Ironically, I haven't updated the index. I completely forgot to do that until just now as I went to schedule this (less than 12 hours before it goes live. I'll be sure to do it next month, however.
For now, here's what I read in May. The links will take you to the full review.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
A Date with Murder by Jessica Fletcher, Donald Bain, & Jon Land (Murder, She Wrote #47) – 4
Labor Day in Cabot Cove, Maine, means the Wirth’s annual end of summer picnic, and Jessica Fletcher is there to enjoy the time with her friends. The party ends in tragedy, however, when Hal Wirth dies of a heart attack. Something feels off to Jessica about his death, and she starts looking for answers. When she is warned off and another body turns up, Jessica knows she must be on the right track. Can she prove it?
As big a fan of the show as I am, I have never picked up one of the tie in novels until now. I’m glad I finally did because I really enjoyed this book. The Cabot Cove episodes were always my favorite, and I enjoyed reconnecting with Mort and Seth as well as Jessica. They were all in fine form, and it was comforting to be in their presence again. The mystery was complex, with several surprises that kept me turning pages. Unfortunately, I did feel that the ending was short changed, leaving one major plot point unaddressed. Still, I’m glad I picked up this book overall.
NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book.
The Art of Vanishing by Cynthia Kuhn (Lila Maclean #2) – 4
Every spring semester, Stonedale University puts on an arts festival, and Lila has been roped into serving on the committee. The big name for the week is author Damon Von Tussel, who has just released his second book decades after his critically acclaimed debut. Lila is sent to interview him before the big event to gain some publicity, but before she can talk to him, he disappears. Then everyone on the committee starts to get threatening e-mails. What is going on?
I don’t read too many mysteries set in the academic world, so I enjoyed changing that with this book. The internal politics of the college and Lila’s worries since this is her first-year teaching there overshadowed the mystery at times. The mystery itself is a little different than many of the books I read, and I found it a refreshing break. The characters are fun, especially Lila’s mother, and I am curious how some of these relationships will develop in the future.
A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #7) – 4
Former FBI agent Terry McCaleb is enjoying his new life on Catalina when he is asked to come back to the mainland and consult on a bizarre case. He zeros in on a clue – a plastic owl. Where will that lead him? Meanwhile, Harry Bosch is working closely with the prosecution on a case that he investigated. The defendant is a Hollywood director. Is their case strong enough to win?
Fans of Michael Connelly will enjoy getting to see these two characters team up in one book. We even get appearances by some characters from other Connelly books, which is a treat for fans, although not knowing the backstory doesn’t hamper anything if you start with this book. The characters are sharp, both returning and new. The pacing was a bit off as times since we can guess one twist early and Bosch’s scenes in court tend to slow things down, but overall, this is another great book with a fantastic climax.
Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs (Moon Base Alpha #3) – 5
When someone tries to poison Lars Sjoberg, no one is really surprised. This trillionaire has rubbed everyone the wrong way since he arrived on Moon Base Alpha. In fact, the real question becomes who didn’t want the man dead. Dashiell Gibson is roped into helping with the investigation. How did the poison get on base? And who tried to kill Lars?
This is another fantastic mystery for kids of all ages. The setting is creative, fun, and realistically handled. The mystery is great with good twists and turns. I did feel the pacing slowed down a little in the middle for a series long sub-plot, but that is a minor complaint. The characters are still strong, and there are moments that are guaranteed to make kids laugh and cheer. This is our final trip to the moon with these characters, and the series is wrapped up in a very satisfying way.
Pairing a Deception by Nadine Nettmann (Sommelier Mysteries #3) – 4
Katie Stillwell and her boyfriend, Dean, are out of town for the weekend, spending it at a food and wine festival outside of Santa Barbara. Several times on opening night, they witness a woman who seems to be stalking festival emcee, Hudson Wiley. When a dead body turns up, they begin to wonder what is going on.
With Katie and Dean out of town, they are the only two real returning characters in the series, but I loved getting to spend more time with them. The new characters are good. The mystery is a little light, but once we get past some set up, Katie uncovers some surprises before we reach the logical and suspenseful conclusion. I’m not a wine lover, but the facts about wine certainly make me want to taste some and see if I can tell the differences that Katie talks about, and those who do love wine will enjoy the pairing suggestions at the beginning of each chapter.
