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Book Review: The Awakening As Told By the Boys (Zodiac Academy #1.5)

Rating: 4 stars

The Vega twins are alive.

Those five words circle in my mind like an oncoming storm. They change everything about the future we thought had been set in stone. They challenge everything we were raised to be and the stability of the entire kingdom.

They’re coming to our academy looking for the life that was stolen from them, but we can’t let them take it back. So much hangs in the balance and we can’t risk the arrival of two naïve princesses destroying everything we worked so hard for.

I have trained in dark magic, overcome all challenges, and stood in the shadow of Lionel Acrux for far too long already. I won’t let them come between me and his downfall. Which means they have to go before they discover how powerful they truly are.

This is a retelling of the first book in the Zodiac Academy series from the point of view of Orion and the Heirs and should be read after you have finished the original story. It includes scenes from alternative points of view as well over 50k words of additional content and scenes which have never before been revealed. So prepare to step into the dark minds of the Zodiac boys and watch out for the heartbreak and carnage that will ensue.

Oddly enough, I enjoyed reading this retelling of the first book in the Zodiac Academy series better than the first book. I don’t know if its because of having read the whole series before coming back to read this and having a better understanding of the Heirs’ characters than when I originally started reading these books. But I enjoyed reading The Awakening As Told By the Boys better than The Awakening.

What I enjoyed about it was seeing the first book told from the perspective of the Heirs along with Orion. As the reader, I saw how they all reacted to the twins appearing at the academy along with what their motivations were to get them to leave the school. I will say it doesn’t at all excuse their behavior to me in this book, but I do feel like I have a better understanding of their actions and what motivated them to go as far as they went. 

I especially enjoyed seeing Orion’s point of view in this retelling as his reactions from the first time he met Darcy were adorable. I also felt like out of everyone here, he was the most logical when it came to the twins being a threat. I feel like him and Caleb are the first ones here who realize that maybe things aren’t what they seem and that maybe the twins aren’t as big of a threat to them as they expected. I especially loved that at the end when he discovered what the Heirs had decided to do to try and put the twins in their place, he was concerned with their actions instead of being completely on their side. It was like he realized that what was going on wasn’t right and that things should’ve been handled differently. It made me like his character even more than I already did because it showed he wasn’t completely biased when it came to everything the Heirs did.  

What I also enjoyed about The Awakening As Told By the Boys was continuing to see Orion and Darius’s relationship. I especially enjoyed seeing them going after the Nymphs and trying to find out where they were hiding. I felt like having this information about them was important to understand their actions later in the story. I continue to enjoy the dynamic between Orion and Darius even if the relationship they have with each other at this point was forced upon them because you can tell even with the bond how much they both care about each other.

What I didn’t like about this retelling, however, was seeing a lot of the same scenes that were in The Awakening, just from another character’s perspective. While I loved having these character’s perspectives on what happened in the first book so as to better understand their actions, it also felt like déjà vu and like I was reading The Awakening over again. I know it’s a retelling of the first book, and that the point is to get other character’s perspectives on what’s happened, I just wasn’t fond of seeing all of the same scenes again. Especially when there’s some content added, but its not much other than what we can expect when it comes to Darius’s father Lionel. Then again, Lionel’s actions here weren’t a surprise to me and were exactly what I was expecting.

Despite how much the Heirs have grown on me, I will continue to also dislike the ending of this book and how they treated the twins throughout. The only thing that made it more bearable for me here is Orion’s reaction when he finds out what the Heirs did. Even knowing what I do from reading this retelling, I still don’t agree with their actions because it shows at this point in the story how they’d treat those who they perceive as a threat to them even if those they deem a threat truly aren’t.

But overall, I enjoyed reading The Awakening As Told By the Boys. It was nice to see the story told from their perspective despite feeling like I was reading The Awakening over again and to get a better understanding as to why they acted the way they did throughout. I’m looking forward to reading the novella that’s also a part of this series The Big A.S.S. Party next as I know I’ll enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read with regards to this series.

Book Review: Origins of An Academy Bully (Zodiac Academy #0.5)

Rating: 4 stars

Dark magic is forbidden at Zodiac Academy. That’s why I hide it so well.

But now I’m supposed to mentor Darius Acrux: the son of the most ruthless Dragon Shifter in Solaria. If he’s caught using blood magic, he’ll lose his claim to the throne.

The problem is? Our families are up to something, and we’re determined to find out what. No matter what dark power we must turn to…

Welcome to Zodiac Academy, where your star sign defines your destiny.

As the Fae of the future, you will soon learn the merciless way to claim your power. Life among the Vampires, Shifters and Sirens is no easy ride, but if you can make it through your exams, you might just be able to harness your inner strength and earn your place among the elite. This is a prequel novella set four years before Zodiac Academy: The Awakening, Book 1 in the Supernatural Bullies and Beasts series.

While I already knew most of what was going to happen in this novella, I enjoyed reading Origins of An Academy Bully. It gave me the perspectives of two characters in this series I’ve enjoyed getting to know from the main books in the series, but at a time before the events in the first book and before Lionel’s terrible reign began.

What I enjoyed about this novella was getting to see Orion and Darius’s friendship prior to their Guardian bond. I knew they both were close before that bond forced them together, but actually getting to see their friendship before was great. You could see how much hope they both had for their futures before it was stolen away from them as well as see them already looking to do the right thing by trying to stop Lionel.

