Wednesday, November 1, 2017

October 2017 Monthly Reading Summary

Starting out November by looking back.  Here's what I read in October.  And yes, I did get the Index updated this month.

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

A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel (Brewing Trouble Mysteries #3) – 5
Max O’Hara is getting ready for an Oktoberfest celebration in her brewpub, and part of that is going to listen to the band she’s hired.  The evening ends on a weird note when a member of the band claims to recognize one of Max’s friends, something the friend denies.  Then a member of the band wants to meet with Max, and a dead body turns up.  Can Max figure out what is happening?

This book starts strong and never lets up.  I couldn’t put it down, and raced through it, enjoying the twists and turns along the way.  I love the characters we’ve met in this series, and they are in top form here.  That includes Max’s large family and her relationship with her boyfriend.  The new characters are just as fun.  This book does spoil quite a bit of the first in the series, so start there.  You won’t be sorry since all three books in this series are great.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Fixing to Die by Miranda James (Southern Ladies #4) – 4
Sisters An’gel and Dickce Ducote are only too happy to help Mary Turner Catlin, the granddaughter of their friend.  It seems the family house is haunted, and she wants them to help her figure out what is causing the problem.  It isn’t too long after they arrive that they begin to experience some strange things, but it’s the uninvited guests who really up the tension.  What are the sisters involved in now?

I love the main characters in this book, both human and four legged, so I was glad to get a chance to visit them again.  They delight as always, and the new characters are strong as well.  The pacing was a little off over all, but the haunted house aspect is a nice addition to the mystery.  Fans of the author will enjoy this latest book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Pick the Plot by James Riley (Story Thieves #4) – 4
When Owen wakes up in prison, he only knows he needs to escape quickly in order to help his friend Bethany.  His only ally is Kara, a girl his own age who seems to know him even if he doesn’t remember her.  Owen quickly realizes that Nobody has actually trapped him in a Pick the Plot book.  That means he needs your help to escape.  Are you up for the challenge?

This is a very creative way to advance the Story Thieves series forward.  Yes, every few pages we get a choice, but the wrong paths lead us back to the correct story.  We do get parallel paths at one point, which is unfortunate since both do provide some good series info before the story comes back together.  We don’t see much of the other series characters, but Owen and Kara carry the story well.  It’s a fast, creative book that will please series fans.

A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron (Cajun Country Mysteries #3) – 5
With a couple of weeks to go before Christmas, Maggie should be focusing on getting into the Christmas spirit.  However, she’s just learned that a businessman is trying to take over her family’s bed and breakfast built on their family’s plantation.  When he turns up dead, naturally, they are all suspects, and Maggie begins to try to figure out what really happened.  With a list of suspects that only grows, can Maggie find the killer?

We are getting quite a nice community in this series, and I was glad to revisit Maggie and her friends and family.  The characters only grow stronger here and some relationships take surprising turns.  The mystery is strong and kept me guessing until the end, and sub-plots compliment the mystery and enhance the characters.  Throw in some Louisiana recipes and Christmas traditions and you’ve got a holiday winner.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early (Vintage Toy Shop Mysteries #2) – 5
The Toy and Train Expo has come to town, and Liz McCall and her father have a booth for their vintage toy shop, Well Played.  Their booth is next to a face from Liz’s past, Craig McFadden, who used to bully Liz in school.  Craig has some big announcement to make this weekend, but before he can, he plunges off the cat walk in the convention center.  What’s going on?

I never really grew up, so a series set in a vintage toy shop has me smiling from page one.  The fact that the story is strong and kept me guessing only helps.  The characters are wonderful, and I’d love to meet Liz and her family.  There are significant developments in the romantic triangle introduced in the previous book.  Add in a strong dose of humor thanks to certain events and Liz’s father’s love of puns, and you’ve got a winning book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

The Skeleton Paints a Picture by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #4) – 4
Georgia is thrilled when her childhood friend Sid mails himself to her new location teaching at an art college.  She’d been feeling isolated and lonely, and having this living skeleton there is perfect.  However, that first night, Sid finds the scene of an accident.  The police think that Georgia is hiding something when she reports finding the dead body, never dreaming it is Sid.  The victim worked at the college with Georgia.  Could someone on campus be the killer?

