Monday, August 30, 2021

Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delany (author), Stefan Rudnicki (narrator)

Skylost Media, ISBN 1504668456, November 2015 (original publication May 1966)

The general commanding the forces of the Earth Alliance seeks out poet, linguist, and cryptographer Rydra Wong, to ask her to take on the decryption of the Invaders' code, which is being used to commit sabotage in the Alliance's military and transport forces. After some work with it, she tells him it's a language, not a code, and she needs everything the Alliance has on it to be able to translate it. She also asks him for a ship, and recruits a diverse and somewhat unlikely crew to go with her to what her analysis of the code/language, Babel-17, leads her to conclude will be the location of the next act of sabotage.

They reach their destination, and it's not long before the sabotage strikes in several ways--one of them affecting her own ship, and boosting them into near-disaster.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

I Am Not Starfire, by Mariko Tamaki (author), Yoshi Yoshitani (illustrator)

DC Comics, July 2021

Mandy does NOT love having a superhero mother, and even more the fact that people think she must have superpowers, too. Her seventeenth birthday is coming up. She's determined not to go to college, because she's sick of everyone expecting her to do things she can't do.

But her life is about to change. Really change.

Mandy is the teenage daughter of the superhero Starfire, one of the Titans. Starfire is from another planet, but she has lived on Earth since before Mandy was born. Who, exactly, Mandy's father is, is a mystery to everyone but Starfire.

Mandy, unlike her mother, has no superpowers. Her classmates, for the most part, don't believe that, and keep trying to tease and pester her into revealing the powers they assume she has. She's also dark-haired and pudgy, very different in appearance from Starfire--some of which may be deliberate. Mandy does have one good friend, Lincoln, who understands, sympathizes with, and barring her determination not to go to college, supports her "be herself, not Starfire" approach to life.

But her seventeenth birthday is approaching. One of her teachers has given the class a project, and because they always choose the same partners, has assigned them different partners this time. Mandy's assigned partner is Claire--one of the "popular girls," a girl she has a crush on, a girl whose house she had an embarrassing experience at previously, and hasn't been near since. What can possibly go right? Oh, and Mandy's mother wants to have a birthday party for her.

Claire proves to be an unexpectedly compatible study partner--and unexpectedly likable.

At least until they plan a study session at Mandy's rather than Claire's, and Claire's friends whom even Claire admits are dicks show up, and they all arrive to find Starfire holding a meeting with the Titans, and...things don't go well.

But things don't go really bad until Starfire's sister, Blackfire, shows up, and Mandy both learns unpleasant truths about her family background, and finds herself in a fight for her life. And her mother's life. A fight in which she's supposed to use the powers she doesn't have.

This is fast-paced, a lot of fun, treats the teens like real, complicated people, and being LGBTQ as just another aspect of who you are, rather than a big, hairy deal that has to be the center of the story.

I repeat, a lot of fun. And very satisfying. Recommended.

I bought this book.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Horsepower & Medicine, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, February 2019

Yirah Green is working on the wrecked bike of her uncle, Jimmy, who went off to war and never came back. She's doing it in a hidden arroyo on the Kikimi rez, telling no one except her best friend, Santana Corn Eyes.

Yirah is also being visited by what she believes is Jimmy's ghost, silently encouraging to keep working on the bike. Santana isn't so sure; ghosts should not be crossing over from the Otherworld. It might not be a good idea to keep working on that bike.

But Yirah won't be dissuaded, and Santana has promised not to tell anyone her secret.

All seems to be well until Yirah completes her repair and refurbishing of the bike.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Deathbeast, by David Gerrold (author), Andy Caploe (narrator)

Audible Studios, May 2014 (original publication 1978)

Time travel. Dinosaurs. A Captain Ahab-like hunt for a Moby Dick-like tyrannosaurus rex.

A group of six hunters and two guides "flash back" to 100 million years ago, to hunt dinosaurs. And specifically, the lead hunter, Ethab, is determined to bag a T. Rex. And he's not interested in the advice of the guides, Meghan and Loevil, that the hunters who have died on previous expeditions, have been the ones who insisted on going after T.  Rex.

Things start to go wrong immediately upon arrival, when they arrive practically on top of a deinonychus, a roughly man-sized predator who responds to their sudden intrusion by attacking. It loses the fight, but not by much, and a significant portion of their gear is damaged or destroyed.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Doctor Dogs: How Our Best Friends Are Becoming Our Best Medicine, by Maria Goodavage (author), Suzanne Elise Freeman (narrator)

Maria Goodavage, October 2019

This is a really enjoyable and informative look at the expanding roles dogs are playing in human health care around the world.

It starts with dogs who are learning to sniff cancer in humans. This is something that started with people's own pets alerting to Something Very Wrong in some part of their owner's body, with the "something wrong" proving to be cancer. It took a while before anecdotal accounts of such incidents began to get the attention of doctors and medical researchers willing and able to follow up on it. This led to to testing dogs on samples that either did, or did not, contain samples of cancer. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Juniper Wiles (Newford #21), by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, April 2021

Juniper Wiles played teen detective Nora Constantine on a successful tv show, and then made some movies that weren't so great. She decided to leave LA and go home to Newford. She's living on her residuals, and pursuing the art she once set aside for acting. This has included reconnecting with her friend, faerie artist Jilly Coppercorn, and her interesting circle of friends in the artists' collective, Bramleyhaugh. She's happy, and doing well.

And then one day she's sitting in her favorite coffee shop when a young man walks up to her, and asks "Nora Constantine" to take his case. He wants her to find the man who sold him the manuscript of a new Nora Constantine novel.

He thinks Juniper really is Nora Constantine. And he thinks the new novel is responsible for all the terrible things that have happened in Crescent Beach since the end of the tv show.

Juniper does not respond well, and chases this obsessed fan off.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

Swoon Books, ISBN 9781250250469, September 2020

Yadriel is a Latinx teenager with a traditional family, and hopes to be a true brujo. He's got the talent. He's of an age to have the ceremony pledging himself to Lady Death, and becoming a true brujo.

The problem: Yadriel's very traditional family is convinced he's their daughter, not their son. They expect him to become a bruja, a form of magic for which he has no gift. Finally, with the help of his best friend, his cousin Maritza, he performs the ritual himself--successfully. Lady Death, at least, accepts him as a real brujo.

But he still has to prove it to his family and the rest of their community. The sudden death and disappearance of another cousin provides a chance to provide that proof while doing real good for the community.

He sets out to summon his cousin's ghost.

Instead, he summons the ghost of a fellow high school student who is a bit of a bad boy, rumored to be a gang member--and now recently dead. The ghost, Julian Diaz, wants to know what happened to him, and if his friends are all right. He absolutely refuses to be released to the next world until he does.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Manor for Sale, Baron Included (A Romance of Rank #1) by Esther Hatch (author), Noah Wall (narrator)

Esther Hatch, June 2021

Lord Farnsworth is struggling with the financial challenges created by the repeal of the Corn Laws and the consequent hardships of his tenants on the entailed properties inherited from his father. The only property he owns that isn't entailed, that he can sell, is the estate inherited from his mother. Unfortunately, in addition to his deep attachment to his mother's home, where he spent every winter until her death, it's also the only one that's currently profitable. The tenants there are raising sheep, not grain, so the drop in grain prices has made their farms more profitable, not less.

His solicitor startles him with a proposal to sell only the manor. There's an offer from a very successful merchant, the owner of British Vermilion Textiles, who wants only the manor. The other surprise is that this merchant is a woman, an unmarried woman, Sally Duncan. After his initial very negative reaction, Lord Farnsworth, i.e. Jonathan, has a clever idea that will solve all his problems.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Different, Not Less: Ultimate Success Stories from People with Autism and Asperger's by Temple Grandin (author), Colleen Patrick (narrator)

Future Horizons, January 2017

This is a collection of success stories from a variety of very different people on the autism spectrum, selected and with introductions by Temple Grandin. The people are very different, their stories are very different, and their definitions of success are very different.

For some, success is holding down a job, however modest, and being able to support themselves. For others, there's considerable professional success, in technology, art, teaching, and business in various forms.

Some have found  that marriage and romantic romantic relationships are not a thing they are successful at, no matter how well they do in other areas of life. Some have built successful marriages, though often only after being diagnosed as autistic, enabling them and their partners to understand their behavior better.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Lost and Found in Dog Town (Dog Town #3), by Sandy Rideout

Sandy Rideout, September 2018

Mim is a single mother, raising a teenage son, working as a nurse in the local hospital, and also as a visiting nurse to earn some extra money. Mim and her son Kyle have a dog, George, from a local breeder of 'doodles, her friend Arianna, or Ari. Dorset Hills, a.k.a. "Dog Town," is a wonderful place for dog lovers to live--or should be. The local government is very into promoting it as a tourist destination; that's part of why they promote the "Dog Town" image. However, they also promote the town for Christmas, and have very strict guidelines for decorations that can be seen from the street, anywhere, under any circumstances. And they don't like negative news.

When George is stolen from Mim's back yard, the police initially have no desire to take it seriously, at all. They insist that George most likely just "wandered off"--out of a yard with a substantial fence and a locked gate. And having wandered off, he'll wander back, right? They really don't want a "dog stolen in Dog Town" story breaking right before Christmas, and it's at this point that I start to wonder how much Dog Town really loves dogs.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism: My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad, by Peter J. Hotez (author), P.J. Ochlan (narrator)

Tantor Audio, ISBN 9781541449817, October 2018

Peter Hotez is a pediatrician, a vaccine scientist specializing in neglected tropical diseases, neglected mainly because they affect mostly very poor people, and the father of an autistic daughter.

It's the intersection between his specialization in vaccines, and the fact that he has an autistic daughter, that has given him perhaps more public attention than he really enjoys. Well, that, and that fact that is not shy about speaking up about the absolute nonsense that is the anti-vaccine movement.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Forest Is Crying, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, June 2020

Chris Dennison is a social worker, a man dedicated to helping vulnerable and at-risk children, and he's hitting the terrible wall of burnout. A four-year-old boy he'd been working very hard to keep safe dies, and it's just too much for him.

He's going to resign. He's written his resignation letter, and he'll turn it in after he goes out and gets very, very drunk. But at the end of that drunken binge, he meets a young woman, a rather strange young woman, who talks to him about trees, and saving the rain forest--and when he talks about saving children being more important than trees, says, what if the trees we cut down come back as unwanted children?

Monday, August 9, 2021

Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl, by Jonathan C. Slaght (author, narrator)

Tantor Audio, ISBN 9781494547790, October 2020 (original publication August 2020)

As a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan Slaght, in the far eastern Russian province of Primorye, saw, and managed to get a picture of, a very large, and unfamiliar, owl. When he sent the picture to experts, they identified it as a Blakiston's fish owl, the world's largest, and most elusive, owl.

When Slaght took that picture, the fish owl had not been seen that far south in a hundred years. Its range stretches from Hokkaido, Japan, to Primorye in Russia, and it's both elusive and endangered. Slaght was working towards his Ph.D., and had found his research topic--very little was known about Blakiston's fish owl, and it's endangered. Learning more about both the bird itself, and its habitat needs, to create a conservation plan, would be an excellent project.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Bad Actors: (Adventures in the Liaden Universe® Number 33) by Sharon Lee (author), Steve Miller (author)

Pinbeam Books, July 2021

This is a collection of three shorter Liaden Universe adventures--and not featuring the usual type of Liaden Universe heroes. These are people who don't necessarily place the same value on honor

The first is "Excerpts From Two Lives," about a man and woman who are lovers, and part of a political entity that is hostile to Terrans, Liadens, and other political entities that might be more interested in trade and cooperation than in conquest and expansion. The man is a rising military officer; the woman is a scientist developing the means to rapidly terraform planets, enabling rapid expansion and growth for their civilization. The two are willing to cheaat, backstab, and undermine anyone who gets in their way, as they climb the political ladder by coordinating their military and scientific plans.

When something goes badly wrong with the first live test of the terraforming biotechnology, though, disaster strikes and they have a very big decision to make.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

First Flight, by Mary Robinette Kowal

Tor Books, ISBN 9781429952002, June 2010 (original publication August 2009)

Louise is a bit more than a century old, and still fit, healthy, and up for a potential adventure. This makes her golden to the new time travel industry; they can't send you back in time before you were born.

Unfortunately, she's more independent-minded than they'd altogether like.

They send her back in time to observe the very first flight of the Wright brothers, and on her walk from her arrival spot to the flight location, she meets a twelve-year-old boy with a very lively mind. Their conversation is interrupted by a technical failure of the time travel device, and this creates complications. The scientists and executives running the project are not in favor of Louise's proposed policy of honesty. At the same time, they can't pursue their preferred policy of replacing her with someone else, because centenarians are not thick on the ground. She's what they've got to work with, and they can't afford lose out on what they're being paid for the footage of that flight.

And I can't say any more, because anything interesting would be a spoiler. It's a sweet story, with some gentle humor.

Recommended. I bought this book.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot #1), by Becky Chambers (author), Emmett Grosland (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250807748, July 2021

On the world of Panga (apparently a moon orbiting a gas giant), it's been centuries since robots awoke to full consciousness and sapience, laid down their tools, and, after negotiating an agreement with the humans, walked off into the wilderness, never to be seen again.

Now, Sibling Dex, a monk who works as a gardener in their religious house, decides they have had a change of vocation. They now wish to be a tea monk, and travel the towns and villages with a tea wagon, offering tea and comfort to the troubled. This works well for them for a while, till they realize there is still some need unsatisfied. They decide to travel to an old religious house, in what is now the wilderness, long since abandoned. This is more challenging than they anticipated, and this is how they come to meet the robot, Mosscap.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Alliance Space (Company Wars #2) (Rapprochement #2) by C.J. Cherryh (author), Daniel Thomas May (narrator)

Tantor Audio, February 2021

This is an omnibus of two novels, both in Cherryh's Union/Alliance universe, but otherwise not closely connected.

The first is Merchanter's Luck, a shorter novel about a small, older merchanter ship, which has had some seriously bad luck over the last couple of decades. It used to be Le Cygne, a family-crewed ship which is typical among Cherryh's merchanters, with a crew of about thirty. Then it had a run-in with one of Mazian's fleet, who were mostly pirates even when they were the official fleet of the Company. Only three young crew survived, one of them truly just a child, Sandor Kreja. They continue to have less than good luck, and by the time this novel starts, Sandor Kreja is calling himself "Edward Stephens, his ship Lucy, operating with whatever crew he can scare up, or when times are really tight, operating alone. He's scraping by, but not entirely legitimately. And then, on Viking Station, he meets Allison Riley, a relatively junior officer on the much larger, and much richer, merchanter ship, Dublin Again. They take an interest in each other. Their lives are about to get way too interesting.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Space Between Worlds, by Micaiah Johnson

Ballantine Del Rey, ISBN 9780593135051, August 2020

Multiverse travel is now possible, but you can only travel to worlds where your parallel self is dead. This gives people born into bad conditions where survival is unlikely a unique, if limited, value to the Elbridge Institute in walled and wealthy Wiley City.

Cara is one of those outliers, plucked from poverty and danger in the wastelands, to work as a "traverser," bringing back data from the scientists from many of the worlds where her parallel self died. She works with Dell, her Watcher, temptingly attractive yet aloof and withdrawn, a woman of old money in Wiley City. 

Everything is going smoothly, and Cara has a nice apartment and a good income, and makes regular visits to her family in the wasteland settlement of Ashtown. Then another of Cara's parallel selves dies. Cara has a new world to visit, and events start to threaten Cara's dangerous secret.

It also leads to Cara discovering the dangerous secret of the seemingly kindly scientist and Elbridge CEO who invented the world-crossing technology.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Ghostsitter - A Crazy Inheritance (Ghostsitter #1) by Tommy Krappweis, Michael Braun (narrator), Marc Vietor (narrator), Jay Snyder (narrator), Dina Pearlman (narrator), Cynthia Darlow (narrator), Stephen Bel Davies (narrator), James Fouhey (narrator), Jenna Yi (narrator), Jessie Cannizzaro (narrator), Kevin T. Collins (narrator), Mateo D'Amato (narrator)

Audible Originals, June 2020 (original publication October 2015)

Tom is a fourteen-year-old boy living with his adopted grandmother when he receives a letter from a law firm inviting him to the reading of a will. It's the will of his great-uncle, Heinrich, his grandmother's brother. He's just absorbing that information when there's a knock at the door. The man at the door is his Uncle Welf.

It's worth noting that Tom had never heard of Great-Uncle Heinrich or Uncle Welf before.

Uncle Welf drives them to the reading of the will, where Tom learns that he will inherit more than ten million euros if he takes control of Heinrich's ghost train carnival ride, the Terror Train, and keeps it operating until he's eighteen. Uncle Welf, of course, will be his agent because he's underage, but he'll have to travel with the ride.