Monday, April 30, 2018

April 2018's Monthly Reading Summary

It's that time again.  Here's what I read in April.  And yes, the Index has been updated as well.

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

Cinco de Murder by Rebecca Adler (Taste of Texas Mysteries #3) – 3
It’s Cinco de Mayo weekend, and Josie Callahan has a full plate.  She will be waitressing at her family’s Tex-Mex restaurant as well as helping her uncle with the first annual chili cook-off and dancing in the parade.  The last thing she needs is to find the body of Lucky Straw, one of the cook-off contestants.  He wasn’t well liked, but who would kill him?

This is a fun mystery tying into a different holiday, yet it fits the theme of this series perfectly.  The mystery is good, with several elements to keep us guessing until the end.  I did feel that the book needed another edit to smooth things over as Josie’s changing theories constantly confused me, but not in a good way for a mystery.  The series regulars are as fun as always, especially Josie’s abuela.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Wedding Cake Crumble by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #10) – 5
It is one week until Angie and Tate’s wedding, and Mel, as maid of honor, has joined Angie in running errands to various venders to make payments.  A stop at the photographer turns up a nasty surprise – his dead body in his office.  Mel’s Uncle Stan, a homicide detective, quickly makes a connection to another murder, that of Angie and Tate’s limo driver.  Is someone out to sabotage the wedding?  Will any of them be the next target?

This book is a pure delight for fans.  The wedding does take over a bit in the second half, but I didn’t mind in the slightest.  We’ve been waiting a lot of books for this moment.  And that’s not to say we don’t get a good mystery with some interesting twists.  The new characters are good, but the series regulars shine with their own sub-plots.  This book also has some great laughs.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Worlds Apart by James Riley (Story Thieves #5) – 5
With the fictional and non-fictional worlds now separate, Owen finds he has lost his imagination, not that he can imagine how that would be a problem.  However, when Kara shows up and takes him 5 years into the future, he sees how things have devolved.  Meanwhile, Bethany’s fictional half is enjoying her new life until her father is shot by a mysterious ray gun.  What is Nobody’s plan doing?  Can Owen and Bethany stop him?

If this isn’t making sense to you, don’t jump in here.  This is the final book in the series, and it builds on everything that came before it.  However, fans who have read the previous four books in the series will be delighted.  We get another wild, fast paced ride.  Almost all the characters we’ve met along the way are back for this book as well, and I loved seeing them all again.  The climax is wonderful and wraps up the series well.  Along with the fun and some meta laughs, we get some interesting thoughts on the importance of both imagination and reality.

Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell (Quaker Midwife Mysteries #3) – 5
While the country is gearing up for the Presidential election of 1888, Rose Carroll and others in her town in Massachusetts are gearing up for a peaceful protest in support of women’s suffrage.  Days before the election, Rose finds the body of Rowena Felch, the local leader of the movement, dead outside her home.  Could it be that someone hates the idea of women voting that much?  Or is there another motive?

While women’s suffrage is a strong theme in the book, Rose quickly finds other motives for murder.  I did feel the plot slowed down a time or two, but that never lasted for very long.  In fact, the author was able to work in development in the mystery in the middle of some of the scenes about the suffrage movement.  I especially appreciated the fact that some of the males in this book supported the movement, too.  The characters are great as always, and a couple of sub-plots advance series storylines well.  All told, this is another great book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

It’s Your Party, Die If You Want To by Vickie Fee (Liv and Di in Dixie #2) – 4
Party planner Liv McKay is busy with two parties before Halloween, but she’s making time for a retreat for the women business owners of Dixie, Tennessee.  However, the first night, the group’s president is found murdered.  Morgan Robison wasn’t well liked around town for multiple reasons, not the least of which is her reputation as a husband stealer.  But why did she push someone at the retreat too far?

It was great to be back in Dixie with Liv, her best friend Di, and the rest of the characters I met in book one.  They are all fun to be with, and I love their various relationships.  The suspects are good, although the mystery gets derailed by party planning at times.  Despite the weak pacing, there are some good twists and clues, and Liv picks up on the key clues in to time solve the mystery.

The Silver Gun by L. A. Chandlar (Art Deco Mysteries #1) – 4
Lane Sanders has landed a job as the personal assistant to New York City’s mayor Fiorello “Fio” La Guardia in 1936 New York City.  She’s enjoying her job even though some days it feels like she is just trying to keep up with her energetic boss as he is on a crusade to clean up the city.  One night, at the scene of a fire, Lane receives a warning for her boss.  But soon she begins to wonder if there is more to the warning.  And is she really a target?

This new series gets off to a promising start.  There’s a good mystery here that kept me engaged most of the time and certainly had me turning pages during the suspenseful climax.  I did feel the beginning wandered a bit too much, although it did all come into play by the end.  Likewise, the ending could have been tighter as it set up the next in the series.  The characters, both real and fictional, are a varied bunch and a delight to be around.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

True Fiction by Lee Goldberg (Ian Ludlow #1) – 5
When terrorists take control of a plane leaving Hawaii and crash it into the island, the entire country is horrified.  But none more so than thriller writer Ian Ludlow.  You see, he had suggested just the twist on 9/11 that happened here to the CIA a few years back during a brainstorming session to help them come up with worst case scenarios.  Within a few hours, Ian is certain that the CIA is out to kill him to silence him.  Using every trick in the book – tricks he knows thanks to the books he’s written, Ian flees from his book tour in Seattle with his author escort, Margo French.  Will the two be able to survive?

This book doesn’t waste a minute throwing us into this thrill ride and never lets up until we reach the climax.  I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what was going to happen next, and the book manages to wink at a few clinches of the genre along the way.  Ian and Margo were good characters, and another we meet along the way walks the fine line of being a caricature without being unbelievable.  Since this is a thriller, there is a bit more language, violence, and sex than in the books I normally read.  There is plenty of humor here to help ease the tension.  I already can’t wait for the sequel.

“J” Is for Judgment by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #10) – 5
Kinsey is surprised to be hired once again by California Fidelity.  They’ve just paid out a claim on Wendell Jaffe’s life insurance five years after his supposed dead at sea only to hear he’s been spotted down in Mexico.  Kinsey locates Jaffe only to have him vanish again.  Can she prove he is still alive?

This is another fantastic mystery.  The characters are strong and help pull us in.  The story itself has plenty of twists and turns before we reach the climax.  We have some time for updates from the series regulars, and I love what is happening there.  Kinsey also stumbles on a surprise in her personal life.  I’m curious to see how this sub-plot plays out in future novels.

Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, and Marcia Talley - 4
This latest collection of short stories from the members of Sisters in Crime Chesapeake Chapter features 13 tales, or is it tails, involving animals.  Yes, there are lots of dogs and cats featured, including a murdered crazy cat lady, a story about a dog getting into trouble with his human, and a movie stars famous dog.  But we get some unusual animals, too, including an octopus and exploding cows.

As with any collection, there were a couple of stories that weren’t to my taste.  But I would then find I loved the next one.  And when each story takes less than 30 minutes to read, you aren’t committed to something you don’t like for very long.  For short stories, the characters were well drawn, and each story featured at least one twist with longer ones features a few more surprises.  While a couple stories trend a little darker, there are some light, very fun stories in the collection as well.  Truly, there is something here everyone will enjoy.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Purloined Puzzle by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady #19) – 5
Cora thinks that the worst problem in her life is the reappearance of her least favorite ex-husband, Melvin.  Then a teen asks Cora to solve a puzzle that was just left at the teen’s house.  Only before it can be solved, the puzzle disappears.  Then the teen’s older brother reports finding a bloody knife in his bedroom even though there hasn’t been a murder.  Is a corpse going to appear?

Fans of the series will be delighted with the latest installment.  We get the usual banter as Cora causes havoc on her way to solving the case.  The usual twists are there before we reach the logical solution.  The characters are on the thin side, which is nothing new for the series, yet I’ve come to care for them and was glad to visit them again.  I laughed multiple times along the way, and those who enjoy puzzles will be glad to know there are two crossword and one Sudoku along the way.