Monday, February 29, 2016

Monthly Reading Summary for February 2016

An extra day in February this year!  So I guess you could say this is a leap day edition of my monthly reading summary.  And the index has been updated with all my reviews, books and otherwise, for the month.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

A Disguise to Die For by Diane Vallere (Costume Shop Mysteries #1) – 5
Margo Tamblyn returns home to help her father with the family costume shop, Disguise DeLimit, in time to put together a bunch of detective costumes for a birthday party.  But when the guest of honor is murdered in the kitchen and Margo’s good friend Ebony is the prime suspect, Margo has to put her own detective costume on to find the killer.

This was a fantastic start to a new series.  The plot was great with many twists and surprises before we reached the logical conclusion.  The characters were stronger and had more depth than many characters in long running series do.  And the costume element was just plain fun, as I expected it would be.  I can’t wait to revisit these characters again soon.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Scene of the Brine by Mary Ellen Hughes (Pickled & Preserved Mysteries #3) – 4
Coverdale is all talking about the Porter family who has just moved into town.  Unfortunately, they arrive with the family accountant in tow, and Dirk Unger is not a nice man at all.  When he is poisoned and the son of a friend becomes the prime suspect, Piper must jump in and figure out what really happened.

The book took a bit to get going, but once it did I was fully on board.  I do like these characters, and it was great to see them again.  The plot took some unexpected twists on the way to a creative climax, and I read the second half in one day so I could find out what was happening.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #4) – 3
It’s the week before Christmas, and a movie crew is coming to film at Flavia’s family home. While excited, Flavia is plotting how to trap Father Christmas when he shows up on Christmas morning.  However, that takes a back seat when the lead actress is film is murdered.  Fortunately for Flavia, the suspects are trapped in her home due to a massive snow storm.  Can she figure out who the killer is?

While I do like the characters and didn’t find Flavia nearly as annoying in this book as I did the previous one, I found the plot way too slow.  The murder happened half way through the book, and the tension and set up to justify that just wasn’t present.  Once the murder took place, the book definitely picked up, however.

For Cheddar or Worse by Avery Aames (Cheese Shop Mysteries #7) – 4
Providence is hosting its first annual Cheese Festival, and several people involved in making and selling cheese are coming together to share ideas on the process.  Newlyweds Charlotte and Jordan are excited to be a part of it – until Lara Berry shows up.  Lara’s public persona hides a truly nasty person underneath, and she is murdered after telling the rest of the group exactly what she thinks of them.  Can Charlotte figure out who actually killed Lara?

This book had some of the most intense scenes in the series, although I did feel the plot got a little sidetracked a couple of times.  Still, it built up to a logical and exciting climax.  Unfortunately, this is the last book in the series, but the author has done a good job of wrapping things up for those of us who are fans.  That’s wonderful since these characters have always been strong, and they continue to be strong here.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Beauty, Beast, and Belladonna by Maia Chance (Fairy Tale Fatal Mysteries #3) – 5
Despite her intension to leave Paris for America, Ophelia Flax finds herself going to the country estate of her soon to be ex-fiancée to join a hunting party.  But a broken down coach brings strangers into the mix, and the next morning one of them is dead.  The locals are blaming it on the legend of an ancient beast, but Ophelia thinks poison was involved.  Can she figure out whose heart is beastly enough to be a killer?

This is such a great book!  The author weaves in elements of “Beauty and the Beast” and plays with it as a real legend while presenting a puzzling mystery filled with real characters and viable suspects.  Everything kept me guessing until the great climax, and the way this book leaves things, I hope we get more soon.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret of the Caves by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #7) – 4
The Hardys are dealing with two cases.  While their father works on sabotage at a local security station, Frank and Joe head to a college to try to find a missing professor.  But the trail leads them to some caves south of Bayport.  What exactly will they find there?

This was actually the first Hardy Boys books I picked up many years ago, and it was fun to revisit.  I didn’t remember much about the mystery, so it kept me guessing until the end.  I did find the ending very rushed and the characters flat, but I still had fun revisiting them.

Dark Chocolate Demise by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery #7) – 5
Fairy Tale Cupcakes are selling cupcakes at the end of the first annual Zombie walk in town, and Mel, Angie, and the rest of their staff are getting into the spirit of things.  But the fun takes a dark turn when Mel finds a body stuffed into the coffin outside their cupcake truck – a body that hits very close to home.  Who was the target and why?

This book is a little darker than others in the series based on the plot alone, but we are talking a shade darker – cozy fans will still love it.  The mystery takes a back seat at times to the characters reactions to the murder, but that was the appropriate response to the plot and I was never board while reading it.  The book reaches a logical and page turning climax, and it also features some of the funniest scenes in the series.  I think this is best for people already fans of the series, but they will love it.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of the book in hopes that I would review it.

Berried Secrets by Peg Cochran (Cranberry Cove Mysteries #1) – 3
Monica Albertson has moved to Cranberry Cove to help her half-brother, Jeff, run his cranberry farm.  But when a body is found in one of the bogs on the first day of the harvest and the victim is someone who was stealing from Jeff, Monica soon realizes she must save him from being arrested for murder.

The book started out very slowly as it was setting up characters and the location.  Unfortunately, I still had a hard time connecting with the characters until the second half.  Likewise, the plot does pick up in the second half, but a day that vanishes from the timeline bothered me.  The climax was wonderful and the killer a surprise, but overall, the book was just average.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall – 5
The crayon lead production of Frankenstein is all ready to go until the giant squiggle appears in the sky.  Can they solve the problem, or will they have to cancel this book before we even get a chance to read it?

This is a delightfully funny picture book that parents will definitely appreciate.  It breaks the fourth wall as the crayons tell us the story of why they can’t tell us the story of Frankenstein.  After things are resolved, we get a couple of fun and appropriate morals that don’t lecture us.  I’m not sure the very youngest of kids will understand all the jokes, but older picture book fans should get them with some help from their parents.

Fogged Inn by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #4) – 5
It’s the off-season in Maine, and Julia and her boyfriend Chris are operating a dinner restaurant in the building where their friend Gus has his breakfast and lunch restaurant.  When Gus comes in one morning to open, he finds a dead body in the refrigerator.  The victim had come in for dinner the night before, but he is a stranger in town.  Who was he?  And why was he murdered in the restaurant?

This book opens with the murder right away, and the pace never slacks.  I did miss a few of the usual supporting characters who are reduced to cameos here, but the new characters more than make up for it.  The book builds to a sobering climax that adds some nice depth to the book and even a couple of our characters.  I love this series, and this is another great entry.

NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

What You See by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #4) – 4
Reporter Jane Ryland is hoping that a freelance assignment she’s been given might be her ticket to a new job.  She’s covering a stabbing in mid-day in a Boston park.  However, she’s barely arrived on the scene when her sister calls with news that could lead to a family crisis.  Can Jane balance the two?

Really, this book deftly blends two different plots into one compelling book.  I did find it a little slow at first as it the stories build and the new characters are introduced, but once it gets going, I couldn’t put it down.  Jane and her boyfriend, detective Jake Brogan, are fantastic lead characters, and it’s always great to see them back in action.

A sobering look at how the illiberal left is using name calling and intimidation to silence those they disagree with.  Columnist and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers chronicles stories from the last few years of this trend to name call, demonize, and shout down those who don’t follow liberal dogma to the letter.  She shares stories from college campuses, feminism, and the war on Fox News.

There is little editorializing in the book.  Instead, she lays out story after story of how people are being attacked for saying things that aren’t deemed correct.  The result is a book that anyone who cares about America should read with their eyes wide open.

Woof by Spencer Quinn (Bowser and Birdie #1) – 3
Bowser is thrilled when Birdie and her Grammy pick him to be their new dog.  The trio has just returned from the shelter when they discover that Grammy’s prize marlin is missing.  The stuffed fish was only worth sentimental memories.  Or was it?  Rumors of a treasure map spark Bowser and Birdie’s interest.  Can they solve the mystery?

Like Spencer Quinn’s series for adults, this middle grade novel is narrated by Bowser the dog.  That part of the story is cute and feels right, although it can get over done, especially as the good reaches the end.  The human characters are just as well drawn and lovely.  Unfortunately, the plot is very uneven with a slow start and a rush to wrap things up that leaves a major plot thread unanswered.

3 comments:

  1. You did great for reading! Happy March!

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  2. Its always nice to have a month with multiple 5 star reads. All the best to you in March.

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  3. Looks like a good reading month. I got hung up on your header, so much to look at and enjoy.

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