Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (author), Lisa Flanagan (narrator)

Random House Audio, July 2018

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders. Wanda is the daughter of a local farmer, drunken and abusive, who borrowed six kopeks from Miryem's father, without any real intention to pay it back.

Because Miryem's father isn't a very good moneylender. He's far too soft-hearted to collect what he's owed when presented with a hard luck story. Miryem manages to take over the business, enforcing fair repayment plans on their unfriendly neighbors. With Wanda's father, this is Wanda's labor assisting first her mother in the house, and later in the collection of debts owed.

Irina is the daughter of the duke in the city where Miryem's grandfather lives, a wealthy man because he's a much better moneylender. She's the daughter of his first wife, descended from the Staryk, the fae-like creatures living in a kingdom of ice just out of phase with the kingdom of Lithvas. Irina pleasant-looking but not beautiful, and her stepmother has done the essential task of producing sons. We don't meet her until later.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Second Chances, by Scott Craig (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Scott Craig, April 2019

I have some mixed feelings about this book. It's historical fiction. It's suspense fiction.

It's a romance novel set, partly, in a concentration camp in the Second World War.

Inge Klein and Fritz Wagner are childhood friends, but she's Jewish. Fritz not only isn't Jewish; his dead father's cousin is ReichsfΓΌhrer Heinrich Himmler. And Himmler is very interested in Fritz's mother.

The story starts on Kristallncht, the November 1938 destruction of Jewish businesses and assaults on any Jews found out and about, in Germany and German-annexed territory. Fritz and Inge are fourteen. Inge's father Jacob Klein is a lawyer, and while his ability to practice had already been restricted, he's still out at his office when the violence starts on the evening of November 8. Fritz takes the risk of finding and bringing him back when he's late. Fritz finds Jacob, but he has already been badly beaten, and though they do get home that night, Jacob dies of his injuries the next day.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Fortune's Favors (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #28), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, April 2019

Mar Tyn eys'Ornstahl is a Luck, which isn't always a good thing, especially on Solcintra, where people know what it means. Things happens around Lucks; they're not always good things. Mar Tyn, for instance, has recently lost his home and his savings, suffered some serious injury, and brought harm on people he might previously have considered friends, and wound up in the bakery, school, and stronghold that is the home of Don Eyr and Serana fer'Gasta.

He's going to draw trouble on these kind people who have rescued him and treated his injuries, unless he gets away from them, and yet his Luck keeps drawing him back to them. Life in the Liaden universe is never easy, but it's also never dull. This is a great story that I enjoyed very much.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Murder by the Spoonful (Antique Hunters Mystery #1)

Vicki Vass, February 2016

Anne Hillstrom and her friend CC Muller are antique hunters, and CC writes a blog about their adventures at estate sales and other fun sources of antiques. Anne's Great-Aunt Sybil, collector of Viking swords and jewelry, has just died, and to the great frustration of much of the family, has left everything to a museum and named Anne as her executor.

Anne and CC attend estate sales and head off to flea markets on their weekends, while Anne is also busy being shocked that the greedier  members of her extended family want to challenge Sybil's will on the grounds that she was obviously suffering from dementia, or she wouldn't have left all her valuable, museum-worthy collection to a museum. She's also finding that her cousin Suzanne is being abused by her husband. In their flea market adventures, she also finds a ring that looks like it could have, and likely did, come out of her aunt's collection.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Emergency Case, by Richard L. Mabry, M.D. (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard Mabry, March 2019

Dr. Kelly Irving worries that she and her husband, attorney Jack Harbrough, have hit a rough patch in their marriage, because he seems to be acting strangely. Then one snowy morning in Houston, she backs out of their garage to leave for work, and her car is stopped by a dead body.

Not Jack. A recent client of his. And the man has been shot with Jack's gun.

Jack had taken him on reluctantly, to defend him in a minor drug possession case, the result of a clearly illegal search during a traffic stop. Unfortunately, the man had also blabbed about a big gun running deal he was involved in. Jack should have reported it to the police then--a clearly stated intention to commit a crime isn't protected by attorney-client privilege. He didn't, for fear of retaliation. Now, he has no choice.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut #1), by Mary Robinette Kowal (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2018

Elma York was a WASP pilot during the Second World War, ferrying planes of all sorts to where the US military needed them to be. When in 1952 a meteorite hits off the east coast of North America, wiping out Washington DC and other major cities, she and her husband Nicholas are on vacation in the Poconos, far enough north and inland that they escape the worst effects.

Nicholas is recruited as an engineer in the project to respond to the disaster. It takes longer for Elma, because it's the 1950s, but her PhDs in physics and mathematics land her a job in the project, too, as a computer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee

Dey Street Books, October 2018

Astounding was a vital part of science fiction's Golden Age, and its editor, John W. Campbell, a major, or perhaps rather, the major, driving force. He developed many new, young writers who became part of that Golden Age, but most notably three creative, often eccentric, often difficult men with whom he was both in partnership and in conflict.

This book is a serious look at their lives, their partnership, and their conflicts. Based on letters, memoirs, interviews, we learn a great deal about Campbell's formative years, as well as the other men's, and their interactions. None of them saw themselves only or even primarily as writers. Campbell's ambitions included being a great scientist, a great inventor, a leader on the path of world peace. What he became was one of the most important editors of  science fiction, as well as a major part of the founding of dianetics, until he and Hubbard finally split completely, and the transformation of the "mental science" of dianetics into the religion of Scientology began.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Milkman, by Anna Burns (author), Brid Brennan (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, December 2018

In this unnamed city in an unnamed country, which is nevertheless clearly a city in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Middle Sister has had the misfortune and the mistake of becoming interesting. This is not a place to be interesting. This is a time and a place to blend in and be just like everyone else in your district. Being different creates problems.

Middle Sister has lost friends, neighbors, and siblings to the Troubles, directly and indirectly. She has tried to shut it all out. She reads while walking--serious reading, including taking notes and underlining, while walking. She's seeing a guy she calls Maybe Boyfriend, because they aren't a fully committed couple. She doesn't gossip. And she becomes interesting to an older man called Milkman. Milkman is a high-ranking Renouncer, i.e., one of the anti-government paramilitary. He's married. Suddenly everyone thinks she's having an affair with him.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Degrees of Separation (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #27), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, January 2018

Don Eyr fer'Gasta clan Serat is unwanted by his uncle, the delm, after the death of his mother, but he grudingly accepts him because there's no alternative that doesn't involve loss of honor. He's left to the care of the House staff, and learns to cook and bake, until his cousin the na'delm returns from school. After some mild intervention, Don Eyr is offered his choice of school, preferably offworld, away from the delm. He chooses the Ecole de Cuisine, on Lutetia, and is accepted.

Twelve years later, he's a graduate, is teaching some classes there, and beginning to make plans for what he'll do next. He meets Captain Serana Benoit, of the Watch, after he protects one of his students from the unwanted attentions of a member of the Council, and becomes a target in his turn. They're making their own plans, when Don Eyr is summoned home to Liad by his delm, for reasons that prove to be less honorable than implied.

Friday, April 5, 2019

The Waiting Stars (The Universe of Xuya), by Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de Bodard, 2013

Lan Nhen, her cousin Cuc, and a mindship, The Cinnabar Mansions, set out to rescue, or perhaps merely salvage, another mindship, The Turtle's Citadel, lost years previously in a conflict with Outsiders.

Meanwhile, Catherine, Johanna, and other young Dai Viet women on the planet Prime, students at the Institution, are trying to learn to fit in properly in a culture they weren't born to. They are short and dark compared to the locals, and they struggle with memories they're told they don't have. They can't remember anything before about age three due to the traumatic events, they're told.

Gradually, we understand that Lan Nhen considers the Mind of The Turtle's Citadel her great-aunt, and Catherine remembers, dimly but increasingly certainly, a very different body than the one she now inhabits.

This is a very good, intriguing story, with an unexpectedly bittersweet ending.

Recommended.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again, by Zen Cho

B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog, November 2018

This fantasy story is a 2019 Hugo finalist for Best Novelette.

Byam is an imguri, a kind of magical, giant worm, and it wants to become a dragon. It studies The Way, it consults monks, it works very hard, and it keeps trying.

We see three attempts over three thousand years. Things are not going well for Byam.

For its last attempt, the disrupting factor is a human woman, Leslie Han, who looks up, sees it, and says, "An imguri!"

