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: Beaton, M. C.
Title: Kissing Christmas GoodbyeAgatha Raisin # 18
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Agatha takes on a new trainee, a lovely and lucky young woman with major family problems; tackles the case of an elderly woman who thinks her family wants to kill her; and desperately plans the perfect Christmas dinner.

Beaton has never offered a fast start in this series, but this book commences at the leisurely pace of a Sunday stroll. The first few chapters could be easily compressed to a page or two if Beaton limited herself to plot-related information. Of the two major secondary plots, the Toni one has some arguable relationship to the main storyline, but the whole Christmas planning just adds to the length of the book without adding any enjoyment. The main plot was interesting enough, but I didn't understand how Agatha selected the killer. The title only relates to the very thin secondary Christmas plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/13/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: King Kobold RevivedWarlock # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
"Viking" raiders attack a small Gramarye town, heralding another attempt by the futurians to topple Catherine and Tuan.

Originally published as King Kobold, Stasheff did a major rewrite before offering the new version to fans. Nice rollicking story, as Rod and Gwen try to find a way to fight the beastmen's "evil eye." The only major irritant was Stasheff's explanation of how a Neanderthal man could speak English; obviously, to read fantasy, you have to be willing to suspend disbelief in a lot of events, but this overstrained my ability to believe. Unfortunately, it's a major plot element, costing the book a rating star. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/10/2014


 
Author: Haggard, Henry Rider
Title: King Solomon's MinesAllan Quatermain # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 3
eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org

South African hunter Allan Quatermain takes an assignment to escort a British man across a harsh desert in search of an exceedingly rich diamond mine. What they find is a prosperous kingdom ruled by a cruel warlord.

Moderately interesting old-fashioned tale, although I skipped pretty much the whole rebellion section (about the second quarter and third quarter of the book). Also interesting as a portrait of life in colonial Africa. I liked Quatermain, he looks out for practicalities!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/29/2011


 
Author: The Medieval Murderers
Title: King Arthur's Bones
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
In 12th century Britain, first a Welsh monk arranges for the newly-discovered bones that could be those of King Arthur to be stolen. Then the thief hides them in Carmarthen just before it is raided and tells his daughter where they are as he is dying. But she is distracted by the stabbing of her husband so by the time she can go to the hiding spot, they have been stolen again. Then the castle priest is killed and she must find the killer.

There is an old saying that too many cooks spoil the broth, and this book is a sad example. The Medieval Murderers include Elizabeth Cruwys as Susanna Gregory, Bernard Knight, Michael Jecks, Philip Gooden, and Ian Morson, but together they produced a confusing and not-very-interesting story. I got a quarter of the way through before giving up. All I can say for it is that the spelling/grammar/formatting were correct.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/28/2011


 
Author: Grant, Jim as Child, Lee
Title: Killing FloorJack Reacher # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: NR
Jack Reacher used to investigate murders for the Army. So when he is arrested for one in small Margate, Georgia, he is willing to point out how he couldn't have done it. But he and a prominent local banker who confessed to the murders wind up in the state prison for the weekend anyway.

There is not a likable character in the first quarter of the book, which is all I managed to force myself to read. Reacher is the typical antihero and I have yet to like an antihero story. The writing is okay but pointless - does the reader care what Reacher's routine in prison is? I sure didn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/26/2011


 
Author: Hibbert, Eleanor as Holt, Victoria
Title: Kirkland Revels
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4
Newly finished with school and returned to her unhappy home, Catherine is swept off her feet by mysterious Gabriel Rockwell. When she learns he is dying of a heart defect, she marries him to make what is left of his life happy. But a tragedy ends their marriage and Catherine may not be able to escape her own danger.

I couldn't figure out why I always liked Victoria Holt's books even though most romance novels make me gag. Now I remember. Catherine is not beautiful; Gabriel is not gorgeous. Simon is not even handsome. The heroine is likable and not stupid, and the plot generally moves right along, although this one did start to drag around the 3/4 mark. And the romance is a part of the story, rather than dominating it. Holt gives the reader the info to figure out the villain and leads the reader so skilfully astray it takes a while to learn who to suspect!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/25/2011


 
Author: Ball, Donna
Title: Keys to the Castle
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
After a whirlwind courtship and marriage to Daniel, Sara finds herself widowed and the inheritor of a castle in the Loire Valley. But when Daniel's greedy cousin tries to claim the castle for a girl who may have been Daniel's illegitimate child, Sara decides to adopt little Alyssa herself and pass the castle to her - even when the man who might be her new love opposes it.

Fast start with only a couple flashbacks to explain the prior story. The first half was intriguing, but when Alyssa entered the picture it became predictable and I skipped to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/23/2011


 
Author: Fowler, Earlene
Title: Kansas TroublesBenni Harper # 3
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
In Kansas to visit her new in-laws, Benni is shocked by the murder of a country singer, but Gabe is determined to not get involved. Naturally Benni keeps tripping over clues to pass to Gabe, who passes them to his investigator buddy . . . but the strain brings out problems between Benni and Gabe as well.

Solid "people" mystery, with Benni and Gabe's problems worked into the mystery with more grace than usual. The resolution of the mystery was satisfactory, the resolution to Benni and Gabe's fighting less so - rather simplistic. I was totally wrong about whodunit, and the title was absolutely perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/19/2011


 
Author: Tanner, Ron
Title: Kiss Me, Stranger
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 2
In a future, war-torn U.S., a woman with fourteen children she cannot feed falls afoul of the local representative of the law.

I was curious about this because it was labelled an "illustrated novel" and I wondered how the illustrations would show on my 3rd generation Kindle, and the ebook was free. But even so, I was barely 10% through it when I gave up. There were a few black-and-white illustrations that showed fine on the Kindle page, but the story itself was uninvolving (to say the least) and struck me as closer to silly than scary. The spelling, grammar, and formatting were okay, and I found no relation between the title and what I read of the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/18/2011


 
Author: Roberts, John Maddox
Title: King of the Wood
Genre: Fantasy - Alternate History
Rating: 1
In this alternate-history tale, Norsemen and Moors settled the New World. Hring is banished from the northern, Christian kingdom after killing his half-brother. Hired as a pack-train guard, he travels through the southern, Odin-worshipping kingdom to the southernmost Moslem kingdom guarding a mysterious priestess.

I couldn't get into this story. I don't find mysterious "you'll have to find out what I am and what I want" characters interesting. Nor do men who kill people in anger hold my attention. I got about a quarter of the way through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/01/2010


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Key Lime Pie MurderHannah Swenson # 9
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Lake Eden's Tri-County Fair is in full swing. Hannah is judging baked goods and Michelle is competing in a beauty contest. But when Hannah slips back into the deserted midway to retrieve a hamburger for her cat Moishe, she finds a dead body as well. Andrea, Lisa, Michelle, and Norman all join her in trying to identify the killer.

Atypically and boringly slow start for this series, as the whole first quarter is chatty who-is-doing-what, great for a small-town paper but does not contribute to the storyline of a book. Hannah also flat-out decides not to tell Mike some critical information for no good reason, which weakens her right to investigate IMNSHO. Then there were some missing pieces of information that were never resolved. Not the best entry in the series by a long shot, but not so awful I'll refuse to read any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/27/2010


 
Author: Taylor, D. J.
Title: Kept: A Victorian Mystery
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 1
Two men die in 1860's England and another Englishman steals bird eggs in Scotland. Meanwhile, one of the dead men writes about his wife's depression and developing madness.

If there was a story in this book, I couldn't find it, but Taylor skipped around in time so I couldn't tell what was happening when. The only mystery was why this book was ever published. I gave up pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/26/2010


 
Author: Estleman, Loren D
Title: Kill ZonePeter Macklin # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/19/2010


 
Author: Birdsell, Sandra
Title: Katya aka The Russlander
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/11/2009


 
Author: Harper, Tom
Title: Knights of the crossDemetrios Askiates # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/04/2009


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes & Guon, Ellen
Title: Knight of Ghosts and ShadowsBedlamís Bard # 1
Genre: Fantasy - Alternate History
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/27/2009


 
Author: Jacobs, Kate
Title: Knit TwoFriday Night Knitting Club #2
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/04/2009


 
Author: Sefton, Maggie
Title: Knit one, kill twoKnitting mystery # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/25/2009


 
Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Knight's AcreKnight's Acre #1
Genre:
Rating:
The trials of Sir Godfrey as he leaves home to participate in a great tournament and his loyal wife Sybella as she keeps the home fires burning. The historical details of medieval life make this a very unromantic story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008


 
Author: Sheth, Kashmira
Title: Keeping corner
Genre:
Rating:
Written for young adults, but don't let that put you off. An involving story featuring a twelve-year-old girl whose husband dies, it sets the experiences of one young widow against Indian culture and mores at the beginning of Gandhi's world-changing career. It would be a great way of introducing a non-Western culture in a light but educational way.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2008


 
Author: Dunnett, Kaitlyn
Title: Kilt dead
Genre:
Rating:
Involving mystery about a forcibly retired young dancer who takes over her aunt's Scottish-themed store just as a neighbor is murdered in it, not too hard to guess whodunnit but likeable characters and I recognized most of the tartans.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/19/2008


 
Author: Rankin, Ian
Title: Knots and crossesInspector Rebus #1
Genre:
Rating:
I borrowed this first book in the Inspector Rebus series because I thought it was a murder mystery, which I enjoy. It isn't; it's a crime thriller, as a conflicted police detective "with a history" (don't they all?) tries to stop a serial killer preying on preteen girls. This particular one seemed to be trying for a noir feel without noir's campy element. I got about 1/3 of the way through and then skipped to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/18/2008


 
Author: Kruger, Mary
Title: Knit fast, die young
Genre:
Rating:
While the premise was intriguing of a murder committed with a knitting theme, Kruger does not follow the rules of a good mystery: while red herrings are legitimate and in fact desirable, all of the facts necessary to solve the mystery must be presented, no matter how casually or obliquely, before the ending. Kruger's ending is unsatisfactory for this reason, which makes the rest of the book less than satisfying as well.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/15/2008


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