Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Book Blitz: "Kingdom of the Feared" by Kerri Maniscalco


It's a fantastic Tuesday and do you know why? Because Kingdom of the Feared by Kerri Maniscalco released today! This is the third and final book in the Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy and I'm so excited to be apart of this book blitz tour from TBR and Beyond Tours. Make sure to check out the rest of the tour here before diving in! 


*Spoilers for Books 1 & 2*

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stalking the Jack the Ripper series comes the steamy conclusion to Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy.

Two curses.
One prophecy.
A reckoning all have feared.

And a love more powerful than fate. All hail the king and queen of Hell.

Emilia is reeling from the shocking discovery that her twin sister, Vittoria, is alive. But before she faces the demons of her past, Emilia yearns to claim her king, the seductive Prince of Wrath, in the flesh. Emilia doesn’t simply desire his body, she wants his heart and soul—but that’s something the enigmatic demon can’t promise her.

When a high-ranking member of House Greed is assassinated, Emilia and Wrath are drawn to the rival demon court. Damning evidence points to Vittoria as the murderer and she’s quickly declared an enemy of the Seven Circles. Despite her betrayal, Emilia will do anything to solve this new mystery and find out who her sister really is.

Together Emilia and Wrath play a sin-fueled game of deception as they work to stop the unrest that’s brewing between witches, demons, shape-shifters and the most treacherous foes of all: the Feared.

Emilia was warned that when it came to the Wicked nothing was as it seemed. But, have the true villains been much closer all along? When the truth is finally revealed, it just might end up costing Emilia her heart.

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy Romance
Publication Date: 27 September 2022
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers


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INDIGO     |     INDIEBOUND


Kerri Maniscalco grew up in a semi-haunted house outside NYC where her fascination with gothic settings began. In her spare time she reads everything she can get her hands on, cooks all kinds of food with her family and friends, and drinks entirely too much tea while discussing life’s finer points with her cats. She is the #1 NYT and USA Today bestselling author of the Stalking Jack the Ripper series and the forthcoming Kingdom of the Wicked.

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Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Spooky Season Book Recommendations


It's spooky season, aka the start of my favorite few months of the year. September through December are my favorite months, for many reasons. The cooler weather, the changing leaves into snow, the holidays...it's all amazing. While this year is a bit stressful, I'm still hoping to get into the spooky season vibes soon. This, of course, starts with some spooky book recs. I'm not a big scary book/movie person, but I do love books with witchy and autumn vibes. Here are some I've read and loved or ones I'm looking forward to this year! 




Up first I have City of Gods and Monsters by Kayla Edwards. I read this during the summer, but the vibes are the perfect mix of fantasy and magic that's perfect for autumn. It's also my favorite read of this year so far. Read on for the synopsis...

Welcome to the city of Angelthene. We hope you survive.

Loren Calla has only ever been ordinary. As a human struggling to survive in a city that caters to the needs of vampires, werewolves, witches, and other supernatural creatures, she always assumed her life would remain simple, predictable, and as safe as her world would allow.

Until she barely escapes abduction at the hands of Darkslayers—supernatural bounty hunters that possess the Sight, a magical tracking ability that allows them to see a person’s aura—and one of her friends is taken in her place. The abductors are demanding a ransom: Loren's life in exchange for her friend's safe return. Loren will do whatever it takes to get her friend back—even if it means accepting help from Darien Cassel, the leader of the Seven Devils, the most feared Darkslaying circle in the city.

Darien specializes in tracking down demons and criminals that are better off dead than alive, so when he takes a job to track down Loren and finds out she is human—and couldn't hurt a fly if her life depended on it—he decides to protect her instead of turn her in for a reward. As much as Loren doesn't want to admit it, Darien is her best and only chance at finding her friend alive, if she can somehow manage to get along with him—and not fall head-over-heels in love with him in the process, which is far easier said than done.

When more women start disappearing, and some of them slowly turn up dead, Loren and Darien's search for answers takes them deep into Angelthene's corrupt underbelly, where they discover a dark secret that threatens to unravel their world. And when tragedy strikes, Loren learns that love can make an ordinary person do extraordinary things.




Up next is The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling. This is the first in a witchy romance series set during autumn and I loved it so much. What I loved the most is that there's a balance between romance, magic, and plot. It was a lot of fun and I can't wait to revisit it in the future and read the next ones. Synopsis incoming...

