Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Switchback, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Skipjack Publishing, ISBN 9781950637041, November 2019

I need to start by saying this book is set in 1976.

Patrick Flint is a doctor, practicing at a hospital in Buffalo, Wyoming. Having grown up in Texas, done his residency in Colorado, and then lived in Irving, Texas with his family, he is loving small town Wyoming and the easy access to the wilderness.

His wife, Susanne, would much rather be back in Irving, as long as Patrick and their two kids go with her.

Their boy, Perry, is not yet a teen and is still sweet and cooperative. Daughter Trish, though, is fifteen and very much being a teenager. Neither Trish nor Susanne is happy about the hunting trip Patrick has planned for all of them.

Patrick, Susanne, and Trish are all in their different ways feeling a lot of stress right now. Patrick also has a 70s-
common attitude that his wife and children should do what he tells them. He's planned a fun opportunity to get good exercise, and why are Susanne and Trish being so defiant?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Hogfather (Discworld #20) (Death #4), by Terry Pratchett (author), Nigel Planer (narrator)

ISIS Audio Books, December 2002 (original publication November 1996)

The Auditors, guardians of order and logic in the Discworld cosmos (and really, you've got to have some sympathy for them, with a job like that), and this time the target of their concern is the Hogfather. Children must be stopped from believing in a fat old man who comes down chimneys and delivers toys every Hogswatch!

They need to rid the world of the Hogfather, which will be a neat trick, since the Hogfather isn't a person so much as a consensus figment of the imagination. And yet, he has a personality, and does deliver those toys...

Friday, December 27, 2019

Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher

Red Wombat Studio, November 2018

This book is set in the world of the Clockwork Boys, about five years later. Halla is a widow who has been acting as housekeeper to her late husband's uncle, Silas. Silas has now died, and the reading of the will reveals the new, as shocking to Halla as to Silas's own relatives, that he has left her his entire estate.

Her husband's cousin Alver, and his mother, Malva, are not prepared to accept this. The only acceptable resolution, at least in their minds, is that Halla marry Alver. Aside from the fact that she has no desire to marry clammy-handed Alver, Halla wants the ability to provide dowries to her own nieces, which clearly won't happen if Malva and Alver control the money.

Locked up in her bedroom until she gives in and agrees, Halla accidentally discovers that part of her inheritance is a magic sword. Imprisoned in it is a long-dead warrior, Sarkis, who is bound to serve whoever is the legitimate owner and wielder of the sword. He's also outraged that it's possible for a woman's in-laws to lock her up and attempt to force her to marry to suit them. He breaks her out, and they head off to possible help.

This is, of course, only the start of their troubles and adventures.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel (The Great Courses), by Erin Macdonald (author, narrator)

Audible Original, November 2019

This is an entertaining, informative set of ten lectures on the physics used, whether accurately or creatively, in science fiction. Erin Macdonald is a physicist--and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable science fiction fan. She wants the interested fans to be familiar with the science behind their favorite movies, games, and books, but for the purpose of greater enjoyment and more fun, not for the purpose of telling us, "But that can't work and you shouldn't be enjoying it."

She starts off with an introduction to the science of space, time, and space-time, including the history of how we arrived at our current understanding. We also get an overview of some really cool ideas, like string theory, that aren't as prominent as they were just  a few years ago, not because they've been proven wrong, but because, on the contrary, no one has come up with any effective ideas on how to test these theories.  If you can't come up with a way to test a hypothesis on whether it's true or false, it might be a cool idea, but it's not science. At least not yet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Deadly Judicial Affair (Daisy McDare #11), by K. M. Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Meredith Potts, October 2019

Daisy McDare's last case is wrapped up, and now they're just waiting for the jury to come back with their verdict. In the midst of this, a new mystery arises--Daisy's husband sees Trevor, husband of Daisy's best friend, Samantha, on a city street, kissing a woman who definitely isn't Samantha. What's going on? And why does Trevor sound so convincing when Daisy confronts him and he denies it?

It's an interesting little mystery with a twist, and while the reader or listener may catch on before the characters do, it's still a fun story. The characters are interesting, likable, and determined to do the right thing.

Recommended as a light read or listen.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Dreamland, by Julia E. Clements (author) Kae Denino (narrator)

Pink Quill Books, ISBN 9781987152678, September 2018

Daniel Green is a perfectly ordinary young English boy. That his father died about a year ago doesn't, at first glance, make him any less ordinary.

