And you know what that means around here. It's time for a reading summary. Here's what I read in October. Meanwhile, the index has been updated as well.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great). The links will take you to my full review.
Mulled to Death by Kate Lansing (Colorado Wine Mysteries #3) – 4
Parker Valentine and her boyfriend Reid are planning a romantic Valentine’s weekend trip to a ski resort. Parker is hoping to take a few minutes to sell the resort on her mulled wine, and is star struck when the owner, Olympic gold medalist Annmarie Bauer, sits in on the meeting. But the next morning, Parker is nearby when Annmarie has a deadly skiing accident. Parker saw some things that make her question whether it was an accident or not, and as she begins poking around, strange things happen to her. Can she figure out what is really going on?
Having enjoyed the first two books in this series, I was looking forward to checking in with Parker again. I did feel that Parker’s motive for looking into this as much as she did was weak until late in the book and the plot relied a bit too much on events over investigation, but overall, this was a good mystery that kept me guessing until the end. Parker and Reid are joined by another couple, Parker’s brother Liam and her best friend Sage, who have recently started dating. These four characters are the core of the series to me, and I loved seeing how they developed here. As always, the books are written in first person present tense. I love how the author works in tidbits about wine making as metaphors for what Parker is going through. We get three delicious sounding recipes and suggested wine pairings at the end. Fans of the series will have fun with the newest in this series.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
God Rest Ye, Royal Gentlemen by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness Mysteries #15) – 4
Lady Georgiana and Darcy are looking forward to their first Christmas as husband and wife, but then they are invited to spend the holiday at a house party being given by one of Darcy’s aunts. The implication that the queen herself wants them nearby is the only thing that makes them go. When they arrive, they learn the queen is worried someone is after a member of her family. Can Georgie figure out what is going on in time?
Fans of the series will expect that the book will get off to a slow start as we get updates on the various supporting characters we’ve gotten to know over the series. While we get hits of the plot, celebrating Christmas also slows the pacing down a little. But there is a good mystery in there, and I didn’t have the how or who figured out until Georgie pieced it to together. The end of 1935 was a huge time in British history, and I loved how the real intrigue played into this story, weaving in things we’ve been reading about since book one. This is a Christmas fans will definitely be glad they spent with Georgie.
Note: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #18) – 4
When Maeve answers the door, the last thing she expects is a woman desperately looking for Frank Malloy. Mrs. O’Neil is a former neighbor of the Malloys, and she is anxious to find Frank because her daughter, Una, has just been arrested for the murder of her husband. The problem is that Frank and his new wife, Sarah Brandt, are in Europe on their honeymoon. So Maeve jumps into the investigation, aided by Gino and Sarah’s parents. Will the four of them uncover what really happened?
This is a different book for the series since Frank and Sarah, our usual main characters, aren’t in it. However, it allows the secondary characters time to shine, which was a lot of fun, especially since I love them. It also provided a bit more humor, which I appreciated. The mystery itself is serious, and the book balances the tones perfectly. The mystery is also strong and kept me turning pages, as always. I did feel there was a bit too much rehashing of things at times in the middle, but that got better as the book went along. Sadly, there are some timing issues in the climax as the characters forget when things happened. Ironically enough, the climax makes even more sense if you remember the correct timeline. There are a few Christmas elements in the book, but the main focus is on the characters and mystery. This may be a unique entry in the series, but fans will still love it.
Murder Gets a Makeover by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #18) – 4
Thanks to her neighbor, Jaine Austen is getting a free makeover. Unfortunately, it is with Bebe Braddock, who turns out to be a nasty woman. When Jaine goes to a fitting, she finds Bebe’s dead body. The police start looking at Jaine as their top suspect, so she tries to find the real killer. Meanwhile, Jaine’s cat, Prozac, becomes a viral star after saving a toddler’s life and her father thinks he finally has the goods on his nemesis in the retirement community.
Between the strong sub-plots and the solid mystery, this book is always hopping. Author Laura Levine does a great job of juggling everything and keeping us entertained the entire time. The book is filled with laughs, mainly coming from the sub-plots. The characters are more caricatures, but they fit the tone of the series perfectly and do their job of entertaining us. I did feel this book wasn’t quite as good as most of the series, but it’s mostly minor nitpicks. Overall, I enjoyed Jaine’s latest adventure and am sure that her fans will laugh as the pages fly by.
Footprints Under the Window by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #12) – 4
When Frank and Joe Hardy go to meet their Aunt Gertrude on her return from a trip to South America, they arrive a little early, so they decide to head out in their motor boat. That’s when they see a man jump over the side of a ship. They pick him up, but all they get out of him is a strange warning about footprints before he runs off again. With their dad out of town on a case, they are left to try to figure out what is going on by themselves. Might it have to do with the robbery they foiled at a nearby photographic plant? And who left the footprints outside the Hardy’s house?
