Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

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

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

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

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

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

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

~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

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

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

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

What I Liked:

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

What I Didn’t Like:

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

Conclusion:

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

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

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

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (The Folk of the Air #3.5): by Holly Black (Illustrated by Rovina Cai)

Publish Date: November 24th, 2020
Number of Pages: 192 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers to the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my full review of book #1 – The Cruel Prince – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – The Wicked King – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3 – The Queen of Nothing – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

This was such a nice treat: to be transported back into the magical realm of Elfhame and be reunited with perhaps one of the most popular couples to ever grace the YA Fantasy genre: Jude Duarte and Cardan Greenbriar. I’m not gonna lie, I missed my beautiful, morally grey couple after everything that did—and didn’t—happen in the previous book, The Queen of Nothing!

This book reads very much like those whimsical fairytale stories you read as a little kid, and the book certainly adds to that aesthetic with the artwork that also fills the pages. What I think is the big draw for this novella is how Holly Black majorly switched it up and instead of Jude, you get inside the intricate mind of the Wicked King himself and what the heck was going through his mind in some key scenes before, during, and after what happens in the original trilogy. Sure, some readers are not fans of him for his manipulative and abusive actions in some parts of the story, but this book is also the perfect gift for anyone who is on the complete opposite side of that spectrum.

The artwork is actually so so so so so gorgeous too! Rovina Cai is a freelance artist based out of Australia, and you seriously need to check out her website to view her portfolio! Her work is utterly enchanting and haunting; she was a perfect choice as the illustrator for this tale!

Check out her website in the link below, and be as amazed as I was:

https://www.rovinacai.com/

One thing I will say is I was just a little disappointed with how short this whole book was, and it felt like as I was really starting to get into it that it was over before you know it! I also totally figured this would be the case going in too, but this book just feels like a total teaser and I WANT MORE! Still enjoyable, most definitely, but why not just write a full length novel, but still keep all the artwork (of course)?

What It’s About:

The official Blurb:

An illustrated addition to the New York Times bestselling Folk of Air trilogy, that started with The Cruel Prince, from award-winning author Holly Black.

An irresistible return to the captivating world of Elfhame.

Once upon a time, there was a boy with a wicked tongue.

Before he was a cruel prince or a wicked king, he was a faerie child with a heart of stone . #1 New York Times bestselling author, Holly Black reveals a deeper look into the dramatic life of Elfhame’s enigmatic high king, Cardan. This tale includes delicious details of life before The Cruel Prince, an adventure beyond The Queen of Nothing, and familiar moments from The Folk of the Air trilogy, told wholly from Cardan’s perspective.

This new installment in the Folk of the Air series is a return to the heart-racing romance, danger, humor, and drama that enchanted readers everywhere. Each chapter is paired with lavish and luminous full-color art, making this the perfect collector’s item to be enjoyed by both new audiences and old.

What I Liked:

  1. The Artwork! It has a certain appeal that really works for a grimm fairytale-like story much like this collection of short stories. The artist created well over a dozen gorgeous images that coincide with what is written on the page, and just about every single page has something to look at–whether it be a gorgeous border and a full page image of Cardan Greenbriar enjoying his own little storybook out in the forest.
  2. The Perspective of Cardan! In the original trilogy, you only really got to be in the head of Jude Duarte as she overcame all the challenges laid before her in Elfhame, but this time you follow the Wicked King much more closely and get a closer glimpse of what’s been going on in his head over the years, including during some key scenes within the actual trilogy.
  3. The Story of the Drunk Moth! It was just a moment in this book that took me by surprise by how much it made me laugh! I guess I’ll give a slight spoiler warning for this::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::Basically, Cardan rides a giant moth into the Mortal realm—our world—but the creature will only fly him back if Cardan buys him booze, so Cardan glamours a couple leaves into dollar bills, goes into a liquor store and brings the moth back a six pack in terms of their agreement! I don’t know, that just really paints a glorious picture in my mind!
  4. The Continuation of Cardan and the Troll Woman! Cardan comes face to face with a particular character throughout the course of this book, and each time they meet a story is told about a boy with a stone heart. The story changes over time, much like we do, and I thought the way the author tied this together was done remarkably well, definitely pay attention to this when you read it yourself!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Way Too Short…I mean, I knew this was going to be the case going in with this book, but while the material was fun to read and it was like being reunited with long lost friends with these characters and the world of Elfhame, it wasn’t enough! It was very much just a major teaser and I wish we’d rather have just gotten a full length novel instead, especially as something to treat ourselves to after the crapshoot of a year 2020 was!

Conclusion:

For fans of The Folk of the Air trilogy, this is like the best sort of cherry on top of what was a pretty sweet and decadent dessert that the three books provided for us as avid readers. You get inside the mind of Cardan as the stories are told from his perspective, and the artwork is absolutely stunning, so I can say that besides the fact that I do wish there were many more pages to read, what’s not to like about this perfect gift of a novella?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles

Digital Artists You Absolutely Need To Follow!

As a strong advocator for the arts, I’ve thought to myself at starting an article here on my website—even though it’s mainly for book reviews and fancasts—to share some names of artists that I feel like everyone should know. Now, I know this is a hard pill to swallow, but I love to read….I know, I’ll let you take a few to process that shocking bit of information on my book review website…

…Now that your mind is no longer officially blown, let it also be known that there are a lot of artists out there who love to read as well, and it’s even better when those artists commission artwork of books I’ve read and also enjoyed! It adds a whole new layer to the fandom of the books themselves, and I want to celebrate their beautiful work, and possibly even give them some free exposure to maybe even let more people discover them too.

Over the years, a few specific artists have stayed in my mind since I’d discovered them either on Pinterest, Instagram, or even through word of mouth from my friends. A lot of them are pretty prolific when it comes to fanart of popular book fandoms, and if you’re an avid reader like myself, will probably recognize quite a few names yourself. They are all noteworthy graphic designers, digital artists, video game artists, commissioners; pretty much anyone who uses a drawing tablet. Enjoy the beautiful work, and hopefully be inspired for your own creative content, no matter what that may be!

Enjoy this list, it is in no particular order!

*I do not own any of this artwork, and have no rights towards any of it. If any of the artists listed below come across this article and wish for their work to be taken down, please let me know!*

CLICK HERE TO SEE PART 2 OF THIS LIST!

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Monolime Art

This artist has a unique style that has caught my eye ever since their work was showcased in a special edition of Sarah J. Maas’s “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series inside the cover. As you can see, they’ve also done amazing artwork for “The Folk of the Air” trilogy by Holly Black, the “Shades of Magic” trilogy by V.E. Schwab, “Nevernight” by Jay Kristoff, and even “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo.

Instagram: @monolimeart

Tumblr: monolime

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Charlie Bowater

Charlie’s work is simply breathtaking, and she definitely deserves a spot on my top three favorites out of all the artists I’ve included. She does some of the best work for Sarah J. Maas’s books, and her artwork has also graced book covers, and on the inside of dust jackets for exclusive editions. I only hope to see her work showcased even more as time goes on!

Instagram: @charliebowater

Tumblr: @charliebowater

Website

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Kayla Nyre

Kayla Nyre has a style unlike any other artist mentioned in this article. The UW-Stout Animation alumni has taken to social media to showcase her line of prints dubbed “PotHeads” which are an infused style she’s created because of her love of plants and art, and has been a great way for her to focus more on figure drawing!

Instagram: @kaylamnyre

Website

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Daniel Kordek

As a big fan of Ariana Grande, this led me to discovering this artist on Instagram. Daniel has a pattern of turning towards fabulous, fierce females of pop culture. I really enjoy the caricature-like style he has with his work, and his ability to cover all aspects of who are considered to be influential, powerful women in both contemporary times and through history.

Instagram: @danielkordek

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Ivan Belikov

I’d discovered Ivan with his stunning artwork that’d become the cover of the fantasy novel: “The Priory of the Orange Tree” by Samantha Shannon. While I was disappointed by the book, one thing thats held my adoration was his artwork—hint, hint: it’s the blue dragon below. His attention to detail is utterly magnificent, and I definitely recommend checking him out on his website or social media to get an even closer look, it’s simply mind-blowing!

Instagram: @further_up

Website

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Ngozi Ukazu

Ngozi is an artist I’d discovered through her incredible graphic novel, Check, Please! It’s about about a young figure-skater—who loves to bake, and has a vlog—going to college on a Hockey scholarship. Going from Georgia peaches to hockey pucks is already a big transition for a new college freshman, but it gets even worse when he’s got a big crush on the captain. I love her cartoony yet crisp style, and her Graphic Novel is a Sports LGBTQ+ romance to defs give a read-through!

Instagram: @ngoziu

Tumblr: @ngoziu

Website

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Justin Totemical

Just a few words that come to mind when I look at Justin’s artwork: colorful, radiant, transcendent, other-worldly, and trippy AF. His work looks straight out of a vision while on some sort of hallucinogen or out of some crazy video game, but is definitely worth remembering! He’s a computer artist, and is always looking forwards to the latest in whatever technology has to offer in order to create more visually stunning masterpieces!

Instagram: @totemical

Website

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Niru Sky

I’d first come across this freelance artist for their work on Julian and Legend from “Caraval” by Stephanie Garber, and they’ve also done amazing work for Nikolai Lantsov and the Darkling from the Grishaverse, and even the wicked king Cardan Greenbriar from “The Folk of the Air” trilogy by Holly Black!

Instagram: @niru.sky

Tumblr: nirusky.tumblr.com

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icandrawthingz

Like many of the artists on here, this artist—who also doesn’t have much about them on their profiles—have done great artwork commissions for books I love, like “A Court of Thorns and Roses,” “Six of Crows,” and “Vicious” by V.E. Schwab. They’ve also done some fanart from Disney movies and even some OC work of their own. Their work definitely gives me some Disney Animation Studios-esque style!

Instagram: @icandrawthingz

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Natalia Dias

Natalia does some brilliant work with colorful female portraits. They can either be realistic and contemporary or more on the fantasy side, but their most notable work comes from the colorful hair they seem to be a master of commissioning! Her work takes on a euphoric vibe with women of all shapes, sizes, and skin colors to enjoy!

Instagram: @nataliadsw

Website

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Gabriel Picolo

Kayla Nyre, a close friend of mine—remember her potheads from earlier?—recommended this comic artist to me that they’d found on Instagram. I love his style, especially his work with DC’s “Teen Titans.” His scenes with them perfectly capture the fun, youthful vibes of the teens of our culture today, and even does so with Snapchat captions/filters! He can tell a whole story in a single image, and I’d read the first Graphic Novel for Raven, and while the author’s writing was sub-par, his illustrations were what truly shined!

Instagram: @_picolo

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Maya Danuta

Maya has a fun, lighter toned style of work that focuses mainly around the world of Harry Potter. She goes all over the place with Harry, Ron and Hermoine but also goes even further with some artwork centering around James Potter and the rest of the marauders during their years at Hogwarts! While any potterhead will appreciate their work, there’s also a few non-HP related work worth checking out too!

Instagram: @wingedcorgiart

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Tara Spruit

Tara is a brilliant illustrator who’s work is used in exclusive YA-Fantasy subscription boxes like Fairyloot and Owlcrate on a regular basis. She’s done work for just about EVERY fantasy book fandom there is, and that’s too many names to list! If it’s a popular YA Fantasy book/series, odds are she’s created some beautiful artwork for everyone to enjoy!

Instagram: @taratjah

Twitter: @taratjah

Tumblr: @taratjah

Website

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Kira Night

A fellow Minnesotan like myself, Kira is a great artist who loves to use her work to explore whimsical lands with many interesting characters. I was first drawn to her work through some amazing artwork of characters from V.E. Schwab’s “Shades of Magic” Series, but she’s also done Tarot card designs of the “Six of Crows” characters too!

Instagram: @kiranight_art

Website

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Laura Casara

Another artist who does absolutely brilliant artwork of characters from books by Holly Black and V.E. Schwab that I’ve mentioned before. At first, her work is light, whimsical, and full of color until you peer closer and see the character’s dark expressions. She does a wonderful job of sneaking darkness into her characters to it more of a wicked edge!

Instagram: @loweana.art

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Salome Totladze

Much like Tara Spruit, Salome has done artwork for just about EVERY major book fandom out there when it comes to Fantasy novels/series. I’ve been following this fashion designer, illustrator, and comic artist on social media since their earlier days of posting characters from the “Throne of Glass” series, and it’s been an absolute joy to see them continue to improve with every work of art posted for the world to see!

Instagram: @morgana0anagrom

Twitter: @morgana0anagrom

Tumblr: @morgana0anagrom

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Gabriella Bujdoso

Another incredible artist to add to this collection, they do a lot of commissions for popular book fandoms. Along with titles I’ve mentioned for other designers, they’ve also done work for “An Ember in the Ashes” by Sabaa Tahir, the “Captive Prince” trilogy by C.S Pacat, and “House of Earth and Blood” by Sarah J. Maas. Gabriella also has a distinct style that places them amongst who are considered the best of book fandom artists!

Instagram: @gabriella.bujdoso

Twitter: @gabibujdoso

Website

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Diana Dworak

Diana is another book fandom artist that’s worth mentioning because their work is also gorgeous! They’ve made art for many popular book series, and she’s also done work for “Children of Blood and Bone” by Toni Adeyemi and “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson.

Instagram: @dianadworak

Twitter: @DianaDworak

Website

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Nolan Harris

Nolan is a different kind of artist on here who’s not known for commissioning for popular book fandoms, or really even their own character/environments. He’s actually a freelance illustrator that makes pieces of the professional wrestlers of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and has been hired by the company for many merchandise opportunities. His style is so much fun to look at, and captures the essence of each superstar perfectly while infusing it with his caricature style.

Instagram: @nolanium

Website

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Coralie Jubénot

Coralie is by far my favorite digital artist amongst all the names I know…I mean, I’m not sure I need to explain why when you look at their gallery below. Her art is instantly recognizable amongst all the book fandoms for their uniquely drawn characters and their distinctly sharpened facial features. She can really draw those Sarah J. Maas males like Chaol, Dorian, Rowan, and Rhysand to perfection!

Instagram: @merwildandco

Twitter: @Merwild

Website

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N.C. Winters

N.C Winters has artwork that feels incredibly surreal. Whether it’s a beautiful dream or a complete nightmare, the imagery packs a wallop and leaves a lasting impression. They love to focus on beautiful disaster and the windows to the soul; some of their work really reminds me of the cursed crew of the Flying Duchman from “The Pirates of the Caribbean” movies!

Instagram: @ncwinersart

Website

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PhantomRin

One of the first digital artists I’d ever discovered on Instagram, they were also one of the first artists to showcase fanart of Holly Black’s “The Folk of the Air” trilogy. Their style is more simplistic than some of the other names mentioned in this collection, but that doesn’t deteriorate from their work at all! What I can appreciate about their art is how they’re willing to try different styles and different choices of mediums while maintaining their key characteristics that fans can still recognize. Check out their stuff on Instagram if you don’t believe me!

Instagram: @phantomrin

Tumblr: phantomrin.tumblr.com

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Fab Ng

Some key words for this artist’s work is gay, erotic, and Fabuloooooous! They’ve recently gone more in the direction of creating sexy male mermaids, but what initially drew me in was their collection of overly sexualized male superheroes. They do a lot of different types of freelance work with contemporary models, DC and Marvel characters, mermaids and other mythological half-creatures, and also draw up some fierce females too! They have a Patreon page to view their raunchier work, since Instagram unfortunately doesn’t allow such art on their platform.

Instagram: @artbyfab

Tumblr: artbyfab.tumblr.com

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Jemlin Creations

A digital artist that started their little business by designing bookmarks showcasing popular YA and Adult Fantasy characters for fans to add a gorgeous little visual for their reading adventures. They’ve recently gotten more popular for their colorful style, and so they’ve been posting their art on Instagram for all of us to enjoy!

Instagram: @jemlincreations

Website

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Mitch Aseltine

A more recent addition to this collection, I’d discovered this freelance concept artist through @phantasyarts on Instagram: a collection page of amazing concept art and matte paintings for fans of sci-fi/fantasy imagery. He’s got amazing style, and his artwork looks like it should be showcased in video games; I feel like he’s going to be a name to remember!

Instagram: @mitchaseltine

Website

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So, there you have it! So many names, and so much amazing artwork to enjoy and inspire. I wanted to create an article to collect names and profiles not only for me to refer back to, but for others as well for any reason: to discover more artist names, for inspiration on your own artwork, or even for fellow writers who want to use art as a prompt.

I plan to continuously add more and more names as time goes on, so feel free to bookmark this page and refer back to it from time to time too. I want this to be a great resource for interested parties, and please please please please please reach out and talk to me if there are names not on here that you feel like they should be! There are so many artists out there, not even I am aware of everyone out there. Thats kind of the beauty of it; it’s a constant hunt to find them all.

CLICK HERE TO SEE PART 2 OF THE LIST!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGEntertainment’s Top 5 Reads of 2019!

Image created with canva.com

The year 2019 is quickly coming to a close, and the 2010’s are almost behind us! Frankly, it’s a gigantic relief and it makes me start to look back on the year I’ve had as a human being. I will admit it and say that it wasn’t necessarily an easy year, but I won’t bore any of my readers with the tragic details…

One thing it did teach me was who would really be in my corner when the going gets tough, and while I have my own inner circle, squad, tribe, fam, whatever slang term is appropriate for the times, books are always a warm presence in my life! Why not follow the trend and end the year with my top picks that I enjoyed throughout the last 11 months!

Looking back on the year of books that I’ve read—My Goodreads Reading Challenge was 65 titles—I’ve noticed a lot of the books I was drawn towards tended to be within the Romance genre. There were plenty of Fantasy genre selections too, but Romance kind of owned it this year; I believe it is because I am so happy to see how many LGBTQ+ titles are now out there on the market. Back when I was an angsty young lad trying to survive just growing up and figuring out my place in this crazy world—I totally still am by the way—there weren’t as many available, nor were the ones that were really marketed that well and/or showcased like they are now. Representation matters (in all positive forms)!

Below are my top five titles that really seemed to have stuck with me, and left a huge impression on me amongst the many titles I got my hands on. They are in no particular order because I simply loved all of them as they continued to ignite my passion for books, reading, storytelling, and be sure to click on the linked titles to see my full reviews (who knows, you may discover your next favorite title!)

I hope you all enjoy my selections, have a great holiday season and happy new year, and Thanks for Reading!

Red, White, and Royal Blue: by Casey McQuiston

An excellent addition to the ever-growing LGBTQ+ representation in literature, this book is an enemies-to-lovers romance between the bisexual first son of the president of the United States (who’s also half-latino) and the Royal Prince of Wales. Alex and Prince Henry were complete couples goals, and so much fun to read! This was Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, so I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in future book titles!

Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey: by Ngozi Ukazu

Another LGBTQ+ romance to add to my selections, this time in Graphic Novel form. This story follows figure skater, vlogger, and baker–Eric Bittle–as he goes off to start his freshman year of college to continue competing on the ice, but instead joins the hockey team! It’s an adorable coming-of-age story as he juggles adjusting to a whole new world on the ice with bro-ey hockey jocks, discovering more about his sexuality, and deal with his growing crush on Jack Zimmerman, the Junior Hockey team captain! The hilarious, memorable characters and the gorgeous illustrations were what really drew me in, and I absolutely loved this first volume! I am also so excited for the second volume to release in print in Spring 2020!

New Camelot Trilogy (American Queen, American Prince, and American King): by Sierra Simone

A scorching, seductive retelling of the iconic Arthurian tale that involves a passionate, secret affair amongst the President of the United States, his wife, and the Vice President. Excellently written from multiple perspectives as the whole story is slowly revealed; these books are freakin’ hot and unlike any other romance/erotic title(s) I’ve ever read before! I can’t recommend these enough to anyone looking for something 1000x better than Fifty Shades of Grey!

Again, But Better: by Christine Riccio

A debut work of YA-Contemporary fiction from a well-known Youtube Book Reviewer, this novel was an ultimate feel-good, coming-of-age uplifting story that reminds us to live life to the fullest, even when we aren’t always allowed a second chance to do over our past mistakes! A little amateurish in terms of prose and plot, but this title helped me out of a rough patch and has an amazing message that can really speak to just about anyone who reads it!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1): by V.E. Schwab

Probably my favorite Fantasy genre book I read this year, V.E. Schwab really impresses with this book for its unique, imaginative, multi-universe London setting based on color, a magical being who can travel between them to send messages while wearing a transforming overcoat, a cross dressing female pirate who hopes for more, and dangerous, dark magic that makes a surprise return after being believed to have been lost long ago…

There are my personally selected Top 5 picks for the year! It was hard to condense the many titles I’d read down to these 5, so maybe next year I’ll raise it to my top 10! There were plenty of other titles that I really enjoyed, and so I’m granting them their own little section of this post, check them out below! (The titles with links attached are ones that I’ve previously reviewed, the others are ones that will be on here soon!

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BONUS CONTENT:

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2019 Honorable Mentions:

The Wicked King & The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #2 & #3): by Holly Black

Ninth House (Alex Stern #1): by Leigh Bardugo

Him (Him #1): by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Caraval (Caraval #1): by Stephanie Garber

It Ends With Us: by Colleen Hoover

The Captive Prince Trilogy (Captive Prince, Princes Gambit, and Kings Rising): by C.S. Pacat

The Kiss Quotient: by Helen Hoang

Verity: by Colleen Hoover

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So, there you have it! 2019 was filled with many amazing titles that made for a great year of reading! 2020 is just around the corner, and with the new year fast approaching, my plan is to get even more heavily into Fantasy genre titles/series to not only enjoy them, but to also start narrowing in on ideas on what I want another future writing project to be about: Yes, I want to write a fantasy novel/series sometime!

So far, all I’ve got is that I want it to include queer romance, mermaids/sirens, more found family dynamics as a group embarks on some sort of journey, animal companions/guardians, half-bird folk, possibly two ancient dragons destined to return and battle it out, and a secret school of female assassins! We’ll see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell