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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's DaughterThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lately, I’ve been reading a little more suspense/thriller. ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ is the most recent book in this genre to catch my attention. It certainly lived up to my expectations for a creepy, edge of my seat story.

The story centers on Helena, a woman with a secret past. While she lives her “normal” life as a mother, occupied with mundane daily issues, there is far more going on beneath the surface. She is always looking over her shoulder, never quite able to settle down or rest easy.

What Helena hasn’t told anyone is that her father is the notorious “Marsh King”. He abducted her mother when she was a young girl, holding her captive for many years and forcing her to be his wife. Helena is a product of her mother’s abuse at the hands of her abductor.

Of course, Helena did not know this for much of her youth. She was raised in a cabin in an isolated marsh. She grew up hunting and learning to survive off of the land. Truth be told, she loved it. She didn’t know of any other way.

Looking back, she can see that her childhood wasn’t without hardship. Her father’s rule was supreme. If she or her mother dared to cross him, they were punished swiftly and harshly. As a child, she didn’t have a basis for comparison. Now, it is clear to her that his actions were abusive.

Helena has long since come to terms with the fact that her father is a narcissistic psychopath. Everything in their lives revolved around keeping him happy. They lived in constant fear of setting him off, knowing that he could turn into a cruel, sadistic monster with the flip of a switch.

When Helena receives word that her father has escaped from prison, she has no doubt that he will be coming for her. After all, she knows that she was to blame for his eventual arrest. A man like her father doesn’t forget and he doesn’t forgive.

Her worst fears are proved true when a series of gruesome clues begins to pile up. It seems that her father is taunting her and trying to draw her back into a game that they used to play when she was little…only this time, she is hunting him. Sometimes, the hunter becomes the hunted though.

As Helena trekked through the wilderness in search of her father, I had chills. An eerie feeling pervaded this story from start to finish. All I can say is that it was creepy…very creepy.

Despite my enjoyment, I have to admit that I had a difficult time connecting with Helena. I admired her strength and the fact that she stood out from other heroines. However, I couldn’t really relate to her much. It made it a little more difficult for me to connect with the story, but eventually I did.

Once this story got warmed up, it had my complete attention. As Helena’s past was revealed through flashbacks, I began to piece together the entirety of the her life’s story. Her father, who seemed harmless at first, was gradually shown to be a truly cruel man as the violence he bestowed upon his family increased over the years.

This was a great book. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was listening. There is something to be said for a book that can still make you want to check under your bed for monsters. If you’re in the mood for something creepy and disconcerting, this is the one.

Check out more of my reviews at www.bookaddicthaven.com

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Review: Five Rules (The Game Series, #5), by Stevie J. Cole and L. P. Lovell

Five Rules  (The Game Series, #5)Five Rules by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Keeping with the suspenseful mood of earlier serials in this series, ‘Five Rules’ continues to build up the intrigue. Just when I think that Tobias and Preston couldn’t get much more twisted, they take their “game” to a new level. Time and time again, they test Ella’s self-control and integrity.

Ella is no longer sure of how she feels or what her limits are. She is initially haunted by the possibilities of what might have occurred during her night with Number 3 while she was drugged and completely oblivious to her surroundings. The only thing that frightens her more than wondering what might have happened, is the knowledge that Tobias and Preston may not care for her as much as they proclaim.

Despite everything, these two manage to endear themselves to Ella once again. She sees a softer side of them, while subsequently facing her darkest side. It is becoming clear that she is far less innocent and pure of heart than originally thought.

This installment also details tremendous growth in their unusual three-way relationship. Their interactions are becoming increasingly intimate and caring. The forbidden, steamy nature of their encounters is still there, but there is a newfound softness.

I continue to devour this series. I am not usually a fan of ménage erotica, but on occasion I find one that holds a great deal of appeal. This is one of those times. I am fascinated by this trio and the mysterious game that is unfolding. Without a doubt, I will be continuing this series.

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Review: Two Guys (The Game Series, #2), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Two Guys: The Game SeriesTwo Guys: The Game Series by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series continues to keep me holding my breath. The second serial in a series of seven, ‘Two Guys’ quickly increases the intensity of this story. Already, I’m on the edge of my seat.

Where ‘One Contract’ served to set the stage for things to come, ‘Two Guys’ has Ella plunging head first into their sexual head-games. This is one seriously messed up game and it is just getting started. It is clear that there is much more going on than Tobias and Preston are telling her.