What does, is that on his tenth birthday, his mother gave him a "silver ticket," which when placed under his pillow at night, takes him to Dreamland. In Dreamland, he meets fascinating friends--Tom the gnome, who runs a game booth on the fairground that Danny's imagination has created, and Lucy the fairy, whose parents run a sweet shop on the same fairground, among others. Dreamland isn't entirely safe, so there is adult supervision--a boy-sized cricket called, not Jiminy, very slightly to my disappointment, but--here I have a small problem. I listened to the audio, and heard the name as Argyll, while at least one other reviewer either heard or read it as Argit. The book starts off with a series of fun adventures--but greater challenges are coming for Danny.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Half-Life of Marie Curie, by Lauren Gunderson (author), Kate Mulgrew (narrator), Francesca Faridany (narrator)

Audible Audio, December 2019

Marie Curie was a scientist of tremendous accomplishments at a time when it was much harder than now for women to have careers in science at all. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the person, and one of only two to this point, to win two Nobels in different scientific fields. Her 1903 Nobel, with her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel, was in physics. Pierre Curie died in a road accident in 1906, and Marie Curie continued her research alone. In 1911, she won a second Nobel, in chemistry. That happened in the midst of a huge scandal over her affair with Paul Langevin, a married man estranged from his wife.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Library at the Edge of the World, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (author), Emma Lowe (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, ISBN 9781520085265, December 2017 (original publication November 2016)

Hanna Casey returned home to the west of Ireland, daughter Jasmine in tow, after finding her English husband, barrister Malcolm Turner, in bed with another woman. Jasmine is now finished school and working as a flight attendant, and Hanna is alone with her controlling, negative mother in her mother's bungalow. Hanna is the librarian at the Lissbeg Library, running that branch of the county library system, and driving a bookmobile around the area two days a week. And in her quest for a more peaceful, satisfying life, she's set her sights on renovating the decaying cottage that she inherited from her great-aunt, Maggie Cassey. Then she learns of a plan to reorganize county services--and eliminate her job.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Accepting the Lance (Liaden Universe #22) (Arc of the Covenants #5), by Sharon Llee (author), Steve Miller (author), Eileen Stevens (narrator)

Audible Studios, December 2019

The team sent off to take down the Department of the Interior are running into some interesting challenges--and an unexpected development.

Someone calling themself "Boss Surebleak" has demanded that Boss Conrad and the Road Boss be "retired," in the Surebleak sense, all their property stripped from their families, and those families deported from Surebleak, and Surebleak returned to its "native" laws and customs.

Theo, Bechimo, and crew are working off two serious demerits Theo and Bechimo earned while entering the Surebleak system in their previous adventure. The Portmaster is being hardnosed about it, which she admits is not really fair, but...

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Slayings in Sydenham (London Murder Mysteries #7), by Alice Castle

Crooked Cat Books, December 2019

Beth Haldane is more or less happily ensconced in the archivist's office at the Wyatt school, where her son Ben is a student despite the appallingly high fees. Her handsome boyfriend, Detective Inspector Harry York, is in the process of moving in with her--the heavy-lifting part being the moving in of all his books. Harry seems to have a collection I'd have considered adequate when I was able to collect print books, although his is almost entirely murder mysteries.

Beth's home on Pickwick Road is lovely, but small, and of very interesting geometry that makes it hard to use even the space that is there--and Beth is a neat freak. Harry's entirely reasonable cartons of books look to her like a disaster area.

So, at Harry's urging, she's looking for a house they can buy together.

Too bad the estate agent doesn't show for her appointment to see the place in Sydenham, and when another agent from the same office is persuaded to come out, they find the first agent dead in the kitchen pantry.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Buried Deep, by Margo Hunt (author), Therese Plummer (narrator)

Audible Original, December 2019

Maggie Cabot is chatting on the phone with her daughter, now in college, and planning her husband James' 50th birthday, when two police detectives show up at their door.

Twenty-five years ago, Hannah Nilsson disappeared while on a camping trip with friends, in the Florida Keys. Her body was never found, and she was assumed to have drowned when she went off on her own to swim at night. Maggie and James didn't even meet till several years later. Now her body has been found, buried deep enough that it wasn't found until development began on a new building. It's not clear how she did die, but she didn't drown,and she didn't wind up buried that deep by accident.

One of the friends on that trip was James Cabot.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Real Actors, Not People (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries #8), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, December 2019

Frannie and Larry Shoemaker are out RVing with their friends again, this time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They settle in to their campground, the day before a parade of RVs show up, soon to be followed by a tour bus full of has-been celebrities. A reality tv show is going to film there for the next four days.

The actors, of course, had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The assistant producer thought that she was going to be able to ban the other guests from leaving their campers for the entire four days of the filming. There are a variety of conflicts among the former stars--and they are not at all happy when they discover that they'll be required to actually camp, in tents, that they have set up themselves. When Frannie takes a tour in the glass-bottom boat to see the wrecks in Lake Superior, and sees the face of the head producer looking up at her from the water, clearly deceased, well, at least this time she didn't find the body while alone or with only her friends.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump by Glenn Simpson (author), Peter Fritsch (author), Mark Deakins (narrator)

Random House Audio, November 2019

In 2010, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, two former Wall Street Journal reporters, left the news business and founded Fusion GPS, to do research mostly for businesses and law firms, and occasionally opposition research for political campaigns.

