Whatever 2020 looked like for you, and wherever you find yourself at the wee dawn of this new year, I hope you’ve found some warmth and comfort in the little places in your life. It’s been a terrible few months all around, so I hope (and Sprout hopes!) that you’ve been treating yourself gently too.
Amidst a lot of personal turbulence in the past year (between online college and some bad mental health days), fiction was a constant that I returned to over and over again whenever I needed grounding—the stories I experienced were both escape portals and anchors in my day-to-day life. It is perhaps no surprise that I ended up reading double the amount of books I set out to read in my 2020 Goodreads goal; the achievement feels a little bittersweet, but it’s a victory nonetheless! It brings me a lot of joy today to be rounding up all of my favorite books that I read this strange, strange year, and I hope they bring you some solace too.
What a year 2020 has been. I’m actively resisting the urge to talk and reflect on 2020 as a year, because I am sure that there will be an overabundance of thinkpieces. But all I’ll say that – it’s been a tough year, friends, and I’m so proud and glad that we all made it through together.
With books though, I think this has been one of my favourite reading years. 2017 was my last favourite reading year – that was the year where I made the conscious decision to diversify my reading choices, and I discovered so many wonderful stories. Though the years after were also good, I think 2020 was the year where I just read a series of phenomenal books that now live in a tender place in my heart and memory.
It’s pretty clear that all of us at the Pond are huge fans of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. We had the honour of hosting the exclusive cover reveal and we also highly recommended the book in our review. Today though, we have Chloe visiting us at the Pond again in a new Let’s Go On a Pond-cation post, where Chloe and Xiaolong take us on a virtual vacation through Shanghai, the setting for These Violent Delights.
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.
I was given an ARC of this book by the author; this does not influence my opinions outlined in this book review.
How do you even begin to write a review for one of your most anticipated reads of 2020 that didn’t just exceed your expectations, but its story stabbed you in the heart, sucked the lifeforce and tears out of you, and made you ache and feel horror all at once – and by the end you wanted to thank Chloe for it?