The Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold, narrated by Grover Gardner

BordersofinfinityWhy I read it:  This is another from my personal stash.  I was in the mood for a little more Miles Vorkosigan and it was the next one in the series (which I am trying to listen to in order).

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  [A Miles Vorkosigan Story] Miles infiltrates a prison camp at Dagoola IV, where he plots from within to free the prisoners.  [Publisher's Note: The Borders of Infinity was originally published as a stand-alone novella in the anthology Free Lancers in September 1987. It was then included in the novel Borders of Infinity (October 1989). For the novel, Ms. Bujold added a short "framing story" that tied the three novellas together by setting up each as a flashback that Miles experiences while recovering from bone-replacement surgery. Fictionwise is publishing these novellas separately, but we decided to leave in Ms. Bujold's short framing story for those who may also wish to read the other two novellas (The Mountains of Mourning and Labyrinth).]

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  In this full length audiobook, the author has created a “framing story” to join the three novellas together.  Miles is recovering from bone replacement surgery and Ilyan, the spymaster, asks him about certain expenses he has incurred in some of his missions.  A rival faction is using a bean counter who is dedicated to counting beans to stir up trouble for Count Aral Vorkosigan and unseat him from the Prime Ministership – Ilyan wants to learn everything about these missions so that he can nip trouble in the bud – even if Miles is resentful of the unsaid accusation of misappropriation.

The Mountains of Mourning

This novella takes place when Miles is only 20 and is on leave shortly after graduating from the Academy.  A woman begs for justice for her murdered baby daughter and Count Aral Vorkosigan sends Miles in his stead to investigate the crime and mete out said justice.  The baby was born with a hare lip and a cleft palate but was managing to feed well enough. Simple plastic surgery could have fixed the defect (should Hara have been able to access the treatment of course) but on Barrayar, birth defects are not tolerated well.  It is particularly so in the remote villages where there is no good communication with the cities and where the people cling to old traditions.  Miles is, of course, a “mutant” himself and his own life was threatened on the basis of his defect before he was even born (see Barrayar).  Things are slowly changing on Barrayar but Aral wants Miles to sent a message that the killing of infants on the basis of a birth defect is NOT OKAY and will no longer be tolerated.  Miles has to use his ingenuity (as always) to sort out the truth and in the process he has to win over people (as always) who judge him on the basis of his physical imperfections.

Stories Beneath our Skin by Veronica Sloane

StoriesBeneathourSkinWhy I read it:  Some of my Goodreads friends enjoyed this one so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Tattooing might have once been Liam’s passion, but he left it all behind along with ugly memories when he went to college. When his uncle’s health fails, Liam must come home at last to say his goodbyes. His days are spent at the hospice, leaving his nights to rake over the past. To fill those empty hours, he takes a job at Great Sin Ink. The close knit friendship of the workers there both intrigues and shakes Liam, who has spent the last four years keeping everyone at arm’s length. Neither Deb, the no-nonsense piercer, nor Goose, a manic tattoo artist, will let Liam get away with his isolationist ways for long.

If it were just those two, Liam might have stood a chance — but there’s also Ace, the owner of Great Sin. He hires Liam despite a thin resume, and that is a kindness Liam can’t forget. The two start up a tentative friendship, learning about each other as the summer days melt into each other. Slowly, Liam reveals a tender heart underneath the wall of quotes he uses to keep everyone out. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stand still, and both Liam and Ace have hard struggles before them that might break them up before they can even get together.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I ended up liking this one okay but I admit I was ambivalent about it for a while at the beginning there. That may have been because I wasn’t sure of my reading mood.  Once I committed to reading the whole book instead of wavering, things smoothed out.  It’s a slow burn romance but once the romance appears it goes at warp speed.  There’s an ensemble cast which I liked.  The secondary characters, for the most part, felt like they had lives outside of Liam and Ace.  I would have loved more about Frankie and Goose actually.

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