Book Review: The King’s Revenge – Don Jordan and Michael Walsh

Title: The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History
Author: Don Jordan and Michael Walsh
ISBN: 9781681771687
Pages: 400
Release Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Genre: Nonfiction, History
Source: Publisher

Summary

In January 1649, Charles I, the King of England, was tried and executed by England’s new government. The republic (headed by Oliver Cromwell) failed, and in 1660, the former Prince of Wales was invited to return and retake the throne, becoming Charles II in the Restoration. Charles II was intent on punishing every member of the court that had voted to murder his father and was at the head of the greatest manhunt in history to track and execute each and every person involved.

Review

When I first heard about The King’s Revenge: Charles II and the Greatest Manhunt in British History, I was absolutely intrigued. I don’t know much about the Restoration period of British history (I read my fair share about the period, but it’s earlier monarchs that I’m more familiar with), so I was eager to learn about this manhunt that I hadn’t previously heard of. Just one thing gave me pause: Because I’m not overly familiar with the subject, I was worried that this book would go into too much depth about the individual people involved. I was interested in reading a book about history, rather than biographies of the hunted, but I’m glad to say this wasn’t an issue. Early on, the authors explain that they sacrifice detail and depth about the people involved in order to tell a coherent narrative. As someone who was interested in a gripping story, with the knowledge I could read about individual people later if I so chose, I was happy with this decision.

You might think that history can’t really be gripping, especially if we know the outcome, but I’d challenge you with The King’s Revenge. It starts with the trial and execution of Charles I, setting the stage for exactly how the revolution happened. There are no “good guys” or “bad guys” here; both sides make mistakes and errors in judgment, and they pay dearly for them. The fact that men were trying to create a republic for Britain doesn’t excuse the fact that they began said republic in blood, with the execution of a king.

The authors take us through the history, and it’s when Charles II takes the throne a decade later that the tension in the narrative really ramps up. The prince who had been begging European monarchs for what little they could spare him, exiled from his own country, all of a sudden had power and means, and he wasn’t afraid to use them to hunt down every single man and woman involved with his father’s murder. It’s a thirty-year journey of bloodlust and revenge, and the most insane thing about it is that it actually happened.

If you enjoy reading about history, or you want to read more but have found it dry, you should absolutely give The King’s Revenge a try. After reading this, I’m definitely interested in learning more about this period in history, and am so glad to have had such a great jumping off point.

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Book Review: The Gene – Siddhartha Mukherjee

Title: The Gene: An Intimate History
Author: Siddhartha Mukherjee
ISBN: 9781476733500
Pages: 608
Release Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Nonfiction, Science, History
Source: Publisher

Summary

In The Gene, professor and cancer physician Siddartha Mukherjee takes a look at our genes through a social history perspective, melding science, medicine, and history to help us understand exactly what our genes do and why they are important.

Review

If you read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s epic Pulitzer Prize-winning history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, then you likely know what you are in for when picking up The Gene. It’s a comprehensive look at genes from many different angles—from the history of their discovery to how they affect our health and behavior to the possibilities and implications of advanced gene manipulation. It’s both broad and incredibly deep, which is hard to do successfully, yet once again, Mukherjee does it expertly.

I’m usually a pretty fast reader, but I took The Gene slow. I mean SLOW—it took me a couple of months to get through it. Not because it was difficult or boring, or anything of the sort; I found the entire book fascinating. So fascinating, in fact, that I found myself rereading certain sections, thinking and pondering over a paragraph for a few minutes before I moved onto the next. This is a book that is worth spending some qualiy time with.

There’s a lot of science in The Gene, but it’s a surprisingly emotional read. Mukherjee does an incredible job mixing personal stories with hard science. He makes you realize that science isn’t this cold thing that is impersonal and disconnected from humanity. It is intertwined with who we are as people, and explains why we are here. If you’re looking for a great long read to sink your teeth into, to really get lost in, I highly recommend picking this up immediately.

Other books by Siddhartha Mukherjee:

The Emperor of All Maladies

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Book Review: Rise of the Rocket Girls – Nathalia Holt

rise of the rocket girlsTitle: Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars
Author: Nathalia Holt
ISBN: 9780316338912
Pages: 352
Release Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: History, Space/NASA
Source: Publisher

Summary

Before there were laptop computers and smartphones, before computing was done primarily by machines, the United States was sending brave men to space, with the eventual intention of landing on the moon. This is a story most of us know well. A story that isn’t as well known is the women behind these endeavors, who worked as human computers, to help NASA achieve its mission of a moon landing.

Review

I will read any book about the American space program you put into my hands, so when I first heard about Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, I knew immediately it was a book I had to read. While I know a lot about how NASA got us to the moon, I hadn’t heard of this group of lady human computers, and it was a gap in my knowledge I wanted to fill as soon as possible.

Holt tells a compelling story; she writes in a very readable narrative form, weaving a story that will draw readers in from the very first page. It’s never dense or heavy; instead, Holt spends her time bringing these women to life for the reader, decade by decade. We get to learn about their skills, their capabilities, their hopes and dreams, what they gave up in order to do this job, but also what they achieved. It’s incredibly inspiring.

In order to research for Rise of the Rocket Girls, Holt conducted interviews with all of the living members of this group, and you can see their personalities bursting off the page. But the important thing about this book is that it isn’t just women’s history. It’s American history. Too often, the contributions of women and people of color are discounted and considered “niche” history, but this book puts both front and center. It should be considered a must-read book for anyone interested in the history of the American space program.

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Book Review: The Fifty-Year Mission – Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman

fifty-year missionTitle: The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years
Author: Edward Gross & Mark A. Altman
ISBN: 9781250065841
Pages: 576
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Genre: History, Nonfiction
Source: Publisher

Summary

The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek: The First 25 Years is an oral history of the first 25 years of Star Trek—from the beginnings of the original series through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

Review

I go back and forth on whether I actually like oral histories or not—they live or die by the way they are organized and who participates—but when I heard there was an oral history of Star Trek, I immediately knew it was something I had to read. I’ve been a Star Trek fan for most of my life, and when I love something, I like to learn about it in all its nitty gritty detail. While I’d heard quite a few of the stories and anecdotes shared in The Fifty-Year Mission, there were many, many more perspectives and stories I wasn’t aware of, and quite frankly, I found it fascinating.

The main reason I loved The Fifty-Year Mission is because I think the oral history format is uniquely suited to such a complex endeavor as Star Trek. We’ve all heard stories about how Shatner was difficult and overbearing or how there was tension on the set of The Original Series, but this time, you can hear it directly from the people involved in what was happening. You get to see multiple perspectives and points of view and understand that, in the end, these people were only human, no matter how large their legends are. The authors did an extraordinary job organizing the information and presenting a coherent story, and the breadth of people they’ve spoken to over the years (many now deceased) is simply astounding.

I was a bit worried that The Fifty-Year Mission would feel tawdry and gossip-y; after all, it’s exposing old wounds and weaknesses, putting them on the page for anyone to see. But thankfully, the book didn’t feel that way at all. It is frank—”uncensored,” as the subtitle puts it—and you really come to see how the various large personalities clashed all over the place, but it never feels cheap. Instead, it feels honest, like these people are finally getting the chance to tell their side of the story. But because the authors talk to so many people, there are many different sides presented, and it never feels like anyone is being vilified unjustly.

The second I finished The Fifty-Year Mission, I was ready to pick up the second volume. It’s not out until the end of August, so it gives all you Trekkies (Trekkers? Let’s not get started on THAT debate) a chance to devour this book first. Even if you’re not a die-hard Star Trek fan, if you’re interested in the way television and movies get made, or just interested in pop culture history, you should give this book a chance. The oral history format means it’s easily readable, and it just captures your attention from the very first page.

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Book Review: The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor – Elizabeth Norton

Title: The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen Author: Elizabeth Norton ISBN: 9781605989488 Pages: 416 Release Date: January 4, 2016 Publisher: Pegasus Genre: Nonfiction—History Source: Publisher Summary In The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor: Elizabeth I, Thomas Seymour, and the Making of a Virgin Queen, historian Elizabeth […]

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Book Review: Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County – Kristen Green

Title: Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County: A Family, A Virginia Town, A Civil Rights Struggle Author: Kristen Green ISBN: 9780062268679 Pages: 336 Release Date: June 9, 2015 Publisher: Harper Genre: Nonfiction, History Source: Publisher Summary: Kristen Green was born and raised in Farmville, Virginia, and for a long time, she didn’t give a lot of thought […]

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Book Review: Meet Me in Atlantis – Mark Adams

Title: Meet Me in Atlantis: My Obsessive Quest to Find the Sunken City Author: Mark Adams ISBN: 9780525953708 Pages: 320 Release Date: March 10, 2015 Publisher: Dutton Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, History Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Fascinated by the Atlantis legend, and the current work being done to locate the famous lost city, […]

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Book Review: The Interstellar Age – Jim Bell

Title: The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission Author: Jim Bell ISBN: 9780525954323 Pages: 336 Release Date: February 24, 2015 Publisher: Dutton Genre: Nonfiction, Space/Science/NASA, History Source: Publisher Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: The Voyager missions have been some of the most successful in NASA’s history. They began in 1977, but are still […]

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