Aria Adams-Burned

Oh my darling children, this is not a light and happy story. This is an amazing, fiery, twisted story that I loved, but not a whole light of light and happy going on in Aria Adam’s Burned.

So, many years ago, Hans Christian Anderson, a Danish author, wrote fairy tales. His fairy tales don’t really have any happy endings. Yes, he wrote The Little Mermaid, but in his story, Ariel and Eric don’t have their happily ever after. He leaves her and she turns into sea foam. Anderson also wrote a story called The Little Match Girl. Yeah, this one didn’t have a happy ending either. The way his story goes is that an innocent young girl who is out selling matches on New Year’s Eve freezes to death. As she’s slowly freezing to death, she lights all her matches, because she sees happy visions in them. In the last one, she saw her beloved grandmother, who was the only person who treated her nicely, and grandma came to take her to heaven. Only after she’s dead, do people care about this poor little match girl. Depending on how you want to look at it, there could be a happy ending, but I don’t really see it this way. Personally, I like Terry Pratchett’s version in Hogfather better. Well, now I can add in Aria’s book in there too.

So, in the winter of Victorian-era East End London, Eve has been chased out of the house by her father so that she can go out and sell matches to support them. She used to work at the match factory, but she started getting sick, so she left because she didn’t want to die. But her deadbeat dad still needs his booze, so out she goes to sell the matches she used to make. If she doesn’t go out, he will beat her. If she doesn’t bring home money, he will beat her. It doesn’t matter if it’s snowing and freezing and she doesn’t have the right clothes or shoes, she has to go out. On this particular day, Eve has no luck. She doesn’t want to have to go home, so she goes and finds an alcove to hide and to stay the night. She’s reasonably sure that she won’t be able to survive the night.

In order to try to be warm, she lights a piece of paper that came near her on fire. She gets a little bit of fire for just a little bit and it kind of warms her up. But she knows that her dad is going to get after her for missing a match without any money. She decides to light another one, just to watch it, because why not. She’s already going to get the beating, she might as well really deserve it. Then, something happens.

A well-dressed, obviously well-to-do man comes up to her and asks her what she will do to stay warm. She tells him that she would do anything. Would she do anything that he asked her? Oh yes sir, she would do anything and everything that he asked her. Would she obey him? Yes sir, she would obey him. So he helps her up, escorts her to his carriage, and takes her home. He gives her her very own room and a servant, a full wardrobe, and a bathroom. Pretty good for a street urchin, right? All he asks is that she does everything that he wants her to do, when he wants her to do it. If he comes to her room, she’s to stop doing whatever she’s doing and see what he wants. In return, she’ll be warm, fed, and clothed. Yeah, this doesn’t sound sinister or anything, does it?

So, the sickness that Eve saw the signs of had a couple of different names. It went by phossy jaw or the blackening. Its real name is phosphorus necrosis of the jaw. The fumes from the phosphorus would break down the bones in the jaw of the people who worked in the match factories and it killed them. She had a good reason to be afraid of it.

This book had a lot of things that I loved. There were also a couple of places where I was like aw hell no. I would cut a bitch before I agreed to a couple of those things. But Eve liked them, even as they scared her, so it’s all good for her. I love Ignis’ name. I just think that is such a great name for a book about fire and fire play. And there is a lot of fire in this. Eve likes fire. Ignis likes fire. There’s a lot of fire. I like fires, but I guarantee that I don’t like fire the same way or near the same amount as these two. When I say they like fire, I mean that they LIKE fire. There is a kink called fire play and anyone who likes that kink would like this book, I think. It is very intense in a few places. It is pretty dark. I loved every single word of it.

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Eve’s first punishment with the wax? Yeah, that was pretty exciting. I really liked it. The deal with the straight razor? Yeah, I didn’t like that one near as much. That was kind of scary. Or maybe a lot of scary.

I love the wedding, or rather the wedding after the wedding. That was pretty hot and sexy.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this one. Go check it out and give Aria Adams some love. Happy reading!

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Adara Wolf-Under His Heel

I find book recommendations all over the place. Various authors, other readers, blogs, so on and so forth. I also get some from the groups I belong to on Goodreads. Two of the groups have book of the month reads. This is one of the books from one of those groups.

Under His Heel is dark. It’s noncon. It’s intense. It’s an M/m book, which not everyone likes, but I do. I will warn you that when I say dark and intense, I know of what I speak. The light in here is only lighter in comparison, and there are things which may trigger some people. Neither of our main characters are necessarily all that nice or likable, and they are very much written to be that.

So, here’s the story. Alex, who isn’t stupid but isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box and who has been manipulated by his twin brother for years, has been set up to sell his services as a bondservant. In the world in which they live, if you are in debt, you can sell your services and you end up doing whatever. For most people, for bondservant read sex slave. You write a contract that both parties sign stipulating what can and can’t be done, and then the owner pays off the servant’s wages. For Alex, his contract included that he gave up all bodily autonomy and no body mods were allowed, for a time period of 5 years.

The reason that Alex has to do this because his twin brother, Nick, has run up a gambling debt in his name, and they weren’t able to escape. Now Alex is the one who has to come up with the money, so the two of them hatched this plan. More like Nick hatched the plan and conned Alex into doing it.

Captain Tracht is a very authoritarian, strict, blunt, gives no fucks kind of guy. He’s also a pure sadist. He loves causing pain, both physical and mental. It gets him off big time, and for him, it’s even better if the person doesn’t get off on being hurt. I’m pretty sure he’s a total sociopath too. He’s also scrupulously polite and doesn’t like foul language. He runs a very tight ship, literally and figuratively. He is at the agency to get a new bondservant because the one he just returned was unsatisfactory. That guy was a masochist and he liked Tracht’s games just a little bit too much.

After a full body inspection that Tracht performs on Alex, he decides that Alex will be perfect. Alex isn’t all that excited, but he figures a 5 year contract with this guy is better than having a contract with the gangsters that own his debt. He saw one of their bondservants once, and she’s the reason that he has no body mods written into his contract.

Tracht isn’t nice. I’m relatively sure that we aren’t supposed to like him. I kinda do. The thing is that he is exactly who and what he says he is. He never says one thing and does another. He is consistent within himself. He’s a WYSIWYG system, even if he does like to play mind games with Alex. But that’s part of who he is, and he never told Alex that he would have loads of fun or that Alex wouldn’t be hurt.

Alex. Poor, poor Alex. He’s lost all over the place. He thinks that he can survive Tracht, but it’s pretty immediately obvious that he can’t. He has spent most of his life in way over his head and Tracht throws him right into the very deep end of the pool. Alex has such a hard time. Tracht is not an easy man.

Then there’s Parsons. He’s a member of the crew and he tries to be friends with Alex. I don’t like him. He’s a douche.

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I’m so glad that Alex saw through Nick, eventually. I hated Nick even before we ever saw him. He’s absolutely terrible. I mean, who does that shit to their twin brother? Alex is all about trying to protect his brother, but Nick is all about getting whatever he can out of everyone, including Alex.

Ugh. Parsons. Gods save me from people like him. He’s just such a shit. He’s judgmental, condescending, and turns into a user. The thing is, Alex could’ve really used a friend outside of Tracht, and Tracht was mostly OK with it. Luckily there was doctor’s bondservant he could talk to, but only when they were in coms range. She at least got it.

OK, that’s all I have to say on this one. I loved it. It left me gasping at the end. There’s a followup novella called Kidnapping. She’s also written another book called In Life, In Death. It’s totally different to Under His Heel. It was so lovely. They are all available in KU, so check them out.

B. B. Blaque-Who’s Sawree Now?

Oh man. Buckle up buttercup, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Are you all strapped in now?

A few months ago, B. B. Blaque, who writes in the pitch black, wrote a book that is very likely one of the biggest mindfucks I’ve ever read. I’m Sawree played with my mind in all kinds of ways, and I was just like fuuuuck. Then BB said that she was going to write another one. And I wondered how she was going to top herself. Then I read Who’s Sawree Now? 

Now, I read a lot of books. I mean, a lot a lot. I like reading dark, twisty, mindfuckery, and completely fucked up books. There are very few books that when I’m done with them, I am honestly completely at a loss for words. I looked at my husband and said fuck, just fuck. I can count those books on the fingers of one hand and still have left over fingers. It took me a couple of days to write my review on GR for it because I had to process it.

I’m not going to give you any kind of summary on it. Giving you a summary of the book won’t help you. You need to read it to even start to understand it. And if you haven’t read Sawree, you’re being thrown into the Marianas Trench without knowing how to swim. And you really don’t understand this story as much as it grabs you, strangles you, pulls your hair, and drags you along behind it. You just hope to hold on, catch your breath, and to be able to hold on to your sanity at the end.

Calling this book a mindfuck is doing it an injustice. The problem is, I don’t think there is another term for it. I mean, if Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, and Richard Matheson got together and had a bastard child, it would be this book. Sterling is beyond a psychopath. Put Ed Gein, John Wayne Gacy, and Mengele together and you might have Sterling. He is probably the closest thing to pure evil I’ve ever read in a non-paranormal story.

When I reviewed Sawree, I suggested booze and fluffy kitties. I’m here to tell you, there ain’t enough fluffy baby kitties in the world. It may take baby goats. Even then, I’m not sure. I do know that you are going to need the booze.

I just have one more tip. Don’t drink the coffee.

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Natalie Bennett-King of Hearts

This is the second book in Natalie’s Old Money Roulette series. It’s dark, mysterious, and left me with so many more questions that I had going in. I mean, wow.

So, let’s talk about King of Hearts, shall we? Before I get into it, there’s a good chance that there are going to be spoilers for Queen of Diamonds. I don’t mean to leave them, but it is likely to happen. It’s the nature of the beast when you get book series that are set up the way that the Old Money Roulette books are. So, if you haven’t read QoD and it’s on your TBR, you may want to reconsider looking at this blog until you have read it. I will say that KoH is a big mindfuck. I mean, most things that Natalie writes end up fucking with your brain in some way or other. But this is a big one. It’s dark and there isn’t really a glimmer of light going on. So be aware of that.

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Addison Cain-The White Queen

There used to be an adult fairy tale anthology called The Dark Forest. Eight great authors got together to write some great stories. When I read that book, I read one of the darkest things I’ve ever read. Addison Cain’s take on Alice in Wonderland was horrifying and dark. Well, what people didn’t realize when they read that story is that Addison had to pull stuff out of the story so that it could go into the set.

Eventually, The Dark Forest was pulled from Amazon and the rights reverted back to Addison. When that happened, she was free to do whatever she wanted with her story. And thus, we got The White Queen.

Anyone who is a regular reader of Addison already knows that she can go dark. I mean, I knew it when I read DF for the first time, but I didn’t know how dark. Then I got to her story. I immediately made my horror loving husband read it and he looked at me like whoa. He loved it too.

So, let’s get into the story now that I’ve rambled enough. It’s not a long story, and it’s not substantially different from its predecessor. There are things that have been added in and changed around a bit. Those things definitely make the story darker and more horrifying.

Alice is a beautiful little girl who is mostly trotted out when her parents want to have a living prop and is only valued for her beauty. Otherwise, she lives in her nursery with her dollies that she’s not allowed to touch and the white rabbit. Only this white rabbit isn’t a cute little guy in a weskit who leads you to the Mad Hatter and March Hare for a topsy-turvy tea party. Instead, every night, when the clock stops, the rabbit looks at her and brings forth her nightmares. There are the evil twins who attack her, the bloody woman who just stares at her, the laughing man who sits and laughs at her hysterically, and the Hatter. All of the others torment her. She can’t sleep at night. She gets in trouble because her room has been trashed. Her parents swear that she’s hurting herself and hate her. But the Hatter, he protects her.

OMG. This story is a true mindfuck and pretty strictly horror. There really isn’t any romance in this book. There definitely isn’t any light. It’s now firmly in my top 3 darkest. The only reason that the story from DF isn’t still in my top 3 is because WQ replaced it. FYI: the other two are Life of Anna by Marissa Honeycutt and Catacombs by Addison Cain. If you don’t like dark or you like a lighter shade of dark, don’t read this. There are some things that will trigger the shit out of you. OK, there are no spoilers here because it is such a short read. Go read it yourself and see what you think of it. Just maybe make sure you have a nightlight and no stuffed bunnies in your room, huh?

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Celia Aaron-The Church

We have finally reached the last book in Celia’s Cloister series. It’s been a long, fucked up, twisted journey, and one that left me hanging at the end of the first two books. I mean, I would count down when the next one would come out as soon as I would finish the last one. I both blessed and cursed Celia’s name, usually multiple times in each book. But then we get to The Church, and damn. I was so satisfied when I got to the end of this book. It was perfect. Of course, being Celia Aaron, it wasn’t easy. Nor was it particularly nice. But, it had to be done.

And now, my precious ducklings, I have a warning for you. This review will contain spoilers for The Maiden and The Prophet. Because of the way the books have been written, with the beginning of the next book picking up immediately after the end of the previous books, spoilers are going to happen.  So, be aware of that. If you haven’t read the other books and you don’t want to be spoiled, this is the time for you to leave. If you continue on past this point and you get spoiled… Well, I warned you. Choices have consequences.

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Marissa Honeycutt-Master of My Heart

Of all the dark books I’ve read, Marissa Honeycutt’s Life of Anna is still one of the darkest and bleakest I’ve ever read, even including BB Blaque’s books and When the Dark Wins. Those are on my list of darkest books, but I think LoA is still going to be #1.  The books are a serial, so I recommend reading the complete set. It’s in KU, but I also recommend buying it, especially since some of the books in the series have been banned. LoA is the only book that I have had to literally put down in the middle of it and read something else altogether. I got it on KU and even sent it back. I spent a couple of days dreaming about the book so I had to go back to KU and finish reading it. I spent a lot of time horrified about what was happening to Anna, angry for her, angry at Devin, and I cried. A lot. I mean, a lot a lot. Spoiler for LoA: The spot where I had to put it down was right before Alex and Anna got married. I don’t know why that particular spot hit my limit, but I just reached that point. That particular thing was what I dreamt about.

Marissa has brought out another series that takes place in the same world. It takes place some years after LoA. Anna is not the focus of this one, but there are some carry over characters. This series is called Finding Sabrina. The first book is Master of My Body, and the second is Master of My Heart. That’s the one we’re talking about today. Now, as a warning, Marissa is writing Sabrina as a serial, just like she did with LoA. I know that there are least 2 more books to come, but I don’t know how long in between each one. If you totally despise cliffies, then you may want to wait until Marissa puts out a complete set. I, on the other hand, may curse cliffies, but they don’t deter me. Obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t read about 60% of what I do read.

So, here’s the story as it stands right now. There are going to be some spoilers for MoMB, there’s really no other way to it. If you haven’t read it yet and you want to, this is your very last chance. If you read past this point and you get spoiled, you only have yourself to blame.

OK, here goes. Sabrina has woken up and realized that none of her captors are there. They are all dead, and she killed them all. Her Immortalness took over and she kind of went feral and just went on a killing spree. Frankly, I don’t blame her. After being treated like she was for 5 years, I would’ve killed everyone too. She sees Chase’s West Point ring and it helps her come back to herself. That ring and thoughts of Chase are all that have kept her as sane as she is. That and being able to dance. Sabrina ransacks the house, takes a lot of money, and finds the diamond that will drain her Immortality and let her live as a normal human. She manages to make it to her ballet company and the head guy helps her escape to Boston, which is where she’s decided that she wants to go. She wants Chase.

Meanwhile, Chase is facing the fact that he has to get married by the end of the year. He’s the heir to one of the Brotherhood’s Elders, and that means that he has to get married and start producing his own young. Richard, the Elder, tells him that he knows that Chase wants Sabrina, but they have searched in every way possible for her and there has been no trace of her at all. Now he’s off on a mission with his team to take care of a problem for the Brotherhood. He’s incommunicado except to Richard, his mother, and his best friend, Jayson. Jayson just happens to dance at the dance company in Boston where Sabrina is going to go audition. He lives with his sister Liz, and they have a spare room in their apartment.  And guess where Sabrina goes to stay? Of course, she doesn’t know that Jayson and Chase are buds when she goes to stay with him.

You remember how I said that LoA was probably the darkest thing I’ve read? Sabrina might beat it. Sabrina has already gone through a lot. And I’m pretty sure that the darkest, most terrible stuff is yet to come. I’m going to be interested to watch and see. When the last book comes out, I’ll read all of them back to back so I can get the best idea as to which one is worse. I don’t think that we’ve seen the true villain a whole lot as of yet, so I’m going to be interested to see what’s going to happen with that.

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The fact that Sabrina is way more than even 3/4 Immortal is interesting. 15/16 maybe? 31/32? I can’t wait to see what will happen as she comes more into herself and her powers as a demi-Immortal. She’s going to make some people very, very, very strong, I think.

I think that Richard, Tom, Chase, and all his friends are going to be very good for Sabrina, especially as she sees that pretty much anything goes when it comes to sex. I liked seeing her meet the slaves at the Manor. They were very obviously happy and well cared for, which was completely opposite to what happened to her. I’d love to see her interact more with them in a casual setting. That may be a good way to bridge a gap for her, maybe.

OK, that’s all I have to say about this. If you like dark, gritty, and pitch black, then go read all Marissa’s books, especially LoA and the Finding Sabrina books.