mystery/thriller

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 – Beyond The Orchard by Anna Romer.

beyond-the-orchard

3 out of 5 stars.

New disclaimer due to new Amazon rules: I was gifted a free electronic copy of this book by Simon and Schuster (Australia), 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:

I am really in two minds over this book… I started to have a real love/hate relationship with it and I am blaming most of it on the fact I read an uncorrected ARC and not the final copy. As, basically, there were so many flaws I got irritated as they were the sorts of things an editor and proof reader would have fixed up (and I really hope they have).

Names of characters changed, night became day in just one paragraph – as in it was evening and dark, but the cat was still sunning itself in a patch of sunlight. The Mulberry trees had leaves in the winter, and there were roses in bloom in one of the coldest winters on record… I could go on but won’t as I don’t like to sound nit-picky. I just wanted to give examples as to why ‘Beyond the Orchard’ rubbed me the wrong way from time to time.

As for the love side… I did really enjoy the tales within tales and swapping between the eras and characters and points of view. I feel it worked well and added great depth to the story, but I also found it a little disjointed. I mean, I did the maths and it all added up correctly, but I just got the feeling that the times and dates didn’t fit and I don’t know why. They did… but they just felt like they didn’t.

The mystery part of ‘Beyond the Orchard’ was delicious too. Who/ what really was in the ice house? Who is that person, how are they linked to this decades long tale? Loved it. Added intrigue and piqued my interest enough to have me reading into the wee hours to try and learn a little more.

I don’t know if the pace was too slow, or if I was just too greedy to know more as soon as possible. Tough call there, but speaks volumes for the quality of the mystery.

Would I recommend this book the others?

I think I would, though I would be warning them that I found the uncorrected ARC a bit of a jumble and hope the end result is of far better quality. I wouldn’t actually list the flaws as I have done here, merely warn them that I found it a bit of a mess but believe the published version will have sorted all that out.

Would I buy this book for myself?

As much as I enjoyed it, probably not. Really more of a ‘borrow from the library’ book for me. A little too literary fiction for me when I am more of a commercial fiction/ urban fantasy/ cosy crime collector.

In summary: the mystery and intrigue created within this book were highly enjoyable. I am just going to give Simon and Schuster the benefit of the doubt and assume the final version has had all the issues and flaws fixed up.

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 – Whispers Beyond the Veil by Jessica Estevao.

Whsiper beyond the veil

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group for a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

What a great supernatural mystery! Set in the last years of the 19th century in North America (Canada at first and then Maine in the United States). I totally loved this story idea… We are in the height of the mysticism, mediums and other seekers of the supernatural of that era and I can totally believe there were such hotels for those seeking answers beyond the grave existing at that time. And yes, I can see there being a lot of schiesters and scam artists preying on those seeking answers too.

To me, the beginning was a little rushed and it had me keep wondering if it all truly did happen or was part of some elaborate scam… you will need to read it to find out. 😉 But other than that it worked well.

I totally enjoyed the characters and how some of the book was spoken in first person by the protagonist Ruby Proulx, and other parts of the book were done in third person to get a wider view of what was happening. Quite often, when this is done in books it is very messy and confusing – not the case in ‘Whispers beyond the veil’. It was clear, easy to follow and added a lot of depth and character detail that couldn’t be captured in just the first person view.

All in all, I found the setting well detailed the characters true to the era and all in all an engaging read that had my ‘one more chapter’ going from the first few pages. Yes, there were a lot of late nights enjoyed trying to squeeze just one more chapter in before lights out! And a lot of bleary eyed mornings wondering when I could get my kids off to school so I could go read some more. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. It might not be as fantastical as the tales of supernatural by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – written in this era about similar topics – but it really did fit that genre well and would be enjoyed by those who like that sort of murder mystery with a twist sort of blend.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I think I would, and would then follow Ms Estevao to know if and when the next book in this series would be out. I can’t say it will be a series… but I really do hope so as there were a few threads left tantalisingly undone that could easily lead to more tales from Old Orchard and I look forward to seeing them when they appear.

In summary: Lovers of historic mysteries with a bit of a supernatural twist will love this book. It has totally engaging characters, well written and was an addictive read. I highly recommend!

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.

Book Review -Midsummer Night’s Mischief by Jennifer D. Hesse.

Midsummer nights mischief

4 out of 5 stars.

I would like to thank Kensington Books for allowing me a free ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

What a great new idea for a cosy crime series! Now, it could be because I am a Pagan myself (not wiccan) and so could associate a lot with Keli being “in the broom closet”. It could be because my vegan leanings (still an omnivore). It was more likely because I’m such a huge fan of the cosy crime/ mystery genre… I don’t know – but I just clicked with this book and loved it.

It is the first book in a series called ‘A Wiccan Wheel Mystery’ and so I am going to guess here that the adventures are going to all occur at specific points of the wheel of the year – pagan speak for the equinoxes, solstices and other memorable points we follow. But please, please, PLEASE don’t let all the paganism put you off enjoying the story! If you are afraid of books that contain people of non-Christian faiths being the protagonist, please don’t be afraid of this book as it’s not all pagan/wiccan nor is it going to try and convert you a witty, sharp intrigue at a time – cute rock star looking boyfriends or not.

The cosy/ mystery side far outweighs ANY religious connotations and to avoid this book for having a whiff of paganism means you are missing out on a great new mystery series.

Hmmm, I really hope that’s not scared too many people off. I won’t even go into the yummy vegan side in case it does. 😉

Okay, back to the actual book… it is well paced – slow in a few spots, but not too bad. The characters are likable, easy to connect with and fun to follow. Their sleuthing skills are believable and the storyline is well mapped out and contains a good balance of personal life, crime solving and hotties.

Something I really loved about ‘Midsummer Night’s Mischief’ is there was barely a ‘first book in the series jitters’ to be seen. Which was great, and shows Ms Hesse is a talented writer and knows what she’s doing when it comes to creating a new series to entertain and enthral her readers. Yes I guessed the whodunit fairly early on, but there is rarely a book I don’t do that to. However, it’s only the great books I then finish reading to see the why as well as the who!

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Totally enjoyable, easy to get lost in and fun to follow story. Lovers of cosy crime/ mysteries will enjoy this any day. It is the perfect combination of mystery, personality, love interest and friendship that make modern cosies what they are.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. Totally my kind of cosy and just try and stop me! I will definitely be looking out for further books in this series and hope Kensington think of me when it’s time to review them!

In summary – great start to a new mystery series, contains the balance of things to make a perfect cosy and has the right pace to keep you wanting to know more until it’s all over. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Out of the Ice by Ann Turner.

Out of the ice

2 out of 5 stars.

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

Okay, so you can see by the score I wasn’t a fan… please don’t hate me as there is some (hopefully) good constructive criticism coming to explain why. If I gave half scores, it would be at least a 2.5… maybe even a 2.75 out of 5 if that helps?

Firstly, this was a well written book of containing some great details, well scripted imagery and, in most parts, engaging characters. The low score is due to me not gelling with the book and therefore based on my reaction rather than to its quality. They quality could not be faulted.

Time for the but… BUT! I am not a fan of literary fiction and this story bordered a little too much on that – in its “adults fiction” genre – than I like. And the mystery and suspense just wasn’t there for me as much as I had hoped from the blurb.

I found the pace of the book excruciatingly slow (I went off and read two other books to wake up my brain) and honestly felt like 90% of the story was just padding and it was just the last 10% of the book that was worth it. And, without trying to throw out any spoilers, that outcome in Venice… why was Venice even involved really? It seemed tacked on to add spice and excitement (failed) and to show the author knew how to describe the city and add to the globe-trotting promised thrill. It didn’t for me – sorry.

And for a person who had spent over a year in the Antarctic and didn’t seem too sensitive to the cold when there, she did come across as a bit of a wuss in the Nantucket winter when she found that so cold it needed to be mentioned almost every sentence.

Then that ending? It was as if Ms Turner had raced to reach her word count and then decided to throw a disjointed “happily ever after” in without then going over the said word count. It was rushed, clumsy and left a lot of unanswered questions as it tried to tie the story up in a nice, neat package and hide the holes by adding a big, colourful bow to distract you.

Ack, I am being too harsh, I am so sorry Ms Turner, you wrote a good book, I am just not The Reader for it. But I hope I’ve explained why I wasn’t a fan.

Maybe it’s because I am more a crime fiction, mystery/suspense, cosy crime reader than I am an “adult fiction” (bordering on literary fiction) reader? As, for me, this was slow, barely kept the thread of the plot without constantly having to recap and all in all I only finished it as I felt it deserved being read from cover to cover because it was by an Australian author.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Probably not. But that is only because I don’t know many friends who enjoy the genre this book actually is – don’t be fooled by the blurb! Yes if I happened to be chatting to someone into this genre I would recommend it wholeheartedly. But for my fellow crime fiction fans? No… just don’t.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Unsurprisingly – no. Just not my cup of tea I’m sorry. The book is not to fault, I am, for thinking it was a genre I liked when it really wasn’t. I get more mystery and thrills out of emptying my son’s school bag each week – and there have been some doozies of finds in there as he is a bit of a blackbird with gross collections!

In summary: A well written “adult fiction” book that borders on literary fiction more than it does to mystery and crime. There are those who will love this book and good on them! Sadly I was the wrong person for the book and so you ended up with this review.

Until next time,

Janis.