MamaSylvia's Reviews


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If you're looking for something to read that will suit your taste, it helps to know what a reviewer looks for when deciding whether your taste is similar. I look for an involving story, likeable characters who feel real, and no "deus ex machina" endings or "with this clue that I'm not going to share with the reader, the hero knew whodunit" - I've been known to throw a book across the room when I run into those. I prefer a cheery feel but a few dark/gloomy series are also on my favorites list, such as Ian Rutledge. If a story doesn't start fairly quickly, or if it doesn't hold my interest, I give up on the book. Each review starts with a brief plot description, ideally without spoilers. The second paragraph is what the reviewer thought of the book and why. 1 star is awful, 5 stars is great, NR means I didn't finish it or rate it, usually because I discovered it was a genre I don't like. Hope you enjoy!

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Author: Paterson, Jill
Title: Once Upon a LieFitzjohn # 3
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
Fitzjohn is seconded to a different district to investigate the suspicious death of the owner of a yacht repair business.

While nearly all the free Kindle books I've picked up are worth exactly what I paid for them (and in some cases, nothing was still more than they were worth), the occasional glorious exception is what keeps me trying new authors. I would not have found Jill Paterson's wonderful Fitzjohn series if she hadn't given away the first couple books in the series, and it has been a delightful experience. (This one, I bought.) I don't generally like police procedurals, but I probably would if more of them were as clear and logical as this one. Fitzjohn and his sergeant Betts go about their work methodically and gradually collect the pieces to put together. The characters feel real and it isn't obvious who the killer will turn out to be. The Australian setting is a bonus to this U.S. reader. There are two problems with the book. One is that Paterson has succumbed to the current trend of incorporating large chunks of the detective's private life into the story. This is distracting and not particularly interesting. The second problem is that Paterson really needs a good editor and/or proofreader. Commas are scattered throughout the text like seasoned salt on a salad, with a complete disregard for where they land. Her word use is generally accurate but occasionally she drops in a goof like "two white whicker armchairs" or "they're content is disturbing" or "Do I denote amusement in your face?" The title is intriguing but doesn't have much to do with the storylines. But the worst part is that now I have to wait to see if there will be more books in this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/31/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: An Old-Fashioned Girl
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
Sweet country girl Polly and her influence on the family of her fashionable friend Fanny as the two girls grow up.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Polly is a bit preachy, of course, but overall an excellent missionary for the virtues Alcott endorses. Heartwarming in the best way.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/30/2014


 
Author: Gordon-Smith, Dolores
Title: Off the RecordJack Haldean # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Jack is called in when a murder follows a series of apparent suicides surrounding a new type of sound recording device.

Decent mystery and kept me reading. Although whodunit was fairly obvious, how and why had me stumped. There were some extremely subtle clues, but I'm not sure that the reader was given all the information to figure it out. That doesn't bother me when the stories are involving, and Gordon-Smith's complicated but follow-able stories always drag me in. The title was quite clever. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/23/2014


 
Author: Marsh, Ngaio
Title: The Nursing Home MurderInspector Alleyn # 3
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
When a politician is poisoned after a serious quarrel with his physician, Alleyn has two sets of suspects, and doesn't know if either is responsible.

I bought the complete set of Ngaio Marsh's Alleyn stories for Kindle, and although it must have been OCR'd, someone did a good job proofreading and formatting for Kindle. I almost threw this ebook down in disgust because I'm a registered nurse myself and it is utterly, utterly WRONG to accept the responsibility for a patient you are at odds with. I've faced that in real life, when I was assigned a patient who was opposing me in a court case. I immediately told my supervisor there were personal issues and she arranged for me to trade assignments with another nurse, no problem. Nor is it acceptable for a nurse to rejoice at the death of a patient, regardless of his actions and her personal beliefs. I deducted a star and kept reading anyway, and Marsh did better in the rest of the book. I'm not convinced whodunit was the only possible candidate, but it was believable. The title was appropriate if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/21/2014


 
Author: Harrison, Cora
Title: Nuala and her Secret WolfDrumshee Timeline # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
In prehistoric Britain, a cherished young girl manages to raise a baby wolf.

Children's books don't need to be stupid, but this one was. Most of what Nuala got away with is simply unbelievable. And the art was beyond awful - looked like someone tried to copy the style of prehistoric cave paintings. The title was certainly accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/13/2014


 
Author: Hallam, Craig
Title: Not Before Bed
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
Collection of short stories.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, but I must not have realized it was horror, which I hate. I didn't read far before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/11/2014


 
Author: Kuczkir, Mary Ruth as Michaels, Fern
Title: No Place Like HomeCisco # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Three loving grandchildren determine to spring their grandmother from an assisted living facility when their father places her after she breaks her arm.

Yet another family-falling-apart-drawn-together story. I didn't get far before quitting, the characters were all stereotypes and the story never caught my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/03/2014


 
Author: Simon, S. J. and Brahms, Caryl
Title: No Bed For Bacon
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
Disjointed collection of anecdotes featuring Elizabeth I of England and her subjects, including William Shakespeare's "romance" with Lady Viola Compton.

I had heard this was a hysterical satire of Elizabethan court life. I don't think I cracked a smile during the whole book; any humor is of the pie-in-the-face variety, and slapstick has never amused me. The portrayal of the real characters is accurate as far as I can tell, particularly Queen Elizabeth (who was a brilliant woman and clever statesman but demanded that her courtiers gush over her beauty even when she was a raddled old woman). There IS no romance, and I really have to wonder whether Lady Viola existed because it's simply not believable that a Renaissance queen would countenance a titled lady playing as an actress. The title was moderately relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/01/2014


 
Author: Hornsby, Wendy
Title: No HarmKate Teague # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
The brutal murder of her mother makes Kate heiress to seven prime acres of California coastline - and "accidents" that keep placing her life in danger. Will her still interested ex-husband Carl and a dedicated police investigator be able to keep her alive?

Nice mystery with a solid cast of kooks that kept me reading, although the plot seemed unnecessarily complicated. The title had very little to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/30/2014


 
Author: Hamilton, Barbara
Title: The Ninth DaughterAbigail Adams # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
When Abigail Adams stumbles over a mutilated dead woman at her friend's house, she feels obligated to tidy up the scene to protect her husband John and the other Sons of Liberty, but knowing she left few clues for the British soldier/investigator, she also feels obligated to find the killer. Even if it turns out to be a liberty fighter ...

I generally dislike fiction using real people, and I didn't like that aspect of the book. But Hamilton did an absolutely outstanding job of presenting an intriguing storyline in an accurate historical setting. The everyday activities of colonial men and women, the antagonism between members of rival religious sects, the tension between colonists and soldiers, the attitudes towards slaves, the conflicts between essentially honorable people with different points of view - it's all here but Hamilton never lets it overwhelm the story. I didn't like the somewhat graphic descriptions of sexual mutilation and prostitution, but still enjoyed most of the book. The title is quite relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2014


 
Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Nine For the DevilJohn the Eunuch # 9
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Distraught after Theodora's death from a wasting disease, Justinian is convinced Theodora was poisoned and assigns John to find her killer.

Very clever and believable ending to a rather scatterbrained investigation. The title was irrelevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/20/2014


 
Author: Doherty, Paul C. as P.C.
Title: Murder Wears a CowlHugh Corbett # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
King Edward sends the newly knighted Hugh to find the killer of London's whores and uncover the secret mission of a French spy.

Although the story itself was adequate, I found Hugh's family details tedious and distracting. The title was very appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/13/2014


 
Author: Challinor, C.S.
Title: Murder in the RawRex Graves # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Rex is summoned to the Caribbean to investigate the disappearance of a lovely young actress from a clothing-optional resort, but one surprise after another culminate in another death.

Decent story, although I've been to St. Maarten so I found myself somewhat distracted by memories. The title reflected the setting but the fact that many people walked around without clothing was totally irrelevant to the mystery.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/10/2014


 
Author: Ross, Robert & Woodhouse, Martin
Title: The Medici GunsLeonardo da Vinci # 1
Genre: Historical Thriller
Rating: NR
The de Medici ruler of Florence hires Leonardo as a military engineer, desperate to prevent an invasion by Rome.

I have yet to find a mystery set in medieval/Renaissance Italy that isn't more political thriller than historical mystery, probably an accurate reflection of the times but a genre I don't enjoy reading. Add Ross & Woodhouse's love of detailed description of murders and it will be obvious why I didn't make it halfway through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/09/2014


 
Author: Ashley, Mike, ed.
Title: Mammoth Book of Historical Detectives
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Another Mike Ashley-edited collection of short historical mysteries, this one covering prehistory to the 1930s. Includes: Death in the Dawntime, The Judgment of Daniel, Death Wears a Mask, The King of Sacrifices, The Three Travellers, The Case of the Murdered Senator, A Mithraic Mystery, Abbey Sinister, The Two Beggars, The Investigation of Things, The Midwife's Tale, The Duchess and the Doll, Ordeal by Fire, The Chapman and the Tree of Doom, The Murder of Innocence, Cassandra's Castle, Man's Inherited Death, The Curse of the Connecticut Clock, The Scent of Murder, The Inn of the Black Crow, The Spirit of the '76, Deadly Will and Testament, The God of the Hills, The Admiral's Lady, The Eye of Shiva, The Trail of the Bells, Murdering Mr Boodle, The Phantom Pistol, The Adventure of the Frightened Governess.

Decent collection with a LOT of variety, and truly mammoth. Mostly solid stories, although I can't forgive the Sollius the Slave Detective story resolving with a deus ex machina.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/07/2014


 
Author: Ashley, Mike, ed.
Title: Mammoth Book of Roaring Twenties Whodunits
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: NR
Collection of short mysteries by various authors, set in the U.S. and Europe during the 1920s.

I don't know why it didn't occur to me that most stories set in this period would be PI tales, a genre I generally dislike. The characters were shallow and self-centered, accurate for the period but again something I don't enjoy. I got about a quarter of the way through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/06/2014


 
Author: Foxall, Raymond
Title: The Little FerretBow Street # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
During the Napoleonic Wars, Bow Street detective Harry Adkins picks up the trail of a threat to Admiral Lord Nelson. But the danger extends to someone dearer to him.

Something of a historical police procedural, with well-written characters and a gripping, realistic plot. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2014


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: The League of Frightened MenNero Wolfe # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
A group of Harvard alumni hire Wolfe because they are convinced another alumnus is gradually killing them off.

Again, few real surprises and certainly the explanation of the big mystery was easy to guess. But again Stout kept me reading to see how it would come together. The title is perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/04/2014


 
Author: Innes, Michael
Title: The Journeying Boy
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 2
A tutor travels to Ireland with his new charge, a young teen who is convinced someone is trying to kill him.

Although I could see how Innes was running parallel stories that would eventually pull together, he never made me care what would happen to any of the people involved. I got about halfway through and gave up. The title was relevant but a bit too cutesy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/03/2014


 
Author: Parker, I. J.
Title: Island of ExilesSugawara Akitada # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - Japan
Rating: 3
Sugawara goes undercover as a convict to investigate the murder of a rebellious prince and finds one problem after another.

I didn't particularly like this story, although I finished it. Partially, given the status consciousness of this culture, I did not find it believable that his superiors would even ask him to pose as a convict, much less that he would accept the assignment. Partially, the various beatings and injuries Sugawara suffered made it feel like a PI mystery, and I don't enjoy reading about people getting beat up. And there were too many coincidences for the story to be convincing. Not awful, but far from the best in this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/02/2014


 
Author: Lakin, Rita
Title: Getting Old Is the Best RevengeGladdy Gold # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Gladdy's investigation of what she suspects is a pattern of murders is interrupted by a bingo cruise and Jack's frustration at her lack of commitment.

Not completely realistic - even a good nurse wouldn't be able to inject a large amount of air into a conscious patient before the patient could resist - but a fun read nonetheless, although the "girls" can be too irritating sometimes. The Gladdy-resisting-Jack subplot doesn't add anything positive to the story. The title is completely irrelevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/01/2014


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: Fer-de-Lance aka Meet Nero WolfeNero Wolfe # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 4
A largely immobile cerebral detective and his hard-boiled PI sidekick investigate the disappearance of a housekeeper's brother.

Teaming both types of detective was a stroke of genius. There was no real mystery as to whodunit, but watching Wolfe and Goodwin track down proof kept me reading and even sent me hunting for a Nero Wolfe ebook set. (Doesn't exist, although it looks like a lot of them are available individually on Amazon.) The characters are complex and (mostly) likable. The title was appropriate but not particularly intriguing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/29/2014


 
Author: Lyda, Lisa
Title: Essential Oils: A Guide to Improving Your Mental W
Genre: Health
Rating: 1
Full title: Essential Oils: A Guide to Improving Your Mental Well-Being with Essential Oils (Essential Oils for Beginners)

Difficult-to-read collection of unsupported pronouncements.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. It's quite possible English is not the author's first language, but in any case, it badly needed proofreading just to convert the gibberish into intelligible sentences. "Essential oils prevents the body against microorganisms that causes diseases since many of them have CNS stimulants and sedatives in the human body. They react with several receptor sites and enzymes to thus providing the potential of therapeutic activities." Huh? "If a patient is under medication is advised to consult their doctor first before stop using medicine and replacing them with the oils." Her facts, such as her description of the different processes that produce essential oils, seem accurate when I was able to decipher them, with a few glaring exceptions such as "This method of using essential oils to help with depression is commonly referred to as Aromatherapy." Aromatherapy is not limited to treating depression! In any case, I tired of trying to make sense of gibberish quickly and moved on to the next book, hoping for better writing as well as helpful facts. The title is too long as well.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/20/2014


 
Author: McPherson, Catriona
Title: Dandy Gilver and the Proper Treatment of BloodstaiDandy Gilver # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Dandy goes undercover as a lady's maid to protect the lady of the house from her husband's threats of murder, while the General Strike of 1926 brings transport and commerce to a screeching halt and demotes a superintendent to investigate a murder.

