Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
Series: These Violent Delights #1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Cindy Kay
Length: 14 hours (449 pages)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderberry Books; Tantor Audio
Release Date: November 17, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: The Last Magician, Six of Crows

SYNOPSIS

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.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

MY THOUGHTS

This is such a cool Romeo & Juliet retelling in 1920s Shanghai. The city had a diverse racial and political makeup that made the perfect backdrop for this tale of rival gangs and mysterious madness. I would call this light fantasy. There is a monster, but the extensive research the author clearly put into this book grounds this gritty story in what feels like reality.

The contagion storyline was especially alarming considering the current pandemic. The bugs were SO creepy and disturbing. The family drama and enemies to lovers vibes were so well executed (or should I say enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies-to-reluctant-allies-to lovers-to-enemies…assuming I’m keeping up). That being said, this definitely needed more romance.

I sometimes struggled to keep up with who all the characters were, but I think that’s a side effect of the audiobook rather than the storytelling. The ending was wild and ends on a mind blowing cliffhanger. I am desperate for the next book and I have high hopes for more romance!

Review: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Raybearer
Author: Jordan Ifueko
Series: Raybearer #1
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Length: 14 hours (368 pages)
Publisher: Amulet Books; Blackstone Publishing
Release Date: August 18, 2020
Source: Libro.fm ALC program
Recommended for fans of: world cultures and folklore

SYNOPSIS

Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

MY THOUGHTS

Raybearer is such a unique and captivating YA fantasy debut that deserves all the praise and attention. While the physical book is stunning, I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook because it brings the writing to life. I felt like I was a kid sitting around a campfire listening to a master storyteller enchant me with African folktales and songs.

The magic system with the Ray is unlike anything else I’ve read. The political intrigue and courtly drama were compelling. The cast of complicated, diverse characters drove the story. There is so much backstory with the Lady that I cannot wait to explore further. And the hints of romance!

If this book is not on your radar, it needs to be. It is creative, well-written, and full of exciting plot twists. I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book!

Thank you to libro.fm and the publisher for the gifted ALC in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Girl, Serpent, Thorn
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 319 pages
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: fairy tales, folklore, mythology from different cultures

SYNOPSIS

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

MY THOUGHTS

This standalone YA fantasy is a fantastic fusion of fairy tales and folklore. It is a loose Sleeping Beauty retelling (although I also picked up a few hints of Beauty & the Beast) set against a lush backdrop of Persian culture and mythology. I’m so glad I chose this for my Carolibrary Book Club in March because it is a new all time favorite.

This is exactly the kind of story I love. This story is very character driven, so if you’re looking for action and adventure this might not be the book for you. I was fascinated by the explorations of what it means to be a monster and how Soraya, Azad, and Parvaneh were all different sides of the same coin. Just about every character was morally gray. The story has hints of romance, but it was not the main focus, which is exactly what this book needed to focus on individual character growth and development.

Some readers in my book club complained that the story could be repetitive due to Soraya’s naivety, but I found it completely plausible due to her incredibly sheltered upbringing. I was so invested in her journey of understanding and embracing who she is, and I loved the way everything came together in the end.

I also appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book. Melissa Bashardoust explains the Persian mythology that influenced this story and how her version differs from the original tales.

Review: Covet by Tracy Wolff

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: Covet
Author: Tracy Wolff
Series: Crave #3
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 680 pages
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Release Date: March 2, 2021
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: vampires
Content Warnings: panic attacks, death, violence, emotional torture, incarceration
Series Reviews: Crave, Crush

SYNOPSIS

I may have reached my breaking point. As if trying to graduate from a school for supernaturals isn’t stressful enough, my relationship status has gone from complicated to a straight-up dumpster fire.

Oh, and the Bloodletter has decided to drop a bomb of epic proportions on us all…

Then again, when has anything at Katmere Academy not been intense?

And the hits just keep coming. Jaxon’s turned colder than an Alaskan winter. The Circle is splintered over my upcoming coronation. As if things couldn’t get worse, now there’s an arrest warrant for Hudson’s and my supposed crimes—which apparently means a lifetime prison sentence with a deadly unbreakable curse.

Choices will have to be made…and I fear not everyone will survive.

The Crave series is best enjoyed in order.
Reading Order:
Book #1 Crave
Book #2 Crush
Book #3 Covet
Book #4 Court 

MY THOUGHTS

Crave continues to be my ultimate guilty pleasure series. Do I really need more teen vampire romances in my life? The answer is always YES. I love this world and these characters so much. I love seeing Grace become more confident in herself and her supernatural abilities. And Hudson is too good for this world (probably why he’s fictional).

However, I know that this series was originally conceived as trilogy before it was expanded to four books on a tight publication schedule, and it shows in Covet. This book is TOO LONG, and the pacing doesn’t always work. I flew through Crave and Crush in about two days each, but Covet took me two weeks. Multiple characters were uncharacteristically indecisive and oblivious for the sake of drawn out plot detours. Grace was especially frustrating and hypocritical in the way she viewed her mating bond and her relationships with Hudson and Jaxon. I also thought the whole prison plot line was confusing and underwhelming.

There were lots of developments I really liked: the Bloodletter, the giants, the Dragon Ball. The final battle was AMAZING and emotional, and I wish more of the book had that energy and pacing (although there is one thing at the end I think should’ve played out differently). Even though this book left more unanswered questions than I would like, I have faith the series will get back on track for an epic, emotional, and fun conclusion in Court!

Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked #1
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Length: 372 pages
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Release Date: October 27, 2020
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of:
Content Warnings: murder, death of a sibling

SYNOPSIS

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

MY THOUGHTS

I really enjoyed this YA paranormal fantasy. I loved the rich & dark atmosphere, the witchy magic, the murder mystery, and allllll the descriptions of food. Kerri Maniscalco shines as a fantasy writer, and I predict that this series will be even better than Stalking Jack the Ripper.

I loved the angst and banter between Emilia and Wrath, but I really wanted more from their enemies to lovers budding romance. I needed more Wrath content in general!

I occasionally felt like things were too easy for Emilia, but honestly, girl went through A LOT in this book so she deserved some lucky breaks. There were some really great twists I did not see coming at all, and that cliffhanger ending… is it October yet? Because I think book 2 will be even better.

Kingdom of the Wicked was my February pick for my book club on Instagram, and I had so much discussing this book (and others) with my group! I’m so glad I decided to start hosting buddy reads in 2021!

Review: A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: A Court of Silver Flames
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses 4
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: ebook
Length: 751 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date: February 16, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: rape, suicidal ideation, PTSD, trauma, depression

SYNOPSIS

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.

MY THOUGHTS

Nesta is hard to love… but Sarah J. Maas made me love her in this book. I am currently a sucker for stories about healing as I just when through a healing journey of my own. I felt parallels between Nesta’s healing and my own, which gave me insights into her actions, her thoughts, her trauma, and why she is the way she is.

I absolutely loved Nesta’s relationship with Cassian and how it developed. Cassian is my new fae bae after this book. Be aware that the sex scenes are very explicit, and some of the details were a bit much.

Everyone praises Sarah J. Maas for writing so many swoonworthy males, but I thought the best part of this book was the female friendships Nesta developed with Gwyn and Emerie. They were exactly who Nesta needed to find her self-worth when she was not willing to accept help from her family. I also loved that Nesta’s female friends, and not just her love interest, helped her find healing.

This book also explores new lore and history of Prythian and the world beyond, opening up lots of possibilities for storylines in future ACOTAR books.

Be aware that this book has a lot of triggers for those who have experienced trauma and mental health struggles. I personally loved this book and Nesta’s journey, but many reviewers I respect felt triggered by problematic aspects of the story. Please do your research before you decide if this book is right for you.

Review: The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The A.I. Who Loved Me
Author: Alyssa Cole
Genre: Sci-Fi Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrators:
Length: 5 hours (126 pages)
Publisher: Audible Audio
Release Date: December 3, 2019
Source: My Audible Library

SYNOPSIS

A captivating romantic comedy with a thrilling sci-fi twist by award-winning author Alyssa Cole!

Trinity Jordan leads a quiet, normal life: working from home for the Hive, a multifunctional government research center, and recovering from the incident that sent her into a tailspin. But the life she’s trying to rebuild is plagued by mishaps when Li Wei, her neighbor’s super sexy and super strange nephew, moves in and turns things upside down. Li Wei’s behavior is downright odd—and the attraction building between them is even more so. When an emergency pulls his aunt away from the apartment complex, Trinity decides to keep an eye on him…and slowly discovers that nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Li Wei isn’t just the hot guy next door—he’s the hot A.I. next door. In fact, he’s so advanced that he blurs the line between man and machine. It’s up to Trinity to help him achieve his objective of learning to be human, but danger is mounting as they figure out whether he’s capable of the most illogical human behavior of all…falling in love.

MY THOUGHTS

This romance novella is set in a technologically advanced near future and features a sci-fi spin on the boy-next-door romance trope. I thought this would be a light and quirky love story, but the society was actually surprisingly dark and twisty below the surface, and the story built up to an unexpected, action-packed ending. This was an entertaining, quick listen with a star-studded cast, but it was a bit confusing. I appreciate the way Alyssa Cole bends genres, but this didn’t quite work for me like I thought it would.

Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Gods of Jade and Shadow
Author: Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 338 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 23, 2019
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: fairy tales & mythology
Content Warnings: suicide, animal sacrifice

SYNOPSIS

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.

Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

MY THOUGHTS

I am so glad this was my IRL book club’s most recent pick! Mexican Gothic was one of my favorite books of 2020, so I’ve been dying to read more of Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s books. Turns out I am a huge fan of her beautiful, lyrical, and atmospheric writing, and she is quickly becoming a favorite author.

Gods of Jade and Shadow blends Cinderella’s fairy tale with Mayan mythology in 1920s Mexico. Casiopeia is basically a maid in her wealthy grandfather’s home. She is a bit naive, but she dreams of more. When she accidentally gets involved with the god of death, she gets her chance for adventure. This book features lush & descriptive settings, a sweet slow burn romance, and plenty of magic.

However, I need to reread this book. I started reading it the day I had my surgery, when I was still in a painkiller-induced haze, and I don’t remember the details of the plot very well. I remember that I loved the experience of reading this, but I am not confident in my star rating for now.

Review: Crystal Crowned by Elise Kova

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Crystal Crowned
Author: Elise Kova
Series: Air Awakens #5
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Young adult
Format: ebook
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Silver Wings Press
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Throne of Glass, Avatar: The Last Airbender
Content Warnings: attempted suicide, miscarriage, warfare, graphic amputation

SYNOPSIS

Long live Solaris. One bloodthirsty ruler has been overthrown by another, casting the shadow of death over the Solaris Empire. Vhalla Yarl stands upon the stage of fate, prepared to do battle one final time. Fragile alliances will be tested and new bonds will be formed as the world is reshaped. She fights as the champion of peace, but when the night is darkest will she be able to pay the price of a new dawn?

MY THOUGHTS

An epic finale to an epic fantasy series!

The crystal magic was crazy dark. This book includes lots of heartbreak and tough choices, but also tons of romance, action, politics, magic, and adventure. The battle scenes were incredibly well written. I loved watching how all the characters grew and changed throughout the series.

I feel a little conflicted about something that happened at the end, but overall I loved this book, I adored this series, and I even though I binged it in a week, I never wanted it to end!

Review: Water’s Wrath by Elise Kova

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Water’s Wrath
Author: Elise Kova
Series: Air Awakens #4
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Audience: Young adult
Format: ebook
Length: 362 pages
Publisher: Silver Wings Press
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Sarah J. Maas

SYNOPSIS

Librarian turned sorcerer. Sorcerer turned hero. Hero turned puppet.

The Solaris Empire found victory in the North and, at the cost of her heart and her innocence, Vhalla Yarl has earned her freedom. But the true fight is only beginning as the secret forces that have been lurking in the shadows, tugging at the strings of Vhalla’s fate, finally come to light. Nowhere is safe, and Vhalla must tread carefully or else she’ll fall into the waiting arms of her greatest foe. Or former lover.

MY THOUGHTS

I absolutely loved this installment. Vhalla’s heartbreak and healing were so well written. The action and politics were riveting. The forbidden romance continues to hurt me but is so beautiful.

Just when it seems that everything has been resolved, Kova sets up a new villain with another shocking cliffhanger ending.