Thursday, October 1, 2020

September 2020's Reading Summary

 We've made it through another month in 2020.  In fact, we are nine months into the year.  In some ways, I can't believe it.  In others, it feels hard to believe it's only September, right?  But here we are, and here's what I read in September.  Links will take you to my full review.

And, despite everything I had going on this week, I did get the index updated this month.

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


The First Wave by James R. Benn (Billy Boyle #2) – 4

It’s November of 1942, and Billy Boyle is part of the landing party trying to secure Algeria for the Allies.  However, the plans fall apart quickly after the landing.  Then, Billy figures out that someone is stealing the medical supplies that are coming in.  Can he figure out who is trying to profit from the thefts while also rescuing his love?

Between the history, the spy story, and the mystery, there is a lot going on in this book.  At times, it gets to be a bit too much, and I felt like the pacing was slowed down as a result.  That’s ironic since there is plenty of action, and I was turning pages as quickly as I could multiple times over the course of the book.  This certainly isn’t one of my normal light mysteries, but it shouldn’t be since it is a book about war.  Still, the impact of this story hit me hard since I love these characters.  The characters, both real and fictional, interact effortlessly, and it is very easy to care for our heroes.  I do recommend reading the first book first since this book spoils some of the events of that story.  It has to since those events impacted the characters so much.  When you are looking to be fully immersed in another time and place, this is definitely the book to pick up.

 

Ditched 4 Murder by J. C. Eaton (Sophie Kimball #2) – 3

Sophie “Phee” Kimball is settling into her new life in Arizona, but it’s about to get crazier thanks to her aunt’s recent engagement.  Phee keeps getting asked to help plan the wedding, and finds herself juggling her job as the accountant for a PI, the wedding, and her mother’s phone calls of outrage about the wedding.  Phee’s PI boss is working on a murder that took place near her mother’s house, and as Phee works on the wedding, she begins to wonder if there is a connection.  Can she solve the case?

I loved the first book in the series, so I was looking forward to revisiting the characters.  Sadly, this one didn’t live up to the first.  The mystery was overshadowed by the wedding plans.  I expected they would come together at some point, but that point came a little late in the book for my tastes.  Meanwhile, the climax to the mystery was a little weak as well.  Some of the characters walked a fine line between funny and annoying in the first book, and I found them more annoying than funny here.  That’s not all the characters.  Phee herself is still a strong and sympathetic main character, and I really like several of the supporting characters.  And that isn’t to say I didn’t laugh over the course of the book either.  I especially laughed at the climax.  Considering how much I enjoyed the first book, I’m definitely going to give Phee another visit.

 

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country Mysteries #6) – 5

In an effort to increase bookings at her family’s Louisiana bed and breakfast during October, Maggie Crozat has come up with the “Pelican’s Spooky Past” promotion.  Five of the area B & B’s are teaming up and offering historical crafts, food, and other promotions to tie in to the season.  Someone else has gotten into the act since guests keep siting a rougarou, a local legendary monster.  One of the events during the month is a play being staged at a nearby dilapidated graveyard.  The first couple of weekends, the play goes well, but then at one performance someone in a rougarou costume stumbles onto the stage and dies.  As cross jurisdictional strife heats up, Maggie and her family find themselves caught in the middle as prime suspects.  Can Maggie clear their names?

Reading this series always makes me want to visit Louisiana in person, and this book is no exception.  I also appreciate how we learn something about local customs, legends, and food while we read.  The plot is strong with plenty of twists and action to keep us engaged and guessing.  I do have a couple of niggles with the climax, but they are minor overall.  The characters are as wonderful as ever.  I love seeing the regulars again and watching them and their relationships grow.  Meanwhile, the suspects are just as strong as the series regulars.  Those looking for some Cajun flavor in their life will enjoy the five recipes we get at the end of the book.  Fans of the series will enjoy the latest book, and if you are new to the series, this will make you go back and read the books you’ve missed.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Murder Most Sweet by Laura Jensen Walker (Bookish Baker Mysteries #1) – 3

After surviving breast cancer five years ago, Teddie St. John starting writing culinary cozies, combining her love and baking and mysteries.  She’s moderately successful, and looking forward to meeting the highly successful Tavish Bentley when he comes to her small Wisconsin town for a book signing.  However, the event ends early when Teddie finds Tavish’s fiancée dead in the ally next to the bookstore.  The murder weapon was one of Teddie’s scarfs.  Teddie needs to clear her name, but can she do it?

Since I love both culinary and booked themed cozies, I was looking forward to digging into this debut.  Unfortunately, I found the mystery to be weak.  It started well, but it wasn’t strong enough overall.  On the other hand, Teddie does lead a cast of fun characters that I enjoyed meeting.  I did find Teddie’s mother a bit much, but hopefully that relationship will grow as the series goes on.  The suspects are just as strong and memorable as the main characters.  As a man, I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the talk about Teddie’s breast cancer, but I am sure most people who pick up the book will be fine with that.  If the book leaves you craving some Wisconsin sweets, you’ll be thrilled to find the six recipes at the back of the book.  Hopefully, the mysteries will grow as the series progresses.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #1) – 5

Annie Lawrence has inherited the Death on Demand mystery bookstore on Broward’s Rock off the coast of South Carolina.  She has allowed the bookstore to continue to be used by a group of mystery writers on Sunday nights.  On this particular Sunday night, one of them is murdered, and Annie becomes the chief suspect.  Good thing that her not-quite-ex, Max Darling, is on the island to help her clear her name.  But can they do it?

While I’ve read other books by the author, I have yet to dive into this series.  I’m glad I finally took the plunge.  The mystery is complex with a good puzzle and lots of twists before everything is resolved.  Annie and Max are strong and fantastic lead characters.  The suspect could have been a bit stronger, although they got better as the book went along.  The references to other mystery authors and novels was a lot of fun, although occasionally it did feel like it was a bit much.  There was more foul language than I am used to in a cozy mystery.  The setting, essentially a resort community, was fantastic.  This book came out in 1987, so some things were dated, but just keep that in mind when you pick up the book and you’ll be fine.  Now that I’ve visited the store, I will definitely be back.

 

Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lovers Mysteries #8) – 5

It’s time for the annual Dinner in the Stacks fundraiser at the Briar Creek Public Library, but this year, Lindsey Norris is facing an extra challenge in putting it on.  Olive Boyle has just become president of the library’s board, and she is determined to make trouble, even threatening Lindsey’s job.  Despite all of this, the fundraiser goes well, until Olive’s body is found in the fiction section just after the event ends.  Even though Lindsey swore she’d stop investigating murders, she still finds herself drawn into this case.  Olive made enemies everywhere she went.  With so many suspects, can Lindsey figure out what happened?

While the mystery has some good twists in it, I did feel the pacing was off overall.  Instead, the character’s antics take over at times.  As a fan of the series, I can’t complain too much about that, especially since I was laughing at those scenes.  Plus, we got some character development that fans of the series will love.  Fans of Jenn’s other two mystery series will have fun with the cameos those characters make in this book, although you won’t miss much of you aren’t up to date on those series.  The usual assortment of extras at the end will give you something to enjoy after you’ve turned the last page.  While the plot pacing does bother me, I was smiling so much while I was reading, it is hard to complain.  Other fans of the series will love every page as well.

 

The Gatehouse Mystery by Julie Campbell (Trixie Belden #3) – 5

When Trixie and Honey find a diamond in the gatehouse on the Wheeler property, Trixie is certain that there is a thief around. Could it be one of the new Wheeler servants? We also get to meet Trixie's two older brothers and the five new friends form the Bob-Whites of the Glen. While the mystery isn't strong, the characters are great and this remains one of my favorites in the series.

 

Fatal Forgeries by Ritter Ames – 4 (Bodies of Art #4)

Laurel Beacham has taken on one of her side projects, stealing a stolen piece of artwork so it can be returned to the rightful owner.  However, when she returns to London, she discovers that two forgeries of this particular painting had been confiscated in England recently.  Did she just stop a new lead they could have used to trace forgers back to the art heist itself?

This is a series that is absolutely critical to read in order.  While this book does have a complete story, it is part of a larger story being told over the series, and you will be lost if you jump in here.  Furthermore, you will be spoiled for some twists that happen in earlier books.  If you’ve read the previous books, you’ll know what to expect here, and you won’t be disappointed.  While the pacing was more uneven, there was still plenty of action and some good twists as Laurel, Jack, and the rest attempted to figure out what exacting is being planned.  We learn more about the characters along the way, and I enjoy how they are developing.  I feel like some of the familiar conflicts between them are beginning to be resolved – and I hope that is true.  We also get to do some welcome armchair traveling to locations that come alive for us.  Once you’ve read the first three, you’ll enjoy this chapter in Laurel’s story.

 

Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland (Mrs. Claus #1) – 5

April’s life changed completely when she learned Nick, the man she had fallen in love with, was Santa Claus.  Now, she’s spending her first Christmas at the North Pole as Mrs. Claus.  However, the stress of the holiday is nothing compared to the death of an elf.  Giblet Hollyberry was not an especially popular elf, but his death comes the day after he had a very public fight with Santa.  While the rest of the Claus clan doesn’t seem that concerned, April worries that the evidence is pointing toward her new husband.  The North Pole isn’t normally a hotbed of crime, but it seems someone is doing their best to put Santa on the naughty list this year.  Can April keep that from happening?

At its heart, this book is a cozy mystery, and it is a wonderful one.  There are enough suspects, secrets, and clues to keep the reader engaged the entire way through the book.  It’s the setting that makes the book stand out, and it is wonderfully done.  It took me a bit to get the pictures from countless specials and movies out of my head, but April’s new world soon came fully to life for me.  The characters, whether they are human or not, are very real, and I enjoyed meeting them here.  And the book is overflowing with Christmas cheer – so much so that I had to start listening to some Christmas music while I was reading it.  This book definitely deserves a place at the top of your nice list.  I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Hollyberry Homicide by Sharon Farrow (Berry Basket Mysteries #5) – 5

Marlee Jacobs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas, but before she can get there, she has a few things on her plate.  In addition to the usual decorating and present buying, there’s the town hollyberry festival.  Plus, she’s taking over the role of Jacob Marley in the town’s annual adaptation of A Christmas Carol at the last minute.  The actor who normally plays the part died unexpectedly.  Well, maybe not quite so unexpectedly since he was ninety-five.  While everyone is certain it was natural causes, something feels off to Marlee.  Couple that with the rumors that the play is cursed, and Marlee will have to find time to add sleuthing to her December schedule.  What will she uncover?

As you might have guessed, this book’s plot unfolds a little differently from the typical cozy mystery, and I loved it all the more for that fact.  Don’t worry, there is always something happening to keep your attention, and I loved how Marlee unraveled everything in the end.  The characters in this series are charming, and that’s the case here once again.  We get plenty of Christmas spirit in the pages of this book, which is a must for a Christmas entry in a series.  Rounding out the book, we get three berry inspired recipes at the end.  When you are making a list of Christmas cozies to read this December, make sure this book is on it.  No need to check it twice, you’ll definitely enjoy it.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

The Overlook by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #13) – 4

LAPD Detective Harry Bosch has recently transferred to the Los Angeles Homicide Special department, and his first case finds him at an overlook on Mulholland Drive where a doctor was shot in the back of the head.  Bosch has hardly gotten the basics of the case when the FBI shows up.  As jurisdictional wars break out, Bosch tries to keep his focus on solving the crime.  Can he do it?

I was surprised to find this book was shorter than normal for a Harry Bosch novel, but when I learned it originally appeared in serialized form, it made sense.  The book doesn’t skimp on twists and turns; they are still packed into the pages.  I had part of the solution figured out early, but it was just a small part of it.  Bosch is dealing with a ticking clock, and that means that any personal sub-plots are left out of the book.  Because of the shorter length, the characters aren’t as well developed as usual, but this lack of character growth is a minor issue.  What bothered me more was some of Bosch’s actions here.  Normally, I enjoy his efforts to skirt the rules, but in this case, I felt he went a bit too far.  Still, Harry’s many fans will enjoy this fast-paced entry to the series.

 

Dying in a Winter Wonderland by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas #5) – 5

Merry Wilkinson has gotten talked into designing the decorations for Luanne Ireland’s wedding.  However, on Christmas Eve, Luanne drops the bombshell that she is moving the wedding up from summer to Valentine’s Day, and naturally it causes chaos.  Just two days later, Luanne’s fiancé is found murdered, however, and Merry’s brother, Chris, becomes the prime suspect.  Luanne and Chris had dated back in high school, but is that enough motive for murder?  Merry doesn’t think so, and she sets out to prove him innocent.  Can she do it?

No matter when the books in this series are set, they always immediately put me in the Christmas spirit, and this book is no exception.   Merry and the rest of the characters are their usual charming selves, and I always enjoy spending some time with them.  Okay, so there are a few characters who regularly annoy Merry, but I enjoy those scenes, too, and we got some interesting developments with them in this book.  The plot introduced lots of drama before the murder takes place, and that pulled me in from the first chapter.  I never wanted to put the book down until I reached the logical conclusion.  This latest book is perfect for any time you need a dose of Christmas.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Candy Slain Murder by Edith Maxwell (Country Store Mysteries #8) – 4

This Christmas is bringing plenty of surprises to Robbie Jordan’s life.  The first is the young man who walks into Pans N’ Pancakes, Robbie’s country store and restaurant, and claims to be Robbie’s assistant’s half brother.  Danna never knew she had any siblings.  The bigger surprise is the skeleton discovered when a house catches fire.  As gossip about who the remains belong to heats up, a fresh murder takes place, and Robbie is once again drawn into the case.  Can she figure out what happened?

Since the last book took place outside of South Lick, it was fabulous to be back and see all the regulars again.  Everyone gets a scene or two to shine and give us updates on their lives.  Unfortunately, the plot could be stronger.  While there are plenty of suspects and red herrings, the suspects are weaker than they need to be.  The climax is suspenseful and does answer all our questions, however.  I’m a sucker for Christmas set cozies, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book.  The scenes in the restaurant will make you hungry for the six recipes at the end.  Fans of the series will certainly welcome this Christmas entry.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

2 comments:

  1. A group of good reads!! Happy Spooktober!

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  2. Mrs. Claus sounds fun. I do need to read more cozy mysteries. I love them.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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