Yes, I'm a couple of days early this month, but I figured with the holiday weekend coming up, now was a good time to post my monthly reading summary for August. And, would you believe, the index
is updated as well? (I know, I'm shocked, too.)
As always, the links will take you to the full reviews.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Tessa Esposito has had her life turned upside down.
Her husband has been killed in a car
accident, leaving her a widow at 30.
However, she is about to get another shock.
Her cousin Gino, a cop, stops by to visit and
drops the bombshell on her – the police don’t think the accident was an
accident at all.
Instead, they think it
And he suggests that someone
at Slice, the local pizza parlor where Dylan had lunch most days, might be
After all, he was last seen
alive leaving the restaurant.
loves to cook, and Slice just happens to be advertising for a cook, so she
snags the job, hoping to get a clue about what really happened to her
But her co-workers don’t seem
to happy to see her.
Is she going to be
able to get anything out of them?
With Tessa’s husband being the victim, this book starts out
with a more somber tone.
Some events try
to lighten it, but it didn’t quite work for me.
After a bit of time to set up the characters and plot, things take off,
and the book becomes impossible to put down.
Tessa must unpeel the layers like an onion, and each new layer has a
twist that kept me hooked until I reached the end.
The suspects are all strong, and Tessa is a
sympathetic lead character.
It is easy
to understand everything she is going through.
The potential series regulars have a little room to grow, but that’s
because they weren’t on the page too much.
That’s what sequels are for, right?
I did find some inconsistencies in the timeline late in the book, but
nothing that ruins the plot at all.
biggest complaint is how much Tessa’s love life was a sub-plot; it’s something
that should have been held until at least the next book in the series in my
The book has some delicious
sounding recipes at the end, including Tessa’s prize-winning tomato sauce.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am
looking forward to seeing what happens to Tessa next.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Lady Georgiana and Darcy have finally wed, and Darcy has a
surprise – an extended honeymoon in Kenya.
Georgie is excited to get to see local wildlife, but once they arrive,
she quickly learns that Darcy is hoping to get some information on a notorious
jewel thief that is rumored to be making an appearance in the country
The couple are quick to settle
into the British colony in the country, but they begin to realize that not
everyone is as friendly as they first appear.
Then a murder interrupts their trip.
Can they figure out what is happening?
Those who are fans of Darcy (like me), will be pleased with
his presence in this book.
befitting a honeymoon, he and Georgie are true partners in figuring out what is
happening around them.
Not that he
steals the show from Georgie, who still figures out just about everything along
We do get the usual slow start,
which allows us a little time to hear from most of the series regulars before
heading down to Kenya.
And let me say their
trip made me very happy for how travel has advanced since the 1930’s.
Even when we arrive in Kenya, it takes a bit
of time for the murder to take place, but once it does, the mystery is well
worth the wait with some great secrets that Georgie and Darcy must bring to
I did have a hard time keeping
all of the British colonists straight, but that never got in the way of
following the mystery.
complaint is an event that takes place in the middle of the book that seems
force to have Darcy and Georgie where they are needed for the plot.
I appreciated how the book worked in the
world politics of the time without feeling out of place in the series.
And I also appreciated the ability to be an
arm chair traveler since I can’t take a vacation this year, although it really
made me want to go on a safari of my own.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
In this book, author J. Michael Stracyznski (JMS to his
fans) tells the story of his family and his life.
Starting with his grandparents, he gives us
some background before telling us about his childhood under an abusive father
and a distant mother.
In between moving
every few months to stay ahead of creditors, JMS discovered ways to escape via
TV shows, comic books, and science fiction.
As he discovered the power of words, he vowed to become a writer.
That desire eventually lead him to a career
in comic books and in Hollywood on such things as He-Man
The Real Ghostbusters
; Babylon 5
; Murder, She Wrote
and the movies Changeling
, and World War Z
I picked up this book because I am an obsessive Babylon 5
Those picking it up for lots of
Hollywood behind the scenes stories will be disappoint, although we do get some
in the second half.
Instead, it is more
a story of his family, their secrets, and how they impacted his life.
At times, it is a hard read.
JMS’s life for his first 20 plus years was
not easy or fun.
But, ultimately, this
is a story of triumph as he works to overcome his baggage.
It is a powerful story that proves where you
start doesn’t have to be where you finish if you are willing to take
responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your choices, something we need
more of in our society today.
this book will change my view of Babylon 5
the next time I watch it,
something I need to do soon as I think knowing the man behind the story will
make some things mean more and be even more powerful.
This is not light reading, but it is powerful
reading and worth the time spent in the book.
Pigeon has just learned that he has to start attending
Surely, he doesn’t have to do
After all, he already knows
Will there be math?
There are too many letters!
And Pigeon is not a morning bird.
Will anything be able to change his mind?
Author Mo Willems continues to find ways to tell stories
using only pictures and dialogue that keep us engaged.
This is another fast yet entertaining read.
Most kids are excited about getting to go to
school, but this book should help those who might be more reluctant and will
entertain all kids.
presents some reasons to not go to school that kids might not have thought of,
by the end he is very excited about the prospect.
(Personally, I still understand Pigeon’s
concern about not being a morning bird.)
I appreciated the nod to one of Pigeon’s earlier books.
The stylized illustrations are a delight as
always and really do help tell the story.
Whether you have a kid starting school soon or not, you and your kid
will enjoy this book.
Ellison Russell is devoted to her teenage daughter, Grace,
and her art.
She and her husband are
still living together, but that is only because they have decided to wait to
get divorced until Grace is out of the house.
Part of Ellison’s routine is a swim at dawn in the country club’s pool.
On this particular June morning in 1974, she
swims into a dead body in the pool.
Worse yet, when the police arrive and pull the body out of the pool, she
recognizes the victim as Madeline Harper, her husband’s mistress.
Ellison knows that she makes a pretty
compelling suspect in the woman’s murder, as does her husband.
She knows she is innocent and she believes
that her husband may be an adulterer, but he isn’t a killer.
However, the fact that he’s suddenly left
town for parts unknown doesn’t make him appear innocent.
Can Ellison figure out what really happened
I’ve been hearing about this series for years, but I kept
putting off starting it.
I wish I’d read
The plot starts out right
away and gives us plenty of action and twists along the way.
I never saw the solution coming until Ellison
figured it out either.
characters are all strong and help pull us into the world, although I do wish
that we had a little more context for some of the supporting players.
I was also bothered by Ellison’s love life;
it just felt inappropriate for this book.
I’m sure in future books I will be fine with what is set up here.
The subject matter does stray to the edges of
cozies, but I thought how things were handled here was fine and it didn’t
I greatly enjoyed the humor
in the book, mostly coming from Ellison’s narration on things.
Yet it is perfectly balances with some of the
more serious elements of the plot.
see why this series has so many fans, and I’m already one of them.
Now, to find time to visit Ellison again.
After a recent close call, midwife Sarah Brandt has vowed to
stay away from solving crimes and getting involved in anything dangerous.
However, she is in Chinatown with the Lee family
since Cora Lee is about to give birth and gets a front row to the family drama
Cora’s niece, Angel, is upset
that her father has arranged a marriage for her to an older man and runs
The family is frantic to find her
because the city is no place for a fifteen-year-old to be alone.
While the family does find her, she turns up
dead a few days later.
Sarah manages to
get NYPD Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy involved in the case because she fears
other police won’t care to fully investigate given who the victim was.
But can Malloy figure it out?
Will Sarah get involved despite her promise
to stay away from murder?
Once again, we are expertly transported back to 1890’s New
Along with our normal
glimpses of life during the time period, we get to see a bit of how the Chinese
were treated during the time; unfortunately, it isn’t pretty.
However, the book never stops to preach at
us, instead working this in during the mystery.
The case itself is strong with plenty of twists to keep us entertained
until the end.
I thought I had a few
things figured out, but I discovered I was wrong when I reached the logical
Sarah, in her efforts to stay
out of the case, isn’t quite as involved as Frank, but she still has plenty to
Both are great lead
characters, and I enjoyed spending time with the regular supporting players as
well as meeting the new characters introduced here.
We get some advancement on a couple of
on-going storylines, and it looks like one of them will be the main focus of
the next in the series.
I’m definitely looking
forward to seeing where that leads.
It’s August in Goosebush, Massachusetts, but Lilly Jayne and
the rest of the Garden Squad just as busy as every trying to make their town
But there are some
thorns among the blooms.
death of a friend has left Lilly, as executor of his estate, dealing with his
best friend, Tamara, is finding her efforts to sell the dead man’s house
meeting with sabotage, something that is only making her stress over the new
relator in town worse.
But things come
to a head when Tamara is found standing over the dead body of Gladys Preston.
Gladys didn’t have many friends in town, but
she recently had a very public fight with Tamara.
As the rumor mill begins to heat up, Lilly
knows she needs to figure out what really happened to help her friend clear her
Can she do it?
I fell in love with these characters with the first book in
the series, and it was great to be back to visit them again.