Hair of the Dog by Carlene O’Neil (Cypress Cove Mysteries #3) – 4
Penny Lively’s cousin and best friend, Annie Moore, runs the animal clinic in town. Normally, everything flows smoothly there, but trouble is brewing. First, Annie has to fire Nicole, the clinic’s technician, for stealing medicine. Then Annie is caught over the dead body of Brian, her business partner. Naturally, the police start looking at Annie as their prime suspect, but Penny knows her cousin better than that. Brian was such a nice guy; who would want to kill him?
It is so wonderful to be back in the town of Cypress Cove. The characters are a lot of fun, and I enjoyed seeing some relationships grow here. The new characters are just as strong. The plot is good, although the pacing is a little off in the second half. Still, things come together for a strong climax. I really felt like I was transported to the area. Penny, her town, and her vineyard were brought to wonderful life.
Fatal Fishes by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun #6) – 5
Joe’s trip for the Phoenix homicide department into the desert to meet an information was a trap, and Joe is lucky to barely be alive. He’s sure that someone set him up, but he can’t figure out why that person is out to kill him. He barely trusts his partner on the force, Tommy, but he brings him into the investigation. With Joe in hiding, will Tommy piece together what really happened?
I first read this book years ago, and much of it stuck with me. That didn’t hamper my enjoyment the second time around. I still got caught up in the plot and had a hard time putting it down. There were little things I had forgotten that fed into the overall plot; it really was masterfully put together. The characters are strong, and this story shows us another side of the series regulars. The Christian themes and sub-plots add to the richness of the characters without slowing things down. Multiple viewpoints are used masterfully to give us a full picture of the story and heighten the tension at the climax.
Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman – 5
A new baby bird is about to hatch. Knowing her baby will be hungry, the mother bird goes looking for food for him, but he hatches while she is gone. He immediately sets out to find his mother. Will he succeed?
This is a book my whole family remembers with fondness from when I was a kid. The pictures are fun, and the story is straightforward and funny with a heartwarming ending. Most of the words will be very easy for early readers, and a couple of the more unfamiliar words they should be able to sound out with a little adult help.
The 17th Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Women’s Murder Club #17) – 4
Yuki has taken on a potentially explosive assault case in which a man is accusing his female boss of assault. Is it as straightforward as it seems? Meanwhile, Lindsay has been given a tip about someone killing the homeless in the city. Unfortunately, the killings are outside of her jurisdiction, and her efforts to investigate start an inner department skirmish. Can she figure out who is killing these people?
Fans of the series will be pleased with the latest outing. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep them reading, and the cases are both compelling. Of course, the usual weaknesses are there, including Cindy and Claire being under used and all the characters being thin. Additionally, I thought the discussion of Yuki’s case was much more graphic than it truly needed to be.
Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman (Carol Childs #3) – 5
Reporter Carol Childs is in the right place at the wrong time when she witnesses a jewelry store robbery. Since it is the start of awards season in Los Angeles, the store had plenty of jewels on hand. With Eric, her FBI agent boyfriend, working the case, it creates issues in their relationship. Carol is certain that socialite Carmen Montague is involved in some fashion. Is she correct?
The book starts off quickly, and the pace never lags as the story continues. I was turning pages as quickly as I could to keep up with the twists and turns of the plot. The characters are strong, which includes the new characters. I would have liked to see a bit more of the series regulars, but that’s a minor complaint overall. There were a few minor editing issues in the book, but again they are minor and didn’t impact the story at all.
The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon (The Hardy Boys #3) – 4
Fenton Hardy is hard at work on a top secret case. When Frank and Joe go to pick him up from the train station, their friend Chet is passed a counterfeit bill. Can the brothers find the counterfeiters? What is their father working on? And what is happening at the old mill outside of town?
While the big picture of the plot may be obvious to adults early on, I remember enjoying this one as a kid, and I got caught up in the action again. It does help that the details still need to be filled in and there is plenty of action along the way to the climax. The characters are shallow, but I didn’t mind as a kid, and I’m sure today’s kids won’t mind either.
Murder on Moon Trek 1 by Diane Vallere (Sylvia Stryker Outer Space Mystery #1) – 5
Sylvia Stryker has hacked her way onto Moon Unit 5’s maiden voyage, and she is hoping to keep a low profile. However, within hours of getting on board, she finds a body in the uniform closet. Now she finds herself facing questions not only about whether she should be on the ship but about the murder itself. Setting out to clear her name, she begins to wonder if something much bigger is going on. Can she stop it?
I loved this mystery set in space. It took me a little while to fully feel comfortable in Sylvia’s world, but that was a minor complaint. The mystery starts quickly and the pace is steady until the end. The characters we got to know were strong, and I can’t wait to see them again. The setting really was creative and well done.
I Scream, You Scream by Wendy Lyn Watson (Mystery A-La-Mode #1) – 4
Tally Jones is trying to get her new ice cream shop off the ground, but business has been slow. It’s so slow, she’s agreed to cater the dessert for Wayne, her ex-husband, at the picnic his company puts on each fall. The morning after the picnic, Wayne’s new girlfriend is found dead in bed. When gossip and the police begin to look at Tally, she knows she has to find the truth. Can she clear her name?
I felt right at home with these characters within just a few chapters. Tally is wonderful, and the rest of the cast of regulars are just as much fun. The suspects were strong as well. Unfortunately, the mystery wasn’t quite as strong, especially in the first half. Still, it did pick up in the second half and provide some good surprises before we reached the logical climax. Add in enough talk about ice cream to make me drool and you’ve got a perfect book to enjoy during the summer.
How to be a Perfect Christian: Your Comprehensive Guide to Flawless Spiritual Living by The Babylon Bee – 5
This book does just what the title says. In ten chapters, it tells you exactly how to live like a perfect Christian. Oh, we aren’t worried about the fruit of the spirit or holiness or anything hard like that. We are talking about finding the perfect church (one that is focused on you), “doing life together,” serving without ever lifting a finger, looking spiritual online (I’m sure they left out reviewing this book in that chapter), and quarantining your home from non-Christian culture.
And if you aren’t familiar with The Babylon Bee, it is a fantastic satire site that looks at Christian culture and the world from a Christian perspective. I’ve become addicted to their articles, so when I saw this book was coming out, I had to get it. I’m not kidding when I saw there is a laugh on every page as the book mercilessly mocks what many Christians in modern day America focus on. And there were times that the book convicted me since I live a little too much like the person they are mocking. At least some portions of this book have appeared in shorter form on the site, but everything here blends together perfectly for a comprehensive and very funny whole.
Bear Witness to Murder by Meg Macy (Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mysteries #2) – 4
It’s October, and the town of Silver Hollow is getting ready for their Oktobearfest, a teddy bear themed Oktoberfest event for the entire family. Things are kicking off with a kid and teddy bear friendly tea that Sasha Silverman is helping with. She’s trying to avoid her high school nemesis, Holly Parker, when Holly’s assistant Gina interrupts the tea to announce she is suing the mayor. The next morning, Sasha finds a dead body. Despite vowing to stay out of it, she finds herself pulled into the investigation. Will she learn the truth?
There is a lot going on here, and it really pulled me into the story. I finished the book in just a couple of days, in fact. I kept switching what I thought was going on, but when we reached the climax, everything made perfect sense. I did catch a major timeline issue, however, something that always annoys me. The main characters, both series regulars and suspects, are strong and really drew me into the story as well.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Fifth Shades of Greyhound by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #5) – 5
Pet therapist Caro Lamont is attending a fundraiser for a local greyhound rescue organization. However, the evening ends unexpectedly when a man crashes into Caro and then falls down dead at her feet. No one seems to know who he was, but someone must. Who was he? Why did someone want him dead?
This book wastes little time jumping into the murder, and it really doesn’t slow down after that. The book is filled with laughs, coming from some absurd situations and some eccentric characters. Yet the core cast of characters are still serious enough that we can care about them and the outcome. Caro finds plenty of clues and red herrings on her way to a logical solution to yet another fun mystery.