Ani's Book Abyss

Ani's Book Abyss

I like to read. A lot.

Ani's 2017 Reading Challenges



So I pick up reading challenges every year, ever since the first time I discovered Goodreads' book reading challenge.  It's such a simple challenge of just choosing a number goal and reaching it--it gives new readers a chance to push themselves to read more books, and it gives seasoned readers a chance to read EVEN MORE books.

For the past few years, the number of books I've read has steadily increased.  According to my stats:

 

  • In 2012, I made a goal to read 25 books and completed my goal by reading 27.

 

  • In 2013, I started my goal at 50 books and met that goal in June, so then I increased my goal by 25 and met that goal not long after.  I further increased my goal to 100 books and completed the goal at 103 books read!  That's a huge difference from 27 books the previous year, so I got really confident.

 

  • In 2014, I started my goal at 100 books!  By May, I was nearing my goal with 90-ish books, so I increased my goal by increments of ten for the next two months, landing on 120 books... and then I really overshot that goal by reading a grand total of 178 books!

 

  • In 2015, I increased my goal to 150 books... while my total was 177, I'm not sure I really accomplished as much as I should have.

 

  • In 2016... well... I started with a goal of 150 books again.  In October, being so much closer to my goal with somewhere around 130 books read, I increased my goal to 160 books.  As of today, three days from the end of the year, I have finished 155 books...  So I'm not sure if it counts as completing my goal.



For 2017, I'm going to keep a constant.  I will set my number goal at 150 again.  But this time, I will keep it at 150 and not increase or decrease it.  2016 was a fairly good year for reading, but at the same time, it seems as if I had slowed down quite a bit.

For one, I might have bit off more than I could chew.  I cut down on reading challenges, but at the same time, I picked up a fairly difficult to complete reading challenge.  It may or may not have hindered my progress a little bit.  Meanwhile, small challenges that took place within the span of one month, two months, or one whole summer, jumped out at me, and I knew wanted to participate in almost everything.  But with other year-long challenges taking priority, my reading life became more of an obligation than pleasure.

So while I will still participate in some reading challenges in 2017, I think I'm also going to take it easy.  If I don't overburden myself with too many challenges at the beginning of the year, then I'll be free to choose some of the short challenges interspersed throughout the year.

For a full summary of all the challenges I will be participating in, I will keep track of them at my 2017 Reading Challenges page.  The link will remain at the top of my blog.  I will update this post with said link when I actually get a chance to create that page.

Meanwhile, here are the challenges I am already participating in, as well as a forecast of other bookish activities I am looking forward to or may try to participate in:


Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goal:  150 books
GR shelf:  2017 Reading Challenge

On a side note, I usually participate in the Booklikes Reading Challenge, too, simultaneously.  But to be honest, I'm not sure if that's necessary, as both challenges are the same thing.  And also, with the slowness of Booklikes at intermittent times, I'm not sure if I care enough to update my book stats regularly at Booklikes.


2017 Reading Assignment Challenge

hosted by Because Reading and Fantasy is more fun
My Goal:  Reading Level 2 // 24 books (2 books/month)
GR shelf:  2017 Reading Assignment Challenge
My 2017 Reading Assignment Challenge Summary Page


2017 Mount TBR Challenge

hosted by My Reader's Block
My Goal:  Mount Vancouver -- Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
GR shelf:  2017 Mt TBR Pile Challenge


Romance Bingo 2017

hosted by Obsidian Blue and Moonlight Reader (also find them at Bookish Pursuits)
GR shelf:  2017 Romance Bingo
My Romance Bingo 2017 Summary Page


***


These are less intensive challenges I have pre-chosen for 2017.  There will probably be more, but for now, this is it.  I'm considering other such challenges as COYER or any other series challenges that may come up.  Obsidian and Moonlight may put out more Bingo cards throughout the year, and sometimes another random reading challenge may strike my fancy.

Mainly, though, I just want to keep it light and fun.  While some challenges in 2016 were fantastic, others started feeling a bit heavy when I couldn't keep up *coughcough*Bookish-Resolutions*coughcough*; though to be fair, maybe I over-estimated my own commitment or determination.

So for 2017, it's just going to be laid back and fun!  That is all!

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/12/anis-2017-reading-challenges.html
My 2016 Year in Books

 

I will also be using this post as one of my Top Ten Tuesday topics!

 

 


Top Ten Tuesday is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

The Top Ten Tuesday for this week is Top Ten Best Books of 2016.  And as a broad subject, we may choose different genres, books read in the year, or books published in 2016... pretty much anything!



A lot of stuff happened this year, and even though I ended up drifting into a reading (and reviewing) slump when November rolled around, and into December, I think I still accomplished a lot of reading, and, in general, accomplished a lot of Bookish Activities.  This year, I participated in fewer Reading Challenges than in the past, but I managed to do quite well in completing them.  Then there was a general effort to try to finish series I've already started, as well as the starting of new series that I totally intend to finish reading in 2017.

I've picked up over 50 new-to-me authors, participated in a few read-a-thons, and then there were the bookish activities taking place on Booklikes, such as Halloween Bingo, which brought me out of my usual reading comfort zone.

Finally, 'Ani's Book Abyss' was reborn at a completely new location.  And I'd like to say that I've put quite a bit of work into this project.  And so far, things seem to be going quite well.  I started creating a lot of organizational spreadsheets to keep track of different aspects of my bookish and blogging life, and according to one particular spreadsheet, I have, at current, posted 400+ reviews!

I will definitely kick back and make a big fuss when I post review #500.  And if I ever make it to 1000 reviews... well, that would be quite interesting as I feel it would probably take another couple years to achieve.  Of course, I still have around 50 reviews I've yet to transfer from Goodreads and Booklikes.

This year was a pretty good year, all in all!

 

 

Reading Stats in 2016


(As of 12/26/2016)
Number of works read:  155
-- Full length print novels:   127
-- Novellas:   10
-- Short stories:   5
-- Anthologies:   4
-- Audio books:   9
Number of pages read:   45,976
Number of 5 Star reads:   2
Number of 4.5 Star reads:   8
Average book rating:   3.41
Number of 2015 Releases read:   12

Number Authors Read in 2016:   90
Number of New to Me Authors Read in 2016:  52
Most Read Authors in 2016:
1.  Deanna Raybourn -- 6 books + 4 novellas
2.  Amanda Quick -- 6 books
3.  Jayne Castle -- 5 books + 1 novella
4.  Jill Shalvis -- 6 books
5.  Maggie Shayne -- 5 books + 1 novella

 

 

Favorite Books Read This Year


(Book titles link to my review if one was written.)

 


This was a given.  I loved this series, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue was my favorite book of 2014.  If The Raven King had been written in 2015, then it would have been my favorite book of 2015.  But the publication date got pushed back a year, so it became my favorite book of 2016.

But all rambling aside (because the above paragraph probably meant nothing, really), The Raven King was a pretty awesome conclusion for one of my most favorite series of current.

 

 


This is a young adult/children's story that hit a lot of chords for me.  I absolutely loved it, and it probably also helped that the full cast audio was amazing!

 

 


I am quite surprised by how much I loved this book considering the mediocre quality of the past two books Kasie published.  In fact, I had this whole pep talk with myself about how Kasie and I would probably be going out separate ways soon if this next book didn't turn out as fabulous as her debut novel did.  I didn't even auto-buy it because I didn't want to waste my money... so I borrowed the book from the library.  And then proceeded to devour the whole thing and have a nice little Book Hangover afterwards.

Well played, West.  Well played.  I will be purchasing your next book due out within the next couple months.  Now I'm conflicted about whether or not to buy this book and add it to my collection.

P.S. I Like You is a 2016 publication.

 

 


Truth be told, while Raybourn has an excellent writing style that is both beautiful and atmospheric, I had found it hard to really love her Julia Grey series like many others have.  I have a big problem with unbalanced romances and irrationally unreasonable heroes who only know how to be pissed of for 99% of the book.  In fact, I didn't even like the hero of Julia Grey until he started to sort of develop a sense of humor in the last book of the series.  On the other hand, I loved the heroine of Julia Grey, the titular character herself, though I wished that she hadn't been so obsessed with her love interest.

So I wasn't entirely ecstatic to start reading A Curious Beginning.  But, boy am I every so glad I DID decide to read it, because it was AMAZING!  I absolutely loved Veronica Speedwell.  And while I didn't love her companion, Stoker, he was so much more tolerable than the hero in the other Raybourn series, and so much more readily lovable.  I also loved that this book didn't really settle into a quick romance, but presented a sweet, intimate friendship between Veronica and Stoker.

I am totally looking forward to the next book, to be published in January of 2017!  One more month!!!

 

 


While the concluding book to The Dregs duology wasn't as wonderful as the first one, it still presented us with a great story, great characters, and great writing.  There were a few snafus in the story line, and the ending was a little conflicting.  But nonetheless, I absolutely loved this book to pieces, but probably not as much as I loved all of our characters.

Crooked Kingdom is a 2016 publication.

 

 


Sherry Thomas has a knack for writing and characters, even if her story lines tend toward the chaotic and confusing.  I can understand why a lot of people did not care for The Elemental Trilogy as a young adult fantasy--the world was always vague and the magic system a bit sketchy.  Even by the last book, the world was still kind of vague, and our main villain remained a simple dark enigma that needed to be destroyed, with little insight into his evilness.

