Thursday, March 31, 2016

Monthly Reading Summary - March 2016

Another month gone!  Here's what I read in March with links to the full reviews.  And, as always, the index has been updated.

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

Ripe for Murder by Carlene O’Neal (Cypress Cove Mysteries #2) – 5
Penny and Antonia have been invited up to Napa County to look at a wine train.  The owner is thinking about creating one and wants to use some of their land for the track.  The trip on the train turns deadly when one of the investor’s wives is murdered, and the only logical suspect is Antonia’s daughter.  Penny might not like Chantal, but she knows Chantal isn’t a killer.  Can she prove it?

While I enjoyed the first in this series, I liked this one even better.  The book does a great job of setting up the new characters, and once we got to know them, we were off and running with a mystery.  The plot was fantastic, and I had missed the clues until they were pointed out at the end.  The returning characters are strong, and I enjoyed spending time with them again as well.  Pour yourself a glass of wine, pick up this book, and enjoy.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A Churn for the Worse by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #5) – 5
The peaceful summer in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, is ruined when one of the Amish farmers is murdered.  Was he targeted because he is Amish?  Or was it part of a string of burglaries hitting that part of town?  Claire and Jakob will have to work together to find out.

Once again, we are transported to the town of Heavenly and get to spend time with characters we have come to love.  The growth in the characters and their relationships we see here is absolutely amazing.  The mystery is good as well.  I thought I had it figured out, but I only had a small portion of it figured out.  If you like this series, you’ll love this book.  And if you have yet to start this series, fix that today.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.                      

And Then There Were Nuns by Kylie Logan (League of Literary Ladies #4) – 5
When ten nuns arrive on South Bass Island, Bea agrees to help with their meals during their week long retreat.  However, when one of the Sisters doesn’t show up for dinner, Bea finds her dead body.  Is one of the other Sisters hiding a deadly grudge?  Or is someone out to put a killer end to this retreat?

I was thrilled to return to South Bass Island and Bea and her friends.  They are a delightful group, and I enjoyed spending time with them as always.  While borrowing nicely from the setup of the Christie classic, this mystery takes off in some fun new directions.  One aspect of the setup is never fully explained, although I can guess what happened as why.  That’s a small quibble and my only complaint with this wonderful book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

File M for Murder by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #3) – 5
Charlie Harris is delighted to have his daughter, Laura, in town for the semester teaching drama at Athena College.  He’s less excited about having Connor Lawton as the writer in residence since the playwright is nasty man.  However, it is still a surprise when Laura finds him murdered late one afternoon.  Who hated Connor enough to kill him?

Having Laura in town was wonderful since it gave us a chance to get to see a different side of Charlie.  We’re actually getting a rather large cast of characters already, but I truly love them all.  Yet the characters never slow down the plot, which builds steady to a logical yet surprising climax.

The Mystery of the Missing Millionaire by Kathryn Kenny (Trixie Belden #34) – 4
When Trixie and Honey find a wallet on the side of Glen Road, they don’t expect to find a mystery with it.  However, when a young woman shows up to claim it, she tells a story about her missing father.  Will Trixie be able to help find him?

Many fans of the series complain about the characters in this book, but that doesn’t bother me.  Trixie seems a bit off and easily hurt, which is where I think the comments from fans come from, but I recognize that tendency to take things personally that aren’t meant that way in myself, so I actually sympathize with what she works through here.  And I love the plot.  It surprised me as a kid; as an adult, I admire how it is put together.  Plus there are some lines and scenes that still make me laugh.

The Ambitious Card by John Gaspard (Eli Marks #1) – 3
Eli Marks is filling in for his uncle on a TV show.  His job is to watch a psychic and then debunk his act.  Eli recognizes several of the man’s tricks as variations on magic and says so.  What he doesn’t expect is to find himself the chief suspect in the man’s murder the next morning.  Can he conjure up the real killer?

I liked the idea of a magician as the sleuth, however, I felt the magic overwhelmed the mystery.  That’s a shame because the mystery was very good and kept me confused until the end.  Likewise, the characters were interesting.  Hopefully, the mystery/magic mix will be better balanced as the series goes forward.

NOTE: I was given a copy of the audio version of this book.  My thoughts are my own.

By Cook or By Crook by Maya Corrigan (Five Ingredient Mysteries #1) – 4
Val Deniston is hoping to turn her gig at the athletic club snack bar into a catering gig, but when she shows up to meet with Nadia, she finds the woman stabbed on her kitchen floor.  With the police focusing on Val’s cousin, she needs to sort through the suspects and find out who had the perfect recipe for murder.

What intrigued me the most about this book was the five refrain, I knew there would be five suspects and five clues.  I was wondering how the author would pull it off without having to fill page time.  She did it beautifully.  There was always something happening that kept me engaged, and the way she pulled things together at the end was brilliant. I did have a bit of a hard time warming up to the characters, and the data dump early on didn’t help, but by the end I had grown to like them.  I can’t wait to meet up with them again in another book.

Mrs. Pollifax and the Lion Killer by Dorothy Gilman (Mrs. Pollifax #12) – 3
When Mrs. Pollifax’s friend Kadi gets a cry for help from their mutual friend Sammat in Ubangiba, the duo head out to find out what is happening.  They arrive to find that his fledgling government is in danger thanks to a series of lion killings.  The problem?  There are no lions in this part of Africa, and the rumors are flying that Sammat is really behind the attacks.  What is happening?

Unfortunately, the book is slow for much of the story with Mrs. Pollifax wandering around and things being introduced that have little bearing on the action.  Things definitely improve in the final third of the book as Mrs. Pollifax begins to really investigate.  Mrs. Pollifax leads a group of charming characters, and it is always pleasant to spend time with them.

Disney Lands by Ridley Pearson (The Return #1) – 4
The mission isn’t over.  Despite what the Kingdom Keepers want to believe, Wayne left them a final message, and Finn insists on following it.  What he quickly learns is that the Overtakers aren’t all gone.  But the reason surprise, is where he lands as he starts following the clues.  Can the rest of the Kingdom Keepers join him in their new mission?

While technically a new series, this is really a continuation of the Kingdom Keepers books and should be treated as such.  And fans of the characters will be delighted with this book that sets up an interesting new mission.  I had a clue where the book was going, but I still had a blast getting there.  The characters continue to be fairly flat, but that’s been a complaint since day one for me.

The Big Chili by Julia Buckley (Undercover Dish #1) – 3
Lilah Drake has a fairly successful business secretly creating dishes for clients to claim as their own.  When one of the dishes she created for a client is used to poison someone, Lilah must find the killer before her cover is blown.

I loved the idea behind this mystery, but the execution wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.  The characters are a bit on the cartoony side early on, although they do get fleshed out as the book progresses.  On the other hand, the story slows down before we get the satisfying climax.  Also, the romantic sub-plot feels clumsy.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.

Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country Mysteries #1) – 4
Maggie and her family are delighted to have a full house at their bed and breakfast as summer is coming to an end.  However, the elderly couple is a real pain, so no one is too upset when they both die within minutes of each other.  The sheriff is sure that one of them was murdered, and since he has a vendetta against Maggie’s family, she’s going to have to find the killer.  Can she do it?

This is a fun mystery with a great setting in Louisiana Cajun country.  Maggie a great main character, and her Gran makes a fantastic sidekick.  I did feel the mystery slowed down a time or two, but the clues were all there and it reached a great climax.

Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss – 5
When Horton the elephant hears a small cry for help coming from a speck of dust, he immediately does what he can.  However, the other animals in the jungle think there is nothing there and try to destroy that speck of dust.  Can Horton prove to them that there is someone that needs to be protected?

Rereading this as an adult, I was struck by how strong the themes of standing up for what you believe and those who need your help are.  But those themes never slow down the story, which features constant danger for the Whos.  I actually found myself caught up in the story once again, hoping they’d be heard in time.  Add in Seuss’s rhymes and illustrations and you’ve got a wonderful book.

Macdeath by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #1) – 5
Ivy is hoping that landing the part of one of the witches in a local production of Macbeth will kick start her acting career.  Instead, it lands her in danger when one of her costars dies on opening night.  The police are quick to rule it an accidental case of alcohol poisoning, but Ivy is certain that Simon had stopped drinking.  Can she find out what really happened to him?

This is a wonderful start to a series.  Ivy is a great character, and there are enough quirks in the rest of the cast is make it fun.  The plot is strong with great twists.  The humor kept me smiling throughout as well.  I can’t wait for more of Ivy’s adventures.

4 comments:

  1. The Amish mysteries are the ones which caught my attention and the first one is now on my TBR. Thanks, Mark!

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    1. You are very welcome. I'm sure you'll enjoy.

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  2. You did great and at least they were all decent reads too! Happy April!

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    1. Yep, not truly bad books in the bunch.

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