Skip to main content

Teen Book Review – Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Our Violent Ends - Gong, Chloe

**this review contains spoilers for These Violent Delights (book 1) so beware!!

I absolutely loved These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong (read my review here) and I was very excited when a friend got me a signed copy of Our Violent Ends (thank you, Sophie!). The sequel to this duology picks up only a few weeks after the ending of the last book, so everyone in the city is still reeling from Marshall Seo’s death at Juliette’s hand. Now, the monster that has supposedly disappeared is sending blackmail notes to the Scarlet Gang and Juliette knows she has to find a way to stop the city (and her family) from ripping itself apart again… all of this while nursing her broken heart and secretly keeping Marshall alive. Meanwhile, Roma is struggling to reconcile the idea of Juliette, his former lover, cold-bloodedly shooting his best friend. Still, every time he tries to exact revenge Roma is unable to kill her, which drives a wedge between him and his cousin, Benedikt. While the White Flowers and Scarlet Gang’s rivalry turns bloodier and bloodier on the streets of Shanghai, the political beasts awaken alongside the real monster. Will Roma and Juliette be able to save their city and each other?

My two gripes with These Violent Delights was 1. the main romance and 2. the ending. HOWEVER, Our Violent Ends gave me everything I wanted and more. It is definitely a 10/10 for me, so I’ll just go ahead and say that now. First of all, the romance. Roma and Juliette had barely any chemistry in the first book, but they knocked this one out of the park. There was significantly more banter, and a lot of tropes that–despite being cliché–I completely fell head-over-heels for. Second of all, I won’t say much about the ending, and I know it might not be for everyone, but I actually loved it a lot.

Then, the PLOT. As intricate as the first book was, the sequel raised my standards even higher. The historical setting was astoundingly well-incorporated into the story, and if you know anything about Chinese history or the Shanghai Massacre, it is a joy to read about. The back-stabbing betrayals, the plot twists, the high-stakes action scenes, the emotional realizations… some of it was a little overdone. After all, how many times can you play the ‘faked my death’ trope? But still, overly dramatic scenes WORK in this genre, and Our Violent Ends was just so much fun to read. I would fully recommend. Again: 10/10!

(P.S. this book review is dedicated to Ms. Chung, who I want to thank for all the encouragement and support 🙂 )

Teen SRC 2021 – Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

While I can’t say I loved absolutely everything about Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter, there are a few things that left me completely astonished. First, the characters. Namely, Maddie and Logan. How – and I repeat – how did the author manage to make me grow so attached to the characters in just a mere 304 pages? It’s like I really know both of them in real life; let me just say the characters are so incredibly lovable and the plot development between them is not only enticing but heartwarming.

One thing I wasn’t super interested in for this novel was the plot. Well, okay, not the actual plot, but rather the fact that the book was marketed as a mystery novel, and yet I didn’t really pick up on any suspense-building, plot twists, or anything like that. It was certainly a very adventurous read, but I’m not sure I would leap as far as “mysterious.”

Overall, I thought it was a sweet book despite the misleading genre; honestly I think there’s more romance than anything, but it’s very well-written and no cliche personality traits in any of the characters. 7/10!

Teen SRC 2021- Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

I opened Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin expecting a light-hearted romcom with Muslim lingo, fun anecdotes, and maybe a bit of serious discussion on what life is like as a South Asian Canadian Muslim woman. I was not expecting to be punched in the gut with beautiful characters, amazing writing, a fully-developed plot, and just an overall WONDERFUL book that feels like home. It is not often that I will openly rave about a book, (so enjoy it while it lasts) but Hana Khan Carries On deserves every compliment it gets and then some. It quite literally made me tear up. And it made me laugh. SO. MUCH. (Rashid, best and funniest character hands-down, gets all the comedic credit.)

