Book Review – No Charm Intended (A Cora Crafts Mystery) by Mollie Cox Bryan.

No Charm Intended

2 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Kensington Books for inviting me to review this book for them; I obtained it as a free electronic ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, from my score you might guess I didn’t exactly enjoy this book and I really really want to apologise to Ms Cox Bryan here and now as I don’t want her to think my review is all mean and nasty. As what I’m about to say is meant as constructive criticism and not some bitchy attack or spiteful meanness. If you don’t agree with what I’m about to say, please remember the magical mantra: “Pfffft, what would SHE know!”

We good? 😉

So… I am going to state again that the copy of the book I read was an ARC and that I was invited by Kensington to read it… I did not go out of my way to seek it down and pick on it. In fact, when I initially saw it in Netgalley I skipped past as I wasn’t too sure how I’d go as I’d read the first book, felt it had some jitters and issues I was willing to put down to first book in the series stage fright and try again. I mean, I simply love the setting, the house, the concept of craft retreats. If this was real and in my area I would be there every other day… if it wasn’t for all the murders. 😉

And I am also going to blame the fact it was an ARC on a lot of the flaws I found… ARCs are not the finished product; they are going to contain clangers. And I will also state here and now that it is my firm belief that these clangers were all sorted out before the finished book was published… Well, it is my firm hope they were.

I am not going to painstakingly list and nit-pick each issue I found. I mean, there was the usual wrong word used (or left out completely) and, hey, I am a typo Queen so never judge people on that.

But when people’s names are spelt a few different ways depending on where in the book they are mentioned… I do get a bit huffy. Then when people change who they are (we swapped from Jane to Cora at one point then back again)… this is poor editing. But – it was an ARC!

I guess what really got me was the way people were one place then suddenly another with no explanation. Holed up way out in the boonies and then in a bed and breakfast. At school but asleep at home? The days and time of days kept swapping about too and, yeah, I got a little frowny at that level of lack of editing/proofing, even for an ARC.

Also, the black and white world the characters seemed to live in. It was either this or that. Nothing else. People were either this way or that way – no grey in between. All depressed people just can’t be trusted, especially around children as they are a risk. Quick, tell my kids! I am a risk despite my Zoloft! And the main characters also came across as quite shallow would go from totally emotionless to OTT emotions and reactions to things within a paragraph and then back again. Anxiety and abuse issues are okay and natural as they have them, but other forms of mental illness or physical issues are alien and negative?

I honestly almost put this book into my DNF (Did Not Finish) pile four or five times as it was just a big jumble of a mess. One moment it would be going well and then all the jumping about, black and white, clanger filled writing would be back. As with the first book, it was almost as if two people were writing this book and only one of them was actually a decent writer.

The story jumped about and, although I guessed the ‘bad guy’ pretty much right away, the end of the book held no true explanation or reasoning behind it. More that the whole crime side of the book sounded like a good idea at the time, but that it wasn’t executed that well and seemed to clash with the cosy craft side. It was like two ideas smooshed together and they didn’t mix as well as possible or hoped.

And this is where Ms Cox Bryan, all her friends and fans will now be hitting the dislike and cussing me. Just don’t get the effigies alight if you are in a total fire ban area okay? 😉 I am so sorry to be so critical of ‘No Charm Intended’ and I feel it got to me so much as the setting, characters, story concept, etc is perfect for the cosy crime/ mystery genre. I guess I am just grumpy as I see so much potential and talent ruined by some poor editing, quite frankly, sloppy writing. Please forgive me.

Would I recommend this book to others?

I am really torn here as I just don’t know. The first book in this series had a few issues, but rather than those issues being resolved and improved upon in the second book, they’ve gotten worse. So as much as I see a LOT of positives and potential in not just ‘No Charm Intended’ but the whole ‘A Cora Crafts Mystery’ series… I don’t think I could personally face another book in this series and so just don’t know if I could safely recommend them to others.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Pretty sure we all know the answer to that question. If it was of the same quality as the ARC I received, then no I wouldn’t. I just pray the final edit was smoother and all the jumbled, sketchy nature of the story was smoothed out.

