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.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Exit Strategy Murderbot Diaries #4), by Martha Wells (author), Kevin R. Free (narrator)

Audible Audio, October 2018

Murderbot has successfully escaped the environs of its latest run-in with GrayCris Corporation, with proof of GrayCris' criminal activity. If it can get back to Preservation space and reach Dr. Mensah, its...owner? guardian? friend?, GrayCris can, possibly, be stopped from getting more colonists and scientific expeditions killed in their pursuit of corporate profit.

Unfortunately, GrayCris has kidnapped Dr. Mensah and is demanding an enormous ransom, apparently in hopes of also luring Murderbot in. GrayCris thinks Murderbot still has the evidence in its possession. Murderbot is smarter than that, but Dr. Mensah is still at enormous risk. The sensible thing for a rogue SecUnit that was never programmed to care about anyone is to forget about Mensah, head out beyond the corporate rim, and let the  people it has sent the information to act on it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Dark Falls (Dark Falls #1), by Lori Ryan

October 2018

John Sevier is a police detective in Dark Falls, CO, and the Major Crimes unit he's a part of of is investigating a string of jewelry store holdups. They started out targeting smaller, lower-end shops that couldn't afford good security, grabbing what they could at closing time, and getting out. Then they start ramping up, their leader in particular becoming violent.

John starts worrying about a woman he hasn't seen since college, when she left early to take care of her father and her sister. Ava McNair joined her father in running their jewelry shop. His heart condition won't let him keep the hours he used to. Her sister Janna's autism keeps her from working with the customers, although she's a far better jeweler than Ava. So Ava is the shop manager, and the one who'll be at most risk if the increasingly violent gang starts striking shops in the business district she's in.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Chasing Ghosts (Dudley Sisters Saga #6), by Madalyn Morgan

Madalyn Morgan, June 2018

This is number six in a series. However, I've read none of the previous books, and did not find it a problem to follow and understand what was going on.

Englishwoman Claire Mitchell and her husband, Canadian Alain "Mitch" Mitchell were SOE operatives during the Second World War, dropped into France to work with the French Resistance. During that time, Mitch was captured and imprisoned by the Germans. What exactly happened is unclear, but he did eventually escape. During the escape he was shot in the leg, but reached a doctor who removed the bullets and successfully saved the leg.

They did not exchange names; it would have been dangerous. You can't reveal what you don't know.

In 1949, they've been reunited for several years, and their daughter, Aimée, is now eight years old. But Mitch has been having problems since the war, and is now diagnosed with shell shock--what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He's sent back to Canada to be treated by a specialist, and Claire and Aimée go with him. Three months later, when they are returning home, Mitch disappears before they board the plane.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Death and the Assassin's Blade (DI Tremayne #2), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, November 2017

It's six months after the terrible events at Avon Hill. Tremayne is doing something utterly atypical for himself--attending a local "Shakespeare in the Park" performance of Julius Caesar. He's doing it for DS Clare Yarwood, who is back at work after extended compassionate following Harry's death, but still not fully back to normal. Tremayne thinks what they really need is a new murder to investigate, but Salisbury and environs have been quiet.

Some time after Mark Antony's speech following Caesar's death, the head of the local theater group, Peter Freestone, an occasional drinking buddy of Tremayne's approaches them. Caesar, or rather the actor playing him, Gordon Mason, a local solicitor, is actually dead, of stab wounds.

Two of the blades for the fake assassin's knives had been replaced with real, sharp, and non-retractable blades. Both had been used by Mason, on stage. Two of the actors among the theatrical assassins actually murdered Gordon Mason.

Friday, October 5, 2018

High Crimes (Georgia Davis PI #5), by Libby Fischer Hellmann

The Red Herring Press, ISBN 9781938733956, November 2018

It's January 2018, and Donald Trump has been President for a year. Dena Baldwin, respected scion of a wealthy Chicago family, head of a major nonprofit charitable foundation, founder of a Resistance group, has organized a major protest. She briefly worries her fellow organizers of the group and the protest by arriving late, but she makes it in time that her second, Ruth Marriotti, doesn't have to stand up and speak in her place.

Then a shot rings out, Dena and one of the others are dead, and Ruth is badly wounded. Moments later, the shooter blows himself up on the roof of a nearby building.

Dena's mother, Erica Baldwin, calls Georgia Davis when the FBI's silence and apparent lack of action frustrates and distresses her. She wants answers.

What Georgia finds are more questions.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Kennedy Debutante, by Kerri Maher

Berkley, ISBN 9780451492043, October 2018

Kathleen "Kick" Kennedy was the fourth child, and second daughter, of Joseph and Rose Kennedy. There were nine in all, and her siblings included Jack (President John F. Kennedy), Bobby (US Attorney-General, later Senator, Robert F. Kennedy), and Teddy (Senator Edward M. Kennedy.)

All of which sounds very dry. Kick Kennedy died young enough that she's barely remembered today, but her short life was packed with big events during a significant time in history. This is a fictionalized account, taking the bare facts and what we can infer from her impact on the rest of the family, and weaving them into an engrossing historical novel about a very real woman.

Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. was US Ambassador to Britain from 1938 to 1940. Catholic and Irish American, he was the first Catholic to represent the US in Britain, and this was a time when that still mattered. The Kennedys brought their children with them, and along with Joe Jr. and Jack, the two oldest boys, the two oldest girls, Rosemary and Kick, were old enough to be introduced to the social world. They were presented at court, and that is a moving scene where we get the first hints of why Rosemary is a problem for the family. It's also where Kick demonstrates her grace and poise under pressure.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Dog Care at Home: The Ultimate Dog Care Guide for a Happy & Healthy Dog at Home, by Gina Harding

PawLife, September 2018

Are you planning on getting a dog, especially your first dog? Dogs are a great addition to your family, bringing both a lot of fun and a lot of emotional reward, but they're also a lot of work. There's a lot to know, especially when you are just starting out as a first time dog owner.

This book is aimed at providing a convenient guide to what you need to know.

What this isn't is a breed guide book. Beyond a helpful overview of the various broad categories of dogs (terriers, hounds, herding dogs, etc.), Harding leaves that to others, concentrates on how to bring whatever dog you choose into your home, provide the care they need, and enjoy life with a dog.

It's a very helpful, straightforward guide, aimed at putting the information at your fingertips when you need it, as well as being readable enough that you can read through it in a few sittings. Even if not all the important details stick the first time, you'll know where to turn to look for them.