Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shades Of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Shades Of Grey by Jasper Fforde this is a first book in a projected trilogy. After an apocalypse society is structured by the range of color individuals can see. There are a complex series of regulations, punishments and restrictions. Those that fall foul are given demerits. Our hero is sent out to an outlying community to work off a punishment with his father. All is not as it seems there are conspiracies within conspiracies and much double crossing. The world building is magnificent. Fforde has gone above and beyond as far as making these arbitrary regulations seem real. I was less impressed with some of the characterization. I'm getting tired of the quick to violence, sarcastic female lead that the male lead is terrified by but attracted to. Two female characters say nearly the same sarcastic comment. That struck me as being sloppy editing. I will be pre-ordering the sequel. A rare action for me.

Highly recommended!

Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early reviewer Program.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Waterloo 1815: The Birth of Modern Europe by Geoffrey Wootten

Waterloo 1815: The Birth of Modern Europe by Geoffrey Wootten Osprey title on this final defeat of Napoleon.  I was rather surprised to note that this was 15 in the series.  I would have figured it would have been one of the first titles put out.  The usual story is covered with focus on the staff failings on the French side.  I was also happy to see information on the Belgians which aren't usually covered.


The War with Mr. Wizzle by Gordon Korman

The War with Mr. Wizzle by Gordon Korman doing some short reading for Christmas. A computer expert is sent in to organize Mcdonald Hall the students rebel in typical fashion. Pretty dated with the technology used so I'm not sure how well this would read to a younger reader today but I enjoyed it.


Go Jump in the Pool! by Gordon Korman

Go Jump in the Pool! by Gordon Korman time for some more nostalgia. This is part of the young adult humor series Bruno and Boots. The boys want to fund a pool which leads to crazier and more bizarre schemes. Amusing I'll have to remember this for my nephew.


Monday, December 21, 2009

The Last Battle by Chris Bunch

The Last Battle by Chris Bunch is the third and final book in the Dragonmaster trilogy.  Unfortunately much of this book is spent on undoing the work of the first two.  Particularly the conflict that was being fought was made rather pointless by the understanding reached between our hero and the main villain.  Also his marriage is blown up for the sole reason of allowing him to have a fling later on.  The larger storyline involves an attempt to go exploring to find dragons.

Not recommended stop after the second book.

The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson

The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson published in 1985 this book uses a slightly unusual method in describing the roman army of the western empire.  This is done through going through a soldier's experiences from beginnings through retirement.  Most histories deal with this by discussing different ranks separately but Watson believes that this means that, commonalitys are lost.  The usual primary sources are referenced as well as archaeological finds including tombstones and inscriptions.


The Hundred Years War, Volume 2: Trial by Fire by Jonathan Sumption

The Hundred Years War, Volume 2: Trial by Fire by Jonathan Sumption massive just like the first volume that I reviewed last year.  This takes the conflict through 1347.  Most of the narrative discusses the various attempts at peace.  There's also quite a bit on the different Companies freebooters who turned much of France into an ungovernable wasteland.  A 3rd volume has been released.  I have to wonder if he's actually going to be able to finish the war they seem to be coming out about once a decade.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor

Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor is a novel that covers a pilot's first week in a RAF squadron during the battle of Britain.  Characters are drawn with a broad brush and are pretty stock.  This was enjoyable all the same even though its publication in the late 1960s meant that it's perhaps a little less than honest where it comes to foul language and adult situations.  A quick bit of fluff for the holidays.


The Simpsons 20 year anniversary

Today 20 years ago the first 30 minute episode aired. I'm pretty sure I didn't watch it. I do know that I saw episodes from the first season mainly because I can remember the parent advisory in front of them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

So given a genuine specimen from the time of Christ the carbon dating does work

Burial cloth found in Jerusalem cave casts doubt on authenticity of Turin Shroud.

Gunpowder: The Players Behind the Plot by James Travers

Gunpowder: The Players Behind the Plot by James Travers the rear jacket copy makes it sound like this book includes an investigation of the primary sources contained on the plotters who attempted to blow up parliament. Unfortunately documents are mentioned but are only sparingly quoted from. What we get instead is a rather disjointed discussion of the investigation of the plot. This is only for the expert there are more assumptions here then fax.

Not recommended.

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison this is the second book chronologically in the series. As the title suggests are hero finds himself in the military. They invade a planet that is completely peaceful. He tries to defeat them while taking revenge on their commander. Like the first book the humor is mostly a farce. I enjoyed it and it's a nice distraction but certainly no deep thoughts here.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen

Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen this is one of those attempts to determine the transition point between two eras of history as a title suggests the ancient and medieval. This is done through looking at three different phenomena that took place roughly at the same time during emperor Justinian's reign. These were new techniques in architecture, bubonic plague pandemic and Byzantine campaigns to reconquer Italy. Unfortunately the book gets bogged down in some strange digressions. Rosen talks about arguments for evolution and creationism which really seemed out of place. This could have been made a lot tighter with some judicious editing.

Not recommended.

Warsaw 1944: Poland's bid for freedom by Robert Forczyk

Warsaw 1944: Poland's bid for freedom by Robert Forczyk is an Osprey campaign title on this failed attempt of Poland's resistance to seize control of Warsaw. Forczyk's spends much of his time discussing the run up to the launch as well as the political background in London and Moscow. Both the British and Russians are criticized but he also acknowledges some baffling strategic decisions on the part of the resistance. They don't seem to have done any sort of basic strategic planning. Like for instance attempting to seize the telephone exchange. The book is rounded out with the usual information on uniforms and weapons.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Planning a Tragedy: Americanization of the War in Vietnam by Larry Berman

Planning a Tragedy: Americanization of the War in Vietnam by Larry Berman seemed to be a logical book to read considering the recent United States debate over escalation in Afghanistan. Berman using unclassified material as well as correspondence with the players describes the thought process that went into the decision to increase troops in Vietnam. He argues convincingly that Johnson instead of the best way to win Vietnam instead chose the alternative that meant that they would lose slower. The domestic concerns were also more telling than any military or strategic decisions.

Highly recommended!

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin contains several short stories, an introduction and a historical note on the world of Earthsea. Perhaps most amusing is Le Guin's attempts to separate herself from those horrible hack fantasy writers who just turn out stuff for the money. As opposed to the stories contained in this volume which are supposedly organically sprung from the whole. Okay whatever. Much like the last volume the overarching theme is women good, men lazy, sexist and incompetent. I finished this thing three days ago and I'm having problems remembering what happened. There isn't really much memorable here. I will probably complete the series with book 6 but I don't think it'll happen any time soon.

Not recommended.

Afghan detainees

I haven't said anything on here about my views on the Revelations over the Afghan detainee issue that is coming to light in Canada. To be honest I find the topic depressing. With the ongoing Revelations it's become apparent to me that at the very least Peter MacKay must resign. I'm starting to think that a full blown judicial inquiry would be worthwhile. Queue handwringing about the expense from certain quarters. With parliament lacking the mechanisms to adequately delve into this issue the inquiry would make sense. I'm not holding my breath though.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809 by Stephen Taylor

Storm and Conquest: The Clash of Empires in the Eastern Seas, 1809 by Stephen Taylor This describes the loss of 14 East India company ships to storms or French as well as the British campaign to seize Mauritius. If you've read the naval fiction of Patrick O'brien you already know something about the individuals involved. The book is careful to point out where history and fiction diverge. I was occasionally frustrated because Taylor often has several narrative threads going at the same time and has to backfill to explain things. That being said a fun book for a winters evening.


Friday, December 04, 2009

I was wrong

Not the first time or the last...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

In Search of Churchill: A Historian's Journey by Martin Gilbert

In Search of Churchill: A Historian's Journey by Martin Gilbert covers in vignettes the authors work on the official biography of Churchill that ran to an astonishing 8 volumes. Gilbert writes engagingly if occasionally he seems to be a little too impressed with his abilities and contacts. I found the most interesting section to be on Churchill's secretaries the often anonymous women who took transcription. I've read a lot on Churchill so it's hard for me to say whether if someone new to him would get much out of this. But if you do have an interest in him don't pass this up.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Flying on the ground by Emerson Fittipaldi and Elizabeth Hayward

Flying on the ground by Emerson Fittipaldi and Elizabeth Hayward biography of the Brazilian F1 world champion. This was published in 1973 so his exploits in North America are not covered. The text is frustrating at times Hayward a South African journalist includes explanatory information randomly throughout the first person narrative of Fittipaldi's descriptions. There's quite a bit on Lotus and the technical challenges of the cars and circuits. If you can look past the disjointed narrative this is an excellent book for the auto racing fan of the 1970s.


