Monday, July 31, 2017

July 2017's Monthly Reading Summary

Since today is the last day of July, it must be time for the monthly reading summary for the month.  The index has been updated as well.

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

Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee (Liv and Di in Dixie #1) – 5
Liv McKay is working with some clients to plan an anniversary party for them when they find two dead bodies in their garage.  The murder victims worked at the trucking company Liv’s father-in-law owns.  Soon, rumors are swirling about Liv’s family, and the police are uncovering some things that are upsetting the family.  Liv and her best friend Di Souther start their investigation to find out what is really happening.  Can they figure it out?

This was a very enjoyable debut with some twists on the usual cozy set up, which I really enjoyed.  Liv is a fantastic main character, and Di is a wonderful sidekick.  I did feel they were a bit passive early on, but that soon changed and they threw themselves headlong into solving the mystery, which featured plenty of surprises and twists.  Throw in a bit of humor, and you have a winner.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Murder at the Male Revue by Elizabeth Perona (Bucket List Mysteries #3) – 4
Catering a fund raiser for the community center is doing double duty for the Skinny-Dipping Grandmas as they can also check “Visit a strip club” off Joy’s bucket list.  But when the auction for the men gets started, chaos insures and the town council’s president is murdered.  Who could have done it?

As always, Francine is our guide to this third wacky and fun mystery.  There are some good secrets, twists, and surprises that come out, although the ending did feel a bit abrupt.  The characters are fun and strong.  Between a couple of slapstick scenes and the dialogue, we get some great laughs along the way as well.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Commander Toad and the Space Pirates by Jane Yolen (Commander Toad #6) – 3
It’s been a long space voyage, so long that the crew of the Space Warts is bored.  Unfortunately, trouble finds them in the form of Commander Salamander, the notorious space pirate who is Commander Toad’s arch nemesis.  He quickly boards the ship and plans to force the crew to play his favorite game, Hop the Plank.  Can they get out of this situation?

I remember liking this one as a kid, but as an adult, it just doesn’t hold up well.  The puns, a favorite of mine, aren’t on full display here.  The twist at the end is just a bit too abrupt for me.  I’m sure kids who are fans of these books will still enjoy it, however.

30 Second Death by Laura Bradford (Tobi Tobias #2) – 4
When Tobi’s friend Carter goes off on an actress at the theater where he works, he’s afraid of losing his job.  Tobi decides to help out by hiring the actress to be in a commercial she is about to shoot for an advertising client, but when the actress dies on set while Carter is coloring her hair, he immediately finds himself the top suspect.  Now Tobi must do another favor – clear Carter of murder.

I loved the first book in this series, and one of the main reasons was the characters.  They are a delight to be around, and their relationships are so wonderful.  I felt the mystery in this one was slow, especially in the first half where a couple of sub-plots got in the way of Tobi solving the mystery.  Still, it did reach a logical conclusion at the end.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Demolition Angel by Robert Crais – 3
Three years ago, Carol Starkey lost her partner and lover when a bomb exploded.  Heck, she almost lost her life herself, and she has lived with the scars, real and emotional, from it ever since.  Now she is tasked with solving the murder of another LAPD bomb squad member killed by a bomb.  The ATF thinks it was the work of Mr. Red, a serial bomber.  Can Carol catch him?

The mystery itself in this book is strong, and I enjoyed the twists and turns as we went along.  However, I had a real problem with Carol.  She was a walking cliché of the hard-boiled mystery genre right down to her chain smoking, secret drinking, and hard to like personality.  Her character arc was a cliché as well, but I finally did find myself caring about her toward the end of the book.

Disney at Last by Ridley Pearson (The Return #3, Kingdom Keepers #11) – 4
Finn, the rest of the Kingdom Keepers, plus Jess and Amanda are still back in 1955.  While they wait for their trip back to our time to be perfected, they have a new mission – stop the overtakers from even being created.  Meanwhile, in the present, Jess and Amanda’s friend Mattie is in a fight of her own to protect the parks of the present.  Can she do it?

