Wild Magic, Lovecraft Unbound, A Rage to Kill, Getting Things Done

Tamora Pierce, Wild Magic
I read this series for the first time…in middle school, probably, because I remember having to wait for the fourth book. I actually read these before the Alanna books, so I still kind of like them better (not that there’s any Tamora Pierce I don’t like). Pierce is great at female characters — there are gender issues in these books, not just the magical “in fantasy universes women can do everything.” There’s class issues, although Tortall is kind of a utopia in that way. There are people of distinct races, and people with prejudices (and not just the bad guys, either) and people who learn things. …and this is not an advertisement for Most Politically Correct Fantasy Series Ever, I swear, they’re also full of fun and interesting magic things, and an interesting use of mythological beasts, and all kinds of other delightful fantasy things going on. I’m not sure I can talk about this series rationally, since I read it early enough that it’s kind of imprinted on me as “default fantasy setting,” but that’s not a bad thing.

Lovecraft Unbound, edited by Ellen Datlow
I love Lovecraftian stories. Most of the stories in this anthology aren’t quite what that usually means, though; there are vast tentacle-filled monsters in less than half of them, I’d say. Most of them are simply stories in that genre of horror that Lovecraft and Blackwood and Machen wrote in, that unfortunately doesn’t have a name other than “Lovecraftian.” I particularly liked Brian Evanson’s “The Din of Celestial Birds,” “Marya Nox” by Gemma Files, and the final story, “That of Which We Speak When We Speak of the Unspeakable” by Nick Mamatas. (And the Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette story, “Mongoose,” but you knew that already.)

Ann Rule, A Rage to Kill
I think I like her shorts-collections better than the longer pieces, if only because the book-length stories (I keep wanting to call them novels, what do you call true crime books?) tend to suck me in and make me a little bit paranoid. Which is not a huge amount of fun. The shorts don’t have the same depth of character, though, which is really what Ann Rule does best, and is the reason she’s the only true crime writer I’ll read. Also, I had to skip a whole section of this book, because it was “a prostitute kills her john,” except that apparently the reason it was an exceptional enough case to include in a true crime anthology was that the prostitute was transsexual. And I just couldn’t cope with the fail. Life is too short, y’know?

David Allen, Getting Things Done
This is an absolute favorite of the personal productivity genre, and while such books are often tremendously cheesy (see: Allen’s smarmy photo on the cover) and clearly targeted toward exactly one segment of the population (see: advice to get your assistant to do all your filing, if possible), I did think this was both interesting and useful, particularly as I’ve been reading about GTD online for years and most of the rewrites I’ve seen of it seem to miss the point. There are two aspects to the system, and the first one is the one that most websites get. That’s the physical organization system, which consists of an inbox, a “things in process” box, and a filing system that lets you save pieces of paper for a particular day without letting them pile up on your desk. Handy.

The other part, though, the intellectual part, seems to me to be more interesting and more useful: everything that you are working on needs to have a “next action” attached to it. “Do it later” is not a next action — you don’t “do” a project, he says several times throughout the book, you do a lot of small, concrete physical tasks that eventually pile up to make the project finished. So if my project is “clean my living room” (which it is), that’s not just one thing, the first thing I have to do is…hmm…the thing taking up most space is that fan that may or may not work any more. So the first thing to do is see if the fan works. And if it does, I have to put it away, and if it doesn’t, I have to put it out for the trash. And then… This, Allen says, is how projects get done, and how they fail to get done is by having “clean the living room” on your to-do list without thinking about how you’re actually going to do that. Multiply that times the millions of other projects you have going (get a job, spruce up my professional blog, work on my craft business, start working on Christmas presents) and you can see how easy it is to not get anything accomplished.

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About Jen Moore

I'm a recent library school graduate in Madison, Wisconsin, looking for a full-time professional job and trying to manage a fulfilling life in the meantime. Oh, and I read. A lot.

Posted on September 10, 2010, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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