Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: These Wicked Lies series by Miranda Joy

Image from my bookstagram account: @goodyreads

Alright fellow booklovers, I’ve got another fancast/dreamcast that I’m excited to share with you all, this time it’s going to be for a lesser known title, but is brand-spanking-new as I type this casting up, and is definitely worth checking out all the same! I finished this book shortly prior to the making of this post, and its a fun debut novel that fans of Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Holly Black, and Danielle L. Jensen will surely enjoy too.

The 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?

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To see my full review of book 1 – These Wicked Lies – Click HERE

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Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast of the “These Wicked Lies” series:

Astrid Sylano: Lauren Jauregui

Image courtesy of last.fm

Lauren may be known more for her vocal chords than any acting chops; she was one of the members of the popular girl group, Fifth Harmony. She’s gone on to singles success, but with a Cuban background in her family history, she could also fit the role for Astrid if a tv show or movie ever came out so long as she’s cool with cutting her hair to a pixie cut, but I think she’d rock that look!

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Ilona Palmetto: Madeline Ford

Image courtesy of the actress’s IMDB profile

Madeline has the perfect sweet and innocent vibe that Ilona gives me, but you can also tell there’s a tiny spark of mischief in her smile that I think Ilona also has. Madeline is a model and actress who’s best known for being in Chicago Fire.

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Queen Enira of Hakran: Salma Hayek

Image courtesy of instyle magazine

Okay….who doesn’t know who Salma Hayek is??? If you don’t, Google is your best friend.

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Dashiel Dargan: Merayad

Image courtesy of the influencer’s TIKTOK profile

Yep, I’m turning to social media influencers for my fancasts now, I’ll give you a second to roll your eyes and moan in annoyance…………..so glad that’s over with! This guy, who’s full name is not known at the moment but I respect the privacy, and he definitely came to mind as I got to know Dashiel in this book. He is suave, he is smooth, and he is red hot both in photo and video form! Lets turn him into one of my new book boyfriends too!

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King Emman Vannyk: Taye Diggs

Image courtesy of thewikifeed.com

Taye Diggs has got a smooth AF voice that is just so nice to listen to, and I pictured the King looking like him with all smiles and calm, smooth voice and being the voice of reason. Taye Diggs is another actor who’s been around for quite awhile, and should be fairly well known.

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Queen Josselyn Vannyk: Adina Porter

Image courtesy of thewrap.com

I pictured the queen kind of being this tall but quiet presence in her scenes, but I sensed a calculating and observant mind beneath the surface. Just because someone doesn’t say much, doesn’t mean they’re not a threat! I love this actress who’s been in a lot of seasons of American Horror Story and kills it every time!

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Prince Zale Vannyk: Lucien Laviscount

Image courtesy of cheatsheet.com

Lucien has a fantasy-esque name in itself, and he could totally pass off as a royal prince if he wanted to! He’s even got a British accent to boot too! He’s been in season 1 of Scream Queens, and even now can be seen in the Netflix show, Emily in Paris!

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Gianna: Bianca Santos

Image courtesy of spoilertv.com

There wasn’t a whole lot of description of this character, but she does make quite a few important appearances in the book, so she’s definitely worth mentioning! With the lack of description given, choosing a face for Gianna is a little more up in the air, but Bianca is a Brazilian/Cuban actress who’s best known for being in the show, The Fosters.

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Cedrik, The Healer: Daniel Sunjata

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

Okay this guy (the actor) has been all over the place and has actually been in quite a few shows. I’ve seen him in Grey’s Anatomy, Graceland, and he was even in The Devil Wears Prada! I was forgetting any particular descriptions if they were mentioned pertaining to this character, so I could be way off on this one!

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Callan: Giovanni Bonamy

Image courtesy of thesocialitelife.com

Let’s add some shirtless male eye candy to this fancast, and I pictured this French model was who I imagined when Callan entered into the scene. If he looks like this, hopefully we see PLENTY more him in the next book *wink*wink*

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Loisia (a.k.a. “Lo”): Urassaya Sperbund

Image courtesy of stringfixer.com

Urassaya is a Thai-Norwegian actress and model I discovered while looking into this character and who I could picture playing her! I’ve personally never seen her in anything and I’m not sure if she even speaks English as a language, but I can for sure say that she is stunning and looks like how I imagined this character.

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Sora: Kenta Sakurai

Image courtesy of theguysworld.com

Kenta is a Japanese-Mexican model who’s also been on Mexico’s edition of Survivor, and when Sora was described as having incredibly sharp cheekbones, Kenta was exactly who I pictured him looking like.

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Jamell: Woody Harrelson

Image courtesy of chron.com

I could be totally off base with this one, but once Jamell was described as having a toothy smile, for some reason my mind went to him looking like Woody Harrelson. I have no other way to describe this, just a friendly reminder to laugh and possibly ignore this one!

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Lex: Alfredo De la Cruz

credit to owner of photo: N/A

The hair, the eyes, the body……yeah, this model fits the look of this character PERFECTLY in my mind! If he wanted to make his facial hair even more present, I suppose I’d be okay with that too…

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So there you have it FOR NOW! This is based off just book 1 in this series, so expect more characters to be added as the sequel releases! Be sure to check back when that happens and I’ll have this updated ASAP!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

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!

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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 😉

Conclusion:

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

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: The War of Two Queens (From Blood and Ash #4): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: March 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: 628 Pages
Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts, Inc.
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

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

To see my review of book #1 – From Blood and Ash – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – The Crown of Gilded Bones – Click HERE

To see my review of the prequel book #1 – A Shadow in the Ember – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

We’re two hearts … one soul. We’ll find each other again. We always will.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The War of Two Queens”

What It’s About:

the official synopsis:

From the desperation of golden crowns…

Casteel Da’Neer knows all too well that very few are as cunning or vicious as the Blood Queen, but no one, not even him, could’ve prepared for the staggering revelations. The magnitude of what the Blood Queen has done is almost unthinkable.

And born of mortal flesh…

Nothing will stop Poppy from freeing her King and destroying everything the Blood Crown stands for. With the strength of the Primal of Life’s guards behind her, and the support of the wolven, Poppy must convince the Atlantian generals to make war her way—because there can be no retreat this time. Not if she has any hope of building a future where both kingdoms can reside in peace.

A great primal power rises…

Together, Poppy and Casteel must embrace traditions old and new to safeguard those they hold dear—to protect those who cannot defend themselves. But war is only the beginning. Ancient primal powers have already stirred, revealing the horror of what began eons ago. To end what the Blood Queen has begun, Poppy might have to become what she has been prophesied to be—what she fears the most.

