Second Quarter Update/Midyear Check-in

Time for the Second Quarter Update and Midyear Goals Check-in! My overall reading numbers are lower than I would like due to a slump at the beginning of the year, but I am rather excited that I am doing so well with my nonfiction goals! I have been devouring nonfiction in 2019 which is awesome!

(A little back story for newbies to the page….I have a Master’s degree in History/Public History/Museum Management. Years of reading horrific academic style writing left me burned out on all things nonfiction. Which is sad, because I adore documentaries and reading nonfiction. So my midyear numbers make me happy! I’M BACK, BABY!)

Let’s start off with the Goals Check-in; these are the goals I shared in my 2019 Goals post. I’m pretty confident that I will reach my Total Books and Nonfiction goals by the end of the year! I haven’t made an effort to work on my 2018 Stragglers list, but we will see what the next six months holds!

Midyear 2019 Goals Check-in

Total Books Read:
Goal: 50 Current: 12

Nonfiction Read:
Goal: 12 Current: 6

2018 Stragglers:
Goal: 22 Current: 1

And now for my Second Quarter Summary! These are the books, separated by genre, that I finished in April, May, and June. (Once again…just look at those nonfiction numbers!)

Second Quarter Total: 8

Mystery: 1

Cozy Mystery: 2

Nonfiction: 5

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery
by Agatha Christie

As Jane Marple sat basking in the tropical sunshine she felt mildly discontented with life. True, the warmth eased her rheumatism, but here in paradise nothing ever happened. Then a question was put to her by a stranger: ‘Would you like to see a picture of a murderer?’ Before she has a chance to answer, the man vanishes, only to be found dead the next day. The mysteries abound: Where is the picture? Why is the hotelier prone to nightmares? Why doesn’t the most talked-about guest, a reclusive millionaire, ever leave his room? And why is Miss Marple herself fearful for her life?

Of note: A Caribbean Mystery introduces the wealthy (and difficult) Mr Jason Rafiel, who will call upon Miss Marple for help in Nemesis (1971) — after his death.

NOTE: A Caribbean Mystery is the last review of Vacation Mystery Week! Thank you all for tagging along and sharing in these vacation themed stories. Please check out one of my favorite Agatha Christie stories and let me know which books you love to read on vacation!

I was first introduced to Agatha Christie as a preteen. I spent many a night curled up on the couch with my mom binge watching David Suchet’s Poirot (and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and A&E’s Nero Wolfe). My mom is definitely responsible for my love of historical mysteries.

Now, I know I read a number of Agatha Christie novels as a preteen, but I cannot remember which ones, and I decided it was time to revisit her work after watching Murder on the Orient Express over the holidays. I found myself rewatching the old tv shows, and found A Caribbean Mystery to be the perfect read for the Caribbean cruise vacation I took last week.

I have always been a fan of Hercule Piorot, but GUYS, I forgot how much I loved the snarky Miss Marple! Miss Marple is on vacation in order to relax and maintain good health…which of course means that she is bored out of her mind. Then a man suddenly dies, the day after telling Miss Marple that he has a picture in his wallet of a murderer. Marple knows that something fishy has happened, and must discover the truth without her normal confidants.

I loved how our detective assumed a self-depreciation persona to gain information from her fellow guests. It’s refreshing how she does not lament her age, instead embraces it. She frequently rolls her eyes at the ignorance of youth and manipulates people’s preconceptions of ‘little old ladies’ to her advantage.

The mystery was interesting, twisted, and surprising. It kept me hooked and guessing until the very last page. Marple is relatable as she frequently brainstorms the facts in order to discover the culprit; she does just suddenly have the answers. My favorite part of A Caribbean Mystery was Marple’s conversation with the fantastically curt Mr. Rafiel. And it was kinda refreshing that Christie didn’t attempt to provide an explanation behind the murder’s behavior.

A Caribbean Mystery was fantastic and a mystery that I would recommend to anyone, especially those needing a light read for a beachy vacation! I have a feeling that I will be spending more time enjoying the adventures of Miss Marple this year.

Have you read A Caribbean Mystery? What is your favorite Agatha Christie story? Let me know and happy reading!

Lindsay

Murder on the SS Rosa

Murder on the SS Rosa
by Lee Strauss

It’s 1923 and young war widow fashionista Ginger Gold makes a cross-Atlantic journey with her companion Haley Higgins to London England to settle her father’s estate. When the ship’s captain is found dead, Ginger is only too happy to lend her assistance to the handsome Chief Inspector Basil Reed.

The SS Rosa delivers a convincing array of suspects ~ the wife, the mistress, a jealous crewmate. To Ginger’s dismay, her name has been added to the list! With a little help from Ginger’s dog Boss, Ginger and Haley navigate the clues (those wartime operative skills come in handy.) They must solve the case and clear Ginger’s name before they dock ~ and oh, whatever shall she wear!

NOTE: This is the last of the cozy-mystery reviews for Vacation Mystery Week. Murder on the SS Rosa is definitely my favorite cozy mystery on this list! Keep going for the review…

Amazon suggested I read the Ginger Gold box set, which contained the first three books of the cozy mystery series. Murder on the SS Rosa is the first book and it is set on a cruise ship. Folks, it was FATE! I had to read it. I had just finished A Subtle Murder and was REALLY needing a good vacation cozy mystery. Lee Straus delivered!

I enjoyed Murder on the SS Rosa. It was just well written. The first Ginger Gold book provides a detailed plot, a hardheaded protagonist, and a number of fully developed characters. And I mean each of these characters had distinct personalities, negative traits, positive traits, and plotted backstories. People…I don’t typically find this stuff when reading cozy mysteries. Most usually lack that one final rewrite before publication. So I really had fun reading it.

And I like Ginger Gold! I enjoyed her blunt honesty and shameless investigations. I liked her sweet friendship with Haley, her intelligence, her enjoyment of fine things. and her contemplation of both her past and her future. I like her so much that I immediately started the next book in the series.

The only negative I have was that it was a tad too short. Sure, cozy mysteries are not supposed to be long, but I would have appreciated 50 more pages of just detail. Murder on the SS Rosa needed just a little more descriptive language for the setting and the ending. But that’s it.

New to cozy mystery? I recommend this one. Fan of cozy mystery? I recommend this one. Burned out on cozy mysteries….I cant help fix that but this one is still good. Read Murder on the SS Rosa and let me know your favorite cozy mystery series!

Lindsay

Death in a Deck Chair

Death in a Deck Chair
by K.K. Beck

Young, innocent Iris Cooper, awarded a round-the world cruise by her doting and wealthy Aunt Hermione, is on the final lap of her voyage home. Her travels have prepared her for many of the types she meets on board: participants in a Balkan political intrigue, a vampy screen star, a muck-raking writer for a tattle-tale publication; a professor given to lecturing on the mind of the criminal lunatic; a prince who wants to be a jazz pianist. But she is not prepared for a murder. The captain recruits a reluctant Iris to take shorthand notes during the investigation, and soon Iris is on the trail of a dangerous murderer.

NOTE: Death in a Deck Chair is the book that hooked me on cruise ship mysteries. I loved this series and wish there had been more than just 3 books. Funny enough…the third book in the series is also a vacation mystery! Be sure to check out my reviews of Murder in the Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms.

May found me struggling with a pretty epic book hangover after rereading my favorite mystery, Every Secret Thing. I’ll go into more detail about book hangovers later in the week, but I eventually found a cure while watching A Book Olive’s video, Spring 2017 Book Haul, Part 2: Fiction. (please check out her site as she is one of my favorite booktubers) Olive talked about picking up a few historical cozy mysteries by K.K. Beck and my interest was peeked. I started the first in the series, Death in a Deck Chair, on my Kindle that very night!

I am a fan of Beck’ Iris Cooper series. Death in a Deck Chair, finds 19 year old Iris returning to America via cruise ship after a around-the-world tour with her hilarious Aunt Hermione. I found Iris to be rather relatable and extremely likable; I enjoyed her intelligence, snarky whit, and unflapable curiosity. And I adore Aunt Hermione as well. I would have jumped at the chance of traveling the world with this woman and it’s obvious Iris inherited her spunk from her aunt. And don’t even get me started on Jack Clancy (you’ll hear more about him in the next few days!)

