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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Narrator: Rachel Dulude
Series: Wayfarers #1
Published by Tantor Audio on July 7, 2016
Source: Library
Genres: Science Fiction
Length: 14 hrs 24 mins
Format: Audiobook
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Rosemary Harper doesn't expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and, most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman, she's never met anyone remotely like the ship's diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot; chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks, who keep the ship running; and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy - exactly what Rosemary wants. It's also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn't part of the plan.

In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary's got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs - an experience that teaches her about love and trust and that having a family isn't necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

I really liked The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, but I don’t have much to say about it. Do you ever run into that problem. For the most part, we’re hanging out with the crew of the Wayfarer who are an awesome group of “people” – humans and other species, even a sentient AI. They are wormhole tunnelers, which is can be tough, but this newest job is the chance of a lifetime.

Often, it seems like sci-fi is about the politics or the weapons or the conflict, whatever it is. In The Long Way, all those things exist, but it’s more about how the crew are a family, how they face the big issues. We tag along on their adventures in ports or planets where friends live. We worry with them when they face a crisis, but know it will work out, because together they can handle most anything. I became attached to them all. I may have even cried when they had to hard reset the AI, which is not really surprising, I cry a lot at books.

Maybe it’s “feel good” sci-fi, if that’s a thing. The bad things are out there: politicians who put profits over peoples’ lives; prejudice against others due to their species, but the good is so much bigger, there are so many more caring, kind people out there, just trying to do their best. The characters, the crew obviously, but even others we meet briefly are well-drawn, have their own histories and cultures that play into how they act and interact with each other. The galaxy is a hugely diverse place where “people” of all types can find acceptance.

And sometimes filling out the right form can save someone’s life.

About Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers is the author of the award-nominated science fiction novels. She also writes nonfiction essays and short stories, which can be found in various places around the internet.

In addition to writing, Becky has a background in performing arts, and grew up in a family heavily involved in space science. She’s worked as a technical writer, a bartender, and a production assistant, among other things. Having lived in Scotland and Iceland, she is currently back in her home state of California.

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The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

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The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton
Narrator: Carrington MacDuffie
Series: Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1
Published by Tantor Audio on March 29, 2016
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Mystery
Length: 7 hrs 56 mins
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In need of a good adventure, Delaney Nichols takes the leap and moves to Edinburgh, Scotland, to start a job at The Cracked Spine. She doesn't know much about what she's gotten herself into, other than that the work sounds exciting, and that her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, has given her the opportunity of a lifetime.When she arrives, she meets her new Scottish family; also working at the Cracked Spine are Rosie, perpetually wrapped in scarves, and who always has tiny dog Hector in tow; Hamlet, a nineteen-year-old thespian with a colored past and bright future; and Edwin, who is just as enigmatic and mysterious as Delaney expected.But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact-a previously undiscovered First Folio of Shakespeare's plays-goes missing, and Edwin's sister is murdered, seemingly in connection to the missing folio. Delaney decides to do some sleuthing of her own, to find out just what the real story is behind the priceless folio, and how it's connected to the tragic death, all without getting harmed herself.

Even though I had an eARC of The Cracked Spine, I listened to the audio version. I think it was a good choice. I could relax and listen to the words and accents. It was fun to listen to the Scottish lilt in the dialogue. I looked at my digital version, and I think actually reading the accent in print could have been a bit difficult. I would have almost had to read some portion aloud, at least at the beginning, just to get ahold of what was being said.

I love the setting- a bookstore in Scotland, and I enjoyed the plot, unless I think about it too much. Delaney’s off on an adventure that most of us can only dream off, and she’s a nice lady who I enjoyed spending time with. I didn’t quite understand her immediate jump into trying to figure out who killed a woman she had never met, the sister of her new boss who she barely knows, in a town she is unaccustomed to. The fact that she doesn’t know who she can actually trust, whose secrets are harmless and whose led to murder, doesn’t seem to bother her too much. She is a lot less wary than I think most women would be in this day and age, but at the same time, the narrator’s voice made her sound older than she seemed to be. It was a bit disconcerting. And, of course, she manages to put herself in a life-threatening situation, like the typical amateur female detective. Luckily, there’s a man around to save her.

I wanted to really love this one, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. While the eccentric characters and bookshop/warehouse were enchanting, the plot lacked believability for me. This is the first in a series though, so I might give the next one a chance. By then Delaney should be more knowledgeable about the people and places and maybe her involvement won’t seem so contrived.

About Paige Shelton

Paige studied journalism at Drake College in Iowa. She has only ever wanted to be a writer. She’s had good jobs, bad jobs, great bosses, and terrible bosses, but through it all she has only wanted to write. She’s grateful to have the opportunity now.
Paige and her husband currently live in Arizona and have a college-age son.

Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb

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Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb Shadow and Light by Jonathan Rabb
Narrator: Simon Prebble
Series: Berlin Trilogy #2
Published by Tantor Audio on May 28, 2009
Source: Library
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 11 hrs 55 ins
Format: Audiobook
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Berlin, between the two world wars. When an executive at the renowned Ufa film studios is found dead floating in his office bathtub, it falls to Nikolai Hoffner, a chief inspector in the Kriminalpolizei, to investigate. With the help of Fritz Lang (the German director) and Alby Pimm (leader of the most powerful crime syndicate in Berlin), Hoffner finds his case taking him beyond the world of film and into the far more treacherous landscape of Berlin’s sex and drug trade, the rise of Hitler’s Brownshirts (the SA), and the even more astonishing attempts by onetime monarchists to rearm a post-Versailles Germany. Being swept up in the case are Hoffner's new lover, an American talent agent for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his two sons: Georg, who has dropped out of school to work at Ufa, and Sascha, his angry, older son, who, unknown to his father, has become fully entrenched in the new German Workers Party as the aide to its Berlin leader, Joseph Goebbels.

I thoroughly enjoyed Shadow and Light, but man, is it complicated. It starts off with an apparent suicide at a film studio, but Hoffner knows it’s not that simple. Hoffner is a good character, determined and solid, but horrible at relationships, he’s drinks too much, and is probably too friendly with the criminal backbone of the city. On the other hand, it seems like the criminals are more help than the system. The more he digs, the more grime and muck rises. And maybe that’s how Berlin was at the time. Somehow, the crime syndicate, the sex trade, the movie studios, the rise of Nazism, all intertwine. To be honest, I’m not sure I got it all, but it didn’t matter. Rabb immerses you in this world, and if you don’t quite understand every bit, that’s okay, because I don’t think the characters do either. We meet several historical figures, but I don’t know enough about the time and place to know where fiction and history touch.

There were a lot of characters. The narrator did a good job differentiating voices, but I’ll admit to being confused about who was who sometimes. I think that’s more to do with the scope of the story and the writing than the narrations. Also, for me, a lot of the names are unusual, which can add to the difficulty when there are so many people to keep straight.

For me, this one is more about the characters and setting than the actual plot. The twists and turns are a result of the time, place and people, not the needs of the mystery, if that makes sense. For me that worked well, but if you want a clear, straight, traditional mystery, this isn’t it.

About Jonathan Rabb

Jonathan Rabb (born April 28, 1964) is an American novelist, essayist, actor and writer.

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