I will admit it took me a bit to get
completely back in the flow of the characters and Goosebush, but it wasn’t long
before I had.
Lilly and many of her
friends are on the older side, and I enjoy this break from the traditional cozy
They and the new
characters came to life for me as the story unfolded.
The plot takes on quite a bit, so as a result
the book appears to be wandering a little before Gladys dies, but everything is
important and comes into play.
actually a little in awe of how it all came together, although the ending was a
I also appreciated how the
theme of old versus new or tradition versus change played out in the book.
I suspect we will see that again in future
For those who have a green thumb,
some gardening tips are included at the back of the book.
This second book is fun as we get to watch
Lilly weed out another killer.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Merry Wilkinson is looking forward to Thanksgiving, but her
mother, Aline, is looking forward to the weekend before.
Aline has invited her college friends to come
to Rudolph, New York, for a reunion.
However, when the women arrive, they quickly devolve into bickering and
Desperate to find a way to keep
the peace, Aline invites Merry to several of their events.
At one of them, one of the women die under
help but begin to gather information, but when a newcomer tries to use the
crime to get Merry’s father removed as the official town Santa, she steps up
Can she figure out what
happened before the women leave town?
As a lover of all things Christmas, I was thrilled to be
able to visit Merry and the town of Rudolph again.
While set at Thanksgiving, the book perfectly
captures that late fall feel and the Thanksgiving spirit while also working in
We get to know the suspects
and the victim a bit before she dies.
While the victim and murder method might not be too surprising, there
are some secrets and twists buried in the book that kept me reading, and the
sub-plot involving Merry’s dad also drew me in.
I was a bit worried when we met all the suspects at once, but we get
enough context early on to keep them straight until they develop as more characters.
It was great to see the series regulars again
Whether you read this book now
or save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you’re sure to enjoy it.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
It’s the week before Halloween in Oriole Point, Michigan,
yet the town is focusing on health thanks to the Haunted Halloween Harvest
The Saturday the festival
opens, Marlee Jacob, owner of the Berry Basket, is cornered by Leticia the Lake
Leticia is one of the odd
characters who call the town home.
is ranting about the shadow people who have come to town and demanding that
Marlee order mulberries so Leticia can use their protective properties to cover
Marlee thinks Leticia is
harmless if a little off, but that’s before a dead body turns up.
Will the latest happenings disrupt the health
Picking up this book, I knew I was in for another fantastic
ride, and I wasn’t disappointed.
it takes a couple chapters for the body to drop, we are meeting characters who
will become important to the story and trying to make sense of some puzzling things
that start to happen.
The pace doesn’t
slow at all once the murder takes place, and the revelations are only beginning
as Marlee pieces things together.
suspects are all strong, and I could have believed any of them were guilty
until Marlee pieced together the final clues.
Of course, the series regulars are as fun and charming as always – I
I’m not quite ready for fall,
but this book still put me in the Halloween spirit.
We get four berry inspired recipes – two
featuring Mulberries and two berry inspired Halloween treats.
I really can’t recommend this series highly
New fans will be hooked, and
existing fans will love Marlee’s latest adventure.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
This collection of three novellas focuses on Halloween.
The book opens with the title story featuring
Leslie Meier’s protagonist Lucy Stone.
couple has moved into the old abandoned house in town, but they are rebuffing efforts
from Lucy and others to welcome them to town.
Then strange things start happening and rumors start flying.
What is happening?
Up next is “Death by Haunted House” by Lee
Hollis which takes up back to 2009 and shows us what life was like for Hayley
Powell while she was married.
house next door, which is rumored to be haunted, gets a new family, Hayley’s
husband Danny is certain that they are up to something.
The discovery of a dead body in the nearby
woods just confirms his theory – at least to himself.
Is he right?
Finally comes “Hallowed Out” from Barbara Ross.
The local Haunted House tour is gearing up
for Halloween, trying to bring some more people to town in the fall.
However, when a reenactment of a crime leaves
an actor dead, Julia Snowden must figure out what happened.
As you might expect in a collection of stories by various
authors, some are stronger than others.
Personally, I found the opening story to be the weakest – I think it
might have worked as a short story, but even as a novella is was too long.
The middle story was better, with some fun
scenes and a good twist to the mystery.
I adore Barbara Ross’s Maine Clambake mysteries, so it was the reason I
picked up the book.
It also means I
found the third story to be the best, with some good twists and a very fun
While each story has plenty of
fall atmosphere, these stories aren’t that spooky – they are by cozy mystery
authors after all.
Still, fans of these
authors will enjoy picking up the book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.