Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: These Wicked Lies (These Wicked Lies #1): by Miranda Joy

Publish Date: June 22nd, 2022
Number of Pages: N/A
Publisher: Self Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

I’m not in the mood to murder someone tonight, but I must.

– Miranda Joy, “These Wicked Lies”

What It’s About:

the official synopsis:

When a princess with the ability to absorb and transfer life force energy discovers her mother, the queen, is manipulating her, she works with unexpected allies to steal the throne, battling magic-induced anxiety and unexpected attractions along the way.

Astrid is a vygora—a rare being that can absorb one’s life force energy and transfer it to another with a touch. Only two people know what she’s truly capable of: her best friend, Ilona, and her mother, the Queen of Hakran, a powerful myndox.

When foreign royalty and their handsome guard, Dashiel Dargan, show up unexpectedly with the ability to mute myndox manipulation, Astrid discovers she’s been a prisoner to her mother’s power her entire life, and she’s not the only one. Faced with a lifetime of memories built on lies, she’s caught between the story she thinks she knows, and the one she doesn’t remember.

But when she can’t trust anyone, how can she figure out which story is true?


This book actually already holds a special place in my heart because I’ve actually become a friend with the author on #bookstagram! NO, she’s not bribing me with this review in any way, shape, or form either…in fact, with this information I’m actually feeling more pressure NOT to make this a simply glowing review of the book.

BUT I can admit it’s become so cool to meet someone who’s published a book and that it’s totally a book you wanted to read too!

Okay so back to this review: For a debut novel, this was a pretty impressive story to get into. It was so easy to get wrapped into this world and meet Astrid, who’s more than just a regular Princess. She’s got some depth to her, and some morally gray traits to her personality. She’s got some fire to her spirit!

She’s feeling very conflicted in her position: Princess by day and lifeforce sucker by night. She disguises herself in a veiled costume and takes the life of a willing victim as a sacrifice in order to pass it to her mother in order to keep her alive and keep their whole island safe. The seeds of doubt were already planted that something more nefarious may be going on with all this, but it takes some foreign company visiting their lush island home to really set things in motion.

I’ll be honest, I got some major From Blood and Ash/A Shadow in the Ember vibes from this book, which isn’t a bad thing! If anyone reading this has followed my reviews on here, they should know the FBAA series is a big favorite of mine! I wouldn’t say this even comes close to copying it , TWL definitely still feels like it’s own entity, but I can definitely see some comparisons between the two or possibly the author even drew some inspiration from the story! Who knows?

Reading this book, I was easily sucked in to the exotic and tropical world the author created, and created fun and familiar dynamics between the cast of characters. Dashiel and Astrid had some great chemistry and lots of playful banter—think a similar vibe to Cassian and Nesta in the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas—and I really got into their slow burn romance throughout. Dash was an easy guy to like, and Astrid wasn’t afraid to humble him and put him in his place when he (maybe) needed it.

The midpoint got a little slow for me, only because we already knew about the Queen’s manipulation of Astrid and her people because it’s in the synopsis, so that part wasn’t all that shocking to see develop. There is a question of which side everyone is on exactly, and the unknown of what everyone’s intentions are definitely keep you interested. Astrid and her friend Ilona grow closer to Dashiel and Prince Zale, but also more weary of them as questionable behavior shows; there’s definitely more going on beneath the surface.

You meet Lex later on in the story, and once again complete and total mystery surrounds him, but he’s a major character believe me! He’s not just a random addition to the story at all…

The ending sequences are the piece-de-resistance of the whole book. I’ll admit I didn’t see it coming, and it certainly leaves you with a brow-raising expression, and the final page ends on a dark and sexy way that leaves you yearning to see what could possibly happen next, and also wanting the next book, like, yesterday.

Once again, even if I didn’t get to personally know the author, I’d say this is a pretty remarkable debut novel that shows so much promise for bigger and better things! Miranda Joy is certainly a name to remember if she keeps this up!


I hate how alluring his accent is. I hate how everything sounds good coming out of his mouth, even my impending death.

