Sometimes you just know a book is going to stick with you long after you read it. My Dark Vanessa is one of those stories that just gets stuck in your mind. I found myself thinking about it several days after reading it. I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up being my favorite book of the year. I have a lot of thoughts so grab a cup of coffee. This is going to be a long one.
2000. Fifteen year old Vanessa Wye longs for adulthood. She feels that she can’t relate to the kids her age. Vanessa finds herself attracting the attention of her charming forty-two year old English teacher, Jacob Strane.
2017. During the wave of sexual allegations brought on by the Me Too movement Strane is accused of sexual assault by another student. She also reaches out and wants Vanessa to share her story. Vanessa is faced with a hard choice. Should she confess or should she stay silent. She strongly believes that she was not sexually abused. She believes that Strane was her first love. Why would she rat out a man who transformed her life and worshiped her? Could the man that she loved be different from what she believed?
I am not sure where to begin, so lets jump in. We start out in 2017 right after the article about Strane is released. The thing the shocked me is that Vanessa is still in contact with Strane. That’s not a spoiler I promise. It is on the first page. They discuss how he is handling the allegations. He asks if she plans to tell and she says no.
The next chapter starts in 2000. We begin to see Vanessa on her first day at Browick Boarding School where she meets Strane for the first time. He is a Harvard graduate and an English teacher. He grabs the attention of Vanessa who loves to write.
The book continues to alternate between timelines. We see the aftermath first and then we get the story build up. Strane starts to flirt with Vanessa. He is subtle enough that she begins to wonder about his intentions. She begins to crave and seek out his attention. As time goes on and a relationship develops we see how manipulative Strane is. At one point he tells Vanessa he doesn’t want to ruin her. He said if they got caught she would be expelled and that Child Protective Services would take her from her parents.
His manipulation is disgusting. There were times I wanted to scream. From my perspective it was easy to see what he was doing, but Vanessa thought he worshiped her. He preyed on a lonely self-conscious girl. He told her so many times how he tried not to love her. He had her convinced that he was brave for loving her. She was honored he put his trust in her.
Eventually, the giddy excitement of the new relationship turns negative. Vanessa starts getting jealous of a female teacher. She is jealous to the point that she reads Strane’s e-mails. Even if you take away the underage aspect their relationship is still toxic and unhealthy. The manipulation and lying continues to show up even in 2017.
My Dark Vanessa is a dark read. It is not an easy read. It deals with topics that are hard to talk about. It could be triggering to certain people so please read triggering warnings before picking it up. It is such a haunting, thought-provoking book. I have never been more impressed by a debut novel. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s talent is astounding. I can’t wait to watch her career grow.
Happy Spring! I am ready to get outside and see some sunshine. Here are my most anticipated releases this spring.
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.
Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish–to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she’ll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age–her tyrannical father has made that much clear.
And as Nannerl’s hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true–but his help may cost her everything.
Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life-working hard all day and partying all night-until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.
Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose-to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.
As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion-one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.
With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom-and the power of love.
The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.
So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.
Morning brings the realization that she’s alone–and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.
Thirty years ago, Wilde was found as a boy living feral in the woods, with no memory of his past. Now an adult, he still doesn’t know where he comes from, and another child has gone missing.
No one seems to take Naomi Pine’s disappearance seriously, not even her father-with one exception. Hester Crimstein, a television criminal attorney, knows through her grandson that Naomi was relentlessly bullied at school. Hester asks Wilde-with whom she shares a tragic connection-to use his unique skills to help find Naomi.
Wilde can’t ignore an outcast in trouble, but in order to find Naomi he must venture back into the community where he has never fit in, a place where the powerful are protected even when they harbor secrets that could destroy the lives of millions . . . secrets that Wilde must uncover before it’s too late.
Once upon a time, a demon who desired earthly domination fathered an army of dark daughters to help him corrupt humanity . . .
As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.
To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.
So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love.
It feels like a fairy tale when Alberta “Bert” Monte receives a letter addressed to “Countess Alberta Montebianco” at her Hudson Valley, New York, home that claims she’s inherited a noble title, money, and a castle in Italy. While Bert is more than a little skeptical, the mystery of her aristocratic family’s past, and the chance to escape her stressful life for a luxury holiday in Italy, is too good to pass up.
At first, her inheritance seems like a dream come true: a champagne-drenched trip on a private jet to Turin, Italy; lawyers with lists of artwork and jewels bequeathed to Bert; a helicopter ride to an ancestral castle nestled in the Italian Alps below Mont Blanc; a portrait gallery of ancestors Bert never knew existed; and a cellar of expensive vintage wine for Bert to drink.
But her ancestry has a dark side, and Bert soon learns that her family history is particularly complicated. As Bert begins to unravel the Montebianco secrets, she begins to realize her true inheritance lies not in a legacy of ancestral treasures, but in her very genes.
Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.