Full Pour Review: The Woman in the Window

HOLY SHIT! Talk about a major emotional roller coaster! The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is easily one of the best psychological thrillers I’ve read since Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Verity by Colleen Hoover 😳 Fast-paced, unsettling and utterly mysterious, this book truly was unputdownable and I couldn’t get enough of the characters, plot twists, suspense, etc.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening . . .

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.”

It is obvious that A. J. Finn is an incredible storyteller. I was addicted to the attention to detail in this story when familiarizing the reader with the characters and their backgrounds, as well as the random puzzle pieces of information connecting Anna’s past with her present. I was so captivated by Anna and the sudden onset of agoraphobia that she developed after a traumatic life event. My heart truly ached for her and all that she had been through and was suffering from and I love that Finn didn’t shy away from the ugly and messy side effects of trauma. Finn managed to have me obsessed with Jane Russell as much as Anna was, desperately trying to figure out alongside her what really happened that fateful evening and although it was certainly creepy and unsettling at times, I enjoyed getting to engage with Anna in her spying on the neighbors. A few of the twists in this book were predictable while the majority of events, including the ending, genuinely surprised me. I really wasn’t sure where exactly this book was headed and I love that it kept me on my toes for so long.

As enthralling at this book was, it certainly comes with many trigger warnings that were hard to stomach at times: alcohol abuse, drug abuse (popping pills), trauma, loss, murder, violence, mental disabilities (agoraphobia, narcissism, personality disorders, etc.), and more. If you’re a fan of Gone Girl or Verity or are looking for an incredibly suspenseful psychological thriller, I highly recommend adding The Woman in the Window to the top of your TBR list! Now that I have finally gotten to read this book, it is no surprise to me why this is being made into a movie adaptation. I have a feeling it’s going to be incredible and am beyond excited to watch it on May 14th 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn is best paired with Hallow Bright by Sapwood Cellars Brewery. This deliciously smooth New England IPA is double dry hopped with Citra and Citra Cryo hops, resulting in flavors of citrus, melon and vanilla 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Mothers

Holy shit- this book was INTENSE. I was immediately intrigued by this story based on the description and it absolutely delivered! The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon is a powerful, well-written, and emotional story about an IVF treatment gone wrong that was incredibly hard to put down. Lately it’s been taking me several days to finish a book but I binged this in about 2 days because I NEEDED to know what happened (#TeamNoSleep 🙃).

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “Grace and Dan Arden are in their forties and have been on the IVF treadmill since the day they got married. Six attempts have yielded no results, and with each failure a little piece of their hope dies.

Priya Laghari and her husband Nick Archer are being treated at the same fertility clinic, and while they don’t face the same time pressure as the Ardens, the younger couple have their own problems.

On the same day that Priya is booked for her next IVF cycle, Grace goes in for her final, last-chance embryo transfer. Two weeks later, both women get their results.

A year on, angry and heartbroken, one of the women learns her embryo was implanted in the other’s uterus and must make a devastating choice: live a childless life knowing her son is being raised by strangers or seek custody of a baby who has been nurtured and loved by another couple.”

This book gave me ALL. THE. FEELS 👏🏻 The Mothers was written in the perspectives of both our main characters, Grace and Priya, and Gannon did an amazing job at developing these characters and letting the reader feel like they were getting to know them equally. My heart was breaking for both of these women and the horrible IVF nightmare they were faced with and the devastating legal battle that ensued. While there were no winners in this situation at all, I genuinely had no idea where this story was gonna go and felt that Gannon did a great job at putting the reader in the shoes of both women to see where they were coming from and feel their pain equally. By the end of this book, I found myself talking about the book with my significant other and discussing thoughts about what makes a mother and what we may think/do if we ever experienced a situation like this.

