Sunday, April 30, 2017

The London Stories (Emily Castles Mysteries), by Helen Smith

Tyger Books, ISBN 9780956517098, November 2014

This collection includes the stories "Three Sisters," "Showstoppers," and "Real Elves." Each of them presents Emily Castles with a puzzle to solve.

Each is centered around her neighbors and coworkers.

Two of them involve murders.

They all feature Emily Castles, a young woman living in London

These stories all seem intended to be funny. Unfortunately, most of Emily's neighbors and coworkers are portrayed as shallow idiots. Emily herself comes off slightly better in both character and intelligence, but mainly in comparison to the friends and neighbors. Dr. Muriel, a professor of, I believe, ethics, who lives across the street from Emily, seems to be the only one with both sense and intelligence, but she is, alas, not the viewpoint character. These are about Emily, not Dr. Muriel.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Lady of the Lake (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries #4), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, April 2017

The Shoemaker and their friends are off on another camping adventure, this time to a campground near one of Donna Nowak's many childhood homes. They're all set for an enjoyable trip down memory lane, and Donna is connecting with old friends, when she discovers to her horror that her abusive ex-foster father is the campground's handyman.

The next day, he turns up dead.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cosmic Powers: The Saga Anthology of Far-Away Galaxies, by John Joseph Adams (editor)

Saga Press, April 2017

This is just one kickass good anthology. Go buy a copy in your preferred format now.

Okay, okay, you want to know more.

Every one of these stories is, as advertised, far-future, galaxy-spanning, and involves people confronting huge problems caused by technology, in some cases so advanced as to be, as Arthur C. Clarke said, "indistinguishable from magic."

They vary wildly in tone, also.

Charlie Jan Anders' "A Temporary Embarrassment in Spacetime" is just really funny.

"The Chameleon's Gloves" by Yoon Ha Lee features an interstellar thief saddled with the unenviable job of committing one theft not for profit but to prevent the deaths of billions. I hadn't been attracted to what I've heard of Ninefox Gambit, but now I very much want to read it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

News of the World,by Paulette Jiles (author), Grover Gardner (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, March 2016

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, former printer, is, in 1870, an old man, in his seventies. Having lost his business in the economic collapse of the Confederate states after the war, he's making his living as an itinerant news reader. Kidd travels the state of Texas, going from small town to small town, reading selections of national and international news to listeners who pay ten cents a person to listen. It's a form of entertainment as well as a way to get the news.

After one of these readings, he's asked to take a young girl, captured and raised by Kiowa Indians, back to her relatives The problem is that the girl, now ten years old, was six when her family was murdered and she was taken, and she seemingly remembers nothing of her life before that trauma.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mutineer (Kris Longknife #1), by Mike Shepherd (author), Dina Pearlman (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, May 2009 (original publication January 2004)

Kris Longknife is the daughter of a distinguished political family. Her father is the prime minister of the planet Wardhaven, a member of the Society of Humanity, a union of nearly six hundred worlds. She's joined the navy rather than pursuing either a political or a social career because she wants to do something useful.

She's smart and capable and sincere, and she has no idea what she's in for.

Her first assignment as an ensign is rescuing a kidnapped six-year-old girl, the daughter of another prominent political family on another planet. And Kris is nearly killed by a shuttle malfunction that only affects Kris's shuttle.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Winter is Coming:Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped, by Garry Kasparov (author), George Backman (narrator)

Audible Studios, October 2015

This is a really excellent and important book, still important two years after publication and with a new president in office. Kasparov is intelligent, knowledgeable, thoughtful, has watched Russia's transition from communism to Putinism from the inside, and has been actively involved in pro-democracy, anti-Putin resistance for years. There's a lot to be learned here, and you're making a mistake if you don't read this book.

But I have one criticism, and it's a big one.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Serial Date (Leine Basso #1), by D.V. Berkom (author), James Killavey (narrator)

DV Berkom, December 2013

Our protagonist is Leine Basso, former professional assassin.

The story is centered around a tv reality show, Serial Date, in which the pretty, young contestants are vying to become True Love of one of the shows "serial killer" hot guys. Of course, the men aren't really serial killers, because that would be way too dangerous and we can presume the insurance company nixed that. However, the young women don't know that until after they've signed the non-disclosure agreement, so we can take it as a given that they have neither standards nor any sense of self-preservation.

And of course a real serial killer is stalking the show.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Quiet Life in the Country (A Lady Hardcastle Mystery #1), by T.E. Kinsey (author), Elizabeth Knowelden (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, October 2016

Lady Hardcastle, a widow in her forties, has bought a house in the country and retired there with her lady's maid, Florence Armstrong, in 1908. The narrative voice is Armstrong's, and she comments several times that Lady Hardcastle has promised that they will have a quiet life in the country.

Aside from the fact that any lead character in a work of fiction should know those are the Words of Doom, it also raises the question of what kind of life they had prior to this. We quickly gather that it was not an endless round of balls and dinner parties in London, but the outlines of the real situation emerge gradually over the course of the story. It's rather a strong hint, though, that when the two women discover a dead man hanging from a tree, far from having hysterics, they quickly notice, and politely point out, details that the local constabulary, when called to the scene, were in danger of overlooking.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Peete and Repeat (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries #3), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, August 2016

Frannie Shoemaker and her friends are off on another campground adventure, and this one features a pair of adult identical twins, who still dress identically and even move in unison much of the time.

The conflict between them is not apparent until an old flame of one of the women walks into the pie shop where Frannie and friends have been noticing the twins eating with movements uncannily like synchronized swimmers. One woman is sad, the other is angry, and the man is very, very confused.

The friends are puzzled, but it's not their business, and there's no reason for them to go prying. The rumors of a meth lab in the area, and the rundown camper on a property adjoining the campground that looks like a candidate for the rumored meth lab, are much more concerning.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Best of All Possible Worlds, by Karen Lord (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Audible Studios, February 2015

Sadira's enemies have wiped out all life on Sadira, in a shocking genocidal attack. The only survivors are those who were off planet at the time. Most of the survivors have settled on New Sadira, but there was a gender imbalance. The surplus males created stress and conflict, so they have traveled to the planet of Cygnus Beta.

Cygnus Beta has a very mixed population, with the varied human races and cultures from all over the galaxy who themselves settled there as refugees from their own past disasters. The surviving Sadiri want to preserve as much of their culture by recruiting potential wives from the cultures that preserve Sadiri genetic traits, including telepathic abilities, as well as cultural traits.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Unstoppable, by Lisa-Marie Cabrelli

April 2017

Maureen is working, not very happily, at Telco in Hoboken, NJ, when her boyfriend Phil, who also works at Telco, dumps her.

She's determined to shed her Mousy Maureen image, and make herself over into Magnificent Mo. With some help from her best friends, Sally and Claire, she gets herself set to go into the office Monday morning. She'll confront her boss (and Claire's significant other), Satish, and demand a better assignment.

But before her meeting with Satish, she overhears secretaries talking int the ladies' room, and becomes convinced he's going to demote her, assign her to be scretary for the hated Ron. So she goes to Satish and, after a few minutes of talking at cross-purposes, she quits.

Magnificent Mo has no job, and she still feels like Mousy Maureen. Sally sets up a dinner in which the goal is that Maureen will meet Brad, an art collector who's a client of her boyfriend Tod. Brad is obviously a catch, right?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Musubi Murder (Professor Molly Barda Mysteries #1), by Frankie Bow (author), Nicole Gose (narrator)

Frankie Bow, January 2015

Molly Barda is a junior, untenured professor at Hawaii's (apparently fictional) Mahina State University, in the College of Commerce. She just wants to teach, publish, and keep out of trouble until she gets tenure.

Instead, she attends a breakfast honoring the college's largest benefactor, ever. The guest of honor, Jimmy Tanaka, doesn't show up, but a skull does show up, in a fruit plate. This isn't how anyone wanted the breakfast enlivened.

But the strange events have only begun. Molly has to cope with students who don't want to do their assignments, a dean and a "student retention office" who don't want academic rigor driving away the paying customers, and, oh yes, the skull turns out not to be a theater department stage prop, but the skull of the missing Jimmy Tanaka.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Crash & Burn (Tessa Leoni #3), by Lisa Gardner (author), Christina Traister (narrator), Mikael Naramore (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, February 2015

A woman wakes up in a hospital, injured, and has amnesia. They tell her that her name is Nicole Frank. There's a man whom they tell her is her husband, Thomas Frank. She crashed her car off a steep embankment, and she crawled out of her car, and climbed the embankment, looking for a little girl, Vero.

Some of this is true.

Nikki Frank has just had her third concussion in six months, and her memory is at best unreliable, while images that might be memories from the past keep surfacing. Her husband wants her to move on, forget the questions about the past, and build their new life together. Police detectives Wyatt Foster and Kevin Santos suspects her accidents aren't accidents, and Thomas is an abusive husband.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fury Rising (Fury Unbound #1), by Yasmine Galenorn

Nightqueen Enterprises, July 2016

Kaeleen Donovan, a.k.a. Fury, is a Theosian, a minor goddess, bound to Hecate. She lives in a distant future Seattle where civilization has more or less rebuilt after Gaia lost patience with humanity for the damage we were doing. The triggering event for her rage was the Weather Wars, and while magic is now an ordinary fact of everyday life, weather magic is absolutely forbidden.

So when an underground cult starts using weather magic to create chaos, it's not just a problem. It's a looming disaster. Hecate sends Fury to recover an ancient device from the Weather Wars, the thunderstrike, that the radical cult, the Order of the Black Mist, has acquired and is using.

Fury's friends and allies include the hawk shifter Jason Aerie, a member of the Bonny Fae named Tam, and her spirit guide, Queet. And, of course, Hecate herself, though things might be much easier if the Elder Gods could intervene directly. They can't. She can direct her servants and supporters. She can arm and supply them. But she can't intervene directly. And they have very little time to retrieve the thunderstrike, before Gaia and her agents simply remake the world again and eliminate the annoying, troublesome humans.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Black Wolves of Boston(Black Wolves of Boston #!), by Wen Spencer

Audible Books, February 2017

Silas Decker is a vampire more than three centuries old, and finding it increasingly hard to keep rebuilding his life as people die and the world keeps changing. Living alone with no friends and few acquaintances, he sees less and less reason to keep trying.

Eloise is a Virtue, a soldier of God against evil. She's made being that soldier the only thing she is, lest human connections weaken her.

Seth is the sixteen-year-old Prince of Boston, a werewolf, the only survivor of his murdered family. His only living close relative is his cousin Jack, and the Wolf King, Alexander, is keeping Seth in New York, not letting him return to Boston for reasons he doesn't clearly explain.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Spaceman: An Astronaut's Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe, by Mike Massimino (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, October 2016

Mike Massimino watched the moon landing on tv at seven years old, and he knew before that he wanted to go into space.

His other dream was to be a player for the Mets.

In the years that followed, the Apollo program wound up and space became boring. Massimino's interests focused elsewhere, and he became an industrial engineer.

Then the shuttle program and the international space station reignited interest in the space program. And Massimino had become focused on, specifically, robotic systems and their "human factors," human usability. He was interested in space again, and though it took some time and a lot of work, the space program was interested in him.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Fatal Thaw (Kate Shugak #2), by Dana Stabenow

Brilliance Audio, December 2011 (original publication January 1993)

Kate Shugak has had months of relative peace, unbothered by the demands of her former profession. That's broken by not jus t a murder in the park, but a massacre one bright, sunny, Alaska-spring morning. Kate is the last person he comes after, because she's warned of the shootings and the fact that the man is headed her way. She and her wolf cross, Mutt, manage to take him down alive.

There are nine dead. But did the man kill all nine, or only eight? One of the dead, a woman, was killed by a bullet from a different gun. Same type, same caliber, but not the same gun.

Two killers, with the same type of gun, the same sunny morning?

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengence and Survival, by John Vaillant (author, narrator)

Random House Audio, August 2010

In a remote village in Russia's Far East, in the bitter cold of December 1997, a tiger started killing and eating people.

As terrifying as that was, it soon became clear that the attacks weren't random; the tiger was engaged in a vendetta. The first man killed, a poacher named Vladimir Markov, had not just injured but antagonized the tiger, and the wounded, sick, starving beast was hunting down everything with the smell of him or his dogs on it.

The lead tracker is Yuri Trush, an officer of Russia's Inspection Tiger, intended to protect the tiger, prevent poaching, and kill tigers only when absolutely unavoidable. Trush and his team have to track the tiger on foot, in a frigidly cold winter, with public fear and anger on the rise as the tiger stalks them.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Woman on the Orient Express, by Lindsay Jayne Ashford (author), Justine Eyre (narrator)

Audible Audio, September 2016

In 1928, Agatha Christie took a trip on the Orient Express under an assumed name, escaping the news coverage of her divorce from Archie Christie. On the train, she meets two other women, Katherine Keeling and Ann Nelson, each of whom also has a secret.

The women do not immediately trust each other. Ann is fleeing her husband, and was expecting her lover to join her. Katherine, working for the British Museum as an archaeological artist, is on her way to marry Leonard Woolley, head of the expedition to Ur. She's a widow burdened with a secret from her first marriage, which profoundly affects this new one, and she wants to avoid the whole subject. Agatha wants no one to know who she is, so she can avoid questions about her divorce, as Archie's wedding to the woman he left her for approaches.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Violent Love (Volume 1:Stay Dangerous), by Frank J. Barbiere (story), Victor Santos (art)

Image Comics, ISBN 9781534300446, May 2017

A young girl named Penny visits a neighbor, a friend of her mother's, who we gradually learn is a retired federal marshal. Back in the 1960s, he was involved in investigating a pair of violent killers, Daisy Jane and Rock Bradley. Penny sees some newspaper clippings he's kept, and he tells her the rest of the story.

That story is most of this book, with Penny and the marshal as a frame story.

Daisy Jane enters the story as a young girl as innocent as Penny, but her life is about to hit some very rough waters.

Her father, who loves her and supports all her ambitions of going to college and making something of herself, runs an auto repair garage now--but he used to be a gangster. A fortuitous car accident puts him back in tough with old associates, and he sees an easy way to make the money Daisy Jane needs to go to college. She goes happily off to UCLA, having no idea what her father is doing.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Quantum Tangle (Targon Tales--Sethran #1), by Chris Reher

Chris Reher, February 2014

It's the distant future, and a star-spanning civilization, populated by multiple human-descended species, known as "Prime" species, as well as a number of genuinely alien intelligent species.

Centauri pilot Sethran Kada unexpectedly drops out of subspace into the wrong sector of space, and quickly discovers he has an unexpected stowaway. The stowaway is a being from subspace, a member of a newly evolving species native to subspace, and has stowed away in his brain. searching through his data files, the being constructs an appearance and a personality, and decides she's female and names herself Khoe.

She wants his help stopping the kidnapping of her people into realspace, and especially his help in recovering the being she calls the Alpha--an individual vital to her species' continued existence.

They are both in for a wild ride.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Not My Father's Son:A Memoir, by Alan Cumming (author, narrator)

HarperAudio, October 2014

Alan Cumming was asked to appear on the celebrity genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are in 2010. At that point, he assumed the focus of the show would be on a family mystery on his mother's side. Her father, Tommy Darling, had served in World War Two but never returned to the UK. He went off into the far east, and died in a shooting accident. Why didn't he ever come home?

But Alan Cumming had, to put it very mildly indeed, issues with his own father, Alex Cumming. He was verbally and physically abusive to Alan and his older brother Tom for years, and Alan hadn't, at the time he was approached for Who Do You Think You Are, spoken to him for many years.

Then shortly before filming started, Alex Cumming called Alan, to give him some shocking news, news he said he didn't want Alan to find out via the tv show.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2), by N.K. Jemisin (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Hachette Audio, August 2016

Essun--previously Syenite, previously Damaya--has found shelter in an underground comm, where orogenes are not hated; in fact, the leader is an orogene. She has not found her daughter, Nassun. Instead, she has found Alabaster Tenring, former lover, author of the destruction of the world. He has a request for her. He wants to train her as his successor, to complete his work--which has started the destruction of the world

Meanwhile, Nassun, carried off by her father after he killed her brother, is struggling to survive--including surviving her father, without whom, a little girl of nine, she can't survive alone. They've been found by a Guardian who recognizes Nassun's potential, and whose daughter she is. He promises her father that in his school, he can teach Nassun not to be an orogene.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Her Sanctuary (Her #1), by Toni Anderson (author), Eric G. Dove (narrator)

Toni Anderson, January 2017 (original publication January 2009

After listening to Her Last Chance, the second in this series (yes, I read series out of order, all the time), I wanted to listen to this one. Nat Sullivan is a different kind of romantic hero than Marsh Hayes, and Elizabeth Ward is likewise a very different person than Josephine Maxwell. Once again, though, we have two strong, determined characters who don't quit in the face of trouble and danger.

The events of this book are hinted at in its sequel, but here we get the full account--Elizabeth and Nat's story, but also the missing bits of Josie and Marsh's story. Elizabeth and Nat are the main event here, though, and we follow the terrifying events that bring her to the Sullivan ranch, under a false name, in hiding from the mafia.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Street Angel: After School Kung Fu Special, by Brian Maruca (story), Jim Rugg (story), Jim Rugg (art, cover)

Image Comics, ISBN 9781534302877, May 2017

Jesse "Street Angel" Sanchez is trouble. She's usually late for school, occasionally pays attention in class, and fights really, really well.

One day, Jesse finds a note in her locker from "the Ninja Kid," challenging her to a fight. And it's just a few days before the big school dance--a Sadie Hawkins dance, the girls invite the boys.

Friends urge her to dodge the fight. Friends urge her to invite a boy to the dance. They have candidates for her!

What will happen? Who will win the fight? Will anyone go to the dance?

I don't think anyone had a serious thought in their heads when creating this book, but it is fun. There are also concept sketches and comments from the creators in the back.

Fun if this is the mood you're in.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

We Thought We Knew It All (Invincible #2), by Michelle Lynn

Creativia, March 2017

The teenagers from We Thought We Were Invincible are back, ten years older, ten years...wiser?

Callie went to California, got to know her father, married her father's assistant, Dylan, and had three sons. And now they're divorced. She's already headed back to Gulf City, Florida, when she hears the news that Senator Mark Daniels, Jay and Jamie's father, has died.

Her twin brother, Colby, is already there. He went to medical school, and came back to Gulf City for his residency. He knows his father and his nephews, but stayed in the place he grew up, doing what he always wanted to do.

Morgan is an accountant, working in London.

Jay also stayed in Gulf City, taking over his father's law firm. He's married a woman from elsewhere, someone who wasn't there for the shooting at the school dance that changed all their lives.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Let's Misbehave, by Lisa Plumley

Lisa Plumley, December 2014 (original publication July 2007)

I'll start by making two things clear: 1. There's a dog in the book, but it's an elderly German shepherd, not the cute little thing on the cover. 2. Despite his advanced age, the dog does not die. He survives the book.

 Marisol Winston is heiress to the Home Warehouse DIY chain store fortune, and her main skills are fashion and shopping. She may be getting a bit bored with having no real purpose to her life, because she's conceived an ambition to start a deluxe fashion boutique in L.A. Unfortunately, her family and friends stage an intervention, and her father won't fund her start-up until she completes a stint in shopaholic rehab.