Also, my fears about bad Muslim rep were completely wrong (THANK GOODNESS). Hana Khan Carries On manages to carry with it a nuanced and deep reflection about life as a second-generation immigrant, about Muslim love stories, loss, ambition, and family relationships. Every single plot line is so AMAZING, I am seriously in awe. There is a side plot to appeal to everyone, and even I, a self-proclaimed romance critic, loved every bit of it. The overall feel of the book is more of a classic than any light contemporary romance I’ve ever read (and I admit I haven’t read many, but still) which helps. It offers a rivals-to-lovers slow burn, includes so many twists and turns, offers well-developed side characters and CHARACTER ARCS THAT ARE OUT OF THIS WORLD. 

Anything else I could say would be redundant because I just loved reading this so much. I even finished it in a matter of hours (and will be rereading!). My only criticism is that the resolution wrapped up too quickly and that I could have down with a hundred more pages! *sigh*

Basically: If you haven’t read this book, go read it right now. 10/10, I have found a new favourite. 

P.S. This is not qualified as YA because the protagonist and other characters are in their 20s BUT there is absolutely nothing graphic or inappropriate in the book. In fact, it’s much more benign than some YA I’ve read AHAHAHA, don’t worry about that!

Teen SRC 2021 – The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Inheritance Games - Barnes, Jennifer

If you asked me to compare the Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes to any other book series/movie, I would readily say that it resembles The Princess Diaries. It’s a classic rags-to-riches story with a very principled, intelligent, and stubborn heroine… but then sprinkle in some riddles, a dash of mystery, and a boring love triangle to the mix. I have to say, I enjoyed the first half of the Inheritance Games tremendously. The entire premise of inheriting billions of dollars and a gigantic mansion with four handsome boys living in it would be appealing to anyone, and I got immersed in all the details of Avery’s new life–like having your own security detail and personal lawyer? Sign me up! It was also fascinating to try and figure out WHY Tobias Hawthorne, who Avery had never even met (to her knowledge) would leave her his entire empire.

If you noticed I only mentioned the first half of the book, then you would be absolutely correct. I don’t know what it was exactly, but the book didn’t live up to its own potential in the second half. The mystery became especially lacklustre, in my opinion, because most of it happened BEFORE Avery even got involved. I believe the book started its downward track when Emily was first mentioned. I could have done without the “dead ex” trope but *sigh* that was not to be. The “bombshell” at the end was also very predictable for me, somehow–I was not at all surprised. Also. The love triangle? Childish. I disliked both potential love interests but the one I disliked more is who we got saddled with throughout the book. Not to mention that most characters barely had a personality. I liked Oren, Alisa, Libby (secondary characters) and maybe Xander… but that’s pretty much it. For me, everyone else was indistinguishable (i.e. the same as one another).

To wrap up my review, I liked this book a lot. I’d even give it a 9/10 just because of how fun and exciting it was. (I finished in one day, by the way. I feel like I should have mentioned that earlier.) Still, it could have been better without the cliched romance and with a bigger mystery. I will be picking up the next book in the series but not with bated breath.

P.S. I think the problem arose because two VERY important characters (Emily and Tobias Hawthorne) were both dead from the start. They couldn’t do much except be mentioned and it made everything repetitive. The only mystery that didn’t involve either of them was great, though, but I can’t say what that was because of spoilers 🙂

Teen SRC 2021 – #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding - McNeil, Gretchen

A fast-paced creepy book with many gory murders, #murderfunding by Gretchen McNeil makes up for its poor characterization and cheap tropes with action scenes and suspense. 6/10 for incredibly poor representation (POC especially, watch out) and cringe-worthy teenage slang. Seriously, I don’t know how editors approved the “teen” slang in this book–I’d rather hear teenagers speak like any regular adult than speak like they did in this book. “For reals” made an appearance, and an attempt to say that a character was “salty” (see: frustrated, annoyed) resulted in “less salted”. I LAUGHED SO HARD.

Anyway, I didn’t love this book much, but it was fast-paced and emotionally bland enough to get me out of a reading slump, which is great. There was some attempts to be political in this book, but they failed incredibly hard–resulting in an almost conspiracy-like feel. I did enjoy the formatting of discussion forums/articles on the Internet, but once the Russian meddling plot line was added, that began to feel cheap, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a quick, creepy thriller, this is it. Otherwise, find something else.

P.S. This is the sequel to #murdertrending, which I read but then forgot mostly about. It is possible to read #murderfunding (2nd book) without having read the first (which got better ratings than this one, btw), but there is some confusing vocabulary to get through at the start. My suggestion: pick up #murdertrending first, then this one if you enjoy it. Happy reading!

Teen SRC 2021 – Holes by Louis Sachar

The novel I’ll be reviewing today isn’t actually categorized as a teen read, but I think it’s quite appropriate for adolescents of any age so I hope this won’t be taken down.

I loved this book back when I first read it in Grade 7 or 8, and I still love at 16, based on a recent re-read.

Holes by Louis Sachar is about a boy named Stanley Yelnats, who is under a “curse” brought upon his family by his great-great-grandfather. And because of said curse, Stanley has been sent to a boys’ detention center called Camp Green Lake, where he is forced to dig holes all day, everyday… definitely an unorthodox camp activity. Clearly, there’s something else going on that Stanley’s missing.

Holes is one of those books that feels very well planned out, I hope you know what I mean. The pacing is great, the action is great, and the plot is awesome. The ending is wrapped up very nicely and realistically, readers won’t be baffled nor unsatisfied, and the overall storyline is really cool!

I also really enjoyed the flashbacks in the book; they helped me understand the story and allowed me to predict what was coming! They were also woven in very well and didn’t disrupt the flow of anything which I appreciated. The flashbacks were also a great way of showing not telling, which allows the readers to have their own sort of “eureka” moment when they figure something out!

Overall, I’d rate the story an 8/10. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but it’s pretty darn good; especially for a “children’s” book! I’d recommend it to anyone who likes realistic adventures with a tinge of mystery! (There is also a pretty good movie adaptation of it, so if you’re a film person, you should check that out!)

Teen SRC 2021 – The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I had high expectations for The Ballad of the Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins because of the original trilogy and…it lived up to them! I’d give it an 8/10. The only downside of this book is that the exciting part doesn’t start until very late in the book.


This book was told from the perspective of the one and only President Snow. He is in his last year at the academy and hopes to win the prize that will help him into university, which he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. A way that he can win this prize is if he mentors the winner of the 10th Annual Hunger Games. When he is assigned the girl from district 12, the lowest of the low, he is embarrassed but still determined to win. The story continues as he tries to help Lucy Gray, the tribute, win the Games.

***SPOILERS BELOW**

Read More

Teen SRC 2021 – The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

I loved the Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson trilogy, so I was very ready to read this spin-off featuring teen-detective Stevie Bell and all her friends. There are very few spoilers for the trilogy in this book so if you want to read this without having read the first three other books first, then please do!

Read the description of the book here.

I really don’t have much to say except that I enjoyed this book tremendously. The mystery was well-written, the character growth was impressive (especially as you don’t expect it after three whole books), and I loved the small town summer camp setting. I didn’t enjoy the romance in the Truly Devious trilogy but in this book we see another side to David, who is the love interest, which is fun. The side characters also each get their own little arc, and I especially loved Nate’s! The last thing I’ll say is that The Box in the Woods also has interesting social commentary sprinkled throughout, so if you like satire and political humour, you’ll enjoy this too.

All in all, a captivating summer mystery with an unexpected ending and lovable characters. 9/10

Teen SRC 2021 – These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is a 1920s retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in Shanghai, China. If that sentence doesn’t already say enough, this book also has a strange (possibly human created) plague, an enemies-to-lovers plot, many heart-breaking betrayals, AND a rich historical setting. The thing that clinched the deal for me, however, was the multiple POV way of writing. We don’t just see Juliette’s story or Roma’s (the star-crossed lovers) but also the story of side characters like Kathleen (Juliette’s cousin) or Benedikt and Marshall Seo (Roma’s cousin and friend respectively).

