Monday, August 1, 2016

July 2016's Monthly Reading Summary

It's August 1st, so it must be time for this month's monthly reading summary.  As always, the Index has been updated as well.

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

Toasting Up Trouble by Linda Wiken (Dinner Club Mysteries #1) – 4
J.J. Tanner is an event planner by day and an aspiring chef by night.  As part of her event planner job, she’s hired local chef Antonio Marcotti to cater an Italian themed party.  But Antonio is a bit egotistically, and after he ignores the contract, he and J.J. get into a fight.  Only the next morning, J.J. returns to clean up after the party to find that Antonio is dead.  With the police looking at her and a friend in the local dinner club she’s joined as suspects, J.J. needs to find the real killer.

This debut got off to a bit of a slow start, but once the murder happened, it picked up.  There were some good twists and surprises before we reached a logical ending.  The characters who got a decent amount of page time were well developed, and I’m betting we’ll get to know the rest better in future books in the series.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Murder on a Silver Platter by Shawn Reilly Simmons (Red Carpet Catering Mysteries #1) – 4
Penelope Sutherland is beginning to build her catering company, and landing the job catering the movie her best friend Arlena is starring is in a plum gig indeed.  That is until a dead body is found outside the house where the two women live and accidents keep happening to on the set that appear to make Arlena the target.  What is going on?

I love movies as well as mysteries, so this combination of the two was right up my alley.  It’s a very fun book as well.  The pacing was a bit off, but never for very long at a time, and the mystery led up to a great solution.  The characters are strong and human, not the over the top characters we can get somethings when movie stars are involved.  I’m definitely looking forward to the next in the series.

The Mystery of the Antique Doll by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #36) – 3
A new antique shop has opened in Sleepyside, and when Trixie and Honey visit the shop, they find Carl, the owner, rude.  But Trixie really gets suspicious when he asks them to do him a favor on a weekend trip to Paris, and they find themselves being followed after doing it.  What have they stumbled into?

While not among my least favorites in the series, I certainly do see the flaws.  The plot drives the book more than logic and the author has to twist things around in pretty painful ways to get to the climax.  Having said that, I do enjoy the climax, and I think the idea behind the mystery was good.  Some of the series regulars are reduced to cameos, and this is the infamous books where Trixie knits.

Murder Under the Covered Bridge by Elizabeth Perona (Bucket List Mysteries #2) – 4
With the covered bridge festival under way, Charlotte has talked Francine and her husband into a photo shoot to help knock an item off Charlotte’s bucket list.  However, when they are almost done, they hear gunshots and see a man run out of a field, slide down under the bridge, and collapse.  The man turns out to be Francine’s cousin, and she begins poking around to find out what happened.  Can she figure it out?

I loved the first book in this series and I was anxious to revisit the characters.  It’s nice to have a group of 60-something women who are still full of life and pursuing their dreams.  The murder, while good, does take an interesting twist near the end, and I’m very curious to see just how this factors in to later books in the series.  If you are looking for a fun, light cozy that isn’t in the normal mold, this book is definitely for you.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Kernel of Truth by Kristi Abbott (Popcorn Shop Mysteries #1) – 5
Rebecca Anderson’s morning is interrupted when she hears screaming from next door.  The owner of the neighboring shop, Coco Bittles, has been found murdered.  It appears to be a robbery gone wrong, but Rebecca digs in to try to find the truth since Coco was her mentor.  Was it a robbery?  If not, can Rebecca figure out what really happened?

This books walks a very fine line.  Because Rebecca was close to the victim, we feel the depth of the loss.  Yet there is some fun humor to keep the book from getting too serious.  Rebecca herself has some maturing to do, but I feel we see that as the book progresses, and I loved that growth.  She’s surrounded by a great group of family and friends I can’t wait to see again.  And the mystery is strong with some nice detours before we reach the logical ending.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #6) – 4
Flavia’s mother has been found and her body is being returned to Bishop’s Lacey.  Flavia is waiting with the rest of her family on the train station when the body arrives when a stranger comes up to her and gives her a cryptic message.  Minutes later, he’s dead.  What did his message mean?  What does this have to do with Flavia’s mother?

As often in this series, the mystery takes a back seat to Flavia and her family.  Still, the plot does answer some questions about the de Luce family and appears to wrap up a few long running plot threads.  Fans will absolutely love this book however, because of the character study it gives us in grief.  While the mystery is weak, it is a very strong book, especially if you know the characters.

The Pursuit by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg (Fox and O’Hare #5) – 4
Picking up moments after the last book ended, we learn who kidnapped conman Nick Fox and why.  Can FBI agent Kate O’Hare track him down?  Will this reveal their secret partnership?  And what scheme can they stop next?

Yes, I’m being especially vague on the plot, but most of the fun of this book is seeing how things unfold as the book progresses.  The story moves quickly and keep the pages turning.  As always, the characters could be a tad sharper, but some of the supporting characters are a hoot.

The Sound of Murder by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #2) – 5
Ivy’s latest gig is in The Sound of Cabaret, a mash up of The Sound of Music and Cabaret.  She’s also housesitting, and one of her new neighbors dies in his garage.  While it looks like a suicide, the man’s daughter hires Ivy and her uncle to find proof he was murdered.  Can Ivy balance her first investigation with her new show?  Is there even a killer to find?

I enjoyed the first book in this series a few months ago, and I enjoyed this one just as much.  There are several sub-plots, and they do take the spotlight from the murder in the first half, but as the book progressed the murder was more center stage.  Some of those sub-plots even wound up tying in to the main plot.  The characters are a delightfully fun bunch, and they kept me engaged the entire way through.  Sprinkle in a good dose of humor and you’ve got another great book.

Commander Toad and the Dis-Asteroid by Jane Yolen (Commander Toad #4) – 5
Commander Toad and the crew of the Star Warts are about to leave Star Fleet headquarters when they are given their new mission.  An asteroid is sending out an SOS, and it appears they need beans.  Armed with a wide variety, the crew sets out.  What will they find when they arrive?

As always, this is a fun book filled with puns, both in the text and the illustrations.  The plot, while clever and suspenseful, doesn’t put our characters in as much danger, making it perfect for the more timid reader.  Kids and parents alike will enjoy this book.

The Silence of the Library by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks #5) – 5
Charlie Harris is helping put together a display about the various teen detectives for the Athena Public Library.  Since he’s a fan of the little known Veronica Thane series, he’s hoping to highlight it.  He’s delighted to learn that the author lives nearby and is willing to make a rare appearance during that time.  But news that she will be there brings out some obsessed fans, and a murder quickly follows.  Can Charlie figure out what happened?

As a fan of teen detectives myself, I found this book a lot of fun.  The mystery was strong with a few elements from the teen detective genre thrown in for good measure, which added to the plot.  We didn’t see quite as much of the supporting cast as usual, but the new characters more than made up for it, and Diesel, Charlie’s cat, is as charming as ever.

The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #4) – 4
Harry Bosch has been suspended from work, and he decides to use the time to look into the one case that has always haunted him – the death of his mother.  She was a prostitute, and the case has been cold for over 30 years.  Can he find any fresh leads to follow?  Is there even anyone alive who would care about it anymore?

In many ways, this book is a character study of Harry Bosch, and aspects of that slow the book down, early on.  As the case heats up, however, the book gets more interesting and even threw in a twist or two I wasn’t expecting.  And the character study does pay off because the ending becomes much more powerful for Harry and us as a result.