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review 2016-11-07 13:00
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...



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-grave-mercy.html
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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-08-31 13:00
Brief, Final Thoughts: Endsinger
Endsinger - Jay Kristoff


by Jay Kristoff
Book 3 (final) of The Lotus War trilogy


**This is the last book in the series.  The summary blurb and review will contain material that gives away pertinent information from previous books.  Continue at your own risk, or skip this review until you've read all books.


The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium.  With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear.  With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers.  But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies.  When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away.  Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes.  Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light.  And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.


I'm finally done.  This last concluding book of The Lotus War trilogy was more enjoyable to read than the previous book, Kinslayer, but not by much.  The dramatics just keep rolling in, and I might have skimmed a lot of the last few chapters.

Anyway, I really don't know what else to say about this book, and this series in general, except that I'm kind of relieved I'm done with the trilogy.

It's not a terrible series, but it really just wasn't for me.  Aside from the hot mess that was Kinslayer, I think the rest of the trilogy really just suffered from being a bit over-hyped.  Yes, it's very creative and imaginative.  Kristoff really is quite creative and imaginative.  His writing is excellent if only he didn't get so carried away with words and details to the point of redundancy.  A lot of this book felt like it was quite unnecessary, which made the book feel long just for the sake of being long.

But overall, it could have been a very enjoyable book, minus all the dramatics.  Though I suppose some people go for that--I'm not one of them.

On a side note, there were probably two characters I really liked in this entire story: Hana and Michi.  But both of these girls kind of get cheated in their endings, so I don't know how to feel about that.

The romance felt over-dramatic and I honestly could have done without.  As I'd stated in my review of Kinslayer, I don't even remember there being any declarations of love or deep feelings and emotions being thrown around from Stormdancer, but a lot of the chaos really DID hinge on the fact that our main characters were feeling betrayed by people they had "loved," so I'm just going to blow over that one and move on.

Finally, I feel like if there were going to be big dramatics and gory deaths and stuff like that, then Kaori shouldn't have gotten such an easy end.  She was just plain spiteful and mean throughout all three books, and NOTHING about her past history associated with the shogunate--none of those little flashbacks you get about Kaori's life before she was forced to join the rebels--made me feel any more sympathetic about her reasons for being hateful and mean.

But she gets her Happily Ever After™ while everyone else suffers their losses.

She wasn't responsible for much of the chaos, but she didn't do anything to help.  She was hateful and mean because she was a spoiled brat who didn't get her way.  Period.

As for our main triangle-not-quite-triangle... I didn't care for it.  Moving along, I didn't care for the relationship between Yukiko and Buruu much either.  Yes, it's kind of cool, but their thoughts and dialogue got mushy to the point of cringe-worthy cheese, because who talks like that?  I've only seen dialogue like that in badly written romances.

On the other hand, Hana's relationship with Kaiah was actually kind of cool.  Because they didn't have as much cheese in their dialogues with each other.  Even Yoshi wasn't so bad either.  But I never understood the significance of all his side tangents and how they contributed to this overly long story.

And while we were on the subject of dialogue:  The dialogue spoken by the characters were hard to follow.  One moment we're sounding like a fantasy, with awkwardly poetic sentences that remind me of badly translated Asian phrases.  The next moment we have more modern colloquial speech with the back and forth bantering between characters.

The quality was extremely jarring and made it hard to focus... or even take all the tragic darkness of the events in this book very seriously.

So, okay, I guess I could think of more to say about this book than I'd thought.

And on that note, we're turning the page and moving on.


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



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/08/brief-final-thoughts-endsinger.html
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review 2016-07-06 14:00
Thoughts: Kalahari
Kalahari - Jessica Khoury


by Jessica Khoury
Book 3 of Corpus



Deep in the Kalahari Desert, a Corpus lab protects a dangerous secret...
But what happens when that secret takes on a life of its own?

When an educational safari goes wrong, five teens find themselves stranded in the Kalahari Desert without a guide.  It’s up to Sarah, the daughter of zoologists, to keep them alive and lead them to safety, calling on survival know-how from years of growing up in remote and exotic locales.  Battling dehydration, starvation and the pangs of first love, she does her best to hold it together, even as their circumstances grow increasingly desperate.

But soon a terrifying encounter makes Sarah question everything she’s ever known about the natural world.  A silver lion, as though made of mercury, makes a vicious, unprovoked attack on the group.  After a narrow escape, they uncover the chilling truth behind the lion’s silver sheen: a highly contagious and deadly virus that threatens to ravage the entire area—and eliminate life as they know it.

In this breathtaking new novel by the acclaimed author of Origin and Vitro, Sarah and the others must not only outrun the virus, but its creators, who will stop at nothing to wipe every trace of it.

I suppose the longer I put off reviewing a book, the less I realize I have to say about it.  Especially since there really wasn't much to say about it to begin with--at least not much more than what I've already written in my pre-review thoughts.

So I guess, in short, Kalahari was an interesting and exciting read once the story got going.  And I might even chance to say that it is the most enjoyable of the three Corpus books--at least in my opinion, it is.

But again, that is after the story got going, and after I chose to let go of how our band of teenagers end up in the life-or-death abandonment problem that they were left in in the first place.  It took a bit of letting go, really, but after the letting go was accomplished and I moved on, the rest of the book wasn't bad.

But to be totally honest, despite the fact that this book is a work of fiction, who thought it was a good idea for the only two adults in this entire situation to run off in pursuit of dangerous poachers, leaving the teenage daughter in charge of five other teenagers?  And taking all the supplies with them?  And taking the only working vehicle with them?  And taking pretty much any possible form of survival with them?

Because, I get that the chances of things going wrong are nil, since everyone was saying that the area is a rather peaceful one.  But things CAN go bad nonetheless.  And agenda or no agenda, passion or no passion, a responsible adult DOES NOT take the only other adult and the only vehicle and run off leaving a bunch of kids to fend for themselves in the middle of nowhere.

Really, the snobby rich kid was kind of a jackass, and kind of annoying, but he got one thing right: Sarah's father was absolutely irresponsible for running off like that when he's got a whole group of kids he was supposed to be watching after.

Ahem... now that I've got that off my chest...

To be totally honest, after that first part, the rest of the book really was quite exciting.  As I'd stated, it reminded me a little of a Michael Crichton novel, if only because we get a group of strangers together and throw them into an environment where things can and DO go wrong, thus pitting them into a life or death journey to find a way out of said life or death journey.  It's just, this book is about a bunch of teenagers (who have way too much dramatics, really), has a lot less death, and the way in which the kids are thrown into danger could have been better handled.

I DO like that, no matter that the rest of the teens were angry with Sarah and her father for what happened, they still conceded that Sarah was the strongest and best suited to get them out of their situation.  So even with all the angry and the emotions and the dramatics being thrown around, they still followed her instructions even if reluctantly.

I also like that they eventually learn to work together, although Sarah was the one who lead them where they needed to go.  I liked that Sam (the love interest) wasn't made out to be the perfect teenage hero--he was there as support and followed Sarah's lead instead.  I liked the constant danger and the survivalist story line.  I even learned to like the rest of the group: Avani, the brainy know-it-all; Joey, the jokester; Miranda, the diva; and Kase, the rich snob.

And I also loved, as per usual with Jessica Khoury, the detail and the descriptions and the setting.

Kalahari isn't the best of books, but it IS written beautifully.  And the kids might have been rather one-dimensional and non-outstanding, but they were an interesting group to follow.  And the ending was quite satisfying even if a bit rushed.

All-in-all, Kalahari was quite the enjoyable read, even though I have the distinct feeling that I maybe am giving it more star rating than it actually deserves (I have half the mind to drop it half a star for lots of reasons).  But that's my prerogative.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square C1 -- Sci Fi

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/07/thoughts-kalahari.html
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review 2016-07-04 02:53
Pre-Review Thoughts: Kalahari
Kalahari - Jessica Khoury


by Jessica Khoury
Book 3 of Corpus


This book reminded me a little of a Michael Crichton book I once read... maybe... but with teenagers and less death.  Kalahari turned out more exciting than I'd expected, based on what my impressions of the first two Corpus books had been, so that's definitely a good thing. 

There are always little things here and there that didn't work for me, but if I sweep those details aside, the book is still engaging as heck.  As I said, I hadn't been expecting it, but much like previous Jessica Khoury books, the story is easy to get into and the action draws you in instantaneously once you get there.

The beginning was a little slow to start, and I definitely had issues with how the author creates the first piece of conflict, but after that, things just rolled right along.

Full review to come.




2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square C1 -- Sci Fi

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/07/pre-review-thoughts-kalahari.html
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review 2016-07-02 02:39
Thoughts: Deep Dark
Deep Dark (Tracers) - Laura Griffin

Deep Dark

by Laura Griffin
Book 10 of Tracers

One of the things I like about Laura Griffin's Tracers series is how readily the world reminds you that the series and the characters are bigger than just the fictional Delphi Center.  The Delphi Center, known in the Tracers world as the best forensic crime scene lab in the nation, is an ever present background factor in Tracers.  But I like that Griffin shows us that all of her books don't depend on the Delphi Center to forward the investigative progress of her stories.

If any of that above makes any sense to anyone, then kudos.  Because I'm not entirely sure what point it was I was trying to make.

Of course, I guess I was just trying to point out that I liked that we get to see a CSI from local law enforcement who is just as intelligent and competent as all the prodigies working at the Delphi Center.  Or something like that.

So my second point in this rambling introductory is to say that:  One of the other things I love about Laura Griffin's Tracers series is how easy it is to get hooked into the action, the suspense, and the entire criminal mystery of it all.  And also how easy it is to like all of our characters.

Deep Dark was readily entertaining, and it was definitely a page-turner once I had time to finally dive into it.  And aside from a few quibbles here and there, and also aside from some conflicted feelings about the romance, I very much enjoyed this book.

The Story in Brief:
Delaney Knox is a white-hat hacker working for the Delphi Center's cyber investigative team.  She's good at what she does, using her skills to help uncover some of the most heinous cyber crimes surfacing with the present-day advancement in technology.  When a woman is murdered, Laney can't help but notice the similarities between this case and her own assault years ago; because of this, she decides to slip the leading detective Reed Novak a few clues to point him in the right direction.

There is a connection to a dating website called Mix.com that Laney is convinced will lead Reed to the killer.  But this link is still a flimsy one until another woman turns up dead in a similar manner, and another previous murder is brought to light, cementing Laney's theory.  However, as she inserts herself into the murder investigation, it doesn't take long to realize that she's just put herself in danger.  Because the murderer is a sophisticated computer tech much like herself, and it's possible he's following and watching her every move.

My Thoughts:
I like the concept of cyber crime investigation.  It sounds pretty damn cool!  That was one of the reasons why I'd been looking forward to reading this latest installment of Laura Griffin's Tracers series.  The only other romantic suspense I've read so far that involved forensic cyber crime investigation was the Black CATs series by Leslie A. Kelly, which highlighted a specific FBI department that investigated violet crimes committed with the aid of advanced computer technology.  Aside from that, some previous Tracers books had touched upon the use of computer technology to solve other crimes, but Deep Dark is the first book in this series to place the focus on cyber crimes committed with the aid of modern computer technology.

The idea of it, if you really think about it, is enough to make anyone paranoid.  To think that there are hackers out there capable of doing the things our serial killer in this book can do might make you want to strengthen those firewalls and change your passwords.  It's a scary thought, you know--to think that a simple application into some social media network would be enough to bring a stalker to your physical door in real life.

As many others have said:  Anything you post on the internet is seen by all an never goes away.

Anyway, Deep Dark, much like the rest of Laura Griffin's books, is highly enjoyable and exciting.  The action starts immediately and the investigative aspect is engaging.  The tone of the book itself feels a bit detached, but I'm not sure if it's just because nothing really stands out outside of the forensic cyber investigation and Laney's personality.

As per usual, the romance feels almost too standard.  Even with Laney's withdrawn, introvert character, she doesn't stray far from the typical feisty heroine of most romantic suspense books.  I love that she's kind of a geek in her own way; but I don't like that she's not immune to the same TSTL moments we love to hate heroines for because we definitely know that she should have known better.  Reed Novak is just the usual hardened, broody, alpha male detective who needs to be in control of everything, especially the woman he's sleeping with.

It bugged me that everything was fine and dandy until the couple's relationship changed.  Then all of a sudden Reed was not okay with Laney helping with the investigation because he decided to turn caveman on her.  But then he'd turn around and consult with her on his investigation anyway, even after pulling her off of it.  The guy was kind of pushy and it made me a little irritated that Laney didn't seem to mind his irrational pushiness and let him get away with it.

But otherwise, Deep Dark was a very entertaining read.  We get to see old characters and new characters, which is always great, because Griffin seems to have picked up a knack for including side characters and making them significant without making their scenes forced.  I like that, and I look forward to whichever character will be the star of their own story next.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Two | Square C1 -- Suspense

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/07/thoughts-deep-dark.html
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