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: Haney, Lauren
Title: A Vile JusticeLieutenant Bak # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - Egypt
Rating: 3
The governor of another region solicits Bak's aid with a baffling series of murders, but is unwilling to divulge the information Bak needs to find the killer.

What a mess of unlikable people. Haney does a great job drawing the characters, but most of them are so despicable it's wasted effort. The story was involving and the title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/10/2015


 
Author: Haney, Lauren
Title: A Vile JusticeLieutenant Bak # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - Egypt
Rating: 4
The governor of another region solicits Bak's aid with a baffling series of murders, but is unwilling to divulge the information Bak needs to find the killer.

What a mess of unlikable people. Haney does a great job drawing the characters, but most of them are so despicable it's wasted effort. The story was involving and the title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/10/2015


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: An Unmarked GraveBess Crawford # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
After barely surviving the influenza epidemic in 1918, Bess takes an assignment at a convalescent hospital to investigate whether her memory of a murder was just a fever dream.

Lots of red herrings, but this is the first Charles Todd mystery that I remember where the reader absolutely could not figure out whodunit, for reasons I can't go into without spoilers. Not their usual style and I didn't care for it, too much like a modern serial killer thriller. The title was relevant but weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/06/2015


 
Author: Cameron, Barbara
Title: A Time to HealQuilts of Lancaster County # 2
Genre: Amish Fiction
Rating: 4
When "Englisch" Chris visits now-Plain Jenny and falls for her lovely sister-in-law Hannah, not all the explosions come from colliding worlds.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Very readable story with plenty of elements besides romance. The title was relevant but not very specific.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/01/2015


 
Author: Beaton, M. C.
Title: A Spoonful of PoisonAgatha Raisin # 19
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Agatha agrees to do publicity for a church fete to get close to a handsome architect. But LSD-laced jam leaves two local women dead and Agatha investigating an odd series of events.

Usual Agatha story, chasing a handsome man and jealously guarding her privileges. But with the large cast of characters and long list of possibly related incidents, I can think of at least one that was never explained. Not the best in the series but I did finish it. The title wasn't especially appropriate. And I really dislike extraneous events being used to end a book with a teaser for the next book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/28/2015


 
Author: Ivie, Judith K.
Title: A Skeleton in the ClosetKate Lawrence # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Two elderly sisters find a skeleton in the basement of their beautiful but decayed old house and call Kate for help. But someone moves the remains before the police arrive, triggering Kate and team to investigate.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Presumably Ivie wanted to add some current drama to the old tale, but it's so weak it detracts from the legitimate old mystery. And I can't believe no one at the time smelled a decaying body. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were mostly acceptable. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/23/2015


 
Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: A Play of KnavesJoliffe # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Lady Lovell asks the players to pick up what they can hear about trouble in Ashewell, as a favor to the local abbess. But a shocking murder holds them in the area longer than they had planned.

Decent enough mystery, and Frazer certainly portrays medieval life well, but something about this series just doesn't sit right with me. Maybe it's the way the actors peck at each other, but whatever it is, I've lost interest in the series. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was only marginally relevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/18/2015


 
Author: Smith, Deborah
Title: A Place to Call Home
Genre: Southern Fiction
Rating: 2
A 30-year-old Southern spinster reminisces about her childhood.

BORING! If there is a story here, I couldn't wade through all the tedious introductory information dump to find it. The prologue establishing that the rest of the book is a flashback adds nothing to the story. The narrator goes on and on about family and the nearby "white trash" without giving us any reason to care about the people she's discussing. I quit less than a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/17/2015


 
Author: Clark, Mindy Starns
Title: A Penny for Your ThoughtsMillion Dollar Mysteries # 1
Genre: Christian Mystery
Rating: 4
Normally a corporate investigator for a mysterious philanthropic billionaire, Callie finds herself investigating a murder when a recipient of her employer's largesse is found dead in his office.

I've seen other writers try to pen mysteries with a Christian point of view, and they have been universally awful. So imagine my surprise when I found myself totally involved in this story. The characters were (mostly) believable and Clark even worked in a storyline involving different Christian views of a particular sin. (I won't say which one, to avoid a spoiler.) Thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to reading more in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/10/2015


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: A Pale HorseIan Rutledge # 10
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Ian is sent to Berkshire when a former government scientist disappears, then to Yorkshire when an unidentifiable body is found. But his suspicion that the two cases are the same puts him at odds with the War Office as well as his superior.

As usual, there are enough convolutions in the plots to give a tapeworm indigestion, which makes for a slow read. But, as always, Todd kept me reading. Surprisingly, one of the plots lacked an explanatory resolution, and I didn't like how Ian wound up suffering for doing a good job - not that it wasn't believable. I had trouble rating this one, it's better than a 3 but not quite worthy of a 4. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/07/2015


 
Author: Wilson, Janice Meredith as Karon, Jan
Title: A New SongMitford # 5
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4
Now-retired Father Tim heads for his first interim posting, a small church on an island off the East Coast. He and Cynthia face a hostile but gifted neighbor, an unrepentant former choir director and the wreckage of the family he left behind, and a dangerous storm that damages his church along with most of the island.

Much better than the previous book, as Father Tim and Cynthia face conflicts between their desire to help their Mitford friends and duty to the faithful island parishioners. There is more of Father Tim's preaching in this book than I expected, but the stories are strong enough to survive the interruptions. The title is mildly appropriate but weak, as pretty much all the Mitford titles so far have been.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/06/2015


 
Author: Snelling, Lauraine
Title: A New Day RisingRed River # 2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4
Roald's cousin and youngest brother arrive to assist the bereaved women, who have been managing by themselves and with Kaaren's new husband Lars. But they prove helpful when Lars is injured, as well as disturbing Ingeborg with an unwanted attraction.

Once again, I couldn't put the book down and I don't know why. I like the way they trust God, and the characters are well-drawn and mostly likable, but they had to work so hard just to live. The title had essentially nothing to do with any of the stories.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/05/2015


 
Author: Bricker, Sandra D.
Title: Always the Baker, Never the Bride
Genre: Christian Romance
Rating: 3
Diabetic baker Emma Rae Travis has just won a prestigious wedding cake prize. Now she's ready to tackle designing and making custom wedding cakes at a new wedding-theme hotel. Corporate raider Jackson Drake bought The Tanglewood to fulfill his late wife's dream.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. With one horribly glaring exception, a sweet story and very readable. The exception is the prologue, in which a young Emma Rae is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after a HYPOGLYCEMIC episode. The *only* reason a Type 1 diabetic would have too low blood sugar would be if he/she took too much insulin for what they had eaten. Since Emma was undiagnosed, she hadn't taken ANY insulin. Type 1 diabetics are typically diagnosed with extremely high blood sugars, in the 300s-600s and I've seen them as high as 1500s. (Not to mention, the supposed doctor attending her at home diagnosed her as diabetic based on this single episode without even checking her actual blood sugar.) This was such an egregious fact error that I almost threw the book down in disgust, and I had to take off a whole star. Come on, Bricker, if you are going to have medical events in the story, get them right! Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/20/2015


 
Author: Clipston, Amy
Title: A Place of PeaceKauffman Amish Bakery # 3
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
Miriam abandoned the love of her life to escape his betrayal and follow her dream of becoming a pediatric nurse. But her mother's death brings her back to Bird-in-Hand, exposing the lies that drove her away and maybe even offering her and Timothy a second chance.

