by Lorie Lewis Ham, Terrance McArthur,
Kathleen Costa, & Cynthia Chow
Once again another year has ended, and we take a look back at the many books reviewed in KRL. Each of our main reviewers share in this post their top 5 favorite books they reviewed in 2016. Usually, I include myself in this list, but to my surprise I found that I have reviewed very few books this year, so instead I will just say that I enjoyed every one of them. Here they are in no particular order:
Shadowed Souls, an anthology edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes
Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith
A Maiden Weeping by Jeri Westerson
Flameout by Keri Arthur
Someone Always Knows by Marcia Muller
Grave Visions by Kalayna Price (I was so happy to see this series back after a very long break)
The Silence of Stones by Jeri Westerson
Poirot and Me by David Suchet
While I read many more books in 2016, these were the only ones that I reviewed. Some other highlights of the books that I read and didn’t review include:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Special Rehearsal Edition Script—probably my favorite book of the year; The Question of the Missing Head by EJ Copperman and Jeff Cohen—can’t wait to get to the rest of this series; several books in the Shadow Hunter series by Cassandra Clare; and my gradual reading through for the first time of the Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun.
While I don’t know if I will review many more in 2017, I do know there are many I look forward to reading including several cozy mystery series I’ve never had the time to read. One book I’m reading now that I will be reviewing, is from one of my favorite series, Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle (review coming later this month).
I have enjoyed many wonderfully engaging, yet diverse books this year, but to choose my ‘top five’ for 2016 was a difficult task. However, these five books offered me clever mysteries, quirky characters, a bit of history, love, murder, and recipes that are fast becoming family favorites. All the things that make for an entertaining experience.
Burned to a Crisp by Catherine Bruns
Author of Cookies & Chance Mystery series, Catherine Bruns serves up a delicious series for ‘cozy’ fanatics and cookie lovers. This third book provides a clever mystery, outlandish family dynamics, and once again some ‘Lucy and Ethel’ antics. The story is delightful with a nice romance between Sally and Mike, but not without a few entanglements. And Sally’s father? Her mother? They are definitely the comic relief. We are also treated to a delicious bonus of several actual recipes for Sally’s shop and her family that could become your favorites.
Roses in the Tempest by Jeri Westerson
Jeri Westerson spirits us off to Tudor England on an epic adventure. Each chapter, from the perspective of Isabella Launder or Thomas Giffard, illustrates realistic conversations, some open and some discreet, navigating the turbulent reign of Henry VIII. This story is compelling, sharing the emotions of the star-crossed relationship as it seamlessly entwines with history. The audio version was enriched by Jo Nelson, the narrator, who brought incredible skill with a variety of British voices from the light feminine tone of Isabella to gruff-throated King Henry, from the high born at court to the low born at the priory. This reading, well listening, experience is well-worth it.
Murder at the Witching Hour by Kathi Daley
Author of Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery series, Kathi Daley strands us on a private island in this third book for a Halloween-themed Goth wedding at a Dracula-inspired castle. Lani Pope is made uneasy by the cryptic events, the oncoming storm, the bride’s suspicious absence, and then there is the body which seems to have disappeared. The signature humor, interesting characters, and unique mystery will be enjoyed by long time fans and newbies. The setting is well described and conversations exhilarating; you can feel the humidity, smell the tropical perfume, hear the voices as they argue, worry, and fear their predicament. I even found myself cringing, and yelling, “No, don’t go in there!” At least I could ease my anxieties with a treat from the recipes included in the book.
Skeletons in the Attic by Judy Penz Sheluk
Judy Penz Sheluk shares Callie Barnstable shocking dilemma, after her father’s accidental death, that her mother didn’t just disappear, she may have been murdered. Her father’s will requests Callie take up the investigation while renovating a family home. The journey brings out family photos, foggy memories, Tarot cards, a piece of jewelry, and a skeleton in the attic. This is a thrilling adventure with wonderful characters who act and react in real ways. Conversations and descriptions kept me guessing about who, what, and why, and the ‘cliffhanger’ style and allowed me to create my own possible future for Callie. The ‘right’ turn into tarot cards had me getting off the shelf my own set of cards and instruction book—I see more books in Judy’s future…
House of Eire by June Gillam
June Gilliam takes Hillary Broome off to the Emerald Isle trying to learn more about her Irish roots. Skyping with a friend, she learns a large development corporation plans to build an amusement park, but local resistance is increasing, and Hillary finds murder isn’t just in her own backyard. Along with the Irish fascination with ghosts, ancient sites, Yeats, and waters with special powers, Hillary and her family indulge in Irish culture from Dublin to Cork to Galway. This third adventure offers great characters with enough opportunities to ponder the argument of development vs community identity. Of course, the murders disrupt the family vacation and put several lives in jeopardy. Hey, Bucket, we need to add Ireland to the list!
Brain Storm by Elaine Viets
This is an amazing novel written from the perspective of a stroke victim. Readers are able to sympathize with Angela’s struggle to recover her cognitive skills and utilize her death investigator experience to solve a murder. That Elaine Viets herself suffered from a near-fatal stroke adds an added layer of realism, not to mention a deeper layer of emotional resonance. There was never a doubt that Viets could craft a humorous and deftly plotted mystery, but this level of realism and complexity is astounding.
Double Knot by Gretchen Archer
I love humorous mysteries, and I love to vicariously experience luxuries that I will never have a chance of experiencing. So being able to board an ostentatious yacht with Vegas resort super-secret undercover spy Davis Way is a double delight. The humorous banter, capers, locked-room mystery, and genuine emotional beats never fail to entertain.
Sayonara Slam by Naomi Hirahara
I had thought that Naomi Hirahara’s Officer Ellie Rush series was my favorite of hers until this latest installment of Mas Arai mystery. Through a championship baseball game between Japan and South Korea at Dodger Stadium, Hirahara explores a multitude of culture clashes. This is seen through the eyes of the quiet, wise, and exceedingly funny Mas, whose own Americanized, multi-ethnic family mirrors the growingly diverse world.
The Masquerading Magician by Gigi Pandian
This continues to be a rewarding blend of fantasy, humor, and mystery. The author creates a mythology where a 300 year-old alchemist with a living gargoyle seems entirely plausible. I love the balance of Zoe’s investigation of present-day murder with her need to hide her existence from those who would exploit it. It takes a mischievous gargoyle to show that extended life doesn’t always lead to heartbreak.
The Readaholics and the Gothic Gala by Laura DiSilverio
This series is pure heaven for book and mystery lovers, as each entry focuses one particular author or genre. Here the author highlights gothic novels, which just happened to be my gateway drug into mysteries. ‘The Readaholics’ investigate a murder at a bookstore signing, and the delightful exploration of authors, fans, party planning, and of course, gothic novels, makes this a favorite.
A book can take you places you have never been, and my favorite reviews of 2016 have sent me everywhere and everywhen.
In the tradition of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, C. A. Verstraete’s Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter launches us into a what-if past where Lizzie Borden takes an axe to her father and stepmother because they are brain-seeking zombies. Bloody good fun.
Rhys Bowen’s Molly Murphy series of early 1900s mysteries have long been a family favorite in our house. Time of Fog and Fire plants the female detective in 1906 San Francisco, trying to find her husband and protect her child while the earth moves under her feet.
Becky Chambers takes us on a tour of the galaxy in The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. An administrative assistant saves an interstellar wormhole-making craft while dealing with non-humans and her own heart.
Christopher Farnsworth propelled me into the mind of a reader of thoughts in Killfile. A caper to retrieve stolen computer secrets launches a war of technomight, hired killers, and mental powers.
Barb Hendee went medieval in To Kill a Kettle Witch. The sisters in the Mist-Torn Witches series have to find out who cursed the nobleman’s lands, and prove it wasn’t the relatives they didn’t know they had. Of course, holding a person’s hand and reading their past or future makes the job easier.
Sandra Murphy (Sandra cheated a little and made her list a little longer)
A Turn for the Bad by Sheila Connolly
Maura has been in Ireland for seven months now. Although she sometimes feels she has no idea what the Irish are thinking, one thing’s for sure, when someone is in need, the village gathers round to aid and support.
Written Off by E. J. Copperman
A writer meets a man with the same name, same job, same looks as her main character. What could go wrong?
The Man Who Wasn’t There by Judy Nedry – Emma used to co-own a winery but got a little too fond of the grape. Now she hires herself out to help others. This time murder is involved.
Tangled Up in Brew by Joyce Tremel
Who knew going to a food festival featuring burgers and brew could be so dangerous? At least to the food critic!
The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris
This one took me by surprise. It wasn’t at all what I expected and that’s a good thing. It is full of humor and suspense as a writer decides to switch genres, much to the dismay of his publisher. It’s how he does it that puts him and seemingly everyone around him in danger.
Grace Sees Red by Julie Hyzy
Grace’s assistant Frances is in the forefront this time. She’s a cranky woman, never pleased with anything but this gives readers some insight into her true personality—the one she’s taken pains to hide.
Body on the Bayou by Ellen Byron
A humorous look at Southern life, featuring a wedding that might never take place, a peek at plantation life of the past, and how to hobble together several businesses to keep an old mansion upright and respectable, all while solving a murder.
The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton
If your job was eliminated due to budget cuts, would you be willing to move to another country after answering an ad for a bold adventurer willing to work in a special bookstore? Delaney Nichols was and thereby provides readers with an enjoyable read.
Let us know if you have a few we haven’t mentioned you’d like to share about in the comments, and while you are here check KRL’s book review section for many more great books that may not have made it on the list!
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