Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May 2023's Reading Summary

Here it is the end of May.  Must be time for another reading summary.  As you can see from the pictures, I read lots of ebooks (and a couple of audio books) this month.  I try to keep it as roughly 50/50 between physical and ebook, but this month was tipped in favor of the ebooks.  June is going to be very similar.

Anyway, I've updated the index this month (thank you long Memorial Day weekend).

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


Murder on the Home Front by Jessica Ellicott (WPC Billie Harkness #2) – 5

Billie Harkness has been on the job as one of only two female constables in the Hull police force for a few weeks now.  In that time, neither her co-workers nor the public have come to accept her any more then when she first started.  One of her true allies has been Peter Upton, a fellow constable who has been training her.  When the two of them find a dead body in an air raid shelter, Billie discovers some details that don’t make any sense.  Can they use those to figure out what happened to the victim?

It was great to be back in summer 1940 with Billie and Peter.  While most of the book is written from Billie’s third person point of view, we get some scenes from Peter’s, and they help flesh out the characters and plot wonderfully.  I was hooked the entire way through the story, although I did wonder where it was going a bit at first.  Once the body turned up, things were full speed ahead until we reached the end.  There is a strong sub-plot that is unfortunately too real and should not have been acceptable then or now.  I appreciated how it was handled.  The overall mystery is something that could only be told in England during World War II, and it helped bring details of that time in history to life for me.  If you enjoy historical mysteries, you need to pick it up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


#TagMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr (Trending Topics Mysteries #2) – 5

Coco Cline has a new neighbor, unfortunately.  Larry Dunmer is in town to conduct an audit, and he has his wife has proved to be horrible neighbors, complaining about anything and everything.  Still, Coco knows he will only be in town a few months.  So she is surprised when he is killed on the beach one morning.  Worse yet, her friend is accused of the crime.  Can Coco wade through the suspects to figure out what is really going on?

This book does include some minor spoilers for the first book (nothing like who the killer is), so keep that in mind.  However, I love how part of the character development in this book is watching Coco deal with the aftermath of that first case.  The set up for this mystery was familiar, but the book didn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on that, instead moving into a strong mystery that kept me guessing until the end.  This was helped by strong suspects.  I also love how Coco uses in person interactions and the internet to solve the case.  A sub-plot with Coco’s boyfriend also kept me turning pages.  If you are looking for a great mystery, you’ll want this book to trend to the top of your to be read pile.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


The Black Box by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #16) – 5

When the LA riots happened back in 1992, Harry Bosch was a homicide detective who was called in to work crime scenes as quickly as possible since there were so many happening during that time.  One of those was of a reporter from a paper in Europe.  Nothing ever came of the case until twenty years later.  Bosch is now working in the cold case squad, but a ballistics hit was just made that links the gun that killed the reporter to gang related murders that have happened in the years since.  Can Bosch use this fresh new lead to finally solve the case?

Once again, part of the fun of the series is watching Bosch work his way to the conclusion.  I never would have guessed it, but it makes perfect sense when we get there.  Along the way, I enjoy spending time with Bosch and seeing how his life has evolved.  I especially enjoyed watching his relationship with his daughter in this book.  I did find the office politics Bosch faces border on clichéd, although I did see the higher ups point in one aspect here.  I also found something that happened near the climax a little too convenient.  But both of these are minor points in an otherwise strong book that will please series fans.


Silence is Golden by Penny Warner (Connor Westphal Mysteries #6) – 4

Gold fever has hit Flat Skunk, California, after local eccentric prospector Sluice Jackson finds a nugget.  Reporter Connor Westphal isn’t quite so quick to jump on the gold bandwagon, but while she is still trying to figure out what is going on, an old skeleton turns up.  Meanwhile, Connor’s college boyfriend is in town with his ex-wife and their daughter.  Then a modern body turns up.  Can Connor figure out what is going on?

