I seem to fit in the same demographic as many other reviewers of this book. I first read it about 40 years ago when it was released and then saw the made-for-TV movie. In the intervening years I had forgotten how well Herman Wouk wrote (as of today he is still alive but no longer writing) and how well drawn and compelling the main characters of the book are.
The story, of course, is that of a naval family drawn into the start of World War II up to the point of America's entry into the war. As a vehicle for telling the story of the period up to the Pearl Harbor attack the main character, "Pug" Henry, ends up being assigned to posts that have him, or members of his family, at important places during important times. Thus we get to see vignettes of Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joesph Stalin and Adolph Hitler as well as those around all of them.
The characters are compelling, the events were real, the story well-drawn and important and the family large enough to have members scattered around the globe and seeing events from many different perspectives. This is a first class book, extremely well read and highly recommended.
An interesting pastiche of stories of Sherlock Holmes in the US. As a life long fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories I found these additions to be well worth reading. In fact I found many of them to be more interesting than some of those in the "Canon" and have no complaints about any of them that are actually Sherlock Holmes stories.
However two of the "stories" are, in fact, not Sherlock Holmes stories at all but are short articles written about Arthur Conan Doyle. One is a study of what the author says is the anti-Hibernian flavor of the stories. While he may (or may not) be right, it is certainly not a Sherlock Holmes story and I found the psychological analysis of Mr Doyle both annoying and a bit silly. A second is a description of Mr Doyle's tour through the US. It is hard for me to think of either of those as being Sherlock Holmes stories.
Still, those that are actual Sherlock Holmes stories are a lot of fun and, I think, worth the price if you like the Sherlock Holmes character.
William Stevenson, or little Bill as he is referred to in this book (to compare him with big Bill, William Donovan) ran the British spy network in the US during World War II. This book is the unmasking of much that happened during that time and there are some fascinating stories included within its covers.
Mr Stevenson is one of those relatively unknown heroes who made the winning of the war by those other heroes, the US, British, Canadian, Austrialian, French, Russian and other soldiers and sailors doing the fighting, those living through the daily bombing in the UK, those whose loved ones were risking life and limb on battlefields and those in occupied territory who had to live under the Nazi tyranny, possible. I have no doubt that we are all indebted to him and all of spies those like him who help win the war.
The problem is that one has to wonder if some of the information included in the book is accurate. This book was published in 1976 so it is not new, but some of the information included is at variance with histories of this period that are being written now. It is reasonable to think that the events described in this book, if accurate, would be cited in the new books and used to revise what is currently being written. For example ...
The most inflammatory event described is the Nazi bombing of Coventry. My Stevenson says that Winston Churchill knew the destination of the bombing raid and did nothing to warn those living in Coventry in order to protect the Ultra secret. I remember when, back in 1976, I first heard of this and I certainly believed it. It is one of those stories that seems to perfectly capture the terrible choices that people in power have to make. The only problem is that today historians are still saying that there is no evidence that this is true and, in fact, many of those involved in war planning have said very openly that it is not true and point to both historic actions and events to prove that the story is not true. Very few historians credit the story.
Another example concerns the Dieppe raid which Mr Stevenson says was not planned and executed for the purpose stated but was rather for another purpose all together and served as a distraction for that true purpose. Perhaps that is true, but no other historian writing about this event today that I have read credits that story either.
Included are descriptions of other events which have the feel of truth and are backed up by current histories of the period - the escape of the physicist Niels Bohr, the attack on the plant that supplied Germany with heavy water for their atomic experiments and the British involvement with undermining and exposing political opponents of Roosevelt's actions prior to the US entry into the war. So the book seems to me to be a mixed bag. One truly annoying omission in the book comes from the statement that the Ultra secret was guarded so closely that only 20 Allied military officers knew it. I hoped, in vain, that those people would have been identified. And interestingly enough while Mr Stevenson describes the breaking of the Japanese diplomatic code by William Friedman, he makes no mention of the breaking of the Japanese Naval codes by Commander Rochefort.
The narration was a disappointment for me. Mr McAlister's reading is hesitant and thus hard to follow at some points in the book. His pronunciation of some people's names seemed odd and at variance with common usage today. It is a history and is perhaps a bit dry as read and I can only wonder what it might have been like had it been read by someone like Grover Gardner.
This is the second volume in Mr Kershaw's excellent biography of Adolph Hitler. The first volume covered his life up until 1936 and contained much information that I had not seen anywhere else. The second volume covers 1936-1945 and this period has been exhaustively covered by historians since it involves the lead up to, and the period of, World War II in Europe. There was little new, at least for me, in this volume since so much had been written about the time period and thus this book, although excellent, provides little insight that has not been provided in many other books. That is not to say that there is no new information here. For example there is a section of why Hitler declared war on the US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor even though he had no treaty obligation to do so and I had not seen that explained anywhere else. Similarly there are other facts and insights scattered throughout the book that were new to me.
Even if you have read about World War 2 the book is worth getting and reading, and especially so if the reader is not familiar with the events during that period. But readers should not expect a wealth of new information not available elsewhere. Still this volume serves as an excellent close to the first volume and is worth buying and reading, especially if the reader has finished the first volume of the biography. As you might expect in a biography the book covers Hitler and his life more than the details of the war even though the war consumed almost all of Hitler's life after the invasion of Russia. Since this is not a military history the battles are covered only in the detail needed to understand the background of Hitler's actions at that time.
The narration is excellent as is the writing and this book is an excellent source of information about Hitler and the period covered. Recommended for those interested in this period of time.
I was looking for something lighter as a counter-point to some of the books I had just finished and stumbled upon this delightful story. I was uncertain about it but thought that I did not have much to lose since it was a Daily Deal and seemed like just the thing to lighten my mood.
To my utter surprise it was a delightful choice. Allan Karlsson is a quirky guy who is just not ready to be finished with life at 100 and misses his vodka. His adventure involving thieves, police, friends and the high and mighty is something not to be missed. I found myself laughing, chuckling and smiling throughout the entire book and especially during the windup as the protagonists are telling their tale to the Prosecuting Attorney.
This was the most delightful book I have read since A Dirty Job and Gods Behaving Badly and I recommend it highly to those with a taste for the light and quirky. The narration is excellent, the story is delightful and the experience is well worth the time spent in listening.
I found this to be an interesting book. The information about computers and the internet was spot-on, the details about how viruses work seems correct, the characters were well drawn and interesting and the descriptions of what might happen were all computers in the US and Western Europe to suddenly fail both realistic and frightening.
The steps the characters took to try to determine what viruses were at work, what they did and what steps would be needed to stop them all seemed reasonable in light of the computer dependent world we live in today. While there were a few too many coincidences for my liking nothing was completely out of the realm of possibility. My complaints are minor. The books seemed a bit too preachy for my taste, there was a bit too much in the way of technical information for those familiar with the way software works, parts of the book do not lend themselves to narration (the narration of assembler code really does not work. That needs to be seen to be understood) and the author needed to do a bit more research on traveling to Russia. The main characters buy an airline ticket, get their passports and just go. But, of course, US citizens cannot just travel to Russia, they need a visa and that takes special paperwork and time.
Other than those minor items I found the book reasonably interesting without too many glaring issues. All things considered it is a decent (although not great) book about a frightening possibility.
My working hypothesis has been that any book from Alan Dean Foster is probably worth at least considering so, when I saw this as the first of a series on sale at Audible I immediately listened to the sample and, after a brief hesitation, bought it.
The book is a delight. Marc Walker is abducted by aliens while on a camping trip and finds himself, along with a lot of other abductees from other planets, on a space ship traveling through space. He doesn’t know their destination nor the reason for the abductions, but plots to escape along with some of his fellow prisoners. While they don’t know where they are, where they will go or how they will escape, anything is better than remaining as a prisoner. The story is pure Alan Dean Foster, the characters are interesting, the writing first class and full of humor. While not exactly a comedy it is a very pleasant listen. However there are two issues for me with this book.
The first is that the narration, while adequate, is far too slow and, to compensate, I had to play it at 1.25x speed on the Audible player to make listening bearable. The second problem seems to me to be more serious. Audible lists this book as the first in a series (and so it is). However the remaining books in the series are not available on Audible and hence it seems somewhat misleading to place the book on sale as the first in a series if you cannot buy the rest of the books through Audible.
If you are willing to live with that restriction this is a good listen. If not, then you might wait until the remaining books are available (if they ever are). Given that the storyline is left hanging at the end of the first book, the ability to buy the remaining books might outweigh how good the first volume is.
Mr Heppner has created a future world which seems reasonable, consistent within its basic premises and hence credible. In it a new glacial age has changed weather patterns making food far more scarce, petrochemicals far more important and the world a far more dangerous place. China, after years of military build-up, has become both rich from trade and a major military power and has consequently become expansive. America, after years of trade deficits and unbalanced budgets, has become much weaker, much less resolute and shorn of its military alliances. Facing a weakened and irresolute America, China has decided to seize the Alaskan oil reserves by force and thus starts a war between the two countries.
In addition to a logical and credible world situation Mr Heppner has also created a set of characters, American, Chinese and Canadian who are interesting, have reasonable back-stories, and react as normal people thrust into their situation might well react. They are not all admirable, but they are all believable and none are so superior as to make the situations unreasonable. While fiction, the book has the feel of a narration of real events involving real people making real decisions about real life situations and thus is a very pleasant alternative to the normal set of super-human secret agents, all-knowing detectives, mindless zombies and super-duper ninja-like fighters one often finds in current suspense novels. These people make both good and bad decisions, both succeed and fail, both live and die. I found the book so interesting and believable that I decided that I would buy the second book in the series. This may be military fiction but it is not made up of battle following battle but rather is a meld of the personal, political and military and this promises to be a very interesting series. The narration is excellent, the story both interesting and credible and it is not hard seeing the events as real-life news headlines.
Before reviewing this book it seems appropriate to mention that the author, Ian Kershaw, describes himself as a historical structuralist. He thus rejects the Great Man theory in which it is argued that history is created and shaped by the great personalities of history and instead believes that the structure of the society creates the environment which molds and creates the “great men”. Thus, in this argument, Hitler did not create the Third Reich and the associated Nazi tyranny so much as the structure of the German society at the time gave Hitler, as an opportunist, the chance to become dictator. But, if societal forces, rather than individuals, are responsible for great events there seems to be less need for biographies of those individuals and Mr Kershaw states as much at the start of the book. Thus this becomes a very different kind of biography, concerned with societal background as much as with Hitler and, as Mr Kershaw states, the blame for the human tragedy that was the Second World War comes to rest not on Hitler alone but has to be shared by the general intolerant and hateful society that existed in Germany during this period.
None of this means that the life and character of Hitler is ignored. I have read a great many books on the Second World War and the times leading up to The Third Reich and none of them have provided me with the wealth of information contained in this book. Here you will find details about Hitlers time in Landsberg Prison, the negotiation process that resulted in Hitler becoming Chancellor, the arguments involved in defining the German Racial Laws and much else, none of which I have seen in other books.
The book also does a wonderful job of describing Hitler’s early life, his years as a purposeless vagrant in Vienna, his change during his time in the German Army during World War I and how he was shaped and largely created by the years after the end of that war. The creation of the Nazi Party, the years during which it struggled, gained a niche in the German political scene and grew, the other people involved in the party development and their relationships with each other, are described in considerable detail.
While there is a thicket of information about people who do not normally get written into books like this (philosophers, writers, economists and so on), the book never loses the center of it’s attention. Hitler is always there, often being forced by circumstances to take actions, and the descriptions of societal forces never overshadow the subject of the book. It is hard to see how any other biography could be more interesting, more instructive or more compelling. This is a long book and only covers the period up to the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936. Still I found that it moved very quickly and frequently I had a hard time putting the book down. The narration is first class and a good match for the writing and the book is long enough to include information describing details normally left out of historic overviews. Rather than being a negative, the amount of detail clarified a lot of events and made me more interested in buying the second volume.
There is one negative. Sections of the book include considerable psychoanalysis of Hitler and his actions and sometimes they seem to degenerate into “psycho-babble”. With no live person to put on the psychoanalysis’s couch this seems like a futile and silly endeavor. It seems, at times, more than a bit annoying but the book is so complete and so well written and narrated that it seems worthy of at least 5 stars. I highly recommended for those with an interest in this period in history.
This was my first Ceepak book and, since I had no prior experience with the characters, I had no idea what to expect. The reviews were good but that did not guarantee that I would enjoy the book. For me, a good mystery has to include interesting and believable characters, a decent plot and a light-enough touch to relieve the tension. Robert B. Parker, great, Ellery Queen, good, Dashiell Hammett, not so much. What I found was an absolute delight.
First, the characters. John Ceepak, the main character, is a bit of a stretch. A completely by-the-book ex military detective who would never bend the rules or lie, it is hard imagining anyone so bound to the straight-and-narrow. Still, the character is interesting and his companion, Danny Boyle, fills out what John Ceepak lacks. The two, mentor and apprentice, form an almost perfect team with the believability, honesty and humor that makes the tension bearable. The mystery, involving the poisoning of an elderly man, has enough suspects and red herrings to keep the tension alive and enough twists to keep you guessing and the solution, although not a big surprise, provides a satisfying end to the story. The extra characters, Ceepak's mother, Ceepak's father (a reader will understand why I listed them separately rather than as a couple) and the suspects round out an interesting cast of characters although mostly not a group I would be interested in meeting.
The narration is almost pitch perfect with Ceepak's flat tone as a counterpoint to the more well-rounded Danny Boyle. This is book 8 in the series and I enjoyed it so much that I bought book 1 so I can start the series from the beginning. Most of the mystery books I have bought in the past have been more story than mystery (for example, almost all of the Robert B. Parker Spenser books) and this, as a real who-dun-it, forms a nice other-side-of-the-coin book. Highly recommended as a light read.
I always thought that Dr Kissinger's life would be interesting. A refugee from Nazi Germany who grew up to become a National Security Advisor, Secretary of State and a successful businessman. I had read Mr Isaacson's book on Einstein and found it to be interesting, informative and fair minded and naturally thought his book on Kissinger would also be worth reading. Unfortunately this turned out to not the case.
This book covers all of Dr Kissinger's life but mostly dwells on his time as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. While the portions of the book covering the rest of his life treat him fairly, the time covering his time as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State is of a different sort. Little that Kissinger did during these years is presented in an even-handed fashion and the author's descriptions of him fairly bristles with scorn and distain. Even actions that would normally be considered open minded, inclusive or far seeing are presented as somehow representative of personal faults. Some examples -
As a graduate student at Harvard then Mr Kissinger became heavily involved in a symposium involving present and future leaders of foreign countries. A graduate student involving himself in such a symposium might be considered far seeing, thoughtful and interested in the world at large but, in Mr Isaacson's view, this indicates that Kissinger had already decided that he was going to be in government and all of this effort was to secure his future. Even if this was true it is hard to see how it is a failing.
During the Viet Nam war Mr Isaacson says that Dr Kissinger reached out to anti-war protesters, met with them and tried to convince them that the Nixon Administration was trying its best to end the war. Such an action would normally be seen as an indication that the government was being inclusive and willing to listen to it's critics but Mr Isaacson sees this as an manifestation of Dr Kissinger's insecurity.
While Dr Kissinger was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State he was involved in turf battles with other officials. Normally this would be seen as normal in a political environment. Mr Isaacson sees this as an indication of Dr Kissinger's insecurity. During this time Dr Kissinger was also involved in political arguments with While House cabinet officials. One would think that this would be seen as normal but Mr Isaacson finds such actions examples of Dr Kissinger's aggressiveness and insecurity. During international negotiations Dr Kissinger would present only part of the whole to each party in an effort to reassure them and convince them that he was on their side. One would think that this would be considered regular negotiating tactics but Mr Isaacson sees this as an example of how secretive and devious Dr Kissinger was. Dr Kissinger was known to flatter President Nixon. One would think that this was the normal way subordinates acted when talking to the President but Mr Isaacson sees this as an example of how fawning Dr Kissinger was to his boss. It almost appears that Dr Kissinger's political enemies were interviewed and quoted extensively, his political friends far less so. And the list goes on. Practically nothing that Dr Kissinger did while in government is presented without Mr Isaacson saying that how it was done was somehow indicative of Dr Kissinger's dark side.
The only events that Mr Isaacson seems to think were worthy actions on the part of Dr Kissinger were the opening to China and the Salt negotiations. In this section of the book Mr Isaacson has (almost) only good things to say about Dr Kissinger but, based on this book, one could easily believe that everything else Dr Kissinger did involved misleading, lying, distorting or conniving and was probably done to further his own best interests. Dr Kissinger is said to be brilliant but difficult to deal with, as though this was somehow an unusual combination. Nixon is quoted as telling soon-to-be-President Ford that Kissinger was brilliant but had to be watched since he sometimes was difficult to handle and sometimes had bad ideas. This is supposed to be unusual? It is important for me to stress that these comments that Mr Isaacson makes about Dr Kissinger are not an occasional reference, but for a drumbeat throughout most of the book.
Toward the end of the book Mr Isaacson writes about how well Dr Kissinger was thought of, even years after he left government. There are portraits of how well he was received when traveling for business in places like China, Indonesia, Japan and the Middle East as late as the 1980s and 1990s. Such actions on the parts of the governments involved, when Dr Kissinger was only a private citizen, seem odd if one is to believe Mr Isaacson's view that Dr Kissinger deceived the government leaders of those countries, lied to them or told them half-truths.
While the view of Dr Kissinger presented in this book seems to me to be unfairly influenced by, I assume, Mr Isaacson's political views, the book does provide a very good history of the events of the Nixon and Ford Administrations involving both the well-known and less well-known events and, as a history of the period, I found it very complete. I found it far less so as an even handed and fair presentation of Dr Kissinger's actions.
The narration is very well done but I was surprised that quotes from Dr Kissinger were given in an imitation of his voice, including his heavy German accent. However it soon became clear that the narration of all of the famous people being quoted was done in a credible imitation of their own voices. It was so well done that it became easy to identify who was being quoted by just listening to they voices.
If you believe that Dr Kissinger was Dr Strangelove from the Stanley Kubrick move "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb", this is your book. If you are interested in an even-handed and fair look into Dr Kissinger's life you might want to look elsewhere.
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