Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Trophy Life
Publish date: 09 April 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

This was slow to start and was a little difficult to get into at first but once the story got rolling, I found the ‘light and fluffy’ contemporary I expected. I didn’t find it very surprising or different to anything that I’ve read in women’s fiction before though. For some reason (probably based on the cover) I might have thought the story and characters would be more comedic, but it was still an enjoyable and entertaining enough read.

Continue reading “Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview”

Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera
Publish date: 15 December 2019
Publisher: North Fourth Publishing
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Panda Rating:

In the deep confines of the beautiful and majestic Rio Grande bosque, a fable is told of a simpler time concerning the rich tri-cultural communities of New Mexico. Join brothers Amadeo and Carlos Lucero in this enchanting story of magic and adventure. Discover how the power of love and family triumphs and turns an old witch back into a healer.

This was an absolutely delightful tale of family, friendship, grief and love that is richly infused with Mexican folklore and culture. I knew I would love this graphic novel the minute I started reading it! This was a very fast-paced read and I easily read it one sitting (mostly because I didn’t want to put it down). The personal touches in both the foreword and afterword made me enjoy this more, as reading the history of how this story came to be and the authors’ personal connections with their own curanderas showed how much the story meant to them.

Continue reading “Under the Cottonwood Tree: El Susto de la Curandera – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview”

Human by Diego Agrimbau, Lucas Varela – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview

Goodreads: Human
Publish date: 16 October 2019
Publisher: Europe Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Post-Apocalytpic, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Planet Earth: 500,000 years in the future. Humans have been extinct for millennia. Two scientists, Robert and June, have been orbiting the Earth, waiting for the planet to become habitable once more. With the help of a team of robots, they plan to start over from scratch: a new Adam and Eve who won’t make the same mistakes as their ancestors. But first Robert has to find June, who seems to have landed somewhere else in this vast jungle—their Eden—full of grotesque creatures and strange primates…

This was a pretty bizarre graphic novel that I’m not quite sure I loved. I was immediately drawn in by the cover and the synopsis, which presented a pretty interesting post apocalyptic tale about returning to earth 500,000 years post death (both humanity’s and Earth’s). The story was well illustrated, however, the illustration style wasn’t what I expected when I picked this up. I thought the color palette of reds, greys, black and white was an interesting choice though; in a way it made earth seem a little bit leached of life, although that clearly wasn’t the case as there was plenty of animals living in the jungle. While I wasn’t a big fan of the illustrations, I thought the overall message of the story was very thought-provoking and made reflect on our relationship with our surroundings.

Continue reading “Human by Diego Agrimbau, Lucas Varela – #eARC #GraphicNovelReview”

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Publish date: 29 October 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But…

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.
She just needs to learn to listen to it…

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae was a heartwarming (no pun intended) story about health, family, friendship, love, grief and quite simply ‘adulting’. Ailsa was born with a heart condition which meant that for most of her life she was too ill to really live. She wasn’t completely unexperienced and sheltered although she missed out on a lot of the ‘normal things’ that kids, teenagers and young adults experienced because her heart and body simply couldn’t handle it. She started to blog about her ‘blue heart’ and what her life was like as she waited for a transplant, until she finally gets the new heart she has literally been waiting for her whole life. It’s not a fast paced read and while there’s a lot of changes that happen, it’s not a larger-than-life miracle story either. It’s set in Edinburgh and as you might know by now it’s one of my favourite places! The author really made the city come to life and I could practically feel myself navigating the streets alongside Ailsa and it was such a wonderful feeling!

Continue reading “The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae by Stephanie Butland – #eARC #BookReview”

Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Bury the Lede
Publish date: 08 October 2019
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Twenty-one-year-old Madison T. Jackson is already the star of the Emerson College student newspaper when she nabs a coveted night internship at Boston’s premiere newspaper, The Boston Lede. The job’s simple: do whatever the senior reporters tell you to do, from fetching coffee to getting a quote from a grieving parent. It’s gruelling work, so when the murder of a prominent Boston businessman comes up on the police scanner, Madison races to the scene of the grisly crime. There, Madison meets the woman who will change her life forever: prominent socialite Dahlia Kennedy, who is covered in gore and being arrested for the murder of her family. The newspapers put everyone they can in front of her with no results until, with nothing to lose, Madison gets a chance – and unexpectedly barrels headfirst into danger she never anticipated.

I love discovering new graphic novels and I requested this because the cover hooked my interest, plus I don’t think never read a crime noir graphic novel/comic before! Bury the Lede was mostly what I anticipated it to be, although there were some elements that really grated on my nerves and that’s what made me only give it three stars.

Continue reading “Bury the Lede by Gaby Dunn, Claire Roe – #eARC #BookReview”

TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4)
Publish date: 13 August 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Crime Thriller, Mystery
Panda Rating:

The serial killer isn’t on trial.
He’s on the jury…


They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the courtroom start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind.

What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?
What if the killer isn’t on trial? What if the killer is on the jury?

Wow, what an incredible ride! Again, I’m facepalming myself for not reading this as soon as I got it on NetGalley because I loved every minute of this fast-paced courtroom drama and crime thriller. This book was like reading an episode of Criminal Minds and I could so clearly picture everything unfolding before me as if I watching it on TV. I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read the synopsis and saw that “the killer isn’t on trial, he’s on the jury”! I mean, is there a cleverer way of catching the reader’s attention with a blurb like that? It definitely worked it’s magic on me.

Continue reading “TH1RT3EN (Eddie Flynn #4) by Steve Cavanagh – #eARC #BookReview”

The Death of Baseball by Orlando Ortega-Medina – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Death of Baseball
Publish date: 19 November 2019
Publisher: Cloud Lodge Books
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Former Little League champion Kimitake “Clyde” Koba finds strength in the belief that he is the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe as he struggles to escape the ghost of his brother and his alcoholic father.

Born on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, teen prodigy Raphael Dweck has been told his whole life that he has a special purpose in God’s plan. The only problem is, he can’t shake off his doubts, his urges, or the trail of trouble and ruin that follow in his wake.

A decade later, Raphael and ‘Marilyn’ find each other wandering the plastic-bright streets of Hollywood and set out to make a documentary about the transmigration of souls. But when the roleplaying goes too far, they find themselves past the point of no return in their quest to prove who and what they are to their families, God, the world, and themselves.

Continue reading “The Death of Baseball by Orlando Ortega-Medina – #eARC #BookReview”

ARC Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Petersen

Special thanks to NetGalley and

Goodreads: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1)
Publish date: 10 March 2020
Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Panda Rating:

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

It’s been a very long time since I read any middle grade books but I’ve recently added a few to my shelves that have been well praised by many book lovers, and when I saw the cover for this book I immediately wanted to read it because it’s simply a really attractive cover (yes, I’m judging a book by it’s cover so hard now). Plus, the blurb sounded good and I enjoyed the excerpt I read of it!

That said, while I was generally entertained by the book, I also found myself unexpectedly bored for certain periods of time (off-pacing), and I think that the story was going on for a lot longer than it should’ve. I was also unsure about the use of the footnotes. While some of the footnotes were interesting, I found that even if I didn’t read them, I wasn’t missing out on anything other than a humorous story or anecdote. I’m also wondering if footnotes are something young readers (especially middle graders) would appreciate? I don’t recall ever reading a book with footnotes in it when I was younger unless it was non-fiction or a textbook, and as an adult reader, I’m still not always a fan of footnotes; unless they really added key/important elements to the world building and the story itself.

I think one of the things I struggled with was not being able to form a connection with the story overall and in particular with the characters. I liked the Igiby family well enough–Janner, Tink and Leeli were interesting characters–but I just didn’t feel as invested in their journey as I hoped to be. Perhaps my favorite characters in the story were Peet and Nugget (the doggo, reasons for which go without saying. He’s a loyal companion to the Igiby children, particularly for Leeli)!

Peet was a courageous side-character who suffered from (what I can tell) possible mental health issues and a disability. He was pitied in town and was treated pretty awfully by the Igiby heads of house (Podo and Nia) for a reason that only becomes apparent at the end, but to me never justified the unfair treatment of his character. While I started off liking Podo’s character, his awful treatment of Peet was so distasteful and made me like him a lot less (it says a lot about a person’s character IRL just as much as in a book)! The Fangs of Dang were obviously awful characters we were meant to hate and the author did a great job of stoking those feelings against these characters. I thought the disability rep with Leeli’s and Podo’s characters was really great. Leeli was such a strong female character that had a fierce independent streak. I loved that her disability didn’t stop her from having adventures and getting up to mischief with her brothers; her disability was normalized (as in, it didn’t hamper her in any way) and it was nice to see that being shown in books to such a young audience.

As this was an e-ARC, most of the illustrations and maps were not yet included, so that was also a little bit disappointing because the illustrations that were already included in the story were pretty amazing! I can only imagine how much fun these illustrations will be to look at once it’s done (and in color too)! Overall, while I was really pulled in by the premise of this story, I found it a bit difficult to get into and that’s what made me remove stars. I wish that the pacing was more consistent but it was still an enjoyable enough read. I think many young middle grade readers would enjoy it too!

Have you read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness or any of the books in The Wingfeather Saga books?

The Netgalley Book Tag!

A few *months* ago Alys @ Alys in Bookland tagged me to do The Netgalley Book Tag! Of course in my typically late fashion, I am only now getting around to it. Thanks so much for the tag, Alys! You all should check out her lovely blog — her aesthetic is just ridiculously cute and amazing and her reviews and posts are awesome!

RULES:

  • Link back to the tag’s creator.
  • Thank and link back to the person who tagged you.
  • Answer the questions the best you can. If you don’t use NetGalley, you can substitute other sites or places where you get books!
  • Tag a few people to do this too.

Auto-Approved: Who’s one author whose books you automatically want to read, regardless of what they’re about?

I’d have to say Taylor Jenkins Reid for this one. I haven’t read all of her books yet but all of the ones I’ve read have been 4-5 stars and I can’t imagine myself disliking any of her books. I could end up being completely wrong, but I’m on a mission to build my collection of her books! Not that I’ve ever seen her books on NetGalley nor (I’m sure) would I ever be approved even if I wished for it 🤣

Request: What makes you want to request a book that you see on NetGalley?

The first thing that always catches my eye is the cover — I know, I know, don’t judge a book blah blah. Yeah, but it’s true, I do this. Then I read the synopsis and if I’m on the fence about it I check it out on Goodreads and sometimes I’ll skim reviews. Do other people do that? For the most part I decide based on the synopsis!

Feedback Ratio: Do you review every book you read? If not, how do you decide what books to review?

If it’s an ARC, of course! Ever since I started my blog I’ve also tried to write a review for all the books I read and for the most part I’ve done a pretty good job of it, minus a few here and there. I’m working on it!

Badges: If you could create your own badge to display on your blog, what would it be for?

I’m sure this is already out there somewhere but I haven’t seen it yet (although I honestly haven’t looked for it yet either) but I’d like to make a badge as an international book blogger for the obvious reason. Or…. SOMETHING WITH A PANDA ON IT because… pandas? 🐼🐼🐼

Wish for it: What’s one book that you are absolutely dying to read?

One of the upcoming releases that I’m absolutely dying to get my hands on is The Toll by Neal Shusterman. The release date is coming up right quick and I CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on this book. Like, I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED YESTERDAY please and thank you.

2019 NetGalley Challenge: What was the last book that you received as an ARC that you reviewed? If you’ve never received an ARC, what’s the last book you reviewed?

The last e-ARC that I received and reviewed was My Life as Marlee by Victoria Anders. Unfortunately for me, this one just didn’t work well for me. You can read my review here!

I’M TAGGING ANYONE WHO WANTS TO DO THIS!

(I’m sorry, I’m just too lazy… If you do this tag, please link back to me so I can see your post too!)

My Life as Marlee by Victoria Anders – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: My Life as Marlee
Publish date: 18 September 2019
Publisher: Alt 19 Publications
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Young Adult Romance
Panda Rating:

I’m officially a sixteen-year-old insane hermit, thanks to my best friend moving away.
Until I meet Noah.

Noah is my oxygen. He’s those fleeting, deep breaths keeping my world from going black, from drowning into the darkness of my past. He’s the one who helps me find my passion for swimming again, even though it’s a direct reflection of my nightmare. As my mom moves closer to the deep end, barely treading water, Noah’s the only thing holding me afloat. My fear is that her illness will drain her and I’ll have nowhere to go but across the country. Back to the darkness. Back to my father.

Not even Noah can extinguish my demons.

When my life gets sucked in by the riptides, I have to ask myself, is my father truly evil or just broken? Is Noah’s oxygen enough to save me as the muddy waters swallow me whole?

My name is Marlee, and this is my life.

This book started off very well for me but the further I got, the more I was confused about where the author was taking the story. Then at the turn of events in the last 10% of the book, I was left completely baffled (not in a good way) at the direction the book took. I think I understand what the author was trying to do but IMO it didn’t add anything to the story other than unnecessary drama.

*Warning: Minor spoilers ahead*

Marlee is a typical high schooler who is trying to find her place now that her best friend has relocated and she’s left to deal with the last two years of school alone. I like how she decided to remove herself from a toxic group situation, even if it meant being alone/friendless. From the start you can tell that Marlee has been through a lot and that there’s some serious emotional and mental baggage in her past, but I liked how she kept trying to see the positive and the lessons life was throwing her way in each moment. Although most of it was cheesy for me now, I can imagine my younger teen self being totally onboard with all of the positive affirmation she kept on her wall. There were times when I really liked Marlee and how she was quite level-headed for a teenager, but then there were moments where she’d have these really nasty and incredibly selfish thoughts that just threw me off completely. Moments like these showed just how inconsistent her character was and I get it, she’s a teenager, but to be going on about how much her mum means to her and how much she missed her best friend, her actions in the story didn’t really reflect it very well.

SPOILER

This was especially the case when Marlee got home from Thanksgiving and her mother was feeling worse than usual. She hadn’t seen Noah in a few weeks, and was running towards him when her mother collapses and her first thoughts were something along the lines of: “why did she have to be so weak and collapse right now? if it weren’t for her, i’d already be in Noah’s arms, but instead he’s going to her.” I mean… Your mother has cancer dude. Are you serious rn?

END SPOILER

I’m also on the fence about this romance. It really comes off as insta-lovey because they become a couple 2-3 days after officially meeting. Their chemistry is pretty obvious from the start, but I also felt the ‘can’t-eat-can’t-sleep-can’t-breathe-without-you’ love happened FAST. I started off really enjoying the descriptions of having a high school crush, swimming in lust and all those raging hormones of teenage-hood. It sent me laughing down memory lane remembering my own very cringeworthy, boy-crazy moments. So I can understand getting caught up in emotions and everything, but I felt this crossed over to the unhealthy kind of love where they’re so codependent on each other. Maybe I’m too cynical or old (lol) but I don’t believe the kind of love that Noah and Marlee had was really healthy — especially when everything and everyone else falls to the side (like your very sick very dying mother). Marlee does face a moment where she realizes she has no idea who she is without Noah but other than trying for one activity without him, it really doesn’t go anywhere and that was disappointing too.

Noah was genuinely a very good guy though a little too perfect for my tastes and as a result, got slightly boring for me. He didn’t get much of a personality other than the shining, electrifying, life saving light to Marlee’s dark. Which as a teen I’d probably be all over but now not so much. I loved most of their friends, like Stella, who at times seemed much more likable than Marlee! I would’ve definitely liked to see more of them in it.

The really bizzare and out of the blue ending was what really brought the rating down for me. I don’t understand why it the author had to do it. I actually had to double take when I got to this part of the story because I couldn’t believe that the author brought it in this direction. It was just weird and so unnecessary. There’s a lot more I could get into about how the situation with her father was handled (amongst other things including the situation with her brother!), and how Marlee continued to hide the truth, but I’m not gonna go there because it’s just gonna end up being a rant.

In the end, even though this started off well, the inside content just wasn’t as appealing to me as the outside cover. The story was almost nauseatingly perfect at times–everything was so easily resolved and of course, it was predictable, which isn’t always bad if the execution is good. But in this case, it just wasn’t there for me.

Thanks to Book Sirens and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available.
Have you read My Life as Marlee? Let’s
chat in the comments!