In summary: A series that has potential but not one I can see myself returning to to find out.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – A Whole New Way to Eat by Vladia Cobrdova.

 

A Whole New Way to Eat

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Murdoch Books for providing me with a paper copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, so I did the PR cover reveal on this book a few weeks ago now and I’ve been going through it a bit since then… and well, loved it to some extent. Please, when quoting me, just leave it as ‘loved it’ okay? 😉

Let me explain the ‘to some extent’ bit though. I am a fan of whole food cooking, the more simple/ budget friendly the cooking the better. Which is where I can appreciate ‘A Whole New Way to Eat’ but did find a lot of the dishes a little too fancy and fru fru for me. As in, if I need a dictionary and Google maps to find an ingredient I will use for just one of the recipes… but can only buy in bulk… I’m not usually a fan. And please realise this is my sarcasm over exaggerating things a little okay? I am as hippy, new age foodie as they come and know where to get pretty much everything listed in the various recipe’s ingredients. However, I am also a budget whole food maker, baker and cook and there are quite a few items there that are more for special occasion (save up for something nice) cooking, rather than me feeding my family every day. Oh, and mentioning a family… this is also more a young adult book… you know? You, your partner and two friends… as most recipes serve 4 max, and the others serve less. So not the world’s most ideal family cook book… but as it never states that’s what it is, no biggie.

Oh my, that makes the book sound terrible…. And it’s not! I loved it, loved the ideas and energy the recipes gave off and enjoyed the one or two I even made. *Gasp* I KNOW! I am reviewing a cook book I actually TRIED something from first! Look out neighbours as I’m reading a cosy crime now about kidnap and murder. 😉

But back to ‘A Whole New Way to Eat’ the title says it all and explains away all the different ingredients used. Justifies it perfectly. Makes people realise that whole food isn’t just meat and three veg… there is a whole world of amazing different foods from different cultures to try, embrace and get to love. Yes it’s not always budget friendly or family sized… but come one people, there will never be a cook book that caters for every single need of every single reader. Just suck it up and enjoy this wonderful cook book for what it is – whole foods, healthy eating, tasty and inspiring meals. This book is also food intolerance and allergy friendly to some extent too, listing at the top of recipes whether they are gluten free, vegan friendly, etc. Not so good for we who can’t eat seafood or alliums, but I am so used to that these days I just let it slide and don’t judge many books for not thinking of the rare food issues. 😀

As for the technical side of things, the images used, the layout of the recipes and other formatting nitty gritty – perfect. Well laid out, easy to read and follow for any level of home cook and lot of helpful and handy tips. Every recipe is done with both metric and imperial measurements and so internationally user friendly too. Love books like that and Murdoch book delivers excellent formats like this in every book I’ve read and reviewed.

A Whole New way to Eat inner pic

Green & Gold Pavlova with finger lime and matcha cream….. ‘A Whole New Way to Eat’

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I mean, yes it’s the more fancy end of whole food eating, but that’s not a problem – embrace it where you can. But it is a cook book of good, healthy, balanced whole foods… it’s not all kale, quinoa and lentils… though, yeah, they’re in there and looking delicious!

So yes, I would recommend this book to others, and it would pain me to have to idiot proof my recommendation, but I would explain it is a book best suited to those into whole food, healthy foods and those ‘trendy’ foods right now. I would feel looking through this gorgeous book all that is self-evident, but there is no helping some people, right?

Would I buy this book for myself?

I will be open and honest with you now in saying the paper book I have received is actually going to be re-gifted onto a wonderful friend who is going to get more out of it than myself. But this is simply due to the amount of dishes I can’t eat in it due to my own personal food issues and has NOTHING at all to do with the quality of ‘A Whole New Way to Eat’. Basically, this book is too good to just sit on a shelf and gather dust… so I want it to go to someone who is going to love it and use it frequently…. Though there are a couple of recipes I might just need to take a photo of first. 😉

In summary: I feel the title says it all – a gorgeous look into how easy it is to eat whole foods that you might not have considered before.

