Disclaimer: I received an eARC copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This was my first year participating in Demonathon and I have to just give a massive shout-out to the creator Yumi! There was so much effort put into this adventure, with the amazing website, interactive prompts and activities, and all the merch – I’m a lifelong fan and cannot wait to continue being a part of this readathon in the future!
So let’s move on to how I did with my chosen books:
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong: Surprisingly Good
These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1)
Published October 17, 2020 by Margaret K. McElderry
Series: These Violent Delights
Data from Goodreads
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.
Rep: LGBTQIA+, Asian rep, Slavic rep
TW: violence, gore, transphobia, insects, alcohol consumption, parental abuse.
I resisted reading this book for a while because I wanted the hype to go down. Also, Romeo and Juliet is one of my least favourite Shakespearean plays. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this book! This story has the perfect blend of history and fantasy, really making 1920s Shanghai come to life. I loved all of the female characters in the story, especially Juliette and Kathleen – they were so badass! Even if I didn’t love all of the characters, the author made them all so well-developed and I appreciated that level of detail. The theme of colonialism and its effects resonated with me because of my own background and past experiences; the author really explored this concept wonderfully. I liked the idea of this monster attacking Shanghai but it wasn’t that interesting, even though it was supposed to be the main plot point. I also didn’t like Roma (but that’s because I never liked Romeo). Either way, I finished this book happily so it gets a solid 3 stars from me!
The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner: Should Have Stayed Lost
The Lost Apothecary
Published March 2nd 2021by Park Row Books
Data from Goodreads
A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.
One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.
In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.
I hate bashing a book. But jeez, this one was just so bad that I don’t even know where to start (be warned, I’m going to rant)! We have one storyline taking place in the present time, featuring the character Caroline… who I disliked from the start. Her husband cheated on her (and yes, he is an asshole) so she decides to go to England on their vacation by herself. All of this would have been empowering if it wasn’t for her bland commentary on her life. She then discovers this glass bottle and so our adventure begins to find out about this lost apothecary. By some miracle, she is able to “research” and find everything she needs pretty easily, handling precious documents and accessing hidden buildings with ease. The author’s justification? Caroline likes to read historical documents and almost got a master’s degree in it. Of course, this means she’s basically an expert historian, even though she gave up her passion for reading books years ago and went into admin work. Now, we get to the second storyline, featuring 2 female characters: one makes deadly potions for women who want to take life into their own hands (sounds badass, right?) and the other is a 12 year old maid sent to the apothecary by her mistress. I wanted this second storyline to be interesting, to be about badass women taking revenge. But somehow, it was just as boring. The only thing I liked about this entire story is the 12 year old Eliza – everyone else just sucked. This novel plodded along, with no logic to it, and I finished it feeling highly disappointed. If I say any more about this story, I’m going to spoil it (although that might not be such a horrible thing …) but do yourself a favour and give this one a pass.
The Archive of the Forgotten by A.J. Hackwith: It Was Okay
The Archive of the Forgotten
Published October 6th 2020by Ace Books
Series: Hell's Library
Data from Goodreads
The Library of the Unwritten in Hell was saved from total devastation, but hundreds of potential books were destroyed. Former librarian Claire and Brevity the muse feel the loss of those stories, and are trying to adjust to their new roles within the Arcane Wing and Library, respectively. But when the remains of those books begin to leak a strange ink, Claire realizes that the Library has kept secrets from Hell–and from its own librarians.
Claire and Brevity are immediately at odds in their approach to the ink, and the potential power that it represents has not gone unnoticed. When a representative from the Muses Corps arrives at the Library to advise Brevity, the angel Rami and the erstwhile Hero hunt for answers in other realms. The true nature of the ink could fundamentally alter the afterlife for good or ill, but it entirely depends on who is left to hold the pen.
I would have probably enjoyed this story more had I known it was a sequel. As it were, I rushed to read the first book before getting into this one but the stress of it all affected my ability to really get into the story. That being said, the premise was interesting and I thought the characters were all very unique. There are clear differences between the interactions of the characters from the first book to this one; I actually preferred how it was in The Library of the Unwritten more. The first half of this novel was quite clunky but the second half made up for it by ramping up the pace. I think I’m going to give this novel another chance in the future (when I actually have the time to properly get into it), but for now, I’m giving it 3 stars.
Black Water Sister by Zen Cho: Loved It!
You can find my review for this amazing read here so be sure to check it out and give it some love!
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo: Stunning
When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain
Published December 8th 2020by Tor
Series: The Singing Hills Cycle
Data from Goodreads
The cleric Chih finds themself and their companions at the mercy of a band of fierce tigers who ache with hunger. To stay alive until the mammoths can save them, Chih must unwind the intricate, layered story of the tiger and her scholar lover—a woman of courage, intelligence, and beauty—and discover how truth can survive becoming history.
I first read The Empress of Salt and Fortune and was blown away by the sheer beauty of the story. Naturally, I had to read more of Nghi Vo’s work and I grabbed this novella as soon as I could! Although set in the same world as Empress, this story can be enjoyed as a standalone. This is an incredibly intelligent and evocative bit of storytelling that puts into perspective how different cultures present the same tales to suit their purpose. There are multiple short stories in this novella that all connect together, and each one held my interest from the beginning. The way Nghi Vo writes is magical; the scene came alive in front of me and I felt as if I was actually there! This novella gave me a very different feel as compared to Empress, but I enjoyed it just as much so it gets 5/5 stars from me!
So there you have it! I reached my target of reading all of the prompts and found some surprising treasures in the midst. I cannot wait for the next demonathon challenge and what new reads I will find for my prompts!
Did you participate in demonathon? How about any other readathons?
Have you read any of these books?
Let me know your thoughts!