Review: Behind Closed Doors, by B. A. Paris

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew! This was certainly one creepy and screwed up story. I expected it to be really messed up, but not in quite the way that it was. A pervasive sense of uneasiness stayed with me the entire time that I was reading this book. Creepy…Very creepy.

The book opens with a dinner party at Jack and Grace’s home. Jack is a successful attorney, well-known for advocating for battered women. Grace is the soft-spoken, elegant wife. Everything about their life seems to be the picture of perfection.

It is all a lie. What goes on behind closed doors would shock their friends and the community. Nothing is what it seems. Jack is not the man that everyone thinks he is. Only Grace seems to be aware of his true nature and she is racing against the clock to stop him before he does worse than he already has.

This story kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very last word. There was no time wasted and the story moved quickly. It was a nice change of pace for me.

I was appalled by some of the things that Jack did in this book. Yet, it was the anticipation and the fear of the unknown that was most chilling. Unlike other books dealing with abuse and sociopaths, ‘Behind Closed Doors’ did not provide a lot of graphic, gory details. Instead, the author chooses to give you just enough information to piece things together for yourself and leaves the rest to your imagination. If your mind is like mine, it can go to some pretty disturbing places when lead down that path.

There were several times that I did want to shake Grace. Mainly, I couldn’t understand how quickly she seemed to submit to Jack’s will. Although, seeing how things worked out for her on the few occasions when she did try to get away did help to convince me. It was unbelievable that Jack could wield so much influence, but it worked for the storyline I suppose.

Overall, this was a fantastic, fast-paced story. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was great. I highly recommend this standalone for anyone that loves a suspenseful, psychological thriller but cannot stomach the gory details. If you can keep your imagination under control, the author doesn’t provide any horrendous details that will leave you scarred. You will definitely be creeped out though. Count on that.

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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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Review: Heart Recaptured (Hades Hangmen, #2), by Tillie Cole

Heart Recaptured (Hades Hangmen, #2)Heart Recaptured by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another Fantastic Book In The Hades Hangmen Series!

Picking up where “It Ain’t Me, Babe” left off, “Heart Recaptured” focuses on the story of Lilah and Ky. Unlike Mae, Lilah had no desire to flee the religious cult that she had been raised within. She still holds strongly to her beliefs and teachings of the cult leaders.

Ky is immediately attracted to Lilah’s beauty, but isn’t prepared to deal with her extreme religious beliefs. He’s a man unaccustomed to having his advances turned down or having to work to gain the affections of a woman. Ky can’t begin to comprehend the depth of her beliefs, anymore than she can comprehend the strange and frightening ways of life outside of the cult compound.

When Ky is assigned to teach Lilah about the world outside of the compound in order to help her make the transition into her new reality, both of them are pushed out of their comfort zones. The more time the two spend together, the stronger their attraction grows. Ky quickly becomes Lilah’s protector and gains her trust. Little by little, she begins to come out of her shell.

Despite it all, Lilah still hangs on to the belief that her beauty is a curse and that she is evil. The long-standing impact of the cult’s teachings and her subsequent self-loathing was incredibly sad. She is deeply scarred and, at times, seems entirely incapable of moving on with her life.

Eventually, the cult, now led by Prophet Cain (Rider), makes a reappearance. She is thrust back into a world that she thought she had wanted, only to then recognize how much she’d grown to love her new life and to question the validity of the cult’s teachings. Submitted to unspeakable horrors, she eventually finds her personal salvation.

It becomes apparent that Prophet Cain is no longer the kind-hearted Rider that we loved in the first book. He has forsaken his morality in exchange for power. He has become a passive bystander to the cruelties and perversions of the cult. While he may be conflicted, he lacks the strength to stand up for what he knows to be right, looking the other way as atrocities are committed in the name of God. In his role as their leader, he has become a follower, nothing more than a puppet for the cult elders. With his obsession for Mae still burning strong, there is no doubt that we’ll be seeing more of Prophet Cain in the future.

Ms. Cole’s storytelling continues to amaze me. This story is captivating and deeply disturbing. I am completely enthralled with these characters and the strength of these women. I cannot wait for the next book in this series to see what lies in store for Flame, Maddie and the rest of the characters we’ve been introduced to along the way.

Spectacular book!

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Review: Rebel (Dead Man’s Ink, #1), by Callie Hart

Rebel (Dead Man's Ink, #1)Rebel by Callie Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since reading the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, I’ve wanted to get the full story of Alexis, Sloane’s kidnapped sister. Finally, I got around to reading ‘Rebel’ after having it sit on my shelf for a while. Although it wasn’t exactly what I expected, it was a fantastic story.

Despite my initial impression from the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, Alexis wasn’t in the possession of the human traffickers for long. Kidnapped after witnessing a murder, she is auctioned off quickly. Luckily, she is purchased by the nephew of the man that she saw murdered. Her decision to try and help a stranger may have placed her in danger, but ultimately, it saved her also.

For most of this book, Alexis (aka Sophia) is trying to stay alive. She doesn’t fully understand what it is that her latest captor wants from her. She just knows that she needs to keep her family safe, which means keeping her real identity a secret.

Once she figures out that her new “owner”, Rebel, isn’t going to rape her or pimp her out, she begins to get to know him. Despite her best efforts, she cannot deny that she has a strong attraction to the outlaw biker. Eventually, they act on their attraction.

Although I already knew many of the facts surrounding Alexis and Rebel’s story from the ‘Blood & Roses’ series, this book began to fill in the details. My perception of Alexis changed drastically after reading this book. No longer, do I view her as a selfish, spoiled and uncaring person, as I did before. This book made me look at her actions from a different vantage point.

Overall, this was a great story! It did end with a big cliffhanger, so brace yourself. I listened to the audible version and the next book has not been released in that format yet. As soon as it is out, I’ll be continuing this series.

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Review: The Knight (Endgame, #2), by Skye Warren

The KnightThe Knight by Skye Warren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***I was provided an ARC of this book in exchange for honest feedback.***

I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see an ARC land on my shelf! When ‘The Knight’ showed up, I did a happy dance and squealed like a preteen girl! I just had to know where things would go between Avery and Gabriel. I dropped everything and dived right in to this book.

Picking up where ‘The Pawn’ left off, Avery is heartbroken and destitute. She is living in a rundown motel on the bad side of town, where her sleepless nights are spent listening to the prostitute next door service her many Johns. She is definitely at a low point in her life.

The only thing that seems to be spurring her on is her fury. Avery is determined to get her mother’s house back, even if that means going up against Gabriel. She refuses to let him get the best of her again.

Luckily for me, Avery is not quite as resolute in her decision to ward off Gabriel. The two cannot seem to resist one another, regardless of the pain and heartache that is bound to follow. Although they have fewer interactions in this book than they did in ‘The Pawn’, their electric connection is still there and every bit as strong.

If I thought that Gabriel’s motivations were unclear in the first book, they prove to be even more elusive in ‘The Knight’. For most of this book, he was outright cruel and callous in his treatment of Avery. I spent a fair amount of time questioning whether he every really cared about Avery, or if he really did only see her as a tool for his revenge. Not knowing kept me on the edge of my seat throughout this book.

Supporting characters, such as Avery’s best friend and her ex-fiancé, return in ‘The Knight’ and play a more pivotal role in the story. Likewise, a couple of new characters are introduced that have me intrigued. I’m very curious to see if they will get their own books later on, down the road. I’d love to hear more of their stories.

Avery’s mother also plays a more central role in this book. It becomes clear that there is far more of her story to be unveiled. The circumstances of her life and death are very mysterious. I am sure that this enchanting woman’s story will be utterly captivating. I am hopeful that her story will be told in the next book of this series.

Like ‘The Pawn’, this book does end with a bit of an upset. ‘The Knight’ answers all of my questions about Gabriel and Avery, only to plant new seeds of doubt about her mother and the source of the danger that follows Avery. I don’t want to give too much away, but you will want the next book immediately.

I can not get enough of this series! I am 100%, completely addicted. If you like suspenseful, angsty and emotionally-charged romances with a bit of darkness, I highly recommend this series.

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Review: The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1), by Joe Hart

The Last Girl (The Dominion Trilogy, #1)The Last Girl by Joe Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘The Last Girl’ is not my usual type of book, but I’ve been branching out a little more lately and trying different genres. I’ve been lucky enough to find some gems recently as I’ve explored other genres. Unfortunately, ‘The Last Girl’ is not one that was a big hit with me. If I had to describe this book in one word, that word would be “underwhelming”.

A dystopian-themed book, ‘The Last Girl’ centers on Zoey, a girl that has been held captive by a militarized, government “research” group. There has been a “plague” that has caused only male babies to be born. The few females remaining are hunted, to be used as guinea pigs…or far worse. Zoey is one of those girls. She has been raised in a research facility as a test subject, in the search for a cure.

Zoey and the other girls at the center have been lied to for all of their years of captivity. They’ve heard rumors about the horrible things that await them on their twenty-first birthdays, but most choose to believe the fairytales that they are fed. Zoey doesn’t believe the lies. She knows that something is amiss and begins to plan her escape.

Eventually, Zoey succeeds and manages to break free of her captors. She joins forces with a group of rebels that want to free the remaining girls at the center. Against all odds, they plan their attack.

While there was plenty of action and suspense in this book, I never really connected with Zoey or the other characters. The story just lacked that special something that pulls you in and holds your attention. I can’t think of any one particular thing to point to, but it just didn’t work for me as a whole. It was okay, but failed to elicit any real emotion from me.

Overall, this was a mediocre read for me. This wasn’t at all my usual type of story, which may have something to do with it. I need a lot more romance and emotion in my stories. This just wasn’t that type of story…at all.

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Review: Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter

Pretty GirlsPretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This was one dark and disturbing story. I love dark reads, but this was pretty gruesome for me at times. I was at the edge of my seat from start to finish with this one. I even had nightmares about this book. As I start to write this review, just thinking about it is giving me the chills. It was just that messed up.

When Claire Scott is widowed by her wealthy, seemingly perfect husband, she is left to pick up the pieces. With the FBI and the local police showing a suspiciously high interest in her husband’s murder, and the subsequent break-in at their home, Claire does not know what to think. When she stumbles upon some computer files of her husband’s, she begins to question the very foundation of her marriage and what she really knew about the man she married.

From beginning to end, this book was full of twist and turns. Everyone was a suspect at some point and you never knew who you could trust. As Claire partnered up with her estranged sister, Lydia, to try and sort through the clues her husband inadvertently left behind, the truth seems to become less and less clear.

Claire’s husband, Paul, was not who he said he was. He had secrets…big secrets. The more the sisters unearth, the greater the danger. They can’t turn back, but they don’t know where to turn for help either.

At the center of this book is a string of missing teenaged/college-aged girls, including Claire and Lydia’s own sister, Julia. Unsolved disappearances with undeniable commonalities, which all somehow connect back to Paul. Everything is not as it seems though. Claire begins to suspect that there is involvement at the highest levels, protecting those responsible for these horrible crimes.

If you like psychological suspense/thrillers, then this is a great story. Be forewarned, this book is very graphic and downright gory. It contains detailed descriptions of barbaric torture, sexual assault and murder. The sick and twisted actions of this serial killer are not left to the imagination. If you cannot handle the graphic descriptions of torture, then this is not a book for you. I’m a big fan of dark stories and it gave me a nightmare or two.

Overall, I thought that it was a fantastic story. It was suspenseful and kept me in a hyper-vigilant state until every question had been answered. I had chills while listening to this story. This has got to be one of the most screwed up, disturbing stories that I’ve “read”.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and it was great. The narration was well-done. I found it to be an excellent audiobook selection that was easy to follow. The mood and emotions were conveyed clearly, which is sometimes hard to come by in an audiobook. I could almost touch the fear and the anxiety in “Claire’s” voice. Kudos to the narrator(s).

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Review: Shatter Me (The Jaded, #1), by Alex Grayson

Shatter Me (The Jaded, #1)Shatter Me by Alex Grayson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was upsetting, raw and gritty. I personally love darker stories, but the harrowing account of abuse that Bailey survived was difficult to read about. One particularly graphic scene toward the end required me to take a “time out”, which almost never happens for me.

Essentially, this is a story about a young woman, Bailey, that is on the run from her abusive husband. With little more than the clothes on her back, she moves from town to town, picking up whatever work she can in order to keep her moving. She’s learned the risk of staying in one place too long the hard way. It’s a mistake she doesn’t plan to make again.

When Bailey finds herself in a small town in Ohio, she is immediately welcomed by the town’s friendly residents. Making friends with the waitress she met almost immediately upon her arrival, she is soon hooked up with a job and a place to stay. For the first time in her life, Bailey begins to feel like she might have found a place to fit, where somebody actually cares about her.

After a childhood filled with neglect and abuse while her druggie parents turned a blind eye, and a horrifying marriage, Bailey has some serious self-worth issues. When her new boss, Jaxon, and a variety of other townsfolk take an active interest in her, Bailey is overwhelmed with the support and sense of security she feels. Although she continues to look over her shoulder, she allows herself a bit of a reprieve. She begins to explore her feelings for Jax, even though she doubts she will ever be able to have a “normal” relationship with any man.

If Bailey’s husband, Steven, was the epitome of a monster, then Jax was the quintessential knight in shining armor. Quickly sensing Bailey’s troubled past, Jax steps into the role of protector. If you love a strong Alpha-male, Jax is your guy.

Although his actions were a bit over-the-top and there was a strong “insta-love” vibe, I absolutely loved his character. As the story unfolds, there are events in Jax’s past that explain many of his early actions that seemed over-zealous at the time. He has his own ghosts that haunt him and Bailey’s situation brought it back to the surface.

As a heroine, Bailey was someone that I both pitied and admired. If anyone had ever been dealt a bad hand in life, it was her. She had never known anything other than abuse in her life. She endured things that nobody should ever have to, both as a child and as an adult. Yet, she was strong and resilient. She showed such courage and fight, despite everything that she’d endured.

While I was very much absorbed in Bailey’s story, there were some things that drove me crazy with this book. There were many times that I found myself skimming, because I was overwhelmed with unnecessary details that didn’t add value. It was very frustrating to be on the edge of my seat wondering when Bailey’s psycho husband was going to pop out of the shadows, only to have the suspense derailed by detailed descriptions of every room in a house that went on for pages, etc. I really didn’t need to know the color of the decor or detailed descriptions of what everyone was wearing, so on and so forth. All of the unnecessary details were distracting and took away from the story.

I also had some reservations about the way things played out toward the end. I guess that it is “technically” a HEA, but I wasn’t left feeling very happy. Bailey and Jax get a future together, but that is where the happy ends. I’ll just say that it didn’t work out so well for everybody else and I was left feeling gutted.

Despite my reservations, I thought this was a great story. It was heartbreaking and difficult to read, but all of the best books make you feel things, whether you want to or not. This book will definitely elicit an emotional response.

That being said, take the disclaimer seriously. There are graphic descriptions of abuse, physical, psychological and sexual, contained in this book. There is an abundance of dark material in this book. Although it isn’t gratuitous, in my opinion, it is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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