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: Sayers, Dorothy
Title: Unnatural Death aka The Dawson PedigreeLord Peter Wimsey # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 4
Lord Peter charges off to investigate whether a doctor's story of a suspicious death was actually murder, and finds himself entangled in subsequent mysterious deaths.

Clever and thoroughly believable story with medical and legal elements. Sayers sets up the reader with her usual skill. The title is excellent.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/07/2015


 
Author: Stout, Rex
Title: Under the Andes
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
A wealthy man chases his brother and a seductive dancer across North America, then joins them on their travels. But their adventure is cut short by a dangerous fall leading them to a warlike underground tribe.

The deceptively plebian beginning, while not terribly interesting, surprised me by suddenly turning into horror, which I strongly dislike and don't read.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/05/2015


 
Author: Balzo, Sandra
Title: Uncommon GroundsMaggy Thorsen # 1
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4
When one of the partners in a new coffee shop is murdered on opening day, Maggy offends the prickly sheriff by investigating, determined to not let her remaining partner be railroaded.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Involving story even though I'm not a coffee drinker, a surprise since my experience has been the cleverer the title, the lamer the story. I didn't find the relationship between Maggy and the sheriff believable, and the big revelation regarding political activity in their posh suburb was definitely too much, but I will forgive a lot for a story that keeps me reading as this one did. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable. The title was clever enough to make me expect a poor story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/04/2015


 
Author: Rusch, Kristine Kathryn as Grayson, Kristine
Title: Utterly CharmingFates # 1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 3
An Oregon lawyer winds up helping a woman who slept for 1000 years adjust to the 21st century, while protecting her from a witch.

Rusch can tell a great story, but this wasn't it. The lawyer felt real, the prince not so much, the witch definitely not. Some of the situations were deftly handled, especially newly-awakened Emma's endless questions about the world around her and her failure to comprehend mechanical devices. Others were bizarrely contrived and strained my suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. I gave up about halfway through, because I simply didn't care what happened to the characters.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/23/2013


 
Author: Louro, Vera
Title: Up The Gangway
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3
Combination of South Seas travelogue and working-on-a-cruise-ship stories

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. There were a number of problems with this book. The one that hit me immediately was that Louro writes in present tense, almost always a sign of a novice writer who thinks it involves the reader more. It doesn't, it just sounds awkward until you get used to it. Second problem: English is apparently not the author's native language, and her frequent word misuse is jarring. "They will no longer have to fill diminished." "She feels like she just swollen broken glass." "The group orders some cocktails that Aaron insists on paying." She consistently misuses "sits" and "seats:" "Sofia takes a sit alone." "as everyone seats comfortably chatting" Occasionally, it renders the sentence completely unintelligble. "The entertainment available resumes to a few parties." "We need to get you out of the ship urgently before it becomes chronicle." My mind screened out the annoying present tense pretty quickly, but every malapropism hit me afresh and dragged me out of the storylines. Finally, Louro hasn't decided whether she's writing a travelogue or a fake-memoir. She incorporates a lot of irrelevant detail about the places the characters tour, and focuses on different points of view at different times so I'm still not sure who was supposed to be the main character. But with all these flaws, she kept me reading, wanting to know what would happen next. Sofia and Denise, who get the most print space, feel real and likable. Even the one-dimensional minor characters feel real. Ordinarily I'd raise the rating a star for keeping me interested, but there are just too many serious flaws here for me to give it anything higher. Get the book professionally edited, cut out most of the travelogue, decide who the main character is, and I can see this turning into a 4-star book. Kindle formatting was okay except for italicization of a few random words.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/22/2013


 
Author: Cottrell, Jeanette
Title: Unicorn on Speed Dial
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 5
Oregon housewife Kat retrains ex-familiars and tries to keep her magically-talented children safe, mostly from themselves. Having to stop an evil sorcerer just makes her life a little harder.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Many people have tried to set a fantasy tale in the modern-day world and failed utterly, especially when they try to introduce humor. Cottrell, to my amazement, succeeds. Kat is a completely believable wife and mother, who would sell her soul for a well-stocked diaper bag when her toddler has a stinky diaper. She is happily married to college professor Richard and has trouble with the neighbors over her animals. Richard's grad students are always around, wanting to be helpful but often getting in the way. Cottrell adds a unicorn as her best friend (and no, her children are not adopted), gryphons, dwarves, and of course evil sorcerers. She also manages to incorporate animals that aren't unbearably cutesy, even a ferret that acts like a stuffed toy and teleports and a bear pelt. She also avoids all the new-writer pitfalls: no putting the story on hold while she introduces characters, no long flashbacks to Kat's apprenticeship with a sorceress, no over-explaining elements that aren't critical to the story, no long explanations at all - she's a positive wizard at conveying needed information concisely. Kindle formatting was fine. Those of you who read my reviews (and it's kind of scary how many of you there are) know that I rarely award 5 stars. To me, a 5-star rating should be reserved for interesting stories that are not only technically good but have something special. Unicorn on Speed Dial (and what a perfect title!) is a very special story indeed. I can't wait to read more of Cottrell's work.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/16/2013


 
Author: Stockmyer, John G.
Title: Under The StairsBandworld # 1
Genre: Horror
Rating: NR
A woman is tortured by priests and rescued by a soldier.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Any book that starts with a graphic torture scene loses me immediately. I don't like horror AT ALL.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/02/2013


 
Author: Stenstreem, Ruth as Marian Babson
Title: Untimely Guest
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Bridget became a nun when her fiance eloped with her sister. Ten years later, she leaves the convent and stays with her brother Kevin and his Protestant wife Eleanor, while now-divorced Deedee comes back to visit with her fiance James, and stays with their mother, her sister Veronica, and her ex-husband Terence.

This had all the marks of the Babson stories I hate, including thoroughly unlikable characters (although main character Eleanor isn't too bad), a horrible family relationship, and several wimpy husbands. Plus it started with the murder and then went into a LONG flashback of the events leading up to the murder. When I got halfway through and there was still no redeeming interest, I skipped to the end, to find even the ending wasn't worth reading. Sheesh.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/25/2011


 
Author: Post, Melville Davisson
Title: Uncle Abner: Master of MysteriesUncle Abner # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/18/2010


 
Author: Morgan, Fidelis
Title: Unnatural FireCountess Ashby de la Zouche #1
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/17/2010


 
Author: Stabenow, Dana ed.
Title: Unusual Suspects
Genre: Short Stories
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/19/2009


 
Author: James, P.D.
Title: Unnatural causesInspector Adam Dalgliesh # 3
Genre:
Rating:
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/11/2009


 
Author: Lewis, J. Patrick
Title: Under the Kissletoe
Genre: Children's Book
Rating: 4
Juvenile book of mostly cute poems with a Christmas theme.

I particularly liked the story about the brown king going to see the baby Jesus.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/12/2008


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: UnleashedMelanie Travis #7
Genre:
Rating:
Not bad, but turning into more a psychological romance than a murder mystery. Besides trying to find a killer, Melanie has to cope with Sam's distraction and wondering if she is about to lose her fiance. The murder mystery is fair and logical.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 04/23/2008


 
Author: Berenson, Laurien
Title: UnderdogMelanie Travis #2
Genre:
Rating:
Even I figured out whodunnit and why within a couple of pages following the murder, and I'm not very good at murder mysteries. But it was still interesting to see how Berenson got to the finale and still easy to skim through the too-detailed dog show parts.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/04/2008


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