Review: Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part 3 (King, #7), by T. M. Frazier

Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Three (King, #7)Preppy: The Life & Death of Samuel Clearwater, Part Three by T.M. Frazier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I have enjoyed the ‘King’ series, I have mixed feelings about this book. Preppy is a favorite character of mine, but I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed with this final book in his story. At the same time, I was glad that everything was tied up and that the series drew to a close. I think it was time. It is kind of bittersweet for me.

Like earlier books in the series, Preppy, Bear and King team up to take on those that would do them harm. This time around, Dre is a target. Picking up right where the last book left off, Dre is in a dire situation and has to fight for her life. That isn’t the last time that they’ll find themselves in a life or death struggle though.

Despite the action and danger that fills the pages, I was left feeling somewhat bored. Maybe I’ve just grown tired of the constant danger and implausibility of this series, but I just wasn’t surprised or even anxious while reading this one. It felt kind of flat for me.

That being said, it was nice to see these characters all “grown up” and settled down. Each of them managed to find their happy place, going on to have children and live out their HEAs. These rough and tumble, drug-dealing guys have become the picture of domestic bliss. It is kind of sweet, in a bizarre way.

Overall, I thought that this ended up being a pretty good book. It didn’t hold my attention like the earlier books in the series, but I was also glad to see everything wind down and come to a close. It was a great ride while it lasted, but it was time.

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Review: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading this book, I can certainly see what all the uproar is about. ‘The Hate U Give’ addresses the very sensitive issues of race relations and police brutality in a time when the nation is torn over these issues. Most of my friends are at one extreme or the other when it comes to the #Blacklivesmatter movement. Since I don’t want to incite an online mobbing, I’m going to do my best to avoid that movement specifically, while sharing my thoughts and opinions on this wonderful book.

First of all, this is a very moving story. It centers on a teenage black girl, Starr Carter, who leaves her crime-riddled neighborhood each day to attend an affluent school across town. In both settings, she feels a need to conform to the social norms. This means that she lives a double-life of sorts — she has one persona with her black family and friends in her neighborhood and another one with her wealthy, predominantly white, friends from her school.

One night she attends a party in her neighborhood that turns violent. After leaving the party with her childhood friend, Khalil, her life and her community is forever changed. A routine traffic stop turns tragic when an unarmed Khalil is repeatedly shot by a police officer after failing to follow police instructions.

The events of that night serve as the spark that sets off an explosion. Starr’s neighborhood has a long-standing animosity for the police, citing multiple instances of police brutality and harassment. The death of Khalil is only the latest in a long line of atrocities.

Begrudgingly, Starr is forced into the center of a media feeding frenzy. Part of her wishes that she could just hide and return to her “old” life, while another part wants to be brave and stand up for what she believes is right. She was in an extremely difficult situation for a young girl.

Although she initially tries to remain anonymous, as the sole witness of Khalil’s murder she eventually speaks out publicly. Doing so, Starr learns a lot about herself and the people that she surrounds herself with. Some will stick around to support her, others will reveal that they were never really who she thought they were.

While this book certainly highlighted the issue of police brutality against blacks, there were several other takeaways for me. I applaud the author for not shying away from other issues that are controversial. For example, racism – against multiple races – was prevalent throughout this story. I appreciated that the author was forthcoming in addressing this topic, even knowing that it would likely be controversial. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Racism is still racism and it is wrong, regardless of the race.

Although I did find the danger of Starr’s neighborhood to be exaggerated, the author also highlighted the issue of violent crime, drugs and gang warfare. Several times, there were drive-by shootings or other crimes committed in Starr’s neighborhood by the residents against the residents. It was sad and the author did a good job of highlighting this issue/cycle of violence.

One notable, older man in the story commented on this and I couldn’t have agreed with him more. There was a lot of senseless violence and crime in Starr’s neighborhood. As he said, the government needn’t look further than that neighborhood to find a real terrorist. The people lived in fear, not only of the police, but of the crime lord in their midst.

The conflict in Starr’s family over whether to stay in the neighborhood, despite the danger, or move to a safer neighborhood, also was enlightening. There were a lot of mixed feelings and a sense of betrayal that accompanied her parent’s desire to “better” their situation and that of their children. It reminded me of that saying about crabs in a bucket, always trying to pull one back in before they can get out. There was certainly plenty of pressure and resentment, both within and outside of her family where this was concerned. They had to balance their desire to improve their situation against the repercussions of being viewed as sell-outs. The same was true for Starr’s uncle, who was a police officer.

Overall, this was a wonderful book. I’d definitely recommend it to others, regardless of their views. It provides plenty of food for thought and raises awareness of several important social issues.

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Review: Seven Days (The Game Series, #7), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Seven Days  (The Game Series, #7)Seven Days by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final installment in the series, ‘Seven Days’ gives the answers that I’ve been craving. I have been completely consumed with these short serials, reading the entire series in a single day. Each one has kept me on the edge of my seat and none more so than this final serial.

While I had guessed the identity of Number 3 fairly early on, I was pretty shocked by his motivations. Talk about whiplash! I’m not sure exactly what these guys were thinking, but this was one seriously messed up game that they were playing.

Although I finally got the answers I wanted, I found myself left with new questions that I hadn’t pondered earlier on. Now that I know who was behind the game and why, I can’t help but want to know more. When did this game get started? Were the players always the same? Why on earth would anyone continue to play?

Nobody left me with more questions than Ella herself. After everything, I was perplexed by her final actions in this series. I had a serious WTF moment at the end.

That being said, this series was one hell of a ride. It was suspenseful, mysterious and erotic as hell. I never knew what was going to happen next. Even now, I wonder what the future has in store for Ella, Tobias and Preston. I anticipate that there will be a spin-off series to address those issues. I will definitely be reading it if that comes to pass.

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Review: Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3), by Suanne Laqueur

Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3)Here to Stay by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book in ‘The Fish Tales’ series, ‘Here to Stay’ chronicles Erik and Daisy’s new beginning. After everything that they’ve been through and all the pain that they’ve inflicted on themselves and each other, they are finally trying to work things out. However, a past like theirs is not easily forgotten. It will take a lot of understanding and forgiveness to move past the hurt that they’ve hung onto for so long.

As happy as I was to see one of my new favorite couples find their way back to one another, they still had a lot of healing ahead of them. There was no way that they could ever pick up where they left off. Too much had happened. I’ve never seen a couple that caused each other so much pain, even as they loved each other so much.

Aside from repairing his relationship with Daisy, Erik also has to make amends with Will. For me, the disintegration of their friendship was just as heartbreaking. I was so glad to see them reunited and to have Erik acknowledge his mistreatment of Will.

While Erik and Daisy are navigating the new terms of their long-distance relationship, there are some expected insecurities on both of their parts. Understandably, Daisy fears abandonment. Erik has his own worries about his fertility and what that will mean for their future.

Along the way, Erik finally faces his past. He has allowed the actions of his father to model his future for too long. When a long lost relative reaches out to Erik, he and Daisy go on a journey of self-discovery. He uncovers family secrets that shed light on his father’s sudden disappearance. While he doesn’t get all of the answers that he was looking for, he gains a better understanding of the demons that haunted his father.

Of course, nothing comes easy for Daisy and Erik. Just when you think that they’re going to ride off into the sunset and live their happily ever after, tragedy strikes. I swear, they just can’t catch a break.

Old habits die hard and the couple must overcome the desire to slip back into old coping strategies. This time around, they are more mature and better able to help each other heal. I was very glad to see that they were able to work through this upset together and come out stronger as a couple because of it.

‘Here to Stay’ was a wonderful finale to Erik and Daisy’s story. I have loved every minute of this series and the vibrant characters that Ms. Laqueur has brought to life. I highly recommend this series. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was fabulous as well.

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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: Dirty Promises (Dirty Angels, #3), by Karina Halle

Dirty Promises (Dirty Angels, #3)Dirty Promises by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Karina Halle wasn’t kidding when she said that this was the darkest book that she’s written. I knew when I opened up this book to find a couple of pages of forewarning from the author about how dark and disturbing the content was, that this was going to be a book that I loved. It certainly did not disappoint!

I have been a die-hard Javier fan from the start. There is something about him that I just can’t resist. He definitely isn’t a nice guy by any means, but I find him absolutely irresistible. In fact, I’m still pretty peeved with Ellie for choosing Cam over Javier. I don’t think that I’ll ever get completely past that.

Unlike ‘Dirty Deeds’, ‘Dirty Promises’ is centered on Javier and his wife, Luisa. While Javier was never a “good guy”, this book gives us a front row seat to his downward spiral into the depths of his depravity. The fact that his life as a cartel leader had corrupted him was hinted at in the last book, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom how far gone he was.

After the way things worked out in ‘Dirty Deeds’, Javier is a broken man. His violent, gory actions are extreme, even for him. He pretty much succumbed to madness.

While Javier is acting out his most brutal and depraved fantasies, he has completely neglected his wife. Luisa has tried to be patient and has done her best to overlook Javier’s indiscretions. However, there comes a point when she can no longer do so.

Of course, Javier has an enemy in his midst working to capitalize on Javier’s anguish. Betrayal after betrayal, this book completely gutted me. Aside from the sheer brutality, my heart wasn’t prepared for the emotional pain that this book would deliver. I was absolutely gutted by this story.

Even as the Javier fangirl that I am, I found it hard to forgive him for some of his actions in this book. No doubt about it, they were despicable. Luisa’s actions were easier to understand when confronted with the reality of what Javier put her through. I liked her before, but my heart really went out to her in this book. If there was anyone that was the “victim” in this scenario, it was definitely Luisa.

Without a doubt, this was one of the most intense dark stories that I’ve read in some time. I actually cried as Luisa suffered, which doesn’t happen very often. It was gritty, depraved and highly emotional. As disturbing as Javier’s world is, I cannot get enough! I loved this book!

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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: 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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Review: Reap (Scarred Souls, #2), by Tillie Cole

Reap (Scarred Souls, #2)Reap by Tillie Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Taboo And Sexy!

I love forbidden, taboo love stories and ‘Reap’ did not disappoint! Centered on the love story of Zaal and Talia, two lovers from rival Mafia families, there was plenty of angst and conflict to go around. Add in the fact that Zaal has spent the greater part of his life being drugged and forced to fight as a slave, and you have a gripping story.

Despite being a conditioned killer, Zaal had an extremely vulnerable side that I found endearing. With his Alpha-male protectiveness, I found him to be irresistibly as a main character. I came to think of him as a kind of gentle giant. He was tough as nails, but also sweet and tender with Talia.

Talia was also a fantastic character. She was strong-minded and kept things interesting with her rebellious antics. Tired of being under the thumb of her powerful Mafia family, she took every chance that she could to live for herself. At the same time, she was realistic about the world that she was born into.

The history between their two families is tragic and cannot be changed. Actions taken years before either of them were born continue to impact their present reality. When the nature of their relationship is brought to light, their love is put to the test.

I enjoyed every minute of this story. The characters were engaging and the story flows easily from where the first book left off, transitioning smoothly and tying up loose ends. The connection between Zaal and Talia was almost tangible it was so strong. I would have liked more of their story, but only because I’m greedy.

The sneak-peek into the next book in the series has me very excited as well. It will certainly be a game-changer for Zaal, in a good way. I am looking forward to reading it ASAP.

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