eBook: Black Jade

Black Jade – A Daiyu Wu Mystery by Gloria Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Could an old-fashioned ballgown be used to commit murder?

Daiyu Wu is aware that fear of the Yellow Terror has made her nationality a rare breed in the Lone Star State. Being Chinese and blind makes her doubly unique in 1930 Dallas. Despite these impediments, anyone who dismisses her for either fact does so at their peril.

One day, at her family-owned laundry business, Dai detects the scent of burned garlic. With the help of her companion, Jacques, the source is soon discovered. It is a green ballgown. The gown has money pinned inside it to pay for the cleaning, but oddly, it came with no address label to identify its owner. Her extensive knowledge leads Dai to believe someone has committed murder using arsenic. The perpetrator is trying to use White Laundry to hide the evidence. But no mention of foul play turns up in the newspapers, and there’s not enough proof to convince the police there’s been a crime.

Her curiosity and intellect stimulated like never before; Dai ignores the possible consequences and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of her canine companion, Prince Razor, and her confidant, Jacques Haskins. It’s either that or let the killer get away with it — assuming a spoiled popinjay, his jealous self-appointed girlfriend, and Dai’s overprotective parents don’t get in her way.

My review: I’ve read a few cozy mysteries this year. I find them easier on my scrambled mind, and easier to digest when I’m feeling unwell. But I also find them to be extremely focusing and entertaining.

Black Jade is the first book in a mystery series. The lovely things about the book are the era it’s set in and the fact that the main character is a blind Chinese woman. The author weaves in the details of the mystery itself, the racial issues of the time, and society life in the 1930s quite well.

Daiyu and her companion, Jacques, join forces with two unlikely (and totally different) side kicks to find a killer. The setting and characters worked well together. There were little smile moments, strong “that’s racist” moments and a hint of embarrassing romantic moments. All intended. All written well. I liked the storyline and didn’t find anything annoying about any of it.

Daiyu’s companion threw me a bit, at the beginning, but I liked the character and accepted him (once my brain accepted it was a man I was reading about, not a woman as I had first thought).

The mystery was well thought out and the hints subtle. I enjoyed the interaction between Jacques and “the cad”. There was a lot of light hearted humour in there too.

I can’t think of anything bad about the book. The pages turned quickly, the history was equal to the mystery. I learned a lot about life in the ’30s, yet the details were weaved into the storyline, not dumped on the pages. Impressively done, I must say.

I will read more books in the series as I enjoyed my time in their world. Recommended.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

Audiobook: Hamish Macbeth Mysteries

Death of a Perfect Wife by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: Hamish Macbeth is savouring the delights of a Highland summer. But as fast as the rain rolls in from the loch, his happy life goes to hell in a handbasket. The trouble begins when his beloved Priscilla Halburton-Smythe returns to Lochdubh with a new fiancé on her arm. His miseries multiply when clouds of midges descend on the town. And then a paragon of housewife perfection named Trixie Thomas moves into Lochdubh with her cowed husband in tow. The newcomer quickly convinces the local ladies to embrace low-cholesterol meals, ban alcohol, and begin bird-watching. Soon the town’s menfolk are up in arms and Macbeth must solve Lochdubh’s newest crime – the mysterious poisoning of the perfect wife.

M. C. Beaton is the author of the best-selling Agatha Raisin series. She has also written several Regency romance series. She lives between Paris and the Cotswolds.

My review: I picked this out of my elibrary listing, not knowing it was part of a series…and book 4 of the series! Yet, it didn’t matter. The author wrote the book in a way that felt stand alone. The characters, the setting, the era, all were complete and interesting.

I felt like reading something “easy going”. By that, I don’t mean simple, I mean something that flows easily and doesn’t jerk the reader here, there, and everywhere. The book is part of the Hamish Macbeth cozy mysteries and I enjoyed it immensely.

The setting felt old fashioned and laid back. The people of the Scottish town had distinct personalities and traits that I could relate to and the mystery itself was well thought out and entertaining.

I will read more by this author.

Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: Dreary Cnothan’s most hated man is dumped into a tank filled with lobsters then eaten in Britain’s best restaurants. Exiled there with his dog Towser, Hamish Macbeth misses his beloved Highland village Lochdubh, Priscilla, and easy lazy days. His superiors want the business hushed up, a dark-haired lass wants his body, and a killer is out for more blood. On TV show.

My review: In order to keep to the trend, I’ve gone backwards instead of forwards with this series. I completed book 4 recently, and then decided to read book 3. I know, I’m crazy to go backwards, but it really was not an issue as this book was not set in the same town. Worked out perfectly for me.

Hamish is set to another town to fill in while the regular police officer had a well deserved holiday. But, of course, things go wrong as soon as Hamish turns up. Yet, there is a upturn of events for Hamish in other areas (wink, wink, say no more).

This storyline was a little more twisted, and I didn’t like the townspeople much. I don’t have much more to say other than I would read more books in the series.

Book review: Phosphorescence

Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark by Julia Baird

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The blurb: A beautiful, intimate and inspiring investigation into how we can find and nurture within ourselves that essential quality of internal happiness – the ‘light within’ that Julia Baird calls ‘phosphorescence’ – which will sustain us even through the darkest times.

Over the last decade, we have become better at knowing what brings us contentment, well-being and joy. We know, for example, that there are a few core truths to science of happiness. We know that being kind and altruistic makes us happy, that turning off devices, talking to people, forging relationships, living with meaning and delving into the concerns of others offer our best chance at achieving happiness. But how do we retain happiness? It often slips out of our hands as quickly as we find it. So, when we are exposed to, or learn, good things, how do we continue to burn with them?

And more than that, when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?

Absorbing, achingly beautiful, inspiring and deeply moving, Julia Baird has written exactly the book we need for these times.

My review: This is totally different to my normal reading material. However, my niece and her man gave me the book for Christmas and I was determined to read the book for that reason alone. Phosphorescence is a big word that I find difficult to say, let alone know what it means. And, I had no clue what the book might present me, so was surprised to find it isn’t a novel at all. 🙂

My surprise was deepened when the first chapter turned out to be about jellyfish. Yet, once the surprise ebbed, I was captivated. Honestly, I didn’t know how interesting jellyfish could be. Yet, of course, the book is so much more than jellyfish too. This is an inspirational, self-help book that speaks to your inner emotions and sooths your soul.

Each reader will take something different from each chapter. But I believe, for me, it allowed me to view the world through someone else’s eyes. It allowed me to feel, experience, and understand what’s going on around me in nature and how that, if noticed, can heal our wounds and lift our spirits.

We rely on electronics too much. We have become separated from those around us, especially now in this new COVID world. Yet, we can still be happy and content if we appreciate the smaller things.

There were two chapters that I couldn’t finish reading. I got the jist of what was being said, but I felt the message went on for too long, and I grew bored. However, those two chapters aside, I enjoyed the book immensely. No, it wasn’t a novel, but it still took me to other places and allowed me to be and it allowed me to see.

Not everyone will love the book, but I would recommend you try it to see if you do…or not.

Not accepting book reviews at present

Sorry, I have enough books in the queue to keep me busy for the next five or six months, so I have had to close the doors for the time being before it gets too overwhelming.

If your book has been accepted, or if you have received an email saying I will accept a copy of your book, then your book is included in my current queue and I look forward to reading and reviewing your work soon.

I will reopen the review doors when I catch up with what I have.

2021 and moving forward

No one I know has said that 2020 was a good year. Yes, good thing may have happened, but they were definitely overshadowed by COVID-19.

As of today, in the past twelve months, there have been over two million deaths worldwide. That is a huge figure and I cannot imagine how devastating it has been for the families of those people. I can only give my condolences.

In Australia, we have only had 909 deaths. Only. Even that many, is too many. We have restrictions in place, which change regularly. But whatever we’re doing seems to be working, so I’m pleased about that.

Other things happened in 2020. My blood disorder resurfaced, which meant I had to go back on injections that made me very sick. I started to improve after Christmas, but had a sudden downturn. I’m currently seeing my doctor and specialist about that, but hope we have a plan that works out positive.

Also in 2020, I managed to read 33 books. Most of them were audiobooks, which I listened to while on the treadmill or out walking the dog. Never in my life have I listened to so many audiobooks. I must say that I loved it. And I loved the fact that I was multitasking too.

During 2020 I was working on my next writing project. It took me some months of planning and the rewriting phase was slow, but I was fine with that as I want the book to be great. Unfortunately, when the injections started, the rewriting stopped because I was unable to focus and didn’t want to ruin any chapters.

However, I have restarted the rewriting of that book over the last few days. I had to fix the last part of the last chapter I had been working on as it was lacking…everything! But, that is done, and I’ve happily moved on to the next chapter. I cannot give a timeline for when it might be finished. I don’t intend to rush it.

Now it’s 2021. The year started out dodgy, but is now improving. I’m not looking for wealth or fame. My first aim is to be healthy and happy. If I have those two things, the rest will follow.

eBook review: The Box-Car Children

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: The Boxcar Children tells the story of four orphaned children, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny. They create a home for themselves in an abandoned boxcar in the forest.

My review: This book was written in 1924, and I read the original text.

The book was written by a school teacher, so she was around children a fair bit so must have had a good understanding of how they behaved. The thing to remember when reading the story is that it was written almost 100 years ago, so the reader should expect some odd descriptions and old-fashioned speech. And, I guess, out-dated values too.

I easily put those things aside and took the story as-is. Four orphaned children run away and make a life for themselves. The older children take care of the younger ones. They find ways to manage. They find shelter and earn money to buy food. I can’t imagine children today doing these things, but I accept that this is only a story. It’s for entertainment purposes only.

It’s also aimed at children’s imaginations. I would have loved the story as a child and I loved it now because it allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks. I believe children who can read by themselves will enjoy the adventures of the boxcar children.

eBook review: Tales from the Red Sun Village

Tales from the Red Sun Village: Volume 1 by Mark Swaine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: The legendary warrior Kamui Li visits the people of a settlement in the badlands of Purgatoria. In a bid to build morale, the dangerous Samurai recounts three campfire stories to the nervous people of the village to help them overcome their fears of this dangerous new world.

The Midnight Foot Masseuse
A down on his luck chef encounters a demon living under his bed, a demon with a penchant for giving foot massages that somehow improves his life, but at what cost.

Plus a Few Upgrades
A tech savvy girl purchases a cursed videogame console from a car boot sale, and now she’s in the fight for her life whilst avenging her brother’s.

The Child’s Ward
A monster seeks weapons of mental mass destruction as an ignorant teen keeps vigil over a sick infant in the children’s ward of a hospital.

My review: This is speculative fiction for young adults. The audience around the camp fire appear to be much younger, but I definitely would not allow younger children to read the book as it might give them nightmares.

The stories within the book are tied together by the campfire gathering. And there is a reason for the children being told the stories, but I won’t spoil it for you. Just know that they are not random fables.

The stories themselves are … gruesome. Consider them, for the most part (except the last story), to border on horror. There is blood and guts, be warned. Fortunately, I’ve read my share of horror so I’m fine with it, but some people don’t like reading graphic fighting scenes. The book will not appeal to everyone.

I haven’t read any other Red Sun Village books, and this book didn’t give me enough information to know if the story fits in with the other books or not.

The stories vary. The first one felt totally different to the others. It was well written and held my interest and had a neat little twist at the end. The second story was based on gaming. I’ve played PlayStation games since the beginning and I’ve killed countless zombies during that time, so you could say I enjoy gaming. But the story was too long for me, and because of that, my attention waned. I guess I prefer to play the game, rather than read about it. But I feel certain that the target audience will feel part of the team and will love it. The last story felt a little disjointed. Or maybe I was slow in catching on because I have been unwell recently. I didn’t realise what was happening at first, so I felt confused. When I did catch on, it all made sense.

I liked the way everything was brought together at the end. That was well done. And I especially liked the very last message.

What I didn’t like about this book was the cover. To be honest, I would never chose to read the book based on the cover as it does absolutely nothing to catch my attention. Personally, I think that’s a shame as I believe many people make decisions to read books based on the cover alone. In my opinion, an updated cover would do wonders for the book overall.

Regardless of the cover, I believe the book will be well received by readers who enjoy details that allow the scene to be alive in their minds, and can envision themselves amongst the action.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

eBook review: Ethaze & the Shadow Court

Ethaze & the Shadow Court by J.P. Kaeden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Eleven-year-old Ethaze always believed her mother had died when she was little and that her father had abandoned her. When her Grandfather passes away, she learns her mother had been traded to the Fae. Leaving her village to rescue her mother, Ethaze discovers the existence of an uneasy truce between men, Fae and the Gods over the planes of existence.

The Order of Gafannon, a sect of blacksmiths trained in the old ways, are mankind’s protection against the Fae, providing the iron which disrupts their powers and binds them as mortals. Ethaze is drawn into the Void, the space between realities, where she encounters the imprisoned rogue Fae of the Shadow Court, those who have rejected the truce and have sought to establish their own power. Ethaze’s quest for her mother is part of something larger than she could have ever imagined.

My review: Presently, I seem to be reading books that are difficult to fit wholly within a defined age group. The main character in Ethaze and the Shadow Court is eleven, which should make this book for middle grade or younger readers. But I don’t agree with that. Ethaze is eleven, yet she comes across as around 16 to me. In my opinion, the book is for young adults.

However, the genre is simple to determine. Set in another world. Portals. The Fae. Yes, it’s a fantasy story.

The storyline grabbed me from the beginning. I liked Ethaze’s determination and wanted her to succeed in her quest from the start. Yet our path is never straight forward and we often get waylaid in real life, so it’s not surprising that poor Ethaze ran into all sorts of trouble on her journey. Her good nature and ethics see her wanting to help people, but it’s sometimes hard to know when and where to place trust. We also need to accept help from others, because sometimes we cannot reach our goal alone, but that too has its drawbacks.

I liked the relationships Ethaze created with the other characters, good and bad. They were convincing. Also, I enjoyed the way the author shared crafting techniques in a way that felt natural to the storyline. I don’t know if the blacksmith details are true or not, but I believed every word and that’s the important thing.

Allowing the reader to use their imagination when reading a book is important, in my opinion, and the author gave descriptions that didn’t drone on and bore me but allowed me to envision Ethaze’s world. I appreciated that.

The only negative thing for me to say is that the book has a lot of grammar errors that need addressing. Little things that are confusing, and other errors that are quite distracting, spoiling the reading experience. A good edit will improve the story tenfold. But if you can ignore these imperfections, you’ll find a good story worth reading.

Despite the errors, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would happily read book 2 when it’s released.

Recommended.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.