Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

Here's my monthly reading summary for May.  The Index has been updated as well.

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

Death in Dark Blue by Julia Buckley (Writer’s Apprentice Mysteries #2) – 5
As winter settles over Blue Lake, Lena London is thrilled to have her new boyfriend Sam West back in town.  He’s still trying to keep their relationship a secret so the press won’t start hounding Lena.  However, that becomes more difficult when Lena finds the body of a woman who had come to town to apologize to Sam.  The press are quick to believe Sam was involved.  Can Lena prove them wrong?

I was thrilled to return to this series.  The new murder often takes a back seat to a storyline introduced in the first book, but I didn’t mind because I found the entire thing entertaining.  Lena may be our viewpoint character, but there is a large stable of characters, some of whom often bring the clues to the group.  I love this group, and they all are interesting.  With how this book ends, I already can’t wait to find out what happens next to these characters.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz (Evan Smoak #2) – 4
Evan Smoak is working to take down a human trafficking ring, but as he finds a last piece he needs to stop, he is captured by forces unknown.  When he wakes up, he has no idea where he is.  Can he escape?

I’m not usually a fan of plotlines where we follow a prisoner, and this book definitely fell into some of those pacing pitfalls.  Still, this was a fun read with good twists to keep things fresh, and I was turning pages quickly most of the time.  The character development for Evan was quite interesting here, and he is surrounded by a mostly strong cast of new characters, although one of them felt over the top.  Overall, a fun, page turning thriller.

Uncorking a Lie by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #2) – 5
Katie Stillwell is thrilled to be asked to join a dinner party where wine collector Paul Rafferty is planning to share a rare bottle he’s recently purchased with his friends.  However, Katie doesn’t think the bottle looks or tastes like an old bottle of wine should.  Before the evening is over, someone is dead.  When Paul asks Katie to look into what happened, she finds people covering up secrets.  Can she find the truth?

Despite growing up in this book’s setting of Sonoma County, California, I’m not a wine guy.  That wasn’t a factor for me at all in following this plot based very heavily on wines.  Everything I needed to know was expertly explained.  The plot was fast with lots of twists and clues to keep me engaged.  The book also has strong characters, both returning and new.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

The Final Vow by Amanda Flower (Living History Museum #3) – 5
Kelsey Cambridge has been suckered into the wedding of the century – that of her ex-husband to his second wife.  The bride is overly demanding, including wanting lights in the steeple of the church on Barton Farm, the living history museum where Kelsey works.  Kelsey says no because of safety concerns, but that doesn’t stop the wedding coordinator, Vianna, from sneaking up to the steeple.  Unfortunately, Kelsey was correct since Vianna falls and dies.  However, Kelsey and the police both think that Vianna had help.  Everyone starts coming to Kelsey asking her to clear them of the crime.  But if everyone really is innocent, who pushed Vianna?

I truly love the characters in this series, and it was wonderful to be back with them.  We get to see some growth in a few regulars that I really enjoyed.  The plot is strong with several surprising twists.  I did have a couple of small niggles with the climax, but nothing that dampened my overall enjoyment of the book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

16th Seduction by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #16) – 4
Lindsay and Joe are enjoying an anniversary dinner when a bomb goes off at the pier next to them.  When Lindsay identifies a suspect in the crowd, he confesses, only to deny he ever did the next day.  Can Lindsay find evidence to convict him?  Is he even guilty?

This series is very uneven, but this was one of the better books in the series.  Yes, it does deal with the cliffhanger at the end of the previous book while providing a case that kept me guessing until the end.  There are the usual pacing issues, especially with the secondary mystery which takes over for much of the second half of the book, but overall fans of the series will be pleased.

Ivy Get Your Gun by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #4) – 5
Ivy takes on an undercover job at Gold Bug Gulch, where one of the gun fighters has just been shot and killed.  As she gets to know the employees at the tourist trap ghost town, she finds plenty of suspects, but was it an accident or murder?  Meanwhile, she also trying to land a part in Annie Get Your Gun for a theater company that might really boost her career and keep her relationship with her new boyfriend on track.

Since I’ve loved the first three books in this series, I was expecting to love this one, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.  The story moves forward quickly, and the characters are strong.  The author finds that perfect balance of comedy without making anything or anyone not feel real.  In fact, there’s some real depth to these characters by the end.  Throw in the acting, and I completely enjoyed it.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Yip/Tuck by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #4) – 5
When Mel finds the body of Dr. Jack O’Doggle outside her shop one morning, she feels responsible.  He was a good customer, and he was strangled with one of the leashes from her shop.  Ignoring warnings to stay out of it, Mel begins to dig into Jack’s life.  What secret was he hiding?  And did it get him killed?

Once again, we are off on a delightful ride.  These books are slightly on the wacky side yet never so far to be unbelievable.  The mystery provides us with a good number of suspects and clues, and we meet someone I hope will be a recurring character in future books in the series.  The book seems slightly on the short side, yet I didn’t feel like anything was missing when I reached the wonderful climax.  The story is set in the weeks leading up to Christmas, which just added to the fun for me.

Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #21) – 4
The latest murder in Lake Eden doesn’t even wait for Hannah to return from her honeymoon.  In fact, Hannah’s mom discovers the body when she hears screaming and gun shots from her neighbor’s condo.  Tori, the mayor’s sister, was a Broadway actress before she retired to Lake Eden.  She doesn’t have many friends in the area, but she doesn’t have many enemies either.  Hannah can’t seem to find anyone with a motive to kill the woman.  What is she missing?

Fans of the series will be delighted to find that this book is more of the same.  All the characters we love are back.  Food talk slows down the mystery early on, but the plot gains momentum as we go along.  In fact, I thought it was one of the better mysteries of recent books in the series.  Of course, there are lots of recipes.  The ending left me intrigued for the next in the series but also very fearful that what I’ve feared for a couple of books now is about to happen.

The Miser’s Dream by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #3) – 5
When Eli Marks looks into the projection booth of the theater next door late one night, the last thing he expects to see if the projectionist dead on the floor of the locked booth.  Against his will, he finds himself involved in the case and interviewing the eccentric suspects.  But which of them is a killer?  And how did they pull off the crime?

This is a wonderful mystery with the added locked room element.  I had no clue where the book was going, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t figure it out when the clues and killer were presented at the end.  The eccentric cast of suspects are fun, and the series regulars are great as always.  Eli’s job as a magician is a great hook that makes this series stand out from the others.

Bearly Departed by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adoreable Teddy Bear Mystery #1) – 4
Sasha Silverman runs her family’s teddy bear factory in Michigan, a job she mostly enjoys.  The one problem is Will Taylor, the company’s sales rep.  He returns from a sales conference early to announce that he’s met with Sasha’s semi-retired father, and he has agreed to ship production of the bears overseas.  Naturally, all the employees are upset about losing their jobs.  Sasha does her best to calm them down until she can reach her father to find out what is really going on, but that night she finds Will dead on the factory floor.  Who killed him?

The book started a little slowly as we were introduced to Sasha, her employees, and her community.  But once we meet Will, things were off and running.  As Sasha investigates, she learns things about people she thought she knew well, including her own family.  The dynamics there are interesting, and I look forward to seeing them explored in future books.  Of course, this mystery comes together for a logical climax.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.