cosy crime

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 – 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 -Teetotaled by Maia Chance.

teetotaled

4 out of 5 stars.

New disclaimer due to new Amazon rules: I was approached by St. Martin’s Press and gifted a free electronic copy of this book, via Netgalley. I am not obligated, nor being forced, to post a review – I’m doing it of my own free will as I enjoy reviewing.

On advice from Amazon, and based on their emailed reply I can say – “My review is given voluntarily and the Author/publisher does not require a review in exchange for the book, or attempt to influence my review.”

My Review:

As regular readers of my reviews know, I am not usually a fan of starting a series mid-way through. ‘Teetotaled’ by Maia Chance is most definitely an exception to that rule! I simply loved this book and found it a refreshing new area of cosy crime for me – New York state in the 1920’s. I have not recently read a lot of work from this era and so loved this new look on old styles. Most works I have read that are based in the 1920’s were actually written in the 1920’s and in England. So this modern revival of the style, language and characters of the time mixed into a cosy crime has created a simply scrummy cake… er, book.

I enjoyed it so much that I will not only keep an eye on more in the series – ‘Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries’ – but will be looking out for ‘Come Hell or Highball’, the first book in this series.

Okay, I can’t do all praise, sorry. I will admit now I found the characters a little sketchy and confusing at first but soon came to grips with all they were and things settled down as the story kicked off. I put this sketchiness down to it being the second book in the series as I got the feeling the things being skipped over had been covered in more detail in the first book. It didn’t deter me from the story, I was still able to be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, but did start the book off a little wobbly. No biggie, if you stick with it is gets better quickly and is well worth the read.

A little more description on the characters for age, appearance, the usual stuff would have been nice too as that was another area I struggled with at times. I kept forgetting the ages and appearance of some characters. That and I suffered from my usual ‘characters with names that start with the same letter getting mixed up’ problem. But I do feel that is more my problem than the book or authors. I do it a lot. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Although the second book in a series, ‘Teetotaled’ is very easy – and enjoyable – to read as a stand-alone story. If you like your female sleuths to be seeking the answers in a not too distant past, you will enjoy this tale too.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would, it was indeed my sort of cosy crime. I mean, yes I am a cosy crime junkie… but I am picky with what I choose when it comes to a new series and I can definitely see myself choosing books from the ‘Discreet Retrieval Agency Mysteries’ and I am just thrilled St. Martin’s Press asked me to read it as I’ve been trying to get them to let me review their cosy crimes for a while as they seem to do such good ones. However I am locationally challenged being in Australia and I know that puts a few publishers off choosing me as a reviewer.

In summary – Second book in a series, but enjoyable to read as a stand-alone tale. Lovers of cosy crime would definitely enjoy this book. Highly recommended, thank me later. 😉

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Jamie Quinn Mystery Collection: Box Set Books 1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman.

jamie-quin-series

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank the author Barbara Venkataraman for approaching my via my reviewer blog and offering me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review. No money has been exchanged, we are not associated with each other in any way and so I can assure you this is a totally unbiased review.

This was a box set of the first three book in the Jamie Quinn mystery series. And a really good little box set at that. The first story ‘Death by Didgeridoo’ was good, but a little too short to be a standalone – more a novella really – so by pairing it with the other two stories it rounded them all out into a good introduction to the series.

And they are stories best read as a series. Yes they could possibly be read as standalones – as there is enough catch up given in each book – but I really do feel the characters all develop and grow as the series does and feel the reader would be seriously missing out if they didn’t start at the beginning and collect them all.

The writing style was my sort of thing down to a tea. The perfectly imperfect protagonist – who uses sarcasm as a second language – and the mixture of friends and enemies throughout made each book an entertaining and amusing read. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a silly little giggle a minute series – it was a proper cosy crime/ mystery series. I just found the characters well written and very likable.

Some of the stories – I’m looking at you ‘The case of the Killer Divorce’ – did seem to only just scrape through as being a mystery and did seem more about developing the character of Jamie and her family. But it got there… I did find that story in particular a little rushed and the crime part a little confusing as it did seem to be the Jamie show with crime on the side.

BUT! That did not really detract from it being a good read and Ms Venkataraman was back on track when it came to ‘Peril in the Park’.

All in all, these are some really good fast-paced cosy crime/ mysteries and by putting them as a box set it gives you a great sampler to the series.

Would I recommend this box set to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of the American based cosy crimes/ mysteries will love this introduction to a new series. There is just the right balance of crime, personality, entertaining characters and intrigue to make them a fun read.

Would I buy this box set for myself?

I might. To be honest it is more at the ‘library’ level for the moment… as in, if I see if in the library I would borrow it but I can’t see myself buying it… BUT! I do see myself wanting to read more books in this series and, quite honestly, if they only way I can get them is to buy them… the one must buy a series from the beginning and so that is what I would do. 😉

In summary: A great little taster to a fun new cosy crime/ mystery series. And definitely a series anyone in love (like me) with the cosy crime genre should keep an eye out for. Definitely worth you checking it out today!

