Friday, March 24, 2017

The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

Hiya guys! I've got a fun one for you today!

I recently participated in an audiobook tour, and now that it's ended and some time has passed, I wanted to share a more candid review of this story! My official review is up and posted, and is super long! This story is just so deep, I couldn't help myself - I've gotta go deeper!

As a reminder, this blog is set up as more of a candid, unofficial place for me to share reviews that I don't want to use as promotional or official material. It's a place for my thoughts, free from the restraints of my otherwise "professional" reviewer badge. I'm not getting anything for the content on this blog, simply sharing my thoughts as I would in a book club or discussion forum.

If you want to avoid spoilers, or want a more "traditional" review, you can check that out on my official review blog here. Otherwise, check out the book, author & narrator, and see what I thought of this story!


 The Secret Life of Anna Blanc
~Released: Nov. 14, 2016

~Author: Jennifer Kincheloe

~Narrator: Moira Quirk

~Length: 12h 44m

~Publisher: Jennifer R. Kincheloe, Ltd 2016

~Genres: Historical, Mystery, Thriller

It's 1907 Los Angeles. Mischievous socialite Anna Blanc could match wits with Sherlock Holmes, but in her world women are not allowed to hunt criminals. Determined to break free of the era's rigid social roles, she buys off the chaperone assigned by her domineering father and, using an alias, takes a job as a police matron with the Los Angeles Police Department. There she discovers a string of brothel murders, which the cops are covering up. Seizing her one chance to solve a crime, she takes on the investigation herself. 

If the police find out, she'll get fired; if her father finds out, he'll disown her; and if her fiancé finds out, he'll cancel the wedding.

Anna must choose--either hunt the villain and risk losing her father, fiancé, and wealth, or abandon her dream and leave the killer on the loose.

 Jennifer Kincheloe

Jennifer has been a block layer, a nurse's aid, a fragrance model, and on the research faculty at UCLA, where she spent 11 years conducting studies to inform health policy. A native of Southern California, she now lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband and two teenagers. She's currently writing book three in the Anna Blanc Mystery series. Book two, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk, is coming out in Fall of 2017 from Seventh Street Books.

Moira grew up in teeny-tiny Rutland, England’s smallest county, which is fitting as she never managed to make it past five feet herself.  Moira’s work spans the pantheon of the voiceover world: plays for BBC radio, plays for NPR, video games, commercials, television promos, podcasts, cartoons, movies and award winning audiobooks. She's won Multiple Audie Awards, Earphone Awards, as well as Audible's prestigious Book-of-the-Year Award. She has lately set foot in front of the camera again, appearing in “Pretty: the Series” and the Emmy-winning “Dirty Work.”

*This review contains spoilers! To see a plugged in (official) review, visit my professional review blog here!

Ok, so let's just dive right into this sucker, shall we?

Anna Blanc is the daughter of a wealthy French bank owner, who moved to to California when Anna was young. I honestly can't remember what happened to her mother, but whether she's dead or took off, she isn't in the picture at all, and only mentioned in passing.

Anna has had the traditional spoiled brat upbringing. Fancy clothes with corsets so tight she can barely breath, men fawning over her constantly, never denied having someone buy her something, or attend to her needs. Her childhood was full of cooks, maids and servants. She even calls the cook "cook" instead of using his/her name!

Luckily, she isn't overly snobby, as women tend to be in those rolls. If I'm being truly honest (as I always am), she has quite a compassionate heart, and cares a ton about other people, even if she doesn't respect their choices. She respects life and isn't afraid to change her mind about a person, which I really loved.

Her main flaw, wasn't really something she could have avoided. She was naive.

From her sheltered upbringing, not being allowed to do anything to expand her mind or world, you really can't be surprised. She wasn't allowed to read books that would help her learn something, especially if she enjoyed them. She wasn't allowed to interact with people of a lower class, if her father was around. She was basically forced into a box of snobbishness and hoity-toityness.

Luckily, she hated it, and had an incredible rebellious streak.

Anna had hilarious systems for rebelling against her father's rules, and it made my rebellious heart proud. In this way, I really connected and identified with her, even with the extreme time period differences. 

With everything she did to be her own woman, it showed her character and guts. She had spunk, and wasn't afraid to do something dangerous or dirty in order to do the right thing. She had the whole world against her, with only her own gut to keep her going. Even by today's standards, she was a bad ass, and ended up finding that she was a total bad girl.

The feminism theme was quite strong throughout the story. Several men were portrayed as "piggish" and stupid for not taking the word of a woman. When seen from Anna's point of view, it gave the reader the chance to experience the frustrations of having your instincts and gut feelings ignored, simply because you have a vagina and breasts instead of a penis. Especially when your instincts are right, and people are dying because of the ridiculous bias against women having a brain.

Her time period is when the women's movement for the right to be seen as more than property and play-things really took off, and is the time period I can really stand behind. She handled the boorish behavior with grace and pride...most of the time.

