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.