Review: Three Players (The Game Series, #3), by L. P. Lovell and Stevie J. Cole

Three Players  (The Game Series, #3)Three Players by L.P. Lovell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No doubt about it, this series is a total mindf*ck! It just keeps getting more screwed up with every installment. As Ella would say, she keeps falling farther down the rabbit hole.

This serial has Ella’s mental state all over the place. Whatever the purpose for this twisted game, Tobias and Preston are certainly having fun toying with Ella. Like Ella, I don’t know what to believe at this point.

Faced with the evidence of deception, Ella can’t make sense of her new reality. She questions her sanity and what she thinks she knows. Even her will to live is questionable as she faces another one of the twisted tests.

The resounding message of this third serial is “nothing is as it seems”. More than anything, I want to know what Tobias and Preston are up to and why Ella was chosen to play this disturbing game. It is increasingly clear that there is someone else pulling strings behind the scenes. But why? To what end?

I’m definitely pushing forward with this series. I’m completely consumed with this story. I just have to know what is going on. I can’t wait to have all the secrets unveiled.

Luckily, this serial, and the subsequent serials, are offered through Kindle Unlimited. With seven serials in total, the cost could get a little excessive otherwise.

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Review: Hundreds (Dollar, #3), by Pepper Winters

Hundreds (Dollar, #3)Hundreds by Pepper Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you follow my reviews, you know that I love dark, twisted romance. So, it should come as no big surprise that I’m a big fan of Pepper Winters. She has a way of drawing me in and doing dirty, dirty things to my mind. This series is no exception.

The third book in the series, ‘Hundreds’ shows more character development and evolution than previous books. Pim really begins to come out of her shell, pushing her boundaries and defying Alrik’s conditioning. Elder also reveals a more personal side, finally sharing details about his past and opening up to Pim.

Aside from their personal growth, ‘Hundreds’ also spotlighted the evolution of Pim and Elder’s relationship. From the guilt and hurt that the last book left off with, they grew stronger. In fact, their biggest challenge was how strong their attraction was this time around. It seems that once Pim comes to realize that she wants Elder as much as he wants her, the tables turn.

While most of the book focused on Elder and Pim’s relationship, Elder’s past also plays an important role. His secrets are finally brought to light. The consequences of his past actions come back to haunt him. He is a hunted man.

In addition to the people from his past that want revenge for the perceived wrongs of Elder, Elder is also fighting his inner demons. He knows that every moment he spends with Pim increases the risk of danger to her. He wants to protect her from those that would harm her — most importantly, himself.

Like earlier books in the series, ‘Hundreds’ ends with quite an upset. Ms. Winters really knows how to keep you anxiously awaiting the next book. Of course, I’ve already pre-ordered the next one because I know I won’t want to wait a minute longer than necessary to see what she has in store for Pim and Elder.

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Review: Summer’s Crossing (The Iron Fey, #3.5), by Julie Kagawa

Summer's Crossing (Iron Fey, #3.5)Summer’s Crossing by Julie Kagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much like ‘Winter’s Passage’, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ left me wanting. Another short novella in ‘The Iron Fey’ series, it takes place following ‘The Iron Queen’ and before ‘The Iron Knight’. This was one of those stories that you want to love but don’t, no matter how hard you try.

‘Summer’s Crossing’ surrounds Puck and Ash’s adventures as they work together to repay a debt that Ash owes to Leanansidhe. Along the way, Puck is offered what might be considered the opportunity of a lifetime. He has the chance to eliminate Ash as a rival for Meghan’s affections, if only he betrays his one-time best friend. It is definitely a tempting proposition that Oberon offers.

As the two work together to complete the required task, I can’t say that I ever really questioned what Puck’s decision would be…until I did. There was a big twist that I didn’t see coming that kind of threw me for a loop. Suddenly, I found myself wondering about Puck’s true motives. How far would he go to obtain the object of his affections?

In addition to the quest that they set out on, Puck and Ash find unexpected adventures along the way. From bearing their souls to one another, to nearly killing one another in a final attempt to keep a decades-old oath, this novella shed a great deal of light on their strained relationship.

Since Meghan has grown into my favorite character in this series, it was disappointing to find her entirely absent in this novella. I understand why she wasn’t there… I just didn’t like it.

In my opinion, the narration was also less appealing in this novella. This was probably due to the fact that this one was told from male POVs vs. Meghan’s POV. I’m not sure if it was a different narrator, or if it was the same narrator and I just didn’t care for the voices as much this time around. Whatever the reason, the narration didn’t pull me into the story and hold my attention like it did for the other books.

All in all, ‘Summer’s Crossing’ ended up being an “okay” one for me. It wasn’t horrible, but I definitely had plenty of gripes this time around. That being said, I still read the next book in the series immediately. It wasn’t enough to turn me away from ‘The Iron Fey’ saga and I am still dying to know where the story leads.

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Review: Convicted (Consequences, #3), by Aleatha Romig

Convicted (Consequences, #3)Convicted by Aleatha Romig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third book in the ‘Consequences’ series, ‘Convicted’ definitely takes the story of Tony and Claire in a new direction. Like earlier books in this series, I could not tear myself away. Even as I struggled to adjust to the new direction that this story was headed, I was completely enthralled.

This book sees Tony’s behavior transforming, as he tries to make amends for his past transgressions. Initially, I had a difficult time with the “new and improved” Tony. After all, he is one of the most controlling and manipulative characters I’ve ever encountered. For a while, I wondered if he had received a personality transplant. The changes that began in ‘Truth’, with regards to his attempts to respect Claire’s autonomy, finally take in ‘Convicted’.

All of the lies and deceptions finally come to light in ‘Convicted’. Some things were already known, some were suspected, while others were a complete surprise. Finally, all of the pieces come together and all of the players are revealed.

Tony is held accountable for his actions, at last. The tables are turned on him and he gets a taste of his own medicine. I had mixed feelings about this, but I think it was necessary in the end.

The danger is at an all-time high for Claire and her family. It seems that every time her and Tony start to make progress, something happens to wreck their happily ever after. This is especially true in ‘Convicted’. (Don’t worry though. It all works out in the end.)

The toll of the stress is especially tough on Claire. She is certainly changed in this book, almost unrecognizable for much of this book. It was very tragic in that regard.

Similar to ‘Truth’, the supporting characters in ‘Convicted’ play a major role. Some take on a nurturing, protective role. Others have their duplicitous natures exposed. Each plays a critical role in the story.

I am being intentionally vague because I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone. This book brings everything full-circle. I cannot get enough of Tony and Claire. Every time that I thought I knew where this story would lead, Aleatha Romig would surprise me. This series continues to blow my mind away.

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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: 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: Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen, #5), by Tillie Cole

Damnable Grace (Hades Hangmen, #5)Damnable Grace by Tillie Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like all of the ‘Hades Hangmen’ books, ‘Damnable Grace’ is one that will rip your heart out. This series definitely tackles some offensive and upsetting content. It is not a series that will appeal to many readers because of the tough subject matter.

If you’re like me, and love dark books that push your limits and make you cringe, then ‘Damnable Grace’ is a great one. The fifth book in the series, it centers on Phebe and AK. If you’ve followed this series, you’ll remember AK as the “leader” of the psycho trio. You might also remember Phebe as the beautiful mistress of the “false” prophet who was cast aside for his new, younger mistress.

Phebe had been trained from a very young age to lure men into the cult with sex. She was trained to be a “Sacred Sister”, one of the girls sent out by the cult to recruit, or “fish”, for new male members. She was prized for her sexual allure and was considered to be the best of all the girls. She is used to men using her for their sexual pleasure and has never been valued for anything else. A devout believer, she has only recently begun to question the cult teachings.

When Phebe is sold by Rider’s brother, the “false prophet”, to a leader in the Aryan Brotherhood, Meister, she is in for more suffering than she could have imagined. Meister has been obsessed with Phebe from the first time that he saw her and his cruelty knows no bounds. At his hands, Phebe will endure unthinkable acts and will be left scarred, both physically and emotionally.

AK has not forgotten the beautiful woman that he left behind after the Hangmen raided the cult commune. When he and a few of his brothers are sent in to rescue Phebe from the Aryan Brotherhood’s compound, it was worse than anything that he could have imagined. The heinous abuse taking place at that compound were unthinkable. It was all he could do to maintain composure until he could get Phebe out of there.

In the weeks that followed, both Phebe and AK must come to terms with their pasts. Both have survived cruelty and tragedy. Each of them lives with loss and guilt. These two had a long road ahead of them, but they helped one another heal and face their pasts. Their story was tragic and messy, but beautiful.

It had been quite a while since I’d submersed myself in the world of the Hades Hangmen. So, I was worried that I wouldn’t remember all of the relevant details from the previous books. However, my concerns were completely unwarranted. Ms. Cole provided plenty of reminders throughout to keep me abreast of what was going on and what had passed.

While every Hades Hangmen book has made me cringe at times, none did so more than this one. It was absolutely brutal at times. Child abuse, rape, extreme sexual violence, murder…there was no shortage of depravity in this book.

Of all of the books in this series, I have to say that this one is my least favorite to this point. I enjoyed AK and Phebe’s story, but I wasn’t completely consumed with it like I have been with other books in this series. Even so, it was still a great book.

If you enjoy, dark and gritty stories, I highly recommend this series. Each of these characters has carved out a piece of my heart. They aren’t easy books to read, but they are well worth it.

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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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