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Title: Empire of the Vampire

Author: Jay Kristoff

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Synopsis: From holy cup comes holy light; The faithful hand sets world aright. And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight, Mere man shall end this endless night. It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness. Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains. Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope: The Holy Grail.

"A career defining moment for Kristoff. Prepare thyself for a mind-blowing masterpiece that makes you question...everything." J.M. Buckler award-winning author of the SEEKER OF TIME trilogy.

Review: This is a review for the ARC I received from the author.

YOU. ARE. NOT. READY. Hello, book hangover. I tried. I tried picking up another novel after finishing this mind-blowing escape, but nothing satiates my hunger. Ironic? Perhaps. I guess the joke’s on me. Thanks a lot, Mr. Kristoff. ;-) I refuse to explain the irony behind said statement because spoilers are NOT an option. One must explore this book without breadcrumbs. Trust me, Empire of the Vampire does not disappoint. Now, on to my review.

Words that accurately describe my experience while reading Empire of the Vampire: happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, anger, disgust, and contempt. Author Kristoff’s stunning prose and captivating characters allow the reader to process the seven human emotions while immersed in a terrifying new world. Satanic villains lurk in the darkness, devoted followers fight the good fight, and morally grey characters question their faith and existence.

Our protagonist, though some may beg to differ, Gabriel De Leon, is unlike any character I’ve ever read. The silversaint’s internal battle pulled at my heartstrings while making me want to throw the book across the room. Once faithful and now faithless, De Leon’s spiritual journey was moving yet unnerving. Kristoff did a phenomenal job at diving into the mind of a man who longs for a tarnished badge of honor.

The secondary characters were unforgettable. Aaron, Dior, Chloe, Greyhand, the Beast of Vellene: the list goes on and on. Kristoff did not sideline these key players. They were integral pieces of De Leon’s journey, both internally and externally. I was so attached to Aaron and Dior that, at times, I literally had heart palpitations while reading.

Empire of the Vampire's pacing was utter perfection. I loved switching back and forth between before and present day. Each chapter left me on a subtle cliffhanger while the end of each book left me gasping. I couldn’t stop reading. I kept looking for excuses to crack open the book and fly threw another chapter.

Will this book piss off a few Christian readers? Absolutely. The Christian undertones are STRONG and blatantly obvious. But here’s the thing, Kristoff has never shied away from towing the line. He keeps that trend going in EoTV. If I had to take a guess, I would imagine De Leon’s spiritual dilemma is very near to Kristoff’s heart. That was a breadcrumb, folks.

Here’s the thing, every reader will have a different opinion, and that’s okay. It’s a fantasy novel. It’s not Kristoff’s job to explain each word or religious reference. I’m a Christian and I devoured this book whole. Regardless of one’s devotion, it’s normal for humans to question their faith. The raw and emotional account of this in EoTV hit every mark, creating an authentic reflection of the human struggle.

Should I discuss Kristoff’s prose? Yes, yes, I will. As a fellow writer, I’m constantly searching for books that will help elevate my craft. Empire of the Vampire is THAT book. I NEVER re-read books…ever…until now. EoTV was an educational experience. In my humble opinion, Kristoff’s prose is the gold standard in today’s literature. His words paint beautiful yet grotesque pictures simultaneously without adding unnecessary fluff to the narrative. His varying sentence structure is noteworthy. The smooth ebb and flow eliminates undesired lulls.

Honestly, I could gush all day about this masterpiece. Empire of the Vampire has moved into the top position of my 2021 reads, and I don’t see that number dropping soon. So, do yourself a favor and pre-order this book...NOW. This is Kristoff’s Oscar nomination, his career defining moment. You don’t want to miss out.

Triggers/Warnings: adult language, graphic content, graphic sexual content, violence, torture

Plot: 5/5

Pacing: 5/5

Escapism Factor: 5/5

Emotional Connection: 5/5

Character Development: 5/5

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: May 2021

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Title: Kingdom of the Wicked

Author: Kerri Maniscalco

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson

Synopsis: Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe - witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family's renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin...desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister's killer and to seek vengeance at any cost-even if it means using dark magic that's been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked-princes of Hell she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia's side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women's murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems...

