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: There’s Something About Blaire (Blaire, #1.5), by Anita Gray

There's Something About Blaire (Blaire #1.5)There’s Something About Blaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Blaire’, I was left wanting. Blaire and Charlie had fought so hard to get to where they were, but I felt like I didn’t get enough of their HEA to feel content. Although I’ll still have to wait a while for the sequel to be released, I did stumble across ‘There’s Something About Blaire’, which proved to be a tasty little “extra”.

‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a retelling of the first chapter of ‘Blaire’, from Charlie’s POV. This super-short “extra” provides insight into Charlie’s thoughts and feelings as he plots his revenge against Maksim. It was kind of surprising to be in his head as he was first introduced to Blaire, honestly.

Although this was an incredibly quick read, it did shine a great deal of light on Charlie’s motivations. Even knowing what his original intentions were, having completed ‘Blaire’, I was a little taken aback by how cold and calculating Charlie came across. After all, he portrayed the polar opposite of that man in ‘Blaire’.

If you’ve read ‘Blaire’ and are dying for a little bit more to hold you over until the sequel is released, then ‘There’s Something About Blaire’ is a nice “extra”. Don’t expect a full story or book though, this is just a retelling of a single chapter. It is great bonus material, but not a story in and of itself.

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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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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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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: Vicious (Sinners of Saint, #1), by L. J. Shen

Vicious (Sinners of Saint, #1)Vicious by L.J. Shen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first started seeing the fantastic reviews for this book from all of my friends, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical. After all, I was one of the oddballs that didn’t love ‘Blood to Dust’ like most of my friends did. I wasn’t sure if maybe this just wasn’t the author for me. Luckily for me, my curiosity won out.

While I may not have fallen in love with ‘Blood to Dust’, ‘Vicious’ was a fantastic read for me. This book had one of the biggest a**holes ever to grace the pages of a romance novel…and I couldn’t get enough! I could not believe the stuff that this guy did!

On the other hand, Emilia, was one of the kindest and strongest heroines that I’ve ever encountered. I absolutely loved her inner-strength and her self-awareness when it came to her weakness for Vicious. She didn’t deserve his cruel treatment, but she endured it incredibly well.

Emilia’s parents take a job working for Vicious’ parents when she is in high school. He is the spoiled, but neglected, rich kid. As he frequently points out, she is the “Help”.

From their very first meeting, Vicious makes it a point to make Emilia’s life a living hell. He bullies her relentlessly, even as he is somewhat protective and possessive. She is his to torment and he makes it known.

When Emilia begins dating one of his closest friends, Vicious steps it up a notch. He is outraged at the defiance of Emilia and Dean, used to being in control of everyone and everything around him. Emilia is essentially ran out of town by Vicious and doesn’t see him again until their paths cross again a decade later.

From the start, I was intrigued by the relationship between Emilia and Vicious. There was a constant push and pull between the two of them, and a playfulness underlying their adversarial actions. Vicious, in particular, left me feeling confounded.

This story is a slow-burn and the history between the main characters is well-developed. I appreciated the thoroughly thought out back-story and the slow build-up of anticipation. I loved the pace that this story moved at.

As Vicious’ past comes to light, I grew to understand his actions a little better. Don’t get me wrong, he did some inexcusable things. However, it was hard to view him as a monster after everything he’d endured.

When Vicious screws things up – and he does, of course – Emilia makes him really work for forgiveness. You know how I feel about the necessity of groveling, and grovel he does! Emilia is no pushover and she’s been at the losing end of his games one too many times.

The only thing that I could’ve lived without was the whole pen-pal connection. It felt a little too similar to ‘Punk 57’ for me, especially when combined with the high school bullying theme, and I didn’t think it added much to the story. Both of these books were released so close together, that they were probably being written during the same period of time. However, the similarities were noticeable. They probably stand out to me more than usual since I read ‘Punk 57’ fairly recently.

All things considered, this was a “win” for me. This book was so much better than I expected and I’m so glad that I picked it up. I loved the angsty, back and forth relationship between Vicious and Emilia. I’m looking forward to seeing where the rest of this series will go.

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Review: Razing Grace: Razing Grace Part 1 (The Devil’s Own, #3), by Amo Jones

Razing Grace: Razing Grace Part 1Razing Grace: Razing Grace Part 1 by Amo Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow! Where do I even start with this one? As my friend Alicia said, this book was a hot mess.

I told myself I would read this one last book in ‘The Devil’s Own’ series, since I was so curious about how things worked out for Millie at the end of book two. This author has a way of hooking me with an ending that leaves me wanting more…even after reading a book that is mediocre, at best. It is quite incredible really.

Not this time though. Despite the huge cliffhanger at the end of this book that left me with unanswered questions and a mild curiosity, I refused to get sucked back in again. I’m hanging it up!

If you’ve read ‘Hellraiser’, then you know that Melissa’s sister, Millie, has been kidnapped by The Army. That is where this book picks up. Sweet Millie, the nun, is being held captive. She doesn’t know why they want her, or to what end, but she adjusts to her captivity pretty quickly.

Tripp, aka Raze, aka Executioner, aka 000, is in charge of “breaking’ her, along with five or six of his Army friends. Every day they show up wearing their assigned Halloween mask and torment Millie…with pleasure, of course! Yes, Millie has been abducted by assassin/gigilos who aim to please!

Tripp allows his friends, at multiple points in the story, to use and molest Millie. Yet, despite that, we’re supposed to believe that he has some sort of protective, possessive claim on her. Say what? It just didn’t ring true to me.

Top that off with the fact that he takes Millie to his house, only to have her cohabitate with his “two” girlfriends. Wow! That’s romantic. What a stand-up guy! He actually flaunts his sex with his play thing in front of Millie’s face at every opportunity. Can you say, true love?

Believe it or not, I could actually overlook some of that. I’m that disturbed individual that loves an asshole in my stories. As long as he grovels, I can forgive just about anything. In fact, the more horrible he is, the better! I love a hero that can rip my heart out and then has to spend some time atoning for his sins.

What I couldn’t overlook were the plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon…or the obvious lack of basic research…or the ridiculous, over-the-top scenarios. For example, the setting is in the Las Vegas area. At one point, Millie is looking out the window at Tripp’s yard. She describes the green grass and trees that don’t require landscaping. It’s been a few years since I went to Vegas, but grass and deciduous trees are not part of the natural topography. Just sayin’. Sandbox is more like it, dotted with mesquite bushes and cacti.

The lack of attention to detail was apparent throughout the book. Tripp and Millie’s first sex scene was one of the worst. Her hands were handcuffed behind her back…you know, above her ass. Then, while cuffed, he stands her up, bends her over and tells her to grab her ankles. Even worse, the author acknowledges that her hands are cuffed and tries to somehow explain that “I didn’t realize just how flexible I am until my fingers are wrapping around my ankles with ease”. That I’d love to see! Did she dislocate both shoulders and swing them around over her head?

Perhaps the biggest plot hole is the fact that all of the events in the preceding book were completely ignored. It was as if Tripp and his buddies didn’t beat Millie’s sister nearly to death when they kidnapped Millie. Nope. It is like it never even happened.

In fact, when Tripp requests a meeting with The Devil’s Own members, they are happy to oblige. No hard feelings. Not even a mention of the fact that he had put Hella’s old lady into a coma. It was like they were all one big, happy, criminal family. I couldn’t believe how absurd it was!

Like the earlier books in the series, this one ends in a manner that has made me wonder what is going to happen next. However, I refused to get sucked in again. I’m not spending any more money or time on this series.

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