Sir Francis Bryan – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleSir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most
Notorious Ambassador
AuthorSara-Beth Watkins
PublisherChronos Books (February 1, 2020)
FormatKindle, Paperback,
ISBN #1789043417 ISBN 13(978-1789043419)


Sara-Beth Watkins is a successful and popular author. She is an autodidact and grew up in Surrey, England. During her childhood she was drawn to the subjects of history and writing. Following a career as a tutor of the written word, she branched out to professional writing. Her early works were successful, and they focused on self-help. The success of her initial releases inspired here to combine her childhood interests and the result has been an avalanche of superb historic works of littérature. 


Those who enjoy historic literature in general or Tudor history, in particular, may enjoy this manuscript. Scholars or academics studying college courses in history may find Sir Francis Bryan very useful. 


Sir Francis Bryan is a comprehensive and detailed life of a Tudor aristocrat. The period referred to by the title is from 1490 when Francis Bryan was born to his death in 1550. The volume explores the life and times of Bryan; his heritage, Knighthood, and other heraldic awards acquired during King Henry’s monarchy and thereafter. 

Bryan was a loyal functionary of not just one monarch but several Royal Houses during his lifetime. He was very well rewarded for his friendship and his loyalty. However, the rewards were all too often depleted by the demands placed upon him by the very sovereign that accorded them to him. ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold (June 1520)’ is where Bryan paid more than the King for the much-heralded celebration. A celebration that preceded The Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530’s.

Watkins has managed to take a character and present the man behind the myth. There is a genuine sense of him, his personality and his human failings. We are left in no doubt that he was a ‘man’s man’ that is to say someone who works hard, plays hard, and likes to chase the ladies. 

Bryan lived at a time in English history that saw momentous constitutional and religious changes. A period of great upheaval, wars, religious inspired pogroms and strife. It was a time that friendship nor marriage alone could guarantee your safety. It is safe to assume that Bryan was blessed with what would be labeled today as a considerable degree of social intelligence. He navigated his way successfully across several monarchs’ rule, and survived.

Whilst Watkins has provided us a comprehensive and detailed biography through extensive research, she has avoided the licentious and depraved aspects of Bryans life’s choices. There is a hint of his lascivious tastes, but an accurate account is missing. There is no doubt as to Bryan’s skills in diplomacy, aided by his knowledge of several languages, “savoir faire” in his mandated tasks. Bryan cleverly negotiates the daily dangers of court life and of managing the expectations of his close friend and King. He used his personality, confidence, intelligence and elan, to communicate truth to power and maintain his head. 

Watkins has produced a concise and broad ranging personal history in a succinct format. The book holds together well, and it is suffused with material. 


There is a significant skill in writing historic biographies and maintaining a pace that holds the reader’s attention. This skill is even more admirable when taken into consideration the vast gaps in the historic record for a person’s daily life experiences. This lack of accurate information is true even of those in close contact with the monarchs. 

Sara-Beth Watkins has managed to write yet another captivating, informative and entertaining read. 

Sir Francis Bryan includes monochrome pictures, references, a bibliography and an Appendix. 


My sincere thanks go to: Sara-Beth Watkins (Author), NetGalley, and the Publisher (Chronos Books) for affording me the opportunity to review Sir Francis Bryan: Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Ambassador.


Litercurious Book Review

TitlePlate Tectonics and Great Earthquakes
AuthorLynn R. Sykes (Ph.D.)
PublisherColumbia University Press (Jun 4, 2019)
FormatKindle, Hardcover
ISBN #0231186886   ISBN #-13 (978-0231186889)     


Lynn Sykes is a Higgins Professor Emeritus, of Environmental Earth Sciences at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Sykes graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) and Master of Science (M.Sc.) in geology from MIT in 1960. Later Sykes attended Columbia University where he earned his Doctorate in seismology in 1965. Three years later Sykes became a faculty member and was named the Higgins Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He taught geophysics, plate tectonics, and environmental hazards. Sykes became a member of the staff of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in 1965 and remained there until 2005 when he retired as a professor emeritus.

Dr. Sykes is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union which honored him with its Macelwane and Bucher Awards. Although Dr. Sykes is currently retired, he continues his lifelong research on earthquakes and nuclear explosions.


Professor Sykes ‘a posteriori’ writing style combined with the lack of ‘layman’ terms could prove to be off putting for those who are unlettered. Despite this, the science is well described and completely comprehensible to those with even a fundamental comprehension of basic High School science. For these reasons I would suggest that this manuscript is best suited to individuals with a strong interest in the subject or a broad knowledge of the science. Students of earth sciences, geophysics, oceanographers, and those who lecture in any of these subjects are the target audience. Those who would like to know more about the life and times of Dr. Skyes may appreciate the detailed biographic information about the scientist, his academics and his social journey.


The manuscript is very well written and is replete with an abundance of facts relating to the geologic sciences. In chapter one, Sykes provides a brief informative introduction on the subject. He has taken the time to provide beautifully detailed colored plates that significantly improve the understanding of the subject. 

I the next chapter Dr. Sykes introduces himself. I note that some reviewers saw this as a negative aspect of the volume; I did not, I found it both fascinating and elucidating. His qualifications clarified the extensive education and of over half a century of experience that collectively with his illustrious academic background supports the science in his text.

The following chapters, except for one, focused on complex and detailed information communicated via glorious full color plates, diagrams, photographs, and graphs. 

Within these chapters there are repeated mentions of the illustrious and notable, J. Tuzo Wilson (Ph.D.) of Toronto University. It was Dr. Wilson who recognized and originated the Theory of Transform Faults, a radically innovative method of earthquake study and analysis. Dr. Wilson is referenced 21 times throughout the book. Whilst the eminent German Geophysicist, Meterologist, and acknowledged originator of the Continental Drift Theory Dr. Alfred Wegener Ph.D. is only mentioned once. I considered the limited discussion on Dr. Wegener’s work on Continental Drift to be concerning. It was, after all, Dr. Wilson’s theory that ultimately led to today’s model of Plate Tectonics. 


Whilst the Plate Tectonics and Great Earthquakes cannot be described as scintillating or thrilling read it is informative, knowledgeably written, and full of a wealth of valuable information. The volume can undoubtedly prove to be a challenging read. However, if you apply yourself and commit to completing the book, your reward will be an improvement in understanding a modern and increasingly relevant scientific discipline. 

If I entertained any suggestions for improvements to the layout of the book; I would suggest that the plates are placed in-situ with the relevant chapter and not collated in the rear. I found it incredibly tedious and time asking to move back and forth to examine the graphics.

I found the glossary and references to be clear, concise, and useful.


My sincere thanks go to: The Author, NetGalley, and Columbia University Press, for affording me the opportunity to review Plate Tectonics and Great Earthquakes.

BREXIT: The Benefit of Hindsight – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleBREXIT: The Benefit of Hindsight: King vs Rich Trade-off
AuthorPeace E. Ani MBA
PublisherMatador (6 Aug. 2019)
FormatKindle, Paperback,
ISBN #1838590714   ISBN #-13 (978-1838590710)     

“Whilst Brexit is inherently political, this research focuses on the economic and financial markets consequences.”

BREXIT, Ani E. Peace, (6 Aug. 2019), Loc 128.


Peace E. Ani is a lettered academic with an MBA and an Oxford Scholar. Her expertise for the past 15 years has been in the financial services sectors; specifically, in Investment Banking, Asset Management and Specialized Insurance.  


Anyone interested in reading about the numerous influences involved in attaining the best BRITEX for the Banking Industry would deem this a thought-provoking read. Students of finance, financial or asset managers, CEO’s of major corporations and economists could benefit from the simplified but enlightening information contained therein. 


BRITEX: The Benefit of Hindsight; King vs Rich Trade-off is a primer for anyone who wants to recognize the likely impact on the Banking Sector dependent upon how the politicians govern the nation. It is not an opinion piece on the ‘soft’ aspects of BRITEX. 

Ani begins by tightly defining her chosen subject and continues to maintain that focus throughout her thesis. She makes good use of empirical as well as graphical data to enhance and inform the reader. The writing, whilst it is scholastic, is always clear and concise. Ani is thoughtful in providing a glossary and a list of terms for the layperson otherwise unfamiliar with the financial jargon. 

The monograph proved to be enlightening and informative, well-paced and not at all dry. In fact, I found her work to be educational and remarkably edifying. It was refreshing to follow a tract that didn’t focus on the myriad of interrelated trivia that has plagued the BRITEX debacle.

The considerable research that Ani put into this piece is evident. Her theories are effectively constructed and cited. It came as no surprise to me that this is part of her doctrinal thesis. I was considerably impressed by her ability to maintain the focus of her writing and the clarity with which she expressed her thoughts. 

I thoroughly did enjoy following this work and I harbor no reservation in heartily recommending it to you. Ani has managed to inform the discussion without sermonizing and has managed to deliver a cogent and concise doctrinal study.


To a certain extent, this tome clarifies some of the potential financial implications for the Banking Community. I feel that it is a missed opportunity by excluding the ‘soft’ aspect of the situation; those being the social factors that influenced the ‘leave’ vote in the first place Before I read this book, I thought that it might have limited appeal however, after completing it I’ve completely changed my mind. I currently believe that this is a valuable source of insight for all those involved in the BRITEX experience. If you take the time to peruse this manuscript carefully, you will gain an insight that you may have lacked otherwise.


I liked the extensive utilization of relevant tables, lists, glossaries, diagrams, and notations. The empirical tabulations were crucial, informative and made delving into the data a cinch. I was impressed by the clarity of the prose as well as the meticulous research and citations. Due to the author’s skill in writing, the manuscript was a far more peasant read than I had at first expected. Although finance can be a terribly droll read for the ‘layman’ the writer managed to deliver an intelligent, well-paced, and informed text. I was equally impressed by the brevity of the work, only 120 pages and yet the subject was focused throughout. The graphics and the illustrations were used where they best suited the conversation. I did find the information interesting and informative but not as timely as I would have expected.  


Whilst I enjoyed the time and effort utilized in the preparation and illustration of this thesis, I found the dated information in many of the tabulations to be of concern. In a period of electronic economic timescales that can be counted in milliseconds, having charts and tables that are 5 years old to prove an opinion in the present is questionable. Another issue when using such old economic data as a predictor of future performance in support of a thesis is that past performance is not an accurate predictor of future performance. 

I was disappointed that several factors capable of affecting the outcome of BRITEX were absent; for example, the lack of International Banking Bloc activities and responses were missing. There was a lack of speculation on the rapidly deteriorating position of Deutsche Bank and its potential for collapse. Nor did the thesis include the affect arising out of the global market from other Monetary Blocs such as Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS). Nor were politically motivated factors influenced by the nations disappointment that democracy had ended as a result of the government defying the will of the electorate included. One alternative BRITEX pathway that was ignored is the establishment of the population to declare a republic as a means of re-establishing the status quo. A good analyst will try to identify the probable outcomes of any given situation, but a great one will consider all potential outcomes and consider strategies for each. I was equally disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion on the titanic forces dragging the world towards a Globalist Financial System; regardless of the wishes of the global population. Globalization represents a genuine missed opportunity and its inclusion I believe would have had the potential to alter the conclusion. I didn’t feel that the key factor, the Customs Union, was explored enough and that conversation should have been examined in more meticulous detail. 


My sincere thanks go to: The Author, NetGalley, and the Publisher, for affording me the opportunity to review BREXIT: The Benefit of Hindsight: King vs Rich Trade-off.


Litercurious Book Review

TitleNapoleon’s Buttons
AuthorPenny Cameron Le Couteur, Ph.D. & Jay Burreson, Ph.D.
PublisherJeremy P Tarcher; Reprint edition (May 24, 2004)
FormatKindle, Paperback, Audiobook     
ISBN #10-1585423319   ISBN #-13 (978-1585423316)     

“for this physicist, reading Napoleon’s Buttons was like being a kid accidentally locked overnight in a candy store. The treats? Lots of neat chemistry that I should have known but didn’t (having had awful college chemistry teachers), a whole bunch of entertaining anecdotes, and not a few breathtaking historical generalizations.”

David Goodstein, American Scientist


Dr. Penny Le Couteur, Ph.D., was born in New Zealand and attended the University of Auckland. She attained her Ph.D. from the University of California in Santa Barbara. Dr. Le Couteur has been teaching chemistry for over three decades. She was recognized as an outstanding educator of chemistry in Canadian Collages. She was formerly The Head of Capilano’s Chemistry Department as well as the chair of Pure and Applied Sciences.

Dr. Le Couteur currently works as an award-winning professor in the Dean of Arts and Sciences office at Capilano College, British Columbia, Canada. She currently resides in North Vancouver, Canada. 

Doctor Jay Burreson, Ph.D., is the co-author of Napoleon’s Buttons: How Seventeen Molecules Changed History. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii. He worked as an Industrial Chemist for Mag Tech in Oregon, USA. Currently, he is a Fellow of Marine Natural Products at the University of Hawaii, USA.


This title was initially intended for gifted students age 14-18 years old. Astonishingly, it has been favorably received by a considerably more diverse audience from children to adults. This scholarly work will appeal not only to those with an academic background, but also to those with little or no background in chemistry.


Napoleon’s Buttons is a refreshing read that combines not one but two disciplines: organic chemistry and associated history. The book was authored with the intention of it being an introductory primer for students of organic chemistry with-in the age range of 14-18 years old. However, this text has proven to be a hit with adults as well. 

The authors have taken the subjects of chemistry and history and melded them together to produce a compelling combination. The prose are skillfully written in a coherent and  accessible style with plenty of illustrations, formulae, and comprehensive end of chapter summaries. In my humble opinion, these summaries are irreplaceable as they allow the reader to glean the bulk of the information in the chapter in a convenient bite-sized manner. The chapters cover various molecules, complete with a concise anecdotal historic context for each. They included isomers and chirality concepts in an intelligible manner for those unfamiliar with the terms.

Central to the success of this volume is the historic connections of the various interactions between historical influences, social and cultural pressures, and the political forces of the time. In the case of olive oil, all those factors were changed through the popularity of the resultant product.




Students will find the script to be compelling reading on a number of levels. The formulae are aptly described and easy to understand. The context strengthened the subject considerably. The science described in this text is similar to The Scientific American and not as demanding as The New Scientist Magazine. The combination of story telling and the scientific underpinning makes this book a fascinating and engrossing read.


Although the title suggests that there are only 17 molecules discussed, there are more. In addition, I question why a glossary was not included in a text meant for teenagers. Although the first chapters provide a brief introduction to chemistry, I feel a more comprehensive introduction would have been helpful for all those who have no prior knowledge of the scientific discipline. This would be incredibly beneficial for those with little or no instruction in the use or knowledge of chemical formulae. 


American Scientist, July-August, 2003, David Goodstein, review of Napoleon’s Button: How Seventeen Molecules Changed History, p. 370.

Booklist, May 1, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of Napoleon’s Buttons, p. 1561.

Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, Dr. Oliver Sacks M.d., Link: Here Vintage; Reprint edition (December 11, 2013)

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Napoleon’s Buttons, p. 363.

Library Journal, May 15, 2003, Wade M. Lee, review of Napoleon’s Buttons, p. 120.

Chemical and Engineering News: Link: Here (October 6, 2003), Louisa Dalton, review of Napoleon’s Buttons.

The Violinist’s Thumb, Sam Keen: Link: Here Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (July 16, 2013)

Seeds of Change by Henry Hobhouse [No Kindle Ed.] Link: Here Counterpoint; Reprint edition (November 22, 2005)