These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong

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.

Fantasy, 449 pages, published in 2020

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.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warnings: disease (pandemic), violence, self-harm

This had been one of my most anticipated releases for a long time, but it didn’t quite live up to what I was expecting.

I wouldn’t say anything about this book was bad, but nothing about was all that great to me either. I had been prepared for a slow-burn hate-to-love romance, but it felt like all the romance happened in the past.

The plot of this book revolves around a “disease” and there were a lot of parts that hit way too close to home considering the past year and a half.

The retelling aspect of this book didn’t really have me feeling either way. There were some plot points that I could predict because I knew of the original story.

The ending of this book felt very intriguing, but I don’t think it was enough for me to want to read the sequel. I didn’t feel connected to the characters and I didn’t particularly care about the gang rivalry.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I do think fans of YA fantasy would enjoy this, especially if a historical setting would be interesting to you. I think I am a little burned out from YA fantasy, so I didn’t enjoy as much as I could have.

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The Mask Falling (The Bone Season #4) by Samantha Shannon

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…

Fantasy, 528 pages, published in 2021

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…
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Content Warnings: PTSD, possession/loss of autonomy

For some reason, I can’t quite give any of the books in this series a full 5 stars, despite absolutely loving them so far! I think this one is my favorite so far because it had some of my favorite scenes.

THE GOOD

The beginning of this book was one of my favorite parts of the series so far. Since the beginning, Arcturus and Paige have not really had a chance to just…be who they are with each other for any amount of time, so it was nice to see their non-emergency personalities come out.

Paige really went through it in the end of the last book, and she definitely deals with it in this one. I hate when characters go through something traumatic, then suddenly don’t seem to remember it happened.

There some tense scenes in the rest of the book! This is the middle book of the series, so this definitely felt like it was ramping up to the second half of the series.

The end of this book definitely gave me the biggest range of emotions so far in the series.

THE BAD

Each book has a new setting, though this one was the most different. The main characters are in a new country, interacting with a (mostly) new set of characters. It takes place in Paris, so learning all the new characters with French names was a little hard on my brain. The amount of relevant side characters in this series is hard for me in general.

I RECOMMEND THIS FOR…

I love this series, but I’m not sure who the target audience is. It definitely feels like fans of YA would enjoy this if they are looking for something darker (and it does get dark). It doesn’t seem like something fans of typical adult fantasy typically enjoy. This series a mix of urban fantasy and sci-fi, so it’ll be a shift for fans of the classic medieval fantasy.

If you’re interested in following one central character throughout a series, find futuristic technology combined with magic and government secrets interesting, or are just looking for something unique, I’d recommend this!

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The Tombs of Atuan (Earthsea Cycle #2) by Ursula K. Le Guin

When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.

Fantasy, 180 pages, published in 1970

When young Tenar is chosen as high priestess to the ancient and nameless Powers of the Earth, everything is taken away – home, family, possessions, even her name. For she is now Arha, the Eaten One, guardian of the ominous Tombs of Atuan.

While she is learning her way through the dark labyrinth, a young wizard, Ged, comes to steal the Tombs’ greatest hidden treasure, the Ring of Erreth-Akbe. But Ged also brings with him the light of magic, and together, he and Tenar escape from the darkness that has become her domain.
[Goodreads]

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I was hesitant to read this book because I didn’t love the first one, but I was willing to keep going because I’d heard that this book was quite different. However, I didn’t find that this was the case for me.

This book follows a new character, from her childhood through her being a teenager. I didn’t like this about the first book, so seeing it done again was just tedious. I felt like it took forever to get to the actual plot that was described in the synopsis, despite this being a very short book.

I didn’t really find anything interesting about this book. There wasn’t much more of the world explored, which was a big thing I wanted to see by continuing this series, and I didn’t connect to the characters. By the time Ged, the main character from the first book, showed up, I was so tired of waiting for something to happen that I didn’t care when it did.

I know a lot of people have a nostalgic connection to this series, but unfortunately, I can’t read any more of it, no matter how much potential I feel like it has. The story-telling style, the writing itself, and the characters just don’t work for me.

Normally, I wouldn’t read the sequel to a book I didn’t enjoy, but since this one was so short, I figured I’d give it a shot. I know for sure now that I won’t be continuing the series.

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The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams

The plan that Tormalin the Oathless and Noon the Fell Witch created in order to save the world backfired, and now the threat is even more imminent. With weakened allies and almost no knowledge of their foe, they start out on a journey to find information that will hopefully turn the tides of a losing battle.

The plan that Tormalin the Oathless and Noon the Fell Witch created in order to save the world backfired, and now the threat is even more imminent. With weakened allies and almost no knowledge of their foe, they start out on a journey to find information that will hopefully turn the tides of a losing battle.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: torture/imprisonment, mind control

This book was everything! I loved the first book, and this one certainly did not disappoint.

I do have to say, the beginning was a little slow. There are a few new characters to introduce, so it took a little bit to get to know them and their personalities. I also couldn’t really tell how much time had passed between books. From one character’s POV, it seemed immediate, but from others’, it seemed like it could have been some days or weeks.

The first part of this book was especially funny! There was some morbid humor and I wasn’t expecting it, which made it even funnier.

This book really is about the characters learning about their world. The points of views are split up into a few different groups and each group is kind of discovering things that were previously unknown to them. There are a ton of discoveries that were just absolutely wild! This world is weird and I’ve never read anything like it before. This series is definitely fantasy, but it does kind of cross over into sci-fi a bit as well.

I absolutely adore most of the characters in this series! I just want to wrap them in a blanket and give them hot cocoa. They are all so different from each other and I love seeing their relationships with each other grow.

I’m really looking forward to the last book in this trilogy! The ending of this book definitely set up at least one plotline that is going to be addressed (which I am very excited to see how it will play out) and there is still a lot that needs to be resolved. I have absolutely no idea how it’s going to end because this series keeps surprising me, in the very best way.

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A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

Fantasy, 336 pages, published in 2020

El must navigate Scholomance, the deadly school for those with magic. But in a setting where allies are key, El has always been an outsider with no one to rely on.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Before I say anything, I want to point you to this article about racism and representation in this book, as well as Naomi Novik’s response.

Okay, so this book gave me the weirdest feelings any book has ever given me. I didn’t like Novik’s Uprooted, but I wanted to give her another chance. This book is SO different from Uprooted, but I still don’t think I liked it.

The narrator is Galadriel (yes, named after the LOTR character), who goes by El for short. The story is told in first person, with many (many) interruptions from El. They are anything from memories, to rumors, to explanations of why the tray return in the cafeteria is dangerous. I found these explanations quite obnoxious and intrusive. It felt like took forever for any actual plot to start because the story is constantly being interrupted by whatever El feels the need to explain.

El is also super powerful, but can’t prove it because her power is mass destruction. This had me rolling my eyes a bit, honestly.

The setting was actually quite cool. Nowhere in this school is safe and there aren’t teachers. Students really do just have to fend for themselves, and many of them will die. There were lots of politics around who helps who out and what can be traded or sold.

I didn’t think this was a romance going in, but then about halfway through, it felt like it could be. It walked the line between a romance and not being one, so it felt like this book just didn’t know what it wanted to be.

I really just don’t know what to think of this book, even a week after finishing it. On one hand, it had an interesting setting and I did want to know what happened next, but on the other hand, most of the characters were so one dimensional, not to mention El’s constant interjections. I truly don’t know if I want to read the next book. The ending kind of dropped a bombshell, but I don’t know if I am curious enough to find out what it means.

If you’ve read this book, what did you think? I’m so curious! I’ve seen so many different reviews of this book.

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Send Me Their Souls (Bring Me Their Hearts #3) by Sara Wolf

In the conclusion to this trilogy, Zera must find a way to stop the war that has the potential to throw the world into chaos.

Fantasy, 416 pages, published in 2020

In the conclusion to this trilogy, Zera must find a way to stop the war that has the potential to throw the world into chaos.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Content Warnings: gore

I was really anticipating this book because I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the trilogy, but this conclusion just did not hit the mark.

My memory of the second book is quite hazy, and after reading my review of it, I still don’t recall as much as I should.

The biggest problem about this book for me was that it just felt like a series of hurdles, that while annoying, never really posed a real threat to the main characters. I didn’t feel like these hurdles really did anything to further the plot or add any character development. It felt like they were just checking things off a list to take up enough time to get them to the climax of the book. Pretty major things happened, but they characters kind of just shrugged it off and moved on to the next thing.

I had previously really enjoyed the romance in this series, but it just didn’t do it for me in this one. It felt rushed, even though the relationship was built up over three books.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the humor in this series only succeeds every one out of ten jokes. It’s just not good. It felt like Zera and Mal’s whole relationship was based on witty and funny remarks that were neither witty or funny, so it got old very fast.

I did not understand the ending. Things happened and I have no idea why they happened that way. There was a lot of new worldbuilding brought up in this book, which I guess didn’t have enough time to fully sink in to me.

