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.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Twice Blessed (Blessings of Love #5), by J.J. DiBenedetto

Writing Dreams, October 2019

Allison is a young widow, raising her 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, and running the bookstore her parents, now retired to Florida, founded.

Mike is the new science teacher at Lucy's school, her favorite teacher--and still feeling a little bit singed by his short marriage and rocky divorce from another widow with a child to raise.

Lucy has recently seen The Parent Trap.

Friday, October 11, 2019

A Typical Family Christmas, by Liz Davies

Independently Published, September 2019

Kate wants a happy, stressfree, family Christmas.

Unfortunately, she has two teenage daughters, a son on the edge of being a teenager too, a husband who is stressed at work and thinks her part-time job plus three kids who need to be supervised, fed, and ferried everywhere is easy and stress-free, a mother-in-law who after twenty years still thinks Kate isn't good enough for her son and makes snide comments whenever she visits, and a mother who "hates Christmas." And who says so constantly at Christmas time.

Most years, only her mother-in-law comes for Christmas. This year, her mother his coming, too. And along with everything else, the two mothers hate each other.

Her mother-in-law, Helen, normally arrives on Christmas Eve, but her mother, Beverly, has decided that she will arrive five days early. When Helen finds out, of course, so does she.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Mardi Gras Madness (Roxy Reinhardt #1), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, September 2019

Roxy is living a safe, no-risks life in Cleveland, working a dull but reliable call center job, and living with her boyfriend. Or so she thinks.

But she feels bullied by her co-workers, and one day, after a really difficult customer complains to her boss, she gets indefinitely suspended from it. Then she arrives home to find that her boyfriend has moved out, leaving her for another woman. While reeling from the cumulative events, she sees an ad on tv touting the pleasures of going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.

Never-impulsive Roxy has reached her breaking point. In short order, she and her cat Nefertiti, are on their way to New Orleans, to stay in a guesthouse called Evangeline's. 

It's not long before Evangeline and the regulars at her guesthouse--Nat, the young woman who helps with the cooking, cleaning, and general care of the guests; Elijah, who runs the bakery across the street; Sage, who does the guesthouse's website; Sam, who runs the laundry that handle the guesthouse's laundry as well as providing handyman services. There's also another guest, Louise, who seems nice enough, but also hung up on Sam to a degree that Sam clearly finds unwelcome and embarrassing.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

50 Dinosaur Tales: And 108 More Discoveries From the Golden Age of Dinos, by Sabrina Ricci

I Know Dino, October 2019

This book is organized in sections, one for each continent, with stories and facts about a selection of the dinosaurs found on that continent. Each section contains several brief stories about a probable typical day in the life of a member of that species of dinosaur, based on what we know about it and its environment, followed by basic facts about that type of dinosaur. After several such stories plus facts, each section has several "just the facts" summaries about additional dinosaurs from that continent.

I think I am not the intended audience for this book. With the title, I was expecting mostly narrative story-telling, and whether it was narrative accounts of what we think we know about the dinosaurs, or narrative accounts of the scientists and expeditions that discovered the dinosaurs, didn't really concern me. Either can be extremely interesting. Instead, while there are narrative, unavoidably somewhat speculative but well-grounded in known facts, stories about the dinosaurs, they're fundamentally just brief intros to the recitation of facts about those dinosaurs. There are no real accounts of the discovery and identification of these dinosaurs, and mentions of the people who did the discovering is largely limited to explaining the genus and species names.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

My Lost Family, by Danny Ben-Moshe (author, narrator), Dasha Lisitsina (author)

Audible Original, October 2019

This is the true story of a family turned upside down by the reappearance of two children who disappeared forty years previously.

Lillian was a young girl growing up in a Yiddish-speaking East London neighborhood when she met handsome, charming Raymond. He was twenty and she was fifteen, when she got pregnant with their first child, and they immediately married. When they wound up living in the tight quarters of Lillian's parents'  apartment with their two young children, it breaks what was never a well-advised marriage to begin with. For a while, Raymond showed up most Sundays to pick up the two children and take to them to the park or someplace else. Then, one Sunday, he picked up the children and never returned with them. Forty years later, in the mid-90s, Lillian received a letter from her daughter with Raymond, Michelle.

Monday, October 7, 2019

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxiety, by Sarah Wilson (author, narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780062847270, April 2018

This is a really excellent book about living with anxiety.

The author is not a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or any other kind of medical professional. She's an author and journalist, and a woman who lives with chronic anxiety. Over a lifetime of dealing with it, she became interested in understanding what it is, where it comes from, and history of treatment for it, including the fads and fashions that affect medical treatment.

Some of what she has to say may strike some as borderline woo-woo, but she's very clear about talking to medical professionals knowledgeable on the subject to ensure that known of her advice is safe, and the importance of medical support when you're going off medication.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Jagannath, by Karin Tidbeck (author), Kirsten Potter (narrator)

HighBridge, ISBN 9781684410712, February 2018

Karin Tidbeck is a Swedish fiction writer who writes in both Swedish and English, and does her own translations in both directions. In her afterword, she talks about both the challenges and the benefits--the concepts that can't really be translated, the ones that can't quite be translated, but don't add anything but an extra stumble for the reader who doesn't speak that language, the insights you can get by coming at a language from the outside.

She also talks about the experience of reading all of H. P. Lovecraft's work, more or less nonstop.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Cursed, by Thomas Wheeler (author), Frank Miller (artist)

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ISBN 9781534425330, October 2019

I tried to like this book. I really did.

It's an Arthurian story in which Things Are Different, and the Sword that empowers the True King has gone to Nimue--designating, instead, a True Queen.

I ought to love this.

There are a whole range of Fey peoples, of different types and features and magic. Nimue is one of them.

I ought to love this.

Nimue and Morgan and others are interesting characters.

I ought to love this.

Unfortunately, the bad guy characters are stereotypically, cartoonishly evil. It renders them unbelievable and, in my opinion, not worth the reader's time.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez (author, narrator)

Blackstone Publishing, ISBN 9781982699383, June 2019

We live in a world driven by data, an ocean of data that in theory should enable us to make much better decisions. Yet, to a truly frightening degree, that data leaves out half the human race--the female half.

One way is, of course, in medical studies. For a long time, women weren't included at all. Only men were included in medical studies, and it was just assumed that of course the same data, at least when adjusted for weight and height, will apply to women. Yet the reason women aren't included in studies is because women's bodies are different, and in some ways more complicated. It's bizarre that no consideration is normally given to whether this might mean that drugs and treatments might affect women differently.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Six Years Too Late (DCI Isaac Cook #11), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, September 2019

When the body of a murdered man is found on the top floor of an empty house, DCI Isaac Cook and his team have many questions.

The dead man is Marcus Matthews, who disappeared six years ago. died then, after sharing a bottle of wine with the person who then shot him. It looks like that last evening went exactly as planned.

And Marcus Matthews was the son-in-law of Hamish McIntyre, prominent local organized crime boss. The one thing McIntyre loves in this world is his daughter, Samantha Matthews. McIntyre couldn't have killed Matthews, in part because he had a broken leg at the time and couldn't have reached the top floor. Did he order it? Was someone else behind it?

As they start digging, they start finding links to other cases, one going back twenty years, and yet nothing provides the evidence they need. When new deaths start happening, they know they have a major problem.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar (author), Max Gladstone (author), Cynthia Farrell (narrator), Emily Woo Zeller (narrator)

Simon Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508207056, July 2019

This is a wonderful, complex, beautifully constructed novella, a love story between two operatives from opposite sides of a time war.

Red, we gradually learn, is an operative of the side that's building a technologically advanced future culture. Blue is an operative of the side that relies on biological science, the side that is called Garden. They encounter each other, at a distance at first, as they work on their respective assignments, increasingly assigned--as the best operatives each side has--to undo each other's work.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Surgeon's Choice, by Richard L. Mabry, MD (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard L. Mabry, MD, March 2018

Dr. Ben Merrick and his fiancé, Rachel Gardner, a nurse at the same hospital where Ben is a surgeon, are planning their wedding, and a bit frustrated by the fact that her mother won't attend if her father is there.

Yet Ben is having other problems. A more senior surgeon is trying to make trouble for him at the hospital, get him put under pretty restrictive supervision. That's been unsuccessful, but there have also been numerous, small, annoying, potentially dangerous incidents which are starting to seem to be not mere coincidence.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Marriage & Murder (Rosewood Place #3), by Ruby Blaylock

Ruby Blaylock, September 2019

Annie Richards is continuing the renovation and updating of her beautiful Rosewood Place inn. The latest addition to the amenities is the renovation of the barn into an events location--and the first such event will be her own mother, Bessie's reception following her wedding to Emmett Barnes, the newly-retired local Chief of Police.

But Bessie's friends include the Wimpole sisters, Delilah and Della, and Emmett's include Earl Munsey, Delilah's ex-husband, now married to Darlene. Earl and Emmett are fishing buddies from way back, but Earl is a drinker and a gambler and a bit crude, so Annie is not the only one who has difficulty seeing how the two men,so different, have remained friends.

That Delilah hates her ex-husband and her sister Della seems to hate him even more than she does, doesn't make the rehearsal dinner, a few days before the wedding, any easier. Then Earl suddenly has what appears to be a heart attack, and dies, during the dinner. Except it's not a heart attack; he was poisoned, with arsenic.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules, by Karen Karbo (author), Bernadette Dunne (narrator)

Blackstone Publishing, November 2018

This is a celebration of notably difficult women, women who do what they choose rather than what's expected. In most cases, of course, they don't do anything that wouldn't be perfectly acceptable in men, but as we all know, the rules are different for women. We're supposed to be nice, and cooperative, self-effacing--not independent, ambitious, strong, or inconvenient.