I've also got my reading summary for the month. And I finally got the index updated as well. Been too long since I updated it.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great). The links will take you to my full review.
Spy School: Project X by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #10) – 5
Any student will tell you that finals is a stressful time, but it is even more so at Spy School. After all, not only do you have to pass your classes, but failing could lead to serious pain. Ben Ripley has something extra to worry about since he’s been summoned to the principal’s office. Fortunately, he is running a little late since, while he is on the way, the principal’s office explodes. Another attack confirms it – assassins have targeted Ben. Fortunately, Ben’s friend, Erica Hale, knows exactly who is behind it. Unfortunately, that means a trip to find and confront this villain with danger around every corner. Will Ben make it?
This was another wonderful book in the series. The action is almost non-stop, yet it never feels forced into the story but is instead a result of Ben’s need to stop the attempts on his life. There’s also plenty of humor, often coming from the over the top (in the best way) action sequences but sometimes coming from the characters. Speaking of characters, there were a couple of slower moments, which allowed for some good growth. I’m intrigued by the tease at the end of the book, so I’m anxiously awaiting the next entry in the series. If you are a fan old or new, you’ll enjoy this book.
Staged 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton (Sophie Kimball #3) - 4
The Booked 4 Murder book club is thrilled to find the local theater is putting on a production of The Mousetrap and asking the residents of the local retirement community to participate. Naturally, everyone is excited to be part of the cast and crew. Since Sophie Kimball’s mother lands a part in the play, she expects she will hear all about it in detail. What she doesn’t expect is that someone will find the dead body of Miranda Lee, the star, on the catwalk above the stage one day. Yes, Miranda was being a diva with a capital D, but who would want to kill her?
I was glad I finally found time to return to Sophie’s world. Fans of the play will appreciate references to it and other Agatha Christie works, but knowing the play isn’t a requirement, and nothing is spoiled. There is plenty of action to keep things going. The climax was fun, but there was a bit too much to it. The Booked 4 Murder ladies were mostly balanced between funny and annoying, and I laughed as I read. Sophie is a great main character, and I enjoyed the bit of romance. Hopefully, it won’t be as long before I get to the next book in the series.
Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver (Kelly Jackson #4) - 4
The community of Redwood Cove is getting ready for the annual mushroom festival. It includes a mushroom hunting contest that is bring out the worst in some of the residence. Kelly Jackson witnesses several fights, including between the people attending a mushroom class she is hosting at her bed and breakfast. However, she is still surprised when a dead body is found. As she and the Silver Sentinels, a group that works to solve problems in the community, start to investigate, they find motives beyond the mushroom festival. Can they figure out what is happening?
It was nice to get to reconnect with Kelly and her friends. They make a great group of characters, and I love seeing their relationships grow in this book. It was also interesting to watch the suspects evolve as the book progressed. The book managed to surprise me as to who the victim was going to be, something that doesn’t often happen. It kept me guessing on the killer until Kelly figured it out, too. If you are looking for a light cozy, this is the book for you.
The Plot and the Pendulum by Jenn McKinlay (Library Lover’s Mysteries #13) – 4
It’s October in Briar Creek, and local gossip is stirring thanks to the return to town of William Dorchester whose ex-girlfriend vanished a few weeks after marrying someone else. But Lindsey Norris, director of the local library, is more interested in the books that he is donating to the library. The catch is, she needs to pack them up from the Dorchester mansion on the edge of town, a mansion that seems to be trying to creep Lindsey and her friends out even before they make a shocking discovery. Can Lindsey figure out what is going on?
This book is perfect for its October release day. It’s got a spooky edge to it, but fans of the series don’t need to worry, we still have plenty of laughs and fun with the characters we know. I appreciate how the large cast is balanced with some of them given more page time, but everyone making an appearance. The pacing of the plot was a bit uneven, with a bit too much set up leading to an abrupt climax. Still, along the way, we get some fun surprises and suspects. As always, we get some good extras for a book club meeting like Lindsey hosts at the library. If you are looking for a slightly spooky book filled with fun, be sure to pick this one up.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson (Gaslight Mysteries #23) – 5
When Gino’s sister-in-law shows up at the detective agency Frank Malloy now owns, she is looking for help. One of the volunteers at the settlement house where she volunteers in her neighborhood of Italian Harlem has been kidnapped by the Black Hand. Soon Sarah has joined her husband, Frank, and Gino is trying to figure out what has happened. But just as they think they’ve gotten a handle on what is happening, a murder happens and Gino is the only suspect. Can they clear him before the Black Hand decides to take revenge on him?