Review: This is a review for the Kingdom of the Wicked audio book I listened to on Audible. I’ll be honest, the narrator’s performance outshined the characters and plot. At first, the captivating premises intrigued me. A witch finds her twin brutally murdered. Desperate for answers, she makes a deal with a Wicked-prince of Hell who wants nothing to do with her. Kingdom of the Wicked had the makings for a steamy novel with my favorite enemies to lovers troupe, but it fell flat. Really flat. :-(

The writing held my attention until Lust came along. After a bizarre, drawn out scene, the steady pacing dragged, and the plot twists were no longer twists, for I predicted each one with little effort. The side characters lacked substance. Nana had so much potential. I wanted to learn more about her story. She had so much knowledge about Emillia and the prophecy but kept it hidden until the end. Huh? Why? At the beginning of the novel, Nana had a powerful voice, then suddenly she went on the back burner without any explanation. Emillia’s parent’s felt like lack luster stand-ins in a B rated movie, and the predictable villain’s actions were so out of character I had to read the reveal twice to make sure I missed nothing.

I did enjoy the sexual tension, but I wanted MORE. I cared only for Wrath and Emillia. The other characters kept hitting my snooze button. Perhaps book one is setting up the reader for some juicy tension in book two. One can only hope.

Author Maniscalco’s writing has definitely improved since her debut novel, Stalking Jack the Ripper. She left out the fluff and focused on impactful scenes which I really appreciated. Her visual and sensory descriptions were fantastic. I craved Italian food each time I opened the book. Did I want to reach out and touch Wrath's tattoos? Yes, yes I did. ;-)

I will continue reading this series because of Wrath and Wrath alone. I’m excited to see how he behaves in his own world.

Triggers/Warnings: violence, disturbing imagery

Plot: 3/5

Pacing: 4/5

Escapism Factor: 3/5

Emotional Connection: 3/5

Character Development: 3/5

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: May 2021

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Title: The Thousandth Floor

Author: Katharine McGee

Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis: Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A hundred years in the future, New York is a city of innovation and dreams. But people never change: everyone here wants something…and everyone has something to lose.

Leda Cole’s flawless exterior belies a secret addiction—to a drug she never should have tried and a boy she never should have touched.

Eris Dodd-Radson’s beautiful, carefree life falls to pieces when a heartbreaking betrayal tears her family apart.

Rylin Myers’s job on one of the highest floors sweeps her into a world—and a romance—she never imagined…but will her new life cost Rylin her old one?

Watt Bakradi is a tech genius with a secret: he knows everything about everyone. But when he’s hired to spy by an upper-floor girl, he finds himself caught up in a complicated web of lies.

And living above everyone else on the thousandth floor is Avery Fuller, the girl genetically designed to be perfect. The girl who seems to have it all—yet is tormented by the one thing she can never have.

Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Big Little Lies, debut author Katharine McGee has created a breathtakingly original series filled with high-tech luxury and futuristic glamour, where the impossible feels just within reach. But in this world, the higher you go, the farther there is to fall….

Review: I picked up this book hoping to escape my own personal drama, and wow, The Thousandth Floor did not disappoint. Imagine Gossip Girl meets Cruel Intentions mixed with a dash of Big Little Lies.

The Thousandth Floor is a story of the haves mingling with the have nots. Author McGee did a splendid job showing the economical and social impact on residents living in the tower: a thousand floor building in Manhattan that houses millions. The wealth increases the higher you go, along with the drama. The characters' actions remind the reader that money doesn’t buy happiness.

I loved switching point of views, and I especially enjoyed getting into Rylin’s and Avery’s heads. The roller coaster of teenage emotions kept me turning the pages. Reading this book was like watching a teen drama I couldn’t turn off.

Author McGee’s writing flows easily and every chapter leaves you on a cliffhanger. Each character has his/her own voice, which is appreciated since the author jumps from one POV to the next. I can’t wait to pick up the second book in the series. I need to know how the web of lies untangles sooner than later.

Please note that several reviewers mention their displeasure with the incest depicted in the book. Here’s my two cents: the two characters accused of incest are NOT related by blood therefore there is no legal ramification.

Triggers/Warnings: teen drinking and drug use, adult language

Plot: 5/5

Pacing: 5/5

Escapism Factor: 4/5

Emotional Connection: 4/5

Character Development: 4/5

Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Completed Read: April 2021

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