Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Distant View of Everything (Isabel Dalhousie), )by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Davina Porter (narrator)

Recorded Books, July 2017

Isabel and Jamie have a new baby, another boy, named Magnus. They and their housekeeper, Grace, are thrilled. Their older boy, Charlie, not so much. He's certain he can come up with good arguments for excluding Magnus from the family!

But that's just a normal parenting challenge, and they'll cope as most parents do. Bigger puzzles include Cat's new part-time shop-assistant, Peg, whom Cat seems unusually enthusiastic about. Where did Cat meet her? Why is she so vague about her background?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Alice (The Chronicles of Alice #1), by Christina Henry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, January 2016 (original publication August 2015

Alice is a young woman living in an insane asylum in a city divided.

She grew up in the New City, and at sixteen, she went with a friend, Dor, on an adventure into the Old City. The Old City is completely surrounded and contained by the New City, and contains all that the New City would like to deny. That includes dirt and poverty, but also crime and magic.

The adventure did not go well, and Alice is returned to the New City talking only of a tall man with long rabbit ears. Soon she is hospitalized, and is fed powders with every meal that dull her senses and awareness.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen (author), Gemma Dawson (narrator)

Audible Studios, March 2017

I've read several of Bowen's Her Royal Spyness books, and found them silly and superficial enough that it made me reluctant to try In Farleigh Field. The description and the sample moved me to try it anyway, and I'm glad I did.

With World War Two starting, the five daughters of Lord Westerham are all faced with their separate challenges. The eldest, Livy, is married and has a baby, and her husband has been sent off to the Bahamas, as part of the "security" for the Duke of Windsor. Lady Margaret is in France, trapped there when she chose not to leave her French lover as the Germans advanced. As he's part of the French resistance, she's in real danger.

It's the third daughter, Lady Pamela, who is most central to the story. She's been more or less in love with neighbor Jeremy Prescott, bad boy & RAF flyer. Unfortunately, he's now been shot down and captured by the Germans. Neighbor and local vicar's son Ben Cresswell was injured in a flying accident--with Jeremy as the pilot--just prior to the war, and is now doing a dull, government office job in London, as is Pamela.

What neither their families nor any of their friends know is that Ben is an MI5 agent, and Pamela is a Bletchley Park code breaker.

What Pamela doesn't know is that Ben is in love with her.

Meanwhile, back at the Sutton family home, Farleigh, a parachutist whose chute never opened has fallen and died in a nearby field. He's wearing a British uniform, but it's not quite right, and he doesn't have identification.

Margaret, known as Margo, is arrested by the Gestapo. Jeremy returns to Britain, with a heartwarming story of escaping from the Germans. Pamela and Ben have each been giving mysteries to solve.

Youngest daughter, Lady Phoebe, befriends the young London evacuee, Alfie, with whom she found the dead parachutist.

There's a plot afoot, related to the planned German invasion, and no one is safe and no one knows where the danger is coming from.

This is rich, well plotted, tightly paced, with interesting, well-developed characters.


I bought this audiobook.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Charm (A Cinderella reverse fairytale) (Reverse Fairytales Book 1), by J.A. Armitage

Armitage, September 2017

This is a modern retelling of Cinderella.

Princess Charmaine is the second daughter of King Aaron of Silverwood, with no worries about ever being the heir and eventually the queen. At least, not until her elder sister, Grace, dies suddenly of an unsuspected heart defect. Quite abruptly, she's thrust into the plans made for her sister, which include a large ball in just a few weeks, at which she will meet one hundred eligible men.

And from those eligible men, she must select five to stay and "date" her, with the goal of selecting one to be her bridegroom, at the already-planned wedding which will take place in just six months. Some young women might welcome this as terribly romantic. Charmaine is horrified, even apart from her grief for her sister and the fact that she'd rather not be queen.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Aesop's Fables, by Aesop (author), Jonathan Kent (narrator)

Tantor Audio, August 2005

This is an enjoyable, quick (under three hours) reading of all of Aesop's fables. There are a few where I thought that this must not be the same translation I read as a kid, but that was a long time ago, and I don't read Greek, so who am I to argue? Regardless, it's well done and worth a listen.

I bought this audiobook.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Secrets in Death (In Death #45), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Erikson (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, September 2017

Eve Dallas is back again, and this time the murder victim almost literally drops at her feet. She's reluctantly having a drink with Garnet de Winter at a bar Roarke owns, a French-oriented bar called Du Vin. She's noticed that a well-known gossip columnist, Larinda Mars. She barely notices when Mars heads downstairs to the ladies' room, but everyone notices when she comes back up into the bar.

Mars' arm is soaked in blood, and she is staggering and seemingly barely aware. It's not long before Dallas, Roarke, and Peabody are tracking down her killer, a search which gets ever more interesting when they discover she's been blackmailing the well-heeled.

Soon they find she was choosing her targets very carefully.

Also, that her background may not be the one her official records show.

I'm impressed that even 45 books in, J.D. Robb is still keeping the In Death series, fresh, interesting, and completely absorbing.


I bought this audiobook.

Little Girl Lost (DI Robyn Carter #1), by Carol E. Wyer (author), Emma Newman (narrator)

Bookouture, January 2017

DI Robyn Carter is just about to return to work on the police force after an extended leave following the death of her husband and unborn child. During her leave, she's worked temporarily with a friend, Ross Cunningham. He's a former police officer who now runs a private detective agency. For her last case with him, he hands her a woman, Mary Matthews, whose husband has disappeared. There's no apparent reason, and also no apparent evidence of foul play, and initially very little to go on.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities, by Amy Stewart (author), Coleen Marlo (narrator)

Tantor Audio, June 2011

If you need to research some clever poisons for your next murder mystery, you could do worse than start your search for candidates here. It's a quick and readable introduction to the wide world of dangerous plants, with the fun and exciting (well, if you share some of my gallows humor) basics on the major ones plus the relatives of these dangerous plants.

But that's not all this book offers. It's not just clever murder methods. It's also the stuff won't kill you (probably), but will make you sick and very uncomfortable. It's the stuff it would never occur to you to eat, but might kill your animals.

It's the stuff you probably don't want to plant in your garden, especially if you have allergies, or care about people who do.

It's the invasive plants that are choking waterways.

It's the nasty stuff that global warming will help invade areas currently free of it.

It's those fascinating carnivorous plants.

Did I mention it's a lot of fun?


I bought this audiobook.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Shark (Forgotten Files #1), by Mary Burton (author), Christina Traister (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2016

Riley Tatum is a Virginia state trooper now, but twelve years ago she very nearly died at the hands of a serial killer in her childhood home of New Orleans. It was a painful lesson in the dangers of the streets she had fled to when her mother died and her stepfather proved to be a predator, and she still has no idea how she escaped and wound up at a bus stop in Virginia.

Riley is a topnotch investigator who had the chance to be promoted to agent, but turned it down to stay with her search dog, Cooper. She's also in the process of adopting a former runaway, Hannah, and is just a couple of weeks away from the adoption being finalized. The last think she needs, she feels, is her carefully concealed past to come out now, and possibly mess up the adoption.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Strange Scottish Shore, by Julianna Gray

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780698176492, September 2017

Emmaline Truelove, Lord Silverton, and their friend Max Haywood, now the Duke of Olympia, are once again seeking the answers to the strange events in Greece last year. No longer the Duke's secretary, Truelove is now the
Director of the Haywood Institute, created to be the organizing force in the Duke's research into history, archaeology, and anachronisms--and last year's events, recounted in A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, are currently a major focus.

And a puzzling adversary, a ginger-haired man who seems determined to stop something the new Duke of Olympia will do at some point in the future, is becoming ever more dangerous.

Silverton disappears--just disappears--while he and Truelove are traveling north to meet up with the Duke, who is meeting a possible new Duchess. In Scotland, at the castle of Thurso, Truelove and the Max negotiate tricky social waters created by the rumors they are lovers, and also the puzzling reasons for the ginger-haired man's pursuit.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Dangerous Talent (Alix London #1), by Charlotte Elkins (author), Aaron Elkins (author), Kate Rudd (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, April 2012 (original publication January 2012)

Alix London is trying to build a career as an art restorer and as an art consultant, nine years after her father, Jeffrey London, once a noted art restorer, was convicted of art forgery. She's on the coolest of terms with her father, now out and in the art importing business, who nevertheless persists in trying to maintain contact with her.

Then one day she's approached for a job that could be the true start of her consulting career. A woman just beginning in collecting art wants Alix to evaluate a Georgia O'Keeffe painting she has been offered. Soon she's on a chartered plane from Seattle to Santa Fe.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

On Stranger Tides, by Tim Powers, (author), Bronson Pinchot (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781441755025, October 2010 (original publication 1987

This book was the basis of the fourth of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. On the one hand, it's surprising they took so long to notice it--this was originally published in 1987. On the other hand, Powers doesn't write the same thing over and over, and this is his only "pirates of the Caribbean" novel.

Also, the movie is based very loosely on the book.

John Chandagnac is the son of a French puppeteer, who eventually left his father's business to become an accountant with an English merchant company. He's on his way to the Caribbean to track down his uncle, Sebastian, who cheated his father of his rightful inheritance when the ship, Vociferous Carmichael, is attacked by pirates. It's not long before he's pressed into pirate service, and renamed Jack Shandy.

And not long after that, working with the most famous pirate of all: Blackbeard.

Vodun, or voodoo, magic is a big part of this story, with dire consequences for quite a few people Jack comes to care about. On his trip out, he'd met Elizabeth Hurwood and her father, Benjamin, who turns out to have really dire plans for her. Hurwood's partner in magic, Leo Friend, has his own terrible plans for Elizabeth.

So does Blackbeard.

Jack at least wants to have better plans for her.

If he can outwit three powerful magicians.

The plot takes many interesting twists and turns, and Jack finds some very unexpected use for his puppetry skills.

This is, as always with Powers, smart, well-written, creative, clever, and thoughtful. The characters keep surprising the reader in ways that are utterly plausible and convincing. Powers also never fails to do his research, giving the novel an overall depth and reality that just can't be counted on in freewheeling historical fantasy.

I loved it.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Soldier Dogs: The Untold Story of America's Canine Heroes, by Maria Goodavage (author), Nicole Vilencia (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, March 2012

Maria Goodavage, like many people, became seriously interested in Military Working Dogs after hearing about Cairo, the dog who was part of the mission to get Osama bin Laden. She thought that surely this wouldn't be a hard subject to investigate; after all, these are dogs, not not nuclear weapons or stealth fighters.

It turns out that this is a very challenging area to investigate, precisely because these are "just dogs" and dogs who are in many ways quite secret. In many ways, in many places, they officially don't exist. This includes in veterinarian's offices, where the normal paperwork simply does not occur. She had her work cut out for her just getting in touch with the people who could tell her about these dogs and introduce her to their handlers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Duke and I (The Bridgertons #1),, by Julia Quinn (author), Rosalyn Landor (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2016 (original publication January 2000)

Daphne Bridgerton has a problem.

'sShe beautiful, bright, charming, and everyone's friend. She grew up with four brothers, three of them older than herself, and the gentlemen love to talk with her. They just don't think of her as a romantic prospects, and in her second season, she has received proposals only from the elderly and, in one case, the crashingly stupid. Her mother and her eldest brother, the new Viscount Bridgerton, are not going to compel her to make an unhappy match, and she's in danger of being on the shelf.

The Duke of Hastings has a problem.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Perfect Plan (Wiltshire Chronicles #1), by Alyssa Drake

Dream Big Publishing, May 2016

Ten years ago, Lord Matthew Hastings died, in odd circumstances, but the doctor determined it to be natural causes. Shortly thereafter, his wife also dies, leaving his children as orphans.

The son and heir, Edward, marries, has three daughters, and eight years later, leaves on a trip to France for business reasons.

He does not return. His fate is unknown, but he is ruled to be dead.

Two years later, his widow, Wilhelmina, reluctantly decides it is time for her to remarry, and for Edward's younger sister, Samantha, now twenty, to also marry.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Home Front: Life in America During World War II, by Audible Original, Martin Sheen (narrator)

Audible Original, September 2017

This is an Audible Original production; there is no previous book. It uses oral histories including contemporaneous materials to look at what life was like at home during World War II.

Long ago when I was young, World War II was truly a living memory; not only did we study it in school, but our parents had lived through it, often served in the war. We knew about Pearl Harbor, and we knew about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Depending on where we lived, even if we were not Jewish we were likely to know people who had sadly truncated families because so many relatives had died in the death camps. We knew the names of the major battles in Europe and in the Pacific.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Called by Dragon's Song (Return of the Dragonborn #3), by N. M. Howell

Dungeon Media, July 2017S

Andie, Saeryn, and their friends and allies have won a great victory, but the war isn't over. Ashur has taken the Battalion out of Arvall to recover and plan a new attack. The Church of Sea and Stone is determined to recruit Andie--willingly or not--and make her their leader and tool to conquer Noelle. An old enemy of the dragonborn, an even older line of dragon-descended humans, who call themselves The Beautiful Dead, are determined to destroy the dragonborn and steal their magic.

All three of these enemy groups are joining as allies, at least temporarily cooperating to destroy the dragonborn and their allies in Arvall.

While they are fighting all these enemies, they have conflicts enough among themselves. Andie and Raesh have to work out their romantic issues. Andie and Saeryn have  serious disagreements about how to lead their people, and while they both have valid points, they also both manage to be remarkably pig-headed about it. Someone long thought dead returns unexpectedly, and has a new friend that Andie has a hard tome accepting as an ally.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3), by N.K. Jemisin (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Hachette Audio, August 2017

What can one say about The Stone Sky?

It's the utterly wonderful third book of an uttlerly wonderful trilogy. One could make equally excellent cases for it being science fiction or fantasy, but Jemisin says it's fantasy. (And as the author, she gets a vote, right?)

It's the most complete, compelling, original world-building I've seen in fantasy in years. The characters are complex, interesting, and compelling.

The trilogy starts with the end of the world, and why not? And then we learn both how we got there, and where we're going after.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Emma (The Austen Project #3), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Susan Lyons (narrator)

Recorded Books, April 2015 (original publication November 2014)

Retellings of the works of Jane Austen aren't exactly a new idea, but I really like what Smith has done with Emma. He's moved it to the 21st century, but otherwise left its setting unchanged, the small and close-knit English town of Highbury. The changes are only the changes of moving forward two centuries, uncomplicated by a move to, to use one example, Hollywood.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine (Isabel Dalhousie #10.7), by Alexander McCall Smith

Vintage, May 2016

Isabel Dalhousie is selecting the perfect Valentine's gift for Jamie when she encounters an old school acquaintance who wants to show her a painting on view at a nearby auction house. The school acquaintance, Roz, has run into some money difficulties, and believes she's identified the painting as misidentified and by a far more important artist than listed. Roz hopes to repair her fortunes by picking up the picture for a song and reselling it much closer to its true value.

Isabel promises to keep quiet, but has misgivings. A promise is a promise, though, so...

Then she discovers that the seller is an old friend whose mother is in a nursing home and whose financial reversals have been far more serious.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Silence of the Snakes (Madigan Amos #2), by Ruby Loren

Ruby Loren, September 2017

Madigan Amos is on her second-ever zoo consulting job, doing a review of animal welfare conditions with the aim of recommending improvements. The Snidely Wildlife and Safari zoo is very different from the Avery zoo where she previously worked, including such additions as an impressive collection of venomous snakes and reptiles.

The Snidely family itself is more than a bit odd, even before more distant connections start turning up.

Madigan finds herself caught off guard by the venomous snakes, a string of thefts, and the unexpected arrival of Lowell, the detective who investigated the unexpected deaths at Avery.

The story is a bit haphazard, and not likely to be lasting literature, but it's entertaining and enjoyable.

Recommended for a light, quick read.

I received a free electronic galley of this book and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #1), by Laurie R. King (author), Jennie Sterlin (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2014 (original publication January 1994)

In 1915, the aging Sherlock Holmes meets teenage Mary Russell, and is taken enough with her that she becomes a student and apprentice. There's war in Europe, old social rules and barriers are breaking down at home, and life is never going to be the same.

Mary Russell won't have to waste her energy, intelligence, and the education Holmes is giving her.