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review 2019-10-13 23:18
Some Thoughts: Firelight
Firelight - Kristen Callihan


by Kristen Callihan
Book 1 of Darkest London



Once the flames are ignited . . .

Miranda Ellis is a woman tormented.  Plagued since birth by a strange and powerful gift, she has spent her entire life struggling to control her exceptional abilities.  Yet one innocent but irreversible mistake has left her family's fortune decimated and forced her to wed London's most nefarious nobleman.

They will burn for eternity . . .

Lord Benjamin Archer is no ordinary man.  Doomed to hide his disfigured face behind masks, Archer knows it's selfish to take Miranda as his bride.  Yet he can't help being drawn to the flame-haired beauty whose touch sparks a passion he hasn't felt in a lifetime.  When Archer is accused of a series of gruesome murders, he gives in to the beastly nature he has fought so hard to hide from the world. But the curse that haunts him cannot be denied.  Now, to save his soul, Miranda will enter a world of dark magic and darker intrigue.  For only she can see the man hiding behind the mask.

Hmm... so going by what I recall of the prologue novella of this series, detailing some of the scattered tangents between Miranda and Archer before Firelight's story line...  I'm not certain this book really came off the way I'd been expecting it to.  I guess I'd been expecting something maybe a bit darker, maybe a bit more paranormal... maybe some more explosive fiery goodness...

Firelight is most definitely more romance than it is anything else.  There was an appropriate look into Archer's dark thoughts and Miranda's own misgivings.  There was a murder mystery.  There was even the typical society happenings.

I guess what I'd hoped to see was more of Miranda exploring her dark secret--her ability to summon and control fire.  And maybe I would have liked for Archer's dark secret to not have been dragged out for quite so long, only to be stuffed with a lot of sweet nothings spoken between Miranda and Archer about how much they love each other despite their secrets... BEFORE they even knew each other's secrets.

So yes, as a romance, this wasn't a terrible one if you can overlook some of the insta-lust, the insta-love, the over-intense possessiveness between our main characters, as well as their inability to think past their libidos for a good percentage of the book.  Also, even for the fact that, having read Ember, you KNOW that Miranda is not a young virgin, she certainly does act like one and I found myself wondering if the story was being rewritten or something.

Meanwhile, for that entire first half of the book, I'm not entirely sure I really understood what was actually going on in the romance between Miranda and Archer.  Their relationship came off kind of standard and boring, to be honest.  And it isn't until halfway into the book, when Miranda stops being meek, that their relationship starts feeling more sure-footed.

On that note, the excitement DOES start about halfway into the book at that same time that Miranda stops being meek, with more exploration of the murder mystery, the secrets pertaining to the West Moon Club and Archer's past, and then Miranda even starts taking charge of herself by hopping into the investigation.  This then eventually leads to Miranda's powers of fire manipulation making more of a show.  Because for the first half of the book, I'd wondered if we were going to capitalize on one of the biggest plot devices of this book at all when Miranda's powers are only ever mentioned in passing by her and her sisters.

But at that point in the story line, I think everything starts getting interesting.

There's a great premise in this book, as well as in this series, and by the end of the book, we've been introduced to the next book's main hero, who is obviously a werewolf, what with his references to the moon, and emphasis on his super strength and fast healing abilities.  I'm not entirely sure that our author was all that subtle about that, and I sort of wished she had been, because those mentions all seemed kind of forced.

Anyway, despite the slowness of the book's beginning, I rather enjoyed the book.  Save a fix for the pacing of the conflict, I think this could have been a great book, and I'm curious enough about the rest of the Darkest London world to continue on.



Halloween Bingo 2019



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/some-thoughts-firelight.html
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text 2019-10-13 08:35
New York Weekend!

As promised, a quick run down "photo journal" of our family vacation in New York!  Above is the checklist I created for myself leading up to the vacation weekend, which was actually quite helpful... and pretty to look at with all the colors!  I had fun just planning what to pack and finding things to do and places to eat in New York.


We flew into New York on Friday morning, with a connection flight through Dallas, landing at the La Guardia airport around 4:30 P.M. eastern time.  Along the way, we met up with the rest of the family--my eldest brother and his wife in Dallas, Texas; my youngest brother from Kansas City, Kansas.  The hotel we stayed at was the Sheraton, located right dab smack in the middle of Flushing Chinatown, which was super nice, because that meant we would run into shops and restaurants everywhere, right outside of the hotel.

And now, I didn't think to take a photo of the hotel, but it was pretty nice.  My parents, my youngest brother, and I stayed in a connecting set of rooms, one of which was a suite and the other was a regular hotel room.  For convenience sake, we decided to keep the connecting doors propped open, and the four of us just hung out in the living room each night and each morning.  It was kind of nice, and it was kind of like having a small apartment.

Meanwhile, my elder brother and his wife, and my other younger brother and his wife, stayed in another set of connecting rooms similar to the ones we stayed in, but on the floor above ours.  Because they seemed to want more privacy, they DID NOT keep their connecting doors open.

Anyway, on our first evening in New York, we spent walking around Flushing Chinatown.  Our first stop was the New World Mall Food Court for dinner.


This is by far the largest food court I'd ever seen, and according to my brother, one of the largest Asian cuisine food courts in New York.  Basically, all the food shops were lined along the entire perimeter of the lower level of the mall, with a lot of rectangular tables scattered in the middle of the room.  There were a lot of dumpling shops, a couple Japanese places, some Korean places, and some Taiwanese places.

We ended up all buying a few things from different shops and attempting to meet back at a table.  The idea had been to share what we got so we could all try different foods from different places.  But because of how crowded the place was, it took a long time before we could find a spot to accommodate all eight of us.  By then, my youngest brother had already inhaled his bowl of udon noodles, and didn't care to try what everyone else got.

We really didn't even find a spot, and eventually just nudged away others who were sitting near the spot we decided to congregate at--stealing chairs, squeezing into the table... etc....

I bought a thing of jumbo takoyaki (octopus balls), and some fried beef buns from a shop in which I couldn't figure out how to read all the Chinese characters.  Unfortunately, no photos either... I liked my food too much and ended up eating all of it before even thinking about pictures.  Of course, apparently no one else was interested in my fried beef buns or my octopus balls...

After this brief dinner, we headed out into Chinatown to wander around and walk off all the food.  Below is a photo I took of a roast duck and roast meats restaurant, which is most definitely a staple of almost all Chinatowns I've ever been to.  Mmm... yummy hanging roast duck...


If you've ever been to any of the Chinatowns in America, you'll notice something standard, and I don't mean the abundance of Asian people wandering around.

Every Chinatown I've ever been to on all of my previous trips have always been a bit rundown looking.  There are crowds everywhere, and there's a feeling of old buildings, and old-fashioned business fronts.  A lot of the shops don't even take credit card, preferring to take cash only.  A lot of the menus are hand-written.  A lot of the restaurants seem a little less than cleanly polished.  It's a very cozy, homey feel, and despite sometimes finding them a bit messy, a bit dirty, or a bit chaotic, I also find them very familiar as my parents have always taken us to the Chinatown areas in each city we'd vacation in, if there was one.

Flushing Chinatown is no different, and there is definitely a lot of crowding.  And while all the shops are unique on their own, to be honest, if you've been to one Chinatown, you pretty much get an idea of what all the other Chinatowns in America will look like.

But one thing is for certain, there is no lack of restaurants for seafood, spicy foods, dim sum, and bakeries.



We ended our first evening by stopping at a dessert place that served a lot of ice cream stuff.  The top photo is my baby brother's egg waffle cone and ice cream with mango, caramel and whip cream topping.  The bottom photo is my vanilla ice cream topped with lychee, and while you can't really see it, there's also a mix of tapioca and lychee flavored jelly cubes mixed into the ice cream.

All was yum.  I took four Lactaid to help soften the impact I knew eating ice cream was going to make.  Fortunately, this was our last stop before walking back to the hotel, so at least if I was going to have a bad digestion night, I'd be in the hotel by then.

On a side note, the Sheraton hotel we stayed at had a lot of Chinese channels, which made my dad very happy.  He spent the rest of the night watching some Chinese news before going to sleep.

The next morning we headed out to Manhattan for some more exploring, starting in Times Square!


My parents were quite excited about riding the Metro in New York for the first time, so wanted a photo to document this moment.  Aren't they cute?  The two dudes to the side are my older brother and youngest brother.



I live in a very flat city, so sky scrapers are still an awe-inspiring sight for me.  The above is the building where the New Year's ball drop takes place.  If you look all the way up top, you'll see the 2019 ball.  My brother took a better picture, but I couldn't coax it out of him in time to publish this post.  He'll probably send it to me after this post goes up.  I may or may not update.



Meanwhile, my sister-in-law (a fellow Friends fan), told me that there was a Friends 25th anniversary thing going on the same weekend we were in New York.  Unfortunately, she said that by the time she'd realized it, tickets were already sold out, so here's a photo to commemorate the Friends event I couldn't really go see.  Darn...


On the other hand, we did go into a lot of other shops, including a place call 'Line Friends' which housed a lot of BT21 goods, including loads of stationery.  Being a stationery nut, I was like a kid in a candy store.  So here I am, posing next to one of the BT21 characters holding my stationery haul.