Slow start, but I'm glad I stuck with it to find one of the cleverest how-they-done-it plots I've ever read. It's also fun to see Dandy's upper-crust assumptions shattered as she sees how the servants really live. The title was appropriate and clever.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/19/2014


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes, ed.
Title: Changing the WorldValdemar short stories # 6
Genre: Fantasy short stories
Rating: 4
Collection of short fiction set in Valdemar, selected by Lackey. Includes The One Left Behind, For Want of a Nail, Softly Falling Snow, The Reluctant Herald, A Storytelling of Crows, Waiting to Belong, The Last Part of the Way, Midwinter Gifts, Wounded Bird, Defending the Heart. Matters of the Heart, Nothing Better To Do, The Thief of Anvil's Close, Twice Blessed, Be Careful What You Wish For, Interview With a Companion.

Nice collection for my taste, no horror and mostly positive endings. I still don't like the Jem/Ree stories, and I thought the story about a Companion choosing two girls who were bitter enemies was stupid, but the biggest offense was the last entry, "Interview With a Companion," a really silly piece with a wannabe investigative journalist talking with a Companion visiting Kentucky and claiming that all the world-changers through our real-world history had Companions.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/18/2014


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: Winds of ChangeMage Winds # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Now adopted as a Clansib by the Tayledras k'Sheyna, Elspeth is finally able to train as a mage, while Skif hunts for his lost love Nyara. The k'Sheyna recruit an outside mage to heal their damaged Heartstone. Meanwhile Mornelithe Falconsbane licks his wounds and continues to try to destroy the k'Sheyna and take their power, while finding himself courted by an unknown mage.

Intriguing storyline with some weaknesses. Lackey jumps between locations/plotlines enough that I occasionally lost track of where and what was going on. The k'Sheyna names are similar enough that it was hard for me to remember who had what skills and what history or even who was good and who was bad. I also found it annoying that whatever ability is needed, a Companion suddenly has. If Gwena was a mage, why did Elspeth have to travel halfway across the known world looking for one? This reeks of deus ex machina on Lackey's part, which is a lousy writing technique even when the subjects are some kind of spirit guardian. The title, as in the rest of the books in this series and pretty much most of the Valdemar books, was irrelevant to any of the plots.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/17/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: The Warlock EnragedWarlock # 4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Since his return from Tir Chlis, Rod is more frequently losing control of his temper. He and the family must fight his diminishing self-control as they counter a group of witches bent on using their powers to take over Gramarye.

This, frankly, is philosophical self-indulgence on Stasheff's part as he focuses more on explaining Rod to Rod than the rather thin storyline. He doesn't even explain how Simon acquired his powers and philosophy. The title is appropriate although it ignores the actual plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/16/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: The Warlock UnlockedWarlock # 3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
As the futurian totalitarians raise a church/state conflict, they set up a time machine portal to send Rod, Gwen, 3 of their 4 children, and a wandering priest to an alternate universe where Rod may find the key to unlocking powers he didn't know he had.

Intriguing premise and logically executed. Stasheff nicely draws several different storylines toward a double climax. I particularly like this series' presentation of a married couple with young children, and priests as people, some good, some not.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/15/2014


 
Author: Saint, Dora as Miss Read
Title: Village SchoolFairacre # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
The schoolteacher narrator describes life and shenanigans in the village school where she teaches.

She opens with a boatload of tedious description, not a strong point, and never really settles into a story, just a series of uninteresting anecdotes. I got halfway through and gave up. Whatever charm this series offered others completely missed me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/14/2014


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Sense and Sensibility
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 3
When their father dies and their half-brother John and his greedy wife Fanny take over their home, three sisters and their mother take a small cottage near a cousin. Reserved Elinor leaves behind not only her childhood home, but also a growing attachment to Fanny's brother Edward. Impulsive Marianne finds solace not only in her beloved piano but also in the attentions of a popular visitor.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Slow-moving, as all of Austen's books are, but with vivid characters. I like the movie (the Emma Thompson version) better than the book, as Austen keeps harping on the lack of sense in both the mother and Marianne. Yes, they are flighty, can we move on please?
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/13/2014


 
Author: Boucher, Anthony
Title: Nine Times Nine
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/12/2014


 
Author: Claire, Edie
Title: Never BuriedLeigh Koslow # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Advertising copywriter Leigh and her very pregnant sister Cara investigate the embalmed body Leigh found in Cara's back yard.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, but it didn't hold my interest. Neither Leigh nor Cara are particularly likable and Claire never made me care what would happen to them. I quit a quarter of the way through. Spelling and grammar weren't perfect but I've seen much worse. The title is quite relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/11/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Mystery of the Blue TrainHercule Poirot # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Several people wind up on the same train to the French Rivera, but one is dead on arrival. Hercule Poirot assists the French police to identify the killer.

I found Poirot's conceit irritating, and most of the other characters unlikable. I got about halfway through and skipped to the end. The title is accurate if uninspired.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/10/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Mystery of Cloomber
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
A land agent recounts the tale of his mysterious neighbor.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. I've found most of Doyle's non-Holmes mysteries don't hold my attention, and this was no exception. His technique of having different people tell different parts of the story was distracting and unhelpful. I got about halfway through and didn't even care enough to skip to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/09/2014


 
Author: Freeman, R. Austin
Title: The Mystery of 31 New InnDr. Thorndyke # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Dr. Jervis enlists the expertise of Dr. Thorndyke when he suspects a man is being poisoned. But his new agreement to assist Dr. Thorndyke sets him investigating an apparently unbreakable will.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Whodunit and how was fairly obvious, and I found Freeman's leisurely way to getting there rather tedious. The Gutenberg version is pretty good on spelling and grammar. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/08/2014


 
Author: Lang, Maureen
Title: My Sister Dilly
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 2
Investment counselor Hannah moves back to her Illinois hometown to help her sister, about to be released from prison after trying to kill her handicapped daughter.

I borrowed this book through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and I'm really glad I didn't spend money on it. None of the main characters have a clue. Dilly thinks because she has changed while in prison, everyone should be delighted to have her back in her daughter's life - yeah, the one she tried to kill. Hannah thinks she can run Dilly's life better than Dilly can and refuses to see that Dilly doesn't want her to. Lang alternates chapters from Hannah's and Dilly's points of view, which quickly became confusing. I got halfway through and couldn't take any more. The title is appropriate if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/07/2014


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: My Lord John
Genre: Biography
Rating: 1
Supposedly historical account of John, Duke of Bedford during the English York/Lancaster conflict.

I only award 1 star to books that are essentially unreadable, and I never expected to rate a Georgette Heyer story so low. But Heyer absolutely ignored her own expertise at involving the reader in this book, supposedly close to her heart (according to her husband). I read a lot of history and historical fiction, and use of some period terminology can add to the ambience. But Heyer uses so many middle English words as to make the book gibberish to a modern reader. I can't even tell which are legitimate middle English terms and which should be blamed on a poor proofreader. "It was sleeveless to remind Wilkin ..." "He bade the nurses stint their clapping." "Bel sire's Yeoman-at-horse had arrived at the castle, with two fewterers in charge of greyhounds, a ymerer, and several grooms and chacechiens." What is "M. de Guyenne's meiny?" How long ago is "ferne-ago?" What is "smutched" clothing? How does someone look "as sely as saints?" It's not at all uncommon for an author to show off his research by including more detail than the story requires, but I was astonished to see Heyer making such a beginner's mistake. The story itself didn't start well - children's experiences rarely do - but it was the large number of unintelligible words that made me quit before getting 10% through the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/06/2014


 
Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: The Murderer's TaleDame Frevisse # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Dame Frevisse accompanies Dame Claire on a pilgrimage, encountering a young manor holder stricken with the "falling sickness" and his heir, a slightly younger cousin overeager to inherit.

Way too much buildup. I quit halfway through the book and the murder still had not occurred, but I didn't care enough about what would happen to read any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/05/2014


 
Author: Ivie, Judith K
Title: Murder on Old Main StreetKate Lawrence # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Kate and Emma find the body of a much-disliked woman and wind up investigating because the main suspect asks for their help.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I'm enjoying this series even though whodunit was fairly obvious and there are a lot of unlikable characters. I thought it odd that she would accept Emma's help, since her main concern seemed to be shielding someone else. But Ivie kept me reading and wondering what would happen next. As usual, the whole Armando storyline is irrelevant and boring. Spelling and grammar are mostly correct, although someone should have educated the proofreader that the country is Viet Nam, not View Nam. The title is relevant if not especially intriguing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/04/2014


 
Author: George, Anne
Title: Murder on a Bad Hair DaySouthern Sisters # 2
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
When a vicious but talented artist dies during a show at her gallery, Sister and Patricia Anne investigate in between Christmas shopping and decorating.

Nice investigating spoiled by a climax based on stupidity. The whodunit didn't ring true, although I can't explain why without spoilers. Suffice it to say a hoary old chestnut was involved. If the next book doesn't improve, I will probably give up on this series. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/03/2014


 
Author: O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne
Title: Murder in Ordinary TimeSr. Mary Helen # 4
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Sr. Mary Helen is being interviewed for the noon local news when the interviewer suddenly dies.

This book has killed my interest in the series. Mary Helen just does too many stupid things and winds up in danger from it. The plot itself held my interest but if I want to focus on people doing stupid things, I can watch a "reality" show. The title relates to the liturgical calendar but has nothing to do with the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/02/2014


 
Author: Linscott, Gillian
Title: Murder I Presume
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: NR
Crippled during an African expedition, a man tries to rebuild his life and help the wives of two bickering archaeologist friends. But when another expedition survivor starts denying abandoning part of the expedition, he is determined to fight back.

No likable characters and the plot seemed to involve who could make everyone believe their story. Not my thing. The title was quite clever.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/01/2014


 
Author: Carter, Youngman
Title: Mr. Campion's Farthing
Genre: Thriller
Rating: NR
Continuation of a character begun by Carter's wife. Campion works with his old Security buddies to find a missing Soviet attache.

More of a political thriller than a mystery. I quit halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/30/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Moving FingerMiss Marple # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A pilot recuperating from a flying injury and his sister find a temporary home in a small village plagued by vicious anonymous letters. When one leads to a death, the blunt vicar's wife decides to "do something" - she invites Miss Marple to visit.

Christie has an odd habit of making her sleuth barely peripheral to the story, and this book is an example. I can understand her motive - the pilot and his sister were much more interesting characters than Miss Marple - but it's difficult for this modern reader to adjust to. Some lovely plot twists and she completely fooled me as to whodunit. The obligatory romance(s) added as little to the story as obligatory romances of the era generally did. The story itself held my interest and the title bore no relationship to the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/28/2014


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Moneylender of ToulouseFools’ Guild # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 4
Feste is sent to Toulouse as the new Chief Fool to remove the bishop there, paving the way for Folc's election. But the murder of a much-disliked moneylender and the resentment of the two local fools threaten his assignment.

Taut story but with holes that I can't really discuss without spoilers. The title is accurate but unimaginative. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/22/2014


 
Author: Dunn, Carola
Title: A Mourning WeddingDaisy Dalrymple # 13
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Preparations for Lucy's wedding to Binkie are interrupted when a nosy, controlling great-aunt is found murdered - and one of the house guests must have been the killer.

As always, involving storyline, although there were fewer likable characters than I would have preferred. Dunn gives the reader the necessary elements and then pulls unexpected reasoning out of them, which is part of what makes her books so enjoyable. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title is perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/21/2014


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith as Peters, Ellis
Title: Monk's HoodBrother Cadfael # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Cadfael's long-ago fiancee begs his help when her son is accused of his stepfather's murder, but Prior Robert intervenes.

Perceptive use of period details to identify the killer, although a little forewarning to the reader would have been appreciated.. Nice conflict between Cadfael's self-imposed obligation to find out who misused his work and his vow of obedience.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/20/2014


 
Author: O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne
Title: The Missing MadonnaSr. Mary Helen # 3
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
The sisters and fellow OWLs (Older Women's League) investigate when one of their friends suddenly disappears.

I didn't like this book, and it took me a while to understand why. I finally realized what I had expected to be red herrings turned out to be real clues, and what I had figured for real clues turned out to be red herrings. I can't blame the author for fooling me. I did finish it but found the exceedingly indirect clue that solved the mystery unsatisfying. The title is quite misleading; the Madonna isn't missing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/19/2014


 
Author: Norton, Andre
Title: Merlin's Mirror
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Yet another retelling of the Merlin legend.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. For some reason, nearly every prolific fiction writer feels compelled to tell their version of the Camelot story. This is Norton's version, with Merlin somehow begotten by the machinery of a vanished civilization that wanted to help mankind. Not awful but not terribly interesting either - I quit about 1/3 of the way through. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/18/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesSherlock Holmes # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Contains Silver Blaze, The Yellow Face, The Stock-Broker's Clerk, The 'Gloria Scott', The Musgrave Ritual, The Reigate Puzzle, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter, The Naval Treaty, The Final Problem. More mysteries featuring the amazing detective abilities of possibly the world's most famous fictional detective.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org I've read all these stories before, but it's fun to come back and re-read them, seeing how cleverly Doyle laid out clues for the reader to miss. As always, many of the stories teeter on the edge of horror, a genre I avoid. But the creative solutions, as always, kept me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/17/2014


 
Author: Bassett, JoAnn
Title: Maui Widow WaltzIslands of Aloha # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
A Hawaiian wedding planner is hired to put on a wedding even though the groom has disappeared and is presumed dead.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Page after page of Pali introducing us to her work, her house, her friends, instead of getting us into a story so we would care about the parts of her life. Add a true Bridezilla of a client and I barely lasted 25% of the way through before giving up. Spelling and grammar were mostly okay, but there were some really unusual errors such as eminent instead of imminent. The title was cute but irrelevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/16/2014


 
Author: West, Michael S.
Title: The Massive Hole TheoryMurray & Michaels # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A just-fired lawyer is the prime suspect when the managing partner is found shot to death, and he and his attorney must find the real killer to clear him.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Unlikable characters and only marginally interesting story - I quit about a quarter of the way through. The title is relevant but stupid.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/15/2014


 
Author: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne as Twain, Mark
Title: Mark Twain's Burlesque Autobiography
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
Twain claims descent from a noble crew of highwaymen and crooks. Also includes a medieval romance with no ending.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Mildly amusing but not his best, and I was very disappointed in the lack of resolution to the romance.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/14/2014


 
Author: Heller, Keith
Title: Man's Illegal LifeGeorge Man # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A watchman in 17th century London tries to find the killer of an old man.

Solid if slow-moving story and an absolutely incredible recreation of the feel of the seedy side of 1700s London. About the only drawback is Heller's fascination with Man's thoughts, especially as he worries about protecting his area if another round of the plague hits. The only failure was not recognizing that the victim would have died of thirst long before he would have died of hunger. The title was relevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/13/2014


 
Author: Ashley, Mike, ed.
Title: Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Rating: 3
Just what the title says, new Sherlock Holmes stories by different modern authors. Most if not all are based on cases mentioned in the Doyle canon. Contains: The Bothersome Business of the Dutch Nativity, The Affray at the Kildare Street Club, The Case of the Incumbent Invalid, The Adventure of Vittoria the Circus Belle, The Darlington Substitution Scandal, The Adventure of the Suspect Servant, The Adventure of the Amateur Mendicant Society, The Adventure of the Silver Buckle, The Case of the Sporting Squire, The Vanishing of the Atkinsons, The Adventure of the Fallen Star, The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger, The Mystery of the Addleton Curse, The Adventure of the Parisian Gentleman, The Adventure of the Inertial Adjustor, The Adventure of the Touch of God, The Adventure of the Persecuted Painter, The Adventure of the Suffering Ruler, The Repulsive Story of the Red Leech, The Adventure of the Grace Chalice, The Adventure of the Faithful Retainer, The Case of the Suicidal Lawyer, The Legacy of Rachel Howells, The Adventure of the Bulgarian Diplomat, The Enigma of the Warwickshire Vortex, The Case of the Last Battle.

There were several problems with this anthology. First, I don't know why authors feel compelled to claim they "found" a Watson manuscript or notes, or they are Holmes scholars. He didn't exist, for Pete's sake! They are writing fiction and these obviously phony claims just make them look like they think the reader is an idiot. As usual, some of them have Holmes performing totally uncharacteristic actions: telling Watson to "come on, play the game" or "I would describe you as my sole friend." Also, whoever proofed it should be fired; there are multiple spelling/grammar/usage errors (countrary, persuing, food venders, "more exercised by their loss," "rarely sees fit to avail me of the incidents," "whom is ten years of age," "has long since being interested," "being less previous to the rays than flesh," several instead of severed, it's instead of its, principal instead of principle, waiting instead of wailing), unusual in an Ashley anthology. The stories themselves are mostly not bad, although the explanation was very easy to guess in most of them, and I didn't like the repeated pulling-in of real people (H.G. Wells, Pierre Curie) to fiction. At least one story (The Legacy of Rachel Howells) offers NO resolution, ending in mid-story. There are many minor but irritating errors, such as Scott misquoted as "Oh what a tangled web we weave when we practise to deceive." There is a working Table of Contents. The title is descriptive if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/12/2014


 
Author: Arbel, Ilil
Title: Madame Koska and the Imperial Brooch
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
A London dressmaker tries to open a new atelier amid break-ins and assistants with complex pasts.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Apparently the main character is from a Trollope novel, which I have not read. On its own, it was somewhat interesting but not compelling, and the reader is not given reasons to suspect what Madame Koska and her friends will discover.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/11/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Lulu's Library Vol 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Sweet little fairy stories, clearly meant for children but mostly lacking Alcott's tendency to preachiness.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. The stories were charming, although I could only take them in small doses. Would make wonderful bedtime stories for a fairy-loving little girl.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/10/2014


 
Author: Weinstein, Sol
Title: LoxfingerOy-Oy-7 # 1
Genre: Satire
Rating: 2
An Israeli secret agent is assigned to protect a famous Jewish philanthropist.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Since I'm not a Bond fan, I figured this would either put me in stitches or put me to sleep. Sadly, it turned out to be the latter. It quite accurately reproduced the feel of the Bond stories, but I didn't find this Lothario any more intriguing than Fleming's original, and quit about a quarter of the way through. Spelling and grammar were acceptable, and the title was both a good spoof and relevant to the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/09/2014


 
Author: Young, Nicole
Title: Love Me If You MustPatricia Amble # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
Tish, a Woman With a Past, moves into a haunted-appearing house to remodel and flip it. But interesting men and eerie goings-on distract her.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Never caught my interest. Young seemed to be toying with including real psychic events, but she hadn't decided yes or no by the time I gave up. Coy references to some crime in Tish's past don't impress me, and neither do amazing hunks who have somehow avoided matrimony but instantly fall prey to the heroine's charms. Spelling and grammar were acceptable. The title had nothing to do with anything.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/08/2014


 
Author: Edmondson, Daniel
Title: Love and Lunacy at Kudu: A Very British Romantic CKudu # 2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
complete title: Love and Lunacy at Kudu: A Very British Romantic Comedy

An inept district commissioner and his staff prepare for a visit from the colonial governor in 1930s Africa.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I found the first book in this series, a mystery, to be utterly boring, but I hoped this would be more interesting. It wasn't. The new characters are just as blah and self-important as the original characters. I quit halfway through. The title was too long and misleading; there is no romantic comedy here.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/07/2014


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Love and Freindship
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2
Letters from a woman to the daughter of an old friend, detailing the catastrophes in her life.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org I'm sure Austen meant these as some kind of satire, but they weren't amusing or even interesting. The heroine is the opposite of sensible Jane, Lizzie, or Elinor, not only giving way to every silly impulse but proud of her passions and utterly flabbergasted when they lead to disaster. Another partial novel-in-letters with a similar theme is included. The only reason anyone would want to read this would be to be able to say they had read all of Austen's work.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/06/2014


 
Author: Webb, Betty
Title: The Llama of DeathGunn Zoo # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
A sleazy wedding-chapel preacher is found murdered while Joe is away at a conference, and the incompetent deputy in temporary charge of the investigation is determined to frame Caro.

I had mixed feelings about this one. The main storyline held my interest, but Caro's jaunt into social consciousness should have rated psychiatric care, and neither Teddy's father nor Aster Edwina are what I would call sympathetic characters. The tweets from the escaped snake grated on my nerves; a dangerous animal should have been captured quickly and returned to her safe zoo environment.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/05/2014


 
Author: Thorne, Nicola
Title: The Little Flowers
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 1
A Protestant diplomat's daughter is sent to a convent school in northern England during WWII.

I was not impressed with this book for several reasons. One is that all the characters are so unlikable, from the self-centered schoolgirls to the vicious nuns to the selfish parents and relatives. Yes, there are certainly examples of all these in real life, but not all nuns are more concerned about their status than their charges, and not all parents are more interested in hunting than seeing their children. Another reason is that schoolgirl antics are rarely interesting (except maybe to other schoolgirls), and these unfortunately fit the pattern. Finally, Thorne's word use is catastrophic; for instance, she wrote wrapt when she meant rapt, reverend when she meant reverent, referred to a "hard-wording" nun and a curtain being "highered and lowered," and plain misspelled "celibate." I don't demand perfection but this was excruciating. I got about halfway through and couldn't take any more. The title bears no relation to the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/04/2014


 
Author: Wells, Rebecca
Title: Little Altars EverywhereYa-Yas # 1
Genre: Southern Fiction
Rating: 2
Disjointed collection of stories from Vivi and her children.

Although I mostly liked the "Divine Secrets" movie, I disliked the skipping around in time. The book is actually even more irritating in this respect because the narrator changes with each chapter, and I found it difficult and distracting to keep track of whose POV I was reading. Nor were the stories themselves interesting enough to keep me reading; I quit halfway through. The title has nothing to do with any of the stories that I read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/03/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Listerdale Mystery
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Rating: 4
Contains Listerdale Mystery, Philomel Cottage, Girl In the Train, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Manhood of Edward Robinson, Accident, Jane In Search of a Job, Fruitful Sunday, Mr. Eastwood's Adventure, Golden Ball, Rajah's Emerald, Swan Song

Very nice collection, many of which are a type of story not written today, mysteries that are not murder mysteries. As always, Christie excels at the unexpected resolution.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/02/2014


 
Author: Lewis, C.S.
Title: The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeChronicles of Narnia # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5
Four English siblings slip through a magic portal into another world, where they find a wicked witch ruling a frozen land and meet the marvelous Aslan.

There aren't enough beautiful words to describe the fascinating combination of real English children and the magical ambience of Narnia. I've re-read these dozens of times since I was given my first set as a teenager and have never failed to be captured. If you haven't read it yet, you are in for a treat. Spelling and grammar are fine, word use is exceptional, and the title is straightforward and pertinent.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/01/2014


 
Author: Forester, Cecil Scott as C.S.
Title: Lieutenant HornblowerHoratio Hornblower # 2
Genre: Historical Naval Fiction
Rating: 4
Lieutenant Bush joins the HMS Renown, where Hornblower is junior lieutenant, as it heads for the Caribbean, where their adventures include a seriously injured captain. Then he encounters Hornblower again after peace is declared.

Although there was lots about this book I didn't like, starting with the whole Captain Sawyer storyline, Forester kept me reading as always. Telling the story from Bush's point of view let Forester show more of Hornblower's relations with his fellow officers. The high-stakes whist game was unbearably suspenseful, but Hornblower's inability to cope with Maria is a serious weakness. Pity is a lousy basis for a marriage. All of the series titles are appropriate but unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/30/2014


 
Author: Viguie, Debbie
Title: Lie Down in Green PasturesPsalm 23 Mystery # 3
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
Weirdness abounds as Cindy and Jeremiah get strange feelings that something is wrong, Cindy confronts a might-be killer, Mark throws away his police career, and Jeremiah's "other" skillls save a group of teen campers.

This book has lost me for the series. First, there was too much that was simply not believable for the characters. Second, while it never qualified as Christian fiction, now it appears headed to a psychic storyline. Finally, the whole Jeremiah-at-camp plot was too close to thriller for me, a genre I don't like because I scare easily. The unanswered questions were just icing on the cake. How did Jeremiah, who always shunned publicity, react to the inevitable "rabbi saves teenagers" news stories? What happened to the bad guy? Why wasn't Mark in jail? If these were intentional cliffhangers left for the next book (and they didn't read like they were), well, I despise that technique also. Too bad because the series has been fun until now. The title was somewhat appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/23/2014


 
Author: Aitken, Rosemary as Rowe, Rosemary
Title: The Legatus MysteryLibertus # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 4
Marcus drafts Libertus to solve multiple mysteries at the Imperial temple, where Libertus must try to avoid a charge of sacrilege.

I never manage to figure out whodunit in Aitken's mysteries, but I enjoy them. Taut story, involving characters, satisfying resolution. She kept me reading all the way. The title was appropriate but weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/20/2014


 
Author: Adams, Ellery
Title: The Last WordBooks by the Bay # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When a famous author moves to town and wants to join the writing circle, the budding writers are excited and apprehensive. But his murder shocks the community, and Olivia is not the only one worried that Harris might be in danger. And just what was his connection to a painting found in Harris' new house?

Mixture of weak and strong storylines. The who-killed-Nick-Plumley storyline pulled in a lot of WWII North Carolina history, which I found fascinating. The Olivia-and-her-newfound-half-brother-Hudson ranged from pedestrian to maudlin. The Olivia-and-Rawlings romance took a back seat for most of the book, but Adams ended the book with a completely unnecessary sex scene between the two. There were a fair number of unanswered questions that turned out to be not relevant to the mystery but would have made great red herrings. But the ultimate accolade, as always, is that Adams kept me reading. The title was somewhat relevant, but not specifically to this story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/13/2014


 
Author: Sparks, Nicholas
Title: The Last Song
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A whiny teenager is forced to spend the summer with her estranged dad.

Utterly boring, with no interesting characters. Yes, she had reason to feel ill-used, but that didn't make her someone I wanted to know more about or whose doings I wanted to follow. I got about a quarter of the way through and quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/10/2014


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Lark’s LamentFools’ Guild # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Theo and Claudia try to convince a former fool turned abbot to accept a promotion to bishop if they arrange it, but he blames them for the murder of one of his monks and they must untangle a bizarre web of lies to find the real killer.

Convoluted storyline with a touch of horror. Gordon does a nice job presenting a culture in which marriage was about everything except love, without overwhelming the plot. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/03/2014


 
Author: Hiscott, Gillian
Title: Lady in Chains
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
A titled English lady lives during WWII.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. If my plot summary didn't seem like much, that's because there was no plot to speak of. I rarely give 1 ratings, but this was so bad it earned a single star. Not only is there no plot, Hiscott's grammar is atrocious - she has apparently never heard of commas or periods - and she hasn't bothered to research use of titles. She refers to her heroine occasionally as "Lady Eleanor," for example, when that form is reserved for a woman who bore a title in her own right that was superior to her husband's. After a pointless section set before D-Day, Hiscott cut to a time after D-Day but still didn't bother with a plot. I gave up about a quarter of the way through. The title bore no relation to the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/30/2014


 
Author: Barbieri, Heather
Title: The Lace Makers of Glenmara
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4
An American wannabe designer runs away to Ireland and connects with a group of women who make lace.

Classic everyone-gets-stronger women's story and a joy to read. The romance was a bit strained but the characters are nicely drawn and women you'd like to invite in for a cup of tea. Spelling and grammar were acceptable and the title was certainly descriptive.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/23/2014


 
Author: Webb, Betty
Title: The Koala of DeathGunn Zoo # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
The killing of the zoo's PR whiz pushes Teddy into a dreaded TV spotlight and some dangerous sleuthing.

As always with a Webb story, the resolution made sense but left me unconvinced it was the only possible solution. She generally manages to keep me reading during the all-too-often boring middle stretches, as she did here. The title was weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/20/2014


 
Author: Beaton, M. C.
Title: Kissing Christmas GoodbyeAgatha Raisin # 18
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Agatha takes on a new trainee, a lovely and lucky young woman with major family problems; tackles the case of an elderly woman who thinks her family wants to kill her; and desperately plans the perfect Christmas dinner.

Beaton has never offered a fast start in this series, but this book commences at the leisurely pace of a Sunday stroll. The first few chapters could be easily compressed to a page or two if Beaton limited herself to plot-related information. Of the two major secondary plots, the Toni one has some arguable relationship to the main storyline, but the whole Christmas planning just adds to the length of the book without adding any enjoyment. The main plot was interesting enough, but I didn't understand how Agatha selected the killer. The title only relates to the very thin secondary Christmas plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/13/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: King Kobold RevivedWarlock # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
"Viking" raiders attack a small Gramarye town, heralding another attempt by the futurians to topple Catherine and Tuan.

Originally published as King Kobold, Stasheff did a major rewrite before offering the new version to fans. Nice rollicking story, as Rod and Gwen try to find a way to fight the beastmen's "evil eye." The only major irritant was Stasheff's explanation of how a Neanderthal man could speak English; obviously, to read fantasy, you have to be willing to suspend disbelief in a lot of events, but this overstrained my ability to believe. Unfortunately, it's a major plot element, costing the book a rating star. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/10/2014


 
Author: Ehl, Dan
Title: Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Case of theJak Barley #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: NR
Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Seven Dwarves

Jak accepts a case freeing a comatose beauty from a spell even though it sounds like a children's fairy tale and involves a much-feared witch.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't like fantasy PI stories any more than I like traditional noir PI stories, and for the same reason that the story just drags the poor PI from one setup where he gets beat up to another. I got about 25% of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/09/2014


 
Author: Royal, Priscilla
Title: Justice for the DamnedMedieval Mystery # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Slowly recovering from a nearly fatal illness, Prioress Eleanor finds herself interested in a suddenly appearing local ghost. When the ghost's appearance turns murderous, she and Brother Thomas step up their investigating, trying to prevent additional deaths.

Interesting if obvious plotline and side stories, and a truly impressive presentation of post-illness attitudes and medieval beliefs about the final judgment, but Royal is still harping on Eleanor's lust for Thomas and Thomas' homosexual longings. It's the old man-and-woman-can't-work-together-without-being-attracted line that I find extremely irritating; it just takes up space without advancing the storyline. The title was perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/08/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Jo's BoysLittle Women # 4
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
This last entry in the Little Women series follows the adventures of the young women and men as they pursue education and adventure.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Strictly for those who have read and enjoyed the 3 earlier books, as the characters aren't really introduced, depending on the reader being familiar with their history. Somewhat preachy, as all Alcott's books are, but the characters' actions remain believable and the chapter where author Jo tries to elude her demanding public and get some actual writing done was hysterical, and I'm sure based on author Alcott's own experiences.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/07/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Jack and Jill
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
Two children suffer a sledding accident while showing off and have to learn patience to convalesce.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Too preachy for me to even finish.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/06/2014


 
Author: Churchill, Jill
Title: It Had to Be YouGrace and Favor # 5
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
A much-disliked man is murdered hours before he was expected to die, and Jill and Robert "help" the police chief uncover the killer.

Nice solid mystery, although Churchill kept some discoveries from the reader for a short time, a trick that I despise and one I hope won't crop up often in this series. The characters are well-developed and the red herrings plentiful. The title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/05/2014


 
Author: Bunn, T. Davis
Title: Istanbul ExpressRendezvous With Destiny # 5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
Jake, Sally, Pierre, and Jasmyn are sent to Istanbul. Jake's assignment is to disburse U.S. funds to local businesses to rebuild, but he also must ferret out a Soviet plot to take over the country.

The plot and coincidences both get pretty hokey, but Davis keeps the reader too breathless to notice the flaws. Even the unforgivable deus-ex-machina resolution didn't make me throw the book across the room in disgust, although I hope it doesn't become a pattern.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/04/2014


 
Author: Copeland, Lori & Hunt, Angela
Title: The Island of Heavenly DazeHeavenly Daze # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A small-church pastor on a remote Maine island determines to make himself more interesting to keep his church.

There were two major problems with this book. One is that, at least IMO, if you're going to write about heavenly beings they should reek of heaven. C.S. Lewis, in his wonderful Screwtape Letters, admitted the letters to the tempter should be counterbalanced by letters to the man's guardian angel, but he couldn't write those. Neither can Copeland & Hunt, but unfortunately they wrote this book anyway. The other problem is that the stories are boring. Copeland & Hunt never made me care what was going to happen to any of the characters. I got about 3/4 of the way through and quit. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good enough to keep me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/03/2014


 
Author: Adams, John Joseph, ed.
Title: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Genre: Mystery/Horror
Rating: 3
Collection of short stories featuring the Sherlock Holmes characters in non-canon situations. Includes: A Sherlockiana Primer (not a story and completely unnecessary, why would anyone be reading this book unless they were already familiar with Sherlock Holmes?), The Horror of the Many Faces, The Adventure of the Death-Fetch, The Adventure of the Lost World, Dynamics of a Hanging, Merridew of Abominable Memory, The Adventure of the Green Skull, You See But You Do Not Observe.

First, I have to state that I don't like breaking canon and there had better be a darn good reason and a darn good result before I can accept it. The stories that break canon by never offering a rational explanation did neither, plus they weren't interesting as stories. In the interest of avoiding revealing too much, I'm not naming them. It's like there is all this buildup but no explosion. The Horror of the Many Faces overstrained my credulity. The other stories were moderately interesting, and the final tale offered a brilliant explanation to a non-Sherlockian problem within an intriguing storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/02/2014


 
Author: Allen, Robin
Title: If You Can't Stand the HeatPoppy Markham # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Poppy left the family restaurant business to become a food inspector because she was tired of fighting with her stepsister, executive chef Ursula. But when Ursula is arrested for the murder of a famous visiting chef, Poppy's stepmother Nina demands Poppy get Ursula out of jail while her father is hospitalized.

The murder mystery wasn't bad, full of convolutions and surprises, but the book was so full of unlikable characters that I never really cared what was going to happen next and finished the book out of simple inertia. Spelling and grammar were okay. The title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/01/2014


 
Author: Guyot, Isabelle
Title: Isabelle Around The World - The Trans-Siberian RaiIsabelle #1
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2
too-long title: Isabelle Around The World - The Trans-Siberian Railway

A young blogger describes her train trip across Europe and Asia.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Guyot starts with an unapologetic declaration that this book is exactly what she posted on her blog, errors and all. Like this is a good thing? I could have ignored the overwhelming spelling and grammar errors if her stories had been interesting enough, but they weren't. She describes a department store and being refused admittance to a children's circus and then blandly states "we had a really nice Mongolian dinner." Of what? She sprinkles exclamations liberally and at least once per section avails herself of picking on the last group considered fair game by all: fat people. Her photos lose a great deal of quality on my Kindle Keyboard. I made it 42% of the way through but her occasionally lyrical descriptions were too few and didn't make up for her lack of details, exclamation points, and fat humiliation..
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/30/2014


 
Author: Lippi, Rosina as Donati, Sara
Title: Into the WildernessWilderness # 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
An English family move to post-revolutionary America, where the beautiful spinster daughter finds herself attracted to an unsuitable man while the local physician pursues her.

Not sure why I even tried this one, as I don't like romance (even historical romance) because they are so phony - the women are all incredibly beautiful, the men ruggedly handsome but warmly sympathetic. This was just another one and I didn't get far before quitting. Maybe I thought the historical would overshadow the romance, but it didn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/29/2014


 
Author: Robertson, Imogen
Title: Instruments of DarknessCrowther and Westerman # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: NR
A lady sends for her researcher neighbor when a murdered man is found on her estate.

I enjoy murder mysteries, but I don't enjoy them reeking of evil as this one does. Also, one of my hot buttons is a child in danger - I simply can't read them. So I only made it about a quarter of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2014


 
Author: Carlisle, Kate
Title: If Books Could KillBibliophile # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A popular ladies' man is found dead after passing Brooklyn a book of lost Robert Burns poems, and Brooklyn "helps" the police investigate.

Nothing blatantly wrong but Carlisle gets lost in promoting "mystical" this and that. Even worse, she never makes me care what is going to happen next. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/27/2014


 
Author: Viguie, Debbie
Title: I Shall Not WantPsalm 23 Mystery # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When the personal secretary of a wealthy churchgoer is found murdered during an animal charity event, Cindy and Jeremiah follow some oddball leads while Detectives Mark and Paul pursue the killer.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I like several things about this series, including that the police aren't idiots and that Cindy and Jeremiah are friends but not romantic interests. Viguie builds the mystery without whacking the poor hero/ine over and over again. But the mysterious references to Jeremiah's past add nothing good to the storyline and I wish Viguie would drop it. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title had nothig to do with the storylines.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/26/2014


 
Author: Kandel, Susan
Title: I Dreamed I Married Perry MasonCece Caruso # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A biography writer takes on a puzzling murder case that her subject, Erle Stanley Gardner, failed to help.

Totally obnoxious characters, unbelievable plot. I got a quarter of the way through and couldn't take any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/25/2014


 
Author: Kater, Paul
Title: Hilda the Wicked WitchHilda # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: NR
Hilda suffers a contretemps while trying to get a poisoned apple to Snow White and winds up in a different world but with her magic intact.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Not my thing. Hilda really is a bad sort.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/24/2014


 
Author: Summerville, Ann
Title: High TideLowenna # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Gia runs a specialty store in the small Cornish seaside town of Lowenna. When a much-disliked man turns up dead during a spring high tide, she wonders who could have killed him, but she's more concerned with her upcoming trip to Italy and missing her boyfriend David, an accountant on assignment in Germany.

Although officially a murder mystery, this book is really a mishmash of story types. The mystery only occupies a small part of the book; most of it is a romance (not my favorite genre) with a large sprinkling of Mitford-type local "events" that contribute nothing to either the mystery or romance plots. (Nor are they interesting in and of themselves, as the Mitford plotless books are.) I got about halfway through before quitting; Summerville never made me care enough to wonder what would happen next. Spelling and grammar were okay, but the Kindle formatting was strange, with blocks of paragraphs appearing correctly followed by blocks of paragraphs that were all indented. The title was only relevant to the start of the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/23/2014


 
Author: Christie, Judy
Title: The Glory of GreenGreen # 3
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3
Lois' wedding reception ends with a tornado that leaves portions of Green in ruins. Instead of heading off on a honeymoon, Lois and husband and staff are caught up in helping survivors, finding the dead, and keeping the news flowing.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Obviously much grimmer in tone than previous books, and for that reason I didn't like it as much. Christie had to strain to make the title relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/22/2014


 
Author: Christie, Judy
Title: Goodness Gracious GreenGreen # 2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3
A suspicious fire at the newspaper right after Lois refused to sell the paper back to the original owners is only the first drop in a rain of terror culminating in a lawsuit.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There is a school of thought in writing that the author should pile disaster on disaster onto the main character, and the first part of the book follows that rule. Since I don't like that kind of story, I almost quit. But finally Christie went back to the small-town-events formula that I liked much better. The various resolutions were acceptable with the exception of a totally holey finale. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was strained.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/21/2014


 
Author: King, Jackie, Alfred, Paula Watkins, & Fielding, Peggy Moss
Title: Foxy Statehood Hens and Murder Most FowlFoxy Hens # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 2
Odd collection of stories, connected only by being set in Oklahoma before it was a state.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Because there are so many different authors, the book lacks a unified feel and I didn't find the stories interesting. I quit 40% of the way through. I have no idea what the "Foxy Hens" are supposed to be.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/20/2014


 
Author: Hilton, Traci Tyne
Title: ForeclosedMitzy Neuhaus # 1
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 2
Sparkling realtor Mitzy sponsors a museum dinner to find a rich buyer for a lovely Victorian house going into foreclosure and wants to find the about-to-be-ex-owner and have him arrested for stripping the house. Opposing her is a man who wants to buy the Victorian for his sister to run as a B&B.

I really couldn't tell whether this was meant to be a Christian romance or a Christian mystery, the plot was so unfocused. If Hilton's point was that Christians don't always get along or that Christians can still be jerks, well, I already knew that and it doesn't entertain me to read about. I gave up about halfway through because I didn't care what was going to happen next. Nor do I find sloppy writing entertaining, and as is all too common with self-pubs, this book needed copyediting. "You're location is perfect for me." "a sweet little Belle Epoque platinum broach ..." (You "broach" a subject or a cask of liquor. The item of jewelry is a brooch.) She did make one irrelevant comment I haven't encountered before: "Apparently Hippa laws don't restrain the motor vehicle department employees." First of all, it's HIPAA - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Second, since it's a HEALTH related law, it has nothing to do with driver's licenses. The title was appropriate but uninspired.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/19/2014


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: Footsteps in the Dark
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Three siblings inherit an ancient country house with a reputation for being haunted, but the men of the family refuse to accept the ghost story and hunt for a logical explanation.

As a mystery, this was a pleasant change from my usual series reading. With no need to focus on the main series protagonist, Heyer was able to use each character to reveal different pieces of the puzzle. The story moved right along and although some of the minor characters were convenient stereotypes, Heyer kept me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/12/2014


 
Author: Schell, Andy
Title: Flying Camels and Tiger Mothers
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Portrait of several families with Olympic-hopeful ice-skater daughters.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, but couldn't get into it. The mothers ranged from pushy to positively demonic; I wanted to tell them to jump off a cliff and let their daughters live. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/09/2014