzle. It can take some time to get your bearings, but once the narrative begins to unfold, it’s completely intriguing.

The story is told from three main perspectives: a kidnapped woman, known as Lena, who has just escaped her captor; her daughter, Hannah; and Lena’s father, Matthias, who has been searching for his daughter for thirteen years.

From Lena and Hannah’s perspectives, the scope of the hell they, along with Hannah’s brother, Jonathan, have lived through begins to take shape. A cabin in the woods, the ‘father’ who controlled their every move and their utter isolation.

After her dramatic escape, Lena is hit by a car and immediately transported to the hospital, with Hannah in tow. It is there that the true depth of the mystery is exposed.

Is this woman really Lena? And if she’s not, then who is she?

This story is dark, twisted, sick, and intricate. Progressing through this story is like peeling back the layers of an onion; something stinks and at times you want to cry.

I thought this was so cleverly plotted. I had so many theories, my head was spinning. It did not end how I expected and I really enjoyed the journey.

There were moments in the beginning where I was almost too confused, but once the puzzle started to come together, wow. It was chef’s kiss.

The Epilogue was the delicious icing on the cake. It gave me that evil grin I love to have at the end of a story.

The most disturbing part of this was that it could really happen. There is nothing far-fetched about it. A cabin in the woods isn’t suspicious in and of itself. You can really do anything you want behind those doors.

I highly recommend this for people who love tense and twisted stories. I believe this is the first Thriller this author has written and obviously it shows incredible promise.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Flatiron Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I am definitely anxious to pick up more from Hausmann!

View all my reviews

Review: Whisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch

Whisper IslandWhisper Island by Carissa Ann Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars **

Riley doesn’t have any close friends until she meets Scarlett. The fellow art student is vibrant and sweeps Riley under her wing almost immediately upon meeting her.

Riley really isn’t sure why, but she’s not going to protest. Riley is now part of a group. The rest of Scarlett’s inner circle includes the most talented girl at school, Mia, and her long-time best friend, Sammy.

With the school year coming to a close, the girls discuss possibly traveling together. They want to get out of Tennessee and focus on their art; a real adventure.

When Sammy presents them with the opportunity to go stay on a private island off the coast of Alaska, how can they say no?

They would get to stay for three months and it won’t cost them a thing. The island belongs to the family of one of Sammy’s brother’s close friends. His family isn’t using it, so it is open for the taking.

Some of the girls require more convincing than others, but ultimately they decide to do it. To live in the moment and go on the ultimate adventure.

Upon arrival on Whisper Island, the girls are in for a surprise. Sammy’s unreliable brother, Rob, and his new girlfriend, Opal, are already there, when they weren’t suppose to arrive for another day.

Let the uncomfortable fun begin. Rob and Mia are ex’s and it did not end well. Mia was beyond miffed when she learned, at the airport, that Sammy had invited her brother along.

But none of them had any clue Opal would be there. Who even is she?

As they start to explore the island and settle in, they make a haunting discovery. After that a lot of disturbing events take place, leaving the group wondering if they are actually alone on the island.

Once the bodies start dropping, they know they need to get to the bottom of the mystery of Whisper Island, or risk never leaving again.

This was a fun little book. It reads just like a campy Slasher film; something I personally really enjoy.

It’s not perfect. Some of the interactions are cheesy and I definitely had some eye roll moments, but overall it’s a fun escape from the world.

It kept me entertained. I had some theories and one of them definitely panned out, but that didn’t deplete my enjoyment level at all.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes Teen Slashers, remote locations, locked-room mysteries and/or toxic friend groups.

Thank you so much to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I definitely had fun with it!

View all my reviews

Review: Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass IncidentDead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Mountain is an eerie recounting of the Dyatlov Pass Incident exceptionally well-told by Donnie Eichar.

I find this to be one of the most haunting unsolved mysteries of all-time.

In February of 1959, nine experienced hikers set out on a challenging back-packing expedition in the Russian Ural Mountains. One hiker survived and only because he departed early due to medical complications.

