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Rachael
Urgh, this was pretty terrible.

Again, lots of very unlikeable characters. What's with the trend of doing this? When I write my great twisty psych thriller it'll have likeable characters, dammit.

It was more badly-proofread than probably any other published novel I've read. On average there was one spelling mistake or unarguable punctuation mistake on every page (where a page is only a couple of paragraphs on the Kindle). Honestly, I've read (and written) first-draft NaNoWriMo novels which were much less error-riddled than this, and they're dashed off with concern for speed and word count over accuracy; whereas this really ought to have been read over by the author, been through an editor for content, and hopefully then been proofread as well. I wonder if she dictated it to a voice recognition program? I did actually read the free sample chapter before buying, and that was OK, which makes me think the publisher might have deliberately cut corners by only paying for proofreading for the sample chapter.

And then there was the plot. Most of the novel is narrated in first-person by Deborah, and then there are a few sections in italics in which the murders are narrated in first-person by the anonymous killer. The first victim is Ms Faulks, the manager of a bookshop, who has just turned Deborah down for a job. The killer describes killing Ms Faulks in revenge for the contemptuous way Ms Faulks looked at them. That immediately makes you think the killer is Deborah: the only other person Ms Faulks has interacted with on-stage is Larry, and she is very kind and respectful towards him, so it either has to be Deborah or some random person who we didn't know had even met Ms Faulks. Then, back in Deborah's narrative, she reads a news story about the murder, which doesn't name the victim, and just says that she worked in an (unspecified) shop in town. Deborah reads this and wonders what the *other staff in the bookshop* will think about the murder. Then she says that she can't believe they found the body already, it's so unfair. And of course at the end Deborah is the murderer. I'm not even going to dignify that with a spoiler tag.

Look, Creative Writing 101, if you're going to have a twist, you need both the hidden truth *and* a plausible cover story - a false path to lead the reader down. And then you need to craft ambiguous sentences which imply the latter but also work with the former. Reavley seems to have just not bothered with the cover story. I'm genuinely confused whether it was an oversight on her part and she meant to put the bit about it being unfair that they found the body in the murderer's narrative rather than Deborah's, or whether she somehow thought readers would overlook it or interpret it a different way (what way? I can't see any other way to take it.)

Also, I've read a few mysteries recently where the first-person narrator dunnit, and there's usually a good reason for them not mentioning it in their main narrative, like they have amnesia, or the conceit of the novel is that they're writing an account for someone they want to impress and they're deliberately leaving bits out. This novel doesn't bother with anything like that. Deborah just... doesn't say that she killed people. Perhaps it might have worked better, and strained plausibility less, if it had been third-person?

In Deborah's ordinary narrative, she even describes how she finds the murders gruesome and doesn't enjoy thinking or talking about them. Whereas in the killer's narrative, she takes a sadistic delight in them and relishes the gory details. It could almost work with some kind of split-personality explanation, such that she's not really herself when committing the murders and can't really remember them, hence not mentioning them in her ordinary narrative. But she keeps mementoes, and she thinks quickly to remove the mementoes when the police come to search her house, and then finally at the end she commits one more murder, in her ordinary narrative, and with apparent enjoyment.

One of the few things I liked about this (and one of the things that appealed to me in the sample chapter) was that it's set in Cambridge, by someone who clearly knows Cambridge well. A lot of the action happens in specific real streets, both in the town centre and in obscure suburbs. It's nice to see a place you know, and you don't think many other people know, in a book.

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Fool Me Once - Harlan Coben
Twisty thriller about a combat veteran whose husband was shot.
It's interesting reading a fairly typical "police are a bit useless so layperson (ish) investigates the murders" story, but where the protagonist has a toddler, and has to juggle childcare before she can drive off to investigate the next lead.
I can't decide if I like the ending or not. I'd like to reread the book with the ending in mind. The epilogue was very moving and made me tear up.

The Girl from the Sea - Shalini Boland
Memory-loss thriller about a woman who was pulled from the sea and can't remember anything about who she is. Her boyfriend comes to take her home, and the relationship is awkward because he knows her a lot better than she knows him. She rebuilds her relationship with him, with her mother and sister, with her friends from her rowing club, and with her neighbours. She, and the reader, can't be sure which of them are hiding things from her, especially if they contradict one another.
I read a review about another book that sounded very similar to this, about a woman pulled from the sea with amnesia, but that one was found in Thailand and was given a Thai nickname until they figured out who she was. It would be interesting to track that one down, read it and compare.

Moving - Jenny Eclair
This is told from the POV of an old lady who's getting ready to move out of the big crumbling house where she's lived for the past fifty years and raised her family. As she sorts and packs her stuff it triggers memories, so the story of her life and its various tragedies and betrayals is revealed in a non-linear way.
I very much liked the premise, and the first third of the book, which lives up to it. But the second and third parts are told from the POV of other characters, which takes away a lot of the novel's USP for me and makes it more ordinary. It's still a fairly good family drama with some interesting revelations.

Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams - Jenny Colgan
I borrowed this to read on the beach :)
It's extremely enjoyable and indulgent: chick-lit mixed with food-porn about sweets. Rosie, who is in an unsatisfying career and relationship in London, is asked to come to rural Derbyshire and help her elderly aunt to clean up and sell her sweet shop, which she has run for decades until she got too old. Rosie throws herself into restoring the shop to its former glory, and can't bring herself to sell it, and enjoys running it, catering to adults' nostalgia at least as much as to kids.
It's not all light and fluffy, though: every other chapter is Aunt Lilian's backstory, which is pretty sad, with war and bereavement and thwarted young love. Reading this after Moving, I was struck by some similarities, like the way both have a major character who is an old lady looking back over her life, and I'm not entirely sure what makes Moving serious lit fic and Rosie Hopkins fluffy chick lit.
I wasn't convinced by Rosie's eventual love interest; I didn't think he was any better than the one she started off with. But it was OK because her love life was not the major focus of the plot (I tend not to like books where it is, so I don't usually like most chick lit unless it has a psych thriller element as well or something similar).

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
And speaking of psych thrillers: this is very famous, one of the archetypical "domestic noir" psych thrillers. Several of the books I've enjoyed recently have had blurb saying something like "perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train", so I felt I had to read it.
I really didn't think it lived up to the hype. It promised lots of twists, but there weren't really. (There were some revelations, like about who was sleeping with who, and who was pregnant with whose child; but I wouldn't call those twists. There are those in Moving and Rosie Hopkins, and in every soap opera ever.) There was one big climactic reveal at the end, but I could see it coming.
I didn't like any of the characters. It says a lot that the unstable, lying, child-snatching alcoholic stalker ends up being the most sympathetic of the lot of them. The whole thing was a bit sordid and grubby and depressing.
And I didn't feel the author gave the three first-person narrators sufficiently different voices, so I kept forgetting who I was reading in any given chapter and having to check. (I see other reviewers on Amazon thought that too.)
I also found the timeline a bit confusing. Normally I'm fine with multiple timelines, but they're usually more separate (like, one present-day and one 25 years ago), and there are usually things to help you keep track, like one timeline being in italics, or one being first-person and the other third. In this case, the timelines were only a year apart and overlapped. Rachel's and Anna's were basically present-day, sometimes just skipping back a day so you could get the same day from the other one's POV; but Megan's interspersed narration began about a year previously, and then by the end, overlapped with the beginning of Rachel's and Anna's. Coupled with the indistinguishable narrative voices, I found this confusing in a way that detracted from my immersion in the story because I kept having to think consciously about what was going on time-wise.

Beggars in Spain - Nancy Kress
This is a novella about people who are genetically engineered not to need sleep. It's been on my wishlist for a while, and I can't remember whether I was recommended it in the context of a discussion about drugs like modafinil (and whether, if taking them and getting 20 productive hours a day becomes the norm, those who can't or won't use them will be reduced to an economic underclass), or in the context of my own half-written story from 15 years ago about people who don't need to sleep. Either way, this was an enjoyable piece of sociological sci-fi, speculating about how "the Sleepless" grow up and interact with the rest of society around them.
There was a bit of a heavy-handed political message: capitalism and free trade are good; being kind with no expectation of repayment is even better. I agree with the message, but I'd still prefer it to take more of a back seat in a work of fiction.

