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review 2017-01-31 15:49
A good overview of the "wonder weapons"
Germany's Secret Weapons of World War II - Roger Ford

One of the more popular subjects among World War II aficionados is that of the Wunderwaffen, the exotic weaponry that the Germans developed over the course of the war. Though these advanced and at times even revolutionary munitions were developed too late to win the war for Germany (and it is arguable whether they could have even if they had been introduced sooner), they shaped the evolution of weapons and warfare right down to the present day.

 

Roger Ford's book is not a comprehensive examination of these weapons. What he does instead is examine German wartime weapons development in a number of categories, from jet aircraft and missile technology to tanks and submarines. In each he focuses primarily upon the designs that were pursued to the prototype or early production stage, explaining how they were developed that the obstacles that blocked or delayed their introduction to service. In doing so, he helps to explain the technological and bureaucratic challenges that inhibited their use, as well as the flamboyant nature of some of the weapons (such as the massive "Schwere Gustav" cannon) that that were so impractical as to be wasteful curiosities.

 

Well argued and supported by numerous illustrations, Ford's book is is an excellent resource for anyone interested in learning more about Germany's secret weapons. His analysis of the weapons' value and their influence on postwar development is particularly good, and while at times he can be a little opinionated (he is really contemptuous of the Tiger tank), its blatantness is actually a plus, as it helps to identify more clearly where his biases lay. Overall, this is a good book and one that should be read by anyone seeking to understand both Germany's "wonder weapons" and their legacy for modern warfare.

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review 2017-01-22 14:40
Recent Non-Fiction Reads
Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany - Norman Ohler
Just Mercy - Bryan Stevenson
So You've Been Publicly Shamed - Jon Ronson

Blitzed:

A highly informative and gripping read about Nazi Germany and the significance of drugs during World War II. Drugs didn´t fit in the idealogy of the Nazis, but despite banning them, one substance with a highly addictive potential became the drug of the people: methamphetine. The sheer possibilities of a drug, which would keep the troops awake for days on end, were just to promising to pass up on and it didn´t stop with the troops: the methamphetin chocolate for the wifes at home really made me shook my head.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the chapter about Hitler and his personal physician Theo Morrell, who pumped the Führer full of various drugs. Everyone ,who ever wanted to know how much a human body can endure, should read this chapter, it´s unbelievable.

4,5 stars.

 

Just Mercy:

Bryan Stevenson is an inspiring personality. Being the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, an institution which provides helps for prisoners, who have been wrongly convicted of crimes or didn´t get a fair trail in the first place, he gives hope to the hopeless.

Stevenson tells of different people he has helped throughout his work with the initiative, the main narrative being about Walter McMillian, a black man who has been wrongly accused of murdering a white woman, eventhough it is clear from the beginning that Walter couldn´t have done it.

This book will make you feel angry and heartbroken. Angry because of the racial bias and the injustice that gets inflicted on these people. Heartbroken, because Stevenson describes his clients in a compassionate way so that you see them for what they are: Human beings with hopes, dreams, feelings and the ability to redeem themselves. A highly recommended read.

5 Stars 

 

So You´ve Been Publicly Shamed:

To be honest, I´m scared of social media. And this book didn´t help to overcome my anxieties. Jon Ronson takes a hard look at the phenomenon of public shaming. One false tweet on Twitter, a disrespectful post on facebook, making things up in a non-fiction book you are writing ... all these things could lead you to being publicly shamed.

Ronson has interviewed a variety of public shaming victims and some of these stories really made my stomach turn (I admit it, I cannot feel compassion for the dentist, who has butchered the lion). I missed, however, the perspective of a person, who participated in the actual public shaming of a person (for example Justine Sacco). Why does someone participate in an act of public shaming? Do they feel sorry for said person, when they are getting death threads? Do they feel responsible for destroying a life? Or are they perfectly okay with it because they feel safe behind the wall of anonymity in the internet? 

I sorely missed this perspective, but nonetheless I really enjoyed listening to this book (Ronson himself narrates it and he is excellent).

4 Stars

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review 2017-01-15 02:06
Smooth Operator
Guarding Mr. Fine - HelenKay Dimon

This is book # 3 in the Tough Love series.  This book can be read as a standalone novel.  The series is actually fast paced and amazing.  For reader enjoyment and understanding, I recommend reading these in order.

 

Rick and Seth have worked together before.  Only one of them knows it.  Now they are in Germany trying to keep a murderer from striking again.

 

Seth tries hard to never mix business with pleasure.  Guarding a sexy man can be done with keeping his hands to himself.  Right?