The young people involved were all college age, with the exception of one, and were members of a hiking club at their university.

Led by Igor Dyatlov, their goal for this particular hike was to receive a Grade III hiking certification, because of this the mountaineers kept copious notes and took photo documentation of their journey.

When they didn’t return home on the date expected, people naturally assumed they must have run into complications that delayed them, but they would arrive any day.

That day never came. A search party is sent out and what they find is extremely shocking and mysterious, spurring numerous theories as to what caused the hiker’s demise.

I won’t go into the horrific details of the discovery of the bodies, just know everything from government conspiracies, armed men, chemical attacks to aliens, were considered.

Donnie Eichar became interested in the case, like many of us, after hearing of the mystery by chance. As a documentary filmmaker, his natural instincts are to do whatever it takes to learn more.

Eichar connects with individuals inside Russia still interested in the case, travels there, pours over the old travel diaries and photos, interviews people involved, including the sole survivor and even hikes the same path the group took.

With the book, we alternate between Eichar’s historical retelling of the incident as he understands it, and his journey over the course of his investigation.

Even though I had read and watched quite a few videos on this incident, I found Eichar’s theory behind the mystery to be wholly unique, interesting and quite possible. While there is no way to say this is definitely what lead to their deaths, it is a very strong theory.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about unsolved mysteries; bonus if you are a hiker, mountaineer or rock climber. Eichar’s writing is engaging and he truly presents this tale with respect and grace.

View all my reviews

Review: If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier

If I DisappearIf I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

With a story as strangely compelling as its cover, If I Disappear, is perfect for Readers who prefer an unconventional narrative.

After her divorce, Sera Fleece is a boat adrift. She spends her days listening to, and obsessing over, her favorite True Crime podcast, Murder, She Spoke.

When the podcast’s host, Rachel Bard, suddenly stops posting, Sera doesn’t take it well.

In fact, she suspects foul play is behind Rachel’s sudden disappearance from the air waves.

Further, Sera believes, armed with clues left within the podcast episodes, she will be able to find Rachel and possibly save her.

With this in mind, she travels to Rachel’s hometown, Happy Camp, in Northern California to investigate.

Once there, she is able to locate Rachel’s family ranch and secure a job through one conversation with Rachel’s greatly eccentric mother, Addy. Her duties will include working with the horses and general maintenance around the ranch; two things she’s not necessarily qualified for.

Doubts aside, Sera sees this as the best opportunity to delve into Rachel’s life and possibly discover what happened to her.

The strangest part is, no one else seems to be disturbed by Rachel’s disappearance. Not her parents, her brother, the other ranch hand, or any of her previous acquaintances in town.

Sera is able to make some progress and soon it is clear, something is not right with the Bard family.

Even though she realizes she is putting herself in danger, Sera cannot leave without solving the mystery. She is the only person left to advocate for Rachel.

While the content of this story is extremely intriguing, the writing style did not work that well for me. I never settled into the fact that it is told in the second person.

I wish it wasn’t, but honestly, I can’t imagine it otherwise. I think it just didn’t work for my taste.

I definitely needed to keep going. I wanted to find out the mystery of Rachel’s disappearance as much as Sera did; even though Sera, as a protagonist, drove me a little batty.

Some of the elements involved in building the mystery seemed off for me, but overall it is a good story. It’s tense and dramatic, with a whole host of suspicious characters, including Sera herself.

Additionally, there is some solid commentary in here on the treatment of girls and women within our society. I found that aspect interesting as well.

Overall, this is a solid debut and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. I would absolutely pick up more stories from her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

If I Disappear is slated to release on Tuesday, January 26th!!

View all my reviews

Review: The Dead Season (Shana Merchant #2) by Tessa Wegert

The Dead Season (Shana Merchant, #2)The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Following the horrific events of Death in the Family, Senior Investigator Shana Merchant finds herself on administrative leave.

Her PTSD was triggered by the events on the Sinclair family’s private island and it caused her to display poor judgement. Now she is left spinning her wheels as her department urges her to take time to heal.

