Sunday, April 13, 2014

eBook Review: Love with a Chance of Drowning




Torre DeRocheLove with a Chance of Drowning

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 958 KB
    • Print Length: 336 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1849534187
    • Publisher: Hyperion (May 14, 2013)
    • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B009R9RQ7K
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars (98 customer reviews)
    • Price: $9.99 (I bought it on sale for $8.54. 

1. Short review:
For content:   (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Love with a Chance of Drowning is a romance-cruising-romance sandwich, and I liked that.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? A walk-in-the-park trying to be a roller-coaster.
Good value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: Nothing that I can think of.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: I thought the audience would be cruising sailors, but it is everybody.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Amazon lists no other book for Ms DeRoche. If one becomes available, I will give it a look.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     "Torre wasn't looking for a relationship when she met Ivan in a San Francisco bar but charmed by his Latin good looks and kind, considerate nature she fell head over in heels in love. Yet their separation seemed inevitable, Torre had promised to return to Australia at the end of the year and Ivan planned to throw in his IT job and sail solo across the ocean. As the end began to draw near, Ivan suggested Torre join him and she was faced with a difficult choice, sail away with her lover or say goodbye. Despite her fear of deep water, disaster and ""anything that would fall out if you turned the ocean upside down and shook it" Torre's decides to surrender her comfortable city lifestyle for a love on a 32ft wooden boat in the middle of nowhere." --Shelleyrae, from her review of Love with a Chance of Drowning on Amazon.
     Torre sails with Ivan across the Pacific. Adventures. Fun people.
     During the voyage Torre comes to understand that she loves Ivan and Ivan loves the sailing life. Torre likes the sailing life, but she does not love it. She returns to Australia and leaves Ivan to his love.
     And they lived happily ever after, but I shall not tell you how that came about.
 2.7. Other:
     I got this book for the sailing. Turned out the sailing was secondary to the romance, but that was not apparent until the end.
     I was a boat bum, too. (Want to be one again.) I laughed when Torre and Ivan put their boat in storage on the hard in a tropical boatyard. I knew what they would find when they returned.

     I do not know if this book is DRM'd. I suspect it is. I stripped the DRM bobagem off my ebooks before my operating system went wonky.
     I had problems with Ubuntu Linux, the operating system I use most often; my other operating system is Windows XP which I use 1) as insurance against failure of Ubuntu and 2) because Windows media player plays DVDs better than anything I have found on Ubuntu. To eliminate the problems, I chose to strip my hard drive (reformat) and rebuild my system.
     Easy to say. Hard to do.
     I installed Windows XP, but it still lacks drivers. I plan to find those and install those in time. I am not in a hurry.
     I installed Ubuntu 10.04 LTS. The latest version of Ubuntu is 13.10.
     Why did I not install the latest version?
     There is a myth that Change = Progress. There is another myth that 'Progress is good'. While that is often true, it is not always true.
     I grew up in Texas which means I grew up with the aphorism 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Windows XP was not and is not broke. Windows Vista sure as frell did not fix it. To this day I cannot say Windows Vista without spitting. It gives me cause to recall the description of Boggies in Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings: Slow and sullen, and yet dull.
     Perhaps you, too, grew up with the saying 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.' Microsoft fooled me once with Vista. I have not given them the opportunity to fool me twice.
     Anyway, I discovered that the motive for Windows 8 was to provide an OS for tablets. My wife has a tablet -- an iPad. On rare occasions I use her iPad, but I prefer my laptops (notebooks to you non-Americans). That means Windows 8 is not fitted to my purposes. I will not buy it.
     Ubuntu 10.04 ain't broke. I tried Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin (PP), and you can read about that experience here. I discovered that PP was designed for tablets. In other words, PP is NOT an upgrade  for existing Ubuntu installations but a replacement for proprietary tablet operating systems. It will run laptops, but it will always be a bastard laptop system.
     Calibre updated their software to version 1.32. I did not find a way to install DeDRM on 1.32, so I uninstalled it and installed version 1.19. DeDRM installed fine on 1.19, thank you very much. As I said before, change does not mean progress.
     For we few, we happy few, who run Linux systems, this is the terminal command to install Calibre 1.19: sudo python -c "import sys; py3 = sys.version_info[0] > 2; u = __import__('urllib.request' if py3 else 'urllib', fromlist=1); exec(u.urlopen('http://status.calibre-ebook.com/linux_installer').read()); main()". After that, go here to find out how to  install DeDRM.
     For those who run Windows, patience. When I figure out how to load Calibre 1.19 on Windows, I shall write it up.
     For those who run an Apple OS, you're outa luck.

