Review: After Ever Happy (After, #4), by Anna Todd

After Ever Happy (After, #4)After Ever Happy by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fourth book in the ‘After’ series, ‘After Ever Happy’ is the first book in the series that had a different “feel” to it. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of dramatic shenanigans between Tessa and Hardin. However, this time around they aren’t the sole focus of the book. The result is a much more somber vibe.

After everything that went down at the end of the third book, Tessa is left markedly changed from the girl she was before. Those tragic events forced her to take a long, hard look at her relationship with Hardin. She finally faces the facts — they’re toxic.

Despite her love for Hardin, she knows that she needs to get away from him. Like the clichéd saying, “sometimes love isn’t enough”. Nothing could be more true for this dysfunctional couple at that point in time.

Even though Hardin comes to his senses and does his best to get Tessa to forgive him, it won’t come easy this time around. Tessa has made up her mind and it will take years for Hardin to prove himself to her. It was long overdue.

With Tessa and Hardin living separate lives for most of this book, the story definitely had a different feel to it than earlier books. As much as it was what the logical me said needed to happen, the illogical part of me couldn’t help but feel like this new direction wasn’t as captivating. After all, this series’ entire guilty pleasure appeal was based on the very same things that made this couple such a train wreck — fighting, angst, jealousy, breaking up and making up. With those elements largely missing from this book, I didn’t feel the same pull to the story.

That being said, I think that the author had used up all of the major angst-ridden story elements that readers could handle. Although the loss of this drama resulted in a slightly less engaging story for me, I don’t think I could’ve handled another book full of Tessa and Hardin’s back and forth fighting. This series has left me emotionally exhausted and I just don’t have it in me.

Luckily, Tessa and Hardin do get the HEA eventually. It was long overdue and I was glad to see it. Finally, they have started to mature and deal with some of the issues in their relationship. As much as I loved to hate this couple, I have to admit that if there was ever a couple that stuck it out, it was them. Talk about hanging in there for better or worse.

Overall, this was still a great read. I have been completely hooked on Tessa and Hardin’s story right from the start. It was one hell of an emotional rollercoaster ride. I feel content, but emotionally drained. I know that there are two remaining books in this series, but I’m stopping with this one for now. I don’t want to upset the balance. I’m feeling content with how this book ended and I’m not sure I could handle it right now if something disrupted that peace.

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Review: After We Fell (After, #3), by Anna Todd

After We Fell (After #3)After We Fell by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the first two books in the series, ‘After We Fell’ was completely consuming. Although the back and forth drama between Hardin and Tessa gets to be very irritating, I can’t seem to turn away from it. It’s like I’m stuck in an abusive relationship with this couple. I know it isn’t healthy. I know I should remove myself from the situation…but I just can’t do it. After all, maybe they’ll change.

Picking up where ‘After We Collided’ left off, Tessa’s father has reappeared in her life. Only, her father is not the man that she remembered from her childhood. He is homeless and has some serious addiction issues.

While Tessa wants to give her father a chance, Hardin cautions her against it. Hardin is an ass all of the time, but I really thought that he took it to a whole new level when her father was introduced. I couldn’t believe how incredibly insensitive and cruel he was. Even though he was absolutely correct to be concerned, he responded in a manner that showed absolutely no regard for Tessa’s feelings. I couldn’t believe some of the things he said about her father to her. Of course, like always, Tessa gets over it like it was hardly a blip on her radar.

More than the first two books, Hardin’s own issues with addiction were very apparent. Interestingly, the author seemed to avoid addressing this issue head on. I kept waiting for some sort of intervention, but it never really happened. I guess there was already enough drama in this story without tackling Hardin’s drinking problem.

This book also features plenty of fighting, breaking up and making up between Hardin and Tessa. If you expected Hardin and Tessa to settle down and start acting like a mature, committed couple, prepare to be disappointed. ‘After We Fell’ is full of the same angst-filled cycle of jealousy, acting out and game playing that were in previous books. Betrayals are around every corner and there is no shortage of drama.

From disastrous family vacations, to secrets, there is plenty of deceit to go around. Zed is back on scene again, playing a big role in the tension between Hardin and Tessa. Of course, he is only involved because Tessa pulled him in again. Meanwhile, there are more revelations about Tessa’s “friends”. I swear, they never learn their lessons!

Like the first two books, this book ends with a huge upset. If I ever thought that I would have the strength to quit this dysfunctional couple, the ending sucked me right back in. I absolutely had to see where the next book would lead.

I love to hate, and hate to love, this series! It is like watching a bad train wreck in slow motion. You know it’s going to be a disaster, but you just can’t turn away.

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Review: After We Collided (After, #2), by Anna Todd

After We Collided (After, #2)After We Collided by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing the first book in the ‘After’ series, I immediately jumped into this second book. There was no way that I was going to quit this series with the way things ended at the end of ‘After’–absolutely, no way! I had to know how things were going to play out for this disastrous couple. They are like crack! It might kill me. I know it’s really not healthy…but I just can’t seem to pull myself away from it!

If I thought that Hardin and Tessa were going to grow up and start treating each other better, I would’ve been sorely disappointed. These two are every bit as toxic as they were the first time around. The back and forth, break-up and make-up, abusive cycle continues, strong as ever. Of course, I’m such a glutton for punishment that I had to have a front row seat for all of it!

Picking up right where the first book ended, Tessa does her best to try and piece her life back together. She has been betrayed by everyone that she thought were her friends — most of all, Hardin. Unfortunately, the manipulative jackass succeeded in tying her to him when he tricked her into moving into an apartment with him and away from the dorms. This will make distancing herself from him more difficult than she had hoped.

While Tessa makes a weak attempt at moving on, Hardin sets out to prove that his feelings for her are genuine. Of course, every time he starts to make any progress in that regard he does something that sabotages all of his efforts. They truly are their own worst enemies.

For what it’s worth, Hardin does seem to show some actual emotions in this book. Mainly, his regret and heartache shines through. It’s hard to feel sorry for him though, since all of his pain is entirely the result of his own cruel actions. To make matters worse, every time he starts to gain a little “nice guy” stock, he goes and does something abhorrent again, reminding me of what a despicable asshat he is. Some big revelations about his past only further prove that he is not to be trusted. He really is deplorable…but I love to hate him!

I also found myself feeling a little more irritated with Tessa’s weakness this time around. Can you say “doormat”? How many times is this girl going to fall for his crap? She also played the same childish games over and over, using other guys to make Hardin jealous, only to play the victim when she got the reaction she was looking for all along.

I felt sorry for Tessa at first. By the end of this book, I was marveling at the fact that she hadn’t been weeded out as part of the process of natural selection. Surely, this girl is too stupid to live!

That being said, I still can’t pull myself away from this angsty, infuriating story. It is like watching a trashy talk show or soap opera. It’s unrealistic. The relationships are toxic. It probably kills off brain cells. However, I can’t get enough of it. It is my latest guilty pleasure. I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but I’m completely hooked on this series.

Like the first book, ‘After We Collided’ ends with a huge cliffhanger. Anna Todd certainly knows how to pull me back in. At this point, I think my relationship with this series is much like the relationship between Hardin and Tessa. I should probably cut all ties and get out while I can, but I just can’t seem to resist the pull. I’m on to the third book in this addictive, dysfunctional romance.

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Review: After (After, #1), by Anna Todd

After (After, #1)After by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you thought the ‘Fallen Crest High’ series was full of angst and teenage melodrama, you haven’t seen anything yet! ‘After’ is like many other teenage/college-aged romances, with all the “end of the world” dramatics…on steroids. I found this book to be equal parts irritating and addicting.

The “adult” part of me has to acknowledge the truth in much of the criticism I’ve seen regarding this story. Hardin and Tessa’s relationship was a train wreck. I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes and thinking “hang it up already”. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy this story. It was a total guilty pleasure. Even though I was often annoyed, or even infuriated, by the goings on in this book, I couldn’t turn away. I really enjoyed this book, despite the responsible adult in me saying I should run far in the other direction.

The story centers on Theresa “Tessa” Young and her relationship with Hardin Scott. Tessa is portrayed as the quintessential sheltered prude. She is a sweet virgin, who dresses conservatively and arrives at her dorm with her over-bearing mother and high school sweetheart in-tow. Immediately, Tessa stands out and becomes a target for her roommate’s hard-partying group of friends.

More so than anyone else, Hardin seems to take extreme pleasure in tormenting Tessa. He is constantly toying with her and trying to humiliate her. He goes out of his way to put her down, but he’s always there. Despite all of his insults, he is constantly showing up in her daily life.

Little by little, Tessa and Hardin form a tenuous friendship. Eventually, it grows into more. There are plenty of obstacles along the way — none larger than Hardin’s broody, closed-off, and often volatile nature. Time and time again, Tessa forgives Hardin for his reprehensible behavior.

These two might take the prize for the number of times a single couple can go back and forth, breaking up and making up, in a single book. It did start to wear on my nerves, even as I couldn’t turn away. They were the perfect example of everything that only works in fiction. In real life, these two needed some serious counselling and intervention. They were toxic, to an extreme degree. No way would I ever want to be any where near a couple like this in real life. However, for a smutty romance, they definitely kept things interesting.

While I don’t want to give anything away, I will say that the ending of this book gutted me. I actually cried. I was so furious, I think I might have felt the betrayal as acutely as Tessa did!

So many times, I told myself that when this book was over that I wouldn’t be diving back in for another round of their melodramatic, childish antics. I was kidding myself. There was no way that I was going to skip the next book after that ending. It’s on to the next book for me.

As an aside, this book was apparently written as fan-fiction originally. It is supposed to be based on the lives of the boy band “One Direction”. Since I’m not very familiar with this group, I don’t have anything to offer in terms of how closely this book follows any of those band members. If it does closely follow one of the bandmate’s lives, God help the poor girls that are his prey.

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Review: The Bandit (The Stolen Duet, #1), by B. B. Reid

The Bandit (The Stolen Duet, #1)The Bandit by B.B. Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘The Bandit’ has been sitting on my TBR list for quite some time now. At last, I got around to reading it. It didn’t disappoint. This was one steamy read with plenty of push and pull between the main characters.

The heroine, Mian Ross, has known a lot of tragedy in her young life. She’s survived the death of her mother, only to be orphaned when her father is incarcerated for murder. To make matters worse, the man that her father killed was her father’s best friend and like a second father to her. His murder left Mian completely isolated from anyone that had ever cared about her.

With no other options, Mian is taken from the home where she had spent her adolescence being taken care of by the son of her father’s victim. She is sent to live with a distant aunt and uncle, that could care less about her welfare. This is made very clear when they throw her out after she becomes pregnant as a teenager, following another tragic event.

After losing her latest job waiting tables, Mian is desperate. She will do anything to keep her young baby fed, even if it means risking her own life. She decides to burglarize Angeles Knight, aka “Angel”, the boy that raised her. Only, Angel is no longer a boy. He has grown into a very dangerous man and has stepped up to take his father’s place at the head of his family’s criminal enterprise.

When Mian is caught stealing from Angel, he returns the favor. He spent his youth lusting after the forbidden, and much younger, Mian. Now, he finally has her where he wants her. He knows that she will do anything for her infant son. Angel takes her son and Mian plays right into his hand, just like he knew that she would.

What follows is a dark-ish story, with a lot of push and pull between the two main characters. Angel’s two best friends also play a crucial role in this book, as Angel shares a lot with his friends. Angel has to balance his desire for revenge with his lust for Mian. The result was a deliciously steamy and angsty read.

Despite the fact that I really enjoyed this story quite a bit, it wasn’t without problems. Mainly, the editing was horrendous. I mean, REALLY BAD. I was pretty surprised by that, since this book has been out for a long time and is pretty popular. Incorrect words and misspellings were frequent, as were elementary grammatical errors. For example, using the word “then” when it should have been “than”, etc.

Overall, I give this one 3.5 stars. It was still pretty good, but the editing needs some serious work. The number of mistakes was very distracting and did take away from the story. If you’re a stickler for editing, this one will drive you insane. If you can overlook some serious grammatical issues, then you might consider giving this one a try. I am still curious about where their story is headed, so I’ll be reading the next book immediately.

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Review: The Iron Queen (The Iron Fey, #3), by Julie Kagawa

The Iron Queen (Iron Fey, #3)The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Of all the books in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, ‘The Iron Queen’ is my favorite. This book is pivotal and takes the story in an entirely new direction. Not only is this book filled with action and adventure, but I finally got to see the romance between Meghan and Ash evolve.

Not only does the relationship between Meghan and Ash grow, but Meghan undergoes a great deal of self-discovery and growth as an individual. ‘The Iron Queen’ really is Meghan’s “coming of age” book. She grows stronger, both physically and spiritually. She is faced with many painful truths and twists along the way, but she rises to the challenge.

To say the least, I felt that this book had a strong “girl power” vibe going on. In earlier books, Meghan was always cast as the damsel in distress, waiting for Ash or Puck to come to her rescue. While she still has a plethora of male protectors to do her bidding, Meghan also rises as a leader in and of her own right. She is only beginning to learn about the power within her and I cannot wait to see what she will be able to do once she is able to access it fully.

Meanwhile, this book proved to be emotionally engaging and, at times, heartbreaking. Mostly, my heart went out to Puck. He made some mistakes along the way, but none more serious than anything that Ash ever did, in my opinion. He loved Meghan so much, but it was evident that he had been “friend-zoned” and had no chance at ever becoming anything more. As much as I loved Ash and Meghan as a couple, I couldn’t help but feel bad for poor Puck.

King Oberon and Queen Mab take on unexpected roles, as the false Iron King continues to gain power. In order to save faerieland, Meghan will have to rise to the challenge. She is faced with many difficult choices and adversity along the way.

More so than other books in the series, ‘The Iron Queen’ ended with a huge upset. I was left reeling. It felt like my heart was ripped from my chest. Knowing that the story wasn’t over yet kept me pushing forward. I knew that things wouldn’t be left like that.

Like the other books in the series, the narration for this book was superb. I continue to be enthralled with this story and the magical world that Ms. Kagawa has created. After finishing this one it was on to the next on immediately. I had to know how things would work out for these characters.

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Review: Dirty Filthy Rich Men (Dirty Duet, #1), by Laurelin Paige

Dirty Filthy Rich Men (Dirty Duet, #1)Dirty Filthy Rich Men by Laurelin Paige
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laurelin Paige continues to blow me away with this series! I cannot get enough of this twisted, angsty love story. If I thought that ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ was addicting, I hadn’t seen anything yet!

The first full-length book in the ‘Dirty Duet’ series, ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Men’ was every bit as captivating as ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’. I love this story and the constant push and pull between the characters. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.

Donovan, in particular, has my rapt attention. He is certainly one of the most contradictory heroes that I’ve ever encountered. He is aloof, possessive and completely confusing. Naturally, I cannot get enough! I am appalled by some of his harsh and inconsiderate behaviors. I want to hate him, but I can’t. Like Sabrina, I am under his spell.

Weston also comes to life in this book. While ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ predominantly featured Sabrina’s fantasy version of who Weston was, this book introduces readers to the real Weston. Despite some less than flattering behaviors, I have to say that I really liked Weston. After all, he never pretended to be something that he wasn’t. Underneath his manwhore ways, he ends up being a pretty decent guy.

Sabrina has certainly got her hands full with both of these dirty, filthy, rich men in this book. My head was spinning at times. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I was glued to the pages of this book.

If you love angsty, emotionally charged love stories, then you don’t want to pass this one up. I am hooked on this story! There are plenty of surprising twists and turns along the way that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention, it is hot, hot, hot! Days later, I’m still thinking about these characters and where this story might lead. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book!

As an aside, ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ is included as the prologue in this book. So, if you haven’t already read it separately, you’ll get the backstory with this one also. However, if you’re not sure if you want to pay for the full-length book yet, it is offered for free and you can get a feel for the story.

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Review: Love in Lingerie, by Alessandra Torre

Love in LingerieLove in Lingerie by Alessandra Torre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alessandra Torre has a way of telling stories that suck me in and make me fall in love, even as my brain is telling me that I shouldn’t. She is the queen of writing forbidden love stories that leave you feeling conflicted and questioning your sense of right and wrong. She doesn’t seem to focus as much on huge, “in your face” subjects. Rather, she skirts the edges of what is generally considered socially acceptable behavior.

Whatever her magic formula is, it is working! She never fails to captivate me. Like every other book of hers that I’ve read, ‘Love in Lingerie’ grabbed me and held on tight right to the very end. I was completely absorbed with the antics of Kate and Trey.

Kate and Trey meet when Kate is hired to turn Trey’s lingerie company around. Looking to leave a company where she had no possibility of advancement, Kate is ecstatic to be working for Trey’s company. The company is failing and Trey is at risk of losing everything that he’s worked so hard for.

Despite the fact that he is immediately attracted to Kate, Trey cannot risk losing her as an employee. He’s been down that road before and it ended disastrously. Regardless of the intense desire he feels, he knows that he has to focus on saving his company. He cannot risk chasing Kate away with his kinky tastes.

‘Love in Lingerie’ was a unique love story in many ways. Most notably, the main characters were not “together” for most of the book. In fact, they didn’t really explore a romantic relationship until about 75% of the way in.

In the meantime, there was plenty of sexual tension and heated exchanges. This was definitely a slow-burn story. By the time that Kate and Trey finally took the next step, I felt like I was going to combust myself! However, Ms. Torre proved to make it well worth the wait.

If you’re looking for a sweet, sexy and humorous read, then I highly recommend ‘Love in Lingerie’. I was completely sucked in by these two. Their back and forth, sexually charged interactions were absolutely addicting. I enjoyed every minute of this story!

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Review: Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series, #1), by A. C. Bextor

Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series Book 1)Empires and Kings by A.C. Bextor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like Mafia-themed romances, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. It was one of the recommendations that popped up when browsing Kindle Unlimited, based upon my Amazon purchase history. In the past, I’ve not had much luck with the computer-generated “recommendations”. However, this time the computer finally got it right!

‘Empires and Kings’ is the first book in A. C. Bextor’s ‘A Mafia Series’. Right from the start, I was captivated by this story. The circumstances of these characters’ lives was brutal and tragic. This is certainly a romanticized account of organized crime, yet the author doesn’t entirely shy away from some of the hard truths.

As a young Vlad Zalesky rises through the ranks of his father’s criminal empire, he is forced to become a man of violence. The night that he kills tortures and orders his first kill, he can no longer hide from the darkness that lives within him. When he comes face to face with the young daughter of the traitor, he is forced to see himself through her innocent eyes.

Nonetheless, Vlad must stay the course. To send a message to any others that might dare to cross him or his organization, he decides to keep the girl. The traitor dies thinking that his daughter will be forced to spend her life working in one of the organizations’ many houses of prostitution.

Klara has lived with Vlad since that horrible night, when she stumbled upon the murder of her father as a young girl. Despite the fact that her father was a traitor, Vlad has allowed Klara to grow up in his mansion and have a privileged life. She is more like part of the family than a prisoner, babied by Vlad’s sister and a sort of sister to his son.

For the most part, Vlad has ignored the girl living under his roof. Of course, now that she is growing into a young woman he is having a harder time dismissing the beautiful Klara. He wants her badly, but doesn’t want to steal the last bit of innocence that she possesses.

Eventually, Vlad and Klara cross that line and their relationship changes. No surprise there. After all, if they didn’t find there way to each other there wouldn’t be much of a romance here.

Along the way, there is plenty of angst and drama. Vlad is a complete Alpha-male a**hole and I loved him for it. (I’m sick like that.) He does plenty of infuriating things along the way that will have you wanting to strangle him.

Klara is the stereotypical innocent virgin. Know that going into this story. If that trope irritates you, then you will be seriously peeved with this book. I happen to love it, as cliché as it may be. So this story worked for me.

There are plenty of disturbing scenarios presented as well. I read a lot of dark stories and didn’t find anything to be too graphic, but I have a high tolerance for dark content. If you are easily “triggered”, then I’d steer clear of this one.

I enjoyed the many layers that were presented in this book. The characters were complex and intriguing. I found myself completely absorbed in this story from start to finish.

My only complaint is that there were a few times when I thought the author tried to venture into “dark” territory, only to chicken out. That is a big peeve of mine. I think if an author is going to write a dark story they should embrace the dark side and not be afraid to take it all the way.

One scene, in particular, had the potential to be a really pivotal dark scene, but it ended up being underwhelming. The author did a spectacular job of building suspense and pulling emotions from readers, only to not carry out the scene, having Vlad fail to carry through with the threatened action against Klara. After waiting for what was bound to be an emotional and traumatic event, I was left feeling a little ripped off. Then, it was hard for me to buy all of the coldness and turmoil that followed when Vlad didn’t even do what he set out to do.

Overall, this was a great read for me. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series when it is released. There were a few things that I would’ve changed, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. If you like stories that have a little dark content, or if Mafia books are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.

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Review: Avoiding Temptation (Avoiding, #3), by K. A. Linde

Avoiding Temptation (Avoiding, #3)Avoiding Temptation by K.A. Linde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final book in the ‘Avoiding’ series, ‘Avoiding Temptation’ provides the answers to all of the questions that I had. At last, I can put my frustrations to rest. Finally, I know how things work out for Lexi.

I don’t want to spoil this series for anyone, so I won’t say exactly who Lexi ends up with…or if she ends up with anyone at all. However, I will say that if you’re a fan of angst that this is one of the most angst-filled series that I’ve ever encountered. I could not believe the massive amounts of drama that played out over the course of this series.

This book certainly lived up to the reputation of earlier books in the series in that regard. There was never a dull moment. I couldn’t get enough of this salacious soap opera. This series is such a guilty pleasure. I know I should be appalled by the characters’ actions…but I just can’t stop reading!

As glad as I was to finally know how things worked out for Lexi and her string of male admirers, I was sad to see this series come to a close. I loved every minute of this series. It is probably one that I will re-read in the future, because I just can’t get enough of these characters.

I don’t want to ruin it for anyone, so I’ll just say that this is one series that you want to read. If you like forbidden love stories with a TON of angst, look no further. This is the series you’ve been looking for!

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