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review 2017-09-06 02:29
Podcast #68 is up!
Beyond the Arab Cold War: The International History of the Yemen Civil War, 1962-68 - Asher Orkaby

My sixty-eighth podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Asher Orkaby about his new history of the role of international powers in the North Yemen Civil War. Enjoy!

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review 2017-01-21 06:02
The struggle for hearts and minds
Cinematic Cold War: The American and Soviet Struggle for Hearts and Minds - Tony Shaw,Denise J. Younglood

In most histories of the era the Cold War is portrayed as a struggle of superpowers using spies and proxy wars to check the advance of their foe. Yet as Tony Shaw and Denise Youngblood point out in this book, the United States and Soviet Union also waged though the cultural medium of movies. Through a selection of key films from throughout the period they demonstrate the evolution of the conflict, from the villainization of the other side during in its early years to the softer effort to champion values during the 1960s and 1970s, to the harsh tone of the revived Cold War in the 1980s and the effective concession of the argument by the Soviets at the end of the decade. The authors do a good job of analyzing the movies and situating them within the respective film industries of the two countries, and the films they select to make their arguments contain some surprising choices (such as Roman Holiday and Bananas for "Cold War films") that make for sometimes provocative interpretations, though it is interesting to speculate how their conclusions might have been different had they focused on other flicks. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating comparative study that demonstrates the manifold ways in which the Americans and Soviets clashed for dominance.

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review 2017-01-12 18:17
Best and Worst Bike Trip Ever
The Cyclist Who Went Out in the Cold: Adventures Riding the Iron Curtain - Tim Moore

Cycling insanity through snow, ice, angry villagers, drunken drivers, award worthy pot holes, language failures, dark ruins, mad dogs, hunger and extreme physical exhaustion. Insane it might have been, but it was the best non trip I’ve taken. The historical knowledge and visions were better than any history class I’ve attended. The reality of the aftermath of the communist cold war is not something I had ever even thought of before. The best part, I didn't get a sore bum riding the trail.

This was my first Tim More adventure and it will not be my last. This was a dark trip through history, there is little light to be found in that history. Mr Moore brought some lightness with his brisk humor and honesty. His observations are not something I think I would notice on a trip, I enjoyed his views very much. I would suggest reading this while googling the places to see the landscape he traveled it is amazing,

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review 2016-07-01 16:41
Well, you can't say it's not informative
John le Carre: The Biography - Adam Sisman

If the goal of a biography is to both inform the reader about their subject (in this case an author) and encourage them to read their subject's entire body of works then John le Carré: The Biography by Adam Sisman accomplished that goal. If you're looking for a fast-paced thrill ride then you're paging up the wrong book (did I take that metaphor too far?). Firstly, this is one of those weird occasions where the biographer's subject is still living. (I just checked and the last biography I read was I Am Scout back in May 2014 and it was also about a living (at the time) subject.) It is abundantly obvious that Sisman did his homework which is due in large part because he had the cooperation of the man himself. I must first inform you that John le Carré is not the author's true name. He is actually David Cornwell, an Englishman and former member of MI5 and MI6. (This isn't a spoiler as apparently it's a well-known fact and I'm just slow on the uptake.) A large part of Cornwell's life had been shrouded in mystery because of his prior career but in truth it was just a minor aspect of what made him into the author that he has become. Sisman explores at length Cornwell's family life and his upbringing and how that came to mold his character (and the characters in his novels). In particular, David's relationship with his father is harked upon multiple times in both Sisman's biography and in the works of le Carré. Honestly, a chronological timeline of all of Ronnie's movements wouldn't have gone amiss as that man was all over the place. I found the pacing of this book extremely slow and I felt it necessary to take frequent breaks so that I wasn't bogged down by the facts (it felt at times like I was being set up for a quiz on dates which I always fail). My overall feeling was that the book was very dry and as a result I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I had hoped I would. :-/ However, it served the purpose of instructing me on the topic of the author known as John le Carré so there's that. So I guess I'll give it a solid 4/10 because I did find it somewhat disappointing.


I'm definitely going to check out more of John le Carré's books though. In fact, I have a copy of Smiley's People that's been lurking for entirely too long on my shelves...

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-04-10 09:00
A Long, Cold Winter
A Long, Cold Winter - Lindsay Smith,Max Gladstone

[I received a copy of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

Not exactly a novel, as it's the first episode of a serials, containing chapters 1 to 3. Which makes it a bit frustrating, as in, obviously, at some point one wants to know how it goes next. Fortunately, a lot of episodes are already out at serialbox.com

It introduces the major, or at least some of the major players (there may always be new ones in later chapters, after all) of a Cold War fought behind the Iron Curtain, but also behind other front lines, ones that not necessarily follow the former... Which makes, and is hopefully going to make, interesting conundrums as far as the characters are concerned: two people may be on the USSR side as far as their mundane lives go, but one is fighting for the Ice while the other is fighting for the Fire when it comes to magic. This cannot go well, can it?

On the side of Ice, and incidentally of the KGB, Tanya and Nadia are seeking a Prague student whose affinity for magic makes her a target for the Fire. Meanwhile, Gabe, a CIA agent, is trying to do his job while struggling with a little magical problem of his own, that may or may not demand he joins Ice in the end (it'd be that or dying, I suppose). The Fire players are honing their weapons, and independent players are also introduced—not everyone wants to join one side, but can they really remain independent, or will they be terminated at some point?

This first installment was sometimes a bit rough on the edges (some parts veered on mixing points of view—though the Kindle formatting didn't help in that regard, and it was a bit less problematic in the PDF I got). However, as far as introducing characters and setting, this was definitely intriguing, and I'm of a mind to get all the episodes once they're out. Hopefully in a couple of weeks?

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