In 2015, they were hired to do opposition research on Donald Trump.

What started as an investigation of Trump's tangled business dealings became ever more intertwined in previous investigations into Russian corruption, as they realized that investigating Trump meant investigating his Russian associations and business dealings.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat, by Amy Shojai

Furry Muse Press, ISBN 9781948366142, December 2019

This is a book about cats and the love of cats--their evolution, history, folklore, and changing places in in our lives and homes. It's filled with beautiful photographs of a wide variety of cats, domestic and wild, and that alone would be worth your time.

In addition to the purely enjoyable sections, showing cats of all kinds and sharing their history, there are the practical parts of the book: care, health, training, and management.

It's not a long book, less than 150 pages, but every one of those pages is a pleasure to look at.


I received a free electronic galley from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Twisted Ones, by T. Kingfisher (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508297475, October 2019

Melissa, known as Mouse to family and friends, travels from Pittsburgh to North Carolina to clean out her deceased grandmother's house. Her grandmother had been prickly, unloving, and unfriendly, and moreover had been in a nursing home for a couple of years. Mouse hadn't visited in years, and her father, now hospitalized with his own health issues, didn't adequately warn her.

Mouse's grandmother was a hoarder.

While working through the trash on the first floor, she finds her step-grandfather's journal. Much of it seems not just odd, but potentially crazy, until she starts to encounter the frightening things he wrote about for herself. These include creatures constructed of bones, animal hides, and other random items.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Southern Harm (Southern B&B Mystery #2), by Caroline Fardig

Random House Publishing/Alibi, ISBN 9781984800299, November 2019

Quinn Bellandini and her sister, Delilah, run their grandfather's B&B in Savannah, Georgia. Recently, they got slightly distracted, by investigating a murder at a local restaurant. But now everything will be back to normal, right?

Unfortunately, when Quinn and her boyfriend, Tucker Heywood, are digging Tucker's Aunt Lela a new firepit in her back yard, they find a body. Even more unfortunately, it turns out to be the body of Esther Sinclair, a neighbor girl who disappeared thirty years ago, right after her high school graduation. Worst of all, older, married Lela had several run-ins with Esther, because Esther flirted with every man she met, including Lela's husband, Beau Habersham. Esther being found buried on Lela's property does not look good, and Lela is quickly arrested for Esther's murder.

And despite Tucker not wanting Quinn and Delilah to do anything dangerous, as they did in the previous murder investigation, he very much does want them to find evidence that will get Lela out of jail.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, by Kelly Harms (author), Amy McFadden (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2019

Amy Byler is a school librarian at a private school in Pennsylvania, with two children (Corinne, 15, and Joe, 12), and a husband who went off on a business trip to Hong Kong three years ago, and decided not to come back. It's been a struggle, and it meant going back to work after not using her MLS degree for twelve years, but she has held everything together and provided a decent life for her kids--including the pricey private school her husband had previously paid for, by getting the librarian job there.

But it's been a struggle, and there's very little in her life except her kids and her work.

Then her husband comes back, and wants to spend a week with the kids. After some hesitation, and indeed resentment, Amy decides it's a chance to attend a librarians' conference in New York City, do a presentation on her program for making reading more attractive and less stigmatizing to kids with low reading skills, and spend time with her old friend, Talia. Talia runs a fashion magazine, and comes up with a plan: a makeover for Amy, and a rejuvenating week of fun, for which she creates the hashtag, "#momspringa."

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Unicorn Key (Realm of Light & Fire #1), by J.A. Culican & J.A. Armitage

Armitage & Culican, December 2019

Freya is living quietly with her mother and grandfather, on their farm. Five years ago, when she was just thirteen, her grandfather had a stroke and hasn't spoken a word since. He just sits in his rocker by the fireplace, rocking.

So it's rather a shock when two young people, a young man named Jet, with startlingly black hair, and a young woman named Opal, with pink hair. They want Seth, her grandfather, to go with them on a quest to recover the diamond that maintains the balance of dark and light. It's been stolen, and the dark is taking over.

Freya is very, very annoyed with these people, who obviously don't know her grandfather at all--until one of them mentions that Cassiopeia sent them. After not speaking and barely moving for five years, he wakes up. Cassiopeia, he knows. Cassiopeia, he wakes up for. He's not strong enough to go with them himself, but Freya, he says, has to. And he gives her a pendent he wears.

