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review 2018-10-28 12:00
A must have for scholars, researches, and WWI enthusiasts.
The Great War Illustrated 1918 - William Langford,Jack Holroyd

Thanks to Alex, Rosie and the whole team at Pen & Sword for providing me a Hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Despite my interest in the topic, and although I have read some books and watched some movies on WWI, I am not very knowledgeable about it, and I am more familiar with WWII, which feels (and is) much closer. I recently read and reviewed, another one of the books published by Pen & Sword, which explored a historical topic through pictures from the period, and I found it a great way of learning about the era by bringing it to life.

When I saw this book, the last in a collection of five volumes, one per each year of WWI, I was curious. Although I had seen pictures from WWI, they were mostly of soldiers, who had posed in uniform for their families, or political figures, and when I think about war photography, I think of WWII, the Spanish Civil War and later conflicts. This particular volume contains over a thousand photographs, including some in colour, maps, and drawings, of the various campaigns of 1918. The authors explain that some of the images are well-known (I was only familiar with some of the politicians, well-known figures, like T. E. Lawrence and Wilfred Owen, and some of the royals), but they had never been presented as a full collection or in an organised manner. The images are numbered and people interested can obtain copies from the image library in the Taylor Library Archive, and that makes this book a great reference for scholars and other people looking for visual documentation from the period.

The volume is divided into eight chapters: 1) Zeebrugge and Ostend Raids – Naval War, 2) The German Spring Offensives –The Kaiserschlacht, 3) Salonika, Mesopotamia, Palestine, 4) The Italian Front, 5) Battles of the Aisne and the Marne Rivers, 6) Americans at Cantigny, Château-Thierry, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, 7) Battle of Amiens – The Hindenburg Line – Advance to Victory, 8) Some Consequences of this Global War. Although the big protagonists of the book are the photographs, the text guides us through the campaigns, including also the original captions from newspapers, the citations for the medals they received, and some observations that help us understand the sequence and the consequences of the events.

Although I knew that in WWI there had been a lot of destruction (of lives, animals, and buildings) because of the use of weapons unknown until then, the impact of seeing pictures of towns and cities completely destroyed, of mustard gas attacks, tanks, planes, aerial pictures, dead soldiers and civilians, and famine is overwhelming. And the stories… From inspiring bravery to incredible cruelty (or perhaps it was just a strong sense of duty, but what would make a commander launch an attack two minutes before the armistice was due, resulting in thousands of dead men on both sides is beyond my comprehension).  As I read some of the captions of the pictures and the stories behind some of the photographs, I could imagine many books and movies inspired by such events and individuals (and I am sure there are quite a few, but not as many as there should be).

I marked pages containing stories I found particularly touching, inspiring, or almost incredible, too many to mention, but I have randomly chosen a few of them to share as a sample.

The caption to a picture of plenty of smiling men brandishing their knives in page 222 explains that they are Italian soldiers of the elite Arditi Corps ‘the Caimans of the Piave’. ‘They numbered around eighty and were trained to remain in the powerful currents of the Piave for hours. Carrying only a Sardinian knife –the resolza – and two hand grenades, they acted in a communication role between the west and east banks of the Piave.’

There is a picture on page 260 of a worker with the Y.M.C.A. serving drinks to American soldiers on in the front line, and it says that one centre at a railway site served more than 200000 cups of cocoa to soldiers each month.

The book also remembers civilians who died, like those working at the National Shell Filling Factory in Chilwell that was destroyed on the 1st of July 2018, with 134 civilians dead and 250 injured.

There are stories that are the stuff of movies, like that of The Lost Battalion, the 77th Infantry Division, cut off by the Germans for five days, who were eventually relieved, but had by then lost half of the men.

Or the one of Corporal Alvin C. York ‘–later sergeant – at the place where he systematically began picking off twenty of the enemy with rifle and pistol. As an elder in a Tennessee mountain church at the beginning of the war, he was a conscientious objector, but then changed his mind to become the most efficient of killers.’ (405) He took the machine gun nest, four officers, 128 men, and several guns.

There are amazing feats by men of all nations and horrific devastation as well. The last chapter serves as a reminder of the heavy price imposed on the losing side and the consequences derived from it. The peace would be sadly short-lived, as we all know, and some of the issues of sovereignty that seemed to have been solved then would resurface once more a few years later.

In sum, this is a book for people interested in WWI (the whole collection is) at a personal level, invaluable for researchers, as it provides a good reference to a large body of archival images, and it is packed with bite-sized information that will provide inspiration to many writers and scholars. Another great addition to Pen & Sword military catalogue and one that I thoroughly recommend.

 

 

 

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review 2018-10-23 16:39
Kentsakas juhtum koeraga öisel ajal (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) by Mark Haddon
Kentsakas juhtum koeraga öisel ajal - Mark Haddon

I'd been searching for this book for years. Finally, some months ago I found a copy in used books bookshop. I rated it 5 stars and not because "it was amazing" but because it was really realistic. Mark Haddon has done a great job showing us how a kid with Asperger's syndrome thinks and how this person sees the world. He also describes how alone the parents can feel when they try to raise a child with Asperger all alone. These families need a lot of support.

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review 2018-10-18 17:52
Great photos, scant details.
The Occult, Witchcraft & Magic an illustrated history - Christopher Dell

The pictures are pretty but it's a bit all over the place, plus you have to go to the back of the book to get the picture credits to see if the illustration is contemporary to the topic being discussed or a later impression, which can be important because pictures can be coloured by culture, learning and biases and what the artists is commenting about.

This book left me wanting more, more detail, more information and defiintely a better time0line. It starts from very eurocentric classical history bias and runs through the european experience before including african and american and it's a fairly superficial look. Howver the bibliography is extensive.

An interesting coffee table book about magic and the occult.

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review 2018-10-16 15:36
A Wonderful Pick for Book Lovers
Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany - Jane Mount

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount is a beautifully crafted and charming tribute to the printed book as both a physical object and an enduring cultural contribution.  Mount’s delightful illustrations fill every page and are inspired by her prior experience as an artist painting clients’ “Ideal Bookshelves.”  This book provides informative and entertaining descriptions of a wide variety of titles, with chapters organized by familiar genres or quirky subjects (e.g.: “Unhappy Families Each in Their Own Way”).  Bibliophile focuses primarily on fiction, but some popular nonfiction categories are also presented.  Interspersed throughout the book are profiles on bookstores and libraries throughout the world known for their interesting origins, architecture or collections.  Author profiles and depictions of their writing spaces give insight into the creative surroundings and inspirations of well-loved classics.  Mount steps aside to give plenty of space to include recommendations by other book experts such as librarians, booksellers, editors, and artists.  Packed with the advertised “miscellany,” fun trivia and quizzes, this homage would make a wonderful addition to any book aficionado’s shelves, and a great gift for those who still revere the look and feel of this timeless media.

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text 2018-10-10 18:40
Baby trees -- but I don't need another hobby!
Bonsai Basics: A Step-by-Step Guide to Growing, Training & General Care - Christian Pessey,Remy Samson
Bonsai: Illustrated Guide to an Ancient Art - Sunset Books,Buff Bradley

I'm not sure when I bought these books, but it was probably around 2002 or 2003.  They've been in a box out in the workshop, untouched since at least 2006.  They may never have been opened or read.

 

Believe it or not, one of the reasons in favor of my staying in Arizona is that I don't want to leave my ironwood tree, especially after it bloomed so spectacularly last spring.  I had to leave a magnificent white oak tree when we moved from Indiana, and I'm just not sure I can uproot myself -- pun intended -- from another beloved tree.

 

It's possible, from what I've seen online, to grow desert ironwood trees as bonsai.  I think I can still find some seeds in the yard, but I'm not sure how well they sprout.  I haven't seen any seedlings in the yard, though we've had quite a bit of rain lately that has other little plants shooting up.

 

So, I gotta think about this.

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