Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May 2016's Monthly Reading Summary

Wow, we've finished off another month of 2016, haven't we?  Hard to believe it's time to summarize what I read in May.  And wow, I got a lot read.  I swear, this will slow down some day again, but with all the books I'm dying to read, I don't see it happening any time soon.

As usual, the links will take you to my full review and the index is updated as well.

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

Irish Stewed by Kylie Logan (Ethnic Easts #1) – 5
Former personal chef Laurel Inwood agrees to help her foster aunt Sophie run her restaurant while Sophie recovers from surgery.  However, Laurel gets a shock when she discovers the upscale restaurant she’s expecting is actually a greasy spoon.  She’s even more shocked when she finds a dead man in the supposedly closed kitchen.  He’s an investigative reporter for the local TV station.  But what is he doing there?  What story got him killed?

This book starts off strongly and keeps us turning pages as we go from suspect to suspect.  The climax is a tad rushed, but all the answers we need are there to tie things up.  Laurel’s past as a foster child makes for an interesting main character.  Occasionally, I was frustrated with her, but most of the time I liked her, and I see great potential for character growth over the course of the series.  I’m already hungry for seconds.

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

A Gilded Grave by Shelley Freydont (Newport Gilded Age Mysteries #1) – 4
Deanna Randolph’s debut summer season in 1895 Newport gets off to a rocky start when a maid is murdered during the first ball of the summer.  Now she must reluctantly team up with lifelong friend and former fiancée Joseph Ballard to learn the truth no matter where it leads.

This is a good debut filled with intriguing characters.  Deanna and Joe make a great detecting duo, and I found the story compelling as it built to a logical solution.  The book did get a bit bogged down in the details of the time and place, but it was never for very long at a time.

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

Nick and Tesla’s Solar-Powered Showdown by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith (Nick and Tesla #6) – 4
Nick and Tesla have decided it is time to learn the truth about where their parents are and what they are working on.  When two government agents admit the twin’s parents are missing, they start to look for clues the agents have missed.  Will they find the clues to save the day?

I was so glad to see that this on-going mystery was the focus of this book, and it’s nice to get some answers about what has been happening.  The characters are good for a middle grade series, although one does seem very over the top.  Still, this is a climax that series fans will appreciate.

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

Sayonara Slam by Naomi Hirahara (Mas Arai #6) – 4
The World Baseball Classic has come to Dodger Stadium, and Mas Arai is excited about the upcoming match between Japan and Korea.  He’s on hand early and witnesses a reporter drop dead at a press conference.  Mas has no desire to get involved in the investigation until a friend’s grandson hires him as a driver and interpreter.  What will they uncover?

I haven’t read most of the books in this series, but I’ve been wanting to return to it for a while now.  The characters are good, although I think I missed some of the character development since I’m not super familiar with them.  Some sub-plots bogged down the plot a bit early on, but as the book continued, the mystery got stronger.  I learned a bit about World War II history along the way to the logical climax.

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

The Final Tap by Amanda Flower (Living History Museum Mysteries #2) – 5
Kelsey Cambridge is getting ready for the first annual Maple Sugar Festival at Barton Farm, the living history museum she runs in Ohio.  As part of that festival, she has invited Dr. Conrad Beeson to teach a class on harvesting maple sugar.  However, while he is inspecting the trees on the farm, someone stabs him with a hand drill.  With the police looking at one of Kelsey’s employees, can she find the real killer?

I was delighted to slip back into the world of this series.  The setting is fantastic, and the characters are strong.  Not all the returning characters get a lot of page time, but the ones that do get a good deal of development.  The suspects are also strong, and the varying suspects and motives kept me guessing until the end.

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

Let the Wind Rise by Shannon Messenger (Let the Sky Fall #3) – 5
Audra is being held captive by Raiden, and she is trying to find a way to escape.  Meanwhile, Vane is trying to find a way to rescue her.  Meanwhile, things are building to the final battle with Raiden.  Can Vane overcome his aversion to violence to help end the climax?

This book was worth the wait as it expertly wraps up the series.  The plot seems to slow down a bit at one point, but it isn’t for very long.  When it picks up again, the pace never slows back down until the wonderful climax.  Meanwhile, we get some great character development in all of the characters.

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz (Evan Smoak #1) – 5
Evan Smoak is a former secret operative who now uses his training to help those in danger.  But his latest client may be more than he can handle when someone tries to kill her at their first meeting.  Can Evan keep her safe?

While the book seems to start slowly, it soon becomes apparent that everything is important to the story being told here.  It quickly turns into a book you can’t put down with twists and action that leave you anxious for the next in the series.  Evan can be a bit of a superhero, but the seeds are planted to fully flesh him out as this new series progresses, and I can’t wait to see that happen.

15th Affair by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #15) – 2
SFPD detective Lindsay Boxer is called to a hotel where three people have been murdered in two rooms while the security cameras malfunctioned.  It’s seeming like a fairly normal case until she begins to learn who the victims were.  And until her husband Joe crosses the radar as a person of interest in the case.  Only Joe has vanished.  What is going on?

I’ve been wanting the women in this series to work on a big case again, which they do here.  Unfortunately, Yuki is lucky to get a cameo, and Clair and Cindy provide a clue each and are sidelined for the rest of the book.  To make matters worse, Lindsay blows everything with Joe out of proportion and comes off looking very immature and childish as a result.  The cliffhanger from the previous book is ignored while this book stops with another cliffhanger.  And I do use the word stop on purpose.  At least the mystery was decent.

“D” is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #4) – 4
On a fall Saturday, Alvin walks into Kinsey’s office and asks the PI to track down someone named Tony to give him a check.  However, Tony turns out to be a teenager, the check Alvin gives Kinsey for his services bounces, and then Alvin is shot.  What has Kinsey stumbled into this time?

The places this book leads from that set up were absolutely wonderful, and I loved seeing where the plot lead.  I did feel things stalled out a little before we reached the climax, but the book ended on a great note.  Likewise, the characters could have been a little sharper, but maybe that was more my aversion to the obnoxious Christian sect we meet in this book.  Overall, still a fantastic read.

Magnolia is back, and this time, she’s decided to bring the piano on a family beach day.  What could be better than that?  Her mom is concerned that Magnolia will lose it, but that won’t be an issue.  Or will it?

While this book has the same wacky fun that Elise used in her first picture book, I didn’t have the same reaction to it.  I just couldn’t buy the craziness, maybe because I’m so familiar with pianos.  However, I think the target audience will love it.  The picture are wonderful, and the situations that Magnolia gets into are still absurd.  Once again, the book is actually narrated in the second person.

Out of Circulation by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks #4) – 5
Charlie Harris has joined the Friends of the Library board in time for their annual Christmas fundraiser.  Unfortunately, he’s walked into a feud that has been going on for years between the elderly Ducote sisters and Vera Cassity, who likes to think of herself as a bigger deal in town than she is.  The night of the gala, Vera takes a tumble down the stairs and breaks her neck.  With the sheriff looking at Azalea, Charlie’s housekeeper, he needs to figure out what really happened.

As a fan of the Southern Ladies series, I was quite anxious to read the book that introduced the Ducote sisters.  They are as much fun here as they are in their own series.  We get to see a different side of a couple of series regulars as well, which I really enjoyed.  The plot was strong and kept me going until the surprising yet logical conclusion.

Decanting a Murder by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #1) – 4
Katie Stillwell lives for wine, so when her best friend, Tessa, gets her an invitation to Frontier Winery’s 100th anniversary party, Katie gladly accepts.  The night ends with tragedy when Katie finds the owner murdered.  With Tessa missing, Katie must figure out what is really going on.  Can she do it?

I’m not a wine drinker, but I completely enjoyed this debut.  Tessa could be a bit much at times, but I liked her at others.  I was bothered by how much the detective included Katie in the investigation, but overall I completely enjoyed this book.  The story moved forward quickly, and Katie is a great main character.  I can’t wait to revisit her.

The Skeleton Takes a Bow by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #2) – 5
Georgia has reluctantly agreed to let Sid, her best friend the skeleton, star in the play at her daughter’s high school.  Okay, star might be the wrong word since Sid’s skull is playing the part of Yorick in Hamlet.  Either way, he’s excited to get out of the house.  However, when he is accidently left at the school overnight, he hears a murder.  With no body, the police won’t take Georgia seriously.  Can Sid and Georgia track down the killer when they don’t know who the victim is?

This is a fun dip into the light end of the paranormal spectrum since Sid is the only paranormal element in the book.  The plot is different from a normal cozy, and as a result appears to wander a bit at the beginning, but the author uses all those elements in the end before bringing us to a logical climax.  Meanwhile, the characters are fun, charming, and fully fleshed out.  Yes, even Sid.

The Mystery of the Memorial Day Fire by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #35) – 4
Sleepyside’s annual Memorial Day parade is interrupted when a fire starts a few blocks away from Main Street.  When Trixie’s friend’s father is accused of burning down his own store, Trixie knows she must solve the crime.

This is the first of the rarer final five in the series.  Some fans really dislike them, and I do see their point.  The characters are weaker than in earlier books.  And, at least in this one, Trixie has to have the solution to the mystery pointed out to her – a solution I found obvious the first time I read it in high school.  And yet, I must confess I still find the book fun.  Definitely not top of the list, but a fun, quick visit with old friends.

Murder Most Fowl by Edith Maxwell (Local Foods Mysteries #4) – 4
One morning in March, Cam’s neighbor dies at his breakfast table, just hours after his chicken farm his hit by animal rights activists.  Wayne was a very nice man, often offering Cam advice on her own heard of chickens.  When the man’s daughter turns to Cam for help understanding what happened to him, Cam starts investigating.  But can she find the killer?

I always enjoy my time on Cam’s farm, and this book was no exception.  The pacing was a tad uneven, but that was only a minor issue.  The mystery is still strong, with good clues, red herrings, and a great climax.  While a couple of supporting characters sat this one out, the rest of the cast is back and as strong as ever.  This will leave you turning pages until you read the end.

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


  1. Time is flying by for me also, Mark. I'm doing Cathy's 20 Books of Summer Challenge now and what fun it was making the list over the weekend. It wasn't as difficult as I feared though since I turned out to have so many group reads.

    1. I don't think I've ever heard of that challenge. I must go investigate (since I need more reading challenges).

  2. So many fantastic cozies this month! I have Irish Stewed and am excited to read it and I just read the 2nd book in the Shelly Freydont series and really enjoyed it. It bogs down a bit in details as well but is still really good. May defintely did fly. I'm not 100% sure it really happened!

    1. I may keep Shelly's book on the back burner. I liked this one, but the details got to me at times.

  3. With only one of those reads being slightly unfavorable, you had a great month for books! Happy June!

    1. That one was pretty disappointing, but overall, it was another great month.

  4. Thanks for being such a prolific reader. I love Naomi's series and look forward to reading her latest. She's also a very nice person. I read D is for Deadbeat years ago. Sue Grafton is at the top of my list.

    1. Naomi is absolutely wonderful. I've met and talked with her many times.

  5. May was a great reading month for you with a nice variety of books. I am looking forward to Orphan X this month. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. You've got a great read ahead of you in Orphan X.