Thursday, November 28, 2019

Bitter Pill, by Richard L. Mabry (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Richard L. Mabry, M.D., November 2019

An unlikely collection of people in Goldman, Texas find themselves facing life-changing choices, and reaching out to each other in unexpected ways.

"Brother" Bob Bannister is your basic fraudulent evangelical preacher, with a fake "healing" at the end of each Saturday night service. Then one Saturday, a woman bribes an usher and takes the place of the planted shill. And she is, apparently, healed, leaving her wheelchair behind as she dances down the aisle and out the door. Was it a real miracle, or an investigative journalist? Bannister finds either possibility about equally disturbing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

SIMPOC: The Thinking Computer (SIMPOC #1), by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Zachary Johnson (narrator)

Raymond J. Perreault, September 2015

SIMPOC is a new kind of computer, a computer with an organic processor. It can think. It's learning its abilities and about the world, accessing news sources and talking to its programmer. In particular, SIMPOC is tracking a disturbing new virus, that seems to have an alarmingly high fatality rate.

Then one day its programmer does not come in to work. Or the next day, or the next. Checking on other computers in the facility, it finds that other humans are not coming to work, either. Checking on the outside world via its news sources reveals that fewer and fewer people anywhere are taking any actions that make them visible to computers.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A Cowboy Like You (Heart of Texas #4), by Donna Grant

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250250049, November 2019

Skylar Long is fleeing her abusive boyfriend. More by instinct than planning, she's arrived in her old home town just in time for local sheriff and high school crush Danny Oldman to rescue her and arrest the boyfriend who has pursued her and finally caught up with her.

What she doesn't know, but they both soon discover, is that Matt Gaudette's wealthy and connected family has been covering up his "indiscretions" since he was in high school. Matt never willingly lets any woman go, and this time he's absolutely determined that either Skylar comes back to him, or no one else will get her--ever.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Two Good Dogs, by Susan Wilson (author), Christina Delaine (narrator), Fred Berman (narrator), Rick Adamson (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781427291257, March 2017

Skye Mitchell has bought a small hotel, the Lakeview, in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and moved her daughter, Cody, there from Holyoke. It wasn't planned that way, but events so develop that they make the move almost immediately after Randy Mitchell, Cody's father and Skye's ex-husband, is shot dead in a back alley.

It's six months later, and the Lakeview has turned out to be a money pit. A money pit with real potential, but a money pit. Skye is barely making ends meet while repairs and upgrades proceed slowly. And Cody, previously an open and loving girl, has become cold and withdrawn and increasingly hostile. Is it just an especially awful case of teenager-hood? No. In fact, Cody is keeping a terrible secret she has no idea how to cope with, and doesn't dare share with her mother.

Friday, November 22, 2019

A Christmas Gathering (Christmas Stories #17), by Anne Perry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, November 2019

Lady Vespasia, now Lady Vespasia Narraway, since her marriage to Victor Narraway, former head of the Special Branch, wanted to spend Christmas with Victor, at home, with a few close friends over. Instead, they are spending Christmas at Cavendish Park, with a small group of social acquaintances, none of whom are really close friends. Lady Vespasia has known the hosts, Lady Amelia and Max Cavendish, for many years, but no, she and Amelia are not really friends.

So why are they there? Lady Vespasia is fairly sure Victor has another Special Branch assignment, though he isn't saying that. Victor, meanwhile, is troubled not only by the assignment at Christmas when he and Vespasia would rather be home, but by echoes of a similar assignment many years ago, relatively early in his career.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Murder Around the Bend (Stone County Justice #1), by John C. Dalglish (author), Steven A. Gannett (narrator)

JB Publishing, October 2019

St. Louis police homicide detective Dan Cutter has retired from that high-stress position to a rural life in Stone County, where his old friend is the sheriff--and an on-call job as the county's homicide detective. He's had a little time to get to know his new colleagues and neighbors, but is still "You moved here from St. Louis, right?" when a well-like businessman turns up dead near his truck some miles from home, shot to death almost execution-style.

Dan soon finds himself comforting the grieving wife and daughter, while he and his partner, Liz, a full time detective in this slower-paced community, start piecing together the evidence.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Forgiven Friend (Friends #3), by Sue Feathersone & Susan Pape

Lakewater Press, November 2019

This is a hard book for me to review. It's the story of two old friends going through some variously rough and important times in their lives, and definitely some rough patches in their friendship. In alternating chapters, we get first person accounts from Lee and her friend Teri.

Lee is steady, responsible, thoughtful, considerate. Teri is impulsive, generally self-centered, never thinks she's at fault for anything. Even when she's trying to be helpful, she blurts things out--and that includes things she's been specifically asked not to share. Such as, blurting out to her ex-husband, now Lee's lover, Dan, the fact that Lee thinks she may be pregnant.

And then doing it again, to Lee's aging, conservative, Catholic mother, at the reception after the funeral of Lee's father.

The friendship between Lee and Teri is genuine and strong,and even when Teri is doing absolutely shocking things, she often thinks she's "helping." Lee also tries to help Teri make better decisions, in a less ham-handed, foot-in-mouth manner, but not always when Teri is willing to listen. And as one might guess from the fact that Teri's ex-husband has moved in with Lee, relationship issues often get a bit complicated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey (author), Xe Sands (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250227867, June 2019

Ivy Gamble, unlike her twin sister Tabitha, is not a mage. She has no magic at all. Ivy is a private investigator, and is almost getting by that way. And she enjoys it. She really does. And she is not the least little bit jealous of Tabitha, her twin sister, the mage, who teaches at a prestigious private high school for young mages.

Then she is asked by the head of that school to investigate the death of another teacher there.

Suddenly, Ivy is immersed in the life she could have had, if she had the magic Tabitha has. She's almost having double vision, the life she really leads, and the life she might have had. She and Tabitha seem to be edging towards reconnection after the long estrangement that followed the death of their mother. There's a handsome and charming teacher there who is interested on Ivy. Oh, and there's the murder case she's trying to solve.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Here and Now and Then, by Mike Chen (author), Cary Hite (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, January 2019

Kin Stewart is a time-traveling secret agent, charged with protecting us all against timeline corruption. Unfortunately, he's a time-traveling secret agent who got stranded in the late 1990s on his last assignment, and has had to survive the last eighteen years or so, while his memories of his past life, in 2142, fade. Or not really fade, so much as decay, because the human mind isn't built to remember two different lives in two different times.

He's become a computer network administrator, for an online game company. He has married Heather, a lawyer, and they have a teenage daughter, Miranda.

But it's all coming apart, as his mind loses even more of his memories, and he has crushing headaches, blackouts, and over-reactions. PTSD from his time in the Special Forces, he tells his family. But he refuses to get help, because he's afraid too much will come out.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Death, Divorce, & Dessert, by Kayla Michelle (author), K.M. Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Kayla Michelle, July 2019

One evening, Chloe Cook is at her parents' home, celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. She, they, and her boyfriend all hope that the recent spate of murders in their little Cape Code town is finally at an end.

The next morning, in her capacity as a makeup salesperson, she has an appointment with her friend, Emily Hightower, to show her the latest additions to the makeup line she represents. When she arrives, she's very surprised to find Emily's door slightly ajar, and Emily not responding the her knock, the bell, or even to Chloe pulling out her phone and calling. So she steps through that open door--and finds Emily lying dead on her living room floor, apparently stabbed to death.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Frankie: The Woman Who Saved Millions from Thalidomide, by James Essinger & Sandra Koutzenko

The History Press, ISBN 9780750991919, June 2019

Dr. Frances Oldham "Frankie" Kelsey was a pharmacologist and physician who for many years worked in the New Drug Division of the US Food & Drug Administration. Born in Canada in 1914, she was graduating from college in the midst of the Great Depression, and getting a master's degree seemed a better choice than standing in bread lines. A year later, she faced the same choice, and went on to get her Ph.D. in pharmacology--and in the process connected with a professor who encouraged her, pointed her in new directions, and crucially, when the time came, connected her with an opportunity in the US. That embarked her on a path that led to her meeting her husband, Fremont Ellis Kelsey, also a Ph.D. in pharmacology, getting her M.D., and ultimately becoming a medical officer at the FDA.

So why do we care about a "faceless bureaucrat"?

Because Frankie Kelsey is the "faceless bureaucrat who looked at the NDA (New Drug Application) for thalidomide, and started asking questions and insisting on real answers.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hexes and Other Hairy Situations (The Witches of Enchanted Bay #10), by Amelia Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Amelia Morgan, July 2019

Meg Walton and her mother Beth are witches running a magical bakery in the little town of Enchanted Bay. Beth's mother, Penelope, is now a talking cat. They've recently met another witch, Pamela. Oh, and Meg is engaged to a police officer, Connor, who doesn't know she's a witch.

Meg's father, Trevor, abandoned Beth before Meg was born, after Beth told him she was a witch, so Beth has always strongly discouraged telling anyone about their magical powers. But now Trevor has suddenly returned, with a favor to ask of Beth. A magical favor, at that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Space Invader (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mystery #7), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, October 2019

Larry and Frannie Shoemaker, Larry's sister Jane Ann Ferraro and her husband Mickey, are out traveling in their campers again, this time to New Mexico. Having stopped briefly for gas and snacks on the last day before arriving at the campground near Roswell, they acquire a hitchhiker they're unaware of, in the cubby where some of their supplies are stashed. When they arrive, they park and hook up their campers, and, completely exhausted, collapse immediately into their beds, and sleep.

When they awake, their hitchhiker is already gone, and they head out sightseeing. In a happy change of pace from their previous adventures, this time they don't find a body.

Someone else finds a body.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Library Book, by Susan Orlean

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508266488, October 2018

Susan Orlean gives us a wonderful study of one library and its history, the Los Angeles Public Library, centered around the disastrous 1986 fire at the library and the investigation into it. And she takes this, and uses it to showcase the role and significance of libraries in our modern lives.

Woven through all this is Orlean's own love of books, and what libraries meant, in her life, and her mother's, when she was growing up, with Depression-Era parents who loved books but were frugal.

Friday, November 8, 2019

New Orleans Nightmare (Roxy Reinhardt #2), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, December 2019

"Evangeline's Guest House" is now "The Funky Cat Inn," co-owned by Sam, the mysteriously wealthy laundryman, and Roxy Reinhardt. Sam is the money; Roxy is the manager. Nat remains as the general help as well as gradually learning and taking over the cooking from Evangeline. Sage is doing their website and social media presence--rather more adventurously than for Evangeline, for whom this was all weird "kids these days" stuff.

Roxy, with help from Nat and Sam, have redone the Funky Cat inside and out, making its beautiful architecture stand out again, and the inside luxurious and comfortable. They're aiming for a higher-end market now.

Elijah is continuing to supply heavenly pastries from his bakery across the street.

Now Roxy has Instagram "influencers" coming to stay for a few days, to experience the new Funky Cat, and broadcast it to the world and all their followers.

It's too bad one of them dies of poison after going to bed on their first night at the inn.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Horrible Halloween Hazards, by Amelia Morgan (autho), Lori Katz (narrator)

Amelia Morgan, October 2019

Meg Walton, witch and bakery owner, and Connor Smith, werewolf and police detective, are hoping for a happy Halloween together. Unfortunately, the moon will be full the next few days, meaning that Connor will be spending the nights locked up in his cage, to keep his "mindless beast" form from doing any damage.

Also, two criminals he got locked up not nearly long enough ago, are now getting released from prison. One has served out his sentence; the other has gotten paroled, in Connor's opinion, far too soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow (author), January LaVoy (narrator)

Hachette Audio, September 2019

In the early 20th century, January Scaller is a rather odd young girl, living in the luxurious mansion of Mr. Locke, a collector of strange artifacts. She sometimes wonders if she's one of those artifacts, but her father, Julian, works for Locke as a researcher and obtainer of those odd artifacts. Julian, it should be noted, because in this setting it's very relevant, is not white. He's very dark-skinned, but no one can place exactly where he's from, and he never says. He also has an accent no one can quite place.

January is lighter-skinned, and again, people have no idea how to categorize her. When she travels with Mr. Locke, she mostly more or less passes for white. On her own, no. She wants to be with her father, but he says it would be too dangerous. Mr. Locke is kind, but very much wants her  to be A Good Girl. Mostly she tries, but at root she's an adventurous girl, and smarter than is fashionable. Her only real friends are Samuel, the Italian grocer's son who does the deliveries to Locke House, and Bad, a.k.a. Sinbad, the dog Samuel gave her, that she was able to keep by means that become important later.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Maddow (author, narrator)

Random House Audio, October 2019

This is a fascinating and scary book about what the oil and gas industry has done, to the world in general, to Russia in particular, and in lesser ways to the USA.

Discovering the great natural wealth of large deposits of oil and natural gas ought to be a great boon to a country--and it can be. If it has a strong, functional government committed to the national welfare, not just the private wealth of the ruling class, it can be. Even countries that aren't at all democratic, such as a number of the Middle Eastern oil powers, have managed to raise the income, education, and health of much of the population, not just the privileged ruling classes.

But others haven't. Maddow first introduces us to Equatorial Guinea, and the complete lack of benefit to the economic lower classes there, while the ruling family and their friends rake in the billions.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Christmas at Ladywell, by Nicola Slade

Crooked Cat Books, November 2019

In a previous book, Freya Gibson inherited Ladywell, a ramshackle old house in the English countryside, that turned out to have a long connection to her family, family she never knew about. In particular, it's tied to a long line of strong women who held the family and the farm  together, and kept it a place of peace and healing.

Now, Freya is happily married to Patrick, and they have a little girl, Violet. But successful action/thriller writer Patrick has been in Los Angeles and Vancouver for months, working on the tv adaption of his novels. Freya has been working on redoing the cottage on the property to be rented out as a romantic getaway spot--after the holidays. Christmas is coming, and Patrick will be home, but first he calls and tells her he's got a deep-secret guest who'll be coming to stay in the cottage with another person, and can she please get it ready in time?

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Science Fiction Anthology V.1, by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Christopher M. Allport (narrator)

Audible Audio, July 2016

This is a collection of four short stories by Perreault. Two, "Progeny," and "Circle is Closed," got reworked a bit to become part of the fix-up novel, Progeny's Children. They're good short stories, and "Circle is Closed" has an extra kick at the end from being on its own as originally written. "The Greatest Host" is a fun little story for those of us who love dogs.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A Killer Collection (A Collectible Mystery #1), by Ellery Adams/J.B. Stanley (author), Andi Arndt (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2016

Molly Appleby is a writer for magazine "Collector's Weekly," and her latest assignment is checking out a pottery kiln opening, a world her mother, Clara, is intimately familiar with. At the opening, she meets a prominent, arrogant, obnoxious pottery collector. An unpleasant encounter, but most of the people there are pleasant enough, and she knows some of them. She pick up information for her article, and also finds a piece of pottery to buy.

And then the unpleasant man collapses in front of her. 911 is called, but when the ambulance carries him away, the siren isn't sounding--he's already dead. The man was a diabetic, and is found in the autopsy to have had far too much insulin in his system. Accidnetal  overdoes, is everyone's initial assumption.