Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Shot in the Bark (Dog Park Mystery #1), by C.A. Newsome

Amazon Digital Services, September 2011

Lia Anderson and her dogs, Honey and Chewy, are regulars at the Mount Airy dog park. So are her boyfriend, Luthor Morrissey, and his dog, Viola. When Lia and Luthor break up and have an argument at the dog park, quite a few of their friends and acquaintances witness it. When in the predawn hours of the following morning, Lia finds Luthor dead of apparent suicide at the dog park, she's emotionally devastated--by the shockingly bloody sight, and by guilt at the thought that she was the cause.

But Luthor didn't commit suicide. And the faked suicide wasn't staged by someone who, like Lia, knew he was left-handed. Police detective Peter Dourson has to figure out which of the dog park regulars--a collection of individuals who for the most part have nothing in common except dogs--had the motive and opportunity to kill Luthor Morrissey.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (author), Cassandra Campbell (narrator), Bahni Turpin (narrator)

Random House Audio, February 2010

In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, a poor, black tobacco farmer and mother of five, sought treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins. In the course of her treatment, without seeking consent, doctors took cells from her tumor for research unrelated to her treatment.

The HeLa cell line became the first immortal human cell line, and the basis for numerous major medical and scientific breakthroughs. Her husband and children didn't find out about this until twenty years after her death, and when they did, it changed their lives.

In alternating chapters, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of Henrietta, her illness, and her family's struggles in the years following, and her own research into the woman behind the cell line, including meeting her family and developing a friendship and partnership with Henrietta's daughter Debra. We learn the importance of the HeLa cell line, the research whose results we all benefit from today. We learn about the family, hardworking, battling poverty and lack of education, deeply affected by the loss of Henrietta--and without health insurance while the HeLa cells went on to be a multi-million dollar industry.

Skloot explores not just the experiences of the family, but also the medical ethics issues involved and how medical ethics evolved in part in response to the ramifications of the HeLa cells, and in part in response to other social changes. At the time, doctors at research and teaching hospitals routinely took samples from patients for research without seeking consent. The Tuskegee syphilis experiment, begun in 1932, would continue for another two decades after Henrietta's death, until 1972. Even now, with better, stronger informed consent rules and procedures, it's nearly impossible for patients to either have any control over what happens to their tissues after removal, or to derive any financial benefit if, like HeLa, they become very, very profitable. This book includes a very thoughtful exploration of why patients have so far been denied that input and control, and how the current rules do and do not benefit science. It's a complex issue, or rather set of issues, and the book would be worthwhile if only for this discussion of the human and scientific ramifications of these questions.

Yet that's a small part of the story here, and Henrietta's experiences in the late forties and early fifties, juxtaposed with the experiences of her children, especially her daughter Debra, and of Rebecca Skloot as she does her research, decades later, make for a deeply moving and compelling story.

The audio edition includes an interview with Rebecca Skloot.

Highly recommended.

Book trailer:

I borrowed this book from the library.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Going Alien, by Jeffrey A. Carver

Starstream Publications, August 2012

I don't read many short story collections, but this is a good one by a favorite author. There are six short stories here, from a wrestling competition between a human and a shape-shifting alien, two very different stories of alien invasion, and early stories in the Star Rigger universe. Convincing world building and solid characterization are always features of Carver's work, and the plotting here is tight and focused. The unifying theme of the collection is human/alien interaction, not always to the benefit of the humans.

All in all, this is a very pleasant way to while away a few evenings, or a few summer afternoons out the sun and the heat.


I bought this book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

After I Do, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Atria Books/Washington Square Press, ISBN 9781476712840. July 2014

Lauren Spencer meets Ryan Cooper when they are nineteen and in college. They are soon deeply in love, and their relationship strengthens and deepens over the years.

But eleven years later, when they have been married six years, somehow that deep connection has vanished. They are fighting constantly, avoiding saying what they want from each other to avoid more fighting, and have grown desperately unhappy.

After a terrible confrontation, they agree on a plan: They will separate for one year, have no contact during that time, and then see if they can put their marriage back together.

The Dead Sea Cipher, by Elizabeth Peters (author), Grace Conlin (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, December 2004 (original publication 1970)

Dinah van der Lyn travels to the Holy Land and stumbles into an international intrigue tied to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

She's a young professional opera singer, and the daughter of a Pennsylvania clergyman who has an interest in Biblical archaeology. The tour she has signed up for hasn't even left Beirut yet when Dinah overhears a loud and violent argument in the hotel room next to hers. It ends in murder. Since the argument was in Arabic, Dinah has no idea what was said, but not everyone believes that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Princess Elizabeth's Spy (Maggie Hope #2), by Susan Elia MacNeal (author), Susan Duerden (narrator)

Random House Audio, October 2012

Maggie Hope, formerly one of Winston Churchill's secretaries, has been recruited into MI5. She's hoping to be dropped behind enemy lines, putting her language skills to good work for Britain. Instead, she finds herself  assigned to go undercover at Windsor Castle, as maths tutor for fourteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth. As lowering as this seems, there are hints of a plot to kill the king and kidnap the princess, and install the Duke of Windsor as a puppet king after an invasion. Maggie is there to soak up information and identify any possible threats to the princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret.

Bella Italia, by Suzanne Vermeer

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781480443747, May 2014

The Kolwijn family--father Hans, mother Petra, and son Niels--decide to take a different kind of vacation from their usual. Instead of a resort hotel, they decide to go to a large campground in Italy that has a wide range of activities, as well as accommodations ranging from tents to bungalows. They hsettle on a mobile home, and head off to enjoy themselves.

It's a fateful choice, and as fretful as the somewhat over-protective Hans is over letting the ten-year-old Niels roam the campgrounds taking part in activities with his new friends, Thijs and Mats, his worst fears don't encompass what will happen.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Art of Arranging Flowers, by Lynne Branard

Penguin Group NAL Signet Romance, ISBN 9780425272718, June 2014

Ruby Jewell endured a hard early life, sustained by the mutual love she and her younger sister, Daisy, enjoyed. Then Daisy died tragically young, when the sisters were in their early twenties, and in the two decades since, Ruby has kept her emotions locked up. She expresses them only through the flower arrangements she creates as proprietor of the Flower Shoppe, in Creekside, Washington. Ruby's life is safe, contained, and useful; with her flowers and her detailed client notes and tickler file, she promotes the happiness and well-being of others. Ruby has her friends, but her only real companion is her aging Lab, Clementine.

And then a young boy with a family life as troubled as her own was comes to the shop seeking an after school job. The town's most famous citizen, retired astronaut Dan Miller, needs a companion at short notice for a very fancy dinner. A new veterinarian moves into town, taking over the practice of the previous veterinarian.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Million-Dollar Maverick (Montana Mavericks:Twenty Years in the Saddle), by Christine Rimmer

Harlequin Special Edition, ISBN 9780373658237, June 2014

Nate Crawford has, a few months earlier, pretty well torched his former good boy reputation with the dirty tactics he used while losing the campaign for mayor of Rust Creek Falls, Montana. When on an icy January morning, he meets nurse Callie Kennedy on her way into Rust Creek Falls to be a part of the rebuilding after the big flood, he has no idea his life is about to change in some remarkable ways. He pretty much seals his fate and hers when he makes a bet with her that she'll be gone in six months.

This is a category romance, and as such the characters are likable and just complex enough to be engaging. There's a little added depth in the fact that this is the latest in a loose series using the same setting and other local residents as main characters.

Blind Faith (Sin Brothers #3), by Rebecca Zanetti

Forever (Grand Central Publishing), ISBN 9781455574483, may 2014

The Dean brothers, formerly the Gray brothers, are genetically engineered super soldiers who have escaped the evil masterminds who created them, and have been building a different life in a carefully maintained deep cover. Matt and Shane have found love, and the youngest of the four, Jory, didn't escape with them. They know he was shot; they don't know if he's dead.

This is Nathan's story.

It's also Audrey Madison's story.

Audrey is the daughter of the scientist who has played a major role in creating the genetically engineered soldiers for the commander of the black ops organization, and testing and training them as they grew. Nate and his brothers loathe the woman who made their childhoods a torment; Audrey understands what her mother has done and hates it, but clings to the irrational hope of a real relationship with her mother.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Ships of Air (The Fall of Ile- Rien #2), by Martha Wells (author), Talmadge Ragan (narrator)

Tantor Audio, November  2013

This is a middle book in a series, and begins with exciting action in progress that we subsequently have to piece together partial background for. It also ends more or less in mid-action, though the main issues of this volume are resolved enough.

I listened to the audiobook, and some spellings below are guesses. Please forgive any errors.

Tremaine Valiarde and a collection of soldiers and sorcerers from Ile-Rien have crossed into an alternate world in the former luxury liner Queen Ravenna, trying to track down the home base of the Gardier, the people who are attacking and destroying Ile-Rien.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Animals: A Guide for the Consumer, by Susan E. Davis, PT

Joycare Onsite, ISBN 9780989275002,  September 2013

As pets have become more closely bound into our lives as family members, we are increasingly willing to treat conditions and injuries that previously led to euthanasia, but that leads to another challenge. How do we best manage recovery, or preserve movement and function so that our pets can be comfortable and lead satisfying lives?

Susan E. Davis had a long and successful career as a licensed physical therapist for humans before love of animals and the desire for a new challenge led her to the newly developing field of physical therapy and rehabilitation for animals.

It's important to understand what this book isn't. It's not a how-to, with lots of instructions on how to do physical therapy yourself. Done without knowledge and training, that can hurt your pet more than help. This is a guide to working with a physical therapist or a rehabilitation-trained veterinary specialist.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Shaking Out the Dead, by K. M. Cholewa

The Story Plant, ISBN 9781611881431, June 2014

Paris, Tatum, and Geneva are all struggling with love--what it is, and whether they have it. Tatum and Geneva have complicated personal histories, and it's sort of implied that Paris does too, though we don't learn much about his past.

Tatum, in her mid-thirties, is estranged from her family, which is to say her sister, has found that she always fails at love--there is no doubt in her mind that it's her failure, that she is in some way invincibly unlovable--and has failed at suicide a number of times. Most recently, she has had a failed love affair with Vincent, son of an old friend of Geneva's, and survived breast cancer by means of a mastectomy. She of course did not have reconstructive surgery following the mastectomy. Her sister has just died, and she is about to become responsible for her niece, Rachel.