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: Ehl, Dan
Title: Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Case of theJak Barley #2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: NR
Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Case of the Seven Dwarves

Jak accepts a case freeing a comatose beauty from a spell even though it sounds like a children's fairy tale and involves a much-feared witch.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't like fantasy PI stories any more than I like traditional noir PI stories, and for the same reason that the story just drags the poor PI from one setup where he gets beat up to another. I got about 25% of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/09/2014

Author: Royal, Priscilla
Title: Justice for the DamnedMedieval Mystery # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Slowly recovering from a nearly fatal illness, Prioress Eleanor finds herself interested in a suddenly appearing local ghost. When the ghost's appearance turns murderous, she and Brother Thomas step up their investigating, trying to prevent additional deaths.

Interesting if obvious plotline and side stories, and a truly impressive presentation of post-illness attitudes and medieval beliefs about the final judgment, but Royal is still harping on Eleanor's lust for Thomas and Thomas' homosexual longings. It's the old man-and-woman-can't-work-together-without-being-attracted line that I find extremely irritating; it just takes up space without advancing the storyline. The title was perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/08/2014

Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Jo's BoysLittle Women # 4
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
This last entry in the Little Women series follows the adventures of the young women and men as they pursue education and adventure.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Strictly for those who have read and enjoyed the 3 earlier books, as the characters aren't really introduced, depending on the reader being familiar with their history. Somewhat preachy, as all Alcott's books are, but the characters' actions remain believable and the chapter where author Jo tries to elude her demanding public and get some actual writing done was hysterical, and I'm sure based on author Alcott's own experiences.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/07/2014

Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Jack and Jill
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
Two children suffer a sledding accident while showing off and have to learn patience to convalesce.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Too preachy for me to even finish.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/06/2014

Author: Limon, Martin
Title: Jade Lady BurningSueno & Bascom # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Sueno and Bascom are assigned to find the brutal killer of a Korean B-girl, but after arresting her GI boyfriend, they annoy the Army as well as the Korean police by continuing to hunt for the real killer.

If I hadn't previously read and liked the second book in this series, the grinding misogyny of both men would have had me quit this one in disgust. And it sure doesn't add anything enjoyable to the story. But, once again, Limon kept me reading in spite of myself. The title was very relevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/17/2011

Author: Smith, Virginia
Title: Just As I AmJust As I Am # 1
Genre: Christian YA Fiction
Rating: 4
No one is more surprised than Mayla when she finds herself asking Jesus into her life. But her sincere desire to learn about and follow her Lord irritates her old friends, while the "church people" assume she will give up her old ways, including her nose and lip piercings.

The book radiates Mayla's new-Christian eagerness to please her Lord and her expectations that the Lord loves her as she is and He will guide her into any changes He wants. My only quibble is that for many new believers, it isn't that easy. They don't simply lose interest in cursing or drinking or drugs or whatever their weakness is, and old friends won't necessarily refrain from pressuring the new Christian to resume her bad/dangerous habits. The book would have been stronger if it had been more realistic. But for a YA audience, it's an involving story featuring likable people, and with a perfect title.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/16/2011

Author: Freeman, R. Austin
Title: John Thorndyke's CasesDr. Thorndyke # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
eBook downloaded from

Collection of short stories featuring Freeman's medical detective. Contains The Man With the Nailed Shoes, The Stranger's Latchkey, The Anthropologist at Large, The Blue Sequin, The Moabite Cipher, The Mandarin's Pearl, The Aluminium Dagger, and A Message From the Deep Sea.

Like Father Brown, the pleasure in these stories comes from the clever solutions, not the gradual presentation of evidence so the reader can try to figure out whodunit - Thorndyke plays his cards close to his chest, not even sharing his findings or expectations with his narrator. In most of the stories, it was fairly obvious who the real villains were, but it was fun watching Thorndyke produce the evidence, and the short story format kept the plots moving right along. Enjoyable tales for those who are not bothered by lacking the information to solve the crimes themselves.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/14/2011

Author: Massie, Sonja as McKevett, G.A.
Title: Just DessertsSavannah Reid # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: NR
LA cop Savannah is assigned to a high-profile murder investigation.

This one fooled me because the title sounded like the heroine did something involving food. Wrong! Just another police procedural, and the first few pages showed me no reason to expect anything I would like.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/12/2011

Author: Williams, Robina
Title: Jerome and the SeraphQuantum Cat # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Young dead Friar Jerome finds himself on a barren plain, and the cat who he befriended at the monastery shows him how to travel back to Earth. Then a young live friar watches the head priest take up with an unusual woman.

The story made no sense, nor was it interesting. I quit a quarter of the way through. It was pretty much free of spelling/grammar/formatting errors, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/09/2011

Author: Lourey, Jess
Title: June BugMurder of the Month #2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Housesitting for a friend, Mira joins the rush to find a fake diamond necklace in the local lake.

Typical wannabe-cutesy narrator living an uninteresting life. I got a quarter of the way into it, nothing was happening, I didn't care what came next, I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/30/2011

Author: Furutani, Dale
Title: Jade Palace VendettaMatsuyama Kaze # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
A chance meeting with a merchant under attack from bandits embroils Kaze in a vendetta between the merchant and a fierce grandmother Kaze met in the last book. To obtain the grandmother's information about his Lady's stolen daughter, Kaze must find out what happened to a missing man.

This is a mystery but not a murder mystery. I am still bothered by Kaze's unbelievable respect for peasants, and some fairly long flashbacks to his student days and serving the Lady also interrupted the story. Then Furutani used a deus ex machina to save Kaze, always the sign of a lazy or inept author. In fact, this book lost my interest several times, although inertia kept me reading until it caught my interest again. I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy so much I'll at least try the final volume, but I'm disappointed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/18/2010

Author: Wiggs, Susan
Title: Just Breathe
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4
Shattered when she catches her husband in an affair, cartoonist Sarah Moon flees from Chicago to her native California to rebuild her life. But complications include a surprising pregnancy and a handsome fire captain who is already raising a teenaged stepdaughter.

Not a particularly strong storyline, and most of it consists of Sarah and Will pretending they aren't attracted to each other, but the characters were so well-drawn and likable that I kept reading. The title was only minimally related to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/03/2010

Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: Jester Leaps InFools’ Guild # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 5
Feste and new bride/apprentice Viola head for Constantinople to investigate the disappearance of six jesters. Winning the emperor's favor is easy compared to deciding which old or new friends can be trusted.

I really, REALLY dislike nearly all "sequels" to classics, and I could barely last through the first part of the first book in this series. But while I doubt that Shakespeare's Viola and Feste would ever have married, the story is now far enough from the original that I can just read it as another book, and it's well worth reading. The complicated, politically charged storyline reminds me somewhat of the John the Eunuch books, which I like, and Gordon is a genius at coming up with clever but suitable barbs to put in the jesters' mouths. Not a fast read but it held my attention all the way through and justified my "don't write off a series based on the first book" policy. I'm not sure what connection the title was supposed to have to the story, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/25/2010

Author: Lutz, John
Title: Jericho Man
When a building is blown up and a million-dollar ransom is demanded or more people will be killed, a police captain and architect try to track down the demolitionist.

It kept me reading, and the people were realistic enough, but it was more of a gritty police procedural than any book style that I like.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/13/2010

Author: Lackey, Mercedes
Title: JoustJousters # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/26/2009

Author: Lamb, Cathy
Title: Julia’s chocolates
Julia escapes from her abusive fiancee and runs to her Aunt Lydia, who likes to use good Anglo-Saxon words and free psychic readings. Yes, it was just as boring as it sounds.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2009

Author: Barrett, Julia
Title: Jane Austen’s Charlotte
Genre: Jane Austen copiers
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/07/2009

Author: Indriason, Arnaldur
Title: Jar City aka Tainted BloodReykjavik thriller # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/31/2009

Author: Bruns, Don
Title: Jamaica BlueCaribbean mystery # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/28/2009

Author: Sandlin, Tim
Title: Jimi Hendrix turns eighty
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/22/2009

Author: Barron, Stephanie
Title: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave ManorJane Austen Mystery # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/16/2009

Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: Jingle bell barkMelanie Travis # 11
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/14/2009

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