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review 2016-11-17 14:42
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Dark Triumph
Dark Triumph - Robin LaFevers

Dark Triumph

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

 


**See Also:  Collective Updates for Dark Triumph

 


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

Moving along...

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


What I Liked:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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



What I Didn't Like:

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

 

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

 

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



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

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

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

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

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


***

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

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-dark-triumph.html
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review 2016-11-04 08:47
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

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/rambling-review-ps-i-like-you.html
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review 2016-10-16 13:00
Meandering Thoughts: Crooked Kingdom
Crooked Kingdom: A Sequel to Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom

by Leigh Bardugo
Book 2 (final) of The Dregs

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive.  But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.  Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope.  As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties.  A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.



So I really, honestly have no idea what to say about this book.  I could post another set of .gifs announcing how much fun I had reading this book.  I could post a poster declaring the book hangover that hit me.

But I've already done that when I sort of squee'd about the first book in this series.

The thing is, though, that Crooked Kingdom was everything I wanted it to be... but at the same time NOT QUITE everything I wanted it to be.  If that even makes any sense.

I loved this book and I loved this duology as a whole.  But if I had to be honest with myself, there certainly were some things in this conclusion that I didn't really like, as I figured there would be.  Authors can't please everyone, right?  And while certain events were pretty awesome, others, I felt either dragged a little or broke my heart.

One thing is definitely for sure, though:  I would definitely recommend this duology over The Grisha trilogy that was Leigh Bardugo's debut YA fantasy series.  In comparison, overall, this one had a more thought-provoking story line, deeper and darker characters, with the same awesomely witty quips and humor that had been peppered throughout The Grisha trilogy.  Bardugo is an excellent writer with excellent ideas and a knack for bringing her characters to life.

And you'd think that it would be hard to handle so many characters, but all six of our heroes (or non-heroes, whatever you want to call them), were managed wonderfully.  Crooked Kingdom brings forth much more of the meat of all our characters' histories while progressing them forward in present day.

While Kaz, Inej, Matthias, and Nina were the forefront in the first book, this time around we get to see much more of Wylan and Jesper.  I'm happy to get to find out more about these two boys who kind of sat in the background in the first book.  And I overall loved what our author did for all six of these characters... well, except for one little snafu at the end of which I'm still not certain about how I feel (no spoilers), because it was unexpected and almost felt a little forced.

Side tangent--there was one thing I noted a few times that stood out for me:  At least three different instances, one character or another made mention of the fact that our six-person crew were no more than young teenagers--kids.  Jesper's father is even brought into the mix, which really DOES emphasize the fact that Kaz and company are really all just kids.

It made me wonder if Bardugo had included those instances on purpose for reasons.  Because when I really think about it, sometimes while reading about the extraordinary things that these characters do throughout the book, you DO sometimes forget that they're really just a group of teenagers who have all been dropped into their hard times, and had to learn how to survive on their own.

As was also brought up in the book, these kids didn't really have anyone to protect them, or to run home to if or when things got too bad.

Just a thought, really.

Anyway, Crooked Kingdom is a pretty well-rounded conclusion to The Dregs duology.  On a personal level, I absolutely loved it.  But that doesn't mean that there weren't a few things in the book that didn't work for me.  I could readily ignore said issues, but I really couldn't bring myself to do as such.  So overall, while Crooked Kingdom was pretty awesome, I think I still preferred Six of Crows more... especially after you realize that Kaz is really a super-powered, all-knowing God in this one--that was a little harder to follow.

As a series, The Dregs, I feel, is definitely a step up from The Grisha trilogy.


***

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

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/10/meandering-thoughts-crooked-kingdom.html
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review 2016-10-06 21:31
Tek: The Modern Cave Boy
Tek: The Modern Cave Boy - Patrick McDonnell

 

5 Stars, Buy it.



The kindle version of this is a little weird, it has outlines on the pages and looks like you are reading it on your phone because there is a battery and wi fi signal on it. Anyway, this is a cute story about a little guy named tek who is completely hooked on gadgets. Once tek gets away from his gadgets, the weird outlines disapear and everything looks normal.  Such a totally and sweet adorable book. Of course it’s written by Patrick Mcdonnell, so it’s no surprise it’s incredibly juicy and sweet. Highly recommend. My only complaint is that it’s too short.

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text 2016-10-01 19:40
Lumberjanes #26
Lumberjanes #26 - Ayme Sotuyo,Leyh Kat,Shannon Watters 5 Stars Buy it Jen and the girls go after Rosie with some magical kittens and of course the typical mayhem occurs. I still can’t get enough of this series. The characters are awesome, the writing is awesome. The art is sometimes great sometimes average but still the series is the best. Amazon description: With Rosie and the High Council being stolen away, Jen suddenly finds herself in charge of the camp! Characters for my reference April- Short red head girl Jen- dark skinned camp counselor Jo- tall kid Mal: Dark haired girl with half shaved head Molly: Blond haired girl Ripley: Short brunet with headband around her head and blue streak in hair Rosie- head of camp. Constantly calls Jen Jane. Very cool. Diane- girl from another cabin at the camp, black hair Apparently the sister of Jo. Bubbles- Molly’s raccoon hat who happens to be a live raccoon Barney- Boy from boys camp that they run into a lot
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