Diverse Books, YA Books

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong – ARC Review

Thank you to Hodderscape and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The year is 1927, and Shanghai teeters on the edge of revolution.

After sacrificing her relationship with Roma to protect him from the blood feud, Juliette has been a girl on the warpath. One wrong move, and her cousin will step in to usurp her place as the Scarlet Gang’s heir. The only way to save the boy she loves from the wrath of the Scarlets is to have him want her dead for murdering his best friend in cold blood. If Juliette were actually guilty of the crime Roma believes she committed, his rejection might sting less.

Roma is still reeling from Marshall’s death, and his cousin Benedikt will barely speak to him. Roma knows it’s his fault for letting the ruthless Juliette back into his life, and he’s determined to set things right—even if that means killing the girl he hates and loves with equal measure.

Then a new monstrous danger emerges in the city, and though secrets keep them apart, Juliette must secure Roma’s cooperation if they are to end this threat once and for all. Shanghai is already at a boiling point: The Nationalists are marching in, whispers of civil war brew louder every day, and gangster rule faces complete annihilation. Roma and Juliette must put aside their differences to combat monsters and politics, but they aren’t prepared for the biggest threat of all: protecting their hearts from each other.

This book completely ended my life. I have not stopped thinking about the final scene since I read it. I am a complete mess.

This book begins shortly after the events of These Violent Delights and we are instantly thrown into the thick of things. Chloe really said this book will be pure stress and it truly was but I loved every single second of it.

I absolutely loved Roma and Juliette and their arcs and the pure angst and chaos it was and knowing how Romeo and Juliet ends had me completely terrified for them and yes the end of this book broke me but for multiple reasons and I was up at 4am trying to get it together so I didn’t wake my husband.

This book pulls together all the things that started in the first book from the future of the gangs and the political changes happening in Shanghai and rivalry within each gang for those vying for the leadership positions. Even though there is a lot going on, we get each plot point fully fleshed out and the second half especially is action packed and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

I loved that despite all the action we get some sweet tender moments between the characters and we get some hilarious and complete chaos scenes too. I loved that we also get really great arcs for the side characters too. Kathleen’s arc of accepting her true self and Benedikt and Marshall also had great arcs. And of course the banter between Marshall and Juliette was amazing. I love them all so much!

This duology is absolute perfection and will stay with you long after you finish reading. I loved all the important discussions about sexism, colonisation and how the youth are often torn between two cultures. That of their parents and the one that they grew up with and that we live a mixture of both but we are often not enough for either side and the way that affects us.

It was so interesting to see how Juliette had to be a ruthless and uncompromising and always on alert simply because she is a woman and so being less than perfect can mean she will instantly lose her leadership but that men can make many mistakes and still be respected. How Roma has to also put on a façade for the rest of the world where he is stoic and shows strength because emotions are not for men to show but he is soft and there is nothing wrong with that.

I loved every second of this book and I cannot wait to see what Chloe will write next!

Diverse Books, YA Books

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao – ARC Review

Thank you to Rock the Boat and Netgalley for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

This book was a phenomenal read! From the first page we are thrown into this incredibly vivid world that Xiran has created and I loved every second of it. Zetian has become one of my favourite characters and I love the trio so much, they are pure chaos and I am here for it!

This is set in a world where women are considered worthless and only there to sacrifice themselves for the male pilots or to be good wives and mothers. By good I mean silent and obedient. Zetian has had enough of this and after the death of her sister she vows to get revenge and does so in the most spectacular fashion and in that moment I fell in love with her.

I loved seeing Zetian and how she battled against the  systemic injustice that women are subjected to on a daily basis and the pure rage she felt. I related to her a lot; I understand her rage. I loved how it was shown in the book and through her. She has every right to be angry but what I loved most was watching her opinions and thoughts about how to become empowered changed and grew as she learnt more and interacted with different people in different situations. How that impacted how she fought for herself and for women’s empowerment everywhere. This book is honestly such a powerful read and had me feeling all the emotions.

I especially loved her internal conflict of how can she fight for empowerment and yet love and care for a man and be vulnerable with them. Her learning it isn’t an either or situation, she can have both. There is so much depth to her character that we see more and learn more about her as the story goes on and I just need everyone to read this book.

The discussions on misogyny and patriarchy are done so incredibly well and we see just how deeply these views have impacted women in so many ways that are completely invisible to men. There’s also discussions around how the powerful and wealthy just continue to grow in wealth and the poor become poorer. Honestly there was so many interesting and nuanced discussions in the book but it didn’t take away from the plot and suspense of the story. It just added more layers to it.

I loved the mechas and the battle scenes, I would love to be able to see this in a film, I think some scenes would have some breath-taking visuals and it was all described so vividly that I could picture everything. We learn about the world through Zetain, Shimin and Yizhi who all come from different situations in life. All three characters are morally grey and despite some of the awful things they do, you can’t help but root for them. Especially as everyone seems equally monstrous.

The build up to the ending had me on the edge of my seat and the second half especially had me completely hooked and I thought I knew what was happening but the ending still left me completely shook and I was left screaming! I am ridiculously excited to read the sequel and honestly I don’t know how I’m going to wait a whole year for it.

YA Books

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – ARC Review

Thank you to Bloomsbury YA and Netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The kingdom of Kandala is on the brink of disaster. Rifts between sectors have only worsened since a sickness began ravaging the land, and within the Royal Palace, the king holds a tenuous peace with a ruthless hand.

King Harristan was thrust into power after his parents’ shocking assassination, leaving the younger Prince Corrick to take on the brutal role of the King’s Justice. The brothers have learned to react mercilessly to any sign of rebellion–it’s the only way to maintain order when the sickness can strike anywhere, and the only known cure, an elixir made from delicate Moonflower petals, is severely limited.

Out in the Wilds, apothecary apprentice Tessa Cade is tired of seeing her neighbors die, their suffering ignored by the unyielding royals. Every night, she and her best friend Wes risk their lives to steal Moonflower petals and distribute the elixir to those who need it most–but it’s still not enough.

As rumors spread that the cure no longer works and sparks of rebellion begin to flare, a particularly cruel act from the King’s Justice makes Tessa desperate enough to try the impossible: sneaking into the palace. But what she finds upon her arrival makes her wonder if it’s even possible to fix Kandala without destroying it first.

Set in a richly imaginative world with striking similarities to our own, Brigid Kemmerer’s captivating new series is about those with power and those without . . . and what happens when someone is brave enough to imagine a new future. 

I loved this book so much! The characters are written so well, they are complicated and nuanced and this book is full of morally grey characters!

Despite the characters doing questionable things, I still felt myself rooting for them because they were put in such difficult situations and you can see they are trying their best to do what’s right but also make decisions that aren’t the best. But they acknowledged what they had done and that it wasn’t right but they did it because it was the lesser of two evils. They had remorse for it and actively tried to do what’s right. It just made the two brothers so interesting to read. I especially loved Corrick’s point of view because of that. Seeing him and his brother from other perspectives it seems as though they are just heartless people who care nothing for the suffering of it’s people but when you see how they think and everything they are trying to do and trying to juggle and balance between so many groups of people.

Corrick is probably my favourite character just because of how complex and nuanced he was. He did questionable things but he also deeply cared for his people. He could trust no one and so struggled with all this alone unable to even speak to his brother because he had to protect him. I did like Harristan as well but we didn’t get to see as much of him but I hope we see more of him in the sequel as I think he will also be a really interesting character.

Tessa was another interesting character because she sees everything as black and white at the beginning of the book. But as she learns more about the complexities of everything that is going on she realises that everything isn’t as simple as she first thought. I also really loved that she is a healer and that she uses that to help those who are the most vulnerable and even helps the King to help the people. I liked seeing that she had confidence in her skills and yet still has moments of self doubt, it made her seem so much more real.

This book surprised me with a plot twist early on that I did not see coming at all and left me shook! I literally had to stop reading to scream because WHAT! But I loved that twist so much because it made the story so much more interesting! I also loved the slow build up to the climax where all the pieces finally fit together and I liked that the ending felt like a complete story but also that there’s more and honestly I am so excited for the sequel!

I highly recommend reading this the story had me hooked from the beginning and I just couldn’t stop reading. I loved the complex characters especially and cannot wait to read more about them.

Diverse Books, YA Books

Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria – ARC Review

Thank you to hodderscape and netgalley for sending me an arc in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book so much! The sibling relationship and the growth of both sisters was so wonderful to see in a book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else. Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

I loved this book so much! I love seeing sibling relationships in books and this one had such a complicated nuanced relationship. I loved both sisters and their individual arcs as well as how they were together. I related to each of them in different ways and it was so great to see a story where sisters are the main relationship we see.

