×

Warning

JUser: :_load: Unable to load user with ID: 885

Posts tagged 'Liz Picks'

The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge

William Marshall was born the younger son of a minor English noble and as a result, was legally landless. His life was also chaotic; when he was only five years old his father gave him to the king as surety for a debt. While this solved some of his father's problems it was dangerous for William. Enraged that the debt was not paid in money the king sentenced the five-year old William to death by hanging. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and William escaped the noose. He grew up to become  a wealthy knight and in time, rose to the rank of Earl.

William was the consummate knight, both battle tested and a tournament champion. The model of the chivalrous knight, William was was anything but soft  toward his enemies. He served five British kings, beginning with Henry II and his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. William's influence extended to his helping negotiate the terms of the Magna Carta. His life was never a calm one as the politics of the time required shifting alliances and a cool head.

Thomas Asbridge was able to tell William's colorful story thanks to the earthing of a 13th century biography of the knight. In 1861, a French scholar bought the volume, the only known copy, at auction and it has been kept in various private collections. This book is rich in historical detail and includes genealogical charts and maps, which add to the story.

new nonfiction  Liz Picks  knights  England  Biographies

07/03/15
 

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey

When I think of black diamonds, I think of the black gem stone, not coal. But coal and coal mining is the subject of this account of the aristocratic Fitzwilliam family and their Yorkshire coal mines. This fast-paced social history shows how coal gave this family its fortunes yet also caused its rapid downfall.

The family owned not only a vast estate but most important, the mineral rights to the coal below ground. The villages the coal miners lived in, the schools, hospitals, stores, everything that touched the miners' lives was dependent on the Fitzwilliam family. By all accounts they were decent people to work for and the mines were productive and successful. When the 6th Earl Fitzwilliam died in 1902 he left an estate among the richest in England.

The family lived in the 300-plus room Wentworth House, once the largest privately owned house in England. But the politics that emerged after the great wars changed the family's fortunes in a spectacularly short time. The Labour government that came to power after the first World War levied massive taxes on the great landed estates; the government nationalized the country's mines following World War II. Today the Fitzwilliam estate is a wasteland and the once great Wentworth House a ruin.

Bailey writes books about the British aristocracy and their failings and foibles. In this fascinating book she lays the family's affairs, politics, deaths, alcoholism, illegitimate children, the cutting off of heirs and its ties to the Kennedy family bare for all to see. The story of their spectacular downfall reads like a novel. I found it fascinating.

non fiction that reads like fiction  new nonfiction  Liz Picks  England

05/05/15
 

Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman

The book opens on the morning of Lord and Lady Montfort's annual summer ball. Iyntwood, a Downton Abbey-like house is in an uproar. Guests are arriving, supplies being delivered and the family black sheep, Teddy Mallory, Lord Montfort's nephew and ward, who has just been tossed out of Oxford for bad behavior, is on his way home. His removal from Oxford is just another incident in a long list of indiscretions.

The ball moves ahead as planned and everyone is having a good time, including Teddy who is being his usual horrible self. Things take a very bad turn the next morning, however, when the estate's gamekeeper finds a man  hanging from a gibbet in the woods. He turns out to be a family member and the guests are now sequestered at Iyntwood while the police investigate.

This book reads like a Downton Abbey episode as the very proper upper crust try to deal with a family scandal while around them there are more scandals, involving yet more guests and staff.  One murder, a missing guest, secrets and a missing house maid all make for a light mystery read. If you are a Downton Abbey fan this book is for you!  If you like cozy mysteries this book is for you. And if you are looking for a new mystery author, this book is for you!

new author  Liz Picks  cozy mystery

04/20/15
 

The Explorers

"Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit"
Frank Borman, Apollo Astronaut
The Explorers is a book about the hunt for the headwaters of the Nile River, except when it is a book about the quirky people who personify the word "explorer." It is September 1854, Jack Speke, 27 years old, has just finished a 10 year tour with the British Army in India. Born to a family with an ancient estate in rural England he was a loner who had not done well in school. He loved to hunt and collect game specimens and killed "anything new and unique that wandered into his path" shipping the heads and pelts back to his ancestral home.
Speke left the army one day and the next day boarded a ship for Calcutta. He was going to give big game hunting in Africa a try. The problem was he was woefully unprepared and totally ignorant of the African continent. Forbidden from setting off on his journey, he met Richard Francis Burton. Burton was an experienced adventurer and famous in England. Burton spoke multiple languages, had traveled to Mecca, and translated the Kama Sutra into English.  He was also one man short on his expedition so he asked Speke to join. They received permission and set off. Their fate twined together. By the end of this journey after being taken hostage, tortured, suffering from medical ailments no one had ever experienced before, they hated each other.  So it was a surprise when they teamed up again to find the source of the Nile. Their relationship did not improve.
In a conversational tone the book tells of other explorers, their mistakes (lucky and otherwise), and the seven traits that all explorers must possess. Each chapter deals with one trait, applying it to Speke, Burton and others. The history of exploration is looked at, as well as where exploration stands today. The book contains a lot history and some information didn't know about, always a plus! I love a book about explorers, I love sagas. This book was both.

new non fiction  Liz Picks  explorers  adventure

03/21/15
 

How We Got to Now by Steve Johnson

Did you ever wonder how sometimes something leads to something else that appears to be totally unrelated? In this book, Steve Johnson a New York Times bestselling author and host of the PBS/BBC series How We Got to Now will explain just how that happens.

Johnson terms the book " a work of history written sometime in the future by some form of artificial intelligence, mapping out the history of the preceding millennium." Doesn't that explain it? But what the book does talk about is how 6 ideas and innovations have triggered changes that seem to have nothing to do with the original idea. Johnson's 6 ideas: glass, cold, sound, clean, time and light.

He starts by explaining that innovations usually begin with an attempt to solve a specific problem but end up triggering changes that have seemingly nothing to do with the original problem (think Velcro). A new innovation is really a network of new ideas. For example, the printing press. The printing press created a demand for eyeglasses so people could see the printed word more clearly which led to experiments with lenses which led to the microscope. Johnson calls this the hummingbird effect.

The focus is on North American and European ideas and innovations and the book doesn't deal with the relative value of the idea. His example is air conditioning which has allowed people to live in the desert and that negatively affects water supply. Johnson starts with glass, starting with an event 26 million years ago in the Libyan desert and continuing right up to today's fiber optics.

new non fiction  Liz Picks

03/13/15