Welcome to Kathy’s Book Bag

I Am Now A Blogger

With so many fun book challenges to participate in, I could no longer be without a blog.  I intend for the blog to help me keep track of my reading for the year as well as my progress on the challenges I choose to join.

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By popcorn317 Posted in Books

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Book Description:

Published: June 23, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother’s name. What is the book’s connection to his family?

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

Review –

“When a young librarian comes into possession of the diary of a traveling circus from more than 200 years ago, he decides the book may hold clues to a family mystery he needs to solve to save his sister’s life.

Narrator Simon and his younger sister, Enola, grew up in an 18th-century house on a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. Taking after her mother, a former circus performer who drowned herself when Simon was 7, Enola travels with a carnival as a tarot card reader. Simon is still living in their dangerously dilapidated family home when, out of the blue on one June day, he receives a book from an antiquarian bookseller, who had noticed Simon’s grandmother’s name inside. Soon Simon discovers a frightening pattern among his female ancestors, all unnaturally good swimmers, all drowning as young women on July 24. If this “coincidence” sounds a bit far-fetched, it sets the bar for the novel’s credibility. Swyler intercuts Simon’s present drama—intensifying research into the diary’s history, loss of his job at the local library, incipient but already rocky love affair with fellow librarian Alice, return home of Enola, irretrievable collapse of the family manse—with the romantic tragedy of Amos, a traveling circus performer, and Evangeline, an aquatic performer with a guilty secret. Born in the 1780s and abandoned by his parents, Amos is mute when he joins a traveling troupe to perform a disappearing act as a “Wild Boy.” The fortune-teller takes him under her wing, teaching him to read the future. But despite her warnings, he falls for the dangerously mysterious Evangeline. She has his baby girl, and the havoc that follows leads straight to the curse that Simon, a whiny loser, is frantic to solve before someone else dies. A bit fey, even as romantic whimsy.

For die-hard mermaid-fiction lovers only.” Kirkus Review

I disagree with Kirkus’s last catty remark, the book was a joy to read and the description of the house falling apart was so real I felt I was there and anyone enjoying an epic, all-encompassing will love this book.

Five stars, and I love the cover!

The Good Neighbor by A. J. Banner

Book Description:

Published: September 1, 2015

Format: Audio

Shadow Cove, Washington, is the kind of town everyone dreams about—quaint streets, lush forests, good neighbors. That’s what Sarah thinks as she settles into life with her new husband, Dr. Johnny McDonald. But all too soon she discovers an undercurrent of deception. And one October evening when Johnny is away, sudden tragedy destroys Sarah’s happiness.

Dazed and stricken with grief, she and Johnny begin to rebuild their shattered lives. As she picks up the pieces of her broken home, Sarah discovers a shocking secret that forces her to doubt everything she thought was true—about her neighbors, her friends, and even her marriage. With each stunning revelation, Sarah must ask herself, Can we ever really know the ones we love?

Review –

Things I Liked:

I enjoyed all the suspense and mystery in this one and there are plenty of red herrings, twists and one final jaw dropping turn that will leave you shocked. 

I liked the quick pace of this novel and  I was never bored, and I appreciated that the pace never faltered. 

I enjoy a good psychological/ thriller but it isn’t dark and disturbing so if you are one who likes your thrillers without gore and horror, this is a good one.

Things I Didn’t Like:

I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t take time to explore certain things a bit further. For instance, I was wanting way more on the aftermath of the fire. I would have loved more description and discussion on the investigation, the details on that aspect were a bit on the light side for my taste.

There are two story lines that the author takes time to develop only to purposely leave both hanging at the end, leaving me to wonder is there more story coming?

I liked the shocking conclusion and the big twist, but I have to admit, I thought it was a tiny bit unrealistic, but I guess that’s why it’s called fiction.

 

The Names of the Dead Girls (Canaan Crime #3) by Eric Rickstad

Book Description:

Published: September 12, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Every murder tells a story. Some stories never end . . .

In a remote northern Vermont town, college student Rachel Rath is being watched. She can feel the stranger’s eyes on her, relentless and possessive. And she’s sure the man watching her is the same man who killed her mother and father years ago: Ned Preacher, a serial rapist and murderer who gamed the system to get a light sentence. Now, he’s free.

