Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Wicked (A Wicked Trilogy #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: December 8th, 2014
Number of Pages: 398 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Grabbing a scarf off the chair, I threw it at him.

He caught it, clutching it to his chest as he flew into the air. ‘You gave Tink a scarf. Tink is free!’ He flew out into the hallway like a little cracked-out fairy, screeching, ‘Tink is freeeeee!

Ren looked at me. ‘What the actual f**k?’
I sighed. ‘He’s obsessed with Harry Potter. I’m sorry.

Tink darted back into the room, holding the scarf to his bare chest. ‘There is no reason to apologize when it comes to Harry Potter.’
‘You do remember what happened to Dobby, right?’ I said.

‘S**t.’ Tink’s eyes widened and he dropped the scarf.”

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan isn’t your average college student. She, and others like her, know humans aren’t the only thing trolling the French Quarter for fun… and for food. Her duty to the Order is her life. After all, four years ago, she lost everything at the hands of the creatures she’d sworn to hunt, tearing her world and her heart apart.

Ren Owens is the last person Ivy expected to enter her rigidly controlled life. He’s six feet and three inches of temptation and swoon-inducing charm. With forest-green eyes and a smile that’s surely left a stream of broken hearts in its wake, he has an uncanny, almost unnatural ability to make her yearn for everything he has to offer. But letting him in is as dangerous as hunting the cold-blooded killers stalking the streets. Losing the boy she loved once before had nearly destroyed her, but the sparking tension that grows between them becomes impossible for Ivy to deny. Deep down, she wants… she needs more than what her duty demands of her, what her past has shaped for her.

But as Ivy grows closer to Ren, she realizes she’s not the only one carrying secrets that could shatter the frail bond between them. There’s something he’s not telling her, and one thing is for certain. She’s no longer sure what is more dangerous to her—the ancient beings threatening to take over the town or the man demanding to lay claim to her heart and her soul.

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If anyone knows one thing about me, especially in the last year or so, they’ll hopefully know that Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash has very very very quickly become a literary obsession! It is to me is like how obsessed every teenage girl (and a few guys like me who couldn’t admit it in public) was with Twilight back in my teenage years. Of course if an author can make me that crazy over a book series like this one has, I’d want to venture off and explore her other works. As I’m typing this review, she just admitted on the Blood and Ash Facebook group that the latest installment, The Crown of Gilded Bone, is her 62nd book written; that’s a lot of books to read…I’ll admit I’ve been aware of her Lux series for quite some time, but it never fully pulled me in. Wicked, however, is a different story.

With authors like Sarah J. Maas, Karen Marie Moning, and Holly Black all releasing books that star the magical folk called the Fae (Fairytale-like creatures that secretly snuck over to our world from another and secretly live among us), when I saw that JLA also joined in this popular fantasy trend, I had to check them out! It was even better that this first book popped up into the bookstore I work at as I’m thinking this too, and I think you’ll all appreciate this small tidbit: I read this while actually visiting New Orleans myself! There’s something about reading a book and physically being in the exact same place it’s set in; the visual aid is literally right there in front of you and helps make the imagery in your head all the more vivid and realistic, and if you’re a bit of a romantic like I am, it makes you sort of feel like you’re also in the plot of it all with the characters. It was amazing to try beignets for the first time; it certainly made it much more understandable why the characters in the book constantly craved them!

I also hardly find success in going backwards with an author’s list of books; I just notice their writing isn’t as honed in and as great with their earlier work, so I usually try to read in publication order, and these books were released almost half a decade earlier than the first Blood and Ash book, give or take. While the story here wasn’t as binge-worthy and obsessive for me, I can happily say with a breath of relief that I still for the most part enjoyed this book and plan to read on in the trilogy. The worldbuilding was intriguing enough with a beautiful setting to help give it an extra push, the characters were easy to get behind and root for as the plot thickened, and just like her other books is the case of I could mostly see some of her plot twists coming from a mile away but also managed to sneak a few past me all the same and actually surprise me.

The romance was (of course) easy for me to get into, and Ren and Ivy were a good couple to see develop as they came to terms with their feelings for each other. In both appearances and personalities, I definitely saw an impression of Poppy and Hawke in them, or I guess technically they’d branch off from Ivy and Ren since they technically came first…but the dynamic they had reminded me so heavily of them and made my chest ache since I was so so so excited for that next book to come out already. Ivy had a backstory that I’d seen before where her ex passed away and she feels guilty about starting to have feelings for another guy all these years later and feels like she’s disrespecting his memory, but Ren didn’t really have a past trauma that made it harder to become vulnerable with someone, or at least made it something that mentally held him back from the relationship in this book. Maybe there’s more there, but nothing was quite revealed yet from what I remember. The romance developed nicely with Ren being the big flirt and admitting his attraction to her while Ivy played hard to get and teased him while silently coming to terms with her mutual attraction, and the ending of the book certainly will make things much more interesting in this regard too. I’m curious to see how that will play out!

‘You like me.’ Letting go, he smiled up at me, that angelic face a picture of innocence. ‘You just aren’t ready to admit it.

All I could think as I gawked at him was, what an observant son of a bitch.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

Speaking of the ending, while I knew some aspects of it were going to happen as it had to in order for the story to keep going, there was one thing that was a twist that I honestly didn’t see coming with a side character, and it also didn’t get an explanation amongst everything else that was going on, and it all came rushing at you all at once like dodgeballs and you’re the only one left on your side! I definitely need some answers for this.

