Not the best Guy Boothby novel I've read (I'm a fan of his Dr. Nikola series, but reasonably entertaining. Not sure why the author constructed the plo...moreNot the best Guy Boothby novel I've read (I'm a fan of his Dr. Nikola series, but reasonably entertaining. Not sure why the author constructed the plot as he did, with a big shift in perspective about a quarter of the way into the book, but it wasn't confusing -- just didn't seem to add much to the book. No spoilers here, but I saw the ending coming a mile away. Oh well! (less)
Found this to be the most helpful and accurate of the four Ecuador guidebooks I had loaded onto my iPad during a recent trip to that country. I will s...moreFound this to be the most helpful and accurate of the four Ecuador guidebooks I had loaded onto my iPad during a recent trip to that country. I will say, though, that ALL of the guidebooks I've run across seem to downplay some aspects of traveling in Ecuador that rather depressed me, namely the appalling poverty. Admittedly, all the guidebooks emphasized the need to be on guard because of the crime due to that poverty, but they all succumbed to what I think of as "travel brochure speak" - that is, they tended to paint a glowing picture of the country's well known tourist features such as the volcanoes and beaches, while not really coming to grips with what a visitor might find detracts from the experience, e.g. long slogs over crowded roads behind trucks spewing pollution, all the while passing what seems like endless shacks without electricity or plumbing. Maybe it was just me, but I'd been expecting a less depressing experience and none of the books, including the "Insight Guide" did little to prepare me. I must add that I've been to a number of developing countries, including India, but I had had a better idea of what to expect based on what I'd read beforehand. With Ecuador, I felt I'd been thrown a curve ball. (less)
Caveat emptor -- Amateurish travel diary, not a professionally written guide
I'm a little angry at myself for not paying closer attention before I boug...moreCaveat emptor -- Amateurish travel diary, not a professionally written guide
I'm a little angry at myself for not paying closer attention before I bought this self-published ebook on Amazon.com. If I'd bothered to preview it or look more closely at the reviews, I wouldn't have. My husband and I are preparing for a trip to Ecuador with friends from the country, and they'd mentioned how beautiful this area is, so I was intrigued by the title of this book. I "one-click" bought it before previewing it. Unfortunately, I later found it to be the rambling and often irrelevant musings of a woman who traveled through the area in the fall of 2013, making daily entries into a diary and then later, hey presto, apparently refashioning that journal into a short 65-page "guide" book.
I've done a fair amount of travel writing at various websites, some professional and some amateur. Let's just say I'm very familiar with amateur travel writers and writing, and while I can sympathize with those who want to share their travel experiences, I have less patience with those peddling their experiences for profit. I also have to wonder about the glowing reviews posted on Amazon as several of the reviewers have only reviewed this book, several others have reviewed only this plus another of the author's books on Cuenca, and only one of the reviewers gave it less than five stars (and that reviewer notes that the book is poorly written).
Before you buy this on Amazon.com, please preview it and consider if 65 pages is worth $4.99. I don't think so, personally, especially for a hodgepodge of travel journal jottings, many of little interest to anyone but the author and possibly her friends.
Read, for example, the riveting account of her attempts to get on the internet at a cyber cafe: "Ï went to another cabina but my password didn't work -- even after I enlisted help from the teen in charge. Finally, I went to another, but it was full of children with no empty computer. As a last resort I went back to the second and used a different computer. I finally got into my email, but the connection was so slow, I just checked for anything that might be important and then left. Interestingly, all three centers were run by children, who looked like they might be 13 but could be older since the population in the Andes tends to be shorter than in Cuenca."
On and on she prattles, about the athlete's foot that she's battled "for about a decade," her dislike of Nescafe, her run-in with a cactus and removal of its needles "one by one," the music that runs through her head as she hikes, what is printed on the bottle cap of the beer she drinks, her zodiac sign (Capricorn), her various "dopamine rushes" and general euphoria at being alive, and, at the end of the day, "With nothing but fatal darkness this moonless night, I was able to go deeply into myself."
We even get to hear about the notebook she writes in, "that I'd bought for 25 cents at a stationery store in Cuenca: a cartoon of a 'little boy blue blowing his bugle was on the cover!'" (She does love those exclamation marks.)
