Monday, June 17, 2019

Birdie & Jude, by Phyllis H. Moore

Phyllis H. Moore, March 2018

Birdie Barnes is a middle-aged woman living in her family's longtime home near the beach in Galveston. Her only surviving family is her nephew, her brother's son. Her parents, her brother and his wife, and even their other son, have all died over the years. Her nephew lives in Houston now, but he comes back every month to see her and take her to church, and make sure she's all right.

Now, though, there's a hurricane bearing down on Galveston, and she's taking her dog, Ollie, out for a walk for what's likely to be the last opportunity till after the storm is over. And on this walk, they find a young woman, Jude, lying in the sand, with blood in her hair and on her clothes from obviously recent but not fresh injuries, and it's a challenge to get her to agree to get up and move even though the tide is coming in and the storm is approaching. Once home, she persuades Jude to shower, let Birdie put her clothes in the wash, nap, and eat a meal.

And talk.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Will Travel for Trouble #7-9, by Minnie Crockwell (author, narrator)

Bess McBride, June 2019

Minnie Crockwell and her ghostly companion, Ben, are on the road again, this time headed for warmer climes as the winter months arrive. Their first stop is Tombstone Tommy's RV Park, the nicest RV park near Tombstone, Arizona.

When they head into Tombstone with Kathy Swanson, another woman staying at the RV park, they watch a "Shootout at the OK Corral" reenactment that goes horribly wrong. And everyone in the reenactment group seems to have had a possible motive for killing the reenactor who was shot with a real bullet instead of a blank.

Minnie's ex, John, continues to email her, with increasing hints that he might want to renew their relationship. Minnie is both interested, and feeling guilty, because, of course, her major problem with Ben is not that she doesn't want him in her life, but that, being a ghost, he doesn't have any physical presence.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1), by Rebecca Roanhorse

Saga Press, ISBN 9781534413498, June 2018

Earthquakes, global warming, and rising waters--the Big Water--have done a job on most of the world, but Dinétah, formerly the Navaho reservation, has been reborn. It's not paradise, but behind walls both built by humans and remade by Diné gods, Diné culture lives.

This includes Diné gods and monsters once again walking the land.

Maggie Hoskie is a Diné monsterhunter, taught by Neizghάni, one of the Diné immortals, now abandoned by him, and struggling along on her own. When a village sends for her to kill a monster and recover a little girl the monster stole, because Neizghάni seems to have abandoned everyone, she goes. She can't save the girl, but she does kill the monster, and take its head.

Deeply disturbed by this particular monster, she takes the head to Tah, an old medicine man who, unlike most people, likes her. This is the real start of her troubles. Or her real troubles started years ago, when Neizghάni rescued her from the monsters that killed her grandmother.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ayiti, by Roxane Gay (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2018 (original publication October 2011)

This is a collection of short stories about Haitian women, in Haiti and in the US. It's read by the author, who has a wonderful voice--in both senses.

The background and experience behind these stories is unfamiliar to me and therefore sometimes confusing. Yet the more I listened, the more grounded I felt and more open to enjoying the next story. These are stories of life in a country and setting very different from my own, and stories of an immigrant experience both like and unlike my grandparents' immigrant experience in the first part of the 20th century. They're stories very well-told, and they drew me in.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Coffee & Cigarettes: Pulp-Noir-Short Stories, by Eric Leckey (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Eric Leckey, May 2019

This is, as the subtitle suggests, a collection of short stories recalling the tone, style, and subject matter of film noir and the pulp hardboiled detective and crime fiction that it grew out of it.

These stories are competent and serviceable in their way, set in the same era and capturing the tone and attitude perhaps a little too well. The times, social setting, and social mores of the noir era are what one would expect of the stories and characters, but there's no apparent awareness that the readers, a century later, might not. That might be a deliberate choice. I think it's a weakness; there could have been greater depth to the stories if the distance between readers and characters were in some way acknowledged.

Monday, June 10, 2019

The Belles (The Belles #1), by Dhonielle Clayton (author), Rosie Jones (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, February 2018

In the land of Orleans, everyone is born gray, and plain, and only the Belles and their arcana can make people beautiful.

