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: On the Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta

Jellicoe RoadJellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘On the Jellicoe Road’ is the first book I’ve read/listened to by this author. After all of the glowing reviews for this one, I was prepared to be blown away. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out that way for me. It ended up being an “okay” story for me.

My first problem has less to do with the actual story, and more to do with the format that I chose. I listened to the Audible edition and that was a big mistake. The problem didn’t stem from the quality of narration, so much as the complexity of the story. There were simply too many moving parts for me to try and keep track of while listening to an audiobook. It is incredibly hard to pull off a book like this in audiobook format and it didn’t work for me.

I spent hours trying to figure out who the characters were and what the hell was going on. The transitions between characters and time frames was not always obvious, making matters even worse. I must have been hours into the story before I figured out that there were actually two stories playing out — one in the present and one in the past. Needless to say, I lost a lot of time being utterly confused and unaware of what was going on.

By the time I began to piece some things together, I had already missed so many of the “connections” and details that it was kind of pointless. When the big reveals came toward the end, they were kind of meaningless to me. I never really connected with the characters or the storyline. I had simply missed too much to play catch-up at that point.

The story centers on Taylor Markham, a girl that was abandoned on the Jellicoe Road by her mother at the age of 11. She lives at a boarding school (orphanage???). When the lady that has taken care of her disappears, she is certain that something is amiss. Taylor sets out to find Hannah, or discover what really happened to her.

When she runs across a book/journal written by Hannah, she begins to unveil some long-standing secrets. Along with some friends from her school, she has several creepy encounters and a variety of adventures. There is some sort of rivalry described between the two groups of kids…but I was pretty confused so I can’t say I ever really grasped what that was about for sure.

Overall, this ended up being a middle of the road story for me. I do suspect that I’m not doing this story justice though. I was just too lost for most of the book to take much away from the experience this time around.

I do plan to re-read this in the future, because I have some lingering questions. I’m sure they were answered along the way and I just didn’t catch it. I definitely won’t be listening to the audiobook on my second attempt. This story will require my full attention.

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Review: The Things We Wish Were True, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

The Things We Wish Were TrueThe Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘The Things We Wish Were True’ was a book that I picked up with my Kindle Unlimited membership. I listened to the Audible edition and it was better than I expected. This story had a lot going on, but the author managed to weave the characters and events together seamlessly. It was my first Marybeth Mayhew Whalen book, but it won’t be my last.

The story is set in the small, southern town of Sycamore Glen, North Carolina. I enjoyed the description of this town and thought that the author did a fabulous job of capturing the essence of a small southern town. So often, authors are guilty of only portraying southern towns as being filled with idiotic, racist rednecks, feeding into all of the worst stereotypes of the people in this region of the country.

As a Mississippi native, I appreciate that this author didn’t do that, taking the time to present a more balanced view. There are certainly some racist rednecks in the South, but they aren’t a good representation of the majority. Having lived in, and traveled to, various locales across the country, I can assure you that racist, ignorant rednecks are everywhere. Sad, but true.

The story is told from multiple POVs. Everyone seems to get a chance to share their version of events. With a robust cast of characters, I admit that this was a little confusing at first. However, it wasn’t long before I had all of the characters sorted and I was completely lost in the goings on of this small community.

This is the type of town where everyone is connected somehow. Maybe their grown kids went to school with the young parents that are now raising their own families in town, as was the case for Zell. Maybe they’ve returned to town to lick their wounds, returning to the safety of their parents’ home after a failed marriage, as Jancey did. Perhaps, like Lance, they’re struggling to raise their children alone after being abandoned by their spouse. Or, maybe they’re trying to grow their family while working hard to keep their secrets at bay, like Everett and Bryte.

Everyone has a story and their lives are interconnected. Some connections are obvious, while others are revealed slowly, over the course of the book. The tragic near-drowning of a child at the community pool will pull them all together and set a series of events in motion.

Despite being a relatively short book, there was a lot going on. A child abductor is in their midst. Lies, betrayals and secrets abound. However, the author manages to incorporate many different elements without the story feeling “over the top” or outrageous. Granted, some things were a bit too coincidental, but it worked overall.

All in all, this was a great story. I really enjoyed it and found myself lost in the small town drama that played out. If you’re looking for an entertaining read that has a little mystery, without a high level of suspense and anxiety, I think this is a good choice.

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Review: Breach (Breach, #1), by K. I. Lynn

Breach (Breach, #1)Breach by K.I. Lynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely one of those times when I find myself in the minority. Most of my friends loved ‘Breach’ and I, sadly, did not. I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was sure that it would be right up my alley after hearing about all of the steamy sex scenes that filled the pages. I love some smutty goodness, after all!

Unfortunately, there was little else but sex to fill the pages. From start to finish, this book was filled with pretty much nothing but sex scenes. I’m no prude, but they needed to give it a rest.

I’m the type of reader that needs a connection between characters — preferably before they jump into bed, but I can even work with a relationship that develops afterward. However, at some point they need to actually develop a strong connection. I need to be drawn into the story and feel a bond with the characters and their plight. Otherwise, the reading experience is more like being a bystander while two random strangers have lots of meaningless sex. It’s just pointless.

While some of the sex scenes had potential to be very hot, the lack of a connection to the characters and the storyline left me with a lackluster feeling. I just didn’t care. There was no build-up or anticipation. I never felt a strong connection with the characters and didn’t get the feeling that they ever felt a strong connection with each other. As a result, I never felt any type of emotional connection to the story and the “steamy” sex scenes fell flat for me.

I kept thinking that if the author spent half as much time on fleshing out the characters and the storyline as she did on the sex scenes that this story could be really good. Instead, every time I turned a page Delilah and Nathan were having sex again. Sex was the outcome of every single interaction these two had. Jealous? Have sex. Threatened? Have sex. Nervous? You guessed it – sex! It got to the point where it was tedious for me.

In the end, this book ended up being just mediocre for me. Some of the sex scenes were pretty good, but they were so gratuitous that even the good scenes induced eye-rolling. I listened to the Audible edition and found myself fast-forwarding through many sex scenes toward the end because I just couldn’t take anymore. I get it – they have LOTS of sex. I just needed more of a story to go along with it. That never happened.

The first book in the series, ‘Breach’ ends with a cliffhanger. Usually, that would send me diving right into the second book to see what happened. Although I’m in the minority with this one, I feel absolutely no desire to do so. Even with the “shocking” ending, I just couldn’t bring myself to care. All I felt was relief that finally something had happened that might make these two stop having sex and come up for air. Since I never felt anything for the main characters, I couldn’t bring myself to care where the story will lead. I’m glad so many friends have loved this one. It just didn’t work for me.

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Review: The Marsh King’s Daughter, by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's DaughterThe Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lately, I’ve been reading a little more suspense/thriller. ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ is the most recent book in this genre to catch my attention. It certainly lived up to my expectations for a creepy, edge of my seat story.

The story centers on Helena, a woman with a secret past. While she lives her “normal” life as a mother, occupied with mundane daily issues, there is far more going on beneath the surface. She is always looking over her shoulder, never quite able to settle down or rest easy.

What Helena hasn’t told anyone is that her father is the notorious “Marsh King”. He abducted her mother when she was a young girl, holding her captive for many years and forcing her to be his wife. Helena is a product of her mother’s abuse at the hands of her abductor.

Of course, Helena did not know this for much of her youth. She was raised in a cabin in an isolated marsh. She grew up hunting and learning to survive off of the land. Truth be told, she loved it. She didn’t know of any other way.

Looking back, she can see that her childhood wasn’t without hardship. Her father’s rule was supreme. If she or her mother dared to cross him, they were punished swiftly and harshly. As a child, she didn’t have a basis for comparison. Now, it is clear to her that his actions were abusive.

Helena has long since come to terms with the fact that her father is a narcissistic psychopath. Everything in their lives revolved around keeping him happy. They lived in constant fear of setting him off, knowing that he could turn into a cruel, sadistic monster with the flip of a switch.

When Helena receives word that her father has escaped from prison, she has no doubt that he will be coming for her. After all, she knows that she was to blame for his eventual arrest. A man like her father doesn’t forget and he doesn’t forgive.

Her worst fears are proved true when a series of gruesome clues begins to pile up. It seems that her father is taunting her and trying to draw her back into a game that they used to play when she was little…only this time, she is hunting him. Sometimes, the hunter becomes the hunted though.

As Helena trekked through the wilderness in search of her father, I had chills. An eerie feeling pervaded this story from start to finish. All I can say is that it was creepy…very creepy.

Despite my enjoyment, I have to admit that I had a difficult time connecting with Helena. I admired her strength and the fact that she stood out from other heroines. However, I couldn’t really relate to her much. It made it a little more difficult for me to connect with the story, but eventually I did.

Once this story got warmed up, it had my complete attention. As Helena’s past was revealed through flashbacks, I began to piece together the entirety of the her life’s story. Her father, who seemed harmless at first, was gradually shown to be a truly cruel man as the violence he bestowed upon his family increased over the years.

This was a great book. It kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was listening. There is something to be said for a book that can still make you want to check under your bed for monsters. If you’re in the mood for something creepy and disconcerting, this is the one.

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Review: Seven Days (The Game Series, #7), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Seven Days  (The Game Series, #7)Seven Days by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The final installment in the series, ‘Seven Days’ gives the answers that I’ve been craving. I have been completely consumed with these short serials, reading the entire series in a single day. Each one has kept me on the edge of my seat and none more so than this final serial.

While I had guessed the identity of Number 3 fairly early on, I was pretty shocked by his motivations. Talk about whiplash! I’m not sure exactly what these guys were thinking, but this was one seriously messed up game that they were playing.

Although I finally got the answers I wanted, I found myself left with new questions that I hadn’t pondered earlier on. Now that I know who was behind the game and why, I can’t help but want to know more. When did this game get started? Were the players always the same? Why on earth would anyone continue to play?

Nobody left me with more questions than Ella herself. After everything, I was perplexed by her final actions in this series. I had a serious WTF moment at the end.

That being said, this series was one hell of a ride. It was suspenseful, mysterious and erotic as hell. I never knew what was going to happen next. Even now, I wonder what the future has in store for Ella, Tobias and Preston. I anticipate that there will be a spin-off series to address those issues. I will definitely be reading it if that comes to pass.

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Review: Five Rules (The Game Series, #5), by Stevie J. Cole and L. P. Lovell

Five Rules  (The Game Series, #5)Five Rules by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Keeping with the suspenseful mood of earlier serials in this series, ‘Five Rules’ continues to build up the intrigue. Just when I think that Tobias and Preston couldn’t get much more twisted, they take their “game” to a new level. Time and time again, they test Ella’s self-control and integrity.

Ella is no longer sure of how she feels or what her limits are. She is initially haunted by the possibilities of what might have occurred during her night with Number 3 while she was drugged and completely oblivious to her surroundings. The only thing that frightens her more than wondering what might have happened, is the knowledge that Tobias and Preston may not care for her as much as they proclaim.

Despite everything, these two manage to endear themselves to Ella once again. She sees a softer side of them, while subsequently facing her darkest side. It is becoming clear that she is far less innocent and pure of heart than originally thought.

This installment also details tremendous growth in their unusual three-way relationship. Their interactions are becoming increasingly intimate and caring. The forbidden, steamy nature of their encounters is still there, but there is a newfound softness.

I continue to devour this series. I am not usually a fan of ménage erotica, but on occasion I find one that holds a great deal of appeal. This is one of those times. I am fascinated by this trio and the mysterious game that is unfolding. Without a doubt, I will be continuing this series.

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Review: Truth (Consequences, #2), by Aleatha Romig

Truth (Consequences, #2)Truth by Aleatha Romig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While the ‘Consequences’ series is one of my all-time favorite series, ‘Truth’ is my absolute favorite book in the series. That isn’t to say that all of the books in this series aren’t wonderful — they are. However, this book is so damn great that I can’t even begin to express how much I love it.

I frequently find myself returning to this book and rereading my favorite parts. I’m a glutton for punishment that way. Never has a story made me feel more conflicted…or more addicted, than the story of Tony and Claire. I just cannot get enough of this screwed up, controversial and suspenseful story.

After the huge upset at the end of ‘Consequences’, it is no surprise that ‘Truth’ takes Claire and Tony’s story in a new direction. So much has changed. Yet, so much remains the same.

While many of Claire’s actions continue to be irrational and perplexing, I am so glad that Aleatha Romig dreamed up her character. Otherwise, I would have never experienced this phenomenal story. While all rational thought should send Claire running as far away from Tony as she can get, I’m so glad that she continues to defy all reason and repeatedly engages in his games. I cannot get enough of it!

In comparison to her demeanor in ‘Consequences’, ‘Truth’ shows a more independent and strong-minded version of Claire. She is no longer trapped at Tony’s mansion, at the mercy of his violent whims. This book sees Claire pursue more of an “offensive” approach to her interactions with Tony, whereas Claire had previously been limited to a sort of passive resistance.

Nevertheless, Tony is not one to be out-maneuvered. Time and time again, he proves that he is still in control. The back and forth antics of Tony and Claire keeps me flipping the pages every time I read this book.

Even though I should hate Tony, I just can’t. That is the beauty of this series. In fact, as “truths” are revealed and more of his horrendous actions come to light, I find myself trying to fight a stronger pull to him. He is the epitome of an anti-hero. I love him more, despite all reason, with each new detail shared. I can relate to Claire in that regard.

This second book in the series begins a slow unveiling of Tony’s motivations. Little by little, Claire begins to unearth details of a their families’ shared past. The depth of Tony’s hunger for revenge is astounding. Claire tries to gather clues to figure out exactly where she fits into the picture.

This book was jam-packed with information. Blink and you’ll miss something. Each time I read it, I pick up on something else that I overlooked before.

Not only are “truths” revealed in this book, but new mysteries surface. For every question answered, more questions arise. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.

Once again, Claire finds herself in danger. Only this time, the person trying to harm her is unknown. Is Tony really trying to turn over a new leaf or is he up to his old tricks? Can Claire ever trust him after everything that he’s done? Is there somebody else that wants to do her harm?

In addition to all of the facts that are unveiled in this book, the introduction of several new characters makes for a multi-dimensional story. Claire finds an unlikely friend in Amber, the fiancée of her recently deceased ex-boyfriend. Amber’s brother, Harry, also plays a pivotal role in this book, helping Claire adjust to her new life. Phil, a private investigator hired by Tony, also ends up being a key player this time around. The introduction of Derek and Sophia Burke adds yet another layer to this story, while familiar characters like Courtney and Brent evolve further.

I don’t want to give too much away, as I believe that this series should be experienced. I cannot begin to coherently state how much I love this series, or why. It is simply spectacular!

If you like darker reads, full of suspense, romance and mystery, then this is one is a must-read. You have to go into it with an open mind though. This story is not for those with “triggers” related to abuse, etc. It is full of controversial, offensive subject matter. However, if you love stories that mess with your head and make you step outside of your comfort zone, then you don’t want to miss it.

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Review: Evelyn, After, by Victoria Helen Stone

Evelyn, AfterEvelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not exactly sure that I’d categorize this story as a Psychological Thriller, but ‘Evelyn, After’ definitely had a few twists and turns along the way. It managed to hold my attention somewhat, but I never felt a strong connection to any of the characters. I listened to the Audible version, and while it was very well-narrated, I couldn’t help but feel that it was missing something.

This is the story of Evelyn, a woman that has traded the better part of her life to do “what’s expected” of her. She’s the wife of a prominent psychiatrist and the mother of their teenage son. Somewhere along the way, she lost her own identity. Her entire being is defined by the interests of her husband and son. She does everything a dutiful wife should do, volunteering at the school and helping with PTA fundraisers. She is living a cliché.

To the surprise of no one except Evelyn, her husband is having an affair. Gary, the prestigious psychiatrist, is involved in an accident one night…but he isn’t alone. It seems that Evelyn’s douchebag husband has been sleeping with one of his patients.

To make matters worse, Gary has the audacity to call his wife out to help him on the side of the road while he has his patient/mistress with him! Then, when Evelyn confronts him about it, he has the nerve to get indignant with her like she’s imagining things. To say the least, Gary was easy to hate right from the start.

Eventually, Evelyn gets pieces of the truth from Gary. It doesn’t take long for Evelyn to discover that the “accident” was far more than it seemed at first glance. Gary’s actions have thrown her entire world into chaos. Evelyn is faced with a huge ethical dilemma as she weighs the risk of losing her comfortable lifestyle against the merits of telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Evelyn becomes obsessed with the pretty blonde patient that warmed her husband’s bed. What begins as a little online stalking, quickly gets out of hand. Before long, Evelyn has interjected herself into the life of Juliette Whitman.

While I wanted to feel a connection with Evelyn, it never happened. Mostly, I just pitied her. Here was a woman that was stuck in a trap of her own making, more concerned with her country club image than doing anything to change her circumstances. She was perfectly content to play the victim, all while turning a blind eye to everything going on around her. As a heroine, she came off as weak and rather pathetic.

In the end, there was a twist or two that I didn’t see coming. That being said, they weren’t particularly shocking or exciting. This ended up being an “okay” story for me. It wasn’t terrible, but it lacked that special something that makes a story stand out.

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Review: Almost Missed You, by Jessica Strawser

Almost Missed YouAlmost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine this: You’re on vacation with your husband and young son. Everything is seemingly perfect. In fact, your considerate husband has agreed to watch your son while you relax with a drink and a good book on the beach for a couple of hours. Then, you return to your hotel room to find everything missing except for your personal belongings. Your husband and child are nowhere to be found. No note. Nothing.

That is exactly what happens to the heroine in this book, Violet. I cannot even begin to imagine the all-consuming sense of betrayal that she must have felt. My heart broke for this mother and her child.

As more time passes and it becomes clear that Violet’s husband, Finn, is not planning to return, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. Finn has secrets that he’s been keeping from Violet…and he isn’t the only one. It seems that some of her closest friends have been keeping secrets from Violet as well. Truth be told, she has been lying to herself for a long time also.

Told from the POVs of Violet, Finn and their best friend, Caitlyn, this story comes together little by little. Jumping between past and present-day, Violet and Finn’s fateful first encounters seem to be straight from a storybook. As Finn’s past is revealed, the image of a picture-perfect marriage with Violet begins to show cracks.

I don’t want to say too much about this story, because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. However, I will say that I was completely absorbed in this story and the mystery, until right about 80% or so. Once Finn’s motivations were revealed, I have to say that I was a little let-down. All I could think was, “Seriously? That’s it?”. Then, there was some other craziness toward the end that seemed a little unnecessary and unbelievable as well.

Overall, it was a good story. It did start to lose appeal toward the end for me, but it had my rapt attention up to that point. All things considered, I give it 3.5 stars.

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