Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The House on Seventh Street, by Karen Vorbeck Williams

Booktrope Editions, ISBN 9781513702, September 2015

Winna Jessup has come home to Grand Junction, Colorado to close up and sell her late father's house. Her father had disappeared in the fall of 1998, but his body wasn't found, at the foot of a cliff that his car had burned at the top of, until the spring of 1999.

And now Winna has come back from her home in New Hampshire, coping with the aftermath of her father's deah, and then his will--which cut her younger sister Chloe out with just a dollar. The girls had never been close to their father, but that he'd been angry enough with Chloe to disinherit her came as a shock.

Chloe still lives nearby; Winna's daughter Emily moved back to Grand Junction when she married. Initially, Winna is on her own in sorting the household goods--which turn out to be almost entirely her grandmother's.

Why Henry Gumman cut Chloe out of his will, and what he was doing in Unaweep Canyon when he died, are mysteries, but they don't seem like urgent ones.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Mycroft Holmes, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (author), Anna Waterhouse (author), Damian Lynch (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2015

Sherlock Holmes famously said that his elder brother Mycroft had powers of observation greater than his own. This story is set decades earlier, in the early 1860s, when Mycroft is just twenty-three and secretary to the Secretary of War, and Sherlock is still in his teens.

Mycroft is in love with and engaged to the beautiful Georgiana Sutton, daughter of a prosperous sugatr cane planter in Trinidad. He is saving his money to buy their first house, and in the meantime advancing his career and spending as much free time with her s they decently can.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Egyptian Affair (The Regent Mysteries #4), by Cheryl Bolen

Harper & Appleton, ISBN 9781939602428, December 2015

The Prince Regent asks his favorite investigators, Captain Jack Dryden and Lady Daphne Dryden, to take on another case. His long-time source of Oriental, especially Egyptian, artifacts for his collection, Prince Singh, has vanished. Even more annoying, he vanished before delivering the latest item he'd sold to the regent, the death mask of Amon-Re. So Jack  and Lady Daphne will go to Egypt and attempt to find both the man and the mask. For the protection of Lady Daphne, beloved eldest daughter of Lord Sidworth, For the benefit of the investigation, he also sends with them Dr. Stanton Maxwell, speaker of Arabic and expert on Egypt and its artifacts. For reasons that make no sense at all, Lady Daphne decides to take along her youngest sister, Lady Rosemary, who is very intelligent, very interested in Egypt, and as naive and susceptible as any stereotypical young Regency miss barely past her first Season.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Drool Baby (A Dog ParkMystery#2), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

Carol Ann Newsome, August 2013

The shocking events of earlier in the year are over, and life in and around the dog park is back to normal--more or less. Lia Anderson is getting therapy for the lingering effects of her friend and partner, Bailey, holding a gun to her head and nearly killing her. Terry's leg is healing, if slower than he'd like. Lia herself has a great new commission from Renee for a sun marker and sculpture on her property, and her relationship with the cute police detective, Peter Dourson, is humming along nicely--even if Lia does have some insecurities around relationships, which can be a cause for some friction.

But readers of the first book, A Shot in the Bark, know that there's a serial killer lurking among the dog park regulars, and things can't remain calm for long. When a stranger approaches Jim with some unsettling information from Bailey, now confined to a mental institution until she's competent to stand trial, it starts a chain of events that will kick the serial killer into action again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Cop's Eye, by Blue Delliquanti (author, illustrator), Michele Rosenthal (illustrator)

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Worknesh Kedir is a Minneapolis cop. Her partner is Municipal Eye V-16, a.k.a. "Vic," an AI able to access online data as needed for their investigations. Their current assignment is finding teenage runaway Lucy Vang, as a blizzard bears down on Minneapolis.

They quickly discover that her father is oppressive, intolerant, and is actively interfering in Lucy's school work, even trying to keep her home. She's exceptionally good with computers and programming, and he resents that. Her mother wants Lucy to be safe--but actually thinks she might be better off elsewhere.

Worknesh and Vic not only have to find Lucy; they have to find a safe solution for her.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley (author), Thomas Judd (narrator)

Audible Studios for Bloomsbury, July 2015

Nathaniel Steepleton--Thaniel, to his friends--is a telegrapher in the British Home Office in the 1880s. He's very good at it, but he was a talented pianist, before his brother-in-law died and left him responsible for the support of his sister and two nephews. Supporting a sister and nephews in Scotland requires a reliable income, so he's sold the piano, become a telegraphy clerk, and is living a much quieter, more circumscribed life, so he can send half his salary to his sister.

Then one day in May he comes home to find that his flat has apparently been burgled--except that nothing is missing. In fact, a watch has been left--a very good watch. The maker's paper inside indicates it was made by a Mr. Mori of Filigree Street. It's strange and unaccountable, but beyond talking to his friend Dolly Williams at Scotland Yard, there's not much else to be done. And it's a good watch. Besides, the far more interesting information is that Irish nationalists have announced that government buildings will be blown up in November--six months off.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Wizard of Mars (Young Wizards #9), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, October 2013 (original publication January 2010)

Kit has been obsessed with Mars lately, and has been spending a lot of time there. Often that time is with Ronan and Darryl, because Nita doesn't share his fascination with the red planet. Yet there's a real wizardly mystery on Mars: its kernal is missing. This could have real and unpredictable consequences, and there's also the question of why there aren't any Martians. So the boys aren't there alone; quite a few other wizards, including Earth's Planetary, Irina, and the regional Species Archivist, the saurian Mamvish, are also studying Mars.

Meanwhile, Nita is juggling her own set of issues. Younger sister Dairine is spending most of her time on Welkath, studying star management, and their father wants Dairine to at least check in more regularly. Since he can't follow her and bring her back for meals, chores, and the last few days of the school year, Nita has to.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bryony and Roses, by T Kingfisher (author), Justine Eyere (narrator)

Tantor Audio, ISBN 9781494566609, October 2015

This is a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, and it's an excellent one.

Bryony and her sisters, Holly and Iris, grew up as the daughters of a wealthy merchant--the wealthiest merchant in the land, he made sure everyone knew. After the death of their mother, though, their father grew more and more reckless in his investments, wand finally, when Bryony was fourteen, lost everything. Now the girls are living in a little cottage none of his creditors wanted, in the out-of-the-way village of Lostfarthing. Their father has died, taking one last risk that didn't pay off.

It's been three years, and the girls are eking out a living. Bryony has become a skilled and dedicated gardener. This dedication leads her to visit a neighboring village to get seeds from some particularly hardy rutabagas, and on the way home she is caught in a dangerous snowstorm. When she finds a manor house that shouldn't be there, she has little choice. Despite a rational fear of magic, she and her pony will die if she doesn't take refuge there. She doesn't meet the Beast until the net morning, when she attempts to leave with the beautiful, perfect rose that was on the table for her meals there.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Riding With the Duke, by Jack McDevitt

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Walter Peacock loved physics with a passion, but didn't go beyond his master's because  he concluded he just wasn't smart enough. Then he spent some time more less drifting, bringing in money to live on by driving a cab.

And then he meets Diana Carter.

She's smart, she's attractive, and she is, unaccountably in Walter's mind, interested in him. They start dating, and on his birthday, she gives him a gift--a Quark-box, the latest techie toy. It connects to your tv and lets you substitute yourself for one of the actors in whatever you're watching. Over the next few dates, they watch movies and tv shows, substituting themselves for various leads and iconic character actors. Walter especially enjoys taking on the comic roles--Robin Williams in some of his comedies, Seinfeld in Seinfeld. How much more successful could he be if he could master humor in real life!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Weighing Shadows, by Lisa Goldstein (author), Natasha Soudek (narrator)

Audible Studios, November 2015 (original publication October 2015)

Ann Decker is a young woman with no family, no friends, and no real prospects. An orphan raised in foster care, she didn't make it to college, but she's very good with computers, and has a job in a computer repair shop. She avoids attention as much as possible.

So she's not happy when she notices a woman following her, and is even less pleased when the woman comes into the shop and asks for her by name.

Ann is about to be recruited into Transformations Inc., a company using time travel to attempt to change history to ensure that resources, and human civilization, last beyond the 2370s. Or at least, that's what they say.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Song of Hartgrove Hall, by Natasha Solomons

Plume, ISBN 9780147517593, December 2015

At the end of World War II, the three Fox-Talbot sons and their father the General return to Hartgrove Hall, the family home. It's been in use by the military during the war years, and even before that, the family fortunes were declining. The house is decaying, and they have no money to do necessary repairs. The General thinks the only sensible course is to dynamite the house, and sell the property. The two older sons, Jack and George, war veterans themselves, are determined to save it, farming the land themselves and earning the money to repair it. Harry, the youngest, just eighteen, wants to pursue a career as a composer, but he can't say no to his brothers, and agrees to stay on and help.

Then Jack brings home his girlfriend, popular wartime singer Edie Rose, and Harry falls in love.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Machine Learning, by Nancy Kress

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Ethan's a computer scientist, working on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He doesn't love his work, but he's grateful for it. He needs it. He's also the survivor of a terrible personal tragedy: His daughter Allyson was born infected with Moser's Syndrome, a new and devastating virus, and died when she was only five. His wife Tina, Allyson's mother, first left him after Allyson's death, and then killed herself.

The project he and his research partner, Jamie, are working on involves a machine-assisted instruction program--MAIP--in which the program guides children in their learning in one-on-one sessions, with the research goal of the program learning to recognize and understand human social and emotional cues. They've had progress--MAIP is recognizing and adjusting for frustration, anger, and pleasure in the children, but also setbacks--MAIP isn't recognizing either lying or social pretense.

Meanwhile, Ethan is so closed down and withdrawn that the children, and even sometimes Jamie, call him "Dr. Stone Man."

On the one hand, there's the purely professional conflict over the project between optimistic Jamie and pessimistic Ethan. On the other hand, there's Ethan's emotional shutdown and his coworkers' efforts to break through and reach him--much to his own annoyance. Kress skillfully orchestrates the separate but not unrelated conflicts to one absorbing and painful climax.


This book was available free on Amazon when I downloaded it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ancillary Mercy (Imperial Radch #3), by Ann Leckie (author), Adjoa Andoh (narrator)

Hachette Audio, October 2015

Breq is still juggling events on Athoek Station, and while all is not sweetness and light, there is progress being made on the repair of the Undergarden. Then the station's head priest of Amaat starts a work stoppage; she won't cast the omens, or register births, marriages, or deaths, until work on the Undergarden is stopped so there can be a "review" of how housing in the Undergarden should be assigned after repairs.

The wealthy and privileged are staging a counter-protest against the priests' work stoppage by forming physical lines at the station administrator's office. The formerly illicit residents of the Undergarden, whom Breq intends should be approved as permanent residents, stage their own clever counter-action: bringing food and drink to the people in the line. And while tensions are rising around this situation, four ships, almost certainly from the other Anaander Mianaai, gate into the system--far enough out that they clearly hoped to be unnoticed until ready to move.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Skin in the Game, by Elizabeth Bear

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Neon is a singer and musician, with a stunningly successful career, and a current tour that is almost successful enough. Her manager comes to her with a new bit of tech he insists will push her back up to the very top, and she has the chance to be the first to use it. She'll be at the cutting edge again, not a performer starting to pass from the very top to the start of decline.

It records emotions and shares them with the audience. It will be a new type of concert experience, and a new type of recording available afterwards.

Neon has her doubts. She has serious doubts. She doesn't particularly like or trust her manager, Peter, and has been thinking she should have dumped him before the start of the tour. And how thoroughly does she want to merchandise herself?

But she knows she needs something new, something different. And this Clownfish app could be that edge.

She tries it, it works, it's a wildly successful night. And she comes off the stage and back to her dressing room to discover how far Peter was willing to go to guarantee the best possible results from this new app and her use of it.

Bear plays out the emotions with skill and heart, and Neon is smart, tough, and creative.


This book was available free on Amazon when I downloaded it.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Machine Starts, by Greg Bear

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

Bose is a member of a team working on a quantum computer, and so far, they haven't had the breakthrough they need. Now the team leader, Tiklin, has come up with a new idea that may be the breakthrough they need. Despite misgivings from several members of the group, they go ahead with it.

Or rather, Tiklen and the chief programmer, Dieter, had already gone ahead with it three weeks earlier. And they had given the computer, called 8 Ball, several major mathematical problems to work on.

It's successful. It's the major breakthrough they need, and surely they are headed for Nobel Prizes.

But strange things have started to happen. The soda machines often being empty could be maintenance staff being lazy. That's not a likely explanation for the note Bose finds, apparently from himself, instructing him, "Don't try to find me."

As more and more of the team encounter anomalies, and start to compare notes, they start to realize that something very strange and alarming is happening--and it's not a fixable problem. It's an integral part of how quantum computing works.

Another good story from this collection.

This book was available free from Amazon when I downloaded it.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Concussion, by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Random House, ISBN 9780812987577, November 2015

Bennet Omalu grew up in Nigeria, cherished as one of the family's two "geniuses," and as the family's "angel," born when his father was nearly killed but somehow survived. Bennet thought, though, that his reputation for genius came from the fact that he used books and study to escape a world that was too loud and boisterous for him. When at sixteen he finally has to attend school away from home, without any of his siblings, he develops a crushing depression that he struggles with for many years. Despite this, he keeps going, gets his medical degree, and goes to America, in large part to escape the chaos and corruption of Nigeria.

In America, after some unlikely twists and turns, he winds up in Pittsburgh, working in the coroner's office, and doing the autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hello, Hello, by Seanan McGuire

Published in Future Visions:Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft, edited by Elizabeth Bear, Melchior Media, November 2015

The narrator's sister Tasha is deaf, and the narrator is a computational linguistics expert working on translation software. Tasha is also a conservation expert, specializing in birds, and her home is an aviary for birds she is rehabilitating. She receives visits from bird experts from all over the world, and only some of them speak American Sign Language or British Sign Language.

It's very, very convenient for both Tasha and her sister for Tasha's home to be the testing ground for the latest improvements and upgrades to the translation software the narrator is working on.

The narrator and her wife, Angie, have two young children, Billie and Greg. When Billie and Greg start talking to a stranger using a generic avatar, calling from Tasha's home, she's very, very puzzled and concerned. Comparing notes with Tasha reveals that most of the calls have come when Tasha didn't even have any guests in the house to be making those calls.

What's going on? Is it a glitch in the software? Is someone hacking in to Tasha's system? Why is this person calling Tasha's niece and nephew? Why is the translator having difficulty translating whatever language the caller is speaking?

This is a nice little puzzle story, with a delightful surprise awaiting the reader. Recommended.

This book was free on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

First Do No Harm, by Jonathan Edelstein

(c) 2015 Stephen Hamilton "Do No Harm"
Strange Horizons, November 2015

In a far-future world, where there is interstellar travel and trade, but much knowledge has been lost, Mutende is a medical student. He's not of the usual background for a medical student; he did his fosterage as a mechanic--which however refers to a much techie field than what we would today call a "mechanic." He's poor compared to his fellow students, who are mostly minor aristocrats. Mutende rents rooms from an older woman who is a distant member of his own Hornbill clan, and he's also using his growing medical knowledge to treat her in her terminal illness. She has a slow but ultimately fatal disease, ichiawafu fever, that her late husband brought back from the stars. He passed it on to her before dying of it himself.

The problem is that the known treatments have never been a cure, and now are getting less and less effective even in relieving the symptoms.

And Mutende is being a difficult student. He's asking questions, asking if it really makes sense to do no original research while they are working to recover all the lost and buried knowledge from the more advanced civilization that fell many thousands of years ago.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dragon in Exile (Liaden Universe #18) (Arc of the Covenants #1), Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Kevin T. Collins (narrator)

Audible Studios, June 2015

Clan Korval, banished from Liad, has relocated to Surebleak, and it has meant big changes for both Surebleak and Korval. Pat Rin, now known to locals as Boss Conrad, has started the transformation of Surebleak's gang-driven anarchy to a workable, more or less civilized society. Val Con and Miri, jointly Delm Korval, are also jointly the Road Boss, under contract to keep the Port Road open. There are no more "insurance sales," no more "examples" being made of those who don't pay up, and there are street patrols and schools for the children. Improved law and order also has more business coming to the Port, to everyone's benefit.

