Great Military Disasters: The Greatest Tragedies and Failings in Warfare History.

Bath, UK: Parragon, 2009.

Full-color coffee-table volumes like this can be a great way to lose an afternoon, as long as they’re reasonably well done — and this one is. The first thing to remember is that one side’s disaster is the other side’s victory, so you’ll probably find some battles and campaigns here you wouldn’t have expected.


Deighton, Len. SS-GB.

NY: Knopf, 1979.

What if Hitler had second thoughts about his planned attack on the Soviet Union in 1940 and decided to go back to concentrating on the defeat of Great Britain instead? What if the Wehrmacht invaded southern England, took London, destroyed Buckingham Palace, and put the king in the Tower? That’s the set-up, what alternate history fans call the “Point of Departure.”


Published in: on 28 October 2013 at 12:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Fields, Nic. The Roman Army of the Principate, 27 BC-AD 117. (Battle Orders series, 37).

Botley, Oxford: Osprey, 2009.

I did a lot of work in classical studies many years ago, and I have a longtime interest in early military history, so a book like this is bound to catch my attention. And Osprey’s many historical series are (generally) above average.


Published in: on 25 October 2013 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hobb, Robin. Assassin’s Apprentice.

NY: Bantam, 1995.

It’s always nice to discover a new fantasy series (new to me, anyway) that displays such high quality of plotting, writing, and characterization. I knew “Megan Lindholm” was a pseudonym for an author of contemporary urban fantasy novels, but this is the same author’s nom de plume for fantasy in a medieval setting. Which is to say, she’s no beginner, and her experience shows.


Published in: on 23 October 2013 at 12:41 pm  Comments (1)  
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Knight, Damon. A for Anything.

NY: Avon, 1980

Almost all science fiction novels are built, explicitly or implicitly, around the question, “What if.” What if we could fly to the Moon? What if there are other people out there? What if we could go back in time? Damon Knight, one of the most inventive authors of the second half of the 20th century, starts this one with “What if you could have any physical item you wanted just by flipping a switch?”


Doolittle, Sean. Rain Dogs.

NY: Random House, 2005.

Tom Coleman is just beginning to approach middle age, but some days he feels much older. A native of the northern Nebraska sand hills, he had escaped to Chicago and a journalistic career, and a marriage and a daughter, and he was doing okay. Then his daughter died of leukemia when she was four, and his wife left him. He’s been trying to replace them both with booze.


Published in: on 17 October 2013 at 6:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Deighton, Len. The Ipcress File.

London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1962.

Len Deighton has been writing thrillers for an awful long time. In the early ‘60s, he was a commercial artist and illustrator with an art degree, working in his native London, having spent some time in the army and then several years as a flight steward with BOAC, which gave him a certain international perspective. And then, largely, he says, from boredom and just for the heck of it, he decided to try writing a spy novel, which was this one. Helped by the concurrent release of Dr. No, the first James Bond film, he was an immediate success. (Deighton is also the absolute antithesis of Ian Fleming.)


Published in: on 15 October 2013 at 6:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Matyszak, Philip. Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual.

NY: Thomas & Hudson, 2009.

I had previously read this author’s two “pretend travel books” on ancient Rome and ancient Athens, and while I enjoyed their light style, I also learned some things from each volume. Matyszak is an engaging writer with a nice sense of humor but he also has an Oxford Ph.D. in Roman history.


Published in: on 12 October 2013 at 12:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Koontz, Dean. Odd Thomas.

NY: Bantam, 2003.

Koontz has been writing novels (often characterized as “suspense thrillers,” though usually they also incorporate science fiction and horror elements) since the late 1960s and I tried several of them during that early period. But they simply weren’t to my taste and so I ignored most of his subsequent 100+ books, which take up half a dozen shelves at my favorite used-paperback store. Then a couple of friends strongly recommended this new series, so I gave this first volume a shot. And I’m glad I did.


Harrison, Kim. Ever After.

NY: Harper, 2013.

I almost hate to confess it, but this series is a guilty pleasure that I buy without even bothering to read the reviews. Ordinarily, vampire/witchcraft romances are absolutely not my thing. Authors like Charlaine Harris and Laurell K. Hamilton hold zero interest for me. But I read the first book about Cincinnati witch Rachel Morgan sort of by accident and now I’m hooked.


Published in: on 7 October 2013 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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