Obviously, there is a lot here, and that kept me entertained and engaged the entire way through.  I did feel like the ending was rushed, including a sub-plot getting pretty much dropped.  If you are new to the series, you should know that Connor is deaf, and I continue to love how that is portrayed in the stories.  This book is now twenty years old, so some things are dated, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.  Likewise, there is a little more swearing than you might expect, but not as much as earlier books in the series.  The characters, not just Connor, are all great, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  If you are looking for a unique main character, you’ll enjoy this book.

If I Had a Hammer by Teresa Trent (Swinging Sixties Mysteries #2) – 4

It’s November of 1963, and Dot Morgan’s excitement at witnessing JFK’s trip to Dallas turns to tragedy.  While her cousin deals with what they witnessed, Dot has to concentrate on her first job out of secretarial school.  She’s working at a local construction company, but she really only likes one of her bosses.  When he falls victim to a weird accident at work, Dot starts to investigate.  Can she figure out what happened?

You can’t write a series set in Texas in the 1960’s without dealing what happened that November.  I liked that this piece of history is given its own subplot, although I did feel like that storyline was rushed.  The main mystery is strong, with plenty to keep me turning pages, and the suspects were developed enough to help keep me confused.  I loved getting to spend time with Dot again, and the rest of the regulars are good as well.  As we get into the second half of the book, the action moves into December, and I enjoyed the Christmas parts of the book, too.  If you are looking for a good mystery set around an important piece of American history, this book is for you.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


A Novel Disguise by Samantha Larsen (Lady Librarian #1) – 5

When her half-brother dies unexpectedly, Tiffany Woodall quietly buries him and then assumes his identity.  There is nothing else for her to do in 1780’s England, especially if she wants to stay in the cottage the two of them lived in.  But she quickly finds that being two people is much more challenging than she expected, especially when she starts falling in love with the local book seller and has to dodge the marriage proposal of the local rector.  But it’s taking over her half-brother’s job of the local duke’s librarian that puts her in the most danger when one of the servants dies.  Might it tie to her brother’s death?

Obviously, there is a lot going on here, and it does mean the mystery takes a little time to become an important part of the story.  But I didn’t care.  I was quickly caught up in Tiffany’s life and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to her next.  And make no mistake about it, the mystery here is strong.  I loved how things were all pulled together for the climax.  The characters are also wonderful, with plenty of them to love or love to hate.  I always felt like I was transported back in time as I was reading.  My only complaint was that we learned a little more than I felt necessary about the after effects of the poison, but that was a minor issue.  I’m already looking forward to the sequel.  If you are looking for a fun historical mystery, don’t miss this one.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Her Dying Day by Mindy Carlson – 4

Documentary graduate student June Masterson has finally hit upon the perfect topic for her final project – the disappearance twenty years ago of Greer Larkin.  Greer had burst onto the mystery scene with six well received books before she disappeared, never to be seen again.  With the principles in Greer’s life agreeing to talk to June, she fantasizes about solving the case, making for the perfect end to her documentary.  Can she do that?  Will she even finish it in time?

I struggled with part of this book – a subplot in June’s life that I truly didn’t like.  I can understand her choices, but still, it bothered me.  I did appreciate the character growth we got.  And the mystery itself was very well done.  It kept me guessing all the way to the satisfying ending.  There was one aspect that was left opened, but it could propel a follow up book.  This book has some content that definitely keeps it from being a cozy; it’s honestly a little hard to place outside of just plain mystery.  If you enjoy an engaging mystery, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.


Southern Ghost by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #8) – 5

Max Darling has taken on a new client he’s been keeping secret from his wife, Annie, owner of the mystery bookstore Death on Demand.  However, that changes when the client, a beautiful young woman, disappears and Max is arrested for the crime.  Annie doesn’t believe it, and together, the two of them work to figure out what really happened.  The key appears to be tied to something that happened twenty years ago, the case that Max was hired to investigate.  Is there more to figure out than the official story?  If so, can Annie and Max figure out what happened then and find his client in time?

The plot really does focus on the mystery from the past, but I’m not complaining.  It was a strong mystery with lots of motives and twists to keep me engaged.  The suspects are all strong, and I appreciated that we got to know them a bit before we got their full backgrounds.  Annie’s temper wasn’t as strong as in other books, and it had more of a comedic effect here.  Speaking of comedy, the sub-plot with Max’s mom and her research project on ghosts of the south was wonderful.  The references to other mystery books are still here but are more subdued, making them a fun bonus.  If you want to see why this series is so beloved, this is a good one to pick up.


Murder at the Marina by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson #5) – 4

Kelly is taking an afternoon to see the boat that her friends, Ivan and Rudy, own.  But the tour never happens when she finds a dagger covered in what looks like blood on the boat.  While neither of the brothers own it, they do recognize it from their past.  A few days later, the owner of a Russian merchandise store turns up dead on their boat as well.  What is going on?  Does it have to do with the Russian Heritage Festival taking place in town?

I love it when background characters get a chance to shine, which is what happens here.  I was intrigued from the beginning and couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out.  Unfortunately, I did feel the climax was abrupt, and therefore weaker than it could have been.  While the suspects are appropriately shady, the rest of the cast is charming, which is no surprise to fans of the series.  I really do love these characters.  As always, I enjoyed spending time in a fictional version of the area where I grew up.  If you are looking for a fun cozy series, be sure to check this one out.


Tough Luxe by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #11) – 3

Samantha Kidd has landed a new gig as a fashion columnist for the local paper.  But she doesn’t expect that to lead to an invitation to visit someone in prison.  Pretzel heiress Suzy Kintz was a high school acquaintance of Samantha’s, but a few years after they graduated, Suzy was convicted of killing her husband, and has been in jail ever since.  Now, there is new evidence that might exonerate Suzy.  Can Samantha figure out what really happened all those years ago?

I was immediately intrigued by the premise, and I enjoyed watching Samantha try to piece things together.  However, when we hit the end, I was found I was left with too many questions – one I’d had since the beginning and a couple more than came up from the climax.  I also found a sub-plot involving Samantha and her husband to be cringe inducing.  At least that sub-plot led to some great character growth in Samantha.  On the plus side, it is always great to hang out with these characters, and I loved the humor of the book.  If you are already a fan, you’ll want to see what Samantha gets up to here.  If you are new to the series, you should pick up an earlier book first before you see what happens here.


Murder at Sea by Various Authors (Destination Murders Anthology #3) – 5

For this entry in the Destination Murders short story anthologies, the writers are sending their sleuths on cruises.  Of course, no vacation in this series is without a hiccup and dead body or two.  From Norway to Italy and Seattle, and from budget cruise lines to luxury yachts, the sleuths must deal with the unexpected when a killer decides that the sea is the perfect time to strike.

While there are a couple of stories that really stood out, every single one of these eight stories is enjoyable.  I can’t think of one I didn’t like.  Many of the authors included their series characters here, although you don’t have to know the characters to enjoy what happens.  In fact, this reminded me that I really do need to read some of these author’s novels.  These stories are long enough that, by the time you’ve read all eight, you’ve read the equivalent of a full-length novel, so there is plenty here to keep you entertained.  Each story features a fun twist or two, and the solutions always satisfied.  Whether you are looking for a great read for a summer vacation or want something to make you feel like you are on vacation, you’ll be glad you boarded this anthology.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. A great reading month for you! I am so glad you reminded me of the Bosch books. I keep meaning to try them out as I think I'd really like them.

  2. Great job! You always seem so luck to read mostly good books. Hope that luck continues! Happy June!

  3. Looks like you read lots of great books this month! Enjoy June!

  4. Looks like a great reading month! Happy June!

  5. Love the idea of A Novel Disguise. Looks like you read some good books. Hope you have a good June as well!


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