It was a pleasure to jump back to 1900 once again and visit these characters. The action unfolds quickly. While I figured a few things out before the characters, I didn’t have the entire picture put together until they did. I did feel the final chapter felt forced into the book, but that was a minor complaint. I love spending time with these characters. We don’t see all the supporting players, but I was happy with some of the advances we saw for the core characters. I also enjoyed the seeds planted for some upcoming historical events. I’m so glad I’ve spent the time reading this series. Anyone who enjoys a good historical mystery will enjoy it as well.
Live, Local, and Dead by Nikki Knight (Vermont Radio Mysteries #1) - 1
Jaye Jordan is making a go of it at the local Vermont radio station she has bought. However, some of the changes she has made haven’t been hits with all her neighbors. When she finally has enough with two of them protesting outside her station, she takes their gun and fires it into a snowman. Unfortunately, the snowman was hiding the dead body of Edwin Anger, a conservative talk show host whose syndicated show Jaye had just taken off her station. How did he get there?
A body in a snowman is an intriguing premise, so I went into this book with high hopes. Sadly, it was obvious fairly early on the book wasn’t going to deliver on them. The problem starts with the characters. While Jaye and the rest of the obvious series regulars are fun characters, the cast is filled with conservative stereotypes that are the worst examples of liberal views of conservatives. Meanwhile the main characters said some things that made me roll my eyes. The plot was a series of events with hardly any investigation at all. More specific complaints would get into spoiler territory. There was quite a bit of (mostly foul) language as well. While the book does have some genuinely funny moments, they felt at odds with some of the things that were going on in the story. I kept reading, hoping the author had something up her sleeve that would redeem the book, but it never happened. I recommend you avoid this book.
Tall Tales by James Riley (Once Upon Another Time #2) – 5
It’s been a few weeks since the battle where Lena proved herself as a giant despite her small size. However, the Golden King is still out to control the entire world via shadow magic, and it soon becomes clear that Lena and genie in training Jin are the only ones who will be able to stop him. However, to do that, they will have to enter areas controlled by shadow magic. The fairy queens have told Lena she will have some tasks to accomplish to prove she is worthy of defeating the Golden King. Will she be successful? Or will she and Jin fall to the shadow magic before they even reach her first test?
This book has the unenviable job of bridging the gap between the beginning and the end of the trilogy while telling an entertaining story. And it succeeds wonderfully. There are plenty of twists and lots of action to make the pages fly by. This really is Lena and Jin’s story equally, and we get to watch it unfold from both of their points of view. We don’t see much of the other characters introduced in the first book, but we get some fun new characters to replace them. Then there’s the humor, including some fun meta moments, which help keep the book from getting too dark. There are some references to the events of author James Riley’s earlier Half Upon a Time trilogy, so this will leave you wanting to read those books if you haven’t yet. You’ll also be anxiously waiting for the final book in this trilogy to come out. I know I am.
A Christmas Candy Killing by Christina Romeril (Killer Chocolate Mysteries #1) – 4
Identical twins Alex and Hanna have made a life for themselves in a small Montana town, where they have opened Murder and Mayhem, a combination mystery bookstore and chocolate shop. In the time they’ve been here, Alex has become friends with Jane, one of their neighbors. Jane invites Alex over to view a true crime show because she believes that one of their neighbors is the killer still at large at the end of the episode. But when Alex arrives, she finds Jane’s dead body. The police think it was a robbery gone wrong, but Alex wonders if Jane was really onto something. Can she find the killer?
Between the culinary cozy theme and the Christmas setting, I have to give this debut a chance. I’m glad I did. The first couple of chapters had a bit too much background on Alex and Hanna, but once the murder happened, things picked up. I appreciated how the clues were folded into the story. Not that I figured out the killer using them. The characters are good, but they could be a little stronger. Likewise, the setting is good, but could be a little stronger. Both of these are minor complaints since I am definitely ready to visit my new friends and this location again soon. I enjoyed the Christmas timing as well. This is a delicious debut.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney (Braxton Campus Mysteries #2) – 4
When Kellan Ayrwick attends a dress rehearsal of King Lear with Nana D. and her friends, he expects the deaths to stay on stage. But not too long into the second act, he realizes that Gwendolyn Paddington isn’t asleep on his shoulder, but she’s passed away. Gwendolyn had been saying someone in her family was trying to kill her. Is that true? If so, can Kellan figure out who did it?
When you have a book with characters as dysfunctional as the Paddington family, it always makes me appreciate my own family. But it also makes for a great mystery plot, and that’s the case again here. There are plenty of twists along the way to catching the killer at the end. While some of the characters can be over the top, we care about enough of them, including Kellan, to keep us invested in the book. I did feel like the humor was hit and miss for me here. Sometimes, the character’s teasing worked, and other times it felt like they were picking on Kellan more than actually teasing him. Unfortunately, there were some timeline issues and a red herring that felt like it jumped quite a bit. Both could have been resolved with a good editor. There are several sub-plots involving Kellan and his family. While they veered a little more into soap opera territory than is typical for the books I read, they have me hooked and I can’t wait to make time for the next book to find out what happens.
Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart (Death on Demand #6) – 4
Annie and Max Darling have finally moved into their new house and are meeting their neighbors. Annie is less than delighted to find out that Sydney Cahill lives next door, mainly because Sydney made a pass at Max in front of Annie. Still, they can’t get out of attending the Cahill’s Valentine’s Day party. Then, that night, someone kills Sydney. Since their new neighborhood is gated, it quickly becomes obvious one of their neighbors is the killer. Can they figure out who did it?
This book has a few of the staples of the series, including the mass introduction of suspects, but that’s mainly worth noting in passing. Overall, it is fun. While the characters could be stronger, we do care, thanks mainly to Annie and Max. Max’s mother, Laurel, is visiting again, and she provides some great laughs along the way. The mystery is complex enough with enough twists and suspects to keep me guessing. It’s easy to see why this series is so beloved.
The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry (Garden Squad Mysteries #5) – 3
Lilly Jayne has received a suggestion that the Garden Squad look at the historic cemetery because some of the areas have been neglected. When Lilly and Delia head out there one afternoon, they find more problems than they were expecting. Yes, some areas desperately need to be weeded and tended to in other ways. But Lilly also finds more graves than she is expecting to see in the middle of historic family plots. While she isn’t completely sure if she can trust her memory or not, she begins to investigate. When a fresh body turns up above ground near the Jayne family’s crypt, Lilly starts digging deeper. Can she find what happened?
I always love getting to spend time with the Garden Squad. Their friendships are fantastic, and I love the town of Goosebush. The rest of the characters are strong as well. Unfortunately, I felt the pacing was off in this book, especially in the first half. This isn’t anything new for this series, but it felt worse than usual here. There is a good mystery, it just needed a little pruning, and once the action picked up, I was kept guessing until the end. As always, there are some garden tips at the end of the novel. I enjoyed visiting my friends again, and fans will as well, even if the plot could have been stronger.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.
No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly (Grilled Cheese Mysteries #2) – 4
Carly Hale is excited to be able to participate in the Balsam Dell fall food festival for the first time. However, one of her other contestants is throwing a wet blanket on things. Ferris Menard owns a sub shop across the village square, and he has turned his temper on Carly. The festival ends with him creating a public scene. However, the next day, he is found dead in his shop. A clue at the scene points of Carly’s boyfriend. Can she find the truth?
I enjoyed meeting this cast of characters in the first book, and they were just as charming and fun to be with here. The plot was strong. I thought I had it figured out early, but I quickly realized I was wrong. There was one element that wasn’t really resolved, but I still understood the killer and motive just fine. I enjoyed the fall setting and could feel the crispness in the air. I also appreciated the cheesy puns, especially in the sandwiches that Carly serves in her restaurant. Speaking of which, we get recipes for two of them at the end. I already have the next in the series pre-ordered, and I’m looking forward to reading it.
“Halloween Hoedowns Can be Deadly” by Ryan Rivers (A Bucket List Mysteries Short) – 5
New friends Levi Blue, a former tween actor, and Sho Tanaka, a disgraced nurse, are helping out at a Halloween hoedown in town. However, things take an unexpected turn when they find the dead body of the town’s librarian in a trunk. Since it’s doubtful she crawled in by herself, can the dynamic duo figure out what happened to her?
When this author crossed my radar a couple of weeks ago, I decided to read this short story right away since it fit the season. I’m so glad I did. While it may be a short story, it is packed with fun. I laughed multiple times, and at one scene in particular. I really liked the characters, and they felt strong even though this was a short story. And the plot was good with a nice twist and a great use of clues. I read it in under an hour, and now I can’t wait to see Levi and Sho again.