MamaSylvia's Reviews


Welcome, site visitor!

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!

Quick jump: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z All
Search for a specific...
Title: Author: Series:
Only show reviews written after: and before:
Change Sort Order...
Currently sorting on: Most Recently Added
No previous page
Show Reviews Per Page
 
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: Tan, Amy
Title: The Valley of Amazement
Genre: Fiction
Rating: NR
A young half-American girl is raised in a Chinese brothel, then kidnapped and placed in a brothel herself.

I quit before getting 10% into the book; I can't read about child abuse. Although the story didn't seem interesting anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/09/2015


 
Author: Sayers, Dorothy
Title: Unnatural Death aka The Dawson PedigreeLord Peter Wimsey # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Lord Peter charges off to investigate whether a doctor's story of a suspicious death was actually murder, and finds himself entangled in subsequent mysterious deaths.

Clever and thoroughly believable story with medical and legal elements. Sayers sets up the reader with her usual skill. The title is excellent.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/07/2015


 
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: Stout, Rex
Title: Under the Andes
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
A wealthy man chases his brother and a seductive dancer across North America, then joins them on their travels. But their adventure is cut short by a dangerous fall leading them to a warlike underground tribe.

The deceptively plebian beginning, while not terribly interesting, surprised me by suddenly turning into horror, which I strongly dislike and don't read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/05/2015


 
Author: Balzo, Sandra
Title: Uncommon GroundsMaggy Thorsen # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When one of the partners in a new coffee shop is murdered on opening day, Maggy offends the prickly sheriff by investigating, determined to not let her remaining partner be railroaded.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Involving story even though I'm not a coffee drinker, a surprise since my experience has been the cleverer the title, the lamer the story. I didn't find the relationship between Maggy and the sheriff believable, and the big revelation regarding political activity in their posh suburb was definitely too much, but I will forgive a lot for a story that keeps me reading as this one did. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was clever enough to make me expect a poor story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/04/2015


 
Author: Cleverly, Barbara
Title: Tug of WarJoe Sandilands # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Headed on vacation to the south of France with his sort-of-adopted-niece Dorcas, Joe is diverted to investigate an amnesiac and unresponsive former soldier, now in a psychiatric hospital. Four different families have laid claim to him, but he might be an Englishman.

Different from Cleverly's usual murder mystery but smart and intriguing. Dorcas is not a positive addition; someone must have convinced Cleverly she needed to include a smart-aleck streetwise kid. I found the kid just as annoying as I find badly-behaved children in real life. Spelling and grammar were acceptable. Kindle formatting was sloppy, with many paragraphs broken with a return and no indent on the next line. The title was quite relevant to the main storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/03/2015


 
Author: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne as Twain, Mark
Title: Tom Sawyer Abroad
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
Huck narrates as he, Tom, and Jim are kidnapped in a balloon and travel to the Sahara Desert.

Completely improbable, but no more improbable than the events in the first two Tom Sawyer books, so I'm not sure why this book is barely known. There were a few minor irritants, such as Tom's familiarity with lines of longitude and latitude and their effect on perceived time - the Tom Sawyer of the original Adventures was a fairly determined ignoramus. But this book still shows off Twain's wonderfully unique way of looking of commonplaces with humor and pathos. The proofreading was mediocre but the result is still readable. The title is quite weak, as the only place "abroad" the three boys go is the Sahara.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/02/2015


 
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: Ward, Phil
Title: Those Who DareRaiding Forces # 1
Genre: Military Fiction
Rating: 4
John Randal is an American serving in the British army prior to Pearl Harbor. Assigned a suicide mission to delay the Germans so as many Brits as possible could evacuate Dunkirk, he and his soldiers bought the escapees four precious days and then escaped themselves. Elements in the British war machine (especially the beautiful and brilliant Lady Jane Seaborn) recognized his ability and formed an elite fighting unit under him.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. As a story, this held my interest and kept me reading. The characters were likable and believable. There were some GREAT lines. But when an author includes so many elements that did happen in real life, or that may have happened, I look for some kind of commentary explaining what was real and what was actually done by someone else. Often, these are at the end of the book, so the reader can learn more or skip the details. Ward did not include any explanation, which is a serious weakness where real people and real historical events are woven through the story. Grammar, spelling, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. Amazingly, a diagram of a target was viewable and readable on my Kindle Keyboard; generally, if maps or photographs are included in a Kindle book, they are too small to see, spread themselves over more than one page, or depend on color contrast and consequently are essentially pointless when reading an e-ink reader. The title is part of a quote and I suppose as relevant as any other general war quote would be.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/29/2015


 
Author: Cook, Alan
Title: Thirteen DiamondsLillian Morgan # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Retired mathematics professor Lillian is suspicious when a wealthy fellow retiree dies from an allergic reaction to shellfish in a tuna casserole. But her determination to investigate damages her life and her relationship with her son.

Not awful, but not the best mystery I've ever read. It wasn't believable for Lillian to allow her home to be taken away. (Minor plot point, I'm not mentioning spoilers.) There were some interesting high-tech elements, but when I'd gotten about halfway through, I'd had enough and skipped to the end, which left some loose ends. Spelling and grammar were acceptable. The Kindle formatting had occasional problems with paragraphs being broken in the middle. The title was relevant to a portion of the storyline, and whether that turned out to be a red herring or a valuable clue you won't learn from me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/19/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: They Came to Baghdad
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
During the Cold War, impulsive young Londoner Victoria follows an interesting young man to Baghdad and winds up spying for the British government.

Okay story but not Christie's best. She relied heavily on coincidences, which I consider a weak point. The denouement surprised me but it probably shouldn't have. I couldn't like either of the main characters, Victoria is unattractively ditzy and both of her potential boyfriends were stiff-upper-lip stereotypes. However, I did finish the book, so it wasn't awful. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title is rather an over-generalization.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/09/2015


 
Author: Beaton, M. C.
Title: There Goes the BrideAgatha Raisin # 20
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
James' lovely young fiancee is shot on their wedding day, making James and Agatha the prime suspects. But as the body count rises, Charles and James become suspicious of Agatha's latest crush, a smooth Frenchman who just happens to be nearby at each murder.

Worthy entry in the series, although I wish Beaton would quit adding little irrelevant addenda to entice readers into the next book. Lots of lies and red herrings and people who weren't what they appeared to be. The title really wasn't relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/05/2015


 
Author: Schweizer, Mark
Title: The Tenor Wore TapshoesLiturgical Mystery # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Discovery of a long-dead but mysteriously preserved body sends Hayden rooting through local history, while a series of acts of vandalism culminate in murder as a new politician in town has targeted Hayden's church.

