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: Daley, Kathi
Title: Pumpkins in ParadiseTj Jensen # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Tj is coping with her new status as guardian of her young half-sisters and teacher/coach at the highschool when the death of a longtime friend saddens her. Especially because she doesn't accept the popular verdict of suicide.

I read this book free through the Prime Lending Library. To start with, this isn't an awful book. The people are somewhat interesting, it is fairly well proofed, and it doesn't have the sun going in the wrong direction. (Don't laugh, I've seen that in self-pubs.) The main problem is that Daley simply tries to pack too many storylines into the book and consequently can't give any of them enough attention to catch the reader's interest. A second problem, probably related to the first, is that there are too many characters to keep straight. When Tj runs into someone, I can't remember whether this is a hotel guest or a fellow teacher or the handsome new deputy. Finally, although I am from the South and have known dozens of people who went by their initials, I've never met ANYONE who didn't capitalize both (or all) of them. "Tj" just looks silly and was a minor but continual irritation. I got halfway through and realized I didn't care what would happen next, not even enough to skip to the end. There might be a good story buried here, if a tough editor would make Daley get rid of half the side storylines and 3/4 of the characters, and then let the remainder tell the story. As is, not recommended. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were mostly acceptable. The first 3 words of the WAY too long title were moderately appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/20/2015

Author: Challinor, C.S.
Title: Phi Beta MurderRex Graves # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
On a visit to his son Campbell in Florida, Rex is asked by the grieving parents of a dead student to find out why their son committed suicide. But what Rex and Campbell discover raises suspicions that his death may not have been suicide. Meanwhile, Moira reappears and pursues Rex even across the Atlantic, convinced they will get back together.

Nice solid story with some unexpected twists and turns. I certainly didn't identify the killer. One rather glaring problem is the fraternity she uses. Phi Beta Kappa is not a typical fraternity, it's a well-known and respected honor society for college students, and was not believable that the members would be scrounging for money to buy a keg. Challinor keeps adding to the books' interest by using settings with good memories for me. Jacksonville, the setting for this one, is my hometown.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/14/2015

Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Peril at End HouseHercule Poirot # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Vacationing Poirot and Hastings trip over attempted murder when a scatterbrained young woman drops her hat - and Poirot finds a bullet hole in it. Will he be able to protect her long enough to identify her would-be assassin?

I don't like it when the sleuth identifies something that isn't shared with the reader, which is a major weakness of this series. Poirot hardly ever shares any discovery with narrator Hastings, just his continual boasting. The mysteries are clever enough that I put up with the flaws, but they are real. This one cleverly intertwined three separate mysteries and the climax hit me with one surprise after another. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/13/2015

Author: Evans, Frank Howell
Title: PerilJules Poiret # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Famous retired police detective Jules Poiret is ill in the hospital, but his female employees and nurses keep changing his room radio to news reports on the trial of a young man for murder.

I borrowed this book from another Kindle owner through the website. In this novella, the tidbits revealed from the murder are the most interesting part of the various storylines but do not occupy the most space, as the women jockey for position and goodies around Poiret. Poiret could well have been the inspiration for Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, he's certainly equally vain and displays equally irritating habits such as referring to himself in the third person. The solution to the murder is dropped in, almost as an afterthought, as Poiret is readied for discharge. The excess of annoyances over entertainment value kept me from awarding it a higher rating, but I'm curious to see if the series improves. Spelling and grammar were generally acceptable, with the glaring exception of atrocious punctuation. It looks like someone just scattered commas around at random. The title is nonspecifically relevant - can you think of many mysteries where "Peril" would NOT have been a relevant title? - but unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/12/2015

Author: Tarkington, Booth
Title: PenrodPenrod # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
A look inside the mind of the "worst boy in town."

Downloaded free from Gutenberg. Mark Twain could manage having child characters think about their experiences and their lives without boring the reader. Tarkington doesn't. I got about halfway through and gave up, it just wasn't interesting. The title was appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/11/2015

Author: Montgomery, L.M.
Title: Pat of Silver BushPat # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
The reader meets a little girl, her dear little house, her dear little farm, and her dear little life.