But I cannot deny that I absolutely loved the characters of Titus, Iolanthe, Kashkari, and pretty much everyone else.  Their growth and development was great, and their interactions were wonderful.  Emotional scenes packed so much FEELS that I was extremely overwhelmed by the abundance of FEELS.  Again, if it is one thing I can say about Sherry Thomas:  She definitely does excellent characters, defines memorable character interactions.

 

 


To be honest, The Forbidden Wish actually felt a little unbalanced at times, written in first person POV from our Jinn's side of things.  I would have loved to see more from Aladdin or the princess or even some of the princess's handmaidens.  But in the end, The Forbidden Wish was an amazing retelling of Aladdin, bringing to the forefront an abundance, not only of a girl-power and strong characters, but making an epic love story not at all a mushy, fluffy event.

Instead, even while The Forbidden Wish was based entirely upon a love story, it turned out to be so, so much more!

The Forbidden Wish is a 2016 publication.

 

 


I don't understand how I loved this book at all.  If ever there were a book that lacked the most basic of story book traits (i.e. a main conflict, a structured outline... an actual story!), it would be Written in Red.  Written in Red is the story of how a girl runs away from captivation and joins a community of shape-shifting, man-eating creatures called 'The Others', and ends up sorting their mail for a living.  Meanwhile, things happen and somehow, even though these scary creatures don't like humans, they end up loving our heroine... for no apparent reason other than she's really good at sorting their mail.

Yeah.  I absolutely DID just write that last sentence.  This book was all sorts of strange.

But at the same time, I found I couldn't stop reading this book, nor could I stop enjoying it.  And somehow, I ended up finding the book strangely endearing.  For no reason I can comprehend.

 

 


I look forward to each new Cindy Gerard book ever since becoming a big fan of hers.  I should probably go back and read all of her backlist.  The Way Home was a pleasantly surprising read, both quietly emotional, and wonderfully thought-provoking.  While expecting a full-out romantic suspense from her, you instead end up with a contemporary that has a side serving of romantic suspense.  I'd almost categorize this book as a sweet and subtle melodrama just based on the romantic angst that hits you where it hurts the most, in all the best ways possible.

I loved this book.  I loved the story.  I may not have been in love with any of the characters.  But in the end, this was a wonderfully written book.

 

Special mention to Cindy Gerard's 2016 release, Taking Fire, as it was also lovely and sweet amidst the excitement of the suspense.  As a second chance romance, this book also managed to hit a lot of the right chords with me, even as there were a few things that might not have sat well for me.

Taking Fire lost to The Way Home if only because of the distinctive, disjointed story line that cuts off the main story and then enfolds a sort of short sequel into the concluding chapters.  But otherwise, both parts of the book were very well done.

 

 

 


Two words:  Mind Blown.

I can see how Dame Agatha is such a celebrated mystery writer.

 

 

-- Honorable Mentions --

 

Baby It's Cold Outside by Addison Fox

 


The above ten books are honorable mentions, because while they weren't my top favorites, I still feel like they deserve a mention, as they were very enjoyable books that I, indeed, loved a lot.  New to me authors were a pleasant new surprising love for me in Shirley Jackson, Sarah Addison Allen, Addison Fox, Amanda Quick, Jeannie Lin, and Yangsze Choo.  Pamela Clare and Jill Shalvis are always delights!

Jeannie Lin brought back nostalgic thoughts of my childhood, growing up and watching wuxia series.  Amanda Quick is a great new introduction into the Historical Romance/Historical Mystery... even if all of her books are exactly the same.  Addison Fox is a new author for me to keep an eye out for; and Sarah Addison Allen has some of the most interesting, strangely enticing imagery and descriptions.

 

 

-- Series Mentions --

 

Brown and de Luca by Maggie Shayne


This series was so awesome, probably because the main heroine, Rachel de Luca, is so crazily awesome in her straight-forward, no holding back, bitchy sort of way.  It also helps that her dog, Myrtle, is the most adorable fictional blind bulldog to grace any literary page I've read.  Mason isn't bad either, although I must admit that he was better in the first two books, then kind of starts becoming a bit too standard.  The kids are great too--Rachel's twin nieces, and Mason's two nephews.

I read this entire series within a month, and not-so-patiently look forward to the next book.

 

 

His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers


I don't think I will ever stop asking myself how I managed to NOT finish reading all the books in this series after I read Grave Mercy two years previously.  This series is wonderfully built with great characters, an extensive world that expands upon an interesting time in history, and actually made me care about the political aspects of a story.

On top of that, this series is three different books with three different characters, all boasting three very different kinds of story lines.  And what have I always been saying about His Fair Assassin?  NUN ASSASSINS!!  That's what.

Now there are two more installments planned.  I must get my hands on them... in 2018 and 2019.  >.<

 

 

Harmony (a.k.a. Ghost Hunter) by Jayne Castle


I want to say that I love these series because of the serviceable writing that is both smooth and witty, with the ability to draw you right into the story, making you forget that you had already read this story a book ago in the same series.  It's partially true.

But really, I think I might love this series because of the Dust Bunnies.

Nonetheless, I am definitely going to finish the series--there are a total of thirteen books to get through total.  That means I've got nine left unless our lovely author decides to add more books.

 

 

Arcane Society by Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick


Jayne Ann Krentz writes as two other authors:  Jayne Castle, mentioned above as author of the futuristic Harmony series, and Amanda Quick, the historical author counterpart.  Books written by Jayne Ann Krentz are set in the contemporary times.

But it doesn't escape my notice that even with a few subtle difference, every single one of JAK's books are exactly the same formula for each of the three time-settings.  But that doesn't seem to keep me from being drawn to them--all books by JAK are certainly made of addiction and everything un-put-down-able.

I will continue to read Arcane Society and am intrigued that it is starting to interweave with Harmony.

 

 

Heather Wells by Meg Cabot


I didn't really like the first book in this series, but I'm glad I persevered and somehow made myself read the second book.  The second book was much more enjoyable, and then the third, fourth, and last books were even better than the previous.  Unlike many others, I actually enjoyed the last two books much more than the original three.

Heather Wells is definitely a very good example of why I like to give authors and series second chances.  You never know if you'll end up loving said authors or series despite the crappy introductions.

 

 

Lucy Valentine by Heather Webber


Lucy Valentine is a cozy mystery that is quite enjoyable and I look forward to finishing the rest of the series.  The characters are lovely and the mysteries well-outlined.

There are three more books and one short story to finish.

 

 

Currently Reading

 

At Last (Lucky Harbor #5) by Jill Shalvis

 

 

2017 Bookish Forecast


My main plan for the year of 2017 is trying to finish up a lot of the book series I still have not finished reading.  Many of them came to an end in 2015 and 2016, and that tells me that it's time to put away.  Many others have just been sitting on my TBR for too long.  Others still are just long, ongoing series I'd really like to catch up with so I don't feel guilty that all the book installments are just sitting around, waiting to be read.

Of course, it probably doesn't help that I'm also notoriously bad about starting new series before finishing others.  I mean, just via my 2017 Reading Assignment Challenge, I will be starting eight new series... even if one will be completed as it is just a duology.  And then, with the Romance Bingo 2017, I will be starting at least, maybe, four or six others depending on what I choose to read for the Bingo game.

Two Guys Detective Agency by Stephanie Bond / Two Guys Detetive Agency series
The Magicians' Guild by Trudi Canavan / Black Magician trilogy
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep / Elemental Assassin series
Sweet Bea by Sarah Hegger / Arthur's Legacy series
Once a Thief by Kay Hooper / Quinn/Thief duology
Bringing Down Sam by Leslie Kelly / Temptation in the City series
Thicker Than Water by Maggie Shayne / Mordecai Young trilogy
The Law of Attraction by N.M. Silber / Lawyers in Love series
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier / Sevenwaters series
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare / Spindle Cove series
Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis / Cedar Ridge series
Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis / Heartbreaker Bay series
Overruled by Emma Chase / The Legal Briefs series

I know also, however, that I also will be finishing a few series, so hopefully that makes up for something.

The Nightmare Charade by Mindee Arnett / The Arkwell Academy trilogy
Almost Dead by Lisa Jackson / San Francisco duology
Cybele's Secret by Juliet Marillier / Wildwood duology

Or at least I'll be trying to catch up with or finish certain series.

Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis
Harmony by Jayne Castle
Arcane Society by Amanda Quick and Jayne Ann Krentz
Aftershock by Jill Sorenson
Nikki Heat by Richard Castle
Steele Street by Tara Janzen
X-Ops by Paige Tyler
Splintered by A.G. Howard
The Others by Anne Bishop

Anyway... looks like I've got a big year ahead of me.  And if the above listed books aren't enough, there are a few 2017 releases I am impatiently looking forward to reading.

A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn (#2 of Veronica Speedwell)
By Your Side by Kasie West
At Close Range by Laura Griffin (#11 of Tracers)
Wait for Dark by Kay Hooper (#17 of Bishop/SCU series)
The Thing About Love by Julie James
Lucky in Love by Kasie West
The Gatlin School For Vigilantes by Marissa Meyer (#1 of The Gatlin Trilogy)

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/12/my-2016-year-in-books.html
Happy Holidays!

First of all, Merry Christmas to everyone, and hope you have a great holiday season!

 

I have been absent on BL for some time, but mainly because I've been in a reading and reviewing slump.  December seems like it has been an all time low for me, reading-wise, and real life has been a bit chaotic as well, thus contributing to this slump.  I'm still lurking in the background, reading posts, liking posts, the likes, but not really posting anything.

 

As many others are doing, I will probably not be posting here at BL regularly.  Whenever I DID have a review or a post to publish, BL still seemed to be loading sporadically for me.  Things seem to be fine now, but it is definitely getting frustrating.  I had tried to write this post twice this morning, and had trouble loading the page in order to write this post.

 

Anyway, I WILL continue to lurk on BL, if only because I know many have not given up on it yet, but I will be mainly posting at my own blog and at GR.  I will try to post non-bookish posts here at BL if I can, but otherwise, my activity will be somewhat quiet.

 

Thank you to everyone for being such a great group and community all this time!

 

You may find me at:

Bloglovin'

Goodreads

Ani's Book Abyss @ Blogspot

 

 

Review
2.5 Stars
Short Review: Confessions
Confessions (Harlequin IntrigueThe Battling McGuire) - Cynthia Eden

Confessions

by Cynthia Eden
Book 1 of The Battling McGuire Boys

 

Desperate to prove she’s being framed for murder, Scarlett Stone entrusts her reputation—and her life—to the man who once broke her heart.  Grant McGuire, a sexy former army ranger turned detective, has never been the same since military action.  But behind his cold demeanor, he still burns for Scarlett.

Taking her case is an easy but dangerous decision for Grant.  Together they must race against the clock to find the real killer, who now wants them both dead. More dangerous, however, is their sudden, reignited passion.  Grant will do anything for a second chance with Scarlett…while she’ll do everything to keep the secret she never wants him to know...



The disappointment I feel for reading this book probably comes from the fact that I have a feeling this isn't Cynthia Eden's best work.  In fact, I have already read four other books that were much better written, with better characters, and that were also much more memorable than Confessions turned out to be.

Don't get me wrong:  Confessions had a great concept to work with... I suppose if a great concept is the same as many other a great concepts in Romantic Suspense-landia...  A large group of brothers, all ex-military, all buff and hunky, all over-protective of their own, all with their own dark secrets, and you've got the McGuire brothers.  As well as many other groups of fictional siblings ever introduced in Category Romance or Romantic Suspense.

Confessions probably would have been a great piece of fluff, enjoyable and guilty pleasure for me, if I had actually enjoyed it.  But instead of turning off my mind and just enjoying the read, I found myself nitpicking so many things about it that I couldn't quite justify giving it a higher than 'meh' rating.

Really, the characters were terribly cliched and the plot a bit predictable.  In fact, even the writing felt amateur and I found myself wondering if this was actually written by Cynthia Eden, and if so, why the style felt so juvenile.  The romance was just hard to get behind because our main hero felt kind of stalker-ish and creepy, while the heroine was so stock standard damsel-in-distress that it managed to make my teeth hurt.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book up to a point and may read the rest of the series if only because I DO own the next two books.  The rest of the series and some of the side characters kind of appeal to me and my curiosity is slightly piqued.  So I'm hoping that the writing style will be more in line with what I know of Cynthia Eden, and the story lines less carbon copy.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/12/short-review-confessions.html
Review
2 Stars
Thoughts: Whirlpool
Whirlpool - Elizabeth Lowell

Whirlpool
by Elizabeth Lowell


My TBR List -- November Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews @ Because Reading

 

 

As a child, Laurel Swann barely knew her father.  Always an enigma, intriguing and inscrutable, he was an elusive shadow flitting in and out of her life.   Even now, years later, he remains a stranger to her.  Still, when a mysterious parcel arrives containing a priceless Fabergé egg, Laurel is certain it came from him.  But she doesn't realize that her father's gift has brought death and terror into her world...

Against her will, Laurel is being dragged down into a swirling vortex of betrayal and violence.   And there's nowhere to turn for help--except to Cruz Rowan, an ex-FBI agent and her father's sworn enemy.  A strong, secretive, and dangerous man, Cruz has his own agenda and is spinning his own webs.

And he is her last and only hope...



First of all, I read this book as part of the My TBR List monthly voting meme (see links above).  But I couldn't finish it in time for so many reasons--one of those reasons being that I just couldn't really get into the book.

Elizabeth Lowell is an author I have read before--there were a few of her books I enjoyed.  Her Romantic Suspenses are exciting and constantly forward-moving, which helps to keep the reader in the game even if said reader has no idea exactly what's going on.  Because Elizabeth Lowell DOES also have the tendency to scatter the focus of her books.  Sometimes there are so many story tangents and characters that you have a hard time figuring out what the story is actually about.

When it comes to Whirlpool, I was actually quite satisfied with the story progression, story outline, and the story concept, in general.  The execution wasn't terrible.  I knew where the book was taking me, and I knew what the main conflict was.  In contrast, it was actually the characters that made the book unbearable for me.  Because when you insert two alpha-jackass heroes and one doormat heroine... it really makes for some rage reading.

I have so many issues with our main couple, and the heroine's father.

Laurel really is a bonafide Category Romance heroine.  To be honest, I didn't have as big a problem with her as I had with how she handles the situation between her father and her lover.  Both men are nothing but jackasses to her.  But she lets them use her, and then lets them turn around and continue shoving her around.  They keep talking (and monologue-ing) about how much they care about her and how they have her best interests at heart; but they act like they don't care one way or another if she gets hurt in the process.

Despite what Cruz kept saying about Laurel--that she's the innocent who got dragged into the mess her father created; that her father is just using her; that he never really wanted to hurt her--he still went and did those exact same things.  And it doesn't help that Laurel doesn't even blame him or get angry or upset.  She just allows him do whatever he wants.  Then she wants to go and blame herself if two testosterone-fueled men end up killing each other.

And it's the same way with her father, too.  Although, to be honest, I dislike her father much more than any other character in this book.  Because with as much experience in the dark, twisted world of government politics, and private mercenary dangers as Jamie Swann has, I refuse to believe that he DIDN'T know the kind of danger he was putting his daughter into the moment he sent the stolen Fabergé to her address.  From that moment forward, he already put a target on her back, and it matters not a whit that he figured he'd just disappear and Laurel could go on with her life.

I'm not entirely sure whether to blame the character himself, or poor planning on the author's part.  Because Laurel's father--who keeps claiming over and over again that if Laurel just stays out of the entire business then she'll be safe--keeps making other stupid decisions and saying other stupid things that lead killers and assassins right to Laurel's door.  I have a hard time believing that someone as highly trained and experienced as him wouldn't have figured that out.

I'm just a common layperson reading a book, and I figured it out.

If he had intended to keep his daughter safe, he should have never contacted her in the first place or done anything to draw her attention to the bad guys... (a relative term considering the fact that I'm not even sure that old man Swann was a good guy himself).

And then the things he says to Laurel when he finds out that she's working with Cruz... highly crass and inappropriate.  He does not get to say things like that to his own daughter, especially since he spends a lot of time trying to convince her that he's got her best interests at heart... when obvious actions seem to say otherwise.  Also, I figure he kind of forfeited his right to be judgmental about his own daughter when he wasn't exactly a pillar of fucking morality himself.  And when he's the one who brought all this trouble down into her life in the first place.

Jackass AND stupid.

But anyway...

Romance-wise, the feelings and love development was way too insta and way too abrupt.  I have a hard time accepting stories wherein a strange man breaks into the heroine's home, but the heroine still manages to immediately feel the stirrings of attraction, and immediately decides that she trusts him not to do bad things to her.  The continued antagonistic development of Laurel and Cruz's relationship was also hard to accept because of everything going on between them.  And especially when Cruz continually broods over the fact that Laurel is protective over her father.

I mean, what did Cruz expect?  That Laurel, who has always loved her father despite how he's treated her her entire life, would suddenly turn around and go, "Oh.  Okay.  I'll help you track down my father, capture and arrest him, or possibly get him killed!"


Anyway, basically this book was just chock full of romantic clichés and frustrating people.

At least the suspense part of the story wasn't too bad, even if the random forays into our villain's heads was a little disturbing.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/12/thoughts-whirlpool.html
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- November 2016

I'm just going to say that November was a bad month for reading.  Between the holidays, my own wandering attention span, and The Crystal Cave, I think I got into a pretty bad slump.  I have a lot of books planned for reading (some that I had hoped to read in November, but never got to), that I'm going to try to rollover into December.  And maybe my slump will lift a little bit.

And to clarify:  The Crystal Cave wasn't a bad book to read.  I just had trouble getting into it.  And being that it was a pretty chunky book, it DID end up taking a lot of time out of my reading.  Following, I ended up with another book that was also hard to get into before I started reading Mortal Heart which took me all of two days to finish once started (which kind of makes me wish I would have read it first).

Another problem might be my new addiction to a game called Cross Stitch World, which is kind of like a 'Color-by-numbers' type of game that makes me want to go out and buy some cross stitch kits to play with.  I used to cross stitch all the time when I was in high school and created some neat things around the house--patterned cross stitch.  Then I tried counted cross stitch and finally got bored enough that I gave up--a pillow case never got finished.

 

 

Month Reads

 

 

 

 

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

 
None this month, but a few books came close.

 

 

Currently Reading

 

 

 

Month Reading Stats

 

Total works read:  9

  • 9 full length novels || 2 audio books


Average rating:  3.22 Stars

  • Highest Rated:  His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers // 4.0 Stars each
    • (1) Grave Mercy
    • (2) Dark Triumph
    • (3) Mortal Heart
  • Lowest Rated:  Whirlpool by Elizabeth Lowell // 2.0 Stars


Series I started reading:

  • Arthurian Saga (Merlin Trilogy) by Mary Stewart
  • Hostage Negotiation Team by Julie Coulter Bellon

Series I completed:

  • The Cousins O'Dwyer by Nora Roberts

Series I have made progress on:

  • Lucy Valentine by Heather Webber
  • His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers
  • Dead Wrong by Jami Alden



Favorite reads:  Again, the month of November was a pretty bad month for me for reading... and blogging.  Reading slumps happen, and I know I also get some pretty bad blogging slumps as well.  Because sometimes, I guess you just need some time away, even from something you really love to do.

For the month of November, there were really only three books that I really loved, and those were the three His Fair Assassin books by Robin LaFevers.  I loved Grave Mercy a lot when I first read it nearly two years previous, and it still comes as a surprise to me why I never read the other two books before this year.  Nonetheless, they were all excellent and had me sitting in a Book Hangover afterwards for each.


Disappointing reads:  It wasn't like I had a lot of books I was disappointed in, as they were fairly mediocre.  If I had to choose one, I'd probably say that Beg for Mercy by Jami Alden was probably one of my big disappointments; I had been expecting something more likable since I've read Jami Alden before and enjoyed her.  And also, I'd been looking forward to it since I hadn't touched as many Romantic Suspenses during the September/October Halloween Bingo duration and was starting to go into withdrawal.

Anyway, even though Whirlpool was the lowest rated book I read in November, it wasn't like I really expect amazingly excellent work from Elizabeth Lowell, so I honestly wasn't too disappointed in the way it came out.

 

 

Reviews & Notable Posts

 

Reviews Written

 

Memes

 

Other Posts

 

 

Coming Up In Month

 

Tentative TBR

 

 

Other Stuff

December is typically the worst reading month for me, if we look at my past reading patterns throughout each year.  I'm making no definite goals for this month, if November is any indication of how my reading and blogging activities are going to be for the last month of this year.  In fact, I've already dropped a few blog posts I'd been planning on putting out for December.  If I'm already in a slump, the last thing I want is to give myself too many blogging obligations--it'll only prove to make me frustrated if I can't finish my 'Blogging To Do' list.

What I DO hope to be able to accomplish this month though, is to at least put together a 'Year-in-Review' for the books I've read throughout 2016, as well as a blog package post of short, bite-sized reviews for books I never got around to actually reviewing.  Since I'm planning on cutting down the number of Reading Challenges for 2017 (more than I've already cut down my reading challenge participation in 2016), there will likely be only one post for, specifically, the 2017 Reading Assignment Challenge plans--a challenge wherein I usually go for the most challenging level, but of which I will be dropping my level of challenge for next year.

Reading-wise, I think I'm really only concerned with my last four Reading Assignment books... but otherwise, I'm not going to make myself read anything that I'm just not getting into.  Maybe this will be a great start to learning how to use that DNF Trigger for my own sake.

 

 

2016 Wrap-Ups 

 

See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- January 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- February 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- March 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- April 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- May 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- June 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- July 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- August 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- September 2016
Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- October 2016

 

 

Collective Reading Updates for Mortal Heart
Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy Book 3) - Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart

by Robin LaFevers
Book 3 of His Fair Assassin


The most recent updates will be added to the top each re-post.

As I progress through the book and find reasons to update, more events may or may not be revealed.  Also, as this is the third book in the series, there may be mentions of events from the first two books that could give away pertinent information.  So I will include a **SPOILER WARNING** right here just in case I have inadvertently given away anything significant to the story itself.  I've done my best not to mention any big spoilers, but I don't always check myself accordingly.

 

 



Progress on 11/29/16:  88 of 463 pages (19%)

And there it is.  The threat I have lived with my entire life.  If I am not good enough, kind enough, thoughtful enough, obedient enough, I will be cast from my home like a stunted fish from a fisherman's net.


This is what I was talking about with the abbess and the convent.  How it seems so easy for the nuns to just throw the girls out just because they dare speak up.  I thought this was a place where the girls were supposed to feel safe, and where they can understand their strengths and know how they can live a life without worrying about being abandoned or tossed out just because they refuse to be controlled by the men in their lives.

I'm glad that Annith is now finally taking some steps to figure out what might be going on with the abbess and what propels her to do the things she does.  Especially since now it seems that the revered Reverend Mother is sending girls out on assignments when they aren't even ready at all.

Again, I'm ready to get the adventure started, and the plot seems to thicken some more when Annith discovers some things about her own records kept in the abbess's study.

 

 



Progress on 11/29/16:  59 of 463 pages (13%)

"We have already spoken of this.  Serving Mortain is not a right, but a privilege.  A privilege I grant to you, not one you can march in here and demand for yourself."

"I thought it was a privilege granted by Mortain."


I am ready to get this show on the road.  I know we're not that far into the book yet, but I'm ready for the adventure to start.

The abbess is so manipulative that it's obvious there's something else going on.  In the quote above, she even slips up, claiming the tasks that serve Mortain as a privilege granted by herself.  So Annith's questioning her is quite logical, and it makes me even more curious to know about what else is going on and what the abbess has planned, whether for her own selfish gain, or maybe for her own delusional misunderstanding of the god she serves.

One of the things I don't like is how the abbess keeps using threats of either throwing the girls away, forcing them into a dangerous service, or marrying them off to keep them in line.  I had been under the impression at the beginning of the series that the convent was a safe haven for girls who get thrown out of their families, or who need a place to go to hide away from the dangerous world outside.  But the abbess threatens to throw these girls out so easily if they even try to resist a little bit.

I'm not even very happy with the rest of the nuns either, as we learn from a few casual anecdotes here and there what the nuns will tell the younger girls to keep them subservient.  Indeed, is it as Annith says that they make up these stories and rules as a means to keep the girls subservient for their own selfish reasons?  Or is there just a lack of true knowledge about what their God of Death really wants?

It makes one wonder.  And just as well, I like the new side of this series' development.  I knew I'd really like Mortal Heart because we get to see a whole other side of the entire convent and the abbess from the girl who has always been with the convent, and can say is the abbess's favorite student.

 

 



Progress on 11/29/16:  56 of 463 pages (13%)

But am I defying Him?  That is at the root of my uncertainty.  Has He asked this of me, or is it the abbess's will?

[...]

My faith, my dedication to Him, is as much a part of me as my arm or my leg or my heart.  It is hard not to question my own motives, for I realize now that I have been trained since birth to blame myself as thoroughly as I have been trained to wield a blade.  It is so easy for the sisters to imply that it is my obedience and willingness to surrender my will to Mortain that is being tested--but what if that is not what is being tested at all?  What if that is what they tell us so we will not question their own selfish motives?


By the third book, if not for the fact that we've already seen firsthand the manipulative, jealous, and petty personality that the abbess tries so hard to hide, I would assume that Annith is a rather unreliable narrator and is spouting ideals that cannot be proven.  But the fact is, we have seen from the first two books already what kind of a person the abbess is turning out to be.

At least Annith is truly asking all the right questions.

 

 



Progress on 11/17/16:  46 of 463 pages (10%)

So it seems that while Sybella's story in Dark Triumph continues right after Grave Mercy, Annith's story starts somewhere within the time frame of Grave Mercy's time frame.  I should have guessed since it sounds like Annith just learned about the abbess's plans to make her into the next Seeress of the convent.

And also, going by the letter that Annith just intercepted from Ismae, it has been quite some time since Ismae's assignment started at the duchy court.  The letter is addressed to their Reverend Mother, which tells me that Ismae is still in good standing with the abbess.  The letter details an event that occurs a little over halfway into Grave Mercy.

This is an interesting way to begin Annith's story, I think, as we may get more insight into the goings on of the convent, and see more about what the abbess is up to from another side of the story.

I find it interesting that all three stories depict the girls, unknowing about each other's situations, and each finding out in their own way that the convent may not be the ultimate messenger of St. Mortain's words, and that there is more to St. Mortain's will than the convent has taught them.

 

 



Progress on 11/17/16:  42 of 463 pages (9%)

Annith is certainly a bit different from our first two heroines, Ismae and Sybella.  She doesn't display the same demure, quietly obedient character than Ismae has; nor does she have the mad, emotionally unstable life Sybella displays.  She's one of Mortain's daughters who has lived in the convent the longest, and who has excelled in all of her studies.

And she even states that she does not have, or does not remember anything about her past life before her life at the convent.

I'm curious to see where this book takes our third heroine who has already learned that she is now fated to remain in the convent forever.  The abbess has plans to make her the new Seeress--basically she will become the nun to convey Mortain's wishes to the convent through prophecy or augury.  I never thought that those were skills that could be learned or forced on anyone, so the abbess's certainty that Annith is perfect for the job seems a little questionable.

It makes me even more wary of the abbess; as we've already seen from the first two books, the old nun does not hesitate to manipulate and use the girls at the convent for her own gain.  What her play is though, I've yet to figure out.  Clearly she's supposed to be serving Mortain, but a lot of her decisions have been questionable so far, and her ruthless manipulations aren't what I'd have expected from a woman who runs a convent that aims at taking in young girls who need a place to escape their tragic lives.

And Annith seems to be describing the abbess as a good woman... it's hard to reconcile the abbess that Annith sees in her eyes versus the abbess who so readily shunned Ismae for daring to have a life outside of the convent, or who wasn't above using Sybella in ways that could possibly get the poor girl killed, or worse.

And also, how pretty is that cover?

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/collective-reading-updates-for-mortal.html
Ani's Twelve Tasks | The Third: The Holiday Party - Dai Bao


The Task:  Make something that is considered party food where you are from, and post a picture of it on Booklikes.

 

 

Not the best photo in the world, but the best I could manage in the lighting of our small kitchen.


This little "delicacy" is called 大包 (dai bao) in Cantonese, and bánh bao in Vietnamese.  I include the Vietnamese name because it's more commonly known that way where I live, where the Vietnamese population is more numerous than the Chinese-Cantonese population.  It is basically a steamed pork bun, and literally translated (Cantonese) as "big bun."  I don't know the Vietnamese translation, but according to Wiki, bánh bao literally means "wrapping cake."

For many others, you may be more familiar with these little pork buns as called nikuman (肉饅) or nikumanjuu (肉饅頭), in Japanese, which sort of translates to 'meat-filled steamed bun.'

It's not really a traditional holiday party food, as the Christmas holiday was never truly an Asian tradition.  Nor is it specifically a traditional celebration type of food either, as there are other, more complex dishes, desserts, candies, and food items more befitting any other traditional Asian holiday celebration.  But growing up, my mother and grandmother would make these during special occasions, specifically birthdays and the Lunar New Year.  Of course, it wasn't until I was older that I learned that dai bao could be made any time without a special occasion prompt.  In fact, you can buy them in most Asian supermarkets nowadays.

The reason my mother and grandmother reserved them for special occasions was mainly because of how tedious they are to make.  It's really the dough that's the most time-consuming, as it involves mixing, rising, kneading, flattening, and then stuffing.

Dai bao or anything made in a similar fashion was always considered a staple food in certain parts of China, though not really the most luxurious delicacy.  Specifically the bun without any filling whatsoever, known as 饅頭 (maan tau), was considered a street food for the common layperson, since meat was kind of a luxury.  It kept you fed, but was made with some of the simplest ingredients of flour, yeast, salt, sugar, oil, and water--nowadays we can buy packages of self-rising flour, pre-mixed with everything necessary to make the bun with.  I know a few many Vietnamese friends who prefer to put together their own mix from scratch.

Then you just choose your own filling and wrap it all up and steam until it all looks like a cloud of fluffiness (usually about 15 to 20 minutes).  We like to add about a teaspoon of white vinegar to the water used to steam the buns, as it keeps the bao a nice white color--otherwise it turns yellow and looks kind of dirty and less presentable.

 

Our messy dinner table prep station!


The dai bao we prepare in our household usually depends on what my mom has on hand for ingredients, but for the most part, we will use ground pork, chopped onions, chopped water chestnut, chopped black fungus (or wood ear fungus), slices of Chinese sausage, and shiitake mushrooms sliced in halves.  Sometimes quartered hard-boiled eggs are involved.  All the chopped ingredients are mixed into the pork filling, seasoning as is appropriate.  The dough, after mixing and kneading and letting it rise, is then divided into pieces roughly the size of a tennis ball, maybe a little smaller, then flattened and rolled out to about palm-size.

The pork filling is added--and here is where I always mess up because I'm a terrible judge of how much pork filling to put in the bun.  It's a guessing game dependent on how big my flattened piece of dough is, since we don't really measure anything.  Too little pork filling and you've got a giant bun with no meat; too little, and you've got meat bursting out of the seams.

On top of the pork filling will go the Chinese sausage, which we try to squish into the pork, then the shiitake mushroom slice, then maybe the egg on top.  Then we wrap the bun up, accordion-style all the way around, trapping all the filling on the inside, and creating a fancy looking folded fan patter on top, if done properly.

 


Mom says to just squish the remainder of the dough together to close up the opening; it will stick and keep everything inside.  I like to give it a little twist, but that ends up creating a nipple-looking thing on the top of my steamed buns... (somehow that sentence just sounds all wrong).

Mom just pinches her bao opening together, somehow creating a more flawless pattern that I can't seem to get right.

 

All wrapped up and ready to be steamed!


Obviously, ours look a little rusty.  But whatevs, it's the taste of the bun that's important, and after steaming for about 15 minutes, it comes out smelling yummy, and all the pork juices have soaked into the inside part of the steamed bun wrapping (which was always my favorite part of the bun).

 

Yum!



This same dough may also be used for a number of different kinds of steamed bun snacks.  Some include sweet fillings of red lotus paste or sweet mung bean.  Some have what is called Kaya in them, which is a sweet jam-like paste made from coconut, eggs, and sugar; it has a very thick, creamy consistency, and is extremely sweet, but aromatic because of the coconut flavor.  There are also vegetarian buns, or even smaller varieties that look more like dumplings.

In fact, though I couldn't take any pictures because my mom already finished them by the time I woke up, there is a Chinese barbecue roast pork (叉燒/char siu) my mother makes that is amazing!  After the roast pork is finished, it may also be diced into small cubes, mixed with a sauce my mom prepares from the juices that dripped out of the roast pork during its roasting (of which she always takes pains to collect and reuse), a little bit of green onion and minced garlic, and then used as the filling.  This is known as the 叉燒包/char siu bao, Steamed Barbecue Roast Pork Bun.

But to be honest, I like to eat the char siu by itself, because YUM!

Whatever it is that gets put into these bao, though, I've always loved, mainly because they make for an easy, convenient snack when they're handy.  Even the steamed buns with no filling are good; Mom always says to add a little extra sweet to these during the dough mixing process.  Personal opinion: they taste a lot better than a cold sandwich or a hamburger.  And if wrapped with care, they look really pretty when set up to serve during ye 'olden celebratory feasts... or even more modern dinner parties!

They're just a pain in the butt to make, if only because it's pretty time consuming.

 

 

I think I'm maybe sometimes a bit mean to our dog... not that I was taunting him or anything...

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/anis-twelve-tasks-third-holiday-party.html
Review
3 Stars
The Crystal Cave Read-Along | Final Update and Review
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave
by Mary Stewart
Book 1 of Arthurian Saga


The first three books of the Arthurian Saga is also known as The Merlin Trilogy.  This series is being read as part of a Buddy Read @ BookLikes.

See Also: Week One Update | Week Two Update

 

 



Book III: The Wolf
Progress on 11/16/16:  338 of 519 pages (65%) 

The last few chapters of the third part of The Crystal Caves certainly took an interesting new turn in events.  While I'm not entirely certain about how much I liked the way it was executed, it was certainly a significant new turning point in the book, which I suppose was also a significant event in history.

Still... I really don't have much else inspiring to say about this.  Merlin's Sight is ever finicky, and Merlin's character still feels rather flat.  But as is still true, I find the rest of the goings-on in the book quite interesting.

 

 



Book IV: The Red Dragon
Progress on 11/21/16:  428 of 519 pages (82%) 

To be honest, the entire book is written well, but up to this point, I've had this feeling in the back of my mind that I'm reading a rather personalized history text book.  Events happen and then we move on.  There is very little emotion attached to any of the events, whether they are significant deaths, victorious battles, or even that strange thing that happened between Merlin and Keri... of which I'm still not quite certain I understand.

I'll be honest:  my knowledge of Arthurian legend is scant at best, so maybe I'm just not picking up on the significance of a lot of the events taking place.

A lot of things happen in this fourth section and the time frame even shifts quite quickly, though it all feels like everything happening at the same time on fast-forward.

 

 



Book V: The Coming of the Bear
Progress on 11/21/16:  519 of 519 pages (100%) 

I guess it's a little hard for me to take seriously an entire section dedicated to an event surrounding a planned adultery in the name of God.  But that's the modern female in me talking, because I suppose Mary Stewart had to write the book to fit the legend.  Then again, I suppose that's better than the original option where the conception of Arthur happened through a more forced deception.

Yes.  That's my take away from that last section of The Crystal Cave, unfortunately.

 

 



Final, Overall Thoughts:

I still stand that The Crystal Cave is a well-written book, which takes the reader on a journey following the re-imagining of the Wizard Merlin's origins.  We get to see moments in Merlin's life as a youth: during his life living with his family in Wales as an unwanted child; to his escape to Brittany where he meets some other significant figures in his life such as Ambrosius Aurelianus and Uther Pendragon, the future King Arthur's uncle and father, respectively; to his learning how to understand his magical powers.

A lot of time passes by in this book from Merlin's childhood and on into his adulthood.

I suspect that Stewart still remains quite true to the original legend--again, my knowledge of Arthurian legend is quite depressing, I realize, as I read through this first Merlin trilogy book.  The biggest complaint I have is connected to this, however, which is pretty much the entire presentation of the events in The Crystal Cave.

I had stated in an earlier update (probably above somewhere), that the book read like a history text that was being documented in a more personal tone.  Events are mentioned... and then we move on to the next part of history.  And now, as I write this, it makes me realize why I had found the book a little boring and dragged out.  Personally, The Crystal Cave feels like it was written to accommodate original events from the original legends.

Don't get me wrong: Stewart's re-imagining of Merlin's life wasn't all that bad.  But it just felt like she would be writing the story quite smoothly, when all of a sudden she decides that she needed to make sure to drop a known story event from the original legends, or even from historical fact, into the flow of the story.  And it is done quite awkwardly.  Which is probably what jars me out of the fictional setting and made me think I was reading a history text.

Which, to be honest, I suppose I sort of am since Merlin as an old man is actually recounting his life as well as all the significant historical occurrences that took place during those times--this we had already been told at the outset in the book's prologue.  So maybe there was a reason for the amount of detachment presented in the telling.

It was still a little hard for me to follow without my mind wandering, however.

Another complaint I would have about this book is the way in which Merlin claims everything is pre-ordained.  It is God's will, as he tells everyone, whenever something or anything happens.  Whenever he sees a vision, it is God speaking through him, and since that is the case, anything he states during those visions will come to pass.  If God wishes him to see something or know something, he does.  If God wishes him NOT to know something, he doesn't.

Except for the fact that in that last section of this book, The Coming of the Bear, our young wizard seems to take great pains and a lot of planning to almost force an event that he says is God's will--the engineered conception of Arthur.  And then things go to hell, so it makes me wonder about Merlin's visions just as much as Uther did.

I'm not entirely sure where I was headed with that last tidbit, but I have always had negative reactions to the idea that everything in life is already set up by destiny.  It gives you the impression that you have no control over your own life and that if something were going to happen, it will happen regardless of what you do.


But enough of my soapbox.

In the end, The Crystal Cave is still an enjoyable, well-written book.  It wasn't easy to read, nor was it easy to remain focused, to be honest.  Although I suspect that a lot of my loss of attention had to do with me.



***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge

 

The Reading Task:  Read a book set in the UK, preferably during the medieval or Victorian periods (for those of us doing the Merlin read-along, the Crystal Cave works for this task).

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-crystal-cave-read-along-final.html
Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving Freebie!

 

Top Ten Tuesday is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
 

 

~~ Thanksgiving Freebie! ~~

~~ Things I Am Thankful For ~~

 

 

I'm a day late for TTT, but a day early for the actual holiday, so it all balances out, right?  =D

The topic for this week's TTT is, as stated above, is a freebie for Thanksgiving.  As Thanksgiving is not a traditional Asian holiday, the tradition of sharing what we give thanks for is not something our family has always done.  I'm not a stranger to the concept, but as many people do, I also spend a lot of time outside of Thanksgiving giving my thanks for all the great things I have in my life.  I've just never bothered to put them all in a list of any kind (OMG!  Ani didn't already have a list for this?!), despite how much I love making lists.

So here are a few clumsily thrown together items, in no particular order since I'm writing this as I think of them:

 



Ani is Thankful for...

...my family and support system.  Life has been kind of crazy at work lately with some down-sizing possibly happening.  At times like these, I'm glad I have my family I know I can fall back on if anything life-changing were to happen, such as getting laid off, or a consideration of a career change.

...my best friends of 10+ years.  We've been through thick and thin, and even though we're not on a constantly communicating basis, we can still greet each other like we've just spoken a couple days ago.  Everyone has such busy lives now, and everyone is just at a different stage in their lives now.  It's hard to find time to be together as we once were in high school.

...my general good health.  Aside from the little medical snafu at the beginning of this year, I have always been an overall healthy person.  I might be a bit obese (as my doctor has diagnosed me), but I can still walk, I can still work, and I have no problems doing strenuous physical activities if it is required of me.

...books!  This is a given, really and needs no elaboration.  =D

...the fact that libraries are still in style.  Too many people I come across in real life, as well as on the internet, are so convinced that libraries are a dying concept.  But no matter how many times I go to the library (at least twice to three times a month), the place is always full of people!  And it makes me happy to know that people still use the libraries in town as much as they do.

...food.  I love food!  That is all.

...the first person ever who thought that peanut butter and chocolate was a good combination!

...dairy-free egg nog!  There are a lot of things I cannot eat anymore, because I have to admit that I can no longer stand the discomfort that comes afterward.  I suppose being young had its perks, but I can no longer deny that milk products such as ice-cream, chocolate milk, and creamy sauces doesn't affect me.  I hate that I have to avoid so many foods that I always loved, though I've grown to a point where I don't miss drinking milk or eating ice cream.  But I love egg nog, and was ecstatically happy when I discovered that there was a So Delicious brand made from coconut milk that tastes so declicious!

...wine!  Wine is a great way to spend the evening with a book, some snacks, and nothing else on your mind.

...hot tea!  Hot tea is a great way to spend those cold winter nights with a book, some snacks, and nothing else on your mind.  :P


That is ten things I'm thankful for, but before I end this post, I also wanted to include a couple more items.  Because, obviously, I am thankful for more than just ten things!


First all, I'm extremely thankful for the great bookish community I've been able to be a part of for these past couple years.  Booklikes has brought out a blogging, book discussing side of me that has been a lot of fun!  And all the members I follow and who follow me are such wonderful people who have made me feel very welcome and very involved.  Thank you to all of you!

Along that same vein, I'd also like to give thanks for the blogging community I have been following outside of Booklikes as well, thanks to some lovely reading challenges and bookish memes.  They are a pleasure to discuss books and any number of bookish subjects with every once in a while whenever I break out of my lurking mode to insert a comment here and there.

Another bookish thanks goes to all the bookish activities I've ever participated in that just adds onto making reading so much fun!  Reading challenges and Read-a-thons and Book Bingos, alike!


Finally, I'm thankful for this little guy!

 

Yes.  He is using my hand as a pillow.  He will sometimes use my foot if I'm sitting on the floor.


Baby has been in our family since 2008 and is still as hyper and impish as he was when he was just a baby.  And in this household, he loves attention, loves to play, and just loves to love!  He's also very punctual about his daily activities and knows exactly when everyone gets home from work, when it's time to wake up or go to sleep, or when he's supposed to get dinner.  Especially when he's supposed to get dinner.  And when you deviate from that time at all, he often shows his displeasure by putting his butt in your face, or snorting at you.

I have over 300+ photos of this little guy on my phone.  I'm going to have to start sharing more often.  Because as much as he loves affection, he doesn't really like taking his picture and will turn his head away, so whenever I can, I take a picture of him doing whatever cute thing he's doing.

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/top-ten-tuesday-thanksgiving-freebie.html
Ani's Twelve Tasks | The Sixth: The Hanukkah - Spin the Dreidel Read


The Reading Task:  Let the dreidel choose a book for you!

I have assigned the following books to each dreidel symbol:


And here is my dreidel spin result:


And so I will be reading At Last by Jill Shalvis for The Sixth Task of the Festive Season!


I'm always up for a Jill Shalvis contemporary, and Lucky Harbor is a great place to be during the holidays.  I will try to finish and review the book within the next couple weeks, pending my reading schedule.

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/anis-twelve-tasks-sixth-hanukkah-spin.html
Review
3.5 Stars
Thoughts: All Fall Down
All Fall Down - Julie Coulter Bellon

All Fall Down

by Julie Coulter Bellon
Book 1 of Hostage Negotiation Team


My TBR List -- November Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews (link coming soon) @ Because Reading

 

Hostage negotiator Claire Michaels’ never thought she'd be involved in an international crisis.  Can she overcome her scars of the past to stop a new al-Qaeda threat?

Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn't expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf.  When he's taken hostage, he knows he has to fight or die.

 

 

I read this book as part audio and part Kindle book, though towards the end, it ended up being mostly audio as I found myself listening to it while playing computer games.  It was very easy to just lose myself in a book while playing mindless computer games.  It was a good evening, well spent.

Anyway, the audio book is narrated by Simon Pringle-Wallace, and was actually done quite well once I got used to his voice.  Since the majority of the characters were male, it was easier to get used to his voice once you get past his softer voice for Claire.

But enough of that.

Book-wise, even though I DID enjoy the book, it still seems, sort of, like I'm in the minority of opinions about it.  While it was exciting, fast-paced, and enjoyable enough, there were still things about All Fall Down that didn't quite work out for me, mainly the events at the beginning.  I haven't been able to really pinpoint why, but that some of the actions and events didn't seem to make much sense to me.

Even so, having great characters helps the book.  All Fall Down is bite-sized and flew by before I knew it.  Once the action got started, everything just kind of fell into place.

We already get to see a bunch of side characters, many of whom will probably be getting their own book.  At the same time, the introduction of all these characters doesn't seem awkward or forced.  And while I did like Claire and Rafe just fine, I felt like they were fairly standard as a main couple for a romance novel; though, to be clear, that doesn't take away from the fact that both are great characters.  They just don't really stand out.

Very enjoyable, though not much more unique than any other romantic suspense outside of being about a hostage negotiation team, which is a premise I haven't come across in other romantic suspense books yet.  HOWEVER, I have been introduced to this concept in an old Hong Kong television drama series, which I very much enjoyed, which is why I'd been drawn to the concept of All Fall Down in the first place.

I will definitely find the time to continue this series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/thoughts-all-fall-down.html
Review
4 Stars
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Dark Triumph
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph

by Robin LaFevers
Book 2 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Angela Goethals

 


**See Also:  Collective Updates for Dark Triumph

 


To start off, I probably should warn people about the presence of the fairly incestuous relationship that takes place between Sybella and her brother Julian; just in case anyone might have difficulty accepting this in their reading diets.  It's not entirely a heavy focus, though, since we see a lot more of the obsessive love on Julian's side.  While Sybella is merely playing a part as part of her assignment, and has no desire to encourage this relationship, Julian is very much in love with her.

Moving along...

If we compare Dark Triumph to Grave Mercy, there was a lot more focus on the political and war strategies significant to the Duchess Anne and her Duchy of Brittany in Grave Mercy.  Sure, you still see a lot of personal growth and development on Ismae's side of things, but her growth really DID also follow along with how she aided her young Duchess.

Dark Triumph's focus, on the other hand, was more heavily centered on Sybella: her vengeance, her mental and emotional stability, her revelations, and how she would figure out how to survive her own fatalism.  And it was definitely an emotional ride with everything that this girl had to go through.  Because if ever there was someone who attracted trouble and death, it definitely would be Sybella.

Many other readers were stating that Dark Triumph was much darker than Grave Mercy--this is definitely true.  But I can't help feeling like the execution of the story felt almost too deliberately created to be dark, so much so that it felt outrageous at times... or maybe it was just that Sybella's first person narration was heavily influenced by her own mental and emotional instabilities that it felt that way.

Whatever the reason is, it was definitely an emotional journey, and you definitely find it hard not to feel for Sybella throughout it all.


The Story:
Sybella had run away from the life that was slowly driving her mad, coming upon the Convent of St. Mortain, and learning that there might be hope in her life after all.  For she has been told that she is really the daughter of Death, himself, and can finally split her ties with the evilness of the father she's known her entire life, the terrible Count d'Albret, who serves no one but his own malicious desires.  But then the convent decides that the best way for her to serve their saint is to return to the darkness that is her family, to the brutal father who wouldn't hesitate to use her or kill her, to the brother who loves her to the point of unsettling obsession, and to a court full of people who would more likely betray you for any number of reasons.

The Reverend Mother has promised that Sybella would be the one to mete out final justice to the Count d'Albret, to rid the world of his vile existence, to avenge her lost innocent childhood and all those who have suffered thanks to this man.  But she has yet to find the mark of death on him, and this continued service to Death, as directed by the convent, is again, slowly driving her mad.

Then the convent sends a new order: she is to find and help free the captured knight known as Benebic de Waroch, and aid in his delivery to the Duchess in Rennes.

This creates a whole new dilemma for Sybella, as it could jeopardize her chances of remaining at Nantes in her father's presence--it would definitely put a kink in her carefully laid plans to kill d'Albret as she'd been promised she could do.

And even as she follows the convent's orders, she begins to question the existence of Mortain and her role as his handmaiden.  Because if she isn't really Mortain's daughter, then that would mean that she is truly the daughter of the evil d'Albret; and that is absolutely unacceptable to Sybella as it would mean that all her hopes have come to nothing.


What I Liked:

  • This book was an emotional roller coaster ride.  To be honest, I'm listing it as one of the things that I liked, but I'm not entirely sure if it is.  It was refreshing to follow such a flawed and emotionally unstable main character, but at the same time, it wasn't like Sybella turned out much different from a typical main heroine, really, as she is also kind and giving and all sorts of goodness, hidden beneath that cynical and fatalistic exterior.

 

  • The relationship between Sybella and Beast was subtle, yet also sweet and emotionally charged.  As I'd stated in a previous update, I was very much looking forward to the potential of their slowly budding relationship after they finally meet.  They are certainly not shy around each other in terms of words exchanged and verbal sparring.

 

  • Sybella is not shy at all.  Casting aside the blushing virgin roles, Sybella is definitely a step away from typical YA heroines.  She does not hesitate to utilize her feminine advantages in seduction in order to accomplish what needs to be done.  And she also rolls her eyes at the way that everyone tries to treat her like a delicate flower.
  • This is further along in the book, but I love how Sybella so readily slides into a role of leadership when the situations demand it of her.  She has that demeanor and firmness that allows her to command soldiers without hesitating, a demeanor that doesn't even give them a chance to argue or question her authority, even though she was never really given that authority.

 

  • The relationship between Sybella and Ismae is sweet and loving.  While we don't get to see a lot of their interactions--in fact this book is actually quite scarce in character interaction--I still loved that these girls love each other unconditionally, developing on their shared youthful tragedies that lead them both to the Convent of St. Mortain and into each other's lives many years prior to the book's timeline.
  • As usual, the writing is beautiful, the telling smooth, and the story very easy to dive into.



What I Didn't Like:

  • As much as I have enjoyed following along Sybella's journey, the book itself felt altogether too one-tracked in that aspect.  At some points, I felt like the story focused too heavily inside Sybella's head, and all the thoughts and ideas bouncing around in there.  It wasn't altogether a bad experience, far from it.  I just felt like the book could have given us a little bit more.  If that makes any sense.

 

  • The romance between Sybella and Beast was a bit too instantaneous, and maybe a little abrupt.  Much like in Grave Mercy between Ismae and Dival, I felt like I rather enjoyed the partnership between Sybella and Beast as comrades in a war.  They had great chemistry as friends, taking care of each other, and fighting beside one another.  But the love story felt a little awkward, actually, and I felt a little taken aback as to when the love story even actually started, since I hadn't seen it coming, even as I knew it was inevitable.

 

  • The events that continued to follow Sybella's dysfunctional family life, the secret reveals she gave us a piece at a time, started getting almost too outstanding to be believable.  Don't get me wrong--I understand that Sybella has gone through hell on earth during her childhood spent with the d'Albrets.  Between her brutally evil father and her much too obsessively in love older brother, as well as no allies or friends on her side, I don't blame her for her eagerness to runaway and hide her past from everyone.  But each new reveal just seemed like a never ending stumble down a hill.  Because just as you thought there was nothing else for Sybella to tell us, she uncovers a whole other layer to her family's secrets that make you question all those times you claimed that your family was crazy.  (At least my father didn't have six wives who died of "mysterious" circumstances or "accidents.") 



Final Thoughts:
I ended up listening to the audio book of Dark Triumph for the remainder of the book.  While I'm not entirely in love with Angela Goethal's narration, it actually grew on me and I found myself wanting to listen to the audio instead of just stopping and reading from the print.  Of course, there were times where I DID have to stop and look to the Kindle book for spellings of names, as well as certain quotes that I wanted to highlight.

I don't know if it was the narration or the book itself, but Dark Triumph became easily devoured in a matter of hours, and I finished the entire book much earlier than I had anticipated.

But even as I write this review, I'm still a little conflicted.  Dark Triumph has a lot more emotional depth than Grave Mercy did.  Sybella is truly the NUN ASSASSIN I'd been looking forward to since the first time I'd heard the words "nun assassin" and learned about the His Fair Assassin series.  The death count in this book, by Sybella's hand, might even make up for the lack thereof by Ismae's hand.  If I thought Grave Mercy was quiet and tame, in comparison, Dark Triumph could be its opposite.

But honest, it's not.  Dark Triumph is certainly darker than its predecessor, as it details events that are bound to make a lot of people uncomfortable.  Just the list of all the secrets Sybella has been keeping is enough to last me for some time, though not all her secrets are dark ones.  But Dark Triumph isn't any more exciting or intriguing that Grave Mercy was.  Just the fact that we focus so much on Sybella's journey of self-revelation and her state of mind, and less on the events surrounding Anne's Duchy of Brittany, made the action in this second His Fair Assassin book quietly thought-provoking, even if not tamer.

It's hard for me to decide whether I liked one book more than the other.  It's like comparing apples to oranges.  Because even while both books follow a different girl, set in the same time-frame, with a lot of the same events surrounding them, they are definitely two very different stories.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-dark-triumph.html
The Crystal Cave Read-Along | Week Two Update
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave
by Mary Stewart
Book 1 of Arthurian Saga (a.k.a. Merlin trilogy)

 

This series is being read as part of a Buddy Read @ BookLikes, to be read over approximately three weeks.

 



I got a lot of reading done this week, but since I got a late start on The Crystal Cave last week, I'm still a little behind in the tentative scheduling, so I'm just going to have to make my own schedule.  Anyway, it seems that much has been happening, and each section of The Crystal Cave almost feels like a new story unfolding.

A new chapter in Merlin's life, maybe?

 

 



Book II: The Falcon -- Completed
Progress on 11/10/16:  232 of 519 pages (45%)

"This is a strange meeting, Merlin.  So much to say, and yet so little.  Do you see now why I asked so many questions?  Why I tried so hard to find what had brought you here?

"The gods at work, my lord, the brought me here," I said.

-- Page 223


I'm starting to get a sense that everything that's happening is very much a work of fate.  Or the gods, I suppose.  There is a lot of destiny at work here, and yet, at the same time it feels really deliberate in the story line's set up.  Was it deliberate?  Or are we trying too hard to give Merlin a magical presence?  Except that I feel like it's doing the opposite and making me question everything that's going on around Merlin.

Because how is it that one moment he's still a child, and then the next he can see everything that will happen without actually seeing?  It's more like knowing.  His Sight seems a little flighty, really.

And then, on top of that, we've got family secrets being revealed and all that jazz going on here.  All of the events that lead up to Merlin's current position, at this point in the book, feels too coincidental to be realistic.  His travels were not random at all, and again, he seems to have an on-again-off-again Sight that is telling him where he needs to be, how he needs to act, and what he needs to say.

I suppose with the gods being at work, this is entirely believable...

 

 



Book III: The Wolf -- In Progress
Progress on 11/14/16:  310 of 519 pages (60%) 

This third section of The Crystal Cave is actually getting quite exciting, and I attribute that to the fact that there's more action.  Merlin hasn't changed much from his childhood, and to be honest, I'm detecting no difference between twelve-year old Merlin to his transition to seventeen-year-old Merlin.  The voices are the same and the penchant for being omnipotent is also the same.

But there is a lot more going on in the world around him now that even if nothing about the boy stands out, at least the rest of the story in the background with war on the horizon is kind of interesting.  But to be honest, I often find politics and war strategy a bit boring, depending on how it's presented.  In this case, it's not capturing my attention all that well.

The new developments in Merlin's adventure are still quite intriguing though, and his return to his homeland is a nice new story spin.

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-crystal-cave-read-along-week-two.html
My TBR List -- November Winner!
My TBR List is a monthly meme hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading.
The basic gist of this activity is to have others help decide on which book out of three I'm selecting from my TBR pile I should read for the month via votes.  The posts will be published on the first two Saturdays (voting and winning book announcement, respectively), and the winning book review will be posted on the last Saturday of the month.
Click on the above links for more information.
 

 

So according to the masses, the book I will be reading for My TBRL this month is:

 


I have two winners this month, with both Whirlpool and All Fall Down garnering a tie at 5 votes each.
 
 

Recap

 

Last week, the books I had everyone vote on were:


The voting was actually an extremely close one as the week went by.  Whirlpool had a very strong start, being ahead of the other two books for a short duration of time before the votes started coming in rapid-fire soon after.  And surprisingly, All Fall Down had been the book to start the race with the fewest amount of votes on the first day.  Then all of a sudden, it shot past My Lady, My Lord and ended up right up there next to Whirlpool.

I would say that they left My Lady, My Lord in the dust, but truth be told, it only lost by one vote.  One more vote in that direction and I'd end up with a triple-tie!  then I'd have to invoke special powers of the BFF vote (essentially that would involve begging my best friend to pick one of three books).

As it is, with a simple tie, I will be using my special admin powers (pfft, admin powers) to make a decision between the two winners.  But pretty much, my decision will be that I will read both books, since I need two Reading Assignment books to read this month anyway, but that Whirlpool will be the book I post as the My TBR review on the last Saturday this month.  My decision is based on the fact that Whirlpool had been at the front of the vote since the start of this.

But I WILL also mention All Fall Down as one of the two winners as well.

Again, thank you to everyone for voting!

 

 

Coming up next for the My TBR List:

 

  • 11/26:  Review of the winning book, Whirlpool by Elizabeth Lowell
  • 12/3:  Next Month's My TBR List Voting


***

See Also: My TBR List -- November 2016 Voting

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/my-tbr-list-november-winner.html
Collective Reading Updates for Dark Triumph
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph

by Robin LaFevers
Book 2 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Angela Goethals

 

The most recent updates will be added to the top each re-post.

As I progress through the book and find reasons to update, more events may or may not be revealed.  So I will include a **SPOILER WARNING** right here just in case I have inadvertently given away anything significant to the story itself.  I've done my best not to mention any big spoilers, but I don't always check myself accordingly.


Review for Dark Triumph | link coming soon

 

 



Progress on 11/11/16:  203 of 405 pages | 393 of 716 minutes (50%)

And suddenly I am furious.  Furious that she does not even care that she lured me back to hell on earth with a false promise and that for a span of time, death was more inviting to me than the life I was forced to live--the life she had forced me to live, using lies and a lure she knew I would find irresistible.

[...]

She tilts her wimpled head and studies me.  "Something as paltry as a lack of Mortain's permission would not stop the Sybella I know.  Perhaps in the end, your ties to d'Albret are stronger than your ties to Mortain.  You have, after all, known and served him far longer."


Apparently, using the promise that Count d'Albret would bear the death mark of Saint Mortain, the Abbess of the Convent of St. Mortain had sent Sybella back to the hellish nightmare of her childhood home--even knowing the kind of mental and emotional trauma Sybella had gone through before finding her way to the convent.  Sybella had been promised that she would be able to deal the killing blow to d'Albret, but has, as of present not found the mark in appearance anywhere on the man.

Which is depressing considering what a terrible, malicious man he is.

However, I continue to find the Abbess much more manipulative and evil than many of the others.  At least Count d'Albret is openly vile.  The Abbess hides behind her Saint and uses him as an excuse for all of her commands, claiming that she knows best what he wants from his handmaidens.  And then, in the quote above, more to hurt Sybella than for any other reason, she rubs it into Sybella's sensibilities that maybe she truly is d'Albret's daughter after all rather than Mortain's--a conflict that Sybella has been having in her head since the beginning of the book and that is slowly driving her mad.

On top of that, Sybella's newest hope had been built on the idea that she is a daughter of Mortain and serves his will.  The sisters of the convent had always warned her about killing outside of Mortain's will, which would cast her out of his favor and damn her soul.  This is the reason why Sybella had been hesitant to kill d'Albret without the death mark; and yet now the Abbess is rubbing that in her face as well.

It really makes me want to reach in and punch her in the face.  It might actually be satisfying if Sybella can find the courage to do so in the end, and I look forward to something like that.

 

 



Progress on 11/11/16:  134 of 405 pages | 260 of 716 minutes (33%)

The connection between Sybella and Beast is much more complex than I had imagined, but not surprising.  Between being d'Albret's daughter and this new revelation, I'm actually kind of giddy to see where this slowly budding relationship heads.

Things are getting most interesting indeed!

 

 



Progress on 11/11/16:  109 of 405 pages | 206 of 716 minutes (27%)

Keeping my eyes on his contorted little face, I change my plan.  "I will not kill you.  Just put you to sleep for a while.  Just long enough to free the prisoner.  You will have a goose egg on your head and can explain to the others how you were overpowered and were helpless to prevent the escape."

At the word escape the little man stills and cocks his head.  He pauses for a long moment, then carefully steps away from the door and motions me toward it.

I frown.  What trick is this?

[...]

"You want me to free him?" I ask.


Hmm... the plot thickens, but we're at a turning point in the book now that Sybella has no other choice but to find and free Beast as his time is running out.  The little man who guards Beast in d'Albret's dungeons piqued my interest almost immediately.  He doesn't speak and he has reflexes like a master acrobat--I am very intrigued.

And I'm ready for some more excitement outside of Sybella's continued undercover work, which is really putting a strain on her mentality.  She's slowly becoming more and more fatalistic and that makes me really nervous.

 

 



Progress on 11/10/16:  97 of 405 pages | 182 of 716 minutes (24%)

We're getting closer to seeing Beast!  I have to admit, he was one of my more favorite characters from the first book.  I'm a little excited.

Meanwhile... the events surrounding Sybella and her family, as well as the incestuous feelings that her brother Julian doesn't bother to hide, makes me feel a bit squicky.  The fact that she needs to play along in order to accomplish her assignment makes me feel for her, and I'm hoping that Sybella gets out of that situation soon.




Progress on 11/10/16:  65 of 405 pages | 112 of 716 minutes (16%)

I will quit the convent.  She cannot force me to stay here.  Tucked far away on her little island, she will not even know I have left.


Well, that escalated fast.  As I recall from the first book, Sybella was always the wild card, needing to be coaxed to do anything at all, and having such an unpredictable will that I'd been surprised that she so willingly went on a mission that proved so emotionally trying for her.

Then again, at some point in time, I expect someone to put St. Mortain's Abbess in her place.  She's all talk about Mortain's will all the time, but her decisions and manipulations have always been questionable.  And deplorable.

 

 



Progress on 11/10/16:  57 of 405 pages | 100 of 716 minutes (14%)

I am part listening to this as an audio book, and part reading it on my Kindle as a print e-book.  And so far, I'm really getting into the book, though I don't know if that is per influence of the audio narration, or because the book is just so easy to get into.

There is action from the outset, and we immediately learn that Sybella's world is a much different place than Ismae's had been from the first book.  When other reviewers had mentioned how much darker the series is in this second installment, I had my reserves going by what the first book was like.

But, indeed, things are a bit darker, and so far, following Sybella's mission as she infiltrates her father the Baron d'Albret's home, we see just how dangerous this particular assignment is for Sybella, physically, mentally, and emotionally.  If there ever were the classic dysfunctional family, I'm sure this one would be it.  And honestly, I was quite surprised to learn that the nasty Baron d'Albret who'd been trying to gain possession of Duchess Anne, turned out to be Sybella's father.

Also with Sybella's assignment here, you also get to see another glimpse of how fallible the convent's direction is.  While Sybella still doesn't see it, we've already gotten a taste of how the Convent of St. Mortain can be completely, and utterly wrong about what needs to happen and who needs to die.  And once again, we also get to see how readily the girls of the convent are manipulated to do St. Mortain's work just because their Abbess decrees it so, because at the same time, the convent risks Sybella's safety and sanity in their supposed service to the Patron Saint of Death.

And we've already seen that Mortain works in ways that are not quite exclusive to the convent.

Anyway... bring on Beast!  I can't wait for him to make his appearance, as it seems that he will be featuring prominently in this book.

 

 

Source: http://anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/collective-reading-updates-for-dark.html