First Lines Friday – 15 November

Yayaya, HAPPY FRIYAY, book lovers and friends 😍We’re back with another First Lines Friday! This is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are THE RULES:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“There was a reason Gavin Scott rarely drank.
He was bad at it.
As in, face-planted on the carpet while reaching for the bottle bad. And too drunk to see in the dark so might as well stay down bad.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Okay, okay, calm yourself Loki, mate...

*drumroll please!*

The book is: The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

Have you read The Bromance Book Club or is it on your TBR?

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!

First Lines Friday – 08 November

Yayaya, HAPPY FRIYAY, book lovers and friends 😍We’re back with another First Lines Friday! This is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are THE RULES:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“It was a storm.
Adrenaline ripped through my veins like lightning as I leaned close to the body of my crow, preparing to execute a dive. Iyla’s warm, steady heat kept me grounded, even hundreds of feet in the air.”

Do you recognize the book these first lines come from?

Okay, okay, calm yourself Loki, mate...

*drumroll please!*

The book is: The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Have you read The Storm Crow or is it on your TBR?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Panda Rating:

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all–or mostly all–excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page. 

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was just as quirky and relatable as I expected and I enjoyed every minute I spent with Nina Hill and the odd mix of characters we encounter in this book. This was one of the more hyped books in the last few months on bookstagram, which intimidated me for a while (hype and I have a love/hate relationship), but I’m glad that I took the plunge and finally read it!

“It also meant she thought of books as medication and sanctuary and the source of all good things. Nothing yet had proven her wrong.”

I’m not sure what expectations I had going in, but the writing style was very different to what I expected, though not necessarily in a bad way. It definitely enhanced the quirkiness of the story and fit it quite well, but I’m not sure if I’d prefer or enjoy this style in a different book. As this was a character driven story, there wasn’t much in the way of a plot. We follow Nina as she navigates having her perfectly structured world turned completely upside down with the introduction of family members that suddenly appear in her life, difficulties at work that could lead to the loss of her safe space, and Tom: #1 trivia nemesis turned potential love interest. The writing was simple, engaging and infused with great humor, which had me speeding through the pages and made it an even greater pleasure to read.

There was so much friendly banter between all of the characters and it made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, as as much as I was constantly smiling and laughing at their interactions. I really enjoyed meeting Nina’s many siblings and nieces/nephews. Peter was sassy, smart and I loved how he so readily embraced and accepted Nina. I also ended up really liking her brother Archie, but especially sweet little bookish Millie! Although I was initially unsure of how I felt about Nina’s character, she quickly grew on me, as did most of the others, and by the end I don’t think there was one I disliked (surprisingly). As a fellow bookworm and appreciator of all things bookish, but also as someone who really appreciates structure, it felt at times that Nina Hill’s story was picked right from my own life; obviously I related to her a lot. What I enjoyed most about Nina was that although she preferred being alone with her books, she still kept up a very busy and active social life — trivia nights, book clubs, yoga etc., and even though she was an introvert she never actually shied away from doing things that I personally would’ve panicked to get out of (i.e. go to a wedding alone). I really admired those traits in her and it was a refreshing perspective to see in a fellow bookworm!

“Being with you is as good as being alone.”

The romance aspect of Nina’s story also had me in giggling fits! The interactions between Nina and Tom were sweet but incredibly awkward at times. I loved that we got to see both of their thoughts during these interactions because it made it all the more hilarious and it endeared me even more to their characters. Their relationship is really a case of where opposites attract, and I thought Tom was such a sweetheart of a character. I do wish we got more personality from him, but he seemed like a really sweet guy that I wanted to give endless hugs to? I found it really adorable how he was so smitten by Nina!

“Being surrounded by books was the closest she’d ever gotten to feeling like the member of a gang. The books had her back, and the nonfiction, at least, was ready to fight if necessary.”

I was thoroughly entertained throughout Nina’s story. I honestly didn’t look too much into the believability and ease in which things happened because of course, life never falls so seamlessly into place as it does for Nina. BUT I still loved it because who doesn’t love a story about a character who’s so much like yourself? Especially when they get happy endings! Overall, this was the perfect fluffy read that I know many book lovers will get a kick out of reading.

Have you read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill? What did you think?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1) by Jay Kristoff – #BookReview

Goodreads: Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Panda Rating:

Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death. Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything. But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult. The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student. The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

CW: Gore, Murder, Abuse

HOLY MOTHER. THIS BOOK! I don’t even know what to do with myself right now? My feelings are so… betrayed? Confused? What? I don’t know. I’m just feeling all of it and I’m going to try writing a coherent review but sorry in advance if it’s all just a load of blabber! I read Nevernight on my Kindle while following along with the audiobook. It made my experience 100% better and I’d highly recommend it.

it me

Audiobook

My first impression was that I didn’t think I’d like this narrator, especially when he voiced Mia. I always find it awkward when males do female voices and vice versa? However, that changed very quickly the more he played out the roles. I LOVED IT! I thought this narrator was a wonderful voice actor and his impressions/accents really stole the show for me. There were times I found myself a little annoyed with his reading because he pauses as he enunciates every two or three words (I really don’t know how to explain it), but after a while I didn’t notice it as much. At the times I read without the audio, I actually found myself reading the way he would lol as I’ll no doubt mention a few more times in this review, the audiobook was what initially really pulled me through this book. There’s a lot to take in but somehow the audio helped me bridge the missing pieces that allowed me to get sucked into the story. I’d give this performance 5★s!

