Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: Fire Heart (The Dragon of Umbra #1): by Emma Hamm

Publish Date: January 31st, 2022
Number of Pages: N/A
Publisher: N/A
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult, Young Adult

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

‘Lady of Starlight,’ he murmured, then stepped so close she could count the gold flecks in his eyes. ‘My fire heart. Live for me, and I will lay a kingdom at your feet.’

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

They handed her a sword and bid her to take a throne…

Lorelei is half elf in a kingdom where that bloodline is synonymous with “slave”. The Umbra King holds everyone captive with his pet dragon who knows no mercy. She hides in the shadows and steals to stay alive, until a rebel group gives her an offer she can’t refuse.

The King seeks a bride. If she can get close enough, she could drive a dagger into that wicked man’s heart. But the bridal games are more difficult than most. Lorelei must prove herself not only beautiful, but talented, poised, and deadly as the king. However, the closer she gets to saving her kingdom, the more she realizes a singular problem stands in her way.

The dragon.

The King’s bodyguard is more than a slathering beast. He’s a man. And the longer she’s near him, the more she realizes that perhaps the king isn’t the most dangerous person in the kingdom. Perhaps she had to guard not only her body, but her heart. For a dragon mates for life, and they’re hard pressed to give up their treasures.

~~~

It’s always disappointing when a book that has all the variables, all the tools, all the story aspects, or whatever you want to call them…it’s disappointing when a book has all these that you love in a book, but it doesn’t end up being as good as you’d hope it to be.

I was made aware of this book when it was chosen as the adult book for Bookish Box–a monthly subscription box for fantasy and paranormal romance genres–under their adult box from earlier in 2022. The premise drew me in, and it sounded like a good enemies-to-lovers fantasy-romance title from an indie author who upon doing a little research, had quite a following!

I eventually got my own copy with the hopes of reading it ASAP because I was really drawn to this story by the premise that had me excited because it sounds right up my alley, and the gorgeous cover to boast too! It was giving me Throne of Glass vibes with the badass blonde heroine on the cover with a ferocious dragon just behind her.

I’m not saying this is a bad book by any means, I never say a book is outright bad unless the author does something that is so tone deaf that I wonder how their book ever got published…but that isn’t the case here. The author knows how to write and she obviously knows her craft; her following especially on Amazon reviews show for it, but I just didn’t connect with this book anywhere close to what I was hoping I would. The story just had too many clichés that I couldn’t look past, the characters felt so stiff and wooden to me that I didn’t connect with them either, the villain was very one-dimensional, and there just didn’t really feel like there was a sense of urgency in this story at all either.

I go more into these reasons why later on in my review.

I’m also trying to not judge the book too harshly…it is the first book in a series, and as a fan of many YA Fantasy title, I have seen many times before where the first book is usually the weakest book in a series because it’s merely setting the scene and then the series grows and becomes its own thing as you keep reading. Case in point, the Throne of Glass series. I can see readers not wanting to read on because of that book and the many things that are considered cliché in that book, and those of us who have read that series know that SO SO SO much happens after that, so here I am hoping that this may be the case for this series as well too.

~~~

You are a thousand questions and a million truths just out of my reach.

