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Probing America's Past; A Critical Examination of Major Myths and Misconceptions
Probing America's Past; A Critical Examination of Major Myths and Misconceptions
by Thomas Andrew Bailey
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but flawed, May 25, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is volume II of a 2-volume series. The first volume goes up through the Civil War, the second goes up to the 1970s, when the books were published.
I would give this 4 or 5 stars for the topics and the points made, but only a 2 for style and 2 for some sections, notably those dealing with Native Americans and African Americans.
I'll start with the negative.
For a writer from Stanford University in the late 1960s and early 1970s (which marked the start of a very liberal to left-wing era at that university), Bailey seems quite out of touch. He refers to Native Americans as "red men" or "the red man." When discussing slavery and African Americans, he uses "the Negro" which seems at best dehumanizing. ("Negroes" would have been a bit dated, but at least normal; many African Americans of a few years earlier called themselves "Negroes.") Although not unsympathetic, he appears to be discussing a different species at times; at best detached, at worst condescending.
The style is typical old-school history text, full of clumsy metaphors (often terribly mixed), forced alliterations (often making use of words rarely seen or heard in any other type of communication) and weird inverted word order ("Much was the consternation of the crowd.")

The good: the topics are interesting, the conclusions sometimes surprising and well supported, and there is an abundance of dry wit which makes the less than stellar writing style (which in Bailey's defense was--and perhaps still is--common to history textbooks) bearable. There is also information on lesser-known people and events which adds considerable depth and interest.
I wouldn't pay full price for these books, but if you get them for under $8-$10 each they are an interesting addition to your reading material. One nice thing is that they will provoke you to go online and read up on some of the topics, events and historical figures mentioned in passing.


Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $12.18

5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, touching, tragic, epic - a great read, May 18, 2015
One of the best military documentary books ever. Not only gives chronological descriptions of the battle, complete with maps, but extensive documented commentary and explanation about the political and human context of the entire campaign. Excellent presentation of the build-up and aftermath.
One odd note: Beevor seems to believe that eating clean snow is somehow dangerous. In reality, of course, snow is just frozen water and often approaches the purity of distilled water. Snow and melting snow is the main source of water for mountaineers all over the world, not to mention skiers during a day on the slopes. Seems like a strangely medieval notion, but Beevor repeats it several times. Almost as if he has eating snow confused with drinking sea water.


A Death in Summer: A Novel (Quirke)
A Death in Summer: A Novel (Quirke)
by Benjamin Black
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.52
68 used & new from $0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Plodding, May 13, 2015
Workmanlike but not much else.
Filled with cliches: the cop struggling not to relapse into alcoholism, the hated rich guy, the aloof widow, lonely childhoods, etc., etc., etc. The principal characters are collections of dysfunctionalities, lacking in any real depth. Emotions are extreme, inappropriate (as they say in psychology) and come without warning or reason. Reactions make no sense. The main character, Quirke, somehow manages to get embarrassed, nonplussed, flummoxed, etc. in every sort of social situation imaginable. He seems to have the maturity and sophistication of a 12-year-old suddenly forced to deal with adults. The victim's daughter is like a parody of Rhoda in "The Bad Seed." The plot (who dun it?) slogs along through the weird psychological landscape. There is an odd, almost perverse, obsession with Jews and who is and who isn't. Not sure what, if anything, this is supposed to prove; it is terribly awkward and borders on being offensive.
I gave it 2 stars mainly because 1 star should be reserved for books even worse, with terrible writing and sloppy construction. This one, as noted above, at least is competently put together. But that is all.


The Janissary Tree: A Novel (Investigator Yashim)
The Janissary Tree: A Novel (Investigator Yashim)
by Jason Goodwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.84
237 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A great read with unusual twists, May 12, 2015
A mystery story + historical novel, seasoned with just the right amount of humor. Rich in detail (you will want to keep your laptop handy to expand your knowledge of the historical background). Great writing style, great pacing. Lots of plot twists and revelations; keeps you wanting more. Unintended (?) humor from various working-class and foreign speech patterns--he has Turks of the streets sounding like London Cockney (or something similar). But I guess there may be no better way of doing it. In any case, the author knows his stuff. Don't look for a lot of depth--this is light reading, but literate light reading. Very well done, very readable, a real page-turner and highly recommended.


The Paris Correspondent: A Novel of Newspapers, Then and Now
The Paris Correspondent: A Novel of Newspapers, Then and Now
by Alan Cowell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.36
54 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good read, May 10, 2015
Combination mystery story, love story, buddy adventure story. And through it all, a love affair with news, journalists and the traditions of journalism.
Well-written (it should be, considering the author's professional history) and consistent. Lots of surprises. Not quite parody, not quite serious: an interesting mix. The style is reminiscent of James Crumley ("One to Count Cadence").

Folllows the well-worn formula of two buddies, one fairly normal, the other very erratic and borderline; light and dark; up-front and devious; thrill-seeker and down-to-earth. Quijote and Sancho, or Faust and Mephistopheles? Characters are fairly well delineated, but tending toward stereotypes. However this does not detract from a good yarn.

Any plot is diluted by and submerged in all the ambiance, personal history, anecdote and commentary; also a bit too much media history at times, a bit too much philosophizing about the evolution (degeneration?) of the media--all of which makes it drag in spots--but all in all a good read and well worth a little patience. Just don't expect a clear-cut structure (beginning, middle, end, well-defined plot points, etc.); the book definitely meanders a bit.


Soleus Air PH3-12R-03, Portable Air Conditioner/Heater/Dehumidifier/Fan, 12,000 BTUs
Soleus Air PH3-12R-03, Portable Air Conditioner/Heater/Dehumidifier/Fan, 12,000 BTUs
Offered by Sale Stores
Price: $389.09
4 used & new from $389.09

1.0 out of 5 stars Designed to fail and frustrate you, May 8, 2015
This could be a good product but they have seemingly deliberately sabotaged it in two major ways.
1. The overflow pan (or whatever they call it) is a sick joke. In Southern California (medium dry climate) if you run the A/C all night you will generate at least a quart or two of water. You need to get a plastic box about 2-3 times the size of a shoe box, drill a hole high up on one side, and run a flexible hose (aquarium hose is good for this) from the drain hole on the machine, through the hole and into the box. In the morning your box will be full. When you go to empty it, be careful not to let the water from the hose drip on your carpet.
2. There is no way to lubricate this machine. So when it starts to make the unbearable whining, screeching noise (not the compressor or anything, just with the fan turned on) of metal on metal, you will have to throw it away because you can't lubricate it.

Also the wheels are absurdly small, so it absolutely will not roll on a carpet.


Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen
Invisible: The Dangerous Allure of the Unseen
by Philip Ball
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.65
52 used & new from $15.47

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ho-hum., May 8, 2015
OK, I guess. A sort of philosophical (in the sense of grad student majoring in philosophy, the kind of "we're not really here" sort of deconstructionist process that seems to prevail) discourse on the various symbolic meanings of the concept of invisibility. Not really a fascinating topic, and gets into "who cares" territory often. Totally misses the point of Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man;" Ball thinks the issue presented by Ellison was the idea that no one could see past the color of his skin to perceive the real human beneath, when in fact Ellison's narrator discovers that the personae he acquires by changing his attire (certain type of hat, certain type of sunglasses, etc.) create an illusion that prevents people from seeing the real human beneath. (He is taken for a succession of other people--preacher, dope dealer, etc.--just based on what he is wearing.) This is the most common error in comments on Ellison's novel, and when you see it you know that whoever makes this mistake is just repeating what someone else said (thus perpetuating and spreading the error) instead of having read the book himself. This is not a minor point; if Ball simply parroted someone else's misreading of Ellison, how much else in Ball's book is based on faulty research and flawed thinking?
The "Dangerous Allure" of the title is just a titillating come-on. No danger here, folks, just go on about your business.


A Long Long Way
A Long Long Way
by Sebastian Barry
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.63
182 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A hymn to Ireland and to humanity, May 6, 2015
This review is from: A Long Long Way (Paperback)
Red Badge of Courage, The Thin Red Line, Gallipoli, All Quiet on the Western Front, Squad, Johnny Got His Gun...
"A Long, Long Way" goes beyond all these novels and films about wars and the men who fight them. The divisions within Irish society, the contradictions of the British Empire, the insane carnage directed by ignorant and indifferent staff officers, all combined with the evolution of a young recruit during a nightmarish time. A coming of age novel in a setting where coming of age means losing one's soul.
Marvelous description, perfect pacing, characters and situations seen through the eyes and thoughts of a young man with little knowledge of the world. Unsettling, touching, thought-provoking. And a great read.


Small World
Small World
by David Lodge
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.27
168 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice piece of work, May 4, 2015
This review is from: Small World (Paperback)
Well-written, clever, excellent satire. Excellent management of multiple plot and sub-plot lines. Ingenious melding of literary theory and form. Sometimes a bit over the top, and some excessive narrative of various characters, but all in all a very good read.


The Secret Scripture: A Novel
The Secret Scripture: A Novel
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars 100 Years of Solitude meets Rashomon, April 30, 2015
Dark, mysterious, beautifully written. The story operates on multiple levels: it's a tragic tale of suffering and redemption; it's a multiple mystery; it's a parable of modern Irish history. (And, by extension, of many histories, both ancient and modern.) The ending may seem contrived or convenient in terms of plot, but as a metaphor it works beautifully.

This is a book that I could scarcely put down. Keep your laptop or tablet handy and look up the various historical characters and incidents mentioned. You will learn a lot. If you love good literature, love Ireland, and love a good tale well told, do yourself a favor and buy this book.


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