The Writing

This is where I took some points off because I have to be honest, I was reading back and forth at the start, trying to make sense of what was happening, making sure that I wasn’t missing anything and that what was happening really didn’t make sense. I was frustrated to say the least and if it wasn’t for the audio I might have given this is up and claimed it wasn’t for me. The writing is surprisingly dense. It’s riddled with metaphors, similes, it’s a little (okay, it’s a lottle) dramatic and sometimes OTT. Fair warning friends, there are also TONS of footnotes (and not the short kind). I found them pretty annoying at the start but as the story progressed, I found I really enjoyed the mini-(hi)stories that came with each footnote. That said, I loved how (Kristoff’s) humor was so effortlessly weaved into the story. I think he might be an ‘acquired’ taste as not everyone will be into his quirky(?) and bold writing style, but I came to love it.

The Plot

The plot was incredibly fast paced and I felt like it didn’t let up until the end. As already mentioned, there was a lot of a whole new world to take in at the start. But wow, the world building of the Itreyan republic is incredible. The histories of the various regions, the politics, the religions, the societal structures, the legends and myths… I know a lot of other books have these but I feel like I haven’t read any lately that’s on the same level as this. I loved all of it! Not a spoiler, but this book starts with sex and murder and it’s a pretty good indication of what’s to come. There’s a lot of blood and gore, not surprising considering it’s a story about a school of assassins, and while I’m usually not that great with the stuff, I didn’t find it overwhelming. There’s also sex of the smut variety, which was really surprising! Although I had heard talk over on Twitter and Instagram about it. It wasn’t distasteful though and the chemistry between the characters made it fire! But again, a warning for those who don’t like these elements in a story. The ending is something that I’m still processing. You best believe I was screaming incredulously at the book and there may have even been a few tears (I’m emo, don’t hate). I’m still shook. I can’t believe it. I honestly don’t know where to hate or love Kristoff for what he did. Just… WHY?!?!

it me

The Characters

MY NUMERO UNO MISTAKE WAS GETTING ATTACHED TO CHARACTERS. I’m getting the feeling Kristoff is a lot more like Martin than I could’ve ever suspected. I think I’ve also figured out who was responsible for all the painful deaths in the Illuminae Files series because the character deaths in this book gave me the same sort of heart hurt! URGHGRGRR… I want to say NEVER AGAIN but… yeah, I know myself better than that!

Mia had a horrifying past that made my heart ache for all that she’d been through. Her character was incredibly complex! I didn’t think I’d grow to love her so much but I did and I rooted so hard for her! She’s smart and cunning, fierce and a killer intent on avenging her familia, but she’s also got heart. While some may find her weak for it, I thought it was a strength that set her apart. Her character development was well done and I can’t wait to see how else she grows in the coming books, especially with what happened at the end of this one. DAMN YOU, KRISTOFF!!!

Tric. Oh, Don Tric. Be still my heart! I don’t even have the words for how much I loved Tric’s character. Like Mia and many others in the school, he had such a painful and heartbreaking past that led him to being an assassin. He may be a side character next to Mia, but he was so well developed that it didn’t feel like it. His banter with Mia had me giggling so many times, and their chemistry was OOF! I just wanted to fling myself onto him and never let go! He was such a great character, I’m crying.

Mister Kindly – the not-cat that was ever present in Mia’s shadow. His reactions often had me barking with laughter (I just can’t get enough of the humor in this book)! He’s the ultimate companion and pet. I loved his steadfast support for Mia, even if it was for his own gain too!

I guess you can say the rest of the characters were minor-ish but they still played considerable roles in the story. Ashlynn, one of Mia’s closest friends in the school had a great attitude, made me lol plenty and I loved her devil may care attitude. Lotti was another one of Mia’s friends and she grew on me quickly! I loved her deadpan reactions and her smarts! Jessamine was enemy #1 and has a similar history to Mia, but she blamed Mia for what she went through. She was a great villain that I continued to strongly dislike until the end. There were lots of other side characters that also really grew on me, like Naev, Hush and I’d even go so far as to say Adonai and Marielle. Unsurprisingly, everyone was tricksy AF and just when you think they’ve got a heart… Well, you can cancel that thought!

Aaaand breathe.

My thoughts are still reeling over that ending. I still can’t believe it! So much… SO MUCH THAT I CAN’T GIVE AWAY! If it isn’t obvious already, I loved Nevernight and as much as my chest actually aches with all the hurtful things, I think I might’ve found myself a new favorite series! I’m so glad that I’ve finally read a book by Kristoff (solo), especially since it’s given me insight into which parts he may have contributed to the Illuminae series, another favorite of mine. I can’t wait to continue this series!

Have you read Nevernight? What’d you think of it? Was your reaction as crazy as mine? LOL let me know in the comments and let’s chat!