ARC Review: My Dark Vanessa, written by Kate Elizabeth Russell

ARC Review: My Dark Vanessa, written by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing My Dark Vanessa and while it has been on my list of 2020 releases to look out for, the book was too dark for me to review it in depth. This book deals with topics such as child grooming and sexual abuse so be prepared before you dive into it.

Night Spinner by Addie Thorley

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Publication date: March 10th, 2020 
Publisher: Harper Collins/ Fourth Estate
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction, Adult
Buy: Book DepositoryWordery 

Synopsis:

Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.
2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is untitled-design-2-1.png

– My Thoughts –

My Dark Vanessa is one of the most uncomfortable reads I’ve had the pleasure of reading. A sentence I never thought I’d utter.

We read the book from Vanessa(the protagonist)’s perspective where she doesn’t see herself as a victim at first. The entirety of the book has scenes that made me throw the book and rush outside to try and control my emotions; to remind that while the situations are hardly fictional but the story I was reading is.

The story alternates between 2008 and 2017 and we see how Vanessa is groomed and then raped by her teacher Jacob Strane. The battle Vanessa has with the realisation that she has been abused rather than anything else is described so painfully well that it gets under your skin. You grow up reading horror stories about mythical monsters and ghosts and whatnots but the real monsters are ones right in front of us, entangled in our daily lives. Teachers like Jacob Strane and other figures you probably see on the news and some you don’t see.

The book goes on for long, too long when it wasn’t really needed. Sometimes the lines would blur and it felt as if the sex scenes were romanticized. Besides those grievances, there were similarities to Lolita and #MeToo; another piece of reality would slap you in the face when you see how the people close to Vanessa responded to her.

Overall, I don’t whether to “recommend” it. If my friends ask for a recommendation, I don’t know if I’ll blurt out My Dark Vanessa as the first answer. This novel is dark and claustrophobic starring a real-life monster that will make you want to tear said monster from limb-to-limb. For a debut novel, if I were still rating, I’d rate My Dark Vanessa a solid 4/5 stars.

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review!


– About the Author 

Kate Elizabeth Russell was born and raised in eastern Maine. She holds an MFA from Indiana University and a PhD from the University of Kansas. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is untitled-design-2-1.png

Thank you for reading! Do you read books that are out of your comfort zone? Will you read My Dark Vanessa? If you’ve already read it, then I’d love to know what you thought as well! 

A perfectly twisty thriller from Sophie Hannah | Book Review: Perfect Little Children

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah

Publication date: February 4th, 2020 
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Buy: Book Depository | Wordery

Synopsis:

All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows her ex-best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today, or ever again.

But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora and her children Thomas and Emily step out of the car. Except… There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. As Beth would have expected. It’s the children. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then.

They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Hilary hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.

They are no taller, no older… Why haven’t they grown?

Trigger Warnings: Miscarriage, Infant Death, Abortion, Child Abuse⁣

– My Thoughts –

Perfect Little Children is a standalone thriller/psychological suspense, also known as “Haven’t They Grown”, from the author of The New Hercule Poirot Mysteries and other mystery novels. Even though this book had an interesting premise, I found it a bit too far-fetched in some places.

Beth, our protagonist, takes a detour while dropping off her son at his football match. My confusion, my “head-scratching” starts from here. I wondered why would she suddenly park her car in front of her ex-best friends’ old house. Flora and Lewis Braid who were once close friends of Beth and her husband’s, have now moved to Florida with their three children. After dropping off her son at his match, Beth drives back to her friends’ old house and notices Flora Braid entering her home. However, that’s not THE surprise. The surprise is that Flora’s two children Thomas and Emily looked exactly like they would’ve 12 years ago.

The story gets crazier from here on and I had to constantly remind myself that this is fictional.

After Beth drives back home, she confides in her husband and daughter Zannah and both of them are dubious about the whole incident but Beth has unwavering faith in what she saw. So, she starts investigating and her daughter starts helping her too; soon, they realize that indeed something sinister is going on. Beth’s husband was also supportive of her need to uncover the secrets despite being aggravated by her obsession at times. There are several twists which with the pace demand your attention to the book; however, all the build-up gave way to a very dissatisfying ending.

What I didn’t like was every time Beth reminded Zannah to revise for her GCSEs, she was the one who quickly forgot about it. I would’ve liked to see Beth’s son solving these mysteries alongside his parents and sister too but we see very little of him. I have already mentioned how disappointed I was with the conclusion.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you loved Sophie Hannah’s previous books or if you’re looking for a mind-bending thriller with a unique premise.

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review!


– About the Author –

Sophie Hannah is an internationally bestselling writer of psychological crime fiction, published in 27 countries. In 2013, her latest novel, The Carrier, won the Crime Thriller of the Year Award at the Specsavers National Book Awards. Two of Sophie’s crime novels, The Point of Rescue and The Other Half Lives, have been adapted for television and appeared on ITV1 under the series title Case Sensitive in 2011 and 2012. In 2004, Sophie won first prize in the Daphne Du Maurier Festival Short Story Competition for her suspense story The Octopus Nest, which is now published in her first collection of short stories, The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets.

Sophie has also published five collections of poetry. Her fifth, Pessimism for Beginners, was shortlisted for the 2007 T S Eliot Award. Her poetry is studied at GCSE, A-level and degree level across the UK. From 1997 to 1999 she was Fellow Commoner in Creative Arts at Trinity College, Cambridge, and between 1999 and 2001 she was a fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford. She is forty-one and lives with her husband and children in Cambridge, where she is a Fellow Commoner at Lucy Cavendish College. She is currently working on a new challenge for the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous detective.

Thank you for reading! Will you add Perfect Little Children / Haven’t You Grown to your tbr? Have you read any of the author’s previous books? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

Spooky October reads: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox | Blog Tour

Spooky October reads: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox | Blog Tour
The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox

Publication date: October 17th, 2019 
Publisher: HQ
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction, Adult, Historical,Mystery
Buy: Book Depository | Wordery

Synopsis:

Her secret will tear the town apart.

Maine, 1846. Gabriel Stone is desperate to escape the ghosts that haunt him after his wife’s death, so he takes a position as a minister in the remote village of Pale Harbour.

But not all is as it seems in the sleepy town. Strange, unsettling things have been happening, and the townspeople claim that only one person can be responsible: Sophronia Carver, a reclusive widow who lives in the decaying Castle Carver. Sophronia must be a witch, and she almost certainly killed her husband.

As the incidents escalate, one thing becomes clear: they are the work of a madman inspired by the wildly popular stories of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe. And Gabriel must find answers, or Pale Harbour will suffer a fate worthy of Poe’s darkest tales.

– My Thoughts –

A town gripped by fear.
A woman accused of witchcraft.
Who can save Pale Harbor from itself?
 

It should come as no surprise that I loved The Widow of Pale Harbour, probably as much as I did the author’s debut The Witch of Willow Hall. It is perfect for spooky October even though it’s more on the mystery side.

Set in 1846, Pale Harbour, Maine, the story starts with a young widow Sophronia who lives with her maid/companion Helen in a daunting mansion called Castle Carver. Sophronia spends her days reading submissions for her magazine, drinking tea and taking short walks around her property.

Soon, a mysterious man called Gabriel Stone arrives in this quiet village to escape from the memories of his past. Gabriel arrives as a transcendentalist minister but he feels like a fraud. When everyone starts warning Gabriel about Sophronia, he becomes intrigued by the strong woman he sees. However, someone is not quite happy seeing Sophronia’s happiness; soon, dead things and cryptic messages start arriving at Sophronia’s doorstep. Things start to escalate from dead animal carcasses to murder where all evidence points to Sophronia as the main suspect.

If you liked The Witch of Willow Hall, then don’t waste any time picking this up. The Widow of Pale Harbour has a murder mystery and romance which combined with the setting and eery atmosphere in the book makes this a page-turner. In the beginning, the plot takes time to build up but that anticipation proves fruitful. I loved Sophronia who has been mistreated a lot but despite that, she manages to aid others in need. Gabriel is yet another favourite character -okay, yes..that might be because he’s a hunky priest- and I loved watching his and Sophronia’s relationship bloom. He doesn’t lie to Sophronia, respects her boundaries(Is it really that hard?) and even after hearing about the times he was wronged.. he didn’t bear ill will for that person. You know what? They were freaking perfect for each other. Broken in different ways and yet they were the ones who could piece each other together.

I also loved the friendship between Tom and Gabriel; Tom was a perfect addition to the plot during its darker transition. Then there’s the relationship between Helen and Sophronia.. which was complicated but very intriguing.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a gothic murder mystery/romance with a twist of Poe‘s words in it. If you’re looking for a fall read, then pick up this beauty and dive into the haunting story. Hester Fox is already on my list of auto-buy authors and I can’t wait to read her next book!

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Also, thanks to HQ for including me in The Widow of Pale Harbour blog tour! Please take a look at the blog schedule and visit all the other lovely bloggers in this tour.

– About the Author –

Hester comes to writing from a background in museum work and historical archaeology. She loves the Gothic, the lurid, the dark…so long as the ending is a happy one. She has never seen a ghost, though she remains hopeful.

Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and their son. Please visit Hester Fox here to learn more


Thank you for reading! Have you read Hester Fox’s debut? Or, Will you add The Widow of Pale Harbour to your TBR? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Love and Feminism go hand-in-hand in Bringing Down the Duke(A League of Extraordinary Women #1), written by Evie Dunmore

Love and Feminism go hand-in-hand in Bringing Down the Duke, written by Evie Dunmore
Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down The Duke by Evie Dunmore

Publication date: September 3rd, 2019 
Publisher: Piatkus, Berkley
Pages: 320
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Buy:Book Depository | Wordery

Synopsis:

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a duke in a fiery love story that threatens to upend the British social order.
England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.
Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?
Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke….

– My Thoughts –

Debut romances these days are knocking it out of the park. I can’t get enough of them and the latest book to have me addicted to it is none other than Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore!

Set during the time of the opening of the first women’s college at Oxford, Bringing Down the Duke brings a unique take on historical fiction. It combines a view of what would have been a Suffragist movement in Britain with a love story; a combination that proved utterly stimulating for me.

The story starts with our heroine Annabelle requesting permission from her cousin to attend women’s college at Oxford University. Annabelle is not a suffragist in the beginning, but she has to become one because of her receiving a scholarship from the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. This leads her right into the path of Duke Montgomery or Sebastian Devereux. To garner support for a movement, Anabelle and other suffragists need influential men like Sebastian’s backing. When Anabelle and her friends manage to infiltrate the duke’s household, Anabelle is surprised to find herself attracted to the Duke and his brain. Will Anabelle manage to bring the Duke down his pedestal or be knocked down herself?

Some may argue that there wasn’t enough romance and I should too…but I loved the change of pace. Besides the topic of feminism is so important because along with a host of other problems, women are still fighting for equality 🤦🏻‍♀️ Now imagine if there were no Suffragists..imagine if these women never spoke up….never fought for themselves and consequently for us, then where would we be now?

About the romance which is yet another beautiful thing about this book. It was slow-burning and perhaps, a touch of enemies-to-lovers too. I didn’t like the Duke most of the times because ,during those times, he would constantly(albeit not intentionally) remind Anabelle of her class. I loved the part where he and Anabelle would talk about books, democracy like equals..it’s rare to spot conversations like that in historical fiction.

Then there are the other characters in this book like Anabelle’s friends: Hattie, Catriona, Lucie who seemed so real that they leaped off of the page. Every conversation, every action was so well-written that I wasn’t bored for even one second. I devoured this book and wanted to be a fly on the wall or one of the characters so that I could live in the book.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book(as if it’s not already clear)!! I would recommend this if you love romance. If you don’t like historical fiction, even then I’d recommend you to try this one. It’s funny, witty, swoony and feminist!! This thirsty b#*ch also got a glimpse of the next book in this series(yes, Bringing Down is book one of a series!) which has the story of our suffragist Lucie and Tristan with the perfect cheekbones!! I can’t wait.

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

 About the Author 

Evie Dunmore

Debut author Evie Dunmore wrote BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE inspired by the magical scenery of Oxford and her passion for romance, women pioneers, and all things Victorian.
In her civilian life, she is a strategy consultant with a M.Sc. in Diplomacy from Oxford. Scotland and the great outdoors have a special place in her heart, so she can frequently be found climbing the Highlands and hunting for woolly tartan blanket bargains.

Evie lives in Europe and pours her fascination with 19th century Britain into her writing. She is a member of the British Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA).

For more about the author, visit her Goodreads page, or follow her on Twitter.

Thank you for reading! Have you read Bringing Down the Duke? Are you excited to read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

Blog Tour: Butterfly in Frost, written by Sylvia Day | ARC Review

Blog Tour: Butterfly in Frost, written by Sylvia Day | ARC Review
ARC Review: Butterfly in Frost, written by Sylvia Day

Butterfly in Frost by Sylvia Day

Publication date: August 27th, 2019 
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Pages: 199
Genre: Womens fiction, Adult, Romance, Novella
Buy:Book Depository | Wordery

Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling phenomenon Sylvia Day comes a hotly anticipated and passionate new love story.
Once, I would never have imagined myself here. But I’m settled now. In a place I love, in a home I renovated, spending time with new friends I adore, and working a job that fulfills me. I am reconciling the past and laying the groundwork for the future.
Then Garrett Frost moves in next door.
He’s obstinate and too bold, a raging force of nature that disrupts the careful order of my life. I recognize the ghosts that haunt him, the torment driving him. Garrett would be risky in any form, but wounded, he’s far more dangerous. I fear I’m too fragile for the storm raging inside him, too delicate to withstand the pain that buffets him. But he’s too determined…and too tempting.
And sometimes hope soars above even the iciest desolation.

– My Thoughts –

“I’m tired of hurting,” he says softly. “You remind me that my body can feel things other than pain.”

I remember reading Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series and it was sexy as hell. That is why I was interested in this novella.

Butterfly in Frost is related to the Crossfire novels and Eva, the heroine of Crossfire series, does make an appearance in this novella. The story is about Dr. Teagan Ransom, a cosmetic surgeon who’s recently divorced. She’s heartbroken as a result and isn’t ready to move on just yet. When a new guy moves in their neighborhood, Tegan’s carefully laid foundations are shaken to the core.

There was a great story in here but I felt it was not covered in great detail. I loved the plot twist and it would have fared better if this was a full length book.

Overall, I would recommend this book if you are a Sylvia Day fan and are looking for a light and easy romance novel.

Thanks to the publisher for gifting me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

– About the Author 

Sylvia day

Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times, #1 USA Today, #1 Sunday Times, #1 Globe and Mail, #1 Der Spiegel, and #1 international bestselling author of over twenty award-winning novels sold in more than forty countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in twenty-eight countries, with tens of millions of copies of her books in print.

For more about Sylvia, visit her website and her Goodreads page, or follow her on Twitter.

Thank you for reading! Have you read the Crossfire books or will you be reading this novella? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!