Netgalley ARC

Book Review – Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan.

4 out of 5 stars

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

This is another book I actually read late last year, but am only now getting a chance to write a review on… as life got a little insane back then for a bit. But I have been thinking over it ever since I read it… definitely one of those books that gives you a book hangover and stays with you for sometime.

For some reason, I had been expecting this to be one of those kooky, supernatural cosy crime stories. I have NO IDEA where I took that from… and so the beginning of the book threw me a bit as I went “wow! This is a very serious thriller!” but not in a tone that meant I was put off, in a tone that can be translated into “go away, I am reading something amazing!” 😉

Now, I don’t want to do ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ any injustice by saying it was a thriller and then have people tell me it’s nothing like one. To me, it was! Maybe I just don’t read enough thrillers? Meh. People who read my reviews will by now have noticed I mainly read cookbooks or cosy crimes… or cosy crimes that include cooking!

But I did find it indeed a thriller read. Suspenseful, intriguing and that red raw real life type of crime that Ruth Rendell used to write (and I am a huge fan of her books). The characters were modern and relatable, as well as being isolated and diverse from the norm due to their connected past.

The book is sort of told in two time – the past and the present. But it entwines together and leads the to reader to discover how it is all connected in such a sad, thrilling, bemusing and… well, emotional way. Gee, I really do feel like I am underselling ‘Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore’ rather than promoting it here. Can I just say – I loved it, a riveting read and you all just believe me?

Midnight at the bright ideas bookstore

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would. If you are a fan of the broad spectrum of crime fiction, this is a brilliant read and I would be surprised if you didn’t get a book hangover once done. If you are a more selective crime fiction reader and only read certain sub-genres, if you’re into thrillers, mysteries, modern day crime and the like – you will enjoy this. As said, it has that gritty realism that I enjoy in books by people like Ruth Rendell, Ann Cleeves, Elizabeth Haynes and so on.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. Any book that gives me a book hangover I still feel touches of months later is a book worth owning. I would happily add it to my eBook shelves and can see myself reading it again every now and then.

In summary: Lovers of the True Crime sub-genre into gritty realism, this book is for you. Highly enjoyable.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – How to Speak Chicken (Why Your Chickens Do What They Do & Say What They Say ) by Melissa Caughey.

4 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.

Hello everyone, I’m back! Well, I hope to be back and to be back I need to start with my backlog… so I do apologise if this review is a little sketchy in places as I read ‘How to speak chicken’ back in September/October and since then my electronic copy has expired. So I just need to try and work from memory about it all.

Firstly, I found it a highly enjoyable read. I am a chook lady, I had chickens as a child, convinced my husband a few years ago to let us get chickens for our kids… and currently have ten. Three Isa Brown, three Australorps, three French Wheaten Marans and a Wyandotte. The last four listed were newly acquired while reading this book. Possible coincidence? 😉

And we do indeed love talking to them and know they talk back in different tones and voices and we use different chicken noises and motions depending on which chicken we are addressing. So, yeah, perhaps I am one of those “crazy chicken ladies”… and Proud!

So it was a delight to read Ms Caughey’s book. A lady after my own heart with similar loves and understandings of our feather babies.

Yes there are other “how to raise” chicken books out there. I’ve even read, reviewed and enjoyed a couple. But what puts ‘How to speak Chicken’ apart from them is the lyrical, loving tone used by its author. This isn’t see looking after chooks from a “its a pet that gives us eggs and poops a lot” point of view. It is from the same point of view I see chickens “its one of my little girlies who clucks and carries on, needs cuddles, friends, toys… and lays eggs and poops a lot”. So… it is a book on looking after chickens to your best ability, but told from the view point of someone who sees them as more than just some dumb bird. As a chicken being a dumb bird is as accurate a description as me being a twenty something skinny supermodel. Yeah, not that accurate. 😉

The basic chicken care is all there, but just in a lovely whimsical manner that I really did love.

For the technical side of things – the formatting, layout and pictures were of the usual exceptional standard I have come to expect from Storey Publishing.

how to speak chicken

Would I recommend this book to others?

Yes I would… but they would have to be quirky souls like myself able to cope with a DIY book on raising chickens that comes in a whimsical manner. Some people might need a more serious book than this, but they would be missing out. 😉

Would I buy this book for myself?

Maybe… Yes I loved it, and yes I own chickens… but did I really learn a LOT of stuff I didn’t already know? Not really. It would all come down to missing reading it and wanting to own it again and then seeing if I could buy a copy here in Australia. I really did enjoy reading my electronic version, but feel it would be much nicer to have in paper. It’s just one of those things… sitting out on the banana lounge in the middle of the lawn, stack of books and herd of chickens. Perfect book for a reading day like that.

Until next time,

Janis.

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 – Krampus: Countess of Cachtice (The Krampus Chronicles Book 2) by Sonia Halbach.

