Friday, February 28, 2020

Books, Brownies, and Murder (A Story Tree Cozy Mystery #1), by Lori Woods (author), Jennifer Groberg (narrator)

Demy Watts, February 2020

Clary St. James runs a bookstore cafe, the Story Tree, in Valley Springs. Her chef is Marie, a few years older, originally from France, and an absolutely killer baker.

Which is great for business, until someone dies of rat poison that somehow found its way into one of Marie's brownies.

We meet an array of interesting local characters, some likable, some cantankerous, and one a bit more devious and less balanced than the town residents, including Clary, suspect.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The White-Throated Transmigrant, by E. Lily Yu (author), Emily Woo Zeller (narrator)

Serial Box, February 2020

Winona Li is a geologist who has been working in the oil fields, but is currently unemployed. Returning back to her apartment after an interview, a bird strikes her car's windshield, and is killed. Struck deeply by guilt, she gathers it up and takes it to a museum taxidermist in the little town she's currently living in.

Winona is a woman in the oil fields when she's working, and is a Chinese-American in a part of the country that's no so big on diversity. She's an outsider, and feels she will always be.

But for a little while, she learns the art of taxidermy from the unwelcoming taxidermist who is nevertheless willing to use her free labor.

And the whole time she is moving towards a strange transformation.

This is a quiet, sad story, beautifully told, and beautifully read by the narrator.

I got this audio short story from Serial Box, while they were running a promotion giving away short stories for free, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Beasts Who Fought for Fairyland Until the Very End and Further Still, by Catherynne M. Valente (author), Joniece Abbott-Pratt (narrator)

Serial Box, February 2020

Catherynne Valente says she was advised to stop talking about politics, and go back Fairyland and fairy tales, which of course are not at all political. Right? She decided to take their advice, and this short story is the result. It's set just before the events in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, and does not include any politics at all. Of course.

It does feature several quite interesting characters, including A-Through-L, whose mother was a wyvern, and whose father was a library. He is, consequently, a wyverary. How can you not love a wyverary?

It's short, absorbing, and very satisfying, and as I may not have mentioned before, not a all political.

Very enjoyable.

I got this short story from Serial Box, while they are offering a selection of short stories, in ebook and in audiobook format, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Gate That Locks the Tree (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #30), by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author)

Pinbeam Books, February 2020

Surebleak isn't just Clan Korval, and our leading characters here are Vertu Dysan, a cabbie formerly of Liad; Yulie Shaper, a farmer and neighbor of Clan Korval; Mary, his spouse; Anna, a kid with some unusual talents; Rascal, her dog; Chelada, a cat about to have kittens; Toragin del'Pemridj, also formerly of Liad; The Tree; and Jarome, also a cabbie.

Vertu picks up her passengers--Yulie, Mary, Anna, and Rascal--and agrees to drive them home to Yulie's place in the building snowstorm. It' a bad storm, and this might not be entirely wise, but Vertu is sure she feels The Tree urging her on.

Along the way, they encounter another cabbie and his passengers, who were trying to reach The Tree, but have crashed. Jarome, the cabbie, has been injured, and Toragin and Chelada can't help him without getting help themselves. They have no experience with serious snow, just for starters.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Break Shot: My First 21 Years, by James Taylor (author, narrator, performer)

Audible Originals, January 2020

James Taylor tells the story of his youth, including the complexities and pain of his family, and how that affected him. He intertwines his words, memories, and his songs.

His father was a doctor from a wealthy family in the south, and his mother was from Massachusetts, where they met while Isaac Taylor was a resident at Massachusetts General Hospital and Gertrude was attending the New England Conservatory of Music. For years, their marriage was a bit of a tug of war between north and south, with Isaac's career and their residence in North Carolina, while Gertrude ensured that the kids, at least, spent the summer on Martha's Vineyard with her.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The Last Real Girl (The Disappearance of Charlotte Walters #1), by L.C. Warman (author), Brooke Myers (narrator)

Greenleaf & Plympton, May 2019

Reese and her mother moved to the prosperous, exclusive town of St. Clair when Reese was eleven. They're not typical of the town; her mother is a nurse, working at the hospital, and it's luck and determination that enabled her to find affordable housing within St. Clair. But Reese likes their outsider status, feeling that it lets her appreciate the beauty and distinctiveness of the town better than the locals do.