Anyone not familiar with BT21--they are a set of cutesy anime characters drawn by the Korean boy band, BTS, and ended up becoming a pretty big hit.  Of course, I didn't even really know about them until I saw a random YouTube video about trendy, fun stationery that involved the BT21 stationery.

And so here is my stationery haul, which includes a lot of sticky notes, some washi tapes, and a pencil baggy.  (I also included in this picture some washi tapes and small sticky slips that I'd bought from a different store, just because I'd promised my BFF that I'd send her a picture of all the stationery I bought in New York.)

We also walked into a Disney Store where I bought a notebook as a souvenir for my friend.  We ended up having to go to a Gap for my mom, whose nose and ears were getting so cold we bought her a warm wool hat.  New York was pretty chilly during this weekend, and even in spite of all the walking we did (we all clocked an average of 20,000 steps Saturday and Sunday each), it was still pretty cold.

Our next stop was the Rockefeller Plaza where we got some lunch of Chinese pork burgers to go, wandered into a Nintendo Store, then went up to The Top of the Rock.



Isn't that a nice view?


I bought some magnets, a couple key chains, and, of course, a metal bookmark from the gift shop.

By now I've already clocked over 10,000 steps and it was only a little after noon.  But there would be even more walking ahead of our little group.  My elder brother said something about not realizing we'd be done at The Top of the Rock so early, so then we had to improvise and find other things to do.

So we ended up walking until we got to Central Park.



Before entering the park, we came across these statues of horses.  At least at first I thought they were three different horses, but as we got closer, I wasn't entirely sure what this was and I didn't notice a plaque or anything explaining the work.  Strange looking, interesting, and the second pic, I didn't get a good one, but it kind of shows the horse's innards.


We walked along the trail of Central Park and followed it all the way to the fountain above.  Along the way, there were hot dog stands, pretty much every few feet, and around every corner.  I ended up buying a bag of honey roasted cashews... just because, even though the price of that two ounce bag of nuts could have gotten me a whole can at Wal-mart.

But whatevs... vacation.

Again, a lot of crowd, a lot of people... and apparently Central Park is a hot spot for wedding photography, because, by my count, there were at least six couples, their bridal parties, and photographers wandering and posing around the fountain.

And then there was also a guy singing the same song on repeat off to the side.

After making it to this part of the park, we were all pretty pooped and ready to head back.  I hadn't realized how close to evening it was until my brother mentioned that we would head back to Flushing, rest up and then get ready for dinner.  It was nearing five in the evening by then and would take about forty-five minutes to take the Metro back to Flushing.


Dinner that night was a place called 99 Favors, which is a hot pot and Korean BBQ restaurant.  Food was great, but the problem with all-you-can-eat places like this is that you really DO take the all-you-can-eat too literally.  I might have over stuffed myself with more meat than I needed.

But you can't go to a Chinatown without trying their hot pot restaurants.  Anyone who isn't familiar with hot pot or Korean BBQ...  The concept is pretty much an experience-based deal, where you cook your own food at your table.  With hot pot, they give you flavored soup broth in a pot at your table where you can dunk your raw meats or veggies into and boil until cooked, then eat.  Korean BBQ is the same concept, except it's mostly meats, and you grill your food.

It's just a lot of fun.  The pot of red broth in the photo above under the plate of raw beef, is my kimchi broth, which was both yummy and pretty spicy, and I liked it a lot!

The rest of the night was spent lamenting the fact that I ate too much food and had a hard time sleeping.  Meanwhile, my father had somehow bought a bag of Cheez Doodles at some point the night before... and even though I was full, I couldn't resist eating a few doodles...

Sunday morning saw us heading out to Manhattan again, this time with no actual destination in mind.  But first, we wandered to a nice dim sum place in Flushing for breakfast, stopping at a place called Joe's Steam Rice Rolls.  These are basically really thin crepe-like rice flower rolls with different meats and toppings wrapped inside, such as BBQ pork, shrimp, curry fish balls, or beef or pork.

After breakfast, we hopped on the Metro again and ended up going to visit the 9/11 Memorial first thing.  Along the way, I finally learned how to figure out the subway lines and trains, and which train lead to where, how to figure out which stop you were getting off on, and such.  Google maps had a lot to do with my new found understanding.


In place of the original World Trade twin towers are now two pools, lined with plaques with the names of all the victims lost during the tragedy.  Between the pools is the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which we didn't get a chance to go into.


One of the signs next to the pool notes that a rose is placed under the person's name on the day of their birth date.  I thought that was a nice touch as a memorial.


One World Trade Center

We sort of just spent some time sitting around the memorial and reflecting and just hanging out.


