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Napoleon: The End of Glory
Napoleon: The End of Glory
by Munro Price
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.93
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4.0 out of 5 stars Napoleo's Fall, September 29, 2014
According to Dr Munro price, the fall of Napoleon started during the brief but intense years of 1813-1814 .As he notes right at the very beginning of the book, Waterloo overshadowed these previous years, however, 1814 was the year when Napoleon was deprived of hs throne and his legitimacy. Napoleon's fate was decided in a number of battles and the most famous ones were at Bautzen,Dresden, Leipzig and Laon .Why the French Emperor refused to compromise and accept his opponent's peace terms is the key is sues discussed in the book. Was it arrogance? Was it obstinacy? Was it his hubris?
In trying to answer these questions, the author used many untapped sources, like the papers of Caulaincourt, Napoleon's foreign minister and many new unpublished letters of Matternich.Other sources are stil awaiting to be discovered, most of whom are in private hands.
The book comes in fourteen chapters and each one shows a different chronoligical aspect of those afore-mentioned years.
The best chapter is, in my view, the one describing The Battle of Nations which drove Napoleon's armies back to the Rhine. The next year,1814, forced Napoleon to abdicate and to be exiled to Elba, although after some time-for one hundred days-he regained his throne , but this was a doomed adventure which sealed his fate.
There are many detailed maps here showing the many and various military moves during the battles, thus enabling the reader to better grasp the events mentioned before. There are also abundant photos and plates and a long bibliographical list.
Although Dr Price mentions that public opinion and the voices of the masses were one of his main aims to be told about in his book, this does not unfortunately happen. What we get mostly is a history of vox populi through the great statesmen of those years, Metternich and Talleyrand.
This is an important book which attempts to also understand the complex personality of Napoleon and also tries to analyze his motives, character and the reasons for his failure. Napoleon finished his life in utter isolation and tedium and he became prone to depression compounded by many health issues. On 2 May 1821 he slipped into semi-consciousnees and died two days later. He was 51.

1914: The Year the World Ended
1914: The Year the World Ended
by Paul Ham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $28.77
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5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Abyss of the Great War, September 26, 2014
Paul Ham's new book is a gem among the so many books published on WW1. This war killed, wounded and maimed 37 million people and it plunged the world into the bloodiest conflict mankind has witnessed so far.
The book has four sections. The first one is called "The Tyranny of the Past' and deals with the historical events which dominated European politics up to the beginning of the 20th century.
The second part, called "Wilful Blindness and Blinkered Vision" touches Schlieffen's plan and the problem of the minorities in the Balkans.
In my view, the last two parts named consecutiverly "In the Salons of Power" and "On the Ground -1914" are the best ones. Here, Mr Ham is giving the reader a panoramic view of the things and affairs which happened on the eve of the war. Contrary to what Professor Clark has written, the leaders of their respective countries "were not sleepwalkers into war", but they chose war deliberately. This was the year when the world ended for millions of men, women and children. As Mr Ham writes, "It was the end of certainty. It was the end of many soldiers's faith in the propaganda of the holy triumvirate of God, King and Country, of lyrical paeans to heroism and self-sacrifice, and all the shibboleths of tired old regimes...which they and their families would soon tear down as monstrous lies. Many families were with Kipling, who wrote, on the death of his son in 1916: 'If any question why we died/Tell them because our fathers lied".
This was the year when ancient regimes and monarchies that had ruled Europe started their slide into oblivion.The war Europe's autocracies waged to preserve their regimes in the end destroyed them all. Revolution and reform swepf Germany, Russia and Austro-Hungary.
As to the question of responsibility, Mr Ham makes no bones about the culpability of Germany which pushed Autro-Hungary to begin this horrible conflict. The famous assassination committed by Gavrilo Princip was the excuse and Ferdinand's death just triggered the July crisis that hastened the outbreak of the war. It accelerated forces that were already in motion, which would have culminated in war in any case-unless the men in power behaved differently, i.e. sought to mediate and understand one another, and tried the diplomatic arts of peace-keeping. The leaders were wide awake, sentient decision-makers who knew exactly waht was happening and were aware of the repercussions of their actions. Some went willingly to war and some (France, Britain) accepted it with complacent resignation.This although the fact that European leaders later claimed that war was inevitable, ordained by God or Darwin or other forces. Every major European nation had a share of responsibility for the war. Thus, the Great War was an avoidable, unnecessary exercise in collective stupidity and callousness, launched by profoundly flawed and unintelligent men, most of whom were neither fit nor trained but bred into rule, and who saw the world as a Darwinian jungle in which Teuton, Slav and their Latin and Anglo-Saxon allies were predestined to bash each other's brains out until the fittest won.
What make this book outstanding is the fact that it is highly readable, bringing out the voices of the common people, and this to a great extent. It also shows the many angles and voices of almost every significant event during 1914, and it includes many new sources as well as older ones, creating a new synthesis about the conflict. It also includes nine very detailed maps to make it easier to the reader to follow events on the various 1914 fronts and also has a detailed bibliographical list. The forte of this wonderful book is the simple yet rich and analytical language it was written and I definitely recommend it.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander III M. D.
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.03
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1.0 out of 5 stars Proof of Nothing!, September 16, 2014
This book proves nothing. After reading it, I am more than convinced about the fact that after death there is nothing.
The author seems to have made use of the fact that he is a respected neurosurgeon, although he himself has a black sheet on his personal file .Those reviewers who previously wrote about this point were right and there is no use reiterating their words.
But the issue is not Eben's credentials but his credibility, which can be dismissed in a few seconds.
A certain chemical is released into the body during the condition which was Eben's disease and it is the explanation for his hallucinatory dreams.
The sad fact is that we who are mortals are still looking for some consolation afetr the death of our beloved ones, and this is not new. Humans have sought to delude themselves since the very beginning of history in this respect and Eben is not different. He has just written another book under the cloak of being a scientist .It would suffice to read the antidote on this written by Professor Richard Dawkins in order to understand to what extent a neurosurgeon is trying to fool innocent readers into making them believe in nonsense. Please save you hard earned money for serious and intelligent books.

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph
by Jan Swafford
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.30
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and masterly !, August 30, 2014
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Jan Swafford's biography is a masterpiece/ He writes in a panoramic style about everything which concerned Beethoven, one of the greatest titans of music. The physical and mental suffering caused by his deafness-probably as a result of some lead poisoning-
would mount a sustained assault on Beethoven's sense of discipline and duty, his gigantic ambition. Nevertheless, Beethoven was destined both for triumph and anguish. This genius would undergo many hard times in his life, yet his solitude and art would be his best remedies, according to Professor Swafford.
This extremely long biography inludes many details and is packed with some original insights on almost every page. The first three quarters are much more dynamically written and my only reservation about this monumental oeuvre is that sometimes the author dwells a bit too much on Beethoven's relations with his brothers. As one writer penned, Beethoven "wanted to appear as a new man in each work, even at the risk of making an occasional blunder, or of sometimes being scarcely understood by even a few people. He did not understand people and for approximately the last fifteen years not even their words, and as he did not understand them, neither did they understand him, except in his musical notes".
Indeed, Beethoven had suffered over his years from deafness the most horrible affliction for any musician), colitis, rheumatism, typhus, skin disorders, abcesses, a variety of infections, inflammatory degeneration of the arteries, jaundice and at the end chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.He was, in the eyes of Grillparzer,"the greatest of all".
This compulsory book shows Beethoven's genius and his many flawed sides. It is a most comprehensive biography , written in a lively style, and will be unsurpassed for many years. Bravissimo, Mr. Swafford!

The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God
The Age of Atheists: How We Have Sought to Live Since the Death of God
by Peter Watson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.57
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring and boring again!, August 9, 2014
In contrast to Peter Watson's previous books- and I must admit I really liked most of them tremendously -this volume can be described as a total and big bore. It looks as if Mr. Watson has accumulated a number of pertinent authors and summed up their ideas, without having anything new to say about this important and controversial subject. Save your hard-earned money for a better author.

The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis
The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis
by Arthur Allen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.04
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The depraved scientific politics of the Nazis, July 26, 2014
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The Nazi ideology of "Geomedizin"-that illness was as irrefutable and inevitable result of culture- had a significance for the Jews and other peoples in Eastern Europe. The louse, carrier of typhus, was a symbol of the Jew :a filthy, parasitic, blood-sucking disease element which had penetrated the German nation long ago. If so, according to Julius Streicher, the infamous editor of 'Der Sturmer', the Jew as a bacillus and a plague is not a human being but rather an enemy, a criminal and a disease carrier, thus he must be eliminated.
In addtion, Hitler and his bunch of criminals were afraid that typhus might be a serious hindrance which could stay in the way of achieving their dream of mastering Europe. Because the disease plagued the Nazi troops in Eastern Europe, the Nazis were desperately looking for a solution.
For this they turned toRudolf Weigl, the Polish scientist who had a world reputation thanks to the fact that it was he who succeeded in creating a vaccine which was effective against the disease.In February 1940, no less a figure than Nikita Khrushchev visited Weigl at his laboratory, offering him a job at the Soviet Academy of Medicine in Moscow. Weigl declined.
After the departure of the Russians from Lwow in 1941, the city where Weigl was working in, the city became a "Hobbeian theater, every man for himself under a ruthless occupant, the Nazis.Typhus was rampant there, and Weigl even considered leaving the city, but eventually decided to stay.It is estimated that at least 3000 people were working for his institute, which became a tool of deceiving the Nazis and a shelter for many victims of the Nazis. The tens of millions of lice used in the vaccine during the war descended from a cross between lice gathered from the clothing of Russians in Austrian POW camps during WW1, and an Ethiopian variety that Weigl had obtained in Addis Ababa. Wegl employed doomed scientists,writers, doctors and others and thus saved their lives. In addition, he and his workers shipped ton of a weakened serum to the Wehrmacht.
Among those saved was another scientist, the Jewish immunologist Ludwick Fleck, who was sent to Buchenwald. Fleck was forced to create and re-create a typhus vaccine under the direction of Erwin Ding, who was called "a Dummkopf who earned a dissertation only on the basis of his services for the party". Being so, Fleck and his colleagues produced two types of the vaccine: one that had no value and was perfectly harmless, and went to the front; and a second type, in very small quantities, that was efficatious and was used in special cases for the comrades who worked at Buchenwald.
All this continued until March 1945.
Weigl died in 1957 of a heart attack, while Fleck immigrated to Israel.
The book is based on many new and untapped documents as well as many interviews with some relevant persons and is a good read,original and well written, although somehow in a dry language. All in all, I recommend it. very much.

Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain
Operation Valuable Fiend: The CIA's First Paramilitary Strike Against the Iron Curtain
by Albert Lulushi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.05
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CIA'S First Cold War Failure, July 8, 2014
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Operation "Valuable Fiend" was conceived at the end of the forties in the previous century. Its purpose was to overthrow the Communists from power in Albania. By doing so, it would signify the first open revolt behind the Iron Curtain and would encourage other anti-Communist elements in the Soviet bloc, would knock out Kremlin's sense of security and show the Soviets that the West could match in kind their tactics for supporting guerrillas and subversive activities in their area of influence. It would also save the situation in Greece by cutting off Albania as one of the remaining two sources of support for the Communist guerrillas, the other source, Bulgaria, would be intimidated and cutting off the flow of men and supplies through their borders for fear of risking a similar fate.
Mr. Lulushi has written a splendidly researched book on one of the less famous episodes of the CIA's Cold War covert actions. He comes to remedy Nicholas Bethell's book "Betrayed" on the same subject, by examining previously untapped sources, dismissing almost totally Kim Philby's role in the whole affair.
Who were the key players in this operation? Where did they come from and how did their background influence their choices and actions durind the operation? What happened to them afterward? What did the agency learn -or not learn- from this failure?
These are only some points discussed widely in this book, which incorporates new material as well as interviews with sons and daughters of some key figures in this operation, which was the first one of its kind in the history of the CIA.
Unfortunately for the West, the whole operation was one of total failure for many reasons, as stated in the book. The CIA and MI6
did not accomplish the goals they set, because the Sigurimi, the Secret Albanian Police,and the KGB turned the tables on them and used and killed or captured agents for propaganda purposes for years to come.. The Albanians who took part in the affair suffered terrible losses. Dozens perished, and several more who were captured spent the rest of their lives in Communist prisons or hard labour camps. The regime uprooted their families and persecuted hem for decades, generation after generation.
Operation Valuable Fiend never developed beyond the reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering stage.The result of this experiment showed it was extremely hard to achieve the goal of overthrowing a Communist regime. Rollling back the Iron Curtain was too hard. Other operations, such as those in Guatemala and Iran were far more successful, but had eventually turned out to be preludes to disasters, since Guatemala sank into a civil war, while the Shah of Iran was run out of power in 1979.
The Albanian affair ended in 1954, when the CIA virtually abandoned all infiltration operations in Albania and dismissed the handful of Albanian agents still on its rolls in Greece.
The book, which has eighteen chapters, each one devoted to another sub-topic, includes maps and many hitherto unpublished photos. Highly recommended!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 8, 2014 11:36 AM PDT

July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
July Crisis: The World's Descent into War, Summer 1914
by Thomas G. Otte
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.49
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the best volumes written about the Great War, July 6, 2014
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This is one of the best volumes written about the Great War. It concerns the diplomatic efforts invested by the various policy makers during the crisis. This is ( only ) diplomatic history at its best, written by a master historian, who looks and examines many issues from a new perspective, especially the German points of view. Germany is the main culprit , although others are also criticized for being responsible for the outbreak of the war. Although this is not an easy read , the book is definitely highly recommended.

The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade
The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade
by Philip Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.45
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18 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A narrow-minded view of WW1, July 5, 2014
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The main idea behind this book is simple: religion was the driving force behind WW1. This view is extremely wrong and it distorts the real motives which were responsible for the unleashing of the war. Mr Jenkins ignores all the various aspects such as the diplomatic entanglements, the imperialistic factors, the clashes between the various ideologies and many more things and offers the reader a minimal view , supported by a limited number of clergymen and what they thought about the war. True, there were religious manifestations and characteristics which took place during 1914-1918. But to claim that the war was a religious crusade, as the subtitle suggests, is a gross distortion of facts.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2014 12:10 PM PDT

The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book
The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book
by Peter Finn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.53
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Books Were Weapons in the Cold War, July 1, 2014
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During the Cold War, the CIA was engaged in relentless global warfare with the Kremlin. The agency used a host of front organizations and phony foundations, spent many millions of dollars to fund concert tours, art exhibitions, magazines, academic research, student activities and book publishing. All theses were weapons in the covert action against the Soviet Union masterminded by George Kennan, who was the intellectual author behind this. One estimate says that some 10 million books and periodicals were distributed by the CIA in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. "Doctor Zhivago" was one of those books which was printed and distributed clandestinely in the main Russian cities.
This book, which is just one episode in the colossal ideological battle between the two superpowers, is excellent and is very original. The authors have put in a tremendous effort in researching its topic, using many untapped archives and interviews. It reads like a fast best-selling political thriller. This is a fascinating account of the propaganda machines the USA used against the Eastern Bloc, showing Pasternak's and his friends' courage and it shows to what extent the battle for the minds of the readers in the East was conducted. It is also a detailed story about the cultural and intellectual background of the thirties to the fifties in the USSR.
This battle over the publication of "Doctor Zhivago" was one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. It was Khrushchev himself who admitted in the end that the Russians "caused much harm to the Soviet Union "and added that he was "truly sorry for the way he behaved toward Pasternak".
There were additional writers who followed Pasternak's way, among them Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky.This book is highly recommended.

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