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

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy
Length: 496 pages
Author: Ayana Gray
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s
Release Date: September 28th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home–and discover much more than they bargained for. 

Thank you to the Publisher and Netgalley for an eARC. All opinions are my own!

MUST HAVE SEQUEL.

There has to be more right?

Because I need ANSWERS.

Admittedly, it’s not an insane cliffhanger, but it definitely opens up for another novel with some questions and plot that need resolved. Crossing my fingers there’s more to come!!

I really enjoyed this one. It is SLOW though. Know that going in. It took about 30% before I fully grasped what the point of the plot was (as I only read the synopsis once I usually forget what exactly is supposed to happen by the time I read a book). Once I got an idea of where this was all going I was much more invested. Beautiful writing kept me engaged and turning pages and I melted into the slower pacing as I soaked up this world.

Koffi and Ekon were great narrators and main characters. I love the dual POV (+ a third one, that I won’t name for spoilers!). Moving back and forth between them helped establish the connection building in their relationship and the dynamics of reasoning for both of their situations. There’s a very subtle and light romance as well that I found really sweet. This is definitely not a romantic fantasy, but it’s a good little sub plot.

This is a solid debut novel filled with Pan-African influence. I loved the magical hunt and all of the wild creatures that were encountered. The action keeps ticking up as the pages increased leaving me flipping fast at the end. It’s a beautiful world, with a magic system I thought was well constructed and I look forward to [HOPEFULLY] a second book!!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses
  • Violence: animal attacks, a large scene involving spiders, physical altercations, weapons use
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: physical/verbal abuse, loss of loved ones, drug use, kidnapping, murder, sexism, slavery/indentured servitude

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Lakesedge (World at Lake’s Edge #1) by Lyndall Clipstone

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: YA Gothic Fantasy
Length: 384 pages
Author: Lyndall Clipstone
Publisher: Henry Holt
Release Date: September 28th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn…

There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for an eARC.

WELL, THE COVER IS GORGEOUS.

And that little fact drew me in before I was let down by a meh story.

Much potential wasted. That summary gave me all the good vibes of a great gothic fantasy duology intro. I was ready for it. And this was not it.

There is magic in this world, but absolutely no explanation or rundown of what that system is about. I don’t know why certain people got magic and why others don’t. No idea what the limitations are or why it works the way that it does. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Along those same lines are the complete lack of world-building. I got the Gothic vibes and that was it. It all practically took place at one location and that’s all I’ve got. I’m so confused still as to where I was supposed to be that entire time.

Our dear main character wanted me to give up this book at 25%. She was that girl you’re waiting to see die in a horror movie because they run straight to danger rather than taking one moment to logically think. This did get better in the second half.

The story also did improve in the second half. Unfortunately since I was already over it by then because of the weak start I didn’t feel emotionally attached to anything happening. The romance was kind of sweet? It burned pretty well, the spice felt forced, and I’m in mixed thoughts about it all. I’m realizing I’m confused about Lord Under’s place in all of this too. Am I supposed to like him? Is he a morally gray character that has more to him? Remains to be seen.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Gothic Fantasy
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses to one brief open door scene
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: self-harm, loss of loved ones, drowning, poison, magical attacks, creature attacks
Book Review

Book Review: The Triumphant (The Valiant #3) by Lesley Livingston

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Fantasy / Historical fiction
Length: 416 pages
Author: Lesley Livingston
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: February 12th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The final book in the Valiant series takes Fallon and her warrior sisters on an epic journey from the corrupt Roman Republic to the wonder of the ancient world: Alexandria, Egypt.

“You are from a world, Fallon, that values honor over everything else. Rome is not that world.”

In the wake of their victorious fight to win back the Ludus Achillea, Fallon and her gladiatrix sisters have become the toast of the Republic. Only for Fallon, glory turns to ashes when she learns that Cai has been stripped of his Decurion rank and declared infamia, cast down to serve as one of Caesar’s gladiators. All because he chose his love for her over the life of his treacherous father during the ludus uprising.

But treachery in Rome runs far deeper than Fallon ever suspected. While she is fighting for Cai’s freedom, the unthinkable happens and the Republic begins to tear itself apart at the seams. In the chaos that follows, the Achillea gladiatrices lose any protection they might have had once and for all. They’re not the only ones.

When Fallon discovers that Cleopatra is in grave danger, she and her sister Sorcha rally their war band in an attempt to spirit the Queen of Aegypt out of Rome, embarking on a remarkable journey that will take them to Alexandria—the wonder of the ancient world—and beyond. Far beyond. Along the way, Fallon will have to decide where her heart truly lies, as well as what—and who—she is willing to sacrifice to get there. 

SOLID SERIES ENDER.

I’m on a quest to work through some of the series I’ve started (and want to continue). This is one of them! A fantastic audio read too if you’re interested in that.

I thought things wrapped up really nicely. I wasn’t sure how the everything was going to go down. And for Fallon, Cai and the rest of their group I thought things went as best as they could. There clearly needed to be an end up and with the addition of historical figures and scenes, there was.

There was sooooo much happening here. Action to the brim with gladiator matches, escaping on chariots and dodging weapons. There’s rebellion and a whole new adventure. Not to mention, this romance is STELLAR. A couple who fights together. Not only to BE together but to SURVIVE together. Oh y’all. I love Cai and he has me absolutely smitten. What a cinnamon roll.

The last scenes kind of wrapped up quickly? I thought it was wild to add in another whole battle segment, but I guess it did give closure to a few villain character lines that needed snuffed out so Fallon and Cai could have some actual peace. It was engrossing and I’m so happy that I read this series through. I feel like it’s a bit of a hidden gem and definitely one to pick up!!

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Historical Fiction
  • Language: none to very little
  • Romance: kisses to closed door
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: intense violence with many depictions of blood & gore, loss of loved ones

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