Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Sex, Lies, and Handwriting By Michelle Dresbold

5 Sep

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting by Michelle Dresbold is a fascinating read and look into the world of psychoanalysis based on your handwriting.

Believe it or not, your handwriting reflects who you are as a person. The way you shape your letters and words can reveal a lot about you. Dresbold does an outstanding job pointing out the areas to look for in your own or someone else’s writing to try and create a better picture of them.

Could your colleague be a murderer? Could your significant other have sexual issues? Is your boss deceptive and sneaky? Is your neighbor insecure or perhaps a perfectionist?

If you can analyze the way they write their G’s, P’s, and J’s you might be able to find out. Dresobld use’s real life examples of writing analysis to teach you and you’ll soon be on your way to look at your own handwriting out of secret worry.

Though Dresbold does a good job teaching them, it is hard to remember all the differences right from the start. You can surely remember a few that will stand out, if you really want to learn this skill, you’ll have to practice, practice, practice and keep this book as a key reference.

Of course even doing it for fun or as a party trick might be enjoyable as well. As long as one of your guests isn’t a sociopathic murderer.

Listed at 300-pages the book is a breeze to read through. The chapters are small and the pages are regularly broken up with images of writing samples.

Sex, Lies, and Handwriting makes for an excellent choice when you have a few hours to kill waiting.

Book Review: My Father’s Country by Wibke Bruhns

30 Aug

My Father’s Country by Wibke Bruhns is the story about her father Hans Georg Klamroth a German business man and Wehrmacht officer executed in 1944 for his part in the Stuaffenberg assassination attempt.

It’s also one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.

Because the author was only 6 years old at the time of her fathers death, she only has letters, diaries, and the words of others to gain insight into her father’s life.

Fortunately for her, her family kept quite a record of itself. Besides the family history there are extensive diaries and letters for her to use.

Indeed the story of H.G. as he is commonly referred to, is an interesting. Being groomed for the family business, young H.G. serves in WW I, travels to America for work, gets married and has five kids, and becomes a member of the Nazi Party.

In defense of H.G. he doesn’t become a Nazi enthusiastically, but more out of a sense of utility. This may explain H.G.’s role in the assassination attempt.

Though his role is hard to explain and at best he was merely aware of the situation, because his son-in-law was one of the major planners, he himself had nothing to do with the attempt.

Still that complicity was enough to have him hanged.

Getting to know Hans Georg Klamroth along with his daughter the author, is a very unique experience. From the family history, through childhood and adulthood the journey is quite surreal. You of course know where it will end up, but you have to keep reading to find out what else happens and how it happens from the perspective of all involved.

The story of the Klamroth family is an interesting one and one of historical significance and an interesting look at life from the German families perspective through the first half of the 20th century. A must read.

Book Review: The Ghosts of Cannae

28 Aug

The Ghosts of Cannae: Hannibal and the Darkest Hour of the Roman Republic by Robert L. O’Connell

The Ghosts of Cannae is the story of the Second Punic War. The war between Carthage and Rome really begins when Carthiginian General Hannibal Barca makes his famous trek from Spain over the Alps and into the Italian peninsula where he would wage war against Rome for 15 years.

O’Connell provides a great story by informing the reader of the historical context of the era. The competition between Carthage and Rome for control of the Mediterranean and Hannibals promise to his father to continue to wage war on Rome.

The reader becomes familiar with Hannibal through his wily tactics and ability to outsmart his Roman foes. A clear picture is also painted of the working man, those who served both for Hannibal and Rome.

The apex of the book is the battle of Cannae. This slaughter of tens of thousands of Roman legionaires leaves the survivors in an undesirable position. They are practically exiled to the island of Sicily where they remain for years as the Empire wants nothing to do with them.

Their redemption comes in the form of Scipio Africanus. Son of   Publius Cornelius Scipio, himself a Roman Praetor who was killed in battle against Scipio along with his brother(and Africanus’ uncle).

Of course at the time that Scipio revives the ‘Ghosts of Cannae’, he has not yet earned the name ‘Africanus’. That name is to be bestowed upon him for his successes in Africa against Carthage, namely the battle of Zama. Which he will rightly do after succeeding in Carthaginian Spain and then freeing Italy of Hannibal who is finally forced to evacuate the peninsula.

The ‘Ghosts of Cannae’  provides a terrific and quick history of both the Romans and Carthagians as well as life in general in the Mediteranean basin at that time. It also details quite well the history of the battles and events of the Second Punic War.

Though listed at 336 pages, the book really only reads for about 260 pages because the bibliography is that extensive. But when you’re writing about a 2,000 year old war there tends to be a lot of sources.

The book reads well and provides many interesting notes about the events and those involved. Such as how the Roman survivors of Cannae, after being essentially abandoned on Sicily are taken to Africa by Scipio and find themselves as the veterans in Scipios army who line up against the veterans of Hannibals army from Cannae and find themselves fighting the same men they fought against 14 years earlier.

Book Review; About Face by Colonel David Hackworth

14 Aug

About Face; The Odyssey of an American Warrior by Colonel David H. Hackworth is the memoirs of it’s authors experience’s as an officer of the United States Army in the second half of the twentieth century.

Hackworths 26 years of service starting as a 16 year-old enlisted man to his retirement as a colonel in 1971 serves almost as much as a history of the US Army of that time as well as his own.

Hackworths journey from a young enlisted soldier in post World War II occupied Europe, to several tours in both Korea and Vietnam, show his transformation from idealistic to fed-up due to his passion for America and the men he fought with and led.

Hackworth was a no-nonsense leader. A combat soldier who knew his job and grew disappointed at the politics of war over his career.

Hackworths criticisms of the US military and military industries stand as much today as they did more than twenty years ago when the book was first published.

The criticisms come justly as Hackworth relates his story of service while showing the right way and wrong way of doing things.

About Face is simply a book of many faces. The war stories and action packed recollections of battle read like a novel. Information for military leaders and enthusiasts is shown in Hackworths sharing of the knowledge of warfare. And of course as an introspective political look at the US Military.

Finishing this large and well written book may instill one of two feelings in you. You may feel the desire to join the military in an effort to straighten out this capably glorious yet seemingly lost organization or you feel the desire to distance yourself as far as possible from it due to the feeling of contempt it may create in you.

Highlander: The History of the Legendary Highland Soldier By Timothy Newark

13 May

Highlander: The History of the Legendary Highland Soldier, by Timothy Newark.

Timothy Newark’s history of the Highland soldier is a well-researched but limited scope book. That the book is a look into the history of the Highland soldier and not the Highland warrior limits the scope of history that it can cover.

The book begins its history around the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and continues through the modern day. Each chapter presents a different period or war that the Highlanders fought in for the British Empire.

With pride and ferocity on their side the Highlanders earned a sterling reputation around the world expanding and defending the empires territory from France, to South Africa, to India, back to France and more.

The chapters are short and easy to read, each about 11-15 pages. While each chapter has a unique era or event that it focuses on the book itself isn’t overly connected, but this may just be due to its wide historical range.

Over all, Newarks effort at a Highland soldiers history is a good starting point for those seeking more knowledge but don’t want to commit to such a large affair without learning some basics first.

Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II

7 May

Book Review

Choices Under Fire: Moral Dimensions of World War II by Michael Bess is an outstanding analysis of the many moral questions that exist today about the choices made by the allied leadership during World War II. While the topic largely centers around the decisions of the allied nations, it is compared against the backdrop of all the greater nations involved in the conflicts of that time.

Bess creates a background for each of the questions that is asked in the book, by using examples of history leading up to the war, a clearly identified moral compass, and an understanding and acceptance of the circumstances that defined the era.

Of the many moral questions of wartime decisions, the ones that loom largest in Choices Under Fire, are racism, the area bombing of city centers, the fire bombing of cities in both Germany and Japan, the atomic bombing or Japan, and the presence of morality in the postwar era.

Bess does a superb job in assigning blame where it is due in each circumstance. Once the questions have been asked, and the cases made, both allied and axis sides, are equally criticized for their decisions. Despite the blame being assigned, Bess does it in such a way, that the reader does not feel biased or angered towards the aggressors, but rather that with the knowledge that Bess has presented, they simply understand the issues at a logical level.

Choices Under Fire, is an excellent history of World War II and provides something that most of books on the subject distinctly lack in this way, that being an easy to read and understand responsible analysis of the credit or blame of the nations at war.

Operation Broken Reed; Book Review

28 Apr

Operation Broken Reed is the story of a go for broke top-secret mission during the Korean War.

The Korean War was a seesaw conflict swinging back and forth between the UN forces and Communist that led to a stalemate early in the conflict that would largely remain for the remainder of the conflict.

President Truman, under pressure to solve the problem and unable to cope with the bureaucratic headache of the government, went over the heads of everyone and authorized an intelligence gathering mission behind enemy lines.

10-men were sent behind enemy lines as part of an elaborate scheme involving nationalist-Chinese soldiers escorting the crew of a downed American bomber across the Korean peninsula to be taken to China. The 10-men, each with their own specialty and purpose, were to be given no recognition, no credit, and no rewards for the mission which was to be classified until 1998, 46 years after the mission.

Broken Reed details this story from the background of Lt. Col. Arthur Boyd, the only member of the team to survive the mission. The interesting and unknown story is well told and reads almost like a work of fiction with its surprisingly level of character development, despite the men on the mission being forbidden to share personal details, and the unexpected plot twists that lead the mission to its fateful end. Broken Reed is a good book to learn something from as well as be entertained.

Tiger Force Book Review

15 Apr

Tiger Force; A true story of Men and War

By Michael Sallah and Mitch Weiss

Tiger Force is a book that exposes the atrocities of the Army unit of the same name, which operated for a period in the Vietnam War.

While the spotlight is on the Tiger Forces actions, the book connect a web for the reader to see the greater scale implicated as the cause of these actions.

First, that Tiger Force was itself a part of an imprudent and reckless overall strategy for the Vietnam War. That the higher levels of political and military command in both Vietnam and the United States imagined that they simply had to produce a high body count and pay no care or concern to the effects of their strategy on the friendly and neutral segments of the local population shows a complete lack of regard for human reality.

The use of such strategy was not only ineffective, but rather counter-productive. These methods were allowed to continue solely due to stubbornness. Without accountability or the willingness to question the overall strategy and goals, problems were allowed to continue until they simply ran into the wall they were lined up against in the first place.

As for Tiger Force itself, its atrocities are horrifying, worse than any acts by U.S. forces in the war. As it’s said in the book, My Lai was just one day, this was 7 months.

What made these soldiers shoot unarmed civilians and prisoners, collect ears and scalps, and in one case sever the head of an infant child?

Was it PTSD, did the suffering experiences of combat push them over the edge? The authors tell the story as it happened and there are instances of traumatic stress and retribution taking place.

Again we see the theme of lack of accountability. When soldiers reported the atrocities up the chain of command they were told to let it go. While leadership ignored the reports, even more shocking is the lack of concern by those committing these crimes in the field.

As Sam Ybarra and William Doyle receive attention for being the most vicious and enthusiastic killers in Tiger Force, it is worth noting that both had criminal arrest records and/or problems with authority/runs in with the law, long before enlisting in the Army. The same could be said for Ybarra’s friend Ken Green, while for other such as Terrence Kerrigan, who once had dreams of attending law school at UCLA, got into the act and befriended the likes of Ybarra and Green. Still for others such as Lt. James Hawkins and Sgt. Harold Trout, potential problems weren’t as obviously displayed.

Still for all of Tiger Force’s bad apples, there were many who attempted to have the situation handled only to be frustrated.

To go on a slight tangent, it’s interesting the way the PTSD story of Vietnam and Tiger Force is being replayed with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The story is as misdirected now as it was disregarded then.

Contemporary instances of veteran’s causing trouble at home leads to the immediate mentioning of PTSD as the cause, by those in the media both locally and nationally.

What’s left out of the news report is that the soldiers who’ve lost it in these occasions aren’t exactly hardened combat veterans, but more likely just run of the mill screw-ups who have the same arrest record, and drug and alcohol abuse problems as the screw-ups who didn’t enlist.

That’s not to say that PTSD doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem, but that it makes for more attractive headlines than “Chronic Screw-Up, Picks Fight with Police Again”.

For a clearer picture of the truth on events involving veterans and PTSD “cases” in the media, visit http://thisainthell.us for an accurate biography/history of the person in question. Their use of reliable sources and familiarity (read: competency) with military issues is conspicuously absent in the mainstream media.

Back to the book, Tiger Force is an interesting read for a look at some of the worst acts of the Vietnam War and the follow-up criminal investigation, all set against the general background of that period of time. While an easy book to read, Tiger Force may challenge readers who lack knowledge of the Vietnam War beyond the typical pop-culture, classroom repetition.

The White Man’s Burden; Book Review

9 Apr

William Easterly’s The White Man’s Burden is a critical analysis of western aid organizations efforts to improve the lives of those in the second and third world.

Easterly’s previous experiences, including time as a representative of the World Bank, give him the knowledge to write about this subject not merely as an informed outsider but as a frustrated insider. This is largely the point of the book.

Despite trillions of dollars of aid from the west to improve the lives of those in poorer countries the aid money regularly does not reach those who need it most and more often exacerbates the existing problems by creating a system of dependance and helplessness.

Easterly provides an analogy to this on page 52;

” If ambulances keep showing up at the accident, but the injured still do not get any help for their injuries, you would question how good the ambulance service is.”

Easterly’s point however is that, often we think things would be worse if the help that was provided wasn’t available, however ineffective it may be.

Easterly proves that western aid efforts often get in the way of allowing the people they are intended to help, to help themselves. Easterly calls western aid organizations “planners”, while real-world problem solvers earn the title of “searchers”. The Planners tend to operate by setting grand goals without understanding how to carry them out and then slowly forget the project once it fails to succeed because of their lack of understanding.

Searchers on the other hand, identify the problems first and then set the goals of trying to alleviate those problems, often using nothing more than standard business-market principles.

The easiest way to compare the difference is that Planners think money will solve all problems, while Searchers believe in actions and ideas. As any volunteer or non-profit organizer can tell you, your time is more valuable to them than your money.

While Easterly is critical of large aid efforts, he clearly demonstrates his own dedication to helping those and his knowledge and personal experiences are first rate.

An interesting subplot can be derived from the books premise that the needs of the individual at home are best understood by that individual and not the government(whether his own or a foreign one). Much of what Easterly talks about could be applied to the situation in countries such as the United States and England where entitlement behavior and government nanny-statism is being increased almost exponentially.

Considering that, the “rest” may eventually pass the “west” because the west will suffocate itself and will have to let go of the rest and give them the freedom to appeal to their own needs.

The White Man’s Burden, is a great read to shed light on the near-useless aid industry that also allows for a more national reflection.

Book Review; Berlin at War

4 Apr

Berlin at War By Roger Moorhouse is a look at the experiences of Berliners during World War II. As the title implies the book is about Berlin during the war, but the focus is on the people and what life was like for many of them. It is not in the true sense a book about the war itself.

Moorhouse is very thorough is exploring all the different manners in which the war and Naziism changed that city and it’s inhabitants. Each aspect is covered, from the rise of Nasiism and the development of Berlin, to the bombing raids and the deportation of the city’s Jewish residents.

Many people simply assume that the German people of the Second World War, were simply animals. This book helps to explore the other side of German life during that period. Berliners it seems were not overly eager to support Hitler, but at the same time did not manifest their dislike in any actionable way.

Because the book discusses many different aspects of life in Berlin at the time, there are several thought provoking sections.

For example, because Berliners in general did not like Hitler and the Nazi party (with their dislike growing, the longer they were around), would they have been active in their effort had they known that the Valkyrie plot was an effort to take over the city? As Moorhouse points out, the conspirators in the plot kept the effort private to as not to create additional hassles.

Perhaps the mentality of Berliners can be summarised with one paragraph from the book about a Berliners journal entry after a bombing raid, on page 345.

Neither rubble shoveling, nor pillow rescuing has anything to do with Nazi enthusiasm or resolution to endure. Nobody thinks of Hitler as he boards up the kitchen window.What everyone thinks of is that you can’t live in the cold, that before evening fall and the sirens wail you must have a corner where you can lay your head and stretch your legs the way you choose to do it, and not the way someone else wants you to choose.

This paragraph nicely sums up the duality of the average Berliners attitude during the war. Knowing that things aren’t right but being possessed by a feeling that there is nothing they can do about it.

Moorhouse does an excellent job relaying the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and even sights and sounds of the people of Berlin during the war.Berlin at War is easy to read. The language is simple enough and the details are no more than what is necessary to understand the issue and no less void so as to leave you wondering.

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