Full Pour Review: We Are the Brennan’s

WOW, where do I even start with this one?! Ever since I read Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane in 2019 and fell back in love with reading, I’ve been looking for another emotional, raw, character-driven family novel that would captivate me the same way. The type of novel that focuses on families and all of their messiness, complications, struggles and triumphs. I am very pleased to say 110% found what I have been looking for in We Are the Brennan’s by Tracey Lange and that this book officially falls in my Top 3 Reads of 2021.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all―and her high school sweetheart―five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets―secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes―and ultimately find a way forward, together.”

To say that I am obsessed with the characters in this book is an understatement, as I found it incredibly hard to not fall in love with them. My heart swelled and ached for them. As a reader, it felt like a gift being immersed in their world and getting to witness their growth, their love and loyalty to one another, the sacrifices they made for one another, etc. In addition to the wonderfully developed characters, I feel that the pacing of this story was perfect and that the ending was deeply satisfying.

Simply put, this is hands down one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read. Tracey Lange is an incredible writer and storyteller and I reveled in the emotional roller coasters that she took me on throughout this book. If you’re looking for a book with a captivating story line and incredible cast of characters that will give you all the feels, I highly recommend checking out We Are the Brennan’s by Tracey Lange, releasing on 8/3/21.

Thank you again Celadon Books for gifting me this incredible book in exchange for my honest review 💛

BEER RECOMMENDATION: We Are the Brennan’s by Tracey Lange is best paired with Cherry Bomb by Prairie Artisan Ales 🍻

Full Pour Review: Such a Quiet Place

As anticipated, I enjoyed this book. Megan Miranda is an auto-buy author for me and Such a Quiet Place was the perfect suspenseful murder-mystery that I needed in order to get out of the reading slump I was in due to my last book 😅

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Welcome to Hollow’s Edge, where you can find secrets, scandal, and a suspected killer—all on one street.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truetts’ murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.”

I enjoyed the slow burning story line with this book and loved that the plot twists kept me second guessing everyone and everything up until the end. The book was told solely from Harper’s perspective and while most of the characters in this book were unreliable and not super likable, they were fun to meet and I actually enjoyed how it didn’t feel like I was meant to love the characters. Since this story focuses on neighborhood drama, untrustworthy neighbors and how you never know what happens behind closed doors, the fact that I didn’t love the characters felt appropriate and intentional.

If you’re looking for a quick, whodunnit murder mystery with entertaining neighborhood drama that will keep you invested until the end, I recommend checking out Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda is best paired with Aloha Friday by Downeast Cider 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Glass Hotel

Unpopular opinion: I did not enjoy this one.

I struggled so hard with getting into The Glass Hotel, that it took me almost an entire month to read it. I refuse to DNF books because I’ve read plenty of them that were slow to start and took a while to get into, but ended up loving it by the end. Unfortunately for me, this was not the case for this book. I wanted to enjoy this one so bad because of all the wonderful reviews I’ve read on it, but there were several things about it that just made the entire thing fall flat for me.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: Why don’t you swallow broken glass. High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis’s billion-dollar business is really nothing more than a game of smoke and mirrors. When his scheme collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call.

In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.”

To start, I feel that the book is incredibly slow paced and has random nuances that made it challenging to follow, such as lots of time hopping and multiple character POV’s that didn’t always make sense or seem to flow well. I often found myself questioning who people were and whether I was currently reading someone’s POV in the past, present or future. That being said, I also felt that there were way too many characters to keep track of and overall found the characters in general really hard to connect with. I will say that things started to pick up and get more interesting in the last quarter of the book, however the ending was still underwhelming to me.

Now, despite my feelings on the book, I think it’s worth mentioning that I personally feel that this book would be super intriguing as a movie or TV sitcom and would absolutely watch it in a heartbeat. As a book, it just didn’t do anything for me.

Please don’t let my review on this book deter you from reading it if it’s on your TBR list! And if anyone wants to message me and talk more about this book, I’d be more than happy to discuss!

