Ani's Book Abyss

Ani's Book Abyss

I like to read. A lot.

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



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.



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.



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



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.



3.5 Stars
Thoughts: Deeply, Desperately
Deeply, Desperately - Heather Webber

Deeply, Desperately
by Heather Webber
Book 2 of Lucy Valentine

The irrepressible star of Truly, Madly is back in business.  This time, Lucy Valentine will go to the ends of the earth to find true love for her clients... and maybe even herself.

Lucy wants to breathe new life into her family's Boston-based matchmaking company.  But how?  Even though she comes from a long line of ancestors blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, a freak accident left Lucy with only one special skill: finding things.  Car keys, socks in the dryer, needles in haystacks... and now, in a stroke of professional genius, lost loves!

It's not long before Lucy's on a winning streak, helping old flames reunite and create new sparks.  Business is booming.  But when Lucy finds herself involved in a possible case of murder, she realizes she's in too deep.  Enter Sean Donahue.  Lucy's handsome fire-fighter-turned private eye neighbor, Sean is just the man she needs to help her on the job.  Could he also be the man she's been looking for all along?  When it comes to Valentine, Inc., falling in love is always serious business...

This second installment of the Lucy Valentine series wasn't as great as the first book, but still extremely enjoyable.

A lot of things happen, and I think the book carries four different mysteries/story tangents.  Between that and the rushed ending, I think my enjoyment of the book in comparison with the first might have been influenced.  I'm not saying it was a bad book, because it wasn't--far from that.

The characters are great, the love line is sweet, and the separate mysteries were actually quite twisty and well-thought out.  There was a slight modicum of predictability, but overall, I think all the story lines were handled quite well.

I only had a few frustrated quibbles, which include Detective Aiden Holliday and the police force's incompetence in dealing with the case of the missing woman.  I get that the final case-breaking point was truly thanks to Lucy's psychic radar.  What I don't understand was how Lucy was the only person who saw the single, most biggest time discrepancy of evidence used against the missing woman's husband, which could have gone a long way to help prove that he wasn't abusive towards his wife or children.  It's something that could have been either proved or disproved easily if someone had bothered to do the investigation properly.

Instead, Lucy figures it out from a sheet of paper that manages to float out of the case file folder.

I was also a little taken aback by the appearance of a potential K-drama trope: that of the "my ex-girlfriend is sick and therefore I need to be by her side" persuasion.  This situation is one I'm familiar with, having seen it in many various Hong Kong dramas and Korean dramas.  It's so widely used to create romantic angst that if not done properly could potentially become a little comical or frustrating--done correctly, it DOES create the desired effect.  At this point, I'm still a little bit conflicted as to how I feel about seeing this plot device used, yet at the same time, I can see the reason behind it's use and how the desired effect on a few different levels was achieved.


My next complaint is about the reporter, Preston Bailey.  I kind of get the whole "annoying like a sibling" relationship she's developing with Lucy, but at the same time, I'm sorry to say that Preston had more than enough moments where she was just plain annoying, rather than endearingly sibling-like annoying.  I have siblings--I know the difference.

Finally, on the romance front, things are steaming up for Lucy and Sean.  And to be honest, the intimacy level was a bit more detailed than I had expected from a cozy mystery, but not to the point of blushing or fanning myself.  So rest assured if you're not one to prefer more sensually detailed sexy times--everything is still fairly closed-door with some exceptions.

Sexy times aside, the love line is really just plain sweetness and hot chemistry.  Due to reasons, Sean and Lucy had less interaction in this book than the previous, so the relative quick pacing of their romantic progress was only a little surprising.  Despite loving my immediate results, being a romance fan and all, I was actually expecting more of a slow, slow burn over the course of the series as opposed to what we got in Lucy Valentine.  But I'm not really complaining.

Not really.

All-in-all, Deeply Desperately had a whole lot of story going on crammed into a surprisingly short length for all the story it had.  At the same time, however, I still really liked it, continue to like the characters, and am looking forward to the next book.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge


The Crystal Cave Read-Along | Week One Update
The Crystal Cave - Mary Stewart

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart

Book 1 of The 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'm a little behind in the read-along, but it looks like everyone else is sort of at the same point I'm at, so I'm not too concerned.  Life has been a bit chaotic and distractions aplenty (both books and other).  I'm hoping that with my weekend off coming up, I'll be able to get more of The Crystal Cave read, to a point where I don't feel guilty veering off onto another book for a couple days.


I've decided to do a weekly update for this book, and each update will be broken down into each section of the book.  Mainly because, so far, I've had little to say about it and haven't really come up with anything significant or productive to share.

The Crystal Cave is well written and is proving an interesting, yet slow-paced adventure that is a little focused on set-up right now.  I'm enjoying it, but it's still very easy for me to set it down and end up falling into a cozy mystery instead.


Book I: The Dove -- Completed
Progress on 11/05/16:  118 of 519 pages (23%)

To be honest, it took a little bit of time to get into this book because I might have gotten a little lost.  But even so, I'm finding myself enjoying it, though I remain still slightly confused about all the events playing out.  There are a lot of names and places and relationship connections that might have gotten a little muddled in my mind.

And at times, I swear, I forget that Merlin is only a twelve year old boy at this time--he sounds, literally, wiser than his years, which I assume is deliberate.  Of course, I suppose that with everything he's been going through, and how he's been treated while growing up, you kind of have to be a bit ahead of everyone else to survive.

While the beginning of the book seemed to build up in a rather slow pace, by the time we reach the end of Book I, things seemed to have escalated very quickly.  And now young Merlin is off on his official adventure, I assume.

Up to this point, it all just feels like world-building, which I appreciate, but at the same time, doesn't bode well for my blogging since I don't really have anything productive to say about it.


Book II: The Falcon -- In Progress
Progress on 11/08/16:  143 of 519 pages (28%) 

Okay, it took a little bit of thought to realize that twelve-year-old Merlin sounds wise beyond his years, because the story is sounding more like an account of Merlin's life by his older, and wiser self.  I think there's a sentence that even intuits that older and wiser Merlin is penning what he remembers of his childhood.

Except that, having noted that twelve-year-old Merlin sounds more mature than one would expect a child to sound, there are times where I have a hard time connecting the twelve-year-old child to the old wizard we all know as Merlin.  I know it sounds like I'm contradicting myself, but I truly am seeing two different sides of this kid: on the one hand, he sounds older; on the other hand, he really DOES come off as just a kid.

Anyway, the adventure starts now and I'm feeling really excited about it.  It gives me impressions of some young children's fantasy adventure I might have read a long time ago.  We've got a catalyst for Merlin to travel aimlessly, we've got sticky situations, and now we've got some significant scenarios to continue propelling young Merlin's journey to his fated destiny.

I'm only four chapters into the second section, so the action so far still feels like world-building, but at least there are some potential significant events happening.

Again, I'm finding I don't really have much of significance to say about what I've read so far, though hopefully I will by the time week two of the read-along is over.  It's taking a while to get into this book, but I'm still really drawn to it.



Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions To My TBR


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


~~ Ten Books Recently Added ~~

~~ To The TBR List ~~



This week for Top Ten Tuesday, the topic involves the most recent books I added to my TBR List.  I will usually add several books to my TBR on a regular basis, but a lot of them I've marked as 'Might Read' because they have caught my eye and I want to come back to them someday; however, I may not necessarily have plans to read them any time soon.  At least they are on a list somewhere where I can do a cursory search if something piques my memory or interest.

The books that are actually marked as 'To Read' are the ones I fully intend to figure out how to fit into my reading schedule.  There's another caveat, though:  I will also add a bunch of books that belong to the same author or the same series if I find that author/series enjoyable and intend to read the rest of the work.

If I listed all the books from the same series or by the same author this post would be mainly about Addison Fox and Jill Shalvis, with a few other scattered authors.

So in order to give a shout out to more than just these two authors, today's Top Ten Tuesday will be all about Jill Shalvis and Addison Fox, AND others!  So this list will have 10+ books populating it.

Because I can.

In the order of the book added most recently to earlier in time:


The above four books were added recently due to interest.  Three were thanks to bloggers making a mention of them.  Cold Memory was added because I like Leslie Kelly, and was pleasantly surprised to see her continuing her Extrasensory Agents series when I thought she had dropped that project since the last book in the series was published back in 2011, nearly five years ago.  I am totally ecstatic with this new revelation--Cold Memory will be published in December as a Kindle book only and I am definitely going to pick that one up.



by Addison Fox

This is what I meant when I said that Addison Fox would be one of the authors to dominate this list if I just went by books I'd recently added and left it at ten.  Of the above eight books in the two different series, I had actually already added The Paris Assignment and Silken Threats to my TBR a long time ago.  But there were recent developments of the "Harlequin books are on sale" variety that had me adding the rest of the books in each series to my TBR... as well as my e-book shelves.

Why did I add so many Addison Fox books to my TBR as well as my Kindle shelves?  Aside from the discounted prices, I had read a book by Addison Fox not long ago and absolutely loved it!  So here's hoping that that one book wasn't a one-hit-wonder... although I DO enjoy Romantic Suspense, so I'll read these books anyway.



Kasie West's Lucky in Love will be released on July 25, 2017.  I always add Kasie West books to my TBR when I find a new one, and this one happened to land on this Top Ten list.



I think I was more surprised that the remaining books of the Lucky Harbor series wasn't already on my TBR, especially after finishing and loving the first three books in the series in December of last year.  The fourth, fifth, and sixth books are already on my TBR, but for some reason, I never went to add the rest of the series, which is strange considering my goal is to read this entire series mainly so I can get to the very last short novella that brings us to my most favorite Lucky Harbor couple thus far, Chloe and Sawyer.

On a side note, I also added the newest Hearbreaker Bay books to my TBR as well, but I'm not going to list them.



I am actually currently making my way through this series; having just finished the first book, Truly Madly (not shown here), I loved it enough to want to dive into the rest of the series.  If my reading schedule holds true, I should have all of these books finished by February next year... or by December.  I don't deny the fact that when I find something I love, I can spend more time reading than is good for my sleep cycles.


I was going to take more liberties on this list and add more books... but I decided that this list is good enough.  And long enough.  At the very least, it also kind of reflects what my TBR will look like in the next year or two... sort of.



4 Stars
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy

by Robin LaFevers
Book 1 of His Fair Assassin
Audio book narrated by Erin Moon



**See Also:  Collective Updates for Grave Mercy

I liked this book more than I expected to like it, and while there is a lot of monotony to be had between certain events, I surprisingly found those quite intriguing and nice anyway.  Being that this book focuses a lot on history and politics of Brittany during the pre-Renaissance era, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it if only because I’m usually bored by books that are heavy with politics.

So, kudos to Ms. Robin LaFevers.  I really loved this book in spite of the political conspiracies and the drawn out history lessons--in fact, these were the things, aside from the characters, that I found most fascinating.

But anyway, as I had let this book sit on my mind for a long time (a very long time), and then subsequently went back and "skim-read" it (via audio book) to refresh my memory before diving into reading what I thought were the last two books in this series (there have since been two more books added to the series), I really don’t have much in the form of a review.  So I decided to just bullet-list my thoughts and then call it a day.

Actually, a lot of these notes and thoughts had been written back in 2014 when I first finished reading this book.  Following, I decided to wait until the last book of the then-trilogy was published before reading the rest.  Time ended up eluding me and I never got around to finishing the last two books until this time in 2016.

Anyway, moving along now...

The Story:
Escaping the brutality of a forced marriage, Ismae finds sanctuary with the convent of St. Mortain who serves the God of Death.  She learns that she is blessed by the God of Death and that all the sisters of this convent serve Mortain as his handmaidens, meant to mete out his wishes as trained agents in the art of Death.


Ismae receives her most important assignment in the high court of Brittany where she comes across deeper intrigues of conspiracies and deadly games of treason.  Her initial assignment is to uncover a possible treasonous plot taking place at court.   Her overall mission is to serve and protect the Duchess.

Oh yea, and she meets a man named Gavriel Duval who, knowing what she has been trained for, is Ismae’s means of remaining at the court to complete her assigned mission.  There’s also romance, but it’s quite subtle and not at all in the way of the actual conflict taking place in the story.

Meanwhile, Ismae slowly learns that maybe there is more to being a handmaiden of St. Mortain than simply killing in his name, and that her teachers at the convent may not always know what the God of Death truly has plans for.

What I liked:

  • Once again, I give kudos to the fact that the book’s political-historical intrigues managed to hook me rather than put me to sleep.   It’s not the fault of fictional politics, it’s really just me.  While I like a bit of history here and there, I’ve never fully been able to care for politics, so books with court conspiracies and political intrigue tend to become boring to me. (I’ve spent my childhood watching old Chinese historical television series that involve court politics; after a while, every treasonous plot just starts to sound the same.)


  • This book was a page turner--I hardly noticed this book was 500+ pages and actually yearned for more when it came to an end.  The "re-read" of the audio book had me hooked as well--I found myself unwilling to stop the player long enough to read other books, or even to go to sleep.


  • The subtle romance between Ismae and Duval was sweet and nicely developed.  I like that they started off as friendly rivals in the game of their court-related missions, and I like that they were a witty set of Bickering Romance love birds slowly building their chemistry from friendship to lovers as they continuously got on each other’s nerves.  And I like that once they got over their own stubborn prides and agreed to work together, they made a pretty powerful team.


  • Ismae is strong, intelligent, and knows her priorities.  When she realizes that she is in way over her head, she takes her self-proclaimed impatient ass back a step so that she can listen and learn and figure out what she needs to understand before she acts.  To be honest, even though it is described that Ismae is often too eager to mete out death and punishment and too impatient to wait for something to happen, I actually found her to be quite sensible in her actions.  And on top of that, romance does not tie her down and she knows what needs to be done first and foremost to best serve the Duchess and her God of Death.


  • The writing is beautiful.  Descriptions are vivid.  The historical atmosphere is palpable.


What I didn’t like:

  • There isn’t as much action as I would have liked.  Because the book deals more in politics and history and world-building, the amount of fighting and action and even the number of people Ismae has killed in this book seem quite sparse for a book about NUN ASSASSINS.


  • This wasn’t the gritty, gory, badass NUN ASSASSIN book I had been expecting.  It’s much better than the other nun assassin book I had read previously, but it’s a lot calmer than I had expected.  In fact, if the whole NUN ASSASSIN thing hadn’t been my first “OMG!  I want this book so badly!” tagline, I might have just read it as a historical with political intrigue and there'd be no capitalization of NUN ASSASSINS to be had.


  • As much as I liked the sweet and quiet, friendly bickering chemistry between Ismae and Duval, in an overall romance rating, the love story was actually kind of lukewarm.  In fact, the two seem to mesh well better as friendly partners in crime with a sizzling undertone of attraction and unacknowledged chemistry.

Final Thoughts:
I had decided that was probably time for me to fit in Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart somewhere (this will happen soon)--it has been a very long time since I finished Grave Mercy (see above introductory confession).  I need to be able to, like, read twenty books simultaneously and take about two months worth of vacation to finish my reading list.  Because while I found Grave Mercy to be immensely enjoyable, despite being a genre I don’t normally touch at all, I’ve noted that many reviewers have stated that the next two books are supposedly even more awesome.  And so I really should have made time to finish reading the next two books to join and bask in the glory of having read the His Fair Assassin series.


This is a book I would definitely reread over again, to be totally honest.  And it got me curious enough about the history of Brittany as well as the Duchess Anne to want to do some genuine research.  Of course, so far, I’ve only done a Wiki search...



My TBR List -- November 2016 Voting


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.