Not up to the highest standard of this series, as coincidence after coincidence pull Miriam and Timothy apart. It could be believed that they just happen to see each other with other people once or twice, but every time? It's not unreadable due to the wonderful characters and side storylines. As unfortunately usual with this series, the title has essentially nothing to do with any of the storylines.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/08/2015


 
Author: Hamley, Dennis
Title: A Pact With DeathJoslin de Lay # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: NR
Joslin escorts Alys back to her home with Master Randolf in London and winds up blamed for the disappearance of an apprentice.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I've lost interest in this series; the malevolent mastermind who arranges terrible things but manages to not be seen himself just doesn't appeal to me, and I quit halfway through. The odd formatting with everything centered didn't help.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/04/2015


 
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: 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: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: A Tangled WebFive Hundred Kingdoms # 7
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Hades in disguise loves Persephone, Demeter's daughter, and they arrange for her to be kidnapped so they can be together. But another blonde goddess is in the wrong place at the wrong time ...

Lackey shows a wonderful grasp of Greek mythology in this novella, filled with rich characters and highlighted by her own unique approach to the classic tales. Although not quite as strongly cohesive and logical as previous books, it still kept me reading. There was more ranting and raving than I personally like, but that is a very minor flaw. As far as I could tell, the title had NOTHING to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/28/2014


 
Author: Gordon-Smith, Dolores
Title: A Hundred Thousand DragonsJack Haldean # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Figures from an unsavory episode in Jack's past reappear, forcing him to confront old demons to solve a new murder.

This is the first Jack Haldean book that I skipped to the end on. The solution was fairly obvious, which wouldn't have been a major drawback if the characters hadn't been so unlikable. Maybe I should stick to the books in this series with foreign settings, as Gordon-Smith did them so beautifully. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was marginally relevant but Gordon-Smith has done better.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/22/2014


 
Author: Dean, Anna
Title: A Gentleman of FortuneDido Kent # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Dido's gentle cousin Flora enlists Dido's help to prove the handsome heir to a demanding aunt didn't hasten her end.

I'm not sure what held my attention in the first book in this series, but it was lacking here. The characters are silly or stock or both. I got about a third of the way through and realized I couldn't care less what came next. The title was moderately appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/02/2014


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: A False MirrorIan Rutledge # 9
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Ian is sent to the scene where an accused killer is holding a former lover hostage, but things are not as they seem. He reels from one murder to another, untangling lies along the way but missing the obvious ones.

This is the first book in this series I have skipped part of. First, although Todd always specialized in unlikable characters, there was no one except Ian to root for in this one. A man who goes charging to his ex-girlfriend's side when he hears her husband has been attacked, a woman who comes up with the idea that he is holding her hostage to save her reputation instead of heading to her husband's side - awful. Ian lets himself be manipulated; even when he is told the hostage situation is a fraud, he continues to take it seriously. Not only disappointing but uninteresting; Todd never made me care about the people. Sure hope this is not a foretaste of how the series will go from now on. The title was somewhat relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/23/2014


 
Author: Haney, Lauren
Title: A Face Turned BackwardLieutenant Bak # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - Egypt
Rating: 4
Bak pursues the mysterious head of a major smuggling ring in between less weighty crimes.

Nice workmanlike mystery, although I skipped part of it because I could tell Haney was heading towards a scene that would give me nightmares. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was rather forced.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/20/2014


 
Author: Vail, Jason
Title: A Dreadful PenanceStephen Attebrook # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Sir Stephen is sent to a priory where a monk has been killed, with unspoken instructions to find the lord of that borough responsible - or else.

I borrowed this book through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Dark and gloomy, as all the Sir Stephen stories are, but rich in detail providing an authentic feel. The convoluted storyline, however, stretched my suspension of disbelief until it snapped. It is just barely acceptable for a knight to face high odds time after time and survive, but the fire scene was absolutely not credible. Since I try to avoid spoilers, I'm unable to describe why the victim's actions were not believable either. The title had nothing to do with the story. It wasn't awful, and I finished it, but it wasn't up to the standard of earlier books.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2014


 
Author: Adams, Ellery
Title: A Deadly ClicheBooks by the Bay # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Olivia's discovery of a dead man on the beach leads to a chain of burglary and murder, while she and Sheriff Sawyer find themselves more and more attracted to each other.

Main stories nicely done, well paced and information revealed as discovered. The secondary plot about her long-lost father was distracting and pointless and the book would have been better off without it. It takes up enough of the book that I had to take off a star for it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/15/2014


 
Author: Dahlke, RP
Title: A Dead Red CadillacLalla Bains # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Twice divorced Lalla Bains is shattered when her beloved vintage Caddy is found in a sludgy lake, with a dead woman inside.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Just never caught my interest. All the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, especially Lalla, and I'm not sure there was actually a story buried in all the meandering narration and confusing flashbacks. I didn't even care enough to skip to the end to find out whodunit. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were all acceptable, and the title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/14/2014


 
Author: Atherton, Gertrude
Title: A Daughter of the Vine
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2
A visiting Englishman falls in love with a beautiful California heiress hiding a horrible secret.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Course of true love complicated by outside influences is one thing. Course of true love complicated by the stupidity and stubbornness of the people involved leaves me cold. I quit about halfway through. The characters are pretty well-drawn, but since neither of them use their brains, who cares? Nina in particular has a huge self-destructive streak. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting are acceptable. I never figured out what the title was supposed to mean.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/08/2014


 
Author: Lee, Debra
Title: A Dangerous WomanFay Cunningham # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: NR
Newspaper publisher Fay becomes suspicious when an elderly friend disappears, his housekeeper is found murdered, and an odd woman is suddenly living in his house.

I just did not like this story for some reason, and it didn't grab me enough to keep reading anyway. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/06/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: A Company of StarsStarship Troupers # 1
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 3
A repertory company flees Earth just ahead of prohibition by a vindictive government official.

I read this years ago and liked it, but I have no idea why. The characters are as stock as the roles they play, and the "government bad guys out to get us" isn't any more intriguing here than any of the other hundreds of times it has been used. It's not awful, it just never caught my attention.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/01/2014


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: A Bitter TruthBess Crawford # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Bess' spontaneous kindness to a beaten woman lands her in the house party of a family torn by secrets. When a family friend reveals the existence of what could be an illegitimate daughter, murder follows. Mistrusting the alleged father's motives, Bess races to find the orphaned girl in war-torn France, with the surprising help of an Aussie sergeant who has his own but relatively uncomplicated agenda.

In addition to the pleasure of a solid if somewhat dark story, it's a joy to find a writer who can use uncommon words correctly. Describing a stream as "in spate" is just one of the little touches that contributes to the authentic feel of WWI-era England. The plot twists as I expect from this author, and the characters are believable if not always likable - I was very tired of Lydia by the time the book ended. And Bess now has *two* romantic possibilities. I'm not sure that all of the events were believable, but Todd's explanations are reasonable and didn't set of any "it couldn't have happened" alarms in my head. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/07/2014


 
Author: Finch, Charles
Title: A Beautiful Blue DeathCharles Lenox # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Victorian gentleman/amateur detective Charles Lenox pursues the killer of a young servant girl at the behest of his dear friend Lady Jane Grey.

