The World Wars Episode 3

The World Wars
Episode 3: “Never Surrender”
HISTORY

The Good: The battle scenes and the camera work is wonderful and the best thing that’s been consistent throughout the entire series. The use of Patton in leading the phantom army that would invade at Calais. The Holocaust is dealt with responsible, yet powerful way. The debate on the use of the Atomic Bomb was good (it would have been a tad better if the estimated Japanese civilian deaths of an invasion would have been stated).

The Bad: The chronology is all over the place as they merge events that happened a year apart to happen at the same time (the initial drive to Moscow in ’41 and Stalingrad). They show FDR being the decision maker when it came to Midway. When Italy surrendered the show indicated that the allies occupied the entire country instead of having to fight the Germans up the ‘tough old gut’.

The Ugly: The North African campaign is ignored. The Pacific War is the fall of the Philippines, Midway, and then the retaking of the Philippines by island hopping. The Soviet Union’s contribution to the war was horribly neglected. Patton apparently didn’t return to command until the Battle of the Bulge, completely forgetting his leadership of the Third Army over the French countryside.

No Opinion: No mention of Harry Truman’s service during WWI, which I thought would have been an important item to include. Promo that an extended version of the series will be see on H2 in June with “never before seen footage.”

Grade: C

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The World Wars Episode 2

The World Wars
Episode 2: “A Rising Threat”
HISTORY

The Good: The paths to power of Hitler, Roosevelt, and Churchill were well done besides the fact they stumbled on chronology for Churchill. The various battle scenes were another great part of this episode like the previous one. The opening scene of the Stock Market crash and then the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ were very well done.

The Bad: The various chronology errors and double backs, which went hand-in-hand with asserting that political or military decisions were based on leader’s opinions of their opposites in enemy nations (save for Churchill’s warnings about Hitler). Asserting the Emperor Hirohito was more politically involved then he likely was.

The Ugly: The repeat of awful retelling of the Communist takeover at the beginning of the Stalin segment. Patton is completely ignored this entire episode even though he is one of the characters featured in the title sequence.

No Opinion: The path and motivations behind the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor seemed off, especially their economic/military strategy in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. However I’m not too sure if it’s part of the chronology errors listed above or just wrong history.

Grade: B+

The World Wars Episode 1

The World Wars
Episode 1: “Trial by Fire”
HISTORY

The Good: The bio portions on Hitler and Churchill were the standouts for the entire episode. The battle scenes for the Western Front were very excellent for the most part, including the opening scene which I thought was a brilliant move. I liked the decision to view both World Wars as one single event because let’s face it, they were.

The Bad: Uber-America in WWI. Apparently British and French commanders didn’t learn anything between 1914-17 before the Americans entered the battlefield in 1918. Also the US invented the tank apparently (I thought it was the British) and how to use it in combination with infantry to push the Germans back…I could have sworn the British did it first, at Amiens.

The Ugly: Stalin would have loved how the program made him Lenin’s right hand man in the October Revolution even though they completely messed up how the Czar fell and the Communists rose…10 months apart. BTW, Stalin was down in Georgia (the country not the state) during the events in Petrograd (aka St. Petersburg).

No Opinion: FDR is mentioned a few times, but since he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time he really didn’t do much. The sections on Mussolini were very interesting, I would have put them under “The Good” however I don’t know if they are historically accurate.

Grade: B-

The Color of Magic (Discworld #1, Rincewind #1)

The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1)The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fantasy/humor series Discworld began with “The Color of Magic” over 30 years ago and literally hit the funny bone of the vast majority of it’s readers.  After finishing it, I can say that I count myself among those who laughed as Terry Pratchett intended back in 1983.

From the first page the absurdity and hilarity hits the reader like a slap, even when you’re know that the book is humor.  The adventures of the inept wizard Rincewind who guides Discworld’s first tourist, Twoflower, first around Anhk-Morpork then throughout the western lands and the great Circle Sea all the while being followed by the latter’s Luggage.  The humorous twists the typical fantasy tropes were well conceived and executed with delightful results that kept me with a smile on my face.

I’m sure I can do a little quibbling about consistency of the humor or the flow of the story.  But frankly this is the first book in a series that stretches to almost 40(!) that I’ve only just began so what can I really compare it too?  So while long time fans of the entire series somewhat disparage this book, first time readers keep in mind that without this first book none that followed would have come.

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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This late 16th-century romantic comedy is high on romance and alright in comedy. Benedick and Beatrice are the liveliest couple in a Shakespeare play since Petruchio and Katharina, and might dare I say are greater than the Shrew couple in wittiness and disdain. The various situations that turnout to be “nothing” but smoke screen to cause either love or heartache to the characters vary in quality from well-done in the other characters tricking Benedick and Beatrice into love to so-so in Don John’s attempts to cause mischief. After reading it, I’m interested in seeing it on stage or a film/tv adaptation to see the interaction between B & B.

Adventism in America

Adventism in AmericaAdventism in America by Gary Land
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adventism in America is a history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from it’s roots in the Millerite movement in the 1830s to approximately 1980.  The book is a collection of historical essays by the leading Adventist historians at the time of it’s original publication in 1986.  The essays, edited by Gary Land who wrote two of them, are a well-researched and footnoted collection that dives into historical, theological, and social dynamics that the Seventh-day Adventist Church experienced both internally and as part of the greater fabric of American and Christian history and society.

The book is not for a general reader, the essays are of peer-review quality and thus meant for the serious student of history or historian.  Of the seven essays, the final one covering the period for 1961-81 is the weakest given that the major challenges the Seventh-day Adventist Church dealt with during the period were still being felt.  Given that it has been nearly 30 years since the book’s original publication and a little over 15 since this revised edition, it makes the last essay’s weaknesses even more glaring.

Notwithstanding this one flaw, the book is a candid look by Adventist historians into the history and issues that the Seventh-day Adventist Church dealt over the course of 150 years.  For the serious student of Adventist history this is a must read book.

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Half a King (The Shattered Sea #1)

Half a King (Shattered Sea, #1)Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

Half a King is the story of the one-handed Prince Yarvi who suddenly finds himself the King of his people only to be betrayed by his seemingly kind uncle, Odem.  Yarvi suddenly finds himself a slave, who isn’t worth much, but because of his previous training to enter the ministerial order is able to put himself into the position to flee his captivity along with several other slave companions.  Along with his friends, he sets out to avenge his own betrayal but those against his family and fulfill the oath he pledged at his father’s funeral.

Though the story doesn’t descend into grim and darkness, Joe Abercrombie’s first foray into the young adult fantasy is an enjoyable romp around the Shattered Sea.  Abercrombie is able to work his word building throughout the narrative without weighing down the pace of the story.  He is also able to throw in clues that Yarvi and the reader pull together by the end to unravel why the betrayed occurred in the first place.  And does a wonderful job of using a small detail noted in one of the first few pages that plays a part in the last few pages.

A mature reader has to account for the genre Half a King clearly reads as, young adult fantasy.  The characters are pretty well rounded, including Yarvi.  Even though he is clearly pretty clever, Yarvi’s disability and youth do have an effect on the story and result in him getting beat up a lot while finding a way to survive.  Yarvi isn’t pure; he does kill people in his efforts to survive and getting revenge in both direct and indirect ways.  Abercrombie is able to use various tropes seen as part of the young adult genre and twist in a satisfying way, especially when it came to the character Nothing.

Upon finishing Half a King, I was very satisfied with my reading experience.  Abercrombie wrote a fun, engaging book that I know I would have enjoyed if I was 15-20 years younger.  He was also able to set up very interesting potential sequel plots with characters the reader has been introduced to and understands their motivations.  I very much recommend this enjoyable book for all ages.

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