Monday, July 21, 2014

ATOMIC ACCIDENTS by James Mahaffey

If you liked COMMAND AND CONTROL, you’ll love ATOMIC ACCIDENTS, written by research scientist James Mahaffey, who once worked for the Nuclear Defense Agency, the NGIC, the AFALC, and the Georgia Power Company (on design and analysis for reactor safety.) This exhaustive examination of the history of nuclear power accidents yields many surprises, including incidents that happened in Russia outside of media scrutiny. Where Command and Control focused on missile base accidents, this book is more about nuclear power plant accidents (both in planning and testing and in actual operation.) There is much here on explaining atomic reactions, and the complexity of developing reactors…and then controlling them. How close did we come to the China Syndrome? That was just a movie. The reality is sometimes scarier, especially back when the safeguards were far less stringent. Also the author of ATOMIC AWAKENING, Mahaffey penned the subtitle of his new book “A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima.” Tom Weiner's voice is always engaging as narrator, guiding the listener from the development of the A Bomb in New Mexico to the failed development of atomic planes (cancelled by JKF), to the present day situation of nuclear submarines, bombers, scattered ground bases, and power plant vessels. Mahaffey wisely strikes a balance between the sensational elements out of which movies might be made and the technical and historical elements, using both wit and wisdom to ultimately leave the listener with the big questions we all must face, including whether more and better atomic power is worth risking, considering that fossil fuels are on a downward curve as the Earth heats up due to burning them. (Nuclear power plants are comparatively safe, considering deaths by other means, such as coal power plants.) Also, should machines or robots be in control, given that most accidents are human caused? Because the book combines history, science, intrigue, and mystery, told with power and authority, I choose it as AUDIOBOOK OF THE MONTH. But if you still need fiction, try DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS by Amanda Kyle Williams, read by narrator Ann Marie Lee—a both cosy and scary offbeat private eye novel involving an abductor of girls tracked by an ex-FBI profiler. And LEAVING THE SEA STORIES by Ben Marcus, as read by Andrew Garman, George Guidall, Brian Hutchison, and Andy Paris. Bordering on the experimental, the stories come at you from all sides, and take wild and original risks. (Something bestselling authors can’t do, for fear of angering their formula-loving audiences!)

Friday, July 18, 2014

BILLIONAIRE BLEND by Cleo Coyle

BILLIONAIRE BLEND by Cleo Coyle is the latest of an offbeat series of coffeehouse mysteries, this one involving an internet billionaire who is aided (after a car bomb nearly kills him) by Landmark Coffee’s manager Clare Cosi. He buys her an expensive espresso machine as a thank you, and then hires her to help him create the world’s most expensive coffee blend. The perfect mystery for coffee lovers, this plot (and quirky narration by Rebecca Gibel) reminded me of the paring of Janet Evanovich and Lorelei King in the Stephanie Plum bounty hunter series. As Evanovich always said, “I love getting up in the morning with my cup of coffee and going into the world of Plum.” There’s also a lot of Dunkin donuts and Tim Hortons coffee involved with Plum. Of course Dunkin Donuts coffee was surprisingly rated last in a taste test by the winner of the World Barista Championship. “So bad I had to spit it out,” he said. Rated highest (among commonly available coffees) was Gloria Jeans and Newman’s Own.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

THE YOUNG WORLD by Chris Weitz

Generally speaking, young people (pre-teens, teens, early 20s), have a thing for zombies and dystopian narratives a-la The Hunger Games. So here’s a few more titles they might enjoy. THE YOUNG WORLD (due out in late July, but you can pre-order now) is a young adult novel by Chris Weitz featuring a virus that kills off the older people in New York, and leaves teens in charge. Performed by Jose Julian and Spencer Locke on audio, it’s not about vampires, but about surviving and establishing a new society in a devastated city. Teens naturally like to rebel against their parents, so here’s a view of how that might work with their parents (and everyone else’s) dead. DANCER DAUGHTER TRAITOR SPY by Elizabeth Kiem is an very entertaining but overlooked (and so on-sale) novel about a Russian ballerina caught up in intrigue involving state secrets, but who has a kind of “second sight” on her side…a secret power inherited from her mother, allowing her to know whom she can trust.  OMEGA DAYS is a new zombie epic set in San Francisco, which is overrun. Read by the always engaging Richard Ferrone, whom I’ve met on several occasions at the Audie awards, the novel is first in a promised series. What’s different can be explained in this description: “San Francisco, California. Father Xavier Church has spent his life ministering to unfortunate souls, but he has never witnessed horror like this. After he forsakes his vows in the most heartrending of ways, he watches helplessly as a zombie nun takes a bite out of a fellow priest’s face.” Now that’s cool, considering that the Catholic church tried to say “the butler did it” to find a scapegoat, and then restored his job after things blew over! A DOOR INTO OCEAN is a critically acclaimed SF novel about women taking control in a far dystopian future on a distant moon, when women don’t need men to reproduce. But of course the men can’t stand this, and send in an army to defeat them. By Joan Slonczewski, who has been compared to Ursula K. LeGuin, it is read by one of the best women narrators, Rosalind Landor. Older adults of both sexes will also enjoy the classic dystopian SF tale A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, which is far and away better than either World War Z or anything Stephanie Meyer has written. (Besides being voted one of the best science fiction novels ever written.) And finally THE DISASTER DIARIES by Sam Sheridan has the subtitle “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse.” (Subtitle reminiscent to the classic Dr. Strangelove.) What makes it unusual and interesting is that it’s both personal narrative, (non-fiction in that it describes the skill set needed to survive various catastrophes or attacks by zombies and aliens), but it includes fictional scenarios in trying to do so. Performer is Donald Corren. Of course the real apocalypse we face is the redneck (or dead middle class) one, in which the super rich bankers who control Congress devalue the dollar and escape, leaving everyone to build bunkers and fend for themselves. And maybe this angst is what drives the zombie craze, as teens realize the odds of Social Security (or oil) surviving into their retirement is equivalent to a plow horse winning the Kentucky Derby. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Enchanted Objects by David Rose

ENCHANTED OBJECTS by David Rose bears the subtitle "Design, Human Desire, and The Internet of Things." It's about connected technology becoming embedded with practically anything you purchase (or will purchase in the future.) This includes refrigerators which provide you with a timely electronic shopping list to umbrellas that alert you that it's going to rain. GSP already tells those tracking you where you are...or you where your children are. What will life be like when even your wallet has the intelligence of a personal banker? Google Glass is just the beginning, and the implications are all encompassing, not just to designers, but to consumers. Indeed, as narrated by Corey Brill, this audiobook is itself an enchanted object...downloadable for instant access and listenability while you do something other than just sitting and reading an obsolete paper-wasting book. Of course you could get angry at technology, and revolt against it. (See the video below.) Wise? Obviously not. Then you'd miss my own novel, which is not available in print. Or THIS new novella, about what may happen when technology really takes over!

     (The Miraculous Plot of Leiter and Lott is based on The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, and has been recommended by Soul's Code. It is narrated by game composer and voiceover artist Paul Heitsch.) 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hamas Launches Suicide Rockets

When a terrorist organization fires rockets at a neighbor state out of mad rage or revenge, and that state has said they must defend itself from each attack, tit for tat (with overwhelming force), are not the rockets that they fire “suicide rockets”? What will happen when they fire dirty bombs or fission bombs? The entire Middle East may resemble a lake of glass. That is the only alternative to true compromise and true diplomacy. And it may be inevitable, once the nuclear trigger is pulled, if the insanity of radical religious zealotry is allowed to make victims of everyone. “Bow or burn” is not a model for survival, if people are willing to die rather than to reason. Exploring these options, and how we all got here, are several audiobooks on the subject. First, UNDER THE WIRE by Paul Conroy tells the story of war correspondent Marie Colvin, who was killed in a rocket attack in 2012 while reporting on suffering civilians inside Syria. The author was with her when she died. Next is MY PROMISED LAND by Ari Shavit. Read by Paul Boehmer, it tells the triumph and tragedy of Israel from the author's personal perspective. THE NUCLEAR JIHADIST is the true story of the man who sold the world’s most dangerous secrets, and how we could have stopped him. On the fiction side is VICIOUS CIRCLE by Robert Littell, read by Scott Brick. It’s a “novel of complicity” by the award winning author of Legends, The Company, and The Defection of A.J. Lewinter. Then there’s THE RED HORSEMAN by Stephen Coonts, read by Ben Darcie, and ICE COLD, tales of intrigue from the Cold War by various authors including Joseph Finder, Laura Lippman, and Sara Paretsky, as edited by Jeffery Deaver. And ACT OF WAR by Brad Thor, published this week and read by Armand Schultz…with China as the attackers here. And Tom Clancy's latest from the grave is SUPPORT AND DEFEND, written by Mark Greaney and read by Scott Brick. Of course there are the costs of war, too...try the visionary WASHINGTON RULES: America’s Path to Permanent War by former Col. Andrew Bacevich. Or DRIFT by Rachel Maddow. But if you’d rather hear about Kris Kardashian talking about golf and life in the glamour lane, (isn’t that what our culture tweets about to escape news of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars wasted in religious wars?) her book ALL THINGS KARDASHIAN is now available at 71% off (only $6 instead of $23.95.) Or you could instead pick the new KARDASHIAN JOKE BOOK by Murray Langston, “the unknown comic.” Click title for sample. It’s newer, but much shorter than Kris’s book, and will cost you more too. ...The truth always does, since you definitely won’t get the whole story just watching or listening to TV

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

GO WILD by John J. Ratey

GO WILD by John J. Ratey MD, and Richard Manning presents the argument that modern diseases result from the agricultural expansion of rice, wheat, corn, and potatoes. When man went from hunter/gatherer to farmer, starch slowly grew in the diet, and people didn’t need to move as much. Waistline growth in our modern times go hand-in-hand with autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease. This results, say the authors, from too many empty calories instantly available without any effort at all. Fat and protein is not the problem that too much sugar from carbs is. This in depth look at all diets is ultimately pro Paleo diet, which says that the human species did not evolve to properly digest grains or processed foods. It is pro seeds and nuts, anti salt and dairy. It is anti-gluten, pro raw fruit and vegetables. It is pro water, anti anything else you can drink. The authors expand from just diet as well, into philosophy (including meditation), exercise (particularly running), community connection (versus TV/social media), and sleep. Dan Woren narrates, and the audiobook includes a forward by Dr. David Perlmutter, author of GRAIN BRAIN. Whatever your take on the various points made, it is well worth exploring since it is also pro-science, anti-pop diet (and anti soda pop to boot.)