Dani is  the younger sister and always feels like she can’t live up to her “perfect” older sister. She also doesn’t want to take on the family  legacy which I related to a lot. It’s like when your parents have their own dreams for you but what you want is different but you don’t want to hurt them either but hers is way more intense! Her character growth throughout the book was also so great to read, how she learned to balance her family and what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to also call out the parts that she knew were wrong and shouldn’t just continue the same way just because that’s how it’s always been done.

Edan, the older sister, yet feels like she will never be truly seen as she always feels overshadowed by Dani and this makes her strive for perfection. In trying to impress her parents she neglects all other parts of her life to her detriment. She also has anxiety and had panic attacks which I felt were showed really well. I really appreciated how they were shown in the story and especially her journey to coming to terms with this part of herself. She thinks this is a weakness and makes her less and just wants it to go away but she learns to see it as a strength and that she is more than capable even with her anxiety. She doesn’t need “fixing” and I thought that is such a important thing for young people to read in books. I just really loved seeing it in the story.

Their relationship with each other was also so great to see. They were close but there was also walls up because they both thought they can’t live up to the other. I loved that Dani did everything she could to help Edan and how they finally started to accept each other for who they are.

There was also some wonderful side characters that I am really looking forward to seeing in the sequel especially that potential love interest for Dani. Tomas was adorable and a wonderful best friend to Dani like seriously this is the type of friendship I love to see in books. I also loved seeing Dani intereact with Tomas’ family and how his mum would force her to take food home. It reminded me of the Asian aunties who insist on doing this too and I think it’s such a wonderful part of the culture we got to see.

I also loved Nox who is the dragon that Dani meets and how sassy and sarcastic he is. His relationship with Dani was so great to see too and how they both learned to accept and trust each other. I am really looking forward to learning more about the dragons.

The story was so much fun to read even though it was dark at times especially in the second half of the book. It’s also fast paced and I couldn’t stop reading once I started, often reading late into the night. And after the ending of the story I am absolutely dying to read the sequel!

Adult Books, Non Fiction Books

Period. It’s About Bloody Time by Emma Barnett – Book Review

Okay so I only picked this up because there was recently a readalong hosted for the book and there were rave reviews. I was skeptical because the author has said some problematic things in the past and honestly this book left me a screaming ball of rage.

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

What the book is about: (apparently)

At a time when women around the world are raising their voices in the fight for equality, there is still one taboo where there remains a deafening silence: periods. Period. is an agenda-setting manifesto to remove the stigma and myths continuing to surround the female body. Bold and unapologetic, Emma Barnett is on a crusade to ignite conversation among women–and men–everywhere.

This is yet another white western feminist book that speaks about how enlightened they are and how their view is the correct view. The condescending manner in which she spoke about women of colour and inaccurate religious beliefs and cultural practices just left me incredibly angry. How are you going to write this book which is supposed to be empowering while perpetuating harmful stereotypes and giving false information which people can use as ammunition against people of colour. Utterly disgusting that this was even published and not once questioned as to where she got this information.

She did not in fact list any sources anywhere in the book about where she got the stats she shared or any other information and yet somehow it was published and people are raving about it? Why? This book isn’t even ground breaking, nothing she says is new or even remotely helpful. It’s a vague, trying way too hard to be funny (when she’s not) and just her screaming DON’T BE EMBARRASED SPEAK ABOUT PERIODS. Yes, Emma, but how? Was there anything in there to suggest ways in which to bring up the topic in different situations? Was there any resources for people to go and look up for help? Absolutely nothing. Just her screaming about how we shouldn’t be ashamed of it anymore. So what even was the point of this utterly useless book?

“Factions of Islam believe women shouldn’t touch the Quran, pray or have sexual intercourse with their husbands while menstruating. Muslim women are similarly deemed impure and must be limited in terms of contaminating their faith or their men.”

Who told her this? Because she didn’t learn that from us. The utter rage I felt reading this paragraph and her wording of it. Yes, we do not pray or fast or do certain acts of worship. No it is not because we are impure. No it is not because we are less nor do we find it oppressive. Not having to wake up before sunrise when we are on our period to pray is a blessing from Allah, He gives us a break so we can rest, because we sure as hell aren’t going to get that same level of care and understanding from anyone else. We are also not considered impure. It is a state of ritual impurity, the Quran is sacred and we have to be in a state of ritual purity to touch the Arabic Quran, this is regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. There are several things which cause both men and women to be in a state of ritual impurity and yet she makes it sound like this is an oppression for women. Please calm down with your fake woke attitude we do not need nor want to be ‘saved’ by you. Throughout the book in fact she only ever mentions religion in a negative way, the same goes for any mentions of cultural practices different to her own or people of colour.

