barbara venkataraman

Book Review: A Smidge of Crazy by Barbara Venkataraman

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I’m a fan of Barbara Venkataraman‘s writing style, stories and characters. She’s written several humorous essays and the Jamie Quinn mystery series. In her latest release, another fun essay, A Smidge of Crazy, a short-n-quick read, Venkataraman gets a little personal covering some hysterical memoirs and happenings thus far in her life. Perhaps some are true, perhaps some are just ways to entertain us. Either case, they make you laugh from start to finish. From the thought of buying Depends undergarments to how many different people could possibly be related in her family, she brings a great wit and head shake to each story in the collection. Some are just a few paragraphs, others are two to three pages, but each has an insight that will make you go “oh, I’ve said/done/thought THAT before.” Maybe we’re not all that different in the end, right? Great mini-release to get me through until her next Jamie Quinn book… thank you!

smidge

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Review: Jeopardy in July

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Jeopardy in JulyMy rating: 4 of 5 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s Jeopardy in July, the fifth book in her Jamie Quinn mystery series. I’m starting to love this series! It’s simple, direct and easy-to-read, but it makes for such a fun experience.

 

Why This Book
The author and I connected months ago and I began reading her series. When the newest one came out, we chatted again and I was quick to jump on this read. I added it to TBR in late March when it was released and found myself propelling it to the must-read rather quickly. And I sat down at the end of my day today and finished it in less than 3 hours!


Overview of Story
Jamie Quinn has been a family law attorney for about ten years, growing tired of the boring cases that pass her desk. Though she’s had fun working on the unexpected murder cases over the last few years, those aren’t ones she comes across very often. And her boyfriend is stuck in Australia for a month longer than they expected, leaving her facing the world on her own. When she takes on some extra work at the local senior facility, providing advice about wills, inheritances and long-term care. But when something seems amiss with too many deaths at the facility, Jamie’s hot on the trail again.

South Florida. Forged paintings. An artist with a potential passion to do the right thing. Unfamiliar family connections. A mysterious flower that causes death, appearing as though it’s a foaming mouth. And that’s just 1 of her newest cases. How will Jamie figure it all out? With the help of bestie Grace, and Grace’s state senate candidate boyfriend, who annoys the heck out of Jamie. As she gets closer to the clues, along with PI sidekick Duke, Jamie’s sure to find a future in crime fighting this time!

Approach & Style
Barbara Venkataraman‘s style is absolute ease. The main character is a fun and quirky lawyer, one who has a witty and snappy tongue, but always comes across as someone you wish you knew. The book has so much humor, it’s hard to stop giggling sometimes. It’s not all-out crazy laughter, but a subtle hint of “this chick is cool and I wanna know her” type humor. And her banter with her favorite PI, ladies’ man Duke Broussard, is dynamic. I love their scenes together, even if it’s not about the case. Long-term, I kinda want them to end up together.

I read this as an e-read on my iPad through Kindle. The point of view stays on Jamie the whole story, following her antics across her own family drama and her various cases. In this one, two of her cases collide when art forgery meets death at the senior care facility. Chapters are short, quick to ingest… always humorous… and they leave you constantly wanting to click forward to the next one. And the author publishes a few a year, which should be enough, but I’m always wanting more!

Strengths
Jamie’s a true heroine. She’s funny. She’s smart. Flawed. Tragic. Strong. And represents us all.
Duke’s such a hoot. He’s over-the-top and warrants a good slap in the face… or a little fun on the side… hard to tell sometimes.

The plot is straightforward, but has a few fun jaunts along the way. It is easy to follow, leaves you wanting to solve it on your own with all the information at your fingertips.
Jamie’s search for her own love and family hops along throughout the story, and with each of the five books, she gets a little closer. I love following this side-story.

Open Questions & Thoughts
I wish these were longer. Barbara Venkataraman‘s gonna hate me for saying this, but it always ends a little too soon. I wish the plots were a little more complex and a little longer, just to draw out the fun.

Jamie just falls into her situations all the time. I think it’s a good thing, but it can also be a problem… as in too coincidental; however, the way book 5 ends shows a lot of promise for changes to Jamie’s life that I think could be of a great benefit.

Final Thoughts
When I first started the series, I thought it had potential. As I read each story, my biggest concern was they were too short (about 200 pages). As I made the journey from book 1 thru book 5, I found myself really looking forward to reading each book. It’s an uncomplicated and focused read, taking you on a fun journey through a likable character’s personal and career growth. It’s not about how complex the plot is or how much the author can shock you. It’s just a good laugh-out-loud read for a few hours. And I’m quite fond of them!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

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Review: Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery

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Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery
Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s novel Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery, her fourth in the “Jamie Quinn Mysteries” series. Each successive book in this series grows stronger and builds a fun and intimate group of friends and colleagues who help Jamie tackle complex cases. It’s light-hearted, amusing and dare I say… engaging! (seriously wasn’t intending a pun there)


Story

Jamie, a family law attorney, receives a visit from Nan Glasser, long-suffering wife of an adulterer, shady business man and potential murderer. Nan wants a divorce but over 30 attorneys have already declined taking her case because of her husband’s interference. Jamie searches for someone to help her but ultimately finds herself taking on the case with best friend Grace who has the resources to help out Nan. Along the way, Jamie receives threats, deals with legal drama and almost finds herself a murder victim trying to help save Nan. In the end, she of course comes out alive but each new case is definitely changing the structure of her once quiet law practice.

As a few fun side-stories which collide with the main one: Jamie’s boyfriend is called to Australia for a 3-month work assignment. She and Grace fight over Grace’s choice in a new boyfriend. Duke has troubles with his on-again / off-again girlfriend who once took out a highway billboard to tell the world he was a cheater. And Jamie helps her neighbors search for a mysterious holding company who owned the plane that went down killing their sister and brother-in-law. It may seem like everything’s disconnected, but when it all finds a common link, Jamie’s world is turned upside down!


Strengths

Some authors have an amazing way of incorporating detail, background and descriptions without interfering with the story, and Barbara Venkataraman is one of them. You learn so much about Jamie, family law, history and the setting without even realizing it. Rather than several paragraphs of backstory dropped throughout (which also works well in some styles), the Jamie Quinn series drops tons of details in small blips so it feels like an actual conversation, a normal evolution of a relationship between two people. I love this style especially when complemented with a very relaxed, humorous, casual and collaborative approach to telling the story. Jamie’s voice is loud and clear, and when I read the words on the page, I actually find myself pausing when I think Jamie would pause, being snarky when she’d be snarky and being forward/direct when I think she would be. That doesn’t always happen for other authors or series… sometimes I love the characters and the books, but I don’t develop my own voice for the character when reading the lines. I absolutely do here and it helps make the read even more amusing and enjoyable.


Suggestions

While the story was full of surprises and had multiple arcs to keep readers curious about how it would all blend together, the ending came a little too fast for me. About 3/4 of the way through, you are just about to put all the connections together and suddenly a chapter ends with Jamie falling into a trap and boom… it’s solved in the beginning of the next chapter. I would have loved just one or two extra chapters of drama with Jamie trapped trying to workout in her head who had caught her before quickly knowing what happened. This could just be a matter of taste (I like the extra drama aspects) as it was still executed well and had suspense in the way the resolve was written. It’s one of the only times I found myself thinking in this novel… “hmm…” because other than that, it was a fantastic read.


Final Thoughts

I’m a little sad that I’m caught up in this series and may have to wait a bit before the next one is released. But when it is, you can be sure I’ll purchase this one the week it comes out.

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Review: A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities

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A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities
A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities by Barbara Venkataraman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barbara Venkataraman‘s “A Trip to the Hardware Store & Other Calamities” is an amusing collection of short tales that leave you with a breath of fresh, much-needed laughter. This is the second of her “Quirky Essays for Quirky People” collection, and a must-read for anyone looking to really connect with an author’s writing style. I’ve read several of her books at this point, and these little stories clearly offer a candid look into the author’s life, imagination and ability to create characters. While I don’t know how much of them are really about her, I will say that she calls herself out a few times which leads me to believe it’s 100% Barbara… and that works for me. From sisterly bonding, to a poor suffering Dad who just wants his family to tell him he did a good job, these stories ranging for 1 page to 5 pages are cute insights into all of our lives. My only question is “did this all happen to the same person?” and oh, well, then my second question (just deal with it, I meant 2 questions)… is this really Barbara because if so, I want to meet her.

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Review: I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course…

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I'm Not Talking About You, Of Course...
I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course… by Barbara Venkataraman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barbara Venkataraman‘s work “I’m Not Talking About You, Of Course…” is one of two “Quirky Essays for Quirky People” editions, and if I might say, quite a hoot!

Picture 20 to 30 two page stories all intertwined with repeating characters that make you chuckle or giggle. Some are about her sisters, some are about friends, others repeat characters from some of her other works… but all are funny.

It’s great for a short read between classes, before bed or listen to it on the way home from work in the car. But be careful, you may laugh yourself into one of her silly situations!

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Review: Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person

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Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person
Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person by Barbara Venkataraman

Barbara Venkataraman‘s “Teatime with Mrs. Grammar Person” is an adorable piece of work that provides a humorous approach to learning all the key grammar rules in about thirty pages of sheer brilliance. It may sound funny to call it a “piece of work” but it truly fits in this case. It’s a work of fiction because there are characters with certain actions who are not real; however, it’s also a figurative “piece of work” because the approach the author took is quite amusing and unique.

Mrs. Grammar Person (Mrs. G. P.) introduces readers to all the rules and guidelines for how and why words change tense, plural / singular, possession, contractions, repetition, similar / different spellings, et al. She has a few friends that handle other areas of the English lexicon (syntax, other language translations) but is consistent in her need for tea and biscuits each morning. What a hoot!

Think of her as a cross between Miss Marple and Mary Poppins. But I guarantee you’ll save it as a quick look-up when in a pinch and you just can’t remember the formal rule before you submit that text to your professor, editor or blog.

Yikes! Even though I should be critical in the words, punctuation and grammar I select in this review, I’m hoping Mrs. G. P. will forgive me if I am not 100% on point with all the rules. It’s not her fault if I still get one or two wrong; it’s my conscious decision to blatantly break the rule. Yeah, that works. 🙂

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Review: If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place…

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If You'd Just Listened to Me in the First Place...
If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place… by Barbara Venkataraman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Barbara Venkataraman‘s If You’d Just Listened to Me in the First Place… is a wonderful short story that you should absolutely read as an introduction to this author and her literary style. I first read a few of her mystery novellas (the “Jamie Quinn” series) and found myself intrigued and laughing over their conversational tone and engaging prose. But when I learned of these other fiction works, I quickly wanted to dive in for a read — especially when the author has been extremely friendly and charismatic across a few social media platforms.

In this story, Ella provides little snippets of her relationship with a man named Charlie (not giving away any spoilers!) and various short-term jobs that very few of us would ever want to hold. She’s funny, charming and someone you would enjoy talking to — especially when the narrator crosses that invisible line and talks directly to the person who is reading her words (another spoiler, you should just go read it to see what I mean). It’s a great opportunity to take a break from reality for 20 to 30 minutes and see the world from someone else’s perspective. So give her a chance.

I have a few others she’s written on my list but I am purposely saving them for that day when I need a little pick-me-up. Kudos!

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