Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Marjorie's Cozy Kitten Cafe (Books 1-3), by Katherine Hayton (author), Kirsty Gilmore (narrator)

Chirp Audio, April 2020

Marjorie Hardaway runs a kitten cafe in the small New Zealand town of Hanmer Springs. Selling good coffee and excellent pastries, she encourages and facilitates the adoption of the kittens wandering all over her cafe, charming the customers. Unfortunately, her business might be about to go under. A local developer is planning to open a competing business--in front of hers, building on a section of land she had thought couldn't be developed, and thus cutting off the beautiful view her cafe currently has.

Even this concern fades into the background, though, when the police ask her to take in a little calico kitten--who was apparently a witness to the murder of one of her neighbors.

Monday, November 30, 2020

How to Raise an Elephant (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #21), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Adjoa Andoh (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781980094040, November 2020

Charlie is lured by one of his "friends" into providing temporary care for a baby elephant--and borrowing Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van to transport the elephant. He's hiding the elephant at his uncle's house, in the rather stark back yard, chained to a metal pole in the ground. But Charlie is doing his best to take good care of the baby, feeding formula from a bottle, and having his young cousin watch the elephant to be sure he doesn't get tangled up while Charlie is at work.

He did not, of course, tell Mma Ramotswe what he was planning to move in her van. The strange, earthy odor and the slightly bent tailgate, though, do arouse the curiosity of Mma Ramotswe and, especially, her husband, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter, by Laura Marchant

Laura Marchant, June 2020

Laura Marchant, in her fifties, found herself downsized out of the insurance company, thankfully with a good redundancy payout. It wasn't enough to retire on, but it was enough for her to take some time to figure out what she's going to do next. Ultimately, she decides she's going to start a pet sitting/dog walking business. But first, she tells us about her experience as a dog owner, and  Brece, the Golden retriever who became the first dog she acquired as an adult.

And this is where I started to get annoyed.

She proceeds to describe a number of unwise decisions, starting with determining whether the breeder she was getting her puppy from was aa puppy farm (British for puppy mill) by asking her, and ignoring the evidence of the mother dog and her puppies being in the barn, and the area being dotted with lots of poop that wasn't cleaned up--even knowing there was someone coming to see the puppies.

But she loved that dog, and she did learn some things along the way. It does make sense that she decided she wanted to become a pet sitter, when she had to make a career change.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Summer Reading, by Ken Liu (author), George Takei (narrator)

Serial Box, October 2020

This is a sweet, lovely short story.

The library hasn't received a visitor in 5,000 years. Its elderly robot docent preserves all the books and data it can--but nothing lasts forever, and data that doesn't get recopied ultimately doesn't get preserved.

Then one day, a little girl walks in, and the old robot and the young girl read a picture book together.

The story is sweet and wonderful, and George Takei's narration is the perfect icing on this tasty little cake.


I bought this audiobook.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Murderous Tangle (Seaside Knitters Society Mysteries #14), by Sally Goldenbaum (author), Julie McKay (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, January 2020

Birdie, Nell, Cassie, and Izzy are planning a holiday event for the approaching Christmas holiday, for all their family and friends. This is a small Massachusetts seaside town, and there's a sense that everybody knows everybody, though that's not always true.

Tess Bean is a fairly new arrival in town, working at two rather different part-time jobs. One of them is at the Seaside Harbor school, teaching science to the young students. She's lively and interesting, an environmental activist, and is very inspiring to many of them, including Birdie's granddaughter, Gabby. She also works for Clark Turner, the local veterinarian, in his kennel, where her gentle touch with the animals is valuable.

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Genius of Birds, by Jennifer Ackerman (author), Margaret Strom (narrator)

Highbridge Audio, April 2016

"Birdbrain" has long been a term that meant stupid or foolish. Birds have tiny brains, therefore they must be pretty stupid, right?

This book is about just how wrong that perception is.

Ackerman uses both personal anecdotes and solid scientific research from a variety of researchers to show us the real intelligence and variety of birds.

Crows and ravens get a fair amount of recognition as brighter than most birds, though they're also often considered loud and obnoxious. They can do some impressively complex things. New Caledonian crows, for instance can make compound tools, which an ability pretty much limited to them and humans.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Case of the Forsaken Child (Inspector David Graham #7), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, November 2020

DI David Graham and the Gorey Constabulary are in the midst of a big event for them--hosting a national police conference. It's a lot of work, with DS Janice Harding a co-organizer of it. It's a chance for Harding and others to shine for a wider audience. And it's a chance for Graham to see old friends and colleagues he hasn't seen since moving to Jersey.

But during a gathering at the pub after the end of Friday's first day of programming, one of the detectives from the Met, who has been working undercover on a drug case, tells him her cover has been blown. She won't, however, accept his advice to report this to her handler, or even accept the offer of one of his own officers to walk her back to her hotel.