This book certainly comes with some trigger warnings (i.e. IVF struggles, IVF mix up, infidelity, trauma, family drama, legal battle, adoption, custody battle, child loss, etc.), so I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. However, if you’re looking for an incredibly intriguing story that is both sad and touching and will stick with you for a while, The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon would be a fantastic addition to your TBR list. Thank you so much WilliamMorrow for gifting me this book in exchange for my honest review. The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon comes out on May 11th! 🤗


BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Mothers by Genevieve Gannon is best paired with Banana Painkiller Tastee by The Veil Brewing Company. This delicious smoothie-style sour ale is inspired by the Painkiller tiki drink and brewed with a nice blast of banana, coconut, pineapple, banana, milk sugar, orange and a little nutmeg for garnish 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett

What a BEAUTIFUL story! 🥰 I can easily say that The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons is one of my favorite books from 2020 and one that will stick with me for a long time. With an emotional and heartwarming story line, and charming characters whose personalities and growth will leave you smiling, I found this story to be thought provoking and hard to put down.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: “It’s never too late to start living.

Eudora Honeysett is done with this noisy, moronic world—all of it. She has witnessed the indignities and suffering of old age and has lived a full life. At eighty-five, she isn’t going to leave things to chance. Her end will be on her terms. With one call to a clinic in Switzerland, a plan is set in motion.

Then she meets ten-year-old Rose Trewidney, a whirling, pint-sized rainbow of sparkling cheer. All Eudora wants is to be left alone to set her affairs in order. Instead, she finds herself embarking on a series of adventures with the irrepressible Rose and their affable neighbor, the recently widowed Stanley—afternoon tea, shopping sprees, trips to the beach, birthday celebrations, pizza parties. 

While the trio of unlikely BFFs grow closer and anxiously await the arrival of Rose’s new baby sister, Eudora is reminded of her own childhood—of losing her father during World War II and the devastating impact it had on her entire family. In reflecting on her past, Eudora realizes she must come to terms with what lies ahead. 

But now that her joy for life has been rekindled, how can she possibly say goodbye?”

Annie Lyon’s is a wonderful author and storyteller. For this story, I loved that it was told solely from the perspective of Eudora and that it flipped back and forth between her past and present so that you could really gain an understanding of the difficult life that Eudora has lived and why she was ready to take control of her death. Eudora experienced a very difficult life full of heartache, loss, guilt and regret and at 85 years old, she is incredibly aware of her mortality and is simply tired and ready to end her life. Being able to see Eudora change over the course of the book and watch her slowly let go of the past that weighed her down so much over the years was liberating.

The intergenerational friendship that Eudora develops with Rose and Stanley is incredibly tender, pure and healing, showing Eudora that life is worth living when you have wonderful people in your life. I couldn’t get enough of Rose’s eccentric, witty, loving personality and infectious energy. Stanley is a very funny, loving and loyal gentleman who is recently widowed, and through their shared heartbreaks, Eudora and Stanley were able to help heal one another and find the strength to continue living their lives to their fullest while they still have time.

I honestly can’t praise this book enough. If you’re looking for a story that will make you laugh, cry, and smile all at once, I highly recommend you check out this book. This is the first book that I’ve read by Annie Lyons and I can’t wait to check out more by her. Thank you so much WilliamMorrow for gifting me this incredible story in exchange for my honest review 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons is best paired with Baby Shark by Aslin Beer Company, a delicious citra dry-hopped IPA 🍻

Full Pour Review: Wicked

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

WOW. I can’t believe I waited so long to read this one!! Wicked by Gregory Maguire blew me away with his incredible storytelling and magical worlds. I went into this book having never seen the Broadway show and not really knowing what to expect, other then the fact that this book told the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. This book wasn’t at all what I was anticipating and it was darker than I imagined it to be, but it was pleasantly surprising overall!

DESCRIPTION: Gregory Maguire’s groundbreaking New York Times bestseller redefines the land of Oz, its inhabitants, its Wizard, and the Emerald City, viewing the world created by L. Frank Baum through a darker and greener lens. Brilliantly inventive, Wicked offers a radical new portrait of one of the most feared and despised villains in all of literature: the universally maligned Wicked Witch of the West who, in Maguire’s imaginative retelling, isn’t nearly as black-hearted as we imagined…

First, the characters in this book are all truly remarkable and complex. I loved learning about Elphaba’s story and following her along her journey. I viewed Elphaba as being incredibly misunderstood and not the evil witch she is portrayed as in The Wizard of Oz. She was very compassionate and heavily involved in advocating for Animal rights and committed to her “cause,” which was incredibly brave and noble of her in a place like Oz, which was full of crooked politics and an evil dictator (the Wizard).

Gregory Maguire is an incredibly talented writer who painted a beautifully complex world that allowed the reader to truly escape from the real world into something magical. The amount of detail that went in to describing these characters and these worlds were truly remarkable. At times, I was almost overwhelmed with how much detail was written in this book and found myself having to re-read some sections to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

If you are looking for a dark, racy and complex fantasy book that will serve as true escapism while reading, I highly recommend checking out Wicked. After the ending of this book, I’m really curious to read the others in this series and see where Gregory Maguire takes this story. Thank you so much to WilliamMorrow books for gifting me this fascinating (and BEAUTIFUL 25th anniversary edition!) book in exchange for my honest review 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire is best paired with Wizards and Gargoyles, a delicious hazy coffee IPA brewed in collaboration with Stone Brewing and Modern Times Brewing 🍻

Full Pour Review: Jackie and Maria

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Historical fiction is a genre that I have not explored much of, but am working on changing that! Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul is a wonderful historical fiction novel that focuses on Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas and their connection with one another through their involvement with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, one of the world’s most richest and captivating men. I was so intrigued by these women and their experiences that I binged this book pretty quickly, struggling to put it down.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: The President’s Wife; a Glamorous Superstar; the rivalry that shook the world…

Jackie Kennedy was beautiful, sophisticated, and contemplating leaving her ambitious young senator husband. Life in the public eye with an overly ambitious–and unfaithful―man who could hardly be coaxed to return from a vacation after the birth of a stillborn child was breaking her spirit. So when she’s offered a holiday on the luxurious yacht owned by billionaire Ari Onassis, she says yes…to a meeting that will ultimately change her life.

Maria Callas is at the height of her operatic career and widely considered to be the finest soprano in the world. And then she’s introduced to Aristotle Onassis, the world’s richest man and her fellow Greek. Stuck in a childless, sexless marriage, and with pressures on all sides from opera house managers and a hostile press, she finds her life being turned upside down by this hyper-intelligent and impeccably charming man…

Little by little, Maria’s and Jackie’s lives begin to overlap, and they come closer and closer until everything they know about the world changes on a dime.

Gill Paul is an incredible writer and storyteller and I found myself in awe of her skills. She will take you on a mesmerizing emotional rollercoaster with this one as you navigate through the years preceding JFK’s presidency and after his assassination. Alternating between both Jackie’s and Maria’s perspectives, this book was full of glitz and glamour that featured a lot of beautiful Mediterranean background. I was INVESTED in these characters- I absolutely adored learning so much fascinating info about these two beautiful, complicated women and my heart ached for them throughout the book as I learned about the infidelity and fertility issues that both women faced and how these experiences shaped their lives. The small glimpse of the PTSD experienced by Jackie Kennedy after JFK’s assassination was truly heartbreaking to read about as well.

I enjoyed this book so much and if you haven’t already read this book, I highly recommend checking it out. Not only is it a wonderfully written and captivating story in general, it’s a wonderful read for those interested in Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, as well as anyone (like me!) who doesn’t read much historical fiction or know much about these women at all! Thank you so much WilliamMorrow for gifting me this wonderful story in exchange for my honest review! I will be thinking about this one for a while 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul is best paired with Native Peach by Downeast Cider House. This deliciously refreshing peach cider is both sweet and tart with subtle flavoring in the beginning that grows with every sip 🍻

Full Pour Review: Vanishing Falls

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Set in a small town of Tasmania, Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee is a slow burning murder mystery full of intriguing characters with dark secrets and a fascinating glimpse into class separation and drug addiction.

DESCRIPTION: Celia Lily is rich, beautiful, and admired. She’s also missing. And the search for the glamorous socialite is about to expose all the dark, dirty secrets of Vanishing Falls…

Deep within the lush Tasmanian rainforest is the remote town of Vanishing Falls, a place with a storied past. The town’s showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its Calendar House—currently occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner; his wife, Celia; and their four daughters. The elaborate, eccentrically designed mansion houses one masterpiece and 52 rooms—and Celia Lily isn’t in any of them. She has vanished without a trace.…

Joelle Smithton knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she’s simple-minded. It’s true that Joelle’s brain works a little differently—a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But Joelle sees far more than most people realize, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia’s husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters whom he’s desperate to keep hidden. He’s not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle’s own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.   

Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past…

Poppy Gee is a talented writer. I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters and how the book was told from multiple POV’s- the interwoven character story lines gave me a Big Little Lies vibe. Joelle was an excellent protagonist and I adored her strength, resilience and vulnerability. I also adored her husband Brian and their relationship, but would’ve loved to have learned more about his character. I felt that out of all the characters portrayed in this story, I knew the least about him. I also really enjoyed the setting of the story. Poppy Gee did a fantastic job at illustrating a beautiful and intriguing Tasmanian rain forest setting, as well as the Calendar House occupied by Celia and Jack- I was fascinated by the concept of a house like this and would love to see it in person. The drug addiction and class separation portrayed within this small town was intense and Poppy Gee did a wonderful job at detailing the struggles that the characters (i.e. Cliff and Kim, Brendan and Karen) faced as a direct result of these things. I couldn’t help but feel pain and sadness for these characters.

This was my first novel by Poppy Gee, and I look forward to reading more by this author! If you’re looking for a slow burning murder mystery with intriguing, complex characters and an illustrative setting, I recommend checking out Vanishing Falls. Thank you again so much to WilliamMorrow for gifting me this book in exchange for my honest review 💛


BEER DESCRIPTION: Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee is best paired with Dunkin’ + Pumpkin by Harpoon Brewery. Inspired by everyone’s favorite fall pumpkin latte, this “Spiced Latte Ale” is brewed with real pumpkin, pumpkin pie spices, and a splash of coffee. Light in color and easy-drinking, it’s a perfect blend of all the autumn flavors we love, with just a touch of espresso-like roast 🍻

Full Pour Review: Little Deadly Secrets

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

To say that I enjoyed this book would be a great understatement. Little Deadly Secrets by Pamela Crane is officially one of my favorite suspense novels this year. The opening scene was intense and eery, setting the tone for the rest of the book super fast.

DESCRIPTION: Three best friends. Two unforgiveable sins. One dead body. Mackenzie, Robin, and Lily have been inseparable forever, sharing life’s ups and downs and growing even closer as the years have gone by. They know everything about each other. Or so they believe. Nothing could come between these three best friends . . . except for a betrayal. Nothing could turn them against each other . . . except for a terrible past mistake. Nothing could tear them apart . . . except for murder.

The characters in this book were phenomenal. Pamela Crane did a wonderful job connecting the reader with each of the characters and immersing them into their worlds. I loved that the story was told in multiple POV’s and not just from the adults, but even some of the children. Each character took me on an emotional roller coaster through their intense story lines and I loved how much their strength and vulnerability seeped through the pages. It was incredibly hard not to fall in love with all of the characters and their triumphs, failures and flaws.

I don’t want to go into particular story lines and give too much away, but the drama within this book is very similar to Big Little Lies– domestic abuse, rape, sexual assault, drug addiction, infidelity, murder, alcohol abuse, dark secrets, betrayals and more. The building tension, surprise twists and explosive ending kept me on the edge of my seat and made it incredibly hard to put this book down.

I truly can’t recommend this book enough. If you are a fan of Big Little Lies and looking for your next binge-read, I think it’s safe to say that you will love Little Deadly Secrets as well. Thank you again so much to WilliamMorrow for gifting me this amazing book in exchange for my honest review 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: Little Deadly Secrets by Pamela Crane is best paired with Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin by New Belgium Brewing Company. Not only is this my absolute favorite pumpkin beer, I’ll bet it’s unlike any pumpkin beer you’ve had before 😉 Not too spicy and not too sweet, this pumpkin ale was brewed with Saigon Cinnamon and Habanero and De Arbol peppers for an explosion of flavors that’ll keep you coming back for more 🍻

Full Pour Review: The Nanny

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Whew! The suspense was real with this one! 🙌🏻 Full of dark secrets and bizarre twists, I thoroughly enjoyed The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan. This book was really well written; containing rich characters that evoke so many emotions and a story line that will keep you on the edge of your seat the entire time.

DESCRIPTION: When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind. Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew. Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

This book was a solid thriller about misperceptions that we mistake as reality, sucking you in from the very beginning. I really liked how this book was told by three different perspectives- Virginia (the mom), Jocelyn, and Hannah. I liked being able to see Jocelyn and Virginia’s side of the story in real time and learn about the family’s dark past. For Hannah, her perspective was mainly told in past tense and while I don’t think anything was missing from the story, I think it would have been really cool to see her perspective in present tense as well. I would have also enjoyed getting some of Ruby’s perspective as well in regards to her relationship with Hannah. The depth of the characters was great too and they evoked a lot of emotions in the reader. I felt like I really got to know Jocelyn and Virginia well and I enjoyed the “love-to-hate” feelings I had for Virginia along with the ability to feel some understanding behind why she does the things she does. I also really enjoyed the setting of the story and found the ending to be surprising and very satisfying.

The Nanny truly is another great debut thriller that hit shelves on August 4th. If you haven’t already added this to your TBR list, I highly recommend checking it out! This was my first time reading a book by Gilly MacMillan and I definitely look forward to reading more by her. Thank you so much again to WilliamMorrow for gifting me this book in exchange for my honest review 💛


BEER RECOMMENDATION: The Nanny by Gilly MacMillan is best paired with Good Gourd by Cigar City Brewing. This delicious imperial pumpkin ale is brewed with cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and vanilla to emulate the flavors of a decadent, piquant pumpkin pie 🍻

Full Pour Review: When No One Is Watching

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I haven’t read many thrillers this year, and that. needs. to. change. 👏🏻 That being said, I’m happy to say that the few thrillers that I have read so far this year have not left me disappointed and When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole was definitely no exception! Compared to Rear Window and Get Out, the fast-paced storyline for this deeply unsettling novel is unlike any other thriller I’ve read before. Not only did it have me hooked, but Alyssa Cole weaved so many important messages into this book that left me with so much for think about.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

There are so many things that I enjoyed about this book. First, the storyline. It’s a gripping psychological thriller with gentrification being the main focus, while police brutality, racism, harassment, financial struggles, loss of loved ones, all play large roles too. There are several characters (i.e. FUCKING KARENS) in this book that had me so fired up. Alyssa Cole did a great job with immersing the reader into the story. I felt like I was witnessing everything right alongside Sydney and Theo and while I enjoyed their characters and friendship, I felt their romantic relationship was a little out of place and unnecessary.

If you’re looking for an exciting and intriguing psychological thriller with a side of conspiracy, I highly recommend reading this book! Thank you again to WilliamMorrow and HarperCollins for gifting me my review copy in exchange for my honest review 🤗


BEER RECOMMENDATION: When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole is best paired with The Fear by Flying Dog Brewery. This delicious pumpkin beer has bold pumpkin and spice flavor complimented by notes of chocolate and graham cracker 🍻

Full Pour Review: My Dark Vanessa

RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

“My Dark Vanessa” is the incredibly dark and emotional story of 15-year old high school sophomore Vanessa Wye and the love affair that begins with her 42-year old English teacher, Jacob Strane, during the fall of 2000. In 2017, a former Browick student accuses Strane of sexual abuse and urges Vanessa to come forward about her relationship with him. Now 32, Vanessa becomes faced with an impossible decision: to betray her first love who has remained a constant presence in her life, or completely redefine who she is by reconsidering her long held beliefs of what exactly happened between them. The story alternates between past and present, going in to great depth about Vanessa’s past and how it has continued to impact her over time.

Kate Elizabeth Russell’s character development throughout this book is phenomenal. I loved how complex, strong and relatable Vanessa’s character was. I felt like I was planted inside her mind, easily seeing things through her eyes in an alarming, yet fascinating way. I found myself truly amazed by her and the inner battle she constantly fought with herself when it came to deciphering her thoughts and feelings about her relationship with Strane; was what she experienced with him abuse or a tragic love story? If this was abuse, why did she remain complicit for so many years afterward? was Strane a pedophile or just unlucky to fall in love with a teenager, forever being branded as a deviant? How different could her life have been had this relationship not occurred? The exploration of these questions throughout the book was both intriguing and heart-wrenching to read because Vanessa is so firm in her belief that she is not a victim of abuse and was willing to engage in the sexual relationship with Strane; that he worshipped her, genuinely loved her, and was nothing but careful and kind with her.

“I see him so clearly now, understand how lonely it must be for him, wanting the wrong thing, the bad thing, while living in a world that would surely villainize him if it knew.”

Vanessa Wye, My Dark Vanessa

• • •

“I just feel…” I press the heals of my hands into my thighs. “I can’t lose the thing I’ve held on to for so long. You know?” My face twists up from the pain of pushing it out. “I just really need it to be a love story. You know? I really, really need it to be that.”

“I know,” she says.

“Because if it isn’t a love story, then what is it?” I look to her glassy eyes, her face of wide-open empathy.

“It’s my life,” I say. “This has been my whole life.”

Vanessa Wye to Ruby, My Dark Vanessa

With Strane, I was constantly infuriated by his character and despised his behavior throughout the book. I could not stand how manipulative he was with Vanessa, the Browick staff, and his other victims. However, I found it fascinating to get glimpses of his mind and see how he would justify certain behaviors; the lies he would say in order to assure himself, or be assured of by Vanessa, that he was not a monster and prevent himself from feeling guilty for his actions. Strane was really good at giving Vanessa a false sense of control in their relationship, claiming that she held all the power between them when that definitely was not the case.

“It’s important that you never feel coerced. That’s the only way I’ll be able to live with myself…you’re in charge here, Vanessa. You decide what we do.”

Jacob Strane, My Dark Vanessa

Watching him groom Vanessa and displace his weaknesses and fears on to her was really uncomfortable to experience because she was so young and naive, an “easy target” for someone like Strane to take advantage of due to her strong desire for love and attention. The deep hold on her that he managed to maintain was truly frightening, and the negative affect it had on her ability to have both romantic and friendly relationships with others was deeply upsetting.

“It wasn’t about how young I was, not for him. Above everything else, he loved my mind. He said I had genius-level emotional intelligence and that I wrote like a prodigy, that he could talk to me, confide in me. Lurking deep within me, he said, was a dark romanticism, the same kind he saw within himself. No one had ever understood that dark part of him until I came along. “It’s just my luck,” he said, “that when I finally find my soulmate, she’s fifteen years old.”

Vanessa Wye, My Dark Vanessa

Despite the story’s unsettling subject matter and being difficult to read at times, I was blown away by this powerful, thought-provoking and incredibly well written debut novel. It serves as an accurate portrayal of how the system has failed women when it comes to sexual assault, bringing to light examples of mistakes we can learn from and how we can improve. With the continued rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, this book could not have arrived at a more perfect time; opening up an uncomfortable but necessary dialogue about consent, abuse, grooming, manipulation, and the horrifying psychological consequences it can produce. “My Dark Vanessa” is a compelling read that will be tough to put down and leave the reader with so much to reflect on long after they’ve finished reading it.


BEER RECOMMENDATION: “My Dark Vanessa” is best paired with Triple Barrel GBS by Hardywood Brewing. Triple Barrel GBS is an imperial/double milk stout that was created by aging their traditional gingerbread stout in brandy barrels for 11 months, then aging again for 4 more months- half in Caribbean rum barrels and the other half in A. Smith Bowman bourbon barrels. Nearly black in color, this highly enjoyable, boozy beer has notes of white ginger, honey, maple, cinnamon, vanilla, bourbon, brandy and rum.