Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1), by P.L. Travers (author), Sophie Thompson (narrator)

Listening Library, ISBN 9780739366790, June 2008 (original publication 1934)

This is a story most of us know, whether from the book or from the 1964 Disney movie. Recently it has gotten a flurry of new attention due to the new Disney movie about making the Mary Poppins movie, Saving Mr. Banks.

Mary Poppins arrives, apparently on the East Wind, at 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London, when the Banks family is in dire need of a new nanny, Katie Nanna having quit and departed quite abruptly. She is brusque and high-handed, and promises only that she will stay until the wind changes, but magical things happen all around her.

It's a charming story, and well worth reading whether you are in the intended age group, or long removed from that.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hominids (Neanderthal Parallax #1), by Robert J. Sawyer (author), Jonathan Davis (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, April 2008 (original publication 2002)

Ponter Boddit is a theoretical physicist working with his professional and life partner--his man-mate--Adikor on a quantum computer, deep in the bowels of a nickel mine, when something goes horribly wrong and, from Adikor's perspective, Ponter disappears.

From Ponter's perspective, he's suddenly in a tankful of water in a large, dark room.

Ponter and Adikor are Neanderthals, from a world where H. sapiens sapiens died out, and H. sapiens neanderthalis survived to become the dominant species.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor, by Lucy Christopher (author), Emily Gray (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781449838409, July 2010 (original publication May 2009)

Gemma is sixteen years old, traveling with her parents from London to Vietnam on what is a business trip for her art curator mother, when a vaguely familiar man in his twenties pays for her coffee because she doesn't have local currency. She's grateful; he's polite and charming.

And within a few minutes, he has drugged her coffee and snatched her away from the coffee shop into a less public part of the airport.  When she is next fully awake and in her own senses, she's in an isolated house in the Australian Outback, with only her kidnapper, Ty, for company.

Three Princes, by Ramona Wheeler

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765335975, February 2014

This is an alternate history set in a timeline where Caesar lived, he and Cleopatra prevailed, and the line descended from them continues to rule an empire dominated by Egypt over 1,800 years later. Lord Scott Oken, a British prince, a younger son of a line descended from both Caesar and Cleopatra (not just one or the other), is a young man who has made his career serving as a spy and agent for the Egyptian royal court.

His mentor and friend, Professor-Prince Mikel Mabruke, is a Nubian prince, as high-ranking as anyone outside the immediate Egyptian royal family, and an expert in alchemy, which is to say poisons.

Oken, on a recent trip through Europe, uncovered evidence of a nasty plot involving ambitious native leaders in Britain, Oesterreich (Germany), and Russia. The details aren't clear, but there's a religious aspect as well as the political, and the group apparently calls itself the Black Orchid.

He arrives home from this trip just in time to help rescue Prince Mikel Mabruke from another, apparently unrelated, criminal conspiracy, known as the Red Hand.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Found (The Missing #1), by Margaret Peterson Haddix (author), Chris Sorensen (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781456104979, March 2011 (original publication April 2008)

Jonah Skidmore is adopted and thirteen years old. He's always been comfortable with this, and finds his sister Katherine, one year younger and not adopted, no more irritating than most boys his age find their sisters.

Then Jonah and his friend Chip, who is also adopted, get mysterious and vaguely threatening letters, telling them that they are among the "missing," and that someone is coming to get them back.

They start asking questions about their adoptions, and Jonah's father contacts the agency Jonah came from. He's given a name, James Reardon, who may have more information about where Jonah came from.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

True Grit, by Charles Portis (author), Donna Tartt (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781449892289, June 2006 (original publication 1968)

Mattie Ross, a fourteen-year-old from a prosperous Arkansas family in in the 1870s, would in other circumstances be an insufferable brat. Right now, though, she's a young woman on a mission: her father has been shot and killed by a transient worker of dubious background that Frank Ross had hired to work on their farm. The killer, Tom Chaney, has fled across the border into Choctaw territory, and Mattie is determined to get him. To that end, she has found the "meanest" Federal Marshall, Reuben "Rooster" Cogburn, and offered him a hundred dollars to help her track down Chaney.

Cogburn is initially reluctant to bring a young girl with him into Indian Territory, and when Mattie has worn him down, a Texas Ranger LeBoeff, following Chaney, whom he knows as Chelmsford, for killings in Texas, reiterates the very sensible idea that Mattie should go home and let them track the fugitive.

That's not happening.

Mattie is almost as tough and smart as she thinks she is, and she, Cogburn, and LeBoeff learn not to underestimate each other.

Mattie is telling this story from her childhood many years later, an aging spinster bank owner who has even yet never seen any reason to compromise her standards or her beliefs. She can be naive, judgmental, narrow-minded, but she is always utterly sincere. Donna Tartt's reading is pitch-perfect.


Kindred Rites (Tales of Alfreda Golden-Tongue #2), by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Book View Cafe, ISBN 9781611383546, January 2014

A few months have passed since the events of Night Calls, and Allie--Alfreda Sorensson--is continuing her study of magic with her cousin, Marta Donaltsson, in the tiny frontier village of Cat Track Hollow, having progressed to the point of learning the ritual to contact Death. After a Christmas visit to her parents in Sun-Return, Allie's friend Idelia comes to visit Allie in Cat Track Hollow.

Allie is just thirteen, and Idelia is not much older, but it's the American frontier in the early 1800s, even if a different 1800s than our own history, and Idelia is hoping to be betrothed soon. That doesn't prevent her from enjoying a chance to flirt with Charles Hudson, son of a locally prominent family, and his cousin Erik, recently arrived from some long-separated branch of the Hudson family. Allie doesn't entirely see what all the fuss is about, even when Idelia tells her that Erik is more interested in her, Allie--although she's a bit more interested when Shaw Kristensson arrives to escort Idelia home to Sun-Return, and the two appear to regard each other as rivals. The last thing Shaw says to Allie before he and Idelia leave is a warning to be wary of the Hudson men, because their eyes are "like mirrors."

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Future of the Mind:The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind, by Michio Kaku

Doubleday Books, ISBN 9780385530835, February 2014

Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist with a love of science fiction and of explaining science to non-scientists as well as of physics, once again takes a big, broad subject area that people are fascinated by, and  explores what we know and  can do now, what we can expect in the near future, and what the next century or two might bring us.

This is a readable, fascinating introduction to what we know about the workings of the human brain, and how the mind emerges from it, as well as the current state and realistic prospects for artificial intelligence.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Dead Shall Not Rest: A Dr. Thomas Silkstone Mystery #2, by Tessa Harris (author), Simon Vance (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781470826086, December 2012

Dr. Thomas Silkstone and his betrothed, Lady Lydia Farrell, are more or less patiently waiting out the time until they can, with a minimum of fuss and scandal, announce their engagement. In the meantime, a friend of Lydia's father, a Polish count, Boruwlaski, who has made a handsome living off of the fact that he is a dwarf, arrives to inform her that an Irish giant is being cruelly exploited in a fair that's taking place on the edge of her property. He and Lady Lydia extract the giant, Charles Byrne, from the clutches of his current employer, and Lydia sends for Thomas to come from London to examine the man before the count leads him off to exhibit himself to far more lucrative audiences in more comfortable surroundings.

Soon they are all in London, and Charles Byrne, with Count Boruwlaski's help, is making much better money exhibiting himself to the nobility and gentry, while eating good meals and sleeping in a warm bed in the Count's household.