Review: Riot (Scarred Souls, #4), by Tillie Cole

Riot (Scarred Souls, #4)Riot by Tillie Cole
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

***I was provided an ARC of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley.com, in exchange for honest feedback.***

I love this series! Each one of the books in this series has grabbed my attention and left me craving more. I just cannot get enough of these tortured fighters and the women that tame them. It may sound ridiculous – and logically, it kind of is – but it just works so damn well.

There is something about the over-the-top, Alpha-male heroes in this series that appeals to me on a very primal level. In fact, much of the dialogue would be laughable in any other book, but Tillie Cole pulls it off flawlessly. The heroes are similar to those from Kresley Cole’s ‘Immortals After Dark’ series, in their overwhelming need to answer to their baser needs. Phrases like “my female” and other possessive, rudimentary speech patterns fill the pages, but it manages to be incredibly H-O-T.

In this fourth, and final (?), book, we meet “901”. He’s the Blood Pit’s undefeated champion fighter and he’s proved to be a challenge to Master Arziani, the head of the Arziani Georgian crime mob. It is clear that 901 fears nothing, including Master Arziani. This presents a tremendous problem for the crime boss, who needs to reign in his champion.

When Master Arziani shows off his new favorite pleasure slave, “152”, he finally finds the leverage he’s been searching for. Despite his attempts to hide his interest, 901 is taken aback by 152’s beauty. He’s never wanted for anything as much as he wants her.

The two are thrown together, as Master Arziani uses 152 as a tool to break 901. No matter how hard 901 fights his attraction, he ultimately must cede control in this regard. Master Arziani has finally found a way to control 901.

Meanwhile, Valentin is determined to rescue his sister, 152, from the life of slavery that he was able to escape. Along with Luka and Zaal, he plots to bring down Master Arziani once and for all. Their plans are daring and they know that they will either succeed or die trying.

From start to finish, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. The plight of 152 and 901 was desperate and heartbreaking at times. Arziani was sadistic and seriously unhinged, so I never knew what to expect from him.

Unlike earlier books in the series, which followed a predictable pattern of the hero’s escape/rescue from slavery and gradual acclimation to “normal” life on the outside, aided by the heroine, this book saves the rescue for last. In contrast to earlier books, this book is primarily set during the time of captivity. 901 and 152 are both slaves when they meet and fall in love. Only later, are they rescued.

This book was fantastic. I absolutely enjoyed every minute of it and could not put it down. Old and new characters come together and everything comes full-circle. We finally get the HEA that these characters deserve. I can only hope that there will be a spin-off series in the future. I loved it!

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Review: Wicked Bride Games (Indecent Games, #1), by Clarissa Wild

Wicked Bride Games (Indecent Games, #1)Wicked Bride Games by Clarissa Wild
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for ‘Wicked Bride Games’, I was sure that I would love it. After reading several reviews from friends praising it’s masterful storytelling, I was even more convinced that this book would be right up my alley. After all, I love nothing more than a dark, twisted and deliciously disturbing story.

Unfortunately, this book just didn’t measure up to the hype for me. This is one of those times where I find myself the “odd man out” amongst my friends. It just didn’t work for me at all, for many reasons.

While I suspect that the “darkness” of this story will turn-off many readers, that wasn’t an issue for me at all. In fact, the dark elements were one of the primary draws for me. Although some parts were decidedly disgusting (cum drinking, anyone?), there was nothing so shocking in the content that it would send me running scared.

The biggest problem for me was that I never really connected with any of the main characters. The storyline seemed rushed and underdeveloped, leaving the supposed emotional reactions of the characters feeling insincere and contrived. The closest thing that I could equate it to would be the poor acting skills in a low-rate movie or porn film. It just doesn’t compare to the emotional response an Oscar-worthy performance will evoke in viewers.

Well, reading this book felt like reading a script for one of those low-budget, porn films for me. The reactions of the characters to some very unbelievable events was laughable at best. It was hard to take it seriously, when the characters didn’t seem to.

I felt like the author was telling me what the characters were supposed to be feeling, but in a very unconvincing manner…almost going through the motions without fleshing out the details to make it apparent to readers without having to spell it out. Does that make sense? I felt like I was being force-fed the “correct” response from the character, because the story was not written in a way that would actually elicit the response.

