Sunday, December 31, 2017

Death and the Lucky Man (DI Tremayne #3), by Phillip Strang

P. Strang, December 2017

Detective Inspector Keith Tremayne, along with his sergeant, Clare Yarwood, is investigating the murder of a man whose family he knows. The Winters family were always a bit sketchy, brothers Fred and Stan now in prison, sister Margie a drug-addicted prostitute, brothers Cyril, Gerry, and Alan working enough to keep themselves in food, housing, and drink. Alan married Mavis, a woman Tremayne was very briefly involved with years before, and they have two children. Rachel is a nurse; Bertie is a ne'er-do-well, drinking and doing drugs. There's one more brother, Dean, who got an education, got a job in the business owned by the father of Barbara Garrett, the woman he married, and moved to Southampton. He doesn't associate much with his low-life family.

Not even after Alan buys a lottery ticket and wins  £68 million.

Now Alan is dead, stabbed to death on the altar stone at Stonehenge.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Seventh Bride, by T. Kingfisher (author), Kaylin Heath (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, November 2015

Rhea is just fifteen, a miller's daughter, and no more than pleasing in appearance, so it's very, very strange when a lord shows up and wants to marry her. Neither she nor her parents think this is normal or good, but they're not in a position to say no to a lord who is, moreover, a friend of their own lord.

It's even more disturbing when he insists Rhea come for an overnight visit at his home before the wedding.

All of this is nothing to how disturbed Rhea is when she arrives and finds that Lord Crevan has six previous wives, only one of whom is respectably dead.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Mira's Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona #5), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, February 2017

Penric is leading General Arisaydia and his widowed sister  through now-hostile Cedonia to what they hope will be sanctuary in the Duchy of Orbas. It's a difficult and tricky journey, with dangerous delays. Temporarily stranded in the city of Sosie, they take refuge in a high-end brothel.

The brothel has a little problem with pests at the moment, which Penric, with his need to shed chaos, is able to help with. What he doesn't initially anticipate is that Mira, one of the ten women whose personalities make up the demon Desdemona, will step forward with her own skills to help them on their way.

Mira, of course, is the courtesan.

Over the course of their days in Sosie, it becomes easy to see why everyone who doesn't already know Penric well at some point suspects that his demon has become ascendant.

Another solid Penric adventure.

I bought this book.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When, by Victoria Laurie (author), Whitney Dykhouse (narrator)

Audible Audio, January 2015

Maddie Fynn is a teenager with a very uncomfortable talent: She can see the death dates of everyone she meets, or sees a picture of, imprinted clearly on their foreheads. As a young child, she had no idea what the numbers meant. Her police officer father's death in a shootout with drug dealers, when she's six years old, is a painful revelation.

It's also the beginning of her mother's drinking.  Her mother's drinking leads to her insisting Maddie read death dates for paying clients, to supplement a shrunken income that can't support both their normal expense's and Mrs. Fynn's drinking. It's not a great life, but not terrible, until children whose death dates she's read start to be murdered, and the FBI decides she looks like a prime suspect.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Penric's Mission (Penric & Desdemona #4), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, November 2016

Penric has been through some big changes since the events in Penric's Fox. His studies with the shamans in Easthome completed, he returned to Martensbridge, where his medical abilities became greatly in demand. Very greatly in demand--and only for the most serious cases. The Princess-Archdivine Llewen has died, and so has his mother. In the end, it was too much loss, and he moved to Adria, first to serve the White God's archdivine there, and then to serve the Duke.

And the Duke has sent him to Cedonia, to make contact with a general who wishes to take service in Adria.

Unless, of course, the letter from the general is a forgery.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

IQ, by Joe Ide (author), Sullivan Jones (narrator)

Hachette Audio, October 2016

Isaiah Quintabe is a young man, a high school dropout, living in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Los Angeles. He's very intelligent, extremely intelligent, and nicknamed IQ. In such a tough neighborhood, there are many cases that are just too small for the police to focus on, or even notice. If bullets aren't flying, the police are busy.

IQ has taken on the job of solving the cases the police don't bother with, or that his neighbors won't take to the police. Sometimes they pay him good money. Sometimes it's just some money. A lot of the time, it's just baked goods, because they can't afford anything else. The money matters when he can get it, though, because IQ is saving for something important. He's haunted by something he feels great guilt over, but at least at first. we have no idea what.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Lullabies & Lies (A Rosewood Place Mystery #5), by Ruby Blaylock

Ruby Blaylock, December 2017

Annie Richards runs an inn, Rosewood Place, in the South Carolina small town where she grew up. Her mother, Bessie Purdy, and friend and old flame Rory Jenkins help it all work.

It's not innkeeping as usual when Annie and Rory find a car that had passed them on their way to do shopping for the inn by the side of the road, with no driver, but a baby girl in the back seat. A short distance away, in the creek, they find a woman's body.

It's not long before the woman is identified, and the wealthy and well-connected Marshall family, real estate developers, are in Annie's inn, saying the woman, Kimberly, was their friend and former assistant, and demanding to know what happened. They are soon joined by Phillip Hutchens, claiming he  Kim's fiance and that the baby is his daughter.

