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therealjermo "therealjermo" RSS Feed (California, USA)

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The Sleepwalkers (Willi Kraus Series)
The Sleepwalkers (Willi Kraus Series)
by Paul Grossman
Edition: Hardcover
103 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining fiction..., December 31, 2011
Browsing over the fifty-odd reviews that precede mine, it is clear that there are a wide range of opinions on this book. One claims that the story requires too much 'suspension of disbelief', and criticizes historical liberties taken by the author. Another finds the main character's name - Willi - unsatisfactory. To these, and others like them, I'll say you're missing the Tiergarten for the trees.

Fiction is meant to transport us, show us vistas we haven't seen, and stoke our imagination. Sure, some provide a higher degree of historical accuracy, but fiction asks that we come without baggage so that we can enter the author's world without predisposition. Many detractors of this novel seem to have approached it with unjustified expectations.

Grossman does a remarkable job of transporting us to an era we'll never know - and one that's completely different than the grainy newsreels through which many of us owe our only acquaintance with it. The Berlin of 1932-33 the author introduces to is vibrant: by turns a city of hedonism and austerity, of excess and poverty, of promise and claustrophobia - all already beginning to unravel at the seams of class, politics, and race. The transformation from a diverse community to a eugenic police state rapidly occurs in a few short months, and the reader feels acutely the anxiety of Berlin.

Astride this masterful background, Grossman presents an engaging thriller. The characterizations are workmanlike, except in the case of Willi, the protagonist, his source Kai, and the boot girl, Paula. All three represent communities to be expunged from Germany, despite their best efforts, and the reader holds out hope for each of them.

There are plenty of reviews here that provide a synopsis of the plot. I'd merely contribute that this novel is worthwhile as a window to fleeting Germany, and as a brief hope that things might have been different. We know the end. Grossman cannot change the outcome. But as a visitation to the past, the novel is excellent.

Boots on the Ground: The Fight to Liberate Afghanistan from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, 2001-2002
Boots on the Ground: The Fight to Liberate Afghanistan from Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, 2001-2002
by Richard D. Camp
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good introductory text, December 31, 2011
Disclaimer: The following review is based on reading an uncorrected proof; changes to form and/or content may occur before final publication.

Boots on the Ground by Dick Camp provides a broad overview of approximately the first six months of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. The book relies almost solely on secondary resources, but effectively synthesizes key points from the most significant writing on the subject over the last ten years.

The first third of the book consists of a recounting of the events leading up to the war, covering roughly 1979-2001. Although some reviewers consider this background uninteresting, I think an introduction to the topic benefits from the context provided by these chapters. Exhaustive works on this period, such as Coll's "Ghost Wars", Grau's "The Bear Went Over the Mountain", and "Afghan Guerilla Warfare" are extensively cited, providing references for further study. However, the direct quotations from these sources are numerous in this section, and detract a bit from the flow of the narrative.

The remainder of the book covers the period of late 2001 - early 2002 by focusing on each of the Special Forces Units involved, and their assigned areas of responsibility. This approach works well for covering the period studied. There are a few key points glossed over; for example there is almost no indications of any difficulties between Special Forces, CIA assets, and higher commands, leading the reader to believe that coordination was near flawless.

The book itself is aesthetically pleasing, with clear printing and an attractive font. There are numerous text boxes with detailed information on varied topics, but their location in the middle of chapters sometimes breaks up the text in an awkward way. There are many black-and-white photos and maps, but some would certainly benefit from full-color treatment.

All told, "Boots On the Ground" would be a good choice for an introductory textbook on the topic, or as a starting point for further in-depth study of the war in Afghanistan.

The Magnificent Bastards: The Joint Army-Marine Defense of Dong Ha, 1968
The Magnificent Bastards: The Joint Army-Marine Defense of Dong Ha, 1968
by Keith William Nolan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.99
62 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stellar military history, June 3, 2010
I read this book to learn about the legacy of my former Marine unit, 2/4. I did not anticipate a moving military history on par with the best: The Reason Why, Infantry Attacks, Black Hawk Down, and the Campaigns of Napoleon.

