Book Review

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

Rating: ☆☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult paranormal fantasy romance
Length: 448 pages
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson
Release Date: October 27th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Kerri Maniscalco introduces her next series, a dark tale of a beautiful young witch, a troubled demon, and their epic romance, set against a 19th century Italian backdrop.

Emilia and her twin sister Victoria are streghe – witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Victoria 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 discover who did this, and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, the outlier among the seven demon brethren, always choosing duty over pleasure. He’s been tasked by his master with investigating a series of women’s murders on the island. When Emilia and Wrath’s fates collide, it’s clear this disturbing mystery will take a bewitching turn.

Thank you to Jimmy Patterson and Netgalley for the gifted eARC. All opinions are my own!

YOU DON’T KNOW IT YET, BUT YOU NEED THIS BOOK.

I don’t even know how to start this review, I LOVED this book y’all! I enjoyed Maniscalco’s first series, Stalking Jack the Ripper, but mainly for Thomas Cresswell. Seriously, don’t ask me what I think about Audrey Rose. That being said, it made me initially nervous to read this because I worried for the main character again.

And I can say, for at least this first book, I am wrong. I adored Emilia as the main protagonist. She was bold and fierce. Made her own decisions based on what she knew and was told, and yeah, maybe ran off into danger a time or two, but what heroine doesn’t? Emilia was the missing puzzle piece I needed to love this.

Enter in, our Prince of Hell, WRATH. Ohhhh can Maniscalco right a love interest amazingly well. I feel a solidified new book boyfriend coming in over the course of this series. I loved the banter and enemies to lovers dynamic. Being forced to work together to solve witch murders led to some close knit and quiet scenes that I JUST CAN’T HANDLE. Part of his character is left very open-ended and I will sit here anxiously waiting to know if some of my thoughts/assumptions are true.

May be wondering why the half-star take down? For one of the characters involved I could spot from a mile away that they were one of the villains. I didn’t like how quick that was to pick out from the get-go. What I did love was meeting all of Wrath’s brothers. Who knew I was so interested in the Princes from hell? All so cunning and manipulative. Filled with arrogance and doing as they please. Couldn’t help myself, I loved them (and hated them, ya know) too.

There’s a lot of action, heat, and mystery involved here. I was absolutely entrenched in this Italian backdrop atmosphere. It fit this story well and only increased my adoration. Give me book two ASAP.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult paranormal fantasy romance
  • Language: very little
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs; a scene where characters are undressed, but that’s as far as it goes
  • Violence: murder, torture, animal attacks, physical altercations
  • Content warnings: loss of a loved one

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Book Review

Book Review: Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Young adult urban fantasy
Length: 336 pages
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Be careful of the dark, dark wood…

Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.

Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.

But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.

For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic,where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.

VERY ATMOSPHERIC.

Well, I’m a bit disappointed in this because I think I hyped it up too much. I had heard how great it was and while I did like some parts it mostly fell flat for me.

I loved the atmosphere of Ernshaw’s novels. I feel the cold air, snow, witches, and everything else. She builds a well constructed small world that you can let yourself into. I liked getting the history of Nora’s family throughout the book and the mystery it left in solving what Nora’s gift would be.

Overall though, I found myself skimming portions. I thought it got really repetitive over the story line. Yes, there was a boy missing and a boy dead. And this fact was said over and over and over again. I wanted the characters to do something about it, not mention it one more time. When the action started to pick up in the last third of the book is when I was most invested in the mystery of the woods.

I did not see one of the twists coming because i had planned on a whole different scenario. I really enjoyed this and thought it fit right into the plot. A little bit creepy, a little bit sad, but the ending was great. I liked how it was written and gave the happy ending I’m always searching for.

Oh yes, the romance. I always struggle in one-book fantasy romances. I always think more should be added. In this case, I appreciated that the romantic aspects didn’t play a HUGE part, but were subtly woven in. They had a dark and charming aspect together that added to the whole vibe of the book.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult urban fantasy
  • Language: some strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, a make-out in bed
  • Violence: murder by drowning, physical, forest fire, hypothermia

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Book Review

Book Review: The Vine Witch (The Vine Witch #1) by Luanne G. Smith

Rating: ☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy + Paranormal: witches
Length: 263 pages
Author: Luanne G. Smith
Publisher: 47North
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

THE IDEA WAS UNIQUE.

The execution was less so.

I was really into this book at first, that beginning chapter where our MC is a frog? That’s interesting. I want to know more. As things went on, it started to drag and then I was truly confused at the point of some of the characters.

Elena, as a vine witch, works on a vineyard to produce the most extraordinary wine. Back from a curse she seeks to figure out who did it to her. This aspect of her personality I liked. She was headstrong in solving this case and was firm in choosing what she wanted to do. At other times I felt she let others do the work for her, or was too “weak” from her curse to do anything. It made her a bit wishy-washy.

I really liked Jean-Paul! He felt like a smooooth character (if that even begins to make sense). I immediately saw the potential connection between him and Elena. This never really worked out…even though they were together by the end? They spent very little time together and had little conversation throughout the book. I could see the author was pushing for their relationship, but I was no longer interested *shrugs*. I wanted a deeper connection with all of the characters.

Especially the villain. What was the point of her? She was a crone that had no story, no reason to be after Elena, and I don’t even know how to end this sentence. It was so lackluster that I am flabbergasted as to how I want to explain it. Frankly, she was superfluous and only there to fuel a plot that didn’t have a guiding light.

I liked the concept. The story with the witches who help a vineyard? That’s really interesting! I haven’t read any paranormal books like that. I just thought everything else could have been worked out a little better. The French influence was a perfect tidbit too.

Overall audience notes:

  • Paranormal fantasy (witches)
  • Language: a little (sometimes strong)
  • Romance: a little detailed fade to black scene, some kisses
  • Violence: poison, ritual murdering of animals, murder; fairly detailed

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Book Review

Book Review: Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1) by Shelby Mahurin

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Fantasy
Length: 528 pages
Author: Shelby Mahurin
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: September 3rd, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

REID & LOU: NEW OTP.

In recent memory I can easily say that this was a book that actually lived up to the hype. I LOVED IT. Barely 50 pages in, I was hooked, and I wanted to savor the rest of this amazing story.

Loved this setting. Loved the writing. Love these characters.

Speaking of, REID y’all. I love how passionate he was (and rather stubborn too), but also very tender and had a big heart beneath it all. I liked the influence his religion played on all of his decisions and emotions. He stayed true to who he was, but also learned to be open and adapt to previously misleading information. He was SO CUTE and I adore him. His love scene with Lou was also unique for YA and I found it absolutely amazing and well done (and that’s all I will say on that to avoid spoilers, but you’ll understand if you’ve read it!).

Lou was a great MC too. I love how much she chooses love. Lou wanted more out of life than what she was handed and sought after those things and I applaud her for it. Her growth was immense and she learned a lot about herself too. It was so appealing to have both Reid and Lou see outside their boxes to learn and understand about one another.

Best friend alert: Ansel & Coco. OH MY GOODNESS. The side characters were fabulous! I loved this just as much as the MCs. They had a lot to offer and actually brought something to the table. Ansel was my sweet baby and I just want to love him forever okay? I beg the universe not to kill him off in the next book, I might shatter. HE WAS PERFECT. Coco was her own fiery beast that I would so be BFFs with. Easy to love, sneaky, loyal, yes yes yes. Beau was a great addition towards the end too. I’m very curious how he’ll play a part in book two.

Lots of action and intrigue in this book. The pacing kept me constantly intrigued. There was a steady flow of things happening, to slowing down a bit, and to not notice that this book was 500 pages is a stellar job all on it’s own. I enjoyed the villain immensely more than I even considered I might. They threw in some twists I didn’t see coming and were seriously, heinously evil. I will clap for that because I hate a wishy-washy bad guy.

BOOK TWO, I NEED YOU.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: strong language throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a detailed love scene
  • Violence: magical, blood magic, physical, knives, swords, poison, paralysis via drugs, torture, arrows

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