MamaSylvia's Reviews


Welcome, site visitor!

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!

Quick jump: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z All
Search for a specific...
Title: Author: Series:
Only show reviews written after: and before:
Change Sort Order...
Currently sorting on: Most Recently Added
No previous page
Show Reviews Per Page
 
Author: Tan, Amy
Title: The Valley of Amazement
Genre: Fiction
Rating: NR
A young half-American girl is raised in a Chinese brothel, then kidnapped and placed in a brothel herself.

I quit before getting 10% into the book; I can't read about child abuse. Although the story didn't seem interesting anyway.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/09/2015


 
Author: Cleverly, Barbara
Title: Tug of WarJoe Sandilands # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Headed on vacation to the south of France with his sort-of-adopted-niece Dorcas, Joe is diverted to investigate an amnesiac and unresponsive former soldier, now in a psychiatric hospital. Four different families have laid claim to him, but he might be an Englishman.

Different from Cleverly's usual murder mystery but smart and intriguing. Dorcas is not a positive addition; someone must have convinced Cleverly she needed to include a smart-aleck streetwise kid. I found the kid just as annoying as I find badly-behaved children in real life. Spelling and grammar were acceptable. Kindle formatting was sloppy, with many paragraphs broken with a return and no indent on the next line. The title was quite relevant to the main storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/03/2015


 
Author: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne as Twain, Mark
Title: Tom Sawyer Abroad
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
Huck narrates as he, Tom, and Jim are kidnapped in a balloon and travel to the Sahara Desert.

Completely improbable, but no more improbable than the events in the first two Tom Sawyer books, so I'm not sure why this book is barely known. There were a few minor irritants, such as Tom's familiarity with lines of longitude and latitude and their effect on perceived time - the Tom Sawyer of the original Adventures was a fairly determined ignoramus. But this book still shows off Twain's wonderfully unique way of looking of commonplaces with humor and pathos. The proofreading was mediocre but the result is still readable. The title is quite weak, as the only place "abroad" the three boys go is the Sahara.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/02/2015


 
Author: Ward, Phil
Title: Those Who DareRaiding Forces # 1
Genre: Military Fiction
Rating: 4
John Randal is an American serving in the British army prior to Pearl Harbor. Assigned a suicide mission to delay the Germans so as many Brits as possible could evacuate Dunkirk, he and his soldiers bought the escapees four precious days and then escaped themselves. Elements in the British war machine (especially the beautiful and brilliant Lady Jane Seaborn) recognized his ability and formed an elite fighting unit under him.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. As a story, this held my interest and kept me reading. The characters were likable and believable. There were some GREAT lines. But when an author includes so many elements that did happen in real life, or that may have happened, I look for some kind of commentary explaining what was real and what was actually done by someone else. Often, these are at the end of the book, so the reader can learn more or skip the details. Ward did not include any explanation, which is a serious weakness where real people and real historical events are woven through the story. Grammar, spelling, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. Amazingly, a diagram of a target was viewable and readable on my Kindle Keyboard; generally, if maps or photographs are included in a Kindle book, they are too small to see, spread themselves over more than one page, or depend on color contrast and consequently are essentially pointless when reading an e-ink reader. The title is part of a quote and I suppose as relevant as any other general war quote would be.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/29/2015


 
Author: Cook, Alan
Title: Thirteen DiamondsLillian Morgan # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Retired mathematics professor Lillian is suspicious when a wealthy fellow retiree dies from an allergic reaction to shellfish in a tuna casserole. But her determination to investigate damages her life and her relationship with her son.

Not awful, but not the best mystery I've ever read. It wasn't believable for Lillian to allow her home to be taken away. (Minor plot point, I'm not mentioning spoilers.) There were some interesting high-tech elements, but when I'd gotten about halfway through, I'd had enough and skipped to the end, which left some loose ends. Spelling and grammar were acceptable. The Kindle formatting had occasional problems with paragraphs being broken in the middle. The title was relevant to a portion of the storyline, and whether that turned out to be a red herring or a valuable clue you won't learn from me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/19/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: They Came to Baghdad
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
During the Cold War, impulsive young Londoner Victoria follows an interesting young man to Baghdad and winds up spying for the British government.

Okay story but not Christie's best. She relied heavily on coincidences, which I consider a weak point. The denouement surprised me but it probably shouldn't have. I couldn't like either of the main characters, Victoria is unattractively ditzy and both of her potential boyfriends were stiff-upper-lip stereotypes. However, I did finish the book, so it wasn't awful. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title is rather an over-generalization.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/09/2015


 
Author: Beaton, M. C.
Title: There Goes the BrideAgatha Raisin # 20
Genre: Cozy Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
James' lovely young fiancee is shot on their wedding day, making James and Agatha the prime suspects. But as the body count rises, Charles and James become suspicious of Agatha's latest crush, a smooth Frenchman who just happens to be nearby at each murder.

Worthy entry in the series, although I wish Beaton would quit adding little irrelevant addenda to entice readers into the next book. Lots of lies and red herrings and people who weren't what they appeared to be. The title really wasn't relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/05/2015


 
Author: Schweizer, Mark
Title: The Tenor Wore TapshoesLiturgical Mystery # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
Discovery of a long-dead but mysteriously preserved body sends Hayden rooting through local history, while a series of acts of vandalism culminate in murder as a new politician in town has targeted Hayden's church.

Hayden's awful hard-boiled efforts still don't add anything to the book, but the twists and turns as someone turns the townspeople against Hayden kept me reading. I also wish Schweizer would quit with the awful secondary characters. This one featured a waitress' son who considered himself a bounty hunter, trying to find a missing cinnamon bun that looked like the Virgin Mary. No, I'm not kidding; I wish I was. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/04/2015


 
Author: Wingate, Lisa
Title: Tending RosesTending Roses # 1
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 3
A young mother is torn between her former DINK lifestyle and wanting to be with her baby son, between her father's intention to stick Grandma in a nursing home and Grandma's deep roots in the family farm.

Slow pace and somewhat tedious start, but eventually caught me up in the story. Could be called wimpy Christian fiction, as everyone considers themselves Christian but God doesn't seem to be a major part of their lives. OK but didn't leave me with an interest in reading the rest of the series. The title reflected one part of the storyline but ignored others.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/03/2015


 
Author: Medieval Murderers
Title: The Tainted RelicMedieval Murderers # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Collection of short stories following the history of a religious relic cursed by its guardian before he was killed by Crusaders. Many of the stories feature characters from other historical mystery series.

First, there was a fatal flaw in the idea of a genuine relic being cursed or "tainted." The God-man who defeated Satan to be trumped by a very human temporary caretaker? Not possible. With that noted, I have to say the technique was interesting, and I enjoyed the stories featuring characters I recognized. The stories referring to series I was not familiar with, I probably missed numerous references and, more importantly, the characters felt less real as the authors did not bother to include much development.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/02/2015


 
Author: O'Brian, Patrick
Title: The Surgeon's MateAubrey/Maturin # 7
Genre: Historical Naval Fiction
Rating: 4
Jack, Stephen, and Diana head home in a packet. Stephen is sent to convince a Catalan regiment in the Baltic that Napoleon has lied to them, and he arranges for Jack to captain the sloop taking him there. Then their trip to return the Catalanos home is interrupted by a chase after a French ship.

