Saturday, June 27, 2009

Ultra in the West: The Normandy Campaign of 1944-45 by Ralph Bennett

Ultra in the West: The Normandy Campaign of 1944-45 by Ralph Bennett describes the use of intercepted German communications in the Allied campaign in northwestern Europe. Bennett one of the participants is able to give insights into the material that most historians would be unable to. He's perhaps a little quick to criticize Eisenhower and Montgomery for failing to take note of the intelligence. He also points out that it seemed like particularly around the time of the Battle of the Bulge that the traditional means of intelligence gathering were ignored. If it wasn't confirmed by Ultra it wasn't going to happen.


Selling out

Amazon links will be slowly going up for the reviews. I'm tired of messing around with Abe. The interface was extremely frustrating to use. Amazon's is much more easy to build links. Yes, yes I know I've criticized them in the past.

Friday, June 26, 2009

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman

On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman argues that the act of killing has not been dealt with by military historians. That the resistance to kill is something that is central to the experience of soldiers. He makes the case through use of Marshall's Men Against Fire "research" and other studies. I'm pretty sure I've made my feelings about Marshall clear so I'll leave that aside. The book is very useful in how it breaks down the act of killing into a series of reactions. There's also some interesting stuff about the psychological aspects [although perhaps he goes too far linking it with sex]. What I found frustrating was the larger apparatus around this discussion. Much of the book is polemical Grossman for instance argues that PTSD is caused because of the resistance to kill and the stress that is engendered. Strange I've read of cases of PTSD from those who were in natural disasters. Who are they trying to kill? The book also concludes with a rant against video games.

I can't really recommend this there's too much bad research but it is certainly interesting. This is a revised edition it's unclear how much is different from the previous one.

Not recommended

Note: this was provided by the publisher for review.

Weapon R&D from WWII

WWII poison darts secret emerges

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Terra Insegura by Edward Willett

Terra Insegura by Edward Willett is the sequel to Marseguro. The survivors from the attack on Marseguro are returning to earth. They have to deal with various factions. I'm being vague about this mostly because I don't want to spoil Marseguro. As I mentioned in my review for the first book ethical choices are at the center of the narrative. There are one or two of the choices that I found less convincing but this is still very enjoyable. I'm sorry to hear that there isn't a third book planned.


Note: this was provided for review by the author.

Quite the day

One beauty icon and one crazy guy dead.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Marseguro by Edward Willett

Marseguro by Edward Willett is a science fiction novel that deals with the issues of religion and genetic engineering. Marseguro a Waterworld is colonized by a crew of human/fish hybrids created by a scientist. Earth is controlled by a tyrannical religious movement that wants to cleanse the universe of such an abomination. All of the characters here have well thought out motivations and there's excellent characterization. I liked that even the protagonists are flawed in some way. This isn't black vs. white there are shades of gray. Lots of ethical decisions to be made by individuals.


Note: this was provided for review by the author.

No budget cap and supplier teams

In the end the FIA has no spine.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World by Christopher M. Andrew

The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World by Christopher M. Andrew describes the operations that Soviet intelligence carried out in the second and third worlds. The title is somewhat of a misnomer there aren't any documents only the occasional one or two line quotation the rest is Andrew's summary. I was rather disappointed that. We still get a breathless account of just how remarkable the material is. Well in that case let's see it. The narrative itself is intriguing. The KGB had a particular fondness for disinformation campaigns which come to think of it does kind of put into question this material. There's also a lot on just what the Soviets thought of different individuals from Nelson Mandela to Gandhi.


Quotation [occasional]

If the bulk of American sf could be said to be written by robots, about robots, for robots, then the bulk of English fantasy seems to be written by rabbits, about rabbits and for rabbits.
-Epic Pooh by Michael Moorcock

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Vimy by Pierre Berton

Vimy by Pierre Berton nationalistic history of this WWI battle. Berton was one of the major popular historians in Canada during the last century. The narrative is mostly from the soldiers perspective. Much of the oral history was collected by the CBC. The description of the battle is pretty good even if it is quite limited. There are maps and a bibliography of sources. Berton is at great pains to uphold the national myth of the campaign. Which does seem to conflict with his closing comments that the whole thing was a waste.


Friday, June 19, 2009

Garden of Beasts: A Novel of Berlin 1936 by Jeffery Deaver

Garden of Beasts: A Novel of Berlin 1936 by Jeffery Deaver an American hit man is sent to Berlin to kill a German general responsible for rearming Germany. A fast pace book but the characters are psychologically complex. I particularly liked the interaction between the various German officials. The daily decisions about how much to do for the regime is a frequent backdrop to novels like this. It's handled particularly deftly. I'll be looking for other books by Deaver in the future.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"fundamental values of the sport"

You know like whoever has the most money wins. FOTA teams to launch breakaway series.

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima young adult fantasy first in a trilogy. Jack our hero discovers that he has been marked at birth to be the hero [a gladiator who will fight to the death at the behest of wizards]. This is a good example of a summer read a book that is fast paced and enjoyable as long as you don't actually think about the plot or characters. The world building is occasionally laughable. Wizards want to stay secret but they sure do destroy a lot of property. Characters are cardboard and unsympathetic. I found myself humming it's a small world after all at several times. There are coincidences and characters that just happen to be involved. There is action we certainly don't get bogged down in characters thoughts and feelings. This is fluff and I'm actually going to pick up the sequel, well used not new.

Mildly recommended.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole this is my first book in the Southern Reading Challenge. It follows the trials and tribulations of gnatius J. Reilly slob, lazy and arrogant as he attempts to find and keep a job. Going into this I knew that the book was famous for both its black humor as well as its portrayal of New Orleans. I did enjoy it although I was slightly disconcerted that so many of the characters seem to be nothing more than stereotypes. In particular the treatment of homosexuals grated on me after a while. The ending seems to come out of left field like Toole couldn't come up with a conclusion.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Conduct Of War, 1789-1961: A Study Of The Impact Of The French, Industrial, And Russian Revolutions On War And Its Conduct by J. F. C. Fuller

The Conduct Of War, 1789-1961: A Study Of The Impact Of The French, Industrial, And Russian Revolutions On War And Its Conduct by J. F. C. Fuller I'll summarize 300 pages in one sentence. It's all democracy's fault. This is the rather bizarre argument behind this work of military history. I can't really say I agree with anything here. I'm left slightly flabbergasted. I knew Fuller had some issues [he supported Hitler in the 1930s] but I didn't think his later writings were so strange.

Not recommended.


OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Churchill's Secret Skills: It Took More Than Fine Speeches to Defeat the Nazi's by Binden Shovel

Churchill's Secret Skills: It Took More Than Fine Speeches to Defeat the Nazi's by Binden Shovel is a business book that gives examples on what managers can learn from churchill's leadership during the Second World War. The book is divided into thematic chapters on different topics like dealing with difficult people [using the Soviets as the example], micromanagement, honesty and standing firm. I can quibble with some of the historical analysis but you wouldn't be reading this book for that so I'll let it go. The stories from Shovel's career are interesting and help link the wider themes to a business level.


Note: this was provided for review by the author.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin by Lisa Sweetingham

Chemical Cowboys: The DEA's Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin by Lisa Sweetingham fascinating look at how an Israeli organized crime figure was arrested for selling Ecstasy. The narrative follows several of the agents as well as members of the crime family. Drugs were made in the Netherlands then smuggled into New York where they were distributed in clubs. The book also contains an interesting history of the creation of Ecstasy and it's illegal status. No citations but I can't really fault Sweetingham for that. There are some suggestions for further reading. A fast paced informative read.

Highly recommended.

Note: provided by a PR outfit for review purposes.

Lisa Raitt needs to go NOW

No BS or spin just a quick resignation before lunchtime tomorrow.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

[Guess post]Lisa Sweetingham

I'll be reviewing her book tomorrow. Here's a piece about the research that went into the book.

One of the great benefits of writing “Chemical Cowboys” is that it gave me an excuse to interview fascinating individuals. The book covers a decade’s worth of formerly classified law enforcement operations that led to the toppling of a billion-dollar Ecstasy empire, an Ecstasy kingpin, and the prosecution of a Tel Aviv mob boss. It takes readers to the chemical labs in the Netherlands and Belgium where the pills were made, the nightclubs of New York, Miami, and Los Angeles where the pills were distributed, and all the way back to Israel where police chased after the mob bosses who were financing the trade.

After receiving full cooperation from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Israeli National Police (INP), I spent several years getting to know the undercover agents in New York who led the casework and I traveled to the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Romania to meet with drug cops and former drug dealers who shared their trade secrets. One of my most memorable experiences was sitting in a hotel lounge in Jerusalem with my INP hosts, and listening to the life experiences of a veteran Israeli detective named Amram Edri.

Edri, in his late seventies, is muscular and compact with a stoic, chiseled face. He chased after gangsters in the streets of Jerusalem in the ‘70s, and one of his sons now covers the same beat as the retired father. I write about Edri in “Chemical Cowboys” as a way to illustrate the changing nature of organized crime in Israel in the last thirty years. Back in Edri’s day, gangsters were uneducated about the law and planned clumsy attacks. During his time on the force, Edri’s car was firebombed, his children escaped a bungled attempted kidnapping, his house was ambushed several times, and he was shot at in broad daylight. No one could take Edri down, but perhaps that was because his rivals weren’t the brightest thugs.

Today’s mob bosses, however, are savvy (and their attorneys are savvier). They understand the futility of trying to kill police officers and are more interested in taking down business rivals who muscle in on their extortion, gambling, and drug trades. When they meet to talk business, they might walk along the Mediterranean, always with their faces to the sea as they speak, in case a cop with binoculars happens to be a lip-reader. Sophisticated mobsters never do the dirty work—they pay someone who pays someone else to pay an assassin.

The guns and knives of Edri’s day still are useful tools, but today’s liquidation experts prefer high-powered car bombs and light anti-armor weapon (LAW) missiles to get the job done. Which is why the No. 1 Tel Aviv mob boss, a casino tycoon named Ze’ev “the Wolf” Rosenstein, always traveled in an armored Mercedes flanked by a caravan of bodyguards.

For nearly thirty years, Israeli police had received intelligence suggesting that Rosenstein was tied to murders and underworld criminal activity—but no one dared to testify against him and nothing seemed to stick to the Wolf. But then, in 2001, INP learned that Rosenstein was financing multi-million dollar Ecstasy deals in the United States and had hired a pair of Colombian assassins in an attempt to take out his top rival. Israeli and American cops worked together to bring Rosenstein to justice and take down his network of pill pushers. Like Al Capone and tax evasion, the Wolf was nabbed for the love drug. It marked the end of the Ecstasy era. And a fitting end to my book.


Lisa Sweetingham

Author of “Chemical Cowboys: The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin”

bio info:

Journalist Lisa Sweetingham spent four years following in the footsteps of DEA agents and Ecstasy traffickers to bring CHEMICAL COWBOYS to life. Previously, she covered high-profile murder trials and Supreme Court nomination hearings for Court TV online. Sweetingham is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Parade, Spin, Time Out New York, Health Affairs, and many other publications. She resides in Los Angeles. CHEMICAL COWBOYS is her first book.

Roman Forts in Britain by David J. Breeze

Roman Forts in Britain by David J. Breeze short highly illustrated book on well what the title says. Nice amount of information crammed into 64 pages. Explanations are concise. He's willing to admit where there's no information. If you're interested in the topic a must have.

Highly recommended.

Now that's bad PR!

He did what?! Kyle Busch enjoys a smashing victory. Driver bashes field, then his guitar trophy.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Guerrilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study by Walter Laqueur

Guerrilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study by Walter Laqueur attempts to do what the title says. I'll give Laqueur credit some of the theorists and examples he discusses are those that are so obscure I haven't heard of them even though I've been studying the topic for 4 years now. That being said there are some major problems with his work. The most glaring is one of definitions. His idea of Guerrillas is so broad that it includes such groups as Baader-Meinhof and FLQ. To my mind this makes the term almost useless. These are groups that barely made it into phase one. He also strikes me as trying his hardest to be contrary. He frequently breaks with the standard view on various topics such as the utility of guerrillas in Yugoslavia during the Second World War with little or no evidence. In short borrow it from the library and copy the bibliography.

Not recommended.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East by Juan Cole

Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East by Juan Cole an interesting concept tell the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon through the perspective of the locals. Unfortunately it gets bogged down in social science jargon and drawing parallels to current American policy. Useful for the extensive translations of primary sources.

Mildly recommended.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin this is the second book in the Earthsea fantasy young adult series. Tenar chosen to be the leader of a temple must deal with her position and faith. Most of the book is taken up with her trying to make sense of things. Ged the hero from the last book only appears at the very end. Not to give anything away but there's a change in Tenar's outlook that although it was telegraphed was still too abrupt for me. I'll be continuing along in the series.


Conservatives not so competent

Auctioned silver belonged to the royal family

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Be more funny

I don't mind Danica Patrick's lame attempt at drug related humor. That being said she really has to work on her delivery.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling what to say about a 400 page novel that contains the plot of a short story? Basically this is alternate history. Difference engines aka early computers exist in victorian London. A computer program that could be used for gambling is passed between many hands with violent results. Unfortunately an interesting idea gets bogged down with page after page of victorian slang and scenery.

Not recommended.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

David Eddings 1931-2009

Some sad news. I always did enjoy his stuff even if it wasn't the most highbrow.

Conan O'Brien

I'm right in the target demographic that's supposed to find him funny, I don't. Last night's relaunch of the Tonight Show made it abundantly clear. From the opening bit where he was running across the country that went on and on to the fidgeting I just hated it.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Churchill Proceedings 2001-2003 edited by Tony Benn

Churchill Proceedings 2001-2003 edited by Tony Benn is a collection of papers given at Churchill Society events. Presenters tend to be either academics or politicians. There's coverage on Gallipoli, the Bermuda conference, churchill's views on Islam, his history of the Second World War and some personal remembrances from his only living grandchild. There are few interesting ideas here. These are all written by Churchill enthusiasts so there were a couple times when I was able to criticize their findings. An interesting piece of the collection all the same.

Mildly recommended.