Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Halflings (Halflings #1), by Heather Burch

Zonderkidz, ISBN 9780210728185, January 2012

The Halflings in this tale are not the little guys with furry feet familiar from, but rather half angel, half human. Half fallen angel. They don't belong in Heaven, or on Earth, and they don't want to be consigned to Hell. They're stuck betwixt and between, enlisted in the struggle for Good because if they don't, they'll be conscripted into the forces of Evil.

And they're just boys, teenagers--The Lost Boys.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, by Susan Orlean

Simon & Schuster, ISBN 9781439190135, September 2011

In the beginning, there was an orphaned German Shepherd puppy in the war-torn fields of World War One France, and a  young American soldier who had spent a lot of his life lonely and isolated, and part of it in an orphanage. The young soldier was Lee Duncan; the orphan puppy became Rin Tin Tin, a leading canine actor of the silent movie period.

It's easy to misunderstand that last bit, today, when animals in movies almost always play a comic role and are foils for the human actors. During the silent era, animal actors were on a much more equal footing with human actors, because neither had the advantage of speech. Rin Tin Tin, along with other dog actors, played a range of dramatic roles comparable to a human actor, and Rinty, as Duncan called him, was a major movie star. He was smart, highly trainable, and learned to express a wide range of emotions. Duncan took him home from France (an adventure in itself), trained him, and eventually started making the rounds of the movie studios, campaigning for a "break" for his beloved dog.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chosen Forever: A Memoir, by Susan Richards (author), Lorna Raver (reader)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781433243738, June 2008

Susan Richards rescued a horse named Lay Me Down, and changed her own life. Then, after Lay Me Down's death, she wrote a book about her, and did a book tour, and changed her life again. This is the story of that book tour, and if you think that's an  unpromising topic, you're in for a delightful surprise.

Caring for Lay Me Down helped Susan Richards take the first real steps towards recovery from her emotionally isolated childhood, abusive marriage, and severe anxiety disorder. Writing about the experience took her further on her recovery, acknowledging her anger and beginning to forgive both herself and others.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Assassin's Apprentice:The Farseer Trilogy, Book One, by Robin Hobb (author), Paul Boehmer (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400164349, March 2010

Fitz is the illegitimate son of the late Prince Chivalry, raised on the fringes of the court, and apprentice to the royal assassin by the secret arrangement of King Shrewd. Royal bastards are always in a difficult position, and Fitz has a dangerous secret: in addition to the royal magic of the mind-bending Skill, he also possesses another magic, the despised and banned Wit, which honestly appears to be the same as the Skill, except it works on animals rather than people. Growing to manhood around the Court, he has to find for himself a safe path through the conflicts between the royal heir Prince Verity, his unSkilled younger half-brother Regal, and the Skill Master Galen, not to mention the attacks of the Red Ship barbarians and the dangers of the Forged ones, robbed of their human qualities by the barbarians and turned loose again to prey on their own countrymen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thunder Dog:The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero, by Michael Hingson (author), Susy Flory (author), Christopher Prince (narrator)

Oasis Audio, ISBN 9781598599893, July 2011

When the first plane hit the North Tower on the morning of 9/11, Michael Hingson was at work on the 78th floor, preparing to start a presentation to visiting clients of his employer, Quantum. The building shook, and tilted, and his sighted colleagues, who could see the burning papers and other debris falling, started to panic. It was Hingson, believing what he was told but not able to see it, and influenced by the calmness of his guide dog, Roselle, clearly indicating that they weren't in immediate danger, who took control and led an orderly evacuation of the office.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ready, Scrap,Shoot:A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap -n-Craft Mystery, by Joanna Campbell Slan

Midnight Ink, ISBN 9780738727474, April 2012

Kiki Lowenstein has enough problems without an open-ended visit from her hypercritical mother. Her late husband's former partner--and killer--is determined to get her, too. Dodie, the principal owner of the scrapbooking shop where she is a minority owner, is not only acting distant and cool, but has taken on another partner without so much as telling her beforehand, much less consulting her.

And her new boyfriend's ex-wife, who through him out before Kiki and Det started dating, now blames Kiki as the "home-wrecker" who destroyed her happy life.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

You Had Me At Woof:How Dogs Taught Me the Secret of Happiness, by Julie Klam (author), Karen White (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400166916, October 2010

Julie Klam was in her twenties, living alone, and convinced she'd never find True Love. She decided she needed a dog in her life, did careful breed research, and decided on a Boston terrier. Then she made an hours-long drive to Pennsylvania to adopt Otto, in part because his picture matched a dog's face she'd seen in a dream.

She thought she was just adopting a pet, to meet her own needs and have the company of a dog again. In fact, she had just taken the first step on the road to a life of dog rescue.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Death By Petticoat:American History Myths Debunked, by Mary M. Theobald

Andrews McMeel Publishing, ISBN 9781449418538, June 2012

This little book covers a collection of popular, oft-repeated myths of American history, both the completely fabricated and those with a grain of truth vastly over-inflated to make a better story.

The title refers to the claim that long skirts and petticoats were so likely to catch fire that "death by petticoat fire" was the second leading cause of death for colonial American women, with only childbirth beating it out. In fact the leading cause of death for colonial American women was disease--and the cottons, wools, and linens that made up colonial era clothing were a lot less flammable than the polyesters, rayons, and nylons commonly found in modern clothing.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ever By My Side: A Memoir in Eight A/c/t/s/ Pets, by Nick Trout

Broadway Books, ISBN 9780767932004, February 2011

Dr. Nick Trout is a veterinary surgeon practicing at Boston's MSPCA Angell Animal Medical Center. He's written some charming books about his experiences with patients; this is an equally charming book about his experiences with his own pets, from the first much-loved but inadequately socialized German shepherd growing up in England, to current pets shared with wife and daughters here in New England.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Murder is Binding (Booktown Series #1), by Lorna Barrett (author), Cassandra Campbell (narrator)

Penguin, ISBN 9780425219585, April 2008

I listened to the audiobook, but I've linked to and provided the information for the mass market paperback, because Amazon won't allow me to create a direct product link to the Audible audiobook. Amazon owns Audible and presumably makes money selling Audible audiobooks, so go figure.

Tricia Miles, recently divorced, has moved from New York to the small town of Stoneham, NH, and opened a bookstore, Haven't Got a Clue, specializing in old and classic mysteries. This wasn't a random or haphazard choice; local real estate broker and Chamber of Commerce president Bob Kelly recruited lots of antiquarian booksellers to turn Stoneham into a tourist destination and revitalize its struggling economy. Tricia is the most recent addition, and her store has been open just five months. When she and her visiting sister, Angelica, respond to the smell of smoke coming from the neighboring shop, The Cookery, and find her argumentative neighbor, Doris Gleason, lying on the floor with one of her own knives in her back, it's a terrible shock--and just the beginning of Tricia's troubles.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, by Marc Levinson (author), William Hughes (reader)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781455114658, August 2011

When I was a child growing up in Everett, MA, there was, on Broadway, a little supermarket called A&P. It was bigger and had more selection than the convenience stores in the neighborhood, but smaller than McKinnon's, which has since gone on to bigger and better things, but not, as it turns out, anything like the size and reach that A&P had even in its decay, in that decade of the sixties when its glory days were past. McKinnon's is a quintessential local chain in the best sense, with high quality, excellent service, and unique offerings not found in the national or big regional chains. A&P in its heyday was something different, something I could not have imagined from that dingy little store inferior in every way to McKinnon's, except that my mom liked their 8 O'Clock Coffee.

A&P was, for over forty years, the largest retailer in the world, the retail behemoth that made its competition tremble, Wal-Mart before Wal-Mart. And they reached those heights from a start as a tiny little tea retailer in New York City in the 1860s.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Having Fun While Saving Money, by Janiera Eldridge

Smashwords, November 2011

This is a great little ebook, filled with practical advice on how to save money without signing on to a program of Virtuous Self-Deprivation. We all want to have fun and enjoy ourselves, even, or perhaps especially, in these tough economic times when just paying for necessities is tougher than ever.

Having Fun While Saving Money is mainly aimed at young people, still in college or raising young families. There are lots of tips for inexpensively throwing parties, organizing outings with your kids or with your friends without blowing the budget. She covers everything from clever, fun craft projects to making good use of resources like Groupon or LivingSocial. Just when I (librarian that I am) was starting to say, "What about that wonderful resource, your public library?" she starts talking about all the great things available at the public library--books of course, but also museum tickets, computer access, music, and DVDs.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

E-Books, readers, and publishers--some thoughts on a Raging Controversy

I've blogged before about libraries and the problem of e-books and publishers' attitudes; this is about Us, the Readers. There is a Heated Discussion taking place, at Dear Author and at Whatever. Robin L thinks it's reasonable and not mean to bitch at authors about the prices of their e-books; John Scalzi thinks only a massive sense of entitlement would cause people to bitch about the prices of e-books, and that it's somehow especially ignorant of readers to think that they're not really the customers publishers think about.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Untraceable (The Nature of Grace, #1), by S.R. Johannes

Coleman & Stott, ISBN 9780984799121, November 2011

Grace's father has been missing for months, and everyone tells her she needs to accept the fact that he's dead. She can't; she spends all her free time searching the woods for traces of what happened to her forest ranger father. Her mother is making her see a psychologist to help her accept what's happened and deal with her grief, but her mother isn't dealing well with her grief either--working extra shifts, never being home for dinner, forgetting such basics about her daughter as the fact that Grace is lactose-intolerant.

Meanwhile, Grace is messing up most of her relationships with her determination, or obsession, to find her father.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Caught in Crystal, by Patricia C. Wrede

Open Road, December 2011

This is a reissue of one of Wrede's older books, one of the five Lyra novels from the 1980s.

It's centuries after the Wars of Binding, and some institutions and customs are starting to break down. The Estarren alliance is beginning to come apart, with new polities and alliances encroaching around its edges. The Magic Seekers, ruthlessly determined to force the non-human races and human magic users to give their magic to them, are becoming a serious threat.

Kayl Larrinar, innkeeper in the small town of Copeham, lives quietly with her two children, mourning her late husband but living a happy and orderly life with her children, her friends, and her business.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Persona Non Grata: A Novel of the Roman Empire, by Ruth Downie (author), Simon Vance (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781400164189,  November 2009

Ruso has just injured his foot attempting to rescue a boy from the river (the boy manages to save himself) when an uncharacteristically brief and urgent letter arrives from his brother Lucius: Come home immediately. In a panic about what new disaster is so awful Lucius won't even hint at it, he wangles extended medical leave, and he and Tilla pack up and head for southern Gaul.

Their arrival is a complete surprise, and not a welcome one. One of their major creditors is threatening a bankruptcy action against them, and the absence of the real property owner--Ruso--on public service had been legal protection against a seizure order. Lucius vehemently denies having sent the letter; if he'd thought his elder brother might be contemplating a return home, he'd have sent word not to come. Ruso's return makes them vulnerable to real financial disaster and disgrace.

Things only get worse when that same creditor drops dead during a private conversation with Ruso, poisoned.