Review | These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights

by Chloe Gong

YA Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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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. 

This book has one of the best premises I’ve ever heard. A Romeo and Juliet retelling set in Shanghai in the 1920s? Yes, please. It also helps that it’s kind of similar to my own current work in progress, which is also a Romeo and Juliet retelling. I’ve seen this book doing the rounds in the book community so I knew I had to check it out.

I really enjoying the writing style of Gong, I think she definitely has a talent for making this immersive story with her beautiful description and imaginative setting and characters. I loved how well she weaved in the original Shakespeare play, but she also gave this book her own original twist to keep us on her toes. I enjoyed that Roma and Juliette were enemies instead of instantly swooning over each other, I thought this was a nice touch – and hey, who doesn’t love an enemies-to-lovers romance?

Not going to lie, I did find myself a little bored about halfway through so I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I thought it would. I felt like all the science talk about vaccines and such left me quite disinterested and felt like it could have done without so much detail because it just made it less engaging. Once I fell into that hole, it took me ages to get through but the ending did make up for it and reeled me right back in.

Speaking of, Chloe Gong is absolutely sick for that ending. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more shocked, bam, something else happens that literally left me sitting there with my jaw hanging open. She sure knows how to deliver an effective cliffhanger, and I’m definitely intrigued for when the sequel comes out.

Review | The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon

The Mask Falling

by Samantha Shannon

Fantasy, Science-Fiction

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Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…

Well, where do I even begin with this book?

I think anyone else who’s already read the latest instalment in the amazing Bone Season series will understand how much it really puts you through your paces – just when you thought you had reached the twists of all twists, there’s another right around the corner. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long for this like all the other fans did because I only picked up the Bone Season last year, but I can imagine a book as action-packed and dramatic as this was well worth the wait.

Shannon brings us back into the world of The Bone Season with the fourth instalment, and she does so masterfully. Her character and setting are rich as always, and perhaps even more so in The Mask Falling. I especially adored the setting and world-building of this book, which was set in Paris. It really felt like the city had come alive on the pages, and I think it’s a testament to Shannon’s marvellous writing ability to see how well and realistically she crafted this inventive setting. I also really enjoyed to explore more of Paige and Warden as characters, I think this book did such an excellent job of developing them even more and enhancing their characters. The attention to detail was so admirable, especially in Paige’s trauma after the events of The Song Rising.

And the twists! I mean, seriously. This book was so action-packed that I couldn’t bear to put it down. Every time I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it – that’s how much it captured my attention and I think that’s a perfect example of when a book is great. It kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end, and now I don’t know how I’m going to cope while I wait for the next book. Like seriously? All advice welcome.

And Samantha Shannon, I bow down. Writing Goddess.

Review | Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko


by Jordan Ifueko

YA Fantasy

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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?

Well, to put it simply… this book was nothing short of incredible, huh?

I am glad that this was the first book I picked up because it really gave 2021 the best start reading-wise. Obviously I had been hearing good things about this fantasy debut for ages so I knew I needed to pick it up sharpish. And omg, how glad I am that I did.

Raybearer is a debut fantasy YA novel that follows the story of Tarisai, who after her enigmatic mother known as The Lady orders her to join the Crown Prince’s council only to kill him when she gains his trust, must battle with what is right and wrong and what she was born to do.

I thought this was an incredible novel. The history and the world-building was so rich, as soon as I was a few pages in I was completely immersed in the story of Tarisai and the world. The characters were all so brilliant too, each had their own characteristics and flaws and were really the heart of this novel. It was clear there was so much thought and imagination put into creating this world and setting and it really paid off.

I love how steadily the pace climbed in this book as well. At the beginning it started nice and slow to kind of get us accustomed to the world and these new cultures and traditions that were being introduced, but once we had out feet in the door, it began to speed up and so many twists and revelations followed. It was so hard to put down at times, but at the same time I literally did not want to finish it because I was enjoying it so much.

Ifueko should be so proud of herself for writing such an amazing novel, so rich with emotion and heart and such originality. This is definitely one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in my life and I cannot wait to see how it continues in the sequel. If you’ve not picked up Raybearer then you seriously need to.

Review | Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

Blonde Roots

by Bernardine Evaristo

Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today? We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.

Continuing my exploration of Evaristo’s back catalogue, we are onto Blonde Roots. Evaristo is without a doubt one of my favourite authors I’ve discovered this year and I’m so happy to have been able to work my way through her novels this year so I was excited for this one – however, I have to admit it was the first one that let me down!

In the style of the iconic Noughts & Crosses, Blonde Roots is an emotional story of Doris, who is a slave in a world where Black people are seen as superior and white people their slaves. For me this started off really exciting because it had such a gripping hook, and I knew what I was getting myself into when an author like Evaristo tackled a concept such as this – a heartfelt, tender, emotional story.

And that I did. And although I enjoyed reading this novel mainly because of Evaristo’s stunning and lyrical prose, and because of her signature humour that makes me laugh out loud, there was something about this that fell flat for me. In comparison to the incredible Girl, Woman, Other or the emotional rollercoaster of The Emperor’s Babe, this book just doesn’t come close. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy it, because I actually think that’s impossible when it comes to a writer such as Evaristo, but I wasn’t as impressed with it as I was with her other novels I’ve read. I suppose there always has to be one least favourite, right?

I just didn’t connect to Doris in the way I wanted to and also I really didn’t like the middle part – I thought it was so unnecessary to go fifty or so pages from the slaveowner’s perspective, but hey, maybe that’s just me!

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts if so? Let me know in the comments below!

Review | The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree

by Frances Hardinge

YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction

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The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. This was his greatest secret, his treasure and his undoing. The Tree of Lies. Now it was hers, and the journey he had never finished stretched out before her.

When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. Searching through his belongings for clues, she discovers a strange tree. A tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets.

But as Faith’s untruths spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter…

This book has honestly been on my TBR for the longest time – and I’m so glad the Clear Ur Shit readathon has finally forced myself to get around to this. Earlier this year I read Frances Hardinge for the first time – Deeplight, and I really loved that book. But this one unfortunately disappointed me, despite the immense hype and good things I had only ever heard from it.

The Lie Tree is definitely a fascinating and unique story. I love Hardinge as a writer, she definitely has such a way with words and this is reflected in this novel. It follows the Victorian story of Faith as she vows to discover the secrets and truths of the Lie Tree after her father has been mysteriously murdered – a mythical tree that apparently, if fed lies, will grow fruit that bears you the secrets of others.

This had quite the hooking presence, but unfortunately the story didn’t grab me at all. I thought it would have been one of those novels with a slow start and I would get into the story at a later point, but I was so disheartened throughout. I just didn’t find myself caring for Faith or any of the other characters. I loved the feminist take woven through this story and how Hardinge did a great job of subverting well known gender roles, but unfortunately this was not a hit for me. I found it quite dull and I didn’t really feel any joy reading it.

However, I do have another Hardinge novel in my TBR pile, so I’m definitely going to give her another go. She definitely has beautiful writing, but for me this story just didn’t grab my attention/care in any way at all.

Have you read The Lie Tree? What did you think?

Let me know in the comments below!

Review | The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon

The Song Rising

by Samantha Shannon

YA Fantasy, Dystopian

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The hotly anticipated third book in the bestselling Bone Season series – a ground-breaking, dystopian fantasy of extraordinary imagination

Following a bloody battle against foes on every side, Paige Mahoney has risen to the dangerous position of Underqueen, ruling over London’s criminal population.

But, having turned her back on Jaxon Hall and with vengeful enemies still at large, the task of stabilising the fractured underworld has never seemed so challenging.

Little does Paige know that her reign may be cut short by the introduction of Senshield, a deadly technology that spells doom for the clairvoyant community and the world as they know it…

I have finally caught up with The Bone Season and I’m so very happy about it!

The Song Rising is the third book in the Bone Season series, so if you haven’t read the first two books I would encourage you to stop reading this! The third instalment amps up the tension even more with the introduction of a technology spreading across Scion London that detects unnaturals in the quickest and easiest way. And for Paige and her pals, well, this ain’t good at all. Together they must work together to try defeat this before it develops into a worldwide phenomenon that puts everyone she knows at risk of capture.

As always, Shannon’s prose is so sharp you could cut yourself. Her characters are definitely her biggest strength. With another instalment of this unique series, she is able to again develop their personalities and build on all of them, not just Paige, and it really shows. I feel like in this book I got to know both Nick and Eliza even better.

For the first half of the book, the pace was a bit slow but as soon as it picked up I was completely hooked. I love how in this book we travelled to places such as Manchester and Edinburgh, you really get to get a better idea of the setting and the worldwide-scope that Shannon has created.

There are many twists and turns in this as usual and Shannon really ups the stakes once again in this instalment. That ending absolutely blew my mind and from the looks of how it’s going to lead into the fourth book, I’m so excited to sink my teeth into The Mask Falling in January (although I would sell my soul for an ARC).

If you’ve not read any of The Bone Season series, you really should! You’re in for quite a treat!

Review | The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

The Mime Order

by Samantha Shannon

YA Dystopian, Fantasy

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Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal prison camp of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the survivors are missing and she is the most wanted person in London…

As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on the dreamwalker, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take centre stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner.

Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.

Going into the second book in this series, I have to admit I was slightly scared. After reading and loving Priory of the Orange Tree earlier this year, I had high hopes for The Bone Season series. I finally got around to the first book in this series last month and not that it disappointed me as such, I still enjoyed it to an extent, but it definitely didn’t amaze me as much as I expected it to. Perhaps it was because it was Shannon’s debut or written many years before the more recent Priory, but I wondered how I was going to feel about the sequel to TBS. To find out how I did, keep on reading.

The Mime Order picks up straight after the ending of The Bone Season, which I loved. Like literally right after. I so appreciated the fact that there was no time jump, I feel like it was a brilliant way to hook us right back into the story of Paige that we already knew so well.

I’m not going to leave you hanging—I absolutely adored this. I mean, adored this. I read this as part of my 24 hour readathon and honestly I feel like I picked the right time to read this book – it is one specifically written to be devoured in the shortest amount of time. The pace is so sublimely brilliant that by the time you look up, you realise you’re halfway through this 500 page novel and you didn’t even notice because you were so entirely engrossed in the story.

And the characters! I mean seriously! They were all so incredibly developed and given so much depth and ahh I just loved them all. Paige! Warden! Nick! Eliza! Even after I closed the pages of the book, I don’t think there was a point where I wasn’t thinking about them! I also don’t think I’ve ever seen such improvement between a first book and a second in a series. And let’s not talk about that literally nobody warned me about that completely explosive ending that had me screaming. So here, dear reader, is yours if you haven’t read it yet. Beware.

Also can we talk about how the event at the end of the book was delivered so marvellously? It had been teased throughout the whole book and it did not disappoint. The way she wrote the scene, the descriptions, the actions was incredible. I have so much respect for Shannon as a writer, and I cannot to see what way she breaks my heart next in The Song Rising. One of the best fantasy writers out there, without a shadow of a doubt. Like seriously. Unbelievable.

Review | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

by V.E. Schwab

Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction

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France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever-and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore, and he remembers her name.

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Life After Life, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is New York Times bestselling author V. E. Schwab’s #1 New York Times Bestselling Author genre-defying tour de force.

The hype around this book is REAL. I’ve honestly never seen the book community gather so fiercely around a book as much as they have for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. Now although I loved the Shades of Magic trilogy, was the insane hype for Addie LaRue deserved? Let’s find out.

If you don’t already know, let me give you a quick recap of Addie LaRue’s thrilling premise. A girl in 1714 makes a deal with the devil – she asks for lifetime of nothing bounding her freedom, but he grants her the most cruellest of wishes – to be forgotten by everyone she meets. And so is the story of Addie LaRue, until 300 years later when she meets a boy in a bookstore and he remembers her name.

God, it felt even delicious writing that summary. The pitch for this book is absolutely excellent, kudos to VE Schwab for creating such a unique story. In all the books I have ever read, I don’t think I’ve ever read something with such an incredible concept before.

And there are many more kudos for VE Schwab where that came from, because let me simply say, the hype is well deserved. This book is exceptional. Its structure is perfect, its characters are fantastically crafted and fantastically flawed, the pace is effortless and the story itself is a tsunami of heartfelt emotion.

The characters are so excellent, and I love how easily Schwab shifted not only between Addie and Henry, but also through time, delivering us both of their pasts slowly but at a perfect pace. These characters are both so memorable, as well as the devil, or “the darkness” itself. And both openly queer, we have to stan!

Honestly this book broke me. It was such a beautiful story and I will never not be in awe of VE Schwab’s writing style. Her prose is so stunning and so full of meaning that often you just have to pause to appreciate the beauty of one of her sentences. A true talent to this world, and Addie LaRue is no different. If you haven’t already read this, I couldn’t encourage you enough. You will not regret it. (And bring lots of tissues for the ending.)

Review | The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

The Bone Season

by Samantha Shannon

YA Fantasy

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The year is 2059. Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney is working in the criminal underworld of Scion London, based at Seven Dials, employed by a man named Jaxon Hall. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.

It is raining the day her life changes for ever. Attacked, drugged and kidnapped, Paige is transported to Oxford – a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race. Paige is assigned to Warden, a Rephaite with mysterious motives. He is her master. Her trainer. Her natural enemy. But if Paige wants to regain her freedom she must allow herself to be nurtured in this prison where she is meant to die.

The Bone Season introduces a compelling heroine and also introduces an extraordinary young writer, with huge ambition and a teeming imagination. Samantha Shannon has created a bold new reality in this riveting debut.

This has been a book series on my TBR for the longest time, and especially after reading and LOVING The Priory of the Orange Tree earlier this year, I just knew this was one I had to get around to before the latest book is published this coming January.

The Bone Season is Samantha Shannon’s fantasy debut, and it follows the story of Paige Mahoney, when she is kidnapped to the mysterious race that occupies Oxford in the year 2059. Here she meets Warden, a member of this other race who’s tasked with training her and taking advantage of her unusually rare powers.

This has an incredibly unique world-building and you can tell that there was so much time, energy and imagination put into this novel. However, there was something about this that just didn’t exactly do it for me. I know, I’m as shocked as you probably are. I literally loved The Priory of the Orange Tree, it was absolutely one of my favourite books of this year, but in comparison, I have to admit The Bone Season did slightly disappoint.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t not enjoy it. Especially after the first 100 or so pages when the story really got started, I found myself invested in Paige and the other characters and what was going to happen. Also let it be known from this early moment that I would die for Warden. I loved the characters, and am interested to know more about Nick and Jaxon Hall especially. But I think I fell into that common opinion that there was just far too much info-dumping in the beginning of the story that it put me off enjoying it as much as I could have.

If you were about to pick up The Bone Season for the first time, I would definitely recommend picking up the prequel novella first, The Pale Dreamer. I read this after the novel (which is probably my biggest regret) because I really enjoyed the novella! It obviously didn’t affect my reading experience too much, but if I could start The Bone Season again I definitely would start with The Pale Dreamer novella. It’s the perfect introduction to this amazing world Shannon has created. Although I wasn’t obsessed with the first book, I am definitely intrigued by Paige’s story and am looking forwards to continuing this series soon.

Review | Pet by Akwaeke Emezi



by Akwaeke Emezi

YA Fantasy, LGBTQ

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Pet is here to hunt a monster.
Are you brave enough to look?

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.

This was a very strange book. I expected a lot from the hype that this got, so I was excited to see if it would deliver. I actually heard so many good things about this that I picked it up for #LGBTQMonth, despite it not being on my TBR…but unfortunately I didn’t love it as much as I thought it would.

Don’t get me wrong. It was a good book. I enjoyed it – but it didn’t absolutely blow me away, you know? PET follows the story of Jam, who when she runs into a creature called Pet who claims there are still monsters in Lucille, she has to question everything she already thought she knew.

This kind of started slow so for a while I struggled to completely settle into the story. It was about halfway through when I finally got proper hooked into the novel. It’s very short, by the way, I think only 200 or so pages! The writing was absolutely gorgeous, I can’t fault that. Emezi has a special way with words & they are able to use them to provoke such vivid emotions and important thoughts.

It really does a great job of raising important questions of morality, but I think my biggest issue with this is that it read more like a children’s/MG book to me than it did a YA. I felt like the voice of our narrator was very young, despite the age she actually she was.

But maybe that’s just me. Have you read Pet? I’d love to know your thoughts below!

4 star