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Just finished "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis. It was written over 80 years ago in 1935, but one of the fascinating aspects of it is the contemporaneous depiction of life in America. In many ways, we haven't changed. We're still arguing over the same things.
Read: "Storm and Conquest: The Clash in the Eastern Seas, 1809" by Stephen Taylor. This is history, not fiction, but the story is pure Patrick O'Brien, with special effects out of the Perfect Storm". This was a side show of the Napoleonic Wars but important for England, because of the shipments of saltpetre needed for the making of gunpowder that came from India to England through the Indian Ocean. The French had a shortage of this which is thought to have effected the quality of their weapons. The French would win a great victory over the English in a frigate battle. Their only great defeat of the English in the naval wars of Napoleon. Then there was the hurricanes that would cost the English, ships in the Indian Ocean. The author puts you in these storms where you are "There". I can relate since as a kid I traveled across the Pacific Ocean into a Typhoon. Excellent reading and Very Highly Recommended. A good scenario for GMT's "Flying Colors".
"Galleons and Galleys" by John F. Guilmartin, Jr..Between the mid 14th century and the mid 17th century, the use of gunpowder weapons afloat, fundamentally changed the balance of power throughout the world. The principal agents of change were the war galley and galleon. This book address this development at sea where Europe would with superior ships come to dominate the world. Covers not only these changes in Europe but Asia, the Middle East and Japan's first attempt at a overseas empire. Eventually, the "Ship-of-the-Line would replace these ship types. Very Good and Recommended.
"Death Ship" by Jim Kelly. A mystery novel that takes place in Norfolk, England. An explosion on a beach, a woman killer with a macabre MO, a Dutch engineer goes missing, and a protest movement against a new tourist pier being constructed, these are the "problems" that DI Shaw and DS Valentine are trying to figure out and solve. A Shaw and Valentine mystery. Very Good and Recommended.
Read: "Rather Be The Devil" by Ian Rankin. A Inspector Rebus mystery novel. Rebus is looking for something to do in retirement. He decides to look into a very old unsolved case: the murder of a glamorous woman at a fancy hotel while a famous rock star was staying there. He gets more than he bargains for: more bodies appear right after he starts asking questions. Very Good and Recommended.
"The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian history: Between China and the Islamic World" by Michal Biran. The Khitai(Liao) were a group of nomad tribes that conquered North-East China in the early 10th Century. They were in turn conquered by a new group of nomads, the Jin. A branch, called the Qara Khitai under their excellent leader Yelu Dashi fled to Central Asia and carved a new empire out for themselves by defeating the Seljuk Turks in 1141 and others. This is their story. Very Good and Recommended.
Read: "Qaidu And The Rise Of The Independent Mongol State In Central Asia" by Michal Biran. A bio of Qaidu, a great-grandson of Genghis Khan. His father was Ogedei who Genghis had chosen as his successor. Qaidu's family line was cut out of the succession by a coup of two other branches of Genghis Khan's family. This book recounts the dynastic wars of the Mongols for control of their empire. Qaidu would carve his own kingdom out of Central Asia where the Qara Khitai had once ruled. The convulsions of these wars would tear the Mongol Empire apart. Very Good and Recommended.
"Defending Heaven: China's Mongol Wars, 1209-1370" by James Waterson. This is a history of the Jin, Song, and Ming dynasties wars with the Mongols that lasted almost two centuries. In Northern China the Mongol cavalry was supreme because the terrain favored it. But once the Mongols moved to attack in the south, their cavalry was at a disadvantage. It became WWI warfare with fortified cities linked by entrenchments and underground tunnels connecting these cities. In addition the rivers and coasts had huge fleets blocking the river crossings by the Mongols. The Mongols would enlist Chinese infantry and engineers from their conquered lands in the north to defeat the south. Explosives were used by all sides on land and water. The attrition was horrendous for all sides just like in WWI. The Mongols would finally conqueror all of China but would rule for less than a century. The Ming would eventually drive them out by 1370 but the human and material cost was huge. Excellent and Very Highly Recommended. I can see this as a great war game by GMT games.
Read: "The Collapsing Empire" by John Scalzi. A SF novel in the distant future. Our universe is ruled by physics: no faster than light drive. But: Mother Nature has come to the rescue. Her universe has a natural system called by humans the "Flow". This is similar to a river; it links star systems and is "faster than Light". Humanity has spread out to many stars and worlds. They have created an Empire but there is a possible problem with the "Flow". Even though the "Flow" is eternal it is not static. Just as a river changes its flow, so does this "Flow". Evidence is accumulating that the "Flow" between this Human Empire of Worlds is going change in a big way; cutting off all these worlds from each other, bringing about the collapse of this Empire. The Emperox , a scientist, and a star ship captain race against time to see if anything can be salvage from this possible "End of Days". Very Good and Recommended.
"Racing The Devil" by Charles Todd. An inspector Ian Rutledge mystery novel. In 1916, before the Battle of the Somme", 7 British officers meet for a quick drink before going into battle. They do not know each other but have the love of motorcars in common. They pledge to meet after the war in Paris(if still alive) and race to Nice, France. It is 1920, and a rector is killed in a car accident in Sussex but evidence at the scene points to possible murder. The car is own by one of the officers of the race to Nice. Inspector Rutledge, of Scotland Yard, is called in to investigate. Excellent and Highly Recommended.
Read: "Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580" by Baily W. Diffie and George D. Winius. This is the first volume in a series entitled: "Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion". Edited by Boyd C. Shafer. Covers this empire quite well; military, economics, political, and religious. All the good, the bad, and the ugly of this rise to power by a little "nothing" of a country that was the main reason the history of the world was changed forever. The English, Dutch, and French, etc. that followed in these giant footsteps of the Portuguese people would have had nothing without the "Little Land" of Portugal showing the way. Excellent History and Highly Recommended. There is a great game in this story.
"The Tourist" by Robert Dickinson. Labeled as "Mystery and Suspense" novel but is really a SF story on time travel. At the end of this century, the world comes to a end. People centuries in the future have developed time travel and have come back to see the past as tourists. The present world knows all about them. The story is convoluted and tiresome with a "nothing" ending. Looking at reviews, I'm not the only one let down. Not Recommended.
Read: "Ararat" by Christopher Golden. A novel on the biblical Ark. A earthquake revels a secret cave 4K meters up Mt. Ararat. Inside is what looks like the "Ark" of the bible. There are remains of people, animals and a coffin sealed up tightly. Inside this coffin is a hideous creature with horns. Scholars, scientists, and filmmakers arrive to solve this mystery but are trapped when a blizzard blows in. They are not alone. Just average.
Read: "Mesopotamia: The Invention of the City" by Gwendolyn Leick. This is the history of the first cities in the "Land of the Two Rivers". Starting with Eridu and ending with Babylon, the first true metropolis which was the last center of a dying civilization. There are 10 cities in this story, that covers their histories, cultures,and everyday life. Very Good and Recommended.
"The Hykos: A New Investigation" by John Van Seters. The Hykos, foreign rulers of Egypt in the Second Intermediate Period, which lasted from about 1700-1550B.C.. There has been a continuing debate among Experts on who and what were the Hykos. The author believes there was no "Great Invasion" by the Hykos that brought down the Middle Kingdom of Egypt. It was a gradual infiltration of Semitic illegal aliens into North-East Egypt (the Amurru) who with help of Egyptian traitors brought about the conquest of Egypt. Once they had the Power, they no longer needed the help of these Egyptian traitors and deleted them. They then brought in more allies from Syria-Canaan to increase their numbers. They had superior weapons such as the Composite Bow and Chariots but there still is a debate on this. Very Good and Recommended.
"Ahmose: A Egyptian Soldier's Story" by Bill Petty. This is the Bio of Ahmose, a Egyptian soldier that lived 3500 years ago. He lived through Egypt's period of transition, from a divided and conquered country by the Hyksos, into the world's first super power. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to a position of authority under three Pharaoh's for over 40 years. He had a grandson who tutored the son of Pharaoh Thutmose I. Because of his bravery under fire and shrewd investments, he died a wealthy land owner at age 67 in the reign of Thutmose III, Egypt's greatest Pharaoh. Most enjoyable and Highly Recommended.
