Badlands (The Highway Quartet #3) by C.J. Box

Book Description:

Published: July 28, 2015

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Grimstad, North Dakota – a place people used to be from, but were never headed to – has struck oil. As pipelines snake across the prairie, oil flows out and men and money flow in. And with them, comes crime. North Dakota’s new oil capital has a serious law and order problem and newly qualified detective Cassie Dewell has just been assigned as its deputy sheriff.

Twelve-year-old Kyle Westergaard is one of Grimstad’s paperboys. Even though Kyle has been written off as the “slow” kid, he has dreams deeper than anyone can imagine – he wants to get out of town, take care of his alcoholic mother, and give them a better life. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and now has money and a lot of white powder in his possession.

With the temperature dropping to 30 below and a gang war heating up, Cassie fears she might be in over her head but the key to it all will come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn’t belong.

Review –

Even thought I haven’t forgiven Mr. Box for killing of Cody Hoyt in Book Two, I decided to finish the series and Badlands came next.

Cassandra Dewell, Cody Hoyt’s ex-partner, can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County.

She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom (which I looked up and is true). But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

This is a fantastic read, full of suspense and a bone chilling description of North Dakota’s weather that will have you grabbing for a parka!

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Killman Creek (Stillhouse Lake #2) by Rachel Caine

Book Description:

Published: December 12, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Every time Gwen closed her eyes, she saw him in her nightmares. Now her eyes are open, and he’s not going away.

Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…

You’re not safe anywhere now.

Her refuge at Stillhouse Lake has become a trap. Gwen leaves her children in the protective custody of a fortified, well-armed neighbor. Now, with the help of Sam Cade, brother of one of Melvin’s victims, Gwen is going hunting. She’s learned how from one of the sickest killers alive.

But what she’s up against is beyond anything she feared—a sophisticated and savage mind game calculated to destroy her. As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.

Review –

Killman Creek is the second book in the Stillhouse Lake Series. You don’t have to read the first book if you do not want to, as much of what happened in that book is explained in this one, but I would recommend it. Gwen Proctor is back as the primary protagonist,, although Sam (a man working with her to stop her ex, Marvin, whose sister was murdered by Marvin) and Gwen’s two children, Lanny and Connor (formerly Lily and Brady), also have their own voices within the story.

I like the back and forth between perspectives even though sometime I found both of the children to be very annoying, which fits with the characters being teenagers.

Killman Creek was darker than its predecessor as Caine took us on the hunt to catch a brilliant and twisted killer. OMG! I was biting my nails and clenching my fists with some of these realistic, terrifying scenes.

Gwen’s story is over, but there will be a third book, Wolfhunter River. Rumors  indicate this  book will deal with one of the supporting characters.  I cannot wait to see who it will be.

The Bone Farm (Jane Hawk #0.5) by Dean Koontz

Book Description:

Published: April 25, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

An audio original novella featuring bestselling author Dean Koontz’s compelling new heroine, Jane Hawk. From the case files of the former FBI agent before she became the nation’s most wanted fugitive – The Bone Farm details a desperate man-hunt for a serial killer before he murders again.

Katherine Haskell, a young college co-ed is on her way back to school, but she never makes it there. Instead, she becomes the latest prey of the rapist and murderer dubbed by the tabloids the “Mother Hater.” He is a twisted soul who kidnaps young girls for pleasure then discards them.

Katherine is missing, but she’s not yet dead. FBI agents Jane Hawk and her partner Gary Burkett must descend into the hell of this killer’s mind to solve the case before it is too late. The question is – will they both get out alive?

Review –

I have not read any of the Jane Hawk series by Dean Koontz (one of my favorite authors), so this novella was the perfect choice to get to know the female protagonist.

This is a prequel to the Jane Hawk series. One does not need to read any of the Jane Hawk novels to understand the events in this short story. In this one, Jane and her partner are investigating a serial killer case where the killer is named the “Mother Hater”.

We get Jane in the present and we also get the past and see how the serial killer comes to be. I have always liked this kind of storytelling as it seems like it is two different stories. Plot held my interest even though it was a the predictable side and it is a quick listen.

The Bone Farm was a suspenseful and intriguing story filled with twists and turns and the narrator was quite good. Plot held my interest even though it was a the predictable side.

Cupcakes and Ink (Clipped Wings #0.5) by Helena Hunting

Book Description:

Published: February 3, 2014

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Tenley Page is looking for a new start: a new city, a new apartment, a new life. Her plan is to keep to herself and stay focused. But leaving her past behind and starting over isn’t as easy as she thought. And neither is maintaining her solitude. As Tenley settles into her new surroundings, she finds herself drawn to Inked Armor, the tattoo studio across the street. But it’s the gorgeous, dark-haired tattoo artist who captures her interest. There’s something about his severe beauty that captivates her—and not just in her waking hours.

Covered in the ink he inscribes on other people’s skin, Hayden Stryker has made a career out of being a tattooist. He’s got his own business and a tight circle of friends. As far as he’s concerned, that’s all he needs. At least until his aunt, who owns the antiques and used book store across from his tattoo studio, hires a new employee. At first his intrigue is based on physical appeal; hot chick equals something nice to look at. But as he begins to catch glimpses of the fiery personality under the fragile, feminine exterior, his fascination with Tenley grows. Annoyed by his inability to control his fixation, Hayden decides the best way to cure him of the new obsession is to get to know the girl under her skittish façade.

But like the ink he wears as armor, Tenley has the ability to get under his skin and stay there.

Review –

Cupcakes and Ink is a very short (caught me off guard) introduction to the characters of the Clipped Wings series.

Here you’ll meet a smart and sensible heroine named Tenley who is looking for a fresh new start in Chicago. As she is waiting on starting her Masters degree and is in the process of settling down, she finds the tattoo artist across the street to be very attractive, yet she knows that she shouldn’t do anything to tempt him. He has danger written all over him.

Hayden is the kind of man who everybody wants a piece of. Sexy and smart, he possesses the lethal combination that will have reader’s swooning by the end of it. Though the author gives just a taste of his appeal, I’m sure in the full length book, readers will get an up close and personal sense of his steaminess.

Though this is listed as a prequel novella, I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to read this before Clipped Wings,but it does give you a narrow look into their psyches and makeup.

I look forward to reading the others in the series.

 

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

Book Description:

Published: October 31, 2017

Format: Library Book

A father and a son are seeing each other for the first time in years. The father has a story to share before it’s too late. He tells his son about a courageous little girl lying in a hospital bed a few miles away. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it.

As he talks about this plucky little girl, the father also reveals more about himself: his triumphs in business, his failures as a parent, his past regrets, his hopes for the future.

Now, on a cold winter’s night, the father has been given an unexpected chance to do something remarkable that could change the destiny of a little girl he hardly knows. But before he can make the deal of a lifetime, he must find out what his own life has actually been worth, and only his son can reveal that answer.

With humor and compassion, Fredrik Backman’s The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us that life is a fleeting gift, and our legacy rests in how we share that gift with others.

Review –

Indeed, at just sixty-five pages with illustrations, this book is short but every word counts and that’ll hit you square in the heart. Backman’s lady in grey is worthy of sympathy; his father-character is regretful and cynical, wearing his loss like a badge he never wanted, but he’s not as savvy as he thinks he is. When that becomes apparent to both reader and character, beware.

You may shed tears over this book. You may need to savor it a second time, to feel its words again. However you read it, The Deal of a Lifetime,is an experience you’ll never trade.

The only derogatory comment I have is that sometimes during the reading of this book I felt a disconnect and had to go back and re-read some passages.

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.