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!