Professor Nolan vividly relates the extreme heroism and sacrifice of the soldiers and Marines in and near Dong Ha, in no small part due to the wealth of oral history collected by the Corps in the aftermath of the battles. I was most impressed by Nolan's ability to convey the tactical and operational nuts and bolts, without sacrificing the tone of immediacy and personal desperation the participants must have felt.

I've always been proud to have briefly been a member of 2/4. Nolan's book taught me what made the Bastards truly Magnificent.

And the Angels Sang
And the Angels Sang
by Lorina Stephens
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.99
17 used & new from $9.92

4.0 out of 5 stars Strange psyche, January 22, 2010
This review is from: And the Angels Sang (Paperback)
Lorina Stephens demonstrates mastery of distopian/strange fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy in this recent seventeen story anthology. Although many pieces are previously published, shorter unpublished works such as 'Protector', 'The Gift', and 'Zero Mile' are captivating looks at phenomena just on the edge of our current reality - while longer pieces such as the futuristic Jaguar (my favorite) really allow Stephens to shine by allowing room to more fully explore her characters.

Though the collection is split among three genres, all of the stories touch upon the common theme of the individual's struggle for self-determination against external oppressive influence. The theme plays out in the guise of yearning for motherhood in a eugenic society ('Have a Nice Day and Pass the Arsenic'), the abused ('Darkies'), an empath trapped in the service of society ('Protector'), mortality ('The Gift'), and thirteen other ways.

Despite being variations on a theme, all of the pieces are original, and the storytelling is far from repetitive. The author deftly shifts from the eerie to the mundane creating a satisfying reading experience, each story allowing the reader unique immersion in the psyche of a different character.

'And the Angels Sang' is highly recommended for anyone interested in speculative fiction, sci-fi, or fantasy, as Stephens' writing will carry the adherent of any one genre seamlessly into the others. Though the anthology was 25 years in the making, I certainly hope to see more from Stephens - and soon.

Victory Point: Operations Red Wings and Whalers - the Marine Corps' Battle for Freedom in Afghanistan
Victory Point: Operations Red Wings and Whalers - the Marine Corps' Battle for Freedom in Afghanistan
by Ed Darack
Edition: Hardcover
44 used & new from $0.58

14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st Century 'The Village', August 3, 2009
Outstanding account of Marine COIN warfare in Afghanistan - and why they do it best. When read in conjunction with 'Lone Survivor' by Luttrell, telling contrasts between the SEAL story and what was omitted illustrate that many heroes go unsung. SPECOPS has its specialties, but so does the Corps.

Read in conjunction with 'The Unforgiving Minute' by Mullaney, the differences in the tacks taken by the Army and Marines show that the Corps has internalized the lessons learned in their 'Little Wars'. Like the lessons from the CAPs forty(!) years ago, we continue to re-learn that understanding the indigenous population is as vital to counterinsurgency as it is to nation-building.

Superbly written, the best 'Afghanistan' book I've read.

The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education
The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education
by Craig M. Mullaney
Edition: Hardcover
196 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More 'Soldier's Education', August 3, 2009
An interesting memoir - but less about the 'Unforgiving Minute' than about his 'Soldier's Education'. Great detail about his West Point and Oxford days, his training at Ranger school, and his budding relationship with his future wife - followed by a cursory overview of his tour in Afghanistan, and rather obscure lessons learned. Mullaney shares his difficulty with losing two soldiers, but reveals little of the details of the engagements where they died, what went wrong, how he could have done anything differently, or why he tortures himself. Perhaps the details are still too personal, or maybe he wants us to experience the same fog of war that he did - but the hub of his life is the Unforgiving Minute, and in the book it passes meekly.

Ultimately he realizes the reality of the paucity of control any individual can impose on the chaos of combat and moves beyond his guilt, and we are glad to see him at peace. Thanks for a good read Captain, hope to hear more from you in the future.

The Baseball Drill Book (The Drill Book Series)
The Baseball Drill Book (The Drill Book Series)
by American Baseball Coaches Association
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.47
115 used & new from $4.07

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Times have changed, June 10, 2005
Kids are playing baseball at a much higher skill level these days, and are playing less sandlot baseball like I did when I was a kid. As a result, Little League practices need to be more than just BP and infield practice for the players to develop to their full potential.