Even as a kid, I recognized the absurdity of the Hardys heading to South America at one point to follow a few leads, but even as an adult, it’s hard not to get caught up in the action and mystery. While things do make sense at the end, I feel like there were a few too many plot threads for them to untangle. One or two less would have helped. Still, even as an adult, I got caught up in the story. As always, the character are thin, and the story is dated. Very dated, in this case. But as long as today’s kids realize this is something from the 1960’s, they’ll be okay. I’ve got to admit, nostalgia is playing a bit in my rating since I loved this one as a kid.
Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder by Tina Kashian (Kebab Kitchen Mysteries #5) – 3
Every December, Ocean Crest, New Jersey, hosts a polar bear plunge as a fund raiser, and this year it is raising money for a much-needed renovation for the senior center. Most of the businesses in the town are participating, and Lucy Berberian is representing her family’s Kebab Kitchen restaurant. As expected, the water is chilly, but all that is soon forgotten when the dead body of one of the participants washes ashore. At first everyone assumes that the shock of the cold water killed Deacon Spooner, but the medical examiners determines that it was murder. Lucy had recently met Deacon, and he wasn’t a nice man. When the police look at Lucy’s friend as their prime suspect, she can’t help but nose around. She uncovers plenty of motives and opportunity, but who actually killed the man?
The book starts out strong, but it loses its way, with very little forward movement and a sub-plot taking over as we near the climax. Fortunately, we do get a logical and suspenseful ending. The sub-plot, about Lucy dragging her feet planning her wedding, would have made sense if it had been weeks between books instead of months. Still, it did allow us to see some growth in Lucy and in her relationships, which I appreciated. The book isn’t overwhelming with Christmas, but it is there, and I enjoyed that aspect as well. We get four recipes at the end of the book to enjoy later. While the book could have been stronger, as a fan of the series, I’m glad I read it.
Cozy Up to Blood by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #3) – 3
Murray Lee has wandered onto the island of Belfry off the coast of Oregon just as the rains wash away the bridge connecting it to the mainland. He’s just in time for the annual festival dedicated to the movies in the Evenfall series, a popular vampire themed series of books and movies which were filmed on the island. This means there are plenty of outsiders posing as vampires around town. Someone is taking advantage of the crowds by attacking some of the locals, stealing from them, and biting their necks. The local police think that Murray is a good suspect since he is new to town but obviously not part of the Evenfall crowd. But Murray doesn’t want the police looking into him or his past. He has a secret. And it might have something to do with the motorcycle gang sitting on the other side of the bridge waiting for the water to recede. Can he clear his name without revealing his past? Will he even get off the island alive?
There is a part of me that enjoyed the book despite the flaws. I do enjoy Murray’s character, and I want to see him succeed and be happy. The Evenfall books and movies, clearly a spoof on Twilight, were always funny when they were the focus of the story. And yet, the mystery of the book was weak, almost more a sub-plot in the middle of everything else. I’ve always struggled a bit with the overall premise of the series, but this time, it was extremely unbelievable. I am still hoping we get another book, especially since the ending set up another adventure. If you are interested in the series, I suggest you wait until you can get them cheaply.
Murder in an English Glade by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina #5) – 4
Edwina Davenport and Beryl Helliwell don’t know quite what to make of it when they are hired to conduct a fake investigation. Constance Maitland wants them to pretend to investigate her sister-in-law so her cousin will shut up about the affair she is sure the sister-in-law is having. The Maitlands are hosting an artist colony, providing the perfect cover for Edwina and Beryl to slip in and observe. But they’ve only been there a few hours when a dead body turns up. Is their fake investigation involved?
It is always a pleasure to revisit these friends and business partners during the early 1920’s. Edwina and Beryl are very different and come from different backgrounds, but they complement each other so well, and I love seeing the growth in their characters. The suspects are just as strong. We don’t quite see as much of the other series regulars, but I did enjoy the scenes they got. The plot is strong with plenty to keep us engaged. I did feel the ending was a bit rushed, and one aspect wasn’t completely resolved. As always, there’s gentle humor throughout the book that makes it just that much more delightful. This book will please fans of the series. If that isn’t you yet, you should fix that today.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico (Catering Hall Mysteries #3) – 4
The Belle View Catering Hall is busy with events as Christmas approaches, but Mia Carina gets distracted when the Boldano family asks for her help. Someone has shown up claiming to be Jamie’s long-lost brother. That’s a shock since Jamie didn’t even know he was adopted. Things get even more heated when Mia finds a dead body in her neighborhood. Can she figure out what is going on?
Those new to the series are in for a treat. Yes, this is a different cozy series since we have mobsters as characters and it is set in Queens. Yet these elements don’t overwhelm, and this feels like a cozy series. That’s mostly thanks to the characters, who come across as very real and likeable. In addition to the puzzling mystery, there are multiple sub-plots, which keep things hopping as we read the book. I did feel the climax didn’t quite work. Our questions are answered, but it was just a bit much. There’s plenty of Christmas spirit in this book, including a hilarious sub-plot about a Christmas light display contest. We get seven recipes and a couple of event tips at the end of the book. Fans new and old will enjoy spending this Christmas with Mia.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.