Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Review: These Violent Delights by Chole Gong


The cover caught my eye on today's book. And the blurb. Why? It's a Romeo and Juliet retelling!!!
And not just any retelling. Think 1920's in Shanghai, where gangs and violence ruled as much as the nightlife. Juliet is the heiress to one of the gangs, and she's not the soft girl Shakespeare once showcased. This Juliet carries bite...
Oh, but don't think this one is for pure romance fans, either. The entire book carries bite, but read on to find out just how much.

These Violent Delights, Book One
by Chloe Gong
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Young Adult Historical / Fantasy
449 pages

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.

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.


                                                          * beautifully set in Shanghai during the 1920's
                                                          * Romeo and Juliet retelling
                                                          * romance not main plot
                                                          * gory and blood-thirsty
                                                          * intriguing look at colonialism

While falling along the rim of a Romeo and Juliet retelling, this dive into Shanghai during the 1920's allows for so much more than an intriguing tale.

Juliette has spent the last four years studying in the U.S. and returns to take her place as future heir to the Scarlet Gang, who rules Shanghai and is at constant odds with a Russian gang, White Flowers. While she's no stranger to the ruthlessness involved, she's soon faced with more than the already difficult task of gaining respect. Add an ended but once intense relationship with a potential heir to the White Flower gang, and she's got her hands full. But things aren't done there. She needs to fight to keep her status in a very violent and unforgiving world...and that as a monster has crept up into Shanghai and started to kill people with random reason. But monsters aren't Juliette's greatest concern.

The writing in this book is very well done. It is beautifully worded...and sometimes, with a touch of structure which almost reminds that Juliette doesn't have English as her own mother tongue. She's from Shanghai, through and through, but broader and more world-minded thanks to her studies abroad. And she's tough. She knows what being the heir to the gang means, and she has no qualms about taking on this role. So, yes, it's a violent book, and she's not a gentle woman. And yet, she's hard not to like. 
Roma, on the other hand, is the softer of the two. 

The parallels to the original tale are clear, but there is definitely enough originality to this retelling to keep it more than interesting. Juliette and Roma might have a true-love romance...if the bloodshed, family politics, territory wars, and monsters would allow a sweet romance to occur. But then again, Juliette isn't a sweet romance kind a girl. There's simply too much gore in this book to every qualify as sweet.

The world building is very well done, and this was probably my favorite aspect of the book. It's rich enough to make every scene vivid and draws in enough history to make it feel realistic to the time. I especially appreciated the building up around colonialism...not just for setting purposes, but the author incorporates many of the feelings involved. The mix of various backgrounds and fights to find foothold...or keep foreigners from gaining too much...creates an intriguing historical glimpse alongside the main plot. 

It's an interesting read and not just for Romeo and Juliet fans (which....if I'm allowed to admit it...I'm definitely not) Still, I enjoyed this read quite a bit.

Happy Book Birthday, Arsonist's Lullaby by Susan Harris!

Yesterday, Susan Harris celebrated the release of her latest book in The Ever Chace Chronicles!

Arsonist's Lullaby by Susan Harris is now available in print. Readers can grab their paperback copy of this exciting 7th installment in The Ever Chace Chronicles that readers are calling, "a captivating penultimate thrill ride."

Grab your print copy from AMAZON or BOOK DEPOSITORY!


by Susan Harris

Life just got complicated for the agents of P.I.T as Ashlyn, Derek and Ever’s teenage daughter, makes her entrance. Derek soon discovers Ashlyn is hiding a hell of a lot more than she’s revealing. If that doesn’t complicate things enough, the team tries to set aside their grief so they can avenge Sarge’s murder and piece together clues an arsonist leaves for them, all with no idea how much danger they face with someone from Derek’s past returning to settle an old score.

Ever Chace carries the weight of loss with her. Still hurting after the recent loss of her brother, she now has to deal with the death of a man who was like a father figure. Having made a heartbreaking decision, Ever comes face to face with her strong-willed, rebellious daughter, who has other ideas. With Odin poised to attack, Ever will have to decide if she can survive another personal sacrifice in order to save the world. 

The past, present, and future collide in the penultimate book in The Ever Chace Chronicles.

