Tamerlane (Timur the lame) or correctly known as Timur ruler of Samarkand 1369-1405. Lamb says Timur was a Tartar, some other biographer’s claim he was a Turko-Mongol. I believe Lamb is correct as Timur was born in what is today Uzbekistan, which is the home land of the Tartars. After the fall of the Soviets, they tore down the statue of Marx and Stalin and put up a big statue of Timur. According to Lamb he married a Great Granddaughter of Genghis Khan. I found the author’s remarks that Samarkand was famous for its crimson cloth most interesting. I love learning these little tidbits of information. The author also said that Timur liked turquoise blue so the people made him turquoise blue cloth, they wore the cloth over the saddle that is the reason they were called the blue hoard. Lamb did not specify if his enjoyment of turquoise blue was before or after his conquering of Turkey. His Empire was enormous he ruled all of the “stans” all the middle east including Turkey , Egypt, India, Russia, Mongolia and parts of China. According to Lamb when he conquered the Golden Hoard (the Mongolian tribe that ruled Russia) he placed a group of Tartars in Crimea to control the area where Russian came in touch of Europe. (They lived in the Crimea until Stalin sent them to the gulags. The tartars returned with the fall of the Soviet’s and they apparently voted against the Russia takeover of the Crimea) Lamb said Timur also took Poland for a time. Lamb says Timur was a great patron of the art and architecture. Timur apparently enjoyed the domes of the Byzantium architecture and brought it back to Samarkand and into Russia. Timur used the Dome on his palaces and mosques, he was a Muslim. The author did cover Timur’s wars and brutality but also covered his love of architecture, his great ability as an administrator and war strategist. In enjoyed learning about Timur, his land and time. Lamb has a way of writing that brings history to life. It took me a bit to get use to the sound effects used in the audio book. I think the voice of Charlton Griffin was appropriate for this type of story.
Nicholas Rankin tells about Archibald Wavell, whose career began in the Boer War and ended with him a Field Marshall and Viceroy of India. Wavell wrote “The beginnings of any war by the British are always marked by improvidence, improvisation, and too often, alas, impossibilities being asked of the troops.” Improvisation defined British deception operations, camouflaging soldiers in the field, building entire fake armies and fake cities to fool airborne reconnaissance and bombers, counter sniping with dummy heads-all originated in the British amateur spirit and gift for discovering a way forward out of the strangest materials. The first half of the book is about World War One and the second half covers World War Two.
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Solomon J. Solomon a portrait painter became obsessed with camouflaging soldiers. With the help from members of the London theatrical and artistic worlds he started a British Army School of Camouflage in Hyde Park. Another painter marine artist Norman Wilkinson designed a better method to camouflage ships from submarine attacks. He used a vivid painting of the vessel that dazzled and gave the impression that the head is where the stern is.
Sefton Delmer in late 1930s produced a German language radio program to entertain and seed disinformation to demoralize Hitler’s troops. The program ran all during the war. The author also discusses the famous Operation Mincemeat. Rankin states that the British Military have always looked for ways to outsmart their enemies, by hiding the extent of and defensive weakness and obscuring the timing and direction of any offensives. The author states the British integrate deception into the highest level of strategic planning during the two world wars. Some escapades became famous: phony units with pretend tanks, a double of General Bernard Montgomery arriving in Gibraltar to discuss fake operations. I got a good laugh at one story Rankin tells about the Luftwaffe paying tribute to a dummy railhead in Egypt by dropping a wooden bomb on it.
Churchill loved cloak-dagger exploits and was fascinated by cryptography, and military wizardry. Churchill promoted unorthodox figures who excelled in the crucial field of camouflage, propaganda, secret intelligence and Special Forces operation. Rank quotes one of Churchill’s famous declarations that he lived up to that “in wartime the truth should be protected by a bodyguard of lies.”
The book is a page turner and lots of fun; it covers many exciting and interesting illustration of British deception. If you are interested in either WWI or WWII or just in military history this is a must book for you. It is fairly long at about 22 hours. Napoleon Ryan does a great job narrating the book.
This is book three in the Hayden Series. Captain Charles Hayden is the son of a British Post Captain and a French mother. Hayden is fluent in French as he spoke it all his life. The time of the story is during the French Revolution with England and France at war again.
Hayden’s orders was to take the HMS Themis to a spot off the French coast to met a spy and then get the message immediately back to the Admiralty. The message was that the French have a naval fleet and 100,000 soldiers to invade England. The HMS Themis is captured after a daring chase and the French 79 gun ship runs aground while being chased by two British Naval Ships. The book has lots of sea action both from ship to ship battles as well as with storms at sea. Lots of suspense as the French thinks Hayden is a French Royalist that has gone over to the British. This is an excellent sea faring adventure.
I understand that Russell wrote Sci-fi/fantasy novels under pen names and going into historical seafaring adventure novels in new to him. Nick Boulton did a good job narrating the story.
This book covers the span of years between the end of the War and Washington’s presidency. This period is hardly mentioned by biographers or just called the wilderness years. The author said he felt these years helped Washington understand the weakness and problems facing the emerging country that helped him later as President. Larson writes about the Virginia planters putting his estate in order. When Washington traveled to check his frontier tracts in Pennsylvania and western Virginia he became worried. He found the inhabitants increasingly fractious and only sketchily loyal to the new nation. He worried that the western settlers may turn to Spain who controlled the mouth of the Mississippi river and the Western lands beyond.
The author said Washington believed that only a common interest supported by a vigorous central government and nourished commercial ties, could prevent the fragmentation of the large country. He recommends the building of canals which would benefit both private investors and the Nation as a whole. Larson reveals Washington writing to Henry Knox saying “Good God! There are combustibles in every State, which a spark may set fire to!”
When Congress called the Constitutional Convention in 1787 they wanted Washington to come and give stature to the proceedings. Washington was initially ambivalent about returning to politics. Washington sensed that division among the States threatened national liberty caused him to join the Constitutional convention in 1787. I really enjoyed Larson’s account by John Adams “John Adams groused, all anybody was likely to remember about the Revolution was “that Dr. Franklin’s electric rod smote the earth and out sprang George Washington. That Franklin electrified him and thence forward those two conducted all the policy, negotiations, legislation and War”
Larson describes Washington’s medical and dental problems and the pressure for Washington to be the president. The author brings to life the founders daily struggles to draw up a document that would preserve individual liberty while ensuring the new government’s supreme power and sovereignty. Larson identifies Washington’s three goals—“respect abroad, prosperity at home and development westward.” Larson did a lot of research and then wrote a readable history of a little discussed period of Washington’s life.
Edward J. Larson is a historian and legal scholar at Pepperdine University. He received the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for history for his book “Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion.” Mark Bramhall did a good job narrating the book.
This book just won the 2014 Man Booker prize. This was the first year that Americans we allow to compete for the British Award. Richard Flanagan is a Tasmanian, graduated from the University of Tasmania, awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Worcester College Oxford.
Flanagan wrote the book in tribute to his late father, who survived the horrors of “the line” thousand more did not. Beaten and starving, riddled with malaria, cholera, ulcers and beriberi, allied POWs and local workers alike perished in the dense jungle between Thailand and Burma to build a railroad. Forced by their Japanese captures to build a railway between Thailand and Burma under appalling slave labor conditions caused the death of 13,000 POWs and 100,000 local workers. The book reminds me somewhat of the movie “Bridge over the River Kwai.”
Flanagan historical novel protagonist is Dorrigo Evans an Australian Military surgeon. The book covers Evans life from childhood, education, war survival to post war life. During the War he is captured and sent to work on “the line” building the railroad. As a physician he treated both his fellow POWs and the Japanese Commander and his men. After the War Evans is haunted by the experience of the War, Flanagan’s writing reveals danger is omnipresent even after combat recedes, nature careless and monumental in its rains and bush fires.
Flanagan’s historical novel is an examination of what it is to be a good man and a bad man in the same body and, above all, of how hard it is to live after survival. Flanagan is a fine writer and through the voices of a broad cast of characters, he takes us deep into the world of war in the jungles of Burma. Flanagan has written a magnificent historical novel of passion, horror and tragic irony. The story looks at terrible things and creates something beautiful. In researching to write the book Flanagan says he spent many hours interviewing his father obtaining details like the smell of the ulcer hut, the taste of sour rice. He also drew upon published histories and memoirs. For those interested in the history of World War II this is a must read book. David Atlas did a good job narrating the book.
I have been trying to clear my wish list of some books that have been there since the beginning of the year. A number on the list including this one I have kept postponing reading because they are so long. This book is about 40 hours.
Goodwin sets out to tell the history of 1940 to 1945 through the lives of the Roosevelt’s and those who occupied the White House with them at a time when that building functioned more as a dormitory for famous personages than the President’s official residence. Guest included of course the Roosevelt’s daughter Ann and 4 sons, but Winston Churchill came and stayed for months at a time. Goodwin introduces us to a guest that has had less attention paid to her by historians the exiled Princess Martha of Norway. Princess Martha was born in Stockholm the daughter of Prince Carl of Sweden and Princess Ingeborg of Denmark. She married her cousin Crown Prince Olav of Norway in Oslo Cathedral on 21 March 1929; it was the first Royal Wedding in Norway in 340 years. When the Nazi overran Norway the Royal family first fled to Sweden then to England. Princess Martha and her three children were invited to come to the United States by Franklin and Eleanor for safety for the duration of the War. The Norwegian Americans helped host her. Prince Olav stayed most often in London helping with the War effort. Prince Olav’s mother was Princess Maud of Wales and father was King Haakon VII of Norway.
The author did a prodigious amount of research to write this book and then she had the ability to convert all that abundance of information into a very readable story. No previous biography of the Roosevelt’s has given so complete a picture of how the private lives and political lives intersect uniquely for the Roosevelt’s. Goodwin portrays the history of WWII and so fully documents the domestic life of the nation during the international crisis. Narrating the events of the war from the vantage point of the White House, Goodwin makes it richly evident; Eleanor was a home front counterpart to Winston Churchill, a partner and provocateur whose relationship with FDR was rarely smooth and often frankly confrontational. Eleanor was her husband’s political and social conscience. Goodwin shows in stunning detail that Eleanor was even more; she was his astute political partner, lobbyist and goad. Goodwin depicts how a savvy, relentlessly involved First Lady incalculably enriched and shaped the political and social agenda of the Nation.
The way Goodwin has pulled her myriad facts together serves to reinforce one’s sense of a monumental Presidency. It had its flaws, among which Goodwin numbers chiefly its failure to do more for the European Jews and its inability to stem the tide of hostility toward Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. This is a superb dual portrait of the 32nd President and his first lady. Nelson Runger did a great job narrating the book.
Civil War scholar and Pulitzer winning (“Battle Cry of Freedom” 1988) author James M McPherson has taken a fresh look at a subject with whom he is eminently familiar: the life and times of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. With open minds in short supply these days the author takes a big risk in challenging past postulations. Many still consider Davis a traitor.
McPherson has methodically, without emotions written this short book. It is obvious he has conducted an enormous amount of research in preparation to write this story of Davis. This is not a biography in the traditional since as details of Davis’s life before Secession and his fate during Reconstruction are not covered.
McPherson claims Davis was not an inept leader as many historians have claimed. Davis was a graduate of West Point and had served in the Mexican War. The author states that the south also had problems with its Generals. He compared the tentative George B. McClellan to the backpedaling Joseph E. Johnston. While he documents that Davis made his share of mistakes and was an impolitic politician, McPherson concludes that Davis devised a credible strategy for fight the war. The South’s material and manpower handicaps are well known, but McPherson list other obstacles such as the Southerners were anything but united. The “States Rights” mantra often inhibited coordinated military tactics. The author covers the 1862 threat by Arkansas to secede from the Confederacy and in 1863 North Carolina’s leaders favored negotiations. On top of this Rebel soldiers deserted in droves.
McPherson’s overall evaluation of Davis is fair-minded. He criticizes Davis but also points out some favorable points. The book’s worth a read particularly for those interested in the Civil war. Robert Fass did a good job narrating the book.
This lengthy (700 pages or 36 hours audio book) book aspires to be a comprehensive biography of Robert Oppenheimer. Monk covers more of the Oppenheimer’s work and love of physics than some other of the biographers.
Monk goes into the German-Jewish tradition into which Oppenheimer was born and the ethical cultural belief that shaped his family and education. The author claims Oppenheimer was so brilliant that Harvard University forgot its anti-Semitic discrimination. Monk follows “Oppie’s” education from Harvard, Cambridge and to Gottingen University. The author tells of Oppenheimer fluency in French and his love of French literature, he also wrote poetry and learned Sanskrit. Oppenheimer also spoke German and Dutch. In 1927 Oppenheimer co wrote with Max Born a paper entitled “On the Quantum Theory of Molecules”. This paper helped “Oppie” become known in the field of Physics.
The author cover in great detail Oppenheimer‘s teaching jobs at Caltech and the University of California Berkeley. When I took physics at UC Berkeley my professors were proud to have been students of Oppenheimer and E. Lawrence. He was able to pass on to his students his love of physics. Monk then covers the time at the lab in Los Alamos and the work on the bomb. The author covers the two pillars of Oppenheimer’s life. His scientific leadership role in WWII atomic bomb project and his status as a martyr of the McCarthy era after the 1954 security hearing that stripped him of his clearance.
The remainder of the book Monk describes Oppenheimer’s years leading the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Monk provides by far the most thorough survey yet written of Oppenheimer’s physics and his work on neutron stars and black holes. His paper he wrote in 1938-39 was considered his most important theoretical work of his career. But “Oppie” died in 1967 before astronomical discoveries made his work relevant. He lost his chance for a Nobel Prize because they cannot be given posthumously. The book kept my attention throughout the 36 hours. Michael Goldstrom did a good job narrating the book.
I enjoyed Jack Campbell’s “Lost Fleet” series and have just keep reading right into his new sub series of the “Lost Stars” series. This is book three in the series. The series follows the trials and tribulations of the newly independent Midway Star System. We met this Star System and the people in the later books of the “Lost Fleet” series.
Midway broke away from the Syndicated Worlds Empire and formed their independent Star System. President Gwen Iceni and head of Defense Artur Drakon are the key leaders. The people form a democracy for the first time in history of their system. Campbell allows this back ground to create lots of suspense, political intrigue, espionage as back drop to the major problem they face, the Syndicate wants to retake the Midway Star System. This of course, leads us to the area where Jack Campbell shines through. Campbell is the master of the space battles. His fleet movements techniques, the chess like moves of the fleet and the fighting in space kept me glued to my iPod. We meet up with Kommodor Marphissa, the female commander of the Midway fleet. She is turning into a most interesting character in the series as is the new Captain of the battleship Midway. The ending sets us up for the next book. Mark Vietor does as excellent job narrating the book.
For the past 4 years I have been reading books about World War One, therefore I found the section about Donovan service in WWI most interesting. Donovan was the most decorated American soldier in WWI. The author covered Donovan’s WWI service in-depth and anyone interested in learning more about WWI would find this book helpful. I had just finished reading Caesar Commentaries so when I read that Donovan was reading a French translation of Caesar Commentaries with comments by Napoleon it jumped right out at me.
Richard Dunlop was a journalist for the Chicago Tribune and a former OSS agent in World War II. He passed away in 1987. Sir William Stephenson was a Canadian soldier, spy master and oversaw British Intelligence for the Western Hemisphere during World War II. His code name was “Intrepid” and is thought to be the inspiration for James Bond.
Dunlop and Stephenson’s book is a light weight biography of Donovan. This book was first published in 1982. The audio book was published in February of 2014. If you want a detailed and long book read Anthony Cave Brown’s “The Last Hero: Wild Bill Donovan.”
The book covers an overview of Donovan’s life from childhood in Buffalo, New York and his education at Columbia University and Columbia Law School. During World War I Donovan served in the famous New York fighting 69th Irish Regiment where he received numerous decorations. Donovan was the only person to have received all four of the United States’ highest awards: The Medal of Honor, The Distinguished Service Cross, The Distinguished Service medal with two oak leaf clusters and the National Security Medal. He also was awarded the Silver Star and a Purple Heart with two Oak Clusters. He was awarded medals by all the Allied countries. At the end of World War One he left the Army as a Colonel. After World War One Donovan returned to his Wall Street law practice and he was active in New York politics as well as a friend of FDR.
In WWII FDR created the OSS on the advice of William Stephenson, the British Intelligence officer for the Western Hemisphere. The United States had no intelligence network. FDR then appointed William Donovan as its head. The book covers an overview of Donovan’s work with the OSS during WWII. Donovan was promoted to Major General during WWII. Donovan continued to head the OSS under President Truman and when it was dissolved at the end of the war he helped Allen Dulles set up the CIA that Truman had just created.
After World War II Donovan reverted to his life as a lawyer he was special assistant to Chief Prosecutor Telford Taylor at the Nuremburg War Crimes Tribunal. In 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Donovan as Ambassador to Thailand.
Dunlop was given access to Donovan’s private papers and spoke with Donovan for hundreds of hours in preparation for writing this biography. The book is well written and most interesting. Eric Martin narrated this book. If you are interested in WWI or WWII history this is a book for you. This book provides an excellent overview of the life of William Donovan.
When I first read “On Basilisk Station” in 2009 David Weber had me hooked. I have read all the Honor Harrington series and now all the sub series. This book is to be book one in a new series about Manticore star system prior to the time of Honor. In fact the book starts not long after the founding of the Star Kingdom of Manticore. The Manticore wormhole junction has not been discovered yet.
Our protagonist is Travis Uriah Long who has just enlisted in the Royal Manticore Navy at the age of 17. The existence of the Navy is under threat from political and budget problems. Travis is assigned to a ship going out of the Star system to check out the Havenit military surplus ship sale and to check out their shipbuilding capabilities. Then they meet the pirates and the action begins.
Long’s brother Gavin is a junior peer in the House of Lords who wants to do away with the Navy. We are introduced to naval officer Edward Winton heir to the Manticorean Crown who is fighting to keep the Navy. The ending is a cliffhanger getting ready for the next book.
The book is well written, full of action and interesting characters. The book contains technical details, military protocol, intrigue and political drama that you would expect in a Weber book. I think there is less world building political info dumping with Zahn as a co-author. The book is a fun read. Eric Michael Summerer did a good job narrating the book. If you enjoy military sci-fi or are a fan of Honorverse you will enjoy this book.
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