I couldn't help buying another bookmark, along with a set of mini magnets.  At the same time, I went ahead and made a donation to the memorial.

After leaving the 9/11 Memorial, we just started wandering with no real destination.  Sunday never really had an itinerary, and we soon found ourselves in a lot of random places around Manhattan.


We stopped for lunch at Joe's Pizza.  I believe this is a Sicilian with spinach.  It was pretty good.  But huge!


And I took a random picture of a pigeon art... just because.


This is a statue of General Sun Yat Sen in a small park that looks like a playground for senior citizens.  There were tables scattered about with chess boards etched into them where a lot of the grandpas and grandmas were either playing chess or playing poker.  Another group were hanging around listening to some music and dancing some old fashioned Chinese dances.  Another group brought their own karaoke set and were singing with each other.

After this, we wandered into the Manhattan Chinatown.  Fun fact:  There are three major Chinatown areas in New York--one in Queens (Flushing Chinatown), one in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn.  We have yet to visit the Brooklyn Chinatown.  Flushing is a mostly Chinese culture Chinatown.  Manhattan is dominated by the Cantonese.  It was kind of nice to walk into a sweet shop in the Manhattan Chinatown and actually understand what someone was saying to me.

Not that I don't understand Mandarin Chinese, but my main language is Cantonese (next to English, of course).  So while I always responded to the people in Flushing in English, I happily responded to the shopkeepers in Manhattan in Cantonese and bought some sweets.

We soon ended up in Little Italy, and so my sister-in-law could use the restroom, we stopped in at Caffe Palermo and ordered some sweets.



I ordered some bombolinis, which just seemed like filled doughnuts--two were regular vanilla cream, the other two are hazelnut chocolate cream.  They were pretty good.


My brother ordered a lobster tail pastry, which seemed to be crispy puff pastry-like with a ricotta cheese filling.

We also ordered a cannoli and a creme brulee... which got eaten too quickly for photos.  Sorry guys.

More wandering later, we decided to head back to Flushing, but ended up stopping off at Grand Central Station on the way.



The ceiling of Grand Central Station


Outside of the station, we found that there was a parade going on right in front of the New York Public Library.  It took a while for me to realize that this was a parade celebrating the Polish community in New Jersey.


Unfortunately, as interesting as the parade was, the streets were blocked off, which meant that we couldn't get into the library without going around somehow.  So I contented myself with taking a picture from the outside.  Ah well...  This just means I'll have to come back to New York another time just to see their library... and maybe eat more food, because there were a lot of little food places in Chinatown I didn't get to try yet.

And speaking of food... are you guys ready for this?


We went to a Cantonese seafood restaurant after getting back to Flushing.  Seafood soup started the dinner off.


Abalone and Sea Cucumber

One of my personal favorite seafood dishes is abalone, and add onto that sea cucumber and I'm a very happy person.  It was just unfortunate that this dish was a bit skimpy on the abalone.  But it was still good.


Ginger Scallion Lobster

Ginger Scallion Lobster is one of the most standard Cantonese seafood delicacies.  My coworker told me she felt the need to eat my phone when I showed her the picture.  Isn't it pretty?  =D


Peking Duck

Peking Duck is something I've only ever had one other time previously in Toronto... where, to be honest, I remember it being much better.  The roast duck here was good, but it could have been roasted a bit crispier, and, in fact, should be crispier for Peking Duck.

Peking Duck is a pretty popular Chinese dish where the duck is roasted to a crisp, then sliced into very thin pieces.  You then eat it with either steamed buns, or in the case of traditionalists, a thinner crepe-like bun, adding some hoisin (seafood) sauce to it, and eating it like a little roast duck slider sandwich.  In fact, the traditional way of eating Peking Duck has the the wait staff actually slicing the duck into thin pieces right at your table so you can see, hear, and smell how good and crispy it is.


Singapore Stir Fried Rice Noodles

My mom actually makes this dish regularly at home, so we wanted to try it here at this restaurant, and the truth is, I wasn't all that impressed.  Mom's is definitely better.


Red Bean Sweet Soup

If you will recall, I wrote a post for the 24 Festive Tasks last year talking about a lot of different sweet soups, which are an Asian cultural dessert.  More than anything, sweet soups are an inclusion at a lot of Cantonese restaurants, and I've been to several where you always order a sweet soup to conclude your meal with... and if you didn't, they'd bring you a sweet soup, free of charge anyway.

It's kind of like how some Chinese restaurants bring you a fortune cookie to go with your bill... but this is better.  You get a small bowl of sweet soup, because the Chinese believe that it's important to have a balanced set of flavors.  So after all of those savory dishes, a sweet soup and some fruit (yes, they brought us watermelon slices, too!) is a great way to end dinner.

I don't particularly like Red Bean Sweet Soup myself, but I also don't say no to free food unless I absolutely don't want to eat it.

So that was New York, the first family vacation we've had in a long time since everyone started working and moving away from home.  My parents always took us on little trips each summer when my brothers and I were just kids, still in school, and those are always memorable.  We even talked about it one night at the hotel while playing Tetris on one of my brothers' Nintendo Switches.

So I felt like we made a pretty good run of New York for just a short weekend trip, and the truth is, I feel like we could have used an extra day or two.  My mom had wanted to go to the Queens Botanical Gardens, and I wanted to visit Flushing Meadows, specifically the site of the two Worlds' Fairs that had taken place their.  There were also a couple museums that I would have liked to see.

And then maybe in the future, when we get a chance to visit New York again, I'd also like to see a Broadway show.

But for now, I think we managed to get a lot done in just one weekend.

On a side note, I don't fly well and have really bad motion sickness; I also never truly sleep well during vacations.  I'm still catching up on sleep and tired as heck.  I always find it interesting how you sometimes need a stay-cation at home to recover from a vacation away from home.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this insanely long post!



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/new-york-weekend.html
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text 2019-10-10 01:26
Monthly Wrap Up -- September 2019

September seemed to come and go quite quickly, and now October is already into its second week.  As far as reading goes, I made decent progress for Halloween Bingo 2019, but at the rate that I'm going, it doesn't look like I'm likely to get a reading blackout by the end of the game's two-month duration.  Of course, that probably won't stop me from continuing forward just to finish reading all the books I'd like to read for Halloween Bingo.

In other news, I've been offline all weekend because my family and I just got back from a nice family vacation in New York!  It's been a long time since the entire family (my parents, my brothers, and I) have gone on an actual vacation together.  Visiting my elder brother in Texas, or my younger brother in Kansas City doesn't really count.

It wasn't a very long vacation and was really just the weekend, starting Friday and ending on Monday, but I feel like we still got a lot of things done, visiting Flushing Chinatown, Times Square, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, and generally just spending a lot of time walking around Manhattan and Flushing.  I even sort of learned how the Metro works, though it was a bit confusing at first.

Anyway, I'm planning a bit of a photo-journal-esque post to go up over the weekend.  I've been too tired from the vacation activities to really want to do anything but lay around, read, and be a vegetable.  So while I DID finish two books this weekend, I've written no reviews, and it took a while before I was even able to motivate myself to get back to blogging.

Hopefully, I'll get back into my normal rhythm soon, as I have two reviews that need to be written, a Halloween Bingo update post I want to get published, and one written review that needs to be edited and posted.  I also have a lot of clean-up to do, and have so far only gotten as far as doing my laundry.

Meanwhile, here are a few teaser photos, just in case I don't get around to my New York post this weekend.


Times Square


The View from The Top of the Rock


9/11 Memorial


99 Favors Hot Pot and Korean BBQ Restaurant


Brown Sugar Boba Milk Tea with Cocoa

Meanwhile, the pups also had a long weekend, having to be boarded at their respective pet hotels.  We got back into town nearing midnight, and so picked them up early the next morning.  After they both got a bath, Baby and Bear just kind of pooped out and had their nap time.


As much as I loved the vacation, it feels very good to be home.  The doggies seem to feel the same way as well!



September Reads




Books Dropped/Put On Hold


On Hold until after Halloween Bingo.



Currently Reading




September Reading Stats


Total works read:  9

  • 8 print/e-book novels
  • 1 audio book

Average rating: 3.56 Stars


  • Highest Rated:  4 books // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
    • (2) Ice by Linda Howard
    • (3) Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
    • (4) Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
  • Lowest Rated:  3 books // 3.0 Stars
    • (1) The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
    • (2) Mercy Strange by Alisa Woods
    • (3) Firelight by Kristen Callihan


Series I started reading:

  • The Epic Crush of Genie Low by F.C. Yee
  • Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
  • Darkest London by Kristen Callihan


Series I completed:

  • None


Series I have made progress on:

  • Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • InCryptid by Seanan McGuire
  • Legal Magick by Alisa Woods


Favorite reads:  So I had a lot of 4.0 Star books in September, which makes me really happy.  Each one of those books were wonderful, and of the four I listed above, I'd say that my favorite was Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James.

Disappointing reads:  My lowest rating was 3.0 Stars, which doesn't really mean anything since that's still an okay rating in my book.  I still liked the books I read and listed as my lowest rated books.  So if I had to choose one that kind of disappointed me, it would probably be Alisa Wood's book, Mercy Strange, simply based on how much I've liked all of her books so far as guilty pleasures.  Mercy Strange just didn't do it for me.



Reviews & Notable Posts


Reviews Written



  • Did not meme this month!


Other Posts



Coming Up In October

Tentative TBR




Other Stuff

So my Halloween Bingo plans definitely changed, and some of the above books I'm tentatively wanting to read for the game.  Each of these books has a spot I can place them in, I hope, but if not, I've still got one more Transfiguration Spell in my hands.  But since I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to get a reading blackout anyway, I'm not too concerned.

As stated above, I've got some posts I'm prepping for post, hopefully throughout this week and the weekend.  I'm still on a vacation hangover, so the chances that all of my blogging plans will be dashed is very high.  It's possible I'll just keep reading and then do one big long update at the end of the month.  That's my mood right now, truth be told.



2019 Wrap-Ups 


Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017 / 2018)
See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

(updated as year progresses by month)
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/monthly-wrap-up-september-2019.html
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review 2019-10-02 05:51
Thoughts: Truly Devious
Truly Devious - Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious

by Maureen Johnson
Book 1 of Truly Devious



Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists.  It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens.  "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped.  The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious.  It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case.  That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester.  But something strange is happening.  Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy.  The past has crawled out of its grave.  Someone has gotten away with murder.

If I wanted to be honest, it was hard not to compare stories and characters between Truly Devious and The Name of the Star.  Both books involve a young girl starting at a new boarding school.  And both books involve each respective girl's acclimation to this new school, making new friends, learning the culture of the new school, going through classes, and so on.  And of course, both books involve a murder mystery... both of which take a long time to build up to.

And if I really wanted to be honest, I think I found The Name of the Star a bit more enjoyable than Truly Devious.  Don't get me wrong, I liked Stevie enough, but there were times I had a hard time keeping up with her train of thought, as well as understanding her actions.  I took Stevie to be a rather intelligent kid, even if a little unique and different.  So the fact that she keeps getting taken in by Hayes seemed a bit out of character.  The fact that she makes a few questionable decisions during her time at Ellingham Academy seemed forced.

I DID like seeing that Stevie was a rather socially awkward type of person though.  It was a nice touch to her unique personality--her enjoyment of spending time studying crimes instead of going out and being the traditionally stereotyped teenage girl her parents want so badly for her to be.  The conflict between Stevie and her parents brought a rather enlightening addition to Stevie's depth as a character, even if it was also a bit difficult to follow for the purposes of this story.

I want to say that Truly Devious spends a lot of time setting up the world and the series and the story, and while it was also punctuated by tidbits of the Ellingham cold case mystery, it still felt like a whole lot of nothing but mundane happenings took place for the first half of the book.  This was rather a similar set up to The Name of the Star as the excitement didn't truly start until a good percentage into the book.

The difference was that I absolutely loved Rory's voice in The Name of the Star, where she was quirky, fun, and my kind of dry sarcasm, with a hint of normal, everyday girl.  In contrast, Stevie's character seemed to be trying too hard to stand out, and her quirkiness, while cute at times, seemed less endearing and more... well, boring, to say the least.  I didn't have as much fun following Stevie's POV, and I also wished there'd been more fun character interactions.

The only other character I actually liked in this book was Nate, if only because even though he was sullen for most of the book, it came off in a strangely endearing kind of sullen.  Which is strange, because there were moments where I wanted him to just get over himself and participate in life with everyone else.  And then when he DID have brief moments of interactions with Stevie, it was extremely enjoyable.  Too bad it seems like Stevie's love interest is someone else...

As far as mysteries go, the Ellingham cold case is an interesting premise to study, although little hints here and there are leading me to wonder just how many underlying secrets are involved in the entire affair.

As far as the present-day murder mystery, while I didn't really know who the culprit was, I also wasn't surprised at the end about the reveal.  Unfortunately, I also had a hard time following Stevie's logic or deductions, so it took me a while to figure out where she was going with all of her questions and her discoveries.

Finally, the book leaves a lot of loose tangents unresolved, and even the main conflicts remain somewhat open-ended.  But with the ongoing Ellingham mystery still unsolved, I'm absolutely going to continue reading the rest of the series.  I'm just also hoping for some more excitement, or maybe some more character interactions that don't seem steeped in tension, secrets, or evasions.

Otherwise, this book was entertaining enough.



Halloween Bingo 2019



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/thoughts-truly-devious.html
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text 2019-10-02 05:26
Halloween Bingo 2019 | Update #3 and Mid-game Book Rambles


Halloween Bingo 2019

This post will be both, an update of my stats and progress, as well as a collection with some ramblings of all the books I've read for Halloween Bingo 2019 thus far.  In other words, this will be a fairly long post to mark the mid-game point of Halloween Bingo.

At this time in the game, I've so far finished nine books, which is a little less than half of the books I need to read before the game is finished.  I'm currently reading The Visitor by Amanda Stevens for the Grave or Graveyard square, and Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier for In the Dark, Dark Woods.  Both books are quite long, so I may or may not be finishing these two books anytime soon.  There is also always the possibility of starting a new book...

And also, I just realized that I'd somehow inserted the wrong bingo card as my unmarked card above, so this will be rectified starting today...  I'll go back and change earlier update posts when I get a chance.  This is what happens when you get lazy and simply do a lot of copying and pasting from old posts to new posts.  I had gone back to last year's Halloween Bingo updates and did a copy and paste and apparently forgot to swap out for my 2019 card.

Ah well...

Meanwhile, I'm going to try my best to blackout my card, because it IS possible for me to read sixteen books in a month, but at my current pacing, I'm not sure that'll happen.  My other option may be to pick up a couple short stories, though short stories have never truly been my thing.  We'll play by ear, because I'm not entirely too concerned with getting a blacked out card, if I want to be honest with myself.



Updated Marked Card:


Read: Red-Eyes Penni
Called: Green Square Outline



Currently Reading:




Up Next:





Books Read and Unallocated:




Book Ramblings:


The Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I can't say that I enjoyed this Sherlock Holmes story as much as I've enjoyed the very few others I've listened to previously.  There wasn't much of a plot twist to the mystery, and dare I say, the story itself was a bit flat.

But there was a romance for Dr. Watson that irritated Sherlock, so that was something to giggle about.  As with other classics, I don't really know how to review this save for the few sentences above, so I'm just going to leave it at that.



The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #1
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I was delighted to find this book while searching for something to read for Diverse Voices.  I don't know why I was so resistant to use a book by, say, Sherry Thomas, but I wanted to read something diverse written by someone diverse, and unfortunately, while Sherry Thomas is Chinese, she writes rather mainstream historical romances set in England.  So even her Lady Sherlock series, a historical mystery, was something I was hesitant to pick up.

A book written by an Asian author based on a well-known, beloved Chinese legend was like dangling a carrot in my face.  Journey to the West and anything Monkey King is such a widely known story in Asian culture, as well as something I grew up with, so I just couldn't resist the temptation.  While it wasn't everything I had hoped and dreamed for, it was still entertaining.  And you also get a very millennial-ish retelling of Journey to the West in the protagonist Genie Lo's voice, contained within two pages--quite intriguing if you don't already know the tale.

See my review:
Long Rambling Thoughts: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo



Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer
Rating: 4.0 Stars

My original intention was going to be to read Behold, Here's Poison by this same author, which is why I read Death in the Stocks before the start of Halloween Bingo.  But then Footsteps in the Dark became available via library hold, and I found that it was a book in the Country House Mystery reading list, and the premise sounded much more interesting, what with a haunted house and all.

I'm not certain that this book felt like a Country House Mystery when all was said and done, but I'm not entirely an expert on mystery, so I'm simply going by the fact that it was on the list.  I mean, well the book DOES take place at a country house... it just isn't really a closed circle mystery, truth be told.

I will willingly read Behold, Here's Poison, though if this is the case.

See my review:
Quick Thoughts: Footsteps in the Dark



Half-Off Ragnarok by Seanan McGuire
InCryptid #3
Rating:  4.0 Stars

I'd been meaning to get back to the InCryptid world, and I figured that Halloween Bingo was a great reason to do so.  It absolutely fits perfectly into the Monsters square, so there we have it.

This book wasn't as squee-worthy as the first two books, but I loved it nonetheless.

See my review:
Thoughts: Half-Off Ragnarok



Ice by Linda Howard
Rating:  4.0 Stars

Ice storm--check.  Nighttime danger and suspense--check.  I'm so happy I found this book, because this square was going to get Transfigured otherwise.  I now have a bit more free room to use my Transfiguration cards as needed.

What can I say?  Linda Howard is a go to author for some of my random Romantic Suspense needs.  I enjoy some of her books, and I find some of them kind of bleh.  This one was actually quite entertaining and suspenseful, so there is that.

See my review:
Fairly Brief Thoughts: Ice



Mercy Strange by Alisa Woods
Legal Magick #2
Rating:  3.0 Stars

I was originally going to read Sourcery by Terry Pratchett for this square, but on a whim I decided to read the next Legal Magick installation instead, since I DID very much enjoy the first book in the trilogy.  I'm a little conflicted as to whether or not this was ultimately a good idea, because while the book was entertaining and easy to read, I didn't find it as enjoyable as I'd been hoping, which was disappointing.

Last year, I'd read Alisa Woods' River Pack Wolves trilogy and loved it as a guilty pleasure.  The books weren't all that great, but they were so much fun and enjoyable that I loved them despite all the many glaring flaws and writing quibbles.  The same could be said about Ever Strange, the first book in this series.

Unfortunately, somehow I couldn't really overlook the flaws in Mercy Strange, and while I breezed through the book and found it agreeable enough, a nagging sense in the back of my head kept telling me that this book was way too juvenile for the content matter and the target audience... as well as the characters.  Mercy Strange is supposed to be some sort of genetics expert... but she often comes off acting like a teenager, which ended up making it really hard for me to take her seriously.  And the love interest, Swift was kind of stereotypical and one-dimensional.

But whatever, I will be reading the last book, and maybe I'll like it, maybe I won't.

It was still entertaining.  I'm probably not going to officially review this book by itself, so the last two paragraphs will probably be it.



Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
Rating:  4.0 Stars

Another great historical ghost mystery by Simone St. James--a great haunted house mystery with a lot of unexpected twists.  While things might have gotten a bit chaotic as the story progressed, I still very much enjoyed this one a lot.

See my review:
Brief Thoughts: Lost Among the Living



Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson
Truly Devious #1
Rating:  3.5 Stars

Maureen Johnson has a great sense of wit, and a quirky sense of humor, giving us fairly non-standard YA heroines that are fun to follow.  Truly Devious was a cute little mystery, involving a young girl who dreams of becoming a great detective, with aspirations for joining the FBI.  This book wasn't perfect, but it was quite entertaining.

See my review:
Thoughts: Truly Devious (link coming soon)



Firelight by Kristen Callihan
Darkest London #1
Rating:  3.0 Stars

This book wasn't really what I was expecting, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  When I was choosing for this square, I was mostly looking at Amanda Quick or Sherry Thomas, but happily decided to go with a series titled Darkest London, because, why not?

See my review:
Some Thoughts: Firelight (link coming soon)



Squares/Books/Called Dates/Update Post Links:

Progress on my card:  11 squares called || 9 books read || 6 squares completed

Called: 9/28/19
Called: 9/26/19
Called: 9/22/19
Read: 9/19/19
A Study in Death

Anna Lee Huber

Dreamer's Pool

Juliet Marillier
Mercy Strange

Alisa Woods

Mary Stewart
Called: 9/20/19
Called: 9/27/19
Read: 9/15/19
Called: 9/13/19
Read: 9/11/19
Called: 9/23/19

The Broken Girls

Simone St. James

Linda Howard
Footsteps in the
Georgette Heyer
The Vanishing Stair

Maureen Johnson

Read: 9/17/19

The Visitor

Amanda Stevens

Truly Devious

Maureen Johnson

Called: 9/17/19
Read: 9/29/19
Read: 9/14/19
Called: 9/1/19
Read: 9/23/19
Called: 9/30/19
Read: 9/1/19
Called: 9/4/19

Kristen Callihan
Half-Off Ragnarok
Seanan McGuire
Lost Among the

Simone St. James
The Sign of
the Four
Arthur Conan

Read: 9/2/19
The Epic Crush
of Genie Lo

F.C. Yee

Pocket Apocalypse

Seanan McGuire




Daily Calls
Date Square Date Square
09/01 Ghost Stories 10/01 No Call or Free Space
09/02 Genre: Horror 10/02  
09/03 Creepy Crawlies 10/03  
09/04 Amateur Sleuth 10/04  
09/05 American Horror Story 10/05  
09/06 Dystopian Hellscape 10/06  
09/07 Fear Street 10/07  
09/08 Black Cat 10/08  
09/09 Relics and Curiosities 10/09  
09/10 A Grimm Tale 10/10  
09/11 Stranger Things 10/11  
09/12 Creepy Carnivals 10/12  
09/13 Country House Mystery 10/13  
09/14 Classic Horror 10/14  
09/15 Supernatural 10/15  
09/16 Psych 10/16  
09/17 Darkest London 10/17  
09/18 Cozy Mystery 10/18  
09/19 Southern Gothic 10/19  
09/20 Read by Flashlight or Candlelight 10/20  
09/21 Modern Noir 10/21  
09/22 Spellbound 10/22  
09/23 Dark Academia 10/23  
09/24 Deadlands 10/24  
09/25 Slasher Stories 10/25  
09/26 In the Dark, Dark Woods 10/26  
09/27 It was a Dark and Stormy Night 10/27  
09/28 Paint It Black 10/28  
09/29 Truly Terrifying 10/29  
09/30 Locked Room Mystery 10/30  



Transfiguration Spell:



2 of 3 used





Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2019/10/halloween-bingo-2019-update-3-and-mid.html
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