Until next time,

Janis.

Product Review – Crio Bru Maracaibo.

Crio Bru Maracaibo

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Crio Brü Australia for introducing me to this flavour when it was included in the sample pack I purchased online from their site.

Before I get into my review, here are the usual basics.

Disclaimer:

I bought this product with my own money, I am not being paid to make this review, nor am I deliberately singling this product or company out. I’m just trying to give an open and honest review on items I use in my household.

Please note:  My review is based solely on Crio Brü’s Maracaibo blend. This is not a review of Crio Brü themselves or any other products, services or business they may offer.

Okay, so let’s get to it!

So what exactly is Crio Brü Maracaibo all about? Well, for those who haven’t followed my love affair with Crio Brü’s flavours on my Facebook page, it is a yet another delicious flavour blend made by Crio Brü from cacao beans. It is a coffee substitute and made in a similar manner – cacao beans dried in the sun, then roasted, milled and packed either as is, or with spice blends or similar.  Maracaibo isn’t a blend, it’s 100% cacao beans and, according to the packet, is free of fat, gluten, sodium and sugar. Going on the ingredients I would also suggest it is dairy free and Vegan friendly.

There are other Crio Brü flavours and I am slowly making my way through them all to try and share reviews of. But this review is all about the Maracaibo flavour. If you would like to learn more about Crio Brü and what they do, please visit their site here.

My Review:

Maracaibo has to be one of my favourite Crio Brü flavours so far. It is one of the mid-range to stronger flavours too so, to me, is a perfect all-rounder. Though, I must say I do prefer it as a hot drink, but its strong – but not over-powering – taste means it works well in baking and ice drinks as well as hot beverages. So, yes, good for bliss balls and brownies!

Although there is a strong ‘I can’t believe this isn’t coffee’ flavour to Maracaibo, I do have to say it is still obviously a hot chocolate. If you get the bitterness juuuuust right though, it makes a great morning coffee substitute – without all the nasty after effects I suffer from when drinking coffee. Meaning, this flavour can easily go without sugar if desired, but I still need some milk (cocoquench) in it to take the edge off the bitterness. The more sugar you add to this one, the more chocolatey it becomes.

Would I recommend this product to others?

Yes I would. I would warn it has the stronger flavour than others… but it makes it a good all-rounder and so a perfect everyday use Crio Brü.

Would I buy this product for myself?

Been there, done that. Made sure I got one of the big 680g bag to ensure I had enough to last me for all I wanted to use it for. Nailed it. Though do need to buy myself some more after only getting it a few months back. 😉

Crio Bru maracaibo big

In summary – has to be one of my favourites. Perfect all-rounder for hot and cold drinks, making and baking.

Until next time,

Janis

Book Review – Countdown to Death by Iain McChesney.

Countdown to death

4 out of 5 stars

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

Okay, so I am a fan of Agatha Christie, no surprise there. And I do in fact have one of the older printed copies of her novel now known as ‘And then there were none’. But my copy is so old it is still called ‘Ten little N…’ yeah, I’m not going to type that word as it is not a nice one. But you get my point, right? If not, go google the original name. Anyhow, I love the tale and know it well. So when I asked to read ‘Countdown to death’ I was perfectly aware of what it was paying homage to and had a little trepidation as to whether it could pull it off.

It did. And it did it in a lovely and entertaining manner too. Very much in the fashion of the original tale, while also breathing a new life and a new voice into the tale. Mr McChesney wasn’t just repeating Ms Christie’s work, he is truly paying her a homage by taking the old story and not making it new… but simply making it modern… if that makes sense? Yeah, no it probably doesn’t make sense outside my head but let’s just go with it okay? It was a compliment and we will just run with that. 😉

Did I feel the need to go to an island with ten people and kill them off one by one to ensure I could truly review this book open and honestly? No, sadly I could not make that happen and I do know how that is seen as a flaw in my reviewing by some – that I can’t have an opinion without trying what the book is about first – but yeah, not in my budget and the closest islands I could use are either Granite Island or Kangaroo Island and both out of scope so ah well… Instead I just read it as the mystery it was, tried to see how identical to the original plot it would be, see if I could wade through the small school of red herrings and guess the killer and all in all have fun reading the book. No need to smash glass bottles or plot my revenge on people I feel have done me wrong before I could enjoy this tale!

And did I guess who the murder was? Yes, I did. To me it was a pretty obvious option, but the story was woven so well that I did have myself second guessing a few times, but in the end my original choice was proven correct. And, sadly, I figured it out rather early on. Unlike an Agatha Christie where it takes me most of the book to work it out. But never fear, it did not detract from the story, did not ruin the enjoyment of it all and it was nice to see how it was all explained and done in the end.

Plus I am a stinker and one of those annoying people who can watch a mystery for 5 minutes or read the first three chapters of a book and tell you whodunit. It’s the savant part of my idiot really – and yes, I am allowed to make such jokes about myself, I am neuro-diverse! 😀

As to the formatting and other “boring bits” side of things, there were a few typos and grammatical slip ups… but it was an ARC and so accepted. Plus I am a typo Queen and so don’t have the right to judge someone else on the odd slip up! It did not detract from my rating. Nor did the fact it sometimes seemed to get jumbled up and confused as to who was saying what. And I don’t mean those gorgeous snippets here and there deliberately meant to be ambiguous – those I liked. Just sometimes when they were all together talking, the formatting let down the narration as it wasn’t clear who said what. But hey, in some ways that is mimicking Ms Christie’s style too!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Though I really do feel someone who has read the original Christie tale would get the same appreciation of it that I did. However, I really don’t feel reading ‘And then there were none’ is a prerequisite to reading or enjoying ‘Countdown to death’. I feel it is a good, solid and enjoyable story all on its own. A homage yes, but it is worthy of being its own entity too and could easily be enjoyed as such.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Possibly? I mean, I enjoyed it, loved it for the salute to the old crime thrillers and liked it for its own potential and talent. But right now I am not drawn to wanting to read it again and again at a later date – as I would with an Agatha Christie novel. ‘Countdown to death’ is good, very good. But for now is more a “borrow from library” level of tale for me. Sorry. I feel I am doing this book a great injustice in saying that, but I am being open and honest.

In summary: A well written mystery in its own right, but also a beautiful homage to the crime Queen herself.

Book Review – Healthy Baking: Nourishing breads, wholesome cakes, ancient grains and bubbling ferments by Jordan Bourke.

Healthy Baking

4 out of 5 stars

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

If I was allowed to name this book, I would really call it the ‘Great Big Baking book of Everything’ as it covers such a wide range of recipes and dishes.

It starts out as I had expected with sourdoughs, yeast breads and other baked goodies that had me want to own my own paper copy of ‘Healthy Baking’. But there is then just so much more to this cookbook than bread, pastries and pizza! Oh so much more. We get into main meals – I am a sucker for roast whole head of cauliflower recipes and so need to try that one. And then into preserves, fermentations and more. I simply loved this book.

And no, no I didn’t get a chance to try any of the recipes… Yet. But from my 30+ years of cooking, making and baking I know how to read a recipe and I know what I would like to make and what I would avoid. I also know a well-constructed and tasty meal idea when I see one. And yes there were a few too many allium rich dishes within ‘Healthy Baking’ to have me want to try everything. But there was enough other ideas to try and I can see myself opening this book and trying them.