I always enjoy a book with secret organizations with individuals who hunt and kill to keep the peace, and in this book, both Ren and Ivy are a part of one where they’re in an invisible war with the fae. It’s not as common of a thing to have the fae put into the spot of the villains of the story, and I wonder if JLA is going to make it not so black and white in the next books? We see a glimpse of it with a side character of hers whom I really enjoyed: a brownie named Tink! By brownie, I imagine a pixie, a spryte, or whatever you prefer to call them, but he’s a total delight! He wears ken doll clothing as his wardrobe, he’s got a gargantuan sweet tooth, loves to order things off Amazon Prime, and ********spoiler alert********* is secretly Ivy’s roommate! Even though it’s her task to kill the fae on sight, they formed an unlikely bond when she rescued him from one of the graveyards and brought him home with her to mend his wings and cure him back to his proper health. No one in The Order (the organization she’s a part of) knows about it, and Ivy wants to keep it that way.

So with all that in mind, you see some shades of grey that add some depth to the whole situation, and with some of the shady behavior of some members of the Order, or even The Elite (a secret org within the secret org), I wonder how far JLA will go with this aspect in her story? I have a lot of questions that need answering, but there’s only one obvious way to find them all out!

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance! Ren and Ivy’s relationship was the main draw to these books, and it was what was keeping me going in continuing reading on as the story progressed. Ren was pretty much all in from the start of when he first laid eyes on Ivy, and I have a feeling he’s as delectable as every other JLA male love interest. He definitely got some Hawke Flynn vibes from him with his confidence and flirty banter and looks; these two just really reminded me of a more contemporary version of Poppy and Hawke, but without her being the maiden and everything else, but I see a similarity for sure.
  2. Minor Character: Tink! He’s a sassy little pixie-like creature from the fae world whom Ivy forms an unlikely friendship with amongst the war their races are facing off against. I was reminded of the character Lehabah from House of Earth and Blood (The Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas) and absolutely loved every single scene Tink was in! Show-stealer is a for sure nickname I’d give him, and I wonder what he’ll bring to the table moving forward?
  3. The Betrayal! While other events happen that obviously had to happen to further the plot, this small part of it all honestly did surprise me a little bit and threw me off guard! Even more interesting about it is JLA leaves it on a cliffhanger and doesn’t explain it as much; it’s more speculation from the other characters, so I’m curious to see what comes of this plot twist!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It Was Fairly Predictable…I gotta agree with some of the naysayers, but there wasn’t a whole lot of shocking and crazy twists in this book that blow your mind. Sure, it’s also just the first book in the trilogy, and maybe more will go down in the next two books that will be more crazy and shocking, and the first book usually sets the scene and relies on the familiar in order to branch off to become more unique, which also feels like a good bridge into my next point…
  2. Nothing New Added to the Fae…There’s just nothing unique that sets them apart from any other books that showcase them. Sure, not every book has them simply set as the villains—except maybe the Fever series—but also the clumping them all together felt kind of lazy to me…I think it was told earlier on in the book that there used to be the different courts within their race, but then just got all jumbled together. Sure, the intricacies of the fae courts and the intrigue involved with all that are most likely not going to be a strong aspect of the story, once again it just felt kind of lazy how it was brushed aside.

Conclusion:

Overall, I’d say if you’ve enjoyed other books by this author, I feel like this will be another hit for you! It has the same elements that made me absolutely love From Blood and Ash: the worldbuilding, the entertaining plot, the mature and steamy romance, and a great cast of side characters to help drive the plot forward, and while there were maybe a few surprises that snuck past me, there was a cliffhanger that isn’t hard to see coming your way as you get closer to the reveal….It’s okay though, because the journey there is still fun along the way! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m comparing the two series together too much, that’s not my intention, but I am seeing some similarities between them, or even some certain aspects that carried over into the next series…

I’d say those who also enjoyed books/series like the whole Shadowhunters universe by Cassandra Clare, The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and the Crescent City series so far by Sarah J. Maas will be the readers who’ll enjoy this book very much. Maybe even the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, but I say this series by JLA is a much more toned down version of that by a landslide

Sorry for the horrible pun, but this book was a wicked little delight! Okay, glad we got over that hump together, and if you’re still here and haven’t cancelled me yet, I can say that YES: I enjoyed this book by Jennifer L. Armentrout! It definitely was wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I’m definitely interested enough to want to read on and see what possibly happens next. I have some questions that need answering, and I have faith that the author will reveal all those answers in her entertaining way like she has with her other series that is my literary obsession…

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

List of Book Boyfriends: Part 2

Image made with canva.com

Click HERE to see Part 1 of my Book Boyfriends List!

Hello Readers!

It’s been awhile since I made my last list, and I’ve met plenty more since then of some seriously eligible male characters who I absolutely loved to read and kept me entertained in multiple ways. I decided to make a Part 2 because there’s so many more to add, maybe this is partly why I’m single because I could never make a decision to narrow it down if I had to pick just one!

Hope you enjoy the list and maybe get some ideas of some new books to read because of it, and let’s talk if you (yes, YOU the reader) think I’m missing someone who belongs amongst all these other men too!

This list is in no particular order.

