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review 2016-11-11 00:26
Thoughts: Deeply, Desperately
Deeply, Desperately - Heather Webber

Deeply, Desperately
by Heather Webber
Book 2 of Lucy Valentine

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Still...

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

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

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

Not really.

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


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/thoughts-deeply-desperately.html
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review 2016-11-07 13:00
Bullet-Listed Thoughts: Grave Mercy
Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy

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

 

 

**See Also:  Collective Updates for Grave Mercy



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

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

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

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

Anyway, moving along now...


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

And thus NUN ASSASSINS.

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

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

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


What I liked:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 


What I didn’t like:

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

 

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

 

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



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

Anyway...

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

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/11/bullet-listed-thoughts-grave-mercy.html
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review 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 2016-09-28 13:00
Thoughts: Truly, Madly
Truly, Madly - Heather Webber

Truly, Madly

by Heather Webber
Book 1 of Lucy Valentine

 

 

Lucy Valentine is as smart as can be, as single as you can get, and so not qualified to run a matchmaking service.  But when her parents temporarily step down from the family business, Valentine, Inc., it’s Lucy’s turn to step up and help out—in the name of love.

Plus, her rent is due.

Here’s the problem: Lucy doesn’t have the knack for matchmaking.  According to family legend, every Valentine has been blessed by Cupid with the ability to read “auras” and pair up perfect couples.  But not Lucy.  Her skills were zapped away years ago in an electrical surge, and now all she can do is find lost objects.  What good is that in the matchmaking world?  You’d be surprised.  In a city like Boston, everyone’s looking for something.  So when Lucy locates a missing wedding ring—on a dead body—she asks the sexy private eye who lives upstairs to help her solve the perfect crime.  And who knows?  Maybe she’ll find the perfect love while she’s at it...



Truly, Madly is an extremely enjoyable start to a cute cozy mystery series.  I loved all the characters, and while I typically don't have any good feelings about the male love interests, Sean Donahue actually turned out quite charming.  Lucy Valentine is an interesting character with an interesting psychic ability, and while I thought the way in which her secret was revealed to the world was a little too comical for my liking, I like the direction the entire series is taking.

Lucy is a great main character to follow and I enjoy her resourcefulness and her determination.  I also feel I like her reasons behind why she would readily take over her father's business even without the requisite aura-seeing abilities.  I like seeing the more vulnerable side of her she shows, admitting how she really feels about not having those aura-seeing abilities, and instead has a psychic ability that can only find inanimate objects belonging to people who are actually thinking about said inanimate object.

This shows in those moments when she truly feels her abilities are useless to help find the lost little boy because she cannot find actual living beings.

Anyway...

Lucy's parents were just strange, and I might have some issue with how they kind of just skip town.   The other characters introduced also have a lot of potential for great things in future installments: Lucy's two best friends, Marisol and Emerson; Detective Aiden Holliday; Butch, the not quite butcher who looks like Matt Damon; Dovie, Lucy's paternal grandmother; Raphael, the driver; and many, many more.  I like a good series with a lot of great characters to play off of!

I'd love to see more of all of these characters, because they were quite glossed over.  You get to meet them, but you don't really get to know them yet, and I'd love to get to know all of these characters.

And there were animals!  I love a good story with lots of animals, and there are three: Odysseus, the one eye'd hamster; Grendel, the three-legged cat; and Thoreau, the tiny three-pound Yorkie.  The use of literary figures to name their pets felt a little pretentious, but I'll ignore that, because who am I to question what you name your pets, right?   But Lucy's penchant for doing difficult math problems when she's nervous felt a little awkward, if only because I'd probably only stress myself out trying to figure out long division. Because I don't like math.

The murder mystery was serviceable, if a little predictable. So I'm not complaining.  In fact, I liked the side tangent of Lucy finding the Little Boy Lost more than I liked the murder mystery.

I will definitely be reading more from this series and maybe even more from this author as well.


***

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

 

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/09/thoughts-truly-madly.html
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