Sunday, May 2, 2021

April 2021's Reading Summary


Welcome to May.  As I said yesterday, hard to believe we are here already.  But that's what the calendar says.

Anyway, time for this month's reading summary.  And yes, the index got updated this month.

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

 



The Chosen One by James Riley (The Revenge of Magic #5) – 4

The final fight is coming.  Fort Fitzgerald and his friends have one week until Damian has promised to return and unleash the Old Ones on the Earth.  Damian thinks he can defeat the Old Ones, but Fort believes that Damian will fail, unleashing the Old Ones on the Earth.  Fort thinks his only hope is to find a way to destroy magic once and for all.  But can he figure out how to do that in time?

This is the final book in the series, so if you haven’t read the earlier books, I definitely recommend you go back and start there.  If you don’t, you’ll have some pretty cool twists spoiled for you.  Fans will be happy with the story we get here.  I do feel the author took a bit too long in the first half, time that could have been cut without impacting the story overall.  But the second half is great, with the complications we’ve grown to expect from the series and a page turning climax.  All the characters we love show up again here, and I enjoyed the growth some of them got.  Fans of the series will be happy with how things are wrapped up.

 

Grand Theft Retro by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #5) – 5

Samantha Kidd has finally landed a steady job working at an on-line fashion magazine.  But when her boss announces plans to release a print edition focused on fashion from the 1970’s, things turn mysterious quickly.  The collection of clothing that they planned to use for the magazine is stolen, and Samantha receives threats aimed at her and her friends.  Trying to keep everyone safe, she sets out alone to figure out what is going on.  Can she do it?

This book kept me off balance but in a good way.  There were so many twists and surprises that I never could quite figure out what was going on until I reached the end, when everything made perfect sense.  It also meant that I never wanted to put the book down.  Samantha is capable of carrying much of this book on her own, but the appearances from the regulars we do get are wonderful.  And we see some interesting growth in several of these relationships.  Some of her antics had me laughing along the way.  My lack of interest in fashion was once again no issue since that is the hook to get us into the story.  This is a delightful mystery filled with twists and turns that will keep you entertained.

 


The Tell-Tale Tarte by Maya Corrigan (Five-Ingredient Mysteries #4) – 4

A new year has started, and Val Deniston’s grandfather appears to be making some changes in his life.  He’s updated his look, including a new haircut and new outfit.  He claims it is for a new job he’s landed for his investigations business.  Then Val is on the scene when a man dies at a nearby shopping center – a man who looks just like Grandfather does now thanks to his new look.  The case soon points to Rick Usher, a local author who has made a career writing tales inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.  Is Grandfather the next target of the killer?  How does Rick play into the mystery?

I must confess, I know little about Poe (I feel like I should know more considering how much I love mysteries), but that wasn’t a hamper to enjoying this book.  Poe lore is certainly a big part of the inspiration of the story, and bits and pieces of his life weave their way into the book.  Even without that, we get a strong mystery with plenty of intrigue.  I did feel the ending was a little weak, but it did wrap everything up.  The characters are fun and continue to grow here.  I’m especially interested to see where some of those relationships go in the future.  We get six more five-ingredient recipes at the end.  Whether you are a fan of Poe or not, this book will keep you guessing until the end.

 

Cozy Up to Murder by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #2) – 4

Owen Hunter is new to Costa Buena, having just bought one of the local used music stores in town.  He’s hoping to blend in and settle into the coastal California community, however on his first day, he has several run ins with local citizens.  When one of them, the owner of the rival music store, turns up dead, Owen becomes the prime suspect.  He has to clean his name before his past comes out since he is in witness protection.  Can he find the truth without his real identity being revealed?

Since I enjoyed the first in the series, I wanted to see what happened to our hero next.  Owen is an intriguing main character, trying to put his past behind him and become a better citizen.  The rest of the cast is all new (except for a couple of supporting government agents).  They are a colorful lot, although they do fall into stereotypes at times.  The plot is intriguing, and I didn’t figure it out.  The book, especially the premise, stretches credibility quite a bit, but I find that Owen and the plot make up for that for me.  It helps that this is a quick read – I breezed through it in two days instead of my normal three.  Despite the flaws, I’m glad I picked this book up.

