Sunday, April 27, 2014

Review: Spies, Patriots, and Traitors: American Intelligence During the Revolutionary War by Kenneth A. Daigler

Synopsis: Students and enthusiasts of American history are familiar with the Revolutionary War spies Nathan Hale and Benedict Arnold, but few studies have closely examined the wider intelligence efforts that enabled the colonies to gain their independence. Spies, Patriots, and Traitors provides readers with a fascinating, well-documented, and highly readable account of American intelligence activities during the era of the Revolutionary War, from 1765 to 1783, while describing the intelligence sources and methods used and how our Founding Fathers learned and practiced their intelligence role. The author, a retired CIA officer, provides insights into these events from an intelligence professional's perspective, highlighting the tradecraft of intelligence collection, counterintelligence, and covert actions and relating how many of the principles of the era's intelligence practice are still relevant today. Daigler reveals the intelligence activities of famous personalities such as Samuel Adams, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Nathan Hale, John Jay, and Benedict Arnold, as well as many less well-known figures. He examines the important role of intelligence in key theaters of military operations, such as Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and in General Nathanael Greene's campaign in South Carolina; the role of African Americans in the era's intelligence activities; undertakings of networks such as the Culper Ring; and intelligence efforts and paramilitary actions conducted abroad. Spies, Patriots, and Traitors adds a new dimension to our understanding of the American Revolution. The book's scrutiny of the tradecraft and management of Revolutionary War intelligence activities will be of interest to students, scholars, intelligence professionals, and anyone who wants to learn more about this fascinating era of American history. (from the online description)

Review: Daigler's book is full of interesting facts, exciting stories and amusing tidbits all presented through lively prose. Well-researched and well-organized, Daigler presents the history of spies and intelligence gathering during the Revolution with the accuracy of a historian and the assessment of someone practiced in the field of espionage. This gives this history book an unusual, but much welcome, lightness. So many historians write dull book that drag on. Not this one. Daigler did an excellent job of presenting this fascinating subject in easy to read (but not dumb-down) prose that even an amateur history buff will understand. However, this book would work well for a classroom textbook and would make a fine addition to professional historians bookshelf. I highly recommend for anyone interested in the history of the America and the American Revolution.

NOTE: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-62616-050-7
Date Finished: 4-25-2014
Pages: 310

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Complete Wilderness Training Manual by Hugh McManners

Synopsis:The official Boy Scouts of America guide to mastering outdoor skills and staying alive in challenging environments, Complete Wilderness Training Manual enables everyone-expert and novice alike-to answer the call of the wild with confidence. -Step-by-step instructions and clear photographs and artwork explain the key principles of survival -Understand how to find food and water, construct an emergency shelter, and safely navigate all kinds of hostile terrain -Learn to expect the unexpected and be prepared for any situation (from the online description"

Review: I purchased this to add to my box of emergency supplies. While it contains useful information, over all, this is not helpful. It assumes too much prior knowledge on the mechanics of survival - like how to actually use a knife or tie knots. The bit about edible versus inedible plants was useless. There wasn't enough information to actually determine what one could or couldn't eat. The illustrations and such were good, but they often skipped steps or assumed the reader already knew how to get from A to B. I will still add this book to the box, but I will need to purchase something else to be supplement as this one is not going as helpful as I wanted.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Date Finished: 4-19-2014
Pages: 192

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

Synopsis: The year is 2001, and cosmonauts uncover a mysterious monolith that has been buried on the Moon for at least three million years. To their astonishment, the monolith releases an equally mysterious pulse-a kind of signal-in the direction of Saturn after it is unearthed. Whether alarm or communication, the human race must know what the signal is-and who it was intended for. The Discovery and its crew, assisted by the highly advanced HAL 9000 computer system, sets out to investigate. But as the crew draws closer to their rendezvous with a mysterious and ancient alien civilization, they realize that the greatest dangers they face come from within the spacecraft itself. HAL proves a dangerous traveling companion, and the crew must outwit him to survive.  (from the online description)

Review: I have never seen the movie on which this book is based. I think I need too. Most of the book was interesting, and the part with HAL was creepy. But the end - I have no idea what happened. The dude became a star child? What the....? Esoteric Sci-fi, while lauded as ground-breaking and "asking the big questions" about humanity, space, aliens and our purpose in life, often leaves me confused and slightly irritated. If the average person can't understand your point, then you have failed in reaching the people most in need of being reached. I'll watch the movie and see if it helps. I'll read the next 3 novels because it's a set and I like things to be tidy. But I don't have much hope for it to actually make sense.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None (Although the movie it the book is based on won several awards)

ISBN: 0-453-00269-2
Date Published: 1968
Date Finished: 4-13-2014
Pages: 221

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: Comic Epitaphs: From the Very Best Old Graveyards ed. by Peter Pauper Press

Synopsis: A silly collection of  funny things from gravestones. Some are true and so are just urban legends.

Review: A quick, light little read with a few loud chuckles. Death, of course, is not a silly thing, but it can be made easier to bare by a joke or two. This book is filled with all the best grave stone jokes. This little volume is good for a quick laugh.

Bookmark: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: None
Date Published: 1957
Date Finished: 4-12-2014
Pages: 61

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: Sad Underwear and Other Complications by Judith Viorst

Synopsis: Only Judith Viorst, with the perfect pitch for the trials of childhood that has made her Alexander Books modern classics, could create an ode to melancholy unmentionables. But the title poem is just one of the many pleasures in this collection, which bursts with wit and understanding - and the occasional poignant note. (from the back of the book)

Review: From the title, I expected this collection of children's poems to be silly and goofy and all together light. I was wrong. Viorst has a knack for mixing the silly and profound. At least several times, I had to take a breath at the end of a poem to catch my heart up to my mind. While there is a goofy poem or two, most has a depth rare to see in Children's verse. This is an exquisite collection of poems, but not for young children. I would recommend for elementary age or older, at least, and it should be read with an adult who can answer questions.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-689-83376-8
Date Finished: 4-12-2014
Pages: 78

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Review: The World 1000 Best Poems ed. by Berton Braley (Part I)

For these books, I am going to do brief reviews to simple acknowledge my progress through the 10 volume set. I will do a complete review at the end. The idea is to read the entire set during April - but considering my school load, that is unlikely to happen.

I have read Volume I and II, and so far, I am pleased with this collection. I've discovered a new poet that I didn't know existed (William Cullen Bryant) - and I've enjoyed the diversity of Braley inclusions.

I anticipate enjoying the collection further.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ramble: A Month of Poetry

April is National Poetry Month. This is rather fortuitous as I recently purchased a lovely set of poetry books published in 1929.

The Husband and I were rambling through a church rummage sale - I always stop. They have the best old theology books - and found a bundle of small blue books with charming gold gilt spelling The World 1000 Best Poems. For $3, I could hardly pass it up! But when I got home, I realize the set contained ten volumes - but I was missing Volume 5!

I did not despair. I had the internet. Within a week, I had located and purchased a perfectly matched copy of Volume 5.

I began reading the first volume a few nights ago, and I'm immensely pleased. The editor of the book, one Berton Braley, set out to gather what he thought were the most important poems in history. Not all are poetry - some are songs and chants, some are famous and others, not so much. It's a delightful collection.

I've finished the first volume and hope to have several more finished by the end of April. I think this is a fine way to celebrate National Poetry Month, yes?

A fine set, in gold and blue

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: The Aboliton of Man by C.S. Lewis

Synopsis: "In Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis sets out to persuade his audience of the important and relevance of universal values such as courage and honor in contemporary society. Both astonishing and prophetic, this book is one of the most debated of Lewis' extraordinary works." (from the back of the book)

Review: This is my second time reading this work. But since I can't recall the first time, it doesn't count. A friend and I read this together and discussed it in the end. I was thankful for this as Lewis, while precise and simple in his writing, is often expounding on large and complex ideas. I needed another mind to sort through it with me.
I agree with most of what Lewis says in this book. The idea that one can teach children to be responsible human with the basic values is absurd. I think, sadly, Lewis ideas, while sound, will never be accepted or embraced in our modern society. It's too archaic and therefore, condemn by the very people it would most benefit.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-06-065294-2
Date Finished: 3-31-2014
Pages: 111