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

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


 
Author: Newman, Sharan
Title: Cursed in the BloodCatherine LeVendeur # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Edgar's father summons him home after two of his brothers are found murdered. Edgar, Catherine, and Solomon have to deal with difficult travel, civil wars, religious strains, and Edgar's truly awful father.

Waldeve was such a horrible character that my dislike of him colored the rest of the book. It almost had the feel of a P.I. story, as Edgar and Catherine were hit with one catastrophe after another. And I dislike P.I. stories for just this reason. The whodunit was believable but not satisfying, and there were too many unexplained loose ends. I did finish the book, but I didn't enjoy it. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were all acceptable. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/05/2014


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes, ed.
Title: CrossroadsValdemar short stories # 4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Collection of short fiction set in Valdemar, selected by Lackey.

As usual, a mixed bag both in subject and execution. A couple stories were closer to horror than fantasy. One story featured a really obnoxious Bard trainee that I wanted to wallop, but it also included a "kidnapping" of a Companion that had me laughing out loud. Several stories I disliked because of the subject, such as one about a Changechild. This wasn't awful, but it contained fewer stories that I really liked than usual.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/03/2014


 
Author: Sayers, Dorothy
Title: Clouds of WitnessLord Peter Wimsey # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Lord Peter's brother, the Duke of Denver, is arrested for the murder of Lady Mary's cardsharp fiance, and Peter follows red herring after red herring to identify the real killer.

Probably too much coincidence to satisfy the purists, but Sayers sweeps the reader along a gloriously twisted trail. The ending was satisfying except for one major unanswered question: what pointed Lord Peter to the identity of the mysterious woman? It was an enjoyable read, but it's unlike Sayers to leave such a loose end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/31/2014


 
Author: Westlake, Addison
Title: Christmas in Wine Country
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4
Advertising employee Lila doesn't particularly like her job, but losing it and getting dumped by her boyfriend shatters her self-image and leads to reinventing herself in a lovely northern California coast town. And running into the heir apparent to the local vineyard at the worst possible times.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. This absolutely does not read like a first novel, and I am not surprised it won a RWA award. There are NONE of the typical beginning author mistakes: slow start, overexplaining, telling instead of showing. Instead, I found a plot that took off from page 1, characters that simply leapt off the page at me, and a thoroughly enjoyable story. I'm not sure why Westlake calls it a romantic comedy, there isn't anything laugh-out-loud humorous in it; I would simply call it a romance. But the characters are so strong that even when I realized it was just a romance, a genre I generally avoid, I was too interested to quit. The plot is somewhat predictable, not really a drawback in this genre, and easy to forgive when the story is well-handled. The weak ending offered a fizzle rather than a bang, but again easy to forgive; endings are hard to write, and some of the most-enjoyed authors around rarely managed more than a fizzle. The title is okay but uninspired, and the cover was definitely amateur. Astoundingly, spelling, grammar, and formatting were nearly flawless. She used "flare" when she meant "flair" and "grizzly" instead of "grisly," but I'm used to seeing more mistakes than that on any single page! This is not great literature, although it would be a perfect vacation read, and the most I can give it is 4 stars; I reserve 5 stars for extraordinarily compelling and unforgettable tales. But 4 stars from me means a solid, enjoyable story with no major drawbacks, and you can buy this confidently.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/30/2014


 
Author: Stevens, Charlotte
Title: Christmas Cookies - Just Like Your Mother Use To M
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 2
Christmas Cookies - Just Like Your Mother Use To Make

Collection of recipes for cookies the author makes around Christmastime - very few were actually Christmas-specific.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. It wasn't a good sign that the title was misspelled - my mother USED to make cookies, but she never made any like these heavy-on-spice-and-dates items. By and large, the recipes look like they will produce usable cookies, but the author presents them in an odd format, with "temp" and "time" at the beginning of the recipe - I assume she meant oven temperature and baking time, but she never says so. Rather than simply saying "cream butter and sugar" as every other cookbook I've ever seen does, she wrote ""With electric mixer at 'cream' (or with spoon), thoroughly mix shortening and granulated sugar until very light and fluffy." What does she think the longer version (which she repeats in nearly every recipe) adds? There were no recipes that sounded so yummy I just had to try them. Not suitable for beginners - the instructions all state "bake until done" and a novice cook won't have learned how to tell cookies are done. I can't see spending money for this half-baked effort when there are millions of tested recipes (complete with instructions that are easy to follow) available free on the Internet.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/29/2014


 
Author: Magnin, Joyce
Title: Charlotte Figg Takes Over ParadiseBright's Pond # 2
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
New widow Charlotte buys a crappy trailer and forms a women's softball team.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I hated the characters in the first book in the series, but wanted to see if this second book was any better. It wasn't. Losers can be interesting, but these aren't. When I had read for several days and felt like a resolution should be imminent, and then saw I was only 40% of the way through the book, I gave up. I have to have sympathetic characters and a moving plot to enjoy a book; this lacked either. Nor do I enjoy people using God to push their own agenda, as Magnin did throughout the book. Spelling was mostly okay, and the Kindle formatting was acceptable. The title was certainly accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/26/2014


 
Author: Post, Melville Davisson
Title: Casebook of Monsieur Jonquelle, Prefect of Police
Genre: Mystery short stories
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/24/2014


 
Author: Colette, Sidonie Gabrielle
Title: CheriCheri # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
Portrait of a gorgeous but self-obsessed young man, nicknamed Cheri.

Colette seems to specialize in unlikable characters, and this book had more than its share: Cheri himself, his mother and his mistress, both semi-retired courtesans but lacking the heart of gold. I quit pretty early in the book, there was no story to hold my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/02/2013


 
Author: Jenkins, Leigh
Title: Catherine the InquisitorSix Lives # 1
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Rating: 2
What if the son of Henry VIII by Catherine of Aragon had survived?

I picked this book up free during an Amazon giveaway. The premise of this series - what if one critical event had had a different ending? - intrigued me. Unfortunately, I couldn't stand the book. Even as narrator, Henry is a completely unsympathetic and unlikable character, but no one else is any more appealing. Although spelling and grammar were generally acceptable, there were some jarring exceptions such as "Catherine and I's coronation." Sloppy/inaccurate historical references abound; Jenkins consistently referred to King Louis of France as "Louise." I quit halfway through because Jenkins never made me care what was going to happen next, and I don't expect to read the rest of the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/30/2013


 
Author: George, Kate
Title: California Schemin'Bree MacGowan # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
SPOILER ALERT - I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. After Bree witnesses a woman's murder, she is pursued, presumably by the killers, until Beau and the sheriff make her go home to Vermont. Then she is kidmapped from her home and flown across country, while she passes up numerous changes to get help in order to remain with the kidnappers.

Sound pretty unbelievable? I thought so too, and quit when I was 40% done. Ask me to suspend disbelief that she just happened to be in the right spot to see a murder - no problem. Tell me that the killer could trail her across the country THREE times - okay, that's a bit much, but I can manage it. But then put her and her kidnappers in numerous public places where she could scream for help and leave her silent - you just lost me. More than anything else, this reminded me of those unfunny spy farces where it's questionable who is stupider, the good guys or the bad guys. I didn't notice spelling or grammar errors or formatting problems.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/14/2012


 
Author: Schneider, Maria E.
Title: Catch an Honest Thief
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 4
I borrowed this book from another Kindler through the Lendle.me website. Alexia is a psychiatrist - and a skilled, compulsive thief, although she limits her activities to breaking in and does not actually take any valuables for her benefit. Her home, an experimental utopia called Haven, is under threat of having the crystals that power it stolen. But when Alexia is drafted to accompany the head of Security and the owner's son on a mission to try to steal the plans (in order to prove no one else can), hiding her ability to steal will be the least of her problems.

This was too scary for me! I don't read thrillers and didn't realize from the description that this was going to be one, but those who enjoy being kept on the edge of their seats will find this worth their time. I got halfway through and skipped to the end, but not because the story wasn't involving enough, and the characters are pretty well-developed also. The events didn't always logically follow one another, but with the breakneck pace the reader doesn't have time to see the gaps. Generally good spelling, grammar, and formatting, and although Schneider misused "off-sight" when she meant "off-site" I think that was the only word error I found .
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/17/2012


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Cinnamon Roll MurderHannah Swensen # 16
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
I borrowed this book from another Kindler through the Lendle.me website. Hannah and company investigate when a jazz band member is stabbed after a massive pile-up. Meanwhile, the unbelievable Norman/Dr. Bev engagement proceeds towards a wedding.

The engagement storyline is a huge drawback to the series. Norman is nice but not stupid, and it is not credible that he would enter into marriage based on the claim that he can't otherwise see a girl he supposedly fathered. I tried to concentrate on the murdered keyboardist storyline but couldn't get past the other; halfway through, I skipped to the not-very-satisfying ending.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/29/2012


 
Author: Bujold, Lois McMaster
Title: CetagandaMiles Vorkosigan # 8
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Rating: 4
in omnibus Miles, Mystery and Mayhem

Sent to Cetaganda to attend the funeral of the Empress, Miles stumbles onto a complicated plot to destabilize the Cetagandan empire and blame the Barrayarans. As he tries to assist the late Empress' haut Handmaiden to recover a missing genetic tool, he has to calm Ivan's fears and evade the Ambassador's questions - and those of his spymaster.

Complicated political storyline rich in a look at different cultures. I'm not sure I ever figured out all the layers of plot, but it kept me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/28/2012


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: ChangesCollegium Chronicles # 3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Nikolas pulls Mags and his team into investigating again when the mysterious killers are replaced by two incredibly dangerous agents. But when Mags finds a link between the new agents and the Palace, the assignment ends abruptly.

As often happens in the final book of one of Lackey's trilogies, this one had a much darker feel than the earlier books. Mags and Nikolas are desperately trying to prevent the destruction of Valdemar during a misery-making heat wave that even drives wedges between Mags and his friends. And Lackey includes spurts of preaching (her major weakness as a writer), this time equating belief in the "one true way" idea with being an evil super-agent. The whole information-from-a-stone storyline smacks of deus ex machina, and those who were disappointed at the failure to resolve the major storylines have a valid criticism. But the bottom line is: as with previous books in the series (although not all of her series by any means), this kept me reading and I had trouble putting it down.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2012


 
Author: Saville, Jonathan
Title: Curse of the Crystal DragonThomas Eberle # 1
Genre: Fantasy Short Stories
Rating: 3
An innocent act of helpfulness is Thomas' pass into a life of wealth and danger, interacting with dragons.

Great stories, horribly in need of editing. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/curse-of-the-crystal-dragon-by-jonathan-saville/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/12/2012


 
Author: Tull, Justin
Title: Christmas Journeys: Finding Joy along the Way
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4
A thoughtful discussion of the different people involved in Jesus' birth, and then a rather simplistic modern-day short story about people with different problems facing Christmas.

This clearly amateurish self-pub still has a lot going for it. There is no point in downloading the Kindle sample because Tull's long, tedious, and completely unnecessary introduction will be all you will see. If he had to include his background and reasons for writing, he should have put an author's note at the end, in case a reader was intrigued enough by the book to want to know more. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/christmas-journeys-by-justin-tull/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/21/2011


 
Author: Challinor, C.S.
Title: Christmas is MurderRex Graves # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Scottish advocate Rex travels south to spend Christmas at the B&B of his mother's friend, and finds himself investigating a series of murders.

There were problems with this book. Rex started off more concerned with the color of his sweater than anything else - not likely for a smart advocate. He did become more likable as the book progressed. Rex's rotund build and overpowering attraction for the ladies don't mesh. (Not that that isn't possible, but Challinor doesn't give us a reason to believe it.) The clues aren't there to identify the killer. I don't always get it right, but when I miss it, I can usually look back and see where I went wrong. The solution to this one left me going "huh?" There was no real Christmas connection in the book; it could have been set in any temporarily-cut-off-from-everything building. But the bottom line is that the book kept me reading, and that is so much more important than anything else that I will go on to #2 in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/15/2011


 
Author: Gellis, Roberta
Title: Chains of FollyMagdalene la Batarde # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A dead whore found in the Bishop's bedchamber is the first sign that someone wants to eliminate Winchester, and Magdalene and Bell try to ignore their disagreement to identify his enemy. But jointly collecting information and eliminating suspects highlights their still-strong mutual attraction.

Bell and Magdalene have developed quite an investigative partnership, so much so that it feels 21st century rather than 12th. But the story is involving enough that the discrepancy didn't strike me while I was reading. I can't explain the curiously unsatisfying ending without revealing too much of the plot, but I felt it did not accurately reflect the setup and depended too much on coincidence. But I'm still sad that I have now finished this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/05/2011


 
Author: Kavanagh, Brian
Title: Capable of MurderBelinda Lawrence # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Young Belinda Lawrence is thrilled to inherit her great-aunt's English cottage and a nice chunk of money. But her suspicions that someone murdered her aunt become certainty when her cottage is ransacked and she thinks someone is shadowing her. She is distracted from learning more by the unbelievably arrogant and bossy "I'm a man and I know best" next door neighbor Jacob.

This book had some good points going for it, including a coherent story and likable main character. But I absolutely could not tolerate Jacob's dictatorial attitude and Belinda going along with his plans - I don't want to read about bossypants or wusses. I quit less than halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/26/2011


 
Author: Pulver, Mary Monica as Ferris, Monica
Title: Crewel WorldNeedlecraft Mystery # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Newly-divorced Betsy escapes to tiny Excelsior, Minnesota, and the needlework shop run by her sister Margo. But a killer shatters Betsy's plans and she is determined to see him punished.

This series just didn't catch my interest. The victim was the only character I might have wanted to spend time with. Betsy seemed very selfish and the rest of the characters exemplified the worst of small-town life. I quit before I finished the first half and I didn't even care enough to skip to the end to see whodunit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/20/2011


 
Author: Taylor, Andrew as Saville, Andrew
Title: Crimes of the SeasonBergerac # 2
Genre: Police Procedural
Rating: NR
Jersey DS Bergerac tackles a Mafia team determined to find a stool pigeon and investigates an apparent accident that may be tied to a demonic cult.

Police procedural with mostly unlikable characters, based on a BBC television series. I read about a quarter to see if there was anything to appeal to me, and there wasn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/19/2011


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Cream Puff MurderHannah Swenson # 12
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Hannah stumbles on another body, of course, but the hook in this tale is that her boyfriend Mike, Andrea's husband Bill, and Michelle's boyfriend Lonnie are all excused from the investigation because they were "involved" with the victim. So all three want to tell Hannah how to find the killer. And she's grouchy from dieting to try to fit into a Regency gown before the "launch party" for her mother's Regency romance, and in no mood to take advice quietly.

I have to admit that the idea of the police subversively telling Hannah what to investigate is funny. And it's funny to see Hannah using Mike's own police techniques on him, quite successfully, even though the result is she learns things she would rather not have known. The first half of the story dragged a bit, but it picked up nicely in the second half, and the title (as usual for this series) was quite relevant to the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/18/2011


 
Author: Innes, Michael
Title: Comedy of Terrors aka There Came Both Mist and SnoInspector Appleby # 6
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/15/2011


 
Author: Monfredo, Miriam Grace & Newman, Sharan, eds.
Title: Crime Through Time
Genre: Historical Mystery - shorts
Rating: 3
Anthology of short historical mysteries set in periods from ancient Rome to World War II, mostly featuring characters from series.

Pretty much what a historical-mystery reader would expect from the individual authors. I would classify some of the stories as horror rather than mystery. The Gordianus the Finder story is cynical. I like Edward Marston's Nicholas Bracewell so I liked his entry although I found the ending a bit pat. I don't like Laurie King's making-Sherlock-Holmes-look-stupid books so it's no surprise I didn't like her short story either. I don't like Leonard Tourney's series about the Stocks because relying on Joan's psychic abilities is just a form of "deus ex machina" copout, so I didn't like his Stock story either. Overall, none of the stories knocked my socks off (probably also not a surprise since I'm not a fan of first-editor Monfredo's work) but none were simply awful either, and I did finish the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/13/2011


 
Author: Lutz, Lisa
Title: Curse of the SpellmansIzzy Spellman # 2
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 1
Izzy is arrested for stalking her next-door neighbor in between trying to get Rae to quit bothering a police officer.

Although the first book in this series had some cute moments, they are long gone from this episode. The whole family needs psychiatric treatment and I didn't find any of the situations amusing: a teenaged girl that no one will discipline is simply pitiful, while an adult woman stalking a neighbor is scary and not especially interesting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/11/2011


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: Cousin Kate
Genre: Regency Suspense
Rating: 3
Wrongfully cast out by her former employers, reluctant governess Kate Malvern is delighted and grateful when her aunt Lady Broome swoops her up for a long stay at Sir Timothy's elegant home. But the inhabitants have secrets and Lady Broome's generosity may have a threatening lining.

The romance in this Regency has an edge of danger but still dragged in the middle so much that I skipped to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/07/2011


 
Author: Fulmer, David
Title: Chasing the Devil's TailValentin St. Cyr # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - P.I.
Rating: NR
In 1906 New Orleans, PI Valentin St. Cyr tackles a variety of jobs, some for Storyville "King" Tom Anderson.

Valentin is just a Sam Spade-type and nothing about the book caught my attention, so I gave up pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/05/2011


 
Author: Blackstock, Terri
Title: Cape RefugeCape Refuge # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
The brutal murder of a couple who ran a halfway house for convicts shatters their family, as the daughter's husband is arrested and the city council decides to close the facility.

Predictable but gripping nonetheless, at least the second half. The first half didn't really move along, it just portrayed the shock and grief of family and friends - and it started to lose my interest. But in the second half, as Blair and Morgan pursue the identity of the killer, even though I could see what was coming, I didn't want to put the book down. Although the bad guys are cardboard-cutout characters, the good guys are well-developed and convincingly imperfect. It is Christian fiction and those who dislike characters who are open about their reliance on the Christ won't enjoy this book. This is the first of Blackstock's books I've been able to finish; the others were thrillers that were just too scary for me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/03/2011


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne; Levine, Laura; Meier, Leslie
Title: Candy Cane Murder; Dangers of Candy Canes; Candy CHannah Swenson #11
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Collection of three books, each featuring a Christmastime murder. In the title story, Hannah Swenson and company try to figure out who killed Lake Eden's meanest department store owner. The second is a Jaine Austen mystery, The Dangers of Candy Canes; and finally, in Candy Canes of Christmas Past, Lucy Stone reminisces about a 20-year-earlier Christmas in which she tackled the possible murder of a librarian's mother 60+ years earlier (a flashback within a flashback?).

Although I figured out very early how the first murder was done, I think this was one of the best of the Hannah Swenson series - short and pithy, no wasted drivelling, clever clues, a satisfying resolution. I dislike the Jaine Austen series because the author is more concerned about making Jaine cutesy than writing a good story - it grates on me like nails on a blackboard, especially Jaine's constant whining to the reader about her weight while she eats every fattening item she comes across. I've also previously tried and disliked the Lucy Stone series; I detest flashbacks, the "intro" didn't add anything except confusion, and the characters weren't any more likable or the story more involving in this entry. So my rating above is ONLY for "Candy Cane Murder" and the others are rated 1 each.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/30/2011


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Carrot Cake MurderHannah Swenson # 10
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
A long-lost uncle turns up for Lisa's big family reunion, but joy turns strained and the family wants to know why he didn't reconnect sooner. When he is found murdered, Hannah's world becomes interesting: Mike offers to share information on the case, Lisa wants her to find the killer, and Marge wants her to find out whether the man was really their long-lost brother.

Unsatisfying. The killer was pretty obvious and in spite of Hannah's and Mike's agreement to share information, Hannah kept a lot of clues to herself, for no valid reason, and then was indignant that Mike did the same. Nor was the story particularly engrossing - not terrible, and I did finish it, but it didn't grab me as previous books in this series have. The title was very appropriate. Cozy writers have a serious challenge to make it believable that a non-professional is investigating a murder, and Fluke did not rise to the challenge in this book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/16/2011


 
Author: Davidson, Diane Mott
Title: Catering To NobodyGoldy Schulz # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Goldy Bear's catering business is important to her both as the sign of her independence and her way to provide for her son. But the poisoning of her former father-in-law at a funeral she caters may be the end of her dream unless she can prove she wasn't the killer.

I barely got a quarter of the way through the book before giving up. First, there was way too much backstory on characters the reader wasn't interested in yet - an unfortunately common first-book-in-a-series problem. Second, Goldy was unbelievably wimpy: she puts herself out to accommodate her abusive ex-husband's allergies, among other things. Since I couldn't care for the character, I didn't care about the story. And the title didn't seem to relate to the story other than in the most obvious connection that Goldy ran a catering business.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/14/2011


 
Author: McCaffrey, Anne & Scarborough, Elizabeth Ann
Title: Catalyst
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2
A small-time crook kidnaps a pregnant, pedigreed Barque Cat to give his son Jubal one of the kittens and make a fortune selling the rest. His wife returns the cat and the lone unsold kitten, Chester, which has formed a psychic bond with the son, and the two cats head into space. But Jubal and Chester desperately try to find each other again.

Some of McCaffrey's books are engrossing to the point of being compelling. This wasn't one of them and I gave up about a quarter of the way through. None of the characters felt real and the plot felt unfocused.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/23/2011


 
Author: Murphey, Cecil & Gibson, Marley, eds.
Title: Christmas Miracles
Genre: Personal Experience
Rating: 4
"Chicken Soup for the Soul" type collection of short narratives, with a theme of some kind of "miracle" that occurred around Christmas, ranging from food to surviving a fatal experience to acquiring peace about something horrible.

I like personal experience stories, but in book form there are so many that they are simply overpowering and I become cynical even though I still tear up. Definitely have a box of kleenex handy when reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/07/2011


 
Author: King, Laurie R. as Leigh Richards
Title: Califia’s Daughters
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2
In a post-apocalyptic California in which few men survived so the ones who did are treated like gold, a small community receives an embassy from another community who wants to move near them to escape a group of bandits. Suspicious but aware of the defensive benefits of having another good community nearby, war leader Dian volunteers to go check out the would-be pilgrims.

I only got a quarter of the way into this before giving up. Maybe I'm too old to enjoy depressing post-apocalyptic stories any more, but I just didn't want to read about their very believable problems.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/14/2010


 
Author: Ross, Kate
Title: Cut to the QuickJulian Kestrel # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
In post-Napoleonic England, Julian Kestrel is requested to stand up with a man he barely knows, and doesn't understand why this wedding is planned at all. But finding a murdered woman in his bed shocks Julian as well as his hosts, and he pursues the killer with the aid of his loyal servant Dipper.

This book started painfully slowly and I almost gave up on it. But once the murder occurred, the plot moved right along and held my interest. Julian is a type of hero that I like, a genuinely noble man hiding behind the mask of a fop. But the title bore no relation to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/29/2010


 
Author: Charles, Kate
Title: Cruel Habitations
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
Sophie Lilburn tries to be happy when husband Chris wins a coveted music and teaching position at Westmead Cathedral. Jacquie plans a licentious holiday abroad as a last fling before settling into marriage, which appalls her conventional sister Alison. Sophie cannot achieve pregnancy and sees a fertility specialist, while getting to know the cathedral denizens and hearing of a murdered girl found nearby 11 years earlier. Alison unintentionally ruins Jacquie's wedding and is banished. Years later, their father's last wish is to see Alison, and a now-divorced Jacquie determines to find her.

I gave up on this book halfway through. It was pretty obvious that the mysterious murdered girl would turn out to be Alison, which wouldn't have stopped me reading if the characters or story had been more interesting. But there was too much of an evil feel in the book, neither Jacquie nor Sophie were compelling characters, and switching back and forth between their stories felt awkward and disjointed. This isn't a terrible book, but after reading half of it I wasn't sure what genre it is and I didn't care enough about the outcome to skip to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/28/2010


 
Author: Michaels, Barbara as Elizabeth Peters
Title: Crocodile on the SandbankAmelia Peabody # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery/Romance
Rating:
Wealthy spinster Amelia Peabody and her beautiful companion Evelyn are travelling upriver on the Nile when they re-encounter an abrasive archeologist and his charming brother. Initially they delay to help the archeologist over a malarial crisis, but when someone dresses as a mummy to drive them away from the palace site, Amelia and Evelyn determine to stay and investigate. Then Evelyn's suitor Lucas, Earl of Ellesmere, arrives to continue his pursuit and joins the fray.

Since I haven't liked any of the Elizabeth Peters books I have read, I didn't expect to like this one. But it ensnared me almost immediately. Amelia is both educated and interested in learning, and she doesn't suffer fools gladly, yet she is basically kind. And her money gives her options most Victorian women did not have. It was pretty obvious that Evelyn would turn out to be the heir after all, and who the villain would be and why, but I must admit I was surprised by some of the details. The romantic entanglements were equally predictable. However, the story was strong enough that the predictability didn't keep me from finishing and enjoying the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/24/2010


 
Author: Gregorio, Michael
Title: Critique of Criminal ReasonHanno Stiffeniis # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery Police Proc
Rating: 1
As Napoleon threatens Europe, the King of Prussia calls small-town Magistrate Stiffeniis to Konigsburg, to solve a series of horrifying murders.

I only got 47 pages into this book before giving up. It was a very slow, tedious read - lots of words with nothing much happening. An "introduction" explains that 3 years had passed since the horror he had experienced sent him into "a bottomless black pit." I do not enjoy horror. Since all the characters seemed wooden and one-dimensional, I just couldn't see any reason to keep reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/21/2010


 
Author: Finney, Patricia as Grace Cavendish
Title: ConspiracyLady Grace # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 5
On a progress with the Queen, Lady Grace is as horrified as everyone else at three nearly-fatal "accidents." Assigned by Elizabeth to investigate, Grace is distracted by a handsome attendant but also finds someone is misleading her.

Good story, fast read, a bit unrealistic in that Grace keeps tripping over clues but since the book models loyalty as well as brains and courage, I can forgive the lack of realism. I enjoy this series!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/18/2010


 
Author: Stenstreem, Ruth as Marian Babson
Title: Cover Up StoryPerkins & Tate # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Desperate to save his British PR firm from insolvency, Douglas Perkins takes on the task of shepherding an obnoxious American singer and his comic opening act with an even more obnoxious mother through their European tour. But as one dark secret after another comes out, the partners' ability to keep the Client out of trouble may be overtaxed.

I couldn't manage to read more than half the book. There was a story but it wasn't interesting enough to overcome the twin debilities of dislikable characters and "if I had only known" foreshadowing. I had a feeling from the book description that it was supposed to be a murder mystery, but there was no murder in the first half of the book so I have to categorize it as regular fiction.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/17/2010


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: Cotillion
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: 2
Pretty Kitty Charing was adopted by a miserly friend of her late father's. Now her guardian is prepared to leave his fortune to her, as long as she marries one of his nephews. Otherwise, he will leave her penniless. When the man she would have chosen is too proud or uninterested to join the parade of poor relatives begging her to marry them, she conspires with the dull but wealthy nephew to fake an engagement.

Just another of Heyer's Regency romances. While she does the form well enough, I don't like the phoniness of incredibly beautiful women and handsome, rich men who magically anticipate their desires to win their hearts, and gave up pretty early in the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/16/2010


 
Author: Ashley, Mike, ed.
Title: Classical Whodunits
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 5
Collection of short stories set in ancient Greece and Rome, featuring some characters who really lived (although the stories themselves are fiction).

Wildly varied stories, from a moderately funny tale in which Aphrodite investigates the murder of a mortal to a twisted Gordianus the Finder contribution to stories with disturbing elements of horror. (Don't read "The Living Tree" if you are subject to nightmares.) It was a slow read but not because the stories were uninteresting, there were just a lot of them. The only flaw was that too many of the stories featured a "justified" murder of a horrible person, with a sleuth unwilling to see the killer punished. That works for an occasional story but it happens enough in this book to almost be a common theme.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/15/2010


 
Author: Belfer, Lauren
Title: City of LightLouisa Barrett #1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 2
Girls' school headmistress Louisa Barrett enjoys her unusual freedom in the first decade of the 20th century, and doesn't like her suspicion that the widower of her best friend might be responsible for a murder.

There was nothing really wrong with this book. Louisa is a nice enough character, as are most of the rest. The history was accurate as far as I could tell. But it just never caught my interest. Maybe it was the endless paean to the city of Buffalo. I've been there (although not around 1900) and it's not a particularly interesting place. Maybe it was something else. For whatever reason, I gave up a quarter of the way through an admittedly thick book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/08/2010


 
Author: Perez-Reverte, Arturo
Title: Captain AlatristeCaptain Alatriste # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/03/2010


 
Author: Pope, Barbara Corrado
Title: Cezanne's QuarryBernard Martin # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Young and unconnected, Investigating Judge Bernard Martin knows solving the brutal murder of Solange Vernet can make his judicial career. With the patronizing assistance of a police inspector who wants to share the glory of catching a killer, Martin collects clues that may lead him to the live-in lover or the well-connected painter.

I wasn't sure I would like this story, since I generally don't like stories featuring real people. But this is a wild speculation based on a tiny piece of information about Cezanne, and I guess I don't know enough about the artist to be bothered by this book. Although a slow read, it provides a descriptive portrayal of a society that is ossified in some ways and too liberal in others, and the people simply trying to live their own lives in uncertain circumstances. But the murder mystery part was terribly watered-down by Martin's wafflings about his own capability and his anarchist "friend," a thoroughly dislikable self-centered jerk who used Martin (and spineless Martin allowed Merckx to use him). The mystery part was solid enough for me to want to try the next book in the series, but not to finish this one - I got halfway through and skipped to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/02/2010


 
Author: Aird, Catherine
Title: Chapter and Hearse
Genre: Short Stories, Mystery
Rating: 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/26/2010


 
Author: Greber, Judith as Gillian Roberts
Title: Caught Dead in PhiladelphiaAmanda Pepper # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/25/2010


 
Author: Carr, Caleb
Title: Casing the Promised Land
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 1
Two new college graduates and one new highschool graduate take an apartment in NYC to get away from their families and be independent, but of course they start by mooching money from their families so they can get away from them.

I think this was supposed to be a coming-of-age story, but the characters were so unlikable and what story there was was so boring I barely got a quarter of the way through before giving up. All of them barely managed to graduate their respective schools through bad attitudes and shenanigans. There just wasn't any point to reading further.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/24/2010


 
Author: Taylor, Andrew
Title: Caroline MinisculeDougal # 1
Genre: Suspense
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/23/2010


 
Author: Perry, Anne
Title: Cardington CrescentCharlotte and Thomas Pitt # 8
Genre: Historical Mystery Police Proc
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/18/2010


 
Author: Barfoot, Joan
Title: Critical injuries
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/21/2010


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Cherry Cheesecake MurderHannah Swenson # 8
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/19/2010


 
Author: James, P.D.
Title: Cover her faceAdam Dalgliesh # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/27/2009


 
Author: Haeger, Diane
Title: Courtesan
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/26/2009


 
Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: Crystal lineCrystal Singer # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/25/2009


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Chow downMelanie Travis # 13
Genre:
Rating:
Faith is chosen as a finalist in a contest to be spokesdog for a new dog food. When the owner of one of the other finalists falls to his death, Melanie investigates whether it was really an accident or someone is desperate to win.

Berenson does a wonderful job hanging the necessary plot convolutions on the contest finalists, probably the best in this series. But she added not one but TWO secondary plots, neither necessary but at least she kept both to minor chunks of the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/23/2009


 
Author: Wrede, Patricia C
Title: Calling on DragonsEnchanted Forest Chronicles #
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/10/2009


 
Author: Brett, Simon
Title: Cast in Order of DisappearanceCharles Paris # 1
Genre:
Rating:
When a young actress friend of actor Charles Paris thinks her boyfriend is harassing her, she asks Charles to take him some blackmailing photographs she has bought to relieve him. The man is discovered dead and Jacqui is convinced his son murdered him, so Charles investigates to prove her wrong.

Workmanlike mystery, although a bit slower-moving than I like. And yet another mystery where the title bears no relationship to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2009


 
Author: Crum, Laura
Title: CutterGail McCarthy # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/29/2008


 
Author: Jacobs, Kate
Title: Comfort Food
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2008


 
Author: O'Rourke, Sally Smith
Title: Christmas at Sea Pines Cottage
Genre:
Rating:
Sentimental tale of the life of a loving family, told from the viewpoint of the family dog. Not particularly well-organized or believable, but an effective holiday tearjerker anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/16/2008


 
Author: Wright, Jason F
Title: Christmas jars
Genre:
Rating:
Predictably sappy story of a young reporter desperate for a story, who tracks down the family who has been giving away jars full of money on Christmas Eve. No surprises but have a box of kleenex handy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/15/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Copsi Castle
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/11/2008


 
Author: Brand, Christianna
Title: Court of foxes
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/10/2008


 
Author: Francis, Dorothy Brenner
Title: Conch shell murderKatie Hassworth
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/08/2008


 
Author: Greenwood, Kerry
Title: Cocaine BluesPhryne Fisher # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - 1920s
Rating: 3
In this start of the Phryne Fisher series, set in the Roaring Twenties, she travels to her native Australia to investigage a woman being poisoned by her husband, rescues and hires a wronged housemaid, and helps track down a murderous abortionist.

Apart from an impossibly elegant heroine who is accomplished in unladylike ways and casually puts others in danger, there is too much reliance on coincidence (one potential victim happens to look out her window at the right time to see a Bad Guy climbing up, another one is saved when a Bad Guy is reluctant to break down a bolted door). And I figured out who the King of Snow was going to turn out to be way too early in the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/07/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Colin Lowrie
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2008


 
Author: Perry, Anne
Title: Callander SquareCharlotte and Thomas Pitt # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/04/2008


 
Author: Weintraub, Stanley
Title: Charlotte & Lionel: a Rothschild love story
Genre:
Rating:
Unfortunately dry account of an arranged marriage between two Rothschild cousins that turned into a love story as well as a political history of Victorian England and its entanglements with the rest of Europe. Interesting characters, but such a slow read I gave up halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/31/2008


 
Author: Benioff, David
Title: City of thieves
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/30/2008


 
Author: Fielding, Helen
Title: Cause celeb
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/29/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Charlotte
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/28/2008


 
Author: Brand, Christianna
Title: Cat and MouseInspector Chucky # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/22/2008


 
Author: Asprin, Robert and Nye, Jody Lyn
Title: Class dis-mythedNew Myth Adventures #4
Genre:
Rating:
Fans of this series will enjoy Skeeve taking on teaching six students, all with their own agendas. (The idea of three young female Pervects in two-piece business suits is a little scary, though. And I swear Asprin/Nye wrote this whole book in order to use one particularly horrible pun at the end of Chapter Twelve.) Those new to the series would be smarter to start with one of the earlier books, as following the plot depends a little on knowing Skeeve and Bunny, and Asprin/Nye avoid the sin committed by most writers of series, wasting the reader's time re-hashing the series' history.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/04/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Crown of aloes
Genre:
Rating:
One of the fictionalized biographies that Lofts does so well. Queen Isabella of Castile had a rough life, but managed to unite Spain, send daughters off to be Queen of England and Holy Roman Empress, and see the New World discovered in her name. Interesting presentation of the human side of an amazing medieval queen.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Chocolate chip cookie murderHannah Swensen #1
Genre:
Rating:
Somewhat cute mystery featuring a less-than-perfectly-gorgeous heroine whose mother is desperate to get her married off. Hannah runs a cookie emporium and helps her policeman brother-in-law on the side, especially when a milk delivery man turns up dead outside her back door. Lots of twists and turns and I got about 2/3 of the way through before figuring out whodunnit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/02/2008


 
Author: Clement, Blaize
Title: Curiosity killed the cat sitterDixie Hemingway #1
Genre:
Rating:
Reputable mystery writers eschew endings in which a critical piece of information is not given to the reader. This ending depended on a hidden piece of information. Pshaw on Clement. I'm also really tired of heroines fighting deep emotional scars, nearly every likable character being gay, and nearly every unlikeable character professing Christianity. This is part of a series but I won't be bothering with the rest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/11/2008


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