Book Review: When the Stars Go Dark

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain was an absolutely beautiful book. First of all, the title immediately draws you in. Second, the writing in this book was stunning. The writing was poetic and I kept going back and rereading lines just to appreciate how beautiful the writing was.

This book tells the story of Anna Hart who is a missing persons detective. A terrible tragedy sends Anna back to her hometown so she can try to process and grieve. Shortly after arriving to her hometown she discovers there is a fifteen year old girl missing and Anna quickly joins in on the case. While investigating this crime it starts to remind Anna of one of her friends who went missing years before when they were both fifteen.

I loved this book. I thought the plot was good, Anna was a sympathetic character, plus this book actually dove deeper and used actual missing persons cases and trauma theory as well. The book even touched on what makes some people more susceptible to predators than others. That approach could have easily turned into victim blaming, but it never did, it was done tactfully and I was able to relate to it in some ways and also learn from it as well.

To me, a book isn’t complete unless I am able to take something away from it. Whether that be a lesson, or an understanding of others more, etc. I was able to take a lot from this book and even able to understand my own traumas more.

I highly recommend this book. It was well-written, fast paced, there were a lot of good characters, and it kept me guessing the whole time. In the end I was kind of able to figure it out, but there were still plot twists that I did not see coming and I always appreciate an extra surprise element. Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars. This is a book that I am going to carry with me for a while and I cannot recommend it enough.

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My Top Five Books of 2021

In 2021 I read 100 books and in this blog post I am going to be sharing my top five favorite books I read last year. My reading style is kind of all over the place and this post will reflect that, but I tend to read mostly contemporary fiction, mystery and thrillers, and some historical fiction. Choosing my top five was extremely difficult because I read so many good books, but I somehow managed to curate a list of my five favorite books I read last year and here they are (in no particular order):

  1. A Little Hope by Ethan Joella. this book had a lot of characters and when I read the synopsis it honestly confused me, but it was such a beautiful book and it all begins to make sense once you start reading. This book follows a couple named Freddie and Greg Tyler through Greg’s cancer diagnosis. This book also touches on the stories of the people in their town and their life challenges and hardships as well. It is a simple story and the writing was beautiful. I found it to be a really impactful novel and just a reminder that you don’t know what other people are going through or experiencing in their lives.
  2. Miss Jane by Brad Watson is a coming of age, historical fiction novel about the life of Jane Chisolm, who was born in the early twentieth century with a genital birth defect. This birth defect causes Jane to not be able to live what would be considered a “normal” life for a woman at that time. She was unable to have kids because of it and therefore she never married. So many people told her she was destined to live a lonely life, but Jane was determined to prove her life was anything but lonely. I loved how this novel looked differences in the face and proved that just because someone is different does not mean there is anything wrong with them. While I was reading this book I kept thinking of how shame is an emotion or feeling you do not really feel until others put that feeling on you.
  3. Spilled Milk by K.L. Randis is a book that is based on a true story. This book follows Brooke Nolan who is being abused by her father and one day she makes an anonymous phone call about the abuse because it has been escalating. Unfortunately, social services ends up actually jeopardizing her safety so she quickly takes back what she said and is forced to keep her fathers secret longer. One night though she is at her friends house and a glass of spilled milk is what brings Brooke to tell the truth about her father. It then follows Brooke through the journey of the trial against her father and also the journey of losing family members who do not support her through the trial. I really liked how this book took abuse and looked at it as a whole and not just as a singular issue. It examined what it is like to have people not believe you when you decide to tell your truth. Brooke’s resiliency was used against her, the question of why she never told anyone was brought up, she was blamed for what happened to her and for ruining her fathers life because of what he did. I thought this book did an exceptional job at depicting abuse in a family and all the different aspects that play a part. I found this novel to be liberating, I guess is the best word I can think of. It was well written and I highly recommend the book.
  4. Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy was such a good book. This book stole a piece of my heart and I read it months ago and I find myself still thinking about it. Inti Flynn moves to Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, because Inti is leading a team of biologists in reintroducing 14 gray wolves into the remote Highlands. They are introducing the wolves to help the dying landscape in Scotland. Inti brought her sister with her because she is hoping to help heal her sister from a terrible trauma and secret that has made them leave Alaska. The town is not thrilled about the wolves and shortly after the wolves were introduced to the land, a farmer ends up dead and the town is blaming the wolves. Inti is determined to prove it was not the wolves, but that is becoming difficult when all signs are actually pointing to the man she has begun to fall in love with. The writing in this book was absolutely stunning. It was poetic and remained graceful while talking about some terrible tragedies. I would read this book over and over again if I could. The plot twist at the end really surprised me. I honestly did not see it coming. If you only read one book on this list, read this one. You will not regret it.
  5. A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson is told from the viewpoint of three different people. Clara is 8 years old and her older sister, Rose, is missing. She has not been seen or heard from for weeks. Clara is young and does not fully understand what is happening, but she is anxiously awaiting the return of her sister. Liam Payne is in his early thirties and he has just moved across the street from Clara’s family. This is a small town and with his new arrival around the time of Rose’s disappearance is a cause for concern for Clara. Mrs. Orchard is in her eighties and she owns the home Liam is now staying in. Mrs. Orchard is in the hospital and has asked Clara to keep an eye on her cat. Throughout the novel you find out how Mrs. Orchard and Liam are acquainted and what transpired between the two of them many years ago. I enjoyed this novel because it has a little bit of everything. It was a mixture of contemporary fiction and mystery and the three different viewpoints added a whole other element. Again, the writing in this novel was beautiful and beautiful writing will get me every time. This is another book I read months ago, but still think about. I almost wish I didn’t read it yet and that I could read it for the first time again. This book made me want to read more of Mary Lawson’s novels.

These were my top five books of 2021 and I am excited to see what will make my top five at the end of this year. Right now I have my yearly goal set at 50 books, but I am hoping to reach 100 again. I am currently on my 9th book of the year. I am surprised I was able to narrow it down to just five books. It was hard but these novels definitely deserved to be in the top five and again I highly recommend each of them. Next time you are looking for something to read I promise you will not regret reading any of these books.