Sunday, January 25, 2015

REVIEW: Seduced in the Dark by C.J. Roberts

(The Dark Duet, book 2)
What is the price of redemption?
Rescued from sexual slavery by a mysterious Pakistani officer, Caleb carries the weight of a debt that must be paid in blood.
The road has been long and fraught with uncertainty, but for Caleb and Livvie, it's all coming to an end. 
Can he surrender the woman he loves for the sake of vengeance?
Or will he make the ultimate sacrifice?
BUY: Amazon 

“For the love of Christ, shut – up! Let a bitch enjoy her mental breakdown in peace.” – Livvie 

Holy mother of God. This book did something to me. I finished it over a week ago, and I’m still thinking about it; I’m still feeling it. I’ve even tried to read a couple light books to bring my emotions back to normal, and it’s not working. I have this book hangover that just won’t go away. CJ Roberts, I think you have officially fucked up my head…and I’m not even mad about it. 

Seduced in the Dark doesn’t pick up where Captive in the Dark left off; it’s months later. The story goes back and forth between Livvie and Caleb’s POV, as well as the past and the present, and ultimately brings the story of Livvie and Caleb to a close. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so I really can’t discuss any of the plot, but I can tell you how much I loved this book...and how much it fucked with every fiber of my being.

The relationship between Livvie and Caleb was taken to an entirely different level than in the previous book, Captive in the Dark, and it tore me apart. It’s hard for me to explain how much of an emotional toll Seduced in the Dark took on me, but I’ll try. Do you know that feeling you get when something terrible happens to you? Where you start shaking and no matter what, you can’t stop? Where you feel like you’ve been gutted and your stomach is hollow? Like you could be sick to your stomach or cry or maybe both at the same time? That’s how I felt during some of the scenes between Caleb and Livvie.Seriously. I was that invested. Some of the scenes were just so incredibly hard to stomach. Some of the scenes were so tender that I thought maybe Caleb was going to change his mind. There were several times that I had tears in my eyes; I hurt for Livvie that much. You know, as the reader I almost felt like CJ Roberts was Caleb and I was Livvie. She would dangle something in front of me to give me hope and then snatch it away. My emotions were tugged back and forth so many times that by the time I finished the book, I was emotionally exhausted. I love books that can do that to me; that make me feel like there is a void in me after I finish them. Seduced in the Dark did exactly that. 

The scenes are just as intense, if not more so, than they were in Captive in the Dark so brace yourself. But y'all…this series was absolutely incredible. I feel like I'm sick for loving it so much, but if being a sick is wrong…I don’t wanna be right. (God, I don’t think I could get any cheesier than that.) I fell in love with Caleb and Livvie’s story, and this series is one that will stick with me for a long time. I’m sitting here now thinking that this review really doesn’t even do it justice; it just doesn’t. I could write a 10 page review and it still couldn’t possibly fully describe what I felt while reading this book. Seduced in the Dark was breathtaking, heart wrenching, gut twisting, mind fucking, and disturbingly, sickeningly perfect.


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REVIEW: Captive in the Dark by C.J. Roberts

(The Dark Duet, book 1)
Caleb is a man with a singular interest in revenge. Kidnapped as a young boy and sold into slavery by a power-hungry mobster, he has thought of nothing but vengeance. For twelve years he has immersed himself in the world of pleasure slaves searching for the one man he holds ultimately responsible. Finally, the architect of his suffering has emerged with a new identity, but not a new nature. If Caleb is to get close enough to strike, he must become the very thing he abhors and kidnap a beautiful girl to train her to be all that he once was. 
Eighteen-year-old Olivia Ruiz has just woken up in a strange place. Blindfolded and bound, there is only a calm male voice to welcome her. His name is Caleb, though he demands to be called Master. Olivia is young, beautiful, naive, and willful to a fault. She has a dark sensuality that cannot be hidden or denied, though she tries to accomplish both. Although she is frightened by the strong, sadistic, and arrogant man who holds her prisoner, what keeps Olivia awake in the dark is her unwelcome attraction to him. 
*WARNING: This book contains very disturbing situations, dubious consent, strong language, and graphic violence.*

