Review: Yasmeena’s Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival, by Jean Sasson

Yasmeena's Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and SurvivalYasmeena’s Choice: A True Story of War, Rape, Courage and Survival by Jean Sasson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in Kuwait, ‘Yasmeena’s Choice’ is a graphic account of war crimes committed by Iraqi soldiers. The focus of Ms. Sasson’s work is the lives of women in the Middle East. Accordingly, this book is centered on the experience of Yasmeena, a young Lebanese woman that is in Kuwait at the time of the Iraqi invasion. After surviving a harrowing experience, she tells her story, bringing these atrocities to light.

Yasmeena is a flight attendant and it is only by chance that she finds herself in Kuwait on the day that Iraq invades it’s much smaller and more peaceful neighbor. She had agreed to trade shifts with a coworker. It’s funny how sometimes the small, seemingly mundane events in our lives often have the ability to set off a chain of events that is unforeseeable. This small act of kindness toward a coworker ends up being the most significant decision of Yasmeena’s life.

When the Iraqis invade, Yasmeena finds herself stranded in besieged country. She runs into a family friend, who invites her to stay with him and his family at their home while they wait out the Iraqis. At this point, everyone is sure that the invasion will be very short-term. Nobody could have predicted that the occupation would have gone on for so long before other nations intervened.

Stopped at a road block, Yasmeena is arrested and sent to a prison of sorts. However, this prison houses only female prisoners and their sole purpose is to satisfy the sexual urges of the Iraqi soldiers. Nothing was off-limits. When a soldier tired of his chosen victim, he just killed her and took another one. It was despicable.

Not surprisingly, this was an incredibly difficult story to read. The author did not hold back. This book is meant to upset and outrage readers and it certainly hit it’s mark. Yasmeena’s accounts of life as a female prisoner for her and the other girls under the Iraqi soldiers was horrifying.

This book serves to raise awareness and shine a light on one of the brutal realities of war — the crimes against women and children. The torture and rape of civilians, particularly women and children, is not something unique to Iraqi soldiers or this particular war. Yet, it is a topic that few dare to address. It is the worst kept “dirty little secret” of war that nobody wants to discuss. However, if it continues to be hidden away and ignored, then there is no hope for change.

Despite the brutality of this story, I think that it was an important book. It is a call to action, forcing readers to think about the plight of women in this war-torn region of the world. More importantly, it exposes the human side of these crimes and the emotional impact on the victims, making it harder to dehumanize them. Books like this one are painful, but necessary.

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Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3), by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3)A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure that I can say much about this book that hasn’t been said already, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. ‘A Court of Wings and Ruin’ was a great finale to the series. I have loved watching Feyre evolve over the course of this series and this book did a wonderful job of bringing everything full circle. If you’re a fan of the series, then this book is a must-read.

That being said, I honestly didn’t think that this book was as spectacular as the second book. This is probably a reflection of my personal tastes more than anything. I am primarily a romance reader. I like a little fantasy and adventure, but I need a healthy dose of romance thrown in.

While this third book definitely continued the love story, it wasn’t as smutty as I would’ve liked. There, I said it. I wanted more steamy, hot times with Feyre and Rhysand. The second book definitely provided more to work with in that regard, but I understand that this book is not marketed for adult romance readers, like me. Again, it is just a matter of personal preferences.

On the other hand, this book was action-packed. From start to finish, there was always something adventurous and deadly brewing. There was never a dull moment. It definitely kept me on the edge of my seat right to the very end.

I won’t say much about the storyline, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. There are a lot of changes that occur during this book. Some are heartbreaking, others will make you melt. I was left with a feeling of contentment, resolute that everything was “right” in this make believe world that I grew to love so much.

While this series has drawn to a close, I am left wondering if Ms. Maas has any plans to create a spin-off series. There were so many characters introduced in this series that have grown dear to me. I feel like their stories want to be told and she certainly planted the seeds to do this. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, this was a fantastic book and series. I would definitely recommend this series to others. ‘A Court of Mist and Fury’ is still my favorite by far, but this one was great in and of it’s own right also.

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Review: Dominic (Benedetti Brothers, #2), by Natasha Knight

Dominic (Benedetti Brothers, #2)Dominic by Natasha Knight
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a tough review for me to write. I find myself a little torn over how to rate this book. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

On the one hand, ‘Dominic’ had many elements that would usually be an instant hit with me. It featured a morally bankrupt anti-hero that does some terrible things to the heroine. I love dark reads, so the twisted storyline was right up my alley. Also, the author didn’t shy away from writing dark, controversial content, which is also a big plus for me.

However, the flip side is that I never really “connected” to Dominic or Gia. Even though this story had all the dark elements that would usually be a formula for success for me, I just didn’t feel it. I don’t know if this was a result of poor execution, or if it is just a result of reading this book immediately after reading another phenomenal dark story. I think it is the latter. While this book might have been a 4-star/”good” read for me any other time, following a 5-star/”phenomenal” dark read it ended up paling in comparison. So as you read my review, please keep that in mind.

If you’ve read ‘Salvatore’, the first book in the ‘Benedetti Brothers’ series, you might recall that Dominic was Salvatore’s [disturbed] brother. This book takes quite some time after ‘Salvatore’ and Dominic has been out of touch with his “family”. While Salvatore has left the Mafia behind to pursue a normal family life, Dominic has only begun to work from the periphery, doing the most despicable work for crime bosses.

Dominic is definitely not a nice guy. He makes no qualms about the fact that he does horrible things. On some level, he acknowledges that what he is doing is wrong and that he is even ashamed of how far down he’s let himself fall. Regardless, he isn’t bothered enough by his conscience to stop doing what he’s doing….and what he’s doing is breaking girls and training them for lives as sex slaves.

Gia is given to Dominic to be broken and trained. She immediately piqued his interest because he was told that he could not have sex with her. She also had been branded, which was uncommon.

From the start, Dominic was very aware that Gia wasn’t like most of the other girls he was sent to train. It was clear that she wasn’t some random girl stolen from the street that wouldn’t be missed. She was taken for a specific purpose. Maybe she made a boyfriend angry. Maybe it was revenge. Dominic told himself that he didn’t care, until he began to realize that Gia might be tied to his past and the family that he had left behind.

As Gia’s identity comes to light, Dominic’s conflicting loyalties make for some surprising twists and turns. Gia’s past is more intertwined with his than she knows. From captor to savior, she can’t seem to escape him.

This story is dark and has plenty of danger. It is a Mafia love story that is full of betrayal and seedy underworld dealings. All of this would usually add up to an instant hit for me.

Unfortunately, ‘Dominic’ fell flat for me. I found myself feeling disconnected from the story and the characters. I listened to the Audible version and while the narration wasn’t necessarily bad, the story failed to hold my attention. I found myself zoning out frequently.

As I mentioned above, this could be because I was still in the midst of a bad book hangover after finishing another fabulous dark story and ‘Dominic’ just couldn’t compare. Regardless of the cause, ‘Dominic’ ended up just being an “okay” kind of story for me. I didn’t hate it or love it, because in the end I just didn’t care.

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Review: Dirty Souls (Sins Duet, #2), by Karina Halle

Dirty Souls (Sins Duet, #2)Dirty Souls by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Black Hearts’ left off with a rather ominous vibe that honestly, left me giddy. (I know, I know. I’m kind of messed up like that.) While Violet and Vicente were getting settled in and playing house, Javier was moving in on his son and his new lover. You just knew that whatever was going to happen wasn’t going to be good for the young lovers…and I couldn’t wait!

In case I haven’t said it enough, let me just be clear that Javier Bernal is one of my all-time favorite anti-heroes. He has owned a piece of my heart since the very beginning, despite his despicable ways. I guess that, like him, I’m still stuck in the past where Ellie and him are concerned. I always will be.

I totally understand why Ellie left him. In fact, I probably would’ve been pissed if she hadn’t. After all, I hate a doormat heroine. That being said, after some hardcore groveling I wanted Ellie and Javier to mend their relationship. I still refuse to see the writing on the wall, even as it is clear that Camden and Luisa are here to stay. A girl can dream, I guess.

Now that I’ve gotten all of that out into the open, I have to admit that I have never been more appalled by Javier’s behavior than I was in this book. He has done some pretty terrible things before, but never did he stoop to such a cruel and personal level as he did in this book. (Note: Some of the dead prostitutes from his last dark spell might disagree with me on this point.) The things that he did were beyond forgiveness and shocking, even to him.

While ‘Black Hearts’ was relatively mild and only hinted at the darkness to come, ‘Dirty Souls’ is incredibly dark and brutal. Just about every fear that I had for Violet and Vicente at the end of the first book was brought to life. On top of that, this book birthed new horrors that I hadn’t even thought of.

Given the history between Javier and Ellie, I couldn’t believe that he would go there with his daughter. It was like the last bits of humanity that remained within Javier were being snuffed out in front of my eyes. Yet, at the same time, there were glimpses of remorse that hinted at the remnants of a soul remaining within Javier. It was emotionally painful to watch as he actively worked at destroying what little love remained between him and Ellie through his intentional and callous actions.

I don’t want to give too much away, because I think anyone that is a fan of this series should read this. As I’m sure you’ve already figured out if you’ve read the first book in the series, Javier has taken Violet and Vicente. He intends to teach his son a lesson and he plans to use Violet to do that. She is also a means to get his long awaited revenge on her mother.

This book was an action-packed, suspenseful and emotional read. I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish. I absolutely devoured this book. That being said, even for a die-hard fan of Javier, like me, his depravity was hard to forgive. His hunger for power has changed him so much over the years, as he’s gained and lost everything that he’s ever wanted. It was brutal, it was heartbreaking….and I could not have loved it more!

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Review: The V Girl: A coming of age story, by Mya Robarts

The V Girl: A coming of age storyThe V Girl: A coming of age story by Mya Robarts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I knew it would deal with some pretty “heavy” subject matter. After all, the blurb is pretty forthcoming about the fact that rape is commonplace in this futuristic world that Mya Robarts created. While it proved to be every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected, there were also more moments of simplistic beauty than I had anticipated.

Given the dark, gritty and downright gloomy existence that the heroine lives, these few exquisite moments provided her with the inspiration necessary to keep living another day. For the reader, they served to keep the story from becoming so depressing as to not be enjoyable. Even in the darkest of times, there is light to be seen if you look hard enough. Finding that light is the essence of the human drive to survive against all odds.

Lila Velez was a girl that managed to find the light in a very dark world. Coming of age in her town meant being eligible for recruitment by the army. While this sounds deceivingly honorable, don’t let the fluffy language fool you. “Recruitment” is really a nice way of saying “rape” that is completely legal and sanctioned by the government. There is nothing nice about it or this life that Lila was born into. It is raw, brutal and horrific.

If you can picture that, then you can imagine the morose feeling that pervades this book. The vast majority of this book takes place in the months preceding the recruitment ceremony. (Yes, they actually have a big ceremony to celebrate these traumatic, and very public, mass rapes.) There was a strong sense of impending doom and the clock ticked down to the time that Lila would face a certain and brutal rape.

Fully aware of what the future holds in store for her, Lila is determined to take control of her own first sexual experience–to the extent that she can when she is faced with an ever-shortening timeline. She sets out to lose her virginity before it can be taken from her. She has no illusions of romance, but refuses to let the soldiers take that part of her. At least she can be sure that her first time will be with someone that she cares about, even if it isn’t with someone that she is in love with.

When Lila’s best friend, Rey, first turns her down, she is disappointed but not deterred. She is certain that she will be able to convince Rey before the troops arrive in their town. If she can’t she is sure that she can find somebody. After all, anyone would be better than the soldiers.

