Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Seven of Infinities (Universe of Xuya), by Aliette de Bodard

Subterranean Press, ISBN 9781596069770, October 2020

Vân is a scholar of modest background with no connections, and a single mem-implant (which she built herself )nd represents no ancestor of hers) to help her on her way. She's working as tutor for the daughter of a dead war hero, and helping maintain her own image of respectable standing by participating in a poetry group.

It's not a good start to the day when another member of the poetry group, the mindship, The Wild Orchid in Sunless Woods, arrives to warn her that some of the socially higher-ranked members have decided she's not worthy of the group and must be expelled. Sunless Woods takes it for granted that Vân will want to fight her expulsion--but Vân has secrets she can't risk attracting attention to. They're at an impasse, when a worse interruption arises.

Vân's student, Uyên, has admitted her own visitor, who has dropped dead in her room.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Four Lost Cities A Secret History of the Urban Age, by Annalee Newitz (author), Chloe Cannon (narrator)

Highbridge, February 2021

The allure of "lost cities" is a strong one; many of us love the story of one lost city or another. Annalee Newitz gives us the stories of four of them--Çatalhöyük, a Neolithic site in Turkey; Pompeii, on the Italian coast and the slope of Mt. Vesuvius; medieval Angkor in Cambodia; Cahokia, an indigenous North American metropolis at the site that's now East St. Louis.

Newitz looks at each of these cities using new developments and techniques in archaeology to consider the cities and their culture through the lives of the average residents as well as the elites.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner (author), Lorna Bennett (narrator), Lauren Anthony (narrator), & Lauren Irwin (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, ISBN 9781488210761, March 2021

In 1790s London, Nella is an apothecary, a very specialized apothecary, who dispenses carefully disguised poisons to women who want to remove the oppressive or abusive men in their lives.

Eliza Fanning is her newest client, a twelve-year-old girl sent by her mistress, Mrs. Amwell, for poison for Mr. Amwell, who has molested female servants in the past, and has started to take an interest in Eliza.

In the present day, Caroline Parcewell is in London on what was supposed to be a celebratory tenth wedding anniversary trip with her husband. Instead, her husband is home in Ohio, and Caroline is in London on her own, contemplating the possible end of her marriage. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Pride and Premeditation, by Tirzah Price

Harper Audio, ISBN 9780063053601, April 2021

This is a "voice galley," intended only for reviewers and read by a synthetic voice, not whoever will be the narrator. This is not the version that will be for sale.

This an alternative version of Pride and Prejudice, in  which Mr. Bennet is a barrister, and the family live in the Cheapside section of London. His firm is Longbourne & Sons, but of course there are no sons, and the dreadful Mr. Collins, a cousin from Hertfordshire, has been employed as a solicitor for the firm, and named as the heir.

Next we come to Elizabeth Bennet and her friend, Charlotte Lucas. Charlotte in this retelling has a very respectable father, Sir Henry Lucas, but Sir Henry married a West Indian woman, and Charlotte is too dark-skinned to pass as "really English." Charlotte works as a secretary in the Longbourne firm. Elizabeth longs to be a barrister, and volunteers at the firm, doing work the junior solicitors don't have time for, and in Mr. Collins's case, isn't really very good at.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy: What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and Ourselves, by Arik Kershenbaum (author), Samuel West (narrator)

Penguin Audio, March 2021

Arik Kershenbaum is a zoologist, and College Lecturer at Girton College, Cambridge. In this book, he uses his deep knowledge of zoology on this planet to work out what alien life might be like, if and when we find it.

He starts from the assumption that both the same physical laws will apply everywhere, and that evolution is the only reasonable mechanism to govern the development of life. We can't say exactly what alien life forms will be like, but we can make reasonable projections of how life forms might move, communicate, and socialize in environments we can plausibly envision existing on other worlds.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Spell of Murder (Witch Cats of Cambridge #1), by Clea Simon (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, November 2019 (original publication December 2018)

Becca  Colwin wanted to pursue a library science degree, but circumstances intervened. She had a job using her research skills, and a boyfriend, Jeff Blakely. She also had three cats--three littermates she adopted from a local shelter, Harriet, Laurel, and Clara.

Then Jeff broke up with her, and entirely too soon after, she lost her job. This leaves Becca with two things to do--find a new job, and pursue her new interest of studying witchcraft. Discovering an ancestor was one of the executed Salem witches sparked her interest and moved her to join a coven; now she has lots of time for it.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Dog-Free Dinner (Auntie Clem’s Bakery, Christmas Short), by P.D. Workman

P.D. Workman, December 2020

In Bald Eagle Falls, Tennessee, baker Erin Price, and her friend and assistant Vic, or Vicky, are prepping Christmas dinner for their friends, police officer Terry Piper, and local handyman and jack of all trades Willie Anderson. Growing up in foster homes has left Erin with no love for Christmas, but for Vic, it's a favorite time of year. Erin wants to make sure it's special for her.

It becomes special in an unexpected way when the friends realize that Terry's police dog, put in the fenced back yard to enjoy his turkey giblets, has disappeared. The other three are at first very puzzled by Terry's reaction, discouraging an immediate, full-scale search. It turns out there's a pet-napping ring the police are trying to keep quiet so that the thieves don't realize the police are actively investigating. After Terry finally spills the beans, Erin and Vic organize a search anyway.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Love at First Bark (Love Unleashed #0.5), by Dana Mentink

Harvest House Publishers, April 2017

Marcy Deveraux, having frustrated her family by refusing to commit to a career cooking and managing their family restaurant, has found a success that impresses even her parents. She's written three bestselling romantic adventure novels about the adventures of Prince Rafe. But now Rafe's story is told, and if she wants to continue her success, she has to find her next story to write.

To do this, Marcy has rented a cabin in the mountains near a campground and ranch. She's barely settled in when her attempt at developing a work routine is disrupted by a lively little dog, a scruffy little terrier. Not far behind is the man who manages the stables and the horses for the ranch, Jackson Parker. Except for being drop-dead handsome, he's very different from a stereotypical romance novel hero--quiet, thoughtful, a reader, deeply involved in the ranch/campground's summer session for special needs kids.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Death at the Cafe (Reverend Annabelle Dixon #1), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, October 2015

This is a prequel, written after some of Reverend Annabelle Dixon's later adventures, but taking place at the start of her career, during her first assignment at a church in London. Annabelle is always likeable; so is her friend, Sister Mary. The stories are fun.

Nevertheless, I'm growing frustrated.

Annabelle is doing unexpectedly well in her first assignment, in a rather rough, inner city parish. Her friend, Catholic nun Sister Mary, is home briefly from her assignment in Africa--in London to raise money for the hospital she works at as a nurse. They arrange to meet at a café, but Annabelle arrives to find a commotion, and a young woman lying dead, practically at Sister Mary's feet. Mary had intended to meet with another woman, not this one, before meeting Annabelle. The police are called, Sister Mary gives them the limited information she has, and the friends leave.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

On Ordeal: Ronan Nolan Jnr. (Young Wizards #10.7), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, June 2017

Ronan Nolan is a thirteen-year-old boy living in a small city on the Irish Sea coast of Ireland. He's got a good family, though everyone is under some stress. He has no siblings, and that's one of the stresses. His parents, especially his father, had hoped for a large family. His elderly grandmother is one of the bedrooms planned for those other sibling, failing physically and now maybe mentally, too.

And Ronan has always felt like the odd man out, the kid who is simultaneously rarely noticed, and not fitting in. He's also, until recently, always been the smallest kid in class, a favorite target of the bullies. He's had a growth spurt, and the balance has somewhat changed--but self-defense can also get you in trouble at school. Even when you're doing the right thing, and defending someone else.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Murder Off the Page (42nd Street Library Mystery #3), by Con Lehane (author), Wayne Mitchell (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, November 2019

Raymond Ambler is a librarian at the New York Public Library, curator of the Crime Fiction Collection, and an amateur sleuth. The bartender at the nearby Library Tavern, favorite watering hole of at least some of the librarians, is a good friend, Brian McNulty. Another friend is Mike Cosgrove, an NYPD homicide detective. Adele Morgan is another librarian, a friend, and a potential love interest, if Ambler can figure out how human relationships work.

Ambler also has joint custody of his grandson, Johnny. His son, John, is in prison for second degree murder. Johnny's mother is deceased (apparently unrelated to John's case--hey, it's book three, and the first one I've read.) So Ambler has a lot on his plate without getting involved in a murder at a local hotel, that McNulty wants him to solve. But why? It seems a woman called Shannon Darling is involved.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Nothing Man, by R. J. Gould

R.J. Gould, March 2021

Neville Watkin's life has never been spectacular, but over the last year or so, it's taken a real turn for the worse. He and his wife, Stella, have been distant for years. Now, she has moved out, and is divorcing him. Then he's laid off from his job at the bank--where he's been working since leaving school, thirty years ago.

He really, really doesn't need the accident he has not long after, backing out of a parking spot, into the minivan of a woman and her two kids. The woman is yelling at him for his carelessness, and he can't really defend himself. Especially once his attempt to voice any defense at all ends in him passing out and collapsing at her feet.

He wakes up the next day in a hospital, not very badly injured, and receives an unexpected visitor--Laura, the woman whose car he hit. His life is about to take a truly strange change of direction.

Laura invites him to her house; they work on the insurance paperwork for their accident together. Neville figures that will be the end of it. It's not.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

The Element of Fire (Ile-Rien #1), by Martha Wells (author), Derek Perkins (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781452686318, July 2015 (original publication July 1993)

The kingdom of Ile-Rien has a weak king, Roland, a strong and ruthless Queen Dowager, his mother, Ravenna guarding the kingdom's interests despite Roland and the friends who manipulate him, and some very dangerous enemies.

One of those enemies is Urbain Grandier, a master of scientific sorcery, who is in Ile-Rien with an agenda of his own. He's not actually hostile to the kingdom, but he wants its resources to destroy his real enemy, the neighboring kingdom of Bisran, his native kingdom, who convicted and tortured the sorcerer for what are serious crimes there. He's prepared to use all of Ile-Rien's resources, both wealth and people, to do that--for however long it takes.

Ravenna, and the captain of the Queen's Guard, Thomas Boniface, and various other court officials, who may or may not be fully aligned with Ravenna, suspect Grandier is in the capital, but don't know where he is, or what he plans.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life, by Lulu Miller (author, narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781797106045, April 2020

Lulu Miller, NPR journalist, grew up with a father who taught her that chaos rules everything, that the universe doesn't care about anything or anyone, and that any belief that anything matters is deeply unscientific. I can't imagine why she also grew up to struggle with whether there was any point to her own existence. (It's unlikely that her depression is the result of her father's world view, but honestly, I can't imagine how that helped. To be clear, the issue here is not atheism. It is, specifically, the belief that nothing matters, a belief I have not heard from my atheist friends, acquaintances, favorite scientific writers, what have you.) As Miller moved through her life, education, career, she struggled with the ups and downs of her life and depression--and at some point, discovered David Starr Jordan.

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign, by Cora Buhlert

Pegasus Pulp Publications, 2020

This story is a response to a science fiction story that's rather famous, in part because of the controversy it provokes. "The Cold Equations" is about an emergency dispatch spacecraft that is, in its current mission, delivering medication to a colony world, in response to the outbreak of an outbreak of serious illness. Unfortunately, after the ship is well on its way, the pilot, Barton, discovers he has a stowaway. Because the EDS has no margin for error in its fuel and weight capacity. The stowaway, Marilyn, saw the sign banning entry when she snuck onto the EDS, but assumed the penalty would only be a fine. She just wanted to visit her brother, who is on that colony world.

In fact, because the EDS's limitations are so extreme, the penalty is death--being ejected from the ship into space.

There is some touching angst, pathos, and moralizing. In the end, Marilyn willingly stepping into the airlock to be spaced and die.

There are some really obvious problems with this setup.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Odder Than Ever, by Bruce Coville (author), The Full Cast Family (narrators)

Full Cast Audio, February 2021

This is a really enjoyable collection of short stories, some fantasy, some science fiction, some riffing on fairy tale themes and settings.

There's a boy whose father is a diplomat--and Earth's first ambassador to another planet. It's challenging being the only alien in his school, but that's not the big challenge he faces. At a critical diplomatic dinner, his presence required by the customs of the planet they're on, but including the ambassador from another planet, where someone as near physical size and development as Jacob is not considered a child. Jacob makes a mistake, and doing the adult thing may cost him something he truly loves.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Fireworks in France (Reverend Annabelle Dixon #7), by Alison Golden

Alison Golden, March 2021

Police Inspector Mike Nicholls is trying to plan a hopefully-romantic vacation with his beloved Reverend Annabelle Dixon, when Annabelle's lifelong friend, Sister Mary, shows up unexpectedly. There is, she says, a problem at the convent where she has been living, in the tiny French village of Ville d'Eauloise. Specifically, a murder.

Of a priest. And her dear friend, another priest, is the chief, or rather the only, suspect.h But he can't possibly be guilty, and can Annabelle and Mike help?

They decide to spend their week of vacation in France, of course.

The French police inspector for the district, Charles Babineaux, initially seems like an ego-inflated fool, and he and Mike, to say the least, do not hit it off. There's more to him than meets the eye, though, and despite his own initial hostility, Babineaux decides that with his limited resources, two more experienced investigators are not to be turned down.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Change State (Adventures in the Liaden Universe #32), by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

Pinbeam Books, March 2021

Two Liaden stories, "Dead Men Dream," an original story providing a follow-up on two characters from Trade Secret, and "Command Decision," which originally appeared in an anthology.

Bar Jan chel'Gaiban Clan Rinork is the young Trader who challenged Jethri to a duel, for various poorly-thought-out reasons of resentment, and lost. It's a serious embarrassment for his clan, and his Delm declares him dead, and puts him off the ship at Port Chavvy Station. His servant, Khana vo'Daran Clan Baling, chooses to go with him, and is also declared dead.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Snowspelled (The Harwood Spellbook #1), by Stephanie Burgis

Five Fathoms Press, September 2017

In 19th century Angland, Cassandra Harwood has pursued the contrary course of studying magic, despite all resistance from a culture that says that magic is for the more emotional and creative gender--men. Women, being more pragmatic and more stable, are expected, if they are of the upper classes, to pursue politics.

Cassandra has been successful, having gained admittance to the premier school of magic in Angland, the Great Library, graduated top of her class, and becoming betrothed to her only real competition there, Rajaram Wrexham.

Then something happened. It's a while before we learn what, exactly, but it was bad. Cassandra can't perform magic anymore--it will kill her. And two months after that disaster, her betrothal to Wrexham ends, by her choice, for reasons she doesn't explain to anyone.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

City, by Clifford D. Simak (author), Peter Ganim (narrator), Mike Resnick (narrator)

Audible Studios, July 2008 (original publication 1952)

This is a collection of connected short stories and novellas, recounting the decline of the civilization of Man and the rise of the civilization of Dogs. Obsolete usage intentional; these stories were written in the 1940s, with a couple of exceptions, and the underlying viewpoint is that of a midwestern American man of that era, born in 1904. In the case of Simak, that's a compassionate, kindly, humane, even in many ways progressive viewpoint, but it's not the viewpoint of someone whose formative years were the 1960s or later.

These stories chronicle thousands of years of history in relatively brief glimpses of a total of nine short stories and novellas, and the "notes" that tie them together and provide added context, to make them a novel. We follow the men of the Webster family; the Webster family's robot and household retainer, Jenkins; and the dogs. Or, as they start to become beginning in the third story, the Dogs, the uplifted species that will succeed Man.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, by Emma Byrne (author), Henrietta Meire (narrator)

Highbridge, January 2018 (original publication November 2017)

This is a lively, funny, informative book about foul language.

Emma Byrne, a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, has always loved a good swear. In this book, she lays out, using peer-reviewed science, why swearing and foul language is really good for you, for work teams, and society as a whole.

A key "news you can use" bit is that swearing is a very effective pain reliever. Whether you've hit your thumb with a hammer, or are sticking your hand in a bucket of ice (part of a real study to test this effect), or being treated for cancer, swearing really, measurably, helps your ability to handle the pain. The bad news? If you're a woman, even if you're being treated for cancer, even your female friends will judge you for this, and may drift away.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

An Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell #6), by Deanna Raybourn

Berkley, ISBN 9780593197264, March 2021

Veronica Speedwell and her lover, Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, a.k.a. Stoker, have been living in unaccustomed and not entirely comfortable domesticity. They're staying at home in London, and preparing an exhibit for the Curiosity Club, the women's adventurers club of which Veronica is now a member. The exhibit is to honor a recently deceased mountain climber, Alice Baker-Greene, and will be attended, and is sponsored by, Her Serene Highness Princess Gisela of Alpenwald. (Alpenwald is the fictional independent German principality in which Miss Baker-Greene had recently settled permanently.

Stoker and Veronica, in the course of preparing for the opening of the exhibit, discover evidence that Miss Baker-Greene's death was not a tragic mountain-climbing accident, but murder. They tell the Princess, who has come to inspect the exhibit. The Chancellor assures them that the matter will be handled--but they are both skeptical. This trip, with the exhibit featuring the charms of Alpenwald, an opera featuring both an Alpenwald composer and an Alpenwald soprano, is all about boosting the principality's image and charms as a tourist destination. Murder wouldn't fit that.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The Other Daughter, by Lisa Gardner (author), Brittany Pressley (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, December 2018 (original publication July 1999)

At nine years old, a little girl with no memory of her past was abandoned in a hospital, and after several months was adopted by the wealthy Stokes family--a cardiac surgeon, his wife, and their son Brian, a family grieving the kidnapping and murder of the Stokes' four-year-old daughter, Meghan, five years earlier.

Twenty years later, Melanie Stokes is happy, confident, loving and loved by her adoptive family. She volunteers for various charities, especially the American Red Cross. On the night of one her major events, a party plus blood donation event plus "donate a rare book" to raise funds, a voice out of the past intrudes. 

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Chaos in Cambridge, by Alison Golden

Mesa Verde Publishing, July 2020

This novella is an "Insiders Exclusive," for subscribers to Alison Golden's Insiders newsletter.

It's a prequel to her Reverend Annabelle Dixon mysteries, and in this one, Annabelle is just eighteen, and starting as a student at the Divinity school at Cambridge University. She has barely settled into her room when she meets the previous occupant of that room, a departing student who cheerfully announces that she's known as Clumsy Clara. Clara still has a few last things to get out of the room, and Annabelle offers to help her. They get Clara's things to her van, and then Clara gives her a tour of the campus, and an introduction to Professor Baskerville, one of the Divinity professors. Clara departs, and Annabelle gets acquainted with Professor Baskerville.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Witches of Bourbon Street (Jade Calhoun #2), by Deanna Chase (author), Gabra Zackman (narrator)

Bayou Moon Press, June 2019 (original publication February 2012)

Jade Calhoun is a powerful empath, and witches she knows tell her that she's a powerful white witch, too. She steadfastly denies it, because she blames witchcraft for the loss of her mother when she was just twelve years old. Jade has a point; her mother vanished during a coven ritual. The head of her mother's coven then gave the extremely distressed Jade a spelled herbal drink that sent her to sleep for two days. She woke up in a hospital, where this was diagnosed as a psychological reaction, not a result of a drug.

But Jade is now living in New Orleans, and has a boyfriend (Kane) who's a sleepwalker, a friend (Ian) who's a ghost hunter, an acquaintance (Lailah) who's a minor angel, and of course Ian's Aunt Bea, who is the leader of the local coven. When Bea and Lailah tell her she's a powerful white witch, it's harder to ignore. Yet she still blames witchcraft for her mother's loss, and is determined to have no part of it.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tea and Murder: Stories of the Xuya Universe, by Aliette de Bodard (author), Stefan Rudnicki (narrator), Kate Orsini (narrator)

Skyboat Media, February 2021

This audiobook consists of two novellas, both set in the Xuya universe, but otherwise unconnected.

In The Citadel of the Weeping Pearls, it's thirty years after Empress Mi Hiep quarreled with her daughter, the Bright Princess Ngoc Minh, and Ngoc Minh took her followers, created the Citadel of Weeping Pearls, and pursued studies not approved of at the Imperial Court. This led to the ability to teleport, and weapons small enough to be smuggled anywhere, yet devastatingly powerful. Alarmed by these weapons, the Empress sent a fleet to destroy the Citadel, and the Citadel disappeared.

Friday, February 19, 2021

On a Red Station, Drifting (Universe of Xuya), by Aliette de Bodard (author), Emily Woo Zeller (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781977331724, April 2019

Lȇ Thi Linh is a scholar, a lady of some rank, and the magistrate of a district on the Twenty-third planet. Or rather, she was. She sent a blunt letter to the Emperor concerning his purely defensive conduct of the war, protecting mainly the more central planets of the empire, leaving more remote planets, like her own, at risk. This led to her need to depart her district and the planet, and take refuge among rather distant relatives on the space station of Prosper.

Lȇ Thi Quyen is the administrator of Prost per Station. She's less educated than Linh, and feels her lower rank, but the station is her responsibility. Many of the higher-ranked husbands and wives on the station are away, fighting the war, and Quyen is struggling to control the deteriorating situation on Prosper, both within her family and in the station generally.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Owl Be Home for Christmas (Young Wizards Universe), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, December 2020

In 2020, as Christmas approached, the Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center was brought to New York City from upstate New York. When it arrived, it was discovered to have a passenger, or rather, a resident. Rocky the saw-whet owl had been living in the tree--and she was not happy about what had been done to her home.

She was rescued, taken  to a wildlife rehab center, and when recovered from her traumatic experience, released back into the wild.

Officially, that's the end of the story.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250174666, February 2021 

Evelyn Caldwell is a geneticist, a leader in the field of producing clones for specific, and generally short-term, uses, is at the height of her career, and has just won a major award. She's recently divorced, but the most important thing is to keep everyone believing it's a completely amicable divorce. Nothing to see here, move along!

The secret she needs to keep is that her ex-husband, Nathan, in the same field but on the faculty of a nearby university, not in private industry like Evelyn, has cloned her.

Cloned her, but slightly modified. Martine is calmer, gentler--more obedient. More deferential. Nathan has, he thinks, made the perfect wife.

When Evelyn finds out Martine is pregnant, she's shocked, outraged--but mostly shocked. Clones are incapable of getting pregnant, by design, and by law. Cloning is not about creating people. Clones are tools, short-term tools, who will put down like terminally ill pets when their usefulness is over. And there is no reason for them to ever be pregnant. If this is discovered, it won't just ruin Nathan. It will ruin her, too, because it's her work he's using.

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Bookshop of Yesterdays, by Amy Meyerson (author), Ann Marie Gideon (narrator)

Harlequin Audio, June 2018

Miranda Brooks spent her childhood in frequent visits to her Uncle Billy's bookshop, Prospero Books, learning a love of reading and literature, and solving the scavenger hunts he set for her. She also spent time wondering if he would show up for expected visits, or be suddenly called away by his real job, as a seismologist responding to major earthquakes all over the world.

Then, when she was twelve, her mother and Billy had a major falling-out, and Billy disappeared from her life. Miranda didn't hear from him again for sixteen years. She was by then living on the east coast, in Philadelphia, teaching eighth grade history, and living with her boyfriend, Jay.

Billy has died, and had arranged for a book to be mailed to her. It contains the first clue in the last scavenger hunt he set up for her.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The City We Became (Great Cities Trilogy #1), by N.K. Jemisin (author), Robin Miles (narrator)

Hachette Audio, ISBN 9781549119736, March 2020

We all know that great cities have spirits, souls, living identities. New York City is unquestionably a great city, and as one might expect of New York, it's a little bit different than most other great cities. It has an avatar for each of its five boroughs, and a sixth avatar, the avatar of the whole city.

But New York City is just being born, just coming alive, and its avatars don't yet understand what and who they are, or what they need to do. And there's a new danger out there, that most of the older cities have not faced--nor do the older cities believe the few newest cities who are telling them something new is going on.

Monday, February 8, 2021

I Love You...Still (Once a Marine #1), by Liz Palika

Liz Palika, January 2021

Dee and Eric have been friends since childhood, and the friendship turned romantic while they were in college. But Eric's father didn't approve. He wanted Eric to have a career in finance, and thought Dee wasn't good enough for his son, and would just distract him from the career goals his father had chosen for him.

Eric has no money of his own, and no work experience because his father has always opposed him getting any job at all because it would distract him from his studies. When his father tells Eric he's being withdrawn from the California school he and Dee both attend, and transferring to a school in Colorado, he feels he has no choice but to comply. He tries to maintain contact with Dee, but she's so hurt by what has happened that she won't respond to any of his attempts.

In Colorado, he quietly, without telling his father till far too late to change it, pursues aerospace and engineering studies rather than business and finance.

Back in California, Dee is too devastated by what's happened to continue college, and quits to join the Marines. Ten years later, they're both back in their old home town.

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Language Hoax: Why the World Looks the Same in Any Language, by John McWhorter (author, narrator)

Audible Studios, January 2015

In this book, John McWhorter takes on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, with vigor and enthusiasm, and his usual excellent research.

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says, basically, that language shapes the way we see and understand the world. One example, a fairly basic one, is that Japanese has one word that identifies both blue and green, while Russian has one word for dark blue and another word for light blue. Does this mean the Japanese can't see different shades of blue and green as clearly as Russians can?

No. The Japanese can see these colors just as well; they just describe them differently.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Murder and Salt Water Taffy (Chloe Cook #4), by Kayla Michelle (author), Stephanie Quinn (narrator)

K.M. Morgan, February 2020

Chloe Cook lives in the small tourist town of Cape Cod. No, really, that's the name of the town. We are given no clue as to where this town is, and I suspect the author attended a school system which did not use "here's some paper; draw me a map of X" as a standard form of busywork when a structural malfunction made it necessary to move kids out of their regular classrooms into a larger shared space. (Really. There was a time when I could produce on demand a map of the then-current countries of Africa. Not a perfect work of cartography, but recognizable.)

Be that as it may, Chloe is a makeup salesperson and amateur sleuth in her little town. Her initially rocky relationship with the local police detective, Todd Thicke, has gone from antagonistic to friendly and even cooperative. But not this time. The detective has arrested Chloe's good friend, Jennifer, for murder of her boyfriend, after finding her standing over the body. The evidence is hard to argue with, but Chloe is sure her friend is innocent.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

A Remedy in Time, by Jennifer Macaire

Headline Accent, ISBN 9781786157904, January 2021

In the 3370s, the political map of the world, in particular North America, has changed a great deal. Robin Johnson, a biologist, and researcher for the Center for Environmental Biology and Ecosystem Studies at the Tempus University time travel lab, lives in the country, not the state, of California. A new strain of typhus, Typhus-77, is threatening the world, devastating large mammals and starting to attack humans. There's currently no cure. It's believed to be a version of a typhus strain that wiped out saber-toothed tigers in Paleolithic North America, and this leads to the idea that antibodies from saber-toothed tigers might be used as the basis for an effective treatment.

Which is how Robin gets recruited for a time travel mission to collect samples from the big cats and possibly other animals, as well. 

They--Robin and Donnell Urbano, the more experienced time travel scientist she'll be traveling with--will only be there a week. He'll take videos; she'll take samples. The beam that sends them back will pick them up in the same spot. They'll be well equipped with all they need for survival, and if anything gets left behind--including the body of an accidentally killed scientist--implanted capsules will split and cause them to completely dissolve, so that nothing can be found to affect history. What could go wrong?

Monday, January 25, 2021

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children #6), by Seanan McGuire (author), Annamarie Carlson (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2021

Regan is a young girl who has just learned several disturbing things, about herself, and about the untrustworthiness of "friends" who are very, very invested in "normality" and conventionality. She runs away, from school intentionally, and from home accidentally, when she stumbles upon, and then through, a doorway in the woods near her home. The door, of course, should not be there. Neither should the much bigger wood, and wide green fields, that she finds on the other side.

The unicorn she sees is beautiful, but of course impossible, and the centaur pursuing the unicorn even more so.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Remote Control, by Nnedi Okorafor (author), Adjoa Andoh (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, January 2021

Fatima is a young girl in a future Ghana, who finds a strange object on the night of a meteor shower. It seems to have strange powers, making her life better in small but significant ways. For instance, she is no longer the target of the mosquitoes, who had pursued her and given her multiple bouts of malaria in her young life.

The little object, though, attracts attention, and her parents sell it to a politician who plans to sell it to a medical research company called LifeGen. It gets stolen from him, though, and that's the start of a disastrous series of events. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Your Deceptive Mind: A Scientific Guide to Critical Thinking Skills, by Steven Novella (author, narrator)

The Great Courses, July 2013

This is a good, fairly interesting look at the ways our minds play tricks on us, both in the limitations of our physical anatomy (our eyes have a blind spot in the center, and our brains fill that in with what's around it, which can sometimes be wrong) and the biases built into our brains due to the fact that we evolved in situations where snap decisions on limited information could save lives.

Novella talks about conspiracy theories, the dangers of believing your own theories on too little evidence, confirmation bias, and other ways our brains lead us astray. At times he gets overly dogmatic and repetitive, but it's mostly interesting and useful look at the ways we need to be aware of our own brains' ability to deceive us.

I bought this audiobook.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The Silver Rose Dating Agency (A Peak District Cosy Mystery), by Angelena Boden

Troubador Publishing Limited, September 2020

Elderly, charming Edna Reid lives in the small, English town of Hope, and has only recently retired from running a café, The Happy Oatcake. It's now run by Alisa, and Edna doesn't have to be up and in the still-cold kitchen at 6am. Instead, she occupies her time with crossword puzzles, and the occasional real-life mystery, to keep her mind sharp.

Widowed Kitty Merriweather has recently moved to Hope, and the Lavender Lodge, purchased by her late husband, Bob, when he was planning their retirement. Because make no mistake, Bob Merriweather did all the planning and the decision-making, leaving Kitty feeling that even after his death, the best she can do is to just go along with what he had planned.

Kitty believes that, now she's been widowed for a year, Bob wouldn't have wanted her to remain alone and unattached, so she has joined an online dating service--The Silver Rose Dating Agency. She is, unsurprisingly, not very tech-savvy, so she relies on Jack Beaumont, son of her late husband's former partner, to advise her on such matters.

It's not long before strange things are happening in normally quiet, peaceful Hope, and Edna Reid is determined to figure out what's going on.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Pūrākau: Māori Myths Retold by Māori Writers, by Witi Ihimaera (editor), Whiti Hereaka (editor)

Random House New Zealand, May 2019

This is a collection of recent fantastic fiction by Māori writers, based on Māori creation myths and legends. There's a wide variety, here, some retelling Māori creation myths, some telling the tales of Māori legendary heroes, both in something like their original context, and some in more modern settings. Still others are the Māori gods and mythological figures interacting with humans in very contemporary settings.

Most of these stories worked very well for me, despite my having little to no prior exposure to Māori mythology and culture. Yes, the mythological personalities and their stories don't have the recognizable familiarity for me that Greek or Celtic or Norse mythological figures and tales do, but that's part of the fun, meeting new stories and personalities, and figuring out what it means or represents.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Beatrice Stubbs Series: Box Set One (DI Beatrice Stubbs #1-3), by J.J. Marsh (author), Jill Prewett (narrator)

Prewett Bielman Ltd., March 2020 (original publication November 2013)

Beatrice Stubbs  is a detective inspector with the Metropolitan Police, middle aged, graying, suffering from bipolar disorder--and her career somewhat stalled since a suicide attempt a year or so ago. In the first of these first three books of the series, her superior officer, Hamilton, has arranged for her to lead an international team in Zurich. The team will be investigating what look superficially like a series of unconnected suicides by prominent businessmen with shady reputations. Yet there seems to be a theme; the men have all died in ways that look like poetic justice for their particular vile actions. And when the team looks at the DNA evidence from each of these deaths, happening on average a year apart over nearly a decade, the only DNA not belonging to the dead men is the same at each scene--an unknown man who is otherwise not in evidence at all.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

On Ordeal: Mamvish fsh Wimsih (Young Wizards), by Diane Duane

Errantry Press, 2016

Readers of the Young Wizards series have several times encountered one of Nita's favorite fellow wizards, the dinosaur-like being, Mamvish fsh Wimsih. This novella is Mamvish's origin story, her childhood up to her Ordeal.

Wimst is in many ways a bleak and barren planet, bleak enough that the sapient species have developed a form of consensual cannibalism. It not only provides increased nourishment to the next generation; it also passes on the learned experience of the eaten to the eater.

Why, yes, this is handled gracefully enough that anyone old enough to read the Young Wizards generally should be able o handle this easily if they decide to. Not everyone will want to, and that's completely fair. However, Duane is clear about what's happening without choosing to focus on gruesome detail.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Wickeds (Faraway Collection #5), by Gayle Forman (author), Frankie Corzo (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, December 2020

Elsinora, Gwendolyn, and Marguerite--the wicked stepmothers of "Cinderella," "Snow White," and "Rapunzel,"--meet at their cosmetician's office, and start getting together and discussing all the unfair press they've gotten due to the young girls they raised.

Because really, they don't deserve it. They did their best by those ungrateful girls, and weren't appreciated. When the girls rebelled, it's "the wickeds" who paid the price.

Maybe it's time to get revenge, and set the record straight. They hatch a plan. They set out to travel to the fair where "the princesses" will be expecting more triumphs, and will instead be confronted with the truth of how unfair they were.

I'll freely admit I did not at first have any idea where this was really going. It's funny, engaging, has some unexpected twists, and a satisfying ending. Just a lot of fun, in a small package.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

Monday, January 11, 2021

New Arrivals at Hedgehog Hollow, by Jessica Redland

Boldwood Books, ISBN 9781838892289, January 2021

In the previous book, Samantha inherited the farm at Hedgehog Hollow, along with funds to establish it as a hedgehog rescue center. Her veterinarian boyfriend, Josh, is a major support, and although not officially moved in yet, is in fact spending  most nights at Hedgehog Hollow. Samantha is enjoying her new work, and in many ways, things are going very well.

Unfortunately, the rescue center also has enemies, and Samantha is, at the start of this book, just recovered from serious injuries received when she was rescuing some of her first hedgehog patients when those enemies torched the barn they were housed in. Also, while the rescue center is quickly becoming a full-time job, she's also still working full-time as a teacher and tutor at the local college. Even if she were completely recovered from her previous injuries, two full-time jobs would be too much.

The story is told in Samantha's voice and Josh's, in alternating chapters, giving us insight into both main characters, and the past traumas and current strains of their personal and familial pasts.

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jimenez (author), Shayna Small (narrator)

Penguin Random House Audio, ISBN 9780593167847, January 2020

The universe of The Vanished Birds is one of, perhaps faster than light travel, but not so fast that crew on trading ships aren't separated from family and friends, staying young while those they leave behind grow old.

Nia Imani is a ship's captain who is a bit isolated, and haunted by guilt at leaving her sister behind to deal with their late father's debts herself.

Kaeda, when we meet him, is a young boy growing up on an agricultural world, a Resource World for the Umbai Corproation. Umbai controls much interstellar trade, and is quite ruthless, but we don't see that in the visits Nia makes to Kaeda's world collect their crop. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Murder and Chocolate Cake (Daley Buzz #17) (Mysteries of Treasure Cove #2), by Meredith Potts (author), Carrie Burgess (narrator)

Meredith Potts, September 2018

Sabrina Carlson, and her police detective husband David are faced with an alarming dilemma. Wade Becker, who years ago murdered Sabrina's sister, and a few years ago was finally caught by Sabrina and David, and subsequently convinced and locked up for life, as escaped.

And he's out for revenge.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Cleaners (Faraway Collection #4), by Ken Liu (author), Kate Rudd (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, December 2020

Giu is a cleaner, the owner of A Fresh Start, and he cleans away the unpleasant memories that have adhered to his customers' personal possessions. Giu has an unusual handicap in this world; he's memory-blind. He's not able to feel or read even his own memories on objects, and that created a challenge for his parents in teaching him their trade. Yet it also gives him certain advantages; he doesn't feel the pains of the bad memories he's scraping away.

Beatrice is hyper-sensitive, and makes a very good living doing forensic readings of memories attached to items involved in legal cases.

Clara has a fairly normal level of memory sensitivity, and after a bad breakup with her former boyfriend, wants to rid their shared items that he left behind of the painful memories. For this, she turns to Giu.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Thicker Than Water: The Untold Story of the Theranos Whistleblower, by Tyler Schultz (author, narrator)

Audible Originals, August 2020

Tyler Schultz is the grandson of former Secretary of State George Schultz, and it was largely due to that connection that he landed an internship at Theranos, a startup claiming to have a new technology that would allow blood testing for a wide range of conditions, in little clinics in Walmart and similar locations, with just one drop of blood, and of course, far more cheaply. Stated baldly like that, it looks pretty transparent, but the CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, was apparently very charismatic, and charmed and persuaded a number of prominent, influential people--including George Schultz, but also Henry Kissinger, James Mattis, and Betsy DeVos, among others.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Hazel and Gray (Faraway Collection #2), by Nic Stone (author), Kimberly Woods (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, December 2020

This is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Instead of brother and sister, they are young lovers, and their immediate problem is Hazel's stepfather, a.k.a. The Monster. He's very strict and controlling, and forces her to break up with Gray. She does, because her approach to her difficult life with her mother, with her highs and lows, and until now her constantly changing boyfriends, has been to adapt and adjust.

This time it isn't working. The Monster is watching her, looking at her in ways that make her feel not just uncomfortable, but unsafe. She contacts Gray once more, and they plan a picnic in the woods.