Monday, October 1, 2018

September 2018's Monthly Reading Summary

Welcome to October, which can only mean one thing - here's my September monthly reading summary.

And yes, this month, I have updated The Index.

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

Wuthering Kites by Clover Tate (Kite Shop Mysteries #3) – 4
Emmy Adler has just moved into the apartment above her kite shop.  That's why she hears the scream when Stella, her part time employee, goes to open the store that morning.  Stella has found a dead body in the middle of the shop's floor.  Neither of the women recognize the victim, and the police aren't certain who she was either.  Who could the victim be?  Why was she in Emmy's locked shop in the middle of the night?  And who killed her?

There are some fun twists to this mystery early on, but the pacing does lag a time or two before Emmy figures everything out.  Once she does, we are in for a wonderful climax.  I missed one or two of the series characters, but others were there to step in and keep us entertained.  Naturally, the book has plenty of new characters, and they were well developed, making them good suspects in the case.  One of the returning characters in this book does spoil some events from the previous book.  I loved seeing this character again, but you might want to read book two in the series before you pick this one up.  Unlike the first two in the series, this one is coming out as an ebook only, but fans of the series will be thrilled to see these characters again.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Rooted in Deceit by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #4) – 4
Megan Sawyer is finding August to be extremely busy.  While trying to keep the farm running during a drought, she is helping get things ready for the opening of the wood-fired pizza farm in her barn and her father and his wife, Sylvia, are in town for a visit.  Then there's the new yoga retreat center opening nearby.  As part of their opening celebration, they are hosting an art festival, and the headlining artist is Megan's old friend Thana.  However, the celebration turns to tragedy when Thana is found murdered and Sylvia becomes a suspect.  Her father didn't marry a killer, did he?

This series has had a strong storyline involving Megan and her complicated past with various family members, and that continues here by introducing us to her father.  Additionally, there are developments in other ongoing storylines.  I enjoyed getting the next chapter in Megan’s life.  The characters are as strong as always, whether main characters, series regulars, or those introduced for this book.  The subplots did distract from the main mystery at times, but there is still a solid mystery here.  One element of the mystery needed to be included better, but overall it was a minor issue.  We got great twists and red herrings on the way to a surprising ending.  Fans of the series will be pleased with this new entry.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

“L” is for Lawless by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #12) – 5
Kinsey is taking a rare week off from her PI business for William and Rosie’s wedding, but before she can get too relaxed, Henry asks her for a small favor.  One of their neighbors has recently passed, and his family is having a hard time getting the death benefits from the government since they have no record of this man having been in the service during World War II.  Kinsey doesn’t intend to get too involved, but when the man’s place is broken into and searched, she becomes curious.  Just what is really happening?

I love it when a book takes off in ways I don’t expect, and that’s just what happened with this one.  The plot was great, and even when we have most of the answers, there is still the question of what will happen next to Kinsey to keep the pages turning.  It is fun to meet the rest of William and Henry’s family, and the character involved in the mystery are as strong as always.  A series thread introduced a couple of books back comes into play here again as well.  Fans of the series who have missed this one won’t be disappointed.

Toucan Keep a Secret by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #23) – 4
Meg Langslow is taking a turn locking up the Episcopal Church in town.  She's part of the brigade helping out since Reverend Robyn Smith is out on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy.  Meg just about has everything taken care of when she hears a pounding coming from the columbarium.  When she goes to investigate, she finds several of the crypts have been opened, and the dead body of Junius Hagley on the ground.  Mr. Hagley was a grouchy old man who Meg and her mother secretly call one of the Muttering Misogynists, but Meg didn't wish him dead.  What has Meg stumbled into now?

My biggest issue with this book involved the use of the term misogynist to describe the victim as well as describing some of his actions as mansplaining.  Honestly, I felt both of these terms didn't have much to do with the mystery plot in the slightest and were there more to lecture us than to entertain.  Which is a shame because the mystery itself was very entertaining.  Between a mystery from the past and how it is factoring into the events of the present, I was hooked until Meg pieced it together at the end.  We get most of the series regulars here, and they entertain as always.  The new characters are colorful and therefore plenty of fun as well.  A few of the scenes were so much funny they literally made me laugh out loud.

The Girl with the Dachshund Tattoo by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #6) – 5
This weekend, the Dachshund Dash has come to town, and Mel has closed down her Bow Wow Boutique to be there.  Not only does she have a booth, but she is also providing the official racing jerseys for the contestants.  While she isn't familiar with the backstage drama associated with this racing circuit, she quickly gets a crash course when Lenny and Richard, the owners of the dogs expected to finish in first and second, get into an argument right outside her booth.  A little while later, her assistant, Betty, gets into an altercation with Richard, even brandishing a gun at him.  So, naturally, when Mel finds Richard's dead body after he's been shot, Betty becomes the prime suspect.  Only Betty claims that someone, a girl with a dachshund tattoo, took the gun away from her.  Why is Betty being so secretive?  Where is her gun?  Who shot Richard?

This is another fabulous book in the series.  The plot introduces us to a couple of solid suspects before the murder takes place, and it then gives us a few more once things really get going.  We get plenty of twists and turns before Mel figures everything out.  And we also get plenty of humor.  I was grinning and chuckling when I wasn't laughing.  The characters can be a bit broad as a result as they serve the dual purpose of suspect and provider of laughs, but it works for the series.  It helps that Mel is very real, and her concern comes through.  The result is lots of fun.

Jennifer and Josephine by Bill Peet – 4
Josephine, a stray cat, has finally found a home in Jennifer’s backseat.  Jennifer is a car left in a corner of a junk yard.  However, their lives change when a traveling salesman buys Jennifer one day.  He’s always in a hurry.  What will that mean for Jennifer and Josephine?

This is another of Bill Peet’s odd couple books, and Josephine’s devotion to Jennifer is very touching.  We get this story from the cat’s point of view, although we occasionally get glimpses into Jennifer’s feelings.  The story is definitely from a slower, simpler time, and that leads to a story that drags a little in the middle, but that’s the only real complaint here.

Sunny Side Up by Daniel Stallings (Li Johnson Mysteries #1) – 3
Liam Johnson is thrilled to have landed a job on the prestigious Howard Cruise Line as a waiter.  His family needs the money he will be making.  However, he quickly discovers that his boss hates him and some of the customers he must deal with delight in making his life miserable as well.  That doesn't prepare him for finding the body of one of the passengers dead on the Sunbathing Deck.  The ship's doctor is quick to rule it an accidental death due to sunstroke, but Liam isn't so sure.  Several things about the scene are off.  Can he prove it was murder before the cruise ends?

I really thought this book sounded like fun, but it turned out to be much more somber than I was expecting it to be.  Liam faces quite a bit of abuse and bullying over the course of the story, and I didn't find it that fun to read.  Even his friends on the ship turn on him regularly.  The mystery is well put together with plenty of clues.  I did feel things were a bit overly complex, but the clues were all there when Liam explains things at the end.  This books definitely falls on the traditional side of the spectrum with a smattering of language and talk about sex (but nothing on the page) that keep it from being a true cozy.  This wasn’t' truly a bad book, but I did hope for something sunnier when I picked it up.

Murder on Marble Row by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #6) – 5
When a bomb goes off in the office of millionaire Gregory Van Dyke, everyone assumes it is anarchists.  Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy is assigned to the case at the specific request of Felix Decker, Sarah Brandt's father.  Frank fears this means he is being set up for failure.  Meanwhile, Sarah worms her way into the investigation thanks to her friendship with the Van Dyke family.  Are anarchists really behind it?  If not, who set the bomb?

Once again, we have a wonderfully plotted mystery.  I was usually only one or two pages ahead of Frank and Sarah as they pieced everything together, and I was surprised once they figured everything out.  The characters are strong as always, with both the series regulars and new characters coming across as real.  Sarah's mother plays a larger role in what happens here, and I really enjoyed her scenes.  There was always something happening, and I had a hard time putting it down.  In fact, I decided to stay up late to finish the book.  I just didn't want to put the last 60 pages off until the next day.


Murder Flies the Coop by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina Mysteries #2) – 5
Lifelong friends Beryl and Edwina are still trying to figure out how to earn more income when they hit on the idea of opening an enquiry agency.  And their first case comes from the local vicar.  It seems a member of the local pigeon racing club has vanished, along with club funds and several birds.  Did the man take off with everything?  If so, can Beryl and Edwina find him?

It was wonderful to be visiting this dynamic duo again in 1921 England.  Beryl and Edwina are such opposites, but their differences really make them a great team, and the third person narration from their points of view show cases that perfectly.  I'm loving watching Edwina come out of her shell.  I don't feel we are getting quite as much character development for Beryl, or I'm just not seeing it, but that is a minor complaint.  The mystery is strong and manages to bring in some issues from the time period in an organic way without lecturing us.  There are some good twists and surprises to the story and a logical climax.  The entire thing is wrapped in a sense of fun that comes from Beryl and Edwina themselves, who are enjoying their new vocation.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Til Death Do Us Party by Vickie Fee (Liv and Di in Dixie #4) – 4
Liv, Di, and much of Liv's family is heading to Vegas for Liv's mother's wedding to Earl.  They are excited to meet up with Liv's cousin, Little Junior, who is trying to become an Elvis impersonator, but in the meantime is driving a cab in the city.  The wedding is supposed to take place in the Burning Love Wedding Chapel, but before the bride and groom can even get to "I Do," the Elvis impersonator who is supposed to be marrying them drops dead.  When the police decide it was murder, they begin looking at Liv's cousin as the killer.  Even though Liv is far from home, can she still figure out who the killer really is?

I have found the pacing in the series to be off, and this book continues the trend as the murder comes late in the book.  We get some set up before that happens, but there is plenty of time spent with some sub-plots early in the book as well.  The mystery, when it starts, is strong, providing some fun suspects and surprises before we reach the logical ending.  The sub-plots partially allow us to check in with folks back in Dixie, Tennessee, so I'm not complaining too much.  Having said that, the sub plot involving Liv's best friend Di and her boyfriend drove me crazy since both of them were behaving stupidly.  This book is best for fans of the series since they will fully appreciate some of what happens here.  And they will really enjoy this trip.

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