Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Bertie Project

Irene has returned home and so the Bertie Project can continue. Seven year old Bertie, however, enjoyed his months of freedom with just his father and his grandmother looking after him. Irene therefore discovers that she has lost some of her control. Stuart has also discovered the joys of not being totally under the control of his wife. But will the changes in Scotland Street last?
The story of Bertie and his family, intermingled with stories of other characters associated with Scotland Street, continue to provide entertaining reading. This is the eleventh title in the 44 Scotland Street series by Alexander McCall Smith.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The revolving door of life

Alexander McCall Smith continues the stories in the 44 Scotland Street series in The Revolving Door of Life.  The stories are the continuation of the events, large and small, about the lives of characters who live, or who have lived, in this part of Scotland Street.

Although Matthew and Elspeth, with their triplets, have left Scotland Street to move into their new home outside Edinburgh, Matthew still works at his art gallery in the city. The house was purchased from a gentlemen calling himself the Duke of Johannesburg, a character who makes appearances throughout this collection of stories. Angus Lordie and Domenica Macdonald, now married, have settled into Domenica's flat in Scotland Street and are adjusting to their new life together.

The story of central interest in this collection revolves around Bertie, now seven, and his new found freedom when his mother is detained in a Bedouin harem - you will have to read the book. Nicola, Bertie's grandmother moves to Scotland Street to look after Bertie and Ulysses and determines that her grandson should have a less structured life.

The other major theme concerns Pat's father, Dr MacGregor. Pat is concerned that her father's new friend is only interested in his money so Pat and Matthew devise a plan to test whether this is the case.

Ethics and the need to do the right thing tend to be major considerations for some of the characters as they often agonise about their plans and possible actions however a solution is usually eventually found.

As this book is number 10 in the series, this volume is another collection of often amusing stories recounting the minutiae of the lives of a collection of characters we have come to know, all part of the revolving door of life.

London in many books

For family history research I have been looking at books with references to London, particularly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and discovered a selection of books on the history of London in the local public library. Some titles were more relevant to my research than others but it was interesting to see the range of material available.

London in the Eighteenth Century: a great and monstrous thing by Jerry White published by The Bodley Head in 2012. This book looks at the growth of London during the eighteenth century with the first section looking at architectural advancement during that period. There are also sections on People, Work, Culture and Power including a section on prisons and punishment. There are several sets of illustrations inserted throughout the book, detailed notes, a large bibliography and index. This is a useful social history of eighteenth century England providing useful background information for those researching the city in which some of our convict ancestors lived.

The following two books that are good to  browse through.
London: the illustrated history by Cathy Ross and John Clark was first published by Penguin Books in 2008.  This history of the city discusses London through the ages illustrated with maps plus  photos of items from the Museum of London collection. There is a useful section of further reading plus an index.

Another book using the Museum of London collection is London: the story of a great city by Jerry White.The second edition of this book was published by Andre Deutsch in 2014. In this book the history of the city is shown by topic rather than chronologically. Some of the topics include London's River, Making Money, A City of Shopkeepers, Meat and Drink, Faiths of London plus Police, Prisons and Punishment.The book is lavishly illustrated and has an index plus a small section of further reading.

The City of London by Brian Girling, published by The History Press initially in 1998 and again in 2009. It is part of Briain in Old Photographs series. Most of the photographs used to illustrate the book were taken in the early 1900s and were often from postcards. Topics in the book include Around Fleet Street, the River Thames, City Life, St Paul's Cathedral and Churches, City Celebrations and City Transport. Many of the photos show buildings built at the end of the eighteenth century and nineteenth century.

Lost London by Richard Guard is a guide to some of the lost buildings and landmarks in the city.It was published by Michael O'Mara Books in 2012. The main landmarks discussed are arranged alphabetically and the index also allows the reader to locate further information if they are mentioned in other articles.

Lindsey German and John Rees have written A People's History of London published by Verso in 2012. The book investigates how the power of ordinary people through strikes, rebellions and demonstrations has shaped the history of the city through the ages. The book has a bibliography and index.

London: a social and cultural history, 1550 - 1750 by Robert Bucholz and Joseph P Ward was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012. It is a study of the development of London as a city during two hundred years. There are plates with illustrations throughout the book as well as detailed notes, a bibliography and index.

The third edition of The London Encyclopaedia was published in 2008. The 6000 alphabetically arranged articles cover all aspects of the history and life of the city. The authors are Ben Weinreb, Christopher Hibbert, Julia Keay and John Keay. This is a good reference book for information about the city. At the end of the book is an index to people mentioned in the volume.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Best of Adam Sharp

In The Best of Adam Sharp Graeme Simsion has written a book about relationships.

Adam Sharp lives in England but one day he receives an email that reminds him of an affair that he had with a television actress in Australia more than 20 years earlier. Adam struggles to work out what Angelina really wants to achieve by contacting him. This email contact forces him to consider his relationships of the past and the present as well as what he really wants in the future.

Part I of the book primarily explores Adam's memory of his relationship with Angelina Brown in Sydney as well as reflecting on his deteriorating relationship with his partner, Claire. Part II is about the meeting of Adam with Angelina and her husband, Charlie, in France.

Music plays an important part throughout this novel. Adam works in IT but is also a pianist and throughout the book songs are constantly being mentioned - either music that he is playing or songs that are remembered as the story unfolds. A list of the songs is provided at the back of the book plus a link to the playlist on Spotify.

During the novel Adam is forced to rethink about a variety of relationships - with his father as well as with Angelina and Claire. He also needs to reconsider the components that  make a successful relationship. Adam has to decide whether following his emotions is the right pathway or should the long term needs of all parties be the main consideration.

A number of detailed reviews of this book can be found in Good Reads.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Grandparent

Ladybird books now have a series for adults called How it works. The design of the books and style of illustrations play homage to the Ladybird children's books but the books are designed for grown-ups. As grandparents my husband and I enjoyed the humour of one of the books in this series, The Grandparent. We could identify with some of the situations particularly in regard to providing 'day-care for the under twelves' and the statement, 'Retirement is an exhausting job'.

The books in this series only take a few minutes to read and are worth taking a look at, especially if you are familiar with the format of the Ladybird children's books. Good fun.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Turbo Twenty-three

Christmas must be approaching as a new title in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series has just been published. I find these books an entertaining read so always look forward to catching up with the next installment of Stephanie's eventful and certainly unpredictable life.

The story begins when Stephanie and Lula discover an abandoned freezer truck filled with ice cream plus a frozen body decorated to imitate an ice cream bar. This time most of the action centres around the rivalry between the owners of two ice cream factories. Ranger, who has been employed to install security at one of the firms, asks Stephanie to work undercover at the factories to try to collect inside information relating to the rivalry. Stephanie also continues her work as a bounty hunter and some of the characters she apprehends have links to the ice cream saga further complicating the plot. As the storyline progresses it is clear that working in the ice cream industry can have sinister consequences.

Themes in the other books in the series continue to evolve with the complications in Stephanie's love life continuing and more motor vehicles being damaged when Stephanie is around.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Invisible History of the Human Race - how DNA and history shape our identies and our futures

A recent television drama series, Code of a Killer, on ABC2 was based on the first case of using DNA fingerprinting techniques to solve a murder. DNA testing has become an accepted part of our lives. DNA is often used by archaeologists to test biological samples from skeletons to help determine their age. Studying a person's DNA can also be used medically to detect family patterns of diseases. Part of the book is also spent looking at eugenics and how theories of eugenics influenced the leaders of the Nazi Party.

In the Invisible History of the Human Race, Christine Kenneally, investigates how our DNA can help tell us of our past. Her theory is that a study of our DNA cannot only help us understand our biological history but also our social history. Increasingly DNA tests are being used as a tool to assist researchers determine family connections as well as exploring the paper trail of history. DNA is also used to investigate how peoples, such as the Vikings, settling in England mixed, over time, with the local populations.

This is not necessarily an easy book to read for those of us without an advanced science background, however it does contain some interesting theories to think about, particularly in relation to historical research.