These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Netgalley
Publication: November 17th, 2020

✨ Reviews you should check out: Xiran’s, Lili’s, CW’s 

“Anyone can be the master to a monster should their heart be wicked enough.”

These Violent Delights is an ownvoices story starring a Chinese heiress who recently moved back to Shanghai and is willing to do anything to prove to her father that she is ready to rule the Scarlet Gang. But in 1920s Shanghai, the city has many foreign occupiers from the British, to the French, to Americans, to Russians, etc (more about colonization later in the review). And the rival gang in the city is the White Flowers who are ruled by the Russians, and as of now the gangs ruthlessly kill each other while trying to assert dominance in their territories, but they might have to work together when a monster comes from the sea and attacks and kills anyone regardless of their hierarchies and districts. Oh, and it’s also a loose Romeo and Juliet retelling.

Remarkably interesting set up, true? I was so very intrigued, and I was not disappointed. I loved all the overarching important themes in this book and how this author unapologetically wrote about them. The monster might be a made up thing for this story, but the real monsters are the people who take land and culture while also trying to control every aspect of the people they are stealing from’s lives. And those are very much real and still thriving in 2020, and scarier than the scariest of book monsters. 

“You destroy me and then you kiss me. You give me reason to hate you and then you give me reason to love you. Is this a lie or the truth? Is this a ploy or your heart reaching for me?”

I really loved Juliet and I was always compelled to learn more and more about her and her family. The Romeo in the story is named Roma and he is also the heir to the White Flower throne, hopefully. Both of their fathers are not completely sold on their leadership, which is why they are both trying to prove so much. It is also why they have this common ground (and a common, but bloody, past) with each other. I think most of you will enjoy their dynamic, especially being rival heirs who once were maybe more. And I really enjoyed them dancing around each other, discovering clues, and just having to work together again before the city is completely destroyed.

“This place rumbles on Western idealism and Eastern labor…”

This book also very much talks about communism and how white people like to still romanticize the political theory. Meanwhile, so many countries have been completely torn apart by it. This book really shows how people will use communism to help them take over PoC’s land and cities in the name of equality when they are just stealing. The monster (and a contagious disease that people need a cure for) in the book very much plays a part in this. I will say too that this book was very unexpectedly gory. If you are a bit squeamish, you might want to take a bit of caution with this one, because the author does not pull back with incredibly detailed descriptions.

“They believed themselves the rulers of the world—on stolen land in America, on stolen land in Shanghai. Everywhere they went—entitlement.”

Okay, let’s talk about colonization. Seeing Juliet feel like a foreigner in her own country? Her feeling like she must be more Americanized for people to hear her and listen to her? Being sent away to America, “forced” to get an education in American, using the name Juliet, dressing more American, speaking English and with a minimal accent at that? Heartbreak, truly heartbreaking. But this is a reality that so many Asians are forced to live even in 2020 (even my biracial white passing self). The world has always tried to tell us that Westernized voices are the ones that get heard, and if you want people to listen to you then you have to at least appear to be a “model minority” from the East. But I don’t even have words for how extra heartbreaking that is in your own country.

This book also has some really good queer representation, with a brewing m/m romances between side characters that I think will be very much developed in the next book, but also with a trans girl side character who completely won me over. Obviously, it is ownvoices for the Chinese representation, and one half of the m/m relationship is Korean!

“Juliette Cai feared disapproval more than she feared grim on her soul.”

Overall (and again), I loved the themes of this book and I truly did love Juliet. I just felt like I didn’t love the plot with the actual monster in this book. I also felt like a lot plot points built up and just went nowhere, even though I’m sure they will be talked about in future books. I also didn’t love the romance, because I just didn’t love Roma. I think this book did a lot of talking, and not showing us, things about the characters. And the ending of this book really left me wanting so much more, but not necessarily in a good way. I still recommend this completely for the themes alone, and I think it is a very impressive debut. You can also tell that this story means a lot to the author, and her family and culture, and it is a tale that deserves to be read (and a history you shouldn’t let your Westernized education ignore). This is truly the highest of three stars from me, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Trigger and Content Warnings: lots of blood depiction, lots of gore, violence, death, murder, loss of a loved one, general plot around a disease that is contagious, talk of drug use and addiction, self-harm and suicide because of the “monster” in the book, colonization, racism (and lots of microaggressions), lots of talk of communism, brief mention of human trafficking and kidnapping, brief mention of loss of a pet, brief transphobia microaggression in the past (regarding choosing a name/identity), and just in general I think this book could be a tough read for you if you experience entomophobia (a fear of insects) so please use caution!