***Please note: I own no rights to any of these images, if any of the owners see this article and wish for me to remove them, please contact me and I will gladly do so!***

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Casteel Da’Neer (Blood and Ash series)

Image courtesy of artist Dominique Wesson, Instagram: @dominiquewesson

A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, the second book in this addicting series, was by far my favorite book of 2020, and Cas made it to the top of this newer list even before I finished the dang book! Jennifer L. Armentrout sure knows how to write an ahhhhmazing book boyfriend, and I only hope I help introduce more readers to him and these books that I’m obsessed with lately. He’s got the charm, the dimples, the body, the teeth; he’s pretty much perfect!

Matthias Helvar (The Grishaverse)

Image courtesy of artist Coralie Jubenot, Instagram: @merwildandco

Matthias was one who I may or may not have liked at first, but he definitely grew on me as I read the Six of Crows books by Leigh Bardugo that are a part of her multi-series Grishaverse. He was a more stoic, big-blond-brute character but was a total cinnamon roll when he could no longer deny his feelings for Nina. I love their whole dynamic so much; how romantic is it when a witch hunter ends up falling in love with the very thing he’s been trained to hate?

Jericho Barrons (Fever series)

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Another (possibly) shocking choice to some, but Barrons is another one who really grows on you as you read on in the series. He’s tall, dark, and obscenely handsome, but he’s a big grump too and doesn’t change despite how crazy he is about Mackayla Lane. He’s a complex character as you get to know him more and more with each book, and the actor/model Marco Dapper is my personal fancast choice for him since there isn’t very much fanart out there of him.

Reid Diggory (Serpent & Dove series)

Image courtesy of Salome Totladze, Instagram: @morgana0anagrom

Reid Diggory was am incredibly likeable character who was also frustrating as hell because he had such a black and white way of looking at the world he lived in. He has a somewhat similar dynamic with Lou as Matthias and Nina did in Six of Crows: a witch hunter has been raised to believe witches are evil creatures and the hate them, but of course he ends up falling in love with one because love works in crazy ways like that. He’s a natural leader and a total Gryffindor and always shows massive bravery with a sense of doing the right thing and bringing justice.

Christian Mackeltar (Fever series)

Image courtesy of the actor/model’s IMDB profile

Who doesn’t like a sexy scot? Christian was someone I liked immediately in the series by Karen Marie Moning. As the series went on, I felt so bad for him as he really gets the short end of the stick in what felt like so many different situations, and he got even hotter when he almost went dark there for a little bit, but ultimately stays the same good guy that he is! Andrew Biernat is a model on Instagram and my fancast choice since there’s not really any fanart of anyone from these books unfortunately.

Kell Maresh (Shades of Magic series)

Image courtesy of artist Tara Spruit, Instagram: @taratjah

Kell reminded me a little bit of Newt Scamander from the Fantastic Beasts but less socially awkward…he’s got excellent taste in outer wear, and while I haven’t read the other books after the first one in this series, I can already tell that Kell will be a favorite of mine throughout the entirety of it all.

Jamie Canning and Ryan Wesley (Him duology)

Credit to owner

These two are a package deal because why not? I loved their friends-to-lovers, second chance love story; Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write some adorable and equally steamy romance, even better for me personally when it’s between two hockey playing jocks!

Hunt Athalar (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Kris, Instagram: @faeriereverie

BIG shocker that yet another Sarah J. Maas male character makes the cut based off my last list, right? Hunt was an amazing character in House of Earth and Blood, and his slow burn with Bryce was incredible to read and I am so excited to see where this series goes. I think I fell for him in the scene when he’s in a backwards baseball cap and grey sweatpants (a gay man’s weakness) hanging out in Bryce’s apartment; there’s just something about that homey-domestic image, adding the fact that he has the reputation of being this deadly warrior, that really got my heart racing. He did have one major slip-up, but he definitely redeemed himself in my eyes, all in one book!

Nikolai Lantsov (The Grishaverse)

Image courtesy of artist Kevin Wade

Nikolai is someone I kinda hate to love, only because he’s one of those cocky, overly-confident guys who I know I would roll my eyes at every chance I get if he was a real person. He’s definitely not all bad, I especially enjoy his rebellious spirit and how he’s a wandering pirate captain while he’s also royalty! He was a major highlight of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and I plan to read King of Scars starring him very soon too as the Netflix show releases to the public.

Gideon Cross (Crossfire series)

Credit to owner

Gideon Cross is a much better written Christian Grey, there I said it…He’s an enigmatic billionaire who has a dark past that’s caused him to have a pretty depraved, private sex life, and it only takes meeting that special someone to change everything! Sure, I can admit he’s incredibly over protective and has some alpha hole tendencies that border on possessive maniac-like behavior, but I also see how in his mind it’s all to protect the woman he loves. Their relationship may or may not be toxic to some readers, but I will admit that I fell for him either way. Henry Cavill is my fancast pick for him as there isn’t really any fanart of him.

Tharion Ketos (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Salome Totladze, Instagram: @morgana0anagrom

I’ve always had a thing for mermaids, and Tharion is no different with that AND he’s written by Sarah J. Maas. He gives me Finnick Odair vibes a little bit with his obvious confidence, but he’s also got an otter that sends messages to people above land that I can’t help but fangirl over! I was happy to hear he becomes a bigger character in the second Crescent City book, I say give me as much of him as we can get!

Bennett Ryan (Beautiful Bastard series)

Credit to @Reading_Is_Sexyy

This was such a fun series, and it starts off strong with Bennett being featured in the first book. He’s definitely not perfect, and he perfectly fits the title “Beautiful Bastard” in some instances, but he does mature and grow up a bit to become a better man. Besides that, he does have his charming moments, looks great in a suit, has a killer business ethic, and knows how to have sex in tons of different public places!

Ruhn Danaan (Crescent City series)

Image courtesy of artist Kris, Instagram: @faeriereverie

I liked the idea of Ruhn being a character who rejects his whole “Chosen One” reputation he’s been given for as long as he can remember. Most of us are tired of that trope, Ruhn certainly isn’t a fan of it either, and it’s a fresh take on it at least! He’s a moody and broody character, like a lot of other SJM male characters are, but he grows a ton in the book and shows many hidden depths, he’s also incredibly courageous when he gets an extra push, even if he might disagree with my statement.

Cage York (Seabreeze Series)

Image courtesy of the model/athlete’s Instagram profile: @brian_pruett

Cage York actually stars in the third book in this New Adult romance series, but I read it before any of the others and I instantly fell for this cocky, charming, sexy college baseball player. He’s a total manwhore, as most male romance novel characters usually are, but he meets someone who changes everything, and he’s a total goner. He’s had a difficult upbringing, so the cockiness and attitude is all a front, and it’s endearing to see he’s just a guy who wants someone to love him!

Noel Kahn (Pretty Little Liars series)

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Believe it or not, but the book version of Noel Kahn is actually a whole lot better of a guy than how he was portrayed in the TV show. He’s still a lacrosse playing high-school jock who’s “one of the bro’s,” but he’s actually a sweet guy despite all that and becomes a great boyfriend for Aria later on in the series. I still use Brant Daugherty as my image for him because look at him!

Lor (Fever Series)

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile: @philippe_leblond

Lor was a pleasant surprise because when you first meet him in these books, he just seems like another handsome henchman who isn’t much more than that. Once I read chapters from his perspective in book #7, Burned, I can’t lie: I liked him! Sure, he’s yet another manwhore, alpha-hole character, but I liked some of his one-liners and his protectiveness for Dani on a purely platonic level shows he’s a decent guy no matter what. Model Philippe Leblond is my fancast pick since there isn’t any fanart of him anywhere.

Drew Baylor (Game On Series)

Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile: @dennisboeer

I have a weak spot for college athletes in New Adult romance books/series, because Drew is another name to add to the list who falls in that category. His relationship with Anna in The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan was amazingly done, and his perseverance to show her how he was serious about his feelings for her and all he did to show his devotion was what made me fall for him. Their chemistry was electric and from the first time they hook up to all that they go through, Drew is for sure a keeper! Drew Boeer is a german model I found on Instagram whose also my fancast pick since there’s no fanart of Drew.

Wrath (Kingdom of the Wicked series)

Image courtesy of artist Coralie Jubenot, Instagram: @merwildandco

So in actuality the Prince from hell is maybe not a great option for an actual significant other, but I had to add him just purely for the hotness factor. He’s full of darkness and a secret yearning for cannolis once Emilia turns him onto them, but he was a fun character who added a lot of sex appeal to this first book in Kerri Maniscalco’s series. Sure, the ending may sway a few people in the opposite direction, but go read the From Blood and Ash and get back to me on whether a enemies-to-lovers-back-to-enemies romance can’t have its happily ever after!

“King” Aren Kertell (Bridge Kingdom series)

Image courtesy of artist Dominique Wesson, Instagram: @dominiquewesson

Aren is my last pick on this Part 2, and he definitely ends it on a strong note! He’s smart, strategic, loyal, brave, and has a great enemies-to-lovers romance dynamic with Lara in this New Adult Fantasy-Romance by Danielle Jensen. He goes above and beyond to ensure the safety of his people and kingdom and is so selfless in his actions to face his enemies and protect those who cares about.

Click HERE to see Part 1 of my Book Boyfriends List!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Most Romantic Books

Valentine’s Day is soon upon us—at least as I create this article—and that means romance is in the freezing winter air and couples of all shapes and sizes are going all out in order to feel the love on that special night!

For those like me who love a good book with a bunch of heartfelt romance, I decided to help my fellow booklovers out and create a list of some of my more memorable titles over the years and (hopefully) help someone find a new story to get their hands on and swoon over all the passionate confessions, the scorching love scenes, and enjoy it all as much as I have!

As you read the titles below, are there any on here that you agree with? Are there other books/series you recommend? Let me know in the comments, or shoot me a message on one of the many social media platforms I’m on! To find those, simply scroll back up to the top and find the “Contact Info” page on the main menu; I love to hear recommendations and just talk about books with people in general.

Enjoy the list I created below, it is in no particular order!

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What If It’s Us: by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

This was such a sweet, adorable contemporary LGBT+ title that was co-written by two of the most prolific authors in YA fiction. Two young guys meet during summer break in New York City, and of course EVERYTHING that goes wrong actually happens before these guys can possibly have a happily ever after! I’ve been meaning to reread to be able to give a better book review on here, especially with the more recent news that there’s going to be sequel!

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From Blood And Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Also known as the best series of 2020 for me, these books have just taken me in mind, body, and soul! A Fantasy-Romance series that is oh-so bingeable, I can’t recommend these books enough, and with the third book coming out in April, those who’d just be starting these books wouldn’t have to wait as long as other members of the fandom for it to release already!

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Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

These books have been such a more lighthearted, fun, and enchanting series to read. You’ve got dangerous scavenger hunts, mysterious figures, handsome men with plenty of secrets, great romance, and plenty more where that came from. I’m going to start the third and final book soon and can’t wait to also post my Fancast soon too!

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It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

This book has a more serious tone than most of the others on this list, and has subject matter that may not be suitable for more sensitive readers, but the love story that is interwoven into the darker moments of this story will utterly take your breath away; I can’t recommend this book enough!

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The Off-Campus Series by Elle Kennedy

One of my favorite romance series ever, it’s a hilarious and sexy college romance series that I think anyone who’s a fan of the genre will enjoy. Elle Kennedy certainly knows how to write stories that are equally part sweet and scorching moments with all her couples in these gems; anyone who enjoys snark, smut, and smoking hot hockey players will really enjoy these!

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Him duology by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Another LGBT+ romance title, these books were amazing to find when I enjoyed Elle Kennedy’s other stories like the Off-Campus books. I absolutely had to read these when I learned she wrote about more hockey players, but this time it was M/M. A great second-chance romance when two former best friends return to the summer camp of their younger years and new passions are soon discovered!

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Serpent & Dove series by Shelby Mahurin

A surprisingly great debut, I loved the first book of this YA Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series when it was released. It has so many great romance tropes like “Enemies-to-Lovers,” “There’s Only One Bed,” “Marriage by Convenience,” and plenty more! I’m a little hesitant to start the next book because it’s gotten really mixed reviews (seems to have suffered from “second book syndrome”), but the third and final book’s cover was just revealed, so I’ll have to get to it soon by the time “Gods and Monsters” releases in August!

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Red, White, & Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

A M/M LGBT+ romance genre MUST READ! It was my favorite book of 2018 and was the kind of book I wish I had growing up back when queer titles weren’t as mainstream as they are now. I adored the love story that developed between the (fictional) first son of the president of the United States with the Prince of Wales! Ugh….PLEASE just read it.

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The Song of Achilles: by Madeline Miller

Totally expect waterworks with this book! It’s a beautifully written take on a classic greek tale that we’ve all heard before, but with a completely new take on it while being told from the perspective of a character who never really got the spotlight in “The Iliad” until now. Even though you know the eventual fate of the hero of this tale, the love that blossoms between Achilles and Patroclus makes you yearn for a possible chance that they’ll overcome all that comes between them!

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The Edge of Never duology by J.A. Redmerski

These books made me believe in soul mates…I’m totally serious! The story of Camryn and Andrew as they meet on a cross country bus ride is a story that I can’t believe isn’t more popular with other readers. They’re literally perfect for each other, and both discover new passions for life and each other along the way; this is such an underrated duology in my opinion!

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Again, But Better: by Christine Riccio

A lighthearted, beachy read about second chances with a shy, introverted girl moving abroad in order to find herself; this was a great book to lift my spirits! It was a little cheesy, not gonna lie, but I say it’s definitely worth a look at if you’re looking for an incredibly sweet romance adventure!

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River’s End: by Nora Roberts

I remember snagging my mom’s copy of this off the shelf back when I was in 7th grade and fell in love with this story. It has literally everything: Hollywood, Murder, Family, Mystery, Suspense, and a magnificent romantic journey over the course of many years for both Noah and Olivia. I was obsessed with this book as I grew up, and the copy was ragged over the many times I reread it, I definitely had to buy a new copy in order to keep it on my shelf!

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Chasing Red duology by Isabelle Ronin

I’m always a little skeptical of anything that gets published off Wattpad, but this New Adult romance duology was actually pretty decent! Caleb was at first a total player, but once it was obvious how smitten he was with Veronica, aka “Red,” he became a total book boyfriend to add to the list!

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From Ashes: by Molly McAdams

An utterly addicting book, I loved this book for the romantic storyline about Gage and Cassidy. The female main character definitely had a “Mary Sue” kind of vibe a couple times and has WAY too many guys that are so obsessed with her, but I had to keep reading every time until they got together! Lots of frustration over all that happens that possibly keeps them apart, but what a great romance title!

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The Hookup: by Kristen Ashley

This was an alright title, there wasn’t as much angst and drama to really keep my eyes glued to the pages, but the relationship that develops between Johnny and Izzy was certainly enjoyable nonetheless! An easy, beach read of a romantic story set in a small town was worth mentioning on here.

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The Hook Up: by Kristen Callihan

I know…it may be confusing to list two books with really similar titles and both authors are named Kristen, but this one is also such an amazing romantic story! It’s another college romance that New Adult fans will enjoy, Anna and Drew are another amazing couple that I discovered and think a lot of other romance fans will also enjoy!

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A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas

Of course I had to recommend something from my favorite author! This Fantasy series is such an immersive and addicting story to get into, and the romance is considered top tier amongst many other fans. As I type this, I cannot wait for the fifth book to be released on February 16th; you know I had a copy pre-ordered way in advance!

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Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

For anyone who’s been a part of a fandom of any kind, you will for sure relate to the main character, Cath, in this YA/New Adult romance standalone. She’s starting her freshman year of college, and she must learn to live outside of her dorm room and in the pages of her fanfiction WIP’s of Simon Snow!

The Roommate: by Rosie Danan

An impressive debut novel, this book has hilarious sitcom written all over it with an uptight, east-coast WASP living under one roof with a male porn star! The banter is hilarious and sexy, and both characters are a ton of fun to read as they learn valuable lessons in sex positivity and where they belong in the world.

The Bargainer series by Laura Thalassa

A Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series that’s highly recommended for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Richelle Mead, these books have a love story that is worth checking out! Many years ago, Callie made a deal with a mysterious winged being known as “The Bargainer” and now he’s come to collect! The romantic relationship was the major highlight of these books.

Caroline and West duology by Robin York

This duology was a surprise for me at how much I actually really got into the story! With titles like these, I thought they were going to be pretty trashy smut, but the storyline is actually incredibly solid and both main characters really develop as they get closer and reveal their unrequited feelings for each other! Caroline deals with a vicious act from her ex, who posts explicit photos and videos of her all over the internet, and she finds herself running into West and finding comfort with him at his early morning shifts at a local bakery.

Check, Please! duology by Ngozi Ukazu

A hilarious and absolutely adorable LGBT+ sports graphic novel revolving around Eric Bittle, a figure skater who loves to bake and vlog, gets a scholarship to an Ivy League college, but has to join the Varsity hockey team! Crisp & clean artwork, and an engaging and relatable coming of age storyline, Bittle learns a lot about himself from his new circle of teammates, and tries to ignore the fact that he has a huge crush on his captain!

Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas

Another addicting book from my favorite author, this first part of her newest series has just about everything: murder, suspense, plenty of twists and turns, heartbreak, and some serious slow burning sexual tension between the two main characters of Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Alathar as they hunt down the demon who murdered her best friends. What they discover is another perfect example of how deep something like this plot can truly go!

The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

A scorching romance between a product trend forecaster and a male prostitute, what truly is noteworthy is how the female main character is actually Autistic! Having her have Aspergers made this romance title feel fresh within a genre that has a surplus of overly familiar tropes and clichés!

Anna and the French Kiss: by Stephanie Perkins

It’s a coming-of-age story about Anna, who moves to Paris for a year to study abroad, and finds herself falling in love with Etienne St. Clair. Yeah, his name sounds pretentious, but he is actually a total sweetheart who’ll have anyone swooning after him like our main character, but of course he has a girlfriend already!

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han

A widely popular trilogy in the YA reading age group, the themes of family, first love, and dealing with change are incredibly relatable, and the relationship between Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky is super sweet; Peter is a total sweetheart when it’s obvious he is crazy about her and will do just about anything for her in a moment’s notice. Sure you can just watch the Netflix movies, but seriously…the books are a whole lot better. Definitely give them all a read if you can!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe: by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Another popular book title that has also won quite a few awards, any book lists with notable LGBT+ titles more than likely includes this book because of the story between Dante and Aristotle and the summer they meet that changes both their lives. The prose feel so rhythmic together and makes you think it’s one gigantic poem, the ending will melt your heart and make you believe in happily ever afters for sure!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: by Becky Albertalli

This was such an adorable book to read! If you’ve seen Love, Simon you’ve got the whole jist of the book, but of course the book is always better, so why not look even further into the storyline of Simon and his secret messages with Blue?

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Perfect Chemistry trilogy by Simone Elkeles

These were a total guilty pleasure when I was younger, and they are also kind of a more modern take on the Grease-like setup of the blond popular girl falling for the bad boy from the wrong side of town. I know it sounds super cheesy, but the banter that usually goes with each of these storylines was well worth it! Those Fuentes boys have quite the colorful vocabulary!

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Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom #1): by Danielle L. Jensen

Publish Date: August 13th, 2019
Number of Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Context Literary Agency LLC
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A princess who’s secretly a trained assassin…

An ACTUAL enemies-to-lovers where one of them tries to kill the other at one point…

A marriage of Convenience…

Twisty political intrigue and espionage…

Lots of exciting action scenes…

Slow burning sexual tension mixed with distrust up the WAZOOOO…

Tropical and lush scenery…

Snarky grandmas…

Um…Yes, LOVE that journey for me!

The Bridge Kingdom was a book that’s been thrown around multiple Facebook groups I follow for Sarah J. Maas and Jennifer Armentrout, and I’ll admit that upon looking into this book that I was definitely curious! I hadn’t heard much about the author nor have I read anything by her—Although I do have a hardcover copy of Dark Shores on my shelf at home to be read soon!—but with how often I saw this title brought up, I knew it’d eventually end up in my hands.

I must say this book surprised me because I was instantly hooked! We have a Game of Thrones Red Wedding-esque scene almost right away in the beginning of the story, and within the first three chapters I’m slightly terrified of our heroine, and emotionally invested in her when a big secret is revealed right away afterwards in explanation of her shocking scene beforehand, and can’t wait to see what else she can do!

The story itself is nothing too groundbreaking or unique or innovative, but my higher rating simply is because of how this story is told. I feel like I’ve read plenty of ‘deadly girl infiltrates enemy kingdom and plans to kill the king after marriage-by-convenience, but falls in love instead,’ but the author just tells it so well; it really draws you in. She also has vivid descriptions of the world as you explore it with one of the main characters, and the pacing keeps you riveted and turning the pages when you convince yourself “Just 1 more chapter…” like 5 chapters ago. The action, plus the agonizingly slow romance building between the two main characters kept my attention, then thankfully making me satisfied when it finally happens (Although, it would’ve been fine to have happened, like, fifty pages ago too, but whatever…) The growth that the main character goes through was also fun to read, both her and her love interest discover the important lesson of how maybe we shouldn’t give in to certain prejudices about people from another culture, but then again, if there’s tension and the threat of war between the two kingdoms, it’s kind of inevitable…but there’s also the idea to consider that you also shouldn’t believe everything someone tells you about a certain group of people either.

Despite how short the book appears, it felt like a really long story; It was like there was a lot more words crammed in on every page than most other published books, so after reading fifty pages it actually felt like I’d read an additional hundred with all the material that fits just in that small chunk of pages.

A fair heads up, not really a warning, but despite this being within the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of typical Fantasy elements: namely, a magic system and mythological creatures. It’s a tropical climate setting with islands that makes me think of exotic destinations like Hawaii, Thailand, or the Caribbean with a lot of snakes that inhabit the land while the sharks make several appearances when the characters travel by boat through the water. Not that I’m trying to knock the worldbuilding because it’s still a fictional land and is still wonderfully done, but let me just say that you shouldn’t go into this book expecting wizards casting spells or any dragons flying around. While these aspects of Fantasy may be lacking, the world is still rife with lots of political intrigue and militaristic strategies being made around a particular landscape phenomenon referred to as “The Bridge” (hence the title of the book/series), and for any of you visual learners, the bridge is like the Chinese Wall that travels for miles and miles, except this time it’s not man-made.

Like I said, this book surprised me by how much I found myself enjoying it, and I even already ordered the sequel because that ending……oofda! I need to read on and get some more answers and just see what will possibly happen next! I loved how the author tied in the very beginning of the book to let you see how much the character has changed throughout the story and how the stakes have changed so drastically. If this is the first book I finish reading in 2021, I can happily say that the new year for books is already looking pretty bright!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

What if you fell in love with the one person you’d sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

What I Liked:

  1. The Characters, Especially Lara Veliant! I personally liked them and thought lara especially went through a lot of growth as the story developed. I liked that she was already an established assassin by the time the story takes place, and you aren’t treated to her training and coming into her deadly skills. She gives me some major Aelin Galathynius-Whitethorn vibes with her looks, her attitude, and her physical prowess. I liked Aren too, but not quite as much and didn’t feel like he changed except for his feelings towards Lara. I also feel like he didn’t stand out as much from other male hero/love interests in these types of stories. Sure, he’s brave and noble and caring and charming, but so is every other male character in his position! Hopefully he gets more characterization in the second book.
  2. Good Pacing! There was a lot of action to keep you excited that mixed perfectly with the slower moments where dialogue and character is revealed. I found this surprising since they’re wasn’t an actual villain present for a large chunk of the story; it was more about Lara’s change in attitude and swerving of which side she truly belonged to by the end of the story. I think this also added to why I found this book so easy to want to keep reading, even if I was so familiar with basically all the story’s elements.
  3. They’re Actually Enemies-to-Lovers! A lot of the time people say a romance storyline is this trope when in actuality it really isn’t…I don’t feel like going into examples, but what I liked about this story with the trope is that the two characters actually almost kill each other on several occasions. When they say “enemies,” I want instances where they’re nearly coming to blows, they plot to assassinate the other, and actually have an animosity towards the other…sure, it eventually burns into a passionate love, but they always love and hate have a varied line between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Not As Much Romance As I’d Liked… What I mean is that it’s a really really slow slow-burn of a romance, which if I think about it, makes total sense. Lara and Aren are from two different kingdoms and have been raised to believe certain prejudices about each other, so I can say the romance grew rather realistically, but I don’t know…I kind of just wanted some more romance scenes. Maybe there will be a lot more in the next book!
  2. Not Many Fantasy Elements… I mentioned this earlier, but for a book that falls under the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of elements that show up in this story. There’s no magic, there’s no mythological creatures, no charmed/cursed item or relic, and so on…The world is entirely fictional, but that’s about it. The animals are snakes and sharks; I feel like the author could’ve reimagined them as some sort of creature that’s similar, but more on the mythological side.

Conclusion:

The Bridge Kingdom is an adventurous and exciting enemies-to-lovers tale with plenty of distinctive characters, slow burning romance thick with tension and distrust, bloody action and military strategization, and of course beautiful and exotic locations that are used incredibly well into the story: you could say I definitely recommend this title, just maybe…

…no but actually, READ this book!

Specifically, if you loved books like The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, and of course, just about ANYTHING by Sarah J. Maas or Jennifer Armentrout, I know you’ll most likely also enjoy this book as well. It’s got all the same elements that these other authors offer to the genre, and is yet another beautifully told story that will wrap you up and drag you in without a second thought.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT’S Top 10 Books of 2020!

Image created on canva.com

Another year is in the books, and boy oh boy, I think we can all agree that we are surely glad that 2020 is nearly behind us! I mean seriously… what a shitty year this has been, amiright? I don’t need to rehash the gory details, I’m sure we’re all trying to forget about most of it, but one thing that has certainly gotten me through some of the hard times was—of course—reading some absolutely amazing books!

Below I have gone back through the course of these months since January and have looked back on some of the books/series I’ve started and have compiled a list of the top ten of what I considered to be the much better stories. This list is in no particular order, and feel free to share with me what you considered your favorite books of 2020! I’m always looking for new recommendations to add on my “To-Read” list on Goodreads!

Just a few reminders: This will be my last post of 2020, and you can also check out my full book reviews by clicking on any of the hyperlinked titles!

Enjoy!

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1. From Blood and Ash (From Blood and Ash #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

This book series has been an unexpected hidden treasure of 2020, I’m so completely obsessed with it! Poppy and Hawke are an absolutely amazing couple to read, and 2020 gets even stranger when I say I’m such a big fan of a Vampire/Werewolf fantasy series! Strange times indeed, but If you haven’t read these books yet, I can’t say it enough: GET ON IT!

2. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1): by Sarah J. Maas

It should be NO surprise that if Sarah J Maas has a book published that it’d end up on this list… that woman just checks off so many of my needs in order to make a book utterly addicting, and if not, I know to check out other authors instead of bashing her to change her stories for me! Oka rant over… This is her first “adult” fantasy novel—it’s also the first in a new series—and despite a weird beginning clumped with WAY too much worldbuilding information, it’s just as entertaining as her other books if not more, and is filled with every “fuck” that Aelin wasn’t allowed to say.

3. Serpent & Dove (Serpent and Dove #1): by Shelby Mahurin

Serpent and Dove was a surprisingly fun debut novel about a young witch and witch hunter who (of course) fall in love despite the world—that’s a little too similar to France—threatening to tear them apart. It’s a slower read than what I usually look for in the fantasy genre, but I still say this is one to check out for those who love a good forbidden romance. There’s many tropes like “marriage out of convenience,” “there’s only one bed,” “enemies-to-lovers,” and more I’m sure I’m forgetting, and Lou and Reed give me some major Nina and Matthias vibes from Six of Crows!

4. The Fever Series: by Karen Marie Moning

Image courtesy of thesaucywenchesbookclub.blogspot.com

It honestly feels so weird to think I only started this series at the very beginning of the 2020 year, it almost feels like it’s been a favorite of mine for many, many ages already. I am so entranced every time I open the latest installment in this addicting book series, and I can’t believe the final book comes out already in Early 2021! Full of mystery, scorching romance, and brilliantly executed plot twists, the whole Fever series is of course on my list. With having the whole series included, I don’t have the hyperlinks to each of my book reviews or the Fancast, sorry for the inconvenience!

5. A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (From Blood and Ash #2): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

The sequel to From Blood and Ash that you came across earlier up on this list, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire is so much bigger and even so much better than its predecessor. So many secrets are revealed yet so many more that are merely hinted at, some absolutely smoldering romance, plus a major war on the horizon! That’s only a small tidbit of what this epic series entails. I’ll say it again: READ THESE BOOKS!!!! I’d even go as far as to say this was the best book of 2020 that I’ve read, and that Casteel Da’neer is my favorite Book Boyfriend!

6. Silk & Steel (Silk & Steel #1): by Ariana Nash

I was not expecting to like this book as much as I did, but WOW did it sure impress me when I clicked on it to read on my Kindle! Its darkly intense, sexual, aggressive, but an extremely fun and (kinda) sexy start to a fantasy trilogy starring a developing LGBTQ+ (M/M) love story! I definitely will be checking out the other books that continue this story!

7. The Hook Up (Game On #1): by Kristen Callihan

This was definitely the best contemporary titles I’ve read this year, I just loved both the main characters so much! It’s a new-adult college romance, and both Drew and Anna grow so much through the course of this story, and I couldn’t get enough of the hot romance blooming between the two of them.

8. Top Secret: by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Whenever these two authors get together and write an LGBT+ new-adult romance, it equals to a very happy Nick Goodsell! This was another college romance between two fraternity brothers who also compete against each other to become the next president, each of them having their own secret/personal reasons for doing so, but their love story begins all because one’s girlfriend wants to try and have a threeway! They anonymously find themselves on a dating app (not knowing they’re literally next door neighbors in the frat house), and the fun goes off from there…

9. Check, Please! Vol. #2: by Ngozi Ukazu

The second part—and conclusion—of one of the only graphic novels I’ve read, this book was a gigantic anticipated release for me ever since I’d first discovered the first book the year prior. It’s an amazing coming-of-age college story filled with laughs, first love, hockey bros, friendship, courage, and also plenty of baking from our cinnamon roll of a main character!

10. A Sky Beyond the Storm (An Ember in the Ashes #4): by Sabaa Tahir

I had to end this list on a high note! The epic conclusion to this series was an exciting if not bittersweet tale, but it was certainly a great way to end the year in books that also didn’t disappoint either. I can’t believe this series is now over, but I also cannot wait to see what Sabaa Tahir comes up with next!

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BONUS CONTENT!

Honorable Mentions:

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1): by Emily A. Duncan

All the Stars and Teeth (All the Stars and Teeth #1): by Adalyn Grace

Aurora Rising (Aurora Cycle #1): by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Legendary (Caraval #2): by Stephanie Garber

Boyfriend Material: by Alexis Hall

Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1): by Laura Thalassa

Captive (Beautiful Monsters #1): by Jex Lane

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell