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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


 
Author: Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Title: Five Feline Fancies
Genre: Fantasy Short Stories
Rating: 3
Five short-to-medium length stories featuring cats. Includes The Secret Lives of Cats, Scrawny Pete, What Fluffy Knew, The Poop Thief, and Destiny: A Prequel to the Fey.

Just what the title says, although closer to horror than "fancies" in my opinion - I skipped most of "What Fluffy Knew" because I could tell it would give me nightmares. The stories were quite clever, and (again except for "What Fluffy Knew") used cats as characters without making them superhuman - er, superfeline. What is inexcusable, coming from a writer of Rusch's experience and reputation, is the sloppy proofreading. Lead instead of led, bar instead of bare, and instead of at, who instead of with. Sentences that don't make sense: "But I get to hear and every one of them speak ..." The formatting goes from fine to all-indented and then back to fine again. An occasional typo is one thing, but there were so many errors in this collection that I had to knock off a star for them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/29/2014


 
Author: Samson, Lisa
Title: Finding Hollywood NobodyHollywood Nobody # 2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4
Still on the run, Scotty and Charley head for a shoot in Tennessee, where Scotty makes a new friend and a personal connection with God.

Although I really liked Scotty's ignorant but willing steps towards God, the whole running-from-the-mob storyline has gotten old. How on earth does Charley get paid for her work if she doesn't dare leave a trail like a checking account? Fortunately, there are enough storylines irrelevant to that one to keep me reading. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were all okay. It took a lot of straining to see a connection between the title and the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/26/2014


 
Author: Novak, Laura
Title: Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private
Genre: Fiction? hard to tell
Rating: 2
Finding Clarity: A Mom, A Dwarf and a Posh Private School in the People's Republic of Berkeley

A TV news reporter, retired in disgrace to mom-hood, investigates the mysterious resignation of a beloved headmaster from her sons' posh private school.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Novak needs to learn the basic rules of writing, especially that EVERY SINGLE SENTENCE should advance the plot in some way. Her lack of organization made it a challenge to even find a plot; neither her TV news anecdotes nor her description of her sex life with her husband were relevant or interesting. By the time she got around to discussing the problems with the new headmaster, I had lost any interest in a book filled with stereotypical snotty rich characters. The title was way too long (always a red flag), and "Finding Clarity" bore no relation to the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2014


 
Author: Fawkes, L. T.
Title: Fillmore to the RescueFillmore Chronicles # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: NR
Rich Melly relies on her Jeeves-like "personal assistant" Fillmore when her bossy aunt shows up for a visit with two Texan prospective husbands in tow.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Fawkes actually does a pretty good job recreating the tone and setting of the Jeeves series, although the cutesy initials ("c and s" for cream and sugar, "K and C" and Kahlua and Coke, etc.) set my teeth on edge. Jeeves fans will probably enjoy it; but I've never particularly liked the Jeeves stories, for the same reason I didn't particularly like this one. Wusses don't interest me; neither do incredibly bossy and insulting relatives, or moocher "friends." Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/24/2014


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith as Peters, Ellis
Title: Fallen Into the PitInspector Felse # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 1
In post-WWII England, a former Nazi soldier makes trouble for the town that took him in.

To say this book gets off to a slow start is like saying the Grand Canyon is big. Peters saunters from philosophizing on the adjustment WWII vets faced on returning home, to pranks pulled by schoolboys on their teacher, to Helmut taunting his former enemies and playing the justice system to make himself look wronged. I like her Brother Cadfael stories so much that I slogged through pages and pages of uninteresting irrelevancies, but when I got a quarter of the way through and still found no story, I quit. If I want to read about hateful people, I can get a newspaper.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/22/2014


 
Author: Niven, Larry & Pournelle, Jerry
Title: Fallen Angels
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: NR
Two space-station residents shot down during a scooper run to Earth to acquire more nitrogen are rescued by a group of science fiction fans.

I must have picked this up free somewhere, not sure where or why. Post-apocalyptic stories of any kind are not my thing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2014


 
Author: Emerson, Kathy Lynn
Title: Face Down Beneath the Eleanor CrossLady Appleton # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: NR
Susanna's unlamented husband Robert returns from the dead just to die at Susanna's feet in London. Her only hope to defeat the charge of poisoning him is to find the real killer.

I don't like mysteries in which the hero is charged, and I'd have skipped this one if I had known. Okay technically, except I'm not sure the reader had all the information to identify the killer.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/19/2014


 
Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Five For SilverJohn the Eunuch # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
As the plague devastates Constantinople, John investigates the murder of a friend of his servant Peter's, and a young man who resents John makes a play for Hypatia.

Complex and involving, as usual. Reed and Mayer did an amazing job of bringing to life a medieval capital crippled both by disease and fear. I'm not sure I followed all the convolutions of the plot, but the characters are unforgettable and the resolution satisfying. The connection of the book to the title is strained, but I will forgive a lot for a good story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/14/2012


 
Author: Back, Ed
Title: From The Back Acres, A Humorous Guide to Organic G
Genre: Gardening
Rating: 2
I picked up From The Back Acres, A Humorous Guide to Organic Gardening free through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Intended to be a humorous book of gardening advice. Several chapters from this book have been excerpted to sell separately by the author, including Let's Talk Veggies : A Small Garden Handbook (chapter 11).

The "humor" part is the commentary allegedly written by Tom and Barbara, the geese. I find that type of attribution uninteresting-corny so I would not describe the book as humorous. The spelling is erratic; not even the gardening terms are reliably correct. As an example, he praises "secession planting." That's right, according to Back, the Civil War was a type of gardening. Personally, I prefer "succession planting." The Kindle formatting is awful beyond description. The type size changes at random. Some photos were apparently laid out two-across, but there is not room for two of them on my Kindle Keyboard, so the photos appear one at a time and then I see the two captions with intermingled words so I can't even tell which words belonged with which photo. There is no interactive table of contents, only a list of chapters without links located BEFORE the "beginning" of the book.

So, if you can wade through misspellings and poor formatting, is the information valuable? By now, you probably won't be surprised to learn that at least some of it is flat-out wrong. He praises earthworms for, among other functions, processing compost. Anyone who has actually done worm composting knows that you need a different kind of worm, red wigglers, while the earthworms that are so useful in the garden are nightcrawlers. He also defines "organic gardening" as not using chemicals. In this case, it isn't just a matter of different people using different definitions. The USDA co-opted the term "organic" in 1990, and its definition (in complete contradiction of the spirit of organic gardening) allows some chemical poisons. Look up "organic food" in Wikipedia if it is too much to believe that an ebook published in 2010 would contain information 20 years out of date. Back also suffers from a common disease called "what happens to me will happen to everyone." The slugs that are prevalent in the Pacific Northwest, which he spends a lot of space discussing, do not exist here in dry Wyoming. And I would be thrilled beyond words to find wild blackberries growing on my property.

The book isn't 100% beyond hope. There are a few helpful (if correct) factoids about companion planting and growing vegetables, and he offers an interesting look at gardening in the Pacific Northwest (if nowhere else). But unless you pick up this book free and absolutely cannot afford to purchase a more useful one, the scattered gems are buried in too much muck for my taste.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/24/2012


 
Author: Schaap, James Calvin
Title: Finding Christmas
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 2
Collection of short stories with a Christmas theme.

The book starts badly, with a preachy and not very interesting short-short. Schaap offers a fictional look at different situations, but only some of them felt real. "Forgetting Jesus" brought home in an only slightly heavy-handed way that Jesus is the center of Christmas. Nearly everyone in "Facts of Life" felt like a cardboard character. "She'll Love It" lacked a satisfying resolution and Julia was too self-obsessed to be sympathetic. "Finding Something" was probably meant to be inspirational, but I found it unspeakably sad. "First Cry in a Stable" was a moderately good look at a sullen teen's Christmas. "Merry Madness" was another sad story, featuring neglected children. The final story, "Joy and Miracle," seemed to feature the same self-righteous academic as the first story. I would love to see a fictional work that would gently and subtly convict the reader to put the Christ back in Xmas, but this isn't it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/02/2011


 
Author: Kennedy, Kathryne
Title: Fire Lord's LoverElven Lords # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
General Dominic, the bastard half-human son of Elven Lord Mor'ded, marries Lady Cassandra as arranged. But the groom does not dare have any feelings for his new wife, knowing that his cruel father will torture anything he values in order to make sure he has not developed more powers. Meanwhile, the bride has been carefully trained to assassinate Mor'ded, hoping that as a member of his household she will have the opportunity.

This actually was a pretty involving story, but Kennedy seemed confused about her target audience. There was way too many and too explicit sex scenes for a fantasy, and too much storyline for erotica. Both Dominic and Lady Cassandra were believable up to the point that they became instantly obsessed by each other. That a driven warrior who had seen everyone he loved killed would so completely lose his control over a schoolgirl is no more believable than that a convent-reared innocent would turn into a sex-crazed temptress after her wedding night. Sadly, this lack of believability was critical to the storyline; without their mutual sexual obsessions, the plot falls apart. I couldn't finish it, but I'd like to see more by this author as she has tremendous imagination.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/22/2011


 
Author: Goyer, Tricia
Title: From Dust and AshesLiberator # 1
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
Left alone to await the Americans' coming when her SS husband Friedrich ran away from a death camp, pregnant Helene and her young daughter Anika reconciled with Helene's father and moved in with him. They also offered a home to two women who survived the death camp. As the survivors regain their health and move towards the future, Helene finds God and cherishes her friendship with American G.I. Peter. But the greed of Friedrich's fellow guard Arno and some shocking news threaten Helene's life as well as her children.

Gripping start that deteriorated into soap opera. I was very disappointed, as the characters faced real problems and working out real solutions would have been challenging.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/04/2011


 
Author: Hodge, Sibel
Title: Fourteen Days LaterFourteen Days Later # 1
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4
Six months after being dumped by her boyfriend, Helen decides to revamp her life by tackling something new every day for two weeks, and each one turns into a humorous catastrophe. Oddly, the disastrous experiments do increase her self-confidence and she finds herself attracted to her best friend's smartass but impossibly gorgeous brother Kalem.

Simple chick-lit and some really obnoxious characters but held my interest in spite of Helen's obsession with getting her vain ex-boyfriend back and the rather predictable plot. Her misadventures felt real and had me laughing out loud at some points.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/02/2011


 
Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Four For a BoyJohn the Eunuch # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - Byzantium
Rating: 3
A glimpse during a processional sends John into a flashback of when he was a slave and new to Constantinople, working with reluctant excubitor Felix to identify the killer of a wealthy philanthropist.

I find flashbacks lame and annoying, even this one in a series I like. Fortunately, I was able to forget the flashback part pretty quickly and just enjoy it as a story. Two elements spoiled what was otherwise a solid plot. One was the constant belittling of John as a slave and/or a eunuch. It just wasn't believable that practically every other word out of everyone's mouth would be abusive when John wasn't doing anything to trigger it. Second, the deus-ex-machina climax was extremely unsatisfying, as they usually are. And Reed & Mayer are much better writers than to need to fall back on that lazy device. I haven't given up on the series but I'm disappointed. The title is not integral to the story but is somewhat related.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2011


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Flower Fables
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: NR
Sweet and innocent little stories of loving fairies making the world a better place.

Must have been written for children, as I don't think the naivete displayed would have held adults' interest even in Alcott's day. But probably a good choice for the young girl who likes reading about flower fairies.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/27/2011


 
Author: Downing, Sybil
Title: Fire In the Hole
Genre: Historical Thriller
Rating: NR
In 1913, woman lawyer takes on Colorado mine owners and corrupt government officials.

I don't like political thrillers whether they are set in modern day or historical times.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/26/2011


 
Author: Hambly, Barbara
Title: Fever SeasonBenjamin January # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 3
As yellow fever and cholera decimate New Orleans, Benjamin tries to find a runaway slave who has disappeared.

I think I've figured out why I don't like this series, even though the storylines are at least no worse than others I've enjoyed. The situation of both free and slave non-white characters is just too depressing. It's probably true to life, but that doesn't mean I want to read about it. Benjamin's obsessing about the death of his wife doesn't help! I got about a quarter of the way through and just couldn't take any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/23/2011


 
Author: Finney, Patricia as Cavendish, Grace
Title: FeudLady Grace # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
When a Maid of Honor suddenly becomes desperately ill, Grace investigates the matter as a possible poisoning.

As usual, a pleasant, fast, interesting read. It's really remarkable how well the different women writing this series keep the same voice in the books. However, the title gives too much away (they should have picked a different "F" word for the title), and the cover art has nothing to do with the story (although at least it's not picturing Elizabethan Grace in 1950's schoolgirl attire!)
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/22/2011


 
Author: Valent, Jennifer Erin
Title: Fireflies in DecemberJessilyn Lassiter # 1
Genre: Coming-of-age fiction
Rating: 2
After a deadly fire, white Jessilyn's parents take in an orphaned black girl, Gemma. But in 1932 Virginia, neither the white community nor the black community find that acceptable, and the Lassiters find themselves ostracized and threatened.

Just another coming-of-age-during-segregation story that never caught my interest. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/20/2011


 
Author: Emerson, Kathy Lynn
Title: Face Down Among the Winchester GeeseLady Appleton # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
While Sir Robert pursues a dangerous and greedy plan, Susanna investigates who killed one of his former mistresses.

Robert is a scuzzbucket, no question. But the two different storylines and the political element are confusing and Susanna's disregard of her virtuous appearance is disingenuous, as she knows Robert resents her competence and would be glad of an opportunity to restrict her. Not a bad story and I read it all the way through, but not as strong or involving a mystery as previous books in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/09/2011


 
Author: Skidmore, Ian
Title: Forgive Us Our Press Passes
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3
eBook obtained free from publisher BeWrite Books

Memoirs of a British journalist.

The book description made this sound like a humorous account of a journalist who had been present at a number of historical events. It was neither. While there were occasional mildly funny moments, the narrative was disjointed and referred mostly to drinking large quantities of alcohol and bizarre newspaper marketing ploys. It wasn't a bad book, but when I was finished I wondered why I had continued reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/24/2011


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: FoundationCollegium Chronicles # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
Orphaned when his bandit parents were killed, Mags lives a bleak life as a child laborer in a gem mine. Being Chosen by Dallen brings him into a world he can barely comprehend, with kindness, food, and Dallen's unfailing love. But he discovers Haven is not inhabited by pure harmony, as his suspicious mind found unbelievable anyway. Some Heralds oppose the King's plan to replace the mentoring system with a formal Collegium to train the newly-Chosen. His sole friend Lena is a Bardic trainee burdened by her Bard father's glorious reputation. But then a chance meeting in the market introduces Mags to a welcoming circle of intelligent, loyal Valdemarites who want to use his special gifts.

As usual, a solid story with intriguing characters. The only disappointment was the ending; the story didn't end, it was just chopped off. Not up to Lackey's usual standard at all.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/06/2010


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: Friday’s Child
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: 1
When beauty Isabella Milborne rejects the proposal of her childhood friend Viscount Sheringham because he is a disreputable libertine, he angrily determines to marry the first woman he sees - who turns out to be a poor neighbor who has adored him since childhood.

Just another Regency romance, with annoying characters that I couldn't stand. I gave up pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/04/2010


 
Author: Clare, Alys
Title: Fortune Like the MoonHawkenlye # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 5
Not-yet-crowned Richard Plantagenet sends retainer Josse d'Acquin to find the brutal killer of an English nun. Working with Abbess Helewise, he finds a bizarre family situation masking some greedy relatives. But does that explain the murder?

Nice workmanlike mystery where little is as it seems. I particularly liked Abbess Helewise's cooperation with the secular authority in the form of Josse; while she could have stood on her rights as a religious, she focused instead on the importance of finding the killer and making use of Josse's abilities. The title was only marginally related to the story, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/02/2010


 
Author: Emerson, Kathy Lynn
Title: Face Down Upon an HerbalLady Appleton # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 5
No one at Madderly Castle is heartbroken when odious Lord Glenelg is found murdered. But Queen Elizabeth's desire to have Sir Robert investigate a rumored conspiracy there sends Susanna to visit just in time for another murder. As Robert desperately tries to uncover the conspiracy, Susanna tries to protect Catherine from her infatuation with one of the suspects and identify the killer.

Excellent characterizations, especially Robert as an anxious courtier, and the plot moves right along. This series would actually be a very good introduction to historical mysteries for someone new to the genre. Emerson's people are absolutely true to the era and most are likable as well. The story is well-developed, with everyone having secrets to provide lots of red herrings, but Emerson plays absolutely fair with the reader and even accomplishes the difficult task of keeping up suspense after Susanna has identified the killer. But the story is neither so gloomy nor so convoluted as to scare off a new genre reader.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/25/2010


 
Author: Finney, Patricia
Title: Firedrake’s EyeDavid Becket # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
I am honestly not sure if there was a story here and if POV changes constantly or it's just narrated by a lunatic. Becket rescued Jewish clerk Simon Ames from being killed and convinced the victim he would benefit from Becket's fighting lessons. Ames deciphered coded messages sent to his uncle. This happened in between ravings about angels and dragons and Spaniards I don't know what all else.

I gave up on this Elizabethan tale pretty quickly. It wasn't quite stream-of-consciousness, there were real sentences and paragraphs, but they made no sense. I can cope with several apparently unrelated plotlines, but Finney's insane narrator produces gibberish so the reader can't tell what is real and what is not - a waste of a fine talent, and a technique I don't enjoy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/17/2010


 
Author: Lind, Hailey
Title: Feint of ArtAnnie Kincaid # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Her reputation ruined in the art community by word of some forgery she did as a teenager, Annie has gone legit with a faux-finish studio. But she can still spot a forgery, and a request from an ex-boyfriend to check out a multimillion-dollar purchase by his museum leads to several deaths, the disappearance of the forger, a fake PI, and someone determined to get Annie out of the picture - permanently.

This was okay but didn't keep my interest riveted on the story. The characters didn't grab me and the plotline didn't leave me reluctant to put the book down, but there weren't any glaring errors or offenses against the reader. I got halfway through and then skipped to the end. I didn't realize what the title meant until Annie revealed it on her gallery sign.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/16/2010


 
Author: Emerson, Kathy Lynn
Title: Face Down In the Marrow-Bone PieLady Appleton # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Educated far beyond normal for an Elizabethan woman, Susanna's independence and intelligence do not always sit well with her husband Sir Richard Appleton. Unwilling to accept his direction to ignore problems at Appleton Manor, after he leaves for a diplomatic mission in France she travels north to find out why the servants left after the sudden death of the steward. But when Sir Richard follows her on his return to England, he announces they will both leave the area the next day, and she must solve the murders quickly or see her husband become the next victim.

Both Susanna and Sir Richard are completely believable Elizabethans, far from perfect and scarred by the religious conflicts that have shaped their whole lives. On the one hand, Sir Richard is glad to leave the boring day-to-day details of running his estate to Susanna. But on the other hand, he feels unmanned that she does it so well and considers it unsuitable that England is ruled by a woman as well. The story itself has some flaws. Several weeks pass in the timeline with a few words. Did nothing significant happen during those weeks? Why was the killer so quiet, leaving Susanna to get on with repairing Appleton Manor? The twist at the end was fairly predictable. However, it did keep me reading, so I'll go on to the next book in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/15/2010


 
Author: Fowler, Earlene
Title: Fool’s PuzzleBenni Harper # 1
Genre: Romance/Suspense
Rating: 4
Still grieving the death of her husband months earlier, Benni seeks contentment in living alone and running a small arts center on California's Central Coast. But when she finds a potter stabbed and saw her cousin Rita driving away moments before, temporary police chief Ortiz turns into her nemesis as she tries to protect her cousin and find the real killer.

This is a mystery/romance/thriller rather than a straight mystery, complete with unbelievably gorgeous male to fight with and the reader finds out information as Benni does. None of the characters are especially believable, but they are likable and the story moves right along. I read this all the way through and I'll try the next one in the series, to see if it turns into more of a mystery series or degenerates into romance trash. I was disappointed that the quilt design of the title was only very peripheral to the story, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/14/2010


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: Fortune’s FoolFive Hundred Kingdoms # 3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5
Sea princess Katya uses her rare ability to walk on land to spy for the Sea King. Seventh son Sasha uses his luck to make Belarus prosper and eliminate evil threats to the kingdom. They fall in love, of course. So when Katya is captured by a jinn that has no place in northern tradition, Sasha is wild to free her, with some surprising allies and generous manipulation of the Tradition.

Rewriting fairy tales is a popular activity, right up there with writing a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, but this series of Lackey's is the only worthy contender I have read. (I'm not counting Gregory Maguire's Wicked, which was a brilliant piece of work but so gloomy and depressing that I skipped chunks of it.) Lackey's personification of The Tradition as the power behind the tales ties together what are essentially unrelated stories and provides the consistent framework necessary for readers to identify this world. The likable and believably imperfect characters move the plot along at a spanking pace. AND the title was perfectly appropriate and the only tiny flaw in the cover art was Katya's golden blonde hair - the book makes it clear it was white-blonde. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/11/2010


 
Author: Estleman, Loren D
Title: FramesValentino Mystery # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/11/2010


 
Author: Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Title: Free Amazons of DarkoverDarkover short stories
Genre:
Rating:
An old collection of Darkover fan stories about the Free Amazons, culled from two fan collections.