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Death Among the Doilies by Mollie Cox Bryan.

death-among-the-doilies

2 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Kensington Books for providing me with a free eBook ARC, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay, now as there is going to be a LOT of constructive criticism in this review, which is MEANT to be helpful, not harmful… I really want to start with the good stuff.

Despite the score and despite the following constructive criticisms, I really loved this story. I was addicted to it within pages, read it every chance I got and was up late most nights with my ‘one more chapter’ mantra. The writing style drew me in, was (mostly) engaging and there was just something about the whole story idea, location and people I just clicked with. My dream home would be a craft retreat like that! In all honesty, I feel my constructive criticism is BECAUSE I loved the story so much that these issues really jarred me.

So, please, take these constructive criticisms as me trying to be helpful – this is a great story, would make an excellent series I can see myself coming back to again and again… but it really just needs a little help.

Firstly… the title had my grammar alarm bells going every time I looked at it. Maybe it is a language thing where American English and Australian English do not meet… but, to me, the title should be ‘Death AMONGST the doilies’. Or, if ‘among’ is to be used… leave off the ‘the’. ‘Death among doilies’. Sorry, but it just got to me and it what made my score so low.

Then there was the Waters family… Waters, Waters’ – correct English. Waterses’… NO!!!!! Every time I saw that I cringed. Please tell me the final edit has that all sorted out with the other editing and spelling issues I stumbled across in there. It was an ARC after all so I never expect perfection. It’s not as if I can write a blog without leaving a clanger or two myself! 😉

I also got the feeling that it was like two people writing this book, one per chapter. One being Jane and one being Cora. The writing styles were similar… but there was just something that didn’t sit well and it felt more like I was reading a fan fiction blog of multiple authors writing the one story, rather than just the one author. I have no idea if this is the case (I mean, it wouldn’t be the first time two authors wrote as one) but it’s just a feeling I got.

Part of that feeling comes from the way the characters kept changing. One moment Cora was against starting a relationship and in no way interested in men… to her being someone on heat as all the men were ‘hot’. Hell, I like a book full of ‘hot’ men… but make up your mind please!

Sometimes the sentences were short and quick, other times they were run on sentences that just seemed to be padding. I also felt it suffered from first book jitters where so much had to be fitted in to set the storyline up… it became very cluttered and over stuffed and so dragged at some points. Don’t get me wrong, one of the main reason I LOVED the whole story idea is probably from the backstory… but it just seemed to be too much too soon… and I just don’t know how you would get around it.

I also still don’t understand the whole point of the jewelled gun and how it went off… that was never followed up and came from one of the many spots of inconsistency within the story… There is a different between loose threads being left to hopefully lead into the next story, and a gun going off and leaving a hole in the kitchen cupboard the Detective doesn’t even notice.

Okay, okay, I am sure this review will be filled with unlikes and hissed and booed at enough without me going on… but I really did feel a need to explain why a story I loved so much got such a low score. Ms Cox Bryan… I loved the whole idea, concept, surrounds and people of this book. And I do hope you can forgive my constructive criticism… but there was just something not quite right with this book for me.

All in all, please realise I read an ARC of this book. So a lot of the issues I came across may have been fixed in the final edit. It is a good story, has amazingly awesome potential at being one of my next ‘must own’ series and all in all I just can’t explain my love and dislike (not hate, too strong a word) of this book.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Actually I would. As I would love to see the feedback of other crafty cosy crime loving fans. They may just look at me and tell me to pull my head in as it was great… they may see the same minor flaws that I did. I don’t know… but I found it addictive, I see great potential in it as a series and I would recommend people into crafty cosy crimes to check it out – despite the title.

Would I buy this book for myself?

 You know what? Yes, yes I would! I’ve marked Ms Cox Bryan as a favourite on Amazon so I can keep up to date and I am keen to see what happens in this series and to see whether it was just a severe case of first book jitters. See, despite the constructive criticism (which I do feel I should hand over with a box of apology chocolates for) I did like this book and would buy it… and wait for the next in the series too.

In summary: A book and series that holds a lot of potential. An excellent concept for a good crafty cosy crime… it just needed a few more finishing touches before being let out to play. 🙂

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -Permanently Booked by Lisa Q. Mathews.

permanently-booked

3 out of 5 stars.

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

Okay, so to start with, ‘Permanently Booked’ isn’t the first book in the ‘The Ladies Smythe & Westin’ mystery series, it is the second… but it was the first one in that series I read.

Usually that means I will drop a book like a hot potato and be adding it to my DNF pile so quickly I could give myself a paper cut – if it was a paper book. I am not a fan of book series if I don’t start with book one.

BUT!!! I fell into enjoying this book within the first few chapters and was only a little miffed (at myself, not the book) for not having read ‘Cardiac Arrest’ (the first book in the series) first. Why had I not heard of this entertaining series?

Permanently Booked’ survived my critical opinion of entering a series half way because it is a very engaging and totally engrossing story. I can’t say it is my idea of a perfect cosy crime as I did find the pace a little too slow… but I will say that if you came across it and had not read ‘Cardiac Arrest’ first, it’s okay. There are enough brief catch ups for you to not feel left out of the loop. That is my main bug bear when not starting a series at the beginning – too many comments back to the first book that it makes you feel left out. ‘Permanently booked’ doesn’t make you feel left out. It welcomes you with open arms and throws you right into the story, chucking small explanations of previous events at you over its shoulder as it carries you away. That’s a fab thing and shows good writing!

Now, please forgive this little bit of constructive criticism, but I do feel it needs to be said. There were some horrendous ‘continuity glitches’ in this book, but it was an ARC and therefore should never be considered the final finished product. However, I do feel a need to mention them in case they slip through and do make it into the final edit it as I can say here and now they would totally ruin the whole series for me if that was the quality of writing/editing used.

Things like a ring being slipped off a finger and popped into a handbag, only to be on the finger again in the next paragraph. Or, speaking of handbags, Summer handing out her last flyer and then, in the next sentence, digging in her bag through all the flyers while trying to find something… Not good. And these were only a few examples of the half a dozen clangers I came across.

However, as this was an ARC, I didn’t allow them to mar my judgement, or lower my score. But, to be honest, if I had bought this book and found them in there, a single star out of five would have been too generous. Sorry, but good writing like this needs to be backed up by good editing… don’t let the author down! I have my fingers crossed or Ms Mathews that the final version of the book currently being sold contains none of these issues.

Okay, I can stop sounding mean and get back to it. Yes the pace as a tad too slow for my liking… and yes there were those above mentioned issues. But please also remember how engaging and engrossing I also said it was as that shows a good mystery in the making. Loved the setting, found the characters varied and interesting – though did often get confused who was whom with all the names beginning with G, but this could be down to the slow pace and my lack of reading the first book.

All in all I enjoyed ‘Permanently Booked’ and can see a lot of fun and entertaining potential in this series.

Would I recommend this book to others?

It’s not in my top five new favourites… but it would still get a mention. Though I would be mentioning it as book two in a series and recommending people start with book one and go from there, even though I’ve not read book one. That is simply because I do see a lot of potential in this being a fun little series to collect and enjoy and so feel people should start at the beginning and enjoy the ride!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Right now? Probably not. For the moment I see it more as a ‘library book’ potential to me… but this is simply based on the one book, not the entire series. If I was to see another book from the ‘The Ladies Smythe & Westin’ series IN my virtual library then yes, I would borrow it and check it out. Would I buy them? Not until I had read a few more and ensured the final version of the book a lot smoother than the ARC I have just read… if that makes sense?

As I keep saying, I really do see a lot of potential in this being a fun little mystery series… but I would want to read a few more before I put my money where my mouth was and actually buy them. Sorry.

In summary: A good second book to a potentially entertaining new mystery series. Though I do hope the continuity issues I found in this ARC didn’t make it into the final edition of the book.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review -The Crêpes of Wrath by Sarah Fox.

Crepes of wrath

3 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group – Alibi for providing me with a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

This book was…. Okay. It had all the right elements to the point of really being a cookie cutter cosy crime from a small town in America. A café to run, a cat, a love interest and a mystery – tick, tick, tick and tick! But I don’t know, there was just something lacking in it all and I simply failed to connect. It felt like the story was just going through the motions of a cosy crime/ mystery and therefore so was I. There was no ‘One more chapter’ mantra, no late night readings. It was just… so so.

To be honest, if I gave half stars, this would probably me more a two and a half than a three… sorry. I feel like such a terrible person saying it and I really do feel it comes down to me having a FTC (Failure to Connect) with this book than it being a poorly written book. Because, as said, it had everything there that makes a great cosy/ mystery… there was just no zap or sizzle for me. Also, the title didn’t really gel with the story. Yes it mentions crepes and it was a pancake house… but after that, no real connection. There was no crepe used in anger, no wrath at the crepe maker, etc. It was a humorous play on words… but maybe fuelled my FTC.

I take on full responsibility for not enjoying the book – let’s get that out there. It was well written, filled with likable characters, a good setting and believable situations. Maybe it was first book jitters? Maybe it was because I’ve recently read some cosy/ mysteries that have blown me away and therefore set the bar too high, I don’t know. But I want to emphasise this was a well written book! The fault was in the reader, not the book nor the author!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Maybe. I mean, it fits all the cosy/ mystery criteria and other lovers of this genre may click with it and want to know what my problem with as they loved it… So I really don’t know. It’s always hard to recommend a book you don’t connect with. I would probably mention it in passing, if the topic arose, but I’d also voice my opinion and… yeah, not exactly a glowing recommendation. I’d much rather stay silent than talk down a good book I just didn’t ‘click’ with.

Would I buy this book for myself?

No, I can’t say I would. Though if I did see other books in the series on Netgalley or at my library I would possibly have a read just to see if I can connect with them better. But I wouldn’t be going out of my way to seek out these books or add them to my wish list.

In summary: I guess you could call this a perfect little cosy crime/ mystery. It ticked all the boxes and seemed to pop out of the cosy crime cookie mould perfectly. But I just didn’t connect and blame myself entirely. The book is well written, but just wasn’t for me.

Until next time,

Janis.