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.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Darker Shade of Magic (A Darker Shade of Magic #1), by V.E. Schwab (author), Steven Crossley (narrator)

Tantor Audio, April 2015, (original publication February 2015)

Kell is one of the last of the Antari, or Travelers, blood magicians able to move between alternate universes. His world is the world of Red London, where magic is common, and supports a healthy, thriving society. Kell serves the King and Queen, and has been raised as a brother to the Crown Prince, Rhy. He feels like a brother to Rhy, but to the king and queen, although they are kind, and warm, and generous, he feels more like a valued possession.

One of his duties as the Crown's Antari is conveying messages to and from the other Londons--or rather, to and from White London and Grey London. Black London is dead, completely closed off, and a rebuke and warning to the other Londons. White London is closest to Black London, and cold, drained of color, and ruled by a murderous pair of twins, Astrid and Athos Dane. Grey London is our London, and gives us the time setting: It's Regency London, with George III floating in and out of rationality and coherence.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Each to Each, by Seanan McGuire
Lightspeed Magazine, June 2014

We begin with a submarine officer complaining about "standard issue" boots that don't fit properly, and only gradually do we understand why they don't fit properly.

She no longer has standard issue feet.

She also has gills in addition to lungs.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Paris Key, by Juliet Blackwell

Penguin Group, ISBN 9780451473691, September 2015

Genevieve Martin is getting divorced from Jason, and in the middle of the process she leaves California for Paris. In Paris, her ex-pat Uncle Dave, her mother's brother, has recently died, and her cousin Catharine wants her to sort out and possibly take over Dave's locksmith shop.

The emotional background is of course far more fraught than that simple description. Genevieve's mother, Angela, visited Dave and his French wife, Pasquale, in Paris just before she became pregnant with Genevieve. It's referred to as Angela's "Paris vacation," and she never went again, nor did Dave ever visit them in California. When Genevieve was fourteen, Angela died of cancer, and Genevieve's father, Jim, sent her to Paris to visit her Uncle for the summer, in the hope that would help her work through her grief. During that summer, Dave taught her about locks and locksmithing, and Genevienve thought she'd found her calling. Then summer ended, and Dave sent her home.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Kiss With Teeth, by Max Gladstone

Illo (c) Dave Palumbo, 2014

Vlad finally met a woman as smart and dangerous as he is, and fell in love. Now he's living the life of a suburban husband and father, raising a son who--also has to learn how to act "normal."

Not inhumanly fast, strong, and possessed of extreme hearing.

Unfortunately, Paul has worked so hard to be "normal" that he's struggling with math, and Vlad schedules a meeting with Paul's teacher.

And Angela is a terrible temptation.

Vlad is working very hard against his nature to be a normal dad. Can he do it? Will Angela make it through the school year?

And if he can contain his nature, is that really what Paul needs?

This is a quietly interesting take on a vampire in the modern world. Recommended.

Story available at

Muirwood: The Lost Abbey (Legends of Muirwood), by Jeff Wheeler (author), Matthew Sturges (author), Dave Justus (illustrator), Alex Sheikman (illustrator), Lizzy John (illustrator)

Jet City Comics, ISBN 9781503935068, August 2015

This is the first volume of a graphic novel; the fifth and final volume is scheduled for December 2015, so this should be eligible for the Hugo Awards in 2016.

Maia is the one-beloved, now banished and imprisoned daughter of the King of Comoros. Maia's offense is that her father tired of her mother, put her aside, and took a new wife.

Less well-known is that Maia, in defiance of the laws of Comoros, has been taught to read, and to do magic. Her father has also banished all the magic workers in the kingdom, and that hasn't worked out as well for him as the new wife. Comoros has grown dark and dangerous, and the king believes the magic wielders left a curse behind them. He has summoned Maia back to the palace because he's decided that she's the perfect person to undo the curse by traveling to a hidden abbey where the late chief councilor's book of magic is concealed, and use it to destroy the remaining magic.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Bone War, by Elizabeth Bear

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2015

Bijou the Artificer is called in to see, and ultimately work on, the nearly complete fossilized skeleton of an ancient fantastical beast, a dinosaur, called a Titdal Titan. Dinosaurs are truly ancient creatures, predating not only the ancient peoples, but even dragons. Bijou's techniques involve magic, and her own and her assistant's familiars, both of which are also magically reconstructed bone creatures. Bijou's familiar is Ambrosias, a giant centipede-like creature constructed from the bones of unrelated mammals. Her journeyman Brazen's familiar is Hawti, a reconstructed elephant.

What Bijou doesn't initially realize is that she is stepping into the middle of an academic feud over the proper interpretation of the remains in taking on the reconstruction of this ancient creature.

The story is set in Bear's Eternal Sky world, and Bijou is a recurring character. What she does with her reconstructions is intriguing and charming. Her take on academic rivalry and feuding is fun, and overall this is probably a good entry point for the larger series.


In Libres, by Elizabeth Bear

Uncanny Magazine, May/June 2015

Euclavia and Bucephalus are graduate students studying for their PhDs in sorcery. Their dissertations are nearly done, but they  need some additional sources, and that means a visit to the library.

Specifically, to Special Collections.

Did I mention that the Library is a labyrinth?

This is a very literal, and dangerous, Quest for Knowledge.

Did I mention Bucephalus is a centaur?

This is a lot of fun, and I want to see more in this world.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sea Change, by Kimberly Unger

Galaxy's Edge, September 2015

We see this story from Maryanne's viewpoint, and there's room for a couple of different ideas about who/what Maryanne is before she's spilled enough detail that we get the right idea. I don't think this is an  accident, by any means.

The world is probably not Earth, but it is habitable, and humans are living more or less successfully on it. Unfortunately, they do not have all the infrastructure they expected to have; a major control and support facility on the moon (one of the moons?) has been destroyed. Maryanne and her cohort are supposed to defend the land against invaders from the sea, but she's doing that on her own now. The rest of her cohort has been killed over time, since the disaster that took out the facility that should have supported them.

In their absence, Maryanne has become attached to a family living in a beach house nearby. She continues to do her job, but she also watches over and guards the children and their parents.

Then a new crisis arises, and Maryanne has to decide which job is more important, the one she was meant to do, or the one she's given herself in her not-fully-acknowledged loneliness.

This is a nicely done story. The development of Maryanne is compelling, and the revelations of the larger world and of the family she's attached herself to are well-done.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Hic Sunt Monstra, by Brian Trent

Galaxy's Edge, September 2015

A small human colony on an only somewhat-hospitable world is confronted every spring by the return of the colossi, large creatures that might be somewhat elephant-like in appearance. These colossi form out of the melting and refreezing ice.

They are ice-borne memories of a species the humans wiped out not long after their arrival, because they were competing for resources, eating the only human-edible plant life on the planet. (Or, perhaps, the only plant life; there are some problems of scale here.) Every year, when the ice colossi return, the humans re-enact the hunt in which they wiped out the real colossi. It's worth noting that this isn't just ritual; the ice colossi move around, behave like real colossi, and are very dangerous.

Meanwhile, the humans are hungry most of the time, due to the fact that the plants the colossi were competing for aren't recovering in numbers and distribution.

Maybe the humans have made an awful mistake.

We see the story from the viewpoint of a young boy and his friends, one of whom lost her father to a colossus attack, which helped fuel the extermination of the species. On a human level, this story works very, very well. I'm completely drawn in to Bill, Jillian, and their friends and neighbors.


I mentioned a scale problem. This is a world large enough that any difference from Earth gravity doesn't get mentioned. It holds an atmosphere thick and almost-friendly enough that they only use rebreathers, not space suits. It defies reason that there are only two significant life forms on this world, and just one, very localized, population of each, so that when the humans have wiped out the colossi near their settlement, they've wiped out all the colossi.

A fun read, but I don't expect this to be anywhere near my 2016 Hugo ballot.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Natural History of Dragons (A Memoir by Lady Trent #1), by Marie Brennan

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765331960, February 2013

Isabella, Lady Trent, is now the world's most famous dragon naturalist, by she was once a young girl in a land called Scirland, like and unlike our own Regency England, with an interest in dragons considered distinctly unladylike. But when it comes time for her to marry, her loving and indulgent father helps her find a husband who shares her interest in dragons and will be equally indulgent in letting her share the use of his library.

He did not expect that, after two years of marriage, Isabella and Jacob would join an expedition to study dragons in Vystrana.

What neither she, nor Jacob, nor Lord Hilford, expects is that she will do more than draw sketches of the the dragons and file the men's notes.

A Curious Beginning, by Deanna Raybourn

NAL/Penguin, ISBN 9780451476012, September 2015

It's 1887, and in the English countryside, Veronica Speedwell has just buried her Aunt Nell, the second of two guardians to die. She's now alone in the world, but by the same token, free to set off on a long-planned expedition to the Far East in pursuit of her lepidoptory career. She has financed it through the sale of her butterfly specimens from previous expeditions, and is building a small reputation in the field.

It's rather a shock for her to return to her aunt's cottage and discover that no only has it been ransacked, but the housebreaker is still inside, working on the kitchen now. She successfully chases him out, but he then attempts to abduct her, and is prevented by the timely arrival of an older, armed gentleman, and he flees in a conveniently waiting carriage.

The older gentleman is Baron Max von Stauffenbach, and he tells her she's in great danger. He offers to take her to London in his carriage.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Philomena: The Story of a Mother, Her Son, and a Fifty-Year Search, by Martin Sixsmith (author), John Curless (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2013 (original publication 2009)

In 1952, Philomena Lee became pregnant our of wedlock in an Ireland where that just wasn't allowed to happen. She was sent to a convent to give birth to her baby, and would live there for three years, caring for her son and working in the convent's commercial laundry. At the end of that time, Philomena was forced to sign him over to the convent for adoption, and he was effectively sold to an American couple.

She loved her beautiful, happy son, and despite being forced to sign him away and promise never to seek to find him, she made her first attempt less than a year later. Meanwhile, her son, now named Michael Hess, grew up in America, and wondered and worried why his birth mother had given him up.

Beyond Sapphire Glass, by Margaret Killjoy

(c) 2015 Geneva Benton
Strange Horizons, August 2015

The narrator is an attendant at what might be a temple. and it's her(?) job to care for certain vital aspects of the place. She meets those who come there, wanting to go to the Sapphire Gate, and one in particular makes a strong impact on her. Those who come in good health must stay for a year before they can go to the Sapphire Gate, because what happens there is irrevocable, and the attendants want to be sure the petitioners are sure.

As our narrator reminisces about this one particular petitioner, we learn what's really happening there, and that even among the attendants there are strongly differing views about it.

This is a quiet, gentle, disturbing story.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Truth About Owls, by Amal El-Mohtar

Published in Kaleidoscope, from Twelfth Planet Press, August 2014

Anisa is a young girl now living in Glasgow with her mother, but she spent her earlier childhood living in Lebanon with her father, grandmother, and other relatives. When war struck a little too close to home, her father decided that Anisa, having been born in the UK, needed to go join her mother there and be safe.

Starting with her first sighting of an owl in Lebanon, an eagle owl that kills one of the family's chickens, Anisa becomes fascinated with owls, and in stages, learns more about them, and about herself.

At some point, strange things start happening when she's feeling strong emotions.

She's feeling destructive surges of power that she struggles to control, struggles not to hurt anyone.

It's not really possible to say more without giving too much away. This is a gentle, surprising, moving coming of age story, and well worth your time.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart

St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books, ISBN 9781250072320, September 2015

Li Du is a Chinese scholar, formerly a librarian in the imperial library. Now,in 1780, after a political scandal in which he was collateral damage, he's an exile wandering China. His wanderings have brought him to Dayan, a Chinese town on the Tibetan border, and he expects a quiet, provincial town.

Instead, he finds a town teaming with visitors, as the Emperor is about to arrive for a spectacular event: a total eclipse of the sun. He wants to be gone as quickly as possible, before the Emperor arrives, but an elderly Jesuit priest, an astronomer, dies suddenly, and Li finds evidence of murder. He's drawn in to investigating the death. He has three days.

Li quickly acquires friends and allies, starting with the wandering storyteller from Egypt. His suspects include the local magistrate himself, the magistrate's first consort, another Jesuit brother, and the ambassador of the powerful British East India Company.