Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik

Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062802385, February 2019

It's the far future, and the Royal Consortium rules the universe. Okay, that's a bit over the top even for space opera, but bear with me. The three High Councilors, the heads of the Houses of von Hasenberg, Rockhurst, and Yamado are the ultimate powers. Ada von Hasenberg, as the fifth of six children of High Councilor Albrecht von Hasenberg, has no authority, and no real value except to be married for the advantage of her house.

Unfortunately for Albrecht, he raised his children to be smart, tough, resourceful, and strong, Ada has refused to marry Richard Rockhurst, and made careful, effective plans before leaving before Richard even officially proposed, and has been on the run under a variety of false names for two years.

When she finally gets captured by a mercenary determined to collect the bounty on her, she doesn't stop plotting. And when the mercs stash her in their only cell, along with their other high-bounty prize, Marcus Loch--well, it takes a while for them to get to not-quite-trusting each other enough to at least escape. We quickly learn that they are both genuinely smart, tough people with their own high standards of behavior that don't necessarily align with the standards they were taught.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Will Travel for Trouble Boxed Set #1 (Books 1-3), by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, February 2019 (original publication February 2015)

This is a three-book boxed set of the trouble Minnie Crockwell gets into as she travels the US in her RV. A former federal employee, exact role, or even department, not revealed to the reader yet, she has through careful saving and having started young, been able to retire early. She's in her forties. She's also divorced from John, whom she is still friendly with, and truth be told in love with. He's now the chief of police in a town in Colorado.

Oh, and she also has a rather unusual traveling companion--the ghost of an officer in the Corps of Discovery, a.k.a. the Lewis and Clark expedition, who died of a fever on the westernmost point of their exploration. The ghost, Ben, thinks she would be well advised to stop stumbling over dead bodies, and failing that, to just leave the investigation to the police, but he can't help helping her when she ignores his advice.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone (author), Cassandra Campbell (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780062675583, June 2017

Elizebeth Smith, a Shakespeare scholar, went to work for eccentric tycoon George Fabian, at his estate outside Chicago, in 1916. Her assignment was to assist another Shakespeare scholar, an older woman, in her project to prove that Shakespeare's plays were really written by Francis Bacon, and that Bacon had hidden secret messages in the plays.

At first Elizebeth assumed that these older, more experienced people must know what they were doing, and her failure to find the messages were hers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Connections in Death (In Death #48), by J. D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2019

As winter is starting to fade into spring, Dallas and Roarke attend a party celebrating Nadine Furst's winning an Oscar for The Icove Agenda. There they meet Rochelle Pickering, a child psychologist Roarke is hoping to hire for his new school and therapy facility for at-risk kids. Unexpectedly, she's there with Crack, the dive owner Dallas has become friendly with over the years and many past cases. Rochelle's family past--both father and a brother into drugs and gang activity--sets off her protective instincts for both Crack and the new school. Crack of course needs no one's protection, and Roarke has already screened her thoroughly, but Dallas, still fairly new at this "having friends" thing, can't help herself. Yet, with the father dead and the brother clean, out of the gang, and building a new life as a future chef, she has little to gripe about.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Rebel at Pennington's (Pennington's #2), by Rachel Brimble

Aria Fiction, February 2019

Esther Stanbury is Elizabeth Pennington's friend, and the head window dresser at Bath's premier retail store, Pennington's, founded by Elizabeth's now-retired father. Elizabeth and her husband, Joseph Carter, have revived the store's image and future, and Esther's skills have been important to that.

Her other passion, though, is the suffragist movement. Raised as a suffragist by her mother, despite the objections of her father, the movement has split her from her father after her mother's death and her father's remarriage. She invests much of her off-work time and talents to promoting the cause, and, growing a little discouraged, is watching the growth of a more violent movement with concern.

At this point, she meets Lawrence Culford, standing outside Pennington's with his daughter, Rose, and his son, Nathaniel. Rose wants a cricket set; Lawrence is suggesting a doll. Esther plunges into the discussion.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Shot in the Bark (Extended Edition) (Dog Park Mystery #1), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

C.A. Newsome, January 2019

In 2011, I found this mystery by a first-time author, set in a dog park--specifically, Mount Airy Dog Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I picked it up out of curiosity. It was a first-time effort, but basically solid. It featured interesting, likable characters, real dogs written by someone who knows dogs, and a pretty decent mystery that went some interesting places.

When I found Drool Baby, second in the series, a few years later, Newsome had grown and learned as a writer. Fewer rough spots. Greater depth. Still great dogs and a good mystery. And yes, the dogs survive. There are now six books in the series, and Newsome looked back at the first book, and decided it needed a revamp. It's well worth it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari (author), Derek Perkins (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2015 (original publication 2011)

This is a history of humankind, or, as Harari makes clear, of Sapiens, because the other species of genus homo were humans, too. It's a fairly in-depth look at our cultural development from the first cognitively modern home sapiens about 70,000 years ago to our essentially complete dominance of the planet. He looks at our possible interactions with other human species, including the interbreeding revealed by DNA analysis, as well as the fact that, clearly, we're the only survivors, and what that might mean. The lives of hunter-gatherers, the agricultural evolution and whether or not that was a net benefit, and the major cultural and technological changes down to the present day get intelligent and opinionated analysis.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Murder in Hyde Park (DCI Isaac Cook #10), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, January 2019

An early morning jogger is killed in Hyde Park, in the center of London, and because of the hour, there are no witnesses. He's carrying no ID--not unusual for a jogger--and his phone, soaked in the Serpentine, takes a while to coax information from.

When they find a name, they gradually start to build a picture of a man with two identities, a male escort, a man called beautiful by everyone who knew him. His beauty attracted both men and women. His beauty plus his occupation and his distance sometimes caused conflicts.

And some of his customers were highly motivated to keep their involvement with him secret.

Was his killer a spurned lover? A jealous spouse? Someone who feared being outed?

DCI Isaac Cook and his team have very little to go on, and finding clues in this case is like pulling teeth.

Monday, January 28, 2019

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4), by Seanan McGuire (author), Cynthia Hopkins (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2019

One of the students at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children in Every Heart a Doorway is Lundy. She's unusual even by the standards of the school, in that she is aging in reverse, growing younger, at least in body, rather than older.

This is Lundy's story. Her world, the world she stumbles into through a doorway that shouldn't be there, is the Goblin Market.

It's a strange and magical world, and everything rests on a system of barter and the principle of Fair Value. The Goblin Market also allows people to go back and forth between their world of origin and the Goblin Market freely until the age of eighteen.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe (author), Wil Wheaton (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, September 2014

Randall Munroe is perhaps best known as the creator of the XKCD webcomic, and there's a good reason for that. With simple stick figures he gives us smart, funny, informative, perspective-altering, and did I mention funny?, explanation and commentary on science, math, life, romance, sarcasm, and language. But at that website he gets lots of questions, and What If? grew out of those questions.