Review: Taken by the Russian, by Alexa Riley

Taken by the RussianTaken by the Russian by Alexa Riley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve finally read my first Alexa Riley book! I know I’m pretty late to the game…but it was good. I give it a solid 3.5 stars. I’m still trying to decide exactly how I feel about it, so my rating might change in the future.

I always struggle with how to rate quick, smutty reads like this one. I can’t rate it against other full-length books, because that isn’t the type of story that this is. Instead, my rating is based upon other comparable, short, smutty reads — if that makes any sense.

The story is very short and progresses quickly. There wasn’t a lot of character development and things just seemed to kind of happen without much build-up. That being said, I was surprised with the amount of development that was there, given the small number of pages.

Anya is a young girl, on the brink of her eighteenth birthday, at the onset of the story. She has been sheltered for most of her life, but is headed off to college. Her long-time bodyguard, Sasha, is supposed to deliver her to school, but he has other plans.

Sasha has worked for Anya’s father for several years. In exchange for bringing his family to America, he agreed to serve as Anya’s bodyguard for an agreed upon number of years. During that time, one of his primary responsibilities was making sure that she remained pure and untouched. That task proved to be almost unbearable for Sasha, who has lusted after her for years. Taking her to college is his last assigned duty before his time is up.

The huge age difference between Anya and Sasha definitely adds to the taboo nature of this story. Add to that the fact that Sasha had been fantasizing about Anya for years, since the time she was middle-school aged, and it is enough to make you pretty damn uncomfortable. Of course, that is the appeal.

Needless to say, Anya and Sasha eventually cross the line and their relationship morphs into something entirely new…and dirty. I’m pretty drawn to taboo and forbidden stories, but this was pretty over-the-top. I enjoyed it, but it was the kind of smutty entertainment that I just can’t take too seriously. Some of it was incredibly hot. Other parts were kind of disturbing.

All in all, I thought that it was a pretty good, smutty read. I can definitely see what the appeal is, now that I’ve read my first Alexa Riley book. Usually, I prefer a lot more build-up and development in my stories, but this is a great choice if you’re looking for a quick, dirty and hot type of read. This is definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of story.

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Review: Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1), by Sam Mariano

Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1)Irreparable Damage by Sam Mariano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was dark, taboo and offensive. Accordingly, I thought that it was a fantastic read! Not the best dark captivity story out there, but definitely not the worst either. If you enjoy darker stories and don’t shy away from controversial subject matter, then ‘Irreparable Damage’ is worth a read.

The first in a series, this book tells the story of Willow Kensington. Willow is abducted right after her 18th birthday by sex traffickers. Her father is a powerful Mafioso and her captors think that they can use her to get at her father. Innocent Willow is caught in the crosshairs, despite having almost no interaction with her father.

While undercover trying to locate another missing girl, private investigator Ethan Wilde runs across another girl whose picture recently came his way. He hadn’t accepted Willow’s case yet, but fate has their paths crossing. Unfortunately, to maintain his cover he must harm Willow before he can save her.

Following Willow’s rescue, she struggles with the after-effects of her captive experience. Her healing is only made more difficult by the fact that she will not discuss everything that happened to her at the hands of her captors. She is torn by the fact that her rescuer was also the man who committed the worst crimes against her. She won’t condemn him, but she can’t cope either.

Returning to his wife and children, Ethan faces his own demons following his most recent case. He cannot stop thinking about the girl that he assaulted. He wonders how she is doing and whether she hates him. He waits to be held accountable for his crimes, but with each day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that Willow isn’t going to turn him in – no matter how much he deserves it.

Ethan’s guilt transforms into an obsession, masked as concern. Before long, he’s stalking the teen online and “checking up on her”. The lies begin to pile up and he is drifting away from his wife.

Of course, Ethan isn’t the only one that can’t get Willow’s trauma in captivity off their mind. Willow is finding that her nightmares surrounding her assault are turning increasingly erotic. Yep, she’s fantasizing about her assailant. (This is smutty, dark erotica, not non-fiction after all! Know that what you’re signing up for isn’t a harrowing, true-to-life account.)

Willow and Ethan begin meeting up to vent and discuss their feelings about what transpired. It seems that they are the only two people that can relate to one another. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes at the idea of the victim actually consoling the attacker and vice versa. However, even as I was rolling my eyes I was anxiously flipping pages to see where the story would go.

This story was pure, smutty goodness! It was definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of read for me. It was unbelievable, taboo and hot. Clearly, this isn’t a book that you choose for intellectual enlightenment. It was dirty, sexy and fun.

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Review: Killing The Sun: Part 3, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 3Killing The Sun: Part 3 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this third, and final, installment of the ‘Killing The Sun’ series, the tension between Danny and Aimee is at an all-time high. Aimee is finally ready to stand up to Danny, even as she still yearns for his love on some level. With Aimee slipping away, Danny is at his most brutal.

For the first time while reading this series, I really feared what Danny might do to Aimee. He was always violent and controlling, but I never got the sense that he wanted to truly harm Aimee before. Now, there is no telling what he might do to her. He might even want her dead.

As Danny is brought to justice for his criminal activities, Aimee’s secrets also come to light. In fact, she proved to be more duplicitous than Danny, in my opinion. It was like there was this whole other person that I was blind to before. Part of me felt betrayed by her, while another part felt proud that she had it in her.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that this series took me by surprise. It was a whirlwind of steamy sex and betrayals. And that ending! I am dying to know what happens next. I would kill for an epilogue or another book. I imagine a dark romance with Danny and Aimee living out the HEA together…but I always root for the anti-hero. Damn these two twisted geniuses!

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Review: Killing The Sun: Part 2, by Mara White and K. Larsen

Killing The Sun: Part 2Killing The Sun: Part 2 by Mara White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Killing The Sun: Part 1’, I jumped right into Part 2. Even as I was outraged by Danny’s behavior, I have to admit that I couldn’t get enough. I’m that sicko that is always rooting for the “bad guy”.

Danny is probably irredeemable, but I don’t care. I am equal parts appalled and intrigued. Deep down, I think he really does love Aimee in his own, twisted way. She probably needs to get far, far away from Danny…but I hope that she doesn’t.

This second installment delves deeper into the relationship between Danny and Aimee. If you were ever unclear on just how “bad” Danny is, you won’t be by the end of this serial. He is a selfish man, consumed with lust and power. Aimee becomes the object of his obsessions and darkest fantasies. She too discovers her darkest desires, but at a cost to her self-worth.

As old patterns begin to reemerge, Aimee again decides to get some space from Danny. She is spending more time with her neighbor, and friend, Wade. She is also reunited with the handsome stranger from the elevator, Leif.

Yet, regardless of Aimee’s plans, Danny has no intention of letting her go. He may give her a little time to humor her, but he is always watching. He is not a man that lets go easily and Aimee is reminded of his presence the minute she begins to think about moving on with somebody else.

This second serial ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. Be ready. You’re going to want to dive right into the third installment ASAP. I am completely hooked on this messed-up, twisted story!

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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: 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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Review – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful ThingsAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! This was a spectacular book. I devoured this story. Beginning to end, I was completely lost in this disturbing, yet beautiful, love story.

While I loved the story, I know that this is a story that many people will not enjoy. There are several difficult and highly controversial topics in this book. I’m pretty open-minded, but even I had a hard time with the relationship turning physical between Wavy (13-14 years old) and Kellen (25 or so years old). As a fictitious story, I was able to come to terms with it eventually. However, in no way would I ever condone that relationship in real life.

That being said, the emotions that this book elicited are the reason that I loved it. I was heartbroken, appalled and shocked by Wavy’s daily life. As much as I found aspects of their relationship to be unsettling, I could not deny that the love between the two was sincere.

Kellen was the only person in Wavy’s life that treated her with the slightest bit of compassion and concern. She was the same for him in many ways. These were two lost souls that clung to each other with everything they had.

The fact that Kellen was a father-figure, in many ways, to Wavy for so long made accepting their romantic relationship all that much harder for me. It just was unfathomable to me that Kellen would go there. Who does that?

Nonetheless, this book blew me away. I love a book that can make me feel the way this one did. I’m still feeling conflicted and uneasy with the content. That being said, I’m still thinking about it, and trying to figure out exactly how I feel, days later. That says a lot.

This book will definitely make an impression, be it good or bad. I loved it, but I also hated it at times. If you’re looking for an emotional read that will tie you in knots, this is a great choice. It is a tragically beautiful story and completely captivating. This is a phenomenal piece of work and I will definitely be reading future books by this author.

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