    YMMV.

2.8. Links: Torre DeRoche at Amazon

2.9. Buy the book:  Love with a Chance of Drowning

Sunday, March 2, 2014

DeDRM

     After I posted A Sailor of Austria, it occurred to me that you might not care to read my rants against DRM. That and the fact that I loved A Sailor of Austria. I want to read the rest of the Otto Prohaska novels, but I hate DRM. I believe that since John Biggins's publisher DRM'd the first book in the series, likely the bloody bastard did the same with the other three books.
     Should I buy and read and blog about The Emperor's Coloured Coat without throwing a tantrum when I blog about it, I should need to remove the DRM nonsense. Understand, ye of little faith, my interest is NOT in piracy. I pay for what I read. I believe you should pay for what you read. That nonsense about 'Information wants to be free' is demonstrably false.
     No, my purpose in removing the Damned Restrictive Mongrel is to backup and manage my digital library. But how to remove the Deliberately Recalcitrant Miscreant?
     You can google anything these days. So I googled 'how do i strip drm from my ebooks'. "About 565,000 results." Hehehe. You're goin' down, Doomed Reactionary Moron.
     I chose one result and clicked through. I got this page:

How to Strip the DRM from Your Kindle Ebooks for Cross-Device Enjoyment and Archiving

kindleDRM
     I read a bit until I got to here:
[Y]ou’ll need three things:

     I had Calibre and Kindle for PC. (I rarely use the Kindle for PC. It is on the XP side of my machine. 98% of the time I run Linux.) I clicked Apprentice Alf's DRM Removal Tools for eBooks which took me to Apprentice Alf's Blog:

 There I found this:
     I clicked http://www1.datafilehost.com/d/e9d6f3bc (that is the first download choice) which took me to this page:

Two buttons appeared on the right marked 'Start' and 'Download' that do not show in the copy above. The Apprentice Alf's page told me to ignore them and click the Download button on the left, the one you see above. I did that.
     When the download finished, I extracted the package. How you do that depends on which OS you run. I run Ubuntu Linux, so this was easy. I clicked the download file notice at the bottom of my screen. An extraction window popped open. I selected De-DRM and clicked 'Extract'. The little daemon ran to completion and everything was set.
     I opened Calibre and followed the directions given in the howtogeeksite. I followed the instructions step-by-step beginning with this picture:


     Soon I had the DeDRM plug-in installed. I exited Calibre and started it anew. When it came up, I searched for and selected A Sailor of Austria. Tried to view it. No joy. DRM still in place. Deleted A Sailor of Austria from my library, connected my Kindle, and uploaded A Sailor of Austria from my Kindle to my Calibre library. Tried to view that copy. No joy. 
     WAEFRTFI. Oh, I gotta tell DeDRM which Kindle is mine, sez howtogeeksite.
Copying the Books from Your Kindle: If you’re going to rip the book directly from your Kindle device (or use the download and transfer technique), you need to manually enter the serial number of your Kindle into the DeDRM removal plugin. Do so by navigating back to Preferences -> Advanced -> Plugins -> File type plugins and double clicking on the entry for DeDRM. You’ll see a box like so:
     Go to howtogeeksite for the rest.
     Had to eject my Kindle, turn my Kindle on, go to the home Menu page (that is, not the Menu page available in the middle of a book), and choose Settings. There at the bottom is my Kindle's serial number. I entered that serial number in the appropriate place.
     Deleted A Sailor of Austria from my Calibre library. Again. Connected my Kindle. Again. Uploaded A Sailor of Austria from my Kindle to my Calibre library. Again. Tried to view the new copy of A Sailor of Austria in my Calibre library.
Voila! Lafayette, we have arrived!
     Happy, happy. *:D big grin, *:D big grin.
     This may mean I shall no longer be aware of DRM in my ebooks. That may mean that I will cease posting one-star reviews for DRM and just post reviews of content.
     I can live with that.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

eBook Review: O Descobrimento do Brazil


No Cover


Manuel Ferreira Garcia RedondoO Descobrimento do Brazil

From the Gutenberg Project

1. Short review:  *:) happy (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The chance to exercise my Portuguese. New -- to me -- information on Christopher Columbus.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Walk in the park.
The book is free to download.

