Monday, July 2, 2018

June 2018's Monthly Reading Summary

And it's time for another monthly reading summary.  I did get the index updated yesterday.

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

The Watchman by Robert Crais (Cole & Pike #11) – 4
When a favor is called in, Joe Pike finds himself as the bodyguard for Larkin Conner Barkley, a spoiled rich young woman who has become a witness in a Federal investigation thanks to a traffic accident.  But when people come for them twice within just a few hours, Pike must go to extreme measures to protect them both.  The bigger question becomes, what is really going on?

From a mystery standpoint, this book is outstanding, which several wonderful twists and surprises.  I had a hard time putting the book down.  Since this book focuses on Pike, it is interesting to get some more perspective on this character, although I did feel some flashbacks slowed the book down.  Don’t worry, we do get Elvis Cole as well.  My biggest beef with the book was two characters who I found super annoying.  We were supposed to find them comedic, but I wanted to slap both of them.  Additionally, some characters can’t seem to remember when events they just lived through took place.

The Mystery at Lilac Inn by Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew #4) – 3
Nancy Drew and her friend Helen are traveling to Lilac Inn, which their friend Emily just bought.  Before they can even arrive, the canoe they were traveling in capsized.  Things get even more mysterious at the inn, where unexplained things have started happening.  And back in River Heights, someone is impersonating Nancy.  What is going on?

The mystery only gets more complex from there, and that’s my biggest complaint with the book.  So many different elements are introduced that it becomes overly convoluted and takes the villain explaining everything for the better part of a chapter in the end.  Still, all the action does keep the reader glued to the page.  The characters are sympathetic enough to make us care about the outcome but are their usual thin selves.  Most of the dated elements will be okay, although kids might be thrown by Nancy’s charge plate.  I know I was.

Fiction Can be Murder by Becky Clark (Mystery Writers Mystery #1) – 4
Melinda has a reputation for taking pleasure in being mean to people.  Even though Charlee Russo is an author this agent represents, she’s seen Melinda’s mean streak before.  So it isn’t necessarily a surprise when Melinda winds up murdered.  What is a surprise is the method – straight out of Charlee’s just submitted book.  Clearly, someone in her life is trying to frame her for murder.  But which of her friends could it be?

Early on, I was worried that I was about to be flooded with suspects.  While there are a lot, they were presented in a way that it was easy to remember them as the book went along.  It also helped that potential series regulars are also suspects and that the characters are distinct.  I did feel like the plot focused on one aspect of the mystery over some of the others, but there was still a good twist or two and the ending had me turning pages as quickly as possible.

In Cave Danger by Kate Dyer-Seeley (Pacific Northwest Mysteries #5) – 4
Meg Reed is off to Bend, Oregon, to write a feature on the lava caves in the area.  The future of the caves in in doubt thanks to a bill that would open the Federal land up to private use.  The fight over the bill is creating a lot of tension, but when the group Meg is exploring the cave with makes their way to the bottom, they find a dead body.  What is going on?

Those new to the series will be a little frustrated by this book.  We’re almost a quarter of the way into the book before Meg makes it to Bend, for example.  That time is spent updating us on several storylines introduced in the previous books, so fans will be satisfied.  As the book progresses, we get some good suspects and twists to this mystery as well as a great wrap up to several series storylines, which is nice since this is the last book in the series (at least for now).  Wrapping things up does overwhelm this book, so really, don’t start the series here.

Magnolia has noticed that sign at her local library proclaiming that “You can do anything at the library.”  She takes that as an invitation to put on a circus for the kids in the library.  Of course, they all need to be quiet – this is a library after all.  But really, what could possibly go wrong?

This is another delightfully silly picture book as Magnolia shows us just why the library and the circus shouldn’t mix.  Adults and kids alike will enjoy the story, and the pictures by Elisa Parsley add to the fun.  The climax is definitely the best part of the book.  Even though Magnolia is the one causing the problems, the book is narrated in second person, which actually works to add to the fun here.

Claws for Alarm by Karen MacInerney (Gray Whale Inn Mysteries #8) – 4
Natalie’s current guests at her bed and breakfast are on a yoga retreat, but any thoughts she’d had of peace and quiet have vanished.  They are demanding different food and squabbling amongst themselves.  However, the real drama is happening elsewhere on this island off the coast of Maine where newcomer Francine is making everyone’s life miserable in her efforts to remake the island into what she thinks is should be.  After a particularly memorable fight with Claudette, Francine winds up dead.  Natalie knows her friend couldn’t have done it.  But who did?

I do need to get one issue out of the way first.  There is a timing issue in the plot that keeps me from giving the version I read five stars.  Once it is edited (and the author is working on the revisions), that won’t be an issue at all.  And that’s great because this book is wonderful.  I love the setting of the series, and always feel like I’ve gotten to relax when I am reading about it.  Natalie and the usual cast are old friends, and I was glad to get updates on them.  The new characters are just as strong and memorable.  I thought I had the killer pegged early, but it turned out I was wrong, yet all the twists made sense at the end.

NOTE: I received a copy of the book.

Murder on Mulberry Bend by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #5) – 4
Midwife Sarah Brandt has gotten involved with the work of the Prodigal Son Mission which helps teenage women learn skills to keep them off the streets.  That’s how she is able to identify the body that Detective Sergeant Frank has found in a park – it’s one of the girls from the mission.  With no one to push the police to find justice for this girl, Sarah insists that Frank figure out what happened, with a little help from her.  Will they find the killer?

I was compelled to read this book soon after I read the previous one with the promise of an update on an ongoing storyline.  We do get quite a twist there before this book is over.  The main mystery was a little weak, however.  I didn’t feel like it had the twists we normally get, although maybe that’s because I had an idea what was going early in the book.  The pages still flew by since the characters are strong and the time period comes to vivid life.  Any time spent in this series is time well spent.

The Missing Map of Pirate’s Haven by Sigmund Brouwer (Accidental Detectives #12)
Ricky, his brother Joel, and their friends are off to San Diego to help Lisa’s uncle paint his new house.  When they arrive, they learn a local legend about a pirate who has buried his treasure in the area.  It sounds crazy until Joel finds a couple of silver coins.  Meanwhile, Lisa’s uncle is acting strangely.  Can Ricky figure out everything that is going on?

I’ve read this book a couple of times now, although it’s been over a decade since the last time I read it, so pieces of the plot came back to me as I was reading.  Even so, I was still blown away by how well plotted the book is, with all the clues needed in very plain sight.  The characters are strong as well, and they provide some wonderful laughs along the way.  The Christian elements is woven in seamlessly and never overwhelms this plot driven middle grade book.

With a Little Bit of Blood by D. E. Ireland (Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins #4) – 5
Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins have been invited to the first house party thrown by the new Lord and Lady Ashford (she the former Clara Eynsford-Hill).  The timing is perfect since a couple of strange things have forced the duo to look for a place to stay.  However, the first morning a fellow guest is killed during the rabbit hunt.  Henry is sure it was a hunting accident, but Eliza isn’t so sure.  Who is right?

This is another fun mystery with the characters made famous by Pygmalion and My Fair Lady.  The plot did seem to start slowly, however by the end I realized how things played into the overall story.  A few of the regulars are reduced to cameos, but it was still nice to catch up with them.  We have a rather large cast of characters, but it was always easy to keep them straight as the story unfolded.  We get some fun with new (for 1913) things like airplanes and cars as well as mentions of the more serious things unfolding in the world at the time.

Back in the Habit by Alice Loweecey (Falcone & Driscall Investigation #2) – 4
The last thing former nun Giulia ever wanted to do was go back to her former life, but that’s just what she’s had to do.  Her PI company has been hired to find out why a Novice committed suicide, and the best way to do that is for Giulia to become Sister Mary Regina Coelis again.  Not only is she confronting her past 18 months on the outside, but she’s having to look for secrets.  Was it a simple suicide?  Or will Giulia uncover more?

I waited too long to get back to Giulia, but I’m pleased I got to visit her again.  This book really allows her quite a bit of character growth since it is forcing her to face her past.  We do not see as much of the other series regulars as a result, but when we did, we got some of the laughs I expect with the characters.  The mystery does take us to some darker places, but it is good.  I do feel that the character growth overshadowed the mystery at times, but overall I enjoyed this book.

“K” is for Killer by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #11) – 5
PI Kinsey Millhone’s latest case is a cold one.  Lorna Kepler has been dead for 10 months, and when she died she had been dead for two weeks before she was found, so the police couldn’t even determine the cause of death.  As Kinsey begins to investigate, she realizes that Lorna had a completely secret life, and the investigation causes Kinsey to become a night owl like Lorna was.  Will following her footsteps lead to her killer?

This is another great mystery.  The cold case quality leads to some interesting complications to the investigation.  Lorna’s life included some things that don’t normally pop up in my cozies, but we didn’t get gratuitous detail, which I appreciated.   The ending was a bit rushed, but that’s a minor complaint.  We don’t see much of the other series characters, but Kinsey is fantastic as always, and the book is populated with real people that draw us into the story.

Italian Iced by Kylie Logan (Ethnic Eats #3) – 5
The Terminal at the Tracks diner is featuring Italian food this month, and Laurel is thrilled with how popular the choice has been on the first night.  However, she returns home to find that it has been trashed.  Nothing appears to be taken, but someone was searching for something.  Before she can figure out what they were looking for, she makes an even worse discovery, the body of mega movie star Meghan in the freezer down at the diner.  Laurel has had no contact with Meghan for the past year since Meghan fired her.  What was she doing in town?  And how did she come to die in the freezer?

The mystery is great with a steady stream of clues, surprises, and red herrings to keep us guessing until the end.  Laurel also gets a chance to reflect on her life then versus now, and the growth we see in her is wonderful.  There are only a few series regulars, but it is fun to spend time with them again.  The suspects are strong and do a great job of keeping us guessing until the end.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Marked Masters by Ritter Ames (Bodies of Art Mysteries #2) – 5
This book opens with Laurel Beacham in Florida with Jack Hawkes.  Despite what they have just gone through in the first book in this series, Laurel still doesn’t trust Jack and is only reluctantly working with him.  He is keeping too many secrets from her while demanding she share everything she know.  They are continuing to work together, however, in order to stop a major art heist, and Florida is their most promising lead.  A kidnapping and a dead body prove that they are on the right track.  Will they learn more about the plans in order to stop the heist?  Or will they be stopped permanently?

There is a strong on-going story line in this series involving an upcoming art heist, so I definitely recommend you read these books in order.  In fact, I wish I had read this one closer to the first.  The author does do a good job of filling in the blanks on what has happened before, which helped me remember the events of the first book.  The story starts strong and keeps going from twist to turn as the pages fly by, resolving enough to make this book feel like it has resolved while still leaving plenty for Laurel and Jack to face in the next book.  The duo make for intriguing leads, and the characters we meet along the way hold our interest as well.

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