Reese was also lucky to become the best friend of Charlotte Walters. Charlotte is from one of the most prominent families in town, and very popular. However, she and Reese met during a brief rift in Charlotte's popularity in middle school, and she befriended Reese, who was also eating lunch alone. The single best thing we know about Charlotte is that, when her popular-crowd friends returned, she remained loyal to Reese as her best friend, including her in a crowd that normally would have ignored her.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Puppy Love (Service Animals #1), by Lucy Gilmore (author), Lauren Sweet (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, May 2019

Sophie Vasquez and her sisters run Puppy Promise, a service puppy training organization. (I would be much happier about this if they weren't presented as placing the service dogs as puppies. Organization-trained service dogs are rarely placed before two years old. Being "fully trained" means having the discipline and impulse control to behave properly in public. Don't bet on this before at least 18 months.)

That complaint aside, Gilmore does present Sophie as a capable dog trainer.

In this case, she's assigned to get Harrison Parks, wildfire firefighter, trained and bonded with his new diabetic alert service dog, a Pomeranian.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Alone With the Stars, by David R. Gillham (author), Hillary Huber (narrator), Emily Bauer (narrator)

Audible Originals, January 2020

In 1937, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, set out on their around-the-world flight, and very nearly made it. They had completed 22,000 miles of the flight, with about 7,000 miles remaining, when they departed from New Guinea, headed for Howland Island. That was the last that was seen of Amelia Earhart, pioneering aviator and the most famous woman in the world.

For many years, the accepted version of events said that after the last transmissions received from Earhart while in the air, there were no further transmissions after the point at which she was presumed lost. Yet there were people who claimed to have picked up subsequent transmissions. They were ignored, dismissed as bogus, but eventually--many years later--determined to be credible.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

The Dark Curse (Spellcaster Academy Episode #2), by Jenetta Penner (author), Aimee McKenzie (narrator)

Jenetta Penner, October 2019

In episode one, Josy Barrows discovered her parents weren't who she thought they were, got an invitation from a previously unknown aunt, and found herself shoved through a portal to The Magic Side--where she learned she had magic powers, was enrolled in the Borealis Academy, found she was a misfit there, too. Then the Academy is attacked, and her powers--temporarily--are fully under her control long enough to play a crucial role in defending the Academy from the attack.

So now, in episode two, everything is great, right?

No, of course not.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Red Dots, by Ray Jay Perreault (author, narrator)

Ray Jay Perreault, November 2018

Deep Space One is sent out from a deteriorating Earth to find the best candidate New Earth in a region that has several promising choices. They're a small crew, just six people, three couples, and they can all trust each other.

Surely they can all trust each other.

They're spending most of their time in deep sleep, waking for seven-day periods at long intervals, to maintain the ship, review new data, make any course adjustments, check for problems and receive mail from home. Shortly before the halfway point, when the ship will need to reverse itself and start decelerating for arrival at what is now determined to be the right planet.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World, by Michael Pollan (author, narrator)

Audible Original, January 2020

Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world, and the only one we routinely give to children recreationally, in soft drinks.

But why? And what effects does it really have on us?

Michael Pollan decided to find out.

In this short book, he looks at the history of caffeine, both the coffee plant and the tea plant, and I'm going to say right here that you don't have to rely on Pollan's own statements to know that he's a coffee drinker rather than a tea drinker. It's clear in how much time he devotes to our two favorite sources of caffeine. He also looks closely at how caffeine affects our lives, work, and how we organize our economic lives.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Golden in Death (In Death #50), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Eriksen (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, February 2020

A respected and loved pediatrician is getting ready for his morning run after his husband has gone off to his job as headmaster of prestigious prep school. An unexpected package arrives, from a shop he's never heard of. He opens it, and in minutes he's dead.

It's a puzzling case, as no one had any apparent problems with Dr. Kent Abner. It's also an alarming one, as it quickly becomes clear he was killed by a fast-acting toxic gas. Lt. Eve Dallas quickly clears people from the scene, and calls in the hazmat team.

Friday, February 7, 2020

King of the Dogs, Queen of the Cats, by James Patrick Kelly (author), Stefan Rudnicki (narrator)

Skyboat Media, January 2020

At some undetermined but certainly distant point in the future, Gio Barbero, Junior Senator, lives on the world of Boon. He's the clone descendant of Boon's ancient founders, and he's painfully aware that there are problems on Boon.

Cats and dogs have been Uplifted, and are citizens with "equivalent"--not equal--rights. They're not happy at their limited rights and mostly doing low-level jobs, including as servants in the homes of the "grands," the people like Gio and his elder clone-brother, Fra, clone-descendants of the founders.

What Gio and the other Grands know that the general population, human or otherwise, doesn't know, is that the clone technology they inherited, and don't really understand fully, is failing. The government of the Grands, the Supremacy, is poised to fail.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Crow's Rest (Faerie Crossed #1), by Angelica R. Jackson (author), Brenda Scott Wlazlo (narrator)

Crow & Pitcher Press, August 2018

Avery Flynn arrives at her Uncle Tam's house, for the long summer visit that has been part of her life since she was a young girl. She's now in her late teens, and late last summer, she and her old friend, Daniel, took the first hesitant steps toward romance. She's hoping they can pick up where they left off.

But strange things have happened, and Daniel isn't Daniel anymore. At first she just thinks he's changed. Then she thinks--this really isn't Daniel. It's someone else in his body, and she needs to get him back.

Even once she's reached that conclusion, what's really going on is stranger and more frightening that she thinks. She's about to discover that the world of the Fae is real, and dangerous.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Murder & Delicious Halloween Candy (Daley Buzz Treasure Cove Cozy Mystery Book 29) (Sabrina Carlson Cozy Mystery #6), by Meredith Potts (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Meredith Potts, September 2019

It's Halloween, and Sabrina Carlson and her police detective husband, David, are at home. Sabrina is giving out candy to neighborhood kids, and David is stressing out about what mischief or disasters will happen this Halloween. Their daughter, Jessica, now a police officer on the Treasure Cove police force herself, is off duty and attending a big Halloween party.

Only Jessica encounters anything interesting that evening. There's a nasty argument between Fiona and her boyfriend, Trevor, and Fiona storms out, telling Trevor not to follow her. Trevor leaves shortly thereafter.

When David gets to the police station the next morning, he learns that Fiona has been found dead, in the town cemetery, killed with a blunt object, at the grave of a former girlfriend of Trevor's. Trevor had dumped that former girlfriend, and taken up with Fiona. The former girlfriend had killed herself shortly thereafter.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Gemini, by Ray Jay Perreault (author), Ed Waldorph (narrator)

Ray Jay Perreault, August 2017

In a solar system with twin planets orbiting in the same orbit on opposite sides of the star, we meet two alien species, the Raog and the Ora.

The Raog are peaceful, cooperative, with a society that shares out jobs and roles based on ability, not gender or other divisions of society, with the goal being families that grow and thrive. Individual or family wealth isn't a thing they work for. The focus is growing their food crop, jabon. Beyond raising jabon, there are Raog who ask questions about the world and the space beyond it. The main function of their space program is maintaining weather satellites to help in the cultivation of jabon, but Dr. Wong, his son Ornage, and others are asking questions about the wider universe. Dr. Wong thinks he's discovered another planet, on the other side of their sun, and wants to send an uncrewed ship to investigate.