I especially enjoyed getting to see some of Orion’s relationship with his sister Clara. While their relationship didn’t do much to change my thoughts on Clara other than trying to understand why she made the decision to align herself with Lionel (as none of the chapters in this novella were told from her perspective), it did help me understand Orion’s actions throughout the series itself and why he and Darius were working so hard together when it came to going against Lionel.

What I was hoping for with Origins of An Academy Bully was that we’d get more backstory into these characters from before the Vega twins arrived. While I feel like we did get some, I felt like this novella was too short for my liking. I wanted to see more from it besides seeing Darius and the other Heirs Awakening. I wanted to see what their time was actually like at Zodiac Academy when they first started attending the school and see them begin learning the elements they each harnessed. I also wanted to learn more about Clara too before she had become Guardian bound to Lionel. I wanted to find out what started her choosing to work with her mother Stella and Lionel as I feel like we don’t ever get any backstory on her throughout the series. If that meant getting some chapters from her perspective, that would’ve been fine with me.

Despite how short this novella was and what else I was hoping to get out of it, I enjoyed reading Origins of An Academy Bully. Looking forward to reading next The Awakening As Told By the Boys because I know I’m going to get a much better perspective on the Heirs’ actions and the choices they made in the beginning of the series when I initially didn’t like them.   

Book Review: Sorrow and Starlight (Zodiac Academy #8)

Rating: 3.5 stars

All stars must fall.

Bloody, lost, broken. We live to fight another day. But with so much stolen from us, can the fates ever twist in our favour again?

My sister and I have been torn apart by shadows and despair, and now we each stand alone. Our sorrow is spun like a web, trapping us tight, and I fear our enemies will soon come to feast upon our souls.

But if I have my way, the merciless sky will have dealt us its final fortune. It’s time for us to take back the power that’s been ripped from our grasp and turn the tide of this war.

All stars must fall, and all Phoenixes must rise. Long live the Savage Queens.

While I enjoyed this book in the Zodiac Academy series more than its predecessor Heartless Sky, it isn’t my favorite book in the series either. What Sorrow and Starlight has done correctly is pull you within its pages emotionally. With the way the previous book had ended, I knew my emotions would be all over the place at the start because most of the characters hadn’t discovered who all they lost until the beginning of this book. It especially made me emotional when we saw all of the Heirs along with Xavier mourn the loss of someone important in their lives. As someone who’s lost an important person who’s been such a big part of my life, I felt like I could relate to the characters when they were mourning their friend. So I feel like this book in the series did a good job of pulling me into reading it emotionally.

I also feel like this book did a good job of character development with the Heirs. After everything that happened in Heartless Sky to them, I feel like they all were at a point where they realized that they cared more about their relationship with the Vega twins than taking the throne. I believe losing one of their own made them realize how rough life can be and that they actually care about their friendship with the twins more so than ruling Solaria. I also enjoyed seeing Darcy continue to grow and become a stronger Fae despite the curse and seeing Orion being hurt to try and help break the curse of the Shadow Beast. Their relationship continues to be one of my favorite relationships in this series as you can see how much they both love each other and what they would do to protect who they love. I also just feel like Darcy’s character as well gets better each book because despite what happens to her here, she still doesn’t break and gives those around her a chance even when she’s been hurt by them. You see this here once the curse is broken and she decides to befriend the Shadow Beast when she realizes the beast was also being controlled by Lavinia. Seeing Darcy like that made me realize just how much I love her character in this series.  

What I also enjoyed about Sorrow and Starlight was continuing to see the magic within its pages. As much as I hated Orion and Darcy being trapped, it was interesting to me to see the curse that Darcy was fighting against. I also found myself interested in learning more about the dark magic Tory was using and seeing if she’d be successful in getting Darius back. As much as I hated the circumstances both of the twins found themselves in, I continued rooting for their relationships and seeing things turn around for them for the better.

While I wasn’t particularly fond of the ending of this book for several reasons, there were some things I did enjoy about it. For starters, the majority of the endings in the Zodiac Academy series are dark. Usually they involve something bad happening with the twins and some of the other characters. However with this book in the series, I found the ending light. I think its because for once, things aren’t going terribly wrong for all of the protagonists in this series. And both Darcy and Tory are successful in getting what they want before this book in the series ends even if it doesn’t particularly all happen the way they want.

Despite these things I enjoyed about this book, I had a lot of issues with Sorrow and Starlight too. While Xavier’s chapters didn’t bother me as much as they had in Heartless Sky, I felt like there were a bunch of characters whose perspectives were completely unnecessary. While I was interested to find out what was going on at the academy, I didn’t feel like Milton’s chapters were necessary. There were also other characters who had chapters like Milton I didn’t care about, such as Mildred and Vard, who both only had one chapter in this book that didn’t really add anything to it for me. I wouldn’t have minded having more chapters from Lionel and Lavinia’s perspectives because that would’ve given me more of an idea of what they were planning as this book went on. But chapters from Milton, Mildred, Vard, and even Justin I felt like dragged the book on unnecessarily.  

Another criticism I have with this book in the series I’ve had with one of the others before and that would be Tory’s character in Sorrow and Starlight. Once again, she’s practicing with dark magic but this time, she’s not consulting anyone about it. She also makes a whole lot of terrible decisions where she goes off and does dangerous things on her own without letting anyone know where she’s going or what she’s doing. As much as I usually like Tory, whenever the authors have her character acting like this, I have a hard time feeling for her and what she’s going through. And in this book, that happened a whole lot for me because she practically acted like she didn’t care what was going on in the world anymore until she was able to get Darius back and save her sister Darcy. While I understand how much grief/pain she was dealing with, I just feel like the way she acted in this book didn’t feel right/fit her character. I feel like we’ve seen so much growth with her, but then we see her character regress in the series anytime I feel like we’ve seen her learn her lesson from a past experience.

I also continue to feel like Seth and Caleb’s relationship now continues to drag on. Even more so in this book than the last because even other Fae notice how they act around each other but yet they both act hard headed/stubborn and refuse to express to each other how they feel. And in this book, it annoyed me more than the last because you can feel the chemistry between both of them but neither one of them seems to want to voice what’s happening. I really feel like they’d make a great couple, but I’m at the point where I’ve given up on that as this book quashed any possibility of that happening to me. I know we still have one more book in this series to go so I know things could easily change, but right now I’m just not seeing it.

Like Heartless Sky, I felt like this book missed the plot entirely. There were three main plot points in this book from what I read, but I felt like in this book the authors kept trying to add things into the story that didn’t belong. Elements to the plot that made this book longer than it needed to be but also introduced us to more advisories than the protagonists need. The next book in this series is supposed to be the last one, but I’m having a difficult time seeing how they’ll end this series with the amount of content I felt included in this book alone. My thoughts on that are they more than likely will find a quick way to close up certain plots in the story so that the focus will be on defeating Lionel, Lavinia and the new antagonist that’s included at the end of this book. But with how much was in the story here, I’m trying to imagine how that’ll happen.

I also both liked/hated the ending of this book in the series. I’ve already mentioned earlier what I enjoyed about it, so now let me explain why I hated the ending of Sorrow and Starlight. For one, I feel like things still aren’t close to being done with this series. I feel like at the end of this book, Darcy and Tory both made a terrible decision that changed how things were going for them when things seemed like they were going much better. While I don’t completely blame either of them for the decision they made as they wanted to make the promise that had been cursing their family for generations come to fruition so that their odds against Lionel were better, I also feel like the choice brought on a whole lot more problems for them too. It introduced us to another antagonist everyone is going to have to put up with along with Lionel and Lavinia and everything else that happened in this book. And I just don’t see how the last book in the series is going to be able to end with all of the loose ends that still need to be tied up because of what happened in this one.

Overall, I did enjoy reading Sorrow and Starlight more than its predecessor. The beginning of the book pulled me in emotionally, the character development with some of the characters continued in a way I liked, and I enjoyed seeing the magic that was in this book in the series. My issues with this book were seeing too many chapters for characters that aren’t relevant to the story, seeing Tory’s character regress once again, seeing Seth and Caleb’s relationship continue to spiral, and too much being included in the plot that’s not needed. While I’m sad to have finished the main books in the Zodiac Academy series, I’ve decided to read the novellas that take place in between books in this series as I wait for the release of the ninth/final book as I still feel like I haven’t gotten enough of this world and its characters despite this series’ flaws.

Book Review: Heartless Sky (Zodiac Academy #7)

Rating: 3 stars

The winds of fate are shifting, and it finally seems like they’ve been twisted in our favour.

On the run and cast out from society, we’ve been forced to hide from the mad man who stole our throne. But as more secrets come to light and my sister and I work harder than ever before to reach our potential and claim our birth right, the end is finally drawing closer.

There is no turning from this path now. The curse chases on our heels as time rushes by and the blood drenched destiny of the man I love looms ever closer just like the monster who stole our throne.

We must prepare for the final battle, but three things are clear now. The cards have already been dealt. Blood will spill for a new future to rise. And the stars themselves can’t help us. The fight for the throne is upon us. All hail the heartless sky.

Out of the books in the Zodiac Academy series so far that I’ve read, Heartless Sky is my least favorite. There’s a lot within its pages that is lacking, though I did still enjoy reading it. But before I get into what makes this book in the series my least favorite so far, let me talk about what I did enjoy about this seventh book.

What this book in the series did well for me was showcase more of the relationships between all of the characters. The dynamic between all of the Heirs and the Vega twins couldn’t be any stronger, despite the big secret Darius is keeping from all of them. I especially enjoy seeing the relationships that play out with Darius and Tory and Orion and Darcy even with everything that’s going on in their lives. I also loved seeing Orion and Caleb finally getting along even if the reason for it is something that would be considered cause for concern. Seth and Darcy’s friendship continues to be one of my favorite dynamics in this series because you can tell they’ve gotten past their issues and are really getting along. And of course, seeing how much love the twins have for each other as sisters is something I continue to love to see in this series because they definitely don’t let anything stand in the way of being there for each other. I love seeing their sisterhood in these books and them always having each other’s backs despite the circumstances going on in their lives.

What I also enjoyed about Heartless Sky is continuing to see the magic everyone harnesses in this series. I especially enjoyed seeing the places they went to from the time Darcy and Orion go to the library to when everyone works together to close off the rifts Lavinia uses to gain her power. I especially loved seeing the twins and Heirs working together and seeing all the Heirs using the weapons that were crafted with Phoenix fire. I also enjoyed seeing Darcy and Tory undergoing training from one of their ancestors despite feeling like it didn’t really seem like it fit within the plot of the story. It was nice seeing them both learning about how to fully harness their Phoenix Orders and being able to see what they are really capable of.

Despite all of the character relationships and magic in the story I enjoyed, there is a lot this book in the series left to be desired for me. I did enjoy reading it, but I felt like there was a lot within the story itself that just wasn’t there to me. It felt like there were chapters in the plot itself that were missing because a lot of things were brought up in the story but then there wasn’t anything ever done about those things. There’s also just a lot of the plot that focuses on everyone being in the hideout pretty much up until about the last one hundred pages of the story. Then once we get to that part of the book, things finally start to take a turn and we see something happen with everyone. Basically, I felt like the plot in Heartless Sky moved at a slower pace in comparison to the rest of the books in this series.

And I don’t feel that way just about the plot either. While I enjoyed seeing most of the character relationships in this book, there were some that I didn’t mention because I felt like they either moved at a really slow pace or I didn’t feel like I got enough to see them develop how they did. The relationship that particularly puzzled me in this book the most was seeing the love that developed between Catalina and Hamish. I felt like they were the least likely of characters to end up together, yet they do, and I just feel like we as readers missed a lot of their relationship in order to understand how it came about. Not to say I didn’t like them as a couple, I just didn’t particularly see their relationship happening and feel like it moved way too quickly in Heartless Sky for my liking. There’s also the relationship between Caleb and Seth as well that bothered me. I think they would be a great couple, but my problem with this book with regards to their relationship is that its continuing to move at a really slow pace. I get they’ve had many years of friendship together and that neither one of them seems to want to do anything that could potentially ruin their friendship. But damn it, its pretty obvious how they both truly feel about each other and I’m just ready to see them actually be honest with each other about their feelings. Because they are a couple in this series I definitely didn’t see coming but I’m now rooting for quite a bit.

I also wasn’t fond of how this series continuously tries to place importance with Diego’s character in the overall plot of the story despite his death several books ago. Yes, I understand the importance of him not truly being a Fae and something else entirely and how his character played a role in some of the events that took place in the earlier books in the series. But I feel like he keeps being brought up even though he’s no longer in the story and I find it annoying since his character didn’t do much of anything, even with all of the truths that end up coming to light. I understand he’s the twin’s friend and his death did impact them, but I feel like his character continuously being brought up when he’s no longer around a bit agitating at times. And I feel like there’s definitely a different way the authors could’ve handled the information he had regarding what his family was up to.  

While with this series I usually like the fact that the story is told from multiple points of view, I felt like there were some chapters with characters that weren’t necessary. Usually I don’t mind Xavier, but in Heartless Sky, I found a lot of his chapters cringy. Don’t get me wrong, its interesting hearing him talk about his Order and how they operate, but there were some things with his Order in this book that I just quite frankly didn’t want to hear about. While I didn’t mind seeing how things shaped up with regards to his relationship with Sofia and Tyler, I’m still not sure how I feel about that dynamic being their overall relationship because it just feels like it came out of nowhere to me. From the moment Xavier first started talking to Sofia, I knew he was really into her. And I feel like the authors basically took that away and made their relationship something completely different than what I expected to happen. And I don’t feel like there was really anything in the previous books in the series that hinted to me how the dynamic in their herd would change, which is why I find it hard to believe.

Another criticism I have about Heartless Sky and is probably the biggest criticism I have of this book is the ending. Out of the endings of the books in the Zodiac Academy series I’ve read so far, its my least favorite. I feel like there’s just a lot that suddenly happens with it with no explanation when we could’ve gotten an explanation on some of the things earlier in the book. An example that comes to mind for me is the curse that Lavinia places on Darcy. We heard about it in Fated Throne, but then it occasionally gets brought up only whenever Darcy has issues with using her magic and her Phoenix Order. We as readers don’t get the full story of the actual curse that’s been placed upon her until the battle at the end of this book and that bothers me. I understand Darcy truly believed the curse Lavinia placed on her was gone since the mark no longer was showing on her skin. But I felt like she should’ve done more to find out if it was truly gone as I felt like even with the knowledge her and Orion gained at the library, she still didn’t do close to enough to figure out what the curse was. And by the time the book ends, the truth of the curse is finally unraveled but at the cost of so much for her and Orion.

I also didn’t like the ending because I felt like there was just so much bad in it for everyone. I get that this book isn’t the last book in the series and that the fight with Lionel is far from over, but I’m at the point where I’m ready for these characters to finally get a break. I’ve been rooting for everyone ever since I picked up the first book in this series, but I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to feel tired of seeing all of these characters experience heartache, pain, and trauma because of Lionel over and over again. Yes, I’m enjoying reading this series and getting to know all of the characters and seeing their relationships with each other along with seeing the magic and fantasy that’s in their world, but I’m ready for them to at least have things turn around in their favor and stay that way for awhile before things go bad again. I feel like all of these characters have gone through so much in this series that I’m just ready for them to experience happiness and for things to turn out well for them. I appreciate seeing the dark in this series because I know not everything ends in life happily, but I feel like these characters have gone through a lot already and am just at the point where I’m ready for them to take down Lionel and for their lives afterwards, whatever that will look like.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Heartless Sky just like I have enjoyed the rest of the books in this series, even if this one is my least favorite. There’s a lot about the characters and their development and magic that’ve made this book enjoyable for me. It just has a lot with the plot itself that was missing to me that has made this book not as enjoyable as the rest of the books in the series. The ending was also my least favorite because so many bad things happened a lot of which I felt like was missing an explanation and I just feel like the characters deserve a break and a chance to turn things around to defeat Lionel. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to continue this series by reading the eighth book Sorrow and Starlight, which while it isn’t the last book in the series, it’s the last book of the series currently out as there’s going to be a ninth book that is yet released.  

Book Review: Cursed Fates (Zodiac Academy #5)

Rating: 4 stars

After the devastating events at Zodiac Academy, we have to deal with this darker world we’re faced with. Lionel seeks to hurt us, the Nymphs seek to hurt the entire Fae race, and between all of it, we just have to try and survive each day as it comes. I’m afraid of everything falling apart, but it looks like it already has.

After reading Shadow Princess, I didn’t think life for the Vega twins and the Heirs could get any worse. But turns out I was wrong. Things got much worse in Cursed Fates, but I continued to read on as I found myself wanting to see what would happen next and what everyone would do as their worlds started falling apart. I really enjoyed what I read because I felt like there was a lot in this book in the series I didn’t expect to happen, and I finally felt like the twins and Heirs were actually on the same side as I believe they all finally realized who the real threat to the throne is.

What I enjoyed about reading the fifth book in the Zodiac Academy series was seeing the different relationships between all of the Heirs and Darcy and Geraldine as they were working to try and change fate. In particular, I felt like Darcy was starting to form a good relationship with both Darius and Seth in this book especially after everything that happened as this book continued. I also enjoyed seeing Darius and Tory’s relationship continue to grow as you start to see how much they both care about each other despite their denial of how they felt for so long. You finally get to see all of the Heirs and twins working together as the Heirs finally find out the truth about what’s going on and I’m happy about it. I’m happy about it because it means there’s still hope that things can get better for all of them despite how bad things continue to get. And things got really damn rough as this book went on.

While Tory’s character annoyed me in Shadow Princess, I feel like she didn’t annoy me quite as much in this book. I don’t know if it’s because there was a point in this book where she was willing to admit her mistakes with regards to everything that happened between her and Darius and she actually realized she didn’t hate him as much as she once did. It was almost like they finally gave her character more development in this book than its predecessor to where she wasn’t complaining all the time and making as many bad decisions. She also was starting to actually listen to what people were saying to her instead of immediately jumping to conclusions and realizing that maybe the people around her are just trying to help her. I also feel like Darcy also went through some growth as well, though maybe not nearly as much as Tory. But I feel like her growth came through the way her relationship with Seth turned out once he was honest with her about how he actually saw her. I feel like once that conversation happened, the dynamic of their relationship changed for the better and she started to realize that the Heirs weren’t completely bad.

I will say however, that one character I wasn’t pleased with when reading Cursed Fates was Orion. While I understand the choice he decided to make regarding his relationship with Darcy, I still wasn’t happy with him making that decision. I feel like a big part of that for me is because I honestly believe that if he hadn’t made that choice, this book wouldn’t have ended the way it did. I say this because I feel like with the way things turned out, he’s needed by everyone now more than ever, but he made a big choice that resulted in him being somewhere where he’s of no help to those who need him most. I do still like his character because you can see how much he and Darcy love each other and their relationship is one of my favorites in this series. But I feel like in this book, he made all of the wrong choices which resulted in things turning out the way they did.

Another thing about Cursed Fates I’m not at all pleased about is the ending. I feel like each time I read a book in this series, I’m no longer surprised that something bad has happened to the characters. I’m at the point where I expect it. However, that doesn’t mean I want these books to always have a dark ending because I don’t. I especially didn’t like this book’s ending not only because of what Lionel does to Tory but also because of the pointless death that’s at the end of the book too. The death of a character I stopped caring about many books ago as he’s someone who I feel like didn’t have that much of a role in this series. Yes, his family has been helping Lionel with his evil plans and he was able to help get insight into what they were planning, but I feel like his overall character was just there in the books. As a Fae, he wasn’t all that strong in comparison to his peers at the academy and he just didn’t add all that much to me with the story either. He was a character I originally liked when he was introduced but as the books went on, I felt like he didn’t add anything to the story and like I would’ve never noticed if his character never appeared in these books. So seeing him die despite everything else that was going on didn’t add much to the story for me other than being relieved that nobody else had been killed. 

Overall, I enjoyed reading Cursed Fates. When I think this series can’t get any darker and things can’t get worse, the next book in the series always ends up proving me wrong. But I’m excited to continue reading this series to see what happens next.  

Book Review: Shadow Princess (Zodiac Academy #4)

Rating: 4 stars

After the events of the Lunar Eclipse, Tory and Darcy must learn to deal with the darkness which shadows their lives.

With a secret binding them to Darius and Orion, they must find a way to all work together for the greater good. But some things are easier said than done…

The fourth book in the Zodiac Academy series, Shadow Princess, is the darkest book in the series so far. It’s dark due to Darcy and Tory finding out about the secrets Darius and Orion have been keeping from others but also because of what power they’ve gained after the events of the Lunar Eclipse. All of this overshadows everything in this book because while Darcy and Tory discover their Orders, they also have to keep them secret or else their lives will be in danger. But of course, with the way these books in this series typically go, that’s all easier said than done as they begin to learn about the new power they’ve gained and work together with Darius and Orion to try and find out what’s going on.

