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: Harrison, Cora
Title: Nuala and her Secret WolfDrumshee Timeline # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
In prehistoric Britain, a cherished young girl manages to raise a baby wolf.

Children's books don't need to be stupid, but this one was. Most of what Nuala got away with is simply unbelievable. And the art was beyond awful - looked like someone tried to copy the style of prehistoric cave paintings. The title was certainly accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/13/2014

Author: Hallam, Craig
Title: Not Before Bed
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
Collection of short stories.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, but I must not have realized it was horror, which I hate. I didn't read far before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/11/2014

Author: Kuczkir, Mary Ruth as Michaels, Fern
Title: No Place Like HomeCisco # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Three loving grandchildren determine to spring their grandmother from an assisted living facility when their father places her after she breaks her arm.

Yet another family-falling-apart-drawn-together story. I didn't get far before quitting, the characters were all stereotypes and the story never caught my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/03/2014

Author: Simon, S. J. and Brahms, Caryl
Title: No Bed For Bacon
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
Disjointed collection of anecdotes featuring Elizabeth I of England and her subjects, including William Shakespeare's "romance" with Lady Viola Compton.

I had heard this was a hysterical satire of Elizabethan court life. I don't think I cracked a smile during the whole book; any humor is of the pie-in-the-face variety, and slapstick has never amused me. The portrayal of the real characters is accurate as far as I can tell, particularly Queen Elizabeth (who was a brilliant woman and clever statesman but demanded that her courtiers gush over her beauty even when she was a raddled old woman). There IS no romance, and I really have to wonder whether Lady Viola existed because it's simply not believable that a Renaissance queen would countenance a titled lady playing as an actress. The title was moderately relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/01/2014

Author: Hornsby, Wendy
Title: No HarmKate Teague # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
The brutal murder of her mother makes Kate heiress to seven prime acres of California coastline - and "accidents" that keep placing her life in danger. Will her still interested ex-husband Carl and a dedicated police investigator be able to keep her alive?

Nice mystery with a solid cast of kooks that kept me reading, although the plot seemed unnecessarily complicated. The title had very little to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/30/2014

Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Nine For the DevilJohn the Eunuch # 9
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Distraught after Theodora's death from a wasting disease, Justinian is convinced Theodora was poisoned and assigns John to find her killer.

Very clever and believable ending to a rather scatterbrained investigation. The title was irrelevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/20/2014

Author: Boucher, Anthony
Title: Nine Times Nine
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/12/2014

Author: Claire, Edie
Title: Never BuriedLeigh Koslow # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Advertising copywriter Leigh and her very pregnant sister Cara investigate the embalmed body Leigh found in Cara's back yard.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway, but it didn't hold my interest. Neither Leigh nor Cara are particularly likable and Claire never made me care what would happen to them. I quit a quarter of the way through. Spelling and grammar weren't perfect but I've seen much worse. The title is quite relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/11/2014

Author: Milne, A.A.
Title: Now We Are SixWinnie-the-Pooh # 3
Genre: Children
Rating: 4
More poems for children, a couple featuring Winnie the Pooh characters.

This is another book that really doesn't belong in the Winnie the Pooh canon. The poems are slightly more complex than those in When We Were Very Young; clearly, the son Milne was writing for has gotten a little older and the father writes what the son will enjoy. I can't wait to read them to my grandchildren.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/21/2013

Author: Cowles, David W.
Title: No More Grimy Dishes!
Genre: Nonfiction
Rating: 4
I borrowed this book from another Kindler through the website. Cowles discusses the history of removing phosphates from commercial dishwasher detergent, blaming the legislation on environmental activitists erroneously holding phosphates responsible for water pollution. He also goes through a not-particularly-interesting recital of his correspondence with Proctor & Gamble, makers of Cascade. But then he offers a homemade dishwasher detergent recipe with phosphates, and several methods to get the yucky film off my dishwasher. Then he goes into a paean to citric acid aka "sour salt," which I've had in my kitchen since I was a bread baker (it helps the dough).

I am not convinced that the phosphate issue is as simple as Cowles argues. But I had noticed that my dishes weren't getting clean, and learned about the removal of phosphates from dishwasher detergent, long before I heard of Cowles' book. The funny thing was that I was already using a phosphate-free detergent about half the time, as I have a septic tank and phosphates are not good for septic systems. So I alternated using a regular detergent with a "green" one. The recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent and the uses of citric acid make up for the preaching in the first part of the book, and I'm eager to try them (although I will probably still alternate phosphate and non-phosphate detergent to be kind to my septic system)!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/08/2012

Author: Carver, Jeffrey
Title: Neptune CrossingChaos Chronicles # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: NR
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. A Triton miner finds himself with an alien living in his mind, desperate to save Earth.

Seemed well-enough written, but most of the "action" takes place inside the miner's head, which isn't my cuppa. I quit 10% of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/28/2012

Author: Mullen, Jim
Title: Now in Paperback!
Genre: Humor
Rating: 4
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Collection of short humorous essays from Mullen's newspaper column.

Enjoyable, and each stand-alone piece is short enough to pick up when you won't have uninterrupted reading time. Not hysterically funny but entertaining.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/25/2012

Author: McNeil, Gil
Title: Needles and PearlsJo Mackenzie # 2
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Jo continues to yield to her sons' manipulation and then discovers an unexpected followup to her one-night-stand with Daniel.

I enjoyed the first book in this series and was bitterly disappointed that McNeil abandoned all the elements I liked in the first book to focus on those I didn't like. Jo needs to get a spine and some parenting lessons; allowing her sons to constantly manipulate her is teaching them deadly habits. Allowing Annabel and Jo's mother their warped points of view isn't enjoyable reading. And the stock "surprise" put the final nail in the coffin as far as I was concerned. Although I credit McNeil for a novel and effective way to bring in the necessary backstory for new readers, by the time I was halfway through I was thoroughly sick of the characters and quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/24/2012

Author: Wisdomkeeper, John
Title: Native American Recipes
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 1
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Collection of supposedly handed-down Native American recipes.

The very first recipe, Buffalo Oven Stew, alarmed me because while an experienced cook could recognize the problems and make the necessary adjustments, as written it would not turn out edible. The directions call for chopping the carrots, celery, and potatoes, but do not say how finely. But since the stew only bakes for 30 minutes at 350 F, unless the potato is so finely chopped as to be almost shredded, it will not be cooked, nor will the carrots and celery, and the buffalo will certainly not be stewed to tenderness. The biscuit topping has an awful lot of baking powder, The Basic Brown Stock has a confusing ingredient list (is the cook supposed to use meat or bones?), starts with only 2 quarts of water, and lacks instructions to add more water as it cooks away. The Curried Squash Soup calls for steaming the acorn squash in a baking dish with an inch of water for 10-12 minutes; no baking temperature is given but the time is completely inadequate anyway. Pea Soup with Wild Rice gives no amounts for the chopped carrots, turnips, onions, or rutabagas, and omits the wild rice from the ingredient list completely. Wild Vegetable Cream Soup doesn't say how much water to cook the barley in. Basic Bean Soup doesn't say whether to drain the beans after soaking. The kale in Elk and Barley Soup won't be nearly done after 5-10 minutes. Indian Fry Bread might come out edible, but it contains a lot of salt and the dough will be quite stiff. I have trouble believing a gelatin salad with cream cheese or pineapple yogurt, or a sweet bread made from a cake mix, is a traditional Native American dish. Formatting is erratic; the Buffalo Oven Stew biscuit topping runs the ingredients up into the title, Curried Squash Soup and Pea Soup with Wild Rice run ingredients together, and Curried Squash Soup lists the garnish ingredient in a heading style. Sometimes the directions make sense, sometimes they have odd bits of punctuation thrown in at random. It is also odd that Wisdomkeeper doesn't give a tribal affiliation, either for himself or for the alleged "grandmothers" whose recipes he is publishing.

Because the recipes are so wrong, I was extremely concerned about the herbal healing section. I thought his blanket statement that an infusion should steep 2 minutes was wrong, and Wikipedia gives 15-30 minutes as a typical steeping time. Wikipedia's decoction entry states "Decoction involves first mashing, and then boiling in water; Wisdomkeeper (which has got to be a phony name, based on his faulty instructions) omits the mashing part, again gives a shorter cooking time, and claims a bouillon "using the whole plant" while Wiki simply restricts it to decoctions involving meat and/or vegetables. He is so far off the mark with maceration that I don't even know where he came up with the term. Wiki defines maceration as long soaking of food in liquid so that the liquid's flavor is absorbed by the food, essentially the reverse of Wisdomkeeper's definition. Since he starts by providing such erroneous information, I would not trust any of this therapeutic suggestions. If you are interested in herbal healing, find a good reference book.

A few recipes look like they will work as written, such as Squamish Corn Soup and the appealing Cat n' Fiddle Salad. There is an interactive table of contents that interfaces with the Kindle navigation menu. Many of the recipes do look tasty, and any experienced cook should be able to use most of them as long as she is forewarned of the unreliability of the instructions, but this book cannot be recommended for novice cooks or for anyone interested in herbal remedies.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/23/2012

Author: Fenn, George Manville
Title: Nat the Naturalist
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 3
ebook downloaded free from

Orphaned Nat lives with his affectionate uncle and hostile aunt, and pursues learning about nature.

Definitely aimed at boys - I quit when Nat wanted to learn to stuff birds. But boys who are themselves interested in nature will probably enjoy Nat's adventures. Spelling and grammar were okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/21/2012

Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Northanger Abbey
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4
eBook downloaded from Catherine Morland's visit to Bath is enlivened by friendship with the shallow Thorpes and the fascinating Tilneys. Invited to accompany Miss Tilney to their ancient home, Northanger Abbey, Catherine expects to wander crumbling, mysterious halls but finds a modern, comfortable residence. The dictatorial General is the fly in the ointment, oppressing Catherine as well as both of his children.

This is an early Austen and it shows. Austen's oddly cynical attitude permeates this unusual tale, frequently contrasting what is actually happening with what would usually happen in a novel. The story is disjointed and wraps up in a hurry, as if she had run out of paper suddenly. But the portrayals of both innocent and calculating characters are dead-on, as only Austen can manage.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/16/2012

Author: Barnard, Robert
Title: No Place of SafetyCharlie Peace # 5
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/12/2012

Author: Brand, Christianna
Title: Nurse Matilda Goes to HospitalNurse Matilda # 3
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/11/2012

Author: Brand, Christianna
Title: Nurse Matilda Goes to TownNurse Matilda # 2
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/10/2012

Author: Brand, Christianna
Title: Nurse MatildaNurse Matilda # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/09/2012

Author: Michaels, Barbara as Peters, Elizabeth
Title: Naked Once MoreJacqueline Kirby # 4
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
Now a bestselling romance author but tired of the formulaic plots, Jacqueline wins an assignment to write a sequel to a classic historical romance. But she spends more time investigating the disappearance of the author than writing.

Never caught my interest - I got about 1/3 of the way through and then skipped to the (predictable) end. Good thing this was the end of the series anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/22/2011

Author: Monfredo, Miriam Grace
Title: North Star ConspiracySeneca Falls # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 1
No idea what the plot was. First there was a scene where a group of runaway slaves were killed. Then a scene where a questionable runaway was killed. Then a scene with librarian Glynis in winter, then a scene with her in summer, and then a scene with her in the fall shanghaied into participating in a play.

If there was a point to all these disjointed scenes, the book failed to compel me to keep reading to find it. Glynis is still a wimp. This is the second book in the series that I have been unable to get interested in - guess it's time to give up on it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/13/2011

Author: Drake, Nick
Title: NefertitiRahotep # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - Anc Egypt
Rating: 1
The youngest police investigator in Thebes is sent to Pharaoh's new capital to find missing queen Nefertiti. But he may not survive the treacherous political waters.

This is exactly the style of book I despise. Narrator Rahotep spends more time philosophizing about his family and Egypt's ills than investigating. After the first 50 pages, the story actually started, but Drake excels at really grisly descriptions but doesn't excel at consistency - Pharaoh tells Rahotep to either find Nefertiti or her corpse, but when a body is found that appears to be the Queen's, Rahotep expects to be killed. The story was not compelling enough to distract me from these problems, and I got halfway through and then skipped to the end. But I couldn't even read the last chapter, it was full of ranting and ceremony and if it resolved any of the questions, I couldn't tell.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/10/2011

Author: Dunnett, Dorothy
Title: Niccolo RisingHouse of Niccolo # 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/12/2010

Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: No One Noticed the Cat
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2010

Author: Bryson, Bill
Title: Notes From a Small Island
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/08/2009

Author: MacLeod, Alistair
Title: No great mischief
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/02/2009

Author: Rosofsky, Ira
Title: Nasty Brutish and Long
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/28/2009

Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: No Wind of BlameInspector Hemingway # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/09/2009

Author: Johnston, Linda O
Title: Nothing to fear but ferretsKendra Ballantyne # 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/19/2009

Author: Banfill, B. J.
Title: Nurse of the islands
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/07/2009

Author: Perry, Anne
Title: No graves as yetWorld War I # 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/04/2009

Author: Binchy, Maeve
Title: Nights of rain and stars
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/02/2009

Author: Scarborough, Elizabeth
Title: Nothing sacred
40-year-old grad school dropout volunteers for military and is shot down and captured, then re-educated.

Apart from a view of a very glum future, there was nothing interesting about this book. The narrator is too self-absorbed to think about anything else and the situation of the U.S. supplying soldiers to both sides of a war is too cynical for me to enjoy. I gave up quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/27/2009

Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: No question of murder aka Dead march in three keys
Adventurer marries rich wife and plans to murder her when his dream woman is left a poor widow. Plum full of unlikeable characters, I gave up pretty early in the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/22/2008

Author: Asprin, Robert
Title: No Phule like an old PhulePhule's Company #4
Captain Jester gets hit with an environmental assessment team and a new rabbitlike recruit instead of the promotion he is expecting, while a Mob team tries again to kidnap him. I liked this series several years ago, when it first came out. But now, either I've grown up or Phule hasn't. The plot was convoluted, the characters were all the people you dread getting stuck talking to at a party or convention, and nothing interesting happened to hold my attention. I forced myself to make it halfway through and then skipped to the last chapter.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/14/2008

Author: Francis, Dorothy Brenner
Title: Nurse under fire
Although copyrighted 1973, this story has a definite 50's feel. Nurse Cass Meredith is asked to take a short-term nursing job in another town, where her boyfriend has moved, and she meets and becomes interested in another man. But there is a real medical plot as well, as Cass is epileptic, and the temporary assignment involves helping an epileptic teen learn to live normally, and helping her overprotective mother to let her. I have no idea where the title came from, it bears no relation to any events in the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/12/2008

Author: Dobbs, Michael
Title: Never surrender
I really wanted to like this book. I'm a history buff anyway, and while I probably would not have wanted to know Churchill professionally or socially, I think he did an amazing job leading Britain during WWII. But it was just too boring and disjointed, cutting between political activities, Churchill talking to a German woman he'd hired as a researcher, and the experiences of a conscientious objector named Donald Chichester in France and Belgium. I forced myself to read half of the book before giving up; it never got any better.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/05/2008

Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Nethergate
Yet another of her 19th-century novels about a young woman who conceives a child out of wedlock and tries to provide for it. They are all pretty depressing and longwinded as well -- you can read a couple of pages and then skip 10-20 pages without actually losing the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008

Author: Williams, Rose
Title: Nurse in doubt
Just another romance story. Young, innocent nurse has to share a house with her wicked stepmother until two different handsome men come along, both wanting to marry/rescue her. <yawn>
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008

Author: Foxx, Nina
Title: No girl needs a husband seven days a week
I don't find manipulativeness, casual sex, and adultery any more attractive when the lead characters are black than when they are white. There is not a likable character in the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/22/2008

Author: Kingsbury, Karen
Title: Need the name of this sequelEven Now #2
Genre: Christian romance
Rating: 3
I'd given up on Kingsbury because I was tired of the sappiness and poor writing, but I thought Even Now was an interesting enough story that I was curious about this sequel. It was more of the same -- endless telling us what each character is thinking -- but mildly interesting, would have made a great novella. Try reading 2 pages and then skipping 5-10, you'll get all the story but miss the pointless dragging out of each scene.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/19/2008

Author: Green, Risa
Title: Notes from the underbelly
Another one I couldn't finish because of a total lack of likeable characters. The main character is a whiny me-obsessed school counselor who doesn't like kids but is pressured into having a baby by her childish husband. If this is great chick-lit, chick-lit is in real trouble.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/04/2008

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