Sunday, March 1, 2015

Death by Didgeridoo (Jamie Quinn Mystery #1), by Barbara Venkataraman (author), Carrie Lee Martz (narrator)

Audible Audio, November 2013

Jamie Quinn, reluctant lawyer, is mourning the death of her mother. Because her mother planned ahead and didn't overlook details, she is able, for a few months, to do very little else, though eventually she will have to work again. She's not quite ready for that when her Aunt Peg calls her in a panic. Jamie's cousin Adam has been arrested for the murder of his music teacher.

The teacher, Spike, has a lot of enemies, and Adam may be one of the few who knows him and doesn't have a motive to kill him. Sadly, Adam was found standing over Spike's dead body, the murder weapon is Adam's own didgeridoo (an Australian Aborigine musical instrument), and he has Asperger's Syndrome and didn't communicate very well with the police when they arrived. Superficially, he looks guilty, and the politically ambitious prosecutor is inclined to go for the easy answer in this high-profile killing.

Jamie's a lawyer, but she practices family law. She knows nothing about criminal law except that Adam needs a good criminal lawyer.

Jamie starts calling on old friends and former clients to muster the skills and resources Adam needs. This includes deploying her own not inconsiderable research skills, as well as an attention to detail and clear thinking her late mother likely would have been proud of. And somewhere along the line, Jamie realizes that except for her  worry over her cousin, for the first time in years, she's having fun.

This is an entertaining novella, well worth a couple of hours of your time. Recommended.

I received this book as a gift.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I Dare (Liaden #13) (Agent of Change #4), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Andy Caploe (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication 2002)

The crisis that's been building in secret for decades for Clan Korval and for Liaden as a whole foods s come ng to a head. The Department of the Interior is ready to come out into the open and act directly. Agents of Change have been dispatched to Lytaxin to capture or kill Val Con. Ne'er-do-well cousin Pat Rin yos'Phelium, gambler and sharpshooter, has been approached by another Agent with a most interesting offer aimed directly at his ambition and presumed resentment. And a truly evil trap has been devised for Anthora yos'Galan, the only remaining representative of Clan Korval on Liad.

Unexpected allies appear, also, both long-lost friends and agents of the Juntavas.

This is a fast-paced book with a lot going on. We follow Pat Rin, Val Con, Miri, Anthora, and others as the various subplots against the Clan set them all plotting and fighting back, each in keeping with their own personalities and gifts. I found Pat Rin's adventures and growth the most engaging, but it's all fun.

Recommended.

I bought this book.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park, by Matthew Gilbert

Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN 9781250014214, August 2014

Matthew Gilbert had a lifelong fear of dogs, and then he married a dog lover.

It takes a while, but in time they get a yellow Lab puppy from a good breeder, and Matthew is embarked on a new adventure. The sheer animal exuberance of their new puppy, Toby, is a challenge for him at first. He falls in love with Toby, but much of giving him a full and rewarding life seems more like a new, disruptive set of chores. This includes taking Toby to the Amory dog park in their home of Brookline, MA.

Taking Toby for his social outings to the park is Matthew's chore; husband Tom prefers taking him on long, solo walks. But going to Amory during the off leash dog hours means Matthew has to be social, too, and for a shy, generally asocial, somewhat depressed man, that's a challenge in itself.

Over the next year, Matthew and Toby both learn the rules of the dog park and of social interaction with their respective species. This comes much easier for the happy-go-lucky Toby than for Matthew. The human half of this pair at first sees everything that's weird, odd, or just unfamiliar about his fellow dog owners--a collection of people who, after all, are brought together by nothing except ownership of dogs needing exercise and socialization. Gradually, though, he discovers and becomes a part of the fellowship of dog owners. He learns the good and the bad of his accidental friends, and discovers the willingness of this group to pull together to protect the digs, but also to respond to purely human needs and tragedies.

It's a human education as well as a canine one, and one that makes some important changes in his life.

Recommended.

I bought this book.


M

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Stolen Dog, by Tricia O'Malley

Park & Stowell Publishing, ISBN 9780989435116, May 2013

Tricia and Josh O'Malley are a loving couple and the loving owners of a Boston terrier named Briggs. Then one fine, sunny day, Briggs is stolen from their deck while Josh is momentarily distracted. Thus begins the most stress-filled weeks of their lives.

This is Tricia's story of their search for their stolen dog, and what she learned about marketing, social media, friendship, and both the kindness and the meanness of strangers. She has to go well outside her comfort zone, talking to people she would never ordinarily meet, go into your unfamiliar and sometimes unwelcoming neighborhoods all over Milwaukee to put up posters, develop a Facebook page for her stolen dog, put her cell phone number out there for everyone to call. There are prank calls, unhelpful calls, vicious calls.

But there are also calls that may be real leads.

Through the entire emotional rollercoaster, Tricia is going to work every day and trying to keep up the essentials of daily life. She's surprised to learn which of her friends think of Briggs as "just a dog" and offer no support at all. She's also surprised by the strangers and relative strangers who come out of the woodwork to provide real assistance in the form of putting up posters, providing backup when she or Josh are going into dicey neighborhoods, and making connections in the media and in different communities.

It's human connections that make the difference in their story.

This is a solid story, well-told, about finding a stolen dog. It's warm, human, and a very good read.

Recommended.

Cover reveal: Maybe in Another Life, by Taylor Jenkins

Monday, February 23, 2015

Judas the Apostle, by Van R. Mayhall

iUniverse, ISBN 9781475931556, August 2012

Dr. Clotile Lejeune, scholar of ancient languages, and her son J.E., return from Seattle to her hometown of Madisonville, Louisiana, after the murder of her estranged father. Thib's death appears to be the the result of a break-in, and he managed to shoot the intruder when the intruder shot him. But the police can't identify the dead intruder, and it's not immediately obvious what he was after.

Things get stranger when Clotile, J.E., and Thib's parish priest, Father Aloysius, attend the reading of Thib's will. The house has been left to the parish, to support charitable work, except that Clotile is to take any items she wants from the house first. The one specific bequest to Clotile is an ancient oil jar, that Thib found in a cave in Tunisia during World War II. He's left a letter telling her the story of the jar--and it quickly becomes clear that the jar is what the intruder was after. He didn't find it and clear out before Thib awoke and they had their fatal encounter, because Thib had become alarmed by an attempt to buy the jar from it and moved it to the church for safekeeping.

And he wanted Clotile, whose career he had followed, to find out the secrets of this jar bearing the name of Judas Iscariot, in Greek.

Of course Clotile accepts the challenge. And of course, despite the murder of her father, she has only the dimmest idea of just how dangerous this will become.

This is a very solid thriller built around an intellectual puzzle, some speculative history, and smart, strong, complex characters, including a nicely challenging and evil villain.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Elephant Whisperer, by Lawrence Anthony (author), Graham Spence (author) Simon Vance (narrator)

Tantor Audio, December 2012 (original publication January 2009)

Lawrence Anthony (1950-2012) was a South African conservationist and the long-time head of the Thula Thula game preserve. Dedicated to the preservation of all African wildlife, his rescue of a "troublesome" elephant herd that was about to be shot lead to a particularly close connection to elephants.

This book covers the time from that first phone call asking him if he wanted a herd of elephants  who kept breaking out of their current home and making trouble. Common sense said he should refuse, but saying no would mean the deaths of all nine elephants. He said yes.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Other Shakespeare, by Lea Rachel

The Other Shakespeare
Writer's Design Press, ISBN 9780990861607, January 2015

Judith Shakespeare is the older sister of William, and she loves leading her siblings in plays and pageants that she writes herself. As long as it's just a diversion during their free hours, no one minds. But Judith is growing up, and things start to get more complicated.

When she's sent off to London for an apprenticeship in the Mountjoy household, she expects to miss her siblings and their plays, but instead finds that she loves the liveliness and variety of London. And she discovers the wealth of professional theater available, befriending the players of the Leicester's Men theater troupe.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Mister Darcy's Dogs: A Pride & Prejudice Contemporary Novella (Mister. Darcy #1), by Barbara Silkstone

Audible Audio, December 2014

This novella drops Lizzie and Jane Bennett, Mr. Darcy and Charles Bingley, Caroline Bingley, and George Wickham in 21st century London. Lizzie is buidling her practice as a dog psychologist, and Jane is organizing a dog show at a posh location that has never hosted such an event before. Caroline Bingley is a society reporter for the BBC, and Mr. Darcy...

What, exactly, Mr. Darcy is doing is a little less clear. But he and Caroline are apparently involved, at least in Caroline's mind, and the fact tact that Mr. Darcy's 18-month-old bassets, Squire and Derby, really dislike her is a problem. He wants them trained to accept her, and also to hunt fox in two days' time. Though he does want them to stay back, with him.

Seeker (Seeker #1), by Arwen Elys Dayton

Random House Children's, ISBN 9780385744072, February 2015

This is a fantasy adventure set in a near-future world with some impressive advanced technology. It's also clearly the first of a series, and though the immediate storyline is resolved, there's a greater storyline for which there is simply a huge cliffhanger.

Quin Kincaid is fifteen, and has grown up on a Scottish estate being trained in the use of ancient, modern, and futuristic weapon. She's been taught that the purpose of this is to become a Seeker, a noble fighter for truth and justice, who brings down tyrants and protects the innocent. On the night that she has completed her training and is taken on her first assignment, after which she must take her oath, she discovers the awful truth. Under the leadership of her father, Briac, the Seekers have become hired assassins, with precious little concern about who they kill as long as they get paid. She hates it, but she sees no way out. Her father seems impossible to evade, and he's already made it clear he's willing to kill even her.