Wednesday, September 1, 2021

August 2021's Reading Summary

We've reached the first of September, so it's time to look back at what I read in August.  Quite a fun group of books, too.

I didn't get around to updating the index this month.  I had quite a nice streak going, so I'm sorry to break it, but I just didn't have time to get it done.

The links will take you to my full review.  All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).

 



The Chocolate Raccoon Rigmarole by JoAnna Carl (Chocoholic Mysteries #18) – 4

It’s the beginning of tourist season, so Lee Woodyard is trying to prepare for the busyness that brings to the shop of TenHuis Chocolade.  However, that’s hard to do with the series of burglaries that have been happening on the town’s main street.  Someone is breaking into the shops in Warner Pier’s downtown.  However, all they are taking is snack food.  Still, when your business is a gourmet chocolate maker, that is worrisome.  The stakes are raised when someone Lee knows is held at gunpoint as a suspect on the night the thieves hit the jewelry store next door, but again, they didn’t steal anything of value.  Will Lee figure out what is going on?

It’s always a pleasure to slip back into the resort town of Warner Pier, and this book was no exception.  While many of the supporting characters stay in the background, I felt we got to see more of them than usual, which I enjoyed.  The oddest thing with the characters is that we have two named Mike here.  One is a main part of the story, and the other is in the background, which helps.  I never had a problem keeping them straight as I was reading.  The plot was light, even for this series, but it kept me engaged the entire time.  The trivia in this book is actually a collection of the rare recipe we’ve gotten in earlier books in the series.  Since we’ve had very few, those who like the recipes will enjoy having them all in one place.  When you are looking for a light, relaxing mystery, this is the book to pick up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

One for the Books by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover’s Mysteries #11) – 4

With a week to go before her wedding, Lindsey suddenly realizes her small wedding is going to be larger than she had planned.  That necessitates a trip to Bell Island, the island where Sully’s family lives and where the couple is planning to get married.  Once there, Lindsey and Sully make a horrific discovery – the body of Steve Briggs, the justice of the peace who is supposed to marry them.  Sully has been friends with Steve since they were both kids, so he takes the death hard.  For Sully’s sake, they start seeing what they can uncover.  Can they solve the crime, find a new officiant, and still get married as planned?

This is a book for the fans.  If you are new to the series, I suggest you go back and read the earlier books before picking up this book because you’ll enjoy it more that way.  I love spending time with these characters, and watching their relationships grow as the characters themselves evolve, and we get more of that here.  Overall, the book could have used a good polish, but it was mostly minor stuff that was bothering me as I read.  I was certainly interested in the story as I was reading.  I especially appreciate the police chief here – she does her job, but is willing to listen to Lindsey and is up front when she is following the evidence but still open to other possibilities.  While the wedding is the focus, the book does take place during December, and I enjoyed the bits of Christmas that slipped into the book as well.  As usual, I laughed at some of the scenes as I was reading.  I also might have teared up at the wedding itself.  Fans will be rewarded with this book.  If that isn’t you yet, be sure to check out the entire series.

 


A Scone of Contention by Lucy Burdette (Key West Food Critic Mysteries #11) – 4

Hayley and Nathan are finally going on their honeymoon – if you can call the trip that.  They are heading to Scotland so that Hayley can meet Nathan’s sister, Vera, and their neighbor, Miss Gloria, and Nathan’s mother are tagging along.  When they arrive, they quickly discover that Vera is in the final stages of a book about Scotland, but the tension among Vera and her coauthors is strong.  An attempted poisoning and a suspicious accident make Hayley think that something strange is going on.  Can she figure it out?

As a fan of this series, I wondering how I would feel about a book away from Key West since the location is a strong character in the books.  Fortunately, we get some scenes before and after on the island and the characters left behind get cameos.  The book balances travelogue with mystery well, and anyone who has wanted to visit Scotland will only want to visit more about reading this book.  I did feel that both the main plot and subplot’s climaxes were anti-climactic.  They did answer all of our questions, but they were a bit abrupt.  I did enjoy getting to meet the new characters, and anyone as hungry by the talk of food as I am will be pleased by the recipes at the end of the book.  Fans of the series will be glad we got to crash Nathan and Hayley’s honeymoon.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country Mysteries #7) – 5

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and the town of Pelican, Louisiana, is buzzing about the new restaurant getting ready to open.  It’s the latest from celebrity chef Phillippe Chanson, and this one will have an emphasis on Cajun food.  However, Phillippe isn’t ingratiating himself with his new community, and several people have fights with him, including Maggie Crozat’s friend, JJ, the owner of a popular local restaurant, and Maggie’s own mother.  The night of the restaurant’s official opening is more explosive than anyone planned, and in the aftermath, someone is dead.  Will Maggie figure out what is going on?