You can read the description of the book here but I’ll jump straight into my review. At first I was afraid this book was going for too much; gang rivalry, Romeo/Juliet, a mysterious plague that needs to be solved, and the backdrop of 1920s Shanghai with all its political history… not to mention the side characters who also have their own thing going on… But I was wrong. All of this is what made the plot complex and full of twists. The characters are also lovable with each their own rich inner thoughts and lives. As you can maybe tell from this being my third time of bringing it up, the most unique thing about this book, I found, was the setting. For starters, not many YA books being published in English are set in China or include any words in a foreign language. Chloe Gong not only managed to weave in many threads of Chinese culture to her story, but also political plots relating to the time period. As a history student, I found they added a lot to the story and as a reader, I was simply fascinated. On top of that, of course, the gang rivalry atmosphere added a lot of cloak-and-dagger feel to the story, which is something I love.

As usual, I have some criticisms and as usual, they are related to romance and are nit-picky. This may sound like my very own betrayal to this beautifully written book, but I found myself indifferent to Juliette and Roma’s romance side-plot. The backstory and enemies-to-lovers betrayal was written astoundingly well but I didn’t find much banter or friendship between them, which is what I usually look for. (Not to spoil anything, but I did find the type of romance I was looking for within one of the side plots so…it’s not all bad!) 🙂 Aside from that, I found the ending of These Violent Delights horrific (I say this lovingly) and will not rest easy until I have the second book in my hands. All in all, this book has a gorgeous setting, an amazing plot, and lovable characters. The only downside is a less than satisfactory ending. 9/10

Teen Book Review-Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco

Hunting Prince Dracula

*Minor spoilers for Stalking Jack the Ripper (Book #1) present in this review*

10/10. It has been a LONG while since I enjoyed a book so much, and it has nothing to do with the mystery and everything to do with Thomas Cresswell. Okay, and the mystery was good too.

Now before you think I’ve gone crazy, I’ll list some things Hunting Prince Dracula by Kerri Maniscalco could have done better. (See? Critique-y Inshal still exists) For example, it was hard to keep track of the many Romanian folktales told throughout the book, especially since Audrey Rose already had background knowledge that I didn’t about Vlad the Impaler. Also, it was annoying how much Audrey Rose got bullied for being a woman…even by the headmaster who literally accepted her application? I understand the historical point the author was trying to achieve, and I am completely behind Audrey Rose’s determination to study medicine despite the bigotry of her classmates BUT almost every other scene was about the same thing, so it got annoying. The last criticism I found in this book is somewhat related to the first… the details of the mystery were too difficult to understand because of info-dumping. I just stopped trying to unravel what was going on.

Okay! So, why did I give it a 10/10? Well, there are many reasons. 1. Audrey Rose’s trauma. There are TOO MANY books where characters go through a life-changing event and live happily ever after when it’s over. But the Ripper case (from book #1) still haunts Audrey Rose, and she is still grieving heavily because of it. We see her try to overcome those emotions that come from working with cadavers again, the same emotions that make her want to push people away. It’s not easy! She gets flashbacks, triggers…Basically, we see her growth from book 1 to book 2 and I was overall very pleased with how that was portrayed.

2. Thomas Cresswell. I know I was very unimpressed with him in my first review, but he has ALSO gone through a lot of character development. And he is so FUNNY, oh my God, but it’s not only him as a character that makes this book so great. His relationship with Audrey Rose (if you can call it that…) also develops a lot in this book. We see how their personalities clash, and how their past traumas/insecurities cause problems for their budding romance. Even better than all of that, we see Thomas and Audrey Rose talk to about what they need from each other(communication, people!), we see them fight, apologize, and try to work things out. Basically, their relationships is one of the best (and healthiest) ones I have ever read.

3. Girl Friendships! I feel like this review is becoming all about characters, but seriously, the characters in this book are A+. This time, we get further insight into Audrey Rose through her friendships with other female characters and it is amazing!!

4. Details of the setting. Now, I know this isn’t plot, or mystery, which are very important elements in this sort of book, but I’ve already talked about that in my critique paragraph. The last thing I feel this book delivered flawlessly was the setting. The way the characters talk, the description of their surroundings, and even the things they eat… I was literally transported to an ancient castle in Romania.

Okay, I’ve gone on long enough. Basically, yes, go read this book!!