Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Seven of Infinities (Universe of Xuya), by Aliette de Bodard

Subterranean Press, ISBN 9781596069770, October 2020

Vân is a scholar of modest background with no connections, and a single mem-implant (which she built herself )nd represents no ancestor of hers) to help her on her way. She's working as tutor for the daughter of a dead war hero, and helping maintain her own image of respectable standing by participating in a poetry group.

It's not a good start to the day when another member of the poetry group, the mindship, The Wild Orchid in Sunless Woods, arrives to warn her that some of the socially higher-ranked members have decided she's not worthy of the group and must be expelled. Sunless Woods takes it for granted that Vân will want to fight her expulsion--but Vân has secrets she can't risk attracting attention to. They're at an impasse, when a worse interruption arises.

Vân's student, Uyên, has admitted her own visitor, who has dropped dead in her room.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Four Lost Cities A Secret History of the Urban Age, by Annalee Newitz (author), Chloe Cannon (narrator)

Highbridge, February 2021

The allure of "lost cities" is a strong one; many of us love the story of one lost city or another. Annalee Newitz gives us the stories of four of them--Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in Turkey; Pompeii, on the Italian coast and the slope of Mt. Vesuvius; medieval Angkor in Cambodia; Cahokia, an indigenous North American metropolis at the site that's now East St. Louis.

Newitz looks at each of these cities using new developments and techniques in archaeology to consider the cities and their culture through the lives of the average residents as well as the elites.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner (author), Lorna Bennett (narrator), Lauren Anthony (narrator), & Lauren Irwin (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, ISBN 9781488210761, March 2021

In 1790s London, Nella is an apothecary, a very specialized apothecary, who dispenses carefully disguised poisons to women who want to remove the oppressive or abusive men in their lives.

Eliza Fanning is her newest client, a twelve-year-old girl sent by her mistress, Mrs. Amwell, for poison for Mr. Amwell, who has molested female servants in the past, and has started to take an interest in Eliza.

In the present day, Caroline Parcewell is in London on what was supposed to be a celebratory tenth wedding anniversary trip with her husband. Instead, her husband is home in Ohio, and Caroline is in London on her own, contemplating the possible end of her marriage. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pride and Premeditation, by Tirzah Price

Harper Audio, ISBN 9780063053601, April 2021

This is a "voice galley," intended only for reviewers and read by a synthetic voice, not whoever will be the narrator. This is not the version that will be for sale.

This an alternative version of Pride and Prejudice, in  which Mr. Bennet is a barrister, and the family live in the Cheapside section of London. His firm is Longbourne & Sons, but of course there are no sons, and the dreadful Mr. Collins, a cousin from Hertfordshire, has been employed as a solicitor for the firm, and named as the heir.

Next we come to Elizabeth Bennet and her friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte in this retelling has a very respectable father, Sir Henry Lucas, but Sir Henry married a West Indian woman, and Charlotte is too dark-skinned to pass as "really English." Charlotte works as a secretary in the Longbourne firm. Elizabeth longs to be a barrister, and volunteers at the firm, doing work the junior solicitors don't have time for, and in Mr. Collins's case, isn't really very good at.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and Ourselves, by Arik Kershenbaum (author), Samuel West (narrator)

Penguin Audio, March 2021

Arik Kershenbaum is a zoologist, and College Lecturer at Girton College, Cambridge. In this book, he uses his deep knowledge of zoology on this planet to work out what alien life might be like, if and when we find it.

He starts from the assumption that both the same physical laws will apply everywhere, and that evolution is the only reasonable mechanism to govern the development of life. We can't say exactly what alien life forms will be like, but we can make reasonable projections of how life forms might move, communicate, and socialize in environments we can plausibly envision existing on other worlds.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Spell of Murder (Witch Cats of Cambridge #1), by Clea Simon (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, November 2019 (original publication December 2018)

Becca  Colwin wanted to pursue a library science degree, but circumstances intervened. She had a job using her research skills, and a boyfriend, Jeff Blakely. She also had three cats--three littermates she adopted from a local shelter, Harriet, Laurel, and Clara.

Then Jeff broke up with her, and entirely too soon after, she lost her job. This leaves Becca with two things to do--find a new job, and pursue her new interest of studying witchcraft. Discovering an ancestor was one of the executed Salem witches sparked her interest and moved her to join a coven; now she has lots of time for it.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Dog-Free Dinner (Auntie Clem’s Bakery, Christmas Short), by P.D. Workman

P.D. Workman, December 2020

In Bald Eagle Falls, Tennessee, baker Erin Price, and her friend and assistant Vic, or Vicky, are prepping Christmas dinner for their friends, police officer Terry Piper, and local handyman and jack of all trades Willie Anderson. Growing up in foster homes has left Erin with no love for Christmas, but for Vic, it's a favorite time of year. Erin wants to make sure it's special for her.

It becomes special in an unexpected way when the friends realize that Terry's police dog, put in the fenced back yard to enjoy his turkey giblets, has disappeared. The other three are at first very puzzled by Terry's reaction, discouraging an immediate, full-scale search. It turns out there's a pet-napping ring the police are trying to keep quiet so that the thieves don't realize the police are actively investigating. After Terry finally spills the beans, Erin and Vic organize a search anyway.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Love at First Bark (Love Unleashed #0.5), by Dana Mentink

Harvest House Publishers, April 2017

Marcy Deveraux, having frustrated her family by refusing to commit to a career cooking and managing their family restaurant, has found a success that impresses even her parents. She's written three bestselling romantic adventure novels about the adventures of Prince Rafe. But now Rafe's story is told, and if she wants to continue her success, she has to find her next story to write.

To do this, Marcy has rented a cabin in the mountains near a campground and ranch. She's barely settled in when her attempt at developing a work routine is disrupted by a lively little dog, a scruffy little terrier. Not far behind is the man who manages the stables and the horses for the ranch, Jackson Parker. Except for being drop-dead handsome, he's very different from a stereotypical romance novel hero--quiet, thoughtful, a reader, deeply involved in the ranch/campground's summer session for special needs kids.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Death at the Cafe (Reverend Annabelle Dixon #1), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, October 2015

This is a prequel, written after some of Reverend Annabelle Dixon's later adventures, but taking place at the start of her career, during her first assignment at a church in London. Annabelle is always likeable; so is her friend, Sister Mary. The stories are fun.

Nevertheless, I'm growing frustrated.

Annabelle is doing unexpectedly well in her first assignment, in a rather rough, inner city parish. Her friend, Catholic nun Sister Mary, is home briefly from her assignment in Africa--in London to raise money for the hospital she works at as a nurse. They arrange to meet at a café, but Annabelle arrives to find a commotion, and a young woman lying dead, practically at Sister Mary's feet. Mary had intended to meet with another woman, not this one, before meeting Annabelle. The police are called, Sister Mary gives them the limited information she has, and the friends leave.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

On Ordeal: Ronan Nolan Jnr. (Young Wizards #10.7), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, June 2017

Ronan Nolan is a thirteen-year-old boy living in a small city on the Irish Sea coast of Ireland. He's got a good family, though everyone is under some stress. He has no siblings, and that's one of the stresses. His parents, especially his father, had hoped for a large family. His elderly grandmother is one of the bedrooms planned for those other sibling, failing physically and now maybe mentally, too.

And Ronan has always felt like the odd man out, the kid who is simultaneously rarely noticed, and not fitting in. He's also, until recently, always been the smallest kid in class, a favorite target of the bullies. He's had a growth spurt, and the balance has somewhat changed--but self-defense can also get you in trouble at school. Even when you're doing the right thing, and defending someone else.