Book Review – Death of a Ghost: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery by M. C. Beaton.

 

Death of a Ghost

3 out of 5 stars

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

For the record I have been a huge fan of Marion Chesney (AKA M.C. Beaton) for at least a decade now… and not just of her Hamish Macbeth series… which is far, far better than the silly TV series.

And so I was thrilled to be given an opportunity to read the latest Hamish tale… even though I think I am now about 8 books behind in the series… Boy I’ve been slack! There, that is me being open and honest so please realise I am not a terrible person when it comes to the following constructive criticism… Uh oh.

So! As I’ve said, I am not as up to date with the series as I would have loved and so am not going to make comment on it referring to stuff I didn’t know as the only person I have to blame there is myself. But I have to say there was just something lacking in ‘Death of a Ghost’ that made it not seem that polished and finished as the other books I’ve read in the series. Though, this is the first time I’ve read an ARC of the series and so the less than polished to perfection feel could simply be due to that.

All the same I just found the story a little sketchy at times. You would have the major scene… followed by a few one liners that filled in the next few hours (sometimes days) until the next big major scene. It almost came across as notes and I expected to see the editors scribe on in the margin saying “to beef out later” or something. I really got despondent in the quality of the writing after a while as it really came across as if half the story (the boring filler bits) was just missing and the sketchy one liners therefore diminished the quality of the overall work.

I mean, all the usual “Hamishness” was there and it all seemed to fit the usual pattern of a Hamish Macbeth tale… but it simply felt half-finished to me. Perhaps I am just being a perfectionist and asking too much? I don’t know. But I will have to admit the sketchy quality of the writing has put me off being as eager to read other new works by Ms Beaton just in case this is common to her writing style these days.

Would I recommend this book to other?

Saying all of that, I would. But, of course, being the 35th book I would recommend those who have not read the series before start back at book one. And for those who have read the series… I wouldn’t mention my sketchiness concerns until after they’d read and to see if they saw it too or if I really was just being a bit of a book diva again.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Despite the flaws I perceived in it… Yes I would. I mean, I have bought most of the other books in the series and what sort of fan would I be if I didn’t ensure I had copies of all the books in the series?

In summary: Even after all this time, Hamish can still solve some of the cleverest crimes by jumping to conclusions and guessing. 😉

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -The Book Club Murders (The Oakwood Mystery Series) by Leslie Nagel

book-club-murders

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.

So, I have finally gotten a chance to read this book and it was so worth the wait! Well written, well mapped out, good strong characters and the right smattering of red herrings to get we mystery lovers all aquiver! 🙂

Okay, I will admit I found the array of secondary characters a bit too similar and confusing the start with  – the Agathas – but I put that down to the fact I started reading ‘The Book Club Murders’ while I was still finishing off another book and so was confusing myself. Not the writer’s fault at all. As, honestly, once I devoted myself full time to this book all the characters became easy to identify and remember as individuals.

I think the thing I really loved about the story is it handed you the clues as it went in such a casual way that not all of them even appeared to be red herrings… while also giving you info that you recall at the end as being important with a “duh, the book did tell us that!” I loved it! I do love a good mystery that tells a story, gets to the point, doesn’t pad things out too much and doesn’t try and drown you in so many red herrings you smell fishy for weeks later. ‘The Book Club Murders’ didn’t do any of that and so was a great read.

The protagonist was easy to relate to, as were her friends and family and there was just that nice bit of spice and sexy romance to really cover all the bases of mystery lovers – crime, colourful characters, a strong protagonist, great sidekicks and sexy men. What more could my cosy crime driven heart desire?

However, I do have to say the name of her shop kept giving me the giggles. As, you see, I read a lot of Regency stuff and have learnt a lot of the dialects and cants used in that era. And, well, “old hat” isn’t exactly a polite word to use. Google it if you need to know more. “Often felt” – giggles every time.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, especially as it is the first book in a new crime series and I do love starting a new series at the first book and not coming in it at book three or so… which sometimes happens – you don’t often see those reviews as I don’t like finishing books that I come into mid-series and I rarely post reviews for DNF (Did Not Finish) books.

But yes, lovers of cosy crimes and American Mysteries would love this book and I would indeed recommend it to anyone wanting to try something new.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I think I would. With some series I need to read the first few books before I can decide as to whether I would want copies in my physical or electronic library, but with ‘The Book Club Murders’ I would happily own a copy in my eBooks selection. And I look forward to finding the next one in ‘The Oakwood Mystery Series’!

In summary: A well written little murder mystery that had just the right amount of everything. A great read.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -Teetotaled by Maia Chance.

teetotaled

4 out of 5 stars.

New disclaimer due to new Amazon rules: I was approached by St. Martin’s Press and gifted a free electronic copy of this book, via Netgalley. I am not obligated, nor being forced, to post a review – I’m doing it of my own free will as I enjoy reviewing.

On advice from Amazon, and based on their emailed reply I can say – “My review is given voluntarily and the Author/publisher does not require a review in exchange for the book, or attempt to influence my review.”

My Review:

As regular readers of my reviews know, I am not usually a fan of starting a series mid-way through. ‘Teetotaled’ by Maia Chance is most definitely an exception to that rule! I simply loved this book and found it a refreshing new area of cosy crime for me – New York state in the 1920’s. I have not recently read a lot of work from this era and so loved this new look on old styles. Most works I have read that are based in the 1920’s were actually written in the 1920’s and in England. So this modern revival of the style, language and characters of the time mixed into a cosy crime has created a simply scrummy cake… er, book.

I enjoyed it so much that I will not only keep an eye on more in the series – ‘Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries’ – but will be looking out for ‘Come Hell or Highball’, the first book in this series.

Okay, I can’t do all praise, sorry. I will admit now I found the characters a little sketchy and confusing at first but soon came to grips with all they were and things settled down as the story kicked off. I put this sketchiness down to it being the second book in the series as I got the feeling the things being skipped over had been covered in more detail in the first book. It didn’t deter me from the story, I was still able to be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, but did start the book off a little wobbly. No biggie, if you stick with it is gets better quickly and is well worth the read.

A little more description on the characters for age, appearance, the usual stuff would have been nice too as that was another area I struggled with at times. I kept forgetting the ages and appearance of some characters. That and I suffered from my usual ‘characters with names that start with the same letter getting mixed up’ problem. But I do feel that is more my problem than the book or authors. I do it a lot. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Although the second book in a series, ‘Teetotaled’ is very easy – and enjoyable – to read as a stand-alone story. If you like your female sleuths to be seeking the answers in a not too distant past, you will enjoy this tale too.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would, it was indeed my sort of cosy crime. I mean, yes I am a cosy crime junkie… but I am picky with what I choose when it comes to a new series and I can definitely see myself choosing books from the ‘Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries’ and I am just thrilled St. Martin’s Press asked me to read it as I’ve been trying to get them to let me review their cosy crimes for a while as they seem to do such good ones. However I am locationally challenged being in Australia and I know that puts a few publishers off choosing me as a reviewer.

In summary – Second book in a series, but enjoyable to read as a stand-alone tale. Lovers of cosy crime would definitely enjoy this book. Highly recommended, thank me later. 😉

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves.

moth-catcher

4 out of 5 stars

 New disclaimer due to new Amazon rules: I was gifted a free electronic copy of this book by St. Martin’s Press, via Netgalley. I am not obligated, nor being forced, to post a review – I’m doing it of my own free will as I enjoy reviewing.

On advice from Amazon, and based on their emailed reply I can say – “My review is given voluntarily and the Author/publisher does not require a review in exchange for the book, or attempt to influence my review.”

 My Review:

 As with all the Vera Stanhope books I have read, I really enjoyed ‘The Moth Catcher’ as it is that level of true crime that suits me well. Not too dark and gritty, not too light and fluffy – just a perfect balance of realism and intrigue.

And, as with all Ms Cleeves books – that I have read – I also loved that she does not throw a whole heap of red herrings at you. Actually, with ‘The Moth Catcher’ I found myself creating my own red herring theories as the author left so many tantalising ideas and suggestions without actually being blatantly obvious at trying to confuse you with misdirection. Yes, you create the misdirection yourself while you’re trying to show you’re a clever clogs and figure it out before the end. I love that – so rare in a any crime book these days!

Hmmm, rereading that last paragraph it sort of makes sense to me… hopefully it does to others too! 😀

But, basically, what I am trying to say as this book had me guessing right until the end and when the ending came it made sense and fitted perfectly into the storyline and had me going “of course!” rather than it being so obscure it looked tacked on just to tease and confuse. However, it wasn’t just a book that had you guessing, it was enthralling you with a story at the same time, entwining the need to guess with the desire to enjoy and learn about the characters and their lives.

So many true crime books these days try and confuse and misdirect and curl the reader into knots that they look their skill in also telling a realistic tale. And they spend so much time doing this, there isn’t much of the storyline left to entertain and thrill. None of that nonsense with a book by Ms Cleeves! The intrigue is there, the pace sets off to allow characters – new and old – to develop around the reader and we are then swept off to the end where it isn’t so much wrapped up neatly and delivered to us, but pointed out and explained.

Loved it.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of the true crime genre would enjoy this story. Fans of Ruth Rendell would enjoy this book too. And, something I feel is true, although ‘The Moth Catcher’ is part of a series, if it was the first Vera Stanhope story you picked up – I feel you could still enjoy it as a standalone tale. But it would then make you eager to go buy the rest… or is that just me? 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

 Yes I would. In paper format! *gasp* But that’s only because I have started the series in paper format and I am a stickler and would therefore want them all in that format. Though it is just as enjoyable as an ebook.

In summary: A good true crime read to settle yourself down with any chance you get – I highly recommend it.

Until next time,

Janis.

 

Book Review – Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves.

hidden-depths

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank a very lovely and generous friend who sent me this book as a gift. I am in no way being forced or feel obligated to make this review, I just want to because I can.

This is the first book in the Vera Stanhope novels by Ann Cleeves and shows her work in this book series was excellent from the word go.

Yes it has been made into a TV series but this book is far better than the actual episode it became as, quite frankly, the TV version was chopped changed and – in my opinion – ruined. So please don’t go judging my review of the book on your opinion of the show. There is no comparison – the book is better… as is most often the case. 😉

The story may seem to start slowly for some, but I enjoyed it as it really helped set the scene and introduce the reader to all the characters, to the location and so on. Really reminiscent of works by Ruth Rendell, Edith Pargeter – which is a compliment, as I absolutely love their crime stories too.

The characters are very real and so quite easy to relate to and get that much needed emotional connection that helps make crime stories all the more riveting. The setting is also well describe to help those of us foreign to that part of England really get  feel for what it’s actually like. All in all a it’s a great book. There were some good, subtle red herrings too, an essential part of all good ‘true crime’ books. I hate a crime book where it is all mapped out for you and you know who did it from the third page, despite the ocean of herrings then thrown at you… Thankfully, ‘Hidden Depths’ is not such a book.

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Lovers of this part of the crime genre spectrum will love ‘Hidden Depths’. And, as the first book in the series it is an excellent one for them to start with. Lovers of Christie, Pargeter, Rendell and the like would love this book.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would… if I hadn’t already been gifted a copy. I am slowly collecting the paper versions of the entire series as it is just my sort of ‘true crime’.

In summary: A good pace, relatable characters, great setting – excellent book. I highly recommend people go grab a copy today!

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman.

jamie-quin-series

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank the author Barbara Venkataraman for approaching my via my reviewer blog and offering me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review. No money has been exchanged, we are not associated with each other in any way and so I can assure you this is a totally unbiased review.

This was a box set of the first three book in the Jamie Quinn mystery series. And a really good little box set at that. The first story ‘Death by Didgeridoo’ was good, but a little too short to be a standalone – more a novella really – so by pairing it with the other two stories it rounded them all out into a good introduction to the series.

And they are stories best read as a series. Yes they could possibly be read as standalones – as there is enough catch up given in each book – but I really do feel the characters all develop and grow as the series does and feel the reader would be seriously missing out if they didn’t start at the beginning and collect them all.

The writing style was my sort of thing down to a tea. The perfectly imperfect protagonist – who uses sarcasm as a second language – and the mixture of friends and enemies throughout made each book an entertaining and amusing read. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a silly little giggle a minute series – it was a proper cosy crime/ mystery series. I just found the characters well written and very likable.

Some of the stories – I’m looking at you ‘The case of the Killer Divorce’ – did seem to only just scrape through as being a mystery and did seem more about developing the character of Jamie and her family. But it got there… I did find that story in particular a little rushed and the crime part a little confusing as it did seem to be the Jamie show with crime on the side.

BUT! That did not really detract from it being a good read and Ms Venkataraman was back on track when it came to ‘Peril in the Park’.

All in all, these are some really good fast-paced cosy crime/ mysteries and by putting them as a box set it gives you a great sampler to the series.

Would I recommend this box set to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of the American based cosy crimes/ mysteries will love this introduction to a new series. There is just the right balance of crime, personality, entertaining characters and intrigue to make them a fun read.

Would I buy this box set for myself?

I might. To be honest it is more at the ‘library’ level for the moment… as in, if I see if in the library I would borrow it but I can’t see myself buying it… BUT! I do see myself wanting to read more books in this series and, quite honestly, if they only way I can get them is to buy them… the one must buy a series from the beginning and so that is what I would do. 😉

In summary: A great little taster to a fun new cosy crime/ mystery series. And definitely a series anyone in love (like me) with the cosy crime genre should keep an eye out for. Definitely worth you checking it out today!

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan.

death-among-the-doilies

2 out of 5 stars.

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

Okay, now as there is going to be a LOT of constructive criticism in this review, which is MEANT to be helpful, not harmful… I really want to start with the good stuff.

Despite the score and despite the following constructive criticisms, I really loved this story. I was addicted to it within pages, read it every chance I got and was up late most nights with my ‘one more chapter’ mantra. The writing style drew me in, was (mostly) engaging and there was just something about the whole story idea, location and people I just clicked with. My dream home would be a craft retreat like that! In all honesty, I feel my constructive criticism is BECAUSE I loved the story so much that these issues really jarred me.

So, please, take these constructive criticisms as me trying to be helpful – this is a great story, would make an excellent series I can see myself coming back to again and again… but it really just needs a little help.

Firstly… the title had my grammar alarm bells going every time I looked at it. Maybe it is a language thing where American English and Australian English do not meet… but, to me, the title should be ‘Death AMONGST the doilies’. Or, if ‘among’ is to be used… leave off the ‘the’. ‘Death among doilies’. Sorry, but it just got to me and it what made my score so low.

Then there was the Waters family… Waters, Waters’ – correct English. Waterses’… NO!!!!! Every time I saw that I cringed. Please tell me the final edit has that all sorted out with the other editing and spelling issues I stumbled across in there. It was an ARC after all so I never expect perfection. It’s not as if I can write a blog without leaving a clanger or two myself! 😉

I also got the feeling that it was like two people writing this book, one per chapter. One being Jane and one being Cora. The writing styles were similar… but there was just something that didn’t sit well and it felt more like I was reading a fan fiction blog of multiple authors writing the one story, rather than just the one author. I have no idea if this is the case (I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time two authors wrote as one) but it’s just a feeling I got.

Part of that feeling comes from the way the characters kept changing. One moment Cora was against starting a relationship and in no way interested in men… to her being someone on heat as all the men were ‘hot’. Hell, I like a book full of ‘hot’ men… but make up your mind please!

Sometimes the sentences were short and quick, other times they were run on sentences that just seemed to be padding. I also felt it suffered from first book jitters where so much had to be fitted in to set the storyline up… it became very cluttered and over stuffed and so dragged at some points. Don’t get me wrong, one of the main reason I LOVED the whole story idea is probably from the backstory… but it just seemed to be too much too soon… and I just don’t know how you would get around it.

I also still don’t understand the whole point of the jewelled gun and how it went off… that was never followed up and came from one of the many spots of inconsistency within the story… There is a different between loose threads being left to hopefully lead into the next story, and a gun going off and leaving a hole in the kitchen cupboard the Detective doesn’t even notice.

Okay, okay, I am sure this review will be filled with unlikes and hissed and booed at enough without me going on… but I really did feel a need to explain why a story I loved so much got such a low score. Ms Cox Bryan… I loved the whole idea, concept, surrounds and people of this book. And I do hope you can forgive my constructive criticism… but there was just something not quite right with this book for me.

All in all, please realise I read an ARC of this book. So a lot of the issues I came across may have been fixed in the final edit. It is a good story, has amazingly awesome potential at being one of my next ‘must own’ series and all in all I just can’t explain my love and dislike (not hate, too strong a word) of this book.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Actually I would. As I would love to see the feedback of other crafty cosy crime loving fans. They may just look at me and tell me to pull my head in as it was great… they may see the same minor flaws that I did. I don’t know… but I found it addictive, I see great potential in it as a series and I would recommend people into crafty cosy crimes to check it out – despite the title.

Would I buy this book for myself?

 You know what? Yes, yes I would! I’ve marked Ms Cox Bryan as a favourite on Amazon so I can keep up to date and I am keen to see what happens in this series and to see whether it was just a severe case of first book jitters. See, despite the constructive criticism (which I do feel I should hand over with a box of apology chocolates for) I did like this book and would buy it… and wait for the next in the series too.

In summary: A book and series that holds a lot of potential. An excellent concept for a good crafty cosy crime… it just needed a few more finishing touches before being let out to play. 🙂

Until next time,

Janis.

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