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.