Monday, August 31, 2020

Phreaks, by Matthew Derby (author), Ben McKenzie (narrator), Carrie Coon (narrator), Christian Slater (narrator), Justice Smith (narrator), Bree Klauser (narrator), full cast

Audible Originals, August 2020

Emma Gable is a teenager, blind, and living in a small town in upstate New York. Her mother works in the laundry of a nuclear power plant, and her father is a handyman.

Emma is lonely and isolated, and dials random phone numbers, to see what happens, to make prank calls, to just hear the sounds of the phone system. And then one day, one of those random calls, to a phone number based on the date of the Treaty of Versailles, connects her to a group of phone phreaks.

Phone phreaks were people, anywhere from teenagers to experienced engineers, who learned how to hack the phone system to make free phone calls. Except that both understates what they were doing, and misrepresents the motivation of most of them. It wasn't about free phone calls, mostly. It was about the excitement of gaining control of the phone system, and beating Ma Bell at her own game.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Letters From Camp, by Jamie Lee Curtis (author), and a host of narrators I can't find a list of except listening to the audio

Audible Originals, August 2020

Mooky Hooper is eleven years old, and off to summer camp for the first time. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that her mother, Caroline Goodman, now a CNN television journalist, was in her day the very best at any camp activity Mooky might participate in. In the history of Camp Cartwright. With her name and the relevant details of her accomplishments posted. And the camp director, Director Sue, in her enthusiasm at having Caroline Goodman's daughter at the camp, makes sure everyone knows it.

Mooky doesn't necessarily help herself by deciding that she's going to instead concentrate on emulating accomplishments of her mother that she's more familiar and comfortable with--her journalistic accomplishments. It's not long before she's learned of a camper who disappeared from the camp thirty years earlier, and connects this to the camp legend of the Lady of the Lake. She starts investigating. In theory she knows she should be calm and discreet in doing this; in practice, she's eleven, and doesn't always manage to do that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy #5), by Ilona Andrews

Harper Collins/Avon, August 2020

Catalina Baylor and her sisters are  Prime magic users, possessing impressive powers. One of their grandmothers, Victoria Tremaine, would love to control those powers, and is less inconvenienced than one might think by the fact that she's locked up in a prison for magical offenders.

But that's not Catalina's most pressing problem right now. The Warden of Texas, responsible for the enforcement of laws governing the use of magic, hired Catalina as his Deputy six months ago. He's now giving her a very big job. Five Primes, of different Houses and of varied talents, have formed a company to clean out and redevelop the Pit, a sort of magical brownfields site in Houston. This would be very profitable, if they can pull it off.

One of the Primes involved, Felix Morton, has been murdered. His father, Lander Morton, is not actively involved in the project, but is the major source of funding. He wants his son's killer not just found, but killed. He's hired an assassin to do the killing, and an investigative firm to find the killer. Linus Duncan, the Warden of Texas, has ordered Catalina to take over the case. And she's to do it without revealing to Lander Morton or the other Primes involved in the project that she's the Deputy Warden.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Machina, by Fran Wilde (author), Fran Wilde, Malka Older (author), Curtis C. Chen (author), Martha Wells (author). Natalie Naudus (narrator)

Serial Box, January 2020

In this near-future Earth, climate change and other disasters, possibly related, are rendering the planet less and less habitable, and a race is on to get to Mars. But this races isn't just to build rockets powerful enough to get there. Right now, it's a race among tech companies to build an AI that can carry out the first stages of terraforming and building working human habitats on Mars.

Devlok was founded by several college students fleeing a series of disasters near their school. Trey, Stephanie, Lakshmi, and Smits create a company aimed at creating an AI that can help humans colonize Mars.

Watchover is founded by Stephanie and Lakshmi after Smits resigns because progressive disability plus Trey's high-handed, egotistical abuse becomes the last straw--for him and for the two women. Other Devlok employees go with them; Smits was hardly alone in being a target of Trey's abuse. Eighteen months later, the two companies are the leading competitors among the six that have qualified for the government competition for building the first colony on Mars.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Stuck, by Chris Grabenstein (author), Mark Sanderlin (narrator), Elizabeth Hess (narrator), Oliver Wyman (narrator), Farah Bala (narrator), Rita Wolf (narrator), Caroline Grogan (narrator), Cynthia Darlow(narrator, Mateo D'Amato (narrator), J.J. Myers (narrator), Neil Hellegers (narrator), Genesis Oliver(narrator), Chris Grabenstein (narrator)

Audible Originals, May 2020

Jackson Raczkowski, eleven years old, is not quite looking forward to turning twelve. Turning twelve means going to sixth grade, and middle school, where his personal bully, Brandon, will be there to torment him. On his grandfather's birthday, August 8, the day before his own, he wishes to never turn twelve, to remain eleven forever and never move on to middle school.

On the next day, his own birthday, he finds that he has, for the second time, just turned eleven.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Raspberry Truffle Murder (Maple Hills #1), by Wendy Meadows (author), Becky Boyd (narrator)

Majestic Owl Publishing, March 2017 (original publication June 2016)

After a painful divorce, Nikki has left her job as an investigative reporter, moved from Atlanta to Vermont, and opened a chocolate and coffee shop in the small town of Maple Hills, VT. Why Vermont? Well, she needed a change, and a small town in Vermont, in addition to being pretty, is certainly a change from Atlanta.

It's too bad that she's hardly opened her new shop for business when a man walks in, looks around and focuses on the older German couple she's speaking with, and walks out. No big deal, one might think. However, just moments later, Herb, husband of her assistant, Lydia, walks in with shocking news.There's been a hit-and-run, and the man who was just, briefly, in her shop, is dead.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Love, on the Rocks, by Elsie McArthur

Elsie McArthur, August 2020

Rachel McIntyre reached a turning point in her life. Her marriage was at an end; she had kicked her husband, Graham, out of the flat she'd inherited from her Grandma Peggy. Deciding she also wanted another change in her life, she joined LinkedIn, and very soon got an email from a distillery in the North Islands she'd never heard of. She took the chance.

Months later, she's living on tiny Inniscreag, running the business end of the distillery, and building friendships with the locals, including the distillery employees. Her boss, Edith McLeod, has also become a friend, though mostly by telephone. She's now in a care home, which is why she needed to hire a manager. Rachel has new ideas for improving the distillery's finances, and she's persuaded Edith to let her try one--opening a coffee shop and gift shop at the distillery, for those who take tours of the distillery, and other tourists who might be tempted to by making it a bit more of a destination.

Then Edith dies, Rachel learns she's Edith's heir, and Duncan Fraser, a lawyer for a big distillery company, turns up to persuade her to sell the distillery.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World, by Edward Dolnick (author), Alan Sklar (narrator)

 Audible Studios, February 2011

This is a lively and entertaining history of science in the 17th century, and the birth of the science that helped make the modern world. He gives us a history of the birth of modern mathematics and the science it enabled, including, but not only, modern astronomy. It's filled with not just the achievements but the personalities of Kepler, Galileo, Tycho, Leibnitz, Newton, Halley, and others. Both the achievements and the e egotistical silliness are on display here.

Unfortunately, Dolnick seems to be a better science writer than a historian. He speaks of these men having been born in a medieval world of faith, revealed truth, and predestination as if the preceding century of the had never happened. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

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


Kevin MacGorman, January 2020

Patricia leaves her Amish home in Lancaster to pursue her dream of a career in Christian music. In the big city, she finds a family to rent a room from, a church where she can worship and sing in the choir, and a job singing--as a singing waitress in a restaurant. She's got good people around her, but she's not making much progress on her dream.

She's also found a rival, another young Amish woman, Valerie, at her new church, who also has dreams of a music career, and is prepared to cut down anyone who might be in her way. Valerie is beautiful and also an excellent singer.

Then two things happen. First, she meets a young man, David, whom she shares a strong attraction with, and who supports her dream as much as she does.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Bench by Cromer Beach, by R.J. Gould

Richard Gould, August 2020

This is a charming novel about an English seaside town.

There's not really a plot here; it's about the people of Cromer getting on with their lives, with all their friendships, relationships, their businesses and professions; their children and their parents.

Sharon Kipling and Andy Powell have been a couple since they were students; they're planning to get married. She's a teacher, and deputy head, at the local primary school. He's a real estate agent. They each meet many of their fellow Cromer residents through their work.

But Sharon's father, Jamie, owns the Cromer Curiosity Shop--he says antiques, but other people say junk. Jamie has never been reluctant to talk up the value of what he's selling, dishonestly or not. He's also not reluctant to talk down, dishonestly or not, the value of what he's buying. Sharon's conflicts with her father go back to Jamie's infidelity when her mother was dying. The conflict explodes when Jamie scams Andy on the value of Andy's newly deceased father's extremely valuable collection of art and artifacts from India.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Childhood, Interrupted, by Sanjay Gupta (author, narrator)

Audible Originals, August 2020

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, gives us a short (46 minutes) but enlightening rumination on children, the pandemic, and how it's affecting us all.

At first, like probably most of us, he assumed the COVID-19 pandemic would be like an earlier coronavirus outbreak: SARS. That was a cause of concern, but was ultimately contained without as much damage as feared, and never had any serious impact on the US. We soon learned that this one is different, for a variety of reasons he doesn't discuss because it's not the point of this audiobook. Six months later, we're wearing masks, limiting our  contact with others--and having real conflict over whether or not we send kids to school in the new school year.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Murder in the East End, by Jennifer Ashley

Berkley, ISBN 9780593099377, August 2020

In Victorian London, children from the Foundling Hospital are disappearing, and a nurse at the hospital has also vanished. Kat Holloway, cook in the aristocratic Bywater household, learns of this when her rather enigmatic friend, Daniel McAdam, sends for her to meet his foster brother, Errol Fielding. He's a vicar, now, and a very junior member of the board of governors of the Foundling Hospital. He asked Daniel for help, and Daniel decided that they needed Kat's help.

Kat, Daniel McAdam, and Fielding all have their secrets, and Daniel, for good reason, doesn't really trust his foster brother. Yet the children are missing, and Nurse Betts is soon found murdered. It's clear, also, that whatever other motives he has, Fielding had real feelings for Nurse Betts, and wants her killer found.

This is an intricate story with interesting and complex characters. We continue to learn more about both the major figures and the continuing supporting characters, in a Victorian mystery that is, unlike many, set among the working classes and those among the upper classes who don't quite fit into their assigned roles.

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Borrowed Boy, by Deborah Klée

Sherman House, August 2020

Angie Winkle is in her fifties, tired, and alone. She's got endometrial cancer, and knows she's going to die. The doctors haven't told her that yet, but she's reluctant to go in for the appointment where they'll make it official.

What she wants to do, is do some of the things she's never done.

One of those things is go back to Jaywick Sands, where she spent several summers with her friend, Lorraine, and Lorraine's grandparents, whom she also called Grammy and Gramps, and who made her feel like a part of the Jeffers family.

One thing she didn't plan to do is experience life as a grandmother, though she regrets never having had the experience of being a mother and grandmother. It's obviously too late for that, especially since she may have so little time left.

But life doesn't meekly follow our plans, and Angie finds herself taking responsibility for a little four-year-old boy when he becomes separated from his mother on the tube.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Will Travel for Trouble, Books 13-14, by Minnie Crockwell (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Bess McBride, July 2020

Minnie Crockwell and her ghostly companion, Ben, once a member of the Lewis & Clark expedition, have arrived at Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming. They've prepared by watching <em>E.T.</em>, and by reading up on scientific theories of how Devil's Tower was formed. In a possibly misplaced bit of whimsy, they have rented space at the Phone Home RV Park.

It turns out the owner of the rv park, Jack Garcia, and his friend, Jerry, who lives in an army tent in the space right next to the one Minnie has rented, are not just believers in aliens and UFOs, but are convinced they've been abducted by aliens and returned.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Bullet Catcher, by Joaquin Lowe (author), Inés del Castillo (narrator)

Serial Box, July 2020

Imma is a young woman who grew up in an orphanage in a world that looks very much like, but isn't, the American Old West, in a land called the Southland. Her older brother, Nico, left when she was still a kid, determined to become a "bullet catcher," someone who can literally catch and deflect bullets. He promised to return for her. He never has, so  she assumes he's dead. He wouldn't have just abandoned her, right?

She's working in a bar, and one day a stranger comes in. When a dispute becomes a duel, it becomes obvious the man is a bullet catcher. He kills his opponent with the man's own bullets, and starts walking out of town.

Imma grabs her few possessions, and follows him. Maybe she can become a bullet catcher.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens, by Silvana Condemi (author), Francola Savatier (contributor), Christa Lewis (narrator)

Tantor Audio, October 2019 (original publication October 2018)

This is, as it says on the cover, a pocket history of human evolution. It's clear, concise, informative, covers enough detail to be useful--including some interesting material I hadn't caught up with previously.

The authors are a paleoanthropologist (Condemi), and a science journalist (Savatier), and this is an excellent, accessible overview of what we know about our ancestors. How did our lineage emerge from the many closely related bipedal species to become the only surviving member of genus homo? The only fully bipedal ape? A species able to adapt to every continent (including, marginally, Antarctica), and make major alterations to the planet?

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Black Madonna of Derby, by Joanna Czechowska (author), Claire Nicholls (narrator)

Joanna Czechowska, April 2020

The Baran family of Derby, England, is caught between its Polish past and its English future.

Barbara and her daughter Helena both survived the war, but separately. On one awful day in Warsaw, Helena got caught in a retaliatory roundup that Barbara just escaped, and was taken to Germany. She became a slave laborer in a clothing factory that made German uniforms. Barbara, left behind, kept her head down and survived the war. After the war, Helena made her way to England, married a Polish man who also came to England after the war, and had three children, Wanda, Zosia, and Janek. Eventually, she found out her mother was alive, in Poland, and asked her to come to England.

We follow the lives of the family through the sixties and seventies.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Virtually Timeless (High-Tech Crime Solvers #5), by Casi McLean (author), Rich Miller (narrator)

Casi McLean Inc., June 2020

Doctor Noah Monaco, rare disease specialist, and his twin sister, Sydney, private detective, lost their parents years ago, but have recently inherited an estate in Connecticut, from an aunt they never knew existed. It's 800 miles from their Atlanta home, but Noah takes a few days to check the place out, including walking the perimeter of the property.

In the course of doing that, he finds a woman being attacked by a strange man. He manages to chase the man off, but while pursuing him, Noah stumbles and takes a bad fall.

When he doesn't check in as expected, Sydney turns current cases over to her assistant, and heads to Connecticut to find him.

When Noah regains consciousness, he recognizes that he has a concussion, and is relieved when the woman shows up. Help available! But the woman is very confused, has no memory of seeing him before, and it slowly becomes apparent she has no short-term memory at all. Even turning away for a few minutes wipes out her memory of what went before.

He gets some help from the woman, but soon loses her to her lack of short-term memory.

When Sydney shows up, tracking his cellphone to where he dropped it, and then following the scuffed trail, he discovers he was out longer than he though; it's the next day. The woman wanders back, and the twins manage, despite the woman's confusion, to coax her to help Sydney get Noah back to their aunt's house.

What they don't yet realize is that the spot where Sydney found Noah's phone, and an unusual amulet buried in the leaves, is the entrance to an underground chamber, and the site of a ten-year-old crime.

The confused woman has her own hidden history that she knows nothing about--not even her own name. Sydney and Noah manage to win her trust and get her to record reminders to substitute for real memory for the moment, but it soon seems that she has enemies who are pursuing her, not just a random attacker in the woods.

They need a crafty plan to get them all to Atlanta, and then Noah goes to work solving the mystery of the woman's condition, while Sydney goes to work solving the mystery of her background. It's fast-paced, exciting, and fun, even if the discussion of cutting-edge DNA testing and searching, to identify the woman, does get a little ridiculous. I seriously lost count of the number of times that what sounds like pretty normal use of DNA genealogy databases to identify relatives was described as "cutting edge." I mean, really, this is basically the business that Ancestry and 29andMe, and probably others I'm not aware of, are in. But except for that weakness, it's interesting and entertaining. I really liked Noah, Sydney, and their friends.


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