 

Bones to Pick by Linda Lovely (Brie Hooker Mysteries #1) – 4

Vegan chef Brie Hooker hadn’t planned to start working on her aunt Eva’s goat farm and dairy, but when Eva needs help, Brie is happy to step in.  That’s before a pot-bellied pig turns up bones – human bones.  The skeleton turns out to be Eva’s husband, who disappeared four decades ago.  There was no love lost between Eva and her husband, but Eva didn’t kill him.  However, he has too many relatives in the area who are willing to blame Eva, so Brie starts investigating, hoping to clear her aunt.  When another dead body turns up, Brie finds herself in trouble with the law as well.  Are the two dead bodies related?  Can she figure out what happened?

The characters drew me into this book right away; they are fully developed and fun.  Their teasing and Brie’s creative meat and cheese curses added a level of humor that I enjoyed.  The book was hard to put down with plenty of events to keep me engaged.  Unfortunately, I did feel that the events took the place of the investigation moving forward, which frustrated me.  However, the climax resolved things and upped the stakes in a major way.  This book is a bit edgy for my normal reads, on the border between PG and PG-13, thanks in part of the teasing Brie gets about her love life.  Yes, this book does introduce a love triangle.  While I am getting tired of them, I do like both of the guys here, so I hope it doesn’t get dragged out for very long.  Overall, I enjoyed this book.  If you enjoy humor in your mysteries, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.

 

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly (Jack McEvoy #2) – 5

After a decade covering crime for The Los Angeles Times, Jack McEvoy has just gotten let go due to budget cuts.  He has two weeks left to train his replacement, but he also intends to use that time to write one last major story.  He thinks he’s found that story when he hears about Alonzo Winslow, a sixteen-year-old drug dealer in prison for a brutal murder he denies committing.  As Jack investigates, he once again crosses paths with FBI agent Rachel Walling.  Can the two of them figure out what is really going on?

I enjoyed Jack and Rachel’s first book, so I was glad to finally get to their second novel.  They make a great team, and their characters are as strong as ever.  The rest of the cast is just as great.  The mystery is full of twists and thrills, and I always had a hard time putting the book down.  The book did get a bit too far into the details a couple of times for my taste, but fortunately, those scenes didn’t last long.  I do wish that author Michael Connelly would figure out a way to set up his climatic set pieces without stopping the story to give us data dumps.  It’s always obvious when that happens, too.  It’s a minor issue, but still something that makes me rolls my eyes.  Overall, this is a strong thriller that kept me engaged until I reached the end.

 

Golden Gate by James Ponti (City Spies #2) – 5

As this book opens, Brooklyn and Sydney, two of the team of City Spies, are on board a ship for a week of marine biology targeted at young women.  While they certainly do appreciate the science they are getting, they are really there to covertly guard two of the other teens on the ship.  And it’s a good thing, too, when Umbra agents show up trying to kidnap the girls.  Meanwhile, there is a new lead on a mole inside MI-6 and a lead in a secret project for Mother, the spy in charge of all the City Spies.  Might it tie into the kidnapping?

Last year, I fell in love with these characters with the first book in the series, and I’m delighted to say that this book was just as good as the first one.  The story kept me engaged the entire way, and there were times I was turning pages as quickly as I could to find out what would happen next.  While all of the characters get their moments to shine, this is really Sydney’s book since she sees the most growth.  One thing I love is how much the characters care for each other, so we see them working through conflicts they have.  I might have even teared up a time or two as I read.  We also get plenty of laughs along the way.  I especially enjoyed the scenes in San Francisco since I recognized so many of the places they went.  Kids will love this book.  I know I’m already anxious to find out what happens next.

 

The Bounty by Janet Evanovich and Steve Hamilton (Fox and O’Hare #7) – 3

FBI Agent Kate O’Hare and semi-reformed thief and conman Nick Fox are on loan to Interpol to stop a theft at The Vatican.  Nick is shocked when he recognizes the thief – his father Quentin.  Quentin made it out of The Vatican with one part of a map that is supposed to show where stolen gold was hidden during World War II.  Who is he working for?  Is there gold?  Can Nick and Kate figure out what is going on?

This is an over-the-top book that would have made a perfect action movie.  You have to let go of logic and just enjoy the ride, and if you do, you’ll find that the book is fun.  The story can be a bit repetitive, but the set pieces (and there are several of them) are filled with creative, over-the-top action.  The characters are a little thin, and we really only have three returning characters, but they are developed enough to keep us engaged.  Nick and Kate’s relationship seems to have recovered a little from the previous book, but it isn’t where we left them at the end of book five.  If you are looking for something serious or realistic, don’t even think about picking up this book.  But if you are in the mood for mindless over-the-top action (sensing a theme?), you’ll enjoy this book.

 

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #27) – 2

Easter is coming, and The Cookie Jar is awash in orders, keeping Hannah Swensen, her business partner Lisa, and the rest of their staff busy.  But that doesn’t mean that Hannah doesn’t have time to help her sister Andrea when she calls in a panic.  She’s just found Mayor Bascomb’s dead body in his office hours after having a very loud fight with him.  The police wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t consider Andrea a suspect, so Hannah springs into action to figure out what really happened.  Can she prove her sister is innocent?

I’ve been reading this long running series since the beginning, and I keep reading because I do enjoy catching up with the characters.  If that is your reason for picking up the book, you’ll find they are as charming as always.  I was pleased to see the soap opera of the previous few books has died down, and we see growth in a surprising direction in one character.  Sadly, the love triangle is no closer to being resolved.  The mystery is decent with enough suspects to keep us engaged.  However, the focus is on the food.  There is plenty of talk about food and how much the characters love what they are eating.  With 24 new recipes for us to try, there is certainly plenty of new food to talk about.  The dialogue is repetitious, an example of why realistic dialogue is better than real dialogue in a novel.  While I still want to catch up with the characters, I find myself skimming the book instead of reading it closely.  If you are like me and want to keep up with the characters, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.  But if you haven’t started the series yet, you’ll want to go back to the beginning to find out why there are readers like me who still enjoy visiting the characters.  And if you’ve given up on the series, you can safely skip this one.

 

Something’s Knot Kosher by Mary Marks (Quilting Mysteries #4) – 4

Martha Rose is shocked when she learns that her good friend Birdie Watson’s husband, Russell, was killed in a robbery at the bank he managed.  Even more surprising are the questions the FBI and local police are asking Birdie.  They are making it sound like Russell was a target.  Martha and her friend Lucy are concerned that, if Russell was a target, someone might go after Birdie next, so when Birdie announces that she intends to take Russell’s body to his home in Oregon to be buried, they are happy to think she will be out of town.  Being the supportive friends they are, they plan to go along.  Martha can’t help but start nosing around, and what she learns about Birdie and Russell surprises her.  But are the authorities right?  Was Russell a target and not an innocent bystander?

Since Birdie is one of the main characters in the series, we’ve met Russell before, but he’s never spent much time on the page.  Here, he’s dead on page one.  Still, over the course of the book, we learn quite a bit about him, and he becomes much more fleshed out than he has been before.  The main characters are also strong.  Some of the supporting players are stereotypes, but some of those characters also provided some comic relief, so it’s hard to complain too much.  The mystery itself is solid.  The pacing lags a bit when the characters are on the road, but I still appreciated how the author was able to pull off a mystery with two different main settings without the book feeling too disjointed.  There’s just enough talk of quilting to whet my appetite, and we get some tips for caring for a quilt at the end of the book.  I continue to be glad I gave this series a chance, and I look forward to my next visit with the characters.

 

Right to Remain Silent by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal #3) – 5

Sparkle Bodie was declared dead, but then came back to life at the funeral home.  She’s rushed to the hospital where she dies for real – smothered by a pillow.  The sheriff thinks that Sparkle’s son, Caleb, is responsible for her murder – the son that is deaf and has had very little interaction with anyone else.  Connor is asked by Sparkle’s other son to try to communicate with his brother and find out what really happened.  That is proving to be a challenge even before someone lets Caleb out of jail.  Can she prove he is innocent?

This is a strong third book in the series.  Connor being deaf herself makes her a unique main character, but I love how she navigates life.  The other characters, series regulars or suspects, are strong and help make the book compelling.  The mystery contains enough red herrings to keep me guessing.  I did feel the climax was a bit convoluted at first, but the more Connor explained things, the more it made sense.  The paperback originally came out in the late 1990’s, so there are some dated elements in the book, and since that’s what I read, I don’t know if the ebook was updated.  As long as you know that going in, you should be okay.  There’s a smattering of foul language, but this is worth noting in passing.  I’m glad I’m finally reading about Connor and am hoping I can continue the series soon.

2 comments:

  1. A lot of good reads this month, Mark! It is hard to believe it is already May. Hope you have a good one!

    ReplyDelete