Review: Our Violent Ends

Review: Our Violent Ends

Rating: 2 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

One monster is dead, and another threatens to push Shanghai into ruins as it balances on a tightrope. Juliette must protect her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir, even if it means working again with Roma to end a new monster in the city. As the city reaches a boiling point, with civil war right on their doorsteps, Roma and Juliette must find a way to work together or face losing everything they’ve ever known.

Our Violent Ends was a disappointing experience. We return to 1920s Shanghai with a much larger focus on the communists and nationalists as the Scarlet Gang and White Flowers struggle to control the city. These Violent Ends revolves around the monster that lurks with the conflict between the Nationalists and Communists is brewing in the background. Our Violent Ends does a complete switch, now the civil war is the main focus with the threat of a new monster lurking in the background. Both novels follow young Juliette and Roma trying to find the truth and help their people before the war breaks them apart.

Sadly, there is just not enough substance to carry this story, clocking at almost 500 pages. Our Violent Ends was dragging itself for no good reason. The progression between the last book and this one should’ve been a sign for me to stop before it got even worse. These Violent Delights ends on a thrilling cliffhanger, the return of a beast, the death of a friend that should spur the characters to keep moving, but the sequel starts after some time has passed and Gong info-dumps everything and moves on. And what she moves onto felt like nothing to me. 

Our Violent Ends was everything and nothing at the same time. Juliette is still on edge about Tyler taking her spot as the heir. I enjoyed Tyler as a villain, but at one point, I was rooting for him just to do the damn thing and take her spot because despite Juliette believing she should be the heir, she does nothing even to showcase that she deserves it. We are told she is badass, smart and deserves to be the heir, but it comes up empty for me. I was hoping Roma’s perspective would at least be interesting. He is, rightfully, upset about Juliette, thinking she is responsible for Marshall’s death. And when they’re forced to work together again, of course, he’s conflicted. I honestly could not bring myself to care about these two as lovers or friends, or enemies. 

A big issue with this duology overall is that it relies on withholding information as plot twists. If Gong wanted to pack a punch, there should’ve been more consequences to the actions of these characters, which is why this entire duology was so underwhelming to read.  A few moments came across as shocking, but I found that I could not care at all after the initial shock, and I realise that it just came out of nowhere.

If there was anything positive about this duology, everything is so interesting except for Juliette and Roma. Whenever the story shifts to follow Tyler, Benedikt, Marshall or Kathleen, it feels like I’m reading a completely different story. I enjoyed myself but then when we returned to our main couple; I just wanted to move on from them. I could not bring myself to feel invested in Roma and Juliette at all. 

Our Violent Ends was disappointing, to say the least.  I truly wanted the best for this duology, but I found it to be incredibly repetitive. As friends, enemies or lovers, Roma and Juliette’s relationship was utterly unsatisfying.  It is frustrating to see an exciting concept squandered, which left me dissatisfied with my reading experience. 


Review: Sisters of the Snake

Review: Sisters of the Snake

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

The 100 Year Truce is soon approaching its end, and if Princess Rani wants any chance of inheriting her throne with no issues, she must escape her cage and delve into the deep magic of her past. Drafted into a war she wants no part in, trickster thief Ria must parade as her long-lost twin princess sister and discover the real reason why they were separated at birth. As the time ticks, both sisters must work together or risk letting magic tear everything apart. 

Rani and Ria have no idea the other exists until they accidentally meet after Ria hopes to use stolen jewellery to fund her escape from Abai. Instead, she is met with Rani, who shares her face and confusion. Desperate to figure out the truth behind her abandonment, she agrees to stay behind in Rani’s place. Ria is left to navigate palace life and see what else lies beneath the walls of her birthplace while also tricking her betrothed, Saeed, and family. At the same time, Rani embarks into the land beyond her city to discover the truth behind the brutal death of her old tutor, convincing Ria’s friend, Amir, and others that she is nothing but a lowly thief.

 A significant highlight of this book is the characters. I enjoyed watching Ria navigate the life of a princess in disgust while also rooting her to find the truth behind her birth. Rani is way out of her comfort zone as she is forced to question her entire upbringing while also dealing with dangerous magic that will threaten the world she knows. Each sister has a cast of characters that are equally important and extremely fun to discover. After a somewhat rocky start, the story redeems itself. It keeps you on edge as chapters alternate between the twins barreling through secrets of their past and nation’s history before coming together in a fast and thrilling resolution. 

Set in an Indian-inspired setting, the Nanua sisters do a great job of bringing to life the city of Abai, making a clear contract between the clean palace walls to the murky streets below. As the first in a series, Sisters of the Snake would’ve benefitted from more world-building, in my opinion. I see the immense potential to expand Rani and Ria’s story into the surrounding Kingdoms.

