Friday, November 30, 2018

November 2018 Monthly Reading Summary

Last day of November, so it must be time for the monthly reading summary.  And I'm not going to have time to get the index updated this month.  I seem to only update that every other month these days, don't I?

As always, the links will take you to my full review.

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

Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharron Farrow (Berry Basket Mysteries #3) – 5
Summer may be winding down, but Oriole Point, Michigan, is getting in one more berry inspired festival to bring in the tourists.  The Blueberry Blow Out Festival includes carnival games, booths, and friendly competition between the various berry growers in the area.  At least it is supposed to be friendly.  Marlee Jacobs is shocked when she witnesses a fight between her fiance, Ryan Zeller, and Porter Gale, the owner of one of the biggest blueberry farms in the country.  Yes, there is bad blood between the two families, but this went much further than a rivalry normally would.  When Porter dies a few hours later, people think it is complications from his diabetes.  However, the police believe it is something more, and they are looking at Ryan as a suspect.  Can Marlee clear him?

I love this series, and this book is another example of why.  The characters are strong.  The series regulars are fun, and a couple even made me laugh, but we spend more time with the suspects, and they actually felt better developed to me than the regulars.  Not that I'm complaining.  The strong suspects helped drive a complex plot where the red herrings provided their own complications, not just as a distraction from figuring out who the killer is.  I enjoyed the book the entire way through, but the final third got so compelling I really didn't want to put the book down.  Throw in a few blueberry infused recipes, and you've got a fantastic book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

City of Secrets by Victoria Thompson (Counterfeit Lady #2) – 5
Elizabeth Miles is attempting to give up her former life as the female in a group of conmen and fit into high society in order to prepare for her marriage to young lawyer Gideon Bates.  Part of that involves attending church on Sundays, and it is at church that she has met Priscilla, a recent widow who is one of the few people Elizabeth considers a friend in her new life.  One day Priscilla comes to Elizabeth for help since she has just learned that her recently deceased second husband has left her broke.  Priscilla knows there should be more money.  Can Elizabeth figure out what happened?

If you haven't started this great new series, I do recommend you back up to the first since it sets up so much of Elizabeth and her life in 1910's New York City.  Since this is only book two in the series, it's still very easy to get caught up.  When you do, you'll find yourself caught up in another fun caper.  I did feel the pacing was a bit off early on, but it soon picked up and by the end, it was impossible to put down.  This isn't a traditional mystery, although it still firmly fits in the crime fiction family.  The characters are all strong, and they help make the final third of the book very compelling for us.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Skeleton Makes a Friend by Leigh Perry (Family Skeleton Mysteries #5) – 5
Dr. Georgia Thackery has landed a summer job teaching a high school enrichment program on the campus of Overfeld College.  Even better, she's found a semi-private cabin on a nearby lake to rent, meaning that her daughter, Madison, and her best friend, Sid, are able to accompany her.  Even better, they are isolated enough that Sid, who is a living skeleton, can get outside the house occasionally.  Their solitude is interrupted when a teen shows up asking to meet Sid.  She is a member of Sid's clan in an online game, and she thinks a third member of their clan has gone missing.  Sid and Georgia haven't investigated for too long before they stumble over a dead body.  Can they figure out what is going on?

Those who love this series are in for another treat.  Drop everything and read this book now.  If you haven't picked up the series yet, you really should do so.  Yes, there is a slight paranormal element to the book, but it really is slight.  The characters are so strong that you'd swear they were fully fleshed out, yes, even Sid.  We don't have a large cast of recurring characters, but the new characters more than make up for it.  The twists keep us guessing up until the very end, when everything comes together perfectly.  But it is Georgia, Sid, and Madison that make up the heart of this book.  Their relationship is wonderful, and the bone puns and other jokes kept me smiling.  I truly enjoyed my time with the characters.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot #17) – 4
Hercule Poirot is on vacation in Egypt, just looking to relax.  However, he quickly gets involved in the drama involving a young heiress on her honeymoon.  When a murder happens on board the ship they are all traveling on, Poirot finds himself drawn into the case.  Can he unravel what really happened?

This is classic Agatha Christie with an extremely complex mystery that seems so simple once Poirot unravels it all.  I did feel the book took a bit too long to truly get started, opening as it does a few months before the events really began.  But once it does, hold on.  Some of the supporting cast could have been stronger, but the main characters were all strong and kept me confused until the end.  Agatha Christie is still a master of the mystery genre, and this book shows exactly why.

