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review 2018-08-16 09:01
Strategy Strikes Back
Strategy Strikes Back: How Star Wars Explains Modern Military Conflict - Max Brooks

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

A collection of essays relating real-world strategies to examples from the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. As usual with this kind of book, some were good, and some not so good, and there were a few that didn’t do much for me, and/or seemed to repeat themselves (as well as be repeats of others). Still, I found it interesting, and a good starting point for more reading, since many of the essays don’t only rely on Star Wars, but also on actual strategy theories (Clausewitz, modern strategy-related articles, and so on).

Having only watched the movies, and not the animated Clone Wars series (and not having laid my hands on more than a couple of books from the former SW extended universe), I can’t speak for the accuracy (or not) of the essays discussing, well, other aspects of SW. From what I know, though, these essays are fairly accurate in their interpretation and depiction of the chosen excerpts from the movies.

Rating: 3.5 stars. Apart from the couple of points I made above (mostly the redundancy), I think it’s more interesting in terms of Star Wars than in-depth military strategy, and I’d have appreciated seeing more examples of real-world situations contrasted with the SW ones.

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review 2018-08-13 21:55
Witty and Warm
Look Alive Out There: Essays - Sloane Crosley

Sloane Crosley’s latest collection of essays, Look Alive Out There, combines comical anecdotes with some more heartfelt and personal stories.  Crosley uses her sharp wit in describing her adventures as a typical New Yorker dealing with neighbor issues, a journalist stretched beyond her comfort zone in exotic locales, a guest on a popular television show, and a woman reckoning with fertility concerns. Some of the essays are funnier than others, but all might strike a chord of familiarity in those who use humor to cope with insecurity and life’s uncertainties.

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review 2018-07-10 21:40
Bitch Doctrine
Bitch Doctrine - Laurie Penny

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Hm, OK, this is a little difficult to review, because… I pretty much agree with Laurie Penny in general in this series of essays (I can’t tell about their other writrings, as I haven’t read them at present). Most of what I’ve just read here, are things I was already thinking on my own anyway.

Maybe I also feel this hits closer to home because of Laurie’s gender identity. I, too, was born sexually female, but I don’t identify as a woman (nor as a man)… yet society insists on treating me like a woman nonetheless, so no matter what, whatever women in general have to face, I have to face it, too, with the ‘bonus’ of not even fitting in properly.

Political essays notwithstanding, Laurie makes fair points about quite a few things that may not be so apparent at first, but do make sense. For instance, the fact that Siri & al. are given female voices, making them closer to the stereotypical ‘female customer service rep (preferably with low wages, yes I’ve worked that job, too, can you tell?’). I don’t recall ever having heard a male voice used in that context. Except on my GPS. But then, I’ve uploaded Darth Vader’s voice to my GPS for the lulz.

While I usually tend to be moderate, or try to be, all the more on internet where just about anything can degenerate into flame wars… Well, I do understand anger. I do understand calling a spade a spade, because subtlety can only take you so far. Subtlety is also the perfect excuse we can serve to people who don’t want to acknowledge what we have to say, and can then easily pretend that they didn’t get the point, that we weren’t ‘clear enough’, that we ‘can’t express ourselves.’
(Note: I mean ‘we’ as in ‘people’, not necessarily women.)

So, at times, enough with subtlety. Enough with double standards and with a good deal of human beings having to shut up because otherwise they’d be threatening the ‘current order’. If people behave like turds and then feel offended to be called up on that, maybe they shouldn’t behave like turds for starters.

Perhaps it’s even more valid now, being angry and refusing to shut up: because we’re in 2018, and perhaps feeling that our Western societies have progressed much (I can’t speak for other societies, I’ve only lived in Western Europe so far). And there comes the false, lulling sense of safety: ‘surely things have changed by now?’ Yes, they’ve changed, but they could revert back insidiously if enough people start shutting up and be content with the status quo, which in itself is not equal (I completely agree that, once you’ve scratched the layer of varnish, it’s still about white men, most often older men, who keep hoarding power).

The essays here aren’t perfect; they won’t bring you that many new things if you’ve already read a lot on the topics they deal with; and sometimes, I felt like they were dragging in circles. Nevertheless, Laurie’s writing is powerful, and deserves to be read.

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review 2018-06-19 18:47
Friendly advice
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed is a collection of the letters and responses that were printed in the advice column, "Dear Sugar", from The Rumpus. The topics range from love and marriage, cheating, identity (sexual and otherwise), parenting, relationships with parents/children, grief, and abuse. Strayed does not pull her punches and she doesn't apologize for it either. She somewhat softens the blows of her blunt advice and observations with endearments like 'sweet pea' and 'honey bun' but instead of sounding condescending it feels like it could be delivered by a trusted confidant. Lest you think that she gives this advice from a rather standoffish perspective it is often conveyed through her own personal experiences and struggles. When the column was originally written her identity was unknown which makes the intimacy and the rawness of the letter writers and her response to them such a unique and wonderful thing. If you've ever experienced turmoil in any area of your life (and you'd have to because that's just a natural part of things) then reading such real, honest advice delivered with love and respect is a welcome breath of fresh air. I laughed, cried, and goggled with incredulity while reading this book. It's an excellent palate cleanser if you're in a book reading rut or a great way to kick start your summer reading adventure. ;-) 10/10

 

The inner flap contains some great quotes. [Source: Cook, Wine, & Thinker!]

 

What's Up Next: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Condoleezza Rice: A memoir of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me by Condoleezza Rice

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-06-15 21:58
Difficult, but very well worth the read. Read in small does to appreciate each essay more fully.
Feel Free: Essays - Zadie Smith

Feel Free, Zadie Smith, author; Nikki Amuka-Bird, narrator

To be honest, I wanted to stop listening to this book on many occasions because, at times, it was over my head. However, the spectacular quality of the narrator’s reading voice and accent coupled with the magnificent prose of the author kept making me return, even when I could not quite understand the essay, because I could always understand the narrator’s interpretation, and therefore, get some message from the piece.

This admittedly left-leaning author admits that she wrote these essays during the time of Obama’s reign. She adores him and views Trump as a harbinger of disaster. Now, a year and a half into his Presidency, I do not know if her view has changed, but as a committed Liberal, I doubt it. Whether or not it has changed, had no bearing on my appreciation of her essays. I found, though, that she introduces race, and her own view of it, very often. During Obama’s term, I believe the public became more willing to hear alternate views, even when they conflicted with their own, opening a window that seemed, previously, to be kept purposely opaque.

Although I did not find this discussed in reviews, which surprised me, her analysis of race and racial issues, especially as someone who is biracial, is far different than my own, as a white person, on many levels, which leads me to believe that the divide between the the races when interpreting life situations, is far broader and wider than generally understood. As a person of the Jewish faith, as well, I can understand suspicion, fear and even animosity toward some, but I don’t find the negative perceptions and perhaps grudges that are held against some who represent past heinous behavior, as pervasive in my life, as it seemed to come across with regard to her perceptions in her life and the life of others of color. Still, I found many of her arguments had merit and were worthy of further thought and introspection. Overall, I found, for me, the point is to get each party to come to the middle, to try and understand the divide and bridge the gap. I am hoping that I will better understand her views and be able to reconcile them with my own.

Smith writes on a variety of topics. I don’t even pretend to understand all of her ideas or her philosophy or even her selection of subject matter, at times, but I admired the power of her words, so expressive and analytical were they. The words just seemed to naturally come forth from this author’s hand, in spite of the fact that she disparages her lack of education and laments the fact that so many others with far greater degrees have achieved far less than she has. Yet, so many of the better educated can’t seem to put two intelligent words together to make a sentence that paints any image and she paints masterpieces with her vocabulary.

Some of the topics she discusses are libraries and what they represent to her and the world, socialism and how it served her needs when she was growing up without having everything she wanted or needed, climate change and the perception of some she views as less than bright, the insect world and our perception of it. She analyzes films and comedy skits, art and artists, different forms of music and composers, writers and their intentions, dancers and their identities, realism vs. idealism, the gap that exists between classes, the current immigration policy compared with how it used to be, relationships in families and with friends, suicides, illness, Brexit, Comedy Central and the stars it created, compassion, the internet and its pitfalls, being biracial in a white world, the injustice of the justice system and more.

Her book sometimes reads like a who’s who with so many names dropped, some familiar, some less so, like Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Philip Roth, Jay Z, Beyonce, Sorkin, Zuckerberg, Schopenhauer, Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, Hurston, Nabokov, Emmett Till, Baryshnikov, Marquez, Astaire, Bojangles, Kelly, Nureyev, Prince, Murdock, Nigel Farage, and Michael Jackson, to name just some of the myriad personalities that appear in her essays and run the gamut of subject matter. She dissects each subject with a fine tooth comb and makes the reader really think about her message.

At one point, I felt like I was part of the narrative. She brought up the Marcy Housing Project, in Brooklyn, where Jay Z grew up, because as a young teacher, of 20 years, when I thought I could change the world and make it a better place, I taught the children that lived there. It was not an easy lifestyle to survive or a very nice place to live, even decades ago.

There is something for everyone in this book, but not everyone will be able to understand all of the essays. Truthfully, I am not a genius, but I consider myself fairly well educated, and I had trouble deciphering some. That is why I highly recommend it in print version, so it can be read in small doses and delved into more deeply. Each essay imparts an important message. The author’s choice of subject matter, diverse as it is, is very intriguing; the reader will be inspired and encouraged to seek more information to better understand Zadie Smith’s philosophy on each subject.

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