The only reason that I am not giving this book one star is because I did enjoy the other books in this series so much. I think this world and these characters would have made a great standalone or duology, but stretching it out to a trilogy was it’s downfall.

Also, the narrator for the audiobook…was not good. It sounded like Siri or Alexa was reading it to me, there was almost no emotion.

I hate writing reviews like this because I do want to highlight good things about books, but there wasn’t really anything I liked about this book.

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A Deal with the Elf King (Married to Magic #1) by Elise Kova

Every 100 years, the Elf King comes to Luella’s village to pick a human bride in order to fulfill a centuries old pact. The Human Queen must have magic, so Luella knows it isn’t her, until a long kept secret is revealed. Suddenly, she whisked away to a new land and role that she had no preparation for and is married to the cold Elf King.

Fantasy/Romance, 338 pages, published in 2020

Every 100 years, the Elf King comes to Luella’s village to pick a human bride in order to fulfill a centuries old pact. The Human Queen must have magic, so Luella knows it isn’t her, until a long kept secret is revealed. Suddenly, she whisked away to a new land and role that she had no preparation for and is married to the cold Elf King.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Content Warning: arranged/forced marriage, semi-graphic sex

I saw the cover and the premise of this book…and I had to pick it up. Fake relationships (including fake dating, contract marriage, fake marriage, and arranged marriage) is probably my all time favorite romance trope, so add elves into that, and I’m in.

The beginning started off a little weird. There is a childhood friend love interest that annoyed me while I was reading, but he ended up not being a big part of the story at all. How Luella reacts to this character’s action kind of sets her up for the rest of the book, so beyond that, this guy had no point.

The first 200 pages or so felt very….repetitive. Luella has to get used to living in the elf realm and has to figure out what is expected of her as the Human Queen. She was a healer in her village, so she picks up working in the greenhouse. She doesn’t interact all that much with the Elf King, Eldas, even though he has agreed to teach her about her magic. It felt like every time one of them would open up to the other, they would immediately put their walls up and go right back to where they started.

Once plot finally started happening and Luella and Eldas actually started forming a bond, the pages flew by. Luella is very fiery and strong-willed, so sometimes she did things that weren’t necessarily well-thought out. Eldas kind of lacks a personality, but in general he was a decent guy.

The magic felt a little convenient at times, but overall, I think this world was pretty cool. Elves, fae, mer, vampyrs, and more all live across a border from a human village, where the humans have a longer than normal lifespan due to their proximity to magic.

I ended up with very lukewarm feelings. I can see the potential, but this book was just alright. This is going to be a series of standalones that will all be set in this world (I believe), so I’m definitely interested in reading more. I also am very intrigued by this author’s series because I think her writing style would translate well to a series. Plus, I’ve seen her Air Awakens series all over the place and I’ve always been interested but a little intimidated!

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Vicious Spirits (Gumiho #2) by Kat Cho

After the events of Wicked Fox, Miyoung and her group of friends are left changed. Somin has started seeing ghosts, signaling a greater change in the world, so with the help of the dokkaebi Junu, she must save her friends and the world.

Fantasy, 429 pages, published in 2020

After the events of Wicked Fox, Miyoung and her group of friends are left changed. Somin has started seeing ghosts, signaling a greater change in the world, so with the help of the dokkaebi Junu, she must save her friends and the world.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: death of a parent, mentions of abuse

I really adored Wicked Fox, so I was hesitant about this companion (I’d definitely consider this a sequel, but it’s marketed as a companion) because I didn’t want the story to get super drawn out, but I ended up really enjoying this book! I think I even enjoyed it more than the first book.

This book follows Somin, who was kind of a side character in the first book. She didn’t really stand out to me then, but I really enjoyed getting to know her in this one! Miyoung and Jihoon from the first book are definitely still important characters in this story, which is why I don’t really understand why this is a “companion” novel. Much of the plot revolves around what happened in the first book.

Junu the dokkaebi (goblin) is also a main character in this story. I had neutral feelings about him before, but I ended up adoring him!

Junu and Somin kind of take similar paths as characters. Somin is always putting others before herself, so much so that she sacrifices almost everything she wants so that others can be happy. Throughout this book, she has to learn that sometimes, it’s necessary to put yourself first. Junu, on the other hand, doesn’t think he is worthy of deep connections with people, so he pushes everyone away by being very selfish. He is on a journey to realize that maybe he does deserve to be happy.

