book review

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 – 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 – How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days (The Tale of Bryant Adams #1) by Megan O’Russell.

4 out of 5 stars

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

What can I say, I love the types of quirky, slightly off kilter stories that Curiosity Quills publish and so when I saw this on their site I had to take a look. Was I disappointed? Nope!

What’s it about? Well, if I was to undersell ‘How I Magically Messed Up My Life In Four Freakin’ Days’ I would say it’s a book about a boy who discovers he is can use magic… thanks to a mobile phone.

But it’s not just that and it’s not a Harry Potter rip off and thank goodness for that! As I seem to be about one of the only people in the world who doesn’t like HP! Love JK on Twitter… not a fan of the books. Go figure! 😀

However, with this book – sorry, the title is so long I can’t keep plugging it like I usually do – think more a mix of the least annoying bits of HP with great big dollops of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere mixed in with a bit of teen angst and a smattering of Arthur Dent’s hapless exploits as a hitchhiker and you get a better idea of what’s it all about. Just then add some independent and new ideas on an old theme and you’re there!

Plus it’s the first book in a potentially entertaining new YA/ NA urban fantasy series and I hope you can see now why I felt it got the score I gave it.

See, calling it ‘like Harry Potter’ is a serious underselling insult and I hope it is never described as that. If it is – shame on that reviewer!

Okay, back to what’s it all about… well, it’s set in modern day New York City where normal, everyday teens go from the usual angst of high school, fitting in and looking cool to having life turned on its head due to a misplaced phone and our characters then find themselves learning about a hidden world within their own. I mean, who doesn’t love those ‘what if’ hidden world’s within their own? I love them!

For those not into ‘teen drama’ don’t panic! Yes the main characters are teens – and sold as a YA book – but are still enjoyable by young and old. I didn’t need my inner teenager to enjoy this story; I managed it on my old fogey own. 😉

And even though this is obviously the first book in a series – the subtitle of ‘The Tale of Bryant Adams Book 1’ is a bit of a hint – this can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone tale. I mean, there are still going to be a few threads flapping about at the end of it you might want tied up… but that’s for the next book. They can be ignored by those only wanting to read this first book… but people who think that way are just being silly and should stop pretending – read the next book when it comes out, you know you want to! 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I mean, isn’t it obvious I am pro not just this book but the rest of the tales to come in this series? Really? You didn’t spot that in my heaping on the praise bit? 😀

So yes, lovers of HP may or may not like it… I don’t know, as I simply don’t GET loving Harry Potter. But fans of urban fantasy or speculative fiction where there is a ‘what if’ world within our own… you’re going to enjoy this read. Yes, think ‘Neverwhere’, ‘RoofWorlders’, ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’… Think fun, entertaining and enjoyable while still setting reality on a slightly different angle to normal. You will enjoy this book!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yeah, I can see that as a possibility. I mean, right now it is wavering between ‘library book’ and ‘eBook I own’ status… but as long as the series keeps going in this way, I can see it becoming one I proudly own and will tell everyone about who dares to make eye contact with my while I am reading it. 😉

In summary: A great look at the hidden world of magic and what happens when teens access it. I highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Hunt (The Devil’s Isle Series) by Chloe Neill.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Now, I finished reading ‘The Hunt’ a week ago and am only now getting to post my review. Firstly, it’s spring here, my whole family has been struggling through the last of the winter bugs as well as the last week of term three of school and, well, I was left with such a HUGE book hangover from ‘The Hunt’ that I needed a few days to lick my wounds, refocus on reality and get on with things.

Basically, I downloaded this book on September 21st, knew it was being released September 28th and only got to start reading it on the 23rd…. and finishing it ON the 28th. So, yeah, whirlwind read of a great book – and series – I love and so I needed recovery time. 😉

Okay, now we know why I’ve been going on about how amazing ‘The Hunt’ is on social media while not leaving any review; let’s get on with the review!

‘The Hunt’ is the third book in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ by Ms Neill and I was hooked back on book one! I love the setting, the premise behind the story  – the veil between our world and the beyond has been breached and magic now seeps through – and so on…. You want to know more? Go buy ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’, read, enjoy and find out why I think it’s so amazing! 😀

Okay, back to my review of ‘The Hunt’. Well, I have to say I have been simply DYING to read this book as ‘The Sight’ ended in such a dramatic way. And so I found the beginning of ‘The Hunt’ a tad slow – but that can be put down to my impatience rather than Ms Neill’s writing ability.

