Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Our Lady of the Open Road and Other Stories from the Long List Anthology, Volume 2, by David Steffen (editor)

Skyboat Media, January 2017

This is, as it says, stories from the Long List Anthology, stories that placed high but didn't quite make the Hugo Finalists ballot for 2016. The six works included here are as diverse as David Levine's "Damage," a military sf story of artificial intelligence, and Ursula Vernon's "Pocosin," fantasy influenced by Native American mythology. What they all have in common is that they are all excellent, and all would have done the Hugo Finalists ballot proud had they made the cut.

I don't really have a great deal more to say, except do yourself a favor, and listen to this audiobook, or read the individual stories elsewhere.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Slow Horses (Slough House #1), by Mick Herron

Blackstone Audio, January 2017 (original publication January 2010)

River Cartwright was a rising young star in the British secret service, until suddenly he wasn't. Now he sits at Slough House, one of the "slow horses," transcribing cell phone conversations and hoping for a real assignment.

And then a young man is kidnapped by a shadowy group who claim they'll cut off his head on live tv. This particular young man seems like no one at all, the son of Pakistani immigrants who run a soft goods store. The catch is that he's the nephew of a very senior member of the Pakistani intelligence services.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Replay, by Ken Grimwood (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Tantor Audio, December 2008 (original publication 1986)

Jeff Winston, 43 years old, dies suddenly of a heart attack, in October 1988.

Then he wakes up, in 1963, eighteen years old and a freshman in college.

With all his memories of his previous life intact.

He's got it all to do over again, except that this time he can do it right. He can amass all the wealth, fame, and success he missed out on the first time around.

But his death happens again, on the same date, and he has a third chance. And a fourth. What's going on? Why is this happening? And is Jeff all alone, or are there others like him?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Tao of Pooh (The Way, With the Enchanted Neighborhood), by Benjamin Hoff (author), Simon Vance (narrator)

Tantor Audio, January 2012 (original publication 1982)

Benjamin Hoff uses Winnie the Pooh and his friends to explain the principles of the Tao.

There really is a fair bit of gentle wisdom to be extracted from the stories of Winnie, Eeyore, and the others, and Hoff does a decent job of it. Sadly, it's no more than decent. There's an insistent, one-note, "if you don't agree then clearly you just don't understand, and are wrong" tone that rears its head repeatedly. It does grate on me from time to time.

Yet at the same time, he also does, often, throughout this short book, quite nicely and charmingly capture the ways in which simple, uncomplicated Pooh can find the right answer while his "smarter" friends are getting lost in complications of their own making.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but perhaps just reading or listening to Milne's own stories might be even more rewarding.

I bought this audiobook.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Bloodstone Vial (Belrose Abbey Mystery #2), by Anita Higman (author), Hillary McMullen (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Winged Publications, July 2017

Anne and her mother, Dauphine, have gone quite suddenly from barely getting by to the new owners of Belrose Abbey and its late owner's fortune. The catch is, they have to live at Belrose Abbey...

One might think that with Ivan Helsberg safely dead, all would be well at Belrose Abbey now, but it seems there are still secrets to be uncovered. It's not just that the staff are still for the most part the staff that served Ivan; there's mounting evidence that there's someone, or something, living on the estate that they don't know about.

When Anne and Ivan's stepson Wyatt see a strange-looking person wandering the estate, and Dauphine finds blueprints that claim to be the plans for an insane asylum to be built on the estate, they start to get really alarmed.

It's all nicely atmospheric, with characters who are seemingly simple turning out to be interestingly complex.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Slaves of the Switchboard of Doom: A Novel of Retropolis, by Bradley W. Schenck (author, illustrator)

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765383297, June 2017

Retropolis is a city of the future as imagined in the first part of the 20th century. Robots walk the streets and work in many jobs that require physical abilities and machine precision that humans don't have. They're intelligent, and while they start out as indentured workers, they earn their full freedom over time, and have formed a pretty powerful union.

Meanwhile, humans do other work. Everyone relies on InfoSlates, which are a lot like our phones, except perhaps standardized more at the size of an iPad. That's my impression of them, anyway. Another difference between InfoSlates and either iPads or phones is that they rely on human switchboard operators.

Nola Gardner is a switchboard operator, and she and her sister operators (remember, think 1930s rather than present day) abruptly find themselves out of jobs after a surprise efficiency review. What they can't seem to find out is who replaced them.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Useful Woman (Rosalind Thorne Mysteries #1), by Darcie Wilde (author), Sarah Nichols (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, January 2017 (original publication May 2016)

Rosalind Thorne was a privileged daughter of the aristocracy, and then her father defaulted on an enormous quantity of debt, and fled the country with Rosalind's older sister, Charlotte. Rosalind and her mother took refuge with Rosalind's godmother, Lady Blanchard. Rosalind's mother has since died. Her father reappeared, briefly, attempting to demand money from the Blanchards, and Rosalind had set up her own extremely modest household.

Since then she has been clinging to the edges of gentility, on the strength of her godmother's friendship (Lady Blanchard is one of the patronesses of Almack's), excellent manners, and her willingness to be useful when ladies of the ton need it. so when it becomes known Lady Blanchard is resigning from Almack's, in the same week that Jasper Ainsworth, son of a baronet, is found dead on the floor at Almack's, quite a few people want her to be useful. Also, of course, others who want her to stay out of it altogether.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Moonlit Harem (Part I), by N. M. Howell

Dragon Media, July 2017

Riley is a vampling, a new vampire not yet fully changed.

Riley doesn't want to be a vampire. She's a vegan.

The vampires found her, wounded and dying, in a field, and decided she was the one they needed to bring their coven up to its regulation twelve members. They saved her life, but she's not sure she's glad they did. She's absolutely determined not to kill human beings to feed.

Her mentor, Draven, is calm and reassuring, and as the vampires' alchemist, he's developed a synthetic fluid that, at least in until she is fully changed, will sustain her. Yet he encourages her to accept the necessity to consume human blood, and her twenty-first birthday, when she must complete the change, is rapidly approaching. As part of the ceremony, she must kill a human being. If she refuses, she'll be executed for breaking the sacred customs of the coven.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mother of Souls (Alpennia #3), by Heather Rose Jones

Bella Books, ISBN 9781594935176, November 2016

Serafina Talarico has been looking for a place where she and her magic can fit in. She has felt she might have found a place, with her landlady, Luzie Valorin, with whom she has been collaborating on an opera about the historic woman scholar, Tanfrit. Yet as close as they've become, Luzie can't offer her what she really wants.

Meanwhile, some strange weather magic continues to plague Alpennia, Margarit's young cousin Iulien has arrived unexpectedly, and Barbara, the Baroness Saveze, has been shot and badly wounded.

There are many difficult decisions to make. Margarit's planned Tanfrit University needs a staff. Barbara has no heir. Margarit is reluctant to accept that what Luzie and Serafina have been doing together is not greatly different from the mysteries she works on in a more religious context. And the weather mystery seems to be an attack, but what are they to do when they can't find its source?

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout (author), Shelly Frasier (narrator)

Tantor Audio, July 2005 (original publication January 2005)

The sociopaths who come to public attention are often violent criminals, but sociopaths are 4% of the population overall, and most of them aren't violent criminals.

That doesn't mean that they're nice or even non-harmful people to be around. Or that you're not likely to meet any. 4% of the population means roughly one in every twenty-five people you know will be a sociopath. They'll all be equally ruthless in pursuing what they want, but sociopaths differ as much in goals, drives, and intelligence as anyone else. They don't all want to be dictator of small nations, or captains of industry. Stout talks about the sociopaths we're likely to meet in our everyday lives, how we can recognize them, and how to defend ourselves.