Book Review – Mystery/Thriller

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 – 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 – Hanging Tobacco by Linda S. Browning.

4 out of 5 stars

I obtained a free electronic ARC of this book via Netgalley, where I am auto approved b Bookbuzz.net to access books from their catalogues.

So, I will freely admit here and now I went on search for a free ARC of this book as, quite frankly, I heard of it, have been loving all the works I’ve read so far of the author Linda S. Browning and I wanted to see what this new series was like before I bought it. Yes, I am indeed a cheapskate!

Was I disappointed? Heck no! It was almost as if her cosy crimes from the ‘Leslie & Belinda Tennessee Mysteries’ series merged with her love of the supernatural from ‘Pickett House’ and this was the end result. And, to me, it was yet another great story that looks to become a promising new series.

Oh, and please don’t think that my description of it being a bit of this and a bit of that makes it some sort of cookie cutter tales being chunked out for sale. Not at all! ‘Hanging Tobacco’ can be likened to Ms Browning’s earlier work… but it most definitely stands out as being its own person… so to speak. It is more a happy marriage of someone good at writing cosy crimes – as proven by one series – and who is good at writing about the supernatural – as proven by another of her books – has now hit the nail on the head by combining the two topics and her talents of weaving a good story and gone from there.

Does that make sense now? Yeah, no… I feel if I try again I am just going to make it even worse! 😉

So, anyhow, ‘Hanging tobacco’ is a great little stand-alone cosy crime/ mystery. It does start with a short story that sparked the inspiration for the main story and I loved that. It was like a two for one deal and the short story was a brilliant way to set the scene and get the reader into the right mindset for the main book ahead. It was like a reading appetiser! 😀

From memory, Ms Browning did this with the first Leslie and Belinda book too. A short story teaser followed by the actual full book. Loved it there too. Maybe it’s being a writer myself… but I adore how one little short story can then inspire a whole book, if not series. It just adds that extra touch of love and proof of passion about the work. Or maybe that’s just how I see it?

‘Hanging Tobacco’ was well paced (ie: addictive and having me read well past my bed time) cosy crime with a touch of the supernatural to add a twist to the usual crime sleuthing in small town America. I also do love how Olivia is a reporter so has a reason to be interested in the case.

Sometimes cosy crimes just have the main character coming across as nosy rather than sleuthing as her job and links to the crimes are miles apart with no real connection. But Olivia and the other characters were set up well to cover any grey areas without going to the other extreme of having access to everything, knowing everything and being some misunderstood super cop (the other end of the cosy crime spectrum). No, the choice of characters, the setting and the reasons for why things went the way they did was well thought out and a good balance.

Due to this good balance there was just the right amount of padding to the story, the right level of red herrings and I have to admit I honestly didn’t decide on whodunit until just before the book itself told me! That is rare! And it wasn’t due to the story being so convoluted it confused me… it was because the story simply had that RIGHT BALANCE of everything to keep me guessing, keep me entertained and make me satisfied with how it all wrapped up and was finished.

I really do hope the series continues as I would be more than willing to grab copies and continue reading.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Uh, I think I already have in all that flowery prose of how good it was to read. 😉

But for those who need the direct approach – yes I would. Lovers of a good American mystery/ cosy crime are going to really enjoy ‘Hanging tobacco’. For those worried there is too much supernatural in it to make it a true here and now cosy – don’t be worried, it’s fine. This is not a book on the supernatural that happens to include a cosy crime, this is a decent cosy crime book that just happens to have a touch of the supernatural to it. You will be fine, just buy, read it and enjoy!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Pretty sure I already answered this one too… but yes, yes I would. I follow Linda S. Browning on all the normal social media sites that allow me to be a fan and not deemed a stalker and will keep an eye out for any further books in this series and happily spend my money buying them!

 

In summary: A good author just created another great cosy crime/mystery series. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Knot What You Think by Mary Marks.

4 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.

‘Knot What You Think’ is the 5th book in the ‘A Quilting Mystery’ series and just as wonderful and entertaining to read as the other four. I have been a fan from near the beginning. I think I stumbled across the 2nd or 3rd book in the series on Netgalley, loved it so much I went to Amazon and bought the first books of the series and have never looked back. I am officially a fan!

And this book has not let me down. Another mystery, another dead body and one of Martha’s friends accused of being the murderer. I do love how the characters have evolved and grown with the series. No rehashing the same cookie cutter ideas each time. Many cosy series seem to do this and the characters make the same mistakes and do the same crazy things each book and seem surprised they get the same end results. But this is not the case with Martha et al. Oh no! They’ve been learning as they go and can officially now run rings around the police force also trying to solve the case. It’s wonderful that they know they really shouldn’t be doing what they do… but let’s just try this idea anyhow and hope for the best. A lot of chutzpah there Martha! 😉

But it’s not all about crime and dead bodies; there is still that interesting underlying description of LA that I simply can’t read elsewhere. Never having visited that city I can’t say it makes me know where I am… but I do like the way it does still link the reader to a real place and it somehow makes me feel more part of the story by letting me know where everything is.

Then there are the love and romances happening… some coming to the final commitment, some budding and new, some… well, some just all over the place making me want to shake someone by the shoulders and demand they just make up their damned mind! And that final line in ‘Knot What You Think’? Oh Ms Marks, talk about leaving your fans hanging and dying for more!

Let’s not forget my two favourite parts – besides the mystery – within this book. The quilting and the wonderful sharing of the Jewish Faith. I am a hand crafting nut with a passion to learn about how other people follow their faith and so simply adore both these parts of the tale… and would feel rather sad and lonely if they were left out.

All in all this is a wonderfully well rounded mystery/ cosy crime. It has a good balance of everything that keeps it entertaining and keeps we crime sleuths guessing. Well, actually I figured out the whodunit early on (bane of my existence that I do this) but I still needed to know the why and didn’t get that until the end. And all my questions were answered nicely without the book seeming to need to rush to finish or just stop. Which I hate in mysteries/ cosy crime stories. They tell you the who and why and then – the end. Any loose threads are left flapping in the breeze. But it didn’t happen with ‘Knot What You Think’. A true quilter knows how to deal with loose threads and tuck them all neatly away before displaying the final perfect piece.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would, though I would strongly advise they read the first four books in the series before reading this one. It’s not a stand-alone novel, refers back to their other adventures quite a bit and I really feel the reader would be missing out and doing both themselves and Ms Marks an injustice if they didn’t read all five books in order.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I already own the other books in the series (bought via Kindle) and would be more than happy to add book 5 to my list when I can. I just had a bit of a buying splurge though so give me a few months. 😉 Owning the electronic ARC of a book is one thing, but putting your money where your mouth is and paying for a copy – because you respect the author – is totally another thing. Where possible I always pay for a copy of books I enjoy simply to give the author the credit and reward they deserve.

In summary: A fantastic follow on book to an already highly entertaining mystery series. Highly recommend!

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Called to Justice (A Quaker Midwife Mystery #2) by Edith Maxwell.

4 out of 5 stars

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

This is the second book in the ‘A Quaker Midwife’ series, and I was lucky enough to get to read the first one, due to a suggestion by the author herself. I enjoyed it so much – you can see my review for ‘Delivering the Truth’ here that I have been hanging out for this the second book.

I found ‘Called to Justice just as good’ as the first book ‘Delivering the truth’. It picks up the life of Rose the Quaker midwife a few months after the first book finishes and, although it does refer to a couple of things from the first book, it could be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone story if desired.

For me it had just that right amount of mystery, historical everyday life and the personal life comings and goings of Rose herself within her home, work and faith. Although not a Quaker myself (for those who haven’t read my other stuff, I’m Pagan and proud) I love learning and hearing of how it is depicted within this series. I am going to trust that Ms Maxwell has researched it well (she says she has and I believe her) and so it is as true to form as can be. It just adds a nice touch of harmony within one’s own faith without overpowering the book with religion… if that makes sense?

As to the mystery side of it? Perfect. I, as is my bane, guessed the who and why early on, but found there were enough red herrings to make me doubt myself all the way until near the end. Which, to me, makes a great mystery book. Thinking you know who did it early on and then doubting yourself as information unfolds. You simply MUST keep reading to see if you are right or wrong. 😉 And what I also love about Ms Maxwell’s writing style of this book is there is just the right amount of padding. Some cosy crimes and mystery books stuff their stories full of so much padding and red herrings you really get tired and lose any desire to find out who really did it. There is just too much stuff to wade through. Not with ‘A Quaker Midwife’ series – so far the two books have both contained just the right amount of padding, red herrings and interesting story telling to make this a totally enjoyable book.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of cosy crimes/ mysteries will enjoy it; lovers of historical crime fiction will love it. It can be enjoyed with the first book in the series or, as I’ve said, happily stand on its own as an entertaining read. Though, being a lover of reading a series in order, I would recommend people read ‘Delivering the Truth’ first.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. If you haven’t guessed I’m thoroughly enjoying the series and the second book was as good as the first. I could happily see the ‘A Quaker Midwife’ series on my electronic bookshelves. They are not a read once sort of book. I could easily see myself rereading it again in the future and still getting enjoyment from it.

In summary: An excellent second book in ‘A Quaker Midwife’ series, but could easily be read as a stand-alone too.