Digital Win: Audible

I have been meaning to do one of these for a while, and now I am finally writing our first digital win piece.  A digital win is what it sounds like.  It is about things that, in my opinion, beat the analog version of itself for various reasons.  In this case, it beats the hell out of it.    Today’s subject is the audiobook service Audible.

     My personal history with audiobooks goes all the way back to 1996.  I was nine years old, a pretty heavy reader for my age, beating accelerated reader into the ground, raiding my school library, and begging my mother and grandmother for every Goosebumps book that came out, or that I did not already have.  My first audiobook was Goosebumps: A Night In Terror Tower.  It was a cassette tape that I am pretty sure my mom came home with just because.  It was about an hour and twelve minutes long, and I listened to it so many times, I am fairly certain I had it memorized.  Every time I cleaned my room, walking around with my head phones on, at daycare after school.  It was pretty high on quality too, had different actors, some mood music, I loved it.  Turns out, I still have it.  

    I took the next step in audiobooks by buying tapes from the library when they sold them off.  After that, after I got in the military and had the money to acquire my first IPod (30 gigs, the first ones with video on them) and I could shop for audiobooks on the iTunes market place.  Since 2007 that was the end of that story, I acquired books at the rate of one or two a month so that I could take them to Iraq with me and listen.  After Iraq my wife and I started using them on road trips (military families tend to travel a good bit) and really that has been our standard protocol for all road trips.  We even have our favorites, The Silence of the Lambs would be worn out now if it wasn’t digital.  They were pricey so we had to listen to them a good bit sometimes, just to avoid buying new ones.  The last one I bought was Patriot Games from ITunes.  

    Enter Audible.  I found out about audible five years ago.  As they are the providers of Apple’s audiobook content, their prices are very similar, but they have a subscription service.  The subscriptions are the way to go.  They have credits, and I have not seen a book a credit will not buy.  For twenty-five dollars a month I get two credits, which is far under the price of an audiobook.  When I started this, that wouldn’t buy a single Harry Potter title, now it gets one per credit.  The idea behind the business model is that you will use your credits and need another fix, and then you will find that your membership also buys you a massive discount on books. I have never bought another book without my credits that was not priced below the value of a credit.  Way I have it figured if a book costs less than ten bucks (super rare) then I wont burn a credit on it.  I have paid for the extra three credits here and there, but overall, I just use credits.  They do not punish you for this at all.  There is not some shifty little trick that says you have to buy a book outright every so often. 

Why I say digital audiobooks are superior to analog (as well as what makes Audible the service of choice)

  1. Space.  Analog audio books (if you can really call it that) take up physical space.  They are either tapes or cds and usually a hefty few of them.  They come in cases that take up space, and thats even if you do not have the nice ones that clip the tape into them.  Space is the long standing argument that exists about anything analog that has a digital solution.  Digital audiobooks take up exactly the space the device you already own occupies.  
  2. Durability.  Those tapes and cds wear out, they take damage. It was not until the Bluray that I thought discs were durable enough.  I collected cds, but those things are super low on the durability rating.  It does not matter if they are kept perfectly, they end up damaged.  They can be lost.  Tapes have a finite amount of plays of them, which can be pretty high, assuming the tape player does not kill them.  Digital audiobooks on the other hand can be downloaded again and again, played forever.  
  3. Cost. If physical audiobooks cost material to produce, you should cut that out of the market.  It has been a bit since I bought a real hard copy, and they can be found for resell at most used book and movie places, but again space.  Audible can beat anything legal that provides audiobooks as far as I know.  Twelve fifty per book is a hot rate considering most books cost between 25 and 30.
  4. Cloud Service.  I have audible apps on everything.  My phone, my wife’s phone, the iPad, the computer, everything that will take it.  So long as I have service for the device I can download any of my books on the go.  Not only that, but it keeps my place.  Listening in the car, get out, go in, play it on the iPad and it will pick up right where I left off.
  5. Return value.  Audible lets you return your credit bought audiobooks for exact value of the credit back.  There is a time limit on the returns, I think it is six months.  However, thats a large window, and you can download your audiobooks to iTunes if you want before you return them.  You would never see that kind of return value on tapes or cds.  
  6. Selection.  Audible’s market is huge.  I am yet to not find a title I wanted.  They have it as soon as anyone else has it.  I wager that if the audiobook exists, then they have it.  There were a few exceptions, Harry Potter for a while was sold out of the Pottermore store only, but they wisely backtracked on that.
  7. Selection again.  They have The Great Courses.  It used to be true that you saved money, but lost out on the additional materials by using Audible for this, but no more!  Now you get the supplement books as a PDF as well.  
  8. Statistics.  This is a personal pleasure.  I love seeing how much time I have spent listening, and my only regret that I did not know about it before and a lot of listening time is missing.  They have badges and listening stats.  I love that.  