Hayden's awful hard-boiled efforts still don't add anything to the book, but the twists and turns as someone turns the townspeople against Hayden kept me reading. I also wish Schweizer would quit with the awful secondary characters. This one featured a waitress' son who considered himself a bounty hunter, trying to find a missing cinnamon bun that looked like the Virgin Mary. No, I'm not kidding; I wish I was. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/04/2015


 
Author: Wingate, Lisa
Title: Tending RosesTending Roses # 1
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
A young mother is torn between her former DINK lifestyle and wanting to be with her baby son, between her father's intention to stick Grandma in a nursing home and Grandma's deep roots in the family farm.

Slow pace and somewhat tedious start, but eventually caught me up in the story. Could be called wimpy Christian fiction, as everyone considers themselves Christian but God doesn't seem to be a major part of their lives. OK but didn't leave me with an interest in reading the rest of the series. The title reflected one part of the storyline but ignored others.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/03/2015


 
Author: Medieval Murderers
Title: The Tainted RelicMedieval Murderers # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Collection of short stories following the history of a religious relic cursed by its guardian before he was killed by Crusaders. Many of the stories feature characters from other historical mystery series.

First, there was a fatal flaw in the idea of a genuine relic being cursed or "tainted." The God-man who defeated Satan to be trumped by a very human temporary caretaker? Not possible. With that noted, I have to say the technique was interesting, and I enjoyed the stories featuring characters I recognized. The stories referring to series I was not familiar with, I probably missed numerous references and, more importantly, the characters felt less real as the authors did not bother to include much development.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2015


 
Author: Smith, Deborah
Title: Sweet Hush
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A woman who has fought to revive her family orchard takes on the President to protect her son.

Terribly disjointed story. Smith not only starts with her usual purposeless "introduction," she skips around in time during the book itself. The courtroom scene was not believable, and the book simply failed to catch my interest. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/01/2015


 
Author: O'Brian, Patrick
Title: The Surgeon's MateAubrey/Maturin # 7
Genre: Historical Naval Fiction
Rating: 4
Jack, Stephen, and Diana head home in a packet. Stephen is sent to convince a Catalan regiment in the Baltic that Napoleon has lied to them, and he arranges for Jack to captain the sloop taking him there. Then their trip to return the Catalanos home is interrupted by a chase after a French ship.

As usual, just a series of events, not truly a novel. Also as usual, O'Brian gets away with it because the characters make the stories so involving. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title has nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/09/2015


 
Author: Dox, Molly
Title: Sunbaked SnowbirdPoppy Pepper # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Poppy gave up her paramedic career to help her aging father run the family campground in Florida. But when one guest is found dead, she ropes a friendly sheriff's deputy into helping her investigate.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway. Short but full of surprises and duplicitous if somewhat stereotypical characters. Easy light read. Word use is occasionally sloppy, nothing a good editor or proofreader couldn't have fixed: sparking instead of sparkling, watch instead of wash. "It was old and run-down, but she ran smoothly." The town name of Palmetto Keys was mildly annoying to this native Floridian, because nothing within 20 minutes of the Disney area would be anywhere near a key (which is a small island off the coast). The title is nicely pithy, but the series name needs to be drastically shortened. Authors need to remember the rule that the potential reader should be able to read the title (or the series) out loud in ONE breath, without gasping at the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/04/2015


 
Author: Ellis, Peter Beresford as Tremayne, Peter
Title: Suffer Little ChildrenSister Fidelma # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Investigating a murder that could require her brother the king to pay a hefty honor-price, Fidelma stumbles over two massacres of children as well as a number of other events that may or may not be related. The story culminates in a long courtroom scene, closer to Perry Mason than Brother Cadfael.

I figured out part of the whodunit but got royally snagged by some red herrings. And I don't like children-in-danger stories, period. Fidelma missed an awful lot and made some very bad decisions, which made her less likable. But Tremayne's worst offense was a deus-ex-machina rescue that almost had me throwing the book across the room in disgust. I did finish it, The title was marginally related but a refernce to Herod would have been more clever and quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/03/2015


 
Author: Troike, Kim
Title: String The Cranberries
Genre: Romance
Rating: 1
Chicago man Brandon takes a job as a ranch hand in Wyoming and falls in love with local girl Leia.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway, and it was still overpriced. If you know someone who can't tell a story for beans, omits important details but includes lots of irrelevancies, and leaves you wondering what on earth was the point - you know exactly what to expect from this short. I could usually figure out what Troike meant, but it took work.. "His parents had met with tragedy by way of the highway." "She never wanted to be like her, her mother, who couldn't walk anymore." "Did she see him? Were their eyes looking at the same thing?" (If she was looking AT him, and he was looking AT her, how COULD their eyes be looking at the same thing?) "They all headed into town for lunch, the posse resembled a big family." "He filled her in about his family, or there lack of." Troike refers to a haircut as looking like "Julius Cesar." Surprisingly, there were not many misspellings. I live in Cheyenne, so I wanted to like this novella, but clearly Troike ignored the writer's rule to "write what you know" just as she ignored all the other rules of coherent writing. The worst offense is that there is no story. Troike meanders around, covering Brandon's parents' accident, his Army days, his sister's marriage and children, his uncle and aunt's marriage, his uncle's barbershop, and his sister's kids being bothered by their mother crying after saying goodbye to him at the train, for goodness' sake. And all this drivel hits the reader before Brandon even makes it to Wyoming, where the drivel continued but I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/02/2015


 
Author: Collins, Ace
Title: Stories Behind the Traditions and Songs of Easter
Genre: Trivia
Rating: 4
Short chapters on a variety of Easter hymns and traditions.

Interesting little tidbits, especially about the hymns. I particularly liked seeing the original and complete versions, rather than the generally shortened and altered versions in current hymnbooks. Definitely not worth the standard price; wait for a sale.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/01/2015


 
Author: Smith, Deborah
Title: The Stone Flower Garden
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A young girl being raised by her rich grandmother has to hide a terrible secret from her Prince Charming.

Smith seems to like staring books with "introductions" that make the rest of the book a mere flashback, which I consider annoying. In this case, the flashback wasn't even particularly interesting. I quit a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/31/2015


 
Author: McIntosh, Pat
Title: The Stolen VoiceGilbert Cunningham # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Gil investigates the disappearance of several church singers, culminating in the bishop's private secretary turning up missing. Alys spends time at a small farm where a son who disappeared 30 years earlier has reappeared, almost the same age.

Nice complicated plot with lots of red herrings. I didn't figure out whodunit but I rarely do in this series. The title was very relevant. I'm not writing a super-long review because anyone who has gotten this far in the series knows what to expect. Gil and Alys are married and happy, and Gil's employer is still sending him around to investigate problems. This series entry does not disappoint.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/30/2015


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith as Peters, Ellis
Title: St. Peter's FairBrother Cadfael # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
When a merchant is murdered at the monastery's annual fair, a nobleman and a townsman vie to pay attention to his lovely niece - but the townsman is suspected of the murder and desperate to prove his innocence.

Rereading these wonderful tales, I find I'm able to identify the killer (although I don't remember them) but the stories are still holding my attention. Pargeter has such a gift for story building and characterization, it baffles me that when I've tried her other books, I have been completely bored. The only two minor criticisms I can make about this book are that a person doesn't burn to death as quickly as the book would have it, and the title is uninspired although accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/29/2015


 
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: Farrar, Marissa
Title: The Sound of Crickets
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
A lonely stay-at-home mother wants to start a women's blog and finds three other women interested in participating. Through emails and blog posts, the reader follows their lives during a year of change.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Overly emotional but readable. Farrar does a nice job keeping the reader interested (because face it, most personal emails aren't very interesting except to the people involved). I don't think the blog comments added anything to the story - endless <hugs> and "We're here for you!" comments get old very fast. And, while I like a good tearjerker as much as anyone (don't even ask how many times I've seen "Beaches"), I found this book just a little too much. Nothing was individually unebelievable, but the aggregate felt over-the-top. By the time I got near the end, I was skipping one blogger's posts and all of the comments. However, if you're ever in the mood for a really-good-cry book, look no further. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was only marginally relevant but nicely poetic.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/27/2015


 
Author: Hart, Carolyn
Title: Something WickedDeath on Demand # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Annie and Max act in a problem-ridden production of Arsenic and Old Lace. But when an idiot prosecutor is determined to pin a murder on Max, Annie becomes desperate to find the real killer.

This is a perfectly acceptable entry in a perfectly acceptable series. But something about it just doesn't connect with me. Maybe it is that so many of the characters are despicable, but I don't even remember the heroine from one book to the next. I didn't even care enough to skip to the end to see whodunit. There are so many books that I really want to read that I just don't see wasting more time on a series that is merely okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/26/2015


 
Author: Doherty, Paul C.
Title: The Slayers of SethAmerotke # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Amerotke investigates the murder of a scribe that may be linked to the deaths of several members of an army regiment dedicated to the god Seth.

Convoluted and complicated but I figured out whodunit less than a quarter of the way through. The reason was not something the reader could figure out, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2015


 
Author: Dickens, Charles
Title: Sketches by Boz
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: NR
Collection of a LOT of Dickens' early work, mostly short pieces describing the people of London.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Individually, the pieces are somewhat interesting, and show Dickens' eye for the tragic as well as the ridiculous. But there are just so many of them, I gave up before I got 10% of the way through. I'm glad they were collected and published, Dickens scholars will be getting papers out of them for centuries. But for fun reading - no. Proofreading was okay but there are occasional errors.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/24/2015


 
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: Smith, Virginia
Title: Sincerely, MaylaJust As I Am # 2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
Laid off from her construction company job, Mayla visits her estranged grandmother in Florida, but two friends follow her, complete with their own problems.

Interesting characters barely rescue a terribly oversimplistic storyline. Mayla is not perfect, and her battles to follow Jesus against her own nature ring true. But all the changes in people necessary to reach a syrup-sweet ending - Hallmark couldn't have gotten away with them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/22/2015


 
Author: Tremayne, Peter
Title: Shroud for the ArchbishopSister Fidelma # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 3
While visiting Rome, Fidelma is recruited by the Bishop's secretary to rubber-stamp the apparent killer of a visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, but Fidelma's investigation turns up facts that don't add up.

Nice twisty-turny plot even though I guessed whodunit about halfway through. Lots of little jabs at the credulity of the Romans. More disturbing to me was Tremayne's apparently belief that the 5th century Christian religious indulged in casual sex. Fornication as well as adultery was considered sins as far back as Paul's day. There was debate about whether religious could marry, but no indication in church history that I'm aware of permitting extramarital sex. (Of course many religious committed that particular sin, but it had to be confessed and there could be serious consequences if they were caught.) His incorrect history there makes me wonder what other historical elements he played fast-and-loose with, and lowered my overall rating. The title had a nice ring but no real relevance to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2015


 
Author: Hibbert, Eleanor as Holt, Victoria
Title: The Shivering Sands
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4
A pianist's widow takes a position as music teacher in an old castle to investigate her sister's disappearance from a nearby archaeological dig. But not all the mysterious happenings are harmless.

Classic Victoria Holt, which made it obvious who the killer would turn out to be and obvious when the climax was approaching. But still quite enjoyable when you are in the mood. Decent but not perfect OCR, and the title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/20/2015


 
Author: Clark, Mindy Starns
Title: Shadows of Lancaster County
Genre: Thriller
Rating: NR
A woman fleeing an old crime searches for her missing brother and the family rubies someone is willing to kill to obtain.

Thrillers are too scary for me and I quit this one as soon as I realized what it was. As a rule, though, I also dislike alternating-narrator tales, as they are too confusing. I also dislike trying to excuse crimes by young people as stupid; they are still crimes.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/19/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Seven Dials MysteryInspector Battle # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Bundle thinks she has killed an acquaintance by running over him, but when she learns he was shot, she is determined to find the killer, which she thinks has to do with the mysterious "Seven Dials" secret society.

Supposedly this is Christie's spoof of secret-society thrillers, and the well-set-up ending certainly surprised me. Proofing was mostly okay, with a few careless exceptions. The title was appropriate if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/18/2015


 
Author: Henry, Sue
Title: The Serpent's TrailMaxie and Stretch # 1
Genre: Thriller
Rating: NR
Too late to say goodbye to a dying friend, Maxie determines to discover what problem was bothering her, with the help of a former crush.

Thriller rather than whodunit. I didn't get a quarter of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/17/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Secret of ChimneysInspector Battle # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
An adventurer undertakes to deliver a politically-charged manuscript from Africa to London, but encounters a beautiful woman and a dead body.

Clever and interesting, although Battle takes inscrutability to new heights. This is another series where the continuing character is not the narrator or even the major character. I partially identified the who-wasn't-who-he/she-said-they-were but missed a couple major points. The proofing of the Kindle version was good but not flawless. The title is quite precise although not very intriguing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/16/2015


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Sanditon
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
A young woman of good family visits family friends at a small beach resort.

This is not only unfinished, it was barely started. Only interesting to Austen fans who want to be able to say they have read all of her published work.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/15/2015


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: The Rubber Band aka To Kill AgainNero Wolfe # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
Wolfe accepts a lovely young woman as a client, who is both suspected of theft and desirous of pursuing her father's claim against an English nobleman.

As usual, kept me reading. Among the several intertwining storylines, the police don't show up very well. This is common among mystery writers, but I prefer stories with competent policemen who simply lack the specialized knowledge or connections the amateur sleuth has. I guessed what the explanation would be but not the right person. The title directly relates to a story element which is itself quite clever. (The alternate title of To Kill Again is one of those could-apply-to-any-mystery titles that I despise.)
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/14/2015


 
Author: Bowen, Rhys
Title: Royal BloodRoyal Spyness # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Lady Georgiana is sent to Bulgaria to participate in the bridal party at a royal wedding, which may be interrupted by the murder of a boorish royal advisor at the snowed-in castle.

This has been quite an erratic series, with some books I couldn't put down and some I couldn't slog through. This was one of the good ones. Bowen does a wonderful job exposing the rules and quirks of the upper classes without slowing down the story. I'm not sure the ending was completely believable, but it wasn't obviously unbelievable either. One big minus was Georgie's new lady's maid, Queenie. She is a walking catastrophe and not someone I enjoy reading about. It also wasn't believable for her to fall apart when she sees a man in her room but remain calm in a much more dangerous situation. I sure hope she doesn't last long. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/13/2015


 
Author: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne as Twain, Mark
Title: Roughing It
Genre: Travel/Memoir
Rating: 4
Twain narrates his travels and adventures as a young man: from the Mississippi to Nevada on a stage, in a silver-crazy town, as a newspaper writer and editor, and finally a trip to Hawaii.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Although lacking any kind of thematic organization, Twain's gift for narration is given full play and still (mostly) held this reader entranced. I downloaded the Kindle version with pictures, which were a bit difficult to see in detail on my Kindle Keyboard. The Gutenberg version is in 7 sections, and the same material (pictures and an introduction) are repeated at the beginning of every single section. Proofing was inadequate. The title is perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/12/2015


 
Author: McIntosh, Pat
Title: The Rough CollierGilbert Cunningham # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
On Gil and Alys' wedding trip to see Gil's mother, his help is demanded when peat diggers find a body in a bog, and the local priest is sure it is a missing local man and that a local healer killed him with witchcraft.

Nice complicated storyline, as Gil tries to find the missing man to convince the priest he didn't die by witchcraft and Alys pursues collateral inquiries among the local women. Whodunit was pretty obvious, and how, but not why. The title is rather weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/11/2015


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Rose in BloomEight Cousins # 2
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
Rose and most of the boys have grown up. Charlie is a spoiled alcoholic but plans to marry heiress Rose, who can't admire or respect him and has her own plans to use her fortune to help the poor. Phebe heads for the big city to earn respect with her beautiful voice.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Pleasant and not-always-predictable stories following the scrapes and adventures of the cousins as they face adulthood, with a clever title. Pretty decent proofing, as well.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/10/2015


 
Author: Samson, Lisa
Title: Romancing Hollywood NobodyHollywood Nobody # 3
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
Scotty and her grandmother both meet interesting men while she works on a non-Jeremy shoot, and Scotty's dad takes a job in a Mafiosi-popular restaurant to try to track down his long-lost wife.

Fast read and not a stand-alone, but kept me interested although a lot of the elements could only be called cheesy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/09/2015


 
Author: Clipston, Amy
Title: Roadside Assistance
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
Rating: 4
Car-obsessed Emily and her financially strapped father move in with his well-off sister, her banker husband and their beautiful and brilliant daughter.

Quite a change of pace for Clipston but an interesting story in its own right, as Emily grieves her mother's death and tries to adjust to her new situation. This is the best kind of YA story; the main character is a teen, but Clipston does not talk down to the reader of any age. The characters are not perfect Christians by any means but they have different strengths and weaknesses, just like real people. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were okay except for odd placement of a large initial letter at the beginning of each chapter. The title had practically nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/08/2015


 
Author: Walsh, Dan
Title: The Reunion
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 5
Three former Marine buddies hire reporter Dave to find Aaron Miller, the fellow soldier who saved all their lives, so they can have a reunion and thank him properly. But the Medal of Honor winner doesn't think he did anything special and doesn't want to be found or honored.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Unlike most reviewers, I don't award 1s or 5s lightly. A 1 not only doesn't meet my standards for a good story, it also lacks enough coherence to be intelligible. A 5 has to be not only technically well-written and keep me reading, but it has to haunt me after I've put it down. (If I had trouble closing the book for ordinary real-life obligations, that doesn't hurt but it isn't required.) With that explanation, there is no way I could rate this book less than a 5. Walsh gets into so many heads and lives: three soldiers who knew they weren't going to survive but miraculously did, a humble man who just saw what needed to be done and did it, his children who suffered from his post-Viet Nam stress reactions, even the journalist who is torn between a story and a possible love. All of them jumped off the page and into my heart. Yet Walsh never loses sight of the plot, and moves it forward steadily. There are minor weaknesses: the coincidence that leads the journalist to the hero, the lack of a scene in which his unknown soldier grandson, serving in Afghanistan, learns his grandfather is a Medal of Honor winner, occasionally too much parking in people's heads. But the sheer power of the story triumphs. I graduated high school during the Viet Nam conflict, so I remember the dread the boys had for the lottery results, and I had friends who suffered from memories when they returned. But I don't think the particular war Walsh chose matters as much as the look at a hero through the vision and memories of the people in his life. The Christian aspects of the story are almost irrelevant, and that is good; their beliefs are the framework on which their lives are based, but the lives themselves are full of emotion and mistakes. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine with the exception of odd placement of the large initial first letter of each chapter, which was moved low enough on the page to make it slightly difficult to read. The title was simple but at least Walsh avoided the way-too-long-title-trying-to-get-everything-in problem. Oh, and keep kleenexes handy. You'll need them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/07/2015


 
Author: Whalen, Thom
Title: Requiem for a Small Town Dance Band
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
When gorgeous, sexy Honey B moves back to her 1950s hometown after a Hollywood divorce, the men start drooling and the women determine to run her out of town. But what catches the police chief's attention are the murder and disappearance that follow her arrival.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Involving story, nice characterization. Whalen includes some of the political controversy of the time but doesn't let it take over the story. I didn't figure out whodunit, and I'm not sure the author provided the clues to identify the killer. Spelling and grammar were mostly fine, although Whalen misused "breech" when he meant "breach." Kindle formatting was fine. The title was interesting and somewhat relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2015


 
Author: Seiden, Othniel J.
Title: The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in WWII

An elderly Holocaust survivor relates the adventures and suffering of himself and his friends under Nazi occupation during WWII.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. After a tedious "introduction" in which the author explains that he needs to write these stories so people won't forget that many Jews did fight back, the stories themselves kept me enthralled in spite of the clearly amateur writing. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book and discovered it was just a work of fiction, although supposedly "based" on real stories and people. I'm not a fan of introductions anyway; the book should speak for itself. But to set out to deceive the reader is simply inexcusable. Why not tell the real stories instead of a convenient mishmash? And the writing was so substandard I couldn't believe this was a previously-published author. Spelling and grammar were erratic, and the Kindle formatting lost accented characters such as the "i" in "naive." The title was too long as well as misleading. Since I picked up the book 3 years ago, it has gotten even longer, with "Jewish History Novel Series Book 3" added. Less misleading but still WAY too long.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/05/2015


 
Author: Collier, Iris
Title: Reluctant SpyNicholas Peverell # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Lord Nicholas is sent to investigate the murder of a trader and encounters betrayal at every turn.

Not awful, but lost my interest because Collier just kept heaping one insoluble problem after another on poor Lord Nicholas. I got halfway through and skipped to the end. I never figured out who the "reluctant spy" was supposed to be, Lord Nicholas or the murder victim.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2015


 
Author: Hawke, Simon
Title: The Reluctant SorcererReluctant Sorcerer # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
A genius inventor tries to travel backward in time, but winds up in an alternate universe where magic works and the sorcerer's guild controls it.

There are so many unpleasant elements in this book, I'm not sure where to start. None of the storylines are resolved by the end of the book, this is apparently just a teaser to get you to buy more in the series. (Which I certainly will NOT.) I don't mind series, but each individual book should have a beginning, middle, and end, and a pause before the next part of the story starts. Hawke doesn't end with a cliffhanger, he just ... stops. The characters are all stereotypes, starting with the mad inventor himself. The author frequently violates whatever the book equivalent of the "fourth wall" is, talking directly to the reader. I suppose that wouldn't be terrible by itself, but he indulges in numerous information dumps (which ARE terrible in and of themselves, utterly boring and distracting the reader from the story) and then he compounds the problem by having characters overhear him and talk back! The title is only minimally related to the plot. The only reason this escaped a 1 star rating is that I reserve 1 for books that lack even coherent sentences.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/03/2015


 
Author: Gentry, Lynne
Title: Reinventing Leona
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4
Shattered by her pastor husband's unexpected death, Leona has to deal with her abusive mother, estranged children, and an elders board that is entirely too eager to move a new pastor into the parsonage.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Gentry kept me reading as Leona suffered one blow after another and found support in unexpected places. The ending was too pat to be believable, but the journey was strong enough that I didn't throw the book across the room in disgust at the weak ending.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/02/2015


 
Author: Bell, Kathy
Title: RegressionInfinion # 1
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: NR
Odd story of people sent back in time to try to prevent an earth-shattering catastrophe which they cannot remember.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Definitely different but never caught my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/01/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Regatta Mystery and Other Short Stories
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Rating: 3
Includes Regatta Mystery, Mystery of the Baghdad Chest, How Does Your Garden Grow?, Problem at Pollensa Bay, Yellow Iris, Miss Marple Tells a Story, Dream, In a Glass Darkly, Problem At Sea

Uneven collection of stories, many from her various series (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence) and a few stand-alones. At least one solution depended on outside information that the reader had no way of knowing, a copout IMNSHO. But most of the stories were at least acceptable. The title is accurate if unimaginative, but the lack of a theme bracketing the various stories would make a better title quite difficult.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2015


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Refugees
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
Adventures of a Hugenot family under Louis XIV.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Didn't hold my interest and I have no idea where the title came from. Maybe they escape France later, but 1/3 of the way into the book, they were still having court-related adventures.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/27/2015


 
Author: Beaton, M.C.
Title: Refining FelicitySchool for Manners # 1
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: NR
Hoydenish Lady Felicity would rather ride to hounds with the neighborhood gentlemen than flirt daintily with them. Her desperate mother hires two impoverished gentlewomen to prepare her for the Season, but it is her own realization that her buddies treat her as one of the boys that piques her desire to ensnare the nobleman-next-door.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Typical Regency romp, fine if you like that kind of thing. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine except for occasional capitalization errors.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/26/2015


 
Author: Charles River Editors
Title: Red Baron: The Life and Legacy of Manfred von Rich
Genre: Biography
Rating: 3
Red Baron: The Life and Legacy of Manfred von Richthofen

Short account of von Richthofen's life, focusing mostly on his days in the German air force.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Superficial but interesting enough for history buffs. Much telling, little showing. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were unexceptionable. The title was almost longer than the booklet, one of my pet peeves.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/25/2015


 
Author: Hilton, James
Title: Random Harvest
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
A wealthy businessman struggles to recover his lost memories.

Not as involving as I had hoped after enjoying the movie immensely (although even in the movie, it didn't make sense that she had managed to marry him). I finished it, and it wasn't awful, just okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/24/2015


 
Author: Christie, Judy
Title: Rally Round GreenGreen # 4
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
The latest threat to Lois' and Chris' happy life in Green comes as the state legislature plans to close the Green schools, on the recommendation of two out-of-state education "experts."

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Okay storyline, although once again they seem to miss obvious actions like contacting their state representatives. The ending was happy but didn't seem realistic. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/23/2015


 
Author: Benn, James R
Title: Rag and BoneBilly Boyle # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Billy is sent to London to investigate the murder of a Soviet officer - and his friend Kaz's Poles are the prime suspects. As usual, he and Big Mike find enough loose threads to make a big rat's nest.

Another solid, gripping story. I figured out part of it pretty easily but not all of it. Warning: this series is not recommended for those who want to believe that right will always win. There is too much fact (and real people) for Benn to avoid the political necessities of WWII. But he does a good job portraying men fighting for their countries against an overwhelming danger and having to accommodate (temporarily) lesser dangers just to survive. The title was appropriate but "Rag and Bone Shop" would have been better.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/22/2015


 
Author: Goss, James
Title: The Race Of ScorpionsLady Serpent # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Professional assassin Lady Serpent is surprised when someone kills her client at his birthday party. but she must find the murderer to clear her own name.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway. Short but intriguing, with lively characters, a twist at the end, and a good understanding of ancient Egyptian culture. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was perfect. I hope to see more in this series!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/21/2015


 
Author: Daley, Kathi
Title: Pumpkins in ParadiseTj Jensen # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Tj is coping with her new status as guardian of her young half-sisters and teacher/coach at the highschool when the death of a longtime friend saddens her. Especially because she doesn't accept the popular verdict of suicide.

I read this book free through the Prime Lending Library. To start with, this isn't an awful book. The people are somewhat interesting, it is fairly well proofed, and it doesn't have the sun going in the wrong direction. (Don't laugh, I've seen that in self-pubs.) The main problem is that Daley simply tries to pack too many storylines into the book and consequently can't give any of them enough attention to catch the reader's interest. A second problem, probably related to the first, is that there are too many characters to keep straight. When Tj runs into someone, I can't remember whether this is a hotel guest or a fellow teacher or the handsome new deputy. Finally, although I am from the South and have known dozens of people who went by their initials, I've never met ANYONE who didn't capitalize both (or all) of them. "Tj" just looks silly and was a minor but continual irritation. I got halfway through and realized I didn't care what would happen next, not even enough to skip to the end. There might be a good story buried here, if a tough editor would make Daley get rid of half the side storylines and 3/4 of the characters, and then let the remainder tell the story. As is, not recommended. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were mostly acceptable. The first 3 words of the WAY too long title were moderately appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/20/2015


 
Author: Norton, Andre
Title: The Prince Commands
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 4
A young man brought up in America discovers he is the heir to a small European country with serious political problems. But his first challenge is to stay alive, and his second to figure out who are his friends and who cannot be trusted!

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Quick, mostly enjoyable read, as long as you don't expect anything believable. The good characters are sterling upright and honest and the bad characters are suitably nasty. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting are acceptable with a couple of exceptions: "rein" instead of "reign" and "council" instead of "counsel." The title is one of the worst ever, Michael Karl does everything *except* command!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/19/2015


 
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: Lawrence, Caroline
Title: The Pirates of PompeiiRoman Mysteries # 3
Genre: Children's Mysteries
Rating: NR
Flavia and her friends decide to track down the pirates that are stealing children from the refugee camp.

I'm kind of surprised I got as far as I did in this series, since children in danger are a red flag to me - too scary for me to enjoy reading about. But this one had them in too much danger before I was a quarter of the way through it, and I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/16/2015


 
Author: Caldwell, Joseph
Title: The Pig Did ItPig Trilogy # 1
Genre: Humor
Rating: 2
A self-centered, obnoxious American visits his equally self-centered Irish aunt, and a pig follows him home and finds a body buried in his aunt's garden. The aunt declines to call the police, states a young neighbor woman killed the man and she will take care of her.

What awful characters! I got a quarter of the way through and nothing interesting had happened and there was no one to root for, so I gave up. I can't believe I paid money for this. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. I'm not sure what "it" the pig is supposed to have done, but it probably did.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/15/2015


 
Author: Challinor, C.S.
Title: Phi Beta MurderRex Graves # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
On a visit to his son Campbell in Florida, Rex is asked by the grieving parents of a dead student to find out why their son committed suicide. But what Rex and Campbell discover raises suspicions that his death may not have been suicide. Meanwhile, Moira reappears and pursues Rex even across the Atlantic, convinced they will get back together.

Nice solid story with some unexpected twists and turns. I certainly didn't identify the killer. One rather glaring problem is the fraternity she uses. Phi Beta Kappa is not a typical fraternity, it's a well-known and respected honor society for college students, and was not believable that the members would be scrounging for money to buy a keg. Challinor keeps adding to the books' interest by using settings with good memories for me. Jacksonville, the setting for this one, is my hometown.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/14/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Peril at End HouseHercule Poirot # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Vacationing Poirot and Hastings trip over attempted murder when a scatterbrained young woman drops her hat - and Poirot finds a bullet hole in it. Will he be able to protect her long enough to identify her would-be assassin?

I don't like it when the sleuth identifies something that isn't shared with the reader, which is a major weakness of this series. Poirot hardly ever shares any discovery with narrator Hastings, just his continual boasting. The mysteries are clever enough that I put up with the flaws, but they are real. This one cleverly intertwined three separate mysteries and the climax hit me with one surprise after another. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/13/2015


 
Author: Evans, Frank Howell
Title: PerilJules Poiret # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Famous retired police detective Jules Poiret is ill in the hospital, but his female employees and nurses keep changing his room radio to news reports on the trial of a young man for murder.

I borrowed this book from another Kindle owner through the Lendle.me website. In this novella, the tidbits revealed from the murder are the most interesting part of the various storylines but do not occupy the most space, as the women jockey for position and goodies around Poiret. Poiret could well have been the inspiration for Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, he's certainly equally vain and displays equally irritating habits such as referring to himself in the third person. The solution to the murder is dropped in, almost as an afterthought, as Poiret is readied for discharge. The excess of annoyances over entertainment value kept me from awarding it a higher rating, but I'm curious to see if the series improves. Spelling and grammar were generally acceptable, with the glaring exception of atrocious punctuation. It looks like someone just scattered commas around at random. The title is nonspecifically relevant - can you think of many mysteries where "Peril" would NOT have been a relevant title? - but unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/12/2015


 
Author: Tarkington, Booth
Title: PenrodPenrod # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
A look inside the mind of the "worst boy in town."

Downloaded free from Gutenberg. Mark Twain could manage having child characters think about their experiences and their lives without boring the reader. Tarkington doesn't. I got about halfway through and gave up, it just wasn't interesting. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/11/2015


 
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: Montgomery, L.M.
Title: Pat of Silver BushPat # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
The reader meets a little girl, her dear little house, her dear little farm, and her dear little life.

Thoroughly tedious and with nothing to recommend it. I can't believe even children at the time this was written would have enjoyed it. Decently proofed, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2015


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Parisian ProdigalFools’ Guild # 8
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 4
When a pleasant stranger arrives, claiming to be the brother of the Count of Toulouse, Tan Pierre and Domina Gile want to find out whether he is real or an imposter. But when the brother is found in bed with a dead courtesan, there are suddenly more urgent questions.

Enjoyable story, anything but straightforward (as usual). Gordon got a bit heavyhanded in his "how men abuse women" ranting but not enough to seriously distract from the story. (Yes, men have treated women shamefully for thousands of years. Is this a surprise to anyone?) Gordon didn't share one critical piece of information with the reader, but he also camouflaged the hidden information so it wasn't blatant. (Although why didn't Tan Pierre also figure it out?) The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/08/2015


 
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: Ambrose, Elaine
Title: Midlife Cabernet: Life, Love and Laughter After 50
Genre: Humor
Rating: 3
Collection of somewhat-humorous essays on various aspects of aging, including romance and sex, aging parents, adult children, and the joys of grandchildren.

I borrowed this book through Amazon Prime. Not being a wine fancier, all her discussion of fine wines flew right over my head and left me yawning. But even with that limitation, her essays were mildly amusing at best, and often ended with a preachy list of "life lessons" that anyone our age already knows. It felt like she couldn't figure out whether she was wearing her humorist hat or her motivational speaker hat while writing these essays. Not awful, and I finished the book, but not something I'd pick up again or give to a friend. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/04/2015


 
Author: Orczy, Baroness Emmuska
Title: Lady Molly of Scotland Yard
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
In the omnibus Female Sleuths Megapack

A young noblewoman's intuition and daring solve Scotland Yard's most baffling cases. Consists of long stories or short novellas: The Ninescore Mystery, The Frewin Miniatures, The Irish Tweed Coat, The Fordwych Castle Mystery, A Day's Folly, A Castle in Brittany, A Christmas Tragedy, The Bag of Sand, The Woman in the Big Hat, Sir Jeremiah's Will, The End.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The mysteries are clever, narrated by Lady Molly's faithful assistant/secretary Mary Granard, and the narrator's constant gushing about "my dear lady" is more than slightly annoying. The collection has an active but incomplete Table of Contents, breaking down the stories under their respective sleuths.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/03/2015


 
Author: Gier, Scott
Title: Genellan - PlanetfallGenellan # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: NR
After a surprise attack, the surviving crew of a space navy corvette must land on a nearby planet that they discover is already occupied by nonhumans.

Just never caught my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/02/2015


 
Author: Azzaro, Aubrey
Title: Essential Oils: Unleash the Power of Essential Oil
Genre: Health
Rating: 1
Full title: Essential Oils: Unleash the Power of Essential Oils for Weight Loss, Aromatherapy, Beauty, and Stress Relief (Essential Oils and Aromatherapy - Healing Recipes, Beginners, Aromatics)

Supposedly, a beginners' guide to essential oils.

Excruciatingly unusable collection of unsupported (and sometimes absurd) factoids. Is "impactful" even a word? "The essential oils used in aromatherapy can boost your powerful sense of smell." Every biology text I've ever seen discusses how limited humans' sense of smell is, and none of the other sites/books I've checked out claim aromatherapy can improve it. "Incidences of psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety and stress are elevated if you choose to lead a life without fragrance." Really? Source of your data, please. Also, how would it be possible? Restaurants smell like restaurants, stores often have testers of scents available, and never mind what my kid's room smells like. Odors surround us and are one of the ways we gather information about the world. "The fine hairs that line your nose are termed as cilia." People that don't understand biology should not presume to teach it. Cilia are MICROSCOPIC protrusions found on most cells in the human body. Nose hair, as far as I can tell, is simply called nose hair and has no special role in scent detection. "You can make your own infused oils in a crock pot (sic) at an extremely low heat setting." I've been using crockpots for 40 years and have never seen one with an "extremely low" setting, just High, Low, and Keep Warm (sometimes). "... two ounces of your chosen carrier oil placed in a crock pot." Two ounces is about a quarter-cup, which wouldn't even cover the bottom of either of my crockpots, leaving the sides (where the heat is generally applied in a crockpot) with nothing to pass the heat to. Sounds like a recipe for cracked crockpot liner to me. That Azzaro included a chart of essential oils by classification (location 173) that was even formatted to be readable on my Kindle Keyboard did not make up for the awful rest of the book; in fact, given the large number of fact errors, I can't even consider the chart believable. The title was WAY too long, practically long enough to be a separate book by itself.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/25/2015


 
Author: Baumbich, Charlene Ann
Title: Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet?
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3
The small-town adventures of an elderly but still sprightly woman.

The characters and small-town setting were realistic and carefully drawn - but that didn't make them interesting. The story, such as it was, involved a long-moved-away woman returning to settle her aunt's estate and finding more than she had bargained for. It isn't awful, it's just ... okay. I finished the book, mostly out of inertia, because Baumbich never made me care what would happen to any of the characters.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/24/2015


 
Author: McPherson, Catriona
Title: Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day For a MurderDandy Gilver # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Peyton Place meets Shakespeare as Dandy and Alec's missing-girl case turns into a murder investigation.

More of a psychological whodunwhattowhom than a straight mystery, and so confusing I'm not sure I ever understood the final details. Nor did I find the solution particularly interesting; I also don't gape at collisions. Plus, Dandy and Alec were frankly butting in where they had no business being, and no one benefited. Hope this isn't the start of a trend for this series. The title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/23/2015


 
Author: House, Gregory
Title: The Cardinal's AngelsRed Ned # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
In the London of Henry VIII, a young ne'er-do-well finds himself in the hands of the law.

If there was a story here, I couldn't stick with the book long enough to find it. Endless and pointless description of Ned's gambling, partying, and then being dragged somewhere by his jailers with detailed descriptions of his sufferings. I quit 15% of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/22/2015


 
Author: Ditlow, Florence
Title: The Bakery Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
Follows a farm boy who marries, starts a bakery, and raises 3 daughters during the Depression and WWII.

Like the Mitford books, this one doesn't have a primary storyline, but follows the effects of the times on Floyd and his wife Clara and her parents as well as the three girls and the boys in their lives. Ditlow does a nice job of portraying very different characters, and includes photographs which makes me think it may have been based on a real family, especially since Ditlow is the last name of one of the men who goes off to war! However, the girls' sexual antics are clearly added to make the story more "interesting" to a modern audience, it was too easy for a girl to lose her reputation for me to take that part seriously. This is another book that I kept reading and I'm not sure why except Ditlow made me want to know what would happen next. The ending was a weak windup of what-happened-to-whom. Spelling, grammar, and word use are generally acceptable except Ditlow seems to have trouble with homonyms. She repeatedly uses complement when she means compliment, and also used ringer instead of wringer, vender when she meant vendor, eminent instead of imminent, and cue when she meant queue. The title is certainly accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/21/2015


 
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: Camacho, Catriona & Rees, Greg, eds.
Title: Wishing on a Star
Genre: Holiday Short Stories
Rating: 3
Christmas-themed short stories by various authors. Includes: Comfort and Joy by Christina Jones, Santa Lives by Tricia Maw, A Christmas Murder by Marsali Taylor, No Smoke Without Fire by Bill Kitson, Proof of the Pudding by Jane Wenham-Jones, What the Dickens! A Euphemia Martins Christmas Story (with an included note that it can be read out of order without fear of spoilers) by Caroline Dunford, Merry Christmas Everybody by Jane Risdon, and Family Matters by Jane Jackson.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Fast read, and certainly a wide range of stories, from the very ordinariness of gossipy old ladies to two stories involving the supernatural. Pleasant enough but unexciting; nothng I'd spend more than a buck or two on, unless you were a really devoted fan of one or more of the included authors.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/13/2015


 
Author: Barker, Emily Croy
Title: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
A frustrated grad student finds herself in Faerie, married to the high prince.

The premise isn't bad - in fact, it's somewhat similar to that of one of my favorite series, Christopher Stasheff's Gramarye books. The characters and the world are well drawn. What's missing is a story. The characters weren't involving enough to keep me reading in the absence of a plot; I quit about a quarter of the way through. The title had nothing to do with the book (and was too long to boot).
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/12/2015


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Pride and Prejudice
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4
The trials of the Bennet sisters as their mother desperately pushes them towards wealthy marriages.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Justifiably classic historical romance and a priceless portrayal of a particular English social level during the Napoleonic period. Austen gets away with barbed comments because Elizabeth and Jane are so likable. The one weak element, Lydia's escapade, is not believable because even a thoughtless, selfish fifteen year old would have known better, but the rest of the book makes up for this storyline. The Gutenberg version is quite well-proofed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/11/2015


