Thursday, May 31, 2018

How to Suppress Women's Writing, by Joanna Russ

University of Texas Press, April 2018 (original publication 1983)

Joanna Russ was a science fiction writer who came to prominence in the field in the 1960s, when women in the field were beginning to increase in numbers, but the explosion of women in science fiction of the 1970s was still in the future. She was also one of science fiction's home-grown scholars and critics, doing the work academics and more conventionally "respectable" literary critics were not yet ready to do.

In How to Suppress Women's Writing, she once again takes on work respectable academics and literary critics weren't willing to do: take a long, hard look at how and why women writers and artists, as well as other minority group writers and artists, keep disappearing from the record. Prominent in their own times, they quickly fade from view, leaving later generations to believe that only an exceptional few ever existed, or if they did exist, were inferior, forgettable talents. Emily Dickinson, for instance, is generally presented as springing from nothing, influenced by no predecessors or contemporaries, and influencing no women who came after her.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Flowers of Vashnoi (Vorkosigan Saga #14.1), by Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois Bujold, May 2018

Miles and Ekaterin Vorkosigan have been married for four years now, and in addition to Ekaterin's son Nikki, they have two children of their own, toddlers Sasha and Helen. Aral and Cordelia have gone off to Sergyar as Viceroy and Vicereine, and Miles and Ekaterin have taken on responsibility for the Vorkosigan District.

That district includes the Vashnoi exclusion zone, nuked by the Cetagandans during the invasion eighty years ago, and the source of much of Barrayar's horror of mutation. Ekaterin and Enrique Borgos, the scientist who created the butterbugs, are working on an attempt to recover the lands, with new bio-engineered bugs. The new bugs will, if successful, clean the land of radiation, and recover useful metals.

Unfortunately, the Vashnoi exclusion zone has more old secrets than just how long it will take to make the land usable again.

Monday, May 28, 2018

American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner's Legendary Rise, by Joe Drape (author), Aaron Abano (narrator)

Hachette Audio, April 2016

In 2015, American Pharoah became the twelfth horse to win American thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown, the first to do so since Affirmed in 1978. This is the story of his racing career, his breeding and training, and the owner/breeder, trainers, jockeys, and competitors that were apart of his journey to that accomplishment.

Horse racing can be a questionable sport with a lot of questionable people. Joe Drape doesn't focus on that more than he needs to, but also doesn't ignore it. A horse can't ask for a second opinion on whether the stuff his trainer wants him to take to help him perform better is either safe or legal.

But the horses are beautiful, and as long as there are no accidents on the track, it's a joy to watch them run.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Picture Perfect Love, by Natalie Dean (author), Eveline Hart (author)

Kenzo Publishing, May 2018

Madelyn and Lilian Thomas are the daughters of newspaper publisher parents, traveling west to Oregon on the Oregon trail, in the 1845. In the course of the journey, the jewels belonging to another woman in wagon train have been stolen, and a man has been murdered. These events are believed to be related, but so far, both crimes are unsolved.

Madelyn and Lilian are determined to prove themselves as investigative reporters, by investigating this story for themselves. They also want to support the paper as a whole, though, and when they meet Arnold Hendricks, they recognize him as a real find.

Arnold, part of a Missouri farm family also traveling with the wagon train, is a gifted artist, someone the newspaper can use, if they can convince him to stop hiding from attention and show his work to their father.

What follows is a growth of both friendship and courtship among the Thomas sisters, Arnold, families of Protestant Irish missionaries also attached to the traveling group, and other artists and writers also hoping to land positions with the newspaper when they all arrive in Oregon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, by Richard H. Thaler (author), L.J. Ganser (narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2015

Richard Thaler is one of the founders of behavioral economics, and he gives us a clear, enlightening, and entertaining account of its origins, principles, and findings.

Traditional economics operates on the theory of the rational economic person--homo economicus, or as Thaler shortens it for convenience, Econs. For the purposes of economic theory, Econs are assumed to always make rational and fully informed choices, for maximum economic benefit. The problems should be obvious; we are rarely fully rational in our decision-making, and almost never have complete, and completely accurate, information. The more important our decisions are--career choice, marriage, retirement planning, the less likely we are to have enough information to make "correct" economic choices.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Swimming Between Worlds, by Elaine Neil Orr

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780425282731, April 2018

It's 1960, and Tacker Hart, a young architect, has just returned from a year and a half in Nigeria to his home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He was there as part of a project to build high schools, and while there he fell in love with local culture. He made Nigerian friends. And he's been sent home in disgrace, for "going native."

Kate Monroe was a high school classmate, but went to Agnes Scott College. Unexpectedly even to herself, she's become a photographer. She has also, after the death of her and her brother Brian's father several years earlier, now nursed her mother through her death from cancer. She's living in the family home--she inherited the house, while Brian inherited "the cabin," and lives there--and trying to find her footing.

She and Tacker each, separately, encounter Gaines, a young African-American man who will have a significant impact on them both.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dust (Jacob's Ladder #1), by Elizabeth Bear (author), Alma Cuervo (narrator)

Recorded Books, December 2008 (original publication 2007)

Jacob's Ladder is a generation ship, launched by an unusual religious cult, now stranded in orbit around a double star. After 500 years of drifting in orbit, the ship damaged and the the ship's AI fragmented into multiple units that have been dubbed Angels, the ship's population is divided into separate, rival populations in different parts of the ship. Rule and Engine are about to go to war. There's a struggle over who will be the new Commodore.

But the stars are heading toward going nova very soon, and the Angels, with a much better understanding of the ship's danger than the human population have, are engaged in their own struggle. They need to rejoin into a unified whole that can truly operate the somewhat-repaired ship, but each wants to be the dominant personality, too.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World, by Ann Shen

Chronicle Books, September 2016

This is a great little collection of short, one- or two-page bios of "bad girls," women who did what they needed to do rather than what they were expected to do. There are warrior queens and pirate queens, actors and writers, inventors, actors who became inventors, politicians, doctors, nurses, notorious criminals, and spies. It's light, lively, with fun, colorful art showing the women described.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pains and Penalties (Geeks and Things Mystery #1), by Sarah Biglow

Sarah Biglow, March 2016

Kalina Greystone has returned home to the apparently fictional small town of Ellesworth, on the Massachusetts South Coast, in the equally fictional Salem County.. She's running the comics store she inherited from her father, and employing her nephew, AJ, as, currently, her sole staff. In  keeping with both tradition and good marketing, they're participating in the town's annual Solstice Fair.

The baking competition gets a bit more exciting than usual, when the winning scones are not Mrs. Grant. She is angry and she is vocal, and vents her anger at the judges.

A short time later, things get even more exciting, when Mrs. Grant's good friend, Mrs. Davies, drinks some tea and suddenly dies, rather unpleasantly. Mrs. Davies, famous for her fruit tarts, is not the offending scone baker. Kalina's nephew, AJ, witnesses the whole thing.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Lady Vivian (Almack's Assembly Rooms #1), by Agnes Forest

May 2018

Lady Vivian Ravenswood, youngest of the Ravenswood daughters and the only one still unmarried, is being courted by Lord Phillip Lockfield. He's wealthy and handsome, but cold and domineering. Vivian has no wish to marry him, but given the collapse of the family finances, she's not going to get much choice.

Then in her first visit to Almack's, she encounters Lieutenant Sawyer Cook, a war hero, and a very different personality. They meet again while Vivian and her chaperone are out riding, and Sawyer has become separated from the rest of his hunt, in pursuit of a fox.

What follows is a very entertaining courtship, with just enough trials and tribulation to keep things interesting.

Sawyer, Vivian, chaperone Fanny (I don't recall her last name), and assorted other characters are likable and interesting. Lord Phillip and some of Sawyer's friends, less so. Overall, It's a fun, light book.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright (author, narrator)

HarperAudio, April 2018

Madeleine Albright was the first woman to be US Secretary of State, under Bill Clinton, appointed in 1997. A native of Czechoslovakia, born in 1937, her family had to flee the country for the UK to escape Hitler. Although they returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, ultimately they emigrated to the US in 1948.

What Albright didn't know until decades later was that her parents were Jewish converts to Roman Catholicism, making the need to escape even greater than she had known.

In a career as an academic, politician, and diplomat, she became an expert on troubled and troublesome leaders and regimes around the world. Now, she's written a clear warning about fascism, how it rose in the 20th century, and the new fascist regimes of the 21st century.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fur Boys (Dog Park Mysteries #6), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

Two Pup Press, January 2018

The Fur Boys are Buddy, Dasher, and Rory, the three small dogs belonging to Professor Lawrence, voice professor at Hopewell Music Academy, and often in the care of Hannah, Hopewell's trusted admin. Hannah and Lia Anderson are loosely acquainted, and that's the connection that helped land Lia her latest commission, a mural at Hopewell.

When Lia gets four tickets to a school concert, she and Peter go with Peter's partner Brent and another cop, Cynthia, they're expecting a night of lovely music. Instead, they get a murder investigation, when Professor Lawrence is found dead of having had his head bashed in. Unfortunately, he had a lot of enemies; it would be easier to list the people who didn't want him dead.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2), by Martha Wells (author), Kevin R. Free (narrator)

Recorded Books, May 2018

Murderbot is traveling to the place where the critical events that set him on the path to life as a rogue security unit happened: the mining colony where, under circumstances he does not remember because his memory was wiped, he killed a large number of the clients he was supposed to protect. He wants to know what really happened. He's passing as an augmented human, but telling the ships he travels with that he's a free construct, traveling to rejoin his guardian.

On the second leg of his trip, he finds the bot running the ship is an AI of both very high intelligence, and very high autonomy--and quite capable of doing major damage to him.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Avengers Versus Thanos, by Jim Englehart, Jim Starlin, Mike Friedrich, Steve Gerber, Scott Edelman

Marvel, July 2013

This collects various Avengers/Thanos comics from 1963-1972, presenting the story of Thanos' quest to become a god and destroy all life in the universe, and Avengers' efforts to stop him.

It ought to be exciting, right?

I remember liking these comics as a kid. Really I do. And Marvel has given us some good movies over the last several years, using the Avengers. I was really pleased to see this available in Kindle Unlimited.

Unfortunately, it's just silly and disjointed, and the art isn't that good.

Yes, these are separate comics published over a period of about a decade, from different specific lines, focused on different main characters. But it's presented as being the story of the Avengers battling Thanos to protect the universe, as if there's a coherent story, here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (author), Heath Miller (narrator)

Highbridge, April 2018

Eurovision in space.

No, really.

This is humorous sf, strongly influenced by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Not everyone will love it. Some people will find it hopelessly over the top, especially if that's how they felt about Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy.

I loved it.

Earth has discovered that we are not alone in the big, beautiful universe, or even in the galaxy. There's a galactic confederation that, since the Sentience Wars a hundred years ago, have worked at system to decide who gets to join the sentience club, and who gets eliminated permanently, with their planet getting a chance to try again when another species has evolved far enough to be contemplating space travel.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Tucker's Way (Tucker #1), by David Johnson (author), Laural Merlington (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, June 2015 (original publication January 2012)

Tucker grew up grindingly poor, and horrifically abused by her father. Now, in the mid-1970s, she's raising her grandchildren, August, March, and only granddaughter April, on the same farm she grew up on. Her daughter, Mazie, is an irresponsible, mostly absent, mother, showing up for visits just often enough to disturb the peace of the little family.

Ella McDade has her own history of abuse, at the hands of her now ex-husband, Judge Jack McDade. She's just bought the old McDaniel house, just down the road from Tucker.

Judge Jack is Tucker's sworn enemy, the main threat to her custody of granddaughter April, who at six years old has never spoken a word.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bump in the Night (A Flaxborough Mystery #2), by Colin Watson

Farrago, ISBN 9781788420143, March 2018 (original publication 1960)

The town of Chalmsbury experiences a series of explosions that blow up monuments and landmarks, and the small town's police force is making no progress. Flaxborough loans DI Purbright to conduct an investigation--one perhaps less hampered by being personally connected, for good or ill, to every possible suspect.

Police chief Hector Larch is married to Hilda, daughter of Councilman Pointer. Local haulage magnate Stan Biggadyke is having an affair with Hilda, and last year, had a car accident that killed a young woman. Biggadyke's long history of malicious pranks includes having tormented Barrington Hoole, local optometrist, since their school days.

And Larch, sadly, thinks aggressive bullying is the way to question suspects and make them spill what they know.