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.

Recommended.

Audible made this story available for free.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Very First Damned Thing (The Chronicles of St. Mary 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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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

exact-psychology.com, 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.

Recommended.

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.