ARC Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Happy Halloween! My plan to spend an entire night reading has fallen through and, honestly, I think I’m going to nap my way through the rest of the evening, so I figured I’d get in the spooky spirit with a very Halloween-y review instead!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’re probably already aware of how I feel about this book, but here’s my review of Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco (thank you so much to James Patterson Presents for the e-ARC!)…

Emilia has been brushing off stories about the princes of Hell for her entire life, chalking her grandmother’s fear up to superstition and folk tales. She was born and raised a witch so it isn’t that she doesn’t believe; it’s just that she and her sister know that these creatures of nightmares are too stuck in hell to be any kind of a threat.

At least, that’s what she believes, until one dark night in the monastery, her twin sister is found dead, missing a heart and being observed by a beautiful stranger with a devilish aura and a golden knife.

Not long after, as her motivation to find and punish her sister’s killer devours her, Emilia finds herself face to face with enough princes of Hell to see exactly why her grandmother has been warning her all along. And what’s worse is that working alongside one of them might be the only way to find out what truly happened to her sister, and why.

Words cannot express how much I loved Emilia as a protagonist. She was the most strong-willed, fearless character I have read all year and, despite wanting to scream at her in the beginning to stop and think before running into danger, I admired her commitment and believed within a few pages that she could handle anything that was thrown at her (and there was a lot!). Her dedication to her sister never faltered and Emilia didn’t come across as weak even once on her journey to hunting down what she needed to know.

Wrapped up in this story of vengeance was a wonderfully built world of wickedness that I could read about forever. The summonings, the demons and the spellbinding magic were effortlessly written and completely believable. If anyone ever tries to tell me that it’s possible to outgrow YA fantasy, this is the book I will recommend to convince them otherwise.

This story was beautifully crafted, grippingly fast-paced and devilishly creepy, with just the right amount of ethereally beautiful princes of Hell. I ordered a hardback copy before I was even halfway through the ebook because I knew that this would be a book I needed on my shelf and I can guarantee I will be recommending this to anyone who will listen, especially if they’re looking for an wicked tale to add to their Halloween TBR.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)

Book Review: Kpop Confidential by Stephen Lee

And… here we have another kpop/YA book review! At the same time as I received my ARC of Shine by Jessica Jung, I also received a finished copy of Kpop Confidential, so I am adoring the theme of my autumn reading so far.

Anyway- thank you so much to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book!

Kpop Confidential follows a fifteen year-old Korean-American girl named Candace who, on a whim, enters a global competition to become a trainee at S.A.Y Entertainment in Korea, and suddenly finds herself being swept up into the not-so-glamorous lifestyle of a celebrity-in-training.

After a begrudging acceptance from her parents, Candace leaves behind her life in the United States for a summer, with the ultimatum that she will either end the summer as a debuted kpop idol or back as a high school student in New Jersey. She is rapidly inducted into a world of no social media, brutal dieting, dating bans and torturous hours of training.

As she faces the struggles of falling in love when dating is strictly prohibited, living in a dorm with the meanest girl in training, and not being able to dance when trying to debut in a dancing idol group, Candace has to commit wholeheartedly to her new trainee lifestyle and forget that there is anything at all outside the walls of her training HQ.

This book has a protagonist who, somewhat unwillingly, finds herself stepping on some toes to get to the top, an entertaining love triangle (with, in my opinion, an obvious favourite…) and some very strong friendships that were incredibly refreshing to read about against the backdrop of all the trainee backstabbing and blackmail.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because of the fifteen year old protagonist, it seemed a little younger than a lot of the YA I’ve read lately, but it was still a cute, easy read with enough drama to keep me turning the pages throughout. Without spoiling anything, I loved the direction that the story ended up going in and found myself satisfied with this book from start to finish. I would definitely recommend to kpop lovers, YA lovers and anyone looking for a whirlwind of a story about dedication, passion, drama and friendship.

Rating: 4/5

BOOK REVIEW: THE QUEEN OF NOTHING by Holly Black

I finished this book seconds ago so please bear with me if my thoughts are a little incomprehensible. Also, bear with me if they seem a little vague. I’ll attempt to give a full review but am aware of just how much expectation there is for this book and how much I don’t want to accidentally spoil it for anyone. It’s so hard to say anything about this without giving too much away but I’m really going to give it my best shot.

If you’re reading this book, I assume you’ve already read The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King. If not, the plot would make very little sense to you and I fully recommend you go and read them now (I’ve linked them at the bottom of this page!)

The Queen of Nothing is the gripping finale to Holly Black’s most-anticipated trilogy and, although my thoughts are still jumbled, I’m certain that it doesn’t disappoint. Parts of it get a little weird and overly-fantasy compared to the first two but, as a book series about Faerieland, that’s completely to be expected. Holly Black really uses her creative license and ability to use magic a lot more in this book than I noticed in the other two books and, honestly, I’m mostly just impressed with the scope of her imagination and how realistic she can make everything seem.

The general premise of this book is that Jude has been exiled from Faerie by her husband, and the High King, Cardan. Jude’s twin sister, Taryn, arrives early on in the story with a desperate request for Jude to help her by returning shortly to Faerie. When that ‘short trip’ doesn’t go exactly to plan, Jude finds herself rapidly invested in the conflicts of the throne once again.

The characters remain much the same throughout this book as the other two, with Jude really, finally getting the chance to show what she is capable of in terms of telling people what to do. My favourite development in the whole story, though, is definitely Vivi. Although many of her storylines are side-lined, she really develops as a character in this much more than in the last two books. We also get a lot more insight into each character’s personal lives, which I really loved.

The one part of this book that I take some issue with is the ending, so I’m going to be purposely vague. I appreciate the ending and believe that Holly Black tied the series together well, but parts of it just seemed a little less complex than the rest of the trilogy. Overall, though, I was generally very impressed and think that she brought everything impressively to a close, with very few unanswered questions left and a lot of emotions running high.

As always with Holly Black’s books, the writing itself is stunning. The imagery of Faerie and, even to some extent, the human world is incredibly descriptive and she paints a fantasy image in a way that very few authors can. Alongside her interesting characters, this makes for a book that you can’t help saying ‘just one more chapter’ to. It’s so easy to ignore the outside world with this series and I’m delighted to have had one more chance to do that.

I would recommend this series so much. If you’ve read the first two, obviously this is a must-read, but if you haven’t, you really, really should (the other two are 5-star in my opinion). I’m not disappointed at all and, honestly, I’m so sad to say goodbye to these characters after only discovering them six months ago.

MY RATING: 4/5

If you haven’t bought this book already, you can get it here.

You can also buy The Cruel Prince here and The Wicked King here.

(Disclaimer: I get a small commission if you use these links!)

BOOK REVIEW: THE PACT by Amy Heydenrych

(Thank you so much to ReadersFirst and Zaffre for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review)

This book is incredibly well-written. It had me hooked from start to finish and kept me sufficiently surprised with its twists and turns throughout. I absolutely loved the plot, characters and morals of the story and think it may be one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year.

This story follows Freya and Isla, two women facing serious challenges in their careers and personal lives. Freya has just started work at her dream company, and Isla is a criminal journalist reporting on murder cases.

The two find their lives rapidly intertwining when Freya’s colleague, and her workplace bully, Nicole, is found dead in her home. As the women attempt to uncover who is behind the murder, it begins to seem like larger forces are conspiring to keep the murder inquiry quiet, and the matter becomes much more complicated than it initially seemed.

I’m fascinated by how well the various timelines and stories overlap in this book. The story jumps in no particular order between Freya’s past, the days leading up to the murder and both of the women’s lives after. I thought that this might make the story jumpy and random, but it actually came together very impressively and I found myself equally invested in every story that was woven into the plot.

One thing that needs to be noted about this book is that it deals with some very sensitive topics. Murder is the advertised focus of this book, but it delves much deeper into mental illness, gaslighting, rape and sexual harassment in public and in the workplace. These topics are dealt with in an unnervingly believable way, which makes the story all the more compelling. Both Freya and Isla have issues with sexual harassment that leave them in a state of fear and self-doubt. As an topic that is so important to discuss in the present day, this book deals with this very sensitively, with a portrayal that I consider incredibly important.

My only issue with this book is how many villains there appear to be. Although it is not a major problem, and is actually a majorly useful tool in keeping the reader hooked throughout (which Amy Heydenrych definitely did!), I found the book to diverge slightly from believability when so many of the characters became guilty of various crimes and moral discrepancies. This in no way detracted from the novel, but I did find myself beginning to rank the villains in a way that disconnected me from the reality of the story slightly. This is something I have found to be common in murder mysteries but it is not my personal preference. If this is something you’ve found yourself enjoying in other novels, I think this one probably does the concept justice.

I think you should definitely read this book if you’re looking for a gripping thriller or even a difficult-to-take social critique. I finished this book in one day because it was so addictive, and I think anyone, especially female readers, would find this book relatable, compelling and completely terrifying.

This book comes out on 28/11/2019 and I would 100% recommend you check it out! If you’d like to read the description and other reviews or if you’d like to buy the book, here’s the link:

The Pact by Amy Heydenrych

Disclaimer: I will gain a small commission for any purchase made through this link.