Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Upgrading hopefully back soon

Tonight I'm going to be moving to a new computer running the 64-bit version of Vista. The best of post will be a little late this year. Hopefully back soon. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sir Terry Pratchett

Well cool, it's about time! Also Lewis Hamilton a MBE. Sport stars lead New Year Honours

New self-publishing website

Self-Publishing Review will be a website to watch. Not much there at the moment but it looks like one of the ideas they will be pushing is professionalism. Something that I considered writing about in the past but haven't really managed to get to.

800th post

This is my 800th post to the blog. This year has been prolific. When I started this I never thought it would be around for this long or as much fun.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Bastard King (Scepter of Mercy, Book 1) by Dan Chernenko

The Bastard King (Scepter of Mercy, Book 1) by Dan Chernenko is the first book in a fantasy trilogy. Chernenko is better known as Harry Turtledove. Lanius the only male heir of the king is considered to be illegitimate by some because he is of the king's seventh wife. Their only allowed six. He is more interested in history and animals then warfare and diplomacy. Grus son of a peasant works his way up the Navy eventually to challenge for the throne. He makes the choice to act as a joint king instead of just killing Lanius. There are various threats to the kingdom particularly the the neighboring territory controlled by a god.

I have a few problems with this book. First of all the characters aren't terribly sympathetic. Lanius tends to be a victim of the events and rarely tries to take control.. Grus is frequently more reasonable however he's shocked just shocked that no one wants to have an arranged marriage to his serial killer in training child. I'm not sure if it's a world building problem or a narrative problem but, I assume much of what Grus is doing should be radical there doesn't seem to be any pushback from the elites. Chernenko also tends to repeat information. We are told many times that Lanius has a bastard of his own.

All that being said this is an interesting setup. I'm willing to try the second book. It sounds like this may turn into a quest storyline. I don't have much patience so the second book will have to be pretty good.

Mildly recommended hoping it gets better.

Monday, December 22, 2008

250 books this year

I just finished up my 250th book this year. Naturally not everything has been reviewed here. I was behind schedule until the summer when things really picked up. Much of this was because of my thesis and having to get that out the door. My original goal for the year was 200 accomplished that by the end of October. Looking forward to next year I have no idea if I'll be able to keep this pace up.

What he said

An Open Letter to the American Media

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling is the latest book in the Harry Potter universe. Let's get one thing out of the way you're not going to buy this thing because I told you to either you don't care or you've probably already received your copy through pre-order. So I feel rather silly reviewing it. On the other hand I did read it.

As you know Bob, this was the book mentioned in Deathly Hallows. It contains Wizard fairytales with an introduction and meditations from the recently deceased Dumbledore. The stories themselves nicely tie in to the universe Rowling has created. The "academic framework" is funny in places. Especially if you're used to academic infighting in a preface or footnotes.

Recommended!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

"If Mr. Harper manages to survive, he'll be a wounded beast. He's made terrible errors in the last eight weeks... The man can't get his story straight, this is not leadership. So, he's wounded, if he escapes this time, then I get a little time to rebuild the Liberal Party, we have some rebuilding to do, then we take him down later. Make no mistake, his days are numbered".
- Michael Ignatieff

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Majel Roddenberry dead at 76

Of leukemia. The obituary from Yahoo. Considering my age I mostly think of her as Deanna Troi's oversexed mother Lwaxana on Next Generation

The Napoleonic Wars (2): The Empires Fight Back 1808-1812 by Todd Fisher

The Napoleonic Wars (2): The Empires Fight Back 1808-1812 by Todd Fisher maybe I should break down and start a "this week's Osprey" section. In any event this is the essential history title on the French conflict with Austria and the invasion of Russia. I don't know mucha bout the operations against Austria in 1809 so I enjoyed that section. Unlike the title on the Peninsular campaign most of the book is taken up with the military. There are short biographies of Jakob Walter [see my review of his The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier] and General Barclay de Tolly. There are the usual illustrations, maps and charts on every page. There's also a bibliography a little short but still useful.

Recommended.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last post today I swear

but I had to share this. Take that, Stephenie Meyer!

Added books to the TBR pile

For the last week or so.
  • Bear Any Burden by Ellis M. Goodman an ARC
  • How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy an ARC
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

And in other sacrilegious news

Nude Virgin Mary cover prompts Playboy apology. Oops!

How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy

How to Profit From the Coming Rapture: Getting Ahead When You're Left Behind by Steve and Evie Levy let's get one thing out of the way first I don't really talk about my religious beliefs on here but I am a Christian. That being said I do find George Carlin and Bill Hicks funny so take of that what you will. This purports to be an investment guide for the rapture. It manages to skewer both fundamentalist religion and investing books. The humor is laugh out loud funny like when trying to disentangle some of the more obscure sections of Revelations. Some of the business ideas are also hilarious. Selling futures for food with water in them after the water in the ocean's and rivers turns to blood for instance or buying time on the Armageddon broadcast.

If you do have a sense of humor about religion you'll enjoy this if not you really won't. This was picked for me by the Librarything algorithm for early reviewers. Not for the first time I wonder what books I have that triggered it.

Recommended!

Note:This book was provided through Librarything's early review program.

This is why California is a joke

Fake weddings in a courtroom are acceptable gay marriage not so much.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Followers

I added the Followers widget over in the sidebar. Sign up if you are so inclined.

Destination Berchtesgaden: The story of the United States Seventh Army in World War II by John Frayn Turner

Destination Berchtesgaden: The story of the United States Seventh Army in World War II by John Frayn Turner a popular history of this formation that participated in most of the campaigns in Western Europe. The book starts with the invasion of Sicily. The operations in Italy are next and finally the fight through southern France and into Germany. There are a few anecdotes about various battles but mostly it's a list of where the Army was.

Useful if you need a refresher or want to know where these units were at a particular time. There isn't really any analysis to speak of. Frustratingly there are no endnotes or bibliography for future research.

Mildly recommended.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison

The Essential Ellison: A 50 Year Retrospective by Harlan Ellison now how to review 1200 pages of material? It took me three months to get through this. It's so dreary I could only stand about 50 pages at a time . Besides the occasional short story in a multi-author collection this is my first exposure to his writing. By its very nature this is going to be a little vague. There are short stories, essays and a TV script. Ellison's writing is very good. He has the gift of showing characterization in a word or action. This is not a best of collection there are thematic chapters although even the editors admit that many of the stories could be placed in one of several sections. As far as the "classic" stories go some of them hold up better than others "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman and A Boy and His Dog still hit with a surprising amount of force. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream on the other hand comes off as being well, ridiculous.

Let's get something straight this did not need to be 1200 pages it probably didn't need to be 400 pages. There's a lot here that is just good. Which admittedly makes it better than average but still how many times do we need to hear about his dog that was killed when he was 5? Come to think of it I found much of the semi-biographical fiction some of the weakest.

Amusingly there are some defensive introductions included by the editors. My favorite is the one that says that Ellison can't be misogynistic because his female characters don't revel in their victimhood. Later on there is a piece where Ellison attacks slasher films for being misogynistic. I don't think that the female characters in those movies are reveling in their victimhood.

Grumbling aside this is a valued part of my science fiction bookshelf. I'll probably be looking for more. Looking through his list of books and there's so much here I'm not too sure where to move on. If anyone has some suggestions feel free.

Recommended!

I'm back

The first winter blizzard of the year knocked out my Internet connection for three days. Regular service on here should resume in the next day or so. The last two Saturdays have been my days to catch up on reading so I will have some reviews to post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse

A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse is a short novel that describes a bungled kidnapping. The narrator has been down on his luck since his failed relationship with a woman. He needs to make some quick money and decides the easiest route will be through kidnapping a politician's son. The boy comes with him easily which is the first of many surprises.

This is an interesting premise and the main character is complex. The conflict he has between caring for the kid and trying to protect his "investment" is well done. The only major criticism I have is that the big surprise doesn't make much sense particularly as we are constantly told how much preparation he had done before the kidnapping. That being said an nice character study.

Recommended.

Note: this was provided for review purposes by a PR outfit.

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks

Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks is a history of the attack and occupation of Iraq through 06. Ricks a reporter for the Washington Post has done extensive research and interviews with the major players. This is an excellent look at the failures that started happening just after 9/11. He argues that the initial war plan lacked a strategic focus which is something I hadn't considered before. He makes a convincing case for that. Most of the book is taken up with the occupation including the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The 4th Infantry Division is held up as an example of what not to do in a counterinsurgency. Treat the entire population like enemies. If you do this it's a self fulfilling prophecy. There are endnotes and a bibliography.

The history of the occupation of Iraq is still in flux. This is an excellent work for the moment I'm not sure how well it will hold up 5 or 10 years down the road but if you're looking for something to read now you could do much worse than this.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Well wasn't that a fun leadership race

So much for the Liberal leadership race. Oh well.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What to do when you're children's movie premiere is getting dull

If you're Emma Watson you can start musing on when you're going to get naked on film. We've already seen [pun intended] this with Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. I can remember the kerfuffle when that went down. I shudder to think of just what would happen if she does stripped-down at some point.

"Why are there a lot of people here wearing scarves and carrying broomsticks at this art-house premiere?"

Considering my love-hate relationship with Google all I need is to get a high ranking for Emma Watson nude. If you did search on that sorry I can't hook you up. You can explain to me what she's doing in this picture...

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile

Just 1 book this week:
  • A Jolly Good Fellow by Stephen V. Masse an ARC

Friday, December 05, 2008

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik this is the fifth and most recent book in the Temeraire series. As the title would suggest involves a French victory. Napoleon invades England and it's up to our heroes to fight a delaying action. Ethical and moral choices are more pivotal to this story as come to think of it they were in the conclusion of the fourth book[Empire of Ivory]. Somethings bothering me about this one but I can't really put my finger on what it is. The plotting is chock-full of interesting events but taken as a whole it doesn't really work. It's hard to explain. When they're doing the guerrilla style patrols it's as if we are only seeing snippets from a larger narrative. Novik does frequently resort to the clean break where there'll be a new chapter and we'll pick up the narrative days or weeks later but it seems more pronounced and more jarring in this book. The interaction between Lawrence and Temeraire is still enjoyable. Now that I've caught up I'll be putting in a pre-order for the next book when it is announced. If she maintains the pattern it should be sometime in 2009.

Recommended!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Honda the first to quit

It was rather ridiculous for them to be spending all that money to be in last place. Honda poised to quit Formula One. Any guesses on how many teams we will have in Australia?

It's over

RDR Books Withdraws Appeal.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Incompetent

You want to be Prime Minister you get the tape in!

Update as I'm writing this: here it is but not on CTV.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government by P. J. O'Rourke

Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government by P. J. O'Rourke. Time for some more nostalgia. I first read this back in high school. O'Rourke puts his own spin on a civics textbook about the US government covering everything from the Supreme Court to special interests. Unfortunately it's more angry than funny. Unlike Holidays in Hell where I had the impression that he was doing it for the laughs in "Parliament" he's trying to make a point. Unfortunately this leads him into strange statements like that government insurance for savings accounts is a bad thing. Wonder if he still believes that. This was published back in 1990. Bush Sr. is pretrade as not that bright. Some of the names will be familiar to followers of current US politics like John McCain and Joe Biden.

Mildly recommended.

I would like to welcome the BBC to the constitutional crisis

It's about time they noticed Canada PM sees opposition revolt.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Prime Minister Dion

May you live in interesting times indeed. I wonder if it's possible to get a national telephone poll done before Friday and if anyone's doing one. Even if the poll was negative I'm not sure it would slow down the momentum. This really does seem to have a life of its own.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile,

Just 2 this week:
  • Guerrilla Strategies: An Historical Anthology from the Long March to Afghanistan… by Gérard Chaliand
  • The Barbarian Invasions: History of the Art of War, Volume II by Hans Delbruck

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Amateur by Robert Littell

Amateur by Robert Littell is a spy novel originally published in 1981. The West German Embassy is attacked by terrorists. Their demands are not met so they randomly select one of their hostages and execute her. Her boyfriend a CIA employee who works with ciphers wants to take revenge. The Company refuses to do so. He must find a way himself. The book tries to be two things. The first of these is a character study which Littell does quite well the second is an action adventure which is done less effectively. I was particularly perturbed by several characters stating that revenge is therapeutic. I'm perfectly willing to accept revenge is a major plot device in books of this nature. I'm not comfortable with it being claimed to be anything more than vengeance. Some of the assassinations are rather silly. There is the use of a x-ray machine for instance.

Mildly recommended.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The non-confidence motion

“In light of the government’s failure to recognize the seriousness of Canada’s economic situation and its failure in particular to present any credible plan to stimulate the Canadian economy and to help workers and businesses in hard-pressed sectors such as manufacturing, the automotive industry and forestry, this House has lost confidence in this government and is of the opinion that a viable alternative government can be formed within the present House of Commons.”

From here.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. Now don't forget to go out and shop tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Napoleonic Wars: The Peninsular War 1807-1814 by Gregory Fremont-Barnes

The Napoleonic Wars: The Peninsular War 1807-1814 by Gregory Fremont-Barnes part of ospreys essential histories series. This covers the campaign in Spain and Portugal. Like most English sources more than half of the space is taken up with a discussion of Wellington's campaigns. There is some material on the guerrillas and the French. I would've preferred a little more from the French perspective. There is a short biography of an English soldier and George Canning who was Foreign Secretary. There is a chapter on Spanish art.

As typical with Osprey titles there are illustrations, maps and diagrams on just about every page. There's a decent enough further reading section not surprisingly it contains entries for every relevant Osprey title. It does have others as well.

Recommended if you needed an introduction or a refresher.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

History of the Art of War, vol.I Warfare in Antiquity by Hans Delbruck

History of the Art of War, vol.I Warfare in Antiquity by Hans Delbruck this is the 3rd edition originally published in 1920 and translated into English in 1975. Delbruck's massive 4 volume history is famous for its critical analysis of sources and use of modern equivalents. For example in a widely quoted section he points out that the Persian army could not be as large as claimed by Herodotus because it would stretch over hundreds of miles long. He argues that with professionalism came military advantages over adversaries.

One minor frustration is that the book is littered with analogies to current affairs or German history. I would have preferred it if the translator would have provided some explanatory notes. I can understand why he wouldn't want to break up the text but they could have been included in the back of the book.

This is a must-have for anyone serious about military history.

Highly recommended!

You can start panicking

From the NYTimes.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, the publisher of authors including Philip Roth, Jonathan Safran Foer, Günter Grass and J. R. R. Tolkien, has temporarily suspended acquisitions of new manuscripts, a company spokesman said Monday.
I'm scratching my head over this. Why would you go out of your way publicly to let the world know. Presumably telling Agence would be pretty easy to do. Also in the article is some squirming about marketability for works. Funny I thought that was the name of the game anyway.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile

Not a thing. I haven't even managed to do much reading so it's not like the piles getting any smaller.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Abraham Lincoln books

New York Times has a piece that's on James M. McPherson's battlefield trips and on upcoming books for Lincoln's birth bicentennial. I'll be doing some adding to my wish list.

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by McPherson
Lincoln: President-Elect by Harold Holzer looks like a massive work [600 pages]. Very interested to see what he has to say about the time between the election and first inauguration.

Quotation [occasional]

Attention, all 13-year-old female readers of this newspaper: Run, do not walk, to the nearest multiplex playing “Twilight,” the screen version of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling potboiler about a principled vampire and the teenage girl who loves him. Others needn’t run. Or walk.
-- Wall Street Journal

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Very apt indeed.



The New Star Trek as 90210.
H/T to MGK

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why I don't go to conventions

Checkout this awesome review of a convention. Admittedly I haven't been to one this bad but there's nothing here that really surprises me.

Interview

I did an interview over at the Book Bloggers.

Governor General's non-fiction award

Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army by Christie Blatchford [link takes you to my review] picked up the Governor General's award in nonfiction. Here's a link to a CBC article about it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker

Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker is a history of this campaign from the Hundred Years War. The book deals with the battle in a very short section. Most of the narrative is taken up with the preparations for the campaign diplomatic, financial and logistical. As well as the aftermath, celebrations for victory and long-term impact. Barker has tapped into sources that are rarely used when discussing the campaign. The book is very much from the British perspective she spends a lot of time defending Henry V. In most cases her arguments are reasonable except where the prisoner slaughter is concerned. Throughout much of the book she makes a big deal about the chivalrous behavior on both sides. Presumably it would be rather dishonorable to try to attack the British if you had been taken captive. So using the opinions of the time the British actions seem even more heinous.

Recommended for anyone who wants a new look at this key campaign.

Note: this was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

The stupidity it hurts

Ecclestone wants medals instead of points. Some of the best racing in F1 over the last few seasons has been for that single point at 8th.

Monday, November 17, 2008

30 years is a good run

Canadian Grand Prix is dead. Honestly I be surprised if it was ever back. Bernie seems to have found greener pastures. Ecclestone clearly wanted to get rid of it. Considering the economic climate the demand of over $143 million guaranteed over five years is just vulgar.

Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army by Christie Blatchford

Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army by Christie Blatchford is a book on Task Force Orion that served in Afghanistan in 2006. Blatchford a journalist for the Globe and Mail has here basically done one long newspaper piece. She pulled out 15 days that she considers significant and writes about them providing back story. Now I'm treating this like a piece of military history because that's my background. That being said it can be rather frustrating and places. Most of the stories involve death or serious injury to Canadians. There's no real sense that what we're being told about is at all. typical of operations. In places the book almost comes off like a series of obituaries. That being said the stories of combat are riveting I only wish there could have been a little more.

This is up for a Governor General’s Literary Award should it win? Honestly I have no idea but if you're interested in the Afghanistan mission this is part of the first crop of books that deal with the combat experience for the CF.

Mildly recommended!

Note: this book was provided through Mini Book Expo.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Eric Margolis makes no sense

So imperialism if done by Nazi Germany or the Soviets is perfectly acceptable but when the Western Allies attempt to counter it they are evil. The last time I checked the German entrance into World War I could have been stopped. Margolis seems to be under the delusion that if you have a timetable you must use it. Also the British became involved because you know the Germans invaded Belgium! Although considering his opinion on Poland I'm pretty sure he doesn't care about any small country. I think I know a few Dutch, Polish and Ukrainian people who would argue the point.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow by Pal H. Christiansen

The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow by Pal H. Christiansen is a Norwegian novel that describes the life of Highbrow a failed [or failing] novelist who misinterprets social situations he's a part of. The writing and translation are excellent. Lyrical but at the same time nicely compact. Highbrow is an intriguing character even if he's not a terribly sympathetic one. I did keep wondering just what he was going to get wrong next. My major issue with the book is the plot. It really doesn't seem to go anywhere. Characters just wander through. His girlfriend becomes pregnant so there's quite a bit about him thinking that she cheated on him but as a reader we don't find it credible.

Mildly recommended.

Note: this was provided for review purposes.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince trailer


"But I am the chosen one."

Nice and atmospheric. Can't wait for the summer.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman

Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman is an attempt to set the record straight. Solow[the co-producer] and Justman [the executive that oversaw production] make a convincing case that the "Gene Roddenberry myth" is exactly that a myth. It that throughout his life he refused to give others credit for important parts of the series. Their accounts are frequently backed up with excerpts from memos and other internal documents. On face value this comes off as an exposé but there's actually more here. There's material on the behind-the-scenes drama with NBC as well as the feuding actors. Literary science fiction fans will find the account of the City on the Edge of Forever controversy interesting. Harlan Ellison doesn't come off particularly well. Which let's face it isn't much of a surprise.

One minor criticism is that both writers are trying to be funny it is occasionally hard to tell if a situation is being played up for laughs or actually happen that way. For example when they were ready to start shooting the first pilot they were interrupted repeatedly.

Recommended!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy by Terry Copp

Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy by Terry Copp is a history of the Canadian Army from D-day through Falaise. Copp argues that British and American historians have it wrong when they say that the allies in general [and Canadians specifically] only defeated the Germans by crushing them with manpower. That the Germans were better war fighters man for man. He makes a convincing case that this was not true. The Canadians were able to achieve victories because of the training received in Britain. As well as an excellent cadre of junior officers. The book contains a nice bibliography that would easily allow for the creation of a further reading list on the Canadians in the campaign. There is a sequel to the book which discusses up until the end of the war. I'll be picking that up also.

Recommended!

Book bloggers

Check out this new blog The Book Bloggers that will be publishing a daily interview with a book blogger. I'll be going up next Wednesday. If you're looking for someone new to read or someone to promote their latest masterpiece to take a look.

Quotation [occasional]

"This woman is mad. She's completely mad, and she's in love with her own fictional creation."
--- Robert Pattinson on Stephenie Meyer

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Instant Replay: The Day That Changed Sports Forever by Tony Verna

Instant Replay: The Day That Changed Sports Forever by Tony Verna is the memoirs of the director that created instant replay. The book covers his early career in the 1950s through the 21st century when he invented a way for computers and mobile devices to track the soccer ball in matches. Verna's was responsible for directing 5 Super Bowls, 12 Kentucky Derbies, Live Aid and various other events. Verna's shares often amusing stories about some of the famous events in American sports. For instance the icebowl and "the catch". There's quite a bit of name dropping. He knows famous people and wants you to know that as well. He also has some rather evident axes to grind specifically against CBS who refused to recognize the work that he did. The writing style takes some getting used to I think it could be transcribed tape. There are occasional asides and aggressions. If you're interested in how TV sports evolved read this.

Recommended!

Note: this book was provided for review purposes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We remember...

You know what to do.

CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World by Tom Watson

CauseWired: Plugging In, Getting Involved, Changing the World by Tom Watson is a book that looks at the changes to social activism created by advances in social networking. Watson a journalist and community organizer discusses various methods of connecting with citizens and fundraising. A large portion of the book is taken up with Facebook the causes application allows someone to show on their profile there support of an issue. Unfortunately besides providing a large mailing list there isn't much here demonstrating that this is effective. I do have a Facebook account and I've been known to add various things without deciding to become involved. The section of the book on micro-financing is much more satisfying because it can actually point to success stories both in developing countries [microloans] and in the US [schools]. There's also a short section on the political campaign of Barack Obama. How the campaign harnessed the Internet. I'm not sure it's really on topic but it was interesting all the same.

It should be noted that everything here is nice and legal the closest thing they get to civil disobedience is some of the groups will crash congresspeople's phone lines. I understand why anonymous versus Scientology is not mentioned but that is definitely a part of the new digital world.

Recommended!

Note: this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.

Monday, November 10, 2008

100 book challenge for 2009

I'll be participating in this reading challenge. The rules are pretty simple 100 books during the calendar year of 2009 and you can't start until January 1st. I'll be updating this with the titles as I go.

  1. The War with Mr. Wizzle by Gordon Korman

  2. Go Jump in the Pool! by Gordon Korman

  3. The Last Battle by Chris Bunch

  4. The Roman Soldier by G. R. Watson

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

  6. Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor

  7. Gunpowder: The Players Behind the Plot by James Travers

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

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

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

  11. Tales from Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

  12. Revolution and Intervention: The French Government and the Russian Civil War, 1917-1919 by Michael Carley

  13. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

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

  15. Men of Honour: Trafalgar and the Making of the English Hero by Adam Nicolson

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

  17. Flying on the ground by Emerson Fittipaldi and Elizabeth Hayward

  18. Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin

  19. The Stainless Steel Rat is Born by Harry Harrison

  20. Medical Histories of Confederate Generals by Jack D. Welsh

  21. Churchill at War 1940-45 by Sir Charles Watson

  22. The Battle for North Africa by John Strawson

  23. High Chicago by Howard Shrier

  24. Crystal Rain by Tobias S Buckell

  25. And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat

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

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

  28. Number Ten by Sue Townsend

  29. The Normans by David Nicolle

  30. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

  31. Storm Front by Jim Butcher

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

  33. Passeggiata: Strolling Through Italy by G. G. Husak

  34. Prussian Light Infantry 1792-1815 by Peter Hofschroer

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

  36. The Farthest Shore by Ursula K. Le Guin

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

  38. Half a Crown by Jo Walton

  39. North from Calcutta by Duane Evans

  40. Ha'penny by Jo Walton

  41. Hitler's Motor Racing Battles: The Silver Arrows under the Swastika by Eberhard Reus

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

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

  44. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

  45. Right of Thirst by Frank Huyle

  46. A Summons to Memphis by Peter Tay

  47. Ultra in the West: The Normandy Campaign of 1944-45 by Ralph Bennet

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

  49. Terra Insegura by Edward Willett

  50. Marseguro by Edward Willett

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

  52. Vimy by Pierre Berton

  53. Garden of Beasts: A Novel of Berlin 1936 by Jeffery Deave

  54. The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chim

  55. Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

  56. 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

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

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

  59. Roman Forts in Britain by David J. Breeze

  60. Guerrilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study by Walter Laqueur

  61. Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East

  62. The Tombs of Atuan

  63. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling

  64. Churchill Proceedings 2001-2003 edited by Tony Benn

  65. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

  66. Reasoning Otherwise: Leftists and the People's Enlightenment in Canada, 1890-1920 by Ian McKay

  67. Fault Line by Barry Eisler

  68. Otterburn 1388: Bloody Border Conflict by Peter Armstrong

  69. Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib by Seymour M. Hersh

  70. Don't Call Me a Crook!: A Scotsman's Tale of World Travel, Whisky and Crime by Bob Moore

  71. Winston Churchill:Personal Accounts Of The Great Leader At War by Michael Paterson

  72. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

  73. War Reporting for Cowards by Chris Ayres

  74. The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy

  75. Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne

  76. A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis: How the Freikorps Blazed a Trail for Hitler by Nigel H. Jones

  77. Gauntlet: A Novel of International Intrigue by Richard Aaron

  78. The Saga of Beowulf by R. Scot Johns

  79. Full Throttle: The Life and Fast Times of Curtis Turner by Robert Edelstein

  80. Napoleon On the Art of War by Jay Luvaas

  81. Baptism of Fire: The Second Battle of Ypres and the Forging of Canada, April 1915 by Nathan M. Greenfield

  82. The First Casualty by Ben Elton

  83. Cry of Justice by Jason Pra

  84. First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

  85. Alone on Guadalcanal: A Coastwatcher's Story by Martin Clemens

  86. Goshawk Squadron by Derek Robinson

  87. Working the Wheel by Martin Brundle

  88. Farthing by Jo Walton

  89. The Best Friend I Ever Had by David Nuffer

  90. Elisha's Bones by Don Hoesel

  91. The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945 by Paul Fussell

  92. Mao's China and After: A History of the People's Republic by Maurice Meisner

  93. Blood Harvest by Brant Randall

  94. Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

  95. Walking Back the Cat by Robert Littell

  96. The Battle for History: Re-fighting World War Two by John Keegan

  97. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

  98. Revolution and Intervention: The French Government and the Russian Civil War, 1917-1919 by Michael Carley

  99. The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted by Harry Harrison

  100. Me of Little Faith by Lewis BlacK

Twilight fans riot

And on the creepy side of the news there's this. Talk about not understanding your audience. Oh it gets better Robert Pattinson asked to bite seven-year-old.

Interesting WWI memoir

I'm not sure about other countries but in Canada in the days before November 11 new material often becomes available. It seems like every Canadian publisher will release something new on Canadian military history just before Remembrance Day. For those of us with an interest this also has extended to the blogosphere. For instance at Hassenpfeffer The First World War Memoirs of Sampson J. Goodfellow: Part 1 check it out.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cavalry: The History Of Mounted Warfare by John Ellis

Cavalry: The History Of Mounted Warfare by John Ellis is a heavily illustrated history of fighting on horseback from prehistory through the 1950s. The book is just over 80,000 words with photos drawings and diagrams on nearly every page. The text is a summary so there is a tendency to gloss over certain areas but Ellis hits the high points in a readable style. Each chapter covers an era of history it concludes with a technical note that discusses changes in harnesses, weapons and armor. There isn't just coverage of the West. There's also information on India, China, Africa and a little bit on the native peoples of North America. The bibliography is extensive and contains lots of ideas for follow-up. If you're new to the subject or need a quick refresher like I did this is an excellent book.

Recommended!

Secret Santa! for Book Bloggers

I'm not sure if I'll be able to participate but this does look intriguing. If your a Book Blogger check it out. Deadline to sign up is November 18th. Nice to see that its international which I like as a Canadian.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile

Lot of Arcs this week:

  • In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed an ARC
  • Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
  • Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas E. Ricks
  • The Devil's Guide to Hollywood: The Screenwriter as God! by Joe Eszterhas
  • Dark Matter: Reading the Bones by Sheree R. Thoma
  • The Scoundrel Days of Hobo Highbrow by Pal H. Christiansen an ARC
  • Instant Replay: The Day That Changed Sports Forever by Tony Verna an ARC
  • Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England by Juliet Barker an ARC
  • Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army by Christie Blatchford an ARC

Friday, November 07, 2008

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed

In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor's Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed is the memoirs of Ahmed's 2 year long job at a Saudi Arabian hospital in Riyadh. Reading the back cover material as well as the PR sheet I was expecting an exposé [pun intended] on Saudi Arabian society particularly women's issues. Both the beginning and end of the book certainly do have that flavor. Ahmed apparently was not expecting the restrictions that females have to live under. The covering being the most obvious. The last section deals with the Saudi reaction to September 11. She finds out much to her horror that many of the people she respected were anti-Semites. The middle section is a rather touching description of her trip to Mecca to participate in the Hajj.

I was interested by the simple logistics of day-to-day life for women in the Saudi kingdom. How they impacted her job as a physician. There's some material on the women's movement and the support they receive from like-minded moderate men. An excellent book on an intriguing subject.

Recommended!

Note: this book was provided for review purposes by a PR outfit.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War by John Scalzi is the first book in a military science fiction series. I've actually been reading Scalzi's blog for over a year now. Figured it was time to read some of his fiction. John Perry is 75 the age to enlist in the Colonial Defense Force. He'll receive a younger body but have to give up his life on Earth and be thrust in wars of attrition against different alien species.

The novel is fast-paced with compact pros that is a welcome relief from jargon heavy science fiction. The characters often poke fun at the stereotypes of the military in the media. In particular a drill sergeant that is actually the heart ass he claims he is. It's pretty funny in places. The combat is 20th-century small unit tactics with more firepower. A rifle can fire several different types of ammunition. All and all a enjoyable distraction.

Highly recommended!

The Ghost Of Napoleon by B. H. Liddell-Hart

The Ghost Of Napoleon by B. H. Liddell-Hart this was originally a set of four lectures given in the mid-1930s. They attempt to define the strategy and tactics of Napoleon his forebears and successors. Liddell-Hart argues convincingly that Napoleon was not an innovator rather he used developments that had been created by others. From the way that the argument is defended I assum this was rather controversial at the time. I'm pretty sure it's not today. The second half of the book deals with Carl von Clausewitz. Liddell-Hart believed that the stalemate of the first world war can be laid at the feet of Clausewitz. The logic is a little tortured even. Liddell-Hart has to admit that there were caveats about the utility of mass in On War but military readers were too stupid to notice. So Clausewitz is being blamed for being unclear.

It is possible to see some of the ideas that he would later expand in his book Strategy. The indirect approach, surprise and dislocation both tactically and inside the commanders head.

Recommended.

Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters by Mark Urban

Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters by Mark Urban is a unit history of the 95th Regiment in the Napoleonic wars. This is popular history but for once that's not meant as a criticism. Urban manages to provide enough color to keep someone new interested while at the same time tapping into primary sources that have not been hashed and rehashed repeatedly. Those familiar with the Sharp books will already have some idea of the battles and campaigns covered. I'm pretty well-versed in the Peninsular campaign but even I learned a few things. Substantial notes and a bibliography makes this a must have.

Highly recommended!

Kingdoms of the blind: How the great democracies have resumed the follies that so nearly cost them their life by Harold W Rood

Kingdoms of the blind: How the great democracies have resumed the follies that so nearly cost them their life by Harold W Rood is the first book in my Hailer Publishing reading project it was not a fortuitous beginning. Perhaps this explains why it was on sale.

The book is divided into two sections the first of which discusses German rearmament between the world wars. This section is actually pretty good although Rood does seem to imply that Germany was getting ready for World War II in about 1921. I think that's an overstatement there's a difference between rearmament and planning a global conflict.

The second section is where things fall off the rails. It's a discussion of Soviet and American responses from the end of World War II through the late 70s [the book was published in 1980]. Rood's logic such as it is is that Germany was allowed to rearm by the Allies which led to the second world war. The Soviets are arming at a fast rate which means they're going to launch a Third World war. With hindsight the argument is rather silly. Even without hindsight his argument doesn't make much sense. For instance he says that the Cuban missile crisis was actually a loss for the Americans. He also is at pains to point out the strengths in the Soviet economy. A wee bit overblown as he probably should have known at the time. I'm pretty sure there were signs of economic problems in the 1970s. I did find it interesting that he never mentions the Berlin airlift. I guess that would have violated his thesis that the West was ignorant and incompetent.

Not recommended!

I'm not going to announce my next book in the project until Canada Post figures out whether it's going out on strike or not.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

"Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast."

-Anonymous Republican aide quoted in Newsweek

Michael Crichton Dead at 66

Michael Crichton dead from cancer. There was a time in junior high when I voraciously devoured his books, Jurassic Park, Congo, Sphere and The Great Train Robbery. Around Timeline for some reason I've never quite been able to put my finger on I lost interest. I do have a copy of timeline here somewhere but I never made it through the initial setup when they are driving through the desert. His other great creation ER was something else that I watched religiously but haven't in years. Perhaps it's fitting.

So is Bill Bennett Jabba?


CNN has too much money.

The real America has spoken

I am a student of history. I didn't think I'd see this in my lifetime. There are no words.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"So I think it could have gone that way."

All I wanted was a quiet US election. Just to sit here watching CNN and MSNBC all day. Apparently that was too much to ask because this hit.
"[Kloves the screenwriter] felt a certain pulll between them at that point. And I think he's right. There are moments when [Harry and Hermione] touch, which are charged moments. One when she touches his hair as he sits on the hiltop reading about Dumbledore and Grindelwald, and [two] the moment when they walk out of the graveyard with their arms around eachother."

"Now the fact is that Hermione shares moments with Harry that Ron will never be able to participate in. He walked out. She shared something very instense with Harry.

"So I think it could have gone that way."
Let the screams of outrage from the Harry and Hermione fans begin. Now of course there is one problem with this it didn't actually mean anything in the books. It's not like in either case Harry grabbed Hermione and kissed her hard after. Harmonians, some advice Rowling is screwing with you. She likes to do that from time to time.

Lewis Hamilton F1 world champion

Now that was a Grand Prix. Nothing like the thrill of watching someone lose the championship on the second last lap only to regain it out of the blue on the final lap. As usual a surprise to the ITV commentators who apparently didn't realize just how much time Timo Glock in the Toyota was losing. It's fitting that their last race would involve such a large screw up. I can only hope that the BBC will be able to put out a more interesting product next season. The ITV commentary has been downright painful at times since Murray retired.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Holidays in Hell by PJ O'Rourke

Holidays in Hell by PJ O'Rourke this is a collection of his columns for Rolling Stone that appeared in the mid-80s. They deal with troublespots around the world including Beirut, Nicaragua, the Philippines South Korea, South Africa, Israel and somewhat off theme Heritage USA and Warsaw. Unlike O'Rourke's later stuff the humor is more in pointing out the absurdities as opposed to being mean. The Heritage USA section is a little on the mean side. I've read several other books by O'Rourke since this but this is still my favorite. Every couple years I reread it when I need something light.

Highly recommended!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Two Brothers - One North, One South by David H. Jones

Two Brothers - One North, One South by David H. Jones is a piece of historical fiction about the American Civil War. The narrative follows to plot lines. The first of these takes place in a Union Hospital in Washington, DC. The poet Walt Whitman comforts William a Confederate soldier who dies from his wounds. Clifford a brother who fought for the Union side was also in the hospital. Whitman tells him the story of William's experiences. A third brother a Union physician also provides material to the discussion. The two living brothers want to know what William had been doing during the conflict. Whitman tells them his story.

Jones evidently knows his historical material. The book is highly accurate where events are concerned. The problem in the book is how those events are brought out to the reader. Characters don't really speak in dialogue rather they give stump speeches or encyclopedia articles of information. Much of the material would be obvious to participants of the times. It's a very forced way to inform the reader. The book concludes with an appendix that contains excerpts from newspaper accounts and other primary sources.

The second half of the book flows better. There are less speeches and more actions but I found the book hard to get into. If someone is a Civil War fanatic you may like this but if you're looking for historical fiction you will probably want to look somewhere else.

Not recommended.

Note: the book was provided by TLC Book Tours feel free to follow the tour in the upcoming days through the link.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Added books to the TBR pile

Very light week for books around here.

  • History of the Art of War, Volume I Warfare in Antiquity: by Hans Delbruck
  • CAVALRY: THE HISTORY OF MOUNTED WARFARE by John Ellis

Quotation [occasional]

A crashing, mind-numbing bore. This is the literary equivalent of waterboarding.
- Christopher Buckley on Anne Rice's new book.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Decent Interval: An Insider's Account Of Saigon's Indecent End by Frank Snepp

Decent Interval: An Insider's Account Of Saigon's Indecent End by Frank Snepp. This is the memoirs of a CIA analyst stationed in the US embassy. The publication of the book caused a long-standing legal battle that the CIA eventually won. Snepp lost all royalties to the book. The fact that the CIA took him to court would suggest that there's some explosive details inhere. It does not disappoint.

Snepp points out that both in the US Embassy and Washington there was an unwillingness to deal with reality particularly on the part of the ambassador and Kissinger. Kissinger comes off extremely badly as a doubledealing control freak. The CIA doesn't do much better. They were perfectly willing to massage intelligence when necessary. Snepp frequently was told to fudge up reports. I found it rather disconcerting how willing he was to do so.

The last quarter of the book describes the last day in Saigon. The scenes of panic and terror are gripping. The often difficult ethical choices people on all sides had to make are heart stopping.

Highly recommended!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

ARC season

In the last week I received 3 queries to do reviews. Must be part of the rush for Christmas sales. It would save them some time if they would actually look around the site, 2 of the 3 books were from genres that I never review here.

Speaking of which I've added to the sidebar a widget for blogs that will review POD books. If you're interested in being added feel free to click on the join link. Thanks to Breenibooks for setting this up.

As always if you're an author or PR person feel free to leave a comment on one of my posts including some info about the book and an e-mail address to contact you. Everything goes through moderation so you don't have to worry about the address being posted.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sabretooth tigers lived in packs

Intriguing research, the article from the BBC. Their assumptions don't seem to be too big. Inferring Behavior from modern equivalents is pretty much standard. It's even done in military history Hans Delbruck made the technique famous when he showed that the ancient historians were wildly inaccurate about their numbers.

Ancient Greek Fortifications 500-300 BC by Nic Fields

Ancient Greek Fortifications 500-300 BC by Nic Fields is yet another Osprey title this one from the Fortress series. I'm not sure if it's a lack of material or what but Fields seemed to have trouble filling the 60 some odd pages. What there is here is a discussion of the construction of the walls around Athens. Then there is material on an outpost. The last section describes a city that was destroyed by the attacker diverting a nearby stream.

I did find it rather strange that in the middle of the narrative there is a digression that discusses climactic battle. That doesn't actually have anything to do with fortifications. The only thing I can figure is that Fields needed to justify the rather scanty information. Or for that matter its padding plain and simple.

Not recommended!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ferrari threatens to quit F1

The news today is Ferrari's threat to quit F1 over the standardize engine.
"The use of same engines would deprive F1 of its competition and technological development,"
Translation we might actually have to compete with more than one team to win every GP of the season unless there's an act of God[rain or a safety car]. Just think how much better advertising it'll be to actually defeat some competent rivals. Like say Toyota in NASCAR. If you beat garbage well then you're not much better than garbage.

Considering the global economic climate I wonder if this will be the pretext for Ferrari to quit the sport in a huff instead of announcing that they can no longer afford it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Debriefing by Robert Littell

The Debriefing by Robert Littell is my second novel from this author and another good one. A Soviet defector must be debriefed and determined whether or not he is genuine. As well there is the issue of what to do with the documents he brought with him. A nice intricate plot that at the same time is clear and readable. With a few very nice twists including one at the very end. Unlike certain thriller authors whose initials are TC it's nice to see the West shown to be just as backstabbing and doubledealing as the "evil empire".

Highly recommended!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Delusion: The True Story of Victorian Superspy Henri Le Caron by Peter Edwards

Delusion: The True Story of Victorian Superspy Henri Le Caron by Peter Edwards is a biography of the British spy that provided intelligence on the Fenians and other Irish terrorist groups. He gave material both to the Canadian government and British. This allowed the foiling of various terrorist plots as well as two invasions of Canada from the United States. The book also gets into a nice amount of detail about Irish politics in the middle years of the 19th century. Edwards manages to avoid the traps of popular history [i.e. dramatization]. He's done quite a bit of research and it shows in an extensive notes and a bibliography section. For anyone who's interested in an early terrorist groups, Irish, British, Canadian or American history.

Highly recommended!

Note: this book was provided through Mini Book Expo.

Added books to the TBR pile 10/24

Books for the week:
  • Delusion: The True Story of Victorian Superspy Henri Le Caron by Peter Edwards an ARC
  • Indian Castles 1206-1526: The Rise and Fall of the Delhi Sultanate by Konstantin Nossov
  • Ancient Greek Fortifications 500-300 BC by Nic Fields
  • Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors by Julie H. Ferguson an ARC

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

Conservatism has finally crashed on problems for which its doctrines offered no solutions (the economic crisis foremost among them, thus Bush's apostasy) and on its refusal to acknowledge that the "real America" is more diverse, pragmatic and culturally moderate than the place described in Palin's speeches or imagined by the right-wing talk show hosts.

- E.J. Dionne in the Post

Knighthood of the Dragon by Chris Bunch

Knighthood of the Dragon by Chris Bunch is the second book in the Dragonmaster trilogy. This is excellent military fantasy even if it's quite apparent what historical events he's borrowed from. The plot continues directly on from Dragonmaster. Basically dragons are used much like aviation in WWI. Characters attempt to figure out how best to use them along the way they discover aerial bombing and firestorms. There is a rather weak ethical discussion about the use of these tactics. The action scenes are extremely well done. Not to give anything away I'm not too sure what the third book will deal with since the major storyline seems to be concluded.

Recommended!

Panic on Wall Street by Robert Sobel

Panic on Wall Street by Robert Sobel is an extensive history of crashes on American stock exchanges. There is material on 12 separate economic panics from the start of the Republic through 1987. Let's face it the sort of book is rather topical these days. Most of the coverage is on the 1873 crash and 1929 Great Depression. I was actually most interested in various incidents I hadn't heard of for instance closing down trading on the outbreak of the first world war. Many of the more colorful characters both captains of industry and charlatans are discussed in loving detail.

Sobel does occasionally use jargon without explaining it. There isn't a glossary of terms I had to search to get definitions. Considering this book is aimed at a general audience this seems to be an oversight. For the most part an excellent book on an intriguing subject. Contains notes and bibliography.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors by Julie H. Ferguson

Book Magic: Turning Writers into Published Authors by Julie H. Ferguson is a short [less than 30,000 words] book on publishing in Canada. Ferguson a public speaker has published several books on writing and on the Canadian Navy. She discusses the various steps to publication through traditional channels [agents and medium-sized presses] and less traditional [POD] providing reasons both pro and con for different types of publishing. For instance she doesn't think much of getting an agent. Most of the information is geared towards nonfiction although their are occasional comments about fiction.

The how-to information is interesting particularly the analysis of the marketplace in Canada and the US. There are some pretty substantial differences between the two. The major Canadian publishers would be considered medium sized compared with the American conglomerates. I was surprised to hear that they apparently except material from authors directly. There's a list of suggested further reading as well as examples of query letters.

Recommended!

Note: this book was provided through Mini Book Expo.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cindy in Iraq: A Civilian's Year in the War Zone by Cynthia I. Morgan

Cindy in Iraq: A Civilian's Year in the War Zone by Cynthia I. Morgan is the authors memoirs of her time in Iraq as a civilian truck driver. Morgan who decided on this course of action after her most recent husband tried to kill her seems to have somewhat of a death wish although she never really comes out and says it. Most of the book is taken up with descriptions of day today supply missions in southern Iraq. Interestingly enough most convoys are attacked with nothing more dangerous than rocks.

Now as readers of this blog may have noticed I'm a rather cynical soul but I can't help being rather inspired by Morgan's story. Particularly as she is sexually assaulted while in Iraq and still manages to achieve her mission.

The office politics she describes scene even more absurd and pathetic considering they are happening in the middle of a war zone. The contractor and by extension the lack of oversight from the US government look particularly bad.

Highly recommended although not for the squeamish something different from the occupation.

The Defection of A. J. Lewinter: A Novel of Duplicity by Robert Littell

The Defection of A. J. Lewinter: A Novel of Duplicity by Robert Littell is the author's first spy novel that was published in the late 1970s. This is my first Littell and definitely won't be my last. Lewinter: an American ceramics scientist effects to the Soviets, the novel is wrapped around how the Americans and Soviets will respond and whether they will use his information. Littell is a genius at short characterization. In other words being able to give us insight into a character in a few lines. Most authors would have to go into pages and pages of description to achieve the same effect. The characters are a touch stereotypical but at the same time react differently enough to be real. There's also a nice twist in the end.

The point of view jumps between American and Soviet officials as well as Lewinter himself. Somewhat unusually for novels of this era one of the American officials girlfriends becomes integral to the plot. There are also occasional excerpts from interview transcripts. It's a little literary but I didn't much mind.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

200 books this year

With the completion of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell I finished my 200th book for the year. Not all of them have been reviewed here. Some fell through the cracks, I hope to be doing reviews of them shortly. Others didn't seem all that logical to post a review here. No there isn't any pornography. At the beginning of the year I thought that 200 books would be a good number to complete. Considering there's over two months left 250 would be a nice goal for now.

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell describes the author a contributor to NPR's obsession with the assassinations of American Presidents. The first three to be killed are dealt with Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. JFK is left out except for one or two small references. The argument in the text is that the first three were linked by Todd Lincoln being near to all three assassination sites. This seems a little forced. Vowell is trying to be funny. The humor isn't at least to me. The narrative itself is also very disjointed. It's laid out in chapters 1 for each assassination but it will bounce between the various narrative threads. It should be noted that she tries to link the McKinley administration with the current Bush presidency. Personally I didn't find the comparison all that egregious but it's caused some pretty severe frothing on the Amazon review page for the book. I did learn one or two things but the book comes off more like a piece of performance art then a the history or travelogue.

Not recommended!

The path of destiny: Canada from the British conquest to home rule, 1763-1850 by Thomas Head Raddall

The path of destiny: Canada from the British conquest to home rule, 1763-1850 by Thomas Head Raddall is the third volume in a six volume political history of Canada that was published in the 1950s and 60s. The book covers the length of time from the seizing of Canada by the British through the decision to grant representative government. The book starts with a discussion of why the Canadian territories did not join with the Americans in the American Revolution. Much of the book is taken up with a rather conventional account of the war of 1812. The final section is devoted to the rebellions in upper and lower Canada and the resulting dismantling of the family compact. There are no citations or bibliography. The writing is serviceable without too many flourishes.

Recommended!

Castles and Tower Houses of the Scottish Clans 1450-1650 by Stuart Reid

Castles and Tower Houses of the Scottish Clans 1450-1650 by Stuart Reid is part of Osprey's series on fortifications. It covers the development of fortified tower houses in Scotland from the 14th through the 17th century. These were never intended to be able to defend against a siege with a siege train rather they would provide security from raids. Rating being the primary form of conflict that took place in this era. As typical with Osprey there are pictures, drawings and illustrations on every page. There's also a wealth of technical data including floorplans. Unusual for the publisher Reid includes some wry observations including that Scottish defensive strategy was "throw something on them from a height and hope they go away". The book contains a short bibliography, chronology, glossary as well as suggestions for sightseeing in Scotland.

Recommended!

Discoveries: Birth of the Motion Picture by Emmanuelle Toulet

Discoveries: Birth of the Motion Picture by Emmanuelle Toulet this short book crams a surprising amount of information into its less than 200 pages. It covers the beginnings of the film industry from 1895 when the first motion picture was shown in Paris to 1906. There's coverage of technology from various creators including Thomas Edison. Most of the material is on France but there is also mention of America, Germany and Britain. There is also a discussion of the "grammar of film" a interesting look at special-effects and other techniques. The book includes several extracts from documents including, a film catalog and remembrances from important creators. There's suggestions for further reading, a chronology and indexes.

Highly recommended!

Added books to the TBR pile

For the last week:

  • Panic on Wall Street by Robert Sobel
  • The British Cavalry by Philip Warner
  • Castles and Tower Houses of the Scottish Clans 1450-1650 by Stuart Reid
  • Discoveries: Birth of the Motion Picture by Emmanuelle Toulet
  • Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Friday, October 17, 2008

F1 standard engines

Well, well, well, this certainly is going to change things particularity combined with the aerodynamic reductions. Might actually manage to have some real competition for once in F1. I can't believe I'm actually saying this but good job Mosley.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Macarthurs War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero by Stanley Weintraub

Macarthurs War: Korea and the Undoing of an American Hero by Stanley Weintraub covers the first 11 months of the Korean War when General Douglas MacArthur was in command. Weintraub a lieutenant during the conflict paints McArthur as a schemer always looking for ways to expand his power at the expense of the Pentagon and the White House. There are intriguing parallels between MacArthurs failure at the beginning of World War II and at the outbreak of Korea. He seemed unable to grasp rapidly changing events. Weintraub complements McArthur for his grasp of military history and leadership but considers him a failure in the wider political sphere. For instance MacArthurs inability to understand that using the Nationalist Chinese would be a politically disastrous mistake. There is extensive research from archival and secondary sources.

Recommended!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Postmortem on Canadian election

So let's see here how I did:
  • Conservative minority. Correct
  • Liberals and Conservatives both have fewer MPs after tomorrow.Wrong
  • NDP will not be official opposition. Correct
  • The Greens will not win a seat.Correct
  • Increasingly loud rumblings will be heard from the West that Stephen Harper sold out to Ontario and Québec and still couldn't get the job done. Only time will tell
  • Dion out, Trudeau in the on deck circle. Only time will tell
It looks like this is going to be a race between Stephen Harper and the economy. If the economy recovers before the next election then he probably has a pretty good chance at a majority. If not then it will probably be over for him. The timeline is mostly in the hands of the Liberals do they want to get rid of Dion at this stage. I bet the answer to that is yes now how long is it going to take to make him understand that.