Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad Series

June 3, 2021 Reviews 16

Today, I have a YA fantasy, a YA contempory, a YA urban fantasy, and a MG contemp series! I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!


Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesThese Violent Delights by Chloe Gong
Series: These Violent Delights #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 17, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Retellings, Young Adult
Pages: 449
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Billelis
My content rating: YA (Nothing More Than Kissing, Violence)
My rating:
4.5 Stars

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.

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I was hoping to sneak this review in during May for AAPI month, but let’s face it, we need to lift up Asian and other diverse authors every month. So, a few days into June is still a good time to celebrate this book!

These Violent Delights is a complex, atmospheric YA fantasy reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in 1920s Shanghai! Gong incorporates much of the history and the unrest of the city during that period and gives it all a fantasy twist. The book is exquisitely written (it’s very hard to believe Gong was a freshman in college when she wrote it). The book’s diversity is also wonderful, with many different ethnic backgrounds represented, as well as LGBT and trans representation.

As for the plot, the story follows two rival gangs as they struggle to deal with a strange madness that is overtaking Shanghai and killing their people. Rumor has it that the madness is caused by a monster that comes out of the river. Juliette and Romo are both heirs to their family’s blood feud, but they find themselves working together to unravel the mysteries of the madness. Throughout the book, you learn about the complicated relationship that Romo and Juliette have shared and the deep betrayals that drove them apart. And, of course, you discover the truths behind what is causing the madness and why. I loved the way the story follows some elements of the original Shakespearean tale while definitely veering into new territory as well. This led to a few surprises, especially at the end of the book!

If you’re a fan of elaborate fantasy reimaginings, historical fiction with a twist, or just fantasy in general, you should definitely pick up this book!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesSunkissed by Kasie West
Published by Delacorte Press on May 4, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 309
Source: NetGalley
Cover Artist: Anne Hard
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing)
My rating:
4 Stars

Will the stars align?

Avery has always used music as an escape. But after her best friend betrays her, even her perfectly curated playlists can't help her forget what happened. To make matters worse, her parents have dragged her and her social-media-obsessed sister to a remote family camp for two months of "fun." Just when Avery is ready to give up on the summer altogether, she meets Brooks—mysterious, frustratingly charming Brooks—who just happens to be on staff—which means he's off-limits.

What starts as a disaster turns into . . . something else. As the outside world falls away, Avery embarks on a journey of self-discovery. And when Brooks offers her the chance of a lifetime, she must figure out how far is she willing to go to find out what she wants and who she wants to be.

Fan favorite Kasie West is back with another unforgettable summer romance that reminds us falling in love is full of wonder, heartache, and—most of all—surprises.

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A sweet YA romance about discovering who you are and learning to fight for yourself. Avery’s used to letting herself come in second. The ultimate people-pleaser, she tends to go with the flow and let people make her decisions for her. When her best friend betrays her, her instinct is to forgive and try to forget. But that process is complicated by the fact that Avery’s family goes on a summer trip to a remote camping area with no wi-fi. Suddenly, Avery has time to sit back and think about what she really wants and to discover her true passions in life instead of just doing what everyone expects. Of course, summer camp equals summer romance, and those expectations are met in the form of Brooks, a down-to-earth guy whose used to taking care of his sick dad but is using this summer to chase his dreams of pursuing music. It’s easy to fall for Brooks right alongside Avery as she goes on her journey of self-discovery. I was rooting for their relationship throughout the whole book. I read the book in two sittings—it’s the perfect summer read!

***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesCemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Published by Swoon Reads on September 1, 2020
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Source: Purchased
Cover Artist: Mars Lauderbaugh
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing; Some violence)
My rating:
4 Stars

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

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An own-voices Latinx urban fantasy that explores gender identity and what it means to be truly accepted for who you are. Yadriel knows in his heart of hearts that he is a brujo, but his family isn’t so sure. His father, head of their community of brujx, has refused to let Yadriel participate in the ceremony to become a full-fledged brujo who can set souls free because he doesn’t truly believe that Yadriel is male since he’s trans. So, Yadriel completes the ceremony in secret and ends up discovering the ghost of Julian, a boy who was just mysteriously killed. This ends up sending Yadriel and his best friend Maritza on a quest to try to discover what happened to him. Julian is a quintessential bad-boy-with-a-heart-of gold: wild and free and a bit of a troublemaker at times, but he cares fiercely for his friends and family. Yadriel finds himself drawn more and more to him until he’s truly falling—which is a bit of a problem since Julian is dead.

My favorite aspects of this story all had to do with the trans representation. I loved that the spirits confirmed Yadriel’s true identity even before his family could fully embrace him, and I also loved his sweet friendship with his best friend and confidante Maritza. The book shows how difficult it can sometimes be for people who don’t fit the mold of what’s “expected” within a community (in this case, the brujx community), but gives hope that acceptance can be found!


Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesThe Startup Squad by Brian Weisfeld, Nicole C. Kear
Series: The Startup Squad #1
Published by Imprint on May 7, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 176
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Maike Plenzke
My content rating: Appropriate for all ages
My rating:
4 Stars

Girls mean business in a brand-new middle grade series about friendship and entrepreneurship!

All the great leaders had to start somewhere. And Theresa (“Resa” for short) is starting with the lemonade stand competition her teacher assigned to the class—but making it a success is going to be a lot harder than Resa thinks.
The prize: line-skipping tickets to Adventure Central. The competition: Val, Resa's middle school nemesis. And the biggest obstacle to success: Resa's own teammates. Harriet is the class clown, Amelia is the new girl who thinks she knows best, and Didi is Resa's steadfast friend—who doesn't know the first thing about making or selling lemonade. The four of them quickly realize that the recipe for success is tough to perfect—but listening to each other is the first step. And making new friends might be the most important one...

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Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesFace the Music by Brian Weisfeld, Nicole C. Kear
Series: The Startup Squad #2
Published by Imprint on May 5, 2020
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 176
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Maike Plenzke
My rating:
4 Stars

Harriet’s brothers’ band, the Skinks, are hoping to enter a local battle of the bands. Winning could get them on a reality TV show! But low funds have left them without the right equipment.

The Startup Squad jumps into action! Harriet, Resa, Didi, and Amelia quickly pull together to rebrand the Skinks and sell T-shirts to raise money. It’s a great plan—until everything starts to go wrong. Turns out tracking T-shirt orders, managing money, and watching inventory aren’t easy tasks. The Startup Squad has to focus on each member’s strengths, act like a team, and get their business back into the groove.

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Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad SeriesParty Problems by Brian Weisfeld, Nicole C. Kear
Series: The Startup Squad
Published by Imprint on May 4, 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Middle Grade
Pages: 176
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Maike Plenzke
My rating:
4 Stars

Girls mean business in the third novel of this series about friendship and entrepreneurship that Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan, calls "A great read!"

All four friends in the Startup Squad want to raise money--but when they can't agree on what business to start next, they strike off on their own. Didi's idea seems perfect: making place cards for a wedding.

But after the wedding planner gets sick, Didi finds herself in charge of everything--and then the caterer cancels and the band goes missing! Didi's business is turning from a dream to a disaster. Will the Startup Squad come together in time to save the wedding?

Each book in this middle-grade series by Brian Weisfeld and Nicole C. Kear also features tips for kids starting or running their first businesses, plus a profile of a real-life tween girl CEO.

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This series follows a group of girls who are bound and determined to turn their money-making dreams into a reality! The first book features Resa, whose competitive nature drives her to win the class lemonade stand fundraiser. She’s happy to be paired with her best friend Didi, but not so excited to also be in a group with scatterbrained Harriet and stuffy new-girl Amanda. The second book focuses on Harriet and her quest to raise money to replace her brother’s guitar (which she accidentally broke). And the third book is mostly from Didi’s POV as she gets a job designing wedding place cards that turns into a much bigger endeavor when the wedding planner gets sick and Didi ends up taking over for her! (Adults may have a hard time getting past the unrealistic nature of this plotline, but I’m guessing kids won’t think much of it.)

One of my favorite aspects of this series is the fact that so many things go wrong for the girls. This is not one of those cases where you have kids who are somehow freakishly competent at business for no apparent reason. These are kids who act like … kids. They make a TON of mistakes (especially in book two, where they do just about everything wrong at first), but they learn from them. In the third book, lots of things go wrong that are outside of the girls’ control, but they pull it together. One of the main themes of the series is perseverance—learning from a failure and getting right back to it and trying again. Then there’s also a strong message of teamwork and friendship, especially in the first book. The girls need to learn to work together and respect each other’s strengths (and be gracious of their weaknesses).

Each book ends with a section with entrepreneurial tips and a spotlight on a real-life girl entrepreneur for inspiration! Kids can learn a lot from this back matter, and it’s presented in an easy-to-digest matter so they won’t skip it.  🙂

***Disclosure: I received these books from the publisher via Media Masters Publicity for review purposes. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***


That’s it for now! Have you read any of these? What did you think? I wanna know!

16 Responses to “Bite-Sized Reviews of These Violent Delights, Sunkissed, Cemetery Boys, and The Startup Squad Series”

  1. Sam@WLABB

    I feel like all of West’s books are the perfect summer read. She knows how to keep them cute and fluffy, low drama, and heartwarming. Perfect combination for me

  2. Natalie Aguirre

    I hadn’t heard of The Startup Squad series, but it sounds like a great series for girls. Enjoyed reading your thoughts on the other books too. Natalie @ Literary Rambles

  3. Emily

    Glad you enjoyed These Violent Delight and Cemetery Boys. Cemetery Boys was a stand out book for me in 2020. The author is so lovely too.

  4. Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight

    Yay, so glad you loved These Violent Delights! I did too, it was fabulous! I have heard so many great things about Cemetery Boys too. Sunkissed sounds cute, though maybe too cute for me hah. The Start Up Squad sounds quite cute too, I’ll have to suggest that to Lena. Great reviews!

    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted: Reviews in a Minute: June Gems

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