– Miranda Joy, “These Wicked Lies”

What I Liked:

  1. Astrid is a Morally Grey Heroine! I love it when the MC’s have a dark side to them, they just become so much more interesting of a character. Everyone complains that Superman is boring because he always takes the moral high ground, and I have to agree. Astrid has dangerous magical abilities, and she also isn’t afraid to get violent when needed. the anxiety of all that happens to her and all that everyone isn’t telling her really wears on her psyche, and even I can agree sometimes it can just drive you a little crazy and want to pull a dagger on someone *shrugs*
  2. That Twist Towards the End! I totally didn’t see this twist coming towards the end, and the best ones are like that but they also totally make sense when you think about it afterwards. Bravo to the author, it was wonderfully done!
  3. Dash! Helloooooo new addition to my book boyfriend list! Dash was hot, not much more to say. I will however say that I’m curious what kind of decisions he’s going to make in the next installment in this story. It will be a determining factor as to how this relationship between us is going to continue and if we can stay together…we’ll see!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. You Don’t Meet A Major Character Until Much Later In The Book…Their appearance into the story raised a lot of questions, which I suppose is a good thing to get the reader to keep with the book, but part of the questions had me wondering if he really was an important character at all to be begin with. Part of me wonders if maybe this character made more appearances throughout the beginning a little more, even if they were short and brief, that this could’ve made the last minute addition feel less confusing?
  2. The Twist With The Queen…Part of got a little bored with the middle because the mystery of the queen wasn’t really even a mystery: we knew she was evil/the villain even from the synopsis of the book. With that already revealed, part of the allure wasn’t there, and I feel like it would’ve made the story stronger if we (the readers) discovered it for ourselves.
  3. I Want More Spice…This isn’t really a critique, but more a hope/request/plea: book two needs more sex. And don’t worry, I did say this to Miranda, and she confirms there will be 😉


Overall, this was such an entertaining read that I for the most part really enjoyed! The warm and tropical climate and how things get heated in more ways than one makes for a fun book that I think fans of Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, and Jennifer L. Armentrout would enjoy. It definitely shares a lot of the similar elements that these ladies of romantic fantasy used to put their names on the map!

I will definitely be reading the next book in this series; Miranda Joy ended it in such a juicy way, how could I not?

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1): by Janella Angeles

Publish Date: August 25th, 2020

Number of Pages: 464 Pages

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It was William Shakespeare who made this quote:

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

I fully am always behind it whenever I come across it; we all really do have our parts to play, and our character can change over time along with the company we share it with in a specific moment of time. So, who are we, really? How many people can say they truly know themselves when they take the masks off, when they exit stage left, and they no longer have the spotlight shining on them or have to put on a performance for an expectant audience?

One thing I’ve always been curious about is the idea of being in the audience of a live production, and while I’m sitting back and enjoying the show, I never get to glimpse what’s going on behind the curtains, backstage, in the dark recesses of the unlit hallways and what the performers are all up to back there when all eyes are not on them. How is the whole show put together? How were they able to pull it off? I feel like there’s the possibility of many stories to be formed by playing with that idea and taking it many different ways in order to procure an incredibly riveting and exciting story. Also, being someone who’s been on both sides of said curtain, it’s certainly given me a newfound respect for the performing arts and what all goes into any sort of production in the theatre.

Where Dreams Descend is a mysterious, magical, romantic, daring, and dark tale that will fill most reader’s hearts with glee and satisfaction if they loved tales such as Caraval by Stephanie Garber or The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Its being advertised as a mix of “The Phantom of the Opera” along with “Moulin Rouge,” and this published debut has everything readers who loves about those titles with two people with everything stacked against them end up falling in love and facing a mysterious and unseen evil that threatens their world. It’s got the splendor, the glamour of the circus and the theatre, and the whole “The Show must go on!” mentality that we’re all familiar with.

I will be honest though, I only thought this book was okay… I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. The prose were absolutely spectacular and seemed like they were written by someone who has many years of the craft under their belt, and I was also a fan of the romance, but I was just never fully invested into the story or really blown away by it. Nothing in the plot really gave me those “Oh yeah… now it’s really getting good!” chills down the spine. I feel like the author just played it too safe, and could’ve gone further with the dark & creepy vibes with the mirrors and threatening messages written in riddles in order to make it a more memorable read.

I’m also very much not the target audience for this book, so the fact I thought some aspects of the book seemed juvenile can be taken with a grain of salt.

The beginning opened up on a fine note with introducing us to the main protagonist of the story: Kallia. She’s a showgirl who wows every night as she performs under the employment of Jack, a young and rather charming man with a dark shadow trailing behind him. He’s got a nice enough smile, but you feel like there’s a few cracks along the edge and possibly something rather unsettling swirling behind it. The author introduces Kallia’s predicament in a straightforward way despite how Kallia’s small world is anything but. One thing I want to point out at this point is the relationship between Jack and Kallia. It’s a rather interesting one that is never fully revealed what it exactly is, but my impression is they might’ve been exes or at least former lovers; there’s an intimacy there that drew my eyebrows together, but like I said, it’s never explained and is left up in the air.