 If I had to point out a flaw of some kind, the connection between Rani and Ria deserved more screentime than relying on their connection as descendants of snakespeakers. The sweet moments of empowerment and sisterhood fall flat when you realise the girls barely interact in the story at all. For example, Rani is the one who pushes Ria to take her spot and then leaves her with no preparation or instructions. Rani has her pet snake (connected in the same way as a familiar), and it was such an odd decision to introduce Shima as a snake who can talk to Ria through her thoughts but then never have her help Ria at all during her time in the palace. It just read rather strange to me to introduce something that could be useful as a plot device but not utilise it in a way that would’ve improved the story. Especially as their connection as snakespeakers is very pivotal to the plot. 

Sisters of the Snake does exactly what it says on the tin. A YA fantasy with deep lore and a fascinating world design. It’s a solid start to a series, and I have to say I was surprisingly impressed by Sisters of the Snake. While my expectations weren’t low, I did find myself enjoying this series starter from the Nanua sisters. While nothing is out of the water, this is a decent start to a series that I’m very interested in seeing to completion.


Review: Make Up Break Up

Review: Make Up Break Up

Rating: 1 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Annika Dev has high hopes for her app, Make Up. Born out of her passion and personal history, Make Up will be a revolutionary tool to mend relationships. But as struggles to raise her app from the ground up, Break Up, helmed by Hudson Craft, is rising in downloads, breaking up relationships faster than ever before. Annika thought she could ignore her summer fling with Hudson, but when his business moves next door, the two find themselves pitted against each other in a meaningful investment contest. 

I know this will sound really mean, but I can’t believe I wasted my time reading this. Like, I am trying so hard to think of something to say that isn’t so harsh, but Make Up Break Up was not good. The book lacks tension, the writing dragged, and the characters were truly so miserable to read that I genuinely could not understand what they see in each other.

The story did not work for me at all. It begins with Hudson and Co. moving in next door to Annika’s office. They’re popping champagne while Make Up is struggling to stay afloat. Annika soon realises that Hudson aims to win the same investment competition she needs to keep the place afloat. And then it becomes a cat and mouse chase between Annika and Hudson on who can be the most annoying person ever. They act so pettily and messy between themselves; you would think they were some teenagers and not adults. Like hiring a mariachi band to disrupt the other’s party or taking the charger out of a laptop before a major presentation? The stakes were nothing to feel invested about. The plot pretty much drags itself through Annika and Hudson just being assholes to each other. They’re both very self-centered, but Annika takes the cake because at least Hudson tries to be more sociable. He’s still rude in my view, nothing he does redeems him, but his place as a love interest was so two dimensional. He’s pretty, and he’s got a good body. His personality was to be blatantly in love with Annika while she rants about him for a good chunk of the book. 

Much of Annika’s anger comes from believing that Hudson had stolen her idea and was now profiting off the anti-dating app. She spends much of this book with this high and mighty attitude that Hudson is a creep and that his app is terrible. And she’s not wrong. Break Up is essentially pay-to-break up service where people are hired to break up on behalf of a person. There’s an interactive element where random people just dump terrible new on another, and it’s passed off as quirky. That alone just put me off Hudson as a romantic lead because how uncomfortable that app made me. And, strangely, Annika is the only person to mention how terrible the concept is. But then she thinks she had this moral high ground because her app fixes relationships, but there’s a problem with her app: she never considers whether a relationship is worth pursuing. That not every relationship needs fixing. You would think that would be discussed within the development team. Her own reasoning didn’t do much either, and it felt more like pieces of a draft that hadn’t quite finished developing. This is where you could think they could work together to create an app that takes both concepts into account, but the book’s actual ending was just so much more disappointing. There was a demi-decent discussion about women in tech and the boundaries they faced, but it’s all weak. Annika is too inconsistent in what she wants to say, so Menon’s actual message falls through. 

To summarise, Make Up Break Up is not the romantic story it thinks it is. The plot was weak, the characters were unmemorable, and its whole execution was quite muddy. There were so many points where the book could’ve turned itself around, but it felt like it was doomed from the start.


Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Review: The Black Veins (Dead Magic #1)

Rating: ★★★★☆ (3.5/5)

*I received a copy via the author in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

After Blythe witnesses her family being kidnapped right in front of her and her best friend injured, she’s forced into a road trip like no other. In search of other powerful magicians like her or “Guardians”, she must make her way to Electric City. But in a world where magic thrives and an imminent war between the two magician governments forces Blythes and her new friends to think on their feet and discover magic in a new way.

I found The Black Veins an interesting read. The writing is easy and enjoyable, and I found myself barrelling through the book with much ease, despite my own issue with the pacing. I particularly enjoyed the way Monet brings together all these teens who seemly have nothing in common. It was hilarious and sweet, watching them fall apart and come back together as a team. All the guardians have their own quirks that make them stand out. At first, I wasn’t too sure about the comedy aspects of this book, but I found it so funny, and I really loved how realistic all these teens came alive.

Blythe is the leader whose family kidnapping kickstarts her journey across the states. Slowly, she comes in contact with the guardians. Cordelia is a stuck up hacker, Daniel has never left his parents side, Antonio is confident and brash with a hilarious comedic flair. The last three I’ll keep unnamed were equally exciting and fun to experience.

I found the pacing to be quite the biggest pitfall for this book, and the lack of consistency in its pacing is where I struggled the most in the book. The overall journey we witness was quite exhilarating, and Ashia Monet is clearly a talented writer, but the story felt quite long and what we’re given in terms of worldbuilding doesn’t feel the gaps as well as I expected it to. Given the number of Guardians we meet, I feel like I didn’t really connect with the last three as much. But I do believe this is something that will most likely be worked upon in the sequel.  

Overall, I found The Black Veins to be a strong debut. A YA urban fantasy that follows a group of teenagers. I found their journey to becoming a found family quite sweet, and I would definitely recommend this book. I might just chalk my negativity as the result of myself never really enjoying the first book as much as the rest of the series. If you’re interested in an urban fantasy road trip that follows a ragtag group of teenagers with enough power to destroy the world basically, then The Black Veins is definitely a treat for readers. And considering the ending of The Black Veins, I’m excited to see what happens next.


Short Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Short Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Inspired by the 2006 films, for those who haven’t watched it, Pan’s Labyrinth is set in WW2 Spain. Where a young girl named Ofelia discovers a dense forest and a labyrinth of secrets, which sets her off on a series of tasks to reclaim her place as the missing princess.

Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the first movies I can recall watching as a child. I knew I was too young because Pan and the Pale Man haunted my dreams for years to come after watching it. And this book really brought all that fear back into me. Funke and del Toro have come together and created this dark novel that follows the film while also developing the folklore of the world.

The book rarely strays from the movie, following Ofelia as she moves into a new home after her mother remarries. She’s enticed by the faun that makes everything seem like a page out of her stories. The faun reveals that Ofelia is their princess, reincarnated, who must complete three tasks before she can return home. With her mother barely surviving her pregnancy, and her step father’s cruelty turns darker and darker, Ofelia is swept into a dangerous world that exists within the labyrinth and the world outside her door.

To adapt such a movie into a written story is no ordinary feat and del Toro and Funke really work well together and recraft the narrative to recreate a dark and mesmerising tale. My favourite addition was the interspersed folklore tales that developed the underworld that Ophelia seeks. I was mainly worried about this book just merely rehashing the movie plot, but this story will definitely be a treat to fans and newcomers alike.


Book Review: Bloodwalker

you can find the book at:
GoodReads | Author’s website | Amazon | Bookdepository
my review:
Rating: ★★★☆☆

* I received an ARC of this book from the author.  This in no way affected my opinion of the book.

When the Zorka Circus comes into town, they leave the town population with fewer children than when they came to the town. Bloodwalker follows two different protagonists, Rurik and Sylvie.  Rurik, the circus security guard, who suspects the killer is amidst the circus performers and despite their closed ranks, he knows he can find them before anymore child have to die. Sylvie descents from a group of people who teach the knowledge of the Bloodwalkers – who follow ancient techniques in preparations of dead bodies. She comes to the Circus to get married but, instead, finds a body. And the duo’s path soon converges to reveal a sinister plan within.

What I really enjoyed about Bloodwalker was the concept. Especially, the Skomori’s knowledge and teachings. It was interesting to read about the way they honour and prepare the dead and stay to their ancient techniques and charms despite living in the modern day. I really enjoyed the snippets the novel includes at the beginning of each chapter from “The Bloodwalkers Book” which delved into the ritual and culture of the Skomori. The location itself was quite sparse since the circus is moving a lot so we don’t settle into the place long enough to fully immerse ourselves into it. But it added to the tension as each new place meant they never had enough time to fit its blind spots and to stop the kidnapping and murder. The way the plot blends well the supernatural and murder mystery elements which made it interesting to read. The circus performers, murderous clowns and the close-knit community of the Skomori, Bloodwalker is a decent novel which had my interest throughout and greatly surprised me at many moments.

I believe a weakness of this novel was the Rurik had the stronger plot, while the bloodwalkers are important, its relevance was at its strongest towards the end. In the overall story, it just felt like something that was there but not really delved into enough so Sylvie’s place in the story was much weaker and when reading, I wasn’t very excited since the actual plot was with Rurik. Sylvie’s side of the novel felt like it was there to incorporate the Skomori elements and there were moments in the middle particularly where Sylvie’s chapters could be skipped and not impact the plot much which was disappointing because I really liked Sylvie. She is quite a determined main character. Once she realised how dangerous her situation was, she went and actually did something to change that. But, overall, I did enjoy Bloodwalker despite certain things that I didn’t like, it was a good read.

Paperback, 284 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2016 by Freedom Fox Press
ISBN: 1939844258