Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (author), Lisa Flanagan (narrator)

Random House Audio, July 2018

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. Wanda is the daughter of a local farmer, drunken and abusive, who borrowed six kopeks from Miryem's father, without any real intention to pay it back.

Because Miryem's father isn't a very good moneylender. He's far too soft-hearted to collect what he's owed when presented with a hard luck story. Miryem manages to take over the business, enforcing fair repayment plans on their unfriendly neighbors. With Wanda's father, this is Wanda's labor assisting first her mother in the house, and later in the collection of debts owed.

Irina is the daughter of the duke in the city where Miryem's grandfather lives, a wealthy man because he's a much better moneylender. She's the daughter of his first wife, descended from the Staryk, the fae-like creatures living in a kingdom of ice just out of phase with the kingdom of Lithvas. Irina pleasant-looking but not beautiful, and her stepmother has done the essential task of producing sons. We don't meet her until later.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Second Chances, by Scott Craig (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Scott Craig, April 2019

I have some mixed feelings about this book. It's historical fiction. It's suspense fiction.

It's a romance novel set, partly, in a concentration camp in the Second World War.

Inge Klein and Fritz Wagner are childhood friends, but she's Jewish. Fritz not only isn't Jewish; his dead father's cousin is ReichsfΓΌhrer Heinrich Himmler. And Himmler is very interested in Fritz's mother.

The story starts on Kristallncht, the November 1938 destruction of Jewish businesses and assaults on any Jews found out and about, in Germany and German-annexed territory. Fritz and Inge are fourteen. Inge's father Jacob Klein is a lawyer, and while his ability to practice had already been restricted, he's still out at his office when the violence starts on the evening of November 8. Fritz takes the risk of finding and bringing him back when he's late. Fritz finds Jacob, but he has already been badly beaten, and though they do get home that night, Jacob dies of his injuries the next day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fortune's Favors (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #28), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, April 2019

Mar Tyn eys'Ornstahl is a Luck, which isn't always a good thing, especially on Solcintra, where people know what it means. Things happens around Lucks; they're not always good things. Mar Tyn, for instance, has recently lost his home and his savings, suffered some serious injury, and brought harm on people he might previously have considered friends, and wound up in the bakery, school, and stronghold that is the home of Don Eyr and Serana fer'Gasta.

He's going to draw trouble on these kind people who have rescued him and treated his injuries, unless he gets away from them, and yet his Luck keeps drawing him back to them. Life in the Liaden universe is never easy, but it's also never dull. This is a great story that I enjoyed very much.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Murder by the Spoonful (Antique Hunters Mystery #1)

Vicki Vass, February 2016

Anne Hillstrom and her friend CC Muller are antique hunters, and CC writes a blog about their adventures at estate sales and other fun sources of antiques. Anne's Great-Aunt Sybil, collector of Viking swords and jewelry, has just died, and to the great frustration of much of the family, has left everything to a museum and named Anne as her executor.

Anne and CC attend estate sales and head off to flea markets on their weekends, while Anne is also busy being shocked that the greedier  members of her extended family want to challenge Sybil's will on the grounds that she was obviously suffering from dementia, or she wouldn't have left all her valuable, museum-worthy collection to a museum. She's also finding that her cousin Suzanne is being abused by her husband. In their flea market adventures, she also finds a ring that looks like it could have, and likely did, come out of her aunt's collection.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Emergency Case, by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard Mabry, March 2019

Dr. Kelly Irving worries that she and her husband, attorney Jack Harbrough, have hit a rough patch in their marriage, because he seems to be acting strangely. Then one snowy morning in Houston, she backs out of their garage to leave for work, and her car is stopped by a dead body.

Not Jack. A recent client of his. And the man has been shot with Jack's gun.

Jack had taken him on reluctantly, to defend him in a minor drug possession case, the result of a clearly illegal search during a traffic stop. Unfortunately, the man had also blabbed about a big gun running deal he was involved in. Jack should have reported it to the police then--a clearly stated intention to commit a crime isn't protected by attorney-client privilege. He didn't, for fear of retaliation. Now, he has no choice.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), by Mary Robinette Kowal (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2018

Elma York was a WASP pilot during the Second World War, ferrying planes of all sorts to where the US military needed them to be. When in 1952 a meteorite hits off the east coast of North America, wiping out Washington DC and other major cities, she and her husband Nicholas are on vacation in the Poconos, far enough north and inland that they escape the worst effects.

Nicholas is recruited as an engineer in the project to respond to the disaster. It takes longer for Elma, because it's the 1950s, but her PhDs in physics and mathematics land her a job in the project, too, as a computer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee

Dey Street Books, October 2018

Astounding was a vital part of science fiction's Golden Age, and its editor, John W. Campbell, a major, or perhaps rather, the major, driving force. He developed many new, young writers who became part of that Golden Age, but most notably three creative, often eccentric, often difficult men with whom he was both in partnership and in conflict.

This book is a serious look at their lives, their partnership, and their conflicts. Based on letters, memoirs, interviews, we learn a great deal about Campbell's formative years, as well as the other men's, and their interactions. None of them saw themselves only or even primarily as writers. Campbell's ambitions included being a great scientist, a great inventor, a leader on the path of world peace. What he became was one of the most important editors of  science fiction, as well as a major part of the founding of dianetics, until he and Hubbard finally split completely, and the transformation of the "mental science" of dianetics into the religion of Scientology began.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Milkman, by Anna Burns (author), Brid Brennan (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, December 2018

In this unnamed city in an unnamed country, which is nevertheless clearly a city in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Middle Sister has had the misfortune and the mistake of becoming interesting. This is not a place to be interesting. This is a time and a place to blend in and be just like everyone else in your district. Being different creates problems.

Middle Sister has lost friends, neighbors, and siblings to the Troubles, directly and indirectly. She has tried to shut it all out. She reads while walking--serious reading, including taking notes and underlining, while walking. She's seeing a guy she calls Maybe Boyfriend, because they aren't a fully committed couple. She doesn't gossip. And she becomes interesting to an older man called Milkman. Milkman is a high-ranking Renouncer, i.e., one of the anti-government paramilitary. He's married. Suddenly everyone thinks she's having an affair with him.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Degrees of Separation (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #27), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, January 2018

Don Eyr fer'Gasta clan Serat is unwanted by his uncle, the delm, after the death of his mother, but he grudingly accepts him because there's no alternative that doesn't involve loss of honor. He's left to the care of the House staff, and learns to cook and bake, until his cousin the na'delm returns from school. After some mild intervention, Don Eyr is offered his choice of school, preferably offworld, away from the delm. He chooses the Ecole de Cuisine, on Lutetia, and is accepted.

Twelve years later, he's a graduate, is teaching some classes there, and beginning to make plans for what he'll do next. He meets Captain Serana Benoit, of the Watch, after he protects one of his students from the unwanted attentions of a member of the Council, and becomes a target in his turn. They're making their own plans, when Don Eyr is summoned home to Liad by his delm, for reasons that prove to be less honorable than implied.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Waiting Stars (The Universe of Xuya), by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard, 2013

Lan Nhen, her cousin Cuc, and a mindship, The Cinnabar Mansions, set out to rescue, or perhaps merely salvage, another mindship, The Turtle's Citadel, lost years previously in a conflict with Outsiders.

Meanwhile, Catherine, Johanna, and other young Dai Viet women on the planet Prime, students at the Institution, are trying to learn to fit in properly in a culture they weren't born to. They are short and dark compared to the locals, and they struggle with memories they're told they don't have. They can't remember anything before about age three due to the traumatic events, they're told.

Gradually, we understand that Lan Nhen considers the Mind of The Turtle's Citadel her great-aunt, and Catherine remembers, dimly but increasingly certainly, a very different body than the one she now inhabits.

This is a very good, intriguing story, with an unexpectedly bittersweet ending.

Recommended.