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review 2019-07-15 04:30
The Polar Bear Expedition: The Heroes of America’s Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919 - James Carl Nelson

As someone who grew up in the Midwest U.S., I first gained some awareness of the 'Polar Bear Expedition' of 1918-19 --- in which a U.S. Army regiment was sent to Northern Russia in the summer of 1918 ostensibly to guard stores of Allied military equipment at the port of Archangel, but was later used in battle against the Bolsheviks as part of a larger Allied (i.e. British) scheme to overthrow the Bolshevik government in Moscow and bring Russia back into World War I as a way to force Germany to recommit military forces there --- from a story I read in the late 1970s in a local paper about an elderly gentleman in Detroit whom mention was made of as having served in Northern Russia with the U.S. Army in 1919. I never forgot that newspaper story. And so, when I became aware of this book, I was determined to read it.    And I'm glad I did, because I learned so much.    For instance, who knew that, in addition to the U.S. and Britain, French, Canadian, and some Chinese military forces were involved in military actions against Bolshevik forces in Northern Russia in 1918-1919?

I highly recommend "THE POLAR BEAR EXPEDITION: The Heroes of America's Forgotten Invasion of Russia, 1918-1919" for anyone interested in learning about a long overlooked chapter of U.S. history that can provide valuable lessons for policymakers, academics, U.S. civilian and military leaders, and the general public as to the need (as stated by the White House) to deploy military forces in any part of the world identified as vital to U.S. security interests.

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review 2019-07-12 17:15
How to be Right in a World Gone Wrong by Janes O'Brien
How to be Right:..in a world gone wrong - James A. O'Brien

I started listening to James O’Brien on LBC radio a while ago. I’ve always been a fan, watching videos (that have gone viral) of him demolishing callers on issues where they’re clearly misinformed. That led me to listen to his full show every morning from Monday-Friday. I must admit I’ve taken a little break from listening as his near-continual demonization of Jeremy Corbyn is a little much. I agree with some of it, it’s not that, it’s just a bit repetitive.


Each chapter in this fairly short book discusses a subject such as immigration or feminism. To illustrate his arguments O’Brien intersperses each chapter with calls he’s had previously to his radio show. These were my favorite bits. I listened to this on audio which was great and these calls were rerecorded with a voice actor who put on various accents etc and really made them.


James’s overarching point is that people aren’t often asked to explain their position anymore. He contests that when they are they often crumble and reveal the truth of their arguments, that it’s just repetition of what someone else has said and not something they’ve actively thought about. What James wants most of all is to force these people to think. The biggest compliment he can receive, he says, is to change someone’s mind.

This is a great book to inform, especially when it comes to Brexit and I would strongly urge everyone (from the U.K. especially) to read this and take on the most central point: have the ability to defend your arguments.

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review 2019-07-10 21:30
Review of The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill
The Second World War, Volume 1: The Gathering Storm - Winston Churchill,John Keegan

I am a big fan of Churchill, and this first volume of six lived up to the hype.  Beyond the amazing life he lived, Churchill was an outstanding writer and this history of the lead up to - and start of - World War II in Europe was fascinating.  It is part history, part memoir, and part primary sources.  Put it all together and it reads like a novel in many ways.  I fully realize that this paints Churchill in the best light as he is the writer, but as a student of history, this was fantastic.  Looking forward to the rest of the volumes.

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review 2019-07-09 07:40
More a homage than a history
Steaming to Victory: How Britain's Railways Won the War - Michael Wenn Williams

When Britain went to war in 1939, they did so by rail. For at a time when air travel was enjoyed only by the few and automobiles nowhere nearly as ubiquitous as they would become, railways were the dominant form of long-distance transportation in the country. This was underscored over the next six years, as trains were employed in a range of tasks from evacuating children from London at the start of the war to preparing for the massive D-Day invasion that ended it.

The role Britain’s railways played in the war deserves a history that details their wide range of activities while analyzing the extent of their contribution and describes how they made it possible. Unfortunately, Michael Williams’s book is not that work. While he details in it the many roles the railways played, he does so in a way that is more adulatory than analytical — so much so that a more appropriate subtitle for this book would be “A Celebration of Britain’s Railways in the Second World War,” for that would better capture the tone of his narrative. This is reflected best in his focus on the individual stories of the men and women who worked for the railways during the war, where they coped with straitened circumstances and the dangers of attack. Chapter after chapter contain tales spotlighting the heroism and sacrifice of railway employees, yet there is little effort to connect these episodes to any broader explanation of railway operations or assessment within the context of the overall war effort. This reflects his sources, as apart from a series of oral histories with the now-elderly survivors Williams bases his book on a limited number of previously-published accounts, most notably the self-congratulatory wartime histories put out by the “Big Four” railway companies immediately after the conflict. Expanding his research by consulting the archival records or by incorporating the vast body of literature about British mobilization would have made for a much stronger work that gave readers a more in-depth understanding of the contribution of Britain’s railways to the war effort.
Because of this deficiency, Williams’s book functions as more of an homage than anything else. This is particularly regrettable given the case the author makes within it for a good, thorough study of British railways that pushes past the myths and misconceptions that have accumulated around their role in the war to detail the many roles they played in it. In the end, though, what Williams provides his readers with is not a book that explains “How Britain’s Railways Won the War,” but simply salutes it as something to be assumed.


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review 2019-07-08 20:02
A Boy And His Dog At the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
A Boy And His Dog At The End of The World - C.A. Fletcher

I picked up this book on audio because of the title and because a few trusted blogger friends convinced me with their reviews. I just want to tell you that I am not a big fan of adventure stories. I hold nothing against them and you are welcome to adore them. They just don’t happen to be the first thing I pick up when I’m looking for my next book but this book which is nothing but one large adventure is the exception. If you like action and adventure or even if you don’t, I think you should read it because it is amazing. Even if you think I have atrocious taste and know nothing, go read the other reviews and then go read this book!

I have to admit that I was a little worried at first because things weren’t 100% clicking with me but I think it was more my fault than anything in the book. When I discovered it was less a post-apocalyptic story and more of a “boy on an adventure tale” I started to tune out just a little bit. I’m sorry, I can be a jerk like that but I usually stick with things and in this case I am so very glad I did.

So, it’s sometime in the future and most of humanity has died out which likely serves them right. Idiot humans did something idiotic to the dogs so they are scarce as well and the love of a good dog isn’t something to be taken for granted. When Griz’s best dog Jess is stolen he doesn’t stop to think. He is angry and upset and he sets off after the thief like his pants are on fire, leaving his life and everything familiar behind except his other little dog Jip. Things naturally go awry. He makes some decisions that he will come to regret but he’s young and hurt and his actions are always believable. I loved Griz. Griz had so much grit and courage and was such a strong young soul. Griz lived on an isolated island before his big adventure and knows little of the world and seeing everything new from his eyes was fascinating. He’s also a big reader so most of you here will appreciate all of the bookish references. 

This is how the book starts and once Griz is off after his pup the book barely comes up for air (except for one section that was a wee bit slow). There aren’t many characters in this book but the one’s Griz meets are compelling and interesting characters. Some good, some somewhere in the middle and some quite terrible but through it all Griz never gives up hope. There are turns and twists and all of them caught me off guard. It was an exhilarating read. 

I admit that I feared this book with its dogs and children constantly in peril was going to break me by the end and though it came close to doing that a time or two, it did not destroy my heart and crush all of my dreams and I will say no more about that. It’s ultimately about risking it all for the love of your best companion and never giving up despite the odds against you. It was a little slow in that one section but mostly it’s nail-biting and heart-warming and all of those clichéd things people say about the best books. This is one of the best books. Go read it or listen to it. If you’re a dog lover I don’t think you will be disappointed and if you are you can blame one of those other reviewers!

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