Sunday, December 30, 2018

His Secret Child (Rescue River #2), by Lee Tobin McClain

Love Inspired, ISBN 9780373818938, January 2016

Fern Easton is a librarian with ambitions to be a children's author and artist. Right now she's dog-sitting and house-sitting for her friend Angelica and her husband, who are on a second honeymoon in Europe with their two children. They run a dog rescue, so Fern is caring for not only their own three-legged dog named Bull, but also all the dogs currently in their rescue, housed in what used to be the barn on their property. She's also caring for her foster daughter Mercedes, just four years old, orphaned daughter of her friend, Kath.

Carlo Camden is a former soldier, former mercenary, now a missionary. A few years ago, he was married, very unwisely, to a woman who threw him out, while spiraling down into an ever more misspent life. He's also Angelica's brother.

He has just recently received a latter from his ex-wife, written as she was dying, telling him that she was pregnant when she kicked him out the last time, and asking him to come home to Rescue River to care for their daughter, Mercedes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Colors of All the Cattle (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #19), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Lisette Lecat (narrator)

Recorded Books, November 2018

Another enjoyable visit with Mma Ramotswe and her friends and family.

This time, she's asked to find the driver in a hit-and-run that seriously injured a respected older doctor who served her native village of Mochudi for years, and returned their in retirement after some years at a respected hospital. The good doctor can't identify the car beyond the fact that it was blue, and there were no witnesses. The police, with nothing to work with, have given up.

At the same time, there's a proposal before the Gabarone city council to approve the development of a hotel, the Big Fun Hotel, next to a cemetery. There's an open seat on the council, and an election approaching--and currently the only candidate is old nemesis Violet Sepotho. But Mma Ramotswe's friend Mma Potokwanne has a solution--Mma Ramotswe will run also, and defeat her--and then defeat the plans for the Big Fun Hotel.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K. Le Guin (author), George Guidall (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2016 (original publication 1971)

George Orr is a mild, unassuming man, a good draftsman, a man who has recently developed a mild drug abuse problem. This is discovered in part due to the pharmacy card that every citizen is issued. He's been making unauthorized use of other people's cards. It's not a very serious offense, at least at his level of abuse. Because he admits it, and another person admits to being one of his sources, he's only sent for Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment.

By chance, the psychiatrist he's assigned to is Dr. Haber.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Homeward Hound (Sister Jane #11), by Rita Mae Brown

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780399178375, November  2018

"Sister" Jane Arnold is starting another fox hunting season. As Master of Foxhounds for the Jefferson Hunt, she's responsible for running the Hunt Club itself, together with her co-Master Walter, but also for relations with local landowners, ensuring the club has permission to pursue foxes on the local estates, only some of whose owners are fox hunters themselves. The hunt season itself has started off well, but nevertheless there is potential trouble brewing. Soliden, a major energy company, wants to lay a pipeline right through the heart of the hunt country and across old and carefully tended estates. A dinner planned to let the Soliden CEO and the hunt community get to know each other turns explosive. Crawford, head of another local hunt club, storms out in fury.

All of which is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as when, at the end of the Christmas Hunt, cut short by the arrival of a blizzard, they find two things.

Gregory Luckham, the Soliden CEO, has vanished, apparently right off his horse as they were coming in through the blinding blizzard. And a dead body is found, hit on the back of the head, and left in a ditch. It's not Gregory Luckham. It's Rory, a valued regular of the hunt's support staff.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Wizards of Once (The Wizards of Once #1), by Cressida Cowell (author), David Tennant (narrator)

Hachette Audio, October 2017

Xar is a wizard boy, youngest son of the King of the wizards, and despite being thirteen years old, his magic hasn't come in yet.

Wish is a warrior girl, youngest daughter of the  Queen of the warriors, and unfortunately, clumsy and not all that interested in warrior things. She's more interested in magic, and in fact has a forbidden magic object, an enchanted spoon.

Forbidden, because ever since the wars against the witches, the warriors hate all magic and want to wipe out all magic and all magical beings.

That includes the wizards. Xar and Wish have been raised to hate each other. And one night, they each go out on separate expeditions to the Bad Woods.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Secret Santa (Cherringham - A Cosy Crime Series: Mystery Shorts 25), by Matthew Costello (author), Neil Richards (author), Neil Dudgeon (narrator)

Lübbe Audio, December 2017

Bill Vokes has been the Cherringham Santa Claus for years, an important part of a happy community celebration. This year, though, he changes into his Santa costume--and disappears. At first there is more puzzlement and annoyance than alarm; Bill has a habit of disappearing for short periods, though doing so in the hour or so prior to his scheduled appearance as Santa seems atypical.

By the next morning, though, some people are growing concerned, and Jack and Sarah are asked to look into his disappearance, since there is not yet enough basis for the police to do so.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Ancient Civilizations of North America (The Great Courses), by Edwin Barnhart (author, narrator)

The Great Courses, June 2018

Many of us grow up with the impression that there were no significant Native American civilizations north of Mexico prior to European colonization. That's not correct. Much of what we usually think we know about North America prior to European contact is in fact a result of European contact. Europeans brought Eurasian diseases even when they weren't violent and destructive on their own--as they so often were. Die-offs due to diseases the inhabitants had no prior exposure to and hence no resistance to, destructively violent raids and burning of cities and towns, changes created due to the horses and the pigs Europeans brought--all caused major changes, and in multiple ways wiped out much of what was here before, usually with few good records.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Billionaire Scrooge (DC Billionaires #2), by Eliza Ellis

Eliza Ellis, December 2018

Fredericka Jones is about to break ground on the shelter for single mothers and their children that she promised her own mother, before her death, she would open. Then Charles Larenski swoops in, derailing her permits with shady methods and a plan to build a big, luxury hotel.

Freddie and Charles went to high school together. He was a top jock at their privileged private school. Freddie was a hardworking, nerdy student determined to justify every penny her hardworking mother was spending on sending her there to give Freddie a better start in life than her mother had.

Charles made sure the whole school called her Freaky Freddie.

But Freddie has university degrees, her own charitable foundation, and drop-dead gorgeous looks, now. When she shows up in his office hoping that she can make him understand that the shelter is important, he's not going to change his mind, but does think it's worth seducing her to try to change hers.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Christmas Hirelings, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (author), Richard Armitage (narrator)

Audible Audio, December 2018 (original publication 1894)

This is a Victorian Christmas tale, and it's a good one.

Sir John Penlyon is spending Christmas with his niece, Adela, and his friend Thomas Danby, a makeshift family for the aging man with no closer family left to him. Long widowed, his older daughter died just a few years after her own marriage, with no children. His younger daughter married a penniless curate, in defiance of her father, and was of course disowned.

Adela mentions how dull a Christmas with no children is, and Sir John, a bit of a curmudgeon, says Christmas is pointless for a household without children. In short order, Danby has persuaded Sir john to agree to his scheme to hire some suitable young children to enliven their holiday.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Eve 1914, by Charles Olivier (author), Damon Herriman (narrator), Cameron Daddo (narrator), Xander Berkeley (narrator), James Scott (narrator), Lance Guest (narrator), Nate Jones (narrator), Cody Fern (narrator), John Beck (narrator), Gabe Greenspan (narrator), Heiko Obermoeller (narrator)

Audible Audio, December 2014

This short audiobook from Audible is about a British unit being rotated to the front lines just in time for Christmas Eve, 1914.

This unit has recently lost their captain, and the lieutenants are waiting for one of them to be promoted. Two are each convinced that he is the obviously correct candidate; two others are less concerned or interested. One of the ambitious ones also has a special addition to his pot of tea--one that's not illegal in 1914, but would certainly cause, at a minimum, raised eyebrows, and perhaps block promotion of an otherwise-capable officer. A new subaltern arrives, with a divine singing voice, and singing Silent Night, a cherished Christmas song of German origin, produces some misplaced hostility. The anticipated Christmas tins do not arrive, their shipping space taken by a Vickers machine gun, which will likely make this unit a particular target.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Love & Trust (The Summer Sisters #3), by Jean Oram (author), Vanessa Moyen (narrator)

Oram Productions, ISBN 9781928198529, June 2018 (original publication December 2014)

The development happening across from Nymph Island is becoming more obtrusive--and now the developers have made an offer for Nymph Island. The Summer sisters don't plan to sell, but these people are accustomed to getting what they want, and they don't plan to lose to four young women struggling to pay the taxes on their cottage.

It's Melanie, third sister, and a lawyer, who takes the lead this time, and Conor's friend, Tristen Bell, former developer who has taken an early retirement to Muskoka, is her possible partner in taking on his own former business rivals. Unfortunately, Tristen is determined not to be That Guy anymore, the ruthless, cutthroat developer who actually knows how to stop these people.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Christmas Spirit (Christmas Spirit #1), by Susan Buchanan

Susan Buchanan, November 2013

It's December 2013, and the Christmas Spirit has some work to do.

Jacob has a university degree, but despite determined efforts, no job. He's sick of living on public benefits, but sees no prospect of that changing soon.

Stanley's wife died earlier in the year. His son is dead, and his grandson lives in Canada. He's alone, with Christmas bearing down on him.

Rebecca has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and adding insult to injury, he's being a jerk about their joint possessions, which include their flat. She also has a job with a lovely boss, but low pay and no prospects for career advancement.

Meredith is a workaholic business owner with no desire to do anything for Christmas but stay home with a takeout meal and a DVD.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Best Man for the Wedding Planner (Marrying a Millionaire #1), by Donna Alward

Harlequin Romance, ISBN 9781488089855, December 2018

Some years ago, in their early twenties, Adele Hawthorne and Dan Brimicombe were in love, and looking forward to a family together. Then Adele was diagnosed with cervical cancer. It had spread to her uterus, and she needed a hysterectomy. No children, ever.

Dan had a large, happy family, and looked forward, like his siblings, to raising his own large, happy family. Instead of telling Dan about her diagnosis, and letting him support her through her treatment and make his own decision about whether he wanted to stick with her despite the loss of any prospect of children together, she decided for him. Convinced that he couldn't be happy without children, and that he would nevertheless try to do the right thing and might persuade her, she tells him her feelings have changed, and breaks it off.

They're both heartbroken, but since they no longer have any contact, neither knows how the other feels.

Now, with thirty closing in on both of them, they meet again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

#Herofail (Superheroes Anonymous #4), by Lexie Dunne

Harper Voyager Impulse, ISBN 9780062696236, November 2018

Once, Gail Godwin was Hostage Girl--not a superhero, but the girlfriend of a superhero, more or less continually being kidnapped and held hostage to influence her boyfriend, Blaze. Or, mundanely, Guy Bookman. But Blaze is now retired, Guy is working to become a chef, and due to events in previous books, Gail now has superpowers, and is Raptorlet--the apprentice Raptor, in training to take over when the current Raptor, Jessie, retires.

And of course, all heck is about to break loose.

Eddie Davenport, head of the Davenport Corporation for which all superheroes work, has decided it is time to promote his niece, Kiki, to a more prominent position with the goal of positioning her to be the next CEO when he retires. This is controversial for many reasons, but the big problem for Gail turns out to be that supervillain Tamara Diesel has planned a major attack on the gala where the announcement is formally made. In the course of this, Gail is forced to appear in the full Raptor armor to confront the attackers--and briefly winds up on her butt, arms and legs in the air. Someone snaps a picture, and it winds up trending on social media, #HeroFail.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

When Never Comes, by Barbara Davis (author), Shannon McManus (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018

Christy-Lynn Parker was the daughter of an addict, who coped as best she could, until finally her mother went to jail, and Christy-Lynn went to foster care.

When that was worse, she ran away.

But she worked and pursued her own goals as she always had. Working as an editor, she met, and married, crime fiction writer Stephen Ludlow. It was, or seemed, a safe haven, until the night Stephen skidded off a bridge into Echo Bay, with a half-naked young woman in the car with him.

Christine Ludlow needs to remake her life again. In Sweetwater, Virginia, she makes a start.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Billionaire Bodyguard (DC Billionaires #1), by Eliza Ellis

Eliza Ellis, November 2018

Zuri Msongo is a leader of pro-democracy revolutionaries in the fictional African nation of Bendola. The head of their movement is her father, and she's frustrated that he seems  to think her safety is just as important as his. He's the one who will hopefully be the first freely elected President of Bendola in twenty years, after all. She's David (Bendolan mother, American father), persuades her father to hire his old US Army buddy, Daemon Knight, to be her bodyguard. Especially when Knight recommends postponing the meeting they've scheduled with representatives from western governments, seeking support for the rebels.

The meeting goes ahead, and of course Knight was right about the security leak. The meeting takes place, successfully, but then the Msongos and their top people are attacked while attempting to leave. Daemon Knight gets her out, but her father is killed.

From this point on, it's a battle of wills, and a battle of cool judgment vs. passionate dedication and patriotism.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A String of Silver Beads, by Melissa Addey

Letterpress Publishing, November 2018

We start in the 1070s, with a woman explaining to us something of Tuareg ways, the importance of women's jewelry and what it reveals about a woman's life.

Kella is a young woman of the Tuareg, and in 1067, at the age of seventeen, she is still passing as her father's youngest son, traveling with him and her five brothers, plying her considerable skills as a trader--and winning camel races.

It's that last that trips her up. Among the Tuareg, it's men and boys, not women and girls, who go veiled. Under a man's robes, and with her face veiled, she can pass as a boy. But when, near the end of a race, her veil becomes tangled and accidentally pulled off, she is exposed as female. It's a huge embarrassment not just to the men she beat in the race, but to her father. He had already been growing uncomfortable with letting her pass for a boy; this is the last straw. She will be returned to their home camp to, finally, learn women's skills from his sister, her Aunt Tezemt.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Guarded Prognosis, by Richard L. Mabry, MD (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard L. Mabry, November 2018

Dr. Caden Taggert, a surgeon, receives an unexpected visit from two DEA agents, at his office. His DEA number is apparently being used to write suspect prescriptions. They want to find out who is really behind it. It's a frightening experience, and he far too easily accepts their encouragement not to call a lawyer. And, heck, he doesn't even know a lawyer, and doesn't want to upset the DEA agents.

It's a mistake, of course. They don't even have a search warrant. Something is wrong here, but he's not asking the right questions. He introduces the agents to his staff and the other two surgeons as doctors leaving academia and hospital work, and interested in seeing how this private practice office is organized. He's introduced trouble that's not the trouble he thinks it is, though the reader, or listener, soon knows.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Potions Eleven (Fair Witch Sisters #2), by Christy Murphy

Christy Murphy, November 2018

Joy and Didi Fair survived their trial before the witches' High Council, but they are not yet cleared of the suspicion of possibly being too susceptible to the dark side of magic. They're pursuing their new career as private detectives, but they need to be really careful, and they've mostly been taking trademark cases referred to them from Didi's former employer.

Then Joy, perhaps unwisely, decides that in order to practice their magic and gain greater control of it, they should have wands. They head off to the other side to do some shopping, and they meet Evelyn Carson Barber, famous actress, relatively secret witch.

Evelyn wants them to find her stolen book of spells, discreetly, before her carelessness in failing to secure it becomes common knowledge. Well, common knowledge in the witch community. She doesn't want her reputation damaged.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind & Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, MD (author), Sean Pratt (narrator)

Gildan Media, October 2014

This was in many ways a tough listen for me, but a good one. Van der Kolk is a psychiatrist who has worked extensively with trauma survivors. This book is about the ways traumatic experiences permanently affect us.

Trauma isn't just something that happens to our bodies, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn't just something that happens in our brains.

It doesn't take combat, terrifying accidents, or obvious child abuse to cause PTSD. Obviously they all can, and do, and are the most easily recognized causes. But other events, that may not even be recognized as trauma, can also be traumatic, and have lasting effects.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thrown to the Wolves (Hedgewood Sisters #4), by Ruby Blaylock

Ruby Loren, 2018

The Hedgewood sisters have a problem. Well, several problems.

People are disappearing in Frog Hollow, and most of them are supes. In fact, most of them are shifters. Twyla's boyfriend Hank has the advantage of being a police officer and seeing the reports as they come in--and the disadvantage that the sheriff, Leland Talbot, hates supes, and is looking for any excuse to fire Hank. With problems affecting the supes in town, the Hedgewoods need to be a first line of defense, not backup.

Joe, the sisters' father, is once again back on the Other Side, working on behalf of the Summer King, trying to negotiate a peace with the Winter King. The conflict means no one can pass freely back and forth, and now Napoleon is over there, carrying messages to family on the Other Side, and hoping to bring back messages from them to this the human realm.

And then Amaara, the Autumn Queen, a.k.a. the Winter King's consort, shows up in the Hedgewoods' back yard, planning to stay for some undetermined period of time, and reminding the sisters that, with one fae parent, they and even Twyla's daughter Ivey are her subjects, and subject to fae law.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian (author), Jamie Jackson (narrator)

Recorded Books, May 2018

Every culture and tradition has had its origin story, its understanding of how the world came to be as they knew it, which formed the basis for their further understanding of how to live, interact with others, get food, make clothes. Our origin stories are the basis of how we understand everything.

Now, in the early 21st century, we know far more about the origin of the universe, our sun, our planet, and life on Earth. We live in a society of unparalleled complexity, and in the last two hundred years, we have gained the ability not just to support more human beings, but to improve the daily lives of most humans on the planet, not just an elite 10% or so.

What we haven't done yet is integrate this knowledge into a new, shared origin story that helps us cope with this new, complex, and rapidly changing world.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Murder Served Cold (A Much Winchmoor Mystery #1), by Paula Williams

Crooked Cat Books, October 2018

Kat Latcham was working at a radio station in Bristol, sharing a nice flat with friend, and dating a handsome guy.

Then the falling economy cost her the job at the radio station, her boyfriend took off with her flatmate, and they even took her car and her treasured memorabilia.

She's now back in the little village of Much Winchmoor, living with her parents, working in her mother's beauty salon, and listening to the local gossip--which is currently mostly about her failed love life.

Then one of the local gossips mentions that Donald, the local pub owner, is looking for a new barmaid. Temporarily, since his wife is away on a cruise, but it'll get her out of working at the salon while she looks for a real job.

The gossip there is just as bad, and still about her love life, but at least she's not working for her mom. But she also has to mend fences with her childhood best friend, almost-a-brother Will Manning, whom on her last visit she had a huge fight with about her now ex-boyfriend.

And while they are talking, they head out to the farm shop, where they find Will's father John, dead drunk, and one of the more obnoxious local gossips, just dead. And not of natural causes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ten Women, by Marcela Serrano (author), Beth Fowler (translator) Marisol Ramirez (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, February 2014 (original publication October 2004)

In Santiago, Chile, ten women--nine patients and their therapist--meet. Normally the women receive individual therapy, but this time the therapist, Natasha, wants them all together in a group session. They will all talk about their lives.

They're all very different women, different backgrounds, different experiences. An elderly former actress, a nineteen-year-old computer whiz, a housekeeper, a woman from a wealthy, connected family, women who have struggled to become or remain middle class. The last story we get is Natasha's own, an immigrant with a broken and traumatic past of her own.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Murder Has No Guilt (DCI Isaac Cook #9), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, November 2018

A mass shooting in a high-end hair salon for men is the start of a big problem for DCI Isaac Cook and his team. Even the minor local mafia boss doesn't seem like a likely target for this type of killing. But  as Isaac and his team keep digging, it begins to look like it had nothing to with anyone there--and everything to do with a brewing gang war between a Romanian gang well established in the area, and a major Russian mafia gang moving in.

The deaths in the mass shooting are, of course, not the last deaths.

An informant of DI Larry Hill's, a leader of one of the local West Indian gangs, a source DC Wendy Gladstone has cultivated in the course of this investigation, all find their lives abruptly shortened. No one is happy about the Russians, more violent than any of the established gangs, moving in but working with the police is a hard step to take.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Outlaw's Daughter (Marrying a Marshall #3), by Natalie Dean

Kenzo Publishing, November 2018

Ella Jenkins left her outlaw family because she couldn't accept being part of a criminal gang. She wanted a quiet, and law-abiding, life. She settled in Cypress Creek, with Meg, a woman she met who had set out to be a mail-order bride and been unceremoniously stood up by her intended groom. She's working as a seamstress for the local tailor, who is kind, but with Meg's income, together they can just about pay the rent on their cabin and buy food.

Then Meg connects with another mail-order groom.

And Hank Fulton, senior of the three US Marshals in Cypress Creek, knocks on their door and tells her he knows her name is Jenkins, not Jones, and that he wants her to help infiltrate the gang now run by her brother, Ezra.

It's a hard choice for Ella to make. She'd rather forget she was ever a Jenkins, she doesn't want to actively betray her brother, and she does want the Marshals to keep making the region safer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Genius: The Game, by Leopoldo Gout

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, ISBN 9781250045812, May 2016

Rex Huerta is an American teenager, and a coding genius. His brother Teo was, too, but Teo has disappeared, and Rex is working on a way to find them. His parents reported his disappearance, but an older teen, one old enough to have simply decided to leave, with no evidence at all of foul play, is not a major priority. The elder Huertas, unlike their two sons, are undocumented, and without real evidence, they can't afford to push harder and annoy the police.

So Rex continues with his schoolwork and his blogging activities, while working on software that will enable him to find Teo. Oh, his blogging activities--a blog called the Lodge, where he provides brilliant coding solutions, his friend Tunde, in Nigeria, answers questions about how to build practically anything out of, essentially, junk, and Cai, a Chinese girl they and everyone else only knows as Painted Wolf, exposes corruption. Her research skills and surreptitious videos have brought down some powerful figures.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Spring's Calling (Seasons of Magic #1), by Sarah Bigelow

Sarah Bigelow, November 2018

Ezri Trenton is a cop, a still-new detective with the Boston Police Department.

Ezri is also a witch.

Her relationship with both things is--complicated.

Ezri is the descendant of witches who died in the Salem Witch Trials. Prophecy says that she is the Savior, destined to defeat a plot by evil practitioners who will strike on the day that there is an eclipse of the sun and a meteor shower, on the Vernal Equinox. And Ezri is committed, personally, to doing her duty. Unfortunately, she's not on speaking terms with any of the other witches she should be collaborating with when the time comes--which is very, very soon.

Ezri's mother died on Ezri's fifteenth birthday. She found her mother's body, knife in her chest--and the Authority, the governing body of witches who seek to be law-abiding good citizens, covered it up and did nothing to find the killer. Ezri has cut ties with everyone who went along with this, which was everyone important in her life.

Her complicated relationship with her police career comes from the fact that she still basically seeks to follow the rules and ethics of the Authority, and that means, sometimes, often, not telling the whole truth about how she gets things done.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Love and Dreams (The Summer Sisters #2), by Jean Oram (author), Vanessa Moyen (narrator)

Oram Productions, July 2018

Maya Summer, the second of the Summer sisters, is a business school graduate with brains, drive, ambition, and maybe not such a good grasp of the importance of human connections. She thinks her family is too sentimental about the island cottage that's been in the family for generations. However, they are committed to keeping it, and she sees a possible way to both help pay the back taxes on it, and advance her own goal of landing the perfect job to launch her business career in Toronto.

Rent out the cottage as an "executive retreat," along with her own services as a summer assistant.

When Connor MacKenzie, business powerhouse, the "King of Toronto," giver of TED Talks on business, and Maya's own personal business idol, books two weeks on the island, Maya thinks her dream has come true and she's on her way.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Must Love Mistletoe (Alaska Sunrise Romances #3), by Melissa Storm (author), Ann Richardson (narrator)

Partridge & Pear Publishing, January 2018

Seattle realtor Riley McKinley is not thrilled when, a few days before Christmas, the day her Christmas holiday is to start, her biggest client asks her to go to Alaska to help he with a deal there--immediately. But he is her biggest client, it's a potentially career-making deal, and she likes him. So she flies up to Alaska.

When she arrives, she's met by Sebastian Rockwell. He's the winter sports coordinator for the resort chain that Riley's client wants to buy one currently-inactive location from. Sebastian is the last unmarried son of a match-making mama, and he dislikes Christmas as much as his mother and the rest of the family love it. He was happy to take the extra hours to be the tour guide for Riley and her client, when asked.

Friday, November 9, 2018

In the Shadow of Light,by Elaine L. Orr (author), Andre G. Chapoy (narrator)

Lifelong Dreams Publishing, October 2018

Corazon Sanchez, her baby brother Pico, and their mother, Isabella, have walked from Honduras to the US-Mexico border, fleeing the gangs that killed Corazon's father, Manuel. They wanted more protection money for the family's store than they can afford to pay. Also, though, Manuel and his father, Tito, helped save the life of an American soldier, Colonel Bill Haines, years ago when Manuel was a young man. That may also have been a sore spot for the gangs.

The Sanchez family think they are walking towards safety, but they don't know about the changes under the new President (not Trump; the people are all fictionalized.) They don't know about the family separation policy.

And they left too quickly to let Colonel Bill know they were coming.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

A Reel Christmas in Romance, by J.J. DiBenedetto

Writing Dreams, November 2018

Marianne Carter owns the only movie theater in the town of Romance, the Esmeralda Theater, and like her father and grandfather before her, shows only classic movies--nothing after 1955. It's a labor of love, as well as her business.

Jack Nelson is with the state historical commission, sent to evaluate the theater and Marianne's application to have it designated an historic landmark. He has to do this without Marianne knowing, or becoming too friendly with her, because he has to not only be objective, but be seen to be objective.

The Duck Man is Marianne's anonymous email pen pal, new in town and a little general about exactly what he does, but a delight to chat with in email. She, also, remains anonymous.

Esme is Jack's anonymous email pen pal. She's a pleasure to converse with in email, and, since it's clear she works at the Esmerelda, a useful contact. Right? Jack, too, remains anonymous.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

An Unexpected Christmas in Sampson's Quarry (Sampson's Quarry #4), by Sophie Tucker

Lirios Publishing, November 2018

First off, this book, despite being number four in a series, really does work as a standalone.

Second, the dog does not die. In fact, the dog is just fine, all the way through.

Nancy Redmond has a lovely Christmas planned--in Colorado with her college roommate, not in Europe with her parents. She knows her car needs to see the local mechanic--an old high school classmate--as soon as possible, but right now, it only has to get her to the airport, with one stop on the way for a quick visit with one of her real estate clients.

Instead, of course, the car dies while she's at the client's house. The client isn't there, because a family emergency kept them from making it to their vacation home, and their message was sent while she was busy. She doesn't see it till she's there, and stuck.

And she forgot to charge her phone, and it's dying now.

Friday, November 2, 2018

The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency #2), by John Scalzi (author), Wil Wheaton (narrator)

Audible Studios, October 2018

The Empire of the Interdependency is going to collapse, because the Flow network that allows travel among its 47 star systems is collapsing. Emperox Grayland II, a.k.a. Cardenia Wu-Patrick, is determined to save as much of humanity as possible--though it seems that might be a very tiny percentage. In all the 47 systems of the Interdependency, only one planet, End, can support human life living unprotected on its surface.

Unfortunately, of the leadership, both political and commercial, of the Interdependency doesn't believe that the Flow network is collapsing. Even with the Flow from End having already closed, no one wants to believe it. End, after all, is just a minor backwater...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Love and Rumors (The Summer Sisters #1), by Jean Oram (author), Vanessa Moyen (narrator)

Oram Productions, ISBN 9781928198505, July 2018

Hailey Summer is the oldest of the Summer sisters, and the one her mother, incapacitated by a stroke, asked to take on the responsibility of keeping their island cottage in the family, as it has been for generations. Unfortunately, her mother had to pass it on to her with back taxes owing. Her younger sisters don't know this, and they don't realize, because Hailey hasn't told them, that the taxes have gone up a lot in recent years. The reason for protecting her sisters from this is that they were in school. Now they're all out, and working. But Hailey is still protecting them, and keeps convincing herself that she can't tell them what's going on. She's trying to make her career as an art photographer, not a commercial photographer, but in the short term, of course, that's less profitable in the short term.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky, by John Horner Jacobs

Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062880819, October 2018

The time of this story is presumably in the mid-eighties, though that's never explicit, except that key past events happened in the early 70s.

Isabel Certa and Rafael Avendano are two very different survivors of a violent coup and brutal junta in their home country, a fictional country in South America, near Argentina. Rafael Avendano is older, a poet, who had never been overtly political, but who had been close enough to the former, socialist, president of the country that he was damned by association in the eyes of the new rulers. Isabel Certa is younger, lost her mother and the rest of her family in the violence of the coup, and when we meet the two in Spain, she's teaching literature at a university.

When she meets an older, one-eyed man in the plaza during her lunch, at first she doesn't know who he is. He is, after all, believed to be dead.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Dangers of Love (Marrying a Marshall #2), by Natalie Dean

Kenzo Publishing, October 2018

Greta Fischer is a young German woman, who had few prospects at home, and so agreed to become a mail-order bride in far-away America.

Unfortunately, Daniel Evans turns out to be a domineering bully, who derives great entertainment value from mocking her pronunciation of English words, even though her English is good and her accent perfectly understandable. His mother is also completely under his thumb, though she seems to also share his attitude toward Greta.

And they will be married as soon as their train arrives in Dry Gulch, Texas.

Deputy Marshall Simon Brown, feeling isolated now that his best friend and colleague in Cypress Creek, Texas, has married and is spending all his free time with his wife, is happy to take on the special assignment of accompanying another marshall taking a criminal to Dry Gulch.

It's the same train Greta Fischer and the Evanses are on.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Death:The Complete DI Tremayne Series, Books 1-6, by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, August 2018

This is, as it says, the complete boxed set of the DI Keith Tremayne police procedural murder mysteries, set in and around Salisbury, in the UK. Tremayne is in his fifties, overweight, a smoker and a drinker--and a very good detective. When we meet him, he is long divorced. His boss, Superintendent Moulton, wants him to retire, but Tremayne quite seriously has no idea what he would do. Solving murders is the only thing he enjoys, except for drinking beer, and betting on horses. He's not good at picking winning horses.

His partner is DS Clare Yarwood, a young woman from a very different background than Tremayne's, but with great respect for him and determined to learn all she can. They're a good team, both in what he has to teach and she has to learn, and in the fact that in exchange for his knowledge and experience, she has the computer skills and the comfort with using them for both reports and research. This relieves Tremayne of a burden that would probably hasten his retirement still faster.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Death by a Dead Man's Hand (DI Tremayne #5), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, April 2018

Eighteen years ago, Ethan Mitchell killed his brother Martin, in a dispute about the gold bars they'd stolen. Now, after seventeen years in prison, Ethan is out, home in Salisbury, and he's gotten a note asking him to come to St. Mark's Church.

The note is signed, or appears to be, by his dead brother, Martin.

When Ethan goes to this meeting, he is shot and killed. The note in his pocket explains why he was there, and but isn't much of a clue for DI Tremayne, who was the arresting officer eighteen years ago, and saw Martin's dead body for himself.

Ethan wasn't shot by a dead man, but it had to be someone who knew both Ethan and Martin well enough to fool the not particularly superstitious Ethan. And with Martin's death once more of interest, it also raises the question of twenty missing gold bars. The brothers had stolen a shipment of forty gold bars; twenty were in the trunk of their car when Ethan was arrested. The other twenty have never been found.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Girl in the Empty Dress (Bennett Sisters #2), by Lise McClendon (author), Denice Stradling (narrator)

Lise McClendon, June 2015

The five Bennett sisters, New York lawyers all, are on vacation in France. Using Merle's house in the Dordogne region in southwest France as their base, they're doing walking tours to see the beautiful landscape. Unfortunately, from the viewpoint of most of them, one of the sisters, Francie, has brought along a friend from the law firm where she works, Gillian Sargent. And Gillian annoys everyone, including, it seems, Francie.

Then Gillian finds an injured dog, a small, fluffy, sweet dog with no ID. Gillian is determined to rescue and care for this dog. When he meets her, so is Merle's teenage son, Tristan. It gets more disturbing when the veterinarian they take the dog to tells them that the injury is due to, not a bullet as he originally thought, but the rough, amateur removal of a microchip. This dog was apparently stolen, and then escaped.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Father Knows Death (Fair Witch Sisters #1), by Christy Murphy

Christy Murphy, October 2018

Joy and Didi are twins. What they don't know is that they are twin witches, and that their mom, who runs a tea shop where she reads tea leaves for clients, really can read the tea leaves, along with a lot more magic that she's using in ways they're not aware of.

Oh, and two weeks after their 35th birthday, they're going through "The Change," when late-blooming witches start to manifest their powers. As disturbing as this is for two rationalist modern women, it's worse to be informed that their line of witches has born some evil fruit, and the Witches' Council is subjecting them to a trial in which they need to prove their innocence. To do that, they need to help a suicidal mortal solve the murder of his true love, while proving their internal goodness.

They don't know how to use their magic. No one can help them. There's no way to know how they're doing, or how long they have. They have one familiar between the two of them, who loves Didi, but whom only Joy can understand. And if they don't pass the test, they'll be killed. What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Death at Coombe Farm (DI Tremayne #4), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, February 2018

Tremayne is once again fending off Superintendent Moulton's attempts to get him to retire when an unexpected death occurs in the village of Coombe. Claude Selwood, the owner of Coombe Farm and patriarch of the Selwood family, has been killed by his horse, Napoleon. While Napoleon has a lousy temper and never liked Claude, it turns out he wasn't unprovoked.

Someone had been firing pellets from an air gun at the two of them.

The death is ruled accidental, because Claude would not have died if he hadn't had the reins wrapped around his hands. Tremayne has a bad feeling about the whole thing, and Yarwood doesn't think he's wrong, but bad  feelings are not evidence. Even the conflict among the survivors, with widow Marge Selwood clearly favoring her two younger sons, Nicholas and William, over the eldest and heir, Gordon, with his wife, Cathy, whom Marge insists is a mere gold digger of loose values, suggests no motive for anyone to have fired pellets at Claude and the horse, that should not have killed either of them.

When an aging field hand, Old Ted, is shot dead with real .22 bullets, it's another matter. Although there's still no apparent motive. What reason is there to kill Old Ted?

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Travelling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa (author), Philip Gabriel (translator)

Berkley, ISBN 9780451491336, October 2018

Satoru and Nana meet when Nana is, no longer a kitten, but sill a young cat, and Satoru is perhaps around thirty. Initially, Satoru is just feeding the feral Nana, but when a car hits Nana and breaks his (yes, his) leg, Satoru takes him in, and takes him to a veterinarian. The name Nana comes from the fact that the cat's tail is hooked, roughly in the shame of a seven. Nana is the word for seven.

It's Nana who tells us this story, with a cat's judgment on the strange behavior of humans. Nana and his human live together happily for several years, and then one day, Satoru announces that he's very sorry, but he has no choice, and Satoru and Nana are off in the silver van, to visit an old childhood friend of Satoru's.

He wants the friend to take in Nana, and take care of him, because he can no longer do so. We don't, yet, find out why. It does not work out; yet by the time Satoru and Nana leave, the friend has a new plan for both mending his broken relationship with his wife, and a new direction for the photography studio he took over from his father.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Romance at the Royal Menagerie, by Ruth J. Hartman (author), Julie Hinton (narrator)

Clean Reads, October 2018

Francesca Hartwell loves cats of all kinds, including the big cats, all of them, and luckily for her, her father is the caretaker of big cats in the Tower of London's Royal Menagerie. Ever since her mother ran off to become the mistress of an earl, Francesca has pent most of her time with her father at the menagerie,. More to his distress than his pleasure, she has proved to have a real talent for handling the big cats.

They are absolutely dependent on his income from this job, and the Head Keeper would be very displeased to know that she was entering the cages, so she can only do so after hours.

And then one day she meets John Fairgate, an obviously well-born and wealthy man, visiting the menagerie, and he shares her love of big cats.

He apparently is not titled, and that's a good thing because her father is never going to forgive losing his wife to a titled nobleman. But John Fairgate could be the new donor the menagerie needs to care for the animals and keep her father employed, and he doesn't have a title...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, by Patricia A. McKillip (author), Dina Pearlman (narrator)

Audible Studios, January 2011 (original publication 1974)

Sybel is the daughter and granddaughter of wizards, and a wizard herself, continuing the family tradition of collecting strange and magical animals. She has not mixed with her neighbors much, or at all, and has no children.

Then a local, lesser lord, Coren, arrives at her gate carrying a baby boy. The baby is Tamlorn, the son of her mother's younger sister, and also of King Drede.

But Drede believes,with some reason it must be said, that Tamlorn is in fact the son of one of Coren's older brother, Norrell. Norrell and Rhianna are dead, killed by Drede. Coren asks her to love, protect, and raise Tamlorn.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Fifth Risk, by Michael Lewis (author), Victor Bevine (narrator)

Audible Studios, October 2018

What happens when the people responsible for running our government have no idea how it works--and don't really care?

This is a look at how complex the actual workings of our government really are, what the federal agencies actually do, why it matters, and how completely unprepared and indifferent the Trump team was.

This is not a partisan work. Not at all--unless you count caring about government working properly as "partisan." But in that case, the "parties" you're talking about aren't Democrat and Republican, or liberal and conservative.

Lewis describes the senior staff of the federal departments and agencies preparing for the arrival, right after the election, for the arrival of the "landing teams" of whichever candidate won, to be able to brief them on what their agencies and departments do, to equip them to start the process of taking over.

Lewis also describes the utter silence and absence of anyone from the Trump team that day, that week, for weeks to come.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dark Secrets (Dark Falls CO #2), by Savannah Kade

October 2018

Grace Lee's brother, Jimmy, has died in Dark Falls, CO, where he has lived happily with his boyfriend for years, and his death has been rule a suicide--by heroin overdose.

But former junkie Jimmy had been clean for just shy of five years, and Grace hadn't seen any of the signs she'd seen around his previous relapses into using. She just does not believe it. And Grace is a forensic scientist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Even the death scene photo is wrong. Very, very wrong.

Nate Ryder is the Dark Falls police detective who closed the case based on the medical examiner's report and verbal confirmation from the medical examiner. At first he's just humoring Grace because, after all, it's her brother who died, but the more they look at the report, the tests that weren't done, the fact that her brother's body has already been cremated...

Monday, October 15, 2018

How Language Began: The Story of Humanitiy's Greatest Invention, by Daniel L. Everett (author), Jonathan Yen (narrator)

Tantor Audio, March

This is such a frustrating book.

Everett has a lot to say, that's of interest, about the history of human language, and makes an interesting, and to me persuasive, case that language goes back to Homo erectus, if not further. One thing he points to, hardly the only one, is the H. erectus population on the the island of Flores. They must at some point have arrived in numbers sufficient to establish a viable population, which would mean a minimum of fifty men, women, and children arriving together or in close succession. This isn't likely with accidental rafting. It suggests more sophisticated skills, to build craft capable of crossing that distance in sufficient numbers intentionally--which would probably require language.

He's also quite, quite certain that language is an invention, not an instinct. If you think otherwise, you are wrong. Completely wrong. Oh, and he really thinks Noam Chomsky is completely wrong, and doesn't seem to concede him any significant contributions on the subject of language at all.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Hi Bob!, by Bob Newhart (author), Narrators: Bob Newhart, Marc Maron, Judd Apatow, Will Ferrell, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow, Conan O'Brien, and Sarah Silverman

Audible Originals, July 2018

Bob Newhart was for decades one of the most popular and consistently likable comics in America. His two tv series might be better remembered now (or not, I could be completely wrong about that), but he also had a long career as a stand-up comic, with some tremendously popular spoken-word albums. When he started out, there were no comedy clubs, and the entire experience of being a professional comedian was very different.

In this audiobook, he talks with fellow comedians, about his stand-up career, their experiences getting started in the business, friendships, challenges, and, somewhat oddly to me, mostly his second major tv success, Newhart, with only secondary mention of his original hit show, The Bob Newhart Show.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Practice Baby, by L.M. Ardor

Critical Mass/Saint Copy PR, ISBN 9781925579994, October 2018

Dee Flanery is a gp, with three kids, an ex-husband who has remarried and had twins, and a thriving practice whose patients include Tom, the first of her "practice babies," a person who has been her patient since birth, now in his mid-twenties. He's on the autism spectrum, calls himself "an Aspie," and has a tendency to be obsessive in ways that benefit both his career as a computer security expert, and the management of his potentially dangerous asthma.

When Tom doesn't show up for an appointment, it's out of character and very worrying. His mother doesn't always have the best judgment, but is a devoted mother, and when she can't get the police to take her missing persons report seriously, she asks Dee to help.

When they finally get the police to do, what in the US is called a wellness check, though I didn't see that term in this book set in Australia, Tom is dead. A man who was obsessive about managing his asthma has apparently died of an asthma attack.