Sunday, July 2, 2017

June 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

We are half way through 2017?  Can you believe it?  I can (it's been a long year at work), but I can't (the rest of life is just flying by).

Anyway, here's my monthly reading summary for June.  As always, you'll find that I've updated the index as well.  Links will take you to my full review.

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

Mulch Ado about Murder by Edith Maxwell (Local Foods Mysteries #5) – 5
Cam Flaherty is helping new hydroponics farmer, Nicole, by starting a few plants for her.  She’s dropping off a few of those plants when she finds Nicole dead in her greenhouse.  The police question those protesting Nicole’s hydroponic methods, including Cam’s visiting mother, Deb.  Deb is clearly hiding something from the police.  Will it get her arrested for murder?

I hadn’t realized how much I had come to love these characters until I was visiting them again.  They are wonderful, and I enjoyed getting to catch up on their lives.  We’ve gotten to see a lot of growth in Cam over the course of the series, and watching her interact with her parents provides an opportunity for more.  And the mystery?  It starts quickly and moves along at a brisk pace with plenty of secrets and suspects before we reach the climax.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

French Fried by Kylie Logan (Ethnic Eats Mysteries #2) – 5
Hubbard, Ohio, is celebrating the 130th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, and Terminal on the Tracks is getting into the act by featuring French food.  Laurel has worked hard on the menu with the help of Sophie’s friend Rocky.  Rocky has been looking forward to the festival, but she starts to act weird when it kicks off.  After missing the fireworks, Laurel goes to Rocky’s house to find Rocky dead.  But why would someone want to kill her?

This book features a nice twist on things as Laurel finds herself having to figure out why someone might want to kill Rocky and then find a potential suspect that fits that motive.  I enjoyed getting to see how that played out.  She does come up with the correct motive and suspect for a wonderful climax.  We don’t see as much of some of the supporting characters from the first book as I expected, but this allowed Laurel to really grow here.  We do get to see plenty of a couple of supporting characters, and the new characters are wonderful as well.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Last Dinosaur by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun Mysteries #3) – 4
Melissa Baugh was the victim of a dinosaur – at least the one being used to film a movie outside of Phoenix.  Someone used the full size dinosaur to trample her.  Phoenix cops Joe and Tommy are called into help with the investigation, but as it leads in some unexpected directions, will they be able to find her killer?

This mystery doesn’t wrap up as neatly as I normally enjoy since a couple of the hows are left for us to figure out.  We can, but it would be nice if we didn’t have to guess.  However, the who and the why are perfectly logical, and it is a fun ride getting to the end.  Joe and Tommy are fun main characters, and I like watching them and the supporting cast in action.  We get to see more of Rico, Joe’s son, and I enjoyed that as well.  A sub-plot involving a traveling preacher adds to the fun, and the Christian elements adds to the book overall without becoming preachy.

Designer Dirty Laundry by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #1) – 4
Samantha Kidd has given up a prestigious job in the fashion industry to move back to her home town in Pennsylvania to work as the trend specialist for a local department store.  But her dream job turns into a nightmare when she finds her boss dead in the elevator before she can even start.  Before the police can show up, the body is gone.  What’s happening?

Having read some of Diane’s other books, I was glad to finally go back to her debut novel.  As I expected, it’s a lot of fun, with many twists, although Samantha does seem to do at lot of reacting to things.  There are a few things that could be smoother, but that’s a minor issue over all.  The characters are great, and make it hard to figure out the villain before it is revealed, although all the pieces fall into place.  Plus we really get to see some growth in Samantha.

Killer Cocktail by Tracy Kiely (Nic & Nigel Mysteries #2) – 5
Nic and Nigel have recently discovered some home movies from the production of A Winter’s Night, a huge movie from 20 years ago famous not only for the wonderful story but the behind the scenes drama, including the death of the original star.  They are the talk of the Oscars, but a break in convince the couple that there is someone on those tapes someone doesn’t want seen.  Can they figure out what that is?

This is a second delightful romp with a modern day homage to The Thin Man, not that you need to be familiar with the original to enjoy this book.  The book includes portions of the tapes that have been found, and since they introduce us to the suspects and motives, they are important.  I thought I had things figured out early on, but I turned out to be wrong.  The characters are a lot of fun, and the banter kept me grinning if not laughing outright.

Blood Work by Michael Connelly – 5
Terry McCaleb is a former FBI agent who was forced to retire when he found he had a bad heart.  Now, against all odds, he’s trying to recover from a heart transplant.  He has no desire to get back into investigations until Graciela Rivers shows up asking for help solving her sister’s murder.  The hook that pulls Terry in?  His new heart belong to the sister until she died.  But can he find out what happened without affecting his health?

This book starts out simply enough, but as the layers are peeled away, my mind was blown by how expertly things were set up.  The plot is flawless and masterful.  Meanwhile, the characters, introduced here for the first time, are fully fleshed out and very real.  I really can’t recommend this book highly enough.

The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #39) – 4
Trixie, Honey, and Regan are in Minnesota to observe some horse training techniques.  Trixie hears the local legend of a galloping ghost, and when weird things start happening, she begins to think it might be true.  Can she figure out what is really going on?

Many fans of the series don’t like this one, and I can see their complaints, especially if they paid a lot of money for it.  It’s the final book, but we only get three regular characters.  Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be the final book.  Honey also develops a crush on someone we meet here.  But looking past that, I see a decent mystery.  It has flaws, but as a teen I didn’t mind at all.  Trixie and Honey are strong here, not their pod personalities.  It certainly helps that I read it when I was about half way through reading the series originally and not as an adult who had paid a lot of get my hands on a copy.

First Degree Mudder by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #4) – 4
Meg’s latest assignment for Northwest Extreme magazine finds her signing up for a mud run and a training course.  Billy, the drill instructor in charge of the training course, is harsh – possibly two harsh.  After two weeks, Meg is wondering why she signed up.  However, one morning she sneaks out early only to discover Billy’s body.  Was someone fed up with his training techniques?

Those coming to the series now might be disappointed.  While there are some twists to the murder, it is overshadowed by everything else going on in Meg’s life, including a very intriguing twist in the story of her father’s murder.  Fans who already know and love Meg will be intrigued by what happens here and anxiously awaiting the next book.  (Cliffhangers, anyone?)  The new characters are a bit thin as a result, but Meg and the other regulars more than make up for that as well.

Force of Habit by Alice Loweecey (Giulia Falcone #1) – 4
Giulia Falcone is 10 months out of the convent and struggling to make her way in the world.  She’s landed a job working for PI Frank Driscoll, and their current case involves a stalker.  Someone is leaving notes for Blake from Song of Solomon and for his fiancée from the prophets.  When Giulia also finds herself a target of the stalker, she and Frank have a personal motive to find out what is happening.

Having read another book with these characters, I was interested in seeing where it all began.  Giulia is a fascinating character, and I really identified with her even though I’ve never gone through what she’s facing here.  That’s great writing.  One thing she is dealing with in her personal life and this case is sex, and I felt the book went too far in the second half, but the book was worth reading.  The banter between Giulia and Frank helped lighten things at times.  The pacing was a bit off a time or two.  It’s a first mystery, and I know the author’s plotting gets better.

A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy (Greek to Me Mysteries #3) – 4
With the restaurant closed for the season and most of her family out of town, Georgie figures now is the perfect time to do some much needed renovations on the restrooms.  But Georgie comes back to find a dead body in the rubble of one of the bathrooms.  The victim is her divorce lawyer, and the police are quick to arrest a former employee of the restaurant.  While Russ is not a nice man, Georgie doesn’t think he’s a killer.  But what happened to the victim?

With many of the series regulars out of town, it falls to a minor character from the previous books to step up.  That’s not a problem since I really enjoyed getting to know Brenda better.  The plot twists in some surprising directions, although I do have a couple of niggles with it.  The book ties in some of the on going series plot threads, so it is best to read them in order to fully appreciate this book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book

Counterfeit Conspiracies by Ritter Ames (Bodies of Art Mysteries #1) – 5
Laurel Beacham is good at her job recovering lost or stolen art work, but she’s not happy when she has to postpone her vacation a couple of days to track down a sword with possible ties to King Arthur.  However, things quickly go wrong when her co-worker and former boyfriend Simon is missing, someone searches his office, and Laurel keeps running into the same man no matter where she goes.  Can she figure out what is going on?

I quickly realized this is more of a caper than a straight cozy, and I held on for the ride.  This is a fast paced book with plenty of action and twists to keep you glued to the page.  The ending was a bit rushed, and this book reads more like a TV show pilot that sets up things we will read about in future books, but that’s a very minor complaint.  We get to know Laurel well, but the other characters don’t get much page time.  Those that do remain a mystery (on purpose).  I enjoyed this book and can’t wait to read more.