And being beautiful is the most important thing for everyone in Orleans.

Camilla Beauregard and her sisters, the new generation of Belles look forward to going to the palace. Each dreams of being the Favorite, the Belle who will live in the Palace and serve the Queen and her Court. Yet when they arrive, they discover that life at the Palace is no bed of roses. There is intrigue and danger at every turn, and you can't tell who is an enemy, and who, if anyone, is a friend.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Shout of Honor (Adventure in the Liaden Universe #29), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, May 2019

It's shortly after Clan Korval was evicted from Liad, and relocated to Surebleak. Reverberations are still running through inhabited space, and the Yxtrang Ambassador, Commander Vepal, stumbles across one of them on Inago Station, where a military job fair is in progress.

The hiring agent is Perdition Enterprises, who won't reveal any information at all without a signed NDA. That's not normal, and it's disturbing, but they are, without specifics, promising competitive pay and excellent profits, so quite a few have signed that NDA, and signed on to the contract.

Yet some who have done so are clearly worried.

The recruiting agents are Liaden, which might mean anything or nothing. Except Liadens can write very tricky contracts.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Spellbound & Starcrossed (Suburban Witch Mysteries #5), by Ruby Blaylock

Ruby Blaylock, June 2019

Seneca Wolfram's beloved dog, Alistair, has suddenly turned into a handsome young man.

And it was her missing father, Viktor Voltaire, who had given Seneca her dog, who had originally turned Alistair from young man to canine.

Viktor has not lived an entirely blameless life, and in fact is supposed to be serving a long prison sentence for crimes both magical and financial. These crimes included involvement with the maestrioso, the magical mafia. and Alistair is the son of Alexander Orlikov, a leading maestrioso whom Viktor insists was really a good guy, and who was murdered.

Viktor turned the then teenage Alistair into an English bulldog, and gave him as a pet to daughter Seneca, also a teenager at the time. He also put a binding spell on them so that they can't ever be too far apart. Shortly after that, he was convicted of his crimes, and went into hiding rather than going to prison. Now the transformation spell has worn off, Alistair is human again, and the maestrioso know that he's alive.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson

Tor.com, March 2018

In a future, post-ecological disaster and economic collapse Earth, Minh is part of the first generation to move back to the surface from the underground refuges humanity built to survive, and has spent her career doing river ecosystems. Unfortunately, funding for that work has now dried up, following the invention of time travel. The main uses of time travel are tourism and historical research, but now, at last, there's a proposal to use it for past-state research on the Tigris and Euphrates river system. Minh jumps at the chance, putting together a small but very capable team.

It wouldn't be right, exactly, to say everything goes horribly wrong.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Binti: The Night Masquerade (Binti #3), by Nnedi Okorafor

Tor.com, ISBN 9780765393135, January 2018

I previously read and reviewed the first two Binti novellas,
Binti and Binti: Home.

With the Khoush heading for Osemba intending to kill Okwu and restart the war with the Meduse, Binit is also rushing home from her stay with her father's people, the Enyi Zinariya, because her newly activated abilities, both Meduse and zinariya, tell her that her family is in immediate danger. Binti is struggling to learn about herself, even as she needs to learn about secrets not just from her father's people but the secrets of her own Himba people.

And she needs to do it even when she arrives to find her family's home burned with them inside, the Khoush having restarted the war with the Meduse, and the Himba council reluctant to play any part in trying to end it even though they'll be caught in the middle and be crushed, too.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Rage, by Rebecca Traister (author, narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, October 2018

This book was, in some respects, hard to listen to. Early sections of it plunged me right back into what I was feeling in late 2016 and early 2017, and those were not good feelings.

It is, though, a very good, enlightening, informative, and useful look at the women's movement, and its roots and antecedents. Traister examines the ways in which women's anger is both dangerous and useful--and even healthy, which is not something many sources will say about anger. Yet we do know that bottling up anger with no outlet is unhealthy, and it should be obvious that finding useful and productive outlets for it can only be good for us.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Binti: Home (Binti #2), by Nnedi Okorafor

Tor.com, ISBN 9780765393104, January 2017

This is the second novella in Okorafor's Binti trilogy; I previously reviewed the first, Binti.

Binti has been at Oomza Uni for a year, studying mathematics while her Meduse friend, Okwu, studies weapons technology. Binti, of course, is now partly Meduse herself, with her hair replaced by tentacles that leave her permanently connected to the Meduse. On the one hand, she's truly enjoying her education and her life there. On the hand, she's still suffering from PTSD and experiencing panic attacks, after the traumatic events on the ship The Third Fish that brought her to Oomza.

She's also intermittently experiencing rages that she barely contains, and that, as a master harmonizer, are simply wrong. She fears she's broken something within her by leaving her home in defiance of the customs and wishes of her people.

So she decides that, at the end of the term, she needs to go home, and go on pilgrimage with other Himba women. She also decides to bring Okwu with her.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson (author), Rebecca Soler (narrator), Jonathan Davis (narrator), Marc Thompson (narrator)

HarperAudio, October 2016

Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a grudge: He was in training to be a hero when his good friend, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, treacherously blasted his arm. He was deemed excess to requirements by the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, and assigned to be a villain, while Goldenloin went on to become the beloved hero.

Blackheart used to have henchmen, but the Institution paid them off. He's never had a sidekick, so he is quite surprised when Nimona, apparently a cute young girl, shows up saying that the Institution has assigned her to be his sidekick.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Black Crow, White Snow by Michael Livingston (author), Janina Edwards (narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2019

Bela is shipmistress of the Sandcrow, leading her ship and crew on a mission to find possible power to save their people from conquering, destroying foreign forces. That mission has taken them to the far north, and Sandcrow is now trapped in ice.

That's bad enough. But then a bear attacks and kills some of the crew, and then the ice moves and crushes the hull of the ship.

They're down to seven survivors, one of whom is a man, the Reader, their scholar who knows the most about where they were headed and what they're seeking.  Because this is audio only, I'm not sure of all the names, especially the spellings, but the Reader's name is something like Tuorog, sometimes called Tu.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Black God's Drums, by P. Djeli Clark

Tor.com, August 2018

Young teen Creeper, a.k.a. Jacqueline, is making her living as a thief in Free New Orleans, some decades after a Civil War that didn't end quite the way ours did. She has thus far resisted her late mother's former madam's attempts to send her to school, though she doesn't reject the occasional hot meal and safe place to sleep.

But one night she is watching the airship dock from her favorite hidey-hole when a Haitian scientist meets with some Confederate soldiers, promising them "Shango's Thunder" is exchange for "my jewel."

This is big news, and possibly disastrous for New Orleans. "Shango's Thunder is the weapon Haiti and the Free Islands used to keep their independence. It would be a disaster for New Orleans if the Confederates get it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Deadly Art of Deception (Caribou King Mysteries #1), by Linda Crowder (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Audible Audio, August 2017

Caribou King, a.k.a. Cara, runs the  Broken Antler Art Gallery in Coho Bay, Alaska, and cruise ship season is the only season that matters, business-wise. When old college friend Taylor Snow, shows up, she's happy to put her to work, but also puzzled. Taylor had married local artist Jonathan Snow, but when he was killed by a bear two years later, she had left, heading south to Seattle.

Why is she back?

Given the lack of local ties other than Cara, and the hostility of Jack, her former father-in-law, it seems a bit strange.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Smitten by the Brit (Sometimes in Love #2), by Melonie Johnson

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250193056, May 2019

English professor Bonnie Blythe is happy, engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart, and helping her friend Cassie to plan organize her upcoming wedding to Logan, the hot Scotsman whom she met when Bonnie, Cassie, and their friends took a magical UK vacation the previous summer.

Then Bonnie goes home unexpectedly early from a theater event, and finds her fiancé in their bed, on her grandmother's quilt, having sex with another woman. She's stunned, outraged--and sadly aware there were signs she maybe should have noticed.

Meanwhile, Logan's friend and best man for his wedding with Cassie, Theo Wharton, is in town. They'd all met Theo, too, on that UK vacation. He's a handsome and charming guy, but at the time, Bonnie was happily engaged. Now she's not.

Theo's almost irresistibly attractive, but Bonnie doesn't want to make the mistake of a rebound romance. And besides, he's going back to the UK in a few days.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism, by Naoki Higashida (author), KA Yoshida (translator), David Mitchell (translator)

Random House, August 2013

Naoki Higashida is a Japanese boy with autism, a boy who has real problems with spoken language, and therefore seemed completely shut in and non-communicative.

But due to his own determination and his parents', he learned to communicate using an alphabet grid and a computer. With tools he can use, he is anything but "non-communicative."

This book, written when he was thirteen, is one of the longer-term results. He talks about what autism is like from the inside, and what millions of parents would like to know: what things really help him master his own behavior, understand the rest of us, and what helps him communicate.

Inside that silent, often seemingly unresponsive exterior, is a smart, capable, well-spoken young man.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Case of the Pretty Lady (Inspector Graham #6), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, May 2019

Inspector David Graham and Gorey's new librarian, Laura, are attempting to date, but his job keeps getting in the way. With a hurricane bearing down on Jersey, he's called away from dinner at Laura's house by the need to rescue an elderly couple refusing to evacuate their very exposed home.

After the storm, the body of a missing marine scientist washes up on the beach, and he wasn't a drowning victim. Someone bashed him on the head, and he was dead when he went into the water. There isn't a lack of suspects. Indeed, there's an excess of them.

He had an argument with his research partner & girlfriend right before going out on his boat, and their relationship has been increasingly tense. An environmental activist regards the researchers as a threat because he thinks even fairly passive research places the marine life at greater risk. The local fishermen, already affected by conflicts with French fishermen, declining fish stocks, and reductions in catch limits, are deeply suspicious that the research will only bring more restrictions.

The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections, by Tina Connolly

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250296993, July 2018

Saffron is a food taster to  Duke Michal, regent for the infant prince, popularly known as the Traitor King. This is not a position she ever sought or expected; she is married to a baker, Danny, who is now the pastry chef to the Duke--also an unsought position. While building his successful bakery business, Danny had experimented with "special" pastries, using an herb his grandmother had introduced him to. These pastries bring back memories, in full force, and different formulations bring back different kinds of memories.

The Duke heard of them, and came, and sampled.

Within days, Danny and Saffron are installed in the palace, separated from each other, one as the pastry chef for special banquets, and the other as the food taster to remove any temptation to poison the Duke.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Thing About Ghost Stories, by Naomi Kritzer

Uncanny Magazine, November 2018

The thing about ghost stories, our narrator tells us, is that they aren't really stories. There's no beginning, middle, end; there's just a weird event that happens, perhaps one, perhaps repeatedly, and then it either stops, or the person who experienced it leaves that place.

Our narrator is a folklorist, and she's researching ghost stories. Not ghosts. The stories we tell about them, the different kinds of stories, the roles those stories play for people.

At first, her mother, a retired romance editor, acts as proofreader and editor as she works on her thesis. Then, her mother descends into Alzheimer's. When her mother dies, and she resumes traveling for her research, occasionally mediums approach her, and tell her she has a ghost with her.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Time and Again (History Mystery #1), by Deborah Heal (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Write Brain Books, June 2014

Abby Thomas is in a small town in southern Illinois for the summer, tutoring a very resistant preteen named Merrideth, as part of her teaching degree program. Merrideth is defiant, her mother makes no real attempt at discipline, and the house, once beautiful, is now old, rickety, and has few modern conveniences.

But there's John Roberts, a handsome and really nice local guy, a spiffy new computer from Merrideth's absent, divorced, possibly drug-dealing father, and a computer program called Beautiful Houses that turns out to have some really interesting features.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

STET, by Sarah Gailey

Fireside Quarterly, February 2018

STET is in the form of a scientific paper interspersed with editorial suggestions from the journal editor, to remove or modify content they consider inappropriate. To each of these, the author responds, "STET," i.e., leave it as is.

It's about the reliability and trustworthiness of Artificial Intelligence as drivers of self-driving cars. When a crash can't be avoided, which lives are to be valued more highly? Who lives and who dies?

Over the course of the story, we learn the background of this research for the author of the paper, and it builds to a heart-wrenching climax.

Recommended.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Nine Last Days on Planet Earth, by Daryl Gregory

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250209450, September 2018

LT is ten the day the meteor shower hits. It's a very odd meteor shower, and the meteorites that hit ground are very, very odd.

They pop open, and the seeds of new life come out.

Earth has been invaded by a wide variety of alien plants. Not intelligent plants; just plants.

In succeeding episodes, we see LT growing to a man, becoming a scientist, finding love, and raising a family.

We see the plants mostly out-competing Earth plants, while LT and others work to understand them and find ways to control or use them. It's a struggle to save the planet and our species.

Except that something even more interesting may be going on, that humans haven't noticed yet.

Recommended.

I received this novelette as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society, by T. Kingfisher

Uncanny Magazine, November 2018

A group of faerie males, a pookah, and a selkie, are sitting around a fire, drinking and talking.

They're talking about a human woman, Rose MacGregor.

The faerie folk are accustomed to seducing human maidens, and then leaving the maidens to pine away from them. Rose does not play that game.

Not that she avoids the the faerie folk. Not at all. Instead, she seeks them out. It's just that things don't go the way the faerie expect.

This isn't a very substantial story, but it's light, fun, funny. I really enjoyed it.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat, by Brooke Bolander

Uncanny Magazine, July 2018

Three beautiful raptor sisters live in a lovely wood near excellent hunting grounds, and are happy and content. Then a very foolish prince rides into their woods, and is so oblivious to the fact that he's being stalked by the youngest sister, even after she eats his horse, that they conclude it must be a trick. The villagers must be fed up, and have sent out poisoned bait.

They need to find out what else the humans may be planning. They need to investigate. One of them needs to go to where the human pack leaders nest...

The youngest raptor sister offers herself to the prince as a replacement steed, and his ego is sufficiently large, and his wits sufficiently lacking, that he takes it as his due rather than a cause for concern.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Go, by Kazuki Kaneshiro (author), Takami Nieda (translator), Brian Nishii (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018, (original publication January 2000)

Sugihara is a student in a Japanese high school, but he's not Japanese. Born, raised, and educated in Japan, he is still Korean, a citizen of South Korea, and legally a resident alien. This places some legal restrictions on him; it also makes him a target of bullying and prejudice.

He has had to become a fighter, while keeping his eyes on the prize of passing the entrance exams for a Japanese university. When he meets and falls in love with a Japanese girl named Sakurai, they bond over classical music and foreign films.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander

Tom Doherty Associates, January 2018

This is a grim story, but in its own way a beautiful one. Now, those who know me know I don't do grim. At all. Except on the rare occasions that I do.

You may know the story of the Radium Girls. In the early part of the 20th century, young women were employed painting glowing numbers on watch faces, using radium paint. Yes, radium. Yes, it's radioactive, enough to be really dangerous, especially if you work with it constantly or accidentally ingest it.

Who would be so careless as to ingest it, you ask? Well, see, the women weren't told it was dangerous; they were told it was perfectly safe. And of course the best way to get a good point on your paintbrush to paint those fine, exact numbers, was to put it briefly in your mouth every so often.

They all got very sick and there was a big lawsuit, and they died. There are books about the Radium Girls

This is an alternate history, in which after the employment of young women painting radium onto watch faces ends in that lawsuit, the company didn't give up.

Friday, May 17, 2019

The Court Magician, by Sarah Pinsker

Lightspeed Magazine, January 2018

A young boy surviving on the streets becomes interested in mastering the tricks of street magicians and performers, and in the process catches the eye of watchers from the regent's palace. As he is groomed, initially from a distance, to be the potential next Court Magician, he repeatedly demonstrates his determination to learn more and more, and to master real magic, not just "tricks."

It's only as he is finally taken into the palace that he starts to learn there will be a cost. Is it worth it? How long will he be willing to pay that price?

It's an interesting look at power, ambition, compassion, and choices.

I received this story as part of the 2019 Hugo Voters Packet.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington, by Phenderson Djèlí Clark

Fireside Quarterly, February 2018

George Washington, hero of the Revolution, our first President and one of our greatest, a major reason we became a democratic republic rather than a monarchy because he refused to become king, was also a slaveowner.

Like many of his time, he lost teeth over the course of his adult life, and being a wealthy man, he was able to have dentures. The replacement teeth in those dentures were not, as I was taught as a child, wooden teeth, but real human teeth from the mouths of slaves.

This is a story of the lives of the slaves whose teeth those were--in an alternate history where magic, including sorcerers, witches, and demons are real.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies, by Aliz E. Harrow

Apex Magazine, February 2018

Librarians have a solemn duty to connect people with the books they need.

It may be an even more serious and solemn duty than you may have suspected, if the librarian is one of the sisterhood of witch-librarians.

In this case, a witch-librarian is confronted with a teenage boy, a boy in the foster system, who really, truly, sincerely needs escape. She guides him to a number of portal fantasies and other fantasy adventures, and they give him some salve for his spirit--but it's not enough.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Matter of Latitude, by Isobel Blackthorn

Creativia, December 2018

Paula Cray was an English tourist agent who went on vacation herself, to Lanzarote, an island in the Canary Islands. There she met Celestino Diaz, an artist and an anti-corruption activist, and fell in love. Now they are married, and have a daughter about to turn three years old. Paula's parents have moved to Lanzarote, too, to be near their only child and only grandchild. Gloria's birthday party is being held at the home of Paula's parents, Bill and Angela.

But there's a major storm bearing down on the island, and Celestino has a commission to deliver, first. Paula is annoyed that he'll be late, but is well aware that they do need the money he'll be paid.

The storm hits, even worse than anticipated, and Celestino never arrives.

We see, in alternating chapters, we see Celestino's struggle to survive after a truck intentionally t-bones his car--to survive while hiding the fact that he has survived, and to get to safety--and Paula's growing worry, and search for her missing husband.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Levin-Gad (Tales of the Five #1), by Diane Duane

Ebooks Direct, August 2018

Heresiss s'Hearn, the first man in a thousand years to channel fire, had thought that the successful end of the war, Freelorn safely on his throne as King of Arlen, and the two of them married to each other and their three other spouses, would mean peace, progress, and happily-ever-after.

Silly Herewiss.

Instead, the world is trying to settle back into its old, familiar ways, and Herewiss has an urgent, indeed deadly problem to confront. That problem has him in the city of Darthis, alone, in a tavern called the Stuck Pig, where the bouncer has noticed something odd and disturbing about him, and is wondering if she needs to toss him out immediately, before disaster strikes.

Friday, May 10, 2019

An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew, by Annejet van der Zijl (author), Michele Hutchison (translator), Teri Schnaubelt (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2018

Allene Tew was born in 1872 to the less successful branch of the Tew family, who had a major role in the founding and growth of Jamestown, NY. She was a slightly wild child, and a real beauty, and at eighteen she impulsively married a young man she met at a local dance. That young man was Tod Hostetter, wealthy scion of a Pittsburgh family dealing in a patent medicine that was, in fact, mostly alcohol. She made herself into a successful Pittsburgh hostess, but the marriage fell apart due largely to Tod's gambling and general irresponsibility, and when he died twelve years later, she left Pittsburgh for New York City and never really looked back.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Burial Mound (DI Tremayne #7), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, April 2019

An archaeological team working on a burial mound near Stonehenge finds two bodies. Unfortunately, only one of them is several thousand years old and a deceased stone age chieftain. The other is much more recent, only dead a decade or so, and after some effort is identified as Richard Grantley, brother of Clive Grantley, Mayor of Salisbury.

Clive Grantley is a reserved, dignified, upright man, respected by all. His brother was a charming risk-taker, gambler, possibly swindler, possibly undercover operative. A user, especially of women. Richard's womanizing helped to wreck Clive's marriage.

It seems impossible to see Clive Grantley as a killer, yet he clearly had a motive--the only apparent motive, as Tremayne and Yarwood struggle to learn anything else about the elusive Richard. And Clive is clearly keeping secrets.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People & Dogs, by Caroline Knapp (author), Hilary Swank (narrator)

Audible Inc., October 2012 (original publication 1998

Caroline Knapp was a writer and columnist who wrote a best-selling memoir about her struggle with alcoholism--Drinking: A Love Story. This is a different but related story. After losing her father to cancer, her mother to cancer, and quitting drinking in the space of eighteen months, Knapp had some large holes in her life, and needed something to refocus her life.

She got a dog, a ten-week-old mixed breed shelter dog she named Lucille.

Knapp had grown up with dogs in the home, but had never been the responsible dog owner. She and Lucille both had a lot to learn, and a lot to teach each other.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won't Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It by Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, Sinikka Elliott

Oxford University Press, January 2019

This isn't a book about cooking. It's a book about how what we say, think, do, preach, and spend public money around food, health, and family puts more and more pressure on families, especially on mothers.

The book is a result of a research project, following multiple families of various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, in the Raleigh, North Carolina area. It looks at how they eat, why they make their choices, and how they try to balance time, money, health, conflict in the family over food choices.

Everyone parent wants their children to be healthy, and wants to feed them in a healthy way. It's not that simple even for well-off families, though, and for the economically struggling, it gets even more complicated. Food isn't just nutrition. It's also culture, family tradition, personal memories and feelings, and a way that people assert identity. None of this is easy on the families deciding what are the best choices.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Will Travel for Trouble #4-6 Boxed Set, by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, April 2019

Minnie Crockwell, a former government worker who saved carefully and took early retirement, is still on the road in her RV--and with her ghostly companion, Peregrine Ebenezer (Ben) Alvord. As they roll westward toward the coast and warmer weather, Minnie's RV develops trouble and they need to stop. They get a tow into a nearby RV park.

They're barely registered and settled in when a shot rings out. Minnie, for once, sensibly dives out of sight under a park bench, but then she and Ben realize that the shot wasn't aimed a her, and hasn't been repeated.

They head off to the camp office, and soon discover that someone has been killed--but not by a bullet. Minnie really makes an effort to not get involved this time. Of course, she can't help herself.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Elizabeth II: Life of a Monarch, by Ruth Cowen (author), Jennie Bond (narrator)

Audible Studios, April 2019

This isn't, as I feared it might be, a cheer-leading, uncritical work, nor is it carping and hypercritical, which was the other risk. It shows Elizabeth as a human being with strengths and weaknesses, and the ways her strong sense of duty has been both an essential part of being a successful Queen in a century where society has experienced rapid and turbulent change, and something that kept her comparatively distant from her children, and created problems understanding her daughters-in-law, especially Diana, raised in a different age and not even as close to royal circle as Elizabeth was before her father's ascension to the throne.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Heirs to Trouble (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #26), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, December 2017

Two novelettes in the Liaden Universe, both set in the period shortly after Clan Korval's abrupt relocation to Surebleak.

The first gives us Quin yos'Phelium, son of Pat Rin yos'Phelium, a.k.a. Boss Conrad, frustrated and at loose ends. He wants to find work as a pilot. Instead, he's left out of what seems to be an all-hands call for Korval pilots, and told to wait at the Emerald Casino for his gather to meet him.

Being at loose ends in the Emerald Casino is potentially risky, and Luck starts haunting his steps in some not necessarily helpful ways. There's his impressive success at the target shooing games. There's the Terran  tourist who is sure that he's owed Quin's success, it's  Quin who is cheating him. There's the attractive young sticks dealer, Villy. There's Quin's own, sometimes insufficiently controlled, tongue. He has to navigate through this day, and be ready when his father, finally, arrives.

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 Reichsführer 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.