Review: Kingdom of the Feared by Kerri Maniscalco

Alexis holds Kingdom of the Feared in front of a bookshelf

Alexis:

Kingdom of the Feared was the perfect way to kick off October. ⁣

It’s the third and final book in the Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy, which follows Emilia, a witch in late 1800s Sicily who accidentally binds herself to one of the wicked princes of Hell who calls himself Wrath. 

⁣The thing I appreciated the most in Kingdom of the Feared was the plot. While I really enjoyed the first two books, they were a little lacking in plot, but made up for it in atmosphere. But in this third book, the plot ramped up a lot. Maniscalco added plot twist after plot twist while answering a lot of lingering questions and mysteries. Plus, the overall atmosphere/vibes were still as good. 

⁣Yet…the second book, Kingdom of the Cursed is definitely my favorite of the trilogy. ⁣

Kingdom of the Feared had one particular trope that I really don’t like. Sure it was resolved, in a way, by the end, but it still rubbed me the wrong way. 

Another point worth mentioning is that this book was a little too spicy and repetitive at times. I found myself thinking, We get it! They’re wicked and they’re attracted to each other. And while Emilia’s character arc was good, I found myself wanting more from Wrath’s character. 

This, plus the trope issue, knocked my rating down a star.

Note: This book is definitely a new adult/adult book. While the first book in the series could be classified as YA, the series in its entirety is an adult series and should NOT be marketed as YA. 

VERDICT: 💀💀💀💀/5

Alexis’ September Wrap-Up

A stack of books rests on a bookshelf next to a pumpkin candle. A small white pumpkin sits on top of the stack.

Alexis: 

It’s time for my September wrap-up!

⁣I can’t believe it’s almost October, but I’m also so ready for it to be full-blown autumn. I already started diving into my spooky/fall reads.

September was an amazing reading month for me (recovering from surgery will do that to you). I read 10 books and 1 novella.  ⁣

⁣Overall, I had a lot of hits and a few misses. ⁣

📚 The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood—⭐⭐⁣

📚 Unraveller by Frances Hardinge—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Hall of the Hopeless by Haley D. Brown—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis—⭐⭐⭐💫⁣

📚 The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton—⭐⭐⭐💫⁣

📚 Violet Made of Thorns by Gina Chen—⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Stuck with You by Ali Hazelwood—⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

📚 Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross—⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

Have you read any of these? What did you think? I hope October is a great reading month for you all!

Review: Divine Rivals by Rebecca Ross

A Kindle rests on a white marble table. A white pumpkin is to its left. A package of pumpkin chai tea sits to its right. A lit Sweater Weather candle sits above it.

Alexis:

I adored Divine Rivals...and yes, it did emotionally destroy me.

Divine Rivals is an upper YA/NA historical fantasy novel that follows two main characters. Iris Winnow is a new journalist at a newspaper called the Oath Gazette. Roman Kitt is her rival—a fellow journalist who is competing against her for a promotion as a columnist. 

But after centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again, and Iris’ own brother, Forest, has joined the armed forces of one of the gods. Iris, who is worried sick about him, writes him letters. But Iris doesn’t know where her brother is. All she knows is that her letters magically disappear when she slips them underneath her wardrobe door. 

What she also doesn’t know is that Roman is the one receiving them, and then he begins anonymously answering her letters. 

THIS BOOK. I’ve always loved Ross’ writing style. I’ve read both A River Enchanted and Dreams Lie Beneath and enjoyed both of them, but Divine Rivals hits differently; I connected with the characters on another level. 

This book is a masterpiece. I love Ross’ lyrical, beautiful, and emotional writing. The book is so atmospheric, and layered with tension that you can feel on every page.

I adore both Iris and Roman. They have so much chemistry, and I love their banter and rivalry. 

Divine Rivals reads like a fantasy version of a World War I/World War II story. Ross writes about the horrors of war in such an effective way. The story is about grief, both Iris’ and Roman’s. It’s about being trapped in a life where you can’t make your own decisions. It’s about loneliness and connection. It’s about finding love, but also about the messiness of loving your flawed family. It’s about the power of writing and letters. Throw some mythology about the world’s gods in the mix and you have this perfect book.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Divine Rivals comes out on April 4, 2023.

Of course that means I have to wait even longer for the sequel. Please pray for my impatient reading brain. (Cliffhangers should be illegal.)

Thanks so much to Netgalley and Wednesday Books for the e-ARC!

Review: Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer

Alexis holds a copy of Defend the Dawn in front of bookshelves in a bookstore.

Alexis: 

Did this book just come out on Tuesday? Yes. Did I binge read it and finish it today? Also yes. 

