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The Christmas HirelingsThe Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This Audible audiobook (short novel length) is a holiday treat for folks who can't get enough Victoriana in their Christmas.

First published in 1894, this is a slightly predictable but still enjoyable tale of country house holidays in Cornwall, with all the requisite trimmings. Brooding, aging lord of the manor with complicated family problems? Check. Disowned & widowed daughter? Check. Desperately ill child with sickbed drama? Check . . . It's all done with a certain amount of wit, however. And who couldn't use a happy ending these days?

Recommended for incurable Anglophiles, Dickens fans, Janeites (slightly wrong time period, but similar social commentary) -- & anyone up for Victorian holiday fiction, melodrama & all. It was free from Audible when I acquired it, & I'm glad I did.



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Alien: River of Pain: An Audible Original Drama (Canonical Alien Trilogy, #3)Alien: River of Pain: An Audible Original Drama by Christopher Golden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A little harder to follow as an audio drama than the previous Audible installment of this series, but still a great way to make the miles pass quickly on long holiday car trips! General lack of F-bombs might make this slightly more family-friendly, as well, but the menace of the original series is still present & enhanced by the theater of the mind.

I did think that the corporate villains this time around were a bit two-dimensional, but that's a minor complaint. Production values are excellent, & voices well-chosen for the characters (particularly the "voice" of Ellen Ripley.) Recommended for all fans of the Alien mythos, especially those facing a long car journey.





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The Secret PlaceThe Secret Place by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’d never even heard of the Dublin Murder Squad series before picking up this book (in CD format, from my local library), but decided to give this one a try after reading a rave mention in Time.

And I am so very glad I did.

This tightly structured story of a cold case reopened at an elite girls’ school is one of the most remarkably elegant mysteries I’ve read or listened to in a long time. Switching back & forth between the actual investigation (which takes a single day) and the events leading up to the murder (which occupy an entire year at St. Kilda’s), this narrative offers so much more than a whodunit. It’s also an examination of friendship – both adolescent and adult – and the sacrifices we’re willing to make for it.

In its depth of characterization, its attention to procedural detail, and its consistently lovely prose, this one reminded me very much of reading the late lamented P.D. James.




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Captain's Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #5)Captain's Share by Nathan Lowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Unlike many of my fellow reviewers of this audiobook, I did not find Captain's Share as compelling as most of the previous adventures. I'm not sure why, either. The plot seemed to move more slowly, or at least with more interruptions, than in most of the other books, & I sometimes felt as though I was reading management tips for newly fledged commercial captains!

As ever, though, I did find myself caring deeply about the characters -- sad when Ishmael's marriage finally falls apart, nervous while the Agamemnon takes a terrible risk getting its first cargo delivered on time, triumphant when the crew finally comes together as a family -- and concerned about the small details of their lives. It was also good to see Ishmael making some mistakes while assuming his first command, though I wouldn't have expected anything less of the author.

The immersive nature of this series is still working for me, and I've already downloaded the first few chapters of the final volume to my iPod. So long as treadmills and household chores exist, there will be a place in my audio-reading life for books this consistently involving.



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Double Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #4)Double Share by Nathan Lowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Not sure why I haven't done a text review for this series yet, but it's past time -- because Golden Age of the Solar Clipper is a remarkable immersive experience (in Podiobook form, anyhow) for those of us who enjoy space opera.

The premise is simple: follow a POV character (the improbably named Ishmael Wang) through his career in a spacefaring version of the merchant marine. Lowell's world-building -- or universe-building -- is detailed, & his characters have depth. This series has gotten me through many treadmill miles and house-cleaning sessions.

Until this volume, however, I was finding the plot a bit mild. No fear this time around! Double Share is the edgiest of the series thus far, placing Our Hero as a newly minted third mate aboard a nastily dysfunctional ship.

I've already put a bit in the Podiobooks tip jar for this one, & downloaded some of Vol. 5 to my iPod. Fans of Lois McMaster Bujold, David Weber, or C.J. Cherryh should definitely try this series, if they haven't already.



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The January 2012 issue of Mike Davis's Lovecraft eZine is up now, available free for all interested Lovecraftians.   This looks like a particularly intriguing issue, with a brand new art section.  Check out the TOC:

Tark Left Santiago
by Joseph S. Pulver, SR

The Spaces Between Space
by Brett J. Talley

Eliza
by Joshua Reynolds

White Noise
by Michael Matheson

The Vessels
by Nancy O. Greene

Art Section (NEW!)
Dan Hunt and Charles Schneider


For those of you who prefer to consume your eldritch items on Kindle or Nook, there's a handy edition for each device available for only 99 cents.  Several stories are also being offered in free downloadable audio  -- there's no getting away from the cosmic horror now.

But why would you want to?

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