The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Stranger Beside Me
Genre: True Crime, Non-fiction
Panda Rating:

Utterly unique in its astonishing intimacy, as jarringly frightening as when it first appeared, Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me defies our expectation that we would surely know if a monster lived among us, worked alongside of us, appeared as one of us. With a slow chill that intensifies with each heart-pounding page, Rule describes her dawning awareness that Ted Bundy, her sensitive coworker on a crisis hotline, was one of the most prolific serial killers in America. He would confess to killing at least thirty-six young women from coast to coast, and was eventually executed for three of those cases. Drawing from their correspondence that endured until shortly before Bundy’s death, and striking a seamless balance between her deeply personal perspective and her role as a crime reporter on the hunt for a savage serial killer — the brilliant and charismatic Bundy, the man she thought she knew — Rule changed the course of true-crime literature with this unforgettable chronicle.

Where do I even start in reviewing a book like this? My mind is still trying to process everything that I’ve read. Plus, I’ve just stumbled down an Ann Rule-Ted Bundy-Carol Ann Boone wormhole and after watching an interview of Bundy on YouTube (why did I do that?) I’m still not sure I’ve been fully spit back out yet. I’m covered in full-body chills and it’s a sweltering 35℃ right now!

“And, like all the others, I have been manipulated to suit Ted’s needs. I don’t feel particularly embarrassed or resentful about that. I was one of many, all of us intelligent, compassionate people who had no real comprehension of what possessed him, what drove him obsessively.”

I’m not usually a non-fiction reader but this book has been on my radar for several years now. I don’t know when I first learned about Ted Bundy and I’m pretty sure that the majority of people in my circles wouldn’t know who he is or at most his name might ring a bell. I knew he was good looking and charming but I never knew the details of when, where and how he operated. I never knew how much of a sociopath he was. I didn’t know how he was caught and for what he was actually convicted of. This book answered so many questions I didn’t know I had about him, but it also left me with more questions about his psyche too.

I can’t even fathom what it took Ann Rule to write this book. I know I just read it but I’m still not sure anyone will ever really understand what it’s like to write a detailed account of cruel and violent murders perpetrated by someone who you (thought you) knew so well. Someone who you were close to; someone whose connection with you was formed based on the loss of your brother; someone whose persona you knew to be so different to how others described him. It makes you think: how is it possible to judge a character so wrongly? Based on what Rule shared in this book, it’s not that difficult to understand when it comes to Bundy because he had so many sides to him it was almost impossible to know which was the REAL one, even at the end.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Bundy was a deeply disturbed individual. What he did was… I don’t even have the words for how angry and beyond disgusted it makes me feel to think about what he did and what he got away with so easily and for so long! Ted Bundy was a man with chameleon-like good looks, with a bright mind and endless charm, and I think what really got to me while reading this is how Rule managed to somehow… humanize him? Even though it took a long time for her to come to terms with his guilt, she didn’t excuse or try to justify what he did and I honestly don’t think she intentionally tried to make readers feel sympathetic towards someone as deplorable as him. And yet you can’t help but feel a little mournful(?) of the waste of life (all around) and how differently things could’ve turned out for him (and others like him) if his childhood was better… I know that’s an oversimplification and perhaps it was inevitable for him to turn out this way, it maybe would’ve taken him longer, but you can’t help envisioning him as the person that Rule initially described him as. Just to be clear, this isn’t me sympathizing or feeling sorry for him — no way! — this book just took me (emotionally) by surprise.

“According to the FBI information and several reporters who were deluging the Pensacola detectives with calls, they had caught a man suspected of thirty-six murders, a figure they found hard to believe.
When Chapman asked him about that during the post-taping conversation, Ted had reportedly replied, “Add one digit to that and you’ll have it.”
What had he meant? Was he being sarcastic? did he mean thirty-seven murders? Or, no, it couldn’t be… did he mean a hundred or more murders?”

I don’t know how to emphasize how horrifying it was to know how easy it was for Bundy to fool everyone around him. That he was smart and so meticulous about not leaving a single clue at each scene was beyond terrifying and it blows my mind to think how long this would’ve continued had he not been caught for other things. My gut churns knowing that the remains of the women he killed will never be found… and who knows how long he has been killing and how many women he actually killed in his lifetime… But I digress. Kind of. I don’t want to go on too much about what I read and learned, not because I don’t want to spoil the book, as I’m sure you can find the majority of information online or by watching the documentaries about him and the movie based on the book. I could go on about my thoughts on this but I’d likely end up repeating myself because there really are no words.

In the end, would I say I enjoyed this book? I mean, if you consider that I didn’t want to leave this book for too long, then yes, I did enjoy it because I read it faster than I thought I would. Every time I put it down I would think about it until I picked it up again. But it also feels wrong to say that because of what it’s about. The contents of this book have been tumbling over in my head since I finished reading it and I have a feeling that it’s one that will stick with me for a long, long time.

