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

My Review: The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom #1): by Danielle L. Jensen

Publish Date: August 13th, 2019
Number of Pages: 354 Pages
Publisher: Context Literary Agency LLC
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

A princess who’s secretly a trained assassin…

An ACTUAL enemies-to-lovers where one of them tries to kill the other at one point…

A marriage of Convenience…

Twisty political intrigue and espionage…

Lots of exciting action scenes…

Slow burning sexual tension mixed with distrust up the WAZOOOO…

Tropical and lush scenery…

Snarky grandmas…

Um…Yes, LOVE that journey for me!

The Bridge Kingdom was a book that’s been thrown around multiple Facebook groups I follow for Sarah J. Maas and Jennifer Armentrout, and I’ll admit that upon looking into this book that I was definitely curious! I hadn’t heard much about the author nor have I read anything by her—Although I do have a hardcover copy of Dark Shores on my shelf at home to be read soon!—but with how often I saw this title brought up, I knew it’d eventually end up in my hands.

I must say this book surprised me because I was instantly hooked! We have a Game of Thrones Red Wedding-esque scene almost right away in the beginning of the story, and within the first three chapters I’m slightly terrified of our heroine, and emotionally invested in her when a big secret is revealed right away afterwards in explanation of her shocking scene beforehand, and can’t wait to see what else she can do!

The story itself is nothing too groundbreaking or unique or innovative, but my higher rating simply is because of how this story is told. I feel like I’ve read plenty of ‘deadly girl infiltrates enemy kingdom and plans to kill the king after marriage-by-convenience, but falls in love instead,’ but the author just tells it so well; it really draws you in. She also has vivid descriptions of the world as you explore it with one of the main characters, and the pacing keeps you riveted and turning the pages when you convince yourself “Just 1 more chapter…” like 5 chapters ago. The action, plus the agonizingly slow romance building between the two main characters kept my attention, then thankfully making me satisfied when it finally happens (Although, it would’ve been fine to have happened, like, fifty pages ago too, but whatever…) The growth that the main character goes through was also fun to read, both her and her love interest discover the important lesson of how maybe we shouldn’t give in to certain prejudices about people from another culture, but then again, if there’s tension and the threat of war between the two kingdoms, it’s kind of inevitable…but there’s also the idea to consider that you also shouldn’t believe everything someone tells you about a certain group of people either.

Despite how short the book appears, it felt like a really long story; It was like there was a lot more words crammed in on every page than most other published books, so after reading fifty pages it actually felt like I’d read an additional hundred with all the material that fits just in that small chunk of pages.

A fair heads up, not really a warning, but despite this being within the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of typical Fantasy elements: namely, a magic system and mythological creatures. It’s a tropical climate setting with islands that makes me think of exotic destinations like Hawaii, Thailand, or the Caribbean with a lot of snakes that inhabit the land while the sharks make several appearances when the characters travel by boat through the water. Not that I’m trying to knock the worldbuilding because it’s still a fictional land and is still wonderfully done, but let me just say that you shouldn’t go into this book expecting wizards casting spells or any dragons flying around. While these aspects of Fantasy may be lacking, the world is still rife with lots of political intrigue and militaristic strategies being made around a particular landscape phenomenon referred to as “The Bridge” (hence the title of the book/series), and for any of you visual learners, the bridge is like the Chinese Wall that travels for miles and miles, except this time it’s not man-made.

Like I said, this book surprised me by how much I found myself enjoying it, and I even already ordered the sequel because that ending……oofda! I need to read on and get some more answers and just see what will possibly happen next! I loved how the author tied in the very beginning of the book to let you see how much the character has changed throughout the story and how the stakes have changed so drastically. If this is the first book I finish reading in 2021, I can happily say that the new year for books is already looking pretty bright!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

What if you fell in love with the one person you’d sworn to destroy?

Lara has only one thought for her husband on their wedding day: I will bring your kingdom to its knees. A princess trained from childhood to be a lethal spy, Lara knows that the Bridge Kingdom represents both legendary evil – and legendary promise. The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom controls all trade and travel between lands, allowing its ruler to enrich himself and deprive his enemies, including Lara’s homeland. So when she is sent as a bride under the guise of fulfilling a treaty of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture the defenses of the impenetrable Bridge Kingdom.

But as she infiltrates her new home – a lush paradise surrounded by tempest seas – and comes to know her new husband, Aren, Lara begins to question where the true evil resides. Around her, she sees a kingdom fighting for survival, and in Aren, a man fiercely protective of his people. As her mission drives her to deeper understanding of the fight to possess the bridge, Lara finds the simmering attraction between her and Aren impossible to ignore. Her goal nearly within reach, Lara will have to decide her own fate: Will she be the destroyer of a king or the savior of her people?

What I Liked:

  1. The Characters, Especially Lara Veliant! I personally liked them and thought lara especially went through a lot of growth as the story developed. I liked that she was already an established assassin by the time the story takes place, and you aren’t treated to her training and coming into her deadly skills. She gives me some major Aelin Galathynius-Whitethorn vibes with her looks, her attitude, and her physical prowess. I liked Aren too, but not quite as much and didn’t feel like he changed except for his feelings towards Lara. I also feel like he didn’t stand out as much from other male hero/love interests in these types of stories. Sure, he’s brave and noble and caring and charming, but so is every other male character in his position! Hopefully he gets more characterization in the second book.
  2. Good Pacing! There was a lot of action to keep you excited that mixed perfectly with the slower moments where dialogue and character is revealed. I found this surprising since they’re wasn’t an actual villain present for a large chunk of the story; it was more about Lara’s change in attitude and swerving of which side she truly belonged to by the end of the story. I think this also added to why I found this book so easy to want to keep reading, even if I was so familiar with basically all the story’s elements.
  3. They’re Actually Enemies-to-Lovers! A lot of the time people say a romance storyline is this trope when in actuality it really isn’t…I don’t feel like going into examples, but what I liked about this story with the trope is that the two characters actually almost kill each other on several occasions. When they say “enemies,” I want instances where they’re nearly coming to blows, they plot to assassinate the other, and actually have an animosity towards the other…sure, it eventually burns into a passionate love, but they always love and hate have a varied line between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Not As Much Romance As I’d Liked… What I mean is that it’s a really really slow slow-burn of a romance, which if I think about it, makes total sense. Lara and Aren are from two different kingdoms and have been raised to believe certain prejudices about each other, so I can say the romance grew rather realistically, but I don’t know…I kind of just wanted some more romance scenes. Maybe there will be a lot more in the next book!
  2. Not Many Fantasy Elements… I mentioned this earlier, but for a book that falls under the Fantasy genre, there’s not a whole lot of elements that show up in this story. There’s no magic, there’s no mythological creatures, no charmed/cursed item or relic, and so on…The world is entirely fictional, but that’s about it. The animals are snakes and sharks; I feel like the author could’ve reimagined them as some sort of creature that’s similar, but more on the mythological side.

Conclusion:

The Bridge Kingdom is an adventurous and exciting enemies-to-lovers tale with plenty of distinctive characters, slow burning romance thick with tension and distrust, bloody action and military strategization, and of course beautiful and exotic locations that are used incredibly well into the story: you could say I definitely recommend this title, just maybe…

…no but actually, READ this book!

Specifically, if you loved books like The Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin, The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, Truthwitch by Susan Dennard, and of course, just about ANYTHING by Sarah J. Maas or Jennifer Armentrout, I know you’ll most likely also enjoy this book as well. It’s got all the same elements that these other authors offer to the genre, and is yet another beautifully told story that will wrap you up and drag you in without a second thought.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

My Review: Vengeance Born (The Light Blade #1): by Kylie Griffin

Publish Date: February 7th, 2012

Number of Pages: 328 Pages

Publisher: Berkeley Sensation

Genre(s): Fantasy, Paranormal Romance

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

To be honest, I had virtually no expectations going into this title as it appeared in the bookshop I work at, and then deciding to give it a try. I’d never heard of it or the trilogy it’s a part of ever before, but when it’s listed as a “Fantasy Romance” title, I shrugged and assumed I’d like it since that seems to be right up my alley if my some of my favorite authors right now are Sarah J. Maas, Holly Black, Jennifer Armentrout, and plenty of others since I’m sure most of you readers can see the trail I’m starting there.

While this book is not terrible by any means, and is easy to breeze through if you’re just looking for ANYTHING to read at any moment, but I can’t say it’s all that memorable of a book either. It’s not horrible, but it’s also not amazing either. Some books bring out extreme highs and sorrow filled lows; it’s an emotional roller coaster that’s a complete thrill, but this title just felt like a straight line. A smaller, friendlier roller coaster to help someone warm up for the bigger and much more exciting ride. There’s nothing wrong with the story or any of the characters, I was just never really impacted by any of it, I’d say my reaction is just lukewarm.

One highlight to point out is the romantic aspect of this book, which since it’s listed as “Fantasy Romance,” I’d certainly hope this would be a highlight! It’s a decent addition for anyone who enjoys “enemies to lovers” style romantic plots, as the two main characters are from two different sides on the battlefield, but come together in order to end the war! If anything, I did enjoy this part of the story, and found myself interested in what was going to happen next with them, or even just how they were going to develop feelings for each other!

Hesia was right. The real test of person is whether they can see past the names and labels.’ His gaze was steady. ‘I’ve seen you. You laugh, you fear, you cry, you love. You’re as human as me, Na’Chi

– Kylie Griffin, “Vengeance Born”

What’s It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Her lineage is both a blessing and a curse…

There is no mercy in the demon realm. No escape. In this place of desperation and conflict, anyone who is not pure bred is virtually powerless. Until an unlikely champion is born…

Annika, half-blood daughter of the Na’Reish king, longs for more than a tormented life among her father’s people. Conceived in hatred and bred as a tool of retribution, she’s gifted with a special talent that can heal as well as destroy…

With the Na’Reish vastly outnumbering them, Kalan, a Light Blade warrior, knows the future of humankind depends on him alone. Incursions into human territory and raids for blood-slaves by the Na’Reish horde have increased. As chosen leader, he faces the task of stopping the demons—and convincing the Council of aging Light Blade warriors that change is necessary for survival.

When Annika learns Kalan is a prisoner in her father’s dungeon, her dream of escape seems within reach. She agrees to free him in exchange for his protection once they reach human territory. Now, marked for death for helping him, Annika must learn to trust Kalan as they face not only the perilous journey to the border but enemies within the Council—and discover a shocking truth that could throw the human race into a civil war…

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Between Annika and Kalan! The book is listed specifically as a Fantasy Romance genre title, so it makes sense that this is a highlight to point out. It’s a pretty decent enemies-to-lovers type dynamic as Annika is a half-demon and Kalan is human and a Light Blade warrior trained to kill her kind. As they escape together and work alongside each other, their trust in each other grows, along with mutual respect, admiration, and lust. They challenge each other, and make each other view the world a little differently.
  2. The Worldbuilding with the Humans vs. Demons! the worldbuilding is nothing too original or unique, but it doesn’t need to be in order for it to make an effective story. I won’t go into too much detail, but this world is sliced up into two main races: humans and demons, who’re at war with each other and have been pretty much since forever. Annika falls under a third category: half-demons. Her kind are viewed as low-born and lesser than both the humans and demons alike, but the humans don’t even know they exist. She’s been tortured and abused pretty much her whole life by the demon’s, and while Kalan was distrusting of her at the beginning because of prejudices against demons in general, he learns that the half-folk aren’t the same as the full-demons, and they could help them win the war.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Random Scenes of Varian…So if you read this book too, some of you may have been guessing as to why there were these scenes with Varian and his troop on their search for Annika. I looked into the other two books of this trilogy and know he becomes a more central character in the next one (spoiler alert?…), so I guess that justifies his appearances as a way to introduce him, but I just felt like the scenes with him were so randomly put into this story and kind of disturbed the overall flow of sequences. More could’ve happened in this regard
  2. You Never Really Meet Savyr…He’s the big boss villain of the Demon’s who’re taking over, and he’s got a nasty reputation, but that’s all you really get with him. The books opens with Annika going in and meeting Kalan while helping him escape, and I feel like then would’ve been a great way to introduce this guy, or maybe even throw in a scene or two of him torturing someone in order to show his viciousness as a tyrant ruler; there’s just a lot of telling, but no showing.

Conclusion:

Overall, not a terrible book by any means, but maybe too beginner-ish for someone like me who’s already well-read into the Romantic Fantasy style story. Everything within the pages of this book worked just fine, the romance was even incredibly well done, but I was just lukewarm the entire time I was reading since I’ve already read from authors like the ones I listed earlier who’ve delivered much more emotionally impactful stories for me personally.

With that said, I’d still recommend this title to someone who hasn’t dived deep into the Fantasy genre, but is may be looking for something to ease them into the genre while not being interested in the more YA-level stories. There are sex scenes, and they are more descriptive than just a “fade to black” sort of sequences that are more suitable for younger readers. If that sounds like you, I say go for it and give this book a try!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell