Book Review – Mystery/Thriller

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.

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

No Charm Intended

2 out of 5 stars

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

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

We good? 😉

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would I recommend this book to others?

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

Would I buy this book for myself?

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

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

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – 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.