WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS by Laura McHugh


Publisher: Random House
Release Date: June 22, 2021

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is a gripping dark mystery that made me super uneasy! I love that Laura McHugh sets her atmospheric thrillers in small towns around the Midwest, in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, and now Arkansas โ€” technically a Southern state, but close enough for me.

The main character is Sarah/Sarabeth, a young woman who has endured A LOT. As a teen her parents joined a fringe religious group and moved the family to a remote farm in Arkansas. She is stifled by the strict rules and dreams of escaping. Just before her 18th birthday, she’s abducted by a masked man, but found a week later. This horrific experience ends up being her ticket out, but she won’t easily shake the trauma. The police have no leads, and her case eventually fades to the background.

Fast-forward five years, and Sarah is still dealing with scars from the past, but doing her best to move on. She’s contacted by investigator Nick Farrow who’s working on another missing persons case similar to her own and needs her help. Of course that means going back to the family farmstead to face her past, but is she ready for what might be revealed?

Sarah’s story is gut wrenching and really put me on edge. Chapters alternate between Sarah in the present and Sarabeth in the past, so readers can experience what she went through. I was engrossed in the mystery and the many dark secrets that were gradually revealed.

WHAT’S DONE IN DARKNESS is another gritty, fast-paced, and enjoyable thriller from Laura McHugh. The situations of unreported missing girls from the hollers presented in this book are probably more common than we think. Eye-opening!

So, Nick Farrow’s character. I pictured him looking and acting like Detective Colin Zabel from Mare of Easttown. (Have you seen that show? If not, you must watch.)

I love the mention of Lambert’s Cafe! I’ve never been there, but I see the billboards when we drive to the Ozarks โ€” “Home of the throwed rolls!” That’s so funny. I always wonder why someone would want rolls thrown at them in a restaurant. โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke


Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 18, 2021

Bittersweet & funny. AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY is about two teens and their father dealing with loss, and just because one member is ready to move on, the others might not be.

Can a disastrous road trip help the Ripley family face their grief after the loss of their mom? Not only is camping at Big Bend National Park the last place Theo and his sister Laura want to spend their summer vacation, their dad has a doozy of a surprise: meeting his new girlfriend.

This book made me teary eyed, and kept me laughing out loud at the witty dialogue. The characters were realistic and I could empathize with each one. The humorous banter and misadventures helped balance the seriousness in the story. Enjoyed! (Borrowed from the library.)

RULE OF THREES by Marcy Campbell


Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: May 11, 2021

RULE OF THREES is an absorbing middle grade family drama that tackles some serious issues, including drug addiction, Alzheimerโ€™s, and infidelity. While these heavy subjects are presented realistically, the ending will leave readers hopeful.

Maggie is a sixth grader, just starting middle school, and she’s already feeling stress from an uneasy shift in her friend group from elementary. It’s a time when relationships change, and new people come into your life, but Maggie never dreamed one of them would be a half-brother she knew nothing about!

Tony is a year older than Maggie, and with his mother struggling with drug addiction, he has no choice but to live with his father who may as well be a stranger. I adored Tony and Maggie, and my heart went out to them. Their reactions to this situation beyond their control were so genuine, and I loved seeing the growth in their characters over time.

This is a thoughtful coming of age story with compelling, imperfect characters dealing with relatable struggles, and it was a delight to read. Highly recommended! โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.ย 

THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES by Pamela Terry


Publisher: Ballentine Books
Release Date: March 16, 2021

โ˜† Stunning Debut โ˜†

THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES is a gorgeously written novel about siblings who uncover shocking family secrets after their mother Geneva Bruce dies unexpectedly.

Lila and Henry have avoided their childhood home in Wesleyan, Georgia, for most of their adult lives. Their relationship with Geneva was strained, yet their younger sister (who never left) was very close to their mother. All three Bruce children are baffled as to why Geneva died under the muscadine arbor in the middle of the night, and they also have no idea about the secrets she kept hidden for decades that will upend their lives.

The prose is lovely and lyrical, and you can pull passages from every page and say “wow!” As someone who grew up in small-town Georgia, I can say that the author perfectly captured the South in her rich descriptions and within her characters. If you enjoy compelling women’s fiction with true Southern flair, move this book to the top of your list! โ€” ๐““๐“ฒ๐“ช๐“ท๐“ช

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

๐Ÿ“š Find THE SWEET TASTE OF MUSCADINES onย Goodreadsย ๐Ÿ“š