Thursday, December 30, 2021

December 2021's Reading Summary

I know, I'm actually posting my December reading summary with a couple of days left to go in the month.  But, since I've posted all my reviews for the month (and year), I figured I'd go ahead and post it today.

Once again this month, I didn't get the index updated.  Something about being out of town for Christmas and having too much fun with my family to worry about blog housekeeping.  But I'll make a point of updating it before January.

All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).  Links take you to my full review.

 



A Plus One for Murder by Laura Bradford (A Friend for Hire Mysteries #1) – 5

Emma Westlake has been talked into trying a new business as a paid companion for those who might need one.  One of her first clients is Brian Hill, a local writer and conspiracy theorist.  He wants Emma to be his cheering section at a local open mike night.  When he dies not too long after starting his poem, Emma realizes he comments about there being people in the audience who wanted to kill him weren’t jokes.  Feeling a sense of loyalty to Brian, Emma tries to figure out what happened to him.  Can she do it?

As the first in a new series, this book has to balance setting up the premise of the series with giving us a good mystery.  It does a good job of doing just that, and I was engaged the entire time.  Naturally, the plot gets stronger the further we go into the book until we reach the logical climax.  I did find one of the characters a little overbearing, but that was my only complaint.  On the whole, I am already falling in love with the characters in the book, and it made me reflect on the friendships I have in my life.  I also enjoyed the humor throughout the book.  I laughed several times along the way.  A new series from Laura Bradford is always reasons to rejoice, and this book proves why once again.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

A Dangerous Breed by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #5) – 3

A trip with his friend Hollis to get medical help for an injured man puts reformed thief and former Army Ranger Van Shaw in the sights of a dangerous man.  Suddenly, Van is being extorted to break into a biotech firm and steal an unspecified item.  Meanwhile, Van might be on the trail of his father for the first time in his life.  If he finds him, does he want to know this man after all?

Normally, I enjoy these books and all the twists and turns they give us.  This one left me unsatisfied.  While the stories do reach logical and suspenseful conclusions, I can’t help feeling there should have been more.  Neither story was developed enough for a full novel, but took time away from each other.  Of course, the characters, new and returning, were excellent as always.  While I was expecting more language and violence than the books I normally read, there was one particularly distasteful scene.  This book is disappointing since I usually enjoy the series.  This one is for fans only.

 


How to Book a Murder by Cynthia Kuhn (Starlit Bookshop Mysteries #1) – 4

Emma Starrs is looking for ways to expand her family’s bookshop, and she is hoping she can help plan some events that will bring in much needed money.  Unfortunately, her first event is for Tabitha Baxter, and old childhood nemesis who hasn’t matured much since they last interacted.  Emma is hoping to survive the night, but then she finds a dead body.  With rumors that Emma or Emma’s aunt Nora, who was a guest at the party, are responsible for the murder circling around town, can Emma figure out what really happened?

I was pleasantly surprised at who the victim was, and it allowed some great additional conflict for Emma.  The pacing did stumble a few times, but overall, this was a fun book that kept me engaged.  It helped that some of the sub-plots had me laughing.  One did get over the top at times, but it was still fun.  There were a plethora of suspects, and they were introduced in group scenes, but as the book progressed, we got to know them better.  The main characters really stood out, and I enjoyed meeting them here.  The climax was creative and wrapped things up well.  This is a fun debut, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens to Emma next.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Stitched in Crime by Emmie Caldwell (Craft Fair Knitters Mysteries #2) – 5

Life is beginning to settle down again for Lia Geiger, and the crowds are returning to the craft fair where she sells her knitting projects, thanks in part to Cori Littlefield and her wonderful crochet projects.  Sadly, Cori is found dead one day near the bottom of a waterfall.  While the police rule it a tragic accident, Lia thinks there might be a connection to a similar death from two decades ago – a death that Cori claimed to witness as a little girl.  But can Lia find any evidence to back up her claim?

I enjoyed the first book in this series, and this was just as much fun.  We get a puzzling mystery with several strong suspects.  Every time I thought I knew who done it, another suspect would do something to put them at the top of my list.  The ending answered all my questions, including one the characters never asked.  I do feel like the characters could be a little stronger, but maybe that’s just me, and maybe it’s because of all the background characters.  I had no trouble keeping all the characters straight, and a character that rubbed me a bit the wrong way in the first book has definitely softened here.  If you are looking for a fun cozy, this is the book you need to pick up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

City of Shadows by Victoria Thompson (Counterfeit Lady #5) – 5

Newlywed Elizabeth Miles Bates is enjoying her new life in 1919 New York City, but she has to call upon her conman roots when her friend Anna Vanderslice comes to her for help.  Anna’s mother has started going to a medium, spending money they don’t have in their budget to do so.  Elizabeth quickly confirms that the medium is a fake, and her husband, Gideon, figures out that there is more to the plot than Elizabeth originally thought.  Can she figure out how to stop the medium?

I enjoy this series since the caper storylines are a break from the mysteries I normally read.  This one was a bit more straightforward than some of the others, but I still enjoyed every page, and there were a few branches to the plot I didn’t expect.  Another draw to this series is the characters.  They are their usual charming selves here.  The multiple viewpoints add to the fun since some of the reactions to the events are funny.  Yet, the characters have some real depth to them and I love seeing how they are growing as the series progresses.  If you are looking for a little something different in a crime novel, this is one you’ll enjoy.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Frosted Yuletide Murder by Kim Davis (Cupcake Catering Mysteries #4) – 4

Emory Martinez and her twin sister Carrie are not happy to discover that their mystery client for a Christmas party is Blair, an old high school nemesis.  As the evening progresses, Blair continues with her abuse of Carrie, but she gets into fights with others at the party as well.  When Emory and Carrie return to the location of the party the next morning, they find Blair’s dead body.  The rumors and evidence seem to be pointing to the sisters.  Can Emory figure out what happened before either of them spends the holiday in jail?

Before we go any further, I do want to issue a warning – this book spoils some events in the lives of the characters from previous books in the series.  If you aren’t up to date, don’t start here.  As a Southern California resident, I enjoyed this book’s setting since its depiction of weather in December made me feel right at home.  The plot is filled with events that kept me engaged.  I did feel the climax was a bit weak, but overall, I still enjoyed the book.  One reason is the characters.  Yes, the suspects are strong, but I’m talking the series regulars.  I love getting to spend time with all of them, and fans of the series will be interested in seeing the latest developments in Emory’s life.  You’ll want to work this Christmas cozy into your reading schedule as soon as you can.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

The Stories We Tell by Liz Milliron (Homefront Mysteries #2) – 4

After the success of her recent case, Betty Ahern finds herself being hired by her co-workers at the Bell Airplane factory to help them solve problems for them.  However, she isn’t sure what she can do for Emmie, who is certain that her grandmother was murdered and didn’t die of natural causes as everyone else assumes.  Betty does a little digging and is about to give up when a member of the Polish government in exile, visiting Buffalo, is murdered.  When Betty begins to think there might be a connection between the two, she wonders if their deaths are connected.  If they are, can she prove it?

I was happy to return to Buffalo in December 1942 to visit with Betty again.  This book really brought the time period to life with the little details of life during World War II for those at home.  I did have to remind myself of the different time and Betty’s age during some of her interactions with others, especially her parents.  Having said that, I did like seeing how the characters are growing, especially her relationships with her parents.  I found the beginning of the book slow, I think because Betty needed time to make the connection that would drive the plot, but once she did I was hooked.  One red herring wasn’t completely wrapped up, but I was still mostly satisfied with the solution to the mystery.  I’m looking forward to visiting with Betty again soon.

 

The Twelve Jays of Christmas by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #30) – 4

It’s a few days before Christmas, and Meg Langslow is ready for the holiday and the invasion of family that it brings.  What she isn’t dealing with well is Roderick Castlemayne.  Roderick is a wildlife artist in town to paint birds for Meg’s grandfather’s newest book.  Roderick has taken over the library in Meg’s house and is acting like a jerk in every way imaginable.  Meg has finally had enough and is ready to kick him out, but someone takes care of the problem for her when they kill him.  Once again, Meg finds herself involved in the investigation.  Will she find the killer before Christmas?

It’s almost become tradition to drop in on Meg and company during Christmas, and I always enjoy these seasonal visits.  The Christmas spirit is strong in this entry, although we did miss a few of the regular traditions around town.  The plot had several fun complications, but I did figure out what was going on a little early.  A few of my favorite supporting characters weren’t in town when most of the action took place (although I think they got the same amount of page time as they normally would), but the rest of the cast more than made up for it.  Between these characters and the animal antics, I was smiling if not laughing as I read.  Fans of the series will delight in this newest Christmas visit with old friends.

 

Project Dogway by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries Short Story) – 4

Cousins Caro Lamont and Mel Langston are both in attendance at a dog fashion show fundraiser to help raise awareness for heartworm (in dogs, that is).  Mel’s boutique is providing fashion for the dogs that are walking the catwalk, er dogwalk, for the show.  However, the show ends early when Phil Tawney drops dead after eating some shellfish.  While Caro searches for Phil’s missing award-winning beagle, Mel attempts to comfort the not quite grieving almost ex-wife.  Will they wind up gathering the clues needed to catch the killer?

As a fan of this series, I was delighted to see the characters return, even if only in a short story.  Caro and Mel and still feuding here, so we get the story told in short chapters to make it easier to switch between the cousins as the focal point of the story.  The authors do a great job of giving us clues without repeating themselves so that both cousins can solve the crime.  We don’t see many of the series regulars, but we had to have time for new characters and the plot in this short story.  The mystery is well thought out with a logical solution.  We also get the fun of the over-the-top world these books brought to life.  Make no mistake, this is a short story I read in about 45 minutes, but as long as you keep that in mind, you’ll be fine.  As a series fan, it was fun to revisit the characters.  If you are new to the series, it might be a good way to meet the characters.  You’ll be hooked and looking for the first book before you know it.

 

Gated Prey by Lee Goldberg (Eve Ronin #3) – 4

LA Sherriff’s detective Eve Ronin and her partner, Duncan Pavone, are undercover in a gated community hoping to set a trap for the people behind a string of home invasion robberies.  However, when the trap is sprung, Eve is left with more questions.  Under pressure from their superiors to wrap up the case, Eve and Duncan find themselves called to a stillborn death.  Only, it doesn’t turn out to be as simple as they thought at first.  Can Eve wrap up either case to her satisfaction?

I wasn’t surprised to find two cases in the pages of this book, but I was surprised at how the book was divided, with Eve focusing on one case at a time instead of them weaving in and out of each other.  They might have needed another twist or two, but overall, they were highly entertaining and I had to keep reading to find out if my theories were right.  Eve is an interesting main character.  I think her rigidness is beginning to soften, which I like.  There are many references to the events of the last book, which makes sense given how it will impact her life going forward, so know that before you pick up the book.  Since this isn’t a cozy, it has more language and violence than the books I typically read, so keep that in mind.  It’s always a pleasure to visit Eve, and I’m looking forward to visiting her again soon.

4 comments:

  1. Glad you feel organized and are having some fun this holiday season. Love reading your reviews of mysteries even if I don't get to the books myself. Maybe someday. And did you know that the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan has an exhibit of Hallmark ornaments? https://www.thehenryford.org/current-events/calendar/through-the-years-with-hallmark-holiday-ornaments/

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    1. I've heard about that exhibit. I think it would be fun to visit, but it's a little far away for me to get there. Unfortuantely.

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  2. ANother great month for reading! Happy New Year! I hope to see you regularly again in the 56!

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    1. I know, I need to get back to it. I've just had too many reviews to post recently, I guess.

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