Review: When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

“What is all the suffering for if not so we can see how alike we are, and not alone? Where will the mercy come from, if not from us?”

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★★★★

Ballantine Books | 2021

Filed Under: Hello darkness, my old friend


Well, I tell you what, if you’re in an emotional funk or mentally teetering on the edge of another bout of panny depression, do not read this book for the love of Thor and Loki’s butts in those toit-like-a-tiger outfits. Because this novel is sad, bitch.

I needed a nap and some serotonin by the time I was finished with it.

Detective Anna Hart is going through a hard time. She’s lost a child, lost herself and is about to lose her marriage. Hart decides the only way she might be able to find some perspective and some healing is if she leaves her current situation behind. She needs space to get herself together if there is any chance of moving past her grief and keeping her family.

She leaves San Fran for the small, country town of Mendocino, California where she grew up. Her dark present is about to compete with the tortured ghosts of her past in Mendocino. I mean, honestly, someone take this woman to an amusement park for the day. Just give her a reprieve from trauma. Everywhere you look with her it’s like dead parents, abandonment issues, dead foster parents, dead child, broken marriage, dead high school friends…

I’m not sure I’ve ever read a novel where one character was getting all of the dark shit, all of the time.

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Review: Dark August by Katie Tallo

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★★★½

HarperCollins | 2020

Filed Under: A Polite Canadian


I normally wouldn’t pick up a book like this because it’s thicc and sounds more like a contemporary with hints of suspense, but it’s set around my hometown in Niagara, Ontario so how and why would I pass up reading that? Obviously, I wouldn’t because here we are.

Do you know how many books are based in the Niagara area? Like, one. This one. Why? Because let’s get real, Niagara isn’t a thriving metropolis.

Maybe it used to be, but by the time I left most areas had nicknames like “the armpit of Niagara” or “the butthole of Niagara.”

Where did I live? The fucking taint. 

Like a taint, this novel is dark and gloomy; a family mystery wrapped around some community politics.

Augusta “Gus” Monet is basically a poor, aimless girl with little to her name and an abusive, shady AF boyfriend. When her grandmother dies, Gus comes into a little (seriously, very little) inheritance in the form of her grandmother’s house and whatever is inside of it, including an old dog named Levi. And the dog is honestly the best part of the whole novel, but I did spend a lot of time being paranoid something terrible was going to happen to him. If you’re the kind of person (like me) who needs to know if the dog dies going into a story, let me know and I’ll totally spoil it for you, no questions asked.

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Review: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

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★★★½

Viking | 2018

Filed Under: A young stepmother who my stepkids should be nicer to!


Just like other reviews aplenty will tell you, this novel is inspired by another classic novel and blah blah blah. I don’t know the book. I might know the author’s name? I’ve never read it and I didn’t know any of this “inspiration” shit going into the book so it really makes zero difference to me whatsoever.

Look, I never claimed to be a refined reader.

I read this novel purely for the gothic feel of the synopsis and because I’m a stepmother married to an older(ish) man and those themes resonate with me. I haven’t found many stories centring on stepmothers/second wives, which are actually mystery/thrillers that don’t paint people like me as some ridiculous evil creature to be feared and ousted.

I wagered, because this book was told from the stepmother’s point of view, there was a good chance she wasn’t the villain per se. And thankfully, I was right! The stepmother isn’t the villain for once! She’s more of a saviour, which is totally how I see myself, just with less doing things that make anyone’s life better, and more being so peeved that I never get to play my PlayStation anymore that I bought a second one out of passive aggressive spite. It’s how I roll.

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Review: It Takes One (Audrey Harte, #1) by Kate Kessler

“Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person. People do bad things for the right reasons all the time.”

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★★★★½

Redhook | 2016

Filed Under: That wasn’t me, that was Patricia.


Audrey Hart left Edgeport years ago after being released from the local juvie, Stillwater, for killing her best friend’s father when they were teenagers. She doesn’t regret it for a second – Maggie’s father was a daughter-raping piece of shit, and killing him – and the consequences that followed – have made Audrey who she is today: a successful child psychologist and contributor to a true crime tv show, Kids Who Kill.

When Audrey gets a call to return home to Edgeport, she’s dreading it. The whispers, the glances – all eyes are always on her whenever she’s in town. That is certainly true when Audrey walks into the local watering hole to pick up her drunk-ass father and Maggie spots her. They speak for the first time in years and it’s not friendly. Audrey gets mean, Maggie gets nasty, gets pushed onto her ass and Audrey storms off. The next morning, Maggie is dead and Audrey is a suspect.

So begins all the twisted, romantic, dramatic events that will lead to the disturbing discovery of just what exactly happened to Maggie. And when I say twisted, I mean twisted. There is so much history to unravel, so many secrets and lies to uncover, that while there aren’t necessarily any “thrilling” or “dangerous” moments, you are totally engaged the whole time.

There are just so many elements of this novel that I loved.

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