Behind the Red Curtain by Casey Bartsch

Summary

There are bodies.

So many bodies.

Lucy has been stolen from her life; trapped in a place she can barely understand, by a man obsessed.

Her captor has created a twisted home that only he can navigate, for reasons only he can fathom. Even if Lucy could get free, she would still be his. What follows will test her body, mind and soul. Horrors that no one should ever experience.

There are secrets behind the curtain, and Lucy will discover them all.

Amazon

**This is for ADULTS only as it has extremely graphic adult content**

Characters

The primary character is Lucy. She’s in her 40’s and bored with life. There are other characters, but everything is from her perspective. She’s a compelling character to be sure, in her flawed humanity and unique upbringing.

Plot

This is a psychological horror to the max. There are scenes of grotesque horror built in. If you have any triggers on major button issues associated with horror, best put this down. However, if this is a genre you love, this plot delivers! I can be quite picky about the horror genre and its plots. This book tries to fill in that “mysterious/unknown” element, only to pull the rug out. The feeling of fear, shock, and disgust all played out in an eerie backdrop. You will not guess all of the pieces, because this author hides the truth in unspoken subtly. The truth is far, far worse.

Overall

What a storyteller! It isn’t often that I’m caught guessing at so many plot twists where I have more then one theory. The only thing I saw coming was the ending and I loved where it ended. It was the exact end I expected to happen, saw as a “good” ending for such a twisted tale. Man did it deliver!

Wonderfully written, easy to follow, a true page turner! It’s been a while since I’ve read a good horror story with such intensity. As an aside, this book’s cover is perfect!

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded down)

A macabre psychological horror that leaves one unsettled.

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited

Tempestuous Taurus (Zodiac Series) by Trish Jackson

Summary:

A gruesome murder, a loved-one’s betrayal, and her missing sister are more than enough for Tara-Grace to contend with. Now she’s forced to come back to her hometown to claim her inheritance―the family home and equine therapy business.

Bizarre and disturbing events, a child who can’t talk, and the threat of imminent danger are enough to push anyone over the edge.

Amazon

Characters

The two main points of view are Tara and Jared. I started off liking both of them and their relationship but as the book progressed I started to feel like their relationship was forced and that neither character was really relatable. Which sucks because at the start I really liked them both and the way they were together. That all started to fall apart about halfway through where it felt like their liked their history together more than each other and I didn’t feel that spark. Cassie also got some time in the limelight but even though her story was super compelling and I liked her alot, I also felt like her character was an inch thick.

Plot

This started out super strong. I kept wondering who the killer could be and would it be some amazing twist on who it was. The setting was easy to fall into and the romance enjoyable at the start. Everything had a down to Earth feel that had this quiet grittiness to it. About halfway through the romance turned on its head and the mystery in the last quarter was awkward instead of captivating. That being said the book did a great job of keeping the suspense up, enough that I was curious how it would end. Also there is one small twist that is hinted earlier in the book and totally linked in but it had this far-fetched feeling in the end. Making the mystery aspect just so-so.

Overall

There is a subtle suspense throughout the book that did a good job of building the tension. However, Tara really went down hill as a character and made some really questionable choices about her business that put people’s lives at risk. After that, even though see seemed like such a tough but loving character, I had a hard time respecting her. Jared was a sweetie and my only problem was how he was with Tara. Like he was constantly “in love with her” but it didn’t feel genuine. More like he was trying to recapture who he was before he served time.

In the end there was this awkward feeling of “these are flawed characters and this had such a real feel to it” being mashed together with “these scenes and scenarios feel far-fetched and not grounded” that was only saved by its excellent suspense and strong start. I did like the big showdown at the end too and can see some amazing potential with this writer’s style as it was an enjoyable read, just needs some work on characters and plot. I’d give this author’s books another shot in the future.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

A suspenseful story whose mystery and romance were strong out of the gate but lost ground.

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited

Bartered Innocence: A Dystopian Romance by Gwendoline Rose

Summary

Ten-year-old Amber grew up with Collection Day clouding her childhood just as every other labor class child. Nothing prepared her for what it actually meant to be sold to the royals. As she watches the other girls’ punishments, alarms sound, giving her the cover to run. But where can she hide? Is there any hope for freedom now that she belongs to the servant class?

Ten-year-old Prince Steel doesn’t want to take part in his first Collection Day gala. The last thing he needs is to pick a friend from a group of girls. They can’t even throw balls right or climb trees. While hiding from the festivities, he finds a playmate who is also running from the celebration. A girl. A girl who is brave enough to run away with him on the roof.

Neither understands what it means when Prince Steel picks her at the gala as his chosen playmate. Will the bonds they form as children withstand the strain of what they really are to each other as they grow into their roles?

Amazon

Characters

The main character is Amber. You follow her through all of her trials and tribulations. She was strong, resilient, and utterly wild at heart. Like a horse that wants to run but is caged, sure to be slaughter at the wrong provocation. Worse, she is discovering there is something dangerous about her. Something, that if found out, will spell her doom. She was absolutely relatable and vibrant. At times she felt robotic but it felt more like a defense mechanism then a character failing. Also she could be dense at times, but that may also have been about denying herself hope.

Plot

Stuck in this dystopian future that is grim for girls and boys sold on collection day. Amber is no different. As a woman she is always on that edge, saved from the impending violation. Twisted romance? Check. Abusive rulers? Check. Super big secret that is both awesome and dangerous? Check, CHECK. *internal screaming*

On another note: Amazing world building. It was an absolute treat.

Overall

Wow. Just WOW. This is a must read. I expected this to get impossibly dark, but it didn’t. I won’t say more then that. The tension in this book will make your heart pound and it started from the first second, until the last. I stayed up late reading and then finished it the next morning before work. If it wasn’t a work night I would have just kept reading, having to know the ending. Just do yourself a favor (unless Hunger Games meets Handmaid’s Tale sounds too upsetting then pass) and read this gripping novella!

Rating

5 stars

An absolute treat and my favorite so far this year by a large margin. #whereisbook2?

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited

The Basics of Agile and Lean by Aditi Agarwal

Summary

People often debate whether Agile and Lean are the same or different. This book is written to introduce you to the core values and principles of both Agile and Lean methodologies and will hopefully answer some of the common questions such as:

– What is Agile?
– What is Lean?
– Which is better? Agile or Lean?
– What are the 12 Agile Principles?
– What is the Agile Manifesto?
– How many Agile frameworks are there?
– What is Scrum?
– What is the difference between Agile and Scrum?
– Which methodologies are used to scale Agile to large teams or to the enterprise?
– What is Kanban?
– Is Kanban Lean or Agile?
– What is the Toyota Production System?
– What are the different versions of the Toyota House of Lean?
– What are the principles of Lean?
– How are Lean and Agile different?
– How is Lean the same as Agile?

Anyone who is interested in being Agile or who wants to adopt lean thinking would benefit from this book. Grab your copy today. Learn Agile and Lean methodologies to deliver better business value.

Amazon

Overall

This short non-fiction covers what Lean and Agile are, including their components. Being familiar with Lean methodology and aware of Agile, I felt like this was backwards in a way. It started very specific and got broader in concepts as I read. Very interesting however, and the second half had very helpful tips. It was like a tour guide to Lean/Agile. There was a lot of focus on software application but it does explore their use on broader terms and use.

Rating

4 stars

Solid to the point summary of Lean/Agile. Especially useful for software/technology projects or for those who want to brush up on what these concepts can be used for.

Where did I get it?

Kindle Unlimited.

Forever Eve by J.B. Lexington

Summary

Level-headed Izabel is a soon to be Psychiatrist who lives in Chicago with the love of her life and now husband Bo Carmichael. Her straight-as-an-arrow path in life was simple, or so she thought—school, then career, then the nuclear family. What could possibly happen to divert that plan? The burden she has chosen to keep a secret from her best friend eats away at her psyche daily.
Natalie Spencer, the best friend, is a non-conformist artist/gallery owner and a loud and proud bisexual; the complete antithesis of Izabel. Natalie has always lived outside the box and is determined to get Izabel to color outside of her neatly drawn lines for once in her life. After a few glasses of wine, a convincing argument and a lot of badgering Natalie persuades Izabel to visit a Past Life Regression therapist with her. Izabel didn’t plan to travel back to a world that would irrevocably change the rest of her life forever.

Amazon

Characters

Izabel is in denial. She’s like an ostrich with her head in the sand, ignoring everything and letting things go that she shouldn’t. It was difficult to read at times because the author did a good job of portraying abuse without being overtly obvious in many parts. Thankfully Izabel eventually realizes enough is enough…enter a second lease on life. I do not condone cheating in any fashion, but this story touches on it artfully and then quickly moves to close one door so another window can open! Excellent characters that I felt I could reach out and hug.

Plot

There were moments that felt viscerally real and other times felt so far-fetched (like magic). Past Life Regression is reminiscent of reincarnation stories. The problem I have with those is “Is it love or is it history between them?” Don’t get me wrong, I like a good reincarnation story from time to time, but this is that kind of story just adjacent. I actually loved the relationship of Izabel and Natalie. Natalie can be overly crude at times, and yet caring.

