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: Parker, I. J.
Title: Island of ExilesSugawara Akitada # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - Japan
Rating: 3
Sugawara goes undercover as a convict to investigate the murder of a rebellious prince and finds one problem after another.

I didn't particularly like this story, although I finished it. Partially, given the status consciousness of this culture, I did not find it believable that his superiors would even ask him to pose as a convict, much less that he would accept the assignment. Partially, the various beatings and injuries Sugawara suffered made it feel like a PI mystery, and I don't enjoy reading about people getting beat up. And there were too many coincidences for the story to be convincing. Not awful, but far from the best in this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/02/2014


 
Author: Churchill, Jill
Title: It Had to Be YouGrace and Favor # 5
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
A much-disliked man is murdered hours before he was expected to die, and Jill and Robert "help" the police chief uncover the killer.

Nice solid mystery, although Churchill kept some discoveries from the reader for a short time, a trick that I despise and one I hope won't crop up often in this series. The characters are well-developed and the red herrings plentiful. The title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/05/2014


 
Author: Bunn, T. Davis
Title: Istanbul ExpressRendezvous With Destiny # 5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
Jake, Sally, Pierre, and Jasmyn are sent to Istanbul. Jake's assignment is to disburse U.S. funds to local businesses to rebuild, but he also must ferret out a Soviet plot to take over the country.

The plot and coincidences both get pretty hokey, but Davis keeps the reader too breathless to notice the flaws. Even the unforgivable deus-ex-machina resolution didn't make me throw the book across the room in disgust, although I hope it doesn't become a pattern.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/04/2014


 
Author: Allen, Robin
Title: If You Can't Stand the HeatPoppy Markham # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Poppy left the family restaurant business to become a food inspector because she was tired of fighting with her stepsister, executive chef Ursula. But when Ursula is arrested for the murder of a famous visiting chef, Poppy's stepmother Nina demands Poppy get Ursula out of jail while her father is hospitalized.

The murder mystery wasn't bad, full of convolutions and surprises, but the book was so full of unlikable characters that I never really cared what was going to happen next and finished the book out of simple inertia. Spelling and grammar were okay. The title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/01/2014


 
Author: Guyot, Isabelle
Title: Isabelle Around The World - The Trans-Siberian RaiIsabelle #1
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2
too-long title: Isabelle Around The World - The Trans-Siberian Railway

A young blogger describes her train trip across Europe and Asia.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Guyot starts with an unapologetic declaration that this book is exactly what she posted on her blog, errors and all. Like this is a good thing? I could have ignored the overwhelming spelling and grammar errors if her stories had been interesting enough, but they weren't. She describes a department store and being refused admittance to a children's circus and then blandly states "we had a really nice Mongolian dinner." Of what? She sprinkles exclamations liberally and at least once per section avails herself of picking on the last group considered fair game by all: fat people. Her photos lose a great deal of quality on my Kindle Keyboard. I made it 42% of the way through but her occasionally lyrical descriptions were too few and didn't make up for her lack of details, exclamation points, and fat humiliation..
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/30/2014


 
Author: Lippi, Rosina as Donati, Sara
Title: Into the WildernessWilderness # 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
An English family move to post-revolutionary America, where the beautiful spinster daughter finds herself attracted to an unsuitable man while the local physician pursues her.

Not sure why I even tried this one, as I don't like romance (even historical romance) because they are so phony - the women are all incredibly beautiful, the men ruggedly handsome but warmly sympathetic. This was just another one and I didn't get far before quitting. Maybe I thought the historical would overshadow the romance, but it didn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/29/2014


 
Author: Robertson, Imogen
Title: Instruments of DarknessCrowther and Westerman # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: NR
A lady sends for her researcher neighbor when a murdered man is found on her estate.

I enjoy murder mysteries, but I don't enjoy them reeking of evil as this one does. Also, one of my hot buttons is a child in danger - I simply can't read them. So I only made it about a quarter of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/28/2014


 
Author: Carlisle, Kate
Title: If Books Could KillBibliophile # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A popular ladies' man is found dead after passing Brooklyn a book of lost Robert Burns poems, and Brooklyn "helps" the police investigate.

Nothing blatantly wrong but Carlisle gets lost in promoting "mystical" this and that. Even worse, she never makes me care what is going to happen next. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/27/2014


 
Author: Viguie, Debbie
Title: I Shall Not WantPsalm 23 Mystery # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When the personal secretary of a wealthy churchgoer is found murdered during an animal charity event, Cindy and Jeremiah follow some oddball leads while Detectives Mark and Paul pursue the killer.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I like several things about this series, including that the police aren't idiots and that Cindy and Jeremiah are friends but not romantic interests. Viguie builds the mystery without whacking the poor hero/ine over and over again. But the mysterious references to Jeremiah's past add nothing good to the storyline and I wish Viguie would drop it. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title had nothig to do with the storylines.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/26/2014


 
Author: Kandel, Susan
Title: I Dreamed I Married Perry MasonCece Caruso # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A biography writer takes on a puzzling murder case that her subject, Erle Stanley Gardner, failed to help.

Totally obnoxious characters, unbelievable plot. I got a quarter of the way through and couldn't take any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/25/2014


 
Author: Dolley, Chris
Title: International Kittens of Mystery
Genre: Animal Fiction
Rating: 2
The author writes a spy story around "cute" photos of his kittens.

Mildly amusing concept but expanded way beyond what it could support.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2012


 
Author: Lende, Heather
Title: If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 3
Should have been 3-1/2 stars, but I don't have half-star capability. Somewhat interesting but flawed narrative of small-town life in Haines, Alaska. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/if-you-lived-here-by-heather-lende/#more-6646
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/07/2011


 
Author: Stephens, James
Title: Irish Fairy Tales
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
Collection of Irish legends.

Although I usually like fairy tales, legends, and history, I could not get into this book at all. The first part consisted of a supposedly Christian priest bullying an immortal into accepting Christ, and then the immortal's tales of various events in Irish history he had experienced. The second part narrated the tale of Fionn and was dawdling through his childhood when I gave up. If there was anything the least bit interesting in this book, it was too well-hidden for me to find. It was well-enough formatted, and the grammar and spelling were inoffensive.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/13/2011


 
Author: Biggers, Earl Derr & Ritchie, Robert Welles
Title: Inside the Lines
Genre: Historical Spy Story
Rating: 3
eBook downloaded from www.Manybooks.net

A meeting with an American girl starts a British agent's trip to replace a British officer on the eve of World War One.

Never caught my interest. None of the characters were intriguing or sympathetic enough to overcome the convolutions of this spy story, and I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/08/2011


 
Author: Sladek, John
Title: Invisible Green
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
A member of a defunct murder club asks Quin to investigate when another, apparently delusional member wants her to take conspiracy information to the police. But he dies before their meeting, and the letter is a massive collection of speculation, so the two write off the possible conspiracy - until other members start dying.

"Green" is strongly reminiscent of Moriarty - knows everything, moves around invisibly, commands an enormous army of competent villains - and I never liked the Moriarty stories. So I was wondering how the plot would develop. It started slow but then held my interest, and the reader is given all the clues - I was right about whodunit and why but had no clue how. I'm not sure the evidence presented at the end would have been enough to convince the police to arrest the killer, and I'm also not convinced this deserved to be on a "best locked room mystery" list although it was a clever solution.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/07/2011


 
Author: McCourtney, Lorena
Title: In Plain SightIvy Malone # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Threatened by the brother of the man she testified against, Ivy escapes to her niece's house and takes a housekeeping job for mysterious Leslie Marcone. But Leslie is found murdered and Ivy has to help niece Sandy adjust while sticking her nose into the investigation.

Very slow start, as the murder didn't take place until almost halfway through the book, but the lead-in held my interest. I don't like stories placing children in danger, even when the children are teenagers, and the title bore no relation to the plot. The whole Braxtons-are-out-to-get-me motivation is a bit weak, and became more annoying as it became more distracting. No heavy preaching, just a solid reliance on the Lord in everyday as well as scary situations. However, the running-from-the-Braxtons annoys me so much that I'm going to quit this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/04/2011


 
Author: Garrett, Randall
Title: Instant of Decision
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3
eBook downloaded free from www.Gutenberg.org

An intelligence agent chasing a spy finds a strange device that conveys the message that he is living in a habitat where superbeings are studying their past.

Very odd short story, and not one of Garrett's best: the idea of being studied is intriguing but the execution fell flat. I have no idea what the title referred to.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/03/2011


 
Author: Farmer, Jerrilyn
Title: Immaculate ReceptionMadeline Bean # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Madeline's former fiance, now a Jesuit brother, hires Mad Bean Events to set up a breakfast for the Pope. But after they find what looks like a murder confession in an old Jesuit cookbook, dead bodies start to accumulate.

Okay but dragging by the time I got halfway through so I skipped to the end. There was nothing terribly wrong with this series but the stories never held my attention and the characters never seemed real. There were a couple biting/funny Hollywood comments, though, and the title was somewhat related to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/02/2011


 
Author: Orczy, Baroness Emmuska
Title: I Will RepayScarlet Pimpernel # 2
Genre: Adventure
Rating: 3
eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org

Lovely Juliette is compelled by her mad father, the Duc de Marny, to swear vengeance on the man who killed her impulsive, arrogant brother in a duel. During the French Revolution, she denounces his plan to free Marie Antoinette but then realizes she loves him.

Painfully slow start, so tedious I almost gave up. And Orczy clearly doesn't think well of men OR women; the women are self-obsessed and manipulative, while the men are simply delusional. In spite of the excessive description (Orczy clearly never heard of the "show, don't tell" rule), I was involved by the time I got halfway through, even though I recognized the Scarlet Pimpernel's touch and did some fast skimming of the courtroom scene.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/30/2011


 
Author: Graves, Robert
Title: I, ClaudiusClaudius # 1
Genre: Biography
Rating: 2
Rambling and not very interesting account of the emperor's forebears and ascension to the throne.

Full of dislikable, treacherous, and ambitious people, there wasn't anyone I could root for and I didn't get far into it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/29/2011


 
Author: Johnson, Kate
Title: I, Spy?Sophie Green # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
Airline ticket agent Sophie hates her job, until she winds up helping the special police arrest a counterfeiter. In fact, she is so much help that she is recruited and given a lot of special toys (but not a gun).

All the worst features of James Bond without Pierce Brosnan to look at. I got about a quarter of the way through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/27/2011


 
Author: McCourtney, Lorena
Title: InvisibleIvy Malone # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
After Ivy Malone's best friend Tess dies, Tess' tenant disappears. When the tenant is found murdered, aging widow Ivy is determined to find her killer.

The storyline drew me in quickly, and the well-drawn people felt real although many of the events strained credulity. I liked how Ivy's faith was such a basic fact of her existence. There were two major flaws. One was the storyline did not stay focused. Subplots are fine, but every scene should advance *something.* The second problem was the cliffhanger ending, which I hate. Again, series are fine, and I don't have a problem with a later book following up on an unresolved loose end from an earlier book, but this was a blatant "you'll have to buy my next book if you want to see how this ended" lack of resolution.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/03/2011


 
Author: Fowler, Earlene
Title: Irish ChainBenni Harper # 2
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
During an antebellum-themed dance at a senior home, Benni finds two of the residents murdered. The subsequent investigation by Gabe, whom Benni is dating, brings out his possessive and bossy side. He repeatedly orders Benni to stay out of the investigation and away from two suspects who both appear to be pursuing her romantically, one a long-ago boyfriend and another a local son, recently returned as a minister. But Benni, just doing research for a chapter in a history book, may have stumbled onto the motive.

Neither Benni nor Gabe show to advantage in this tale. Gabe's dictatorial manner and assumption that he can tell Benni how to live spells trouble in any relationship. But while Benni comments that she already has a father, she doesn't take any strong action to end his domineering. I figured it was going to take something drastic between them to keep me reading, and Fowler obliged, but it's *either* going to be true to life . . . or last. And once again, the quilt pattern title is only marginally related to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/24/2010


 
Author: Stableford, Brian
Title: Inherit the EarthEmortals # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2
When his foster father Silas Arnett is kidnapped, Damon Hart, son of longevity pioneer Conrad Heiler, searches for Arnett and whoever is determined to prove that his long-dead father is still alive.

I only got about halfway through this book. The story was okay, but none of the characters felt real or held my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2010


 
Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: In Pursuit of the Proper SinnerInspector Lynley # 10
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
Demoted but at least not terminated after threatening another officer to save a little girl, Havers is shattered when Lynley chooses a different partner to investigate the murder of a former narc's daughter. But as Lynley and Nkata search for the daughter's London lover, Havers gives short shrift to her computerwork assignment to pursue the other victim's contacts.

Slow read as always - George writes BIG books. It dragged badly enough that I considered skipping sections about 3/4 of the way through but then it started interesting me again. George again shifts POV, this time between Havers, Lynley, Helen, St. James, the local DI, and others - distracting and I'm not convinced it promoted the story at all. As this series gets darker (and it was none too light to start with), it interests me less. Here, Havers is just bullheaded and Lynley falls into Nazi defense mode - following orders is more important than anything else, which simply did not ring true. The title had nothing to do with anything - George's titles are a major weakness. I'm going to try the next book in the series but it may be the last.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/22/2010


 
Author: Churchill, Jill
Title: In the Still of the NightGrace and Favor # 2
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Lily plans to earn money by hosting pay-to-visit weekends with special celebrity guests, and her first triumph is reclusive writer Julian West. But an unwanted guest and a murder turn a pleasant house party into a circle of suspicion.

Very draggy beginning, as Churchill introduces ALL the paying guests and a few townspeople and then spends way too long on Julian's war stories - I skipped the second chapter of those. The murder starts the second half of the book. I figured out whodunit fairly early, and Churchill is honest about providing clues, except she pulled a "with this information that I'm not going to tell you she knew the murderer" near the end and I absolutely detest that as disrespectful to the reader. Not a top-rated book but I did read to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/18/2010


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: IntriguesCollegium Chronicles # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Mags joins a kirball team, continues to gather information for the King's Own, and faces rumors as well as physical attacks. But when his friends turn on him, he leaves the Collegium and waits for his expected dismissal as a Herald.

Solid fast read until about two-thirds of the way through the book, but then Mags' friends start to act in completely unbelievable ways, a big disappointment from Lackey. The resolution was okay but did not make up for the unreal behavior. The title wasn't particularly appropriate to this story (rather than any other in the Valdemar series) and the cover art didn't depict anything in the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/15/2010


 
Author: Westlake, Donald E writing as Sam Holt
Title: I Know a Trick Worth Two of ThatSam Holt # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
A co-worker from Sam's policeman past turns up claiming to be tracking down a massive international conspiracy. His alleged suicide sets Sam on the dangerous trail of the same companies and men, and he may meet the same fate.

Not quite as sharp as the other Sam Holts I've read, and the ending had a feel of "I've written enough pages, let's wrap this thing up" that wasn't really satisfying. But it was still a mostly enjoyable story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/11/2010


 
Author: Myers, Beverle Graves
Title: Interrupted AriaTito Amato # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/01/2010


 
Author: McInerny, Ralph M
Title: Irish TenureNotre Dame # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/17/2010


 
Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: In the Presence of the EnemyInspector Lynley # 8
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/17/2010


 
Author: MacLeod, Alistair
Title: Island
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/12/2010


 
Author: Bryson, Bill
Title: In a Sunburned Country
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/11/2010


 
Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: If wishes were horses
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/10/2010


 
Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: I, Richard
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/02/2009


 
Author: Keating, H R F
Title: Is Skin-Deep, Is Fatal
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/24/2009


 
Author: Anthony, Piers and Lackey, Merce
Title: If I Pay Thee Not In Gold
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2009


 
Author: Pomper, Steve
Title: Is there a problem, officer?
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/01/2009


 
Author: Lahiri, Jhumpa
Title: Interpreter of maladies
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/31/2009


 
Author: Ahern, Cecelia
Title: If you could see me now
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/30/2009


 
Author: Binchy, Maeve, et al, ed.
Title: Irish girls about town
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/29/2009


 
Author: Swindells, Philip
Title: Indoor water features
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/29/2009


 
Author: Sack, Brian
Title: In the event of my untimely demise
Genre:
Rating:
Semi-humorous advice from a father to his newborn son. Mildly amusing but heavyhanded.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/28/2009


 
Author: Reber, Deborah
Title: In their shoes: extraordinary women describe their
Genre:
Rating:
amazing careers. One constant question among the homeschoolers I know is how to expose their children to career possibilities. This book is one answer. Although painfully PC (the author makes a point of showing some of the women are lesbians) and aimed at young women, it wouldn't hurt young men to see the variety of careers featured.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/12/2008


 
Author: White, Kate
Title: If looks could killBailey Weggins #1
Genre:
Rating:
Moderately interesting whodunit featuring a bunch of typical New York fashionistas and a dead nanny. It would have interested me more if there had been less food & clothes details -- did it really matter that Bailey ordered a chicken salad sandwich? But it was well-enough written and the only detail the reader didn't have going into the finale was not relevant to solving the murder.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/11/2008


 
Author: Schutz, Samantha
Title: I don't want to be crazy
Genre:
Rating:
Excellent true story of a girl with anxiety disorder, written in free verse. Really takes the reader inside the protagonist's head.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2008


 
Author: Chapman, Gary D. and Palmer, Cat
Title: It happens every springFour Seasons #1
Genre:
Rating:
This is another book I didn't finish. I got about halfway through and realized I didn't care what happened on the next page -- very bad sign for a novel. It took me a while to figure out that the characters were all one-dimensional and didn't feel like real people. Rather than a true story, this "Four Seasons" entry is simply a vehicle to promote Chapman's marriage counseling philosophy. As counseling, it might or might not work; as fiction, no question.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2008


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