Mandated Disclaimer / Explanation of Ratings

The books (television series and films) that I review here are usually purchased by me, won in a giveaway, or provided free of charge by the authors or publishers in exchange for a fair, honest review.  I am NOT paid for a review by anyone, author or publisher.  Nothing will affect my review and/or rating, not even friendships with the authors.  Obviously these reviews are my own opinion and doesn't have to be agreed to by anyone else.  That is the fun of opinions, we all have them.

Rating System

1 - Severely flawed.  Not worth the paper it is printed on. Might be DNF (Did Not Finish).
2 - Problematic.  A struggle to finish.  Might be DNF (Did Not Finish)
2.5 - Still a struggle to finish, but the potential is there.
3 - Enjoyable, a pleasant read.
3.5 - Perfectly lovely to read.  Well worth the time.
4 - Something special that has captured my interest/attention. Compelling, good enough to recommend to others.
4.5 - As close as you can get to perfect, but still may have missed a spot. It can be something jarring, something that pulled me out of the story. It is unexplainable, but just isn't the perfect score.
5 - As perfect as perfect can get for me. It hits all my buttons, emotional and otherwise. These are the keepers.

Erotic means the heat factor is beyond graphic, very explicit descriptions.
Hot is just below erotic.  While there may be some invention involved in the lovemaking, it is mostly normal with some additional descriptive factors.
Sweet can be little or no sex, general descriptions.

Book Review: No Dream is Too High by Buzz Aldrin

Part memoir, part self-help book, part motivational.  Buzz uses his own life and those of his friends as lessons on reaching for the stars and beyond.  If you're looking for a straight biography, look elsewhere.  But if short chapters that deal with how out of the box thinking can change the world, this may be the book for you.  3.5 out of 5. 

Book Review: Design for Murder by Carolyn G. Hart

Death on Demand 2

Bookseller Annie Laurance was thrilled to be hired to put on a Mystery Event at the Chastain Festival.  It would take her mind off her disputed wedding to Max Darling.  Then the Grand Dame of the town is murdered.  Despite all the many people who hated Corinne, the police chief is only looking at the two outsiders, one of whom is Annie.  Finding a suspect isn't the difficult part, finding the murderer is, but Annie and Max are forced to do their own investigation to keep Annie out of jail.

Amateur detectives can be delightful or disappointing.  Hart has done a masterful job, mixing mystery with romance and history.  I must admit that, like Annie, I was sad when I realized who the murderer was.  Despite the violence of the murder, these could easily be considered gentle mysteries.  3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Step by Martha LeMasters

Subtitled "One Woman's Journey to Finding Her Own Happiness and Success During the Apollo Space Program".

Martha LeMasters went from married to divorced to working mom, a rarity even in the late 1960s.  She found a place as secretary at IBM, later moving up to writer, her goal.  During the Apollo years, she also found her identity as a woman: strong, independent, and sexually fulfilled.

This rang true for me even though LeMasters changed some names to protect the guilty and the indiscreet.  Adultery was rampant, divorce even higher.  Not surprising when you consider that during the pre-launch time, it wasn't unusual to work 10-16 hour shifts.  Employees for the various companies and agencies lived all the way south to Palm Bay, adding to the amount of time away.  It also wasn't unusual to see astronauts around town during visits to the Cape, picking up groupies who wanted an astronaut notch on their beds.  My parents weren't shy about telling me who they spotted at the various nightclubs in the Cocoa Beach area.  I was a child, but never sheltered.

My interest in the space program and the people involved in it stems from my childhood.  My dad worked in the program from 1956 to 1970, taking a short break to get his degree in Physics in just two years on the advice of Rocco Petrone and Kurt Debus.  He worked for the various companies that held contracts with NASA, only leaving because he could see the writing on the wall, the space program was essentially over, layoffs were coming.  He loved every minute of it and used to talk to me from the time I was in first grade until adulthood about his job and the people he worked with.

Reading LeMasters' book threw me right back into those days.  It was a nice visit, brought back a lot of memories.  I would definitely recommend this story to anyone interested in the space program.  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Rodeo Sweethearts by Lilian Darcy

Copper Mountain Rodeo .5

Ever since the birth of their triplets, Melinda has had issues, but her beloved husband Rob has supported and protected her.  Now he wants her to tell the family, but she doesn't want the grown children to blame themselves.  She wants Rob to stop treating her like a child and to be honest with her, even angry.

Not your usual romance, but all the more poignant for the realism of Melinda and Rob and how they interact.  I'm particularly taken with RJ and would like to read his story.  3.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Subtitled "A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon".

British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon with his son in 1925 in search of an ancient civilization he called Z.  They vanished without a trace.  Others followed, searching both for Fawcett and for the lost city.  Many disappeared or barely escaped with their lives and/or their sanity.  Grann finds himself piecing together the train to find answers.

If old style adventure stories, ala H. Rider Haggard or Indiana Jones, appeal to you, check out this non-fiction look at the famous Fawcett expedition.  Grann looks deeper into the fascination with the Amazon as well.  4 out of 5.

Book Review: A Study in Sherlock edited by Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger (collection)

A Study in Sherlock   Edited by Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger

Fifteen stories about or with the Great Detective and, of course, the marvelous Doctor John H. Watson.  In some cases, simply inspired by Holmes and Watson.  A great collection that should be read by all Sherlock Holmes fans.  4 out of 5.  

“You’d Better Go in Disguise” by Alan Bradley.  A chance meeting in a park has two strangers exchanging observations about others present there.  Or is it chance?  Told in first person, but not from the view of either Watson or Holmes.  An interesting little tale.  3.5 out of 5.

“As to ‘An Exact Knowledge of London’” by Tony Broadbent.  A taxi trip around London, with emphasis on spots with a connection to Sherlock Holmes leads to a most interesting conversation between a former military doctor and the cabbie.  Magnificent!  From start to finish, I would think I had sussed out Broadbent’s story direction only to have him send me off in an entirely different direction.  5 out of 5.

“The Men With the Twisted Lips” by S. J. Rozan.  Neville St. Clair’s activities in Limehouse must be stopped before the wrong attention is raised.  It has been decided that Sherlock Holmes as well as Dr. John Watson must be lured into helping the opium lords eliminate this problem.  A very interesting take on “The Man With the Twisted Lip”, especially from the viewpoint of the men with the most to lose.  4 out of 5.

“The Adventure of the Purloined Paget” by Phillip Margolin & Jerry Margolin.  Wealthy collectors of Sherlock Holmes memorabilia are invited to the wilds of the moors to bid on a one-of-a-kind item.  When the owner is murdered and the sketch stolen, they are initially the suspects, but one of the guests has a brainstorm.  The story was wonderful, the characters so well-drawn.  But the use of the main character’s name was priceless.  4.5 out of 5.

“The Bone-Headed League” by Lee Child.  An FBI agent assigned to London is intrigued by a murder on Baker Street.  While a potentially interesting story, I found the ending jarring and unlikely.  Fired?  Probably.  But Leavenworth?  Doubtful.  That sadly weakened the rest of the story for me.  3 out of 5.

“The Startling Events in the Electrified City” by Thomas Perry.  An urgent request to help save the life of President McKinley soon has Holmes and Watson heading to America.  Extraordinary idea!  Definitely a plot twist that I was not expecting.  And, frankly, plausible in that time period.  History buffs will realize that McKinley was actually a better president than he has been judged, but he was a man of his time, a Civil War soldier who was dealing with a modern age that was beginning to move faster and faster.  4.5 out of 5.

“The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman.  On his deathbed, Mycroft Holmes suggested that his brother should investigate the greatest mystery of all, Death.  Sherlock accepts the commission, traveling to the Far East in search of the ultimate answer.  Actual research on bees, honey, and bee-related byproduct have led to similar conclusions, an extension of health, if not youth.  The idea that Sherlock would find a solution to death might not be that farfetched, but that he would keep it for himself and for his dearest friend?  Perfect.  Then there is Old Gao, a most fascinating character.  I must admit that this is the first Gaiman story that I have read, although I am familiar with his Doctor Who scripts.  I must rectify that oversight.  5 out of 5.

“A Triumph of Logic” by Gayle Lynds & John Sheldon.  When Emmy Holcrofts stumbles across suspicious items while settling her niece’s estate, she goes to Judge Linwood Boothby and Artie Morey, his friend and clerk, for advice.  In this intriguing mystery, neither Holmes nor Watson are characters, but they are frequently mentioned and invoked throughout the story.  I will be eagerly waiting for Sheldon’s first novel about Boothby and Artie.  4.5 out of 5.

“The Last of Sheila-Locke Holmes” by Laura Lippman.  Looking back on her childhood detective agency, Sheila Locke-Weiner also remembers why she closed it down.  I honestly liked the buildup on this one, but it ended too abruptly, without explanation or solution, just more questions.  Good writing, interesting characters, disappointing finish, peculiar story.  3 out of 5.

“The Adventure of the Concert Pianist” by Margaret Maron.  Mrs. Hudson’s niece believes she is being poisoned, possibly by her husband.  She came to ask Sherlock Holmes for help, but he was lost at Reichenbach Falls.  Dr. Watson offers to give his help however he can.  How lovely, a story told by Mrs. Hudson, with a most competent Watson to solve the mystery.  3.5 out of 5.

“The Shadow Not Cast” by Lionel Chetwynd.  Two murders seem to be connected, but both Metro and the FBI are stumped.  They call in the one man they both believe could solve them, Sergeant-Major Robert Jackson of the U.S. Army.  An interesting story, but it felt like there was things missing, as if this was just a few scenes from a longer novel.  I think the missing deeper backstory would’ve helped the enjoyment.  3.5 out of 5.

“The Eyak Interpreter” by Dana Stabenow.  (Kate Shugak 18.5) For honors English class, Johnny is writing a year-long blog.  He recounts how he, Kate, and Max investigate the kidnapping of Gilbert Totemoff.  Short, but an interesting way of sharing the mystery.  3.5 out of 5.

“The Case That Holmes Lost” by Charles Todd.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle comes to a lawyer friend when his creation, Sherlock Holmes, is sued over an unpublished story.  Based on a true case that involved friends of Doyle, he may have unknowingly solved the mystery.  Loved this from start to finish.  The idea of Holmes solving a case without Doyle realizing it was very well thought out.  4 out of 5.

“The Imitator” by Jan Burke.  Sherlock fanatic Wishy Hanslow is brought in on the case of the missing Colonel Harris.  He asks his friends, Bunny Slye and Dr. Tyndale, to help.  I’m extremely fond of mysteries set just after the Great War, especially if at least one of the main heroes are veterans.  This has such a great potential for a wonderful series.  I hope to read more of these men.  4.5 out of 5.

“A Spot of Detection” by Jacqueline Winspear.  A young boy walking home early from school hears a couple argue and the sound of a gunshot before passing out.  No one believes him, putting it down to fevered hallucinations.  He decides to investigate using Sherlock Holmes’ methods.  The after-story which the character was loosely based on was surprising.  I was actually unaware of that author’s background. This was a sweet little tale with an unexpected ending.  3.5 out of 5

Book Review: Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

Whyborne & Griffin 1

Private investigator Griffin Flaherty brings a murdered man's journal to Dr. Percival Endicott Whyborne to have it translated.  Mystery, horror and love ensue.

I wanted to like this so much, but I struggled.  The time frame is difficult to pinpoint, the characters are flat, and I don't feel any chemistry between the heroes.  I can see this appealing to many readers, but sadly I am not one of them.  I didn't even feel inspired to skip to the end to find out what happened.  This was a Did-Not-Finish for me, therefore the rating is only 2 out of 5.

Book Review: Queers Dig Time Lords edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Taylor

Subtitled "A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It".

This is a collection of essays on Doctor Who from the LGBTQ fans who watched the series, inspired by CHICKS DIG TIME LORDS.  The content discusses why there were a larger than normal number of LGBTQ fans for this low budget series.  We also learn how and when the writers first experienced the Doctor.

The theme that seemed to run through the different essays was the attraction to a man who was an outsider, who decided to leave his home to search for more.  There is also an appreciation for the companions, some more than others.  There's a few who also discuss TORCHWOOD, the spin-off for Captain Jack Harkness.  All in all, it is a wonderful collection of people who love the series for many reasons, who recognize the bad as well as the good, and a few who wish for more.  But don't we all?  4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Archie in the Crosshairs by Robert Goldsborough

Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe 10

Someone wants Archie Goodwin dead.  Actually they want his boss, Nero Wolfe, eliminated, but he is virtually impossible to get to as he rarely leaves the brownstone.  The plan appears to be to cripple Wolfe by taking his valuable right-hand man out of the picture.  While attempting to find the culprit, the detectives are trying to help a wealthy young woman who needs assistance dealing with a blackmailer.

Favorite quote:  Wolfe turned to me with an expression that was the closest thing to affection I had ever seen from him.

I've been a fan and avid rereader of Stout's Nero Wolfe books since a Whitestone librarian recommended them to me when I was just 11 years old.  Goldsborough, selected by Rex Stout's estate and family to continue the adventures, tries his best,but doesn't always hit the mark.  Still, there are enough touches of magic to keep me reading.  4 out of 5.