Oh, and for the record – whoever tries a recipe in a cook book at the shops before deciding to buy it and take it home? Anyone? Yes, you can see I am still bemused by a recent accusation I can’t really comment on or review a cookbook if I’ve not tried any of the recipes… but hey, I am giving you my opinion as if I saw this book in the shops. I would go through it (not read it cover to cover like I actually did mind you) and judge whether or not it was something I would want to take home and cook from. So those who tell me I can’t review a book without having tried everything in it first… you’re so funny! I don’t kill people before reviewing cosy crimes either, maybe that’s why the comments were left by ‘anonymous’… so there would be no volunteers to ensure I review murder books appropriately too? 😉

Anyhow, back to ‘Healthy Baking’. Loved it, I did say that though. So here is why I loved it. I can’t eat wheat – I have a medically diagnosed wheat protein intolerance (not coeliacs) that means a lot of wheat, barley or rye makes me sick. So a bread book that relies on spelt, dairy free options and unrefined sugars – all how I live and eat – was just a dream come true to me!

Yes there were all the allium issues, but I am just so used to people never thinking of the allium allergies and intolerances I just let it slide. Especially as ‘Healthy Baking’ never states it is a diet specific cook book. It is just a cook book demonstrating… Healthy Baking. Yeah, its title pretty much explains it all – nailed it.

For the formatting side of things – gorgeous, enticing and clear pictures draw the reader in and make us want to see more. A great deal of helpful information is provided for each section and some of the recipes too – I do like those personalised touches as to why a recipe is important enough to the author to appear in their work. And the recipe layout and other essential information was clear and precise too. Being a cook book made in the UK, no conversion to metric issues either.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. In fact, I already have been. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t just on the kale drinking, raw vegan, “hippy food” bandwagon as it matches our shoes. We have legitimate allergies and intolerances that seem to be overshadowed by foodisms and gimmicks. ‘Healthy Baking’ is NOT one of those foodism gimmicks. It really does come across as one of the open and honest cook books wanting to help everyone eat better and therefore feel better through whole foods and great recipes. So people with or without food allergies and intolerances will all enjoy this book. Maybe not every recipe… but there are enough there to keep us all amused.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. It’s already on my Amazon wish list and I have been shopping around the various online bookstores to find the best deal on where to get it. 😉 Yes, this is really one of those books where I will happily put my money where my mouth is and hope to own my own copy very, very soon.

In summary: This is indeed a great book about Healthy Baking, and then some. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Backyard Chickens: How to keep Happy Hens by Dave Ingham.

backyard-chickens_cvr4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Murdoch Books for providing me with a paper copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

And what a book it is too. As corny as it sounds, it really is something my whole family can enjoy. This was proved many times when I went to read it to find my children had “borrowed” it and were either reading it themselves, or outside reading it to our chickens.

backyard chickens feathers

Our children (or chooks) have been book marking the book!

Though I will state here and now I don’t think you need to have chickens (or book stealing children for that matter) to find this book enjoyable and useful.

It covers all the needed basics of setting up some backyard chooks for yourself – shelter, feeding, watering, common ailments, etc. It’s all there and all written about in a manner I loved as it was factual, but enjoyable and entertaining all at the same time.

And, as much as my kids loved reading it and using it to ensure our chooks were being looked after appropriately, that does not make this a childish or immature book. It’s something young and old interested in sharing their yard with some feathered girls will love.

Oh and Mr Fox came a calling for the first time ever while I was reading this book…. No, not blaming ‘Backyard Chickens’ or Mr Ingham for that. We have just been very lucky in the years we’ve had chickens to not meet him until now. What was most shocking – despite the demise of Pepper the Australorp – was Mr Fox came for a visit at about 11am! Following guidance from Mr Ingham’s fine book we have done our best to improve security on the yard. The pen they are put in at night still has not failed us… but obviously when they are free ranging the yard during the day, we had left gaps in our yard, despite it being surrounded by a 5 foot, concrete embedded metal fence. We know that fence was good at keeping foxes at bay as, when we were chasing the critter around the yard  – after penning the remaining girls in cat carriers – it couldn’t jump over our fences to escape! But we followed it to the gap at the front – bushman’s gate of wire and lumber – and have since sealed it tighter.

So, you could say ‘Backyard Chickens’ was here at the right time! We are now down to 6 chooks, but it could have been worse! And come next spring the useful guide in the back as to the different sorts of chickens that make the best backyard buddies, will be used to get more girls. We will then follow the wise words in the ‘Flock Management’ section and go from there.

Can you see this book is very relevant to us? And such an essential addition to ensuring our feather babies have the best life they can and keep giving us those giant, golden yolk eggies!

Finally, I will also say that, despite growing up with chickens in my life and knowing most of their ins and outs and foibles, I still found ‘Backyard Chickens’ a good read as it did cover some stuff I didn’t know. Backed up some the stuff I already did and helped share my love of chooks with my children.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. And not just to people who already own chickens in their yards, but people who care about where their eggs come from and are considering getting their own chooks to ensure their egg providers are getting the best treatment. Mind you, pasture eggs are also a good option… but that doesn’t give you a chook to chat while you hang out the washing.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I may have to if my kids keep stealing my current copy! 😉 If I lost it or had to replace it (after too many chickens were taught to read it) then yes, yes I would buy it. For now I am very happy and feel very honoured to have been gifted a paper copy.  If my kid’s school ever gets chickens again, I might just need to buy a copy and donate it to them as it’s really a book for adults and children alike to read, learn from and enjoy.

In summary – an excellent, very comprehensive book aimed at Australian’s learning to raise their own backyard chooks.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Sweet Tea and Spirits (A Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery) by Angie Fox.

Sweet tea and spirits

4 out of 5 stars

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

Followers of my site will know I am a HUGE fan of Ms Fox’s Southern Ghost Hunter Mystery series – both the full books and the short stories – and so it will be no surprise that I really loved this story too.

There were a tiny couple of glitch parts in it that gave the feeling Ms Fox might be writing the series a little too fast to remember it all properly… but that could also have been just my interpretation. Plus, I read an ARC and the final edit will no doubt have these glitches cleared up.

Apart from these very minor issues, the book was a totally enjoyable read. Life is progressing well for Verity, her hunky boyfriend and her so, so adorable pet skunk Lucy. And the afterlife is actually picking up a bit for Frankie too. I loved what was going on in the backyard at the start of the book – no spoilers here – and the other things he got to get up to once he set his mind to it.

There were a few mysteries to solve in ‘Sweet Tea and Spirits’, some old, some new. Just the right level of padding and red herrings and pretty much the perfect cosy crime/mystery – with a taste of the supernatural.

All in all it was an entertaining continuation of the series with a couple of new mysteries to solve and a lot of well-placed loose threads left to follow on into any new story… and I really do hope there will be a new book soon. Yup, my name is Janis and I am addicted to visiting Sugarland, Verity and the rest. Let’s face it… who wouldn’t want to go see what Lucy is up to?

I was recently accused of not having the right to review a book without trying any of the things within the book first. And, although some may feel that a valid point for the cook book in question, I would like to put people’s fears to rest – I did not murder anyone, commune with ghosts or re-arrange mannequins to ensure I could give ‘Sweet Tea and Spirits’ a true run through for authenticity and entertainment. I merely read it, enjoyed it and probably snorted out my nose once or twice… And although there was no sweet tea harmed in the making of this review, a few brave hot chocolates gave their lives to ensure my days ran smoothly. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, though I would emphasise this was book 5 in a series and for people to truly get their money’s worth, they should go back and read all of the previous books and short stories within the Southern Ghost Hunters Mystery series.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Oh hell yes. I love this series; I buy the books to show my appreciation of what Ms Fox does and will keep on doing so. I am a Verity Long fan for life. 😉

In summary: Fantastic continuation in a series, while bringing new and interesting mysteries to the reader to keep them entertained while also trying to figure out whodunit. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis

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