Read: "War in Ancient Egypt: The New Kingdom" by Anthony J. Spalinger. This book is part of a series on the Ancient World at War. Focuses on 1575-1100BC, the period when Ancient Egypt acquired an empire in the Near East. Tho, it also expanded its control in Nubia at the same time. It highlights the new Tech of the age in Chariot and Siege warfare, the social/political effects on Egypt with the rise of a new class of military men, and looks closely at the logistics of the time period. Very Good and Recommended.
"Tutankhamun's Armies: Battle and Conquest During Ancient Egypt's Late 18th Dynasty" by John Coleman Darnell and Colleen Manassa. Starts with Akhenaten(1353-1336BC) and goes to the founding of the 19th Dynasty in 1292BC. Covers the Campaigns, Battles,Leaders, Tactics, and Tech of the period. Very Good and Recommended.
Read: "A Single Spy" by William Christie. A Russian 16 year old boy, living by his wits and luck, on the streets of Baku in 1936, is finally caught by the NKVD. He has two choices, work for the NKVD, or die. He is trained to be inserted as a double agent into Nazi Germany. He ends up in the Abwehr and later drafted by the Gestapo in 1943, to spearhead a mission into Tehran and kill the Big Three, Stalin, Churchill, and FDR. "A single spy-in the right place and at the right moment-may change the course of history". A most interesting novel and Highly Recommended.
"The Age of Agade: Inventing Empire in Ancient Mesopotamia" by Benjamin R. Foster. Sargon the Great founded the Empire of Agade, in the 23rd Century BC which was near Babylon. Today the city's location is unknown. His dynasty ruled about 150 yrs, give or take. His empire is considered the "First in World History". Another spelling for Agade is Akkad and the people are known as the Akkadians. This is a good intro to this period of Mesopotamian History; and centuries afterword, Sargon and his dynasty would be remembered in folklore and legends just as Alex the Great is today. The book covers all aspects that is known for this period, military, political, religion, arts, and social customs and traditions. Pretty Good and Recommended.
Read: "You're Next" by Gregg Hurwitz. A mystery/suspense novel about a man abandoned as a child on a playground at 4 years old. Now as a adult he is living the good life, maybe. Menacing people show up who threaten him and after contacting the police, he is left confused because the police seem more interested in his mysterious past than helping him in the here and now. He turns to a old friend, who he grew up with in foster care, who is very very dangerous. Together they set out to do whatever it takes to solve the mystery. Very Good and Recommended.
"The Girl on The Bridge" by James Hayman. A mystery novel about a woman who commits suicide by jumping off a bridge on a cold December night. She had been gang raped 12 years before by a college football team. No one was ever prosecuted. Now a month after the woman's suicide, members of this former football team start to die in bloody painful ways. The police investigate these killings but there may be more that simple revenge going on. Very Good and Recommended.
"King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography" by Marc Van De Mieroop. The title says it all. Covers King Hammurabi and his times as best as can be because of sparseness of the sources. Very Good and Recommended.
Read: "Xerxes: A Persian Life" by Richard Stoneman. A bio of the "invader" of Ancient Greece and the loser of this enterprise. But there was more to this Persian king than this story tells. The author does a good job in presenting Xerxes from the Persian perspective and filling out his life story. Very Good and Recommended.
"Darius: In the Shadow of Alexander" by Pierre Briant. The author's objective is to explain why Darius, last Great King of Persia, is condemned to haunt the realm of historical oblivion. So, this is not a bio of Darius technically, but an attempt to reconstruct Darius based on the Greco-Roman, Persian, and Arabo-Persian traditions. There are no actual personal sources on Darius but these "tales" mostly negative that describe Darius from their "cultural perspectives". Everything is about Alexander, so Darius's life story is "in Alexander's Shadow". In a way Darius has the last laugh, for after his fall, Alexander is described by historians "as becoming more like his opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess." The book is "long winded" and just so-so.