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: Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3), by C. S. Pacat

Kings Rising (Captive Prince, #3)Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like earlier books in this series, ‘Kings Rising’ had my rapt attention from beginning to end. This book was action-packed and full of emotion. It broke my heart, only to piece it back together slowly. I loved every minute!

This book sees both Damen and Laurent fighting to reclaim their kingdoms. Despite their differences, the two are forced into a tenuous alliance. They need one another, if either of them hopes to succeed. This makes for plenty of emotional highs and lows along the way as the two attempt to navigate through their new realities. In many ways, the tables have turned. At the same time, so much remains unchanged.

Finally, all of Damen’s secrets are out in the open. No longer does he live in fear of what will happen when Laurent finds out who he really is. Instead, he now lives with his wrath. If he thought that Laurent would be angry, he was right.

To say that I found this a little hypocritical is putting it mildly. I kept thinking, “where does Laurent get off?” After all, Damen was his slave by force. Of course he would keep a secret like that. What did he expect him to do, tell his captor his true identity and face certain death?

That feeling only grew stronger as Laurent revealed some secrets of his own. I mean, where did he get off being so self-righteous? It seemed to me that Damen was played, yet again. If anything, Laurent proved, once again, to be one of the most manipulative characters that I’ve ever encountered.

Even so, I cannot deny that I absolutely loved this book. Every interaction between Damen and Laurent was like a delicious little drop of heaven for me. I spent the moments between their encounters holding my breath, waiting for their next interaction. It was pathetic really, but I have no shame.

In the end, I was left feeling quite satisfied. I wasn’t sure that these two would ever get there, but they eventually get some peace. I’m not a big fan of M/M romances generally, but I absolutely loved this series. It was heartfelt and sexy, with plenty of action along the way. The characters and storyline were well-developed and engaging. I would definitely recommend this series to others.

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Review: Prince’s Gambit (Captive Prince, #2), by C. S. Pacat

Prince's Gambit (Captive Prince, #2)Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As the ‘Captive Prince’ series progresses, I find myself completely lost in the story of Damen and Laurent. Talk about a slow-burn, I have been dying for something to happen between these two. The anticipation was absolutely killing me.

While the first book primarily focused on the hedonistic indulgences and cruelty of Laurent’s court, this second book shows more of the inner workings. Many of the pieces are beginning to fall into place. There is far more to Laurent’s situation than meets the eye. In many ways, he is every bit the captive that Damen is.

The nearer Laurent gets to the day that he will claim his throne, the more underhanded his uncle becomes. It is evident that he has no intention of ever relinquishing the power of being King. He does everything within his power to discredit and undermine his nephew at every turn.

Unfortunately for Laurent’s uncle, his own manipulations end up being unexpectedly counterproductive. He coerces Laurent into serving near the border, anticipating that he and the substandard group of soldiers that he sent him with will end up being killed off. The assassins that he sends will surely finish off the job if the poor state of the group does not manage to die of their own accord.

Instead, Laurent and Damen form an unlikely alliance. Their tenuous relationship grows much stronger, even becoming the best of friends. Damen often finds himself in the position of a trusted confidante for Laurent. Before long, the two are practically inseparable.

At last, it is evident that there is far more going on between Laurent and Damen than meets the eye. Of course, there is a pervasive ominous feeling to this book. Damen’s identity is still a secret at this point. The looming threat of discovery lingers, tainting his interactions with Laurent. The more he grows to care for Laurent, the more Damen fears that his betrayal will come to light.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. I was taken in by the evolution of Damen and Laurent’s relationship from enemies to friends to lovers. I want things to work out for them so badly, even as I know that disaster is lurking around the corner. So many secrets. So many feelings. My heart is breaking for these two.

Needless to say, I thought that this was a wonderful book. I will dive into the third book immediately. I absolutely must know how things work out for Damen and Laurent. Despite the fact that M/M is not my usual preferred genre, I have absolutely fallen in love with this story. I want Damen and Laurent to get the HEA so badly.

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Pre-Review: Tailspin, by Jaimie Roberts (Expected Release Date: 06/20/17)

TAILSPINTAILSPIN by Jaimie Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has wrecked me! I can’t even begin to make sense of all my emotions right now. I’m angry, devastated, completely gutted and heartbroken. I’m so damn conflicted! This story…argh! It really hit me in the “feels”.

Full review to come once I’m able to get a grip. Seriously! I devoured this book and I’m a total mess right now.

**I received an ARC from the author.**

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Review: Fantastical (Fantasyland, #3), by Kristen Ashley

Fantastical (Fantasyland, #3)Fantastical by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The third book in the ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘Fantastical’ ended up being just an “okay” read for me. In all fairness, any book that had to follow ‘The Golden Dynasty’ probably wouldn’t have measured up for me. ‘Fantastical’ was that book. It paled in comparison.

‘Fantastical’ tells the story of Cora Goode and Prince Noctorno “Tor” Hawthorne. Beginning in a similar fashion to ‘The Golden Dynasty’, the Cora of modern-day Seattle wakes up in the parallel universe as her “otherworld twin”. However, that is where the similarities end.

The Cora of this world discovers that the Cora of the other world is kind of a pain in the ass. Unbeknownst to her, she makes a grave mistake upon her arrival in the “new” world, which sets off a curse. It doesn’t take long for her to figure out that her inadvertent action is only the latest in a long line of selfish, cruel behaviors on the part of her “twin”.

To make matters worse, she finds out that she is married in this alternate world…and her husband despises her. Apparently, twin Cora and her husband, Prince Noctorno “Tor” Hawthorne, can barely tolerate one another. This means that Cora is subjected to a LOT of Tor’s ire upon her arrival in this new world.

She has an uphill battle on her hands to win him over. Yet, she genuinely likes Tor and wants him to like her. She is faced with the difficult task of trying to re-vamp her image with virtually everyone that the other Cora had wronged in this world.

Tor is certain that his wife is playing games with him. He cannot figure out what has motivated her sudden change in personality, but he is happy to enjoy it while it lasts. Finally having the wife that he fantasized about, he is hesitant to grow too attached only to be heartbroken when she decides to revert to her old ways.

Eventually, Cora and Tor seem to get on the same page. Things are pretty peachy for awhile. Then, Cora overhears something that upsets her greatly and she is transported back to her world again.

While I liked Cora and Tor’s story, I didn’t love it. For every part that was highly enjoyable, there were parts that seemed to drag on and on without purpose. Maybe this had something to do with the fact that I listened to all of the audiobooks back to back, or that this book followed ‘The Golden Dynasty’, which was hands-down the best in the series. Regardless, much of this book seemed tedious to me.

Noctorno does finally come around and works to win Cora over again. For me, it was just too little too late. I was glad that they got their HEA, but I was mostly glad to finish this book.

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Review: The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2), by Kristen Ashley

The Golden Dynasty (Fantasyland, #2)The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the books in Kristen Ashley’s ‘Fantasyland’ series, ‘The Golden Dynasty’ was by far my favorite. I love dark, controversial romances that make you love them in spite of all reason. This was one of those stories. I spent as much time cringing as I did smiling, but I couldn’t have asked for more. I loved this one!

If you’ve read many of Ms. Ashley’s books, then it goes without saying that the hero is an over-the-top Alpha. Dax Lahn, King of Suh Tunak and the Horde of Korwahk, was pretty intimidating, even by her standards. In his world, the men are warriors that are prized for their physical dominance and ability to take what they want, including a wife. As they roam around raiding villages, they murder, rob and rape. They are barbarians.

Circe goes to sleep in her world, but wakes up in a parallel world. She has no idea of how she ended up there, unlike Finnie who agreed to trade places with her otherworldly twin in the first book. A quick assessment of the situation has Circe, rightfully, terrified. She has awoken to a real-life nightmare.

Along with several other women, Circe is caged. Provided only scraps of clothing, she is told that she has been selected to participate in a great Korwahk tradition. What tradition? The wife hunt.

The wife hunt is exactly what it sounds like. A group of women are rounded up and dressed in skimpy outfits. Then, after being displayed for the Horde warriors, they are released…and hunted. The men track down the women, overpowering any other warrior challengers, and “claim” their wife right then and there. To say the least, this is a horrific, traumatic and uncivilized tradition.

This is how Circe comes to be Dax’s wife. Understandably, she hated him. Their relationship developed gradually. Eventually, it turned into something beautiful. This was a story that appealed to baser urges.

As primitive as Dax could be, he revered his wife in his own way. This was something that Circe came to recognize and appreciate. Granted, she was far more forgiving that I could have ever imagined possible…but it is fiction and a romance, so you knew it had to happen to move the story along.

Even as the feminist side of me thinks that I should be appalled by this story, the honest part of me has to admit that I was completely addicted. Circe came to wield a great deal of power in her own way, capitalizing upon the great deal of admiration that her husband had for her. It certainly wasn’t a politically correct type of story, but it was beautiful in it’s own right.

I fell in love with Dax, right along with Circe. Here was this super-tough, barbarous bad-ass, who truly couldn’t understand why his behaviors were so off-putting to his new wife. Even as he was determined to dominate her, he was saddened to think of his actions crushing her spirit in any way. He wanted her to submit to him, while loving the fight and her spirit.

If you are looking for a romance with a hot-headed Alpha hero, then look no further. This book will not disappoint. It is by far, my favorite of the books in this series.

On the other hand, if you are sensitive to darker subject matter, like rape and physical violence, then you’ll want to steer clear of this one. It is full to the brim with controversial topics. All the more reason for me to love it, but I know that isn’t the case for many readers. Be forewarned.

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Review: Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1), by Kristen Ashley

Wildest Dreams (Fantasyland, #1)Wildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in awhile, I crave a story with an over-the-top Alpha and a sassy heroine. I know that I can always count on Kristen Ashley to deliver when I’m in a “caveman” sort of mood. Her heroes are always uber-masculine and about as far from metrosexual as you can get. Though what they lack in sensitivity, they make up for in pure, primal sex appeal.

True to form, ‘Wildest Dreams’ did not disappoint on any of those fronts. In fact, travelling to this alternate universe felt much like travelling back in time by a few hundred years and then throwing in a plethora of supernatural elements. This story takes us to a world where there are ancient royal families ruling over their lands; where travel is by horse and wagon; and where witches, elves and dragons exist. ‘Fantasyland’ is an apt name for this series and I am already hooked.

The first book in the series, ‘Wildest Dreams’ introduces us to this magical world. The descriptions were so vivid that I felt like I had been transported, right alongside Finnie. I listened to the Audible edition of this book and I thought that the narrator did a fabulous job. I am glad that I chose to listen vs. read this time around. If, like me, you enjoy a good audiobook from time to time, this is a great selection.

Kristen Ashley has built an alternate world, where everyone has a “twin”. Although they may have a physical twin in this alternate world, the personalities and other characteristics are certainly not identical. With the help of a witch and a large dose of magic, people in this world may communicate with people in this alternate world, or even travel between worlds. That is how this story begins.

Seoafin “Finnie” Wilde has plenty of money, but has lost the most meaningful people in her life – her parents. Ever since her parents died in a plane crash while on one of their adventures, Finnie has been heartbroken. She misses them more than anything and like them, Finnie is always up for an adventure.

When Finnie discovers the existence of an alternate world – a world where there are living versions of herself and her parents – she decides she is going to go there. Communicating with the “her” in this other world through a powerful witch, she comes to an agreement with her to trade places for one year. Despite the pleas of her best friend, Finnie pays a fortune to the witch and sets out on the biggest adventure of her life.

Only, when Finnie arrives in this new world she quickly discovers that the other “her” hasn’t been completely forthcoming about everything. Stepping into the shoes of Princess Sjofn, she is set to wed the fiercely intimidating and ultra- male, Frey Drakkar immediately upon her arrival in this new world. Finnie doesn’t even have time to read the note that Princess Sjofn left for her before she is marched down the aisle. She’s been duped.

To make matters more complicated, it is clear that Frey Drakkar does not care for Princess Sjofn. In fact, he seems to barely tolerate her presence. After whisking her away to a remote cabin far away from her parent’s castle, he promptly takes off, leaving her to fend for herself in this new land.

Determined to make the best of the situation, Finnie makes the most of her time while Frey is away. She befriends the inhabitants of the nearby small town and bides her time until his return. She cleans their cabin and makes it a cozy home.

When Frey returns, he is shocked to see that the pampered princess has morphed into a completely different person than the one he knew. She is kind and funny. She performs manual labor that the old Sjofn would have thought was beneath her. Perhaps most importantly, she denies that she prefers women lovers over men. He doesn’t know what game she’s playing at, but he intends to find out.

With the changes in their relationship, the two begin to grow closer. As you can imagine, Frey is initially interested only in bedding his beautiful bride. Finnie wants to take things a bit slower. Of course, there are plenty of misunderstandings and awkward moments along the way as the Finnie of this world tries to blend into the life of Princess Sjofn of that world.

Eventually, Frey discovers the truth. However, he and Finnie are already deeply in love by that point. In fact, he has realized that she is his prophesied soul mate and their union signifies the beginning of a new era where the dragons will awaken again. Did I mention that Frey commands dragons and talks to elves?

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I enjoyed every minute of this fantastical world that Kristen Ashley created. I fell in love with Frey and Finnie. I cannot wait to see where else this series will lead. I will be starting the second book immediately.

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Review: The Pawn (Endgame, #1), by Skye Warren

The Pawn (Endgame #1)The Pawn by Skye Warren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has wrecked me. It completely blew my mind. I am a total mess, suffering from the book hangover that this one left me with. Wow…just wow!

I have read several of Skye Warren’s books. Some of them have been great. Some have been okay. Others have been a miss for me. This book is by far the best book that Skye Warren has released to date, in my opinion. You do not want to miss this one.

As you can gather from the blurb, Avery James puts her virginity up for auction. Gabriel Miller is the man that buys her. He isn’t a nice guy. He is responsible for the downfall of her father and Avery’s current dire financial situation.

In more ways than one, Avery has to pay for the sins of her father. Her father was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Gabriel Miller was one of his alleged victims and the man that brought her father to justice. Now he’s seeking vengeance.

When I read the blurb, I thought this would be like a thousand others. I was wrong. Avery’s plight pulled me in and held me tight. I didn’t expect to feel the raw emotion that I did or care much, but I did. This book brought me to my knees!

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say that I wasn’t prepared for it. Although a part of me expected it, I was in no way ready to deal with the fallout. I have so many questions. I’m enraged, devastated and completely addicted to this series.

I would kill to have an ARC of the second book. This is going to be one of those waits that is unbearable. I must know where this story goes. I need the next book. Thankfully, it is due to be released in a few weeks time. I think I’d go out of my mind if I had to wait much longer.

Read this book.

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Review: Neighbor Dearest, by Penelope Ward

Neighbor DearestNeighbor Dearest by Penelope Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been quite some time since I read ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, which I think was probably for the best in hindsight. At first, the multiple references to Elec and Greta had me thinking that I would need to reread that book prior to reading, or rather listening to, this one. As much as I loved ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, I was glad to find that ‘Neighbor Dearest’ read easily as a standalone.

If you’re like me, you vaguely remember the nice girlfriend that Elec ditched in ‘Stepbrother Dearest’ when he found his way back to Greta. I, for one, had completely forgotten her name by the time I finished that book because she wasn’t part of the happy couple that I had worked out in my mind. Her name was Chelsea and ‘Neighbor Dearest’ is her story.

At the onset of this book, Chelsea Jameson is heartbroken. She is trying to pick up the pieces of her life and taking it one day at a time. She was shocked and utterly devastated to be dumped by Elec, the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. She thought they were the perfect couple, but obviously she didn’t know anything about her “perfect” boyfriend.

When her frustration with her neighbor’s noisy dogs prompt her to complain to the landlord, it is the beginning of an unlikely friendship. What starts out as a contentious relationship, turns into a close friendship. Along the way, those feelings eventually turn romantic in nature.

Damien H. Hennessey is not only her neighbor, but her landlord. He is equal parts amused and aroused when he first meets his feisty new tenant. He cannot deny his attraction to her, but he’s not interested in settling down with anyone.

The two decide to keep their relationship friendly, agreeing to not pursue anything further. Damien still has a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend and Chelsea is still reeling from her break-up with Elec. Neither of them are in any place to commit to someone else.

As they spend more and more time together, their feelings become more complicated. Chelsea knows that she is falling for Damien and needs to protect her heart. She’s doesn’t think that she’s capable of surviving another heartache after everything that Elec put her through. She knows that Damien is not looking for a relationship and she needs to distance herself before too much damage is done.

Despite his feelings for Chelsea, Damien is unwilling to waiver on his decision. He acts like he doesn’t want Chelsea, but he doesn’t want anyone else to have her either. Yet, it is clear that there is some unknown factor(s) influencing his decision. He is keeping secrets that are impacting both of their lives.

When things finally hit the fan, I can’t say that I was terribly surprised. Nonetheless, it was emotional and every bit as heartbreaking as it would have been had I been caught off-guard. It was one of those situations where you can understand the reason why somebody does something, but you don’t agree with it. I found myself getting frustrated with Damien, only to have to reign it in because I didn’t really know how I would behave given the same set of circumstances.

Overall, I thought that this was a great, heart-warming story. It was emotional at times, but mostly sweet and humorous. I enjoyed the references to ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, even though you didn’t need to read that book to follow, or enjoy, this one. Everything worked itself out nicely in the end. I listened to the Audible version and it was fantastic!

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