Reviewed – MacArthur’s War; Invasion: Alaska; and Neue Europa

Counterfactual history is a genre based on the question ‘what if?’. It's one of my favourite types of fiction, combining creativity based on historical events. Some prominent authors include Australian John Birmingham, with his series Axis of Time, and American Harry Turtledove (though I’ve passed his series on aliens invading the world). Invariably, the parallel universe in a counterfactual novel is based on changing one of the quirks of a major historical event and then broadly continuing on...
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Reviewed – High Wire Act: Ted Rogers, by Caroline Van Hasselt

Where to start in reviewing this 520-page tome? WHAT a book. This book is not just a biography on Canadian media / technology owner and magnate, Ted Rogers, although that's what I bought it for. It is much, much more than a biography, providing detailed insights into the personality and drive of Rogers, whose name adorns cable, sports, wireless and many other businesses in Canada. As well as the personal history of Rogers, the book goes into at times excruciating detail into junk bonds, merg...
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Reviewed – Beyond Band of Brothers (Major Richard D Winters)

This review coincides with the first anniversary of the passing of Major Richard Winters. Major Winters died in January 2011, aged 92. I was given this book for Christmas and finished it on New Year's Day. Beyond Band of Brothers was first published in the US in 2006, only a few years after the TV miniseries aired. It is a poignant, sad, reflective, and well-written book that at 290 pages is not a long read. It is a superb, moving book. Richard Winters was a ordinary man by his own standards,...
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Reviewed: In the Firing Line. Diary of a Season (Ed Cowan).

There are cricket books, and then there are cricket books. Such are the mysteries of life, that sometimes you read a cricket book and put it down, never to really remember it. Others, the really good ones, make you think. I could happily wax lyrical about this book, but then I'd rather you go and buy it, and sit, and read, and go away, as I have done, and think about the issues that Ed Cowan raises it in. In short, Cowan's book is a fine long-form broadsheet cricket essay over a summer. I lov...
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Reviewed – Paul Henry, What Was I Thinking

To be honest, I bought this book on Kindle out of curiosity to learn, if I could, what the fuss was about with Paul Henry – the enfant terrible of New Zealand media. I then went and firstly read the final few chapters which deal with his time on TVNZ and the issues that led to him leaving, and his subsequent decision to return to radio. This book, like its author, is, at times, intense – maniacally interesting, at times self reflective, and often brutally honest. The thing is, despite m...
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Reviewed – Strong Armed Men

Robert Leckie’s tome on the United States Marines’ battles in the Pacific is intense as it is detailed – nearly 600 pages – and covered in a way that I found at times shocking, but also captivating. This book looks at the battles the Marines fought, often in great detail, from their landings on Guadalcanal all the way through the central Pacific, and finally to Okinawa. Though Leckie fought in the Marines (his book With the Old Breed I read after having watched the miniseries Pacific), this is...
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Reviewed – Barassi

At the outset, let me declare I’ve been a Melbourne Football Club supporter since I can remember. Flower, Grinter, Stynes. I wore number 2 on my school footy jumper and treasured the autographed photo from Robbie Flower. Barassi was a name spoken with the same reverence as Ted Whitten. That said, I knew little of the history of the Dees, less, to be honest about Norm Smith. I am therefore very glad I read Peter Lalor’s book, simply entitled ‘Barassi’. This book isn’t about one man; though it i...
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Reviewed – Soldier

General Colin Powell, is, arguably, one of the most well-known Americans of the past decades - a solider, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor, and then, eventually, Secretary of State. The biography on him, by Karen deYoung, is, to be honest, very long - but that's not necessarily to its detriment. It's as much a history of America and American politics, of American military history and of the Byzantine world of Republican politics in the first term of President Geo...
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Reviewed – Given Up for Dead – America’s Heroic Stand at Wake Island

Wake Island sits alone, an atoll in Pacific Ocean, in the middle of the nowhere, unimportant - at least it was until the US foresaw a coming war with Japan and moved (very slowly) to fortify it and establish it as a forward base. Given Up for Dead - America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island by Bill Sloan explains the background, and then we're introduced to the men central to the events that occurred there - US Navy, Marine and civilian. This book's value is how it moves seamlessly from strategic...
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Reviewed – ANZAC Fury

Peter Thompson's work on the Battle of Crete in 1941 is simply excellent. If you find military / political history fascinating, this is the type of book that you'll start and not want to stop till you're done. Thompson's 2008 work, Pacific Fury, was brilliant - and this is no different. To his credit, he focuses on the strategic decisions that led to the Australian and New Zealand forces being on Crete in the first place, and I learned much of the military-political machinations that led to the...
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