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SpartHawg's Book Corner!!!

So, I've been thinking about doing this for a little while now, and decided to do it in the form of a blog, as opposed to something on my user page. As none of you probably know (seeing as this is the first I've mentioned of it), I'm a voracious reader, so I figured I'd start a little area to comment on books I'm reading, maybe give people some ideas or whatever. I should provide a disclaimer that, while my tastes are rather eclectic, I do enjoy political books, so there may be some books here that are partially, or entirely, comprised of opinions you don't agree with. So without further ado, here's what I've read this year so far/am reading. Enjoy!

  • Carnage and Culture:Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power by Victor Davis Hanson- One of my favorites, just got done re-reading it. Hanson is a historian and retired Professor of Classics at CSU Fresno. He has written extensively on a variety of subjects, most frequently on ancient Greece. A popular question among historians, sociologists and the like is: Why is it that the West (Western Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, etc) has for so long dominated militarily? The two most popular explanations are that of Jared Diamond, that it is a matter of geography (propounded in his book Guns, Germs, and Steel), and that of Victor Davis Hanson, that it is cultural values inherent in Western cultures that propels them to military success. Note, he is referring to cultural differences, not racial or genetic. He provides several such virtues, and exemplifies them through a selection of battles (the landmark battles of the subtitle) to prove his case. A very compelling read. On my arbitrary scale, I give it a 10 (out of 10).
  • The Infernal City:An Elder Scrolls Novel by Greg Keyes- A must read for fans of The Elder Scrolls series of games. It's a fairly quick read with a compelling plot and characters that it's fairly easy to connect to/identify with. Minor spoiler/my only issue with the book- the book is only the first half of the story, to be continued in the next novel (release date as yet unknown). Still, a very good book. Again, it's a 10 out of 10.
  • Have You Seen My Country Lately? America's Wake-Up Call by Jerry Doyle- now, some of you kids who're in-the-know may recognize that name from somewhere. Before he became a nationally syndicated talk-radio host (ranked #17 on Talkers Magazine's "Heavy Hundred" list of the 100 most important radio talk show hosts in America), Jerry Doyle was a candidate for the US House of Reps for California, and before that a somewhat prolific actor best known for portraying Michael Garibaldi on the sci-fi series Babylon 5. Now this is one of those political books, as the name suggests, so be forewarned, Doyle is a self-described "independent conservative" and the book features his political opinions. The book starts with a biography of this rather prolific individual (busboy turned pilot turned stockbroker turned actor turned Congressional candidate turned radio host), moves on to his take on the current economy and what got us there, a look at society and culture (from the man who coined the term 'grapefruit mentality'), launches into a scathing criticism of some of the more outrageous members of Congress (with examples from both major parties), and ends in a call to action. For those familiar with his show, it's written in the same manner as he delivers the show, commentary laced with anecdotes and personal stories, as well as colorful nicknames aplenty! For those not familiar with the radio show, this book will likely turn you on to it! A thoroughly enjoyable read, it gets a 10!
  • The Odyssey by Homer- Reading this one for a class I'm taking called "The Greek Achievement" about the impact ancient Greece has had on Western civilization in terms of art, philosophy, science, religion, etc. This may come as a shock to some (it certainly did to my roommates) but I've never read the Odyssey. I have read the Iliad, and am already somewhat familiar with Odysseus and the Odyssey, but this is my first time actually reading it. Just finished, and a thoroughly enjoyable read. I can see why this book, and it's predecessor the Iliad, have had such an influence on Western culture. While I felt that it slowed down to nearly a crawl during the final two books (very anticlimactic!), it was still well worth it, so it'll get a 10.
  • Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne by David Gaider- the prequel to the game Dragon Age: Origins (great game!). Great book! Really engaging characters (including the future Teyrn Loghain), really good plot that keeps you reading, and all the usual good stuff: epic battles, love interests (and love triangles), betrayals, and golems! All in all, a very rewarding read! And it gets... a 10!
  • Dragon Age: The Calling by David Gaider- another prequel bridging the gap between the previous book and the game. Finally got around to finishing it, due mainly to the fact that the antagonist of the new Awakening expansion, which comes out tomorrow, is also the antagonist in the book, so I wanted all the info. It did pick up again towards the end. All in all, pretty good, although I do have to dock points due to the fact that it wasn't engaging enough to capture my attention for one read-through. So I'll give it a 9 out of 10. Still worth reading, especially in light of the new expansion.
  • Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War by Robert K. Massie- moving back to nonfiction now, this book is an in-depth history (just over 900 pages, not including appendices, bibliography, notes, etc) of the naval arms race between Germany and Great Britain in the years preceding the First World War. A very well-written and captivating book that begins way back with the birth of Queen Victoria and goes all the way to August 3, 1914, when the United Kingdom declared war on the German Empire. An expansive book that looks at key figures, historical events, advances in shipbuilding, key political and diplomatic events, and much, much more, the book may be very, very lengthy, but it's a surprisingly quick read. I give it a 10.
  • Medea by Euripides- Euripides was one of the three most prominent tragedians of ancient Athens (the other two being Sophocles and Aeschylus). He is also the most well-known today, as more of his plays have survived through the ages than those of Sophocles and Aeschylus combined (of the 95 plays Euripides is believed to have written, either 18 or 19 survive today- there being academic debate over whether or not he wrote Rhesus). Medea is a play about Jason (as in "and the Argonauts"/"and the Golden Fleece") and his wife Medea. Now, Euripides is most famous for his satirical plays. This is not one of them. It's more dealing with love, betrayal, and all that good stuff. It's a quick read (I read it in about an hour this afternoon) and is a pretty good read, as well. I think I'll give it a 10.
  • Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea by Robert K. Massie- the follow-on (or 'sequel', I suppose you could call it) to Dreadnought, this one deals with the actual war at sea between Germany and the United Kingdom in WWI. I'm already a tiny bit disappointed that it only focuses on these two, and doesn't look at the war at sea between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the Adriatic and Mediterranean, but oh well. It's a little shorter than Dreadnought, topping of at 788 pages as opposed to 912. So, I finally finished it! I've really slowed down on the reading. Only got one book read the entire spring quarter, but I hope to rectify that next quarter. This was a very good read. definitely a solid 10. Compelling character portraits, great descriptions of battles, a great book all told. And, as it turns out, b/c of how long it took me to read it, an odd coincidence happened. I finished the book on 21 June, 91 years to the day after the Scuttling of the German High Sea Fleet at Scapa Flow, which was the last event described in the book, and resulted in the last casualties of the war, as British soldiers shot at unarmed German sailors, many of whom were attempting to surrender, killing nine (including a German battleship captain who was waving a white flag) and wounding 16. How's that for a coincidence?
  • Austro-Hungarian Naval Policy 1904-1914 by Milan N. Vego- I bet you'll never guess what this one is about. That's right! Austro-Hungarian naval policy from 1904-1914! The author is himself from Herzegovina, which was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and served in the Yugoslav Navy (the successor to the Austro-Hungarian Navy) before seeking asylum in the U.S. He now teaches at the U.S. Naval War College. The book was pretty good. It mostly talked about the political and economic aspects, as well as foreign policy influences on the development of the K.u.K. Kriegsmarine (aka the Austro-Hungarian Navy) All in all, very informative. All in all, I figure it deserves a 9 out of 10.
  • The Central Powers in the Adriatic, 1914-1918: War In A Narrow Sea by Charles W. Koburger, Jr - So, just finished, and as promised, it was a look at the naval war in the Adriatic during WWI, primarily between Austria-Hungary and Italy, with some involvement by the Germans on one side, and the French, British, and Americans on the other. A very short book (just over 100 pages, not counting end notes and appendices) and more of a bare-bones outline of events than a detailed account like Massie's Castles of Steel. The writing style was a bit odd, too. It was written like a conversation or lecture, with a lot of off-hand remarks. All that having been said, this book did accomplish its goal, and given the dearth of info on this subject, it was a rewarding enough read to get a 9 out of 10.
  • Iron Arm: The Mechanization of Mussolini's Army, 1920-40 by John Joseph Timothy Sweet - A book from the Stackpole Military History Series, this one looks at the development of armored warfare, both doctrinally and in the actual development of tanks and tank units, in Italy from 1920-1940. A very good book. It looked at all sorts of factors such as internal politics and foreign relations, economic policies, development of doctrines and methodologies, and combat experiences in Ethiopia and Spain. Very informative. It turns out that in terms of doctrine and wealth of knowledge, as well as sheer numbers of tanks and armored strength (on paper), Italy had the most formidable armored force of any of the major powers in Europe at the outbreak of WWII. Unfortunately for Italy and Il Duce, Italian industry couldn't keep up, the relatively non-motorized and agrarian Italian society couldn't support a modern mechanized army, and they simply lacked the resources to fight a modern war of maneuver. A very good, very informative book, which gets a 10.
