Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

2017 is off to a fast start.  I was going to slow down my reading this year, but it looks like I started out the year with 13 books.  Here they are, and the links will take you to my full review.

And yes, I got the index updated this month.

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

Third Time’s a Crime by Diana Orgain (Love or Money Mysteries #3) – 4
Georgia Thornton is back for a third round on a reality TV show – this time working with her boyfriend Scott to solve a cold case.  The castle where this show is set is super spooky, but things get very scary when Georgia finds a dead body in the empty swimming pool.  Even weirder, the victim drowned.  What’s going on?

Between the reality TV show and the case, there is always something happening, although I did feel the other happenings overwhelmed the main mystery a bit at times.  Still, the mystery builds to a logical conclusion.  The author does a great job of helping us keep all the characters straight while growing Georgia, Scott, and some of the other series regulars.  And the reality TV setting is just lots of fun.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott (Popcorn Shop Mysteries #2) – 5
While Rebecca has tried to distance herself from her ex-husband, famed TV chef Antoine, she can’t turn him away when he comes to town to do a segment on her popcorn shop POPS.  However, Rebecca’s meeting with Antoine’s assistant Melanie turns into a shock when she finds the woman electrocuted in her bathtub.  When the police go from suicide to murder, Rebecca thinks they’ve picked the wrong suspect.  Can she find the right one?

I enjoyed the first book in this series, and I was delighted with this one as well.  Several of the characters I liked in the first weren’t around much here, but the characters we did see again or meet for the first time or than made up for it.  The plot was strong, with plenty of suspects to choose from.  I did figure things out a bit early, but that wasn’t an issue since I was having so much fun.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Assault and Beret by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #5 – 4
Cousins Vivian and Scarlett are in Paris, Vivian to teach a hat making class, and Scarlett to track down Vivian’s husband, Will.  That search actually goes fairly quickly, but Vivian and Will have hardly reunited when he is kidnapped.  Now Scarlett has to track him down again.  But what is happening?

I hadn’t realized how much I missed Jenn’s writing until I started this book and fell under her spell once again.  It engages us from the very beginning, but things really pick up once Will is kidnapped and the real complications start happening.  One aspect of the plot isn’t explained, but it is easy to surmise what happened.  We meet some fun new characters, but the series regulars manage to find their way over as the book progresses, and they are a delight as always.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher.

Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey (Giulia Driscoll #4) – 5
Driscoll Investigations already has a full plate when Giulia is offered the case of the Silk Tie Killer.  Roger Fitch, the accused, maintains that he is innocent of killing his girlfriend, and Giulia has a hard time walking away from an underdog.  Is he truly innocent?  There are certainly enough suspects, but can she figure it out?

I absolutely loved this book!  Giulia and the other series regulars are a complete delight, and their teasing and bantered kept me grinning and smiling.  The case has some nice twists, and the suspects were memorable no matter how much page time they had.  This book tends toward the darker end of the cozy spectrum, but it was completely enjoyable.

Indigo Slam by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #7) – 5
Elvis Cole is hired by three children to find their father.  He left them to search for work two weeks ago, which is the longest they’ve ever been gone.  When the trail leads him to Seattle and evidence that the family was in witness protection at some point, Elvis realizes things are much more complicated than they first appeared.  Has he stirred up old danger for the family?

The book starts strong and never really lags as it works its way toward an exciting climax.  I was certainly hooked the entire time.  While I still feel that Cole and his PI partner Pike are closer to caricatures rather than full characters, the rest of the characters pulled me fully into the book.  My only real complaint was the lack of follow up on one thing from the previous book which could have really fueled some character growth for Elvis.

Murder with a Twist by Tracy Kiely (Nic and Nigel #1) – 5
Former NYPD cop Nic and her husband Nigel are in New York for Christmas and to celebrate his cousin’s 25th birthday.  Only Audrey’s husband Leo has disappeared, and she is threatening to not attend her own party if he isn’t found.  Nic is asked by the family to track down Leo, and soon she is back in contact with her contacts on the shady side of the law.  A dead body and learning just what kind of man Leo is make Nic wonder if Audrey would be better off without her husband.  But where is he?

This book is a wonderful tribute to The Thin Man, and fans of Hammett’s classic book or the films will love it.  However, even if you aren’t familiar with them, you’ll still absolutely love this book.  The plot is well constructed with plenty of twists and surprises.  The characters are all strong.  And there are tons of laughs, be they from Nic and Nigel’s new dog or the banter between the characters.  Pick this book up today.

Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge (Hamptons Home & Garden Mystery #2) – 3
Meg and her friend Elle are cleaning out a cottage when they stumble upon a skeleton sealed in a forgotten room.  While the identity of the skeleton isn’t really a mystery, it does give rise to a lot of questions.  Who sealed the man in the room?  Where is the woman he supposed ran off with?  Or is she the killer?  Where is the painting the pair supposedly stole?

As you can see, there is plenty of compelling stuff here for a good mystery.  Sadly, the book is slowed way down by Meg living her life, including things she finds for her decorating business.  Ironically, I found two sub-plots that doesn’t tie into the mystery to be more compelling than the mystery for much of the book.  We do get some great twists before the end, and the characters are great.  Sadly, it isn’t enough to raise the book above average.

“F” is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #6) – 5
Seventeen years ago, the murder of a teen shocked the small community of Floral Beach.  The young man who confessed to the crime broke out of prison a year later, but he’s been recaptured and Kinsey has been hired to prove his innocence.  With the trails cold, she has her work cut out for her, and it seems everyone in town is hiding a secret.  Can she learn the truth of what happened all those years ago?

One again, we are off on a wild ride that only gets wilder as we go along.  Since we spend almost the entire book outside of Kinsey’s normal stomping grounds, the cast of characters are all new, and they are fantastic.  Everything comes together for a great and logical ending, and I’m curious to see how the growth Kinsey experienced here will translate in the next in the series.

The Indian Burial Ground Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #38) – 3
Trixie Belden and her friends are excited to be helping on an archeological dig in their neighborhood.  The only flaw is Charles, the student leader, who has taken an immediate dislike to Trixie while being nice to her older brother.  Trixie is sure he is up to something, but what?

I love the Trixie Belden series, so it takes something really bad for me to truly hate at book, even the lesser later books in the series.  This book certainly has its flaws.  The characters are more caricatures, and the villain is very easy to spot.  However, there are some complications that make it harder to completely know what is happening until Trixie figures it out.  Still, even when the characters aren’t at their strongest, it is still fun for this fan to spend time with them.  Go in expecting a simpler book (and don’t pay too much for it), and you’ll be fine.

Kitty Kitty Bang Bang by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries Book 3) – 4
Caro’s neighbor, Kitty, is a publicist to the stars, but her cats are also becoming clients.  You see, Kitty’s cats are artists, and Caro is spending her evening at a showing for some of their paintings along with other animal artists.  The evening ends in tragedy, however, when Kitty dies in a car crash.  Except the crash isn’t what killed her.  Caro doesn’t want to get dragged into another mystery, but when she does, can she find the truth?

This book is a ton of fun.  We get some absurd situations and delightfully funny characters as we go along.  The plot could be a little stronger, but I was having so much fun, I didn’t care too much.  We do get some good twists and suspects before reaching the end.

Silenced in the Surf by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #3) – 4
Meg’s latest assignment in the annual windsurfing competition on the Hood River.  She hopes this is a sport she can actually learn, but strong winds blow her away from the rest of the other reporters early one morning, and she discovers the dead body of Justin, the star of the windsurfing world.  Justin was also a jerk, but who actually wanted him dead?

I really found this particular sport to be a fun hook into the mystery.  The pacing was a little off, but there are still plenty of clues, viable suspects, and red herrings to keep us entertained.  The ongoing story about Meg’s father is advancing very slowly.  I hope we get some answers on that soon.  The characters are good, series regulars and new ones, although I do find Meg’s grandmother way out there with her New Age beliefs and wish that were toned down some.  Still, overall, I enjoyed this book.

Secret Origins by James Riley (Story Thieves #3) – 5
It’s been two months since Bethany last jumped into a book, and she’s started to notice a man sitting in a car across the street.  Owen thinks Bethany is overreacting to things, but as the friends follow him to his house, they make a startling discovery.  Have they stumbled upon Bethany’s fictional father?

This book overs things to the comic book world, and I found this setting to be lots of fun.  The plot twists out in some surprising and fun directions, and the cliffhangers at the end of each chapter kept me turning pages.  The characters are strong as well, and we meet some great new ones along the way.  Just watch out for the cliffhanger at the end of the book.

A Pallet for Murder by Sybil Johnson (Aurora Anderson #3) – 4
Vista Beach is in the middle of a heatwave, and thieves are taking advantage of people leaving doors and windows open.  It looks like Rory has stumbled on the aftermath of one such burglary when she finds her neighbor, Willow, dead on her kitchen floor.  But the police aren’t buying robbery as a motive, and they focus on Rory’s friend Dawn as the killer.  Can Rory learn the truth?

Naturally, it turns out that Willow had a number of secrets, and those kept the pages turning until we reached the end.  I did figure things out a bit early, but my jaw still literally dropped at a couple of the twists along the way.  The characters are good enough to make us care about the outcome, but they could still be a bit more developed.  Still, this is a fun book that flew by all too quickly.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

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