With two stories in two time periods, this book is never boring.  There are several great fight scenes, and we even get to see some of the Disney heroes for more than a glimpse this time around.  As always, the characters could be more fleshed out, but I have spent so much time with them I really don’t care.  I do feel the climax glossed over a few things, but I do like where the characters end up.  We’ll just blame it on me trying to follow time travel.

Circle of Influence by Annette Dashofy (Zoe Chambers #1) – 5
After an especially tension filled Township Board meeting, paramedic Zoe Chambers is called to an abandoned car with a dead body in the front seat.  That discovery on a cold winter night plunges Zoe and Police Chief Pete Adams into a complex mystery that hits too close to home.  Where will it end?

I shouldn’t have put this debut off for so long.  It’s an amazing book full of great writing.  The characters are strong, and they pull us into the story quickly.  There are so many twists and turns along the way, but everything makes perfect sense by the time we reach the end.  Zoe and Pete share third person narrator duties, something the author uses perfectly to let us get to know the leads and build the tension in the story.

A Puzzle to be Named Later by Parnell Hall (Puzzle Lady Mysteries #18) – 4
When Yankee’s pitcher Matt Greystone moves to town to rehab after a car accident, Cora Felton is thrilled.  That is before a therapist’s house is broken into and Cora is asked to solve a puzzle that points to something in the therapist’s files.  When a second puzzle shows up on the dead body, she knows she has to figure out what is going on.

Like some others in the series, the mystery is the weak link in this book.  The action is quick even if it doesn’t always lead us anywhere.  The climax is a bit convoluted as well.  However, I read these books for the word play and comedy, and that’s here in spades.  I laughed multiple times in the book and smiled throughout.  Plus, it’s fun to spend time with the gang again, and I liked the new characters as well.

Dangerous to Know by Renee Patrick (Lillian Frost and Edith Head #2) – 5
In December 1938, an FBI investigation into the smuggling activities of Albert Chaperau has reached the doors of Paramount, where Edith Head is the head of costumes.  Since Lillian Frost was at the dinner party where Albert was exposed, she finds herself involved in attempts to head off the investigation.  Meanwhile, Lillian is also looking into the disappearance of Jens Lahse.  No one has seen him for a week.  Where could he have gone?

This book plunges us into the world of old Hollywood, and doesn’t let us out.  Real and fictional blend seamlessly on the page, all of them coming to wonderful life.  The book takes time to lay the foundation of both stories and introduce the characters, but once that happens, it is off and running and hard to put down.  Add in a touch of Christmas, and you have a very charming book.

Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander (Bakeshop Mysteries #1) – 4
After years at sea, Jules Capshaw has returned to Ashford, Oregon.  While she figures out what to do with her life, she is helping her mother with Torte, the family bakeshop.  But she’s hardly back in town before she meets Nancy Hudson.  Nancy is a new member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival board, and she is obnoxious, picking fights with everyone she meets.  When Jules finds Nancy one more in Torte’s kitchen, there are quite a few suspects.  But with the police focuses on Jules’s friends, she starts to investigate herself in order to find out the truth.  Can she do it?

I’ve long heard of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and I’d love to go sometime.  Until that happens, this is a great alternative.  The characters are wonderful and already fully formed, although I do feel like part of Jules’s backstory isn’t strong enough for her actions.  But that’s probably just me.  The plot is good, although it was a little weak at the end.  Still, everything is wrapped up in a logical way.


  1. You did awesome! Happy August!

  2. You do a great job! Thanks for being a member of our group. Mary Jane's Novels. mj

  3. Thanks Mark for your "Circle of Influence"review.I have the ebook...Time to Start it...After I'm done with my reread of The Beach House Mary Alice Monroe... CozySusaninVT

  4. Oh, Death Crashes the Party by Vickie Fee sounds right up my alley! Definitely adding that to my TBR!

  5. I've added a couple of these to my library request list and ordered Circle of Influence from Amazon. Nice list!