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: Tailspin, by Jaimie Roberts

TailspinTailspin by Jaimie Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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

It has been a week since I finished ‘Tailspin’ and it is still consuming my thoughts. Even though my emotions are still all over the place with this one, I’m going to try and capture my thoughts in this review. Who knows, maybe it will prove to be therapeutic!

This book completely and totally wrecked me — in the best of ways. I absolutely devoured it. If I had started it early in the day, I would have read it in one sitting. As it was, I started it in the evening and read well into the night. Eventually, pure exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep with my iPad propped up on my chest. When it finally fell over and hit me in my face, all I could think about was getting right back to the story. It was that kind of book for me. The kind that consumes your every thought until you finish it…then continues to haunt you for days or weeks afterward.

Although this book has fast become my latest favorite, I will be honest about the fact that it will not appeal to many readers. In fact, I know that many of my friends will downright hate this book. Why? Well, it deals will some difficult and controversial subject matter. This book tackles topics like abuse, rape, addiction, mental illness, etc. If you require your books to be a “unicorns and rainbows” picture of perfection, then you should run far, far away from this one.

If you are like me though, and love it when a book can make you “feel” things that you may not even be comfortable feeling, then this book is exactly what you are looking for. This book made me feel conflicted, sad, angry, joyful, devastated. You name it and I felt it while reading this one. It has been a long time since I’ve read something that took me on that kind of an emotional rollercoaster ride. It blew me away!

There is nothing that I love more than an uber-a$$hole that may, or may not, be redeemable. I have a personal weakness for leading males that make you love them in spite of all reason. Devon Jackson is exactly that type of guy.

In real life, this is a guy that you should run from at all costs. However, for me, his character was fictional perfection. I could not get enough of this complex, damaged, guy. Oh, how I loved him…even as he broke my heart.

The heroine, Andi Bellingham, was Devon’s polar opposite. She was naïve, sweet and strictly off-limits. The younger sister of Devon’s best friend, Charlie, she is hired as Devon’s personal assistant as a favor to her brother. Of course, she has spent years lusting after her older brother’s best friend, but she knows that he’s out of her league. If Andi ever had doubts, the weekly condom runs that he sends her on and his mid-day office trysts drive the message home.

When I started this book, I thought it would play out like a million other romantic comedy types. Devon was an ass, but I couldn’t help but laugh at his outrageous antics. I was sure that I knew exactly how things would play out as he began to lose his internal struggle to hide his attraction to Andi. I kept thinking, “This is great, but I know where it’s headed.” I was wrong.

Then, about half-way through, there is a shift in the story. It took on a different tone. Again, I thought I had it pegged. Nope. I was still clueless. Nonetheless, I cruised along blissfully unaware of what Ms. Roberts had in store for me.

Suddenly, big things are happening. Huge, plot twists and revelations seem to spring up out of nowhere. My world was turned upside down as I looked back at all of the subtle warning signs and clues that were there all along. Ms. Roberts left a trail of crumbs, but I didn’t want to see them. I was blinded by my own hopes and expectations. Then, she came along and pulled the rug out from under my feet.

It was absolutely brilliant! I don’t want to give too much away, because this is a story that needs to be experienced. It is a story about obsession, love and forgiveness. It was painful, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have no doubt that this book is one that I will re-read, time and time again. I absolutely LOVED this book!

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Review: Never Let You Go, by Chevy Stevens

Never Let You GoNever Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book that I’ve ever read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last. ‘Never Let You Go’ was a suspenseful and highly engaging read/listen. I listened to the Audible version and I did not want to pull myself away from this story until I had finished it. I kept telling myself, “just another few minutes and I’ll turn it off”. Once I got started on this book, I had to keep going. It was great!

The story unfolds little by little, alternating between present time and flashbacks to the past. From the start, we know that Lindsey has built herself a new life after escaping an abusive husband. Yet, her abusive past is revealed gradually through her flashbacks. Told in this manner, it is easy to see how Lindsey got sucked in by her ex-husband, Andrew. I was enthralled, watching how charming he was initially and how he gradually increased the control he had over her life until it was absolute. As the violence escalated, it was evident that Lindsey had to get out of her marriage or that she would die at Andrew’s hands.

Now, over ten years later, Lindsey has established a new life for herself and her daughter, Sophie. A young child when Lindsey took her daughter on the run, Sophie is now a teenager. She knows nothing of her father, except what her mother has told her and the few articles that she’s been able to find.

As much as she loves her mother, she can’t help but be curious about the father that she’s never known. She’s only ever known the life of a child of a single-mother, struggling to make ends meet. She envies the children of the wealthy parents whose houses her mother cleans. She can’t help but wonder what it must be like to have both parents.

Now that Andrew is due for release from prison, Sophie’s dreams of the father she hasn’t known since she was five have the chance to become a reality. As she begins to work on building a relationship with him, her mother begins to fear for their safety.

Strange things start to happen. It is clear that somebody is messing with Lindsey. She’s scared…and she should be. Somebody is out to get her and she is terrified that Andrew is out to finish what he started all of those years ago.

From start to finish, this story had my full attention. My heart was pounding and I was on the edge of my seat from the time that these strange occurrences began haunting Lindsey, until everything was out in the open. There were quite a few twists and turns along the way. I had my suspicions, but I was definitely surprised by the way things worked out. I didn’t piece things together until the author wanted me to.

Overall, this was a fantastic story. If you’re in the mood for a thriller/suspense/mystery, then this is a good one. It will definitely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

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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: Love in Lingerie, by Alessandra Torre

Love in LingerieLove in Lingerie by Alessandra Torre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alessandra Torre has a way of telling stories that suck me in and make me fall in love, even as my brain is telling me that I shouldn’t. She is the queen of writing forbidden love stories that leave you feeling conflicted and questioning your sense of right and wrong. She doesn’t seem to focus as much on huge, “in your face” subjects. Rather, she skirts the edges of what is generally considered socially acceptable behavior.

Whatever her magic formula is, it is working! She never fails to captivate me. Like every other book of hers that I’ve read, ‘Love in Lingerie’ grabbed me and held on tight right to the very end. I was completely absorbed with the antics of Kate and Trey.

Kate and Trey meet when Kate is hired to turn Trey’s lingerie company around. Looking to leave a company where she had no possibility of advancement, Kate is ecstatic to be working for Trey’s company. The company is failing and Trey is at risk of losing everything that he’s worked so hard for.

Despite the fact that he is immediately attracted to Kate, Trey cannot risk losing her as an employee. He’s been down that road before and it ended disastrously. Regardless of the intense desire he feels, he knows that he has to focus on saving his company. He cannot risk chasing Kate away with his kinky tastes.

‘Love in Lingerie’ was a unique love story in many ways. Most notably, the main characters were not “together” for most of the book. In fact, they didn’t really explore a romantic relationship until about 75% of the way in.

In the meantime, there was plenty of sexual tension and heated exchanges. This was definitely a slow-burn story. By the time that Kate and Trey finally took the next step, I felt like I was going to combust myself! However, Ms. Torre proved to make it well worth the wait.

If you’re looking for a sweet, sexy and humorous read, then I highly recommend ‘Love in Lingerie’. I was completely sucked in by these two. Their back and forth, sexually charged interactions were absolutely addicting. I enjoyed every minute of this story!

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Review: The Club (Colombian Cartel, #1), by Suzanne Steele

The Club (Colombian Cartel # 1)The Club by Suzanne Steele
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m having a hard time deciding how to rate/review this one. On the one hand, I liked that the author didn’t shy away from dark content. On the other, the author didn’t necessarily weave said content into the story in a logical manner.

Antonio Ramirez is a crime boss of sorts. He owns strip club(s) and rules them with an iron fist. Although the full extent of his criminal dealings isn’t really revealed, it is clear that he is a guy that is feared and respected. His brother is Ricardo Ramirez, an even scarier guy.

Roxanne is a cage fighter. Along with her best friend, she has profited from throwing matches. When they get caught trying to scam Ricardo, he takes the women as payment. Roxanne is shipped off to marry Antonio, a gift from his brother. Meanwhile, her best friend is forced to marry Ricardo.

Of course, Roxanne is a virgin and is extremely surprised to be attracted to Antonio. That explains the pleasure and orgasms that she has while enduring the gentlest rape in history. Did I mention that she’s a closet masochist that ends up enjoying his sadistic tastes? (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes.)

One night is all it takes and he’s in love. She holds out a little longer, but can’t fight the attraction that she feels for Antonio while trying to maintain her righteous hate for her new husband. Eventually, she admits what was apparent from the start and quits trying to escape Antonio…or his spankings.

More often than not, this story left me feeling confused and wondering if I’d missed a few pages somewhere to explain exactly how the story arrived at a certain point. The characters’ emotional responses seemed contrived, rushed and, at times, ridiculous given the situation. It was hard to connect with the story when you can’t believe the responses of the characters to the given situations.

For example, with little more than a flip of the page, the hero goes from loathing the heroine that has been forced upon him by his brother to being completely obsessed and in love with her. Hmm… A few more conversations between the two might’ve helped to sell that a little better. It just didn’t work for me.

The short length of this story is a large part of the problem. There was way to much going on to cover in a short novella. If this novella had been fleshed out and made into a full-length novel, it would have been much better and wouldn’t have felt so forced.

Captivity, forced marriages, dubious consent and other dark themes are amongst my favorites…but they take time to craft into a story that is believable. It takes a lot of build-up to illustrate the gradual evolution of those relationships in order to sell it to the reader. That didn’t happen with this story. Instead, it felt forced and a bit “smutty”, lacking the emotional depth and connection that a story like this usually evokes.

Overall, I give this one 2 1/2 stars. It had potential, but was poorly executed. Instead of being a dark captivity story that tugs at your heart and makes you squirm in your seat, this story will make your eyes roll and might even make you laugh.

I’m slightly curious about the best friend and brother’s story, but probably won’t go there because I’m worried it’ll end up being just like this one. Maybe I’ll try another one of this author’s works sometime in the future. For now, this author’s style just doesn’t seem to match up with my tastes.

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Review: Killing The Sun: Part 2, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 2Killing The Sun: Part 2 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Killing The Sun: Part 1’, I jumped right into Part 2. Even as I was outraged by Danny’s behavior, I have to admit that I couldn’t get enough. I’m that sicko that is always rooting for the “bad guy”.

Danny is probably irredeemable, but I don’t care. I am equal parts appalled and intrigued. Deep down, I think he really does love Aimee in his own, twisted way. She probably needs to get far, far away from Danny…but I hope that she doesn’t.

This second installment delves deeper into the relationship between Danny and Aimee. If you were ever unclear on just how “bad” Danny is, you won’t be by the end of this serial. He is a selfish man, consumed with lust and power. Aimee becomes the object of his obsessions and darkest fantasies. She too discovers her darkest desires, but at a cost to her self-worth.

As old patterns begin to reemerge, Aimee again decides to get some space from Danny. She is spending more time with her neighbor, and friend, Wade. She is also reunited with the handsome stranger from the elevator, Leif.

Yet, regardless of Aimee’s plans, Danny has no intention of letting her go. He may give her a little time to humor her, but he is always watching. He is not a man that lets go easily and Aimee is reminded of his presence the minute she begins to think about moving on with somebody else.

This second serial ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. Be ready. You’re going to want to dive right into the third installment ASAP. I am completely hooked on this messed-up, twisted story!

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Review: The Sister, by Louise Jensen

The SisterThe Sister by Louise Jensen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recently, I’ve been reading a bit more mystery/suspense. ‘The Sister’ seemed like it would be a great match for me. I love a book that can keep me on the edge of my seat, wondering what is going to happen next and making my heart rate quicken.

Grace, the heroine is still reeling from the death of her best friend, Charlie, years later. She never really got over the way that Charlie died unexpectedly. She’s left with many unanswered questions, as Charlie died before explaining the cryptic note that she left Grace, apologizing for some unknown wrong.

When Grace goes to see Charlie’s alcoholic mother, Lexie, she decides to seek out the father that Charlie never met. Enlisting the help of her long-time boyfriend, Dan, Grace begins digging into the past. What they unearth is unexpected.

It seems that Charlie had a half-sister that she never knew about, Anna. Before long, Anna has infiltrated Grace’s life. The two seem to have far more in common than Charlie. Exactly how much they have in common is something that Grace could not have guessed.

The more enmeshed Anna becomes in Grace’s life, the more things start to fall apart for Grace. Suspicious things start happening. It seems that somebody is out to destroy Grace. She’s being stalked and a string of calamities follow her every move. At more than one point, I questioned Grace’s sanity while listening to this audiobook.

The story unfolds in pieces, jumping back and forth between the past and present. Piece by piece, the truth comes to light. Sometimes the alternating timeframes don’t work so well for me, but I think it helped build the suspense in this story and worked well.

That being said, I wasn’t as shocked by the “big reveal” as I expected to be. Honestly, it wasn’t surprising at all. If anything, the culprit was so obvious that I dismissed it as a possibility.

Even though the person harassing Grace was not surprising, the motivations came to light little by little. Although they weren’t particularly shocking either, some were a little unexpected. There were a few details that I didn’t anticipate.

Overall, I give this one 3.5 stars. It was good, but failed to provide the shocking twist that was promised. It held my attention and was entertaining, but didn’t make my heart pound or keep me on the edge of my seat. It was good, but I expected more from this one.

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Review: Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series, #1), by A. C. Bextor

Empires and Kings (A Mafia Series Book 1)Empires and Kings by A.C. Bextor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you like Mafia-themed romances, then you’ll probably enjoy this one. It was one of the recommendations that popped up when browsing Kindle Unlimited, based upon my Amazon purchase history. In the past, I’ve not had much luck with the computer-generated “recommendations”. However, this time the computer finally got it right!

‘Empires and Kings’ is the first book in A. C. Bextor’s ‘A Mafia Series’. Right from the start, I was captivated by this story. The circumstances of these characters’ lives was brutal and tragic. This is certainly a romanticized account of organized crime, yet the author doesn’t entirely shy away from some of the hard truths.

As a young Vlad Zalesky rises through the ranks of his father’s criminal empire, he is forced to become a man of violence. The night that he kills tortures and orders his first kill, he can no longer hide from the darkness that lives within him. When he comes face to face with the young daughter of the traitor, he is forced to see himself through her innocent eyes.

Nonetheless, Vlad must stay the course. To send a message to any others that might dare to cross him or his organization, he decides to keep the girl. The traitor dies thinking that his daughter will be forced to spend her life working in one of the organizations’ many houses of prostitution.

Klara has lived with Vlad since that horrible night, when she stumbled upon the murder of her father as a young girl. Despite the fact that her father was a traitor, Vlad has allowed Klara to grow up in his mansion and have a privileged life. She is more like part of the family than a prisoner, babied by Vlad’s sister and a sort of sister to his son.

For the most part, Vlad has ignored the girl living under his roof. Of course, now that she is growing into a young woman he is having a harder time dismissing the beautiful Klara. He wants her badly, but doesn’t want to steal the last bit of innocence that she possesses.

Eventually, Vlad and Klara cross that line and their relationship changes. No surprise there. After all, if they didn’t find there way to each other there wouldn’t be much of a romance here.

Along the way, there is plenty of angst and drama. Vlad is a complete Alpha-male a**hole and I loved him for it. (I’m sick like that.) He does plenty of infuriating things along the way that will have you wanting to strangle him.

Klara is the stereotypical innocent virgin. Know that going into this story. If that trope irritates you, then you will be seriously peeved with this book. I happen to love it, as cliché as it may be. So this story worked for me.

There are plenty of disturbing scenarios presented as well. I read a lot of dark stories and didn’t find anything to be too graphic, but I have a high tolerance for dark content. If you are easily “triggered”, then I’d steer clear of this one.

I enjoyed the many layers that were presented in this book. The characters were complex and intriguing. I found myself completely absorbed in this story from start to finish.

My only complaint is that there were a few times when I thought the author tried to venture into “dark” territory, only to chicken out. That is a big peeve of mine. I think if an author is going to write a dark story they should embrace the dark side and not be afraid to take it all the way.

One scene, in particular, had the potential to be a really pivotal dark scene, but it ended up being underwhelming. The author did a spectacular job of building suspense and pulling emotions from readers, only to not carry out the scene, having Vlad fail to carry through with the threatened action against Klara. After waiting for what was bound to be an emotional and traumatic event, I was left feeling a little ripped off. Then, it was hard for me to buy all of the coldness and turmoil that followed when Vlad didn’t even do what he set out to do.

Overall, this was a great read for me. I will definitely be reading the next book in the series when it is released. There were a few things that I would’ve changed, but I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. If you like stories that have a little dark content, or if Mafia books are your thing, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.

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