It’s always a pleasure to return to Pelican.  I absolutely love the characters, and the growth we’ve seen in them and their relationships continues here.  There are several sub-plots, so something is always going on, and I had a hard time putting the book down.  Since this is the last book planned in the series (at least for now), we get a wonderful epilogue that will leave fans very happy.  As usual, there are recipes and a few notes on the reality behind the fiction at the end.  Fans will be delighted with this visit, and if you haven’t met the characters yet, you need to fix that today.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (Harry Bosch #14) – 3 stars

It seems like a normal case.  In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that the South LA bureau is too busy, Harry and his partner would never have taken on the case.  The owner of a convenience store has been shot and killed.  Because the owner is Asian, Bosch quickly calls in the Asian Crime Unit, and the trail seems to lead to the Chinese triad.  But that’s when things get personal, and Bosch finds himself heading to Hong Kong on a personal mission.  Will he succeed?  Will that impact his case at home?

Normally, I love Michael Connelly’s books, but this one felt a bit forced.  The initial set up in Los Angeles was good, and as we traveled to Hong Kong, I was all in.  Maybe it was the fact that I knew how the portions in Hong Kong would end, but I started to get frustrated there.  While I bought the trail that Bosch followed, I felt that Bosch was too over the top in his arrogant behavior.  I kept wanting him to slow down and listen to the advice others were giving him.  The end of the book contains some twists that I might have bought elsewhere, but here, they felt completely forced into the story.  Of course, even subpar Connelly is still worth reading; it just isn’t his strongest.  Fans of the series will want to read this one since it will impact Bosch’s life for the rest of the series.

 

Claws for Alarm by Cate Conte (Cat Café Mysteries #5) – 4

As Maddie James and her family and friends get ready for their first full tourist season with JJ’s House of Purrs open, they are expecting more tourists to stop in because of the publicity that the cat café has been getting.  In fact, Jillian Allen is one such tourists who insists on coming almost as soon as she gets to Daybreak Island.  When Jillian offers to run a fundraiser, Maddie is thrilled.  But a couple of days later, Maddie finds Jillian strangled with the cat leashes that were going to be a party favor at the fundraiser.  Who would kill a visitor to the island?  Or did Jillian have more local connections than Maddie knew about?

Jillian is a force, and the scenes she is in are very memorable.  Once she dies, the mystery is good, although it seems like we get quite a few revelations at the end of the book.  Everything makes sense, but it did make the ending feel rushed.  As much as Jillian stands out, the rest of the cast are wonderful.  Some of the suspects I hope pop back up again in the future, and the regulars are charming.  I did find a handful of errors where a character finished their coffee twice in the same scene, or something like that.  It was annoying but not too bad.  I was more bothered by Maddie’s actions in one scene late in the book.  She should not have done what she did.  I’ve always loved Daybreak Island, and that didn’t change in this book.  It’s a wonderful setting I’d love to visit in real life – between murders, of course.  If you are looking to get away cheaply, this is the book to pick up.

 

Diet of Death by Ang Pompano (Cooking with Betty Reluctant Food Columnist Mysteries #1) – 4

Quincy Lazzaro has found success writing a monthly food column for a magazine.  Unfortunately, it is published under the name Betty Ann Green, so he has to keep his real identity a secret.  That does cause problems every so often, like when Dr. Alan Tolzer wants to bury the hatchet with Betty, and insists they meet in person.  Dr. Tolzer is famous for creating the Westport Diet, and he has an institute nearby, so Quincy goes there hoping that his usual trick of saying he is Betty’s assistant will work to get a meeting.  While Quincy is there, Dr. Tolzer dies.  The institute is quick to say it was natural causes, but some things Quincy saw lead him to question that.  Can he figure out what really happened?