Byam is not inclined to forgive the sabotage. It sets out to find this new, unfamiliar kind of monk, and exact revenge

What follows is unexpected, strange, sweet, and in the end, completely satisfying.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Who Slays the Wicked (Sebastian St. Cyr #14), by C. S. Harris

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780399585654, April 2019

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has developed an unlikely habit of investigating murders in Regency London, but that's not the only reason Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy sends for him when dangerous and dissolute Lord Ashworth is found brutally murdered. Devlin believes, and seven months ago tried unsuccessfully to prove, that Ashworth was involved in a string of kidnappings and murders of street children, but that's not the main reason, either.

Ashworth was married to Devlin's headstrong young niece, Stephanie. She recently gave birth to twins, and their marriage had become a sham. Stephanie is living in Lindley House, Ashworth's father's home, not in Ashworth's home, where he lives his dissolute and alarming life.

Stephanie is one of the many people who plausibly had a motive to kill Ashworth, and she'd be a lot more acceptable to the Regent than accusing a member of the household of Grand Duchess Catherine of Oldenburg, in London for the upcoming meeting of the leaders of the allies against Napoleon.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Ruff vs. Fluff (A Queenie & Arthur Novel #1), by Spencer Quinn (author), Jay Aaseng (narrator), Rachel Jacobs (narrator)

Scholastic Audio, March 2019

This is a story aimed a younger readers, though its length may conflict with its cat and dog narrators in finding the right audience.

On the other hand, I really like Spencer Quinn's animal narrators, and he writes a good mystery, so, I may not be the only older fan of his adult mysteries that is ready to enjoy a somewhat simpler tale from him.

Arthur is a bouncing, happy, loves-everyone sort of mutt. He's not too smart, but he's very loyal, loves his family, and has an excellent nose. Queenie is a beautiful, elegant, intelligent, perfect cat. Just ask her! She'll tell you. She, too, loves the human family she and Arthur reluctantly share.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Disgraceful Lord Gray (The King's Elite #3), by Virginia Heath

Mills & Boon, April 2019

Lord Graham Chadwick, a.k.a. Lord Gray, was the younger son of a noble and titled family, in love with the daughter of their equally titled and noble neighbors. Then she broke his heart, choosing his elder brother. This happened as Gray was turning 21 and gaining control of his fortune. He didn't handle it well, managing to gamble away his entire fortune in a matter of months. He's now a member of a spy ring, the King's Elite, looking for the leader of a dangerous smuggling ring in quiet, rural Suffolk.

The evidence has led Gray and his comrades to Viscount Gislingham, whom they believe to be that leader, a.k.a. "The Boss."

Theodora Cranford is Gislingham's niece. She's an intelligent, strong-willed, often impulsive young woman, who is herself somewhat emotionally scarred. She and her father had shared a fiery temper, and one of her many arguments with him as a child had happened right before her father left on a carriage trip, in which the carriage overturned and her father died of a broken neck. Years later, after another argument, her uncle, Lord Gislingham, had a stroke. She now keeps Impulsive Thea locked up, and thinks every man is only after her considerable fortune.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Checking the Traps, by Joan Livingston

Crooked Cat Books, March 2019

Isabel Long, former local newspaper editor, now beginner P.I., is still recovering from her banged-up arm and ribs from her second case. She's still serving drinks at the Rooster Bar, though, and still interested when Gary Beaumont comes to her, asking her to look into his older brother's apparent suicide, six years ago. Gary has never believed it was suicide, but the authorities didn't take his doubts seriously. Apparently, small-time local drug dealers don't have a lot of pull with the police in small-town western Massachusetts.

What catches the interest of Isabel and her sidekick--her 93-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira--is that drug dealer Gary Beaumont's older half brother, Cary Moore, highway worker, not involved in Gary's business, was a poet.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Dreyer's English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity & Style,by Benjamin Dreyer (author, narrator), Alison Fraser (narrator)

Random House Audio, January 2019

English is a wonderful, expressive language, but can also be very tricky. That is both the fun and the torture of turning out good prose that will enlighten, inform, and entertain in the way intended, and in that pursuit, a good copy editor is essential.

Benjamin Dreyer has been the copy chief at Random House for more than twenty years. This book is, mostly, a lively chat about copyediting, the traps that await, making the book the best version of what the author intends, the importance of respecting the author's style even when some aspects of it are maybe technically wrong as long as it will be clear to the reader.

Oh, and the importance of doing so diplomatically.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Clarissa's Warning, by Isobel Blackthorn

Creativia, November 2018

Claire Bennett wins a lottery jackpot, and buys a decaying ruin on the island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, where she has been spending her vacations for years. It's her dream, but her Aunt Clarissa,a psychic, warns that her chart projects difficulties, loneliness and isolation, and possible dangers, if she does move to Fuerteventura. Claire is not a believer in the spirit world, and now that she is wealthy, rather than a Colchester bank teller, she's determined to live her dream. Off she goes to Fuerteventura, where she rents an apartment, hires a builder, and sets to work restoring her new home.

The former owner had intended to demolish it. The builder suggests that they use the stones to build a new, modern house. Locals believe the house, called Casa Basaro, is haunted. She meets a local photographer, Paco, who loves the building too, and tells her the story of another Englishwoman, 19th century travel writer Olivia Stone. But Paco, too, interested as he is in the project, also says it's haunted, and urges her to be careful.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder and One Man's Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder (author), Adam Grupper (narrator)

Recorded Books, February 2015

Bill Browder, grandson of the former head of the American Communist Party, and son of a prominent mathematician, as a teenager cast around for ways to rebel against his family. It took him a while to conclude that the obvious way was to become a capitalist, and a little bit longer to realize he had to put his considerable brains to work learning what he needed to know to do that. Once he did that, though, he overcame the obstacles he'd created for himself, and, in due course, wound up, by now a British citizen, the most successful foreign investor in Russia.

Then he started asking awkward questions about seemingly undervalued Russian companies, and what was really going on with them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, by Stephen Puleo

Beacon Press, November 2010 (original publication 2003)

In January 1919, an enormous molasses tank on the Boston waterfront burst, and unleashed a flood of molasses on one of the most congested sections of the city.

"Molasses flood" sounds like a joke. It sounds funny. It was January. We all know the expression, "as slow as cold molasses."

Twenty-one people died. 150 were injured, many of them very seriously, resulting in life-long crippling problems that either ended or seriously hampered their ability to work. Also, hundreds of working horses were killed by the molasses flood--some directly, some shot afterwards, because there was no way to extract them from the molasses before they would be suffocated by the weight of it.

Children died. Workers died. Houses, businesses, and the local fire station were crushed, shattered, knocked off their foundations and nearly swept into the harbor.

It was an enormous tragedy.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs (author), Eric Michael Summerer (narrator)

Tantor Audio, March 2019 (original publication 1969)

Bellairs is best known for his children's books, with an added boost recently from The House With a Clock in Its Walls being  released as a movie.

This isn't a kids' book. Not that it contains any inappropriate content, and there are undoubtedly kids who would enjoy it.

This book, though, is aimed at adults who will enjoy the wordplay, the humor that rests on familiarity with things kids the age of Bellairs' usual readers haven't read yet, being aware of who the "other" Prospero is and recognizing the name of Roger Bacon, and...but no. Wait. Kids would enjoy the transition from the comic beginnings to the terrifying opponent.

Friday, March 15, 2019

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls, by Anissa Gray

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9781984802439, February 2019

The Butler sisters--Althea, Viola, and Lillian--had a difficult childhood. Their mother died when Lillian was a baby. Their father was--difficult--and often absent on preaching missions. Althea became a substitute mother for the younger girls.

The only boy, Joe, was his own kind of problem.

Now they're all adults. Althea married Proctor, and they started a restaurant and had twin daughters, Kim and Baby Vi. Althea and Proctor became pillars of the community. Viola went to Chicago, became a psychologist, and married Eva. Lillian moved to New York, became an an interior designer, married Sam. And then she and Sam divorced, and she returned to Michigan. When Sam died, she took in his aged grandmother, Nai Nai, and as unlikely as it might be, they became a family.