As usual, just a series of events, not truly a novel. Also as usual, O'Brian gets away with it because the characters make the stories so involving. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title has nothing to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/09/2015


 
Author: Smith, Deborah
Title: The Stone Flower Garden
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A young girl being raised by her rich grandmother has to hide a terrible secret from her Prince Charming.

Smith seems to like staring books with "introductions" that make the rest of the book a mere flashback, which I consider annoying. In this case, the flashback wasn't even particularly interesting. I quit a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/31/2015


 
Author: McIntosh, Pat
Title: The Stolen VoiceGilbert Cunningham # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Gil investigates the disappearance of several church singers, culminating in the bishop's private secretary turning up missing. Alys spends time at a small farm where a son who disappeared 30 years earlier has reappeared, almost the same age.

Nice complicated plot with lots of red herrings. I didn't figure out whodunit but I rarely do in this series. The title was very relevant. I'm not writing a super-long review because anyone who has gotten this far in the series knows what to expect. Gil and Alys are married and happy, and Gil's employer is still sending him around to investigate problems. This series entry does not disappoint.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/30/2015


 
Author: Farrar, Marissa
Title: The Sound of Crickets
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
A lonely stay-at-home mother wants to start a women's blog and finds three other women interested in participating. Through emails and blog posts, the reader follows their lives during a year of change.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Overly emotional but readable. Farrar does a nice job keeping the reader interested (because face it, most personal emails aren't very interesting except to the people involved). I don't think the blog comments added anything to the story - endless <hugs> and "We're here for you!" comments get old very fast. And, while I like a good tearjerker as much as anyone (don't even ask how many times I've seen "Beaches"), I found this book just a little too much. Nothing was individually unebelievable, but the aggregate felt over-the-top. By the time I got near the end, I was skipping one blogger's posts and all of the comments. However, if you're ever in the mood for a really-good-cry book, look no further. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was only marginally relevant but nicely poetic.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/27/2015


 
Author: Doherty, Paul C.
Title: The Slayers of SethAmerotke # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Amerotke investigates the murder of a scribe that may be linked to the deaths of several members of an army regiment dedicated to the god Seth.

Convoluted and complicated but I figured out whodunit less than a quarter of the way through. The reason was not something the reader could figure out, though.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2015


 
Author: Hibbert, Eleanor as Holt, Victoria
Title: The Shivering Sands
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Rating: 4
A pianist's widow takes a position as music teacher in an old castle to investigate her sister's disappearance from a nearby archaeological dig. But not all the mysterious happenings are harmless.

Classic Victoria Holt, which made it obvious who the killer would turn out to be and obvious when the climax was approaching. But still quite enjoyable when you are in the mood. Decent but not perfect OCR, and the title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/20/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Seven Dials MysteryInspector Battle # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Bundle thinks she has killed an acquaintance by running over him, but when she learns he was shot, she is determined to find the killer, which she thinks has to do with the mysterious "Seven Dials" secret society.

Supposedly this is Christie's spoof of secret-society thrillers, and the well-set-up ending certainly surprised me. Proofing was mostly okay, with a few careless exceptions. The title was appropriate if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/18/2015


 
Author: Henry, Sue
Title: The Serpent's TrailMaxie and Stretch # 1
Genre: Thriller
Rating: NR
Too late to say goodbye to a dying friend, Maxie determines to discover what problem was bothering her, with the help of a former crush.

Thriller rather than whodunit. I didn't get a quarter of the way through before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/17/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Secret of ChimneysInspector Battle # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
An adventurer undertakes to deliver a politically-charged manuscript from Africa to London, but encounters a beautiful woman and a dead body.

Clever and interesting, although Battle takes inscrutability to new heights. This is another series where the continuing character is not the narrator or even the major character. I partially identified the who-wasn't-who-he/she-said-they-were but missed a couple major points. The proofing of the Kindle version was good but not flawless. The title is quite precise although not very intriguing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/16/2015


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: The Rubber Band aka To Kill AgainNero Wolfe # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
Wolfe accepts a lovely young woman as a client, who is both suspected of theft and desirous of pursuing her father's claim against an English nobleman.

As usual, kept me reading. Among the several intertwining storylines, the police don't show up very well. This is common among mystery writers, but I prefer stories with competent policemen who simply lack the specialized knowledge or connections the amateur sleuth has. I guessed what the explanation would be but not the right person. The title directly relates to a story element which is itself quite clever. (The alternate title of To Kill Again is one of those could-apply-to-any-mystery titles that I despise.)
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/14/2015


 
Author: McIntosh, Pat
Title: The Rough CollierGilbert Cunningham # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
On Gil and Alys' wedding trip to see Gil's mother, his help is demanded when peat diggers find a body in a bog, and the local priest is sure it is a missing local man and that a local healer killed him with witchcraft.

Nice complicated storyline, as Gil tries to find the missing man to convince the priest he didn't die by witchcraft and Alys pursues collateral inquiries among the local women. Whodunit was pretty obvious, and how, but not why. The title is rather weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/11/2015


 
Author: Walsh, Dan
Title: The Reunion
Genre: Christian Fiction
Rating: 5
Three former Marine buddies hire reporter Dave to find Aaron Miller, the fellow soldier who saved all their lives, so they can have a reunion and thank him properly. But the Medal of Honor winner doesn't think he did anything special and doesn't want to be found or honored.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Unlike most reviewers, I don't award 1s or 5s lightly. A 1 not only doesn't meet my standards for a good story, it also lacks enough coherence to be intelligible. A 5 has to be not only technically well-written and keep me reading, but it has to haunt me after I've put it down. (If I had trouble closing the book for ordinary real-life obligations, that doesn't hurt but it isn't required.) With that explanation, there is no way I could rate this book less than a 5. Walsh gets into so many heads and lives: three soldiers who knew they weren't going to survive but miraculously did, a humble man who just saw what needed to be done and did it, his children who suffered from his post-Viet Nam stress reactions, even the journalist who is torn between a story and a possible love. All of them jumped off the page and into my heart. Yet Walsh never loses sight of the plot, and moves it forward steadily. There are minor weaknesses: the coincidence that leads the journalist to the hero, the lack of a scene in which his unknown soldier grandson, serving in Afghanistan, learns his grandfather is a Medal of Honor winner, occasionally too much parking in people's heads. But the sheer power of the story triumphs. I graduated high school during the Viet Nam conflict, so I remember the dread the boys had for the lottery results, and I had friends who suffered from memories when they returned. But I don't think the particular war Walsh chose matters as much as the look at a hero through the vision and memories of the people in his life. The Christian aspects of the story are almost irrelevant, and that is good; their beliefs are the framework on which their lives are based, but the lives themselves are full of emotion and mistakes. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine with the exception of odd placement of the large initial first letter of each chapter, which was moved low enough on the page to make it slightly difficult to read. The title was simple but at least Walsh avoided the way-too-long-title-trying-to-get-everything-in problem. Oh, and keep kleenexes handy. You'll need them.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/07/2015


 
Author: Seiden, Othniel J.
Title: The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
The Remnant - Stories of the Jewish Resistance in WWII

An elderly Holocaust survivor relates the adventures and suffering of himself and his friends under Nazi occupation during WWII.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. After a tedious "introduction" in which the author explains that he needs to write these stories so people won't forget that many Jews did fight back, the stories themselves kept me enthralled in spite of the clearly amateur writing. I was shocked when I reached the end of the book and discovered it was just a work of fiction, although supposedly "based" on real stories and people. I'm not a fan of introductions anyway; the book should speak for itself. But to set out to deceive the reader is simply inexcusable. Why not tell the real stories instead of a convenient mishmash? And the writing was so substandard I couldn't believe this was a previously-published author. Spelling and grammar were erratic, and the Kindle formatting lost accented characters such as the "i" in "naive." The title was too long as well as misleading. Since I picked up the book 3 years ago, it has gotten even longer, with "Jewish History Novel Series Book 3" added. Less misleading but still WAY too long.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/05/2015


 
Author: Hawke, Simon
Title: The Reluctant SorcererReluctant Sorcerer # 1
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 2
A genius inventor tries to travel backward in time, but winds up in an alternate universe where magic works and the sorcerer's guild controls it.

