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

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

Private Messages by Connie Lafortune

Summary

Lilianna

For so long, my very existence teetered on the brink of death
That’s what happens, when you lose the other piece of your heart
I can’t sleep, write or work
Until, I meet him
The one who won’t let me fade back into the darkness
Now, I’m feeling things that I shouldn’t
But the man is determined to breathe me back to life
And, it’s been so long since I took a breath

Zane

I’ve been called a cold heartless bastard one too many times
However, I didn’t get to where I am by not taking chances
I’m the successful owner of Club Syn
And then I meet her
I’m torn between my mysterious caller and the raging storm
Now, I’m feeling things I’ve never felt before
One is untouchable, the other continues to push me away
And, it’s been so long since I’ve been inspired

Amazon

Characters

The two main characters share the spotlight with alternating chapters and POVs throughout. The author did a wonderful job making them very human with flaws and messy pasts. It was very interesting how they were woven together and how the author set up their coincidental meeting. This is a story of second chances and how love can be different but just as powerful. I liked Zane’s charm and Lili’s inner strength.

Plot

Lilianna writes erotica and Zane owns a bar. She loves what he does, he likes what his job brings. When they meet its electric between them but Zane doesn’t want to submit and Lilianna just runs (and runs and runs…). That was probably the most annoying but also sweet part. Lilianna keeps running and Zane keeps trying because she’s worth it. They stumble around, but eventually get there. Best part of the novel which made me overlook some other flaws was that it went past them getting together. It wasn’t just a ‘they lived happily ever after, it showed you that they did.

Overall

I was flipping pages and read this whole thing in two sittings. It was very enjoyable and even the parts that felt a little convenient/coincidental, were easy to overlook. The writing was enjoyable and the depth heart-wrenching. The sex scenes were mostly steamy with only the first one feeling somewhat jarring. I actually had to put the book down at that point and walk away because it just didn’t feel…right. The second half of the book after that point redeemed itself and made for a very engrossing read. Plus it’s fun to have a character who is a writer!

Rating

4.5 stars (rounded down)

If you’re looking for a romance with some depth, this is it. 

Where did  I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited

Stone Quest (Middengard Book 2) by June Wilson

Summary

Alice Morgan is back in Melbourne, mourning the loss of her cousin Toby. The Stone has been returned to her, but who by? And even though she has it back in her possession, Middengard remains closed to her.

When her grieving aunt and uncle suggest a weekend away, Alice reluctantly goes along with their plans. To her surprise, she finds herself making friends with Josh Winter, the son of the reclusive inventor whose home they are staying in.

Not used to having friends, Josh is horrified when Alice seemingly disappears. When his father begins to act strangely too, Josh stumbles into Middengard and becomes an unwitting pawn in a fight he doesn’t understand.

As Josh struggles with his new surroundings, Alice learns she is the only person who can defeat Middengard’s enemies. But only if she finds the Second Stone – a Stone with equal if not more powers than her own. But Alice isn’t the only one who wants it. Soon she finds herself in a deadly race against new and fearsome enemies. And who amongst her friends has turned against her?

Amazon

Characters

Alice and Toby (thankfully) are back for book 2. There are other minor characters but two new main show runners that jump in: Josh and Orla. There is also the mysterious Isolde, who is likely more complicated then she appears, but a great addition to the book. I still struggled with Alice at times, but Toby is such a welcome sight! Josh was an interesting character, because of how unlikely he was to be a hero or to be on such an adventure. He is not who most people would think of in a fantasy novel, which is why he added an interesting layer to the story. I liked Orla from the get go, and I wish she had more time. I won’t give too much away but Alice’s parents also get a little more attention and get a few parts from their POV. Stanor had almost no role in this second book, which was a big departure from book 1.

Plot

After the craziness from book 1, Alice is stuck in our world. Desperation leads to bringing her back and getting sent on a quest to get the second Doom Stone. Overall the quest felt strange, almost like it wasn’t really happening and the impact of events didn’t seem to really matter. It was a bit of a downer, but the events happening back in the city (Josh, Orla, and Toby) were more then enough to make up for it. The darkness is not over and whatever evil should have ended in book 1, isn’t satisfied. Furthermore, the plot was predictable on what would happen, just not how which kept the book flowing in curiosity on how the author would play it out.

