Anyway, that's a long winded way of saying here's what I read in April. Links will take you to my full review. And the index has been updated again this month.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Murder on Waverly Place by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #11) – 5
Midwife Sarah Brandt is surprised when her mother, Mrs. Decker, begs Sarah to join her at a séance. Mrs. Decker is hoping to reach Maggie, Sarah’s older sister, and obtain forgiveness for something that happened before she passed. Sarah goes, but nothing she experiences convinces her that it is at all real. However, Mrs. Decker goes back a second time, and one of the group members is murdered. They quickly call in Detective Sergeant Frank Malloy. The lights were out, and everyone was holding hands, so how was the victim killed?
Between the how and the who, I was pulled into this story and couldn’t put it down. There are some great twists along the way, and the climax is logical, although one part bothered me. It’s a very minor complaint. Sarah and Frank continue to be strong leads, ably sharing the view point of the story in a way that is easy to follow. They even made me laugh a few times as I was reading. While we don’t see Frank’s family, we do get to see more of the people in Sarah’s life, and I love spending time with them. The new characters are fantastic, and help bring New York City of 1897 to life. I always get lost in Sarah and Frank’s world, and this book was no exception. If you are looking for a historical mystery, I highly recommend this book.
The Future King by James Riley (The Revenge of Magic #3) – 4
This book picks up almost immediately after the previous book ended. Fort has just rescued his father, but the man is in a coma. Oh, and half of England is under a dome. No one knows what is happening inside the dome, but a video has been released demanding that Fort and his friends Rachel and Jia be sent to the dome or the people inside won’t be released. While no one in charge intends to send the trio, they still find themselves there. Will they be able to stop what is coming?
If you haven’t read this series yet, don’t start with this book. It assumes you’ve read the first two, and there isn’t much background given to help explain the world that has been created. This book starts out a little slowly with too many teases about what might happen in the future, but once the main quest really gets going, the book picks up, and there are twists and surprises that kept me engaged. The characters are good, and Fort does more growing here. I’m not a fan of the post-apocalyptic setting, especially right now, but I am intrigue enough that I have to know what is going to happen next, so I will be back for more.
Murder on Memory Lake by J. D. Griffo (Ferrara Family Mysteries #1) – 3
Things are looking up for Alberta Scaglione in her retirement. She’s inherited money and a cabin on Memory Lake from an aunt, and her granddaughter, Jinx, has come back into her life thanks to a job for the local paper in Tranquility, New Jersey. However, things take a sad turn when Alberta finds the body of her childhood nemesis in the lake. Alberta quickly realizes the woman was murdered, and Jinx talks Alberta into investigating to jump start her transition to crime reporter. Can they solve the case?
The book starts out with a couple of chapters that are little more than data dumps, giving us the background on the characters. Yes, we need to know the information, but it could have been slipped into the novel better. The mystery itself is strong with several viable suspects and a logical trail to the great climax with some fun red herrings along the way. Alberta and Jinx are joined by another couple family members, and the four women are a delight, making me laugh a few times. The book is written in omniscient point of view, but mostly sticking with Alberta and Jinx. It mostly works, but it allows for passages of the characters pondering life. These felt like they’d be more at home in a literary novel than a mystery. The book closes out with a few recipes. The bones of the book are good, but overall, it felt overwritten. There is enough enjoyable elements to the book that if you are curious about the book, I recommend you check it out and see what you think for yourself.
Barking with the Stars by Sparkle Abbey (Pampered Pets Mysteries #9) – 4
Pet therapist Caro Lamont is working with the stars and dogs who are part of the Barking with the Stars fundraiser, which is raising money for an organization that provides service dogs to soldiers who have returned from war. The biggest celebrity is Purple, an internationally famous pop star. But a few days before the big event, Purple is found dead. The police suspect foul play and are looking at Caro’s ex-husband. Geoffrey is many things, but a killer is one of them, right?
This series is always fun, and this book is no exception. The plot moves forward well, and Caro keeps digging until she puts things together in the end. I did feel like one plot point got forgotten as the book went forward, but that is a minor complaint. The characters are great. Caro and a few others seem very real, but the rest can be eccentric. They work in the series and provide some fun laughs, especially Betty. The series storylines advance as well, and I enjoyed getting those updates. This is another fun entry in a very fun series.
Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs (FunJungle #6) – 5
Teddy Fitzroy is surprised when his friend Sage reveals that he found a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull on his ranch. But now that skull has gone missing. It’s large and heavy, so who could have stolen it? And how did they do it? Meanwhile, he’s gotten a call from the Barksdale twins about their new exotic pet. Who is selling these dangerous animals?
This book really does have two storylines, and it balances both well. We do get a couple of lectures about endangered animals, but they don’t slow down the action for long. And with everything happening, there is plenty of action. When Teddy pieced together the clues, I couldn’t believe I missed them myself. The characters are great as always, and some of the situations Teddy found himself in made me laugh out loud. These books are aimed at middle schoolers, but anyone who enjoys a fun mystery should definitely pick them up.
Iced in Paradise by Naomi Hirahara (Leilani Santiago #1) – 4
Leilani Santiago has returned from Seattle to the island of Kauai to help run her family’s shave ice shack. Unfortunately, that means dealing with family dynamics, including her estranged father. He’s returned now with Luke, his newest surfing protégé, for a local competition. The morning of the competition, Leilani finds Luke dead on the floor of the shave ice shack. With her father as the prime suspect, Leilani begins to investigate. Can she find the truth?
This book is written in first person present tense, which took a couple of chapters to get used to, but once I did, I had no trouble getting lost in the story. The mystery with strong with plenty of suspects, yet things make sense when Leilani finds the truth. Like other books Naomi Hirahara has written, family dynamics are also a strong storyline, and they weave in and out without taking over from the mystery. This helps us get to know the characters, and I grew to love them as I read. I did struggle with the Pigeon English the characters speak; at times it really slowed me down as I worked to translate what they were saying. But that was my only complaint. The book left me feeling like I’d visited Kauai but craving shave ice.
Second to Nun by Alice Loweecey (Giulia Driscoll Mysteries #2) – 4
Former nun turned PI Giulia Driscoll’s newest client is MacAllister Stone, aka Mac. Mac runs a bed and breakfast in her family’s old non-working lighthouse. Lately, something sinister seems to be at work at the bed and breakfast with possible ties to the legend of a family ghost. Giulia and her husband, Frank, go undercover as guests. But this job is turning out to be rougher than it sounds as the strange events seem to be increasing in frequency. Before Giulia finds the culprit, she will have to determine if she is looking for a ghost or a flesh and blood villain.
Giulia spends the first few chapters wrapping up her current cases before heading to the bed and breakfast, so the main mystery gets off to a slow start. Once it does begin, we are treated to plenty of mysterious events until Giulia brings it to a logical and satisfying conclusion. The characters are wonderful. The new cast grow as the book progresses, but I love spending time with the regulars. They’re one reason why the opening chapters were still so much fun. These characters have such great chemistry with each other, including teasing each other, and that humor kept me smiling if not laughing throughout the book. The book does have a smattering of foul language, certainly more than the cozies I normally read, but that is worth noting only in passing. If you are looking for a delightful getaway, this is the book to pick up.
The Murder Pit by Jeff Shelby (Moose River Mysteries #1) – 3
Life is going well for Daisy Savage. Recently remarried, she, her husband, and their blended family are settling into the old fixer upper they just bought. While her husband, Jake, bemoans the work, Daisy fell in love with the place despite the work. The house seems to have quite a few secrets, and Daisy finds one in their basement’s crawl space – an old coal chute. Unfortunately, that discovery also comes with a dead body, and the victim is someone that Daisy recognizes. With the small-town rumor mill kicking in, Daisy finds herself as a suspect. Can she figure out who really killed the victim and why he was dumped in their basement?
The plot started out well, and I enjoyed the added puzzle about why the victim was left in Daisy’s basement. There were some good twists before we reached the end. Sadly, I did have some issues with the book. The characters are a bit thin. I get that some of them were supposed to be comedic, but they still could have been stronger. Daisy’s kids seemed to act younger than they were supposed to be. She homeschools most of the kids, but she seems to justify letting them play and not actually doing any work with them. (Yes, I get that in a cozy, the main character spends all their time on the case instead of their job, but that’s not the case here.) There were some timelines issues as well, nothing that affected the plot, but the author clearly lost track of time. On the other hand, I loved Daisy and Jake’s relationship, and I laughed quite a bit at the character’s interactions. I’ve read other books from Jeff Shelby in the past and enjoyed them, so I will read one of his books again. Hopefully, this was just an off book. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there are some issues that need to be resolved.
