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review 2020-03-11 14:47
"False Value - Rivers Of London #8" by Ben Aaronovitch - a comfortable but not an exciting read
False Value - Ben Aaronovitch,Kobna Holdbrook-Smith

I had fun with this. I'm glad I read it. I hope the next one is better.


I always enjoy "Rivers Of London" books. I love Ben Aaronovitch's imagination and Kobna Holdbrook-Smiths skilled narration, so I was pre-disposed to like this one.

It didn't disappoint. Not really. But it didn't excite me either.


I felt Ben Aaronovitch leant too heavily on "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", (which you wouldn't find on a Silicon Valley Geek Must Read list because it was sooooo long ago) to characterise the this-is-definitely-not-Facebook/Google-honest company that our unscrupulous billionaire runs.


True, the tech company was on the Silicon Roundabout in Old Street, London and the billionaire is Australian rather than American, but still, as someone who has worked with tech start-ups in the US and Europe, the tech industry culture parts of this felt a little old-fashioned to me.


The plot plodded a little. Attempts to rescue this by moving backwards and forwards along the timeline like an early-Millenium thriller tended to disrupt my enjoyment without adding any tension.


Kobna Holbrook-Smith did a good job but it sounded like he was having some problems with his voice, recovering from a cold perhaps, so he didn't have his normal high impact.


Still, "False Value" was a fun read. I liked all the stuff about Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage getting mixed up with Rose Jars and other hoodoo. I thought the AI testing part was fun and the security arrangements in the company worked.


It was also good to see Peter approaching his imminent fatherhood without panic. I thought the discussion between Peter and Beverley about the ethics of being worshipped and what it does to the worshippers was classic "Rivers Of London" thinking.


I also enjoyed having American freelance wizards in the mix. It was new and it finally gave Nightingale something fun to do.


So, I had fun with this. I'm glad I read it. I hope the next one is better.

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text 2019-06-19 13:55
BL-opoly: Dice Roll #9 ... Parts a, b, c and d!
The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Aminatta Forna




Today is June 9 was another roll day for me, and it turnsed out as a result I'll probably be I was set, reading-wise, for quite some time! 


Let's take this one step by step ...


Beginning on my just-finished square, #16, my first roll today is was a double, which puts me on square 23: The Cape-to-Cairo Railway -- read a book set in Africa or by an African author (a square I've visited before).  My read for this square will be was Aminatta Forna's The Memory of Love.

Finished June 16, 2019.


Curiously enough, in a repeat of my Memorial Day results, my next roll again puts me on the BookLikes square.




The Spin-the-Wheel Decide gives gave me two extra rolls ...


... the first one of which takes took me to square 35: The European Vacation -- read a book set in Europe or by a European author, or that involves travel by boat or with a boat on the cover.  There are plenty of choices for this one so I'll make it a spur-of-the-moment pick, which means that for the time being my little helpers get another refreshment break.

Decided on Israel Zanwill's The Perfect Crime, aka The Big Bow Mystery. 

Also finished on June 16, 2019.



And with my final roll I pass GO and finally end up on square 9: The Stay-Cation -- read a book involving a visit to a museum, concert, library or part, or by an author whose first or last name begins with a letter in R-E-L-A-X.  Again plenty of choices, so in the interim more break time for Sunny and Charlie!

Decided on John Le Carré's A Murder of Quality.

Finished on June 19. 2016.




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review 2019-06-17 17:16
On Trauma and Healing (of Sorts)
The Memory of Love - Aminatta Forna
The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Aminatta Forna

Sierra Leone gained independence from British colonial rule in 1961, but, like so many other African countries, after enjoying a few brief initial years of peace and democracy, it was torn apart by dictatorial rule, military regimes, civil war and corruption in the decades that followed.  As a result, surveys have shown that a staggering 99% of the population exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.


This is the background against which the events in Aminatta Forna's novel The Memory of Love unfold.  Don't be fooled by the title: Yes, love in all of its shapes and forms is a driver of people's motivations here, but this book is about so much more -- it's a vast, virtually boundless tapestry of events, emotions, action and reaction, illness and health (mental and otherwise), war and peace, ambition, greed, selflessness, loss, beauty, ugliness ... and again and again, trauma; pathological, emotional and in every other respect you can imagine.


Forna unveils the enless layers of the novel's complex tapestry with a painstaking and almost painful slowness and care (as a result, it is virtually impossible to describe the plot without giving away major spoilers): The events, alternating between the late 1960s / early 1970s and the present day, are told from the point of view of three men -- Elias Cole, a former university professor lying on his deathbed in a Freetown hospital and telling his story to Adrian Lockheart, an English psychologist who has come to Sierra Leone with an international aid organization but has decided to stay on and help since he specializes in PTSD, and Kai Mansaray, a surgeon at the hospital where Elias is wheezing his way back through his life for Adrian's benefit (and his own -- or so Adrian hopes).  Though strangers initially, over the course of the novel it becomes clear that the three men not only establish a relationship in the here and now but that what connects them goes deeper and has roots in the past; their own as much as the country's.  At the same time, through the PTSD sufferers that Adrian treats at a nearby mental hospital (not the general clinic that ties him to Elias and Kai but a different place), through his and Kai's friends and colleagues, and through Elias's narrative and the men and women inhabiting it, in turn, Sierra Leone itself and its people collectively become a further main character to the novel -- the one that, ultimately, is the most important one of all and which drives every action and event; a huge, many-limbed, monstrously traumatized and brutalized organism that can't help but swallow its own constituent organs -- its own people -- and those whom it does eventually spit out again after all will be changed forever.


It took me a while to get into this book, and this is not the kind of novel that you can race through in a day or two (or at least, I can't).  But this definitely is one of my reading highlights of this year -- and this reaview wouldn't be complete without me giving my due and hartfelt plaudits to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, whose unmatched, deeply empathetic narration lifted an already profound, complex and harrowing reading experience onto yet another level entirely.  Highly, highly recommended.

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text 2019-06-16 19:53
Reading progress update: I've read 100%.
The Memory of Love - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Aminatta Forna

Wow.  What a book -- definitely one of the highlights of this year; and I'm glad I took a whole week to finish it.  Nothing short of spectacular -- as is Kobna Holdbrook Smith's narration.

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text 2019-05-23 11:03
And the Winner Is...
Lies Sleeping (Rivers of London #7) - Kobna Holdbrook-Smith,Ben Aaronovitch

I thought I might need a tie breaker after the first day of voting, but "Lies Sleeping" pulled ahead of "Who Slays the Wicked" by day two and came in the winner. Turns out it's the perfect choice.  I just finished listening to "The Furthest Station" and "A Rare Book of Cunning Device" -- Rivers of London novella and short story, respectively -- so I'm all primed to slip back into Peter Grant's world and see how he saves London from the Faceless Man.








Here's the official tally courtesy of my snake charmer.




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