|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 8, 2022 at 5:55 AM|
The History of Sugar by Kelley Dietz
Sugar is one of the most important crops currently harvested in the world. Not only is it in just about every modern food, cultivating it was a major motivator for the settlement of the western hemisphere by Europeans. Sugar is one of those commodities for which demand seems to increase the more that is produced. Often called “white gold”, the desire to cultivate sugar “justified” Europeans greatly expanding the slave trade from Africa. The process of turning the cane into sugar was brutal and dangerous, contributing to the very high mortality rate of slaves in the Caribbean islands.
This book covers it all, including the production of rum—another product of the sugarcane. The lectures are short, to the point, and interesting, bringing are obsession with this highly addictive substance right up to the present day where the author touches upon the health problems that accompany our overconsumption of this product.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 7, 2022 at 7:10 AM|
Legionnaire 13 is now available for pre-order on Amazon. If you pre-order before August 25, you will get the book for 25% off the cover price. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B8WRMHRL?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
And here's the book blurb:
After a long and grueling fight in Angosto Pass, Marcus and his legionnaires finally catch a break. The Diamonte city of Malaquita is not only badly under garrisoned, it has no idea that the legion is on its doorstep. Yet driving out the Gota and capturing the city only creates more problems for the legion. The city is barren of supplies and could easily turn into a deathtrap if Marcus and his men remain to defend it, but if they can hold it through the coming harvests its strategic location will greatly bolster Amatista’s chances in the war. His only hope is to build an alliance with the most influential Gente in the city as he tried and failed to do in Morganita. His one tenuous asset to make this alliance happen is the cousin of the wife of his trusted friend, Senior Mago Efraín Estudioso, who married into the powerful Astrónomo family—but the Astrónomos have a terrible secret of their own that could transform them into Marcus’ vehement enemies. And now Marcus has accidentally spurned the high priest of Madre Tierra, making this one political seduction that seems destined to go very wrong!
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 6, 2022 at 7:05 AM|
The Corps 10 Retreat, Hell! by W.E.B. Griffin
History repeats itself, as it actually did in the Korean War. After having been caught by surprise by North Korea initiating the war, it is clear that MacArthur and his staff are about to be caught by surprise again by the Chinese entering the war. The military part of this novel is all about Pickering (Assistant Director of the CIA) and Kenneth “Killer” McCoy trying to prove what they know—that the Chinese are preparing to invade in overwhelming strength if the U.S. continues to destroy North Korea’s military forces (and thus take over North Korea). It’s frustrating to watch happen, because the reader, of course, knows that Pickering and McCoy will ultimately fail. That doesn’t stop it from being intensely exciting.
An important subplot is that of Pickering’s son (and McCoy’s best friend) who was shot down and is trying to survive behind enemy lines. Searching for Pick is a good plot, but in many ways, the story gets even better after he is rescued, and we get to see what happens to pilots who are recovered in this fashion. The military knows that many have problems after the trauma they endured, and we see their efforts at mental health care.
This is another good book in the series. Unfortunately, it’s also the last. I for one would like to see another book to complete the Korean War and then watch Pickering, McCoy, and everyone else in the early stages of Vietnam.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 5, 2022 at 7:35 AM|
The Home Front by Dan Gediman and Martha C. Little
I’ve read a lot of histories focusing on World War II. Most of them deal with what life was like back in the U.S. while soldiers fought the war in, at most, a chapter. Many of them ignore the U.S. home front completely, focusing on the greater deprivation felt in European countries. The experiences of civilians in the rest of the world tends to get ignored. This book seeks to rectify that omission in the United States and it does a very good job of it. It holds itself together with a mild political narrative because the country is often reacting to that large structure of Hitler’s invasions and FDR and Congress’ responses. But the heart of the books and most of the skeletal bones focuses on what it was like to be called up for service, to join the factory lines, to be imprisoned because you’re a Japanese American, to deal with rationing, to see loved ones go, and return different if they returned at all. It’s a worthy contribution to the works on World War II.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 4, 2022 at 7:15 AM|
Here's the cover to my new Legionnaire novel, The Seduction of Malaquita, coming soon.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 3, 2022 at 6:05 AM|
The Corps 9 Under Fire by W.E.B. Griffin
Seven years have passed between the events of In Danger’s Path and the start of Under Fire. World War II has ended and the Cold War has begun. MacArthur is in charge of Japan just a couple of weeks before North Korea invades the South. MacArthur and the U.S. has no idea that such an invasion is being contemplated because MacArthur’s head of intelligence suppressed a report that suggested war was coming because it disagreed with his own assessment. General Willoughby not only suppressed the report, but he ordered it destroyed and kicked the officer who wrote it out of the Marine Corps. That officer was the hero of many of the earlier books in this series, Captain Kenneth “Killer” McCoy. McCoy breaks regulations, steals a copy of his report, and gets it to his old boss, General Pickering, who is now back in civilian life. Thus begins a great addition to The Corps series.
Pickering brings the report to the attention of President’s Truman’s top military man, but the investigation into McCoy’s report is still ongoing when war breaks out. Yet that report (the correct assessment that war was coming when no one agreed with him) gives Pickering a significant amount of credibility in the president’s eyes and he is made Assistant Director of the new CIA and sent over to Japan to resume the intelligence role he played in World War II. He reassembles his old team which allows us to check in on many of the characters from the earlier books in the series as they are pulled into a new war.
As anyone who knows anything about the Korean War knows, the war is not going well. Caught unprepared and with the military cut to the bone in the draw down after WWII, even slowing the North Korean advance seems impossible. As the fighting continues, Pickering becomes aware of MacArthur’s daring plan to turn the tables on the North Koreans and he identifies a very dangerous flaw in that plan that could cause the U.S. to lose the war. So, he decides on his authority as Assistant Director of the CIA to covertly (and independently) act to neutralize that danger, but if he fails, MacArthur’s whole plan will be exposed and made impossible.
There are tremendous risks in this book and the costs are not cheap as one of the main cast is lost behind enemy lines with little hope for rescuing him. If you enjoyed the first part of the series, you will definitely want to read this book.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on August 2, 2022 at 7:15 AM|
Money by Jacob Goldstein
This is a great guide to the creation, use, evolution, and expansion of money from the very beginnings right up to the present day. Goldstein has a knack for breaking the reader out of the simple acceptance of money as a natural commodity and repeatedly making the point that it is an arbitrary thing without natural value. In addition to describing the introduction of the concept, the problems of silver versus gold, and the first paper currencies, he shows how larger economic events like the Industrial Revolution impacted money.
Goldstein is at his best in talking about banks, how they came into being, how they came to issue paper money in the United States and elsewhere, and the kinds of trouble they got into because of this. He also talks about Central Banks (the good and the bad) and how they fit into the modern economic picture.
For me, the most interesting sections were on the modern economy, the monetary causes of the 2007 Recession and the growth of crypto currencies. Overall, this is a great guide that I expect to read again.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 31, 2022 at 7:40 AM|
Still Life with Crows by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
This is the novel that introduced Corrie—one of the two heroines of Old Bones. A murder on the outskirts of a very small Kansas farm community attracts the unofficial attention of Agent Pendergast. The murderer has conducted a bizarre ritual including a bunch of dead crows around the first victim and including legitimate nineteenth century Native American artifacts in the crime scene. Pendergast, unsurprisingly, seems to be the only person with a clue as to what is really happening. Most everyone else wants to pretend that someone passing through the area committed the bizarre crime. But more murders happen and the bad publicity threatens the small town’s chances of being picked as the site of a genetically-enhanced corn experiment that could turn the economy around.
This book has all the elements I loved from Relic, Reliquary, and the Cabinet of Curiosities. Pendergast is a great and mysterious hero, oddly pursuing the crime in his own fashion and unconcerned by the reactions of those around him. This one adds the interesting figure of Corrie, a rebellious teenager with no prospects. Pendergast takes her under his wing because she knows everyone in the area, but it was never far from my mind that she was going to grow into the young FBI agent in Old Bones.
As the book goes on and evidence begins to accumulate, I was reminded that Preston and Child are capable of delving into science fiction to create their bad guys. I won’t say whether they actually do that this time, but I did like the way they explained their threat and will be long haunted by the explanation of why the bad guy is committing murders.
This is another good one by two masters of the field.
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 30, 2022 at 7:40 AM|
My latest Legionnaire novel, The Seduction of Malaquita, is currently with my beta readers as it comes closer and closer to being ready to be published. In the meantime, I've written the publisher's blurb:
After a long and grueling fight in the Angosto Pass, Marcus and his legionnaires finally catch a break. The Diamonte city of Malaquita is not only badly under garrisoned, it has no idea that the legion is on its doorstep. Yet driving out the Gota and capturing the city only creates more problems for the legion. The city is barren of supplies and could easily turn into a deathtrap if Marcus and his men remain to defend it, but if they can hold it through the coming harvests its strategic location will greatly bolster Amatista’s chances in the war. His only hope is to build an alliance with the most influential Gente in the city as he tried and failed to do in Morganita. His one tenuous asset to make this alliance happen is the cousin of the wife of his trusted friend, Senior Mago Efraín Estudioso, who married into the powerful Astrónomo family—but the Astrónomos have a terrible secret of their own that could transform them into Marcus’ vehement enemies. And now Marcus has accidentally spurned the high priest of Madre Tierra, making this one political seduction that seems destined to go very wrong!
|Posted by Gilbert Stack on July 29, 2022 at 7:10 AM|
The Corps 8 In Danger’s Path by W.E.B. Griffin
This is another stellar volume in W.E.B. Griffin’s The Corps series and it wraps up the World War II storyline by reviving plot threads from the very first book in the series. What happened to Banning’s wife and Zimmerman’s wife and kids when they were forced to leave them behind when the Fourth Marines were pulled out of China to reinforce the Philippines just before World War II began?
In Danger’s Path also spotlights those things that W.E.B. Griffin does better than anyone else in the business—show the planning of operations and the problems that come from interservice and even inter-officer rivalries. In an organic and always interesting manner, Griffin shows how different groups (Banning and Zimmerman’s wives, retired marines and Yangtze River patrol men living in China, and a few marines left on station in China who don’t want to surrender to the Japanese) plan separate efforts to get the heck out of China, across the Gobi and into India. Later, he’s going to show how plans evolve to locate those marines and use them to help set up a weather station in the Gobi that will help the navy plan its operations as it advances on Japan. This is truly fascinating stuff, made much more complex by the lack of cooperation and outright interference that various self-interested groups within the U.S. military and OSS bring to the table.
Yet the best part of the novel is the threat that Banning uncovers to the secret of Magic—the codename for everything connected with the U.S. government’s ability to intercept and decipher Japan’s supposedly unbreakable codes. It’s a secret that is giving the U.S. the edge it needs to combat the Empire of Japan and it may have been compromised. And in the process of investigating that, our hero General Pickering finally comes to the internal understanding of how stupidly cavalier he has been with the same secret. His attitude toward secret information has bothered me though out this series and it was nice that he finally came to understand how unacceptable some of his actions have been.
This is a great novel that wraps up the storylines of all of the major and most of the minor characters. I suspect that Griffin had considered closing the series with it, but fortunately he decided to return to The Corps and usher them into the Korean War in the next two volumes.