Friday, October 29, 2021

Star Soldiers (Central Control #1 & 2), by Andre Norton (author), Eric Michael Summerer (narrator)

Tantor Audio, March 2021 (original publication 1953)

This is an omnibus of two of Norton's science fiction adventure stories. They tell the stories of the start of human space travel and interaction with established, intelligent, alien civilization, in Star Guard (1953), and, four thousand years later, a story that reflects the spreading collapse of that same galactic civilization in Star Rangers (1953), later reprinted under the title The Last Planet (1955).

In Star Guard, humans have achieved star flight, but found an exiting multispecies polity in which the government, "Central Control," deems humans too aggressive for full membership, and assigns them the role serving as mercenaries in the on-planet conflicts of other species. For more technologically advanced cultures, Terra provides "Mech" units, using things we'd recognize as really advanced tanks, airplanes, missiles, and energy weapons. For lower-tech cultures, they provide "Arch" units, using swords, spears, nothing more advanced than rifles, and some form of radio communication between units. Kana Karr, Swordsman Third Class, arrives at Prime to enlist for his first assignment off world. The first assignment offered him is allegedly a simple police action, a good way to get some basic experience without jumping in the deep end. It's on a planet called Fronn, and it's apparently his somewhat eccentric choice to take all the course he can on X-Tee, Alien Liaison service.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Bark Twice for Danger (The Talking Dog Detective Agency #3), by M.K. Scott

Sleeping Dragon Press, May 2018

Nala Bonne is a private investigator, at least when she isn't working as a substitute teacher at a preschool. Unfortunately, she's the substitute for her own position, which she quit, while agreeing to work as a substitute until a new person is hired. There seems to be little urgency behind this supposed search.

Luckily, right now, her school is on a break, and she can concentrate on her investigative business--which has been mostly investigating dating partners for women who have begun to suspect something is wrong. There's also some insurance investigation, which she'd prefer to do more of.

Nala's advantages include having been taught the skills of investigation by her father, a police chief, the fact that she's the daughter of the police chief, and the fact that she has a very smart rescue German shepherd--who can talk.

Yes, that's right. Max the dog can talk. This means that unlike most canine sidekicks in mysteries, he can tell her not only that he smells something, but what he smells.

Nala's latest case is a departure from her norm; it's an identity theft case. Abby Lowenstein has had some very expensive stuff charged to her card. She's canceled the card and gotten the charges removed, but she wants the person responsible caught. And a very nice lady at the shelter where she adopted her cat gave her a card--Nala's card. The nice lady at the shelter is Nala's friend Karly.

A case is a case, and Nala takes it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

It's a Wonderful Woof (Chet and Bernie Mystery #12), by Spencer Quinn (author), Jim Frangione (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781705020340, October 2021

It's the holiday season, even in Arizona, and Chet and Bernie have a new case walking in the door. Lauritz Vogler, a man with an unfamiliar accent who describes himself as "Mittel European Goulash," offer Bernie a $5,000 retainer to investigate a matter concerned with Baroque art. This isn't Bernie's kind of case, and Christmas is coming. It seems like it's an excellent case for fellow P.I. Victor Klovsky. Victor is the timid type and prefers to avoid direct conflict, but he's a whiz at online research, and this case seems right up his alley. Bernie refers Vogner to Victor.

A couple of days later, he gets a call from Victor's mother, saying that Victor is missing.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Murder by Misrule (Francis Bacon Mystery #1), by Anna Castle (author), Joel Froomkin (narrator)

Anna Castle, November 2017 (original publication March 2014)

Francis Bacon is a barrister of Gray's Inn, shockingly young for it, and currently in disfavor with Queen Elizabeth due to an ill-received proposal for law reform. Being unable to be received at court, or even by friends who are at court, is a significant obstacle to his ambitions, and even to his ordinary responsibilities.

It does not really look like help when his powerful uncle, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer and Queen Elizabeth's most trusted adviser, asks him to quietly investigate the death of another, far more senior, barrister of Gray's. For various reasons, it's suspected this murder may involve Catholic intrigue aimed at overthrowing and replacing the Queen. Bacon recruits four students, whom he is now tutoring since their former tutor has been murdered (yes, of course.)

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Patience and Not-Forsaken, by Alix E. Harrow (author), Jennifer Nittoso (narrator)

Audible Studios, January 2017

Patience Not-Forsaken Gravely's mother died in an asylum, suffering from what sounds like bipolar disorder. Patience herself has been diagnosed as having "a nervous disposition." When her father inherits Gravely doctor who treated her mother and is treating her recommends that a quiet, rural location will be good for Patience.

It's the 1950s, and Patience is "difficult." She loves superhero comics in general, and Wonder Woman in particular, to the grim disapproval of her father. In Gravely House, she meets a girl in the mirror. The girl has no name, and Patience gives her one of her own, Not-Forsaken. But who is Not-Forsaken, and why is she in the mirror?

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Scholars of Night, by John M. Ford

Tor Books, ISBN 9781250269164, September 2021 (original publication February 1988)

This is a Cold War spy thriller, published in 1988, when the Cold War was still on and fear of nuclear annihilation still felt very, very imminent. Ford was a great writer, and this book gives the lie to the defense for the sexism and other attitudes we are often urged not to criticize in older works "He was of his time." Ford's female characters have to deal with the sexism and misogyny of the time, but they themselves are strong, intelligent, independent, and not treated by Ford as if they deserve the attitudes they have to struggle against.

Nicholas Hansard is a young professor of history at a small college, who also has a tiny toehold in the world of espionage--though he's not entirely aware of it. He just does some research and document authentication for The White Group, and has no real idea what The White Group really is.

The really important thing he doesn't know, though, is that his mentor, Allan Berenson, is a spy, theoretically part of the US intelligence world, but in reality working for the Russians. When Berenson dies, apparently of a heart attack but in fact a carefully staged elimination of the double agent, things start spinning out of control, not just in Hansard's life, but, especially there.

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Post Box at the North Pole, by Jaimie Admans

HQ Digital, October 2021

Sasha Hansley hates Christmas, and has ever since her mother was killed in a car crash, and her father, Percy, after recovering from his injuries in the crash, left England. He calls, but he doesn't come home, not even for Christmas, not even when he has promised to do so. Instead, he asks her to join him on one travel adventure after another, and she refuses, having no desire to travel. Sasha occupies her time with one dead-end job after another, feeling unimportant and unvalued. Her father, though, thinks she's now the manager of a major hotel, and turned its fortunes around. She didn't tell him that; it was a misunderstanding when she applied for the job, told him, and he decided that she obviously got it. Now, she feels he's finally proud of her, and can't bear to tell him it's not true.

Right now, she's just lost her latest job, with a dog-walking business, because the owner's sister needed the job.

And her father calls from Norway, sounding old and frail, and telling her that he's had a heart attack. He wants her to come to the Christmas village where he's living and working. He's insistent. He's already paid for her tickets. And he needs her.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Operation Bailey Wedding (The Baileys #3.5), by Piper Rayne

Piper Rayne, July 2019

Holly Radcliffe and Austin Bailey are getting married, and it's going to be a very big wedding in a small town, Lake Starlight. That's because the Bailey family consists of nine siblings, their grandmother, Dori, and the siblings' significant others. It's a family that knows everyone and has had a large impact, and Austin Bailey, the oldest sibling, is the first to get married.

This is a lot of people to manage in a novella, but overall, it works.

Austin is a science teacher at the high school, and the coach of the school baseball team. They've never had a good enough record to go to the state competition, but this year, as the wedding closes in on them, the team is winning, and clearly headed for that state competition. If they do go, it will coincide with what's supposed to be his and Holly's honeymoon trip to Hawaii.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix (Remixed Classics #2,) by Bethany C. Morrow (author), Adenrele Ojo (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250815507. September 2021

It's 1863, and with the Civil War still raging, the March family--Alcott and Mamie (Margaret), and their daughters Meg, Jo (Johanna), Beth (Bethlehem), and Amy (Amethyst), are beginning free, settled lives in the Freed People's Colony of Roanoke Island. Mr. March built their home with materials supplied by the Union Army. As the book starts, Alcott March has gone off to the Corinth, MS Contraband Camp to offer advice and labor there.

Mamie is working as a secretary in the camp administration office, the March family being among the small number of freed slaves who are literate. Meg is a teacher of young black students, and she's liked but not entirely respected by the white volunteer teachers from the north. She's every bit the homebody set on marriage and family that Louisa May Alcott's Meg is.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Companions to the Moon, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, ISBN 978920623145, April 2012 (original publication Realms of Fantasy, June 2007)

Record shop owner Mary is beginning to suspect that her common law partner, a rock musician named Edric, is being unfaithful. They've been together seven years, and there's always been something a bit mysterious about him; it's part of what attracted her. Yet recently, they're doing household chores separately that they've always done together. He says it's more "efficient." She misses that feeling of togetherness. He's not bringing someone home when she's working; there's no sign of that. He also doesn't seem to have been with anyone but his usual friends when he's been out and comes home.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy, by Myke Cole

Osprey Publishing, February 2021

Myke Cole sets out to deconstruct the myth of Spartan warrior supremacy, not out of hostility to the Spartans, but frustration with the mythologizing of these very real people who had gifts and virtues, but also flaws. Another significant motivation is the misuse of the myth rather than the reality of the Spartans in support of hard right ideologies, and not just in the US, but at least throughout the cultural West.

The Spartans are revered and nearly worshipped as the ideal warriors, men who valued war, despised money, and served the good of the state over personal reputation and comfort. What Myke Cole shows us, in this careful, well-researched, and very readable book, is a culture of men as variable and human as any others. They were in some ways better soldiers than others contemporary to them. The Spartan hoplites did some regular training. It was more than most other Greek city-states did, but nothing close to the professionalism attributed to them by myth. It did give them a degree of organization and discipline that was, for most of their history, rare in the armies of other contemporary armies. That was a real advantage, especially when fighting other Greek hoplites.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Into the Land of the Unicorns (The Unicorn Chronicles #1), by Bruce Coville (author, narrator), David Baker (narrator), Karel Blakeley (narrator), Daniel Bostick (narrator), Ryan Canning (narrator), Alex Dolbear (narrator), Shirley Fenner (narrator), Tim Fox (narrator), Kate Huddleston (narrator), Michael Larkin (narrator), Mimi Mead (narrator), Lauren Synger (narrator)

Full Cast Audio, ISBN 9781934180907, 2009 (original publication 1994)

Cara and her grandmother, whom she has lived with since her mother died and her father left, are on their way home from the library when they realize they are being followed. Cara is surprised and frightened when her grandmother agrees they are really being followed--and that the man is a threat. It's not long before Cara, wearing her grandmother's special necklace, is standing at the top of a bell tower, about to follow Grandma's instructions to wait for the the twelfth toll of the bell, call out "Luster, bring me home," and jump.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Time Traders II: The Defiant Agents / Key Out of Time (Time Traders/Ross Murdock #3-4), by Andre Norton (author), Graham Rowat (narrator)

Tantor Audio, May 2021 (original publication January 2001) (The Defiant Agents original publication February 1962) (Key Out of Time original publication March 1963)

In The Defiant Agents, Travis Fox is part of a new and different mission, establishing a new colony on a habitable world, called Topaz, that's uninhabited now but may once have been part of the collapsed Galactic Empire that the Americans and Russians have both looted advanced technology from. The new colony will be composed mostly of Apaches like Travis. They have been subjected to a new process called Redax, that revives ancestral memory, the memories of their ancestors from the 19th century.

What they haven't been told is that the effects of Redax may leave them believing they really are Apaches of the 19th century. What no one knew is that the Russians are a little bit ahead of them in establishing a colony on Topaz, with Tatars. They've been subjected to a process similar to Redax, regressed to the memories of their Mongol ancestors.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Dog Boys, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, ISBN 9780920623169, November 2012

Brandon's family has just moved from Atlanta to a gated community in the (fictional) southwestern city of Santo del Vado Viejo, and for reasons mysterious to Brandon, they're sending him to the local public high school. There are Mexican gangs, Indian gangs, and he's the new Anglo outsider. He has a quite sensible plan to keep his head down.

Unfortunately, during his first week, he sees a big, tough Mexican guy bullying a very petite Indian girl. He steps in to protect the girl, Rita, and succeeds for the moment. Too bad the bully, Bambino, is the younger brother of one of the leaders of the 66 Bandas gang. Brandon and Rita are now both going to be targets.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Crow Roads, by Charles de Lint

Triskell Press, April 2012 (original publication in The Coyote Road: Trickster Tales, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Viking,2007)

It's 1967, and Annie is a teenager living in Tartown, outside Newford, a tough area where everyone is poor. One afternoon after school, she's hanging out at the laundromat with a friend, when a very handsome, unusual young man shows up outside Ernie's pool room. His good looks, long black hair, and general hippie look makes him seem an easy target for the local tough boys--and it doesn't turn out the way they expect.

Friday, October 1, 2021

To Catch a Bad Guy (Janet Maple #1), by Marie Astor

Marie Astor, August 2012

Janet Maple, graduate of Columbia Law School, four years in the DA's office, with a prized job in the investigations office, along with a handsome boyfriend, Alex, working alongside her, thought she was on her way to the promotion and the career she wanted, bagging Wall Street bad guys.

Then Alex gets the promotion, she gets laid off, and she's struggling to support herself and her dog, Baxter, and find a new job without using her ex-boyfriend as a reference. When her oldest and once closest friend, Lisa Foley, calls her with an off of a job as Assistant General Counsel at Bostoff Securities, she accepts. She's working on Wall Street instead of hunting Wall Street bad guys, but she can play a role in keeping Bostoff Securities on the right side of the law, right?

It's not long before she realizes there's something wrong at Bostoff. Their five biggest customers are hedge funds with dubious reputations, and their documentation seems to be incomplete--ownership data, for instance, is missing. Yet her ability to investigate is limited, because most of the legal work is done by outside counsel Tom Wyman. Even her friend and boss, Lisa, the General Counsel, has very little real work. Why was Janet even hired?