Book Review: These Violent Delights (eARC)

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: eARC from Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 464

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

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.

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.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My first impression of These Violent Delights was that Chloe Gong is a spellbinding writer. The first chapter had me hooked with its stunning writing and intriguing premise. As an English Literature graduate, I was all in for a Shakespeare retelling. Romeo and Juliet is a classic tale, and Chloe Gong has crafted an excellent reimagining which uses the themes from the original in an interesting way. I loved that this isn’t the story of them falling in love, but rather of them meeting again after years apart following a tragedy that caused a rift between them. There are also other references to the original Shakespeare play which are very satisfying.

Chloe Gong does an absolutely brilliant job of making the setting come to life. I felt immersed in 1920s Shanghai, in terms of the sights, smells and sounds, but also in terms of the history. I didn’t know much about the history of Shanghai before reading this book, and enjoyed discovering something new. As well as being about romance and the mystery, These Violent Delights also explores very important themes, such as political divides, colonisation and culture. Sometimes I feel like in retellings the stories are transposed to a different time period and/or setting for the sake of it, just as a way to twist the story, but in this case the choice of 1920s Shanghai really worked as an alternate setting for Romeo and Juliet. The story melded with the setting so well. This is an excellent example of how setting, plot, theme and character can intertwine very effectively.  

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Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab (eARC)

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

Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction  

Publishing Info: eARC from Titan Books   

Pages: 560

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

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.

Thank you so much to Titan Books and NetGalley for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is fantasy author V. E. Schwab’s latest book and is one of the most anticipated releases for 2020. Having not read any of Schwab’s work before, I didn’t go into reading this with any preconception of what to expect from her style. I was excited to read it because it has a very intriguing and mysterious premise, but I tried not to let all the hype around this book give me too high expectations for it. 

What struck me from the beginning was the beautiful writing. I was drawn into Addie’s story right from the first page. Something about the writing just captured me and didn’t let go. The book is written in third person present tense, which I don’t usually like as it can be really awkward to read. However, Schwab writes so beautifully in this book, I sunk into the writing from the first page and didn’t find the third person present tense awkward at all, in fact it read really naturally for this story.

The narrative goes back and forth between the present and the past. In the present, Addie is living in New York and it’s been nearly 300 years since she made her deal. Through the flashback chapters we see what led her to make that decision and how the mysterious, shadowy person she made the deal with tries to persuade her to give in and hand him her soul. My favourite chapters were the ones set in the past. It was really interesting seeing how Addie learned to cope with life with the boundaries of her deal. If everyone forgets you as soon as there’s a door between you, how can you do even simple things like rent a room? If you can’t have a job because everyone forgets you, how do you get money to pay for food? I also loved seeing Addie move through the different periods in history.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as I really enjoyed the experience of reading when I wasn’t sure what to expect. The book’s description doesn’t give much away, and I liked getting to discover the story without too many preconceptions of what it would be about.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue explores themes of time, memory, identity, and what it means to be human, as well as the connections we make with other people. This is a thoughtful and imaginative novel which went right to my heart. It’s a book I will definitely want to read again.

Book Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (ARC)

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Genre: Young adult, historical, paranormal  

Publishing Info: ARC from Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kerri Maniscalco introduces her next series, a dark tale of a beautiful young witch, a troubled demon, and their epic romance, set against a 19th century Italian backdrop.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin…desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn…

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton for sending me an ARC of this book, which I won as part of an #atHomeYALC giveaway on Twitter!

Kerri Maniscalco, author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series, brings us another historical murder mystery, this time set in 19th Century Italy. I haven’t yet read her popular Stalking Jack the Ripper series, but the blurb for Kingdom of the Wicked sounded delightfully intriguing, so I was looking forward to this read. Unfortunately, while Kingdom of the Wicked had all the ingredients for a great book, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. 

The opening was satisfyingly spooky and set up the book excellently. There are touches of this throughout the book, but the mysterious, eerie atmosphere isn’t utilised as much as it could have been.

The historical setting also wasn’t effectively conveyed. In the opening chapters, I had no idea in what time period the book was set. Since I knew Kerri Maniscalco had written historical fiction before, I guessed it was historical. But there wasn’t anything to indicate a time period. In the opening chapters, it could easily have read as having a modern setting, because there were no details that clearly showed when the novel was set. So I went digging for information and found a blurb online that said it was set in the 19th Century. But there’s quite a difference between early and late 19th Century. The one clue in the text is a mention of the ‘Kingdom of Italy’. A further online search and I discovered the Kingdom of Italy existed from 1861, meaning Kingdom of the Wicked must be set sometime after that. Emilia is supposed to be the one solving a mystery, not me! For a historical novel, it really was lacking in historical details and flourishes. I didn’t feel immersed in the setting at all. It felt vaguely historical, but there wasn’t anything to tie it to its particular time period.   

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Book Review: The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (eARC)

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: eARC from Orbit

Pages: 528

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

Thank you so much to Orbit and NetGallery for the eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Once and Future Witches is a well-written and expertly crafted exploration of magic and feminism. Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, made a big splash, so there have been big expectations for her follow up. I haven’t yet read The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so The Once and Future Witches is my first time reading her work. I have to say I was impressed by the quality of the writing. It’s lyrical and captivating, perhaps like a magic spell, which is why it suits this story so well.

The historical setting, the women’s movement and witches are woven together so well. It really works. I loved how magic is done through words from rhymes and stories passed down from mother to daughter through the generations. There are also some subtle and clever changes to history and literature, such as the Sisters Grimm instead of the Brothers Grimm. The rights of witches and the rights of women are tightly connected in this book and shows the struggles women faced in the 1890s. It isn’t just a story of witches and magic, it’s also deeply thought-provoking.

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Fairyloot Chain of Gold Unboxing

My Fairyloot Chain of Gold Collector’s Edition box finally arrived! It was delayed by more than a month due to the coronavirus crises, which was obviously completely out of Fairyloot’s hands. I felt they did a good job of keeping us informed about the delays as they got new information. Since I ordered it in January it meant there was quite a long wait to finally get my hands on my first Collector’s Edition box and I was super excited to open it and see what was inside.

Included in the box were a special edition of Chain of Gold and four items, one of which was already revealed by Fairyloot to be a replica of the Mortal Cup. So let’s see what was inside…

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Book Review: The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh (eARC)

The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2019 by Hodder & Stoughton  

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

Thank you so much to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

I’m a tad late with this review. I did start reading it before it was released, but didn’t end up having much time to read on my holiday to Amsterdam. But better late than never!

The premise for this book instantly got my attention. Vampires. Murder mystery. In New Orleans. In the 1800s. Count me in. I’m quite hard to please when it comes to vampire novels. I think because I have been disappointed by so many. The historical New Orleans setting was certainly a great attraction, as it made a change from all the modern day vampire novels. In fact, it didn’t feel necessarily like a vampire novel, which is a good thing, as it felt like its own rather than trying too hard to fit a mould.

There is a mysterious, sumptuous atmosphere in much of the book, which Reneé Ahdieh does an excellent job at capturing. Alluring is a good word to describe this book. I also can’t help but love a good murder mystery! However I did feel by the end still quite in the dark about all the mysterious people, and whether they are all vampires or something else. That air of mystery is very effective for most of the book, but it would have been more satisfying to get more answers and a clearer picture of this shadowy paranormal world by the end.

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Top 5 Wednesday: YA Series I Abandoned

This week’s Top 5 is a freebie, so I’ve decided to talk about young adult book series that I have given up reading. I’m sure other people have enjoyed and loved these series, but they just weren’t for me. In some cases I knew from the first book I wasn’t going to complete the whole series, but for others I started out enjoying them but ended up disappointed. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

f7460-silence

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Book Review: The Girl King by Meg Clothier

10413845The Girl King by Meg Clothier  

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: March 2011 by Century (first published 2011)

Pages: 336

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Georgia, 1177
For twenty years King Giorgi has defended the throne of his fragile kingdom against all comers. Now on the threshold of old age he faces a grave new threat: he has no son to succeed him. There is only his daughter, Tamar; a clever, indomitable and fearless girl.

