Netgalley ARC

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 – 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.

 

Book Review – Hanging Tobacco by Linda S. Browning.

4 out of 5 stars

I obtained a free electronic ARC of this book via Netgalley, where I am auto approved b Bookbuzz.net to access books from their catalogues.

So, I will freely admit here and now I went on search for a free ARC of this book as, quite frankly, I heard of it, have been loving all the works I’ve read so far of the author Linda S. Browning and I wanted to see what this new series was like before I bought it. Yes, I am indeed a cheapskate!

Was I disappointed? Heck no! It was almost as if her cosy crimes from the ‘Leslie & Belinda Tennessee Mysteries’ series merged with her love of the supernatural from ‘Pickett House’ and this was the end result. And, to me, it was yet another great story that looks to become a promising new series.

Oh, and please don’t think that my description of it being a bit of this and a bit of that makes it some sort of cookie cutter tales being chunked out for sale. Not at all! ‘Hanging Tobacco’ can be likened to Ms Browning’s earlier work… but it most definitely stands out as being its own person… so to speak. It is more a happy marriage of someone good at writing cosy crimes – as proven by one series – and who is good at writing about the supernatural – as proven by another of her books – has now hit the nail on the head by combining the two topics and her talents of weaving a good story and gone from there.

Does that make sense now? Yeah, no… I feel if I try again I am just going to make it even worse! 😉

So, anyhow, ‘Hanging tobacco’ is a great little stand-alone cosy crime/ mystery. It does start with a short story that sparked the inspiration for the main story and I loved that. It was like a two for one deal and the short story was a brilliant way to set the scene and get the reader into the right mindset for the main book ahead. It was like a reading appetiser! 😀

From memory, Ms Browning did this with the first Leslie and Belinda book too. A short story teaser followed by the actual full book. Loved it there too. Maybe it’s being a writer myself… but I adore how one little short story can then inspire a whole book, if not series. It just adds that extra touch of love and proof of passion about the work. Or maybe that’s just how I see it?

‘Hanging Tobacco’ was well paced (ie: addictive and having me read well past my bed time) cosy crime with a touch of the supernatural to add a twist to the usual crime sleuthing in small town America. I also do love how Olivia is a reporter so has a reason to be interested in the case.

Sometimes cosy crimes just have the main character coming across as nosy rather than sleuthing as her job and links to the crimes are miles apart with no real connection. But Olivia and the other characters were set up well to cover any grey areas without going to the other extreme of having access to everything, knowing everything and being some misunderstood super cop (the other end of the cosy crime spectrum). No, the choice of characters, the setting and the reasons for why things went the way they did was well thought out and a good balance.

Due to this good balance there was just the right amount of padding to the story, the right level of red herrings and I have to admit I honestly didn’t decide on whodunit until just before the book itself told me! That is rare! And it wasn’t due to the story being so convoluted it confused me… it was because the story simply had that RIGHT BALANCE of everything to keep me guessing, keep me entertained and make me satisfied with how it all wrapped up and was finished.

I really do hope the series continues as I would be more than willing to grab copies and continue reading.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Uh, I think I already have in all that flowery prose of how good it was to read. 😉

But for those who need the direct approach – yes I would. Lovers of a good American mystery/ cosy crime are going to really enjoy ‘Hanging tobacco’. For those worried there is too much supernatural in it to make it a true here and now cosy – don’t be worried, it’s fine. This is not a book on the supernatural that happens to include a cosy crime, this is a decent cosy crime book that just happens to have a touch of the supernatural to it. You will be fine, just buy, read it and enjoy!

Would I buy this book for myself?

Pretty sure I already answered this one too… but yes, yes I would. I follow Linda S. Browning on all the normal social media sites that allow me to be a fan and not deemed a stalker and will keep an eye out for any further books in this series and happily spend my money buying them!

 

In summary: A good author just created another great cosy crime/mystery series. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – Art on the Rocks by F. Sehnaz Bac, Marisa Redondo, Margaret Vance.

3 out of 5 stars

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

Don’t let my mid-range score make you think this is a mediocre book as it’s not! It was, however a hard electronic ARC to read (kept freezing and glitching) and, to be honest, there are so many good books, Pinterest sites and blogs on rock art right now and unfortunately I didn’t feel ‘Art on the Rocks’ stood out enough to get more than an average score.

But, again, this isn’t me saying it wasn’t any good… it was great and some of the art designs are divine – I even went out and bought paints and brushes to try some… when I find the right rocks – but, as said, there is a LOT of media out there right now on rock painting and there needed to just be that little be extra spark in there to make it stand out… and it wasn’t there.

However, from another book on rock painting I have read, I need to say that F. Sehnaz Bac is an artist I now greatly admire and do so love her art and style. That fox on the front cover…. And the instructions within the book – I MUST try that! What a talent!

What was the book all about? Well, rock painting – duh! But it didn’t just cover how to paint on rocks, ‘Art on the Rocks’ teaches techniques too. From what materials (including rocks) you should source, through to the best paints, brushes, pens and inks to use. There is not only an introductory section that covers this, but each rock design continues the lesson explaining the best techniques and tools to use to achieve the final piece. Because of this, I felt the book excellent for all levels of painters from beginners through to people just wanting to fine tune their techniques.

‘Art on the Rocks’ also covers different styles of painting from animals, mandalas to nature and petroglyphs. Don’t forget to read up on the artists who took the time to make the book!

For the formal side of things – format, layout, etc. – the book is well constructed, easy to read and each section and design is set out in manner that makes it easy to follow while reading or, as my daughter found out, while replicating the design. Hers isn’t finished so I can share a pic, sorry!

All in all it was a fantastic book that not only teaches techniques and painting, but is full of projects to try, to inspire and to encourage the painter to branch out and try something new.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. As, it’s good. Yes I have just said it’s not above average but I am perfectly imperfect so have the right to now recommend it as, quite frankly, I love the designs and styles within it.
And I would recommend it to anyone – of any artistic level – to read, try and buy. Though will say this isn’t a book for little kids. I’d let my 10 and 12 year olds have a go, but they are above average in their abilities and have had their work displayed in galleries… but, yeah, parent’s discretion as to whether your child is ready for this… I personally see it as being more for the late teens to adults who have better co-ordination skills with brush and pen.

Would I buy this book for myself?

I might… But to be honest I’d much rather borrow it from a library first. How cruel of me I know!

But basically, I would want to borrow it and try it out a few times before deciding whether I was good enough to try and do rock art all the time and not just as a passing hobby. If I was to take it up as a permanent way to relax and unwind then yes, this is indeed the book I would buy.

In summary: a great book that doesn’t just teach designs to paint, but techniques too.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman.

5 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Kensington Books for granting my wish and allowing me to read an electronic ARC of this book, via Netgalley, in exchange for an open and honest review.

Wow! What a book! I mean, seriously addictive and so full of emotions! As some people know, I’m not usually a fan of Literary Fiction but I sometimes get in the mood to give it another go and hope the book I read is worth it. ‘The Life She Was Given’ was definitely worth it! I want to go on about how certain areas of the book made me feel, but I am concerned mentioning them would be one great big spoiler…

So I will just say some of the full circle moments were heart aching and so well written I needed a tissue! I am not a crier! Well, except for those animal ads, you know the ones. 😉

But, yes, this was a brilliantly well-written tale told in two halves about the one family. Parts of it set in the 1930’s and parts of it set in the 1950’s and  – although I’m not an expert –  I do feel some good, solid research went into writing in both eras and in both locations – one a manor house/ horse farm, and the other a travelling circus.

The stories are woven so well together, linking in subtle ways that the story runs seamlessly. Sometimes when you get two different stories running in the same book they are very disjointed and hodge podge. Not in ‘The Life She Was Given’. No – seamless writing!

What can I say about ‘The Life She Was Given’ without giving anything away? Well, it is a very emotional journey through both eras, the characters are well written and I found myself connecting with them to enjoy the ride (even through the sad bits) and boy was it addictive! My kids were told to fend for themselves on Saturday (they are 12, 10 and 8 so can do the basics) as I simply HAD to keep reading!

The only issues I found with this book – and it has absolutely nothing to do with the author, which is why I didn’t mark it down in my score – is that the eBook formatting was blocky and jumbled in places. New paragraphs starting mid-sentence, the title and page number of the book appearing mid page… EBook formatting can be a pain at times and one little glitch and cause a whole series of issues… But as it was an ARC I read I merely assumed that Kensington Books would have it all sorted and that the final version will be perfect.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. Lovers of historical fiction and literary fiction, even women’s fiction, are going to enjoy ‘The Life She Was Given’. I was raving over it so much my 12 year old wants to have a read… but I feel – despite her above average levels of maturity and intelligence – that I wouldn’t recommend it to her. Yes teen girls like to adventure into this genre but their raw, developing emotions might get a little too hurt in reading this. It’s not a horror book or a completely sad tale… but there are moments where you may want to just put the book down for a moment and hug the cat or child or something.

 

Would I buy this book for myself?

Tough call. I mean, I did love it and am still walking off the book hangover it’s given me. But my underlying aversion to literary fiction does make me baulk at going out and buying my own copy. What a miser I am being! It is an amazingly heart felt and emotional roller coaster of a book – wow I can’t believe I was just that corny – but, yeah, some books touch you in such a way they are better as library books than ones you personally own.

As in, they are kept offsite and away from you, but you have access to them when you want to feel the way they make you feel… does that make sense? No, no I don’t think it does! But it’s how I feel. Love the book, not too sure I would want to possess it as it needs to be free. LOL! Ignore me, it’s Monday and my Crio Brü mug is in the wash.

 

In summary: A brilliant, well-written literary fiction that is going to tug at the heart strings while keeping you wanting more. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis

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.