Thursday, March 31, 2016

Albatross:About Quantum Physics, Human Beings, and Other Strange Things, by R.A. MacAvoy, and Nancy Palmer

Sanachie Press, ISBN 2940157997915, February 2016

Dr. Rob MacAuley is a brilliant physicist from the Outer Hebrides. He's also on the run, convicted in absentia of terrorism and murder. It's an absurd charge against a gentle and largely apolitical man, but it's a symptom of a Britain grown ever more paranoid, that has split from the EU at a cost its leadership could have calculated but didn't, and where the Scottish Parliament was dissolved eighteen months ago.

Rob is, through no fault of his own, a figurehead, or perhaps mascot would be a better word, of the Scottish Separatist movement.

Oh, and he has this odd thing he does, when startled or alarmed, that he calls "flinching," and that someone else might call moving from one spot to another without crossing the intervening distance.

Thomas Heddiman, American, machine intelligence specialist, anti-human trafficking activist, and karate expert, has a whole different set of problems. He's currently volunteering his services to the Edinburgh police for reasons not apparent to those he's working with.

Their paths are about to cross in a most unexpected way, in a Britain growing increasingly dark.

Thomas is very close-mouthed about what his real purpose is. Rob is sending letters under false names to physicists all over the world, asking questions that he hopes will nudge them toward the same breakthrough he's made. He doesn't want to be the only one who has the ability to publish and share his Unity Theory, so that it at least can't become a weapon for just one power.

This is an engaging and challenging book, with diverse and fascinating characters. The time is just about a quarter century in the future, and it's a recognizable but different world.

Those who fondly remember Tea With the Black Dragon will find some themes in common, but they are very different books. If one insists on placing it in a genre category, it's fantasy.

I should probably admit, in a spirit of full disclosure, that I feel that R.A. MacAvoy hasn't written nearly enough. I'm not previously familiar with Nancy Palmer, but regardless of any other contribution she made, another MacAvoy novel is something to be grateful for.

Go read it; you won't regret it.

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Monument to the Dead (A Museum Mystery #4), by Sheila Connolly, (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Audible Studios, January 2016

Nell Pratt is the president of the Philadelphia Antiquarian Society, an institution which has been having some interesting times lately--this being volume four in a mystery series. But surely thingss have quieted down now. Crises are resolved, Nell is dating FBI Special Agent James Morrison, and the Society has a large stash of possibly stolen documents it is sorting and cataloging for the FBI. And on her train ride in to work one morning, Nell reads the obituary of a former Society board member. It's not an expected death, but the woman was elderly, and there's no suggestion it was anything but natural.

Then as she's working at her desk that morning, James Morrison calls, and tells her he thinks the former board member's death wasn't natural. He thinks he's seeing a pattern of deaths in older members of Philadelphia's cultural world.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs #11), by Jacqueline Winspear

Harper, ISBN 9780062220554, March 2015

At the opening of this book, Maisie Dobbs has arrived in Gibraltar, in theory on her way home to England. In reality, she has realized she is not yet ready to face her homeland.

It takes us a bit to learn fully what tragic events have set Maisie adrift.

But as that background unfolds, Maisie is embarking, unintended, on a new investigation--the strange murder of a young photographer. The police immediately conclude that he was killed by a refugee from war-torn Spain, motivated by robbery. They attribute the photographer's camera being left behind to the coincidental arrival of Maisie on a walk.

Mayflower: A Study of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick (author), George Guidall (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781419390036, 2006

The Pilgrims of Plimoth Plantation are part of the founding mythology of the US. But what most of us know, or at least remember, is Plymouth Rock, Thanksgiving, the Puritans, and then the Revolution. Maybe we remember that King Philip's War is a thing that happened, but we may be a bit hazy on the details. Probably we remember Squanto, the friendly Indian who taught the Pilgrims to grow corn.

Philbrick brings in all marvelously to life.

And in doing so, he restores the richness, complexity, and ambiguity of the real world.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Brownies & Broomsticks (Magical Bakery Mystery #1), by Bailey Cates (author), Johanna Parker (narrator)

Tantor Audio, March 2013 (original publication May 2012)

Katie Lightfoot has had a bad breakup with her fiancé, and needs a big change. So she's taken her pastry school education and her experience working in an Akron bakery to Savannah, Georgia. Her Uncle Ben and Aunt Lucy are starting a bakery there, and she's bringing her business and baking experience to the project.

What she doesn't know is that Aunt Lucy has a family secret to share with her--one her own parents have been keeping from her.

Katie's father and mother, her mother's sister Lucy, and Katie herself are all witches. Specifically hedge witches, gifted in the use of herbs and related matters.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Justice Calling (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #1), by Annie Bellet (author), Folly Blaine (narrator)

Doomed Muse Press, December 2014

Jade Crow is running a gaming shop in Wylde, Idaho, living very quietly. Quiet is good; she's hiding from her ex-lover, the evil sorcerer who killed her family and tried to kill her, to eat her heart and steal her magic.

And Wylde is a good place for someone with a magical secret to hide. half the residents are shape-shifters. A sorceress doesn't stand out--at least as long as she doesn't use her magic. If she doesn't use her magic except in minor ways, her enemy may not find her this time.

Bu when a shape-shifter enforce, called a Justice, walks into her shop, believing she's about to kill shape-shifters, she has a major problem.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Leaving Everything Most Loved (Maisie Dobbs #10), by Jacqueline Winspear

Harper, ISBN 9780062049605, March 2013el

Maisie Dobbs is facing a crossroads in her life; she's also facing two puzzling cases.

James Compton is increasingly urgent in his desire to marry Maisie, and work is about to take him to Canada. He'd like her to come with him. But as much as she loves James, Maisie is afraid of losing herself. Even though James values her intelligence and independence, he doesn't like how dangerous her work can be. And Maisie herself is feeling an increasingly strong desire to travel--but not to Canada, and not with James. This would be a journey of self-discovery, a memorial trip for Maurice Blanche--a trip to India, length of visit open indefinitely.

Meanwhile, she's got those two puzzling cases. One involves a young Indian woman, Usha Pramal, who came to England originally as a governess for an English family. More lately, she has been working as maid while living in an ayah's hostel. Most recently, she was found dead, floating in the canal, with a bullet through her head.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Necessity's Child (Liaden Universe #16), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Eileen Stevens (narrator)

Audible Studios, February 2013 (original publication October 2012)

Rys Lin pen'Chala is left for dead near one of the entrances to the hidden kompani home in the seemingly abandoned district of the port city on Surebleak. Brought inside and nursed back to relative health by the Luthia, Silain, and her apprentice, Kezzi, he has some permanent damage, and is missing much of his memory. But as he recovers, bits come back, and he know he has terrible enemies known as the Dragons.

Syl Vor yos'Galen, Nova's son, is frustrated and bored by the absence of any companions even close to his own age. His older cousins are now off on near-adult duties; his younger cousins aren't yet walking. After some thought and a fortunate encounter, he comes up with the idea of attending the local school--not in place of his tutoring, but in addition to it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Crushed, by Deborah Coonts

Kindle Edition, March 2016

Sophia Otero Stone has lived most of her life putting her dreams to one side to raise her children, support her husband, and now, to care for her aging mother. Those dreams center around making wine, and she has been growing grapes--excellent grapes, grapes developed from her own father's varietals in the Italian village of Friuli. But her husband Daniel died five years ago, and she's been working for Butchy Pinkman, a new-money guy in Napa Valley. His ambitions extend mainly to making a successful, popular, cheap table wine, Pink's Passion. And it is successful and popular. It's just not the wine Sophia wants to be making.

But Daniel had always refused to buy their home, insisting renting was a better deal. And land values have risen dramatically in the few years since his death, with the new money moving in. Sophia's home and land--with her grandfather's grapes--has been sold, and she's gotten thirty days' notice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Dragon Ship (Liaden Universe #17) (Theo Waitley #4), Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author), Eileen Stevens (narrator)

Audible Audio, September 2012

Theo Waitley and her self-aware ship Bechimo now have a contract with Clan Korval to explore a possible new long-loop trade route, unconnected to previous Korval routes that included Liad. She's got her first crew member, pilot Clarence O'Berin. And she and Bechimo are feeling out the delicate matter of whether he and Theo really want to enter into the symbiosis that would make Theo not acting captain but bonded captain.

So we know things are way too peaceful and some real excitement is going to come along and smack them all.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

When Falcons Fall (Sebastian St. Cyr #11), by C.S. Harris

Berkley Publishing Group/NAL, ISBN 9780451471161, March 2016

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has come to the village of Aylswick for two reasons. The first, and more openly acknowledged, is to deliver a last gift from his friend, innkeeper Jamie Knox, recently killed, to Jamie's mother.

The unacknowledged reason is to see if he can find out who Jamie's, and possibly his own, real father is. Because the Viscount and the innkeeper looked startlingly alike, even to possessing startling, yellow eyes.

What he really winds up doing is responding to the request of the local squire and justice of the peace, Archie Rawlins, to assist in the investigation of the murder of a young woman recently come to town. Her name, she said was Emma Chance, widow of Captain Chance, and she was on a sketching expedition.

But as Devlin investigates, none of the facts known about the young woman add up.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Magic & Manners (Austen Chronicle, Book 1), by C.E. Murphy (author), Gemma Dawson (narrator)

Audible Studios, February 2016

This is a Jane Austen knockoff, let's say that upfront. I enjoyed it immensely.

The Dover family lives at Oakton in circumstances that will be remarkably familiar to readers of Austen's Pride & Prejudice. Mr. Dover's family has a secret that could ruin them: Magic runs in the Dover line, and the five daughters are afflicted by it. That is why they live quietly in the country rather than in town. This may not be enough.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Finding Me (Finding Me #1), by Dawn Brazil

Booktrope, ISBN 9781497343887, March 2016

Chloe Carmichael is seventeen, rich, and mostly pretty pampered. She does have her frustrations with her mother, who is very into appearances, and has insisted that she date "the right boy,"--Zach. She and Zach regard each other as friends, but they both agree to be "boyfriend and girlfriend" to others, due to maternal pressure. She has good friends, though, likes her science classes, and figures that in another couple of years, she'll be at college and not so much under her mother's thumb.

Then strange things start to happen. She has a strange, frightening vision of Zach being murdered--shortly before he is really murdered, exactly as she envisioned. She starts seeing strange things, hearing voices, and having strange dreams. A new group of kids at school tell her they know why; she's one of them, part of a special group with a mission, to protect humanity.

And they tell Chloe that although she doesn't remember it, her name is really Amanda, and they've known each other for several lifetimes.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Somewhere Out There, by Amy Hatvany

Atria Books/Washington Square Press, ISBN 9781476704432, March 2016

Jennifer Walker is barely twenty, homeless, and trying to care for a four-year-old and a six-month old on her own when desperation and lack of money cause her to leave her two girls in her car while she tries to steal food from a convenience store.

She gets caught.

Facing a year in jail and no more prospects when she gets out than she has now, she very reluctantly signs away her parental rights. She assumes they'll be placed together, but of course babies are far more adoptable than four-year-olds. Baby Natalie is quickly adopted, while four-year-old Brooke bounces from foster home to foster home.

We get the stories of Jennifer as she faces new traumas and tries to rebuild her life, married Natalie, and single Brooke in alternating chapters.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

My Journey Through War and Peace: Explorations of a Young Filmmaker, Feminist, and Spiritual Seeker, by Melissa Burch

ISBN 9781771611787, March 2016

At twenty-one, Melissa Burch is an aspiring young filmmaker and war correspondent. It's 1982, and she takes an assignment to go into Afghanistan to film the mujahadeen fighting the invading Soviet troops. It's hard, dangerous trip, and she finds herself making the trip into the mountains as the only woman with a small troop of mujahadeen. That wasn't the plan; Maria, the more experienced woman who arranged this and was supposed to be traveling with them backs out at the last moment. She's decided that one more trip into the Afghan war zone is just pushing her luck too much.

Burch persists, and develops a real camaraderie with the troop. Yet when she winds up filming footage that gets edited to combine real combat with an essentially staged attack on an already-downed helicopter to make a CBS report that she believes doesn't represent the truth of the conflict, she feels frustrated and used.

Nevertheless, she learns a lot about her ability to face hardship and danger, and it's the start of a journey of personal growth. It's also not her last, longest, or hardest trip into Afghanistan.