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 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: 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: Tormentor Mine (Tormentor Mine, #1), by Anna Zaires

Tormentor Mine (Tormentor Mine, #1)Tormentor Mine by Anna Zaires
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I saw that Anna Zaires had released another dark romance, I was sure that I’d found my next 5-star read. Some of her other dark series are amongst my favorites. I absolutely love that this lady is not afraid to write some scary, twisted and disturbing content. Creating anti-heroes that make you fall in love with them, in spite of your better judgment, is a specialty of hers.

Unfortunately, while this story was good, it didn’t live up to my expectations for this writer. Don’t get me wrong…it was good. I just expected more — more emotion, more drama, more darkness. I waited, but it never came.

You might remember Peter Sokolov from the ‘Twist Me’ series. He was the man that Julian promised to provide with a list of the names of the individuals responsible for the deaths of his wife and son. Since his actions placed Nora in danger, Julian considered them to be a betrayal. Nora saw things differently and provided the list to Peter.

This book begins Peter’s story. His history is revealed as he works his way through the list of names, seeking revenge for the murder of his family years earlier.

Sara Cobakis is the wife of one of the men on the list. He had no intention of ever falling in love with her. She served one purpose to him – to give up the location of her husband. Peter stalks her, torments her and gets the information that he needs from her to exact his revenge. That should be the end of his interactions with her, but it isn’t.

Along the way, Peter cannot stop thinking about the woman whose husband he killed. She has become his new obsession. Regardless of what his initial plans were, he decides that he is going to make Sara Cobakis his. Neither of them could have expected true feelings to develop.

Of course, eventually they do develop feelings for one another. It is set up perfectly for these two to live out their happily ever after, until a twist at the end. Again, it was nice. It just wasn’t the dark, twisted story that I craved. It ended up being kind of sweet actually…which is fine, it just wasn’t what I expected.

In all fairness, I should say that I’m in a bit of a reading rut right now. Maybe I would’ve enjoyed it more at a different time when I wasn’t in a “funk”. Who knows? If I re-read/listen to this story later and my opinions change, I’ll update my review then.

Nevertheless, this was just a “good” story for me. I wanted to love it, but it didn’t happen. I liked it though. I was hoping for something much darker and edgier. It didn’t happen this time. It was sweet, in kind of unbelievably convenient way.

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Review: Desperation Road, by Michael Farris Smith

Desperation RoadDesperation Road by Michael Farris Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up ‘Desperation Road’ after I kept seeing it pop up on my feed with several 5-star ratings. I didn’t read any of the reviews before I went into this book, which was probably a good thing because I was able to experience everything fresh, without any idea of what was going to transpire. It ended up being quite a big surprise for me, but not in the way that you’d probably expect.

You see, McComb, Mississippi is my hometown…and it is the setting of this story. My family has a very long history in this small southern town. In fact, my grandmother’s uncle – my great, great uncle – was McComb’s Chief of Police in the 1920’s. He is one of 3 officers that have been killed in the line of duty in the history of McComb’s police force. He was gunned down when serving a warrant for forged checks. His murderer escaped and an international manhunt ensued, with the murderer being caught in Canada and eventually hung in Magnolia.

Going into this story, I had absolutely no idea of where the story was set and it caught me off guard. While other readers were engrossed in the story, I found myself lost to a strong case of nostalgia. I haven’t been back in years, since I was a young teen, but as the author described Delaware Avenue and the angular arches of Centenary United Methodist Church, it felt like I was right back there again. I could so easily picture the surrounding towns, like Magnolia, and the businesses like the Fernwood Truck Stop that the author described. He really did a fantastic job of accurately portraying the geography and physical lay of the land.

That being said, because I spent so much time reminiscing, I did find myself missing details of the story more than a few times. I was listening to the Audible version and had to “rewind” this story several times to reorient myself. For most listeners, this probably won’t be a problem. It is always a little trickier to stay abreast of what’s going on when listening to a story that bounces between multiple characters, but this one was more difficult for me because I kept getting lost in my own memories.

The story itself was suspenseful and utterly captivating. Alongside the vivid descriptions of the town and surrounding areas, a full cast of characters makes this story stand out. Everyone in this book has a story to tell. The secrets, betrayals and motivations are many.

The two characters that are the central focus of this story are on separate paths, not intersecting until you are well into the story. As the story unfolds, past and present collide. Will they be offered the chance to redeem themselves?

Russell Gaines has just been released from prison, after serving time for killing a young man. He returns to his hometown, where the brothers of his victim have been awaiting his release – and their revenge – for the duration of his imprisonment. As with other characters, the details of his past are revealed little by little.

Maben is wandering alongside the Interstate when we first meet her. Every possession she owns is carried in the trash bag thrown over her shoulder. Along with her young daughter, Annalee, she trudges on toward the town she hasn’t been to in years. She is a much-changed version of the girl she was when she left her hometown. Addiction and loss have left their mark on her. In an act of desperation, she jeopardizes the only good thing that she has left in her life.

Overall, I thought that this was a fantastic and engaging read. I will probably go back to it at some point to catch the details that I suspect that I’ve missed while I was reminiscing. Even so, it was a great story that kept me guessing right to the very end. This author sucked me right in to the plight of these characters. It is my first book by Michael Farris Smith, but will not be my last.

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Review: Never Let You Go, by Chevy Stevens

Never Let You GoNever Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book that I’ve ever read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last. ‘Never Let You Go’ was a suspenseful and highly engaging read/listen. I listened to the Audible version and I did not want to pull myself away from this story until I had finished it. I kept telling myself, “just another few minutes and I’ll turn it off”. Once I got started on this book, I had to keep going. It was great!

The story unfolds little by little, alternating between present time and flashbacks to the past. From the start, we know that Lindsey has built herself a new life after escaping an abusive husband. Yet, her abusive past is revealed gradually through her flashbacks. Told in this manner, it is easy to see how Lindsey got sucked in by her ex-husband, Andrew. I was enthralled, watching how charming he was initially and how he gradually increased the control he had over her life until it was absolute. As the violence escalated, it was evident that Lindsey had to get out of her marriage or that she would die at Andrew’s hands.

Now, over ten years later, Lindsey has established a new life for herself and her daughter, Sophie. A young child when Lindsey took her daughter on the run, Sophie is now a teenager. She knows nothing of her father, except what her mother has told her and the few articles that she’s been able to find.

As much as she loves her mother, she can’t help but be curious about the father that she’s never known. She’s only ever known the life of a child of a single-mother, struggling to make ends meet. She envies the children of the wealthy parents whose houses her mother cleans. She can’t help but wonder what it must be like to have both parents.

Now that Andrew is due for release from prison, Sophie’s dreams of the father she hasn’t known since she was five have the chance to become a reality. As she begins to work on building a relationship with him, her mother begins to fear for their safety.

Strange things start to happen. It is clear that somebody is messing with Lindsey. She’s scared…and she should be. Somebody is out to get her and she is terrified that Andrew is out to finish what he started all of those years ago.

From start to finish, this story had my full attention. My heart was pounding and I was on the edge of my seat from the time that these strange occurrences began haunting Lindsey, until everything was out in the open. There were quite a few twists and turns along the way. I had my suspicions, but I was definitely surprised by the way things worked out. I didn’t piece things together until the author wanted me to.

Overall, this was a fantastic story. If you’re in the mood for a thriller/suspense/mystery, then this is a good one. It will definitely make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.

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Review: The Castle (Endgame, #3), by Skye Warren

The Castle (Endgame, #3)The Castle by Skye Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you follow my reviews, it is no mystery that Skye Warren’s ‘Endgame’ series has become my latest addiction. There was something about Gabriel and Avery’s story that drew me in, right from the start. What can I say…I love an uber-Alpha a$$hole! Gabriel Miller did not disappoint in that regard.

After the way ‘The Pawn’ ended, is it any wonder I was hooked? It blew me away! For me, this series is about as addictive as crack cocaine. I can’t wait to get my next fix and when I get my next “hit” I devour it in record time.

The third book in ‘The Endgame’ series, ‘The Castle’ picks up where ‘The Knight’ left off. Gabriel and Avery are back on again. For once, they seem to be on the same page and their relationship seems more solid than ever. This was a nice development, as there seemed to be such a huge disconnect in previous books. Now, they seem to be united against a common enemy – Jonathan Scott.

Damon Scott’s maniacal father has it out for Avery. To protect her, Gabriel has pretty much imprisoned her on his estate for her own protection. In the meantime, the madman grows increasingly dangerous. No matter how hard Gabriel works to find him, he always seems to be one step ahead. This made for some very suspenseful, nail-biting scenarios.

I have to say that I couldn’t really understand the motivation for Jonathan Scott’s actions. Sure, he supposedly loved Avery’s mother. However, that doesn’t really explain his cruel actions or his determination to harm Avery…or her mother for that matter. Perhaps I should just accept the fact that he was a deeply disturbed individual and that there was no justification for his actions. Yet, I can’t deny that I craved more of an explanation.

Maybe we’ll get the story of Avery’s mother, Jonathan Scott and Avery’s father in the future. That’s one story that I’d love to read. It is bound to be a angsty and captivating story. I love a great villain and I can’t help but wonder what made Jonathan Scott into the deranged man that grew up to terrorize his former lover and her daughter.

While there was plenty of action in this book, I feel content with the way things ended. Their road was a difficult one, riddled with danger and deceit. Nothing worth having ever comes easy though.

This book also introduced Penny, a young lady traumatized by Jonathan Scott. Despite She clearly holds a special appeal to Damon, but we’ll have to wait to see exactly how deep their connection runs. Although she was mostly in the background this time around, I have no doubt that Penny will be central to Damon’s story.

Each book in this series has proven to be suspenseful and utterly addicting. I have enjoyed each one immensely and I look forward to seeing where the next book, ‘The King’ will take us. While ‘The Castle’ brings Gabriel and Avery’s story to a close, there are many more intriguing characters whose stories are yet to be told. ‘The King’ is supposed to focus on Damon Scott and I could not be more excited! I’ve pre-ordered my copy and will be anxiously awaiting it’s arrival in June.

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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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