The Ever Chace Chronicles has more than 350 five-star reviews on Goodreads, and is perfect for fans of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series by J.R. Ward and the Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost.

Read all of the books in The Ever Chace Chronicles by Susan Harris:

  • Skin and Bones
  • Collateral Damage
  • Smoke and Mirrors
  • Night of the Hunter
  • Never Back Down
  • Shortcut To The Grave
  • Arsonist's Lullaby

If you've been missing out on this series, now's the time to rectify that!

Grab the first book for free today in digital!


And here she is...

Susan Harris is a writer from Cork in Ireland.  An avid reader, she quickly grew to love books in the supernatural/fantasy genre. When she is not writing or reading, she loves music, oriental cultures, tattoos, anything Disney and psychology. If she wasn't a writer she would love to be a FBI profiler or a PA for Dave Grohl or Jared Leto.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Happy Book Birthday, Playing With Fire by April Henry with Giveaway!


April Henry
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
YA Thriller

When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


Hugging closely with reality, this is a thrilling tale with tons of high-stake moments.

Despite living near the mountains, Natalia has never gone hiking, but thanks to a friend, that's about to change. After a nice trip, they turn back down the trail to head to the car and are met with incoming flames. Together with other hikers stuck on the trail, they get word from a rescue helicopter to head toward a bridge over a canyon. But getting there isn't going to be easy, especially when Natalia already barely survived a fire six years before and isn't psychologically completely past the experience. And especially since there might be someone there who wants to kill her.

The tale starts off with a very grabbing scene and sets the stage for the thrill to come. It's quickly clear what kind of troubles (fire-wise) Natalia and the others will be up against. Even some of the dangerous moments along the way aren't exactly hard to see coming. But it's exactly that which keeps the tension high. Every turn carries danger and time is running short with flames threatening from several sides. 

The author has done her research, and every moment comes across with realistic flair. The scenes, dangers and solutions are logical and understandable. This hits so well that the moments Natalia offers medical assistance could almost be copied in real life...they carry that much detail. 

There's a colorful mix of characters, which keep the stakes high, the moments more unpredictable and, at the same time, adds a little zest to the situations. Each person has their positives and negatives, and these filter in at all the right times. There were times where too many problems occurred...too many accidents too fast...but in general, all was well. The writing itself is very well done, and that kept the story running smooth even when other things didn't. I also had a hard time feeling for Natalia's fear of fire, considering that if she hadn't had chapters remembering the problem, her reactions wouldn't have really had me guessing that she was mentally struggling.

All in all, it's an exciting read and has more than a few tense moments.

And here she is...

April Henry is the New York Times–bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels The Girl in the White Van; Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; The Girl I Used to Be, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best YA Mystery; Count All Her Bones; The Lonely Dead; Run, Hide, Fight Back; and The Body in the Woods and Blood Will Tell, the first two books in the Point Last Seen series. She lives in Oregon.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Monday, January 18, 2021

Review: Ducks On The Road by Anita Lobel

Tomorrow is the release day for a cute book, which helps young listeners to work on their counting skills... but in a super, adorable way. It's not time for ducks and fuzzy ducklings to go marching across my pasture yet, but Spring is on its way (and doesn't time fly?). While I can count, this one had me smiling the whole way through.

A Counting Adventure
by Anita Lobel
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

From Caldecott Honor artist Anita Lobel comes a touching and classically, vividly illustrated story of a family of ducks out for a walk and the surprises they meet along the way.

When a family of ducks goes out for a walk, their path takes them in unexpected directions—and maybe even to some new friends. Little ones will delight in counting ducks one through ten and identifying the other animals the duck family meets on their country walk.


These little ducklings wiggle and waddle on the sweetest adventure, which just happens to help young listeners work on their counting skills along the way.

The duck family is out for a walk down the road. There are ten ducklings when they start out, but one by one, the ducklings get distracted by other creatures and 'disappear'. 

While counting is the main idea behind this read, it's subtly woven in to a cute and surprised-packed tale. The ducklings are sweet...which ducklings aren't? And the walk in a perfect row behind their parents makes them so easy to count. When they start peeling off and, one by one, meet other cute animals, young listeners are sure to smile and wonder what will happen as well as count the ones who are left. There isn't any danger in this book. Each surprise is a good one, which later brings friendship and more fun than before. The only thing which confused me and my family members was the last creature the ducklings met. Where did it come from? The same parents?

The illustrations are very lovely and a treat to flip through. In some ways, they are repetitive, but there's just enough change to insure young listeners are captivated. In this way, it will be natural for them to concentrate on the line of decreasing ducks and count them again and again.

It's a lovely book and a lovely way to strengthen those number skills.

Sneak Peek: Clarissa by Giulietta M Spudich with Giveaway


by Giulietta M. Spudich
Middle-Grade Fantasy

A fire is coming. It starts with a girl and a key.

After her mother’s death, Clarissa doesn’t know how to connect with her distant father. Her only friend is an oak tree who she can tell her deepest secrets. When she discovers a mysterious key that unleashes a long-forgotten fire spirit, she must find her voice to protect those she loves.

"A delightful, fantastical tale of how oak trees and humans can be friends." -Dr. James Canton, author of "The Oak Papers"

**Get it FREE Jan 9th & 10th!! **

Giulietta M. Spudich enjoys writing everything from children's stories to grown-up fiction and poems in between. She lives in Cambridge, England where she moved from California in 2002. She is inspired by cats, especially her late black cat, Smokey.

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Signed paperback of Clarissa with cat necklace – 2 winners!
$10 Amazon – 1 winner 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Review: This Is Drew by Catherine White


by Catherine White
Illustrated by Inna Eckman
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8
38 pages

Autism can be hard to understand, even for experts in the field. Join us as we meet Drew and teach his classmates about living with autism. Thoughtful examples illustrate differences in interpreting situations, allowing children to ultimately foster empathy and compassion for those who see the world a little differently.


With easy to understand situations, the general characteristics a child with autism might display are presented and brought to light so that others might have a better understanding.

Drew is just like any other child, except he sometimes acts and behaves a bit differently. He doesn't always understand how others feel or how he should react to certain situations. But he's still a wonderful person who wants to simply be friends.

I appreciated how this book views autism. Too often, people have developed exact ideas of what autism should look like thanks to several movies and don't understand that it's not that simple. Drew is presented as a very normal most ways. But he has trouble understanding feelings and the meaning behind certain situations, and sometimes, simply doesn't know how to express himself. This book explains the basic aspects of autism as they generally appear. But the thing with autism is that it never is exactly the same in every person. Just several of the traits are similar to different degrees. So, kudos to the author on that end.

As for the book itself, it's written in a way listeners will understand and brings across situations they can relate to. With simple explanations, it becomes clear why kids with autism react the way they do. And yet, the author makes sure to point out that these kids aren't really that different in many respects. It's a great read for opening up children ages 4 to 8 to autism and gives them a better understanding of those who have it.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review: So You Want A Pet Dragon by Tania Pourat

 Just in case you didn't get enough dragons yesterday, I have another dragon read for today. This one is for a slightly younger audience, ages 4 to 8, and takes a more silly twist on 'bonding' with dragons. 

by Tania Pourat
Illustrated by Tristan Tait
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

We all know how hard taking care of a pet can be. Taking care of a pet dragon is no exception! If you need tips and tricks to take care of your dragon, look no further. This book has everything you need to know to care for your very own feisty, fiery friend. Simply follow this advice and see for yourself how rewarding owning a pet dragon can be!


Packed with down-to-earth information for all those would-be dragon owners, this book is sure to create more than one smile.

Owning and caring for a dragon isn't an easy undertaking, especially in today's world. In these, pages everything that young dragon owners need to know, watch out for, or do is pointed out. After all, dragon owners want to keep their pets happy and safe, while making sure they don't lose their tempers, too.

The book is pretty straight forward as it goes from one thing to watch out for to the next. The things dragons need are sometimes important and, more often, silly. And it's exactly this which makes this a fun read. The illustrations allow the fun to seep from every page and make it hard for listeners not to wish they could own a dragon as well. While the care and things to watch out for are presented as tedious, it's pretty clear they'd be tons of fun too.

The text rolls along nicely for the age group and makes each situation clear, while allowing the illustrations to do their part along the way. I would have like to have seen the ending round out a little smoother, since it does chop off rather quick. But it's still a lovely read, and I can see dragon lovers enjoying it quite a bit.