Review: Roses of May (The Collector, #2), by Dot Hutchison

Roses of May (The Collector #2)Roses of May by Dot Hutchison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Roses of May’ is the second book in ‘The Collector’ series, by Dot Hutchison. Although there are a few connections, through characters, between the two books, they are really not a major factor. This book could easily be read as a standalone.

This book is told from multiple POVs, but the majority of the book is told from the POV of Priya Sravasti. Year’s ago, Priya’s sister, Chavi, was murdered by a serial killer that has managed to evade capture for over a decade. Now it seems that she has become the murderer’s latest obsession.

Priya and her mother have moved all over the country trying to lay low and avoid Priya’s new stalker. With each new springtime murder, Priya receives flowers like the ones left on the victims. It is clear that they are coming from the murderer.

Meanwhile, three eager FBI agents work with Priya to try and find the killer before he strikes again. Some have a more personal stake in the manhunt and over the years they’ve formed a bond with Priya and her mother. Eventually they begin considering ways to use Priya to help them draw out the killer.

All in all, it was an okay type of read. I didn’t hate it, but I never really felt a strong connection to any of the characters either. It was pretty predictable and lacked the tension and anxiety that I would have expected for a suspense/thriller. It also seemed to have several long lulls, where I was waiting for something…anything…to happen. In my opinion, this follow-up wasn’t nearly as good as the first book.

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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 3, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 3Killing The Sun: Part 3 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third, and final, installment of the ‘Killing The Sun’ series, the tension between Danny and Aimee is at an all-time high. Aimee is finally ready to stand up to Danny, even as she still yearns for his love on some level. With Aimee slipping away, Danny is at his most brutal.

For the first time while reading this series, I really feared what Danny might do to Aimee. He was always violent and controlling, but I never got the sense that he wanted to truly harm Aimee before. Now, there is no telling what he might do to her. He might even want her dead.

As Danny is brought to justice for his criminal activities, Aimee’s secrets also come to light. In fact, she proved to be more duplicitous than Danny, in my opinion. It was like there was this whole other person that I was blind to before. Part of me felt betrayed by her, while another part felt proud that she had it in her.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that this series took me by surprise. It was a whirlwind of steamy sex and betrayals. And that ending! I am dying to know what happens next. I would kill for an epilogue or another book. I imagine a dark romance with Danny and Aimee living out the HEA together…but I always root for the anti-hero. Damn these two twisted geniuses!

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Review: Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck, #5), by S. T. Abby

Paint It All Red (Mindf*ck, #5)Paint It All Red by S.T. Abby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have loved every minute of this series. From start to finish, this series kept me on the edge of my seat. If you like suspenseful, dark stories, then this is one that you don’t want to miss!

Finally, I got all of the answers that I had been waiting for. I thought I had things figured out. Man, was I ever wrong! This was one ending that I didn’t see coming. When the identity of the original Delaney Grove rapist/killer was revealed, I was shocked.

Of course, there is plenty of road to travel before everything is revealed. Logan has finally learned Lana’s secrets…or at least he thinks he has. This makes for an interesting turn of events. There are some surprising alliances formed and Logan is forced to reevaluate his morality and values.

The final stages of Lana’s revenge plan are put into place. Although I found some of this particular aspect to be a bit over-the-top and unbelievable, I still found the story to be highly enjoyable. She definitely left her mark on Delaney Grove.

I only wish that some of the really bad guys, like the Sheriff, had been tortured a bit more. I’m twisted like that. After all that build-up, I felt like some of the worst offenders got off a little easier in the end. It was like Lana was growing tired of her own need for revenge.

I don’t want to say too much and give anything away. I will just say that this series has completely blown me away. It is a must-read if you like dark, suspenseful reads with a touch of romance. It is terrific!

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Review: All the Lies (Mindf*ck, #4), by S. T. Abby

All the Lies (Mindf*ck, #4)All the Lies by S.T. Abby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! If I thought that things couldn’t get more intense, I was sadly mistaken. This series is really aptly named. My mind is completely f*cked!

Four of five books in, Lana’s plans for revenge really start taking off at rapid speed. Logan’s investigation in to the Scarlet Slayer has led him to Lana’s hometown of Delaney Grove. On the surface it is all “Pleasantville”, but there is an underlying eeriness that hints at the corruption that inundates this community.

When Logan invites Lana along, he has no idea that he is playing right into her plans. In fact, he still has no idea of the darkness that lives within the woman that he loves. He remains the primary source of goodness in her life and the only thing keeping her from being completely consumed by the darkness.

Although he played a vital background role in earlier books, this installment has Jake really stepping into the spotlight. He is vital to Lana’s success and that is never more evident than in this book. I quickly grew to appreciate Jake and everything that he does for Lana. It was great to see that she has someone other than Logan that cares about her, especially because it is still yet to be determined how he will react to her secret life.

Things get very violent and interesting really quick in this book. As Logan gets closer to unveiling the truth, Lana continues to check off the remaining names on her list. Meanwhile, the horrifying details of the transgressions against Lana and her family continue to come to light.

If I ever had any doubt that the men on Lana’s list had it coming, I certainly don’t any longer. What they did was unspeakable. If anything, Lana is too kind to them in the end. They deserve everything she dished out and more. I don’t think I’ve ever rooted for a serial killer so strongly as I have Lana.

Like the other books in the series, this one ends with a huge cliffhanger. With only one more serial to go, things finally come to a head. I immediately started the fifth, and final, book in the series. I absolutely could not put these books down until I had finished the entire series. It is totally addicting!

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Review: Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck, #3), by S. T. Abby

Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck, #3)Scarlet Angel by S.T. Abby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the second book’s shocking ending, I could not wait a minute before starting ‘Scarlet Angel’. Never a dull moment, this book picks up where the second one left off. The Boogeyman has come for Lana and the story begins with a fierce fight between the two serial killers.

Unbeknownst to Lana, she isn’t alone with the Boogeyman. Someone else has fallen prey to the would-be rapist and is present to witness the showdown. Lana’s lethal abilities are no longer a secret known only by her and Jake. The only question is whether or not this witness will spill her secret to Logan.

As the story progresses, Lana’s humanity takes center stage. It is in a direct contradiction to her cold, serial-killer persona. Yet, she doesn’t kill indiscriminately. She doesn’t murder innocents or prey on those that are good.

Instead, her protective instincts come alive. She loves Logan and cannot stand the thought of any harm coming his way. She is willing to endanger herself, facing off with another serial killer, in order to keep him safe. He is the goodness in her life that balances out her darker urges. If she were to lose him, it would be the end of her sanity.

Overall, this was another fantastic serial. This series is one of the best dark, psychological suspense stories that I’ve ever read. I cannot get enough of this story! I’m team Lana all the way!

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Review: Sidetracked (Mindf*ck Series, #2), by S. T. Abby

Sidetracked (Mindf*ck Series Book 2)Sidetracked by S.T. Abby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘Sidetracked’ is the second serial in S. T. Abby’s ‘Mindf*ck’ series and it proves to be just as exciting as the first. To this point, there hasn’t been a dull moment in this series. I could not read these quick enough. I devoured every twisted detail as Lana and Logan continue to court danger.

In spite of their hectic schedules and Lana’s secrets, the couple continues to grow closer. They are quickly falling in love, even as Lana knows that she should distance herself from Logan. The man who is bringing her back to life is also the man who will cost her everything.

Logan is increasingly busy working two high-profile cases. Aside from his unknowing hunt for Lana, he is also trying to pin down a serial rapist and murder that is dubbed the “Boogeyman”. As she continues to avoid detection, Lana provides some insight and assistance to Logan on his other case.

When things heat up with the Boogeyman, Logan’s notoriety makes him a target for the killer. Only, the Boogeyman plans to get at Logan through the woman he loves. As a result, security for everyone on Logan’s team and Lana is beefed up.

Needless to say, having a 24/7 law enforcement presence proves to be a challenge for a serial killer trying to fly under the radar. The fact that Logan does not truly know Lana is never more obvious. Despite the added scrutiny, Lana manages to continue her plans for revenge with a few modifications.

More and more, Logan tries to get Lana to open up about her past to no avail. Meanwhile, readers are given tidbits of information, but are still left largely in the dark with Logan. It is clear that Lana’s survived an incredibly traumatic incident in the past, but the full extent of that trauma is yet to be revealed.

However, enough of Lana’s story has been revealed to make her plight sympathetic to readers. I am still rooting for her. She has yet to kill anyone that I didn’t think had it coming.

As expected, this second book ends with another huge cliffhanger. If I thought that the cliffhanger at the end of the last book was anxiety-inducing, I hadn’t seen anything yet. I dived into the third installment of this series immediately.

I am completely and totally hooked on this series. It is dark, twisted and has everything that I love in a suspenseful story. I am dying to know how everything works out. I have no doubt that I won’t stop until I’ve finished this entire series. I love it!

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Review: The Risk (Mindf*ck Series, #1), by S. T. Abby

The Risk (Mindf*ck Series #1)The Risk by S.T. Abby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy hell! This book was fantastic! I had never heard of S. T. Abby before now, but she has blown me away with this book. This is one twisted and fascinating story. I will be one-clicking her releases from this point forward.

The first in a series of five serials, ‘The Risk’ was suspenseful and utterly addicting. I could not put this super short book down. Once you’ve finished the first one, you’re going to want to delve into the next book immediately. Luckily, the entire series has been released, so you don’t have to live with the anxious anticipation for long.

Logan Bennett is a very successful FBI criminal profiler. His team is the FBI’s “dream team” of sorts. They get assigned the toughest cases, tracking down and capturing the country’s worst murderers. He is the quintessential “good guy” and a real-life hero.

Lana Myers is his polar opposite. Her life experiences have taught her that good does not always prevail. She is no longer a young girl with illusions of a criminal justice system that is fair and just. She knows all to well that there is true evil in this world. She has no qualms about handing out her own special brand of justice to those that she deems deserving of punishment. I can’t say that I disagreed either. Lana is quite possibly one of my favorite leading female characters ever…and she’s a serial killer!

When Logan and Lana cross paths, sparks fly immediately. One chance meeting at a coffee shop sets a chain of events in motion that will change the lives of these two forever. I was completely glued to this story. I knew that things were bound to get really ugly, but I couldn’t tear myself away.

Lana knows that the last thing she should ever do is pursue a romantic relationship with an FBI profiler. However, she just can’t deny herself the happiness that she feels with Logan. For his part, Logan is completely clueless about Lana’s true identity or what she does when she’s away from him. He has no idea that the serial killer he’s been hunting is actually warming his bed at night.

From start to finish, I could not pull myself away from this story. Despite being polar opposites, S. T. Abby managed to make both Logan and Lana characters that were endearing. I loved them both, even as I feared the heartache that I know has to be looming in the distance.

This story was dark, twisted and thrilling. This first serial ended with a big cliffhanger, that had me jumping into the next one immediately. I was blown away by this story.

If you’re a fan of dark, suspenseful stories that will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time, then you need to read this series. The first book is free, so you’re not losing anything if you don’t like it. If you’re like me, you won’t even want to come up for air until you’ve read all five. This series was phenomenal!

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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: 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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