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Excellent, beautiful book. Amy R recommended it to me, and I really liked it.

The cover image is perfect - a boy alone on a seesaw, with him up on the air and the empty end down on the ground.

The book is narrated by Budo, imaginary friend of Max. It's drawn comparisons with Room and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and I can see that, but I think the best comparison is Toy Story: The viewpoint character is someone whose life revolves around the child they're attached to, and the child sees them as real but the adults don't, and their two conflicting motivations are love for the child on one hand, and self-preservation and fear of the child outgrowing and forgetting them on the other. And this book's emotional richness measures up to that of the Toy Story trilogy.

The cast of other imaginary friends is vivid and fascinating. Imaginary friends can all see and talk to each other, like in Drop Dead Fred. At least, those who can talk at all. Some, like Budo, are as fully-featured as a real person, but some, whose kids are less imaginative or thorough, are a bit amorphous, or missing ears or eyebrows. One is just a pink hair bow with eyes. She can't talk and looks permanently terrified (I have no mouth and I must scream).

Budo definitely grows as a character throughout the book. He is basically a child, although a bit more worldly-wise than Max. The book does that slightly annoying innocent-child-social-commentary thing: I don't know why adults do X, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

I would like to see a film of this. It's very visual, with the colourful cast of imaginary friends, and the way they gradually become transparent when their kid stops believing in them, like in Back to the Future when people's timelines get messed up.

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Haven't got around to this for a while, which means my memory of the earlier books in the post is a bit hazy.

You Sent Me A Letter - Lucy Dawson

A psych thriller with a dramatic hook: a mysterious intruder in the protagonist's home gives her a letter with instructions to open it and read it at her upcoming birthday party, or else.
This was quite enjoyable and compelling, but I thought the resolution was a bit unsatisfying and bitty.

Amy Snow - Tracy Rees

Interesting historical novel. Amy was found as a baby in the snow by eight-year-old heiress Aurelia, and no one knows where she came from. Aurelia's parents disliked her and wanted to send her to the workhouse, but Aurelia insisted on keeping her, and she grew up in the house as something in between a servant and a companion. She and Aurelia were very close, but when Aurelia died of an illness in her 20s, Amy was left alone, and Aurelia's parents no longer had a reason not to kick her out. But Aurelia had spent her illness carefully planning Amy's future, leaving a fascinating treasure hunt of letters and gifts for her, enabling her to start a new and better life.
What I really liked about this was the way Aurelia's personality, and her and Amy's friendship, shone through the letters and the treasure hunt, even though we never see Aurelia alive and interacting with Amy "onstage".
The treasure hunt was interesting at the beginning, although it did drag in the middle (Amy thought so too, and started to get fed up with it). And some aspects of the book were a bit implausibly wish-fulfilment-y (then again, Amy deserves some good luck), and the final explanation of Amy's origins wasn't very satisfying (but I think this was kind of deliberate - it was like, she's happy in her new life, where she came from is irrelevant now). Overall I enjoyed it.
(I kept feeling that the name "Amy Snow" was confusingly similar to "Emma Swan" from Once Upon A Time. Short first name that goes vowel sound - M - vowel sound; four-letter one-syllable common noun surname with an S, N and W in it.)

The Girl With No Past - Kathryn Croft

This was about a woman making a new life after she and some of her school friends were involved in a mysterious bad thing, and she's recently started getting threatening letters and so on from someone who knows her past. It was quite compelling, but a lot of it didn't add up for me.
SpoilersCollapse )

Saving April - Sarah A. Denzil

This was a fun twisty book about a woman who becomes convinced her opposite neighbours' teenage daughter is in danger and she needs to save her. Hannah has a traumatic past and is a bit of a shut-in, living alone and working from home, with no friends. The quest to save April gives her purpose and meaning - but that itself makes you question whether April really needs saving or whether Hannah is interfering and projecting.
The characters are interesting, although in most cases not very likeable (and sopme of the actions of Laura, April's mother, didn't make sense to me).
(And, as a part-time freelance proofreader, I found it implausible that Hannah makes a living proofreading short stories on Fiverr, and gets so many offers that she can afford to be picky about genre!)
But overall, a very enjoyable read.

Irregular Verbs - Matthew Johnson

Interesting slipstream-y collection of short stories. I found them really variable in how much I enjoyed them. Some I really liked, and some I found so boring I couldn't finish them. I particularly liked the title story, about a tribe who are so linguistically proficient that any family or other grouping develops its own language (in addition to the shared tribal language), and the story deals with a man who's mourning the death of his wife and trying to remember the shared language they had. There was also one about a zombie plague which only targets old people and has parallels to dementia. And there was a time-travel one which was pretty unremarkable apart from the delightful coinage "prefugees" to describe time-travellers coming here fleeing historical wars etc.
There's an odd story about Superman and Lois when they're old. It was fairly good, fairly poignant, but I got the impression the lit-fic author and the lit-fic magazine who published it thought it was quite original and don't realise it's the sort of thing fanfic writers do on the internet all the time.

The Paying Guests - Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is very good at writing historical novels which you could believe were written at the time. I've read ones of hers from the Victorian era, the 1920s, and the 1940s, and they're all very immersive and use idioms and cultural references from the time.
Fingersmith (the Victorian one) is my favourite of hers, because it's delightfully twisty. The Paying Guests isn't so much. The first half of it is very quiet and domestic. It would be quite dull if you didn't find that sort of thing interesting, but I quite enjoyed the portrait of the daily life of an upper-middle-class family fallen on hard times in the 1920s. The second half is a fairly melodramatic story of a death and subsequent murder trial.

Emma's Baby - Abbie Taylor

Enjoyable psych thriller I'd been wanting to read for a while, about a struggling single mum whose 13-month-old is taken. She has to try to track him down, and the police aren't very helpful. (I found this aspect a bit implausible: because she was suffering from depression and admitted to her GP that she was thinking of harming her son, they think she did something to him, and don't believe her that he was abducted. But if they really thought that, wouldn't they be investigating her, rather than shrugging and being unresponsive?)
I also found it a little bit implausible that before the abduction Emma had recognised she was struggling on her own with no friends or family and had deliberately looked for parent-and-baby groups she could go to, and not found any - but maybe it is like that in London and I've just been really lucky in Cambridge?
Apart from those two issues it's very well plotted - eventful and with increasing tension. It's very like The Boy Who Never Was, in that the mother thinks she's seen her son, and the other characters don't believe her and think it's just someone who looks like him, and as the reader you're not quite sure who to believe.
I liked the fact that spoilerCollapse )

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Lumbar puncture

Back last year I saw Prof L at Addenbrookes and he sent me for some tests, including a brain scan, which revealed that the blood vessels on the way out of my head were a bit narrow, and therefore the blood pressure inside my head might be high. So he referred me to his colleague Dr H, who has a theory that chronic fatigue can be caused by a milder version of intracranial hypertension, and that it can be alleviated by doing a lumbar puncture to drain off some cerebrospinal fluid and lower the overall pressure in the head. It took months, plus chasing by Prof L and me and the Patient Advisory and Liaison Service, for Dr H to respond, but then he arranged for me to come in to have a lumbar puncture in mid-June.

The appointment was a bit chaotic. A nurse checked me in and gave me an information booklet and consent form, but said I didn't need to read or sign it now because the doctor would go through it with me and I could sign it then. When I got to go in and see Dr H, he said they were running behind and could we start the process and talk later? I said OK, thinking he meant start with the preparation (local anaesthetic, whatever else is needed) but he went ahead and did the actual lumbar puncture as well. It was basically painless having had the local anaesthetic. I think they drained off quite a bit of fluid (but I didn't have much clue what was going on) and they checked every so often to make sure I wasn't getting a low pressure headache. After the procedure he came to actually talk to me, and explain his theory. He mistook me for two different people (he asked if I was the one he'd spoken to on the phone, and if I was the one who was a personal friend of Prof L). I asked about the consent form but he said he doesn't bother with consent forms.

