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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.

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.

Recommended.