Finch has not learned the basic rule of fiction writing: every single sentence should contribute to the point of the book. It should advance the plot, or provide character development, or sneakily foreshadow what you're going to surprise the reader with later. Burying the reader in minutiae of Victorian daily life that are irrelevant to the storyline (otherwise known as information dumps) simply bore and irritate, and (in my case) result in abandoning the book. The slow pace of the plot and Finch's reliance on telling rather than showing didn't help. Hopefully any fan of historical mysteries will catch the reference in the name of Lenox' lady friend. This isn't an awful book; the premise was intriguing and the spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable, and the title was quite good. But it never caught my interest enough to overcome its liabilities and I quit a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/18/2013


 
Author: Brittain, C. Dale
Title: A Bad Spell in YurtWizard of Yurt # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Newly-graduated wizard Daimbert takes on his first job in a small but beautiful kingdom with a hidden problem.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Once I got past the tedious beginning, I enjoyed this story, although it has some pretty serious drawbacks. The slow opening drowns the reader in information she has no reason to care about yet. The odd formatting uses a type size several settings smaller than usual - not impossible to fix, but makes it hard to bounce between different books on the same Kindle as well as a minor annoyance of having to change the type size to read it and then change back when the book is finished. Daimbert is the type of person who makes teachers say "he has such potential if he'd just try," and it is satisfying to the reader to see what happens when he DOES buckle down. The characters feel real and add diversity to the story. Father Joachim is a bit of a prig, but I've always suspected the great saints to be hard to live with. Spelling and grammar are otherwise acceptable, and I liked the clever title. I waffled between a 3- or 4-star rating, but finally decided on 4 simply because it kept me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/30/2013


 
Author: Hale, Shannon
Title: AustenlandAustenland # 1
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4
Haunted by Colin Firth's Mr. Darcy and consequently unable to find love with a real man, Jane hopes that a three-week theme vacation at Regency-era Pembrook Park will break her dependence.

Surprisingly well-thought-out and realistic, with a number of somewhat caustic comments, as when Jane notes that guests had to give up cell phones but not flush toilets. And Jane is an unusual romantic heroine: incredibly beautiful, of course, but also able to recognize that her obsession with Mr. Darcy is distracting her from genuine romantic possibilities. And I totally agree with the author that the 1995 BBC "Pride and Prejudice" miniseries is the definitive adaptation and arguably the most romantic chick flick ever made. Hale came close to Austen's own level in showing Jane torn between two men that she is attracted to but for different characteristics. The ending is rather pat and unrealistic, but I don't know what ending would have been better. There are a few minor historical errors, such as the second son of an earl being addressed as "Colonel Andrews" rather than "Lord John Andrews." The frequent story interruptions for capsule portraits of Jane's previous boyfriends were pointless and irritating, but the story itself held my attention anyway. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were mostly acceptable, with an occasional new paragraph starting in the middle of a sentence, and the title was certainly relevant. Altogether an enjoyable tale, although I can't imagine where she can go for a sequel.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/21/2013


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag Vol 1Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag Vol 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
Collection of short pieces. Includes My Boys, Tessa's Surprises, Buzz, The Children's Joke, Dandelion, Madam Cluck and Her Family, A Curious Call, Tilly's Christmas, My Little Gentleman, Back Windows, Little Marie of Lehon, My May-Day Among Curious Birds and Beasts, Our Little Newsboy, Patty's Patchwork.

eBook downloaded free from www.Gutenberg.org Truly a mixed bag! I enjoy Alcott's fiction more than her newsy chatter pieces like "Buzz" and "My Boys," even though her made-up stories tend to be sappy. None of the pieces here approached the unforgettability of "Little Women" but they are nice to keep around for a boring afternoon. There were few errors that I noticed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/19/2013


 
Author: Louise, Kara
Title: Assumed EngagementAusten's Ahhhs # 1
Genre: Austen rewrite
Rating: 3
An "alternate" Pride and Prejudice in which Mr. Darcy is injured in a carriage accident after writing his sister Georgiana that he intends to propose to Elizabeth at Rosings.

No alternate P&P I have read has managed to keep the characters true to Austen's original, and sadly this book continues the trend. The worst inaccuracy in this particular story is having Elizabeth rely on prayer. While I strongly agree with that approach to life, Austen's Elizabeth did not. Although Georgiana long ago left school, Louise has her doing lessons with a governess. Louise significantly changed most of the characters; her Mr. Bennet is much more forceful, "gentlemanly" Colonel Fitzwilliam is snide, Georgiana is manipulative. Louise does not grasp the manners of the era. The ladies refer to servants as "Mr. Winston" and "Mr. Durnham;" as their social superiors, the ladies would have only used the servants' surnames. Elizabeth keeps calling Mr. Darcy "Sir" (yes, capitalized). I'm honestly not sure how Austen would have handled Louise's Darcy/Lady Catherine confrontation, but the scene in the book feels modern and therefore unauthentic. In general, there is way too much 21st century infringing on the supposedly 18th century characters. Elizabeth's prayers would fit right in any evangelical church today. She relies on a special tea as a "pick-me-up." All the edge and danger of Austen's original is gone. Louise indulges in too many classic sappy romance scenes for my taste, although modern romance fans will probably enjoy it. The cutesy guest appearance of Rev. Austen and his author daughter Jane, complete with a LLLOOOONNNNGGG prayer actually written by Jane and completely irrelevant to the story, was egregiously awful. And in spite of all these problems, I finished the book - I'm really not sure why except Louise made me want to see what would happen next, in spite of her reliance on classic romance formulae. There are occasional grammar and word usage errors. "The house staff usually did a very proficient job." "Elizabeth ... slinked into it." The title is quite relevant. The hardcore alternate-P&P fans (and there seem to be a lot of them) will love this story, but the inaccuracies will drive any serious history fan bonkers.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/18/2013


 
Author: Gordon-Smith, Dolores
Title: As If By MagicJack Haldean # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
When Jack finds an old squadron buddy destitute and in hospital, an invitation to recover at Jack's flat leads to discovery of long-lost relatives and a giant seaplane that may be related to a grisly murder and a secret vice club.

Nice solid workmanlike mystery. Gordon-Smith excels at planting clues for the reader to realize later were important, and she does so again here. Jack, as always, is a likable hero, and bluff George is at least tolerable. The plot moves right along and kept me wondering what would happen next. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were all acceptable. The title wasn't relevant to anything I could identify.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/17/2013


 
Author: Calore, Michael
Title: Army Coffee Sucks
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2
Unconnected anecdotes of the author's life.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I hate to criticize a soldier, but fighting does not make you capable of writing. Calore's word use is awful and his grammar is unreliable. "Her instrument panel show signs of life on occasion, with exception to the gas gage." "Every two-hundred miles" He "inverted my direction of travel." "I proficiently placed a forceful blow to the cassette player." "'Want me to come down?' he beckoned." There is nothing inherently wrong with using big words, but use them correctly! The lack of a theme or any organization of the chapters makes it even more difficult to read. There are bright spots - his account of a soldier's funeral moved me - but they are few and not worth putting up with the rest of the book. The title has nothing to do with any of the anecdotes that I read. A competent editor with a sharp pencil could probably salvage this, but as is, don't bother.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/16/2013


 
Author: Allan, Barbara
Title: Antiques RoadkillTrash 'n' Treasures # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: NR
A newly-divorced woman goes home to live with her bipolar mother and discovers an unscrupulous antique dealer has talked her out of valuable family heirlooms for a song.

I couldn't get into this story at all. Most of the characters were not likable, the few nice characters didn't feel real, and there was lots of buildup but nothing actually happening. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/13/2013


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: An Antic DispositionFools’ Guild # 5
Genre: Shakespeare retelling
Rating: NR
The Guild-in-exile sits spellbound as Father Gerald relates a tragic adventure from his youth.

