Sunday, 30 August 2009

Monte Cassino by Matthew Parker

This book presented the story of a battle I had only ever heard of in passing. It's a tragic story of blood and death.

The Germans in Italy had build a massive line of fortifications and defensive positions across Italy to keep the allies in the south. Up against this line of stone and lead the allied forces butted their heads.

The fortress complex of Monte Cassino was extremely strong and caused misery and death on a D-Day scale for weeks and weeks. Yet despite this cost in the lives of young men who has heard of the battles of Monte Cassino?

This excellent book, is very readable, flows in an excellent style and combines historic narrative with survivors anecdotes to produce an engaging, perhaps even enthralling, story that is hard to put down.

I learnt a lot while reading this book. I literally had no idea about the battles covered here. I was astounded to read just how lethal and persistant the conflict in Italy was. Companies reduced to 10% strength and still being left in the line because no one can reach them to relieve them. Men without food or water stuck on exposed rock surrounded on three sides under fire day and night and yet staying in position not giving an inch. I was astounded by the tail contained herein, astounded that such heroic horror had escaped my knowledge until now.

In summary this was a terrific read.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Barbarossa : The Russian German Conflict 1941-1945 by Alan Clark

This non fictory book takes an overview look at the entire conflict between Germany and Russia in world war two.

It's written from a top down point of view, spening much time dealing with the German leadership and it's interactions and it's effects on the campaign and the battles therein.

We do get a few anecdotes of individuals on the front line but more often follow the decisions made by generals at the front as they try to both please their masters in Berlin and counter the assaults being pushed forwards by the Stavka.

As you move forwards through the book you follow the various campaigns in chronological order, from the initial incursion and the poor Russian response, right through until the Russian forces enter Berlin.

I found the book well written and well paced. The word for word dicussions between Hitler and his staff were very enlightening. You get to see how his mind and abilities seemed to fade throughout the war right up until the end. the tactics and technology advancements were also covered in a broad way, that showed me the various tides to the war that until reading this book I'd had no idea about.

All in all a good read for anyone with an interest in the Russion-German side of WWII.


First printed in 1964, reprinted in 2001 by Cassell & co

Monday, 25 May 2009

Blackout by Chris Ryan

This book takes SAS diversion from the usual pattern of Chris Ryan's books. The lead character wakes up not knowing who he is, where he is, or why he's there.

Certain things hint that he might be a soldier but he really does not know.

The blurb on the back reports a possible terrorist threat is turning the power off in captial cities around the world. That's the plot, but the book does not leap into that because the lead characters main plot is finding out who the heck he is!

The writing in the story is as good as any of the Chris Ryan books and as usual the action is pretty constant as is the pain the poor lead character has to go through.

If you've liked any of the previous Chris Ryans books then your likely to like this one as well.

It has as much action as his other novels but is improved by the mystery of the lead character has to solve, "Who am I"?


Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Sky People by S.M. Stirling

The Sci Fi novel starts with an slightly alternate history. Back in the 60s the Russians stayed ahead in the space race and actually sent a probe to Venus. Where they beamed back pictures of humans fighting Neanderthals in an earth like environment.

Thats where this story takes off, with the east and west having set up minor settlements on Venus.

The story follows one of the westerners as he greets a new influx of settler/scientists. Then the story moves into adventure. We have an epic voyage, wars, aliens and mysteries.

The story is well written and features constant discovery of new things about this amazing world that keeps the interest level up. The adventure is engaging and the characters seem real enough, so you can follow the plot and really bury yourself in it.

I read this in a couple of days. It was good. :)


Saturday, 2 May 2009

The Hit List by Chris Ryan

This book was first published in 2000 when I still thought Chris Ryan was this big shot SAS guy who could write good books.

Nowadays I think Chris IS a big shot SAS guy who gets other people to ghost write his books.

There's a style in this book that doesn't seem to match that of the other books of his I've read, and not in a good way.

The first half of the book has a lot of action and adventure but in no way belongs to the plot of the book. It's a case of this happens and then that happend and then the other took place and then the plot started. Once I got to the actual plot it was immediately obvious that the first half had been a virtual waste of my life.

The idea behind the book is that the lead character gets recruited into a super uber secret government hit squad type affair. The first half of the book, and I literally mean half, is ex-SAS bloke gets mucked about a bit and peeved and is driven to the super uber secret group. Instead of half of the blummin book, that could have been dealt with in a couple of pages so why waste my life reading all that guff!?

In the end, the book overall is okay, not great, just okay and if you like ex-SAS stories then you'll find this a time filler.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Traveller by John Twelve Hawks

This is a modern novel set in the very near future.

The premise of the story is that down through history there have ever been "travellers". These people have been able to cross over to other realms and then return. The returned travellers bring back new ideas and cause trouble and revelation. The book hints that Jesus himself may have been a traveller.

As well as travellers there have also been "Harlequins", these individuals dedicate themselves to protecting the travellers.

Set against them are the brotherhood. Another underground organisation that dedicates to establishing law and order, and eliminating the disruptive travellers.

Into this world the author sets his appealing characters who from the get go and born into action and adventure. I'm afraid to say too much lest I give away the plot!

One night this week I went to bed at 9, determined to get a much needed early night, only to find myself still reading at 10:30! It's that absorbing.

This is book one in a series and I'm looking forward to gettin my hands on the next installment.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Bomber Boys by Patrick Bishop

This book is subtitled "Fighting Back 1940-1945" and that really gives the game away.

This is a non fiction historical presentation. The author takes a look at all aspects of the Allied Bomber forces during World War II.

He takes us from the Dunkirk campaign where the bombers were desperately out gunned , in pitiful machines and sufffered terribly, right through to the end of the war.

I found this book a real pleasure to read from end to end. It's not some dry series of facts but the details are presented in a very readable humane way. The experiences of the lads flying the bombers are always at the fore in the text, so if the author is explaining some abstract political motivation it's done through the effects it had on the crews with anecdate and memoir.

I found myself enlightened about a number of things relating to the Bomber forces. For instance how the design of the aircraft might cost crew their lives when bailing out, or how ineffective the machine guns in the turrets were. I was astounded to learn that the crew were being encouraged to use amphetamines when flying.

The book does not shy away from the horror that the Bombers wrought on the ground, especially in the area-bombing of cities. It also highlights how the Bomber crews were forgotten after the war, or rather, sweapt under the carpet by an embarrased officialdom.

An excellent and well written book.