Not long after the officers have all left the pub, undercover officer Kimberley Devine is dead, killed in a hit-and-run with no known witnesses, in an area where the CCTV coverage is lousy.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax," by Philip C. Plait (author), Kevin Scullin (narrator)

Tantor Media, Inc., ISBN 9781705259467, July 2020 (original publication March 2002

This is Phil Plait's first book, born out of his Bad Astronomy website, and it's an excellent and entertaining takedown of, as it says on the label, bad astronomy. He takes on many popular misunderstandings and misrepresentations of astronomical facts and realities.

Why is the sky really blue? Are meteorites hot enough to cause fires when they hit the ground? Can you see stars during the day if you are at the bottom of a well?

Plait takes on creationism, astrology, and UFOs, as well as bad science in movies and television. He talks about the Hubble telescope, and what it can and can't do, and why its data is not released publicly for a year after after collection.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Wing and a Prayer (The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club #1), by M.W. Arnoldun

The Wild Rose Press, November 2020

In World War Two England, Betty Palmer's sister, Eleanor, dies while flying a Tiger Moth--officially due to asphyxia while flying the plane too high. Yet Betty doesn't believe it, not least because Tiger Moths can't reach that kind of altitude. Also, Eleanor remained functional enough to land the plane rather than crash it, though she was dead by the time ground crew reached her.

Betty's friends in the Air Transport Auxiliary, civilian pilots who fly military planes to where the military pilots need them, decide they're going to help Betty solve the mystery of what really happened--and who killed Eleanor Palmer.

In the beginning, it's Betty and the three women assigned to live in her house, connected to the airbase. Penny Blake is estranged from her family, in part due to her decision to join the ATA. Mary Whitworth-Baines is shy around people but loves planes and flying. Doris Winter is an American looking for a new start after heartbreaking events back home. They're all smart and determined, and they bond under both the stresses of flying war planes with no ammunition, radio, or instrument flight training, and the quest to find Eleanor's killer.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bark vs. Snark (Queenie & Arthur #3), by Spencer Quinn (author), Rachel Jacobs (narrator), Jay Aaseng (narrator)

Scholastic Audio, October 2020

Queenie the cat and Arthur the dog, of Blackberry Hill Inn, are about to have their lives and naptime disrupted by a new adventure. The county fair is going to include two contests aimed at the four-footed residents--a beauty contest for the cats, and a frisbee toss for the dogs. The winner of each will receive a year's supply of food, and also a brand-new mountain bike for their favorite human. The twins, Harmony and Bro, are all in for this. Queenie knows she's the most beautiful cat, and if Arthur is not quite so enthusiastic about the frisbee toss, it's for Bro, and he loves Bro.

If there's something odd about the newest guest at the inn, Mr. Ware, well, only Queenie and Arthur have noticed that the old man the humans see is sometimes a much younger man, and even if they could tell the humans, it doesn't seem that important.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior, by Mark Leary (author, narrator)

The Great Courses, July 2013

Most of us want to understand human behavior, but it's often a puzzle. Why do siblings, born and raised in the same family, turn out so different? Why do identical twins have noticeably different personalities--and yet, also share some personality traits and preferences, even if they were adopted out and raised in different families? How different are men and women really? Why do we have behaviors that, in modern society, seem wildly maladaptive?

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Trouble in Santa Fe (Will Travel for Trouble #16), by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, October 2020

Having left Diablo Canyon, Minnie and Ben have headed north, Colorado bound, and have stopped for a day or two in Santa Fe, at a rather barebones RV park.

Ben remains frustratingly insubstantial.

Minnie is growing frustrated with the small camper she bought a few months ago, and stubbing her two yet again pushes her to decide to go shopping for a bigger rig. That's how she winds up at Redstone's RV Sales & Service, the only such business in Santa Fe that carries (some) new vehicles as well as used. Owner Carl Redstone is an arrogant, sexist jerk, but he does have at least one rig Minnie wants to look at. She swallows her objections, steps into the rig he's led her to, and squeaks in startled alarm when she sees the man laying on the couch, apparently asleep.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Explaining Humans:What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships, by Camilla Pang

Penguin Books LTD, March 2020

Camilla Pang, at age eight, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and not long after, she asked her mother if there was an instruction manual for humans. Sadly, there wasn't, so she decided to make her own, and started taking notes.

She now has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, and takes a delightfully analytical approach to deconstructing and explaining human behavior. It's startling, but illuminating, to look at human social behavior from the viewpoint of how proteins in our cells behave--individuality, teamwork, and adaptability, and the ways acting more like those proteins can help us live happier, more productive lives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Sweet Virginia (Out of Line Collection), by Caroline Kepnes (author), Kristen Bell (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, September 2020

Shelby works at the magazine Modern Love, is married, and has a new baby.

But none of her story ideas are getting accepted at the magazine. One day, she comes home from grocery shopping, and forgets to close the door  door while getting things to the kitchen, and their dog gets out. He's hit by a truck and killed.

Shelby's misguided pitch of a story about Hallmark movies is the last straw that gets her fired, and the death of the dog convinces her husband and her mother that she can't be trust unsupervised with the baby. Her mother--"Mommy," to both her and her husband, which I found extremely off-putting (seriously, we get no hint that "Mommy" has any other name) moves in, and she and her son-in-law occasionally let Shelby hold the baby for a few minutes.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (author), Tim Andrés Pabon (narrator)

HarperAudio, May 2017

An ongoing problem in research in psychology, political polling, and many other areas that rely on asking people questions about their views, activities, and experiences, is that people lie. Sometimes because the topic is a sensitive one, sometimes because they don't like pollsters, sometimes simply as a joke. Whatever the reason, a significant percentage of the people responding to any survey, will lie, and undermine the value of the data you think you're gathering.

This audiobook is about what you can find when you look at the the sources of data where people don't lie, because it would defeat their purpose rather than yours.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Christmas at Aunt Elsie's (Seahorse Harbor#2), by Emily Harvale

Crescent Gate Publishing, September 2020

Charlotte Short has had a bad few years. Her parents died within a month of each other three years ago. She sold their house and bought a cottage in the country, and discovered that living in the country and growing even some of you own food was not the stress-free life she had imagined. She sold it, rented a flat, and got a job at a funeral home--and got involved with one of the partners, Clark.

And after two years, Clark dumped her, saying he had to "find himself," and went skiing with his friends. Oh, he also said he thought it would be best for her to leave the company. They had a loud, fairly destructive breakup, in the office.

The other partners were nice about, all things considered, but obviously she was out immediately.

Then a Christmas card and round-robin letter reminds Charlotte--Lottie--of her Aunt Elsie. Aunt by marriage, widow of her mother's brother Eric, who died shortly before Lottie was born. Despite relatively little contact over the years, since, her mother had always told her to remember that Elsie was a wonderful, caring woman, and would always be there if Lottie needed her. She decides to go to Seahorse Harbour for Christmas, and see her aunt.

Friday, November 6, 2020

And Then She Shines: A Collection of Novelettes, by Helen Libby

Helen Libby, November 2019

This is a collection of five novellas, each featuring a woman at a critical turning point in her life. She's got a major decision to make, and some serious work to do to get to her decision and then make it work.

Ruby has gotten herself deeply in debt with what she's been reluctant to admit is a shopping addiction. Now, though, she's looking at her total debt, and the piles of clothes and handbags and shoes crowding all her storage, and less than half of which she's ever worn. She's ashamed, and embarrassed, and wants to resolve her problem and pay off her debt before anyone, especially her boyfriend, ever knows. But that's impossible. Will David be able to forgive her deception when he finds out? Can she forgive herself?

Anna has a boyfriend she loves dearly, but he's been suffering from serious depression for the last couple of years. And now he's told her he doesn't love her, has never loved her. She knows it's the depression talking, but what can she do? Can she save the relationship? Should she even try? A trip to Paris gives her some much-needed perspective, but she still needs to decide what she can do.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Trouble in Diablo Canyon (Will Travel for Trouble #15). by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Minnie Crockwell, October 2020

Minnie and Ben have just arrived at the Diablo Canyon Ranch, planning a relaxing stay and, for Minnie, her first experience of tent camping.

This time, Minnie won't have to explain how she happened to discover a dead body, because the victim has already died, on the morning's trail ride. Tammy, the daughter of the dude ranch's owners, has ridden back with the news, just as Minnie is checking in. Herman Schmitt was a regular visit to the ranch, and this time he'd brought his much younger wife of just six months, Betsy. The staff and other guests on the ride think he likely had a heart attack, but of course police come, as well as an ambulance, when Cass and Bill Landry, the owners, call 911. Nothing for Minnie to investigate this time, right?

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Arf (Bowser & Birdie #2), by Spencer Quinn (author), Jim Frangione (narrator)

Scholastic Audio, May 2016

Bowser and his girl, Birdie Gaux, normally live a happy and carefree life. Now, though, there's been a breakin at 19 Gentilly Lane; the smell of limeade aftershave and cat is all over the side of the house belonging to Bowser, Birdie, and Mama; Mama has lost her oil rig engineering job; a strange young woman with green hair is asking odd questions about the death of Birdie's father, years ago, in New Orleans; and a man who smells of limeade aftershave and cat is showing a lot of interest in Mama.

Birdie's dad's death has been a cold case for a long time, but maybe now it isn't, anymore. Why is it suddenly heating up again? And why are Bowser and Birdie the only ones noticing?

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Sherlock Holmes & the Ripper of Whitechapel

Megan Wiseman, ISBN 9781734464115, November 2020

This is a really interesting Sherlock Holmes story, obviously not canon, but very well done.

It's nearly a year after Dr. John Watson married Mary Morstan, and moved out of the 221B Baker Street flat to his own home and his own medical practice. Holmes has found he really misses Watson, both his company, and his contributions to his investigations--because Watson has been even more absent than might be expected due to marriage and professional obligations, especially these last few months.

