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

Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1)Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Emilia and her twin sister, Vittoria, are witches, who live secretly among humans on the island of Sicily. Their family runs a renowned local restaurant, where both girls work.

At eighteen years old, they’ve been raised hearing the lore of their family, and other beings of the underworld; mostly at the knee of their beloved Nonna.

But these stories become all too real after Emilia discovers the body of her murdered sister.

Overcome with grief, Emilia’s saving grace seems to be her need for vengeance. Her overwhelming need to find her sister’s killer keeps her from wallowing in despair for too long.

Pairing herself with a Prince from Hell, Wrath, Emilia begins to follow clues through the shadow-ridden Sicilian streets, as more and more witches fall to the same fate as Vittoria.

In the beginning, I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold.

The first couple of chapters seemed generic. Emilia felt like many YA characters I had read before. I was sceptical.

However, I am so happy to report, I had no reason to be. Once Emilia and Wrath met up, everything began to fall into place and I ended up really enjoying this.

While the format was slightly typical, as far as enemies-to-lovers tropes go, I still thought it was special; and I love that trope.

I thought the evolution of their relationship was perfectly paced and the way they worked together, two thumbs up. Until the bitter end, I was with them, hook, line and sinker.

As the story unfolded, I was so impressed with Emilia’s guts and determination. She’s up against some super scary forces, yet never backs down.

Pushing herself to the limits, her ability to stare straight in the face of danger was admirable. By the end, she’s one of my new favorite heroines.

As far as Wrath goes, we stan. Everything about him, from his snarky attitude, his knowledge of all things dark and hellish, his tattoos, his sexy outfits, I loved it all.

I also feel like we have so much more to learn about him. Fingers crossed this happens moving forward in the series.

The atmosphere is top notch as well and I liked that Maniscalco didn’t shy away from some very dark images and scenes. This last bit of this book was absolutely wild and I cannot wait for the next one to be released!!!

Seriously, is it too early to request a copy!?

Thank you so much to the publisher, Jimmy Patterson, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I truly appreciate it!

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Review: Tinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton

Tinfoil ButterflyTinfoil Butterfly by Rachel Eve Moulton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Tinfoil Butterfly is strange, heartbreaking, and beautiful.

Meshing real life horrors with subtle fantastical elements, there’s a lot to unpack for such a short novel.

Emma is hitchhiking across the United States, trying to reach the Badlands of South Dakota.

Along the way she gets picked up by a man named, Lowell. It doesn’t end well.

Fleeing for her life, Emma comes across an abandoned diner where she seeks refuge from an oncoming storm.

This is where she meets, Earl, a little boy whose face is hidden behind an odd tinfoil mask.

Earl ends up stealing Emma’s loaded gun and implores her to help him get rid of George.

Emma is stranded. Earl is her only contact and she gets pulled into his bizarre and dangerous world as the snow begins to fall.

This entire novel is steeped in an ominous atmosphere. As the reader, you go along with Emma as she tries to drag information out of Earl.

It turns out, he has lived a torturous life, the truth is hiding just under the surface, but you can’t quite get to it. Regardless of the past, Earl is scared to leave it behind.

Earl isn’t the only one with a dark past. Emma is on the run from her own. Damaged and broken, she is forced, while in the clutches of a crisis, to revisit each painful moment of it.

The truth of Emma’s past is admittedly difficult to read. Trigger warnings for: (view spoiler).

I loved the bond formed by Emma and Earl.

I though the evolution of that relationship over the course of the story was very special. It brought the humanity of the characters to life in a way that filled my heart with empathy for them both.

Paired with the beauty of their relationship, however, is equal amounts of horror. We’re talking horrific, realistic, painful content.

There were times I felt sick to my stomach, but honestly, the story is worth it.

The feelings of violence and fear boiling just under the surface really never let up, making this a tense read.

With this being said, it also feels quiet and subtle at times. I have no idea if I am explaining this accurately.

It’s almost something that you just need to experience for yourself.

I do recommend this for people who enjoy darker contemporary stories, or slow burns with equal parts violence and beauty.

You know who you are. Pick it up!

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Review: Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2) by Emily A. Duncan

Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy, #2)Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruthless Gods, the second installment of Emily A. Duncan’s debut YA Fantasy trilogy, Something Dark and Holy, continues to bring the dark atmosphere I cherish.

Significantly darker than your average YA Fantasy, this second book especially, toed the line of Horror and I’m here for it.

Our three main characters, Nadya, Serefin and Malachiasz, return and, y’all, they go through it.

This world is hella brutal. The magic, the landscape, it seems everything is out to get them, maybe even each other.

