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: Give Me Your Answer True (The Fish Tales, #2), by Suanne Laqueur

Give Me Your Answer True (The Fish Tales, #2)Give Me Your Answer True by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading, or rather, listening to, ‘Give Me Your Answer True’ immediately after finishing ‘The Man I Love’. I fell in love with Erik, Daisy and the full cast of supporting characters in the first book, but I want more. I need to hear each of their unique perspectives. I cannot get enough of this story!

‘Give Me Your Answer True’ provides Daisy’s account of events. Erik’s perspective was provided in the first book and my heart broke alongside his. However, I needed to hear Daisy’s point of view. I had to know what the hell she was thinking and why she did what she did.

This book gave me the answers I had been craving. While I can’t say that I was satisfied with Daisy’s reasons, it is what it is. The truth is that she did something thoughtless and hurtful and had to live with the consequences of her actions for many years to come. I am still angry with Daisy. (Yes, I get angry with fictional characters!) However, nobody could be more disappointed in her than she was in herself. I had to remind myself that she was only human and, like everyone, she makes mistakes.

That being said, I was completely on-board with Erik’s total abandonment of Daisy. I know that most of my friends were like, “that’s harsh”, but not me. Nothing bothers me more than having a character that really screws up and then is forgiven with little more than an apology, like what they did wasn’t absolutely devastating. Nope! I expect for them to suffer and live with the emotional pain that they caused [me] when they screwed up. I expect some serious groveling before forgiveness is granted. Thankfully, that is exactly what I got with this book. Grovel away, Daisy!

Not surprisingly, Daisy’s story was heartbreaking. She definitely had to hit bottom before she could start to piece her life together again. While I felt for her, I never forgot that her pain was self-inflicted. She made her bed and was forced to sleep in it.

The same goes for David and John “Opie” Quillis. They may have wanted Daisy and even cared about her in their own way, but they knew whom her heart belonged to. I understood their motivations, but couldn’t really sympathize with them too much.

I guess I can be kind of harsh when it comes to any interference between the “original” love interests. I always want the first couple that I fall in love with to end up together. In this case, that would be Erik and Daisy. Rarely, do I ever come around to accepting a subsequent relationship for the hero or heroine of a story. Accordingly, I never got the least bit attached to Erik’s wife or any of Daisy’s boyfriends during the years that they were apart. They were just meaningless place-holders to me.

Although I continue to love this series, I can’t deny that I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first one. That is probably due to the fact that I was not as sympathetic toward Daisy as I was toward Erik. However, that isn’t to say that this book wasn’t fantastic. It was terrific!

I will definitely be continuing this series. I’m diving right into the third book and cannot wait to see what the future holds for Erik and Daisy. Finally, it seems as if they might get things back on track. I am also hopeful that Erik can repair the damage done to his friendship with Will. If his break-up with Daisy was her fault, only he is to blame for the rift in his friendship with Will.

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Review: The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1), by Suanne Laqueur

The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1)The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading ‘An Exhaltation of Larks’, I knew that I wanted to read every book written by Ms. Suanne Laqueur. Her writing is exquisite. The stories and characters that she brings to life are raw and emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring. I’ve definitely gone a little “fangirl” where she is concerned!

‘The Man I Love’ tells the story of a close-knit group of friends at Lancaster University. In many ways it is a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a terrible tragedy. They were young and carefree until the unthinkable happens. Then, this group of friends struggles to survive in the aftermath of a terrible attack.

Each of them copes with the trauma in a different way. As young, college students, they don’t appreciate the need to seek out professional help. All of them develop some destructive behaviors. In the months and years that follow they fall into a downward spiral, nearly destroying themselves and their relationships with those that they love.

No relationship undergoes more strain that that of Erik “Fish” Fiskare and Daisy Bianco. Erik was a theatre tech when he met Daisy, a lead ballerina at the school. The two were head over heels in love. They had the kind of relationship that others envied…until that day. Nothing was the same after that day.

Aside from Erik and Daisy, there is a robust cast of characters that make this story memorable. Will Kaeger, Erik’s best friend/roommate and Daisy’s dance partner, also plays a pivotal role. He is left to live with guilt and questions whether or not his actions were to blame for the events of that tragic day. It was his brief love affair with another student, James, that seems to have been the motivator for James’ horrific actions on that day.

Spanning over a decade, the long-term effects of a single traumatic event are played out through these character for readers. This story was absolutely beautiful, but also tragic and highly emotional. These characters both broke my heart and inspired me.

The first book in a series, ‘The Man I Love’ proves to be an addicting read. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series immediately. I highly recommend this book. I am utterly captivated by this story and these flawed, very human characters.

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Review: Documentary (Documentary, #1), by A. J. Sand

Documentary (Documentary, #1)Documentary by A.J. Sand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook of ‘Documentary’ and it was pretty good. The narration could have been better, but was not terrible. Overall, this was a 3 1/2 star read/listen for me, but I’m rounding it up because I feel optimistic today. It falls in the “good but not great”, “liked it but didn’t love it” category for me.

Dylan Carroll is a filmmaking student that is offered the job of a lifetime. She is hired to film a web documentary on the life of Kai White, a rock star that is undergoing a PR crisis. This is the type of job that can open doors for her and set her on a path to success. She knows how important this job is and she cannot afford to screw it up.

Kai White has had a recent fall from grace. On probation after beating up his former bandmate, his fans have turned on him. Once loved by all, he is now shunned in the industry and viewed as an out of control and violent offender. This web documentary is a last ditch effort at salvaging his public image.

Despite the need to keep their relationship purely professional, Dylan and Kai cannot fight their strong chemistry. They “get” each other on a level that others do not. However, Dylan knows that pursuing a romantic relationship would be disastrous. If she ever had any doubts, Kai’s manager has made that abundantly clear to her.

Meanwhile, Kai is refusing to be forthcoming with Dylan about the infamous fight with his former bandmate, Jeremy. She knows that the best way to save his image is to address the elephant in the room and she can’t understand why Kai won’t talk about it. How is she supposed to save his image when he seems to be working against her?

Eventually, everything comes out. However, there is a lot of jealousy and misunderstandings along the way. Both Kai and Dylan contribute a lot to the ongoing tension and seem to enjoy playing games with one another.

Maybe I’m just outgrowing the college-aged romances, because I couldn’t help but feel that the characters were emotionally immature. There was plenty of angst and lots of back and forth drama. I spent most of this book wanting to shake some sense into the main characters. So much stress could’ve been avoided if they’d only been honest with each other about how they felt.

By the time everything was revealed, nothing was much of a surprise. It was predictable, but fairly entertaining. This was an “okay” story, but I don’t feel compelled to continue the series. It is a good choice for recovering from a book hangover, when you just want a predictable, HEA-type of story that you can listen to and not have to think about too much. It won’t leave a lasting impression, but it served it’s purpose. I’ve listened to/read much worse.

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Review: Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1), by Nicole Williams

Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1)Lost and Found by Nicole Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Lost and Found’ was a sweet, heartwarming story that ended up being a pretty good way to pass some time. This book tells the story of Rowen Sterling, a troubled teenage girl that has spent years acting out. She has used drugs, alcohol and sex to try and get her deadbeat mother’s attention to no avail.

When Rowen’s mother has finally had enough of Rowen’s antics, she sends her to the home of an old friend in Montana. Rowen has never met the Walker family before, but she will be spending the summer on their ranch. It is about as far from Rowen’s normal life in the city as possible, but she begrudgingly agrees to go or else her mother will not pay for her to attend art school in the fall.

Right from the start, I noticed that there was a contradiction between who Rowen was supposed to be and who she actually was. From the moment that she arrived on the ranch, she was considerate and respectful. She immediately fell into the routines of the Walker family and pulled her own weight. She was a far cry from the rebellious hell-raiser that she was supposed to be.

In very little time, Rowen and the Walker’s son, Jesse, have caught each others’ attention. While Rowen was supposedly the “bad girl”, Jesse was a total sweetheart. He was hardworking, good looking and the type of guy that parents want their daughter to date. It was hard not to love Jesse.

As Rowen and Jesse’s summer romance takes off, Jesse’s past comes back to haunt them. His ex-best friend and his ex-girlfriend add a little drama to this story. Both Jesse and Rowen have to fight their insecurities at every turn.