3 out of 5 stars

I would like to thank Curiosity Quills for providing me with a free electronic ARC of this book in exchange for an open and honest review.

Okay… so this book almost became a DNF (Did Not Finish) for me and all due to my own fault. It has been two years since I read the first book in this series (I looked it up) and this usually isn’t a problem. Part of the savant area of my idiot is that I remember stories and can pick them up years later and not have to reread… most of the time. Obviously ‘The Krampus Chronicles’ is not one such series.

So! I know there are a lot of reviewers out there saying this can easily be read as a stand-alone books, and they are in some ways correct… but if you’re returning to this series a few years after reading the first book, I strongly suggest you reread the first book ‘The Three Sisters’ before heading into it.

And I only give this warning as I stumbled a lot over the first few chapters as I honestly couldn’t remember 100% who was who, what they’d done and where I’d left them. This is not the fault of the book or the author! It is the fault of the reader… well, THIS reader, and I think the tale would have gone a lot more smoothly for me if I’d had the time to rehash first. Ah well, we live and learn.

The reason I persevered is I did remember loving the first book and enjoying the whole Three Sisters and the Sister Wheels story. And, as I’ve said in previous reviews, who doesn’t like worlds within our own stories? I mean, seriously, WHO?! You? Oh we so have nothing to talk about, move along! 😉

Back to the book! ‘Krampus: Countess of Catiche’ begins three years after ‘The Three Sisters’ ends and it does take a little time for the characters to all get back into the world of the Foundlings and Poppel. Took me a while too! But once the pace of the book got going, things went well.

The story is actually a few different timelines interwoven well as we cross centuries, locations and characters. But it all builds up to the same end result and the ending was another “wait, what? No, don’t stop writing THERE!” moment for me. Oh you authors, you’re such a tease the way you get us hooked and then leave us dangling, hungry for more. Can I just ask the next book isn’t two years in the making? Selfish of me I know when my own series is spaced just as far apart. 😉

So… a slow read, but in the end well-paced, well written and all the characters, times and locations well described and not hard to separate and know where you’re going… even when they all start to spin together and characters cross timelines. The overall storyline was kept smooth, easy to understand and very entertaining. Don’t I look the goose having almost not finished reading it?

As for the formatting and the like? Well, I can’t remember any major clangers and even if there were, this was an ARC and the final edit will be fine. Actually, I tend to find that Curiosity Quills go over their books with a fine tooth comb before even sending them out as an ARC so really not surprised at the quality received.

Would I recommend this book to others?

I would… but I would be reluctant to recommend it as a stand-alone. I would suggest people get both books and read them in order. I mean, yes you COULD read it on its own… but you would be missing out on a great beginning story.

So yes I would recommend, but both books in ‘The Krampus Chronicles’, not just this one.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Uncertain. For now, mostly due to my own fault of not rereading ‘The Three Sisters’ first, I feel a little disjointed and disconnected from the series and therefore not that willing to own it, despite having enjoyed it. For the moment both books are at ‘library book’ level… as in something I would read, but only if borrowed. They aren’t quite at ‘would proudly own’ level yet… sorry. Maybe as the series grows? I am now following Ms Halbach on Amazon just to ensure I know when the next one it out… so obviously a good series as I only follow the best authors. 😉

In summary: A good continuation of a creatively original series.

Until next time,

Janis

Book Review – The Antique House Murders (The Oakwood Mystery Series Book 2) by Leslie Nagel.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Gosh I seem to be giving a lot of 4 out of 5 stars of late… obviously I’ve hit a seam of excellent books in my TBR pile!

‘The Antique House Murders’ is book two in ‘The Oakwood Mystery Series’ by Leslie Nagel and, being open and honest, I fell in love with this series with book one ‘The Book Club Murders’. So was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review this second book. I just feel I need to apologise for not reading it sooner! It’s been a crazy year for me and let’s leave it at that. 😉

Okay, so for those who haven’t read the first book in the series let me just say – why not? Come one people, keep up! 😀

Actually, what I was going to say was that ‘The Antique House Murders’ can be enjoyed as a stand-alone book if you must. There is enough recapping on Charley’s love, life and adventures to get the reader up to speed pretty quickly. And, thankfully, not so much recapping as half the book seems to be reminding you what you’ve missed. I do so hate books that do that… maybe why I loved this one so much?

The story picks up a few months after the first book and involves the mysteries of an old manor house and the secrets surrounding it and the family that lived there. Charley and her shop ‘Old Hat’ get involved via some estate sold clothing and accessories and that fiery red head just takes it from there.

‘The Antique House Murders’ was definitely my kind of cosy/ mystery and it honestly had me up until 1:30am (on a school night – if it wasn’t the school holidays) just as I simply HAD to finish it. The intrigue, the adventure, the padding and the red herrings – a perfect balance.
What I think I loved the most is it took me a while to figure out the full ‘whodunit’. Yeah, cocky me thought it was so and so… but wait – not that person at all! Then I clicked it was such and such… and it was! But then… Oh!!!! Yeah, I was almost shouting at the book by that point, but it was after midnight and I am playing my “I was sleep deprived” card as my excuse. 😉

So, yes, a perfect blend of cosy/ mystery for me that literally had me guessing until right near the end of the book. And guessing in a good way, not a “this is just too convoluted to understand” way. Nope, Ms Nagel had me on tenterhooks throughout and I just NEEDED to know! The way she kept weaving ideas, story lines, padding and red herrings together – brilliant.

A quick mention to the formatting of this eBook – it was a bit garbled in places (spaces and paragraphs appearing where they shouldn’t) and there were a few typos and formatting issues… but this was an ARC and they’re allowed to get away with such things. I am sure the final edit is perfect… But you know I do like to mention these things. EBooks shouldn’t be second class formatting.

Would I recommend this book to others?

Gee, I think I’ve given myself a way here, right? Yes, I most definitely would. Again, I feel the reader should do ‘The Oakwood Mystery Series’ the justice it deserves and read ‘The Book Club Murders’ first. But yes, I would recommend this book to lovers of the modern day American cosy/ mystery. Very well written and highly enjoyable.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Yes I would. I am most definitely in love with this series and happily buy them. I can’t wait for the next one either!

In summary: A good, solid second book in a great murder mystery series. Highly recommend.

Until next time,

Janis.

Book Review – The Hunt (The Devil’s Isle Series) by Chloe Neill.

4 out of 5 stars

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

Now, I finished reading ‘The Hunt’ a week ago and am only now getting to post my review. Firstly, it’s spring here, my whole family has been struggling through the last of the winter bugs as well as the last week of term three of school and, well, I was left with such a HUGE book hangover from ‘The Hunt’ that I needed a few days to lick my wounds, refocus on reality and get on with things.

Basically, I downloaded this book on September 21st, knew it was being released September 28th and only got to start reading it on the 23rd…. and finishing it ON the 28th. So, yeah, whirlwind read of a great book – and series – I love and so I needed recovery time. 😉

Okay, now we know why I’ve been going on about how amazing ‘The Hunt’ is on social media while not leaving any review; let’s get on with the review!

‘The Hunt’ is the third book in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ by Ms Neill and I was hooked back on book one! I love the setting, the premise behind the story  – the veil between our world and the beyond has been breached and magic now seeps through – and so on…. You want to know more? Go buy ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’, read, enjoy and find out why I think it’s so amazing! 😀

Okay, back to my review of ‘The Hunt’. Well, I have to say I have been simply DYING to read this book as ‘The Sight’ ended in such a dramatic way. And so I found the beginning of ‘The Hunt’ a tad slow – but that can be put down to my impatience rather than Ms Neill’s writing ability.

The story begins about a month after ‘The Sight’ and a lot has happened. Claire has a new life, new duties and NOLA moves on around her as she (and the impatient reader) wonders what has happened to the man of her life.

Things then pick up well from there and the story then flows true to the first two books and before you know it you’re left with ANOTHER tremendous cliff hanger of an ending that leaves you groaning at having to wait for more and loving/ cursing Ms Neill for leaving yet another book in such a way.

Cryptic enough for you? Seriously, you want to now more – buy and read this series! It puts things like Ms Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’ into shadow with how good it is! 😉

Unlike other series – by other authors – ‘The Hunt’ has not come across as less of a book, or as if the ideas of the series have wandered and lost their way. No, we are still going as strong as the first book, ‘The Veil’ and still keeping with the initial core principles and plot of the entire series. This is some seriously good writing! I do hate when a series starts well and blows your mind and then dwindles. That is NOT the case at all with any of the books in ‘The Devil’s Isle Series’ and that is SUCH a relief to fangirl me! 😉

Devils isle The Hunt

Would I recommend this book to others?

 Yes I would. Though, if you haven’t guessed it, I would ensure they had read the rest of the series’ first. I mean, I suppose you COULD read each story as a stand-alone… but that would be such a waste of your time and Ms Neill’s talent. If they didn’t own ‘The Veil’ and ‘The Sight’ yet, I would recommend the person buy them while they are buying ‘The Hunt’ and then just lock themselves away for a weekend of fantastic reading.

Lovers of the true supernatural – the stuff without sparkles and/or porn on every other page – will love this book and series. Think Kim Harrison’s ‘The Hollows’, only better. Not so much a world within a world as two worlds colliding and fighting to see who wins.

Would I buy this book for myself?

Uh, I think I’ve given away my feelings on this matter already. As the answer is HECK YES! And I am already hanging out (impatiently) for the next book. Seriously Ms Neill – Write. Faster. 😀

In summary: Great book, excellent follow on to a great series, HUGE book hangover – highly recommend.

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.