Afterwards they said I had to lie flat for an hour and rest in bed for another two hours to try to avoid the low pressure headache. I felt basically fine (although not dramatically more energetic, which I'd been kind of hoping for), and went home and mostly rested (I had childcare arranged for the day). Two days later the after-effects really hit me, and I spent a couple of days feeling very queasy whenever I was upright, so had to lie flat a lot. Those two days were very difficult, because I didn't have any childcare arranged then. Thankfully some friends popped in to help out a bit.
I'm supposed to have a follow-up phone call with Dr H to discuss the results, but it hasn't happened yet. I've chased a few times. I'm not expecting much, since it didn't seem to immediately alleviate the fatigue (and I'm not expecting much from Dr H's organisational skills, given the long delay in his initial response, and the chaos of the appointment).

Antidepressants

Doctors have been suggesting for years that it might be depression, and I've been resistant to the idea, but am desperate enough to want to try all possibilities, so in March I started taking the SSRI sertraline. It hasn't made any difference as far as I can tell. I phoned my GP about a month ago to ask for advice about coming off it safely, but she suggested doubling the dose instead. I didn't. I feel like I've tried this option now and it hasn't worked. I tapered off the sertraline over the last week or so and have now stopped taking it. I didn't get any negative effects coming off it. I've had the usual good and bad days over the last week or so.

Wheat

I've been wondering about a strict exclusion diet (the day-to-day variation makes me think it might be food-related) but there's a high cost in inconvenience (and hence energy, which I'm obviously lacking in). On the advice of a random person at angoel's wedding who had similar symptoms I tried giving up wheat. (I don't think I, or the wedding guest, have actual celiac disease, because that's more a long-term thing, and you have to give up gluten for weeks to see any improvement. This guy said he had day-to-day variation, like me, and giving up wheat gave him prety much instant results.) For about a week and a half it really seemed to work, quite dramatically. I thought I'd found the answer. But then I had some tired days. (Which coincided with my first attempt to taper off the sertraline, so that scared me off and I went back to full dose, but I think it was just a coincidence, because the second attempt went fine.)

I'm back to eating wheat again (because the positive effects of giving it up didn't last, and because it's quite inconvenient to avoid it), but the effects for that first week and a half were so dramatic that I think there might be something in it. Maybe the key is not avoiding wheat or gluten, but something that correlates with that, like eating less carbs[*] or more protein (I've tried those in the past, but something else like that which I haven't tried). More investigation needed.

Autoimmune stuff

I'm still quite attached to the theory that it's an autoimmune problem, because I have elevated IgA levels in my blood, and because my sister has Crohn's and rheumatoid arthritis and my mum has psoriasis and all these autoimmune things are supposed to be genetically linked, and because I recently read this article. I think this theory is compatible with it being food-related and possibly correlated with wheat avoidance - it's an autoimmune thing which is triggered by some food my body reacts badly to.

[*]Pedant note: I'll defend "less carbs" because "carbs" is used as an abbreviation for "carbohydrate", not "carbohydrates". "Fewer carbs" would mean fewer kinds of carbohydrate (cf. "fewer wines").

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Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: "Weitzman finds that fathers of boys who are ages 12 to 18—but not dads of girls that age or of boys at other ages—are more likely to hold extreme views such as believing that it is okay to force sex upon an unwilling woman. They are also more likely to go outside the marriage for sex and to bring back sexually transmitted diseases to the family. This is perhaps the best evidence for parental socialization by children—the dads’ incentives are not likely to have changed as a result of their sons’ blossoming sexuality, just their mindset."
I don't know enough biology to know if this makes sense, but could this effect be due to pheromones or something, as opposed to social factors? Like when a group of women live together and their menstrual cycles sync up; if a group of men live together, including some teenage boys going through puberty, they might all exhibit high-testosterone behaviour?

The Problem of Susan
Various people object to Susan Pevensie being barred from Narnia because she's into "lipstick and nylons" which is apparently code for mature female sexuality. I don't get that from the text - firstly it's not maturity or sexuality, it's immaturity and superficiality, and secondly she's not barred as a punishment for liking those things, she chooses those things over Narnia and calls Narnia a silly childish game - and neither does the writer of this essay.

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<a href="http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/stress-gives-you-daughters-sons-make-you-liberal-rp&gt;Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.&lt;/a&gt;
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: " weitzman="Weitzman" finds="finds" that="that" fathers="fathers" of="of" boys="boys" who="who" are="are" ages="ages" 12="12" to="to" 18—but="18—but" not="not" dads="dads" of="of" girls="girls" that="that" age="age" or="or" of="of" boys="boys" at="at" other="other" ages—are="ages—are" more="more" likely="likely" to="to" hold="hold" extreme="extreme" views="views" such="such" as="as" believing="believing" that="that" it="it" is="is" okay="okay" to="to" force="force" sex="sex" upon="upon" an="an" unwilling="unwilling" woman.="woman." they="They" are="are" also="also" more="more" likely="likely" to="to" go="go" outside="outside" the="the" marriage="marriage" for="for" sex="sex" and="and" to="to" bring="bring" back="back" sexually="sexually" transmitted="transmitted" diseases="diseases" to="to" the="the" family.="family." this="This" is="is" perhaps="perhaps" the="the" best="best" evidence="evidence" for="for" parental="parental" socialization="socialization" by="by" children—the="children—the" dads’="dads’" incentives="incentives" are="are" not="not" likely="likely" to="to" have="have" changed="changed" as="as" a="a" result="result" of="of" their="their" sons’="sons’" blossoming="blossoming" sexuality,="sexuality," just="just" their="their" mindset."="mindset.&quot;" i="I" don't="don&#39;t" know="know" enough="enough" biology="biology" to="to" know="know" if="if" this="This" makes="makes" sense,="sense," but="but" could="could" this="This" effect="effect" be="be" due="due" to="to" pheromones="pheromones" or="or" something,="something," as="as" opposed="opposed" to="to" social="social" factors?="factors?" like="Like" when="when" a="a" group="group" of="of" women="women" live="live" together="together" and="and" their="their" menstrual="menstrual" cycles="cycles" sync="sync" up;="up;" if="if" a="a" group="group" of="of" men="men" live="live" together,="together," including="including" some="some" teenage="teenage" boys="boys" going="going" through="through" puberty,="puberty," they="They" might="might" all="all" exhibit="exhibit" high-testosterone="high-testosterone" behaviour?="behaviour?" <a="&lt;a" href="http://nautil.us/issue/31/stress/stress-gives-you-daughters-sons-make-you-liberal-rp&gt;Stress Gives You Daughters, Sons Make You Liberal: We affect our children’s gender, and it affects us back.&lt;/a&gt;
Fascinating bit of socio-biology. (Content note: mention of rape.)
I wondered about this bit: ">The Problem of Susan</a>
Various people object to Susan Pevensie being barred from Narnia because she's into "lipstick and nylons" which is apparently code for mature female sexuality. I don't get that from the text - firstly it's not maturity or sexuality, it's immaturity and superficiality, and secondly she's not barred as a punishment for liking those things, she chooses those things over Narnia and calls Narnia a silly childish game - and neither does the writer of this essay.

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Coming Home - Annabel Kantaria
The Disappearance - Annabel Kantaria
These were quite interesting novels which dealt with the ageing and/or death of one's parents, and various problems in the relationships between adults and their parents. But I felt they both failed as thrillers. They both had what were intended as twists and revelations, but they were generally very predictable and unsurprising, especially the main twist at the end of The Disappearance. I think I'd have enjoyed them more, especially The Disappearance, if they were presented as ordinary contemporary-realistic novels, rather than twisty thrillers.
They were also badly edited, with SPaG errors, and garbled idioms like "the white elephant in the room", which would be a clever turn of phrase if it referred to something which was both a white elephant and an elephant in the room, but in fact it was only the latter.

Closing In - Sue Fortin
This was more of a generic thriller, with the basic structure there is danger - the danger gets worse - then it's all OK. It didn't really do anything interesting with that formula. There was also a large romance subplot which I didn't find engaging. There was the potential for twists which could have happened but didn't. For example, the protagonist has left her boyfriend and changed her name, and got a job as a nanny; and it's strongly implied that the boyfriend was abusive and she's in hiding from him. I was kind of hoping it would turn out that she was the one to blame in the relationship and that she'd changed her name to escape the law; but instead everything was as it seemed. (Still, I can add the alternate version to the list of stories I could maybe write.)
This one would have also benefited from better editing - for example, it described something that "lauded over" rather than "lorded over".

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Zoe is two and a half now!

She's incredibly articulate, and speaks in complex sentences. (Some of her funnier quotes are here.) Her grammar's arguably got worse recently, because she's reached the developmental stage of noticing grammatical rules and over-applying them, so she'll say things like "We goed to the shop and buyed some ice lollies, and then we eated them."

She loves stories, and has a great grasp of plot and emotion, and will intelligently explain what's happening in a book or film. (Even before she was two, she was saying things like "Daisy and Poppy are sad because their daddy took their wands.") Bethany at this age had no interest in stories yet, and preferred to read picture books (like "apple, banana, carrot") and watch videos about counting, colours, or the alphabet.

She plays really well with Bethany, and they love to play role-playing games, where they'll be characters from the Lion King or the Jungle Book or Numberjacks. She also usually plays well with other children - friends or strangers - playing co-operatively with them rather than just parallel play.
She can play some preschool board games, and she can even play Guess Who - she always needs reminding whether you flip down the ones which do or don't have glasses (say), but she can choose a character and answer questions about it correctly, and ask mostly sensible questions about her opponent's character. She also enjoys jigsaws.

She likes to climb (although I think she's not quite as confident in that as Bethany at the same age) and bounce on the trampoline. She can play catch with a balloon, and likes trying unsuccessfully to play catch with a ball. She's learning to ride a scooter and a tricycle.

She can count to 20, recognise all the digits, recite the alphabet, and recognise maybe about half the letters. She knows how to spell her name, and which letters a handful of other words begin with.

She enjoys helping with cooking, and helping with some chores if she's in the right mood.

She's out of nappies in the daytime (although not completely reliable with poo yet) and she's mostly given up her daytime nap. She's good at walking, and we don't need the pushchair much any more.

She's very sweet and affectionate, and loves to be with all of us, and is sad when any of the other three of us aren't there. She'll often spontaneously tell us she loves us, and she loves to kiss and cuddle. She's extremely ticklish.

She loves to sing. She's not as tuneful as Bethany, but she's very good at remembering words, and it's lovely to hear them singing together. Although sometimes she gets cross because she wants to sing on her own and doesn't want Bethany to sing with her.

She watches far too much TV and film, but it doesn't seem to be harming her intellectual or emotional development.

At the moment she's really intoslugs and snails, and enjoyslooking for them in the garden.

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These are the "leaders" you can play in the four ages in the game Through the Ages:

Alexander the Great, Aristotle, Hammurabi, Homer, Julius Caesar, Moses
Christopher Columbus, Frederick Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, Joan of Arc, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo
Isaac Newton, James Cook, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Maximilien Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, William Shakespeare
Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Charles Chaplin, Mahatma Gandhi, Sid Meier, Winston Churchill

There's only one woman in the whole 24. (This doesn't bother me - I just noticed it on about my fourth game and thought it was interesting. I'd probably have been less likely to notice if there were zero women.) I was wondering, if you did want to have more female leaders, who would you put in? Who are the most famous women who ever lived? (I think "famous" is a better criterion than "important", where there's a difference.) The people in the list above have a fairly good case for being the most famous people, apart from Meier, who is there as an in-joke because the game was inspired by Civilization; and perhaps Chaplin, who Alex tells me is Elvis in a different edition of the game, which makes more sense.

Some ideas: Cleopatra; The Virgin Mary; Jane Austen; Florence Nightingale; Margaret Thatcher?

Mary wouldn't really work because she's only famous because of her son, so it would be weird to have a card for her and not for Jesus, unless you came up with a clever game mechanic that was specific to Mary. Austen wouldn't work because she'd be functionally equivalent to Shakespeare.

Thatcher is probably not famous enough outside of the UK. But she would offer potential for snark - there are already some jabs in the game, like if you build the Kremlin or implement Communism, you get some civil or military benefits but your people are less happy, and if you implement Fundamentalism, your military gets stronger but your science suffers. So Thatcher as a leader could give you some civil or economic benefits but make you disband a mine?

What obvious famous women have I missed?

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