New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance, YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 27th, 2020
Number of Pages: 372 Pages
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance, YA Romance, Paranormal Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Pages

There are victors and victims. Decide who you want to be. Or the choice will be made for you, witch. And I doubt you’ll like it.

I threw my head back and groaned. ‘It’s a game of scopa, not a battle between life and death. Are you always this dramatic?'”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

Kingdom of the Wicked was a slow burn of a book for me; the beginning started off like any other YA Fantasy title, but once you get further into the story and discover more and more myth and lore in the world that the author of the Stalking Jack The Ripper series has created, I can really say that the book takes off with a jolt in some witchy delight!

This is actually my first novel by Kerri Maniscalco, and after reading it I can say I’m definitely more and more interested in reading her other series I mentioned above because there are still some familiar themes of murder, mystery, romance, and historical settings to make the reader engaged and wanting to stay up late to see what happens next. What I’m noticing with this newer series, however, is that the author seems to have more room for fun and creativity to take her story even further!

The romance was a huge draw for me, and for the most part, it certainly didn’t disappoint! I easily got into the chemistry that oozed between the two main characters, Emilia and Wrath, and loved their whole dynamic; I never get tired of an enemies-to-lovers dynamic. While both characters weren’t anything brand new or entirely unique to the genre, I can say they’re still fun to read as they argue and (attempt) to ignore their growing attractions for each other as they work together to solve a murder mystery.

It wasn’t a perfect read; The the overall pacing with the chapters and how they’re set up was a little strange for my liking, and some of the ending needs to be clarified for me—or I need to go back and reread it for myself and make sure I pay more attention!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Two sisters…

One brutal murder…

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance…

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

‘One day you might beg me to kiss you.’ He stepped close enough for me to stab him.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

What I Liked:

  1. The Many Food Descriptions! Several other reviewers pointed this one out, but there are some seriously delicious italian dishes that get mentioned in this book since the main character’s family owns and operates a restaurant. Cannoli’s are amazing, and I had some major cravings for some once I arrived to that part within the story…yum!
  2. The Romance Between Wrath and Emilia! This book is a great addition to the enemies-to-lovers romance trope as Wrath and Emilia have some immediate sexual tension that builds and builds between them as they reluctantly work together to solve the murder of her twin sister. They irritate each other and start verbal lashings from each other, but underneath it all is an obvious attraction that neither can ignore the closer they become. Their dynamic also grew rather realistically as they slowly begin to trust each other—at least until certain things happen—and rely on each other’s strength into a begrudging respect for one another.
  3. The Worldbuilding! I actually liked the class systems of demons the author presented us, there are also the seven demon princes of hell representing the seven deadly sins, the witches living amongst the normal folks and the witch hunters who are secretly members of the church, even werewolves; it’s all mixed together to create an interesting world that may or make this series an incredibly memorable one!
  4. The “Whodunnit” Murder Mystery! I always love a good mystery where the main character is on the hunt for a killer who leaves a bloody trail of bodies behind.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Beginning Felt Very Generic…This book was pretty boring at first and felt like any general YA Fantasy title out there, but once Emilia and Wrath run into each other and meet for the first time, that was when things really begin to take off!
  2. Not Enough Steam…I know this is a YA Fantasy book so the sexual content (a.k.a. smut) is supposed to be very limited, but really do feel like this story would be even better if there were more steamy scenes. I mean like let’s see truly how “wicked” Prince Wrath can be *wink*wink.* Maybe there’ll be more scenes like this in later books, but again, I know it can only go so far within the YA reading level.
  3. The Ending…Okay, so this one may be on me because I maybe wasn’t fully paying close enough attention and missed something, but part of the ending kind of went over my head. For most of the book, it felt like a pretty light read that didn’t require my entire attention, but then all of a sudden SO MUCH was happening at the end and I blinked and missed some vital information I think…if someone sees this review and wants to message me to fully explain it all to me, you’d officially be my favorite person!!
  4. The Short Chapters…Some chapters were only like a page and a half long, and I was wondering to myself why a single conversation was sometimes three whole chapters when it could’ve been just one? It was weird pacing to me and kind of annoying at times…

Conclusion:

This is my first Kerri Maniscalco novel, and this book really does make me interested in reading her Stalking Jack The Ripper series that put her name on the map!

Like the romance between the two main characters in this book, the story was a slow burn that definitely left me interested to keep reading on once the next book arrives later on! It wasn’t the next binge-worthy series for me to become obsessed with, but this book shows that the series has a whole lot of potential to become a huge fan favorite among the many other incredibly popular YA Fantasy series most of us readers know and love!

A reckoning awoke in me. The more I gave, the more he returned. We traded kisses like blows. And if this were a fight, I wouldn’t know who was winning. I understood why some thought kissing one of the Wicked was addictive. Each time his tongue touched mine, it felt as if the ground beneath me quaked. Like we were a cataclysmic event that shouldn’t be.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

I recommend this book to those that really enjoyed other titles like Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin or the Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black; the dynamic between Wrath and Emilia for sure gave me some impressions of Jude and Cardan with the whole enemies-to-lovers, then back to enemies dynamic!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Paranormal

My Review: Burned (Fever #7): by Karen Marie Moning

Publish Date: January 20th, 2015
Number of Pages: 457 Pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre(s): Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

***Warning!!! This book contains spoilers from the previous books in the series! Continue at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Darkfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Bloodfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Dreamfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Faefever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #5 – Shadowfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #6 – Iced – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

With the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning getting up there in the number of books it holds, it still manages to completely thrill, completely keep me guessing what will happen next, completely OBSESS over the couples developing and the romance in general, and continue to introduce intriguing characters to keep the story feeling fresh!

I liked but didn’t love the previous book, Iced, but that’s just because I wasn’t completely sold of having the story shift over to the 14-year-old Dani O’Malley, who for awhile was Mac’s partner in crime and best friend until their falling out when it turned out Dani had a hand in the murder of Mac’s sister. That truly made Dani a much more interesting character for me, but I still wasn’t completely behind having her become the main protagonist. I liked her a little more after reading Iced, but I still think she has a ways to go before I’m 100% behind her. With all this in mind, I was happy to see Mac return to the spotlight in this book.

Now, while I loved Burned, I do need to give somewhat of a warning that it doesn’t have all that much of an actual plot, it’s more about developing a lot of the characters. By plot, I mean it just lacks a more direct focus like the previous books did. One of the main points of the story is defeating the Crimson Hag and rescuing Christian Mackeltar from her clutches, but there’s so much else that’s going on it’s actually kind of crazy, but I go more into that in the next section. What I can say is this book may feel like a bunch of filler/set up for what’s to happen later, but that’s not exactly anything too new when it comes to this series… This book is just more substantial in size when compared to the earlier books before Shadowfever, and while it may be a lot of filler material, that in no way means this book is weaker in comparison to the rest of the story so far! The character development is absolutely top notch, and there’s so much depth added to those that you honestly didn’t think it’d happen for! Ryodan, Dani, Kat, Jo, and even Lor get some major limelight cast upon them and you read more into them and the relationships they’re forming amongst the growing cast.

I was especially surprised at how much more I liked Lor after reading this book, but it just further proves at how KMM really knows how to write alpha-holes. She may even be better at it than Sarah J. Maas, but I’m still up in the air about that comparison as both do such an amazing job! Lor was actually a really fun character to get inside the head of! He turned out to be a hidden treasure. I mean, he’s a total beef-head himbo who only cares about tits and ass and long, blonde hair, but he still has his moments; he especially shines when he gets with a certain character, and shows his protective side with Dani. He totally gives me Chris Hemsworth as Marvel’s Thor vibes, or his character in the Ghostbusters female led reboot, and I loved every second of it, especially when he…

***Spoiler Alert***

…goes Pri-ya!

This was definitely the funniest book by far with the rest of the series so far too! Lor got involved with some of it which is also partly why I love him now, but KMM allowed for a lot more humor to show up with one particular character gets themselves into a little conundrum, but takes advantage of it all the same! I go more into it down below!

Ryodan also really surprised me in this book too! Multiple things get revealed about him, but one thing in particular I need to address is when he’s talking and admits a bit of his history with Dani and how he’s been watching over her over the years as like a guardian-angel sort of figure, not that she was aware of it. It’s not as creepy as it sounds, but what he says was actually really touching and made me absolutely, 100% behind him as a character and now an excellent candidate to add to my ever-growing list of book boyfriends (click to see my list so far, part 2 is coming soon!)

One thing I’m confused about is the idea of the trilogy that was supposed to focus on Dani and Ryodan that started with Iced… is that still a thing, or was that plan crossed out? Will other books go back to them, or it’s just done and forgotten about? If anyone wants to get back to me on that, it’d be greatly appreciated! I didn’t find anything myself after a google search, but I might have skipped over it without even knowing it. I admit though, the idea of this side trilogy may be put on hold/cancelled after what happens in this book too, but who knows honestly…

Overall, Burned is yet another great addition to what has to be my top pick for favorite book/series of 2020 so far: the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning! While it lacks a main focus/conflict, its main focus was the character development, and boy was there an amazing amount of it! So much is explored and hinted at for more to come, and even though Cruce is defeated… for now… there’s still plenty of danger to go around and plenty of drama to keep the series thriving and our minds racing!

