Whenever I receive a new book and am not sure whether I'll like it or not, I look to see who endorsed it and what they thought. In the case of How I Came to Sparkle Again by Kaya McLaren, I found endorsements by two of my favorite authors, Kristin Hannah and Sarah Pekkanen. I knew that if they loved it, I would love it too. Did my theory work? Keep reading...
Jill can barely focus on work again after a tragic loss and when she leaves early from her first day back on the job, it leads to a further demise of everything she thought was sacred. The only thing left to do is flee to Sparkle, Colorado....the ski town where she spent her teen years to escape a difficult family situation.
Lisa is through with men coming through the revolving door of her life and wants real love, even if it means having to trust a man. When the possibility of love comes in the form of her ski bum best friend, she doesn't know whether she should run from it or take it for everything it's worth.
The untimely death of 10 year-old Cassie's mother has left both her father and her stricken with grief. Will they ever be able to find happiness again? Cassie hopes to find the answers in the heart shaped rocks she and her mom used to collect.
Loss. Heartbreak. Sadness. Regret. One winter in Sparkle has the power to change all of their lives in ways they will never forget.
Here's the short version of my review: I LOVED this novel and you all must go out and get it at once and devour it right away!
Here's the longer review, where I justify the short version:
Kaya McLaren has the power to draw readers in from the very first sentence, grabbing them right away and not letting go till...well, she still has a hold on me. Jill, Lisa and Cassie are all very sympathetic characters and I found it easy to relate to them, even if we had nothing in common. They felt as real to me as friends and I missed them when I had to put down the story for a while. Getting to read more about them felt like a real treat. The supporting characters (a.k.a. the guys...even though some of them had their own focus from time to time) were also incredible and added so much depth to the story through their interactions with the lead characters. Kaya's use of description made me feel like I was standing in a snowbank on a blustery winter day. She knew how to bring winter to her readers in a realistic way. I would have preferred her to explain some of the ski terminology, as I tended to get lost during those parts. However, the story was so strong that lack of skiing knowledge on my end didn't detract from it.
While this novel could easily be a tearjerker, I didn't cry. It felt more like a giant hug than a reason for catharsis. That's not to say I didn't feel emotionally exhilarated, like I was the one skiing down a hill of heartbreak and loss, leading to another hill with comfort and romance. (Did I mention that this story is wonderfully romantic, as well?!?) Kaya doesn't hold back though and it shows in the way her characters voice their feelings. There are some Hallmark card moments, but there's a lot of raw and honest emotion, as well. Especially when it comes to Cassie and her ability to speak uncensored. In any case, I do want to warn mothers-to-be to hold off on reading it until their baby is brought safely into the world.
Overall, reading How I Came to Sparkle Again was like drinking mugs of steaming hot cocoa with whipped cream on top while sitting in front of a crackling fire. It just warms you from inside and that feeling remains long after the last page. I commend Kaya for writing this novel and look forward to more like it in the future. It was absolutely unforgettable and one of my favorites from this year. So to answer my earlier question, Kristin Hannah and Sarah Pekkanen know how to pick great stories as well as they know how to write them!
Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. We're doing a giveaway along with Kaya's interview, so don't miss out! (US/Canada only.)
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