Netgalley ARC

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 – The Pumpkin Cookbook, 2nd Edition by DeeDee Stovel.

2 out of 5 stars

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

Okay, as you can guess by the score that I wasn’t such a fan of ‘The Pumpkin Cookbook, 2nd Edition’ as I had hoped to be. I mean, I wouldn’t have requested it to review if I hadn’t thought it looked interesting. And please, don’t get me wrong, I can see this being just the right sort of pumpkin cook book for certain readers and cooks. I feel I am just the wrong person and that is probably due to the fact I cook and eat pumpkin near daily as it’s not a novelty item here in Australia, like it is in the USA and Canada. So, please realise the flaw causing my low score and less than glowing review comes from me the reader not being suited to the book, rather than ‘The Pumpkin Cookbook, 2nd Edition’ being a bad book. It’s not, honest. It has a lot of potential – for the right audience… which wasn’t me.

Though I will also add, before getting into the positives, that I was actually surprised this was a Storey Publishing book as it doesn’t seem to have the usual sparkle they give their work. I mean, the layout was perfection as usual – simple, easy to follow recipes, well laid out formatting and all in all easy to read. What images there were, however, didn’t seem to have the usual Storey Publishing ‘glow’ to them. Oh, and although it doesn’t affect my way of cooking, some modern cooks may not like this book that much as their isn’t a glossy image to go with each and every recipe. Me? I don’t need it so not affected. People more used to the hand held, step by step, must have a picture to compare their work with it reader… they won’t be as happy with ‘The Pumpkin Cookbook, 2nd Edition’ – sorry.

As for the recipes themselves… well, there were some really good ones, some really interesting ones and ones I just wouldn’t try. I am putting it mostly down to the cultural thing again, as in pumpkin isn’t a novelty ingredient here in Australia, it’s a staple. I also found there were just too many recipes that used pre-mades. Things like cereal, pretzels and – the most mind boggling one to me – canned pumpkin. Wasn’t this book all about learning to cook with fresh pumpkin? Again, I am blaming my cultural background on the canned pumpkin thing as I don’t even know if you can BUY canned pumpkin here… it’s fresh or nothing I think.

And, despite there being some attempts to use healthier ingredients, there was still too much refined sugar and the like for my wholefood, unrefined heart.

But I will say the dedication to making such a wide variety of interesting and different recipes where pumpkin was the key ingredient was impressive. Weird thing is the sweets section interested me more than the savoury. As, here, pumpkin is used in both sweet and savoury dishes, but more so in savoury ones.All in all it looked to be a very interesting book that would help the adventurous try using pumpkin in ways they may not have done so in the past. But, again, I feel I must emphasise that I wasn’t the best reader for this book as I am simply in the wrong country. Storey Publishing is USA based and cater to the USA market – which is why the recipes are always only ever in imperial measurements. They were decent enough to allow me an ARC, but I simply wasn’t the best person to review it. Fault all mine.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Possibly. I mean, if any of my friends in the USA or Canada who wanted to do more with pumpkin all year round in all sorts of dishes – then yes. This is a book they should check out. People here in Australia or even over in the UK? No, not one I would recommend. Not the fault of the book – it is perfect for the market it is aimed at.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yeah, we all know the answer to this, right? This is a great book, a perfect way to allow those in the USA to explore how to use delicious and versatile pumpkin in more meals… but not a book for me. Australia’s see and use pumpkin a lot differently, and that is something I have learned from this book and will remember next time I go looking at pumpkin cook books. 😉

In summary – a cook book that truly allows those who see pumpkin as a novelty ingredient explore other options.

Until next time,

Janis.

100% Real – 100 Insanely Good Recipes for Clean Food Made Fresh by Sam Talbot.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Regular readers of my reviews will come to know I am very much into wholefoods, local foods, in season foods and eating as a part of life rather than a fad or trend… And so should realise that when I say I really loved this cook book, that it contains all of the above!

So what is 100% Real all about? It’s a cook book (duh!) that helps give a better understanding to just eating real food and enjoying it. And by real it isn’t meaning living off kale, mung beans and organic tofu…. Though hey – don’t knock them until you’ve tried them. 😉

No, 100% Real explains how pizza, pasta, burgers, cakes…. is all real! Well, it CAN be if made from the right ingredients. Ditch the synthetic substitutes, manufactured meat and other rather nasty things. Choose fresh, local, in season fruits and veg, choose good artisan bread free of all the bleaches and preservatives, choose ethical raised and finished meats, choose unrefined sugars. Eat what you like – in moderation of course – but make sure you choose the real version and not the man made fake version.

This is almost identical to my own food beliefs and so I found this book very inspiring, great to read (the non-recipes bits as well as the recipes) and honestly feel this is what cook books should be about today. Actually – cooking books, cooking shows, cooking lessons – they should all be about this simple 100% Real approach to food.

Gluten-Free Shells and cheese with peas – courtesy of Sam Talbot’s Facebook Page.

Though I will say here and now not all the recipes were appealing to me – yes my food intolerances and allergies got in the road. Won’t anyone think of we the allium intolerant? When you are lumbered with needing to cook/eat wheat, barley, rye, dairy, seafood, lamb and allium free (before we get into the fussy food issues) – you can really come across as a PITA (Pain In The Arse) when looking through a cook book.  But I am getting used to it and so know when to skip a recipe or study it for modification to a ‘Janis friendlier’ option. I’m a big girl, I can do it. And so, when I say not all the recipes are appealing to me… that doesn’t mean everyone is going to screw their noses up at them. It just means I am more limited to what I can eat, not that the recipes themselves sucked. They didn’t – it is totally my fault. 😀

TI will have to say there was one recipe that is all about roasting your own veg, making a sauce from scratch, etc… that then calls for a shop bought pre-cooked chicken. And that made me pause a moment. Why? I would much rather buy a local truly free range ethical chook (that’s chicken in Australian by the way) and cook it along with the veg… But hey, it’s not as if I HAVE to buy a pre-cooked chook. I could roast it myself and still rock it at that recipe!

That is what I am trying to say – the book allows to you to be flexible while still showing you how to cook and keep food 100% Real. Yes, follow the recipes to the letter to ensure you get as close to the same results as Mr Talbot as possible. But the recipes also seem to say – cook to suit yourself, as long as you keep it 100% Real. So, to me, this is a very user friendly cook book for home cooks of any level.

Oh, and I will add that Mr Talbot also tries to accommodate for the more main stream food intolerances and allergies and a lot of the recipes listed are gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian or vegan… sometimes a combination of these. So, although it’s not a book written to cater for any specific dietary requirement, they are still considered and easily recognised by the clear symbols at the top of each recipe. The introduction to 100% Real also explains all this – which is why people should really read ALL of a cook book and not just the recipes. Just saying. 😉

As for the review from a layout point of view – it is clear, precise and easy to read and follow, and each recipe has a gorgeous photo of the finished items to entice you into making it. Although the recipes are all in imperial measurements, there are a few different conversion charts at the back of the book so we on the metric system have been thought of. 😉

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. This really is the sort of cooking and therefore cook book we should all be following. It doesn’t dictate a trend, fad or what I call a “Foodism” – a food faith so out there it comes across as similar to a fanatic religion. No, this book is what the title says it is. 100% Real. And no, you don’t need to be diabetic to buy and use this book! I’m not (yet… genetics indicate type two likely) but love cooking with whole foods, local foods and real foods. I love unrefined sugars, making my own nut butters and all the fun things this gorgeous cook book encourages. This is not a diabetes cook book – it is a cook book on keeping EVERYONE’S food 100% Real. And so a very big YES to me recommending it to people.

Would I buy this book for myself?
Here I am torn as I really don’t know. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I LOVED most of the recipes and if we weren’t in single digits Celsius right now that avocado melon Lassi would be my morning tea! But I am still a very tactile person when it comes to cook books and so prefer playing about with them in paper version (but only half the cook books I am sent are in paper format). So as much as I want to play with the recipes in 100% Real more, and test some of the ones I would need to modify out… I would want to be playing with it as paper form. So, for now, would consider this something I would rather borrow from a library to see how we got along together in my kitchen before I would buy it.

But that is simply due to me being weird, and the amount of recipes I just can’t eat in their current form due to my own food issues. It has NOTHING to do with the quality of the book. This book looks awesome! I just need to get to know it a little better first before giving it a permanent space on my limited physical book shelves. I hope Mr Talbot understands and can forgive me for being so fickle. 😉

In summary: This is what cook books should be like – explaining why foods should be real, local, in season and ethical as well as showing how easy they are to cook with. Great book!

Until next time,

Janis.

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.