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The Wright Brothers: The Dramatic Story-Behind-the-Story
The Wright Brothers: The Dramatic Story-Behind-the-Story
by David McCullough
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The first flight, 1 Sept. 2016
McCullough is a master story-teller and historian, and this is no different. Although a little shorter than some of his other works - the paperback runs to 250 pages without notes - it explores the first flight in detail. Most of us know that Orville and Wilbur flew for the first time at Kitty Hawk, but McCullough explains how that famous (and short) first flight was years in the making. He also takes us through the next seven or so years in flight development which saw the Wrights take their invention to Europe to publicise it and seek orders. Good history.


The Tusk That Did the Damage
The Tusk That Did the Damage
by Tania James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Elephant, poacher and filmmaker, 9 Aug. 2016
Three threads intertwine in this story about elephant poaching and conservation in India. The lives of the elephant, the poacher and the filmmaker gradually come together as the strands develop, leading to an explosive finale. Requires concentration, particularly towards the beginning when it isn't fully clear how the characters fit together, but concludes strongly.


Wars of the Roses: Stormbird: Book 1
Wars of the Roses: Stormbird: Book 1
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great start to a new series, 28 July 2016
The Wars of the Roses have been well covered in historical fiction, not least by Philippa Gregory, but this book from Conn Iggulden - better known for his series on Julius Caesar and the Mongol Khans - offers a slightly different take. Much of Stormbird is based around France, Anjou and Maine, setting the scene for Margaret of Anjou's marriage to Henry VI and her role in the war. The narrative jumps between a number of key characters - but only Margaret, but also Suffolk, Jack Cade and Derry Brewer, a fictionalised and shadowy power behind the throne. The ebook version I read also contained a short story set at Agincourt, a nice idea, although I'd have preferred it to be a little longer - it felt like a couple of chapters were tacked on for no real reason, rather than something which could really engage with and explain the young Suffolk. However, I'll certainly be looking out for the second and third books in the trilogy.


No Empty Chairs: The Short and Heroic Lives of the Young Aviators Who Fought and Died in the First World War
No Empty Chairs: The Short and Heroic Lives of the Young Aviators Who Fought and Died in the First World War
by Ian Mackersey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting introduction to WW1 in the air, 6 July 2016
The First World War was the first air war, with bombers, reconnaissance and, more than anything else, dueling fighter pilots. It's an era which captures the imagination - iconic personalities like the Red Baron, Albert Ball, Oswald Boelke and Billy Bishop all make an appearance. This is a broad history of the aviators and their wartime lives, looking at how air warfare developed over the period. It's not the most comprehensive history - some pilots barely get a mention, and the book concentrates on 1916/17 - but Mackersey does not claim to be writing the full history of the First World War in the air. Instead, he does very well what he sets out to do - provide an interesting introduction to the subject.


The Giant, O'Brien
The Giant, O'Brien
Price: £6.49

3.0 out of 5 stars More Hunter, 30 Jun. 2016
Didn't quite do it for me. Hilary Mantel's initial plan was to have written a longer book about John Hunter, but it morphed into this shorter one focusing more on Charles O'Brien with Hunter as a second character. I think I'd have preferred her original idea. I didn't really engage with this story and found I wanted the story to return to Hunter more often, I found him the more interesting character.


An Officer and a Spy
An Officer and a Spy
Price: £4.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Dreyfus Affair thriller, 15 Jun. 2016
In telling the story of the Dreyfus Affair - largely accurately, give or take the odd bit of dramatic license - Robert Harris has written a book which, in my opinion, is the best he has written. Part thriller, part courtroom drama, An Officer and a Spy told from the point of view of the investigator who did much to clear Dreyfus' name. The book follows the historical events which means that there are chunks of time which have to be skipped over - the affair ran for over ten years - yet Harris keeps the plot ticking over nicely.


Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar
by Tom Holland
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Augustus to Nero, 9 Jun. 2016
Tom Holland can write really good history, and this is no different. Something of a sequel to his earlier Rubicon, Holland tells the history of the Julio-Claudian emperors who followed Julius Caesar: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. The wild tyranny and power of this family is unsurpassed, only the Borgias come close. Holland is also a novelist, and that comes through in his history writing - Dynasty is eminently readable and not at all stuffy. It's a great history of a great period of history.


Tuf Voyaging
Tuf Voyaging
by George R.R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars World-building sci-fi, 3 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Tuf Voyaging (Paperback)
Tuf Voyaging is a series of episodic tales regarding Haviland Tuf and his use of the Ark, an ancient ecological engineering ship that he takes to various worlds in an attempt to solve their problems. The first tale is the longest at 120 or so pages, the shortest are 40 pages. As with all good sci-fi, the themes reflect contemporary issues - the obvious parallel here is with environmental and societal issues on Earth. Certainly different from Game of Thrones, but well worth trying.


Warriors of the Storm (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 9)
Warriors of the Storm (The Last Kingdom Series, Book 9)
by Bernard Cornwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No surpises from Uhtred, 29 Feb. 2016
If you've read the first eight books in this series, there'll be no surprises here. It's much of the same - the continuing story of Uhtred, a pagan warrior fighting for the Saxons against the Danes. This plot is slightly more fictionalised on the others, less rooted in historical battles and events, which gives Cornwell a little more freedom to play around with his characters, both old and new. Two of the new characters - Bishop Leofstan and Mus - seemed a little underdeveloped, and I saw the plot twist involving Mus coming a long time before it was revealed. But this is still an enjoyable series - for me, better than Sharpe.


Phoenix Squadron: HMS Ark Royal, Britain's last Topguns and the untold story of their most dramatic mission
Phoenix Squadron: HMS Ark Royal, Britain's last Topguns and the untold story of their most dramatic mission
by Rowland White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Detailed description of a little-known mission, 25 Feb. 2016
Essentially, this is a 450-page book about a ten-minute flight over friendly territory. That's a little facetious, but this subject isn't as gripping as White's previous book on the Falklands raid. Fearing an imminent invasion of the British Honduras (now Belize) by Guatemala in 1972, the UK authorised a show of force by two Royal Navy Bucaneers launched from HMS Ark Royal. It was a long flight requiring airborne refuelling, but other than that, there wasn't a huge amount of drama. To make a full book out of it, White does lots of contextualising and gives plenty of background on the planes, personalities and history. It's certainly well written, researched and engaging: Rowland White can tell a good story, the trouble is that there isn't much of a story to tell.


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