The middle expanded way farther as Kallia enters a competition, gets an assistant in a street thief named Aaros, and she meets Demarco, who is one of the judges but has a reputation that’s also cloaked in mystery as being a former showman himself. The story becomes more eventful by this point, as any novel should, but there are also plenty of slower moments that diminish the faster paced plot points. More and more develops and I should be enthralled by now, but it just never fully happens except for scenes with Demarco and Kallia. I found myself antsy only to read scenes where it’s the two of them and their relationship develops.

The end was obviously the most exciting part of the whole book—I’d second guess any book where it isn’t—and the most shocking events occur here, and leaves a lot up in the air with quite a cliffhanger of an ending… Not as much was explained as I’d hoped there’d be, and you’re really left with a whole lot of “What does this mean? Why is this happening?” type of questions. That’s all I can really say on it without revealing too much; it certainly leaves room for a lot more reveals to occur in the next book of this duology; hopefully those who read this book can withstand that doozy of a cliffhanger and be able to wait for next book that’ll most likely to be released August 2021…

Also, I want to personally thank Owlcrate, the monthly YA Fantasy subscription box, for my own exclusive copy of this title! I didn’t just receive a copy for an honest review like if I were to have received an ARC from the publisher, but Owlcrate did get some sort of sweet deal where they were able to include this book in their July box themed “The World’s a Stage,” and release it a month earlier than the actual publication date! Here’s an image of their exclusive design:

The foiled design is etched into the actual book with no dust jacket

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed…

What I Liked:

  1. Four Royal Families Represent the Suits of Cards in a Deck! It’s a small detail within the world the author created for the story, but I liked it enough to want to point it out. In the city of Glorian, the architecture has four different designs that are representative of the four royal families, who also are fashioned after the four suits of a deck of cards. I wish the author went further with this to be honest! Maybe more will happen in the second book.
  2. Kallia and Demarco’s Relationship Development! Perhaps the biggest highlight of this book—no surprise—was the romance that developed between the two main characters. I thought it developed rather organically and was a nicely drawn out development that had me happy when they finally got together. Demarco and Kallia are more similar than they both would care to admit, and both carry such heavy baggage when they both arrive for the competition, and both felt neither were able to be viewed as desirable to anyone else so they’re both so scared of being vulnerable around each other, plus they were both so focused so solely on their own ambitions towards the plot. You know Kallia’s side of the story much more from the very beginning, but even though you get inside Demarco’s head, you never really know what really happened to him until the end, and I feel like that was a reveal that should’ve happened earlier since it wasn’t really all that big of a twist. Either way, the romance was very well done! I personally am becoming a huge fan of the stiff, uptight guy who lets loose and gets all sexy when he’s macking on his love interest; it’s a verryyy nice aesthetic 😉

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Very Little WorldBuilding…World-building was definitely not the the heavy focus of this author’s magical tale, and to be honest it’s also not entirely the end of the world. Quite honestly, the story doesn’t necessarily need more work done besides what you learn within the pages, but I’m more focusing on the Magic System that is not ever explained, nor is there much else to it other than one who is able to can just do it before it drains them if they use too much at one time. It’s just there, and I really wish more was explained about it.
  2. Strong Sexism…It’s probably more annoying than a mosquito buzzing in your ear that just won’t go away no matter how many times you swipe at it… the sexism and misogynistic behavior of a lot of the older male characters in this book is just plain old yuck as they continuously try to tear down Kallia simply because she’s a woman trying to make something of herself. I’m not sure if this book heavily exaggerates this behavior or if women really deal with this behavior in such an outward way, but either way, I’m so sorry for it and am glad how today’s world has changed so much from similar behaviors like the ones exhibited in this book. We still have a long way to go, but we’re moving in the right direction.
  3. Purple Prose…Normally I actually don’t mind this style of writing when it’s used effectively, but in this case, I’m going to sound like all the other reviewers who complain about it. The author’s writing was absolutely gorgeous and spectacular, but it was a little too over the top and overly expressive for when the characters were doing extremely mundane things like simply sipping on coffee or standing near the bottom of a staircase. I’m all for the beautiful prose when the story is more high octane or the characters are doing something important, but there’s no need to glamorize simple everyday tasks, I think. It just seemed excessive at some points in the story.