When a revolt threatens her life, Tamar is sent to live in the mountains, disguised as a boy, until a devastating betrayal places her in the hands of her enemies. Her courageous escape convinces Giorgi she should be his heir, but the nobles are outraged – no woman will ever rule them.

While her father is alive, Tamar has some protection from the hostile forces that surround her, but once he is dead, she is truly alone. She must find the strength to control the bitterly warring factions at court. She must win the respect of her friends and the fear of her enemies. And she must marry a man of whom the elders approve.

But her heart belongs to a reckless boy from the mountains – a poor match for a queen. With rebellion brewing at home and powerful foes circling her borders, Tamar must make a terrible choice between the man she loves and the land she adores …

The unique setting of this book is what attracted me to it initially. It was interesting to read something historical that is set in a different country. I knew nothing about the history of Georgia before reading this book.

Unfortunately, I felt I didn’t get enough sense of that setting. I didn’t get any idea of the culture of the country. This world didn’t come to life because although the physical landscapes like the mountains were beautifully described, I didn’t get a picture of the towns and cities, the people, the clothes, the food, or customs and culture. There was just something lacking that meant I didn’t get a clear picture of 12th century Georgia beyond the landscape.

Many of the descriptions, particularly towards the beginning of the novel, were trying a bit too hard to be creative or poetic, so some of them just didn’t make any sense. This was off-putting particularly in the first few chapters, as it was hard to get into when there were so many odd metaphors.

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Book to Film Adaptations Coming in 2018

Unsurprisingly, many book to film adaptations will be gracing the big screen this year, and hoping to be a hit with fans and newcomers to the stories alike. As this is often met with mixed success, it will be interesting to see which of these adaptations are a hit and which don’t quite hit the spot. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather ones I am excited to see or have caught my eye. The release dates refer to UK cinema release dates unless otherwise stated.

Ophelia

Initial Release: 22 January (US)

Based on the Shakespearean character and the novel by Lisa Klein, Ophelia is a re-imagining of the classic tragedy, Hamlet. It premiers at the Sundance Film Festival on 22 January.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Release Date: 26 January

Delayed by nearly a whole year as a result of Dylan O’Brien’s injury during filming, The Death Cure is finally here! This film is based on the final book in James Dashner’s Maze Runner series. After the dramatic changes they made to The Scorch Trials (especially the ending) I am both intrigued to see what they’re going to do with this film, and filled with trepidation…

deathcurebooktofilm

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Book Review: Changeling by Philippa Gregory

71qbw-gazclChangeling by Philippa Gregory

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

Publishing Info: 2013 by Simon and Schuster (first published 2012)

Pages: 272

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

In 1453, seventeen-year-old Luca Vero, accused of heresy and expelled from his monastery, is recruited to help investigate evil across Europe but frees his first subject, Isolde, from captivity in a nunnery, and together they seek the one who defends the boundaries of Christendom and holds the secrets of the Order of Darkness.

Philippa Gregory is such a well known name in the book world, and especially in historical fiction. This was my first time reading one of her works and unfortunately it was a poor introduction. It really wouldn’t encourage me to read any of her other books, but I would have hoped some of her other novels are far better than this. It was quite shocking to read such a bad book by a bestselling and well-known author.

The premise is interesting and had potential, but it fell a long long way from that. My main issue with this book is the plot – or lack of it. It reads like its split in two halves. The first half of the book is readable but unremarkable. Luca is investigating witchcraft at the nunnery where Isolde has recently been made Lady Abbess. I found the mystery intriguing and didn’t guess the ‘solution’ to the investigation. It wasn’t a great mystery, but it was okay. There was just about enough to keep me reading.

It went quite downhill after that point. The second half of the book is a rambling mess with no direction. Coincidence after coincidence follow one after another. They happen to stumble upon another unusual happening to investigate totally by chance and decide to get involved, but it’s totally unconnected from the first half of the book. I couldn’t get into the second half at all because I could not see the point of it. The ‘solution’ to this investigation was highly predictable. I guessed it almost instantly so there was nothing to keep me engaged. There was no end goal, no point. There wasn’t even a point in all the characters being there except Gregory wanted them to all be there, so she found a lame excuse to shoehorn them all together. The plot (if you can call it that) is poorly planned out and it just seems to be a random jumble of events.

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