Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson (author), Alison Larkin (narrator)

Tantor Audio, October 2012

This is a fascinating look at the history, not of foods or of cooking, but of the technology of cooking.

What we eat and how we cook is determined not just by what raw food materials are available, but also by the available tools. Mastering fire was the first step toward eating food that isn't raw, and therefore things that simply aren't edible unless they are cooked. The next step were cooking vessels--we have pottery shards to help us trace the invention and development of clay pots, but we probably used hollowed-out gourds first.

Knives predated that, but spoons followed. Spoons are used in every culture; they're essential to any cooking more complicated than roasting a carcass over an open fire.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On Power, by Robert A. Caro (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2017

Robert Caro, author of groundbreaking, monumental biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, talks about the origins, creation, and use of political power. It's short (under two hours), insightful, funny, and enlightening. Caro talks about his own development as a reporter, researcher, and writer, including the experience of an early, temporary job as a speechwriter of an unnamed local political boss, which changed the direction of his career early on.

His views continued to grow and change as he researched his biography of Robert Moses, and as he later researched his biography of Lyndon Johnson. It's worth noting that the Johnson biography is currently four volumes, and he notes in this audiobook that he's now working on the fifth volume of this projected three-volume biography. The more he researches, the more he learns, and the more he has to say about political power, how it grows, how it is used, and how it affects every aspect of people's lives.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 11, 2017

You, Me, and Us, by Liam Hurley

L. Hurley, December 2017

Jimmy Rowland doesn't have a perfect life, but he does have a decent one. He's singing with a band and they're starting to get some breaks. He's got a steady job working in a bar he likes. His two best friends are his bandmates, Tom and Ryan, and they happily share a flat in Manchester--the best city in the world, in Jimmy's opinion--which is quite inexpensive when split three ways.

Then he meets Erin Poppet, and his life blows up. She's beautiful, exciting, and, inexplicably to him, attracted to him.

The construction of the story is interesting. At first we don't know who is narrating the story, not their name, not their gender, not their orientation. We just know that this person is going to meet another person in a coffee shop, a person they were involved with, split up with, and are going to see for the first time in months. It's the feelings and experiences that matter here, not the mundane personal details. It's very well done, and I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing in even mentioning names. Yet the cover matter does, and perhaps I'm alone in thinking that ignoring this information is a better way to experience the book.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Mysterious Mr. Whistler (The Ragamuffin Sisters), by Hillary McMullen (author), Anita Higman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Armonia Publishing, November 2017

Jane, Dakota, Sketti, and Elle are the Ragamuffin Sisters, a group of four misfit girls each with their own kinds of creative genius. They're engaged in an ongoing war with the four boys they call the Thickheads. Things keep ramping up, from pranks on each other to attacks on each other's clubhouses, until one night the girls paint the boys' treehouse pink, hear strange noises in the ravine--and the next day, a dead body is found.

It's Mr. Whistler, a bookstore owner who has shared books with Elle, but who is otherwise a bit of a mystery to the girls. There's also a remarkably stinky, sticky substance in the ravine, along with a surprising number of dead animals.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Lighthouse Keeper, by Cynthia Ellingsen (author), Kate Rudd (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, April 2017

Dawn Connors is the daughter of treasure hunters, and didn't find growing up on ships in, from a child's perspective, random places all over the world, fun or happy or secure. Now as an adult, she's living in Boston, working in the financial industry, and in a relationship she hopes will lead to marriage. It's secure, and stable, and she's determined to hold on to this.

Then what's expected to be a light, entertaining show about the history of Starlight Cove, Michigan, where her parents now live, turns out to be a vicious exposé on a famous shipwreck that Dawn's great-grandfather, Captain Fitzy Connors, commanded.  There have long been stories that he survived the wreck and stole the silver coins being transported. The tv show pushed the idea that the current Connors wealth comes not from a wreck her father found, but from the vanished silver coins. In short order, she's lost her job and her boyfriend, and heads home with a plan of investigating the Wanderer wreck and proving Captain Fitzy's, and her father's, innocence.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hyddwen (A Short Story of the Merchinogi #2), by Heather Rose Jones (author), Pip Hoskins (narrator)

Podcastle.org, September 2017

Morvyth takes her lover Elin, Lady of Madrunion's place when Hyddwen, a Lady of the otherworld, comes visiting to lure a champion to defend her land and people.

But Morvyth is not a warrior, and only a mortal woman, and surely has little chance of surviving three days of conflict with an Otherworldly lord. Yet in addition to being willing to give her life to keep Elin safe, she's smart, observant, and patient.

This is a tale based in Welsh mythology, the stories of women in the same lands and time as the Maginogi, which tells the stories of men. It's an original and gripping tale that captures the Mabinogi style.

Recommended.

This story was available at no charge when I listened to it on the Podcastle.org site.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Everest, by S.L. Scott

S.L. Scott, ISBN 9781940071589, December 2017

Singer Davis and her friend Melanie Lazarus have moved from Boulder, Colorado to New York City to make their careers. Instead, they're working in jobs they hate, and still barely able to pay for a decent apartment in a less than ideal neighborhood. And since Singer's goal is a career in publishing, she knows she wouldn't be able to afford even this if she succeeds in getting an entry level job at a publisher.

Despite this, they are enjoying their lives, and Singer's life starts to be enlivened by periodic sightings of a stunningly handsome man who seems to be looking at her with interest, too.

Months pass before they really meet, but when they do, he's as charming, and interesting, as his looks.

But he's very clear that while he wants to spend time with her, he doesn't want to date, and at first it's not at all clear why.

Monday, December 4, 2017

No Place Like You (Cloud Bay #3), by Emma Douglas

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250111029, December 2017

Zach Harper and his sisters are the children of Grey Harper, late leader of the band Blacklight. Since Grey's death, his former bandmates and his three grown children have all, in various ways, been struggling. Zach has spent the last year playing for a new band. The youngest sibling, Mina, has gotten married after some hardships of her own, and middle sibling Faith is planning her own wedding.

A friend of the siblings, Leah Santelli, is sound engineer at Harper Studios on Lansing Island, but has ambitions to be a producer. She needs a break, a way in to the ranks of producers. When Zach comes back to Lansing to make a solo album, she hopes Zach's album can be that break.

The problem is that she and Zach have a romantic history. She doesn't want to rekindle that history, not because she's over him, but because she isn't. The "don't rekindle romance" goal is of course doomed from the beginning, but that's just a piece of the problems and challenges they face. The Harpers, Grey's former Blacklight bandmates, and their friends on Lansing Island make a large, complicated, and often disfunctional family.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Empress of Mars (The Company #8.5), by Kage Baker (author), Nicola Barber (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, August 2011 (original publication 2009)

Mary Griffith went to Mars as a biologist for the British Aerean Company, but when BAC pulled back from a full on push to terraform and colonize, she found herself out of work. Unfortunately, her severance package was only about half what she needed to cover a trip back to Earth.

So she opened a bar, The Empress of Mars.

The beer isn't great, but it's not just the best beer on Mars, but the only beer on Mars. She and her three daughters, along with a collection of similarly displaced people, earn a decent living running the bar--despite repeated challenges and efforts to shut them down for selling a "controlled substance," i.e., the beer.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Scone to Die For (Oxford Tea Room Mysteries #1), by H.Y. Hanna

Audible Audio, September 2016

Gemma Rose is home in Oxford after eight years in Australia, working her way up the corporate ladder. She finally decided the corporate ladder wasn't for her, sold her flat, quit her job, and went home to Oxford to buy a tea room. She's hired her best friend, as well as a local handyman who, it turns out, is also a fantastic baker. Things are starting to go really well, even with the hassles that go with being in food service and hospitality.

Such as the really arrogant, hostile American tourist, who seems to be with the otherwise pleasant American tour group.