  • Iron Hulls, Iron Hearts: Mussolini's Elite Armoured Divisions in North Africa by Ian W. Walker - Another fairly self-explanatory title. The title is actually the English translation of the motto of the Italian tank service, Ferrea Mole, Ferreo Cuore. This one covers the service histories of the three Italian armored divisions, the Centauro (Centaur), Ariete (Ram), and Littorio (Lictor) divisions in the North African Campaign of World War II. Just finished, and wow. Great book. If you read this, be prepared to forget everything you thought you knew about the North African Campaign, because what you know most likely isn't true. The book tells the story of the Italian units that made Rommel's success possible. The units that provided the numbers, whereas his own panzers provided the shiny new technology. This book blows away the myth of Italian cowardice and incompetence that pervades most accounts of the war, which are either written by Brits or Germans. It's a great and informative read, as well as being at times humorous, such as when the author describes the capture of Point 175, in which elements of the Ariete Division captured the 21 New Zealand Battalion, some of the toughest troops in the theater, without firing a shot. A truly great read that should really open some eyes. It sure opened mine. It gets a good solid 10.
  • The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization by Anthony Esolen - Taking a break from the ultra-serious war and/or political and economic books to read one of the books of the Politically Incorrect Guide (PIG) series, which I'm rather a fan of, having read several others. In an aside, I greatly recommend their Guide to Islam (And the Crusades). But I digress. These are funny and informative books that are so engrossing, you don't want to put them down, and I'm hoping this one lives up to the high expectations I have for any book of this series. And, having finished it, I can say it did. The author did (IMO) a good job examining ancient Greece and Rome, looked at early Judaism and Christianity, shed some new light (no pun intended) on the Dark Ages (seriously, this book makes you rethink a lot of preconceived notions), looked at the Renaissance, dispelled some myths about the "Enlightenment", and closed by looking at the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Thoroughly enjoyable, I think I'll give it a good solid 10.
  • Mass Effect: Retribution by Drew Karpyshyn - Well, finally got this book read, and can't say I'm disappointed. I won't go into the plot and all that for spoiler reasons, but it was a very good read. I loved the focus on the underworld and all that, the interactions and interplay between some of the power players of the big underground organizations. This one has cemented itself as my second favorite Mass Effect novel. I'm a big fan of Revelation, as I love the back story, but I thought that Ascension was pretty ho-hum, with a few exceptions (mainly the parts about quarians), but this one did not disappoint. It gets a 10 out of 10, as if there was ever any doubt!
  • A Rat Is a Pig Is a Dog Is a Boy: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement by Wesley J. Smith, with a forward by Dean Koontz - A book examining the impact on humans (both directly and indirectly) of the "animal rights" and "animal liberation" movement (as opposed to the animal welfare movement). Looks at a number of things, from the impact on the concept of human rights of things such as Peter Singer's despicable philosophy of utilitarianism and the Great Ape Project, the legal implications of litigation pursued by groups like PETA, the horrific individual suffering people (and sometimes even animals) go through due to scumbags like Alex Pacheco, and the cost in lives and property incurred by so-called "direct action" groups (read - pirates and terrorists) such as the ALF, ELF, and the Sea Shepherds. Finished reading it the other day, and wow! What a great book! Very thought-provoking and compelling. The author tackles some serious ethical issues and really does make you thing (as trite as that may sound). Honestly, it has made me re-assess my own positions and opinions on this matter, and has made me look at the issues here in a whole new light. I cannot begin to state how highly I recommend this book. It gets a 10.
  • Anabasis by Xenophon (W. H. D. Rouse translation) - Re-reading a classic. For those not familiar with it, this is a true story, written by a man who was present for all of it, about an army of Greek mercenaries in the service of Cyrus the Younger, leading up to, during, and after the Battle of Cunaxa. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it but wants to, but it is, in a word, epic. Just finished, and again, without giving anything more away than I already have, it was great! Gets a good, solid 10!
  • The Soul of Battle: From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny by Victor Davis Hanson - Another book by one of my all-time favorite authors (for a brief bio on him, check out my first book on this list, and for a more detailed one, follow the link). The three great liberators mentioned are Epaminondas of Thebes, who pretty much single-handedly brought Sparta to it's knees after crushing its army at the Battle of Leuctra; General William Tecumseh Sherman, whose March to the Sea was instrumental in bringing about the demise of the Confederacy; and General George S. Patton, whose Third Army was similarly instrumental in bringing about the collapse of Nazi Germany. It's a great book, more what I would call "military philosophy" than a pure historical account (as much of the book deals with why democracies produce the best and most lethal armies), it's a great read from a great author. Well, I seem to have summed it up well already, as it was a re-read. So I'll get straight to the rating: you guessed it... a 10!
  • The Lost Fleet: Dauntless by Jack Campbell - it's time for a change of pace, so switching from history/politics to fiction. This one is a sci-fi novel, the first part of The Lost Fleet series by "Jack Campbell" (a pen name of John G. Hemry). I actually learned about this one while looking into the details of another historical book I read recently, Xenophon's Anabasis (see above), which was an inspiration for this novel. It's pretty clear that this book draws from the Anabasis, as it features a fleet (the titular "Lost Fleet") trapped deep in enemy territory, low on supplies, pursued by enemy forces, and forced to make their way ever so slowly back towards friendly territory. So... just finished, and WOW!!! What a book! Fast-paced action, good character development, engaging story, this book pretty much has it all. Great battle scenes (a few small ones culminating in one big one), and some interesting occurrences that I think may be setting the stage for some interesting events in the later novels. The only reason this book is getting a 10 from me is becuase that's as high as my scale goes. I'd give it more if that didn't mean I'd have to go back and reappraise my past ratings...
  • The Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell - second book in the series. Continues where Dauntless left off. Same deal as the last book: Just started reading earlier today, got about an hour and a half of on-and-off reading (interspersed with dozing/trying my darndest to stay awake between classes due to lack of sleep and a warm comfortable bench!) and already about 50 pages into it. Great story so far. Picks right back up with the action and such. Finished on Tuesday, and it does not disappoint. Like the first book, this one gets a 10!
  • The Lost Fleet: Courageous by Jack Campbell - third book in the series (which contains 6 books in total), again, picks right back up. This series is thus far not disappointing. I was looking for some really good sci-fi for a change of pace, and this series is some really good sci-fi!
  • The Lost Fleet: Valiant by Jack Campbell - the fourth book in the series, and it did not disappoint. Keeps right on going with the action, and adds some new twists and turns to the plot. It, like the rest of the series, gets a 10.
  • The Lost Fleet: Victorious by Jack Campbell - the last of this six-part series. Great book. It starts at what (at the start of the series) you'd figure would be the end, and then just goes on from there. It's a great book, which gets a 10, as does the series as a whole. Campbell will be wrapping up loose ends in some spinoff books, the first of which comes out in April, I think. Started this one prior to going on vacation, finished it while in Florida. The rest of the books on this list are ones I read while on vacation. (Hey, I'm a voracious reader!)
  • Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton - Crichton's "last book" (it was found completed in his files and published posthumously), it's a swashbuckling adventure tale set in the Caribbean in the 1600s. Good, fast-paced story with lots of action, and really good characters. It'd make a great movie, at least as good as the Pirates of the Caribbean flicks, if not better. It definitely gets a 10.
  • Conquistador by S. M. Stirling - an alternate history novel in which a group of people discover a portal to a parallel universe in which one event in the past occurred differently, resulting in a North America that, in 1946, is untouched by the "white man". And the story goes from there, with some outstanding twists and turns. All in all, a definite 10.
  • One Second After by William R. Forstchen - a "what-if" post-apocalyptic novel dealing with a scenario in which the United States is hit by an EMP attack. The author wishes to call attention to this all too real (and sadly, all too ignored) threat to the country, and does so through a compelling narrative and great characters. There are a few grammar issues, but not enough to detract from the story. It gets a 10 in my book.
  • The Legacy of Heorot by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes - a sci-fi novel by three great authors. As the name suggests, it is based on (though not really a pure retelling of) Beowulf. It's got a good story, good characters, and it's not too bad. It plods in a few spots, so I'll give it a 9 instead of a 10.
  • The Bible of Unspeakable Truths by Greg Gutfeld - a HILARIOUS political book by the host of Fox News Channel's Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld, with a forward by Penn Jillette! If you haven't read this book, READ IT! And if you haven't watched Red Eye, WATCH IT! The book is written basically like the show, and if full of hilarious and (mostly) common-sense commentary from Gutfeld, a self-described conservative who leans libertarian. I can't stress how much I enjoyed this book. I'm so glad it capped of my year of reading with this one. It's GREAT!!! So, it goes without saying that I give it a 10, which I believe, is a number. Oh, wait, I guess I did just say that. :P

Wow... 31 books read this year. Not too bad... now on to 2011!

So, if anyone wants to comment or whatnot, feel free! If not, then at least I got to enjoy hearing the sound of my own metaphorical voice! :P

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