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Old 11-11-2011, 04:11 PM   #11377
ATDrake
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Posts: 6,024
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Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: Roundworld
Device: Kindle 2 International & Sony PRS-T1
Finished another batch of paid e-book purchases, which I suppose I'll save up to comment upon later once I've read the last of each series.

In the meantime, some standalone recent reads I can comment upon:

Time Traveller's Handbook: A Guide to the Past by Althea Douglas was a paper offering on the library's New Books shelf. A bit disappointingly, this wasn't one of those faux-Fodor's guides to Ancient Insert-Civilization-Here that I normally love. Instead, this was a quasi-genealogical guide from Dundurn Press, an independent Canadian imprint which specializes in Stuff of Cultural Interest.

It turned out to be a rather nifty book on understanding the cultural context in which one's recent ancestors lived and how their lives differed from ours, and interesting in seeing the sorts of things we both take for granted in our daily lives and when they were introduced/fell out of usage.

You know that footnote in Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman's Good Omens where they explain the old UK currency of pence/shillings/farthings/pounds/guineas for the benefit of foreigners and claim that the British resisted changing over to a decimal currency system because they considered the latter too complicated?

It turns out it's funny because it's true: TTH:AGTTP has some photos of hand-scrawled notes by James Douglas, 1st Governor of the old Colony of British Columbia circa the pre-Confederation 1850s, where he's trying to convert the shillings/farthings/etc. to US cents and dollars and some scratched-out parts where he kept getting the math wrong.

In all, a nice light subject intro with lots of pointers towards further in-depth reading and how to get more information on how your ancestors lived and died, along with tips on filtering the usable info out of old family stories to get at what probably Really Happened (i.e. "don't take everything grandpa says about his granddad's reasons for leaving the British Isles at face value; he may prefer to remember great-great-grandpa's daring escape from the mob determined to hang a horse thief as being more thrilling than it actually was; or he may just be succumbing to senile dementia").

Recommended if you're interested in such. Also, apropos of something mentioned far upthread about a Poirot book, it turns out that Canada still had at-least-twice-a-day postal delivery up until the 1950s or so.

Tying into the theme of finding out stuff about your ancestors whether you like it or not, The Black Thread by Margaret Muir was one of those Belgrave House Fictionwise purchases.

It was blurbed over there as a kind of historical mystery involving a past murder, which technically it kind of is, but rather than an unravelling a whodunnit and getting belated justice, it's really just a kind of coming of age story for Amy Dodd, a young girl overshadowed by the presence of her violent father with a nasty past and trying to escape from his influence while finding out what really happened to the rest of her family.

But it's not an amateur sleuth story like I was expecting.

This was decently-enough written, but I found it insufficiently compelling. The prose seemed a bit flat a first, and while Amy was a nice enough and reasonably balanced character, the other characters seemed somewhat more extreme, with relative strangers appearing disproportionately generous and helpful to Amy, seemingly to make up for the sheer malevolence of her father, who is the main source of the tension and conflict in the book.

The most interesting bits were the descriptions of UK living conditions circa the 1890s, with factory-working mill girls and the changeover from horse-to-machinery etc.

Okay if you like low-cost with discount coupon DRM-free historical personal/family drama with uncovering hidden secrets and learning to deal with the ugliness in one's past, even though the final revelation about her family seems rather sentimentally pat.

The author is small-press published in the UK and apparently has some historical ship-going adventure novels which seem well-received. I may possibly try them during another FW sale, but they'll be a low priority until I've bought another few bunches of more compelling stuff first.
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