Monday, September 30, 2019

Six Years Too Late (DCI Isaac Cook #11), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, September 2019

When the body of a murdered man is found on the top floor of an empty house, DCI Isaac Cook and his team have many questions.

The dead man is Marcus Matthews, who disappeared six years ago. died then, after sharing a bottle of wine with the person who then shot him. It looks like that last evening went exactly as planned.

And Marcus Matthews was the son-in-law of Hamish McIntyre, prominent local organized crime boss. The one thing McIntyre loves in this world is his daughter, Samantha Matthews. McIntyre couldn't have killed Matthews, in part because he had a broken leg at the time and couldn't have reached the top floor. Did he order it? Was someone else behind it?

As they start digging, they start finding links to other cases, one going back twenty years, and yet nothing provides the evidence they need. When new deaths start happening, they know they have a major problem.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

This is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar (author), Max Gladstone (author), Cynthia Farrell (narrator), Emily Woo Zeller (narrator)

Simon Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508207056, July 2019

This is a wonderful, complex, beautifully constructed novella, a love story between two operatives from opposite sides of a time war.

Red, we gradually learn, is an operative of the side that's building a technologically advanced future culture. Blue is an operative of the side that relies on biological science, the side that is called Garden. They encounter each other, at a distance at first, as they work on their respective assignments, increasingly assigned--as the best operatives each side has--to undo each other's work.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Surgeon's Choice, by Richard L. Mabry, MD (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard L. Mabry, MD, March 2018

Dr. Ben Merrick and his fiancé, Rachel Gardner, a nurse at the same hospital where Ben is a surgeon, are planning their wedding, and a bit frustrated by the fact that her mother won't attend if her father is there.

Yet Ben is having other problems. A more senior surgeon is trying to make trouble for him at the hospital, get him put under pretty restrictive supervision. That's been unsuccessful, but there have also been numerous, small, annoying, potentially dangerous incidents which are starting to seem to be not mere coincidence.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Marriage & Murder (Rosewood Place #3), by Ruby Blaylock

Ruby Blaylock, September 2019

Annie Richards is continuing the renovation and updating of her beautiful Rosewood Place inn. The latest addition to the amenities is the renovation of the barn into an events location--and the first such event will be her own mother, Bessie's reception following her wedding to Emmett Barnes, the newly-retired local Chief of Police.

But Bessie's friends include the Wimpole sisters, Delilah and Della, and Emmett's include Earl Munsey, Delilah's ex-husband, now married to Darlene. Earl and Emmett are fishing buddies from way back, but Earl is a drinker and a gambler and a bit crude, so Annie is not the only one who has difficulty seeing how the two men,so different, have remained friends.

That Delilah hates her ex-husband and her sister Della seems to hate him even more than she does, doesn't make the rehearsal dinner, a few days before the wedding, any easier. Then Earl suddenly has what appears to be a heart attack, and dies, during the dinner. Except it's not a heart attack; he was poisoned, with arsenic.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared to Break the Rules, by Karen Karbo (author), Bernadette Dunne (narrator)

Blackstone Publishing, November 2018

This is a celebration of notably difficult women, women who do what they choose rather than what's expected. In most cases, of course, they don't do anything that wouldn't be perfectly acceptable in men, but as we all know, the rules are different for women. We're supposed to be nice, and cooperative, self-effacing--not independent, ambitious, strong, or inconvenient.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Christmas Child, by Carol Rivers

Carol Rivers, September 2019

In London, on Christmas Day 1880, Colleen O'Reilly gets herself to the door of the convent and orphanage of the Sisters of Clemency with her newborn baby girl, and dies. The nuns who comforted her in her last hours raise her daughter, Henrietta. But fourteen years later, the convent in completely broke, and there's a new bishop in charge who isn't anything like the caring, old bishop who recently died. It's not long before the convent is closed and the remaining orphans dispersed to whatever homes could be found for them. Henrietta, or Ettie as she is called, is relatively fortunate. She is sent to serve as a maid to tobacconist Lucas Benjamin and his wife, Clara.

Ettie is smart and hardworking, and too ready to blame herself for whatever goes wrong. Since this is a Victorian moral tale in the fine old tradition, there's a lot that goes wrong, but Ettie keeps soldiering on through all of it, always trying to do the right thing.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Earth II: You Have No Honor (Virus/Earth II #3), by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Raymond Perreault (narrator)

Raymond J. Perreault, September 2019

This is just a lot of fun.

Be aware it's the third book of a trilogy, but I didn't find that to be a problem. There's enough information salted in on the backstory that I picked it up pretty quickly and understood enough of what the characters were responding to.

A massive pandemic has wiped out a large part of the human population of the planet, and now alien ships are in orbit and sending smaller ships down with robot crews. They seem to be ignoring the humans, and indifferent to life forms that aren't attacking them. Machinery is something else, though--so aircraft and naval ships, for instance, are treated as threats. The surviving human population, in the government and military around the world, are trying to mount a defense against the aliens.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Henry's Tale, by David Pipe

Widminster Books, January 2018

CW: No dogs actually die in the course of this story, but we learn of past deaths of dogs, and street dog culture is portrayed with a plausible amount of violence.

Henry Ford is the cutest little border terrier puppy ever, eager to grow up. "Nearly a year old!" he reminds his Papa several times. His Papa, Alan Ford, loves him. His mama, not so much. But he is loved by his papa, and is safe, comfortable, and happy, visiting his friends and going to terrier school.

Then his mama puts her foot down and insists Papa take her to Majorca for a week on vacation. Henry has to stay with strangers down the street--nice people, but strangers, and he's never been separated from his papa since Alan brought him home.

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Wonder Engine (Clocktaur War #2), by T. Kingfisher (author), Khristine Hvam (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, July 2019

Slate (forger, thief, and leader of a team on a suicide mission), Brenner (assassin), Caliban (ex-paladin with a dead demon rotting in his soul), and Learned Edmund (19-year-old scholar and divine of the Temple of the Many-Armed God), have now achieved the first half of their mission: They're now in Anuket City, source of the Clockwork Boys,enormous engines of war terrorizing the entire surrounding region and a major threat to the Dowager's city, from which they have come. Along the way, Slate saved the life of a gnole, a badger-like creature who goes by the name of Grimehug, who is now also a part of their group.

Now, of course, the hard part starts. They have to figure out who is responsible for the Clockwork Boys, which they quickly learn are called Clocktaurs, and figure out how to deal with them. That might be by killing someone, or by discovering how they're made so the Dowager's city can have their own to fight them, or...they don't know.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World (The Mysteries of Nature Series #1), by Peter Wohlleben (author), Jane Billinghurst (translator), Mike Grady (narrator)

Harper Collins, September 2016

We have a natural tendency to think of trees as, although clearly living, largely inanimate. After all, they neither move nor make sounds, except due to the wind blowing through their branches. Trees are lovely,and useful, but they're just there.

Yet in the last couple of decades, science has been piecing together a different story. Trees whose leaves are attacked by insects produce a chemical to make their leaves taste bad and ward off the attack; that doesn't seem surprising. But the trees also release a chemical into the air, in response to which the neighboring trees also produce the chemical to make their leaves unpleasant for the insects; they prepare for the attack before the insects reach them. The first tree attacked has warned its neighbors of the coming assault. That seems very surprising.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Crucible of Time (Out of Time #2) (Chaos Chronicles #6), by Jeffrey A. Carver

Starstream Publications, September 2019

This is the second half of the Out of Time story begun in Reefs of Time, and the tension continues to ratchet up. John Bandicut and Li-Jared, together with the robot Copernicus, Tintangle Ruall, gokat Bria, and the cloud Dark, are making progress, slow and frustrating, but progress, in persuading the Karellians and Uduon to stop fighting and focus on the real enemy, the Mindaru.

What helps persuade the deeply suspicious and mutually hostile Karellians and Uduon, unfortunately, is the arrival of Mindaru ships. It's a hard sell for the Karellians to accept that their time distortion field that defends against asteroids from Uduon is what's drawing the Mindaru. And also for the Uduon to accept that their asteroid defense against Karellian missiles needs to be shut down for the Karellians to shut down their time distortion defense.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Death We Share (Patricia Delaney #3), by Sharon Short (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Sharon Short, January 2015 (original publication 1995)

Patricia Delaney is a detective, one who does most of her investigating on the internet. What I find especially fun about this book is that it and its companions were written in the 1990s, when the internet was new, and either exciting, or a reason to laugh at Al Gore--and Sharon Short knew what the internet really could and couldn't do. You could find a lot on the internet. Some of what you could find on the internet was where to go look at the print or microfiche records that weren't on the internet. In 1995, Yahoo! was in its infancy, just a year old, and Google wasn't register as a domain name until 1997. Internet research required skills. Patricia Delaney has those skills.