It took a couple of chapters to full get into this book, but once I did, I was along for the ride.  I really liked Quincy, and the rest of the cast grew on me pretty quickly as well.  The plot was a little rough with a few leaps in it.  Don’t worry, everything makes sense at the end, but a bit more set up would have helped me as I was reading it.  Still, it has some interesting twists and complications that I really enjoyed.  Unlike many culinary cozies, there are no recipes, but based on the humorous scenes where Quincy was cooking, I think that may be a good thing.  Overall, I really had fun reading this book.  I’m anxious to see how Quincy and the series grow in future books.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

 

With Vics You Get Eggroll by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #3) – 5

Several single women have disappeared around the Dallas suburb where Madison Night lives in recent weeks, so all the women in the area are on high alert.  That alert only goes up when the body of one of those women is found.  There is evidence next to her body pointing the finger squarely at her abductor – Lt. Tex Allen.  Lt. Allen happens to be a friend of Madison’s, and she knows he couldn’t have done it.  With Tex suspended from his job at the police department while the investigation is ongoing, Madison finds herself involved in his attempts to clear his name.  That’s only made more complicated by the return of Hudson James, the handyman that Madison might have feelings for.  Will Madison figure out who the kidnapper is in time?  Or will she be the next victim herself?

This book really did grab me from the first page, and it kept me hooked until I reached the final page.  There were plenty of twists that surprised me, but the book was perfectly paced, so we had time to digest the new information before everything changed again.  The characters are fabulous as well, especially Madison, Tex, and Hudson.  I loved the character development all three of them got.  This was also perfectly balanced and never slowed down the story.  Since Madison Night is a huge Doris Day fan, there are some nods to the actress, and especially With Six You Get Eggroll.  If you are familiar with the film, it will be a bonus, but you won’t miss anything if you haven’t seen it.  It had been a while since I read the previous book in the series, and I wish I hadn’t let it be so long since I didn’t remember all we’d learned about the characters in the first two books.  Still, that’s a very minor complaint and certainly my own fault.  This is an outstanding book, and I can’t wait to visit Madison again.

 

Short Cuts by Sigmund Brouwer (Accidental Detectives #16) – 5

This book collects eleven short stories starring Ricky Kidd and the rest of the Accidental Detectives.  While they don’t all feature mysteries to solve, they do include plenty of action and fun.  Ricky has a bully or two to deal with.  He and Mike take a dangerous canoe ride.  And a new classmate’s sculpted replica of a hand leads to a crisis of faith.

Adding to the book, after each story author Sigmund Brouwer shares some thoughts on the theme of the story and the inspiration behind it.  These are just as fun as the stories themselves and could almost work as a devotional if they included scriptures.  The stories themselves are quick adventures with the characters we love, and fans will be very happy with them. 

 

The Fog Ladies by Susan McCormick (San Francisco Cozy Murder Mysteries #1) – 2

When Sarah James moves to San Francisco to do her medical residency, she moves into a building in Pacific Heights and begins making friend with her older neighbors.  One she struggles to like is Mrs. Bridge, her neighbor who lives directly across the hall, since Mrs. Bridge is always complaining about something.  When Mrs. Bridge dies unexpectedly, Sarah thinks it is a sad accident.  However, some of the other residents begin to see a pattern with other deaths in the building.  Was Mrs. Bridge’s death an accident?  Or will Sarah find something more sinister going on?

I was excited about this book and looking forward to reading it.  Unfortunately, it failed to deliver.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the characters at first, but as we got to know them, I was able to keep them straight.  Sadly, that was because some of them never rose above their initial stereotypical caricatures, and they were annoying caricatures at that.  The plot was slow to start with then all but vanishes in the middle third before coming back for a descent resolution.  Too many sub-plots really detracted.  A couple parts of the book seemed off to me, including a sub-plot involving a character discovering Starbucks thanks to countless coupons in the paper.  It’s a shame because I did really enjoy a few of the characters, but the rest was bad enough that I will give the rest of the series a pass.

 

Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #29) – 5

It’s turning into a crazy summer for Meg Langslow.  Not only is her husband, Michael, directing a production of Macbeth, but the actors are camping out on their farm.  Meanwhile, another group has decided to reenact what life was like in sixth center Scotland, and they are camped nearby.  Filming all of this is a documentarian, Damien Goodwin.  But when he shows what he has so far, no one seems happy.  The next morning, Meg finds Damien’s dead body.  Can she figure out who killed him?

Because of all the plot threads that need to be set up, this book feels like it is taking a bit of time to get going, but it is all definitely worth it as we get to see everything pay off before Meg solves the mystery.  Of course, spending time with Meg is always a joy.  She and the other from the large cast of regulars are a delight as always, and the suspects fit perfectly into the world.  I grinned through much of the book, and even laughed a few times.  Fans of the series won’t be disappointed with this entry.  If you are looking for a light mystery, this series is definitely for you.

 

One by One by Ruth Ware – 4

When the key employees of the internet startup Snoop show up at a chalet in the French Alps, they are expecting a week of presentations and skiing.  However, there is tension brewing just below the surface thanks to a buyout deal that has split the board.  The tension only grows worse when heavy snow and an avalanche cuts everyone off from the rest of the world and one of the members of a group goes missing somewhere out in the snow.  As the hours pass, it becomes clear a killer is in the group.  Will help arrive before they are all dead?

While the cast of isolated characters trope is not new to the mystery genre, Ruth Ware quickly makes it her own in this page turning thriller.  I love how she so successfully isolated the characters.  The plot is wonderful with tension rising early before the characters fully realize the danger they are in.  The twists kept me engaged the entire way through the nail-biting climax.  The characters could have been a little stronger overall.  Don’t get me wrong, I cared about them and the outcome, but I felt like many of them stayed two dimensional and those we got to know better bordered on the cliché.  Being a thriller, I expected more foul language than in the books I typically read, but it was a bit excessive for my tastes.  Still, these are nitpicks in an overall wonderful thriller.

 

Halloween Party Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross – 4

This Halloween, we are being treated to another novella collection with these three cozy mystery authors as they feature their series sleuths.  First up, Lucy Stone finds a dead body after a haunted house fund raiser.  Then, Hayley Powell’s Halloween party in her new restaurant ends with the discovery of a corpse in the freezer.  Finally, when Julia Snowden’s niece finds herself at a high school party, Julia goes to bring her home, only for the police to discover a dead body in the shed out back.

Out of these three authors, I only regularly read Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake mysteries, so that story, featuring Julia Snowden, was my favorite.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy all three of the novellas.  All three feature a strong assortment of characters and a solid mystery.  Even if I figured out a part of the story early, I didn’t have it all pieced together until the end.  My only complaint was the politics brought into the first novella in the collection.  Even then, I’m a bit torn since it did play a part in the story while also feeling like I was reading a lecture.  Still, if you are in the mood for a murderous Halloween party, you’ll be glad you picked up this novella collection.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

What the Cat Dragged In by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #14) – 4

Charlie Harris has gotten some surprising news – he’s just inherited his grandfather’s house.  He thought the home had left the family decades ago, but it turns out it was just under a life lease, and that tenant has just died.  Charlie’s grandparents died when he was young, but he still has some fond memories of time spent out there.  When he and Diesel are out there exploring the house, Diesel discovers a skeleton in the attic.  It is clear that the body was dug up and placed there.  Suddenly, Charlie is left wondering what this skeleton says about his family’s past.  He can’t help but dig more, especially when a modern body also turns up on the property he’s just inherited.  What will he find?

Because I love Charlie, this mystery from Charlie’s family’s past is intriguing.  I was pulled in early.  Ultimately, I did feel the ending was a bit abrupt and a few details of the story should have been worked into the plot better, but I did enjoy it.  Over the last few books, I’ve noticed the insertion of small moments that come across more as lectures than anything else, and that trend continued here.  I almost always agree with Charlie, but they bother me because they feel forced into the story.  These really are nitpicks, and I enjoyed the book overall, mainly because of the characters.  All our favorite two and four legged characters are back, and it is great spending time with them as always.  Fans will feel like reading this book is a warm hug.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

3 comments:

  1. Fantastic month! I only see one okayish book for you and that's not bad! Happy September!

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  2. What a lot of variety you had this month! I found a few for my TBR.

    Have a great September!

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  3. Such great books you read in August! The ones that you read that I read I really enjoyed and the ones that I haven't are on my TBR.

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