Thoroughly tedious and with nothing to recommend it. I can't believe even children at the time this was written would have enjoyed it. Decently proofed, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2015

Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Pride and Prejudice
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4
The trials of the Bennet sisters as their mother desperately pushes them towards wealthy marriages.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Justifiably classic historical romance and a priceless portrayal of a particular English social level during the Napoleonic period. Austen gets away with barbed comments because Elizabeth and Jane are so likable. The one weak element, Lydia's escapade, is not believable because even a thoughtless, selfish fifteen year old would have known better, but the rest of the book makes up for this storyline. The Gutenberg version is quite well-proofed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/11/2015

Author: Hillbilly Housewife
Title: Poke Cake Recipes - Yummy, Fun and Easy Desserts
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 3
Collection of 35 recipes involving baking a cake, poking holes in it and pouring something over it.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There are a lot of similarities between the recipes, and most boil down to one category: your basic poke-white-or-yellow-cake-and-pour-jello-or-some-other-commercial-concoction-over, many of which feature combinations I've seen elsewhere (Butterfinger Poke Cake, Cherry Delight Poke Cake, Chocolate Peppermint Poke Cake, Coconut Poke Cake, Easy Chocolate Pudding Poke Cake, Easy Peach Poke Cake, German Chocolate Poke Cake, Gingerbread Poke Cake, Halloween Poke Cake, Key Lime Pie Poke Cake, Lemon Lime Poke Cake, Lemon Pudding Poke Cake, Orange Cream Poke Cake, Oreo Pudding Poke Cake, Patriotic Poke Cake, Peppermint Patty Poke Cake, Pina Colada Poke Cake, Pink Lemonade Poke Cake Recipe, Pistachio Poke Cake, Pretzel Poke Cake, Pumpkin Poke Cake, Raspberry Poke Cake, Red Velvet Poke Cake, S'mores Poke Cake, Strawberry Jell-o Poke Cupcakes, Surprise Me Poke Cake, Toffee Poke Cake). They aren't necessarily bad recipes, but I object to being charged for recipes I can get free on the Internet. A lot of the recipes sound easy enough for kids to make. There were a few pretty creative variations on the concept that I'd love to try if they didn't sound so calorific (Apple Poke Cake, Caramel Almond Poke Cake, Carrot Cake Poke Cake, Eggnog Poke Cake with Salted Caramel Sauce, Peanut Butter Cup Poke Cake). One recipe called for poking large holes and forcing stiffer substances into them, which frankly sounded too much like work to me (Banana Pudding Poke Cake). There were also recipes that poking holes didn't seem to add anything to (Hawaiian Poke Cake, Strawberry Poke Cake). I didn't try the recipes, but the ingredients mostly look complete and accurate, and the directions are simple and straightforward. There are a few exceptions, such as the German Chocolate Cake that just uses cake mix and pudding mix. Only after you get completely through that recipe do you find a "Topping" recipe with almonds and coconut. Pumpkin Poke Cake is one of the few recipes with obvious errors, I don't think the pumpkin alone would supply enough moisture for the cake and the reference to "cake batter" in the directions makes me think the author might have intended the reader to mix the cake mix according to package directions and then add in the additional ingredients. Some of her comments just don't make sense. "This cake is the ultimate chocolate fix and as with the caramel topping, this one is great for topping ice cream as well." A cake used for topping ice cream? The reliance on highly artificial products bothers me; Hillbilly Housewife thinks Cool Whip was invented to frost cakes with, and I would omit that from the recipes she adds it to. Most use cake and/or pudding mixes, but the Apple Poke Cake is made completely from scratch (and actually a recipe that would appeal to those who prefer natural eating). Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable on my Paperwhite, with a nice active Table of Contents. The title is too long but accurate. Unless you are totally new to the concept of poke cakes, buying this book would boil down to whether the few original recipes are worth the purchase price to you.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/10/2015

Author: Elliott, Anna
Title: Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, VoPemberley Diaries # 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 4
Pemberley to Waterloo: Georgiana Darcy's Diary, Volume 2

Now delightedly engaged to Col. Fitzwilliam, Georgiana struggles through Christmas celebrations, Elizabeth's pregnancy, a few surprises, and Fitzwilliam's fate at the battle of Waterloo.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The first volume in this series was surprisingly good, and so was this second entry. Apart from the basic unbelievability that shy Georgiana could become so assertive, Elliott does a good job maintaining the P&P characters with one glaring exception. I don't know why writers "extending" the P&P story feel obliged to get someone pregnant out of wedlock, but it is simply not believable for that time. One of the weaknesses of the original P&P is Lydia's running away, which isn't believable even in Austen's own words. Elliott works at making her version believable, but the best I can say is that it is no more unbelievable than the Lydia storyline. I did like most of the storyline and especially her redemption of at least one of the less likable P&P characters. Spelling and grammar were mostly fine. The title is relevant if too long and not particularly imaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/07/2015

Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Partners in CrimeTommy and Tuppence # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Short stories featuring the further adventures of the now married Tommy and Tuppence. Contains Fairy In the Flat, Pot of Tea, Affair of the Pink Pearl, Affair of the Sinister Stranger, Finessing the King, Gentleman Dressed in Newspaper, Case of the Missing Lady, Blindman's Buff, Man In the Mist, Crackler, Sunningdale Mystery, House of Lurking Death, Unbreakable Alibi, Clergyman's Daughter, Red House, Ambassador's Boots, Man Who Was No. 16

Enjoyable even if a bit too precious at times. The Kindle version is mostly well-proofed, with a few exceptions such as referring to Matter instead of Mater.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/06/2015

Author: McClendon, Lise
Title: Painted TruthAlix Thorssen # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
A burned-out gallery with a dead body in it sets Alix searching for secrets amid friends with their own agenda.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Once again, this isn't an awful book, but it just didn't catch my interest. I put it down halfway through and never cared what was going to happen enough to pick it back up. The title was quite clever, and sadly follows my observed rule that the cleverer the title, the less interesting the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/05/2015

Author: Schmidt, Dan
Title: Playa Perdida
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
When Gray is unceremoniously dumped as pastor of an upstate NY church, he accepts a call to start a church in a lovely seaside Central American town full of quirky expatriates, along with his Scottish wife Moira and their two very young daughters.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I wanted to like this book because it's so nice to see a Christian as the hero instead of the villain, but Schmidt confuses past and present in a slow start involving numerous flashbacks to their New York life as they try to get to their vacation destination of Panama City. (And that in itself was unclear - as a Florida girl, I couldn't imagine why their plane had been detoured from Panama City, Florida to Central America. It took a while for me to realize he meant Panama City, Panama.) Although there is a full boatload of "different" personalities, any kind of plot is lacking. Slice-of-life fans will probably love it, but I got to 40% done and couldn't take any more. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/24/2014

Author: Wilder, Diana
Title: Pharaoh's Son
Genre: Historical Fiction - Egypt
Rating: 2
When a royal priest of Ptah is baffled as to how two statues fell during a procession, he asks for the help of his brother the Crown Prince.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Oddly uninvolving and LONG mixture of lyrical writing, information dump, and potentially good storyline. The characters are a bit too touchy-feely-modern to be true to their era, such as Pharaoh apologizing to his eldest son for making him stay in the capital and pledging to give him his freedom, but they felt real and I particularly liked the bond between the two royal brothers - the title should have been "Pharaoh's Sons." A tough editor would have made all the difference to this book, tightening the unfocused storyline, removing the irrelevant information dumps, and maybe even making the characters more historically accurate. There were a few spelling/grammar errors, such as capitol for capital, but more annoying was the occasional odd formatting, where whole paragraphs were indented. As written, I couldn't finish the book; I got about halfway through before the wandering plot and inconsistencies became too much for me to tolerate. But there is definitely a germ of what could be a good story buried in all the irrelevancies.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/21/2012

Author: Wodehouse, P. G.
Title: Psmith in the CityPsmith # 3
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 1
eBook downloaded from Mike and Psmith enter the business world in the postage department of a prestigious London bank, where Mike simply tries to survive and Psmith determines to improve the character of the bank manager to his liking.

