Stross, Charles. The Hidden Family.

NY: Tor, 2005.

This is the second volume of the “Merchant Princes” alternate-world adventure series and it picks up immediately following the close of the first volume. Miriam Beckstein, Boston Tech journalist, has discovered a talent as a “world walker,” able to move from our version of America to an alternate Norse-based medieval one at the cost of a splitting headache, and has found her long-last Medici-style family, which gets its wealth from drug-trafficking between the worlds.

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Stross, Charles. The Family Trade.

NY: Tor, 2004.

Stross is one of those authors I’ve never been sure about. I’ve enjoyed some of his stories but others have left me with a shrug. He always seems to be talked up as a great innovator in science fiction, the cream of the cream, but he just doesn’t affect me that way. This book, the first in the “Merchant Princes” series, isn’t a bad story but it certainly isn’t a masterpiece.

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Pritchard, R. E. (ed). Dickens’s England: Life in Victorian Times.

London: Praeger, 2002.

For someone in search of a coherent, cohesive social history of 19th century Britain, this volume is a considerable disappointment. Pritchard, a lecturer in literature, has brought together a large number of very brief excerpts from a very wide variety of publications from the 1830s through about the 1870s. (The last twenty years of Victoria’s reign were increasingly different from the first forty years, as even observers at the time recognized.)

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Published in: on 27 December 2011 at 6:09 am  Comments (3)  
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Pratchett, Terry. Snuff.

NY: HarperCollins, 2011.

Sam Vines is a city-born-and-bred copper (he’s also Commander Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, Sir Samuel Vines the Duke of Ankh, and Blackboard Monitor Vimes) and he gets a bit panicky when Lady Sybil, his adored wife, insists he get out into the country for a holiday. And their son, Young Sam, is six now and needs to make the acquaintance of the large estate which he will one day inherit. Even Lord Vetinari the Patrician agrees, which leaves Vimes feeling a bit betrayed, but off they go. He’s supposed to leave his job firmly behind, but that’s not something he’s quite capable of. And, as he knows well, any copper can find a crime anywhere if he looks hard enough.

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Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids.

NY: HarperCollins, 1989.

First off, it’s well known that Sir Terry is quite incapable of writing a bad book. This one, however, falls right in the middle of the pack: Perfectly readable, very funny in places, and with some pointed points to make regarding the anti-progressive nature of religion (a recurrent theme of Pratchett’s), . . . but still, on the whole, and not to put too fine a point on it, not nearly as engaging as his stories about the Witches or the City Watch.

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Published in: on 23 December 2011 at 7:50 am  Comments (1)  
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Pratchett, Terry. Eric.

NY: Harper, 1990.

As Pratchett fans know, the several dozen tales set on the Discworld aren’t a single series, or even a cycle. They’re a collection of skeins of stories featuring a variety of focal characters, though many of these overlap in various ways. (The two best subseries, I think, are those about the witches and those about the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork.)

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Published in: on 21 December 2011 at 7:31 am  Comments (1)  
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Turner, E. S. What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem.

NY: St. Martin, 1962.

This is the very first book I read about the history of domestic service in England, following the introduction of Upstairs, Downstairs back in the ‘70s, and it’s still a very good survey, both informative and entertaining. Turner was a journalist, not an academic historian, but he had already produced a series of books on various aspects of upper-level British social history, from life at the Court of St. James to a history of the country’s military officer class.

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Published in: on 19 December 2011 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Moore, Alan. From Hell, Being a Melodrama in Sixteen Parts.

Marietta, GA: Top Shelf Productions, 2006.

This huge graphic novel treats almost every aspect of the Jack the Ripper killings in the East End of London in 1888, and it’s widely regarded as Moore’s magnum opus. And I’m a fan of Moore’s work, and there’s a lot of fascinating stuff here. Nevertheless, I’m of two minds about this book. Maybe three or four minds.

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Pearl, Nancy. Book Lust to Go.

Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2010.

I’ve been a heavy reader since about 1950 — and even in 1st Grade, I wasn’t just looking at the pictures. I was even then wondering what to read next and asking other people for recommendations. That love affair with the printed word led to my becoming a librarian, a career in which I spent my entire adult life, and in retirement I read even more books than I had the time for when I was working.

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Published in: on 15 December 2011 at 1:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pearl, Nancy. Book Lust.

Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 2003.

All heavy readers spend a certain fraction of their time reading other readers’ recommendations of what they ought to read. Like me, Nancy Pearl is a lifelong reference specialist in public libraries but, unlike me, she has become famous for it (relatively speaking), having turned out at least six collections of book recommendations as well as founding the “If All of [name your city] Read the Same Book” program and becoming well-known for her reviews and author interviews on NPR.

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Published in: on 13 December 2011 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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