Thursday, November 30, 2023

Fall Reading 2023 System Collapse: The Murderbot Diaries (#7)


For those of us who have been following the exploits of Murderbot from that first diary, every new book proves more and more that Dr. Ratthi is correct, "It is a person!" This time we find our favorite bot/human construct still on the planet it first visited with A.R.T. (Perihelion) and its crew. They have all remained there in an effort to assist the colonists against Barish-Estranza's efforts to seize them as an unpaid labor force. Dr. Mensah and Murderbot's friends from the Preservation Alliance are working with A.R.T.'s crew to prevent the colonists from being forcibly conscripted by the corporation.

Research into the colony's original charter, negotiations with various factions among the colonists, and repairs on A.R.T.'s wormhole drive, are just some of the urgent work being done by the various humans. Despite the fact that it hates planets ("There's dust and weather, and something always wants to eat the humans."), Murderbot is on the surface assisting a crew that are repairing communication routers. And everything goes wrong, as it generally does. Can Murderbot protect its group of humans as they encounter homicidal ag-bots, suspicious enclaves of colonists, and hostile corporate employees?

What makes Murderbot so enjoyable to read about? So many things. There are the science fiction elements of robots, cyborgs,  AI, and space travel. There are also fights for survival against carnivorous fauna, pirates, mutants, and other deadly threats. There are Murderbot's observations of human social conventions and other interactions and the oftentimes deadpan humor of its opinions. For example, "Granted, I liked the imaginary people on the entertainment feed way more than I liked real ones, but you can’t have one without the other." But I think what really draws us in is how much we can all relate to its struggle to figure out what it wants from life - not what is is told it is supposed to want, but what it truly desires for itself.

If you enjoy sci-fi, cyberpunk, and similar genres, you must surely have heard of Murderbot by now. If you have somehow managed to resist giving the series a try, give in to temptation and binge on it. I must confess...I have read the previous titles so often that I have reached the cap set by Goodreads on listing read dates for each of them. And I will. not. stop.  

Just released on November 14 - and also available on Audible. Get a copy now and enjoy it during long winter nights. (I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes, but then purchased the audio book, too.)

Friday, November 10, 2023

Fall Reading 2023 The Twelve Books of Christmas


Yes, that's right - Brooklyn can't even get through a Christmas season without being pulled into a mystery. She and Derek are invited back to Loch Ness to attend the wedding of their friends Claire and Cameron. And while they are there perhaps they can help locate a dozen books that have gone missing from the castle's library. Spending the holidays in a genuine Scottish castle seems like a great way to relax and enjoy Christmas and New Year's Day, but not when the murders begin. 

Who could be behind the deaths? Is it part of a plot in the village to drive Claire away? Does it have anything to do with the loud and mysterious noises that fill the castle's halls at night? How did the missing books, which all relate to Christmas, vanish from a locked library? What is up with the very pushy young woman Bitsy who keeps trying to insinuate herself between Claire and Cameron? And why has Cameron's father not bothered to get in touch for the holidays or the wedding?

There seem to be more questions than Brooklyn and Derek can answer, even with the help of Brooklyn's parents and Derek's former partner Gwyneth. Readers will be looking for hidden undercurrents in each conversation, scrutinizing each scene for a clue that the characters have overlooked, and adding suspects to their list. Is there more than one criminal at work? Are the deaths and the missing books connected or do they have two separate perpetrators?

With all the descriptions of Scottish holiday traditions and delicious foods prepared by the castle's chef, the story is sure to be a pleasant holiday escape for readers of cozy mysteries - even if Brooklyn and the gang reach the solution before we do.

Fall Reading 2023 Sugar Plum Poisoned

Mel and Angie should know better by now, they really should. Every time they accept a catering gig for a big event or a celebrity there is bound to be a murder. We all know that - it's why we keep a lookout for each new book in the series. This time Angie's friend Shelby from her life on the road with Roach (before she and Tate married) is doing a series of performances at a local hotel for the Christmas season and wants the ladies to cater the VIP lounge. And...of course, a dead body is found.

Our favorite cupcake bakers and the rest of the gang, Joe, their former protégé Oz, Uncle Stan, Stan's partner Detective Martinez, Angie's brothers, and Marty all do their part to protect Shelby while hunting for clues and suspects. But there are so many to choose from: the ex-wife of Shelby's manager, the seemingly hostile hotel owner, the daughter of Shelby's first manager, maybe even an obsessed fan. 

As if that weren't enough of a challenge Mel's mother asks her to host the family Christmas dinner. Then Joe's family decides to come too, and there are a lot of them. The DeLaura brothers agree to decorate the house and Ray really gets into the holiday spirit. Angie and Tate have their infant to care for and make her first Christmas special. What more can they pack into one holiday season? 

Fans will be carefully looking for clues alongside the amateur sleuths and waiting to see if they reach the solution first. A special bonus - recipes for the holiday cupcakes mentioned in the book are provided in the back. So whip up a batch of sugar plum, eggnog, peppermint bark, sugar cookie, or gingerbread cupcakes and then enjoy them as you read this delicious holiday-themed cozy.