The stories are mostly very amateur, not at all up to the standard Bradley maintains in her later professional anthologies. I even skipped finishing some because they were painfully badly written. Some were okay, but this book is only recommended for hard-core Darkover fans.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2010


 
Author: Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Title: Four Moons of DarkoverDarkover short stories
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/08/2010


 
Author: Godwin, Parke
Title: Firelord
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/07/2010


 
Author: Stabenow, Dana
Title: Fire and IceLiam Campbell # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/06/2010


 
Author: Brandon, Jay
Title: Fade the Heat
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/04/2010


 
Author: Evanovich, Janet & Hughes, Charl
Title: Full houseMax Holt # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/09/2009


 
Author: Miller, Robin
Title: Flying nurse
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/08/2009


 
Author: Evans, Jimmie Ruth
Title: Flamingo fataleTrailer park mystery # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/07/2009


 
Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: For the Sake of ElenaInspector Lynley # 5
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/07/2009


 
Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: Freedom’s landingCatteni # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/06/2009


 
Author: Lisle, Holly
Title: Fire In the MistFaia # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/05/2009


 
Author: Johnston, Linda O
Title: Fine-feathered deathKendra Ballantyne # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/04/2009


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Fudge Cupcake MurderHannah Swenson # 5
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/02/2009


 
Author: Woodward, Jeannette A
Title: Finding a job after 50
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/01/2009


 
Author: Lavene, Joyce
Title: Fruit of the poisoned treePeggy Lee garden mystery # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/28/2009


 
Author: VanderMeer, Ann & Jeff
Title: Fast ships, black sails
Genre:
Rating:
Pirate-themed stories by different authors, from traditional 18th century settings to futuristic space pirates.

As always in a collection, the quality varies. I found the ones with the strongest storylines at the beginning. Later in the book, many stories lapse into nontraditional formats that seem to have little or no story line. I'm not a pirate fan, and I tired of stories about pirates by the time I was halfway through the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/27/2009


 
Author: Arnoldussen, Barbara (editor)
Title: First year nurse
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2009


 
Author: Godden, Rumer
Title: Five for sorrow, ten for joy
Genre:
Rating:
Young woman is led into prostitution and murder, but redeemed by becoming a nun. Interesting story but told in such a disjointed manner it was hard to follow.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/18/2008


 
Author: Matthews, Carole
Title: For better, for worse
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/17/2008


 
Author: Greenwood, Kerry
Title: Flying Too HighPhryne Fisher # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/16/2008


 
Author: Gaskin, Catherine
Title: Family affairs
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/12/2008


 
Author: Gaskin, Catherine
Title: Fiona
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/09/2008


 
Author: Munro, Alice
Title: Friend of my youth
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/07/2008


 
Author: Schaub, Christine
Title: Finding Anna
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/06/2008


 
Author: Cookson, Catherine
Title: Fenwick houses
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/03/2008


 
Author: Borchert, Don
Title: Free for all: Oddballs, geeks, and gangstas in the
Genre:
Rating:
public library. I found this memoir of a public librarian mildly interesting and occasionally slightly amusing; my husband laughed out loud through most of it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/04/2008


 
Author: Kingsbury, Karen
Title: ForgivenFirstborn #2
Genre: Christian soap opera
Rating: 1
I officially give up on this author. She has repeated all the problems with the previous book -- poor writing, unbelievable characters, and frequently dragging in plot lines from a previous books without actually resolving any -- and added enough agony to rival Job. This isn't Christian fiction, it's a soap opera. I only got halfway through the book and wasn't even interested enough to peek at the ending.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/28/2008


 
Author: Kingsbury, Karen
Title: FameFirstborn #1
Genre: Christian romance
Rating: 3
Another Christian chick-lit novel, this one the start of one series ("Firstborn") but apparently continuing the characters and stories from an earlier series. The characters in this one are just too good to be real, and the denoument didn't ring true. I also found the very frequent references to the earlier series (which I haven't read) distracting, and have a emotional distaste for making the major characters of a Christian novel rich and famous as well as gorgeous. Having said that, I did read through to the end and may still try the next book in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/29/2008


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