And something strange and disturbing is happening; what will become known as the Jack the Ripper killings have started. Watson, on one of his rare visits, has urged Holmes not to become involved, because it's such a disturbing case. But Lestrade also makes a visit to 221B Baker Street, and asks Holmes for his help on this case the police have not so far made any progress on, and Holmes says yes.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Arabella of Mars (Adventures of Arabella Ashby#1), by David D. Levine (author), Barrie Kreinik (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, August 2016

This is set in a universe where there's atmosphere in space, and vessels that are a cross between airships and sailing ships ply the routes between the planets. We're told that Venus has swamps, in the good old tradition from before we knew what was under its clouds, but this story is about Mars.

This Mars is dry, but has a breathable atmosphere, and an intelligent native species that is crablike in appearance, but much larger, and upright. And, since this is 1813, and it was Isaac Newton watching bubbles rise that led to the airships and spacefaring sailing ships, Europeans have colonized Mars.

There's no real explanation of how this came about. But, despite what some readers will be thinking, it is a lot of fun.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Wrong Lance (Splinter Universe Presents #2), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, October 2020

This is not a typical Liaden Universe story; it is, as it says right on the cover, non-canon. The events in this story are not considered to have actually happened in the Liaden Universe we know and love--because this is the first attempt at the start of Accepting the Lance.

It's a darker story, with Emmissary Twelve arriving very early, and a much more dangerous, beligerent Clutch person not just than Edger and his clan, but than Emissary Twelve is in Accepting the Lance. It goes in a darker direction, though I don't want to say too much, because it's a good read, and I don't want to spoil it for other readers.

It's also faster-paced than recent Liaden novels, more the rapid-fire pace of the first Liaden novel, Agent of Change. The duocycle rescue of Theo, in particular, is a high-speed, high-adrenaline chase to thrill and delight. Theo also makes decisions about her commitment to her family, that are important and satisfying.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Heaven Sent, by Becca Fisher (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Kevin MacGorman, January 2020 (original publication February 2013)

Miriam is the next in line of the daughters of Samuel and Emma, and she's ready to marry the love of her life. She thinks she knows who that is--Jed, a neighbor she's known all her life. Unfortunately, instead of asking her to marry him, he asks her to go to the city with him--essentially on rumspringa, though the word isn't used. He's not ready to settle down yet; he wants to find out what the wider world has to offer before making that decision.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Slaying of Joe Foster (DCI Isaac Cook #13), by Phillip Strang

Phillip Strang, October 2020

DCI Cook and the Challis Street Station homicide team have a new murder on their hands. Major local crime boss Joe Foster has been shot dead, in broad daylight, in the street. A niggling little detail is that the street is Basing Street, a place he has no obvious reason to be.

In their search for the killer, they're soon studying not just his rivals, but his family--first wife, four sons and one daughter; second wife, one son, one daughter.

Relations between the two families are not good.

The oldest son of the first family, Terry, is ambitious and violent. Samantha, second-born, is smarter and more strategic. Tom is an unambitious drunk; Billy has his own quite profitable criminal career involving stolen cars, and has no real interest in Joe's criminal organizatio. The youngest, Ben, has a completely legal, and successful, career, and professes no interest in being involved in crime.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Minding Miss Manners: In an Era of Fake Etiquette, by Judith Martin (author), Jacobina Martin (narrator)

Andrews McMeel Audio, ISBN 9781524858353, June 2020

Miss Manners, a.k.a. Judith Martin, is back with another small volume of helpful advice in navigating the modern world politely. A major topic in this book is, of course, social media, and how to handle the lack of normal social courtesy and restraint that it enables.

No, you don't have to treat invitations to donate to charitable causes, or to purchase things you don't want from children who have been hijacked into fundraising for their schools, as social invitations. They are not, even when they are disguised as such. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Graceful Burdens (Out of Line Collection), by Roxane Gay (author), Samira Wiley (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, September 2020

At an unstated point in the future, young adults are genetically screened to determine their suitability for reproduction. Those who are deemed genetically suitable, are licensed to reproduce. Those who don't, will never be allowed to have children. It's a judgment that determines the entire course of lives--especially women's lives.

Hadley is an unlicensed woman, working a poorly paid job and living in a meager apartment. She would say that she is glad to be unlicensed, with the greaater freedom that gives in some ways. Yet, she goes to the local public library, to an upper floor--and checks out a baby, a little girl named Gemma.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

To the Land of Long Lost Friends (No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency #20), by Alexander McCall Smith (author), Lisette Lecat (narrator)

Recorded Books, October 2019

Precious Ramotswe attends a wedding, and thinks she sees a ghost--an old friend whom she hadn't seen in years, and whose death had been reported in the newspaper months ago. It turns out the friend is very much alive, and the newspaper reported the death of a woman of the same name, and mistakenly used the wrong picture. The friends reconnect--and the friend, Calvinia, has a problem she'd like Mma Ramotswe to look into. Her daughter, an adult with a good job, has started avoiding her mother. Calvinia is hurt, and can't find out why her daughter has cut contact. Can Mma Ramotswe?

Another old friend of Mma Ramotswe and Calvinia has apparently been swindled of all her money by a charismatic preacher.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke

Bloomsbury Publishing, September 2020

Our narrator is a man whom, for convenience, we'll call Piranesi. He lives in the House, a strange and grand structure of vast size, with vestibules, halls, corridors, and not least statues, stretching apparently infinitely in all directions. Piranesi carefully maps the House and its features, and tracks the tides that can flood the House to dangerous depths. By understanding both the tides and the halls, he can keep himself safe from the floods. He lives on fish and seaweed, and finds the House to be a source of comfort, peace, and understanding. All that he learns about his world, he carefully records in his journals. He regards his work as a serious and scientific project to understand the world.

There's another person in the House, a man he calls the Other, whom he regards as a friend. They meet every Tuesday and Thursday, and the Other asks Piranesi to gather information that assists in his own rather different research. He says it's about regaining what he calls the "Great and Secret Knowledge" that he says was lost in the pursuit of "progress," of which he has a very dim view.

Friday, October 23, 2020

The Once and Future Witches, by Alix E. Harrow (author), Gabra Zackman (narrator)

Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781549186424, October 2020

In 1893, in an alternate world slightly but crucially different from our own, witchcraft has been crushed out of existence by brutal purges and burnings, A few, small charms continue to exist, passed down from mother to daughter. Women who want any real power are seeking, in the US, to get the vote. Three sisters, though, raised on a hardscrabble farm by their abusive father, have their own viewpoint.

Beatrix Belladona, Agnes Amaranth, and James Juniper Eastwood (yes, the girls' father decided to name the youngest daughter James, after himself) grew up a closely united trio, protecting each other against their father, and learning the basics of witchcraft from their grandmother, Mags. Then something happeened, and Bella and Agnes have left not just the farm but the whole area, leaving Juniper behind. Juniper feels abandoned and betrayed, especially as years drag on and they never return for her, nor does she receive any word from them.

Then the day comes when Juniper, burning with long-stoked rage, and attacked by her father yet again, kills him.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

This Telling (Out of Line #1), by Cheryl Strayed (author), Kristen Bell (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, September 2020

In 1964, Geraldine Waters gets pregnant, and has to decide how she's going to deal with that. Many years later, she has to decide how to respond when the long-delayed consequences of her decision reach her. It's difficult to say much else without major spoilers. However, this is an interesting look at how social standards and expectations since then have changed.

A short, interesting read or listen, with some room for thought and reflection.

I received this story as part of the Audible Originals program, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Hollow Places, by T. Kingfisher

Gallery Books, ISBN 9781534451124, October 2020

Kara is recently divorced, and living in the spare room in the Wonder Museum that her Uncle Earl conveniently just happened to have ready for her. This means she doesn't have to go stay with her mother; both Kara and Earl know there would surely be murder done if she and her mother (Earl's sister) tried that. And really, Earl isn't as mobile as he used to be, and could use the help running the museum. His knee, in particular, isn't what it used to be.

The museum is filled with pretty strange and weird items, include
 But that's all normal enough, considering this is Uncle Earl and the Wonder Museum. When Earl's knee goes out completely, and he has no choice but to agree to surgery, Kara is lefte  running the museum on her own--and discovers a hole in the wall on the second floor, that opens onto concrete corridors stretching further than is possible in the building the museum is in. Oh, and there's a dead body, reduced almost just to bones, in a room off one of those corridors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Force Multiplier, by Cory Doctorow (author, narrator)

Macmillan Audio, October 2020

This is a short story in the Little Brother series, initially published as part of the Kickstarter for the new novel, Attack Surface, i.e., Little Brother #3.

Marcus is contacted by an old friend who is trying to dig herself out of a truly horrendous proplem: a doxxing and cyberbullying campaign by a man she dated briefly. Repeated attempts to regain control of her devices and accounts have failed or quickly been overcome; her enemy seems to have more information about her than she has about herself.

She's turned to Marcus because he's the one person she trusts who might be able to figure out what's going on.

It's nicely done, and of course, points out just how vulnerable we are to even measures intended to make our information more secure. You will be a bit more worried at the end!


I received both the ebook and audiobook editions of this story as part of backing the Kickstarter for the audiobook edition of Attack Surface, and am revieiwing it voluntarily.

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Conspiracy of Silence (DI Gillian Marsh #5), by Anna Legat

Headline Accent, October 2020

DI Gillian Marsh takes on the case of Bradley Watson, found dead on the grouncds of prestigious private (in English parlance, "public") school, Whalehurst. He's the son of the groundskeeper, and for that last year and a half has been working as the groundskeeper's assistant. He also has a history of drug dealing, for which he has served time. Yet in the last couple of years, he's either gone straight, or become much more careful.

He also has a memory card in his pocket, with very stalkerish pictures of Rachel Snyder, a Whalehurst student who has diseappeared. The autopsy soon confirms that Watson died either the night she disappeared, or very early the next morning.

At Whalehurst, no one wants to talk. The headmaster, Dr. Featherstone, who might be expected to want to get to the bottom of this mystery to protect his charges, even attempts to bar the police from the grounds. What's going on?

Sunday, October 18, 2020

The Ticklemore Christmas Toy Shop, by Liz Davies

Lilac Tree Books, October 2020

Hattie Jenkins is nearly eighty, a widow for fifteen years, but still active, social, and working in the Bookylicious cafe and bookstore. She has friends, but she and her husband never had children, and she has no family.

Alfred Miller is about the same age, a widower, but for not quite three years. He's depressed, lonely, and even more unhappy now that his daughter, Sara, has insisted that he come live in her house. She's married, newly retired, and convinced that her father is in the early stages of dementia. She tries to manage every detail of his life, in order to keep him safe. Sara has decided it's time to sell Alfred's house, the one he lived in with his wife, Dorothy, for many years.

One day, on one of his not really authorized walks, Alfred goes into Bookylicious and meets Hattie.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Machine (White Space #2), by Elizabeth Bear

Gallery Books, ISBN 9781534403017, October 2020

This is a standalone novel, the second set in the "White Space" universe of Bear's Ancestral Nights. There are some recurring characters, but no spoilers.

Dr. Brookllyn Jens is a rescue specialist on SPV I Race to Save the Living, better known by the shipmind's name, Sally. They operate out of Core General, a large, multispecies hospital, and have been dispatched to a site from which a distress signal has been received.

They arrive to find two ships, a centuries-old generation ship, and a current high-speed packet ship, SPV I Bring Tidings From Afar, shipmind name Afar,  crewed by methane breathers. The generation ship, Big Rock Candy Mountain, is from Terra, and traveling at relativistic speeds really shouldn't have been able to get this far in the time since it left. Yet here it is. Nor should the packet ship have had any reason to dock with it--and yet here it is.

No one on either ship is responding to hails.

Monday, October 12, 2020

You Make It Feel Like Christmas, by Louise Marley

Louise Marley, October 2020

Elizabeth Holly is a book editor, and the younger daughter of the Holly family. That's the Holly family of "Holly Jolly Christmas," Britain's longest-running Christmas program. 

Agatha Holly has been determined for the last two decades or so to teach everyone how to have the perfect Christmas--even if drives her family to insanity.

Lucy Holly, the older daughter, has grown up to found her own production company and produce her mother's Christmas extravaganza. In pursuit of her mother's continued success, she hasn't hesitated to use Elizabeth's, or rather "Beth's, as she's known on air, clumsy moments and awkward missteps and unsuccessful attempts at rebellion as hilarious laugh moments--making her the star of thousands of hilarious, but humiliating, gifs and memes.

That's why Elizabeth has refused to participate for the last several years, and this year, after a disastrous date resulting in a quite public unwanted marriage proposal, is heading for a not-yet-opened hotel to be a test-run guest for a traditional Christmas. Or at least, that's what she thinks.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Once More Upon a Time, by Roshani Chokshi (author), Rebecca Gibel (narrator), Shiromi Arserio (narrator), Vikas Adam (narrator)

Audible Originals, June 2020

Imelda was one of the famous Twelve Dancing Princess, until her sisters began to get married off. She falls in love with a princce--but not the heir--of a neighboring kingdom. The prince's name is Ambrose, and they marry and are granted by her father the little land of Love's Keep. The King and Queen of Love's Keep must be in love, and remain in love, and will be exiled after a year and a day if they are not in love.

Then Ambrose sacrifices their love to save Imelda's life after she is poisoned.

For a year and a day, no longer remembering why they got married, they live in Love's Keep, and avoid each other. Then their time is up, and Imelda must return to her father's kingdom, while Ambrose will be a wandering exile. And they both want something different. Then the witch who took their love from them in exchange for saving Imelda's life, returns to promise them she can grant them their true wishes, in exchange for going on a quest together to recover a potion for her, a potion that turns people to stone.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Exit Interview With My Grandmother, by Lily Meyersohn (author, narrator)

Audible Originals, April 2020

Lily Meyersohn is a young, Jewish, gay woman working through her grandparents' relationships, her own queer relationships, her family's Jewish history, and life in a world of endless uncertainty.

For her, one way of doing that is an "exit interview" with her grandmother. It's an intimate, personal conversation, about their family history, the slow loss of Lily's grandfather to the ravages of Alzheimers, and the depth and complexity their marriage had developed before that. Lily also talks about her own relationships, one with a woman who is never identified except as "the woman from Maine," but who was clearly important to her.  Another relationship is with Sophie, which is, as this memoir begins, current, but in various ways clearly moving toward its natural end.

What Meyersohn has to tell us includes not just these relationships, not just her grandparents' relationship, but the stories of how both sides of the family came from Germany to the US not long ahead of the Holocaust, and her own visit to Germany, to places important to her family history.

It's intimate and moving, and revealing and enlightening. A very good listen. Recommended.

I got this audiobook as part of the Audible Originals program, and am revieiwng it voluntarily.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Shadows in Death (In Death #51, by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, September 2020

Dallas and Roarke are back with another difficult case to solve.

Roarke's highly questionable past occasionally comes back to haunt him and Eve in awkward ways. The latest is exceptionally awkward. A rival and enemy from his hard childhood years in Dublin has arrived in New York and intends to kill him--after first killing everyone else who matters to him.

And Lorcan Cobbe is a skilled, professional assassin.

Cobbe claims to be Roarke's older half-brother, but Patrick Roarke, while employing him as an enforcer, never acknowledged him as his son. For all the elder Roarke's abuse of him, he did acknowledge the younger Roarke as his son. And that's what Cobbe, obsessed with Patrick Roarke as his hero and idol, can never forgive the boy that Patrick did acknowledge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Bend in the River, by Libby Fischer Hellmann

 The Red Herrings Press, ISBN 9781938733680, October 2020

It's 1968, and Tam and Mai are two teenage girls living in a small village in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The war is raging, though they are, they think, in an out of the way spot. Their village hasn't been directly affected--yet.

And then it changes. The girls are out gathering fruit, maybe the only two not in the village, when an American unit moves in, and massacres the inhabitants. The girls see everyone they know, including their parents and baby brother, die.

Tam is a little older, a little more possessed of a personality that can make decisions in the face of the tragedy. Once the Americas are safely gone from the village, she steals a sampan, and gets them moving down the river, toward Saigon. They may be able to get jobs there, and survive.

Murder on Cold Street (Lady Sherlock #5), by Sherry Thomas

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780451492494, October 2020

Charlotte Holmes continues to pursue her profession of consulting detective, posing as assistant to her invalid, and entirely fictional, brother Sherlock.

She and several firends and allies have just returned from a trip to Europe and an act of grand theft to retrieve some priceless art which is exposing a friend of Mrs. Watson's to blackmail. They haven't been home long when Mrs. Treadles, wife of Inspector Treadles, a frequent collaborator of Charlotte's, arrives with a desperate plea for help.

Inspector Treadles has been found in a locked room with two dead men, holding the gun used to kill them. The two dead men, Mr. Longstead and Mr. Sullivan, worked with Mrs. Treadles at Cousins Manufacturing, a respected firm that Mrs. Cousins recently inherited from her brother, Barnaby Cousins. Barnaby was a lax manager, but Alice Treadles is determined to be active and responsible, and in different ways, these were the two men she worked most closely with. Was Inspector Treadles suspicious? Jealous?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Contractors, by Lisa Ko

Amazon Original Stories, September 2020

Sandra Guzman in New Jersey, and Sandie Guzman in Manila, get accidentally connected by a careless journalist. Soon they are exchanging emails, seeing each other's problems and advantages--and changing their lives.

The two women are contractors working as contract moderators for "the largest social media company in the world." As contractors, not direct employees, they don't get the company salaries, don't get the company benefits, and are overworked and struggling to make ends meet.

As content moderators, they have to look at a lot of really vile stuff.

Sandra is a single mother, living with a boyfriend who isn't a bad guy but whom at this point she'd rather leave if either of them could afford it. 

Sandie is a few years younger, with the university degree Sandra never got, living with her family in an apartment smaller than she grew up in. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

Minnie's Orphans, by Lindsey Hutchinson

Boldwood Books Ltd., ISBN 9781838893927, October 2020

Minnie and Billy Marshall run a children's home in 19th century Wolverhampton, England. Minnie has her own troubled background, and the Marshalls started the home with Minnie's own children from a previous marriage. Her husband had, after learning a dark secret about Minnie, sold them for five shillings each to Reed House, a rather stark, harsh orphanage. The children had to be rescued from the orphanage and its abuse, and they brought a few of their friends--and the Marshalls found an empty house that the city couldn't find an owner for. It became Marshall's Home for Children, and more children found their way there.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Sisters of the Winter Wood, by Rena Rossner (author), Ana Clements (narrator)

Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781549173349, September 2018

Liba and Laya are two Jewish girls living in a small town in Ukraine, in the early 20th century. They are starting to hear alarming stories about dangers to Jews out in the larger world, but they feel safe in their town, secure in the knowledge that both Jews and non-Jews are decent people in their town.

Then Liba discovers that her father, her beloved Tati, can transform into a bear, and her Mami into a swan. And, also, that she is likely going to be able to transform into a bear.

Unfortunately, that's on the same night that a stranger shows up at their cottage in the woods, with the news that Tati's father is dying, and that Tati, his heir, needs to return immediately. The parents take a couple of days to make a decision, but then they go, leaving the girls behind, and telling Liba to protect Laya.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Hectic Halloween Hijinks (Witches of Enchanted Bay #12), by Amelia Morgan

Amelia Morgan, October 2020

Meg Walton, witch and donut maker in the little town of Enchanted Bay, is worried about her boyfriend, police detective Connor Smith, has lost his confidence.

And for a police detective, that could potentially be fatal. Hesitating at the wrong moment could get him killed.

Connor, until recently, was under a werewolf curse. He locked himself up in a cage in his basement during the full moon to avoid killing innocent people when he was in wolf form. Recently, Meg and other witches managed to lift the werewolf curse, and Connor is a normal man again. As grateful and happy as he is, he's worried that the loss of the wolf has cost him his confidence and effectiveness. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dark Star Rising (Blackwood & Virtue #2), by Bennett R. Coles

HarperVoyager, ISBN 9780063022690, September 2020

Another galactic empire.

A space navy very closely based on the 18th/19th century Age of Sail British navy. This includes propulsion almost entirely by solar sail--seemingly including at FTL speeds. Grappling hooks, boarding parties, cannon.

A reptilian alien species who call themselves Theropods--i.e., the name we give to the category of dinosaurs that includes Tyrannosaurus Rex and the ancestors of birds. Okay. I mean, it seems unlikely, but, okay.

Our heroes, Subcommander Liam Blackwood and Sublieutenant Amelia Virtue, are the executive officer and the quartermaster of HMSS Daring. (That's "His Majesty's Sailing Ship, by the way, not "Space Ship." Those solar sails, able to propel these ships at FTL speeds...) They're hunting down pirates led by the nefarious, mysterious Dark Star. We meet them, and the captain, Commander Sophia Riverton, as well as the ship's doctor, Sublieutenant Dr. Ava Templegrey, as they're heading off to a gala ball while ashore resupplying the ship. Riverton, Blackwood, and Templegrey are all midlevel nobles; Virtue and other crew members we meet are commoners. Within a very hours, they'll be heading off again, much sooner than planned, with a new enemy in addition to the pirate, Dark Star.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Why Evolution is True, by Jerry A. Coyne (author), Victor Bevine (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2009 (original publication 2008)

This is a pretty good, and comprehensive, discussion of the evidence for evolution, in ways we don't always get it in reports of the latest new findings and the conclusions that scientists have reached.

Coyne's goal is to explain, clearly and thoroughly, how we know evolution is real and factual, and amply supported by solid scientific evidence. It's not "a theory" in the popular sense of that word.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Catfishing on CatNet (CatNet #1), by Naomi Kritzer (author), Casey Turner (narrator), Corey Gagne (narrator)

Audible Studios, November 2019

Steph Taylor and her mother move a lot--roughly every six months or so; sometimes more often. And they don't make friends anywhere; that's her mom's choice. They're in hiding from Steph's stalker father, who burned down their house when she was a small child, and has been chasing them ever since.

At least, that's her mother's story, and Steph remembers just enough that she believes it. Her father is dangerous.

So Steph doesn't have a smartphone, just an old-fashioned flip phone. She can't post any selfies online, or her real name, or her location. They don't stay anywhere long enough for her to make friends, and if she did, she wouldn't be allowed to stay in touch with them when they move again, anyway. Instead, she has her friends on CatNet, her favorite online site. On CatNet, she's Little Brown Bat, and all the friends in her "clowder" have similarly anonymous handles. That includes a moderator, CheshireCat.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, by Nick Bostrom (author), Napoleon Ryan (narrator)

Audible Studios, September 2014

I found this a frustrating book.

It's about artificial intelligence, whether or not we'll achieve it soon, and whether or not it will be good for mere human beings if we do. And while I suspect Bostrom doesn't think so, I found it, overall, depressing.

First, he wants us to understand that, despite repeated failed predictions of imminent true AI, and the fact that computers still mostly do a small subset of what human brains do, but much faster, and we don't even know how consciousness emerges from the biological brain, strong AI is coming, and maybe very soon. Moreover, as soon as we have human-level artificial intelligence, we will almost immediately be completely outstripped by artificial superintelligence. The only hope for us is to start right now working out how to teach the right set of human values to machines, and keep some degree of control of them. If we wait till it happens, it will be much too late.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Rue Stone, by Janet Stock

Janet Stock, September 2019

Janna is working in a little inn with an odd history, enjoying her work, but also wondering how, in their small town, she'll meet someone she wants to marry and have a family with. Among the stories her grandmother and others tell is the story of the rue.

They're strange men who wander the world, with hair and eyes that change color, and carrying a stone that sometimes glows. They are rumored to be legendary lovers.

And sometimes, with a particular woman, their hair and eyes come to match. They will leave their stone with her, go traveling again--and then, eventually, come back.

One busy night at the inn, a rue walks in.

This isn't any folklore I'm familiar with, but that's what it feels like.

It's a sweet and gentle story, and I really thoroughly enjoyed it. Very satisfying.


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