Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Hairy Tail, by Jamie Campbell

Kindle Edition, March 2013

Hannah, under pressure from her mother to "get out of the house" during the summer, decides to volunteer at the local animal shelter. On her first day there, she meets Basil, a very sad dog who has been there, unclaimed, for months. She also meets Harry, another high school student and fellow volunteer. Convinced that a dog as nice as Basil, and as sad, must be missing his family and his family missing him, she convinces Harry that they have to find Basil's family.

This is a short, light, fun story about two teenagers doing something positive with their summer. Recommended.

I bought this book.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Arclight, by Brandon Graham (story), Marian Churchland (art, colors), Ariana Maher (letters)

Image, ISBN 9781534300972, March 2017

Lady Kinga is trapped in the body of a monster, living in exile on the edges of the kingdom, and supported only by her loyal knight, Arclight. Then someone turns up wearing her old body, and using her high rank for their own purposes. She and Arclight need to return to the city and fight against an invading power to save their world. the question is, will their magic be strong enough?

This is a graphic novel, and I found the art pleasing and restful for my eyes. I especially liked the goose (sorry, any explanation would be a spoiler), and the way its personality was depicted. This is a fantasy. The goose is dead, or perhaps more accurately, undead; the Lady occupies the body of a monster; a traveling palace is made of the bones of the ancestors of the Blood House, and gets larger with every generation. I can't honestly claim the story made much sense; on the other hand, I can't honestly claim I cared. The hour or so I spent with this book was very enjoyable.

Recommended for a light, pleasant read.

I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Her Last Chance (Her #2), by Toni Anderson (author), Eric G. Dove (narrator)

Toni Anderson, January 2017

Eighteen years ago, at nine years old Josie Maxwell was the first victim of a man who became the serial killer now known as the Blade Hunter. Josie, unlike later victims, survived, but this wasn't the only event in her life that taught her it's a struggle for survival.

Six months ago, Josie nearly died at the hands of another killer, and drugged and betrayed FBI Special Agent in Charge Marshall Hayes to protect the hiding place of her friend.

Now the Blade Hunter is back, and he's found Josie again. This time, he's determined to finish the job he started eighteen years ago. The only person who's going to put the pieces together fast enough is Marshall Hayes, the man she betrayed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise, by Chris Taylor (author), Nick Podehl (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, October 2014

In 1973, George Lucas sketched the first notes of what would become his epic space fantasy movie, Star Wars. More than four decades on, Star Wars has become a $37 billion movie franchise and media empire, and an enormous cultural force.

Taylor gives us both the history forward from that beginning through the making of the films and the sale and rebirth of the franchise under Disney, and the path from the middle class kid growing up in Modesto to the man who made that first Star Wars film and its two sequels. (No, it wasn't originally called A New Hope; I saw the first movie when it first came out. And yes, Han Solo did shoot first, whatever George Lucas now wants us to believe.) Both Lucas' own story, and the story of the Star Wars franchise, are complicated, confusing, and fascinating. Taylor gets quite thoroughly caught up in the story and his own pursuit of it, and makes it reasonably inviting for the reader or listener to jump on that ride with him.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Call of the Herald (The Dawning of Power #1), by Brian Rathbone (author), Chris Snelgrove (narrator)

Brian Rathbone, April 2013 (original publication January 2008)

Caitrin, her cousin Chase, and their friends Osbourne and Strom are farmer's kids, living ordinary lives, until events start to close in on them. Their land is about to be invaded by a powerful and expanding empire, and a religious prophecy is about to come to fruition. Uncomfortably for her, Caitrin, it seems, is the Herald of the return of the Comet, which is the symbol or vehicle of a goddess.

With the Comet becoming visible in the sky, Caitrin now has power, and and this teenager who never expected this is quite convincingly inept and clumsy in her first (initially accidental) uses of it. This quickly gets her a reputation as a witch--the dangerous kind that no sensible person wants around.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Possibility Dogs: What a Handful of "Unadoptables" Taught Me About Service, Hope, and Healing, by Susannah Charleson (author, narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781482912043, June 2013

Susannah Charleson is best known for a previous book, Scent of the Missing, about her experiences in search & rescue, and working with a search dog, the Golden Retriever, Puzzle. Over the years of her search & rescue work, though, she began to experience health problems, both physical, and reactions to the stress and trauma often involved in such searches. She also began to meet a new kind of working dog: psychiatric service dogs.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ghostnip, by G.B. Brulte

December 2016

Franny is at home on a Saturday morning, eating ice cream and lamenting her lack of a romantic life, when a handsome photographer rings her doorbell and asks if he can take pictures of her cat.

Her half-Bengal, half-Savannah cat. Twenty-two pounds of handsome cat.

It's the start of a silly but fun story, in which pictures of the cat unexpectedly include pictures of ghosts who previously owned the furniture used. Franny and Jason (the handsome photographer), first see a little girl in "old-timey" clothes, whom they call Alice.

Alice is the first, but far from the last, and they are even more intrigued when they realize the cat and the ghosts are able to interact.

In many ways, Jason is just too perfect. He's not only a successful photographer. He also sings, and plays the piano, and cooks. It's all a bit much. Franny is nice, Jason is nice, the cat is nice, pretty much everyone they know is nice. I like having characters who are good people in the fiction I read, but this lack of any real conflict is not a strength in fiction.

And yet, Brulte does go somewhere interesting with the ghost photography, and while not a very strong story, it is fun.

Recommended for a light read.

I think this book was a gift. I am reviewing it voluntarily.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Unknown Universe: A New Exploration of Time, Space, and Modern Cosmology, by Stuart Clark (author), Stephen Hoye (narrator)

Audible Audio, September 2016

It's been fun, over the past few years, reading accounts of recent developments in physics, astronomy, and cosmology. The universe doesn't look the way we thought it did at the start of the 20th century. There are many galaxies, not just one. The universe is expanding. There doesn't appear to be enough matter--enough ordinary matter--to keep the galaxies together, and the rate at which the universe is expanding appears to be accelerating.

The explanations offered for these last two developments are dark matter and dark energy. In this case, "dark" merely means that we do not have the faintest idea what they really are. We can't detect them. They don't seem to interact with ordinary matter at all. Except they hold galaxies together and expand the universe...

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Librarian: A First Contact Story, by M.N. Arzu

CreateSpace, ISBN 9781514142059, June 2015

These aliens don't arrive in giant spaceships hovering over major cities.

They don't blast us from space.

They didn't even intend to make contact. They just wanted to study us, quietly and unobtrusively.

That worked, right up until the retrieval of their investigator didn't go as intended.

An ordinary, happily married, librarian waiting for her husband to come home from a day of hiking gets a knock on the door that lands her in the middle of something she would have thought impossible.

Now she has to figure out if this alien who looks like her husband, who says he is her husband of twelve years, is here for good reasons or bad, and what he wants and intends, because he won't talk to the military or anyone at all except her.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

HarperAudio, September 2016

Superficially, this book covers the same territory as The Rise of the Rocket Girls, published earlier the same year. Although the books both tell the story of women breaking into mathematics, engineering, and the space program, starting int the early 20th century, via the originally rather mundane role of "computers," in reality there's a very important difference. The Rocket Girls at what became NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory were overwhelmingly white. Shetterly follows black women charting the same course at Langley, in Virginia, where in addition to facing the obstacles women faced simply for being women, the black women were also challenging institutionalized racism in one of the states where it was most entrenched. They had an opening because the demand for mathematicians who could do the work was so high that white men, especially in the WWII years, weren't available in the numbers needed. Holding on and moving ahead depended on their own talent and hard work, plus the persistence and resilience to overcome the discrimination.