Friday, December 30, 2016

Gun (Gun Apocalypse #1, by Lee Hayton

Lee Hayton, January 2017

On a seemingly normal day, everything starts to go wrong.

All over the country, and the world, there have been people sick for the last week with something that feels flu-like, and includes appalling migraines. Now people are reaching the critical point of the illness: what temporarily relieves the pain of the headaches is killing people.

And a lot of people have guns.

What's especially notable about this book is that Hayton does it without making it a polemic on either side of the gun issue. It isn't about guns, or gun owners, being either good or bad, responsible or irresponsible. It's about what a new and nasty disease does, and the desperate measures people are driven to as they try to understand what's going on, and how to survive.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Precious and Grace (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective agency #17), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Lisette Lecat (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2016

Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi have been working together at the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency for several years now. Over that time, Mma Makutsi has gone from secretary to co-director, largely through her own determination and assertiveness. Charlie, originally one of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni's apprentices, has been let go from that position, and is now Mma Ramotswe's very part-time assistant--and is starting, at last, to grow up. Fanwell, the other apprentice, is on track to be a qualified mechanic, and is also maturing. Mr. Polopetsi is a volunteer part-time assistant, contributing his special skills when he's needed and not filling in as a chemistry teacher in the schools. Then one day Mma Ramotswe finds out from her friend Mma Potokwani, matron of the orphan farm, that Mr. Polopetsi has a new money-making business scheme, the Fat Cattle Club, which sounds very much like a pyramid scheme. She's got to find out what's really going on before he gets himself into serious trouble.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Roman Holiday: The Chronicles of St. Mary's #3.5, by Jodi Taylor (author), Zara Ramm (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2015

No St. Mary's assignment goes the way it's supposed to. Never.

The historians of St. Mary's investigate major historical events in contemporary time (don't call it "time travel.") This time the assignment is really simple, and very popular; they'll be observing Rome when Caesar has moved Cleopatra into his home in Rome.

The same home he shares with Calpurnia.

They're just going to observe conditions. It's a peaceful day. What could possibly go wrong?

But this is the St. Mary's crew. Max, Peterson, and their colleagues always have way more excitement than they're supposed to.

It's a lot of fun. I particularly like Taylor's narrative voice and Ramm's narration. Recommended.

This book was free on Audible.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Present: A Chronicles of St. Mary's Short Story #4.5, by Jodi Taylor (author), Zara Ramm (narrator)

Audible Studios, ISBN 9781536646030, January 2017 (original publication April 2015)

It's Christmas Eve at St. Mary's Priory, and nothing is stirring at all--except that Max, Peterson, and Markham are off on another unauthorized assignment, this time to rescue senior historians Bashford and Grey, who vanished in 12th century Jerusalem ten years ago. (St. Mary's researches important historical events in contemporary time; don't call it "time travel." That would be vulgar!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Picture of Guilt (Ellie Foreman Mysteries #2), by Libby Fischer Hellmann (author), Nan McNamara (narrator)

The Red Herring Press, November 2016 (original publication May 2003)

I continue to read the Ellie Foreman books wildly out of order, which is hard on any series where there is ongoing character development and relationships change over time. And I continue to enjoy them immensely anyway. In this one Rachel is still only thirteen, Ellie's ex is still operating largely on resentment and entitlement, and she and David are maybe starting to realize that they have to work on their relationship if they want it to last. Mac, her director, has not yet demanded that she promise never to get involved in anything every again.

So when she sees a picture of an accused murderer in the newspaper, and she realizes that as part of a shoot at the harbor she has a picture of him somewhere other than the site of the murder at the time of the murder, none of the "don't get involved" advice has nearly the strength it gets later in the series. I mean, what could go wrong?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Games of Make-Believe, by Julie Ann Wambach

Brookside Press, ISBN 9780981481814, November 2016

Susan, her twin sister Millie, and their triplet brothers, are treated as drudges by their stepmother Hannah whenever their father is away on business, which is most of the time. It's not clear what he does for a living, but given we seem to be talking about the late forties or early fifties--certainly not later--traveling salesman is a likely possibility.

When he dies, things get even rougher for the kids, and the contrast with how their two half-sisters are treated grows even greater. It's not long before, one by one, the kids start taking off to live their own lives. Susan is the last to leave, marrying a high school classmate who helped her stay in touch with Millie by agreeing to be the address Millie could send the letters to.

But he's no prince, either. He drinks, he goes off on binges, as first one and then the second daughter are born, he is no help at all.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Double Forté (LeGarde Mysteries #1), by Aaron Paul Lazar (author), Robert King Ross (narrator)

Aaron Paul Lazar, August 2012 (original publication 2004)

Music professor Gus LeGarde's wife Elspeth died four years ago, and he hasn't really recovered. There's still a huge hole in his life. He keeps going, though, teaching, playing Chopin, and lavishing love on his daughter Freddie, his grandson, and his dog Max.

It all starts to unravel when he rescues a child in the snow, who is too scared even to give a name.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Halcyon (The Complex #1), by Demelza Carlton

Lost Plot Press, December 2016

Galen Tasker is chasing the terrorist who murdered his parents ten years ago. That killer is Halcyon, a Siren, a female Mer. The chase has brought him to the Complex, a daring new experiment in peaceful living, an end to war between Humans and Metas--an array of what appear to the reader to be genetically modified descendants of Humans. Humans and Metas, though, appear to believe they are unrelated. The many varieties of Metas that exist are an added complication for Meta-averse Humans, like Galen.

Galen's an engineer, the new chief engineer of the newly completed Complex. He really, really wants to end the violence, and support the peace that the Complex is supposed to be the beginning of, but he doesn't see any contradiction between his desire to kill Halcyon, and his desire to end the violence.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Voices of Martyrs, by Maurice Broaddus

Rosarium Publishing, ISBN 9780996769259, February 2017

One of the fun things about reviewing books is that you can be offered a book for review that you might never have noticed on your own. For me, this is one such book.

It's a collection of short stories with settings ranging from ancient Africa to the slave trade, to the Jim Crow era in the US to alternate histories and the far future. Some are clearly science fiction or fantasy, while others have the barest possible fantastic content. Even those with little to no fantastic content, though, are written from s background and viewpoint that is outside my cultural background or usual reading experience. It's as challenging as any "unknown world" in science fiction, the more so because of the knowledge that it reflects the experience and cultural background of someone really living in the same world I do, and living that alien life here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Acing #5) (Discworld #41), by Terry Pratchett (author), Stephen Briggs (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780062430557, September 2015

I put off reading this book simply because it's the last new Pratchett novel ever. I saved it for a time when I needed something really nice.

And that was a good choice. This is a lovely book, a lovely story.

No one lives forever, not even witches, and Esmeralda Weatherwax has reached the end of her days. Being the sensible, organized woman she has always been, she has put everything in order, including a note saying that her home and all her possessions go to Tiffany Aching. Except, of course, for her cat, Yew, who is a cat, and will decide for herself.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Case of the Broken Doll (Inspector David Graham #4), by Alison Golden, Grace Dagnall

Kindle, December 2016

Okay, I have to admit it upfront. I just loved this book. Decent, interesting, quirky people, solving a mystery using their brains. No dogs or cats, which is Just Wrong, but, hey, maybe that will come in later entries?

Detective Inspector David Graham is settling in after a few months has head of the Gorey police force on Jersey. He's still living in the White House Inn because it's so very comfortable and they make his tea just so, but he's in town to stay.

And one lazy Sunday, doing his obligatory Christmas shopping, he notices that all the local shops have a particular type of doll in the window--the American Girl dolls, wildly popular about a decade ago. He asks, and learns the sad story of the disappearance of a local girl, Beth Ridley, ten years ago,when she was just fifteen. The entire community turned out to look for her, She was never found, the only thing found was the leg of one of her dolls. She collected the American Girls dolls.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Love, Alice, by Barbara Davis

Berkley, ISBN 9780451474810, December 2016

Thirty or so years ago, a young woman in a village in Cornwall became pregnant, and before they could marry, her boyfriend was  killed in a fishing accident. Her mother, unexpectedly much harsher than Alice had expected, sent her to a convent to have her baby--one of the now-notorious Magdalene laundries. From this experience, Alice emerged without her baby, but with an absolute determination to find and reclaim him--and an unforgiving anger toward her own mother.

A year ago, Dovie Larkin's fiancé, William Prescott, committed suicide two weeks before their wedding. He left no note, no hint of why he did it, and Dovie has not recovered from the blow.

Today, while eating lunch next to William's grave, she sees an old woman leaving a letter on a nearby grave--the improbably grand grave of Alice Tandy, former maid to the Tate family, substantial donors to to the museum where Dovie is director of fundraising.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Naomi's Choice, by Claire Sanders

Prism Books, November 2016

Naomi Sullivan has traveled from San Antonio to Loma Verde to visit her grandmother, and perhaps to stay with her permanently. Her mother is dead, her father has remarried, and Naomi is frankly tired of being an unpaid housekeeper and governess for her new stepmother's four children from her first marriage.

On the stagecoach, just outside Loma Verde, they pick up Ethan Garrett, whose horse turned up lame. He's clean and polite, but relatively rough dressed, and not as polished as Lucas, her former beau whom her stepmother ordered off.

Soon after, when they arrive in Loma Verde, she meets Lt. Bret Anderson, a cavalry officer who is handsome, tall, and as polished and smooth as a girl can imagine.

Guess where this is going.

Second Chance Rose, and Other Stories, by Terry Odell

The Wild Rose Press, ISBN 2940012472182, March 2008

This is a collection of romance short stories. Carter Worthington is a disciplined, organized, reclusive writer. He has no idea what to make of Tiffany when she is seemingly blown into town on a hurricane, coming to rescue her elderly grandfather, who can't cope with the aftermath on his own. Rose is a widow moving back to L.A. after another hurricane, only in her forties but sure she's had her one true love and there isn't another one out there for her. Amy is divorced and has two kids, and is pursuing a degree in anthropology, not a new love interest, when she meets Greg at the start of her "Just for Amy" weekend.

They're all sweet, enjoyable, fairly light stories, with just the amount of complication you can reasonably fit into a short story. This makes for a couple of afternoons of relaxing reading.

I received this book for free and am reviewing it purely by choice.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Between Two Thorns (Split Worlds #1), by Emma Newman

Angry Robot on Brilliance Audio, February 2013

Sam was just seeking a sufficiently private place to relieve himself after getting excessively drunk after work because his wife was working late again. Instead, he witnesses a body being carried out of the Museum, and becomes entirely too interesting to some of the Fae-touched who want to keep him quiet.

Cathy was just trying to remain out of sight of the Fae and her Fae-touched family so she can continue her university studies in Mundanus. Instead she's trapped and brought home by her brother Tom, and informed that she's now betrothed to William.