And the TBR List Voting is back at Ani's Book Abyss!  For the past two months, I'd been happily buried books with a delightful seasonal bookish activity, Halloween Bingo 2016, so knowing my own ability to juggle too many things at the same time, I chose to skip this monthly meme for that time.  But now I'm rejoining the fun of this.

I had a lot of different themes I wanted to pick for the next few My TBRL months, but what really stood out to me was the fact that the end of the year is drawing near... and I'm running out of options for my Reading Assignment Challenge.  And since I actually DID flounder about what books I wanted to read for November's Reading Assignment, I figured that My TBRL was the best way to decide for me what to read.

The November Reading Assignment edition of My TBR List includes three of the remaining eight Reading Assignment books on my 2016 list.  Since I'm really supposed to read four books each month, I might just end up reading also, the book with the second highest number of votes; I already picked two other books (though those choices are always subject to change as well).



The Books



My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
-- Book 1 of Twist series

The Bluestocking
Lady Corinna Mowbray has three passions: excellent books, intelligent conversation, and disdaining the libertine Earl of Chance.

The Rake
Lord Ian Chance has three pleasures: beautiful women, fast horses, and tormenting high-and-mighty Corinna Mowbray.

Neighbors for years, they've been at each other's throats since they can remember. But when a twist of fate forces them to trade lives, how long will it be before they discover they cannot live without each other?


-- Book 1 of Hostage Negotian Team


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.



Whirlpool by Elizabeth Lowell

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...



Let's Vote!


**For BookLikes members reading this in the BookLikes dashboard view:  Click here to generate the voting box on another page if you would like to vote.  I don't know why the voting box doesn't show, though it appears in blog view just fine.

**For everyone else voting via BookLikes blog view or at the Book Abyss's Blogspot home:  You may ignore the above tangent.  The voting box shows just fine.

Again, thank you for stopping by and voting!



Previous My TBR List months at Ani's Book Abyss can be found at the Bookish Memes page.


4.5 Stars
Rambling Review: P.S. I Like You
P.S. I Like You - Kasie West

P.S. I Like You

by Kasie West

**Collective Updates for P.S. I Like You



Signed, sealed, delivered…

While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk.  The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her.  Intrigue!

Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer.  Only, who is he?  As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

Okay.  So here are my thoughts:

I really, really, really enjoyed reading this book.  In fact, I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.  To be honest, the past two Kasie West books I've read have been a little deflated, and a little bit of a step down from what I'd associated with Kasie West based on the first two books I'd read of hers: Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us.  Up to last year, The Distance Between Us was my favorite of the Kasie West books currently published.

The rest of the books I've read since The Distance Between Us have been enjoyable, but just never on that same level of squee-worthy love.

Until now.

I'm not the type to go hardcore fangirl too often.  Okay, maybe I am.  But I often see a lot of reviewers tout a recent release by a favorite author as "the best of so-and-so's work," and I often wonder if that's not too exaggerated.  I mean, maybe you love it that much because it's new and older works are a distant memory, you know.  Then again, everyone has their own preferences, and I can understand why people would make such an absolute declaration.

Because I'm probably about to do the same... or at least something similar here.

Kasie West is an author I follow and love.  She may not be an all-time favorite, but I do, absolutely enjoy the wit and humor she infuses into her books, when that particular quality is present.  I'm not going to lie:  On the Fence and The Fill-In Boyfriend were two enjoyable books on a superficial level; but both books seemed to lack that dry sarcasm and nonsensical, charming appeal that I'd long ago associated with Kasie West based on her first two works, Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us.

It had actually been because of the Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us combo that had me automatically dishing out more money than was necessary for each following Kasie West book.  But with two not-as-squee-worthy books in a row bought, I ended up a little hesitant of West's work.

So instead of automatically buying and jumping into the next of her books (this one), I put myself on a hold request wait list for a library copy.  And now I'm a bit conflicted, but with P.S. I Like You, everything that I loved about Kasie West has returned... and now I need to decide whether it'd be worth it to spend ten dollars on my own Kindle copy to add to my Kasie West collection.

Because, to date, I am fairly certain that P.S. I Like You is my favorite of all the Kasie West books written.

Quirky characters, quirky main character, quirky friendships, quirky family... a sweet, fun, and cute little love story...  P.S. I Like You was so enjoyable that I found myself finishing the darn thing before I realized that I should probably get some sleep.

I only get Book Hangovers for books I really, really got into.  I only get Book Hangovers with books that I truly want to continue reading once I've reached the end, even if they are just random scenes for the sake of cute.  Because between Lily and her mystery man (no spoilers), there was definitely a lot of cute!

I wish I could talk about who Lily's mystery pen pal is, but I don't know if that would end up being a big spoiler.  I'm not sure if the identity of this guy is meant to be a secret or not, because honestly, the moment he's introduced in the book, I already figured out how the entire story would go down.

And you'd think that, with the predictability, it would take away from my enjoyment of this story.  Instead, the way in which the story was presented, coupled with all the wonderfully created characters, and the awesome character interactions made the journey from beginning until the end very, very enjoyable.  The moment that Lily discovers who her mysterious pen pal is and the new conflict happens was wonderfully presented; all the new interactions between Lily and mystery pen pal were sweet and sweet and so darn sweet.

I really wish I could talk about Lily's mystery pen pal without spoiler tags, if only because he's present from the start and I want to talk about his development.  Because I loved how West played up their relationship.  Then again, like I said, it's quite obvious from the way he's written in who the main love interest is--it's a Kasie West book after all, and all the signs are there.

There are quibbles, of course.  I had my doubts about the love story in the beginning, but I'm actually quite okay with how everything worked out.  And I had a slight problem with how the ending dragged out.  And I think that the entire book could have done without the whole "Mean Girls" angle--it felt highly unnecessary.

But then you have best friends who squee at creating a morning routine tradition, an older sister who keeps walking in on you talking to yourself, a crazy family who is more likely to scare away new acquaintances just by being their normal selves, and a pet rabbit who pees on your blind date's sock...

If anything, I'm just absolutely in love with Lily's entire family, as well as Lily herself.  I'm in love with the craziness of Lily's family.  I'm in love with all the character interactions, whether good or bad.  It's just all very lovable, really.

On a side note, aside from the passion for song-writing, and the whole getting-a-boyfriend thing, I can totally related with almost everything else in Lily's life.  Lily's socially awkward, introvert personality was essentially me during my teens.  Lily's tendency to be more eloquent on paper as opposed to in-person is so similar to how I've always been my entire life.  Even down to her off-trend sense of fashion and her dislike for P.E.

I just really, really enjoyed this book.  And I truly hope that the next Kasie West book will be just as excellent!


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge



Cover Crush: Blackthorn & Grim trilogy by Juliet Marillier

Cover Crush is a feature originally thought up by Erin at Flashlight Commentary.  Every Thursday, she publishes a post featuring a book jacket/book cover that she really likes with a short commentary about it.  I discovered this weekly feature via It's a Mad Mad World  and decided to join in the fun!

Judge a book by it's cover?  Absolutely!




Blackthorn & Grim is a young adult high fantasy series written by Juliet Marillier.  She is one of my favorite high fantasy authors even though I've yet to read all of her work.  Mainly, her writing is beautiful and magical.

Den of Wolves, the last book in this trilogy, was published and made available this week, and so I thought, what better way to celebrate than squee about how pretty the covers for all three books are.  Fantasy novels tend to have a lot of really good cover illustrations, and the Blackthorn & Grim trilogy is no different.  And while I've always liked most of the covers for Juliet Marillier books, I can't say that any have ever actually stood out as much to me.

But the three of these covers, from the illustration to the type setting, it's all just so pretty that I can't stop looking at them.  Specifically Den of Wolves--it was the one that drew my attention the fastest, more than likely because of the bold red background.

The last time I started a Juliet Marillier fantasy trilogy, I breezed through one book after another and had the entire series finished in no time.  So this time, I decided that I would patiently wait out the publication of the last book before even trying to get a hold of the first.

I feel I've become quite impatient in my old age to wait around to finish an ongoing story, and this whole trilogy thing that's been going on is a bit frustrating sometimes.


Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- October 2016

The end of October meant the end of the Halloween Bingo 2016!  I'm not going to lie:  I had a ton of fun!  The books I read the past two months were great.  But the most fun was doing my "research" for each square of the Halloween Bingo Card.  Finding new books and learning about new authors is always a plus for me, and when these new searches and new reads leads me to new favorites, my reading life is just all up in the giddy.

I'm actually quite impressed with myself at the number of books I'd been able to put away, as well as the fact that I even managed to complete the Bingo activity with two days to spare.  What I'm really proud of, however, is the fact that the majority of my books were full-length novels.  While three were audio books that I could listen to while multi-tasking, only two of the twenty-five books were short stories; the rest were full-length.  Then on top of that, I still had time to finish my Reading Assignment books as well as insert two 2016 new releases, getting them both read in October--I had read one new 2016 release in September as well.

So, all-in-all, I think I had a pretty good month.  A pretty great past two months, even!



October Reads




Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!



Currently Reading


Misborn The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (audio narrated by Michael Kramer)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (audio narrated by Erin Moon)

The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Deeply, Desperately by Heather Webber



October Reading Stats


Total works read:  15

  • 13 full length novels
  • 1 novellas
  • 1 audio book

Average rating:  3.5 Stars

  • Highest Rated:  P.S. I Like You by Kasie West // 4.5 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:

  • Dead Wrong by Jami Alden

Series I completed:

  • The Dregs by Leigh Bardugo
  • Voodoo in Mojo by Stephanie Bond

Series I have made progress on:

  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Favorite reads:  Three particular books caught my favorites list in October, one of them quite by surprise, and another quite pleasantly.  Six of Crows was an excellent ending to an equally excellent duology and I had expected nothing less--which means that, even going in with high expectations, I was not disappointed.  And Then There Were None was a pleasantly enjoyable classic read that I hadn't really had any pre-conceived expectations to begin with, but ended up loving anyway, and that's always a plus.

P.S. I Love You honestly took me completely by surprise--I've always been a fan of Kasie West since the first book of hers I'd read, but going by my mediocre liking of the previous two books she released, I honestly didn't know what to expect from her newest book, but I went into it with some wariness... and ended up with a lovely Book Hangover that still lingers even as I write this paragraph.  I have no complaints about that at all, honestly.  =D

Disappointing reads:  To be honest, there weren't very many books that I didn't like in October, but if I truly had to choose one or two disappointing reads, I'd single out Practical Magic and Beg for Mercy.  I hadn't really been expecting much from Practical Magic, to be honest, and didn't go into it with too many expectations, though I could see that it's a popular book thanks to the movie adaptation back in the 90's.  I didn't really like the book itself, but I wish I could have because it's got a great premise to it.  Beg for Mercy just wasn't what I was expecting, and to be honest, would have been a great book if I could have gotten past the frustrating characters.



Reviews & Notable Posts


Reviews Written




Other Posts



Coming Up In Month


Tentative TBR



Other Stuff


These next two months in my reading life will be just as packed as the previous two months, but not as aggressively so.  I will be participating in a Read-Along for Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy (also known as the Arthurian Saga with two additional books).  With some other BookLikes friends, we will be reading only the first three books over the next two months, then deciding whether to finish it off with the last two.  Being me, I will probably end up seeking out the last two books anyway.

Moonlight Reader has also announced a new seasonal bookish activity:  the Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season.  This takes place, starting November 1, 2016, and will end on January 2, 2017.  I will be participating casually in this one since I'm not sure how many tasks I'll be able to finish anyway; and I will be keeping an updated summary page that I have yet to make--the summary page will be linked accordingly when I finally write and post it.

Other plans and activities for this month really just include getting ready for the holiday season, finishing up (or giving up on) some yearly reading challenges.  There may also be some more blog organizing going on as I try to continue transferring reviews to the Blogspot book blog, as well as sync my link pages, indices, and other possible blog content pages between BookLikes and Blogspot.

I feel like there will be enough to keep me busy, but I will still remember to make time to socialize with everyone else, both bookish community and real life.  And also take care of some long-standing To-Do's that have been hanging on my To-Do List for too long.



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



3 Stars
Short Review: The Halloween Tree
The Halloween Tree - Ray Bradbury

The Halloween Tree

by Ray Bradbury



On Halloween night, eight trick-or-treaters gather at the haunted house by the edge of town, ready for adventure.  But when Something whisks their friend Pip away, only one man can help the boys find him.  Join the sinister Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud as he takes them on an unforgettable journey through space and time, deep into the mysteries of this spookiest of all nights.

Can the boys save Pip before it's too late?

First of all, it wasn't until about five chapters into the book that I realized that the name of the mysterious, scary big dude was "Moundshroud."  As I was reading the book, I kept reading the name as "Moonshroud," because "Moundshroud" just felt like a mouthful.  After that, the hardest part about reading this book was stumbling over Moundshroud's name... so I might have mentally switched back to the initial name I was mistakenly using.

Anyway... Moving right along...

So apparently The Halloween Tree is the A Christmas Carol of the Halloween season.  Sort of.  It's a fantastical and ghostly adventure guided by strange Moundshroud that gives the readers and eight young boys a Reader's Digest history of the Halloween festivities starting from Egypt to England to Mexico, all while trying to find and save the boys' ninth friend, Pipkin, the Wonder Boy.  The history lessons cover Osiris, Samhain, Grecian festivities, and even Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

It's a very fast-paced, interesting adventure, and though I'm a little sheepish to admit that I got lost during some of the story, in truth, my mind totally wandered at some points.  I'm almost wanting to say that the book was so fast-paced that I couldn't keep up with it very well.

Still, it's a fun adventure, well-written, really, and something that I think many children would enjoy reading as part of the Halloween season.

Myself... it really wasn't my cuppa, unfortunately.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo




4 Stars
Rambling Thoughts: The Haunting of Maddy Clare
The Haunting of Maddy Clare - Simone St. James

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

by Simone St. James



Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter.  Alistair Gellis--rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts--has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide.  Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death.  Soon Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle.  For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason.  Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance-before she destroys them all?

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is really a type of book I find a little hard to form an opinion on, if only because it was such a fast-paced as well as short-length read.  While enjoyable at the time, I found myself looking back and having no recollection of anything that really stood out outside of the setting, some vague character biographies, and the mystery of Maddy's tragic tale.

In a way, I suppose that's actually a pretty good amount of recollection.  And have no doubt, I truly DID enjoy this book a lot!

The setting of Maddy Clare stands out because it is set in 1920s London--a time period that, whether in America, Europe, or even Asian countries, is one that I rarely visit in my literary (or other media) enjoyments.  It's an era that I'm not very familiar with, save for the tragic war-torn times of Chinese culture (thanks to several Chinese television series and movies I've watched growing up).  If Historical fiction is a genre I don't typically pick up, 1920s Historical is definitely a time period I don't usually even glance at.

What I'm trying to say is that, despite my new foray into Historical fiction, this book is definitely outside of my comfort zone, again, because I'm not familiar with that time period.  I have read a few books that were set during this time, but I can't say that I ever actually enjoyed them.  This is nothing against the time period itself; it's mainly a time period I rarely read about due to my own preferences.

Anyway, back to the book...

Maddy Clare was definitely a page-turner, with great atmosphere and serviceable characters.  I'm not entirely sure I was enamored of any of our main characters--Sarah, Matthew, or even Alistair.  In fact, I found that the characters I liked the most were some of the side characters, mainly Mrs. Clare and Mrs. MacCready, the ghostly Maddy Clare's keepers.  And, honestly, I also kind of had a soft spot for Maddy Clare herself, especially after realizing the tragedy that struck her and caused her to become a vengeful, angry spirit.

