Monday, February 1, 2016

Monthly Reading Summary - January 2016

Wow!  Can you believe that we are already a month into 2016?  I'm still not used to writing it yet.  But we are, so it's time to post my monthly reading summary.  And yes, the Index has been updated.

As always, the link will take you to my full review.

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

The Tiara on the Terrace by Kristen Kittscher (Young and Yang #2) – 5
Like most teens in Luna Vista, Sophie Young and Grace Yang are working on the floats for the upcoming Winter Sun Festival.  This is the 125th anniversary of the parade, and the town wants to make an especially good impression.  Sadly, the work is interrupted one day when the festival president is found dead on one of the floats.  Certain it wasn’t the accident the police think it is, Sophie and Grace begin to investigate.  But when their pool of suspects could also be the next victim, can they solve the crime?

I really enjoyed the first book starring these two thirteen-year-olds, and I enjoyed this one just as much.  They are realistic characters who just happen to solve crime.  There is a large cast of other characters, but I was soon able to keep them all straight thanks to their distinct personalities.  The clues were buried under red herrings, but as the solution came to light, it all made perfect sense.  Definitely recommended for middle grade readers or anyone who loves a good mystery.

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

Death of a Bad Apple by Penny Pike (Food Festival Mysteries #3) – 5
Darcy, Aunt Abby, and the rest of the crew head up to Apple Valley for the annual apple festival.  However, when they arrive, they find themselves in a not so festive atmosphere when a fire breaks out down the road from the B&B where they are staying and a fellow guest is murdered.  What have they gotten themselves into?

Despite the change of location from San Francisco (the setting for the first two books in this series), all the regular characters are still present, which is a great thing since I love them all so much.  Nothing about that has changed here, and I enjoyed watching their relationships continue to grow.  The plot is great and kept me guessing until the end when everything came together for a logical climax.

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

A Second Chance at Murder by Diana Orgain (Love or Money Mystery #2) – 5
Georgia and Scott are back to compete on a second reality show, this one a race across Europe with challenges along the way.  But the night before the race even begins, Scott disappears and a woman is murdered.  With the police certain that Scott is a killer, Georgia must find him and prove his innocence.  Can she do it?

This was a wonderfully creative cozy.  The mystery kept me guessing until the end, and the disappearance added a nice element to the story.  The characters were strong as well.  The race aspect was kept as a sub-plot, and the location in Spain was brought to life so much that I now want to visit.

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

“C” is for Corpse by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #3) – 5
While working out at the gym, PI Kinsey Millhone is approached by a young man who was in a horrific accident 10 months ago take took part of his memory.  He doesn’t think it was an accident but attempted murder and he wants Kinsey to find out why someone would want to kill him.  She just begun when tragedy strikes.  Can she solve this 10 month old puzzle?

Another strong entry makes it easy to see why this long running series is so popular.  The characters are sharp; in fact, it is a pleasure to see how easily the author creates characters with just a few sentences.  The plot moves along well, although I did figure things out a bit before Kinsey did.  That’s a minor issue in this enjoyable novel.

The crew of the Star Warts is exploring a new part of space when they see a black hole off in the distance.  While it makes them reminisce of the holes they grew up in, they suddenly find their ship stuck on something.  What is it?  Can they break free?

This alternative take on black holes is a lot of fun, although I do feel the book started a bit slowly.  Still, the pictures are great, the puns are present, and the ending provides a great moral that everyone can learn from – don’t sing with your mouth full!

Copy Cap Murder by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #4) – 5
Scarlett Parker is thrilled to be going to her first Bonfire Night hosted by her friend Harrison’s firm.  However, when the time comes to burn the straw man of Guy Fawkes, the group realizes it is actually Win, Harrison’s office rival who had come on to Scarlett earlier that night.  Harrison becomes a suspect, and Scarlett must figure out what is happening to keep her friend from taking the fall.

This is another fun entry in a great series.  The characters and their relationships continue to grow, and I love seeing the next chapter of their lives.  The multitude of suspects made for a great mystery, and I was surprised when everything was revealed at the end.  And yes, we do get some news on the cliffhanger at the end of the last book as well.

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

Don’t Look Back by Gregg Hurwitz – 4
Eve Hardaway takes a trip to the jungles of southern Mexico in order to rediscover herself.  Instead, she discovers something truly horrifying, a mad man bent on killing her and everyone else at the remote camp where she is staying.  With the weather conspiring against them, will they be able to get out to safety?

The book took a little while to set up the story, introducing us to the characters and the landscape we’d spend the rest of the book in.  But once it gets going, this is another page turner from a talented thriller author.  The villain was a bit over the top early on, but he became more human as the book progressed – not that I ever liked him.  The rest of the characters are interesting to watch as they rise to the challenge or cave under the pressure.

Murder Most Finicky by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries #4) – 5
Stan has been summoned to Rhode Island to work with a group of master chefs.  Sheldon Allyn is hoping to put together an impressive dinner that will convince investors who give his business money, and if he succeeds, Stan will get the money to expand her gourmet pet food business.  When Stan and the others arrive at their secret location, they find out of the chefs beat them there only to be murdered.  As the weekend begins to fall apart, can Stan figure things out?

Since this book takes place in Rhode Island instead of Stan’s usual local, many of the series regulars only get cameos.  That was my only complaint with this great book.  The new characters are lots of fun, and even the brief time we spend with the series regulars seems some growth in them.  The mystery is very strong with lots of moving pieces.  I didn’t have it all put together until the end myself.

Mother’s Day Out by Karen MacInerney (Margie Peterson #1) – 5
Margie’s looking for work to help pay for her kid’s pre-school.  Her first week on the job ends with her finding a dead transvestite in a restroom.  What’s even more shocking is what Margie discovers while waiting for the police.  Can she solve a case that has become very personal?

This is a definite departure from the author’s normal cozy mysteries, most along the lines of a Stephanie Plum book in content and tone.  That includes the humor; this book had me laughing many times.  The characters are very strong and easy to remember, and the plot kept me guessing until the logical and suspenseful end.  I did have one problem with one aspect of the plot as a Christian, but that is my only hesitation.  This is a very solid book overall.

Better Homes and Corpses by Kathleen Bridge (Hamptons Home and Garden Mysteries #1) – 4
Meg Barrett thinks that getting a job looking at the antiques in the estate of Caroline Spenser is the boost her interior design company needs.  After all, Caroline is one of the biggest names in the Hamptons.  However, when Meg arrives at the appointment, she finds Caroline dead on the floor and Caroline’s adult daughter Jillian next to the body in shock.  Could Jillian be the next victim?

I did struggle some getting into this book, but I quickly got into the story.  It helped that the characters came alive the more time I spent with them.  The theme of this cozy, interior design and antiques, overwhelmed the story at times, but I loved the Hamptons setting.  And the plot was wonderfully constructed and kept me guessing until the end.

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

The Mystery of the Vanishing Victim by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #33) – 3
The Bob-Whites are beyond thrilled when they get an antique car for their rummage sale, until the car breaks down.  But when the stranger who helped them fix it is the victim of a hit and run, Trixie thinks she’s found another mystery.

And she has.  Unfortunately, the mystery is buried under plans for the rummage sale, and it is resolved in a ton of exposition at the end of the book.  All the characters are involved and are themselves, but the slow mystery keeps this from being one of the better entries in the series.

Edgar Allan Cozy by Various Authors – 5
Five cozy authors present their spins on classic Edgar Allan Poe tales.  We get two poems, including a modern take on “The Raven,” and four short stories.  All of the contributions are fun.  I haven’t read much Poe, so I’m sure there are references and parallels I missed, but I still completely enjoyed the tales here.  The compilation is short, took me about an hour to read, but you’ll enjoy every minute of it.

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

Slayed on the Slopes by Kate Dyer – Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #2) – 3
Meg is hoping that a feature on the winter training of the new Ridge Rangers will impress her editor at Northwest Extreme.  However, when she arrives high up on Mount Hood, she finds tension in the group.  As she is wondering if she will even have a story, and a murder occurs.  Suddenly, she wonders if she will even survive the weekend.

The problem with the book is it takes too long for the weekend to even start.  The beginning was slow, and the ending dragged on too long as well.  Some of the series regulars felt shoehorned into the book, but I was happy to see them since I like them, and I appreciated the advancement on the series storylines.  Honestly, I do love the characters, and once the mystery got going it was pretty good.  I just hope that the pacing issues are ironed out as the series progresses.

Classified as Murder by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #2) – 5
Charlie is surprised when James Delacorte asks for his help cataloging his private library since the two hardly know each other.  But James fears that someone is stealing his rare books.  Returning from his lunch break his first day on the job, Charlie finds James dead.  Who killed him?  Are there really missing library books?

I let too much time pass before I got back to this series, but I was thrilled to see Charlie and his cat Diesel again.  They are great main characters, and I liked how Charlie and several relationships around him grew in this book.  The mystery was a bit slow to get started, but once it did, the tension was strong and the ending was great.

9 comments:

  1. I always enjoy your reviews. Thanks!

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    1. Thank you so much for saying that. It means a lot.

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  2. Mark, you know, I think it might be a good idea for you tp sign up to get books on France Book Tours. We usually have some very good mysteries, though not right now! You could sign up through email and fill in the form: http://francebooktours.com/be-a-tour-host/
    This is Emma @ Words And Peace, also running FBT

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    1. I will head over and see what I think. I'm getting so swamped with books, I haven't been signing up for many extraneous book tours right now, but you never know, right?

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  3. A decent number of reads there and it looks like they were enjoyable too. Happy February!

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    1. At the rate I'm going, I should have no trouble with your 100+ challenge. We will see if it lasts all year or not.

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  4. You had a great month and January did go so fast! Lots of 5's I see, I guess you pick what you know you'll enjoy which is wise and great.

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    1. Yes, this is a hobby first and foremost. If I don't like a book by an author, I don't give them a second chance usually, so I tend to have many 4's and 5's as a result.

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  5. January got off to a great start for you. I liked Don't Look Back and usually try to listen to Hurwitz's books.

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