Monday, February 26, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? | 2/26/18

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!

I have been so lazy this week in my reading life!  I wish I could blame it on work or family or whatever else that's going on in real life, but the truth is that, it's all just me.

As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes you DO need a break from the things that you love.  And it's not even because I'm reading anything that I'm not enjoying.  I've just been finding other things I got more interested in doing.

Yeah, I know.  The blasphemy of it all!


Meanwhile, the weekend could have made up for my lack of reading... but lots of activity made it a bit impossible, so I can kind of blame family stuff for the lack of reading over the weekend.  Unfortunately, that doesn't really explain the rest of the week.

My brother's birthday was on Saturday, so the family decided to take a road trip to visit him and celebrate.  A three hour trip later, and we all joined together for a late lunch wherein I tried NOT to eat too much since my brother had said something about sushi for dinner.  We actually didn't get into KC until later than we'd expected, and then ended up waiting a good thirty minutes to an hour before lunch was served.

We went to a bar and grill called The Yard House, where they had a LOT of beers on tap to choose from.  There was a room, or rather a whole hallway, of beer kegs by the entrance for the pleasure of viewing, and they were all connected to the bar via lines running along the ceiling inside metal box tunnels.  And while I'm not really a big fan of beer, I've found myself drawn to the more roasty ones lately.  So I got myself the Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter.  My youngest brother had wanted to order something called a Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar, but they were out of that--so sad, because it actually sounded kind of tasty, and I was going to try to steal a sip from my brother.

Anyway, as you can see from the photos above, my meal included two appetizers: a Korean BBQ boneless wing platter, and some pork lumpia.  The boneless wings really just tasted more like a spicy sweet and sour chicken with a slight hint of Korean BBQ, and came with a weird sauce that may or may not have been some sort of mustardy mayo... maybe.  And the pork lumpia wasn't really much to write home about.  They were good, but the real star of the entire show was the creamy truffle dipping sauce that my pork lumpia appetizer came with.  It came with a sweet chili sauce as well, but really, who cared about that one in the face of that creamy truffle sauce that tasted all sorts of wonderful, so much so that I started dipping my brother's fries in it just to use it all up, then requested another ramekin for the rest of the fries on my parents' meal?

I was fawning over it so much that everyone at the table just started making fun of me, and my mom even looked up a recipe only to find out how expensive a bottle of truffle oil was.

I don't have more pictures, if only because this KC road trip isn't something new for us--we visit on a regular basis.  Even sushi dinner is quite typical... and also I didn't really enjoy the sushi dinner that night as much as I did my appetizer lunch.  Which is sad because I love sushi, but this place my brother took us to wasn't that great, in my opinion.

All-in-all, it was a nice weekend trip, and I look forward to another one.  I've been wanting to check out the Brazilian steakhouse in KC, called Fogo de Chão; my family just needs to psychologically prepare themselves for the onslaught of all you can eat meat, apparently.

What I Read Last Week

What I'm Currently Reading

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

I've got two series reviews ready to push out as soon as I finish reading the last of Jill Shalvis's Animal Magnetism and Kylie Brant's Tremaine Traditions.  They'll be out at some point the week after, if not this week.  Meanwhile, with March coming around the corner, I get to pick another Reading Assignment book, and I chose Kylie Brant's Pretty Girls Dancing, which I've been wanting to read since the beginning of the year when it came out.

Meanwhile, I've got one review I'm going to give a quick edit to, and then it'll get posted either today or tomorrow.

That's pretty much it for now.

Monday, February 19, 2018

It's Monday! Happy Year of the Dog! | 2/18/2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!

First of all, Happy Year of the Dog to everyone out there!

The lunar calendar made it's round to the new year on Friday, and obviously Baby approves of the occasion, as it is going to be the Year of Baby!  Or, well... you know...

The weekend was kind of filled with a bit of fun and festivities, although not as much as we used to have when I was younger.  With everyone busy, busy, busy these days, it's hard to find a good time to get together for much.  At the very least, our immediate household did our thing with yummy, traditional feast food that always seems to grace the table whenever we celebrate anything!

There is always roast duck, roast pork, a lovely seafood soup, the big pot of tofu and veggie stir-fry, and various other savory dishes of the seafood variety (or not).  And then to top it all off, we have our steamed white rice that was cooked with the very flavorful Chinese sausage--with all of that sausage oil being dripped into the rice, it gives it a delicious touch.

Everyone, this food is not for the light of heart.  We Chinese love to eat flavorful and savory... and apparently we also love to eat oily and anything that will probably give us high cholesterol.

But, hey!  It's just so, so yummy!

I suppose the diet will finally start after this last holiday is over... *crosses fingers*

What I Read Last Week

Meanwhile, in bookish news, I've been slacking on my reading, which makes me extremely glad that I hadn't truly made a lot of reading challenge commitments.  I started reading two books this week, but didn't finish Cold Image until just this morning, in the wee hours a little after midnight.  It took longer than it should have, for many reasons...

