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: Saint, Dora as Miss Read
Title: Village SchoolFairacre # 1
Genre: Historical Fiction - England
Rating: 2
The schoolteacher narrator describes life and shenanigans in the village school where she teaches.

She opens with a boatload of tedious description, not a strong point, and never really settles into a story, just a series of uninteresting anecdotes. I got halfway through and gave up. Whatever charm this series offered others completely missed me.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 10/14/2014

Author: McLay, Craig
Title: Village Books
Genre: Fiction
Rating: NR
Slice-of-life narrated by a bookstore manager, discussing the lives of his co-workers.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. I don't generally like slice-of-life stories because they have no point, and this one fit that mold. I got through about 10% of the book and then gave up; McLay had given me no reason to keep reading. Spelling, grammar, and Kindle formatting were acceptable.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/03/2013

Author: Dunn, Carola
Title: Valley of the ShadowCornish Mystery # 3
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 5
Eleanor, Nick, and Megan rescue a drowning man during a seaside hike, then race to find the cave where the rest of his family is stranded before they die of starvation - or the smuggler who left them comes back to finish the job.

The best entry so far in this enjoyable series, even though it's more of a suspense story than a mystery and contains one element that always sends me to a different book. The beginning dragged a bit, but it wasn't long before Dunn grabbed me and never let go. Any book that I couldn't put down gets 5 stars! I still recommend reading the other books in the series first, as the reader will miss a lot of characterization otherwise.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/02/2013

Author: Sullivan, Phoenix
Title: Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years
Genre: Memoir
Rating: 2
Memoir of a young animal lover who was determined to become a veterinarian but didn't have the money for college.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. The narrator is a typical teen, utterly focused on herself, and the stories focus more on her than the animals and are heavily salted with "what I learned from this" commentary. It's rather short, so I found I was finished while I was still trying to decide whether to give up on it or not, but has little to recommend it.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/27/2013

Author: Gorden, S. A.
Title: Venison Stew
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 1
Farmer Jim helps his wife Sheriff Em investigate a murder.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Gorden attempts a folksy country manner suitable to the setting, but using a heavy-handed approach that I found intolerable and quit about a quarter of the way through. There were no likable characters, and the unfocused storyline featured more digressions than plot. The author's misuse of English is staggering. "I eased my collar way from the burn." "He pealed back the bloody rag." "I pulled on my winter clothes and stagger to the pump." "I quick dip of my head and face." The Kindle formatting sets a new low for awfulness - the type size is teeny-tiny and I had to go to the second-largest setting just to make it readable. Someone who normally needed a large type size would never be able to read this. I don't give 1-star ratings lightly but there isn't anything about this book I can commend.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/26/2013

Author: Verdant, Mary
Title: Vegetable Container Gardening: 7 Easy Steps To Hea
Genre: Gardening
Rating: 3
Vegetable Container Gardening: 7 Easy Steps To Healthy Harvests from Small SpacesInstructions on selecting containers, garden locations, selecting varieties, even a list of the 10 easiest vegetables to grow.

I picked up this book free during an Amazon giveaway. Contains good info about companion planting. Although her overenthusiastic style is a bit wearing, Verdant (obviously a pen name) does include a lot of useful information. I'm skeptical of the accuracy of some of it, though. I've tried to grow several of her "easiest" vegetables and failed completely, especially tomatoes; they are very temperamental in my experience! A true gardening novice could easily get the impression it was her own fault if she tried these "easiest" veggies and failed. There is a table of contents but it doesn't interface with the Kindle navigation menu; to get to it, "go to" the beginning and then page back one or two pages.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/25/2013

Author: Van Gieson, Judith
Title: Vanishing PointClaire Reynier # 2
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
When a grad student turns up the missing journal of a long-disappeared 60's writer, a lot of people want to get in on having it published.

The New Mexico scenery is almost as much of a character as any of the people, but doesn't add anything to what is already a slow-moving story. Claire is moderately interesting but not enough to keep me reading the rest of the obnoxious characters. I managed to get halfway through before skipping to the end and discovering a rather obvious resolution. Not awful, but not anything that demanded I run out and grab the rest of the series. And the title didn't really have anything to do with the story.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 03/21/2011

Author: MacLeod, Maron, & Beaton, M.C.
Title: Very Merry Mysteries
Genre: Murder Mystery
Rating: 3
In "Rest You Merry" by Charlotte MacLeod, college professor Peter Shandy returns from a trip to find a colleague's wife dead in his living room. Although the police call it an accident, Shandy and the new widower investigate what they are convinced was murder. In "Corpus Christmas" by Margaret Maron, NYPD Lt. Sigrid Harald wonders whether the death of a greedy art trustee was related to something in the Victorian house he helped run. In "A Highland Christmas" by M.C. Beaton, Hamish MacBeth deals with a missing cat, a ring of Christmas thieves, and a pretty new schoolteacher.

Not particularly good examples of the mystery genre. Neither "Rest You Merry" nor "Corpus Christmas" ever grabbed my attention. "A Highland Christmas" was interesting enough, a gentle mystery with no murders involved. But it was also the shortest piece of the three.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 02/19/2011

Author: Westerson, Jeri
Title: Veil of LiesMedieval Noir # 1
Genre: Historical Mystery - England
Rating: 3
reviewed by: Sylvia on 05/22/2010

Author: Novik, Naomi
Title: Victory of EaglesTemeraire # 5
reviewed by: Sylvia on 12/25/2009

Author: Indriason, Arnaldur
Title: VoicesReykjavik thriller # 3
Genre: Police Procedural Mystery
Rating: 4
Erlendur and the team investigate the murder of a fired hotel doorman who may have been sitting on a fortune in rare records. Eva Lind has been clean since the death of her baby daughter but finds life not worth staying drug-free for. The team also watches the trial of a father who beat his young son almost to death.

Another well-written, moody/gloomy entry in the series. Not particularly fast-moving but it held my attention. Also not a cozy mystery where the clues are all laid out, but the reader learns them as Erlendur does.
reviewed by: Sylvia on 06/10/2009

Author: Cavendish, Clare
Title: Village nurse
reviewed by: Sylvia on 08/17/2008

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