 

This was a great installment to the series.  Has a very good pace and the characters are very real.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about these two.  I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!

 

 

***This ARC copy was given by Netgalley and its publisher in exchange for an honest review only.

 

 

 

 

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review 2017-01-12 12:05
Music, mystery, beautiful writing and a story that proves reality is weirder than fiction
Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story In Music - Jessica Duchen

I’m writing this review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. I was given an ARC copy of this book and I voluntarily chose to review it.

I enjoy reading in a variety of genres but have recently realised that I really enjoy historical fiction, as it offers me both, great stories and a background that’s interesting in its own right and that often offers me insight into eras and situations I know little about.

When I read the description of this novel I thought it sounded very different to what I usually read, but fascinating at the same time. A mystery surrounding a piece of music (a violin concerto) by a famous composer (Robert Schuman) that has been hidden for a long time. I love music but I’m not a deep connoisseur, and I didn’t realise when I read about the novel that the story was based on facts (it follows quite closely the events that took place in the 1930s, involving Hungarian (later nationalised British) violinist Jelly d’Arányi, and a concert Schuman wrote whilst already interned in an asylum) and included an element of the paranormal. It’s one of those cases when reality upstages fiction.

Despite the incredible story, that’s fascinating in its own right, Jessica Duchen does a great job of bringing all the characters to life. The story is told in the third person mostly from Jelly’s point of view, although later in the book we also get to hear about Ully, a character that although not based on a real person brings much to the equation, as it offers us a German perspective on the story. Jelly, who lives with her sister, brother-in-law, niece and their dog, despite her many admirers and some failed romances, is single and dedicated heart and soul to her music. I easily identified with Jelly, although our vocations and personal circumstances are very different, but I appreciated her dedication and love for music and for her family, her horror at the social and historical circumstances she was living through, her difficulties fitting in, as a foreigner living abroad, and her awareness of the challenges and limitations she was facing due to her age. There are very touching moments, for example when Jelly goes to visit her secretary and friend at the hospital and gives an impromptu concert there, when she organises a tour of concerts in cathedrals, free for everybody, not matter their social class, to collect funds for the poor, and when she becomes plagued by self-doubt, due to her personal circumstances and to her failing health. Jelly is not perfect, and she appears naïve at times, showing little understanding of issues like race or politics, limited insight into her own beliefs about the spirit world, her feelings and hesitating about what to do in her personal life, but she is a credible and passionate human being, and she gets to confront many of her fears by the end of the book.

Apart from the gripping story and the background behind the discovery of the concert, there is the historical context of the 1930s. As Schuman was a German composer, somehow it became a matter of national importance to recover the concert and claim it as a German work. The changes in Germany, the atmosphere of menace and threat, the rise of dangerous nationalism, and how that was also reflected in Britain, where the sisters lived, was well reflected and built into the book, especially when, at first sight, it seems to be only marginally relevant to the central mystery. As several characters observe in the novel, a piece of music is not ‘just a piece of music’ any longer and everything becomes vested with particular significance, thanks to manipulation and propaganda, no matter what the original intention of the composer might have been. I suspect most people who read this book won’t be able to resist comparing the historical situation then to our current times and worry.

This novel is a joy to read, one of these cases when the story and the writing style are perfectly matched and one can almost hear the music flowing from the pages. A wonderful novel that I recommend to anybody interested in the period and in good writing. I’ll be closely watching this author in the future.

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review 2017-01-10 12:59
The Twelve Tasks of the Festive Season -- Bonus Entry
Der Weltensammler - Ilija Trojanow
Collector of Worlds, the - Ilija Trojanow

I blacked out my card on Dec. 19 using the "activity" entry for the Kwanzaa square, but since thereafter I did read a book set (partially) in Africa, too, here's my "bonus entry" post ... sorry for reporting in belatedly; blame it on BookLikes posting issues and a surfeit of things going on all at the same time in my life at present. :(

 

Not that it still seems to matter greatly to begin with, alas ... (sigh).

 

Der Weltensammler (The Collector of Worlds) is a novelized biography of 19th century polymath and explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton, who traveled widely in India, the Middle East and Africa, visiting Mecca (disguised as an Arab) and seeking -- partially successfully, though he didn't know it -- the source of the Nile (he did make it to Lake Victoria, but failed to confirm that the Nile actually does originate from there).  He is best remembered today for his translation of The 1001 Nights.

 

Interesting, though quite obviously largely fictitious insights into a fascinating life, and a voyage back through time to the Orient, Africa, and British Empire of the 19th century.

 

Snow Globes: Reads
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