Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

List of Book Boyfriends: Part 2

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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

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: February 16th, 2021
Number of Pages: 757 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

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

To see my review of book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3.5 – A Court of Frost and Starlight – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

It was one hell of a reunion for this book!

After a two year wait, I was extremely excited to get back into this world that SJM created here—there really was no way it was only ever going to be a trilogy with all the potential side-plots popping up left and right—and this latest installment into the Court of Thorns and Roses is the catalyst of this series finally getting the final push into the adult fantasy section that has been such a controversial topic in YA Fantasy.

There is a definite shift in this series as it’s now considered adult, be that in both the newly designed covers that re-released over the summer of 2020, but also just the overall tone of the story. SJM has obviously matured as an author and while her books are still considered some of the best YA Fantasy series in recent memory, it’s obvious that she’s been fighting along the edge of the line of YA meets NA/A with her more mature themes and sexual content later on in her books. I’m personally all for it and think I’ve grown as a reader alongside her books, plus I think the more mature content in her romance storylines only enhances the story and makes it even better. That’s definitely the case her with A Court of Silver Flame.

Upon reading this book literally the day it came out onto shelves, I did notice that the storyline was at a slower pace than what people might expect, but it made sense in multiple ways: it’s the first book of the second phase of this series, a new big boss villain needs time to become established, and this story in particular is much more character driven than plot due to one of the biggest conflicts is Nesta and her inner turmoil.

Oh man is Nesta an interesting character in these books…She is such a controversial character and it’s something else to see how truly torn the fandom feels about her. There’s the side that writes her off as just a cold, nasty bitch who doesn’t deserve anything, that she ruins all the relationships of those who are closest to her, she’s toxic, and that someone like the Illyrian War General, Cassian, deserves someone WAY better than her! I will admit, I’ve had moments reading this series where I’ve had similar thoughts, but as someone who has been through the mental wringer and has dealt with issues with anxiety and depression over the years, it’s safe to say I take the topic of mental health incredibly seriously. I’m on the side of the fandom that totally understands where she comes from as a character, and remembers that there is no right way to grieve, and that her behaviors are actually quite valid. Not everyone deals with grief and pain the same way, and while her behavior like getting blackout drunk, sleeping with strangers, and lashing out at her loved ones is seen as less than stellar in some people’s eyes, it’s still a rather realistic take on how some people try to deal with low points in their life. I think a lot of people forget all that when they simply write Nesta off as a bitch, and it really shows a lack in maturity to those who said they’re skipping this book simply because they don’t like her.

Plain and simple: Nesta has been through a lot. I don’t need to go into really specific detail, but her anger and self loathing is such an incredible realistic take on someone who suffers from mental health issues. Her relationship with her mentally absent father growing up was incredibly strained, her and Feyre didn’t get along, she was kidnapped and forced into the cauldron to transform into god knows what, and she blames herself for her father’s death after he finally stands up and expresses his love only to witness the King of Hybern snap his neck right in front of her. Plus, obviously with this book and the blurb already hinting at this, she has conflicting feelings for Cassian that she doesn’t exactly know how to deal with it, plus there’s probably more than what I’ve mentioned. I guess I should say that those other readers that write her off and express their strong dislike for her is valid in their own right, but I really do shake my head at when they say they refuse to read this book and not see the complexity of her character finally written on page. I probably have more to say on the matter, but for now I’m good with all that has already been said (feel free to message me and I’ll gladly talk to anyone interested in discussing further!) I sincerely hope this book changes the minds of a lot of those specific readers.

It was also great to see all the other characters make a return after the time spent away from this story: Rhys and Feyre are still in love as ever as what some would call one of the greatest loves in modern day literature; if you’ve read Kingdom of Ash and caught the easter egg SJM threw in with Aelin jumping between worlds, you’ll already know a big reveal they have in store for the inner circle and soon everyone else! Azriel and Mor are more or less the same as the last time we saw them: Az is moody and broody while Mor is still figuring out how to come out to her found family.

Cassian I guess is similar too, he’s still in a mood with everything going on with Nesta and her downward spiral, which is totally fair. He’s also dealing with his own issues of self worth and that gets explored much more heavily in this book.

Amren continues to be underutilized and lovey dovey with her loverboy, Varian from the Summer Court. I wish there was more to report on her, but sadly this is mostly the extent of her existence in this book besides a small handful of scenes as she explains history/lore when needed (like usual).

Elain seems to be getting more back to normal, but I’m so over how much of a bitch she is to Lucien, who is one of the least deserving characters in this whole series. I really think Lucien is someone who deserves better; at least he tries to be cordial and polite and patient with her and even gets her a gift every year for their version of Christmas, all while she wants nothing to do with him, hardly looks his way, and never gets him anything in return. I feel like I’m missing something here with it, because at least in my memory, Lucien has done nothing to deserve to be treated this way, and I really want him to be happy after everything he’s endured with his family, Tamlin, Ianthe, and even the inner circle to a degree.

I was somewhat disappointed we didn’t really get much of a journey with Tamlin in this book. It’s obvious he’s getting some sort of redemption arc based off what happens with him in Wings and Ruin and Frost and Starlight, but that was not apparent in this book at all. We’ll probably get it in later books, but that’s still a big maybe, and while I’m not high on him as a character at all, I’m still curious to see whether SJM would be successful in giving him a redemption arc of some sort.

Eris has become a much more interesting character in this book with the unknown behind where his loyalties truly lie. He gives me some heavy Littlefinger vibes from Game of Thrones; he’s loving all the courtly intrigue he’s a part of, he obviously views it as one big game of chess, and you as the reader are constantly questioning what side he’s on. Plus, there’s hints that there’s more than what we know with the history between him and Mor, and I can’t wait to see what gets revealed later on!

What It’s About:

A Court of Silver Flames is about Nesta Archeron, and that alone has caused quite a stir within the SJM fandom since its initial announcement. It seems it’s the hottest debate amongst all her fans; whether one likes Nesta and if they deem it worth their time to even give a whole book about her a chance, BUT I’ve already done enough on that topic! This book is more about her inner journey past all her past traumas, like with witnessing her father killed by the King of Hybern right before her eyes among other things.

There’s also Cassian, the Illyrian war general who invokes so many emotions within her that she doesn’t know how to handle, so maybe it’s easier to just keep him at arms length or even further than that, save him the misery of her and her life. Too bad he’s not on the same page; it’s obvious he hasn’t given up on her, and when Nesta goes too far in her downward spiral, both Feyre and Rhysand agree to have him put her back on the straight and narrow. Soon, neither can deny the passion that still burns between them as they’re forced into close quarters with each other while they both work through both their inner turmoil.

Besides the sexual tension that’s about the same size as a forest fire, it seems like there’s more evil at work past the King of Hybern’s death: the human queens have risen again and have found a new alliance with an ancient evil force, once again putting the peace and safety of the realm at high risk. A dark shadow of myth that even Amren can’t fully remember, this danger is more prominent, much more diabolical, and the fragile world that they all care about is at much bigger risk.

What I Liked:

  1. The Handling of Mental Health/Recovery! There are many opinions of SJM and her writing, but one thing she absolutely excels at everytime is her handling of such heavy topics. She’s done with all her main female characters, and everytime it’s such a joy to see all the inner workings of her character’s minds and how they’ve faced the traumas they’ve experienced. It makes them so personable and so relatable, I hope it’s helped other readers feel like they’re understood and not so alone, because those are some of the biggest things with people with mental health issues. Nesta is an extremely controversial character in this series, and not everyone has been able to pick up on her particular way of handling all that she’s endured, so now that this book revolves around her will help those relate more to her.
  2. Romance Between Cassian and Nesta! Scorching, absolutely scorching!! I was always a fan of Cassian and his swagger leading up to this book, but now with SJM’s more mature handling with sexual content only makes Cassian a better character! The tension that rose between him and Nesta continues to be so much fun to read, and finally we get more than just a kiss on the battlefield, a WHOLE lot more. The descriptive sex scenes is another controversial topic amongst readers, but even though I’m asexual (aegosexual to be exact), I say bring on the smut! If it enhances the story, I’m all for it and almost always get more excited if a story has it even if I hardly have those feelings in my actual life.
  3. New Friendships! Before this book, Amren was Nesta’s only friend in the books. Sure, she had Feyre and Elain, but Amren was the only one whom Nesta ever felt the need to open up to. With her downward spiral in the beginning, Nesta definitely took advantage of her friendship, and it caused some major backlash for it. In her journey towards self-acceptance, she meets two new characters: An Illyrian female shopkeeper named Emerie and Gwyn, a Priestess who works at the Ancient Library. As the three of them grow closer, they all help each other overcome their inner traumas and help each other learn that our past mistakes don’t define us as people.
  4. Shifting Alliances and Unknown Enemies! This is more apparent with Eric, Lucien’s older brother and heir to the Autumn Court’s throne. While I still don’t like him as a person, there’s no doubt I like characters like him who keep you guessing until the very end. Who’s side is he on? How true is the information he shares? Is he going to betray them all? He’s a very morally grey character, but those make for very interesting stories.
  5. What Is Nesta’s Power? What exactly did she take from the Cauldron when she was dumped into it? I loved the exploration of her abilities and what they truly were through a slow-burn of a reveal. I mean, if even people like Amren and Rhys are somewhat nervous around her and her abilities, that certainly makes her a game changer and absolute enigma.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Amren and Rhys are Antagonists…While it makes sense that they’d be against her with everything that’s happened, I wasn’t liking seeing Rhys and Amren cast into the roles of the antagonists for a large chunk of the book. Now remember that antagonist doesn’t mean they’re the villains, it simply refers to them as characters who oppose the protagonist of the story, who is obviously Nesta. Sure, Nesta brought it on herself with her past behavior and actions, but these are immortal fae who are 500+ years old! I almost expect them to be better than they are.
  2. The Inner Circle’s Lack of Understanding…This kind of tags off my #1, but for a group of fae who have all had their own tragedies and traumatic pasts, it irks me to see how they so easily shun Nesta, who’s not nearly as old as any of them and how she handles everything that’s put her in a low point in her life. I just found it really hypocritical of them, and thought they’d be much more understanding about her. Like, I’d even go as far as to say some of them (Rhys and Mor mostly) maybe even should’ve apologized to her at some point. Rhys was definitely the worst with it, but I get where he was coming from too, especially with the situation him and Feyre are in with this story. There’s many layers to it all, and no one is entirely innocent, but that also adds into how it’s a much more complex story when it’s not all black and white like some of us want to believe.
  3. Where’s Mor?…I was disappointed in how little we see of Mor. For so much of the book, she’s off to Vallahan in order to negotiate peace treaties with other clans, but that also means she doesn’t appear as much as I’d have liked. I’m still waiting for her to come out to everyone, because only Feyre still knows she’s gay. I feel like SJM is waiting for this because she wants to do it the right way, and it’s a tricky subject that she needs to handle with much care in a very fragile way so that it doesn’t backfire on her unintentionally. I don’t want that for her, but with the argument of her writing and diversity already on rocky grounds, she’s got a big mountain to climb with this storyline. Also side note, I caught a one-line possible potential female love interest for her in her future book that I’d be happy to see!

Conclusion:

A Court of Silver Flames was an incredibly ambitious and deeply moving character driven storyline about self-acceptance and self-love starring two characters like Nesta and Cassian who absolutely shined in having the spotlight on them! Their eventual confrontations and confessions of their true feelings was something many have been aching for for such a long time now, and the added sexiness of this book makes it all the more fun to read! The higher than average amount of smut was a major plus, but SJM’s handling of mental health and self recovery is what truly shined in this book as two characters who’ve both dealt with so much inner trauma are finally able to face it all with the help of each other.

Christina Lauren says it best on their Goodreads review of this book: Sarah J. Maas transcends her particular genre of fiction, much like other authors like Nora Roberts, Rick Riordan, and Stephen King; making her an absolute fan favorite and a foundation for many reader’s bookshelves.

Despite the slower paced plot that might bore some readers by the midpoint, this book has just about every factor that makes readers love her stories, and once again I hope that some of the more cynical readers who don’t believe that Nesta is worth giving a chance to know on a much deeper and meaningful level to PLEASE reconsider and give this book a chance. She may not still be your favorite character, but with how deep into her psych that SJM gets, you certainly understand her more and realize that the road to self-acceptance and self-love is so different for each and every one of us.

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