Icon Tag: Cover Love

Book Review #15: A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

Posted 8th November 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 19 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #15: A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen HughesA Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes
Series: Keepsake Cove Mystery #1
Published by Midnight Ink on November 8th 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 264
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of souvenir and collectible shops on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as they’re beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt’s body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can’t accept Melodie’s death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?

As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn’t careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie’s collection.

A Fatal Collection is my first experience of Mary Ellen Hughes and it certainly won’t be my last! I was a bit worried because this started at breakneck speed, and I thought it would continue that way and be a nightmare pacing wise; but it was really enjoyable.

The mystery starts almost straight away. Callie is visiting her Aunt Melodie for the first time in years, they spend an evening catching up; but the next morning Callie awakes to find her Aunt dead in her own store. Her death is quickly ruled an accident, and as Callie is preparing to return home she’s told that she has inherited everything.

She sees this as an opportunity for a fresh start and to leave her deadbeat boyfriend (I’m so glad he only featured in phone calls!) But she’s unsettled by how quickly everything was resolved, and wonders if there’s more to her Aunt’s death.

Keepsake Cove is a community of people with stores that sell collectibles (I found that a bit ridiculous, but I guess perhaps somewhere it could be a thing). Melodie’s store sells music boxes, and Callie takes her time to learn all the stock in the shop and goes on a mission to meet the other shop owners in the area.

There’s some interesting small community dynamics going on here, with some bickering between parties and some suspicious folk around. I enjoyed the secondary characters and I hope we see more of them in the future. There’s also a slight hint at a potential romance that was pretty cute, but in no way impacted on the main plot.

I liked that Callie wasn’t chummy with the police, and indeed, they barely featured at all. I did peg the murderer soon after meeting them, they just didn’t seem right to me. And I do enjoy being right haha

After the initial ‘whoa this is happening really quickly!’ moment at the start, the pacing turned out to be great. It flowed at a steady pace and the writing certainly kept me engaged.

This was a really enjoyable cozy mystery, though a bit predictable. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing the series!

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: 3.9

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Book Review #14: The Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine Morrey

Posted 1st November 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 14 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #14: The Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine MorreyThe Best Little Christmas Shop by Maxine Morrey
Published by HQ Digital on November 3rd 2017
Genres: Chick Lit, Christmas, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

Come home for Christmas to the Best Little Christmas Shop – the snowiest, cosiest place you can be!

Home for the holidays…

Icing gingerbread men, arranging handmade toys and making up countless Christmas wreaths in her family’s cosy little Christmas shop isn’t usually globe-trotter Lexi’s idea of fun. But it’s all that’s keeping her mind off romance. And, with a broken engagement under her belt, she’s planning to stay well clear of that for the foreseeable future…until gorgeous single dad Cal Martin walks through the door!

Christmas takes on a whole new meaning as Lexi begins to see it through Cal’s adorable five-year-old son’s eyes. But, finding herself getting dangerously close to the mistletoe with Cal, Lexi knows she needs to back off. She’s sworn off love, and little George needs a stability she can’t provide. One day she’ll decide whether to settle down again – just not yet.

But the best little Christmas shop in this sleepy, snow-covered village has another surprise in store…

DNF at 42%

*sigh* I don’t normally review books I don’t finish, however I’m making an exception. I’ve found that I like reading other’s reviews of DNF reads (particularly of books I like!) because it’s neat to get a different perspective.

I was drawn to this novel because of the cover – look at it, it’s so cute! And the synopsis sounded promising. I tried really hard to finish The Best Little Christmas Shop, as I didn’t want to give up on it. But I just couldn’t do it.

It started out so well. Lexi had returned home after a period away and some drama in her work and personal life. Her family runs a store that changes with the season, and in the lead up to Christmas there’s some serious wreath making and decorating going on.

I liked Lexi’s family, well, mainly one of her brothers. Their relationship seemed sweet and I was hoping that feel would continue throughout. But then we met the love interest, Cal, and it all fell apart.

Unfortunately there was no chemistry between Cal and Lexi at all. She seemed to misunderstand most of what he said, only for him to have to reassure her that he didn’t mean it like that.

Another thing that annoyed me was her constant comparisons of herself and other women (eg: her best friend), how she’s not feminine and delicate, what does anyone see in her. Gosh. And there was a passing thought of another lady not having pure intentions when it came to interacting with Cal (heaven forbid he possibly has female friends that aren’t her friends too).

The stereotypes of women really grated on my nerves, I can’t stand it when women put themselves, or others, down because they don’t meet the supposed expectations of society and what it is to be female. I just couldn’t enjoy this story at all; though George, Cal’s young son, was adorable.

I did read the end to make sure I didn’t want to continue to see how that played out, and all it did was make me roll my eyes so…nope.

I’m sure plenty out there will enjoy this book as a bit of fun, Christmassy, escapism. But it just wasn’t for me.

Rating Report
Plot
one-star
Characters
one-star
Writing
two-half-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: 2.1

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Book Review #8: Pressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss

Posted 2nd October 2017 by Wattle in Reviews / 11 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #8: Pressed to Death by Kirsten WeissPressed to Death by Kirsten Weiss
Series: A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery #2
Published by Midnight Ink on March 8th 2017
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 338
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: three-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Paranormal museum owner Maddie Kosloski has the perfect exhibit for the harvest festival—a haunted grape press. But when she’s accused of stealing the press, and her accuser is murdered, all eyes turn to Maddie. Knowing the perils of amateur sleuthing as she does, Maddie is reluctant to get involved . . . until her mother insists she investigate.

Does her mom have a secret agenda? Or is she somehow connected to the murder? Facing down danger and her own overactive imagination, Maddie must unearth the killer before she becomes the next ghost to haunt her museum.

For the love of…this one was a victim of my site move it seems, I thought I had reviewed it already but I hadn’t!

So here it is, my long overdue review (I’m so sorry!)

And the first note I have on this book is: ‘The continuity is shite.’ Oh my.

I’ve had this problem with a couple of cozies lately, now that I think about it. A character will say they’re going to do something later, or tomorrow, or the next day. Then in the next chapter the time passes and they never do it! With this one it could be because it was an ARC though, so I suppose I can let it slide…even it does seem sloppy.

The first book of the series, The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, was a strong start. But Pressed to Death suffers a little from second book syndrome. It was a quick read, but it was also entirely forgettable. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, and I really do like Maddie as a main character, but I never really connected to the story. It felt a bit slow, and like we were treading water for a while, waiting for something interesting to happen.

The second half of the book was better than the first. I like that there’s a mystery in the present, and one in the past, however there wasn’t really much paranormal about this one. It was a little disappointing after enjoying the first book so much. There weren’t enough twists, and it focused on Maddie’s love life a bit too much.

While I will be continuing the series when the third book comes out, that one will make it or break it for me. So far it’s promising, but just hasn’t delivered like I thought it would.

Rating Report
Plot
three-stars
Characters
two-half-stars
Writing
three-half-stars
Pacing
two-half-stars
Overall: 2.9

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Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Posted 21st June 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 16 Comments

I’m back! Uni has finished for the semester, and it ended horribly. I’m 99% sure I failed my Chemistry exam, given I only answered half the paper. But that’s okay! I can do it again! I’m not sure what it was about the first half of 2017, but I’ve never been less motivated to study in my life. Onwards and upwards though!

So here goes, a book review *gasp* last time I looked at my Goodreads account I was 4 books ahead of my goal, now I’m 4 behind. Oops!

Book Review #7: Practical Magic by Alice HoffmanPractical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Published by Penguin on August 5th 2003 (first published 1995)
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 286
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: two-stars

The Owens sisters confront the challenges of life and love in this bewitching novel from New York Times bestselling author Alice Hoffman.

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic concoctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.

One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic...

At 85 pages in, I knew how I was going to rate this book. I decided to read Practical Magic as I love the movie (and re-watching it made me go looking for the source material). Usually I prefer to read novels after seeing film adaptations, because they are much richer and add more to the world on the screen. Well. Most of the time.

This is not one of those.

The film is vastly different, the relationships are similar but the setting is not. On paper, those relationships that made the movie for me had absolutely no depth, and there isn’t much in the way of magic (I was really disappointed by this). Alice Hoffman’s writing is beautiful, but the characters felt so lifeless and flat.

I liked Sally until the focus of the story moved elsewhere; when it shifted back, she was lost to me. I didn’t connect with her, Gillian or Sally’s daughters. It was surprising to me how much it focused on the daughters actually, I quite disliked that element.

As for Gillian, she’s the beautiful one; but she’s so weak and spineless! Running away, getting into one relationship after another until she ends up with an abuser she knows she should leave, but won’t. Then he dies and she runs to Sally for help. She’s irresponsible, supposedly a ‘free spirit’, but she just came across as sad and pathetic (whereas in the film, she was rather charming).

And Sally always helps. ALWAYS. Ugh.

The point of view seemed to change from one character to another halfway through a paragraph, which was super disorienting. Unless I read it wrong (which is possible) but it was bizarre, I never usually have a problem with POV changes.

I almost DNF at 206 pages, and then thought that would be a waste, so finished it ASAP just to move on.

I simply cannot recommend this novel, it was lifeless and bland. The movie on the other hand, A+.

Rating Report
Plot
one-star
Characters
one-star
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
one-star
Overall: 1.8

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Book Review #2: Under the Paw – Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox

Posted 6th January 2017 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 15 Comments

Book Review #2: Under the Paw – Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom CoxUnder the Paw - Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox
Published by Simon & Schuster on January 30th 2014 (first published January 1st 2008)
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Booktopia
Rating: four-stars

For years, Tom Cox might have seemed like a regular, hard-living sort of bloke -- a lover of late nights, rock music and beer -- but he had a dark furry secret. Tom was a cat lover. Always had been, in fact. For a while, he kept his passion in check, but there was only so long he could postpone his true dream, especially after he met Dee, his moggy-loving soulmate.

In 2001, Tom left London and his job as a rock critic behind, and he and Dee, replete with Dee's cat Janet and three new kittens, moved to a remote part of Norfolk, a county where they knew not one living human soul. They thought it would be easy. They thought their cat madness had reached its limit. They were very wrong on both counts.

In UNDER THE PAW, Tom records the chaos of owning seven of the most charismatic, idiotic and duplicitous cats in the country. How exactly does a person go from living a fancy-free young metropolitan life to suddenly thinking it is normal to be on 24-hour call for multiple sets of whiskers? What are the essential rules of disposing of a dead pheasant? How do you learn to love your wife's ex's favourite pet?

Tom addresses all these issues and much more, encountering death, depression, flying fur and the first human sentence spoken by a feline along the way. Running through all the maelstrom is the heartbreaking story of his long and chequered relationship with The Bear, his oldest cat: a "painfully sensitive" survivor moggy who may or may not be an evil genius.

I don’t read memoirs very often. In fact, I just learned the difference between a memoir (about one part of the author’s life) and an autobiography (a chronicle of the author’s entire life)! I do love reading them on occasion – and I’ve decided to make 2017 the year of the memoir in a way; as a personal challenge I want to read at least 5 of them (I read this one last year, so it doesn’t count).

Under The Paw is the first of Tom Cox’s books about his cats. He has a great writing style, when I do read memoirs or autobiographies some suffer from terrible writing (and I’m so glad many are ghost written, I’d hate to think what they’d be like without a ‘proper’ author!) But Cox has made his living from writing; and it reads really well. Like he’s telling you a story, it flows like a good conversation.

The cats are what this books is about, and The Bear is the star (sadly he passed away recently, at the grand age of 21). I have no doubt The Bear would very much go for world domination, and he’d be a mysterious and aloof leader.

The other felines – Janet, Shipley, Ralph, Pablo and Bootsy – all have their moments. Janet was probably my favourite, allegedly being the one with the least brains. As a cat person, I do enjoy reading about other cats and their antics; they are such little balls of personality!

The one thing I did not like was the pushing of an outdoors lifestyle for ALL cats. It felt a bit arrogant, like he was saying, ‘the way I treat my cats is better than yours’.

My cats are indoor cats, mainly for their safety (I don’t trust my neighbours). They also show zero to little interest in getting outdoors (they do like bird tv at the front window, and they have grass to munch on). We discussed it with our vet before deciding to restrict their environment; so outdoors isn’t for all cats and their human slaves.

However, I did love reading about the lives of these kitties and will definitely continue with the books that follow.

If you’re interested about Tom and/or his cats, you can check out his site here.

Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Overall: 4.1

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Book Review #1: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss

Posted 27th December 2016 by Wattle in Books, Reviews / 8 Comments

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review #1: The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten WeissThe Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum by Kirsten Weiss
Series: A Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum Mystery #1
Published by Midnight Ink on March 8th 2016
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Pages: 290
Format: E-Book
Source: NetGalley
Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A Perfectly Proper Murder

When Maddie Kosloski’s career flatlines, she retreats to her wine country hometown for solace and cheap rent. Railroaded into managing the local paranormal museum, she’s certain the rumors of its haunting are greatly exaggerated. But then a fresh corpse in the museum embroils Maddie in murders past and present, making her wonder if a ghost could really be on the loose.

With her high school bully as one of the detectives in charge of the investigation, Maddie doubts justice will be served. When one of her best friends is arrested, she knows it won’t be. Maddie also grapples with ghost hunters, obsessed taxidermists, and the sexy motorcyclist next door as outside forces threaten. And as she juggles spectral shenanigans with the hunt for a killer, she discovers there truly is no place like home.

I was 110% mortified when I realised I hadn’t reviewed this yet 🙁 I thought I had, since I’d starred it on Goodreads, but I must have forgotten to actually post it. Fail. I so fail. And I feel terrible about it.

So finally, here is my review of this rather fun cozy mystery!

I love cozy mysteries, but I’m also really fussy about them. They are pretty formulaic and predictable in general (like most genres, I suppose) and it can get boring quickly if the writing isn’t engaging, the characters are flat and the mystery is just going through the motions. Thankfully The Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum is not one of those!

Kirsten Weiss has done a wonderful job with the main character, Maddie, who is unemployed when we meet her. Her friend, Adele, owns a building for her tea house and a Paranormal Museum that the Mayor won’t allow to close; Maddie is pressured to take over and ends up doing so. Everything goes to hell when a body is found on the property, Maddie is determined to find the killer and clear her friend, who has become a suspect, in the process.

The other characters we meet are good, but not yet fully realised, so I’m hoping we get to know them a bit better in future instalments. GD Cat (ghost detecting cat!) is totally my favourite. I’m a huge sucker for animal characters. Also one fun aspect of this story was that it was a mystery within a mystery (bookception!) and I found them both interesting.

Now, some of you may remember that in the past I have bitched and moaned about murder mysteries and how predictable they are, and how often I can pick who did it within the first ten pages. This one? NO idea, it took me quite some time to figure it out and I love it when that happens; because in the meantime I suspect everyone haha

There is a hiiiiint of romance, that I’m hoping becomes more as we go along. I know, who am I? Wanting romance? O_O the horror! But seriously, my fingers are crossed it eventuates because I love, love, love romance plots that aren’t the focus of the story; they’re just there in the background, making you think how cute it all is.

Ugh maybe Christmas has affected me more than I thought, I’ve become mushy.

One issue I did have with this was the formatting of the eARC was a bit terrible and that took away some of the reading pleasure initially, as it felt so choppy. I had a look at the preview on Amazon and it seems to be the same (though that might just be the preview?) but it does even out after a short while, it was super jarring when you’re trying to get into a book though.

All in all this was a fun, quick read and I really enjoyed the story and the writing style. I’m definitely looking forward to continuing the series!

Rating Report
Plot
three-half-stars
Characters
three-half-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
five-stars
Overall: 4.1

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