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.