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: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Boyfriend Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Series: Boyfriend Material #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook Listening Copy
Narrator: Joe Jameson
Length: 13 hours
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca; Dreamscape Media
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Libro.fm ALC program
Recommended for fans of: Red, White, & Royal Blue; lgbtq+ romance, fake dating, enemies to lovers

SYNOPSIS

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go. 

MY THOUGHTS

I adored this hilarious and heartwarming fake dating romance. Luc, a child of celebrities, needs to clean up his public image. Enter Oliver, a friend of a friend. They’ve never cared for each other and seem to have nothing in common, but before you know it, enemies to lovers sparks are flying. This romance focuses more on the relationship than the steam (one fade to black scene), but I didn’t feel like anything was missing.

Both Luc and Oliver had complicated relationships with their families. Luc attempts to reconnect with his absent rockstar father, while Oliver struggles to meet his family’s expectations. It’s difficult to discuss these relationships without spoilers, but I was more satisfied with how Luc’s family storyline resolved than Oliver’s. Luc grew so much throughout the story in terms of understanding his wants, needs, and self-worth, but Oliver’s character development was not quite to the same level.

I knocked half a star off my rating because the ending felt so rushed….what kind of romcom doesn’t have an epilogue?! It needed one.

Thank you to libro.fm and the publisher for gifting me the 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: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Paperback
Length: 305 pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: infertility, pregnancy loss, infidelity, self-harm, depression

SYNOPSIS

Colleen Hoover delivers a tour de force novel about a troubled marriage and the one old forgotten promise that might be able to save it.

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

MY THOUGHTS

This is a super quick second chance romance with chapters alternating between a couple falling then in love and now on the brink of divorce. The juxtaposition with Quinn and Graham’s blissful beginning made their later struggles with infertility and open communication even more heartbreaking.

I do think it was a bit overhyped for me because I’ve heard SO many great things about this book and Colleen Hoover in general. The writing was not always at the level I expected. I felt for the characters, but I didn’t have ALL the feels. I definitely teared up a bit, but I didn’t need a box of tissues.

This book is very emotional and heartbreaking, and you want to make sure you’re in the right headspace to read about these heavy topics.

March 2021 Wrap Up

In March I finished 20 books, including 7 physicals books, 1 ebook, and 12 audiobooks. I honestly thought this number would be lower because despite my two weeks off for spring break I hit a bit of a slump this month, but my audiobooks always save me!


PHYSICAL BOOKS


Covet by Tracy Wolff ☆☆☆.5
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen ☆☆☆
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust ☆☆☆☆☆
Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano ☆☆☆☆.5
The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One by Amanda Lovelace ☆☆☆☆☆
The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner ☆☆☆☆☆
Fangs by Sarah Andersen ☆☆☆☆☆

EBOOKS

Forever Wild by K.A. Tucker ☆☆☆

AUDIOBOOKS

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade ☆☆☆☆
Act Your Age, Eve Brown [ALC] by Talia Hibbert ☆☆☆☆☆
Boyfriend Material [ALC] by Alexis Hall ☆☆☆☆.5
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong ☆☆☆☆
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston ☆☆☆☆☆
Raybearer [ALC] by Jordan Ifueko ☆☆☆☆☆
The Extraordinaries [ALC] by T.J. Klune ☆☆☆☆
The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan ☆☆☆☆
The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan ☆☆☆☆
The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan ☆☆☆☆
The Tyrant’s Tomb by Rick Riordan ☆☆☆☆
The Tower of Nero by Rick Riordan ☆☆☆☆☆


2020 READING GOAL PROGRESS

At the beginning of the year, I shared my 2021 reading goals. When I post my wrap up at the end of each month, I also want to reflect on the progress I’m making toward reaching my goals.