As the Harbinger of Death and Destruction.

~~~

Ugh, I’m sorry folks, I don’t know whats wrong with me lately, it’s like I can’t find the motivation to do anything right now…like all my energy is purely for my job and anything else just keeps getting pushed back because I have no energy or motivation…maybe my depression is getting bad again? I don’t feel that way, but I’m just tired a lot lately and overwhelmed.

Anyways, this review…where do you really start? Ever since the day this book released there was some major controversy about it that left quite an impression on the bookish community who were aware of what was happening. I remember I was so incredibly excited to start this next installment and read to see what possibly was going to happen next with that epic ending TCOGB gave us…what I didn’t expect was the fandom to be in it’s own sort of civil war! Suddenly on March 15th, there was all sorts of negative reviews that were trashing the books, trashing the characters, and possible the most surprising of all, trashing Jennifer L. Armentrout herself as the author. I was shocked, upset, and incredibly disappointed to see all the negativity about this book. It felt like a bitter betrayal and it even made me question if I wanted to read this book myself…

But then I look at some of the negativity and thought to myself if some of these people actually read the book, or if they were simply reacting to what someone else may have said and blown it out of context and proportion. This is becoming a regular thing where the crowds overly react to something on the internet and express anger without even knowing all the facts and the full story. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical internet culture and what some may even consider “cancel culture” that people love to find something to be angry about in order to win themselves some “woke” points to ease some sort of internal guilt they may feel and can or can’t talk about quite yet…

Anyways, I’ve finished the book and can say that all the drama and negativity was so not deserved, not that any author should be attacked the way JLA was, and honestly the people who thought that was okay can honestly go f**k off and shut up for the rest of their lives for all I care…this is my blog and I can say that if I want to. There’s nothing wrong with not liking the book or having a different opinion because reading is so subjective and opinion based on what people’s preferences are, but personally going after someone and showing bullying behavior is ugly and toxic and there’s no way to justify it… Don’t join in the anger and hatred and negativity in a situation like this without actually reading the material and seeing for yourself what you honestly think and come to your own consensus on the subject, not just ride the coattails of whatever people on the internet are angry about today…instead of spending so much time and energy bashing something or someone for liking it, simply go out and find something to love and praise instead. it’s not that hard…

Now as for my thoughts for this book, I can admit that it wasn’t the strongest book in the series. As far as content goes, this book feels more like set up for what else is possibly to come down the road. The story has gone in a direction that I hadn’t expected from the beginning, and while I’m not 100% behind it, I’m still definitely a fan of the book series and it’s characters and will continue to read.

The writing stays consistently great, the characters in my opinion remain true to themselves, even as they’ve grown throughout the books, and this book really ties into what happened in A Shadow in the Ember and how it goes into what the major conflict in these books are…all I can say is we thought the Ascended were the biggest issue in this world, but as ASITE and this book reveal, that’s just the surface of how deep this truly goes. And yes, this is also me confirming it’s incredibly important to read ASITE before reading this book too!

Like I said earlier, this may be what I now consider the weakest book of the series, but that in no way means I think it was a bad book. There were many positives about it that I really enjoyed that I get into more later on, but I can’t help but feel like this was also just pure setup to what will most likely be an absolutely explosive conclusion! It’s a bit like Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 or Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows Part 1 in movie form if that helps you visual learners like myself.

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Whether she ruled over all the lands and seas or was the Queen of nothing but a pile of ashes and bones she would – will – always be my Queen. Love is too weak an emotion to describe how she consumes me and what I feel for her. She is my everything.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “The War of Two Queens”

What I Liked:

  1. Reaver! Awesome new character alert!!! Just like I suspected, I absolutely loved his addition to the story. I was surprised he was more aloof and stoic and quiet instead of loud, proud, and cocky like I pictured he was going to be, but either way he had some hilarious zingers in the dialogue department! I’d say he was more like Azriel when I thought he was going to be more like Cassian for any ACOTAR fans out there…
  2. The Blood Queen Is Actually A Good Villain! JLA said this in an instagram live with Jillian Stein, but the best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero of their story. The Blood Queen has done nothing but shock and absolutely deliver whenever she makes an appearance, and even though she is multi-levels of messed up in the head, its certain that she behaves a certain way because of her origin story, to which I can respect!
