Friday, October 1, 2021

September 2021's Reading Summary

It's that time of the month again - reading summary day.  2021 is racing by, isn't it?  As you can see, I had a busy month of advanced review copies with just a few of my own person choices mixed it.

I've gotten the Index updated this month.

Without further ado, here's what I read in September.  All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).  As always, the links take you to my full review.

 





Verse and Vengeance by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #4) – 3

Violet Waverly is upset to see that PI Joel Redding is back in town, and once again staking out Charming Books, trying to learn about the secret of the bookstore.  But when he is killed during the first annual Tour de Cascade Springs bike race, she begins to wonder what else he was up to.  Will the investigation lead back to Violet’s secret?  Why does the bookstore keep putting copies of Walt Whitman’s poetry in her path?

I really enjoyed the third book in the series earlier this year, so I sat down looking forward to this one.  Sadly, the mystery disappointed.  While there are some developments, the pacing could have been better.  Then, in the rush to wrap things up, a major part of the mystery remains unexplained.  I don’t normally read paranormal cozies, but I do enjoy the magical essence of this series.  We get some additional mythology here, which I appreciated.  Likewise, the series characters continue to grow, as do their relationships.  Series fans will still enjoy this book even if the mystery could be stronger.

 

Essentials of Murder by Kim Davis (Aromatherapy Apothecary Mysteries #1) – 4

After a scandal in San Francisco sent her packing, Carissa Carmichael has returned home to Oak Creek Valley in Southern California and has decided to open Aromatherapy Apothecary, a store specializing in essential oils.  She is planning to work with her neighbor, who owns a candle shop, but the neighbor’s son, Russ, is certain that Carissa is going to steal business from his mom’s store.  After a particularly nasty scene with Russ, Carissa enters her shop the next day to find his body in the back of her shop.  Already convicted of the crime by local gossip and with the detective in charge of the case determined to find evidence to arrest her, Carissa sets out to prove her innocence.  Can she do it?

I always love it when a debut cozy has characters who already feel like old friends, and that’s the case here.  As we slowly meet Carissa’s family and friends, they form a great group I can’t wait to hang out with again.  The suspects?  They are great at keeping us confused.  The mystery is good.  I had some guesses on part of it, but I wasn’t sure until the end.  The climax could have been stronger, but it did answer all our questions.  As a Southern California resident, I loved recognizing some of the locations mentioned even if Oak Creek Valley is fictional.  This is a fun debut you won’t want to miss.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this mystery.

 


Death of a Red-Hot Rancher by Mimi Granger (Love is Murder Mysteries #1) – 4

Lizzie Hale is enjoying running her romance bookstore.  So what if her love life is a little non-existent, she loves getting to spend her days around books and interacting with her customers.  Life gets much more complicated, however, when Brody Pierce dies.  Brody owned the buffalo ranch outside of town, and Lizzie keeps finding evidence that her aunt may have been his secret lover.  Lizzie worries that, if true, this secret will lead to her aunt being arrested for murder.  Lizzie jumps in to the investigation to try to clear her aunt, but what does it mean when all the evidence she finds seems to point to her aunt?

There are plenty of book themed cozies, but this is the first one I’m aware of to feature romance novels as the specific bookish hook.  I’m not a fan of the genre, but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this book.  Lizzie is a great main character, and she is surrounded by charming family and friends I hope will be regulars.  Part of the plot was driven by misunderstandings, which drove me crazy, but on the whole the plot was good with plenty of secrets to be uncovered before we reached the logical climax.  I had lots of fun along the way and even laughed a few times.  If you are looking for a lighter mystery, this is a debut to pick up.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #9) – 5

Ben Ripley is off on another mission.  The CIA has reason to believe that Murray Hill is boarding the cruise ship Emperor of the Seas, so Ben, Erica Hale, her parents, and Ben’s friend Mike, are all joining the ship for a cruise through the Panama Canal to find Murray and stop him.  The ship turns out to be much bigger than they envisioned.  Will they find him in time?  Can they figure out his plan and stop him?  And will Ben and Mike be able to keep the secret they are hiding from the Hales?

This is book nine in a delightful middle grade mystery series, and fans of the series will be thrilled with this entry.  Those new to the series will find some minor spoilers for the previous book, but everything they need to know is explained here.  The plot is fast moving with multiple action scenes that had me turning pages as fast as I could.  There is some depth to the characters, and that continues to be explored here without slowing the action down.  Meanwhile, the laughs are plentiful, and I was glad I wasn’t reading this book in public.  I’m a decade or three beyond the target middle grade audience, but I don’t care.  These books are wonderfully fun for all ages.

 

Deadly Summer Nights by Vicki Delany (Catskill Summer Resort Mysteries #1) – 3

Elizabeth Grady is starting the second summer running the Haggerman’s Catskills Resort, which her mother has inherited.  She is hoping things will go smoothly this year, but that’s before she finds the body of one of their guests floating in the lake.  The local sheriff thinks the victim was a communist.  With rumors swirling around the resort, and guests threatening to leave, Elizabeth has to step in and figure out what really happened before the resort is ruined.  Can she do it?

As much as I loved the book, I found the mystery to be rather week.  We get too much about life at the resort for it to have the time to be fully developed.  However, it’s hard to complain since resort life sounds fabulous.  I’m not ready for summer to be over, and I enjoyed dreaming about spending time on the lake with nothing to do.  The book is set in the 1950’s, and I felt like I was transported back in time as well.  The characters are as charming as the setting, and I want to see more of them.  I enjoyed this book enough that it won’t be my only visit to Haggerman’s.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Murder Outside the Lines by Krista Davis (Pen & Ink #3) – 4

Fall is in the air with Halloween fast approaching.  Florrie Fox has a special author appearance planned for Color Me Read, author and psychic Hilda Rattenhorst.  However, when Hilda shows up, she claims to have seen a carpet wrapped up with a foot sticking out of it in a nearby doorway.  Florrie and her boyfriend, Eric, who is also a police officer, head out to check it out only to find nothing when they arrive.  Then, during her talk before signing books, Hilda claims to feel a killer’s presence in the audience.  As Florrie is trying to figure out if it is a publicity stunt, one incident after another begins to happen.  What is going on?

Even for a Halloween themed cozy, I was a little surprised at the number of potential supernatural elements we got at the beginning of the book.  As the crimes took center stage, that began to recede a bit.  I did feel the plot could have used better focus.  There are quite a few elements to the story, and it felt like it was wandering in the middle.  But things came together for a satisfying climax.  I was once again charmed by the Georgetown neighborhood where Florrie lives and works.  It was great to get reacquainted with the characters and see the next chapter in their lives.  This book is for you if you are looking for a charming fall cozy.

NOTE: I received an ARC of the book.

 

Mrs. Claus and the Halloween Homicide by Liz Ireland (Mrs. Claus Mysteries #2) – 5

April Claus is beginning her second year as the North Pole’s new Mrs. Claus, and she’s decided it would be fun to introduce Halloween to the residents of Santaland.  Unfortunately, not everyone is on board, as evidenced by the threatening messages someone is leaving and the attack on the pumpkins one of the elves is growing.  However, when things escalate to murder, April takes matters into her own hands to try to figure out what is going on.  Can she keep the holiday from being ruined for everyone?

I absolutely loved the first book in this series, so I was anxious to return to the world that author Liz Ireland is creating.  This book was fabulous as well.  The murder takes place a little later in the story, but there is plenty going on to keep us entertained, and it only gets stronger as it goes along.  The climax is wonderful.  I did think there was a timeline issue at one point, but I think the fault is just a scene that is written unclearly.  The little details of the world are guaranteed to make you smile; I just love them!  While not all the characters are human, they are all completely real and we come to care for them quickly, which is key to getting us to believe in this world.  If you are looking for a cozy mystery with a dash of fantasy, you’ll love this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

A Perfect Bind by Dorothy St. James (Beloved Bookroom Mysteries #2) – 5

Someone is breaking into the secret bookroom that librarian Tru Beckett has set up in the basement of the library and is disturbing the books at night when the building is supposed to be closed.  Tru’s only lead is the theory that it is a poltergeist, but she suspects that someone all too human is involved.  Then, one morning, the body of Owen Maynard, the town drunk, is found behind the library.  Tru’s worried that the attacks on her secret room might be a key to solving the murder, so she jumps in to figure out what is going on so she can keep her secret.  Will she solve the crime?  Or will her secret be revealed?

I enjoyed the first book in the series because of the unique premise, and this book didn’t disappoint.  Once again, the secret bookroom provides a great motive for Tru to get involved in solving a crime, and the plot weaves in some fun, surprising directions.  I had the killer figured out before it was revealed, but I think I figured it out about the same time Tru did, so I was proud of myself.  A couple of characters annoyed me, but for the most part I loved the cast, and I enjoyed seeing depth to them as the book went along.  I smiled and laughed my way through the book, especially at the romantic sub-plots.  This book is perfectly delightful.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

“T” is for Trespass by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #20) – 4

It starts innocently enough when Kinsey and her landlord, William Pitts, discover their elderly neighbor, Gus Vronsky, lying on the floor in his house one morning after falling and injuring himself.  Gus only has one relative left, a great-niece who lives on the other side of the country, so she is intent on hiring someone to help Gus recover.  The great-niece asks Kinsey to do a background check on Solana Rojas, the woman that she has hired, and nothing jumps out at Kinsey.  Still, something seems off about Solana.  Will Kinsey figure out what it is in time?

