Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Road to Cromer Pier, by Martin Gore

Martin Gore Publishing, June 2019

This is the story of a struggling theater on the Norfolk coast of England.

The Wells family has owned the theater for generations, and Janet Wells is the current owner. They run a variety show, the Cromer Pier Summertime Special, every year, and it's always a success for them.

Now, though, they're in the second year of the Great Recession, and everyone is struggling. They can't afford the same level of performers they would normally be recruiting. Everyone on the permanent staff is taking a 5% salary cut, and the new hires for the show include a Polish magician whose performance and command of English are both spotty, and a talent show winner who has a great singing voice but has reached the end of her run of what she can do with that alone in he current market. But she's never danced, and for Cromer Pier she needs to learn.

Oh, and a local real estate vulture is determined to get ownership of the theater, have already acquired the rest of the pier. Also, we keep getting Just One More Character introduced.

Friday, June 28, 2019

The Invasion (Grey Land #2), by Peadar Ó Guilín

David Fickling Books, ISBN 9781338045628, March 2018

Ireland is still reeling, twenty-five years after the return of the Sidhe, or perhaps more correctly, the Grey Land, where the Sidhe were banished centuries ago. Our world, which they call the Many-Colored Land, and the Grey Land, move nearer to each other and further away, and now they are very close to each other, closer than in a very long time, and the Sidhe are able to Call the young of Ireland into the Grey Land. They stay only a day, but they don't always survive, or if they do, return unchanged.

Ireland is cut off from the rest of our world. Technology is dying. Society has changed drastically, with what were previously the secondary education years transformed into Survival Colleges, aimed completely at giving the young people who will be Called by the Sidhe their best shot at survival.

But the Sidhe have a plan, a plan to return to Ireland. To do that, they have to find a King for some part of Ireland to revoke the treaty that banished them.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Unclaimed Legacy (History Mystery #2), by Deobrah Heal (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Write Brain Books, August 2014 (original publication August 2012)

Abby Thomas and her tutoring student, 11-year-old Merri, are frustrated that the delightful if improbable computer program, Beautiful Homes, is currently working only in its obvious, plausible way. Only an ordinary real estate program showcasing beautiful homes in the present, alas. No tours of past lives currently available. But Merri has warmed up to Abby quite a bit, and is making real progress on her school work. In addition, Abby's friendship with John Roberts is also heating up.At least until she tells him about the advanced features of Beautiful Homes, which does make him wonder if she's crazy. But friends they remain, and he introduces her to speech therapist Lucy, who is looking for a sitter for her house and her dog, Dr. Bob, while she attends a professional conference. And Lucy, in turn, introduces her to her neighbors, elderly twins Eulah and Beulah, living in the identical house next door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Once Upon a Bad Boy (Sometimes in Love #3), by Melonie Johnson

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250193070, June 2019

Now that Cassie and Bonnie have their guys, it's Sadie Gold's turn. Her years of working on a so-so but popular soap opera have paid off, and she's landed the lead in an action hero movie based on a bestselling novel. This should be her big break.

Too bad the stunt coordinator turns out to be her old boyfriend, her childhood sweetheart, the guy who dumped her on prom night and said he didn't want to see her again.

Too bad he's hotter than ever. Too bad she's still hung up on him.

And he's still hung up on her.

Oh, and this job is also make or break for him, because he's in danger of losing the deal that would give him full control of Windy City Stunts. Neither one of them can afford to do anything the media might spin as "unprofessional" on this job.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Jukebox Joyride: A Time Traveling Adventure, by Jacob Stein (author, narrator), Jason Rabinowitz (author, narrator), The Pop Ups (auhor), Cara Samantha (narrator), Susan Bennett (narrator), Noel MacNeal (narrator), Carly Ciarrocchi (narrator)

Audible Studios, June 2019

George and his twin sister Jules are "practically twelve," really into music. They're active in Stage Band at school, and have their own after-school garage band.

And they really miss their Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob is an ethnomusicologist, or was, beofre he abruptly disappeared during the filming of a reality show, Pawn Wars, where he'd just won a strange old music box. And in this case, "disappeared" means just that, with cameras rolling, in a great flash of light, with no damage to anything that had been around him.

Then one day the owner of their favorite music shop tells them he has a package for them, from their Uncle Bob. It turns out to be the music box.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

9 Lives to Live (Magical Cool Cats #10), by Mary Matthews (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Mary Frances Matthews, September 2015

Another adventure of Grace, Jack, Tatiana, and Zeus--this time intertwined with the story of Tatiana's previous people, in her previous life.

Grace and Jack are asked to find the wife of Henry, a rich businessman whose goods in trade include one of Grace's favorite things, fashionable shoes.

Arthur and Isabella, three years earlier, are New York City street rats. They hooked up and survived for several years together with a white cat whom they called simply The Cat, who was very good at alerting them to threats and helping them to stay safe. Yet Child Services and the orphan trains can't be evaded forever.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Cupcake Kitty (Grace, Jack & Magical Cats Cozy Mystery #6, by Mary Matthews (author), Amy Gramour (narrator)

Mary Frances Matthews, April 2013

Grace, Jack, and their two cats, Tatiana and Zeus, discover a disturbing surprise at Grace and Jack's engagement party. Eddie, the band's lead singer, has been murdered--stabbed with a letter opener.

This is Prohibition, and so everyone that has a comfortable income drinks like a fish, by modern standards. And of course, it' all a big joke. For someone who grew up with two alcoholic uncles and a recovering alcoholic father, it's not quite so funny. It's even less funny when you've actually looked at the per capita consumption of alcohol in the years preceding Prohibition, and the annual per capita consumption since. Bad, or at least unwelcome, news: No, per capita consumption of alcohol has never recovered to anything close to pre-Prohibition levels. The pre-Prohibition alcohol consumption rates were truly scary, and Prohibition worked spectacularly well. By the time it was repealed, the culture had changed, and we didn't need it anymore. But be that as it may, Grace, Jack, and the cats have a murder to solve.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dread Nation (Dread Nation #1), by Justina Ireland (author), Bahni Turpin (narrator)

Harper Audio, April 2018

Honestly, I hate zombie novels. And this is a zombie novel.

So, it makes perfect sense that I love it, right?

This is set after an alternate Civil War, that started the way ours did, and changes and ends when the battle dead start rising and attacking their fellow soldiers. Sherman's march from Atlanta to the sea happens, but the main point is to burn the zombies, or, as they are called here, shamblers. The slaves are freed, "combat schools" are opened for the freed slaves and the Indians, teaching them to fight shamblers and, for the black girls at least, teaching them to be refined attendants as well as guards for rich white ladies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road #1) (Southlands #3), by Rachel Hartman

Random House Books for Young Readers, ISBN 9781101931288, February 2018

This is a frustrating book.

We first meet the titular Tess as a little girl full of energy and imagination, and a challenge to her joy-killing mother. Then we quickly jump ahead playing maid and "younger sister" to Jeanne, who is her younger twin and now a maid of honor at the royal court. In the intervening years, we gradually learn, Tess managed to ruin herself, give birth to a bastard whose existence was concealed by sending Tess to stay with her grandmother, and demonstrate a complete inability to be sufficiently meek and rule-following to have much chance anyway at the kind of husband the family needs to repair its fortunes. Those fortunes were destroyed when the truth came out about their father's first marriage--his first wife was a dragon, and his oldest daughter, Seraphina, is a dragon. He lost his licence to practice law. They can't afford for Tess's disgrace to come out, too.

Tess at this point in her life is unhappy and resentful, though Jeanne may be the only member of her family she loves. Not soon enough, we jump ahead to Tess running away, which, unexpectedly, is the start of her doing things that aren't willfully stupid and self-destructive.

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, 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, 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, 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.