There are so many unpleasant elements in this book, I'm not sure where to start. None of the storylines are resolved by the end of the book, this is apparently just a teaser to get you to buy more in the series. (Which I certainly will NOT.) I don't mind series, but each individual book should have a beginning, middle, and end, and a pause before the next part of the story starts. Hawke doesn't end with a cliffhanger, he just ... stops. The characters are all stereotypes, starting with the mad inventor himself. The author frequently violates whatever the book equivalent of the "fourth wall" is, talking directly to the reader. I suppose that wouldn't be terrible by itself, but he indulges in numerous information dumps (which ARE terrible in and of themselves, utterly boring and distracting the reader from the story) and then he compounds the problem by having characters overhear him and talk back! The title is only minimally related to the plot. The only reason this escaped a 1 star rating is that I reserve 1 for books that lack even coherent sentences.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/03/2015


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Regatta Mystery and Other Short Stories
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Rating: 3
Includes Regatta Mystery, Mystery of the Baghdad Chest, How Does Your Garden Grow?, Problem at Pollensa Bay, Yellow Iris, Miss Marple Tells a Story, Dream, In a Glass Darkly, Problem At Sea

Uneven collection of stories, many from her various series (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Tommy and Tuppence) and a few stand-alones. At least one solution depended on outside information that the reader had no way of knowing, a copout IMNSHO. But most of the stories were at least acceptable. The title is accurate if unimaginative, but the lack of a theme bracketing the various stories would make a better title quite difficult.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/28/2015


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Refugees
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 2
Adventures of a Hugenot family under Louis XIV.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Didn't hold my interest and I have no idea where the title came from. Maybe they escape France later, but 1/3 of the way into the book, they were still having court-related adventures.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/27/2015


 
Author: Goss, James
Title: The Race Of ScorpionsLady Serpent # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Professional assassin Lady Serpent is surprised when someone kills her client at his birthday party. but she must find the murderer to clear her own name.

I picked up this novella free during an Amazon giveaway. Short but intriguing, with lively characters, a twist at the end, and a good understanding of ancient Egyptian culture. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was perfect. I hope to see more in this series!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/21/2015


 
Author: Norton, Andre
Title: The Prince Commands
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 4
A young man brought up in America discovers he is the heir to a small European country with serious political problems. But his first challenge is to stay alive, and his second to figure out who are his friends and who cannot be trusted!

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Quick, mostly enjoyable read, as long as you don't expect anything believable. The good characters are sterling upright and honest and the bad characters are suitably nasty. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting are acceptable with a couple of exceptions: "rein" instead of "reign" and "council" instead of "counsel." The title is one of the worst ever, Michael Karl does everything *except* command!
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/19/2015


 
Author: Lawrence, Caroline
Title: The Pirates of PompeiiRoman Mysteries # 3
Genre: Children's Mysteries
Rating: NR
Flavia and her friends decide to track down the pirates that are stealing children from the refugee camp.

I'm kind of surprised I got as far as I did in this series, since children in danger are a red flag to me - too scary for me to enjoy reading about. But this one had them in too much danger before I was a quarter of the way through it, and I quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/16/2015


 
Author: Caldwell, Joseph
Title: The Pig Did ItPig Trilogy # 1
Genre: Humor
Rating: 2
A self-centered, obnoxious American visits his equally self-centered Irish aunt, and a pig follows him home and finds a body buried in his aunt's garden. The aunt declines to call the police, states a young neighbor woman killed the man and she will take care of her.

What awful characters! I got a quarter of the way through and nothing interesting had happened and there was no one to root for, so I gave up. I can't believe I paid money for this. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. I'm not sure what "it" the pig is supposed to have done, but it probably did.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/15/2015


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Parisian ProdigalFools’ Guild # 8
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 4
When a pleasant stranger arrives, claiming to be the brother of the Count of Toulouse, Tan Pierre and Domina Gile want to find out whether he is real or an imposter. But when the brother is found in bed with a dead courtesan, there are suddenly more urgent questions.

Enjoyable story, anything but straightforward (as usual). Gordon got a bit heavyhanded in his "how men abuse women" ranting but not enough to seriously distract from the story. (Yes, men have treated women shamefully for thousands of years. Is this a surprise to anyone?) Gordon didn't share one critical piece of information with the reader, but he also camouflaged the hidden information so it wasn't blatant. (Although why didn't Tan Pierre also figure it out?) The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/08/2015


 
Author: House, Gregory
Title: The Cardinal's AngelsRed Ned # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
In the London of Henry VIII, a young ne'er-do-well finds himself in the hands of the law.

If there was a story here, I couldn't stick with the book long enough to find it. Endless and pointless description of Ned's gambling, partying, and then being dragged somewhere by his jailers with detailed descriptions of his sufferings. I quit 15% of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/22/2015


 
Author: Ditlow, Florence
Title: The Bakery Girls
Genre: Historical Fiction - U.S.
Rating: 4
Follows a farm boy who marries, starts a bakery, and raises 3 daughters during the Depression and WWII.

Like the Mitford books, this one doesn't have a primary storyline, but follows the effects of the times on Floyd and his wife Clara and her parents as well as the three girls and the boys in their lives. Ditlow does a nice job of portraying very different characters, and includes photographs which makes me think it may have been based on a real family, especially since Ditlow is the last name of one of the men who goes off to war! However, the girls' sexual antics are clearly added to make the story more "interesting" to a modern audience, it was too easy for a girl to lose her reputation for me to take that part seriously. This is another book that I kept reading and I'm not sure why except Ditlow made me want to know what would happen next. The ending was a weak windup of what-happened-to-whom. Spelling, grammar, and word use are generally acceptable except Ditlow seems to have trouble with homonyms. She repeatedly uses complement when she means compliment, and also used ringer instead of wringer, vender when she meant vendor, eminent instead of imminent, and cue when she meant queue. The title is certainly accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/21/2015


 
Author: Barker, Emily Croy
Title: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
A frustrated grad student finds herself in Faerie, married to the high prince.

The premise isn't bad - in fact, it's somewhat similar to that of one of my favorite series, Christopher Stasheff's Gramarye books. The characters and the world are well drawn. What's missing is a story. The characters weren't involving enough to keep me reading in the absence of a plot; I quit about a quarter of the way through. The title had nothing to do with the book (and was too long to boot).
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/12/2015


 
Author: Sedley, Kate
Title: The Plymouth CloakRoger the Chapman # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Roger is shanghaied to protect a royal courier until he can take ship for France. But an unexpected battle delays the ship and the womanizing courier is determined to find some amusement in the meantime.

Like the first book in this series, this one just never caught my attention, and the courier's lustfulness didn't help. I got halfway through and quit, didn't even care enough to skip to the end since nothing had really happened.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/09/2015


 
Author: Marsh, Ngaio
Title: The Nursing Home MurderInspector Alleyn # 3
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 3
When a politician is poisoned after a serious quarrel with his physician, Alleyn has two sets of suspects, and doesn't know if either is responsible.

I bought the complete set of Ngaio Marsh's Alleyn stories for Kindle, and although it must have been OCR'd, someone did a good job proofreading and formatting for Kindle. I almost threw this ebook down in disgust because I'm a registered nurse myself and it is utterly, utterly WRONG to accept the responsibility for a patient you are at odds with. I've faced that in real life, when I was assigned a patient who was opposing me in a court case. I immediately told my supervisor there were personal issues and she arranged for me to trade assignments with another nurse, no problem. Nor is it acceptable for a nurse to rejoice at the death of a patient, regardless of his actions and her personal beliefs. I deducted a star and kept reading anyway, and Marsh did better in the rest of the book. I'm not convinced whodunit was the only possible candidate, but it was believable. The title was appropriate if unimaginative.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/21/2014


 
Author: Hamilton, Barbara
Title: The Ninth DaughterAbigail Adams # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
When Abigail Adams stumbles over a mutilated dead woman at her friend's house, she feels obligated to tidy up the scene to protect her husband John and the other Sons of Liberty, but knowing she left few clues for the British soldier/investigator, she also feels obligated to find the killer. Even if it turns out to be a liberty fighter ...

I generally dislike fiction using real people, and I didn't like that aspect of the book. But Hamilton did an absolutely outstanding job of presenting an intriguing storyline in an accurate historical setting. The everyday activities of colonial men and women, the antagonism between members of rival religious sects, the tension between colonists and soldiers, the attitudes towards slaves, the conflicts between essentially honorable people with different points of view - it's all here but Hamilton never lets it overwhelm the story. I didn't like the somewhat graphic descriptions of sexual mutilation and prostitution, but still enjoyed most of the book. The title is quite relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/23/2014


 
Author: Ross, Robert & Woodhouse, Martin
Title: The Medici GunsLeonardo da Vinci # 1
Genre: Historical Thriller
Rating: NR
The de Medici ruler of Florence hires Leonardo as a military engineer, desperate to prevent an invasion by Rome.

I have yet to find a mystery set in medieval/Renaissance Italy that isn't more political thriller than historical mystery, probably an accurate reflection of the times but a genre I don't enjoy reading. Add Ross & Woodhouse's love of detailed description of murders and it will be obvious why I didn't make it halfway through before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/09/2014


 
Author: Foxall, Raymond
Title: The Little FerretBow Street # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
During the Napoleonic Wars, Bow Street detective Harry Adkins picks up the trail of a threat to Admiral Lord Nelson. But the danger extends to someone dearer to him.

Something of a historical police procedural, with well-written characters and a gripping, realistic plot. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/05/2014


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: The League of Frightened MenNero Wolfe # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - U.S.
Rating: 4
A group of Harvard alumni hire Wolfe because they are convinced another alumnus is gradually killing them off.

Again, few real surprises and certainly the explanation of the big mystery was easy to guess. But again Stout kept me reading to see how it would come together. The title is perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/04/2014


 
Author: Innes, Michael
Title: The Journeying Boy
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 2
A tutor travels to Ireland with his new charge, a young teen who is convinced someone is trying to kill him.

Although I could see how Innes was running parallel stories that would eventually pull together, he never made me care what would happen to any of the people involved. I got about halfway through and gave up. The title was relevant but a bit too cutesy.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 11/03/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: The Warlock EnragedWarlock # 4
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3
Since his return from Tir Chlis, Rod is more frequently losing control of his temper. He and the family must fight his diminishing self-control as they counter a group of witches bent on using their powers to take over Gramarye.

This, frankly, is philosophical self-indulgence on Stasheff's part as he focuses more on explaining Rod to Rod than the rather thin storyline. He doesn't even explain how Simon acquired his powers and philosophy. The title is appropriate although it ignores the actual plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/16/2014


 
Author: Stasheff, Christopher
Title: The Warlock UnlockedWarlock # 3
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4
As the futurian totalitarians raise a church/state conflict, they set up a time machine portal to send Rod, Gwen, 3 of their 4 children, and a wandering priest to an alternate universe where Rod may find the key to unlocking powers he didn't know he had.

Intriguing premise and logically executed. Stasheff nicely draws several different storylines toward a double climax. I particularly like this series' presentation of a married couple with young children, and priests as people, some good, some not.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/15/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Mystery of the Blue TrainHercule Poirot # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Several people wind up on the same train to the French Rivera, but one is dead on arrival. Hercule Poirot assists the French police to identify the killer.

I found Poirot's conceit irritating, and most of the other characters unlikable. I got about halfway through and skipped to the end. The title is accurate if uninspired.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/10/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Mystery of Cloomber
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
A land agent recounts the tale of his mysterious neighbor.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. I've found most of Doyle's non-Holmes mysteries don't hold my attention, and this was no exception. His technique of having different people tell different parts of the story was distracting and unhelpful. I got about halfway through and didn't even care enough to skip to the end.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/09/2014


 
Author: Freeman, R. Austin
Title: The Mystery of 31 New InnDr. Thorndyke # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Dr. Jervis enlists the expertise of Dr. Thorndyke when he suspects a man is being poisoned. But his new agreement to assist Dr. Thorndyke sets him investigating an apparently unbreakable will.

eBook downloaded from Gutenberg. Whodunit and how was fairly obvious, and I found Freeman's leisurely way to getting there rather tedious. The Gutenberg version is pretty good on spelling and grammar. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/08/2014


 
Author: Frazer, Margaret
Title: The Murderer's TaleDame Frevisse # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
Dame Frevisse accompanies Dame Claire on a pilgrimage, encountering a young manor holder stricken with the "falling sickness" and his heir, a slightly younger cousin overeager to inherit.

Way too much buildup. I quit halfway through the book and the murder still had not occurred, but I didn't care enough about what would happen to read any more.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/05/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Moving FingerMiss Marple # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
A pilot recuperating from a flying injury and his sister find a temporary home in a small village plagued by vicious anonymous letters. When one leads to a death, the blunt vicar's wife decides to "do something" - she invites Miss Marple to visit.

Christie has an odd habit of making her sleuth barely peripheral to the story, and this book is an example. I can understand her motive - the pilot and his sister were much more interesting characters than Miss Marple - but it's difficult for this modern reader to adjust to. Some lovely plot twists and she completely fooled me as to whodunit. The obligatory romance(s) added as little to the story as obligatory romances of the era generally did. The story itself held my interest and the title bore no relationship to the plot.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/28/2014


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Moneylender of ToulouseFools’ Guild # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - France
Rating: 4
Feste is sent to Toulouse as the new Chief Fool to remove the bishop there, paving the way for Folc's election. But the murder of a much-disliked moneylender and the resentment of the two local fools threaten his assignment.

Taut story but with holes that I can't really discuss without spoilers. The title is accurate but unimaginative. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/22/2014


 
Author: O'Marie, Sr. Carol Anne
Title: The Missing MadonnaSr. Mary Helen # 3
Genre: Mystery
Rating: 3
The sisters and fellow OWLs (Older Women's League) investigate when one of their friends suddenly disappears.

I didn't like this book, and it took me a while to understand why. I finally realized what I had expected to be red herrings turned out to be real clues, and what I had figured for real clues turned out to be red herrings. I can't blame the author for fooling me. I did finish it but found the exceedingly indirect clue that solved the mystery unsatisfying. The title is quite misleading; the Madonna isn't missing.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/19/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Memoirs of Sherlock HolmesSherlock Holmes # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Contains Silver Blaze, The Yellow Face, The Stock-Broker's Clerk, The 'Gloria Scott', The Musgrave Ritual, The Reigate Puzzle, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter, The Naval Treaty, The Final Problem. More mysteries featuring the amazing detective abilities of possibly the world's most famous fictional detective.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org I've read all these stories before, but it's fun to come back and re-read them, seeing how cleverly Doyle laid out clues for the reader to miss. As always, many of the stories teeter on the edge of horror, a genre I avoid. But the creative solutions, as always, kept me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/17/2014


 
Author: West, Michael S.
Title: The Massive Hole TheoryMurray & Michaels # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A just-fired lawyer is the prime suspect when the managing partner is found shot to death, and he and his attorney must find the real killer to clear him.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Unlikable characters and only marginally interesting story - I quit about a quarter of the way through. The title is relevant but stupid.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/15/2014


 
Author: Webb, Betty
Title: The Llama of DeathGunn Zoo # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
A sleazy wedding-chapel preacher is found murdered while Joe is away at a conference, and the incompetent deputy in temporary charge of the investigation is determined to frame Caro.

I had mixed feelings about this one. The main storyline held my interest, but Caro's jaunt into social consciousness should have rated psychiatric care, and neither Teddy's father nor Aster Edwina are what I would call sympathetic characters. The tweets from the escaped snake grated on my nerves; a dangerous animal should have been captured quickly and returned to her safe zoo environment.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/05/2014


 
Author: Thorne, Nicola
Title: The Little Flowers
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 1
A Protestant diplomat's daughter is sent to a convent school in northern England during WWII.

I was not impressed with this book for several reasons. One is that all the characters are so unlikable, from the self-centered schoolgirls to the vicious nuns to the selfish parents and relatives. Yes, there are certainly examples of all these in real life, but not all nuns are more concerned about their status than their charges, and not all parents are more interested in hunting than seeing their children. Another reason is that schoolgirl antics are rarely interesting (except maybe to other schoolgirls), and these unfortunately fit the pattern. Finally, Thorne's word use is catastrophic; for instance, she wrote wrapt when she meant rapt, reverend when she meant reverent, referred to a "hard-wording" nun and a curtain being "highered and lowered," and plain misspelled "celibate." I don't demand perfection but this was excruciating. I got about halfway through and couldn't take any more. The title bears no relation to the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/04/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Listerdale Mystery
Genre: Mystery Short Stories
Rating: 4
Contains Listerdale Mystery, Philomel Cottage, Girl In the Train, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Manhood of Edward Robinson, Accident, Jane In Search of a Job, Fruitful Sunday, Mr. Eastwood's Adventure, Golden Ball, Rajah's Emerald, Swan Song

Very nice collection, many of which are a type of story not written today, mysteries that are not murder mysteries. As always, Christie excels at the unexpected resolution.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/02/2014


 
Author: Lewis, C.S.
Title: The Lion, the Witch, and the WardrobeChronicles of Narnia # 2
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5
Four English siblings slip through a magic portal into another world, where they find a wicked witch ruling a frozen land and meet the marvelous Aslan.

There aren't enough beautiful words to describe the fascinating combination of real English children and the magical ambience of Narnia. I've re-read these dozens of times since I was given my first set as a teenager and have never failed to be captured. If you haven't read it yet, you are in for a treat. Spelling and grammar are fine, word use is exceptional, and the title is straightforward and pertinent.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 09/01/2014


 
Author: Aitken, Rosemary as Rowe, Rosemary
Title: The Legatus MysteryLibertus # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 4
Marcus drafts Libertus to solve multiple mysteries at the Imperial temple, where Libertus must try to avoid a charge of sacrilege.

I never manage to figure out whodunit in Aitken's mysteries, but I enjoy them. Taut story, involving characters, satisfying resolution. She kept me reading all the way. The title was appropriate but weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/20/2014


 
Author: Adams, Ellery
Title: The Last WordBooks by the Bay # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When a famous author moves to town and wants to join the writing circle, the budding writers are excited and apprehensive. But his murder shocks the community, and Olivia is not the only one worried that Harris might be in danger. And just what was his connection to a painting found in Harris' new house?

Mixture of weak and strong storylines. The who-killed-Nick-Plumley storyline pulled in a lot of WWII North Carolina history, which I found fascinating. The Olivia-and-her-newfound-half-brother-Hudson ranged from pedestrian to maudlin. The Olivia-and-Rawlings romance took a back seat for most of the book, but Adams ended the book with a completely unnecessary sex scene between the two. There were a fair number of unanswered questions that turned out to be not relevant to the mystery but would have made great red herrings. But the ultimate accolade, as always, is that Adams kept me reading. The title was somewhat relevant, but not specifically to this story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/13/2014


 
Author: Sparks, Nicholas
Title: The Last Song
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A whiny teenager is forced to spend the summer with her estranged dad.

Utterly boring, with no interesting characters. Yes, she had reason to feel ill-used, but that didn't make her someone I wanted to know more about or whose doings I wanted to follow. I got about a quarter of the way through and quit.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/10/2014


 
Author: Gordon, Alan
Title: The Lark’s LamentFools’ Guild # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Theo and Claudia try to convince a former fool turned abbot to accept a promotion to bishop if they arrange it, but he blames them for the murder of one of his monks and they must untangle a bizarre web of lies to find the real killer.

Convoluted storyline with a touch of horror. Gordon does a nice job presenting a culture in which marriage was about everything except love, without overwhelming the plot. The title is quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/03/2014


 
Author: Barbieri, Heather
Title: The Lace Makers of Glenmara
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: 4
An American wannabe designer runs away to Ireland and connects with a group of women who make lace.

Classic everyone-gets-stronger women's story and a joy to read. The romance was a bit strained but the characters are nicely drawn and women you'd like to invite in for a cup of tea. Spelling and grammar were acceptable and the title was certainly descriptive.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/23/2014


 
Author: Webb, Betty
Title: The Koala of DeathGunn Zoo # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
The killing of the zoo's PR whiz pushes Teddy into a dreaded TV spotlight and some dangerous sleuthing.

As always with a Webb story, the resolution made sense but left me unconvinced it was the only possible solution. She generally manages to keep me reading during the all-too-often boring middle stretches, as she did here. The title was weak.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/20/2014


 
Author: Copeland, Lori & Hunt, Angela
Title: The Island of Heavenly DazeHeavenly Daze # 1
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
A small-church pastor on a remote Maine island determines to make himself more interesting to keep his church.

There were two major problems with this book. One is that, at least IMO, if you're going to write about heavenly beings they should reek of heaven. C.S. Lewis, in his wonderful Screwtape Letters, admitted the letters to the tempter should be counterbalanced by letters to the man's guardian angel, but he couldn't write those. Neither can Copeland & Hunt, but unfortunately they wrote this book anyway. The other problem is that the stories are boring. Copeland & Hunt never made me care what was going to happen to any of the characters. I got about 3/4 of the way through and quit. It wasn't awful, but it wasn't good enough to keep me reading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/03/2014


 
Author: Adams, John Joseph, ed.
Title: The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Genre: Mystery/Horror
Rating: 3
Collection of short stories featuring the Sherlock Holmes characters in non-canon situations. Includes: A Sherlockiana Primer (not a story and completely unnecessary, why would anyone be reading this book unless they were already familiar with Sherlock Holmes?), The Horror of the Many Faces, The Adventure of the Death-Fetch, The Adventure of the Lost World, Dynamics of a Hanging, Merridew of Abominable Memory, The Adventure of the Green Skull, You See But You Do Not Observe.

First, I have to state that I don't like breaking canon and there had better be a darn good reason and a darn good result before I can accept it. The stories that break canon by never offering a rational explanation did neither, plus they weren't interesting as stories. In the interest of avoiding revealing too much, I'm not naming them. It's like there is all this buildup but no explosion. The Horror of the Many Faces overstrained my credulity. The other stories were moderately interesting, and the final tale offered a brilliant explanation to a non-Sherlockian problem within an intriguing storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 07/02/2014


 
Author: Christie, Judy
Title: The Glory of GreenGreen # 3
Genre: Christian fiction
Rating: 3
Lois' wedding reception ends with a tornado that leaves portions of Green in ruins. Instead of heading off on a honeymoon, Lois and husband and staff are caught up in helping survivors, finding the dead, and keeping the news flowing.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Obviously much grimmer in tone than previous books, and for that reason I didn't like it as much. Christie had to strain to make the title relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/22/2014


 
Author: Clare, Alys
Title: The Faithful DeadHawkenlye # 5
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
Sir Josse and his farmer brother Yves find themselves tangled in a mystery dating back to the Crusades that has left three men dead.

Interesting and convoluted storyline, although it included a long flashback and I detest flashbacks. A bigger problem is that it was quite a stretch to believe Josse and Yves figured out the McGuffin, and the denoument pretty much made all of Josse's and Yves' efforts unnecessary anyway. The title was completely irrelevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/04/2014


 
Author: Macbain, Bruce
Title: The Bull SlayerPlinius Secundus # 2
Genre: Historical Mystery - Rome
Rating: 2
Pliny is assigned as governor to a Greek province, full of conspirators and run by a corrupt system. When the chief Roman tax collector is found dead, he may need the help of a phony, blackmailing seer to find the killer.

I must have liked the first book in this series to buy the second, although I don't remember it. But this one didn't hold my attention at all. The storyline lacked focus, with major digressions to Pliny's wife's love affair and their servants' marital problems. The characters were mostly unlikable. When I got tired of the distractions and realized I was only a third of the way through the book, I gave up. Word use and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was quite relevant.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/03/2014


 
Author: Johnson, Kate
Title: The UnTied Kingdom
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: NR
A former pop singer slips through a hole in the space-time continuum and lands in an England at war with Imperial France, where she is suspected of being a spy.

I borrowed this book from another Lendle user. I'm generally not fond of war fantasies, and Johnson dragged out her inevitable "what has happened to me?" scenario much longer than my interest lasted. I quit before I got a quarter of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/29/2014


 
Author: Minichino, Camille
Title: The Hydrogen MurderPeriodic Table # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 2
A retired science professor assists the police in investigating the murder of a researcher.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Tedious and boring, with a main character so self-centered she insists on monopolizing the conversation by "explaining" science to her glazed-eyed friends. Spelling and grammar were okay, but the Kindle formatting set the type size to miniscule. The title was appropriate and the series featured a clever concept, but there was nothing sufficiently intriguing to catch my interest, and I quit about 10% of the way through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/23/2014


 
Author: Weber, David
Title: The Honor of the QueenHonor Harrington # 2
Genre: Science Fiction
Rating: 2
Honor and the new Fearless head a squadron bringing gifts and negotiators to Grayson, a star system between Manticore and Haven where women are restricted to home and hearth and have no legal status. But the long-threatened attack by Grayson's local arch-rival deprives Honor of a respected mentor and threatens the success of the mission.

I didn't find the basic premise believable. Knowing the local attitudes to women, if the prime concern was negotiating a treaty, the commander should not have been a woman. That's just diplomatic common sense. It's not like Honor was the only exceptionally competent officer in the fleet! Then that serving female officers would be so emotionally shattered by rape, as told by Weber, sounded like they had never been prepared for torture. What armed forces unit, even in our own day, would leave that out of training? Certainly they could have been broken *in spite* of their training, but that's not the way it sounds. That unlikeliness was too much for me, and I quit reading. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was both relevant and a clever double-entendre.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/20/2014


 
Author: Cook, Alan
Title: The HayloftGary Blanchard # 1
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: NR
In the 1950's, highschool senior Gary suddenly has to transfer to the highschool where his cousin Ralph mysteriously died a few months earlier. He tries to make it to graduation in spite of anti-commie sentiment, a threatening principal, and rumors of a priceless diamond necklace.

This just didn't catch my interest. Possibly because I'm not in the target age group, possibly because of the mob mentality that followed McCarthy's "investigations," possibly for the multiple disjointed storylines. I quit about halfway through.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/09/2014


 
Author: Miles, Keith as Marston, Edward
Title: The Hawks of DelamereDomesday # 7
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
The commissioners' investigations are interrupted by a war with the Welsh, and they try to bring peace while investigating an apparent assasination attempt on the local ear.

More convoluted than usual, and I'm not sure it was reasonable for the commissioners to find the solution, but it was still enjoyable. The title was strained.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/08/2014


 
Author: Laurie, Hugh
Title: The Gun Seller
Genre: Fiction
Rating: NR
A mercenary and a pretty girl get tangled up in a plot to assassinate her father.

Knowing that I've never liked Fry & Laurie's brand of comedy, I have no idea why I bought the book. But the unlikable characters and disjointed plot didn't keep me reading long.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/07/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Great Shadow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 1
Narration of events in the narrator's life.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org This was so disorganized that I still couldn't tell what the plot was supposed to be when I gave up. There is a captivating young woman, a best friend, a French refugee, a retired army officer, and the narrator's parents. What was notably lacking, besides a coherent plot, was any interesting element. Yuck! I never got a clue as to what the "great shadow" was supposed to be.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/05/2014


 
Author: Campion, Alexander
Title: The Grave GourmetCapucine # 1
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: NR
French policewoman Capucine investigates white collar crime but longs to tackle murders. She finally gets her chance when the president of Renault is murdered, but must put up with a patronizing, leering co-worker.

Just another PP, a genre that generally doesn't appeal to me. The hostile attitude to Americans and the obnoxious male characters didn't help. I didn't get far before quitting.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/04/2014


 
Author: Heyer, Georgette
Title: The Grand Sophy
Genre: Regency romance
Rating: 4
Foisted onto her very proper cousins while her diplomat father is out of the country, lively but goodhearted Sophy undertakes to improve their lives.

I'm not generally a romance fan, but Heyer kept me reading in spite of myself. The characters are beautifully drawn in spite of consisting mostly of stereotypes: the roue father, the marshmallow mother, the stern-but-just elder brother, the defiant sister, etc. And of course it's impossible to arrange things as precisely as Sophy does. I don't think I'd like to have Sophy as a houseguest, but it was great fun to read about her. Very nice job of conversion to Kindle format, I didn't find any errors. Heyer never explained the title and it didn't represent the book well at all.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/03/2014


 
Author: Vail, Jason
Title: The Girl in the IceStephen Attebrook # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: NR
Stephen pursues the identity of an exceptionally lovely woman found dead by the church, as well as tracking a robbery/murder ring.

I borrowed this book through the Kindle Owners Lending Library. I think I'm giving up on this series. It was interesting to start with, but it has developed too much of a P.I. flavor and is focusing on elements I don't care for, such as animal torture and Stephen getting repeatedly beaten. The title was an obvious hommage to a Brother Cadfael book but the story is quite different.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/19/2014


 
Author: O'Brian, Patrick
Title: The Fortune of WarAubrey/Maturin # 6
Genre: Historical Naval Fiction
Rating: 3
Prisoners of the Americans, Jack and Stephen are taken to Boston, where they find Diana a kept woman again.

Not as involving as I'm used to in this series. I had the feeling O'Brian's sole goal was to have an excuse for Jack to be present at the battle between the Shannon and the Chesapeake. But I still finished it. Marginally appropriate title.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/31/2014


 
Author: Gerrold, David & Niven, Larry
Title: The Flying Sorcerers
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Rating: 3
A scientist's bullheadedness blinds him to conflict with the tribe of extraterrestrials he is studying until his spacecraft is destroyed, and then he essentially destroys their culture in order to have them build him a balloon so he can get to part of the world where his communicator can call down the mother ship to rescue him.

I bought this because someone in a book discussion group recommended it as funny. They clearly have a very different idea of humor than I do. Gerrold and Niven did an outstanding job presenting the aliens' view of the scientist's abilities and actions, but that doesn't mean it was an interesting or enjoyable story. I quit about 3/4 of the way through. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were fine. The title was quite appropriate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/30/2014


 
Author: Lencioni, Patrick M.
Title: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fabl
Genre: Self-Help
Rating: NR
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

The author teaches his team-building principles through a fictional story of a troubled company.

I paid money for this, and I have no idea why. I'm not in management or anything requiring team building. The story part was interesting; I didn't bother reading the rest.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/28/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Firm of Girdlestone
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
A father and son run an African import company in the late 1800s in London.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Disjointed and tedious, full of unlikable characters. I only got about 10% of the way into it before giving up.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/27/2014


 
Author: Freeman, R. Austin
Title: The Eye of Osiris aka The Vanishing ManDr. Thorndyke # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 2
A former medical student of Thorndyke's, now in general practice, enlists his aid for the penniless brother of a wealthy man who disappeared and left a very strange will.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org None of the Thorndyke have been what I would call ripping page-turners, but this one moved along at such a leisurely pace it didn't hold my interest. Freeman uses an original technique; although Thorndyke is the ace forensic detective, the books are told through the eyes of his associates, which also provides for a legitimate if irrelevant love interest for the hero-of-the-moment. I got halfway through and skipped to the end, but even then I didn't read the villain's whole explanation.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/18/2014


 
Author: Pirkis, Catherine
Title: The Experiences of Loveday Brooke, Lady Detective
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Unconventional but possessed of high powers of observation, Miss Brooke offers her detective services to Victorian England through a respectable agency. Stories included in this volume: The Black Bag Left on a Door-Step, The Murder at Troyte's Hill, The Redhill Sisterhood, A Princess's Vengeance, Drawn Daggers, The Ghost of Fountain Lane, Missing!

ebook downloaded free from Manybooks.net Miss Brooke is a Sherlock-style detective, solving mysteries by careful observation and encyclopedic knowledge, but this isn't a criticism. The stories are enjoyable, even though (like in the Sherlock stories), the reader often lacks the information to solve the mystery. The short-story format keeps the action moving. There is some odd word use - is "village pound" a typo for "village pond?" Or a colloquialism with which I am not familiar? The title is unimaginative but accurate.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/17/2014


 
Author: Orczy, Baroness Emmuska
Title: The Elusive PimpernelScarlet Pimpernel # 3
Genre: Historical Adventure
Rating: 2
Robespierre gives Chauvelin one more chance to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Orczy pretty much lost me right at the beginning by claiming Chauvelin hadn't revealed the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel to his fellow revolutionaries. The Pimpernel was too important to the terrorists for me to believe they wouldn't do everything possible to extract that information, including torture. And then for Chauvelin to suspect someone else of being the Pimpernel - was Orczy kidding? As much as I liked the original book, this didn't become an interesting series and I'm giving up on it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/13/2014


 
Author: Coel, Margaret
Title: The Dream StalkerWind River # 3
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: NR
Father John and Vicky investigate the murder of a drifter that may or may not be related to high feelings about whether to locate a nuclear waste dump on the Wind River reservation

As much as I love my adopted state of Wyoming, I have yet to find a series located here that I care enough about to keep reading, and this ain't it. I don't care for Coel's characters, and I especially don't care for the idea that a man commited to celibacy for his religious beliefs can't work with an attractive woman without getting romantically or sexually involved. I only got about a quarter of the way through before quitting. The title seems unrelated to the storyline.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/09/2014


 
Author: Newman, Sharan
Title: The Difficult SaintCatherine LeVendeur # 6
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 3
Anti-Semitism and distrust of foreigners complicate Catherine and Edgar's attempts to clear her sister Agnes of charges of sorcery and murder.

I'm starting to lose interest in this series' reliance on Jewish/Christian conflict. Certainly it is authentic to a degree, but that doesn't make it interesting. Newman never answered all the questions Catherine asked while trying to find the killer, and the anti-Jewish violence made this a much darker story than I personally prefer. I don't think the clues were given the reader to figure out whodunit, I never understood to *which* "difficult saint" the title refers, and overall I was not impressed with the storyline. There were some typos - "raucus" instead of "raucous" and "sourcery" for "sorcery," for example. Kindle formatting was fine.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/03/2014


 
Author: Sexton, Perry
Title: The Day Granny Shot The Realtor As Told By Grandda
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2
The Day Granny Shot The Realtor As Told By Granddad

Retelling of a number of anecdotes involving the author's grandparents.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. To say this book is preachy is like saying the Grand Canyon is big. In case the reader misses the point, the author includes a heavy-handed "Lessons Learned" section at the end of each story! As usual, any time an author feels compelled to tell us why he/she wrote the book, it's a bad sign. This introduction bears little relationship to the book; for example, the author explains that he used bad grammar and dialect to make the tone sound more like Granddad, and then used conventional English in the book. (Smart decision, as no one since Mark Twain has been able to use dialect without totally distracting the reader from the story.) There seem to be chunks of text missing from some entries. The addition of a Bible verse to most entries makes me think King may have meant this as a children's Sunday school text. It sure isn't written to entertain adults; I gave up halfway through. King completely derails one story to rant against RVs, concluding that "The opinion of many is that it is a bad industry!" Well, it's also the opinion of many that the industry is fine, but the owners need to follow the maintenance manuals. Word use is erratic, with sentences like "It was amazing at the simplicity of them" or "the four-big jet engines roared with glory." King refers to an army truck as a "duce-and-a-half" instead of the correct term "deuce-and-a-half." The title is great, although it would have been stronger without the "as told" part. The book just doesn't live up to the title.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/11/2014


 
Author: Clemens, Samuel Langhorne as Twain, Mark
Title: The Curious Republic of Gondour, and Other Whimsic
Genre: Essays
Rating: 3
Collection of short pieces. Includes: The Curious Republic of Gondour, A Memory, Introductory to "Memoranda," About Smells, A Couple of Sad Experiences, Dan Murphy, The "Tournament" in A.D. 1870, Curious Relic For Sale, A Reminiscence of the Back Settlements.

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org I didn't find the short pieces particularly interesting, although they did show off Twain's genius at writing. The Gutenberg version had occasional typos but not too many.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/04/2014


 
Author: Wallace, Edgar
Title: The Council of JusticeFour Just Men # 2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: NR
Three self-appointed vigilantes acquire a new recruit and tackle an anarchist group with devilish plans.

I'm not sure why I tried this series, but I've given it up. I don't find vigilantes sympathetic, no matter what their justification, and the rest of the characters are equally unlikable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/02/2014


 
Author: Van Gulik, Robert
Title: The Chinese Maze MurdersJudge Dee # 9
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
Judge Dee and his faithful lieutenants arrive at the frontier town of Lan-fang to find a powerful warlord, an old feud, and a barbarian invasion.

More convoluted plots and a faster pace than I have seen in earlier books, which made the minimal character development less important. The villains are clever but Judge Dee is cleverer! It's pretty obvious that the books were converted to e-books by OCR, and that the publisher did not have them adequately proofed shows in the large quantity of typos: "plage" instead of "place," "vender" instead of "vendor," "age-cold" instead of "age-old." Occasionally there are sentences that make absolutely no sense, such as "He was something wrong with the men." The title is somewhat misleading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/28/2014


 
Author: Clare, Alys
Title: The Chatter of the MaidensHawkenlye # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Abbess Helewise attempts to unravel the problems of a disobedient nun and the mysterious death of a pilgrim, while Sir Josse recovers from an infected injury.

Not the strongest story in the series - Clare never gave me a reason to believe that the two sisters would obey the tyrannical Alba, and the ending was rather convenient. But it's not a bad story, and I always enjoy seeing religious presented positively.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/27/2014


 
Author: Aitken, Rosemary as Rowe, Rosemary
Title: The Chariots of CalyxLibertus # 4
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
In Roman-ruled ancient Britain, the governor asks visiting Libertus to investigate when a prominent Londinium corn merchant is murdered. Libertus has to negotiate between the victim's warring mother and wife as well as racing stable secrets, a supercilious palace slave, and a sneaky Celt to identify the killer.

Solid story and Aitken absolutely fooled me as to whodunit. I don't think there needed to be quite so many unlikable characters, but I enjoyed one of the most satisfying endings I've read in a long time, in spite of the alliterative but largely irrelevant title.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/25/2014


 
Author: Rackham, Alydia
Title: The Case of the Young Patrician LadyOxford St Coffee House
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
A secret team of Scotland Yard investigators unravel the mystery of a disappearing painting in 1890s London.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. First, the premise was completely unbelievable - 1890s Scotland Yard using women as investigators? Then Rackham compounded her problems by repeatedly changing the narrator so each member of the team had a turn. This didn't add anything to the story and confused this reader as to who was speaking at any given time. Finally, I despise cliffhanger endings, and consider them an inexcusable racket on the author's part. The story itself wasn't awful, and I read it all the way through, but I doubt I'll be reading any more and I sure won't be paying money for any. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was relevant but somewhat misleading.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/23/2014


 
Author: Hunt, Angela
Title: The Case of the Mystery MarkNicki Holland # 1
Genre: Children's Mystery
Rating: 3
Four seventh-grade friends try to find the person responsible for pranks apparently related to a mysterious curse.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Decent mystery for the preteen crowd, a little older than Bobbsey Twins or Boxcar Children, with logical story progression even if the main characters feature the obligatory racial/cultural mix. (There's nothing wrong with having characters from different racial and cultural backgrounds, of course, I just got the feeling Hunt used the cookie-cutter approach to make sure her characters wouldn't offend anyone.) Unfortunately, Hunt's word use is unacceptably sloppy. Of a recent immigrant, she wrote, "Because Kim's for Korea." I have no clue what she was trying for when she wrote "Corrin made the mistake of calling Meredith the 'n-word' in guy." Do schools these days have a place called guy? "Laura wriggled her fingers." I'm pretty sure she meant wiggled but it's still an odd way to catch some one's attention. "You heart that Scott thought Kim was cute." With the epidemic of sloppy English among young people, Hunt should have taken whatever extra steps were needed to ensure her book would set a good example. Kindle formatting was acceptable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/22/2014


 
Author: McSparren, Carolyn
Title: The Cart Before The CorpseMerry Abbot # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
Horse show manager Merry Abbot pursues the killer of her estranged father, after the police insist on calling his death an accident.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The setting is Deborah Smith's Mossy Creek, which I'm glad I didn't know beforehand because Smith's Mossy Creek tales left me cold. This is a nice solid mystery, although purists may complain that the killer doesn't appear in the first chapter. Frankly, I've never understood that rule anyway - as long as the reader learns what the investigator learns, as she learns it, it wouldn't be surprising that the killer turns out to be someone unknown at the beginning. (I'm not giving anything away, the first chapter takes place in a totally unrelated setting with an unrelated cast of characters.) I did not find it believable that Merry would feel such devotion to keeping her father's dream alive, however. McSparren kept me reading, and this is a good gift for a mystery lover. There are some word errors, such as "discrete" instead of "discreet," but not so many that I found it distracting. Kindle formatting is acceptable. The title is perfect.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/21/2014


 
Author: Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Title: The Captain of the Polestar
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
Collection of short stories

eBook downloaded from www.Gutenberg.org Horror and spiritualism. 'Nuff said.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/20/2014


 
Author: Alcott, Louisa May
Title: The Candy Country
Genre: Children
Rating: 3
Two children's stories, one featuring a little girl who gets tired of candy, the second following the misadventures of two boys who decide to go hunting.

eBook downloaded free from www.Gutenberg.org Preachy children's stories, that I'm not sure modern children would sit through. Alcott draws the children's characters nicely but that didn't make them interesting. I'm glad I read it, to say I had, but can't imagine recommending it to a child I knew.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/19/2014


 
Author: Warner, Gertrude Chandler
Title: The Boxcar ChildrenBoxcar Children # 1
Genre: Children
Rating: 4
Four orphaned siblings find an unusual place to stay together rather than live with their disapproving grandfather.

Cute children's story with affectionate, likable characters and a completely unrealistic plot. Younger children will probably enjoy it, although I doubt preteens or older will tolerate the simple setting and convenient events.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/14/2014


 
Author: Gupta, Naina
Title: The Bollywood Breakup Agency
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 2
Horrified when her father cuts off her money and credit cards, Neela decides to earn her living by breaking up arranged marriages that one party doesn't want to follow through on. But with her first client, one scheme after another backfires.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't like whiny, demanding adults acting like children any more when they are set in India than when they hail from anywhere else, and Neela certainly qualifies. Nor did I find her ham-handed efforts entertaining. I quit a quarter of the way into the book.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/13/2014


 
Author: Christie, Agatha
Title: The Body in the LibraryMiss Marple # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
When the dead body of an unknown young woman is found in her friends' house, Miss Marple must wade through family dynamics and airtight alibis to identify the killer.

The plot moves along nicely to the fiendishly clever ending. I did suspect the right person, although not the why and certainly not the how.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 01/12/2014


No previous page