Hutchens blames the Marshalls for all his business troubles.

What Annie had planned as a quiet week between guests becomes dominated by a homicide investigation. She may have a murderer staying in her inn, tensions among her guests are high, and Annie and Rory can no more stay out of the investigation than they can stop breathing.

Even coming into the series at book five, it was easy enough to pick up the essential information to keep track of who's who and what the larger framework of the series is. The main characters are likable, and even the less likable ones are layered characters, not just stock villains. It's a light, enjoyable read.


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

Monday, December 18, 2017

Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts, by Stanislas Dehaene (author), David Drummond (narrator)

Tantor Audio, January 2014

It seems we are, finally, starting to solve the mystery of what consciousness is, and how the brain creates it.

Moreover, this is not just a fascinating scientific breakthrough, but one with important clinical implications. These are breakthroughs that are starting to make it possible to identify which patients in a "persistent vegetative state" or "minimally conscious state," have conscious activity going on in their brains, despite their inability to communicate.

More than that, it's becoming the basis experimental treatments that are, sometimes, able to bring some of these patients back to full conscious awareness and ability to communicate and control their lives.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Penric's Fox (Penric & Desdemona #3), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, August 2017

Eight months have passed since the events in Penric and the Shaman, and Learned Penric is in Easthome, where in between his duties to the Princess-Archdivine, he's visiting with his friends, Shaman Inglis and Locator Oswyl. Unfortunately, their planned day of fishing is interrupted when a sorceress's body is found in the woods. As awful as the death itself is, the question of who killed her is matched by an equally appalling question: What has happened to her demon?

Penric continues to grow, as a sorcerer and as a divine, and continues to break new ground in ways his superiors don't necessarily expect. There's a lot to explore in this world of sorcerers, shamans, and gods who from time to time take an active hand in the world. Unlike many fantasy worlds, this one has a religion that isn't just a cheap knockoff of Christianity, whether portrayed positively or negatively. Bujold has put thought, work, and probably research into constructing a convincingly different religion, and doesn't treat believers as gullible fools.

I'm looking forward to reading his later adventures.

I'm going with internal chronological order, as Bujold recommends, rather than publication order. Which you do is a matter of personal preference and, except for the first two, shouldn't involve many spoilers.

I bought this book.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Grave Heritage (A Darcy & Flora Cozy Mystery #4), by Blanche Day Manos (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Pen-L Publishing, January 2017

Darcy Campbell and her mother, Flora Tucker, are back in another murder mystery in Ventris County, Oklahoma.

In the midst of a violent storm, a stranger is murdered in an isolated and now-abandoned shack. Except this man is not a stranger; he is soon identified as Pat Harris's long-missing husband, Walter. Their son, Jasper, has, as he often does for reasons that make sense to him, vanished into the woods, making him by normal standards an obvious suspect.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat, by Bee Wilson (author), Alison Larkin (narrator)

Tantor Audio, October 2012

This is a fascinating look at the history, not of foods or of cooking, but of the technology of cooking.

What we eat and how we cook is determined not just by what raw food materials are available, but also by the available tools. Mastering fire was the first step toward eating food that isn't raw, and therefore things that simply aren't edible unless they are cooked. The next step were cooking vessels--we have pottery shards to help us trace the invention and development of clay pots, but we probably used hollowed-out gourds first.

Knives predated that, but spoons followed. Spoons are used in every culture; they're essential to any cooking more complicated than roasting a carcass over an open fire.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On Power, by Robert A. Caro (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2017

Robert Caro, author of groundbreaking, monumental biographies of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, talks about the origins, creation, and use of political power. It's short (under two hours), insightful, funny, and enlightening. Caro talks about his own development as a reporter, researcher, and writer, including the experience of an early, temporary job as a speechwriter of an unnamed local political boss, which changed the direction of his career early on.

His views continued to grow and change as he researched his biography of Robert Moses, and as he later researched his biography of Lyndon Johnson. It's worth noting that the Johnson biography is currently four volumes, and he notes in this audiobook that he's now working on the fifth volume of this projected three-volume biography. The more he researches, the more he learns, and the more he has to say about political power, how it grows, how it is used, and how it affects every aspect of people's lives.

Highly recommended.

Monday, December 11, 2017

You, Me, and Us, by Liam Hurley

L. Hurley, December 2017

Jimmy Rowland doesn't have a perfect life, but he does have a decent one. He's singing with a band and they're starting to get some breaks. He's got a steady job working in a bar he likes. His two best friends are his bandmates, Tom and Ryan, and they happily share a flat in Manchester--the best city in the world, in Jimmy's opinion--which is quite inexpensive when split three ways.

Then he meets Erin Poppet, and his life blows up. She's beautiful, exciting, and, inexplicably to him, attracted to him.

The construction of the story is interesting. At first we don't know who is narrating the story, not their name, not their gender, not their orientation. We just know that this person is going to meet another person in a coffee shop, a person they were involved with, split up with, and are going to see for the first time in months. It's the feelings and experiences that matter here, not the mundane personal details. It's very well done, and I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing in even mentioning names. Yet the cover matter does, and perhaps I'm alone in thinking that ignoring this information is a better way to experience the book.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Mysterious Mr. Whistler (The Ragamuffin Sisters), by Hillary McMullen (author), Anita Higman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Armonia Publishing, November 2017

Jane, Dakota, Sketti, and Elle are the Ragamuffin Sisters, a group of four misfit girls each with their own kinds of creative genius. They're engaged in an ongoing war with the four boys they call the Thickheads. Things keep ramping up, from pranks on each other to attacks on each other's clubhouses, until one night the girls paint the boys' treehouse pink, hear strange noises in the ravine--and the next day, a dead body is found.

It's Mr. Whistler, a bookstore owner who has shared books with Elle, but who is otherwise a bit of a mystery to the girls. There's also a remarkably stinky, sticky substance in the ravine, along with a surprising number of dead animals.

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Lighthouse Keeper, by Cynthia Ellingsen (author), Kate Rudd (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, April 2017

Dawn Connors is the daughter of treasure hunters, and didn't find growing up on ships in, from a child's perspective, random places all over the world, fun or happy or secure. Now as an adult, she's living in Boston, working in the financial industry, and in a relationship she hopes will lead to marriage. It's secure, and stable, and she's determined to hold on to this.

Then what's expected to be a light, entertaining show about the history of Starlight Cove, Michigan, where her parents now live, turns out to be a vicious exposé on a famous shipwreck that Dawn's great-grandfather, Captain Fitzy Connors, commanded.  There have long been stories that he survived the wreck and stole the silver coins being transported. The tv show pushed the idea that the current Connors wealth comes not from a wreck her father found, but from the vanished silver coins. In short order, she's lost her job and her boyfriend, and heads home with a plan of investigating the Wanderer wreck and proving Captain Fitzy's, and her father's, innocence.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Hyddwen (A Short Story of the Merchinogi #2), by Heather Rose Jones (author), Pip Hoskins (narrator), September 2017

Morvyth takes her lover Elin, Lady of Madrunion's place when Hyddwen, a Lady of the otherworld, comes visiting to lure a champion to defend her land and people.

But Morvyth is not a warrior, and only a mortal woman, and surely has little chance of surviving three days of conflict with an Otherworldly lord. Yet in addition to being willing to give her life to keep Elin safe, she's smart, observant, and patient.

This is a tale based in Welsh mythology, the stories of women in the same lands and time as the Maginogi, which tells the stories of men. It's an original and gripping tale that captures the Mabinogi style.


This story was available at no charge when I listened to it on the site.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Everest, by S.L. Scott

S.L. Scott, ISBN 9781940071589, December 2017

Singer Davis and her friend Melanie Lazarus have moved from Boulder, Colorado to New York City to make their careers. Instead, they're working in jobs they hate, and still barely able to pay for a decent apartment in a less than ideal neighborhood. And since Singer's goal is a career in publishing, she knows she wouldn't be able to afford even this if she succeeds in getting an entry level job at a publisher.

Despite this, they are enjoying their lives, and Singer's life starts to be enlivened by periodic sightings of a stunningly handsome man who seems to be looking at her with interest, too.

Months pass before they really meet, but when they do, he's as charming, and interesting, as his looks.

But he's very clear that while he wants to spend time with her, he doesn't want to date, and at first it's not at all clear why.

Monday, December 4, 2017

No Place Like You (Cloud Bay #3), by Emma Douglas

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250111029, December 2017

Zach Harper and his sisters are the children of Grey Harper, late leader of the band Blacklight. Since Grey's death, his former bandmates and his three grown children have all, in various ways, been struggling. Zach has spent the last year playing for a new band. The youngest sibling, Mina, has gotten married after some hardships of her own, and middle sibling Faith is planning her own wedding.

A friend of the siblings, Leah Santelli, is sound engineer at Harper Studios on Lansing Island, but has ambitions to be a producer. She needs a break, a way in to the ranks of producers. When Zach comes back to Lansing to make a solo album, she hopes Zach's album can be that break.

The problem is that she and Zach have a romantic history. She doesn't want to rekindle that history, not because she's over him, but because she isn't. The "don't rekindle romance" goal is of course doomed from the beginning, but that's just a piece of the problems and challenges they face. The Harpers, Grey's former Blacklight bandmates, and their friends on Lansing Island make a large, complicated, and often disfunctional family.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Empress of Mars (The Company #8.5), by Kage Baker (author), Nicola Barber (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, August 2011 (original publication 2009)

Mary Griffith went to Mars as a biologist for the British Aerean Company, but when BAC pulled back from a full on push to terraform and colonize, she found herself out of work. Unfortunately, her severance package was only about half what she needed to cover a trip back to Earth.

So she opened a bar, The Empress of Mars.

The beer isn't great, but it's not just the best beer on Mars, but the only beer on Mars. She and her three daughters, along with a collection of similarly displaced people, earn a decent living running the bar--despite repeated challenges and efforts to shut them down for selling a "controlled substance," i.e., the beer.