Posted in Reviews

Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Verdict: Probably a better read for everyone else than it was for me. My experience was somewhat dull, but I have no doubt this will be a hit with most other readers if they think they would like it!

Recommended: eh
For a glimpse into 1920s Shanghai, for a historical fantasy gangster story (not a common combo I think), for flavors of Romeo & Juliet but ultimately its own standing story

Summary

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.

Thoughts:

Look, I know. This book has everything. Shanghai in 1920s, one of my favorite place-time combos. A basis in Shakespeare. A fantasy element of monsters. A touch of brutality and gore to darken the story.

So why didn’t I love it???

I’m a bit baffled, honestly. I’ve tried to pinpoint what kept me from falling in love with this book, as I should have by all rights. I think my issue was partly that I wasn’t expecting it to be intertwined with magic and I wasn’t really in the mood for that — and obviously that’s a personal issue, nothing with the book. But the bigger issue I faced was that I just didn’t really care about either of the main characters.

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Posted in A Picture's Worth

A Picture’s Worth: Roma, Juliette, and Mina Lee

Words have always carried more weight with me than images – give me a book over its movie any day – but I do love to see the beautiful images other people create when they’re in love with a book. That’s not my strength, but I can certainly appreciate it in others! So here’s a few of my faves based on what I’ve been reading recently.

These Violent Delights

I chose These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong as a Book of the Month because I had never heard of it before. And then promptly was told by others that they had been hearing about it everywhere for ages. 🤣 Not sure where I’ve been, but it was new to me! 1920s Shanghai combined with Romeo and Juliet and also gangs — yeah, I’m into that.

Ughhhh THE COLORS! They’re so pretty together! I love the high contrast on this one making the drama of the book cover’s details really stand out.

It was nice enough recently for me to chill on the deck again and enjoy some citrus while reading my delicious new book 😍

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Posted in Book Talk, Chatty

The perfect dark and lyrical read: FOUL IS FAIR!

So I had put together my spooky TBR list for October, and debated hard about including Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin or not. I decided not to, just because I had so many books I’ve not read at all yet that I wanted to get to.

And yet… today I pulled this book up to read for a few minutes while I had a quick lunch, and who knows how long later my S.O. came out to ask what I was doing. I got so sucked in!

There’s never going to be a day when I don’t love this Macbeth-y witchy vengeance story. The writing is so poetic and lyrical that reading every line is sheer pleasure just for the way the words dance and the images they bring. What emotion packed into this!

So, okay, yes… I’m probably pushing another book off the list so I can indulge my dual loves of Hannah Capin and William Shakespeare. 🥰

Posted in Fast-Forward Friday

Fast Forward Friday: Phantom of the Opera graphic novel, 10/20!

In contrast to Throwback Thursdays, I like to use Fridays to look forward to an upcoming release I’m excited about! Today’s is a familiar story for many, I’m sure, but told in a new way: The Phantom of the Opera by Varga Tomi!
Expected Release: October 20, 2020

Why wait on this one?

  • It’s a story I know and love, and I am happy to hear it again. Sometimes, it really is as simple as that. I’m not worried about there being changes I dislike because I’m happy to see a new interpretation, if that’s the way they go.
  • The Phantom story lends itself well to stunning visuals. Have you seen the musical?! So having the story in a graphic novel format seems pretty much perfectly fitting for it. A focus on the visual part should do this story justice.
  • As a tagalong point to above, I’m really excited for moody, dark tones right now, and this is nothing if not exactly that. If I have time, I might even grab a copy on pub day to try to add it to this month’s spooky tbr list!

Summary:
Everyone has heard the whispered tales of the phantom who lives beneath the opera house, the mysterious trickster behind all the little mishaps and lost things. But no one has ever seen the monster . . . until now. When the promise of blossoming love lures him out from his intricately constructed hideaways in the labyrinthine building’s walls and cellars, a hideously disfigured artist trains the lovely Christine to be the opera’s next star for a steep price. Does she choose her newfound success or her beloved Count Raoul? This doomed love triangle threatens to combust when a tragic death, a series of betrayals, and increasingly dangerous accidents cast the players of The Palais Garnier into a heart-wrenching horror story that will echo through the ages.

Posted in Reviews

Review: Anna K. by Jenny Lee

Anna K. by Jenny Lee – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Overall, probably kind of dense for readers coming into this with no expectations from the original. Enough reflection of the original yet with its own surprises to interest those familiar with the original. And for both, moments where the old Russian style and internet era style will clash in a really strange way.

Recommended: yes!
For an adaptation from an uncommon source for the genre, for a rich-and-famous-teen story, for a lot of interpersonal intrigue and drama sprinkled with plenty of sex, drugs, and partying.

