Archive for the ‘What I’ve Read’ Category

Book Review: Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War


Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by [Karl Marlantes]

Matterhorn wasn’t quite up to my expectations. It seems a fairly accurate portrayal of Marine infantrymen in Vietnam, but it was long–a bit too long. And it became a bit repetitive. Lt. Mellas was an okay hero. He certainly “grew” during the story, but his early yearning to seek out battlefield glory put me off. At the end, having a fake fragging before the final real one diluted the ending of the story for me. (3 of 5 Stars)

Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King–The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea

April 16, 2021 Leave a comment


The Admirals: Nimitz, Halsey, Leahy, and King--The Five-Star Admirals Who Won the War at Sea by [Walter R. Borneman]

Admiral Earnest T. King Elementary School is only two blocks from my building in Lorain, Ohio—where he was born and raised. And while I had heard of “Bull” Halsey and Chester Nimitz, Admirals King and Leahy were pretty much mysteries. I really didn’t know much about any of them, especially not like Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, and Patton. I’ve read bios of all the Generals, but nothing about the Admirals.
So, Walter Borneman’s book leads us through their lives prior to entry into the Naval Academy, their careers, World War II commands, and their deaths. The best part of the book is how he contrasts their very different individual personalities, as well as their interactions with other Admirals and Generals, particularly Douglas MacArthur. As much as I’ve read about World War II and all the sea battles in the Pacific, this book filled in a huge history hole in my understanding of the leadership on the Navy side of things. (5 of 5 Stars)

Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: The Sins of the Fathers

March 25, 2021 Leave a comment


The Sins of the Fathers (Matthew Scudder Mysteries Book 1) by [Lawrence Block]

They’re all damaged goods—the Private Investigators, that is, aren’t they?  Matthew Scudder’s cross to bear is as tragic as it was unavoidably accidental. So, now he’s a hard-drinking  former NYC detective who makes ends meet by doing “favors” for folks who show their appreciation with “gifts,” so he can avoid the whole official P.I. stereotype.  In this case, it’s a father trying to make sense of his daughter’s death and the suicide of the boy who lived with her and brutally murdered her.  As Scudder methodically unravels the mysteries of the “why” for the father, he discovers the open-and-shut case holds other mysteries that he judicially deals with in the end.  A good, gritty noir story that doesn’t follow the usual paths. (4 of 5 Stars)
Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: You’re Doing Great

February 19, 2021 Leave a comment

You're Doing Great!: And Other Reasons to Stay Alive by [Tom Papa]

Tom Papa’s book reads just like he sounds. Almost as if it’s one of his stand-up routines—which some parts feel like at times. And that’s okay. He’s just riffing on the murky, underside of stuff we know we shouldn’t do but, you know, we do it anyway…with relish: 7-Eleven snacks, Oscar Peterson, baking and eating bread, dogs, coffee, DNA, iPhones, Doritos, red wine, and, of course, more eating. And he’s right, we are doing great. (4 of 5 Stars)



Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: The First Deadly Sin

February 12, 2021 Leave a comment

The First Deadly Sin (The Edward X. Delaney Series Book 1) by [Lawrence Sanders]

The First Deadly Sin…has…a…long…slow…start… Sanders certainly fills it with exposition needed later and Daniel Blank is definitely a creepy enough serial killer. The novel begins to pick up with Captain Delaney’s shadow investigation into the case, using unofficial amateur sources. Since this is a Columbo-type tale where we know the evil-doer from the beginning, the narrative definitely works well having the perspective shift back and forth between Delaney and Blank. (4 of 5 Stars)



Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: The Puzzle Palace

February 5, 2021 Leave a comment

The Puzzle Palace: A Report on NSA, America's Most Secret Agency by [James Bamford]

The Puzzle Palace suffers because it is locked in time. First published in 1984, it was no doubt a revelatory expose of the NSA, following on the Church Commission reports, but it really pales compared to what is happening today. The book does a great job of laying out the history of the organization going back to the work of original cryptologist, Herbert Yardley, in the early Twentieth Century, following through the Agency’s official establishment by President Truman in 1952, and the years of growth and public deception, as its employees happily eavesdropped on telegrams, telexes, and phone calls from all over the world. The narrative bogs down quite a bit with sections that just seem to list name after name after name of people who occupied this office or that in an alphabet soup of organizations. It’s not James Bamford’s fault, but what is really needed is a Puzzle Palace 2.0, which picks up on the government funding of Google in the 1990s and follows through the establishment of the 1.5 million square foot NSA Data Center in Utah. (4 of 5 Stars)


Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: Ready Player One

January 29, 2021 Leave a comment

Ready Player One by [Ernest Cline]

I went back and forth with this one. For the Gen-X folks, all of the Eighties pop culture references were no doubt fun. Not being a huge John Hughes fanatic, it was okay for me. The plot was basically Star Wars IV (the very first one): hard-scrabble young rebels (gunters) taking on the evil empire (Innovative Online Industries) for control of the Universe (OASIS—”the globally networked virtual reality most of humanity used on a daily basis”) where all of the action is fought. And, yeah, (spoiler alert) the Luke Skywalker hero gets the girl—in the real world. I’ll put 4-stars on Goodreads and LibraryThing, but here I’m splitting the difference.  (3½ of 5 Stars)


Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: The Day That Never Comes

January 22, 2021 Leave a comment
The Day That Never Comes (The Dublin Trilogy Book 2) by [Caimh McDonnell]
There is always trepidation when you start the sequel to a great first novel, A Man with One of Those Faces, book 1 of a 4-part “trilogy.” But Caimh McDonnell definitely pulls it off. Paul and Bridget are back, running a private investigation firm that is swirling the drain. Of course, it doesn’t help that they’re not speaking to one another. Bunny is strangely M.I.A., but he’s been replaced with Maggie, an incorrigible police dog. Great characters and loads of laughs along the way. Now on to Part 3. (5 of 5 Stars)


Categories: What I've Read

Book Review: This Kind of War

January 15, 2021 Leave a comment
Now, I can find Korea on the map, but not much more. And here we have a book about the Korean War without any maps —or photos or graphic illustrations—whatsoever (in the Kindle version anyway), which made understanding the narrative of the battles difficult.  Sometimes Fehrenbach gets lost in the “fog of war” as he writes quite a bit about foxhole-level fighting. While important, it distracted from getting the big picture of the war.  Some of the author’s opinions were insightful and some left me scratching my head…again to the detriment of understanding history. (3 of 5 Stars)


Categories: What I've Read

Book Reviews in Review: 2020

January 8, 2021 Leave a comment

Here are my favorite five of the books I reviewed in 2020:

It seems pretty simple, but I’m kind of a simple guy:
  1. Acknowledge the “Resistance” and fight it: every day, all the time, without fail.
  2. Be a professional…and all that it means.
  3. Honor the sacred mystery of the creative process — whether it is a muse, an angel  or gravity.
And yet in all the writers groups in all the world, there are so, so, so many books that have yet to be written. I wonder why…
You can fight it if you want, but Pressfield has laid it all out pretty clearly. 
Like I said, I’m a simple guy. (5 of 5 Stars)
“Why don’t I write a children’s story about how people really are, about how people actually behave?” asked the author of Lord of the Flies.
William Golding’s chronicle of the descent of Ralph, Jack and their minions into tribalism and savagery is only so horrific because deep down—without the guardrails of civilization—we know that it is true.
And here and now, watching the unrelenting rage of young protesters as they attack the icons and foundations of society, it gives me pause to wonder what kind of islands those “safe spaces” of academia actually are. (5 of 5 Stars)

The most famous American fighter pilot I never heard of–not Rickenbacker, Bong, Boyington, Yeager, McConnell, Olds–but the one who re-rewrote the book on tactics; developed the engineering models that led to the F-15, F-16, F-18 & the A-10; and he was the one who developed the OODA Loop (Observe-Orient-Decide-Act)–not some psychologist, but a damned fighter pilot. Probably not much of a surprise that he was hated by the guys with stars on their shoulders. Good. Ornery guys getting their way can be prickly–especially when they are right. (5 of 5 Stars)

Link to Boyd on Amazon (Paid Link)

You gotta love it when the whole Animal House Delta Tau Chi vs “The Establishment”  thing works out in real life again! Give a lowly Lt. Commander 6 months and spare change to fix the whole air warfare mess over North Vietnam and what do you get?  Topgun and a 22:1 U.S. Navy kill ratio.  A great saga by Dan Pederson of his Naval Aviation career.  My favorite part was the “Fight Club” in Whiskey 291 off San Clemente Island.  Compare this story to Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War. Definitely a “Golden Era of Jet Aviation.” (5 of 5 Stars)

Hmmm…and what would you have a couple of Navy SEALs write about in a book on leadership? The Ramadi war stories are to the point and engaging. Real world stuff there.  Principals learned and applications to business situations might seem a bit repetitive, but it’s classic PowerPoint format:   Tell me what you are going to tell me; Tell me; Summarize what I just told you. Remember, it is a business book.

As for those who claim the information is simply what everybody already knows about:  “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense.” ~Frank Lloyd Wright   (4 of 5 Stars)



Categories: What I've Read
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