Reading Roundup Spring 2021

Welcome to the Spring Reading Roundup! I have been in a reading slump. Maybe some of you can relate to that lack of concentration that makes it difficult to focus on reading during this pandemic. Even as the world has started to reopen, I’ve still found it hard to concentrate on books. I also moved halfway across the country in May and had to declutter the old house and unpack the new one while helping my adult and college aged kids set up house in two different states.

So I’ve been squeezing my reading into little bits of time here and there. I haven’t done a roundup on here in awhile, so this one will cover March, April, and May. Titles cover a variety of genres, but my heart is still into the cozy.

During this time I started the Ice Cream Parlor series by Abby Collette. I got a chance to speak with her recently. Check out our conversation HERE about the series, writing habits, mystery twists, uncooperative love interests, upcoming titles, and a shared love for Pepsi.

Here are the books I read this Spring:

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

I’ve found a new favorite series. Heroine Bronwyn “Win” Crewse renovates and takes over management for her family’s ice cream parlor in Chagrin Falls. On her opening night (in October!), she wanders out to gather snow to make her grandmother’s recipe for snow ice cream and stumbles on the body of a man her family had bad blood with.

Win is happy to let the police handle it, despite her sleuth-loving friend Maisie, but then her father becomes the prime suspect. She has to find out whodunit before her father ends up in prison.

Abby Collette’s series is full of quirky, but believable, characters in an interesting setting. She includes some interesting twists and I was left guessing until the very end (and I’m pretty good at figuring out mysteries pretty early). Even if you do guess early, the journey is worth it.

Rating: 5 stars

Note: Reading this and the second book (see below) in the series inspired me to invite Abby Collette for our first “Get Cozy With…” author talk. Find it HERE.

Murder Likes It Hot by Tracy Weber

This tightly written mystery isn’t a comical cozy with quirky characters. It follows it the infertility journey of the main character, owner of a yoga studio, and her experiences at a center for homeless teens. When the director there is killed, she must unravel the mystery before runaway Rainbow gets convicted of the crime. This is not her first rodeo, as this is a later book in the series. I jumped in with this book and there were a few references to previous cases that I didn’t always get. There is no shortage of suspects and the end is satisfying. I’d read more of this series. I’m curious if they are all this heavy.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy. All opinions are my own. Rating: 4 stars

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

An interesting tale of intertwined lives that gives you a peek into the culture of food and how people relate to it. The book delves into each of the characters’ lives briefly, but not in a shallow way, and ends up showing how they all are connected in some way without hitting you over the head with it.

There is swearing and adult content, so be aware, but I think the character studies are really good in this and I like how the ends are tied up without being put into a nice bow. Plenty of shoutouts to Minnesotans in this one.

Rating: 4 stars

The Basement Quilt by Ann Hazelwood

Not what I expected, so I think that affected my view of the book. The plot involves a group of related women who put together a quilt in the basement of the mother’s home. It follows their lives and has some supernatural elements.

I read this for our book club and had the impression it was supposed to be a Christian book (which it only kind of was). I think that affected my ability to enjoy the book. 

It was well written, but it just didn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure what it was that didn’t click for me, but it just didn’t click.

Rating: 3 stars

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

This is a great survey of Joan Didion’s best essays. The subjects vary from a Gambler’s anonymous meeting to Martha Stewart. Each essay shows insight and research into the topic with a charming voice. Didion is a favorite of mine, especially Year of Magical Thinking. If you want a deep dive into Didion’s body of work, this is the book for you.

Rating: Five stars

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich

Another great Stephanie Plum book! Stephanie is protecting her Grandma Mazur from a group of gangsters known as the Lazy Boys (as in the chair) after her brand new husband Jimmy dies suddenly on their wedding day. Jimmy was the “keeper of the keys” and the Lazyboys want those keys. But someone else is after them too. 

Throw in a couple of quirky FTAs and Stephanie’s up to her neck in danger. Morelli and Ranger make appearances too.

The mix of characters is good in this one, and there’s lots of Lula, who I love. You get some insight into Connie’s connections as well. The ending is fun and leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4 stars

Irish Parade Murder by Leslie Meier

eslie Meier has done it again! She continues her Lucy Stone series with a fresh mystery about the death of a corrections officer and corruption in the county sheriff’s office. Ted Stillings has gotten a grant from the Truth Project and bought the Gilead Gabber, a weekly in a neighboring town. He’s also brought in hotshot new reporter from Cleveland Rob Callahan to bring a new take to local news. Lucy and Rob butt heads from the start, but when Rob is accused of murder, she comes to his aid. But can she overcome the grip of the county sheriff and get to the truth? 

The mystery is compelling and the characters are still fresh, yet familiar. We begin to see new sides to many of the regulars in Tinker’s Cove. Meier is a bit heavy handed with her focus on women’s place in society and the influence of the church. The Irish theme to the book also gets a bit forced. But after a wandering beginning, the book jumps to a compelling story that you can’t wait to finish. Another winner. I rated this four stars only because of the heavy-handed issues-focused parts. I like Lucy’s determination to stand up for herself and keep up with current trends and issues, but some of it was a little over the top and didn’t fit naturally into the story.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 stars

A Game of Cones by Abby Collette

A great follow up to the first book in this series. Bronwyn “Win” Crewse is doing swift business at her family’s ice cream parlor and doesn’t think she’ll be affected too much by the proposed new mall in town. But when the mall developer’s messenger is murdered following a meeting of business owners where the mall was announced, Win ends up sleuthing again (though still reluctantly). Maisie and her friend from New York (who stumbles on to the body and becomes a suspect) work together to figure out who the killer is before he (or she) has a chance to kill again.

I figured this one out just before the reveal, but the whole journey was satisfying. This latest twist on the traditional cozy mystery plot is fun, with whimsical characters and a whopper of a subplot that could throw Win’s whole world off kilter.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy. All opinions are my own. Still my favorite new series.

Rating: 5 stars

What have you been reading? Comment below with your latest picks.

Happy reading!

-Amy

Stay tuned! Weekend Reading posts on Friday. An overview of a popular series is coming Monday, and June/July Reading Roundup will follow next Wednesday.

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