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The Final Whistle: The Great War In Fifteen Players
The Final Whistle: The Great War In Fifteen Players
by Stephen Cooper
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War through rugby, 11 Feb. 2014
This is definitely sits more comfortably on history shelves than sport shelves. It is a brilliant piece of historical research and a great way of personalising the history of the First World War. Once you get beyond Bill Beaumont’s extremely disappointing foreword (four sentences? Is that all you could be bothered to contribute Bill?), then you begin a history of the First World War through individual case studies of fifteen soldiers who were killed in action. All of the players were members of Rosslyn Park rugby club, but their wartime experiences were very different: among them are infantry in the trenches, flying corps pilots attacking Zeppelins and overflying the battlefields, sailors on battleships. We get a fairly well-rounded overview of the war through this approach – there are inevitably a few gaps not covered by these fifteen players, but nothing glaring.


One Summer: America 1927
One Summer: America 1927
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Bryson's best, 28 Jan. 2014
Bill Bryson has a great style – witty and interesting, yet able to tell the facts about whatever he is writing about in a clear way, whether that particular subject is travel, history or science. This book is probably the best of his that I’ve read. Taking the summer of 1927 as his hook to describe the USA in the Roaring Twenties, we hear about American society and culture as it began to take over the world. Bryson uses a few key personalities as a focus and keeps referring back to them: Charles Lindburgh, Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge and Sacco and Vanzetti. However, it goes wider than that – we hear about Hollywood and the growth of movies, Mount Rushmore, prohibition and much more. Bryson allows himself to go off on tangents, but that’s part of the appeal of this book – we get a wide survey of the USA in 1927.


Great Britain's Great War
Great Britain's Great War
by Jeremy Paxman
Edition: Hardcover

36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readable popular history of WW1, 21 Jan. 2014
Jeremy Paxman isn't well known as a First World War academic. In fact, Jeremy Paxman isn't a First World War academic at all. Nevertheless, he has turned his attention to the First World War, presumably to commemorate (or cash in) on the centenary of the conflict. As you might expect of a book by a journalist (no doubt heavily supported by a researcher), there isn't anything particularly new here. However, it is easy to sniff at a work by a 'celebrity' historian and damn it just because he dared to write it. This is actually a decent account - Paxman has collected many examples of British experiences during the war and synthesised them into a very readable account of the First World War from a British perspective. If you want new research or a bit more detail, go with one of the academic historians. But for a popular social history of the First World War, this is a good choice.


Mrs Robinson's Disgrace The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Summerscale, Kate ( Author ) ON Apr-30-2012, Hardback
Mrs Robinson's Disgrace The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Summerscale, Kate ( Author ) ON Apr-30-2012, Hardback
by Kate Summerscale
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars The beginnings of modern divorce explained, 14 Jan. 2014
Victorian society was very different to modern society in many ways, but the status of women was perhaps one of the biggest differences. In this very well-researched book, Kate Summerscale uses the divorce case between Isabella and Henry Robinson that she has rescued from the archives to highlight Victorian marriage, divorce and morals. The newly-established divorce court picked over the supposed relationship between Isabella and her alleged lover, Edward Lane, using her diary as evidence. The bigger issues over which the judges were troubled are explained very skilfully, showing how the questions they posed and answers they came up with could impact on society as a whole. Summerscale makes little judgement herself, the reader is left to cast their own about each of the protagonists.


Traitor's Blood: Book 1 of The Civil War Chronicles (Stryker)
Traitor's Blood: Book 1 of The Civil War Chronicles (Stryker)
by Michael Arnold
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Civil War Sharpe, 7 Jan. 2014
It's pretty clear what Michael Arnold is trying to do here - he has found a period that historical fiction doesn't seem to have covered and is trying to lay claim to being the "Sharpe of the Civil War" (even the cover claims so). All the ingredients are there, but the recipe is not yet perfect. There is a story that cracks along at a good pace and a hero who finds himself on the fringes of a known war - the plot gives him enough freedom to not be constrained by the events history, but not so much that his actions become unbelievable. However, the characters are lacking, perhaps because the plot ticks along so rapidly. There's plenty of time to fill in the gaps in the coming books, but although the author fills in Captain Stryker's backstory, I don't feel he is a fully-rounded character just yet. Is Stryker the new Sharpe? No, but he's looks set to become a solid stand-in.


Driving Ambition - My Autobiography
Driving Ambition - My Autobiography
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and incisive yet a little understated, 31 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
No doubt one of the best captains and openers in modern times, Andrew Strauss helped to steer England to success in the 2005, 2009 and 2010-11 Ashes, becoming only the third England captain to win home and away Ashes series. His autobiography mirrors his captaincy - thoughtful and incisive yet a little understated. Strauss is happy to put the spotlight on his own career and his rise to the England ranks despite his early cricketing career being anything but remarkable. He also takes us through the stresses of being and England player and the losses of form he suffered a couple of times in his career. However, this book lacks any great revelations or behind-the-scenes gossip that wasn't already known. The controversies that Strauss had to deal with as captain are glossed over - in particular, he didn't have a great relationship with Kevin Pietersen, but Strauss avoids the temptation to put the boot in on his former teammate. That's an admirable reflection on Strauss as a person, but it leaves the reader with the impression that the full story hasn't been told yet.


The World Without Us
The World Without Us
by Alan Weisman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Impact of mankind, 20 Dec. 2013
This review is from: The World Without Us (Paperback)
Many books - fiction and non-fiction - consider how humankind might be wiped out in some kind of mass extinction. This book considers what would happen to the world afterwards, from the length of time that materials and buildings would last to the fate of nature. The environmental theme is clear - Weisman is concerned about the effect of plastics on the world, not only long after we are gone, but also over the next few hundred years if we remain. There is a very journalistic style to the writing - each chapter starts with a 'hook', which helps the readability, but it jars a little when the author repeatedly describes the experts who he interacts with using throwaway, irrelevant phrases (do I need to know that a particular expert wears shorts and runs marathons?). An interesting exploration of the question about how much humans have impacted the earth during our brief (in geological terms) ascendance.


Gone (The Gone Series)
Gone (The Gone Series)
by Michael Grant
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Lord of the Flies with mutant powers, 19 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Gone (The Gone Series) (Paperback)
It's an interesting idea - everybody over the age of 15 goes "poof" and disappears, and the remaining children have to cope without them in a city that is sealed off from the rest of the world. What follows is a Lord of the Flies-esque deterioration of society as the children start to fight amongst themselves, aided by their rapidly-developing mutant powers. As well as the Lord of the Flies influence, there are touches of The Hunger Games (not least in the cover design) and Charlie Higson's Enemy - if you loved either of those series, you'll probably get on with this. I didn't find the action sequences as well written in Gone and occasionally lost the thread of what was going on in the various fights, but I enjoyed this enough to seek out number two in the series - and I'll probably go right through to book six.


Stillness and Speed: My Story
Stillness and Speed: My Story
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Not an traditional autobiography - but still a good read, 19 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Dennis Bergkamp's autobiography isn't like most football autobiographies. In truth, it isn't really an autobiography! In my mind, it's an authorised biography, not an autobiography. The co-writer has the main 'voice' and Dennis' input - which, admittedly, is substantial - is in the form of extended quotations taken from interviews with the co-writer. Effectively, it makes the book a long magazine-style interview of Bergkamp.

However, that apart, it's still a great and analytical read that probably works well for somebody who had a great playing career but perhaps doesn't have the big, gregarious personality we often associate with great sport autobiographies. There's plenty of input from others involved in his career at Ajax, Inter and Arsenal, and the co-writer seems to understand Bergkamp's career and get down to the key issues - the strife at Ajax, Bergkamp's unhappiness at Inter, the reasons for Arsenal's success.

A couple of quibbles about the Kindle edition - the version that I downloaded was missing a cover image and had a surprising amount of typos that got through proof-reading.


Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941
Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941
by Ian Kershaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The decisions that led to world war, 18 Dec. 2013
Ian Kershaw undoubtedly knows his area of expertise like the back of his hand. In this book, he steps away from his subject of choice - Nazi Germany - to look at the wider Second World War. In particular, Kershaw examines the "fateful choices" made by world leaders during 1940 and 1941. It's an intriguing idea. Many historians and readers will come up with their own list of key decisions and may have a few quibbles with Kershaw's choices - did Stalin really decide to "trust Hitler" in 1941, or was that really a decision from 1939? Also, Kershaw sticks with high foreign policy and doesn't consider too much military history - could there have been a chapter on Hitler deciding to cancel his invasion of Britain plans? It means that there is an emphasis why various countries entered the war and how it turned into a world war rather than a European conflict. Kershaw delivers his thoughts with plenty of convincing evidence to back it up. As always with Kershaw, the writing style is a little long-winded and overly complex, but this is still worth persevering with.


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