Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/13/21) – These Violent Delights

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.

Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) – Chloe Gong

My library copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.

Fever Ray Rose GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood

The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.

First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.

As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.

My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.

All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

rabbi milligan Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com

These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.

Today’s song:

NEW DANNY ELFMAN ALBUM IN JUNE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: The Life and Deaths of Frankie D.

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Apologies for disappearing again, I just had some stuff to work out school-wise. I’ll probably be back to semi-normal for some of this week and next week, but I’ll probably be more infrequent in April and May because of the SAT and AP exams.

Anyway, I recently received this eARC but put it off for a few weeks, knowing I had to review it…and in retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. For although The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. wasn’t without its flaws, it was a quirky and fun blend of historical fiction, mystery, and contemporary fiction. With more than a few awesome goths added to the mix, of course.

Enjoy this eARC review!

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. - Dundurn

The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. – Colleen Nelson

Frankie Doe doesn’t remember much of her childhood, but what she does remember is the constant bouncing between foster homes. But lately, she’s been having the same recurring dream, in which the ringmaster of a circus beckons for her to join him.

As her dreams grow more vivid, Frankie finds her way into the mystery of a 100-year-old sideshow and the strange cast of characters who inhabited it. But behind the curtain lurks a more sinister story, one that may hold the key to her missing memories.

GIF darkroom after hours of editing beetlejuice - animated GIF on GIFER -  by Milrajas
Frankie at any given moment

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Dundurn Press for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

TW/CW: childhood trauma/PTSD, bullying, brief mention of sexual assault, fire

This is my first taste of Colleen Nelson’s writing, but I’m already a little sad that The Life and Deaths of Frankie D. has such a low rating on Goodreads at present (3.48 at the time I’m writing this review). There were certainly flaws, for sure, but this novel was one that shouldn’t be missed, a mystery cloaked in circuses and dreams.

Frankie wasn’t the most likable of protagonists, but for the story she was in, she was the perfect fit. She’s certainly more than a little dramatic, and for the first part of the novel, she definitely fell into the dreaded “not like other girls” trope; I would’ve certainly rated Frankie D. lower if it had continued, but luckily, with the introduction of Jessica’s character, Frankie learned a lot from her past mentality, and although it wasn’t entirely cured, it was a step forward that I was so grateful for. I also loved seeing some of the story come alive through her personal graphic novel and the art that filled her sketchbook.

The plot was easily the most compelling aspect of this novel. Frankie’s world oscillates from present day to a 100-year-old circus filled with all manner of unusual denizens, and although we only got small glimpses of all of them, it was so fun to see them all characterized! The historical aspect of the world felt wonderfully fleshed out, and there was clearly so much care put into it.

Adding onto that, I loved seeing the mystery of both the fate of the circus and Frankie’s origins unfold before my eyes. The various twists that came together were both clever and added a fascinating layer to the story. The conclusion was a bit too neatly wrapped up for my taste, but most of the story leading up to that point mostly made up for it.

All in all, a fresh and inventive piece of genre-bending YA with circuses, immortality, and mystery. 4 stars!

68.media.tumblr.com 29d5f32d43a76564b5b2ae8e81d4a858  tumblr_o7p35eFBZO1ukk0b1o1_400.gif | Creepy carnival, Creepy, Carnival

Expected release date: April 13, 2021

Today’s song:

My friend and I made playlists for each other on Friday and it was so fun 🥺 this was one of the songs off of the one she made for me

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in ARC Reviews

eARC Review: Sisters of the Wolf

Hi again, bibliophiles!

I have a little bit of extra time on my hands this evening, so I figured I’d use it to review the second eARC I got accepted for recently. Even though the writing and the dialogue wasn’t the best in this one, I’ll 100% vouch for the fact that Sisters of the Wolf boasts a premise unlike anything I’ve seen in YA historical fiction!

Enjoy this review!

Amazon.com: Sisters of the Wolf (9781459747524): Miller-Schroeder,  Patricia: Books

In the time of the Ice Age, every day is a race for survival, and the lives of Shinoni and Keena are no exception. Keena, hailing from a clan of Neanderthals, and Shinoni, the daughter of a Cro-Magnon shaman cross paths after a Neanderthal hunter wreaks havoc on both of their lives. Alone and lost in an unforgiving wilderness, the two girls must set aside their differences and fight for their lives – and the chance to return home once more.

Best Wolf Howling GIFs | Gfycat

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, violence, death of small children, animal death, racism/xenophobia (Neanderthal discrimination against Cro-Magnons and vice versa), sexism

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Dundurn Press for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Writing historical fiction takes loads of research. Writing historical fiction set in a time before written records and where the only clues we have to what life was like is the fossil record and cave paintings…that’s another feat entirely. I guess that’s why I haven’t seen many novels set in the Ice Age before this one, if any at all. So I’d be all for giving a huge round of applause to Patricia Miller-Schroeder for taking the risk, because even though Sisters of the Wolf wasn’t without its flaws, it was unlike any piece of historical fiction I’ve ever read.

There was so much care put into the worldbuilding, and every page was evident of it. Everything from the terminology and colloquial slang used by both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon to the wildlife that the girls encountered was clearly well-researched, making for a very immersive and well-thought-out story. As someone who spent much of my childhood tagging along with my brother’s prehistoric life videos on TV, I had a lot of fun experiencing the world that Miller-Schroeder created.

That being said, the worldbuilding was the best element of Sisters of the Wolf. The writing felt rather bland, almost devoid of any interesting prose that would have made an otherwise decent story far more engaging. It wasn’t bad, I’d say, but it was just…somewhere in the middle. And normally I’m not fond of too much pontificating and excessive purple prose, but…that was kind of what this book needed.

I also found the dialogue to be a little bit stilted and corny. It leaned into almost Disney territory at times, and I found myself cringing a little bit at the way the onomatopoeia that was written most times. This, combined with my issues with the writing, took me out of the story at times, but I managed to stay somewhat engaged throughout most of the novel.

Everything that I’ve seen Sisters of the Wolf show up on has listed it as YA, but I honestly think that it would be just as suitable for middle grade level readers. That’s not a criticism of it in any shape or form, though; both of the protagonists are 13 years old, and it’s light enough for someone in the 8-12 age range to swallow, but dark enough that it stands out from a younger demographic. It would be a great intro for a pre-teen/early teen who’s just starting to get into YA books and needs a sort of transition book, a middle ground between the two genres. I certainly needed those books when I was that age, and I’m happy that books like Sisters of the Wolf exist for kids like I was.

All in all, a bold and original historical fiction novel that was bogged down by bland prose, but made up for some of it with exceptional worldbuilding. 3 stars!

Snow Forest GIF by Living Stills - Find & Share on GIPHY

Expected release date: August 24, 2021

Sisters of the Wolf is Patricia Miller-Schroeder’s YA debut, but she is also the author of several nonfiction science books for children.

Since I’ve already posted once today, check out this week’s Goodreads Monday for today’s song.

That’s it for this eARC review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!