2.2. What I did not like: The tedious Gutenberg license.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Brazilians, Portuguese, and me.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yeah, if they read Portuguese.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Odd to say so, but I might. I am not opposed to the notion.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     O descobrimento do Brasil: Prioridade dos portugueses no descobrimento da America (full title) was a 68-page paper Sr Redondo delivered at a conference held in 1911 in São Paulo, Brazil. Sr Redondo marshaled indirect evidence that the Portuguese discovered America before Columbus. That evidence included maps, ship logs, and the Treaty of Tordesillas.
 2.7. Other:
     I anticipated Sr Redondo's arguments before I read his paper. The view Sr Redondo took was typical of Brazilians. So what if the Portuguese discovered America before Columbus? The Portuguese did not exploit their discovery. Columbus did.
     What I found new and interesting was Redondo's argument that Columbus sailed with the Portuguese.
     Before 1492, Spaniards did not look west across the Atlantic for new lands to conquer. They looked south. Their goal was to drive the Moors from Spain. The only Europeans with any substantial knowledge of what lay west were the Portuguese.
     To get experience sailing the Atlantic, Columbus must have sailed with the Portuguese. Evidently his credentials as an Atlantic sailor were good enough to get him an audience with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Where did Columbus earn these credentials? Redondo said it was with the Portuguese. Who can say it was not?
     Why did Columbus not make his offer to the Portuguese? Redondo did not say, but I have a guess to venture. I bet Columbus did make his offer to the Portuguese, and they refused.
     Why did the Portuguese refuse Columbus? Because they thought he was wrong. You see, everybody knew the world was round. Everybody who counted, anyway. But Columbus miscalculated the circumference of Earth. He thought Asia lay just a short journey beyond the Antilles, that the voyage to Asia was short. (FWIW the Portuguese knew of the Antilles before Columbus made his voyage in the Santa Maria.) The Portuguese ran their own calculations and came up with the correct distance. By their reckoning, no ship could carry enough stores for the crew to survive the voyage. They remained wedded to their plan to circumnavigate Africa.
     I found Redondo's surmise that Columbus sailed with the Portuguese persuasive. His argument that the Portuguese found America first? Yeah, okay, and so what? The Portuguese made nothing of the discovery until the Spaniards got in the game. The Portuguese played the whole first quarter without anyone else on the field, and they did not score. The Spaniards suited up and began playing in the second quarter and scored three touchdowns: discovery of the Americas, conquest of the Aztecs, and conquest of the Incas. The Portuguese played catch-up from that point on. But unlike the Jets, the Portuguese did not pull off a comeback.

     The Gutenberg Project lists the work as 'O Descobrimento do Brazil'. I think this is an error. In Portuguese, Brazil is spelled with an 's'; thus, Brasil. And in Portuguese, 'descobrimento' is not capitalized in the title. Where the reference is to the work on Gutenberg, I used the errant Gutenberg version.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Manuel Ferreira Garcia Redondo

2.9. Buy the book: O Descobrimento do Brazil (Free to download)

Friday, February 28, 2014

eBook Review: A Sailor of Austria




John BigginsA Sailor of Austria

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 1570 KB
    • Print Length: 378 pages
    • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 159013107X
    • Publisher: McBooks Press (September 1, 2005)
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B005E8AMQA
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled
    • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars (45 customer reviews)
    • Price: $8.59 

1. Short review:
For DRM:   (Amazon rating: 1 out of 5 stars -- I hate it.)
For content:   (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The history through fiction of the honorable service of men fighting for a collapsing empire. I enjoyed every minute reading this book.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Surprisingly, a roller coaster.
Good value for the money.

