Thursday, June 30, 2016

Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, September 2015

Binti is a teenager of the Himba people, a rather insular minority greatly outnumbered by the majority Khoush. Insular though they are, the Himba have become specialists in mathematics, "harmonizing," and the making of astrolabes, apparently this era's smartphones. And Binti, young as she is, is already a Master Harmonizer, the most promising candidate to take over the family business from her father when he retires.

Except that Binti has won a scholarship to Oomza University, a very distinguished school--and on another planet. Her family is shocked at the very idea that Binti would actually accept it and go--but their dreams are not her dreams, and she does. And on her way there, the ship she's on is attacked and boarded by the Meduze, an alien species that has a very real and serious grievance against Oomza University.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Parrots Prove Deadly (Pru Marlowe #3), by Clea Simon (author), Tavia Gilbert (narrator)

Blackstone Audiobooks, ISBN 9781470843731, April 2013

Pru Marlowe is still adjusting to being back in her little hometown of Beauville in western Massachusetts, and working to establish her business of walking dogs and working with dogs and other animals as a behaviorist. She doesn't have her degree, yet; she had to cut short her education and get out of New York City for the same reason she has a slight edge over the average animal care professional.

She can communicate with animals mind to mind, sometimes even when she doesn't want to.

Her latest adventure starts when she gets a frantic phone call asking her to come help fix the behavior of a foul-mouthed African Grey Parrot. Randolph's human, the mother of the woman who called Pru, has died, and there is no one willing to take in the bird if his vocabulary doesn't get cleaned up.

Much of what he says seems to indicate that his person, Polly, was getting angry with people she believed were taking her things. Then he livens things further by making the sound of the elderly woman's walker being thrown to the ground.

Monday, June 27, 2016

NeuroTribes:The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman (author), William Hughes (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, August 2015

Autism used to be considered a very rare condition, and one that was basically a death sentence for living a normal life. Parents were told to just institutionalize their autistic children and forget them. Now, autistic people are everywhere, and we all know someone who is autistic, has Asperger's Syndrome, or is "on the spectrum."

Silberman looks at how we got here from there, and makes a very lively, interesting story of it. We start with the story of Henry Cavendish, a British physicist and chemist, or in the language of the day, a natural philosopher, of the 18th century. He did extremely important scientific work, made major breakthroughs, and showed many behavior patterns and traits in keeping with the contemporary conception of what autistic people are like, not the earlier conception of them as doomed to nothing better than institutionalization.

Silberman gives us, in a lively, conversational style, the stories of researchers, their research, and autistic children and adults, as well as their families. For many decades, the medical profession had nothing to offer, no "next steps" for parents after telling them their children were autistic, other than recommending institutionalization. Even when, in the 1960s, many parents of autistic children found the recommendations and pronouncements unhelpful, distressing, or clearly wrong. Many could see that their children were, in fact, quite bright, that they had communication difficulties but were interested in the world around them and, in their own atypical ways, really trying to connect and communicate.

"Holding therapy" seemed to many to be emotionally abusive, Early forms of behavior modification for autistic children relied heavily on punishment, even though that was directly contrary to B.F. Skinner's findings on what worked well for modifying behavior in useful ways. And when parents themselves became researchers in pursuit of better understanding and care for their own children, while they had an insight and practical orientation more detached researchers often lacked, they by the same token also lacked objectivity, and compromised good scientific practice out of a need to believe their children were "improving."

One of the most pernicious myths was that autism needed to be "cured."  Even as more and more autistic children stayed out of institutions and grew up to be functional, if eccentric, adults, sincere and dedicated organizations largely ignored the voices of autistic adults and teenagers.

And yet the more autistic people escaped institutionalization and became functioning adults, especially in such visible ways as being leaders in the tech industry, the harder they were to ignore, and the more, despite everything, they've had an impact on how the world perceives them. And aside from the heavy spectrum of people "on the autism spectrum" in high tech, no one is going to tell Temple Grandin, industrial designer and bestselling author, that she can't speak for herself or doesn't know what she's talking about.

This is a fascinating and well-written book. Highly recommended.

I bought this book.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Dog Eat Dog (Melanie Travis #3), by Laurien Berenson (author), Jessica Almasy (narrator)

Audible Studios, November 2015 (original publication 1996)

Melanie Travis has survived the events of the past year, and is now the owner of ten-month-old poodle puppy Faith, as well as the mother of five-year-old son Davey, and teacher in the school Davey attends.

And Aunt Peg is pulling her ever deeper into the world of dog breeding and showing. Peg's most recent maneuver is to bring Melanie to meetings of the Bell Haven Kennel Club, as her guest. It's just an unfortunate coincidence that her first meeting starts with an announcement that the previous meeting's dinner checks have gone missing, and the evening then finishes with the club's corresponding secretary being murdered right after the end of the meeting, just out of sight of other members in the dark.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Uprooted, by Naomii Novik (author), Julia Emelin (narrator)

Random House Audio, May 2015

Agnieszka is the daughter of a woodcutter, living in a quiet village in a peaceful valley--bounded by a menacing Wood where dark forces lurk. The Dragon, a cold and remote wizard, is their valley's defense against the Wood, but there is a price: every ten years, he chooses one seventeen-year-old girl to serve him for the next ten years. The girls emerge from the tower at the end of their service seemingly unharmed, but changed. They don't stay in the valley; they take the dowry the Dragon gives them and move elsewhere. Admittedly to prosperous, successful lives, but leaving the valley seems unimaginable.

Agnieszka and her best friend, Kasia, are "Dragon-born," i.e., seventeen years old in the year the Dragon will next claim a new servant. Everyone knows that that new servant will be Kasia. Kasia is everything the Dragon looks for--beautiful, clever, kind, and brave. Agnieszka dreads losing her friend forever.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Touch & Go (Tessa Leoni #2), by Lisa Gardner (author), Elisabeth Rodgers (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, February 2013

Libby and Justin Denbe have been married for eighteen years, and have a beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Ashlyn. Justin runs the construction company his father built, and has grown it to a $100,000,000 company. Libby is a successful jewelry designer.

They have it all.

Or it looks like they do.

For the last six months, Libby and Justin have been struggling with the aftermath of Libby discovering Justin had been having an affair. They go out for a Friday night date night as part of their effort to rebuild the marriage--and come home to a team of very professional kidnappers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Single and Catholic: Finding Meaning in Your State in Life, by Judy Keane

Sophia Institute Press, ISBN 9781622822409, June 2016

This is intended as a serious, helpful manual for single Catholics attempting to live a life that is both fulfilling and moral while, potentially (Keane is quite clear that not every single is), hoping/planning/seeking to meet that one person with whom they will make a family and live out their lives. It's addressed equally to men and women. It's well-written and clear. It is of course grounded in Catholic values, beliefs, and doctrine, but that's appropriate and expected, given the publisher and target market. There's useful and practical advice here, about not living your life on hold, and on not accepting "good enough" when it isn't, simply out of a fear of being alone. Keane points out clearly and compassionately that marriage is no guarantee against winding up widowed and unpartnered for years, even after a happy marriage, and that being single deasn't automatically mean not having strong and close relationships with family and friends. There's even helpufl advice here about making good, intelligent, careful use of Catholic-oriented online singles dating/matchmaking sites. (And yes, the assumption here is that if you're reading this book, finding a mate who shares your religious beliefs and commitment is important to you.)


As part of Keane's complete fidelity to official Catholic teaching, she makes certain assertions that even most devout, practicing Catholics will recognize as factually untrue. Most critically, no, use of contraception does not increase the frequency of abortion. It's this and a few similar details that will annoy the non-Catholic and even many Catholics, even some Catholics who may respect the Church's teaching against using contraceptives, and limits the usefulness of an otherwise good, useful book.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Scout's Progress (Liaden Universe #6) (Space Regencies #2), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Bernadette Dunne (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication April 2002)

Aelliana Caylon has a problem, and it's her brother. He's abusive, contemptuous, and heir to the Delm of Clan Meisel. He cares nothing for the fact that she's a brilliant mathematician and revisor of the Ventura tables on which all pilots depend. He feels she's worth nothing except what she'd bring in a contract marriage--and the Delm, their mother, has granted Aelliana's plea that she be allowed to make no more contract marriages.

So brother Ran Eld is looking for other ways to humiliate her. He's also in serious need of funds, as a creditor with no sense of humor is demanding immediate repayment.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Between a Book and a Hard Place (Devereaux's Dime Store Mystery #1 by Denise Swanson (author), Maia Guest (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2016

Devereaux Sinclair runs a dime store in the small Missouri town where she grew up. It's a town that is inordinately proud of its "heritage," and because Swanson sees fit to use, unironically, the phrase "War of Northern Aggression," I feel no hesitation in pointing out that, if we are going to be blunt about that war, it would more properly be called the War of Southern Treason.

Dev Sinclair is not thrilled when her mother, whom she last saw thirteen years ago when she dropped Dev off at her grandmother's and left town. Yvette also brought her new husband with her. And the new husband announces the apparently benign intention of funding the reopening of the town library. What he wants in exchange is immediate access to the library's archives of town history, without waiting for the library to reopen.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Holy Island (DCI Ryan Mysteries #1), by LJ Ross (author), Jonathan Keeble (narrator)

Audible Studios, December 2015

DCI Ryan is on a not entirely voluntary three-month sabbatical from the police force, due to the horrific ending of the last serial killer case he investigated. He's spending this sabbatical on Lindisfarne, a.k.a. "Holy Island." Ryan is living very quietly, but the total population of the island is somewhere around 200, so he's gotten to know, at least slightly, a good proportion of that population.

So one morning, when one of the local women, out walking her dog in the early morning, stumbles upon a dead body, with no police force on the island, she goes directly to DCI Ryan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Local Custom (Liaden Universe #5), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Bernadette Dunne (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication 2002)

Er Thom yos'Galan is well aware that Liaden law and custom require him to marry the contract wife his clan chooses for him, and produce an heir for his line. Unfortunately, some three years ago, Er Thom fell in love with a Terran woman, Anne Davis, a professor of linguistics on the world called University. He parted from her, giving her a farewell gift, but unfortunately has not forgotten her, as one is supposed to forget pleasure loves. His refusal to marry as instructed risks creating a scandal.

When Er Thom breaks ranks even further, and heads off to University to see Anne one last time, he discovers the makings of an even more dangerous scandal--Anne gave birth to a son from their affair, a son she has named Shan yos'Galan, in honor of his father.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Radio Girls

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451475565, June 2016

Canadian-born Maisie Musgrave left her actress mother in New York and moved to England, the home of the father whom she never knew. She'd like to find him or his family, or just more information about him, but so far she's had no luck. In the meantime, she's worked as a nurse during the Great War, as well as other jobs after the war. But now, in 1926, she's been struggling for a while, and is thrilled to land even an interview at the new, exciting British Broadcasting Corporation. When she actually lands the job as a secretary there, she is well beyond thrilled.

Yet working at the BBC proves more challenging than she expected. For starters, she's working for two bosses--John Reith, the intimidating and very traditional Director General of the BBC, and Hilda Matheson, the extraordinary, sometimes confusing, and very untraditional director of Talks programming.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Carousel Tides (Archer's Beach #1), by Sharon Lee (author), Elisabeth Rodgers (narrator)

Audible Studios, November 2010

Kate Archer has, reluctantly, come home to Archer's Beach after ten years away because her grandmother is missing. Their family owns the carousel at the local seasonal amusement park, and if someone doesn't pay the rent soon, they risk losing everything.

When Kate returns to the town and the house, she finds her grandmother has left her a package. There's a letter to Kate, and papers deeding over the carousel, the house, and the land. "The land," in this case, means a great deal more than just the land. Coming home, especially in the absence of her grandmother, means taking up her role as the Guardian of the Land.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Paleofantasy:What Evolution Really Tells Us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live, by Marlene Zuk (author), Laura Darrell (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2013

Among the current dietary and lifestyle fads is the paleo diet--the idea that we evolved to eat like our paleolithic ancestors, and have had too little time to evolve to suit our current lifestyle and diet. Marlene Zuk looks at the actual science, including what our paleolithic ancestors really ate, and how long it really takes for natural selection to spread changes in what foods we can digest and how.

I should say up front that Zuk isn't against eating a paleo diet, if that's what works for you. What she's arguing against here is the idea that paleo, or any other highly specific diet, is or can be the One True Way.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Derrick (The Single Daddy Club #1), by Donna Fasano (author), Laura Jennings (narrator)

Donna Fasano, April 2013 (original publication February 1997)

Derrick Richmond has uprooted his life, resigned his naval commission, and started his own accounting business so that he can provide a stable home life for his godson, Timmy. He's raising his godson now because, ten months ago, Timmy's father, his cousin James, also a Navy officer, died in a training accident.

Timmy has never really had a stable home life, and Derrick has never before James's death been responsible for a child. He knows he has a lot to learn, and a lot to work through with Timmy.

But when Anna Maxwell, Timmy's kindergarten teacher, says Timmy is having behavior problems and needs "extra help," Derrick has visions of the labeling of the "special ed" kids when he was in school, and is determined not to listen to her on the subject.

Brotherhood in Death (In Death #42), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, ISBN 9781480593213, February 2016

Dennis Mira has a problem. His cousin, Edward Mira, wants to sell the beautiful old brownstone that the cousins inherited from their grandfather--despite the cousins having promised their grandfather the home would state in the family. Shortly after arriving at the brownstone for a meeting with the realtor Edward engaged without consulting Dennis, he has another problem.

He's lying on the floor, bleeding from a blow to the head, and Edward, whom he last saw sitting in a chair with a bruised and bloody face, is missing.

Dennis calls his wife, Charlotte; Charlotte calls Dallas, and the hunt is on, for both the missing Edward Mira, and the cause of his kidnapping.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Mars Rover Curiosity: An Insider Account From Curiosity's Chief Engineer, by Rob Manning (author), William L. Simon (author), Bronson Pinchot (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, October 2014

Millions of Americans as well as people around the world have followed the adventures and the fascinating findings of the the Mars Rover Curiosity. For the scientists and engineers working on the project, much of the excitement, adventure, and stress came before arrival on Mars, and even well before take-off for Mars.

It was the largest rover ever sent to Mars. It carried an unprecedented number of scientific instruments. Its size and weight required a whole new landing method. Whole new methods, techniques, software had to be created--and every penny of cost had to be justified every step of the way, as other projects and scientists competed for their share of the underfunded NASA budget.

Friday, June 3, 2016

White Mare's Daughter (Epona #1), by Judith Tarr (author), Jessica Almasy (narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2016 (original publication June 1998)

Sarama is the servant of the White Mare, the Lady of the Horses. Her mother died giving birth to her and her twin brother Agni. Agni is the heir of the king of the White Horse tribe; Sarama is heir to an older tradition, from before their mother's people became a part of the male-ruled tribes.

The old woman who was the White Mare's servant before her told Sarama that she will be the last one. There's no one else of the pure bloodline. When stories reach the tribe of a wealthy land far to the west, a land ruled by women, Sarama take the Mare and a pack pony, and heads west to find this land where maybe the Lady is still worshiped.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Double Back (Georgia Davis #2), by Libby Fischer Hellmann (author), Eva Kaminsky (narrator)

The Red Herring Press, May 2016 (original publication 2009)

Videographer Elly Forman is asked by her friend Susan to help a neighbor, Chris Messenger, whose daughter has been kidnapped. Elly, knowing she doesn't have the knowledge and experience to help, calls in P.I. Georgia Davis.

And Georgia says what Elly first said: Even though they told you not to call the police, call the police. Having persuaded Chris Messenger to turn to the police, she walks away from the case.

A few days later, Molly Messenger is returned, and the police are strangely silent about how they cracked this big case so quickly. When the next thing Georgia hears about it is a panicked call for help from Chris because another executive at the bank where she's a VP has died in a car she's convinced is murder, Georgia knows there's something much stranger going on.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Masked City (Invisible Library #2), by Genevieve Cogman (author), Susan Duerden (narrator)

Masked City cover
Audible Studios, December 2015

Irene, agent of the Invisible Library, is now well established in an alternate London as the Resident Librarian. Together with her apprentice, Kai, she attends a dubiously legal auction to acquire a copy of a not actually illegal book for the Library, annoying some people in the process.

When they are waylaid on the way home, they're puzzled by several aspects of this attempt to, apparently, get the book--especially by the fact that, when overcome and questioned, the thief admits to being sent by a member of the Fae, associated with the Lichtenstein embassy. It gets stranger when Lord Silver, an old adversary among the Fae, the next morning gives them an oblique and confusing warning about possible danger.