New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

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

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

~~~

I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I loved this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier, and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s not just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character-driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely grown some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent; she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

~~~

Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Kingdom of the Wicked series by Kerri Maniscalco

Image courtesy of Bookstagram account: @xenatine

Hello readers!

I’m back with another Fancast article, this time it’s a demonic, witchy series that has become a favorite of mine in 2021 as I started reading it, “Kingdom of the Wicked” is a spooky delight with enemies-to-lovers and (surprisingly) amazing food prep descriptions that may add on to my quarantine 45!

The story revolves around Emilia, whose family is full of witches who must keep it a secret from witch hunters, they live among the mortals of their island town. Her twin sister, Vittoria, is mysteriously & brutally murdered, and Emilia goes looking for answers, and reluctantly joins forces with one of her mortal enemies: a demon Prince from hell. They rule the kingdom of the wicked, and Prince Wrath may be incredibly easy on the eyes, but never before has a witch ever formed an alliance with demon royalty, but as they dig deeper into this murder mystery, they discover there are much more malicious forces at work, and dark prophecies may soon come to light…

I am making this Fancast/Dreamcast as I’ve recently finished the second book that’s released – Kingdom of the Cursed – as I’m typing this. I’m so relieved that Kerri Maniscalco decided to go in more new adult direction with this series; Wrath was WAYYYYYYYYY too hot to stay in YA!

Anyways, not everyone has been cast yet, but not to worry! I plan to add characters as I find a face to the name, so refer back to this post as books release and it’ll be updated as quickly as possible!

~~~

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

~~~

Here’s My Official Fancast/Dreamcast:

~~~

Emilia/Vittoria di Carlo: Sophia Miacova

She isn’t an actress, but this model definitely has the look I imagine these magical twins having! She’s got the Latin looks, even if I’m not entirely sure if she ethnically matches up to the characters.

Nonna Maria: Stevie Nicks

Again, I’m not getting an A+ on authenticity because Stevie Nicks doesn’t have any Italian descent in her blood, but there’s no doubt that she has a witchy, haunting vibe to her…hell, she played a witch in “American Horror Story” when she’s made surprise appearances!

Antonio Vincenzu Bernardo: Rafael Silva

I love Rafael in Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” and he has such boyish good looks that I imagined Antonio having! Who wouldn’t have a crush on a face like that if they grew up with him like Emilia?

Prince Wrath: Clayton Brannon

Okay, but Prince Wrath was easily the hardest to cast because this is going to sound shallow, but who could possibly be good looking enough to play this sexy demon Prince from Hell?!?! Luckily, I remembered I follow this model on Instagram and I do believe he is an excellent choice even if he’s not an actor, he’s who I picture as Wrath!

Claudia: Jeanine Mason

I first saw this actress in a season of “Grey’s Anatomy” and she’s also in the show of “Roswell, New Mexico” but also who I picked to be Emilia’s cousin in these books.

Prince Envy: Mario Zabal

Again, apparently demon princes from Hell are sexy AF, because here’s another model who matches up to this Prince of the green sin…he’s got sharp features that I think really encapsulate the prince’s ethereal beauty!

Prince Greed: Daniel Gillies

So if you’ve seen my other Fancastings, you know I love “The Vampire Diaries” and for some reason, “Elijah” here came to mind when it came to the demon Prince who ran an underground speak-easy/casino to lure the weak minded into losing everything…

Prince Lust: Clint Mauro

Clint Mauro is someone who I consider to be one of the sexiest men in existence, so why not have him play the Prince of Lust! I even found a picture of him shirtless on a beach because a beach is where we first met him! You’re welcome!

Alexei: Jarred Blakiston

So this actor is obviously wearing a wig, but seeing him in full costume in the Netflix show “The New Legends of Monkey,” he looks like an evil elven Prince, or in this case, a certain vampire who does the bidding of Prince Envy!

Anir: Charles Michael Davis

I was struggling to find someone who wasn’t Ne-Yo or Tyson Beckford in who has both an African and Asian background since that’s how the character is described, but I found out that Charles is part Filipino, so it fits! Another TVD favorite who played Marcel!

Fauna: ???

I’m struggling to find someone who looks like what I imagined this character looking like….stay tuned!

Prince Gluttony: Darren Criss, or Adam Brody

This Prince is not a larger sized guy like you might think, in fact even Emilia describes him as not appearing how she expected either. He’s described as being shorter with brownish-maybe dark red hair and hazel eyes, so I pictured either of these actors playing the Prince of not eating too much, but simply enjoying ALL of life’s pleasures in excess!

Prince Pride: Adam Demos

Prince Pride finally makes an appearance in KOTC, and as soon as we figured out what he actually looks like, I pictured this hot Aussie actor to play him and continue to heat up the screen you’re viewing this post on! If he looks familiar, it’s because he’s on the hit Netflix show “Sex/Life.”

Celestia: Kristin Bauer van Straten

She played the dark queen Maleficent in ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” and also just so happens to play this character who works as a medicine woman down in hell who’s way more than meets the eye…

~~~

Remember: this Fancast/Dreamcast will be updated as more books release for this series, and as I figure out more characters, so come back over time to see any new additions.

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

New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

Publish Date: September 10th, 2013
Number of Pages: 438 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): YA Fiction, YA Romance, New Adult, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

It may sound ironic, but this has to be one of the most popular books that I’ve come across that doesn’t have an actual fandom for it. Those who’ve read it all have said it’s a great story to enjoy and that they really enjoyed it, so why isn’t it referred to by many more avid book readers? Why don’t I see it showcased more on the many #Bookstagram accounts I follow? There’s also the later released book Carry On by this author too but everyone who’s read both said that this book comes first, so here we are!

I will say that besides other’s recommendations with that reading order, I had my own curiosity with this title for personal reasons. For those not aware, I’ve been on-and-off working on a coming-of-age college story of my own over the last two years, and this title popped out at me to what to check out to gather intel, see how the story works, what worked well and what didn’t, what I would change, help make some of my own college memories resurface, etc. For anyone interested, go check out my story’s progress on its page titled “When In Doubt (WIP Fiction Series)” on the main menu bar. It’s had its ups and downs and with a lot going on in my personal life at the time I’m typing this review, I haven’t worked on it as much as I’d liked to, but enough self-promotion, back to this review!…

You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

I liked but didn’t love this book, even as I found it to be one of the more unique stories I’ve read in the YA reading level. the main character, Cath, who is a lot like most of us who have our heads in a book: she’s awkward, weird, complex, anti-social, and full of her own inner stories based off her favorite franchise, which is called Simon Snow and is basically a Harry Potter knockoff. Being a total Potterhead myself, even if the books no longer have an author (Shame!), I could totally relate because the Harry Potter franchise is what started it all for me! They’re the books that really got me truly passionate about books, about film, about storytelling in general, and is the catalyst that truly made me think “I want to do that” for the first time in my younger years.

As for why I didn’t love this book, it just felt like there could’ve been more that happened in terms of the plot? I think it just had too many slower moments that made it somewhat harder to keep my attention from wandering, and even the conclusion I felt like could’ve been bigger. It just felt like not as much as I’d thought would happen by the end had actually done so. I did love the growth that the main character went through as the story in all aspects: her family, finding her first love, and of course friendship, and felt like she was definitely a different person once we got from point A to point B, but I was hoping maybe there would be a bigger, and grander ending of some sort? Maybe the story works the way it is, but part of me felt like there was some buildup with Cath’s writing that got a conclusion that just fell a little flat for me.

Now despite all that, there is plenty to praise the author as well! Rainbow Rowell’s characters and her work on them are a major highlight; I think just about everyone can read this story and have most if not all the characters remind them of someone they know in real life because of how real they feel. She even has the ability to make them all so complex, even as they stand on opposite ends of the social spectrum. What I mean by that actually is by comparing Cath to her twin sister, Wren, and how they interact as the story moves forward. Cath is a totally anti-social introvert who stays in her dorm to write fanfiction, but Wren has totally embraced the college party scene and wants to drift apart from her sister, but they meet up several times and while obviously Cath has a lot of inner depth to her, you even see it in her sister in little moments and as their family is put through the emotional wringer. It was the little moments like these that made me believe that the author truly knew her characters in and out.

I was also a fan of the romance—of course—that develops in Fangirl as well! What I liked about it the most was how realistic it felt. Sometimes, the romance genre can go so over the top and make it feel like we have to bend hand-over-knee or whatever that phrase is for our significant others, and those grand gestures are the one answer it takes to show them our true feelings. Well, life ain’t like that nor is it some spanish telenovela, and what we need to remember is that even the simplest of things can get the message across just as effectively. The little things do matter!

She smiled, and her eyes started to drift downward.

‘Cather…’

Back up to his eyes.

‘You know that I’m falling in love with you, right?'”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Besides the characters, it’s the nostalgia that was the most powerful thing for me to come out of reading this book. It was the nostalgia of my own freshman year of college—perhaps the greatest year of my life—and of course all the fandoms that I’ve been a part of over the years. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all been obsessed at one point or another with something much like Cath is with Simon Snow. We’ve read the books, we bought the (sometimes) overpriced merch, the action figures, we went to the midnight premieres in costume, we had those heated debates with friends, we shipped those couples that never become canon, we joined the fanclubs, etc. Some of them we can openly admit to and maybe can even still say we belong to it, but I can agree that there are probably some that we blush and stay mum about and keep it a total guilty pleasure. I’ve been like that, but as a way to end this section of this review, I’ll put myself out there and list off all the fandoms that I can remember that I’ve been a part of:

Disney’s Little Mermaid, Spongebob Squarepants, Winnie the Pooh, Power Rangers, Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Bratz Dolls, Kids Next Door, WWE, Yu-Gi-Oh, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass (or any book by Sarah J. Maas honestly), From Blood and Ash series, Dexter’s Laboratory, Scooby Doo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Batman and Batman Beyond, Dragon Ball Z, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Superman, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, Star Wars films, Teen Titans, Fairly Odd Parents, Danny Phantom, Choices, Schitt’s Creek, Samurai Jack, Finding Nemo, Stranger Things, MCU, Tomb Raider, Greek Mythology, The Powerpuff Girls, Shonen Jump manga, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, An Ember in the Ashes series, The Vampire Diaries, MTV’s The Hills, The Folk of the Air series, Rocket Power, Rihanna, Ed Edd ‘n’ Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Looney Tunes, N*Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Kim Possible, That 70’s Show, Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, That’s So Raven, Phil of the Future, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Spy High, The Falling Kingdoms series, The Cheetah Girls, The Sims, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Nanny, Full House, Friends, New Girl, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Proud Family, Jesse McCartney, Lizzie Mcguire, Goosebumps, Totally Spies, Family Guy, The Land Before Time, Hocus Pocus, Boy Meets World, Duck Tales, Monster’s Inc, The Rugrats, Zoey 101, Drake and Josh, Zoobooks, The Black Cauldron, Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Lion King, The Fever Series, Queer Eye, Riverdale, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Pretty Little Liars, Once Upon a Time, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pizza, American Horror Story, 13 Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, and I’m sure plenty more that I can’t even remember! Here’s a crazy thought to leave you with: think of how the very person you are, your beliefs and personality and maybe even your soul is influenced by all the things like these that you grew up with, with the messages they sent you, the lessons you learned, and all that makes up who you are!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

What I Liked:

  1. The College Nostalgia! Oh man, did this book bring me back to my own college days! I actually started my freshman year the fall of 2012, which is actually the school year after the timeline that this book takes place in, so I found a lot of the pop culture references, clothing choices, etc. to be really relatable. Even the time at the bowling alley reminded me of the many Thursday nights I went to the UW-Stout Alehouse for 50 cent bowling nights. My freshman year of college is what I consider the best year of my life so far, so the fact that this book made me think back to some really fond memories gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling right in the chest.
  2. The Themes! Family, isolation, love & sex, writing, drugs & alcohol, and of course coming of age are the themes I got while reading, and I thought they all commingled rather nicely into a realistic and touching story. Cath is so dedicated to her family even when she feels like everything is moving on without her which leads into the isolation. She’s not a partier like her twin sister and is totally content to stay in every night and just write more fanfiction because of social anxiety and the uncertainty of it all, I get it. Cath noticing boys in a new way, plus her growing relationship with Levi focuses on the love and sex aspects, add in a side note with Reagan as being involved with Levi in that regards too, but not in the way you might expect right off the bat. Creative Writing is a huge part of Cath’s life, plus the story follows her struggles with her writing course with Professor Piper and Nick. College and drinking go hand in hand—my two underage tickets can attest to that—and Wren really seems to embrace the party culture on campus with her blonde roommate, Courtney. Cath worries about her, but Wren continues to blow her off and downplay how far she goes whenever she goes out on the weekends.
  3. The Romance Between Levi and Cath! The budding relationship between these two was a little insta-love on Levi’s part, which actually wasn’t too bad since he wasn’t the protagonist, but it was actually kind of sweet how it was so obvious he was totally smitten for Cath since day one. Reagan, Cath’s roommate, plays an interesting role as the thing that initially keeps them apart in the beginning. What I really loved about their relationship and all that happened within it was just how realistic it felt. He never judged her for her quirks, he broke through her walls and pushed her in a non-manipulative and genuine way, and always offered his support no matter what. Usually with romance novels, it can go a little over the top with grand gestures to win someone over and heart wrenching confessions of love with gorgeous prose, and it wasn’t like that this time and it was actually rather refreshing. Sometimes the sweetest thing a guy can do is bring their girl a specialty starbucks drink when they meet up after his shift, he offers to drive you home to see your sick dad in the hospital even though it’s hours away, or he’s a total gentleman who admits he’s in love first and says he won’t do anything sexually that she doesn’t initiate first. This romance just simple, and that should be enough!
  4. The Author’s Character Work! Rainbow Rowell is really good at writing those quirky, oddball characters with plenty of complexity and a method to their madness. Each of them have their own distinctness to them, and you’ll never get confused with any of them or get their names mixed up. there’s an honesty about them in the sense that I feel like just about everyone in real life has met people who remind them of each and every one of these characters. There’s definitely a line straight down the middle and you either like a character or you don’t, there’s not a whole lot of in between, at least that’s the impression I got!

Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Her Sister Wren Abandoning Her…Wren was a real piece of work throughout this book, and I was so frustrated with her most of the time! How could she so easily ditch her sister without a second thought, especially when she knew the anxiety issues Cath has and all that they’ve gone through together growing up, then just replaced her with Courtney, which no offense to her, wasn’t really an upgrade. I get her behavior to a certain degree: with college and new beginnings, it is a normal reaction to want to strike out and try new things, to test the waters and experiment, but know where you come from and don’t take the people who actually care about you for granted!
  2. Their Mother…What a bitch-a-rooney-dooney she was! I was totally on Cath’s side with this whole situation, even if a small chunk of me understood Wren’s need to have her come back into her life. But seriously… who ditches their family on 9/11? Like, the actual 9/11?!
  3. Too Much Fanfiction…So it sucks to say this about the book considering a huge them about it was about writing fanfiction, but I was not a fan of the passages of Cath’s story that we got. I know it would’ve been worse to not have any of them at all in the story, especially since there’s such an emphasis on it, but I thought there was just too much of it. I liked the parts when Cath read it to Levi for the most part, but I also never really got a gay vibe from Simon and Baz that everyone was totally gushing about. Not that I’m not for a gay relationship between a fictional wizard and vampire, but I wasn’t sold on the execution of what we were given.
  4. The Plot Felt Too Slow In Parts…This story did feel like it dragged in quite a few places, which can be a side effect of a character-driven story such as this one. Maybe it could’ve been a shorter story in general, or something totally shocking could’ve been added?
  5. The Ending Could’ve Been More Grand…For some reason I was totally picturing a much bigger way to end the story, like the author of the Simon Snow franchise found Cath’s fanfiction on the internet and offered her a publishing collaboration deal or something like that. It felt like not as much actually happened by the time the actual ending took place, and it’d been a whole ten months of the school year!

Conclusion:

‘No,’ Cath said, ‘Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.’”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a cute, genuine, and real take on growing up during an eventful moment in a young girl’s life: starting her freshman year of college and having to deal with major change from what she’s grown up used to. It’s a coming-of-age story filled with distinct characters, humor, angst, fanfiction, and first love that I really enjoyed for the most part, but still felt like something was still just missing that keeps it from becoming a hit classic that would have a lot more people refer back to it. It’s character-driven, and maybe it just had too many slower moments to keep it from really picking up, plotwise. However, It invokes feelings of nostalgia from either your own college days or from the fandoms you grew up being a part of; the memories this book helps invoke certainly does feel like a little gift from the past to warm your heart, which I think is the main reason that a lot of readers really enjoy this title.

One addition I would to make is that the author has teamed up with Gabi Nam, and almost paying homage to her fandom roots and themes with this book, they’ve transformed this story into a manga! Check it out in the link HERE and I can say I’d definitely be interested to check out this version of the book myself! Maybe it’ll translate better into this format, who knows!

Another addition is that now that Fangirl is under my belt is how I now get to read Carry On, which stars Simon Snow, the author’s knockoff version of Harry Potter, and how it reads like the work that Cath was working on in this book! Someone told me it’s basically a gay version of HP and I was sold! I have a copy on my shelf to read, and once I have a few other titles read under my belt first, I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell did with this idea.

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