Friday, November 27, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Not a good week for football refs


Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin this is book 4th in the Earthsea series. Characters from the earlier books older now come together to try to live out the last years of their lives peacefully. It doesn't last when an enemy from the past returns. The story although well written lacks a certain something there isn't the same narrative drive that was in the first three books. Which isn't necessarily saying much. Real world concerns seem to come to the four much more in this book than the others. There's a section on child abuse for instance which seems out of place. I was surprised to discover that this received the Nebula in 1991.

Next is a collection of short stories and short novels. I already have it and will read it. This is perhaps more a case of inertia than anything else.

Mildly recommended do not start the series with this one.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This is epic

Admittedly I haven't been doing much these days on the blog. I did have to sit up and take notice to the ongoing disaster that is Harlequin becoming a vanity publisher. To watch the fallout see and this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison

The Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison this is the first chronologically in the Stainless Steel Rat science fiction series. The main character is a master thief and con artist. This book describes his first heists and education into that profession. This is fun occasionally amusing brain candy no deep thoughts here. I've already ordered the next book The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted .


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Medical Histories of Confederate Generals by Jack D. Welsh

Medical Histories of Confederate Generals by Jack D. Welsh a fascinating encyclopedia like look at medical techniques and ailments experienced by the men who became Confederate generals in the American civil War. Entries span their lives from birth through death. Some are more detailed than others. Some of the most interesting were those I'd never heard of Stonewall Jackson was not the only hypochondriac for instance. There's no attempt to discuss whether their ailments affected their military judgment. There's a glossary of terms as well as citations to sources.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Churchill at War 1940-45 by Sir Charles Watson

Churchill at War 1940-45 by Sir Charles Watson [aka Lord Moran] a recent reprint of the medical doctors experiences taking care of Churchill. Lots on different personalities British, American and Russian including all the big ones. An introduction by Watson's offspring tries to deflect the criticism put forward by Martin Gilbert and others about its accuracy. Pointing out that the "diary" that doesn't actually exist was more of a literary device than anything else.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Battle for North Africa by John Strawson

The Battle for North Africa by John Strawson describes the north African campaign from 1940 through the final collapse of the German and Italian forces. Strawson tries to keep his level of analysis on the troops themselves which is unusual most histories of this campaign focusing on the high command arrangements. He does share some unusual perspectives he thinks very highly of Wavell and Auchinleck. I think there's definitely some hyperbole there particularly his statement that Wavell is one of the great captains of history. Discussion of the battles are clear and easy to follow.


Friday, October 23, 2009

High Chicago by Howard Shrier

High Chicago by Howard Shrier this is the second book in an ongoing mystery series. Jonah Geller is a Toronto private investigator who was asked to investigate the suicide of the daughter of a developer. This leads to the high stakes world of construction. Shrier is excellent at characterization, if a touch stereotypical at times. The plot is fast moving. The conclusion was a little over the top. I'll be looking for the first book in the series.


Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early reviewer Program.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quotation [occasional]

"This cat does more for the war effort than you do. He acts as a hot water bottle and saves fuel and power"
Winston Churchill to Rab Butler, referring to nelson his cat.


Since a week last Tuesday I've been fighting with the flu not really sure if it's seasonal or the big one H1N1. Mostly back to normal now except for a occasional sneeze or cough. Blogging should resume soon have several book reviews to do including one of an early reviewer book from LibraryThing.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Crystal Rain by Tobias S Buckell

Crystal Rain by Tobias S Buckell is a science fiction novel the first in a series. John suffering from amnesia must help protect his community from an attacking army of Azteca [like the Aztecs] who want to human sacrifice everything in their path. The book takes quite a while to get going but the last third with the race to find an abandoned piece of technology is well worth the journey. The dialog which is based on Caribbean dialect takes some getting used to but it does make the thing nice and atmospheric. I'll try the sequel.

Mildly recommended.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat

And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat is the author's memoirs of his WWII experiences. Mowat deservedly has a reputation of being an elegant writer with many colorful expressions. Unfortunately there's a artificiality to the work particularly in the dialog. I just can't believe WWII Canadian soldiers would say anything remotely like this. This does cover the Sicily and Italian campaigns which is unusual enough to be interesting.