What It’s About:

Burned continues immediately after how Iced ended: Mac and Dani finally have their much anticipated face-off. We learned back in Shadowfever that it was actually Dani who lead Mac’s sister, Alina, to her death by an Unseelie monster which lead Mac to coming over to Dublin in the first place. However, we also learned that Dani’s former leader, Rowena, actually used her Sidhe-Seer abilities of coercion to make Dani perform the terrible act, which Dani doesn’t know that Mac knows about that. It’s all a very twisty circumstance, but both sides desperately just need to hash it out already in order to make amends and get on the same page again, so long as they can actually face not only the other person, but themselves…

The Unseelie Princes have teamed up, and are gaining Pri-ya followers, a new Seelie ruler, plus a new group of Sidhe-Seers, led by the mysterious and lethal Jada, who’ve set their sights on Dublin, so there’s an epic turf war waiting to happen on who will gain control of the city, and ultimately planet Earth…

Mac also discovers a shocking secret about Barrons that will put a real test to their relationship! While dealing with that scandal, she’s also on the hunt for the Unseelie King to hopefully make another appearance and help her with the Sinsar Dubh, or to get rid of it from her mind entirely, but of course, he’s nowhere to be found after being reunited with his Concubine…

Ryodan continues to have his little minions everywhere to be able to whisper into his ear all the happenings of what’s all going down so he can make sure he’s able to stay three steps ahead of everyone…

There’s the hope of a search and rescue mission for Christian Mackeltar, who was snatched up by the Crimson Hag in the climax of Iced

… And on top of all that, the Hoar Frost King, the villian we met in Iced, has left aftershocks of where he’s literally iced folks all over, and they’re turning into blackholes that threaten to continue to tear apart our world until it is no more…

Yeah, we thought it all ended with Cruce and his plot to take the Sinsar Dubh for himself, but it turns out he was only the beginning! There’s something brewing, and the world KMM has created in these books is far from over!

What I Liked:

  1. Mac is Back! Our familiar protagonist and main character, Mackayla Lane, returns in this book and immediately brings the series back to it’s well deserved glory! It was a huge relief because of how meh I found Iced to be with having Dani as the main character. We’re also given back our lusty tall, dark, and handsome Barrons too for anyone possibly worried about that as well. It was just good to see the story once again come back and focus around them as the core central characters.
  2. A Secret of Barrons Get’s Exposed! It’s actually revealed in the prologue of the book and brings up an important scene from the very first book that will surely make you not able to look at Barrons the same way ever again. Even better is that he explains his actions within the book as well too, so it’s definitely a not-miss moment you need to read it to believe it. I for one think it adds so much depth to his character, because everything he does thats questionable to readers, one thing we can all agree on is that his actions are all about his need to protect Mac, even if it’s from herself. How can you not love a guy who’d go to the ends of the earth for the one they love?
  3. New Character: Jada! There’s a new badass Sidhe-Seer babe in town who’s shrouded like a certain group of shadow-groupies with mystery and grandeur, and her name is Jada. As soon as she makes her first appearance in the book, major change within the realm of the Fever series is abundant, but that’s not all; there’s a big reveal with her you won’t see coming.
  4. Major Character Development for Ryodan! Ryodan continues to develop so much, even more than in the previous book, Iced. You learn even more about his background and his character overall has unexplored depths that are no longer hidden; he’s quickly becoming a huge favorite character of mine because of all this. His development with Dani really takes on a heart-wrenching development, and his admission about her was actually so touching! I actually—legitimately—had tears in my eyes when he talks about Dani and his history with her; it was the moment that Ryodan became a favorite character of mine!
  5. The Humor! Burned was definitely the funniest novel of the series, and all because ***SPOILER ALERT***—a character goes invisible and doesn’t know how to change back! I will at least leave their name out of it, but what I can say is it gives them—and you, the reader—a backstage pass to get away with some hijinks, also Lor gets involved in probably the best way possible, and you see and learn things that you’d never have believed if the character wasn’t secretly there to witness it all firsthand.
  6. New Monsters! The Unseelie have some more faces to reveal themselves, and while I won’t give too much away, the female monsters are the MVP’s of the bad guys in this novel, and there’s even one more type of monster to debut… all I can say is, watch what you say around cockroaches!
  7. Character Development: Lor! You get inside the head of another member of the pack of 9, and this time it’s the big, blond, caveman-viking-like Lor. You met him in Shadowfever, you got to know him a little better in Iced, but in Burned you even get inside his head a little bit, and wouldn’t you know it, you fall for him too just like Ryodan and Barrons. Absolutely loved him in this book, and may or may not even be a part of another ship for you to stan in this series!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Return of the Highlanders…Once again, the Highlanders of KMM’s other hit series make an appearance, and I only say I don’t like this just because I haven’t read them, nor do I really plan on reading them either, so their appearance is very meh for me, just like it was in Shadowfever. I know they hold a special place in the hearts of a lot of other KMM fans, so feel free to take this criticism with a grain of salt.
  2. Jada’s Big Reveal…So I mentioned this big reveal earlier, and while it’s big and makes you stop and make sure you read it right, I still can’t help but feel so conflicted about it… The main reasoning behind this is because it almost ruins another character entirely… It’s a confusing plot twist, and I feel like maybe this book explains it enough and I still don’t entirely follow it. Maybe there’ll be more justification in the next book, but I’m not entirely sold on it, especially if it means we’re possibly saying goodbye to another beloved character for good.
  3. The Drama That Goes with Barrons’s Secret Revealed…While I appreciate the author going back to maybe add some justification to a scene that many people have criticized in the past and that is a huge reason some readers don’t like Barrons, what I wasn’t a fan of was the drama it caused to happen between him and Mac. I said this before, but it’s kind of getting annoying at how these two end up going in circles right back to where they started in terms of arguing with each other… can we please move on from it already? Let’s put some angst into other’s relationships, but can Mac and Barrons just move on already?? It’s showing a lack of development with her two main characters that started this whole dang series!

Conclusion:

Another scorching addition to the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning; this series still somehow continues to impress me and throw me through a loop every time I open whatever the next book is, and it’s actually so unpredictable. I swear, every time I think I have it all figured out, KMM manages to throw in something that blows away the path I think the story is traveling down, and I absolutely love it!

It’s the only Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance books/series I’ve really read, but part of me worries if it’s considered one of the best ones, what other ones would I be able to enjoy at this point? I mean, I’m going to compare any other books/series to it after this, so who has any recommendations? I’m all ears, be sure to leave me a message somewhere to let me know (scroll up to the CONTACT INFO tab on the main menu), or we can just gush about this series and others we’ve read too, I will never say no to a convo about books!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Paranormal

My Review: Iced (Fever #6): by Karen Marie Moning

Publish Date: October 29th, 2012

Number of Pages: 512 Pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Genre(s): Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from previous books in the series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Darkfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Bloodfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Faefever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Dreamfever – Click HERE

To see my review of book #5 – Shadowfever – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

The Fever series has become a total book obsession of 2020 for me, and is easily probably my favorite set of books so far this year too. It was originally said the series would only be five books, and I could see the series ending based off all that happened in the previous book, Shadowfever, but I’m not going to complain that there’s a whole lot more books to be added.

I’m sad to say that Iced is also probably the weakest book of the bunch so far, at least that’s just my opinion. Even though I had lowered expectations going in, the book wasn’t able to exceed them or even really meet them either. I’m going to put the blame on how this book shifts from Mackayla Lane to Dani O’Malley as the main protagonist, but who also isn’t nearly as developed of a character. Sure, this opportunity would allow her to do just that, but I was hoping she’d be further along in her development before she took center stage. She’s just too immature for me, with all the brattiness, the “fecks” and “dudes” constantly said, and all the cocky bravado she repeats to herself in her many many inner monologues… Those inner monologues are also the main reason this book is so thick.

Iced is 512 pages, but it felt like it needed to be a much shorter 300 pages instead. With the many inner monologues of Dani, and characters like Christian and Kat, they really fill the book up and make it as substantial as it is when it wasn’t completely necessary. Sure, we could say it’s been like that since the beginning back when Mac was the main focus, but now it’s a little annoying now that we have three characters whom we’re following in this story.

One positive thing I can say is the whodunnit mystery that’s the main plot. Basically, there’s someone or something that’s going around Dublin and literally “Icing” people, both fae and human, to death. They become solid blocks of ice that explode into shards, and Dublin is supposed to be in it’s summer season, so it won’t survive if this keeps going on unchecked. Rydoan “asks” Dani for her help in trying to solve the case, and several other characters get pulled into the story, some new and some familiar. There’s Christian Mackeltar, who’s even further along in becoming the fourth Unseelie Prince and almost completely turned over to the dark-side with a strange obsession for Dani, and there’s a new character named Dancer, a 17-year-old genius who helps Dani set traps to try and save the city.

This book wasn’t as romance filled as some may believe, even though Dani has 3 potential love interests. Out of them all, only one actually seems like a non-creepy option. There’s Christian, Dancer, and even Ryodan who all seem to be drawn towards Dani O’Malley, who let me remind you is only 14. Christian is in his mid-to-late 20’s, but is going dark and is basically becoming a demon, and admits how much he wants to have sex with her… I’m not joking. Ryodan, who’s probably thousands of years old, is much more silent and vague about his feelings, but it’s obvious he’s drawn to her is some way. Both are willing to wait for her to come of age, which can be seen as either romantic or creepy depending on how you look at it. Dancer is the only logical choice right now, but how I see it is that he’s the nerdy best friend who’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, and hasn’t Cassandra Clare already written that trope to death? He’s a sweetheart, but I know he’s not going to end up with her, it’s most likely going to be Ryodan, but I’m curious how KMM is going to develop it and (hopefully) make it feel less child molest-y.

The Book is entertaining enough; I was glued to the pages deep into the night like pretty much every other book I’ve read in this series. My real complaint is that I didn’t get enough growth from Dani O’Malley as I’d hoped, and she really so desperately needs it. She’ll get there, and she is starting to grow on me, but she’s still not the 100 emoji for me yet.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The year is 1 AWC—After the Wall Crash. The Fae are free and hunting us. It’s a war zone out there, and no two days are alike. I’m Dani O’Malley, the chaos-filled streets of Dublin are my home, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules—and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the rare humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks—and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin—before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

What I Liked:

  1. Dancer! He’s a new character who was mentioned in Shadowfever, but now makes his physical debut as a close & personal friend to our new protagonist. He’s a tall, lanky, dark hair + blue eyes combo, 17-year-old male who has the whole cute’n’nerdy thing working for him because he’s a total genius! He traveled over to Dublin before the Walls came down to tour Trinity, but was on his own until Dani came along. He’s a great sidekick who obviously has strong feelings for her, but as our empath Kat mentioned, he’s got some dark secrets brewing beneath the surface, so there’s more than meets the eye with him… just like pretty much every other male character in this fecking series.
  2. Cruce is Still A Threat! Still loving how I totally called it that there was something majorly off about V’lane the whole time! Quick recap: V’lane turned out to be Cruce in disguise, the Unseelie King’s first and most powerful dark prince, who’s been masquerading as the Seelie Prince, and has been plotting for almost a million years to capture the Sinsar Dubh and completely take over our universe. When we last saw him, the King had encased him in an enchanted ice cage to keep him at bay deep below the abbey for the Sidhe-Seers to once again watch over and protect the book… but of course he’s not completely out of the picture. He sneaks into the dreams of the women and tempts them into helping him escape, and there’s a lot of raised eyebrows at how things will develop with him!
  3. New Monsters! With the addition of Christian Mackeltar going all Unseelie royalty on us, there are two new big monsters to make life in Dublin even more difficult for everyone! I can’t give too much away, but one I also want to mention is the Crimson Hag. I’m going to leave it there for you to think up what exactly she may be… For shits and giggles, imagine the Witch’s Ghost in that Scooby Doo animated movie mixed with Lady Gaga when she wore the meat dress at the VMA’s and maybe that will give you some amazing visuals!
  4. Ryodan! He really grew on me in this book; he showed more personality behind the eerily veiled threats and little smirks. He’s still a total alphahole; it’s basically a prerequisite in order to be a part of the pack of nine, but we interact more with him and see more depths to his character… the sexual tension with Dani O’Malley was a bit creepy to say the least, so hopefully KMM shifts it so that if they do end up together while he’s waiting for her to become of age, it’s not child molester-y.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Hardly Any Mac or Barrons Sightings…What made the first 5 books in the series so memorable was having Mac and Barrons be the main focus and following them, and in this book, they’re probably the characters you see the least of. Their absence was definitely felt; I know this book is supposed to focus on Dani now and give her a redemption arc, but wow… this book suffers without the Fever series’s OTP.
  2. Dani’s 14 and has 3 Potential Love Interests…So Dani’s a 14 year-old girl out on the streets, kicking ass and taking names, and all the while she’s got 3 love interests: Dancer, Christian Mackeltar, and Ryodan. Dancer is obviously the safest and most logical choice, but he’s doomed since he falls under the nerdy friend who’s secretly in love with her. Christian is at least 10 years or so older than her and is going through the final stages of fully crossing over and becoming the fourth Unseelie Prince, and while he’s fighting his dark and perverted thoughts because of it, he’s also pretty blunt about his sexual appetite and his yearning for our 14 year old MC which gets pretty weird, not gonna lie… Ryodan is also a potential love interest, even though he’s “boinking” Dani’s friend and fellow Sidhe-Seer, Jo. It’s never fully confirmed or spelled out for you, but similar to Mac and Barrons, if you read between the lines and pay attention to his wording and his actions, it’s obvious there’s something there. Both the (much) older suitors are willing to wait for her until she’s of age—thank god—but the whole thing is still a little odd to say the least… but it is the Fever Series, so I guess weirdness is kind of expected?
  3. Christian Mackeltar Continues to Get the Short End…This poor Highlander continues to have just about everything bad happen to him…I don’t need to go into specifics, but it makes my chest hurt when he internally admitted how much he hated Mac and Barrons and wants revenge on both of them! I mean I get it; they’ve both done him dirty too many times to count by now and have basically been the cause for all that’s caused his life to go down the shitthole… I really feel for him and hope he gets better. Hopefully a nice woman—or man, if he’s swings that way too at all—comes along and helps give him an HEA moment that he deserves!
  4. Still Not Completely Sold on Dani O’Malley…After reading this book, I like her a little more and have seen some growth in her character, but I’m still not completely sold on her like I am with Mac. I’ll admit, when we found out about Dani’s involvement with the murder of Mac’s sister, Dani became 100x more interesting to me, and I really want to find out more from Dani’s perspective on it, and I supposed maybe you kind of do, but it felt like it wasn’t enough with what we’re given, and all we really hear is how guilty she feels while avoiding Mac all together. You do learn more about her terrible upbringing and what she’s gone through, and it really makes you feel for her, but I’m still just not fully behind her. We’ll have to see what else happens in the later books.

Conclusion:

After taking a brief hiatus from this anxiety-inducing series, I have to admit that this book is probably my least favorite of the bunch so far. This doesn’t mean I necessarily hated it; I still cruised through the pages to see what all happens, but with Dani O’Malley shifting towards the front and leaving Mac in the background, I just wasn’t as invested in this story as I have been in the past.

Not to worry though, I’m still so heavily invested in this series and definitely plan to keep going on with the rest of the books because I’m not ready to leave these characters behind or stop learning more about the mythology and history of everything, plus more. With new characters along with adding much more depth for more established characters, more questions keep arising along with plenty of tension and opportunity for more drama to happen in order to make this an even more addicting series!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

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

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: March 29th, 2020
Number of Pages: 622 Pages
Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

The global pandemic has affected us all in different ways, that much is certain. There are plenty of things that I could say on the matter, but one thing I’ve noticed how it’s affected me is my lack of ability to focus or concentrate. It’s affected me on my writing, and has especially affected my reading. All of a sudden, the act of reading is twice as hard to do and I can hardly even find the energy to finish a book; I’ve even dropped multiple titles like Morning Star by Pierce Brown, Vengeful by V.E. Schwab, and really struggled to even finish Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. The point I’m trying to make about all this is how it felt like I’d fallen into a deep reading slump, and From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout absolutely saved me!

Like it’s advertised, this book is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas, and it was an incredible story filled with everything that makes a fantasy story great: quests for vengeance, mythical creatures, bravery, friendship, love, betrayal, loyalty, mystique, forgotten civilizations, and even some suspense. Don’t forget the romance, there was definitely some romance! It was a definite highlight of the whole story, which isn’t exactly shocking for a Jennifer L. Armentrout novel based on what I’ve noticed of her work over the years.

Some of the storyline was fairly predictable, but a lot of it was also not, and I was surprised at how many twists I actually did not see coming, even as I thought back and realized all the little hints that the author placed throughout, and what they eventually meant. The ending was especially surprising, but I gather that anyone who enjoys the author’s other books will totally expect it from her, and will enjoy it just as much. I’m just personally glad it wasn’t a total cliffhanger of an ending; it has quite a final sentence to end it with, but it’s not like I’m totally unsatisfied with it either.

While nothing was too incredibly mind-blowing or greatly original about the story, I still found myself really enjoying this book way more than others right now, and even stayed up all night reading it to see what happened next. I still am not 100% on the worldbuilding, along with its history with the different kingdoms and the wars that are mentioned in the narration, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the story either way.

While it may seem like a perfect addition to the YA Fantasy genre, I can say it definitely belongs more in the New Adult category similarly to how A Court of Thorns and Roses is actually NA too. With how the main heroine develops and with how far the romance goes, while I’d never tell someone what they can and can’t read, others may want to reconsider this for the younger and more impressionable readers. I’d say this book is safe for anyone 16+ in age, but then again, I was reading books with sex scenes when I was just in 8th grade, and I turned out fine!

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Captivating and action-packed, From Blood and Ash is a sexy, addictive, and unexpected fantasy perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Laura Thalassa.

A Maiden…

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty…

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom…

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Some truths do nothing but destroy and decay what they do not obliterate. Truths do not always set one free. Only a fool who has spent their entire life being fed lies believes that.”

— Jennifer L. Armentrout, “From Blood and Ash”

What I Liked:

  1. Hawke Flynn! He becomes Poppy’s personal royal guard when it seems like someone or something is targeting her as being the Maiden, and I can honestly say he’s a perfect addition to any book boyfriends list that anyone possibly has. He’s the perfect mix of charming, cocky, witty, cheeky, and he has an edge that shrouds him with an air of mystery that makes your heart beat just a little faster whenever him and Poppy are near each other. He’s a great love interest because he challenges Poppy both mentally and physically, and he’s protective but never forces her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and he also doesn’t treat her like some defenseless damsel. He really likes the word intriguing to describe her, and has strange golden eyes and dimples that she (and most of us who’ve read it) are absolutely obsessed with!
  2. Poppy’s Character Development! As the important role of the Maiden amongst the people, Poppy has had an incredibly sheltered life for as long as she remembers. Secretly being trained to defend herself in combat, she also defies the pressure and expectations placed on her by socializing with her small inner circle, and I thought the author wrote her resentment and the coming-of-age growing need for freedom perfectly. She’s had everything figured out for her, scheduled for her, and she has so many limits to being the Maiden: a holy-like figure required to wear a veil at all times in public, that it makes total sense that she wants everything that life has kept from her, which leads me to the next number on the list…
  3. The Romance! With her growing need for freedom and choice, Poppy also falls for her new personal royal guard, Hawke Flynn. He teaches her that it’s not only normal to want the things she wants out of life but isn’t allowed to have, but he even encourages her to go and seize them for herself. He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s attracted to her, so he constantly flirts with her, and they exchange some sexy banter as well. She eventually can no longer deny she feels the same way, and the romance developed just so wonderfully…there was such a great balance of sweet and steamy moments, plenty of great banter, and was just electric to read about Poppy learning to embrace her sexuality. I think many impressionable female readers will especially appreciate this character trait of hers.
Image courtesy of Goodreads profile: @arini

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Quite a Lot of Slower Pacing…While there are (surprisingly) a lot of death scenes like Game of Thrones, but From Blood and Ash also has a lot of slower moments in the story, and a lot of that has to do with what felt like a lot of repetitive inner monologues from Poppy, and plenty of worldbuilding info dumps of this realm. There’s a lot of buildup for about 60% of this book, but then the author answers a lot of the questions she raised in the final part with a string of reveals, but with how much emphasis she constantly put on a lot of it, most of the reveals weren’t as shocking or mind-blowing as they could’ve been, at least in my opinion.
  2. A Lot of Info Dumps…I’ve already kind of mentioned it, and the title pretty much tells you what I mean. It’s not that I didn’t find all of the information boring, there was just too much of it and it felt like the author often repeated herself several times in case the reader forgot about something in particular, which sometimes lead me to skim over certain passages. It wasn’t like she didn’t remind us enough when Poppy had one of her many inner monologues…
  3. There’s No Map…This is such a smaller, more particular critique from me, but with how much emphasis is put on the history of the world with the other kingdoms and noteworthy geographical aspects, a map would’ve maybe helped for this book. Personally, I just feel like any map of some sort should be a requirement for any Fantasy genre title, especially for books like this one where the worldbuilding is so integral to the development of the story.

Conclusion:

Overall, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout was an exhilarating romantic New Adult Fantasy novel with paranormal aspects that helped me crawl out of a reading slump during this crazy time in the world! While nothing was too original or absolutely shocking, it was still very much an enjoyable story to read late into the night.

I really recommend this to anyone who loves books by Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, and Stephanie Garber. This book has fantasy aspects with a heavy influence on the romance factor, but luckily is more of a subplot that only enhances the overall story.

This book was indie published, so it seems like it’s not exactly easy to find except on Amazon in paperback unless you have an e-reader, like how I read it. It seems like maybe the author wanted more freedom with the story, plus NA books are more likely to be indie published anyways, so not much of a surprise there. Even though this book just came out shortly before I’d read it, I already can’t wait to get the next one and see what happens next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, Paranormal

My Review: Captive (Beautiful Monsters #1): by Jex Lane

**Kindle Edition**
Publish Date: August 5th, 2016
Number of Pages: 316 Pages
Publisher: Jex Lane
Genre(s): Paranormal, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

In all fairness, I knew going in that I wasn’t going to absolutely love this story because I’ve just been so done with the whole vampire cliché for quite some time. For me, it died with TV shows like The Vampire Diaries and Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I haven’t looked back too much to be completely honest. What truly drew me in was the M/M romance mentioned by the genre listings and from many other reviewers on Goodreads.

I wouldn’t call this a romance title at all though; far from it in actuality. It plays on the mental and emotional manipulation that people have often speculated happening in another fictional vampire franchise: Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. In this book, it’s way more obvious and it really makes you feel for the main character: Matthew Callahan. His “love interest,” the Incubus General Tarrick, tricks him into slavery and slowly and methodically breaks him down until he’s calling the Incubi his “master.” It certainly doesn’t help that the general also uses sex as a weapon to manipulate the MC into performing specific orders. You really sympathize for Matthew as despite the terrible situation he’s put in, which is right in the middle of a centuries long war between Vampires and Incubi, he falls in love with the general. It’s even implied that the general may be falling for him too, but it’s not necessarily certain.

Overall, I liked it but didn’t love it, but there’s for sure enough interest from me to want to keep going on later in the series. The storyline wasn’t too interesting, the action scenes didn’t really grab my attention, nor am I a big fan of Vampires in general, but there’s still some major potential in some aspects like the MC, the mysteries surrounding his past, and his relationship with his potential love interest.

Many trigger warnings go with this title for anyone who’s a more sensitive reader: slavery, emotional and sexual manipulation, torture, character death, and smut.

What It’s About:

I’m risking a lot for you. I could lose everything. Don’t betray me.” It was a plea. Not an order. The first he had ever heard from Tarrick.”

– Jex Lane, “Captive”

Matthew Callahan has spent seven years struggling against the insatiable hunger for blood consuming him. Unable to stop the vampire inside from preying on humans, he keeps himself confined to a lonely existence.

Everything changes the night he is lured into a trap and taken prisoner by High Lord General Tarrick—a seductive incubus who feeds off sexual energy. Forced into the middle of a war between vampires and incubi, Matthew is used as a weapon against his own kind. Although he’s desperate for freedom, he is unable to deny the burning desire drawing him to the incubus general he now calls Master.

*This book is intended for mature audiences!*

Collar or no, we all have our masters. One day, that would be different for Matthew. One day, others would kneel before him.”

– Jex Lane, “Captive”

What I Liked:

  1. The Uncertainty behind Tarrick and Matthew’s Relationship! Like I said earlier, it’s definitely not a romantic relationship by any means, and if someone really does think the opposite, they may want to reconsider. While a sexual relationship starts, what’s truly interesting about them is all the questioning that goes into both the characters motives. Since the story is focused on Matthew, you know he falls in love with Tarrick through everything, but it’s definitely unclear what Tarrick’s true feelings are. I want to hope he has some sort of humanity left and that maybe he returns the feelings that Matthew has, but it’s incredibly up in the air, which does make it more interesting!
  2. The Mystery Behind Matthew’s Past! Besides the unclarity of Tarrick and Matthew, there’s also a lot of mystery behind Matthew’s past that drives him further into the story. I don’t want to give too much away, but some of it has to pertain to who his parents were, and who was the person/monster that turned him in the first place. Obviously, there’s more questions, but I don’t want to spoil it as it’s a major part of the story, and you should experience it yourself in order to fully enjoy it.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A Lot of Slower Moments…There were plenty of sex scenes (M/M and M/F as Matthew is bisexual) to entertain readers looking for that sort of story, but I can say the big battles and higher action scenes didn’t really pick up the story for me personally. They weren’t badly written, but they also didn’t make me glued to my Kindle screen either.
  2. Vampires… I just don’t like Vampire’s anymore. I know I know… I say this as I knowingly read this story that has them within and part of the main plot, but I can at least enjoy it somewhat if the author at least can add something new to the table in terms of all that people associate with the pale ones, but that doesn’t really happen here in this book anyways.

Conclusion:

An interesting paranormal-genre title that’s filled with war, violence, slavery, Incubi and Vampires, along with lots of sex. Anyone who reads dark fantasy and can handle the more disturbing relationships that are filled with sexual manipulation will enjoy this title, especially if someone’s looking for a M/M erotic tale.

It was good but not great, but the first book is hardly ever the best in a trilogy/series, so I say these books can only go up from here! I’m not in love with the story, but I am interested enough to want to keep reading on and seeing what happens next in terms of exploring how Tarrick’s relationship develops with Matthew, whether there’s actual romance that will form once all the mind games are over and done, and all the questions raised with Matthew’s past, like why would a vampire refer to him as “my prince?”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell