Monday, August 29, 2016

Penny: The Story of a Free-Soul Basset Hound, by Hal Borland

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781504037679, August 2016

Previously, Hal Borland told us the story of Pat, The Dog Who Came to Stay. Penny is more, "the dog who came to visit."

Hal and his wife Barbara are outside their home in Connecticut in a still cold and snowy late winter when a basset hound neither of them knows turns up. She comes and goes, and then seems to settle in. They can't find an owner. And while they say they don't want another dog, they name her Penny, buy her a collar and leash license and dog food, and start teaching her the rules of their house.

Then a neighbor in their little town writes a story for the local paper about "the new dog who came to stay" with the Borlands. And now, they get a phone call from a family that thinks Penny may be their own missing Pokey.

She is, and Pokey-Penny returns to her owners. For a while. But she's a wanderer, and wanders again. And when her owners chain her in the garage, well, that doesn't work out well.

So she returns to the Borlands, who allow more wandering, and don't chain her, and don't have little kids who behave badly around dogs.

But she remains a wanderer, and she chases cows, goes nuts at the sight of streetsweepers, or horses, or pavers. It's a stress on everyone, and a dog who chases cattle risks getting shot.

The Borlands turn to Sylvia, a basset-loving acquaintance over the state line in Massachusetts, who has advised them on Penny before.

Penny is a sweet, but definitely free-spirited dog, who will only ever be a guest in any home. You'll enjoy getting to know her.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Shootout Solution (Genrenauts #1), by Michael R. Underwood (author), Mary Robinette Kowal (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781427269669, November 2015

Leah Tang is doing open mic standup comedy, and the going is rough. On this particular night, when she finally gets a bit of a roll going, it'sat what should be the end of her time, and she winds up going over.

The club manager is annoyed.

An entirely unappealing audience member tries to pick her up in the bar afterward.

Then another audience member approaches her. An older, cultured black man. He says he's Professor King, and he has a job to offer her in the language lab he's running, focused on narrative forms in  genre literature. Dull, right?

But he makes her a good enough pitch that she decides to go along and at least check it out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Cat, the Collector, and the Killer (A Cats in Trouble Mystery #8), by Leann Sweeney (author), Vanessa Johansson (narrator)

Audible Studios, August 2016

Jillian Hart has been married to Tom Stewart, acting Chief of Police in Mercy, SC, for six months, and they and their four cats are very happy. She's stopped going to craft show and instead sells her cat quilts online--with increased sales. Her cats are extremely happy about that change!

So when old friend Shawn, the head of the local animal rescue, needs someone to go with him to the home of an older woman whom the neighbors have reported her cats are, most atypically, wandering, with no signs of the woman, he knows Jillian will be available.

When they find more than three times the number of cats he knew the woman to have, the back door open, and boxes piled everywhere, they are very concerned. It goes beyond "concerned" when Shawn finds a dead body in the guest bedroom.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Jester (Riyria Chronicles #2.5), by Michael J. Sullivan (author), Tim Gerard Reynolds (narrator)

Audible Studios, January 2014

This is a short in the ongoing adventures of a group of thieves. In this one, they're seeking the treasure of a jester who didn't much like the people he entertained. He amassed great wealth, and had an elaborate, hidden tomb built. There's a map to the tomb, but it was torn into eight pieces hidden in different places.

At the time this story opens, our little band of thieves has acquired the final piece of the map, and is nearly there. They now have to figure out all the tricks and traps the jester used to protect his corpse and his treasure.

It's a puzzle story, and to reach the treasure they have to figure out not just what traps there are, but what the jester was thinking. Did he intend to stop anyone from finding his treasure? Or did he just intend to frustrate the people he hated? And how?

Light but fun.

I bought this book.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #2)

Macmillan Audio, March 2014

Isabella Camherst is now a mostly reclusive widow, and her son, born after her husband Jacob died, is three years old. She's still pursuing her study of dragons, and she has a new expedition planned, funded by Lord Hilford. This expedition will be to Eriga (in our world, Africa.) She'll be accompanied by Lord Hilford's granddaughter Natalie (who does not have her father's permission), and Thomas Wilker, an associate from the Vystrana expedition. Her mother is outraged, Isabella herself feels guilty about leaving her son for so long as well as for apparently lacking the maternal instincts society expects her to have, and Natalie's father attempts to stop Natalie from joining her.

They barely make it onto their ship, and only with the helpful interference of Lord Hilford.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The French War Bride, by Robin Wells

Wedding Tree/Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780425282441, August 2016

Amelie Michaud is sixteen and living a happy life in Paris when World War II starts. At first little seems to happen, even with her brothers going off to join the army, but then little troubles become big troubles and finally major hardship. Amelie and her best friend, Yvette, wind up on their own in Paris, working menial jobs to survive, and spying for the Resistance.

Meanwhile, we have the frame story--Amelie O'Connor, seventy years later, likes to keep the door to her little apartment at her assisted living facility open, to receive visitors. One day she receives a very unexpected visitor--Kat Thompson, former fiancée of her late husband, Jack O'Connor. Kat has never gotten over resenting the fact that her fiancé came home with a French war bride. Now that she's dying of cancer, her hospice counselor says she needs to forgive for her own peace of mind, and her minister tells her she needs to forgive for the sake of her own soul. So now, she wants the story of what happened between Amelie and Jack. Right now.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Emperor's Agent (The Numinous World #5), by Jo Graham

Crossroads Press, July 2013

Elza Ringelinge, a.k.a. Ida St. Malme, is a Dutch woman living in Paris in 1805. She left her Dutch husband for French General Moreau, and left Moreau for Michel Ney, who eventually became Marshall Ney.

When we meet her, she is parted from Ney, working as an actress, and she receives a summons from Fouche, chief of the secret police. It's the start of an alarming sequence of events that leads to her becoming a secret agent for Napoleon Bonaparte, charged with locating the spy within the highest levels of the French army poised to invade England.

Elza embarks on an alarming, challenging, by turns frustrating and exhilarating adventure. Ney and others from her past figure prominently--as do abilities she has long denied even to herself that she possesses.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Little Book of Holy Gratitude, by Fr. Frederick Faber

Sophia Institute Press, ISBN 9781622823437, August 2016

This is a gentle, helpful manual for meditation aimed at gratitude and spiritual growth, rather than harsher disciplines of penance. Fr. Faber offers guidance on good resources and texts for guided meditation, some history, and spiritual examples. This is written from a distinctly Catholic perspective, but may also be welcoming to "Catholic-adjacent" believers such as Episcopalians. It's not intended for non-religious meditation.

Recommended with the above caveat.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Merit Badge Murder (Merry Wrath Mystery #1), by Leslie Langtry (author), Bailey Carr (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2016 (original publication October 2014)

Merry Wrath was a CIA agent, and a good one. Then she was "accidentally" outed in a bit of Washington political hardball, and forced into early retirement. "Merry Wrath" is her new name, derived from a middle name and her mother's maiden name. Her hair is now blonde, and her eyes, thanks to contact lenses, blue.

And of course her Deep Cover Dead Secret new home is the small town in Iowa where she grew up. Did I mention that her father is a US Senator from Iowa?

So the completely unaddressed mystery here is why no one except her best friend from childhood, Kelly, recognizes her.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Sleeping with the Enemy (adventures in the Liaden Universe #22), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, July 2016

This chapbook contains two novellas, "Chimera," and "Friend of a Friend." They're both set on Surebleak, and involve none of the Liaden series' major characters.

"Chimera" involves some of the smaller, more intimate aspects of Surebleak and Liadens adapting to each other. Darby's family, especially his brother Farnch, hate the Liadens and the changes they've brought. Darby isn't so sure--and even their sister Jewl wants to take advantage of their school for her twin sons. One night, Darby rescues Kez Rel ter'Ista from a street thug, and brings him home to arrange safe transportation for him. But Jewl is very ill, and Farnch is on his way home.

"Friend of a Friend" tells the story of Villy, Sticks dealer at the Emerald, and haetara at Miss Audrey's pleasure house. He has a mildly disturbing encounter at the casino, that turns alarming when the same off-world Liaden turns up as customer at Miss Audrey's--asking specifically for Villy.

These are both character-driven stories, and one of the characters is Surebleak itself. The world they live in and the clash of cultures that constitutes everyday life for both Liadens and Surebleakers affects how everyone thinks, feels, and reacts.

Recommended.

I bought this book.