When Rowen’s mother shows up on the scene, all hell breaks loose. To say that her mother is nurturing is putting it mildly. Rowen’s mother has spent years selfishly placing the needs of her revolving door of boyfriends above the needs of her own daughter. She is selfish and shallow. Suddenly, it becomes very apparent why Rowen had been acting out at home.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet story. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, YA type of romance, this is a pretty good choice. This can easily be read as a standalone, although it is part of a series. You won’t be left hanging. It will leave you with warm fuzzies.

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Review: Mister Black (In the Shadows, #1), by P. T. Michelle

Mister Black (In the Shadows, #1)Mister Black by P.T. Michelle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short read has been hanging out on my TBR list for awhile. I picked up the Audible version because it was a relatively short audiobook. I don’t like to start long audiobooks at the end of my workweek because I generally don’t listen as much on the weekends. This book was about the right length to occupy my commute time, while still having enough time to finish it off before the weekend.

In any case, this book started off promising for me. Natalia, aka Talia, aka Red, is a young teenage girl at the onset of the story. She is walking alone in the city when she finds herself in a compromising position. Refusing to hand over her necklace, she engages in a dangerous stand-off with her homeless mugger.

Just as Talia is growing to appreciate the precarious situation she is in, a handsome young man comes to her rescue. “Mister Black” fends off her assailant and offers her a ride home. After he leaves she doesn’t see him again, but she thinks of him often.

Years later, Talia is an aspiring reporter looking to land an exclusive interview for her college paper. She knows that there is more to the mysterious death of the wealthy co-ed than the authorities are letting on. She is determined to speak to the victim’s roommate to get to the bottom of it.

Talia’s opportunity presents itself in the form of an exclusive party. Her best friend has an uncanny resemblance to another girl that has been invited. This other girl is not planning on attending, so she plans to assume her identity for the night and take Talia along with her.

Once Talia has gained access to the party, she focuses on finding the elusive roommate. However, before she does, she runs into the handsome stranger from her past. She had dreamed of the mysterious Mister Black for years, but now learns that his real name is Sebastian Quinn.

Sparks fly immediately between Talia and Quinn. Things get real smutty, real quick. Everything happened so quickly that I was kind of like, “what the hell just happened?”.

Then, Talia returns her focus to the story. Sebastian introduces her to the roommate, who happens to be his sister. She uncovers some shocking circumstances surrounding the death of the girl’s roommate. What she finds out resonates with her on a deeper level, as the details are eerily similar to secrets from her own past.

Just as the story is starting to take off, it draws to a close. Apparently, Mister Black/Sebastian is a Navy Seal. He is going to be deployed soon and Talia will have to wait to see him again. Bad timing and all that.

To get answers, I’d have to read the next book. Unfortunately, I just don’t care enough to do that. While this story was “okay”, it didn’t hold much appeal for me. It was too convenient and felt a little reminiscent of ‘Nancy Drew’ or ‘The Babysitter’s Club’ to me. Young, naive girl takes on a huge criminal organization and tackles corruption, exposing the wrong-doers, etc., etc. I just wasn’t feeling it.

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Review: Bright Side (Bright Side, #1), by Kim Holden

Bright Side (Bright Side, #1)Bright Side by Kim Holden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book wrecked me! It was incredibly touching and heartfelt. Despite dealing with some rather depressing subject matter, it was handled with care. I can’t say that I didn’t cry big fat tears, but I can say that I smiled far more than I cried while reading this book. It was beautiful.

The heroine, Kate, moves from San Diego to Grant, Minnesota for college. Right off the bat, I loved her. It is easy to understand why her best friend, Gus, gave her the nickname “Bright Side”. She is the type of person that just lights up a room. Kudos to the narrator for being able to capture the essence of Kate’s character so well.

As Kate makes friends in her new home, she never lets her relationship with Gus weaken. They talk daily on the phone, while he tours with his band, Rook. There is no mistaking the strength of their bond, or the fact that there are feelings shared that extend beyond the bounds of normal friendship.

Despite claiming not to believe in romantic love, Kate finds herself falling in love. Keller Banks is the hot guy that works the counter at the coffee shop that she frequents for her caffeine fix. They flirt tirelessly and find themselves thrown together more often through mutual friends.

Once Kate and Keller begin spending more time together, their attraction is evident. Before long, Keller has let Kate into the private aspects of his life that he doesn’t share with others. The two grow incredibly close in a very short period of time.

Nobody is more surprised by their quick intimacy than Kate herself. She never planned on falling in love. She didn’t even believe it existed. More importantly, she has a big secret that she’s been keeping from everyone she loves, which she knows will ruin everything.

Aside from the romance between Kate and Keller, I found myself drawn to the stories of friendship in this book. Kate’s relationship with Gus was incredible. The support and love between them was so strong it was tangible. Similarly, her relationships with Clayton, Shelley and Pete were inspiring.

This book certainly did not lack for a strong cast of supporting characters. Each of these characters was endearing in their own way. Even the ones that made me mad initially, like Kate’s roommate, won me over eventually. I loved all of them and am looking forward to reading their stories.

In the end, I cried big, fat tears. It was sad, but also very inspiring. This is one of those books that makes you step back and reevaluate how you go through life. It was inspirational and helps keep things in perspective.

This is a must-read! I can’t believe that I put it off for so long, but I am so glad that I finally read it. This book was fabulous!

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Review: Heat (Elements of Chemistry, #2; Hypothesis, #1.2), by Penny Reid

Heat (Elements of Chemistry #2; Hypothesis, #1.2)Heat by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the shocking ending of the first serial, I wasn’t sure where Kaitlyn and Martin’s story was going to lead. However, ‘Heat’ picks up right were ‘Attraction’ left off, so you won’t be left hanging for long. In fact, this book featured one of the quickest resolutions to a big conflict that I’ve ever encountered. It was even a little anti-climactic for me, as I love the grovel.

That being said, I still enjoyed this book immensely. Kaitlyn never gets old. Her quirky, but endearing, antics kept me laughing again and Martin is just the guy to balance out her light-hearted personality.

This installment highlights the change in their relationship from friends to lovers. The intimacy between the two is incredible and there is plenty of sexiness. For most of this book, they are blissfully happy and inseparable.

Then, things go bad. I knew it would happen, but it was still painful to bear witness to. Expect another big cliffhanger that will leave you clamoring for the third installment.

Overall, this is still a fabulous series. I love the push/pull between Kaitlyn and Martin. After finishing this one, I had to dive into the last book immediately. I just couldn’t get enough of these two!

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Review: Attraction (Elements of Chemistry, #1; Hypothesis, #1.1), by Penny Reid

Attraction (Elements of Chemistry #1; Hypothesis, #1.1)Attraction by Penny Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a light-hearted, fun story that had me smiling from start to finish. I enjoyed every minute of this audiobook. I needed something kind of sweet and this was the perfect story.

Kaitlyn Parker is an introvert and a very quirky girl. She’s been matched as a lab partner with Martin Sandeke for 2 years. Despite the fact that they both come from families of extreme wealth and fame, the two couldn’t be more different on the surface. She’s the studious loner and he’s the resident manwhore.

The two have never spoken outside of the lab, until Kaitlyn overhears something that she shouldn’t have. When she hears the conniving plan of one of Martin’s supposed friends, she knows that she has to tell Martin what she’s overheard. She might think that Martin is a total “jerkface”, but she can’t stand by silently while somebody plans to drug him and have their way with him. That’s taking it too far.

When Kaitlyn approaches Martin to tell him about what she heard, the dynamics of their relationship changes immediately. Soon the two are engaged in a whirlwind romance. Martin convinces Kaitlyn to go away to his island home with him and some friends for a week. Let the fun begin!

One minute they’re hot. The next they’re cold. Both of them have some definite personality quirks and social hang-ups to contend with. Together, they’re absolutely hilarious. Kaitlyn’s inner monologue was enough to keep me in stitches. That girl was too funny!

Martin had plenty of selfish moments, which made for some tense moments. He was certainly used to getting exactly what he wanted, when he wanted it. Kaitlyn was good for him in that regard. She was the first woman that didn’t just throw herself at his feet.

Of course, this is only the first serial installment in the ‘Elements of Chemistry’ series. Accordingly, you can expect a cliffhanger ending that will leave you wanting the next serial immediately. Luckily, I waited until they were all released. So, I didn’t have to wait before diving into the next one.

This was a great, short, and absolutely adorable audiobook. It was sweet and very funny. The narration was great as well. It was a nice change of pace and I was able to jump right into the next one immediately.

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