Book Review

Book Review: These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy / Retelling
Length: 449 pages
Author: Chloe Gong
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: November 17th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

OH HOW VIOLENT.

This book really does live up to its name. It’s a bit gruesome and there’s a lot of violence in many ways. It was a great read though! Just gotta get past the absolutely disgusting creepy crawlies that take over this novel.

I loved all the parallels to Romeo & Juliet here! I loved how it was revamped for this setting and I believe it’s the only retelling I’ve read of Romeo & Juliet. These Violent Delights will stand as my favorite until further notice.

Juliette was so dang fiery. I kinda loved that she was more fierce in nature. She could wield weapons, take down foes, and spoke many languages. Roma was the more quiet and reserved nature type. Hating his position, but knowing its advantages. Add in more diverse side characters and this was a cast to keep an eye on. There’s a continual rotation of point-of-views that give an angle to the story (and character insights) from every side. The only thing I’d say was missing for me was a bit more romance. I hope book two delivers on this front.

The historical setting was amazing. The fantasy aspects colliding with the history of Shanghai in the 1920’s was really interesting to see. I don’t know much about this time period, but loved learning more about it. Really excited to read Our Violent Ends!

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy / historical fiction / retelling
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs
  • Violence: very gruesome and bloody, people clawing out their throats, gun violence, murder, knives, explosions, a pandemic

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

ARC Book Review: Curses by Lish McBride

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy Retelling
Length: 488 pages
Author: Lish McBride
Publisher: GP Putnam
Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling’s curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother’s choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family’s cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother’s debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?

Thank you to PenguinTeen for an eARC. All opinions are my own!

NOT BAD.

Just not great either.

I love the cast of characters. There were many, with unique personalities and I love how they were portrayed. It’s a great group of friends that end up working together to end Merit’s curse. The villains were plenty wicked (though it became too convenient in the end) and some morally gray ones are also a fun addition.

What I didn’t love was the lack of romance. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling…shouldn’t there be more? By the time Tevin is confessing his love I realized I’m not emotionally invested in this. It was a big let down for me because I definitely had higher hopes. Over the course of a long book I thought more page time could’ve been spent developing their relationship rather than my other problem, the amount of POV’s.

Usually I love multiple points-of-view. In this case, I thought it should have stuck to the main two. It would have helped a deeper connection with the main characters. We’d flit off to some side story that could have been handled (and honestly, would have been more surprising) coming from one of the main characters [Merit or Tevin]. I didn’t need to hear about everyone else to get the whole picture.

I liked the set-up for the story and how this retelling was managed. It really did feel distinctly B&tB reminiscent. I could see many parallels that helped [& occasionally hindered] the plot. There’s some good humorous moments and some soft ones too. I wish I had felt more emotionally invested to fully enjoy this tale.

Overall audience notes:

  • Fantasy Retelling
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: physical altercations, animal attacks, poisonings

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Bright Raven Skies (Sweet Black Waves #3) by Kristina Pérez

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy / Retelling
Length: 464 pages
Author: Kristina Pérez
Publisher: Imprint
Release Date: August 25th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bright Raven Skies is the thrilling conclusion to the lush and heart-wrenching romantic fantasy trilogy about ancient magic, warring families, and star-crossed lovers by Kristina Pérez.

To save the kingdom, Branwen embraced the darkest aspects of her magic. But she may have lost herself––and the two people she loves most.

Tristan and Eseult are missing. As Branwen searches for them, she must hide the truth surrounding their disappearance from both the king and her lover. Above all, she must find the Queen and her Champion first.

New and old enemies circle Branwen, clamoring for power and revenge, and threatening to destroy the fragile peace that she has sacrificed everything to secure.

THAT ENDING THOUGH.

What a good conclusion. I feel like this series was never super hyped or out in the forefront, but it happened to be one I picked up and have continually enjoyed each installment as they came out.

This one broke my soul by the end.

I just wanted, no NEEDED Branwen to be happy and secure and to know where she really wanted to stand. I got that, even if it left me wanting to weep for those left behind.

Trying to remain as vague as I can, that this ending was unlike ones I’ve read before. Which is probably why it hurt so much. I think it can lean either way on how it makes you feel about the trilogy as a whole. I found a lot of sense in the writing choices, even if I didn’t want to see them. It worked out the way it should and that’s where I’m leaving that.

Ooooh but all of these characters. How I adored them, and hated them, and loved them. All the things. The side characters themselves are incredibly well thought out and help bring the entire story together. I love that they made me angry, and happy, and all the things because sometimes I want that roller coaster from a book.

Just a good ending to a good series that needs some attention. If you like Tristan and Iseult retellings definitely check this one out! It was fascinating, and looking up the background story was really cool too. I love the way the magic worked (and it has limits and rules!), the beautiful countryside of the lands, and all things inbetween.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy retellings
  • Language: none
  • Romance: kisses, a closed door scene or two, one open door scene (at the end)
  • Violence: battles, murder, poisoning, duels, swords, physical, magic

Instagram || Goodreads

Book Review

Book Review: Spin the Dawn (The Blood of the Stars #1) by Elizabeth Lim

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: YA fantasy + romance
Length: 392 pages
Author: Elizabeth Lim
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 9th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping YA fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.

And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

THE MASH-UP I DIDN’T KNOW I NEEDED.

Ohhhhh I’m so happy I picked up this debut! Mulan? Project Runway? TOGETHER?

IT WORKED SO WELL. I got all of the Mulan vibes (my favorite Disney movie, by the way) from Maia’s actions and decisions. Then add in the competition to be the best tailor where there were even unconventional materials challenges?! Yessssss. The vibes this book gave off alone gave it a star. This was exactly what the synopsis gave me.

Maia and Edan were absolutely precious too. I had seen on multiple reviews that the banter is on point, and I’m here to put my vote in that THEY’RE RIGHT. It’s witty, sassy, and so stinkin’ cute. I really liked the way their relationship developed. I was surprised by a few bits of information about Edan that reminded me of other books and I was cool with it. I liked those additions and thought it gave another layer to who Edan is.

The adventure that these two went on was magical and enchanting. I was surprised that this was able to take only one book. I think it could have expanded into more if it wanted and still been captivating. Since this plot kind of wrapped up I’m curious where the next story will take us.

This is one of those typical YA fantasy books that WORKS. It’s why I love and read the genre regularly. The writing is delightful, the romance is on point, and the story is full of magic. I loved the world-building and the way the magic is set-up. Maia is such an easy character to love. I appreciate her loyalty to her family and how everything circles back to them. She’s brave, but also able to accept help. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses, make-outs, one or two fade to black, barely any detail love scenes
  • Violence: magic, fire, physical, arrows

Instagram || Goodreads