A. Zavarelli-Thief

A. Zavarelli is the Queen of Boston Mafia. There are other Mafia queens too, but A. runs Boston. I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series, so when I got the chance to read the newest one? Yes, please.

One nice thing about A’s Mafia series is that you aren’t just dealing with the Irish (it is Boston), the Russians, the Armenians, or the Italians. You get all of the above in a pleasing melting pot of Mafia-y goodness. Is that a thing? Maybe it should be. OK, I said so, so now everyone has to go and share it.

So, Thief. This is Nikolai’s and Tanaka’s story.

Nika is a Vor, a member of the Vory, a Boston Russian mob. He’s relatively high up in their particular organization. He’s also a thief. A damn good one, not that he would brag, since it isn’t done. But, if you want something, Nika is the one to get it. He was just promoted over his father, whose ear he cut off. He has to deal with Alexi, who is his half-brother and who kind of hates him. Nika’s current goal in life is to find out what happened to his mother. His father, Sergei, told him that she was a whore and ran away with an Italian man. Nika is now in a position to find out, so he’s ready to do some investigation.

Tanaka has been raised to be a proper young woman. She’s also an Italian Mafia Princess. She knows that her only real value is as a trophy bride to her fiancee. She’s supposed to keep his house, look pretty, and turn a blind eye. However, she loves to dance. She’s trained for years and years and years until she’s become a principal ballerina with a prestigious ballet company. It’s all she’s ever wanted. She made a deal with her dad that she would be able to dance for a time before she had to go be the dutiful daughter, marry Dante, and give up ballet. But, tonight? Tonight is her big night. Her dad does his normal pre-show appearance and this time brings a scruffy looking nerf herder with him. He introduces this guy in jeans and motorcycle boots as Nikolai. Then it’s time for her to go dance. When she goes on pointe for the first time, she notices that there is something wrong with her toe shoes. When she goes to land her first jump, that something wrong turns into something very wrong, and she falls, injuring herself, and probably ending her career as a professional dancer.

There is A LOT going on in this story. It can be read as a standalone from the series if you want, but if you read Ghost first, you may enjoy it more because there is some overlap. It’s up to you. You should have no problems keeping track of the story and enjoying it either way you go. You get enough of the backstory during what’s happening. A. doesn’t lay a chapter or two of exposition and backstory on you, it comes out organically, which I tend to enjoy more. There are some aspects to this one that could be considered dubcon. I kind of fall on the side that there are some dubcon aspects, but it swiftly moves out of that category. Tanaka and Nika are explosive together, in good and bad ways. There are parts of the book when they seem to be more determined to piss the fuck out of each other instead of anything else. They do have a lot of stuff they have to work through, both with each other and on their own, and all of it makes the story both better and darker. Definitely worth going over and giving it a read.

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I seriously, seriously hate Tanaka’s dad. I mean, I knew he was a piece of shit before we get more information about him. From the first word he says to her, I knew that he’s going to be a dick. I would love to say that I was a better person and didn’t think he got what he deserved. I’m not and he did. In fact, they may not have gone far enough, surprisingly.

I’m glad that Tanaka did what she did. I didn’t see it coming though. I was thinking that there was going to be something else going on with that particular subplot. I didn’t particularly care for the other person involved in that subplot. He was a dick.

OK, that’s all for this one. More to come today. Happy reading!

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My Top Ten Part 1

Everyone should have a top ten list. I actually have several. This one is my Top Ten darkest and most fucked up things I’ve read. The list changes around some and the order changes around. Number one is currently number one, but the order of other four in my top five can change around, depending on which one I’ve read recently. This post is going to be the five top stories. Next Tuesday will be part two with stories 6-10.

The Life of Anna

Seriously, when I say that LoA by Marissa Honeycutt is dark and fucked up, I might be understating it. The trigger warnings may need to have trigger warnings. I’ve talked to other people who read dark books and they rank this as their darkest read ever and considering some of the books we talk about, that’s saying a whole lot.

LoA takes place in an alternate universe. It’s still Earth but there are magical Immortals. Anna is part Immortal. The world is basically run by the BDSM version of the Masons. Two very, very, very bad men take advantage of Anna from a very young age. That’s because they know what she is and what she will be able to do at some point. They want to be able to control her and use her powers. There is one pretty good man who does what he can to save her. There is a lot of sex. There is some BDSM. There is also a lot of brutality towards Anna. It is a very intense read. I cried through huge swaths of it, and I had to take a break to read something else in the middle. The complete story is on KU, or you can buy the serialized version. But trust me when I say that it is dark, intense, sometimes brutal, and can be triggering. Marissa Honeycutt published a companion novella called Abandoned Grace, about Devin, the main bad guy in LoA, and I just found out today that she has a new one coming out on August 24! It’s in the same world, but not about Anna. It’s called Master of My Body: Finding Sabrina. I’ve already 1 clicked.

Monster

Remember how in my last post I said that I would be talking about Monster in this one? Well, here it is. Monster is a short from Hero Undercover. HU is an anthology by 25 authors, including Jennifer Bene and Addison Caine, who has a story in another anthology that is about to show up on this list. Now, the premise of this anthology is that there is a good guy, usually a cop, but not always, is undercover and rescues the heroine. There is often a lot of spanking involved, yum.

Anyway, telling the good guys from the bad guys isn’t always easy, especially when the good guy has been undercover for a long time. That’s what happens with Monster. Nikki walks into a situation that is way above what she can handle because she wants to save her brother. Andre wants her. Terrible things happen to Nikki.

This story just trips all my triggers in an oh, so good way. Jennifer manages to pack a whole lot of twisted shit into a little package. Everything that happens would be intense in a longer work, but in a short, you just don’t get a break from it, which is totally wow. Great story in a great anthology.

Nightmares in Wonderland

Nightmares in Wonderland is Addison Cain’s entry in The Dark Forest. DF is another anthology. In this one, several great authors get together to put their own spin on various fairy tales. Obviously, Addison took on Alice in Wonderland. OMFG, did she ever. Addison swims in the deep, dark, disturbing end of the pool right next to Jennifer Bene. In fact, it was through Addison that I found Jennifer, as well as some other dark authors like Kitty Thomas, who doesn’t show up on this list, but will show up on my blog sometime in the next few weeks.

Addison’s version of this particular story is disturbing. Deeply disturbing. Her Alice spends years unable to sleep and being basically tortured by nightly visitors. The only time she gets any peace is then the Hatter comes to visit. He guards her sleep. After years and years, her parents try to have her cured. This whole story is delightfully disturbing and dark.

Beast

This retelling of Beauty and the Beast is written by A Zavarelli. If there was going to be a movie version of this book, I’m pretty sure that Emma Watson would turn down the role of Bella. Beast is really dark. It has capture and non-con themes.

Bella won a singing contest, and her manager is trying to get into her pants. Javier was trained by her father, who is now missing. Bella rushes home to deal with what’s going on with her father, but mysterious things start happening. She gets drawings and other things start showing up. She feels like she is being watched. And of course, you can probably guess what’s happening, she is, of course, being watched, by Javi.

Poor Javier, bad things happened to him as a child and then Bella’s dad takes advantage of the poor kid that is Javier. Javi hates her father for what he did. Frankly, I don’t blame Javi one bit for that. Her dad is a massive prick.

Anyway, Javi takes Bella, locks her up, and subjects her to a lot of things. However, this book isn’t necessarily about what happens here, but it’s about the light that can come from the darkness. For a book that starts as a non-con, it ends up with an HEA. Now I need to go read it again. Can’t recommend it enough.

Dare

Dare was a book that I read because one of the FB groups I’m in had a takeover by the author, James Crow. Of all the books on my list, most of which have some mind-fuck going on, this is the most mind-fuckingest. I will never, ever play truth or dare again. I’m pretty sure that my response was along the lines of what the fuck did I just read?

I don’t even know where to start describing this book. Pretty much anything I saw about it is a spoiler. Let’s just say it’s truth or dare to the Nth degree. The end was so not what I expected at all. I spent quite some time afterwards trying to figure it out. If you read it, you’ll understand why.  There is a lot of sex, and some (well, a lot of) drug use.

Anyway, these are the top five of my Top Ten. The second half will come out next Tuesday, or maybe earlier, I don’t know yet. Also coming next week, a blog post about urban fantasy, another very favorite genre.

Reminder, Jennifer Bene is offering her book, Security Binds Her, for free on Amazon right now, until 7/15. This is a great time to grab this book and get started reading her Thalia series. The last book just came out and it is a wonderful end to the series.