Have you read The Stranger Beside Me? Do you enjoy true crime?

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan – #BookReview

Goodreads: Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.
Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy..

You know that feeling when you so badly want to love a book but there’s just something about it that ultimately lets you down? Friends, this is how I felt about Wicked Saints and I could not be more disappointed… I’m not saying it was a horrible read, I liked the parts I enjoyed (lol) but there was just something about it that stopped me from losing myself in the story and it left me feeling pretty ‘meh’ towards the end. It took me so much longer than expected to finish this book.

It started off really strong and I was hooked from the first paragraph. But as the story progressed the pace really slowed down and I found myself struggling to pick the book back up every time I had to leave it. Again, it wasn’t that it was wholly unenjoyable, there was just some missing element(s) that had me frustrated trying to work it out.

I think much of it had to do with the predictability of the plot and the inability for me to connect with any of the characters and the story itself. I have to admit that I read countless passages over and over again because I just couldn’t get a grip on the writing. I thought the world building was set up well and I thought the magic system was interesting, but I often found myself getting lost in the author’s explanations about how things worked that I feel like I didn’t know anything despite just having read about it. A lot of the time I felt that we were also told things instead of shown things. I noticed a lot of foreshadowing about characters and events that were so obviously told to us as readers, that it ruined the possibility of any surprise in the story.

I also have to mention the one gripe that many readers had and that was the character names. While I didn’t have an issue with most of them, I did find myself repeating Malachiasz’ name so many freaking times because I had no clue if I was pronouncing it correctly; and the same goes with many of the cleric’s names liberally sprinkled throughout. I think this book would’ve really benefited from having a glossary for the characters and I was disappointed to find there wasn’t one.

I also found the characters a little flat. I wanted to know more about Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz’ backstories, and while we learn more about the latter two than we do about Nadya, it still wasn’t much. I thought the side players showed more character in certain respects, especially Parajihan and Rashid, and I found myself disappointed that they all but ‘disappeared’ as the story went on. I really wish that the characters were better developed as it would’ve made me feel more invested in what would happen to them, and especially in the romance that blooms.

There were certain elements to the story that I did like though. I haven’t read many Russian inspired stories so I enjoyed reading one so heavily influenced by it. Like I said earlier, the magic systems in both countries were interesting. I liked how Nadya, the last cleric of Kalyazin communed with the Gods and how she was gifted their powers. I also thought the blood magic, dark though it was, was pretty cool. I definitely wanted to know more about the books they used to conjure spells and I wanted to better understand what makes one blood mage more powerful than another, but more importantly where blood magic came from.

The action really picks up in the last few chapters but I sadly found myself trying too hard to focus on understanding the author’s writing (I really read so many passages countless times), that it really took away from my reading experience. I’m not sure that I understood much of what happened, but what I did get had me racing towards the finish, especially when things took another turn that I was pleasantly surprised by because it was a little unexpected.

By the end though I just felt that there was so much potential for awesome in this story but I was let down by the execution of it. I originally thought I’d rate this about 2.5 stars but the final events did get me excited for the sequel, so I’m boosting it up to 3 stars. I got the e-ARC of Ruthless Gods recently so I’m looking forward to seeing if it will be an improvement and if it’ll change the way I feel about this series so far.

Have you read Wicked Saints? What’d you think of it?
Let’s chat in the comments!

#WWWWednesday: 06 November

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

I haven’t read a lot since last week. As mentioned on my Sunday Wrap Up, I got really sucked into a Webtoons vortex, which resulted in me putting aside any and all reads that I had planned. I’ve read two books in the past week (and many fun Webtoons series)!

Frankly in Love by David Yoon ★★★★☆
I ended up really enjoying Frank Li’s story, and although there were elements of it that I didn’t like, it wasn’t enough to affect how I felt about the story in general. Despite not being Asian-American or having had any experience living in America, I grew up internationally and moved around a lot, so reading about Frank’s experiences and thoughts about his cultural/identity really hit him for me. I didn’t manage to write the best or most coherent review, but it will be going up later tonight, so be on the look out if you want to know more 🙂

Under Locke by Mariana Zapata ★★★★ ½
Yes, I’m still slightly in the romance zone but I’m slowly starting to leave it behind. I’ve been wanting to read this one since Jen recommended it as she thought I’d love it, and she wasn’t wrong. I’m officially a big Zapata fan, and even though I still have a few of her books left to read, I think she might be an auto buy author from now on?! Nobody does slow burns like her and they’re always so damn satisfying. RTC.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Wicked Saints right now and it honestly kind of feels like I’ve been reading it for forever? It’s not that I’m not enjoying it while I’m reading it… But I feel like there’s something missing. I really can’t put my finger on it, but that element that hooks me in and keeps me wanting to go back to it every time I put it down is just not there. Right now I don’t mind putting it down and it will take me a long time to pick it back up. I think I’ve almost reached the 50% mark now, so let’s see how it goes!

