Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Book bingo reviews - athene
Book bingo reviews

Time for a book bingo update! I've now filled 9 squares on my book bingo card, although still no sign of a bingo. However, I now have something of a backlog of book reviews pending, so here are a few for the non-fiction books I've been reading over the last few months.

The Demon's Brood - the Plantagenet Dynasty that Forged the English Nation, by Desmond Seward. Fills the 'out of your comfort zone' square

On first glance, I admit it may look slightly like cheating to choose a history book for the 'out of your comfort zone' square, but stick with me here. My specialist areas of interest are ancient Greece, and prehistoric Britain and Europe (particularly the Neolithic and Bronze Ages). I also dabble in Roman history, and occasionally dip a toe into Anglo-Saxon and Viking Britain. I often joke that anything later than the Norman conquest and I've lost interest because it's just too recent!

However, in the last year or so it has come to my attention that my knowledge of the last thousand years of British history prior to the 20th century is somewhat lacking. It basically goes: 1066 Norman conquest... something something... Wars of the Roses... something something... Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, some miscellaneous Jameses and Charleses ... something something... some miscellaneous Williams and Georges... something something... Queen Victoria.

So, I've decided to rectify this rather large gap in my knowledge, and started with a book about the Plantagenets, who were the kings that bridged the gap between the first Norman rulers and the Tudor dynasty that everyone knows so much about, a period from the middle of the 12th century to 1485 and the death of Richard III at Bosworth.

This book was actually a really interesting read. It was ideal for me as a bit of a newcomer to this period of history, as it wasn't massively in-depth. Each king gets a single chapter, and it follows them in chronological order, covering the king and his personality and relationships, any major historical events that took place during his reign (such as wars, plague, peasants revolt, etc), and his main achievements and/or failures.

I have to admit, I did get a bit lost on occasion, and found myself making frequent reference to the detailed family trees in the front pages of the book, but that was more because the kings in that period were *extremely* unimaginative with names, and there were multiple Henrys and several Edwards, and I may have got confused which one was which after a while!

Also I had difficulty with all the names of the earls and barons and dukes, because rather than use their *actual* name, the author tends to refer to them as Gloucester, or York, or Lancaster (as in, the Duke of Gloucester, the Duke of York, etc). Obviously this is a title that gets passed down through generations, but also gets passed around as noble families fall out of favour and are usurped, so again I found myself having to refer to the family trees to remind myself who 'York' or 'Exeter' was during this particular king's reign (and how they all related to each other!).

Those grumbles aside, however, I really enjoyed reading this book, and now feel that I have a decent basic grounding in this period of history. Enough that I now find myself wanting to delve a bit deeper into particular events and particular kings. Watch this space for further adventures in the Middle Ages!

How Evolution Explains Everything About Life (New Scientist Instant Expert series), editor Alison George. Fills a wild card square

I wouldn't describe this as in idiots guide to evolution, because I had to admit some of the more technical bits about genetics lost me, but basically it's a series of articles on the current state of research in evolution. I was particularly interested in the chapters on the origins of life, as that has long been a topic that fascinates me, and the chapters about Charles Darwin and how he developed his ideas were actually fairly new information for me. As I said, I did get a little bit lost with some of the more in-depth genetics chapters, but not so lost that I couldn't get a basic grasp of what it was all about, I think I just missed some of the detail.

As the name implies, this book is linked to New Scientist magazine, so the level it's pitched at is very much the same as the magazine itself - the interested layman with a basic knowledge of science (for the record, I haven't formally studied any science subject beyond GCSE level).

If you're at all interested in the current state of evolutionary research, and already have a basic knowledge of the subject, then I'd recommend this book as a very interesting and informative read. If you're a complete beginner, it's possibly not the best place to start.

lj book bingo card 2018


8 comments or Leave a comment
justjo2u From: justjo2u Date: May 16th, 2018 07:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm laughing so much at your description of the gaps in your historical knowledge. Keli and I had a similar conversation in London. My knowledge would go "1066, norman conquest, Plantagenets, Tudors, Some Jameses and Charleses. Oliver Cromwell, something, something, lots of Georges and Williams, Victoria. We sort of made a half hearted agreement to learn more about the Georges and Williams!

I agree about the names and titles.... Someone once said to me about 'Clarence', "But I thought his name was George." Um... yeah George, Duke of Clarence"
BBC recently had a Platagenets documentary if you are interested. Part 1 has expired from IPlayer but can be watched here


Episodes 2 and 3 are still on iPlayer but due to expire soon


There's a 4 part documentary on Channel 5 too on catch up. Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty.


(You can tell I love this period of history that i just happen to have all those bookmarked!)

I'm with you on not having studied any science formally since my O levels. I do find it interesting though.

Glad you enjoyed both books.
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: May 18th, 2018 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I watched the Plantagenets series on BBC4, and also the recent BBC4 series about the 100 Years War with France, which covers a period right in the middle of the Plantagenets reign.

It actually got a bit confusing, because I was simultaneously watching both series, at the same time as reading the book, so while I was reading about Richard I, I was watching Edward III on one series and Henry V on the other! It was not necessarily helpful to me keeping track of who's who, lol! :-)

I might need to check out that channel 5 series, though. I'd not seen that one. Thanks!
justjo2u From: justjo2u Date: May 20th, 2018 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had similar confusion a couple of years ago. I was watching the White Queen plus reading both fictional and factual books on Richard III and that period, plus doing an online course on England in the Time of Richard III. I was having issues remembering what was fact and what was fiction after a while.

Channel 5 do some amazing documentaries, not just history ones. We've recently been enjoying Britain's Great Cathedrals with Tony robinson. Worth checking out their website for 'catch up' shows.
honor_reid From: honor_reid Date: May 17th, 2018 04:25 am (UTC) (Link)
lol I have similar gaps in American history.

Although the book does sound interesting. I like how each King gets one chapter that allows you to learn a little bit without being overwhelmed.

Congratulations on finishing all of those books!
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: May 18th, 2018 08:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
It was definitely a good book to start with, it had enough detail to be interesting and informative, but not so much that you got completely lost if you weren't familiar with the period. Definitely a good starting point to go on to more in-depth books.
fififolle From: fififolle Date: May 26th, 2018 06:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
Goodness, heavy and fascinating :D

You know, I bet Louise would be chuffed if you offered a month on Book of the Month at Denial... you've already got the review ready *g* Handy link... https://primeval-denial.livejournal.com/5537041.html :D
deinonychus_1 From: deinonychus_1 Date: May 30th, 2018 05:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm definitely in the middle of a non-fiction phase at the moment. My current book is all about the Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean and Near East, and even I'm surprised by how much of a page-turner it is, lol!

Sadly, I'm not sure that evolution book is entirely relevant enough for denial bookshelf. It's more about the theory of evolution itself rather than more general palaeontology. Otherwise, it's a good suggestion! :-)
fififolle From: fififolle Date: June 2nd, 2018 08:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Given Nick was an evolutionary scientist, I don't see why it can't fill a slot :D Just a thought!

I can hardly imagine a Bronze age page-turner, I am impressed!! :D
8 comments or Leave a comment