Author: janishill

Author, Foodie, mum and sarcastic cow with sense of humour to match.

Book Review – Death Overdue (A Haunted Library Mystery) by Allison Brook.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Okay, this is a new series and – for me – a new author. These can be rather hit and miss for me but guess what? It was a hit! Now don’t get too eye rolling about how I seem to say that about everything, there are a few quibbles I am going to make about ‘Death Overdue’. Plus, you guys only see the reviews on the books I actually FINISH! Unless I feel it is so terribly bad that the world needs to be warned, I don’t air my “Did Not Finish” dirty laundry. That is between me and the author.

But back to ‘Death Overdue’. It starts a little shaky because of how flighty the main character is. Add to that the amount of info being crammed into the first few chapters to make the book enticing enough to read and… well, the start was a little rushed and shaky. But I put that down to “first of the series jitters” and didn’t let it stop me from reading on and enjoying the story.

The characters were well written, easy to tell apart, not simply cardboard cut outs of “small town America” and the story became very well-paced after that shaky start.

My biggest quibble is the ghost… I mean, the whole idea of a helpful sidekick ghost isn’t new and can be done quite well – see Angie Fox’s ‘Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries’ – but I found the ghost librarian in ‘Death Overdue’ rather redundant and pointless as a ghost. The character could have easily been alive and a snoopy old lady and the plot would not have been affected in anyway.

Perhaps in the next book there will be more supernatural happenings with this character to help justify it being a ghost… but for me, it was rather a letdown to an otherwise highly enjoyable story. Sort of like “hey, let’s cover the supernatural mystery genre while writing and say she’s a ghost!” and then not go anywhere truly that ghostly with her.

But please, please, PLEASE don’t think me providing this constructive criticism is me bagging the book. As I said, I really enjoyed it for the rest and found it an excellent first book of a cosy/ mystery series. Just, right now, I don’t see the need for a ghost. Maybe it’s just me?

Other than that, I was captured quickly by the tale, wanted to learn more and, despite figuring it out (as usual), enjoyed the ride it took to have my suspicions confirmed. A really fun and entertaining read with the right balance of padding, red herrings, intrigue, mystery and romance.

Formatting and usual boring appearance side of things – it was an ARC, there were hiccups but the general layout and the like was fine… Can you tell I wasn’t really that upset with the layout to see a need to actually mention it out of more than just habit? 😉

Death Overdue

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Look, there were some person – MINOR – issues with the book but I really enjoyed it overall. It is also the first in a series that looks like a promising and highly entertaining cosy crime/ mystery series… so yes, yes I would recommend it.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Actually I think I would. I really did like it that much. It skips past the “library book” level of knowing it, straight into being something I would own. I’ve also started following Ms Brook on Amazon just so I can find out when the next book in the series comes out. I liked it that much, despite my issues with the ghost. 😀

In summary: A well written, well-paced first book in a potentially good new series. A little shaky at the start, but overall a great read.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Krampus: Countess of Cachtice (The Krampus Chronicles Book 2) by Sonia Halbach.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay… so this book almost became a DNF (Did Not Finish) for me and all due to my own fault. It has been two years since I read the first book in this series (I looked it up) and this usually isn’t a problem. Part of the savant area of my idiot is that I remember stories and can pick them up years later and not have to reread… most of the time. Obviously ‘The Krampus Chronicles’ is not one such series.

So! I know there are a lot of reviewers out there saying this can easily be read as a stand-alone books, and they are in some ways correct… but if you’re returning to this series a few years after reading the first book, I strongly suggest you reread the first book ‘The Three Sisters’ before heading into it.

And I only give this warning as I stumbled a lot over the first few chapters as I honestly couldn’t remember 100% who was who, what they’d done and where I’d left them. This is not the fault of the book or the author! It is the fault of the reader… well, THIS reader, and I think the tale would have gone a lot more smoothly for me if I’d had the time to rehash first. Ah well, we live and learn.

The reason I persevered is I did remember loving the first book and enjoying the whole Three Sisters and the Sister Wheels story. And, as I’ve said in previous reviews, who doesn’t like worlds within our own stories? I mean, seriously, WHO?! You? Oh we so have nothing to talk about, move along! 😉

Back to the book! ‘Krampus: Countess of Catiche’ begins three years after ‘The Three Sisters’ ends and it does take a little time for the characters to all get back into the world of the Foundlings and Poppel. Took me a while too! But once the pace of the book got going, things went well.