The Beckoning Ice by Joan Druett (Wiki Coffin #5) – 4
In February of 1839, the US Exploring Expedition is approaching Cape Horn. While many of the sailors are looking forward to their first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, Wiki Coffin has other concerns. A crewman on the ship he is currently on has slit his own throat. It was well known that Midshipman Dove was unhappy with the life of a sailor, but Wiki doesn’t believe he committed suicide, and he soon begins to find evidence to back up his theory. But who committed the crime?
It’s been several years since I read the previous book in the series, but it didn’t take me long to slip back in Wiki’s world. The author does a fantastic job of bringing life on the sea in the 1830’s and the expedition to life, and she’s made me curious to learn more about what really happened during the voyage in real life. Unfortunately, her love of all things nautical did slow down the mystery at times, but after reading the previous books, I was still interested to know what was happening to the ships that I didn’t mind too much. And it was never long before Wiki was back to working on the mystery. There are a lot of characters, but they are developed enough to help us remember who they are, and we get little reminders as well when they step on page. If the subject at all interests you, I definitely recommend you check out this series.
Hunting for Hidden Gold by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #5) – 4
When their dad requests their help, Frank and Joe Hardy are only too happy to jump on a plane to Montana. Fenton Hardy is on the trail of a gang of thieves, but before they leave, Frank and Joe also hear about some gold that’s been lost in the area for years. With danger attacking even before they land in Montana, the brothers have to figure out who the mole in town in, where the gang is hiding, and possibly find time for a treasure hunt. Can they do it?
It’s fun to revisit these characters even as an adult. The action starts almost immediately and never really lets up, not that I’m complaining. There was even one part of the plot that the Hardys couldn’t figure out right away, which was a nice change. The characters are thin, and we don’t see much of the usual supporting players. There are definitely some dated references, but as long as kids know the book is older, they should be fine with it. I know I had fun revisiting these characters.
Pumpkin Spice Peril by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #12) – 5
Over the years that best friends Mel Cooper and Angie Harper have run Fairytale Cupcakes, they have made friends with some of their customers. Near the top of that list are husband and wife artists Peter and Rene. Every Friday, Peter comes in to pick up cupcakes for Rene, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a major art installation to be unveiled in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mel and Angie are providing the cupcakes for the opening night party. However, the night before the big event, someone dies under suspicious circumstances. Has Mel been pulled into another murder?
While the murder happens a little late in the book, the time is well used to introduce us to characters and provide plenty of conflict. I was never bored, and that only increased once the murdered happened and Mel started uncovering secrets. The series regulars all sparkle as always, and I enjoyed getting to spend time with them. The new characters are just as strong. The book has a more somber tone than some of the others in the series, but it fits the events of the plot. Don’t worry, there are still some good laughs along the way. We get four new cupcake recipes at the end that sound delicious. I raced through this book like always. This is another fun entry in one of my favorite series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton (Sophie Kimball Mysteries #1) – 5
Sophie “Phee” Kimball is annoyed when her mother keeps calling to talk about a cursed book. It seems that several members of her book club have died after starting their current month’s selection. Even though Phee is an accountant, Harriet is sure she is the one who can stop the curse, so Phee gives in and takes some vacation to go visit her mother in Arizona. Once she arrives, Phee quickly determines that something strange is going on. But is it from a cursed book? Or is a killer using the curse to hide his or her tracks?
I’ve been hearing about this series for a couple of years, and I can see why. This is a fun debut. The mystery is something different for a cozy, and I really enjoyed it. I was a little ahead of Phee in piecing things together, but only a little, and there were still some surprises when I reached the climax. I was worried that Harriet would be annoying, but I found her fun. The same goes for the rest of the cast. There were quite a few characters, but I was able to keep them all straight, which shows how well developed they were. The book made me chuckle and laugh, especially at the climax, which was a bit over the top but fit the story perfectly. I will definitely be visiting Phee again soon.