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel is best paired with Double Citrus Sorbet by Sapwood Cellars. This delicious imperial/double milkshake IPA is brewed with citrus zest and vanilla beans 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Good Sister

I’m going to start off this review by stating that The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is easily going to fall within my Top 10 Books of 2021. I was sold on this book after an amazing review for it was posted by @carly.simone and what an INCREDIBLE roller coaster of a story this was! 😳 it’s been taking me a bit longer to get through books lately simply due to *life*, but I flew through this book in less than a day. I LITERALLY couldn’t put it down.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be…dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern’s mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.

I was addicted to the story plot and for the longest time I really couldn’t tell where it was going- I loved how it consistently kept me on the edge of my seat. There were a few plot twists I saw coming, but OMG that ending… what a wonderful way to end this incredibly suspenseful read that was satisfying yet still left the reader with the perfect amount of wonderment. I also really enjoyed how this book was written in dual perspective and in interesting formats like present day experience for Fern but old diary entries for Rose (that eventually switched over to present day diary entries).

Second, I loved the characters and all of the emotions they made me feel (even the supporting characters were wonderfully developed over the course of the story). For Fern and Rose, there were so many intriguing layers to them and I found myself deeply fascinated with their stories. I loved that I found myself wondering who to believe throughout the entire course of the book. Without a doubt in my mind, I will be thinking about this one for a long time.

If you’re looking for a dark, incredibly addictive and fast-paced suspense read, I highly recommend The Good Sister. Sally Hepworth is an incredible writer and I can’t wait to read more of her books.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth is best paired with Everything’s Gone Green by Bluejacket 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Last Thing He Told Me

As anticipated, I REALLY enjoyed The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I definitely had high expectations for this one going into it, and I am happy to say that this book absolutely didn’t disappoint. The storyline, the character development, the pacing and the unexpected surprises were all impressive and I found myself counting down until my next day off so that I could binge through this story.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.”

Laura Dave is a wonderful writer and from the very beginning, I felt truly immersed in the story. I found it very hard to put this book down because of how engrossing the writing was. I also adored the main characters, Hannah and Bailey. I found it really hard not to fall in love with them and I really enjoyed how much we got to witness them grow as individuals, as well as come together and develop a strong bond. I also really enjoyed the ending and felt mostly satisfied with the way it played out.

While I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this book, and without giving anything away, there are two things I would have really liked to see in this book: one being more insight into exactly what Owen did in his past that put him in the situation he was facing, and the other being Bailey’s perspective on the agreement and how this ended up playing out in the end.

If you’re a fan of Reese’s Book Club selections or are looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read that will keep you on the edge of your seat, I definitely recommend checking out The Last Thing He Told Me. This was the first book I’ve ever read by Laura Dave and I definitely plan on exploring more of her books.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave is best paired with NOBO with pineapple by Monument City Brewing 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Vanishing Half

WOW, what a powerhouse of a book! I finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett a few weeks ago and I am STILL thinking about it! I had very high standards going into this one because of all the awards it’s won and from all the rave reviews on Bookstagram about it and holy shit did it live up to the hype!

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing . Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.”

Brit Bennett is a master writer and I can’t even begin to describe the emotions this story provoked. It was joyful, comical, sad, infuriating, and bittersweet all at once. This book started off as a slow burn as you got familiar with the characters and their backgrounds and then it really started to amp up and maintained that energy through the end. Multiple topics were covered through out this book such as race, gender, class, self-discovery, parenting, domestic abuse, trauma from abandonment, sexual abuse, and much more. The character development in this book was incredible and I loved getting to know the identities of Stella and Desiree, as well as their families. My heart ached for everything that Stella and Desiree went through and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see how each of them developed as individuals over the course of this book.