BUY: Amazon 

"He was my tormentor and my solace; the creator of the dark and the light within. I didn't care that he would undoubtedly hurt me at any moment, right now; I just needed somebody to hold me, somebody to be kind to me, somebody to tell me exactly those words. It's going to be okay. It wasn't of course, I knew that. But I didn't care. I needed the lie." - Livvie

Disturbing. Romantic. Fucked up. Sweet. Heartbreaking. Sexy. How in the hell can all those adjectives describe the same book? I don’t know, I honestly don’t…but somehow they do. If I had to sum up Captive in the Dark in six words, those would be the ones I would choose. I had heard from other readers that this book was intense, so I thought I was prepared when I started reading it; I wasn’t. I don’t think intense is a strong enough word to describe this book! As incredibly fucked up as it was at times, I never wanted to put it down. I would ask what that says about me, but I think that would open up a whole can of worms that I just don’t want to deal with…so I’m just going to skate past that and move on. 

In a nutshell: Caleb wants revenge on the man who took everything from him, and there is only one way to do that; get close to him, earn his trust, and then destroy everything and everyone that matters to him. How does he plan to get close to him? By kidnapping an American girl (because apparently American girls are the bee’s knees) and selling her to him as a sex slave. Caleb just needs to find the perfect girl to kidnap and train into submission, and after secretly watching Olivia for weeks, he realizes she is exactly the girl he needs. 

I loved Olivia and as crazy as it is to say it, I think loved Caleb. Olivia was submissive, yet defiant and Caleb was sadistic, yet loving. Some of the things he did to break Olivia down made me want to punch him in the throat, but there were several instances where he was so sweet to her. When he first kidnapped her, I hated him; when he tortured her, I hated him; then it was like I got Stockholm syndrome and suddenly he wasn’t that bad. Okay, okay, maybe it wasn’t Stockholm syndrome; it was more learning about his childhood and what he’s been through; dude had it rough. Olivia’s childhood wasn’t great either, and my heart ached for her when she was telling Caleb the story of why her mom doesn’t love her. I seriously can’t even describe how much I felt for her throughout the entire book; it was almost emotionally exhausting.

I could never have imagined how much this book would just completely own me emotionally. Maybe I'm a little premature in saying this, but damn it, I want Olivia and Caleb together. There! I said it! I’m incredibly anxious to see where their story goes inSeduced in the Dark, but I don’t think I can read it yet; it would just be an emotional overload and I’m not trying to have a breakdown and shit. I’m going to read a few lighter books and then when I feel like my emotions are somewhat stable again, I’ll come back toSeduced in the Dark and finish Olivia and Caleb’s story. 

Captive in the Dark gets a 5 star rating from me, without a doubt. CJ Roberts somehow makes you love someone as sadistic and fucked up as Caleb, and as scary as that is, it’s also incredibly fucking brilliant. This book will take you on a crazy, whiplashy (yeah, made that word up) emotional rollercoaster, but it’s a damn good ride. 


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REVIEW: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media -- as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents -- the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter -- but is he really a killer?
BUY: Amazon 

“There’s something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold.” – Nick

HO-LY SHIT. I finished this book Friday night and it haunted me all weekend. Seriously, it did. And it wasn't like I was just sitting around doing nothing other than letting my mind wander. I went to the KU football game, I went to a friend's BBQ, and this book kept invading my mind like a sneaky, little ninja. I guess to put it simply...this book royally fucked me up. 

It is Nick and Amy's fifth wedding anniversary, and what should be a day to celebrate ends up being a day from Hell; Amy has vanished and slowly all fingers start to point at Nick as the prime suspect. He's distant, unattached, almost as if he really doesn't care that his wife has gone missing. He's smiling during press conferences, taking pictures with attractive girls in the search party, and lying his goddamn face off. As more and more evidence is brought to light, mainly by his wife's annual anniversary treasure hunt, this case becomes a national media circus and everyone has painted Nick as a killer; even his sister is starting to have doubts about his innocence. 

I really can't say a whole lot about the events in this book, because I'm too nervous that I will accidentally give something away and that would just absolutely ruin it. This is a story that documents the mind and moves of a true psychopath. It raises the question of how well do you really know the person you have agreed to spend the rest of your life with? What if they have a past you know nothing about? What if it's all an act for something bigger that they have in mind? It's chilling to say the least. You want to believe you know someone, but we only see what they want us to see. 

As far as the writing goes, it's pretty flawless. Gillian does an extraordinary job of switching POVs between Nick and Amy. I also really enjoyed the Midwest references in this novel. Sure, I'm not from Missouri, but they were all relatable. We drink pop from red Solo cups, we have "decks and porches" not "outdoor spaces", and we eat things like Frito Pie. There aren't a lot of authors that use the flyover states as the settings for their stories, so I always get a little flit of joy when someone does. It's the little things. She also brings to light how big of a role the media now plays in high profile cases, for example, simply finding an unbiased jury when you're dealing with a case of this caliber. The media can easily turn a man from a grieving husband to a cold-blooded killer in a matter of one broadcast. I thought the incorporation of the Ellen Abbott character was clever, and clearly mirrored the image of Nancy Grace with her overbearing, loud-talking, I'm-right-you're-wrong-he's-guilty-attitude. Spot on. 

Gone Girl gives a perfect and bone chilling portrayal of a modern day psychopath that will stay with you for days, even after reading that last sentence. It's fucked up in more ways than one, and it's very clear that both Nick and Amy have issues that they refuse to admit to each other. Their love story consists of an angst-driven romance, fueled by lies and deceit, and lit on fire with a big match full of crazy. Hold onto your britches, y'all; this book will take you on one hell of a ride.  


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

REVIEW: Bang by E.K. Blair

(Black Lotus, book 1)
They say when you take revenge against another you lose a part of your innocence. 
But I'm not innocent. 
I haven't been for a very long time. 
My innocence was stolen from me. Taken was the life I was supposed to have. The soul I was born with. The ruby heart embedded in a life full of hopes and dreams. 
I never even had a choice. 
I mourn that life. Mourn the what-ifs.
Until now.
I'm ready to take back what was always meant to be mine. 
But every plan has a fatal flaw. Sometimes it's the heart. 
*Due to the dark and explicit nature of this book, it is recommended for mature audiences only.*

BUY: Amazon 

Jesus H Christ. This book was a mess.

I’m still slightly unsure of how to review this novel, but I guess I’ll just throw some of my thoughts at the wall and see if they stick.

I don’t want to discount the quality of writing, so let’s just address this right off the bat. E.K. Blair clearly has a way with words, and her writing style has a real way of drawing you into the story. In my opinion, Bang is a novel that you probably should go into blind. So, when I decided to give this book a shot, I braced myself and took the plunge thinking I would be just fine. But holy fucking Moses, there is nothing in the world that could have prepared me for this dumpster fire of a story. And by that, I simply mean the plight of these characters; not the writing. So as much as I urge readers to avoid spoiler reviews before reading Bang, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to just warn you of the substantial amount of child abuse that will test your limits. Well, at least it tested mine.

So, as intriguing as this storyline was, it’s no surprise that the nature of some of the content was painfully difficult to trudge through; I wish I had known ahead of time just how deep into the despicable depths of Hell this story would drag me. It made me feel incredible sympathy for “Nina” and Pike, and also made me physically nauseous. As much as I was completely immersed in the plot, I continually had to take breaks during certain chapters just to give my mind, my emotions, and my stomach a break. It’s…rough. But a part of me just had to know how all of this played out, so I kept reading; I wanted some closure for these characters.

And then something unexpected happened.

I got bored. Like, super bored. After about the halfway mark, I felt like the story started to drag, and every chapter was essentially the same series of events with the same conversations. I started skimming around 75% and let me just tell y’all something…there was a plot point during my skim sesh that made me legitimately annoyed. 

The severity of my eye roll to that nonsense was out of this world. One other part of the story that blew my mind (and not in a good way) happened around 83%. It not only grossed me out, but it somehow made me laugh at the same time, I’m guessing just because it was so ridiculous. I think it was supposed to be sexy or intimate or I don’t even know what...but no. No, no, no. 

Why would he do that? WHY? And a better question, why would she not freak the fuck out when she realized what was going on?! I have no answers, but there is only one thing I can say about that little “event”…NO. JUST NO. Around 90% is when I stopped skimming, and although the last few chapters felt a little rushed, they were some of the best throughout the entire book.

As far as characters go, the only one I actually liked was Bennett. The rest…meh. “Nina” had my sympathy during her childhood years, but as an adult she had no redeeming qualities. And her whole motive for revenge – I don’t buy it. That’s the reason she went through years of planning this elaborate con?? Because of that?? Oh, okay. 

Declan didn’t really do much for me, I could take him or leave him. Pike…I felt for him the same way I did for “Nina” while reading through their foster home years, and he tugged at my heart a few times during his adult years, but not enough to make me have any kind of emotional commitment to him.

So, all in all…Bang didn’t blow me away like I had hoped. I do commend E.K. Blair for writing a story like this, because that takes balls. A storyline of this nature is a risk, and clearly it’s one that paid off considering I am in the minority with my thoughts on this novel. Will I read the sequel? Probably; the cliffhanger at the end has my mind reeling a little bit, and I need answers. If you like dark, gritty books, this would be right in your wheelhouse but just know…dark and gritty is in my wheelhouse too, and it was tough for me to get through. So, if you need someone to hold your hand afterwards, you know where to find me. 


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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

RELEASE BLITZ & REVIEW: Temperance by Ella Frank

"Tell me about this place. This...Arcania."
What if your life as you knew it ceased to exist? 
That is the question Naeve Brannigan and her three sisters are faced with on the eve of their 25th birthday. Continuing a tradition they've hidden from their mother for years, the four women arrive at a tarot shop to have their futures told. Only this time, their futures aren't predicted -- they're forever changed. 
They've awoken in a strange time and place with no knowledge of how they got there. All they have to go by is the word of a man who claims to be family -- a family they've never heard of. He tells them of a world they could never have imagined. One that has been cursed by an Empress fueled by old revenge -- revenge their mother appears to be at the center of. 
As they fight to survive the people and dangers of an unknown land, they slowly begin to unravel its mysteries to find that they hold the key to saving this world...this Arcania. 
The question that remains for each of them is: Who do you become when the you that you always were is no longer?

BUY: Amazon 

“Don’t. Make. A. Sound.”
The low, gravelly voice reverberated through her as she felt a tear escape the corner of her eye. The arm that was banded across her chest was full-on muscle as it easily held her in place against a body that was as impenetrable as a brick wall.
Naeve didn’t move a muscle, but she lowered her eyes the best she could and saw a black leather glove that went halfway up that thick forearm. As the hand on her right shoulder tightened, she grimaced and felt the tip of the knife press against her throat.
“Where is your other sister?”
Naeve remained silent, not sure she could even remember how to speak, and then she felt those fingers grip her shoulder harder as they spun her around and pulled her up close.
The sight that greeted her was like something from her worst nightmare.
She couldn’t have imagined ever feeling the terror she felt right then. For that reason alone, she’d never known that her response would be to become one hundred percent paralyzed.
As she stared up at the towering figure before her, she had to wonder if maybe she was already dead and he’d been sent to collect her. Cloaked from head to toe in nothing but black, he almost blended into the shadows except for the shiny blade he had pointed at her throat. She couldn’t make out a face behind the hood and mask, but all she continued to hope was that, if he planned to kill her, he’d do it fast.

As you may or may not know, I took a break from reviewing for the last six months. I needed to step back, and just breathe for a little while. I started to lose my love of reading, and I refused to let blogging completely temper that passion in my life. I didn’t set a date as to when I would come back to the world of reviewing and blogging, because I didn’t know when I would even want to; I kept telling myself that I would just know.

And then my lovely friend, Stacy, mentioned adding me to Ella’s blog tour for her new fantasy romance. To be honest, I was so out of the book loop that I wasn’t even sure what this new book really entailed (*cringes* don’t throw tomatoes at me…please!) but considering how Ella was (and still is) one of my favorite authors, I decided what a better time to dip my feet back into the review world. And you know what? I am SO fucking glad I did, because this book…this book is absolutely phenomenal.

Temperance takes you between Wilmington, NC and the magical land of Arcania, where a merciless sensualeer Empress has plagued the land due to, what she views, a sisterly betrayal. Seraphine has been plotting her revenge for years, and even though she no longer knows the whereabouts of her sister, she knows exactly what will force her hand and leave her no choice but to show herself…

Bring her 4 daughters to Arcania.

On their 25th birthday, Naeve, Siobhan, Fiona, and Audra are transported into a mysterious forest without any recognition as to how they got there. After their eventual capture, they slowly find out information about their mother and father that will leave them questioning everything they thought they knew, and in turn, this magical land of Arcania starts to appear like less of a dream, and more and more like a reality. But with the Empress forging on with her plan to exact revenge on the girls’ mother, they have no idea just what kind of force they are up against, and if they ever do get back to “the real world”, they may not return as the same girls that disappeared that fateful afternoon.

I am honestly not even sure where to start with this review. My mind is still reeling from the sheer brilliance of Ella Frank's latest novel, and I can't remember the last time a book left me with a hangover of this proportion. I finished Temperance two days ago, and it still consumes my thoughts to the point where I already want to do a re-read. It's just absolutely magnificent. I really enjoy fantasy romances, but it has been quite a while since I’ve not only read one, but found one that truly captivated me. Until now. Ella paints such a vivid, magical masterpiece throughout these pages that you can’t help but feel as though you’ve somehow been teleported to Arcania right alongside the Brannigan sisters. With this being the first book in the series, there is quite a bit of backstory and plot development, but there isn’t a moment where you feel as though the story is beginning to drag. Every small detail plays a part in this story and how the characters are connected, so it was impossible for me to not hang on every single sentence.

Now, I’ll admit something. I had a bit of trouble keeping the relationships between the characters straight for a little while. I know, I suck. But once I finally drilled it into my head, I was able to fully submerse myself in the plot and just enjoy the fantasy and mystery that lurks in every crevice of Arcania. The character development was outstanding, and I feel like this deserves some extra attention considering the amount of characters this story revolves around. While Naeve is at the forefront, we are well introduced to all three of her sisters, and several residents of Arcania -- though Kai, Ry’Ker, and Bastian overshadow the rest in this particular installment. The personalities of each character were projected marvelously, and in a way that allowed the reader to feel as though they know each of these individuals, even if they didn’t stand in the forefront. I fell in love with these characters hard, and the only other time I have thoroughly loved an entire ensemble this much was when I read the Addicted series by Krista and Becca Ritchie.

I could go on and on about the phenomenal brilliance of this magical novel filled with love, hate, revenge, survival, family, and the curse of power falling into the wrong hands…but no matter what I say, I won’t do it justice. So just read it. Temperance has forever planted itself on my all-time favorites shelf, and there is no doubt that I will find myself going back to the world of Arcania time and time again. Ella Frank never ceases to amaze me, and after finishing her first fantasy novel, it’s official…

There is absolutely nothing that this woman can’t write. Absolutely. Nothing. 

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