The story is actually a few different timelines interwoven well as we cross centuries, locations and characters. But it all builds up to the same end result and the ending was another “wait, what? No, don’t stop writing THERE!” moment for me. Oh you authors, you’re such a tease the way you get us hooked and then leave us dangling, hungry for more. Can I just ask the next book isn’t two years in the making? Selfish of me I know when my own series is spaced just as far apart. 😉

So… a slow read, but in the end well-paced, well written and all the characters, times and locations well described and not hard to separate and know where you’re going… even when they all start to spin together and characters cross timelines. The overall storyline was kept smooth, easy to understand and very entertaining. Don’t I look the goose having almost not finished reading it?

As for the formatting and the like? Well, I can’t remember any major clangers and even if there were, this was an ARC and the final edit will be fine. Actually, I tend to find that Curiosity Quills go over their books with a fine tooth comb before even sending them out as an ARC so really not surprised at the quality received.

Would I recommend this book to others?

I would… but I would be reluctant to recommend it as a stand-alone. I would suggest people get both books and read them in order. I mean, yes you COULD read it on its own… but you would be missing out on a great beginning story.

So yes I would recommend, but both books in ‘The Krampus Chronicles’, not just this one.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Uncertain. For now, mostly due to my own fault of not rereading ‘The Three Sisters’ first, I feel a little disjointed and disconnected from the series and therefore not that willing to own it, despite having enjoyed it. For the moment both books are at ‘library book’ level… as in something I would read, but only if borrowed. They aren’t quite at ‘would proudly own’ level yet… sorry. Maybe as the series grows? I am now following Ms Halbach on Amazon just to ensure I know when the next one it out… so obviously a good series as I only follow the best authors. 😉

In summary: A good continuation of a creatively original series.

Until next time,

Janis

Book Review – The Antique House Murders (The Oakwood Mystery Series Book 2) by Leslie Nagel.

4 out of 5 stars

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.

Gosh I seem to be giving a lot of 4 out of 5 stars of late… obviously I’ve hit a seam of excellent books in my TBR pile!

‘The Antique House Murders’ is book two in ‘The Oakwood Mystery Series’ by Leslie Nagel and, being open and honest, I fell in love with this series with book one ‘The Book Club Murders’. So was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review this second book. I just feel I need to apologise for not reading it sooner! It’s been a crazy year for me and let’s leave it at that. 😉

Okay, so for those who haven’t read the first book in the series let me just say – why not? Come one people, keep up! 😀

Actually, what I was going to say was that ‘The Antique House Murders’ can be enjoyed as a stand-alone book if you must. There is enough recapping on Charley’s love, life and adventures to get the reader up to speed pretty quickly. And, thankfully, not so much recapping as half the book seems to be reminding you what you’ve missed. I do so hate books that do that… maybe why I loved this one so much?

The story picks up a few months after the first book and involves the mysteries of an old manor house and the secrets surrounding it and the family that lived there. Charley and her shop ‘Old Hat’ get involved via some estate sold clothing and accessories and that fiery red head just takes it from there.

‘The Antique House Murders’ was definitely my kind of cosy/ mystery and it honestly had me up until 1:30am (on a school night – if it wasn’t the school holidays) just as I simply HAD to finish it. The intrigue, the adventure, the padding and the red herrings – a perfect balance.
What I think I loved the most is it took me a while to figure out the full ‘whodunit’. Yeah, cocky me thought it was so and so… but wait – not that person at all! Then I clicked it was such and such… and it was! But then… Oh!!!! Yeah, I was almost shouting at the book by that point, but it was after midnight and I am playing my “I was sleep deprived” card as my excuse. 😉

So, yes, a perfect blend of cosy/ mystery for me that literally had me guessing until right near the end of the book. And guessing in a good way, not a “this is just too convoluted to understand” way. Nope, Ms Nagel had me on tenterhooks throughout and I just NEEDED to know! The way she kept weaving ideas, story lines, padding and red herrings together – brilliant.

A quick mention to the formatting of this eBook – it was a bit garbled in places (spaces and paragraphs appearing where they shouldn’t) and there were a few typos and formatting issues… but this was an ARC and they’re allowed to get away with such things. I am sure the final edit is perfect… But you know I do like to mention these things. EBooks shouldn’t be second class formatting.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Gee, I think I’ve given myself a way here, right? Yes, I most definitely would. Again, I feel the reader should do ‘The Oakwood Mystery Series’ the justice it deserves and read ‘The Book Club Murders’ first. But yes, I would recommend this book to lovers of the modern day American cosy/ mystery. Very well written and highly enjoyable.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I am most definitely in love with this series and happily buy them. I can’t wait for the next one either!

In summary: A good, solid second book in a great murder mystery series. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days (The Tale of Bryant Adams #1) by Megan O’Russell.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills Press for providing me with an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

What can I say, I love the types of quirky, slightly off kilter stories that Curiosity Quills publish and so when I saw this on their site I had to take a look. Was I disappointed? Nope!

What’s it about? Well, if I was to undersell ‘How I Magically Messed Up My Life In Four Freakin’ Days’ I would say it’s a book about a boy who discovers he is can use magic… thanks to a mobile phone.

But it’s not just that and it’s not a Harry Potter rip off and thank goodness for that! As I seem to be about one of the only people in the world who doesn’t like HP! Love JK on Twitter… not a fan of the books. Go figure! 😀

However, with this book – sorry, the title is so long I can’t keep plugging it like I usually do – think more a mix of the least annoying bits of HP with great big dollops of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere mixed in with a bit of teen angst and a smattering of Arthur Dent’s hapless exploits as a hitchhiker and you get a better idea of what’s it all about. Just then add some independent and new ideas on an old theme and you’re there!

Plus it’s the first book in a potentially entertaining new YA/ NA urban fantasy series and I hope you can see now why I felt it got the score I gave it.

See, calling it ‘like Harry Potter’ is a serious underselling insult and I hope it is never described as that. If it is – shame on that reviewer!

Okay, back to what’s it all about… well, it’s set in modern day New York City where normal, everyday teens go from the usual angst of high school, fitting in and looking cool to having life turned on its head due to a misplaced phone and our characters then find themselves learning about a hidden world within their own. I mean, who doesn’t love those ‘what if’ hidden world’s within their own? I love them!

For those not into ‘teen drama’ don’t panic! Yes the main characters are teens – and sold as a YA book – but are still enjoyable by young and old. I didn’t need my inner teenager to enjoy this story; I managed it on my old fogey own. 😉

And even though this is obviously the first book in a series – the subtitle of ‘The Tale of Bryant Adams Book 1’ is a bit of a hint – this can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone tale. I mean, there are still going to be a few threads flapping about at the end of it you might want tied up… but that’s for the next book. They can be ignored by those only wanting to read this first book… but people who think that way are just being silly and should stop pretending – read the next book when it comes out, you know you want to! 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I mean, isn’t it obvious I am pro not just this book but the rest of the tales to come in this series? Really? You didn’t spot that in my heaping on the praise bit? 😀

So yes, lovers of HP may or may not like it… I don’t know, as I simply don’t GET loving Harry Potter. But fans of urban fantasy or speculative fiction where there is a ‘what if’ world within our own… you’re going to enjoy this read. Yes, think ‘Neverwhere’, ‘RoofWorlders’, ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’… Think fun, entertaining and enjoyable while still setting reality on a slightly different angle to normal. You will enjoy this book!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yeah, I can see that as a possibility. I mean, right now it is wavering between ‘library book’ and ‘eBook I own’ status… but as long as the series keeps going in this way, I can see it becoming one I proudly own and will tell everyone about who dares to make eye contact with my while I am reading it. 😉

In summary: A great look at the hidden world of magic and what happens when teens access it. I highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Hunt (The Devil’s Isle Series) by Chloe Neill.

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.

Now, I finished reading ‘The Hunt’ a week ago and am only now getting to post my review. Firstly, it’s spring here, my whole family has been struggling through the last of the winter bugs as well as the last week of term three of school and, well, I was left with such a HUGE book hangover from ‘The Hunt’ that I needed a few days to lick my wounds, refocus on reality and get on with things.

Basically, I downloaded this book on September 21st, knew it was being released September 28th and only got to start reading it on the 23rd…. and finishing it ON the 28th. So, yeah, whirlwind read of a great book – and series – I love and so I needed recovery time. 😉

Okay, now we know why I’ve been going on about how amazing ‘The Hunt’ is on social media while not leaving any review; let’s get on with the review!

‘The Hunt’ is the third book in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ by Ms Neill and I was hooked back on book one! I love the setting, the premise behind the story  – the veil between our world and the beyond has been breached and magic now seeps through – and so on…. You want to know more? Go buy ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’, read, enjoy and find out why I think it’s so amazing! 😀

Okay, back to my review of ‘The Hunt’. Well, I have to say I have been simply DYING to read this book as ‘The Sight’ ended in such a dramatic way. And so I found the beginning of ‘The Hunt’ a tad slow – but that can be put down to my impatience rather than Ms Neill’s writing ability.

The story begins about a month after ‘The Sight’ and a lot has happened. Claire has a new life, new duties and NOLA moves on around her as she (and the impatient reader) wonders what has happened to the man of her life.

Things then pick up well from there and the story then flows true to the first two books and before you know it you’re left with ANOTHER tremendous cliff hanger of an ending that leaves you groaning at having to wait for more and loving/ cursing Ms Neill for leaving yet another book in such a way.

Cryptic enough for you? Seriously, you want to now more – buy and read this series! It puts things like Ms Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’ into shadow with how good it is! 😉

Unlike other series – by other authors – ‘The Hunt’ has not come across as less of a book, or as if the ideas of the series have wandered and lost their way. No, we are still going as strong as the first book, ‘The Veil’ and still keeping with the initial core principles and plot of the entire series. This is some seriously good writing! I do hate when a series starts well and blows your mind and then dwindles. That is NOT the case at all with any of the books in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ and that is SUCH a relief to fangirl me! 😉

Devils isle The Hunt

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Though, if you haven’t guessed it, I would ensure they had read the rest of the series’ first. I mean, I suppose you COULD read each story as a stand-alone… but that would be such a waste of your time and Ms Neill’s talent. If they didn’t own ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’ yet, I would recommend the person buy them while they are buying ‘The Hunt’ and then just lock themselves away for a weekend of fantastic reading.

Lovers of the true supernatural – the stuff without sparkles and/or porn on every other page – will love this book and series. Think Kim Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’, only better. Not so much a world within a world as two worlds colliding and fighting to see who wins.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Uh, I think I’ve given away my feelings on this matter already. As the answer is HECK YES! And I am already hanging out (impatiently) for the next book. Seriously Ms Neill – Write. Faster. 😀

In summary: Great book, excellent follow on to a great series, HUGE book hangover – highly recommend.

Book Review – Murder on Black Swan Lane (A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery) by Andrea Penrose.

3 out of 5 stars

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

Well, what can I say, it was a historical novel set in the Regency era, it was a sort of cosy crime mixed into historical crime and… as those are my three favourite things to look for in fiction, how could I not have enjoyed ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’?

Add that it is the first in a very promising new series ‘A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery’ and all in all I was a totally satisfied reader. Yes some may expect me to have graded it higher if I liked it so much, but let’s just say I am pacing myself and hoping the books in the series just get better and better so my score can rise, rather than fall – as it has done with recent series I read.

I feel the other reason I didn’t score it higher is I couldn’t quite decide what genre I would describe it as… Regency era adventure? Historic Crime? Cosy crime? It was all three in places – and very good at all of them – but I just need to find one that suits my personal categorisation of works best. Not a fault with ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’ or the author. Simply down to me and which of these genres attracted me the most. Yeah, no, that doesn’t make sense to you does it? But it’s how I feel, and my blog so my right to confuse you. 😉

Let’s get into reviewing the book properly. The characters were well written and there was proof that research of the Regency era had been undertaken to bring the work to life. I will state here that I am a HUGE fan of Marion Chesney’s Regency novels (not just the romance ones) and so will admit her vivid descriptions of that time period do colour my imagination and will mean I compare other works to hers…So ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’ was good… but just not as descriptive for my liking. But I am picky and we all know it.

I enjoyed the changing between characters so we got the story from both sides – both the male and female protagonists. It was clear and very easy to discern who was telling the story at the time, unlike other books that attempt this style of narration. And I thoroughly enjoyed that it wasn’t a romance hidden in a cosy historical crime! Yes there was attraction and even I was wondering where it was leading… but the story stuck to the crime and solving them and all in all satisfied me more than any marriage and HEA ever could.

Though I am sure the possibility may end up being there later in the series… not that I would mind that either. 😉

The characters were all well-defined and easy to tell apart – something not all authors can pull off when there are multiple people at play. And there was just the right amount of red herrings and padding out of the storyline to keep me interested and not be distracted by feeling the tale was going off tangent.

Yes I eventually guessed the whodunit before they did… but it took me a while longer than normal and I do love an author who can make me keep guessing rather than spoon feeding me the answer right off and think they are being tricky in hiding it. Not with ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’! No, it was the perfect balance of crime, adventure, historical padding, friendships and red herrings. A very enjoyable story.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, but again I would be confused who to suggest it to. As in, those who enjoy Regency Era tales may like it… but as so many Regency books are all about the romance, maybe they wouldn’t? Would cosy crime lovers enjoy it? I mean, I love a good cosy crime, but most cosy crimes need to be set in modern times to be classified as such.

Then there is the whole Historical Crime lovers… they might not feel there was enough history involved to truly make it meet their criteria. It’s all so confusing.

So I will just say – I am a lover of all three genres and I enjoyed this book so I would recommend it and hope for the best! 😉

 

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I am already looking forward to any new books in the series and will be following Ms Penrose on Amazon just to ensure I know when they come out. ‘Murder on Black Swan Lane’ is definitely a cosy, historical, Regency crime book for me, and so will any further novels in the ‘A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery’ series!

In summary: a very enjoyable crime fiction book and the start to a very promising new series!

Until nexttime,

Janis.

Book Review – The Essential Thyroid Cookbook: Over 100 Nourishing Recipes for Thriving with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s by Lisa Markley, Jill Grunewald.

4 out of 5 stars

I am one of those people who has been flagged to have possible thyroid issues… in the future. Though due to recent blood tests my GP thinks I am fine for now. But that doesn’t explain the 30kg weight gain that’s taken place over the last 12 months… And so, yes, I have been looking over ways to improve my already pretty healthy eating regime to see if it can help. Which is why I was interested in ‘The Essential Thyroid Cookbook’.

Open and honest enough for you? 😉

The book technically comes in two parts – one that discusses the importance of good nutrition for you thyroid and all the issues that can be happening if your thyroid is not healthy.

The second section is all the scrummy, easy to do recipes.

But there is also a good introduction to the people who created this fabulous book and their reasons as to why they created it.

And then some very easy to follow and, to me, essential appendixes at the end. They really DO help you understand how ‘essential’ got into the title of this book. 😉

Okay, so that’s the brief run down on the “two” sections. Here is my long winded summary:

I found a lot of Part 1 very interesting, but thanks to my love of scholarly texts, I would have preferred more citations to follow up on some of the statements. I am NOT saying I felt they were wrong… I’m not saying I felt they were right. I just personally like scholarly texts to refer to when we discuss medical or science things. It is just one of my things. All the same, Part 1 held a LOT of good and relevant (to me) information and was a great way to introduce people to issues with the thyroid. And – when it comes to Goitrogens – THANK YOU!  I have had this belief from my previous readings for some time and often shudder at people who tell me I shouldn’t eat such and such as it’s going to make me grow a goiter. Gah!

As for Part 2? Well, they had me at ‘Nourishing Drinks’ – I’m looking at you ‘Pumpkin Gingerbread Chia Smoothie’ – and had me shopping online for my cheapest copy of ‘The Essential Thyroid Cookbook’ by the time I finished reading the section on ‘Appetisers and Snacks’. Yes, the recipes are THAT good! I even tried the Blueberry Sunrise Smoothie without the orange (orange and I don’t do well together) – delicious!

Oh my! Did I just say I actually TRIED a recipe in one of the cook books I reviewed! What will my haters think? What will they pick on my reviews for now? 😀

Anyhow, I digress. Let’s get back to the fun stuff and discuss formatting and the layout of ‘The Essential Thyroid Cookbook’.

Okay, I read my free electronic copy of this book on both my tablet and my laptop. I would have to say reading it on my tablet much easier, as you get just the one recipe per page… But then again, I found it easier to navigate through the different sections and recipes on the laptop so go figure.

Either way I found the formatting neat, clean and easy to read. The recipes were also easy to follow and I can see this book doing well being owned as either an eBook or a ‘paper’ book. There are some recipe books that work better on an electronic device and I would actually lean towards that possibly being the case here.

Oh, but I will point out that the book is obviously written for an American audience as all the measurements are in imperial rather than metric. No biggie in this day and age of online conversion charts, but I also like to point out whether a cookbook is going to need a little help when being used on Australian shores. 😉 Heck, I managed!

All in all I found it an interesting and informative read and found it filled with many recipes I want to try. Yes there are my usual food intolerances to have to deal with (allium most of all) but the recipes shared within ‘The Essential Thyroid Cookbook’ are made to be flexible and therefore adaptable to my needs.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I mean, even if you’re not diagnosed with a thyroid issue by your GP, you just never know. And, to be honest, a short term elimination diet followed by loads of whole, fresh food recipes – this is going to make everyone feel better. Find the foods that suit you, rather than follow a diet that is doing you more harm. Simple.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would… though the paper version is a little out of my budget right now (yes, I have already been pricing it at various online stores) and so I may go the electronic version. What is more, is I only buy cook books that I plan on using! So if I feel it’s good enough to buy, you know I am going to be using it to eat and enjoy some scrummy meals.

In summary: An informative and delicious looking cookbook that has earned its title of ‘essential’.

Until next time,

Janis.