Monday, April 3, 2017

March 2017 Monthly Reading Summary

We've hit the beginning of April, so that must mean it is time for my March monthly reading summary.  Here are all the books I read in March with the link to the full review if you'd like to read more.  And yes, the Index has been updated as well.

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

Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson (Greenhouse Mysteries #2) – 5
This October is proving to be a busy one for Megan Sawyer.  Not only is it harvest season on her farm, but the town of Winsome is putting on an Oktoberfest celebration, and her restaurant is one of the major sponsors.  Things take a deadly turn when one of the local pub owners is killed in a freak accident.  Only Megan doesn’t think it was an accident.  When the police are quick to rule out the possibility of murder, it’s up to Megan to figure out what is really happening.

I loved the first book in the series and was anxious to return to Winsome and the characters.  This book didn’t disappoint in the least.  The characters continue to be strong, and the growth between books as well as the growth here was nice to see.  The new characters were just as strong.  Megan’s personal life provided a nice sub-plot while leaving plenty of time for the murder investigation, which included some great twists and turns.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Jethro and Joel Were a Troll by Bill Peet – 5
The two-headed troll Jethro and Joel have a problem.  While Jethro is quite content to spend his days raising the turnips they love to eat, Joel wants to be terrorizing people.  When Jethro finally gives in and allows Joel to have control of their body for one day, what will happen?

I’ve always loved the title of the book, and I still find the story fun.  The way he builds up to that final sentence will please adults, and the fast moving story and pictures will entertain the target picture book audience.  What surprised me while reading this as an adult is the clear allegory about the dangers of giving in to what you know is wrong.  Oh, don’t worry, this is a picture book with a happy ending, and it never slows down the story to lecture us.

Gone with the Twins by Kylie Logan (League of Literary Ladies #5) – 4
Bea Cartwright is facing stiff competition from twins who have set up a bed and breakfast on South Bass Island themed after Gone with the Wind.  While she figured out how to get customers back – any customers at all – a local relator is murdered and Bea’s friend Chandra starts acting suspicious.  Can Bea clear her?

I love the characters in this series, so it’s always a delight to visit them.  This book is no exception.  The pace appears to lag at times, but it also picks back up again soon.  I certainly always had a hard time putting it down.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Silence of the Flans by Laura Bradford (Emergency Dessert Squad #2) – 5
Winnie’s new Emergency Dessert Squad business has been opened for six weeks, and it is quickly gaining customers.  But then the unthinkable happens – someone dies after eating one of Winnie’s desserts.  Now the phone has stopped ringing and it looks like Winnie may go out of business.  In order to keep her new business running, she needs to find the killer, can she do it?

This series has such a fun premise, and the punny names that Winnie uses for her desserts are a delight.  Just as much fun are the characters.  They’re a bit unusual for a cozy series, but I appreciate them for that.  The plot is strong as well.  I saw a few plot points coming, but others caught me by surprise.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Secret of the Skeleton Key by Penny Warner (Code Busters Club #1) – 5
Cody and her friends love everything about codes and have formed their own club to learn how to use them.  When Cody and Quinn observe strangers in the house of the neighbor recluse, they are curious.  Then his house catches fire and they find a code.  Where will it lead?

It leads to a book kids will love.  The mystery is strong, and the codes help propel the story forward.  There’s a code in almost every chapter the reader is invited to solve (the solution is at the back of the book).  At the end, there is more information on codes that kids can use after they’ve finished reading the story.  The characters are a little thin, but that’s something only adults will care about.  The target middle grade audience will love this book.

Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Jane Ryland #4) – 4
When Jane witnesses a hit and run on her way to interview a source, she becomes embroiled in a case much bigger than she thinks she will be.  Meanwhile, her story on campus rape is heating up.  And her boyfriend, cop Jake Brogan, is working on the case of a suspicious death when an adjunct professor dies in a swimming pool.

And once again we are off on a fantastic ride.  We get the story from a total of five points of view, and it is always fun to switch back to other characters and see how they are progressing.  While Jane trying to get out of testifying really bothered me (especially trying to hide behind the fact that she’s a reporter), I did like the growth it brought to her character.  The new cast is strong, and the arcs for the viewpoint characters are wonderful.  The story moves quickly wish so much going on that it is almost impossible to put the book down.

The Semester of Our Discontent by Cynthia Kuhn (Lila Maclean #1) – 4
Lila Maclean is excited to be teaching her first semester as a professor.  She’s not so happy with her department chair, however, especially after he shoots down her idea for a course on mysteries and basically tells her to sit down and observe.  Walking into a department meeting a couple of hours later, she finds him stabbed to death on a table.  With rumors that she knows more than she is saying, she decides to find the killer herself.

This is a fun debut.  The college came alive for me, and I really enjoyed the setting.  Now that Lila’s co-workers won’t be suspects, I’m looking forward to seeing them grow more as well since I liked most of them.  While the book starts out quickly, I did feel the pace lagged a little in the middle before things came together for a logical end.

Design for Dying by Renee Patrick (Lillian Frost and Edith Head #1) – 5
When Lillian Frost learns that her former roommate, Ruby, has been murdered, she is shocked.  Then she recognizes what Ruby was wearing as a costume from a movie, which brings her into contact with famed costume designer Edith Head.  Together, the two discover clues that could lead to Ruby’s killer.  But can they piece it all together?

This book takes us back to 1937 Hollywood, and it is all fun.  Real and fictional character rub elbows, and I loved it.  Everyone came fully alive for me in these pages, as did the time and place (once I remembered just how much things would have changed in that time.)  The mystery with strong with a couple of good twists.  I love how the clues came together for the fun climax.

L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais (Elvis Cole and Joe Pike #8) – 4
Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are asked to find Karen Garcia, a former girlfriend of Pike’s.  Her father is concerned, but the police aren’t taking him seriously.  Unfortunately, her body turns up, and Cole and Pike find themselves working the case.  With Pike’s connection to the victim and interacting with his former co-workers in the LAPD, the partners find themselves in a tough situation.  How will the events of the past influence the current investigation?

I’ve long complained that the main characters, especially Pike, felt too flat as characters.  This book goes a long way to filling us in on Pike, although the result was a little clich√©, which may just be a factor of the book’s age.  The story was strong and kept moving forward quickly, although a few things go glossed over at the end, and Crais can’t help himself – he has to stick in a due ex machina.  The love letter to LA at the end is beautifully written, especially for those of us who live here.  Overall, a good book well worth reading.

When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day (Country Store Mysteries #3) – 5
To help make money in the cold February winter, Robbie Jordan has opened up her restaurant for dinner two Friday’s a month to the Sociology department of a nearby college.  Any thoughts she had about this being a calm exchange of ideas goes out the window when one of the professors, Charles, picks fights with two different people.  The next afternoon, Robbie is out with her friend Lou when they find Charles under the ice in the nearby lake.  Since Lou had fought with Charles the night before, the police are looking at her as a suspect.  But with Charles as universally hated as he was, surely Robbie can find a better suspect, right?

Charles’s habit of making enemies serves us plenty of suspects.  The lack of clues to point the finger at any single person makes for lots of fun.  I was never bored watching the plot unfold.  A couple of the series regulars weren’t around for this book, but those who were around were certainly delightful.  The suspects were all strong and viable, and the climax was creative and page turning.  Can I just say how much I would love to visit Robbie’s restaurant?  Seriously, it sounds delightful.  (Well, when a murder isn’t taking place, of course.)

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Mouse Trapped by Sandy Dengler (Valley of the Sun Mysteries #2) – 5
Phoenix Robbery detective Marsha “Mouse” is shot in a meeting with an informant gone wrong.  All the police have to go on is part of a name and the original tip that the thieves were targeting a collection of Native American silver jewelry.  Homicide detectives Joe and Tom are pursuing some of the tangential leads, which brings them into the Robbery side of the case.  Can the two figure out what happened without inciting a turf war within the police department?

It’s nice to have a mystery that involves another crime as well, and I enjoyed tracking down the thieves as a way to find the killer.  Since the only clue is part of a name, we get too many suspects with similar sounding names, meaning we have to work hard to remember them all until we really get to know the characters.  New Christian Joe is trying to grow in his faith, something I enjoyed seeing.  I first read this book over 25 years ago, and it’s nice to see it stacks up to my memories of the series.


  1. Wow!! You're killin' it, Carstairs!

  2. Good month! Nice to see they were all good reads for you! Happy April!