Read 100 books: 60/100

Finish 5 series in progress: 0/5 – Still need to get started on this goal…

Read 12 graphic novels: 3/12 – The Okay Witch + Fangs

Read 12 books of poetry/verse: 3/12 – the mermaid’s voice returns in this one

Read 6 nonfiction books: 1/6 – none this month

Read 3 classics: 0/3 – I AM going read a classic in April

Reread 10 books: 3/10 – no rereads this month

Host monthly backlist buddy reads: 3/12 – Girl, Serpent, Thorn


How did your month go? What was the best book you read in March?

Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Title: Spoiler Alert
Author: Olivia Dade
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Isabelle Ruther
Length: 13 hours (416 pages)
Publisher: Avon; HarperAudio
Release Date: October 5, 2020
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: fandoms
Content Warnings: fat shaming, toxic parents

SYNOPSIS

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

MY THOUGHTS

This romance was cute and heartwarming. I loved how fanfiction and fandom in general was so normalized in this story. It made me miss going to comic conventions so bad!

Marcus is the star of a Game of Thrones type show…who secretly writes fanfiction that criticizes the show’s storylines. As an actor, Marcus presents a public image that hides his sensitivity, intelligence, and insecurities about his Dyslexia.

April is a plus-size fan of Marcus’s show who earns the star’s attention when finally finds the confidence to post a photo of her cosplay on Twitter. After they go on a date, the secret identity trope comes into play, because it turns out Marcus and April are longtime Internet friends through the fandom.

Both protagonists had complicated relationships with their parents and grew up feeling shamed and misunderstood. This added emotional depth to the storyline and created opportunities for significant character growth.

Chapters were interspersed with scenes from fanfic the characters wrote or scripts Marcus acted in. Some of these were entertaining, but these transitions were a bit confusing to follow in the audiobook.

I didn’t totally swoon over the romance, but I did really enjoy this book. The characters had a very healthy relationship with open communication (aside from Marcus’s secret identity…which is actually a pretty big deal). Even though this book wasn’t perfect, it had a lot to love, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun romance with unique representation.

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Ex Talk
Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Emily Ellet
Length: 11 hours
Publisher: Berkley; Penguin Audio
Release Date: January 26, 2021
Source: Library
Recommended for fans of: fake dating, single POV romance, Northwestern Wildcats

SYNOPSIS

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

MY THOUGHTS

I ADORED THIS. Fake exes is the twist on the fake dating trope I never knew I needed. Multiple other romance tropes were also executed flawlessly: enemies to lovers, office romance, just one bed.

I loved Shay. Normally I prefer dual POV romances, but Shay’s was the only perspective I needed. I found her so relatable and passionate, and we share a lot of nerdy interests.

I also loved Dominic, he was soooo swoon worthy, and DID YOU KNOW HE WENT TO NORTHWESTERN? (#GoCats)

I’ve been enjoying books about podcasts lately, and I really liked the influence of radio on the story. I also loved the sweet backstory with Shay’s dad and the epic takedown of a sexist media producer! All the stars.

Review: Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Written in the Stars
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Series: Written in the Stars #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Adult
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Lauren Sweet
Length: 11 hours (384 pages)
Publisher: Avon; Harper Audio
Release Date: November 10, 2020
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: fake dating, enemies to lovers, modern retellings of classics

SYNOPSIS

With nods to Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice, a charming #ownvoices queer rom-com debut about a free-spirited social media astrologer who agrees to fake a relationship with an uptight actuary until New Year’s Eve—with results not even the stars could predict!

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

MY THOUGHTS

OMG I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.

A Pride & Prejudice retelling as a modern-day, queer romance? With fake dating? And enemies to lovers? And opposites attract? And astrology?? YES, PLEASE!

I could gush about this book all day. I just loved these relatable characters and their “written in the stars” romance so much! This story was fresh and steamy, but it also explored Darcy and Elle’s complicated family dynamics, so it’s not all fluff. I know this is shorter than most of my reviews, but I don’t know what to say besides EVERYONE NEEDS THIS ROMANCE IN THEIR LIFE!

I recommend the audiobook, but I loved this so much that I think I’ll be picking up a physical copy for my collection as well!

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!