Cold Image is bite-sized, and I typically would have flown right through it like it was nothing, being a romantic suspense with a lot of factors I liked, and a premise that was quite promising.  But time got away from me... and the book wasn't what I'd expected from Leslie Kelly after reading others of her works, and I was sadly disappointed.  There will be a review to come at some point.

Aside from getting sucked into an online multiplayer RPG with my brothers, I've also been indulging in a YouTube vlog called 'Strictly Dumpling.'  The host of this vlog introduces you to a lot of wonderful cuisines in places such as New York, San Francisco, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and most recently Vietnam.  And if it's one thing I love just as much as books, it's food, and Mikey Chen, the host of this vlog, does a wonderful job of showing us great places to visit and eat.

His focus is on Asian cuisine, which was how his vlog started off in the beginning, but I like that he's trying to branch out as well, as there is a food vacation tour of Peru as well.  I mainly have been loving this YouTube channel because this guy is strangely funny, with weird descriptions and analogies that sometimes make no sense.

Meanwhile, I don't always agree with a lot of his opinions pertaining to Chinese food, but I still love the way he presents them at his channel.  If anyone is interested, hop on over and watch a few if you like.  I highly recommend his most recent Vietnam vacation, as he features a lot of really awesome looking food for uber wonderfully affordable prices... well, after the plane ticket, I suppose.

Anyway... now back to our not-so-regularly scheduled bookish news...

What I'm Currently Reading

Meanwhile, I have a feeling I might have started loving All I Want because of our heroine, Zoe, but I tend to forget that Jill Shalvis is best taken in small doses.  As I had already finished listening to two other books in this series... I think I might be a bit Jill Shalvis-ed out.  I'm going to go ahead and continue listening to this book, as it is also narrated by one of my favorite audio book voices, and it's not like things are getting too tedious.  There are just always some Jill Shalvis elements that I will find a bit... repetitive, as well as frustrating.

On the other hand, I also started reading the third Tremaine Traditions book by Kylie Brant, Truth or Lies, and am immensely enjoying, having already breezed through the first quarter of the book.  The main hero, however, is annoying the heck out of me, and I'm hoping some development will come about rather than our heroine falling for him just because he's supposed to be badass.  She's smarter than that, and if it's one thing Kylie Brant is good at, it's writing smart heroines who aren't always losing their panties just because a man has a smoldering gaze.

What I'm Planning to Read Next

Other Plans On the Blog

As you can see above, I'm hoping to finish the rest of Kylie Brant's Tremaine Traditions, hopefully all this week, or at least by next week.  In which case, I'll have a full series review ready to publish at some point.  Following, I'm interested in continuing on with my Author Love challenge and hit another Jayne Ann Krentz book, or two.  Light in Shadow and Truth or Dare are books in a duology called Whispering Springs, and I'm looking forward to it... also I've checked out the second book from the library, so it needs to get read.

The blog has been sadly quiet lately, but with all the holiday "festivities" over, I'm hoping on getting some more posts planned and ready to go.  Maybe I'll be able to start some more books and have more reviews ready.  Maybe I'll just work on transferring more previously written reviews to Ani's Book Abyss.  Or maybe I'll just start filling out weekly memes again, just to have something to blog about.

I've already started drafting a few future posts, and am trying to figure out where to go from there.

Either way, like I keep promising, I really want to start being more active once again.  It feels oddly depressing to be away from the blogging community for so long just because I can't think of anything to write about.  And a lot of the time, I'm really just lurking, reading posts and commenting randomly.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Thoughts: That's Amore!

That's Amore! -- anthology

Authors include: Janelle Denison, Tori Carrington, and Leslie Kelly
Book 2 of Santori Stories

~ Goodreads ~

Average Rating:  3.1 Stars
(Includes personal rating:  3.0 Stars)

It's way too late to elope....

Meet the Parents by Janelle Denison

Like all dutiful Hawaiian daughters, Leila Malekala is expected to marry a Hawaiian groom handpicked by her parents.  But guess what, Mom and Dad?  Leila has wedding plans of her own.  The groom is California bad boy Jason Crofton... and the bride is pregnant.

I Do, Don't I? by Tori Carrington

Efi Panayotopoulou is about to marry her childhood sweetheart Nick Constantino.  Everything should be perfect.  But their families seem hell-bent on turning the wedding into a farce-or Greek tragedy.  And Efi is about a baklava flake away from running off... without her groom.

There Goes the Groom by Leslie Kelly

Luke Santori is engaged to "a nice Italian girl" from his Chicago neighborhood.  But wedding plans get tossed-like unbaked dough at his family's pizzeria-when Luke falls for blond-haired, blue-eyed Rachel Grant... the dressmaker designing his fiancee's bridal gown.

I'm really not a fan of the romantic Valentine's holiday, but I'm also a hopeless romantic and love to love some sweet, fluffy contemporary romances.  What better way to celebrate the holiday than an anthology of contemporary romances called That's Amore! that is based around three wedding novellas.  One of which was written by an author I like!

Meet the Parents by Janelle Denison
Rating:  3.5 Stars

This novella was cute, and I found a lot of the Hawaiian traditions quite interesting as well.  I liked that there wasn't a whole lot of angst in this sweet love story, even if there was a bit of a conflict involving the groom-to-be and his in-laws.  I wish I could say that I found Leila's parents a bit frustrating in their disapproval of her chosen husband... but the truth is, it doesn't surprise me, because I've seen more than my fair share of the same behavior among my own Asian relatives.

It's tiring, and yes, also frustrating.  But something that happens.  But we get a Happily Ever After in this novella, which is what counts.  That's probably more than I can say for other stories I've seen with the same, stubborn types of parental units who are more concerned with tradition than seeing how happy their children are.

A nice little read.  And while I'm a little reluctant to say that it was also a little boring... well, it kind of was.

I Do, Don't I? by Tori Carrington
Rating:  2.5 Stars

This novella was really full of crazy.  And while I loved seeing all the Greek wedding traditions, and reading about the loud, raucous actions of all of Efi's and Nick's relatives, and just overall witnessing a week full of partying and celebration... I couldn't help but feel extremely frustrated with both sides of the family.  This is why a lot of couples end up eloping...

And then maybe I was a bit frustrated with Nick as well.  It probably didn't help that we mostly followed Efi's point of view up until one small scene at the end of the novella.  I honestly would have liked to have seen more of the entire affair from Nick's point of view.  Because without his side of things, the story just felt like Efi was bearing all the stress of the wedding planning and the family crazy... while Nick just skated by and waited to get married.

Nonetheless, this story was a fun one, even if a little over-laden with angst, conflict, and made-for-television antics.

I would have liked to have seen a show down between Efi and Aphrodite, though I suppose it wouldn't really have been in good humor.  I would have liked to see more mature understanding from Nick--the fact that he seemed to be oblivious to everything, including cousin Aphrodite's attempts to seduce him made me cringe a little bit.  The fact that Nick had even entertained thoughts of doing anything with Aphrodite at all made me a little wary of how this marriage will be going forward; especially when Efi's confrontation didn't even seem to get through to his thick, ignorant head.

The fact that Nick has no idea that Efi had dreams of her own that shouldn't have been impeded by wedding vows felt a little immature.  In fact, neither of the two seemed to know what the other wanted, or had been expecting out of this marriage at all.  It got to a point where I was wondering if they were just getting married because it was expected for the two high school sweethearts--that they were in love with the idea of being in love and getting married, more than they were in love with each other.

Anyway... fun as fun was, this story turned out more like a family affair of crazy rather than a sweet romance.  It certainly DOES bring a realistic tone to all the crazy events that usually lead up to a wedding day.  Especially when family and relatives tend to get a little too involved.

There Goes the Groom by Leslie Kelly
Rating:  3.5 Stars

The premise of this novella could have gone in all sorts of bad directions--with an engaged man and his fiancee's dressmaker falling for one another, this could have been a disaster.  Fortunately, our lovely author managed to handle the events quite well, and we simply end up with a case of two people marrying for the wrong reasons.  Our hero sort of works through his own issues with the help of the heroine, as well as his brothers.

Simply put, this novella was a sweet one.

One of the things I DID NOT appreciate were the little comments here and there from our heroine that came off a little judgmental about random people in the story.  Some of those comments, honestly, I felt were uncalled for.

Meanwhile, this story also made me want a pizza...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Thoughts: A Treacherous Curse

A Treacherous Curse

by Deanna Raybourn
Book 3 of Veronica Speedwell

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker.

His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess.  This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past.

Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

This third, newest installment of Veronica Speedwell was as magnificent as the previous two books in the series; and, dare I say, maybe even better paced and better outlined than the previous two books as well.  After having read Deanna Raybourn's Julia Grey series, I had found that she often will take her sweet time getting to the heart of the story's mystery or conflict.  The same had happened with the first Veronica Speedwell book, A Curious Beginning.  The previous books in this series, A Perilous Undertaking stepped up the pacing a bit and came out quite enjoyable, with only a few too deliberate instances of dialogue that might have bugged me a little bit.

A Treacherous Curse got right to the point of the mystery, and might have even cut back down on some of the unnecessary declarations of Veronica's openness about her own sexual awareness.  It was still there, though; it seems that the books cannot pass without reminding the reader several times how modern Veronica is, by over-emphasizing her not-so-with-the-times behavior.  I don't mind knowing that Veronica is so open and forward-thinking; and I absolutely love that she's not a doormat, and will not allow for anyone to beat her down.

But I really don't need to be reminded of it on such a regularly scheduled basis.

