The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury

Lost King of France Deborah Cadbury

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

From the portrait by Alexandre Kucharski, Louis-Charles, Duc de Normandie looks out confidently on the world with large blue eyes in a sensitive face framed by fair hair; the perfect storybook prince.

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In 1793, when Marie-Antoinette was beheaded at the guillotine, she left her adored eight-year-old son imprisoned in the Temple Tower. Far from inheriting the throne, the orphaned boy-king had to endure the hostility and abuse of a nation. Two years later, the revolutionary leaders declared the young Louis XVII dead, prompting rumors of murder. No grave was dug, no monument built to mark his passing. Soon thereafter, the theory circulated that the prince had in fact escaped from prison and was still alive. Others believed that he had been killed, his heart preserved as a relic. The quest for the truth continued into the twenty-first century when, thanks to DNA testing, a stolen heart found within the royal tombs brought an exciting conclusion to the two-hundred-year-old mystery.

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A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes by Adam Rutherford

A Brief History of Everyone who Ever Lived The Stories in Our Genes

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

This is a story about you.

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It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is to each of the 100 billion modern humans who have ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in every one of our genomes we each carry the history of our species – births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration and a lot of sex.

Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001 it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims and myths. In fact, as Adam Rutherford explains, our genomes should be read not as instruction manuals, but as epic poems. DNA determines far less than we have been led to believe about us as individuals, but vastly more about us as a species.

In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about history, and what history tells us about our genes. From Neanderthals to murder, from redheads to race, dead kings to plague, evolution to epigenetics, this is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.

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Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Young Stalin Simon Sebag Montefiore

Rating: 2.5 Stars ★★☆☆☆

On 17 May 1872, a handsome young cobbler, the very model of a chivalrous Georgian man, Vissarion ‘Beso’ Djugashvili, aged twenty-two, married Ekaterina ‘Keke’ Geladze, seventeen, an attractive freckled girl with auburn hair, at the Uspensky Church in the small Georgian town of Gori.

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What makes a Stalin? Was he a Tsarist agent or Lenin’s bandit? Was he to blame for his wife’s death? When did the killing start?

Based on revelatory research, here is the thrilling story of how a charismatic cobbler’s son became a student priest, romantic poet, prolific lover, gangster mastermind and murderous revolutionary. Culminating in the 1917 revolution, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s bestselling biography radically alters our understanding of the gifted politician and fanatical Marxist who shaped the Soviet empire in his own brutal image. This is the story of how Stalin became Stalin.

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The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell

The Road to Wigan Pier Orwell

Rating: 2 Stars ★★☆☆☆

The first sound in the mornings was the clumping of the mill-girls’ clogs down the cobbled street.

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A searing account of George Orwell’s experiences of working-class life in the bleak industrial heartlands of Yorkshire and Lancashire, The Road to Wigan Pier is a brilliant and bitter polemic that has lost none of its political impact over time. His graphically unforgettable descriptions of social injustice, slum housing, mining conditions, squalor, hunger and growing unemployment are written with unblinking honesty, fury and great humanity.

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Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar

Dead Mountain Dyatlov Pass Incident

Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

Two figures trudge across a snowy expanse.

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In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident—unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes—have led to decades of speculation over what really happened.

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Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime by Val McDermid

Forensics The Anatomy of Crime

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

The face of justice we know today has not always been judicious.

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The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

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The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey God Douglas PrestonRating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

Deep in Honduras, in a region called La Mosquitia, lie some of the last unexplored places on earth.

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Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumours have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden deep in the Honduran interior. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and warn the legendary city is cursed: to enter it is a death sentence. They call it the Lost City of the Monkey God.

Bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a single-engine plane carrying a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but a lost civilization.

To confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, plagues of insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. They emerged from the jungle with proof of the legend… and the curse.

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