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: Smith, Deborah
Title: Sweet Hush
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A woman who has fought to revive her family orchard takes on the President to protect her son.

Terribly disjointed story. Smith not only starts with her usual purposeless "introduction," she skips around in time during the book itself. The courtroom scene was not believable, and the book simply failed to catch my interest. I quit about a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/01/2015


 
Author: Dox, Molly
Title: Sunbaked SnowbirdPoppy Pepper # 1
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Poppy gave up her paramedic career to help her aging father run the family campground in Florida. But when one guest is found dead, she ropes a friendly sheriff's deputy into helping her investigate.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway. Short but full of surprises and duplicitous if somewhat stereotypical characters. Easy light read. Word use is occasionally sloppy, nothing a good editor or proofreader couldn't have fixed: sparking instead of sparkling, watch instead of wash. "It was old and run-down, but she ran smoothly." The town name of Palmetto Keys was mildly annoying to this native Floridian, because nothing within 20 minutes of the Disney area would be anywhere near a key (which is a small island off the coast). The title is nicely pithy, but the series name needs to be drastically shortened. Authors need to remember the rule that the potential reader should be able to read the title (or the series) out loud in ONE breath, without gasping at the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/04/2015


 
Author: Ellis, Peter Beresford as Tremayne, Peter
Title: Suffer Little ChildrenSister Fidelma # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Investigating a murder that could require her brother the king to pay a hefty honor-price, Fidelma stumbles over two massacres of children as well as a number of other events that may or may not be related. The story culminates in a long courtroom scene, closer to Perry Mason than Brother Cadfael.

I figured out part of the whodunit but got royally snagged by some red herrings. And I don't like children-in-danger stories, period. Fidelma missed an awful lot and made some very bad decisions, which made her less likable. But Tremayne's worst offense was a deus-ex-machina rescue that almost had me throwing the book across the room in disgust. I did finish it, The title was marginally related but a refernce to Herod would have been more clever and quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/03/2015


 
Author: Troike, Kim
Title: String The Cranberries
Genre: Romance
Rating: 1
Chicago man Brandon takes a job as a ranch hand in Wyoming and falls in love with local girl Leia.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway, and it was still overpriced. If you know someone who can't tell a story for beans, omits important details but includes lots of irrelevancies, and leaves you wondering what on earth was the point - you know exactly what to expect from this short. I could usually figure out what Troike meant, but it took work.. "His parents had met with tragedy by way of the highway." "She never wanted to be like her, her mother, who couldn't walk anymore." "Did she see him? Were their eyes looking at the same thing?" (If she was looking AT him, and he was looking AT her, how COULD their eyes be looking at the same thing?) "They all headed into town for lunch, the posse resembled a big family." "He filled her in about his family, or there lack of." Troike refers to a haircut as looking like "Julius Cesar." Surprisingly, there were not many misspellings. I live in Cheyenne, so I wanted to like this novella, but clearly Troike ignored the writer's rule to "write what you know" just as she ignored all the other rules of coherent writing. The worst offense is that there is no story. Troike meanders around, covering Brandon's parents' accident, his Army days, his sister's marriage and children, his uncle and aunt's marriage, his uncle's barbershop, and his sister's kids being bothered by their mother crying after saying goodbye to him at the train, for goodness' sake. And all this drivel hits the reader before Brandon even makes it to Wyoming, where the drivel continued but I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/02/2015


 
Author: Collins, Ace
Title: Stories Behind the Traditions and Songs of Easter
Genre: Trivia
Rating: 4
Short chapters on a variety of Easter hymns and traditions.

Interesting little tidbits, especially about the hymns. I particularly liked seeing the original and complete versions, rather than the generally shortened and altered versions in current hymnbooks. Definitely not worth the standard price; wait for a sale.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/01/2015


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith as Peters, Ellis
Title: St. Peter's FairBrother Cadfael # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
When a merchant is murdered at the monastery's annual fair, a nobleman and a townsman vie to pay attention to his lovely niece - but the townsman is suspected of the murder and desperate to prove his innocence.

Rereading these wonderful tales, I find I'm able to identify the killer (although I don't remember them) but the stories are still holding my attention. Pargeter has such a gift for story building and characterization, it baffles me that when I've tried her other books, I have been completely bored. The only two minor criticisms I can make about this book are that a person doesn't burn to death as quickly as the book would have it, and the title is uninspired although accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/29/2015


 
Author: Hart, Carolyn
Title: Something WickedDeath on Demand # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Annie and Max act in a problem-ridden production of Arsenic and Old Lace. But when an idiot prosecutor is determined to pin a murder on Max, Annie becomes desperate to find the real killer.

This is a perfectly acceptable entry in a perfectly acceptable series. But something about it just doesn't connect with me. Maybe it is that so many of the characters are despicable, but I don't even remember the heroine from one book to the next. I didn't even care enough to skip to the end to see whodunit. There are so many books that I really want to read that I just don't see wasting more time on a series that is merely okay.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/26/2015


 
Author: Dickens, Charles
Title: Sketches by Boz
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: NR
Collection of a LOT of Dickens' early work, mostly short pieces describing the people of London.

eBook downloaded free from Gutenberg. Individually, the pieces are somewhat interesting, and show Dickens' eye for the tragic as well as the ridiculous. But there are just so many of them, I gave up before I got 10% of the way through. I'm glad they were collected and published, Dickens scholars will be getting papers out of them for centuries. But for fun reading - no. Proofreading was okay but there are occasional errors.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/24/2015


 
Author: Smith, Virginia
Title: Sincerely, MaylaJust As I Am # 2
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
Laid off from her construction company job, Mayla visits her estranged grandmother in Florida, but two friends follow her, complete with their own problems.

Interesting characters barely rescue a terribly oversimplistic storyline. Mayla is not perfect, and her battles to follow Jesus against her own nature ring true. But all the changes in people necessary to reach a syrup-sweet ending - Hallmark couldn't have gotten away with them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/22/2015


 
Author: Tremayne, Peter
Title: Shroud for the ArchbishopSister Fidelma # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 3
While visiting Rome, Fidelma is recruited by the Bishop's secretary to rubber-stamp the apparent killer of a visiting Archbishop of Canterbury, but Fidelma's investigation turns up facts that don't add up.

