book review

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 – One for Sorrow by Mary Downing Hahn.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for granting my wish on Netgalley and providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book.

Now I want to remind people now that ‘One for Sorrow’ is of the “children’s fiction” genre. I wouldn’t even put it into the YA genre, more the tween (middle school in USA) genre. And I knew this when I asked to read it as, quite frankly, I loved ghost stories when I was that age and the blurb of this book reminded me of such books.

And I wasn’t disappointed!

The era the story was based in was clearly researched, and I do love the author’s note at the end explaining the inspiration for the story. Just added to the whole story and explained why the setting was so vivid.

And the ghostly hauntings were just right for the age group it is aimed at. A little hair raising, but not so scary as needing to only read it in the daylight (or in your parents room as it’s so scary) – yes, that was me as a tween (all those eons ago) when I was reading a particularly scary kid’s book. I like a scare…. But not such a scare as I couldn’t sleep in the dark. So, yeah, my teacher reading the class ‘The Triffids’ was right out! 😉

‘One for Sorrow’ was a fabulous balance of history, adventure and spine tingling scares – that weren’t so scary that the child might need to lock the book away in a drawer because it scared them too much (me again aged 9). I enjoyed it so much I am going to go hunting for more children’s ghost stories by Ms Downing Hahn and also see if I can encourage my own kids to read them. Sadly, they are not into scary books like I was. No idea where I’ve gone wrong with that area of parenting. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. My children are aged 13, 10 and 8 and I honestly do feel the older two – if they read ghost stories – would thoroughly enjoy this tale. I am going to try my electronic copy on them next time they tell me they are bored and just see how we go. But yes, I feel this book is perfect for the age group it was written for (and those who enjoy that genre but may be a tad older like me) and would indeed recommend it. Though I would emphasise the obvious – it’s a ghost story. Be prepared if you’re kids do find it too scary. I don’t think they would… but I could be wrong.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Not for myself exactly, but yes I would definitely consider ‘One for Sorrow’, and others like it by Ms Downing Hahn for my children to read. Ghost stories can be such fun when they are written well, and this one was indeed written well!

 

In summary: A great little ghost tale for children and children at heart who want a little scare.

 

Book Review – Destined: a novel of the Tarot By Gail Cleare.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank the author Gail Cleare for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review. I approached her via a book reviewing newsletter I get so no sneaky deals done. Just me simply wanting to read a book as it looked interesting.

Okay, so I will say I felt ‘Destined: a novel of the Tarot’ was going to be a lot different than it was. Like other reviews I’ve read, I was thinking it would be more an urban fantasy romance mystery than the… ‘women’s fiction’ it turned out to be. But hey, I read it, enjoyed it to some extent and so am not disappointed I requested or read it.

But, yeah, if you were looking for something with a plot, mystery, adventure – don’t read this book. It is more a constant rambling journey of someone thinking out loud as they find themselves. It’s more about love, life, learning how to be who you are and all in all – that girly affirmation stuff we sometimes need to read to help us reconnect with who we truly are.

So, if you can’t tell yet, I have mixed feelings on ‘Destined: a novel of the Tarot’. It wasn’t what I had hoped and expected… but it was an entertaining, feel good, brain fairy floss book type book I enjoyed all the same.

I will admit to being a bit annoyed by the inconsistencies of belief. One moment the main character is in touch with people, their auras, spirits, etc… the next she is saying she has no true belief. Meditates and knows about her chakra, then later on needs to have it all explained to her.

But, other than that, it was still a feel good book suited to my eco green hippy Pagan ways. Those who have left bad reviews for this book simply didn’t get it. They expected something and closed their minds off to all other options. I expected something different than what the book is, but enjoyed the rambling, plotless, feel good journey all the same.

‘Destined: a story of the Tarot’ to me was like a fictional story of the perfect world, people and friends – there to help create a positive affirmation of life. Telling the reader that this sort of thing may indeed be possible and, if not, hopefully the read was at least entertaining. Mind you, I read this mostly while listening to my new downloaded album of ‘Zen Meditation’ music so maybe I just found the blend of the two worked well together and allowed me to enjoy what was there rather than get annoyed that it wasn’t what I had wanted?

Oh, and although I didn’t use my Tarot while reading this book – I do indeed own a deck (rune stones too) and with some pretty major things happening in my life right now I feel ‘Destined: a novel of the Tarot’ has really helped reinforce my belief and need in using these tools to help find guidance from within myself. A shove in a direction I haven’t been for a while. So, although no Tarot cards were touched during the reading of this book, I can see myself grabbing my deck soon to ask a few important questions and seek guidance. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

This is a tough call as I really don’t know. Why? As this is a genre I usually don’t enjoy and avoid like the plague. Feel good women’s fiction with HEA endings and all that. I am just surprised the main character wasn’t a vegetarian – as it seems that most of them are vegetarian or vegan when I read characters like this of late.

So, yeah, as much as I enjoyed this book, after stumbling into it being something I didn’t expect, I really don’t know if I could recommend it as it’s just not something I usually read and so don’t know who I would really recommend it to.

 

Would I buy this book for myself?

No, I can’t say I would. Please realise though that this is due to me simply not being a fan this genre and not a comment on the quality of the book. The quality is not bad, just not really my thing.

In summary: A feel good story of female affirmation on love, life and finding one’s own path in life.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Wholefood Thermo Cooked by Tracey Pattison.

4 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Murdoch Books for providing me with a free paper copy of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

As part of being open and honest let me state here and now I do indeed own a (dun dun da!!!!) Thermomix. No surprise really, if you’ve read any of my other reviews and blog posts as that little baby gets mentioned a LOT!

No I am not about to now go on and MLM (Multi-Level-Market) you into having to go buy one yourself as that’s not my style. But I will say the ‘Wholefood Thermo Cooked’ cook book recipes worked a dream in mine. Actually, I found the cooking instructions so generic that I am pretty sure these recipes would work just as easily with say a Bellini or other Thermo style cooker. But please don’t quote me on this as I have never used a different Thermo cooking device and so am just guessing. And we all know what happens when readers of my work think I’m faking my views as I’ve not TRIED what the book is about first! But hey, I read a lot of crime fiction and murder mysteries, so I am pretty sure my family, friends, neighbours and total strangers who piss me off in the street are happy I don’t try EVERY single thing I read in a book. 😉

Oh and if any Thermo cooking device makers reading my review want to send me one of their babies to test run some of these recipes with… There is a ‘Contact Me’ form. Just saying.

But I can say for certain that you can use a Thermomix to cook the recipes in ‘Wholefood Thermo cooked’ and that I have NEVER made such yummy and easy to make brown rice in my LIFE! So good. Oh, and while being boringly honest, no I didn’t try EVERY recipe. But I played with the book enough to know I was on to a winner and totally in love with what it had to offer.

I mean, yes there were some recipes that I already knew versions of from my years of being a Thermomixer… I have heard it called a ‘Coven of Mixers’ or a ‘cult of mixers’. Just pass me my broom so I can get to my next coven meeting on time, ‘kay? But yes, there were a couple of recipes or recipe variants that I was already familiar with. But they were just the basics and things I feel any good Thermo based cook book is going to cover to ensure you know how to get the best out of the Thermo beast of your choice.

But some of those basics… mind blowing – oh my! Polenta/ cornbread from popcorn kernels? Macadamia pastry? Stock cubes best suited for winter and summer… I could go on but seriously feel you should just go get the book and look for yourself. 😉

I think what blew me away with ‘Wholefood Thermo Cooked’ was that I’d never even considered soaking/ prepping my dried beans in my Thermo device to get them to the same consistency as tinned beans. I mean, I buy dried beans as it’s a more budget friendly thing. I then soak them over night to be soft enough to then cook with…. Until now. Yup, an hour in your Thermo device and those dried beans are as moist and ready to go as a tin of beans… and for half the price! Can you see why I am in love with this book? If I forget to soak my beans the night before, which I often do, dinner isn’t cancelled – Thermo Cooking to the rescue!

Yes there were the usual recipes that my annoying food allergies and intolerance made no go zones… but those recipes were far out-weighed by things I could and have tried.

As for the editing, page layout and all that official stuff? Perfect as usual – if you get a cook book from Murdoch Books, you’re going to get a well laid out, easy to read and follow book! All recipes have highlighted areas at the bottom that show whether they suit certain dietary requirements – vegetarian, gluten free, etc. And all recipes are in both imperial and metric measurements. Score! Internationally friendly, just like a Thermo cooking device.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. I loved the freedom that came with ‘Wholefood Thermo Cooked’ as all you need is some sort of Thermo cooking device (rather than a specific one you may need to sign your first born away to afford) and a desire to cook whole foods. And, quite honestly, wholefoods on an everyday budget for most of it too! Definitely a cook book I would recommend to anyone with a Thermo device, or wanting to buy such a device and get a decent cook book to go with it.

Would I buy this book for myself?

As I have been gifted a paper copy of this book I don’t have to… and no one is getting this copy off me any time soon. 😉 We’re meant for each other, leave us be. 😀 But if I had to get a new copy, then I happily would as it is so worth it.

In summary: A great all round cook book for those interested in cooking Wholefood recipes in a Thermo device of their choice and budget. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

My Precious…. 😉

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 – Countdown to Death by Iain McChesney.

Countdown to death

4 out of 5 stars

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

Okay, so I am a fan of Agatha Christie, no surprise there. And I do in fact have one of the older printed copies of her novel now known as ‘And then there were none’. But my copy is so old it is still called ‘Ten little N…’ yeah, I’m not going to type that word as it is not a nice one. But you get my point, right? If not, go google the original name. Anyhow, I love the tale and know it well. So when I asked to read ‘Countdown to death’ I was perfectly aware of what it was paying homage to and had a little trepidation as to whether it could pull it off.

It did. And it did it in a lovely and entertaining manner too. Very much in the fashion of the original tale, while also breathing a new life and a new voice into the tale. Mr McChesney wasn’t just repeating Ms Christie’s work, he is truly paying her a homage by taking the old story and not making it new… but simply making it modern… if that makes sense? Yeah, no it probably doesn’t make sense outside my head but let’s just go with it okay? It was a compliment and we will just run with that. 😉

Did I feel the need to go to an island with ten people and kill them off one by one to ensure I could truly review this book open and honestly? No, sadly I could not make that happen and I do know how that is seen as a flaw in my reviewing by some – that I can’t have an opinion without trying what the book is about first – but yeah, not in my budget and the closest islands I could use are either Granite Island or Kangaroo Island and both out of scope so ah well… Instead I just read it as the mystery it was, tried to see how identical to the original plot it would be, see if I could wade through the small school of red herrings and guess the killer and all in all have fun reading the book. No need to smash glass bottles or plot my revenge on people I feel have done me wrong before I could enjoy this tale!

And did I guess who the murder was? Yes, I did. To me it was a pretty obvious option, but the story was woven so well that I did have myself second guessing a few times, but in the end my original choice was proven correct. And, sadly, I figured it out rather early on. Unlike an Agatha Christie where it takes me most of the book to work it out. But never fear, it did not detract from the story, did not ruin the enjoyment of it all and it was nice to see how it was all explained and done in the end.

Plus I am a stinker and one of those annoying people who can watch a mystery for 5 minutes or read the first three chapters of a book and tell you whodunit. It’s the savant part of my idiot really – and yes, I am allowed to make such jokes about myself, I am neuro-diverse! 😀

As to the formatting and other “boring bits” side of things, there were a few typos and grammatical slip ups… but it was an ARC and so accepted. Plus I am a typo Queen and so don’t have the right to judge someone else on the odd slip up! It did not detract from my rating. Nor did the fact it sometimes seemed to get jumbled up and confused as to who was saying what. And I don’t mean those gorgeous snippets here and there deliberately meant to be ambiguous – those I liked. Just sometimes when they were all together talking, the formatting let down the narration as it wasn’t clear who said what. But hey, in some ways that is mimicking Ms Christie’s style too!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Though I really do feel someone who has read the original Christie tale would get the same appreciation of it that I did. However, I really don’t feel reading ‘And then there were none’ is a prerequisite to reading or enjoying ‘Countdown to death’. I feel it is a good, solid and enjoyable story all on its own. A homage yes, but it is worthy of being its own entity too and could easily be enjoyed as such.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Possibly? I mean, I enjoyed it, loved it for the salute to the old crime thrillers and liked it for its own potential and talent. But right now I am not drawn to wanting to read it again and again at a later date – as I would with an Agatha Christie novel. ‘Countdown to death’ is good, very good. But for now is more a “borrow from library” level of tale for me. Sorry. I feel I am doing this book a great injustice in saying that, but I am being open and honest.

In summary: A well written mystery in its own right, but also a beautiful homage to the crime Queen herself.