3
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

Twilight (The Twilight Saga #1) by Stephenie Meyer | Chapter Breakdown Review with Spoilers

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Hey, friends! I’m going to keep it extremely honest with you and let you know that I feel like I need to practice writing in-depth reviews again. It’s been a while, and by a while I mean… it’s been since February. I am rusty, and not that confident, so I’m using my highlights and notes from a few rereads I did earlier this year to hopefully shake some of that rust off and regain a little confidence. Also, I always love a good breakdown. So, without further ado, here is the most chaotic breakdown review for Twilight!

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…”

➽ Chapter 1:
I completely had forgotten that this book just starts out with Bella Swan thinking about death (love some good foreshadowing), but basically, she is leaving Phoenix to live with her father in Forks. Forks, Washington is a small town where everyone knows everyone. Oh, also, Bella is 5’4” like me and I had a good giggle. [short rest]

➽ Chapter 2:
This is the chapter where Bella meets the elusive Edward Cullen, who doesn’t date. Also, the Withering Heights mention, get me out of here.

➽ Chapter 3:
The truck *accident* chapter, also we get to see Bella’s first dreams of Edward.

➽ Chapter 4:
Edward just officially won’t leave Bella alone now.

➽ Chapter 5:
“…but leave me alone… I’m bad” and “I’m dangerous!” he says to her! This is also the chapter with the lab prompt of them pricking their finger to figure out their blood types. But Bella gets sick, and Edward drives her home.

➽ Chapter 6:
Jacob Black finally enters the story, with the start of Stephenie Meyer’s questionable Native representation. They meet at the beach, where Jacob proceeds to tell Bella that Edward is a Vampire. Young Melanie truly didn’t remember it going down like that, and I have to laugh thinking back.

➽ Chapter 7:
NOT A FILIPINO VAMPIRE BEING IN THIS STORY! Please, God, help me. Also, a taro mention even. What did I do to ask for this representation? I truly think I blocked this out for my own health. Also, Bella is researching Vampires.

➽ Chapter 8:
Bella is going out with some girl friends (in a very het way) and she almost gets mugged. I truly had forgotten so much of this book. But also, the iconic mushroom ravioli is ordered for the first time in this chapter.

➽ Chapter 9:
Again, Edward continues to try to convince Bella he is dangerous by doing the very bare minimum. Bella proceeds to confess that she is in love with him.

➽ Chapter 10:
This chapter had the start of some very questionable disability representation, that was highkey very ableist. We also learn the secret that Edward can read minds, but not Bella’s because she is the opposite of ordinary and all.

➽ Chapter 11:
Edwards asks 500 questions, and Jacob comes back into the story for two seconds.

➽ Chapter 12:
Bella’s dad, Charlie, is going away on a fishing trip, so Bella can spend a lot more quality time with Edward without him knowing, even though he’s pretty horrible in this chapter. But we get to meet Alice and even in 2020 she is the only character deserving of rights, so we love that a lot. But the chapter ends with Bella using cold medicine to sleep. Oh, and we realize Edward is sparkly in this chapter! (How could I almost forget that?)

➽ Chapter 13:
Questionable drug analogy that made me extremely uncomfortable. But then Edward gives Bella a piggyback ride through the forest, and they have their first kiss that they feel drunk from. I am also pretty sure Edward tells Bella that he wanted to eat and kiss her before he kisses her. Smooth, baby.

➽ Chapter 14:
Edward just randomly starts talking about his jealousy and how he watches her sleep and likes when she says his name while sleeping. Bella takes in all this information being presented and asks him if they could get married.

➽ Chapter 15:
Bella gets to go to Edward’s house, and he tells her his backstory.

➽ Chapter 16:
We learn how Carlisle Cullen came to meet Edward and how he saved him. Again, Alice is the best Cullen and best Twilight character.

➽ Chapter 17:
The famous vampire baseball chapter! Also, some proclaiming of love, but then people start coming to their secret forest field!

➽ Chapter 18:
They want Bella to leave Forks, but she refuses to leave her dad.

➽ Chapter 19:
Bella tells Charlie that she is leaving to go back to Phoenix, but it is just a lie for the Cullens to protect her.

➽ Chapter 20:
Bella finally asking the real questions to Alice and Jesper about how to become a vampire, while Alice is having ballet studio premonitions.

➽ Chapter 21:
Bella pretends to be on the phone with her mom, but it’s really a blackmail phone call to lure her away from the Cullens once and for all.

➽ Chapter 22:
And Bella is extra dumb, so she runs away from the airport and goes to the ballet studio from her youth, where bad things happen to her.

➽ Chapter 23:
But no worries because Edward is able to suck the venom out and save her life.

➽ Chapter 24:
This is the chapter that irritated me the most (which is saying a lot), because I just truly hate Bella’s mom. She truly wants to split her time between her new man and her child, and it just feels horrible. Like, no wonder the Cullens seem so great, holy moly.

➽ Epilogue:
What better way to end this story than with Edward taking Bella to prom as a special surprise treat! Jacob proceeds to tell them that him and his family will be watching them. Meanwhile, Bella just wants to be a vampire, which is valid. I kinda loved how this book ends on a cliffhanger a tiny bit, where you might think that Edward is biting her, but we all know better than that.

Overall, this was a full adventure with a full range of emotions. It has been well over a decade since I’ve read this, and I had forgotten so much. I will say that it did not entice me enough to pick up the next book again, but I am still curious about what Stephenie is finally (and actually) going to have published with Midnight Sun in August. And I’m more curious if she has revised it enough to have it meet 2020’s standards. (The bar is still so very low, but I like to think it isn’t still 2005 low.)

If you made it to the end of this, you are a brave soul, and I hope you find your special, sparkly vampire life partner(s). And I hope you all have a smoother love story that the mess that is Edward and Bella.

Content and Trigger Warnings for talk of suicide (attempted), ableist language, blood depiction, possible mugging, and talk of loss of a child in the past.

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Furyborn (Empirium, #1) by Claire Legrand

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ARC provided by Sourcebooks in exchange for an honest review.

“The queen stopped screaming just after midnight.”

Apparently, this is going to be a super polarizing book here on Goodreads, which is totally fine. Whatever your feelings are towards this book, they are totally valid. I did end up really enjoying it though. I thought it read like an adult high fantasy, I loved the constant juxtaposition between the two main protagonists, I thought it was high action back to back to back, and I loved how morally grey and ambiguous everyone was. Maybe this book just catered to my personal reading tastes a bit more than others, but I really loved reading this.

I loved the worldbuilding, I didn’t find it difficult to understand. I loved the fast paced and constant action. I ended up completely adoring many of the characters. I thought the writing was smart and lyrical. And I just overall thought this was an expertly crafted tale and made these two girl’s stories and parallels blend perfectly.

Furyborn is a book about two girls who are leading very different paths, from very different times:

“She was supposed to be the Sun Queen, their savior and protector. And yet she had become the Blood Queen. The Kingsbane. The Lady of Death.”

Rielle Dardenne – A girl that has been forced to hide who she is her entire life. In this world, it is rare to have a magical power, but completely unheard of to be able to wield all seven, well, except in a prophecy. After a life or death situation, her kingdom finds out, and then she is forced to complete seven magical trials or be executed.

“We live in a world where good kings die and those foolish enough to hope for something better are killed where they stand.”

Eliana Ferracora – A bounty hunter that is forced to work for the Empire, who put every rebel they find to death. In this world, this is the only way to survive, until Eliana’s family gets broken apart, and she is forced to truly see the world in a different light.

And one of the best prologues that I’ve ever read, shows the starts of how these two women are connected, despite their stories taking place one-thousand-years apart. We are also introduced to a prophecy about two queens, who will change the world and leave it impacted forever.

“Two Queens will rise.
One of blood. One of light.”

My favorite part of this entire book was seeing the juxtaposition between Rielle and Eliana constantly. This story is told entirely in alternating chapters/points of view of the two girls. They would be doing such similar things, a millennium apart, but we’d get to see the different reactions, choices, and actions they decided upon.

And we have a full cast of side characters who also have completely stolen my heart:
Ludivine – My second favorite character, and an amazing representation of found family and the unconditional love we have for friends. And like, give me all the wonderful girl friendships!
Audric – Rielle’s love interest, and the king in waiting. Also, a sweet cinnamon roll and powerful light bringer.
Corien – I could write at least one page on this character alone. But he’s wonderfully crafted, and I can’t wait for you all to meet him.
Remy – Eliana’s little brother, who is in love with stories and is just adorable in general.
Navi – Princess from another country that truly stole my heart. Also, more friendship goals.
Simon – Oh boy, I don’t even know how to talk about him. Simon ended up being my favorite character, but I can’t say much without spoiling things. He’s amazing, he’s caring, he’s selfless, and he’s a wonderful leader.

(Six of the Seven beautiful character cards created by Kate Trish!)

Next, I love you all, and these next two paragraphs aren’t directed at any one person. I’m only even writing them, because I’ve seen many reviews talking about both of the things I’m about to talk about. And both of these paragraphs are also going to be very personal to me, so please be respectful, and try not to hate me. Thanks.

I see a lot of people talking about how they feel the bi rep is bad because those characters think and talk about sex a lot, but I honestly think that’s such a dangerous way to think. Bi people/characters should be able to be promiscuous without the world yelling that it’s bad rep/bad actions. You all that do this set queer people back every time you do this. And you only help to reinforce that stereotype. Hi, my name is Melanie, and I identify as pansexual, and you know what I like to have? A lot of sex. So, whenever people say things like this, it actually hurts me and makes me feel bad about myself. People should be able to have sex, a lot of sex, sex with one partner, sex with many partners, sex with themselves, and they shouldn’t be shamed for it. Literature, our society, and the damn world need more sex positivity. And you’ll never catch me shaming anyone or any book for having too much of it, as long as it’s healthy and consensual.

I also see a lot of people saying that there isn’t bi rep in this. Just because a bisexual ends up with the opposite gender, and only has sex on the page with the opposite gender, that doesn’t make them not (or less) bisexual. Both main characters, who both identify as female, state attraction to women, a few times, and that’s enough. Am I going to say this is the best rep in the world and I see myself so much on the pages? No. But am I going to discredit female bisexuals who are with men or who have never even been with a woman? Hell no. This is also super harmful thinking. Hi, my name is Melanie, and I identify as female pansexual, and you know what I’ve been in? A lot of monogamous relationships with partners that identify as male. People shouldn’t make bi/pan people only feel valid if their representation means they end up with the opposite sex/people who identify as nonbinary. Miss me with that gross line of thinking, please. Bisexuality is about attraction, not action, you don’t have to perform any action, sexual or not, to prove your bisexuality. And both these characters say they are attracted to women, one of them many times, despite her also performing sex work with females, which many are acting like that’s the only time she’s expressed attraction to women. Also, I’m not going to write a third paragraph about how we shouldn’t shame sex work, you all should just know better in 2018.

Okay, so moving on, the next thing I want to talk about is the portrayal of grief. I really appreciated the portrayal of grief and how real and constant it felt. And it is focused on by both of the leading protagonists throughout this novel. And even though this book is at least borderline New Adult, I still think YA and NA need so many more normalized stories of grief, and how it’s something you might always struggle with, with good days and bad.

