Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen

Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen is a humorous novel about the aftermath of a hurricane hitting Florida. The characters in the book are all misfits. Either trying to scam somebody or with their own eccentricities. In a less skilled author's hands this would be reduce to parity but the characters come off as real. Very funny as well.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Good Omens The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman,

Good Omens The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman is a humorous novel about the Apocalypse. It's not as good as Pratchett's Diskworld books but it's still pretty good. This was published originally back in 1990, so some of the references are pretty dated but if you remember them there still funny. If you do not have a sense of humor about religion don't read this it'll just increase your blood pressure.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq by Gwynne Dyer

The Mess They Made: The Middle East After Iraq by Gwynne Dyer is the author's attempt to describe what's going to happen to the Middle East after the Americans pullout. Basically he argues that it could be messy but not disastrously so for the West. In fact it may be better in the long run than trying to stay on. This is the longest of his current events titles on Iraq. It's well argued and manages to cut through much of the nonsense the mainstream media puts out. Of particular interest was his analysis of the neocon argument that Middle Eastern oil is important not just to supply the US but to deny China. Occasionally quotations are given with their sources but there are no endnotes or bibliography or bizarrely an index.

Highly recommended superb analysis!

Is available through Abebooks.

Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia, and Greece by Robert D. Kaplan

Mediterranean Winter: The Pleasures of History and Landscape in Tunisia, Sicily, Dalmatia, and Greece by Robert D. Kaplan is a travelogue combined with a history of parts of the Mediterranean. I actually would have preferred more travelogue and less history. He's obviously done some reading constantly dropping names throughout the text. It all seems somehow disjointed. Part of the problem is that this is actually based on several different trips to the region. Book contains a bibliography of works cited.

Kaplan's writing is interesting enough that I probably will try another one of his books but I'm not in a hurry.

Mildly recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Deal by Peter Lefcourt

The Deal by Peter Lefcourt is a humorous novel about getting a movie made in Hollywood. What was originally planned as a Benjamin Disraeli Bio pick is turned into an action movie to be shot inYugoslavia. Chaos ensues. It's pretty funny there isn't much new here the backstabbing, drug using oversexed culture has been fodder for decades but it is an enjoyable book. This was published originally in the early 1990s.

Amusingly the cover announces a "new preface" except the preface simply contains the author commenting that he could have updated the cultural references but didn't.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling. Am I the only person that was thinking of Kipling's "If"? Here's the first stanza:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

I'm rather ambivalent. Was it a good story? Yes! Are there some problems? You better believe it. Did her editor actually do anything besides running spellcheck? The weaknesses that were in the earlier books seem to be magnified in this one. I quite enjoyed the final battle. The Lord of the Rings and Nazi Germany references totally lacked subtlety. I agree with the online consensus I don't like the epilogue. At least Harry does eventually get Wizard sex.

I'm too old [mid-twenties] for this to be my defining young adult series. The closest thing to that would probably be the Gordon Korman Macdonald Hall! books [which come to think of it also involves a boarding school] but still I'm sad to see it go. Now it's done 72 cassettes and 116 hours. I'll probably have more to say later I'm still digesting things.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more Science Fiction and Fantasy book reviews take a look at My Science Fiction and Fantasy bookshelf.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Armies of Medieval Burgundy 1364-1477 by Nicholas Michael

Armies of Medieval Burgundy 1364-1477 by Nicholas Michael is a short Osprey title summarizing the uniforms weapons and tactics of the Duke of Burgundy's Army a transitional form between medieval and modern forces. There's particular reference to the various laws enacted governing the military. The transition between a private force based on feudal system to a force controlled by the Duke is described. The tactics, strategy and siege tactics are briefly analyzed. There's only 39 pages but a lot of material is crammed in. Illustrations on almost every page complement the text.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Party Politics in the Age of Caesar by Lily Ross Taylor

Party Politics in the Age of Caesar by Lily Ross Taylor is a history of political parties and factions in the late Roman Republic. This is in many respects a political science analysis of Roman political history. Explanations of the legal and constitutional system are clear and easy to understand which is not the simplest task. I've read quite a bit on Roman history but did not fully understand some of the eccentricities of the Republican system until now. Taylor obviously spent a lot of time dealing with ancient sources the book contains 240 pages 60 of which contain substantial notes occasionally providing the Latin text of the original.

I cannot more highly recommend this book if you have an interest in the Roman Republic.

Is available through Abebooks.



For more ancient history book reviews Take a look at My Ancient History bookshelf.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cassettes 4 side B-12 of 12

It's rather hard to comment on the last 2/3 of the book because it's basically the opening section of book seven. My copy is currently on its way from Ontario hopefully to arrive on Wednesday. The pace and plot are quite a bit tighter than book five. Some of the relationship stuff strikes me as a little forced but that's okay. I'm quite excited about seven. This basically concludes the Great Harry Potter Reread. I've enjoyed doing it and hope somebody found it useful.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

150th book review!

I just published my 150th book review it was Wellington as Military Commander by Michael Glover.I'm only counting each Harry Potter book as one review toward the total although I'm tagging them individually as reviews.

Wellington as Military Commander by Michael Glover

Wellington as Military Commander by Michael Glover is well what the title says. Basically describes Wellington's command style throughout the Peninsula campaign and India. The descriptions explaining the geography of the battlefields are particularly clear. The tactics used as well as Wellington's impact on the battles and strategy is discussed. Perhaps most useful is a clear description of the Byzantine regulations and bureaucracy governing the Army as well as the complex promotion system. The book contains battle plans, illustrations, notes, bibliography and order a battle as well as short biographies of unit commanders on both sides.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Spanish Inquisition by John Edwards

The Spanish Inquisition by John Edwards is an excellent brief history of this religious and legal entity. The text itself is pretty short coming in at less than 50,000 words but it does provide a nice summary of the background as well as the workings of the Inquisition. Edwards also tries to dispel some of the mythical stories that have grown up around it. There are a lot of pictures and illustrations. No endnotes but a bibliography which can be used for further reading.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Two "predictions" for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Hermione turns 18 realizes scholarship is not all it's cracked up to be becomes wizarding equivalent of a "sun girl".

Voldemort kills Harry then Mr.Weasley walks in pulls out of .44 then recites from memory the entire speech of that Muggle Callahan before shooting Voldemort.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cassettes 1,2,3,and 4 side A of 12

Harry has just discovered that the Half-Blood Prince wrote the notations in his textbook. I like this one much better than number five. I get the impression she enjoyed writing it more. The scene with the prime minister was particularly well done. Especially the part about how no one would believe him if he told. I also quite enjoyed Hermione's reaction to Harry's success with the potion.

Regular Armies and Insurgency edited by Ronald Haycock

Regular Armies and Insurgency edited by Ronald Haycock is the proceedings of a conference held at the Royal Military College of Canada in 1978. Papers include those written by some of the big names at the time such as Alistair Horne and Sir Robert Thompson. Coverage is of the Malayan emergency, Algerian war,Vietnam war, Mexican insurgencies and Irish Civil War. The papers are pretty short. There isn't much here that will surprise but they do provide excellent summaries. Chapters contain endnotes and suggestions for further reading.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

The Hundred Years War by Robin Neillands

The Hundred Years War by Robin Neillands is an excellent introductory history of this war that took place for 116 years between France and England. The book is excellent not only at describing the English victories at Agincourt, Cr├ęcy and Poitiers but also the French victories later in the war. Joan of Arc's involvement is dealt with in a refreshingly skeptical manner. The continuous grumbling that Shakespeare is an inaccurate tens to get tiresome rather quickly.

The occasional map complements the text. Unfortunately there are no footnotes or endnotes but there is a bibliography.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cassettes 11,12,13,14,15,16 and 17 of 17

Much of these tapes come off as filler for some reason. Originally I didn't care much for the ending of the book but I feel better about it now. I was probably half-asleep the last time I read it. The battle in the ministry drove me nuts. Since apparently Harry and CO. would almost never attack first. They would also seemingly forget useful charms then remember them a few minutes later. For some reason I don't particularly believe Harry's meltdown at the end of the book shock would be more probable. So on to book six the end is in sight.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cassettes 7,8, 9 and 10 of 17

At the end of the cassettes Harry has just experienced Voldemort's extreme joy. The whole Harry Potter and the overactive hormones is played up a little too much in this section. Funny how the other teenagers for the most part are able to actually think rationally occasionally. I did quite enjoy the time spent in St Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Politics of Assassination by Murray Clark Havens, Carl Leiden and Karl M. Schmitt

The Politics of Assassination by Murray Clark Havens, Carl Leiden and Karl M. Schmitt is a rather unsatisfying attempt to analyze the outcome of assassination. The introduction talks about only dealing with heads of state but 4 of the 10 case studies are dealing with assassinations of those who were not heads of state. The case studies are very short the longest around 10 pages for each. There is resort to "what if" theorizing if the assassinations had not taken place but what if scenarios are then criticized in the conclusion.

An interesting idea but lacking in execution.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Chindit War: Stilwell, Wingate, and the Campaign in Burma, 1944 by Shelford Bidwell

The Chindit War: Stilwell, Wingate, and the Campaign in Burma, 1944 by Shelford Bidwell is a very opinionated account of this campaign. The author instead of focusing on tactics and strategy brings personality to the front of his analysis. And there certainly are quite a few personalities in these allied operations. Stilwell in particular does not come off well in Bidwell's treatment. He only deals with the 1944 campaign which seems like somewhat of an oversight. Dealing with the earlier 1943 campaign and contrasting the tactics and strategy would be interesting. The problem of encouraging an ally[the Nationalist Chinese] to fight that may not want to is one that is still significant today. An excellent discussion of the various positives and negatives of the personnel involved.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



For more WWII book reviews take a look at My World War II bookshelf.

For reviews take a look at My Insurgency/Counterinsurgency, Partisan and Guerrilla Warfare bookshelf.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cassettes 5 and 6 of 17

At the end of these cassettes it has been suggested to Harry that he should start training the other students. I really don't like the torture in the book. It seems gratuitous particularly considering the audience this is being aimed at. We are well aware that Umbridge is evil we don't need this on top of all the other hints. Harry's inability to shut up is played a little too much.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix cassettes 1,2,3 and 4 of 17

At the end of this cassette Harry is just starting to realize that there are those at the school who don't believe him. This is the darkest of the books the pacing is also much slower. I get the impression she wasn't enjoying writing this as much as the others. It's actually my least favorite for reasons which will soon become apparent.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Dreyfus Trials by Guy Chapman

The Dreyfus Trials by Guy Chapman describes the series of legal proceedings against Alfred Dreyfus. The rather byzantine politics of the French third Republic is described. Unfortunately it was hard to keep the large cast of characters straight. I'll probably have to read something else before understanding all the complexities. Instead of simply saying the coverup including the forgeries was do to anti-Semitism Chapman points out the implications for French civil military affairs as well.

Unfortunately the book contains only a partial bibliography.

Recommended but I'll probably need something else on the topic before I feel comfortable.

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Behind Fascist Lines: A Firsthand Account of Guerrilla Warfare During the Spanish Revolution by Anna Starinov

Behind Fascist Lines: A Firsthand Account of Guerrilla Warfare During the Spanish Revolution by Anna Starinov is the memoirs of a Russian female volunteer who went to Spain as an interpreter. Most of the book is made up of her experiences training and going on missions with the Republican forces. There isn't much here from a tactics or strategy perspective but the conflicts between the Communists and Anarchists are described in great detail.

After being sent home due to medical issues she became a bureaucrat running special schools for Spanish orphans and the disabled. There are passing references to the purges but she does not go into detail whether she was considered suspect.

The text appears to have been written in the early 1980s but it is unclear whether it was published in Russia prior to the fall of communism. Strangely it has an index which is rather rare for memoirs.

Interesting, a female perspective being rather unusual for this conflict.

Recommended
.
Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ffire cassettes 9,10,11 and 12 of 12

This is where the big transition takes place. Where before the school stuff tends to be at the forefront of the story from now on its mostly about the need to destroy Voldemort. The series also gets very dark from this point on. The last challenge almost seems rather rushed unfortunately the different tasks were quite interesting. Somewhat of a throwback to the first book.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ffire cassettes 7 and 8 of 12

At the end of this cassette Harry is swimming in the Lake. The ball with its interlocking storylines is a very nice piece of writing. A lot of information crammed into that section. I'm really beginning to think the library isn't terribly useful. Seems bizarre they wouldn't be able to find any references to the proper plant.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Ffire cassettes 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 of 12

Life unfortunately got in a way of writing an update for each cassette. At the end of cassette 6 they are currently in the kitchens. As noted earlier there is an ongoing theme throughout the series about media and how they can be less than accurate about things. The House Elf issue seems slightly surprising particularly the attitude of most of the characters towards it. Not very politically correct which is maybe the point. If dragons are illegal in UK how much paperwork did they have to do to get clearance?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban cassettes 6 and 7 of 7

I'm now done the third book in the series. I did find the discussion of hindsight rather profound. I'm a historian after all. Using hindsight to criticize decisions is one of the classic modes of historical analysis. The scenes in the Shrieking Shack are probably some of the best so far in my opinion. The combination of twists and turns with the interplay between the characters is wonderful.