Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Switchback, by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Skipjack Publishing, ISBN 9781950637041, November 2019

I need to start by saying this book is set in 1976.

Patrick Flint is a doctor, practicing at a hospital in Buffalo, Wyoming. Having grown up in Texas, done his residency in Colorado, and then lived in Irving, Texas with his family, he is loving small town Wyoming and the easy access to the wilderness.

His wife, Susanne, would much rather be back in Irving, as long as Patrick and their two kids go with her.

Their boy, Perry, is not yet a teen and is still sweet and cooperative. Daughter Trish, though, is fifteen and very much being a teenager. Neither Trish nor Susanne is happy about the hunting trip Patrick has planned for all of them.

Patrick, Susanne, and Trish are all in their different ways feeling a lot of stress right now. Patrick also has a 70s-
common attitude that his wife and children should do what he tells them. He's planned a fun opportunity to get good exercise, and why are Susanne and Trish being so defiant?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Hogfather (Discworld #20) (Death #4), by Terry Pratchett (author), Nigel Planer (narrator)

ISIS Audio Books, December 2002 (original publication November 1996)

The Auditors, guardians of order and logic in the Discworld cosmos (and really, you've got to have some sympathy for them, with a job like that), and this time the target of their concern is the Hogfather. Children must be stopped from believing in a fat old man who comes down chimneys and delivers toys every Hogswatch!

They need to rid the world of the Hogfather, which will be a neat trick, since the Hogfather isn't a person so much as a consensus figment of the imagination. And yet, he has a personality, and does deliver those toys...

Friday, December 27, 2019

Swordheart, by T. Kingfisher

Red Wombat Studio, November 2018

This book is set in the world of the Clockwork Boys, about five years later. Halla is a widow who has been acting as housekeeper to her late husband's uncle, Silas. Silas has now died, and the reading of the will reveals the new, as shocking to Halla as to Silas's own relatives, that he has left her his entire estate.

Her husband's cousin Alver, and his mother, Malva, are not prepared to accept this. The only acceptable resolution, at least in their minds, is that Halla marry Alver. Aside from the fact that she has no desire to marry clammy-handed Alver, Halla wants the ability to provide dowries to her own nieces, which clearly won't happen if Malva and Alver control the money.

Locked up in her bedroom until she gives in and agrees, Halla accidentally discovers that part of her inheritance is a magic sword. Imprisoned in it is a long-dead warrior, Sarkis, who is bound to serve whoever is the legitimate owner and wielder of the sword. He's also outraged that it's possible for a woman's in-laws to lock her up and attempt to force her to marry to suit them. He breaks her out, and they head off to possible help.

This is, of course, only the start of their troubles and adventures.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel (The Great Courses), by Erin Macdonald (author, narrator)

Audible Original, November 2019

This is an entertaining, informative set of ten lectures on the physics used, whether accurately or creatively, in science fiction. Erin Macdonald is a physicist--and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable science fiction fan. She wants the interested fans to be familiar with the science behind their favorite movies, games, and books, but for the purpose of greater enjoyment and more fun, not for the purpose of telling us, "But that can't work and you shouldn't be enjoying it."

She starts off with an introduction to the science of space, time, and space-time, including the history of how we arrived at our current understanding. We also get an overview of some really cool ideas, like string theory, that aren't as prominent as they were just  a few years ago, not because they've been proven wrong, but because, on the contrary, no one has come up with any effective ideas on how to test these theories.  If you can't come up with a way to test a hypothesis on whether it's true or false, it might be a cool idea, but it's not science. At least not yet.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Deadly Judicial Affair (Daisy McDare #11), by K. M. Morgan (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Meredith Potts, October 2019

Daisy McDare's last case is wrapped up, and now they're just waiting for the jury to come back with their verdict. In the midst of this, a new mystery arises--Daisy's husband sees Trevor, husband of Daisy's best friend, Samantha, on a city street, kissing a woman who definitely isn't Samantha. What's going on? And why does Trevor sound so convincing when Daisy confronts him and he denies it?

It's an interesting little mystery with a twist, and while the reader or listener may catch on before the characters do, it's still a fun story. The characters are interesting, likable, and determined to do the right thing.

Recommended as a light read or listen.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Dreamland, by Julia E. Clements (author) Kae Denino (narrator)

Pink Quill Books, ISBN 9781987152678, September 2018

Daniel Green is a perfectly ordinary young English boy. That his father died about a year ago doesn't, at first glance, make him any less ordinary.

What does, is that on his tenth birthday, his mother gave him a "silver ticket," which when placed under his pillow at night, takes him to Dreamland. In Dreamland, he meets fascinating friends--Tom the gnome, who runs a game booth on the fairground that Danny's imagination has created, and Lucy the fairy, whose parents run a sweet shop on the same fairground, among others. Dreamland isn't entirely safe, so there is adult supervision--a boy-sized cricket called, not Jiminy, very slightly to my disappointment, but--here I have a small problem. I listened to the audio, and heard the name as Argyll, while at least one other reviewer either heard or read it as Argit. The book starts off with a series of fun adventures--but greater challenges are coming for Danny.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

The Half-Life of Marie Curie, by Lauren Gunderson (author), Kate Mulgrew (narrator), Francesca Faridany (narrator)

Audible Audio, December 2019

Marie Curie was a scientist of tremendous accomplishments at a time when it was much harder than now for women to have careers in science at all. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the person, and one of only two to this point, to win two Nobels in different scientific fields. Her 1903 Nobel, with her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel, was in physics. Pierre Curie died in a road accident in 1906, and Marie Curie continued her research alone. In 1911, she won a second Nobel, in chemistry. That happened in the midst of a huge scandal over her affair with Paul Langevin, a married man estranged from his wife.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Library at the Edge of the World, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (author), Emma Lowe (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, ISBN 9781520085265, December 2017 (original publication November 2016)

Hanna Casey returned home to the west of Ireland, daughter Jasmine in tow, after finding her English husband, barrister Malcolm Turner, in bed with another woman. Jasmine is now finished school and working as a flight attendant, and Hanna is alone with her controlling, negative mother in her mother's bungalow. Hanna is the librarian at the Lissbeg Library, running that branch of the county library system, and driving a bookmobile around the area two days a week. And in her quest for a more peaceful, satisfying life, she's set her sights on renovating the decaying cottage that she inherited from her great-aunt, Maggie Cassey. Then she learns of a plan to reorganize county services--and eliminate her job.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Accepting the Lance (Liaden Universe #22) (Arc of the Covenants #5), by Sharon Llee (author), Steve Miller (author), Eileen Stevens (narrator)

Audible Studios, December 2019

The team sent off to take down the Department of the Interior are running into some interesting challenges--and an unexpected development.

Someone calling themself "Boss Surebleak" has demanded that Boss Conrad and the Road Boss be "retired," in the Surebleak sense, all their property stripped from their families, and those families deported from Surebleak, and Surebleak returned to its "native" laws and customs.

Theo, Bechimo, and crew are working off two serious demerits Theo and Bechimo earned while entering the Surebleak system in their previous adventure. The Portmaster is being hardnosed about it, which she admits is not really fair, but...

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Slayings in Sydenham (London Murder Mysteries #7), by Alice Castle

Crooked Cat Books, December 2019

Beth Haldane is more or less happily ensconced in the archivist's office at the Wyatt school, where her son Ben is a student despite the appallingly high fees. Her handsome boyfriend, Detective Inspector Harry York, is in the process of moving in with her--the heavy-lifting part being the moving in of all his books. Harry seems to have a collection I'd have considered adequate when I was able to collect print books, although his is almost entirely murder mysteries.

Beth's home on Pickwick Road is lovely, but small, and of very interesting geometry that makes it hard to use even the space that is there--and Beth is a neat freak. Harry's entirely reasonable cartons of books look to her like a disaster area.

So, at Harry's urging, she's looking for a house they can buy together.

Too bad the estate agent doesn't show for her appointment to see the place in Sydenham, and when another agent from the same office is persuaded to come out, they find the first agent dead in the kitchen pantry.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Buried Deep, by Margo Hunt (author), Therese Plummer (narrator)

Audible Original, December 2019

Maggie Cabot is chatting on the phone with her daughter, now in college, and planning her husband James' 50th birthday, when two police detectives show up at their door.

Twenty-five years ago, Hannah Nilsson disappeared while on a camping trip with friends, in the Florida Keys. Her body was never found, and she was assumed to have drowned when she went off on her own to swim at night. Maggie and James didn't even meet till several years later. Now her body has been found, buried deep enough that it wasn't found until development began on a new building. It's not clear how she did die, but she didn't drown,and she didn't wind up buried that deep by accident.

One of the friends on that trip was James Cabot.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Real Actors, Not People (Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries #8), by Karen Musser Nortman (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Karen Nortman, December 2019

Frannie and Larry Shoemaker are out RVing with their friends again, this time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They settle in to their campground, the day before a parade of RVs show up, soon to be followed by a tour bus full of has-been celebrities. A reality tv show is going to film there for the next four days.

The actors, of course, had no idea what they were getting themselves into. The assistant producer thought that she was going to be able to ban the other guests from leaving their campers for the entire four days of the filming. There are a variety of conflicts among the former stars--and they are not at all happy when they discover that they'll be required to actually camp, in tents, that they have set up themselves. When Frannie takes a tour in the glass-bottom boat to see the wrecks in Lake Superior, and sees the face of the head producer looking up at her from the water, clearly deceased, well, at least this time she didn't find the body while alone or with only her friends.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump by Glenn Simpson (author), Peter Fritsch (author), Mark Deakins (narrator)

Random House Audio, November 2019

In 2010, Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, two former Wall Street Journal reporters, left the news business and founded Fusion GPS, to do research mostly for businesses and law firms, and occasionally opposition research for political campaigns.

In 2015, they were hired to do opposition research on Donald Trump.

What started as an investigation of Trump's tangled business dealings became ever more intertwined in previous investigations into Russian corruption, as they realized that investigating Trump meant investigating his Russian associations and business dealings.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Cat Life: Celebrating the History, Culture & Love of the Cat, by Amy Shojai

Furry Muse Press, ISBN 9781948366142, December 2019

This is a book about cats and the love of cats--their evolution, history, folklore, and changing places in in our lives and homes. It's filled with beautiful photographs of a wide variety of cats, domestic and wild, and that alone would be worth your time.

In addition to the purely enjoyable sections, showing cats of all kinds and sharing their history, there are the practical parts of the book: care, health, training, and management.

It's not a long book, less than 150 pages, but every one of those pages is a pleasure to look at.


I received a free electronic galley from the author, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Twisted Ones, by T. Kingfisher (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781508297475, October 2019

Melissa, known as Mouse to family and friends, travels from Pittsburgh to North Carolina to clean out her deceased grandmother's house. Her grandmother had been prickly, unloving, and unfriendly, and moreover had been in a nursing home for a couple of years. Mouse hadn't visited in years, and her father, now hospitalized with his own health issues, didn't adequately warn her.

Mouse's grandmother was a hoarder.

While working through the trash on the first floor, she finds her step-grandfather's journal. Much of it seems not just odd, but potentially crazy, until she starts to encounter the frightening things he wrote about for herself. These include creatures constructed of bones, animal hides, and other random items.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Southern Harm (Southern B&B Mystery #2), by Caroline Fardig

Random House Publishing/Alibi, ISBN 9781984800299, November 2019

Quinn Bellandini and her sister, Delilah, run their grandfather's B&B in Savannah, Georgia. Recently, they got slightly distracted, by investigating a murder at a local restaurant. But now everything will be back to normal, right?

Unfortunately, when Quinn and her boyfriend, Tucker Heywood, are digging Tucker's Aunt Lela a new firepit in her back yard, they find a body. Even more unfortunately, it turns out to be the body of Esther Sinclair, a neighbor girl who disappeared thirty years ago, right after her high school graduation. Worst of all, older, married Lela had several run-ins with Esther, because Esther flirted with every man she met, including Lela's husband, Beau Habersham. Esther being found buried on Lela's property does not look good, and Lela is quickly arrested for Esther's murder.

And despite Tucker not wanting Quinn and Delilah to do anything dangerous, as they did in the previous murder investigation, he very much does want them to find evidence that will get Lela out of jail.

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, by Kelly Harms (author), Amy McFadden (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, May 2019

Amy Byler is a school librarian at a private school in Pennsylvania, with two children (Corinne, 15, and Joe, 12), and a husband who went off on a business trip to Hong Kong three years ago, and decided not to come back. It's been a struggle, and it meant going back to work after not using her MLS degree for twelve years, but she has held everything together and provided a decent life for her kids--including the pricey private school her husband had previously paid for, by getting the librarian job there.

But it's been a struggle, and there's very little in her life except her kids and her work.

Then her husband comes back, and wants to spend a week with the kids. After some hesitation, and indeed resentment, Amy decides it's a chance to attend a librarians' conference in New York City, do a presentation on her program for making reading more attractive and less stigmatizing to kids with low reading skills, and spend time with her old friend, Talia. Talia runs a fashion magazine, and comes up with a plan: a makeover for Amy, and a rejuvenating week of fun, for which she creates the hashtag, "#momspringa."

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Unicorn Key (Realm of Light & Fire #1), by J.A. Culican & J.A. Armitage

Armitage & Culican, December 2019

Freya is living quietly with her mother and grandfather, on their farm. Five years ago, when she was just thirteen, her grandfather had a stroke and hasn't spoken a word since. He just sits in his rocker by the fireplace, rocking.

So it's rather a shock when two young people, a young man named Jet, with startlingly black hair, and a young woman named Opal, with pink hair. They want Seth, her grandfather, to go with them on a quest to recover the diamond that maintains the balance of dark and light. It's been stolen, and the dark is taking over.

Freya is very, very annoyed with these people, who obviously don't know her grandfather at all--until one of them mentions that Cassiopeia sent them. After not speaking and barely moving for five years, he wakes up. Cassiopeia, he knows. Cassiopeia, he wakes up for. He's not strong enough to go with them himself, but Freya, he says, has to. And he gives her a pendent he wears.

Freya can't refuse the request her grandfather makes the first time he speaks in five years.