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The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation
The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation
by Stephen E. Flynn
Edition: Hardcover
119 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent--A must read, March 1, 2007
This is an exceptional book. This should be required reading at FEMA, in Congress, and the White House.

I've admired Flynn ever since I read America the Vulnerable a few years ago, and he continues to impress me with his pragmatic approach to homeland security. While his first book dealt primarily with hardening America against terrorism, this one takes a wider view and deals with the full spectrum of disasters--man made and natural--that could befall us.

His basic arguments are simple--that most measures taken since 9/11 have been largely for psychological benefit and that major vulnerabilities still exist because of failing infrastructure, misallocated funds, poor city planning, lack of leadership etc. He argues that the federal government has missed an opportunity to lead a national effort to prepare for future disasters (instead it has passed responsibility to state/local officials), failed to engage America's most important resource--its citizenry, and avoided working with the private sector. His arguments are well-supported and convincing.

Flynn is also highly critical of the current administration's "the best defense is a strong offense" strategy. Here he will be criticized by some, but as the Islamic terrorist threat continues to evolve from the 9/11 model (foreign groups with direct connections to key leaders) to the 7/11 model (homegrown radicals who are simply inspired by foreigners), his argument will become all the more prescient. Flynn represents the other end of the spectrum--"the best defense is a good defense"--and perhaps there is room for a more balanced approach. Maybe: "The best defense is both a strong offense and a strong defense"?

In the final chapter he presents ten ideas that should be adopted to strengthen the country. Some of these will sound familiar to those who read his first book. This is less an indication that Flynn can't come up with new ideas. Rather, it is proof that the government simply isn't acting.


The Hunt for Bin Laden
The Hunt for Bin Laden
by Robin Moore
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
106 used & new from $0.01

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do NOT buy this book., January 2, 2007
I read this book on a plane a couple of years back and am only reviewing it now because I've now learned that most of the story was totally concocted. I just finished Robert Young Pelton's Licensed to Kill, which details how "Jack" Idema--an ex-con who went to Afghanistan to track down OBL--fabricated most of this story, was able to trick the authors into believing that he was ex-SF, and profited from his outrageous, totally inaccurate story. It wasn't much of a book to begin with--way over the top--but the story behind it is pretty amazing.

I would recommend Licensed to Kill if you're interested in what happened to "Jack" Idema. If you actually want to read about the Afghanistan campaign look at Masters of Chaos, First In, Down Range, and Not a Good Day to Die.

Do not buy this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 10, 2008 11:47 AM PDT


Lonely Planet Healthy Travel Africa (Lonely Planet Healthy Travel Guides)
Lonely Planet Healthy Travel Africa (Lonely Planet Healthy Travel Guides)
by Isabelle Young
Edition: Paperback
93 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of health risks, preventions measures, December 7, 2006
I used this on a recent trip to Africa. It was most valuable in the preparation stage of my trip when figuring out what to bring and what shots were needed to enter certain countries (some of this is now outdated). It has really good maps of where Malaria, Yellow Fever, etc are located on the continent and a good, if also outdated, discussion of anti-malarial drugs.

I wouldn't use this as a medical book during any trip, but it's a great primer that gives an overview of all the wonderful parasites and diseases in the region.

Bottom line: Gives a really good idea of how to prevent and prepare for getting sick in Africa. Buy it a few months before your trip so you can start getting shots.


Lonely Planet Western Balkans (Multi Country Guide)
Lonely Planet Western Balkans (Multi Country Guide)
by Richard Plunkett
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $5.72

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent, but not a standalone, December 7, 2006
I used this book during a trip through Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro in June 2006.

I'm not sure if there's another book that covers all of these countries so I have no basis for comparison. But while this book provided a skeleton for my trip, it could have been much better. I only give it two stars because it got me through the trip and I didn't die.

Pro:

Good overview of countries (even if it lacked depth).

Good basic info, good food section.

Cons:

Maps were unreliable even in major cities like Belgrade. Not only were the streets wrong on occasion but their icons were off quite frequently, which led to hours of walking around in circles--always fun!

Not enough detail in general. In particular, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, and transport options all need lots of expansion.

Language section was not sufficient at all. Eight pages total to cover four languages. If this is your only language guide and if you don't speak Russian, get ready for lots of hand signals and gestures.

Transport portions were often wrong and some sections directly contradicted others. Some may be because the text is dated but you can travel from Bosnia through Serbia to Kosovo by overnight bus. You can also take an overnight train from Montenegro to Belgrade.

Nearly 100 pages (of 422) are devoted to Croatia. First, this section wouldn't be sufficient for a full Croatia trip and (most importantly) it leaves little room to cover the other six countries + Kosovo. They should cut it and add more content elsewhere.

Information on safety, crime, corruption was spotty. Some places were surprisingly friendly--Kosovo in particular--while others were quite hairy--Albania and parts of Macedonia.

Bottom line: It's certainly lighter than taking 7 books but don't expect lots of depth. And it needs an update.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2007 7:39 PM PDT


The Rough Guide to Croatia 3 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
The Rough Guide to Croatia 3 (Rough Guide Travel Guides)
by Jonathan Bousfield
Edition: Paperback
57 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive guide, December 7, 2006
I used Rough Guide to Croatia side-by-side with Lonely Planet Croatia during May and June 2006. I only visited Southern and Central Dalmatia including Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik.

The Rough Guide was the more comprehensive of the two books with a heavy emphasis on history, background, and context. It did a really good job of explaining what I was looking at, whereas LP usually gave very little of this information. But it was also less accurate when it came to logistics and directions, which made me happy I had the LP guide too.

Pros:

Better organized and more accessible than LP

Better city maps than LP on the whole--I would recommend using both though.

More detail about islands around Dubrovnik.

200+ pages longer than LP.

Did a decent job prioritizing things to see and places to go--but this section needs work.

Cons:

Some of the directions were pretty terrible and from a logistical standpoint LP was better.

Lots of useless info if you're not into architecture, art, and very detailed history of every brick and cistern.

Bottom line: A detailed, comprehensive guide but with just enough inaccuracies that I'd want LP as well.


Lonely Planet Croatia
Lonely Planet Croatia
by Jeanne Oliver
Edition: Paperback
66 used & new from $0.01

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid guide w/ mostly accurate info, December 7, 2006
This review is from: Lonely Planet Croatia (Paperback)
I used LP Croatia side-by-side with the Rough Guide to Croatia during May and June 2006. I only visited Southern and Central Dalmatia including Split, Hvar, and Dubrovnik.

LP Croatia is concise and had no serious inaccuracies but it lacked lots of the context, detail, and history that the Rough Guide provided. If you're just looking for places to go, how to get there, and where to stay I'd get LP. If you want more of a tour guide with lots of bios, background, art & architecture info, I'd take the Rough Guide. If I went again, I'd take both.

Pros: Good logistical information on how to get around and where sites were. Good food sections (burek is amazing) and good language/phrase sections(except that the most important words were all buried). Also, did a great job of explaining how the private room accommodations work. Provided good, practical advice on how to get the best rooms, etc.

Cons:

Maps were sometimes inaccurate--Rough Guide's were generally better. This was largely because of the lack of street signs and lots of small alleys that trick you. GPS would have been very useful.

Unusually, I think LP underrated some places--namely Dubrovnik.

Doesn't prioritize where to go or what to see. For instance, Diocletian's Palace in Split was covered in graffiti and the city had little to offer.

They need a section on "If you have to choose" between different sites and different cities that tells you which are the best sites overall for certain interests.

Bottom line: LP Croatia was a solid travel guide but it could have provided more advice to the first-time traveler.


Lonely Planet Morocco
Lonely Planet Morocco
by Paula Hardy
Edition: Paperback
64 used & new from $0.01

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended with reservations., December 7, 2006
This review is from: Lonely Planet Morocco (Paperback)
Recommended with reservations.
I recommend this book, but with reservations. I used it last month during a solo-trip to Morocco that took me through Casablanca, Marrakesh, Ourzazate, Agdz, Zagora, M'Hamid, into the Sahara on a camel, through the Dades Gorge, Er-Rashidia, Azrou, Meknes, Volubilis, and finally Fes.

In general it provided fairly accurate information on getting around, prices, and where things were. But nothing in the book prepared me for the constant hassles, harassment, scams, crime, and corruption that were a part of my everyday experience in country. If you end up using this book, know that it ignores some of the most important parts of what life is like for travelers. With that said, there were no MAJOR inaccuracies of the type that could have gotten me in serious trouble.

Pros:
Solid logistical information, food overview, and language guide. Interesting historical and background sections.

Also good maps (although I couldn't have survived without GPS or at least a compass because there are very few street signs).

Listings of restaurants were helpful even if LP seemed to give rave reviews to average places.

Cons:
Totally ignores the hassles of everyday life. (The book should have a section on how to act: Ignore anyone who tries to talk to you. Always count your change for the simplest of transactions and decide early on how much you're willing to argue over. Never stop on the side of the roads, even if kids are begging for water in the desert (they WILL rob you). Be prepared to bribe police in rural areas--a guide on how much would be nice. Don't accept invitations for tea even if you've done something nice because you'll either get robbed or pressured to buy something...the list goes on.)

Largely ignored the most important things about accommodations. The authors pay too much attention to "friendly staff" and the decorations in lobby at the expense of things like cleanliness, bed bugs, running/hot water, lighting in rooms, doors that lock, etc. As a general rule, independent "4*" hotels will be 2*'s or worse at five or ten times the price. Don't expect a/c or heating unless you're dealing with a major chain. Don't trust online ratings from orbitz, [...], etc, unless they're chains. I ended up in Ibis Mousaffir's at the end of my trip and wished I'd stayed there the whole time.

Doesn't do a good job of prioritizing places to see. Instead, the book rates every site pretty highly, which makes it tough when you're pressed for time. For instance, Casablanca is pretty much a waste of time but LP makes it sound interesting and exciting. The same goes for desert towns that have little to offer but get a couple of pages.

Bottom line: Use LP Morocco but make sure you know what it leaves out and what it gets wrong so you can plan accordingly.


Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper
Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper
by Jack Coughlin
Edition: Hardcover
156 used & new from $0.01

30 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Only for those obsessed with snipers, June 14, 2005
DIFFICULT TO READ

This book reads like it was rushed to print - there are typos and grammatical mistakes galore, along with basic mistakes that detract from the reading experience. I have to wonder whether the book was even edited. Furthermore, while the first person account makes it easy to describe the action without too much skill, it also does a terrible job of concealing the arrogant, didactic tone of the author. In parts this is almost unbearable - I alternately had to push on through paragraphs of lecturing and incredibly corny portions that reminded me of a low-budget made-for-TV-movie.

SOME QUESTIONABLE CONTENT

Some portions made me wonder how much of the history was being re-written because the author seemed just a bit too prescient in some places and too willing to paint a rosy picture if it bolstered his "We were the absolute best" premise. One also has to wonder how he got away with cussing out his superior officers (including Colonels) so often - after all he was a Gunnery Sgt.

In spite of these major lapses, it's important to separate his commentary and opinions from what he actually accomplished. (Obviously this is review is not a criticism of his accomplishments and sacrifices, which were great and laudable.) Coughlin contributed a great deal to Operation Iraqi Freedom and the book is worth reading if you're interested in a sniper's perspective of that conflict, which I haven't found elsewhere. But there is very little information about his previous deployments - he describes action in Mogadishu but skips over all other operations.

There are a few other nagging issues, which are forgivable, but if you decide to buy this one, don't think you're getting a great book - this book has as many problematic paragraphs as it does riveting ones.

Bottom line: Only for those obsessed with snipers - otherwise there are much better personal accounts of the war.


Kennedy
Kennedy
by Theodore C. Sorensen
Edition: Hardcover
69 used & new from $0.01

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good coverage of Cuba, November 21, 2004
This review is from: Kennedy (Hardcover)
Sorensen's account deals briefly with Kennedy's background, and then dives deeper into his campaign and years in office. I used the book as research for a paper on the Bay of Pigs and found that Sorensen's analysis is concise yet thorough. His reliance on Kennedy's speeches and on the progression of the drafts (many that he wrote or co-wrote) provides a very interesting picture of the incident and the man that I couldn't find elsewhere.

A very good background, reference, or research piece from insider Ted Sorensen.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 19, 2012 8:58 PM PDT


Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
Masters of Chaos: The Secret History of the Special Forces
by Linda Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
117 used & new from $0.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, November 8, 2004
This is one of the first books to give detailed insights into the actions of the Army Special Forces (Green Berets) during the most recent conflict in Iraq, and the author writes with a keen attention to detail. Her account is exciting in places, intriguing and instructive - the lessons drawn from the incidents illustrate how the SF can be used to greatest advantage.

The final chapter provides a concise analysis from the perspective of the SF of what went wrong on the ground in Iraq.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in how these brave and honorable men operate, the lengths they go to to protect civilians, and the discipline and skill with which they approach their tasks.


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