General Aleksy Furst immediately takes notice of Lila when he arrives in town. An awkward, rather comical, first meeting ensures that he won’t soon forget Lila. Despite her initial protests, Lila eventually comes to consider Aleksy’s offer to rid her of her virginity.

While reading this story, it was easy to draw many parallels between this fictional futuristic dystopian America and factual past and present war crimes of the world. This book forces readers to evaluate their values and sheds light on many unpleasant truths that are not discussed in polite society. From homophopia, rape, government-sanctioned war crimes, genetic modification, gender-specific roles to hypocrisy, this book touches on so many controversial topics that I couldn’t begin to list them all.

That is really what makes this book so moving and memorable. Of course, I enjoyed the love story that evolved between Lila and Aleksey. However, the beauty of this book was in it’s ability to make readers think about these controversial topics. The best books are those that force us to reevaluate our beliefs and behaviors, sculpting us into better, more compassionate, individuals. This is one such book.

While this book certainly isn’t a feel-good type of story, I highly recommend it. Like ‘1984’ and other dystopian classics, ‘The V Girl’ is a thought-provoking social commentary. I especially liked the questions for discussion that the author included at the back of the book.

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Review: Killing The Sun: Part 3, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 3Killing The Sun: Part 3 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third, and final, installment of the ‘Killing The Sun’ series, the tension between Danny and Aimee is at an all-time high. Aimee is finally ready to stand up to Danny, even as she still yearns for his love on some level. With Aimee slipping away, Danny is at his most brutal.

For the first time while reading this series, I really feared what Danny might do to Aimee. He was always violent and controlling, but I never got the sense that he wanted to truly harm Aimee before. Now, there is no telling what he might do to her. He might even want her dead.

As Danny is brought to justice for his criminal activities, Aimee’s secrets also come to light. In fact, she proved to be more duplicitous than Danny, in my opinion. It was like there was this whole other person that I was blind to before. Part of me felt betrayed by her, while another part felt proud that she had it in her.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that this series took me by surprise. It was a whirlwind of steamy sex and betrayals. And that ending! I am dying to know what happens next. I would kill for an epilogue or another book. I imagine a dark romance with Danny and Aimee living out the HEA together…but I always root for the anti-hero. Damn these two twisted geniuses!

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Review: The Risk (Mindf*ck Series, #1), by S. T. Abby

The Risk (Mindf*ck Series #1)The Risk by S.T. Abby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy hell! This book was fantastic! I had never heard of S. T. Abby before now, but she has blown me away with this book. This is one twisted and fascinating story. I will be one-clicking her releases from this point forward.

The first in a series of five serials, ‘The Risk’ was suspenseful and utterly addicting. I could not put this super short book down. Once you’ve finished the first one, you’re going to want to delve into the next book immediately. Luckily, the entire series has been released, so you don’t have to live with the anxious anticipation for long.

Logan Bennett is a very successful FBI criminal profiler. His team is the FBI’s “dream team” of sorts. They get assigned the toughest cases, tracking down and capturing the country’s worst murderers. He is the quintessential “good guy” and a real-life hero.

Lana Myers is his polar opposite. Her life experiences have taught her that good does not always prevail. She is no longer a young girl with illusions of a criminal justice system that is fair and just. She knows all to well that there is true evil in this world. She has no qualms about handing out her own special brand of justice to those that she deems deserving of punishment. I can’t say that I disagreed either. Lana is quite possibly one of my favorite leading female characters ever…and she’s a serial killer!

When Logan and Lana cross paths, sparks fly immediately. One chance meeting at a coffee shop sets a chain of events in motion that will change the lives of these two forever. I was completely glued to this story. I knew that things were bound to get really ugly, but I couldn’t tear myself away.

Lana knows that the last thing she should ever do is pursue a romantic relationship with an FBI profiler. However, she just can’t deny herself the happiness that she feels with Logan. For his part, Logan is completely clueless about Lana’s true identity or what she does when she’s away from him. He has no idea that the serial killer he’s been hunting is actually warming his bed at night.

From start to finish, I could not pull myself away from this story. Despite being polar opposites, S. T. Abby managed to make both Logan and Lana characters that were endearing. I loved them both, even as I feared the heartache that I know has to be looming in the distance.

This story was dark, twisted and thrilling. This first serial ended with a big cliffhanger, that had me jumping into the next one immediately. I was blown away by this story.

If you’re a fan of dark, suspenseful stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time, then you need to read this series. The first book is free, so you’re not losing anything if you don’t like it. If you’re like me, you won’t even want to come up for air until you’ve read all five. This series was phenomenal!

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Review: Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella (Gypsy Brothers, # 7.5), by Lili St. Germain

Alternate: A Gypsy Brothers NovellaAlternate: A Gypsy Brothers Novella by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s no mystery that I love dark, twisted stories. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I absolutely love the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. It is a raw, gritty and disturbing story of revenge and I devoured each one of the books in this series.

Somehow, I managed to miss the fact that this novella had been released until I saw a couple of reviews start popping up on friends’ pages. That is precisely why I love Goodreads so much. I hate to think that I would’ve missed this otherwise. Luckily, that didn’t happen.

Although this is just a novella, I found it to bring a lot to the series. Providing three snippets of scenes from the POVs of Jase, Dornan and Elliot respectively, I gained a much better understanding of what was going on inside each of their heads. Some things were surprising, like Jase’s darker urges, and some things not so much, like Elliot’s love for Juliette.

Dornan continues to be one of the most intriguing villains that I’ve ever encountered. He is wicked through and through. Yet, there is a tiny part of him buried deep down that is remorseful and regretful. In his own sick way he still cared for Juliette, even as he was determined to destroy her. I still struggle to reconcile the man he could have been with the man that he became.

This novella also sheds more light on the time that Jase spent as his father’s captive for the years following Juliette’s brutal rape. He was an entirely different person than the Jase that we met in the other books. His despair led him to some very dark places. He’s never even told Juliette about his time pushing the depths of his own depravity.

As for Elliot, you just can’t help but love him. He was just what Juliette needed at the lowest point in her life. Without him, she wouldn’t have stood a chance at survival. He sacrificed so much to save her. Unfortunately for him, she just couldn’t ever love him the way he wanted her to. His story is one of sacrifice and heartache, but integral to the series.

This was another terrific addition to the ‘Gypsy Brothers’ series. This is hands-down, one of my favorite dark series and I’m so glad that Lili St. Germain gave fans another little taste. It does need to be read after other books in the series so that you’ll have an understanding of the characters and events. This one is not intended to be a standalone. If you’re a fan of the series, you can get a free copy of this ebook on the author’s website if you sign up for her mail group.

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Review: Riot (Scarred Souls, #4), by Tillie Cole

Riot (Scarred Souls, #4)Riot by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***I was provided an ARC of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley.com, in exchange for honest feedback.***

I love this series! Each one of the books in this series has grabbed my attention and left me craving more. I just cannot get enough of these tortured fighters and the women that tame them. It may sound ridiculous – and logically, it kind of is – but it just works so damn well.

There is something about the over-the-top, Alpha-male heroes in this series that appeals to me on a very primal level. In fact, much of the dialogue would be laughable in any other book, but Tillie Cole pulls it off flawlessly. The heroes are similar to those from Kresley Cole’s ‘Immortals After Dark’ series, in their overwhelming need to answer to their baser needs. Phrases like “my female” and other possessive, rudimentary speech patterns fill the pages, but it manages to be incredibly H-O-T.

In this fourth, and final (?), book, we meet “901”. He’s the Blood Pit’s undefeated champion fighter and he’s proved to be a challenge to Master Arziani, the head of the Arziani Georgian crime mob. It is clear that 901 fears nothing, including Master Arziani. This presents a tremendous problem for the crime boss, who needs to reign in his champion.

When Master Arziani shows off his new favorite pleasure slave, “152”, he finally finds the leverage he’s been searching for. Despite his attempts to hide his interest, 901 is taken aback by 152’s beauty. He’s never wanted for anything as much as he wants her.

The two are thrown together, as Master Arziani uses 152 as a tool to break 901. No matter how hard 901 fights his attraction, he ultimately must cede control in this regard. Master Arziani has finally found a way to control 901.

Meanwhile, Valentin is determined to rescue his sister, 152, from the life of slavery that he was able to escape. Along with Luka and Zaal, he plots to bring down Master Arziani once and for all. Their plans are daring and they know that they will either succeed or die trying.

From start to finish, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. The plight of 152 and 901 was desperate and heartbreaking at times. Arziani was sadistic and seriously unhinged, so I never knew what to expect from him.

Unlike earlier books in the series, which followed a predictable pattern of the hero’s escape/rescue from slavery and gradual acclimation to “normal” life on the outside, aided by the heroine, this book saves the rescue for last. In contrast to earlier books, this book is primarily set during the time of captivity. 901 and 152 are both slaves when they meet and fall in love. Only later, are they rescued.

This book was fantastic. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it and could not put it down. Old and new characters come together and everything comes full-circle. We finally get the HEA that these characters deserve. I can only hope that there will be a spin-off series in the future. I loved it!

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Review: Preppy: The Life and Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Two (King, #6), by T. M. Frazier

Preppy: The Life and Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Two (King, #6)Preppy: The Life and Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Two by T.M. Frazier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Preppy is back, but he isn’t the same Preppy that we’ve grown to love over the course of the ‘King’ series. His time in captivity has really done a number on him. After everything he endured, it is nothing short of a miracle that he managed to survive…and surviving is exactly what he’s doing, no more.

When Dre seeks closure, she never imagined that she’d find Preppy alive. So much for saying “goodbye” and making her peace. She is immediately taken back to their time together, even if she’d rather forget the heartache that he left her with.

As Preppy begins to heal physically, he is plagued by the psychological after-effects of the torture. While all of his closest friends want him to face his issues, he wants nothing more than to escape from the pain. He loses himself in drugs and alcohol, racing to the bottom.

The only time that Preppy is able to find any peace is when he is with Dre. She has a calming affect on him. Despite the pain he’s caused her, she still can’t seem to give up on him. She does her best to keep him at arms-length, but as always, he manages to creep into her heart.

At times, I did find myself scratching my head over details related to the timeline of some events. It just didn’t seem to add up for me, but I could have been mis-reading something. At one point, Preppy’s captivity is said to have been for a few months. Yet at other points in the story, it was implied that he didn’t know about the kids that Doe and King had. He was also clueless to the fact that Bear had entered into a serious relationship and Thia was now “huge” in her pregnancy, which wouldn’t happen until the third trimester. So, I was a little confused as to how he could have missed so much if he’d only been away for “months”. Again, maybe I mis-read something along the way. I’ll have to go back and re-read this at some point to clarify.

If you’re a fan of this series, like I am, expect to enjoy this book. I have been a big fan of Preppy from the start, so it was hard to meet this broken version of the usually boisterous character that I love so much. However, things are looking up for Preppy.

That being said, I continue to be perplexed by the number of typos and grammatical errors that make it into the published versions of this author’s works. I’m not sure if there is a big rush to meet deadlines, or what else might be contributing. However, the editing needs some work. Simple mistakes like using the word “your” when the word should be “you’re” or typos like “phon” in place of “phone” are sprinkled throughout the book. It was distracting at times and does take away from the story.

Given that the story itself is so fantastic, which takes a lot of talent on the part of the author, it is a shame to see basic editing oversights and technicalities mess with it. I’m no grammar expert myself, but there should be a few grammar experts on the team of this best-selling author, in my opinion. Her work is incredible and I hate to see it not live up to it’s potential because of such elementary mistakes.

Even with the editing oversights, this was a highly enjoyable book. It does end with another cliffhanger, so expect to be waiting anxiously for part 3 of Preppy’s story. I will be sure to buy it as soon as it is released.

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