Both of their journeys to self love and realizing their worth made their growing relationship in this book so addicting! They start out as enemies, as Somin blames Junu for what happened in the first book, but seeing them reluctantly work together and eventually open up to each other was so sweet. These two are definitely the main reason why I loved this book so much.

I also really enjoyed the Korean mythology aspects of this book. The first book focused on gumiho, but this one delves into dokkaebi, ghosts, reapers, and gods, which I thought was very cool. The ghosts were not done in a very scary way, which is good because I’m a huge chicken!

I’m pretty sure there won’t be any more books in this series. I wouldn’t mind if there were more, but I just really enjoyed how this book wrapped up. I think overall these books are an absolutely fun time, while still handling some deeper issues. I definitely look forward to reading whatever Kat Cho writes in the future!

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From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Poppy has been told since she was a child that the fate of her people relies on her sacrifice as the Maiden. She’s had faith in that, even though no one will tell her exactly what it means, and she begins to question her role once she meets her mysterious new guard, Hawke.

Fantasy, 634 pages, published in 2020

Poppy has been told since she was a child that the fate of her people relies on her sacrifice as the Maiden. She’s had faith in that, even though no one will tell her exactly what it means, and she begins to question her role once she meets her mysterious new guard, Hawke.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: abuse, murder/death, death of family members, mentions of possible sexual assault, graphic sex, violence

I definitely had expectations going into this book (that it was going to be a fun, steamy time) and it definitely met those expectations!

I have to say that my biggest problem with this book was that I was definitely confused for about the first half about the worldbuilding. Words like “the Rise” and “Ascension” meant nothing to me, so I kind of just went along with it until I finally got it. There was a point near the end that was a tad info-dumpy, but at least then I was actually able to understand what was going on.

Other than that though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The romantic/sexual tension was just so good. I saw a specific fanart that convinced me to read this book, and I feel like that sums it up well.

I wasn’t expecting to like the characters as much as I did. Poppy has been sheltered for most of her life, but she is a fighter. There was a certain moment where she finally let go of what was holding her back and it was just such a satisfying moment to see. I also really liked a few of the side characters, specifically Poppy’s other guards.

There was a point that felt like a crossroads, where the story could have gone one of two ways. I like the direction it went, but honestly, I think I would be happy with the other way I was imagining in my head as well.

Overall, I just thought this book was a super fun time and I can’t wait to read more of the series! This is kind of the content I’ve been craving. Contemporary romance feels like not enough and fantasy with a romance sideplot is also not enough, so this was a perfect mix for me.

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The Reluctant Queen (The Queens of Renthia #2) by Sarah Beth Durst

After Queen Daleina discovers that she needs an heir more quickly than she thought, she sends her champions out to find powerful young women who could take on that role. Naelin is not young, nor does she think she is powerful, but after Champion Ven sees the depth of her strength, he believes she is the heir Renthia needs, even if she wants no part of her powers.

Fantasy, 358 pages, published in 2017

After Queen Daleina discovers that she needs an heir more quickly than she thought, she sends her champions out to find powerful young women who could take on that role. Naelin is not young, nor does she think she is powerful, but after Champion Ven sees the depth of her strength, he believes she is the heir Renthia needs, even if she wants no part of her powers.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: violence

I adored the first book in this series and this entry did not disappoint! I thought the world and the characters held the same appeal for me in both books.

Normally, I’m not a fan of adding a new character with each subsequent book in a series, but I love Naelin. A lot of the focus is on her, though you definitely see the characters from the first book often. Naelin is a character that I feel like is rarely shown at the forefront of a story – she’s married and had two young children. She is very powerful magically, but she has always been afraid of her powers.

I did start to get a little frustrated with her because she was so reluctant (it’s in the title of the book, I should have expected it). It’s totally clear why she doesn’t want this position being offered to her, but it’s also totally clear the reader, who has more information about the situation than Naelin does, why it’s so important that she takes this role. It was worth it though, because I loved seeing her change her path in order to find her own happiness and protect her children.

There is a kind of mystery in this book, and I feel like it took me so long to figure out! It’s one of my favorite kinds of mysteries though, so I had a good time with it.

There is a tad of romance in this book and I loved it. I love romance novels, but there is just something so satisfying about a romance subplot in fantasy books. Each little line of romance feels extra sweet because it’s not guaranteed that the couple will end up together or even that there will be a romance like it is with romance-centric books. So yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the little bits of romance in this book!

I’m just in love with this series so far! The forest setting is just so cool, the writing feels nostalgic yet fresh, and the characters are a delight to follow. I definitely recommend this series, as it’s one of my favorites of the year!

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