As for the mystery, I think I particularly liked this one because of its tie-ins with archaeology, with an emphasis in Egyptology.  These things have always been fascinating to me, and I found the exchanges between Veronica, Stoker, and the people they were interviewing quite interesting.  There were many red herrings to contend with, and when you think you might have figured out what was going on... well, I got proven wrong once, at the very least concerning John de Morgan's disappearance.

Meanwhile, I love the strong emphasis on Veronica and Stoker's friendship, which borders on the romantic, yet not romantic.  They have a wonderful bond, which is quite intimate considering the fact that neither of the two are even remotely ready to start falling in love with each other.  And truth be told, while I'm a hopeless romantic, I'm kind of enjoying the two of them just being partners-in-crime, and am a little wary of the moment when, or even if, they decide to step their relationship up to a more steamy, romantic one.

What I think I'm loving the most is that Veronica and Stoker have a great understanding of one another.  And that no matter how terribly Veronica pisses Stoker off, or vice versa, the two of them still partner up and continue on their friendship, putting their conflict on hold until they find the time to deal with it.  I love that they actually talk to each other, and communicate their feelings.  I know that there were still a lot of secrets that the two of them are keeping from each other, but I love that they understand that about the other, and no one is pushing for a tell-all session.

Meanwhile, I also love that the two of them are so fiercely protective of each other.  It's a great friendship, even if it's sometimes a little lacking in chemistry.

I think I also liked that this book centered so much on Stoker and what had happened to him during his back story of tragic happening.  We've already had a little bit of Veronica's tale, so I'm very appreciative that we get to see some of Stoker's past--we've gotten so little of it, save for the obvious animosity he holds towards his brothers and his family.


I really look forward to the next installment, and to be honest, I don't know what to expect, and I'm not even sure what I want to expect.  I think I'm just going to be ecstatic to get a little more of the Veronica and Stoker banter.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: The Giver

The Giver

by Lois Lowry
Book 1 of The Giver

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Twelve-year-old Jonas lives in a seemingly ideal world.  Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver does he begin to understand the dark secrets behind this fragile community.

I'm uncertain how I feel about The Giver, but given the huge popularity as well as "classic"-ness of this book, I can't be certain that I'm on the same page.  It always worries me to find that a lot of people loved a certain book, but when I finally read it, I'm questioning my ability to see why the book is so popular.

Do I just NOT understand it like everyone else does?  Is there something I've missed, maybe?

There's no doubt that I enjoyed reading The Giver; there was an immensely hungry curiosity I felt while reading the book.  Throughout, I had a need to know what was going to happen on every aspect, be it the story, the characters, or even Jonas, himself.  I found myself more and more curious about the story's development and I started asking questions about the society, the community, the world, the people...

Mainly, I wanted to know how the world came about to be the way it is in The Giver.  I mean, there's a definitive "reason," but what propelled that need to force a community where everything is dictated by a structurally organized lifestyle that never deviates, built for the maximum sake of survival, to have to exist?  What will continue to happen?  Because no matter how soundproof a society's structure, there will always be a flaw somewhere that will eventually dictate the collapse of everything the community has stood for for hundreds and hundreds of years.

It's an interesting concept, the ideas within the dystopian world of The Giver.  However, I'm not sure I'm appreciating or comprehending The Giver on more than a simple, "Did I enjoy this book and what does it do for me?" level.  Like I'd mentioned before, I'm done with deep analysis and insightful thinking.

So, to me, while The Giver was a thoroughly well-written and enjoyable book, it didn't slip my notice that there is still so much missing from the story itself, especially after the fairly abrupt ending given to us.  I won't go into too much detail, even if I'll try to explain my conflicts in a way that doesn't spoil too much of the ending for others who haven't read The Giver.

Nonetheless, I should probably place a spoiler tag somewhere in here for the next few paragraphs.

Despite the fact that this book has been circulating for a long time now, I'm sure there are still people who haven't read it.  I mean, I've had this thing on my reading list since I was in middle school and finally picked it up to fulfill a Reading Challenge priority for this year.  I'm not saying that I would have never read it, I'm just saying that it wasn't ever my first choice simply because my mood dictates what I read and my recent mood has taken me in different directions.

So, while I don't like giving away conclusions and surprises, I'm going to label the next few paragraphs with a spoiler tag, because I will inevitably give away the exact way that the book ends.



I guess I'm mostly concerned about the abrupt ending.  You don't know what happened and why and whether or not the progress of the story meant anything at all.  But otherwise, I will admit that I enjoyed the majority of what I read in The Giver.  So I'm not really all that disappointed since I wasn't really sure what I was expecting anyway.


This book was read as part of my 2014 TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2014.

First Impression (originally posted on 02/13/2014)

I started reading this one at work last night and finished a good six chapters without realizing it.  Then I got home after work, told myself that I have insomnia anyway, and proceeded to read more of this book.

By the time I got to the heart of the story, I finally told myself to put the book down.  I need to at least get enough sleep to wake up at a decent time.  There's dinner to make, preparations to be done, lists to organize, friends to harass...  You know, stuff to do and no time.

I can see why The Giver turned out to be such a classic YA book.  There's enough content to see that Lois Lowry put a lot of thought into her world and her characters.  So far, I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  It may not be my favorite book, nor the best book I've read so far, but it's still a good one and I'm glad I added it specifically as a book to read for one of this year's Reading Challenges.

I'm only about half way through it right now, so it might still be too early to make any more opinions, but I have a good feeling I'll enjoy the rest of the book as much as I've enjoyed the first half so far.  Unfortunately, I also have a feeling this book may not be the most memorable despite how well written and created it is.

So much for trying to finish The Demon King first, but my intention had been to read the first chapter of The Giver as a sort of "first impressions" of sorts... and well... we all know what happens when something catches my attention enough to hold it.

So this will probably be the first book I finish for my TBR Pile Challenge (hosted by Roof Beam Reader), and I will update my post accordingly.

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2014.

Review: The Book Thief

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Initial Thoughts:
I’ve been big on the young adult genre lately.  Appropriately, The Book Thief is a book in the young adult target.  I’ve also been more drawn towards fantasy, science fiction, adventures, hidden worlds… with a side dish of romance.

The Book Thief isn’t a book I would normally take on nowadays.  This book seems to be a “made for deep analysis” type of book.  I’m of the “I’m tired of deep thinking” type, because I’d rather read something and simply express whether or not I liked it and why.  High school already took us through the analysis of books, dissecting and manipulating phrases, scenes, characters, etc… just to determine whether or not we really know what an author is truly trying to present.  

In the end, you're not even sure whether or not the author truly had deep meaning messages behind his or her writings.

That’s not for me anymore.

My BFF, however is interested in this book and was determined to choose it as part of our “Mini Book Club” selection.  I’m sure it fascinates her because she likes inspiration pieces and the like.  There’s no doubting that it fascinates me as well; the entire premise is interesting.

Those were my initial thoughts before reading The Book Thief.  For some, stubborn reason, I always feel the need to read these types of books as if I’m going to be graded on a college level essay.  It’s a point of pride that I don’t like sounding stupid doing one of few things I truly love to do: discussing books.  However, I know it can’t be helped.  Everyone takes something different away from a book and I'll admit that my take-aways aren't always well-informed or researched.

But these following thoughts came to me as I neared the ending of the book.

Who cares if I can’t analyze every symbolic detail presented in The Book Thief?  This book was enjoyable and memorable, all in itself.  It’s unique and entertaining, conveying a monotonously dank, dark mood that just hangs there without even trying.  It's a book about a tragic moment in history, told from a perspective different from what I'm familiar with.  It's a powerful book that details a simple fact in life that despite there being a bigger picture unfolding all around the world, life for the common everyday person still has to just keep moving forward.  Life goes on.

This is a story wherein a little girl goes through her own life with global events being the last thing on her mind; yet at the same time, the effects of those global events (Hitler's rise, the war, etc...) still sting on a personal level.

Most importantly, I DID enjoy reading this book very much.  In a simply put fashion, as I’d already mentioned.  I just really, really liked this book and the story of the book thief.

Now if only I could start off reading all of my books with this mindset; because, frankly, who cares what anyone else thinks?  My opinion is my opinion.  Right?

What I liked:
The writing style and format was different from what I’m used to (aside from the fact that the majority of YA fiction tends to be written in first person, a fact that irks me just a little bit).

This thought came to me at some point during my reading: The format reminds me of a graphic novel, told in words rather than pictures, but where the pictures are still rather vivid even without the illustrations.  In fact, it reminded me of Japanese manga, for some reason (though I’m not certain what that reason is).

The story is told in an almost third person omniscient view where Death is the narrator, but most of the story rarely comes around to Death referring to himself too often.  And so it seems to present itself more in third person with a “tale telling” air about it.  I don’t know if any of that makes any sense, but to me, it gave off a rather whimsical feel… in spite of the dark, melancholic background of the story’s setting.

The writing conveyed vivid detail, as I already mentioned.  Even while seemingly detached from the book’s story and characters, you can still feel what the characters feel and see what the characters see.  The descriptions were excellent.

The “FEELS”....  Yea, they were there alright.

What I’m unsure of:
Everything about this book gives me serious conflicting feelings despite the feels.  The reason being: It’s just hard to put into words the strange feelings going through my mind when I’m reading this book.  I’m conflicted in that, I know this is a depressing setting, a depressing story, a depressing time frame…  There’s tragedy, tension, danger and so many other things going on.  I mean, this is a time of war and depression (for the lack of a better descriptor).  But I’m not as caught up in all the emotions my mind is telling me I should be feeling.

I am concerned with Liesel's everyday dealings and how, even though there's a war going on and people dying, Liesel's life seems fairly normal for a young child growing up.  I am concerned with Liesel's growth through her learning to read and write, becoming attached to the written word, as well as through her interactions with her foster parents and the Jewish man hidden in their basement.  I am also concerned with Liesel's interactions with her friends and the people around her.  I am concerned with how Liesel manages to slowly survive through her nightmares and the misery that left her orphaned.

This book truly is quite character driven.

There are small details and random scenes that manage to make me really feel what I believe I should be feeling.  Those moments are so strangely random and fleeting.

There’s a detachment from the story and the characters that gives me a feeling of “watching a story unfold as a story” rather than “living out the story with the story”... if that makes any sense.  I know that this book should be triggering some sort of melancholic feeling in me, but I don’t necessarily feel it until there’s mention of the death of a precious, main character you’ve gotten to know.  There is no element of surprise in this book (which works well for the way it's written), and so you know there's more death coming and it gives you a sense of dread.  But then the scene changes so abruptly, the subject moves on, and you’re stuck not quite able to gather what emotions were supposed to be there in the first place.

Final Thoughts:
So there it is.  This is why I have so many conflicted feelings about this book.  Yet at the same time, I’m truly in love with the way it was written, the dark, twisted humor, the melancholic atmosphere… and even the scattering of characters who grow on you, even if not entirely in an emotionally attached way.

I’ve written so many notes and copied down so many quotes from the book.  There were a lot of moments that touched on a rather beautiful image.  There were heartwarming moments that made you smile and finally feel like you're living the story.  And I will admit, there was actually a moment in which my stone, cold heart clenched at the sadness and I shed a few tears.  

In the end, I’m sure that there are no proper words to describe my true feelings for this book.

I liked it.  It may not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly comes close to being wonderful.  So I really really liked it.  It’s as simple as that.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2014.

First Impression: Part 1... and then some. (originally posted on 01/01/2014)

The Mini Book Club continues with myself and BFF!

January's selection is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, of which we had already decided upon at the beginning of December.

Here's an interesting exchange between me and BFF:

BFF:  I think it would be fun to finish this book and then go watch the movie and then discuss both.  What do you think?

Me:  (thoughtfully)  You know, when I first chose to put this book on my 'To Read' list and then officially bought it, I didn't really even know there was a movie.

BFF:  Even though the top of your paperback says, "Now a major motion picture"?

Me:  (pouts)

BFF:  Because I totally believe that.

Me:  I live under a rock.

BFF:  You really didn't choose this book for Book Club because it got made into a movie?  The trailers are really good!

Me:  I don't like doing that.  Rushing off to read a book just because it got made into a movie...  Even though I've done it before.  It feels like something my brother would do.  You know, following trends and hype.  Like, I got tired of everyone asking me whether I've seen The Hunger Games movie, and then a lot of people I know went to read the book after they saw the movie; like they wouldn't have paid attention to the book at all if a movie hadn't been made.

Like when my friend went to start reading the second book of Lord of the Rings after she saw the first movie...  Or something like that.

BFF:  There's nothing wrong with that.

Me:  It feels like over kill.

BFF:  You're a book snob, aren't you?

Me:  I might be a book snob.

But, yes.  It's true.  I have some snobby quirks about books that I will admit to.  For instance, I have a pet peeve about buying books with the movie cover on it...  And yet, I can't quite pinpoint why it is that I feel that it's wrong.

And I also admit that I live under a rock, because while I knew that the book was being made into a movie a while after I bought it, and while I actually saw the movie cover version of the paper back in the store when I bought my non-movie cover version... I never connected that The Book Thief was made into a movie recently.

I totally live under a boulder in a cave or something...

But back to the book.

I'm enjoying what I've read so far.  Mainly, I'm loving the natural, effortless wittiness of the narration, despite the dark and serious nature of the story itself.  There's a sardonic, dark humor quality to the writing that makes the story stand out really well.  Because otherwise, I'm not sure if I would find Liesel's back-story so compelling.  I mean, her life thus far has been sad and full of tragedy, and it really makes you think, but that time period was a terrible one known in history -- in a text book, you don't feel the pain and the sufferings, and you don't really see the problems.

But The Book Thief doing a great job so far of bringing the story, the time period, the characters, the melancholy... all of it alive rather vividly.

And, of course, there have been some moments already where I've felt some "FEELS".  I can't wait to finish it so that I can have a discussion with my BFF about it.  This will definitely be a winner as part of my 2014 Reading Challenge (and the first book I read this year as well)!

This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2014.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Quick Thoughts: Illusion Town

Illusion Town

by Jayne Castle
Book 13 of Harmony

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

A new adventure begins on Harmony…

With its opulent casinos and hotels, the desert city of Illusion Town is totally unique -- and will take you on a thrill ride you’ll never forget.

Hannah West isn’t the first woman to wake up in Illusion Town married to a man she barely knows, but she has no memory of the ceremony at all.  For that matter, neither does Elias Coppersmith, her new husband.  All either can remember is that they were on the run…

With Hannah’s dubious background and shaky para-psych profile, she could have done much worse.  The cooly competent mining heir arouses her curiosity -- as well as other parts of her mind and body.  And even her dust bunny likes him.

But a honeymoon spent retracing their footsteps leads Hannah and Elias into the twisting underground catacombs, where secrets from both their pasts will come to light -- and where the energy of their clashing auras will grow hot enough to burn…

Somehow, Illusion Town ended up feeling more present-day-earth-like... if that makes any sense.  The Harmony books are set in a futuristic world, on a planet in outer space with aliens and such.  And the past few Harmony books in the Rainshadow sub-series had started feeling less futuristic-spacey until about three books in, when the catacombs came back into the game.

And now Illusion Town comes around, with it's Vegas-like setting, a few references to the Arcane Society, and maybe a few instances of catacombs, and we stop feeling like Harmony once again.  If not for the presence of Virgil, the dust bunny, and the random mentions of the aliens and their catacombs, this could have been any random paranormal romantic suspense book in a present day Vegas-like city.

But really, that was my only quibble.

I liked the whole memory loss schtick, as awkward as the whole scenario was carried out.  Truthfully, it could have been executed a little bit better, but it wasn't terrible.  Watching Hannah and Elias piece their way backwards from a post psi-burn memory loss that somehow led to a Marriage of Convenience with no recollection of how they got there, waking up in a seedy motel together was interesting.  Even if the twisty reveals could have been handled a little less deliberately.

Meanwhile, another tie-in to the Arcane Society was also quite nice.  I liked having a dreamlight talent brought back to the forefront and found Hannah's dream walking skill an interesting one, though I would have liked a more in-depth look at it.  A lot of the story and the character biographies of both our hero and heroine felt a bit glossed over.  The developing bond and romance was sweet, even if not as steamy as I would have liked.

Again, I wished there could have been more of our dust bunny companion, but Virgil felt a bit left out.

Nonetheless, this is still a wonderful Jayne Castle slash Jayne Ann Krentz at her formulaic best, and I absolutely am looking forward to more in the Harmony series!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Quick Thoughts: Siren's Call

Siren's Call

by Jayne Castle
Book 12 of Harmony
-- Book 4 of Rainshadow

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

In the mysterious world of Harmony, there are places filled with unexplored marvels.  But Rainshadow Island isn’t about to give up its secrets…

In the alien catacombs of Rainshadow, there are creatures whose compelling songs lure the unwary to their death.  That’s why Rafe Coppersmith, hired to clear out the catacombs for exploration, needs a music talent.  He knows the perfect one, but she probably doesn’t want anything do with him...

Ella Morgan had once fallen hard and fast for Rafe, but then he disappeared for months…and he’s not about to tell her why.  Ella, too, has secrets that only her dust bunny knows.  She’s not just a music talent, she’s a Siren: a paranormal singer capable of singing men to sleep—or to their deaths.

But once on Rainshadow, Rafe and Ella will learn that surrendering to passion doesn’t come without risks—and fighting fire with fire only adds to the flame…

This book was entirely enjoyable and entirely Jayne Ann Krentz, with her usual formulaic romance, and standard great characters.  I'm not complaining, but it DOES end up becoming a tad bit forgettable when the stories are always the same, even with a new adventure, a new addition to the ongoing series' conflict, and new developments with the overall Harmony world.

For this particular installment, I DID really like the entire Siren aspect of Ella's paranormal abilities, and enjoyed the references to "Old World" mythologies, as the characters like to put it.  I like knowing what kinds of abilities our characters possess, so even if the explanations seem a bit far-fetched, it's interesting to know that Ella's musical talent also resonates with glass and can make it... melt.

Rafe's abilities were a bit confusing, although knowing that he's lost his own, original abilities and is stuck in a psi-fever was an interesting twist.

I still love the atmosphere and the creativity of Rainshadow Island, as well as the newly discovered catacombs there.  The creation of Wonderland was quite interesting--kind of like a futuristic, alien Jurassic Park, frozen in time, and completely blue.

And then, once again, I would definitely like to see more of the dust bunnies.  While the previous installment had a wonderful appearance by our dust bunnies, I feel like this one was kind of lacking.  I mean, Lorelei was great with her powdered donut obsession, and her attachment to a wedding veil with sparkly crystals.  But she didn't really get a whole lot of story other than that, to be honest.

Nonetheless, this was still a wonderfully enjoyable paranormal, romantic suspense written by a wonderful author!

Monday, February 5, 2018

Maybe Put On Hold For Now: The Heir

The Heir

by Grace Burrowes
Book 1 of Windham
-- Book 1 of Duke's Obsession trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  None -- Book put on hold for time being

I am just not getting into this book, which is quite disappointing since the synopsis seemed quite interesting to me.  On top of that, I'm interested in some of the later books in the Windham series, as well as spin-off series.

But this book simply dragged out something terrible.  And to be frank, I'm not really sure what's actually going on except that I got terribly bored with the mundane, very banal goings-on of our hero and heroine as they tip-toe around each other in a very exhaustively, boring courtship.

I'm hoping it was just my mood that left me grasping for more, so I'm just going to give up on The Heir for the time being, and maybe come back to it another day.

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- January 2018

The beginning of the year and the end of the year are usually the slowest reading times for me.  I don't know if it's because of the holidays or what, but it happens.  So, to be honest, finishing seven full length novels, one novella, and two short stories was not bad for January.  Having to put one book on hold was not cool, but I just wasn't getting anywhere, and if it's one thing that I know a lot of other readers can empathize with, it's the fact that you tend to drag on starting a new book when you've still got one going, no matter how bad said book is dragging.

Obviously, I'm hoping that my reading mood will pick up, and I'll learn to pull that DNF trigger sooner rather than later.

January Reads

Also Read:
-- Madame Esmeralda Makes a Prediction, short story by Courtney Milan
-- Dark Horizon, short story by Courtney Milan

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

I am just not feeling this book and am finding it boring.  I'd love to just put it on hold, but I have a distinct feeling that I may not come back to it.  Although with my obsession with reading books in certain particular orders, I may give this another try in the future and maybe it'll appeal to me a bit more.

Currently Reading

January Reading Stats

Total works read: 10
  • 7 print/e-book novels
  • 1 novella
  • 2 short stories

Average rating:  3.15 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  4 books // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) Deception Cove by Jayne Castle
    • (2) Entrapment by Kylie Brant
    • (3) The Hot Zone by Jayne Castle
    • (4) Siren's Call by Jayne Castle
  • Lowest Rated:  Snowbound with the Notorious Rake by Sarah Mallory // 2.0 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • Tremaine Traditions by Kylie Brant
Series I completed:
  • None
Series I have made progress on:
  • Tracers by Laura Griffin
  • Harmony by Jayne Castle

Favorite reads:  I started in on my Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz marathon, apparently.  A couple months ago, I decided to join Because Reading's Author Love Challenge and chose to read books written by Jayne Ann Krentz, because, let's face it, I love her!  And so with four Harmony books left to catch up with (with the hopes that this series is continuing), I decided just to dive right into the challenge with a strong start.  So I knocked out three, and will finish the fourth, of the books I have left to read in the series, and loved them all!  Going strong with this one.

Meanwhile, there was also Kylie Brant, always a delight, and I plan to finish the rest of the Tremaine Traditions as soon as I finish the books I'm currently reading.

On an aside, I didn't finish reading Deanna Raybourn's A Treacherous Curse in January, but I'm sure that if I had done so, said book would definitely have been on my list of January favorites.

Disappointing reads:  I had been resigned to think that January was going to be a bad reading month until Jayne Castle happened and I decided to just dive into books I one hundred percent felt like reading.  None of that planning B.S. for me.  However, the month had started off a bit rocky with some less than delightful short stories, and a worse novella, by an author I love.  Yikes!

Then came Snowbound with the Notorious Rake and things weren't looking so great.  It also didn't help that I was started to become very bored with Grace Burrowes's The Heir.  This was a very disappointing development, as there are a lot of other Grace Burrowes books I am interested in reading--some of her more recent works.  And with my penchant for wanting to read things in publication order... well...  I'm hoping I'll come back to The Heir at a later time and maybe enjoy it better.

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


Other Posts

Coming Up In February

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

My tentative reading list for February is skimpier than I normally plan for each month, but that isn't because there are no books I'm looking forward to reading.  As a matter of fact, there are just way too many books I'm wanting to read!  And as I'm trying really hard NOT to make solid reading itineraries, I'm only mentioning the books I'm ready to jump into next, as well as my February Reading Assignment selection.

That's Amore is an anthology I've had sitting on my TBR and my digital shelf for a couple years now, and so it was put on my Reading Assignment list as a last resort to get it read.  It is the second book in the Santori Stories anthology series, and I have been looking for a chance to get it read.  What better time than February, the month of Valentines and romance?  Or something like that.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to finishing the last two books in the Tremaine Traditions, as I'd previously planned to read them during my failed 24in48 Readathon attempt.

My other plans for this year include the Author Love challenge, and my goal is to try to read at least one book by Jayne Ann Krentz every month.  Of course, that was when I thought I'd only read one book a month instead of, say, three in January.  And one almost finished for February.  Nonetheless, I'm kind of feeling the need to insert the next JAK books I'd like to jump into, whether or not I read them in February: the Whispering Springs duology that my BFF read and didn't really care for.  Let's see how I like them!

2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
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