William has his own ideas, including a preference for Cathy's sister Elizabeth initially, and then for new arrival in Aquae Sulis, Amerlia.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Mystic Marriage (Alpennia #2), by Heather Rose Jones

Bella Books, ISBN 9781594934414, April 2015 (original publication April 2014)

Antuniet Chazillen left Alpennia after her brother's execution for treason wiped out the family's honor and standing. She's determined to restore that honor, and the path she has chosen is alchemy. With the aid of a long-hidden book, she'll develop the skills to offer real benefit to Princess Anna, new ruler of Alpennia.

Someone else knows what she's got, though, and is determined to take it from her. Antuniet flees to Prague, and to Heidelberg--and finally has nowhere left to go except back to Rotenek, capital of Alpennia. In Rotenek, she turns up on the doorstep of Jeanne, Vicomtesse de Cherdillac, in the hopes that Jeanne will be daring enough to become her patron. Jeanne can't, not directly, but insists she eat and stay the night, and connects her with someone who can.

Friday, November 25, 2016

An Image of Death (Ellie Foreman #3), by Libby Fischer Hellmann (author),Nan McNamara (narrator)

The Red Herring Press, September 2016 (original publication January 2004)

Ellie Foreman is really, really trying to be good--to go along with the variously expressed wishes of her dad, Mac, and David that she stay out of trouble. She goes to a ladies' charitable lunch as the guest of occasional nemesis Rikibeth Feldman, and isn't surprised when it turns into a request to make a video for the project. The project, it seems, is transitional housing for kids aging out of foster care.

How can that lead to trouble?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Consoling Angel, by Denise Alicea (author), Emily Peot (narrator)

Denise Alicea, November 2015

NYC teenager Mira and her dad loved to watch old movies together, and shared an enthusiasm for James Dean in particular. Her father died a year ago, though, and Mira is burying herself in school projects, old movies, and James Dean materials rather than deal with her grief. Then one afternoon, she falls asleep on top of her books and magazines, and wakes up in a room that's familiar but changed...

It's 1952, and she's wearing a dress. Her best friend shows up and is eager to go out on their planned exciting afternoon of window shopping and maybe sneaking into a bar. Is it time travel? Is it a dream? We don't have to decide. For Mira, it seems very real, confusingly real, both alarming and exciting--even before she meets a figure from her dream.

It's a light, engaging short story, perfect for whiling away half an hour.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Deadly Obsession (Detective Jason Strong #13), by John C. Dalglish (author), James Killavey (narrator)

John C. Dalglish, August 2016

This is a fast-paced, short novel, just over four hours. A suburban housewife is murdered on the steps of her front door, and investigation shows no apparent motive. When her son is shot in front of the home a few days later, Jason Strong and Vanessa Lane have new questions to ask, starting in some seemingly unlikely places.

There's a strong story here, and good characters. Both male and female characters are well handled. It's enough to make me believe Dalglish is young enough to have grown up in a world where the personhood of female people is just assumed! (Hey, sorry, but it's a nice change to have seen happen over the course of my lifetime.)

Friday, November 18, 2016

When a Child is Born (The Chronicles of St. Mary's #2.5), by Jodi Taylor(author), Zara Ramm(narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2015 (original publication November 2013)

Max and her little band of historians and security from St. Mary's are off once again, this time to London in 1066 to witness the coronation of William the Conqueror. At least, that's why they think they're there. But everything goes wrong, and they arrive well outside town, and trip over a wounded woodcutter while heading toward what they think is their destination.

History has other things in mind for them, though. They're soon in deep, deep trouble, and Max is wondering how she's going to explain this to Dr. Bairstow. Along the way, Max discovers that sometimes she needs to "not think like an historian."

It's short, fun, and free on Audible. Take advantage; you'll enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke, by Arthur C. Clarke (author), Ray Porter (narrator), Jonathan Davis (narrator), Ralph Lister (narrator)

Audible Studios, August 2016 (original publication January 2000)

These are the collected shorter works of Arthur C. Clarke, and that almost ought to be enough to say about it. It spans his entire career, and includes his best-known classics, lesser-known works, and has the Tales From the White Hart stories sprinkled throughout. The stories here are funny and grim, optimistic and pessimistic, and feature the best and the worst of the human race. I found Clarke's view of women's and girls' roles to be interesting. He seems to have never thought women were less intelligent or less capable, but at the same time he started out taking women's roles for granted. Only later in his career do we start to see women who are not only intelligent and capable, but also having independent lives and careers.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Lost Things (Order of the Air #1), by Melissa Scott & Jo Graham

Crossroads Press, ISBN 9781937530037, August 2012

Post-WWI, hermetic magic, lodges, aviation.. Lewis Sugura is an aviator who, in the late twenties, hooks up, or falls in, with a small commercial aviation company who, it turns out, are the surviving members of a lodge. He's always had strange dreams; he's long known that some of them seem to be "true dreams;" they foreshadow things that he will really encounter later.

One of those dreams led him to Alma Gilchrist, pilot, widow of Gil Gilchrist, part owner of Gilchrist Aviation. He doesn't at first know that she, fellow pilot Mitchell Sorley, and their friend Dr. Jerry Ballard, are the surviving members of a lodge of which Gil was Magister.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand

Open Road Integrated Media, ISBN 9781504007184, February 2015

Windhollow Faire is a trad folk group in Britain in the early 1970s. They've put out one album which was a modest success. Arianna, their female singer, wasn't quite what they needed, and they got a new one, Lesley, an America.

And Arianna kiled herself, jumping out the window of Julian, the male lead singer and the band's primary songwriter.

So things are a little stressed and strained, not to mention the scandal, and their manager, Tom Haring. rents a decaying manor in Hampshire, Wylding Hall, to get them out of London for the summer and let them concentrate on creating the music for their next album.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Years later, in a series of interviews, the five band members, Tom Haring, and friends and acquaintances each in turn tell parts of the story. As it unfolds. we gradually come to understand that something went terribly wrong, in ways no one really understood.

I loved the language and the imagery, and found myself completely drawn in. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I may have bought this one. Or I may have received it for free and now don't recall. Apologies for the vagueness; I do try to keep track of these things, but sometimes fail.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Kisses in the Snow (A Second Chance Romance), by CeeCee James

Kindle Edition, October 2016

Jason and Miranda are about to celebrate their first Christmas as a married couple, after four months of marriage. Their cabin on the lake is warm and cozy, they have a lovely meal planned, and friends coming for the dinner Miranda is preparing.

Then the blizzard hits, the power goes out, and one guest after another calls to say that they just can't make it through the storm.

Their turkey is not going to cook, and if that weren't bad enough, after they discover that, Miranda accidentally leaves the turkey within reach of their German shepherd.

This might be a nightmare Christmas instead of a joy.

But Jason and Miranda keep trying to turn the day around. Will they succeed?

They are a likable, sweet couple, and an overall charming story. It's a nice afternoon distraction. I'm sorry to have to say that the writing is a little rough in places, especially at the beginning.

As I said, a pleasant distraction, and short enough that the charm won't wear out the story's welcome.

I received this novella free from the author, in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 31, 2016

All the Best People, by Sonja Yoerg

Berkley Books, ISBN 9780399583490, May 2017

Carole LaPorte has had an up-and-down life. A happy childhood underwent a dramatic change when she was ten, and her sister Janine was born. For reasons that make no sense to her at the time, suddenly her mother, Solange, tries to take the baby to her own mother, Carole's grandmother, Rosemarie Bouchard. Her father, Osborn Gifford, arrives with police in support. Carole finds herself holding her baby sister, while her mother is hurried off to a hospital for an illness Carole doesn't understand.

As an adult, she meets Walt LaPorte, falls in love, and embarks on a warm, loving, supportive marriage, eventually having three children, Warren, Lester, and Alison. As good as this marriage is, Carole now lives with the knowledge that her mother's illness is mental illness. She's the only one in the family who regularly visits Solange. She doesn't share the secrets she knows of what of what led up to her mother's confinement at Underhill.

Friday, October 28, 2016

You're the One (Bistro La Bohème 0.5), by Alix Nichols

Sayn Press, August 2016 (original publication June 2014)

Natalie and Fred are living the life in Paris--or at least Fred is. Natalie is sadly grateful to have such a handsome man in her life, even though he has no interest in marriage, real estate, or starting a family. But Natalie knows she has to be grateful for such a handsome man, even with the fact that his work hours have lately expanded so much.

Her friend Marie suggests to her that maybe Fred doesn't take enough interest in her, but Natalie is not receptive. Marie knows better than to give unwanted advice, and backs off.

And then she discovers accidentally that Fred isn't really working late. He's meeting Jeanne, a waitress at the local bistro, La Bohème, and giving her all the attention he used to give Natalie.

But she also meets someone else at La Bohème, chess Grand Master Adrien, a friendly nerd happy in the bulky sweaters his mother made for him. He's not looking a Jeanne. He's looking at Natalie.

It's a nice, warm, little story about people finding what they really want. You're the One is a pleasant afternoon read.

I received a free electronic copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Set the Night On Fire, by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Allium Press, December 2010,

Forty years ago, idealistic young Americans wanted to end the Vietnam War, make a more just society, change the world. Forty years later, a secret involving one group of those once-young people is causing a string of murders.

Dar Gantner, Alix Kerr, Julie Bergman, Casey Hilliard, Teddy Markham, and Payton meet accidentally in Chicago the summer of the 1968 Democratic convention. They're all to varying degrees involved in the protests, and in the aftermath they become housemates and friends, becoming both closer and more divided as their political and personal interests develop and change. It culminates two years later, with the bombing of a downtown Chicago department store that three of them are involved in. Alix, though not involved, is killed. Dar Gantner is the only one arrested and charged.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Christmas Joy, by Nancy Naigle

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 97812501060700, October 2016

Joy Holbrook has fled the small town where her mother died, staying in contact with her Aunt Ruby but living a life totally divorced from Crystal Falls. She's a market researcher with a growing career in Washington, D.C. The promotion of her dreams seems to be within reach--and she gets a phone call telling her Ruby has fallen and broken her ankle. On a Friday afternoon not long before Christmas, she's on her way to Crystal Falls with the hope and expectation that Ruby will be set back in her own home by Monday.

It's not going to happen.

The break is serious, and it quickly becomes clear that Joy will be taking leave until the end of the year.

And taking care of Ruby's home and animals during her recuperation is no simple matter. Two goats, a donkey, chickens, a rabbit whose mate has died, and a 4H cow that a 4H member named Tommy feeds and cares for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Best Kind of Love (A Reunion Romance Novella), by Rebecca Talley

DuBon Publishing, November 2014

Brynn Sawyer heads home to Seaspray CA from Houston TX to her ten-year high school reunion. She has very mixed feelings about going, but her best friend Kari will be there, too, and they're looking forward to the weekend together. Maybe their other best friend, Craig Dawon, will be there also.

What worries Brynn is wondering whether Troy Richards, her forever unrequited crush in high school, will be there, too. She's not sure whether it will be worse if he is, or if he isn't.

Soon she's discovering how much some have changed, how little others have changed--and that while Troy is as deliciously attractive as ever, she still can't avoid spilling things on him.

Yet her reactions to him--and to Craig--are not the same. Something's different.

What's changed?

It's a warm little romance novella, that will add a nice touch to your day.


I received a free electronic copy of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

It Must Be Christmas:Three Holiday Stories,by Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, & Mandy Baxter

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250106377, October 2016

This is a collection of three Christmas stories, two of which I found delightful.

Hot Toy by Jennifer Crusie has Trudy hunting down the year's hot Christmas toy for her nephew. His father promised him that Santa would get it for him, and then "forgot" when he took off with the nanny. Now Trudy is spending her Christmas eve tracking down the sold-out toy, while her sister is at home making gingerbread cookies and convincing little Leroy that Santa really will bring his toy.

When she finds the toy, she also stumbles into the arms of not one but two secret agents. Which one is the good guy? Is either? And will either one let her get this toy with the unexpected secret home to her nephew? It's a fun story, with a warm, funny, happy ending.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Folly Cove, by Holly Robinson

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9781101991534, October 2016

Anne Bradford has come home to Folly Cove in Massachusetts, with her baby Lucy, after the abrupt end of her relationship with Lucy's father. Colin, it turned out, wasn't in the process of getting a divorce from his wife. Barbara and Colin show up at the restaurant where she cooks to drop the baby on her and let her know that Colin's going home again. Her boss is shocked that she was "that kind of girl" (so was she), and going home to Folly Cove seemed the only short-term option.

Her mother Sarah Bradford, concerned about maintaining the tone at the Folly Cove in, which has been their sole support since Neil Bradford left them behind. Her oldest sister Laura still believes her husband Jake's version of an encounter one night, when in fact it was Jake who came to her room and behaved, well, inappropriately. The fact that Lucy's father was married only confirms her poor opinion of Anne's behavior.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, by Juliana Gray

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780425277072, October 2016

Emmeline Truelove is in the unusual position, for an Edwardian woman, of being the Duke of Olympia's personal secretary. She's held the post for six years, since the death of her father, who previously held it. The Duke of Olympia is newly dead, his heir is somewhere in the Mediterranean, and the alternative to great-nephew Maximilian Haywood is his younger brother, a dissolute spendthrift.

Haywood has to be found.

The Dowager Duchess asks Miss Truelove to make a trip to Greece to find the heir. She's sending the Marquess of Silverton with her, on the grounds that this seemingly frivolous young man has skills she'll need.

Reluctantly, and over the objections of what seems to be Queen Victoria's ghost, she agrees.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Queen's Accomplice (A Maggie Hope Mystery), by Susan Elia MacNeal

Random House Publishing, ISBN 9780804178723, October 2016

Maggie Hope is back in London after her trip to the US, and while waiting for her half sister Elise Hess to be smuggled out of Germany, she's working at the SOE office. It's tame office work, but she's very good, of course, at reading not just the text of coded messages but the "fist" of the sender.

And she's seeing trouble in the messages of a woman agent, Erica Calvert. Yet her superiors at SOE are certain she's imagining things.

While she's worrying over that, young women start turning up dead in London. Not just any young women; they're new SOE agents. And not just dead, but recreations of the killings of Jack the Ripper. When a friend of hers, Brynn Parry, goes missing, Maggie is drawn in to the investigation of what the newspapers are now calling "The Blackout Beast."

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings (The Chronicles of St. Mary's 6.5), by Jodi Taylor (author), Zara Ramm (narrator)

Audible Audio, November 2015

As previously noted, I'm listening to these in altogether the wrong order. This is another short story, #6.5 in the St. Mary's series.

It's Christmas, and time for certain traditions to be observed. One of those traditions is, of course, Max's illegal jump to solve a problem that coulld become something much, much worse. She, Markham, and Peterson head off to ancient Egypt to retrieve a handgun accidentally left behind by an agent who should never have brought it in the first place.

But this is St. Mary's, and another unbreakable tradition is that things will go horribly, improbably, in ways that only very smart people trying to avoid trouble could manage.

The characters remain interesting, exasperating, and fun to spend time with, and continue to appeal to my slightly twisted sense of humor.


Audible made this story available for free.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Very First Damned Thing (The Chronicles of St. Mary's 0.5), by Jodi Taylor (author, narrator)

Audible Audio, October 2015

First, I need to say up front that I'm reading this in the wrong order. It is by internal chronology the very first story, in which Dr. Bairstow gets funding for time travel, secures the premises of St. Mary's, and recruits the team vital to the St. Mary's project. At the same time, in fact, this story was written after several other, "later" stories, where St. Mary's is up and running, and the characters are settled into their roles. So it's safe to assume that those who have read those "later," previously written stories will find additional pleasure and satisfaction in seeing the team gathered and the project begun.

Despite the fact that I doubt I'm getting the full pleasure of it, I really enjoyed this story. It's a great look at the importance of history, accompanied by a certain gallows humor that tickles my own twisted sense of humor. I especially love the way Dr. Bairstow cheerfully promises his prospective recruits that yes, the working conditions will be hard, but on the other hand, the pay will be really awful.

It's just a short, perhaps novella in length, and as I've clearly warned, there's an assumption that you've read at least one or two of the others. Despite that, definitely recommended. It's a lot of fun.

Audible was (maybe is?) offering this one for free.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cupidity, by Patricia Wood (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Patricia Wood, February 2015

Tammy Louise Tyree is working hard in her small town to support herself and her autistic younger brother Jar (their now-deceased mother at first thought the doctor said "artistic"), with the comforting presence and emotional support of their Uncle E.

She works as a waitress at the Two Spoons Cafe, does house-cleaning, moves things for people in her pickup truck Dolly, and whatever else she can to make money. Uncle E also makes whirligigs, which she sells. It's hard work, and she's barely keeping things together, but she is keeping things together.

Then she gets a totally unexpected email from a solicitor in Botswana, informing her that if she is related to the missionary Tyrees, she has a $5 million inheritance coming to her. There are just a few fees involved in resolving all the paperwork...

Tammy isn't stupid, but she is naive, and there's no doubt in her mind that, if she can only cover those fees, the troubles of the Tyrees are at an end.

She tries, ans the letter asked, to keep it confidential. Over course she tells Uncle E, though.

E tells just a few people, though.

And suddenly the whole town knows, and many of them are eager to help her with those fees, in exchange for subsequent funding for their own projects. But meanwhile she still has to pay her bills and put food on the table, and everything gets harder when Uncle E dies suddenly.

There's no one to watch Jar when she's working. Not that Uncle E was overly reliable in that regard, although he had the best of intentions. It turns out he entered into a very ill-advised deal with Cousin Lonny, who is really not to be trusted. And being dead, E is also no longer around to make the whirligigs for Tammy to sell. She figures she'll at least cut out and assemble the one E had ready to go, and she has Jar help her, with the parts that don't involve the jigsaw or other dangerous implements.

Except Jar is pretty determined, not interested in being protected, and their late mama might have had it right when she said he was "artistic."

Suddenly the whirligigs are selling better than ever, except Tammy needs to get materials she doesn't have the cash for, and has to make yet another deal, this time with Walter Howard, owner of the hardware store.

It's a house of cards that is bound to fall apart, even without anyone, especially Tammy, realizing this is the classic "Nigerian" scam. But how long can she hold things together, and what will happen if she can't?

Along the way, though, she learns about her own strengths and weaknesses, her brother's, family secrets, her town, and what really matters in life. Can she pull out a happy ending? Read it and see!

Honestly, recommended. Tammy is a flawed but good character, doing her best in a world that has handed her a lot more challenges that resources to meet them with. Jar, her autistic teenage brother is not a caricature, either of the negative or of the well-intentioned "positive" kind. Michelle Babb is a good narrator, too. Enjoy!

I received a free copy of the audiobook from the narrator.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pumpkintown Perils: A Witch Mystery Collection (Cozy Mystery Bundle #1), by Aubrey Law

August 2016

Wanda Tempest runs a magic shop, Wanda's Wonders, in Pumpkintown. She's also a witch, as are her sisters, Alice and Amber. As successful as her magic shop is, she's got another pursuit: she's apprenticing as a detective with Inspector Sam Shamrock of the Pumpkintown Police.

Sam is a leprechaun. Many of the residents, or residents of nearby villages, are gnomes, trolls, and other magical or mythical creatures. In Jagged Wood, there are talking trees.

And the first case we see Wanda tackling is the death of is the death of Mr. Maple, a kindly old tree who provided the Sparkling Sap so essential for many of her recipes. What starts as a seemingly straightforward investigation quickly grows strange and complicated, and briefly results in Wanda herself being a possible suspect in the murder of her business rival, Hugo the half-gnome.

Sam seems a bit of a clown at first; gradually we see that the leprechaun cop is a leprechaun of brains, character, and toughness.

Wanda grows as a character, too. Pumpkinton is a little bit wacky, a lot complicated, and animated by a lively culture of gossip.

Worth a read. Recommended.

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Press Any Key to Destroy the Galaxy: An Antigravel Short Story, by George Saoulidis (author), Steve White (narrator)

Aris Saoulidis, February 2016

Galactic Emperor Jarrl has a problem: his nemesis has erected a barrier around his own galaxy, an immovable object, that has withstood determined siege for a thousand years. That's about to end. He's got a new and deadly weapon that will take out the immovable object, and utterly defeat his nemesis.

Galactic Emperor Jarrl gets more than he expected.

A well-done short story that offers some humor if your sense of humor is sufficiently twisted.


I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Girl Who Stayed, by Tanya Anne Crosby (author), Julie McKay (narrator)

Audible Studios, ISBN 9781531864965, September 2016

Zoe Rutherford has come home to Sullivan's Island to deal with cleaning up and preparing for sale the house she and her brother grew up in, which they've rented out for years since their parents died. At least, that's the ostensible reason. In reality, the house and its problems give her a place to go and a problem to work on. Zoe has, after eight years, left her abusive boyfriend, Chris, and right at the moment has no idea what she's doing next.

The problem is there's an unsolved mystery on Sullivan's Island: What happened to her sister Hannah, who disappeared when she was eight and Zoe was ten? Neighbor kid and Hannah's friend Gabby Donovan claimed Zoe did it, pushing Hannah into the water where the currents would carry her away. Zoe knows she didn't, and there was never any evidence that she did, but no other culprit or cause was ever found. It's haunted her all the years since. It's why she's never returned to Sullivan's Island.

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Shot to Die For (Ellie Forman #4), by Libby Fischer Hellmann (author), Mary Conway (narrator)

Fischer Hellman Communications, ISBN 9781938733017, April 2012 (original publication August 2005)

Ellie Forman stops at a highway rest stop on her way home from shooting a video at Lake Geneva. She chats with a woman who is is in some distress because her ride hasn't picked her up as expected. In moments, the woman is dead, shot by a sniper while Ellie is standing right beside her.

The shooting is nearly identical to another sniper killing at a different rest stop a few months prior. The woman killed was Daria Flynn, a sous chef at The Lodge in Lake Geneva.

Ellie promises her father, her daughter Rachel, her co-worker Mack, and her friend Susan that she is not getting involved.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Forsaken Skies, by D. Nolan Clark

Orbit Books, ISBN 9780316355698, September 2016

Humanity has colonized about a hundred star systems, and found no signs of intelligent alien life. Now a low-value colony on a barely-terraformed world, Niraya, is under attack, and the "poly" (corporation) that owns it has decided it's simply not worth defending from whatever other poly is attacking it. Its inhabitants aren't ready to lay down and die, yet, though, and they dispatch Elder McRae and Aspirant Roan to Hexus, the nearest major apace station, to seek help.

They first make contact with a Navy officer, Auster Maggs, who promises he can bring them help. Unfortunately, he can't, and doesn't intend to. He has a different agenda.

At this point, Hexus traffic control officer Tannis Valk, and Aleister Lanoe, a legendary retired Navy fighter pilot who came here chasing a young pilot fleeing for his own reasons, accidentally become involved. It's not long before Lanoe, Valk, Maggs, the young pilot Thom, and old comrades from Lanoe's past are on their way to Niraya with McRae and Roan. They've got four pilots and an engineer to fight off an unknown attacker with far greater resources.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Redtooth, by Brian Rathbone, (author, narrator)

Brian Rathbone, February 2011

Bob Hanks likes the stuff he has, and doesn't want to switch to new stuff--even when his wife thinks his old stuff looks kind of dorky. This includes his battered, old bluetooth headset, held together with a bit of electrical tape. When his wife threatens him--from his point of view--with a shopping trip to get "stuff he needs," he seizes the chance to go out without while she's out with a friend. He'll get the new things, but without her guidance.

And for certain values of "new." His first stop is a pawn shop.

It's the beginning of a hair-raising adventure.

This is a short story, just half an hour of listening, that appeals to my admittedly sometimes twisted sense of humor. Well worth your time.


The author posted the link to the Soundcloud audio free on Twitter.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Brain: Nature's Own Computer, by Anthony Johns, June 2011

Anthony Johns is an engineer, and in this short book he looks at the brain and the human body from that perspective: that we are chemical machines, and our brains are low-voltage, highly efficient computers. They come with a basic operating system installed, and get "programmed," starting in the womb, by the general environment, experiences, and the intentional education efforts of the adults we rely on. He includes some very practical approaches to addressing and correcting mental and emotional disturbances created by unhealthy, destructive experiences.

This includes the effects of his own negative experiences of being abused by a choirmaster in his own church. This helped create an unhealthy, negative relationship with religion for him, which led to later mental and emotional disturbances which he has had to work through. Much of this book, without going into excess detail about his own personal experiences, is concerned with laying out the basic tools used to overcome and emerge from that stressful period.

The Book Club Murders (The Oakwood Mystery Series #1), by Leslie Nagel

Alibi, ISBN 9780425285206. September 2016

Charley Carpenter owns a successful consignment shop in her hometown of Oakwood, and one of the small ways she's made it successful is by letting her friend Frankie Bright lure her into a book club with Oakland society's elite ladies. She really likes only a few members of the Agathas, but she does enjoy books, and it has been great for business.

Then Serena Wyndham, sister of fellow Agatha member Lindy Taylor, is found dead, and it's a scene right out of one of their murder mysteries.

The investigating detective is her old crush and nemesis Marcus Trenault, now a police detective on their local police force. The two of them are both attracted to and exasperated by each other, but as one socially prominent society lady after another dies, all but Serena actually members of the Agathas, they can't avoid each other.

It gets even harder when it's clear that all the murder methods are taken straight from murder mysteries the club has read in recent months.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Letters From Paris, by Juliet Blackwell

Berkley Publishing Group

Claire "Chance" Broussard returns home from Chicago to Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana because her grandmother, her beloved Mammaw, is dying. It's her grandmother and her Uncle Remy who raised her after her mother died in a car accident and her father proved unfit as a parent. Chance never felt she fit in with all her cousins, but studied, worked, and escaped, first to college and then to life in the software industry in Chicago.

Now she's back, remembering her past, asking questions, and wondering why neither Chicago nor Plaquemines Parish feels like "home."

And then she finds a treasure from her past, a mask of a beautiful woman that her great-grandfather sent to her great-grandmother from Paris at the end of World War II. As a child, she hid in the attic and talked to that mask. Now she talks to Mammaw about it, and about the odd letter, torn in half, that was apparently used as part of the packing materials. There are no names, but it includes the plaintive line, "He will never let me go alive."

After her grandmother's death, Chance goes to Paris, looking for the secret of the mask, and for a family secret Mammaw hinted she'll find there.

The mask is a woman known only as L'Inconnue, "the unknown woman," and her mask is famous and popular--and still unknown. Chance finds she doesn't much care for being a tourist in Paris, but as she  gets to know the descendants of the Lombardi family, the maskmakers who made the L'Inconnue mask, she finds he quite likes living in Paris. She takes a job working in their shop, mainly as a translator at first because Armand hates dealing with tourists--his main customers--and his cousin Giselle doesn't speak English. Armand is grumpy, remote, and surrounded by a mystery of his own. The previous translator, who quit abruptly, is also American, and is as grumpy and remote as Armand when Chance brings her some mail.

In alternate chapters, we get Chance's story in modern-day Paris, the real story of L'Inconnue in the Paris of the late 1890s, and even a glimpse of Chance's great-grandfather's visit to the maskmakers's shop in 1945. It's a slow, fascinating, and ultimately satisfying unfolding of both romance and family secrets.


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

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Apprentice in Death (In Death #43), by J.D. Robb

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9781101987971, September 2016

The newest serial killer in New York is using a high-powered laser rifle, from a considerable distance indicating a high level of skill, and choose victims that at first glance seem to offer no obvious attraction. The first attack is on ice skaters in Central Park, with three victims: a young woman who's a competitive skater, an obstetrician, and a man celebrating his birthday with his wife. None of them seem to have any enemies. It might be completely random.

Then there's a second hit, with four dead and one wounded, and a pattern starts to emerge. This is definitely a serial killer, and the killer is an exceptional marksman.

Over just a few frighteningly intensive days, Dallas, her crew, and and the entire NYPSD parse the the clues and rush to find the killer before the next hit.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dead as a Doornail (When the Fat Ladies Sing #3), by Linda P. Kozar (author), Michelle Rabb (narrator)

Audible, November 2008

Sue Jan recently got married and is now waiting for her and Monroe's dream house to be finished. Her friend Lovita is planning her wedding to Hudson. In the meantime, they're running their beauty shop and boutique, the best (and only) one in Wachita.

All this is slightly complicated by the death of the man doing the work on Sue Jan and Monroe's house, Monroe being accused of his murder, the arrival of Sue Jan's trailer dwelling cousins from Paris, Texas, with their trailer, which they park on Lovita's property....

Oh, and Wiley Butz is running for mayor against Monroe, and his girlfriend announces her plans to open a rival beauty shop.

On top of all this, Lovita has a strong feeling that there's something really wrong in Wachita.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Ghost Talkers, by Mary Robinette Kowal (author,narrator)

Audible Studios, August 2016

Ginger Stuyvesant is a young American heiress, who moves to London to be with her aunt, and meets a British army officer. She and Captain Benjamin Harford become engaged, just in time for World War One.

Ginger and her aunt are both mediums, and in this very slightly alternate world, the British army recognizes a potential advantage. Ginger and her aunt become part of the "London branch," a corps of mediums and their supporting circles. British soldiers are conditioned, by a secret method, to report in to the mediums when they are killed in action. They can't pass beyond the veil until they've made their last report. This gives the British an often critical advantage.

The Germans don't have s similar corps because they still burn witches. They've realized something is going on, though, and are now trying to find the "conditioning" method, so they can have their own similar corps of, as they imagine it, ghost spies.

Friday, September 2, 2016

The Virtuous Feats of the Indomitable Miss Trafalgar and the Erudite Lady Boone, by Geonn Cannon

Supposed Crimes, by ISBN 9781938108822, September 2015

In an early 20th century where magic, to some degree, works, but not much else is changed, Dorothy Boone is the very frustrating daughter of a very respectable family. In time, the mutual frustration becomes so great that she moves in with her grandmother, Lady Eula Boone. She gets a very unexpected education, and eventually inherits her grandmother's maps, books, artifacts, and career. I'm not clear on exactly why she is thereafter Lady Boone, but this isn't exactly our world, and I choose not to worry about it.

Miss Trafalgar starts out as Tall Girl, a child in a desperately poor Ethiopian village. She and others get traded off to some men who claim they are looking for girls to train as nurses, etc. They have a different plan for the girls, of course, or at least whichever one of them seems most suitable.

They need a body for a supernatural creature from the past to inhabit, so it can rule the world. It doesn't quite work out the way they expect.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kim Kardashian Saves The World (After President Trump Nearly Ends It), by Richard Hine

TLD Media, June 2016

In an alarming political year, this little novella is pure lark.

The bad news is that Donald Trump has been elected President.

The even more bad news is that Russia has just had a little accident with a nuclear missile that has resulted in unfortunate damage to a Canadian military base in Nunavut.

The worst news is that while Trump's cabinet, or at least some members of it, are scrambling to keep him from over-reacting and starting World War III, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the government of Norway come under sufficient pressure that the cooperate on a (fortunately non-nuclear) attack on a base in Russia.

Secretary of Defense Jesse Ventura, National Security Advisor Sean Hannity, and CELIA head Jodie Foster (what's CELIA? Why, the Celebrity Intelligence Agency, obviously), with no help from from Secretary of State Sarah Palin, collaborate to prevent Trump from launching a full nuclear first strike. While they're doing that, Kim Kardashian is embarking on a round of shuttle diplomacy to get all the relevant parties to agree to a deal that will prevent nuclear destruction of the human race.

And to make them accept it, Kim is going to start a #PeaceExplosion.

Is this book serious? Not for one single second. Is it plausible? Sure!

At least in its own scary, funny way.

This is the perfect distraction when you think you can't take this election year for another single second.