Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Diamond Jubilee: Sherlock Holmes, Mark Twain, and the Peril of the Empire, by Paul Schullery (author), Nick Crosby (narrator)

MX Publishing, October 2018

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are at home at Baker Street, when they receive an unexpected visitor. It's Samuel Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, with a puzzle whose seriousness he is not quite certain of, but he fears the worst.

It's June 1897, and Clemens is engaged in a world tour. It's also the 60th anniversary of the reign of Queen Victoria, with the offical celebration of her Diamond Jubilee coming up on June 22. A few weeks ago in Johannesburg, South Africa, Clemens had a disturbing yet seemingly minor experience.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Dialect Diversity in America: The Politics of Language Change (Page-Barbour Lectures), by William Labov

University of Virginia Press, ISBN 9780813933276. December 2012

William Labov has spent decades studying dialects of English in America, and what his studies reveal are results contrary to common assumptions about dialect in America.

Among those results is that, contrary to popular assumption, broadcast television and radio, and other mass media, are not causing dialect diversity to decrease. Dialects across large regions are not changing to become more alike, but in some ways more different. This includes Northern Inland, Midland, and Southern dialects. Changes in these dialects have progressed somewhat in step with each other--but not in the direction of becoming more similar. Sound changes have arisen and are still arising that produce misunderstandings between primary speakers of one dialect and another. Thinking of language as a means of communication, it seems unexpected that dialects would move further apart when speakers of those dialects are communicating directly with each other as well as consuming the same national media. Labov looks at what seem to be the causes of this seemingly strange development.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Laziness Does Not Exist, by Devon Price (author), Em Grosland (narrator)

Simon & Schuster Audio, ISBN 9781797120591, January 2021

Devon Price is a social psychologist with a strong emphasis on the practical--what works for individuals, and the importance of recognizing and respecting self-care and your own values.

In this book, their emphasis is on the importance on not valuing yourself solely on your productivity for others. If you are struggling to make deadlines, always exhausted, and on the edge of burning out, you're probably doing something wrong. And the problem isn't "laziness." It's defining your value by how productive you are for others, while setting your own needs, and often health, aside.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

A Christmas Deliverance, by Anne Perry (author), Jenny Sterlin (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 978105036082, November 2022

Like Perry's previous Christmas novellas, this one focuses on minor characters--in this case, Dr. Crowe and his assistant, Scuff. Scuff, the former mudlark, is also the adopted son of William and Hester Monk, Will. That's how he learned to read, and got his great interest in medicine--and became a medical student and Crowe's assistant.

They're working at Crowe's free clinic, when there's a serious carriage accident not far away. Crowe is called to the scene, and sews up two serious wounds on a young woman's leg. Then the men on the scene help transport her to his clinic.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Shot in the Bark (Dog Groomer Mysteries #8), by Chelsea Thomas

Big + Little Press, February 2023

Amy and her Granny Petunia are running a successful pet grooming business in the Toluca Lake area, in Los Angeles. It's successful enough that former child star, now lifestyle guru Tessa May Wilson, wants Amy to groom her pets.

Her pets, though,  are Silkie chickens, which will be a first for Amy. She's never groomed chickens, or heard of Silkies. But Tessa May says she just wants them fluffed, and this is a great opportunity for Amy. It's agreed that Amy will pick up the chickens in her van the next day.

When Amy, Granny, and Amy's friend and employee Betsy, arrive at Tessa May's home, they find the chickens, but no Tessa May. After a little poking around, they do find her mother, Wilma Wilson, dead. Strangled with a chicken leash.

Wilma and Tessa May were quite publicly estranged, after Tessa May sued her mother over mismanagement of her earnings as a child actor.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Falling in Love With Hominids, by Nalo Hopkinson


Tachyon Publications, ISBN 9781616961992, July 2015

This is a wonderful collection of short stories, and Nalo Hopkinson kept me reading stories that were just straight up horror that I would ordinarily just skip right over. Along with the horror, there's dark fantasy, lighter, happier fantasy, and even a couple of stories that can fairly be called science fiction. There's a reworking of the story of Caliban, and a new Bordertown story. It's an impressive range.

What sets this collection apart, aside from the fact that Hopkinson is just a really excellent writer, is that she writes from her own Afro-Caribbean heritage, giving us stories that are new, and bringing an entirely different perspective to stories grounded in more familiar material. There's folklore and storytelling traditions here that are a new experience, and take me places I haven't been.

The Caliban story flips the narrative and changes how we see not just Caliban, but Ariel, as well as their mother. The Bordertown story widens the world not just of Bordertown itself, but of the "other side," the elf world. Turns out there's ethnic diversity there, too, and it's extremely well done. There are stories that leave me feeling warm, and reconnected to the good parts of my childhood without denying the bad parts, and...okay, what just happened there? Was it real? Does it matter, when it leaves that warm glow behind?

There's a zombie apocalypse story, "Easthound." I hate zombie apocalypse stories. This one kept me reading. Or "Emily Breakfast,' which starts out seemingly without fantastic elements. Chickens, cat, lizards--all have their elements of the fantastic, and you don't notice it sneaking up on you.

Vishnu figures prominently in one story, and an elephant about whom I will say nothing more in another.

Ghosts relive their deaths, daily, in a shopping mall. Indigenous people defend themselves against invaders, at great cost. A self-conscious teenager struggles with her unruly hair, and a tree that won't stop talking to her.

There's so much here, and it's so rich and rewarding.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

The Scarlet Circus (The Jane Yolen Classic Fantasy Stories #4), by Jane Yolen

Tachyon Press, ISBN 9781616963866, February 2023

This is the fourth volume in a series collecting Jane Yolen's short fiction, in this case, romantic fantasy. It's important to be clear that this isn't Romance in the romance genre sense. These stories contain romance, but are not primarily about romance. It's not the main point of the stories, and endings may be happy, sad, or something in between.

So, expectations set, right?

"Sans Soleil" is the story of a prince born with curse; he's "as handsome as the sun," and the sun will kill him if a sunbeam so much as touches his brow. But there's a lovely young woman, daughter of a duke, who is convinced that this is an old wives' tale, complete nonsense, and who is determined to save him from his confinement to the dark.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Spare, by Prince Harry

Random House, January 2023

This is not really an easy book to review. It's controversial for obvious reasons; there's been much public controversy around Harry and Meghan, and those who aren't for them, are sometimes quite vitriolic. Even those who aren't vitriolic tend to treat all criticisms and condemnations of the pair as being true because after all, it's Harry and Meghan, and obviously it's them, not Will & Kate, the officially charming heir and wife, now officially Prince and Princess of Wales. And anything that's bad for Harry, well, he should be used to it because royalty, Will's the heir, Harry's the spare, so obviously if he's unhappy he's just resenting his place in the family. Or Meghan is pushing him to, despite the fact that he was obviously unhappy with both the public role and extreme limitations on what he could do. Not a desire to go out clubbing more; a desire to do things he was actually good at--like being a soldier.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Eversion, by Alastair Reynolds

Orbit, ISBN 9780316462815, August 2022

Doctor Silas Coade is the ship's physician on sailing ship, Demeter, in the 1800s, on a voyage of exploration to a previously unreachable inlet. They crash on the coast of Norway, and find an earlier ship, Europa, already wrecked there, leaving a dire warning behind.

Doctor Silas Coade is the ship's physician on a steamship, Demeter, in the later 1800s,  seeking the same previously unreachable inlet, with the same Edifice the previous voyage found--in a different part of the world. And Coade is the only one who, dimly, has memories of this happening before, with the same disastrous end.