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 – 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

Book Review – Bad Housekeeping (An Agnes and Effie Mystery) by Maia Chance.

Bad Housekeeping

4 out of 5 stars

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

Okay, open and honest bit… I was introduced to Ms Chance’s writing via an anthology of Christmas themed short stories. Due to liking that book I was approached and asked to read her 1920’s cosy crime/ mystery series and loved it. To the point I started fan following Ms Chance on social media. And a fan I did become. So when I saw another story by her on Netgalley, I wanted to see what else she could do… and I was once more not disappointed by Ms Chance’s skill to write in another era, style and tone. No cookie cut outs from this author! Yet another new world, new characters and new ways things got done. Simply her great level of humour – similar to my own – and her talented ability to weave a good story linked this book to previous works I have read.

Fine, enough fan-girling from me, on to the review of the actual book… In two words – loved it. It reminded me of Sharyn McCrumb’s Elizabeth MacPherson series, without it being in any way a rip off. There were no actual similarities… it was more a feel. And as I have been a fan of Ms McCrumb’s for decades… this is a big compliment.

It also had that small town America cosy crime/ mystery feel I enjoy and ticked all the right boxes for an entertaining read – our self-doubting, sarcastic protagonist, erratically eccentric side kick, a town of its own colourful characters, the dud ex, the cute new guy, some red herrings and entertaining padding out of the tale and a crime to solve. And it did have me thinking whodunit until near the end and then finished it off with a good bit of drama and a neat wrap up. All in all – the perfect cosy crime/ mystery and something fans of this genre will delight in adding to their summer/ winter reading lists.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Um, I think I just did. 😉 But yes, cosy crime/ mystery fans – you will love ‘Bad Housekeeping’. Better yet, it’s the first book in a rather promising new series so you’re getting in at the beginning and will no doubt enjoy the tales as they are brought to us.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would, as an eBook – my virtual shelves are far bigger than my real ones. When a story reminds you of one of your other favourite authors, without being in any way a rip off of their work… you know you’re onto a good thing and so yes, a book – and series – for me.

In summary: Great first book to a potentially highly entertaining new cosy crime/ mystery series. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – For Whom the Bread Rolls (A Pancake House Mystery) by Sarah Fox.

For Whom the Bread Rolls.jpg

4 out of 5 stars

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

And I really am quite thankful they did approve me to read it as I wasn’t too sure they would after what I said about book one ‘The Crepes of Wrath’. 😀

In my defence I did say a lot of nice things about book one as it really did tick all the right boxes to be a great little cosy crime… I just could not connect to or truly enjoy it and I don’t know why. I do blame myself. Maybe I was in the wrong mood?

Still, I am so very pleased to be able to tell you that my belief that my failure to connect was a one off and due to it suffering ‘first book jitters’ is true as…. I loved ‘For Whom the bread rolls’. I don’t know why, but this time there was just that right bit of everything and so it clicked, was enjoyable and read within three days or so. Obviously a good read when my brain inhales it that quickly.

I don’t know whether it was just because the characters were more established, whether it was because the whole storyline was more grounded and seemed to know where it was going… I really can’t say. But I will say that all the positives I said about the first book in the ‘A Pancake House Mystery’ still stand. And all the constructive criticisms (not negatives) I said are now gone. All the boxes for a good American cosy crime/ mystery are still ticked, this reader was satisfied and we can all go on living happily ever after…. Until the next one. 😉

What may have happened is this book wasn’t so cluttered and wasn’t trying to fit so many things in all at once… which is often the case of the first book in a series and so one should never judge a series on the first book alone. Wait for the next one, read it and realise the author has it all together now and it is going to be fine. Then just sit down, grab a cuppa and enjoy the ride… I mean read.

So – story plot good. Cosy/ Mystery – well paced. Characters – approachable and believable. Padding and red herrings – just enough to keep it ticking over and interesting without smothering the actual story. All in all as perfect as an American small town cosy/ mystery could be and something I feel is going to be perfect on the summer reading lists of cosy crime lovers all over the Americas this coming summer. It works just as good for we who are descending into winter down here in Australia. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

I would… but with any series I would always say start at the first book and move forward. But I would also warn people to not panic if they didn’t quite gel with ‘The Crepes of Wrath’ as ‘For Whom the Bread Rolls’ totally makes up for is and will ensure you really get hooked on the ‘A Pancake House Mystery’ series.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I can honestly see myself collecting them as eBooks. Yes I wasn’t that enamoured with the first book, but I could still see its potential. Second book well and truly makes up for it and really makes me look forward to the next one and filling my Amazon cart in a bit of a cosy spending spree. 😉

In summary: Great second book in an American cosy/ mystery series that has a LOT of potential to be awesome. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – House of Silence by Sarah Barthel.

House of Silence

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.

When it came to ‘House of silence’ I wasn’t too sure what to expect as it seemed to be a women’s fiction more than a mystery… but it ended up being a bit of both and that suited me just fine.

It was a wonderful, well-paced story containing relatable characters. I could also feel the research and passion for the story about this real life house that Ms Barthnel put into the book. To me, that made it all the more engrossing to read. When the author is loving what they are writing, you can tell and you often then start to fall in love with it too. Or maybe this was just me? If it was, I don’t care! I enjoyed it, I was entertained, I felt for the heroine and was glad she got the ending she did. The book also left me wanting to learn “what happens next?” and any novel that does that get a gold star from me. 🙂

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Though I would find myself trying to explain that it’s not your typical mystery/ thriller… not even a cosy. It’s more of an adventure mystery. I mean, yes the mystery was still there… but I felt ‘House of Silence’ was almost more a coming of age tale as it was a mystery. Yeah, that about makes it as clear as mud, right?

But I would still recommend it as, unlike other books written in this era, ‘House of Silence’ is believable and well written. So lovers of this era who like a tale of a women coming of age as well as solving a few things along the way will enjoy this book.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Honestly, I’m not too sure. I mean, I did enjoy it and could possibly see myself wanting to re-read it again in the future… but I can’t say it grabbed me enough to want to buy it today. If that makes sense? Right now it is more of a library book level where I liked it and might return to it again. But I feel I would like to read more from the author before I would purchase it.

But please remember I am a book diva these days as I just have so many I fear losing track of them all and so have started restricting how many I buy and how many I merely borrow. It’s a great read so please don’t let my opinion on whether I’d own it or now sway your decision.

In summary: An entertaining read and definitely something to enjoy over the weekend while relaxing on the couch.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Be Still My Beading Heart: A Glass Bead Mini-Mysteryby Janice Peacock

be-still-my-beading-heart

3 out of 5 stars.

I bought this short story for myself with my own money so technically don’t have to thank anyone… but will thank the author for the tip off. 😉

What can I say, I know it was a short story, sold as a short story and I am obviously a selfishly greedy fan of the ‘Glass Bead Mystery’ series – but I found it too short! 😀

I got to the end and went: wait, what? No! That can’t be all of it!

Sadly it was, but it was worth it all the same.

A lovely little mini mystery to sate we fans until the next book comes out. It picks up nicely from the last full story ‘A Bead in the Hand’, adds some intrigue and filler on the main characters, the hunky guys and our artistic protagonist. All in all it was of the same quality and fun I have come to expect from Ms Peacock and has really made me want to read book three ‘Off the Beadin’ Path’ when it comes out in March. I wish I was on her blog tour so I could read it sooner. 😀

It’s a short story so gets a short review.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, though I would strongly advise them to go and grab the first two books ‘High Strung’ and ‘A Bead in the Hand’ first. This mini mystery is not a stand-alone and is best enjoyed in the company of its bigger siblings. 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

Already have done. Don’t regret it either. Loved it, read it in like half an hour and wanted more… what can I say? It was good.

In summary: A great little mini mystery and filler to tide the fans over until the next main story.

Until next tme,

Janis.

Book Review – Pickett House by Linda S. Browning.

pickett-house

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Reading Deals for allowing me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, where to start? I am a huge fan of Linda S. Browning’s ‘Dare Devil’ cosy crime book and have been following her on social media since so when she posted how I could read and review ‘Pickett House’ I was on it right away.

Was I disappointed because it was a different style of book? Heck no! The writing was just as good and the tale just as engrossing and enjoyable.

In some ways ‘Pickett House’ had a feel of literary fiction mixed in with suspense and supernatural mystery. As the Dole family had brought along their own ghosts to lay to rest, as well as deal with Pickett House, before they could move on with their new life.

I will say, and this is meant as constructive criticism only – not me being mean – that I did find the book rushed and sketchy in places. As if I was reading just the notes/ backbone of the story and that the author would be coming along later to flesh out the story more and make it complete. I still thoroughly enjoyed ‘Pickett House’ but do feel a need to make this comment.

And, on a side note, I want to make a quick comment on Reading Deals. This was the first, and probably last, time I used them to review a book. Being the busy mum reviewer that I am being given 2 weeks as of… NOW… to read a book, followed by constant “friendly reminders” that I had agreed to this so better not back out, was rather frustrating. It meant I had to stop reading other books I’d already scheduled and may have even raced through this book myself a little just to ensure I got it done on time. We won’t mention the convoluted manner in which they then ask you to leave a review. This isn’t the sort of reviewing platform I enjoy and won’t be adding its undue stress to my workload again. Even for some of my favourite authors. Just a head’s up to anyone else thinking of reviewing via Reading Deals – ensure you have the time right there and then to read and review, or just avoid them. Too much fuss and bother, even for a good book like ‘Pickett House’.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I enjoyed it – despite the pressure to read it so soon and so quickly – and can honestly say that I am still a fan of Linda S. Browning and her varied works. Though I will admit, if asked, that I would mention my feeling of sketchiness within the tale… but would probably only make this comment after the other person had read it so as to not tarnish their opinion and, well, to see if it was just me talking hooey.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I could see it fitting nicely in amongst my e-shelfs and is a book I could see myself reading now and again as it just has that kind of feel to it. If that makes sense? As in, want a good book to entertain and while away the hours that will make you feel good at the end? ‘Pickett Fence’ will definitely fit the criteria.

In summary: a little sketchy and rushed in areas, but overall a good book and one you could enjoy again and again.

Until next time,

Janis.

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