Book Review: Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Goodreads: Our Violent Ends (These Violent Delights #2)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published: 16 November 2021
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on a mission. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

TL;DR: This was a thrilling and tension-filled conclusion to the duology and although it ended up being quite different to what I expected, I still found myself really enjoying it. It was so much fun to buddy read with Leslie and Julie—we were throwing out a lot of wild theories and swooned over the same moments. I’m trying to make this review as spoiler-free as possible for the first book in the series too, so most of it will lean toward general thoughts I had about OVE.

Continue reading “Book Review: Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong”

First Lines Friday – 13 May 2022

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“The myths of my people say only a true bride of the Sea God can bring an end to his insatiable wrath. When the otherworldly storms rise from the East Sea, lightning breaking the sky and waters ripping up the shore, a bride is chosen and given to the Sea God.
Or sacrificed, depending on the measure of your faith.”

Do you recognise the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 13 May 2022”

First Lines Friday – 25 March 2022

Happy Friday book lovers! We’re back with another First Lines Friday, a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines? Here are the rules:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

First lines:

“They say you can spot a true shénnóng-shi by their hands—palms colored by the stain of the earth, fingertips scarred from thorns, a permanent crust of soil and blood darkening the crescents of their nails.
I used to look at my hands with pride.
Now, all I can think is,
These are the hands that buried my mother.

Do you recognise the book these first lines come from?

Continue reading “First Lines Friday – 25 March 2022”

Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Goodreads: These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1)
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Published: 17 November 2020
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

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.

I buddy read this with Leslie @ Books Are the New Black. Click here to check out her review!

TL;DR: It happened! I finally picked up one of the most hyped YA releases of the last few years and I’m glad to say that I get it—I really get it! I’m not a big Shakespeare reader and so I wasn’t sure how much I’d enjoy an R&J retelling but… With beautifully descriptive writing, the incredible setting in 1920s Shanghai and the added element of a mysterious and murderous monster roaming the streets, this was everything I didn’t know I needed.

Continue reading “Book Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong”

Book Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Goodreads: The Deep
Publisher: Saga Press
Published: 05 November 2019
Genre: Adult SFF

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.

Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.

Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.

Inspired by a song produced by the rap group Clipping for the This American Life episode “We Are In The Future,” The Deep is vividly original and uniquely affecting.

TL;DR: This was a stunning little novella that packs a punch for how short it is. Through this fantastical world, Solomon does an incredible job exploring intergenerational trauma, the impact of shared memories and identity. While this might be a sombre read it’s written in a way that’s not oppressive or heavy and I could’ve read so much more of the lore, the setting and the characters. This was definitely a unique read that I think will churn through my mind for days to come and I can’t wait to read more of what Solomon has written! I would also highly recommend the audiobook because Daveed Diggs’ narration really helped to give this story life.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Deep by Rivers Solomon”

ARC Review: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev

Special thanks to Amazon Original Stories for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Wedding Setup
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Published: 11 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

TL;DR: I’m honestly a little disappointed (in myself) that I haven’t picked up anything by Sonali Dev until this short story because I loved everything about this second-chance romance with hilarious and well-intentioned meddling BFFs, mothers, and aunties. Dev’s writing is humorous, heartfelt, and packed with emotion, and her characters were realistic and relatable. If this short story is a good indication of what her full-length romances are like then I’ve definitely been missing out and I absolutely cannot wait to read more of Dev’s books asap!

Continue reading “ARC Review: The Wedding Setup by Sonali Dev”

ARC Review: Shadow Frost by Coco Ma

Special thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost #1)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: 01 October 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned.


When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.

To kill it.

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

BUY A COPY:

TL;DR: Shadow Frost is a book that younger me would’ve devoured and unquestionably loved but older me is feeling quite conflicted about it. Coco Ma has created a vast world with interesting deity lore, an elemental magic system and a huge cast of characters. That said, the world building was haphazard, the pacing was choppy, and the characters were fairly one-dimensional. I think this book suffered from trying to do too much at one time and it uses a lot of very typical YA tropes about royal families, their bodyguards and friends. There’s a nice found family element which I always love but ultimately, this didn’t work out so well for me.

Before kicking off my review, I have to say that I am impressed by the fact that Coco Ma wrote this when she was 15! I can’t fathom writing something like this now let alone when I was a teenager, so major props to her for creating this intriguing world of magic!


I’m quite conflicted about this book because while I think there were interesting elements as well as characters that I did like, I felt that the story was bogged down by trying to include too much at once. It seemed like the author was trying to cram in as much as possible to cover a lot of bases and unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. The story itself was also nothing new to the genre and didn’t bring anything so unique for it to stand out from the crowd.

Coco Ma presents a vast world with many neighbouring nations, intriguing lore of the gods/goddesses, and an elemental magic system involving the use of stones to channel the magic that resides within a person. People also belonged under certain houses that correlated with patron gods/goddesses but I can’t say exactly how it works because it was unclear to me. The world-building is patchy at best with lots of info-dumping across the story. There were inconsistencies in descriptions, items and language, that made me question whether this was set in a modern or historical period and I’m still not quite sure which it is. This made it difficult for me to picture the settings and sadly, it also affected how I pictured the characters in that, aside from one or two that had their appearance literally shoved in your face, the rest were kind of non-descript.

The writing itself wasn’t bad rather it was the inconsistent pacing that made it hard for me to focus and made this, quite honestly, a bit of a slog to read… The beginning is slow until about 30% and then they’re (very) suddenly off on a quest to find the demon and the pace builds up, only for it to slow down again for a large portion of the story until the action starts up at the end. There’s really not a lot that happens here and I had to push myself to not DNF this.

The characters were all quite typical of YA fantasies that follow the ruling royals, their bodyguards and friends. They’re not 100% cookie-cutter but they are quite one-dimensional and I didn’t form strong attachments to (m)any of them. That said, there is a pretty large cast and surprisingly, we also get almost all of their POVs and it was… A lot! I didn’t expect there to be so many viewpoints and those POVs often changed within chapters, which got pretty confusing at times, especially when there was little to distinguish them from each other. They were fairly angsty teenagers who focused on baffling things during inappropriate times and often made illogical and rash decisions with weak justifications. I didn’t particularly like Asterin, our ‘chosen one’ princess who was good at everything and who everyone loved. She was spoiled, self-absorbed, selfish and quite frankly, a bad friend. The characters who intrigued me the most were Rose and Harry, and though we got their POVs, I would’ve definitely loved to see more from them compared to the others. Again, I feel like if there were fewer POVs, there would’ve been room to give the characters more depth and space for us to care more about them. There are also several romantic pairings and because I didn’t really care for the characters, I wasn’t invested in any of the ships and found some of them to be cringeworthy (no matter how accurate, I don’t think using ‘brat’ as a term of endearment for the person you “love” is attractive, especially when you’re the person it’s being said to).

With all that said, I did become more intrigued by the end. The plot does become intensely dramatic and over the top but I wanted answers and I have more questions than I did at the start. There is also a certain character arc that surprised me and I’m curious to see how the new dynamic affects the friendships and the story. Will I pick up the next book though? I know this is something that younger me would’ve devoured without questions and would’ve (most probably) absolutely adored! But while I am curious now, I’m not sure it’s enough for me to want to read on.

Have you read Shadow Frost or is it on your TBR?

Blog Tour Review: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

Hello, hello friends! I’m so excited to be back with another blog tour with @TheWriteReads gang! Today I’m sharing a review for a book that looks all cute and fluffy on the outside but takes a step beyond that on the inside: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon. Don’t forget to check out all the other bloggers participating in this tour: here! 😍

Special thanks to Penguin for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Instructions for Dancing
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: 01 June 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with a new and utterly unique romance.

Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum for another woman – she’s even throwing out her beloved romance novel collection.

When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out – from the moment they first catch each other’s eye to the last bitter moments of their break-up.

For Evie, it confirms everything she thinks she knows about love – that it doesn’t last.

But at the dance studio she meets X – tall, dreadlocked, fascinating – and they start to learn to dance, together. Can X help break the spell that Evie is under? Can he change Evie’s mind about love?

BUY NOW:

Continue reading “Blog Tour Review: Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon”

Goodreads Monday – The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.*

*Sorry if a book has been featured twice. I need to make better note of which ones I’ve done already!

This week’s featured book is The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. This is a literary historical fiction with elements of magical realism and is Yanagihara’s debut back in 2014.

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara”

Goodreads Monday – Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malindo Lo

Welcome back to Goodreads Monday! It’s been a very hot minute since I did one but I figured I might as well get back into it! This weekly meme was started by @Lauren’s Page Turners and it invites you to pick a book from your TBR and explain why you want to read it. Easy enough, right? Feel free to join in if you want to! I’ll be using a random number generator to pick my books from my insanely long GR Want-to-read list.*

*Sorry if a book has been featured twice. I need to make better note of which ones I’ve done already!

This week’s featured book is Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo. This is a YA LGBTQ+ historical fiction that was released just last month (January 2021) and it has some a pretty high rating!

Continue reading “Goodreads Monday – Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malindo Lo”