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 – 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 – Candy Is Magic: Real Ingredients, Modern Recipes by Jami Curl.

Candy is magic

4 out of 5 stars

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

Holy Cow! Now I am a dyed in the wool sweet tooth and chocoholic – despite my whole foods and healthy foods life. And so I simply had to get a chance to read and review ‘Candy is Magic’ – and the book lived up to its title!

What an amazingly thorough and comprehensive book on how to not just make candy in its various sorts and sizes, but it covered all the essential basics about how to prep and create the flavour backgrounds and other ingredients needed to make the divine looking titbits shown within its pages.

Now did any of that make sense? I hope so, but I do almost feel like I’ve gotten a sugar rush just from reading ‘Candy is Magic’ and seriously have no regrets! There was a lot of moaning and groaning and “oh my god I can make that?!” exclamations made as I worked my way through.

I also feel that this book has given me an even greater respect for our chocolate and confectionary artisans. I honestly feel they don’t get enough credit for the time, dedication and creativity that goes into making proper, from scratch confectionary delights. I mean, I am not someone who will never buy cheap sweets over quality sweets… but there are some out there who go a bit silly when being asked to pay a couple of bucks for one item. If they bothered to read such books as ‘Candy is Magic’ I would like to hope they would realise why that one piece costs so much and that they savour every delicious mouthful! I know I do when I get to visit my favourite artisan chocolatiers and confectioners. 😉

Though saying all that, I do wonder if I am cut out for this level of confectionary making as, quite honestly, there is a lot of dedication and creativity needed and I do wonder if my skills are ready to be stretched that far. Heck, I’m still mastering a toffee glaze compote and raw chocolate… I might not be ready for the hard core candy making as shown in this amazing book.

Okay, as it’s a non-fiction book, time for my formatting feedback… It’s a Ten Speed Press book so, yeah, nothing to fault! Their images, their page layouts, their overall formatting – easy on the eye, easy to follow, sublime. Can you tell this is something I have come to expect from anything produced by Ten Speed Press? 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Well, I would… though I really don’t know anyone at the skill or dedication level who would want to take this sort of confectionary work on. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is an amazing book and the recipes are something people of various skill levels could do… I just don’t know if I know anyone this dedicated to candy. Fruit leather, raw chocolate and refined sugar free treats is more the sort of thing my peers are into and so it is a book I would recommend as it teaches you how to make your own natural and yummy treats… but I honestly don’t know how many of my friends would then race out and buy it.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I would… but I would then feel guilty as I don’t know when I would have the time and space in my chunky old avocado green 1980’s kitchen to have a go at making some of the things. I mean, if I am going to serve candy/confectionary to friends and family I would honestly much rather serve things like the recipes within ‘Candy is Magic’… but whether I would actually use it often enough to justify owning it? That I can’t answer.

Maybe if it was an e-Book I could hide it on my tablet for those rainy days when I want to melt sugar and have some fun. 😉

In summary: An amazing, comprehensive and totally inspiring cook book that truly lives up to its title.

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 – The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen.

Pho cookbook

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Ten Speed Press for provided me with a free electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

You know, I thought I knew a bit about Pho… I did not. I now doubt if I even know how to say or eat it correctly. 😉

Pho to me has always been a really yummy HOT broth with noodles, bits of meat and maybe some greens. And a meal you have when you missed breakfast and just can’t wait for lunch.

So I feel the ‘Pho Cook book’ has filled in a lot of the gaps missing in my education when it comes to this amazing nourishing food source!

I grew up in Darwin, Australia where – back then – Asian cuisine was one of the most common foods available when out and about. So I have been exposed to them from a young age. And I admit now that Pho in a Styrofoam cup with a fork as you walk around the markets is not the traditional way to eat it, but that’s what we did.

This book made me hungry too! How terrible. 😉 We got past the initial recipes, which I felt were at a level I could do (being a bone broth lover today) and the rest of the book became almost like a menu for me than a cook book. I wanted to order almost one of everything.

And, being a book produced by Ten Speed Press, the gloriously colourful pictures were to blame! They always seem to capture the spirit of a book in their tantalising images.

As for the formatting? Well, I will say here and now the recipes clearly show it was written for a North American audience (no surprise as they were!) as all the measurements are in imperial.

Also, the formatting used for the recipes was very typical of what I am used to in the older style Asian cook books. Very similar to authors like Charmaine Solomon where the ingredients and methods and blocked out page for page. Tightly squashed together, not a lot of white space.

Now, I am okay with this sort of formatting, as I am used to it. But I feel it sets the level of who the cook book is aimed for – middle to experts cooks. As your modern newbie cook – who is into a lot of white space, basic step by step instructions and hand holding – isn’t going to like the ‘Pho Cook book’. Sorry, but formatting will put people off. They pick up the book, the flick through it, see it looks so compact and will assume it is therefore too complicated and so put it down and buy a different book.

But what would I know? Just my opinion as part of my open and honest feedback. I loved the book, loved the recipes… would be challenged by some of them, but that just makes all the more fun and enjoyment of trying.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. But only to those I feel could handle it. I now admin in a Facebook group where we are helping to teach the unexperienced how to cook real food on a budget. This isn’t a book I would suggest to the newbies. Though it is something I would suggest to the members who had had more experience and were willing to try something outside their comfort zone.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I think I would… but I would prefer it in paper format – as I do most of my cook books – and it would have to wait until I have more shelf space. 😉

In summary: Not for the beginner, but a fantastic cookery book showing you how to make and enjoy Pho… and then some.

Until next time,

Janis.

 

 

Book Review – The Actuator 3: Chaos Chronicles by James Wymore.

The Actuator 3

3 out of 5 stars

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

This is the official third book in a rather interesting series. I really do have a love/ hate relationship with the whole series too. I really don’t know why. I mean, I love the whole concept and I love that the original authors have allowed fans to help write and weave their world… but I get to parts of it and I groan and think “really? This is what you want to write about when there is so much potential for others things?”

If I was asked to “do better” I couldn’t. I would go off and sit in my kid’s naughty corner or something similar. But there is just something about this series that gets under my skin in both a good and bad way. I get the good way – has potential, is entertaining, is consistent and keeps the reader thinking and entertained… As for what the bad bits are? I honestly really don’t know. There is just something there that bugs me and I wish I could figure out what it was so I could tell it to shut the heck up and just let me keep reading.

Example, I see the third book available as an ARC, I want it, I ask for it, I do a happy dance when I get it. Then I procrastinate when it comes to reading it. I get distracted by other books; I find other things to do… Why?! When I read it I love it. Perhaps this is the magical affect the Actuator has on me? Others it inspires some amazing works – zombie dinosaurs, need I say more – but in me I go all whiney and turn truant.

BUT! I have to say it is a series I am glad I have read, it is a series that the majority of me enjoys and it is a series I will no doubt struggle with continuing to read as I want to read it… Well, 80% of me does. Maybe my split personalities are warring here?

Back to the book! A great anthology! There are some very talented writers – and ‘The Actuator’ fans out there – and it was wonderful to see some of them given the opportunity to extend the adventures to fixing the world from when it was shattered.

Unlike the last anthology from fans published for ‘The Actuator’ this one kept the actual story moving. It wasn’t just people experiencing the world shattering. It was people coming to terms with a shattered world, and then some, as further Actuator changes take place. Plus this book does strive towards the end game and getting it all sorted one way or the other… And maybe that’s why I love this series so much? A big part of me wants to see what is left of the world once the machine is turned off and what is then done to keep fixing the damage caused.

Oh that is deep for so early in the year for me!

Would I recommend this book to others?

I would, but only to those who had read all other books and anthologies in the series. To those who had not, I would send them to Curiosity Quills Press and point them to the first book and get them to read from there. I feel the whole ‘Actuator’ series spans a few genres so lovers of fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, YA and NA alike would enjoy it… or at least parts of it.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Not too sure. I mean I am enjoying the series and do want to keep reading… but owning? Hmmmm, tough call. I have to say it is more of a library level book for me sorry. As in, I enjoy reading it, but I can’t see myself owning them. Worst fan ever, I know!

In summary: A good continuation of the myriad patchwork tales that make ‘The Actuator’ series what it is.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants by Stefani Bittner, Alethea Harampolis.

Harvest

3 out of 5 stars

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

Wow, what an interesting book! I really wasn’t too sure what to expect from it… but I did indeed love what I got. I was thinking it was going to be a cook book on how to grow, harvest and eat in season… but no. It was that and then some! Cooking, decorating, healthcare, cleaning – all in season and from locally sourced materials. Wonderful.

And, being a Ten Speed Press book it was simply filled with gorgeous images of the materials to use and the things they can be made into. I do love their photographic imagery as it just adds to the glorious indulgence of the books they produce.

But I have to admit, being the open and honest gal that I am, that there was just something that didn’t click with me and ‘Harvest’. I’m not too sure if it was because it was a bit of a book of everything so – to me – gave it more of a coffee table/ waiting room read than a useful book. Or it might have been the fact I am the wrong audience, locationally, for this book. As in, I am in Australia where Ten Speed Press caters to a North American audience. This is totally my fault and something I accept and expect when asking to review their books… But I do love the things they produce and so I find myself drawn again and again to their work.

Both these faults lay with me the reader and not the book. I just didn’t click to it liked I had hoped to, but it is a simply amazing, fact filled, creatively delicious tome. Okay? Blame me, not ‘Harvest’!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Actually, this is a hard one to answer simply due to the feeling of “coffee table book” I got from ‘Harvest’. As in, a book that is displayed on your coffee table and occasionally thumbed through for mild entertainment but not actually a book you would read to use and replicate the recipes and ideas within the pages. BUT! As I have said, this is just my opinion and, seriously, what the heck would I know, right?

Still, I would tell people this feeling of mine but then tell them to go check it out for themselves as my failure to connect with it doesn’t make it a bad book. It makes me a bad choice of audience.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Sadly no. I mean, I can see myself borrowing it from the library again and again when I want help with something in season… if it is covered, might not be due to my location… but I can’t see myself owning it. I mean, I don’t even own a coffee table… I don’t drink coffee! 😉

In summary: a factually and visually stunning book to help you use what grows around you and in season. Just not a book for me.

Until next time,

Janis.

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