The premise of this story was promising, but I found the execution to be lacking. That being said, this is a reflection of my personal tastes and this style might work well for others. I need a bit more meat to my stories and not just some dark content thrown out there for shock value.

I have read other stories by this author that I really enjoyed, such as ‘Twenty-One’. I will definitely read more of her work in the future. However, this book was a big disappointment for me.

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Review: Separation Games (Games, #2), by C. D. Reiss

Separation Games (The Games Duet, #2)Separation Games by C.D. Reiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I finished ‘Marriage Games’, I immediately started ‘Separation Games’. After everything that transpired between Adam and Diane, I couldn’t believe how things ended between them at the end of the first book. I definitely had some whiplash.

Part of me felt like Diane was served a good helping of karma. At the same time, my heart broke for her. I was angry with Adam for his lack of sensitivity and his disregard for her feelings. After all, this was the guy who professed to love his wife and was supposedly devastated by her decision to end their marriage. WTF?

While ‘Marriage Games’ had Adam initially fighting to win back his wife, ‘Separation Games’ has the tables turning on Diane. Now that she’s finally discovered her submissive inclinations, she wants to save her marriage to Adam. Now that he’s discovered his wife’s submissive side, he’s no longer interested. I guess it is true that you always want what you can’t have.

In ‘Separation Games’ we get to explore a bit more of Adam’s psyche. The reasons that he feels that he cannot love a submissive are finally fleshed out and his youth is explored, giving readers a more complete picture of this complex hero. I can’t say that I liked him much for most of this series, but there was definitely something about him that called to me. He was one of the broodiest, most conflicted characters that I’ve read about in a while. He was wounded, while not coming across as too “damaged” or pitiful.

I enjoyed watching Adam struggle with Diane’s newfound sexual appetites. Despite being unwilling to explore this new side of her any further, he certainly wasn’t willing to consider her exploring her tastes elsewhere. His contradictory actions created a lot of push and pull, which kept the story engaging.

This time around, I felt like the story became much more emotional. Both Adam and Diane are devastated in their own right and have a lot of work to do to come to terms with everything that transpired in book one. Things will get worse before they get better.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic story. I enjoyed the different spin that C. D. Reiss put on a BDSM romance. It was unlike any that I’ve read before and I appreciated the originality. I love angst and stories that are incredibly emotional. This story did not disappoint. It tore my heart up and then slowly pieced it back together again.

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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: Marriage Games (Games, #1), by C. D. Reiss

Marriage Games (Games, #1)Marriage Games by C.D. Reiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first starting seeing all of the glowing reviews for this book, I was curious. Since reading many mediocre BDSM books in the wake of the success of ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, I have kind of steered clear of that particular trope. With the exception of a few, really dark stories, the BDSM novelty has pretty much worn off for me.

So, when I saw that this book focused largely on that particular topic, I put it on the back burner again. As the stellar reviews from friends kept rolling in, I eventually succumbed to my curiosity and decided to give it a shot. I’m glad that I did. ‘Marriage Games’ ended up being a great story.

Diane has left her husband, Adam. She literally dumped her husband with a “Dear John” letter, left in their loft for him to find. Poor Adam thought that everything was fine in their marriage. She never mentioned any problems or told him that she was unhappy. Man, was he ever wrong.

As the two grapple with the details of their impending divorce, Adam gets back in touch with a side of himself that he had suppressed while he was with Diane…his Dominant side. Adam had lived his life as a Dom before meeting Diane. When he met her, he wanted her so badly that he lived a vanilla existence to keep her, believing that she would be put off by his dominant inclinations.

Fast-forward a few years and Diane is bored to death with her marriage. The loss of a pregnancy and the grief that followed have changed the dynamics of their relationship and made Diane question what she really wants. Adam and Diane are more like roommates than lovers and Diane feels like she is dying a slow death, suffocating in the rote routine of their daily lives together. When she comes to the realization that she isn’t in love with her husband any longer, she decides that it is time for a divorce.

Adam is completely blindsided by Diane’s letter. He adores his wife and is deeply in love with her. He is devastated by her abrupt decision to leave him. When he seeks out the guidance of his good friend and mentor, Charlie, another Dom, he devises a plan to help him get over Diane.

Adam has never believed himself capable of loving a submissive. What drew him to Diane was her strength and resilience. She challenged him and didn’t back down. While he loves the sexual games he plays with his subs, he’s never been able to develop feelings for them, beyond the concern you would have for a friend.

In order to get Diane out of his system, he proposes that she give him 30 days at his private BDSM getaway. If she serves him as his submissive for those 30 days, he will sign over full ownership of their business. Then, Diane will get what she wants and so will Adam.

Diane agrees and so the story begins.

I have to say that I enjoyed this story much more than I had anticipated. Even though I read some fantastic reviews, I was really expecting another over-hyped BDSM story that fit the mold of so many books before it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book stirred genuine emotions and held my interest from start to finish.

As Adam and Diane explored their sexual tastes and boundaries, the growing intimacy was unmistakable. However, the betrayal and hurt that Diane had inflicted with her rash decision was also unavoidable. It seemed like they took one step forward and two back. As Diane grew closer, Adam grew more distant. They couldn’t ever seem to get on the same page where their marriage was concerned.

On top of everything else, Adam’s ex-sub is also on the property. Now subbing for one of the “friends” that co-owns the property with him, she clearly wants Adam back. At every turn, she manipulates the situation to commandeer Adam’s attention away from Diane.

This leads to some very tense and emotionally charged situations. My heart broke for Diane, even as I knew that she was only reaping what she had sowed. Often times, I felt that Adam was intentionally callous in his handling of the situation. It was like he wanted to hurt Diane, which I suppose he did.

All things considered, I thought it was a great story. There are still some things related to the BDSM genre that make me cringe, particularly the degradation and humiliation aspects. However, I did enjoy this story quite a bit.

It ends with a cliffhanger and I wanted to jump right in to the second book. Having listened to the Audible edition of ‘Marriage Games’, I was disappointed to find that the second book, ‘Separation Games’ was not out in Audible format yet. That is something that you may want to keep in mind if you’re considering listening to this series. The narration was great, but I had to switch to the Kindle edition for the second book, which peeved me.

I like to start and finish a series in the same format. That being said, I’m sure if I’d been willing to wait a short while, it would have been released in the audiobook format. I guess it says something about how good this book was that I wasn’t willing to wait to finish the series.

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Review: Pennies (Dollar, #1), by Pepper Winters

Pennies (Dollar, #1)Pennies by Pepper Winters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mind-Blowing!

Whew! Pepper Winters never fails to blow my mind! I know when I pick up one of her stories that I’m in for a mindf*@k and that is exactly what I got with ‘Pennies’.

This story was so disturbing that I needed to take a little time to decompress after finishing it, before writing this review. I just needed time to come to terms with what I had just read and process my emotions. To me, that’s a sign that I’ve just finished a phenomenal book. You know it’s great when it stays with you and occupies your thoughts long after you’ve finished it.

This story is told in multiple POVs, but is centered on the experiences of Tasmin, aka Pimlico. At eighteen, Tasmin has led a privileged and sheltered life. When she is taken from one of her mother’s formal functions, her existence as she knows it comes to an end. Tasmin becomes Pimlico, a sex slave.

Purchased by Alrik, a sadistic and cruel man who refers to himself as “Master A”, Pimlico lives in constant terror. She suffers unspeakable acts at the hands of Master A and his friends. He takes pride in his visciousness.

When Elder Prest sets eyes on Pimlico, he is equally intrigued and enraged. He finds himself having to fight back his urges to take her for himself, while also wanting to kill Alrik for his abuse of the slave girl. He’s no stranger to deviant acts, a notorious criminal himself, but something about Pimlico calls to him.

Pimlico, despite the horrors she’s endured, does not break. She is defiant to the end, even as she submits in calculated measures to survive. She does what she has to do to survive, but she will never give Master A what he wants most…her voice.

This was a hard story to read in so many ways. Not only was Pimlico’s account of life as a slave harrowing, but there was never any sense of hope. When Elder enters the story, it is clear that he is no knight in shining armor. In fact, he may prove to be as bad, if not worse, than Master A. Pimlico is faced with a choice between the lesser of two evils, with no happy ending in sight for her.

Ms. Winters has, yet again, managed to create a story that held my attention from start to finish. I cannot wait to see where she plans to take readers with this series. No doubt, it will be one dark and depraved journey and I plan to be front and center! I am dying to see what becomes of Pimlico and Elder, even as I dread finding out what’s in store for poor Pim.

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