Since Georgia has started teaching at a new college, this book is light on returning characters, just Sid and Georgia.  However, they are more than enough to carry the book, especially when surrounded by a strong group of new characters.  The plot is strong and a lot of fun, although the ending does seem rushed.  I felt like we got some PC forced in at one point, but this was more than offset by the humor throughout the entire book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost (Christmas Tree Farm Mysteries #1) – 4
When Holly White calls off her wedding, she returns to her family’s tree farm in Maine just in time for the annual Reindeer Games, which take place in the twelve days leading up to Christmas.  However, the night before the games are set to start, Margaret comes in causing problems in her quest to keep the town exactly historically accurate.  When Holly finds Margaret dead among the trees a few hours later, the police start looking a little too close to home.  Can Holly clear her family and friends before Christmas?

If you are looking for a Christmas cozy, this one is perfect.  Each page oozes Christmas cheer, and the games sound like a ton of fun.  I’d love to visit and play myself.  Unfortunately, I did feel this got in the way of the mystery at times, and Holly spent quite a bit to time reacting to events rather than actually investigating at other points.  Still, it held together well overall, and we got a great climax.  The characters are already sharp, and their relationships help add to the Christmas cheer.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Pillow Stalk by Diane Vallere (Madison Night #1) – 4
Madison Night has started over in Dallas, and her life is going well, including her interior design company specializing in mid-century modern designs.  However, things take a surprising turn when she finds an acquaintance dead under her car.  Suddenly, the police won’t leave her alone.  But is that because they think her friend is the killer?  Or is it because she might be the next victim?

This book starts strong and never lets go.  It’s filled with twists and turns that kept the pages flying.  I did feel the climax had a timing hole in it, but it’s a minor issue in an other wise very fun story.  Madison is a fresh main character, although the supporting players could use a bit more development, something I’m hoping for in future books.  We certainly see hints of it here.

Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina #1) – 5
When Edwina’s funds get low enough, she starts advertising for a boarder.  Fortunately for her, Beryl sees it.  The two women, though very different, are boarding school friends, and this new living arrangement suits them both.  But Beryl’s presence in Edwina’s small village creates some gossip, which Beryl fuels by hinting that the two women are actually employed by His Majesty.  When someone tries to kill Edwina, the two realize there is a secret to uncover.  What might it be?

This book perfectly transports us back to 1920 and the English countryside.  The repercussions of World War I are still there, and it is a fascinating look at how the war affected the rest of life.  The British Edwina and American Beryl are very different, and their differences can be fun, yet they make a good detecting pair, and we feel the depth of their friendship.  The plot is strong, keeping us surprised until the end.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Blackberry Burial by Sharon Farrow (Berry Basket Mysteries #2) – 5
Marlee Jacob has been roped into helping her friend Piper find a starting location for the upcoming Blackberry Car Rally, but while checking out the newest prospect, they uncover a skeleton.  The remains belong to Sienna, a promising art student who vanished 20 years ago from the local art school.  With the art school holding a reunion, everyone Sienna knew is back in town.  At the time, everyone thought she’s drowned in Lake Michigan, but if that’s what happened, how did she get buried away from the lake?

This book starts out well, but it only gets better when the reunion starts and Sienna’s friends arrive.  From that point on, I didn’t want to set the book down due to the twists and the strong suspects.  When I hit the climax, I was racing to find out what would happen next.  Marlee and her friends are a pleasure to be around, and the setting is a summer vacation paradise it is a pleasure to visit on the page.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


  1. Great, accurate reviews! Thanks, Carstairs. :-)

  2. Great wrap-up!! Have a great November! :)

  3. Always like your reviews, I get so many that I want to read.

  4. It's hard to write mystery reviews without spoilers, but you always do a great job - and are responsible for so many of the books on my tottering TBR pile!