Monday, March 1, 2021

February 2021's Reading Summary


That time of the month again already.  It may be a short month, but I packed a bunch of good books into it.  (Even more than that with how many books I'll be reviewing in March I got read as well.)

And I got the index updated this month.  Twice in a row!  Although I think I'd have to go for three in a row to get the record.

Anyway, here's what I read in February.  All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great), and the links take you to my full review.

 

The Sharpest Needle by Renee Patrick (Lillian Frost and Edith Head #4) – 5

It’s August 1939, and silent film actress Marion Davies has been receiving poison pen letters from someone calling himself Argus.  The letters threaten to reveal something from Marion’s past, something that could ruin her current relationship with William Randolph Hurst.  When she turns to Lillian Frost and Edith Head for help, Edith can’t help but think there is more to the situation than there first appears to be.  Then a dead body turns up.  Can Lillian and Edith figure out what is going on?

There is so much to praise in this book.  The plot is strong and always keeps us engaged.  It does get a little convoluted as we reach the climax, but as long as you pay attention, you’ll follow what is happening.  Real people and fictional characters rub elbows seamlessly, and they all appear fully formed to us.  I love watching for cameos.  The news of the day impacts the character, and therefore us.  Yet we also have talk about the films coming out during that time, which I enjoyed.  This is more than a Hollywood mystery.  If you enjoy historical mysteries, you need to read these books today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 


Bone Canyon by Lee Goldberg (Eve Ronin #2) – 5

A recent wildfire in the Santa Monica mountains has had a surprising side effect.  The bodies of several people dead for many years have started to be found since the brush that’s been hiding them is no longer around.  Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Detective Eve Ronin and her partner, Duncan Pavone, have landed the most recent one of these cold cases.  Their case proves to be complicated when they identify the body as that of a twenty-something who vanished several years before.  As they begin to investigate, they make several startling discoveries.  What exactly lead to her murder?

I enjoyed the first book in this series, and I wasn’t disappointed with this one in the slightest.  Part of the fun is learning the twists of the case as they unfold, and then watching Eve try to make sense of it all.  There is plenty of action on the way to a wonderful climax.  Eve is a strong main character, and I enjoyed getting to know her better here.  I did feel like a few of the supporting players could be stronger, but maybe that was my reaction to their poor attitudes which aren’t fully explained.  While the overall tone of the book is serious, as it should be given the case, there are some very fun moments, most of them coming at the expense of Hollywood.  This isn’t one of my typical cozies, so there is language, sex, and violence; be prepared before you pick up the book.  I’m glad I picked up this fast paced, twisty mystery.

 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman (Thursday Murder Club #1) – 4

Welcome to Coopers Chase Retirement Village.  It’s a community for active seniors in England.  There are all kinds of activities happening on a regular basis, but the most unusual, and smallest, is a group of four friends who meet every Thursday to discuss cold criminal cases.  Then one day, the murder of a developer takes place near the community.  Naturally, these four friends jump at the chance to figure out what is really going on.  Will they be able to solve the case?

I kept hearing about this book, so I had to give it a try.  The premise is certainly right up my alley, and there was much I enjoyed about it.  The characters are charming, and there were plenty of twists to the mystery.  In fact, I feel like we could have done without a twist or two.  Yes, everything makes sense at the end, but there are so many twists at the end, it is a little overwhelming.  The book is funny, although at times it feels like it is trying too hard to be charming and funny.  The police let the lead characters get away with a little too much, although I usually ignore that in the books I read, so this is worth noting in passing.  I did struggle a bit with the justice done at the end of this book.  The story is told in present tense from multiple points of view, but we always follow which character is our focus.  This is one of those books with some obvious flaws, but I still enjoyed it overall.  If you are interested in it, I definitely recommend you pick it up.  I’ll be visiting the characters again for the sequel.

 

Bronzed Betrayals by Ritter Ames (Bodies of Art Mysteries #5) – 5

Laurel Beacham and Jack Hawkes are enjoying a night out together.  Well, that might be an exaggeration since they are at a party they aren’t enjoying.  However, it provides the perfect cover for an art recovery that the two have planned.  That recovery doesn’t go as planned, but the night really spins out of control when Laurel returns to her hotel room to find a dead body.  She knows the victim, but who killed the person?  Are they trying to frame Laurel?

As always with this series, I have to warn you not to jump in here.  There are so many ongoing plot threads that you won’t fully appreciate what happens here if you do – not to mention the twists that will be spoiled from earlier books.  Fans of the series will be very happy with this book.  There is plenty of action to keep them glued to the page, and the advancement we get on the ongoing stories is satisfying.  All this while providing us with a beginning, middle, and end to the story told here.  I went into the book thinking that this was the final book of the series, but clearly that won’t be the case with the plot threads that were left open and the cliffhanger we get.  Meanwhile, the characters are showing some maturity, which I enjoyed.  When you are in the mood for a cozy caper, I highly recommend this series.  If you are already a fan, you’ll enjoy this chapter in Laurel’s story.

 

Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael Buckley (Finniverse #1) – 4

Finn is a typical almost twelve-year-old.  He’s got a younger sister who annoys him, he’s struggling to make friends at his new school, he’s being picked on by a bully, and he has a crush on a classmate.  His life changes when he accidentally takes his sister’s lunchbox to school one day.  When it starts to glow, he discovers that it’s become a portal to another part of our galaxy.  On, and this portal is the key to a battle against a race called The Plague that destroys planets.  With The Plague now looking at Earth as their next target, Finn is going to have to come up with some kind of plan to save the world.

It’s been a few years since I picked up one of Michael Buckley’s books, so I was thrilled to see he had a new series out.  As you might suspect from the description, this is a wild, fast-paced right that I found hard to put down.  And I haven’t even mentioned the seven-foot-tall robot yet.  I did feel it got a little too apocalyptic for me at times, but that’s a matter of personal taste.  The characters are good, although the one that got the most development here was a cliché.  The creativity that went into this book is outstanding with lots of details that are fun.  Kids will eat this book up and be anxious for the next one when they are done.

 

Smothered by GP Gottlieb (Whipped and Sipped Mysteries #2) – 3

Alene Baron is finding herself irritated by Stanley Huff, who owns the gym next door to Arlene’s café.  Not only is he an inconsiderate neighbor, but Alene questions some of the things he sells.  Alene is shocked when she finds him dead one morning.  When the police begin to look at one of Arlene’s employees as a suspect, she can’t help but try to learn what really happened.  Can she uncover the truth?

This was definitely a mixed book for me.  Most of my issues were things that could have been smoothed over with a strong edit – a few dropped plot threads, the dreaded timeline issues, and a few conversations that were summarized for us instead of including us in them.  On the other hand, there were things I enjoyed.  We have a large cast of characters.  Since it had been a while since book one, I had to remember who every was again (the cast of characters at the beginning helped), but once I did that, I appreciate the growth in the characters we saw here.  The heart of the mystery was good, and I especially appreciated how Alene figured it out, which lead to an entertaining climax.  Alene’s café features vegan recipes, so the recipes we get at the end are vegan as well.  If you enjoyed the first, you’ll want to pick this up and see what happens to the characters next.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Long Island Iced Tina by Maria DiRico (Catering Hall Mysteries #2) – 5

Mia Carina is thrilled for her friend Nicole, who is expecting her first baby.  Nicole has chosen Mia’s catering hall, Belle View, as the location for one of her baby showers.  Despite Mia’s best efforts, the baby shower is interrupted by a fight between Nicole’s mother and step-mother.  Then, one of Nicole’s presents turns out to be a valuable painting stolen years before.  Things only get worse when Mia finds the body of a shower guest the next morning.  Is the murder linked to the painting?

I enjoyed the first book in the series, and this one was great as well.  The painting added a fun element to the mystery, and I really enjoyed seeing how that played out.  The mystery had some great zigs and zags along the way.  The climax was a bit complicated, but I was able to think it through, and it did make sense.  All the characters were wonderful, with some interesting growth for the series regulars.  Mia’s grandmother provides a very funny sub-plot, and there are other great moments of humor throughout the book.  At the end, we get four recipes and a hit for hosting events yourself.  The series is set in Queens, and Mia’s family is involved in the mob.  Even so, this is most definitely still a cozy series.  Grab some ice tea and enjoy this delightful book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Furbidden Fatality by Deborah Blake (Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery #1) – 5

Kari Stuart had been working as a waitress in a town in the Catskills until she won the lottery.  She’s not quite sure what she is going to do with her winnings until she hears about an animal sanctuary on the edge of town that is for sale.  Impulsively she buys it and sets about getting it ready to reopen.  Unfortunately, that’s also when she runs across Bill Myers, the local dog warden, who seems to have targeted the sanctuary.  After Kari finds Bill dead just outside the sanctuary’s fence in the middle of the night, she becomes the police’s prime suspect.  Can she figure out what really happened?

I started to hear some early buzz about this book, so I decided to give it a try.  I’m so glad I did.  This may be the first in the series, but I already love the characters.  Kari leads a great cast, and there are just as many charming four-legged characters as there are humans.  The plot is inventive, with plenty to keep us engaged over the course of the story.  Yet everything Kari uncovered helps make for a satisfying resolution when we reached the end.  While this is Deborah Blake’s first mystery, she has written quite a few other books, and that shows through in the writing.  If you are looking for a promising new mystery series, adopt this book right away.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Shucked Apart by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #9) – 5

Julia Snowden should be focusing on getting the last-minute tasks done to open the summer season of her family’s clambake, but when her boyfriend asks her to help his friend, Andie, Julia can’t resist.  Andie runs an oyster farm not too far away, and someone has just stolen $35,000 worth of new inventory from her.  Andie seems reluctant to give Julia any suspects, however, so it isn’t that surprising that Julia hasn’t made much progress when she finds a dead body.  Is the robbery connected to the murder?

This book does a great job of introducing us to oyster farming without slowing down the mystery itself.  I learned quite a bit while also getting the foundation for the plot.  The pace does build as Julia gets closer to figuring things out, and the climax wraps everything up for us perfectly.  This series is often on the slim side, and this is no exception.  While the suspects are strong and the mystery complex, the supporting players aren’t as prevalent as they might be.  While I did miss them and wouldn’t have minded a sub-plot that could have included them, it’s a minor issue.  The book leaves us with five recipes that seafood lovers will want to try.  As always, this book left me anxious to find out what will happen to Julia next.  Fans won’t be disappointed.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

A Side of Murder by Amy Pershing (Cape Cod Foodie Mysteries #1) – 4

Samantha Barnes, Sam to her friends, grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but left to go to culinary school and become a famous chef.  Thanks to an inheritance and a new job writing about food in the area for a local paper, she is back.  Her first assignment is to review a new restaurant in town, but the good food is quickly forgotten when she finds a dead body floating in the water next to the restaurant.  The police think it was an accident.  After all, the victim was a known drunk, so she could have easily fallen in and drown.  Sam thinks something more sinister is happening.  Can she prove it?

There is a good mystery here, and I enjoyed seeing how Sam figured everything out.  Unfortunately, there is just as much set up, introducing us to the people in Sam’s life and filling us in on her past.  The result was a pace that was uneven.  I did still enjoy it since I liked Sam and the supporting characters.  We saw hints of the depths to the characters that I’m sure we’ll see more of in future books in the series.  I was bothered by a cliché that several of the characters fell into, however, especially since it doesn’t fit one of the characters at all.  The book ends with recipes for a suggested four-course casual dinner with friends.  Overall, I enjoyed this virtual vacation debut.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

5 comments:

  1. Bonus points for the picture! How exciting that you have real, paper books to read. There have been few of those in my life in the last year. I do have The Thursday Murder Club , which was a gift. Saving that for Spring Break reading. Thanks for all of the fun reviews.

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  2. Thank you for this! Thrilled to discover your reviews

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  3. Have had to put the Renee Patrick series on my wishlist. Love the whole idea of it! And I need to get to Lee Goldberg's Eve Ronin series--I already have them, just need to get the time to read them, or push them farther up on my TBR pile. :)

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  4. Another great month in the books for you!! Happy March!

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  5. Mark, I don't know how you do it. But we sure appreciate it! xoxo

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