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, 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.


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.


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.