Monthly Archives: October 2017

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 GlassesA History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lots of history in this…hemispherical history, that is. Rather myopically focused on the western part, but still interesting. Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola…sure, why not? I see beer and wine, tea and maybe coffee, but distilled alcohol, no, and colas? Too recent.

Entertaining, well written, informative, but the selection is quite obviously subjective. Worth the read.

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Leadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a Follower by George Vucin – short review

Leadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a FollowerLeadership: As Seen Through the Eyes of a Follower by George Vucin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

L. David Marquet wrote a great book that had the subtitle A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders. I suppose Vucin might have been trying to turn leaders into followers with his book. Okay, not really per se…but his point of making leaders aware of the eyes of followers is one lost on quite a few in leadership positions.

I thought the narrative was simple, no new revelations…just repackaged, but that’s probably because as I was an enlisted Navy sailor who later became a Navy officer and I am keenly aware of how I comport myself with those I am charged to lead. I’ve mentored people who have risen through the ranks in the military and civilian life, I’ve made it an explicit point to tell them “Never forget where you came from.” (I’ve even turned that on leaders several ranks above me: “Sir, don’t you remember how much you hated last minute data calls when you were at our level?”) Just as situations call for different leadership styles and good leaders adjust (too many in leadership positions are not good leaders and the adage of “To those who only know how to use a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” is too appropriate), an intelligent leader recognizes the perspectives of the different…followers…and adjusts.

Not everyone who is led is a “follower”. Some follow because they are happy that way, and some follow because of positional authority. Those are the ones to be aware of, and to whom Vucin seems to be pointing the reader leaders. I suggest lots of reading, watching, digesting to add to your leader toolbox. This is one book of many.

I downloaded this from NetGalley and unfortunately for me (and the author), I had a few things come up after finishing and before I could write up my review, my DRM lease expired and my notes disappeared with it as I no longer had access on my chosen reader. I did recall one observation on the book composition/format: I prefer notes and references, particularly in books such as these. They usually serve as jumping off points, although I sometimes pull threads to follow up on a point linked to a reference to confirm. None in this book.

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The Cleopatra Crisis by Simon Hawke – an enjoyable reread

The Cleopatra Crisis (Time Wars, #11)The Cleopatra Crisis by Simon Hawke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are some wonderful paradoxical expositions in this I’d forgotten, and more than a bit of Hawke’s take of events of 2000 years ago. Okay, creative license with Cleopatra, but it is fantasy/science fiction!

Published 27 years ago, I could be reading one short passage from today’s media: “Since he became Emperor, Caesar has become more and more the autocrat. It is not in the tradition of Rome’s institutions. Only what can anyone do? He has the support of the people.” Change “Emperor” and “Rome” to something else, and “the people” to “a minority of the people”, and…nah…unfair to Caesar…

One left in the series. Sigh.

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Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson – feedback

Seventh Decimate (The Great God's War #1)Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is it fair to judge a book against another of an author? What about against an author’s body of work? It is a challenge to not do so with this one and Donaldson. I tried to get this through NetGalley a few months back, and my request was declined, but I was fortunate to be selected when this Advance Reader Copy became available through First to Read.

As to that judgment, Donaldson introduced me to his incredible imagination 40 years ago. His Covenant novels are rich, immediately so and all the way through (at least the ones I read…I have yet to tackle the last three; other attentions and all…), as was his Mordant pair. This one, is not. It seems under baked. His characters and descriptions are uncharacteristically raw. There are a number of throwaways, and it seems Donaldson didn’t want to invest any time in them before they were expended. I get that, but his Prince Bifalt is boorish with little redeeming him. Where Covenant’s flaws and anger had a backstory that a reader can identify with, I saw nothing in Bifalt that led me to understand him. Oh, he’s not hard to understand – flat, undeveloped, a blunt instrument. The thoughts that rush into his head are incongruous, inconsistent – well, they are consistently inconsistent – with rationality. I also felt the narrative to be uncharacteristically shallow, and predictable…that’s not something I’ve seen before in a Donaldson work.

I accept some fault in my perceptions – I am unused to reading such deliberately obtuse characters. I suppose there are more people than I know who really do think that way, but I wasn’t expecting such portrayals from Donaldson. It’s a departure, and one I expect I should adjust to.

I am grateful for the opportunity of the advance read, and will read the next when it comes out…I want to see where it goes.

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