A Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A

SavagesA Giant Cow-Tipping by Savages: The Boom, Bust, and Boom Culture of M&A by John Close
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

Beginning in 1981, the business of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) started to change the American and later the world economy.  In his book A Giant-Cow Tipping by Savages, John Weir Close attempts to tell the history and the larger-than-life personalities that dominated the M&A industry.  However, the mishmash of short biographies and short stories documenting major deals is an informative, but meandering read.

The title of this book comes from Ted Turner describing his feelings about AOL-Time Warner merger; through you wouldn’t know it until nearly the end of the book and until then you wondered why Close or his publisher decided on the title.  Then there were the vignettes of Robert Campeau and Ilan Reich that were prominently displayed within the book, but either interrupted the flow of the text or where just there and only later showed to be an illustration of what was happening in the overall industry.  And then there are the sentences that have to be read more than once to understand what Close to talking about or approximate what he means.

The descriptions of the various deals throughout the 1980s and earlier 90s, the period Close focuses on the most, and the history leading up to and sometimes after are the best part of this book.  Having previously read Barbarians at the Gate I was familiar with the most famous M&A deal of all-time and with all the key players.  Close gives the reader a look at all the other major deals before and after RJR Nabisco, but also the relatively minor in financial terms but had a major impact in the Delaware courts and thus had affected larger deals.

John Weir Close was ambitious in attempting to give the modern history of M&A in A Giant-Cow Tipping by Savages, but the final product is unfortunately not equal to that ambition.  The highlight of Close writing is when he describes the events surrounding a major deal.  However connecting between these major deals is at times an intellectual trudge in figuring out how he’s tying these to one another.

The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency

0743265157-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency by James   Tobin
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received this book via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s dream to follow his cousin’s Theodore to the Presidency seemed to be exactly on course until he was stuck down with polio and appeared to be derailed forever.  But as James Tobin recounts in his new book The Man He Became:  How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency, Roosevelt’s illness and his determination to regain his health and the use of his legs enabled him to make his way to the White House in a quiet unexpected way.

Tobin begins his account at his time period’s end with Inauguration Day 1933 following Roosevelt through the ceremonies of the day and how he proceeded to stand up, walk the new way he had learned, and sit down.  Then we are taken back to summer 1921 to an athletic and healthy Roosevelt just before he contracted the poliovirus.  The contrast is stark and makes the reader want to see how Roosevelt went from the latter to the former, a task that Tobin skillfully chronicles.

Within the recounting of Roosevelt’s contraction, illness, recovering, and physical rehabilitation from polio Tobin enlightens readers on a number of issues.  The first is the mechanics of the poliovirus and how it became major epidemic disease in the early 20th-century.  The second is the societal attitudes towards the disabled in the 1920s and early 1930s that many faced and were amplified when Roosevelt returned to politics.  The third was political dynamics that the nation and the Democratic party was facing throughout the mid-1920s especially when it came to New York Governor Al Smith and Roosevelt’s relationship towards him.  The fourth is Roosevelt’s dealings with the press about his physical condition and how much he actually used a wheelchair.

At 311 pages of text, Tobin for the vast majority of the book is both detailed and efficient in his writing.  The only time the text seemed to wander was when Tobin discussed the societal attitudes towards the disabled during the time period, mainly because he continued to show example after example of attitudes and biases after clearly giving the reader ample evidence already.  If being given an overabundance of information on a particular issue that Roosevelt had to confront is the only noticeable “glare” then it might come down to the individual reader and not the writer.

Upon finishing the book, Tobin’s view that polio helped Roosevelt win the Presidency does hold up.  A polio-free Roosevelt had all the talent to become President, whether he would have succeeded would be another matter.  However, it was a post-polio Roosevelt who learned to use his talents in another way like he had to learn to use his muscles in another way that helped create a recipe for a successful return to politics and then ascension to the Presidency.

To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn #3b)

0886776066-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 by Tad Williams
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The second part of To Green Angel Tower brings Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn to a stunning and thrilling finish.  The book begins with the Norn attack on Josua’s camp and Simon & Miriamele’s quest to the Hayholt, directly where it left off in Part 1 giving a “sense of continuity” of the overall novel.  The story arcs of the various second tier characters were either ended or brought into the main story before the last quarter of the book so as to concentrate on the major climactic siege of the Hayholt and the supernatural battle on top the aforementioned Green Angel Tower.

By the last quarter of the book every living character, save one, has made their way to the Hayholt through a variety of paths.  It is only then that all of them start realizing that they had been tricked by the Storm King and the Norns, including their human allies Elias and Pryates though the later had tried to cage his supernatural ally himself.  The Storm King’s defeat is not through strength of arms, but on empathy towards the great antagonist at the right time that stymies his return to mortal plane.  The resolution to the great crisis is a unique twist that one doesn’t see coming along, but given the one who expresses the empathy it goes well with that character’s development throughout the book.

There were some issues I did have while reading that I have to mention, the first of which was the pace at the beginning of the book.  To Green Angel Tower was originally published whole in hardcover so one would assume that Part 2 would feel just like a continuation, but the beginning of Part 2 reads and feels like it is a different book entirely.  I mentioned in the first paragraph that Part 2 began where Part 1 left off to give a “sense of continuity” but it doesn’t read that way especially as one continues on through Part 2.  It seems that To Green Angel Tower is actually two books in one that were pressed in the original publication so as to have the “trilogy” but the series would have been better served as a tetralogy when originally published.  The second was trying to keep the various timelines straight of the various storylines, especially as they started interconnecting with one another and which sometimes was maddening trying to remember what another character was doing somewhere else at the time.

Overall, To Green Angel Tower Part 2 was a fantastic finish to a memorable series.  Not withstanding my feeling that the series should be a tetralogy and my other minor issue, this is a series that any fantasy fan must read because of how Williams brought something new to the genre over a quarter of a century ago and inspired several other authors to bring their ideas forward with his success.  So consider Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn as well as this book recommended.

The Dragonbone Chair
Stone of Farewell
To Green Angel Tower Part 1