2.2. What I did not like: It's DRM'd. If a book is published with DRM, I give it one star. No exceptions. The content I review separately.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Everybody. Some will like it. Some won't. Biggins will find his audience. Maybe he has already.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. One chapter contains strong hints of sex, but there is nothing graphic.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes, but the DRM gives me pause.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     In the spring of 1915 a young Austro-Czech naval lieutenant Ottokar Prohaska, just returned from foreign parts, find himself posted to the miniscule Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Submarine Service in the Adriatic port of Pola. In some trepidation at first because he has no experience of submarines, his fears are soon set at rest when he discovers that nobody else has either, least of all his superiors. There follow three and a half years of desperate adventures fighting for the House of Habsburg aboard primitive vessels, contending not just with exploding lavatories and the transport of Libyan racing camels but with a crew drawn from a dozen different nationalities and a decaying imperial bureaucracy which often seems to be even more of an enemy than the British, the French, the Italians, and the sea itself. Prohaska rises to become the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s leading submarine commander and a holder of its highest military decoration, the Military Order of Maria Theresa, (Militär-Maria Theresien-Orden). The closing months of 1918 see him and his crew return home aboard a damaged boat from Palestine, only to find that the homeland they have fought for over the last four years is collapsing, and that they themselves are stateless persons: sailors without a navy returning to a country which no longer has a coastline.
 2.7. Other:
     I did not know this book was DRM'd until I began to write this review. I tweeted this book with five stars.
     I started to write the plot-in-a-nutshell, and opened Calibre to refer to the book 'cause I could not recall with certainty if Prohaska was a Fregattenleutnant or a Linienschiffsleutnant. Could not open the book because it is DRM'd. Connected my Kindle and tried to open my Kindle copy with Calibre. No joy.
     So instead of writing a proper plot summary I copied and edited the extended book blurb from John Biggins website.
     There are other ways to discourage piracy. DRM is a bloody frelling nuisance. I truly enjoyed this book. Now I'm angry. That's how I shall remember the book. I got angry over it.
     Anger is not the memory you want to leave with your customers.

     Those who read my reviews regularly will notice that I put in fewer links. That is intentional. In the future, for DRM'd books, I will not give any links.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: John Biggins at Amazon

2.9. Buy the book:  A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Movie Review: Gravity


Gravity Poster.jpg

Gravity
1. Short review: -- Worth a rental, not more.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Sandra Bullock. That's good, because SB and the SFX are the movie. The cinematography.

2.2. What I did not like: The physics. There are more inaccuracies than Wikipedia points out, but the glaring one is this:
“When Kowalski unclips his tether and floats away to his death to save Stone from being pulled away from the ISS, several observers . . . contend that all Stone had to do was to give the tether a gentle tug, and Kowalski would have been safely pulled toward her, since the movie shows the pair having stopped and there would thus be no centrifugal force to pull Kowalski away.”
     I understand literary license to change facts; that is, it ain't truth, it's fiction. I have used it myself. But there are limits and Gravity exceeds them.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: A lot of people but not everybody.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? I suppose so. It has shots of dead people, but the kiddies are watching The Walking Dead, so what the hey?

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:

-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more. <-- Gravity (for the cinematography)
-- Worth first-run theater price once.
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 91 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     Gravity grossed north of $700 million in theaters. Rumors are that SB's payday was $70 million. I think she earned it.
     The cinematography was stunning. It tried not to call attention to itself, but it was so well crafted that at one point I said out loud, "God, that's beautiful." And the Oscar goes to Emmanuel Lubezki.
    
     Maybe it's just me and since the gate was $700 million that's likely, but I found the story boring. Gravity is Lost in Space with debris collisions substituted for the Robot flailing about as he cries, "Danger! Danger!" That and Gravity has better SFX.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

eBook Review: Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes



George Mann (editor), Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

Product Details

  • File Size: 1075 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Titan Books (February 11, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EMX8T9A
  • Text-to-Speech: 
  • Lending: Not Enabled
1. Short review:  *L-) loser DRM'd. (Amazon rating: 1 out of 5 stars -- I hate it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The excepts at Amazon and SF Signal.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? I cannot say.

2.2. What I did not like: DRM. I manage my digital library with Calibre. DRM interferes with that. Calibre cannot do anything with a DRM'd book. For the DRM restriction, I give Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes one star. I returned the book, too. I wish Amazon included a tag for DRM in their product details, but until they do, I shall post a one-star review for each book I find DRM'd.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Sherlock Holmes fans? Can't say.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Can't say.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? No.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     There are many stories, so there are many plots.
     At Amazon, AcerAcer wrote a 5-star review that includes a precis for each story. 
 2.7. Other:
     I liked the excerpt of this book I read at SF Signal and the teaser I read at Amazon. After I bought it, I discovered it was DRM'd. I returned it. In the return procedure, Amazon asked why I returned the book. One of the choices they posted was 'Digital Rights Restrictions'.
     Had I known at the time of purchase that this book was DRM'd, I would not have bought it.
     I offer no opinion on the stories.
     YMMV.