I truly can’t recommend this book enough. If you’re looking for something with intoxicating writing, deep/relatable characters, a captivating storyline and thought-provoking topics, this one is for you! I am officially boosting The Mothers by Brit Bennett further up on my TBR list because I can’t wait to explore more of her work.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is best paired with Cream Team by Flying Dog Brewery, a delicious cookies and cream flavored milk stout 🍻

Full Pour Review: Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Okay- I fucking loved this book. In my opinion, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano absolutely lived up to the hype. A light, addictive, fast-paced thriller with entertaining characters that were hard not to love was exactly what I needed right now and I feel confident that this book will remain in my top 10 reads for 2021.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.”

Cosimano is a wonderful storyteller and I felt like she did a fantastic job exploring multiple whodunnit theories in a brilliantly comical way without leaving behind any loose ends. I was very satisfied with how the story ended and did not find myself wishing for anything different or wanting anything more. I also thoroughly enjoyed the focus on the triumphs and tribulations of motherhood while navigating a messy divorce, discovering oneself, and acknowledging the beauty in starting over. As mentioned above, I absolutely loved all the characters, especially Finlay and Vero and the relationship that they shared. Both of these ladies are unique, strong, brave, hilarious, and loving, and they make a wonderful team. Another thing I loved about the characters in this story was that not a single one felt out of place or unfinished, in my opinion.

If you’re looking for a quick, exciting and entertaining read, or something that will help get you out of a reading rut, this one is for you! I am so excited that this is the first book in a new series currently in the works by Cosimano, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next with Finlay 😍

BEER RECOMMENDATION: Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano is best paired with Raspberry Smash by Westbrook Brewing Co. This delicious fruited sour is brewed with raspberry purée and is a perfect balance of tart and sweet 🍻

Full Pour Review: The 12 Week Year

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington was recommended to me by a coworker a few months back and I must admit that so far it’s easily the most motivating and impactful personal development book that I’ve read so far this year 🙌🏻

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Most organizations and individuals work in the context of annual goals and plans; a twelve-month execution cycle. Instead, The 12 Week Year avoids the pitfalls and low productivity of annualized thinking. This book redefines your “year” to be 12 weeks long. In 12 weeks, there just isn’t enough time to get complacent, and urgency increases and intensifies. The 12 Week Year creates focus and clarity on what matters most and a sense of urgency to do it now. In the end more of the important stuff gets done and the impact on results is profound.

  • Explains how to leverage the power of a 12 week year to drive improved results in any area of your life
  • Offers a how-to book for both individuals and organizations seeking to improve their execution effectiveness
  • Authors are leading experts on execution and implementation

Turn your organization’s idea of a year on its head, and speed your journey to success.”

After reading this book, I truly LOVE the concept of the 12 week year and how it creates urgency with achieving your goals. This book goes into incredible detail about how to implement the 12 week year and how to set effective goals that increase your productivity and execution. The concepts and systems in this book are very straightforward and ultimately focus on improving discipline, focus, consistency, ownership, accountability and more. I also love the additional online resources that are provided as a bonus- Moran and Lennington really went all out to make sure this book was a one-stop-shop for providing all the necessary tools to drive better results in your personal and professional life.

I can’t wait to implement the things I’ve learned from this book and see how it works in action. If you’re looking for a solid personal development book that you will want to reference time and time again and find leaving a lasting impact on you, I truly recommend checking out The 12 Week Year.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington is best paired with Habitual by Burley Oak Brewing Co. This enjoyable, juicy pale ale is brewed with raw white wheat and double dry hopped with summer and rakau hops 🍻

Full Pour Review: All Boys Aren’t Blue

I don’t think that I will be able to come up with the right words to describe how wonderful and beautiful this book is. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is a beautifully written YA memoir manifesto that navigates the complexities of identity, specifically being Black and queer. It is a collection of essays that illustrate Johnson’s life from childhood to college and serves as a beautiful exploration of sexuality, identity, race, gender, as well as a constructive analysis of the anti-Black and anti-queer society we desperately need to move away from. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s honest, and it needs to be read by everyone.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.”