What will you read next?

I think my mood is really calling for me to read Darkdawn right now, but maybe after finishing Wicked Saints I’ll be better off reading a different genre first? I might as well pick up my first NF of the month since I’m giving Nonfiction November a try! I’m tossing up between The Stranger Beside Me (true crime) or Good Talk (“a memoir in conversations” graphic novel). But can’t decide. Maybe a nice quick graphic novel would be good… Thoughts?

What are you currently reading? How’s your week and reading going?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat! 🙂

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

This Sunday I would’ve liked to spend the day in bed with Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1) by Emily A. Duncan. I’m about 100+ pages into the story and while I’ve found it interesting while reading it, it’s taking a bit more time than I anticipated to get into it. The one “complaint” that many have mentioned about this book are the names and I have to agree that it can be quite confusing/trying. I thought there would be a glossary for how to say the names but apparently not… To be honest, I find myself going over the names repeatedly trying to sound them out in my head which sidetracks me from the actual story 😂 I do like it so far though, but hopefully I’ll get more into it tonight! I have a feeling once the action really picks up I won’t be able to put it down! Let’s see if my gut proves right on this… I really hope I like it because I got granted the second book as an e-ARC last month! 🙈

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.
A prince in danger must decide who to trust.
A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings.

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.

Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy..

What are you currently reading?

Holy wow, it’s the first Sunday of November already! I feel like I’ve been sounding like a broken record every time I say this, but it’s absolutely true. I can’t believe the whole year has gone so quickly–where has the time all gone?! I can already feel all the October energy draining out of me and so I’m hoping that means I’ll be able to really settle into my routine from this week onwards. I’ve spent a portion of this weekend working (unfortunately) since the week had been frustrating with my brand new laptop breaking down (again) and pissing me right off. I regret moving on from my old laptop, which despite slowing down after 6 years of use, never actually gave me much trouble. Unlike this new one 🙄 I know it seems so trivial but I need a fast, functioning laptop for work as I design materials and the office laptops just can’t handle the design programs. *Le Super Sigh* but… not going to dwell on that. It is what it is, right?!

I went to watch Joker today and wow, friends. The movie doesn’t have the best ratings on Rotten Tomatoes but I still really enjoyed it! I thought Joaquin Phoenix gave such an incredible performance and (once again), I can’t imagine the impact getting into a role such as this would have on someone’s psyche. It was such a dark movie. But what can you expect when it’s a movie about how the Joker becomes the Joker? It was pretty heartbreaking? I mean, he’s definitely a psychopath but the system (and everyone in his life) really failed him and while I obviously don’t jam with all the killing, I really sympathized with his character. If you’re up for watching a movie that focuses more on character development and a little less on plot, and of course a story that’s psychologically dark, then I’d recommend it!

Reading & Blogging Recap

Although this week was a lot more chill compared to the previous weeks, I still only managed to finish two books during the week. I haven’t been doing much book reading this week but I have become obsessed with Webtoons. Some of these webtoons are damn amazing and whenever I discover a new one, I always get sucked right in and don’t stop reading until I find that I’ve devoured over 100 episodes in about two nights? Yeah, I definitely got sucked down the Webtoons Vortex this week and I have no regrets! Do any of you read Webtoons? Any favorites I should check out ASAP?

I think I’ve been doing better on the blogging front this week although I still ended up skipping two fo my weekly memes on Friday and Saturday. I was just not feeling inspired and knew I would struggle too much to write something so I just passed on them, but maybe I will catch up in the future! I’m still trying to get back into engaging more with other bloggers. Damn, that one week really sent me tripping huh? I’m sorry that I haven’t been as active with likes and comments on here as I was before. I don’t know what’s wrong with me–my brain just feels extra fried at the end of every work day and I don’t have the energy to spend more time behind the screen. I’ve definitely felt the loss to my blog though (and honestly I do feel a small part of me has fallen flat from not engaging) but I’m really trying my best to get back into the groove! For now, in case you missed any of my posts from this week, you can check them out below!

Review: Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
November Possibility Pile
October Monthly Wrap Up
First Lines Friday: 01 November
Review: The Dugout (Brentwood Baseball #2) by Meghan Quinn
The Book Blogger Memory Tag
Review: Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
#WWWWednesday: 30 October
#TopTenTuesday: Spooky Books I’d Read If I Wasn’t A Chicken (Halloween Freebie)
Down the TBR Hole – 05
Goodreads Monday: 28 October

I’m leaving you with one of my favorite songs of the moment: Graveyard by Halsey. Serious girl crush.

How has your week been? Hope everyone has/had a great weekend!
Let me know how you’re doing in the comments and let’s chat, friends 🙂