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”

Kiss Me Not (Kiss Me #1) by Emma Hart – #BookReview

Goodreads: Kiss Me Not (Kiss Me #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

What do you do when you’re the reigning kissing booth champion but the only person you want to kiss is your best friend’s brother?

Let me make this clear right here, right now: I, Halley Dawson, do not care that Preston Wright is kissing other women. Not a lick. Not at all. Nuh-uh-freakin’-uh.
I do care that he’s doing it six feet away from me behind a gaudy velvet curtain—making him my competition in this year’s kissing contest.

Why do I care, you ask? Because I’ve had an unfortunate crush on the insufferable idiot since I was sixteen years old, but I also know it’s never going to happen. He’s the Creek Falls bachelor to die for, and I’m the Creek Falls racoon lady who puts peanut butter sandwiches out for them every night. I’m not going to let him break my four-year-long reign—no matter how many times he breaks the rules and slides the curtain across to do the one thing he’s not allowed to: Kiss me.

Kiss Me Not is a short and fluffy romantic comedy that certainly had me giggling at times but overall, I thought was just alright. The enemies-to-lovers story focuses on our MCs Halley and Preston. Halley is the all-around golden girl and notorious Raccoon lady, and Preston is her best friend’s older brother and the most eligible bachelor of Creek Falls. Halley has been the reigning champion of the town’s Kissing Booth for the last four years, but this year Preston is her competition and soon bets are made and truths come out.

Continue reading “Kiss Me Not (Kiss Me #1) by Emma Hart – #BookReview”

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!