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Commentaires écrits par
Frank J. Konopka (Shamokin, PA)
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Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea
by Robert K. Massie
Edition: Hardcover
26 used & new from CDN$ 6.06

5.0 étoiles sur 5 "Dreadnoughts" - The rest of the story, Dec 22 2003
This very long, but extremely well-written, book begins where Mr. Massie's book "Dreadnought" ends, the initiation of the Great War. This book, of course, does not focus on the land battles per se, but rather on the naval aspect of that conflict. Most reasonably educated people of my generation are fairly familiar with the continental battles on the Western and Eastern fronts, but the sea engagements are very much less well known. We were taught that the Battle of Jutland was, more or less, a British victory, and that was it out at sea, except for the U-boat attacks which eventually led to America's entry into the war on the side of the Aliies. This book goes into great detail concerning all of the sea engagements of the conflict, and gives the reasons behind what happened, both the England and in Imperial Germany. We see the internal conflict within the German high command over the use of subs at sea to attack neutral ships, and the eventual triumph of the hard-liners in that struggle, which did lead to the fall of the German Empire. We meet, once again, our friends Churchill and Jackie Fisher from the previous book, and learn the inside details of the Dardanelles and Gallippoli compaigns. This bok corrects the knowledge imbalance about the Great War battles, and is excellent reading for anyone interested in the whole story of that awful conflict.

Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express
Orphans Preferred: The Twisted Truth and Lasting Legend of the Pony Express
by Christopher Corbett
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Pony Express, Dec 6 2003
Ah, the innocent times of yesteryear, when a company could actually try something in its busines line without worrying about the government interfering with it, or solving all kinds of "red tape" regulations! The Pony Express was a privately-run business that delivered the mail over miles and miles of trackless country, from Missouri to California, for 18 glorious months in 1860 and 1861. Soon, however, the telegraph took away its business, and it went under, quite quickly. Now all we know are the legends built up by countless dime novels and Hollywood pictures, and what we get is quite a distance from the truth. This book strives to give us what realy happened, and along the way we learn a lot about the Express, its founders, some of its riders, and then the legends that built up over the years. There are many interesting and unusual characters in this story, from Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill Cody and others, to Broncho Charlie Miller. The writing keeps our interest, and the pace of the story never flags, nor did the horses and riders of this venerable institution of so long ago.

The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History of Papal Elections
The Conclave: A Sometimes Secret and Occasionally Bloody History of Papal Elections
by Michael Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 23.70
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 "We have a Pope!", Dec 1 2003
This is a short book, which is unfortunate, given the period of time that it covers: all of the papal elections from the beginning of the Church until the present. Because of the timeline, and the books lack of length, everything is really compressed, and the reader only gets the barest sense of what happened during many of these elections, particularly in the very early days. That's not actually a bad thing, for it certainly whets the appetite of the interested reader to delve further into period histories and do some research on his own. I like that in a book, for it encourages scholarship. That being said, this book is well worth reading even for the smattering of information it gives about these "elections". As one who grew up in parochial schools in the '50s, and was taught by the good sisters that the election of the Pope was inspired by the Holy Spirit, this dosage of truth is quite eye opening! Power politics, family connections, money and assorted other things all contributed, at one time or another, to the outcome of an election. Nothing about hanging chads, however, which was a relief! Despite all of it, the Church has seemed to survive its different leaders, for better or worse, down through the last two centuries. Perhaps then, the nuns were right, and the Holy Spirit has been looking after all of us. Read the book, and decide for yourself!

The Tristan Betrayal
The Tristan Betrayal
by Robert Ludlum
Edition: Hardcover
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.40

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Even the dead write thrillers, Nov. 29 2003
Ce commentaire est de: The Tristan Betrayal (Hardcover)
During his lifetime Robert Ludlum was constantly criticized for his style of writing, and that has not stopped after his death. I have always enjoyed his books, knowing full well their shortcomings, because I don't expect them to be great literature, just something to pass the time with and enjoy a good story with exotic or unusual locations. If you don't take your popular fiction seriously, you can do far worse than Ludlum. That being said, I must remark that this latest book appears to be better written than many of Ludlum's solo efforts while he was alive. It moved fairly quickly, with lots of plot twists and excitement. My one quibble was the "surprise" at the end, which was telegraphed so early in the book that it came as no shock at all! Otherwise, it was a good read, and these days what more can anyone ask?

The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from CDN$ 5.91

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Roland and the Wolves, Nov. 29 2003
This is one series that I hope never ends, although I know, because Mr. King has stated, that there are only two more books to go until we reach the Dark Tower. I've read all of Mr. King's works, since I chanced upon his first by accident when it was first published. The books have grown in length, and often they cry out for some editing, but this series could be twice as long, and I would have no complaints about length. It's great to get wrapped up in another type of world, and to see how many of the author's books blend into the story line of the Tower. When a new Gunslinger book comes out, I just open the cover, and go along for the ride with Roland, Eddie, Suzannah, Jake and Oy!

The Return of Little Big Man: A Novel
The Return of Little Big Man: A Novel
by Thomas Berger
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 22.39
21 used & new from CDN$ 9.57

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Welcome back, Jack Crabb!, Nov. 12 2003
I remember quite fondly the movie "Little Big Man" with Dustin Hoffman, so when I discovered that there were further adventures of Jack Crabb I purchased this sequel. It reveals more tales of Jack's adventures with some of the Old West's most colorful characters such as Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill Cody, Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, etc.. It's a book that is never dull, and the characters, both real and invented, mesh seamlessly in the narrative. It's not the West that you might remember from the old cowboy shows on television, but it's certainly a more vibrant place, and definitely more true to life. The book only takes us up to about 1893, so I sincerely hope that ol' Jack has more tales to tell, and that we'll see them in book form shortly.

The Mammoth Book Of Roman Whodunnits
The Mammoth Book Of Roman Whodunnits
by Mike Ashley
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 SPQR, Nov. 4 2003
Being an avid fan of Gordianus the Finder and Marcus Didius Falco, buying this book of short stories concerning mysteries set in the Roman world was a "no-brainer". I assumed that this collection, like all collections of stories, would vary in quality from indifferent to excellent. Thankfully, I was wrong, for all of the stories are top-notch examples of mystery writing at its best, including the one supposedly from 1866 or so, which is a good example of older writing. I'm pleased that Gordianus is in this book, but did miss Falco, although I did make the acquaintance of new friends of mystery whose careeers I will follow in other published works by their authors. If you, like me, enjoy mysteries set during Roman times, and can't get enough of them through novel length works, I highly recommend this wonderful collection. You will not be disappointed!

Paradise Alley
Paradise Alley
by Kevin Baker
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 étoiles sur 5 New York City Draft Riots, 1863, Oct. 27 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Paradise Alley (Paperback)
Anyone who saw the movie "Gangs of New York" will recall the scenes of the draft riots taking place. Of course, in the movie the riots were just a small part of the plot, and you really didn't get the full horror of them, or the human toll they took on the City's inhabitants. This excellent book gives the reader the "up close and personal" view of the Draft Roits, by focusing on the lives of several people caught up in them in one way or another. The writing is profoundly moving, and every scene is poignant, particularly the ones that occur in Ireland during the Great Famine. The characters are all finely drawn, and the research that went into this book is clearly evident on every page. It's a very good way to get your American history lesson about the Riots while absorbing a very human drama of strife and tragedy. This is a book I highly recommend!

The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
The Gospel According to Jesus Christ
by Jose Saramago
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 14.24
43 used & new from CDN$ 1.78

2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A revisionist life of Christ, Oct. 17 2003
This book is probably not for the intensely religious, true believer type, for it paints a very radical view of the life of Christ. From negating the Virgin birth to the real reason for the crucifixion, this book tells us the tale of a very confused individual pushed and pulled by a God with His own selfish agenda for the future. It shows a conflicted man whose entire life is an enigma leading to an ending preordained by a higher power. That being said, it is tremendously well written, with moments of high drama and low comedy. The characters are exceedingly well drawn and the story moves along very well to its tragic conclusion. It turns much of the New Testament on its ear, but does show the power and the future glory of Jesus. There may be a sceptic behind the writing, but there is religion also, and a belief in the ineffable power of God. I'm sure the author may disagree quite violently with me, but he has more faith than he is willing to admit. This book did not shake my own faith or belief, for I recognize that it is fiction, and the author's idea of what happened all that long ago in Israel. He is entitled to his opinion, and I to mine, and that's how intellectual debate lives on.

Coal Cracker Blues
Coal Cracker Blues
by James Stevens
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 21.89
15 used & new from CDN$ 2.79

5.0 étoiles sur 5 Roman a clef about my home town, Oct. 14 2003
Ce commentaire est de: Coal Cracker Blues (Paperback)
I have had the privilege of meeting Mr. Stevens at the Shamokin Public Library, where I am the President of the Library Board, and he is a fine and interesting individual. Likewise his book which, although it takes place in the fictional town of Lenape, is really about Shamokin, where I have lived for the past 27 years. It is quite well written, and a great part of the fun for me was trying to decipher the people and places he disguises. Most of the places were fairly simple, and I was even able to puzzle out a few of the characters, although their fictional personas are not necessarily those of them in reality. As a lawyer, I laughed out loud at the characterization of Myron, who is a gentleman I know quite well, and who is nothing, except in honesty, like his character. Thankfully, the drug and porno problems in Lenape that fuel the plot are absent from Shamokin, but the author needed something upon which to hang his story. He is also well read, I suspect, for like John O'Hara before him, he disguises the town of Pottsville as "Gibbsville". I look forward to reading further works by this new and talented writer, and I hope they will include more stories from the Coal Regions.

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