I hate, loathe, detest, and despise envelope stories. If the story is any good, let it stand on its own, don't distract the reader with irrelevant introductions and continual interruptions. That this one is Gordon's retelling of Hamlet, which I never liked, didn't help. I didn't get far into it before quitting. But it's not a true mystery anyway, it is plain who done what.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/12/2013


 
Author: Montgomery, L.M.
Title: Anne of Green GablesAnne Shirley # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
An orphan girl finds a reluctant home on an early 20th century Canadian island.

I wanted to read this because it is considered such a classic, but found it hard to get through. Anne is a self-obsessed drama queen for most of the book, and I found it difficult to believe that she would win over so many unlikely opponents. My sympathy was with Mirella! Anne settled down somewhat and became more tolerable towards the end of the book, but I'm still baffled as to how this became a classic.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/10/2013


 
Author: Maverick, Fancy
Title: Angel of Mercy: What Really Happens When You're a
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3
Angel of Mercy: What Really Happens When You're a Nurse

Very short pamphlet of anecdotes from nursing.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Besides being too long, the title is misleading; these tales aren't what "really" happens to nurses any more than the stretch of the Washington Beltway where you have to move over 6 lanes in about a mile in order to stay on I-95 is what it is "really" like to drive I-95. The anecdotes are probably true, although Maverick (a pen name?) doesn't distinguish between her own memories and those she heard from other nurses. They are simply NOT any kind of representative examples of nursing practice - I've been an RN for 27 years now so I know. Most of them are horror stories. If you like nursing memories, you'll probably enjoy these. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/09/2013


 
Author: Carmichael, Kathy
Title: Angel Be Good
Genre: Erotica
Rating: NR
A young woman who dies "in error" (?) in the Viet Nam era is given a second chance at life 20+ years later, but her first night has to be spent showing a hard-nosed businessman the error of his ways.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Soft porn meets "A Christmas Carol," and no better than any other soft porn. I also find the concept of a sexually-active angel offensive as well as ridiculous. I quit pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/08/2013


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: And Then There Were None
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
aka Ten Little Niggers or Ten Little Indians

Ten people are lured to a remote island and discover they have been marked for death.

Extremely clever plot with enough twists and turns to give a tapeworm indigestion. Character development is quite thin, but the plot is the star of this book. I'm not sure the reader has the information to identify the killer, but the action swept me along anyway. The letter at the end purporting to Explain Everything didn't. Otherwise, a justifiable classic.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/07/2013


 
Author: Patterson., Rosemary I.
Title: Aloha And Mai Tais
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
Set in Hawaii during the Great Depression. A loser married to old Hawaiian money is desperate to prove himself with a big financial win. A native Hawaiian girl wants to use her hula skills to earn money to attend teacher's college, but her family considers hula sacred.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Whiny, self-pitying characters using lots of pidgen English do not hold my attention. Using dialect without letting it overpower the story is difficult anyway; the list of otherwise fine authors who couldn't manage it is long. In this case, there doesn't seem to be any story to overpower. I forced myself to read the first 10% before giving up but it was hard. The title had nothing to do with the story, and why does the author identify herself as a PhD on a work of fiction? It's either a good story or it isn't, regardless of her credentials, and sadly this isn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/04/2013


 
Author: Ortolon, Julie
Title: Almost PerfectPerfect # 1
Genre: Romance
Rating: NR
Three college roomates challenge each other to face the fears that are keeping them from a happier life. Widowed Maddy wants to be an artist, but has to face art dealers to have her work shown. Even harder is facing the highschool boyfriend she dumped so many years ago.

Just another romance novel. I quit a quarter of the way into it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/03/2013


 
Author: Barroldson, Barry
Title: Alien Chicks In Citrus Bras And Stalkers From Beyo
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 1
Alien Chicks In Citrus Bras And Stalkers From Beyond The Stars

No clue what the plot was. It briefly touched on someone going through a door in a bar and then switched to a different someone eavesdropping on caricatured Mafia types.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. So awful as to be unreadable. Not a likable character to be found and it made no sense anyway. I quit about 10% through and want the time back I wasted on it. The title sounded promising, too.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/02/2013


 
Author: Dodson, Charles Lutwidge as Carroll, Lewis
Title: Alice's Adventures in WonderlandAlice # 1
Genre: Children
Rating: NR
A bored little girl finds strange magic when she follows a white rabbit into a rabbit hole.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Again, this was a classic that I had never read, nor had I particularly enjoyed the various movie versions. The story didn't seem magical to me, just stupid.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/01/2013


 
Author: Smith, Deborah
Title: Alice At HeartWaterlilies # 1
Genre: Fantasy Mystery
Rating: 4
A lonely, abused woman finds her amazing heritage through three half-sisters she never knew she had.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Although the boring, disjointed start almost drove me off, it eventually turned into an enchanting fantasy mystery that kept me glued to the pages. The characters generally felt real, although the mysteriousness of the sisters is overdone. But the bottom line was that once I got past the boring part, I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next. There are occsaional typos or small formatting problems, nothing that distracted me from the story. I think the title was meant to have some significance, but it was too abstruse for me to identify.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/31/2013


 
Author: O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne
Title: Advent of DyingSr. Mary Helen # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
When her efficient but shy secretary is killed, Sr. Mary Helen decides Detective Kate considers her part of the investigative team and pursues her own sources of information to catch the killer.

Mary Helen is starting to annoy me. I have no trouble accepting that she would find information the police missed, but she is keeping it to herself as well as going places she shouldn't, and I don't like plots which rely on the main character doing stupid things. Other than that, a workmanlike mystery that seems to be set in the 1970s, with both police procedural and psychological elements. O'Marie spent a lot of words in various people's heads, but she also threw in some red herrings that had me totally fooled. The sideline about Kate and Jack thinking about having a baby wasn't especially interesting but did develop their characters. The title was very appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/02/2013


 
Author: Watson, W.H.L.
Title: Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider During t
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4
Adventures of a Motorcycle Despatch Rider During the First World War

A young university student volunteers for motorcycle dispatch assignment at the start of WWI.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Probably only to be enjoyed by history buffs, but I found it fascinating. Watson recounts his experiences honestly and openly, including the confusion and waste of battle. It only covers the first few months of the war. Not particularly well-organized but clearly written, with very few typos.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/28/2013


 
Author: Cameron, Barbara
Title: A Time to LoveQuilts of Lancaster County # 1
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4
"Englisch" Jenny came to her "grossmudder" Phoebe's home to recover after being severely injured by a bomb overseas. Amish Matthew focused on raising his children after his wife's death but found himself more interested in Jenny than was seemly.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't normally like romances because they are so unrealistic, and this one featured the required gorgeous heroine and hunky hero. But Cameron kept me reading anyway, with a gripping opening that did NOT drag the reader through endless "this is my co-worker and this is my best friend and this is the lady who does my hair" drivel. Matthew is incredibly sensitve and supportive, of course, but since he is kind to everyone in his life, it's tolerable. They both had trials to get through before the predictable happy (but limp) ending, but somehow the story felt more real than I'm used to in romances. I liked the way everyone brought their worries and fears to God. There were some loose ends and some contradictions between different parts of the book, but they are minor. The editing and Kindle formatting were quite well done; I only found one misused word. The title was not especially relevant and the quilts were barely peripheral to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/08/2013


 
Author: Kurland, Michael
Title: A Study in SorceryLord Darcy # 5
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Lord Darcy and Master Sean head for the New World to investigate the grisly murder of an Azteque prince.