When retired opera singer Carlotta Moses becomes the target of a sleazy tabloid tv show, Patricia Delaney is the person to find out who in the singer's past wants to trash her reputation.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein (author), Will Damron (narrator)

Penguin Audio, May 2019

We hear a great deal, over the course of our educations and careers, about the importance of specialization, concentration, focus, and drill, drill, drill.

And specialization is not a bad thing. In many areas it's not just valuable, but essential. If you need surgery, you want not just a doctor, but a surgeon, and really, not just a surgeon but one who has done that particular procedure many times before. It's your best guarantee of a safe and successful outcome.

But not every field is surgery. Not even any medical field; a doctor with a more varied background and a CV that shows some flitting among different medical areas is a lot more likely to be a good diagnostician. Why? Because that doctor with the varied background has a much broader background to draw on when considering the patient's symptoms and comments. David Epstein looks at why this is so, in areas as different as athletes, musicians, inventors, and scientists.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, by Jane Goodall (author), Pearl Hewitt (narrator)

Tantor Audio, July 2018 (original publication 1990)

Jane Goodall has done decades of groundbreaking research on the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania. This is her account of her work there over thirty years, starting when it was still scientific heresy to describe animals as having thoughts and emotions--even animals so obviously close to us in evolutionary terms as chimpanzees. Goodall didn't have a degree at all, much less in ethology, when Louis Leakey recruited her to study chimpanzees, so she described what she saw in the chimpanzees' behavior. When Leakey arranged funding and sent her to Cambridge University in 1962 to get a PhD in ethology, Goodall discovered the narrow view of the scientific establishment. In order to get her scientific work published, she pushed back where she could and compromised where she had to, and gradually had an impact on the silly practice of talking about higher mammals as inanimate objects.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Orphans of Raspay (Penric and Desdemona #7),by Lois McMaster Bujold

Spectrum Literary Agency, July 2019

Penric, now married to Nikys and attached to the Duke of Orbas when he's not needed for other duties, would much prefer to stay home in the Duke's capital with his wife. Instead, he continues to be sent off on missions that turn out to be more complicated and dangerous than they should have been. On their way home from the latest, the ship he and his demon, Desdemona, are on is captured by pirates, tossed into a hold on the pirates' own ship where they find two orphan sisters, and carried back to the pirates' island base.

The girls, Lencia and Seuka Corva, were attempting to travel to reach their father after the death of their mother when their ship was captured by these pirates. The obvious fate of all three, when they reach the island that has become a pirate company town, is to be sold as slaves. Penric presents himself as a scribe in service to the the Bastard's order, and the girls as his nieces, and says the Order will ransom them. The last thing he wants the pirates to know is that he's a Temple Sorcerer, because that will make him clearly too much trouble. Of course, this clever plan and the next couple of plans don't work out as smoothly as he hoped.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

To Be Taught, If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers

Harper Voyager, ISBN 9780062936011, September 2019

This is a standalone novella unconnected to Becky Chambers' Wayfarers series.

Climate change accelerated to a severe crisis that drained the ability and willingness of governments to support space exploration. Yet the drive to explore is not dead, and a private institute forms, to crowd-fund continued research and exploration. With contributions coming from anyone, anywhere in the world, who wants to support it, and all contributions, tiny or enormous, acknowledged, it works.

This story follows Lawki 6, a mission to a red dwarf system with four planets that may be habitable. Five missions to other star systems were launched before them, but results from the first weren't yet received when Lawki 6, ship name Merian, departs.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English, by John McWhorter (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, November 2009 (original publication October 2008)

John McWhorter gives us another lively, fascinating, informative look at language, especially the English language.

English is an offshoot of North Germanic, and in some ways those connections are obvious. In other ways, English is a bit weird even by North Germanic standards--and one section is devoted to making clear how very much the Germanic languages departed, early on, from the norms of essentially all the other Indo-European languages. He also gives us his theory as to how this happened.