Overall

The writing was similar with a juvenile feel that sometimes clashed with the plot and character’s ages. There is course language in this one in at least one stop that felt unnecessary and bold for a middle school book. The settings were descriptive and at times it was like watching a movie play out, while other times I’d just want the point to be made and the next scene to come. This does end on quite a cliffhanger that I imagine leads right into book 3 without the length of time that lapsed between book 1 and book 2. Despite some of its draw backs, it was much easier to get going and held a steady pace nearly all the way through with a sudden climax, leaving much unresolved. This being a series, it was to be expected. The Norse Mythology was still there but mostly in the background.

Rating

4 stars

This novel was more fleshed out and showed significant progress from the first book. A quest for a stone pales in comparison to the events in the city, but overall had me turning pages to see what came next. A middle school fantasy novel that others may enjoy as well.

Where did I get it?

Kindle Unlimited.

Otherworldly: Kassien and Calypso’s Song (Book 1) by C.F. Rabbiosi

Summary

Two worlds: HERS the species of origin, and HIS from her darkest nightmares. Will she be the one to save his entire warrior race, or will their love tear the entire world apart?
Calypso:
“You destroyed our world… We are nothing now! Nothing but the old leather-bound classics that tell us who we WERE. So dominant, so advanced… You think you know love: Chemicals that explain your PERFECT science. Endorphins… none of it real: Animalistic.

Well I am HUMAN. And we are not just science. Just because you have broken down these precious elements, the ingredients of the potion… It doesn’t make the spell any less potent.”

Warning: ***Possible triggers. Complete power exchange and forced desire present within these pages***

ADULT CONTENT – for 18 years or older only!!!

Amazon

Characters

A lot of time is spent on Calypso and her development. She’s a very human character caught in a post apocalyptic world. She has a lot of strength and weakness in her, a flawed character for sure but persistent and resilient. Kassien’s more of a mystery because he doesn’t get as much attention other then being very dominating, but he appear loyal and has a strong sense of right and wrong. Surprisingly I liked the characters and was invested pretty quickly in the story. This book is an erotica but a little more character development would have been nice.

Plot

Its an erotica in a post apocalyptic world with very aggressive male aliens dominating female humans. There are a few interesting sub plots (i.e. Calypso’s origins, how the Koridon arrived, how the world ended, etc.) but it is really a brutal sexual ride.

Overall

This book had fantastic fast pacing and flowed nicely except for a few areas where I was utterly lost on who was talking. Also there were a few grammatical and spelling errors, but their placement rarely detracted from the story. I was turning pages wondering what was going to happen next and where the author might finish book 1. I read the second half of the book in one sitting and would absolutely read book 2. I’d like to stress going into this you need to realize this is 100% an erotica with romantic elements. There are things Calypso has to do to survive and it may seem like she is just going with the flow, but realistically what else could she do?

Minor **spoilers** ahead because I don’t know how to write this without giving at least this much away. Going into I expected it to be more of an erotic because of the ‘Omega’ style romance. Side note: I had to Goggle what the heck I was getting myself into because I like the author but wanted to see how dark this genre was. Going into I was prepared for some sexual violence, dominating sexual content, and a little Stockholm Syndrome on top. I underestimated how much and there in lies the problem. About the fourth rape scene and I pretty annoyed thinking “We’re doing this again?” Don’t get me wrong, I like the realism of what it might be like for a woman in an apocalyptic era. The world is unforgiving at times and humans cruel. Throw in a dominating race that finds human females sexually addicting and make the larger aliens lose control, will only fuel the chance for violence (i.e. getting loved to death).

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded up and down).

Be warned this book is not for everyone and even at times it wasn’t for me but the overall experience was a steamy erotic with a sci-fi backdrop. This story will fling your hair back as it takes you for a brutal sexual ride.

Where did I get my copy?

Kindle Unlimited.

Stonekeeper (Middengard Book 1) by June Wilson

Summary

Fourteen year-old Alice Morgan is homesick and miserable, out of place with her rich relatives in Melbourne. All she wants to do is return to England and solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.

But you should be careful what you wish for. When Alice is unwittingly lured to Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance, she finds herself in Middengard, a realm hidden from the world of men and peopled by an ancient warrior race, the Hilderinc. To make matters worse, her cousin Toby and her annoying friend Jess have followed her, putting their own lives in jeopardy.

Placing her trust in the aloof girl-warrior Iris and Iris’s father Stanor, Alice is astonished to learn that the pendant left to her by her mother is one of the Doom Stones, powerful stones needed to protect both Middengard and the world of men from destructive forces.

Soon Alice, Toby and Jess become embroiled in a battle to help the Hilderinc defeat one of their own, a rebel intent on upsetting the balance of power. But how does Alice’s mother fit in? As Alice learns more about Middengard and her part in it, she has to make the hardest choice of her life: rescue her mother or save Toby and Jess.

Amazon

Characters

I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I’m just going to come right out and say it: Alice is such a teenager. She’s impulsive, narrow-minded, and can be such an idiot. Despite those qualities, she’s also passionate, loyal to a fault, and self-sacrificing. The second character that gets the most attention is Toby. Unlike Alice who I was constantly unsure I could throw my hat behind, he was easy to like. Although he made mistakes, he realized them. The word that comes to mind is charming and greatly improved the novel because you got to see Alice through his eyes. By the end I was curious of his story in book 2 more then I was Alice’s.

Plot

Alice isn’t from this world. She’s from another world and something is dragging her back. A prophecy and twin magic pendants. Feeling like another teen fantasy yet? Let me mention the fact that the book has a backdrop in Norse Mythology.  Now it sure does.

The first half of this book is about adults withholding information and Alice suffering for it—maybe even 75% of the book. I’ll admit the first half was boring with a capital ‘B.’ I struggled to get into the plot which exists in subtleties and too much filler. As the book progresses though bigger plot points are fleshed out (i.e. Alice’s mom, the prophecy, etc.). The first half of the book could be severely reduced to help get to the point, but the second half was much more enjoyable. I especially liked the flashbacks—those were a real asset to the overall novel.

Overall

This book is very much for teens and preteens. Which likely contributed to it being so predictable. The writing was a bit bland but that was likely to make it easier to read for its intended audience. The author did a good job in the second half introducing lots of interesting plot threads that will likely weave themselves through the series but took to long to get there. The setting’s were interesting but could have used some additional description. If you can push through the first half of the book, the second half is much more enjoyable. So much so that I’m actually ready to put down book 1 and pick up book 2 despite the series’s its rough start. It’s important to note that this book’s climax is rather sudden, like a punch in the face, followed by a very stiff/sudden ending. It’s obvious it was written to naturally progress into book 2 and beyond. 

Rating

3 Stars

I’m split right down the middle. This epic fantasy has a young adult (even juvenile) tone with a cup of Norse mythology and dashes of teen angst.

Where did I get a copy?

Kindle Unlimited.

The Murderer’s Apprentice by Daryl Anderson

Summary

Baltimore, 1966. A twelve-year-old girl and a young patrolman are about to discover that some monsters are real.

Dara Burke doesn’t get invited to a lot of birthday parties. Always a square peg in the round hole of Linden Way, she prefers dodgeball to dolls and has never once backed down from a fight. Growing up with three brothers, she knows a girl needs sharp elbows and a big voice to get her way. Dara has both.

So far 1966 has been a disaster for the Burke family. Her parents are getting divorced, but they still yell at Dara to be more ladylike. In a few weeks, her big brother Kevin is shipping off to Vietnam. Dara tries not to mind, what with summer vacation just around the corner. Then she and her best friend Fran—another square peg—can hang out. Even if her dopey little brother Alvey often tags along.

Then one spring day the dead little boy whispers in Dara’s ear, warning her about the bad man who was coming.

On the other side of Baltimore, Patrolman Stan Gorsky lives the good life in the land of pleasant living. He loves his family and likes his job. But then the first little boy dies. Soon Stan finds himself in the crosshairs of a murder investigation into a calculating serial killer.

More death and strange incidents occur. As a dark web tightens around Dara and those she loves, Patrolman Stan Gorsky frantically trails a merciless killer, the bad man who hunts the little children of Baltimore.

In this countdown to murder, who will survive?

Amazon

Characters

There are two main characters that you get to follow, a twelve year old girl named Dara and Officer Stan Gorksy. The beginning of the book is heavily Dara with Stan Gorksy taking up most of the middle and a decent balance between them rounding out the ending. I’ll admit although I like Dara, her earlier chapters felt wanton. They had more direction near the end. By contrast Stan’s chapters were filled with investigative work that had me turning pages. Dara is a tough as nails, in your face pre-teen with a tomboyish demeanor. I did like her overall and her oddly dysfunctional family. I was a little put off by how she had two older brothers that rarely showed their faces or made an entrance but it was mostly explained away.

Plot

This was a whodunit set in the 1960s. I felt like this was a well throughout out blast from the past. Lots of references from the era really sets the scene and dominates throughout the plot. A unique historical setting that had everything from baseball to name brand goodies that have survived into now like Poptarts and Bugles.

It had a slow start, but once it started to roll it was easy to turn page after page. If you have a more recent historical murder mystery, this is it. Fair warning it is very dark and has some other subplots that are equally dark. This is not for the faint of heart, there is violence against children throughout the book, but the perpetrator gets his due in the end…in a fashion. 

Overall

Due to the nature of the story and many of its scenes, I cannot say that any child should read this, preteen or teen. This is very much for adults, so don’t let the age of one of the protagonist fool you. Which gets me two the most disappointing points of the book. Firstly, the supernatural aspect was very underplayed and had almost no role in the overall plot. Secondly, the pointed violence against women (and girl) that routinely went unanswered for. There was a particularly graphic scene near that, although unsurprising, was unnerving. Expertly written to build suspense, it took too long to get going. You’ll feel like you’re right there with them, and that is the real magic of this author. You can see very scene with precise clarity. 

Rating

3.5 stars (rounded down)

An initial slow burn, this blast from the past murder mystery will have you turning pages to a chilling ending.

Where did I get this book?

The author provided me with a copy. This review is voluntary.

Fire & Ice by Megan W. Roma

Summary

Skye Larson has her pick of the guys her age. But after a wreck caused by her latest ex, she swears off men as a lost cause. Until Dorran Black, the handsome hunk of a mechanic, is hired to restore her beloved BMW. Dorran looks obnoxiously like her last boyfriend, but he is like ice: cold and unyielding. And soon he will leave town forever. But after she falls head-over-heels for him, can she melt Dorran’s heart before it’s too late?

Amazon

Characters

The two main characters dominate the pages between Skye and Dorran, but there are a lot of great supporting characters. I decided to take a day after finishing the book to digest it. I’m glad I did because at first I was thinking that the whole Fire and Ice thing felt inch thick. Especially since Skye was only ‘fiery’ (really more annoying then anything) at the start and Dorran only icy when it suited him (basically you blink and then it’s over). Then I delved a little deeper and wondering, is Fire and Ice just the walls they’ve built and only by pushing past each others barriers could they see each other and become better versions of themselves, together. Maybe I’m making a leap here, but that’s my conclusion. Perhaps too psychological for a romance?

What really saved it for me was the supporting characters – especially on Dorran’s side (although I am a huge Sage fan!). It helped me like the main characters more through those surrounding them and it was pulled off pretty well. Character develop could have been flushed out more, but it made for a lighter read. I did end up liking Skye despite her rich girl upbringing and how the author showed the darker side of wealth. I also like the fact that Dorran was kind of a ‘bad boy’ but was a big sweetie with serious icy walls.

Plot

There are three major themes. The romance between them, Skye’s family, and Dorran’s past. I won’t give anything away but I liked the romance and Skye’s family drama. What I had a hard time feeling was Dorran’s past. It was like being buried up to your neck in sadness and then the author felt that wasn’t enough and just threw a little more on. It really wasn’t necessary and felt very rushed. I got over the characters not necessarily sticking to their assigned attributes, but the ending felt too neat and well…happy? I love me some happy ending but this was too convenient and over way too quick. Honestly? Left me a little disappointed.

Overall

It was very fast paced which I both liked and disliked. I like that fact that there were no punches pulled, but it left the character develop feeling a little thin. Overall the romance was sweet. Almost too sweet for some of the heavier aspects of the book. It was a lighter read but did have some filler scenes that felt almost off the cuff. The writing was easy to follow and had a nice pace set. It had a very charming feel to it. Especially the settings, which is one of the author’s strengths. Dialogue flowed nicely and only had a few rough patches, which made for an easy read. An author I’ll read again!

Rating

4 out of 5 stars

This sweet, charming romance will help you see that sometimes we make our own prisons of fire or ice and just need the right someone to break you out!

Where did I get it?

Author provided a copy to me in exchange for an honest review. This review is voluntary.