I enjoyed the character growth in this sequel, as each of them is faced with their own private battles. As they seemingly grow closer towards one another, outside forces are simultaneously pushing them apart.

Each is conflicted with their own demons, causing conflict amongst them. Meddlesome Gods play them like pawns in a game. The intensity is constant.

This was definitely an action-packed ride!

I’ll admit, I wish I would have taken the time to go back and review the first novel, particularly the ending, prior to picking this one up.

Up to around the 50% point of this book, I was confused. I was enjoying it, but it was a confused enjoyment.

My plan is to reread the first two books prior to the release of the third. I absolutely will be following through with this until its, no doubt, brutal conclusion.

I love this world. Based on an Eastern European culture and landscape, I find that the aspects of terrain and local folklore and legends, really add to my overall enjoyment of the story.

If you are a fan of Grimdark Fantasy, Blood Magic and Gods who manipulate the greater worlds around them, then you should definitely pick this series up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate it so much!

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Review: The Return by Rachel Harrison

The ReturnThe Return by Rachel Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elise, Julie, Mae and Molly have been best friends since college. But as with many such relationships, as time goes by and circumstances change, friends can sometimes see each other less and less.

For this fabulous foursome, that is definitely the case. They all live pretty far apart geographically and it can be tough to stay close over such distances.

Two years ago, the unimaginable happened. Julie disappeared while on a solo hike in Acadia National Park, a 47,000-acre belt of wilderness on the rustic coast of Maine.

Understandably, the women are devastated to have lost one of the their own. Although they have a funeral after a significant amount of time has passed with no sign of Julie, Elise genuinely doesn’t believe she is gone.

Lo and behold, it seems Elise was right, at some point after the funeral, Julie reemerges. She just shows up at home one day with no memory of where she has been or what has happened to her.

Everyone is stunned. How can this be?

After Julie has had some time to acclimate to being home, the women decide to gather for a reunion weekend at an up-and-coming boutique hotel in upstate New York.

All traveling separately, Elise, the narrator of our tale, is the first to arrive. She immediately feels disturbed by the eccentric hotel. The whole atmosphere is just so bizarre.

Once all the women have arrived, they joke and laugh and try to make the best of their surroundings.

Luckily for them, they are the type of friends that no matter how much time has passed, they can pick right up like they were never apart.

The more time that goes by however, the more they begin to notice that Julie is different.

There’s something very wrong with her. It seems she is falling apart minute by minute. Her odd behavior and appearance; let’s not even get into the smell, but who’s going to talk to her about it?

They’re scared, even though mostly, they won’t admit it.

Well, I’ll tell you, they weren’t the only ones that were scared. This book had moments that legit creeped me out. I’m talking contemplated putting it in the freezer.

There was so much to enjoy about this. I loved, loved, loved the setting. Reminiscent of a locked room mystery as it was slowly revealed to the reader what was going on with Julie.

I also enjoyed the dynamic among the women. I found it to be very relatable as far as relationships go post-college.

The horror element was unique to me. I have never read anything that went in the direction this ultimately went in.

It did give me heavy Jennifer’s Body vibes and I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out this author had watched that movie more than once.

Although I can see where some people may be let down by the ending, for me it worked. That is how I would have wanted it to end.

At it’s heart, this is really a lovely examination of friendship, if you can believe that from a horror novel, but those friendship aspects tugged at my heartstrings.

I have no aspirations to ever write a novel, but if I did, it would pretty much be this book. Take from that what you will.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me a copy of this to read and review. It was a fantastic time!

I am really looking forward to reading more from Rachel Harrison.

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Review: The June Boys by Courtney C. Stevens

The June BoysThe June Boys by Courtney C. Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

The Gemini Thief is a serial kidnapper who has been plaguing Tennessee for the past decade.

Every year, three boys are taken, kept for a year and then released.

When one of the currently kidnapped boy’s body is discovered, however, it is assumed the Thief has escalated. He has never killed before. Was it an accident?

Either way, authorities and citizens alike become desperate to get the bottom of the mystery.

Thea Delacroix has been seriously hunting the Thief ever since her cousin, Aulus, disappeared. Not everyone believes she is correct when she says he was one of the Thief’s victims, but she knows it’s true.

Unfortunately for Thea, she begins to suspect her own father may be responsible. His eccentricities definitely make it possible for him to be the culprit everyone is searching for.

What should she do?

The story follows Thea and her closest friends as they investigate her father and follow leads in an effort to find the missing boys.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are letters written from her cousin, Aulus, during his captivity. These are penned, The Elizabeth Letters.

Through the letters we get a glimpse of how dire the situation is for the boys remaining in the Thief’s grasp.

A couple of things, there were some pretty series formatting issues with the copy of the e-ARC that I read. Particularly during The Elizabeth Letters things were so jumbled, it was hard to tell what was supposed to go where.

With this being said, it made this one a little hard to rate. I am positive that these issues have been cleared up in the final copy.

Therefore, I am basing my rating on what I know this story to be: well written and intense.

I thought the writing was great. The intensity was high throughout the whole story.

There are aspects of this that are hard to read. It is dark and the author doesn’t shy away from showing how desperate the boys in captivity are.

I also wouldn’t say it was uplifting, however, there is a message of hope, higher power and meaning. In my opinion, it was a solid YA Mystery/Thriller, best enjoyed by individuals who like their stories to go dark and stay there.

While not for everyone, I personally enjoyed this. I have a feeling if I would have read a finished copy, as opposed to the ARC, I would have ended up giving this a solid 4-stars.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Regardless of the formatting issues, I did have a good time reading this!

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Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

House of Salt and SorrowsHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

…and the award for Exceptional New Voice in YA Horror goes to…

ERIN A. CRAIG!!!!

Love this. Not at all what I expected but so damned pleased with what I got!

Annaleigh lives at Highmoor, a remote manor on the sea with her father, stepmother and sisters. Where once there were twelve sisters, at the start of our story only nine remain.

The most recent to die, Eulalie, plunged to her death after falling from a cliff into the sea. It is rumored she was out to meet a lover and run away with him.

Tragedy has struck the family so many times, in fact, the villagers whisper that they are cursed. While some of her sisters buy into the curse, Annaleigh has other ideas. She doesn’t believe Eulalie’s death was an accident. Perhaps her other sister’s deaths weren’t accidental either?

Teaming up with a handsome and mysterious stranger, Annaleigh begins to investigate what is truly happening at Highmoor.

As many of you may know, House of Salt and Sorrows is a retelling of a fairy tale known as The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces, or The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Going into this, I expected a typical YA fairy tale retelling. Fortunately, there was nothing typical about this!

Truth be told, parts of this story creeped me the heck out.

There was one night, I was up late, reading this on my kindle with all the lights turned off, I got to a section where there is a particularly lucid scene involving one of Annaleigh’s dead sisters and I legit almost put that thing in the freezer! I had to switch to something fluffy just to be able to go to sleep that night.

As someone who is a great fan of the dark and macabre, I must say, I was beyond impressed with Craig’s writing. Her ability to conjure truly terrifying moments and atmosphere is absolutely fantastic.

I am calling this a YA Horror, because even though the story isn’t exactly a Horror story, I am calling out Erin A. Craig as a Horror writer!

I really hope she continues more in that vein with her future stories. There was an ominous feeling surrounding this whole story. (view spoiler), it was all incredibly visceral.

I have never read the original source material, so I cannot weigh in on the merits of this as a retelling but I imagine, most folks who have read the original will be impressed by this. In my opinion, this book has it all and if you are a fan of gothic-feeling stories, you CANNOT miss this one. Pick it up, you won’t regret it!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Delacorte Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I cannot wait to see what Craig comes up with next! You better believe I will be buying it!

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Rave Review: Song of Susannah (Dark Tower #6) by Stephen King

Song of Susannah (The Dark Tower, #6)Song of Susannah by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OH MY WORD!!
CHILLED TO THE BONE!!!

The last few sentences of the CODA! Stop!!!
I cannot believe I am using this many exclamation points but seriously, have you read this?

I am so in love with this series.
I just want to stare at it all day and consider its meaning.
Its true too the guts meaning.
It’s bloody EPIC.

As a continuation of the overall series, this was pure perfection. You know the end draws nigh. The pace of the story is like a quickening heartbeat racing towards the ultimate conclusion.

I am so happy that I picked this up and continued on my journey to the Tower.
The connections in this one…

Sai King truly is a master of our world or any other for that matter. I doff my cap. Exceptionally intricate, compelling and extraordinarily told. Nothing short of genius.

A must read for any Constant Reader.
You know who you are…
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Review: The Chain by Adrian McKinty

The ChainThe Chain by Adrian McKinty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As Rachel drives to Boston for an early morning appointment with her oncologist, she thinks her daughter, 13-year old Kiley, is safe, getting on the bus and heading off to school. Then she gets a chilling phone call that rocks her world to its core.

The caller says Kiley has been kidnapped and in order to get her back Rachel needs to pay a hefty ransom and kidnap another child to take her place.

An entity known as ‘The Chain’ is on the other end of the line and they make their money by fusing traditional kidnappings together with the horrifying chain letter concept of the 1980s. They are very detailed in their directions to Rachel. She is not the first and she won’t be last.

Whatever you do, do not break the chain.

Rachel already knows she will do anything they say. Kiley is her whole world and she will stop at nothing to get her back! We follow along with Rachel and her brother-in-law, Pete, as they work around the clock to ensure Kiley’s release.

This dark, crime thriller is highly entertaining! It starts off with a bang and you instantly feel a part of the action. The premise is super creative and I love how intense the majority of the story was. Rachel has to almost immediately transform herself in order to play ‘The Chain’s’ game. She goes from meek, defeated suburban housewife to a criminal mastermind.

I can get behind that.

For me, the pacing was a little off. I did enjoy the first half of the book a lot more than the second half but overall, it’s a solid story. You have to be able to just roll with a few implausible details and have fun with it. That’s what it is meant to be, a fun, wild ride.

McKinty’s writing is engaging and I liked the different perspectives he offered us throughout. It provided a nice wide scope for taking in The Chain’s reach. I particularly liked learning about the villain’s background and early life. Seeing where they were coming from added to the darkness of the story and that’s basically what I am here for.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Mulholland Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and I know a lot of Thriller Readers will enjoy this one!

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Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

The Escape RoomThe Escape Room by Megan Goldin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being summoned last minute to participate in a ‘team building exercise’ is not how Vincent, Jules, Sylvie or Sam saw their Friday night going. Unfortunately, participation is mandatory so they all dutifully arrive on time at a remote office building in a shady part of town. Greeting in the lobby, they enter the elevator together for the ride up to one of the top floors.

The express elevator ascends quickly and then abruptly stops. The lights go out and the heat cranks up. Suddenly, the team comes to the realization that this is their exercise. An Escape Room challenge where the competitive coworkers will have to put petty rivalries aside and work together in order to solve the clues needed for them to be released.

As dark secrets of the team are revealed, viciously pitting them against one another, they find themselves removed from their normal boardroom backstabbing and thrust into a definitive game of survival.

Megan Goldin’s thrilling debut, set in the world of high stakes Wall Street finance is incredibly ruthless, and that’s sort of my brand. I absolutely flew through this story. I could not put it down!

Following dual perspectives between our cast of characters in the elevator and flashbacks to a mysterious former team member, Sara Hall, the plotting of this is absolutely brilliant. It kept me engaged and guessing the entire way.

At its heart, a complex revenge thriller, this stoked my Slytherin heart, as I stan a character with the dedication to strategize a long game. If you don’t know what I mean by this, pick up this book. This is the epitome of a painstakingly planned ‘long game’.

I had so much fun reading this and it is now definitely one of my favorite books of the year. I recommend it to anyone who likes a solid, unique thriller. If this is what Goldin puts out for her debut, I cannot wait to what she comes up with next. You know I will be buying it and devouring it as soon as its released!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and of course, love discovering ambitious new authors to obsess over.

This one is out now, my friends, be sure to pick up your copy and see if you can solve The Escape Room!!!

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Review: Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain HookLost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who is the most intriguing character in Peter Pan?

If you answered anyone other than Captain Hook, you are wrong.

Captain Hook is by far the most compelling character and this is the Captain as you have never seen him before!

This is the origin story of one of the world’s most underrated villains, straight from the mind of Christina Henry.

Y’all, Ms. Henry has a dark and wildly creative imagination and we stan that!

This story follows our infamous Captain before he is known as such. This tells of his earlier life, known as Jamie and chosen by Peter Pan to be his first and best boy.

As many of you are already aware, Peter is a spoiled, petulant little prig who also happens to function with the most murderous of intentions.

I have always considered Peter Pan to be a jerk and this certainly did not dispel that notion. Jamie tries his best to keep Peter on the straight and narrow and to protect the boys that he collects.

Overtime, he begins to see Peter for what he truly is. He also comes to identify this life he has been living on the island to be not at all what he was sold.

Coming in at under 300-pages, this is a quick read but in my opinion, you have everything you need to make this a moving and impactful tale. The final pages of this blew my mind. I was speechless upon finishing.

I have so much love for this story and truly believe this to be one of the best retellings I have ever read and certainly the best origin story that I have ever read.

This is dark with a constant feeling of menace that I cannot recommend highly enough to horror fans or just fans of darker works of fiction in general; not necessarily horror.

My dream would be for Christina Henry, in about 8-years, to come out with a sequel to this that completely flips the power balance between Peter and Captain Hook on its head! For those of us that would love to see the downfall of one, Peter Pan, this would be the most delightful tale to ever be penned, I am sure.

So, Christina, have your people call my people.
Kidding!!! I don’t have people.
DM me if you want to brainstorm and let’s make this happen!

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