2.8. Links: DRM

2.9. Buy the book:  Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Movie Review: A Few Good Men


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCrR9uQrPKA

A Few Good Men
1. Short review: -- Worth first-run theater price once.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Demi Moore for eye candy. Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Noah Wyle, and Cuba Gooding, Jr., for good performances. The rifle drill by the Texas Aggie Fish Drill Team at the beginning of the movie.

2.2. What I did not like: Aaron Sorkin's script. The story is good, but it is wrapped in dialogue that tries too hard to be cute.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”--Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft  
     What King means is that if you write a line you just love, delete it. In A Few Good Men, Sorkin ignored King's advice. He did not kill his darlings. No. He hugged them, kissed them, held them up to the light and made us look at them again.
     When LTJG Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and LCDR Galloway (Demi Moore) meet in her office, LT Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) tells her that Kaffee has successfully plea-bargained forty-four cases in nine months. Kaffee says, "One more and I get a set of steak knives." After Capt Ross shreds PFC Downey on the witness stand because Galloway did not adequately prep her client Downey, Kaffee explodes in drunken anger and calls Galloway 'Galacticly Stupid'. Galloway walks out immediately after Kaffee's tirade, but she stops in the doorway, turns, and says, "I'm sorry I lost you your set of steak knives."
     This is an example of King parading his darlings for our view. I can hear him tittering to himself, "Oh, what a clever boy I am!"
     Just tell the damned story.

     Demi Moore's performance. Kiefer Sutherland's performance. Both of them speak their lines well but they are overshadowed by Cruise, Nicholson, and Bacon. Even Wyle outshone them.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: First, Aaron Sorkin and his family. Second, the American public.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? Yes for ages 17 and up. No for younger due to language and violence.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:

-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more.
-- Worth first-run theater price once. <-- A Few Good Men
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 138 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     Why in the world am I reviewing a twenty-two year-old movie?
     I saw A Few Good Men in a theater when it was released in 1992. Liked it well enough. I have seen it on TV at least, oh, a dozen times since then. It does not wear well. Sorkin's darlings become an annoyance on the third or fourth viewing. By the twelfth viewing they are just bloody awful.
     So why did I watch this movie again and again?
     'Cause I changed.
     The first time I watched A Few Good Men I bought into Sorkin's line: Lieutenant j.g. Daniel Kaffee is the good guy; Colonel Nathan Jessup is the bad guy.
     Now I'm not so sure.
     In the climactic scene, Jessup is on the witness stand:


     Think about what Jessup said. "We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it?"
     This is no less true today than it was twenty-two years ago.
     There is an insidious notion in the world today that we can all get along. I can live as I like, the other guy can live as he likes, and we can be, if not friends, at least civil to each other.
     This is demonstrably false.
     There are those in the world whose view is that I must live according to their precepts. Or die. I must 'walk this way' and 'talk this way' or else. How do I resist that? Sit down with them over tea and biscuits and reason away their deeply held convictions? 
 
     At the lunch at the O Club at Gitmo, LCDR Galloway reminds Col Jessup that the Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet sent out a memo "warning that the practice of enlisted men disciplining their own wasn't to be condoned by officers." Jessup replies that on the record he gave the memo its due attention; off the record such practices were an invaluable part of unit training.
      It does not matter if you dislike Jessup and his sentiments. It does not matter if I dislike Jessup and his sentiments. He is right. The military has long used peer pressure as a training tool. Enlisted men discipline their own all the time to get them to conform to unit standards.

     Remember the Tailhook scandal? A retired Marine gunnery sergeant said to me, "We train these men to kill and then we're shocked they don't act like choir boys when they're in Vegas?"

     Bismarck said, "Those who like law and sausages should not see either being made." The same is true for the training of soldiers. It ain't just. It ain't pretty. It's only necessary.

     Someone stands a post on that wall tonight. He ain't me, and he ain't you. We don't have to like him, but we should respect him.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

eBook Review: Prince of Mercenaries


http://www.baenebooks.com/p-578-prince-of-mercenaries.aspx

Jerry Pournelle, Prince of Mercenaries

Product Details from Baen's Books

Published 3/1/1989
SKU: 0671698117
Price: $5.00
1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  I am a fan and a friend of Jerry Pournelle. He writes well. I enjoy his Falkenberg's Legion stories.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Roller coasters. There are three stories packed into this novel, woven together to make a coherent whole.
Good value for the money. 

