Review: Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga, #2), by Kiersten White

Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Saga #2)Now I Rise by Kiersten White
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I finished the first book in ‘The Conqueror’s Saga’, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book. I absolutely loved Mehmed, Lada and Radu. I was completely taken in by their unique personalities and the love that they had for one another. Despite the fact that their interests were often conflicting, they managed to remain the closest of friends, and sometimes more.

However, I am sad to say that I didn’t get the same pleasure from reading ‘Now I Rise’. It was like this book came along and burst my bubble. Any seeds of resentment and anger that were planted in ‘And I Darken’ came to life in this book. My view of these characters has been irreparably changed…and not for the better.

One of the things that really stood out to me about the first book was the loyalty that this trio seemed to have for one another. Even as their political and religious alliances were in opposition, they always found a way to support one another and place their personal relationships first. Yes, for Mehmed and Lada there were a few betrayals, but I never felt like they were more than superficial, based upon the expectations of their positions. Perhaps I just wanted to believe that, especially where Mehmed was concerned, even though the writing was on the wall.

In contrast to the first book, ‘Now I Rise’ is full of betrayal and underhanded manipulations. Every one of them turns their back on the people that care for them, some to a greater degree than others. However, none of them were innocent of treachery in this book.

Mehmed, in particular, was a character that I grew to despise. He claims to love Lada, but sells her out at every turn. Honestly, I began to dislike him in the last book as he repeatedly chose to sleep with other women while professing his love for Lada. What a pig! I wanted to make excuses for his behavior then, but I’ve got my head on straight now. This book helped me come to the realization that he is nothing more than a calculating, self-centered, power-hungry asshat! I hope that Lada kills him.

Although I like Lada more than Mehmed, she is equally obsessed with power and consumed by her blind ambition to reign. I think I probably cut her a little more slack because she is a big time underdog. It is rare to encounter such a strong, badass female lead character, so I really want to like her. Unfortunately, I found her pretty unappealing for much of this book also. She may not have betrayed Mehmed and Radu in the huge way that they both betrayed her, but she did plenty of horrible things in order to assert her power over those she hoped to rule. The brutal tactics she employed didn’t sit well with me either, regardless of the fact that I wanted her to achieve her end goal.

Sweet Radu also proved to be a big disappointment this time around. Turning his back on his sister, he willingly submits to Mehmed’s every self-serving demand. It was pathetic. He befriends and then betrays close friends in order to further Mehmed’s quest to conquer Constantinople. Even as he knows that what he is doing is wrong, he repeatedly chooses to sacrifice others that are innocent in the hopes that he will gain the affection of a man that he knows will never love him the way that he does. I wanted to pity him, but my anger toward his actions never let that emotion set in. In some ways he was every bit as bad as Mehmed, but his duplicity was hidden beneath a façade of presumed harmlessness.

After finishing this book, I feel hollowed out. There is a part of me that still wants to see how things will work out. I’d hate to miss it if Lada ends up killing Mehmed. However, a part of me is just disgusted with all of these characters that I once loved.

I’m not sure that I can bear to watch them destroy one another. It is clear that this isn’t going to be a HEA type of story. The damage is done and I suspect that their insatiable hunger for power and unobtainable love will just end up destroying them all. It is fitting, but not necessarily something that I feel like watching play out. I guess I’ll see how I’m feeling when the third book is released. For now, I’m going to lick my emotional wounds and give my disappointment plenty of time to sink in.

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Review: Dirty Promises (Dirty Angels, #3), by Karina Halle

Dirty Promises (Dirty Angels, #3)Dirty Promises by Karina Halle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Karina Halle wasn’t kidding when she said that this was the darkest book that she’s written. I knew when I opened up this book to find a couple of pages of forewarning from the author about how dark and disturbing the content was, that this was going to be a book that I loved. It certainly did not disappoint!

I have been a die-hard Javier fan from the start. There is something about him that I just can’t resist. He definitely isn’t a nice guy by any means, but I find him absolutely irresistible. In fact, I’m still pretty peeved with Ellie for choosing Cam over Javier. I don’t think that I’ll ever get completely past that.

Unlike ‘Dirty Deeds’, ‘Dirty Promises’ is centered on Javier and his wife, Luisa. While Javier was never a “good guy”, this book gives us a front row seat to his downward spiral into the depths of his depravity. The fact that his life as a cartel leader had corrupted him was hinted at in the last book, but I couldn’t even begin to fathom how far gone he was.

After the way things worked out in ‘Dirty Deeds’, Javier is a broken man. His violent, gory actions are extreme, even for him. He pretty much succumbed to madness.

While Javier is acting out his most brutal and depraved fantasies, he has completely neglected his wife. Luisa has tried to be patient and has done her best to overlook Javier’s indiscretions. However, there comes a point when she can no longer do so.

Of course, Javier has an enemy in his midst working to capitalize on Javier’s anguish. Betrayal after betrayal, this book completely gutted me. Aside from the sheer brutality, my heart wasn’t prepared for the emotional pain that this book would deliver. I was absolutely gutted by this story.

Even as the Javier fangirl that I am, I found it hard to forgive him for some of his actions in this book. No doubt about it, they were despicable. Luisa’s actions were easier to understand when confronted with the reality of what Javier put her through. I liked her before, but my heart really went out to her in this book. If there was anyone that was the “victim” in this scenario, it was definitely Luisa.

Without a doubt, this was one of the most intense dark stories that I’ve read in some time. I actually cried as Luisa suffered, which doesn’t happen very often. It was gritty, depraved and highly emotional. As disturbing as Javier’s world is, I cannot get enough! I loved this book!

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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: Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity, #3), by Courtney Lane

Seducing Virtue (Wicked Trinity Book 3)Seducing Virtue by Courtney Lane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It has been a while since I read something as messed up as ‘Seducing Virtue’. This was just the dark, twisted and shocking story that my depraved mind needed. Christ on a cracker! Courtney Lane always messes with my head. She has one disturbing imagination…and I love it!

This is the third book in the ‘Wicked Trinity’ series and the books must be read in order. In fact, this series is so multifaceted and complex that I found myself having to go back and re-read many parts of books one and two in order to make sense of certain events. It was absolutely no bother though, because this series is that good!

If you have already read the first two books, then it goes without saying that this is one dark and twisted series. It is brutal, gritty, gory and offensive. If you can’t handle a really dark read with very disturbing content, then you probably wouldn’t have made it this far in the series. Ms. Lane does not hold back when it comes to the dark content and I applaud her for that.

This book picks up with Keaton back at her parents after recently escaping Noah. She’s still shocked at the revelation of Braeden’s true identity, but inexplicably drawn to him nonetheless. She’s kind of in limbo, trying to do what she knows is logical while wanting to do something that is absolutely crazy but feels so good.

The beginning of this book seemed a little slow to me. However, once it got going it really took off. Buckle up, because you’re in for one hell of a twisted ride!

There were so many twists and turns along the way that I had to clarify and reorient myself more than once. If you’re like me and it has been a while since you read the first two books, you’ll want to have them handy to reference. There were so many intricate details that I had to go back a few times to remind myself where different things had left off.

The layers of deception seemed never-ending. Every time that I thought I knew where the story was headed, something else would happen and I find myself going in another direction entirely. It was definitely a mind-f*@k!

Throughout the book, Keaton and Braeden had a strong push/pull relationship. The two could seem to be together or stay apart. There were many things about their relationship that had me scratching my head. Yet, I wanted them to get the HEA in spite of Braeden’s horrible crimes.

Noah also spoke to me. He definitely isn’t a character that is easy to like, but deep down, I think he loved Keaton in his own messed up way. These two guys are perhaps two of the most damaged characters that I’ve ever encountered. I’d love to hate them, and sometimes I did, but mostly, I felt sad for them.

Eventually, everything does work out for the best. Of course, that is a matter of opinion. This book has the type of ending that will have many readers wanting to pull their hair out, but for me, it was perfect. I couldn’t have dreamt up a more fitting conclusion to this series.

If you love a dark, disturbing story that pushes your boundaries this is a good one. I love the dark stuff and there were times I felt an urge to rock myself in a corner. Be forewarned. If that appeals to you, like it does to me, you don’t want to miss this series.

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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: 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: The Bad Ones, by Stylo Fantome

The Bad OnesThe Bad Ones by Stylo Fantome
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wondered how a relationship between two psychopaths would work out? Now I know.

This book was so much better than I expected! I had seen so many mixed reviews for this one that I was hesitant to pick it up. After all, my recent dark reads haven’t worked out so well for me and I was beginning to wonder if my tastes were changing, steering me away from my usual preference for darker stories.

However, ‘The Bad Ones’ was just what I needed. Rest assured, these are not your run of the mill H/h. Constantine and Dulcie are seriously disturbed individuals. Together, they go on a murderous rampage, dishing out revenge to anyone that had wronged them.

The thing is, there wasn’t a person that they targeted that I felt bad for. Maybe my mind is just as twisted as theirs, but I loved this batshit-crazy couple! Honestly, I was glad to see Matt get what he deserved, along with a variety of others.

That being said, this definitely isn’t a couple that will appeal to everyone. This is a dark, gritty story and contains multiple scenes of violence, abuse, blood and gore. In real life, this is a couple that you’d want to stay far away from.

For me, this book was a fantastic read. I couldn’t put it down! With each page, I was equal parts scared and curious to see what they would do next. Their unconventional relationship was different than anything I’ve ever read about. I was completely captivated by this story!

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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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