This book has drills that range from fundamentals, to more complex workouts for the entire team. There are some drills appropriate for kids as young as T-Ball (and I have used them with players as young as 5) - but all of the drills are good for players as old as High School/Big League age.

This book would be particularly useful for Coaches returing to the game. The developments in the study of body mechanics have changed the way that a lot of basic skills are taught now, and this book includes up-to-date drills to reflect these changes.

For example, batters are taught a much more compact and quick swing than I learned when I was a kid.

This book is a good investment for the beginning OR experienced coach, or the parent who wants to see their kids excel in baseball - America's National Passtime.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2010 8:28 PM PST

The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life
The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life
by Steve Leveen
Edition: Hardcover
138 used & new from $0.01

105 of 119 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fluffy fluff fluff., June 9, 2005
This book can be very briefly summarized:

1. Write notes in your books

2. Listen to audiobooks.

3. Join a book club.

Really, that's about all there is content-wise in this book. I am amazed at the high ratings it has received from other reviewers, but I suspect they know that the book is short on useful advice, as they use terms like "breezy" and state that the book provides "gentle encouragement".

Save your money for more worthwhile books. If you want to learn the mechanics of effective reading, there really is no substitute for Van Doren and Adler's "How to Read a Book". Some think it's too technical, but hey, active reading isn't easy!

If you are looking for advice on which books to read, try "For the Love of Books: 115 Celebrated Writers on the Books They Love Most" by Schwartz, "So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading" by Nelson, or the timeless "The New Lifetime Reading Plan : The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded" by Fadiman.

In the end, life is too short to waste time on mediocre books - so pass this one up.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 1, 2012 7:34 PM PDT

Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century
Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book-Hunter in the 21st Century
by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from $3.37

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have for Collectors, Old and New!, January 17, 2003
Nicholas Basbanes has been a source of enjoyment for bibliophiles since publication of what is arguably the most enjoyable treatise on the book collecting culture, _A Gentle Madness_. In that book the heady heights of high-end collecting and the depraved depths of obsessive biblio-theft are expertly profiled. Equally delightful, his recent _Patience and Fortitude_ has a place of honor on my 'books-on-books' shelf.
While I have enjoyed many hours reading these books, which allowed me to circulate vicariously in book circles currently beyond my reach, I always wondered when Mr. Basbanes would write a book focusing on the everyman collector.
With the publication of _Among the Gently Mad_ my question has been answered, and the validity of the adage. " careful what you wish for..." has been affirmed for me. In a departure from his previous two works, the author not only provides delightful anecdotes on book culture, he has also constructed the most practical and up to date guide on the nuts and bolts of collecting available today. In the process he has laid bare nearly every trick and technique of collecting that I have picked up over the past several years.
The internet has, in many ways, revolutionized book collecting. Mr. Basbanes describes in what ways, and provides helpful pointers on how to maximize the 'net's usefulness, including mentioning specific web sites of interest. This material is useful not only for the new collector, but the established collector as well. Additionally, traditional book collecting via catalogue, auction and scouting are not neglected - and testimonials of collecting technique from collectors and dealers abound.
In short, if I were to begin book collecting today this is the first book I would buy, hands down. As a collector, it is one I have found very useful - and it goes without saying - entertaining. The only down side of the publication of this book is that those informed by its pages will create stiffer competition for the good books out there!

Price: $8.33
14 used & new from $1.98

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Transcendent!, July 20, 2002
This review is from: Bueninvento (Audio CD)
If you need proof that music is universal - that it transcends race, culture, and language - listen to Julietta Venegas. I usually only review books on Amazon, but I HAD to help get the word out about a singer America needs to discover.
As Alanis is to Canada, Bjork is to Iceland, and Gwen Stefani is to SoCal, Ofra Haza was to the Middle East and Kate Bush is for England - so Julietta is to Mexico. Strong, talented, ENERGETIC and auto-replay worthy. As a native english speaker, I was surprised to find that this CD spoke to me louder than any other this year. The emotion that Julieta projects is all that's needed to get her message, and soon you'll forget that she's singing in spanish - and you'll be proud to say you dig the accordion. SERIOUSLY.
I guarantee - if you like any of the singers listed above, buy Bueninvento and you won't be disappointed.

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