Monday, August 3, 2020

The Black Madonna of Derby, by Joanna Czechowska (author), Claire Nicholls (narrator)

Joanna Czechowska, April 2020

The Baran family of Derby, England, is caught between its Polish past and its English future.

Barbara and her daughter Helena both survived the war, but separately. On one awful day in Warsaw, Helena got caught in a retaliatory roundup that Barbara just escaped, and was taken to Germany. She became a slave laborer in a clothing factory that made German uniforms. Barbara, left behind, kept her head down and survived the war. After the war, Helena made her way to England, married a Polish man who also came to England after the war, and had three children, Wanda, Zosia, and Janek. Eventually, she found out her mother was alive, in Poland, and asked her to come to England.

We follow the lives of the family through the sixties and seventies.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Virtually Timeless (High-Tech Crime Solvers #5), by Casi McLean (author), Rich Miller (narrator)

Casi McLean Inc., June 2020

Doctor Noah Monaco, rare disease specialist, and his twin sister, Sydney, private detective, lost their parents years ago, but have recently inherited an estate in Connecticut, from an aunt they never knew existed. It's 800 miles from their Atlanta home, but Noah takes a few days to check the place out, including walking the perimeter of the property.

In the course of doing that, he finds a woman being attacked by a strange man. He manages to chase the man off, but while pursuing him, Noah stumbles and takes a bad fall.

When he doesn't check in as expected, Sydney turns current cases over to her assistant, and heads to Connecticut to find him.

When Noah regains consciousness, he recognizes that he has a concussion, and is relieved when the woman shows up. Help available! But the woman is very confused, has no memory of seeing him before, and it slowly becomes apparent she has no short-term memory at all. Even turning away for a few minutes wipes out her memory of what went before.

He gets some help from the woman, but soon loses her to her lack of short-term memory.

When Sydney shows up, tracking his cellphone to where he dropped it, and then following the scuffed trail, he discovers he was out longer than he though; it's the next day. The woman wanders back, and the twins manage, despite the woman's confusion, to coax her to help Sydney get Noah back to their aunt's house.

What they don't yet realize is that the spot where Sydney found Noah's phone, and an unusual amulet buried in the leaves, is the entrance to an underground chamber, and the site of a ten-year-old crime.

The confused woman has her own hidden history that she knows nothing about--not even her own name. Sydney and Noah manage to win her trust and get her to record reminders to substitute for real memory for the moment, but it soon seems that she has enemies who are pursuing her, not just a random attacker in the woods.

They need a crafty plan to get them all to Atlanta, and then Noah goes to work solving the mystery of the woman's condition, while Sydney goes to work solving the mystery of her background. It's fast-paced, exciting, and fun, even if the discussion of cutting-edge DNA testing and searching, to identify the woman, does get a little ridiculous. I seriously lost count of the number of times that what sounds like pretty normal use of DNA genealogy databases to identify relatives was described as "cutting edge." I mean, really, this is basically the business that Ancestry and 29andMe, and probably others I'm not aware of, are in. But except for that weakness, it's interesting and entertaining. I really liked Noah, Sydney, and their friends.

Recommended.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire

Tor.com, May 2019

Roger Middleton and Dodger Cheswich areey  two kids growing up on opposite sides of the country, Roger in Cambridge, MA, and Dodger in Palo Alto, California. They're both adopted, the same age, and perfectly ordinary kids.

Except they're not. 

Roger's parents and teachers are impressed by his quick grasp of and love for English, but frustrated by his struggles with math. Dodger's parents and teachers are equally impressed by how easily she masters math, and frustrated by her struggles in English class.

Eventually, they both seemingly start to master their weak subjects. What's really happening is that they have started communicating in their heads, not quite telepathically but close, and coaching each other.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Heavenly Temptation, by Becca Fisher (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Kevin MacGorman, January 2020

Allison Kaufman is the younger sister of Abigail, who not long ago left Lancaster and Amish country for Philadelphia, and marriage to a kind, loving, devout, upright--Englisher. Her father didn't handle it well, and still isn't. Abigail was his favorite, and was supposed to take over the family quilt shop.

Allison is still at home, and is still the second daughter, not the oldest and the favorite. After trying to control every decision Abigail made, Samuel barely has time to notice what his second daughter is doing.

Allison is also far more committed to the Amish way of life.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chocolate Pudding With a Side of Murder (Daley Buzz Cozy Mysteries #11), by Meredith Potts (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Meredith Potts, May 2019

When Sabrina Carlson learns, one fine Sunday morning, that she's pregnant, she and police detective husband David are downright euphoric.

That lasts until not much later, when a murder happens in town. Sabrina had talked to the victim not long before, and knew he was troubled, but murder? What happened?

Finding out is David's job, and this time, because of the baby on the way, Sabrina is going to forgo her usual participation in the investigation.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Berlin is Never Berlin, by Marko Kloos

Tor Books, May 2020

In this story set in the Wild Cards universe, Khan is a Joker-Ace, half human and half tiger--literally, straight down the middle, and he works as a very expensive bodyguard. His latest job is escorting Natalie Scuderi, a young woman who is a wealthy socialite and a pop media figure on a trip to Berlin, Germany. She's brought her small but annoyingly energetic entourage, and they head for a nightclub the day they arrive. As they're leaving the nightclub, they are targeted by an extremely well-planned ambush, which includes another Joker-Ace. He's built like a tree--fairly literally--and is even stronger than Khan.

Natalie is kidnapped.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Widower's Journey, by Abraham Troyer (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Abraham Troyer, October 2019

Isaac Hochstetler is a widower, still struggling with grief a year and a half after his wife of 31 years died. He's attending a grief support group, where he's made a friend, but not lessened the grip of his grief much. He has also started volunteering at an animal shelter--where walking the dogs really does help, and he adopts one dog, named Grace.

But he's still feeling lost an lonely, until one night a new woman shows up at the grief support group. She's just moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania, and has been a widow about two years. They talk, he likes her, and he goes home.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Knox, by K Arsenault Rivera (author), Brooke Bolander (author), Gabino Iglesias (author), Sunny Moraine (author), Pilar Uribe (narrator)

Serial Box, July 2020

Morgan Knox, an Afro-Latina detective in 1930s New York City, is called to look at a body--the body of a man whom she'd recently met with. The remains are bones and ashes, with a strange coating, and nothing else burned. Is this connected to the case he recently hired her for?

Quite possibly. Morgan was a field nurse during the Great War, and she came back from that experience seeing bizarre and horrifying supernatural phonomena. The more she pokes into this case, the more strange and confounding things appear. The dead man, Siverek, turns out not to be who he presented himself as. His true history is shocking. In his more recent life, he was a book collecter whose fellow collectors seem to be equally odd and suspect. The clues lead her to Craddock, a man from a previous case--who is dead.

Or is he?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The History of Bourbon (Great Courses), by Ken Albala

Audible Originals, December 2019

This is a lively and interesting history of bourbon, starting with human discovery of alcohol, and why it made nutrtional and economic sense to turn a good proportion of your grain into alcoholic beverages.

Eventually, we get to the invention of whiskey, its medicinal uses, and its evolution into a recreational drug. It was not to completely lose its medicinal uses, however, till the 20th century.

Finally, we get to the invention of bourbon in the late 1700s, by--someone. Someone in the new United States of America, probably in Kentucky. From there we get the sruggles over what is bourbon, should we have any pure food and drug laws (really; whiskey and bourbon were a significant factor in this), etc.

Friday, July 17, 2020

With This Click, I Thee Wed (ClickandWed.com #1), by Bonnie R. Paulson (author), Nicole Marie Blessing (narrator)

Captiva Publishing, April 2018

Rachel is living in the Ohio small town she grew up in, divorced from rising politician Derek, and living with her parents, who at best regard her as then unwanted, unexpected third child they never intended to have. Because Derek is making this a choice between him and her, for everyone, everyone is dropping her, including her hairdresser. 

But lonely and drinking on New Year's Eve, she sees an ad for a website, "ClickandWed.com," and decides to give it a try. The survey is easy and fun, and she is offered two possible matches, and chooses one... Before she realizes it, she's committed herself, clicked "I do," and spent a couple thousand dollars she doesn't really have. And the only way to get that money back is to head off to Idaho, stick it out six months, and complete the tasks assigned by the website.