Review: Killing The Sun: Part 1, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 1Killing The Sun: Part 1 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘Killing the Sun’ is a collaborative work by Mara White and K. Larsen. Before now, I’d never read anything by Ms. White, although I have enjoyed many of Ms. Larsen’s works. I will definitely be looking for more of Ms. White’s work in the future.

In ‘Killing the Sun: Part 1’ we meet Aimee Olsen, a young twenty-something that has returned to New York City from San Francisco, deciding to return to her boyfriend of over six years, Danny. Why did she ever leave? Well, here’s the kicker — He’s married! Yes, Aimee’s pampering boyfriend of SIX YEARS was married the entire time that they were together. Poor Aimee was absolutely clueless. Yet, despite her righteous fury, she has decided that she can’t be without him and she’s moving back to Danny.

Jumping back and forth between past and present, the history of Aimee and Danny comes to light. Aimee was a young lady that was trying to run as far from her small-town upbringing as possible. She had recently arrived in New York City when she met Daniel Montclair, aka Danilo Bartolini. She was young, beautiful and uneducated. She came across as incredibly naive, but hopeful.

Danny embodies all of the characteristics that Aimee does not. He is dark and dangerous. Danny grew up in the city and climbed his way to the top, fighting for everything he has. He is no stranger to violence or criminal activity. When he meets Aimee, he cannot deny the pull to her wholesome goodness. She is his “Sunshine” and after one night together, he has no intention of letting her go.

Little by little, Danny and Aimee’s past is unveiled. Initially, I was rolling my eyes at Aimee’s stupidity. The saying, “Fool me once…” was running through my mind. However, I came to see how Aimee got sucked into Danny’s orbit. I also grew to believe that Danny’s love for Aimee was genuine, despite the fact that he was married to another woman.

While I can’t say that I agree with Aimee’s choices, I did come to understand her motivations. It was easy to see how she was taken by Danny and his protective persona. Even as Danny’s behavior grew increasingly controlling and violent, leaving me wanting to shake Aimee and tell her to “get out”, I could not pull myself away. I was absolutely hooked on their story.

The story is told in three serials, each of which had me glued to my Kindle. While many readers struggle with serials and novellas, preferring to read only full-length books, I love a great serial now and again. Sometimes, a quick read between larger, full-length novels, is just what I need.

That being said, my biggest complaint about the ‘Killing the Sun’ series is that I think that it would have read better as one full-length book vs. three serials. There was no logical “break” in the story or big climactic event that served as a dividing point between each serial. It is almost like the author(s) just decided to end each serial when they hit a certain page number or date, without any regard for what was going on in the story. This was especially noticeable at the “end” of Part 1. I was just reading along and then I flip a page and out of nowhere it says that I’ve got to buy book 2 to continue. It was abrupt and left me scratching my head.

Of course, the story was so good that I immediately went out and bought the second part. So, while I may not have cared for the serial format, I did enjoy this story quite a bit. I wouldn’t let it deter you from reading this story, just be forewarned that you may want to consider buying the compilation of all three at once vs. each serial individually.

This story also has many “dark” elements, as well as cheating. If those are touchy subjects for you, then I’d steer clear of this one. Danny and Aimee’s relationship becomes increasingly controlling and abusive as he feels her slipping away from him.

For me, this was a fantastic dark read. I loved every minute of their story. I jumped right into Part 2 as soon as I finished this one. If you’re a fan of darker stories, then this one is a great choice!

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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: 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: Author Anonymous: A True Story, by E. K. Blair

Author Anonymous: A True StoryAuthor Anonymous: A True Story by E.K. Blair
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I definitely had a love/hate relationship with this one. I listened to the Audible version of this book and I was immediately pulled into this story. This is a book that is raw and painful, forcing you to confront emotions that you’d rather tuck away and pretend didn’t exist. Life isn’t always perfect…and the grass isn’t always greener. If nothing else, this book will make you FEEL.

This is the story of Tori, a wife, mother and successful romance author. From the outside looking in, her life is “picture perfect”. She has two beautiful daughters and a seemingly perfect husband.

However, things are far from perfect. Tori has obtained just about everything that she thought she wanted. Only, now she’s not so sure that she still wants the same things that she wanted years ago. She’s disillusioned with her life. Her marriage is past the honeymoon stage and she finds herself questioning if she settled down too early. She longs for the passion and excitement that is now missing from her comfortable, stable marriage.

After hearing about a fetish website, Tori decides to check it out for “research” purposes. Soon she begins messaging with a man, Alec that she meets on the site. He is the polar opposite of her reliable husband, Landon. Alec is wild, promiscuous and uninhibited. He is new and represents everything that Tori thinks is missing in her “boring” marriage.

Before long, e-mails become text messages. Then Tori is having intimate, secret telephone conversations with Alec. Eventually, they progress to live chats and in-person encounters.

However, their entire relationship is built on lies. Tori has not been honest with Alec. He thinks that she is single and without children. As she tries to juggle her lies, Tori’s life begins to unravel.

As I was listening to this story, there were so many times where I wanted to shake some sense into Tori. Reading this story was painful because you could see the disaster looming on the horizon, but were powerless to do anything other than listen as it played out and deal with the fallout of Tori’s selfish actions.

More than anything, I felt so conflicted. E. K. Blair did a marvelous job of making you love Tori and relate to her frustrations, even as you despised her self-centered choices and actions. It is real easy to be judgmental and say that Tori was a horrible person. In many ways, she was. However, she was also just a flawed human that gave in to her desires and temptations. Like most readers, I didn’t agree with many of the choices that she made, but I couldn’t hate her.

By the end of the book, I still felt every bit as conflicted as I was at the mid-point. I love that this book made me question things. In fact, I still wasn’t sure how I wanted things to work out at the end and I still had a ton of unanswered questions about the true nature of Alec and Tori’s relationship. There was a lot that was left open for interpretation, which is equal parts fascinating and frustrating.

If you’re looking for a unicorns and rainbows type of story where everything is wrapped up nicely with a bow, this is not that story. This is a story that will make you furious, frustrated, devastated and emotionally distraught. It is incredibly painful, like so many of the best stories are.

If you choose to read this book, I would say to keep an open-mind. It will be absolutely necessary to enjoy this book. This is the type of story where it is easy to pass judgment and “check-out”, feeling like you’re taking the moral high-road by hating Tori. If you can keep an open-mind it is a fantastic, emotional story. While I didn’t agree with Tori’s actions, I did appreciate the beauty and heartbreak of her story.

I love nothing more than a story that elicits raw emotions. This book definitely delivered on that account. For me, it was an excellent choice. The narration was fantastic as well.

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