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.




These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong is the first in a historical fantasy duology set in 1920s Shanghai. It's a Romeo & Juliet retelling with a murder mystery and warring gangs. The book was so spooky and mysterious which gave me such great fall-read vibes. I loved this duology so much and can see myself rereading during many fall seasons to come. 

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.




Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu is the perfect spooky queer graphic novel. The artwork is gorgeous and the story is just as great. It's spooky, heartwarming, and all around a light fun read in the lead up to Halloween. 

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers' bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.




Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin is the first book in a witchy fantasy trilogy and just so wonderful. While I haven't finished the trilogy, I adore this first book so much and truly think that it can be read as a standalone if you want it to be. It's one of my favorites and I love reading it in the fall season. 

Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

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

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

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

And love makes fools of us all.





Now getting into the books I'm looking forward to reading during spooky season, let's start with Payback's A Witch by Lana Harper. This is a sapphic witchy romcom that was on my tbr last year but I didn't get around to it for a variety of reasons. However, I have a copy this year and I'm incredibly excited to finally get to it (and buddy read it with a friend!). 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina meets The L Word in this fresh, sizzling rom-com by Lana Harper.

Emmy Harlow is a witch but not a very powerful one—in part because she hasn't been home to the magical town of Thistle Grove in years. Her self-imposed exile has a lot to do with a complicated family history and a desire to forge her own way in the world, and only the very tiniest bit to do with Gareth Blackmoore, heir to the most powerful magical family in town and casual breaker of hearts and destroyer of dreams.

But when a spellcasting tournament that her family serves as arbiters for approaches, it turns out the pull of tradition (or the truly impressive parental guilt trip that comes with it) is strong enough to bring Emmy back. She's determined to do her familial duty; spend some quality time with her best friend, Linden Thorn; and get back to her real life in Chicago.

On her first night home, Emmy runs into Talia Avramov—an all-around badass adept in the darker magical arts—who is fresh off a bad breakup . . . with Gareth Blackmoore. Talia had let herself be charmed, only to discover that Gareth was also seeing Linden—unbeknownst to either of them. And now she and Linden want revenge. Only one question stands: Is Emmy in?

But most concerning of all: Why can't she stop thinking about the terrifyingly competent, devastatingly gorgeous, wickedly charming Talia Avramov?




Up next I'm excited to read The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling, the sequel to The Ex Hex that I mentioned earlier. I loved the main character when she was a side character in the first book so I'm quite excited to get around to her story this time around! 

Welcome to Spooky Season!! The follow-up to Erin Sterling’s New York Times bestselling hit The Ex Hex features fan favorite Gwyn and the spine-tinglingly handsome Wells Penhallow as they battle a new band of witches and their own magical chemistry.

Gwyn Jones is perfectly happy with her life in Graves Glen. She, her mom, and her cousin have formed a new and powerful coven; she’s running a successful witchcraft shop, Something Wicked; and she’s started mentoring some of the younger witches in town. As Halloween approaches, there’s only one problem—Llewellyn “Wells” Penhallow.

Wells has come to Graves Glen to re-establish his family’s connection to the town they founded as well as to make a new life for himself after years of being the dutiful son in Wales. When he opens up a shop of his own, Penhallow’s, just across the street from Something Wicked, he quickly learns he’s gotten more than he bargained for in going up against Gwyn.

When their professional competition leads to a very personal—and very hot—kiss, both Wells and Gwyn are determined to stay away from each other, convinced the kiss was just a magical fluke. But when a mysterious new coven of witches come to town and Gwyn’s powers begin fading, she and Wells must work together to figure out just what these new witches want and how to restore Gwyn’s magic before it’s too late.




I'm incredibly excited to get to The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna. This is a new release with witches, found family, romance, etc that I've heard nothing but good things about. I already have my copy and it'll be my next read after I finish my current one. Plus, the cover is so cute!

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family—and a new love—changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules...with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos "pretending" to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn't the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for....




Then I have The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen. I got this in my Fairyloot box this summer and I'm incredibly intrigued. I've heard it described as a cozy contemporary fantasy and that just sounds awesome. Plus, the reviews have been stellar for it, so I'm incredibly invested in getting to it soon.

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?




And, lastly, I am looking forward to These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling. This is the first in a YA sapphic witchy duology that's been on my radar for a few years now. I hope this will be the year that I finally get around to reading it as it sounds so cute and fun. 

Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.



Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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Friday, September 16, 2022

Book Review: "Babel" by R.F. Kuang

Title: Babel
Author: R.F. Kuang
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 560 pages
Publication Date: August 23, 2022
Rating: 4.5 // 5 stars

What can I even say to describe this book? It was, in all honesty, a masterpiece. As I was reading, all I could think about was how much research, effort, and skill went into crafting it. Babel is a book with so much depth that tackles so many difficult themes and it was simply amazing. 

This is my first book by R.F. Kuang. The Poppy War is on my TBR, but I know I'll need to be in the right mindset for it based off of the trigger warnings I've seen and friends who have read it. However, the hype around Babel had me really intrigued and wanting to start it the moment I got my copy. 

Babel is not a book that you read in one sitting and breeze through. It has so many different elements to it that interweave that I think it would be impossible for me to read it in one sitting, even on a reread. It took me well over a week to get through, but I honestly thought it aided in my experience that I took my time reading it. 

This novel covers such a wide expanse of time (I want to say around 10 years?). To finish it and then look back at where it all began just 560 pages prior was a bit of a mindblowing moment. To think that Kuang was able to write a succinct story that covers so much time in just one self-contained book and have me still connect with it is a true nod to her storytelling skills. 

As I have a degree in English Writing and have moved from a different country to the UK, so much of the beginning of the novel felt so familiar to me. Of course, my experiences and who I am is wildly different from Robin and what he has to go through. But seeing a book character obsessed with reading and language and authors I also studied who is going through the same cultural shocks made me feel very connected early on. 

The characters truly shine in this novel. We have a solid cast of characters and it's incredibly easy to fall in love with them (like our main four) or to hate them (like antagonistic classmates or professors). Each had depth, had struggles, had varying life experiences that, at times, clashed with each other. It was fascinating to see how the characters and their relationships changed over the years and span of the novel. I have to say, my favorite is definitely our main narrator, Robin, though I have lots of love for others. 

One thing that is very prevalent in this novel is the way it addresses colonialism, racism, misogyny. Whereas many Western historical fiction books romanticize history and paint it in a prettier, more accepting light, Babel does the opposite. It pulls forth the dark, violent, and harmful past of the British Empire and the Western world. It critics it, it fights it, it seeks to dismantle it. While this is a historical fantasy, so much of what the book critiques was happening in real life. It was so powerful. 

Part of the exploration of colonialism comes from the way that language and translation was included, for example, in the British Empire profiting off of foreign languages while simultaneously looking down on said languages and where they originated from and treating foreigners who speak them as lesser beings. The dissonance and inner conflicts the characters go through as foreigners benefiting from studying translation at Oxford was something explored throughout the entire novel that ultimately leads to an explosive ending. 

Again, as someone who studied English and just loves learning, I loved all we got about language and etymology and translation. The amount of research that must have gone into this novel just in terms of etymology and languages must have been massive. I never felt like I was reading a boring textbook for school. Instead, I felt like I was learning to think about the world and communication in a new way. 

Lastly, I'll speak on the magic system of silver working. It was incredible. The magic was based around language and translation combined with silver to create magical effects. It's honestly so impressive that this historical setting relies so much on magic yet the magic talk is kept rather subtle. The magic isn't the forefront...the language and the plot and the themes are there instead. But the magic system plays such an important role in the book because of how reliant the country was on silver. This system is so unique and unlike anything I've read before and it just added that extra element to an already fantastic novel. 

Now, I will say, I subconsciously kept a distance I think as I saw loads of people online (specifically TikTok) posting videos of them sobbing and saying the ending was devastating. In that, I suspected at least part of the ending and honestly expected more heartache. I think if I had gone in without knowing other people's reactions, I probably would have also been sobbing. But I was mentally preparing myself the entire book and looking for all the subtle foreshadowing as to what would come. 

Overall, this was a phenomenal book, even from a purely objective standpoint without factoring in my emotional connection. It was amazing, it was so well-written, and it is sure to be a modern classic. Even though the plot is nothing like The Poppy War, I find myself so excited that I still have more works from Kuang to explore in the future. 



Thanks for reading!
xoxo
Lauren



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