Already, Ella is faced with a huge ethical dilemma. As she completes the “tests” she must make a difficult decision that has significant repercussions, regardless of what she decides. How far would she be willing to go for revenge? What would she do to preserve her dignity? How far is too far?

If this story is just getting started, I can only imagine what’s in store. I will definitely continue this series and will be diving into the third serial immediately. I cannot wait to find out where this game is leading, even as I am afraid to look.

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Review: Wicked Bride Games (Indecent Games, #1), by Clarissa Wild

Wicked Bride Games (Indecent Games, #1)Wicked Bride Games by Clarissa Wild
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for ‘Wicked Bride Games’, I was sure that I would love it. After reading several reviews from friends praising it’s masterful storytelling, I was even more convinced that this book would be right up my alley. After all, I love nothing more than a dark, twisted and deliciously disturbing story.

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t measure up to the hype for me. This is one of those times where I find myself the “odd man out” amongst my friends. It just didn’t work for me at all, for many reasons.

While I suspect that the “darkness” of this story will turn-off many readers, that wasn’t an issue for me at all. In fact, the dark elements were one of the primary draws for me. Although some parts were decidedly disgusting (cum drinking, anyone?), there was nothing so shocking in the content that it would send me running scared.

The biggest problem for me was that I never really connected with any of the main characters. The storyline seemed rushed and underdeveloped, leaving the supposed emotional reactions of the characters feeling insincere and contrived. The closest thing that I could equate it to would be the poor acting skills in a low-rate movie or porn film. It just doesn’t compare to the emotional response an Oscar-worthy performance will evoke in viewers.

Well, reading this book felt like reading a script for one of those low-budget, porn films for me. The reactions of the characters to some very unbelievable events was laughable at best. It was hard to take it seriously, when the characters didn’t seem to.

I felt like the author was telling me what the characters were supposed to be feeling, but in a very unconvincing manner…almost going through the motions without fleshing out the details to make it apparent to readers without having to spell it out. Does that make sense? I felt like I was being force-fed the “correct” response from the character, because the story was not written in a way that would actually elicit the response.

The premise of this story was promising, but I found the execution to be lacking. That being said, this is a reflection of my personal tastes and this style might work well for others. I need a bit more meat to my stories and not just some dark content thrown out there for shock value.

I have read other stories by this author that I really enjoyed, such as ‘Twenty-One’. I will definitely read more of her work in the future. However, this book was a big disappointment for me.

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Review: Separation Games (Games, #2), by C. D. Reiss

Separation Games (The Games Duet, #2)Separation Games by C.D. Reiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I finished ‘Marriage Games’, I immediately started ‘Separation Games’. After everything that transpired between Adam and Diane, I couldn’t believe how things ended between them at the end of the first book. I definitely had some whiplash.

Part of me felt like Diane was served a good helping of karma. At the same time, my heart broke for her. I was angry with Adam for his lack of sensitivity and his disregard for her feelings. After all, this was the guy who professed to love his wife and was supposedly devastated by her decision to end their marriage. WTF?

While ‘Marriage Games’ had Adam initially fighting to win back his wife, ‘Separation Games’ has the tables turning on Diane. Now that she’s finally discovered her submissive inclinations, she wants to save her marriage to Adam. Now that he’s discovered his wife’s submissive side, he’s no longer interested. I guess it is true that you always want what you can’t have.

In ‘Separation Games’ we get to explore a bit more of Adam’s psyche. The reasons that he feels that he cannot love a submissive are finally fleshed out and his youth is explored, giving readers a more complete picture of this complex hero. I can’t say that I liked him much for most of this series, but there was definitely something about him that called to me. He was one of the broodiest, most conflicted characters that I’ve read about in a while. He was wounded, while not coming across as too “damaged” or pitiful.

I enjoyed watching Adam struggle with Diane’s newfound sexual appetites. Despite being unwilling to explore this new side of her any further, he certainly wasn’t willing to consider her exploring her tastes elsewhere. His contradictory actions created a lot of push and pull, which kept the story engaging.

This time around, I felt like the story became much more emotional. Both Adam and Diane are devastated in their own right and have a lot of work to do to come to terms with everything that transpired in book one. Things will get worse before they get better.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I enjoyed the different spin that C. D. Reiss put on a BDSM romance. It was unlike any that I’ve read before and I appreciated the originality. I love angst and stories that are incredibly emotional. This story did not disappoint. It tore my heart up and then slowly pieced it back together again.

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Review: Marriage Games (Games, #1), by C. D. Reiss

Marriage Games (Games, #1)Marriage Games by C.D. Reiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first starting seeing all of the glowing reviews for this book, I was curious. Since reading many mediocre BDSM books in the wake of the success of ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, I have kind of steered clear of that particular trope. With the exception of a few, really dark stories, the BDSM novelty has pretty much worn off for me.

So, when I saw that this book focused largely on that particular topic, I put it on the back burner again. As the stellar reviews from friends kept rolling in, I eventually succumbed to my curiosity and decided to give it a shot. I’m glad that I did. ‘Marriage Games’ ended up being a great story.

Diane has left her husband, Adam. She literally dumped her husband with a “Dear John” letter, left in their loft for him to find. Poor Adam thought that everything was fine in their marriage. She never mentioned any problems or told him that she was unhappy. Man, was he ever wrong.

As the two grapple with the details of their impending divorce, Adam gets back in touch with a side of himself that he had suppressed while he was with Diane…his Dominant side. Adam had lived his life as a Dom before meeting Diane. When he met her, he wanted her so badly that he lived a vanilla existence to keep her, believing that she would be put off by his dominant inclinations.

Fast-forward a few years and Diane is bored to death with her marriage. The loss of a pregnancy and the grief that followed have changed the dynamics of their relationship and made Diane question what she really wants. Adam and Diane are more like roommates than lovers and Diane feels like she is dying a slow death, suffocating in the rote routine of their daily lives together. When she comes to the realization that she isn’t in love with her husband any longer, she decides that it is time for a divorce.

Adam is completely blindsided by Diane’s letter. He adores his wife and is deeply in love with her. He is devastated by her abrupt decision to leave him. When he seeks out the guidance of his good friend and mentor, Charlie, another Dom, he devises a plan to help him get over Diane.

Adam has never believed himself capable of loving a submissive. What drew him to Diane was her strength and resilience. She challenged him and didn’t back down. While he loves the sexual games he plays with his subs, he’s never been able to develop feelings for them, beyond the concern you would have for a friend.

In order to get Diane out of his system, he proposes that she give him 30 days at his private BDSM getaway. If she serves him as his submissive for those 30 days, he will sign over full ownership of their business. Then, Diane will get what she wants and so will Adam.

Diane agrees and so the story begins.

I have to say that I enjoyed this story much more than I had anticipated. Even though I read some fantastic reviews, I was really expecting another over-hyped BDSM story that fit the mold of so many books before it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book stirred genuine emotions and held my interest from start to finish.

As Adam and Diane explored their sexual tastes and boundaries, the growing intimacy was unmistakable. However, the betrayal and hurt that Diane had inflicted with her rash decision was also unavoidable. It seemed like they took one step forward and two back. As Diane grew closer, Adam grew more distant. They couldn’t ever seem to get on the same page where their marriage was concerned.

On top of everything else, Adam’s ex-sub is also on the property. Now subbing for one of the “friends” that co-owns the property with him, she clearly wants Adam back. At every turn, she manipulates the situation to commandeer Adam’s attention away from Diane.

This leads to some very tense and emotionally charged situations. My heart broke for Diane, even as I knew that she was only reaping what she had sowed. Often times, I felt that Adam was intentionally callous in his handling of the situation. It was like he wanted to hurt Diane, which I suppose he did.

All things considered, I thought it was a great story. There are still some things related to the BDSM genre that make me cringe, particularly the degradation and humiliation aspects. However, I did enjoy this story quite a bit.

It ends with a cliffhanger and I wanted to jump right in to the second book. Having listened to the Audible edition of ‘Marriage Games’, I was disappointed to find that the second book, ‘Separation Games’ was not out in Audible format yet. That is something that you may want to keep in mind if you’re considering listening to this series. The narration was great, but I had to switch to the Kindle edition for the second book, which peeved me.

I like to start and finish a series in the same format. That being said, I’m sure if I’d been willing to wait a short while, it would have been released in the audiobook format. I guess it says something about how good this book was that I wasn’t willing to wait to finish the series.

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