But some people aren't happy. They found the old system very profitable, and they're determined to bring down the new Council of Bosses and Clan Korval (known locally mostly as just "the Dragon.") Korval's offworld enemies aren't gone quiet, either.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Christmas at the Vicarage, by Rebecca Boxall

Lake Union Publishing, ISBN 9781503948402, November 2015

When publishers specify a font size in ebooks, so that the reader can't adjust it, it makes the book harder to read for many of their intended readers. Being able to adjust the font size is a significant reason to pick ebooks rather than print for many of us, and it's foolish for publishers to pointlessly make the book less readable.

I'm instituting a new policy of mentioning at the start of a review when a publisher, such as Lake Union in this case, does this, and pointlessly makes it harder for me to enjoy their books.

Rosamunde Pemberton, after fifteen years of travel abroad, returns home to Potter's Cove, the English coastal village where she grew up, in time for Christmas. Her father is still the vicar, Mrs. Garfield is still his housekeeper, and Rosamunde id finally ready to return to a more settled and home-oriented life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Martian (The Movie), by Ridley Scott (director), Drew Goddard (screenplay), Andy Weir (book)

Matt Damon (Mark Watney), Jessica Chastain (Melissa Lewis), Kristen Wiig (Annie Montrose), Jeff Daniels (Teddy Sanders), Michael Peña (Rick Martinez), Sean Bean (Mitch Henderson), Kate Mara (Beth Johanssen), Sebastian Stan (Chris Beck), Axel Hennie (Alex Vogel), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Vincent Kapoor), Benedict Won (Bruce Ng), Mackenzie Davis (Mindy Park), Donald Glover (Rich Purnell)

October 2015

This is the movie adaptation of Andy Weir's book, The Martian. The Mars expedition Ares III is going about its research business on Mars when a storm descends on them, both earlier and more powerful than originally predicted. In the scramble to get people and essential equipment into the MAV for liftoff and return to Hermes, an antenna is broken up and part of it driven at high speed into Mark Watney. He doesn't return to the MAV, and telemetry from his suit stops abruptly. He's been killed. With great reluctance, pushing everything to the last minute, Commander Lewis finally gives the order to lift without him.

But Mark isn't dead.

When he regains consciousness, withs the storm over, he realizes what's happened, that everyone believes he's dead, and he's stuck on Mars. As he repairs his equipment and treats his wound, he faces the fact that he has equipment intended to sustain six people for a month, and he's got about four years before the next manned mission from Earth arrives on Mars. And when it does arrive, even if he were still alive, it would be landing thousands of kilometers away from him. After assessing his supplies and resources, and the challenge he faces, he sums things up thus: "I have to science the shit out of this."

And he does. With determination, humor, ingenuity. He works out how long the available rations will last. He takes the potatoes intended to be part of a "home-cooked" Martian Thanksgiving dinner, and starts serious farming, creating soil out of Martian dirt, human waste, and water that he manages to manufacture without actually blowing himself up. He uses everyone else's entertainment files to keep himself sane--even though there's way too much disco music and seventies tv. He salvages Pathfinder.

It's over a month before the ongoing satellite study of Mars picks up the evidence that Mark Watney isn't dead. It takes longer to work out a means of communication.

The entire country, and then the whole world, starts pulling for a rescue of Mark Watney.

This is wonderful sf adventure, a competent person morality tale of the kind science fiction has loved since at least the 1930s, and in the end, it's a positive, hopeful view of humanity. It's well-written, well-acted, and as faithful to Weir's excellent novel as is possible in the space allowed by a commercially viable movie. There are no fantasy perfect human beings here, but no cheap villains, either. Imperfect people of good will do their best, as far as they can figure out what that is, and they won't quit doing it.

A completely satisfying, enjoyable movie. Highly recommended.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Forgotten Suns, by Judith Tarr

Book View Café, ISBN 9781611384772, February 2015

Aisha Nasir is the thirteen-year-old daughter of archaeologists who've been working on the almost-abandoned planet of Nevermore for most of her life.

When Aisha, in an excess of enthusiasm, tries to blast open a hidden chamber in the mountain near their settlement, things go predictably wrong and she finds nothing useful--but a strange man turns up, apparently from nowhere.

He looks and sounds like the natives--but not exactly. He seems not to remember his name, and Vikram, one of senior staff of the expedition, dubs him Rama. He proves good with the horses, and Vikram hires him.

When their parents and others go off for annual offworld vacation, Aisha and her brother Jamal are left behind as the consequence for their unauthorized use of explosives, with Vikram and their Aunt Khalida to supervise.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The End of All Things (Old Man's War #6), by John Scalzi (author), Tavia Gilbert (narrator), William Dufris (narrator), John Scalzi (narrator)

Audible Studios, August 2015

This can be read as a novel, or as what it is: a collection of four connected novellas. It's also a direct sequel to the similarly-constructed The Human Division.

"The Life of the Mind"--Rafe Daquin is a pilot on the Colonial Union freighter Chandler, when it is commandeered for a special mission by the Colonial Union's Assistant Secretary of State Tyson Ocampo. In short order, most of the crew is dead, Rafe is a brain in a box installed in Chandler, and he knows a great deal about a conspiracy aimed at destabilizing both the Colonial Union and the alien Conclave. Scalzi very effectively gives us Rafe's experience of waking up and realizing that he can feel nothing physical. Even his terror fails to produce normal physical effects. Then we experience with Rafe his discover of what's going on, who's behind it, and what, exactly, are his opportunities to do something about it.

Early Autumn (Spenser #7), by Robert B. Parker

Dell, ISBN 9780440122142, April 1992 (original publication 1981)

Spenser is just settling in to a new office, after his old one got redeveloped out of existence, when a new client walks in. Patty Giacomin's ex-husband has taken their 15-year-old son Paul, and Patty doesn't know where the ex-husband lives. That makes even having him served with a summons rather difficult. What she wants from Spenser is to find him, and bring Paul back home.

This does seem to be mostly about not letting her husband win.

Finding Mel Giacomin turns out to be fairly easy, and since he is also mainly concerned about winning and not much about Paul, it's not hard to convince him it isn't worth a fight with Spenser. It's not long before Spenser has delivered Paul to his mother, and that's the end of the matter.

Except it isn't.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4), by Sarah J. Maas (author), Elizabeth Evans (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2015

First off, I should point out that yes, this is book four of the series, and I've read none of the previous three. Also, there's a good bit of Grimdark about this, with everyone doing or having done awful things, and mostly willing to do more awful things. And at the end, we have a resolution to the story within this book, but no resolution of the larger issues, and much more bad stuff to come in future volumes.

So, really, at some point, I should have been overcome with the desire to throw it against the wall, except for two things. One, it's the audiobook. Two, I loved it.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Without Limits, by Dustin Grinnell

Amazon Digital Services, March 2015

Evan Galloway is a human limits physiologist working for DARPA--the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, the same folks who brought us the internet. Evan's project, of course, is quite different. He's developing a nanotech method for dramatically improving human athletic performance, by increasing the amount of oxygen the human blood can carry. The army wants it for soldiers, but as with much of what DARPA does, there are obvious civilian applications.

Of course, the most obvious of those applications would be classed as cheating. Some people don't mind that, though. Some people are quite comfortable with cheating.

One of those people is billionaire and extreme athlete Jack McKnight--who happens to be the former lover of Evan's boss, Dana Brines. And Dana and Jack have a son together. Or they did, until last year. Michael died suddenly, after running an ultramarathon.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The New Mother, by Eugene Fischer

Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2015

Tess Mendoza is working on an important new article for the biggest magazine she's ever worked for. She's also pregnant, and starting to feel her baby moving.

These two facts are connected in an uncomfortable way.

Tess and her partner Judy chose to use an anonymous donor from a sperm bank to avoid any possible complications of the father someday wanting parental rights. The story Tess is researching concerns a new disease, still going by a number of names--one of which is Human Communicable Parthenogenesis. Women are getting pregnant without men, producing baby girls who are essentially clones of themselves. This is a sexually transmitted condition; whatever the as yet unidentified infectious agent is, it renders men sterile and women parthenogenic reproducers.

The Just City (Thessaly #1), by Jo Walton

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765332660, January 2015

In the aftermath of his pursuit of Daphne, in which she chose to have Artemis transform her into a tree rather than yield to him, Apollo seeks an explanation from Athene. The goddess of wisdom talks about puzzling concepts like volition and equal significance--it hadn't occurred to him that just because he wanted her, Daphne didn't necessarily want him. She then recruits him to a little project of her own: building Plato's Just City, from The Republic.

It's just an experiment.

They choose an island that will later be destroyed by a massive eruption, destroying the evidence of their experiment and leaving only the legend of Atlantis behind. The teachers, the Masters, are three hundred men and women from across time who have read The Republic in Greek, and have prayed to Athene that they be allowed to participate in building the Just City.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Beautiful Blue Death (Charles Lenox Mysteries #1), by Charles Finch

St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, ISBN 9780312359775, June 2007

It's 1865, and Charles Lenox is a gentleman, the younger brother of  baronet Sir Edmund Lenox, living in London and pursuing his hobbies and passions.

One of his hobbies is planning foreign travel. He rarely takes these carefully planned trips, because one of his passions is solving crimes. He has a friend who sometimes assists him, Dr. Thomas McConnell, but that fact and his ability to deduce interesting facts about people from evidence that others miss is really where the resemblance to that other great Victorian-era detective ends. Lenox is not a professional, a consulting detective. He's an amateur, doing this for love and usefulness. When his neighbor and friend, Lady Jane Grey, asks for his help, he immediately cancels his latest planned trip.

A former housemaid of Lady Jane's, Prudence Smith, has died, either by murder or suicide, at the home of her new employer, George Barnard. Barnard is an acquaintance, and also the head of the Royal Mint, and is more interested in preventing scandal than finding the truth.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Heartsong Cottage (Eternity Springs #10), by Emily March

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250072962, November 2015

Shannon O'Toole is living in Eternity Springs, Colorado, running Murphy's Pub, and renovating a cottage for resale. Oh, and she's also teaching yoga classes. She's pretty busy, but she needs to have a good nestegg on hand, so that she can move quickly anytime she needs to.

Shannon has a dangerous stalker, and Shannon O'Toole isn't the name she was born with.

But this time she really doesn't want to move on. She's enjoying owning and running Murphy's Pub, and she's made friends here. She's in danger of putting down roots.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Banished of Muirwood (Covenant of Muirwood #1), by Jeff Wheeler

Amazon Publishing/47North, ISBN 9781503945326, August 2015

This is a deeply frustrating book. In theory, it has so much promise.

Maia is the only daughter of the King of Comoros. By law she can't inherit, but she is the apple of her father's eye--until he decides he must have a male heir.

It's no surprise that the Seven Kingdoms don't recognize female inheritance rights; women aren't allowed to learn real magic or even learn reading & engraving. And yes, you read that right. Not "reading & writing"; reading and engraving. Even though in context it's clear that "engraving" is done on parchment with pen and ink. It's the first of many troubling signs.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Duke and Miss Christmas (The Heirs' Club of Scoundrels #2.5), by Amelia Grey

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250085153, October 2015

This is a fun little Christmas novella.

Gwen Prim and her younger sisters are living with their eldest sister, Louisa, and her husband, the Duke of Drakestone. Crispin, the Duke of Hurst, is recently returned from traveling in America with his mother's second family, and has been invited to the Drakestone Christmas ball. They meet by chance a few days prior, when Crispin finds the youngest Prim sister, Sibyl, who has fallen from a tree and sprained her knee and ankle. Gwen catches up with her wayward little sister just in time to think Crispin is abducting her, and hits him with a basket.

This is, of course, the start of true love.

Crispin has a scandal in his past involving a wager about inducing young ladies to lose their hearts to him. Gwen has a failed courtship with a man who turned out to be a heartless rake to regret. It wouldn't be a romance if there weren't bumps along the way to Christmas Eve and a proposal.

If you're looking for a light Christmas romance to help get you in the spirit of the season, this is worth your time.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Shattered Blue (The Light Trilogy #1), by Lauren Bird Horowitz

Amazon Publishing/Skyscape, ISBN 9781503949973, September 2015

Noa Sullivan and her family are coping with the sudden death of her sister Isla in an accident some months back. The new school year is starting, and Noa will now be a commuter at Harlow, the prestigious boarding school she and Isla had both attended, and roomed together at. Because her mother is so shattered that she can't be relied on to care for youngest daughter, Sasha, Sasha will also be attending Harlow, even though she's a year too young to enroll normally.

At Harlow, she meets a new student, Callum Forsythe. There's something different about Callum--literal sparks fly when they collide going through a door. It takes a while before she finds out what's really going on with him. Callum is Fae, banished from the Fae realm of Aurora for a crime he says he's innocent of. It was his brother's prank that went horribly wrong, and caused the death of their little sister, Lily. Callum took the blame to protect his brother Judah.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sneak Thief (Dog Park Mysteries #4), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

Two Pup Press, September 2015

Aritst Lia Anderson is donating her time to paint murals at a local convalescent home. To keep paying the bills, she's working an evening job scoring academic proficiency tests. There, she meets and befriends Desieree Willis, a budding young jeweler who is also a friendly, funny pocket-sized sexpot.

Desiree has a rescue beagle named Julia, who is constantly stealing and squirreling away small items--often, but not always, Desiree's underwear. She also has a stalker, someone who is leaving her little dolls, and once a whole diorama, made of cleverly folded tinfoil. What she doesn't know is that he's also gotten a camera into her bedroom.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Home for Christmas (Sanctuary Island #4), by Lily Everett

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250074041, October 2015

It's October, and the Christmas romance titles are coming fast and furious now. This is a good one.

Libby Leeds "America's Favorite Cook," has a popular column in Savor magazine, about her life and adventures as a traditional homemaker on Sanctuary Island, off the coast of Virginia. It's cheerful and heartwarming, and unfortunately, complete fantasy. Libby spent part of her childhood there, but when her parents were killed in a car crash, Libby was sent to live with her Uncle Ray, in New York City. Ray and his father, Libby's grandfather, Dabney Leeds, have been estranged for decades, and it's the last Libby sees of Sanctuary Island.

But now her boss, Savor publisher Hugo Downing, has a Clever Plan, and he's acted on it before he tells Libby. Libby and her family, he informs her, have invited America's current favorite war hero, Army Ranger Sergeant Owen Shepard, to spend Christmas with them at their home on Sanctuary Island. The invitation includes the sergeant's young daughter, Caitlin, currently living with his sister Andie--the island's sheriff.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Hours Count, by Jillian Cantor

Riverhead Books, ISBN 9781594633188, October 2015

Millie Stein is a young mother living with her husband Ed and two-year-old son David in Knickerbocker Village in New York in 1947. They're on the eleventh floor, and their down-the-hall neighbors are Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Millie and Ethel become friends. When Ed, a Russian immigrant, loses his job over the loyalty oath now being pushed, Julius hires him at his own company, Pitt Machine.

Ed is a cold and inattentive husband, and Millie envies Ethel her warm and loving relationship with Julius--but he and Ed are moving in the same communist circles.

This is a fictional account of the Rosenberg spy case, seen through the eyes of a neighbor struggling with her own marriage, her own child (who is apparently autistic, though that's not a word much in use in 1947), and her own issues. She and Ethel become friends, close in many ways, and mutually supportive even when there are secrets and strains, as well.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Galaxy Game, by Karen Lord (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2015 (original publication January 2015)

Rafi is fourteen years old, on the verge of legal adulthood as a Homesteader on Cygnus B, and a student at the Lyceum, a school for the psionically gifted. Unfortunately, on Cygnus, psionic powers are mostly feared, and the Lyceum is as much about keeping the students from becoming dangerous as it is about teaching them to use their powers well. Rafi, with powers that will enable him to help people or to control them, is not being helped by the school's treatment of him; instead, he's having nightmares and feeling less and less secure.

Fellow students Ntenman and Serendipity are communities that do support psi powers, and are a little more protected, but have their own reasons for wanting to leave.

So Rafi does, using his powers to help him slip out, and heads first to his mother's home, and then to his aunt's. Serendipity and Ntenman soon follow. It's not long before all three are off Cygnus, on another world, faced with new challenges and about to experience violent political change.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Abandoned Countess: Abigail's Story, by Shannon Salter

Smashwords, ISBN 9781291682465, December 2013

This book does need a better copyedit. There are also incidents of "Abigail does obviously stupid thing because PLOT."

Despite that, this is a fun book. In Regency England, during the period when Napoleon was imprisoned on Elba, Abigail Crawford, Countess of Raybourne, is searching for information about her missing husband. Two years previously, just a few weeks after their wedding, the Earl disappeared without a trace. It became a scandal that drove Abigail from most polite society; however, she has a few friends, such as her dear friend Sophia Jacobs, who are still loyal. returning one evening from a failed rendezvous with a potential informant who had identified himself only as "JB" in the note he sent, she and her coachman find an injured, unconscious man by the side of the road. They bring him to her home, and send for the doctor to treat his wounds. Initially, he has no memory. When it seems his memory might be returning, he vanishes.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers

ISBN 9781500453305, July 2014

The Wayfarer is wormhole tunneling ship, captained by Human Ashby Santoso, in a galaxy in which Humans are a fairly minor species, the newest members of the Galactic Commons. His crew includes three Humans, techmechs Kizzy and Jenks, as well as algaeist Arvis Corbin, but also the reptilian Aandrisk pilot Sissix, Sianat Navigator Ohan, and the Grum doctor and chef whose name is unpronounceable for Humans, so he goes by Dr Chef. Oh, and I nearly forgot, quite inexcusably, the AI, Lovey, who is an important part of the crew.

They're all technically very competent, but Ashby's record-keeping isn't quite up to Transport Board standards. so in response to some prodding, he hires a clerk--a young Martian woman named Rosemary Harper. Rosemary is making her very first trip into space, and she has a secret she hopes she can leave behind forever.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Death Before Decaf (A Java Jive Mystery #1), by Caroline Fardig

Random House/Alibi, ISBN 9780804181303, November 2015

Juliet Langley has come back to Nashville after losing her fiancé and business partner, her best waitress, and ultimately her café when the fiancé skips town with the waitress and every penny in the company's accounts. Now, days short of her thirtieth birthday, she's starting over, taking over as the manager of Java Jive, a café owned by old friend Pete Bennett.

The existing staff isn't thrilled to meet her, especially Dave Hill, the head cook. Dave's been acting manager in the café Pete inherited from his father George a few months ago. Pete's been dividing his time between Java Jive and the recording studio where he's a sound engineer. Juliet's appalled to see how standards have slipped since George's death, and she has two arguments with Dave that first day. She takes a break after the second one, and returns to find Dave has left at the end of his shift.

That night, at closing time, she's doing the last of the clean-up by herself, and finds Dave's body in the dumpster.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Banquet of Consequences (Inspector Lynley #19), by Elizabeth George

Viking, ISBN 9789525954330, October 2015

Thomas Lynley, Barbara Havers, and others are back after some fairly harrowing events in previous novels.

Havers has a transfer to Berwick-on-Tweed hanging over her, with Chief Superintendent Ardery ready to sign it at the least excuse. She's gotten completely restrained in dress and behavior--and Lynley feels he's effectively lost the use of his partner, previously an excellent detective. Havers needs some leeway if she's to do anything useful. Dorothea Harriman, department secretary, tries befriending Havers in the hope of changing her focus  just a bit, with mixed results.

Then a famous feminist author Havers has met briefly, Clare Abbott, dies suddenly, and her editor, Rory Statham, doesn't believe it's "just" a heart attack. At Havers' urging, Lynley pushes for and gets a second autopsy--which finds evidence of poison, specifically sodium azide.

Then Statham is found barely alive, apparently of the same poison.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Deadly Ties (A Waterside Kennels Mystery), by Susan Holmes (author), Robin Rowan (narrator)

Susan A. Holmes, September 2014

Maggie Porter has come home to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, reopening her grandfather's Waterside Kennels. She's been gone from the town since she was five, when her mother left the family and her father moved to Florida, taking her and her grandmother--her mother Margaret's mother. Now her grandmother is gone, Maggie has inherited the property, and it's time to start living her own dreams rather than trying to keep her father happy.

Maggie has found many people happy to welcome her back, and Waterside's pet boarding business is off to a strong start. The local veterinarian, Angus Sheppard, has enough confidence in her that he closes his clinic and his own kennel for remodeling, sending the boarding business her way. She's hired a groomer, and has hired part-time staff, some of whom worked for her grandfather in his last few years. There are old family friends eager to lend a hand when needed.

But then the anonymous letters put together from words and letters cut out from newspapers and magazines start to arrive. Also heavy-breather phone calls. Doreen, the receptionist she employed for a few weeks who then quit without notice turns up dead--with a locket that had belonged to Maggie's mother. There are break-ins, and once the boarding dogs are let loose on the property. What's going on?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Christmas at Evergreen Inn, by Donna Alward

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250086945, October 2015

This is a gentle little Christmas romance to help you get ready for the holidays.

As teenagers in Jewell Cove, Lainey Price and Todd Ricker were a bit wild, and very popular with the opposite sex. Ironically, they regarded each other as a bit out of reach. Then Lainey went off to college and came back engaged to Jason. She also took over the Evergreen Inn, restored it, and built up its business. Meanwhile, formerly wild Todd became a police officer in Jewell Cove.

When a major nor'easter hits Jewell Cove and the entire region a few days before Christmas, Todd is out on his last, very tricky patrol of the roads when he sees a car that's slid off the road into the ditch. He pulls the driver, Mr. Sewell, out of his car and drives him to the only place in town that might still have room-Evergreen Inn. It's full, too, but by now the roads have been closed, and Sewell and Todd are stuck there. Lainey finds space for Sewell, and puts Todd on her couch in her own cottage behind the inn.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill

Pantheon, ISBN 97803073, November 2015

Velveteen Vargas is eleven years old and living with her mother, Sylvia, and brother, Dante, in Crown Heights, New York. Her mother is from the Dominican Republic, and still only speaks Spanish, but Velvet and Dante were born here.

Sylvia signs her children up for a program that will send them out of the city for two weeks, By the rules of the  program, the siblings go to different families in different locations.

Velvet goes to Ginger and Paul, in upstate New York. Ginger and Paul live across from a stable, and Velvet meets a horse called Fugly Girl, whom one of the trainers, Pat, rescued from a life of abuse. She winds up staying with her hosts for a full month, and it's the start of a long relationship.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Magician and Laplace's Demon, by Tom Crosshill

Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2014

A magician and an AI are locked in a long, long duel.

The AI is programmed to keep humanity safe and happy. Magic is unpredictability, and that's not safe...

When the AI meets a real magician and discovers what she can do, it's clear it needs to first, understand magic, and second, eliminate magic and the threat the magicians represent.

This is a neat little conflict, seen entirely through the eyes of the AI, who over the centuries comes to permeate and control all of human existence--except the magicians. It takes over a thousand years to get lucky and find the crucial information that enables the identification and elimination of magicians, one by one.

But what if magic and magicians are essential to the survival of the universe?

And what really happens at the end?

Quick, enjoyable, and interesting. Recommended.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Case of the Passionless Bees, by Rhonda Eikamp

Lightspeed Magazine, June 2014

Steampunk Holmes!

Gearlock Holmes is an "amalgamated person," what we in less enlightened times than Holmes' might call a robot, or a droid. He's been retired to the countryside for some time now, raising bees, but when a crisis arises, he sends for his old friend, Dr. Watson.

The crisis is that his housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson--also an amalgamated person--has been taken into custody for the murder of one of Holmes' guests.

It's a neat little mystery, and both the characteristics and the legal standing of amalgamated persons are crucial to how the story plays out.

Recommended for a quick, fun read.

The Last of the Firedrakes (The Chronicles of Avalonia #1), by Farah Oomerbhoy

Wise Ink Creative Publishing, ISBN 9781940014708, August 2015

So much fun.

And so much idiot plot.

Aurora Darlington is sixteen years old, and, after having been adopted by loving parents at about two years old, has recently been orphaned by the deaths of both her parents and is now living with her aunt and uncle.

Her aunt, uncle, and cousin Cornelia are not at all affectionate or kind, but she's safe, warm, and fed. Things could be worse. The only thing she knows about her original parents is that she was found with a note saying her name was Aurora, and with the medallion she still wears all the time.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bream Gives Me Hiccups, by Jesse Eisenberg (author, narrator), Hallie Eisenberg (narrator), Annapurna Siriam (narrator), Erin Darke (narrator), Colin Nissan (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2015

I had modest expectations for this book; it's a collection of short stories of the genre that thinks it isn't a genre, literary fiction. Very often, literary fiction seems to operate on the premise that because the world is familiar and real, the behavior of the people doesn't have to make sense.

The behavior of Eisenberg's characters does make sense, not by being sane and reasonable, but by reflecting real human emotions, motivations, desires, fears, insecurities. The first story is a nine-year-old boy, writing reviews of restaurants and other dining experiences that are really accounts of episodes in his emotional progress through the experience of learning to be the child of a single mother after his parents' divorce. He's working out what his relationship is with his mother, what it means to be best friends with Matthew, another child  of a broken home, and whether or not his father was really "there," even before he left for Louisiana and married another woman.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Litany of Earth, by Ruthanna Emrys

Allen Williams, May 2014

It's a few years after the end of World War II, and Aphra Marsh is living in San Francisco. She's living with a family that, like her own, spent the war locked up as possible threats, despite neither guilt nor evidence, solely based on group identity.

The Kotos are Japanese-Americans.

Aphra Marsh is something else, as her family was. The greatest cruelty they were subjected to was isolation from the sea.

With most of her family and all their possessions gone, and having lived too much of her life in captivity, Aphra doesn't have as complete an education in their ways as she would like. There may be more texts than the pitiful few she has recovered hidden away at Miskatonic University, but she'll never be able to get access to them.

But somewhere along the way she meets an old bookseller, who in the back room of his shop has his own private collection of materials--some real, some fakes--and a great desire to learn.

Into this sometimes fragile new life, an FBI agent walks, and threatens to upend her life again.

This is an interesting and extremely well-done take on the Cthulu mythos, and I very much enjoyed the unfolding of Aphra's identity and personality, as well as her relationship with the bookseller and the Kotos.