Each character was unique, with vibrant well developed personalities and each hiding their own secrets. It was easy to picture each of them sauntering along the upper ship decks by day and sneaking around the corridors by night. What’s even better is the lack of an insta-love story for Iris. Sure there is some flirting and the swapping of steamy kisses, but Iris doesn’t lose her cool over some good looking chap. She is there to find a killer!

My only negative point is that I wanted more. You will be able to read my review of the rest of the series, Murder in a Mummy Case and Peril Under the Palms, this week and my main complaint will be that I wanted just a little more from each story. I related with the characters and Beck provides decent descriptions, but I feel these stories would have better longevity just a few extra pages worth of detailed descriptions and enhanced development. The could just be a flection of the times as the book, though set in the 1920s-1930s, was written in the early 80s. *shrugs shoulder* Readers should also know thateven though I  didn’t figure out who-dunnit before the end, there were times where I easily guessed what would happen next. So, those wanting a novel that will keep them guessing at every turn should probably steer clear of this series. 

Death in a Deck Chair is a great start to a fun cozy mystery series and the perfect read for a racing summer day. Go ahead and pick up all the books, cause you won’t be able to put them down once you join Iris in solving the mystery! 

Are you a fan of K.K. Beck? Have you read any of the Iris Cooper stories? Let me know what you think!

Lindsay

A Subtle Murder

A Subtle Murder
by Blythe Baker

Murder and intrigue on the Arabian Sea…

When Rose Beckingham sets sail for England in the summer of 1926, she brings more than souvenirs from her years in India. She carries the memory of a family tragedy and a secret so terrible it could destroy the new life she hopes to build in London.

But Rose isn’t the only passenger aboard the RMS Star of India with something to hide. Halfway across the Arabian Sea, death strikes and a murderer begins a deadly game only Rose can hope to end. 

With a mysterious Frenchman haunting her steps, can Rose outrun her past? And can she stay alive long enough to decipher the clues left by a taunting killer? Or will murder call again before the first port?

NOTE: This is the first of the three cozy mysteries to be shared this week. It is also my least favorite. Read on for more info…

Every summer I find myself desperate for new books that fulfill the following criteria:
1. summer mystery
2. fun story

I can feel you roll your eyes, but hear me out. I am a fan of dark thrillers and deep-thinker stories, but lying on the beach sand under a blazing sun in 100+ degree heat is not the time to be reading that stuff. No. I want to read a light fun story where, typically, our quirky female heroine captures the bad guy before afternoon tea. These types of stories are perfect for reading while listening to waves crash on to shore. I specifically search for these stories (hence the theme week) and found A Subtle Murder.

I was disappointed. A Subtle Murder wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t that great. I almost always feel guilty writing these types of reviews, but in this case…I know Blythe Baker could have done so much more.

The plot was good. It was well developed and planned out. I liked Rose Beckingham: her past, her secrets, and her personality. But that was where my enjoyment of the story ended. Nothing else seemed to be developed past the initial draft stage. The setting needed more description. The supporting characters were rather one-dimensional, with their negative traits overshadowing any positive attributes. I can not remember any of their names and I just finished the book last month!

I know Blythe Baker is a decent story teller, because I easily found myself drawn to Rose and her journey. She did a decent job writing that one specific character. And yet, here I am giving A Subtle Murder a resounding meh. This is my main issue with cozy mysteries. They are typically published while still needing one to two good draft edits where the author works on developing the background ‘fluff.’

I’d like to say I am tempted to continue the series just to find out what happens to Rose….but let’s be honest…I won’t be reading the next book in the series.

Are you a Blythe Baker fan? Does the series get any better? Do you have any vacation themed mysteries I should check out instead? Hit me with up any info you have!

Lindsay

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell
by Ashley Weaver

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim. 

Murder at the Brightwell is a delicious mystery in which murder invades polite society and romance springs in unexpected places. Weaver has penned a debut in the tradition of Jacqueline Winspear. 

NOTE: This is the first review for Vacation Mystery Week! It is a re-post from 2017 and I consider Murder at the Brightwell a full length novel. Now for the review…

I discovered Amory Ames through Olive at A Book Olive. (She’s also responsible for introducing me to the Iris Cooper series) She has only great things to say about the Amory Ames mystery series and I was in need of a new historical read featuring a snarky female detective. The first book, Murder at the Brightwell, was the perfect choice for my cruise vacation last March!

Amory is unhappy. She’s bored, and depressed at her rapidly deteriorating marriage to socialite Milo Ames. A welcome distraction arrives with Gil, the fiancé she jilted to marry Milo. Gil begs her to join him on holiday to help persuade his sister from jumping into a bad marriage. Amory agrees to help. She desperately needs an adventure and a chance at a different future. And then someone gets murdered!

I am hooked on Weaver’s Amory Ames series. Our heroine is smart, sharp tongued, and gloriously flawed. I immediately connected with her tendency to overthink everything and her stubborn refusal to backdown from a fight. She begins her investigation with the best intentions, to help a friend, but her quest quickly becomes one of selfish needs as she is desperate to find her own sense of purpose in the world. Thank you Ashley Weaver for not sugar coating Amory’s motives! (Seriously..isn’t this why we mystery lovers enjoy a good whodunnit?!)

I would recommend Murder at the Brightwell just because Amory is so well written. But…all the main characters are just as fantastically developed! The Brightwell Hotel is the perfect setting with its picturesque beach local. And I found myself guessing at the culprit’s identity right up until the big reveal!

Now is Murder at the Brightwell the perfect novel? No. You can tell the historic British story is written by a modern American due to the overall tone. It is what it is. I will also admit to not being a fan of Milo. Don’t take this to mean that he was poorly written because that’s not the case; his personality isn’t one that would mesh with mine. I liked him well enough, just not enough to really root for him to win Amory’s affections. I didn’t really root for Gil either for that fact. I didn’t find the romantic element of the story necessarily engaging. I enjoyed Murder at the Brightwell because of Amory and her murder investigation.

Murder at the Brightwell is the perfect summer read. I definitely recommend the story if you enjoy a strong willed female detective! Let me know if you’re also a fan of Amory Ames!

Lindsay

Vacation Mysteries!

It’s time for a theme week!

Every summer finds me reading mysteries set in a tropical local. I really enjoy reading a tropically book while enjoying a summer day at the beach. But earlier this month I realized a number of these stories take place when our main characters are on a vacation. What is more fun (and corny) than reading a vacation mystery while on vacation? Nothing!

I compiled a list of these vacation books and decided to share a few with you. Just in case you need a light vacation mystery while on vacation. I will be sharing reviews of five books. They are all historical mysteries. Two are considered full length mysteries; three are cozy. Three of these novels have been previously reviewed so I will be re-sharing my reviews. Two of these novels are new reads!

These theme weeks are fun for me to do so please let me know if you would like to see these more often (aka more than once a year). Please let me know of any additional books that fit the theme! I am always looking to add more to my TBR!

Lindsay

Summer Reading!

Summer is here! And is there really a better way to spend a day at the beach than with a good book?

Here is my Summer reading recommendations. I have read, or am in the process of reading, each book. Let me know if any of these are one your list!

Mystery

Cozy Mystery

Nonfiction

Classic

Pirates

Historical Fiction

Destination Unknown

Destination Unknown

by Agatha Christie

5

In Agatha Christie’s gripping international thriller Destination Unknown, a woman at the end of her rope chooses a more exciting way to die when she embarks upon an almost certain suicide mission to find a missing scientist.

When a number of leading scientists disappear without a trace, concern grows within the international intelligence community. And the one woman who appears to hold the key to the mystery is dying from injuries sustained in a plane crash.

Meanwhile, in a Casablanca hotel room, Hilary Craven prepares to take her own life. But her suicide attempt is about to be interrupted by a man who will offer her an altogether more thrilling way to die. . . .

Destination Unknown is my favorite Agatha Christie novel (so far)! Pretty sure you now know how this review is going to go….

The weather was turning muggy and I wanted an Agatha Christie novel to take to the beach. Her stories are typically the perfect length and tone for a lazy weekend reading and listening to the waves crash on the shore. I wasn’t necessarily in the mood to peruse the next instalment of the Miss Marple or Piroit series, so I picked up one of her stand-alone stories. And I openly admit that I picked Destination Unknown solely because of the cover. I mean look at it! Airplanes! I was in.

(Don’t even pretend that you don’t pick up books because of the cover. WE ALL DO! That’s the whole point of books having a cover.)

The mystery and suspense is the best aspect of any Agatha Christie novel, so I will not be going into too much detail about the plot. I don’t want to spoil it! Just know the story was fantastic. The plot progressed quickly, with Christie providing just enough detail to keep me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Everything tied together perfectly and I didn’t figure out ‘who-dunnit’ before our heroine. And speaking of the heroine, I enjoyed reading this story from Hilary’s point of view. She is smart, witty, and surprisingly average making her a relatable character. Readers can easily connect with her emotions, which range from grief to hope to curiosity, and feel as if we are traveling the unknown roads right next to her. Hilary is the reason I enjoyed this story so much.

I do have one negative point and it contains SPOILERS. Look away if you must! I was left wanting more development when it comes to Hilary’s relationships. The last half of the book finds her forced into a relationship with one man while she is subtly developing feelings for another. I knew this was happening; I was all about it happening! I just wanted a little bit more. I wanted more passages detailing her struggles, her strain to keep up appearances, and her hopes for the future. We know she wants to escape but I wanted to know more about her hopes for after the planned escape. The ending felt a tad rushed and I wasn’t ready to say good-bye. That’s all for the negatives!

Agatha Christie is definitely the Queen of Suspense and Destination Unknown will be one of my top mystery recommendations of the year. It is perfect if you are in need of a quick summer suspense!

Let me know which story is your favorite by Agatha Christie and happy reading!

Lindsay

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

Island of the Sequined Love Nun

by Christopher Moore

2

Take a wonderfully crazed excursion into the demented heart of a tropical paradise—a world of cargo cults, cannibals, mad scientists, ninjas, and talking fruit bats. Our bumbling hero is Tucker Case, a hopeless geek trapped in a cool guy’s body, who makes a living as a pilot for the Mary Jean Cosmetics Corporation. But when he demolishes his boss’s pink plane during a drunken airborne liaison, Tuck must run for his life from Mary Jean’s goons. Now there’s only one employment opportunity left for him: piloting shady secret missions for an unscrupulous medical missionary and a sexy blond high priestess on the remotest of Micronesian hells. Here is a brazen, ingenious, irreverent, and wickedly funny novel from a modern master of the outrageous.

Here is the setting: I am standing in the airport waiting for my flight on a bleak January evening. The pit of my stomach aches with the unnecessary stress that always accompanies the holidays and, thankfully, the airport bar is open. I shoot a whiny text to my best friend expressing my despair of not having a funny tropical book to get me through family vacation. She’s a gem and readily suggests Island of the Sequined Love Nun. I curse spotty wifi and download the book (I didn’t even read the book blurb) while sitting at the airport bar waiting for a shot of tequila. Guys….it turned out to be the perfect read to pull me out of my grumpy slump!

I am not providing a summary; the one above is perfectly vague and tantalizing. We are just going to jump into the review. I loved it. I mean…WWII flight exploits, Cargo Cults, live nose art, and perfectly detailed flight scenes…is there any question why I enjoyed this story?

drunk independence day GIF

It helps Island of the Sequined Love Nun also provides a complex plot, well developed characters, and tons of laughs. First: the characters are well rounded with each having individual flaws, positive qualities, and obvious personal growth. (Well. Except for the villains; however, they are delightfully crappy). Second: the setting is so effortlessly perfect. One minute you’re reading about Tucker traipsing through the jungle and the next you can taste the island grog and feel a bead of sweet roll its way down your butt crack. Moore is a quirky master of his craft.

HOWEVER….this is definitely the type of book you have to be in a specific mood to read. That is really going to be the only negative comment I have about the story. I mean there is a talking fruit bat and a holy poker game. It’s hilarious; it’s wacky. I picked up Island of the Sequined Love Nun because I desperately needed an easy laugh and it immediately delivered. But, I didn’t finish the book in one reading. I put it down and read something else when I experienced a change in mood. I picked it back up when I was ready to laugh again. And I enjoyed it!

This is the story I would recommend for those needing a funny, laugh-out-loud read to start off a beach vacation. It helped me get through the stress of a family vacation and frustrating time at work. I turned that last page (figuratively since I read it on my Kindle) while at the beach enjoying the perfect Florida spring weather. It was equally enjoyable on a sunny beach and gloomy airport. So read it!

Let me know if you’re a Christopher Moore fan and please share your summer reading list! Happy Reading!

Lindsay