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review 2019-02-13 23:18
Lies Sleeping / Ben Aaronovitch
Lies Sleeping - Ben Aaronovitch

Martin Chorley, aka the Faceless Man, wanted for multiple counts of murder, fraud, and crimes against humanity, has been unmasked and is on the run. Peter Grant, Detective Constable and apprentice wizard, now plays a key role in an unprecedented joint operation to bring Chorley to justice.

But even as the unwieldy might of the Metropolitan Police bears down on its foe, Peter uncovers clues that Chorley, far from being finished, is executing the final stages of a long term plan. A plan that has its roots in London’s two thousand bloody years of history, and could literally bring the city to its knees.

To save his beloved city Peter’s going to need help from his former best friend and colleague–Lesley May–who brutally betrayed him and everything he thought she believed in. And, far worse, he might even have to come to terms with the malevolent supernatural killer and agent of chaos known as Mr Punch….

 

As I said in my review of the last Peter Grant novel, I just enjoy Ben Aaronovitch’s version of London and spending time there with Peter, Bev, Nightingale, Molly, Toby, Guleed, and all the assortment of other people who populate Peter’s world. 

The Folly has certainly become a much busier place and the world of magic is much more acknowledged in this installment than when we first met PC Grant. I’m particularly happy to see Peter’s young cousin, Abigail, getting to learn the basics from Nightingale and starting to participate in the adventures. I do hope that the books won’t lose their charm with more & more people involved in Falcon mattrs! But I’m positively anxious to see more of Muslim-ninja, Guleed. Her character has the greatest promise, at least in my mind.

Hopefully we’ll see more of Molly & Foxglove as well. Now that Bev is a fixture in Peter’s life, I can only hope that more of the magical demi-monde establish themselves in similar fashion. Maybe there’s even hope for Lesley May????

I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be reading anything that Mr. Aaronovitch cares to produce in this story line. Please sir, may we have some more?

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review 2019-02-13 23:15
Decluttering at the Speed of Life / Dana White
Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff - Dana White

While the world seems to be in love with the idea of tiny houses and minimalism, real women with real families who are constantly growing and changing simply can’t purge it all and start from nothing. Yet a home with too much stuff is a home that is difficult to maintain, so where do we begin? Add in paralyzing emotional attachments and constant life challenges, and it can feel almost impossible to make real decluttering progress.

In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, decluttering expert and author Dana White identifies the mind-sets and emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter. Then, in her signature humorous approach, she provides workable solutions to break through these struggles and get clutter out—for good!

 

This was exactly what I needed this week--an inspirational book to spur me to get a few things done around the house. I took a week off to do things like tackle my laundry mountain, tame the paper piles, do some pre-emptive cooking, and generally clean & reorganize some of the corners of my home that have been driving me crazy.

Generally speaking, I find White’s advice to be very practical. Start with the easy stuff--take out the garbage, do the recycling, move as many of the things as you can without having to make big decisions. It needs to be done so just do it.

She also has you ask yourself a practical question: if I was looking for this, where would I look first? Then go put that thing there. Question two I found a bit iffy: Would I even remember that I had this if I needed one? Maybe its an indication that I really am on the verge of being contained and organized that I’m pretty sure I’m secure in the knowledge of what I own and where it lives.

I did love (and am stealing) her term for this work: deslobification. That’s exactly what I’m engaged in. Her other wonderful word is procrasticlutter. You know, that stuff that sits on the table, in the hallway, in your bedroom, etc. waiting for you to do it and then put it away. I am awful about this kind of thing, procrastinator that I am! 

Another concept that I will be grateful for as I move forward is that of a shelf or a closet as a container. Yes, I can have such-and-such a number of some thing--but only as much as the drawer or the shelf will contain. When the container is full, you must choose your favourites and then let go of the rest. A wonderful way to limit oneself!

Between this book and a bit of journaling (which I’ve also had time for this week) I’ve come to realize how much progress I’ve made in the organizing of my household and I’m feeling quite optimistic about it. 

Recommended as an inspirational text when you need a boost towards your household goals.

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review 2019-02-08 21:35
Doomsday Book / Connie Willis
Doomsday Book - Connie Willis

For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin--barely of age herself--finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

 

One of my pet peeves about time travel stories is the ease with which the people blend in and communicate smoothly with people from the past. Having studied just enough linguistics to be dangerous, I’m pretty sure that language changes quickly enough to scuttle that part of the plot line! Witness all the people who struggle with Shakespearean language today, and you realize that traveling to the past is not going to be a cake walk. Kivrin struggles enough upon her arrival in the Middle Ages to be credible.

I thought the flu epidemic in the future environment was a stroke of genius on Willis’ part. Disease is disrupting life on both ends of the time travel, creating uncertainty everywhere. And I suspect that Willis has spent time in a university environment (as I have) and is fully aware of department heads like Gilchrist who think that they know everything and regard cautious people as foolish. It’s not usually the life of a student which is on the line, but we are familiar with the guy who won’t listen to reason and doesn’t have to because he’s “in charge.”

This also made me consider how we view historical texts—how we try to reinterpret them according to our own contemporary standards. Kivrin’s studying of Middle English, for example, and how she finds it incomprehensible when confronted with those who spoke it naturally. Gilchrist’s easy assumption that people of the Middle Ages exaggerated the number of deaths due to plague. It’s so easy to sit in our comfortable 21st century chairs and criticize their observations!

I also remember being tied to a landline phone as Mr. Dunworthy is in flu-epidemic-stricken Oxford! At the time that this book was written (1992), mobile phones were still pretty clunky. If there were to be a revised version, some of it would have to change to make the same problems for smart phone users. People do leave mobile phones behind or turn them off or get outside of networks, so the same problems could be created. But it did seem strange to have a book set in our near future that didn’t incorporate mobile phones at all.

All in all, I found this a very satisfying tale and I’ll look forward to reading the next installment in the Oxford Time Travel series.

Book number 306 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2019-02-07 16:06
I'll Be Gone in the Dark / Michelle McNamara
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer - Michelle McNamara,Patton Oswalt,Gillian Flynn

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

 

I love reading true crime, but I’ve always been aware of the fact that, as a reader, I am actively choosing to be a consumer of someone else’s tragedy. So like any responsible consumer, I try to be careful in the choices I make. I read only the best: writers who are dogged, insightful, and humane. It was inevitable that I would find Michelle.


So says Gillian Flynn in her introduction to this fascinating book. She is so right about author Michelle McNamara. Her writing is top notch—right up there with Truman Capote in his classic In Cold Blood. So many true crime writers get bogged down in details, so intent on giving the reader every tiny fact that they neglect to tell a story. McNamara goes down the rabbit hole of details regularly, but she doesn’t make the reader accompany her—she sorts things out, investigates tirelessly, then reports her results.

This is as much a memoir of McNamara’s obsession and search for this killer as it is a history of the crimes and investigation. I felt like I got to know her and I liked what I saw. She would have been a fascinating coffee date and I got the feeling that she missed her calling, that she should definitely have been a professional investigator of some kind.

The saddest thing for me about the book was that Michelle died two years too soon to know the identity of the man she was searching for. From her descriptions in the narrative, I was unsurprised that it was Paul Holes who made the DNA discovery. He seems to possess the same investigative drive that Michelle embodied. As for justice, I guess this is a “better late than never” scenario.

The title of the book makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, coming as it does from a line from the criminal himself: “Make one move and you’ll be silent forever and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

If you, like me, tore through this book and wished it was a bit longer, try James Renner’s True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, which provides a very similar reading experience.

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text 2019-02-05 14:51
Reading progress update: I've read 169 out of 352 pages.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer - Michelle McNamara,Patton Oswalt,Gillian Flynn

 

OMG, this book is absolutely addictive!  I am so saddened to learn that the author died so young, and we won't get any more of these meditations on true crime.

 

Gillian Flynn wrote the introduction, and reminds us that we are consuming the tragedies of other real people.  She advises that we stick with the best and Michelle McNamara is definitely one of those.

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