And let me emphasize more, that this is a dark book that has constant dark actions and dark themes. When I said above that this reads like an Adult high fantasy, I truly mean it, even though I would consider this book New Adult, and even though it is marketed as Young Adult. Trigger/Content Warnings: Abuse, child abuse, death, gore, violence, abduction, kidnapping, animal cruelty, loss of a parent, loss of a loved one, sexual content, slavery, and torture.

Also, I’d like to touch on the animal abuse scene a bit more, because animal cruelty is one of two triggers that I personally have. Was the scene hard to read for me? Yeah, a bit. Do I think it was done in a malicious manner? No, not at all. Did the character feel really awful afterwards and remark on it a few times after the event took place? Yeah. And lastly, do I think it’s extremely believable that someone who doesn’t understand their powers would not think about harming an animal consequentially while using them to save the human being you love most in this world? Yes, 100% yes.

Okay, moving on to the romance. I was much more invested in Rielle’s romance than Eliana’s, which is maybe not the general consensus either. After reading the prologue, and knowing what happens between Rielle and Aurdric, I just became so invested to see the events that took place to make the events come to fruition. Like, I became obsessed. And I will read book two alone so that I can hopefully find out more. Also, yeah, there is sex in this book, but it’s tastefully done and for sure not anywhere close to the worst sex scene I’ve ever read. It was just a normal sex scene to me; nothing over the top and nothing bad. But it did heavily emphasize consent and making sure this was something that the woman wanted to do throughout the act. I loved that, and please give me more books like this.

“I don’t know how to both love you and be the person who sends you to war.”

But I really enjoyed this one, and I can’t wait to see where Claire Legrand takes these two interwoven tales next, especially with how both points of view leave off. I thought this was fun, and filled with action, and hard to put down each night. Also, give me all the *Breaking Benjamin voice* evil angelssssss! But I am excited to see how everyone feels upon release, since this does seem like a very polarizing book thus far.

You know who I really think would enjoy this book? Fans of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen! Now, I know that that series is super polarizing, and I was such a strange reader and gave the entire trilogy three stars, but I truly kept thinking how much Furyborn reminded me of that series. But, dare I say? Better. It reads and feels better. Yet, if you liked The Queen of the Tearling, I would 100% recommend this to you still.

Overall, reading is subjective. And something that one person loves, another could just as easily hate. And one ownvoices reviewer can think the rep is bad in a book, where another could really appreciate and love it. As long as someone isn’t personally coming into my house and bothering me or my loved ones, I’m not going to fight someone over a book. Let people enjoy the things they love, and let people dislike the things they hate. But remember, telling a person their feelings aren’t valid is never a good look.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.


(Massive) buddy read with:
💗 Jessica at fringereading
💗 Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills
💗 Julie at Pages and Pens
💗 Alexis at The Sloth Reader
💗 Jules at JA Ironside
💗 Jenn at I Will Seize the Day
💗 Lilly at Lair of Books
💗 Imogen at Imi Reviews Books
💗 Lourdes at Chapters We Love
💗 Paula at Je Speak Franglish
💗 And Rian

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Buddy Read with Jules

“Everyone knew you shouldn’t go biting into fruit offered to you by magical creatures in the woods, even if you’d thought until just five minutes ago that such stories were, you know, only stories.”

This is a wonderful and magical tale about fae creatures that resided in the local Washington forests one wintry season. From page one, this story was so atmospheric and I was completely swept away in this tale of goblins and the horrible things they are capable of in their treetop village. Yet, the goblins only do terrible things if their need for gold is not met by their goblin liaison, Kit.

Every full moon he goes into the forest, notices all the hidden fae signs of life, and meets with the goblins and their leader, Redring, named after the first thing she has ever stolen, which she also wears proudly around her neck. At the monthly encounters, Kit gives them the gold he has collected, or stolen, to appease them from causing havoc on his local townsfolk.

At this wintry visit, Kit does not provide enough gold, and even though he promises to return quickly, the goblins are not satisfied and they decide to have a little fun at the expensive of a local barista and artist who has been drawn to the forests her whole life.