Overall

I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the novel and characters for a romance. It addresses many issues and instead of being shy about them it takes it head on. It may not seem so at first but this short read is jam packed full of life lessons. The hardest part is the dichotomy between the out there Past Life Regression (which was super fun to read on a side note) and the very real issues Izabel was dealing with. It acted as a catalyst for the main character but also a dissension for me as the reader, undercutting many of the powerful events of the story. That being said it is a page turner and quite short, so I read it in two sittings!

Rating

4 stars

This was a solid romance that I would highly recommend. If you like reincarnation stories but would like a different twist – this is perfect!

Where did I get it?

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review. This review is voluntary.

FREE! For this weekend only!

I’m celebrating my anniversary with a free day! I’m also announcing that I’ll be releasing a short story for one of my series soon. More details to follow!

That’s right. FREE!

June 11-June 15 only, The Sixth Gate is FREE! If you hadn’t heard book 3 dropped a few months back. If you haven’t ready The Sixth Gate, make sure you pick up a free copy while you can!

Go HERE.

The Art of War by Angela Panayotopulos

Summary

Twin siblings Kallypso and Gabriel grow up in the lush cradle of Mythaki, an idyllic Greek island wrought of Mediterranean sun and sea. Their innocence is shattered by the outbreak of a war which flings Gabriel to distant battlefields and shackles Kallypso to a deteriorating homefront as Italian soldiers apologetically invade their island.

Ravaged by the twisted specter of Hitler’s ambition, Greece’s seas run red with the blood of her children. Germany’s occupation plunges Mythaki into a dystopia of chaos and brutality. Despite the darkness, human nature retaliates with unexpected kindnesses and forbidden love. Kallypso and Gabriel discover that people must sometimes make their own miracles.

War entwines the fates of a Nazi ridiculed for his conscience, an iconographer haunted by her artistry, an officer driven by his madness, and a rebel soldier fighting to return home. There are people who bring darkness. There are people who spread light.

This is their story.

Amazon

Characters

I’m going to start off by saying that there are very rich characters in this story, but the constant head-hopping made it difficult to nail any of them down. Kalli, Michael, and Gabe stand out as getting the most attention. However, Kalli and Michael’s grandfather and Penny (Gabe’s wife) also get some attention. Had there been clear points of view it would have been easier to read and attach myself to one character or another. The twins obviously getting the most attention were the easiest to like. In the end I was drawn to Michael, who was a sheep in wolf’s clothing. That duality in the face of love created a powerful character.

Plot

This story is set in World War II, on a small Greek island. First they are subject to occupation by the Italians but then they are invaded (and terrorized) by the Nazi’s. There is a brutality twined with beauty in this story of war and tragedy. There was a whisper of tragedy in every chapter yet unfilled, leaving one breathless with anticipation. I particularly liked the cultural aspects of the story, painted liberally with a broad brush throughout the story.

Overall

The first part of this book was a jumble. It nearly stopped reading once or twice, but like the author so continued. After the first part the remain parts improve with each chapter. By the end I was racing through to see how it ended, to see what tragedies the author held that you could feel coming with every word. The author’s beautiful turns of phrase and eloquent depictions were excellent at turning ugly into beautiful, without the impact of the brutality being lost.

Rating 

3.5 Stars (rounded up)

Overall a tragic historical story rife with romance and war. 

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited

Light and Shadow by Hee Won (Illustrator), Ryu Hyang

Summary

It’s a rude insult when lowly and headstrong servant Edna comes to marry Duke Eli, instead of the noble daughter he expected. But the ambitious maid hides an even bigger secret behind her obvious ruse – one that could change the kingdom’s very history. Can the two find freedom, redemption – and love – without drawing their swords on each other? Based on the hit novel.

Goodreads

Overall

This webtoon/manga was very engaging from the get go. On its surface it seems that everything is pretty standard for an adult fantasy manga, but after a few chapters is reveals itself to have depth and plot twists that are engaging. The characters are endearing, although Edna and Eli get off to a rough start, I just fell in love with them. Shipped hard, as it were. Edna is an amazing protagonist and it was refreshing to have a woman enjoy being a woman and powerful in her own right. Eli was the more honest of the two and straight forward, which made some of his early decision easily forgiven. The supporting characters were fantastic. You even get a lot of back story, which was awesome! Only complaint was the sudden jump in the timeline and some of Edna’s choices…to foolishly hide.

The art was beautiful and enriched. It showed improvement in grace as the series progressed, melting away any earlier stiffness in the characters. Totally rocked the expressions!

Rating

5 stars

What a great fantasy with drama, romance, and action. Could not put it down!

Did I mention there is a second one involving their…kid?

More reviews at creatingworldswithwords.wordpress.com.

Tosho is Dead by Opal Edgar

Summary

“I died.
Nothing is as it should be on the other side…
Come with me to Purgatory.”

All his life, Tosho, a 16 year old apprentice mason in post WW2 Germany, did everything to be the exact opposite of his Nazi father. He thought he had a lifetime ahead to build a better world. He was wrong.
When he is brutally murdered, heaven is nowhere to be found. Horrified, Tosho discovers he does not have a soul, making him an abomination. Instead his body is haunted by a feisty spirit who angered a violent rebellious group in his past: the Power Thieves. They remember, and they will not be stopped before erasing both Tosho and his spirit from the afterlife.
Tosho is chased, attacked and cursed. He would have endured it if his new friends hadn’t been threatened too. Tosho owes them, for they were all victims of people like his father. He is ready to sacrifice everything to right the wrongs that have been done, even learn to fight, destroy his body and forget his dream of a better world to be in.

Amazon

Characters

Tosho (a nickname) is the main character and surprisingly despite being slightly over written is a good hero to this story. I took to him right away and he felt very human. He quickly attaches himself to other characters that are ‘dead’ to include the powerful world builder Elise and the quirky Lil’Mon. Not to mention the menacing Baas. All the characters were very unique and easily distinguished. That being said there are times when I question how Tosho could know something, despite the whole story being from his POV.

Plot

The main character is dead and has ended up in a very Topsy Turvy afterlife reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. The first half of the novel is pure chaos, where the reader is thrust form scene to scene without much understanding of the point. That all changes once Tosho goes to see Death. There is a sudden shift in the story telling and it’s as though the author pumped the brakes, suddenly bringing clarity and depth to the characters and the plot.

Overall

Despite this being a YA novel there is a far amount of cursing and the attempt at humor seems corny rather than endearing. Despite the odd-ball humor the characters are charming and their personalities punctuated by a certain virtue. Tosho’s being self-sacrificing, which was almost to the point of unnecessary placing himself in harms way and began to grown almost annoying as the novel progressed. I would hope to see him grow in future books.

The first half of the book was difficult to grasp at times but as lover of Alice in Wonderland enjoyed the randomness of the author’s imagination. It is made even more surreal by the time the novel is set in (1960s) and the tie in with WWII. For some it will be disorienting and may cause the reader to quit (or in my case take breaks), but I say press on because at that 50% mark once he goes to see Death, I suddenly couldn’t put it down. I had to know what Tosho’s fate was going to be.

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

This book has so much potential to be a solid 4 stars (the second half certainly was). An oddly charming book that most YA readers will enjoy, especially if creative chaos if what you’re looking for!

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited.

Reforming Lord Ragsdale by Carla Kelly

Summary:

The Rake’s Progress

Emma Costello owed a debt of honor to one of the most dishonorable lords in the realm. The infamous Lord Ragsdale was as rich as sin, as sinful as he was rich, and as heartless as he was handsome. But he had saved Emma from a fate worse than death when he stopped a lecherous brute from buying her as an indentured servant.

It was Emma’s turn now to save Lord Ragsdale from his wicked ways. She had to find a way to stop his drinking, his gaming, his wild revelry. She had to make him break with his mistress, the superbly sensual Fae Moulle. She had to make him a suitable suitor for the ideal wife that the prim and proper Lady Clarissa Partridge would be. And above all, she had to keep his lustful eye from lingering too long on herself–even as she struggled to keep her own growing desire from undoing all her hard work in the unmaking of this irresistible rake…

Amazon

Characters:

What was quite different about this book from other romance novels was Lord Ragdale has as many chapters as Emma Costello, the heroine. Not only that but they are both odd characters for the era and yet somehow still fit within it. They are each in their own way damaged and each finding solace in the other person, which eventually leads to love.

Plot:

Despite this being a historical romance, it held my attention with ease. A regency era romance with stories of suffering around an eventual story of love. Emma’s suffering gives her strength but also built up her walls and Lord Ragsdale hides behind his pain with booze and pure laziness.

Overall:

I stumbled across the (UNFINISHED) manga about this very story. Intrigued and disappointed I could not find more of the manga then the first part, I instead turned to the book and was no disappointed! The main and support characters are very well written. I literally read it until my phone died and then sat next to my charger so I could finish the last 10% of the book because I just had to know how it ended! A refreshing read to be sure!

Rating

5 stars

I loved it. Unconventional to be sure, but never dull and rather sweet. Well worth the time!

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited