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The Second World War by Beevor, Antony ( 2013 )
The Second World War by Beevor, Antony ( 2013 )

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beevor's fine and literate single-volume history is an admirable synthesis, 28 Sep 2014
To attempt to write a one-volume history of the greatest conflict in the history of mankind is a daunting task: you're bound to offend or displease someone by giving short shrift to their particular pet subject/campaign/national army/theatre of war, or omit some detail considered important by a minority of readers.

Antony Beevor's `The Second World War' stands out in a crowded field of single-volume WW2 histories by being extremely well-written in a style as succinct as it is intelligent and literate, organised into 50 roughly chronological chapters of unequal length and running to 783 pages excluding the index and notes. Beevor offers us a deep understanding of the interdependence of different parts of the global conflict, how for example the long and bitterly-fought war in China between the Nationalists and the invading Japanese armies impacted decisions by Stalin and the STAVKA how and when to deploy formations in the war against the Wehrmacht; at the same time 700,000 Japanese troops tied down in the Chinese conflict were unavailable for the Pacific theatre. Focus is brought to oft-neglected episodes like the short Soviet-Japanese war in the Nomonhan region of Mongolia in 1939 (which Beevor claims with justification marked the actual start of WW2), the brief but savage civil war in Greece in 1944-45 after the German forces departed, and the unbelievable scale of bloodletting in the battles for Budapest and Konigsburg where the death toll ran to hundreds of thousands.

A thorough analysis is presented as to how Churchill (with his obsessive desire for a post-war free & democratic Poland), the genial-but-deepdown-scheming Roosevelt and others in the British and US governments were repeatedly outwitted and out-maneuvered by the cold, calculating and deeply paranoid Stalin, the real victor of WW2. Few of the best-known military leaders - Rommel, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Montgomery, `Vinegar Joe' Stilwell, `Bomber' Harris of the RAF, De Gaulle, Mark Clark - come out of Beevor's narrative covered in glory, the character flaws of all these and many others laid bare.

A notable shortcoming is the poor quality of the maps, too small and lacking detail to be of any use to the reader unfamiliar with the campaigns and who might not have better reference material available. The choice and sheer range of subjects of the monochrome photos however is excellent, and does justice to the global nature of the war.

Beevor's book does not spare the reader details of the ubiquitous horror which characterised the conflict: eyewitness accounts of naked and shorn prisoners, half-starved, being driven by sadistic guards with packs of savage dogs into the gas chambers at Treblinka (where 800,000 were murdered in 13 months, more than at Auschwitz in the same period); the mass gang rapes, murder and pillage perpetrated by Russian soldiers in East Prussia in January-February 1945; the details of how tens of thousands of German & Japanese civilians were incinerated in firebomb attacks by allied air forces; the murderous persecutions of the NKVD against almost everyone including their East European allies and Russian prisoners `liberated' from German POW camps unjustly assumed to have been `collaborators' because they had obeyed their Red Army officers' orders to surrender. One particular detail to which Beevor devotes a couple of pages is the widespread practice of cannibalism among Japanese forces in Asia, who (evidence and testimony from survivors proves) regularly killed and ate Chinese, Burmese and Papuan civilians, POWs and even their own comrades. All this hatred and brutality does not sit well with our 21st century sensibilities but it happened, nevertheless, and just about within living memory.

Overall, Beevor has done a fine job with this massive subject. You will find his book particularly informative if you do not have extensive knowledge of the period but are looking for more than just a general overview; perhaps less so the history buff already steeped in the detail of the military campaigns and political background to the conflict. The writing style is crisp and engaging, the narrative gripping, the editing good (literally two or three minor grammatical errors in 800 pages). Regardless of your present knowledge and reading history about this conflict, this book is highly recommended.


Glutamine Powder (100g) - x 4 Units Deal
Glutamine Powder (100g) - x 4 Units Deal
Offered by Best4Deals
Price: £29.21

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nutrisport glutamine AA powder, 5 Sep 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Of all free AAs in the human body, glutamine is the most common and prolific, usually making up about half of all AAs present. Athletes often take supplemental glutamine to assist in building muscle tissue and help relieve muscle stress following exercise.

The glutamine (“pure pharmaceutical grade”) from Nutrisport is a great product. Personally I’ve found the soluble powder more effective than the alternative hard swallow-able tablets. The powder also comes in a variety of pack sizes, but the 100g is the best for portability and to retain its freshness.

Great product, good price - especially for the 4-pack.


Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box
by Arbinger Institute
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £15.28

2.0 out of 5 stars Simplistic and patronising, 4 Sep 2014
The message of this short book is you'll be a better leader, a better manager and a better person if you `treat people as people and not as objects' and stop being self-serving/narcissistic. All your problems in the workplace and in your life are caused by your own `self-betrayal' and blaming others which puts you `in the box', and you can fix this by changing your attitude and stepping `out of the box'.

The author `The Arbinger Institute' deploys a fictional narrative-format in the first-person by a new employee in the fictional `Zagrum' organization. Acting as surrogate for the reader, `Tom' is guided through a process of revelation and self-enlightenment by his new senior managers (especially the god-like `Bud') in a private meeting where he is made to see what a jerk he is and how he needs to change and `step out of the box' to transform his life and by extension, his department into a paradise of openness and universal trust among staff and co-workers. Unfortunately this patronising dross comes across as tedious and manipulative, like listening to an evangelist or time-share salesman. And guess what? "Arbinger offers public courses, consulting and coaching services, and tailored organizational interventions" - no surprise there; this book is a sales pitch.

The ensuing preachy message is a stream of simple-minded platitudes: all staff and personnel issues boil down to the manager being `in the box', which the Arbinger Institute can fix for you - for a fee, of course.

"Change the way you deal with other people and transform your life!" proclaims the cover blurb; "Be prepared to have your world turned upside down and open your eyes to a whole new way of living and working". If only life was that simple. If you've ever been exposed to scientology, or to Rhonda Byrne's shallow and manipulative `The Secret' series, you're in essentially the same territory. Only one star for content; a second to give the author/s the benefit of the doubt, as they possibly mean well and may not be merely ruthless exploiters of the simple-minded and gullible - which is certainly how they come across.


Invisible Residents: The Reality of Underwater UFOs Sanderson, Ivan T ( Author ) Sep-01-2005 Paperback
Invisible Residents: The Reality of Underwater UFOs Sanderson, Ivan T ( Author ) Sep-01-2005 Paperback
by Ivan T. Sanderson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ivan Sanderson's now-dated exposition on Unidentified Submerged Objects: OK, but not great, 3 Sep 2014
Ivan Sanderson's `Invisible Residents' was first published in 1970. A serious and original work at the time of publication, the book is still a good - but not great - work of reference about Unidentified Submerged Objects detected and witnessed in the seas, in lakes, rivers and reservoirs around the world, though the author's plodding and dated writing style means IR is now showing its age.

The book runs to 216 pages of text and is divided into three sections. The first and longest consists of nine chapters, each describing as a numbered mystery (i.e. "A Fifth Mystery: UAOs into and Out of Fresh Waters").

In the final section, conclusions are attempted as to what these USOs might be, and here the author strays way off the data-map into wild speculation. He obviously feels the need to offer the reader some firm hypothesis about the origins of these phenomena, but can't make up his mind what they are so jumps from theory to theory and finally settles on some non-human `ultraterrestrial' technology/civilisation living under the seas and oceans as the likely agency.

Sanderson admires Jacques Vallee's `Passport to Magonia' - in 1970, just published - and the writings of John Keel (rumour has it that he planned to co-write the book with Keel, but the project didn't pan out). Sanderson's writing style is close to Keel's laboured, turgid prose, often going off at tangents with an overabundance of ill-organised data and confused ideas, in contrast to Vallee's characteristic clarity, disciplined organization and literary precision. For these reasons of style and readability, it's difficult to recommend Sanderson's IR to any but the committed enthusiast interested in these phenomena, though the book retains some valuable data at its core and the author should be recognised and commended for that.


Unhalfbricking
Unhalfbricking
Price: £7.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Un-halfway between `Holidays' and `Liege', 2 Sep 2014
This review is from: Unhalfbricking (Audio CD)
Fairport's third album was released in 1969 only a few months after `What we did on our Holidays.' It sees Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson et al joined for the first time by long-term fairporter Dave Swarbrick on violin.

The overall sound is essentially similar to that of WWdooH: a melding of re-visited English folk songs with some fine self-penned compositions by Denny and Thompson in the folk idiom, and a couple of Bob Dylan covers thrown in for good measure.

Some of these songs would have been at home on the follow-up and genre-defining `Liege and Lief': the opener `Genesis Hall' is one such, `A Sailor's Life' is another (though the `tail' of this song is maybe too long for a studio album), and Sandy Denny's singing on `Who knows where the Time goes?' is one of the band's career-defining moments and without doubt the highlight of the collection.

`Unhalfbricking' (did any album of music ever have a more quirky title?) is one of only three Fairport albums to have Denny singing, all of which were released in 1969. In some ways it's the weakest of the three because it lacks a coherent theme, but contains a couple of gems - especially the aforementioned `Who knows where the Time goes?' Though uneven, this album wears the years well because the music itself doesn't sound like anything else in popular music from the 60s/70s era, but has a timeless quality.


What We Did On Our Holidays
What We Did On Our Holidays
Price: £6.51

4.0 out of 5 stars What Fairport did before ‘Unhalfbricking’ and ‘Liege & Lief’, 1 Sep 2014
Fairport’s second album release was the first to feature Sandy Denny as lead singer plus the classic line-up of Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Ian Matthews, Simon Nicol and the late Martin Lamble on drums, who sadly was killed in a car crash less than a year later.

Here the band begins to find its distinctive sound, as trad-English folk songs are blended with covers of the folk-rock-genre from across the Atlantic penned by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

Highlights are Sandy Denny’s haunting opener ‘Fotheringay’ themed on Mary Queen of Scots (who as we all know was really French!) in her fortress prison, and the rousing ‘Meet on the Ledge’ which became a perennial onstage favourite for the band in all its subsequent incarnations for decades to come. ‘Nottamun Town’ and ‘She moves through the Fair’ are almost pure trad-folk tunes, here endowed with a special poignancy by the sensitive Fairport treatment.

WwdooH is an interesting historical document which reveals the start of Fairport’s short journey to mastery of the new genre the band virtually created: English trad-folk-rock. It still stands up pretty well in the 21st century, and sounds good. The 2003 CD release has three bonus tracks, excluded from the 1969 vinyl release due to lack of space.


French Café
French Café
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: £11.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vive la Vie de la France, vive la Musique francaise, 29 Aug 2014
This review is from: French Café (Audio CD)
The Putumayo World Music compilations are probably better-known now than the Putumayo clothing brand, which gave birth to the project in the early 1990s.

This French Café collection is as atmospheric and feel-good as the best of them. 13 French songs are performed by different singers including Serge Gainsbourg, Jane Birkin & Brigitte Bardot, all evocative of classic French café culture. The ambience is redolent of the 1920-1960 epoch and as usual with the Putumayo world music CDs, there’s just the right degree of self-parody without going overboard. Surprisingly there’s nothing by Piaf, but maybe the compilers thought that would be too much of a cliché!

The presentation is up to the usual high standard with cover-art by Brit-artist Nicola Heindl in her delightful folk-style. A 34-page colour booklet incorporated into the CD case includes a 2-page bio of each music artist featured on the CD in both English and French.

This is great music for all relaxing occasions like dinner parties, or on long afternoons as accompaniment to household activities. If you’re considering a trip to France for any reason, this music is perfect to get you in a delightfully upbeat mood.


Tora Tora Tora Steelbook [Blu-ray] [1970]
Tora Tora Tora Steelbook [Blu-ray] [1970]
Dvd ~ Martin Balsam
Price: £16.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fox’s $25million 1970 spectacular is well-served by Blu-Ray, with the extended Japanese cinema release as a bonus, 25 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
‘Tora Tora Tora’ cinema-released in 1970 is beyond dispute the best film ever made about the Japanese Navy’s December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, incomparably superior to the juvenile, toe-curling 2001 embarrassment ‘Pearl Harbor’ directed by Michael Bray and ‘starring’ (if such a word can be used) the unfortunate Ben Afflick.

TTT adopts a meticulous documentary style and tells the story from both US and Japanese perspectives in two separate and eventually interlocking narratives, deploying a large cast of characters but no obvious ‘stars’ to focus the sympathies of the audience. The Japanese viewpoint is told by Japanese actors speaking Japanese and directed by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku (Akira Kurosawa was initially engaged for the job, but worked too slowly and proved too much of a control freak, so was replaced). The American narrative is directed by Richard Fleischer. Caution: the first two thirds of the film may not appeal to viewers seeking only the excitement and titillation of combat action scenes, as the 18-month diplomatic build-up to the Japanese attack is chronicled with intelligence and fine detail. This background however serves to build the tension for the final reel very effectively, and places the action against a deeper perspective.

The scene of the actual attack lasts only 30-minutes, but soaked up the majority of the film’s $25million budget, an unprecedented cinematic extravagance in 1970. As other reviewers have pointed out, there was no CGI in 1970: real aircraft and real ships were used (or the next-best thing: realistic 50-foot scale replicas). Mock dogfights were flown by real pilots in real vintage P40s and AT6 Texans ‘enhanced’ to make them as close as possible in appearance to Japanese naval aircraft, and the carnage on the USN capital ships and the USAAF bases during the attack was created with real explosions and real danger to the stuntmen, several of whom were killed or injured during the filming. This long air-raid scene still looks absolutely stunning and utterly convincing, though being 1970 you don’t see the horrific injuries detailed close-up as you might in a more recent production such as Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’.

Due to this profligacy of spend on visual spectacle, TTT didn’t break even for the studio on initial release but the film’s reputation has grown over the years. It’s a movie with a script so intelligent, with a narrative so well-crafted and edited, that you can watch it again and again and each time gain a deeper understanding of the complex historical perspective. The only mild criticism levelled at the film is that the Japanese treachery is whitewashed to a degree, with Hirohito’s direct culpability airbrushed out as he was at the time of filming still constitutional monarch in the by-then reconstructed and democratic Japan, and this criticism does hold merit but does not take away from the power of the film.

The 2012 Blu-Ray from Fox Searchlight is the best-ever release of TTT, with astounding image clarity and sharp detail. You get both the original 136-minute English-language theatrical release with Japanese dialogue subtitled, and the extended 148-minute Japanese cinema release including a couple of extra scenes: a poignant scene of Yamamoto being ushered in to the Emperor’s presence to discuss the planned attack, and a comedy vignette of two galley cooks on one of the Japanese carriers where the elder one tries to explain to the younger stooge-character how their crossing the international dateline means they are now living through yesterday again.

The Blu-Ray also includes an impressive menu of extras. The most interesting is a 90-minute documentary backstory of the film, its ruinous budget and the problems between Fox and the ageing, paranoid Kurosawa (“in three weeks, he had filmed only eight minutes of unusable material”), how the special effects were done and critical reception of the film on its 1970 release. Additionally, there’s newsreel from 1941 and the documentary film ‘A Day of Infamy’. I also have the previous 136-minute DVD release in my collection, but the Blu-Ray beats it hands down for sharp image quality and as an overall viewing experience. Recommended unconditionally to anyone interested in the origins of America's entry into WW2, to action-movie fans and cinema buffs everywhere.


263 and 137 Squadrons: The Whirlwind Years
263 and 137 Squadrons: The Whirlwind Years
by Robert Bowater
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Westland's revolutionary fighter is finally recognised, 24 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
After decades of neglect, there has been a recent minor revival of interest in Westland's revolutionary twin-engined single-seat fighter from the early years of WW2. The Whirlwind's armament of four 20mm cannon mounted in the nose was exceptionally lethal for 1940, and it missed out playing a star role in the Battle of Britain only because multiple teething troubles needed sorting out by the manufacturer with the fuel-feed system for the RR Peregrine engines, the undercarriage which could not withstand hard landings, and the troublesome cannon firing mechanism. These issues were rectified within a few months, and the Whirlwind became a great favourite with its pilots who came to see themselves as a special breed.

Robert Bowater has written a detailed and informative book about this unusual and initially troublesome aircraft, paying particular attention to its operational service with the only two RAF squadrons equipped with it between 1940 and 1943, when it was replaced by the Typhoon. The original concept of the Whirlwind was broadly similar to that of Willi Messerschmitt's Me110 `Zerstoerer' or the P38 Lightning in USAAF service, but the Whirlwind was lighter and more agile and did not have the long operating range of either of its contemporaries. The Whirlwind eventually found its niche as a low-level ground attack aircraft and was deployed against Luftwaffe airfields in France through 1941-43, against German shipping off the northern French coast and in escorting Atlantic convoys into home waters. It also scored numerous air combat victories against the FW190 and Me109 fighters of the Luftwaffe, and shot down many twin-engined bombers like the Ju88.

Bowater's book is written in a readable and engaging style, well-planned and organized, full of photos set into the text i.e. not in separate sections of glossy photo pages. It's about the men who flew the Whirlwind as much as about the aircraft itself, and three chapters are devoted to the accounts of pilots shot down and variously detained as POWs. George Albert Wood spent time being sheltered by French civilians in Brittany before escaping by boat, only to discover on returning to England that everyone believed he had been killed when shot down and his obituary had been published in the press, and he had a hard time convincing people (including MI5) that he was still alive.

The author's devotion to his subject and thoroughness of research shines through, and it's difficult to see how the book might have been further improved. The one caution is that because the book is principally a comprehensive, documented historical record the narrative tends towards the factual and is not a racy, novelistic page-turner.


Goats Head Soup
Goats Head Soup
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brightly polished Stones, with more finesse, 22 Aug 2014
This review is from: Goats Head Soup (Audio CD)
`Goats' Head Soup' was the Stones' 1973 follow-up to the epic `Exile on Main Street', widely regarded as one of the greatest rock albums of all time and a tough act to follow. GHS is a polished and melodic collection full of good stuff, much of it composed by Mick Taylor or co-composed by Taylor and Jagger.

Among the album's 10 songs is the global mega-hit single `Angie' released weeks before the album, and a bunch of well-crafted rock numbers like `Heartbreaker' and the sing-along `Star Star' (the song's real title `Starf***er' changed on the album cover to avoid controversy: it's about a rock & roll groupie) with its high-energy and catchy chorus.

GHS contains Mick Taylor's most confident and energetic contributions to the Rolling Stones' music during his five years' stay with the band. He was in his element in the studio. Robert Palmer (NY Times) wrote "Taylor was the most accomplished technician who ever served as a Stone. A blues guitarist with a jazzman's flair for melodic invention, Taylor was never a rock and roller and never a showman." By 1974, Taylor had left the band and was replaced by Ronnie Wood with a playing style much closer to that of Keith Richards.

This album ends the `main sequence' of great works by the Stones which began with `Beggars' Banquet'. Post-GHS, the Stones entered a new era.


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