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 Shack, by William Paul Young

The ShackThe Shack by William Paul Young
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While most of my friends seem to have a love or hate relationship with this book, I can’t say that I do. I am the rare reader that didn’t have a strong opinion about this book, one way or the other. I found it to be good and entertaining enough, but I didn’t find it to be life-changing or especially inspirational for me. It was certainly a change from my usual type of story, so that was refreshing in a sense. However, in the end it was in the “good but not great” category for me.

‘The Shack’ tells the story of Mackenzie, aka “Mack”, whose youngest daughter was abducted and murdered. Mack is expectedly devastated and distraught. He is also exceptionally angry at God, feeling that a worthy god wouldn’t have allowed such a heinous crime to occur to such an innocent young girl as his daughter, Missy.

Understandably, Mack is never the same man after the loss of Missy. His relationships are forever changed as he drowns in his own guilt and misery. He has lost faith and turns his back on God.

When Mack receives a note in his mailbox from God, luring him back to the cabin where his daughter was murdered, he doesn’t know what to think. Could somebody be so cruel as to play this type of a sick joke on him? Is the murderer still watching and toying with him? Could the murderer want to kill him as well? Is it possible that Missy could still be alive?

Mack doesn’t know what to think. However, he knows that he won’t be able to rest until he gets to the bottom of it. Borrowing a Jeep from a friend, he sets out for the cabin – the site of his worst nightmares.

During his time at the cabin, Mack has if forced to confront his loss of faith. Over the course of the book, he gets the closure that he needed and leaves a changed man. It was about as rosy as it could get for a book that centered on the murder of a child.

Personally, I didn’t feel any great sense of peace or satisfaction while reading this story. While I can see why some people felt that this book restored their faith and gifted them with a greater sense of empathy, it just didn’t work that way for me. I saw where author was going, I just wasn’t jumping on board that train.

In fact, I think I was more upset with Missy’s killer by the end of the book than Mack was. I couldn’t let it go. I wanted vengeance and justice for her young life. I wasn’t going to be satisfied unless the child murderer was found and put to death. That’s just me though, I’m bloodthirsty like that.

I’m also not what I would consider to be a very religious person. I don’t offend easily and I respect the views of others. I was raised as a Methodist, but I’m not a devout follower by any means.

That being said, nothing ever amazes me like the lack of tolerance that many self-professed “Christians” have for anyone with views that differ from their own. (Not that this is a phenomenon exclusive to Christians either. There seems to always be some in every group/religion.) We all know them, they’re the “my way or the highway” and “what I believe is right and your beliefs are wrong” people. A quick glance at the reviews for this book revealed that it has garnered lots of that type of attention–no big surprise there.

On the one hand, I can see that the author attempted to bridge the gap and present a book that might cross religions. However, since the book was so heavily based on Christian principles and beliefs, this attempt fell flat. It was clear that the god presented was based on Christian teachings.

Yet, even amongst Christians there are many differences in theology. This author focused largely upon one of those areas where different denominations have varying beliefs — free will vs. predestined fate. The author was clearly in the “free will” camp. Not surprisingly, readers who fall in the “predestined fate” camp will take issue with one of the major premises of the story.

If you are able to appreciate a story that has strong religious themes that may or may not align with your beliefs, then you might enjoy this one. I found it to be a good story, but I would have liked to feel more of a sense of justice. Things at the end were too nice, tidy and convenient for me.

If I were a more religious person, I might have enjoyed it more, or I might have despised it…who knows? It might be a great choice if you’re looking for somebody’s response to the age-old question, “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?” For me it was good, just not great.

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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: Dirty Deeds (Dirty Angels, #2), by Karina Halle

Dirty Deeds (Dirty Angels, #2)Dirty Deeds by Karina Halle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have had ‘Dirty Deeds’ on my TBR for a long time now. Javier Bernal is one of my all-time favorite anti-heroes and I just can’t get enough of him. So, when I heard that this spin-off series would feature him, I couldn’t wait. I dived right in to the first book in the ‘Dirty Angels’ series.

However, after I finished the first book, I lost some of my enthusiasm for the series. Don’t get me wrong, the first book was fantastic and as it turns out, so was this one. It’s just that I was single-mindedly focused on Javier and when I saw that my favorite bad guy wasn’t going to be the central focus of ‘Dirty Deeds’, I moved it to the back burner.

That being said, I really wish I hadn’t done that now. ‘Dirty Deeds’ ended up being a terrific story. While it isn’t as “dark” as any story centered on Javier would be, it was well worth reading. It was packed full of danger and suspense. It was a highly entertaining read.

‘Dirty Deeds’ tells the story of Alana Bernal, Javier’s youngest sister. She has spent her life trying to survive the violence of the cartel world that she was born into. She just wants to have a safe, normal life, but has always known that this was not her fate.

Alana tries to distance herself from her cartel kingpin brother, Javier, as much as possible. She works as a flight attendant and keeps her brother’s identity a safely-guarded secret. Alana knows that regardless of her lack of a close sibling relationship with Javier, she would be used as a pawn for his enemies. If she ever doubted it, she need only remember the murder of her sister and her family at the hands of one of Javier’s enemies.

Dereck Conway is an American living in Mexico and working as a contract killer for the cartels. He doesn’t care why a hit is ordered, he only cares about whether or not he is paid. He has long since came to terms with the fact that he has sold his soul to the highest bidder.

When Dereck is hired to kill Alana Bernal, he finds himself wanting to know more about his mark. There is something about her that stirs an interest in him. He has never allowed himself to humor any curiosity about a job before this and knows that he is walking a dangerous line. He shouldn’t care about what she did to get a death warrant, but he does.

On the day that Dereck goes to complete the kill, an accident changes everything. In no time, Dereck goes from assassin to protector. He insinuates himself into Alana’s life. The deeper he gets, the more clear it becomes that he has no intention of ever letting her go, much less killing her.

Despite their connection, Alana and Dereck have built their relationship on lies. The deception runs deep. Alana has not been honest about who her brother is or why it is that somebody might want her dead. Dereck hasn’t even told her his real name and the story he gave her about his life is entirely fabricated.

In time, the truth is revealed and the little trust in their relationship is called into question. When this happens, everything hits the fan. Alana, not knowing whether or not Dereck is a threat, places herself in real danger trying to get away from him.

Although not the central focus of this story, Javier is certainly a strong influence. His relationship with Alana is the motivation for the price on her head. His enemies have become her enemies by association.

It is clear that Javier is changing. He was always dark and dangerous, with a highly questionable code of morality. However, ‘Dirty Deeds’ shows a transformed man that has become completely consumed by the power and danger of his life as a cartel leader. I was taken aback by the cold indifference of his treatment of Alana. No doubt, this book foreshadows events to come in ‘Dirty Promises’.

This book is part of a series and the books should be read in order to fully understand what is going on. In fact, I would recommend reading all of the books in ‘The Artists’ series prior to starting the ‘Dirty Angels’ series, since this series is a spin-off series and does reference events in the earlier series quite a bit. Not to worry though, all of the books in both series are wonderful if you like dark, dangerous stories with some romance thrown in.

Like it’s predecessors, ‘Dirty Deeds’ does not disappoint. I postponed reading this one because I wanted more time with Javier, but wish I hadn’t done that. Although he isn’t a huge part of this book, he was definitely influential. Alana and Dereck’s story proved to be engaging and entertaining in and of it’s own right. If you’re a fan of these series, I definitely recommend this book and these series.

If you’re a Javier junkie, like me, you’ll be glad to know that he does make an appearance in this one. He just isn’t the focal point of this book.

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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: Raze (Scarred Souls, #1), by Tillie Cole

Raze (Scarred Souls, #1)Raze by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Raw, Gritty, Story Of Revenge And Love

Holy hell! This was an intense and amazing story! I devoured this book. I was completely consumed by this story from the first paragraph, to the last. It was gruesome, sad, tragic, and at the same time, it was brutally beautiful. Surrounded by unspeakable acts of violence, an incredible love story unfolds.

I won’t be able to provide a better overview than what is already provided in the author’s blurb, so I’m not going to try. Read it. It will give you a good idea of what the book is about and won’t leave you to “go in blind” as many blurbs do.

I will say, that I was in no way prepared to fall in love with Raze like I did. That Ms. Cole could make a man with over 600 kills and interpersonal skills that were brutish, at best, invoke compassion from readers, is a testament to her exceptional storytelling skills. He may be a killer, but I just wanted to cuddle this poor, lost, sexy man.

The connection between Raze and Kisa was undeniable. Their attraction seemed feral, possessive and animalistic. Yet, there was also an unmistakable tenderness and protectiveness in Raze’s actions. I could not get enough of these two!

Loved it, loved it, loved it!

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