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text 2016-11-29 14:43
Collective Reading Updates for Mortal Heart
Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy Book 3) - Robin LaFevers

Mortal Heart

by Robin LaFevers
Book 3 of His Fair Assassin


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

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

 

 



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

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


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

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

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

 

 



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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

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

[...]

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


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

At least Annith is truly asking all the right questions.

 

 



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

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

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

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

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

 

 



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

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

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

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

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

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

And also, how pretty is that cover?

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/collective-reading-updates-for-mortal.html
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text 2016-11-26 22:20
Ani's Twelve Tasks | The Third: The Holiday Party - Dai Bao


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

 

 

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Our messy dinner table prep station!


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

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

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

 


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

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

 

All wrapped up and ready to be steamed!


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

 

Yum!



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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/anis-twelve-tasks-third-holiday-party.html
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text 2016-11-24 00:58
Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving Freebie!

 

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

 

~~ Thanksgiving Freebie! ~~

~~ Things I Am Thankful For ~~

 

 

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

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

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

 



Ani is Thankful for...

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

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

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

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

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

...food.  I love food!  That is all.

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


Finally, I'm thankful for this little guy!

 

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


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

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

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/top-ten-tuesday-thanksgiving-freebie.html
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text 2016-11-20 15:00
Ani's Twelve Tasks | The Sixth: The Hanukkah - Spin the Dreidel Read


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

I have assigned the following books to each dreidel symbol:


And here is my dreidel spin result:


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


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

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/anis-twelve-tasks-sixth-hanukkah-spin.html
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review 2016-11-19 13:25
Thoughts: All Fall Down
All Fall Down - Julie Coulter Bellon

All Fall Down

by Julie Coulter Bellon
Book 1 of Hostage Negotiation Team


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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

But enough of that.

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

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

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

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

I will definitely find the time to continue this series.


***

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

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/thoughts-all-fall-down.html
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