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A. Volk (Canada)
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Dogfight: The Greatest Air Duels of World War II
Dogfight: The Greatest Air Duels of World War II
by Tony Holmes
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 12.26
29 used & new from CDN$ 7.51

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good in places, but inconsistent, Jan. 3 2014
Having received this book as a gift, I decided to give it a try. I just found out, after reading it, that's it's a compilation of five different books from the Osprey "Duel" series. This helps explains why it jumps around as well as why there is no general integration. All include a section introducing the match-up of two planes, a history of the development of the two planes, the training programs of their pilots, the strategic situation in which they met, a brief spotlight on some of the pilots who flew each plane, combat results (usually a mix of general and specific), an analysis of their relative performance, and finally an aftermath section detailing what the planes did after that conflict. There are five comparisons made:

Spitfire vs. BF109E - 4/5; good, but lacking in tactical details. This is perhaps the most famous of plane duels, so it also didn't present a whole lot that wasn't new to me.

P-47 vs. BF109G/K - 4/5; similar to the last section, this is a decent overview and has slightly better tactical information. Still, it lacked the depth to really give it five out of five.

P-40 vs. Ki-42 - 2/5; In no way was does this belong in a discussion of the greatest air duels in WW2. It was a tiny-side action event. I'm rather shocked in fact that the editor, who presumably knows more than two bits about WW2, completely left out any comparison of Soviet vs. German aircraft. By a whole lot of measures, the Soviet front presented the greatest air duels of WW2. German pilots claimed hundreds of kills on the Eastern front, but somehow the backwoods action of a small American group in China is greater? Nonsense. It's also limited to the period of 1944. The detail provided is quite good, although as the author acknowledges, it's primarily limited to the American side of the story as there is a dearth of published accounts from Japanese survivors.

P-51 vs. Fw-190 - 3/5; A pretty classic comparison of two of the more famous war birds. Praise is heaped on the Mustang while it is acknowledged that the Fw-190 was primarily tasked with shooting down bombers. I've personally long wondered how much of the Mustang's success was due to its late arrival in the ETO given that the Luftwaffe had, at that point, been ground down pretty severely by previous fighting. Nevertheless, this section does an adequate job of comparing the two types.

Seafire vs. A6M Zero - 1/5; This was a brutal addition to this book. Not only do we see the Spitfire again, but (unlike the Bf-109) we see it in an arguably inferior configuration, where it sees limited action, shooting down a mere handful of kamikaze Zero's. Wow. No serious dogfighting action here. Why there wasn't a focus on the A6M versus the Hellcat or Corsair, I don't know. This section also contained the least information about tactics and pilots.

Overall then, this book is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the sections are good, one is OK, two are quite weak. There is some fantastic artwork in the book, including some great views from inside each cockpit (illustrated). If you can find this for a cheap price, it makes for a good overview of some of the more famous (and some of the less famous) planes of WW2. Three stars.

The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities
The Secret Power of Middle Children: How Middleborns Can Harness Their Unexpected and Remarkable Abilities
by Catherine Salmon Ph.D.
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.27
26 used & new from CDN$ 3.29

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Interesting, but perhaps stretches the data somewhat, Dec 30 2013
Being a middle-born myself (and being a parent to middleborn too), I was curious to read more about the secrets of middleborn children. Catherine Salmon really is one of, it not the, leading experts on this topic in the world. The book is broken down into two major parts. The first is a sketch of what middleborn children are like and why. The second half deals with how to best interact with, support, and/or nurture middleborn partners, co-workers, and children. Both parts of the book were lively and well-written. Salmon draws on a broad body of research to lend support to her theories. However, there are some important limitations to this research. First, it's a very new field with few researchers, so we don't have a lot of competing hypotheses to really challenge existing data and explanations. Second, and along these same lines, there is also a scarcity of data, especially outside of the Big Five model of personality. To be fair, Salmon is aware of and explicitly points out these limitations. But she then goes right on ahead and ignores them by overstating her conclusions. Effect sizes, rather than just the presence or absence of a link between middle borns and personality, would be more welcome. Again, there's some attention to this, but not enough for my tastes. So I find that this book is a good, but not great, blending of popular science writing and hard science writing. If it was in an established area of research, I would rate it three stars or less. But given that it's really the first major book to discuss the topic of middle-borns, I can go along with four stars. I did recognize pieces of myself in much of what she said, but there were also times when I didn't even remotely resemble what a "standard" middle-born should act/be like. So it was a fun and interesting read, but one that should be taken with a large grain of salt at this point in time.

The Tyranny of the Night: Book One of the Instrumentalities of the Night
The Tyranny of the Night: Book One of the Instrumentalities of the Night
Offered by Macmillan CA
Prix : CDN$ 10.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Might be a good book, but the first 100 pages are BRUTAL, Dec 16 2013
I don't often give up on books, especially ones written by an author I like (I generally quite liked The Black Company chronicles). However, the first 100 pages of this book read like a phone book mixed with the Bible. Strange names after strange names in strange countries with strange connections. The author essentially sequentially goes through all the major people and factions in his book by introducing them, one after another, with no real connection or flow, for a long, long time.

Now perhaps the story picks up after that. The premise of the story, an alternate history of 14th-15th Century medieval Europe/Middle East combined with magic and spirits seems interesting enough. But I'm afraid that any book that just "hazes" its reader into suffering through a completely boring treatise of names doesn't deserve my higher ratings. If someone who made it through the whole book wants to write a complete review here on Amazon.ca, I'd welcome that for balance sake. But I thought it was important to warn casual readers that this is not a book for them. Only those who really appreciate fine levels of historical detail and don't mind long pages of plain introduction will be able to reap the potential rewards of this book. Which is too bad, as I had strong hopes for this book. But as I picked it up for fun and not homework, it's back to the bin with it.

02 Sailor On The Seas Of Fate
02 Sailor On The Seas Of Fate
by Michael Moorcock
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
24 used & new from CDN$ 2.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Pulp fantasy fiction, Dec 13 2013
Moorcock's Elric is one of the more famous fantasy characters. One that I hadn't, until recently, read (I recently read a short story in a related collectionThe Sword & Sorcery Anthology). Elric seemed interesting enough as a character, so I picked this book up in a used bookstore and read it. It's actually pretty good. The plot is a little heavy-handed at times, as Elric seems to be forced along a path of doom, destruction, and desolation. But the writing is generally crisp and there's some fun action sequences. While not quite as good as Robert E Howard, Moorcock does have some skill in making scenes and settings come to life with vivid descriptions. The stories themselves are fantastic, yet tinged with enough of the mundane to remain credible. Overall, a short but fun bit of fantasy reading that makes me curious about the other books in the series. For that, I give it four stars.

One King's Way
One King's Way
by Harry Harrison
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Fun look at an alternative history, Dec 13 2013
This book essentially looks to recreate the Dark Ages with the addition of supernatural influences and alternate history. Shef is an escaped slave who has managed to become co-king of England thanks to adopting new (old) weapons of war based on the Roman catapult and crossbow. In this story he leaves England behind to take out a new form of ship that is fitted with catapults as a counter to the Viking raiders who ply the Northern seas. His fleet meets up with the fleet of enemy Viking's and the battle proves decisive for Shef. Unfortunately though, he is separated from his ship and ends up touring the Scandinavian lands in an effort to find his destiny, safety, and his crown(s?).

It's a fun book and Harrison is a good story-teller. My biggest complaint is that there is a lot of interference from the Norse gods in this book. I don't really want to read a story if it's all predestined or forced by some god rather than the fate made by a man in control of his destiny. That heavy-handed interference really prevented me from truly buying into the concept. Had the gods merely been observers, more or less, that would have made the book five stars. As it stands, there's still plenty of action, some interesting supernatural elements, and the characters are reasonable enough for me to enjoy reading about them. So if you're looking for a light bit of alternate history tinged with fantasy elements, this is a good book. I haven't read the first book in the series, or the last, so I can't say how it fits with them. But as a stand alone book, it does the job.

My Outdoor Life
My Outdoor Life
by Ray Mears
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 21.94
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.98

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A review of Ray's life, Dec 3 2013
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ce commentaire est de: My Outdoor Life (Hardcover)
Having just completed Beyond Survivorman, I turned to read another autobiography from a noted survival expert (although to be fair, Beyond was more of a tale of a journey than an entire life). Ray, like Les, is not a fake or a flashy showman trying to demonstrate just how tough he is or how gross his food can be. I've always found his documentaries to be relatively balanced and informative. So I was keen to read about his life story.

It starts off as a young child when he met a keen mentor at school. This mentor encouraged two of Ray's great passions- the outdoors and judo. Although Ray trained extensively in the latter, it was ultimately the outdoors that won him over. It was a different time for him growing up, as part of the "analog" generation that didn't rely on electronics for entertainment. I'm a bit younger so I cross over both, but I empathize with being allowed by your parents to explore the outdoor world on your own. Although my parents didn't let me go camping on public grounds on my own when I was as young as Ray. These experiences, triggered by an unlikely serious of young childhood events, led to a great passion building in Ray. Like many successful people, he was very focused on his passion and did all he could to learn more about outdoor living/survival. For example, he frequently attended various courses and lectures on the outdoors, only to find himself far younger than most people attending.

Eventually, he was able to blend his love of the outdoors with a growing passion for photography and start a career as an outdoors photographer. This eventually led to a television documentary, and from there, more BBC shows, survival books, and a growing business based around teaching outdoor skills. Ray also talks a fair bit about his personal life. A trip through Africa with an ex-girlfriend who's trying to break a world record, his life with his first wife, her tragic (and very touching) passing, and meeting his second wife all get a lot of details in this book. There's some more hair-raising adventures, such as surviving a helicopter crash or tracking a dangerous fugitive. If I hadn't watched so much Mantracker, I'd probably have doubted some of the tracking story but I now believe that he was capable of finding the traces of evidence that he did. He talks briefly about a trip to the jungle with Ewan McGregor and there are other interesting details in this book.

Overall, it makes for a very detailed look at his life. It does engage in some self-indulgence, but overall it is a pretty humble story told by someone who's passionate about life and living outdoors. Ray's respect for nature and caring for those close to him shine through. Compared to Beyond Survivorman, this is a much more in-depth story. Both because it's a longer period of his life as well as it's a much longer book, so it's not really apples to oranges. Neither book dwells much on actual survival skills, which is fine as both authors have books on that already published. Instead, what you get is a glimpse of the man behind the show. Ray's book offers more than just a glimpse, as it reveals a whole lot about the man behind the book. So if you are interested in Ray Mears, or what it takes to develop a career as an outdoors expert, then I think this is a good book. The writing is straightforward but interesting, and powerful in the right places without being overly dramatic. It's not the best autobiography that I've read, but it does rank as a very good one, so I don't mind giving it five stars.

Beyond Survivorman
Beyond Survivorman
by Les Stroud
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 18.80
7 used & new from CDN$ 14.37

4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Spiritual survival?, Nov. 29 2013
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Ce commentaire est de: Beyond Survivorman (Hardcover)
I'm a big fan of Survivorman, where Les Stroud set the bar for wilderness survival shows by actually going out and having to survive on his own. No buddy, no film crew, no staged events like all the other shows. Just a guy, a camera, and a tiny bit of survival gear/food. It was really good, but not surprisingly, really hard on Les. So he decided to turn to something different. To a mixture show that blended survival with a study of the customs and rituals of some of the last people on the planet who are seriously dependent on wilderness survival. These aren't "virgin", uncontacted cultures, but they do retain significant wilderness survival skills. That's the essence of the show, and that's the foundation of this book.

However, the book features a different driving theme than the show. Les is searching for more than just survival skills- he's searching for a spiritual reawakening. He approaches this series as part of "quest" to regain his positive energy, his connection with the Earth, and his sense of purpose in life. At this stage in his life, he's approaching 50 (Wiki information), has left behind his marriage to his wife Sue, and is almost the definition of a walking mid-life crisis. Thus, each separate episode/culture/destination brings in a new lesson. In particular, Les is trying to find a bridge between the spiritual world and the daily grind of life. Despite partaking in trance ceremonies and spiritual rituals, Les keeps coming away empty. The skeptic in him just isn't ready to embrace the spiritual. That is, until his second last destination leads him to Peru, where an encounter with a new ritual (including a ritual drugged drink) leads to him reconnecting with Mother Nature. He literally believes he has a conversation with her (I'd argue he had a really good talk with himself) where she reveals he is to be a bridge between her and the outside world. The book ends on a lighter note as his final trip is much more open and spiritual thanks to his reawakening.

The book then takes a sharp turn with an epilogue that rails against modern society's treatment of our planet. No doubt, we're not doing the environment any favors. He focuses a lot on the oceans, suggesting we're turning them into farms. He challenges people to think globally, but act locally. All things that I agree with. Only, they seem to come out of the blue, are rushed in their delivery, and leave the book ending on a rather bleak note. The book also has a couple of dark remarks about his ex-wife, and one finds out in the acknowledgements that the photographer for the book (the photos are excellent, and take up more space in the book than Les' text/story), Laura Bombier, is Les' new partner/lover. If this had all been up-front and acknowledged, it could have made more sense. If that part of his own journey (as well as more than a line or two about being a father) had been revealed to the reader, it would have added extra depth to the book. As it stands, the book really has strong overtones of being the ramblings of a middle-aged man who's having a mid-life crisis.

So why four stars? First, as mentioned, the photos are brilliant. I wish more had matched up with the text, but they are great. Second, I did enjoy at some level the search for meaning, for a deeper connection with the world (Les would consider me a deep spiritual skeptic). I love his suggestion to just get out and enjoy nature. I was able to do that a lot as a child, and nature always serves to regenerate my mind and emotions, no matter how small the nature is. Third, I agree strongly with his call for action to protect the environment. I just wish it was woven into more of the book so that it had a stronger impact or connection with his journey. Finally, I love any attention/information about the disappearing cultures who are still connected to the Earth. Like Les, I'm not romantic in believing they are perfect humans or cultures, but their connection with their environment can teach us a lot about ourselves and our planet.

Overall then, be aware that this book is really about Les' individual journey more than it is about surviving or even about the cultures he visited. In that sense, it's a bit self-indulgent by the author. But, as the points mentioned above suggest, there is still a lot of really good stuff in this book. If Les was trying to take the readers on his journey, letting them stop and learn themselves as he went, then this book is a success. If that's what you're looking for, than warts and all, I can recommend this book. Four stars.

The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted
by Harry Harrison
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 étoiles sur 5 Good, but not as good as the originals, Nov. 27 2013
I read the original trilogy of Stainless Steel Rat books almost two decades ago. They were highly entertaining stories set in the far future involving an ultra-thief (with a generally decent conscience) who gets caught and recruited to catch other thieves. It takes a thief to catch a thief. Relying on brain more than brawn (along with plenty of high-tech gadgets), the stories were almost like a comedic James Bond. They had a certain sophistication to the character as well as to the books. This is a prequel to that series (the middle of three) and it does a good job serving as temporary brain candy. However, I can't say that I enjoyed it as much as its predecessors, which I have reread a couple of times each. This book deals with a younger Slippery Jim (the SSR) and as such involves less sophistication and a lot more luck than his future self. That made it rather less captivating. So it's still a fun read, and I think fans of the series will still enjoy it. On its own merit, I'd have to give it 4 stars because I did like it. But as part of a series with better options, I'd have to give it 3 stars. Given that I usually round up, for variety's sake I'll round down this time with an overall rating of 3 stars. Good fun, but there are better books in the series.

Conan's Brethren: The Complete Collection
Conan's Brethren: The Complete Collection
by Robert E. Howard
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 27.01

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent coverage of non-Conan REH, Nov. 25 2013
This book is a fabulous overview of a lot of Howard's sword (and sometimes sorcery) fiction. There aren't any Westerns, boxing, or other REH stories here, but there are plenty of tales of daring-do and fighting. The stories include:

Introduction
Solomon Kane
Solomon Kane's Homecoming (verse)
Red Shadows
Skulls in the Stars
Rattle of Bones
The Moon of Skulls
The Hills of the Dead
The Footfalls Within
Wings in the Night

King Kull
The Shadow Kingdom
The Mirrors of Tuzun Thune
The King and the Oak (verse)

Bran Mak Morn & the Picts
The Lost Race
Kings of the Night
The Dark Man
Worms of the Earth

Savages, Swordsmen & Sorcerers (mix of fantasy and historic fiction)
Spear and Fang
Hawks of Outremer
The Gods of Bal-Sagoth
The Sowers of the Thunder
Lord of Samarcand
The Lion of Tiberias
The Shadow of the Vulture
The Valley of the Worm
The Frost King's Daughter
The Garden of Fear
Gates of Empire
Almuric
The Ghost Kings (verse)
Afterword: Kinsmen of Conan by Stephen Jones

There is thus a strong emphasis on three of Howard's more popular characters- Solomon Kane, Kull, and Bran. I think the intention of this volume is to highlight the "fantasy" stories of REH, and in that regard, it does a good job. The book itself is moderately constructed. It's not a classic keeper, but it's sturdy enough. There are a scattering of nice black and white illustrations in the book that are of high quality, but also low enough quantity for them to not really be a factor. The editing is good, as this is generally pure Howard, plus or minus a few typesetting errors. As for the stories themselves, for the most part they highlight the amazing writing talent that REH possessed. So if you don't have most of these stories, of if you want them in a handy (if large) volume for reading, then this is definitely a book you want to check out. Five stars.

The Nuremberg Trials: The Nazis and Their Crimes Against Humanity
The Nuremberg Trials: The Nazis and Their Crimes Against Humanity
Prix : CDN$ 4.50

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The trials of evil, Nov. 25 2013
The Nuremberg Trials are very important for two reasons. First, they clearly exposed the almost unbelievable evil nature of the Nazis. Second, they responded to it with law and civility rather than frontier justice (i.e., simply shooting all the defendants). This book clearly outlines the process of both reasons. We get to read about the defendants (who range from soldiers to doctors to bankers), the prosecutors, and some of the witnesses/evidence brought to bear. As these trials were massive and in-depth, this book can serve as little more than a brief overview of the trials. But it does stir powerful emotions as it captures much of the most sensational evidence from the trial. In particular, the murder of the Jews is still staggering to think of. The scene of parents hugging their children and trying to calm them moments before they would be gunned town has just heart-wrenching to read bout.

It's almost made worse by the banality of the evil. It's not as if most of the defendants were raging psychopaths. Few were. Most were weak-minded men who clambered for the opportunity to get fame and power working for Hitler. There are interviews from the men, from the prison warden, and the prison psychiatrist that further paints a picture of these men. This is valuable for those who are interested in studying the nature of great evil. It often results from, as has been said before, very banal origins. Indeed, here's a chillingly applicable paraphrasing of Goering, "Getting people to support a war is easy. All you have to do is scare them about some potential attack or danger. Damn pacifists and brand them as traitors who are exposing the country to danger. Once you've done that, the people will support your war." Sound like anything heard during the early 21st Century? There is an even more explicit comparison made by a US Jewish soldier who talked about his (aborted) plan to walk in and shoot the people who had gassed his family. He asks why we treat modern combatants as terrorists without rights when after the most brutal war in history we were able to muster the civility to properly try our captured enemies. It is an excellent and poignant question. Which is the second greatest thing about WW2 (the first being that we defeated those who would rule with pure evil). It offers such profound lessons won at such a profound cost.

Nuremberg wasn't just about establishing international laws or even about punishing the guilty. It's a lesson for all future generations about what happened, why it happened, and what needs to be done to prevent it from ever happening again. For that reason, this book makes for an excellent read. I only gave it four stars because it is a relatively brief overview of the trials rather than an in-depth analysis. So as an introduction, it's 5 stars. As an in-depth look, it's only 4 stars. But that doesn't make me hesitate from recommending it ever so strongly as required reading for anyone who gives a darn about freedom, justice, sacrifice, and human goodness.

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