Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Wizard of London (Elemental Mages #5), by Mercedes Lackey

DAW Hardcover, ISBN 9780756401740, October 2005

I listened to the audio edition. Amazon continues its foolishly short-sighted practice of not allowing linking to Audible editions, even though they own Audible and presumably make money from the sale of Audible editions. So, I'm linking to a print edition.

I hadn't read any Lackey in quite a while, having grown tired of what I thought of as her typical output. A friend recommended this, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Violinist's Thumb:And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code, by Sam Kean

Little, Brown, and Company, ISBN 9780316202978, July 2012

This is a fascinating look at the history of genetics, both the science itself and the often quirky and peculiar personalities who moved it ahead. Sam Kean starts off with the story of his own parents--Gene and Jean Kean--and how their accidentally punny names both afflicted and fed his own interest in genetics.

That's merely the appetizer, though; the main course consists of the major breakthroughs in genetics, starting with Gregor Mendel, a wildly strong personality whose major work ground to a halt when he was elected abbot of his monastery, and whose notes (but not his published work, blessedly) were burned after his death, to avoid further scandal related, not to his scientific work, but to the tax dispute between the monastery and the Austrian government.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Democrat & Diplomat: The Life of William E. Dodd, by Robert Dallek

Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199931729, November 2012

This biography of William E. Dodd, American Ambassador to Germany during the years leading up to the start of World War II, was originally published in 1968. As such, it reflects not only the era it's about, but also the era its author grew up in. Consequently, there are times when commentary on race relations in he US will read oddly and be a bit shocking to modern sensibilities.

That gave me pause at certain points. However, while it's well to bear such limitations in mind, this is overall an excellent book.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7), by Jacqueline Winspear (author), Orlagh Cassidy (narrator)

Sound Library, ISBN 9780792771203, 2010

Maisie Dobbs is once again working on a mystery with potentially explosive consequences for a family. Dr. Charles Hayden, the American doctor she met during the war and has continued to correspond with, has referred to her some Boston friends who want to know what happened to their son. Edward Clifton, the son of a major British shoe manufacturer, left England for America as a young man, and made his own fortune in America. In 1914, his youngest son, Michael, a cartographer, bought some land in California and then, hearing of the start of World War I, travels to England to enlist in the British army. He never returns, and his body, along with the rest of his cartography unit, has just been found now, twelve years after the end of the war. Because he was "missing," the family has been unable to resolve his estate; more importantly, Michael's journals and letters he had received and saved show that he had met and fallen in love with a young woman. His parents would like to find her, to close the circle on their son's life.

What Dr. Hayden and Mr. Clifton know from the French autopsy, but Mrs. Clifton hasn't been told, is that Michael didn't die from the shelling that killed the rest of his unit. His skull was crushed by a blow from behind, before the shelling.

As Maisie works through the evidence, looking for Michael's killer and his lost love, she quickly learns that the killer may be nearby. The Cliftons are attacked, Maisie is knocked down and her document case stolen. This isn't just a dozen-year-old crime; the danger is real and present.

Meanwhile, Maisie's personal life is getting complicated. Maurice is very ill. Billy Beal's wife Doreen is home from the hospital (due to events in prior books), but still very shaky. Andrew Deane is married, but her friend Priscilla introduces her to a jourmalist friend of her husband's, who is very interested. And James Compton is back from Canada to stay, and inviting her to go to a car race with him.

Maisie is juggling a lot here, but she does it with charm, grace, and intelligence as usual. Another worthy entry in the serious.