Detective Frank Rath adopted Rachel, his niece, after the shocking murder of her parents when she was a baby. Ever since, Rath’s tried to protect her from the true story of her parents’ deaths. But now Preacher is calling Rath to torment him. He’s threatening Rachel and plotting cruelties for her, of the flesh and of the mind. When other girls are found brutally murdered, and a woman goes missing, Rath and Detective Sonja Test must untangle the threads that tie these new crimes and some long-ago nightmares together. Soon they will learn that the truth is more perverse than anyone could guess, rife with secrets, cruel desires, and warped, deadly loyalty.

Mesmerizing, startling, and intricately plotted, The Names of Dead Girls builds relentlessly on its spellbinding premise, luring readers into its dark and macabre mystery, right to its shocking end.

Review –

Frank Rath, a retired Vermont state police detective, is horrified to get a phone call from Ned Preacher, who raped his sister, Laura, and killed her and her husband, Daniel, sixteen years earlier. Preacher is now free, having pleaded guilty to lesser crimes and acted like a saint while in prison to reduce his sentence. Preacher is threatening to harm Laura and Daniel’s daughter, Rachel, whom Frank raised as his own after their deaths.

Meanwhile, Dana Clark, the only survivor of an attack by the Connecticut River Valley Killer, disappears, and another young woman turns up dead. Inspector Gerard Champine, a Canadian police detective, calls Rath because there are similar murder cases in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. Rath leaves retirement to take charge of the investigation. the author throws in some wicked twists as Rath tries to make sense of the killings, but they’re not enough to make up for the weak detective work.

The story starts off promising, and certain scenes, especially when Rachel can feel eyes on her, are downright creepy. The twists and turns are, at times, predictable, and there’s a whole lot of buildup for an ending that feels simpler than readers might expect. That said, the plot is quick and the dialogue is tight, which makes the reading experience fun and entertaining.

This is  a great read and would be a good choice for any lover of the mystery-suspense genre.

 

Gentleman Nine by Penelope Ward

 

Book Description:

Published: February 19, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Growing up, the three of us were friends.
He was the nerd.
I was the playboy.
She was the beauty.

Deep down, I only ever wanted her. I kept it inside because Rory and I made a pact that our friend, Amber, was off-limits.

He lied.

I went off to college, and he got the girl.
Amber never knew how I felt.
They were together for years—before he broke her heart.

Through it all and across the miles, she and I casually stayed in touch.
When my job sent me to Boston for a three-month contract position, Amber let me stay in her spare room.

Still reeling from her breakup, she’d sworn off men.
One night, I opened her computer to find the shock of my life. She’d hesitantly contacted a male escort company. Afraid to date and get her heart-broken again, she was looking for sex with no strings.

Every emotion imaginable ran through me: protectiveness, jealousy—curiosity.
Amber had chosen Gentleman Number Nine and sent him a message.
She opened up to him, confessing, among other things, her physical attraction to her friend—me. But she considered me off-limits—and she thought I was a manwhore. (Ironic, considering the circumstances.)

Eventually, she set up a date to meet Gentleman Nine at a hotel.
When she showed up several nights later to meet him, she was stunned to see me standing there—with an offer I hoped she wouldn’t refuse.

Review –

Channing and Amber were drawn to each after Channing’s younger sister and Amber’s best friend passed away, and they shared a deep connection and steadfast friendship. They were attracted to each, but neither allowed themselves to admit their feelings. Amber ended up in a long-term relationship with Rory, of Channing’s good friends, reinforcing his feelings that any kind of romantic relationship with her is off limits.

When Gentleman Nine begins, Amber’s relationship has just ended, and she is devastated and heartbroken. Channing is in town for business and staying at her house, and they rekindle their friendship, but they can no longer ignore the chemistry that is sizzling between them. Oh, they try to pretend it’s not there. Amber even contacts an escort agency in order to release some of her sexual frustration with a no-strings affair, but Channing discovers her intentions and offers to fill the position.

They agree to no-romance, sex only, no commitments, with the intention to keep their hearts safe. Easier said than done, because they both discover that their physical connection deepens their emotional connection. They’re falling for each other hard when neither expected it.

Amber and Channing’s feelings slowly build, and the meticulous unfurling of their love story pulls the reader in and keeps them captivated and anxious for the HEA. There’s an unexpected twist that is common in the writings of Penelope Ward and it adds depth to the story. Gentleman Nine is an engaging, tender and steamy friends-to-lovers romance with memorable characters and a truly unique story.

Loved it!   Just added Channing Lord to my Book Boyfriend list.

 

 

Shacking Up (Shacking Up #1) by Helena Hunting

Book Description:

Published: May 30, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Ruby Scott is months behind on rent and can’t seem to land a steady job. She has one chance to turn things around with a big audition. But instead of getting her big break, she gets sick as a dog and completely bombs it in the most humiliating fashion. All thanks to a mysterious, gorgeous guy who kissed—and then coughed on—her at a party the night before.

Luckily, her best friend might have found the perfect opportunity; a job staying at the lavish penthouse apartment of hotel magnate Bancroft Mills while he’s out of town, taking care of his exotic pets. But when the newly-evicted Ruby arrives to meet her new employer, it turns out Bane is the same guy who got her sick. Seeing his role in Ruby’s dilemma, Bane offers her a permanent job as his live-in pet sitter until she can get back on her feet.

Review –

WHAT A FUN BOOK!!

I listened to this sexy, light-hearted romance in one sitting and it kept me laughing, swooning, and chuckling the whole way through! The writing was witty and addictive, the characters were compelling and endearing, the romance was hot, and the whole book was a joy to read!

So the story starts when an unexpected – but memorably hot kiss – with a complete stranger at an overly stuffy engagement party led to the flu from hell, the worst audition of Ruby’s life, and thusly no way to pay her rent. At that point, with her options closing, she was sure things couldn’t possibly go more wrong…

But when a second encounter with said same sexy stranger led to a further unexpected offer to babysit his exotic pets (a ferret and a big furry tarantula) while he was away on business for five weeks, it took her life down a path she couldn’t have expected… including the undeniable sexual tension between her and the no-longer-stranger who, despite his flu-related transgressions, was quickly becoming her uncouth white knight. During his trip away they would Face Time every day or night and eat dinner/or whatever meal was appropriate and drink wine or whatever. Sexual innuendoes increased with every passing day.

Both Ruby and Bancroft came from wealthy families, but while she was trying to distance herself from that world and family by making her own way without their help or involvement, he was still involved in his family’s company after retiring(because of an injury-not because he wanted to)from a career of professional rugby. Usually someone within her family’s world wouldn’t appeal to her, but his down to earth attitude towards life drew her in. And the same could be said for how he saw her. She was a breath of fresh air in his life — unprimped, uninterested in money, and not out to impress anyone, all she cared about was standing on her own two feet. His whole life had been filled with women throwing themselves at him but despite his sports star status and being such an eligible bachelor, in his own words, he “didn’t leave a trail of fucked fans across the globe” so I really appreciated that he had every opportunity to be a manwhore, and yet he wasn’t.

Despite being oceans apart for the first part of the book, I was pleasantly surprised that Ruby and Bancroft still shared sizzling chemistry, which of course led to the next big question. What would happen when he got home? Would they take their flirtations to the next level? Or part ways for good? HA! This is a romance so of course they take things to the next level… OMG the hotness!!!!   

Five stars.

If you’re a fan of romantic comedies,(as you know I usually am NOT) then this is definitely a book you’ll want to read or listen to. (The narrators are fantastic) It’s well written, fun, sexy,steamy hot and has a hero and heroine I couldn’t help but fall in love with.

First & Then by Emma Mills

Book Description:

Published: October 13, 2015

Format: Audio

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them: first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Review –

“Senior Devon Tennyson assumes college is next but isn’t so clear on why. Her longtime friend and crush, Cas Kincaid, isn’t interested in her romantically, alas. While she is part of his football crew, Devon has other friends who are as individual, though not as average, as she is.

The wide-ranging cast provides background to Devon’s struggles with her future, exemplified by her boring college essay. Add in the long-delayed and dreaded phys-ed requirement to make her unhappiness complete. It’s mostly freshmen except for Devon and an All-American football player and transfer student, Ezra. Also in the class is Foster, a freshman and a cousin who recently joined her household after his mother asked her parents to take him on full-time. Devon’s clearly not impressed with his irrepressible presence and knowing observations. However, her protective instincts go on high alert when socially inept and scrawny Foster’s great ability to kick a football is discovered by Ezra. When Ezra takes Foster under his wing, Devon isn’t sure if it’s a setup or real, given Ezra’s low popularity quotient. With sporadic references to Jane Austen’s famous characters and wickedly inventive language, Mills closely observes the social milieu of an American high school obsessed with our favorite sport and makes readers care what happens.

A fresh, smart, inventive, and altogether impressive debut. (Romance. 11-16)” Kirkus Review

A totally sweet young adult romance mixed with football.  Love it!

 

 

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Book Description:

Published: January 10, 2017

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Review –

“A young Englishwoman named Kate, mending after a horrific trauma—her jealous ex stalked her, locked her in a closet, and killed himself just outside it—decides a change of scenery might help restore her, and she agrees to a six-month apartment switch with Corbin, an American cousin she’s never met.

If she’s looking to tamp down her paranoia and learn to trust again, though, her cousin’s ultra-luxe Boston apartment is a disastrous choice. As soon as she arrives, Kate discovers there’s been a grisly murder next door. A series of small discoveries in the borrowed apartment, a little police attention/skepticism, and a couple of “chance” conversations with neighbors and acquaintances of the victim lead her increasingly to the conclusion that Corbin was romantically involved with the young woman and is the prime suspect. 

The author is most persuasive when we’re with the vulnerable but resourceful Kate, who ends up carrying on an ever more dangerous shadow investigation, and with her unlikely romantic interest, an awkward, somewhat creepy (the “somewhat” makes him a rarity—and a catch—in this world of fiction), but well-meaning neighbor named Alan. The book flounders a bit when Swanson enters Highsmith territory, attempting to inhabit the minds of sociopathic killers, but he does complicate things interestingly and engineers a tense and intricate finale.

A solid and quick-paced thriller—but one that seems to feature a pop-up psychopath behind every door and under every bed.” Kirkus Review

This is a great, creepy read.

Mercy by Debra Anastasia

Book Description:

Published: August 20, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

He taught me to kill. Murder is in my blood now. It runs through my veins and though I hide the monster I see in the mirror with ink, it doesn’t keep him from coming out.

My street name is Mercy, but I never show any. Except for her. I watch Becca, though she doesn’t know. She saved me a long time ago; the day my father killed my mother. Her bravery turned her into a target.

My father holds a grudge and knife with the same proficiency, and Becca is the focus of his hatred. And I’m the only monster who can save her.

Review –

If you were to go off the synopsis, you’d be thinking this was a particularly sinister, dark read – for us, it wasn’t. Yes, there were dark elements, especially in the last 20% of the book, however the story was essentially one of never ending love, acceptance, destiny, redemption and courage; interspersed with guffaw type humour, loads of emotion and some really sweet romance, all delivered with this authors fabulous ability for gripping and entertaining storytelling.

Mercy is the story of Fenix Churchkey and Rebecca Dixie Stiles. Two children who had a very brief interaction, yet it’s one that would stay with them and have a particularly lasting effect on the young Fenix (Nix). Becca and Nix were a destiny, a love story in the making – written in the stars if you like.

Becca stood up to Nix’s brute of a father when they were kids and that made her a target. Flash ahead fifteen years later and Nix is watching out for (really, stalking) Becca to make sure she’s safe. He never lets her see him. Nix always made a pact to never let Becca see him, to always protect her, thinking up ingenious ways to be a part of her life, to watch over her without actually being a part of it. Well, that was all about to change when Nix, at the coercion of his best friend Animal, seizes an opportunity for Becca to get to know the man beneath the menacing appearance, to know the man inside

The author didn’t rush the romance between Nix and Becca, instead treating us to a slow build, allowing us to get to know the characters before the feverishness of their feelings took hold, summoning our emotions through Nix’s past and his healing process. I loved this man(whole body skeleton tattoo and all)! Nix begs the question, what is normal and he shows us how we need to dig beneath the surface to find the jewel. Their love story was intense, exhilarating, sweet, honest and beautiful, if not a little chaotic and crazy.

The secondary characters were fabulous – in particular the relationship between Nix and his best mate Animal. This huge big brute of a man who spoke so sweetly and sometimes had the hilarious demeanour of a little old lady won us over. Animal soon became a crucial part of the story and holy cow  I cannot wait for his story and to learn who his love interest is, though I have some idea!

There is finally a HEA, but I’m not telling anything else other than to say that Becca may have gotten a tattoo, too.(Hmmm, let me see, I wonder what she choose?)

Great read.

Crime on the Fens (DI Nikki Galena #1) by Joy Ellis

Book Description:

Published: June 17, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

THE DETECTIVE DI Nikki Galena: A police detective with nothing left to lose, she’s seen a girl die in her arms, and her daughter will never leave the hospital again. She’s got tough on the criminals she believes did this to her. Too tough. And now she’s been given one final warning: make it work with her new sergeant, DS Joseph Easter, or she’s out.

HER PARTNER DS Joseph Easter is the handsome squeaky-clean new member of the team. But his nickname “Holy Joe” belies his former life as a soldier. He has an estranged daughter who blames him for everything that went wrong with their family.

THEIR ADVERSARY is a ruthless man who holds DI Galena responsible for his terrible disfigurement.

The town is being terrorised by gangs of violent thugs, all wearing identical hideous masks. Then a talented young female student goes missing on the marsh and Nikki and Joseph find themselves joining forces with a master criminal in their efforts to save her. They need to look behind the masks, but when they do, they find something more sinister and deadly than they ever expected . . .

THE SETTING
The Lincolnshire Fens: great open skies brood over marshes, farmland, and nature reserves. It is not easy terrain for the Fenland Constabulary to police, due to the distances between some of the remote Fen villages, the dangerous and often misty lanes, and the poor telephone coverage. There are still villages where the oldest residents have never set foot outside their own farmland and a visit to the nearest town is a major event. But it has a strange airy beauty to it, and above it all are the biggest skies you’ve ever seen.

Review –

This is my first read/listen by this author and I loved it for so many reasons. First, it’s a foreign crime drama (takes place in Eastern England), second, the protagonist is a female Detective Inspector, and third, the story line isn’t new but it’s been revamped so you would think it IS new.

Nikki and Joseph make a great team, and I’m hoping some where down the line they become more than just co-workers. Nikki is like a loose cannon and he calms her down a bit.

The author  wove the threads of the story with just enough twists to keep me listening, not so much as to what was going to happen but in how she was going to bring things together. As with any good series the ending leaves a teaser that does make you want to read the next book. 

Five stars. I can’t wait to read the next one.

 

 

 

Tyrant (King #2) by T.M. Frazier

Book Description:

Published: August 16, 2015

Format: Audio/Audible

I. Remember. Everything.

Only now I wish I didn’t.

When the fog is sucked away from my mind like smoke through a vacuum, the truth that has been beyond my reach for months finally reveals itself.

But the relief I thought I would feel never comes, and I’m more afraid now than I was the morning I woke up handcuffed in King’s bed.

Because with the truth comes dark secrets I was never meant to know.

I will put the lives of those I love most at risk if I let on that my memory has returned, or if I seek help from the heavily tattooed felon who owns me body and soul.

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to resist the magnetic pull toward King that grows stronger every day.

He’s already saved me in more ways than one. Now it’s my turn to do whatever it takes to save him.

Even if that means marrying someone else…

Review –

Holy Cow! I didn’t think anything would top King, but I was seriously wrong. Tyrant was even better than the first book. T.M. Frazier has added so many twists and turns to Tyrant.

Tyrant picks up right where King left off. King has returned Pup AKA Ramie back to her family in exchange for his daughter, Max. Although he reasoning’s are just, for Pup it felt like a betrayal. Pup has no memory of her past she trusted and believed he loved her. Now she is back with “her family” and for her they are strangers, unknown and she feels out-of-place. Pup struggles to remember anything about her past, her home, her family and her finance Tanner. Although Pup has no memory of Sammy she knows for sure he is her son. When she looks at him she sees a piece of her in him and she feels deep in heart that he is her child. I felt for Pup she tries so hard to put the pieces of her vague life together while being a good mother for Sammy all constantly remembering King.

King is King, I love him even when I hated  his actions. I loved this character. Never once did King’s character change. He was still KING. He knows in time he would have gone after his Pup. He thought he was doing the right thing. There is danger from an incident that happened in the first book. One that is determined to make King pay. If we all know King, he never backs down. Come on he is the KING! King was going to go after Pup and remind her that she belongs to him and that he would be back. She is everything to him and he won’t let anyone keep him for her. We get to see a new side to King. A primal side in him, his alpha male ways are heightened even more since learning about Tanner. (Gag, Tanner)

Let me say things took a turn to the dark and crazy side after King gets to Pup. This was basically Pups story, in her trying to piece together her past. I was so involved when she had would remember something, that I was taking notes. MY heart broke for Pup because you can see her struggle to try to find where she fits in and it saddened me when she only needed King. As I mentioned King is still Badass so when he finally figures out what is going on, there is no stopping him. 

This book is super violent and the author leaves nothing to the imagination and there may be triggers for some readers.

Although this book ends King and Doe’s story it’s not an easy one to read or listen to. Be prepared.

Five stars.