There’s a lot with this book in this series that packs a punch in comparison to the ones I’ve read so far. As a reader, it steered me on to wanting to find out what was going to happen next. Especially with trying to keep what they now know a secret from everyone around them while trying to survive everyday life at the academy like nothing else was going on.

I enjoyed reading Shadow Princess because I was interested to see what else would happen with the twins and all of the Heirs. Like the previous two books in this series, we also get multiple points of view in this book, which I continue to appreciate since I feel like I’m really invested now in reading this series and seeing how it all turns out. And I find myself starting to like the Heirs a tiny bit more when I’m able to see parts of this book told from their point of view. I don’t know what it is about them, but they are such interesting characters and I feel like this story wouldn’t be quite as interesting for me to read without them.

I continue to love how magic gets brought into these books and seeing Darcy and Tory continue improving with their abilities. I especially loved one of the new characters who’s introduced to this series and how he helps the twins with being able to wield their Order forms without giving away what they truly are. There’s just something about the magic in this series that really interests me and makes me want to learn more about this world and the inhabitants of it.

What I will say about Shadow Princess though is that there are some things I didn’t particularly care for with it. Not enough for me to drop my rating because I was still engaged with the overall story and wanting to find out what happened. But enough for me to bring it up here at least. One of my criticisms of this book has to do with Tory and her actions throughout. I overall like her character through most of this series because she doesn’t put up with anyone’s crap and is strong despite what she’s gone through. But I felt like in this book, she just kept making one bad decision after another and wasn’t listening when other people (her sister Darcy included) were telling her “Hey, you need to not do this.” The best example that comes to mind for me is her messing around with the shadows when she’s not practicing control over them with Darcy, Orion, and Darius. Messing around with them to the point where she almost gets seriously hurt but then continues messing with them even after that happens. This annoyed me when reading this book because it almost felt like her character development was regressing a little, almost like she was being too headstrong.

Another criticism of this book that I have is the way it ends. The last couple chapters of the book were really sad and difficult to read, and I hated it. As I’ve already started reading the next book in this series Cursed Fates, so I know what happens next, I found these chapters made me feel almost emotional just because of how badly things ended in Shadow Princess in comparison to the other books in the series, which also had some dark endings too. But none of them made me quite as emotional as with this book. While I understood why things happened the way they did and what got us to this point, I didn’t like it because I wasn’t expecting it. I think I’m at a point where I’m hoping that things will turn out okay for everyone despite that I know there are still several books left in this series left to go for me to read. So I know the chances of any of these books having a happy ending is slim to none, I still find myself wishing things would go right for everyone at least once.

But despite Tory’s regressing character development and the way this book ended, Shadow Princess was still an enjoyable read for me and I’m excited to continue reading the rest of the books in this series to see what happens next.       

Book Review: The Awakening (Zodiac Academy #1)

Rating: 3.5 stars

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.

The Awakening, the first book in the Zodiac Academy series, was a fantastic read from start to finish. It started off slow when I began but as the story went on, I found myself immensely interested in the world Tory and Darcy found themselves in. This book was a very fast-paced, interesting read as it went on. And I found myself feeling for Tory and Darcy so much as they went through a lot once they arrived at Zodiac Academy.

What I enjoyed about this first book in the Zodiac Academy series is the world the main characters are in. I enjoyed learning about the academy, about the four elements and seeing the students when they were in their Order showing off what they were. I found the magic within the pages of this book very intriguing, and I wanted to learn more about it. I enjoyed learning more about this school and those who attended it despite everything that happened within this book’s pages. Its an interesting school with a variety of characters with their own unique personalities and I felt myself drawn into the story being told about them.

I especially enjoyed seeing this book shift back and forth between Tory and Darcy’s point of view. As the main characters of the story seeing a world they didn’t grow up in, it was cool to see how in awe they were of the world they found themselves in and of the magic they found flowing within them. It was also great to read a story told from the perspective of a set of twins who you were able to easily tell apart due to their difference in personality and how they handled the situation they both found themselves in. You could also tell from their perspectives how close the both of them are to each other since growing up they had nobody to rely on but each other. And I really enjoyed seeing that, especially with how difficult the Heirs at the school made their lives once they arrived there.

Speaking of the Heirs, I found myself feeling both intrigued and disgusted by them throughout this book. I’m intrigued by them as they are interesting antagonists in this story, and I find myself wanting to learn more about them. I want to learn more about what they are and their upbringing as I feel like that would give me a good understanding of why they act the way they do throughout this series. At the same time, however, I’m also disgusted by them and their actions throughout The Awakening. I feel like all four of them are terrible people and I don’t feel like they deserve what they have. As I read this book, I found myself interested in learning more about them, but found myself excited to see Darcy and Tory make them pay for how terrible they acted towards them and anyone they deemed below them.

And that’s one of the things about this book I didn’t enjoy when reading it: seeing the amount of abuse and bullying Darcy and Tory underwent by the Heirs. Anytime I thought things couldn’t get worse for them, the Heirs proved me wrong at every turn. As a result, even though I enjoyed reading this book and am continuing to read the rest of the books in this series to see how it all plays out, I strongly warn anyone who can’t handle reading books that have abuse, violence, and assault  against reading this book and this series. While I know I can handle books with these topics as I’m fine reading stories that are dark and take on heavy subject matters, I know that’s not the case for everyone so want to at least warn anyone reading this who might be considering picking up The Awakening, the first book in the Zodiac Academy series.

I still recommend this book as I find those topics need to be discussed in books without flinching away from it but want to let those who might not want to read about them know so they don’t pick up this book and find it affecting their health. This book not having any sort of warning about this is another criticism I have regarding it as I feel like people who don’t feel comfortable reading about any sort of abuse need to know ahead of time before they start reading this book so they can prepare themselves before delving into the story. Nonetheless though, I enjoyed reading The Awakening and am looking forward to continuing this series to see if Darcy and Tory are able to get back at the Heirs for everything they’ve done to them and to see how it all plays out.          

Book Review: The Giver (The Giver #1)

Rating: 4 stars

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

This wasn’t my first time reading The Giver as I read this book back when I was in middle school. However, since its been such a long time since I’ve read it, I feel like I can give a review of my thoughts on it due to how much time has passed since I last read it.

What I find interesting about this book is the world you are introduced to through Jonas. He’s only twelve, but the world he lives in is pretty extraordinary in that its completely different from what we are used to. But as the reader, you don’t really realize how different it is until you get into the story, and he describes the community he lives in. For example, if you want to have a spouse and children, you have to apply for it instead of getting to choose who you want to marry and have children yourself. You are also only allowed to have two children, one boy and a girl, and there is a ceremony that happens when you’ve been approved to receive your child. I find this structure within this community interesting because its very different from what you would expect. It seems very orderly in a lot of ways because there’s a counsel that makes these decisions that is supposed to be for the good of the community.

Basically the world Jonas lives in is full of sameness where there seems to be nothing out of the ordinary. That is until Jonas turns twelve and attends his Ceremony of Twelve to find out what his Life Assignment will be. As the reader, that is when we really learn about the world Jonas inhabits and discover the darkness that hides within their community. Jonas gets assigned to be the Receiver of Memories, a job that’s deemed the most important job in the community, but you don’t discover why until Jonas meets his mentor known as The Giver. That’s when everything changes in Jonas’s life as he realizes everything isn’t what it seems and the world he’s grown up in isn’t as great of a place as it appears.

What I love about The Giver is that as the reader, you really feel for Jonas as you see his world turn upside down. What he thought was true about his life and the way he and everyone lives he finds out isn’t all that great. He learns that there are truths being kept from everyone in the community under the guise of being what’s best for everyone and that he’s being given the responsibility of shouldering everything for the sake of everyone in the community. And as he’s a twelve-year-old still learning about life, I found myself feeling very sympathetic to him and what he was going through as those who could’ve helped him were the ones responsible for putting him in this predicament.

The Giver takes place in a world that seems perfect, but that is far from the real truth as Jonas learns as he receives more and more memories. And as a reader, that’s what drew me into this world and the characters who inhabited it. While all of the characters save Jonas had any character development, I knew that was the point since nobody in this world really knew the truth about anything that was going on save those directly involved. Jonas was also who the story was about too, so it makes sense that none of the other characters in the story evolved in any way.

If I had to choose anything to criticize about this book it would be the ending. Not with regards to the choice Jonas makes, but that as the reader I felt like there was too much left up for interpretation. I also didn’t like that we didn’t see how his decision impacted the community and if there was any real change that happened as a result. I’d like to believe his choice made a huge impact, but without knowing, I have a difficult time believing it. Especially since the world he lived in had been the way it was for so long. I had a hard time believing the choice he and The Giver made really made an impact the way it was meant to and wouldn’t have been surprised if things continued the way they always had. Without seeing any of the story from The Giver’s perspective, its hard to know for sure and I didn’t like that. Because while I wanted to believe things in their world changed for the better, it was hard to know for sure without seeing how Jonas’s actions affected the community. And the only way we would know for sure is if some of the story had been told from The Giver’s perspective.

Overall however, I enjoyed reading The Giver again. There were some moments from the book I remembered from my first read, but I honestly feel like there was a lot I really didn’t remember, which made me feel like I was able to read this with a fresh mind. I know I enjoyed reading this book in middle school and I’m pleased to see I enjoyed it just as much this time but even more so as I feel like I truly understood what was going on and how dismal the world Jonas lived in truly was. I highly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys any story told in a dystopian world that gives off the appearance of being a normal society and anyone who enjoys stories told from the perspective of a younger person who’s still learning about the world around them. Really excited to eventually read the rest of the books in The Giver series even though none of them continue where this one leaves off.

Book Review: Monster: A Tale of Murder, Madness and Plastic Surgery

Rating: 3 stars

MONSTER. The word evokes images of fairy tales and horror. But once, in 1850 Philadelphia, it was actually the term commonly used in physician’s case notes for the victims of fire.

Conflagrations were common in this period—clothing, especially women’s lace, was highly flammable. Once the flesh was destroyed, there was no cure. These unfortunate souls lived out their lives as MONSTERS, secluded away by family. Once burned flesh gives way to contractures, disfigurements to rival even Bram Stoker’s imagination were born. And the hearts of the people inside the shell perished.

Lorelei is one such MONSTER. Born to a wealthy family, disfigured by fire, she fake’s her own death, leaving the world she knows behind—because in her mind…freedom, even if it is a workhouse, is preferable than the life of a shut-in, a burden on her family’s name.

!850’s Philadelphia is an epi-center of medicine. Rival medical schools search in desperation for bodies—cadavers to teach the art and science of anatomy to their medical students. Corpses become so rare, a new profession evolves. Resurrection Men, or body snatchers, dig up the graves of the newly decreased for high pay.

Rory Henry is one of the Resurrection Men. A Scots-Irish Immigrant, he has fought his way off the streets, and into medical school by whatever means necessary. He is not above digging up corpses—he cuts them by day and searches them out by night. These two lives intersect in an explosion of personality-Rory is designated as Lorelei’s surgeon. Entrusted with performing the new operation called The Mutter Flap. Once he sees her face, will the unrequited love die, or ignite?

People are disappearing. Someone has discovered that murder is far more lucrative than grave robbing. And many of the bodies are from Lorelei’s workhouse. Will she be next?

Monster is an interesting story that I found myself eager to find out what happens next. Told back and forth from the perspectives of Rory and Lorelei, this book is a story about two people with somewhat similar backgrounds/circumstances who come together unexpectedly when Lorelei asks for Rory’s help as her sister Molly is very sick. What starts as a doctor patient relationship quickly turns into much more as Rory and Lorelei discover their feelings for each other while there’s a killer on the loose in Philadelphia who’s killing people and Rory starts receiving notes that people close to him are next.

What I enjoyed when reading this book was reading the story from both Rory and Lorelei’s perspectives. I especially enjoyed reading Rory’s chapters because of getting to see him when he’s at work as a doctor. I also loved his chapters because of getting to meet his friends (in particular, I enjoyed his friendships with Charlie and Becca) along with hearing about his experiences as one of the Resurrection Men. His chapters really caught my attention because I found his story interesting and wanted to learn more about him. It was also interesting because I felt like I was hearing a lot of technical terms that doctors use and also felt like I could hear his Scots-Irish accent when he engaged in conversation throughout the book. What I enjoyed about Lorelei’s chapters is learning more about her background and how she came to be in Philadelphia. What you learn about Lorelei while reading her chapters is that she is a victim of burning so severe that her face is disfigured and that she has a terrible past that she would rather forget. Overall when reading this book, the story is told from the perspectives of two interesting characters with a difficult past who are doing the best they can to overcome the odds stacked against them.

What I also enjoyed about Monster was the romance that developed between Rory and Lorelei. Though at times I felt like their feelings for each other came too quickly, I felt like overall they were a good couple that balanced each other out. Rory out of the both of them would make rash decisions based on his feelings while Lorelei was the more reserved/guarded one who thought her decisions through. So whenever anything happened in the story, I felt like Lorelei was the one who was able to help Rory get through them. Not to say Rory never did the same for Lorelei, but I feel like Lorelei was able to hold her own overall better out of the both of them. I also liked that they loved each other despite each of their circumstances and what happened throughout the book. Especially that Rory cared about Lorelei despite her disfigurement as there were people in the story who cared too much and were doing what they could to tear their relationship apart.  

There are some aspects of their relationship, however, that I did have some criticism for. I felt like their relationship developed into romance way too quickly for starters. As much as I love the dynamic of their relationship, I definitely felt like their relationship was an instant attraction even though I feel like neither of them needed that in the story. From the moment they met, I felt like they were instantly interested in each other which was why that scene in the carriage happened. And I wasn’t too fond of it just because I didn’t feel like it fit either of their characters with Rory talking about his swearing off of lasses and Lorelei’s dark past that you find out about as the story goes on. So seeing them both instantly interested in each other despite what we learn I find hard to believe as I didn’t feel like it fit each of their characters. I also found it hard to believe how quickly their feelings for each other developed into love and how quickly they were willing to tell each other about their pasts. I get that this story is told from a different time period so romance might’ve been different then, but with how guarded both these characters were around people they didn’t trust, I had a difficult time believing they would open up to each other so quickly.

Another criticism of Monster I have that resulted in me giving this book a three-star rating was the plot of the story. I found the plot overall interesting, but I felt at times like there was too much happening in the story at once. In the beginning, it didn’t seem like too much was going on and the story’s pacing was great. But as Lorelei and Rory’s relationship continued to grow, I felt like more and more things started to happen in their lives. Some examples that come to mind for me that I feel like I can share without spoiling the story too much include when Rory is going digging up bodies and a creature he heard about from his childhood in stories starts making an appearance at his group’s digging sites and he finds out the truth about this creature, the murders that happen of women including someone Rory and his friends know, and Lorelei being given the opportunity to get surgery to change her disfigurement. While I definitely feel like all of these things happening in the story is interesting plot-wise, I feel like when they happen disturbed the overall pacing in the book for me that it started off with. I also feel like some of the moments I mentioned happened way too quickly in the book, making the build-up to finding out how things went disappointing. While I enjoyed these moments in the plot because I found them interesting, I also felt like they were rushed through and not given as much detail as they deserved.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Monster. It was an interesting read for me with unique characters and romance thrown in that while developed too quickly for my liking, I found myself still rooting for it. And while the overall plot in this book didn’t match the pacing of the story and could’ve used more writing to flesh things out, I was still interested in seeing where things went in the story. I recommend this book to anyone interested in a fast-paced read that’s filled with romance, murder, and a story set in a time period different from our own.

I received a digital copy of this book through the publisher on NetGalley for an honest review.            

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