Book Review – How to Instant Pot: Mastering All the Functions of the One Pot That Will Change the Way You Cook by Daniel Shumski.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Workman Publishing Company for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, starting with my honesty… I don’t own an Instant Pot. I do have a slow cooker/ pressure cooker all in one from Philips I was sent a few years ago to review and I do so love it. Being a fan of slow cooking and the occasional pressure cooking, I still felt this would be an interesting and useful cookbook. It was. But, as said, I don’t have an Instant Pot and I went into reading and reviewing ‘How to Instant Pot’ knowing I was at a disadvantage to truly getting the most out of this book. My fault, not theirs and my rating is not based on this at all.

Saying all that, I could therefore be wrong when I say I felt this looked to be a pretty helpful and comprehensive cookbook for those who own an Instant Pot. I mean, for one thing it is a LOT more detailed and helpful than anything I have ever received, or found online, from Philips or from others on how to use my Philips All-In-One.

‘How to Instant Pot’ starts with a good introduction not only to this book itself, but also to how to USE your Instant Pot. Always important to know, when learning to use a new kitchen appliance. The details were clear precise, and came with good images when needed. It not only went over what the different physical parts of the Instant Pot were, but what the different settings it had did.

There are then different sections of recipes, tips and tricks for the different functions an Instant Pot has. Pressure Cooking, Slow Cooking, Steamer, Rice Cooker, etc… All laid out nice and neatly in clear to understand and following instructions with some pretty gorgeous images of certain meals lined up with their ingredients and methods.

I could not fault the overall format and layout. It was perfect for ‘how to’ cookbook of this nature. I have no idea what the paper format actually looks like, but I would love if it was in ring binder form for easy flip access throughout the different sections. But maybe that is just me?

If I loved it so much, why did I give such an average rating? Well, if I am honest, there just wasn’t a heck of a lot in ‘How to Instant Pot’ that I would make or eat… Not in the ways it instructs you to. But this is down to my own boring food allergies and intolerances, my family’s preference for how meals taste and, well, because I have been cooking similar recipes a certain way for 30 odd years and I can’t see the slight differences shown in ‘How to Instant Pot’ worth the change and possible dissent from my fussy kids and husband.

So, my averaging rating is due to personal reasons and not at all to do with the high quality of work displayed in ‘How to Instant Pot’. I am simply the wrong person for this book and the faults are all with me.

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Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Admittedly I would mainly be saying to people they would really benefit from having an Instant Pot to get the very most out of this cookbook… but to be honest, anyone struggling to figure out how to use their new All-In-One and who can’t find decent help or cook books from the appliance maker (yes Philips, I am talking about YOU), I really do feel they may get some good help too.

Yes it won’t be EXACTLY the same or 100% helpful if they aren’t using an Instant Pot… but there is still a LOT of beneficial information, and helpful recipes within ‘How to Instant Pot’ that a Philips user may finally be able to get their All-In-One to work too.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Sadly, no. But again, I want to emphasise this is purely because I, personally, didn’t get a lot out of it. The fault lies with me the reader and not the book. It is a good book, just not a good match to me.

In summary: A good, in-depth look at how to use an Instant Pot, may be helpful in how to use other, similar, All-In-One appliances.

Book Review – In My World by Jillian Ma.

5 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Future Horizons for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

I read, and am therefore, reviewing this book with my 8 year old HFASD son. He is the one that gave the rating as this is a book more for him than me.

My son, who I refer to online as Horde#3, read ‘In My World’ to me (with a little help on some words) and said it was a “wonderful, colourful, good, great, perfect story on persistency”.

We discussed ‘In My World’ after we had read it and I explained how it was about people accepting Autism as being a different way of seeing the world and helping that world and ours become more accessible. My son said it was all about all the amazing things he can do in his head and how, with the help of friends, those things can start to happen outside of his head too.

He also loved that it was a picture book about a child like him, who has Autism, and how it is shows what we call his superpowers (Amazing Autism) is in others too just waiting to come out.

Now for my review – I loved the images and colours used, the interaction of the boy in his world, the colour changes to demonstrate the differences and the basic beauty of it all.

Being Neuro Diverse myself (and having three ND kids) I would have liked to seen a girl and her Amazing Autism too… But the book is about “MY” world and so justified as to why it is only about a boy. Maybe a girl’s one can be done? As Amazing Autism does “hide” in girls in different ways to boys. Maybe I am just being to modern and new age about it all! 😉

The graphics and layout are excellent. My son loved seeing all the little things the pages had in them. And I, personally, loved the meditating picture and would happily have it framed and hung on a wall in our house it was just so…. RIGHT! It’s hard to explain, but that single picture spoke volumes through its colours, shading and depiction of the child connecting to his inner calm. So beautiful.

In My Worldnib

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would… and not just to people with ASD kids. Possibly not even to kids who are Neuro Diverse. This is a book about explaining how we are all different. Where inside us the world is one way and we can do all these amazing things… and the outside world can be scary and hard to follow without the right guidance and acceptance of our differences. Whether that be our different perspectives of the world, our different languages, cultures, etc.

‘In My World’ isn’t just about Autism. It is about difference and how easy it is to accept, assist (if needed) and embrace it.

So yes, if you have a child at this level of reading (age is not the factor, their reading level is) then yes I would recommend this book as it teaches some important skills about differences and acceptance.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I will need to see if it is available in Australia in the paper form as I found it such a calming, interesting and fun book to read, or have read to me. Simply gorgeous.

In summary: This story is about a lot more than autism, it’s about different and acceptance. Highly recommended.

 

Book Review – Murder on the Sugarland Express by Angie Fox.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Moose Island Books for providing me with an electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, I am still catching up! I finished this book back in January and am only now popping in the review.

Here and now I will state I am a HUGE fan of ‘The Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery Series’ and so did a little happy dance when I was approved to read this ARC of ‘Murder on the Sugarland Express’.

This is the 6th book in ‘The Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery Series’ and gels perfectly with the other books in the series. It’s not a rehash or a cookie cutter repeat of the same stuff – she see ghosts, solves mysteries – and anyone who says that needs to be banned from reading. End of. 😉

Although the main characters are still the same ones we’ve been reading throughout the series, ‘Murder on the Sugarland Express’ is an adventure on its own. Characters are developing, relationships – good and bad – are progressing and there are ghosts who are there to often hinder more than help… or so it sometimes seems. The same light hearted, tongue in cheek southern style moments are there too and they simply add to the richness of it all.

The descriptions of the places visited by Verity, as well as the train itself – simply gorgeous and proof research has been done by Ms Fox to ensure we the reader is getting what we came for.

There’s not so much from Lucy the skunk in this book… but not all the books can centre around such a little cutie. Instead we get to delve into Verity’s relationship with her boyfriend Ellis, her ex-fiancé Beau and their mother. It was interesting to see how her interaction with these three characters progressed and I feel there is a story of two to follow to continue on to explain why people are starting to act the way they are.

Or is that just wishful thinking, as I really want Ms Fox to WRITE MORE!? 😉

I have to add that I also enjoyed the few nail biting moments laced through the book. I won’t go and spoil things by describing them here… but well played Ms Fox, thank you of robbing me of my sleep for a few nights as I simply HAD to finish! 😀

Murder on the Sugarland Express

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. It’s a cosy crime/ mystery and so more light hearted and “fluffy” than other crime series I read. But it was still a very enjoyable story.

However, I really would recommend people go and get/ read the first 5 books in ‘The Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery Series’ first. I suppose you could read ‘Murder on the Sugarland Express’ as a standalone… but you would be doing yourself and Ms Fox an injustice. Just go get them, read them and thank me later, okay?

Would I buy this book for myself?

Most definitely! I absolutely LOVE this series and ‘Murder on the Sugarland Express’ was as good a read as the others have been, and so am happy to go buy a copy to enjoy.

In summary: A continuation of the thrills, chills, and love in Verity Long’s life. I highly recommend this book.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Seagull by Ann Cleeves.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Pan Macmillan for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, being open and honest and not trying to brag or name drop… I have met Ann Cleeves and would like to consider myself a distant friend (who still owes her lunch). 😉 I knew her as a friend via social media long before I realised she was an author (I can be slow on the uptake people) and despite all this I ALWAYS treat her books the same way I treat books from authors I don’t know or have not met. But, to be honest, in these days of social media and connecting with each other – I talk online to a LOT of authors I am a fan of. No difference, no biased, this review is based solely on what I thought of the book and not what I think of the author.

Okay, here we go…

Yet another great true crime book by Ms Cleeves. I am late to the party when it comes to reading her work, but have really enjoyed all the Vera Stanhope books I have read. They contain that descriptive flow of words that connects the reader to the story, puts them at that location, shows them around and eases them through the story… before smacking them in the back of the head with the whodunit! 😉

The story starts with an interesting little snippet from the past… something to keep you wondering throughout the rest of the book as to how it is connected.

The characters – recurring and new – are well described and easy to follow. No confusing Bill for Phil and the like. I do hate it when characters are so alike in name and actions within a book you confuse them. But in ‘The Seagull’ everyone is described well and easy to tell apart.

Did I get the whodunit? As I am always saying how I get it long before it is revealed in books? Yes and no… I figured a few important pieces out early on, but missed others. And so I was addicted to the ending as it was all lined up and pointed out to having been under my nose the whole time. Doh! That is my sort of crime writing. Letting me think I know it all… then pointing out that I missed bits and should stop guessing. 😉

And I don’t know what it is about true crimes set in England… but I do love the little snippet of life they seem to give. Don’t quote me on it being that accurate… but I do know that a lot of it IS as Ms Cleeves is very good at observing the world around her and capturing it within words to share with others. She gets this certain glint in her eye when it happens!

As a fan of the Ruth Rendell level of True crime, I do love that that calibre of writing is continued in others such as Ms Cleeves. I really enjoy her windows to the world shown through the Vera Stanhope series. Yes it’s not all pretty, happy or clean… but it is REAL and why it makes for an even more interesting read. That connection of reality with fiction that gives the reader the shivers.

The Seagull

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of True Crime would enjoy this book and the others in the Vera Stanhope series. And ‘The Seagull’ can be easily read as a standalone novel… though, personally, I have preferred reading the books in the series in order as there are some small character developments laced into the recurring characters that helps connect the reader to feeling a part of their lives.

But, yes, can be read as standalone. And, if it has been made into the TV version yet (I don’t know) – just read the book instead as they are ALWAYS better! Just saying. 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I own paper versions of several books in this series and want to one day own them all… having the bookshelf space to keep them in is another matter.

In summary: Lovers of true crime will enjoy the twists and turns concealed in ‘The Seagull’.

Book Review – The Dark Interest (The Dark Choir #4) by J.P. Sloan.

2 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills for approaching me to review this book for them. I was sent a free electronic copy and was not paid to review, it was a totally volunteer basis thingy. I feel I was approached as I have thoroughly enjoyed the other books in this series – ‘The Dark Choir’.

However, I don’t know if they will approach me again after the constructive criticism I am about to give. I don’t think Mr Sloan is going to have me marked as a favourite reviewer any more either. 😉

But please, please, please realise I am just trying to be honest about how I feel this book matches up to the rest of the series. If you can’t tell by my rating, I didn’t think it matched that well at all. To put it bluntly, I didn’t feel the story actually truly got started or got to the point set up by the previous books until I was about 75% through it. Everything that came before that came across as world building… which isn’t usually so complex when you’re reading the 4th book in a series. Pretty much all of the world building should be done by then.

I have really been dragging my heels on posting this review – I finished the book back in November last year and have been using the messed up sad chaos that has been my life these past eight or so months as an excuse not to publish a review. But, I want to get a clean slate for my reviewing this year and so have put on my big girl pants and here it is.

I am really hoping this is just one of those “mid-series slumps” as I honestly found this a watered down version of Dorian and really more a fluff piece to remind us all about the series, than something that truly added to the series as a whole. Well, except for the last 25% of the book – that was an addictive read like the previous books and the clanger dropped at the end of it… I think I may just have groaned out loud it was such an epic “oh my god no!” It almost beat my reaction to what happened to Julian in earlier books in this series.

So, if I was to base my opinion on the last part of the book alone then I would definitely say Mr Sloan was still on winner as DAMN that was good.

But the rest of it? Yeah, it really came across as padding and world building as if the story needed to turn and start down a new path, but that new path or reason for it wasn’t truly explained. I mean, the writing was still good and if I hadn’t had such high expectations based on the first three books in ‘The Dark Choir’ series, I probably would have enjoyed it a lot better and given it a higher rating. Seriously, this book had a “put on the back burner” feel to it and was then served up half cooked when it should have stayed on that creative cooking stove a little longer. Sorry Mr Sloan, I love your work and you are a fantastic writer… I just didn’t gel with ‘The Dark Interest’.

Dark Interest

Would I recommend this book to others?

I would, but only if they had read the first three books in ‘The Dark Choir’ series. This isn’t a stand-alone book and anyone trying to read it as such is doing their imagination – and Mr Sloan – a great injustice.

Would I warn them about how I felt about it? Well, they are going to read that here… but if just asked I would say “it’s alright but not the best book in the series”. I can’t offer more than that.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Of course I would and simply because ‘The Dark Choir’ series is one of the best supernatural series I’ve read in a long time. And while I may have found the majority of this book was pretty “meh” I would still own it to ensure I have the whole series. I am just hoping the next book is better.

In summary – not the best book in the series, but ended with a brilliant cliff hanger.

Book Review – Of Spice and Men (A Pancake House Mystery) by Sarah Fox.

