Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Book Awards

Here are my choices for the best of 2007. These are books I've reviewed. They weren't necessarily published in the last year but as the NBC summertime slogan goes "its new to me".

Science Fiction and Fantasy

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Honorable Mention

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson

Thriller

Wheels of Fire by Terence Strong

Iraq

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

World War II

Killing Hitler: The Plots, The Assassins, and the Dictator Who Cheated Death by Roger Moorhouse

Friday, December 28, 2007

Casual Rex by Eric Garcia

Casual Rex by Eric Garcia. What if 16 species of dinosaurs survived into the modern-day world? What if they crammed themselves into rubber suits so they would look like us? Garcia takes this rather bizarre premise and puts it on top of a PI story. A group much like Scientology is trying to convince dinosaurs they should run free. Our hero has been sent out to recover one of their members. Naturally complications occur. This is actually a prequel. I had read the original book Anonymous Rex a year or so before the blog and enjoyed it. This is also superb. Downright funny in places.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



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

Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918 by Bruce I. Gudmundsson

Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918 by Bruce I. Gudmundsson this is an excellent study of German infantry tactics. Gudmundsson describes the various versions of the German training regimens for breaking through trenches. Interestingly he credits the original idea for infiltration tactics to be from analysis of the Boer war. There is also reference to operations were lessons were learned. There are occasional comments about how German WWI tactics led to World War II Blitzkrieg I would have appreciated more on this. Much of the book is based on German sources.

Highly recommended!

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

250th review

I just posted my 250th book review. It was Armies of the Carthaginian Wars by Terence Wise. Not bad for 1 1/2 years.

Armies of the Carthaginian Wars by Terence Wise

Armies of the Carthaginian Wars by Terence Wise. Time for another Osprey title. This is a pretty good summary of the equipment and training of both sides of this ancient conflict. Most of the reconstructions are based upon archaeology and educated guesses. Most interesting was a discussion of the Iberians who were used as auxiliaries. I haven't heard much about these before. As usual lots of illustrations and photos.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Short of Glory by Alan Judd

Short of Glory by Alan Judd is a satire about Africa and the British Foreign Office. Are hero is sent to a fictional African police state to help find a member of the British delegation who is missing. the social commentary is not particularly profound. Bureaucrats are hypocrites, the West deals with thugs that sort of thing. For the most part this is a decent story. One minor irritation is that the characters will make speeches at the drop of a hat. Characters will say various racist and politically incorrect things are hero will attempt to debate them but his arguments are very weak. I'm not sure if this was by design.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual Forewords by John A. Nagl, David H. Petraeus, James F. Amos

The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual Forewords by John A. Nagl, David H. Petraeus, James F. Amos this is the current manual published by Chicago press. The introductory material contains a discussion of American policy or lack thereof as well as a description of the writing process well worth the cost of the book. The manual itself is what one would expect. The British school of counterinsurgency seems to have strongly influenced this. There's some not very subtle criticisms of the strategy used in the Vietnam War. I wouldn't recommend reading at cover to cover its rather hard going rather a thematic chapter at a time could be easier. No counterinsurgency or Iraq bookshelf would be complete without this.

Highly recommended!

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Aircraft Down!: Evading Capture in WWII Europe by Philip D. Caine

Aircraft Down!: Evading Capture in WWII Europe by Philip D. Caine is a rather disappointing collection of stories of Allied pilots trying to avoid capture. The major problem is that Caine has fallen into the "popular history" trap of providing internal monologue. "He knew he had to get away from the crash site quickly." The stories themselves are actually pretty good and would make excellent novels. The pilots often had to trust people on very little evidence as well as come up with new ideas on-the-fly. There is a far too short introduction discussing the history of the various underground lines used to move personnel to neutral Spain. Two of the stories involve planes crashing in Greece and Italy which was interesting.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scythians 700-300 B.C. by E.V. Cernenko

Scythians 700-300 B.C. by E.V. Cernenko is an Osprey title on these nomads of the Russian step. This was originally published in the 1980s. Osprey commissioned and translated the Russian experts text. Since there aren't any existing records by the Scythians themselves it's difficult to describe their history. The reconstruction is done through the accounts of the Greeks and Persians. Most of the book describes archaeological finds particularly scale armor. Naturally with an Osprey title one of the main attractions is the art work which is lovely as usual. I'm sure their have been all sorts of new findings in the last 20 years but this is still a nice introduction.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.



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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition by Robert W. Merry

Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy, and the Hazards of Global Ambition by Robert W. Merry Is an analysis of American foreign policy and history. Merry argues that there's been several streams of thought in American foreign policy they are the idea of progress which led to Francis Fukuyama's end of history thesis, liberalism interventionism championed by Woodrow Wilson, the neoconservatives basically imperialists and finally Huntington's clash of civilizations. The analysis is actually pretty good discussing various obscure theorists and nicely in capsulizing their arguments. The problem is when we get to the discussion of real-world events.

Merry believes in the clashe of civilizations. Which leads to some bizarre conclusions. One of the large sections of the book is on the Balkans. According to the author NATO and the United States should not have been involved and if anything should have been much more supportive of the Serbs. Merry does acknowledge the war crimes but does not seem to comprehend the level of outrage they produced in the US and Western Europe. Going forward America should support anybody as long as they are willing to suppress Islamist forces. Funny I think that's what got them into this mess in the first place. Saudi Arabia should be ignored instead Iran should be cultivated. There's no reference to the Israeli position on this. The book concludes with some ranting about Islamic immigration.

It's too bad first 100 pages were superb.

Recommended for the discussion of the different positions except for the clash of civilizations which is not dealt with in a particularly evenhanded way.

Is available through Abebooks.

Muscat Command by Peter Thwaites and Simon Sloane

Muscat Command by Peter Thwaites and Simon Sloane is a memoir of Thwaites's time as commander of Oman's military. This took place during the insurgency in Oman. The insurgents supported by Yemen and the Chinese attempted to overthrow the government. Much of the discussion is about Thwaites going out on patrols and trying to get the Sultan to develop an actual hearts and minds strategy. He's rather opinionated about the other British services that were supposed to assist particularly the Air Force. A very interesting piece on a little-known conflict. The final chapter written by Sloane after Thwaites's death give some perspective on what his personnel thought of him. The book has several appendices including reports and more letters discussing Thwaites.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Silence of the Rational Center: Why American Foreign Policy Is Failing by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke

Silence of the Rational Center: Why American Foreign Policy Is Failing by Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke is a discussion of why big ideas as opposed to nuanced policies are so dangerous in American foreign policy and how they can be fixed. Naturally the media goes in for a lot of criticism but think tanks and various academics such as Bernard Lewis, Samuel P. Huntington and Noam Chomsky are criticized for selling out. The concluding section of the book discusses China and how it must be dealt with on a rational basis or else there could be war. Some of the scenarios were interesting such as increasing strain on Chinese aquifers requiring China to by grain on the open market thereby making it unstable. Unfortunately occasionally the authors say they're not going to do something like attack the media for how to use experts then proceed to do it for the next 15 pages.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Oh hell

Terry Pratchett diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Speed Week by S. V. Date

Speed Week by S. V. Date is a humorous novel about Daytona. This is in the vain of other "quirky Florida mysteries". There's more sex than satire but it is still funny and places. A well-connected family wants to build a racing themepark on the beach but the estranged wife of one of the members is responsible for blocking construction with a lawsuit. So they decide to kill her. However plans and counterplans crop up. This is my first book by Date I'll probably pick up others.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Death and Life in the Tenth Century by Eleanor Shipley

Death and Life in the Tenth Century by Eleanor Shipley. This is a political and church history. Considering the title I was rather surprised that there wasn't any social history involving peasants and the like. The narrative is made up of short biographies of important players. There are sections on literature, painting, poetry and plays this is mostly based around religious themes. The eccentricities of some of the pope's do make interesting reading.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Indians and the heroic age of New France by Bruce G Trigger

The Indians and the heroic age of New France by Bruce G Trigger this is a very short booklet on the interactions between the natives and Europeans. The book describes the trading between the two groups as well as the political connections forged. Maps and illustrations are in abundance. There's a further reading section with comments. I think the description of the natives is a little on the idealized side. This was published in 1989 by the Canadian Historical Association and is a revised edition.

Recommend.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future by Vali Nasr

The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future by Vali Nasr is an excellent description of the historical background to the conflict of the Shia and Sunnis. Most of the book discusses Iraq but reference is also made to other areas in the Middle East particularly Iran and Saudi Arabia. Considering that President Bush apparently can't keep the two groups straight this is exactly the sort of book that American decisionmakers need to be reading. The challenge of the Shia is something that the Americans will have to deal with in the war on terror.

Highly recommended!

For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Inside the VC and the NVA by Michael Lee Lanning and Dan Cragg

Inside the VC and the NVA by Michael Lee Lanning and Dan Cragg is a study on the soldiers of the North Vietnamese. The book deals with training, tactics, logistics and recruitment. Most of the research was gathered from POW interrogations and captured material such as letters and diaries. The book is excellent at describing day-to-day experiences. There's an extensive section of excerpts from a survey sent to US personnel giving their opinions on the North Vietnamese. Unfortunately there are some strange choices. There's some gratuitous whining about campus liberals and the media which seems out of place and the book concludes with a summary of the Chinese Vietnamese conflict. I'm not really sure what this had to do with discussing the soldiers experiences.

Recommended with caveats.

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

Was that so hard?

Burt steps down from the copyright committee. Now if they manage not to do something stupid for at least a year they can start to repair their image.

Update: Or maybe the change wasn't that big.

Essays on Strategy VI edited by Thomas C. Gill

Essays on Strategy VI edited by Thomas C. Gill is an essay collection originally published in 1989. These essays were selected from a competition the US government held. They are on various topics , SDI, US-Japanese relations, the role of Defense attaches, Soviet overtures in the Pacific region, US relations with Europe and Clausewitz in nuclear war. From this contents list it's pretty obvious that none of the authors believed the Soviet Union was about to collapse. Much of the debates here are of academic interest however some are still relevant to this day. Japanese rearmament as well as SDI are still hot button issues 18 years later.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Famous Welsh battles: Where battles were fought, why they were fought, how they were won and lost by Philip Warner

Famous Welsh battles: Where battles were fought, why they were fought, how they were won and lost by Philip Warner this is part of the larger series on British battlefields. I previously reviewed the offering for the Midlands. The battles covered in this book starts with the conflict with the Romans. The strategies as well as descriptions of the various battles are clear and easy-to-follow. The bulk of the book consists of the various attempts of the English to take control of Wales. The invasion of Edward I is naturally discussed at length. There's also a nice short discussion of fortifications throughout the Middle Ages. The book concludes with the English Civil War battles and a brief mention of the aborted French invasion during the French Revolutionary wars. There are appendices providing excerpts from some primary sources. Strangely they're not in chronological order. There's also reference to ordinance maps [probably out of date this was published in the 1970s] as well as suggestions for visiting the sites. A further reading section would've been nice.

Recommended.

A little help to Calgary Catholic schools

With the news that the Calgary Catholic schools our polling the Golden Compass I figured I should help out by providing some more authors that wrote or did things not in line with the Catholic Church.

George Orwell anti-Catholic writings.
Charles Dickens had an affair.
Mark Twain was agnostic or an atheist my sources conflict.
Douglas Adams atheist.
Isaac Asimov atheist.
Dave Barry atheist.
C. S. Lewis Protestant who wrote an entire book mostly ripping on the RC.

Get moving those shelves won't empty themselves! I also find it quite ironic that in the article they're trying to claim this won't give the book more media attention. Also isn't it interesting that it was sitting there for 12 years and nobody said anything.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Note to commenters

If ad hominem is the best you can do then don't bother.

The system works

Parole board denies Robert Latimer's bid for partial freedom. Excellent!

Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel: The Book Nobody Has Been Waiting For by Michael Gerber

Barry Trotter and the Unnecessary Sequel: The Book Nobody Has Been Waiting For by Michael Gerber is the second humorous fantasy novel which pokes fun at Harry Potter. The headmaster is horribly killed and its up to Barry and his wife a bookworm with an overactive libido to figure out who did the deed. At the same time Barry is getting younger. There's also a subplot where their son tries to deal with the fact that he doesn't have any magical ability. The first book in the series did do some surprisingly touching characterization but there's none of that here. The humor has been ratcheted up and is even more over-the-top than the original. I still enjoyed this but not as much as the original. There's a third book which I'll be picking up eventually.

Recommended.

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 A.D. by James Reston Jr.

The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 A.D. by James Reston Jr. is an interesting history of medieval Europe. Reston takes as his premise that Europe was under assault by various groups which led to an apocalyptic state of mind. He describes the threats as the Vikings, Moors, Hungarians and Byzantines. He is at his best when describing the complex politics between the different groups. Unfortunately the section on the Vikings is essentially summaries of Sagas without much in the way of skepticism. That criticism aside this is an excellent history.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Later Stone Implements by Michael W. Pitts

Later Stone Implements by Michael W. Pitts is a very short work on Neolithic stone implements in England. This is part of a larger series on English archaeology. Their are illustrations of different tools on every page as well as information on locations and production. The issues of dating these artifacts are also described. This was published back in 1980 so some of the material is probably out of date. Interesting as an introduction all the same.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik is a wonderful fantasy/alternate history. Dragons exist and are used in combat. The book is set during the Napoleonic wars. A Dragon egg is captured from a French naval vessel. When it hatches it imprints on the ship captain Will Laurence. Because of this he is transferred out of the Navy and is sent for training with the Dragon. Much of the story is the interaction between the Dragon Temeraire and Laurence. Laurence must also grow accustomed to the different culture of the aviators. This is a superbly written book with wonderful characters. The combat is much like a combination of fighter and bomber aircraft. Some of the battle sequences are a little difficult to follow. One criticism is that the !aviator's culture seems to me to be too modern. This is a minor criticism that doesn't take away from the story. I've already ordered the next several books in the series.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.




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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Moments in bad spin

It gets better and better. The response from the SFWA president is essentially "trust us". Trust is earned not guaranteed. If there's no confidence in the system it behooves those in charge to provide confidence building exercises. Leaving personnel in place that were directly responsible for the last failure is not an example of this. Saying you will doublecheck their work begs the obvious question of why they're needed in the first place.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Politics of Survival;: The Conservative Party of Canada, 1939-1945 by J. L Granatstein

The Politics of Survival;: The Conservative Party of Canada, 1939-1945 by J. L Granatstein. This is a history describing the transition from the Conservative Party to the Progressive Conservative Party during the second world war. The major issue that the party tryed to gather support on was that of conscription. This pretty much destroyed the party in Qu├ębec and even caused problems in English Canada. Granatstein suggests that the party was so badly mismanaged it was nearly destroyed except for the threat of the CCF.[Co-operative Commonwealth Federation]. This was originally Granatstein's thesis so it has the over-the-top bibliography and primary research one would expect. That being said the writing is clear without too many flourishes. There are footnotes as well as appendices containing abstracts from policy documents.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.



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

SFWA reshuffles the deck chairs on the Titanic

Why is this not a surprise? And some people think Dilbert is just a cartoon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Make for the Hills: Memories of Far Eastern Wars by Sir. Robert Thompson

Make for the Hills: Memories of Far Eastern Wars by Sir. Robert Thompson is the autobiography of this counterinsurgency expert. He was the RAF liaison with the Chindits in Burma. He was a supporter of Wingate in the postwar controversies. After the war he rejoined the Malayan civil service and helped defeat the Communists during the Malay emergency. He was then off to Vietnam providing expertise to the British and US government's. Particularly Richard Nixon. There is some "I told you so" but it's done in a rather unoffensive way. Although I tend to agree with his analysis so that probably helps. There's quite a bit here on the failure of the Americans to change their style of war fighting to defeat insurgency. If you are at all interested in counterinsurgency this is a necessary book on your bookshelf.

Highly recommended!

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.

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a history of the CPA [Coalition Provisional Authority]. This is a catalog of the various fiascoes and disasters that took place from the fall of Baghdad to June 28, 2004. The one overpowering flaw was that staffing was done on an ideological litmus test. Democrats need not apply. Unfortunately this pretty much destroyed the chance of getting competent people in. Those that were competent were unable to function. There was never an attempt to deal with the big picture mainly security everything was micromanaged. For instance import controls on cars were removed without realizing that there was not enough gasoline refining capacity. This is a superb book..

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.


For more Iraq book reviews take a look at My Iraq bookshelf.

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

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Rise of Universities by Charles Homer Haskins

The Rise of Universities by Charles Homer Haskins. This is a quite short publication containing three lectures on the medieval University. This was originally published in 1923. The first lecture discusses the founding of the institutions. The second describes professors and the surprising amount of academic freedom as long as religion was avoided. The last is on students and their behavior. There is a decent amount of information considering the length of the book. There's a short biographical note and an updated bibliography.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

I'll review your book, maybe [My book review policy]

Today for the first time I was offered a book to review for the blog. It's a science fiction alternate history. Naturally I've accepted the offer. I've taken enough political science courses that when something new happens I feel the urge to write a set of guidelines so here's my book review policy. I'm happy to review your book if it meets the following criteria.
  • The book falls within the genres I usually read. Don't bother suggesting your contemporary horror or supernatural romance. If there's any doubt suggest it and I'll make the decision. As far as nonfiction just about everything goes.
  • The book must have an ISBN.
  • And most importantly be willing to ship to Canada.
If you want to contact me you can do so through the the comments link on any post. All comments are moderated [since the spam attack this past summer] so it won't be posted. Remember to leave an e-mail address so I can get back to you.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Podcast any thoughts?

I've been considering setting up a podcast. I find that I have less time than I'd like to write out these reviews but often have more to say. A podcast containing "extra commentary" would seem to be a solution. I'd still do a posting probably about the same length as I'm doing now but also include a longer discussion in a podcast. Now here's the question if I bother doing this would anyone actually listened to it? Let me know.

The Defence of Canada Volume 1 In the Arms of the Empire 1760-1939 by Gwynne Dyer and Tina Viljoen

The Defence of Canada Volume 1 In the Arms of the Empire 1760-1939 by Gwynne Dyer and Tina Viljoen. This is a rather controversial history on this topic. A second volume was expected but never published as far as I can tell. This probably has something to do with the reception the documentary this book was based on received. This is a Canadian centered account which is unusual. The introduction deals with some of the criticisms mainly that this is anti-American and isolationist. Dyer and Viljoen claim that they originally expected to do a more traditional perspective but over time realized the contradictions. So an isolationist policy would have been better. There is quite a bit of information the history is an excellent one. Some will be frustrated by the conclusions but this does not change the fact that this is well argued. The writing is very good. Dyer's wit is on display throughout. For example when discussing Sir Sam Hughes: "he couldn't organize a drunk in a brewery."

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Devil's Oasis by Bartle Bull

The Devil's Oasis by Bartle Bull is a novel about the North African campaign in World War II. The main characters consist of a little person who owns a bar in Cairo, a big-game hunter, his son and a French official. The characterization is somewhat over the top a lot of these characters seem to have stepped out of a bad soap opera. Everything is rather melodramatic. I'm pretty sure every female in the cast has at least a DD chest. Basically it's rather silly but still enjoyable. Most of the action involves the characters sleeping with each other and getting revenge for various reasons. The battle sequences are very well written.

Recommended.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hit Man by Lawrence Block

Hit Man by Lawrence Block. This is a collection of linked short stories about the assassin Keller. Most if not all of these originally were published in Playboy. Keller is an average guy who just happens to kill people. The stories revolve around this contradiction as well as his "ethics". Their fun fast-paced each with a hard twist in them.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Of Arms and Men: History of War, Weapons and Aggression by Robert L. O'Connell.

Of Arms and Men: History of War, Weapons and Aggression by Robert L. O'Connell. I'm rather conflicted about this book. This is a discussion of weapons throughout human history. O'Connell has clearly done quite a bit of research. I certainly learned some new things there is definitely some obscure material here. The question of why armed forces want to have comparable weapons is answered by pointing out this is one way to take away possible weapons advantages. Unfortunately the analysis is very much based on the idea of climactic battle. There are also some truly bizarre blanket statements along the way. My favorite being that Sir John Fisher is barely remembered today. He concludes with a discussion of nuclear weapons suggesting this has totally changed warfare. As has been pointed out since 1945 nukes haven't killed anybody. If anything the last 60 years has been the era of the AK-47. The book contains occasional illustrations, notes and a bibliography.

Recommended with the above mentioned caveats.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot by Alice Hogge

God's Secret Agents: Queen Elizabeth's Forbidden Priests and the Hatching of the Gunpowder Plot by Alice Hogge. This is a history of the various attempts of the Catholic church to support British Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries. Often the events sound more like a spy novel with informants, torture and executions than a history. The book is very well done and manages to show why both sides behaved as they did. The further complication of the Spanish Armada is analyzed. Perhaps most interesting was the conflicts within the Catholic community between the Jesuits and the other members of the church. The book concludes with the gunpowder plot. I was expecting quite a bit more detail on the plot it seems rather tacked on. The book contains endnotes and a bibliography.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson is the second book in the epic fantasy series Malazan Book of the Fallen. The plot line of this book is rather complex. The action mainly follows a column of refugees trying to make its way through the territory of several tribes which rebelled against the Empire. Their are various other subplots involving an assassination attempt against the Empress. It would be possible to start with this book as opposed to the first.

Highly recommended a superb series.

Is available through Abebooks.



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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne

The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne is a history of this important Western front battle. The doctrines of the French are described particularly the use of fortifications. Description of the battle itself is superb. There is reference to primary accounts as well as secondary sources. The effect of the battle on French history is also analyzed.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

History of the Second World War by B. H. Liddell-Hart

History of the Second World War by B. H. Liddell-Hart is a massive history of this conflict. The structure of the book is basically a narrative history of the war. I was rather surprised that there wasn't more analysis of the various strategies and tactics used. After all Liddell-Hart was a tank theorist Descriptions of the fall of France and Nazi attack on Russia seemed to be rushed. There's quite a bit of "I told you so". The "academic footprint" is minuscule for a 700 page book. There's only 2 pages of bibliography mostly seems to be official histories and memoirs. I was expecting too much I guess.

Recommended it does provide a decent narrative history of the war but if you're looking for something more analytical you'll be disappointed.

Is available through Abebooks.


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

Cold Monday by Terence Strong

Cold Monday by Terence Strong is a thriller about the European Union turning into a superstate. The narrator is an assassin for the British government. He sent on various missions which involve killing those the British government wishes to get rid of. Conveniently they were also responsible for killing his wife in a violently cartoonishly weigh. Corruption has been built into the European Union since the beginning now a secret protocol will create a security service to be run by the Mafia, Eastern European spys and Yugoslavian war criminals. The action that takes place is quite good. The broader political machinations of the book are rather silly but they can be easily ignored due to the number of cool explosions. The ending is a little goofy. I saw the betrayal from a good 100 pages away but still this was fun.

Recommended!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nam-a-rama by Phillip Jennings

Nam-a-rama by Phillip Jennings is a humorous fictional account of an attempt to end the Vietnam War by assassinating Ho Chi Minh. The two "heroes" of the book are Navy pilots who are sent up north to do the assassination with the help of the "Woman from the Barbonella movie" [who parachutes in naked]. A lot of the humor seems to be in the same style as Catch-22. A lot of the plot is simply over-the-top unfortunately much of the humor doesn't work. The funniest parts are actually the low-key sections.

Mildly recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections by Charles Pellegrino

Ghosts of Vesuvius: A New Look at the Last Days of Pompeii, How Towers Fall, and Other Strange Connections by Charles Pellegrino is a disjointed rambling mess. This is supposedly a discussion of volcanoes and their effects on history. There's a description of Pompeii particularly the archaeology. Apparently because the World Trade Center collapse was much like a volcano it to is mentioned. In the intervening 400 pages there is a rambling discussion of the last 8 billion years of natural history, apocalyptic Christian literature, the Titanic and various other things.

It doesn't help that a lot of what he says is complete nonsense. The Byzantine Empire fell in the 6th century AD, 1st century AD Rome was on the brink of the Industrial Revolution. This makes me wonder whether the science sections were nonsense to.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism by Woodruff D. Smith

The Ideological Origins of Nazi Imperialism by Woodruff D. Smith is a historical/political science analysis of the imperialist school of thought of German 19th and 20th Century history. The book covers the time from Bismarck to Hitler. Much of the discussion is about the two major streams of imperialist thought that was being discussed in Germany those were Weltpolitik and Lebensraum. As far as Hitler and the Nazis go Smith suggests that the Nazis positions were more a cocktail then a well-thought-out ideology. A very interesting work with a substantial notes and a bibliography section.

Recommended!

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pigtown by William J. Caunitz

Pigtown by William J. Caunitz is a police procedural about a murder investigation. A supposedly retired Mafia figure is brutally murdered. A Lieutenant must find out why. The answers lead him to confront corruption within the NYPD. Like most of Caunitz's work there's quite a bit of violence and sex. With a little homophobia tossed in. The characters are exaggerated perhaps a little too much. This is still enjoyable though.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bitter Ocean:the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1945 by David Fairbank White

Bitter Ocean:the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1945 by David Fairbank White is a decent account of the battle of the Atlantic. The narrative is structured around the experiences of U-boats and the convoys. There's quite a bit of social history here which is fine it actually works quite well. I would have preferred more about the tactics of the attack or defense of convoys. There is a short section on the supply route to the Soviet Union. What I particularly liked was that the Royal Canadian Navy receives its fair share of the credit for the successes. Usually the Royal Navy and United States Navy is the only ones mentioned. The book contains a bibliography and notes section.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.


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

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Gouzenko Transcripts: The Evidence Presented to the Kellock-Taschereau Royal Commission of 1946 Editors by Robert Bothwell and J.L. Granatstein

The Gouzenko Transcripts: The Evidence Presented to the Kellock-Taschereau Royal Commission of 1946 edited by Robert Bothwell and J.L. Granatstein contains a series of extracts from the evidence given to this royal commission looking into Soviet spying in Canada during World War II. Much of this is the testimony of Igor Gouzenko who defected to Canada in 1945. The transcripts consist of his own testimony as well as those fingered through his testimony and documents. Some are more cooperative than others. The atomic spying that the Russians did in the UK and United States is also touched upon. Most interesting is the use of discussion groups to find possible agents. The introduction is a decent description of the events that took place and their historical impact.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.


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

Friday, October 26, 2007

The World the Romans knew by N.H.H. Sitwell

The World the Romans knew by N.H.H. Sitwell is a history of the Peoples that surrounded the Roman empire. There are thumbnail histories of the Celts, Germans, Indians, Chinese Step peoples and African groups. A lot of the information is rather speculative. There's a discussion of the accuracy or lack thereof of Roman perspectives on the various groups but since some did not leave their own records is difficult to separate fact from fiction. This was published back in the early 1980s so there's some terminology that isn't exactly politically correct. There are notes and a bibliography.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wheels of Fire by Terence Strong

Wheels of Fire by Terence Strong is a thriller about the conflict in Bosnia. The narrator a British army officer is sent to help a struggling unit. His job consists of getting relief columns through the various combatants lines. This is a serviceable thriller. There isn't much here that's innovative but it does nicely kill a few hours. Some of the sex is rather gratuitous. Characters are rather stereotypical.

Recommended!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ed Stelmach's whole lot of nothing

Could that 20 minute speech be any more content free? If being the premier is earned not guaranteed then why not call an election you coward!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Not With Guns Alone: How Hanoi Won the War by Denis Warner

Not With Guns Alone: How Hanoi Won the War by Denis Warner is an account of the North Vietnamese final assault on the south in 1975. The author a hawkish Australian journalist manages to shed some light on the events. There's also quite a bit of local color. A good thing is that this provides a non-American perspective on the final collapse. Both the Americans and South Vietnamese come in for quite a bit of criticism. The lack of support for refugees is also criticized.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Harry Potter and the Homosexual Headmaster

I'm supposed to care about this? Really? Are you sure? OK then.
"Dumbledore is gay,"
Two thoughts spring to mind about J.K. Rowling.

1.)This is a way to screw with the rabid fans who are now going to reread the entire series looking for "hints".

2.)This will give some of the book burning types something new to rant about. The whole magic is evil thing was rather played out but homosexuality that's something else entirely. I've already seen comments along the lines of "gays are evil get the flamethrowers".

I do enjoy John Scalzi's perspective.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Areas of My Expertise :An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled…by John Hodgman

The Areas of My Expertise :An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled…by John Hodgman is a humorous fake almanac. The problem is there really isn't enough material covered. There's sections on past events, current events, predicting the future and hobo matters. There's just too much detail on some of these topics. A section on every state for example or over 700 hobo names . The humor is very dry.

Sorry PC not recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Lentolaivue 24 (Osprey Aviation Elite 4) by Kari Stenman

Lentolaivue 24 (Osprey Aviation Elite 4) by Kari Stenman is an a unit history of this Air Force squadron. They participated in both the Winter war and the Continuation war. I'm always interested in more material on the winter war Finland's ability to stop the Russian advance is one of the more interesting topics in military history. This book does an excellent job describing the actions as well as the technical specifications of the squadron. There's quite a bit of information even history's of particular airframes. On every page is a picture which is standard for Osprey. There are personal accounts drawn from primary source material from the archives about particular attacks.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.


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

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization by Barry Strauss

The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece -- and Western Civilization by Barry Strauss is a history of this important naval battle. The battle was between the Greek city states and Persian Empire. Strauss uses archaeological as well as the narrative sources particularly Herodotus. He views the Histories to be basically accurate in their account. He does mention where there are clear problems with the narrative such as the number of ships on the Greek side. There are short fictional vignettes but they are easily ignored. The book contains a discussion of the sources both primary and secondary. This could be easily used for constructing a further reading list.

Recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Traveller in Black by John Brunner

Traveller in Black by John Brunner contains all five short stories about this fantasy character. The traveler attempts to remove chaos from various universes. Chaos is considered to be superstition based on religion or luck. The world's he travels through basically contain fantasy elements. Very thought provoking. The writing style can take a little getting used to but I like it. I'll be picking up some more by the author.

Recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.


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

When will Jesus bring the pork chops? by George Carlin

When will Jesus bring the pork chops? by George Carlin is a collection of material from this comedian. Some of this stuff is straight from his more recent HBO shows. Other bits I think probably didn't make the original cut so they ended up here. There's some good stuff but mostly it's pretty mediocre. Carlin seems to have fallen into the trap that violent imagery equals better satire. He's at his best when talking about societal foibles and euphemisms/politically correct language. The more weaker sections are invariably short fictional scenes or conversations which just don't seem to work for some reason.

Recommended only for a Carlin completest.

Is available through Abebooks.

Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood by Gordon Korman

Macdonald Hall Goes Hollywood by Gordon Korman is a humorous young adult novel from this Canadian author. Yes this is nostalgia for me. I first read this probably in grade 5 or 6. I wanted to see how this would hold up for someone in their mid-twenties. I was actually pleasantly surprised there are still several laugh out loud funny moments.

The plot is that there is a movie production taking place at the school. Our main characters originally decide the child star must be taken down a peg but eventually combine with him to show him what teenage life is supposed to be about.

It's probably a function of the YA aspect of the book but the plot is crammed into slightly less than 50,000 words. There's a lot here there are at least three possible events that could have been the major crisis of the book. They are the dance with the girl school, the big hockey game or the wilderness survival trip. I wasn't hoping for pages of teenage angst but if the book had been slightly longer or had slightly less material I think it may have worked better. That being said the characters even though they are mainly stock are pretty funny even to this jaded twentysomething. I'll probably be picking up the other books in the series over time. This can be a nice break from more of the gritty stuff I usually read.

Recommended if you need a chuckle.

Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm back

back from my vacation. With 11 new books. It was enjoyable. Regular posting should resume later tonight or tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

On vacation

I'll be on vacation October 4-14th. I'm taking a trip to the Maritimes. Won't have Internet access so no posting till at least the 15th. I'm taking 11 books with me so I should have some reviews when I return. I'll also be looking for local material out there. Try not to be to board without me.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lawrence and the Arab Revolts 1914-18 by David Nicolle

Lawrence and the Arab Revolts 1914-18 by David Nicolle is an Osprey title. The title is somewhat of a misnomer the book is mostly about the various Arab forces. Lawrence is mentioned very rarely. Nicolle refuses to say one way or the other about the historical accuracy of Lawrence's claims. He does note that most Arab historians don't really believe him. There's quite a bit to cover. Material is given on various units from different tribes. This includes groups from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Yemen. There's not much given for each group. It's hard to say whether this was a space consideration or a simple lack of documentation. Thumbnail descriptions of some of the campaigns are given. This really left me wanting more. There's no bibliography or suggestions for further reading unfortunately. Illustrations and photos are on every page.

Mildly Recommended there is some good stuff butt this could easily have been broken up into two or three booklets.

Is available through Abebooks.




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