Kurland states in the introduction that he was a friend of Garrett and continued the series with Garrett's permission. That may well be true, and the story itself isn't bad, but it lacks the flavor of the original action-filled tales. Way too much relies on Darcy's mental soliloquies - no more involving than most soliloquies and definitely drags on the storyline. The Kindle version also has the usual OCR-and-spellcheck problems, such as corners becoming comers and It becoming II. I'm glad I read it, simply out of curiosity, but I don't anticipate reading it again.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/23/2013


 
Author: Bowen, Rhys
Title: A Royal FlushRoyal Spyness # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A disastrous attempt on innocent Georgie's part to start an escort service finds her banished to Scotland, where Fig is delighted to have her help in dealing with a castle full of American guests, including the notorious and obnoxious Wallis Simpson. But a series of dangerous "accidents" include the death of Binky's former classmate, and Georgie and her grandfather investigate.

Interesting story, great characters, even overcoming my dislike of using real people in fiction. Bowen excels at showing Georgie's inability to see evil in anyone in her social circle, which makes the denouement consistent and believable. Much more of a solid mystery than the book just before it, and thoroughly readable. The only reason it misses a 5 rating is that it didn't offer anything exceptional.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/08/2013


 
Author: Hatcher, Robin Lee
Title: A Vote of ConfidenceBethlehem Springs # 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
Typical Christian historical romance: she's an independent and beautiful spinster, he's a rich and gorgeous orphan tired of fortune hunters. This time they are both running for mayor of their town.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, and I have no idea why. I don't like romances, and this is entirely typical. Something in the description must have led me to think it would be different. It's not, and I quit pretty early on.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2013


 
Author: Cowles, David W.
Title: A Visit to Madame Wu's
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 2
In 1952, a naive young journalist interviews a union buster.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Nothing interesting, just talking heads preaching away, and nothing about any Madame Wu at all. Even a coming-of-age story is supposed to have a STORY in it. I gave up quickly for lack of a storyline. It did have coherent word use, though, and the Kindle formatting was okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2013


 
Author: Palmer, Catherine
Title: A Victorian Christmas
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
Beautiful Victorian heiress rescues handsome man during a blizzard, then reads in the newspaper that he is a wanted criminal.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, and I have no idea why. It is an entirely typical historical romance and I quit about 10% of the way into it because I don't like romances.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2013


 
Author: Snelling, Lauraine
Title: An Untamed LandRed River # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 3
Two Norwegian immigrant families travel to Dakota Territory to homestead farms and face hardships and tragedy that challenge their faith in God.

This book kept me reading but I'm not sure why. The story itself was wandering and unfocused although it showed how hard life was for the homesteaders. The characters were pretty much one-dimensional but Ingeborg and Kaaren were likable and I wanted to know what was going to happen next. It almost felt like the Mitford series and would be worth trying for readers who liked those stories. The limp, unbelievable ending was a serious drawback. Snelling rushed through several significant events in the epilogue and Ingeborg's change of heart did not ring true. I enjoyed the first 3/4 enough that I'll probably try the next book in the series, but I did not leave satisfied.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/20/2013


 
Author: Nilles, Melanie
Title: A Turn of Curses
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Selina's talent of healing will end with her life, within a few months, but she is determined to heal the king who has sent for her before she dies. Faldon, a feyquin, is determined to keep her from breaking the curse placed on the wicked prince.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The story itself was okay, if you like fantasy, and the characters were well-drawn. But the abrupt and unsatisfying ending left me wondering if the author had suddenly run out of room on her computer drive.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/25/2013


 
Author: Alleyn, Susanne
Title: A Treasury of RegretsAristide Ravel # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 3
Aristede finds himself attracted to a young widow as he investigates the suspicious death of a rich old bourgeois - but she may have been the killer, and she certainly knew his late friend Mathieu.

Almost as good as the other books in this series, with surprising twists to make up for some of the predictable events. I identified the killer fairly early on but seeing how Aristide gets there still held my attention. I was shocked and disappointed when Alleyn committed the (to me) unforgivable sin in a historical mystery: she hid one of Aristide's discoveries from the reader. Only for a couple of pages, but still! That is NOT playing fair with the reader and lowered my rating. The Kindle formatting is also a problem, with underlined words in lieu of the italics we see in professionally published work, no paragraph separation, and sudden changes in type size. It's not bad enough to be unreadable, but it definitely interferes with being swept away by the story. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/24/2013


 
Author: Pajer, Bernadette
Title: A Spark of DeathSimon Bradshaw # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 2
Around the turn of the 20th century, at the beginning of the Electric Age, a professor of electrical engineering is suspected of murdering a rival and determines to find the real killer and clear his name.

This story simply wasn't interesting enough to hold my attention. I don't know whether it was the constant dwelling of the professor on his personal history, the distraction of his involvement with his son, or the unlikely behavior of the one-dimensional characters, but Pajer never made me care what was going to happen next. I quit about halfway through. The occasional word misuse (mostly consisting of confusion between the plural and possessive forms of words) didn't help. Spelling and grammar were otherwise almost acceptable; the Kindle formatting seemed to lose paragraph breaks every so often, leaving the one sentence to run into the next without even a space.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/22/2012


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: A Study in ScarletSherlock Holmes # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Recuperating army doctor John Watson agrees to share rooms with arrogant but brilliant consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, and trails along as Holmes investigates the death of a body found in an abandoned house.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Other than answering the question of how Holmes and Watson met, this was an inauspicious beginning to one of the best-loved series of all time. Watson is an almost-invalid and Holmes is obnoxious and whiny. After Doyle finished the Holmes part of the story, he went into a LONG and tedious flashback featuring the victims and killer 20 years earlier in Mormon Utah. I read it all but I was not impressed. The fanciful title was somewhat related to the story. There were occasional OCR errors but not enough to be seriously distracting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/07/2012


 
Author: Rogan, R. Keith
Title: A Photographic Tour of Kodiak Alaska
Genre: Travel
Rating: 4
Just what the title says: photographs taken by the author, featuring animals and scenic vistas on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The author says his subject is so spectacular it makes up for his amateur camera, and by and large, I agree with him. There are some photos that would have been improved by shifting position just a little to eliminate foreground distractions, and there are enough bear shots that the ones where the bear is quite distant or not doing anything interesting could have been culled. Only a few of the photos are captioned. Some of the photos have contrast problems. There is also minimal thematic organization, and what there is isn't consistent - a photo of the island captioned "autumn" is included in the Winter section. As usual for self-pubs, this book desperately needed a good editor, to organize the photos and eliminate the duplicates. (And cull some of the many, many bear shots.) But the composition of the photographs is quite good for an amateur, and the subject is simply gorgeous - the eagle photos and the shots of the salmon run are amazing, and the shot of a single tree in a beam of sunlight, surrounded by dark forest, is spectacular. This book definitely needs a color viewer - I looked at it both on my K4Android smartphone and K4PC. A must-have for those who enjoy travelogues or Alaska. The title is quite accurate except for the typo - there should be a comma - "Kodiak, Alaska."
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/22/2012


 
Author: Forster, E.M.
Title: A Room With a View
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 3
A young Victorian Englishwoman visits Italy, and the memories affect her life after she returns to England.