“This magic brought all sorts of cruelty,”

This story surrounds four people, from two different families, and their lives that quickly intertwine. The victim and the liaison’s paths inevitably cross, and we are lead on a magical story trying to figure out how to stop the goblins once and for all, while everyone also chooses to start relationships.

Kit Sylvain – 24 – Mechanic and auto shop owner who also enjoys chainsaw carving. Oh, and goblin liaison.
Livy Darwen – 26 – Environmental scientist, who is passionate about cleaning up her forest, and even more passionate about trying to save her little sister.
Skye Darwen – 23 – Barista and artist, sister of Livy, who accidentally wanders upon the Goblins and finds herself under a powerful curse.
Grady Sylvain – 21 – Chef, who is trying to save money by living with his cousin, Kit, and ends up tangled in the goblin’s web, too.

I enjoyed these characters and their budding relationships, don’t get me wrong, but it still felt a little off. Especially Kit and Livy, because they felt so much older than mid twenties. Hell, they even kept making comparisons how they felt old to their family members, you know, the 21 and 23 year old. I honestly feel like this story was first written with them as the parents, and I actually feel like it would have felt more authentic and more true.

Like, Kit kept talking about how he has always been a bachelor, because of his predicament with the goblins, and I’m like “YOU’RE ONLY 24, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” Seriously, this story would have worked so much better if they were in their 30’s. Like, please, just add ten years to Kit and Livy both and I’d be a happy camper.

Then Skye and Grady’s relationship felt a little off just because of the circumstance that forced them together. As the reader, I was left constantly wondering if they were acting this way because of their predicament or because of their genuine feelings for one another. I totally understand that this is intended, but it made the sex scenes not as enjoyable as they could have been.

Also, for the record, the sex in this book is not good. Like, this for sure has erotic moments, but I didn’t believe or buy them whatsoever. I have read a lot of erotica and a lot of new adult sexy time stories in my day, so maybe the bar is just set high for me, but I personally didn’t enjoy the sex in this book and sort of wish it wasn’t in it.

I did love that both relationships had an older woman with a younger man. We never get to see this relationship dynamic in books, even though it is super common in the real world. So I give huge kudos to Molly Ringle for incorporating that into her story.

And to separate the pairs into other pairs, I freaking loved the familial bonds from each of these characters, especially Livy and Skye. I love sibling relationship stories, and this one truly warmed my heart to see Livy do whatever it takes to save her sister. Kit and Grady, even though they are cousins and not brothers, were still super enjoyable too, and I loved how self sacrificing Kit was willing to be for his family.

I didn’t like how Livy chose not to get her and Skye’s mother involved with Skye’s sickness, especially when she was taking Skye to see professional help and even talked about suicide prevention. In this story, their mother lives in Oregon, and Livy feels like she doesn’t want to involve her mom because she has worked and done so much for them growing up, but, like, that’s her daughter who is hurting, she would want to know. It just rubbed me the wrong way and further justifies my point that Livy and Kit felt so much older and were truly the parental figures in this story, not random twenty-year-olds.

My favorite character in the whole story was a goblin named Flowerwatch, and I would instantly buy a spin-off book just involving that little cinnamon roll. Seriously, she was so precious and the values and morals she brought to the story were so tedious. Flowerwatch truly is a literary gift to this world, and I’d recommend this book to my friends because of this little goblin alone.

I haven’t read that many books on goblins, but I really enjoyed Molly Ringle’s debut take on them, and loved the eerie, creepy, spooky vibe she constantly created involving them. This story was actually inspired by a poem, Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti, that I have never personally read, but now I am so very interested, and I think that speaks volumes about how enthralled this world left me. I’m also really craving to read Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones now, too!

Overall, this was a really enjoyable read. It is fast paced, relatively short, and I’m super happy I gave it a try. My favorite part, besides all the fae life, was how amazingly atmospheric it was. I constantly felt like I was teleported into a snowy forest, or a small town café, or even in a boat floating down a river stream. I really think Molly Ringle is a beautiful writer, who has so much talent with words. I am very excited to see what she does next.


The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.