 
Author: Hillbilly Housewife
Title: Poke Cake Recipes - Yummy, Fun and Easy Desserts
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 3
Collection of 35 recipes involving baking a cake, poking holes in it and pouring something over it.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There are a lot of similarities between the recipes, and most boil down to one category: your basic poke-white-or-yellow-cake-and-pour-jello-or-some-other-commercial-concoction-over, many of which feature combinations I've seen elsewhere (Butterfinger Poke Cake, Cherry Delight Poke Cake, Chocolate Peppermint Poke Cake, Coconut Poke Cake, Easy Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake, Easy Peach Poke Cake, German Chocolate Poke Cake, Gingerbread Poke Cake, Halloween Poke Cake, Key Lime Pie Poke Cake, Lemon Lime Poke Cake, Lemon Pudding Poke Cake, Orange Cream Poke Cake, Oreo Pudding Poke Cake, Patriotic Poke Cake, Peppermint Patty Poke Cake, Pina Colada Poke Cake, Pink Lemonade Poke Cake Recipe, Pistachio Poke Cake, Pretzel Poke Cake, Pumpkin Poke Cake, Raspberry Poke Cake, Red Velvet Poke Cake, S'mores Poke Cake, Strawberry Jell-o Poke Cupcakes, Surprise Me Poke Cake, Toffee Poke Cake). They aren't necessarily bad recipes, but I object to being charged for recipes I can get free on the Internet. A lot of the recipes sound easy enough for kids to make. There were a few pretty creative variations on the concept that I'd love to try if they didn't sound so calorific (Apple Poke Cake, Caramel Almond Poke Cake, Carrot Cake Poke Cake, Eggnog Poke Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce, Peanut Butter Cup Poke Cake). One recipe called for poking large holes and forcing stiffer substances into them, which frankly sounded too much like work to me (Banana Pudding Poke Cake). There were also recipes that poking holes didn't seem to add anything to (Hawaiian Poke Cake, Strawberry Poke Cake). I didn't try the recipes, but the ingredients mostly look complete and accurate, and the directions are simple and straightforward. There are a few exceptions, such as the German Chocolate Cake that just uses cake mix and pudding mix. Only after you get completely through that recipe do you find a "Topping" recipe with almonds and coconut. Pumpkin Poke Cake is one of the few recipes with obvious errors, I don't think the pumpkin alone would supply enough moisture for the cake and the reference to "cake batter" in the directions makes me think the author might have intended the reader to mix the cake mix according to package directions and then add in the additional ingredients. Some of her comments just don't make sense. "This cake is the ultimate chocolate fix and as with the caramel topping, this one is great for topping ice cream as well." A cake used for topping ice cream? The reliance on highly artificial products bothers me; Hillbilly Housewife thinks Cool Whip was invented to frost cakes with, and I would omit that from the recipes she adds it to. Most use cake and/or pudding mixes, but the Apple Poke Cake is made completely from scratch (and actually a recipe that would appeal to those who prefer natural eating). Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable on my Paperwhite, with a nice active Table of Contents. The title is too long but accurate. Unless you are totally new to the concept of poke cakes, buying this book would boil down to whether the few original recipes are worth the purchase price to you.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/10/2015


 
Author: Sedley, Kate
Title: The Plymouth CloakRoger the Chapman # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Roger is shanghaied to protect a royal courier until he can take ship for France. But an unexpected battle delays the ship and the womanizing courier is determined to find some amusement in the meantime.

Like the first book in this series, this one just never caught my attention, and the courier's lustfulness didn't help. I got halfway through and quit, didn't even care enough to skip to the end since nothing had really happened.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/09/2015


 
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: Elliott, Anna
Title: Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, VoPemberley Diaries # 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4
Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Volume 2

Now delightedly engaged to Col. Fitzwilliam, Georgiana struggles through Christmas celebrations, Elizabeth's pregnancy, a few surprises, and Fitzwilliam's fate at the battle of Waterloo.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The first volume in this series was surprisingly good, and so was this second entry. Apart from the basic unbelievability that shy Georgiana could become so assertive, Elliott does a good job maintaining the P&P characters with one glaring exception. I don't know why writers "extending" the P&P story feel obliged to get someone pregnant out of wedlock, but it is simply not believable for that time. One of the weaknesses of the original P&P is Lydia's running away, which isn't believable even in Austen's own words. Elliott works at making her version believable, but the best I can say is that it is no more unbelievable than the Lydia storyline. I did like most of the storyline and especially her redemption of at least one of the less likable P&P characters. Spelling and grammar were mostly fine. The title is relevant if too long and not particularly imaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/07/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Partners in CrimeTommy and Tuppence # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Short stories featuring the further adventures of the now married Tommy and Tuppence. Contains Fairy In the Flat, Pot of Tea, Affair of the Pink Pearl, Affair of the Sinister Stranger, Finessing the King, Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper, Case of the Missing Lady, Blindman's Buff, Man In the Mist, Crackler, Sunningdale Mystery, House of Lurking Death, Unbreakable Alibi, Clergyman's Daughter, Red House, Ambassador's Boots, Man Who Was No. 16

Enjoyable even if a bit too precious at times. The Kindle version is mostly well-proofed, with a few exceptions such as referring to Matter instead of Mater.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/06/2015


 
Author: McClendon, Lise
Title: Painted TruthAlix Thorssen # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
A burned-out gallery with a dead body in it sets Alix searching for secrets amid friends with their own agenda.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Once again, this isn't an awful book, but it just didn't catch my interest. I put it down halfway through and never cared what was going to happen enough to pick it back up. The title was quite clever, and sadly follows my observed rule that the cleverer the title, the less interesting the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/05/2015


 
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: Indridason, Arnaldur
Title: OutrageReykjavik # 7
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
Erlundur is on vacation when a young man is found murdered, so Elinborg investigates what may have been revenge for a Rohypnol rape.

Once again, too much personal life intrudes into police work. Elinborg's problems with her kids simply don't add anything to the story (and I wanted to smack her oldest boy). The occasional allusion to a missing Erlendur sounds like a setup for the next book but again added nothing to this one. Even with the flaws, Indridason kept me reading a complicated plot with a little too much reliance on coincidence.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/03/2015


 
Author: Wilson, Janice Meredith as Karon, Jan
Title: Out to CanaanMitford # 4
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
Events in Mitford include a well-funded challenger for the mayor's office and the shock of Father Tim's planned retirement.

This is the first Mitford book I've been able to put down. The people are as real as ever, but Karon left huge gaps in the stories that overstrained my credulity. Father Tim shouldn't have had to worry about revealing a secret regarding Mayor Esther's challenger, when the whole town saw a not-rich candidate spending buckets of money on his campaign, even a country journalist could have asked where the money was coming from. Letting a 14-year-old unlicensed boy drive his car was both unbelievable and stupid. Ending a chapter with a coin flip WITHOUT REVEALING THE RESULT showed inexcusable contempt for the reader. The title was sort of appropriate in a strained way.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/02/2015


 
Author: McSparren, Carolyn
Title: One Hoof In The GraveMerry Abbot # 2
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Merry once again lands in the role of prime suspect when she finds the body of a much-disliked man at a horse event. Fortunately Geoff volunteers to help the local sheriff investigate, mostly to keep Merry from getting herself killed.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There were some good lines, as when Geoff insists to the local sheriff that Merry would only kill someone who harmed horses and then asks in a panic whether the victim had hurt his horses. I like that the police in this series are reasonable people - the county sheriff admits he is stumped and welcomes Geoff's help. It kept me reading to the end. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting are all fine - the only error I noted was referring to a "breach" birth. Once again, the title was clever but not particularly relevant to the storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/01/2015


No previous page