Psmith's self-obsession and delusions of grandeur aren't even interesting any more, much less amusing. His misperception of reality borders on diagnosable schizophrenia. I got halfway through but gave up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/03/2012

Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Proverb Stories aka Kitty's Class Day
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
aka Kitty's Class Day and Other Stories

eBook downloaded free from Collection of sweet stories with a high moral tone. Contains Kitty's Class Day, Aunt Kipp, Psyche's Art, A Country Christmas, On Picket Duty, The Baron's Gloves, My Red Cap, and What the Bells Saw and Said.

You might need a dose of insulin after reading these stories, but if you're in the mood for old-fashioned romances, this collection is just the ticket. Sometimes Alcott wears me out with her fulsome praise of modest girls with housewifely skills, but the preaching in most of these tales is done by the characters' lives rather than a heavy-handed author, and the characters themselves are lively and realistically flawed. Only "A Country Christmas" went over the line into sappy and silly. None of them are particularly plausible, of course. "What the Bells Saw and Said" is a clever political fantasy and homage to Dickens, not Alcott's usual style at all. I didn't notice many word errors.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/02/2012

Author: Waldock, Sarah
Title: Poison for a Poison Tongue
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 2
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. A medieval orphan travels with her master, a libertine painter.

The narrator displays a self-obsession that utterly bored me and that I have only previously encountered in Victorian heroines. She tells the reader about her background, her experiences serving Robin, her little activities, and works in a few information-dumps on topics including the Leaning Tower of Pisa and how a ship was loaded. I got through 15% of the book and still had not found any kind of plot among her meanderings, and quit. Spelling, grammar, and formatting were okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/27/2012

Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Poirot InvestigatesHercule Poirot # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Collection of short Poirot cases, including The Adventure of 'The Western Star', The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, The Adventure of the Cheap Flat, The Mystery of Hunter's Lodge, The Million Dollar Bond Robbery, The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb, The Jewel Robbery At the Grand Metropolitan, The Kidnapped Prime Minister, The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman, The Case of the Missing Will, The Veiled Lady, The Lost Mine, and The Chocolate Box

Nice variety of cases and explanations. I found some rather obvious but others were quite clever. I also found it interesting that Poirot, like Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter, tackled a missing-will problem and I thought (again) that it wasn't fair of the heir to ask for help with what was supposed to be an individual challenge. Unfortunately, the overpowering ego of both Poirot and Hastings dented my pleasure in the classy mysteries. Even if it is justified in Poirot's case, it isn't attractive or enjoyable. I was able to check the ebook out from the library, and spelling/grammar/formatting were all fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/26/2012

Author: Bouchard, Cindy
Title: Princes of the North 1909Princes of the North # 1
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Romance following a family who move to a frontier town as the trans-Canada railway is being built.

I'm a history buff, and I was hoping there would be enough history to outweigh my dislike for sappy romances. There wasn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/24/2012

Author: Orczy, Baroness Emmuska
Title: Petticoat Rule
Genre: Historical Fiction - France
Rating: 2
eBook downloaded free from Women rule through their men in 17th century France, as a young girl who advises her minister father falls under the spell of an ambitious courtier.

Even apart from the questionable accuracy of a young girl being politically savvy enough to guide her father through the minefield that was Louis' court, I couldn't take Orczy's utterly sappy romantic writing when it's not compensated for by ripping adventure such as in her Scarlet Pimpernel books. The Gutenberg proofreaders seem to have done a decent job on the grammar and spelling, however.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/22/2012

Author: Barrie, J. M.
Title: Peter PanPeter Pan # 1
Genre: Children's Fiction
Rating: 2
eBook downloaded from Three children disappear from their odd English home, so little Wendy can mother the Lost Boys of Neverland.

I had never read this childhood classic and was surprised to learn that Peter was manipulative and selfish and Tinker Bell was obsessively jealous of Peter. This Gutenberg file includes definitions of words children may not know. The problem is that not all the definitions are correct. Sanguinary, for instance, was mis-defined as happy rather than bloody. Nor is the story focused, but rather wanders from one event to another. Although I have enjoyed many children's classics as an adult, I was not impressed with the plot or characters in this book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/21/2012

Author: MacDonald, George
Title: Phantastes
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
eBook downloaded from A man records his travels through fairyland.

There simply wasn't enough of a story in the travelogue to hold my attention. Odd events happened, one after another, but were not related or explained. I tried, because I adore C.S. Lewis and Lewis raves about MacDonald, but I barely made it through the first 10% of the book before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/18/2012

Author: O'Brian, Patrick
Title: Post CaptainAubrey/Maturin # 2
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 4
As his creditors try to arrest him, Jack is given command of the oddly-built Polychrest, but disappoints his hostile admiral by bypassing prize ships for military targets. Then he is given temporary command of the Lively while her captain sits as an M.P., and is attached to a squadron going after the Spanish treasure ships.

Interesting story, but disorganized; really 2-3 separate and only marginally related novellas rather than a coherent novel. O'Brian also leaves some loose ends unresolved; while it is just barely believable that Jack and Stephen would wind up fighting a duel, it is completely unebelievable that they would simply forget it and go back to their warm friendship. Not the best book in the series, but if you can tolerate wandering plots the naval stories are engrossing, as always.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/16/2012

Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Persuasion
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 2
eBook downloaded from Undervalued by her arrogant baronet father and prideful sisters, meek Anne Elliott's main goal when she sees her jilted ex-fiance is to hide her regret.

Not as involving as some of her other tales, with fewer likable characters and a very draggy storyline. I gave up halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/15/2012

Author: Garrett, Randall
Title: Penal Cluster
Genre: Science Fiction Short Story
Rating: 4
eBook downloaded free from

A telepath hides in the special police agency that arrests telepaths to send them to live out their lives chained to an asteroid.

Interesting variation on the common theme of "all telepaths are good" or bad. Garrett makes a good point that some telepaths would likely use their powers for self-gain and others would use them ethically. The story held my interest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/14/2012

Author: Williams, Suzanne as Adair, Suzanne
Title: Paper WomanAmerican Revolution # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: NR
I picked up this book free during a Smashwords giveaway. Twice-widowed Sophie runs her father's printing business in Revolutionary Georgia while he pursues the patriot cause. But his brutal murder sends her down to Florida to corral his killer - and incidentally rescue a Spanish nobleman who may be of use to the rebels.

This is more of a thriller than a mystery, and quickly became too scary for me. But I give Williams credit for including the details that people in such a situation would have had to face, although I personally didn't think the menstruation incidents were enjoyable or relevant to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/09/2012

Author: See, Lisa
Title: Peony in Love
Genre: Historical Fiction - China
Rating: 3
Beautiful, spoiled Peony celebrates her 16th birthday by illicitly meeting a strange man inside her family compound.

There wasn't much of a storyline, and what there was I couldn't get into. See seemed to spend most of her time inside Peony's head, and the thoughts of a self-centered 16-year-old failed to grab my interest, especially when she continually gloated over her beautiful bound feet. (A scene in which a little girl's badly-bound feet are "corrected" is especially horrifying.) As a presentation of that culture it's a masterpiece, but as a readable story it was a total dud.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/08/2012

Author: Braverman, Ami
Title: Paintings on The Father Wall
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: NR
I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Collection of very strange short stories.

I don't mind unusual, but I couldn't figure out what was going on in these stories, and they weren't interesting enough to keep me reading so I quit pretty quickly.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/06/2012

Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Plum Pudding MurderHannah Swenson # 13
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
The death of a sleazy businessman running a Christmas tree lot sends Hannah and her helpers sleuthing to prove his wife didn't do it.

Fluke started with the murder, and then flashed back to days earlier and an exceedingly slow start as Hannah is shangaied into attending a business class with her mother, investigating Carrie's new secret, and trying to make a Christmas tree Moishe-proof. I don't remember her using this technique in other books and I didn't like it at all; it was continually jarring to see the dead man involved in his activities. Whodunit was pretty obvious and there was no good reason for the inevitable last-minute rescue. Michelle's new boyfriend was not a surprise, either. All in all, a very weak entry in what has been an enjoyable but deteriorating series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/13/2012

Author: Wardell, Heather
Title: Planning to Live
Genre: Romance
Rating: 4
A desperate-to-diet woman flees her family's Christmas dinner and has a serious wreck.

Dual storylines, one a routine workaholic romance but the other a haunting look inside a woman's head as she faces her own mortality. See my more detailed review at
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/26/2011

Author: Harris, Charlaine
Title: Poppy Done to DeathAurora Teagarden # 8
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When Aurora's stepsister-in-law is found murdered, she keeps tripping over evidence of multiple infidelities as well as clues to the killer. And her relationship with Robin is put to the test by a handsome and willing lawyer.

Solid workmanlike cozy but with more of a psychological element than usual, and continuing the darker feel of this part of the series. Fast read and held my attention all the way through. The only reason it didn't get a 5 rating was the dark feel and cynical attitude.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/21/2011

Author: Stabenow, Dana
Title: Play With FireKate Shugak # 5
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Kate finds a decaying body while picking mushrooms and is determined to find out why the man died, in spite of the uncooperative townfolk and the attitude of the victim's father, a manipulative and hypocritical preacher.

Stabenow tells pretty good stories. But as a preacher, she's a dud, and this book is mostly a sermon about how terrible Christians are and how stupid it is to believe in creationism (with no actual scientific evidence, of course). The plot was also unusually predictable; when I got disgusted with her portraying Christians as monomanic and closed-minded and skipped to the end, it was almost exactly the resolution I had foreseen from the beginning. I hope she gets back to storytelling in the next book in this series. This one is only worth skipping.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/20/2011

Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: Pistols for Two
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: 5
Collection of Regency romance short stories, including a romantic mystery.

I find Heyer's trademark romances much more tolerable in short story form. Even though the characters and plot are utterly predictable, they are mildly amusing and don't last long enough to drag as I find her books do. Not earth-shaking, but pleasant light reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/19/2011

Author: Greber, Judith as Gillian Roberts
Title: Philly StakesAmanda Pepper # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Amanda's plan to have her rich students serve a meal at a soup kitchen expands into a ritzy dinner when taken over by a high-profile father. And when the man dies in a fire, Amanda is afraid his daughter may be responsible.

I couldn't get past the first couple of chapters in this book. Amanda is a marginal character at best, and her "narration" is so riddled with "If 'd only known" foreshadowing that I threw the book down in disgust.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/18/2011

Author: Hambly, Barbara
Title: Patriot Hearts
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/16/2011

Author: Alleyn, Susanne
Title: Palace of JusticeAristide Ravel # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 5
Ravel is assigned to investigate a series of murder/beheadings in 1793 Paris. Is the killer a royalist trying to sabotage peace talks between the revolutionary government and Britain? Or a revolutionary fanatic after those who have escaped justice?

Once again, Alleyn involves the reader in the story immediately and holds the reader's attention throughout the book, even with a secondary storyline not related to the murders (which I normally find distracting). She also brings the reader the flavor of revolutionary France: the shortages, the fear of denunciation, the desperation to have or hold onto power.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/09/2011

Author: Goldsby, Robin Meloy
Title: Piano Girl
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/15/2010

Author: Stabenow, Dana
Title: Prepared for Rage
Genre: Political Thriller
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/22/2009

Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Peach Cobbler MurderHannah Swenson # 7
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/30/2009

Author: Stabenow, Dana ed.
Title: Powers of Detection
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/19/2009

Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: Playing For the AshesInspector Lynley # 7
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/10/2009

Author: Colley, Barbara
Title: Polished offCharlotte LaRue # 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2009

Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: PartnerShipBrainship # 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/23/2009

Author: Cain, Shannon
Title: Powder: writing by women in the ranks, from
Powder: writing by women in the ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq

Any collection of writing featuring so many diverse authors is going to feel somewhat disjointed, as this book certainly does. And it suffers from mixing too many experiences; different books from different wars would have been a better idea. But it certainly conveys the emotions experienced by women serving in combat areas.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/17/2009

Author: Heyer, Georgette (as Stella Mart
Title: Powder and Patch aka The Transformation of Philip
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: NR
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/13/2009

Author: Gaskin, Catherine
Title: Promises
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/12/2009

Author: Scarborough, Elizabeth
Title: Phantom banjoSongkiller # 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/30/2009

Author: McCaffrey, Anne & Scarborough, E
Title: Powers That BePetaybee # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/16/2009

Author: George, Elizabeth
Title: Payment In BloodInspector Lynley # 2
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/08/2009

Author: Tennant, Emma
Title: Pemberley
Genre: Pride and Prejudice sequel
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/05/2009

Author: Perry, Anne
Title: Paragon WalkCharlotte and Thomas Pitt # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/23/2009

Author: Aplin, Maureen Meehan
Title: Powder River PoisonMary Macintosh #1
Genre: Legal Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/12/2009

Author: Dahl, Sophie
Title: Playing with the grownups
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/11/2009

Author: Park, Ed
Title: Personal days
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/08/2009

Author: Lavene, Joyce
Title: Pretty poisonPeggy Lee garden mystery # 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/21/2008

Author: McMahon, Jennifer
Title: Promise not to tell
Is plain old storytelling out of fashion? This book started like an upcoming train wreck -- horrifying to watch but you can't look away -- but became some odd, hard-to-follow mishmash covering at least two time periods (can't be sure, there might have been 3 or 4). It apparently was intended to be a ghost story, but the "story" part is so well-hidden I couldn't find it. If the author doesn't bother to make her points clear, what is the point of writing?
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/19/2008

Author: Brian, Kate
Title: Private
Classic new-girl-at-posh-school-desperate-to-be-accepted story, without the ending in which the girl decides to be herself. Reed will do absolutely anything the queen bees want in order to be in their society and winds up as their maid -- and accepts it. Pitiful example of the angst of high school. This is first in a series but I won't be wasting my time with any more of them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/08/2008

Author: Barrett, Julia
Title: Presumption
Genre: Pride and Prejudice sequels
Rating: 2
Mr. Darcy's neighbors and relatives continue to snub Elizabeth, and a handsome naval officer captures several ladies' hearts (including Georgiana's).

A number of authors have written would-be sequels to Jane Austen's classic "Pride and Prejudice." This one, however, just isn't believable. Shy Georgiana mouths off to Lady Catherine, timid Anne de Bourgh hates her cousin Georgiana, and sweet Jane Bingley is thinking ill of her family? Not hardly. If an author is going to use another author's characters, she had better keep the character's attitudes and actions or provide the reader with a good reason they have changed. The plots themselves aren't too bad, but the idea of a respectable woman being arrested for theft shows a complete lack of understanding of the culture.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/03/2008

Author: Ahern, Cecelia
Title: PS, I love you
Moving story of a young widow who receives a list of things to do planned by her late husband. As she opens an envelope each month, she savors his care for her as well as gradually steps into her new life.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/01/2008

Author: Ristori, Bridget
Title: Patients in my care
Some people who live boring lives write fascinating books; some people who live amazing lives write boring books. Sadly, this is an example of the latter. The author practiced as a nurse during the early and middle part of the 20th century, rode for the Frontier Nursing Service, escaped from a Pacific island barely ahead of the Japanese during WWII, and saw the astounding advances in health care firsthand. But the book is just another autobiography. It doesn't have enough nursing information to interest me as a nurse, and how much it cost her to attend a nursing course doesn't interest me, period. Extremely poor copyediting doesn't help.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/18/2008

Author: Lofts, Norah
Title: Pargeters
Very depressing story of the various families that occupied a neighbor house to Knight's Acre. I'll give you a clue: none of them had happy lives.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2008

Author: Harris, Rosemary
Title: Pushing Up DaisiesDirty Business #1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 5
A professional gardener disturbs a lot of old money when she finds a mummified baby buried in a garden.

Cute and clever, other than yet another body-obsessed heroine. I figured out whodunnit as soon as the heroine met him but the red herrings left me wondering for a while if I was wrong. Enjoyable light reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/25/2008

Author: Boynton, Sandra
Title: Philadelphia chickens
Some children's books are simply wasted on children, and this is definitely one example. The plaintive ballad "Nobody Understands Me," the boogie title song, the ode to an out-of-reach cookie jar are all clever lyrics set to tunes that stick in your mind. And the performances are memorable: Patti LuPone sings the unashamed "I Like to Fuss" and Kevin Kline sings the Gilbert & Sullivan parody "Busybusybusy." Yes, some of the songs are really only of interest to preschoolers or early elementary ages, but there is plenty here to hold an adult's attention.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/19/2008

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