Summary:
Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society. She has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W. Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather an sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.

As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.

Thoughts:
The experience for those who are coming into this as its own standalone story with no preconceived ideas of what will happen is different than those who have read the original. Be aware that this is a lot more serious and formal in tone than most YA novels, which is due to Lee’s success in imitating the reserved Russian mindset and style of the original. While I plowed through this, other friends said it took them weeks to get through because of how slow and dense it felt at times. The overall effect is an unprecedented blend of modern and classic tones.

The primary hurdle to this blend is when they clash in a quite jarring way. For example, the sentence “Perhaps [she] was rueful over her lost opportunity with [him], who wasn’t as babe-a-licious as [the other guy] but was vastly superior in intellect and character.” (Edited to keep it vague). The term “babealicious” set up against “vastly superior in intellect and character” is extremely weird, posing the character thinking it simultaneously as a serious posh old lady and a millennial pop-culture fanatic. It gets really awkward at times, and the tone is pretty inconsistent. Alternatively (and as above, sometimes simultaneously) aggressively young and weirdly old in their mindset, these teenagers often don’t read as teenagers and makes it hard to classify this as a young adult genre.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Well, I certainly understand what all the fuss was about!

Recommended: I’m not the first to say YES!
For fantastic rep of a character with a disability who is not defined solely by it, for a story that breaks from tropes early on, for situations that are morally grey and grapple with right and wrong

Summary:
Fall in love, break the curse. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, Rhen knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But who will fall in love with – or even survive – the vicious beast that he turns into at the end of each season? His family and people were the first to fall, and now his kingdom is close behind. Harper hardly seems like the one to save Emberfall as she handles her mother dying, her brother forced to serve a thug, and her cerebral palsy. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world. As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

Thoughts:
I was thinking recently about how hard it is to find books with characters who have a disability where the book isn’t focused all about how they have a disability. You know, books where they’re still just people, rather than “that guy with Autism.” And then I picked this up, and lo and behold, here’s my answer to that gripe. This isn’t even a main part of the story, but I absolutely loved the way Harper’s cerebral palsy was worked into the story as an aspect of her rather than as defining her entirely.

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Posted in Reviews

Review: Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin – ⭐⭐
Eeeesh. I had to think about this one a bit to decide where it falls. But… Eeeeh. And I wanted so badly to like it; I’ve been excited for so long!

Recommended: not really
stay away if you want likable characters, satisfying resolutions, or people who don’t bow to societal pressures. Disclaimer: some of this may reflect on me, for being reluctant to forgive these awful characters so easily as they are in the book

Don’t trust a book by it’s color 😦

Summary:
Ayesha Shamsi’s dreams of being a poet have been set aside for a teaching job so she can pay off her debts. She lives with her boisterous Muslim family and is always being reminded that her flighty younger cousin, Hafsa, is close to rejecting her one hundredth marriage proposal. Though Ayesha is lonely, she doesn’t want an arranged marriage. Then she meets Khalid, who is just as smart and handsome as he is conservative and judgmental. She is irritatingly attracted to someone who looks down on her choices and who dresses like he belongs in the seventh century. When a surprise engagement is announced between Khalid and Hafsa, Ayesha is torn between how she feels about the straightforward Khalid and the unsettling new gossip she hears about his family. Looking into the rumors, she finds she has to deal with not only what she discovers about Khalid, but also the truth she realizes about herself.

Thoughts:
Unfortunately, the characters were very difficult to like, each in their own special way. I finished the story, but with no real interest in seeing any of them happy. I liked it less by the end than I had in the middle, when I realized I didn’t like any of them. I felt that the messages given in the story were quite negative, as well. This was intended to be like Pride and Prejudice, but it read more to me like the ending of Grease.

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Posted in Reviews

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White – 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Easy five stars. I loved this the whole way through, and better yet is that it made me want to pick up a classic tale I’ve never read and learn it anew! Darkness, cleverness, twists and growth and I LOVED IT. If you didn’t see already, check out some of the best bookstagrams I found for this book and get hyped.

Recommended: YES YES YES!!!
For fans of shamelessly dark plots and characters, for those who can appreciate difficult moments (think Game of Thrones), for a fascinating new perspective on the story of Frankenstein and his monster

Pretty/Creepy. Suits the story.

Summary:
Elizabeth Lavenza is on the verge of being thrown into the streets from her abusive caretakers, until she is sold to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Thoughts:
Well clearly I loved it. This was a fantastic spontaneous October find, as it fit the “spooky” theme for the month perfectly. I’ve been really enjoying tales with darker tones lately (like Foul Is Fair), and this really hit the spot perfectly. The mysteries within the book twist and churn like a living things, reflecting the shadows that plague Elizabeth and Victor along the way.

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