And now everything is coming apart. Our first hint of this is that Althea and Proctor are in jail, awaiting sentencing, and the twins, Kim and Baby Vi, are staying with Lillian, in the home the Butler siblings grew up in.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, by Christopher L. Hayes (author, narrator)

Random House Audio, June 2012

America from our beginnings as a nation has always inclined toward what we now call meritocracy--the idea that talent rather than birth should be the major determinant of gets the jobs and positions that make society, business, and government run. It's an inarguable idea; no one wants their surgeon to be selected on the basis wealth and connections, or by the superficial "fairness" of a lottery. That would be foolish. And since the word was invented, and the formal tools started to develop, in the early part of the last century, the USA, more than any other major country, has fully committed to an utterly uncompromising version of meritocracy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Dangerous Collaboration (Veronica Speedwell #4), by Deanna Raybourn

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451490711, arch 2019

Veronica Speedwell and Revelstoke Templeton-Vane have come to an impasse in their relationship--each realizing their feelings for the other, and each believing the other is still too grieving and damaged by past events to act on such feelings. Hence Veronica heads for Madeira with Lady Cordelia for several months while Stoker continues cataloging and restoring the taxidermied creatures of Lord Rosemorran's proposed museum. When she returns, she finds she's still not ready to return to her previous, comfortable relationship with Stoker, and she leaps at the chance to go off with Stoker's elder brother, Tiberius, a.k.a. Viscount Templeton-Vane, to visit an old friend of his and acquire larvae of the rare Romilly glasswing butterfly.

While the butterflies and the offer of larvae is real, it's really just bait to get Veronica to accompany him, and to lure Stoker to follow them, thinking he's defying rather than accommodating his older brother.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal

Ballantine Books, January 2019

This is Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice through Pakistani eyes, and it's not just a simple copy with names of people and places changed.

Soniah Kamal is a Pakistani writer, who grew up in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere, received part of her education in the USA. Jane Austen was one favorite author, and she was stuck by the ways that these very English novels, written two centuries ago, reflected the core daily concerns of modern Pakistani life, and in many ways universal concerns: family, love, success, happiness, respectability, security.

Alysba Binat is like and not like Elizabeth Bennet, and while if you've read Pride & Prejudice, you know the basic outlines of her story, she's well worth getting to know in her own right. The other Binats and their friends and neighbors are also alike and not like, and the similarities and differences are both reasons this book is worth reading.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Terms of Enlistment (Frontlines #1), by Marko Kloos (author), Luke Daniels (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, January 2014 (original publication March 2013)

I really, really enjoyed this one.

Andrew Grayson is eighteen years old, living in public housing with his mom, and eating the reconstituted protein that is food aid in this future. He wants out, and the only real option is enlistment in armed forces of the North American Confederacy. Five years of service will get him five years of banked pay at the end of it, and might get him a shot at a berth on a ship to an offworld colony. So he signs up.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Wise Guy: Lessons from A Life, by Guy Kawasaki

Penguin Group Portfolio, ISBN 9780525538615, February 2019

This is Guy Kawasaki's fifteenth book, and this one is about his life--from Hawaii to California to Apple, to his own software company, other companies, back to Apple for a while. It's not a straightforward autobiography; he's conveying the lessons he's learned in an active life that has gone in many different directions.

For instance, before he connected with Apple, he had worked in the diamond industry. Sorting diamonds, and selling them.

Which makes a certain kind of sense.

A lot of what he has to say is, on the surface, basic. Work hard, pay attention to details, pay attention to people. Make connections. Follow your passions.

His telling of it is a lot better than mine, and comes to life in his stories of his life.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Hot Shots (The Scotland Yard Exchange Program #2), by Stephanie Queen (author), Meghan Lewis (narrator)

Stephanie Queen, May 2013

This is a fun little story. It really is. It's too bad that it's set in a Boston that doesn't exist, with major action--several sequences of major action--taking place in a Massachusetts Governor's Mansion that doesn't exist. Yes, that's right, Massachusetts is one of five US states that doesn't have an official residence for our Governor. This is trivially easy to find out.

Also, sorry, Ms. Queen, British knights are addressed as Sir Firstname, not Sir Lastname. Chauncey's father is Sir Bradley, not Sir Miller.

Yes, I am cranky about getting repeatedly kicked out of a fun story by the writer so insistently getting such simple things wrong.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

A Mind of Her Own, by Paula McLain (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Audible Studios, February 2019

In 1893, Marie Sklodowska, twenty-five years old, is studying science at the Sorbonne, one of the few universities in the world admitting women. Even Paris isn't especially friendly to women pursuing careers in science, and Marie is completely focused on her studies, convinced, with some justification, that romance can only be a roadblock.

Then she meets Pierre Curie, thirty-five, a physicist, with major accomplishments and possibly heading toward greatness. He offers assistance--better equipment so that she can work more efficiently.

And, soon, he wants to court her. He sees her as the partner he's dreamed of, a woman who can share his scientific work as well as family life.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Murder of Crows (The Twenty-Sided Sorceress #2), by Annie Bellet (author), Folly Blaine (narrator)

Doomed Muse Press, March 2015 (original publication August 2014)

Jade Crow, sorceress and game shop owner, is completely focused on preparing herself for the inevitable coming confrontation with her murderous ex-lover Samir--at least until her father Jasper, who threw her out of the Three Feathers Crow tribe decades ago, comes knocking on her door, asking for help. The Three Feathers Crow tribe aren't just Native Americans of Crow heritage; they are crow shifters. All the adult members of the tribe are crow shifters. They have to be. Those who aren't crow shifters get expelled from the tribe--permanently. That's why Jade was expelled; being a sorceress isn't an acceptable substitute for being a crow shifter.

But now, someone is killing the Crow. One by one, and horribly. The Council sent a Justice--Carlos, a lion shifter who is a friend of Jade's lover Alek, a tiger shifter and another Justice.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Dream Student (Dream Mysteries #1), by J.J. DiBenedetto (author), Heather Jane Hogan (narrator)

James J. DiBenedetto, July 2013 (original publication March 2013)

Sara Barnes is a college junior, a pre-med focused on her goal of becoming a doctor, with her life totally under control.

At least, until the dreams start.

Not her own dreams. She never remembers her own dreams. Suddenly, though, she's experiencing other people's dreams. Some are her friends and fellow college students, which does have its problems, but not nearly as alarming as the other ones, the dreams of the serial killer. The killer's face seems vaguely familiar, but the real problem is, she sees he face of the victim in the dreams, and after the dream where the man is driving around in a car, the girl whose face she saw is found dead the next day.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, by Andrew G. McCabe (author, narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2019

Andrew McCabe, at the time he Acting Director of the FBI, was fired on March 16, 2018, 26 hours before his scheduled retirement. The claimed reason was "lack of candor" in the Clinton email investigation. Even discounting McCabe's own account, it would appear that McCabe's "lack of candor" mostly consists of not being willing to pledge personal loyalty to Trump and support his preferred story in the face of the evidence, while not immediately rushing to say so while continuing to do his job properly, i.e., in compliance with the law, the Constitution, and FBI and DOJ policy, so that he could be more efficiently sidelined and forced out.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Alibis & Angels (Sister Lou Mysteries #3), by Olivia Matthews

Kensington Publishing Corporation, ISBN 9781496709424, February 2019

Sister Louise "Lou" LaSalle , of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Hermione of Ephesus, in Briar Crest, NY, does not really like being thought of as a sleuth. Unfortunately, she has twice recently had occasion to investigate murders. Now, though, the Lenten season is about to begin, and she's really, really hoping to give up sleuthing. She means it. For sure.

Even more unfortunately, Mayor Heather Stanley is receiving threats from an anonymous stalker, who is sending her ominous threats about what will happen to her if she doesn't announce she's not running for reelection, and leave Briar Crest. When the latest threat arrives in her office inbox along with the rest of her mail, Heather is feeling enough stress that she decides to ask her finance director, Opal Lorrie, to go to a Board of Education meeting in her stead. Because the weather is bad and Opal doesn't have her car with her, Heather loans her both her coat and her car.

Later that afternoon, two Briar Crest Sheriff's deputies arrive to inform her that Opal is dead. Just a tragic accident; a fall on the steps leaving the building.

Or not.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Beekeeper's Lament: How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America, by Hannah Nordhaus (author), Xe Sands (narrator)

Tantor Audio, May 2016 (original publication May 2011)

Bees pollinate plants that produce about a third of America's food supply, and while once the bees mostly were wild "volunteers," the European honeybee, the most reliable pollinator in North America, is largely gone from the wild. Agriculture relies on professional, commercial beekeepers, who travel with their hives to the fields and orchards that need them

It's useful to remember that the honeybee was never native here anyway. It came with the Europeans. The single most profitable crop that it pollinates is California's almond crop, which is also not native to North America. It's native to the Middle East and southern Asia.

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.