The story begins about a month after ‘The Sight’ and a lot has happened. Claire has a new life, new duties and NOLA moves on around her as she (and the impatient reader) wonders what has happened to the man of her life.

Things then pick up well from there and the story then flows true to the first two books and before you know it you’re left with ANOTHER tremendous cliff hanger of an ending that leaves you groaning at having to wait for more and loving/ cursing Ms Neill for leaving yet another book in such a way.

Cryptic enough for you? Seriously, you want to now more – buy and read this series! It puts things like Ms Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’ into shadow with how good it is! 😉

Unlike other series – by other authors – ‘The Hunt’ has not come across as less of a book, or as if the ideas of the series have wandered and lost their way. No, we are still going as strong as the first book, ‘The Veil’ and still keeping with the initial core principles and plot of the entire series. This is some seriously good writing! I do hate when a series starts well and blows your mind and then dwindles. That is NOT the case at all with any of the books in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ and that is SUCH a relief to fangirl me! 😉

Devils isle The Hunt

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Though, if you haven’t guessed it, I would ensure they had read the rest of the series’ first. I mean, I suppose you COULD read each story as a stand-alone… but that would be such a waste of your time and Ms Neill’s talent. If they didn’t own ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’ yet, I would recommend the person buy them while they are buying ‘The Hunt’ and then just lock themselves away for a weekend of fantastic reading.

Lovers of the true supernatural – the stuff without sparkles and/or porn on every other page – will love this book and series. Think Kim Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’, only better. Not so much a world within a world as two worlds colliding and fighting to see who wins.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Uh, I think I’ve given away my feelings on this matter already. As the answer is HECK YES! And I am already hanging out (impatiently) for the next book. Seriously Ms Neill – Write. Faster. 😀

In summary: Great book, excellent follow on to a great series, HUGE book hangover – highly recommend.

Ready or Not! – 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now Recipes by Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam, Henry Fong.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Well, I have to start by saying this is a very different cook book to the ones I am used to reading and reviewing and, for a while, I wasn’t too sure if I was finding it refreshingly different or just a little too off centre for my liking. So, yeah, mixed feelings about the layout and formatting, but we will get to that later.

What I did love about ‘Ready or Not!’ is that it is my sort of paleo. I am a whole foods, make from scratch but nobody’s perfect sort of person… In fact I am known for calling myself perfectly imperfect and sometimes just eat cereal for dinner (gluten free and in activated almond milk but still cereal)!

And I really do find the term ‘Paleo’ has been given a really bad name in recent years as it’s gone from a generic term for just plain and simple whole food eating to anti this and ban that and “it’s all meat and you must hunt it yourself or you’re not a Paleo”…. I hate labels. And so refuse to call myself paleo due to all this negativity. It’s not a cult people! It’s a suggestion on how to eat food!

Which is why I loved ‘Ready or Not!’ as it not only seems to follow a similar perfectly imperfect lifestyle, but also seems to have gone back to the old style, far more flexible approach to paleo and so I am not ashamed to say I have read it… Or now follow ‘Nom Nom Paleo – Michelle Tan’ on Facebook. What can I say? Her food looks amazing and the recipes are simple and very easy to follow.

I will state here and now that my own personal food allergies and intolerances (recapping for those who don’t know me – wheat, allium, seafood, dairy to name a few) mean that not all recipes were suitable for me… while some could be fine-tuned to suit my needs and others were perfect to just go with… I’m looking at you Pina Colada Tapioca pudding!

So another reason to have mixed emotions as not every recipe in ‘Ready or Not!’ could be made in my house. And so as much as the book tempts and excites me with its differences… I am also disappointed it is yet another cook book that is hit and miss for my diet. Won’t anyone think of the allium intolerant? 😉

Okay, back to the layout and formatting of ‘Ready or Not!’ and me stating it’s very different to the norm. I mean, my 12 year old daughter loves it, but she is really into Manga and graphic novels – as well as inheriting my cook book addiction. It is indeed rather… unique being set out like a manga book but then again I think our modern new home cooks would like it as it has the set by set pictures and instructions, it has the smiley faces and constant chatter of making it like a one on one cooking conversation and would give them that feeling instant gratification the younger generation seems to need.

But for me? And my love of 100 year old (and then some) cook books that consist of a paragraph or two and the belief the reader knows their way around a kitchen and doesn’t need to be spoon fed each ingredient… yeah, I can’t say I enjoyed the manga style that much. A little too dumbed down and babyish for me.

Oh, and it is written for an American audience so uses imperial measurements and the American names for foods – such a cilantro rather than coriander. This may be a stumbling block for some new cooks here in Australia but who knows? Do Aussie kids still say capsicum rather than peppers? Maybe I am just outdated again. 😉

However! What I did love about the layout was how the recipes were broken down into different “are you ready?” sections… Hence the name ‘Ready or Not!’ I guess.

There is the intro that tells you all about how the book is laid out, then then prep section for sauces and other basics. Then we hit the section where you have all the time in the world to cook. The section for having some time to cook and the section on having no time and just wanting a wholesome family meal ASAP. This was great as I have days like this where I either have all the time in the world, a little time or none at all and so the idea of having a go to recipe idea for each time limit was great. Again, not all the recipes in any of these sections suited my personal dietary restrictions, but I really did love that layout as I honestly feel it a great way to encourage more people to skip the instant meals and take away and try their hand at some simple but tasty whole food home cooked meals.

So, yeah, a bit of a like/ unlike relationship happening here. 😀 I love the passion, enthusiasm and talent shown by Ms Tan and her family and I do love the styles of meals as Cantonese food – via Darwin – is my childhood comfort food. And so there was some definite connection there that has made this book somewhat appealing despite my also dislike of it. Oh dear, I am getting a split personality over it! 😀

Would I recommend this book to others?

You know, I think I would. But I would be recommending it to the younger generations. I can’t see myself or my mother wanting to race out and buy it… but I can see myself buying it for my daughter to add to her slowing increasing cook book collection.
It is a good cook book, but just one meant more for the modern generation rather than an old fuddy duddy like me. 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

Ummm, I MIGHT sneak an electronic copy onto my tablet as a “just in case” as there were some really appealing recipes in ‘Ready or Not!’ or I might buy a paper version for my daughter and pinch it from time to time. I really can’t be sure… it interests me and I love the vibe Ms Tan has created… but manga cook books just go against my grain. 😉

In summary: a great cook book for the next generation of whole food home cooks.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Escaping From the Abyss (The Crossings Trilogy Book 3) by D.L. Koontz.

2 out of 5 stars

I obtained a copy of this book via Kindle Unlimited so only have myself to thank. 😉

Okay… there is going to be some constructive criticism within my review so please brace for it. It is not meant as a verbal attack, to be mean or to try and make the author look bad. It is simply an explanation as to why I rated ‘Escaping from the Abyss’ so low.

As we know the “bad stuff” is coming, let’s get some positives in there first. Well… it ended ‘The Crossings Trilogy’ to some extent. It did still include ghosts and was partially about the supernatural still. And… well, I read it to the end within about three days so it wasn’t a completely terrible tale. 😉

Basically, the constructive criticism is this – I really felt the author lost her way with this series. It started out as a promising tale of the supernatural that dealt with past and recent deaths and some growth allowing the protagonist to move on… and it ended as just a chick lit coming of age tale, with an unnecessary love triangle – or was that square? – that then tried to mash some supernatural like things into it to connect it to the original idea.

Sorry to sound so harsh, but that is really what it came across as. The first half of the book seemed to be more about the protagonist, her inner turmoil, her coming of age and her love life… and then, oops, this was meant to be about laying ghosts and demons to rest so we better try and do something that includes that.

What is worse is the continuity issues. In the first two books it was said that Clay had lost his leg… yet in the third book it had grown back and was merely injured? Another continuity issue was who was ‘Old Man Mint’ and why was his death on the same night as Mason and Clyde never explained? Was it just forgotten? Hmmmm, maybe I am being too nit-picky? I mean I am perfectly imperfect and so should let other people be that way too. I guess I got so annoyed by these and other flaws – that I won’t mention as they are spoilers – is because they seem to add to the feeling this book was hastily written by someone who was no longer really focussed on the original idea and, as it was a trilogy, thought it best to ensure there was indeed a third book.

I don’t know. Call me super critical… but it was just such a let down to what started off to be a promising and interesting YA supernatural mystery series.

And before everyone starts spamming me with unlikes just remember this is merely one opinion and to remember that magic mantra: “Pfffft, what would SHE know?!” It works wonders on those who leave reviews I don’t agree with. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

This is a really tough call simply because it is the third and final book in a trilogy. And so if I recommend the first book… I would then have to warn the reader that I felt the series went downhill from there. And I hate doing that as it can create a biased opinion of a series before it’s even started. So… after reading ‘Escaping from the Abyss’ I would have to say I would have to retract my previous statements about recommending any of ‘The Crossings Trilogy’ as I don’t want to be blamed for recommending a series that ended so weakly and so different from ow it started. Sorry. 😦

Would I buy this book for myself?

No I wouldn’t. In fact, I only joined Kindle Unlimited to read ‘Escaping from the Abyss’ and the previous book in the series ‘Edging through the Darkness’. I can’t find a heck of a lot of other books ON Kindle Unlimited that I would want to read and so I will be unsubscribing. Which will mean I lose these two books… not something that I will be that upset over.
In summary: A weak ending to a trilogy that started so well.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Crossing Into The Mystic (The Crossings Trilogy, #1) by D.L. Koontz.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Brimstone Fiction and Xpresso Book Tours for providing me with a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, so I have mixed feelings about this book… Not as bad as a love/ hate sort of thing… more a love/ mild dislike. 😉

But I believe that mild dislike comes from two things – Firstly, this is a YA book and as an old fart (I know it’s not PC to call a 40+ an old fart but I feel you should be allowed to call YOURSELF an old fart whenever you like) I felt the age of the protagonist too young for all the things she was able to do… BUT!

I can honestly say that, when reading these sorts of books almost 30 years ago I would lovingly eaten her adventures up with a spoon and idolised her freedom. So, you can see, being an old fart I needed to let my inner teenager out to read this book to me before I could accept parts of it.

Secondly, saying all that, I was very anti religion as a teen – especially Christianity – and so would have had major issues with reading ‘Crossing into the Mystic’ back then. These days I’ve mellowed, chosen my path and faith and am happily a Pagan who sees the good and bad side of all religions and faiths, my own included. And so old fart me needed to talk down my inner teenager to ensure the book was read and not thrown onto the DNF pile simply as it included some harmless faith references.

Can you see why I have mixed emotions now? Yes, yes it is because I am just a fruit loop, well spotted. 😉

All that aside I have to say this was a well-written and very enjoyable YA story. Don’t look down on it as an adult and say “a 16 year old would NEVER get away with that”, look up to is as a 14 or 15 year old and say “gosh I wonder if I can be that free and independent”.

The characters were a little sketchy at first and did stay a little two dimensional throughout the story, but if I’m honest, that’s nothing that unusual in a YA book for me so not a negative. The setting was well written, the house, towns, surrounds… that is what a teen wants their imagination to be captured by. That and the emotions portrayed by the characters. So, again, I felt ‘Crossing into the Mystic’ well-written for a YA tale.

It is also the first in a trilogy and so that “sketchy” nature can be explained away. The first book in a trilogy needs to not only be an entertaining story, but fit in a lot of the foundations and intrigue to keep you wanting to not only read it, but the next two books.

And, to continue with the honesty side of things – that ending!!! Yes I went on over to Kindle Unlimited and got the next two books there and then! No spoilers about it but yes, both the old fart me and my inner teenager were HOOKED and are now reading the next book in trilogy ‘Edging Through the Darkness’.

The supernatural side of it was well done too. Scary and a little goosebump making… but not so scary or gory that it became inappropriate for the YA genre. A good mix of ghosts and things that go bump in the night.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Probably more your teens and – in the case of my advanced reader G&T kids – some tweens too. Those older lovers of YA stories would need to be advised to let their inner teenager out to help them read it though to ensure they got full enjoyment from this tale.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Open and honest time – I was given a PDF of ‘Crossing into the Mystic’ and so probably will be a cheapskate and not but another copy of it… but as said already, I have gone and gotten the other two books in this series via Kindle Unlimited as I got so hooked by this first book. So, yeah, you could say that I would buy this trilogy and not just this book. 😉
In summary: An entertaining and thrilling first book in a YA supernatural trilogy and something I highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.