Spy School Goes South by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #6) – 5
Spy in training Ben Ripley is shocked when Murray Hill asks to speak to him.  This junior SPYDER agent hasn't said a word since he's been captured several weeks ago, but now he has agreed to lead Ben to the evil organization's secret headquarters, but he will only reveal this location to Ben and Erica Hale after they have left.  Unfortunately, Ben's suspicion that it might be a trap are proved true, and he and his friends find themselves stranded in Mexico.  Is SPYDER really nearby?  Can Ben stop their newest plan?  Or will they even make it back to civilization?

Those familiar with this series will know exactly what to expect from this book, and they won't be disappointed.  If you haven't found Ben's wonderful adventures, you are in for a treat.  The action is non-stop with plenty of twists along the way that keep the pages flying.  Yet there is still enough time for the characters to get some development.  There is definitely more to them than we see on the surface.  And there is plenty of humor; in fact, I might have been laughing out loud while reading one part.  If you are new to the series, you might want to back up and read them in order.  Trust me, you'll find yourself reading all of them and thinking of some kids you can pass these great books on to.

Reason to Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman (Carol Childs #5) – 5
Radio reporter Carol Childs's daughter, Cate, is home for the summer, and she's brought a boyfriend with her.  Pete makes his living as a photographer, and the police begin to suspect him of being the Model Slayer, a serial killer who has been claiming victims in the Los Angeles area for the past several months.  Cate insists that Pete is innocent, and Carol doesn't find him a compelling suspect either, but then a phone call at the station sheds new light on the case.  Is Pete innocent?  Can Carol figure out who the killer really is?

The premise of this entry in the series intrigued me, and it didn't disappoint at all.  This case becomes very personal for Carol for a couple of reasons, and that helped drive the plot.  We got plenty of twists before reaching a page turning climax.  The plot also brings out a different side of Carol, which I enjoyed seeing.  The characters are all strong, and I loved seeing how Carol's love life progressed.  The series straddles the line between cozy and traditional, and the subject matter here makes this book no exception.  Just know that going in, and you'll be fine.  Once you start, you'll definitely be hooked and turning pages as quickly as you can.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Killalot by Cindy Brown (Ivy Meadows #6) – 4
Part-time PI and actress Ivy Meadows is enjoying a rare day off with her boyfriend, her brother, and her brother's girlfriend at the Renaissance faire thanks to free tickets from her friend, fellow actor Riley.  They are going to watch Riley's debut in the jousting event when a terrible accident ends with one jouster seriously injured and the other riding Riley's horse off into the desert.  Riley claims to have been knocked out, but was he?  Ivy finds herself undercover at the home of a Broadway writer and at the faire.  Will she be able to keep her undercover assignments straight?  Will she find out what happened?  Could this job land her a ticket to Broadway?

As you can tell, there is a lot happening in this book.  Unfortunately, it overshadows the mystery at times.  While things came to a satisfactory climax, I felt we could have gotten more development on the mystery earlier.  However, I was never bored.  So much was happening I was always reluctant to put the book down because I was having fun.  Part of that fun came from the characters; as usual for the series, we meet a wide variety of very fun people.  While the book has a comedic tone overall, things do get serious in the last quarter without getting dark.  This allows for some wonderful character growth in Ivy.  Fans of the series will be thrilled to see how she progresses here.  I can't wait to see where this leads in the next book.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly – 4
Henry Pierce is just days away from a patent and a huge meeting with a potential investor at the company he founded.  However, he's also just moved into an apartment since he has split with his fiancee.  That, of course, means a new land line, and Pierce starts to get phone messages for someone named Lilly.  Pierce quickly figures out that Lilly is a prostitute, but how did he get her number?  Why would she give it up?  Pierce isn't able to let the puzzle go, and he begins to spend his weekend obsessing over finding her instead of doing the last-minute things he should be doing for his company.  Will he find her?  Will he destroy everything he's worked for in the process?

This book is definitely a departure for Michael Connelly, featuring an everyman and bordering on a technothriller.  It starts out well with plenty of intrigue, but it gets bogged down in the second half.  The pace gets way too slow at one point before picking up again and racing to the climax.  Pierce's reasons for getting as involved as he does are reasonable, but we don't find out until the end.  He does make an interesting main character, however, and the rest of the cast are just as strong.  Since this book originally came out in 2002, it has some dated elements.  It's amazing how much our lives have changed in the last decade and a half.  This is one of Connelly's rare stand-alones, and you can read it as much, but fans of the Harry Bosch books will recognize some cool Easter Eggs, including a reference to the ending of City of Bones, the Bosch book that came out just before this book did.

Wreath Between the Lines by Daryl Wood Gerber (Cookbook Nook Mysteries #7) – 4
The town of Chrystal Cove, California is getting into the Christmas spirit, and Jenna Hart is busy with a bunch of Christmas themed events at the Cookbook Nook.  Her life is more complicated by the fact that her sister and her family are visiting, and Jenna gets pulled into their drama.  But things take a huge turn when her neighbor, Jake, comes over in a panic one night to report that a friend who had been staying with him has been murdered, trussed up with Christmas light and stabbed by a Christmas star.  Who would want to kill a visitor to town?  Or was Jake the intended target?

If you are looking for a cozy filled with Christmas spirit, you've come to the right place.  This book is filled with Christmas.  The mystery is a little weak since a couple of sub-plots crowd it out, but we do still get some twists before reaching a creative and fun climax.  The series regulars are all here, and it is wonderful to catch up with them again.  Once you've finished the book, you can keep the Christmas spirit with the many recipes for holiday goodies at the end.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Books Can Be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover's Mysteries #1) – 5
Lindsey Norris is settling into her new life as the director of the public library in Briar Creek, Connecticut.  One of her many joys is working alongside her best friend Beth Stanley, the children's librarian.  Unfortunately, Lindsey has never warmed to Beth's boyfriend Rick Eckman, and spending more time with him doesn't change that at all.  So, Lindsey isn't upset when the two break up.  However, Beth gets some surprising news about Rick the next day just before she finds his body.  It's obvious that Rick has been killed.  With the police certain that Beth is guilty, Lindsey springs into action to clear her best friend.  Can she do it?

I'm finally getting around to starting this series, but I've loved the other books from Jenn McKinlay I've read.  I pretty much knew what to expect here, and I was right.  We get a fantastic cast of characters that I already can't wait to spend more time with.  The setting, both the library and the town, are charming as well.  I'd move to this town is it weren't for the murder rate (and the fact that it's fictional).  There is a bit of series set up that slows things down at the beginning, but the mystery is very strong once it gets started.  I was surprised by some of the twists along the way.  I also laughed several times along the way, and part of the climax made me want to cheer.

Just Plain Murder by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #6) – 4
In the time that shop owner Claire Weatherly has been dating detective Jakob Fisher, she has never met Russ Granger, the man Jakob counts as a mentor and father figure.  Of course, it makes sense since Russ has retired and moved to Florida.  He is back in Heavenly, Pennsylvania, for a visit, but before Jakob and Russ can reconnect, Russ is murdered.  Distraught over the man's death, Jakob throws himself into solving the crime.  Can Claire help him come up with any leads?

It's been two and a half years since we've been able to visit this community, and I hadn't realized just how much I missed it until I was reading the first page.  I was immediately swept back into the peaceful state I find while reading this series.  In keeping with a town next to an Amish community, the pace in this series has always been a bit on the slow side, but I did feel this book's pacing was slower than normal.  Still, when the pace does pick up, we get a well-done plot.  The real star has always been the characters, and I was thrilled to be able to visit them again.  They are as wonderful as ever, and I enjoyed some of the developments happening in their lives.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book.

The Coloring Crook by Krista Davis (Pen & Ink Mysteries #2) – 4
The Georgetown bookstore Florrie Fox manages has added a weekly coloring group, and Florrie has enjoyed getting to know the regulars.  One of them, Dolly Cavanaugh, also enjoys bargain hunting at estate sales, and one week she comes in excited about her latest find, a copy of The Florist, a rare adult coloring book from the 1700's.  However, later that night, Florrie finds Dolly dead with a corner of a piece of paper in her hand.  That's all that can be found of book Dolly just bought.  As secrets begin to come to light, Florrie is left to wonder how well she really knew Dolly.  Was the book the motive for Dolly's murder?  Or did a secret from her past catch up with her?

I was charmed by the first in the series, and I enjoyed this one just as much.  The setting may be a neighborhood in the Washington DC area, but by sticking to the neighborhood, it still feels like a traditional cozy setting.  And what a setting!  I'd love to spend hours browsing in this bookstore.  Florrie is a great lead character, and she heads up a cast of equally fun characters.  It's hard to picture most of them as killers, in fact.  The plot is filled with twists and complications.  I began to suspect a few things, but I still had huge gaps I hadn’t figured out before I got to the end.  I do feel the ending was a bit rushed, and a few things got glossed over as a result, but that's my only issue with the book.  As with the first, the cover can be colored, and there are five recipes at the end.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

1 comment:

  1. 12 books is pretty fantastic!! Plus they were all decent, lucky you!! Happy December!


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