Review: The Butterfly Garden (The Collector Trilogy, #1), by Dot Hutchison

The Butterfly GardenThe Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whew! This was one of the creepiest stories that I’ve read in a long time. It was just so damn sick that I can’t wrap my mind around it. This one was disturbing and bizarre, but I loved it!

This story is told from the POV of Maya, a young woman that has just been rescued from a serial killer, and the FBI agents that are interrogating her. Maya refuses to be rushed as she recounts her tale, to the utter frustration of the agents. The story alternates between the past and present, as Maya provides the horrifying details of her abduction and captivity.

While this type of storytelling, with frequent flashbacks, often seems disruptive and disjointed to me, it really worked for this story. In fact, I’m not sure that I would’ve enjoyed the story if it hadn’t been broken up between the past and present. Too much time in the garden all at once might have been too much to handle. Regardless, I think that the way this story was told, gradually revealing the secrets of the garden, was brilliant.

Maya, along with several other girls, lived for years in captivity. They were abducted by a man they refer to only as “The Gardener” and kept as living “butterflies” in a fully enclosed “garden”. The Gardener is, not surprisingly, one very sick individual. He repeatedly rapes the girls and eventually murders them, preserving their bodies in glass cases. Yet, he has convinced himself that he has “saved” these girls and that he has somehow honored them in death.

As if The Gardener weren’t enough to handle, he has two sons. Avery, is feared by all of the girls. He is sadistic and cruel, taking pleasure in the suffering of the butterflies. Like his father, he is one sick individual. The younger son is less violent, but disturbed in his own way. While Avery relishes the taboo activities that take place in the garden, his younger brother struggles with the brutal reality.

Despite the dark nature of this story, I did not find the abuse to be incredibly graphic or detailed. It is clear that the girls are repeatedly raped and abused, but most of the details are left to readers’ imagination. Believe me, the details of the abuse are not required. More effort was put into describing the aftermath of the abuse, describing the physical effects of the abuse rather than the actual incidents, giving a pretty clear picture of what transpired.

Since most of the girls are taken as teenagers, child abuse is clearly a prevalent theme. Toward the end of the book there is one particularly disturbing account of abuse that is especially difficult to read. If these are topics that you cannot handle, then you might want to reconsider reading this book.

Although the scenario painted in this book is possible, it is very implausible. This is the type of story where you have to be willing to overlook some of the details that are highly unlikely. I questioned many things, as I listened to Maya’s account of her captivity.

For example, there are around 20 girls between 16 and 21 years of age. Yet, they never try to fight back or gang up on any of the 3 guys, even though they are usually alone and unarmed. Okay, maybe they’re just so damn broken and conditioned that they wouldn’t even try.

Then there’s the fact that the police search the grounds at one point, but never even go into this huge “garden” within a garden. How exactly do you make a structure with 20+ bedrooms and an indoor atrium with water features completely disappear? I don’t buy it.

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it was a bit too convenient for me. I didn’t think that the “connection” made was necessary at all. It was just one more thing that was too hard to swallow for me.

That being said, I very much enjoyed this story. It was dark, disturbing and creepy as hell. It kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, waiting to see how Maya and the others came to be rescued as I took in the horrifying account of their time in captivity. It was fascinating and brilliantly told.

I listened to the Audible version of the book and the narration was pretty good. I liked the female narrator more than the male narrator, but since his parts were fewer it was not a big factor for me. Overall, it was a great book.

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Review: Enslaved by the Ocean (Criminals of the Ocean, #1), by Bella Jewel

Enslaved by the Ocean (Criminals of the Ocean, #1)Enslaved by the Ocean by Bella Jewel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read several books by Bella Jewel that I’ve really enjoyed. Unfortunately, ‘Enslaved by the Ocean’ was not one of them. It just didn’t work for me, although I didn’t have any issues with the narration. It was the story itself that didn’t appeal to me.

This was one of those stories that I just never could connect to. The entire “pirate” idea, as it was presented, was just ridiculous and unbelievable. Yes, I realize that there are real, modern-day pirates out there, terrorizing people on the seas. However, this story just seemed preposterous.

One of my biggest gripes about this story was that it seemed to switch back and forth a lot. It was almost like she couldn’t decide if she wanted to write a pirate story based in present time or one that took place 200 years ago. The end result is a story that is supposed to be set in present time, with pirates armed with swords and sailing around in a huge wooden ship. Really? I just didn’t buy it.

I was listening to the Audible version of the book and the dialect seemed to change a lot also. It seemed to me that this wasn’t a problem with the narration, as much as the written dialogue. Sometimes, it was all “Aye, matey” and other times it was like they talked normal and even mocked the “pirate talk”.

There were also plenty of far-fetched twists and revelations. More than one character had to go on the run after murdering somebody…in self-defense, of course. It seems that it is a small world, because a surprisingly high number of people have turned to life on the high-seas as a pirate. Is it really such a highly sought-out lifestyle? Not to mention the disastrous rescue and implausible events that follow. It was just absurd.

Since I couldn’t relate to the story, I never formed any sort of attachment to the characters either. I just didn’t care one way or the other. Everything was over-the-top and comical, at best.

If I had it to do over again, I would not have wasted my time with this story. In fact, if I didn’t have a compulsive need to finish every book I start, I would’ve DNF’d this one. It just lacked appeal for me.

That being said, if you’re in the mood for something smutty and kind of ridiculous, you might like this one. It is certainly different if you’re looking for a change. It wasn’t for me, but this is an author that I will continue to follow. I’ve enjoyed many of her books, but won’t be continuing this series.

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Review: Empire (Cartel, #3), by Lili St. Germain

Empire (Cartel, #3)Empire by Lili St. Germain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This book blew me away! I am still trying to wrap my mind around everything that transpired between the covers of this book. It was brilliant, dark, gory…and I loved every damn minute!

After finishing ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, I was not ready to let go of the characters that I had grown to love or those that I had grown to hate. I wanted more. I needed answers.

Dornan, especially, was intriguing. How did he get to be such a sadistic, deranged killer? What happens to a person to turn them into that kind of monster? Lili St. Germain did a spectacular job of providing brief glimpses of Dornan’s conscience, hinting at some underlying humanity, while not taking away from the fact that he was a really bad guy. Despite the fact that he was a brutal murderer, there was something about him that called to me.

Beginning the ‘Cartel’ series, I tried to distance myself from Mariana and John. After all, I knew how things were going to work out in the end. That was a given, if you read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ first.

This is not a story with a happy ending. It is tragic. It is raw. It is absolutely heartbreaking. I knew this at the onset, but I couldn’t help but be devastated when it all came to pass, just as I knew it would.

The final book in the ‘Cartel’ series, ‘Empire’ illustrates Dornan’s descent into madness. While we were introduced to Dornan’s dark side in ‘Kingpin’, this book submerses us in his darkness. There is no coming back for him and Mariana must face the fact that the man she loves doesn’t exist any longer.

Even knowing how things would end, I found myself wanted Dornan to redeem himself. I wanted something…anything…to make it alright. I was devastated as I watched him literally transform into the cold, depraved killer that I knew from ‘The Gypsy Brothers’. It was inevitable, but it still crushed me.

After everything, I was still taken aback by Dornan’s vulnerability. Although he became a monster, embracing his darkness at the expense of his humanity, there was still a small part of him that was tender and loving. I was mesmerized by his thoughts and contradictory actions. He definitely had more than his fair share of daddy issues and his desire to please his father ruined his world.

If you’re a fan of dark romance/erotica, then I highly recommend that your read ‘The Gypsy Brothers’ series, followed by the ‘Cartel’ series. These books are not for everyone, as they contain plentiful and graphic accounts of abuse of every variety. However, if you like raw, gritty, dark stories then you can’t go wrong with these series. I am blown away by the disturbing, twisted content that Lili St. Germain produces. Take the disclaimers seriously…and buckle up! This story will rip your heart out and leave you rocking yourself in a corner.

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Review: 24690, by A. A. Dark

24690 (24690 #1)24690 by A.A. Dark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As all of my friends know, I love a dark, twisted story. In fact, the more disturbing and depraved, the more I usually love it. However, while this book definitely delivered on all of those accounts, I still couldn’t bring myself to give it more than three stars.

Why? Quite simply because the editing, or lack there of, was atrocious. This book had incredible potential to be a phenomenal, dark story. It was so dark and cringeworthy. It had everything I’d normally love in a story, but it was sadly overshadowed by a plethora of typos, misused/incorrect words, etc. Here are a couple of examples:
-“Fist’s only, though, wife.”
-“‘He knew things he shouldn’t have. Perhaps you’ve been transpiring with him the entire time.’ I blinked through the news, not able to contain my shock. ‘I haven’t transpired anything.'”

I’m not a grammatical expert by any means, but the number of proofreading oversights in this book was distracting. I would expect that before publication, somebody reading this should know the difference between “passed” and “past”. Similarly, “transpire” and “conspire” are not synonymous. So, while this story may have had potential to be a 4-star or 5-star read, the lack of editing was a major downer for me. It took what could’ve been a great read and downgraded it to an “okay” read for me.

Now that I’ve got my rant about the typos out of the way, I want to reemphasize that this had the makings of a great dark story. The characters were vividly depicted and the gloomy subterranean world was almost tangible. I spent a lot of time cringing while reading this story. It was downright gory. I wanted to cover my eyes at some of the horrific scenes that played out.

If you’re looking for a book with shock value, this is your book. It is definitely not for the faint of heart. There is blood, gore and perversions that will leave you feeling like you need to bleach your eyeballs to erase what you just read. Personally, I love books that push me out of my comfort zone and leave me feeling uneasy.

However, you definitely have to be willing to overlook some grammatical errors to enjoy this one. They are numerous and obvious. The frequency of errors proved to be distracting enough that it took away from my enjoyment of this story. So, if quality editing is something that is a must for you, this book will drive you crazy.

I am curious to see where Everleigh’s story will go. I will most likely read the next book to find out. Meanwhile, I’ll be hoping that the author invests in some editing help. It is a shame to see what could be a great story be held back by such simple oversights.

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Review: City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5), by Cassandra Clare

City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments, #5)City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where I was disappointed with ‘City of Fallen Angels’, ‘City of Lost Souls’ definitely made up for it! I’m glad that I didn’t hang it up after the last book and kept pushing forward with the series. This fifth book was full of action and suspense.

This time around, Jace is under the influence of Sebastian, the guy we all love to hate. Clary is kind of along for the ride, hoping she can break through to Jace. Meanwhile, Sebastian just keeps getting creepier and creepier.

For the most part, Jace seems lost. He’s kind of like Sebastian’s “Stepford wife”/groupie. He seems entirely possessed with his adoration of all things Sebastian. It takes bromance to a whole new level.

However, being the diehard that she is, Clary refuses to give up on Jace. She focuses on the brief moments of clarity that he has in the midst of his mental enslavement. She knows that the real Jace is still in the shell that he is now.

Meanwhile, back at camp “good”, Simon, Magnus, Alec and all of the others, work on a way to fire Jace. There is plenty of action taking place on that front as well. Simon seems to be patching up his romantic relationship, while Alec seems to be wreaking havoc in his.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that I enjoyed the time with Jace and Clary. Finally, they get to spend some time together…even if it isn’t always the “real” Jace. It may have taken five books, but things finally heat up between the two.

Overall, this was another great book in the series. Things have definitely picked up and I’m mentally preparing for the good vs. evil showdown that is bound to happen in the final book. I’ll be starting the sixth, and final, book immediately.

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