I was really sucked in by the mystery surrounding Maddy Clare's death, and despite it being rather predictable as soon as the investigation started, it was intense and hard not to develop some strong feelings about.  It was most definitely a sad, sad tragedy for Maddy Clare, and even in death as an angry spirit, I still feel for her.

The romance was one that I did not truly care for.  It was equal parts frustrating and unsettling considering the circumstances in which the first sex scene takes place, because CREEPY-STALKER much?  Okay, maybe it wasn't entirely a creepy-stalker scenario, because Matthew was never really a creepy stalker type... but the scene felt creepy-stalker-ish.  It really did, to me.  No matter how much Sarah was already lusting after him.

The sexual tension and chemistry was quite steamy though.  I'm not sure if that helps.


The Haunting of Maddy Clare is enjoyable.  But as I'd already noted, not entirely memorable.  And honestly, I didn't even realize that it was rather unmemorable until I tried to tell my best friend about it, trying to introduce a new book and author to her.

The conversation might have gone a little liked this:

Me:  "So I've got a new book for you!"  **all excited**
BFF:  "What book?"  **also all excited**
Me:  "It's called The Haunting of Maddy Clare."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "It's about... um... a haunting... by the ghost of a dead girl named Maddy Clare..."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "She's an angry spirit because... stuff happened to her..."
BFF:  **anticipation**
Me:  "It takes place in the 1920s... in London.  It's Gothic-Romance-Paranormal-Mystery..."
BFF:  "That does sound interesting...  1920s, you say?"
Me:  "Right.  The mystery secret reveal is pretty sad.  And then there are people who are supposed to find out what Maddy wants... or get rid of her... or help her move on...  You know..."

**awkward silence**

(This conversation has been edited for blogging entertainment's sake, because I have the memory of a goldfish.)

Anyway, even thinking back on what I had said to my best friend, even though she DID genuinely sound interested, my half-assed summation probably describes every ghost story/haunting story ever written...  -_-

I admit: I obviously did this book no justice with that conversation...

And to be honest, I think BFF was more interested in the 1920s setting than the actually book description about a haunted barn itself, anyway.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
2016 Halloween Bingo




Collective Reading Updates for P.S. I Like You
P.S. I Like You - Kasie West

The most recent updates will be added to the top each re-post.  Any longer, essay-length reading updates will be separate posts and linked within this collective reading update post.

A full review of P.S. I Like You will be linked below when I post it.
Review for P.S. I Like You | link coming soon




Progress on 10/30/16:  326 of 326 pages (100%) -- I'm Finished!

Okay, so my attempts at keeping a collective reading update post is probably futile when I finish a book within hours of starting it.  But there was a point throughout the night/morning that I had decided to hold off on some updates... of course, I hadn't counted on sinking into the book so deeply and before I knew it, I was done.

Well, actually, before I knew it, I had less than a hundred pages left of P.S. I Like You left; and you would think that I'd have learned by now that less than a hundred pages still requires one to two hours to finish reading...

Anyway...  I have to say that I think this is the Kasie West I remember falling in love with: Sweet, cutesy love story; quirky characters; quirky family; tons of dry sarcasm and random nonsense...  This is what I love!

And now I've got a bit of a Book Hangover, and while there are a few things here and there that I could have done without, I'm going to honestly say that this is one of Kasie's better works compared to the previous two books she's put out.

I'm still going to have to think on this before I officially post a review though.  Of course, it's entirely possible I'm just going to reiterate everything I just said.


Progress on 10/30/16:  66 of 326 pages (20%)

I'm feeling a slight kinship with Lily:


Isabel sighed.  "I thought that if you didn't know you were goin gon a date tonight, you wouldn't have time to stress.  That you wouldn't practice lines in your mind and imagine outcomes."

"You thought my awkwardness was from preconceived plans to be awkward?"

"Yes, actually."

I laughed.  "Well, now you know the truth."



Progress on 10/30/16:  54 of 326 pages (17%)

I'm really digging the sibling relationship between Lily and her brothers and sister.  It's very cute.  I also love the friendship between Lily and Isabel... but I'm having some really bad "this friendship is going to be seeing some hard times" vibes, and I'm not sure I like that.

I guess, until then (whether those vibes turn out to be true or not), I'll just enjoy the cuteness.


"Monsters in trees," I said to Isabel the next morning when I saw her by our lockers.


"That's what I thought about before going to bed last night.  Are we doing this or not?

She clapped her hands, then bit her lip in thought.

I laughed.  "Gabriel, right?"

"Shhh.  There was something after that.  I'm trying to remember.  Oh!  Nutella crepes."

"Now I'm hungry."

"And I'm confused," Isabel said, shutting her locker.  "Monsters in trees?"

"Fake song idea.  But I actually started a real song, one I'll read to you when I'm done."

"I'd like that."

"This is going to be a fun tradition."

"She laughed.  "It is.  I feel out friendship getting cuter already."

-- Page 54

Backstory:  Basically, Isabel had wanted to start a tradition with Lily as best friends and one of the ideas was to, each morning, telling each other what the last thing they thought about was before going to sleep the night before.  It certainly DOES sound cute.

So far there's a lot of the Kasie West dry humor that I love present in this book, so I'm really enjoying it.  Crossing my fingers and hope that it keeps up and that things don't get too angst-ridden and complicated.  Although with a Kasie West book, the emotional angst usually isn't too heavy and the romance is usually really sweet.


Progress on 10/30/16:  15 of 326 pages (5%)

I have the distinct feeling I already know how this little love story is going to go down.  And to be honest, aside from one little quibble, I'm actually looking forward to it, because it will totally give this book a You've Got Mail vibe, and I'm quite okay with that.

Secondly, the girl on the cover doesn't really connect with the description of the girl in the book.  Lily takes a paragraph to describe her quirky fashion:


Today I was wearing an over-sized button-down that I had found at a thrift story.  I'd cut the sleeves to make it more like a kimono and tied a brown vintage belt at the waist.  On my feet were beat-up red high-top sneakers.  My look was quirky, not trendy, and I would stand out in a group like Lauren's where they were all perfectly put together in their slim-fitting jeans and tank tops.

--Page 6 & 7

The girl on the cover is wearing a pretty dress that, to be honest, doesn't seem to strike me as quirky.  Although she IS wearing the red high-top sneakers (??), though they do not look beat up.

I might be a little put out if this is an indication that Lily gives up her quirky sense of fashion when she starts her little love story.


3 Stars
Thoughts: Beg for Mercy
Beg for Mercy - Jami Alden

Beg for Mercy

by Jami Alden
Book 1 of Dead Wrong



He lurks in the shadows, waiting and watching.... And once he has you, all you can do is...


Megan Flynn thought she was falling in love.  Cole Williams wasn't just handsome and passionate, he was one of the good guys.  Or so she thought, until he arrested her brother-the only family she has left-for a murder she knows he couldn't have possibly committed.  Now, with her heart broken and her brother's life hanging in the balance, Megan will risk everything to prove his innocence.  Even if that means throwing herself into the path of a sadistic killer with a hauntingly familiar MO.

Seattle Detective Cole Williams had given up on making Megan see reason where her brother is concerned.  But when she insinuates herself into the most shockingly brutal case Cole has ever worked, he can't stand idly by.  Plunged into a secret world where the city's elite indulge their darkest desires, Cole will do whatever it takes to bring down a madman who has made Megan his most coveted prey.

I was actually really looking forward to this book (and this trilogy), mainly because I've read a few erotica-contemporary romances by Jami Alden and really DID enjoy them.  They were written well with some fluff love stories that I found decently likable.

And, to be honest, Beg for Mercy was enjoyable for some reasons... but utterly frustrating for others.  The book is written quite well.  Even the mystery and the story's set-up wasn't too bad.

But the murderer was completely obvious the moment he strolls into the book.  And also, I absolutely hated our main couple!  Okay.  Maybe "hated" might be too strong a word for two characters who made me cringe with everything they said and did.  To be blunt:  Megan Flynn is stupid, and Cole Williams is a douche-nozzle.  That is probably the best way to describe these two--their relationship will probably mainly have to be sustained on steamy sex and Megan's ability to overlook every asshole thing Cole does.

From the moment their relationship falls apart in the beginning to their subsequent reunion three years into the present, to Megan's frustrating attempts at investigating her brother's case, to Cole's continued douche-hole behavior...  I just really, really got frustrated with these two before the mid-mark of the book came around.

Megan's amateur and non-existent investigation skills not-withstanding, she is just a trouble magnet who can't seem to do anything right.  While I understand, and also admire, her desperation to find the real killer and get her brother out of prison, she really DOES just recklessly bowl into every situation without thinking about any consequences, and then is surprised when her activities come back to bite her in the ass.

Cole is just a jackass, period.  Even after admitting that he didn't handle his relationship with Megan very well, he still continues to prove to me that he's just a jackass.  He continues to handle his reunion relationship with Megan very poorly, and at times is kind of a condescending jerk.

And the romance was hard for me to root for because Megan all but drops her pants whenever Cole is around her, even though she's still vengefully angry at him for arresting her brother as well as dropping her like a hot potato three years prior when it all happened.  Though I suppose she DOES manage to walk away at least twice before finally just having sex with the asshole...

It's just that, even if she were able to understand Cole's "just doing his job" by arresting Sean because all the evidence added up; I'm not sure that it would have been as easy for her to forgive him for that fact, nor forgive him for walking away from her during a time when she needed support the most.  Sean is her only family, and with him being arrested, Megan pretty much had no one else in her life except for her not-so-serious-but-becoming-serious-because-love boyfriend, Cole.


The reason why this book got an average, 'meh' rating though, is because the book DOES pick up after the midpoint when Cole stops being an asshole and Megan starts using her common sense a little bit more.  Things get a little more interesting.

And also, I liked Sean Flynn.  For a guy stuck in a prison for most of the book, I think he was probably my favorite of all the characters in the entire book.  Coming in a close second might be some side characters such as the fourteen-year-old Devany who actually kind of exhibits a bit more sense than Megan does, even if she DOES make some terrible mistakes--but she's fourteen, so I'm more forgiving.  Also there's the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, Kristin Slater, who makes a brief appearance; and even the mysterious former Ranger, Jack Brook.

But mainly, I liked Sean.  He is pretty much like the ideal older, protective brother.

And for this reason, I'm going to continue on reading the rest of the trilogy since Sean is the main character of the second book.


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


Free Space