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

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.

~~~

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. 

~~~

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!

~~~

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

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

My Review: Wicked (A Wicked Trilogy #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: December 8th, 2014
Number of Pages: 398 Pages
Publisher: Self Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Grabbing a scarf off the chair, I threw it at him.

He caught it, clutching it to his chest as he flew into the air. ‘You gave Tink a scarf. Tink is free!’ He flew out into the hallway like a little cracked-out fairy, screeching, ‘Tink is freeeeee!

Ren looked at me. ‘What the actual f**k?’
I sighed. ‘He’s obsessed with Harry Potter. I’m sorry.

Tink darted back into the room, holding the scarf to his bare chest. ‘There is no reason to apologize when it comes to Harry Potter.’
‘You do remember what happened to Dobby, right?’ I said.

‘S**t.’ Tink’s eyes widened and he dropped the scarf.”

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Things are about to get Wicked in New Orleans.

Twenty-two year old Ivy Morgan isn’t your average college student. She, and others like her, know humans aren’t the only thing trolling the French Quarter for fun… and for food. Her duty to the Order is her life. After all, four years ago, she lost everything at the hands of the creatures she’d sworn to hunt, tearing her world and her heart apart.

Ren Owens is the last person Ivy expected to enter her rigidly controlled life. He’s six feet and three inches of temptation and swoon-inducing charm. With forest-green eyes and a smile that’s surely left a stream of broken hearts in its wake, he has an uncanny, almost unnatural ability to make her yearn for everything he has to offer. But letting him in is as dangerous as hunting the cold-blooded killers stalking the streets. Losing the boy she loved once before had nearly destroyed her, but the sparking tension that grows between them becomes impossible for Ivy to deny. Deep down, she wants… she needs more than what her duty demands of her, what her past has shaped for her.

But as Ivy grows closer to Ren, she realizes she’s not the only one carrying secrets that could shatter the frail bond between them. There’s something he’s not telling her, and one thing is for certain. She’s no longer sure what is more dangerous to her—the ancient beings threatening to take over the town or the man demanding to lay claim to her heart and her soul.

~~~

If anyone knows one thing about me, especially in the last year or so, they’ll hopefully know that Jennifer Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash has very very very quickly become a literary obsession! It is to me is like how obsessed every teenage girl (and a few guys like me who couldn’t admit it in public) was with Twilight back in my teenage years. Of course if an author can make me that crazy over a book series like this one has, I’d want to venture off and explore her other works. As I’m typing this review, she just admitted on the Blood and Ash Facebook group that the latest installment, The Crown of Gilded Bone, is her 62nd book written; that’s a lot of books to read…I’ll admit I’ve been aware of her Lux series for quite some time, but it never fully pulled me in. Wicked, however, is a different story.

With authors like Sarah J. Maas, Karen Marie Moning, and Holly Black all releasing books that star the magical folk called the Fae (Fairytale-like creatures that secretly snuck over to our world from another and secretly live among us), when I saw that JLA also joined in this popular fantasy trend, I had to check them out! It was even better that this first book popped up into the bookstore I work at as I’m thinking this too, and I think you’ll all appreciate this small tidbit: I read this while actually visiting New Orleans myself! There’s something about reading a book and physically being in the exact same place it’s set in; the visual aid is literally right there in front of you and helps make the imagery in your head all the more vivid and realistic, and if you’re a bit of a romantic like I am, it makes you sort of feel like you’re also in the plot of it all with the characters. It was amazing to try beignets for the first time; it certainly made it much more understandable why the characters in the book constantly craved them!

I also hardly find success in going backwards with an author’s list of books; I just notice their writing isn’t as honed in and as great with their earlier work, so I usually try to read in publication order, and these books were released almost half a decade earlier than the first Blood and Ash book, give or take. While the story here wasn’t as binge-worthy and obsessive for me, I can happily say with a breath of relief that I still for the most part enjoyed this book and plan to read on in the trilogy. The worldbuilding was intriguing enough with a beautiful setting to help give it an extra push, the characters were easy to get behind and root for as the plot thickened, and just like her other books is the case of I could mostly see some of her plot twists coming from a mile away but also managed to sneak a few past me all the same and actually surprise me.

The romance was (of course) easy for me to get into, and Ren and Ivy were a good couple to see develop as they came to terms with their feelings for each other. In both appearances and personalities, I definitely saw an impression of Poppy and Hawke in them, or I guess technically they’d branch off from Ivy and Ren since they technically came first…but the dynamic they had reminded me so heavily of them and made my chest ache since I was so so so excited for that next book to come out already. Ivy had a backstory that I’d seen before where her ex passed away and she feels guilty about starting to have feelings for another guy all these years later and feels like she’s disrespecting his memory, but Ren didn’t really have a past trauma that made it harder to become vulnerable with someone, or at least made it something that mentally held him back from the relationship in this book. Maybe there’s more there, but nothing was quite revealed yet from what I remember. The romance developed nicely with Ren being the big flirt and admitting his attraction to her while Ivy played hard to get and teased him while silently coming to terms with her mutual attraction, and the ending of the book certainly will make things much more interesting in this regard too. I’m curious to see how that will play out!

‘You like me.’ Letting go, he smiled up at me, that angelic face a picture of innocence. ‘You just aren’t ready to admit it.

All I could think as I gawked at him was, what an observant son of a bitch.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “Wicked”

Speaking of the ending, while I knew some aspects of it were going to happen as it had to in order for the story to keep going, there was one thing that was a twist that I honestly didn’t see coming with a side character, and it also didn’t get an explanation amongst everything else that was going on, and it all came rushing at you all at once like dodgeballs and you’re the only one left on your side! I definitely need some answers for this.

I always enjoy a book with secret organizations with individuals who hunt and kill to keep the peace, and in this book, both Ren and Ivy are a part of one where they’re in an invisible war with the fae. It’s not as common of a thing to have the fae put into the spot of the villains of the story, and I wonder if JLA is going to make it not so black and white in the next books? We see a glimpse of it with a side character of hers whom I really enjoyed: a brownie named Tink! By brownie, I imagine a pixie, a spryte, or whatever you prefer to call them, but he’s a total delight! He wears ken doll clothing as his wardrobe, he’s got a gargantuan sweet tooth, loves to order things off Amazon Prime, and ********spoiler alert********* is secretly Ivy’s roommate! Even though it’s her task to kill the fae on sight, they formed an unlikely bond when she rescued him from one of the graveyards and brought him home with her to mend his wings and cure him back to his proper health. No one in The Order (the organization she’s a part of) knows about it, and Ivy wants to keep it that way.

So with all that in mind, you see some shades of grey that add some depth to the whole situation, and with some of the shady behavior of some members of the Order, or even The Elite (a secret org within the secret org), I wonder how far JLA will go with this aspect in her story? I have a lot of questions that need answering, but there’s only one obvious way to find them all out!

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance! Ren and Ivy’s relationship was the main draw to these books, and it was what was keeping me going in continuing reading on as the story progressed. Ren was pretty much all in from the start of when he first laid eyes on Ivy, and I have a feeling he’s as delectable as every other JLA male love interest. He definitely got some Hawke Flynn vibes from him with his confidence and flirty banter and looks; these two just really reminded me of a more contemporary version of Poppy and Hawke, but without her being the maiden and everything else, but I see a similarity for sure.
  2. Minor Character: Tink! He’s a sassy little pixie-like creature from the fae world whom Ivy forms an unlikely friendship with amongst the war their races are facing off against. I was reminded of the character Lehabah from House of Earth and Blood (The Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas) and absolutely loved every single scene Tink was in! Show-stealer is a for sure nickname I’d give him, and I wonder what he’ll bring to the table moving forward?
  3. The Betrayal! While other events happen that obviously had to happen to further the plot, this small part of it all honestly did surprise me a little bit and threw me off guard! Even more interesting about it is JLA leaves it on a cliffhanger and doesn’t explain it as much; it’s more speculation from the other characters, so I’m curious to see what comes of this plot twist!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It Was Fairly Predictable…I gotta agree with some of the naysayers, but there wasn’t a whole lot of shocking and crazy twists in this book that blow your mind. Sure, it’s also just the first book in the trilogy, and maybe more will go down in the next two books that will be more crazy and shocking, and the first book usually sets the scene and relies on the familiar in order to branch off to become more unique, which also feels like a good bridge into my next point…
  2. Nothing New Added to the Fae…There’s just nothing unique that sets them apart from any other books that showcase them. Sure, not every book has them simply set as the villains—except maybe the Fever series—but also the clumping them all together felt kind of lazy to me…I think it was told earlier on in the book that there used to be the different courts within their race, but then just got all jumbled together. Sure, the intricacies of the fae courts and the intrigue involved with all that are most likely not going to be a strong aspect of the story, once again it just felt kind of lazy how it was brushed aside.

Conclusion:

Overall, I’d say if you’ve enjoyed other books by this author, I feel like this will be another hit for you! It has the same elements that made me absolutely love From Blood and Ash: the worldbuilding, the entertaining plot, the mature and steamy romance, and a great cast of side characters to help drive the plot forward, and while there were maybe a few surprises that snuck past me, there was a cliffhanger that isn’t hard to see coming your way as you get closer to the reveal….It’s okay though, because the journey there is still fun along the way! I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m comparing the two series together too much, that’s not my intention, but I am seeing some similarities between them, or even some certain aspects that carried over into the next series…

I’d say those who also enjoyed books/series like the whole Shadowhunters universe by Cassandra Clare, The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and the Crescent City series so far by Sarah J. Maas will be the readers who’ll enjoy this book very much. Maybe even the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning, but I say this series by JLA is a much more toned down version of that by a landslide

Sorry for the horrible pun, but this book was a wicked little delight! Okay, glad we got over that hump together, and if you’re still here and haven’t cancelled me yet, I can say that YES: I enjoyed this book by Jennifer L. Armentrout! It definitely was wasn’t my favorite of hers, but I’m definitely interested enough to want to read on and see what possibly happens next. I have some questions that need answering, and I have faith that the author will reveal all those answers in her entertaining way like she has with her other series that is my literary obsession…

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, Romance, YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 27th, 2020
Number of Pages: 372 Pages
Publisher: JIMMY Patterson
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance, YA Romance, Paranormal Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Pages

There are victors and victims. Decide who you want to be. Or the choice will be made for you, witch. And I doubt you’ll like it.

I threw my head back and groaned. ‘It’s a game of scopa, not a battle between life and death. Are you always this dramatic?'”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

Kingdom of the Wicked was a slow burn of a book for me; the beginning started off like any other YA Fantasy title, but once you get further into the story and discover more and more myth and lore in the world that the author of the Stalking Jack The Ripper series has created, I can really say that the book takes off with a jolt in some witchy delight!

This is actually my first novel by Kerri Maniscalco, and after reading it I can say I’m definitely more and more interested in reading her other series I mentioned above because there are still some familiar themes of murder, mystery, romance, and historical settings to make the reader engaged and wanting to stay up late to see what happens next. What I’m noticing with this newer series, however, is that the author seems to have more room for fun and creativity to take her story even further!

The romance was a huge draw for me, and for the most part, it certainly didn’t disappoint! I easily got into the chemistry that oozed between the two main characters, Emilia and Wrath, and loved their whole dynamic; I never get tired of an enemies-to-lovers dynamic. While both characters weren’t anything brand new or entirely unique to the genre, I can say they’re still fun to read as they argue and (attempt) to ignore their growing attractions for each other as they work together to solve a murder mystery.

It wasn’t a perfect read; The the overall pacing with the chapters and how they’re set up was a little strange for my liking, and some of the ending needs to be clarified for me—or I need to go back and reread it for myself and make sure I pay more attention!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Two sisters…

One brutal murder…

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance…

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 that 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…

‘One day you might beg me to kiss you.’ He stepped close enough for me to stab him.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

What I Liked:

  1. The Many Food Descriptions! Several other reviewers pointed this one out, but there are some seriously delicious italian dishes that get mentioned in this book since the main character’s family owns and operates a restaurant. Cannoli’s are amazing, and I had some major cravings for some once I arrived to that part within the story…yum!
  2. The Romance Between Wrath and Emilia! This book is a great addition to the enemies-to-lovers romance trope as Wrath and Emilia have some immediate sexual tension that builds and builds between them as they reluctantly work together to solve the murder of her twin sister. They irritate each other and start verbal lashings from each other, but underneath it all is an obvious attraction that neither can ignore the closer they become. Their dynamic also grew rather realistically as they slowly begin to trust each other—at least until certain things happen—and rely on each other’s strength into a begrudging respect for one another.
  3. The Worldbuilding! I actually liked the class systems of demons the author presented us, there are also the seven demon princes of hell representing the seven deadly sins, the witches living amongst the normal folks and the witch hunters who are secretly members of the church, even werewolves; it’s all mixed together to create an interesting world that may or make this series an incredibly memorable one!
  4. The “Whodunnit” Murder Mystery! I always love a good mystery where the main character is on the hunt for a killer who leaves a bloody trail of bodies behind.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Beginning Felt Very Generic…This book was pretty boring at first and felt like any general YA Fantasy title out there, but once Emilia and Wrath run into each other and meet for the first time, that was when things really begin to take off!
  2. Not Enough Steam…I know this is a YA Fantasy book so the sexual content (a.k.a. smut) is supposed to be very limited, but really do feel like this story would be even better if there were more steamy scenes. I mean like let’s see truly how “wicked” Prince Wrath can be *wink*wink.* Maybe there’ll be more scenes like this in later books, but again, I know it can only go so far within the YA reading level.
  3. The Ending…Okay, so this one may be on me because I maybe wasn’t fully paying close enough attention and missed something, but part of the ending kind of went over my head. For most of the book, it felt like a pretty light read that didn’t require my entire attention, but then all of a sudden SO MUCH was happening at the end and I blinked and missed some vital information I think…if someone sees this review and wants to message me to fully explain it all to me, you’d officially be my favorite person!!
  4. The Short Chapters…Some chapters were only like a page and a half long, and I was wondering to myself why a single conversation was sometimes three whole chapters when it could’ve been just one? It was weird pacing to me and kind of annoying at times…

Conclusion:

This is my first Kerri Maniscalco novel, and this book really does make me interested in reading her Stalking Jack The Ripper series that put her name on the map!

Like the romance between the two main characters in this book, the story was a slow burn that definitely left me interested to keep reading on once the next book arrives later on! It wasn’t the next binge-worthy series for me to become obsessed with, but this book shows that the series has a whole lot of potential to become a huge fan favorite among the many other incredibly popular YA Fantasy series most of us readers know and love!

A reckoning awoke in me. The more I gave, the more he returned. We traded kisses like blows. And if this were a fight, I wouldn’t know who was winning. I understood why some thought kissing one of the Wicked was addictive. Each time his tongue touched mine, it felt as if the ground beneath me quaked. Like we were a cataclysmic event that shouldn’t be.”

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Wicked”

I recommend this book to those that really enjoyed other titles like Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin or the Folk of the Air trilogy by Holly Black; the dynamic between Wrath and Emilia for sure gave me some impressions of Jude and Cardan with the whole enemies-to-lovers, then back to enemies dynamic!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell