Anyway, it's time to look back at what I read this month. As always, the links take you to my full review. And the links will take you to my full review. I got the index updated this month as well.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Murder in the Mountains by Various Authors (Destination Murders Collection #2) – 5
It’s murder and mayhem in the mountains in this collection of nine short stories. We get mountains from all over the world and stories set in every season, not just ski season. From a deadly hike or two to a hot chocolate contest with a dead body, there is plenty to keep you entertained.
Each story is from a different author, and each story is fun. A couple are filled with enough other things going on that the mysteries are short changed, but those are the exceptions. Many of these characters have appeared elsewhere, but that doesn’t truly matter as each story introduces you to the characters. These stories are on the long side for short stories; they averaged about 45 minutes each for me to read, so there is plenty here to keep you entertained. If you are missing a mountain vacation, this collection is perfect for you. Personally, I’m going to stay home where it is safe and pick up another book.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
The Twist and Shout Murder by Teresa Trent (Swinging Sixties Mysteries #1) – 4
It’s 1962 in Camden, Texas, and Dot Morgan is almost done with her secretarial schooling. But she’s taking on helping her father with a run for the local city council. However, the election hits a snag when her father’s opponent dies. The police think it was a tragic accident, but Dot thinks something else is going on. The trouble is, if she convinces the police that it was murder, will she and her father become the top suspects?
It did take me a couple of chapters to get fully into this book, mainly because I felt like I was trying to remember all the characters and their relationships to each other. But once I got that sorted out, I was hooked. There are plenty of complications for Dot to deal with, and I enjoyed seeing how she dealt with everything. She is strong. There are plenty of great characters, including a potential love interest. That time in history is also brought to life, including the changes society was going through. I already can’t wait to see these characters again. If you are looking for a fun historical mystery, you’ll be glad you picked up this one.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel (The Vinyl Detective #1) – 3
He joking called himself the Vinyl Detective, but that brought a beautiful woman to his door. Her employer wants him to track down a very rare jazz record. Considering the fee he would get, he quickly agrees to the job. However, when a dead body turns up and someone starts following him, the question becomes will he find the record? Or is it even worth it?
I was amused to discover after I’d finished the book that we never do get the main character’s name. However, reading the book, it never felt awkward, especially with the first-person narration. And that didn’t lessen the character at all. In fact, he leads a great cast that I enjoyed spending time with. Unfortunately, the plot was slow and repetitive. There were some good twists and complications, but they were too few. Plus, we were left with some questions that needed to be answered. On the other hand, I really did enjoy the banter between the characters; this had me chuckling and laughing as I read. I was curious about the series, but I doubt I will be back for more.
Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #19) – 5
Frank Malloy’s new private investigation business has only been open a few months, but it hasn’t gotten him any interesting cases until the Northrups walk in. Their daughter Abigail has just been murdered on the campus of the women’s college where she taught. Her parents want to know what happened without the press getting wind of a scandal to ruin her reputation. Soon, Frank’s new wife, Sarah, is helping him figure out what happened to Abigail. With several competing motives, will they figure out the truth?
As always, this was an excellent trip back to 1890’s New York City. The story was fast paced, so even when I was ahead of the characters, it wasn’t for that long. And I still wasn’t sure about who the killer was until we reached the logical conclusion. Of course, it’s always great to spend time with the characters, and I love how Frank and Sarah’s world continues to evolve. I also enjoy the humor that the characters and their relationships provide. It’s a nice balance to some of the more serious themes the series tackles. This book will please fans of the series. Believe me, it is worth the time invested in catching up if you are still behind on the series like I am.
FoxTrot Sundaes by Bill Amend – 5
This collection features just over two years’ worth of Sunday strips from the comic strip FoxTrot. Originally released in 2010, this was the first collection since cartoonist Bill Amend semi-retired, only releasing new strips on Sundays. This is the first collection since he made that switch, and it has all new material.
The jokes may be familiar with the fans of the strip since the characters really haven’t changed, but that doesn’t make them any less fun. I actually haven’t read the strip much in recent years, and it was great reconnection with these old friends. Even if I saw a punch line coming, I would laugh, and I smiled my entire way through the book. A few of the strips may be dated since they refer to then current events, but that’s a minor issue for me.
A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild (Molly Madison #1) – 3
Molly Madison and her dog have relocated to Pier Point, California, and she is looking forward to starting all over. However, she has not completely unpacked before a dog she is dog sitting uncovered a hand in the sand of a nearby beach. With the police looking at Molly as a suspect because of a scandal in her past, she has to figure out what is going on. But if she doesn’t even know her neighbors, can she do that?
I picked up this book because of the Southern California setting, and I loved that. Even though Pier Point is fictional, I could easily picture it. I also enjoyed meeting Molly and the rest of her neighbors. They are slightly eccentric, but not so over the top that they didn’t still feel real. There are plenty of dogs, and they are equally charming. Unfortunately, the pacing of the book is very off. It was slow in the beginning, focusing on Molly settling into her new life. The ending, while logical, was rushed. That kept me from fully enjoying what was a promising debut.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Nun But the Brave by Alice Loweecey (Giulia Falcone-Driscoll #6) – 5
Giulia Driscoll has been hired by a young woman to find her missing twin sister. Joanne has been missing for a couple of months. The police are sure that she is dead, but her sister refuses to give up hope. Giulia starts by talking to Joanne’s friends and co-workers, and she find that Joanne had been acting differently the last few months before she vanished. The trail leads Giulia to several internet dating sites, but where will the trail end?
I’d forgotten just how funny this series was until I picked this book up. I loved the banter between Giulia and those in her life. Some of the humor was on the crude side, but it was still handled as delicately as possible. The plot was good. She made a couple of leaps of logic early on, but, I was willing to let that slide. The plot holds up well on, and everything is resolved with evidence Giulia finds along the way by the time we reach the climax. The characters are wonderful. They may make us laugh, but there is depth to them that makes us care about the outcome. If you are looking to laugh as you read, be sure to check out this book.
“U” is for Undertow by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #21) – 5
When Michael Sutton comes into Kinsey Millhone’s office one afternoon, he comes with a tale about two men he’d seen burring something in the woods twenty-one years earlier. As a six-year-old, he believed their story that they were pirates digging for treasure, but after seeing an article about a kidnapping that took place about the same time, Michael is certain there is a connection. The catch? He doesn’t know where he was at the time. With very little to go on, Kinsey agrees to take the case. Will she find anything?
This is an excellent book in the series. While we know more than Kinsey does for most of the book, watching Kinsey figure things out keeps the pages turning. We spent time in the past as well as Kinsey’s present of 1988 to fully understand how things played out, and it always works. Kinsey is a fun main character, and a recurring series storyline comes back into play in this book, allowing for some growth for her. The rest of the cast are just as strong. I knew going in that this book would have more content than I typically get in the cozies I read, but there was some stuff in the final quarter of the book that could have been trimmed without it impacting anything. Still, overall, fans of this long running series will be happy with this book.
Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush (Coffee Lover’s Mysteries #1) – 4
Lana Lewis has moved back home to Devil’s Beach, an island off the Florida coast, and taken over running her late mother’s coffee shop. One of the best and worst things about her new life is her employee, Fabrizio "Fab" Bellucci. Fab is a great barista, but his shameless flirting gets on Lana’s nerves, especially since Fab has a reputation as a lady’s man to go along with it. When Fab quits without any warning, Lana has a public confrontation with him. The next morning, she discovers his dead body. The police are saying it was a tragic accident, but Lana thinks something else happened to him. Can she prove it?
After a bit of a slow start, this book picks up and presents some interesting twists along the way to a logical conclusion. There are plenty of suspects, and they are well-drawn enough to keep us guessing. I did wish that we learned a little less about Fab’s love life and that Lana’s attraction to the police chief were turned down a notch, but both are minor issues overall. I feel like we have a small core of regulars here, but I really like them. As a non-coffee drinker, I didn’t find the talk of coffee went too far, and I’m sure that coffee lovers will find this book makes them reach for their favorite mug. This is a fun debut, and I hope to visit Lana again soon.
Singing in the Dark by Ginny Owens – 5
Christian recording artist Ginny Owens presents ten chapters that take us to Scripture to look at the songs we can sing to God no matter what our circumstances are. No, these aren’t all taken from Psalms. Yes, she does stretch the definition of song a bit (which she acknowledges). But as we look at songs of praise and victory, laments, and a song for the plodding path, you will be encouraged and challenged a time or two.
Each chapter focuses on the person and story behind the passage we are studying, but Ginny makes these familiar elements fresh and brings out new insights. She also shares openly about her own struggles, including what she still struggles with.
The chapters around 15 to 20 pages each, and could be done as devotionals. I read the book over a couple of days, and I still found it encouraging. I plan to go back and revisit it at a slower pace soon. There is a lot to unpack here.
If you need encouragement in your life, you’ll be glad you picked up this book.
Forbidden City by James Ponti (City Spies #3) – 5
While on a recent mission, Paris discovered some bonus intel, and that turns out to be a valuable find. It leads MI6 to believe that the evil organization Umbra is going to kidnap one of North Korea’s nuclear scientists. If MI6 wants to get him to defect first, they need to find a way to approach him. Given North Korea’s secrecy and security, that won’t be easy. However, the scientist’s son is a top chess player, and he is planning to enter a couple of international tournaments. So Paris tries to upgrade his own chess skills so he can join the tournaments. Will Paris and the rest of the team be able to make contact with the scientist? Is he even interested in defecting?
Having enjoyed the first two in this series, I was looking forward to this book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This book is Paris’s time to shine, but all the other characters get their own smaller moments, and I continue to love their relationships. We get some surprising advancement on one series plot thread, although others are only mentioned in passing. I do feel like the other books in the series had a bit more action, but with all the angles the teams uses to approach their mission, I was never bored. We get a few laughs along the way, and even when we aren’t laughing, it’s just fun to be around the characters. Fans will enjoy this latest book. I’m already looking forward to their next mission.