Thursday, February 21, 2019

Dream with Me, Cowboy (Texas Matchmakers #1), by Debra Clopton (author), Cici Dee (narrator)

DCP Publishing, August 2018

Lacy Brown and her friend Sheri move from Dallas to Mule Hollow, Texas, to open a beauty salon. This little town isn't a random choice. The older ladies of Mule Hollow placed advertisements looking for women to move there and help revive their dying town by becoming potential brides for the men. The town is sadly reduced after the collapse of the oil industry locally cost them a large part of their former population, and nearly all the young families and unattached young women.

Lacy doesn't plan to be one of the brides. She's on a mission--a mission from God--to help the women who will come to find the right matches among the cowboys who currently have no one to marry.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Polaris Rising, by Jessie Mihalik

Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062802385, February 2019

It's the far future, and the Royal Consortium rules the universe. Okay, that's a bit over the top even for space opera, but bear with me. The three High Councilors, the heads of the Houses of von Hasenberg, Rockhurst, and Yamado are the ultimate powers. Ada von Hasenberg, as the fifth of six children of High Councilor Albrecht von Hasenberg, has no authority, and no real value except to be married for the advantage of her house.

Unfortunately for Albrecht, he raised his children to be smart, tough, resourceful, and strong, Ada has refused to marry Richard Rockhurst, and made careful, effective plans before leaving before Richard even officially proposed, and has been on the run under a variety of false names for two years.

When she finally gets captured by a mercenary determined to collect the bounty on her, she doesn't stop plotting. And when the mercs stash her in their only cell, along with their other high-bounty prize, Marcus Loch--well, it takes a while for them to get to not-quite-trusting each other enough to at least escape. We quickly learn that they are both genuinely smart, tough people with their own high standards of behavior that don't necessarily align with the standards they were taught.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Will Travel for Trouble Boxed Set #1 (Books 1-3), by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, February 2019 (original publication February 2015)

This is a three-book boxed set of the trouble Minnie Crockwell gets into as she travels the US in her RV. A former federal employee, exact role, or even department, not revealed to the reader yet, she has through careful saving and having started young, been able to retire early. She's in her forties. She's also divorced from John, whom she is still friendly with, and truth be told in love with. He's now the chief of police in a town in Colorado.

Oh, and she also has a rather unusual traveling companion--the ghost of an officer in the Corps of Discovery, a.k.a. the Lewis and Clark expedition, who died of a fever on the westernmost point of their exploration. The ghost, Ben, thinks she would be well advised to stop stumbling over dead bodies, and failing that, to just leave the investigation to the police, but he can't help helping her when she ignores his advice.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine who Outwitted America's Enemies, by Jason Fagone (author), Cassandra Campbell (narrator)

HarperAudio, ISBN 9780062675583, June 2017

Elizebeth Smith, a Shakespeare scholar, went to work for eccentric tycoon George Fabian, at his estate outside Chicago, in 1916. Her assignment was to assist another Shakespeare scholar, an older woman, in her project to prove that Shakespeare's plays were really written by Francis Bacon, and that Bacon had hidden secret messages in the plays.

At first Elizebeth assumed that these older, more experienced people must know what they were doing, and her failure to find the messages were hers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Connections in Death (In Death #48), by J. D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2019

As winter is starting to fade into spring, Dallas and Roarke attend a party celebrating Nadine Furst's winning an Oscar for The Icove Agenda. There they meet Rochelle Pickering, a child psychologist Roarke is hoping to hire for his new school and therapy facility for at-risk kids. Unexpectedly, she's there with Crack, the dive owner Dallas has become friendly with over the years and many past cases. Rochelle's family past--both father and a brother into drugs and gang activity--sets off her protective instincts for both Crack and the new school. Crack of course needs no one's protection, and Roarke has already screened her thoroughly, but Dallas, still fairly new at this "having friends" thing, can't help herself. Yet, with the father dead and the brother clean, out of the gang, and building a new life as a future chef, she has little to gripe about.

Monday, February 11, 2019

A Rebel at Pennington's (Pennington's #2), by Rachel Brimble

Aria Fiction, February 2019

Esther Stanbury is Elizabeth Pennington's friend, and the head window dresser at Bath's premier retail store, Pennington's, founded by Elizabeth's now-retired father. Elizabeth and her husband, Joseph Carter, have revived the store's image and future, and Esther's skills have been important to that.

Her other passion, though, is the suffragist movement. Raised as a suffragist by her mother, despite the objections of her father, the movement has split her from her father after her mother's death and her father's remarriage. She invests much of her off-work time and talents to promoting the cause, and, growing a little discouraged, is watching the growth of a more violent movement with concern.

At this point, she meets Lawrence Culford, standing outside Pennington's with his daughter, Rose, and his son, Nathaniel. Rose wants a cricket set; Lawrence is suggesting a doll. Esther plunges into the discussion.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

A Shot in the Bark (Extended Edition) (Dog Park Mystery #1), by C.A. Newsome (author), Jane Boyer (narrator)

C.A. Newsome, January 2019

In 2011, I found this mystery by a first-time author, set in a dog park--specifically, Mount Airy Dog Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I picked it up out of curiosity. It was a first-time effort, but basically solid. It featured interesting, likable characters, real dogs written by someone who knows dogs, and a pretty decent mystery that went some interesting places.

When I found Drool Baby, second in the series, a few years later, Newsome had grown and learned as a writer. Fewer rough spots. Greater depth. Still great dogs and a good mystery. And yes, the dogs survive. There are now six books in the series, and Newsome looked back at the first book, and decided it needed a revamp. It's well worth it.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari (author), Derek Perkins (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2015 (original publication 2011)

This is a history of humankind, or, as Harari makes clear, of Sapiens, because the other species of genus homo were humans, too. It's a fairly in-depth look at our cultural development from the first cognitively modern home sapiens about 70,000 years ago to our essentially complete dominance of the planet. He looks at our possible interactions with other human species, including the interbreeding revealed by DNA analysis, as well as the fact that, clearly, we're the only survivors, and what that might mean. The lives of hunter-gatherers, the agricultural evolution and whether or not that was a net benefit, and the major cultural and technological changes down to the present day get intelligent and opinionated analysis.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Murder in Hyde Park (DCI Isaac Cook #10), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, January 2019

An early morning jogger is killed in Hyde Park, in the center of London, and because of the hour, there are no witnesses. He's carrying no ID--not unusual for a jogger--and his phone, soaked in the Serpentine, takes a while to coax information from.

When they find a name, they gradually start to build a picture of a man with two identities, a male escort, a man called beautiful by everyone who knew him. His beauty attracted both men and women. His beauty plus his occupation and his distance sometimes caused conflicts.

And some of his customers were highly motivated to keep their involvement with him secret.

Was his killer a spurned lover? A jealous spouse? Someone who feared being outed?

DCI Isaac Cook and his team have very little to go on, and finding clues in this case is like pulling teeth.

Monday, January 28, 2019

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4), by Seanan McGuire (author), Cynthia Hopkins (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2019

One of the students at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children in Every Heart a Doorway is Lundy. She's unusual even by the standards of the school, in that she is aging in reverse, growing younger, at least in body, rather than older.

This is Lundy's story. Her world, the world she stumbles into through a doorway that shouldn't be there, is the Goblin Market.

It's a strange and magical world, and everything rests on a system of barter and the principle of Fair Value. The Goblin Market also allows people to go back and forth between their world of origin and the Goblin Market freely until the age of eighteen.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, by Randall Munroe (author), Wil Wheaton (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, September 2014

Randall Munroe is perhaps best known as the creator of the XKCD webcomic, and there's a good reason for that. With simple stick figures he gives us smart, funny, informative, perspective-altering, and did I mention funny?, explanation and commentary on science, math, life, romance, sarcasm, and language. But at that website he gets lots of questions, and What If? grew out of those questions.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

My Life Among the Underdogs: A Memoir, by Tia Torres (author, narrator)

HarperAudio, January 2019, (original publication February 2018)

I think it's fair to say Tia Torres, founder and head of Villalobos Rescue Center, has lived a varied and interesting life. She has, especially, known a lot of wonderful, challenging, and interesting dogs.

She tells her story organized around those dogs--Cougar, Duke, Moose, Lucky, and others, in California and in Louisiana. The rescue started as a wolf and wolf mix rescue, and the shift to pit bulls was gradual and almost accidental. Working with wolves and, as a trainer for the entertainment industry, with a variety of large and dangerous animals, she developed a confidence and an awareness of body language that helped her both to work with dogs, and to establish her reputation with the rescue community.

Friday, January 25, 2019

No Time for Love (Marrying a Marshal #5), by Natalie Dean

Kenzo Publishing, January 2019

Ida East is a young widow with a young daughter, running the boarding house her late husband had started--and then advertised for a mail-order bride to help him run it. Their business was a success, and their marriage was becoming a success, and then he died. It was one more loss for Ida, who has lived through too many, and now she wants no more risks and no more losses. She only wants to run her business, and keep her daughter, Adaline, safe.

Jake Cranston, until now a US Marshal in Dry Gulch, Texas, has just been transferred from Dry Gulch to Cypress Springs. He gets recommendations to go to the East Boarding House for lodging, and then nearly talks himself out of getting a room in the town's only decent boarding house, with his teasing and pushback against a woman who has learned to be strong-willed and firm.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Buried in the Fens (DI Nikki Galena #7), by Joy Ellis (author), Henrietta Meire (narrator)

Tantor Audio, March 2018 (original publication July 2017)

DI Nikki Galena, Detective Sergeant Joe Easter, and the team are juggling two murders--a recent, bloody murder of a prominent, successful, local businesswoman, and the newly discovered, unofficial grave of a man believed to have drowned himself thirty years ago.

It's not good, especially since they're understaffed--and moreover, Joseph is being stressed and distracted by his ex-wife, Laura.

The businesswoman, Madeline Prospero, was a member of a secretive drinking club, the Briar Patch, and this proves to be a problem. Many of the women are lesbians, and very prominent and well-connected--and still in the closet. Legalizing same-sex marriage didn't make sexism and homophobia disappear. Nikki is under orders to be very careful with all of them, and not to question some of them at all.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Killer at the Cult (Reverend Annabelle Dixon #6), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, January 2019

Reverend Annabelle Dixon is frustrated over her apparently stalled relationship with Inspector Mike Nicholls, and anyway, he's off at a police professional development training conference. While he's gone, she has sworn off sweets, and is concentrating on getting the children of her congregation ready for their performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

But something odd is going on in her little village. New people have appeared in the village, living in a large house that's been empty for years, and selling flowers, produce, and crafts. And they keep trying to talk to people about their beliefs--veganism, and the rituals of St. Petrie and Lord Darthamort. Her flock is very disturbed, fearing they may be a dangerous cult. Annabelle isn't at all convinced of that, but figures she should check them out. She drops by for a visit, is invited to stay for dinner--and afterwards is persuaded to stay for their bonfire and ritual. The ritual involves the men donning animal costumes and chasing the women, and she is soon running through the woods around the house--where she trips over a dead body.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3), by Seanan McGuire (author), Michelle Dockrey (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2018

Life at Miss Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children continues, even after one student murdered another, her sister took her away back through their door to the Moors, and new students have arrived. Two of the new students are Cora, whose door went to a water world where she was a mermaid, and Nadya, who went to a different water world, where she was a Drowned Girl. They were both in their different worlds, heroes.

One day, while they're out on the grounds together, a young woman named Rini drops from the sky into the school's pond, and demands to be taken to her mother, Sumi.

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Spies That Bind (Gallagher Girls 0.5), by Ally Carter (author), Rebecca Soler (narrator)

Audible Studios, June 2018

Twelve-year-old Cammie Morgan is about to start her first semester at her new school, The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. Her mother is also beginning there as the new Headmistress, after a career as a spy.

Oh, yes. Gallagher Academy isn't just any exclusive private girls' school. It's a training academy for future female spies, founded during the Civil War, after Gillian Gallagher prevented an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln. (No, not the one at the Ford Theater.)

Arriving at the Gallagher Academy is as stressful as starting any new school, for Cammie, and for her fellow first-year classmates. Cammie worries she's only there because she's a legacy. Her roommate Liz Sutton worries she doesn't belong because she's one of the few who isn't a legacy and neither of her parents has been a spy. Their other roommate is black girl from the UK whom some believe doesn't belong there because she's the first student ever who isn't an American.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt #1), by John Bellairs (author), George Guidall (narrator)

Recorded Books, February 2018 (original publication June 1973)

In 1948, Lewis Barnavelt is orphaned at the age of ten when his parents are killed in a car crash. His Uncle Jonathan becomes his  guardian, and Lewis takes a long bus ride to a small town in New York, where Uncle Jonathan collects him and takes him to his home at the top of the very well-named High Street.

But Jonathan Barnavelt is not your average bachelor uncle who has suddenly inherited his brother's son. He and his neighbor & good friend, Mrs. Zimmerman, are witches. Jonathan's house previously owned by Isaac Izard and his wife, Serenna, who were also witches--but not good witches. They're dead, but not entirely gone. There's a clock, with a sinister purpose, somewhere in the walls of the house.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Down Among the Sticks & Bones (Wayward Children #2), by Seanan McGuire (author, narrator)

Macmillan Audio, June 2017

In Every Heart a Doorway, we encountered Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, and the young people there who had stumbled through doors that shouldn't have existed, into worlds where utterly different rules apply. This novella is the story of the experiences of Jack and Jill, a.k.a. Jacqueline and Jillian.

They're identical twins, born to a couple who wanted children mainly for reasons of social standing. When they learned the pregnancy was twins, deeply, desperately hoped that the babies would be a girl and a boy, completing their perfect nuclear family in one shot.

But it's two girls. Jacqueline becomes her mother's designated Perfect Lady of a daughter, dressed in frilly dresses, and taught to be obsessively clean, and to never do anything adventurous at all. Jillian becomes the almost-son for her father, short hair, sports, getting dirty all the time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Fatal Fall (A Shandra Higheagle Mystery #8), by Paty Jager (author), Ann M. Thompson (narrator)

Windtree Press, January 2019

This is number eight in a series, so there is backstory for these characters that I don't know except for what I picked up in the story. This didn't create any problem in following this story; it just hints a more behind these characters than what's on the page here.

Shandra Higheagle is Native American, and sometimes has dreams that feature her grandmother sharing, in somewhat opaque fashion, information she may need. She's also a potter, with a growing reputation, and a craft show she's supposed to be selling her pottery at in a couple of weeks. It's really not convenient that she's sick, which is why she's at Dr. Porter's office, and finds out that he's had to rush home because something happened to his aunt. Shandra, incurably curious about people and odd events, decides to swing by there--especially once she realizes her boyfriend, Detective Ryan Greer, is also headed there.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus, by Bill Wasik (author), Monica Murphy (author), Johnny Heller (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, July 2012

This is a cultural history of rabies. Bill Wasik is a journalist, and Monica Murphy a veterinarian, and they've put together an amazing, and amazingly readable, account of the history, mythology, and science of rabies, the only disease we know that has a nearly 100% fatality rate.

Rabies kills, and while it's doing that, it drives is victims mad, with interludes of lucidity when they know what's happening to them. It also, though most of history, mostly reached us through the most familiar of our domestic animals, our dogs.

This is perhaps why rabies seems so tied to our myths of vampires and zombies.

Falling for the Marshal (Marrying a Marshal #4), by Natalie Dean

Kenzo Publishing, January 2019

Samantha VanHellen is living a privileged but very boring life in Boston. She wants marriage and children, but Charles, the man she once thought she'd be marrying, keeps behaving like he's courting her, and never quite proposing. She's closing in on old maid territory, Charles is also paying court to a much younger woman, and Samantha is tired of being treated as a brainless appendage by both Charles and her father. When she sees an ad for a mail order bride from Beau Tibbets, a man in Cypress Springs, Texas, she decides to respond.

Tom Wilson is a deputy federal marshal in Dry Gulch, Texas, but he's been sent to Cypress Springs to fill in for a marshal who is off visiting his wife's family. Tom is happy to get away from Dry Gulch for a month, because he's feeling increasingly harassed by a widow in town who is a very nice lady, but who is determined that he is going to be her second husband.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, by Candace B. Pert (author, narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9780743541398, September 1997

Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and discoveror of the opiate receptor, recounts both the intricate relationship between mind, body, and emotions, and her own career uncovering those connections and the neurochemical basis of them. Beginning her career in the early 1970s, gender was an even bigger obstacle than it is now, which no cultural or legal expectation that it shouldn't be. Sometimes she had to fight for recognition of her contributions; other times she had to fight to be able to do the work at all.

But along the way, she made major discoveries, and had life-changing experiences. The mind-body dichotomy was still unquestioned scientific orthodoxy in her early days. She doesn't say, but I will: Rene Descartes has a lot to answer for. Pert's work with neuropeptides and their receptors helps to rebuild the essential unity of the person, mind, body, and emotions, and uncover the connections between our emotional health and our physical health.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Cyteen (Cyteen 1-3) (Alliance-Union), by C.J. Cherryh (author), Gabra Zackman (narrator), Jonathan Davis (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, March 2012 (original publication 1988)

I will confess it up front. I love this book.

Yes, it's long. It was originally published in three volumes in paperback, in the late 1980s. That made sense from a physical size point of view; it doesn't make sense in terms of the story. This is, like The Lord of the Rings, a long, single novel.

It is, as another review commented, a murder mystery in which the mystery is never solved, and features a conspiracy which is partially but never completely explained. We don't get all the answers.

That's part of what makes it the fascinating, complex book that it is.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Her Second Chance Cowboy (Brothers of Miller Ranch #1), by Natalie Dean

Kenzo Publishing, December 2018

Ten years ago, Chastity Parker, tired of the pressure to just marry and have babies from her parents, and assumptions about her because she was half Native from others, left her small Montana town for New York City to pursue her acting dreams. Her visits home got painful enough that finally she stopped going home.

Now her father has died, and she's back, to help her mother cope with the funeral and get settled into the new phase of her life.

Unfortunately, her parents' financial situation is worse than she realized--and there's something wrong with her mother, too. Sometimes she's clear, focused, and lucid--and sometimes she calls Chastity by the names of long-dead relatives, and wonders when her husband will be home.

Also, one of the first people Chastity meets at the wake is Ben Miller, her old boyfriend, who broke his promise to come with her, and in the process broke her heart.

But from his viewpoint, she's the one who broke his heart. The only girl he ever loved left town for no reason he can understand.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In Dog We Trust

Berkley, ISBN 9780399584251, January 2019

No dogs die in the telling of this story.

Jocelyn Hillier and her mother live in an expensive, beachside summer vacation town in Delaware. They're not rich, though. They're locals, and run a laundry service for summer visitors.

And one day, Jocelyn is out for a run, and winds up saving a Labrador from getting hit by a car and killed. In the process, she meets both Peter Allardyce, owner of Carmen whom she has just rescued, and three other very expensive Labs, all of whom have prestigious pedigrees, and Christopher Cantor the Third, a young man both handsome and rich, as well as very charming.

Despite her mother's warnings against having anything to do with summer people, or rich people generally, Jocelyn is soon exercising Allardyce's dogs, and dating Chris.

Chris isn't the prize he seems, but on the other hand, elderly, misanthropic, and tightfisted, turns out to have a higher opinion of her than she had any basis for suspecting. She finds out when he dies suddenly.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

True Places, by Sonja Yoerg

Lake Union Publishing, ISBN 9781503904781, January 2019

Suzanne Blakemore lives an organized, busy life, with a devoted, successful husband, and two bright teenagers, a son and a daughter. She also has a round of volunteer activities that keep her far too busy to think about anything that may be lacking in her life, and only rarely leaves her alone long enough for a panic attack.

Then one day, feeling the demands of her life closing in, she drives off down a largely deserted highway, exactly the sort of thing she should avoid, and sees a young girl crouched by the side of the road. Suzanne stops, and speaks to her--and then coaxes the seriously ailing, underweight Iris into her car and takes her to the hospital.

Pretty much no one is happy with her about this, especially when she does not immediately lose interest in Iris after dropping her at the hospital. Her daughter, Brinn, thinks Iris is an excuse to ignore her. Son Reid also thinks Iris is a Project taken on to avoid other things, though he has a slightly better sense that it may be herself Suzanne is trying to ignore. Suzanne's mother Tinsley is appalled she's involving herself with a homeless person who can only reflect badly on their social standing. Husband Whit is at least somewhat concerned about what Suzanne wants, but really agrees with everyone else that it would be better to take no further interest. Besides, he's pursuing a big business deal...