Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Fact/Faith Debate: Why Science Hasn't Killed Religion, by Jack Gage

Two Harbors Press, ISBN 9781938690228, January 2013

This book is framed as "case studies" voted on by a "jury" consisting of a Catholic, a Mormon, a Southern Baptist, a Jew, a Muslim, and an atheist. Once they've voted, an agnostic, and only the agnostic, is allowed to "comment." All of these individuals are nameless.

Let's be clear. The agnostic gets to comment on what the "jurors" say and what their thought process must have been, while the reader is not allowed to hear the voices of the actual jurors.

It's important to note that Jack Gage is not a scientist, and does not appear to have much if any scientific education. He's a businessman and a lawyer, and apparently of the school of thought that says that if you're a successful businessman and a lawyer, you're an expert on everything.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The J.M. Barrie Ladies' Swimming Society, by Barbara J. Zitwer

Atria Books, ISBN 9781476718743, December 2012

Joey Rubin is a rising young architect in New York, battling the glass ceiling and still hurting from the end of a romance with a co-worker. She's developed a hard, cynical edge, and has been losing touch with her friends from college and earlier. She's also starting to realize that maybe it was a mistake to get rid of everything that reminded her of her late mother, after her father remarried, moved to Florida, and deeded the condo they'd all lived in together to her.

Then the lead partner on a project she's done much of the work on is badly hurt in an accident, on the very day they're scheduled to make the presentation to the firm. First she has to make the presentation on her own--and then she finds out that she's going to make the trip to the UK, on nearly no notice, to get the project started.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger

Atria Books, ISBN 9781451645828, March 2013

It's the summer of 1961, and thirteen-year-old Frank Drum is living in New Bremen, Minnesota, with his Methodist minister father, mother, older sister, and younger brother. The sister, Ariel, is a gifted young musician, and is bound for Julliard in the fall. Their brother, Jake, speaks with a stutter and so doesn't speak very much at all, but watches and listens and thinks. Ruth Drum, their mother, is a wonderful singer, an excellent music director--and not happy to be married to a minister. She thought she was marrying a hotshot young lawyer; then the war intervened and Nathan came home from the war headed for the ministry instead. Despite that disappointment, Ruth and Nathan have a loving and mutually supportive relationship, and cherish their children. It's an almost idyllic life.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A Small Case of Murder (Joshua Thornton Mystery #1), by Lauren Carr (author), Kevin Foley (narrator)

Books in Motion, ISBN 9781605481531, December 2008

After the death of his wife Valerie, Navy Commander Joshua Thornton has retired from the Navy and moved back to his childhood hometown of Chester, West Virginia to be a single parent to his five children. He has moved his family back into the old family home he grew up in, raised by his grandparents after the deaths of his own parents in a car accident. A JAG officer with a stellar record, Joshua expects to set up a quiet country law practice.

On the first day in their new home, his kids find a letter mailed to Joshua's mother, coincidentally, on the very day that she and his father died. It's from a friend who had been with them when they discovered a dead body in a barn, that then disappeared before they got the sheriff out there to see it. The friend, Lulu, was conveying the exciting information that at Rev. Rawlings' home, she'd seen a picture of the Rev. and Sheriff Delaney with the dead man.

Lulu also died that day, apparently of a heroin overdose.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Dog King (The Human Division #7), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, February 2013

The B Team has been dispatched to support a diplomatic mission acting as mediators on an alien planet attempting to emerge from civil war and form a new, unified government. The war has been going on for a couple of centuries, ever since the disappearance of the last king, and the pretext for the fighting is that each side blames the other for his disappearance.

CDF Lt. Harry Wilson has been given one simple task--watch the lead Ambassador's dog while she's mediating the very sensitive negotiations. It's a little, fairly well-behaved dog, and Harry and the dog have been given the run of the palace garden, with the assurance that there will be no repercussions for the dog doing normal doggy things. there. What could possibly go wrong?

Except that someone forgot to mention the carnivorous plants, some of them large enough to swallow a human whole...

This is a fun, entertaining interlude, lighter and funnier than recent episodes.


I bought this from Audible.com.

Midnight at Marble Arch (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt #28), by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780345536662, April 2013

Thomas Pitt is now the Commander of Special Branch, part of Britain's intelligence forces. His friend and former boss, Victor Narraway, is involuntarily retired, and not sure what to do with himself, now that for the first time in his adult life he has no duties and no responsibilities.

As Commander Pitt of Special Branch, Thomas and Charlotte are now attending routinely the kinds of social events that Charlotte grew up with. At one of those events, Charlotte witnesses the Portuguese Ambassador's daughter, Angeles Castelbranco, just sixteen years old, fleeing in terror from the taunting but not obviously threatening behavior of Neville Forbush, the son of a wealthy and well-connected man. In her terror, Angeles stumbles and falls against, and out, a window, to her death.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Back Channel (The Human Division #6), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, February 2013

The Colonial Union doesn't want another war with the Conclave, an alliance of four hundred alien species--a war that might wipe out humans in the galaxy. General Gau, leader of the Conclave, also wants to avoid a war, having noticed that the Conclave did not actually win the last one.

But there's a growing faction in the Conclave that does want war, and wildcat human colonies that just happen to include a few Colonial Defense Forces soldiers, risk giving them the excuse they need. Determined to avoid this, General Gau sends out a very private emissary for "back channel" negotiations to persuade the Colonial Union to "deal with" the offending colonies.

But some of the wildcat colonies aren't interested in cooperating. Can a solution be found in time?

This is the sixth of the thirteen episodes of The Human Division, and it's a good one.


I bought this from Audible.com 

Code White, by Scott Britz-Cunningham

Tor/Forge Books, ISBN 9780765331922, April 2013

Ali O'Day is a rising young neurosurgeon, and it's the biggest day of her life. She's about to implant into the brain of a young blind boy the SIPNI device developed in collaboration with her estranged husband Kevin, and her lover Richard Helvelius, the medical center's senior neurosurgeon and Ali's professional mentor. If the device works, Jamie will see again. And then it can be used to repair other neurological damage, restoring for other patients the ability to walk, see, hear--it's a potential technological and medical miracle. Along with SIPNI, Kevin has also developed Odin, an artificial intelligence that provides enhanced information to the the surgeon--along with perhaps quite a bit more. There's film crew to record the surgery for posterity and national news ratings, and everything is focused on the great moment.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tales From the Clarke (The Human Division #5), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, February 2013

Captain Coloma of the Clarke is on tenterhooks awaiting the results of the review board, after she did major, irreparable damage to her ship by placing it in the path of a missile intended for the aliens Ambassador Abumwe had been sent to negotiate with. In the meantime, she and her crew have been given a really simple, boring task: ferry around dignitaries from Earth, in an aging vessel the Colonial Union is planning to sell them.

Simple and straightforward, until Harry Wilson figures out that these dignitaries aren't from Earth, at least not recently, and her chief engineer discovers a little surprise hidden in the ship's skip drive.

Another good episode. Recommended.

Again, I bought this from Audible.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by David Graeber (author), Grover Gardner (narrator)

Gildan Media, January 2012

This is an amazingly lively, interesting, and provocative history of debt, money, and credit systems that may upend assumptions and beliefs you've taken for granted.

One of the most basic of those assumptions is that, prior to the invention of money, people relied on barter to trade the things they had in excess for the things they needed. This would have been enormously cumbersome, and that, in the traditional version, is why money was invented. The problem is that there is no evidence to support this theory. No society has ever been found, anywhere, that relies on barter as a primary way of trading within the community. Barter is only ever used with strangers, or in societies that normally use money but have experienced a temporary  break-down in the availability of money. It's stop-gap, not something people do routinely.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Voice in the Wilderness (Human Division #4), by John Scalzi (author), William Dufris (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, February 2013

Al Birnbaum is a fading political talk host, watching his career death-spiral and dreaming of the great days. Then he meets a stranger who offers him the key to returning to the top of the ratings and more influence than he had even at his previous highest success.

The problem here, which Al doesn't sufficiently appreciate, is that he has no idea who the stranger works for, or what his ultimate goal is.

Episode Four of The Human Division is set on Earth, where conspiracy theories are thriving, the Conclave has diplomatic representation, and would-be recruits to the Colonial Defense Forces are coming to terms with the fact that that option is no longer there for them when they turn 75.

Scalzi's episodic novel continues to unfold, and this is another strong episode.


I bought this story from Audible.com

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty, by William Hogeland (author), Simon Vance (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400102471, June 2006

This is a detailed look at an often-overlooked episode in the early history of the American republic, the Whiskey Rebellion.

We now take for granted the success of the new United States of America after the American War for Independence,  but it was far from a foregone conclusion. Under the initial Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781 when formal ratification by all thirteen original states was completed. The Articles contained a fatal flaw: the Congress had no power to tax and could only request funding from the states. This meant, effectively, that it could make all the decisions it wanted, but it had no power to implement them. The Congress could not manage or prevent conflicts between states, could not take effective action without unanimous support of the states, and was generally unable to provide any of the benefits of a national government. Because of this, the early USA was in danger of coming apart, with some states even making overtures to Britain.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Heart Like Mine, by Amy Hatvany

Washington Square Press, ISBN 9781451640564, March 2013

Grace McAllister has just become engaged to her boyfriend Victor, and they're planning to tell his children during their weekend visit, when a normal Friday afternoon is disrupted by the shocking news that the children's mother, Victor's ex-wife Kelli, has suddenly died. The couple are now full-time parents to two grieving children, with all the new stresses this introduces, for Victor, for Grace, and for the two children, thirteen-year-old Ava and ten-year-old Ben.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cinnamon Roll Murder (Hannah Swensen Mystery #15), by Joanne Fluke

Kensington, ISBN 9780785234933, March 2012

Norman Rhodes, Lake Eden's favorite dentist, is engaged to marry fellow dentist Doctor Bev, and no one is happy about it. Even Norman's chief rival for the affections of town cookie maker and amateur homicide detective, Hannah Swensen, is not happy about his friend Norman marrying a woman he thinks is a liar--and whom he's pretty sure Norman isn't in love with. But Norman is nothing if not responsible, and he's the father of Bev's daughter Diana--or so she tells him.

Since this really isn't enough excitement for Lake Eden, the jazz band, Cinnamon Roll Six, scheduled to perform in town, becomes part of a multi-car crash on the ice-slicked highway. Hannah and her youngest sister, Michelle, witness the accident and pitch in to help get the less seriously injured to the hospital, while the ambulances take the more seriously injured. The band's keyboard player, Buddy Neiman, has a sprained wrist, not a life-threatening injury though not minor for a keyboardist. By the end of the evening, though, he's dead--with surgical scissors in his chest.