Pen & Sword TBR Pile Review: Richard III – Fact and Fiction, by Matthew Lewis

41093351
Hardcover, 127 pages
Published March 20th 2019 by Pen and Sword History
ISBN1526727978 (ISBN13: 9781526727978)

Blurb

King Richard III remains one of the most infamous and recognisable monarchs in English or British history, despite only sitting on the throne for two years and fifty-eight days. His hold on the popular imagination is largely due to the fictional portrayal of him by William Shakespeare which, combined with the workings of five centuries of rumour and gossip, has created two opposing versions of Richard. In fiction he is the evil, scheming murderer who revels in his plots, but many of the facts point towards a very different man.

Dissecting a real Richard III from the fictional versions that have taken hold is made difficult by the inability to discern motives in many instances, leaving a wide gap for interpretation that can be favorable or damning in varying degrees. It is the facts that will act as the scalpel to begin the operation of finding a truth obscured by fiction.

Richard III may have been a monster, a saint, or just a man trying to survive, but any view of him should be based in the realities of his life, not the myths built on rumour and theatre. How much of what we think we know about England’s most controversial monarch will remain when the facts are sifted from the fictions? 

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Pen & Sword Review: The History of Video Games, by Charlie Fish

55182782
By Charlie Fish
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 120
Illustrations: 150 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526778970
Published: 28th May 2021

This book is a potted history of video games, telling all the rollercoaster stories of this fascinating young industry that’s now twice as big globally than the film and music industries combined. Each chapter explores the history of video games through a different lens, giving a uniquely well-rounded overview.

Packed with pictures and stats, this book is for video gamers nostalgic for the good old days of gaming, and young gamers curious about how it all began. If you’ve ever enjoyed a video game, or you just want to see what all the fuss is about, this book is for you.

There are stories about the experimental games of the 1950s and 1960s; the advent of home gaming in the 1970s; the explosion – and implosion – of arcade gaming in the 1980s; the console wars of the 1990s; the growth of online and mobile games in the 2000s; and we get right up to date with the 2010s, including such cultural phenomena as twitch.tv, the Gamergate scandal, and Fortnite.

But rather than telling the whole story from beginning to end, each chapter covers the history of video games from a different angle: platforms and technology, people and personalities, companies and capitalism, gender and representation, culture, community, and finally the games themselves. 

My Review

This book was sent to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.

I hang around with gamers. It would be nice to have some idea of what they’re babbling on about. This book provides a history of computer games from several different angles. I found this a useful way of understanding the developments, especially the chapters about console development and about culture.

There are lots of pictures, some quite nostalgic – my sister had an original game boy with Tetris and Super Mario for instance. The biographies of important people involved in games and console development were interesting. A couple of them are definitely autistic.

There was quite a bit of detail and the references are fairly extensive so as a place to start, this potted history is a good one.

Unfortunately, the two chapters I was really interested in were truncated. Between pages 65 and 81 – most of the chapters on the important personalities of games development and gender and representation in games – had been replaced by a repeat of the previous chapter, on console development. I understand that I got an an ARC so errors happen, but it is disappointing.

Pen & Sword TBR Pile: A History of Death n 17th Century England, by Ben Norman

51351995
Paperback, 208 pages
Published November 23rd 2020 by
Pen and Sword History
ISBN:1526755262 (ISBN13: 9781526755261)

Delve into the world of the unorthodox burial in seventeenth-century England, including mass interments in times of disease, the burial of suicides, and the unconventional laying to rest of English Catholics.

Death was a constant presence in the lives of the rich and poor alike in seventeenth-century England, being much more visible in everyday existence than it is today. It is a highly important and surprisingly captivating part of the epic story of England during the turbulent years of the 1600s. This book guides readers through the subject using a chronological approach, as would have been experienced by those living in the country at the time, beginning with the myriad causes of death, including disease, war, and capital punishment, and finishing with an exploration of posthumous commemoration. Although contemporaries of the seventeenth century did not fully realize it, when it came to the confrontation of mortality they were living in wildly changing times. 

My Review

Thanks to Rosie Crofts at Pen & Sword for sending me a copy of this book. It is one of many that I am working my way through.

This book covers the ways people died, how they were buried and how they were remembered in 17th century England. It’s a very specific subject, and it’s rather fun to read about a single subject sometimes. Sometimes I like learning about specific subjects as well as wider ranging books. This one was fascinating.

Humans have a habit of thinking that how things are now are how things have always been. In life and death. But that’s not always true. And this is one of those ways in which things are the same and different. People still die, are disposed of and are remembered, and most are buried in consecrated ground.

People don’t die from the plague anymore, and rarely die in war, Catholics don’t get buried in ditches and people who complete suicide aren’t buried at cross-roads with a stake through the heart. We don’t hang criminals either.

Which is nice.

This book covers the various ways people died, how they acted on the deathbed, funerals, unusual burials and how people remembered the dead. It has some interesting photographs and extracts from primary documents, to illustrate the descriptions.

I found the writing easy to read. I read a large chunk in one sitting and then had to finish the last chapter some weeks later due to other commitments. I could pick up the thread fairly easily and get back right into the book.

If you want to read a different perspective on the turbulent years of the 17th century, and you’re interested in death, I recommend this book.

For my friend Nicky: There are some good tips on ancient gravestones you could follow up for photographing.

Non-Fiction TBR Pile Review: The Dark Fantastic – Race and the imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games

42129087
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 21st 2019 by
New York University Press
ISBN:1479800651 (ISBN13: 9781479800650)

Reveals the diversity crisis in children’s and young adult media as not only a lack of representation, but a lack of imagination

Stories provide portals into other worlds, both real and imagined. The promise of escape draws people from all backgrounds to speculative fiction, but when people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, the doors are often barred. This problem lies not only with children’s publishing, but also with the television and film executives tasked with adapting these stories into a visual world. When characters of color do appear, they are often marginalized or subjected to violence, reinforcing for audiences that not all lives matter.

The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.

In response, Thomas uncovers and builds upon a tradition of fantasy and radical imagination in Black feminism and Afrofuturism to reveal new possibilities. Through fanfiction and other modes of counter-storytelling, young people of color have reinvisioned fantastic worlds that reflect their own experiences, their own lives. As Thomas powerfully asserts, “we dark girls deserve more, because we are more.”

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Review: The Domestic Revolution, by Ruth Goodman @omarabooks @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

Blurb 

A large black cast iron range glowing hot, the kettle steaming on top, provider of everything from bath water and clean socks to morning tea: it’s a nostalgic icon of a Victorian way of life. But it is far more than that. In this book, social historian and TV presenter Ruth Goodman tells the story of how the development of the coal-fired domestic range fundamentally changed not just our domestic comforts, but our world.

The revolution began as far back as the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when London began the switch from wood to coal as its domestic fuel – a full 200 years before any other city. It would be this domestic demand for more coal that would lead to the expansion of mining, engineering, construction and industry: the Domestic Revolution kick-started, pushed and fuelled the Industrial Revolution.

There were other radical shifts. Coal cooking was to change not just how we cooked but what we cooked (causing major swings in diet), how we washed (first our laundry and then our bodies) and how we decorated (spurring the wallpaper industry). It also defined the nature of women’s and men’s working lives, pushing women more firmly into the domestic sphere. It transformed our landscape and environment (by the time of Elizabeth’s death in 1603, London’s air was as polluted as that of modern Beijing). Even tea drinking can be brought back to coal in the home, with all its ramifications for the shape of the empire and modern world economics.

Taken together, these shifts in our day-to-day practices started something big, something unprecedented, something that was exported across the globe and helped create the world we live in today.

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Pen and Sword TBR Pile Review: Balloons and Airships, by Anthony Burton

Balloons and Airships
By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 60
ISBN: 9781526719492
Published: 30th September 2019

This book tells the often dramatic and always fascinating story of flight in lighter than air machines. For centuries man had dreamed of flying, but all attempts failed, until in 1782 the Montgolfier brothers constructed the world’s first hot air balloon The following year saw the first ascent with aeronauts – not human beings but a sheep, a duck and a cockerel. But it was not long before men and women too took to the air and became ever more adventurous. The aeronauts became famous giving displays before crowds of thousands, often accompanied by special effects.

In the early years, ballooning was a popular pastime, but in the 19th century it found a new use with the military. Balloons were used to send messages out during the Siege of Paris and later found a role as observation balloons for the artillery. But their use was always limited by the fact that they were at the mercy of the wind. There were numerous attempts at steering balloons, and various attempts were made to power them but it was the arrival of the internal combustion engine that saw the balloon transformed into the airship. The most famous developer of airships was Graf von Zeppelin and the book tells the story of the use of his airships in both peacetime and at war. There were epic adventures including flights over the poles and for a time, commercial airships flourished – then came the disaster of the Hindenburg. Airships still fly today and ballooning has become a hugely popular pastime.

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Pen & Sword Review: The Real World of Victorian Steampunk, by Simon Webb

43972585
Paperback, 168 pages
Published November 13th 2019 by Pen and Sword History
ISBN: 1526732858 (ISBN13: 9781526732859)

In the last few decades, steampunk has blossomed from being a rather obscure and little-known subgenre of science fiction into a striking and distinctive style of fashion, art, design and even music. It is in the written word however that steampunk has its roots and in this book Simon Webb explores and examines the real inventions which underpin the fantasy. In doing so, he reveals a world unknown to most people today.

The Real World of Victorian Steampunk shows the Victorian era to have been a surprising place; one of steam-powered airplanes, fax machines linking Moscow and St Petersburg, steam cars traveling at over 100 mph, electric taxis and wireless telephones. It is, in short, the nineteenth century as you have never before seen it; a steampunk extravaganza of anachronistic technology and unfamiliar gadgets. Imagine Europe spanned by a mechanical internet; a telecommunication system of clattering semaphore towers capable of transmitting information across the continent in a matter of minutes. Consider too, the fact that a steam plane the size of a modern airliner took off in England in 1894.

Drawing entirely on contemporary sources, we see how little-known developments in technology have been used as the basis for so many steampunk narratives. From seminal novels such as The Difference Engine, through to the steampunk fantasy of Terry Pratchett’s later works, this book shows that steampunk is at least as much solid fact as it is whimsical fiction. 

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TBR Pile Review: Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain, by Mike Rendell

Sex and Sexuality in Georgian Britain
By Mike Rendell
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations – integrated and 8 page mono plates
ISBN: 9781526755629
Published: 29th October 2020
Price: £10.49 was £14.99

Peek beneath the bedsheets of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Britain in this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality during the reigns of Georges I-IV. It examines the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour, and the ways in which these attitudes were often determined by those in positions of power and authority. It also explores our ancestors’ ingenious, surprising, bizarre and often entertaining solutions to the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy sex life.

Did the people in Georgian Britain live up to their stereotypes when it came to sexual behaviour? This book will answer this question, as well as looking at fashion, food, science, art, medicine, magic, literature, love, politics, faith and superstition through a new lens, leaving the reader enlightened and with a new regard for the ingenuity and character of our ancestors.

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Review: The Philosopher Queens, ed. by Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting

17th September 2020 | PBO £9.99

Where are all the women philosophers?
• A beautifully illustrated introduction to twenty of the most important and underrepresented women philosophers, from 400BCE to the present day
• In 2015, women accounted for only 22% of philosophy professors at the top 20 US universities; in some fields of philosophy there has been almost no increase in the number of women since the 1970s
• Three of the most comprehensive histories of philosophy published in the last 20 years have made little or no mention of women

The history of philosophy has not done women justice: you’ve probably heard the names Plato, Kant, Nietzsche and Locke – but what about Hypatia, Arendt, Oluwole and Young?

The Philosopher Queens is a long-awaited book about the lives and works of women in philosophy by women in philosophy. This collection brings to centre stage twenty prominent women whose ideas have had a profound – but for the most part uncredited – impact on the
world.

You’ll learn about Ban Zhao, the first woman historian in ancient Chinese history; Angela Davis, perhaps the most iconic symbol of the American Black Power Movement; Azizah Y. al- Hibri, known for examining the intersection of Islamic law and gender equality; and many more.

For anyone who has wondered where the women philosophers are, or anyone curious about the history of ideas – it’s time to meet the philosopher queens.

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Review: Nothin’ But A Good Time, by Justin Quirk

PAPERBACK
978-1-78965-135-5
3 September 2020
£10.99 / $14.99 / €11.66

From 1983 until 1991, Glam Metal was the sound of American culture. Big hair, massive amplifiers, drugs, alcohol, piles of money and life-threatening
pyrotechnics. This was the world stalked by Bon Jovi, Kiss, W.A.S.P., Skid Row, Dokken, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ratt and many more. Armed with hairspray, spandex and strangely shaped guitars, they marked the last great era of supersize bands.
Where did Glam Metal come from? How did it spread? What killed it off? And why does nobody admit to having been a Glam Metaller anymore?

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