  3. Kieran Gets More Attention! I felt like Kieran was definitely continuing to become a bigger character with each and every book, and with how the previous book ended with Casteel being taken by the Blood Queen, Kieran had to step up and he was very successful in doing so.
  4. That Thing Happens! That thing that the fandom was so torn about? …lets just say things happen and its so well done in my opinion, so pure, and there’s consent up the wazoo about all this!
  5. Casteel Continues To Be An Excellent Book Boyfriend! I love how much he loves Poppy and how devoted he is. Now, I can say his character felt a little cheapened in this book because it felt like he was just the love interest and everything involving him revolved around his feelings for her, and I feel like at this point there wasn’t as much depth to him like there was in the first two books!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. This Book Felt Like Pure Setup For The Next Installment…I can agree this is the weakest book in the series, but ONLY because it feels like setup for what will be the final battle with the final boss villain in the next book possibly!
  2. Secondary Characters Pushed To Back…While Kieran and even Reaver step forward and become more prominent characters, others like Vonetta, Tawny, Emil, Naill and Delano either weren’t in the book as much as they have in the past, or they were just stagnant and didn’t really do as much. there wasn’t a whole lot with any of them or anything really going on in this sense…

Conclusion:

Overall, The War of Two Queens is another great installment for the Blood and Ash series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and even though I feel like this is the weakest book of the series, I still feel like it was still an enjoyable book to read! Things do somehow continue to get bigger and bigger, and this is no longer simply a “Vampires and Werewolves” type of series either.

Again, I urge anyone reading this to read the book and come to your own conclusions and not just follow in what a lot of other people are saying online. Obviously I’ve drawn my line in the sand and say where I stand in terms of this argument, so take that as you will…All I can say is I’ll definitely be keeping up with this series and am looking forward to the next Flesh and Fire book with Sera and Nyktos, and then the next FBAA book too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT.COM’S Top 10 Books of 2021

Hello Readers!

2021 has been quite a year full of ups and downs, a few achievements and also a few downfalls, but it’s always good to say it was another great year of reading under my belt too. I’m definitely noticing a pattern with some of my book choices and it is definitely ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS, which is definitely the most popular romance trope out there, so no surprise there! I’m also glad to be able to find a lot more M/M romance too, both those kinds of stories are totally my weakness…

Below is my list of the top books I read this year, and they are in no particular order, so enjoy!

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1. The Zodiac Academy Series by Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti

Image courtesy of Instagram account @kaythebooklover

First thing I can say is WOW, these books sucked me in like a black hole, because while I was reading these back to back to back, I honestly couldn’t tell you what else was going on in my life because they were the only thing on my mind. If I was at work, I was thinking about these books and the characters, and if I wasn’t bathing or sleeping, odds are I was reading these books. The story itself is alright, but it’s the characters and all the intertwining relationships that really drive the whole series for me, along with the two forbidden romances also happening. What a whirlwind of a series, I can’t believe the final book already is coming out…

To see my review of book #1 – The Awakening – Click HERE

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2. A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns & Roses #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of emmasbibliotreasures.com

It should absolutely not be a shock that a Sarah J. Maas novel made it onto this list, but SJM is that author where I don’t even have to read the blurb or even know what it is about and she can take my money. I know the bookish fandom is really torn on her, and that’s cool, but this reader is on the side that absolutely loves her stories! Besides, the inner struggle that Nesta faced was absolutely astounding, mental health was a big theme of this book, and the romance was SJM’s spiciest yet! Absolutely loved this addition to her ACOTAR series…

To see my review of A Court of Silver Flames – Click HERE

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3. The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash #3): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Image courtesy of booksamillion.com

By far one of my most anticipated releases this year, it absolutely did not disappoint, and JLA really impressed me with how she’s made every book in this series bigger than the previous one in this series. I was floored with that tremendous final chunk of the book that had me in what has to be the biggest reading hangover I ever experienced in quite awhile! These books are such a bookish obsession for me, I can’t recommend them enough…

To see my review of The Crown of Gilded Bones – Click HERE

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4. The Bridge Kingdom (Bridge Kingdom #1): Danielle L. Jensen

Image courtesy of Instagram account @danielleljensen

This book honestly surprised me the most out of this list because I was not expecting to like it as much as I did! The enemies-to-lovers dynamic between the two main characters was done so well and I wasn’t expecting how strategic and militaristic the author got with the politics and dueling kingdoms in this fictional world. Definitely a lesser known title to check out…

To see my review of The Bridge Kingdom – Click HERE

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5. Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1): by Kerri Maniscalco

Credit to owner

I’m very curious about the world this author has created, plus I do love the spicy and spooky vibes this book gives off mixed in with a murder mystery of the witch and demon variety. The demon prince, Wrath, is way too hot for YA Fantasy so I’m glad that Kerri Maniscalco revealed that the second book—Kingdom of the Cursed—will be even more spicy, which makes me definitely interested, and I had to include an image of the Fairyloot edition because I own a copy and it’s probably one of the most gorgeous books on my personal shelf…

To see my review of Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

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6. Iron & Fire (Silk & Steel #2): by Ariana Nash

I’m loving how intense these books and how morally grey the characters are, it’s like a queer romance Game of Thrones—so Gay of Thrones?—especially Lysander! He’s easily the best character out of these books so far, and even better that he’s a dragon-shifter prince. The romance was more apparent and absolutely scorching in this 2nd installment in this series, and with all that happens, I gotta get the third book on my kindle ASAP…

To see my review of Iron and Fire – Click HERE

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7. It Happened One Summer (The Bellinger Sisters #1): by Tessa Bailey

Image courtesy of underthecoversbookblog.com

As soon as I heard that this was a “Schitt’s Creek” inspired romance, I knew I had to get my hands on it and read it! This was just a light, fun, and even a little spicy romance that I really enjoyed and of course recommend. Piper and Brendan made an adorable couple, and I’m even looking forward to the sequel coming out in 2022!

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8. Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Credit to owner

Okay, but I was not expecting Kerri Maniscalco to go so hard on this sequel, but I am oh so glad she did! She did such a spectacular job that I had to include KOTC as it’s own entry. The story continues with Wrath and Emilia traveling back to Hell, and it’s taken a steamier and more New Adult direction that really makes the story even better!

To see my review of Kingdom of the Cursed – Click HERE

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9. The Hating Game: By Sally Thorne

Image courtesy of allbooksaboard.com

There has been a lot of hype around this enemies-to-lovers office romance novel, and theres even a movie with Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell out now, so I decided I had to read this at least once. It was cute, it was funny, and it even had a little spice which I always appreciate! I thought it was a fun book that is perfect to fill in time waiting for a darker and heavier installment to any series you may be reading, or if you’re just looking for a light romance to enjoy.

To see my review of The Hating Game – Click HERE

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10. A Kingdom of Shadow and Light (Fever #11): by Karen Marie Moning

Image courtesy of Karen Marie Moning’s Twitter profile

The crazy ride that is the “Fever” series by Karen Marie Moning had come to an end with the 11th installment, and things certainly end with a bang with Mac, Barrons, Cruce, and company as Mac has many, many, many things all going on at once while she’s coming to terms with her new powerful position! A good ending that could’ve been great, but still a fitting end to an extraordinary story!

To see my review of A Kingdom of Shadow and Light – Click HERE

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Honorable Mentions:

Try (Temptations #1): by Ella Frank

Wicked (A Wicked Trilogy #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1): by J. Daniels

A Touch of Darkness (Hades and Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

One Time Only (One Time Only #1): by Lauren Blakely

Collide (Blackcreek #1): by Riley Hart

Fake It ‘TIl You Break It: by Meagan Brandy

Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1): by Cara McKenna

The Play (Briar-U #3): by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar-U #4): by Elle Kennedy

~~~

Well, there you have it!

What a year it was with so many great titles that released, and it reminds me of how there are already a few titles set to release in 2022 that I am MAASively looking forward to! If there’s not a link to some of the books above, it just means I haven’t posted a review YET. Thats a goal for me going into next year: getting back on top of trying to post a review or post an article more often than I have this past fall and into winter. It’s a crazy time of year, but once the holidays are over and done, and things begin to calm down, I’ll have more time to get caught up on a few reviews that I’m behind on!

Have a wonderful holiday season, stay safe and have fun with your loved ones, get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water, and we’ll hear from each other in the coming new year!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell