Desiree’s Revenge: A Romance by K.C. Carson


Date of publication: February 19th, 2023

Genre: Romance

Trigger Warning: Rape of a child (graphic), racism, attempted rape, murder, attempted murder, gun violence, domestic violence, stalking, depression

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A riveting tale of revenge, survival and redemption, wrapped around an unlikely love story and set against an urban backdrop corrupted by bigotry and misogyny.

Following a racially motivated rape by three Ku Klux Klansmen, 12-year-old Desiree Devine vows revenge. After eight years of training, now a strikingly beautiful assassin, she accomplishes her mission.

Her campaign continues with solitary walks through dark city streets, hoping to be assaulted by men with bad intentions. Those entrapped by her spider’s web pay dearly for their efforts.

Surrounded by three white men one night, she’s rescued by Tony Marino, an Italian-American passerby. A stormy, up-and-down relationship ensues. Ultimately, as her rage matures into purposeful action, and as he begins to see the world through her eyes, they become a team.

Along the way, they encounter serial killers, wife-beaters, actual and would-be rapists, gangsters, crooked cops, a kidnapper and a pedophile priest, as well as numerous women in desperate need of their help. Beneath all the action, though, is the blossoming of a most unusual love story.

First Line:

What the hell just happened? wondered Tony Marino. Tony had been walking home from a poker game in Brooklyn’s Little Italy, the Bensonhurst section.

Desiree’s Revenge by K.C. Carson

After being gang-raped by Klan members who were upset that her father tried to register to vote when she was 12 years old, Desiree wanted revenge. When her father, concerned that she is acting out at school and home, sends her to learn martial arts at the local community center, Desiree becomes immersed in her training. Eight years later, Desiree accomplishes her goal. But it wasn’t enough. Soon, Desiree is walking the streets of New York City, looking for men with bad intentions. On one of those hunts, she meets Tony Marino, a handsome Italian PI. Shortly afterward, she saves a young woman from being raped on the subway and realizes she was found her true calling. With Tony and her friend at her side, Desiree tries to rid the world of serial killers, wife-beaters, rapists, gangsters, crooked cops, a kidnapper, and pedophile priest. While this happens, Desiree and Tony start a romance. Will Desiree get caught while dealing with her brand of justice? Will Tony reconcile the two sides of Desiree that he sees?

The synopsis and what I wrote above barely touch what this book was about. When I started reading it, I thought it would be an interracial romance with some action and maybe some touchy subject. What I got was that, but it was also more. As a woman, I was alternately terrified and cheering while Desiree exacted what the world’s criminals need: justice. As a person, I cringed when people threw racial slurs around. And as a mother, I was horrified and then angry by what Desiree was put through at only 12 years old.

There are triggers in Desiree’s Revenge. Most are graphic, so keep that in mind while reading this list:

  1. Rape of a Child: Desiree is gang-raped in her house by three members of the Klan.
  2. Attempted Rape: Desiree walks into a subway station where a man is raping a girl. A kidnapper almost rapes Desiree.
  3. Racism: Racism is a huge factor in this book. Desiree was gang-raped because her father attempted to go register to vote in 1960s Mississippi. Her rape was racially motivated. Tony’s ex-wife calls Desiree a racial slur in Italian. Racial slurs are painted on the stairs of Tony’s house in Little Italy because the neighbors don’t like Tony’s involvement with Desiree. Desiree is kidnapped by a serial killer who only kills black prostitutes.
  4. Murder: Desiree kills six people throughout this book, and it is done graphically.
  5. Attempted Murder: Crooked cops tried to kill Tony while he was on the force. A rival gang attempts to kill Tony several times.
  6. Gun Violence: Tony and Desiree are shot at several times during the book. Tony is shot while on the force. Desiree uses a gun to kill most of her victims.
  7. Domestic Violence: Tony’s ex-wife is severely beaten by her new husband.
  8. Stalking: Desiree stalks a serial killer at the beginning of the book. When she and Tony take a break, she thinks he’s seeing another woman and stalks him.
  9. Depression: Desiree falls into a depression towards the end of the book (when she and Tony break up).

As stated above, these are all graphic (the author didn’t hold anything back). If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

Desiree’s Revenge mainly occurs in early 1970’s New York City, particularly Brooklyn’s Little Italy. There are brief forays to Hickory, Mississippi, and Alcona County, Michigan, at the beginning of the book. Then it stays put.

Desiree’s Revenge is also a fast-paced book with no lag. The book’s pacing kept me glued to it because I needed to know what happened.

The main storyline centers around Desiree and then shifts to center around Desiree, Tony, and her vigilante justice. This well-written storyline kept my focus on Desiree and her evolving sense of justice. I liked that it went from revenge (which was justified) to rage to a sense of protection (Desiree taking on the serial killer, wife beaters, and pedophiles). As I said above, it is a graphic storyline with much violence.

There were a lot of smaller sub-storylines that fed into the main storyline perfectly. I will not get into them all, but my favorites were the serial killer (the first one with the yellow tulips) and Desiree building her self-defense classes.

I was slightly afraid of Desiree, but I liked her and was cheering her on. Her rape altered her on a fundamental level (I mean, a gang rape does that to a kid). She was so focused on getting her revenge that she didn’t take the time to do anything. But what impressed me was her growth during the book. She went from wanting revenge and hurting men all the time to wanting to protect people from what happened to her. I also liked that she had a vulnerable side to her. Tony meant more to her than she realized at first. He was the one that calmed her down.

Speaking of Tony, he was a good guy. He dealt with Desiree with a calm that I know I wouldn’t have had. If I were him, I would have jetted. But he saw a better Desiree and decided he would protect her. And he did, for most of the book.

There was romance in Desiree’s Revenge. It wasn’t your typical romance because Desiree doesn’t do things typically. Instead, Desiree and Tony do this dance for half the book, where they would ignore their feelings for each other. It drove me a little crazy, but at the same time, I liked it. When they finally did get together, I was like, “Finally!!!

Now, there is sex in Desiree’s Revenge. I was wondering if/when Desiree was going to have consensual sex. I was a little thrown off by how she liked to do it. She fought with her partners. It was almost like wrestling. Everyone has their kink, and Desiree is wrestling with her partners. The sex scenes weren’t graphic, but the first time the sex wrestling happened, I didn’t know what to think. By the second time, it was expected, and I didn’t raise an eyebrow.

The end of Desiree’s Revenge was interesting. I liked that Tony came to terms with Desiree’s needs. I liked that he was supportive of her need to hurt people (other than him). The author had the book end on a happy note, which it needed. So much happened during this book that it needed a happy ending.

I recommend Desiree’s Revenge to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, graphic language, and moderate to mild sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to K.C. Carson for allowing me to read and review Desiree’s Revenge. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

You Are Always Innocent by Maria Karvouni Truth


Date of publication: May 1st, 2023

Genre: nonfiction, creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, speculative nonfiction, self-help, true crime, speculative true crime, philosophical nonfiction, psychological nonfiction

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

When the guilty do anything to be innocent, the innocents believe they are guilty.
The guilty take advantage of that in their unbelievable and unconceivable tactics and strategies to frame the innocents.
Guilt has become a method against the innocents. Innocence has become a pattern in favor of the guilty.
The guilty get away with it for their crimes and are presented as the good example while the innocents pay the price and are presented as the bad example.
Justice has lost its true meaning, its worth, its liability and its reliability. Or it never had any of these?
It has become the norm. The guilty are let free and the innocents are in danger.
They used to say “Better to free the guilty than condemn the innocents”.
The guilty threaten, so the only way to provide secure justice nowadays is to consider all humans as innocents.
All innocent! Until justice is fixed!

First Line:

I’m not interested in resurfacing the past. It is not ethical to intervene to another’s life.

You Are Always Innocent by Maria Karvouni Truth

You Are Always Innocent is the last of the trio of books that Maria Karvouni Truth had asked me to review. As with her other books, I went into reading this book with an open mind. I suggest that any readers do the same.

You Are Always Innocent was a fast read for me. It took me under 3 hours to read it. While I agreed with much of what the author posted, I felt “meh” when I finished. This book didn’t make me want to talk with my husband about different POVs and if the justice system is failing. It made me shake my head and go on with my day.

I want to warn people that the author discusses some very controversial subjects in the book. Some people might agree with her points, but others, including myself, don’t.

I recommend You Are Always Innocent to anyone over 21. It is a clean book without language, violence, or sexual situations.

Many thanks to Maria Karvouni Truth for allowing me to read and review You Are Always Innocent. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

More books by Maria Karvouni Truth:

Reality is Just a P0ss1ble Fantasy by Maria Karvouni Truth


Date of publication: March 1st, 2023

Genre: nonfiction, creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, speculative nonfiction, self-help, true crime, speculative true crime, philosophical nonfiction, psychological nonfiction

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Reality is evil. While everyone considers it good. That is why reality is actually a fantasy.
“Possible” because one can never know. And that exactly is what creates the wrong reality.
The facts are irrefutable even when false. The truth is secretly abused and only the lies see the light.
Everyone should be able to escape forced fantasies and realize all of it for the sake of true fairness and true justice.
Destroy reality fairly by knowing all its dark secrets before it destroys you unfairly.

First Line:

Have you ever wondered that your life’s reality is based on lies?

Reality is Just A Possible Fantasy by Maria Karvouni Truth

Reading out of my comfort zone was one of my challenges this year. That meant I would be reading books I never would have considered reading. So, when the author approached me to review her books, I said yes.

Reality Is Just A P0ss1ble Fantasy was a quick read. That surprised me since the book is 169 pages. The author is very clear with her message of questioning everything and breaking down walls or cycles.

I did feel that the book seemed a little dragged out toward the end of the book. I also felt that the author kept repeating herself. But overall, the book was an interesting read with an interesting message.

I would recommend Reality Is Just A P0ss1ble Fantasy to anyone over 21. It is a clean book without language, violence, or sexual situations.

Many thanks to Maria Karvouni Truth for allowing me to read and review Reality Is Just A P0ss1ble Fantasy. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by Maria Karvouni Truth:

The Impossible Proof of Knowing Nothing by Maria Karvouni Truth


Date of Publication: March 1st, 2023

Genre: nonfiction, creative nonfiction, literary nonfiction, speculative nonfiction, self-help, true crime, speculative true crime, philosophical nonfiction, psychological nonfiction

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

People so confidently say “I know!” “I have proof!”
And while these powerful sentences for some reason look very persuasive, they mean nothing.
They are just words. They are just a strong mindset.
Either a deceived one tells them or one who deceives.
Before these declarations, there should be questions: “Do I know?” “Is this proof?”
The only confident thing to say is “I cannot actually know.” “This ‘proof’ might be fake.”
Believe nothing, doubt everything especially when others believe everything and doubt nothing.
Knowing nothing is the next best solution to the lies, to the deceit, to the misinformation.

First Line:

No one actually knows anything. Deceit tricks and thought manipulation reign, so people are motivated by a paranoid instinct.

The Impossible Proof of Knowing Nothing by Maria Karvouni Truth

One of my challenges this year was reading books I usually do not read. Nonfiction books ranked very high on that list (they were third, behind autobiography and biography). So when the author emailed me back in March and requested the review, I accepted. This book was unlike anything I have read before, and I am glad I read it.

This review will be short because it differs from other books I have read. There are no main characters (the author talks in 1st person for the entire book). So keep this in mind when you read what I write below.

The Impossible Truth Of Knowing Nothing was a fast and quick read (the book is only 78 pages ). The author made several good points throughout the book, making me think. But this book isn’t for everyone; if you read it, keep an open mind. The author does make some controversial points in the book.

I recommend The Impossible Proof Of Knowing Nothing for anyone over 21. There are no sexual situations, language, and violence.

Many thanks to Maria Karvouni Truth for allowing me to read and review The Impossible Truth Of Knowing Nothing. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by Maria Karvouni Truth:

Dearly Beloved Departed by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Publisher: Good Read Mysteries

Date of publication: March 3rd, 2023

Genre: Mystery

Series: PIP Inc

The Glass House—Book 1

The Funeral Murder—Book 2

The Corpse’s Secret Life—Book 3

Dearly Beloved Departed—Book 4

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Pat is hired by attorney Jason Forman to “get some dirt” on his daughter’s fiancé. Before she gets very far in her investigation, the young man is murdered. Did his past catch up with him or is what Pat fears, that there’s a serial shooter going after Christmas Eve grooms, the reason he was killed? Pat and her fiancé, Detective Sergeant Tim Lindsey, are planning a Christmas Eve wedding which means, if she’s right, he’s on the shooter’s hit list.

First Line

Except for her black pencil skirt and the leopard briefcase she shouldered, Pat was dressed entirely in green clothing that matched the center emerald in her new engagement ring.

Dearly Beloved Departed by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

When Pat is hired by her former work colleague to get some dirt on his daughter’s new fiance, she doesn’t expect him to rush out of his office after she presents him with what he wants or what happens. She was shocked to find out that he and the fiance had been involved in a shooting, which left the fiance dead and the attorney injured. Busy preparing for her Christmas Eve wedding, Pat starts worrying when grooms on a popular wedding planner app start getting shot at. The tie-in; they were all getting married on Christmas Eve. Pat can’t help but wonder if everything is related to the first shooting where her client was injured, and his daughter’s fiance was killed. Who is shooting the Christmas Eve grooms? What is their motive? Will Pat and her fiance make it through their wedding unharmed?

Dearly Beloved Departed is the fourth book in the PIP Inc series. Readers can read this book as a standalone, but I suggest reading books 1-3 before picking this one up. I wish I had done that because I was lost on how some relationships were started and how Pat met her fiance.

The main storyline of Dearly Beloved Departed was very twisty. The book focused on Pat and her investigation into Emigido (Devon) Sanders, Jason Foreman, Julie Foreman, and the other shootings. The author did an excellent job keeping me on edge about everything. I had zero clue who killed Emigido and who was doing the other shootings until almost the end of the book. I was with most of the characters in suspecting someone they had already had in custody. But, as I said above, it was twisty, and I did lose track of the plotline a few times. I was able to get back on track after rereading the last chapter I was on, but still. It stunk, and I wasn’t a fan of it.

I liked the characters in Dearly Beloved Departed. Pat was the one who stood out to me the most. She did an excellent investigation into Emigido while he was alive and used that skill to dig around his case. I liked that she immediately shared what she found with the police. That was a huge point I disagreed with in a couple of other mysteries; the main character didn’t turn over evidence immediately.

The mystery angle of Dearly Beloved Departed was well written (and twisty, see above). The author kept me guessing who killed Emigido and who was shooting the grooms. I thought they were two separate people until she brought them together in the last half of the book. She threw out red herrings left and right, making me suspect people I may not have.

The end of Dearly Beloved Departed was enjoyable. I liked that the author brought together the two storylines, merged them, and then solved the mystery. I was shocked at who it ended up being. In hindsight, looking back, I should have known, and I did kick myself after I was done reading.

I recommend Dearly Beloved Departed to anyone over 16. It is a clean book with no sex or sexual situations. There is mild violence and mild language.

Many thanks to Nancy Lyn Jarvis for allowing me to read and review Dearly Beloved Departed. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Dearly Beloved Departed, you will enjoy these books:

Other books by Nancy Lyn Jarvis:

April 2023 Wrap Up

Here is what I read/posted in April.

As always, let me know if you have read any of these books and (if you did) what you thought of them.

Books I Read:

ARC from author
KU Purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Non-ARC from Novel Cause
Non-ARC from Novel Cause
ARC from Sourcebooks Casablanca
ARC from author, Level Best Books, IBPA, Member’s Titles
Free Kindle Purchase—No review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Non-ARC from author
KU Purchase—No Review
Free Amazon Prime Reads—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
ARC from St. Martin’s Press, Wednesday Books
ARC from St. Martin’s Press
Non-ARC from Author
Non-ARC from Author
KU Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
ARC from St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ARC from Sourcebooks Fire
Non ARC from author
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Kindle Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
ARC from author
ARC from Crooked Lane Books
ARC from Sourcebooks Casablanca
ARC from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
ARC from Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Dial Press Trade Paperback

Books I got from NetGalley:

Read Now from St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Wish granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam
Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam
Read Now from Tor Publishing Group, Tor Books
Wish Granted from Sourcebooks Casablanca
Wished Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Delacorte Press
Invite from Random House Publishing Group – Random House, Random House Trade Paperbacks
SMP Influencer Program pick from St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books
Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Random House, The Dial Group
Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Ballantine Books
Request from Meryl Media Group, Rosewind Books

Books I got from Authors/Indie Publishers:

Non-Arc from author
ARC from Novel Cause
ARC from author
Non ARC from author
Non-ARC from author
Non-ARC from author
ARC from Author

Giveaway Winners

Goodreads Giveaway—Kindle download
Goodreads Giveaway—Paperback
Goodreads Giveaway—Paperback
Goodreads Giveaway—Paperback

Books Reviewed:

The Witch and the Vampire—review here

Prince of Typgar: Nurjan and the Monks of Meirar—review here

Read to Death at the Lakeside Library—review here

Dirty Laundry by Disha Bose—review here

Body Count by SM Thomas—review here

Prince of Typgar: Nujran and the Corpse in the Quadrangle by Krishna Sudhir—review here

Wings Once Cursed and Bound by Piper J. Drake—review here

No Time to Breathe by Lori Duffy Foster—review here

Another Chance at Happiness by Dani Phoenix—review here

Tales from the Box, Volume 1 by Weston Kincaide—review here

Pieces of Me by Kate McLaughlin—review here

Where Coyotes Howl by Sandra Dallas—review here

Bait by D.I. Jolly—review here

Missing by Amy Kulp—review here

How to Best a Marquess—review here

This Delicious Death—review here

Reading Challenges:

2023 Monthly Themes (Continue a series or reread an author already read this year): Claim My Baby—Finished 3-31-23

Romanceopoly 2023! (Read a book where the main character works at or owns a bar)-About LoveFinished 4-1-23

Buzzword Reading Challenge 2023 (words in the title related to emotions, from happy to sad, smile to frown, pride to rage)—P.S. I Hate You—Finished 4-3-23

2023 Sami Parker Reads Title Challenge (a book with one of these words in the title: Sunny, Bright, Cloud or Rain): Brightest Shadow—Finished 4-6-2023

Cover Scavenger Hunt 2023 (a flower): A Spirited Manor—Finished 4-7-2023

The StoryGraph’s OnBoarding Reading Challenge 2023 (read one of the first 10 books you added to your to-read pile): The Night Swim—Finished 4-8-2023

The StoryGraph Reads the World 2023 (Italy): Find Me—Finished 4-10-2023

The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge (a biography about someone you don’t know much about): Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot—Finished 4-11-2023

Beat the Backlist 2023 (take place primarily in winter or a cold region): Tainted—Finished 4-19-2023

Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (go to the acknowledgments of the last book you read for this prompt. What name did you first see? Find a book written by an author with that name): Frost Burn—Finished 4-20-2023

Scavenger Hunt (Book I found that day): Delicate Ink—Finished 4-20-2023

Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023 (a book by a first time author): The Fifth Floor—Finished 4-21-23

2023 TBR Toppler (continue a series): Ten Thousand Lies—Finished 4-22-23

2023 Reading Challenge (book that has been on my TBR for the longest time): Purple Death—Finished 4-23-23

2023 ABC Challenge (D): Descendants—Carrying over to May

2023 TBR Prompts (A BookTok Favorite): The Song of Achilles—Carrying over to May

Missing by Amy Kulp


Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller

Trigger Warning: Kidnapping, Grooming, Racism, Abuse, Fat Shaming, Low Self Esteem, Human Trafficking, Torture, Blood, Drugging

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of hit YA thrillers like Amanda Panitch’s Never Missing, Never Found and Natasha Preston’s The Cellar, Amy Kulp’s Missing is a visceral, dark, and suspenseful thriller that dives into the life of a teenage girl who is betrayed and forced into the horrifying underground world of human trafficking.

Everything in Emily’s life becomes far from typical when she is betrayed, kidnapped, and thrown into every girl’s worst nightmare. Now, she is a captive to the gruesome and savage whims of an underground human trafficking ring – one that prides itself in breaking women down to husks of their former selves through any means necessary.

Emily tries her hardest to put up a good fight, but her captors are sickeningly creative in their methods of subduing her. Before she knows it, they try to brainwash her into believing her name is “Y,” and they are more than happy to leverage physical and psychological torture to strip her of her identity and fracture her mind beyond repair.

Is there any hope for escape, or will Emily become a pawn in her kidnappers’ plot to terrorize more innocent victims?

Missingis not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a raw and gritty YA thriller that looks into the world of human trafficking and abuse, then click “Add to Cart” today!

First Line:

I stopped breathing when I saw the new kid walk into my class. I noticed everyone else stopped what they were doing and stared too.

Missing by Amy Kulp

Emily is your typical girl next door who is betrayed by people she thought she trusted. Kidnapped and then tortured by a human trafficking ring bent on breaking her, Emily vows never to forget who she is and where she came from. But can Emily hold onto her sense of self? Or will she be broken down and then built back up into a monster who works for the ring?

When I first read the blurb for Missing, I knew what I was getting into, reading-wise. But, for some reason, I thought it would be a more dumbed-down version of a human trafficking story. Heads up, it is not. This book is a brutal look into how a human trafficking ring operates and what the victims go through while they are being broken. It is raw, and it is ugly.

What scared me the most about this book was that the author had teenagers befriend (and, in one case, date) Emily to kidnap her. It is scary, but I can see this happening. Several adults in this book who Emily was familiar with held positions where kids would trust them. Again, it was something that I could see happening. But at the same time, the author gave this book a sort of a fever dreamish type of reality. The teenagers that helped with Emily’s kidnapping she grew up with. So either they were kidnapped and trafficked with the sole purpose of luring girls, or Emily imagined it. I couldn’t make up my mind while reading.

There are trigger warnings in Missing. Oh boy, there are trigger warnings. They are

  1. Kidnapping: Emily is kidnapped, in broad daylight, by a human trafficking ring. Several other children and adults are in the van(s) with her.
  2. Grooming: Emily is groomed by Miguel during the first few chapters, with Chad doing additional grooming when Miguel isn’t there.
  3. Racism: Off page, but Emily’s father was racist. She commented that he wouldn’t like Miguel because he was Hispanic.
  4. Abuse: Emily is horrifically abused while being broken down. She is abused physically, mentally, psychologically, and verbally. Thankfully, she wasn’t sexually because her virginity was viewed as an asset.
  5. Fat Shaming: Chad comments about Emily’s weight as part of her grooming.
  6. Low Self-Esteem: Emily suffers from very low self-esteem at the beginning of the book.
  7. Human Trafficking: For 80% of the book, Emily is imprisoned by a human trafficking ring. There are other children and adults in the processing center (for lack of a better term) with her.
  8. Torture: As part of the ring trying to break Emily, they torture her, and the more she resists, the more they torture her.
  9. Blood: A lot of blood is shown on page after Emily is kidnapped. Once she proves difficult, the kidnappers feel they have no choice but to beat her until she bleeds.
  10. Drugging: Emily is drugged constantly throughout the book. I believe that she is continuously roofied.

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

The characters in Missing were not made to be liked. Except for Emily, they were shown as vile human beings they were. I got sick when I realized what was happening (it was when Miguel and Emily were hiding in her house). As for Emily, I was rooting for her not to forget herself (and become “Y”) and for her to escape. I wanted to see that slightly awkward, sweet girl shown at the book’s beginning again.

The main storyline centered on Emily, her kidnapping by the ring, and the crew trying to break her. The storyline was well written and kept me, unwillingly at times, in its grip. I was rooting for Emily to escape, beat the odds, and return to her family.

While this book is technically a YA thriller, I would be hesitant to let anyone under 16 read it. Heck, my hesitation extends to 18. While this book needs to be read, there should be discussions about human trafficking and what those people go through after each chapter. I had a similar conversation with my mother when I read Don’t Ask Alice as a teenager.

The end of Missing broke my heart. It was not a happy ending for any of the characters. And that’s all I am going to say about it. Reading the book to understand what I mean would be best.

I would recommend Missing to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.

Many thanks to Amy Kulp and Novel Cause for allowing me to read and review Missing. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

Other books by Amy Kulp:

Bait by D.I. Jolly

Publisher: Galatea

Date of publication: July 19th, 2022

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, New Adult, Romance, Urban Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Physical Child Abuse, Emotional Child Abuse, Verbal Child Abuse, Child Abandonment, Cheating, Sexual Assualt, Murder, Gore

Purchase Links: Amazon

Goodreads Synopsis:

Amber thought her life was perfect.

She was in love with her boyfriend Frankie, had a nice summer job at Taylor’s Book and was enrolled at Marshall University to become a teacher.

Everything was on track for the perfect life.

And then Bastian walked in. Not only was he the most handsome man Amber had ever seen, but she felt a pull that she’d never felt before.

From the very first moment she saw him he filled her every thought and made her body want things it had never had before.

First Line:

You know, working at Taylor’s Books wasn’t a bad way to spend the summer. The drive was a bit far, but the people were nice, the hours weren’t bad, and it was more money than not working.

Bait by D.I. Jolly

Amber was living the perfect life, or so she thought. She had a wonderful boyfriend and a great job and was looking forward to attending college in the fall. Then Bastian walked into the cafe/bookstore she worked in, and everything disappeared. The connection to him was instantaneous. For Bastian, the connection with Amber was more profound and meaningful. Amber was Bastian’s soulmate. But Bastian has secrets that could threaten his and Amber’s happiness. What are Bastian’s secrets? And how will they threaten his and Amber’s happiness?

Bait is a fast-paced book that takes place mainly in Huntington, West Virginia (where Amber lives). There are visits to Bastian’s pack lands on the outskirts of Crown City, Ohio.

Surprisingly, there are quite a few trigger/content warnings in Bait. I say surprisingly because I wasn’t expecting these triggers to be a central part of the storyline. They are:

  1. Child Abuse (Physical, Emotional, Verbal): Bastian is horrifically abused by his father, the Alpha of his pack. The author only goes into a small portion of what he had to endure, but what was outlined brought tears to my eyes. No child should have to go through that.
  2. Child Abandonment: Bastian’s mother left him with his monster of a father when Bastian was a baby.
  3. Cheating: Amber cheated on her boyfriend, Frankie, with Bastian.
  4. Sexual Assault: One of the characters is sexually assaulted at a college party by another partygoer. After going to the police, several other women make similar allegations.
  5. Murder: Bastian and his father murder his uncle at the beginning of the book. Bastian kills his father in self-defense. Another character kills the person who sexually assaulted another character (see above)
  6. Gore: There are several vivid descriptions of murder and assault.

If these trigger you, then I suggest not reading this book.

The main storyline of Bait is Amber and Bastian’s love story; they overcome the odds to be together, and Bastian overcomes his abusive past to become the Alpha of his pack. The storyline is told in first-person POV and split between Amber and Bastian, with an occasional third-person appearance. I liked that the author did this. I got to see how affected Amber was by Bastian. On the other hand, I enjoyed seeing Bastian throwing off the chains his father had metaphorically wound around him.

There is an Instalove element of Bait. While I am not a fan of Instalove, I did like how the author spun this. It was the fated mate angle. Instead of having the female run scared of the male, I liked that the author had Amber accept everything (after an adjustment period).

I liked that the main characters, at least Amber and her best friend, acted like your typical late teenager at the beginning of the book. I am not that old where I can remember my head being turned by every good-looking guy that came into my work (granted, I worked at a gas station/convenience store but still). I also remember my best friend at the time being just like Amber’s best friend and urging me to let loose and have fun. So, I related to that part. Now, saying that, after Amber and Bastian got together and the whole werewolf secret came out, I didn’t quite connect anymore. But it still made it fun to read.

Several secondary storylines and characters add much-needed depth to this story. These secondary storylines explained so much about Bastian’s past (because his father wasn’t/couldn’t tell him). I will admit I wanted to smack the crap out of Bastian’s mother, but I understood that she made a very tough choice and didn’t make it lightly.

The paranormal angle was terrific. I loved the vampire angle. Several twists to that angle made me shake my head. As for the werewolf angle, I liked that the author took a common theme from werewolf romances and ran with it. He created the Elders and added a neat twist to their storyline. Of course, what it meant wasn’t lost on me, and I wonder how Bastian would deal with it in later books.

The end of the book was interesting. I liked how the author wrapped up the storylines and teased another story (and I hope it will be about who was mentioned at the end).

I recommend Bait for anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger/content warnings above.

Many thanks to D.I. Jolly for allowing me to read and review Bait. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Bait, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by D.I. Jolly

Tales from the Box, Volume 1 by Weston Kincaide

Publisher: Shattered Light Press

Date of publication: March 31st, 2023

Genre: Anthology, Fantasy, Paranormal

Trigger Warnings: Murder, Torment, Pedophile (suggestion), Gore, Blood, Suicide, Mass Suicide

Purchase Links: Kindle

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tales from the Box, Volume I, is the first solo collection of fantasy and supernatural horror from Amazon best-selling author Weston Kincade.

The stories inside delve into secret niches that skirt reality. Tales from the Box includes witty stories from Hell, music auditions with a flair for magic, one small town’s Halloween Minute Man, an etiquette consultant confronted by an audience of identical teens, and even a man who finds himself permanently drunk, sans alcohol. From surprising mystical finds at your local garage sale to odd games played in a zombie-filled world, this twenty-story collection is written to delight.

If you enjoy Twilight Zone, Stephen King, or M. Night Shyamalan, Tales from the Box has what you need, stories of fantasy and horror hidden in shadow until now.

First Line:

“Has anyone called maintenance? It seems like an eternity since the AC worked in here.” A middle-aged man peers over the walls of his cubicle, asking anyone within earshot.

Tales from the Box (No Complaints) by Weston Kincaide

I was hesitant to review this book because it is an anthology. I have a love/hate relationship with reviewing these types of books. But since I have read and reviewed for the author before, I decided to review Tales from the Box. I am glad I did because this book was great and had some gems in it!!

Since this is an anthology, I will write a mini review on each story. This is the best way to cover each story instead of giving a blanket review of the entire book. So here goes nothing!!

No Complaints—This is the first story in the book, and it sets the tone for the book. I giggled at where the author set the office and how useless it was for John to complain about the heat.

Not My Lucky Charms—I will not lie; I laughed a little while reading this story. As you can guess, this is about a leprechaun. But this leprechaun is evil and does the vilest things to a strip club owner. And his name was what made me laugh. The ending was a little weird, but it fit the story.

Prison Torment— This one was the sadder of the twenty stories. Sam worked at a prison and was well respected. That ended when he told Simon (a colleague?) his secret, and work became unbearable—with the inmates taunting him. It wasn’t until Sam met Kaleb that I realized what Sam’s secret was, and it wasn’t until it happened that I realized what Sam was planning on doing. What shocked me was what Kaleb did when he came back. It didn’t take a lot to shock me, but that did.

Three-Car World—This was an interesting short story. I didn’t get what was happening until almost the story’s end. It made sense when it was explained (about the Great Pitching and what was happening to the train). It also made sense what people were willing to do to save themselves.

H.E.L.L.—This was one of my least favorite stories. But, if this were real life, it would have made sense. Hell would need a lawyer and a PR specialist, and who better than one who was already going to Hell? I liked the twist the author put at the end of this story. But it didn’t resonate with me.

Audition Surprise—I liked this story. I loved the author took American Idol and put a sinister spin on it. That whole audition had me glued to the story. Of course, there was an evil undercurrent to everything. I couldn’t pinpoint who was controlling it until the end of the story. Then the author sprang it on me and why this person did what they did.

The Etiquette Consultant—What a creepy story. There were so many layers here, and I wished the author had time to peel them back. The star of this story was the etiquette consultant and his tutoring of clones. There was a creepy end to the story. I wasn’t sure what to make of the end of the story.

Hunger—This was an interesting story. It is set during a zombie apocalypse. Three survivors ran across a community that had an interesting pastime. I won’t get into it, but it was gruesome. The end surprised me because I didn’t see it coming.

Masks—So, I will never go to a yard sale again. After what Janice went through (and she did deserve some of it), I will never look at other people’s stuff and take it home. Of course, Janice did deserve it (she was nasty), but still. It was a great take on a particular Greek myth.

Out to Lunch—This story confused me a little at the beginning. The author eventually explained what happened, and I felt it was a good twist for this story!! I rooted for the three people (or beings) this story centered around.

Tick-Tock—This was a genuinely creepy story. It took a little bit to get into, but it was fantastic when it did. I loved the lore in this story, the vengeful ghost, and the courageous schoolteacher. What I wasn’t expecting was the massive twist at the end. It took me by surprise because of who was in charge.

PermaDrunk—So, this story made me laugh and cry. I laughed because what a way to become famous. But it was who was behind the guy’s condition and why that made me cry. And that person had an agenda, which included targeting the drunk’s friends. I was surprised at how this story turned out.

Native Calling—I loved this story!! At first, I didn’t understand what was happening, and I figured it would be another zombie story. Well, this isn’t a zombie story. Instead, it goes into Navajo myth and legend. I won’t get much more into it other than to say it was fantastic!!

Sibling Rivalry—I was so sad reading this story. The author took the monster under the bed and ran with it. But the little girl, Melanie, broke my heart. The end of the story doubly broke my heart because she didn’t mean anything.

House Hunting—I was surprised by this story. I thought it would go one way, but it was strangely wholesome. Plus, I like the fact that ghosts can go house hunting. It brought a smile to my face.

Changes—So, this was a different type of werewolf story. I felt for Benjamin because he was chosen to be a weregoat (yes, you read that right), and it didn’t quite go as expected. Of course, this story has a couple of terrifying and cute twists.

Outsiders—I didn’t understand this story and had to read it twice to understand what was happening. I felt a little silly because it made sense once I understood that all three main characters were part of different organizations. Oh, and I loved the comparison the author drew upon. I kept hearing that person’s voice in my head….haha.

Tech Support—Again, this is a story that I wasn’t too sure about. I loved the action and the fact that people got assassinated. Also, the paranormal angle was chef’s kiss. But I got lost in what was going on. And again, I had to read this story a couple of times. Once I figured out what was going on, it made the final reread much better.

Uncertain Futures—This was a great fantasy story, and I could see it being a great novel. I loved that the professor was insane enough to deal with the punishment for cheating. And what he made those students do was awful!!

Off-World Bounties—This is an exciting story in the time of Wyatt Earp. I liked the power play in the bounty and what was revealed.

Knock, Knock!—This was a poem, but it was a scary poem. I had to read it twice before catching up on what was happening. All I have to say is that Tanner was a bad boy.

Otherside—This was a sad story. I didn’t get what was going on until halfway through the middle. Then it hit me. I can’t tell you much more than what I said because it was depressing after that to read.

So, overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a perfect mix of horror, paranormal, suspense, and mystery. It did make me laugh in spots, and I did cry in others.

I recommend Tales from the Box, Volume 1 to anyone over 21. There is violence and language. There are no sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warnings.

Many thanks to Weston Kincaide for allowing me to read and review Tales from the Box, Volume 1. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Tales from the Box, Volume 1, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Other books by Weston Kincaide:

Another Chance at Happiness by Dani Phoenix

4 Stars

Publisher: Dani Phoenix

Date of publication: August 24th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Trigger Warnings: Cheating, Divorce, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical child abuse, video game addiction, attempted parental alienation

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | Kobo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Newly independent after a long-awaited divorce from an emotionally abusive husband, LELA is finally following her dreams. She reaches out to her former lover, NATHAN, to inspect her potential B&B purchase. Months later, he appears with startling news of his own impending divorce. Lela grabs at this chance to be with him but soon discovers her insecurities, his guilt, his wife’s underhanded manipulations, and his family’s firm feelings about his marriage and their relationship threaten their chance at happiness.

Trapped in an unfulfilling marriage with a wife who criticizes and rejects him, Nathan struggles with pride and feelings of failure both as a husband and as a father. He willingly sacrifices his own happiness for his boys and his faith; however, the sudden revelation of his wife’s own infidelity gives him the push he needs to seek out his own happiness, with Lela.

First Line:

Rolling the stem of her martini glass between her fingers, Lela readjusted her legs, tucking her left underneath her right.

Another Chance at Happiness by Dani Phoenix

Lela is happy to start over after her divorce from her husband. Running a bed and breakfast has always been a dream of hers. When the property needs inspection, Lela immediately thinks of her ex-lover, Nathan, and contracts him to do the job. What she wasn’t expecting, or wanting, was her feelings for Nathan to return or for them to start a relationship again.

Nathan is struggling. He is married to a woman who constantly puts him down and criticizes everything he does. Nathan feels he has failed in his duty as a father, a husband, and a Christian. He is unwilling to divorce since it goes against his religion, and he feels stuck. The only time Nathan truly felt himself was when he was with Lela. So when he discovers his wife has been cheating on him and she wants a divorce, he thinks he can start a relationship with Lela. As Lela and Nathan get closer, the more Nathan’s ex-wife tries to drive a wedge between them. Will Nathan and Lela ever get their shot at happiness? Or will Nathan’s family and ex-wife succeed in ruining their happiness forever?

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started reading Another Chance at Happiness. From the blurb, I knew it was a second-chance romance with Christian themes. I wasn’t expecting this book to affect me so much. I was in tears for more than half the book because I could relate to what Nathan’s children were going through. I was also in tears for Lela because she got the short end of the stick in everything.

There are trigger warnings in Another Chance at Happiness. They are:

  1. Cheating— Nathan and Lela cheated on their spouses with each other and other people (on and off page). Lela’s husband cheated on her (which led to their divorce and off page), and Nathan’s wife cheated on Nathan (on page).
  2. Divorce—Lela has been divorced from her husband for a while (off-page). Nathan is separated from his wife at the beginning of the book and is waiting for her to sign the papers (on page).
  3. Verbal AbuseLela’s mother verbally abused her when she was younger (on page but through memory). Her husband verbally abused her and her children (off-page). Nathan’s wife and father verbally abused Nathan (both off and on page).
  4. Emotional AbuseLela’s mother emotionally abused her (on page but through memory). Nathan’s wife emotionally abused him (off and on page).
  5. Physical Child AbuseLela’s mother physically abused her (on page but through memory).
  6. Video Game AddictionLela’s husband was addicted to playing video games and would neglect his kids while Lela was out (on page but through memory)
  7. Attempted Parental Alienation—Throughout the book, Nathan’s wife tries to alienate his children from him (on and off page). At one point in the book, Nathan’s family joins in (off-page).

If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading the book.

Another Chance at Happiness is a medium to a fast-paced book set in Colorado. About 90% of this book takes place in Lela’s bed and breakfast, with some scenes set in the Rockies and at Nathan’s house.

This book deals with serious issues, and the author wastes no time diving in. The main storyline centers around Lela and Nathan’s relationship (past and present), Nathan’s relationship with his wife, and Lela running her bed and breakfast. The author doesn’t hide or make excuses for Nathan and Lela’s past relationship or how it ended. The way she presented it was two unhappy people looking for happiness. But I did lift an eyebrow at how they connected. Come on, Craigslist? Lela and Nathan’s relationship was very rocky in the past and the present. Mainly because Nathan’s ex-wife was playing games with him. Poor Nathan felt he had to walk on eggshells around her because she threatened to pull visitation with his sons.

I couldn’t believe how awful Nathan’s wife was. She completely tore this guy down to the point where he didn’t have self-esteem (the body hair comments hurt me to read). Now, Nathan was a cheater, but his wife acted awful. She conveniently forgot that she cheated too, and not only that but she got caught. She was nasty towards Lela (the voice messages and the false reviews left on her B&B’s site) and would flex her control over the kids and Nathan. I seriously wanted to punch her. But she crossed the line when she got Nathan’s family involved. That was the nastiest, most uncomfortable Thanksgiving scene I have ever read. It was followed up by Nathan’s sister’s visit to Lela, and the ultimation Lela was given.

I also couldn’t get over how willing Nathan’s wife was to use their children as pawns. She would undermine everything Nathan did and try to erase any relationship Nathan wanted with his boys. Nathan refused to say anything bad about their mother in from of his boys. But Nasty McNastyton didn’t hesitate, and it caused significant issues with Nathan’s older son. Again, I wanted to punch her.

I did like Lela. She was very open about admitting her past mistakes (including how she met Nathan). She stayed in an abusive relationship so her kids could grow up with two parents – which you shouldn’t do. Kids always know if their parents are unhappy, and Lela’s three adult children knew. She did love Nathan, but she should have known that Nathan’s wife would go nuclear once she found out about their relationship (past and present). After that disastrous Thanksgiving and its repercussions, I didn’t blame her for what she did. I would have done the same.

I liked Nathan, but I felt that he was a hot mess. He shouldn’t have entered a relationship with Lela so soon after discovering his wife’s cheating. It just made things so much more complicated. He was a good father, though, which is the only reason he agreed to make things work with his wife. But I wouldn’t say I liked that he used Lela (and yes, he did), and I didn’t think Lela deserved him until the last part of the book. When the Thanksgiving disaster happened, he did NOTHING to defend her.

What I liked most about this book is it’s messy and raw. While I might not have agreed with how Nathan and Lela did things, it worked for them. My only complaint is that the Christian angle got a little much towards the end of the book, not with Lela (I would class her more as spiritual) but with Nathan. If you are miserable in your relationship and the other person is just as miserable, end it!!!! But I know that divorce is frowned upon in some Christian religions, and I got why Nathan stayed.

A couple of twists in Another Chance at Happiness happened at the end of the book. One, I did see coming, but I figured it wouldn’t happen. The other twist occurred shortly after. While I was happy it happened, I almost didn’t want it to, mainly because that person had gone on with their life and was learning to be happy again.

I would recommend Another Chance at Happiness to anyone over 21. There are language, violence, and sexual situations. Also, see the trigger warning list above.

Many thanks to Novel Cause and Dani Phoenix for allowing me to read and review Another Chance at Happiness. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

If you enjoyed reading this review of Another Chance at Happiness, then you will enjoy reading these books: