All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz (Orphan X #3) – 5
The phone call that Evan Smoak receives on his special phone comes from a voice he knows – Jack Johns, the main who trained him and the closest thing Evan has ever had to a father. The phone call changes Evan’s world, and Evan find himself setting out to pick up a package for Jack in addition to working on a very personal mission. Will Evan succeed?
This third book featuring Evan is fantastic. The pace is fast with plenty of twists and setbacks, yet I love how things came together at the end. You really have to read this series in order, not only to appreciate the background on the story told here but also to appreciate the character growth in Evan. He’s a complex character, and I love watching him change. The rest of the cast is fantastic, too, and the writing paints his world without slowing down the story. Truly a wonderful book.
The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson (Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians #5) – 4
The Librarian army has just devastated Mokia, and Alcatraz, having recently given up the throne, is looking for a way to save his friend Bastille and keep his father from unleashing Smedry talents on the entire world, thereby destroying it. He hits upon the idea of infiltrating the biggest Librarian stronghold – the Highbrary, better known to the rest of us as the Library of Congress. Can he and his family do it without their Smedry talents?
If you are confused by the above, this is the fifth in a middle grade fantasy series. It had been several years since I read the last one, and enough background is given to remind me about this world, but if you are new, I recommend you start from the beginning. As I was expecting, there are lots of laughs and some twists. What I wasn’t expecting was a rather dark climax that felt abrupt. At the very, very end of the book there is a clue that this might not be the end of the story. I hope that’s the case because otherwise, for a book that was supposed to be the final book in the series, it is very disappointing.
Claws for Concern by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #9) – 4
Charlie’s grandson has been born, and he’s delighted to be spending time with this addition to the family. But he soon begins to get drawn into another mystery. First a true crime writer wants to write about some of Charlie’s past cases. Then there’s the mysterious man in the library asking questions.
This is definitely a slower book in the series as it took a while for us to figure out exactly where the mystery might be. There is one in the book, and I enjoyed it once Charlie started investigating. As always, the characters, both new and old, shine. I loved getting to spend more time with the usual gang, and most of them get at least an appearance. We also get to see some characters from the author’s other series, which was a lot of fun.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Cry Fowl by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun #5) – 4
Joe and Tommy are going to visit family in the UK, but they can’t leave behind their lives as homicide cops. Joe, visiting his in-laws in England, discovers that his father-in-law’s business partner has been murdered. Meanwhile, Tommy’s visit to family in Ireland is complicated by the fact that someone is out to kill his uncle.
It would have been nice if these two stories connected, but instead we get two novellas. That’s a minor complaint, however, since it is wonderful to get more adventures with these two great characters. Both stories are solid with plenty of complications before they are resolved. We also get some interesting developments for Joe and some good background on Tommy. Fans will be glad they read this one.
Death al Fresco by Leslie Karst (Sally Solari #3) – 4
Sally and her friend Eric are taking an outdoor painting class around Santa Cruz. During class one Saturday, Sally’s dog finds a dead body in the kelp. The man was a regular at Sally’s family’s restaurant, and his last few days seem to be connected to his time there. Can Sally figure out what happened before the restaurant’s reputation is ruined?
This book has a good mystery with viable suspects and a couple of good twists to it. It also has some strong sub-plot, which are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they take the focus off the mystery a bit too much at times. On the other hand, they are the perfect showcases for some of the recurring characters, and I enjoyed seeing them again and how they are growing. Overall, I found this a satisfying read.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #9) – 3
In order to help her family deal with their grief, Flavia, her two older sisters, and the family’s servant Dogger have been shipped off on holiday. They are supposed to be enjoying several peaceful days of boating, and Dogger has just happened to pick a location where a vicar poisoned three ladies in his congregation with the communion wine. While Flavia is thinking about this crime, she is letting her hand drift in the water and suddenly grabs something. Instead of the fish she thinks it might be, she discovers it’s a body. Was there foul play? Can Flavia figure out what happened to the corpse?
Series fans, like myself, will be anxious to get this book to find out what is happening to Flavia and her family. We get those updates quite early and then settle in for the latest mystery. The characters are in top form; I loved the develop on Dogger especially. The new characters are sharp, and Flavia charms as always. However, the mystery was poor. We get a strange portion of the book where Flavia is imaging something that happened a few years before. The ending is very weak with guesses instead of facts and deductions. And if Flavia is right on the motive, it is extremely poor. Fans will want to read this one, but definitely start with a stronger book if you are new to the series.
The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen – 5
When Hugo Langley dies, his daughter Joanna finds a letter in his possession addressed to someone named Sofia in Italy. It references “our beautiful boy.” Joanna knows her father was shot down in the Tuscany region during World War II, but does this letter mean she has a half-brother? Intrigued, Joanna sets out to learn about that time in her father’s life. What will she learn?
This book switches back and forth from Hugo’s story in 1944 and Joanna’s journey in 1973. The chapters are clearly labeled, so it is never hard to follow which time period we are in. While this is not a traditional mystery by any means, we do learn what happened back then and how it plays out in the more “modern” setting. This book is just as much about Joanna’s growth, and she lead a cast of very strong characters I quickly fell in love with as I read.
Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #22) – 3
Hannah is trying to deal with her new husband, Ross, having vanished while still getting her cookie shop ready for Thanksgiving. Then P.K., Ross’s assistant at the station, dies in a car accident. The police quickly determine that P.K. crashed because of poisoned candies he ate that were sent to the station. Was he the intended target? Or was Ross? Who sent the poisoned candies? Is this why Ross disappeared?
As you can see, there is plenty here for a good mystery. Instead, we get an average mystery. Much of the book is taken up with talking about food and baking, used to introduce the almost 30 recipes spread out over the story. There are some good twists in the mystery and the story of Hannah’s life, but the mystery especially is short changed and the ending feels rushed. The characters are fun as always. Longtime fans will still want to visit Hannah, but this is not going to draw new readers to the series.
Cardiac Arrest by Lisa Q. Mathews (Ladies Smythe and Westin #1) – 5
When Milano, Florida, cardiologist Dr. Anthony Amoretto, aka Dr. A, dies in his office one morning, it brings Summer Smythe and Dorothy Westin together. Summer is a twenty-something working her first day for Dr. A, and she becomes the prime suspect since she handed him his morning shake. Meanwhile, Dorothy is a woman of a certain age who was Dr. A’s first appointment. The unlikely friends set out to find out what happened to Dr. A to clear Summer’s name. What will they uncover?
This book was a delight from start to finish. Dorothy and Summer are true partners, even acting as our third person point of view characters at various times, and both uncovering key pieces of the puzzle. Dr. A had plenty of secrets, and I had no clue where things were going until we reached the logical end. A few of the characters are a bit over the top, but they work for the comedic tone of the book. Summer would annoy me at times, but then she’s show a hidden depth that would make me rethink her. I hope she matures as the series progresses. Dorothy, on the other hand, was a pure delight. I can’t wait to visit this duo again.
The Uninvited Corpse by Debra Sennefelder (Food Blogger Mysteries #1) – 4
Food and lifestyle blogger Hope Early is settling back into her home town of Jefferson, Connecticut, and she is enjoying reconnecting with family and friends. One chance to do that is at her friend’s garden party to celebrate that friend’s new gardening book. However, Peaches McCoy, an ambitious real estate agent, crashes the party. Peaches isn’t well liked in town, but Hope is surprised to find Peaches’ body before the event is over. With the police zeroing in on Hope’s sister, Hope sets out to find the real killer. Can she do it?
This book doesn’t waste much time before jumping into the garden party. That’s both good and bad since it means it isn’t long before Peaches dies, but it also means we meet the suspects and series regulars in a hurry. It took me a little time to keep them all straight, but as their personalities came through, I was able to remember who they all were. The plot does slow down in the second half, but everything comes together for a great climax. This looks like the start of a fun series.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Murder on Washington Square by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #4) – 5
When midwife Sarah Brandt gets a note form Nelson Ellsworth, her neighbor’s son, she is intrigued. She agrees to their meeting only to learn that Nelson has gotten a woman pregnant, a woman who doesn’t seem to want to marry him. Nelson asks Sarah to examine the woman, but something about their encounter seems off. Sarah doesn’t give it much thought until the woman is murdered and Nelson is arrested for the crime. With the help of NYC detective Frank Malloy, she begins to investigate. What is happening?
I hadn’t realized how much I’ve come to enjoy this series until I picked up the book. I was immediately lost in the world of 1890’s New York City, and Sarah and Frank are outstanding guides. They lead a cast of strong characters, and I love watching them interact and their slow burn romance. I did figure some things out early, but I was still glued to the page as there were twists and complications I didn’t see coming.