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

New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: The Risk (Briar-U #2): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: February 18th, 2019
Number of Pages: 432 Pages
Publisher: Elle Kennedy, Inc.
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

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

To see my review of book #1 – The Chase – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

A kiss, at its very core, is an emotional experience. Or at least it is for me. Anyone can give me an orgasm, but not everyone can touch my soul. One kiss can make me fall in love with someone.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes…

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.

~~~

Once again my love for fictional college hockey players in books written by Elle Kennedy is lit up like a spark on the Fourth of July because this book was another absolute hit for me!

I tend to switch back and forth between the Romance and Fantasy genres, hopefully both having a little steam to them too, but when I get done with a Fantasy book or series that’s so rich in worldbuilding, an intricately laced together plot, and lots of emotionally driven angst from both the characters and me as I’m reading it, switching from that to a lighter toned, easy read like these books are such a relaxing change of pace for me. they’re the kind of book I can enjoy at the beach now that the summer months are upon us where I’m located as I’m typing this, and they’re easier to put down and come back to several times in a day if needed. They don’t require my full attention in order to fully grasp everything, and that is seriously such a great thing all in it’s own! I certainly appreciate books like that just as much as my thicker and heavier and darker themed Fantasy books too.

Back to this story, this was another Elle Kennedy college romance story that I absolutely devoured, and was a title I enjoyed even more than the previous one! I really enjoyed the pace of it better, I think I related even more to the characters and the issues they faced this time around, and the romance was once again scorching and I couldn’t get enough of it!

This story revolved around Brenna Jensen, who is the daughter of the head coach for the Men’s Hockey Team at the fictional Briar University. She’s got an edge to her with confidence to spare, a mouth that has no qualms about telling someone off when it’s needed, and doesn’t follow orders very well. Hockey has always been in her life and is also one of her big passions that she wants to pursue in her own way.

Next there’s Jake Connelly, whose the captain of the Hockey team at Harvard, who also happens to be one of Briar U’s biggest rivals. He’s a senior who also already has a contract pretty much set up for the NHL once he graduates, so he takes his position very seriously. He plans to have his team go all the way and win the frozen four, and will do whatever it takes to make sure him and none of his teammates get distracted, least of all by girls on the side of the enemy who flirt with his teammates and is possibly gathering intel.

Brenna wants to become a sports broadcaster and has an interview for an internship that is an incredibly opportunity that could also really open some doors for her down the road. Unfortunately, her interviewer and possible future boss is a gigantic sexist pig who already questions her on how a woman has a place in the sports industry, like how much knowledge would a female have about Hockey anyway, right? Brenna does her best to not slap the bejeezus out of him and stay professional, because again this is the opportunity of a lifetime for her, but her hopes and dreams are starting to disappear until the guy admits he’s got his eye on a particular incoming rookie to the NHL, a particular captain of the Harvard hockey team named Jake Connelly. Since they’ve already been talking—well, he’s been warning her to stop distracting his teammates, not that she was really going to listen to him—and hatched a plan to put her even further into that door and lies that Jake and her are a couple and can have them meet! From there, the fake dating and enemies-to-lovers romance tropes commence!

Jake and Brenna quickly became one of my favorite couples that Elle Kennedy created for her books, and I can say I felt the sparks between them even back when they first met back in the previous book. Neither of them wanted to admit it, or maybe weren’t even aware of it at the time, but there was instantly something there! I loved their chemistry, and was a little surprised at how there were some reviews on Goodreads that said the opposite! Not to knock them or their opinion that doesn’t match mine, but you know that strange feeling you get when you feel so strong about something but someone has the complete opposite thought about it than you and you just can’t comprehend it? Well, to be fair, it almost felt like there was the possibility of setting Brenna up with Hollis, one of the Briar-U players who’s also a total comedic relief, but I liked her and Jake much better!

I am honestly starting to question evolution. We went from cavemen, to homo sapiens, to this incredible society of great minds—Alexander Graham Bell inventing telephones, Steve Jobs inventing…everything. And now we’re devolving. We’ve travelled back to cavemen, only nowadays we call them fuckboys.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Risk”

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Tropes! We’ve got fake dating, we’ve got unlikely allies, we’ve got sleeping with the enemy, forbidden love, and it all just makes this story so much fun to read!
  2. More Smut Than The Previous Book! Yes, The Chase was such a slow-burn with that you don’t get as many sexy scenes as you’d probably like, but this book had a lot more that might make a lot of fans of the author’s books happier in that regards. Brenna and Jake had some really good chemistry in my opinion, and the whole “sleeping with the enemy,” forbidden-ness of them being together certainly added some flair to the mix. These two were smoldering towards each other ever since they ran into each other in the first book, and it was only a matter of time before something erupted between them!
  3. The Comedy and the Banter! I mean, I think I point this factor out with literally every Elle Kennedy book review I’ve done by this point, but it’s seriously such a highlight for me everytime I open one of her books! The back-and-forths her characters have always have me chuckling on the side and also making me believe in the credibility in the romance between them. And Elle Kennedy also always has some running joke that continues throughout each book; this time it’s the….interesting relationship between Hollis and an incredibly extra freshman, Rupi. I didn’t hate their side relationship to the story, and it certainly made me laugh a few times, but it was a lot all at the same time.
  4. The Realistic Issues! The outer issues the characters face in the Briar-U series are so much better done and much more realistic than the ones in the Off-Campus series! Not that I didn’t love some of the drama back then, but I can admit that sometimes it got a little over the top. Once again Elle Kennedy tackles a heavier subject matter that a lot of women of all ages face: misogyny in the workplace. Brenna’s goal is to get an internship for her sports broadcasting dream career, but her boss is such a narrow minded prick when it comes to women and their roles in society, like part of me couldn’t even fathom that women all over actually get treated this way! This book also deals with the guilt one feels after a traumatic past experience that haunts them even years later, AKA survivors guilt. People make bad decisions all the time, and just because you love—or loved—someone at the time when they were making those bad life choices in no way should reflect upon you no matter what you may tell yourself. It’s an actual thing, and many people have probably suffered this in their lives over something, and I thought it was an inner issue that was handled well in this book, and sheds a light on a condition that honestly doesn’t get a whole lot of recognition but like I said, a lot of people have probably experienced it at some point in their lives and haven’t addressed about it as much as they’d have liked. The strained relationship between Brenna and her father was also another issue that was a great addition to the story, and the development of it throughout this story is something to take note of!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jake’s Childhood Friend, Hazel…I just didn’t see much of a need to include her in the story to be honest. I thought there was a strange amount of emphasis put upon her when she came into the story, and part of me thought it meant that she was going to be a future love interest and/or main character for one of the future books. Luckily for me, that’s not the case, but all in all I just didn’t really care much for her addition to the story. I felt like she just added unnecessary conflict to the plot that could’ve done just as well without her.

Conclusion:

Yet another fun, hilarious, and sexy novel written by one of my favorite New Adult Romance authors, The Risk has everything you love about her books for those who are familiar with her work, but also is easy enough to jump into for those who are newer and just starting out with her as well!

These books are just such a nice change of pace sometimes from the darker and heavier themes I read in a lot of my Fantasy genre books, I’d just finished The Crown of Gilded Bones by Jennifer L. Armentrout as I’m typing this, and while I absolutely adored it, I have to admit I need a little space from Fantasy for at least like three books. I think I actually need a recovery from a book, and that is such a strange feeling for me!

Elle Kennedy’s college romance books are just lighter, easier, and remarkable in a way that’s way different from those other books, but I love them all the same and appreciate them in my life! For those who also read these, Hunter Davenport is the star of the next book in this series, and with his story arc so far in these books, it’ll certainly be interesting to see him center-stage and (of course) get his own little HEA.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Romance

My Review: Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1): by Cara McKenna

Publish Date: September 1st, 2015
Number of Pages: 336 Pages
Publisher: Signet
Genre(s): Erotica, Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

After I happened upon this book totally by accident, I can say that this is definitely a smutty & erotic story worth checking out for those who are curious about what exactly is explored by the main characters…

I was doing a mini experiment with this title and decided to give it a try without looking into it on Goodreads, Amazon, literally nothing besides just reading the blurb and starting it based off just that. Honestly, it’s been wayyyyyyy too long since I’ve done that and I feel like I should do it more often; I might enjoy a lot more titles and not end up passing on a lot of them based off their Goodreads average rating or being scared off from others’ reviews. It makes me think of how many books I’d actually passed up on because of that, and it turns out I would’ve really enjoyed them?

So back to this book, but sex and a particular kink are the main focus of the story. I mean, that makes total sense when it comes to books within this genre, and one thing to remember is that with so much emphasis on the graphic sex scenes comes less actual plot and in-depth character development. Sometimes you do get all that in the story, but it can’t always be expected. What is expected is incredibly detailed sex scenes that really heat things up! This book is a dirty one and might even be too much for some readers! I enjoyed it because it was all about exploration of something that is taboo and forbidden and looked down on by a lot of people, plus I think it also depends on your personal views of marriage and how far a couple can go with their sex lives both as a couple but also as individuals.

So I’m kind of assuming a lot by this point, but I’m sure you know what’s going on in the book, so I’m just going to sort of go off about the “other man” in this whole relationship because he was by far my favorite character! I go into more detail about him later on in my review, but I thought the chemistry between him and the wife was so much hotter and undeniable than even her and her actual husband! There was definitely some major sparks happening there, and of course plenty of passionate, forbidden sex that was happening between them all!

The ending left a little more to be desired in my honest opinion, but again, I go more into detail on that below. I guess I can say that it was satisfying enough, but maybe not for those who read this and are leaning more towards the third man in this whole setup.

This erotic novel kind of hit different with its content and focus on cuckholding, which is when the husband is cheated on, but there’s also a lot more to it I think… This book doesn’t really give you a lesson in the topic and taboo subject matter, but it certainly paints it all in an interesting picture. Of course in this book it was all kind of hot, but would it be the same in your own sex life? What if instead of seeing red with rage and getting jealous, what if it was a huge turn on to have your significant other whispering in your ear all the torrid and dirty things they did with someone else? Maybe it leads to roleplaying and/or bringing a third party into the mix all for the sake of experimentation and fulfilling a dark and forbidden fantasy? I know that definitely doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I feel like exploring the idea through fiction might be a safer way to do so? It’s tricky because how accurate can it be? How much research did the author do? Is this just another 50 Shades of Grey mess? It certainly raises a ton of questions the more you think about it, but I’m going to leave it all up to you, the reader, to make up your mind on the topic. I appreciate you either way!

Each of the three characters has their own fantasies/fetishes that they admit to at some point in the story, some earlier than others. As the three of them explore themselves and their whole sexual dynamic, it actually gets kind of complex with how their feelings change and develop as they get to know more about each other, but the one thing that makes us unique gets in the way: human emotion. It certainly can lead to complications, especially with such a fragile and unique dynamic that the characters find themselves in with this book. Lines get crossed, as to be expected, but how exactly do they deal with it all? Thats the big question to ask that makes me say you need to read it for yourself to find out!

(or just keep reading on where I’m kind of giving a vague spoiler on the ending…fair warning).

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

The first in a new series from the “wicked-hot”* author of Hard Time and Give It All explores the fantasies of a daring married couple—and those of a stranger invited to play along in their scandalous little games… When he’s working, Mike Heyer is all business—every inch the alpha male, with the hard, capable body to back up his persona. But at home he can be a different man entirely, harboring appetites only his wife gets to glimpse…

When Samira first learned of her husband’s fantasies, she was reluctant, even alarmed. But after witnessing the way they set him on fire, she yielded, and happily indulged. As their games have intensified, so has the rush. And now so has the risk—they’re poised to take Mike’s indecent desires to the next level, by opening their bed to a sexy, brazen stranger. A man seeming custom-made to grant every last one of Mike and Samira’s sinful wishes.

Welcoming someone new into their lives was always a dangerous proposition, but the couple imagined if anything was at stake, it was their privacy…not their hearts.

What I Liked:

  1. Bern! He was a total highlight of this book, and I find it so ironic considering he’s the third party person whose brought into this unique pairing. He’s charming, he’s confident, down to earth, cheeky, and so intune with his sexuality and what all happens, he was fun to read in this story. I liked him almost immediately and wouldn’t mind if he was a real person if I ever bumped into him. He also has a dog who he obviously cares a lot about which is also a major plus, but also how he totally is down to go with the flow and change up the roleplaying almost quicker than either Sam or Mike. He has an exhibitionist in him and he’s not afraid to take charge and put his emotions out on his sleeve, I think anyone who reads this will absolutely adore him!
  2. The Smut! With the added thrill of the forbidden and taboo, the sex was absolutely so well done in this book. So much dirty talk and hot actions were said and done to heat up the pages and make you blush a couple times, plus these scenes take up a rather hefty amount of the book itself. Any fans of smut will absolutely love this book for this fact alone.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Ending… So this goes into spoiler territory, so read on at our own risk or skip to the conclusion……….but I wasn’t thrilled about the ending. It felt rushed and wrapped up a little too nicely, which always seems to be a problem I have with contemporary romance titles I swear! Well the main reason I wasn’t all that happy with it is because it honestly felt like it gave Bern the short end of the straw. So basically Sam ends up wanting both men in her life and being in a relationship with Bern while staying married to Mike, so they basically share her. Well, Mike shares her and pretty much chaperones anything that happens with Bern and Sam….It may have ended the book fine, but I was thinking about how it could come to be later on in their lives, like it doesn’t seem like it’d work long-term for them. To be fair, it was implied that Mike lessoned his strictness a little bit over time, but I just feel like Bern is going to resent how he doesn’t get enough over time… I just saw it going south, plus it’s not like throuples are really a big socially acceptable thing in this day and age. I’m not even sure if you can call it a throuple because Mike and Bern don’t really go too far with each other; there’s some exploration with that, but it’s more about them sharing Sam with little interaction between themselves…I don’t know, I just wasn’t thrilled with how it all wrapped together in the end.

Conclusion:

Certainly a HAWT erotica novel that fans of the genre should absolutely consider getting their hands on! It explores the dynamic of a man and wife and their adventurous sex life and how far they’re willing to go in order to live out some of their most forbidden and dark sexual fantasies. Those curious about it all have the chance to really enjoy this title, and meet the other man Bern, who was a total delight for this book!

This is also the first in a series, and while the couple in the next book isn’t anyone you meet in this book, I wonder if these characters make other appearances at all? I guess I’ll have to read on in order to find out!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell