Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Gathering Storm

This was an incredible book. It is the beginning of a six volume work on the Second World War. It was written by Winston Churchill from his own papers and experience. I don't think you often get that type of perspective from history. Especially on WWII, since Roosevelt died suddenly and Stalin wasn't about to write something as open as this book is.

This first volume summarizes the time between the wars, with an emphasis on the few years right before war broke out. The Moral and Theme of the works really sum up Churchill's position.

Moral of the Work:

In War: Resolution

In Defeat: Defiance

In Victory: Magnanimity

In Peace: Good Will



Theme of the Volume

How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and
good nature allowed the wicked to rearm.





That pretty much sums up the book. It is amazing the things that Hitler got away with. A lot like those crime movies where the criminal is so bold faced that he always gets away with things. Hitler was just daring France or the League of Nations or anyone else to step in and stop him and no one ever did. Belgium and Holland were just cowering, trying desperately not to antagonize Germany, and they though they could survive that way. Britain's course was called "Peace at Any Price" They soon found out that the price was too high.

It is funny, Churchill was a part of the government during the first World War, and he was a member of theHouse of Commons during the interval, but he was a constant thorn in the side of the Prime Minister and those in power, even though he was a member of their party. He mentions several times, at least I wasn't a part of the government that made all those mistakes in the beginning, that meant the I could start the fight free of the taint of all that had gone before.

So this book ends when he becomes Prime Minister and actively started the fight against Germany. The detail of the book was fascinating. I just picked it up from the library on a whim but I was thoroughly engrossed. I've learned a lot, not just about WWII, but about how politics at the highest levels works and what a real head of state does. I think this should be required reading for people get degrees in political science. Of course, maybe it is, I don't know. But I feel like I'm much smarter that when I started.



The Gathering Storm. Winston S. Churchill. Houghton Mifflin. 1948

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Every Boy's Got One

This was an experiment, that didn't go all that badly. Normally I avoid this genre like the plague, not because I don't think I might like it, but because they tend to be horribly trashy. But this one was written by the same author who wrote the Princess Diaries, so I decided to try it.
Usually I get 5 or 6 books when I go to the library because at least on or two will be unreadable for some reason. This one surprised me. It didn't have any foul language, that I can remember, and there wasn't much sex at all.
It was a funny little light romance. Just the type of light fluff I have been looking for lately. The biggest problem I had is that these books are such quick reads. It takes four of them to equal one big Science fiction novel, five to equal one of the Winston Churchill books I have been plowing through lately.
This book was set up a bit differently. Rather than being just a straight narrative, it was a series of diaries, emails and other things used to show what happened. The best bit of the book was the last few pages where the author showed how similar the book was to what really happened to her when she decided to elope to Italy.
A fine way to kill an hour or two or so. Quite funny, especially if you are female. I don't think a guy would like it as much.

Every Boy's Got One. Meg Cabot. Avon Trade. 2005

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Decoy Princess

I bought this while I was in Florida. I went to "the largest bookstore in Florida." I wasn't impressed. Sam Wellers is way better and I think even the Barnes and Noble in Salt Lake, the one with two floors, is bigger. I guess they aren't big readers in Florida? Tracie, have you noticed a decrease in your literacy since moving down there? ;)
I haven't read anything by the author before, although the jacket says she has a few other books out. This was a good book. A nice, rather light-hearted fantasy that still managed to keep a tight plot and even have seemingly small things from earlier in the book be important later. A lot of times when an author wants to do that they highlight the seemingly non important thing so strongly it is no longer non-important and it is only obvious that it will be important later. And I find that annoying. But it is difficult to do well, even Hawthorne had trouble with that, see The Scarlet Letter for example.
A nice little almost romance, but not of the type that becomes intrusive or annoying, and the heroine doesn't become a total imbecile in the presence of attractive men, which is also a little pet peeve of mine. When it comes to books I have a whole menagerie of pet peeves.
I'll probably look up the next book in the series when I get to the end of my current projected reading list, which is a bit long right now.

The Decoy Princess. Dawn Cook. Ace Fantasy. 2005

Friday, February 22, 2008

Life Expectancy

This was a very helpful book. I took it with me to the car dealership and discovered that I could read a 330 page book in 2 hours, so I read about 160 pages an hour. That is nice to know and explains a bit how I can read so many books. It also left me with two hours to kill since I was there for a little over four hours. Anybody interested in starting a Toyota Dealership in Southeastern Utah? There is no competition and the nearest one in 110 miles away. The dealership in Grand Junction is awful and slow, but the nearest other one in is Provo. Although with the kind of waits I've been having, it would almost be worth the extra time.
So, complaints about the auto industry aside, this was a pretty good book. I read a bit of Dean Koontz right after my mission and didn't really get into it, so I have avoided it ever since. From what I can remember I think his writing has improved in the 15 odd years since I read him last.
But, sorry Alan and Camille, I thought it was a pretty standard thriller. I mean it is nice that the blood, gore and sex of a Stephen King novel weren't here, but then this was nowhere near as exciting or keep the lights on scary as one of his books either.
I also get annoyed by strange and silly plot devices. The long lost twin brother is pretty stale, as well as the surprise paternity revealed at the end, and the evil clown and a few other surprises that were surprises, but not unexpected ones. I did like the use of the main character being a baker, with the shift in hours it implied, and you did feel a sympathy and connection to the characters. That was much better that Stephen King (who I don't read anymore, too creepy and gross), his characters tended to annoy me and these were endearing. An odd choice of words for a thriller, but they were nice in a cute, you would like to have them over for dinner, kind of way.

Life Expectancy. Dean Koontz. Bantam. 2004

Friday, February 15, 2008

The True Knight

This is the third of the Susan Dexter books. I got them to read on the flight and in airports. This one I wouldn't have finished if I hadn't been sitting in an airport. I had a hard time caring about the people and the plot didn't seem to got anywhere. David said there were a few really good bits and it felt like she just made up something to connect the parts that she wanted to write.
The author also alludes to the fact she is involved in Renaissance faires and re-creations and she went into too much detail about knights and all that stuff. I'll admit, I like it when I know the author is writing from some knowledge and not just making stuff up after seeing too many King Arthur movies. But the authenticity should come into the story naturally, not be forced in and making the reader feel like they have to read two pages of Medeival History 101 for each page of story.

The True Knight. Susan Dexter. Del Rey. 1995

The Wind-Witch

This is the next book after The Prince of Ill Luck. It doesn't have that silly quote by Marion Zimmer Bradley on it, so I guess it is not as funny as the last one.
It was a nice story. A young woman learns how to use her abilities for others and how to deal with the destructive nature of calling up hurricanes. Occasionally it can be good, as when Vikings have established a base on an outlying island. Warn everyone else and wash the bad guys away. I must admit, it was one of the more novel ways I've ever seen of getting rid of invaders. This was a reasonably good book. Good exactly for the purpose I got it from the library for; to read in little bits here and there or just before going to bed to wind down.

The Wind-Witch. Susan Dexter. Del Rey. 1994

The Prince of Ill Luck

So I've been looking for light-hearted things, something funny to relax with and to take on the trip to Florida. I looked at this and the front said "The most delightfully funny books I've read in my life." Marion Zimmer Bradley. That sounded encouraging, so I checked out this book, and the two others that went with it.
So after reading it, I must say that Ms Bradley must have had a remarkable dull and boring life if these were funniest book she has ever read. It wasn't a bad book, in fact I enjoyed it and David got stuck in it and stayed up too late to finish reading it.
It was a story of misadventures, the type of things that are funny later, and maybe if you are retelling the story to someone else, but not particularly while you are reading it. I think this is the first book I've ever read in which a horse was one of the main characters without fulling anthropomorphizing the horse (making it human with four legs). I liked that. I have become a bit more aware of the craftsmanship involved in writing a novel and I can spot and appreciate details that are good and unusual more that I have in the past.

The Prince of Ill Luck. Susan Dexter. Del Rey. 1994

Bridesmaids Revisited

So this seemed like a fairly harmless little mystery, which is what it was, but I could figure out the villain by the end, in fact by about 2/3 through. Then it makes all the other characters seem like idiots that it takes them until the final confrontation to figure out what anyone reading the book could see a hundred pages ago. A nice little story, but too easy. I wonder how much they pay the people who write the blurbs on the back , it was entertaining, more or less, but "Hilariously funny"? I don't think so.

Bridesmaids Revisited. Dorothy Cannell. Viking Press. 2000

We Shall Not Sleep

This is the last of Anne Perry's WWI novels. It had a good ending. Some authors seem to have trouble ending things well, especially if it has taken 5 books to get to the end. But the ultimate bad guy was exposed, and the war ended, not quite a surprise ending. Again, I would have had more to say about this, but I read it a month ago and now I can't really remember the thoughts I had. What I did like was that moral courage was the focus and not some hair-brained hero rushing all alone to confront the bad guy in some stupid way that will almost get him or her killed. That is one of the cliches of mystery novels that really bug me, and why I don't read many when I am feeling fully mentally competent.

We Shall Not Sleep. Anne Perry. Ballantine. 2007

At Some Disputed Barricade

This is the fourth book in the WWI series I've been reading. This seemed to slow down a little, but maybe I was just getting tired of reading about war. It seems odd to me that she made these five separate books. I suppose she had a reason. I know that when I read this I some some wonderful insights, but that was a month ago, so they are gone now.

At Some Disputed Barricade. Anne Perry. Ballantine Books.2007

Monday, February 11, 2008

Spellbinder

I hate it when an author I thought I liked writes something totally different. I can understand the need to do something different once in a while, but I think it should have a warning: Alert, this is not like her other novels, so watch out.
Of course, it has been a few years since I read this author's other stuff so maybe it wasn't as good as I'd remembered. I read some novels by Melanie Rawn while we still lived in Las Vegas, so it was a number of years ago and I remember being really irritated that she had never finished the two trilogies that I read of hers. She explains in the afterward of this book that she has been suffereing from depression and has barely gotten to the point of being able to write again, and she needed to do something different, so she wrote this more modern, fantasy in the city, type of book.
Now I really understand about the whole depression thing, and I am amazed that she could write at all while still struggling with it, even a book I didn't particularly like. But this was too long, and had way to much sex in it and it seemed contrived and on the whole, annoying. Don't ask me why I kept reading it, I just did. That is one of my worst habits, reading-wise anyway, to keep reading something even after I've decided I didn't like the book all that much. I guess since I read so fast it isn't as big of a waste of my time as it would be if it didn't take me only an hour or two to finish.
But now I am curious about her other novels I read before, were they good, or was I at one of the low points I get to occassionally in which I will read and even like almost anything? I'll have to see next time I go to the library.

Spellbinder. Melanie Rawn. Tor. 2006