I want to begin by saying that George M. Johnson is an incredible storyteller and his storytelling abilities have the power to help and influence so many people. I loved reading his stories about addressing his internalized homophobia head-on and accepting and loving himself as the incredible human he is. I loved reading about the unconditional love and unwavering support provided by his family, especially his beautiful Nanny. I loved the bravery and vulnerability it took to discuss and reflect on the sexual abuse he experienced during such a confusing time in his life, and how this reflection can help protect others and save lives. Simply put, Johnson bared his soul in this book and it is a truly beautiful thing to witness. There isn’t a single book like this out there that can help Black/LGBTQIA+ young adults and the messages in this book must be shared with everyone.

I truly can’t recommend this book enough and if it’s not already on your radar, please add it to your TBR list immediately 💛 All Boys Aren’t Blue will make you cry, ache, laugh, smile, hope and ultimately grow as a person. I know with great certainty that this book will be on my mind for a while.

BEER RECOMMENDATION: All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson is best paired with Cobbler: Apricot and Black Currant by Black Flag Brewing Company. This highly delicious fruited sour was brewed with vanilla, cinnamon, milk sugar and 440lbs of apricot and black currant 🍻

Full Pour Review: Conviction

After only having Conviction by Denise Mina sitting on my shelf for about a year, I FINALLY got around to reading it 🤗 I really enjoyed this thriller! It was written in such a unique way and the characters were quirky and intriguing. I flew through this book very quickly- the storyline was fast paced, full of surprise twists and turns, and difficult to put down.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “The day Anna McDonald’s quiet, respectable life exploded started off like all the days before: Packing up the kids for school, making breakfast, listening to yet another true crime podcast. Then her husband comes downstairs with an announcement, and Anna is suddenly, shockingly alone.

Reeling, desperate for distraction, Anna returns to the podcast. Other people’s problems are much better than one’s own — a sunken yacht, a murdered family, a hint of international conspiracy. But this case actually is Anna’s problem. She knows one of the victims from an earlier life, a life she’s taken great pains to leave behind. And she is convinced that she knows what really happened.

Then an unexpected visitor arrives on her front stoop, a meddling neighbor intervenes, and life as Anna knows it is well and truly over. The devils of her past are awakened — and they’re in hot pursuit. Convinced she has no other options, Anna goes on the run, and in pursuit of the truth, with a washed-up musician at her side and the podcast as her guide.”

I really liked the way the book was written. Throughout this book, the reader is essentially going back and forth between listening to a podcast and reading a tell-all book written by the main character, Anna McDonald. This tell-all book stems from the wild adventure that Anna and her BFF’s ex-husband, Fin, embarked on after listening to a true crime podcast and discovering that Anna knows one of the victims.

Without giving anything away, there was a lot going on in this book- Life as Anna presently knows it is disintegrating before her eyes, her past life that she is no longer able to hide from is resurfacing at an uncontrollable speed, and navigating both of these situations as they weave interchangeably. You spend a lot of time going back and forth from past to present and connecting a lot of dots, which definitely kept the book exciting. However, because there is so much going on and at such a fast pace, a lot of the story details and character development end up feeling fairly surface level. Despite feeling this way, I was satisfied with how I got to know what happened to Anna in the past, witness her face her worst fears, and ultimately come out of hiding and grow into a much stronger, braver person because of all this.

While the ending was super action packed, it felt rushed and lacked some context that I wish we spent more time on. If you’ve read this book already, I would love to discuss the ending further with you and hear your thoughts!

If you’re a fan of true crime podcasts and looking for an intriguing who-done-it thriller that’s fast-paced and action packed, I definitely think you should check out Conviction by Denise Mina. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I look forward to exploring more of her books!

BEER RECOMMENDATION: Conviction by Denise Mina is best paired with Pinkies Up! by Tripping Animals Brewing Co. This delicious fruited sour ale is brewed with passion fruit, guava, brown sugar and peach 🍻