She repeatedly tells us that she is educated and living in one of the most advanced societies on earth and yet her opinions show her lack of knowledge of intersectional feminism and even the ability to see that maybe not everyone finds her brand of feminism empowering at all. That her brand of feminism should have died a long time ago and she really needs to go back to school and get up to date on these things. That white western feminism only cares about white middle class women to the detriment of everyone else.

Her privilege oozed out of the pages making me nauseous. She said women need to be taken seriously about their health. How she had suffered from horrible periods and yet she doesn’t see how her white privilege gave her the ability to seek help and be believed. Women of colour don’t get that same treatment. Just saying go to a different doctor as if everyone has that option isn’t exactly helpful information. She shares stories of women who made radical choices that made headline news and uses that as examples of how we should all speak up but she doesn’t see how women are speaking up in so many ways that may not be as radical and not newsworthy.

The constant comparison of the west and developing world using such loaded terms will have an impact on how people view those not living in the ‘privileged’ west. Her words matter and yet not her, nor her editor or any other person who read this before release mentioned it, and that is another example of how she uses her privilege to push her white western feminism that benefits no one except people that look like her. She speaks about how women wanted to show that they are as good as men so anything ‘expressly female’ were downplayed. But again, only white western feminism is calling for this. She speaks as if her brand of feminism is the superior feminist brand and yet is still holding on to things that are decades out of date.

When you are a minority, you don’t want to seem like you are kicking up a stink about something which nobody else fully understands or at the that time felt like they could talk about.

Is she talking about the many minority groups that need their voices uplifted? Nope. She’s talking about Margaret Thatcher, a white woman in a position of power. Now normally I wouldn’t have an issue with this discussion however considering how she dehumanised and othered actual minority groups throughout the book, yes I absolutely do. Words matter, the way you write things matter.

“We have made huge progress on all of these fronts. As I write this, a woman runs the country I live in, another runs the most powerful country in the European Union and sexual harassment is being called out the world over with the hashtag #MeToo”

Okay but does this actually mean we have all benefited from this? Does it mean all people can feel safer about speaking up about sexual harassment? She makes sweeping statements like this to make it sound like there has been huge progress for all. But people of colour haven’t felt that progress, we are still fighting to be able to exist and live safely. Ignoring everything happening to people of colour shows how little she actually cares about anyone who doesn’t look like her.

I also found the book to be so mundane in the things she chose to write about. There are a myriad of complex issues regarding periods and women’s health that should and could have been discussed in a nuanced manner however there is no nuance in this book at all. Some of the issues too seem like she is just saying it to show how woke she is. “Don’t you just hate those patronising aisles in supermarkets which have the label feminine hygiene dangling above them in a halo of fluorescent lighting? Just call a pad a pad already.” Clearly, she doesn’t understand that the aisles have more than just pads. She was also complaining about we don’t have a pad emoji and she has been forced to use the Japanese flag. I just think about all the discussions she could have had about all the very real issues people face all over the world regarding periods and yet she chose to speak about these. Like I get it, it’s part of the shaming that we don’t have these emojis etc but women are literally dying due to so many issues surrounding periods and women’s health. And so much of it is just not touched upon at all.

She did speak about how women don’t always have access to pads or tampons which yes, it does need to be spoken about more but again she just complained about the issue with no real discussion on what can be done about it. Every single complaint she had about lack of awareness or shame or access to pads etc had no real discussion about things that could be done or what is being done with resources listed so people can actually go and find them and help these organisations. Instead of actual resources and sources for her information in the book she decided to list all the different things people have used to call periods. I wouldn’t have minded that if there had been actual sources too to show that her information is accurate because she already showed me she will include false information when I read about what she wrote about Islamic beliefs so how can I actually trust the information she wrote in the rest of the book?

This book left me incredibly angry and not for the reasons it should have. It is full of inaccurate information about religious beliefs. It erases people of colour and how different our fight against shame about periods is. It dehumanises people of colour with her comparisons about how educated she is and how advanced a society she lives in compared to the uneducated people and backwards societies of the developing world. Nothing she speaks about is remotely inspiring or made me want to rage about the injustices and even the writing itself was poor. How this has been published and praised is beyond me. Do yourselves a favour and skip this for other books about periods and empowerment.