Saturday, August 13, 2022

Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution, by Elsa Panciroli (author), Ruth Urquhart (narrator)

Tantor Media Inc., ISBN 9781666142747, September 2021

For a long time, most of us have had the impression mammals first emerged in the late Cretaceous, not long before the asteroid that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, 66 million years ago. In reality, as Elsa Panciroli explains here, the line that became mammals, the Synapsida, began their split from reptiles in the late Carboniferous, over 300 million years ago.

Panciroli doesn't just tell us about the mammals, but about women as well as men who did important work in uncovering the fascinating, and longer than we often assume, history of mammals. She also talks about some of the less attractive history of paleontological research, the degree to which racism produced not just imperialistic dismissal of local knowledge and observations, but real crimes. This isn't, however, a politicized history; it's just reporting facts about the history of paleontology that are often ignored.

Friday, August 12, 2022

What to Say Next: Successful Communication in Work, Life, and Love—with Autism Spectrum Disorder, by Sarah Nannery (author), Larry Nannery (author), Kelsey Navarro (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781797116150, March 2021

Sarah Nannery, as a young professional with autism spectrum disorder, got her first job at a small non-profit, sure she knew what she needed to do to move ahead. Instead, she found she was missing messages and hidden meanings in her coworkers texts, emails, conversations, and actions.

After a particularly confusing and frustrating experience, she started consulting her neurotypical husband Larry. This became a series of consultations mostly via text. Sarah learns more about how neurotypicals think, and how to communicate. Along the way, Larry and Sarah learn more about communicating with each other, and raising, managing, and communicating with their autistic son.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

We Could Be Heroes, by Mike Chen

MIRA, January 2021

Jamie Sorensen woke up, two years ago, in a small, barren apartment, with a pile of paperwork saying the lease was being paid by a company called 2D, suggesting his name might be Jamie Sorensen, and telling him he could read people's memories. He quickly acquired a needy little cat he named Normal, and took up a career robbing banks, and becomes known as the Mind Robber. His long-term career goal is to save up enough money to move himself and Normal to a Caribbean island, where he can spend most of every day reading memoirs.

Zoe Wong also woke up in small, barren apartment, with a similar pile of paperwork. Hers includes a cheap, stick-on name tag that says "Zoe Wong." A note tells her, "you're stronger than you think you are." She doesn't acquire any pets, and she takes up the perfectly legal activity of putting her newly discovered strength, speed, and ability to hover in the air to work in fast food delivery. When convenient, she beats up bad guys, and accidentally becomes known as the Throwing Star. She wants to figure out who she really is, and her hobby is watching horror movies on a free movie app.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Big Data: How the Information Revolution is Transforming our Lives, by Brian Clegg (author), Alex Moorcock (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, ISBN 9781666532036, August 2021

We live in a world of big data, with government, corporations, social media, and all kinds of organizations in possession of vast amounts of quite personal data about us--most of which we've handed over ourselves.

That's just one piece big data, though. The accumulation of enormous amounts of data, and the use of modern, advanced computers to process it, has affected every area of our lives and our world. Not much over two centuries ago, medicine was still largely a matter of trial and error, and medical theories we know to be completely wrong.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Grief of Stones (The Cemeteries of Amalo #2), by Katherine Addison (author), Liam Gerrard (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250856616, June 2022

This is the direct sequel to Witness for the Dead, picking up Thara Celehar's life immediately after those events. Thara spends mornings in his office, waiting for petitioners for his services as a Witness for the dead, and has a steady enough traffic to make it not pointless. He responds to calls from the Vigilant Brotherhood, or other authorities as necessary. He has cats who aren't his (he's very firm about that), but whom he feeds regularly, and a few friends.

But though he's settling in, he's also extremely depressed. This isn't new, but it's not getting better. He's caught in a conflict with a local religious authority, Dach'othalar Vernezar, who is angered by the fact that Thara is the only cleric in Amalo who isn't under his authority. Thara's presence in the city was request by Prince Orchenis, and he was appointed directly by the Archprelate. It's an uncomfortable position to be in, and it gives him powerful enemies.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Tales from the Ant World, by Edward O. Wilson (author), Jonathan Hogan (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781980091714, August 2020

Edward O. Wilson was a highly respected and accomplished myrmecologist, i.e., an expert on ants.

You may not think ants are fascinating, but in this book, narrated by Jonathan Hogan, Wilson geeks out about them with joy. In this short book, he gives us overviews of twenty-five different species of ants. Fire ants and leafcutter ants, the fastest-moving ants and the slowest-moving ants, ants who conduct slave raids to steal juveniles who will emerge into adulthood in the raiders' colony and grow up as part of that colony. Ants who farm and ants who keep "cattle." 

Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest (Newford #18), by Charles de Lint (author), Charles Vess (illustrator)

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 2013

Lillian Kindred is an orphan girl living with her Aunt on a farm in the hills, surrounded by a very tangled forest. When she is not doing chores, she wanders the forest, looking for fairies and spirits and spirits and magical things. Aunt warns her spirits don't necessarily want rambunctious little red-haired girls bothering them, Lillian says she's not bothering anyone. She just wants to say, "Hello hello."

One day, Lillian is out wandering, and lays down under a tree to rest. She falls asleep, and is awakened by a snake biting her. It's poisonous, very poisonous, and Lillian realizes she is dying. 

Many of the local cats gather around her, though, and realize that they can't save the little girl's life, but they can use cat magic to change her into something that isn't dying--a kitten. Lillian agrees, and when she wakes again, she's a kitten, and very healthy. This is when Lillian starts to get her first tough lesson in not thinking things through. She heads off for home, knowing Aunt will be worried about her.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Memories and Murder (A Tourist Trap Mystery #10), by Lynn Cahoon (author), Susan Boyce (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781977333155, November 2019

Jill Gardner hosts a talk on elder abuse at her Coffee, Books, & More shop, but doesn't think it has any personal bearing until she learns her aging Aunt Jackie has been getting some very strange calls. They're from a man claiming to be her deceased husband, Ted. This is very concerning, and Jill asks her boyfriend, local Police Chief Greg King, for help tracking down the predator.

Unfortunately, a more urgent crime takes his attention. A man has been murdered. He's a volunteer at The Senior Project, and boyfriend of the elder counselor, Paula, who gave the elder abuse talk at Jill's shop.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1), by Xiran Jay Zhao

Penguin Teen, ISBN 9780735269934, September 2021

Huaxia is trapped in a brutal war against the invading Hundun' They fight the Hunduns' powerful machines, called husks, with Huaxia's own Chrysalises, which are more powerful and more flexible--but which can be made only from captured Hundun husks.

The Chrysalises are piloted by two-person teams, a boy and a girl, using their spirit force. It takes two, but the girls rarely survive a battle, and it's the boys who become celebrated war heroes. The boys are pilots; the girls are concubine-pilots, mostly anonymous. They're genuinely young, in their teens and early twenties, with even the most successful pilots not lasting past 25.

Zetian, 18 years old, a frontier village girl, is finally ready to stop fighting her family, and enlist to become a concubine-pilot. Her motive isn't patriotism or glory, though. Her older sister enlisted before her--and was murdered by her pilot, Yang Guang. Her goal is to avenge her sister's death, and kill Yang Guang.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Mystery on Hidden Lane (Eve Mallow Mystery #1), by Clare Chase (author), Eilidh Beaton (narrator)

Audible Audio, January 2020

Eve Mallow is in the little village of Saxton St. Peter, on her latest assignment, to write a feature obituary of the famed cellist, Bernard Fitzpatrick. Her wirehaired dachshund, Gus, is with her, and she has rented a picturesque cottage with a picturesque history for her stay. The villagers are friendly, and the subject is interesting.

The subject gets more interesting when it's revealed that Bernard Ftizpatrick didn't die due to a fall. He was killed with a blow to the back of his head with a blunt instrument.

Eve isn't willing to leave the investigation to the police, especially after meeting the detective in charge. She also quickly realizes that Fitzpatrick's genial reputation isn't supported by the people who actually knew him well.