Nice twisty-turny plot even though I guessed whodunit about halfway through. Lots of little jabs at the credulity of the Romans. More disturbing to me was Tremayne's apparently belief that the 5th century Christian religious indulged in casual sex. Fornication as well as adultery was considered sins as far back as Paul's day. There was debate about whether religious could marry, but no indication in church history that I'm aware of permitting extramarital sex. (Of course many religious committed that particular sin, but it had to be confessed and there could be serious consequences if they were caught.) His incorrect history there makes me wonder what other historical elements he played fast-and-loose with, and lowered my overall rating. The title had a nice ring but no real relevance to the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2015


 
Author: Clark, Mindy Starns
Title: Shadows of Lancaster County
Genre: Thriller
Rating: NR
A woman fleeing an old crime searches for her missing brother and the family rubies someone is willing to kill to obtain.

Thrillers are too scary for me and I quit this one as soon as I realized what it was. As a rule, though, I also dislike alternating-narrator tales, as they are too confusing. I also dislike trying to excuse crimes by young people as stupid; they are still crimes.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/19/2015


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Sanditon
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: NR
A young woman of good family visits family friends at a small beach resort.

This is not only unfinished, it was barely started. Only interesting to Austen fans who want to be able to say they have read all of her published work.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/15/2015


 
Author: Austen, Jane
Title: Sense and Sensibility
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: 3
When their father dies and their half-brother John and his greedy wife Fanny take over their home, three sisters and their mother take a small cottage near a cousin. Reserved Elinor leaves behind not only her childhood home, but also a growing attachment to Fanny's brother Edward. Impulsive Marianne finds solace not only in her beloved piano but also in the attentions of a popular visitor.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Slow-moving, as all of Austen's books are, but with vivid characters. I like the movie (the Emma Thompson version) better than the book, as Austen keeps harping on the lack of sense in both the mother and Marianne. Yes, they are flighty, can we move on please?
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/13/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: Shawl-StrapsAunt Jo's Scrap-Bag Vol 2
Genre: Travelogue
Rating: 3
Fictionalized travelogue featuring two friends and their chaperone, supposedly the sister of one of them - I didn't understand how someone young enough to need a chaperone could have a sister old enough to suffer from rheumatism.

Not awful, but far from Alcott's best work. Marginally interesting as a portrait of what travel was like in Alcott's day but no real story and none of the characters captured my heart.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/02/2014


 
Author: Warner, Gertrude Chandler
Title: Surprise IslandBoxcar Children # 2
Genre: Children
Rating: 4
Now happily living with their loving grandfather, the kids jump at the chance to spend the summer on a private island with a secret.

Cute story from a simpler time, suitable for elementary-age readers.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/27/2014


 
Author: Price, Anthony
Title: Soldier No MoreDr. David Audley # 11
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 2
British intelligence agent David Roche is assigned to recruit David Audley, which his secret communist boss is equally eager to see.

I must have heard something good about this series, but I can't imagine what, and this book had nothing to recommend it - no sympathetic characters, slow and tedious storyline. I gave up a quarter of the way through and David Audley still hadn't appeared.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/26/2014


 
Author: Aird, Catherine
Title: Slight MourningInspector Sloan # 6
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: NR
Sloan (with Crosby's inept help as usual) investigates a death in an auto collision that may not have been accidental.

The humor that originally got me reading this series has sunk into stupid "what will clueless Constable Crosby do next" comments that don't interest me at all. This isn't a bad police procedural, but it isn't a genre I'm fond of and there is nothing left to keep me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/25/2014


 
Author: Buchanan, Jennie Yoon M.D.
Title: Snacks And High Energy Foods (Snack And Nibble You
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 2
Snacks And High Energy Foods (Snack And Nibble Your Way To A Thinner And Healthier Life)

Collection of recipes, tidbits of information, and preaching. The title is almost longer than the rest of the book!

I borrowed this book through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. I think there might be some useful ideas in this book, but between confusing (and probably unedited) writing and flat-out wrong directions, anything useful is lost. "Substitute that boring mayonnaise and mustard ..." I don't find them boring but in any case, she presumably meant "replace" rather than "substitute." "Through these pages I'm going to teach you how to make." Make what? "Switch out that boring white bread with multi-grain or whole-grain bread that is mouthwatering just by looking at them." More power to her if she finds whole-grain breads mouthwatering, but I don't, and I also don't like sentences that don't make sense. "Throw in a little meat on top of your favorite vegetable selection is always a great substitute for store bought lunch." The idea is nice if you can pull it out of the sloppy writing. "The health benefits of Gouda take room from raw milk." First, this makes no sense, and second, Wiki does not indicate that Gouda is a raw-milk cheese.

Buchanan's stated goal is to promote healthy eating rather than weight loss, but her title contradicts her stated goal, and I personally don't lose weight if I eat foods like baked potatoes with blue cheese on them! Most of her recipes call for a LOT of salt: 1 tsp for 2 cups almonds in "Sweet and spicy nuts," and 2 TABLESPOONS for 1-3/4 cups almonds in "Spanish Tapas Medley," for example. She praises nuts, which admittedly offer a lot of nutritional benefit but are also relatively high-calorie and high-fat. I was afraid to figure the calories in "Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks With Not-So-Ordinary Katchup" - commercial catsup AND commercial barbecue sauce? Although using a lot of non-processed ingredients, Buchanan's recipes occasionally call for reduced-fat items, which generally include more carbohydrates - not really a healthy or calorie-smart tradeoff.

Finally, the recipes themselves frequently contain directions that are incomplete or flat-out wrong. I'm pretty sure Buchanan meant 2 teaspoons rather than 2 tablespoons salt in the "Spanish Tapas Medley" because 2 tablespoons would produce an inedible mess. I wouldn't think relish and blue cheese dressing would make a good tuna salad, and I definitely wouldn't want to put it on "a piece of multi grain brain." (I didn't make that up, honest. My Kindle shows 11% on that page.) "Smoked Salmon and Wild Rice Parcels" call for "1 cup wild rice" but does not specify whether it should be cooked or uncooked - quite a difference! The ingredients list for "Gouda Cheese, Chicken Breasts and Grape Skewers" calls for cubed Gouda, but the directions refer to a "mozzarella ball." "Grilled Turkey Pot Stickers" calls for cooking in in 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 cup water "until both sides are golden brown, about 1 minute per side." Cooking food (generally sausage) in a mixture of fat and water is a legitimate technique; the food cooks as the water evaporates and then acquires a nice golden brown color by cooking in the oil after the water is gone. But it takes FAR longer than 1 minute to achieve! "Panko-Crusted Fish Sticks With Not-So-Ordinary Katchup" use fish fillets and lack any directions on turning the fillets into fish sticks.

Buchanan actually does have some good ideas buried here; the "Grilled Turkey Pot Stickers" sound especially appealing. But it would require a tough editor to turn this mess into a helpful product.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/18/2013


 
Author: Cook, Glen
Title: Sweet Silver BluesGarrett P.I. # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: NR
In a world wracked by a bitter war over an area full of the silver wizards are desperate for, a soldier who survived is hired by the father of a late buddy to find his named heiress in the war zone.

I wasn't sure which element would be more prominent, since I detest PI stories but like fantasy. Unfortunately, the PI events and attitudes overwhelmed the interesting fantasy pieces. The writing was adequate, but a dangerous woman isn't any more attractive when she is half-elf, and I don't enjoy people getting beat up any more when they are beat up by gnomes. I quit less than halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/19/2012


 
Author: Halliday, Gemma
Title: Spying in High HeelsHigh Heels # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
A children's shoe designer hunts for her missing boyfriend in spite of the distractions in her life, including a possible pregnancy, her mother's wedding, and a hot detective.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There is so much about this book that I hated. Maddie could be the poster child for ditzy blondes. She thinks wearing the right clothes is important. She's essentially a stalker. She's easily distracted. She's a wimp. She manages to pick up information but fails to pass it to the police in a timely manner. But dang it, through the first half of the book I kept picking it up again because Halliday made me wonder what was going to happen next. In spite of that, I skipped most of the second half and read the ending, because the book just went on too long - I'd had more than I could take of Maddie's annoying quirks.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/09/2012


 
Author: Rockwell, Patricia
Title: Sounds of MurderPamela Barnes # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
College psychology professor Pamela Barnes finds a famous colleague murdered in the psych lab and uses a recording the victim was making to hunt the killer.

Rockwell, like many authors, hasn't learned to make the story her main focus. While the mystery itself was moderately interesting, I got so tired of the endless digressions that I quit about halfway through. Pamela's happy marriage and problems with her teenaged daughter and house furnishings were neither particularly interesting nor relevant to the murder. (I skipped most of the info-dump lecture on interpreting audiology, too.) The occasional formatting problems, where 2-3 paragraphs together have every line indented, didn't help. While there is enough potential that I'll probably try the next in the series, this needs serious editing if Rockwell wants to hold the reader's attention.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/02/2012


 
Author: Thomas, Will
Title: Some Danger InvolvedBarker & Llewelyn # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Desperate former felon Thomas Llewellyn is hired by "enquiry agent" Cyrus Barker, who trains him to investigate as they pursue the killer of a young Jewish teacher.

Mostly gripping story, occasionally slowed by information dumps on various aspects of London during mid-Victorian times, especially Jewish life as seen by a non-Jew. Thomas and Cyrus are well-drawn, with Cyrus in particular an intriguing combination of Sherlock Holmes and Sam Spade. I really shouldn't have liked this book, as it shows all the reasons I don't like PI tales: a misogynist hero who seems to know everything and gets beat up on a regular basis. But the story kept me reading anyway, and I look forward to others in the series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/01/2012


 
Author: Ball, Donna (ed.)
Title: Sweet Tea and Jesus Shoes
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 4
Short stories by various authors highlighting Southern culture. Contains "Grandma Tells a Tale," "Up Jumps the Devil," and "Fingerprints" by Donna Ball; "The Jesus Shoes," "The Reunion," and "Bigdaddy's Outhouse" by Sandra Chastain; "From Whence We Come" and "Sweet Tea" by Debra Dixon; "No More Mickey Mouse," "Cookie, the One-Eyed Horse," and "Keeper of the Stick" by Virginia Ellis; "A Little Squirrelly" and "Uncle Clete's Bell" by Nancy Knight; and "Nola's Ashes," "Grandpapa's Garden," and "Flying on Fried Wings" by Deborah Smith. The last quarter of the book contains recipes, mostly with a connection to one of the stories: Sweet Tea, Sunday Ambrosia, Grandpapa's Cheese Straws, Vacation Bible School Sandwiches, Cow Patties, Mama's Fried Chicken, Steeplechase Potato Salad, Rat-tat-tooee Southern Style, Mamaside Broccoli Casserole, One-Eyed Cookies, Missionary Society Strawberry Shortcake, Mama's Pecan Pie, Ice Box Fruitcake, Banana Pudding, Grandma Hilda's Coconut Cake, Six Week Fruitcake, and Chocolate Nut Pound Cake.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't object to short stories unless they are badly done. This is a very nice example of what a collection of short stories should be. Each individual entry is a STORY, not a pointless character description or a snapshot of what the author saw from a Walmart register or a slide at the park. Within the clearly-defined theme of Southern life, they are organized by topic: Precious Memories, Beloved Critters, etc. Some of the endings were a little too pat, such as Flying With Fried Wings, but that is forgivable. And of course some stories held me more than others; I think my favorite was Grandma Tells a Tale. Spelling, grammar, and formatting were fine with the exception of an occasional misused word and an odd quirk in the recipes section: most of the times 1/2 is used, it appears with a space after the 1, like this: "1 /2" which left me wondering whether it was supposed to be 1/2 or maybe 1-1/2 instead. Since none of the recipes particularly appealed to me - I'm a Southern cook and have my own recipes - I didn't try any of them to see whether the 1 /2 truly meant 1/2 or not. There is an interactive Table of Contents. If you are looking for an enjoyable collection of Southern fiction, this is the one to pick up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/25/2012


 
Author: Garrett, Randall
Title: Suite Mentale
Genre: Science Fiction Short Story
Rating: 2
A man who developed a way to use ESP suffers a gunshot wound to the brain and survives with his consciousness cut off from all sensory perception.

eBook downloaded free from www.Gutenberg.org Fortunately this was just a short story, as the first part was closer to horror than pure SF and the resolution made no sense. The foreign-language section headings didn't contribute anything except more confusion.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/24/2012


 
Author: Estill, Diana
Title: Stilettos No More
Genre: Humor
Rating: 2
Mildly humorous look at various aspects of a woman aging.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. As another aging woman, I simply didn't find Estill's essays very funny. I never wore stilettos and don't own a body shaper now, nor can I imagine any circumstances under which I would want to wear one. Maybe someone who was as obsessed with her outer appearance as Estill apparently is would find it funnier and more arresting than I did. As is, I didn't even get halfway through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2012


 
Author: McCourtney, Lorena
Title: Searching for Stardust
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 4
A divorced couple belatedly discover that their late son may have left a child and desperately try to find the mother.

I sure can't complain about a slow start to this book! Even though important plot turnings were easily predictable, the story swept me along its breathless way. Jan and Mark felt real and McCourtney made me care what was happening to them. Even though I share McCourtney's Christian beliefs, I found this (like her other books) a bit preachy but not overwhelmingly so. Even the poor copyediting of the Kindle version - for example, the car Chevy made is a Camaro, not a Camero - only registered as a minor irritant. It's difficult to discuss the most serious plot flaw without giving away an important story element, but it boils down to Jan and Mark losing focus on one of their goals, and no explanation given that I found believable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/21/2012


 
Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: Strange Gods, Strange Men
Genre: Historical Mystery - Egypt
Rating: 2
A European hermit recalls travelling to Jerusalem around 1100 AD and investigating a murder in Alexandria.

First, this is only a short story, and I am aggravated at myself for paying $2.99 for it. Second, the murder mystery part is okay, but I don't like flashbacks as a rule, and this one wanders through the hermit's limited childhood and travels as a merchant before getting to the mystery. Frazer can tell a good story, but you'd never know it from this unfocused, overpriced example of her work. The title is somewhat relevant to the story but so vague it's not particularly helpful.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/19/2012


 
Author: Penny, Louise
Title: Still LifeChief Inspector Gamache # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: NR
Police procedural featuring a French Canadian detective.

I don't generally like PPs, although there are enough exceptions that I don't mind trying them to see if there is anything exceptional enough to pique my interest. In this one, there wasn't, and I quit about 10% of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/18/2012


 
Author: Weaver, Angela; Martin-Arnold, Edwina; Savoy, Deirdre; et al
Title: Soldier Boys
Genre: Romance
Rating: NR
Stories by various authors featuring women romantically involved with military men.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I either didn't realize this was romance or thought the soldier stories might outweigh the romance element. They didn't.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/17/2012


 
Author: Shaber, Sarah
Title: Snipe HuntSimon Shaw # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Simon finds himself involved when the medical examiner discovers that the body inside a recovered WWII diving suit was knifed, probably because of the gold Confederate coins in his hand. Together with reluctant love-interest Julia, they try to solve a 50-year-old murder with present-day repercussions.

This book kept me reading but never really grabbed me. All the characters were fairly one-dimensional but the clues were all there and the story moved right along. Two major flaws contributed to the low rating. First, Simon walked alone into the murderer's lair. That was just stupid. Second, the Kindleization is absolutely awful. There were paragraphs where the words were so jumbled I couldn't even figure out how it was supposed to read, and most dates had disappeared (leaving the sentences meaningless). I'm not even sure why I finished it. The title references one minor event in the book, not related to the main plot at all.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/16/2012


 
Author: Wilder, Eric
Title: Simply Southern
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 2
Short pieces set in Southern locales featuring Southern characters.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I can't really call these short stories because stories have a point or a resolution. These were more like snapshots of something going on over a short time period, and not interesting enough to keep me reading. The characters are well-drawn but likewise uninteresting. The title is vague enough to say yes, it has something to do with the book, but not specific enough to convey anything useful to the reader.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/15/2012


 
Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Seven For a SecretJohn the Eunuch # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
The murder of a woman who offered John information and may have been the model for his beloved mosaic girl Zoe sends him digging for a possible revolutionary cabal.

As always, the cynical and convoluted storyline kept me reading, although I found many of the characters rather unlikable. There were some unexplained touches, like a character staring at John with hatred at the end of the book. And there were a few discoveries that strained credulity. But overall, an enjoyable entry in this series. Reed and Mayer explained their titling in one of John's musings. Spelling, grammar, and formatting were all acceptable, as I expect from Poisoned Pen Press.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/13/2012


 
Author: Norton, Andre as North, Andrew
Title: Sargasso of SpaceSolar Queen # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: NR
The first assignment of a cargo handling training graduate is to a Free Trader on a run to a newly-released burned planet.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Well-enough written but just too scary for me, with dangerous villains making it unlikely the ship will be able to escape. I quit about halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/10/2012


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes, ed.
Title: Sun In GloryValdemar short stories # 3
Genre: Fantasy Short Stories
Rating: 3
Another of Lackey's collections of short stories by various authors, set in the Valdemar mythos. This one includes several tales featuring Vkandis' people.

Any collection is going to vary in quality as well as theme, but the overall feel to this book is darker than I prefer, which makes the title feel wrong; probably more suited to those who like the Vanyel trilogy than the Talia trilogy. The resolutions were mostly predictable but still enjoyable, and a couple stories even surprised me. My favorite was the title story, a very nice follow-up to Solaris' ascension. Not the best Valdemar collection but still readable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/08/2012


 
Author: Newman, Sharan
Title: Strong as DeathCatherine LeVendeur # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 3
Catherine's desperation for a child sends her and Edgar on pilgrimage to Campostela, as one fellow pilgrim after another turn up dead and Solomon is fascinated with a repentant prostitute. But when a hate-filled priest determines that Solomon is responsible and two knights accuse Hubert of the murders, Catherine's academic curiosity takes a more urgent turn.

Although it kept me reading, I can't say I really liked the book. Everyone is obsessed with themselves, and there are just too many unlikable characters and too much soap opera. Newman did fool me as to whodunit, but the title had nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/06/2012


 
Author: Ryan, Patricia as P.B.
Title: Still Life With MurderGilded Age Mystery # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 2
During the Civil War, a young servant who loves babies accepts a position as under-nurserymaid with a rich Boston family.

No actual story and nothing about the characters to catch my attention, except that the lady of the house was quite unbelievable democratic. I quit about 10% into the book. The title was marginally relevant to the story. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2012


 
Author: McIntosh, Pat
Title: St. Mungo's RobinGilbert Cunningham # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - Scotland
Rating: 4
As Alys turns into Bridezilla, Gil and Pierre investigate the stabbing of a poorhouse deacon who may have been enriching himself at the expense of his charges.

The story is stronger than its pieces. As usual, I found the excessive use of dialect distracting even though authentic. The plot twists were unsurprising but moved right along. I'm not sure what the point was of introducing a seeming miracle; it didn't advance the plot and was never explained or verified. Less of Gil's and Alys' relationship problems would have strengthened the storyline but the book kept me reading anyway. The title was quite relevant to the plot. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/04/2012


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: Sparkling Cyanide aka Remembered DeathColonel Race # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
A year after Rosemary's apparent suicide, her friends and family remember her - and why they hated her. But her widower's plans to stage a surprise at a re-creation of her last dinner go tragically awry.

Knowing more than 20 years elapsed between Christie's publication of the first Race book (which was awful) and this one, I hoped it would be a stronger storyline. This at least kept me reading, although none of the characters was truly believable and most were not likable either. Christie's sleight of hand was impressive; all the information is there but I was completely fooled as to whodunit. The title was relevant to the story. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/03/2012


 
Author: Royal, Priscilla
Title: Sorrow Without EndMedieval Mystery # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A grieving widower takes his chance to kill the Crusader who raped and murdered his wife, and Prioress Eleanor and Crowner Ralf try to pick him out of those filling the priory hospital. Brother Thomas' return at the same time as the murder confuses the issue when a witness places him nearby.

Involving, satisfying story, but not the best choice for those who want straightforward resolutions. Royal excels at writing real-feeling characters with mixed motives complicating their obligations. She could have spent less time in people's heads, however - all those musings and reflections sometimes made the plot drag. The title is not clearly related to the storyline but could be a reference to an important subplot, and the vague titles have not been a strong point of this series. I still intensely dislike the whole Eleanor/Thomas romance subplot and consider it irritating as well as distracting. Not everyone falls in love with every member of the opposite sex they come into contact with, or even all those they like or admire! It weakens the storyline and the series would be better off without it. Spelling, grammar, and formatting of the Kindle edition were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/28/2012


 
Author: Reed, Mary & Mayer, Eric
Title: Six For GoldJohn the Eunuch # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Caught fleeing from the body of a murdered Senator, Justinian exiles John to Egypt to investigate a report of a fabulous treasure on an estate where sheep have been beheading themselves. Meanwhile, Felix and Anatolius investigate the senator's murder in spite of Justinian's conviction of John.

I found the resolution confusing and once again was left the feeling that I had missed something, especially given the abrupt and inadequately-explained ending, but as usual the story swept me along and kept me reading. Reed and Mayer consistently play fair with the reader, a big plus. Just like in Byzantium, no one can tell who is a good guy or a bad guy. Spelling, grammar, and formatting of the Kindle ebook were fine. The title bore no relation to the story that I could tell, one of my pet peeves in this series.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/27/2012


 
Author: See, Lisa
Title: Shanghai GirlsMay & Pearl # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - China
Rating: NR
Two young women in 1927 Shanghai enjoy a luxurious Western-style life, until their father's financial ruin forces them to marry his creditor's sons.

Just as sad and gloomy as her other books. I don't enjoy depressing stories, so I only got about 60 pages in before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/23/2012


 
Author: Hambly, Barbara
Title: Search the Seven Hills:aka Quirinal Hill Affair
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 4
A Roman official's daughter is kidnapped, ostensibly by the disgraced Christians. As the young philosopher who loves her desperately tries to find and rescue her, he encounters treacherous friends and unlikely allies and learns more than he cares to about the despised Roman Christians.

This is a mystery, but not a murder mystery. Hambly excels at re-creating the ambience and attitudes of ancient Rome. I didn't like the endless denigratory comments about Christians, but they were probably authentic to the time, as was the infighting. The story itself was fairly predictable, but the lively characters (mostly) kept the plotline moving along. Apparently the Kindle version was scanned and inadequately corrected, as there are a number of typical OCR errors: italicization for no reason, "mere" instead of "there."
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/12/2012


 
Author: Allman, Victoria
Title: Sea Fare
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 4
Memoir of a young chef with wanderlust who hires onto a yacht and travels the world.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Quite surprisingly enjoyable, although I suspect only for foodies. I love to cook and try new foods, so Allman's reports of cooking with and eating new-to-her ingredients intrigued me. She mostly avoided the tedious "I was born" flashbacks; what flashbacks she included were clearly relevant to her topic, travelling as a chef. Her writing style is direct and uncomplicated, but her sense of wonder lights up her words. The recipes didn't appeal to me but would probably interest someone less familiar with Caribbean fare. There are a few fact errors, such as when she refers to duck breast as "foie gras de canard," and some word misuse (such as "repelling" down a mountainside), but they are only briefly jarring. If she achieved this organization and readability without a professional editor, I'm very impressed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/11/2012


 
Author: Langtry, Leslie
Title: Scuse Me While I Kill This GuyBombay Assassins # 1
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 1
Widowed Gin (short for Virginia) comes from a long line of assassins, but would like to have a man in her life again. Between appeasing her buttinsky family and worrying about her 5-year-old daughter's upcoming "blooding," after which she will be committed to the family business, she falls for a man with a competing professional line.

In addition to the questionable likability of a main character who is a professional killer, there were too many other features I dislike to keep me reading. Family members and/or friends trying to run someone else's life are high on my "dislike" list. So are wimps who can't tell them to butt out. But the killer (so to speak) was the idea of starting the killing "training" at 5 years old - and giving the child neither an option to participate nor a way out later. This gives the term "child abuse" a whole new meaning - and harming children, IMNSHO, is NEVER entertaining and instantly earns my lowest rating.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/10/2012


 
Author: Hart, Carolyn
Title: Scandal in Fair HavenHenrie O # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Henrie O poses as the aunt of a dear friend's nephew in order to investigate the murder of the man's wife.

The nephew was such a spineless sleazeball that I had no sympathy for or interest in Henrie's detecting. He manipulated her into posing as his aunt and outright lied whenever he could. Hart does a good job portraying him, but his whining and evasions left me cold. I couldn't care about the story and quit about halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/09/2012


 
Author: Gooseberry Patch
Title: Sandwiches Cookbook
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 3
Collection of sandwich recipes, sent to the publisher by readers of their earlier cookbooks.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Some of the recipes have potential but haven't been thought through, such as the Sunday Morning Sandwiches that call for slicing a large circular egg mixture into wedges - ill suited to placing on a round bun. Cooking the pork for Pulled Pork Sandwiches for 1-1/2 hours after shredding would drain the meat of all flavor. The ingredient lists and directions are mostly clear, although there were minor goofs in some of the directions. (For instance, by not instructing the cook to bake the rolls in Italian Sausage Sandwiches while preparing the sausages, the sausages will wind up sitting in the pan and getting cold while the buns are prepared. An experienced cook will recognize this problem ahead of time and adjust the directions herself; none of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks are suitable for beginning cooks. Given that limitation, I'm not sure there is a point in including some standard recipes, such as the Reuben Sandwich, which the experienced cook will already know.) Several recipes gave various fillings the Monte Cristo treatment - not a terrible idea but I'm not sure it actually adds anything. I'm also not sure what the point is of including a BBQ sauce recipe, given the enormous number of sauce recipes available elsewhere and the low cost and high variety of commercial BBQ sauces. Some of the recipes should come out fine, such as the Layered Italian Sandwiches which is very similar to one of my personal favorite recipes that I obtained from an Italian restaurant decades ago. Shredded Chicken Sandwiches reappear here from the RV Cookbook, and should work much better in a conventional kitchen. BBQ Meat Loaf Sandwiches should appeal to those who like meat loaf sandwiches. As always, there were a number of recipes that didn't sound like tasty combinations to me - crab, mushrooms, caraway, and Swiss? A Poor Boy with roast beef as the only meat? I've had a BLT with avocado (the California BLT) and the avocado flavor is completely lost. This was better than most of the Gooseberry Patch cookbooks I've seen but still only 50% useful at best. I was delighted and astounded to see that this book FINALLY includes an active table of contents that interfaces perfectly with the Kindle navigation menu. This increases its usefulness 100-fold and I can't imagine why the publishers haven't added it to earlier books as well.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/07/2012


 
Author: Bunn, T. Davis
Title: Sahara CrosswindRendezvous With Destiny # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Having rescued Pierre's brother Patrique, Jake and Pierre travel with a Bedouin tribe to get Patrique's information to the Americans and expose a French traitor.

Fast-moving and gripping; I read the whole book in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. There was some character development, but mostly the story relies on the reader having read the earlier books in the series. That failure to provide any but the most minimal background is almost the only flaw, however. The other problem is Jake so conveniently connecting with other Christians or people who for their own reasons are willing to risk their lives to help him. Occasionally could be believable, but Bunn relies on it too often. These are minor quibbles with an otherwise engrossing story, however. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/06/2012


 
Author: Goodman, Myra
Title: Salads for Every Season
Genre: Cookbook
Rating: 4
25 of the author's favorite salad recipes from her two cookbooks, divided into Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter sections, and a preachy "Twelve Important Reasons to Choose Organic" in a "special e-book short." Also includes a pictorial guide to the various kinds of salad greens.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't know that I agree with some of the "pleasantly bitter" comments on some types of greens, as I don't enjoy the bitter greens. I do like salads, but I'm not a big enough greens fan to want to try the Farm Stand Greek Salad, and I'm not a big fan of fruit and lettuce together, so wasn't interested in the fruit-intensive salads like Chopped Autumn Salad. Many of the recipes featured ingredients I don't care for (carrots, beets, radishes, goat cheese, dates) but the Strawberry-Tarragon Salad looked good. I can't wait to try the Caesar Vinaigrette and Spiced Candied Walnuts (not together). Goodman included an unusual potato salad recipe - neither mayo nor mustard based. There are a lot of tips/techniques boxes that are almost worth the price of the book by themselves. Spelling, grammar, and recipe organization were fine, and there are lovely color photos of the salads. The fully interactive Table of Contents was a joy to use (although a few of the links went to the wrong locations), as were the links in the recipes to referenced recipes and techniques. This would be a great gift for a salad fan or someone who has been griping they need to eat more greens.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/05/2012


 
Author: Ellwood, L.K.
Title: Saints Preserve UsRonnie Lord # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A college English professor helps the sheriff investigate when someone steals the body of her ancestor who is being considered for elevation to sainthood - and kills a caretaker in the process.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Something about this story felt unacceptably grisly to me. I kept reading, to see whether the characters or the story could overcome that feeling. They didn't. Unbelievable elements such as the wimpy reporter didn't help. I don't mind a Roman Catholic heroine, or being deluged with Catholic doctrine, but the portrayal of the lone fundamentalist in the book as a closed-minded bigot was the last straw and I quit. The spelling and grammar were mostly okay, and the Kindle formatting was fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/04/2012


 
Author: Panshin, Alexei
Title: Star WellAnthony Villiers # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2
in omnibus New Celebrations: The Adventures of Anthony Villiers

Anthony Villiers just wants to collect his misplaced remittance and continue having fun, but he accidentally discovers a smuggling ring.

Most of the characters were unlikable and Panshin's writing style so odd I had trouble finding a storyline. I got more than halfway through and never found anything to keep me reading. All I can award stars for is good spelling, grammar, and formatting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/03/2012


 
Author: Moore, Marie
Title: Shore Excursion
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Plot/Storyline: 4.25 stars
This book, frankly, suffers from genre confusion. It opens in the most tedious chick-lit-style, as Moore devotes the first 20% of the book to a disorganized history of Sidney growing up in the South, her shopping activities, bypassing college (and, more astonishingly, sorority rush) to work in NYC, her apartment, her clients, adjusting to life in the big city, and her activities. But once the High Steppers assemble and Sidney and co-worker Jay start shepherding them on the tour, Moore switches to a plot-focused mystery. She provides a valid reason for amateur Sidney to investigate the murders, avoiding one of my pet peeves with cozies. The pace drags a bit in the third quarter, common in mysteries, but it wasn't bad enough to set me skipping parts of the book. I found Sidney's occasionally clever actions inconsistent with her frequent distraction by arrogant and/or suspiciously-behaving men (unless this is meant to be further illustration of the "Marsh curse"). Some well-organized red herrings confused Sidney as well as the reader. I did not find the ending satisfying. I can't point to any specific piece of information that wasn't given to the reader, but my reaction when All Was Revealed was "huh?" rather than "aha!" That the story kept me reading, curious to find out what happened next, raised my rating somewhat.

Characters: 2.75 stars
Overall, characterization was weak. Moore started by dumping way too much Sidney information on the reader. Sidney claims Jay is a perfect best friend, but his actual behavior is not supportive or reliable. We are told rather than shown that the Murphys are obnoxious but memorable. The rest of the High Steppers remained mostly indistinguishable from each other or the ship's crew, and I had a lot of trouble keeping the characters straight. Moore included information in the scenes to help the reader remember who the characters were, but with better-fleshed-out characters, she wouldn't have needed to.

Writing style: 3.5 stars
Dialogue was believable but never felt specific to any character. Descriptions of the locations were fine - Moore is clearly very familiar with both shipboard travel and the Scandinavian cities her characters visit - but shortchanged the people.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/08/2012


 
Author: Ball, Donna
Title: Silent NightRaine Stockton # 5
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
She doesn't have dogs to train while her new facility is being built, so Raine helps hunt for a missing girl and stumbles across a murder.

Never caught my interest as Raine was too much of a wuss. See my more detailed review at http://redadeptreviews.com/silent-night-by-donna-ball/
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/14/2011


 
Author: Smith, Virginia
Title: Stuck in the MiddleSister to Sister # 1
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 4
Middle sister Joan always felt awkward compared to her petite and bubbly older sister Allie and younger sister Tori. But Joan's reluctant interest in the new doctor-next-door brings her closer to Jesus' love as well.

Very tedious start, but by the time I got halfway through I found myself interested. The sisters, grandmother, and doctor-next-door are all cookie-cutter types but enjoyable anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/01/2011


 
Author: Andersen, Christopher
Title: Somewhere In Heaven
Genre: Biography
Rating: 3
True story of the marriage of Christopher and Dana Reeve, from the day they met through the horse incident that left "Superman" a quadriplegic and Dana's cancer diagnosis.

Amazing tale for those who like celebrity behind-the-scenes stories. I thought it was okay but I kept thinking of all the quadriplegics and paraplegics who hadn't gotten that way from dangerous sports and had to live without the benefits of million-dollar incomes, although to be fair the Reeves raised a lot of money not only for research but for "quality of life" grants to individuals. And, sadly, I didn't find anything in the book to support the author's optimistic claim that they were reunited in heaven.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/13/2011


 
Author: Infinite Ideas
Title: Sleep
Genre: Self-Help
Rating: 3
Short ebook covering the basics of different types of insomnia and what helps or hinders getting to sleep.

Covers generally accurate but limited information. Might be useful to someone who knew nothing about sleep cycles and the effects of (for instance) caffeine, but there was nothing I hadn't known for years and no new ideas for me to try.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/04/2011


 
Author: Pargeter, Edith
Title: Sunrise in the WestBrothers of Gwynedd # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
A twelfth-century Welshman serves his lord.

I have yet to read an interesting story which starts "I was born." So I was horrified to see this book started even worse, with the narrator's conception. But Edith Pargeter is Ellis Peters, I thought. Mistress of fascinating history and authoress of the wonderful Cadfael tales. Even with this horrible start, it will simply have to turn into an interesting story. It didn't, and I am bitterly disappointed.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/10/2011


 
Author: Doherty, Paul C. as P.C. Doherty
Title: Spy In ChanceryHugh Corbett # 3
Genre: Political Thriller
Rating: 2
King Edward sends Corbett to France to identify the traitor that is keeping the French king informed of his secrets and getting his agents killed. Will Corbett be next?

Too much political thriller rather than murder mystery. I quit halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/06/2011


 
Author: Lackey, Mercedes, ed.
Title: Sword of IceValdemar # 1
Genre: Fantasy - Short Stories
Rating: 4
Collection of short stories set in Lackey's Valdemar, by various authors.

As always in a collection like this, the stories varied in quality as well as in theme, but the best are very good indeed. "The Demon's Den" by Tanya Huff provided not only a compelling storyline but a believable look at a different part of Valdemar's culture. "Ironrose" turned into a tender love story with the help of some hertasi, while "The Salamander" was an intriguing mystery. Most of the rest were at least tolerable, such as "Choice," a look at why some good people weren't Chosen. But some were just plain awful, such as "Chance," an attempt at gay erotica featuring Vanyel and a Guardsman, and the title story, purporting to show an early tie between Vale k'Treva and Valdemar but not providing any rationale.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/20/2011


 
Author: Farmer, Jerrilyn
Title: Sympathy For the DevilMadeline Bean # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
After a much-disliked but powerful Hollywood producer is poisoned at a party Madeline caters, her partner Wes is the prime suspect and Madeline determines to find the real killer and clear Wes. But an amorous detective is less of a hindrance than someone trying to kill her.

Okay but uninvolving, and the title is irrelevant to the story or characters. I got 3/4 of the way through and then skipped to the unimaginative end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/15/2011


 
Author: Churchill, Jill
Title: Someone to Watch Over MeGrace and Favor # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
Interest wanes in a mummy Robert found on the estate when a fresh-killed body turns up on the railroad tracks. Robert and Lily follow clues ranging from an expensive suit to a casual comment from some young girl hoboes to solve both mysteries.

One killer was pretty obvious but the other utterly stumped me, and I'm not convinced the information needed to solve it was in the book. But it was an enjoyable light read, and Robert continues to develop into a real person. The title didn't make any sense to me until I suddenly realized it provided too much information.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/13/2011


 
Author: Shaber, Sarah
Title: Simon SaidSimon Shaw # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 5
Simon Shaw is a half-Jewish half-Irish Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor at a small North Carolina college. So he is the one the police department called on when an archaeologist found a long-buried body with a bullet hole in the back of the head. But he wasn't expecting the vicious attack of a jealous co-worker or someone trying to kill him.

It held my interest, although Simon is a generally mild-mannered and unimpressive man who might not hold it in person. It was pretty obvious who the modern-day killer was and not much less obvious who was responsible for the earlier death, but I don't require being fooled to enjoy a book. Each step and finding was believable except for the final rescue, but those are often a stretch - the denoument and the title are pretty much the only weak areas in the story. It was pleasant to have a police character who isn't an obstreporous idiot, and Shaber chose a time long-enough-ago that most of the people involved have died but a few are still around to provide information.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/12/2011


 
Author: Limon, Martin
Title: Slicky BoysSueno & Bascom # 2
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
Bascom and Sueno investigate the murder of a British Honor Guard NCO after they passed him a note from a respectable-looking Korean beauty. Their hunt directs them to a well-organized "slicky boy" network of thieves, irritates military brass, and leads to two more murders as they close in on a mysterious American.

I often say that I'll forgive a lot for a compelling story, and this book proves it. The back-cover blurb describes it as a combination of classic noir and police procedural, and I don't like either subgenre. I need sympathetic characters to get involved in a story, and this book completely lacks any. But I couldn't put it down and kept wanting to know what happens next. I skipped most of the last quarter of the 385-page book, as it was just the slow-paced closing in on the killer that I think authors do simply to torment the reader, but the story was so engrossing I simply couldn't rate it lower than I did.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/10/2011


 
Author: Hyzy, Julie
Title: State of the OnionWhite House Chef # 1
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 1
White House chef Olivia is up for promotion to Executive Chef, but her competition is a former fellow chef who hates her, her Secret Service boyfriend is suddenly manipulating her, and a new "sensitivity director" is clearly out to get her.

I got a quarter of the way through the book and then realized I just wasn't interested. Olivia has a sort of "what's happening?" bafflement that never held my attention, and as the pile of obstacles facing her increased, my tolerance vanished.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2011


 
Author: Wright, Nancy Means
Title: Stolen HoneyRuth Willmarth # 4
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
Beekeeper Gwen lands in a nightmare when the fraternity escort of her college-student daughter is found dead in Gwen's nightshade patch. Neighbor Ruth Willmarth offers to help.

I couldn't get into this book. None of the people felt real and every other page offered some threat or maliciousness from some hateful character. I gave up pretty early in the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/07/2011


 
Author: Monfredo, Miriam Grace
Title: Sisters of CainCain # 1
Genre: Historical Thriller
Rating: 3
Bronwen Llyr is one of very few female Treasury agents during the Civil War. But she hates the idea of being sent to Manassas to spy out the Confederate armies with a blatantly sexist partner.

I couldn't finish this book, but not because of the characters or the writing, which seemed quite good. It's a spy thriller, and they are just too scary for me, whether set today or 150 years ago.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/06/2011


 
Author: Sparks, Nicholas
Title: Safe Haven
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
Katie ran to Southport in fear for her life. Alex is trying to raise his two young children alone after the death of his wife. Their mutual attraction leads them both to open up, but will they be able to escape the shadows of their pasts?

Not Sparks' best. The plot is too predictable: beautiful woman on the run finding kind man to love in spite of herself. The leadup to the Inevitable Big Confrontation dragged on so much I started skipping pages. But the people are well-drawn, I used a couple of kleenexes, and Sparks still landed a moderate surprise.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/04/2011


 
Author: Rusch, Kristine Kathryn
Title: Stories For an Enchanted Afternoon
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 4
Collection of fairly long short stories ranging from straight science fiction to rewritten history to horror.

SF at its best not only entertains the reader but offers a different way of looking at life, and Rusch's tales prove the point. I didn't finish "Strange Creatures" because I don't like horror, but "Echea" was both charming and thought-provoking. Like any collection, I thought some were more intriguing than others, but I read all but one. I don't think the title was particularly appropriate, however, it had more of a fantasy feel that was not borne out by the stories.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/23/2010


 
Author: Orczy, Baroness Ennuska
Title: Skin O My Tooth
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Short stories featuring investigating barrister Patrick Mulligan as recorded by his confidential clerk Alexander Mullins.

Clever and convoluted solutions but no real explanation as to how the barrister figured out the solution. Enjoyable as short stories but would have been too precious to tolerate in book length.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/29/2010


 
Author: Hambly, Barbara
Title: Sisters of the RavenSisters of the Raven # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Magic has changed. The men who used to wield it now have no power, but some women have acquired it, including the favorite Summer Concubine to king Oryn. As she tries to develop her powers and protect the women who are developing theirs, the first girl novice magician suffers constant hazing and runs from one determined but unknown killer.

Intriguing concept, with a detailed and believable portrayal of a culture in crisis, but the tale itself dragged. After almost 200 pages and nothing really happened, I gave up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/28/2010


 
Author: Lutz, John
Title: Shadow Man
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/13/2010


 
Author: Dunn, Carola
Title: Styx and StonesDaisy Dalrymple # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/30/2010


 
Author: Roberts, David
Title: Sweet PoisonLord Edward # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/29/2010


 
Author: Michaels, Barbara as Peters, Elizabeth
Title: Summer of the Dragon
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/28/2010


 
Author: Bruns, Don
Title: St. Barts BreakdownCaribbean mystery # 4
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/27/2010


 
Author: Bartholomew, Nancy
Title: Stella, Get Your GunStella Valocchi # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/24/2010


 
Author: Sansom, C J
Title: SovereignShardlake # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/23/2010


 
Author: Douglas, Carole Nelson
Title: Six of SwordsSword and Circlet # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/18/2010


 
Author: Gooden, Philip
Title: Sleep of DeathShakespearean Murder Mystery #
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/17/2010


 
Author: Miles, Keith as Marston, Edward
Title: Soldier of FortuneCaptain Rawson # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/16/2010


 
Author: Linscott, Gillian
Title: Sister Beneath the SheetNell Bray # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/13/2010


 
Author: Maron, Margaret
Title: Southern DiscomfortJudge Deborah Knott # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/11/2010


 
Author: Talley, Marcia
Title: Sing It To Her BonesHannah Ives # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/09/2010


 
Author: Parker, Ann
Title: Silver LiesSilver Rush # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/08/2010


 
Author: Barnard, Robert as Bernard Bastable
Title: Sheer Torture aka Death by Sheer TorturePerry Trethowan # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/07/2010


 
Author: Doherty, Paul C. as P.C. Doherty
Title: Satan in St. Mary'sHugh Corbett # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/26/2010


 
Author: Monfredo, Miriam Grace
Title: Seneca Falls InheritanceSeneca Falls # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/18/2010


 
Author: Bruns, Don
Title: South Beach shakedownCaribbean mystery # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/09/2010


 
Author: Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Title: Sword of chaosDarkover
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/10/2009


 
Author: Marshall, Evan
Title: Stabbing StephanieJane Stuart and Winky # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/07/2009


 
Author: Dumas, Margaret
Title: Speak Now
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/05/2009


 
Author: Maron, Margaret
Title: Suitable for Hanging
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/03/2009


 
Author: Moon, Elizabeth
Title: Sporting chanceSerrano Legacy # 2
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/01/2009


 
Author: McCaffrey, Anne
Title: Stitch in Snow
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/28/2009


 
Author: McCafferty, Megan
Title: Sloppy FirstsJessica Darling # 1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/26/2009


 
Author: Fluke, Joanne
Title: Sugar Cookie MurderHannah Swenson # 6
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/25/2009


 
Author: Dicks, Matthew
Title: Something Missing
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2009


 
Author: Alexander, Hannah
Title: Silent PledgeSacred Trust # 3
Genre: Christian family fiction
Rating: NR
Mercy struggles both to keep her new faith and treat her patients as Lukas works in a poorly-run ER hours away, waiting for the Knolls ER to be rebuilt. Several children have been kidnapped in Knolls and a mysterious man seems to be watching Tedi.

I like this series, but could not finish the book. Alexander already put Tedi in danger of death once, but that one snuck up on me. I got halfway through before it became obvious that the kidnapper was after Tedi and immediately skipped to the end; I do NOT handle children-in-danger stories well. Also, bear in mind that these books do not stand alone.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/22/2009


 
Author: Harper, Tom
Title: Siege of heavenDemetrios Askiates # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/20/2009


 
Author: Stabenow, Dana
Title: Second StarStar Svendsdotter # 1
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/14/2009


 
Author: Maron, Margaret
Title: Shoveling Smoke
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/11/2009


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