Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Taming the Panzers

I picked this book up in Chapter's Book Store in Dublin for One Euro and having finished it, I think it was a fair price. It's not that this was a particularly bad book, but rather disjointed and let down by the authors over use of details he picked up in researching for material.

The story tells the history of the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment (R.T.R.) through the lives of a hundred men who fought against the Germans and Italians from the disasters of Dunkirk, Greece and Crete and then final victories from the Normandy beaches to the final push up to the Baltic and liberation of concentration camps.
The author fell into the same trap as an earlier book review about the Battle of Somme. On both occasions the authors seemed to want us to appreciate how much research they made and then threw it all out again, as if he was a drunk getting sick on a Friday night. This over use of names and units stops the book from flowing as gaining any momentum. As much as I didn't want to I found myself jumping down a line or two at a time, hoping it would improve.

In the last third of the book, the author either realised his mistake or just ran out of names to throw me and the book suddenly became worth reading. It's a shame that Delaforce didn't realise his mistake from page one, as the actions taken by those very young men who fought in these battles is story worth telling. Telling a lot better than it has been done here.

Score 5 out 10

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Doctor Who, The Feast of the Drowned

This book isn't your standard BBC TV episode. Its dark, very dark, even scary at times, but very entertaining all the time.
The "Drowned" in the title are the crew of a Royal Navy ship, who all seem to die when their ship is mysteriously destroyed. However when the wreck is towed back to London the ghosts of the dead start appearing pleading with the relatives to come and save them. Aliens , ghosts and monster are all over the place, its exciting, witty and well written,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hirschfeld : The Secret Diary of a U-Boat

I've read numerous books about World War II, but this is only the second one that recounts an individual's exploits and oddly enough both books were by Germans. Wolfgang Hirschfeld was a telegraphist on board two German U-boats from 1940 to the end of World War two. With the exception of a visit to Hamburg during a bombing raid Hirschfeld focuses entirely on his time at sea, fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic to attacks of the American east coast, before their final mission of delivering secret military technology to the Japanese.

Although the "U-Boat menace" was undoubtedly a great threat to Britain in 1940 and 1941 as Hitler's Germany set out to slaughter England's convoys and starve the country into submission, yet from the individual submariners perspective these were still hazardous and frustrating times. The bulk of the U-boat fleet, although deadly and well manned was beset technical difficulties throughout the war, with misfiring torpedoes and ruptured oil tanks, but sixty years ago none of this was known to the Allied powers. Until the battle of Stalingrad in July 1942 , this was the key battleground of WWII.

One of the things that comes across most strikingly from this book is Hirschfeld's frustration and disappointment with the weapons he and his colleagues were meant to deliver this victory with. He repeatedly wonders how his commanders can demand such a victory, when their U-boats were at first an even match for the British navy, but as the war progresses and anti-submarine technology and an influx U.S. warships joined the battle, he realises that it is a forlorn hope, unless Hitlers "Wonder Weapons" turn up.

Reading this book, you live through the fear of being depth charged by Destroyers or caught on the surface while refueling by Coastal Command aircraft, knowing that a single careless mistake by a colleague can send you crashing to the seabed or uncontrollably surfacing in full view of the enemy.

7 out of 10
Touch Wood (Tales from Porn Industry) by Anonymous

Well the title of the book sums it up. Allegedly based on a true story this is less of a romantic-comedy and more of a naughty-comedy, as we live a year in the life of failed a musician and now wannabe porn king. Our hero stumbles from one mishap to another as he struggles to get his film company of the ground, while buying and selling "Nearly new" sex toys, DVD's and keeping it all a secret from his family.

With characters such as Mike Hunt, Ben Dover and Trisha Big Tits, I was thinking that this has to be pure fiction, yet by the time I finished the book I could only assume that the author must at the very least have been in the industry, as there is just too much inside information for this book to have been written by an novice.
This book is funny, naughty, sexy, embarrassing and insightful and most definitely worth a read if you fancy a change of pace, unless of course, all you read are stories about the porn industry.

Rating 6 out of 10

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The War of Wars by Robert Harvey

If ever a one thousand page book could be considered an easy read, this was it. The War of Wars covers the thirty year conflict between Revolutionary Napoleonic France and the rest of Europe from 1790. Unlike the last book that I read which came across as an interesting documentary, this one was more of fast paced movie that you want to watch again again. This book covers the bloody days of the guillotine, the rise and fall of Napoleon, Nelson, Blucher, Wellington, Ney and the Cochrane.
In 1789 the world was controlled by Europe, primarily Spain and England with its colonial empires and within Europe by Austria, Russia, a fading Ottaman Empire and a rising and bloody Revolutionary France. The book is full of naval and land battles described in vivid colour

This book was a fantastic read, but it was much more fun to read than it is to write about, nah, only kidding. Bu the problem is that a simple review won’t give justice to this book. Robert Harvey has written something special here, in encompassing thirty years he gives up a book that could easily be a series of entertaining short war stories. He blows away popular beliefs such as the Battle of Waterloo being a massive one day battle, it was in fact a three day fight that to place a mile or so away from Waterloo. While throwing light on the Corsican s ill fated invasion of Egypt and plans to invade India, Ireland and Egypt.

The rise and fall or the French Monarchy, Revolutionaries and Napoleons all take place as a weak English military reels from the loss of American by those ungrateful colonials. Meanwhile in a little back water of Europe a small military power begins to grow some claws, Prussia is on the rise.

I tell you what read the book right now and then thank me later.

8 out of 10

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Armagedeon By Max Hastings

This book is all about the last year or so of World War II in Europe. “Gasp and Shock” I can almost hear you say. Yes it’s another WWII book and the fact that it is another WWII book is one of the two problems I have with it.
The first problem is that in spite of the author finding plenty of new material on the conflict in the East which was full of brutality on a massive scale with no quarter given, a lot of the material told of events in the West I knew before.
Okay, so I suppose that one, is more my problem than the book’s, perhaps had I read it a couple of years ago I may now be calling it “The best book I’ve read”, (that title goes to "The Forgotten Soldier"), but I drift from the point.

The second problem is that although it’s an interesting book, its not a really an exciting read. More of an entertaining documentary, than a thrill a minute movie.

Now that I’ve broken Max’s heart with all this negativity, allow me to say a few words and prevent him from seeking a new career. This book has two purposes, the first describe famous actions in the West as well as lesser known Stalin sponsored bloodbaths on the East. The second is in posing the questions such as "Why didn't the Western Allies win the war in 1944 after the D-Day landings and why was the US so slow to realize that Stalin was waging a political war and not merely a military one, even through Churchill had been screaming rape?
Actually in hindsight this book now seems better than I first thought.

After D-Day Hitler was always going to lose and everyone knew it. The Americans knew it and were bloody sure that they weren’t going to throw their men away just to end the war a few months earlier, a war weary Britain no longer had the personnel and had to do what they were told, while Stalin truly didn’t care about anybody, casualties were irrelevant as long as the Red army got to Berlin first. Ironically had the western armies been more aggressive they would indeed have won the war earlier against a routed and not an organized retreating enemy and actually saved countless military and civilian lives.
Off course there was always the French and De Gaulle, but that a whole other story.

For those who are interested in trivia, this book was followed up by “Nemesis”, the last year of the Japanese war, which is actually a better read.

Rating 7 out of 10

Wednesday, August 26, 2009