Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi GermanyThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Three historical periods always have fascinated me and I usually will read anything published with regard to them. The first is The American Revolution, the second is The Civil War and the third is Nazi Germany/WWII. William Shirer has penned the definitive account of this horrendous time in world history and I believe it is the most comprehensive and compelling telling ever published. I did read Richard Evans' trilogy but I still view Shirer's book as better. I thought that Evans speculated too much and also focused more on Germany itself rather than giving a more expanded view of the entire world stage during this time. Shirer does this while also having the benefit of proximity - The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich was published a mere 15 years after the fall of Germany. Shirer was also a foreign correspondent working inside Germany when the Nazis took power. That's the thing that really grabs you when you read this book. The fact that Shirer actually witnessed the gradual oppression and brutality as it was taking place gives a certain sense of realism to a time that seems so unreal looking back on it now. This book begins at the end of WWI when Germany was embarrassed and sanctioned mercilessly by the allied powers. Shirer uses this example to define what initially motivated Hitler to restore Germany to greatness - intense love of country and a desire to see that Germany exacted its retribution on the "criminals" of Versailles. Hitler simply could not tolerate the fact that Germany was militarily and diplomatically emasculated after the Treaty of Versailles. He set a course to use any means necessary and to point the finger at any scapegoat he could to begin a campaign of ethnic nationalism. Also contained in this gut-wrenching history book is a thorough description of how piece by piece and country by country, Hitler used his demented vision to take over the entirety of Europe and North Africa. The book ends with Germany's ultimate defeat and The Nuremberg Trials where many of the top Nazi leadership were tried and sentenced for war crimes. Simply a stunning book that is a can't miss for anyone who wants to know how this period of time came about. I read it with mouth agape for large portions as I could not believe that this evil was allowed to grow and thrive for as long as it did. It's not an easy read, but a necessary one I believe.

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Review: The Dirty Streets of Heaven

The Dirty Streets of Heaven The Dirty Streets of Heaven by Tad Williams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh man was this a miss for me. I have to preface this by saying that Tad Williams is probably my favorite fantasy author of all-time. The guy can do no wrong in my opinion. Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn is phenomenal and the Shadowmarch series is not far behind in quality in my opinion. I was a bit skeptical about him delving into the urban fantasy realm. I say this because Tad is such a damn good epic fantasy writer. He's so good that he dominates that segment of the fantasy genre. Nobody writes with the beauty and originality of Tad in an epic fantasy setting. But since he's one of my faves, I finally relented and wanted to see what all of the Bobby Dollar stuff was all about. Well, I didn't like it that's for sure. To be honest, I'm just not an urban fantasy type of guy. It never clicked with me as a genre, so I was going into this series already with a check mark in the negative column. Then I started reading and realizing that Tad should just stick with epic fantasy (which I'm glad he's doing by revisiting the world of Osten Ard). The things that bothered me about The Dirty Streets of Heaven are: The slapstick and overly-forced witty dialogue. Oh man was this laid on thick. Bobby is just too cool for school and he can't wait to tell you about it. The dialogue is just one cleverly sarcastic statement after another. I also found the world not that interesting to tell you the truth. The angels and demons were kind of cool, but again, they were cookie-cutter for the most part each imbued with their own heavy-handed clunky wittiness as well. When I finally finished the book I was relieved and my image of Tad Williams is such that me feeling this way should never be the case. I've always relished and savored each and every Tad book that I've read and I felt kind of sad when I put down this book. I felt almost like somebody suggested that he try to write an urban fantasy novel because it was a genre that grew in popularity very quickly. However, my impression of Tad writing urban fantasy was validated - a square peg trying to be rammed into a round hole. I love the guy and I will be eagerly anticipating the continuation of the Osten Ard books this coming May but man, this was a train wreck. It is safe to say that I most certainly will not be finishing the Bobby Dollar series. This experiment failed on a grand scale for me.

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