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Secret War In Shanghai: Treachery, Subversion and collaboration in the Second World War
Secret War In Shanghai: Treachery, Subversion and collaboration in the Second World War
by Bernad Wasserstein
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars small fish in a smaller bowl, 21 May 2011
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This is a well written and researched book about the secret war in Shanghai in the late 1930s and early 1940s, primarily the war years, (japanese-Chinese war and second world war) and provides an excellent guide to the multitude of low life characters that washed up in Shanghai during this period and became involved in the espionage game -usually with indifferent results. The author has a good eye for a bad egg and his portrayal of various low lifes is interesting and entertaining. However, like many Shanghai residents who had an inflated view of the importance of their city, the book suffers from the limitations of its subject. Shanghai briefly held some importance during the Japanese-Chinese war but it was almost beyond insignificance in the second world war. Accordingly the espionage game had zero influence on any aspect of the second world war and it begs the question -although in parts it is an entertaining read - does the subject matter really warrant a book?


Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City 1842-1949
Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City 1842-1949
by Stella Dong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.23

4.0 out of 5 stars well balanced, 21 May 2011
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An excellent well balanced history of Shanghai. Many histories tend to concentrate on the foreign community in shanghai but the author, perhaps because of her background, gives equal weigh to Chinese involvement in this strange but fascinating city and in so doing gives a more rounded and balanced history of the city. If there is one sector that she has ignored it is the average foreigner who was not a taipan or worked for one of the large business houses. Anyone interested in this section of the foreign community should read "Shanghai made me." It would also have been useful if the author had written a small postscript of shanghai's history post 1949 (decline then revival). But these are small criticisms of what is an excellent general history of Shanghai.


Blood on the Street: The Sensational Inside Story of How Wall Street Analysts Duped a Generation of Investors
Blood on the Street: The Sensational Inside Story of How Wall Street Analysts Duped a Generation of Investors
by Charles Gasparino
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars deja vu, 16 Mar. 2011
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An entertaining and interesting account of the eternal conflict between research and investment banking arms of large finance groups like Morgan Stanley, Citigroup etc and the hype and eronous research that fueled the dot.com bubble. As a former research director I was somewhat disappointed that there was not a detailed breakdown of some of the research churned out on these internet stocks. I happened to get a copy of a research report in 1999 written by a supposedly high rated internet analyst (not one of the three profiled) and it was so badly written and lacking in fundamental financial analysis that, had it been written by one of my junior analysts,I would have sent it back and told them to redo it. The three analysts profiled made a number of mistakes common to junior analysts but appalling in people rated and paid so highly. Firstly they became too closely linked to the companies they were covering, thereby preventing them from taking an objective view when the stock market and the companies' prospects began to deteriorate (this explains them keeping buys recommendations on companies whose share prices were collapsing, even when the banking business had dried up). Secondly they completely ignored one of the basic price conditions in any industry; as supply increases (be it more telecom capacity or more internet stocks) competition increases and prices fall. These analysts seemed to believe in a nevernever land of rising demand and at worst constant prices. And finally, in regard to the internet stocks,there was little if no importance attached to the companies profitability (the company I looked at was not forecast to breakeven for FIVE years) and its ability to repay debt.
For a layman reading this it would probably put them off buying stocks and in this the book can serve as a warning. Individual small investors should not buy stocks directly (the chances of them getting it wrong or ripped of through conflicted research are too high), rather they should invest indirectly in the stock through mutual funds-let an experienced fund manager sort through all the good and bad stocks.


Vietnam: The Definitive Oral History, Told From All Sides
Vietnam: The Definitive Oral History, Told From All Sides
by Christian G. Appy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars From all sides, 7 Mar. 2011
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Having read a number of books on the Vietnam war and visited the country I was reluctant to read another book on that sad conflict. However, this book is the perfect complement to a straight up and down military/political history of the conflict as it fleshes out the experience of the Vietnam war from all sides. Indeed this is the strength of the book. The recollections of soldiers in the field forms a very small part of the book. Instead the author has spread his interview net very wide to include diplomats, politicians, activists and ordinary civilians in both the US and Vietnam caught up in the conflict-there is even a small but interesting interview with Sergei Khrushchev, son of the late Soviet leader, who gives the Russian view of the conflict. Equally fascinating are the interviews of individuals, on both sides, who were involved with Vietnam in the 50s and early sixties before the US military buildup in 1965. This book was first published twenty eight years after the end of the Vietnam war and some opinions expressed may have been influenced by the passage of time. However, the one constant, and poignant, theme in the interviews on all sides is the sense of impending doom as the US increases its involvement. It only reinforces the image of a tragedy waiting to happen; a war fought on false assumptions,incompetantly managed by both civilian and military leaders and resulting in great suffering. This book is a worthy addition to the literature on this conflict.


Young Mandela
Young Mandela
by David James Smith
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars young,inexperienced but human, 7 Mar. 2011
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This review is from: Young Mandela (Hardcover)
This is an interesting book on the first half of Mandela's life, leading up to his imprisonment in the early 60s. The author seeks to strip away much of the mythology that has surrounded Mandela's life and present him as he was then; young, inexperienced, a bit of a dandy and a womaniser, but with clear signs of the talent,charisma and moral character that would mold him into the world statesman he would later become. With many of the participants now dead or in extreme old age with failing memories and given the secretive nature of an opposition figure in 1950s and 1960s South Africa there are many gaps in Mandela's early life and activities. The author wisely steers a middle course through the differing versions of whether Mandela was present at such and such a meeting etc and manages to produce an interesting account of the embroyonic and unsuccessful struggle against apartheid. Unfortunately this struggle was made harder by the naivety and incompetance of some figures in the opposition movement. You can feel the author's anger at Arthur Goldreich and Ruth First, two white activists in the oppostion movement, for failing to remove and destroy Mandela's papers after his arrest-thereby presenting the authorities with the evidence to put Mandela behind bars for life. It is intriging to speculate what the future of the anti apartheid movement would have been if these papers had been destroyed and Mandela only sentenced to five years imprisonment (for illegally leaving the country).On a personal note I lived in Johannesburg in the mid 80s and have discovered, through this book, that my office in the CBD was only a hundred metres from Mandela's old law office. I walked past his office every day but unfortunately never realised it as Mandela's story had been well and truely buried by the apartheld authorities.


The Company of Strangers
The Company of Strangers
by Robert Wilson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing, 9 Dec. 2010
After enjoying "A small death in lisbon" I found "the company of strangers" to be disappointing. The characters are sterotyped and in some cases unbelievable and some of the situations are very contrived. There is very little to distinquish this book from the legion of wartime thrillers that have written over the years.


Nine Dragons
Nine Dragons
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A wrong step into foreign fields, 16 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Nine Dragons (Paperback)
I have read several of the authors books and enjoy both his easy to read writing style and his obvious in depth knowledge of the LA/US crime world. It is therefore disappointing to see the author diverge into a world, Hong Kong, that he knows little about. As someone who spend several years living in the territory I found his portrayal of Hong Kong absolute nonsense. It is a common failing of long standing successful crime writers to, presumbly as they run out of new material,diverge out of their area of expertise into new areas. What is particularly disappointing about this book is the obvious token research the author had done on hong Kong-his portrayal is that of a two day tourist at best. This unfortunately puts the book in the worst category of airport shop pot boiler and is a shame given the strength of his previous books. However, presumably he has aleady made sufficient money and is beyond carrying about the quality of his work.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2010 10:03 AM GMT


The Dragon's Tail
The Dragon's Tail
by Adam Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good but not great, 22 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Dragon's Tail (Paperback)
Like his previous two books in the China trilogy the Dragon's tail is a good read but falls short of being a great book. Williams has once again done his research and his first hand knowledge of China is evident and he writes well. However, in my view, the plot line is weak. The changing relationship between Harry Airton and Chen Tao, a boyhood friend who grows up to be Harry's nemesis, is unrealistic as is the resumed romance between Harry and Ziwei- after a twenty five year absence. The Mills and Boon dialogue between Harry and Ziwei also devalues the book. The middle section of the book, When Ziwei is sent to a labour camp is perhaps the best part of the book. However, this is negated by the second half of the final section which smacks of a lazy tieing up of loose ends in the worst pot boiler romantic novel fashion. This is a shame as the author has the talent to be a serious writer.


The Emperor's Bones
The Emperor's Bones
by Adam Williams
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars intriguing but...., 16 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: The Emperor's Bones (Paperback)
After enjoying the Palace of heavenly pleasure I found The Emperors bones to be slightly disappointing. The author has, to his credit, focused on China complex and turbulent history in the 1920s, a period little covered in historical fiction. But the book falls between the two stools of an historical epic and an historical romance and it is an uneasy mix. On the historical side the introduction of so many characters inevitably results in several superficial portraits while at times the recurring romantic theme is out of context with the main narrative and may well be the result of the publishers insisting on a certain quota of romance. The author is an excellent writer with a first hand knowledge of China but at times his historical portriats become cliche ridden and the romance input decends to the Mills and Boon level. I think he has tried to be too many things to too many readers and the book has suffered as a result.


The Innocent Man
The Innocent Man
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars justice for all-us style, 3 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Innocent Man (Paperback)
An excellent, well researched and written book that marks a major departure for Gresham into factual writing and is a very unsettling indictment of the US Legal system. Gresham portrays a system that is struggling to provide basic justice and is populated, at the lower end, by overworked, incompetent, indifferent and arrogant officials who main aim appears to be a high conviction rate irrespective of the evidence. The basic, or deliberate, mistakes made by officals all the way up to judges is appalling. What is equally unsettling in this case is the inability of a so called christian (bible belt) community to forgive Ron Williamson even after his innocence had been proved. God help you if you are poor and you get on the wrong side of the law in small town America. This book is another strong argument against capital punishment, which was perhaps Gresham's aim in the first place.


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