Recommended as literature not as history.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II by Stephen Budiansky

Battle of Wits: The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II by Stephen Budiansky I really hate sales departments that put the word "complete" in the titles of their history books because history is never complete. That complaint out of the way this is an excellent book that describes the breaking of German and Japanese military codes in WWII. There's a nice balance between anecdotes about the personalities and highly technical accounts of the decryption. Not surprisingly the story mostly revolves around Enigma and Purple there's also a fascinating section on American attempts to break Russian codes. Finished off with some notes onwhat the Germans were reading. There are a few general history errors he brings up the old canard about Polish cavalry charging tanks and mistakenly refers to the MKVD as the KGB.

Highly recommended.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I stopped being surprised by the FIA a long time ago

The laughable punishment for Renault just makes me mad. Suspended ban.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Quotation [occasional]

"This kid, if it was up to me, wouldn't be allowed to walk blind people on the sidewalk. It's such yobbish behaviour from which he has also benefited, because, like he says in his sworn statement, he did it so he would get a contract renewal for 2009, and he will be paid until the end of the year. [...] He is a silly kid who doesn't know if he has pushed the throttle or not, because it's no coincidence that he's had 17 accidents since he's been at Renault."

Carlos Gracia

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Eddie Irvine still out to lunch

So what if Renault fixed a race and endangered lives? This is war! Ummm pathetic just pathetic. If races are being fixed I wonder how many sponsors will stay in ever think about that Eddie?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life's too short

An incident over the weekend has brought into stark relief that life is too short. As mentioned in an earlier post I wasn't sure what to do with books that I've been unable to finish for whatever reason. Some of these I've been working on for months I've made more than 3 attempts at getting through them. I don't want to devote an entire post to each so I'll list them off here. Some of them are review copies. These things happen I hope that they will be understanding. I do want to acknowledge I did receive the copies even if I can't bring myself to do a complete review.

The Chameleon Conspiracy by Haggai Carmon an American intelligence official tries to track down links between a money launderer and terrorism. A wealth of real world info is unfortunately delivered in minute detail by characters I just didn't care about. An ARC.

Avenger by Frederick Forsyth a lesser novel from the master of espionage fiction. He seems to be more interested in telling the rambling back story than actually getting to the plot. An aid workers kidnapped a mercenaries hired to rescue him.

Bear Any Burden by Ellis M. Goodman this was sold to me as a spy novel but it's more of a family saga. Unfortunately it's very over written. Instead of just telling us that their first landlords husband in Scotland died of a heart attack it's described in the pros. An ARC.

The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility by Paul Ramsey written at the time of Vietnam this discusses Just War Theory in the context of the Christian tradition. Unfortunately the number of straw men make the book next to useless.

History of the Goths by Herwig Wolfram a terrible translation from German does little to hide the rather silly idea of tracing Germanic people's through language. He spends little time trying to prove his case instead going in for broad statements.

Pleasant surprise

I didn't think it would be back however I'm happy to be wrong. Canadian GP back on the F1 calendar for 2010.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bach, Beethoven and the Boys!: Music History As It Ought To Be Taught by David W. Barber

Bach, Beethoven and the Boys!: Music History As It Ought To Be Taught by David W. Barber is a humorous look at the major individuals in classical music. Barber relates genuine information that is in and of itself amusing. For instance what Bach left behind when he hurriedly quit one of his posts. This information is easy to pick out from the puns that litter the text. There are cartoon illustrations throughout. Most of them illustrating one of the puns.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Maybe just maybe the system worked

I do have to scratch my head at the immigration case of Rochelle Wallis. She's the Canadian being deported from the UK under the new law against forced marriages. My problem isn't about the law itself but rather how the story is being covered. This BBC story is typical. The CBC did much the same story in July.

From the CBC story we learn the following, Rochelle Wallis is 19.
"The pair decided to get married last year when she visited him in his village of Pontrhydygroes, Wales. The couple met two years earlier in Canada and remained in touch."
Now I'm just a guy who reads a lot of military history but I'm pretty sure that would make her 16 when they met. I wonder how old the husband is? Oh wait it's buried at the bottom.
"Adam Wallis, 28, recently got a job as an electrical technician in Wales, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported."
Hmmm 25 year old meets up with 16 year old. You know for once I agree with the apparatchiks.

Number Ten by Sue Townsend

Number Ten by Sue Townsend is a snarky sendup of "New Labor". The Prime Minister much to his horror has lost touch with British Society so he enlists one of his security guards to help him get back in touch with his people. The humor here is done with broad strokes. Townsend's disdain for what the Labor party has become is quite obvious and it's accurate from what I understand. I was chuckling throughout most of the book.


Inglourious Basterds

Short review, too much talking [not even witty] not enough NAZI killing.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Socialists in NASCAR?

Before going to bed I had to post this. Considering the brouhaha over the socialist indoctrination that is supposedly going to take place in America's schools. Here's a public service announcement that makes up part of the package.

I'm back

Regular service should resume shortly with a list of books that I've just had to abandon....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Quotation [occasional]

My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.
-Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929), most likely apocryphal.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Normans by David Nicolle

The Normans by David Nicolle tries to give a general history of this culture in the British isles, France, Italy and the Middle East. Unfortunately the osprey format is too short to do this well. What we get instead is a dizzying list of names and places with very little information. If you're already an expert on this time you'll be able to follow this but that doesn't make much sense considering the audience the publications are aimed at.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dude, road trip!

The Lion of the Senate is dead

Senator Edward Kennedy, 77, dies. An important death from a political/historical perspective [what happens to Health Care reform now?] however I think I'll be avoiding the news networks for the next couple days.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Quotation [occasional]

[A]s a famous paper by Kruger and Sunning showed, people who are bad at what they do are generally also incapable of understanding that they suck--and this directly contributes to inflated self-perception. So, incompetence tends to make people cocky and people prefer cocky judgements over demonstrated expertise, which is pretty much the worst of both worlds.
- Kieran Healy

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is a fantasy novel that has a lot of buzz behind it but doesn't deliver. Quentin Coldwater melancholic and whiny spends most of the book complaining about whatever it is currently happening to him. This has been compared with Harry Potter and Narnia. There's no subtlety and this Grossman specifically mentions Hermione's teeth shrinking. Narnia references are slightly concealed since the characters are going to end up traveling there Grossman dozen want to get in legal trouble. The ideas themselves although derivative do put an interesting spin on things but the book as a whole fails in two respects. First as mentioned earlier unsympathetic characters that develop very little throughout the book. The second problem is the lack of an antagonist. The plot tends to wander sometimes reading more like an outline than anything else. There is a final showdown which at least does in retrospect explain some of the past events but of course I'm not going to go back and reread it just because I have those pieces now.

Not recommended.

No massacre investigation

I read about this when I was doing my research for my MA. It's unfortunate that there won't be anything official. UK 'rejects' Malaya deaths appeal.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front by Jim Butcher I'm late to the party on this oh well. Harry Dresden is the only wizard/private investigator in Chicago. There's been a horrific murder he must find the culprit, while trying to deal with skeptics and the White Council that oversees magical affairs. This is the first book in a long ongoing series. Storm Front is not great literature. World building is occasionally laughable seriously he's the only wizard in the world doing this sort of thing? Characterization particularly a female characters is borderline offensive. The plot is only move forward by happenstance. All that being said I can't help feeling a certain guilty pleasure in this. I'm willing to give the second novel a chance. Butcher does have the gift for telling a story so that it only falls apart when you come back and think about it later.

Recommended with caveats.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Star Wars nerds are getting in line as we speak

Because in the upcoming movie Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky manage to get this on film:
Because in this movie, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have sex.

Yeah. You read that right. And not just nice sweet innocent sex either. We're talking ecstasy-induced hungry aggressive angry sex.
The tent villages are going up. Although I suppose the scene will end up getting leaked saving everyone the trouble. At least Carrie Fisher didn't do anything like that in her limited career after Star Wars.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

To abandon or not?

It used to be a source of pride that I would not abandon a book no matter how mediocre. That has been tested recently with several titles that I've been picking at for months. Complicating things are that some are review copies. I'm thinking I might do a roundup post where I at least mention the book and give one or two thoughts on why I can't seem to finish it. If the review outfits want to black list me that's their business. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It must be August

Science ponders 'zombie attack'. Note the personification of "science" and that this is in fact the BBC.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace by Kristin Decker

The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace by Kristin Decker memoir of the authors and her husband's time as tutors to a Prince and Princess in Saudi Arabia. As typical for books of this genre much of the book is taken up with dealing with culture clash. The couple is vocal in their Christianity. Although they did seem to tap it down a little bit in the country. They eventually run afoul of palace politics declared PNG and deported. I was ready to give this a lukewarm review but the concluding section is very powerful and really raised the book.

Highly recommended.

Note: book was provided for review.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy by G. G. Husak

Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy by G. G. Husak is a travel memoir of the author's many trips to Italy over the last few years. Husak a teacher by trade has written a 350 page "what I did on my summer vacation" essay. If you're interested in anything beyond some reviews of hotels and historical sites you may be disappointed. There's nothing profound here. It's still charming all the same. She's not afraid to discuss the dynamic between herself and her husband. There's a tendency to repeat information perhaps a slightly more involved editing would've been useful.

Recommended for Italy buffs.

Note: book was provided for review.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Back on the calendar?

Canada close to 2010 race deal

It's too bad Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada believes exactly the opposite of this

"As the Roman, in days of old, held himself free from indignity when he could say 'Civis Romanus Sum' [I am a Roman citizen], so also a British subject in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong." Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Prussian Light Infantry 1792-1815 by Peter Hofschroer

Prussian Light Infantry 1792-1815 by Peter Hofschroer typical Osprey Men-at-Arms title this one on the skirmishers of this German kingdom. Most of the book is taken up with discussion of uniform and weapons. There's a little bit on tactics and training. I don't know much about this area so I can't really comment on accuracy but, on face value nothing here sounds to outlandish.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson by Roger Knight

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson by Roger Knight this is simply put the gold standard in Nelson biographies. Knight works his way through Nelson's life in often excruciating detail dispelling myth after myth along the way. Even so what remains is the portrait of a great naval tactician. His character flaws jealousy and stubbornness are not ignored. Substantial appendices that contain biographies of important individuals, information on ships and a time line round out the book. Massive bibliography for further reading.

Highly recommended simply a must have!

Friday, August 07, 2009

And on a happier topic

Banned on Vulcan by Voltaire very funny occasionally very rude Star Trek song parities. Available for free legal download at the labels web site. Thanks to Monique!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

It's been a couple of months since we did this? It's been too long!

Here we go again sexism in science fiction this time in an all white male anthology. And yes Paul Di Filippo really should have kept his mouth shut. That being said I do have to wonder just where it becomes "inclusive" instead of "tokenism". Is it only if its 50% or is 40%, 30%, 10% acceptable? In the end I suppose the free market will decide does the anthology sell or not.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin third in the Earthsea Cycle. Magic is leaking out of the land Ged with a young companion Arren [a prince from a distant land] is sent to discover why. Of the three so far I consider this to be the weakest. There are several episodes along the way but it doesn't seem to mesh into a whole. Le Guin who isn't terribly subtle at the best of times really beats you over the head with the theme. Death is not to be feared. The ongoing momentum of the series means that I'm probably being nicer to this than it deserves. My patience is starting to run thin. My understanding is that the next book is in the same universe but with a different main character we shall see.

Mildly recommended more for the completest than anyone else.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Canadians in the Second Battle of Ypres, April 22nd-26th, 1915: A Social History and Battlefield Tour by N. M. Christie

The Canadians in the Second Battle of Ypres, April 22nd-26th, 1915: A Social History and Battlefield Tour by N. M. Christie nice short heavily illustrated booklet on this battle of the First World War. Christie who acts as a battlefield tour guide has here distilled his knowledge of visiting the battlefield into a highly readable account. There are also scattered throughout the text several short biographies of participants most of them fatalities. There's a concluding section on In Flanders Fields. There aren't any citations but there is a further reading section in the back. My only criticism is that there's a touch of hyperbole in the text at times. I picked up a bunch of these recently and will be reading through them in chronological order.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Half a Crown by Jo Walton

Half a Crown by Jo Walton conclusion to the alternate history/mystery trilogy. It's the 1960s but, different than it is recorded in history books. Russia has been defeated destroyed by nuclear weapons, Britain is a police state. A peace conference will be held in England and the Duke of Windsor has invited himself much to the chagrin of the authorities. Carmichael now in charge of the Watch[British KGB or Gestapo] must maintain his position so that he can covertly undermine the regime. As with the other two books in the trilogy there's a split narrative. The other one follows his adoptive niece whose to be presented to the Queen. Two things bother me.

The first of these is something that goes for the other books as well. The female leads tend to be naive or well, stupid. They are quick on the uptake but there's a lot of rather obvious exposition that is crammed down our throats when it's really not necessary.

The second thing is the conclusion of the book and trilogy. I won't give it away but if you think about it it's pretty obvious. I don't believe for a second that it would be as easy as the book makes it out to be. Come to think of it a 4th volume would be fascinating.

The conclusion did bring down the series in my eyes a little bit however I'd recommend it.

North from Calcutta by Duane Evans

First off an apology I could have sworn I'd posted this about six weeks ago but instead it appears to have been trapped as a draft post.

North from Calcutta by Duane Evans is an espionage thriller involving the fight over Kashmir. Our hero a Pakistani intelligence official must fight those in his own government that wish to start a war between the two nuclear armed nations. There's also a romantic subplot which is a little over the top but it does tie in nicely with the plot. The characters do tend to talk in infodumps which was rather annoying. The action sequences are well thought out and wonderfully described. Possible plot holes are dealt with by characters discussing them head on and giving explanations. A welcome change from other thriller writers who simply ignore them. Both for the choice of heroes and topic this is an unusual work that deserves a wide audience.

Highly recommended!

Note: book was provided by a very patient PR outfit.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ha'penny by Jo Walton

Ha'penny by Jo Walton second in an alternate history/mystery trilogy. England made peace with the Nazis. The society is becoming fascist. Inspector Carmichael returns this time to try to stop an assassination plot on the British Prime Minister and Hitler. The narrative also includes the perspective of the would be bomber an actress. This is a bridge between the first and third book but it is still enjoyable. Ethical decisions about loyalty and duty are at the front particularly with the ending.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Language: Bloody H-1; G/OMG-3

This is the most unintentionally funny Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince movie review I've come across in my wanderings. Dunn not surprisingly by a puritanical Christian outfit. I think if George Carlin was still with us he would very much enjoy the concept of "Mild cleavage".

Monday, July 27, 2009

Military history books in Edmonton

Here are some short thoughts on the bookstores in Edmonton. In no particular order.

Audreys Books independent bookstore so these are pretty close to list price. Nice selection of titles with a very knowledgeable staff. When one of their employees [unfortunately I forgot her name] realized I was looking at Osprey titles she pulled out a stack of them and brought them over.

Bellum Books specializes in military history 18th century through the 19th, some Canadian material, WWI, WWII. By appointment only I was worried that there wouldn't be anything in my price range but there was. Very nice owner we chatted for longer than I looked at the books. Cash/personal check only.

Alhambra books massive WWII section with smaller ones on Napoleonic, WWI, Vietnam and American civil war. Friendly owner she actually stayed open for a little while after closing time. Selection runs the gamut from Time Life dreck to some very unusual titles. Pricing is dead on 50% of list which for some is optimistic.

Greenwoods if you search online you'll come across many references to this bookstore. Very disappointing selection, seemed to be running out of stock in many sections books are face out.

Wee Book Inn there are 4 locations. We looked at 2 of them. Mostly paperback fiction very little history let alone military. My friend who was looking for romance and Canadian fiction did quite well.

Back from Edmonton

I have returned. I was supposed to come back Saturday but instead we had to stay for an extra day. Some thoughts on events of last week and the military history sections of bookstores in Edmonton forthcoming.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Off to Edmonton!

I'll be back on Saturday.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Henry Surtees dies after F2 crash

Henry Surtees dies after F2 crash. Going by description of the accident it sounds like the wheel didn't stay with the car. I'm not sure if F2 cars have the tether that other open-wheel cars do.

Update:F2 does use wheel tethers.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." LBJ

"...And that's the way it is" Walter Cronkite, Dies at 92.

I knew they'd screw it up!

Futurama to be recast?

Quotation [occasional]

"There are a lot of Ass shots in this film."
- A friend discussing the cinematography in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wikipedia oversteps

So much for claiming they except other people's copyright. The National Portrait Gallery vs. Wikipedia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Andrew Coyne is mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore!

Boy he is bitter.

Vatican on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

According to MSNBC they didn't out right despise it. Actually liked the good vs. evil story line. Although there was some complaining that there's no mention of the "transcendent".

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Barrichello's whining

Team made me lose race. I don't think they sabotaged the fuel rig on purpose...

Friday, July 10, 2009

So what's next?

Harper bungles partisan attack at G8.

Hitler's Motor Racing Battles: The Silver Arrows under the Swastika by Eberhard Reuss

Hitler's Motor Racing Battles: The Silver Arrows under the Swastika by Eberhard Reuss you may remember my grumbling during Memorial Day coverage of the Coca-Cola 600 that Americans don't seem to understand just who else has liked racing historically. So I picked up this book. This is a decent look at Auto Union and Mercedes during the 1930s including the NAZI support for the race teams. They competed both in Grand Prixs [where they were nearly unbeatable] as well as hill climbs. There was also an attempt to take the land speed record. There are pictures on nearly every page as well as posters and the like. There's some discussion of the different drivers their personalities. As typical for books like this there's a section on post-WWII fudging of the historical record.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

El Alamein, 1942: The Turning of the Tide by Ken Ford

El Alamein, 1942: The Turning of the Tide by Ken Ford standard Osprey treatment of this key battle in the desert campaign. Made sense of the sometimes confusing different operations. Lots of pictures and maps. Frequent discussion of the different commanders, not just Montgomery and Rommel.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Emma Watson in stockings

Yes I'm a bad person for doing this to attract page views. Well at least I didn't use "nude" in the subject line. Enough stalling here you go. and here.

Seems like Harper can't do anything right

Questions Catholics demand explanation for PM pocketing communion wafer at LeBlanc funeral. One of my friends was married in a catholic ceremony. They made sure to explain to us heathens just what to do if we manage to get in the communion line.

And I thought I wasn't going to post today

Drug charge for Potter film actor. It is Jamie Waylett who plays Vincent Crabbe in case you're too lazy to click the link.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Robert McNamara dead at 93

He is most famous for being responsible for the buildup and strategy in Vietnam. Ever since the conflict he seem to do his best to come to terms with his own decisions and failures. Most publicly in the Oscar winning The Fog of War and books In Retrospect and Argument Without End. The BBC obituary can be found here.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

What is it about F1

That brings out this love of far right movements in central European nations? Ecclestone's Hitler remarks condemned. Here's the money quote:
In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he was in the way that he could command a lot of people able to get things done.
As I frequently say you can't fix stupid. Maybe a breakaway series was a good idea after all. Presumably they couldn't find anyone as incompetent to run the thing as the current crew of Bernie and Max.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Rupert Grint had swine flu

I'm so happy we have the BBC to tell us these things. Harry Potter star 'had swine flu'. In all seriousness here's hoping for a full recovery.

I know its Independence Day but this is ridiculous

In this week's New York Times David A. Andelman gives a blistering review to WORLD WAR ONE By Norman Stone. He whines that:
Stone ignores Gen. John J. Pershing, mastermind of a push by half a million American troopsthrough the St.-Mihiel salient two months before the end of the war.
Umm considering that Pershing was under the direct command of Foch it does seem rather debatable that it was Pershing as "mastermin".

Friday, July 03, 2009

Palin resigns!

Gov. Sarah Palin to resign her office July 26. MSNBC is already asking the obvious question. Is this equivalent to her giving up? What does it say about her "fire" for politics if she can't take the heat from being governor.

Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-1153 by Jim Bradbury

Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-1153 by Jim Bradbury a clear and well written military/political history on this mediaeval English war. Explains in detail how King Stephen managed to win the war but lose the peace. There's quite a bit here on 12th century warfare, tactics and fortifications. The book is oversized and on every page there's a picture or illustration. There's also info on visiting the sites today.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch is the first in a projected seven book fantasy series. Locke a young con artist must steal enough money to make a sacrifice for those that through his lack of foresight he killed. At the same time the Gray King is terrorizing organized crime in the city with a series of gruesome murders. Interspersed are flashbacks where we learn more about the society and Locke's history. I really enjoyed this. The flashbacks are handled nicely. Characters are well done. The plots are intricate but laid out well and it's easy enough to believe the reactions of those involved. I'll be picking up the sequel. Unfortunately it appears that there's been some delay with the third volume.

Highly recommended!