Pending a psychological evaluation she may be reinstated to her position. In the meantime however, she is suppose to focus on anything but work.

Shana has a hard time with that. When the remains of her long missing Uncle are found in the woods of her hometown, she heads home to solve the mystery.

At the same time, a young boy, Trey, goes missing on a school field trip in Alexandria Bay. Shana’s partner, Tim, is on the case and Shana feels like it is connected to Blake Bram, the serial killer continuing to hound her.

What’s even more intriguing is that Shana feels like the cases are linked in other ways; like Bram is holding Trey hostage, forcing Shana to solve the case of her long-dead Uncle. If she can solve it, perhaps Trey will live, but why?

I really enjoyed getting to know Shana Merchant, as a character, in the first novel. This second book fills in more of her past and the events that haunt her, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

We learn more about Blake Bram and Shana’s original connection to him.

Wegert won me over in the first novel by utilizing my favorite mystery trope, the locked room mystery. In this second installment, again, she gave me another one of my favorites: when a protagonist returns to their hometown to solve an old mystery.

Shana feels like she has forgotten a lot of her childhood. As she interviews friends, relatives and other community members, it begins to jog her memory and what she finds there isn’t pretty.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this and the reveals.

Shana is a great character, as is Tim, her partner. I have no idea how many mysteries this series will ultimately be, but you better believe, I will be reading them all.

If you are looking for a new mystery series with a classic mystery feel, you should definitely give the Shana Merchant series a try. The Dead Season is releasing on Tuesday, December 8th!!!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really appreciate it!

View all my reviews

Review: Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

Murder in Season (murder, she wrote #52)Murder in Season by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season is the 52nd-installment of this beloved series starring famous author and amateur sleuth, Jessica Fletcher.

This is the 5th-book written in the series by Jon Land, who took the reins after the passing of the series original, and long-standing author, Donald Bain. This is the 35th-book that I have read in the series.

Sometimes it feels like I have been reading this series my whole life. Honestly, I hope it continues that way.

There’s something about settling in with a new Jessica Fletcher mystery in front of me. The epitome of cozy.

As with many Adult Mystery series, you do not need to read these in order. You can really start anywhere.

You’ll learn the characters as you go along and before you know it, it will be like reuniting with old friends every time you start a new story.

If you are interested in starting this series, I would recommend just reading the synopsis for a bunch and picking whichever one sounds most interesting to you.

Jessica travels a lot, so there are mysteries set all over the world, in addition to her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine.

In this installment, Jessica has recently moved back into her home on Candlewood Lane after a lengthy reconstruction project following a house fire.

The Christmas holiday is approaching and Jessica is looking forward to having her nephew, Grady, and his wife, Donna, and son, Frank, stay with her for the occasion. It seems like a long time since they have all been together.

Unfortunately, as luck would have it, or as Jessica’s luck would have it, one of the final bits of reconstruction includes some trenching in her back yard, where not one, but two bodies are discovered.

The corpses appear to have been moved there, along with a trunk of old documents, from another location. Making it even more mysterious, one set of remains looks to be over a hundred years old, while the other is much more recent. How are they connected?

Now instead of focusing on the holiday, all of Jessica’s focus is on the remains.

Adding to the stress of the investigation, a tabloid reporter, Tad Hollenbeck, known for his overly sensationalized reporting, suddenly arrives in town claiming to be doing a story on how Cabot Cove is the “murder capital of the country”.

Tad’s headline seems to be coming true when he is found dead in his local hotel room.

What’s one more mystery for Jessica, Mort and Seth to solve?

I had so much fun reading this; learning more about the history of Cabot Cove and having Jessica back home.

This holiday is going to be tough, not being able to be with my family like I regularly would. I really needed something nostalgic like this to help with the 2020 blues.

Jon Land is settling in nicely as the author of this series. In the beginning, I’ll admit, I was worried, but he really nailed the tone on the last two.

I will continue to pick up the books in this series for as long as they are published. I am hoping with Jon Land now at the helm, that will be for a very long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and I review. I truly appreciate the opportunity!

View all my reviews