Robin Stevens, First Class Murder
In this installment of the Wells and Wong mystery series, Hazel’s father has decided to take her and Daisy on a holiday aboard the Orient Express. They’ve been strictly admonished not to do any detecting, but neither Hazel nor Daisy intends to obey, especially when they encounter espionage, theft, and murder on the train. Obviously the setup is an homage to Agatha Christie’s famous novel (which Daisy is actually reading in this book), but Stevens puts her own spin on the plot. One thing I really like about this series is that, despite the unrealistic premise of two 13-year-old girls solving murders, the books deal with the consequences of that premise in realistic ways. The fallout from Hazel and Daisy’s previous case (chronicled in Poison Is Not Polite) continues to matter in this book. There’s also some nice character development for Hazel as her relationship with her father begins to change. I’m definitely planning to continue with the series!
Sylvia Izzo Hunter, Lady of Magick
Two years after the events of The Midnight Queen, Sophie and Gray travel to the University of Dun Edin in the kingdom of Alba, a fantasy version of Scotland. While there, they observe economic hardship and political unrest, which is exacerbated by news of the Alban princess’s betrothal to an English prince. Eventually, Sophie and Gray find themselves at the center of a sinister magical plot that could upset both the Alban and English thrones. Since I loved the first book of this trilogy, I was excited to continue with this installment, but I found it very disappointing. The pace is glacial; basically nothing relevant to the plot happens till beyond the halfway point. The first book was slow-paced too, but because the character development and world-building were so interesting, I didn’t mind. In this book, though, none of the main characters grow or change in a significant way, so it all just felt a bit pointless. I’m still cautiously optimistic about the third and final book, but my expectations are definitely more moderate now.
Falon Ballard, Lease on Love
Sadie is a financial analyst who thinks she’s finally about to get a well-deserved promotion. When her boss gives it to his future son-in-law instead, she reacts poorly and ends up getting fired. Now she can’t afford her pricey Manhattan apartment, so she looks for a new living situation and meets Jack, who’s renting out a room in his Brooklyn brownstone. The rent is ridiculously low, so she jumps at the opportunity, despite the fact that nerdy, introverted Jack is her total opposite. But as they get to know each other better, they find that opposites attract. This is a fun, breezy contemporary romance that’s oddly low-stakes given the main characters’ tragic backstories. I never quite understood why they didn’t act on their feelings much sooner! Also, Jack seems entirely too perfect, and since we only see him through Sadie’s eyes, we never learn what makes him tick. That said, the book is a quick and enjoyable read, but not a necessary one in my opinion.