In short, this book consists of the sort of observations a traveler might jot down in a travel journal, but not the sort of thing that many others would care to read, a lot of dull detail about what she did, what she ate, what she bought, where she stayed, who she met, who said what to whom, what she saw, and what she thought about it -- basically the unedited outpourings about anything that caught her magpie eye.
The photos are of more interest, but they are certainly not worth $4.99. There are a number of tourist-style snapshots of the author, reinforcing the idea that this is a travel journal.
On the other hand, you might very well enjoy reading the unexpurgated text of a travel journal written by an amateur. If so, then this may very well be just the book for you. (less)
This was not a well-edited travel guide. Aside from the frequent basic grammar glitches ("it's" vs. "its" and "their" vs. "there," etc.), it seems to...moreThis was not a well-edited travel guide. Aside from the frequent basic grammar glitches ("it's" vs. "its" and "their" vs. "there," etc.), it seems to rely heavily on "updates" which seem to come from disparate sources. Some of the information was accurate, but other information, even updated information, was not. I had three guidebooks for Ecuador, and this was the one I liked and used the least. (less)
It's that time of year again, when I scan the groaning shelves and select my Halloween reading. So what did I end up doing? Downloading an e-book inst...moreIt's that time of year again, when I scan the groaning shelves and select my Halloween reading. So what did I end up doing? Downloading an e-book instead!(less)
Three cheers for underdogs! This straightforward but remarkable tale affected me deeply. One need not be a rower or sports fan to become completely im...moreThree cheers for underdogs! This straightforward but remarkable tale affected me deeply. One need not be a rower or sports fan to become completely immersed in this book, which dives effortlessly into the soul of one man, one team, one sport, and one era, forging them into an unforgettable story. Along the way, Brown reveals emotional truths that are strongly appealing and timeless. I can't think of a thing I'd change about this book. Bravo!(less)
Decent guides to Iceland are thin on the ground, and this looked to be my best bet for a three-day stopover in the country. I drove around using a map...moreDecent guides to Iceland are thin on the ground, and this looked to be my best bet for a three-day stopover in the country. I drove around using a map and this guidebook, mostly. While there were aspects of the guide that I enjoyed, such as the synopses of Icelandic sagas, it could use some updating and fact checking as there seemed to be more than the usual quota of inaccurate information. I worried needlessly over taking a road described as rough, for example, that was in fact paved. The wrong street was listed as the ideal place to view the city and some admission prices had risen, which didn't particularly surprise me. However, what I found most annoying in working with this e-book was that the maps had very poor resolution when expanded on my iPad. As they were essentially unreadable without expansion, this rendered them useless. (less)
What is it with series? I just don't like them, that's what. This third Richard Hannay book was a bit of a letdown, but I couldn't bring myself to rat...moreWhat is it with series? I just don't like them, that's what. This third Richard Hannay book was a bit of a letdown, but I couldn't bring myself to rate it two stars. Really, I'd say 2-1/2.
There were some exciting passages in this book, but overall I found that the faults exhibited in the two earlier Hannay tales, namely a tendency to pontificate on character, fate, and philosophy plus a heavy reliance on coincidence to advance the plot were more pronounced here. Buchan also makes frequent references to events from the previous two books, so this is far from a stand-alone tale.
I also found the love interest subplot fairly cringeworthy. The girl is half Hannay's age, for starters, and so wonderfully clean, wholesome, bright, and fearless that I wanted to strangle her.
The central plot of the book sets Hannay up against his Moriarty, an evil arch-enemy he's crossed swords with in the past. Hannay is sent "undercover" among pacifists and conscientious objectors, which gives Buchan endless opportunity to natter on and on about the National Character. When Hannay waxes philosophical, I just skim. That sort of earnest sermonizing seems to have been as de rigeur as fatuous irony is today.
What is even more predictable are the countless references to "the Bosch" as the evil spies and perpetrators behind all that's wrong with the war effort. After a spell among the pacifists, one of Buchan's trademark chase scenes moves things along at a gratifying pace (though there are, alas, so many fortuitous encounters that the plot is marred considerably). The last part of the book, which takes place in Switzerland and then on the front in France can be a little hard to follow without brushing up on WW1 tactics and battles. At the time this was written (1919), of course, all these events would have been common knowledge.
I have to say, however, that I actually enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in 1918. These books are very much of their time, and there are many baffling references, some minor and some major, which invariably set me googling. In this novel, for example, I learned that an "Aquascutum" is a type of coat (Hannay mentions the word repeatedly), that there were travel restrictions in place for parts of Scotland during the war (a fact which is central in an extended "chase" scene), that there were about 50 air raids in Britain during the war, and that "Mr. Standfast" is a character in Pilgrim's Progress. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. (It helped that I was reading this e-text on my iPad and could quickly switch over to a browser to consult Google)
Speaking of e-books, a word of warning: I first started reading this from a free e-book I'd downloaded from Barnes and Noble. The text was so badly scanned that virtually every sentence had misspelled words and mangled passages. After about ten pages, I gave up and downloaded a free edition which was almost error-free from Amazon. (less)
As others have commented, the first half of the book, focussing on German pilot Franz Stigler, plods a bit. Things pick up considerably once the focus...moreAs others have commented, the first half of the book, focussing on German pilot Franz Stigler, plods a bit. Things pick up considerably once the focus is on Charlie Brown and his crew.
What struck me most, though, was that this is aimed at a very general (as in junior high and up) audience. Do I need to be told who Rommel and Goering were, for example? World War II buffs will probably be impatient with this elementary background. The style is likewise very basic - short declarative sentences marching one after another. The first half of the book, in particular, seems to be aimed at idiots.
Having said that, I admire how much research went into the book and how thoroughly the author delved into the two pilots' lives. There is, of course, the usual "title inflation" that makes the 10-minute encounter in the skies seem to be the primary focus... but it really isn't. This is a story about how war changed two men and how they came to reconcile their consciences and cope with their feelings. (less)
Painstakingly argued, authoritative, original, and engrossing, this is the sort of book that I could read again soon and still profit from. (Which mea...morePainstakingly argued, authoritative, original, and engrossing, this is the sort of book that I could read again soon and still profit from. (Which means, of course, that I couldn't digest everything on the first reading -- but that's my failing, not the author's.)
As many others have commented, the focus here is less on engineers than on how Allied and Axis strategies changed (or didn't) in response to problems and failures. The five central problems Kennedy examines are interlocking pieces of a puzzle: how to get convoys safely across the Atlantic, how to win command of the air, how to stop a blitzkreig, how to seize an enemy-held shore, and how to defeat "the tyranny of distance."
As Kennedy points out repeatedly, the solving of each of these problems increased the ability to solve the others. In the final analysis, the Allies' "war-making systems that contained impressive feedback loops, flexibility, a capacity to learn from mistakes, and a 'culture of encouragement'" assured their victory.
At times Kennedy seemed to downplay the importance of WWII intelligence, which was a disappointment for me as I've long been fascinated by the topic. However, he made a good case that "victory went to the side with the smartest and most powerful weaponry, not the one with the better decrypts."
The chapter I enjoyed the most was the one I knew the least about -- the aerial war. In fact, this chapter so inspired me that I took a trip to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum shortly after I finished the book to look at the WWII-era planes. I'd been there before -- several times -- but after Kennedy's account I viewed the B-29 Superfortress, P-38 Lightning, Focke-Wulf 190 and other aircraft with new interest. But it was the Rolls Royce Merlin 61 engine sitting unobtrusively in a display case of engines that I viewed with most respect.
Kennedy's book bristles with statistics, many impressive and some surprising. I learned, for example, that "in late 1943, new airfields were opening up every six days across the topographically convenient flatlands of East Anglia," a fact which explains something that puzzled me years ago when we lived in Cambridge: there seemed to be disused airfields scattered everywhere in the surrounding countryside.
Books I admire invariably send me on a quest to find out more about the subject. This one, I have to say, has more than succeeded as I now have dozens of new books in my "to read" wishlist concerning WWII. (By the way, if anyone out there can recommend a good book on the convoy battles in the Atlantic, I'd appreciate it.) (less)