Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Knowing, by Laurel Dewey

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611880496, December 2012

The only other Jane Perry story that I've read was a novella that was a pretty straight-forward police procedural. This is a little different.

Jane Perry is a Denver homicide detective, who has had great professional success but a very rough personal life. She's recently met a man she's really connected with for the first time, and has kicked the alcohol and cigarettes that have had too much control of her life.

And she's discovered she has an older half sister, born and given up before her mother made the mistake of marrying Jane's father.

Knowing starts with Jane leaving on a road trip to go meet her half sister in New Mexico, where she's currently living in halfway house.

Monday, February 25, 2013

People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks (author), Edwina Wren (narrator)

Penguin Audio, ISBN 9780143142980, January 2008

Hanna Heath, an Australian book conservator, has been hired to work on the recovered Sarajevo Haggadah, in still-tense 1996 Sarajevo.

The Sarajevo Haggadah is a unique work, a centuries-old Jewish prayer book illuminated in the manner of Christian manuscripts of the time. It has also been a symbol of the multicultural heritage of Sarajevo. In working to conserve the book, Hanna discovers clues to its history--an insect's wing, a wine stain mixed with blood, some salt, a single white hair.

We Only Need the Heads (Human Division #3), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, January 2013

This is the third episode in Scalzi's Human Division, and Wilson, Schmidt, and Ambassador Abumwe are back. Abumwe and Schmidt are sent to pinch hit for a suddenly ill ambassador in negotiations with the Bula, seeking agreements on trade and tourism. Wilson, meanwhile, is temporarily assigned to a ship being sent to remove a wildcat colony from a Bula world--and it's in this context we discover the significance of events in Episode #2.

Having a wildcat colony on a Bula world is bad; having a Colonial Defense Forces ship in orbit around that world to deal with the problem is, if anything, worse. Abumwe and her team were picked because of their track record of handling difficult situations successfully, but this time she's given a direct order to do what she knows is a terrible mistake: lie to the Bula.


I bought the audiobook from Audible.com.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Guns, by Stephen King (author), Christian Rummel (narrator)

Philtrum Press, January 2013

Since the Newtown massacre, the subject of gun control and gun safety has erupted again. This has, of course, been accompanied by the standard NRA fear-mongering that those suggesting any new restrictions at all are "gun grabbers" who want to disarm the American people.

Stephen King, solidly politically liberal and a life-long gun owner, arguably has a foot in "both camps," and wants to see a rational, effective response that respects everyone's rights. Guns is a thoughtful discussion of what the problems are, and what some of the solutions might be.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Walk the Plank (The Human Division #2), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, January 2013

This is the second episode in Scalzi's episodic novel, The Human Division. This is a short entry, told entirely in dialog, set in a wildcat colony that has been awaiting the oddly delayed arrival of their supply ship. Finding a stranger in the wilderness near their colony is an alarming signal that something has gone very, very wrong.

In addition to being short, this story is a complete break from the characters and immediate circumstances (as opposed to the same universe and time frame), and very different in style. It's clearly setting something up.

Not as strong as the previous episode as a stand-alone episode, but I suspect it's a solid set-up for important developments later.


I bought this story from Audible.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, by Tom Reiss (author), Paul Michael (narrator)

Random House, ISBN 9780449012680, September 2012

Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie, son of a French marquis and a Dominican slave, enlisted as a private in the dragoons in 1786, at the age of twenty-four, under the name Alexandre Dumas, and embarked on a career illustrious by any measure, and unimaginable for a mixed race man anywhere else in the West for another two centuries.

French law on race relations in those pre-Revolutionary years was in conflict and transition. France practiced slavery in its colonies on an immense scale and on a much more brutal model than that of the American south, which was itself brutal enough to shame us forever. Despite that fact, the law in France was ambiguous on the subject of slavery, and the parlement courts, in partial defiance of the French crown, aggressively advanced the legal theory that it was not possible to be a slave in France.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong:Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles, by Pierre Bayard (author), John Lee (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400109838, December 2008

Pierre Bayard reads The Hound of the Baskervilles, and comes to the same conclusion many other readers have: In this particular case, Sherlock Holmes was wrong.

This is a work of slightly tongue in cheek, very French literary criticism. As such, it's not for everyone. This isn't a fault in the book, but simply a matter of taste.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (How to Publish a Book), by Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch

Nononina Press, ISBN 9780988523, December 2012

Do you have a book you want to write, something that would add value to the world for the people who would read it? An exciting story, a history of something most people don't know about, an instructional book on your area of expertise? A cookbook? Whatever the subject or the nature of the book, at one time your only option was to interest an established publisher in buying it. That's still the most obvious course, and for many reasons, it's often the best course. Established publishers have editors, copy-editors, art directors, contracts with printers, marketing departments, distribution networks. That's a lot of work that gets done for you, while you "only" have to write the book and collect your advance and, if you're fortunate, your royalty payments as they come in.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The World Until Yesterday, by Jared Diamond

Viking, ISBN 9780670024810, December 2012

In what ways are traditional societies similar to each other, and modern state-based societies similar to each other? In what ways do modern and traditional societies resemble and differ from each other--and is there anything that we can learn from the surviving traditional societies before they disappear?

Jared Diamond takes an in-depth look at what distinguishes traditional from modern societies, and what we can learn from them. This is not a hearts & flowers mash note to traditional societies; he's at some pains to make clear that the lives of traditional peoples, whether hunter-gatherers or farmers, are generally harder, shorter, and more dangerous than modern, state-based societies. Injury and disease are far more likely to be crippling or fatal. Death from violence, whether by murder or in war, claims a much higher percentage of the population, despite fond illusions of "the gentle !Kung" and the notion that war is a modern invention.

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century, by Michael A. Hiltzik (author), Norman Dietz (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400146789, June 2010

In the late 1920s, as we were hurtling toward the Great Depression, and the early 1930s, as we were struggling through it,  the United States embarked on one of the greatest engineering projects in history. Hiltzik follows the conception, design, and building of the Hoover Dam from the first Europeans to reach the Imperial Valley in what is now California, to Americans learning about the wild and powerful Colorado River, and the periodic destructive flooding of Imperial Valley and other potentially valuable agricultural territory.

From there began the search for ways to control and harness the power of the river. The challenges were not merely technical and engineering problems. Harnessing the Colorado River meant deciding how to divide up the water among seven different states with competing interests, as well as deciding whether the project would be "merely" for flood control and irrigation, or for hydroelectric power generation as well.