2.2. What I did not like: Nothing. It's all good.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Science fiction fans. Military sf fans. JP fans.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     Falkenberg's Legion is bivouacked on Tanith, the second worst world in the CoDominium. Tanith is hot, covered by jungle, teeming with vicious indigenous fauna, and continually overcast. It is also the sole source of borloi, the drug that keeps the welfare citizens of Earth placid and pliable.
     A couple of interludes tell you how Lieutenant Mark Fuller and Captain Peter Owensford joined the Legion. These come from the novellas 'Silent Leges' (Fuller) and 'His Truth Goes Marching On' (Owensford). These stories also give you much of the background of the CoDominium.
     The constituted gov't of Tanith hired Falkenberg's Legion to 1) reduce a collective of contract fugitives and 2) ensure the delivery of borloi from opposition farmers. The Legion did the first. To do the second, the Legion has to 1) find the hidden borloi and 2) take it from Barton's Bulldogs, another mercenary force. They must do this without destroying the borloi. Without the borloi, neither party in the conflict will have the money to pay the mercenaries.
     With the help of Prince Lysander of Sparta, Falkenberg accomplishes his objectives.
 2.7. Other:
     I like military sf. Jerry's CoDominium world is one of my two favorites. The other is Hammer's Slammers.
     Jerry Pournelle writes well and that shows through in Prince of Mercenaries.
     I read this book in a couple of days on Calibre. I downloaded it to my Kindle, but I did not have a spot in my reading rotation for it. That is why I read it on Calibre. Originally, I planned to work it into my reading rotation, but it was such a rocking good read that I devoured it in a couple of sittings.
     Only recently did I discover that Baen's Books website offers books from other publishers, too. E-Reads offers the famed Dangerous Visions. You can also pick up Schlock Mercenary.
     Check out Tor Books offerings to see what a goat rope Tor has become.
     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Jerry Pournelle 

2.9. Buy the book:  Prince of Mercenaries

Saturday, January 25, 2014

eBook Review: An Ace of the Eighth


http://www.amazon.com/Ace-Eighth-American-Fighter-Pilots-ebook/dp/B000XUDHT8/

Norman J. 'Bud' Fortier, An Ace of the Eighth

Product Details 

  • File Size: 1207 KB
  • Print Length: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press; Reissue edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUDHT8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Price: $5.99
1. Short review: (Amazon rating: 1 out of 5 stars -- It's DRM'd.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The information I've not seen elsewhere. 
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Should be a roller coaster, but it is a walk in the park.
     If you are a hardcore air combat history fan, it is worth the money. Otherwise, buy a different book.

2.2. What I did not like: DRM. Any book that is DRM'd gets one star from me.
     As for the contents: 
     The lack of combat details. What details there are apply to strafing ground targets and pilot scheduling. Often the squadron was grounded by weather. Much of the book is taken up with not flying because of weather, hazardous flying in weather, and operational losses due to weather. Fortier did not write as much about himself or his actions as he did about his squadron mates. 
     The cover. The cover gives the reader the impression that this is a book about P-47 Jugs. It is not. It is a Mustang book.
     The cover did not come with my Kindle file. The cover I got is an ugly generic cover. 

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Hardcore air combat history fans.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read? Sure, if they are hardcore air combat history fans.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? No.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell.

     None. This is a memoir of a P-51 Mustang pilot in WW2. Fortier wrote about training, transport to England, escorting bombers, fighting gaggles of Messerschmitts and Focke-Wulfs, killing Me-262s on their final approach, 7½ hour escort missions (that's a job), strafing Luftwaffe airfields deep in Germany, engine failures and landing at forward bases, trying to find an airfield when weather rolled in, other pilots ditching in the Channel and being picked up, and other pilots ditching in the North Sea and disappearing. That is most of what I expected. I also expected that Fortier would detail his own aerial combats, but I did not get that.

 2.7. Other:

     I rate the content of this book -- 3 stars; that is, It's okay. I learned that Mustangs flew looong escort missions and were based in England the entire war, that Jugs flew air-to-ground missions from forward bases, that air-to-air losses were dwarfed by losses in air-to-ground missions, that the Luftwaffe managed to put planes in the air until the end but was overwhelmed by the hundreds of American fighters that invested German skies every day. I learned that ditching in the English Channel was an inconvenience but ditching in the North Sea was a death sentence. Good stuff but not the reason I began the book.
     When you write a memoir, write about yourself, not the guy next to you. Fortier thought he was modest by writing about his squadron mates instead of himself, but he was just boring. You can't tell an adventure that someone else owns with the intensity and immediacy of an adventure that you own.
     Already I have forgotten much of the book. Some Amazon reviewers wrote that Fortier began flying escort with P-47s. I do not remember that. To me, this is a Mustang book.
     One thing that stands out in my mind is that the P-51B/C razorback model carried four guns. The wing was so narrow on the B/C model that the guns were mounted at an angle. This caused jams. The wing camber was increased on the bubble canopy D model so the guns could be mounted upright and two more guns were added. (The B/C models were identical. The B or C identified the factory. P-51Bs were built in Inglewood, California. P-51Cs were built in Dallas, Texas.)