Defy the Night is one of my favorite books, so it’s safe to say that Defend the Dawn was one of my most anticipated reads. And I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

Defend the Dawn brings even more political intrigue, plot twists, and morally gray characters. I was constantly second-guessing what I knew about character motivations.⁣

⁣While the middle moves a little slowly, in classic second book fashion, I still really enjoyed it. I love both of the main characters, Tessa and Corrick. I loved reading about their messy emotions and relationship. I also really enjoyed getting to know Corrick’s brother, King Harristan, better, and I love his brotherly relationship with Corrick.

While Defy the Night only has 2 POVs, a third POV is sprinkled into Defend the Dawn. I found that it worked really well for the story, especially since Tessa and Corrick are on a ship for the majority of the book.  ⁣

⁣And then of course, we have the ending. The appropriate reaction is “ahhh!!” It was so action-packed and I loved it, but of course it ended on a cliffhanger. Now I have to wait and see what happens, and I’m an impatient reader!

If you still haven’t picked up this series, it’s a New Adult fantasy series filled with politics, a rebellion, a pandemic, outlaws stealing for the sick, and of course a dash of romance. It’s also low fantasy, so if you want a fantasy without magic, then this is the series for you.

⁣VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⁣

Review: The Lights of Prague by Nicole Jarvis

The Lights of Prague sits on a gray blanket next to a small white pumpkin and a dilute calico cat.

Alexis:

The Lights of Prague is a historical fantasy set in (you guessed it) Prague in the mid 1800s, right after gas lamps are introduced to the city. ⁣

⁣It follows Domek, a lamplighter who also fights monsters—like the pijavice (vampires)—and Ora, a wealthy, badass, and secretive widow.

⁣This book has a will-o’-the-wisp, monster hunting, philosophical musings, alchemy, and beautiful descriptions of Prague. ⁣

While I liked Domek’s character in the beginning, Ora quickly became my favorite. She had an interesting backstory and was flawed and well-rounded. 

⁣My only con was that the plot felt slow moving, which meant I found myself leisurely reading this instead of my usual binge-reading. Despite the high stakes, I didn’t feel like the plot had quite enough urgency. Because of this, I liked this book, but I wasn’t as obsessed with it as I had hoped.

I still enjoyed it overall, and if you’re looking for a historical fantasy with vampires, then check it out; it’s the perfect read to ease into fall.

VERDICT: 🧛🧛🧛.5/5

Review: Hall of the Hopeless by Haley D. Brown

On a wooden railing, a bottle of mango kombucha rests next to a Kindle in front of green grass

Alexis:

Hall of the Hopeless follows Thea, a Fae who lives with her adopted human family…until they’re abducted by slave traders.

Thea’s search for her family leads her to Gar, an assassin who tells Thea that her family’s abductor is Hrokr, the cold and cruel Lord of the northern Hall. Gar has plans both to liberate Hrokr’s slaves—and destroy his entire kingdom.

But Thea is harboring a secret that could change everything: she is Thea Starsea, the missing Heir of the fallen Hall of Aphaedia.

The story starts off with a bang! Right away, we learn Thea’s backstory and motivation. The beginning is action-packed and heart wrenching, and I really felt for Thea. Moments of the story and Thea’s character gave me Throne of Glass vibes, which I was here for.

I found her to be a great and balanced main character. Yes, she’s a fighter and a badass, but Brown doesn’t shy away from revealing her feelings, innermost fears, anxiety, and rage.

I especially enjoyed reading Brown’s fighting scenes. And the ending! Prepare for plot twists. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next and to learn even more about the secondary characters and their motivations. 

Thanks so much to Haley D. Brown for sending me an e-ARC for review.

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Expected publication date: December 1, 2022

Review: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Alexis is wearing a yellow flannel and holding the UK copy of Unraveller in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

I would read Frances Hardinge’s grocery list if she let me; she’s one of my auto-buy authors. I’m also obsessed with this spooky cover (despite my dislike of spiders!). ⁣

This was the perfect read to ease into autumn. In classic Hardinge fashion, Unraveller is beautifully and darkly atmospheric. I’ve always been obsessed with her writing style. And the world is unique and features a creepy forest/swamp called the Wilds and spider-like creatures called the Little Brothers. ⁣

The story follows Kellen, a rare unraveller of curses, and Nettle, a girl who was formerly cursed to become a heron, as they work to unravel nasty curses—and uncover plots and mysteries along the way. ⁣

Unraveller reads like part dark fairytale and part mystery, and of course it’s a 5 ⭐ read for me. ⁣

I bought the UK edition, but look out for Unraveller in the US on January 10, 2023! ⁣

Review: Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Alexis:

Since I’m unfortunately recovering from lung surgery, I decided that continuing with my rom com binge and sticking to more lighthearted reads might be a good idea. 

I read The Love Hypothesis earlier this year and was pleasantly surprised. The writing was easy and accessible and the story was funny and heartwarming. 

Needless to say, I picked up Love on the Brain. And I have to admit…I’m a little baffled.

Was this fun to read? Yes. Like its predecessor, Love on the Brain contains so much interesting science talk (as well as a focus on neuroscience) and you can tell Hazelwood knows what she’s talking about. 

That being said, I got major déjà vu when reading this book. I kept thinking, “Have I read this before?” There were so, so many scenes, moments, and plot points that were almost the exact same as The Love Hypothesis. 

Now: yes, I am aware that both books started out as Reylo fanfic (but I like to keep an open mind!). So I knew there would be some similarities. However, both of the main characters, Bee and Levi, were nearly carbon copies of the main characters in The Love Hypothesis, except Bee somehow managed to be a more unhinged version of Olive. 

At least I liked Levi’s character. But there was also a plot point at the end that was honestly so ridiculous that it made the story unredeemable for me. 

Final thoughts: It started off as a fun read, but I wasn’t able to enjoy or get sucked into the story because it was just a worse version of The Love Hypothesis.

Review: Other People’s Clothes by Calla Henkel

Anna: This scratched an itch in my reader brain that hasn’t been scratched in a while—that’s the only way I can really describe it! 

Other People’s Clothes follows Zoe, an art student who studies abroad in Berlin for a year to get away from her life in New York. Zoe is dealing with the recent unsolved murder of her best friend, Ivy. In Berlin she meets Hailey, also an art student from her college in New York, and they agree to sublet a famous mystery writer’s apartment. But something isn’t right about the apartment, and the girls think someone may be watching them. 

This is literally everything I could want in a book—literary fiction but with mystery and thriller elements. It explores mental health, being a creative person, and the unique experiences (and loneliness) of studying abroad, discovering your sexuality, and generally figuring out yourself in college. But above all, Other People’s Clothes explores the unique relationship between roommates. I don’t think the writing style is for everyone, but it really worked for me. My only critique is that the ending was a bit too long. But I’d rather an ending be too longer rather than too short. All in all, this was a solid debut.

VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Someone please recommend me more books in this vein!

Also, my husband and I are moving in just a few short weeks, hence the boxes! My books and bookshelves are in a state of disarray. I’m going to miss the built in bookshelf in this apartment so much…

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

A hand holds a yellow can of mango Bubbly sparkling water next to a Kindle, which rests on both a gray blanket and a black and whtie blanket.

Alexis:

I recently read The Unhoneymooners, which is undoubtedly the most popular of Christina Lauren’s books. And I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect beach read, and there were definitely a lot of actual laugh-out-loud moments.

So I decided to pick up Love and Other Words. And it’s definitely my favorite of the writing duo known as Christina and Lauren.

The story follows two different timelines. In modern day, Macy is a busy pediatrics resident stuck in a routine relationship. Back when she’s thirteen, Macy is struggling to deal with her mom’s recent death when she strikes a friendship with bookish Elliot. Eventually, their relationship becomes more. But in the present timeline, Macy has been estranged from Elliot for a decade, and when she unexpectedly runs into him, she has to face both him and her past.

The alternating timelines work really well for the story. Macy and Elliot’s characters already have a lot of tension between them, but the timelines and the mystery of what happened to their relationship ups the tension even more.

Part of why I loved this book was the past timeline. Reading about their growing friendship feels so realistic, sweet, and sometimes awkward, but true to their characters and to life. Their shared love of books and words makes for a solid foundation and a fun story to read.

As for the modern timeline, both Macy and Elliot are absolute messes, and it was both fun and heartbreaking to read. 

I only have two critiques, and one is relatively small. As a Greek American, I was excited to read about Elliot Petropoulos. I loved reading about his family’s dynamic, but I thought there was a missed chance to explore his Greek identity, even if it was just a little bit. His family didn’t even have spanakopita or baklava when they hosted Thanksgiving! There was a mention of peeling potatoes that I thought might have been a nod to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I kept waiting for him or his family members to make a joke about being Greek.  

The other is the reveal/plot twist at the end, which was definitely an…interesting choice. The ending really needed to be expanded on in order to give both Elliot and Macy more time to unpack what happened and really deal with their trauma, especially Elliot.  

That being said, this story about childhood sweethearts made me feel all the feels. I found myself wholly engrossed in the writing and in Macy and Elliot’s story and relationship.

VERDICT: 5⭐s