Since this book has been advertised as “Moulin Rouge + Phantom of the Opera + The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern,” I’d definitely recommend Where Dreams Descend to anyone who’s a fan of those whimsical, magical, romantic, adventurous and utterly enchanting tales with just a hint of dangerous thrills. I feel like many fans of the Caraval trilogy by Stephanie Garber will also enjoy this book even though Kallia is a very different protagonist from Scarlett Dragna, but that might be what makes people actually enjoy this one.

Overall, it was an okay read for me; I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t exactly blown away by it either. It’s excellently written and the prose are top notch along with a nice slow-burn romance, but I just never got fully into the story and it didn’t make me overly excited. I can see this book being super popular with the much younger readers and for anyone who has a sudden kick for a circus/theatre type of novel with a magical twist to it. I may or may not read the second part when it comes out; I guess I’ll wait and see what other reviewers say before I give it a go…

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

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

*For the Barnes & Noble Edition*
Publish Date: September 3rd, 2019
Number of Pages: 528 Pages
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

I’m happy to say I’m starting off the new year on a high note! Based off other reviews I’ve found, along with its impressive Goodreads rating, the gorgeous cover, I had a feeling this title was going to leave me happy that I’d decided to pick it up and give it a try.

With it being their debut novel out on the market, not much is known about Shelby Mahurin: what’s her writing style? How is her character work? Story pacing? Would I care about her characters?…It’s a bit like going on a first date with all the jittery butterflies in your stomach with the excited nervousness of uncertainty whether the relationship–you and a new author and book–will work out or not. Believe me…there’s been plenty of times where I’d thought I’d be taking a book home to meet the parents–so to speak–and ended up in disappointment: my easiest example in recent memory was my final thoughts on The Priory of the Orange Tree.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I’d found myself enjoying this story as I’d gotten further into it. I was up late into the night on multiple occasions in order to get further along and see what would happen next instead of getting a decent amount of sleep, and thats always a sign that the book was a hit for me; needing answers instead of sleep is a guaranteed thumbs up from me.

This book brings something new to the table for the YA Fantasy genre, which is great considering how littered it’s gotten over the years with what feels like a lot of the same clichés, story arcs, etc. There’s just too many copies of the same things done over and over with just slight variations in order to avoid of plagiarism lawsuit, and while there’s still a bit of the familiar within this title, it at least presents it all in a way that’d felt new. Instead of the Fae or “The Chosen One” who’d lost their parents, and learns their the future heir of a long lost throne or whatever to change the course of history, this story brought a subject that hasn’t been touched on as much: Witchcraft. There’s been a few books and/or series released over the years, but nothing that’s really popped or kept it’s momentum to make it a more popular theme in YA Fantasy literature, which is a damn shame…I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for some new and interesting stories to be told with them at the forefront, and not just an ally or sidekick to vampires.

Now, as far as YA Fantasy goes, I feel like this title doesn’t necessarily fit either of those categories. It feels more like a paranormal romance since the love story between the two main characters takes center stage and drives a lot of the story, and it also feels more like New Adult with how the characters develop, and because theres a more descriptive sex scene within. I’m not saying I’m a prude, but I know we live in such a trigger society and I just recognize readers who are 16+ in age will probably enjoy it more than a 12-13 year old.

In all honesty, read whatever the fuck you want to read, censorship can go shove a pole up it’s butt in my opinion...

This title has been out for a few months at the time I’m typing this review, and one thing I love about books and their fandoms is the art that gets created! I love to see what others think the characters look like, and it just adds so much to the story and my interest from a purely aesthetic point of view–hell, I’d discovered the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas from finding random fanart on Pinterest before I’d even known what it was, and now it’s one of my favorite series of all time! Serpent & Dove is still fairly new, so there’s not a whole lot of fanart out there quite yet, but the particular piece below so far has to be my favorite, and of course it’s by one of my favorite artists that I follow on Instagram!

Check it out:

Fanart by Gabriella Bujodosó

Her profile on Instagram is @gabriella.bujdoso and I seriously suggest giving her a follow, her artwork is simply amazing! Now, onto the story:

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc had fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could find and steal. Unfortunately, witches like Lou are hunted by a special police force that has sworn to catch every last witch they can find, and burn them back to hell on a stake.

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 that goes back many generations, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies are hatching a plan to bring a fate worse than fire upon their enemies. As Lou and Reid struggle to try and ignore their growing feelings for each other, she must hide her deadly secret of being the very thing that he absolutely despises and hunts.

What I Liked:

  1. There’s Many Great Romance Tropes! We’ve got the good ole classic enemies-to-lovers trope, we’ve got the “only one bed” trope, we’ve got marriage by convenience, we’ve got one of them hides a deep secret that they never want the other to find out, and we’ve also got the sexy banter between them as a cherry on top. Overall, the romance was the big selling point for the whole story; the most exciting scenes–besides a few exceptions–were where Reid and Lou were with each other and fell in love with each other over sticky buns, sexy and witty banter, and both discovering how things are shades of grey and not just black and white in regards to the bloody history between the Church and the Witches.
  2. The Awesome Side Characters! Some people would argue that a story is only as great as its weakest character, and I agree to a point, but luckily there’s a vast array of minor/side characters that do nothing but add to the overall story that surround Reid and Lou. First, there’s Ansel, who’s a Chasseur in training, who’s more shy and introverted and sensitive when compared to his fellow officers of the church. I personally really connected with him and his inner turmoil of self doubt and low self confidence and how he learns to stand up for himself. Him and Coco, who’s Lou’s best friend, add a great dynamic to both main characters, even though their views of the world are completely different. So I guess that means I should mention Coco, a bloodwitch who quickly became Lou’s bestfriend as they’d scavenged the streets of Cesarine in order to survive. Another character was the Archbishop. He’s absolutely vile with his sexist and puritan mind-set, and reminded me of those judgy, ultra-religious folks that look down at everyone who doesn’t meet their standards…however, he does become more interesting as the plot thickens, so don’t just cast him aside and regard him as a token antagonist for the sake of throwing one in. One last character worth mentioning is Madame Labelle. She’s the head operator of a brothel in Cesarin, but don’t write her off either; there’s plenty of secrets she’s hiding that you’ll be begging to find out!
  3. Great Character Development! Besides their growing romance, Lou and Reid both go through an incredible amount of personal growth within themselves and become wiser and more mature characters by the end. At the beginning, they’d both hated each other and what they thought the other represented. Lou is bold, courageous, defiant, and loves to ruffle the feathers of the members of the church, Reid included. She’d narrowly escaped from a vast tragedy, and then grew up on the streets, so it makes sense how all that had caused her to put up some major walls and not let anyone in, and hide that fear behind snide remarks and a quick temper. The thing I loved most about her was her ability to not see anything in black and white; she realizes there’s depth in all aspects of the world she lives in, and discovers that even more as she gets closer to the Chasseurs and Reid. Reid is the exact opposite: he is uptight, stuffy, prudish, a rule follower, and looks down on the “heathens” who litter the streets, human and/or witch. Lou pokes at his bravado, infuriates him to no end, but finds a spirit much like her own underneath his own exterior. Reid becomes self sacrificing, and becomes more aware of those around him and their motives, and while he may not initially accept their differences, he can understand them more. Together, they both crack down the walls they’d built around themselves and are shocked to discover how much they mean to each other, and makes you believe in love conquering all. Also, total side note, but those that have compared Lou and Reid’s dynamic to that of Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar from the Six of Crows series by Leigh Bardugo are spot on!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Lack of WorldBuilding. So, what I’d gathered is how this story basically takes place in a fictional 17th Century France…but not really. People speak the French language, the clothing is similar to the times of when Marie Antoinette ruled with a heavy oversized wig, but it felt like France just got renamed to Cesarine so that it wasn’t just a historical-paranormal romance like Outlander. While most of the story didn’t need a richly thought out and creative fantasy-genre setting, the location did feel like an afterthought compared to other aspects of the book that had gotten more attention, like the history and lore behind the bloodbath of a feud with the Church and the Witches.


For a debut novel, Serpent & Dove is an impressive work of fiction. While it’s considered YA Fantasy, I’d say changing it to New Adult Paranormal Romance is a much more accurate genre depiction. Shelby Mahurin has created a wicked, twisted, dark, entrancing, and fun world filled with many unpredictable twists and turns, scorching romance, and sacrificial magic that glows golden amber in the dark of the night.

I’d recommend this title to anyone who’d enjoyed The Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black, Any titles written by YA Fantasy queens like Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, or to anyone who especially enjoys the more romantic side of the Outlander franchise in both the books and the hit TV show–Reid Diggory is certainly a swoon-worthy ginger man much like Jamie Fraser.

As of right now, Serpent & Dove is going to just be a duology with its sequel, Blood & Honey, expected to–hopefully–release sometime later in 2020. I personally cannot wait to see what happens next for this story and the characters, especially with how this book ends. While I’m relieved it wasn’t a purely evil cliffhanger, it still leaves the deadly promise of much more to come!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell