Friday, December 27, 2013

The Love Talker, by Elizabeth Peters (author), Grace Conlin (narrator)

Blackstone Audiobooks, June 2013 (original publication 1980)

This is one of the very early Elizabeth Peters books, when Barbara Michaels was still finding her way with this new voice. It's not as polished as the later Peters books, or the Michaels books, but it's very enjoyable.

Laurie Carlson is in Chicago, laboring on her dissertation in mediaeval history, when a very alarming letter arrives from her great-aunt, Ida Morton. Great-aunt Lizzy, Ida's younger sister, has a new enthusiasm, fairies, and is acting even odder than usual. Can Laurie please come home? Ida, Lizzy, and their brother,  Ned, effectively raised Laurie after her unreliable mother, Anna, lost interest in being a parent, and she can hardly say no.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I, Walter, by Mike Hartner, read by Mike Hartner

Audible, June 2013

We meet Walter Crofter as an old man, 67, ill and possibly dying of malaria, determined to write down the story of his life, both what he did, and most importantly, why. He has secrets never shared, and wants his wife and children to understand.

Walter Crofter is the son of a cloth merchant in Elizabethan England, and his father's lack of business skill does not make life easy. His old patron, Sir Walter Scott is out of favor, his elder son Gerald has embarked on a life of crime, and the cloth merchant has little to offer his younger son but hard work with few prospects. Walter loves his parents, but he wants his work to count for something.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Survival of the Nicest:How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along, by Stefan Klein

The Experiment, ISBN 9781615190904, January 2014

"If you want to be egoist, at least be a smart egoist, and share."

So says science journalist Stefan Klein, in his TEDx talk on this book. Why? Isn't it smarter to look out for our own self-interest, put our own needs first, compete ruthlessly for the greatest advantage for yourself and, by extension, your offspring? Don't altruists give away their advantages to others, and make their altruist genes less successful?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is no. Klein gathers together the evidence from history, biology, anthropology, psychology, economics: Those who share, who have a strong sense of fairness, justice, and compassion, are overall happier and more successful in the long run. Social groups in which fairness and generosity are valued and widely practiced are more successful than groups which are more "everyone for themselves."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Whom the Gods Would Destroy, by Brian Hodge

DarkFuse, ISBN 9781940544137, December 2013

Damien grew up a stranger in his own family, useless baggage in the eyes of his mother and older brother. Beyond just feeling unwanted, his earliest memory is of nightmarish events involving his mother and brother. And so as soon as he can, while barely into his teens, he quietly joins a far more normal, supportive family, and cuts all contact with the family that has no interest in him anyway. Thirteen years later, he's a happy astronomy student, studying the universe and valuing the experience of being a small part of the cosmos.

Then his brother turns up, with a story about wanting to make amends, and a discovery of alien life. It is, he promises, an incredible opportunity.

While Damien doesn't altogether believe or trust him, he can't let go of the idea of how it will eat at him to not even take the chance of finding out. He and his brother set out from Seattle to Portland.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ladd Springs (Ladd Springs #1), by Dianne Venetta

BloominThyme Press, November 2013

Ladd Springs in Tennessee has been home to the Ladd family for six generations. Now, though, the property is at risk from multiple directions. Ernie Ladd, the current owner, promised his sister on her deathbed that he would leave the land to her daughter, Delaney Wilkins, and Delaney's daughter Felicity--but Ernie can't forgive Delaney for having married the son of an old rival, even though the marriage did not survive. Hotel developer Nick Harris wants to buy the property for the latest addition to his hotel chain. Neighbor Clem Sweeney is taking advantage of Ernie's loneliness and sense of isolation--and has found a secret in the forest that, if he doesn't get caught, will make him rich.

And Ernie, even though he has plenty of money to do so, hasn't paid the property taxes in three years. If he doesn't do so soon, Nick--who is willing to pay a fair price and make provisions for the family in the deal--will wind up buying the property for back taxes.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Delicious (Big Sky Pie #2), by Adrianne Lee

Forever (Grand Central Publishing), ISBN 9781455574353, December 2013

Jane Wilson is enjoying her new job as pastry chef at Big Sky Pie, and life seems to be on an even keel, until she gets two unpleasant surprises.

First, her mother is getting married again--and not to just anyone. She's remarrying Romeo Taziano, the man who broke up her parents' marriage, and then broke her mother's heart.

Second, Romeo's hateful son Nick, the Tazmanian Devil, has just been hired by Quint McCoy to develop an advertising campaign for Big Sky Pie. She's going to be seeing way too much of her ex-stepbrother.

If that weren't trial enough, having the Tazianos back in their lives brings up uncomfortable questions and uncovers long-buried family secrets. Jane is forced to rethink what she has always believed about her parents, their marriages--and even herself.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

These Broken Stars (Starbound #1), by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

Disney-Hyperion, ISBN 9781423171027, December 2013

This is a thoroughly enjoyable execution of a seemingly unpromising plot. A young war hero from a lower-class background is on an official PR tour on a luxury spaceship when he meets the pampered daughter of the head of the corporation that owns it--one of the richest girls in the galaxy. Shortly after they meet, there's some kind of an accident, the ship is destroyed, and our heroes, Maj. Tarver Merendsen heiress Lilac LaRoux, are stranded on a terraformed but uninhabited planet, the only survivors.

It works because Kaufman and Spooner have created original and interesting characters, and while the expected romance is there, it's the secondary plot.