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

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


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

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


 
Author: McKay, Shirley
Title: Hue and CryHew Cullan # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - Scotland
Rating: NR
Graduated law student Hew returns to Elizabethan-era Scotland reluctant to practice, and becomes involved in investigating the murder of a young boy.

Too gloomy and depressing for my taste. I only got about halfway through before quitting. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was marginally appropriate but could have been stronger.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/21/2014


 
Author: Roberts, David
Title: Hollow CrownLord Edward # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Commissioned to recover some indiscreet letters written by the King to Wallis Simpson, Edward finds himself a suspect in the thief's sudden death.

I'm not sure what originally interested me about this series, but it's gone. I finished the book out of simple inertia. Verity is a twerp and Edward is more focused on honor than practicality. The title was minimally relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/19/2014


 
Author: Matarese, Jennifer
Title: Heroine Addiction
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
The bisexual daughter of two superheroes reluctantly gets back into superherodom when her father disappears.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. If there was a story buried here, I didn't last long enough to find it. Matarese committed the all-too-common beginning-writer mistake of burying the reader in introductions to one person after another, none of whom she had given the reader any reason to care about. When I got 10% of the way through and Matarese still hadn't gotten beyond introductions, I quit. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was quite clever.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/12/2014


 
Author: Garfield, Brian
Title: Hopscotch
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 3
Bored in retirement and desperate to get back "in the game," a former CIA agent writes an expose that sends agencies from several governments after him.

I read this because I enjoyed the convoluted storyline in the movie (starring Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson). For a change, the movie was better than the book. Kendig is NOT a sympathetic character here, he's simply looking for a way to feel alive again and uses people relentlessly. (Ross, on the other hand, is possibly the most sympathetic character in the book, instead of the ten-thumbed doofus from the movie.) The events in the book aren't always logical; surprises in a plot are always a plus, but the reader should be able to look back and say "oh yes, of COURSE." That was missing from the book and delightfully prevalent in the movie. (Garfield co-wrote the screenplay and I have a feeling he realized some of the book's weaknesses and took the chance to improve on them.) The role of Isobel in the movie always baffled me, she doesn't really contribute anything to the story and I have no idea why a talented actress like Glenda Jackson would take the role in the first place. The character is completely missing from the book. The book ending was reasonable if somewhat grisly, but Cutter's and Ross' reactions left me wondering what left field they were in. I can't see anyone but hard-core spy fans really enjoying this book and can't rate it better than "okay." Go
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/25/2013


 
Author: O'Brian, Patrick
Title: H.M.S. SurpriseAubrey/Maturin # 3
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
When Stephen is captured by the French and tortured, Jack and the Surprises rescue him and then sail east, carrying an envoy to his new post. Stephen continues to pursue Diana while Jack suffers for his inability to marry Sophie.

As always, this book lacks a coherent storyline - it offers more a collection of episodes in Jack & Stephen's lives. But the characters are so vivid and engaging that I can forgive O'Brian's apparent inability to write a novel with a definite beginning and end. Don't avoid this series, saying you don't like battle scenes; I don't either, and I just skim them. There is plenty of people action to interest those of us who aren't crazy about war stories.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/20/2013


 
Author: Haws, Jon
Title: Heaven on Earth: New Zealand South Island
Genre: Travel
Rating: 1
I picked up Heaven on Earth: New Zealand South Island free during an Amazon giveaway.

Narrative of the author's trip around New Zealand, with accompanying photographs.

I desperately wanted to like this book. I love good travelogues and the New Zealand scenery, from all the photos I've seen, is spectacular. But the book was just too awful for words. First, the narrative was disjointed, poorly written, and at times degenerated into gibberish. What they ate is arguably relevant, even when it is just "ham and egg on toast," but if Haws is sharing what food to expect, he needs to tell us what kind of "sandwich and pastry" he had. When he writes "a clerk cut up and gave us a fruit I had never seen before" but doesn't tell us what the fruit was or what it tasted like, how does that benefit the reader? What does "We went to the mall and walked around" contribute to the story? Haws' word use ranged from awkward to execrable; in one paragraph everything was "amazing," in another everything was "beautiful." What is a "communinal" kitchen? Cliffs may be "sheer" but they are not "shear." What is CHC? Or QTown? I eventually figured out that CHC was probably Christchurch, but if Haws is using local lingo, he needs to explain that to the reader.

I was really looking forward to the photos. They were too small to see on my K4Android, but reasonably sized on my K4PC. But too many of them were slightly out of focus and/or not relevant, such as the "campervan" the author rented or someone eating a sandwich at a picnic table. Some seemed to be missing - several scattered single-line descriptions appear to be captions, but there is no photo. One was too dark to see much. Why does he describe the beauty of the Blue Pools but offer a photo only of the swinging bridge on the trail to get there? He describes the rock formations in the Tasman Sea and visitors piling rocks onto driftwood. But the only photo he shares is a closeup of a forearm-sized white rock with their names written on it!

I could go on but it's too discouraging. There might be a good travelogue buried somewhere in this book, if the author was willing to pay an editor to pull it out. But as is, even though I picked it up free it was overpriced.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2012


 
Author: Greenway, Nora
Title: How To Lower Blood Pressure
Genre: Health
Rating: 3
The usual recommendations: follow the DASH diet, eat more fruits and vegetables, cut down on salt and sugar, lose weight. But she included specific foods to increase intake of potassium, magnesium, and calcium, and suggests stevia instead of artificial sweeteners. She also recommends eating whole fruit instead of fruit juice, which has more concentrated sugars. Then she discusses alternative food therapies such as fish oil, garlic, turmeric, green tea, and folic acid, and activities such as biofeedback and yoga. And of course she includes that you need to quit smoking.

While there were a few new ideas in the book, her ideas of flavor seem to be quite different from her audience's. I like salads, but would not consider one a substitute for mac & cheese, no matter how many times she describes it as "yummy." And olive oil spread on a baked potato is not what I would call "delicious" - cardboard-tasting would be a more accurate description. Some of the recipes looked interesting, although I've never been able to get anything usable from fennel and the idea of sardines in a salad almost sent me running to the bathroom. I'm also suspicious of recipes using cream cheese, which is high in sodium as well as fat. Most of the alternative therapies I couldn't use, such as cranberry juice (which tastes awful and didn't she just recommend NOT drinking juices?). Also, the cover is for a different book - sloppiness on the author's part. I'll be trying some of the dietary changes simply because I'll try almost ANYTHING to get my blood pressure down, but overall, there isn't much here for anyone who is moderately knowledgable about their body.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/15/2012


 
Author: Sayers, Dorothy
Title: Hangman's HolidayLord Peter Wimsey # 9
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Uneven collection featuring different sleuths Collection of four Lord Peter Wimsey stories (The Image in the Mirror, The Incredible Elopement of Lord Peter Wimsey, The Queen's Square, The Necklace of Pearls); six Montague Egg stories (The Poisoned Dow '08, Sleuths on the Scent, Murder in the Morning, One Too Many, Murder at Pentecost, Maher-Shalal-Hashbaz); and two "other" stories (The Man Who Knew How, The Fountain Plays)

The stories vary somewhat in style and quality. The Image in the Mirror and Sleuths on the Scent were "talking heads" stories and never grabbed me. The rest were quite clever, although some in a creepy way that bordered on horror. This isn't the most engrossing collection I've ever read, although Lord Peter fans will want to read it to make sure they have finished the oeuvre.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/12/2012


 
Author: Wells, Geoff
Title: How To Make Trifle
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 4
Nice little cookbooklet giving the author's family recipe for this English classic.

Trifle is like stuffing in the U.S: every family has their own recipe and they are all delicious. I like a more custardy version, but I learned something from this as I had never heard of Bird's Custard, and the author gives readily-available substitutes for items that U.S. readers might not have access to. I don't think a rank beginner could make trifle using this recipe, but a moderately-experienced cook should have no problems. Pictures would have helped.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/22/2012


 
Author: Scott, Lisa
Title: Holiday Flirts
Genre: Romance
Rating: 3
Five somewhat-interrelated romantic short stories set around various holidays.

Only romance fans will like it, but they should enjoy it a lot. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/?s=holiday+flirts
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/16/2011


 
Author: Carlisle, Kate
Title: Homicide in HardcoverBibliophile # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/10/2011


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Hospital Sketches
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3
Feeling useless, spunky spinster Tribulation Periwinkle volunteers to nurse Civil War wounded. After a grueling trip, she arrives at her assigned hospital and cares for injured, ill, and dying soldiers. But she sickens and is unable to continue nursing.

Knowing Alcott actually nursed wounded during the Civil War, I had high hopes for this book, and the second and third quarters of the book comprised an amazing if excessively emotional portrait of caring for the injured and wartime Washington itself. Wading through the narrator's trip from Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. took up the first quarter of the book, and the last quarter was a disjointed addendum following some of the characters after they were discharged from the hospital. Not up to Alcott's better stories at all; mostly interesting as a look at the period.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/27/2011


 
Author: Samson, Lisa
Title: Hollywood NobodyHollywood Nobody # 1
Genre: YA
Rating: 4
Scotty travels around the country with her aging-hippie mother Charley, a movie food stylist, and writes a Hollywood gossip blog. She befriends (and falls for) a rising young star as she schools herself and hides from some danger she doesn't understand.

Interesting YA story featuring a remarkably level-headed but lonely and hurting young woman. All teens are trying to "find themselves" but Scotty has more of a challenge than most. I was surprised to find I wasn't distracted by the odd format, alternating blog entries & comments with Scotty writing in her diary. The information Charley and Jeremy tell her about her background has holes in it large enough to drive a Mack truck through, but presumably that is to interest the reader in the next book in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/26/2011


 
Author: Rusch, Kristine Kathryn as Rusch, Kris
Title: Hitler's Angel
Genre: Historical Mystery - Deutsch
Rating: 2
An old German policeman tells an American history student of his investigation into the death of Hitler's niece around 1930.

I had high hopes for this book and was disappointed to see the flashback framework. Mainly an SF writer, Rusch moves back and forth between the student in 1972 and the investigation in 1930, not allowing the reader to become involved with either story. I tried to stick it out, hoping the story would triumph over the format, but gave up before I got a quarter of the way through. It was technically adequate, with unexceptional spelling and grammar, which is why I didn't award it a lower rating.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/24/2011


 
Author: Ashley, Mike, ed.
Title: Historical Whodunits
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Collection of "historical detective stories" ranging from 1400 BC to the Edwardian era.

Ashley consistently does a fine job putting together anthologies, and he doesn't let historical mystery fans down in this 500-page collection. Favorite characters appearing include Sollius the slave, John the Eunuch, Sister Fidelma, Brother Athelstan, Judge Dee, Dame Frevisse, and of course Sherlock Holmes. The only two stories I disliked too much to finish were the Shakespeare-as-detective "A Sad and Bloody Hour" by Joe Gores, and the PI novel "Captain Nash and the Wroth Inheritance" by Raymond Butler. In fact, this collection would be a good choice to introduce a reader to historical mysteries; the short stories offer a chance to sample a variety of characters and approaches without investing a lot of time in a situation a particular reader doesn't enjoy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/23/2011


 
Author: Hambly, Barbara
Title: Homeland
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
Cora and her Southern husband Emory moved to Boston after their wedding in 1861. Susanna had read Uncle Tom's Cabin and wanted to leave her family's Southern plantation Bayberry to study art. Through their letters to each other, the reader follows the two young women through war and personal tragedies.

Hambly does a remarkable job bringing two characters to life who are at odds with their settings and contemporaries. But a remarkable achievement does not make an interesting story, and the tedious details of Cora's and Susanna's lives left me yawning and skipping large chunks of the book without losing the thread of what story there was. If a tough editor had made Hambly cut the book down by half, it could have been great.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/22/2011


 
Author: Graves, Robert
Title: Homer's Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
Retelling of the "Odyssey" with the main character changed to Nausicaa, a princess with too many suitors.

Retellings are rarely successful, and this is no exception. Although I would have been willing to accept a change of main character and setting if the story itself had been interesting, Graves instead spent pages and pages narrating how Nausicaa's ancestors settled Sicily, how her parents married, her brothers' lives, and even a description of the arrangement of the palace! I kept skipping pages, trying to find enough of a plot to hold my attention, I finally gave up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/20/2011


 
Author: Kingsbury, Kate as Kent, Rebecca
Title: High Marks for MurderBellehaven House # 1
Genre: Ghost story
Rating: NR
The headmistress of an Edwardian finishing school keeps seeing the "spirit" of a murdered schoolteacher.

Utter drivel, typical of ghost stories, which I don't like so I only read a few pages.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/19/2011


 
Author: Aird, Catherine
Title: His Burial TooInspector Sloan # 5
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
Researcher Tindall disappears the day after agreeing to sell his business. But when he is found underneath a heavy statue in an inaccessible church tower, DI Sloan and DC Crosby must examine everyone from his daughter to his super-efficient secretary to the businessman who commissioned a report which has mysteriously disappeared.

Solid police procedural with Crosby only enough in the story to be mildly annoying and a clever solution.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/18/2011


 
Author: Sanders, Ron
Title: Hero
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 1
An injured man wanders into a magical glade and then finds himself in the Aleuts.

Very strange and not very interesting ebook. The glade section is told in a kind of free-form rhyme that I found distracting. After he is sent away from the glade, he simply suffers abuse from one party after another. If there was a point, it wasn't apparent in the first quarter of the book that I managed to read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/18/2011


 
Author: Cleeves, Ann
Title: High Island BluesPalmer-Jones # 8
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Three British friends reunite for a birdwatching weekend in Texas. When one is found dead and another is suspected of the murder, he calls in a British investigator to help.

The people in this were so awful that the disjointed storyline didn't have a chance to disgust me. The men were greedy wimps and the women greedy manipulators. I struggled to get a quarter of the way through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/17/2011


 
Author: Perry, Marta
Title: Hide in Plain SightThree Sisters Inn # 1
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Rating: NR
Andrea rushes to her grandmother's house when her sister Rachel is injured by a hit-and-run driver, even though she thinks converting it to a B&B is foolish. She finds her grandmother in financial straits, a hunk renting the barn, and someone who seems prepared to do anything to keep the Three Sisters Inn from opening.

Not a genre I generally enjoy and the part I read didn't enthrall me so much I had to continue.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/17/2011


 
Author: Rivers, Francine
Title: Her Daughter's DreamMarta's Legacy # 2
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 5
The lives of Hildegarde's daughter Carolyn and granddaughter May Flower Dawn during the turbulent 1960's through the end of the millenium.

I can not figure out why I liked this book. The format is awkward, labelling the events by year and switching between the characters the narration focuses on. The mother/daughter conflict going through the generations was profoundly depressing. The titles of both books weren't particularly appropriate, although the reader is eventually given the Bible verse they came from. But I literally could not put the book down - I finished it in one night when I should have been sleeping. And I simply cannot give a lower rating to a book that held me in its grip as this one did.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/16/2011


 
Author: McCourtney, Lorena
Title: Here Comes the RideAndi McConnell # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Hired to chauffeur members and guests to a posh wedding, Andi is surprised when bride Pam is not only not interested in the event, but convinced her stepmother Michelle killed her father and wants Andi to prove it. Sure enough, a surprise ruins the overplanned bridal event and Andi and Fitz have another murder to solve.

More-or-less decent mystery even though parts were obvious, but the obligatory heavy-handed preaching didn't add anything desirable. My other main objection is that the reader isn't given enough information to identify the right murderer in the face of evidence pointing to others. Still an interesting story but could have used tougher editing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/16/2011


 
Author: Garrett, Randall
Title: Heist Job On Thizar
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 4
eBook downloaded free from www.Gutenberg.org

Anson Drake returns to Thizar when he learns that his arch-rival Viron Belgezad has purchased the magnificent Necklace of Algol. But is he smart to accept a partnership with a famous thief to obtain the necklace?

Cute mystery short story with the obligatory surprise ending.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/16/2011


 
Author: Stengl, Anne Elisabeth
Title: HeartlessGoldstone Wood # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Princess Una longs to be romantically courted by a handsome prince, and finds Prince Aethelred unexciting even though he comes from mysterious and magical Farthestshore. When a terrible threat to Parumvir shatters her complacent world, she must adjust to a crippling disability, confident of Aethelred's revulsion.

Una and her brother Felix have a fairly realistic sibling relationship. Aethelred's devotion is not particularly believable but fantasy devotion rarely is. The story dragged at times and I did some skipping ahead but read most of the book. The title was very relevant to the story climax. However, comparing this to Lewis' glorious Narnia tales is like comparing a hamburger casserole to prime rib. Stengl not only isn't in Lewis' class as a writer (to be fair, very few people are!), her symbolism didn't particularly impress me as Christian in any way.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/15/2011


 
Author: Carr, John Dickson as Dickson, Carter
Title: He Wouldn’t Kill PatienceSir Henry Merrivale
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/13/2011


 
Author: Milne, A.A.
Title: Happy Days
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 1
Collection of (real and imaginary) interactions between a man and his young niece.

Ordinarily I try to figure out who the target audience for a book is, but this one just baffled me. From imaginary letters from a baby through endless "what's that" questions from a young child, I can't think of anyone who would find it interesting. Parents already have too much of that and non-parents would tire of it even more quickly than parents. There simply was nothing to recommend this and no one I'd recommend it to.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/11/2011


 
Author: Linscott, Gillian
Title: Hanging On the WireNell Bray # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Nell responds to a friend's call for help after a mysterious shooting at a mental hospital serving shell-shocked soldiers. But when one of the patients is found shot to death, she agrees to a conspiracy to present it as a suicide with the intention of continuing to hunt for the killer herself.

The story lost me when Nell agreed to the suicide conspiracy. It not only wasn't believable, it was stupid. The title was very appropriate. I'm giving up on this series; although not awful, the stories never grabbed my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/10/2011


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: Her Majesty's WizardWizard in Rhyme # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5
A graduate student in English literature finds a scrap of paper containing runes and becomes obsessed with understanding it. He winds up in an alternate universe in which magic works, frees an imprisoned princess, and aids her to reclaim her crown.

Wonderful, engrossing story with likable characters, evil villains, and godly heroes making a difference in people's lives. I enjoy rereading this so much I bought the Kindle version.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2011


 
Author: Indriason, Arnaldur
Title: HypothermiaReykjavik thriller # 6
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
Ernaldur finds himself trying to establish why a woman committed suicide, while his daughter fights to bring him and his ex-wife back together.

Odd entry in this series, with alternating points of view, the normal recounting from Ernaldur's POV and entries from the suicide victim's POV revealing her obsession with messages from "beyond the grave." It provided information that Ernaldur didn't have yet but otherwise was just annoying. Ernaldur's family problems continue to not add anything to the plot but don't take up so much book space that they seriously detract from the storyline. Not quite as involving as previous books in the series but still a solid if bizarre read except for the unsatisfying ending, with a very appropriate title.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/16/2011


 
Author: Innes, Michael
Title: Hamlet, Revenge!Inspector Appleby # 2
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 1
A duchess is planning a Shakespeare play as entertainment for a house party.

Draggy, uninteresting start that never caught my attention. I give up on this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/16/2011


 
Author: Horgan, Sheila
Title: Hot TeaTea Series #1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
99-cent special from Amazon.com's Kindle store

Two sisters talk about finding a murderer.

In the first 10% of this book (all I could get through), talk is ALL that happens. Neither sister is likable at all. The narrator thinks buying a lottery ticket is her best chance to support herself. Finding a killer for the $100,000 rewards is her backup plan. The other sister actually has a job but it seems she spends most of her time sniping back at the narrator. I tired of their babbling very quickly and am glad I didn't pick up the other books in the series that were also available for $.99.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/03/2011


 
Author: Bowen, Rhys
Title: Her Royal SpynessLady Victoria Georgiana # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
"Minor royal" Lady Georgie is 34th in line for the throne of England in the 1930's and flat broke. But her desire for financial independence goes on the back burner when a Frenchman shows up claiming to own her ancestral home and is later found drowned in the town house of her brother the Duke. Georgie's determination to clear her brother is spurred by several attempts on her own life.

For some reason, I thought this was a series portraying the young Elizabeth I as a P.I. I was delighted to find I was wrong and the main character is an (apparently) wholly fictional duke's daughter. Unfortunately, that did not make it interesting. The very slow start felt like a drawing room comedy, sweeping me along as Georgie tries to support herself with an expensive education fitting her only to marry royalty or wealth. The assortment of minor characters could have stepped out of a Noel Coward play. However, once the murder happened, the pace picked up and kept me reading although it became obvious pretty early who the killer was. And the cover art actually reflected the correct time frame, always a plus.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/06/2010


 
Author: Rivers, Francine
Title: Her Mother's HopeMarta's Legacy # 1
Genre: Christian family fiction
Rating: 4
With her dying mother's blessing, Marta flees her abusive father and through prayer and work achieves her dream of owning a boardinghouse in Canada. An unexpected love draws her away from her secure but barren life, following her gentle, God-loving husband to California. As their children grow, Marta's desperation to put some spine into her timid oldest daughter leaves Hildemara thinking her mother hates her but determined to pursue her own dream of service to God anyway. Marta's adult life spans both world wars and the book ends during the post-WWII life adjustments.

Rivers' stories either grab me from the first paragraph or drag along never catching my attention at all. This was a grabber, and I had trouble putting the book down. I totally identified with Marta and cheered her for not letting her husband's imprudence ruin her life, although I suspect I was supposed to fault her for not being a dutiful wife and blindly trusting the Lord. The only flaw was the ending: it didn't, leaving both Hildemara and Marta hanging pending book 2 in the series. I think that is a gyp and was disappointed in Rivers' pulling that stunt.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2010


 
Author: Lawrence, Margaret
Title: Hearts and BonesHannah Trevor # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 1
Hannah Trevor lost her children, her husband ran off, and the rumored-illegitimate daughter born after he left is deaf. She supports them by working with her aunt as a midwife in post-colonial Maine, meanwhile leaving behind her a trail of broken hearts from her affairs.

I wanted to like this series: it's set in the newly-independent United States and features a midwife heroine. But it started badly, focusing on Hannah's multiple tragedies and sexual immorality. I don't enjoy reading about people with so many problems stacked against them, and Hannah is basically a 1970's "my body is mine to give to whom I please" feminist, not a realistic 1790's woman. Since she was neither likable nor believable, I barely made it a quarter of the way through the book before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/02/2010


 
Author: Hoyt, Sarah A
Title: Heart of LightMagical British Empire # 1
Genre: Fantasy - Alternate History
Rating: 3
As Victoria reigns over a mage-gifted aristocracy, bride Emily Oldhall is shattered she learns her new husband arranged their Cairo honeymoon as cover for a dangerous search for a jewel of power. An unknown enemy has left Nigel without allies, so he latches onto Peter Farewell, an old school friend who seems to know more about the object of their search than Nigel himself.

Although this alternate-history fantasy offered an intriguing premise, its formulaic dangers and repetitive discussion of Nigel's and Emily's marital problems did not hold my interest. I don't mind quest stories although they are not automatic favorites, and I don't mind stories challenging the traditional POV - in this case, the whole white man's burden philosophy - but I kept feeling the author saying "okay, we've had a couple pages of dialogue, now it's time for another complication." I gave up halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/01/2010


 
Author: Saylor, Steven
Title: Have You Seen Dawn?
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Visiting small Amethyst, Texas, from San Franciso, the last thing Rue expects is to find the body of a local missing girl. But when the body disappears before the sheriff arrives, Rue finds her story written off as hysteria.

I couldn't get into this story. I got about a third of the way through, put it down, and had no interest in picking it up again. Well enough written, no obvious flaws except a slow start, but it never left me eager to find out what happened next.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/30/2010


 
Author: Lippman, Laura
Title: Hardly Knew Her
Genre: Mystery/Horror short stories
Rating: 3
Collection of short stories on several different themes: Girls Gone Wild, Not My Town, and some Tess Monaghan stories.

Lippman could be the poster woman for edgy tales, in which a woman decides to lose weight for a party by using cocaine or frames a blackmailer for murder. Her characters go after what they want with single-minded determination and manipulation skills that would have awed Machiavelli, leaving carnage in their wake. I don't like that type of book but I find it much more tolerable in short story form, although the twist endings were usually quite predictable. I finished all but the last story, featuring a prostitute/mother character that I hadn't particularly enjoyed in an earlier story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/27/2010


 
Author: Garrett, Randall
Title: Hail to the Chief
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 4
short story downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org

A popular presidential candidate selects a man with no charisma as a running mate and sweeps him into office as VP. But the U.S. desperately needs his gift for making the right choice.

Intriguing premise, although it wouldn't work in today's political environment and the execution was a bit strained.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/13/2010


 
Author: Aird, Catherine
Title: Henrietta Who?Inspector Sloan # 2
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 5
The hit-and-run death of a quiet English widow reveals several mysteries - including who her alleged daughter really is. As Inspector Sloan and Constable Crosby follow one thread to her past after another, only to have them unravel in their hands, Henrietta pursues her own identity.

Fast read and enjoyable. Aird relies on the evaporating clues to create a mystery, the solution itself is rather simple but well-done. And the title was entirely appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/08/2010


 
Author: Carr, John Dickson
Title: Hag’s NookDr. Gideon Fell # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery/Horror
Rating: 1
Visiting American Tad Rampole is thrilled by England and considers lexicographer Dr. Gideon Fell the prototype Englishman. He also finds fascinating a local property with a former jail and scaffold on it, in order to inherit which the heir must spend an hour in the governor's quarter of the old jail and read what is in the safe. When the young man is found murdered, Dr. Fell investigates.

I just don't like this series. It's closer to horror than a classic murder mystery, and moves tediously slowly. I got halfway through before giving up and the murder had just taken place, and I wasn't even curious enough to skip to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/06/2010


 
Author: Emerson, Kathy Lynn
Title: How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/16/2010


 
Author: Hockensmith, Steve
Title: Holmes on the RangeHolmes on the Range # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/07/2010


 
Author: Rogak, Lisa as Lisa Shaw
Title: How to Make Money Publishing From Home
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/05/2009


 
Author: Moon, Elizabeth
Title: Hunting partySerrano Legacy # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/27/2009


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Hounded to deathMelanie Travis # 14
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/20/2009


 
Author: Ford, Jamie
Title: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/19/2009


 
Author: Parr, Delia
Title: Home to TrinityTrinity # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/18/2009


 
Author: Marshall, Evan
Title: Hanging HannahJane Stuart and Winky # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/12/2009


 
Author: Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Title: Hawkmistress!Darkover Ages of Chaos
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2009


 
Author: Murray, Helen
Title: Heart of a nurse
Genre:
Rating:
Young, beautiful nurse investigates her Scottish heritage and winds up in conflict with the handsome laird of the manor. IOW, yet another romance drivel that has nothing to do with nursing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/03/2009


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: How far to Bethlehem?
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/30/2009


 
Author: Alexander, Hannah
Title: HideawayHideaway # 1
Genre: Christian family fiction
Rating: NR
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/24/2009


 
Author: Andrews, Julie
Title: Home: A Memoir of My Early Years
Genre: Autobiography
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/20/2009


 
Author: Ferraro, Tina
Title: How to hook a hottie
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/19/2009


 
Author: Hechtman, Betty
Title: Hooked on murderCrochet mystery # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/11/2009


 
Author: Rosen, Elisabeth Payne
Title: Hallam's war
Genre:
Rating:
A Tennessee plantation family lives through the pre-Civil War and war years.

I hoped this would be a readable saga, but barely made it 50 pages into the book; the disjointed flashback storyline and endless North/South arguments between the characters were too boring for words.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/10/2009


 
Author: Novik, Naomi
Title: His Majesty's dragonTemeraire # 1
Genre:
Rating:
When Captain Will Laurence of HMS Reliant accidentally bonds with a new-hatched black dragon, he grieves that his naval career is over and he must become a dragon aviator. But even before he and Temeraire start their training, they have become close friends.

Think of this premise as Horatio Hornblower on Pern. For someone who liked the Hornblower and Captain Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin series, it would have been easy for this similar idea to not measure up. But Novik nailed the naval attitude and added air battle strategy making use of the dragons. And dragon Temeraire is an engaging a character as I have run across. The denoument was easy to predict but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/10/2009


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Hair of the dogMelanie Travis # 4
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/30/2008


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Hot dogMelanie Travis # 9
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/24/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Hester Roon
Genre:
Rating:
Yet another of her female 18th century heroines that everything bad happens to. Hester is born out of wedlock, her mother is killed helping a highwayman, she is used by thieves to gain access to an old woman's house and sentenced to be transported, falls in love with a weakling, and faces a slave rebellion. This was actually more interesting than her similar books but I still skipped chunks of pages.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/11/2008


 
Author: Shepherd, Jeremy
Title: How to start a home-based online retail business
Genre:
Rating:
Pretty good but very basic guide. Assumes no Internet or marketing knowledge on the part of the reader, so it's suitable for a rank beginner. I've been selling online since 2001, so I didn't find anything I didn't already know.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/24/2008


 
Author: Asprin, Robert
Title: Hit or mythMyth Adventures # 4
Genre:
Rating:
This book tells what are really two separate but related stories. In the first part, Skeeve is left on his own to masquerade as King Roderick as the king's wedding to a homicidal but rich ruler approaches. In the second part, Aahz has returned just in time to sell Skeeve's services to the Deveel merchants as protector against the Mob, whom Skeeve provided access to. If this sounds convoluted and improbable, of course it is, but it's also fast-moving and fun.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/17/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Here was a man
Genre:
Rating:
Rather sad biography of Sir Walter Raleigh, his dancing attendance on Queen Elizabeth, his marriage against the Queen's wishes, and his unsuccessful expedition to South America, and I wonder how accurate it is. Among other items, I've read in other sources that he had two sons, not just one. But the main elements, including his long imprisonment at the hands of James I, are all too true.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/14/2008


 
Author: Viets, Elaine
Title: High heels are murderJosie Marcus #2
Genre:
Rating:
Perfect Cheryl, Josie's neighbor's daughter and the bane of Josie's existence, is arrested for murder. It takes a serious bribe to get Josie interested in establishing Cheryl's innocence. A dreamy guy, Cheryl's hostile attitude, and the various discoveries Josie and best friend Alyce make about Cheryl's perfect life complicate the investigation as well. This is another one that I don't think the reader was given all the information to identify the killer; I sure didn't suspect the right person.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Her own special island
Genre:
Rating:
Odd and rather depressing story of a young woman hired as a modern-day governess to a precocious brat on a politically dangerous Mediterranean island.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008


 
Author: Elkeles, Simone
Title: How to ruin my teenage lifeHow to Ruin #2
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4
In this sequel, Amy is back in Chicago, adjusting to living with her father, the drama of her best friend's love life, the annoying boy down the hall, and the cost and power of popularity. A surprise visit triggers insecurities but may help un-ruin her life.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/23/2008


 
Author: Lyda, Hope
Title: Hip to be squareMari #1
Genre:
Rating:
This borderline-Christian-chick-lit story started too slowly, with a group of (mostly) whiny twentysomething women complaining to each other in between their monthly Bible-study get-together where they never got to the Bible study part. But as the story advanced, each faced challenges in her life and tried to act on her Christian faith. I'm glad I didn't give up early on.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/08/2008


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Hush puppyMelanie Travis #6
Genre:
Rating:
Sam's ex-wife Sheila appears, determined to get him back. Melanie really tries to avoid becoming involved in solving the inevitable murder in this one, but a rebellious child and a hidden treasure lead to a completely unbelievable climax based on the dogs' failure to bark at an intruder. The people could easily have been distracted by their conversation, but not the dogs! Shame on you, Berenson!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2008


 
Author: Elkeles, Simone
Title: How to ruin a summer vacationHow to Ruin #1
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Rating: 4
This young-adult book is a variation on the "my parents made me do something horrible that I eventually loved" theme. In this case, a very spoiled 16-year-old girl whose parents never married, and who blames her father for not trying hard enough, is suddenly drafted to go to Israel with her father for the summer to meet a flock of relatives (including a grandmother) that she didn't know she had. What follows is a predictable but enjoyable what-she-learns-and-how-she-changes tale.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/02/2008


 
Author: Stross, Charles
Title: Halting State
Genre:
Rating:
Every now and then, some writer takes the fact that few books are written in the second person as a challenge. This author not only wrote in the second person (You were tired. You spilled your Starbucks on your partner.) but alters the "you" he is talking to. The "you" was bad enough, but the changing "you" was so distracting I couldn't focus on the events and didn't finish the book. Take a look if you're curious about the technique, but don't expect a coherent story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2008


 
Author: Gillenwater, Sharon
Title: Home Sweet Texas
Genre:
Rating:
Definite Christian chick-lit but with a real story in it about a woman with amnesia who appears on a West Texas ranch. The characters are a bit one-dimensional but it's a fast, undemanding read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2008


 
Author: Latner, Alexis Glynn
Title: Hurricane moon
Genre:
Rating:
Now this is SF as it should be written. Involving characters, scary but believable situations, and humans reacting to a truly alien environment. I don't know enough science to judge whether the dual-planet scenario is accurate, but one needs to suspend some disbelief to enjoy SF anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2008


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