Friday, July 31, 2020

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire, May 2019

Roger Middleton and Dodger Cheswich areey  two kids growing up on opposite sides of the country, Roger in Cambridge, MA, and Dodger in Palo Alto, California. They're both adopted, the same age, and perfectly ordinary kids.

Except they're not. 

Roger's parents and teachers are impressed by his quick grasp of and love for English, but frustrated by his struggles with math. Dodger's parents and teachers are equally impressed by how easily she masters math, and frustrated by her struggles in English class.

Eventually, they both seemingly start to master their weak subjects. What's really happening is that they have started communicating in their heads, not quite telepathically but close, and coaching each other.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Heavenly Temptation, by Becca Fisher (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Kevin MacGorman, January 2020

Allison Kaufman is the younger sister of Abigail, who not long ago left Lancaster and Amish country for Philadelphia, and marriage to a kind, loving, devout, upright--Englisher. Her father didn't handle it well, and still isn't. Abigail was his favorite, and was supposed to take over the family quilt shop.

Allison is still at home, and is still the second daughter, not the oldest and the favorite. After trying to control every decision Abigail made, Samuel barely has time to notice what his second daughter is doing.

Allison is also far more committed to the Amish way of life.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Chocolate Pudding With a Side of Murder (Daley Buzz Cozy Mysteries #11), by Meredith Potts (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

Meredith Potts, May 2019

When Sabrina Carlson learns, one fine Sunday morning, that she's pregnant, she and police detective husband David are downright euphoric.

That lasts until not much later, when a murder happens in town. Sabrina had talked to the victim not long before, and knew he was troubled, but murder? What happened?

Finding out is David's job, and this time, because of the baby on the way, Sabrina is going to forgo her usual participation in the investigation.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Berlin is Never Berlin, by Marko Kloos

Tor Books, May 2020

In this story set in the Wild Cards universe, Khan is a Joker-Ace, half human and half tiger--literally, straight down the middle, and he works as a very expensive bodyguard. His latest job is escorting Natalie Scuderi, a young woman who is a wealthy socialite and a pop media figure on a trip to Berlin, Germany. She's brought her small but annoyingly energetic entourage, and they head for a nightclub the day they arrive. As they're leaving the nightclub, they are targeted by an extremely well-planned ambush, which includes another Joker-Ace. He's built like a tree--fairly literally--and is even stronger than Khan.

Natalie is kidnapped.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Widower's Journey, by Abraham Troyer (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Abraham Troyer, October 2019

Isaac Hochstetler is a widower, still struggling with grief a year and a half after his wife of 31 years died. He's attending a grief support group, where he's made a friend, but not lessened the grip of his grief much. He has also started volunteering at an animal shelter--where walking the dogs really does help, and he adopts one dog, named Grace.

But he's still feeling lost an lonely, until one night a new woman shows up at the grief support group. She's just moved from Ohio to Pennsylvania, and has been a widow about two years. They talk, he likes her, and he goes home.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Knox, by K Arsenault Rivera (author), Brooke Bolander (author), Gabino Iglesias (author), Sunny Moraine (author), Pilar Uribe (narrator)

Serial Box, July 2020

Morgan Knox, an Afro-Latina detective in 1930s New York City, is called to look at a body--the body of a man whom she'd recently met with. The remains are bones and ashes, with a strange coating, and nothing else burned. Is this connected to the case he recently hired her for?

Quite possibly. Morgan was a field nurse during the Great War, and she came back from that experience seeing bizarre and horrifying supernatural phonomena. The more she pokes into this case, the more strange and confounding things appear. The dead man, Siverek, turns out not to be who he presented himself as. His true history is shocking. In his more recent life, he was a book collecter whose fellow collectors seem to be equally odd and suspect. The clues lead her to Craddock, a man from a previous case--who is dead.

Or is he?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The History of Bourbon (Great Courses), by Ken Albala

Audible Originals, December 2019

This is a lively and interesting history of bourbon, starting with human discovery of alcohol, and why it made nutrtional and economic sense to turn a good proportion of your grain into alcoholic beverages.

Eventually, we get to the invention of whiskey, its medicinal uses, and its evolution into a recreational drug. It was not to completely lose its medicinal uses, however, till the 20th century.

Finally, we get to the invention of bourbon in the late 1700s, by--someone. Someone in the new United States of America, probably in Kentucky. From there we get the sruggles over what is bourbon, should we have any pure food and drug laws (really; whiskey and bourbon were a significant factor in this), etc.

Friday, July 17, 2020

With This Click, I Thee Wed ( #1), by Bonnie R. Paulson (author), Nicole Marie Blessing (narrator)

Captiva Publishing, April 2018

Rachel is living in the Ohio small town she grew up in, divorced from rising politician Derek, and living with her parents, who at best regard her as then unwanted, unexpected third child they never intended to have. Because Derek is making this a choice between him and her, for everyone, everyone is dropping her, including her hairdresser. 

But lonely and drinking on New Year's Eve, she sees an ad for a website, "," and decides to give it a try. The survey is easy and fun, and she is offered two possible matches, and chooses one... Before she realizes it, she's committed herself, clicked "I do," and spent a couple thousand dollars she doesn't really have. And the only way to get that money back is to head off to Idaho, stick it out six months, and complete the tasks assigned by the website.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Walk Along the Beach, by Debbie Macomber

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780399181368, July 2020

When her mother died, Willa Lakey, barely a teenager, she had to take over keeping house and raising her baby sister, Harper. Their brother, Lucas, enlisted in the army; their father fell apart and started drinking. 

Later, when Harper developed leukemia, Lucas came home to be as much help as possible, but their father fell apart even worse. 

Willa become the one who did all the worrying and all the caretaking.

When Harper has been recovered from her leukemia, and is three years into being a fitness trainer, the sisters are still living together in a two-bedroom apartment, and Willa has opened and is having some success with her coffee shop, Bean There. Willa is determined to have stability and safety; Harper has starting enjoying her new-found life with a variety of risk-taking adventures, including bungee-jumping and, most recently, a plan to summit Mount Ranier. She also dates frequently, though no guy lasts very long. Willa, in contrast, rarely dates at all. Then Harper tells Willa a new customer in the coffee shop, Sean O'Malley, is the man for Willa.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Flying Flamingo Sisters, by Carrie Seim (author), Gabriel Vaughan (narrator), Bill Andrew Quinn (narrator), Jessica Almasy (narrator), Carrie Seim (narrator), Kevin Pariseau (narrator), Dina Pearlman (narrator), Khristine Hvam (narrator)

Audible Originals, December 2019

A Depression-era kids' wild romp in the sky.

When their aviator parents take off on a record-setting expedition, and then disappear over the Pacific, the Flamingo sisters--Flo, Faye, and Franny, ranging from 16 down to 9--have very little time to be worried before their Evil Uncle Freidrich swoops in to inform them he's now in charge. And girls can't fly airplanes, or aeroplanes, so he's taking possession of the girls' biplane. Oh, and they need to hand over the map to the Flamingo family treasure, immediately.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Heart of Barkness (Chet & Bernie Mystery #9), by Spencer Quinn (author), Jim Frangione (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781501997631, July 2019

Chet and Bernie are back, with Bernie just being released from the hospital after his injuries at the end of the previous book. 

Susie Sanchez has come back from London, but only because she feels they need to make some real decisions. They both want to be together, but how badly? Working for the Washington Post is her dream job. Bernie loves what he does, and his son, Charlie, lives in the valley with his mother and stepfather. A tough decision is coming.

So when Bernie is given tickets so oldtime country singer Lottie Pilgrim singing at a local bar, he and Chet go to see her perform.  This draws them into a case that starts with a stolen hundred-dollar bill, and leads to dead bodies, broken hearts, and a really complicated family tangle that has nothing to do with Bernie's family.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765379962, February 2019

The planet of January is tidally locked, one side endless, blazing daylight, and the other endless, frozen night. There are two human cities on January, in the narrow temperate zone. They're cities of very different cultures. 

Xiosphant is rigidly autocratic, with very tight rules governing waking, sleeping, work, the limited amount of leisure time available. The language is complex, with case forms that indicate social rank of speaker and of the person addressed, time of day, and numerous other details.

Argelo superficially appears to be without rules, and in reality is run by several Mafia-like families, and its own complex social conventions. There are no rules about when you can eat, work, or sleep, and the language lacks all the complex case forms, working entirely by word-order.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Rattlesnake Brother (Gabriel Hawke #3), by Paty Jager (author), Larry Gorman (narrator)

Paty Jager, June 2020

Gabriel Hawke is a Fish & Game State Trooper in Oregon. The story starts with Hawke encountering a well-known poacher with a hunting tag that's perfectly legal, for once, and a another hunter with him, whose tag was issued to the local district attorney, who is not part of this hunting party. From this seemingly mundane crime, the kind Hawke handles all the time, there slowly develops a disturbingly complex tangle of bodies, conflicting evidence, and clues weirdly pointing at a fatal car accident that happened decades ago when the current DA was in high school.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Space Academy, by Hannah Hopkins

The Conrad Press, May 2020

In the last days of a dying Earth, or at least dying human civilization on Earth, Elsie James risks everything to get her infant son onto the colony ship, Mayflower, to head out to what those privileged to be aboard hope will be life on a clean, undamaged new world, called Novum. She has the amazing good luck to discover that the captain of the Mayflower is her old college friend, Alfie Sommers. He takes them both on board, and gives them an apartment on the elite Floor One, along with an unlimited credit supply. The reader, but not Elsie, sees Alfie giving the order that the people intended to have that apartment are not to be allowed to board; that apartment is no longer available.

Thirteen years later, Will is about to start as a student at the Space Academy. This means, among other things, his friend options won't be limited to his tutor group and his across-the-hall neighbor, Spencer. This is a school for which the students have to qualify, and their families have to pay, so they're all smart, and they're all privileged. Will quickly meets Emily, from the Floor Two, some bullies Emily knows but is happy to cut ties with, and Finley, from Floor Seven. Yes, Finley is what we would call a scholarship kid, the first ever in the history of Mayflower, and the Space Academy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Heavenly Dreams, by Becca Fisher (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Kevin MacGorman, January 2020 (original publication November 2012)

Beth is a young Amish woman who has one of those really annoying sisters--one who seems to be prettier, more confident, more social, more attractive to all the attractive, suitable young men in their community. Then Thomas returns from his time in the city, having decided that Amish country is where he belongs.

When Beth and Patricia  meet  Thomas at a church social, the two sisters both get a surprise at who Thomas seems to prefer. Has Beth finally found her true love? Will Patricia take him away from her, the way she has attracted every young man in their community, whether she had any longterm interest in them or not?

It's a sweet short story, about two young women reaching maturity and reaching for their dreams. A pleasant listen.

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

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Roommate (Cormac Reilly #0.7), by Dervla McTiernan (author), Aoife McMahon (narrator)

Audible Originals, July 2020

Niamh Turley is a twenty-two-year-old teacher at a Catholic school, when she is wakes up one morning to the garda knocking on her door. A body has been found inside the building, and it turns out to be her roommate.

The garda in question is Detective Cormac Reilly. He wants to ask her some questions, for which she has fewer answers than he'd hoped. Niamh and her roommate (no, I'm not guessing at the spelling of Irish names I haven't seen in print) had only been roommates for three months, and had been agreeable roommates but not really friends. However, they also want her to formally identify the body, so that the immediate family doesn't have to do it.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Real Sherlock, by Lucinda Hawksley (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2019

This is a short, lively account of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle. It's fun and, to a point, informative. However, when I realized two of the people contributing to it were Catherine Ruml Doyle and Richard John Francis Doyle, great-niece and great-nephew of Arthur Conan Doyle, two of the family members who control the estate, I knew it would include nothing critical or suggesting any faults or weaknesses at all.

Which put me in a snarkier mood while listening than I would have been otherwise.

But of course Conan Doyle gave us Sherlock Holmes, and all the entertainment that has come from that. We get an introduction to what went into creating the characters of Holmes and Watson, what led him to writing fiction at all, and bits of the novels that Conan Doyle thought were much better, and which were initially more profitable for him.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

The Tea Shoppe, by Josie Adams (author), Nicola Barber (narrator)

Audible Originals, June 2020

Eleanor is the manager of a very cosy English tea shop, and we follow her through the ritual of her day, with her beloved cat, Darjeeling, her fahvorite teas, and her familiar and welcome customers. There's no plot here other than that, and isn't meant to be. This is just a pleasant, soothing account, just enough going on to distract your mind from busy, active thoughts, and let you relax. There's nothing here to keep you awake waiting to see what happens next, and that's the point. You can listen to this and relax, while relaxing and dropping off into sleep.


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

Friday, July 3, 2020

Santa 365 (A Chet and Bernie Mystery #3.1), by Spencer Quinn (author), Jim Frangione (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781501909795, November 2015

Chet and Bernie, in a Christmas mystery only Chet and Bernie could unwrap. Or get wrapped up in, or something.

It's "every second Christmas" this year, Bernie's son Charlie is with them for the holiday. Bernie has really fallen down on the "getting ready for Christmas" thing, and they happen to run into an old perp Bernie helped lock up, now done with his short stint in jail. And Plumpy Napoleon has a new business, Santa 365. For just a small fee (which oddly keeps growing), he'll supply elves, gifts, a tree, everything! It'll be a blowout Christmas. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1), by Arkady Martine (author), Amy Landon (narrator)

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250186430, March 2019; Macmillan Audio, March 2019

First I want to note that I received this book in the Hugo Voters packet, as a PDF, in which the text was too small for me to be able to read comfortably. In self-defense, I took a spare Audible credit and got the audiobook. Because I had to listen rather than read, there are and proper nouns I'm guessing at the spelling of. Because listening rather than reading was not really my choice, well, let's just say there's a limit to how much work I'm prepared to do to find the author's preferred spellings. Accessibility is a thing, people. 

Mahit Dzmare is the Ambassador from Lasalle Station to the Teixcalaan Empire. She's young; it's her first assignment; she's well-prepared academically. However, because the Empire demanded a new ambassador "immediately," she's not as well-prepared as she would otherwise be. There was no time, and there's another problem, related to her predecessor not having been as communnicative as he ought to have been.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Heavenly Blessing, by Becca Fisher (author), Stephanie Richardson (narrator)

Kevin MacGorman, January 2020

Abigail is a young Amish woman, with a plain, simple life laid out for her. As the oldest of three daughters, her father intends for her to inherit the family quilting shop, He also has her  husband all picked out for her.

Abigail doesn't care for the man, though, and also doesn't love quilting the way the other women in her family do. She also wants to see more of the world than their little town. Surely it's possible to live a Godly life elsewhere? Even in Philadelphia?

Despite her father's opposition, she goes to Philadelphia, finds an apartment, a job, and a church, and begins to explore living a Godly life without the restrictions of Amish life.

This is a very sweet romance, with a young woman finding her own path and her own happiness, without losing her own faith and values.

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