3 out of 5

I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group – Alibi for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

This is another book I read a while ago and am only just now getting a chance to leave a review for.

‘Of Spice and Men’ is the third book in the ‘A Pancake House Mystery’ series – of which I’ve read all three. And, for the most part, I have enjoyed. I mean, I freely admit now that as soon as I hear Ms Fox is soon to be releasing a book I go lurk on Netgalley until it’s there to be requested. 😉

So, yes, I am a fan of this series and so do hope everyone takes the following constructive criticism with a grain of salt… as I DID enjoy ‘Of Spice and Men’, but really felt like it took waaaaay too long to get to the point.

Here is my criticism… It seemed to be more a soap opera about Marley and her boyfriend with a hint of an actual murder mystery thrown in on the side.

Yes, harsh I know, but it’s how I read it. Sorry. There seemed to be about maybe 20% murder mystery content, 10% gorgeous seaside setting of the scene and all the rest was focussed on where Marley’s relationship was going.

Now, some readers might really enjoy this mix… but I am a cosy crime before nooky sort myself and so I wanted the percentages to be more cosy and less relationship angst. If that makes sense?

I honestly did find myself saying “oh just get ON with it!” a few times as I wanted more cosy mystery and less contemplating the inner emotions and dramas of a love life.

Besides that, it was a good book… but I can’t say it is my favourite in the series and I really do hope the next book goes away from the angst and back to cosy crime. If it doesn’t, I can’t honestly see myself continuing with the series. Gosh what a picky pants I am!

Also, being an ARC there were the odd typo and the formatting for eBook was a bit all over the place, but I am always sure this is all sorted out before the final draft so no biggie.

Of Spice and Men

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Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, but only if they had read the other two books first. ‘Of Spice and Men’ really can’t be read as a stand-alone and so people need to go buy and read the first two books in the ‘A Pancake House Mystery’ series first. I mean, if you don’t you miss out on some really scrummy free recipes at the back, if nothing else! 😉

Would I warn them about my feel for this book? No, as who is to say others will see it like I did? I’ve been through a few pretty tough months (emotionally) of late and so who’s to say my opinion isn’t all screwy right now? All I can do is give my opinion here and hope for the best.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would… as I do like the series – and Ms Fox’s writing style – and always like to own every book in a series… but I would probably hold off doing so until I’d read the next book in the hopes this one was just a minor glitch in an otherwise enjoyable series.

In summary: True to the series so far, but a little too much relationship soap opera and not enough actual cosy crime for me.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Random House UK, Cornerstone for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

This is another book I actually read late last year, but am only now getting a chance to write a review on… as life got a little insane back then for a bit. But I have been thinking over it ever since I read it… definitely one of those books that gives you a book hangover and stays with you for sometime.

For some reason, I had been expecting this to be one of those kooky, supernatural cosy crime stories. I have NO IDEA where I took that from… and so the beginning of the book threw me a bit as I went “wow! This is a very serious thriller!” but not in a tone that meant I was put off, in a tone that can be translated into “go away, I am reading something amazing!” 😉

Now, I don’t want to do ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ any injustice by saying it was a thriller and then have people tell me it’s nothing like one. To me, it was! Maybe I just don’t read enough thrillers? Meh. People who read my reviews will by now have noticed I mainly read cookbooks or cosy crimes… or cosy crimes that include cooking!

But I did find it indeed a thriller read. Suspenseful, intriguing and that red raw real life type of crime that Ruth Rendell used to write (and I am a huge fan of her books). The characters were modern and relatable, as well as being isolated and diverse from the norm due to their connected past.

The book is sort of told in two time – the past and the present. But it entwines together and leads the to reader to discover how it is all connected in such a sad, thrilling, bemusing and… well, emotional way. Gee, I really do feel like I am underselling ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ rather than promoting it here. Can I just say – I loved it, a riveting read and you all just believe me?

Midnight at the bright ideas bookstore

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. If you are a fan of the broad spectrum of crime fiction, this is a brilliant read and I would be surprised if you didn’t get a book hangover once done. If you are a more selective crime fiction reader and only read certain sub-genres, if you’re into thrillers, mysteries, modern day crime and the like – you will enjoy this. As said, it has that gritty realism that I enjoy in books by people like Ruth Rendell, Ann Cleeves, Elizabeth Haynes and so on.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. Any book that gives me a book hangover I still feel touches of months later is a book worth owning. I would happily add it to my eBook shelves and can see myself reading it again every now and then.

In summary: Lovers of the True Crime sub-genre into gritty realism, this book is for you. Highly enjoyable.

Until next time,

Janis.