I picked this book up free from Gutenberg. Slow-moving coming-of-age story with frankly unbelievable characters acting in unbelievable ways. All the posturing and actions that didn't fit the characters left me cold. I finished the book and I'm not sure why - maybe I thought something would have to happen soon. It didn't. However, the Gutenberg edition includes the passages missing from the Amazon Kindle edition; other than some minor typos, the formatting was fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/29/2012


 
Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: A Place of HidingInspector Lynley # 12
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 2
Simon gets involved when an old friend of Deborah's is charged with murder.

Not up to the usual standard of this series at all. George ordinarily skips around between several storylines, but this one flat-out had too many for me to follow, and none of them were interesting enough to overcome that handicap. I quit about 100 pages in because George never made me care what was going to happen next - very unusual!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/05/2012


 
Author: Clipston, Amy
Title: A Promise of HopeKauffman Amish Bakery # 2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3
After losing her husband Peter in a fire, pregnant Sarah moves back into her family home. But as she learns more about Peter's life before they married, she feels angry and betrayed. Her interest in Luke, Peter's "cousin," doesn't help.

Although the story itself involved me, I didn't like this story as much as other Clipston tales. Illogical or not, the attraction between Luke and Sarah does feel like incest. I also didn't agree with the constant advice to Sarah to "listen to your heart" to know God's will for her; the Bible is full of commentary on how wicked the human heart can be. It was still an involving story, but anyone who (like me) enjoyed Clipston's understanding of the Amish reliance on God will be disappointed in this book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/29/2012


 
Author: Washburn, Livia
Title: A Peach of a MurderFresh-Baked Mystery # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Widowed Phyllis desperately wants to win the blue ribbon at the Peach Festival, which her boarder Carolyn has taken home the past two years. But first a mysterious "accident" at the peach orchard and then the apparent poisoning of the chief judge right after tasting Phyllis' cobbler lead her neighbors to believe Carolyn's claim that Phyllis poisoned the judge.

Although the story itself was okay, the killer was pretty obvious, most of the characters were one-dimensional, and Phyllis' tolerance of selfish, malevolent Carolyn annoyed me. The plot kept me reading until the reasonably satisfactory ending.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/07/2012


 
Author: Smith, M. Renee
Title: A Little Ice Cream Recipe Book
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 4
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Collection of 11 ice cream recipes (Chocolate, Mint Chocolate Chip, Vanilla, Strawberry, Coffee, Butter Pecan, Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Chip, Pistachio, Grape, Blueberry) that the author says do not require an ice cream maker.

Smith's take on not using an ice cream maker is to freeze the mixture in an ice cube tray and then pulverize it in a blender or food processor, which she says will produce a texture similar to soft-serve. What she doesn't say is that a very strong blender or food processor is required or you'll burn out the motor; if your equipment can crush ice, it should work for these recipes. She avoids the whole cooked-or-uncooked-eggs controversy by not using eggs at all, which keeps the recipes simpler but loses the rich creaminess eggs contribute. She also didn't pay enough attention to the details when copying the instructions from one recipe to another; the section on adding other ingredients in the Vanilla and subsequent recipes was clearly copied from the Chocolate recipe, as it refers to "after step 6" and later recipes have fewer than 6 steps. Unlike too many authors, Smith seems to have a solid handle on her target market (kids with some adult supervision) and generally writes her directions to be understood by that market, and although she doesn't provide directions for roasting the pecans for Butter Pecan, these recipes are quite suitable for sleepovers or cooking-with-kids (except for the Coffee recipe - sugar AND caffeine?). I'm not convinced that Cookies and Cream, Chocolate Chip, and Mint Chocolate Chip deserve to be listed as separate recipes, as they are just "additional ingredients" to a Vanilla recipe - Mint Chocolate Chip actually uses a different base recipe but it doesn't need to. I have an ice cream freezer, and these recipes should work with a freezer, but only the Pistachio recipe tempted me - but I'm not in Smith's target audience. Spelling, grammar, and formatting are fine, and the Table of Contents interfaces with the Kindle navigation menu.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/19/2012


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith as Peters, Ellis
Title: A Morbid Taste for BonesBrother Cadfael # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Prior Robert, desperate for a saint's relics to attract pilgrims to Shrewsbury, heads for Wales to claim St. Winifred's body. When the leader of the villagers opposed to letting the saint go to England is found murdered, his daughter and Cadfael are determined to find his killer.

Thoroughly satisfying twisty-turny story, with greedy monks and clever villagers, even if it had a rather convenient resolution. The plot moved along rather slowly and even displayed occasional bits of tedium, but not severe enough to send me skipping ahead. The title was very appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/05/2012


 
Author: Cook, Sharon Love
Title: A Nose for Hanky Panky
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Small-town reporter Rose decides to investigate when a glamorous psychologist is murdered.

I never got into this book. Narrator Rose starts with a long-drawn-out, uninteresting treatise on her life and work. When she finally gets into the story, Cook slams the reader with a boatload of characters that I never got figured out and endless dancing around the town showing how Rose knew everyone. When I got halfway through and still hadn't had anything interesting happen and didn't care what was going to happen next, I quit. Formatting is adequate, and while there are a lot of minor spelling and punctuation errors, they don't distract much from the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/29/2012


 
Author: O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne
Title: A Novena for MurderSister Mary Helen # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Forcibly retured from teaching eighth grade, Sister Mary Helen finds herself banished to a Catholic college in San Francisco just before the chairman of the History Department is murdered. While devout Sister Therese relies on a novena to bring the killer to justice, Sister Mary Helen and her friend Sister Eileen try to unveil the secrets surrounding the professor's activities.

There was a lot to like about this book. The nuns are real people, not idealized stick figures, although I wondered how Sister Mary Helen got the money to indulge her love of mysteries. They had the sense to not tackle dangerous situations themselves but to turn the information over to the police, and the police in turn had the sense to listen to the nuns instead of just writing them off as nosy old ladies with overactive imaginations. The side romance of the policewoman living with her boyfriend wasn't necessary but it wasn't much of a drawback, it appeared more to be an excuse to work in some mild but irrelevant sex scenes. The nuns don't display the constant awareness of serving God that I enjoy so much in the Dame Frevisse books, but they are part of a teaching order, not a worship order. My main objection was the reliance on instinct rather than objective findings, and given the many enjoyable features, it's an objection I can live with.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/18/2012


 
Author: Robards, Sharon
Title: Australian Flavour - Traditional Australian Cuisin
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/13/2012


 
Author: Bowen, Rhys
Title: A Royal PainRoyal Spyness # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Georgie is charged with hosting a visiting Bavarian princess whom the Queen hopes will lure the Prince of Wales away from Wallis Simpson. But a couple of deaths later, Princess Honi is the prime suspect in the murder of a public-school-educated Communist.

Although I enjoyed the beginning, it really can't be classified as a mystery as the crime doesn't occur until halfway through the book. The large pre-murder section contains involving storylines a la Upstairs, Downstairs, but it is far more than needed to build up to the murder. And the storyline following the murder lost my interest completely, as Bowen seems more interested in sniping at Wallis Simpson (probably a deserving target but long-dead) than moving the plot along. I was disappointed because I had enjoyed the first book in the series, but I finallly gave up because I just had no interest in continuing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/08/2012


 
Author: Black, Irene
Title: A Brief History of the Haggis
Genre: Short Story
Rating: 4
I picked up this story free during an Amazon giveaway. Very short story attributing the development of the haggis to ancient Rome.

Cute, and definitely an original premise. But don't settle down for a long read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/24/2012


 
Author: Wingate, Lisa
Title: A Month of SummerBlue Sky Hills # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 1
A woman has to arrange care for her father, his wife, and her mentally handicapped son.

Totally unsympathetic and unbelievable characters. Rebecca flies across the country to come to the aid of the father who abandoned her, and the woman he abandoned her for? Instead of letting the local social services worry about it? And the woman who broke up his marriage is still trying to justify herself? Hey, folks, if you go catting around and dump your legitimate family, there will be consequences. I got about 60 pages read, to see if anything interesting was going to happen, and it didn't so I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/13/2012


 
Author: Bonham, Jim
Title: Art of Saving Heirloom Seeds
Genre: Gardening
Rating: 4
Supposedly, basic instruction on growing plants to seed and saving your own.

Clearly amateur - Bonham's cover is pretty but appears sideways, the formatting is erratic, there is no active table of contents, and he starts with a rant on the evil seed-selling industry. Spelling and grammar are much better than most self-pubs with a few glaring exceptions; I never did figure out what a "heedful of recipes" was supposed to be. But he gives a pretty good presentation of what seeds are, the different cycles of plants, and the mechanics of seed-saving.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/30/2012


 
Author: Harrison, Cora
Title: A Secret and Unlawful Killing aka Michaelmas TribuBurren Mysteries # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - Eire
Rating: 3
Brehon Mara investigates the deaths of two MacNamaras within a day of each other. Could it be the open enemy? The greedy clan leader? The overworked daughter or her lover? The cheating linen merchant? Mara tracks down a killer with the help of her young students.

Well-enough written, and the clues were all there, but I found the resolution unsatisfying. Since I wasn't thrilled with either of the first two books, I'm giving up on the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/22/2011


 
Author: Henry, Robert
Title: A Married Man's Guide To Christmas
Genre: Humor
Rating: 5
Amusing look at the pitfalls of getting ready for Christmas.

Great early Christmas gift for stressed-out friends. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/a-married-mans-guide-to-christmas-by-robert-henry/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/19/2011


 
Author: Clipston, Amy
Title: A Plain and Simple Christmas
Genre: Amish fiction
Rating: 5
Shunned when she left Bird-in-Hand to marry an Englisher, now pregnant Anna Mae desperately wants to reunite with her birth family. She enlists her sister-in-law to arrange a surprise Christmas visit, hoping to win her father's forgiveness.

Wonderful if predictable story. For more detail, see my review at http://redadeptreviews.com/a-plain-and-simple-christmas-by-amy-clipston/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/17/2011


 
Author: McDuffie, Susan
Title: A Mass For the DeadMuirteach MacPhee # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - Scotland
Rating: 2
Muirteach's prior father is found murdered, and the Lord of the Isles assigns the young man to find the killer or a convenient scapegoat before the King becomes impatient.

This is a great example of a 21st century character plopped into a 14th century tale. Muiteach not only doesn't feel old-Scottish, he doesn't act it; he complains about not being able to sleep in and worries about a missing piece in the information he is gathering on his father's murder. The story itself wasn't too bad but the dissonance between character and setting was so jarring I didn't quite make it halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/04/2011


 
Author: Sember, Brette
Title: A Parchment Paper Thanksgiving
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 3
Very short cookbook (7 recipes) supposedly comprising a complete Thanksgiving dinner baked using parchment paper.

Too short to qualify as a real cookbook and not what I'd consider an acceptable holiday meal, although some of the recipes sounded worth trying. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/a-parchment-paper-thanksgiving-by-brette-sember/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2011


 
Author: Mondello, Lisa
Title: All I Want For Christmas Is You
Genre: Romance
Rating: NR
Wounded by her parents' rejection when she decided to keep her illegitimate child, young mother Lauren doesn't even consider romance until mall owner Kyle becomes entranced by her and sets out to get through her barriers.

Typical romance. I got about a third of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/19/2011


 
Author: Marsh, Ngaio
Title: A Man Lay DeadInspector Alleyn # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
When a house party is interrupted by a murder, Alleyn must wade through a revolutionary plot as well as a web of secrets to find the killer.

Good enough police procedural, although Alleyn is not your typical by-the-book policeman. Not exceptionally involving but it kept me reading. Alleyn irritated me with the hiding-his-findings routine, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/12/2011


 
Author: James, Dorothy
Title: A Place To Die
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
New Yorkers Eleanor and Franz are visiting his mother at her senior residence outside Vienna when another resident is killed. More deaths follow as Eleanor tries to sniff out the killer.

See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/a-place-to-die-by-dorothy-james/#more-6811
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/21/2011


 
Author: Jenkins, William F. as Leinster, Murray
Title: A Logic Named Joe
Genre: SF - short stories
Rating: 2
Collection of short fiction. Includes the title story, Dear Charles, Gateway to Elsewhere, The Duplicators, The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator, and The Pirates of Zan.

The best SF takes common beliefs and turns them sideways, and two of the stories in this book fit that description. The title story combines television, the Internet, voice commands, and artificial sentience in quite a different way from current fantasies. In Gateway to Elsewhere, Leinster takes aim at the human dream of commanding a djinn. Unfortunately, the rest of the book was not compelling at all. I only got about halfway through The Duplicators before giving up, and I couldn't get into The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator at all. The Pirates of Zan was cynical but readable. Baen Books' Kindle version had a very nice active Table of Contents, although spelling and punctuation were erratic.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/01/2011


 
Author: Bowne, Patricia S.
Title: Advice From Pigeons
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
The newest member of the magic faculty at Osyth is seduced by a demon as the two most senior members lose their souls.

Dark story full of unlikable characters. See my review at http://redadeptreviews.com/advice-from-pigeons-by-patricia-s-bowne/#more-6608 for more details.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/30/2011


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: A Long ShadowInspector Rutledge # 8
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Rutledge interrupts his hunt for the person who shot at him to investigate the attempted murder of a country constable who used to be Bowles' pet detective. But Rutledge thinks the fate of a missing girl may hold the key to several mysteries, and the friendly help of a London widow makes up for the hostility of the townspeople.

For more of my review, see http://redadeptreviews.com/a-long-shadow-by-charles-todd/#more-6542
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/23/2011


 
Author: Wilson, Janice Meredith as Karon, Jan
Title: A Light In the WindowMitford # 2
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4
Besides his growing feelings for Cynthia, Father Tim's life is complicated by a lustful widow, his young ward Dooley, a killer blizzard, and various town problems.

As in the first book, there is no real plot, more a series of short stories. But it's still enjoyable and held my attention all the way through. I particularly liked that both Cynthia and Father Tim openly sought the Lord's will for their relationship.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/09/2011


 
Author: Dalglish, David
Title: A Land of Ash
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: NR
Collection of short stories of people facing the consequences of a tremendous volcanic eruption in Yellowstone.

Arguably the most depressing, gloomiest book I have ever tried to read. If you like stories of people facing their inevitable ends, you'll love this. I quit after the first two stories and wondered why on earth I got this book, even free. Someone did use a spell checker, so the occasional error seemed to be mostly homonyms, such as "teaming" rather than "teeming."
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/01/2011


 
Author: Adams, Ellery
Title: A Killer PlotBooks by the Bay # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Budding author Olivia Limoges is rich and determinedly single. But tentatively participating in a local writers' group turns into a high-priority hunt when one of the members is killed.

Adams avoided the first-book trap of drowning the reader in backstory, cleverly doling it out here and there after involving the reader in Olivia's life. Her poodle Haviland is a real drawback to the story, just too too precious and all-knowing. The title was appropriate if generic. But the bottom line is that the story never really caught my interest. I got halfway through and realized I didn't care what happened next, so I quit - I didn't even care enough to skip to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/24/2011


 
Author: Kasberger, Andre
Title: All Things Austria
Genre: Travel
Rating: 4
Very short book (took me less than a half-hour to read; if published, it would have been a booklet) on Austria's history and culture, including the Alps and music festivals of course, but also praising Austria's wines and development of green energy. Included are the author's "Seven Reasons To Visit Austria."

Kasberger is not a professional writer, and it shows in the lack of editing. Spelling and grammar are far superior to the typical unedited indie, and the text is even reasonably organized by topic, but the prose is amateurish and sometimes repetitive. With a highly photogenic subject such as this, one would expect a large number of high quality color photos. Instead, there are relatively few, and they were quite small using K4PC, losing most of the detail in the subject. A photo titled "Look at those shoes" had been cropped so no shoes were visible. And one of the photo spots was wasted on a Starbuck's in Vienna! The Reasons to Visit section was informative and slightly more generous with photos. I can't keep myself from grabbing free travel books, and even though this was written as self-indulgence on the author's part, it does contain enough useful information that I'm giving it 4 stars in spite of the weaknesses.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/22/2011


 
Author: Todd, Charles
Title: An Impartial WitnessBess Crawford # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
After dropping off her patients at an English hospital, Bess is surprised to see the wife of one patient bidding goodbye to another officer at the train station. But she is astonished to see the woman reported as a murder victim after she is back in France, and takes a proffered invitation as opportunity to see her patient's family. Naturally, she is drawn into investigating in spite of familial disapproval, especially when a Scotland Yard inspector keeps asking her questions about the sighting, and she befriends another injured officer who was in love with the victim.

More coincidence than I like to see in a story, starting with Bess seeing the woman in a busy train station and then, while nursing near the front lines in France, "happening" to see an English paper reporting her murder. I kept reading, but when the story was dragging about 2/3 of the way through, I skipped to the end. The unsatisfying resolution didn't resolve anything, and the title was only marginally related to the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/05/2011


 
Author: Ringo, John
Title: A Hymn Before BattlePosleen War # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3
Every soldier everywhere on Earth is mobilized to fight off an alien invasion.

Nothing drastically wrong, but it didn't catch my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/29/2011


 
Author: Lawrenson, Brian
Title: Australia's Red Centre
Genre: Travel
Rating: 1
Narration of a trip through the dry "Red Center" of Australia.

I keep getting suckered in by self-published, unedited travelogues that promise pictures but turn out to be disjointed, full of grammatical errors, and not even interesting. Lawrenson takes this problem to new depths, raving about the gorgeous sunsets and sunrises at Uluru, teasing the reader with a caption "Sunset Uluru," and then the actual photograph is just a couple (presumably Lawrenson and his wife) against a red hill and blue sky with no sunset in sight, much less a spectacular one. This is another book that I would have been very aggravated if I had paid for. The only positive comment I can offer is that the photos showed very well on my Kindle for Android.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/14/2011


 
Author: Stabenow, Dana
Title: A Handful of StarsStar Svendsdotter # 2
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3
Star leads a crew to harvest needed minerals from the Asteroids. They set up their two ships to form a station, negotiate with miners, and find a number of ways to make money.

Not really a novel, more a collection of sequential stories set in the same milieu. But Stabenow was able to hold my interest up to the limp ending, even though the mother was REALLY annoying and many computer elements of this SF story published in the 1990's are now seriously dated.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/30/2011


 
Author: Crow, Donna Fletcher
Title: A Gentle CallingCambridge Chronicles # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 3
Follows a family of preachers and hymn-writers in the time of John and Charles Wesley.

Sounds like it could be a true story, and I generally dislike fictionalized biographies. In this case, I read half of it before giving up, mostly because while everyone was likable and seemed to genuinely pursue God's will for their lives, it wasn't an interesting story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/29/2011


 
Author: Belfer, Lauren
Title: A Fierce Radiance
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
Claire Shipley reminisces about the death from infection of her young daughter and reads war news with her young son in between photographing the trial of penicillin on a rich New Yorker suffering from septicemia.

Never grabbed my attention for two reasons. First, Claire is so pain-filled it's embarrassing to watch her. There are ways to involve a main character that don't turn her into a loss-obsessed Hamlet. Second, Belfer gets so involved in teaching she forgets about the need for a storyline. Saying that parents identified the seasons by the diseases that threatened their children doesn't make it more story or less teaching. There is no question that penicillin was one of the critical developments of the 20th century and even the second milennium, but "important" does not equal "interesting" or no one would need school. Belfer's book (can't really call it a story) failed on both counts and I gave up pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/25/2011


 
Author: Franklin, Ariana
Title: A Murderous Procession aka The Assassin’s PrayerDoctor Adelia # 4
Genre: Historical Thriller
Rating: NR
Henry II sends Adelia to accompany his daughter Joanna to Sicily - but keeps her daughter as hostage for her return. And Adelia's old enemy Scarry is determined to exact revenge for her killing his lover.

I barely got into this before realizing it was thriller rather than murder mystery, and too scary for me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/21/2011


 
Author: Clipston, Amy
Title: A Gift of GraceKauffman Amish Bakery # 1
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5
When their parents are killed in an automobile wreck, Amish Rebecca brings her "English" nieces to her home to live. But while Lindsay learns to love the Plain ways, Jessica makes mistakes and wants nothing more than to go back to her old life.

Gripping story with believable people and an affectionate portrayal of Christians living different lives. Everyone wants what is best for the girls, they just differ on what "best" is. I read the over 200 pages in less than a day because I just couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read the rest of the books in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/19/2011


 
Author: Doherty, Paul
Title: An Evil Spirit Out of the WestEgyptian Mysteries # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
"Confession" of an ancient Egyptian official.

This book started with two strikes: Doherty started by "explaining" how this "confession" came into his hands, and it is another of his "I was born" non-stories. It baffles me that Doherty, who wrote some great historical mysteries, also produced these boring turds. I tried skipping ahead but never got to a story, so I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/18/2011


 
Author: Thompson, Rachel
Title: A Walk In the Snark
Genre: Memoir/Humor
Rating: 4
Collection of blog entries by "Rachel in the OC," a self-described "redhead in a sea of blondes." The entries alternate between traditional men vs. women humor and reflections on an abusive former boyfriend who committed suicide.

Although I loved the title and some of her humorous entries had me laughing out loud (Q: How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper? A: We don't know. It has never happened.), the dichotamous serious/funny entries produce a disjointed feeling and make the reader feel bad for laughing. She does provide "poignancy alerts" and I finally learned to just skip the tragic sections and enjoy her snarky humor.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/03/2011


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: A Death In the Venetian QuarterFools’ Guild # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
As the Crusaders threaten Constantinople on the agitation of Venice, the Imperial Treasurer assigns Feste to investigate the death of his Venetian informer. But Feste and wife Aglaia will encounter conspiracy and treachery in unexpected places in order to keep the peace.

Kept me reading even though the story dragged just a hair in the middle. The complicated political setting, although absolutely authentic for the period, makes this the wrong book to pick up if you're in the mood for something light.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/29/2011


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