Wednesday, February 1, 2023

January 2023's Reading Summary

Welcome to February!  I'm going to start the month by looking back at what I read in January.  That's always a great way to start a month, right?

Once again, I didn't get the index updated.  I'll really make an effort to work on it in February.

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


Fatal Fascinator by Jenn McKinlay (Hat Shop Mysteries #7) – 5

Cousins Scarlett and Viv have agreed to create the hats for the wedding of the season.  Scarlett is mainly excited because it means they’ve scored an invitation, and the wedding is taking place in a castle in the country.  Even their friend Andre is there as the wedding photographer.  But joy turns to tragedy when Scarlett finds the dead body of the groom in the library.  With no one allowed to leave while the police investigate, Scarlett can’t help but poked around.  Will she figure out what happened?

Since author Jenn McKinlay is so busy writing, we don’t get quite as many entries in this series as in some of her others.  That makes it nice to get to revisit these characters again.  A few of the regulars have cameos than a real part, but it was still nice to see everyone and see how they are continuing to grow.  The book is filled with suspects, but I never had a hard time keeping them all straight.  The story was always moving forward, and the plot had a few nice surprises on the way to the climax.  The pages just flew by.  Meanwhile, there were plenty of moments that made me laugh or grin, including some pun wars, which I always enjoy.  Whether you are a fan of the series or just checking it out, you’ll enjoy this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Gone for Gouda by Korina Moss (Cheese Shop Mysteries #2) – 5

Willa Bauer is thrilled to be hosting a stop for Phoebe Winston on her tour promoting her new cookbook.  The celebrity chef is sure to bring in lots of people to Willa’s new cheese shop.  However, when Willa meets Phoebe, she discovers the author is a bit of a diva, with demands that make the event a much harder prospect than Willa bargained for.  Then Phoebe is murdered in the house she was renting in the area, with Willa’s employee Archie the last person on the property’s security system.  Can Willa figure out what happened?

I enjoyed the first book in the series, but this was even stronger.  We meet Phoebe long enough to know what a pain she is before she dies, but then we learn even more, opening up the suspect pool.  The climax becomes a race to figure things out, and I was along for the twists that kept coming at that point.  I was thrilled that the supporting players got a bigger role this time around.  They are fantastic, and I enjoyed spending time with all of them.  I grew up in Sonoma County, so I have a special connection with the setting even if I did have to move my mental map of the fictional town where most of the action takes place.  This book will leave you hungry for cheese, so the three recipes at the end will be welcome.  I’m already anxious to see what happens to Willa and the others in the next in the series.


Aerobics Can Be Deadly by Ryan Rivers (Bucket List Mysteries #1) – 5

Sho Tanaka and Levi Blue have decided to make a triathlon the first item they tackle on their bucket lists.  When they go to the local gym to sign up to train, Levi manages to get them jobs as background extras in an aerobics video being shot the next day.  However, when one of the stars dies during the first scene, Levi is ready to jump in and find the killer.  Will Sho go along with it?  Will they figure out what is going on?

While this is the first book in the series, it follows the novella that really introduces the characters.  I read them out of order, but I didn’t have trouble figuring out the main characters and their relationships.  There are plenty of laughs, especially in the beginning, but as the book progresses, things get more serious, lending itself to some great characters moments.  Not that the humor ever goes completely away.  Meanwhile, we have a strong mystery that kept me guessing until the very end.  I will definitely be back for the prequel soon.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Death by Smoothie by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen Mysteries #19) – 5

Someone is trying to revive the cult classic sitcom I Married a Zombie as a stage musical, and freelance writer Jaine Austen has been hired to punch up the script.  Since the producer is also the writer and the star, the script needs a lot of work, but the biggest problem is Misty, the actress hired to play the lead.  She can’t act and she can’t remember her lines, but the producer is enchanted with her.  That is until someone poisons her afternoon smoothie.  Jaine jumps into action to figure out who the killer is.  Can she do it?

Anyone familiar with this series will know exactly what to expect here, and they will be delighted by it.  It’s more of the same in the best way possible.  By my count, we have four sub-plots that weave in and out of the story, and they keep the reader from ever getting bored.  The sub-plot involving her parents might be my favorite yet.  These sub-plots also help provide plenty of wacky situations, and this book is filled with humor from beginning to end.  The characters are a bit more types as a result, created for their humor potential, but they work.  The mystery is strong and kept me guessing until the end, even when I thought I had it figured out early on.  I was smiling or laughing with every page.  It’s always a treat to pick up a book in this series.  If you are looking for a light, fun mystery, this is the one for you.


Oh Danny Girl by C. Michele Dorsey (Danny and Nora O’Brien Mysteries #1) – 5

When Danny O’Brien goes to court that morning, she’s not expecting anything too difficult in the uncontested divorce she is there to handle.  That’s before a gun is found in her briefcase – a gun connected to the high-profile cop killer case where her husband is the defense attorney.  Then her husband is murdered in a hotel room with a woman.  As Danny realizes the legal peril she is in, she tries to make sense of all that is happening around her.  Will she figure things out before it is too late?

This was a great thrill ride from the very beginning, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  The characters are great, and help pull us into the story.  The chapter breaks also signal that we are switching to another character’s point of view, and this technique is used perfectly to help us understand them better and to fully see what is unfolding.  I did think a couple of character moments happened too soon, and a couple of times the chapter breaks were used for false suspense (to keep us from learning something the character had just learned), but these were minor issues for me.  Most of the twists surprised me and kept me hooked until I reached the satisfying end.  I can’t wait to see what happens to these characters next.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.


Where the Guilty Hide by Annette Dashofy (Detective Honeywell Mysteries #1) – 5

Erie City Police Detective Matthias Honeywell has been called to the site of a second home invasion robbery in a matter of days.  The difference here is that the husband managed to escape and go after the thieves.  Unfortunately, the next morning, photographer Emma Anderson finds the man’s body in some debris that washed on shore from Lake Erie.  The more Honeywell investigates, the more he finds that revolves around Emma.  Can he solve the case?  Will she be the key to unraveling it?

This is a strong start to a new series.  Both Honeywell and Emma come alive quickly for us, partially thanks to their backstories which are slowly given to us without over teasing.  The rest of the cast is just as strong.  We get the story from both Honeywell’s and Emma’s third person points of view in alternating chapters, so it is always easy to tell when we are switching.  And the story is strong.  I struggled when I had the put the book down, especially when I hit the page turning climax.  (Stupid real life!)  Since this is a police procedural, it is darker than the cozies I often read, so know that going in.  Those already a fan of the author will be delighted with the new series.  If you haven’t started reading her books yet, this is a great place to jump in.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Irish Coffee Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross – 4

Once again, these three authors are teaming up for a holiday themed novella collection.  This time, their stories are set around St. Patrick’s Day.  In the first story, Leslie Meier’s character, Lucy Stone, is doing a story on four local Irish dancers.  Then one of their mother’s is murdered.  Next, Lee Hollis’s sleuth, Hayley Powell, gets involved when the headlining comedian for the St. Patrick’s Day show dies after proposing a toast with his Irish coffee.  Finally, Barbara Ross’s Julia Snowden is enjoying a stormy St. Patrick’s Day in with friends when they start talking about the local unsolved murder from 150 years ago.  Everyone has a theory about who did it, but can Julia figure it out after all this time?

Since these are novellas, each story is roughly 100 pages, giving us a good taste of the series and characters before we move on to the next one.  I enjoyed all three of them.  I do struggle some with Leslie Meier’s entries in these anthologies, but I enjoyed it overall.  On the other hand, I am considering starting Lee Hollis’s books because I continue to enjoy their entries in the series.  Barbara Ross’s series is one of my favorites, so it’s is no surprise that I loved her entry.  All three stories do feature good characters and an intriguing mystery.  Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross include recipes with their stories, so you’ll have several traditional Irish recipes.  This is a great book to sit down and enjoy with a mug of Irish coffee.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #36) – 4

Poirot is called to a small British village after a tragedy at a Hallowe’en party takes place.  Someone used the tub that the guests had bobbed for apples in to drown Joyce, a thirteen year old girl who was helping with the event.  Earlier in the evening, she had bragged that she had witnessed a murder, however the residents of the village didn’t take her seriously since she was always embellishing if not outright lying about things.  If that wasn’t the motive, what happened to her?

Yes, I picked this particular book to read this year because of the upcoming movie “inspired” by it.  I suspect the movie will be vastly different, but we will see.  The book originally came out in 1969, and you can tell with some of the theories that Poirot hears about what happened.  It was interesting to see how society was thinking about some of these issues back then.  My biggest issue was the victim’s age, it’s just not something I’m used to.  However, I was drawn into the story, interested in finding out exactly what happened.  The characters could have been a little sharper, but they did help make me care about the story.  I was on the right track, but didn’t have everything pieced together when we reached the climax, which was pretty thrilling.  It’s easy to see why this is a lesser-known book from Agatha Christie, but it is definitely enjoyable.


Dead-Bang Fall by J.R. Sanders (Nate Ross #2) – 5

PI Nate Ross thinks he has a simple case when he’s hired for a penny-ante theft caper.  But that’s before one of his suspects is killed in a back alley.  While Nate didn’t witness the crime, he did see the victim go into the alley with someone that Nate helped put in prison five years ago.  However, a few hours later, that man turns up at Nate’s office claiming to be innocent and hiring Nate to clear him before disappearing again.  Nate buys most of the story, but he knows he didn’t get the whole truth.  That feeling only grows as he starts to investigate.  Can he figure out the whole truth?

This is a great trip back to 1939 Hollywood, and the setting comes to life.  As a throwback PI novel, it does start out with a little too much jargon of the time, but fortunately, that calms down as we get into the story.  It does have a bit more violence and foul language than in one of the cozies I read, but it doesn’t go overboard.  The plot is strong with quite a few twists, compilations, and half-truths before we reach the fun climax.  Nate much face his past here, and we are reminded about enough to make the growth real.  Meanwhile, we get a couple of fun returning characters and a batch of great new ones.  If you enjoy PI novels set in this era, this is one to check out.


  1. Awesome and you had all decent reads so that's good too! Hope February is as good for you!

  2. Thanks Mark. Thats great. Huma

  3. What an amazing reading month... so many 5s! I hope February is just as successful.

  4. You had a great month of reading. So many 5's!

  5. Have a great February reading month.


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