Freya can't refuse the request her grandfather makes the first time he speaks in five years.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bitter Pill, by Richard L. Mabry (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard L. Mabry, M.D., November 2019

An unlikely collection of people in Goldman, Texas find themselves facing life-changing choices, and reaching out to each other in unexpected ways.

"Brother" Bob Bannister is your basic fraudulent evangelical preacher, with a fake "healing" at the end of each Saturday night service. Then one Saturday, a woman bribes an usher and takes the place of the planted shill. And she is, apparently, healed, leaving her wheelchair behind as she dances down the aisle and out the door. Was it a real miracle, or an investigative journalist? Bannister finds either possibility about equally disturbing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

SIMPOC: The Thinking Computer (SIMPOC #1), by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Zachary Johnson (narrator)

Raymond J. Perreault, September 2015

SIMPOC is a new kind of computer, a computer with an organic processor. It can think. It's learning its abilities and about the world, accessing news sources and talking to its programmer. In particular, SIMPOC is tracking a disturbing new virus, that seems to have an alarmingly high fatality rate.

Then one day its programmer does not come in to work. Or the next day, or the next. Checking on other computers in the facility, it finds that other humans are not coming to work, either. Checking on the outside world via its news sources reveals that fewer and fewer people anywhere are taking any actions that make them visible to computers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Cowboy Like You (Heart of Texas #4), by Donna Grant

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250250049, November 2019

Skylar Long is fleeing her abusive boyfriend. More by instinct than planning, she's arrived in her old home town just in time for local sheriff and high school crush Danny Oldman to rescue her and arrest the boyfriend who has pursued her and finally caught up with her.

What she doesn't know, but they both soon discover, is that Matt Gaudette's wealthy and connected family has been covering up his "indiscretions" since he was in high school. Matt never willingly lets any woman go, and this time he's absolutely determined that either Skylar comes back to him, or no one else will get her--ever.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Two Good Dogs, by Susan Wilson (author), Christina Delaine (narrator), Fred Berman (narrator), Rick Adamson (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781427291257, March 2017

Skye Mitchell has bought a small hotel, the Lakeview, in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and moved her daughter, Cody, there from Holyoke. It wasn't planned that way, but events so develop that they make the move almost immediately after Randy Mitchell, Cody's father and Skye's ex-husband, is shot dead in a back alley.

It's six months later, and the Lakeview has turned out to be a money pit. A money pit with real potential, but a money pit. Skye is barely making ends meet while repairs and upgrades proceed slowly. And Cody, previously an open and loving girl, has become cold and withdrawn and increasingly hostile. Is it just an especially awful case of teenager-hood? No. In fact, Cody is keeping a terrible secret she has no idea how to cope with, and doesn't dare share with her mother.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Christmas Gathering (Christmas Stories #17), by Anne Perry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, November 2019

Lady Vespasia, now Lady Vespasia Narraway, since her marriage to Victor Narraway, former head of the Special Branch, wanted to spend Christmas with Victor, at home, with a few close friends over. Instead, they are spending Christmas at Cavendish Park, with a small group of social acquaintances, none of whom are really close friends. Lady Vespasia has known the hosts, Lady Amelia and Max Cavendish, for many years, but no, she and Amelia are not really friends.

So why are they there? Lady Vespasia is fairly sure Victor has another Special Branch assignment, though he isn't saying that. Victor, meanwhile, is troubled not only by the assignment at Christmas when he and Vespasia would rather be home, but by echoes of a similar assignment many years ago, relatively early in his career.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Murder Around the Bend (Stone County Justice #1), by John C. Dalglish (author), Steven A. Gannett (narrator)

JB Publishing, October 2019

St. Louis police homicide detective Dan Cutter has retired from that high-stress position to a rural life in Stone County, where his old friend is the sheriff--and an on-call job as the county's homicide detective. He's had a little time to get to know his new colleagues and neighbors, but is still "You moved here from St. Louis, right?" when a well-like businessman turns up dead near his truck some miles from home, shot to death almost execution-style.

Dan soon finds himself comforting the grieving wife and daughter, while he and his partner, Liz, a full time detective in this slower-paced community, start piecing together the evidence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Forgiven Friend (Friends #3), by Sue Feathersone & Susan Pape

Lakewater Press, November 2019

This is a hard book for me to review. It's the story of two old friends going through some variously rough and important times in their lives, and definitely some rough patches in their friendship. In alternating chapters, we get first person accounts from Lee and her friend Teri.

Lee is steady, responsible, thoughtful, considerate. Teri is impulsive, generally self-centered, never thinks she's at fault for anything. Even when she's trying to be helpful, she blurts things out--and that includes things she's been specifically asked not to share. Such as, blurting out to her ex-husband, now Lee's lover, Dan, the fact that Lee thinks she may be pregnant.

And then doing it again, to Lee's aging, conservative, Catholic mother, at the reception after the funeral of Lee's father.

The friendship between Lee and Teri is genuine and strong,and even when Teri is doing absolutely shocking things, she often thinks she's "helping." Lee also tries to help Teri make better decisions, in a less ham-handed, foot-in-mouth manner, but not always when Teri is willing to listen. And as one might guess from the fact that Teri's ex-husband has moved in with Lee, relationship issues often get a bit complicated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey (author), Xe Sands (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250227867, June 2019

Ivy Gamble, unlike her twin sister Tabitha, is not a mage. She has no magic at all. Ivy is a private investigator, and is almost getting by that way. And she enjoys it. She really does. And she is not the least little bit jealous of Tabitha, her twin sister, the mage, who teaches at a prestigious private high school for young mages.

Then she is asked by the head of that school to investigate the death of another teacher there.

Suddenly, Ivy is immersed in the life she could have had, if she had the magic Tabitha has. She's almost having double vision, the life she really leads, and the life she might have had. She and Tabitha seem to be edging towards reconnection after the long estrangement that followed the death of their mother. There's a handsome and charming teacher there who is interested on Ivy. Oh, and there's the murder case she's trying to solve.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Here and Now and Then, by Mike Chen (author), Cary Hite (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, January 2019

Kin Stewart is a time-traveling secret agent, charged with protecting us all against timeline corruption. Unfortunately, he's a time-traveling secret agent who got stranded in the late 1990s on his last assignment, and has had to survive the last eighteen years or so, while his memories of his past life, in 2142, fade. Or not really fade, so much as decay, because the human mind isn't built to remember two different lives in two different times.

He's become a computer network administrator, for an online game company. He has married Heather, a lawyer, and they have a teenage daughter, Miranda.

But it's all coming apart, as his mind loses even more of his memories, and he has crushing headaches, blackouts, and over-reactions. PTSD from his time in the Special Forces, he tells his family. But he refuses to get help, because he's afraid too much will come out.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Death, Divorce, & Dessert, by Kayla Michelle (author), K.M. Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Kayla Michelle, July 2019

One evening, Chloe Cook is at her parents' home, celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. She, they, and her boyfriend all hope that the recent spate of murders in their little Cape Code town is finally at an end.

The next morning, in her capacity as a makeup salesperson, she has an appointment with her friend, Emily Hightower, to show her the latest additions to the makeup line she represents. When she arrives, she's very surprised to find Emily's door slightly ajar, and Emily not responding the her knock, the bell, or even to Chloe pulling out her phone and calling. So she steps through that open door--and finds Emily lying dead on her living room floor, apparently stabbed to death.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide, by James Essinger & Sandra Koutzenko

The History Press, ISBN 9780750991919, June 2019

Dr. Frances Oldham "Frankie" Kelsey was a pharmacologist and physician who for many years worked in the New Drug Division of the US Food & Drug Administration. Born in Canada in 1914, she was graduating from college in the midst of the Great Depression, and getting a master's degree seemed a better choice than standing in bread lines. A year later, she faced the same choice, and went on to get her Ph.D. in pharmacology--and in the process connected with a professor who encouraged her, pointed her in new directions, and crucially, when the time came, connected her with an opportunity in the US. That embarked her on a path that led to her meeting her husband, Fremont Ellis Kelsey, also a Ph.D. in pharmacology, getting her M.D., and ultimately becoming a medical officer at the FDA.

So why do we care about a "faceless bureaucrat"?

Because Frankie Kelsey is the "faceless bureaucrat who looked at the NDA (New Drug Application) for thalidomide, and started asking questions and insisting on real answers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hexes and Other Hairy Situations (The Witches of Enchanted Bay #10), by Amelia Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Amelia Morgan, July 2019

Meg Walton and her mother Beth are witches running a magical bakery in the little town of Enchanted Bay. Beth's mother, Penelope, is now a talking cat. They've recently met another witch, Pamela. Oh, and Meg is engaged to a police officer, Connor, who doesn't know she's a witch.

Meg's father, Trevor, abandoned Beth before Meg was born, after Beth told him she was a witch, so Beth has always strongly discouraged telling anyone about their magical powers. But now Trevor has suddenly returned, with a favor to ask of Beth. A magical favor, at that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Space Invader (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mystery #7), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, October 2019

Larry and Frannie Shoemaker, Larry's sister Jane Ann Ferraro and her husband Mickey, are out traveling in their campers again, this time to New Mexico. Having stopped briefly for gas and snacks on the last day before arriving at the campground near Roswell, they acquire a hitchhiker they're unaware of, in the cubby where some of their supplies are stashed. When they arrive, they park and hook up their campers, and, completely exhausted, collapse immediately into their beds, and sleep.

When they awake, their hitchhiker is already gone, and they head out sightseeing. In a happy change of pace from their previous adventures, this time they don't find a body.

Someone else finds a body.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508266488, October 2018

Susan Orlean gives us a wonderful study of one library and its history, the Los Angeles Public Library, centered around the disastrous 1986 fire at the library and the investigation into it. And she takes this, and uses it to showcase the role and significance of libraries in our modern lives.

Woven through all this is Orlean's own love of books, and what libraries meant, in her life, and her mother's, when she was growing up, with Depression-Era parents who loved books but were frugal.

Friday, November 8, 2019

New Orleans Nightmare (Roxy Reinhardt #2), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, December 2019

"Evangeline's Guest House" is now "The Funky Cat Inn," co-owned by Sam, the mysteriously wealthy laundryman, and Roxy Reinhardt. Sam is the money; Roxy is the manager. Nat remains as the general help as well as gradually learning and taking over the cooking from Evangeline. Sage is doing their website and social media presence--rather more adventurously than for Evangeline, for whom this was all weird "kids these days" stuff.

Roxy, with help from Nat and Sam, have redone the Funky Cat inside and out, making its beautiful architecture stand out again, and the inside luxurious and comfortable. They're aiming for a higher-end market now.

Elijah is continuing to supply heavenly pastries from his bakery across the street.

Now Roxy has Instagram "influencers" coming to stay for a few days, to experience the new Funky Cat, and broadcast it to the world and all their followers.

It's too bad one of them dies of poison after going to bed on their first night at the inn.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Horrible Halloween Hazards, by Amelia Morgan (autho), Lori Katz (narrator)

Amelia Morgan, October 2019

Meg Walton, witch and bakery owner, and Connor Smith, werewolf and police detective, are hoping for a happy Halloween together. Unfortunately, the moon will be full the next few days, meaning that Connor will be spending the nights locked up in his cage, to keep his "mindless beast" form from doing any damage.

Also, two criminals he got locked up not nearly long enough ago, are now getting released from prison. One has served out his sentence; the other has gotten paroled, in Connor's opinion, far too soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (author), January LaVoy (narrator)

Hachette Audio, September 2019

In the early 20th century, January Scaller is a rather odd young girl, living in the luxurious mansion of Mr. Locke, a collector of strange artifacts. She sometimes wonders if she's one of those artifacts, but her father, Julian, works for Locke as a researcher and obtainer of those odd artifacts. Julian, it should be noted, because in this setting it's very relevant, is not white. He's very dark-skinned, but no one can place exactly where he's from, and he never says. He also has an accent no one can quite place.

January is lighter-skinned, and again, people have no idea how to categorize her. When she travels with Mr. Locke, she mostly more or less passes for white. On her own, no. She wants to be with her father, but he says it would be too dangerous. Mr. Locke is kind, but very much wants her  to be A Good Girl. Mostly she tries, but at root she's an adventurous girl, and smarter than is fashionable. Her only real friends are Samuel, the Italian grocer's son who does the deliveries to Locke House, and Bad, a.k.a. Sinbad, the dog Samuel gave her, that she was able to keep by means that become important later.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Maddow (author, narrator)

Random House Audio, October 2019

This is a fascinating and scary book about what the oil and gas industry has done, to the world in general, to Russia in particular, and in lesser ways to the USA.

Discovering the great natural wealth of large deposits of oil and natural gas ought to be a great boon to a country--and it can be. If it has a strong, functional government committed to the national welfare, not just the private wealth of the ruling class, it can be. Even countries that aren't at all democratic, such as a number of the Middle Eastern oil powers, have managed to raise the income, education, and health of much of the population, not just the privileged ruling classes.

But others haven't. Maddow first introduces us to Equatorial Guinea, and the complete lack of benefit to the economic lower classes there, while the ruling family and their friends rake in the billions.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Christmas at Ladywell, by Nicola Slade

Crooked Cat Books, November 2019

In a previous book, Freya Gibson inherited Ladywell, a ramshackle old house in the English countryside, that turned out to have a long connection to her family, family she never knew about. In particular, it's tied to a long line of strong women who held the family and the farm  together, and kept it a place of peace and healing.

Now, Freya is happily married to Patrick, and they have a little girl, Violet. But successful action/thriller writer Patrick has been in Los Angeles and Vancouver for months, working on the tv adaption of his novels. Freya has been working on redoing the cottage on the property to be rented out as a romantic getaway spot--after the holidays. Christmas is coming, and Patrick will be home, but first he calls and tells her he's got a deep-secret guest who'll be coming to stay in the cottage with another person, and can she please get it ready in time?

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Science Fiction Anthology V.1, by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Christopher M. Allport (narrator)

Audible Audio, July 2016

This is a collection of four short stories by Perreault. Two, "Progeny," and "Circle is Closed," got reworked a bit to become part of the fix-up novel, Progeny's Children. They're good short stories, and "Circle is Closed" has an extra kick at the end from being on its own as originally written. "The Greatest Host" is a fun little story for those of us who love dogs.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Killer Collection (A Collectible Mystery #1), by Ellery Adams/J.B. Stanley (author), Andi Arndt (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2016

Molly Appleby is a writer for magazine "Collector's Weekly," and her latest assignment is checking out a pottery kiln opening, a world her mother, Clara, is intimately familiar with. At the opening, she meets a prominent, arrogant, obnoxious pottery collector. An unpleasant encounter, but most of the people there are pleasant enough, and she knows some of them. She pick up information for her article, and also finds a piece of pottery to buy.

And then the unpleasant man collapses in front of her. 911 is called, but when the ambulance carries him away, the siren isn't sounding--he's already dead. The man was a diabetic, and is found in the autopsy to have had far too much insulin in his system. Accidnetal  overdoes, is everyone's initial assumption.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, by Stephanie Butland

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250217011, October 2019

Ailsa Rae was born with a three-chambered heart, and has spent her life with surgeries, drugs, and hospital stays to keep her alive. At 28, she's been waiting for a heart transplant for years, and now either she gets it, or she won't live out the year.

She gets it, and starts to discover what it's like to be a normal person, who can expect to live, if not a normal life span, at least one that has a few decades ahead rather than a few more weeks. This includes learning to take responsibility for herself and her decisions, in a way that previously she not only didn't need to, but truly couldn't.

It's harder than she expected, and not nearly the delight she might have expected. She needs to learn to separate a bit from her mother, Hayley, without permanently damaging the relationship of the parent who fought so hard to keep her alive. For the first time in her life, she needs to get a job--with no prior job experience to offer. She needs to find out what she enjoys doing, when walking across the room is no longer the limit of her ability to exert herself.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Carnival Row: Tangle in the Dark, by Stephanie K. Smith (author), Karla Crome (narrator)

Audible Original, October 2019

Tourmaline Larou is a student, an aspiring poet, and moderately well-connected. Her future looks promising, if not exactly brilliant, and she lives a pleasant life of studying by day and partying by night.

Then Vignette Stonemoss arrives, her new roommate. She's from a completely different background from Tourmaline and her friends--from the provinces, not the capital. The provincials are normally figures of fun to the elite that Tourmaline is at least on the fringes of.

Vignette upends both her emotional and her intellectual life. Both love and her creative juices are unleashed. Yet while love and poetry blossom, the world is darkening. War, crisis, and occupation arrive. The world of the fae is suddenly occupied by human soldiers.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Progeny's Children, by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Christopher M. Allport (narrator)

Ray Jay Perreault, November 2016

This novel is what we used to call a fix-up, previously separate short stories put together with some revision and interstitial bits to make one novel. I have no idea if that term is still in use with newer sf readers, who don't recall the era when selling short stories to sf magazines was the main way for a writer to build a career.

On Earrth, its residents are living peacefully and harmoniously, following the four laws, and pursuing the increase of knowledge. This last, as it happens, includes some genetic research on the creatures they call "the organics," that leads to the discovery of their own origins, with the previous inhabitants of Earth.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Hallowed Ground: The Mystery of the African Fairy Circles, by Paul Twivy

The Conrad Press, September 2019

Joe Kaplan, Freddie Wilde, and Hannah Chiang--one American and two British teenagers--arrive in Namibia due to their parents' jobs. Ben Kaplan is an anthropologist; Barbara Kaplan has been assigned by the hotel chain she works for to develop a new site; Ralph Wilde is the new British High Commissioner to Namibia; Helen Wilde is a doctor who will be working with AIDS patients; Li Chiang is a mining engineer employed by the Chinese government to develop a uranium mine in Namibia; Sarah Chiang is a special needs teacher who will be working at a local school.

Joe, Freddie, and Hannah are all enrolled at the same boarding school, and quickly become friends. On a school trip, they meet Selima van Zyl, daughter of Ilana van Zyl, a Namibian tour guide, and Darius van Zyl, son of an Afrikaner farmer who is "an entrepreneur" currently giving tours of the magnificent Namibian sand dunes. The four teens quickly become best friends, and adopting the title of Four Teenagers of the Apocalypse, they get interested in the Namibian "fairy circles," strange circles rimmed by drylands grass and completely barren within. Selima can tell them some of the stories of the various Namibian tribes about these circles, but Joe in particular wants to know what the truth is.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Christmas at Pennington's (Pennington's #3), by Rachel Brimble

Aria Fiction, September 2019

Elizabeth Pennington and her husband, Joseph Carter, have continued their remaking and revival of Pennington's department store, but their lives and the lives of their employees and friends are also continuing.

Joseph becomes even more distressed and frustrated over the never-solved murder of his first wife, Lillian, when another kind and charitable woman is killed in exactly the same circumstances--attacked while bringing food to the homeless.

Esther Stanbury, now married to Lawrence Culford, is pregnant with their first child together. Lawrence's sister Cornelia has left her abusive husband, David, taking her two children with her. She's now living with Lawrence and Esther, and working in the jewelry department at Pennington's

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Charles and Ada: The Computer's Most Passionate Partnership, by James Essinger

The History Press, ISBN 9780750990950, February 2020

While this is presented as a biography of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, his professional partner and collaborator, it's mostly about Babbage. One gets pretty far in before there's much about Ada Lovelace.

It's true that there was a considerable difference in their ages, and they met when he was a widower in his thirties and she was nineteen. By the time he met Ada Byron, later Ada Lovelace, he had built a working 1/7 prototype of the Difference Engine. After they met, they quickly became friends, based in their shared love of science and mathematics, and more gradually, dedicated professional partners. Ada Lovelace became an essential part of his work on the Difference Engine 2 and the Analytical Engine. But really, this book is mostly about Charles Babbage.

That said, it's a very interesting account of both the roots and the development of Babbage's ideas, including the seemingly unexpected role played by advances in weaving, most importantly, the development of the Jacquard loom, producing intricate and beautiful designs by means of punchcards.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Circle is Closed (Progeny #2)

Ray Jay Perreault,February 2016

Humanity managed to completely wreck Earth's environment, making it unfit for human survival. With no other real choices, a surviving remnant of the human race set out for a distant system where they seem to have a good chance of finding a habitable planet--and they succeed.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Understanding Complexity, by Scott E. Page (author, narrator)

The Great Courses, March 2019

This is a set of interesting, entertaining, informative lectures on the science of complexity.

Much of the world we live in consists of complex systems, inherently changing, always in motion, or, as the author says, "dancing." They can't be controlled, but if we take the time to understand them, we can influence them. Properly applied, this could help prevent financial crashes, or prevent or contain epidemic. It can help design buildings better designed to enable people to evacuate safely in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage, by Katie Ginger

HQ Digital, October 2019

Esme Kendrick thinks she's living her best life, with a job as food technologist on a popular cooking show, a handsome boyfriend, and amazing apartment in London.

Then she loses the job because she objects to the star claiming one of Esme's grandma's most treasure recipes as her own, and that same day, her gorgeous boyfriend dumps her for the woman he's been seeing behind her back. Since the amazing apartment is his, that's gone too.

Her friends help her get her stuff out, but unemployed now,, her only option is to go back home to Sandchester, and start rebuilding her life and career. Her parents give her the money they'd been saving for her wedding, and a guy she knew in school, Joe Holloway, is back in Sandchester as an estate agent, after a disappointment he doesn't discuss in Australia. He helps her find a small cottage she can afford for a few months, to avoid living with either her parents or her married sister. (Who are lovely people, but for reasons that quickly become clear, it wouldn't have worked.)

Friday, October 18, 2019

Sabrina Carlson Cozy Mystery Anthology, by Meredith Potts (author), Lil Dubuque (narrator)

Meredith Potts, April 2019

This is a collection of short mysteries featuring Sabrina Carlson, who owns a coffee shop in Treasure Cove, California. She has a good manager for the shop, which is good, because these days she spends a lot of her time helping her husband, police detective David Carlson, investigate murders in the town of Treasure Cove. And it really runs in the family; their daughter, Jessica, has gone off to the police academy in San Francisco, determined to be a police detective herself.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Omar Nelson Bradley: America's GI General, 1893-1981, by Steven L. Ossad (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

University Press Audiobooks, August 2019 (original publication November 2017)

Omar Bradley was one of the American generals of World War II in Europe. He was, quite literally, born in a cabin his father built with his own hands. His family was rather poor for most of his childhood--there were a few years of relative prosperity when his father was a newspaper editor, ended when he died.

But when he decided to try, with little expectation of success, to seek an appointment to West Point, he became his congressman's backup appointment. And then the other, primary choice didn't pass the relatively new West Point exams,and Bradley did. He entered West Point with the class of 1915. It was an iconic origin for a man who became an important World War II general, though being a quiet, relatively shy man, with a dislike for newspaper attention, he didn't get as much press as his classmates and colleagues--who of course included Dwight Eisenhower and George Patton, among other well-known World War II names.