Because we get some chapters from Solana’s point of view, we know early on that she is bad news.  It gets a little frustrating waiting for Kinsey to catch up, but the end result is worth it.  As we got into the final quarter, I had a very hard time putting the book down thanks to several thrilling scenes.  We get to see plenty of William, which is fantastic since he is my second favorite character in the series, second only to Kinsey, who continues to entertain.  Solana is evil, and she makes a great villain for Kinsey to track down.  There are a couple of sub-plots that I enjoyed, although they could have been a little stronger.  There’s also a plot hole late in the book – something we know but Kinsey couldn’t possibly know about.  This isn’t one of my typical cozies, but as long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.  Still, overall, this is another great entry in a beloved series.  Even at twenty books in, it is easy to see why it is has so many fans.

 

McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss – 4

The book opens with Marco, the protagonist from To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, fishing in a pond on the McElligot’s farm.  He’s warned that there’s nothing in the pond but junk that people have thrown away.  Marco, however, takes a more fanciful outlook on the pool.  After all, maybe it’s connected to the sea but a tunnel no one knows about.  And, if that’s the case, you never know exactly what you could catch.

This early book from Dr. Seuss is imagination on display.  The heart of the book is Marco’s fish stories, which go from the plausible to the outlandish and back again.  It’s fun.  The rhymes could be a bit better, and the book does feel a bit repetitive, but I remember enjoying this one as a kid, and it still has charm rereading it as an adult.  This is early Dr. Seuss, so the illustrations are very detailed pen and ink, some in color and some not.  Yes, this is one of the recently banned books.  It is banned takes to one page that features Marco’s imaginative take on Eskimo fish.  Yes, the drawings on that page are caricatures, but the entire book is filled with caricatures.  They fit right in.  While this isn’t one of Dr. Seuss’s best books, it is a shame that it won’t be around to spark the imagination of future generations.

 

Wreathing Havoc by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #4) – 4

Thanksgiving week has opened on a somber note since it starts with the funeral for Leon Tompkin, the owner of the local theater.  Lilly Jayne and the rest of the Garden Squad aren’t the only ones in town mourning his passing, and it even brings some of the people who used to work with Leon at the theater back to town.  When one of the visitors is murdered, Lilly can’t help but wonder if Leon’s death was from natural causes.  If it wasn’t, are the two deaths connected?

Thanksgiving isn’t usually a setting for fall themed cozy mysteries, but I enjoyed seeing this book starting with November’s holiday, although we do get a few early Christmas activities as the book goes along.  The mystery takes a little while to set down roots before it starts to fully grow, but once it does, we wind up with a wonderful mystery.  I love how everything came together.  Lilly and the rest of her friends in the Garden Squad are as delightful as always, and the new characters are equally likeable, making it hard for me to pick out the killer.  Late autumn isn’t the best time for gardening, but we still get a bit of that and a few gardening tips over the course of the book.  This is an entry that fans of the series will be thankful for.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

 

Death at Holly Lodge by Louise R. Innes (Daisy Thorne Mysteries #3) – 5

Mimi Levante has recently purchased Holly Lodge, planning to turn it into her home in the UK, and since Mimi’s half-sister, Floria, is Daisy Thorne’s best friend, Daisy is meeting the two women there to check out the property.  While they are there, the men working on restoring it make a horrific discovery – someone stuffed a dead man in a Santa suit in the chimney.  Who was the victim?  And how did he come to be hidden in the chimney?

This is such a great premise for a Christmas set mystery, and it delivered.  We get the answer to the questions I posed and so many more by the time the book is over, and the pace is great, delivering clues and red herrings at a steady pace.  Daisy and all the regulars are back, and I enjoyed getting to see them again.  I especially enjoyed seeing the growth in her relationship with DCI Paul McGuinness.  I did find some timeline issues, including a day we got twice in a row, but they were minor.  The further I got into the book, the more I caught the Christmas spirit.  If you are looking for a fun mystery to get you in the mood for Christmas, this is the book for you.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

3 comments:

  1. Great job with your reading! Happy Spooktober!

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  2. This is awesome! I'm glad so many were hits for you!

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  3. The Mrs. Claus series sounds really good! I need to look into those. I have Spy School at Sea that I need to read ASAP!


    Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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