When she wasn't graceful, she was downright hil-friggin'-larious!

I really felt for her when the reporters got involved though. Just as the paparazzi and tabloids try their best to make papers sell with scandalous headlines, Anna's antics became headline fodder several times. If it hadn't been for that stupid reporter, her life wouldn't have fallen apart.

As it is, the reporter did his slimy job, and Anna's life was ruined. She was even disowned by her father! For a socialite, with no husband, money, or ability for a career to support herself, that's a tough spot to be in.

What I didn't expect, was the sympathy for prostitution.

Wait, before your jaw drops, hear me out.

Anna was prejudice about prostitution, and brothels in general. To her, any man who went in one was tainted for life, and she would rather be a beggar on the street than marry a cad who visited the sin-houses (her way of describing them). A woman who worked there was simply a whore, with no self respect, voluntarily living a life of sin, damned for hell.

As the story progressed, and she actually had to meet and deal with the brothel girls, she started to see them as people. Women who had no other way to realistically support their children when their husbands died, or kicked them out for a "better model" of woman. Women who couldn't make enough to feed themselves and have a roof over her head working in factories, or working as teachers. Kids made it even worse, and for many of them, it was a choice made of desperation and pure survival, to avoid being continually raped on the streets. If you're going to have your body violated, you should at least make money for it, right?

That was the idea back then, for many of the brothel girls. For the madams who ran the brothels, it was a way to help girls who had no where else to go, make good money, and have a beat on the entire city. They know everything!

It was an interesting twist to add to the story, and made the reader take a deeper look at an issue that even today, is looked at with stuck-up noses, automatically judging anyone involved. It put a touch of humanity into the seedier sides of life, all while dealing with religion and wrestling with moral obligations.

One aspect of that I really didn't enjoy, was the constant prayers to patron saints. I'm not Catholic, at all, and the whole praying to saints thing goes against my religion and beliefs. I'm all for you do you, let me do me, but it did get irritating all the time, as she constantly prayed to some patron saint of whatever situation she found herself struggling in, as opposed to just dealing with herself like an adult.

Personal annoyance, but as this is a personal review, I get to add it in!

Anyway, back to Anna.

A huge, massive, main aspect of the story was, the men. The circling men. The vulture men, who seemed to see Anna as a piece of meat. It was a little disturbing, actually.

What was even more disturbing, was her casual disregard for the fact she had men falling at her feet, or the significance of it. What's more, she seemed to have very little issue manipulating the men she was surrounded by, doing just about anything - and I do mean anything - to get what she wanted. 

I found it ironic that she had such a prejudice against whores who worked in brothels, while she acted very much like one with several different men, in order to get what she wanted. It wasn't money she was using her body to get, but the act is the same - she used her body as payment to get something from a man.



One guy in the story did point out the fact that she had three different aliases, and seemed to have a different lover for each. She did have two distinct personas she lived by, with her double life, and a lover for each. The third alias, was as a brothel girl, where she, in the public's eye, had many lovers. Whoever would pay the right price, really.

However you spin it, that's a bit much. I don't tend to enjoy strong sexual themes in a book, so that part of it was unappealing to listen to. I tend to hear that stuff, and just put a book down. If I get a review request for a book like that, I politely decline. Had I known it was as sexual as it was, I wouldn't have signed up for the tour. I just don't enjoy that stuff. It's a hard no for me.

As it is, I did sign up for a review, and since I left it til the day before my post went up, I didn't have time to switch it for a promo post. My own honor trumps my discomfort, so I put up with it.

I know a lot of people enjoy that kind of stuff in their books, and if you're one of them, you probably think I'm stupid. Really though, everyone has their own preferences, and that happens to be one of mine.

Anywho, that's about it. I loved some parts, hated others, and the rest fell somewhere in the middle. Overall, it was an entertaining story. I was surprised by the killer's identity, and that doesn't happen often for me. It was a nice surprise, and probably my favorite part about the book. I don't get mysteries wrong often - usually my theory is formed quickly, and is correct. I love books that can prove me wrong! It's a nice feeling!

If this book sounds appealing to you, it is definitely worth the read or listen.

I did only experience the audiobook, so I'm not sure how the actual words-on-paper writing is. The audiobook, however, is incredible! The narrator was amazing, and probably the main reason I put up with the stuff I didn't enjoy - I wanted to keep listening to her tell the story!

Links are with the description up top, so be sure to grab a copy and check it out!

If you do, be sure to let us know what you think of it, or that you're adding it to your TBR list!

I do also have a playlist created by the author, and my dream casting for this book, if it were to become a movie! I love the cast I came up with, and would love if you checked it out, and let me know what you think of it! It's on my other blog post here!

I'd also love to know what you think of my review! Be sure to leave a comment below, and share your thoughts!

Thanks for visiting! =D

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