– Emma Hamm, “Fire Heart”

~~~

What I Liked:

  1. An Interesting Premise! The synopsis gave me much hope I’d really like this book! I mean, an enemies-to-lovers fantasy romance book with elves and dragons?! Yes please!
  2. A Twist I Did NOT See Coming! I’ll admit the author added in one twist that I didn’t see coming at all, and I’ll happily point it out whenever an author manages to do this! I won’t give any spoilers, but just remember that not everyone is as they seem…

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. A LOT of YA Fantasy Clichés…nameless mean girls, the competition to win the heart of the king, the one-dimensional villain king, the “I’m not like most girls” mentality of the main character, instalove…I don’t know, but the clichés definitely overtake any original ideas this book had, I think this is why I found myself so bored with this book.
  2. Characters Felt Very Stiff and Wooden…I really did not connect with anyone at all. They all felt so one-dimensional and stuck within the familiar character archetypes that I’ve seen before. There was hardly any personality shown, or really any slower scenes to merely show them as actual people. the plot merely drove them forward without really giving them a chance to really breathe and show them as actual people in my opinion.
  3. The Enemies-to-Lovers Could’ve Been Stronger…The fact that instalove happened between Lore and Abraxas made it feel like a very weak Enemies-to-Lovers storyline…this could’ve been drawn out for their romantic feelings to happen later, and maybe not feel so forced…
  4. The Stakes Could’ve Been Raised…I didn’t really feel a sense of urgency with this book as Lore infiltrates the castle and tries to kill the king. Very little consequences happen with what happens in the book, and I think this also adds to why I struggled with this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, Fire Heart was an underwhelming book that I didn’t connect with, much to my disappointment. It had all the things I love in my favorite books, but just didn’t deliver as strongly as I was hoping it would. I was just bored a lot of the time, and the list of clichés with a lack of adding much of anything new to the table made me not excited to keep going with the book.

As for right now, I recommend this book for someone who’s maybe not as familiar with fantasy genre books and wants something to ease into it before diving into much heavier, and more dense material. It’s a good beginner level fantasy read for someone just starting out in this genre.

However, I want to take all this negativity towards the book with a grain of salt and keep going because I’ve seen several instances where the first book in a series is the weakest, and the story gets much more engaging as it develops with each and every book. Plus, I already preordered the next book because I’m a sucker for pretty book covers, so I’ll at least give book 2 a try before I decide to bench this book series.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Want Me (Extracurriculars #1): by Neve Wilder

Publish Date: May 6th, 2019
Number of Pages: 304 Pages
Publisher: Kindle Edition
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

That’s not handholding. That’s like … hand fucking. Or hand seduction. Your hand is seducing mine and my hand has zero game. It’s just gonna hop into bed with yours without dinner or a drink first. Maybe I need to give it a lecture about standards.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Two roommates. One calculus exam. A whole lot of extracurricular activity.

Nate:
Living with four other guys, it’s bound to happen.
Every guy’s been caught taking care of business at least once, right?
It shouldn’t be a big deal.

But I don’t know Eric as well as my other roommates, and things are a little awkward now.
He’s a loner. A mystery. Quietly confident. Smart.
Sexy as hell.

I’ve been happily subsisting on the typical frat guy diet of booze and sorority girls.
But the way Eric looked at me that night?
There was something there.
Something that’s got me curious.
Something that’s stirring up feelings I thought I’d left behind for good.

Something that’s making me think I’m not as straight as I thought I was.

I can’t get him off of my mind.
I don’t think I want to.

So when he offers to help me study for a midterm, I take him up on it.

It’s innocent.
Probably. Maybe.

There’s no way I could’ve known what it’d start…

~~~

Lately I’ve been in a reading slump, which I’m starting to notice is a normal thing for me in the spring time. Maybe it’s how the weather is nicer so I’m more likely to be out and about, and life just gets busier because of it to the point where I’m not concentrating as much on the books I read, and I feel the struggle with high octane, fantasy genre stories…

…this is where I turn to hot, quick, mindless smutty books to ward off the slump!

After DNFing several books prior to this one, I was relieved when I flew through this one no problem at all! It’s exactly what I’m looking for when I’m in this reading mood.

This MM romance book is HOT. Plain and simple. There’s so much sex in this story I almost want to say it’s ridiculous, but I enjoyed it way too much to even complain about it!

The story revolves around Nate and Eric, two college guys who are also roommates in the same house with three other guys living with them. Nate gets caught by Eric when he’s….taming the dragon? Having some fun with “Jill?” Whatever you want to call it, but after the initial shock, there’s a curiosity that grows between them, and then the extra push is when Nate needs help with an algebra exam coming up…Eric is right there to help him out in more ways than one!

The story is told through Nate’s perspective, and he’s an absolute delight to follow along with. His commentary is hilarious, and he’s a pretty standup guy who’s awkward and charming and easily likable. Eric is a lot more mysterious and alluring at first, and part of you questions his intentions at first, but he grows on you too as you get to know him better.

~~~

I didn’t know a lot about him beyond that he was majoring in structural engineering. And currently minoring in confusing my dick.

– Neve Wilder, “Want Me”

What I Liked:

  1. There Is SO Much Sex! I mean….we’re talking hot AF hooking up in almost every chapter!! There definitely wasn’t a shortage of spice in this book!
  2. There Wasn’t A Random Break-Up Right Before The End! One thing I see all the time in romance novels is that dramatic breakup the couple always has to have right towards the end…like a secret gets out or there’s some last minute drama that comes between them, and luckily this sort of thing happens earlier in the book! It was refreshing because I’m always like “Okay….we know they’re gonna end up together…cut the shit!”
  3. The Banter & Dirty Talk! Eric is a sexy dirty mouthed bastard, and I love him for it! The conversations between him and Nate are a highlight, no doubt!
  4. Its Hilarious As Much As It Is Sexy! This goes with the banter a little bit, but even the narration with Nate telling the story was pretty funny! The author really knew how to sound like a guy in college!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Build Up With Other Main Characters for The Next Books…this one is kinda nit-picky, but hey, I have to include something in this section at least! There wasn’t a whole lot of development with many other characters except for maybe Marc, but he’s off screen—or page?—so often that it doesn’t feel like he does much…the author throws subtle hints that more is to come with some drama with Marc and another character, but it’s barely touched on to the point that this book feels like it could just be a standalone because it didn’t really make you feel a whole lot for the other characters.

Conclusion:

Overall, this book was EXACTLY what I needed after DNFing several books prior to it! It was hot, sweet, quick, and sexy as hell with some equally cute and tender moments between the two main characters!

There’s two more books to make this a trilogy, and while the author didn’t build up the other characters quite as much as I’d liked, the fact that this is the steamiest book I’ve read this year so far is what makes me want to keep reading and see what happens next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Gild (The Plated Prisoner #1): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: October 1st, 2020
Number of Pages: 289 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Does it really matter if your cage is solid gold when you aren’t allowed to leave it? A cage is a cage, no matter how gilded.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.

Gold.

Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.

Even me.

King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.

Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.

Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.

Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.

Author’s Note: This is a fantasy romance m/f story. There will be monarchs and magic and fae and steam and violence and all the feels. This book contains explicit content and mature language not intended for anyone under 18 years of age. This is book one of three in the series, so that means it won’t be tied up in a bow at the end. In fact, the bow is probably going to be tossed right off a cliff. But it’ll be worth the fall.

~~~

Gild is the first installment of an adult fantasy series called The Plated Prisoner that revolves around a loose retelling of the mythological royal figure: King Midas. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the whole story of him besides how the story is from ancient Greek origins and the obvious fact that whatever he touched with his hands turned to solid gold.

I picked this title up because there has been quite some hype as of late surrounding this series on social media like Bookstagram, BookTok, and in my personal reading circles, so when I saw the first two books at my local Barnes & Noble, I was happily surprised and immediately picked them up!

This story takes place in a realm called Orea, where there are six kingdoms, and King Midas rules over the sixth kingdom, Highbell. In his Golden Castle is the caged woman, Auren, who the story actually revolves around. She is Midas’s favored, his prized possession, his ring to rule all rings, his pet, so you get the picture…

Somehow, she’s able to live in her fully golden body and even has her own silken ribbons that go down her spine that can move on their own and can feel things like pain and touch. She was the victim of child trafficking and was homeless until Midas rescued her, and for ten years she lived in a golden, gilded cage in his castle and shows her joy and gratitude of being his even though her “savior” keeps her in a golden-caged prison.

King Midas is coming up with a plan to take over the fourth kingdom, the most powerful of them all, which is also ruled by a figure known as King Ravinger, or King Rot. There’s also hints tossed in about how long ago there was a seventh kingdom ruled by the Fae, and how Orea was actually co-founded by humans and Fae, but the Fae betrayed them about 300 years ago and cut the bridge between their worlds and disappeared…but perhaps some of their magic was left behind?….who knows!

Now, some of you might be wondering why I’ve given it a lower score out of 5 stars, and you better believe it that I’ll tell you why:

I had some pretty mixed feelings overall about the book, and not even because of the more darker themes and trigger-warning instances–no, that content actually kept me pretty interested–but merely because of how this book is extremely light in action and plot; it’s all set up to introduce the world, the characters, the main character’s current predicament, and give you the hint of magic that will hopefully come more into play later on.

Here’s my quick input on the trigger warnings: there is murder, there is sexual assault, there is rape, there is heavy misogyny and sexism, there is bargaining others for sexual favors without their consent…

Personally, I wasn’t triggered by these instances in the story…to be honest I thought it made the story more interesting, BUT I also understand that not everyone enjoys that sort of content or wants to read it, so it’s fair to give a warning to this sort of thing.

AND before cancel culture comes for my ass, just to clarify: just because I’m not triggered by this happening in the story doesn’t mean I’m okay with rape/sexual assault or condone it in anyway! Put your pitchforks and torches down and keep reading…

It’s funny because it’s not like this is the only book that has the sort of “setting the scene” formula in the books I’ve read…The Hunger Games had this too with Katniss Everdeen taking her sister’s place in the 74th annual games and being frisked off to the Capitol and seeing the corruption and greed and danger firsthand, A Court of Thorns and Roses with Feyre being introduced to the world of Prythian and the lord of the spring court, Tamlin….yeah, I’m sure most of us on here know how that turned out…but anyways you get my point! The first book is merely set-up for character intros and world-building, then the actual overall series plot doesn’t really come into play until the sequel.

Back to Gild, the beginning was actually pretty decent with it starting literally right in the middle of some action…and there were some unexpected twists thrown in too that impressed me, I felt a mix of reactions to Auren and how obviously brainwashed she was by King Midas, but the midpoint was the big slow drag for me. I was seriously wondering why people were hyping this book so much, but my bookish friends kept me going, and I did some research that suggested the author does this on purpose to show you how mundane Auren’s life is before the plot truly begins. The last 30 % of the book actually really saved it for me and definitely leaves off on a cliffhanger! A lot of danger, a lot of new characters, and a lot of twists!

Sure, there wasn’t really a plot to go off of, nor really a sense of resolution in any way, but it sure makes you curious to grab the next book like IMMEDIATELY because, seriously…with an ending like that, what could happen next?!

~~~

Men making deals on the behalf of women never seems to go very well for the women.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What I Liked:

  1. It Wasn’t Afraid to Get Dark! So this is the dark side of my Gemini coming out, but the trigger warning content actually was a highlight for me and raised my brows in curiosity and interest rather than dread or cringe. King Midas has a harem of “saddles” (or sex slaves in all honesty), and even Auren is considered one even if she is always kept separate from the others while in her cage. Since they’re still slaves, their bodies aren’t even their own and decisions get made without their consent, and this is reminded to you several times throughout the story. Like any popular dark fantasy show, there’s plenty of bloody betrayal and blood shed as well. There’s even a cruel death of a certain character that was cruel because of how the corpse is treated after their death…
  2. King Midas Story Gets Some Attention! I personally haven’t really heard of any King Midas retellings that have gotten attention like this book has, or if there are many others to compare to at all, so this fact makes the story actually stand out in this way alone. I like that its a more unique retelling of a classic story that hasn’t gotten as much attention as say…Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, or even Hades and Persephone.
  3. The Ending! Like I said earlier, the end of this book absolutely does a 180 and saves the whole story! As soon as a specific character and his soldiers make their first appearance, you know things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Very Lacking in Action and Plot…While I loved the other books that have the formula of being mostly set-up for the next books in the series, this book was a little weaker in that sense just because not as much happens to make it feel like a stronger book as a standalone. At least The Hunger Games and A Court of Thorns and Roses stood stronger on their own!
  2. Not A Whole Lot of Romance Either…There are some sex scenes that happen, but that doesn’t mean there’s a whole lot of actual romance happening in this book either. The only thing that even comes close to it is actually pretty toxic because Auren is brainwashed by King Midas and its all a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome…I’m hoping the next books have more in this regard as the story continues.

Conclusion:

Overall, Gild by Raven Kennedy was a good but not great read, BUT from the urging of my bookish friends and from several other readers on social media AND reading the ending of this book as well, my interest to read on spikes up like I just chugged three Redbulls back-to-back!

Everyone says the next books, Glint and Gleam, are so much better and so much more happens, so with that in mind and how those sequels really do get much better in my experience, my final words are:

Lets see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Zodiac Academy: Ruthless Fae (Supernatural Beasts and Bullies #2): by Caroline Packham and Susanne Valenti

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: August 30th, 2019
Number of Pages: 517 Pages
Publisher: N/A
Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult Romance

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Zodiac Academy: The Awakening – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

They tried to break us.
They almost did.
But we’re not going anywhere.

The Celestial Heirs think the stars are on their side. But they don’t know what’s coming. Fighting them one on one isn’t an option so we have to be stealthy. Remaining under the radar won’t be easy, but if we pull it off, they’ll never suspect our involvement when their lives start falling apart.

Besides, they’ve already taken us to the brink of hell, what more can they really do?

**THIS IS NOT REVERSE HAREM**

This is a paranormal academy bully romance and forbidden teacher romance. Suitable for Upper YA/NA readers who are fans of Shunned, Cruel Magic and Supernatural Academy.

~~~

Here I am again to gush about how addicted to this series I am! I have seriously been losing sleep over how much I’ve been reading this last week and a half because if I’m not working or sleeping or bathing, my eyes are glued to my kindle devouring this story. It’s really been a great way to get out of a self-diagnosed reading slump I’ve been in for a few months.

I’ve even been slacking on drawing for my new artist Instagram account (@njg.artistry if anyone’s interested, go give it a follow! There’s my shameless self promotion to slip into my review), but seriously, that’s how addicted I am to these books! the bookworm inside my soul has been given life once again after what has been a dry and hot as hell summer as I type this.

This is the second book in the series, and it starts up immediately after what happened at the end of the previous book, and Darcy and Tori have a tough choice to make: do they stay down and return to the mortal realm with their tails between their legs, or do they let what the Heirs did to each of them and let it light a fire under their butts? Darcy remembers her unplanned meeting with Professor Orion and questions if she wants to be defeated and maybe it’s more worth it to stay and fight.

The worldbuilding was more or less the same with the mentioning of the Nymphs, those monsters from the shadow realm and enemy to the Fae; they’re still lingering in the dark corners and getting stronger so we know they’ll come into play later on in the story, they’re not going anywhere! One new thing we did learn is about the different star bonds that can happen between two fae who are destined to be together in different ways: Nebula Allies, Elysian Mates, or Astral Adversaries. They’re pretty self explanatory by the names alone, but read the book for yourself, they’ll go into it more of course.

Of course the major highlight again for me was all the different relationships and dynamics between all the characters. Tory and Darcy of course showing the importance of sisterhood and friendship, and the twins vs. the Heirs and the rivalry there that is FAR from over! They don’t take what the four guys did to them lying down and get some major revenge on them which was actually so satisfying to see happen. I would’ve rolled my eyes if they didn’t go through with all they did because they take the high road and “don’t stoop to their level”….nah fuck that, some people like bullies deserve to have what they’ve done happen to them too, an eye for an eye and all that. I also loved how strategic they get with all of it too since they know that for now they can’t match them with brute strength, but they really quickly learn to hit the guys where it hurts, so way to go ladies!

Darcy and Professor Orion have a VERY interesting relationship after he saved her from Seth and his pack. He’s still a total asshole to just about everyone who talks to him, but it’s so cute to see him secretly have a soft spot for Darcy. He sneakily does little things with his magic to help her, It gets even juicier when it seems like there might be some unrequited and forbidden feelings flowing between them too, but he’s her professor and she’s the student and there are strict rules and repercussions against it, but that only makes it that much hotter! But besides Tory, he may be the funniest character in the whole book because he too has a sharp tongue and can quickly verbally lay out anyone who dares speak up against him. I had my doubts about him in the first book, but the things he does and says in this book really made him grow on me and he seems legit to me now.

‘Stop looking at me like that,’ he snarled.

‘Like what?

‘You know what,’ he snapped. ‘I’m your teacher.

‘I know,’ I balked, horrified at what he was suggesting.

‘Do you?’ he steed forward. I nodded firmly, though I wasn’t sure my body was getting the message because I had the urge to wrap myself around him and kiss him goodbye. ‘Then stop looking at me like that.

‘Then stop looking back, Lance.

– Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti, “Zodiac Academy: Ruthless Fae”

Tory has her own romantic situation that’s quickly getting pretty steamy too! She’s kind of possibly got two Heirs interested in her with a possible little love triangle forming with vampire Caleb and dragon-shifter Darius. Things are still pretty tense between her and Darius, like really tense with a few sexually-heated moments, but Caleb is being much more friendly and open to seeing what might happen. There’s definitely a mutual attraction there with Tory and Caleb, and if a hot as hell vampire with blond, wild curls and abs starts hitting on you, what would you do? Her relationship with both males definitely heats up, and there’s also definitely going to be a lot of dramatic moments and angst that goes along with it that is actually so much fun to read!

Speaking of the Heirs, this book you actually get into their heads and they actually have chapters from their perspectives which is a big change from just the twins in the first book. It certainly helps you see into their minds and (maybe) feel a little more for them as characters. Caleb at least seems to be the easiest to like amongst them as he actually is revealed to have remorse over their pranks that went too far, but you see what a shitshow of a family and house that Darius comes from too…It’s not surprising he turned out the way he did if THAT’s how his father is like!

Lots of things are moving forward, tensions and sexual appetites are rising like flames, danger is lurking behind the curtain waiting to strike at the opportune moment, and the books are getting longer! It’s all very exciting and bingeable and more is yet to come!

What I Liked:

  1. The Vega Twins Enact Their Revenge! I LOVE that the twins don’t take the high road and do all that they can to get even with the four Heirs and what they did to them! Tory was a freakin’ badass at the beginning with what she did to Darius to get back at him, and I love that even the goody-two shoes twin Darcy is showing some fire in her spirit as well!
  2. There’s Way More Romance! Oh man does the romance heat up in this second book! There might still not be as much smut as some of you readers are looking for, but rest assured, all in due time! Let the story progress and trust me, it’ll get plenty spicier. Part of the thrill is the slowburn too! I like both circumstances with each twin starting to form, but I’m not gonna lie, I was totally going in thinking this was going to be a reverse harem situation. Then I was like thinking the twins are just gonna share them all? It’d be hot, but I was curious as to how we’d get to that part and have it actually make sense. Part of me was disappointed that’s not the case in these books, but it’s not like there isn’t other hot RH material out there to read instead if that’s just what I’m after!
  3. We See From The Heir’s POV! I liked getting into the heads of the Heirs and even Professor Orion. It adds so much more depth to the story and the complex web of relationships that for advancing in different degrees in this story. Plus, it also makes it easier to distinguish between them more and makes them just feel like more fleshed out characters. I like Caleb and Orion because of this, I’m torn on Darius but literally nothing about that boy is easy, and I’m definitely not that fond of Seth and Max. Max still is the character we’ve gotten the least amount of time with, But Seth can be a real prick sometimes! For someone who’s so extraverted and outgoing and like a human dog, he can be especially cruel out of the four guys…
  4. That Exciting Ending! We learn more about Pitball, which to be honest I still don’t have the biggest understanding of it, but pretty much treat it like this world’s version of Quidditch. BUT, the ending is actually pretty high octane and incredibly exciting and badass, so I was impressed with how much happened all at the stadium!
  5. Geraldine Grus! She was kind of the weird stage five clinger to the twins in the first book, but after she was attacked by a Nymph, the girls felt bad and decided to be friends with her, and she is a hoot! She has all these crazy and expressive sayings and quotes that don’t even make sense half the time, but are still funny nonetheless. They’re like an exaggerated version of Sandy Cheeks in Spongebob when she says something like “that’s crazier than a jackrabbit stuck in a corn barrell” or something weird like that!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. How The Heirs Switch Up Behaviors…I don’t like how they’re somewhat nice to the twins when it’s one-on-one, but once it’s all four of them and they’re in front of the student body is when they return to their douchebag ways, and it’s probably what I like least about them, even Caleb and Darius. Like how two faced and scummy to put on a show like that to show off to their classmates….seemed like way too many guys I actually went to high school with….
  2. Lionel Acrux…What a scumbag…if the authors’ goals was to make us instantly detest a guy, they definitely succeeded there! Poor Darius with having a maniacal father like that, but you also meet Xavier and learn that Darius isn’t all bad actually, which is a huge relief at least!

Conclusion:

Overall, I continue to obsess over this series! It’s not as heavy or grand as some of the other fantasy romance titles I’ve read, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it any less too. I just love the characters a whole lot; their dynamics amongst each other and all their morally grey personalities make it a fun and fast read with you aching to see what happens next and who might end up together.

The plot can feel a little slow, what with the slow burn romance and the twins still figuring out their abilities, but with the forbidden romance and the threat of danger about to pop up anywhere, there’s certainly a higher charge to get those faster paced scenes much more often as the story develops. Either way, I can say I’ve still devoured these books and am already halfway through book 5 as I type this review, so let that speak to how much I am enjoying these books!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Zodiac Academy: The Awakening (Supernatural Beasts And Bullies #1): by Caroline Peckham And Susanne Valenti

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: July 13th, 2019
Number of Pages: 498 Pages
Publisher: N/A
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Tears never did anyone any favours, but sometimes they just needed to fall.

– Caroline Peckham & Susan Valenti, “Zodiac Academy: The Awakening”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

You have been selected to attend Zodiac Academy, where your star sign defines your destiny.

If you’re one of the Fae, elemental magic is in your blood. And apparently it’s in ours. As twins born in the month of Gemini, we’re a rare breed even in this academy of supernatural a-holes.

Changelings were outlawed hundreds of years ago but I guess our birth parents didn’t get the memo. Which means we’re totally unprepared for the ruthless world of Fae.

Air. Fire. Water. Earth.

No one has ever harnessed all four of them, until we arrived. And it hasn’t made us any friends so far.

As the rarest Elementals ever known, we’re already a threat to the four celestial heirs; the popular, vindictive bullies who happen to be some of the hottest guys we’ve ever seen. It doesn’t help that they’re the most dangerous beasts in the Academy. And probably on earth too.

Our fates are intertwined, but they want us gone. They’ve only got until the lunar eclipse to force us out and they’ll stop at nothing to succeed.

We never knew we had a birthright to live up to but now that we do, we intend to claim our throne.

We can’t expect any help from the faculty when it comes to defending ourselves. So if the dragon shifters want some target practice, the werewolves want someone to hunt or the vampires fancy a snack then we have to be ready. But we’ve been looking after each other for a long time and fighting back is in our blood.

Today’s horoscope: totally screwed.

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This is a full-length medium burn novel that is the first in a university-age academy series. Expect forbidden love and bully romance with mature content suitable for upper YA readers and onwards. 

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Okay, but wow….this series is one of those times where I tell myself: “Why didn’t I start these sooner?!” I mean, before I knew it, I’ve blasted through the first three books of this series because it is seriously ADDICTING! These books have been tossed around as highly recommended within the facebook groups I’m a part of for Sarah J. Maas and the From Blood and Ash series by Jennifer Armentrout, and I can say that oh yeah… they’re an utter delight!

I will say maybe it’s not the best writing in terms of craft, but man oh man, that doesn’t matter because the story has just drawn me in, and I’m forcing myself to back up away from them for a second to organize my thoughts and be sure to get it all down on here and in the form of reviews so I can still keep what all happens in each books organized too.

If I had to compare this to other popular fandoms, I’d say this series is reminding me of Harry Potter + Avatar the Last Airbender + Vampire Diaries + Zodiac Signs & Astrology + The Covenant. That I hardly expect a whole lot of people to know, is a movie from 2006 starring Steven Strait and is about a group of four warlocks who’re the last living descendents of the lines of witches from the times of Salem Witch Trials. It’s not the greatest movie, but is decent enough, and let me tell ya….there is plenty of male eye candy in Steven Strait, Taylor Kitsch, Chace Crawford, and even a baby Sebastian Stan! Give it a whirl and see what you think!

This story revolves around twin sisters, Tory and Darcy Vega. Tori is the brash, outspoken chick with a sharp tongue behind her bright red-lipsticked mouth. Darcy is the quieter and more demure of the two, but they’re orphans who share a crummy studio apartment just trying to get by. They’re thieves and have to do whatever it takes to survive, but one night a beautiful stranger pays them a visit and reveals to them that not only are they actually Fae, but they are also the long lost heirs of the former King and Queen of their world! Not wanting to rule when they had no idea this land even existed a day prior, the twins only agree to go with the guy because he says they can claim their birthright and inheritance so long as they graduate from the school and master their magical abilities. Greed wins out, and they’re off!

When they arrive to the school, they’re instantly met with a very torn reaction from their classmates and faculty. They quickly learn how harsh and ruthless the Fae can be, and learn that while they’d been away and their parents no longer alive and/or sitting on the throne, four royal families have stepped up and taken over, and their four heirs are there to also eventually rule. Things of course don’t go well as the four heirs instantly detest the twins at popping in so unexpectedly and taking away what they’ve been told is their birthright to rule one day, and so they all clash and see who’ll be left standing at the end of it all. Tensions rise, pranks go too far, and heinous words and actions are performed all in order to break down their enemies and do whatever it takes to come out victorious.

What really makes things interesting though is the sexual attraction that also builds like a strong current as things escalate! Both sisters deal with their own forbidden romances to really spice things up and pique your interest, but that’s not all! There’s also the threat of bigger and darker things to come as you learn about an enemy race of beings named Nymphs that come from a shadow realm adjacent to their world, and that they are getting stronger and attacks are happening more and more consistently.

Certainly a lot is going on in this series….

I will say the main draw for me is definitely the characters and their dynamics: the sisters, the four heirs, and even the relationships and their undertones the sisters have with the heirs as a group and even individually. Like the blurb says, there’s some forbidden lust that really tugs you along, and it’s even better when it’s paired with animosity and even hatred alongside it. It’s fun!

I suppose I should also give a little introduction to the four heirs too:

Darius Acrux: Dark shorter hair and dark eyes, totally sexy asshole vibes, intense gaze, fire abilities, and the unspoken leader of the four heirs

Seth Capella: Long hair, easily the most extraverted of the four, air abilities, smiles and likes to have physical contact with a lot of people always

Caleb Altair: Wavy blonde hair, cocky, dark blue eyes like an ocean during a storm, abs, dimpled smirk, great kisser, earth abilities, biggest flirt of the four

Max Rigel: Dark Skinned, big muscles, short mohawk, the most charming of the four, water abilities, and has a loud booming voice that commands attention

I have a fancast posted of them too, I definitely say go check it (and them) out!

All four are the biggest and hottest guys on the campus, and things get all nice and twisted as Darcy and Tori deal with everything the guys throw at them, and while I was disappointed there wasn’t as much romance as I’d hoped, at least for this first book, there’s definitely the promise of more to come! I can say that while you know there is more to come, the interactions of bullying mixed with forbidden and sexual tension makes you ask yourself: Okay, but HOW are we going to get to that point?! Yes, unfortunately this first book is pretty tame in terms of smut, BUT again….good things come to those who wait, or stick it out until the later books!

I also want to point out the hot teacher in the book, Orion. Definitely keep your eyes on him, he’s a very interesting character in all this too!

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Why are the hot ones always jerks?

– Caroline Peckham & Susan Valenti, “Zodiac Academy: The Awakening”

What I Liked:

  1. All The Morally Grey Characters! Honestly, part of why I’m really drawn to the characters is that no one is completely likeable. There’s maybe an exception of Sofia, a girl whom the twins befriend at the school, but the fact that a lot of these characters have their a**hole moments makes it all the more fun. The Fae are harsh, backstabbing creatures who crave power and influence, and while the four heirs are enemies to Darcy and Tori, I can say they have moments where they’re somewhat likeable too, but don’t stick to that feeling for too long. WIth the guys, you’ll find yourself going back and forth A LOT on whether you like them or not, and some are already more likeable than others….
  2. The Banter! Tori by far has the best lines in the book, I love her sass and brash demeanor to say things that I wish I had the courage to say out loud to someone who’s being rude to me or is straight up pissing me off. The Banter is also not even about the sexual undertones, but I especially love it between Darius and Tory: so much fire!
  3. All The Mythical Creatures! The magic system is pretty basic where the Fae can have special abilities to the four elements: water, air, earth, and fire. Some stronger fae can have abilities to two of them, but no one really goes further than that except for—of course—the twins. It’s not a huge spoiler to be honest, but of course they somehow have abilities with all four. BUT, what I’m also getting at is that there is a hierarchy of mythical creatures that the Fae can transform into like a smashing Hulk. Dragons and Vampires are of course the highest, but then there’s also Gryphons, Sphinx’s, Medusa’s (it really should just be Gorgons), Sirens, Werewolves, Unicorns, and pretty much ALL the major mythical creatures you can think of make appearances, and one mystery is what will the twins be when they’re other form finally manifests itself!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Lack of Romance…Like I said, there’s not a whole lot of romance and smut, so if you’re looking for that here, I can say it’ll happen, but it needs time to develop and build. It’s a bully/forbidden romance, so for the sake of the quality of the story, it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense or be nearly as effective. It’s a 6 book (Soon to be 7) series, and you gotta let the anticipation build and so it’s that much more satisfying when it does finally happen! Who doesn’t like a good slow burn?
  2. There Are A Lot of Characters to Learn…So besides the twins and the heirs, there are a lot of side characters introduced and it’s a little jarring to try and memorize all of them. I’m the type of reader who likes to put a face to the name ASAP, and there’s just a whole lot of characters who I don’t know how important they are or what they even look like and my mind goes into overdrive over it!
  3. How Cryptic All The Males Are…Okay to be clear, I love it and hate it at the same time! The males in this book are all so vague in their answers and are all keeping secrets to different degrees and it’s exciting and frustrating all at once! WHo’s the bad guy? Who’s trustworthy? Who’s secretly an allie? Who’s a potential love interest? What are their intentions? I had a similar situation in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning and it really drives the story forward and keeps you reading, but you want to smack these supernatural males upside the head and tell them to give it to you straight already!

Conclusion:

The start of a new series, and I can honestly say I am HOOKED! There’s so much promise of more to come, the anticipation of how we’re going to get to those points and what else could possibly happen is the main driving force of how you’ll maybe fly through this series like I currently am!

I’m actually torn on keeping on task and writing out my next review, but lately all I want to do in my free time is keep reading because I have to find out what happens next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell