LGBT, Mystery/Thriller, YA Contemporary Fiction

My Review: Ace of Spades: by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Publish Date: June 1st, 2021
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre(s): YA Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 2.5 Stars

I hate how they have the power to kill my future, kill me. They treat my Black skin like a gun or a grenade or a knife that is dangerous and lethal, when really it’s them. The guys at the top powering everything.

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Gossip Girl meets Get Out in Ace of Spades, a YA contemporary thriller by debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé about two students, Devon & Chiamaka, and their struggles against an anonymous bully.

When two Niveus Private Academy students, Devon Richards and Chiamaka Adebayo, are selected to be part of the elite school’s senior class prefects, it looks like their year is off to an amazing start. After all, not only does it look great on college applications, but it officially puts each of them in the running for valedictorian, too.

Shortly after the announcement is made, though, someone who goes by Aces begins using anonymous text messages to reveal secrets about the two of them that turn their lives upside down and threaten every aspect of their carefully planned futures.

As Aces shows no sign of stopping, what seemed like a sick prank quickly turns into a dangerous game, with all the cards stacked against them. Can Devon and Chiamaka stop Aces before things become incredibly deadly?

With heart-pounding suspense and relevant social commentary comes a high-octane thriller from debut author Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé.

~~~

Ace of Spades is a whirlwind of a story once you really get into the thick of things…it’s about two black students who are being targeted by an anonymous online presence who goes by the name “Aces” at a prestigious private school. They have no idea why this faceless enemy is targeting them specifically, but what they do know is that they know all their dirty secrets and aren’t afraid to put it all out there for the world to see, thus putting their futures in grave danger…

This book has gotten a lot of praise and exposure on bookstagram and all over social media ever since it came out over the summer of 2021, and I’ll admit that the comparison of “Get Out” meets “Gossip Girl” really had me interested to see what the hype is all about. Plus, I’m a strong advocator for how representation matters and wanting to hear different voices in books and expanding my perspective of other people’s lives that are different than my own. I am a white CIS male, and while I know I will never fully understand the struggles of being black in America, especially a black queer male, but I can honestly say I felt like this book gave me a good idea! The social issues that are explored in this story are a definite highlight that a lot of us can definitely relate to in some way, shape, or form and the characters feel much more fleshed out and dynamic as more is revealed to their character and personal sense of morality.

While the initial set up and beginning of the book were good enough to draw you in, I felt the midpoint really dropped the ball and really slowed down for me…I mean, I really struggled to stay interested through a good chunk of it and even considered putting this book on my DNF stack on several occasions. Heck, I even tried bribing some of my coworkers at the bookstore to read it for me and just spoil it all for me! Not exactly a good thing for any book, lesbehonest…however, my curiosity to find out who was behind it all was what kept me going to be able to finish the story. It obviously won out in the end, and I can’t say it disappointed me either!

While the midpoint was slow, once I got to page 200 I think, that was when the mystery really began to get juicier and it was a much faster and engaging book. The whole situation begins to be revealed as something much bigger and sinister than anyone could imagine, and even I found myself with freakin’ chills running up my arms when certain things happen to the characters, like with certain students or even faculty members. I found the ending to be very satisfactory even if it also felt a little rushed, but I also think that’s okay because by then the authors message and lesson for the reader is loud and clear about issues like systematic racism, classism, and even the struggles of being a POC LGBT+ youth in America today.

Like I said, when you get further into the book where the plot becomes more significant and characterization moves to the passenger seat; sex, lies, murder, secrets, white supremacy, and the ongoing battle of taking down racism make this quite a wicked ride of a story that somehow even has some heartwarming softer moments of both family, friendship, and love that make this even a more well rounded story!

~~~

All you need to know is… I’m here to divide and conquer. Like all great tyrants do.”

– Faridah Àbíké-Íyídé, “Ace of Spades’

What I Liked:

  1. The Representation! One reason I picked this book up was because it’s not a bad thing to broaden your horizons and try to listen to different voices in literature. We all know the argument that representation matters, and I can say this book provides someone like me a great visual on what it’s like to be black and dealing with racism, and even to be black and queer and dealing with the system being against you just because of the color of your skin. It’s not the type of story I usually go for, and for that is why I wanted to try something new.
  2. The Character Development! Chiamaka and Devon both have such amazing character development as the story progresses and they deal with other issues besides a cyber bully. I especially liked Chiamaka’s chapters and her as a character in general because she,at start off as the typical queen b, Blair Waldorf HBIC, but she becomes so much more as you get closer to her.
  3. The Social Commentary/Theme! It’s been said already in this review, but I thought the author showed the struggles of dealing with racism, classism, and even homophobia all incredibly well, and it certainly helped someone who’s not facing the same struggles as they face to better understand it and hopefully learn from it as we move forward!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Extremely Slow Midpoint…I’m sorry, but that midpoint almost killed the book for me! I was just so bored, and I kept putting this book down for others because I just couldn’t get myself to read it most days. I almost put it in my DNF stack, but I hate doing that and really did want to find out who was behind it all.

Conclusion:

Overall, Ace of Spades was crazy and twisted YA thriller that also has an incredibly interesting take on systematic racism, white supremacy, and plenty of other social issues that are so incredibly important, ESPECIALLY with all that has happened in the last year and a half pertaining to those specific issues and what plenty of POC citizens still deal with today.

I will never fully know the struggle of being black in America, that is a privilege that I am aware of, but I wanted to read this as a way to help spread the message of how important it is for stories like this to be heard, and for writers of color who are willing to put this sort of material out there for us to read, to enjoy and hopefully also to learn and understand from their perspective. Those are their stories, and we should want to hear them!

I would’ve rated this book higher, but the slow midpoint is why I’m not giving it a higher rating. None of the social importance is really revealed until later in the story, and I really did struggle and almost not bother to finish this book, but let’s also take into consideration that this is also the author’s debut novel, which that in itself makes it an impressive story too! I also usually don’t read this type 0f story, so I’m sure there are plenty of others who will especially enjoy this one!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: Iron and Fire (Silk and Steel #2): by Ariana Nash

*Kindle Edition*
Publish Date: April 19th, 2019
Number of Pages: 411 Pages
Publisher: Crazy Ace Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT, Erotica

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

To see my review of book #1 – Silk & Steel – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

Because…’ he said, ‘in the one place I expected to die, you gave me a reason to live.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Alliances are forged and broken, friendships shattered, and despite the odds stacked against them, two hearts collide in this explosive sequel to Silk & Steel.

From his mother’s cage to a human one, but Lysander’s captors are the least of his concerns. Rumors of a monstrous bronze dragon ripple through human camps, a dragon tearing great holes in the world as though searching for something… or someone.

It’s just a matter of time before the bronze chief, Dokul, finds Lysander and makes good on his promises. And should he find him, Lysander knows Dokul will not be merciful.

Amidst the greatest of elven victories, Eroan failed. Failed his people, failed himself, and failed the dragon who saved him. But he will not falter. The dragonkin are in disarray, there will never be a greater opportunity to strike. Eroan Ilanea will not fail his people again.

But when rumors of the dragon prince’s survival reach him, he must choose: Fight for his people or fight for the prince who nobody thought to save?

***

***Contains adult themes, triggering content, a bisexual elf, and a gay dragon shifter.***

~~~

Oh boy!

This book got even better than the first book; no second book syndrome in sight!

The story continues right after how the previous book ended, and what heartache we must face as Lysander and Eroan were tragically separated and Eroan later believes he sent the dragon shifter to his death with the humans. But really, the Dragon lord, Dokul, knows he’s still alive and is after him still.

Again, I’m shocked how much I enjoy this story because it’s a gay romance Game of Thrones—Gay of Thrones?—and the sexual tension and overall development between them and their relationship is done so spectacularly well, It was by far the biggest driving force that kept my eyes glued to the page and seeing what possibly happened next. I loved it whenever they reunited and was sad whenever they got separated again and again.

The worldbuilding more or less stayed the same, not much really changed in that regard, but the world still remained so brutalistic and violent and harsh as everyone is doing whatever is necessary to come out on top of this game of thrones. We have Lysander’s brother Akiem popping up and causing destruction whenever he appears, Dokul and Mirann are also still like a dragon-shifter version of Cersei and Tywin Lannister, and Seraph is still Eroan’s best friend and kind of being like an elven Arya in her way too.

Lysander continues to be the MVP of these books, but also the one who unfortunately gets the most abuse out of the characters…like, holy moly does he really get put through the wringer, and my heart aches for him because deep down he really just wants to find a place to belong and not feel like a waste of space. He feels that with Eroan and has such a deep connection with him, but of course the forbidden aspect of their romance makes that plenty complicated too. BUT they really fight for their relationship and did what they can, plus there was a ton more steam and spice between them this time too!

~~~

What is this thing between us?

Eroan’s chin rubbed his head and when he spoke, his voice rumbled through Lysander. ‘It is everything.

– Ariana Nash, “Iron & Fire”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension Between Lysander & Eroan! There was way more romance with these two in this second book, which made the overall storyline sooooooooooo much more interesting to me too! The tables have turned and this time it’s Eroan who’s rescuing Lysander and they’re hiding out together, keeping each other warm by staying super close…I’m just so glad this was a bigger focus now that the world has fully been introduced and there’s no need to further explain a bunch of other things, I’m ready for the smut! I’m ready for the romance! I’m ready for the fluff too, because both these tortured beings deserve some freakin’ happiness.
  2. Dragons! I said this in the last review too I’m pretty sure—I don’t feel like looking back to confirm—but I love that this is so dragon-centric! It’s dragon-shifters to be exact, but either way, they’re big scaly flying lizards of death that can breathe fire! Honestly that’s enough for certain readers to want to read this
  3. How Dark and Brutal This Story Gets! The author isn’t afraid to get to the dark and dirty content with how descriptive the more violent scenes can get. There’s also a lot of rape, which is pretty triggering content, there’s also a sex scene that’s actually kind of manipulative and was meant as a tactic to get one character to hate the other, so I know the previous review said this, but this book continues with the similar trigger warnings so there’s my PSA on the subject! It was also pretty unpredictable in a few parts that did somewhat surprise me! It was mainly battles and the big climax, but either way, I always appreciate when something raises my eyebrows and gets me to say “huh, I didn’t see that coming!”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Too Many Side Characters That I Can’t Remember… I don’t know if it was just me, because I’ve been weird with books lately and my attention span has been suffering as of late, but there were quite a few side characters in this book, and half of the time I was struggling to remember who was who. It was either I wasn’t paying attention as much as I should’ve been or I simply didn’t care because I was more wrapped up in the sexual tension between Eroan and Lysander, but I struggled with this aspect of this book.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this book even more than the first one, but mainly because there was a ton more romance this time around. The worldbuilding and history of the world is nothing too special, but if you’re looking for some dark fantasy/smutty M/M romance that’s pretty well written, this is a great option for you! (obviously, just start with the first book obviously)

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, LGBT

My Review: Try (Temptation #1): by Ella Frank

**Kindle Edition**
Publish Date: November 13th, 2013
Number of Pages: 353 Pages
Publisher: Kindle
Genre(s): Erotica, LGBT, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘I want you. Am I supposed to walk away because you’re a man? Maybe. They’ll say yes for sure. But I’m sick of all the questions running around in my head.’ Tate stopped and licked his lips. ‘I want the man who sat down across from me and changed the way I look at the world. And if that’s wrong, then I’m confused because when I’m near you, it feels so damn right.’

– Ella Frank, “Try”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Tryverb: to make an attempt or effort to do something or in this case…someone.

Sex. Logan Mitchell loves it, and ever since he realized his raw sexual appeal at a young age, he has had no problem using it to his advantage. Men and women alike fall into his bed—after all, Logan is not one to discriminate. He lives by one motto—if something interests you, why not just take a chance and try?

And he wants to try Tate Morrison.

Just coming out of a four-year marriage with an ex-wife from hell, a relationship is the last thing on Tate’s mind. He’s starting fresh and trying to get back on his feet with a new job at an upscale bar in downtown Chicago.

The only problem is, Tate has caught the unwavering and unwelcome attention of Mr. Logan Mitchell – a regular at the bar and a man who always gets what he wants.

Night after night Tate fends off the persistent advances of the undeniably charismatic man, but after an explosive moment in the bar, all bets are off as he finds his body stirring with a different desire than his mind.

As arrogance, stubbornness and sexual tension sizzles between the two, it threatens to change the very course of their lives.

Logan doesn’t do relationships. Tate doesn’t do men. But what would happen if they both just gave in and…tried?

~~~

So upon doing a little research on this specific title, it’s funny to see how torn people are about it…Apparently this was the author’s first try at M/M erotic romance when she already has a big following from her M/F titles, and it seems to be that the M/F fans absolutely love it while the more experienced M/M fans aren’t so crazy about it. Personally, I’ve never read anything by this author and I have delved into both straight and gay (emphasis on M/M) erotic romance, and what I say is that it’s written incredibly well and it’s a hot, quick, mindless read.

I can agree with some of the criticism that the dialogue can be somewhat cheesy and spoken in a way in which no male actually talk like unless they’re a poet laureate, but honestly I could look past it for the most part. It’s a romance so sometimes cheesy dialogue is just a par for the course in my opinion. They also just say its M/F written like M/M which I also can kind of agree on. I noticed that for two guys, there’s a lot of crabby getting angry at one and storming off to stew about whatever, but I’m also not saying that only women act that way either, and to think otherwise is a little sexist…I don’t know, I guess like a lot of negative reviews out there, it all comes down to personal preference, and while it’s not the greatest erotic romance I’ve read, I think it still satisfied my need for some hot male-on-male action!

I suppose my only personal qualm about getting into this story is just because I have a wishy-washy preference on “Gay 4 U” type romances. I guess part of me just really questions a story when a guy goes through life straight and never questioning themselves until a specific guy comes along and flips the other guy’s world upside down. I don’t know, I guess that’s how sexuality can work for some, but I also for some reason kind of question the believability of that type of storyline. I guess it depends on the specific story and how the author has it play out. I go into this conversation in my review of Collide (Blackcreek #1) by Riley Hart because that was also a huge part of the story in that book as well.

I feel like other than that, there’s not a whole lot more to say other than just that I thought this book really appealed to my M/M romance need, and that if you’re a fan of that style of erotic romance, I—cringe because of the pun—say to just give it a try and see what you think for yourself!

What I Liked:

  1. Lots Of Greatly Written Smut! The sexual tension was actually pretty freakin’ hot! It built up rather well, and I will say that for this story it was hot to see Tate’s sexual exploration as he came to terms with his attraction to Logan, especially when he’s never been attracted to another man before. All I know is that when Tate gives into temptation and him and Logan start going at it, the spice is abundant!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Very Beginning Is Strange…So the story starts off with Logan on an Airplane and he ends up hooking up with someone who’s not his main love interest, and it’s also with a woman. I get that it shows that Logan is bisexual and that he’s a total manwhore, but part of me felt weird at how this is how a M/M romance begins…It felt out of place and might’ve been just as effective if maybe he met a couple instead and had a three-way later on if not on a plane. The fact that he sleeps with a woman to join the mile high club is just an odd way to start a M/M erotic romance…
  2. The Coupling May Be Seen as Problematic…So we can all agree that consent is very important. One criticism some readers had was how pushy Logan was when he kept hitting on Tate, who at the very beginning of the story said himself that he’s straight. Some reviewers even went to say Logan was being predatory and stalkerish and that he was signaling some major red flags as Tate kept telling him no. I feel like consent was still there because we as the audience know the sex is going to happen eventually, so I find it a little weird when people complain about consent in erotic romance. Don’t we kind of already know the character is interested to some degree, even if they may not admit it right away? Besides this, I can admit it did feel like this relationship had some toxicity to it, but mainly because it was all about sneaking around and having lots of sex. It wasn’t like an actual relationship with an actual future to come later.

Conclusion:

Overall, I enjoyed this M/M book and it really satisfied the interest in reading an erotic romance title. The dialogue had its own ups and downs, but like I said earlier, I liked this book and it was just quick, mindless, and spicy as hell!

I’m surprised there’s six total books in this series, so I’m definitely curious to see how Logan and Tate’s story gets spaced out between that many volumes! I can say I’m reading on to see for myself, and enjoy a lot more steamy sex too!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1): by J. Daniels

Publish Date: October 4th, 2016
Number of Pages: 416 Pages
Publisher: Forever
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Erotica

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

Love was a risk. It was wild and unpredictable. You could either hold on for the ride, not knowing how it would end, or you could let go and never know the amazing you could have had.

– J. Daniels, “Four Letter Word”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Fate. Hate. Love. Lies.

Which four letter word will change their lives forever?

Sydney Paige was never so mortified to hear the words “wrong number” in her life. She meant to tell off the guy who broke her best friend’s heart but unleashed her anger on a perfect stranger instead. And now her world is turned upside down by the captivating man who wants to keep her on the line.

Brian Savage is living a life he’s quickly come to hate-until Sydney’s wild rant has him hooked and hungry for more. Soon the sexy woman on the phone becomes the lover in his bed. But Brian has secrets, and the closer he lets Syd get, the harder it is to shield her from the devastating mistakes of his past . . .

~~~

Hey guys, Glad to be back with my latest review on here, and I gotta say that this latest erotic romance title was a VERY happy surprise for me; I really enjoyed this book! I’ve never read books by this author before so I had no idea what to expect, but she really brought the spice! I was worried for the first chunk of the book because of how somber and depressing the tone was surrounding the main character, Sydney, and her predicament. But the book really picked up quickly and got a lot better from there on!

Sydney Paige has hit rock bottom as she walks out on her husband who doesn’t even look away from the TV as she does so, and moves to a new town to move in with her best friend, Tori. She decides to have a full fresh start; new home, new hair, new job, almost new everything. Both girls have been burned by the men in their lives, and Sydney does something really out of character one night and decides to call Tori’s ex and give him a piece of her mind! She calls the wrong number that’s off by one digit and that’s where the story really starts to begin…

She inadvertently meets Brian Savage and their relationship starts from there from calls and texts and late night conversations to the possibility of meeting in person. He’s not in a good place in his life either, and Sydney quickly becomes the only light he can see above all the darkness.

I quickly got wrapped into the story and really enjoyed how Brian and Sydney’s relationship developed throughout the story and how much both of them grew individually along with it. When you summarize their story it would seem so extra and over the top—I mean, what are the odds of meeting someone like this based off one wrong digit for someone’s number?—but reading it makes you really, truly believe it and that love does exist in this dark and crazy world we’re all living in.

It was a rather quick read and not too heavy, just how I like my romance novels, and the added spice of the sex scenes made it even more enjoyable than others.

I say if you’re looking for a well written, smut-filled romance that has both spice and utter sweetness, this is a choice I definitely recommend!

What I Liked:

  1. How Long It Took For Brian and Sydney To Meet! Part of the journey was how long it took these two to actually meet in real life. They start off as speech bubbles in their text chain and get closer and closer and they even have a few close calls where they would’ve met up in real life and it fills you with anxiety in the best way because you wonder if it’ll happen now or not. The author dragged out their eventual meeting in such a good way, when they eventually do it just makes it all the more explosive—in more ways than one!
  2. The Smut! This book was hot, nuff said. There were plenty of angsty, heart-wrenching deep moments in the book, but there was also a lot of hot-as-hell dirty scenes and oh so amazingly descriptive. Smut lovers will especially enjoy this book for this factor alone!
  3. Tori and Jamie! I really became invested in these two as a potential couple down the road. Tori is Sydney’s best friend, and Jamie is Brian’s, and their relationship definitely adds some sexual tension with the promise of more down the road! Tori is waitress at a local beachfront diner and Jamie is a pro surfer and total player, so him chasing her and her rolling her eyes at his lines and player antics were a fun addition to the story!
  4. How Brian and Sydney Help Heal Each Other! Both have some massive baggage going on in their lives even before they met each other, but I loved how they both help each other fight through the issues in order to become stronger on the other side of it all. It helps make their relationship and their love feel all the more powerful and real.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending…I swear I say this about every romance novel I read, but the ending just feels really rushed and tossed together. There’s usually some issue that drives a massive wedge between the lovers and they get together in the end, but it seems like the authors just always have to throw in some last minute crisis just to add that much more drama, and it’s just something I’ve seen too often in this genre and am just not a fan of.
  2. I Didn’t Care For A Lot of the Side Characters…Besides Tori and Jamie, I just wasn’t really invested in any of the side characters. Sure, maybe that’ll change in the next books since this is a series, and they’ll get more attention when it’s their turn/book, but again besides Tori and Jamie, I’m not all that interested to see what happens down the line with most of the side characters…

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an incredibly well written erotic romance that I definitely recommend for anyone who’s looking for another of these types of books to enjoy. It’s one that isn’t by Colleen Hoover or on Booktok, but it’s still a very good story, and if you like romance novels with some good smut, I say give this a look!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Zodiac Academy – The Reckoning (Supernatural Beasts and Bullies #3): by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti

**Kindle Edition**
Publish Date: October 4th, 2019
Number of Pages: 612 Pages
Publisher: Kindle
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from this book and previous books 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 review of book #2 – Zodiac Academy: Ruthless Fae – Click HERE

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

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

She wasn’t just a girl though. Not to me. She was the one girl I shouldn’t want, the one I couldn’t have, the one I didn’t need. And yet I did. And everything in my life could be damaged so badly by that need that I#d fought it tooth and claw up until this point.

– Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti, “Zodiac Academy: The Reckoning”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

The answer to your question will be revealed on the Lunar Eclipse.But when finding the truth, don’t let the shadows take you.

The week of The Reckoning has begun. And senior students have been tasked with making the freshmen’s lives pure hell as they prepare to take their fateful assessment.

With the Lunar Eclipse on the horizon, Tory and Darcy have more to worry about than just passing their exams. A dark plot is unfolding and the shadows are drawing closer…

~~~

Okay, by this point when I was reading these books, my entire life outside of work and sleeping and bathing revolved around having my eyes glued to the screen of my kindle reading these books. The romance is really starting to heat up and there’s more danger and excitement and I was just so completely sucked in….

Once again I will say it’s not the heaviest material or really even the greatest written story, although I feel like now that I’m more familiar with all the characters it does feel like the writing has gotten better, but what really keeps me going are all the characters and their relationships amongst each other and the absolutely delicious way the co-authors have weaved them all together: the twins, the heirs, the twins with the heirs, Tory and Darius, Tory and Caleb, Darius and Xavier, Darius and Xavier, Seth and Darcy, Darcy and Orion, Darius and Orion. I’m telling you, the characters and these intertwining relationships are what will absorb all your attention and make you obsessed. At least that’s how it’s been for me!

You start this book immediately after the crazy events of how book #2 ended with that battle in the Pitball stadium with the Nymph’s. Tragedy and violence strikes, but everyone is expected to just quickly move past it and all the trauma associated because they are Fae and they can’t show weakness. It’s easier for some rather than others, but everyone also gets caught up in the major event called The Reckoning. It’s like a big exam/competition to weed out students who aren’t strong enough to stay at Zodiac Academy, and there’s a dangerous task for each element that the students must pass at depending what they are (of course, that means the twins have to do four tasks since they have all four elemental abilities). AND they have to deal with the horrendous week leading up these tasks from the upperclassmen bullying all the freshmen (it’s literally called “Hell Week”).

Like I said, the relationships are really the big highlight of these books for me by this point, and of course I go into more detail further down in my review!

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension Between Darius and Tory! These two have got to have the slowest burn of a romance that I’ve ever freakin’ read because were three books in and these two haven’t even had a first kiss yet, but oh man, has it gotten scorching between these two! There’s still plenty of banter—both playful and sexy—but there are softer moments between these two that truly prove that they are endgame in this series. Their feelings are so mixed and complex with their obvious mutual attraction but sprinkled with hatred because they’re enemies, and of course the web gets even more intricate with how Caleb and Tory are still FWB’s on the side too…which I’m starting to get over. I like Caleb a lot, but he’s just a big hill to climb over at this point, and I need more romance with Darius and Tory. I loved the race scene, the scene where Tory goes back with Darius to see Xavier, and them on the beach before everything goes to hell!
  2. You Find Out The Twins’ Orders! Obviously I won’t spoil it, but it’s nice to have at least one mystery solved with all the questions that raised about the past and everything surrounding the twins.
  3. Darcy and Orion’s Romance! While Darius and Tory are edging each other on, Orion and Darcy’s romance is in full swing and I love it. I really am a sucker for the assholes who secretly get soft for the one they have feelings for, and I get that in Orion, because he is still such an asshole in public, but flips it off when it’s just him and Darcy. And that smut that I’ve been told I need to wait for?…Let’s just say things are finally getting pretty spicy!
  4. The Bromance Between Darius and Orion! Another interesting relationship that really has nothing to do with Romance, but more platonic male friendship! You honestly don’t see it a whole lot in books nowadays, at least with what I’ve read, and I like their bond a lot. It’s a strange guardian bond that Darius’s father cursed them with, but I love how they make the best of it and even tease each other about when the bond has them embrace or spoon in bed together….yes, these are two straight fae men, one vampire and another dragon-shifter, but they at least can make the best of a bad situation!

~~~

‘Hungover, Miss Vega?’ he growled and she sighed, realising her mistake.

‘Yes, sir. If you fancy sending any of your healing magic this way, that would be swell.

Orion gave her one of his darkest smiles that said he definitely wasn’t her friend right then. ‘Oh I won’t be doing that. If you turn up to my class hungover you can deal with the consequences.’ He shot to her side at a fierce speed and bellowed, ‘CAN’T YOU?!’ in her ear. It even made me flinch, but Tory winced with pure pain.

– Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti, “Zodiac Academy: The Reckoning”

~~~

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Orion’s Jealous Moment…While I do love their romance and what they’ve gone through, there’s the one scene with Orion at the circus that really had me shaking my head like “WTF?!” I can’t explain it for spoilers really, but it seemed really over dramatic and maybe a little manipulative, but then again, it is the fae with these books, and it does match some of the extremities that these characters face at this magical school, much like how the teachers and faculty turn the other way with all the bullying and power-play constantly occurring.
  2. Still Not A Fan of Seth…By now, some people like him, but I still am not a fan of how back and forth he is. With his pack and the other heirs, he’s the sweetest and kindest of them all and just wants everyone to be friends and get along. He’s like a literal human golden retriever, which of course makes sense considering he’s a werewolf. But it just completely flips whenever he’s involved with the twins and suddenly he’s so cruel and calculating and just mean, and this constant 180 with him really rubs me the wrong way…

Conclusion:

Overall, book #3 has to be my favorite by this point with how the relationships have developed by this point in and how the romance has really kicked it up a notch by this point. Both twins have their forbidden romances developing at different speeds, and I’m loving both of them for different reasons, but both make this series so intoxicating and binge-worthy. I know I probably said that in the previous review, but it’s seriously so true!

I’m starting to notice how the co-authors really love to have these books end on really juicy cliffhangers, which I both love and hate at the same time, but either way that means you know I immediately go into the next book after I finished this, with hardly even a bathroom break in between.

Thanks for Reading!

– Nick Goodsell