The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

The Wicked Boy Kate Summerscale

Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

In June 1930 an eleven-year-old boy walked four miles along a dirt track in New South Wales, south-eastern Australia, to report a crime.

About

Early in the morning of Monday 8 July 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes and his twelve-year-old brother Nattie set out from their small, yellow-brick terraced house in East London to watch a cricket match at Lord’s. Their father had gone to sea the previous Friday, the boys told their neighbours, and their mother was visiting her family in Liverpool. Over the next ten days Robert and Nattie spent extravagantly, pawning their parents’ valuables to fund trips to the theatre and the seaside. But as the sun beat down on the Coombes house, a strange smell began to emanate from the building.

When the police were finally called to investigate, the discovery they made sent the press into a frenzy of horror and alarm, and Robert and Nattie were swept up in a criminal trial that echoed the outrageous plots of the ‘penny dreadful’ novels that Robert loved to read.

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The Soong Dynasty by Sterling Seagrave

The Soong Dynasty Seagrave

Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

Shanghai no longer smells like the Mysterious East.

About

Descendants of a Chinese runaway who grew up in America under the protection of the Methodist church and who returned to his homeland to make a fortune selling Western bibles, the Soong family became the principal rulers of China during the first half of the 20th century and won the support of the American government and press for many decades.

Sterling Seagrave describes for the first time the intricate and fascinating rise to power of Charlie Soong and his children: daughters Ai-ling, who married one of China’s richest men, H.H. Kung; Ching-ling, who married Sun Yat-sen, leader of China’s republican revolution; May-ling, who married Chiang Kai-shek, the autocratic ruler of Nationalist China whose ties to the Shanghai underworld the author has documented; and son T.V. Soong, who at various times served as Chiang’s economic minister, foreign minister and premier. How all of the Soongs except Ching-ling amassed enormous wealth while millions of Chinese starved or were killed in the long fight against Japan and the equally bitter struggle with Mao are just some of the revelations in this explosive book.

 

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Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

empress-dowager-cixi

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

In spring 1852, in one of the periodic nationwide selections for imperial consorts, a sixteen-year-old girl caught the eye of the emperor and was chosen as a concubine.


About

Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908) is the most important woman in Chinese history. She ruled China for decades and brought a medieval empire into the modern age.

In this groundbreaking biography, Jung Chang vividly describes how Cixi fought against monumental obstacles to change China. Under her the ancient country attained virtually all the attributes of a modern state: industries, railways, electricity, the telegraph and an army and navy with up-to-date weaponry. Chang comprehensively overturns the conventional view of Cixi as a diehard conservative and cruel despot.

Cixi reigned during extraordinary times and had to deal with a host of major national crises: the Taiping and Boxer rebellions, wars with France and Japan—and an invasion by eight allied powers including Britain, Germany, Russia and the United States.

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Civil War by Peter Ackroyd

Civil War History of Englad Volume 3


Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

Sir Robert Carey rode furiously from London to Edinburgh along the Great North Road, spending one night in Yorkshire and another in Northumberland; he arrived at Holyrood Palace, ‘be-bloodied with great falls and bruises’ after a journey of more than 330 miles.



About

Peter Ackroyd continues his History of England with the dynasty of the Stuarts. From the gunpowder plot to the revolution and battles of the Civil War just until the landing of William the Conqueror in England in what would later be called the Glorious Revolution.

It is a history of a fascinating time and a troubled monarchy, caught between their wish for absolute power and parliamentary restrictions.


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Tudors: The History of England from Henry VIII to Elizabeth I by Peter Ackroyd

The Tudors

Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆

The land was flowing with milk and honey.



About

The Tudors is the second volume in Peter Ackroyd’s History of England after Foundation. It follows the Tudor dynasty from Henry VIII to Elizabeth II and chronicles the events that led to the establishment of the Anglican Church. From its beginnings as Henry VIII’s power-play, through the short reign of Edward VI and the reinstitution of the Catholic faith under Mary I all the way to the reign of Elizabeth I, under whom England became firmly Anglican.

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One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson

One Summer America 1927 Cover

Rating: 4 Stars ★★★★☆

On a warm spring evening just before Easter 1927, people who lived in tall buildings in New York were given pause when wooden scaffolding around the tower of the brand-new Sherry-Netherland Apartment Hotel caught fire and it became evident that the city’s firemen lacked any means to get water to such a height.



About

In the summer of 1927, a young man named Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic alone and landed the Spirit of St Louis successfully in Paris. But it was not the only thing to happen in that long summer in America. Bill Bryson tells the events and stories of that summer and the effects they had on future events, focussing on some key themes: flying, baseball, boxing and Prohibition.

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Ghosts at Christmas

Ghosts at Christmas

 

The smell of cookies and pine is in the air. The room is lit dimly only by the flickering of the candles. It is warm and peaceful. But not for long. For everyone is listening attentively to the sound of a single voice telling a story of hauntings and ghosts.

Christmas is a time of peace and family and happy endings. But there is just something about this time of the year that makes some people yearn for something else. That makes us crave something darker. Stories of murder and, of course, of ghosts.

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