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.


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.