All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Chime and Punishment by Julianne Holmes (Clock Shop Mysteries #3) – 4
With just two weeks to go until the town’s clock town starts ticking again, Ruth Clagan and her friends are busy getting everything ready to go. In order to help offset the expenses, they are hosting a fund raiser. However, Kim Gray, the town manager, is a no show until she is discovered crushed under the bell destined for the tower. Obviously, someone hated her. But who?
I was very surprised to see Kim was the victim, but pleasantly so since she’s been a pain in the previous books in the series. We learn even more what a nasty character she is along the way to the satisfying climax, even if one small part of the mystery isn’t quite resolved. The characters are charming as ever, and we get to know a few different supporting players this time, which I enjoyed.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Dressed to Confess by Diane Vallere (Costume Shop Mysteries #3) – 4
It’s time for the annual Sagebrush Festival, and this year, the theme is board games, inspired by the opening act, the Domino Divas. This local group is reuniting after something broke them up 50 years ago. But the reunion isn’t going that well. After a bad rehearsal, group member Ronnie Cass doesn’t show up for their first performance. That’s when costume shop owner Margo Tamblyn finds Ronnie dead in her trailer. Did her murder have anything to do with what broke the group up 50 years ago?
As Margo investigates, she finds a bit of a conspiracy surrounding this murder, which just adds to the fun of the mystery. A couple of things get glossed over in the climax, but for the most part, everything is wrapped up well. I love this setting, a town that goes all out for every occasion, including throwing costume parties. And the characters are fantastic, just like they are in the earlier books in the series.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #2) – 4
Frank and Joe Hardy are thrilled when their father, Fenton, gives them an assignment as part of his latest case. He asks them to go up on the cliff and watch the bay for smugglers. They find the perfect spot near an abandoned house. Yet, they soon hear a cry for help from inside, have part of the telescope stolen, and witness an attempted murder. What’s going on?
This book is a perfect example of some of the weaknesses of the series – characters always making the perfect deduction right away and the thin characters. But even rereading it, I found it very fun. It helps that there is plenty of action. Kids today will get caught up in the story just as I did as a kid and rereading it as an adult.
On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #11) – 5
Georgie is off the Italy in the spring of 1935. She is going to keep her friend Belinda company until she gives birth to her baby in secret. However, when the Queen finds out about Georgie’s plans, she worms Georgie’s way into a nearby house party to Georgie can learn if the Prince of Wales has secretly married Mrs. Simpson. When Georgie arrives, she finds a strange assortment of guests, which include her mother with another mission for Georgie. Can she accomplish any of it?
I look forward to this series because they are always fun, and this book is no exception. As Georgie is heading out to her ultimate destination, we get updates on everyone in her life. This may slow things down for those new to the series, but fans will absolutely love it. Once we reach Italy, things pick up and get very interesting quickly. I love how the global politics of the day was woven into this book while still giving us an entertaining mystery and keeping the tone light as always.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Cat About Town by Cate Conte (Cat Café Mystery #1) – 5
Maddie James has returned to Daybreak Island as a result of her grandmother’s death. While there, she learns that Frank O’Malley, head of the local chamber of commerce, wants to buy her grandfather’s house, a house that has been in the family for generations. Frank is used to getting his way and is trying to scare Maddie’s grandfather into selling. So when Frank turns up dead, Maddie and her grandfather find themselves as suspects. Can Maddie clear their name?
I’ve been looking forward to this debut ever since I heard about it, and I wasn’t disappointed. The tension starts early, and once Frank’s body is found, we are off and running. I didn’t have things figured out until Maddie then, but then everything fell into place. The characters, including Maddie’s new cat, are completely charming. And the setting, a resort island off the coast of Massachusetts, is absolutely wonderful. I can’t wait for the next in the series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett (Detective by Day #1) – 5
After one moderately successful commercial campaign, Dayna Anderson, Day to her friends, has given up on becoming an actress. The problem is, she still has bills that need to be paid and parents who are in danger of losing their home. So when she sees a billboard offering a reward for information on a hit and run and she realizes she and her friends were there, she figures she can provide the information. How hard could it be?
This being a novel, it turns out to be plenty hard, but that’s a great thing for us. The book provides some twists, turns, and dead ends, before Day pieces this together correctly. Along the way, we get to know a wide variety of interesting characters I can’t wait to see again. The overall tone is light with plenty of humor including some accurate observations about the area of the country I call home. This truly is a wonderful debut.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Club Deception by Sarah Skilton – 3
This novel is a look at the inner workings of an exclusive magicians’ club in the Los Angeles area through the eyes of four very unlikely people: Claire, the current president’s wife; Jessica, the new wife of a long-term member; Kaimi, an art expert posing as a member’s girlfriend to sell some papers; and Felix, a young magician looking for his big break.
While billed as a mystery, this is more inner politics and character study with a crime occurring as a sub-plot late in the book despite being teased in the prologue. I quickly realized this and adjusted my expectations accordingly, and I got caught up in the story. The characters were always interesting, even when I didn’t necessarily like them or their actions. I found a couple sub-plots felt extraneous and the ending a bit weak. I don’t regret reading the book, but it needed a little more polish to truly be great.
Star Island by Carl Hiaasen – 1
Teen pop sensation Cherry Pye is about to release a comeback CD – her second. Her entire future is riding on its success, however her partying is getting in the way of preparing for the tour. In fact, her family has hired Ann DeLusia, a look alike, to fool the paparazzi. Unfortunately, for Ann, she’s about to be kidnapped. With everything spinning out of control, what will happen?
I’d been curious to try one of Carl Hiaasen’s books for a long time, and when I needed an audio book, I decided this was the best chance. Sadly, I didn’t care for it. Outside of Ann, there weren’t any sympathetic characters. Oh, I get that we are supposed to find them crazy, especially with how whacky some of them are, but I did. Especially since several of them were self-destructing before our eyes. The plot was interesting enough to pull me in, but the characters got on my nerves. I won’t be revisiting this author.
The Bungalow Mystery by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #3) – 4
While out of town, Nancy meets Laura, a recent orphan who is about to meet her new guardians. However, when Nancy meets them, she thinks that something is off about these adults. Meanwhile, Mr. Drew asks Nancy to help him figure out how bearer bonds have disappeared from a bank in town. Can Nancy juggle these two cases? Or is there a connection?
I can’t remember if I read this one as a kid or not, but I quickly got caught up in the fun as an adult. There is plenty of action. Some of the twists were a little obvious, but I couldn’t figure out how everything quite fit together until the end. We still haven’t met Nancy’s usual friends, but with the emphasis on plot and action, the characters are thin anyway.
Sleeping Beauty, Borrowed Time by Maia Chance (Fairy Tale Fatal #4) – 5
After breaking her arm in a circus accident, Ophelia Flax finds herself in a fancy hospital in Switzerland. Another patient there, Imogen Melchor, has been asleep for 8 days. Her parents claim it is related to the Sleeping Beauty legend, which is strong in the area. Meanwhile, Professor Gabriel Penrose is in the area, officially to track down local legends, but really in hopes of finding Ophelia again. Will he succeed? What happened to Imogen?
This is a novella written specifically to wrap up loose ends after the series was canceled. As a result, it will appeal most to series fans. With only 100 pages to work with, the story is fast paces with something always happening to move it forward. The new characters are a bit short changed, but Ophelia and Gabriel are strong, and the plot kept me guessing until the end.
Gila Monster by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun Mysteries #4) – 5
When the head of the Venomous Animals Research Institute is found dead in the lab with a Gila monster next to him, Joe and Tom are called in to find out what is going on. It might be an accident, but they don’t think so, especially when they realize just how few people actually liked the victim. With more incidents happening, can the pair find the killer?
I’ve really been enjoying rereading these books, and this book was no exception. I did remember who the killer was about half way through, but that didn’t dampen my enjoyment at all. I never wanted to put the book down. The suspects are strong and become well developed as we get to further into the book. There are really only three main characters, but I’m enjoying getting to watch them grow.
Gone Gull by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #21) – 4
Meg and various family members are spending the summer at the craft retreat her grandmother, Cordelia, is starting on some old family property. While her grandfather is hot on the trail of some rare gulls that might be in the area, Meg is teaching the blacksmithing classes and trying to figure out who is out to sabotage the center. But as the second week is starting, Meg finds the body of a fellow instructor. Has the sabotage progressed to murder? Or is there another motive?
Those who love this series will find much to enjoy here. We once again get plenty of smiles and laughs, often at the way Meg’s grandparents interact with each other. The characters are wonderful, although we do miss a few of the regulars since this book takes Meg out of town. The mystery and Meg’s roll in it was a little weak, but the characters more than make up for this. I also truly appreciated the family relationships that have been built in this series here. That community is wonderful.
Scam Chowder by Maya Corrigan (Five Ingredient Mysteries #2) – 4
Val Deniston’s grandfather is hosting a dinner party with a secret agenda. He’s hoping to confront Scott, a man who scams retirees out of their savings. However, before the confrontation can take place, Scott gets sick and leaves. The next day he is dead from poison. With the other dinner guests as suspects, Val must figure out what happened before the police arrest her grandfather.
The mystery in this book is very strong. I thought I could discount some of the suspects early on, but by the end, I felt they all could have done it. Yet, when the killer was revealed, it made perfect sense with clues pointing to his or her identity. I do wish that Val’s grandfather wasn’t so harsh to her, but the rest of the characters and their relationships are strong, and I’m anxious to see what happens to them next.