Book Review: Breaker Morant The Final Roundup by Joe West & Roger Roper.

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ISBN: 9781445659657

Format: Hardback.
Length: 400 Pages.
Published: Amberley 15 Dec 2016.
https://www.amberley-books.com/breaker-morant.html

The execution of Harry “Breaker” Morant and two other officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers is one of those controversy riddled debates that rumbles onwards wether or not the subject is in the public eye. Honestly I am unable to comment as to wether the evidence presented in this latest contribution alters the scale one way or the other. For this reviewer is one of those mentioned in the introduction; a newcomer to the subject, therefore in reading this I was at least blessed with an open mind. Continue reading

Book Review: How Australia Became British by Howard T. Fry.

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ISBN 9781445664989
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288.
Publisher: Amberley 2016.

https://www.amberley-books.com/how-australia-became-british.html
In 1811 a book was published in France presenting the findings of a scientific exploration of southern Australia. But the name on the maps read, Terre Napoleon and the inlets and bays had names like Bonaparte and Josephine. It was a visual representation that showed how global the rivalry between France and Britain truly was. Newly discovered trade routes had made the east an area of great strategic interest. Continue reading

Historyland’s Top Five History Books from 2016.

What a great year for history books! I was inundated with great titles from generous authors and publishers, and it was really hard to pick just five, but here they are, in no particular order a selection of my favourites from last year. Maybe they’ll be some of your favourites for 2017! Continue reading

Book Review: Forgotten by Linda Harvieux

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Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Amberley (15 Nov 2016)
Language: English.
ISBN: 9781445663487
https://www.amberley-books.com/forgotten.html

The sceptics might have been right when they told Linda Harvieux that there wasn’t enough information available to tell the story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion at D-Day. But they were dead wrong if they thought there wasn’t a story to tell, and if I’m honest, although only the last few chapters concern themselves with Omaha Beach, there are testimonies in this book that have never seen the light of day, and thus add another element to the drama of the story. Continue reading

Book Review: Lost Voices of the Nile by Charlotte Booth.

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Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 Aug. 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1445642859

Ancient history has its mysteries. Not your average ones either. Whereas in modern history your mysteries tend to be based around motive, with ancient history it’s a case of identity, time and place and sometimes indeed, what! Yet while many complain about what has been lost and what is missing, it’s also good to be grateful about what we can read about. With ancient Egypt, details of the lives of high officials from the New Kingdom onwards tend to be the most common, and everyone else is usually anonymous, but when you collect it all together and do a bit of sifting a general picture appears that isn’t too shabby at all.

Charlotte Booth has thrown her hat into the “How did ordinary people live” ring. It’s one of the most popular ways to write about history, and it also allows an author to create a polyglot of experiences to find commonality and so reveal glimpses of life in a distant time. A thorough and thoughtful look into a world; often as clear as the pyramids and yet at the same time full of phantoms. Well constructed and very useful it clarified a number of things I had wondered about in my haphazard Egyptological enquieries in 2016. Objective but with a firm opinion when it comes to a fork in the road, Lost Voices of the Nile looks back, hoping to find familiarity in the alien world of the distant past.

In the Forefront of Lost Voices is the concept that an ancient Egyptian would be able to understand allot of what we experience today, and especially that we, with the benefit of hindsight can identify common ground with these long ago people. And it’s true. If anything ,ancient history, from the Egyptians to the Romans has definitely taught us that allot about the human experience doesn’t really change. People still looked for ways to enjoy themselves, worked to make a good living, pondered many of the same big questions, and suffered some of the same setbacks.

Of course I’m talking generally, because many of the specific scenarios don’t really apply to modern life, but at their core can still speak to people. As for me I tend to enjoy seeing how different people where as much as what hasn’t changed. Some people take an obtuse pleasure in seeing what is and is not different about the world. Others marvel at how far we’ve come or regressed or whatever.

But what about those who are just curious about how people, who were not pharaoh’s or viziers etc got along in Ancient Egypt? Many repeat the quote about the past being a foreign country where things are done differently, how do you learn about a different country? Usually people start with books. (Or internet searches). You could in a way see this book as a huge postcard written by an experienced traveller. The author has been there (or has been as close as she can get) and now is allowing us the benefit of her experience.

The Book is separated into sections that try to cover as much of the ancient experience as possible, it is an objective narrative, in that quotes are used to support the text rather than it being a book of writings with a historical commentary/analysis. Through it we find many personal stories, and many collages that make up a bigger picture, which is fitting because that is reminiscent Grand Temple reliefs, that require many pictures to tell the whole story.

You’ll see the name Deir el-Medina, appear quite allot. This was a village that was built for the many generations of artisans and labourers toiling in the valley of the Kings. Its archeology is one of the greatest resources for ancient life in the near east, and it crops up so often because, in fragments and shards it tells the “small” stories that are central to the focus of this book. The people who didn’t make it to the valley of the Kings, but rather the people who built it.

Josh.

Book Review, Exclusive Excerpt and Discount Code. Historic Heston Blumenthal.

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Published: 10-10-2013
Format: Hardback
Edition: 1st
Extent: 432
ISBN: 9781408804414
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing
Illustrations: Colour images throughout.

Please note the Giveaway portion of this promotion has  is ended.

Chances are you’ve not seen many cookery books like this. As a unique blend of art, history and practical cooking it covers many bases. The idea behind it is Chef Heston Blumenthal’s predication that the British have lost touch with their culinary heritage. He’s not just talking about meat pies and fish and chips, he’s talking about the stuff continental people might actually consider haute cuisine, while retaining the essence of what we islanders appreciate in food.

To be honest the British can no longer really use the excuse that we don’t eat what up until now would have been considered “Funny Food”. Just look at the crazy mix of restaurants and eateries that populate what used to be called food courts, just see what people are cooking on TV and what fills the isles of even our most budget supermarkets and it will dawn on you, we’ve become a nation of foodies.

To say that this folio, which drips extravagance from its elegant slip cover to every stitch of its binding, is a special edition is to try the limits of British understatement. It’s a gorgeous production, as lavish as a prime time period drama and in a way just as epic. From a historical point of view it’s sweeping as well, covering within its image laden pages a span from the 15th to the 19th century, cherry picking curious and probably unheard of recipies for iconic dishes that capture the flavour and spirit of the age in question for a modern audience. Thus we are treated to a rich blend of culinary as well as General history, which prefaces each dish.

As a work of bookbinding it already qualifies as art, which should please booklovers no end and will undoubtedly not only show off both shelf and coffee table to its best advantage but also truly show your love of fine cooking. Open the cover and you will find that the art doesn’t end at the spine, as a whole gallery of specially commissioned artwork by David McKean is spread across its luxuriant length. These are quirky, almost otherworldly illustrations, they are full of whimsy and sometimes seem a little unsettling. Colourful and eye catching, undeniable in their ability to hold attention, they could have come out of a fantasy story.

Alongside these pieces of artwork are numerous photographs of different food so crisp that they make your eyes ache. Still Life comes to mind, adding contrast to the often highly dynamic paintings, these shots of overflowing tables and ingredients could have come off the easel of a Dutch master, and the pictures of the finished product. The ones that dare you to try and recreate the recipe. Could have come from the menu of a restaurant without a sign over the door. It is art for arts sake, but also for the sake of food. Unapologetically lavish and a tome of ideas and inspiration.

What of the food itself? I hear you cry. The proof is in the pudding as they say. Not being a great cook myself I wouldn’t be able to tell you how well these recipes turn out. I can say though, that I would not turn down a bite of some of the deserts if one of my more culinarily gifted friends offered it. If I were you I’d not stick this on a stand and cook from the book, however. This is a book that will require you to write the recipe down if you want to keep it nice, (but that goes for all Cook books now I think of it). Though the contents are ideally suited to the tastiest room in the house, I can assure you this special edition won’t handle the heat, and as the old adage goes, that means it shouldn’t be in the kitchen.

I’m so grateful to the generous people at Bloomsbury, not only for sending me this book to review and share with you all, but they have also given buyers who are reading this a generous discount code which can be used on the publisher’s website. Historyland Readers can enjoy this generous offer until the 1st of February 2017 by using this code: Heston17 , In conjuction with this link http://bloomsbury.com/uk/historic-heston-9781408804414/

But wait! There’s more. If this review has whetted your appetite and you want to see more, please be my guest and have a perusal of this exclusive extract of the fabulous named and looking Taffety Tart, straight from the pages of Historic Heston Blumenthal, with the compliments of Bloomsbury and Historyland. taffety-tart-extract

For a sneak peek please watch and like my video.

Josh.

Book Review: Operation Big Colin Brown.

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Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Amberley Publishing (15 April 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 144565184X

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-Big-Race-Hitlers-Bomb/dp/144565184X

Science, bombs & intrigue? Sounds like a party to me. Written with the feel of an intellectual thriller Colin Brown tells the story of the race to stop Hitler’s A bomb during WW2.
It starts at the very beginning, with the Discovery of nuclear fission, here even those to whom Physics is a foreign language will recognise some of the names, if only from knowledge accrued from the Big Bang Theory. The military applications of splitting the atom became apparent very soon after the discovery of sub atomic power as a series of scientists started adding up the theoretical power of the discovery, with ever growing results. The idea of a super bomb became a reality for both sides almost from the get go, even before the true capabilities of such a weapon were properly understood. The science that preceded the declaration of war was then focused on by the European intelligence communities, who then began a race to gather supplies of heavy water. As they rushed to secure the birthing fluid of the atom bomb, the conventional shooting war broke out, and due to the circumstances of the fall of France etc, Brown is able to weave into his main narrative sub stories worthy of their own books. The image of the Earl of Suffolk, bearded and tattooed handing out champaign on his commandeered ship, hobbling around with his secretaries, determined to get France’s store of heavy water to British soil, and his stash of diamonds will stay with me for a long time.
Some of the story will be familiar, such as when it comes to the race to slow down or stop the enemy. After securing heavy water and all that could be salvaged in terms of mind power, for scientists were as valuable as technology, the two sides then did their best to discover and destroy what the other was doing. For the allies this culminated most dramatically with the destruction of the German Heavy Water plant at Telemark in Norway. The famous SOE operation will be familiar to many, but the importance undiminished for the retelling.
Most critical to this book is the kidnapping of German scientists and throwing them into a country house that served as a giant listening device, which the British used to learn their secrets. We see the listeners like flies on a wall recording every word the Germans said, and then passed them on to the operators of the Manhattan project. The information they unwittingly gave would prove vital to beating the Germans to the bomb.

Because everyone knows about Hiroshima and it’s legacy, it’s good to know that we can track back to the nuts and bolts of the Atomic race, something to plug the gaps as it where. And this book offers an interesting and not often observed part of that race. This book is also an exciting and engaging read that will not fail to appeal to people in search of real life cloak and dagger. The element of real science allows readers to peek a little into the practical world of 20th century physics. Given the ingredients it would have been easy for the author to trip and stumble, presenting stories that are ready made, much like cooking ready meals can all too often end up just a sad mess on a plate, but Brown has handled it well.
A steady pace is maintained, and an intellectual, gripping tone reminiscent of the thriller genre risked from the pages. From what I can detect this is not a controversial book, it is instead trading to tell a story, wether died in the wool enthusiasts and experts will be pleased with the depth of the text I cannot say, but from my point of view it was a very satisfying read.

Josh.