Monday, August 4, 2014

Monthly Reading Summary - July 2014

Since we're now several days into August, time to get my monthly reading summary posted.  Thanks to some short kid's books, I got quite a few titles read this month.

As always, the links will take you to my full review if you want to read more.  And The Index for all my reviews has been updated for July.

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

Death in Four Courses by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic #2) - 5
Key West's annual literary conference is focusing on food this year, something that excites Hayley since she is now covering food for a local magazine.  However, when she finds the keynote speaker floating face down in a reflection pool, her weekend gets crowded with sleuthing as well as food.

I really did enjoy this book.  The characters are great and the plot is complex enough I didn't have a clue what was happening until Hayley did.  My only complaint is the relationship between Hayley and her mother, who is visiting during the book.  It's realistic, but at times the way they interacted drove me crazy.  I love how they grew as a result of spending the time around each other, however, so it was a great sub-plot in the end.

Death on Eat Street by J. J. Cook (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck #1) - 4
Zoe Chase has left behind a steady job at the bank to open a restaurant.  While she saves up money to bring it up to code, she is trying to make money selling her biscuit bowls out of her food truck.  However, the day she has a fight with one of the competition, he shows up dead in her truck's front seat.

This is my first book by these authors, and I did enjoy it.  The pacing was a bit slow at the beginning of the book, but I loved all of the characters.  Even Zoe's family, who doesn't get her new career path and are trying to change her, were very entertaining.

There's Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson - 5
The next to last collection of comic strips from Calvin and Hobbes features the nine month break creator Bill Watterson took.  There aren't as many stories, although the familiar themes are still present.  And the laughs for fans new and old are just as strong as they were 20 years ago.

A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan (League of Literary Ladies #2) - 5
In order to draw in tourists, South Bass Island is hosting Bastille Week, and Bea and her book club are reading A Tale of Two Cities as a result.  However, the added tourists bring chaos even before someone is murdered.

While I wasn't familiar with the Dickens classic, the parallels are pointed out for us, so that wasn't an issue.  Instead, I could focus on the mystery, which threw me completely several times, although I did finally get part of the solution correct.  The characters are strong, and the book just has a sense of fun that made it hard to put down.

Oliver and the Seawigs by Peter Reeve and Sarah McIntyre - 5
Oliver's parents are retiring from exploring, and Oliver is looking forward to living a life in one location and making friends.  However, they haven't even spent one night in their new home when his parents set off to explore some islands before they and the islands disappear.

This is a transitional book from easy readers to chapter books, and it's a lot of fun.  The illustrations are great, the story is fast moving, and the characters are fun and creative.  In other words, it's perfect for the target 2-5 grade audience.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff - 5
A creative progression story that starts with a simple act of kindness, giving a mouse a cookie.  From there, however, things progress until they loop back around.

The book is simple but filled with great illustrations.  And the journey is so creative.  I missed this book until I read it with my niece and found it absolutely charming.

Drizzled with Death by Jessie Crockett (Sugar Grove Mysteries #1) - 5
When one of the competitors dies during the annual pancake eating contest, Dani finds her family's maple syrup business falling under suspicion.  After all, the contestant's syrup was poisoned.

I enjoyed the book from the very beginning, but the more I read the further I got pulled in.  The characters were complex and compelling and the mystery was great.  The humor was an added bonus.  Just watch out for those maple syrup cravings.

Earthquake Shock by Marlane Kennedy (Disaster Strikes #1) - 5
Joey and his friends are heading home from the skate park when an earthquake hits, separating them.  Can they find each other and get home?  What will they encounter along the way?  Is their home still standing?

This is a good early chapter book.  As such, I read through it quickly, although it will take the early elementary school target audience a little longer to get through.  The characters were real and showed some growth, and the plot had a couple of scenes that made me turn pages quickly.

My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems - 5
When Piggie starts hanging out with Brian the Bat, Gerald and Snake worry that their best friends will not want to be friends with them any more.  Do they have something to worry about?

Those familiar with the Elephant and Piggie picture book series will be delighted with the latest entry.  There is a lesson here, but it is never preachy.  Instead, we get some laughs and fun as we watch Gerald and Snake overreact.  Plus there's the warm ending.  My only complaint, and it is minor, is that Brian really doesn't look like a bat to me.  But I'm being picky here.

The Good, the Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #17) - 4
The action moves to a town about an hour away as Meg and her family head there to help her grandfather track down feral emus.  Meg is also hoping to learn more about the mysterious death of her recently discovered grandmother.

The antics of the emus and those chasing them overwhelmed the mystery at times, but fans of the series will certainly still enjoy the latest.  I especially enjoyed getting to meet a new group of great characters.  Overall, I had fun, and that's really all that matters.

The 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith - 5
Pongo and Missis are settling into their new married life with their newly wed pets - Mr. and Mrs. Dearly.  Missis is expecting puppies, but these puppies have caught the eye of their neighbor and Mrs. Dearly's schoolmate Cruella de Vil.  What will she do to get her hands on the puppies?

This is the book that inspired the Disney animation classic, and it is a lot of fun.  The basic story is the same, but there are lots of changes along the way, plus more about the de Vil family.  The humor is much more subtle than the film, but it still made me laugh and smile.  Definitely a charming, fun read.

The Sasquatch Mystery by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #25) - 3
Trixie and her friends are in Idaho camping with her cousins.  There's a rumor that a sasquatch has been spotted in the area, and then one wanders into camp.  Or does it?  As strange thing keep happening, Trixie needs to figure out what is really happening.

This is a very uneven book plot wise, with a slow start but a very suspenseful second half.  The characters are mostly good, except for poor Diana who comes across as a whining scaredy cat - not one of her better books.  Overall, this one is okay at best, and then only for die hard fans.

A Question of Death - A Phryne Fisher Treasure by Kerry Greenwood - 4
This collection of 13 short stories finds Phryne solving several murders as well as a few other crimes.  Set in Australia in 1928, Phryne is a strong woman with lots of intelligence to solve some pretty strange puzzles.

This was my introduction to the character, and I do feel I missed some things not know more about her background and the rest of the obviously recurring characters.  However, I did enjoy the stories since they provided good puzzles.  Phryne is a really smart detective, and the trip back in time was fun.

The Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #1) - 4
When their friend Chet's jalopy is stolen, Frank and Joe think it is their chance to prove they can be detectives.  But when they find his car, it just leads them to more mysteries.

This is my first time reading a Hardy Boys book in years, and I found it interesting.  The characters were still as shallow as I remembered, but I was surprised to find the plot was episodic and their father did some big chunks of the investigation without them.  Still, I enjoyed it and think kids today will, too.

4 comments:

  1. I see so many books that I own but haven't read or are on my TBR already - Death in Four Courses, A Tale of Two Biddies and The Good, The Bad and the Emus and the the maple syrup cozy. I loved There's Treasure Everywhere. Definitely one of Watterson's best. There's no one like him.

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    1. I still miss Calvin and Hobbes for sure.

      I'm trying to get through my TBR list. The problem is, the pile always seems to grow faster than I can read.

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  2. This is a great idea to do this, Mark. It gives you a nice summary of your month and let's us see some new titles.

    You read a lot of books.

    THANKS for sharing.

    Elizabeth

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    1. I glad you appreciate this.

      Yes, I did get a lot of books read in July, although a couple of them are very short kid's books (100-150 pages) and another couple are picture books. That really helps up the total.

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