Friday, October 31, 2014

Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (author), Tom Stechschulte (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780694522880, November 1999

Plainsong weaves together the stories of Victoria Roubideaux, seventeen years old, pregnant, and thrown out of the house by her mother; the McPheron brothers, Harold and Raymond, elderly bachelor ranchers; high school teacher Tom Guthrie and his two sons, Ike and Bobby; and Maggie Jones, another high school teacher.

Set in the small town of Holt, Colorado, sometime in the 1980s or 90s, this is a meditation on community, decency, and pulling together. Victoria, pregnant and now homeless, turns to her teacher, Mrs. Jones, for help. Maggie takes her in, and when it becomes clear that her father's advancing dementia makes the house unsafe for Victoria, she convinces the elderly, and lonely, McPheron brothers to give her a home.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tales From High Hallack, Volume 3, by Andre Norton

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781497637122, October 2014

This is the third and final volume of the collected short stories of Andre Norton. It's a mix of science fiction and fantasy stories, and of stories from her established fictional universes and free-standing stories, ranging from 1943 until her death in 2005.

Norton was one of the most treasured writers of my youth, a huge influence on subsequent generations of, especially, women writers, and a SFWA Grand Master. Those familiar with her Witch World stories will recognize the name High Hallack, but the title of this collection doesn't refer to those novels, or not directly. It's the name she gave her magnificent private library, which she used to support younger writers starting out on their careers.

Andre Norton and her stories were both treasures. She's gone now but her stories are still here for us to enjoy.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Fall of Kings (The World of Riverside #3), by Ellen Kushner (author), Delia Sherman (author), Ellen Kushner (narrator), Delia Sherman (narrator) Nick Sullivan (narrator), Neil Gaiman (narrator), Simon Jones (narrator), Katherine Kellgren (narrator), Robert Fass (narrator), Richard Ferrone (narrator), Tim Jerome (narrator)

Neil Gaiman Presents, August 2013

This is a real treat, a wonderful performance of a very enjoyable book.

Set in the world of Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint and The Privilege of the Sword, it's about forty or fifty years after Privilege. Katherine is Duchess Tremontaine, and Theron, Alec's posthumous son from his very late marriage to Sofia, now a physician and a Doctor of the University, is her heir presumptive.

He's also young, romantic, a poet, and an eternal student, flitting from one field of study to another, currently studying rhetoric. His heart broken (most recently) by the artist Isolde, who painted him for a year and then was done with him, he meets the dynamic young magister, Doctor of History Basil St. Cloud.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bad Grrlz' Guide to Reality, by Pat Murphy

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781480483200, April 2014

How have I not read Pat Murphy before this year?

This is an omnibus of two connected novels, Wild Angel and Adventures in Time and Space with Max Merriwell. There was originally a third, the first one in the sequence, There and Back Again by Max Merriwell, but the Tolkein estate objected, and the publisher at the time decided not to contest the issue.

Wild Angel turns Tarzan inside out. A little girl's parents are murdered while panning for gold in California, and she escapes to be rescued and raised by a pack of wolves. Sarah is the hero of her own story, growing up smart, strong, and gifted. Max is not her rescuer but her chronicler. He's well-meaning, honest, kind, and honorable, but occasionally clueless. Sarah's Aunt Audrey, the adventurous young Helen Harris, a circus leader, and a temperance preacher of many talents all add to the fun and adventure. This is light entertainment and a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Plan B (Liaden Universe #4), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Andy Caploe (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication February 1999)

Miri and Val Con have gotten off Vandar, but they're not home free. In fact, the Department of the Interior has declared war on Clan Korval. First Speaker Nova yos'Galen invokes Plan B, which I will simply say puts the entire clan on a war footing, while leaving the details for the reader to discover.

Meanwhile, Miri and Val Con make their way to Lytaxin, home of Clan Erob, Clan Korval's oldest allies--and the Liaden kin of Miri's that she barely believes in, and whom she assumes will reject her out of hand even if they are kin.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Festive in Death (In Death #39), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Erickson (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, September 2014

Eve Dallas is back, and the Christmas season is upon her. Before the challenges of celebrating and gift-giving overtake her, she gets a more familiar challenge: Trey Ziegler, personal trainer, self-absorbed jerk, murder victim. He's found with a knife in his chest by his most recent ex-girlfriend and her buddy/boss, Trina--the hairdresser and cosmetologist who terrorizes Dallas whenever she needs to make a major social appearance. Trina, no fool, takes one look at the dead body and calls Dallas.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blame It On the Mistletoe, by Nicole Michaels

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781466867550, October 2014

Brooke Abbott has returned to her hometown in Missouri after a painful relationship that has left her wary and her brother very protective of her. She's opened a small arts studio, selling her own jewelry and handicraft as well as that of others, and she really needs this, her first Christmas season, to be a big success if her studio is to survive till spring.

When local bad boy/heartthrob (and secret crush) Alex Coleman returns to town unexpectedly, she's pretty sure it's bad news. Alex was always trouble. What she doesn't know is that Alex has returned to see his grandmother, settle his wealthy grandfather's estate, and make peace with his mother.

What Alex doesn't know is that his often cold, distant grandfather has left him his most treasured real estate holding other than the family house: 100 Main Street, the building that houses both Brooke's studio and her apartment.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Christmas at Seashell Cottage (Jewel Cove #1.5), by Donna Alward

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781466867567, October 2014

In the tiny Maine town of Jewell Cove, Dr. Charlene Yang has found a home and the family medicine practice she dreamed of. What she hasn't done is free herself from some of the need to plan every detail and keep every aspect of her own behavior under perfect control lest she be a disappointment. And that isn't helping her find love.

Lately, though, Charlie's been watching a handsome guy down on the docks, while eating her lunch at Breezes. When they meet while helping decorate the church for Christmas, Mystery Guy turns out to be as cute up close as he is from a distance, as well as being smart, funny, and charming. He's Dave Ricker, ex-Navy SEAL, and father of a young daughter who lives with her mother and stepfather.

Charlie has been taught in an emotionally cool childhood never to be spontaneous. She wants love and family and commitment. Dave has learned not to make plans, to relax and enjoy the moment.

They both face a major challenge when, at the town tree lighting, they find a days-old baby abandoned in the town manger.

This is a light, fun story populated entirely by good people. There are no villains. That may not be everyone's idea of exciting, but it's sweet and charming.

Recommended for a pleasant seasonal read.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Little Christmas Jingle, by Michelle Dunaway

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781466867581, October 2014

Kat Saunders has a problem. Along with her successful veterinary practice, she has been operating a No Kill animal shelter at her clinic. Unfortunately, she dropped the ball on the paperwork and doesn't at the moment have a permit for the shelter. And the head of the local neighborhood association wants the shelter shut down.

Jack Donovan, police detective and head of the city's animal cruelty task force, has his own problems, most notably being the very sexy Mr. December in the local humane society's fundraising calendar, and an upcoming family wedding for which his loving family really wants him to have a date with potential to be his happily ever after.

What brings them together is an abused pit bull puppy, burned over much of his body. Kat's is the closest veterinary clinic that has agreed to take animals from the task force for treatment. She names the puppy Jingle, and puts everything into saving him.

And of course, Kat and Jack begin their own dance of fighting their attraction to each other.
Kat and Jack are both easy to like, and have issues from their past experiences that are easy to relate to. With a light touch that never lets it interfere with enjoying the story, Dunaway works in some of the issues and progress in humane animal sheltering and adoption, which is a bonus extra for me. And it all builds toward a wonderful Christmas climax.

Fun and heartwarming. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.