Addendum: I searched the book, and, sure enough, Fortier did fly Jugs. But the cover picture is wrong for Fortier. By D-Day, he was flying Mustangs. (Those stripes on the Jugs in the picture are invasion stripes that were painted on for D-Day ops.)

     YMMV.

2.8. Links: Norman J. 'Bud' Fortier

2.9. Buy the book: An Ace of the Eighth

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Movie Review: Breakfast at Tiffany's


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7sL5AwACbjw

Breakfast at Tiffany's
1. Short review: --It made me sick.

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:
Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, and Patricia Neal are physically attractive actors. The sets are beautiful. Moon River.

2.2. What I did not like:

     How doest thou disgust me? Let me count the ways.
     Mickey Rooney's performance of I Y Yunioshi. MR played the buffoon to give us unneeded comic relief. There is nothing so serious in the movie that we need comic relief. This is not Macbeth. MR played Yunioshi as a buck-toothed, near-sighted Japanese. What? Were there no Japanese actors in Hollywood who would take the part? Perhaps I am imposing modern morals on a fifty-year old film, but I found MR's stereotypical portrayal of a Japanese character offensive.
     Buddy Ebsen's performance of Doc Golightly. Doc was portrayed as a country hick. He was a veterinarian, for Christ's sake. I am offended with the New York attitude that anyone from anywhere but New York is a hick.
     The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of the characters. AH played Holly Golightly as an air-headed golddigger. (AH refused to portray a prostitute, so, in the film, Holly Golightly was written as what Truman Capote called 'an American geisha'. Nonsense.) Holly Golightly was paid $100 a week to visit a mafiaso in Sing Sing prison and bring back a 'weather report' to his lawyer. At a time when the working wage was $40 a week. And she could not figure out that this is a code? GP played Paul Varjack, a broke wannabe author who moonlights as a gigolo. Or a kept man.
     Their lives revolve around looking good, fashionable parties, fashionable people, and money. You could stand in the waters of this movie's intellectual depth and not get your ankles wet.
 
2.3. Who I think is the audience: New Yorkers in 1961.

2.4. Are the movies appropriate for children to see? No. No sex, no foul language, but behavior and lifestyles you would not want the kiddies to see.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? No, and thankfully there wasn't one.

2.6. Rating and the plot in a nutshell:

2.6.1. How I rate movies:
-- It made me sick.<-- Breakfast at Tiffany's
-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more.
-- Worth first-run theater price once.
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again. 

Running time: 115 minutes.

2.6.2. The plot.

2.7. Other:

     The movie is 'loosely' based on the Truman Capote novella of the same name.

     Prayer.
     A year maybe three ago, I thought about the movie The Professional. Offered up a little prayer to see it again. Well, lo and behold, soon thereafter I found it on cable. Dubbed in French. Heh. Joke was on me. 

     I never saw Breakfast at Tiffany's, so I prayed to see it. This prayer I crafted more precisely. Lo and behold, this week I found the movie on cable. Very pretty people wearing very pretty clothes while they run through very pretty scenery. And all the while their souls are rotten.
     Yeah, I know George Axelrod wrote a feel-good, marshmallow ending for the movie that is nothing like Capote's ending.  His kissy-face ending did not save the story for me.
     The devil in a little black dress is still the devil.

     Look, sin is attractive. If it were ugly, we would not do it. Sin looks good, smells good, tastes good, feels good. But step by step, sin reduces your options until you have no choices left and you are a prisoner of sin. 

     Breakfast at Tiffany's is the New York City version of what happened to Eliza Doolittle after My Fair Lady. (Even the trailer nauseates me. How can anyone think these characters are attractive?)

     Now I pray to see Shenandoah. Perhaps this time I shall get it right.

     YMMV.

2.8. Links:
IMDb review, Rotten Tomatoes review