Thursday, June 30, 2016

June 2016's Monthly Reading Summary

Who can believe that the year is half over already?  I certainly can't.  But here we are at the end of June, so it must be time for another monthly reading summary.  And yes, the index has been updated as well.

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

A Muddied Murder by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #1) – 5
Megan Sawyer’s plans to revitalize her family’s farm and open a small store and café are constantly hitting the road block of Simon Duvall.  Simon is the head of the local zoning commission, and he keeps failing her on every inspection.  After the latest one, Megan finds Simon murdered in the farm’s barn.  Naturally, the police are looking at Megan as a suspect, but all Megan can wonder is why Simon was killed in the barn.

This is a wonderful debut!  There are some secrets in Megan’s family that come to light over the course of the book and add another layer to the story.  I can’t wait to see where that goes next.  The mystery of Simon’s murder is also very well done with plenty of surprises along the way.  Top that off with great characters.  I can’t wait to return for the sequel.

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems – 5
Piggie is thinking about all the people who have enriched her life, so she decides to thank them all.  While Gerald likes the idea, he worries she will forget someone important.  Will she miss anyone?

This is the final (sob!) Elephant and Piggie book from the talented Mo Willems, and it works well as a series finale.  Viewing it as another in the series, it will seem a little weird, but knowing this is the final one makes it very special.  There are some fun cameos, including one from Pigeon.  And the lesson about thankfulness is good but presented in a fun way.  In other words, it’s another great book in the series.

Éclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford (Emergency Dessert Squad #1) – 4
On the day Winnie Johnson has to close her bakery due to a huge rent increase, she inherits an antique ambulance.  She decides to use it to reopen her bakery as a mobile business, rushing her desserts to those in need.  But when her neighbor is murdered, it puts a definite damper on her plans.  Who would kill an elderly man?

The mystery aspect takes a back seat at times to getting the new business up and running, but I find the concept of this business absolutely brilliant.  I’m wondering why no one hasn’t tried this in real life.  The mystery does reach a logical conclusion that wraps things up.  The characters are strong, and I’m looking forward to seeing where relationships go in future books.  Rush out and get this debut.

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

Grilled for Murder by Maddie Day (Country Store Mysteries #2) – 5
Robbie Jordan is keeping her restaurant open on a Saturday night for a special welcome home party for Erica Shermer.  However, not everyone is thrilled that Erica is back, as Robbie sees when Erica fights with several of the guests.  Still, she’s surprised when she comes down the next morning to find Erica dead in the restaurant.  What was Erica doing back at the restaurant?  And who killed her?

I fell in love with these characters when I read the first in the series, so it was great to be back spending time with them again.  The new characters are just as fun and make wonderful suspects.  One item introduced as part of the plot was left open, but I can easily see it being resolved in a future book.  The main mystery of who killed Erica is well done, giving us a steady dose of clues and suspects until we reach the logical and suspenseful end.

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

The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson (Down South Cafe Mysteries #1) – 4
Amy Flowers is ready to follow her dream of opening her own cafe, and she’s hoping to do it by buying the local greasy spoon.  However, Lou Lou, the owner, is not at all interested in selling.  Amy stops by the cafe late one night and finds Lou Lou dead in her office.  Naturally, Amy knows she has a good motive.  Can she clear her name?

This is a fun start to a new series.  The book focuses a bit on Amy starting her café early on, but the mystery begins to be the focus as we gear up toward the logical climax.  Some of the characters could have been stronger, but I still came to care for them before the book ended, and I look forward to getting to know them better as the series progresses.

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

Desperate Housedogs by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #1) – 4
Caro has built a successful life in as a pet therapist, helping owners deal with their pet’s bed behavior.  Two hours after a session with Kevin trying to get his dogs to stop barking, the police find Kevin dead and start looking at Caro as a person of interest.  Why were his dogs barking?  Can Caro solve the murder?

This debut is a lot of fun.  The mystery starts out a little slowly as the book gives us some background on Caro and a few other characters, but once it gets going it delivers some great twists.  The character, while relatable, are a bit over the top, but that’s part of the fun.  They help contribute to the laughs and grins mixed into the murder and mayhem.

Voodoo River by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole/Joe Pike #5) – 2
Actress Jodie Taylor wants to find out about her birth parents, so she hires Elvis Cole to go to Louisiana and track them down.  She just wants medical history, so she is trying to keep the search quiet.  Cole is trying to keep his inquiries a secret, but he’s hardly started when someone starts following him.  What has he stumbled into?

Unfortunately, what he has stumbled into is a rather weak entry in the series.  The plot rambles all over the place before finally introducing us to a crime that Cole seems to care about.  By the time that happens, the book just has time for a rush to climax, and the climax is yet another weak dues ex machina.  The characters are interesting and save the book, although I can’t help but roll my eyes at the way women fall all over Cole.

Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson (Aurora Anderson #1) – 5
Rory Anderson is shocked when the body of a well-respected tole painter, Hester Bouquet, is found buried in her backyard.  With a police chief who hates her, Rory knows if she wants to avoid going to jail, she needs to find the killer.  But who might it be?

This is a strong debut.  The plot was steady with interesting suspects and shifting clues and motives.  I thought I had it figured out a couple of times, but it turned out I was wrong.  The characters are fantastic as well, and I can hardly wait to visit the series regulars again.  Plus I loved the fictional coast town setting.

Murder on Astor Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #1) – 4
Midwife Sarah Brandt is returning to visit a mother and newborn when she learns there has been a death at the home.  A boarder was strangled during the night, and it turns out this is the younger sister of someone she knew years ago.  Determined to see justice done, Sarah teams up with the very reluctant Frank Malloy, the detective assigned to the case, to find the killer.

This book really does feature two detectives as both Sarah and Frank are active contributers to seeing justice done.  The hopping back and forth between them only enhances the story and gives us more twists.  All the characters are strong as well, and I truly liked spending time with them, especially the leads.  I did feel the climax was over the top, but that is my only complaint with this mystery.

Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop #1) – 4
When Violet Waverly arrives in Cascade Springs, New York, she finds that her grandmother isn’t sick like she’d been told.  Instead, her grandmother needs to tell her some family secrets involving the old bookstore that she runs.  Violet isn’t interested in learning about them, however, and plans to leave the next morning.  Only in the morning, her grandmother’s beau is found strangled.  With her grandmother a suspect, Violet must stick around to figure out what happened, and she will get some help from a very unlikely source.

I normally try to avoid magic in my mysteries, but this concept sounded like so much fun I had to give it a try.  I’m glad I did since I enjoyed the story very much.  Magic does play a part, but only a small part, in solving the mystery.  Most of the book is still spent following Violet around as she attempts to figure out what is happening.  The characters are strong, and I can see them feeling like old friends soon.  A couple of sub-plots felt predictable and slow things down a tad at times, but that’s a minor issue overall.

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

Presumed Puzzled by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady #16) – 5
Roger Martindale is missing, and his wife, Pamela, has received a crossword puzzle.  That evening, he returns home only to be hacked to death.  Chief Harper thinks that Pamela did it since she was found with the bloody knife in her hand, but the twists for Puzzle Lady Cora Felton are just beginning.

And twists there are.  Yes, Cora is right in the thick of things, and as the book progresses she gets even more involved.  The characters are a little thin, but they usually are in this series.  The real star here is the verbal battles the characters have, which are fun and funny as always.  The quick wit and the banter made me laugh several times before we reached the logical conclusions.


  1. You had a busy month for reading! Happy July!

    1. I did at that.

      Happy July and Happy Canada Day to you.

  2. Looks like a number of books really enjoyed with great ratings. Always nice when that happens.

    1. It's rare I have a month with many poor ratings. I like it that way since I'm reading for fun.

  3. A Muddied Murder sounds really tempting, as do several others on your list. Enjoy July!

    Love your "collector's" header.

    1. If you saw my place, you'd get the "collector" part of my tag.

      And give into temptation. Then you can become a book collector like me.

  4. You must be a speed reader. Unlike me. Thanks for doing this, Mark. Happy 4th!

    1. I don't know about speed reader, but I do read a lot. Yet the more I read, the more books I want to read.