Cons or things that can be better

  1. If you return the books, but have them downloaded to iTunes, you can no longer cloud them.  The Audible app has a section built in for your iTunes books, but they still have to be downloaded to the device, which takes up device space.  I can download them to my device and they show up in iBooks as well, so the only advantage to having an iTunes section in the audible app is that you do not have to switch between two.  Considering it still takes device space, and it does not contribute to the statistics.  I would like it if either service would cloud books in iTunes like they do for audible or for music.
  2. Once that six months passes you are forever stuck with a book.  Not really a big deal, but after that your return value is gone, and then you cannot even trade it in somewhere.

    That is all I really have.  I consider myself a pretty hard core audible listener and I find it to be well worth the money.  I have yet to think of a reason for having physical copies of audiobooks.  Audible won the fight for us.  I do not even use all of the features, like the ability to create book marks in an audiobook, and I still feel like I get much more than my money’s worth out of this service.  I listen while cleaning, while working, while running, exercising, even in the shower.  

    My pattern at this moment is to listen to fiction and read history and academic books.  I need to be able to make notes from those works and I do not have the time to go around for both, not like I would like to have.  I had a hard time convincing myself to listen to my fiction stuff, but my wife said something I found to be wise, “would you rather not get to absorb them at all?”  She finished that for me.  It increased my reading efficiency.  I know, a lot of the analog is about slowing down a bit, but that does not count here.  I would only pile up tapes, and I would have mountains of books I couldn’t read. Now, having the audiobook of books I already own physically brings up the question of whether I should keep those, but thats a whole other story.  We live in a world where we have less time, and now we have a way to put some books in the background to ensure we get more reading done.  If you want to really pack them in, you can speed them up ( I listen at 1.25 speed.).   We always say we are about what’s real, and what is real here is getting to consume a book, the content of that book is what is real to me.  Just like the space and money saved.

My name is Brandon and I am an audible addict.  My library has 84 titles and I have spent 1 month 5 days 8 hours and 11 minutes listening to audiobooks since finding audible.  What about you?  Do you like audiobooks?  Do you use audible already?  Tell me about it!

Brandon Bledsoe

Analog Savage

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Pride and Prejudice & The Great Gatsby: Books that someone else says you have to read, Part 3

Time always moves strangely to me.  You have an idea, you start it, you work on it, but it is a long term project and you allow it to sit and flow over time.

The last time I wrote about this was almost a year ago!  I promise I have since scratched some books off of the list, and there is more of this to come.

The premise here, again, is that like Denzel Washington’s character from The Equalizer, I am working my way through the list “100 books everyone has to read before they die.”  The list can be found here.

Today we examine Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby.  I am most likely going to make myself very unpopular here, but you do not have to read these.  Keep in mind all things said here are just my opinion, and I am heavily influenced by what I would consider the bigger historical issues.

That is right, I said it.  You do not have to read these, despite what the list says.

Let us tackle the Austen first.  This is an amazing story, but as a text, it is difficult to chew through.  I read the book.  I have listened to the book.  I have watched several versions of the movie, and an episode of ‘Wishbone.”  This book’s relevance is rapidly becoming lost, in my opinion.  Jane Austen wrote this during the Napoleonic Wars, and it is an excellent social commentary on the time.  However, we have since moved on.  We have moved far on.  I am not trying to just kill off classics that are outside of their time, but unless you are studying 19th Century English Literature, or maybe on a looser level just English history, then these social issues will not fall into place I feel.  As I said, I love the story, but I love it when it is acted out.  When I read it, I would have to take breaks, and by breaks I mean read other books, or the time it takes to move to other states.  People are going to hate me, and I will now watch my back for the members of the Austen Society, but I am scratching this off and replacing it with The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.  Maybe the novel would have stayed on the list had it gone into the larger issues of the Napoleonic Wars, but again this is colored by my views on history, and how it effects the modern world.

When I say that I enjoy the story, just not the book, I cannot say that in any way for The Great Gatsby.  How this is considered “the great American novel,” I will never know.  The novel flopped hard, and Fitzgerald went to his grave feeling forgotten.  Later it was given to the soldiers who were going to WWII, and they connected with it, revitalizing the book.  (Wikipedia, The Great Gatsby)
There is the point.  The soldiers that connected with this novel, were the guys who had fathers and such who had been in WWI.  They understood the social issues this book represents, and the times in which it was set.  Just as soon as WWII was over, the depression era was dead and gone in America, we were in the post-war boom.  It was a new era.  The only thing stopping this book from being just as irrelevant as it began, was the brief moment it enjoyed.  Time does not make bad things better, sucked then, sucks now.  If this book was not as popular as it is, The Plaza would not have made a Fitzgerald Suite.  Let this die, I beg of you old sport, let this fade back to where it belongs.

In exchange I offer you something else.  Kids today need to understand how we got where we are, how the 20th Century culminated.  They need to understand the events that led us to the 1990s, the 2000s, the last election.  For your consideration, I give you, The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.  It is not a novel, but it is relevant, entertaining, and coherent, all things that Gatsby is not.

Life is too short to read bad books.

Analog Savage

Brandon Bledsoe

I have done a silly thing

What has that shifty Ganger done now?  I took one of my favorite things and used it as a format to make my next project.  I cannot, often anyhow, write a long, drawn out, and informative blog post on everything I love, I am sad to say.  It takes too long, and often times the research is there and done for me, it is a just a matter of telling you my take on it, and then connecting you the reader with the existing work.

What is this ultra-glorious format I speak of?  It is the not so humble encyclopedia.  I love encyclopedias.  When I was a kid we had a set of World Book that I cannot quite remember the exact year they were from, but I am fairly certain my grandfather Bob bought them when there were two Germanies.

Last year  I bought a set of World Book 2014.  Here is the part of this blog post that is helpful.  Here is how you save money if you want a set of encyclopedias, hard copy, and do not want to spend sticker price.  World Book will run you $1049 for the newest.  The year before, $999, and they go down from there.  Oddly the backstock on  2015 costs less than my set of 2014, that may be because they have less of them and it is harder to come by, I’m unsure.  My point being if you do not mind not being 100% current, buy the older ones.  2017 will only be current for nine more months, 2015 will cost you roughly $750 less than 2017.  I mean, they print beautiful picture scapes on the spines, and I am terrified that I will end up collecting sets of encyclopedias, but if you read their site, you are only so many articles out of date.  I paid less than $300 for my set of 2014, even after a fiasco with the post office made me replace two volumes, and to boot, the ones I bought were on Ebay, and a library had them marked to be discarded.  That is way too much paper and information to just throw away when it is that new.

Anyhow, back to the point.  I have created a second blog…Encyclopedia Bledsoe!  Why?  It makes me happy.  Also, I saw a picture the other day from Barnes & Noble, and it hit me.  I do read the dictionary and the encyclopedia and they are awesome!  Why not organize it and share it????

So I made a blog, with what will be an alphabetical menu, that will contain entries.  I will link to a dictionary and encyclopedia site, after I write my bit.  Here is the key, my bit will be my opinion, my humor.  For instance Amy Schumer may not be in the actual encyclopedia, but in mine you will be able to find her listed as delusional and not funny.

What I will be doing:

  • Writing some original content for fun, sharing, and information
  • linking to existing work, the link will serve as the citation
  • picking things from reading the encyclopedias and dictionaries to write about
  • writing entries that are wholly new because they are important to Bledsoe of Encyclopedia Bledsoe

What I will not be doing:

  • Taking pictures of the hard copies of my books, pretty sure that is illegal
  • worrying about what anyone really thinks, pending anyone reads this noise
  • writing without passion or letting this become work

The link can be found in the about section here, and ofcourse you will see the posts on facebook.  Enjoy.

Ganger-Bjorn

 

Books that someone else says you have to read, part 2: going the library.

I try to break this up into bits so that each post does not turn into a small novel, but when I embarked on my reading list I almost bought To Kill A Mockingbird.  The problem is what if I didn’t want to keep it on my shelf? I refused to finish it fourteen years before.  I decided it was time to practice what I preach, and head for the library.  

Firstly, we have to establish my motivation.  I told the part about the movie where a character is tearing through a reading list, and I read quite a bit as well, but I was at Barnes & Noble performing one of my favorite summer rituals, looking at the wall of summer reading books from the lists.  I always like to see what the state says the youth should be reading for better or for worse.  However, it makes me happy and so I do it.  Some obvious winners are seen!!!The Scott Westerfield books are something I read when they were new, and am really happy to see them suggested to a new generation

Anyhow, that’s when it was time to start the list, and when I talked myself out of buying a book I was not sure I would like.  To the library.  This is the fun part though.  I went to the Marlborough Public Library…which I was sure I took pictures of…have to get one offline. 

Now knowing that To Kill A Mockingbird is THE American Classic, and knowing that the reading lists are out, I proudly marched into the library and asked for a copy.  To be laughed at by librarians is a new experience.  Of course I should have realized that every copy was checked out by the students who actually have to do summer reading…

Luckily libraries can now order copies from each other, and email you that your book is in! However I did feel rather silly…but I got to take the miniature me to the kid’s library!

Ganger-Bjorn

Books that someone else says you have to read, Part 1.

We have not done a book part of this whole books, brass, bears thing in a while.  For a while now I have been looking at the lists of “books everyone should read.”  I watched the movie The Equalizer in which Denzel Washington’s character is said to be reading through one of those lists.

Problem one is that there is definately more than one list, there are several that come up commonly in fact.  So it takes a little detective work.  I contacted my friend who is a librarian if there was a list to beat all lists that libraries and their secret societies know about.  According to Paula there is not, but she did tell me about a book that her library contained about this subject.  However, this grand tomb is a bit much.  It is 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die, by over 100 international critics.

Technically this is the first review, this book is a fail.  This is exacly why college professors give you word limits on papers.  These guys did a wonderful job assembling and summarising 1001 books but, even given the total number of books in the world, this was not work.  They did not have to pick something but the Bronte sisters, everything they ever wrote is in here!  It does however have a break down by time frame, so there is a list of “pre 1700,” however there is still the horrid idea of buying a 35$ book…to tell you which books you need to read.

Back to the list.  My next piece of detective work was to say ok what was Denzel reading.  He mentions The Old Man and the Sea, and one of the two main lists had that, so that is what we are going to go with.  There is a Good Reads list, and an Amazon list.  I deduced it to be the Good Reads list and so that is what we are sticking with, you can find it here.

Much to my…utter horror To Kill A Mockingbird was top of the ranked list.  You see I was put up to reading this in highschool, except I did not do it.  I am not particularly proud of the story I am about to tell as, I look back and think I would want to beat a student senseless if they had done this.  I do not know why, I got thirty pages in, gave back my copy, and took a zero for the various assignments that went along with the book.  My teacher was a bit eccentric, and I feel like she protested her way through college, so I am guessing my lack of a few letter grade drop was due to some strange part of her being excited to watch me buck the institution.

So do I wish that I had read this back when?  Not really.  I do wish I could remember why I hated it so much back then, and perhaps not been a snot.  I do not believe though that I had the capacity to appreciate this book when I was fifteen.

I may not agree that this book is “the best novel of the Twentieth Century” as purportedly said about librarians across the country, and no I do not have an immediate contender outside of The Silence of the Lambs right now, but I am not sure this is the top.

I did enjoy it though.  I feel like this type of book is the equivalent to a blog back when, have story and a need to tell it.  It offered a nice insight into the brutal reality of a situation with no way out, and no happy ending.  The race issues portrayed in the 30s, were very relevant when Harper Lee wrote this book, and despite starting this grudgingly, and partly as a show of commitment to this list no matter what I found on it, I found myself wanting to know how it ended.  Tom Robinson’s troubles were devastating and told matter of factly, in a that is life kind of way.  The only thing that can be compared to a happy ending is the death of  Bob Ewell.  I believe in justice, even if it has to be taken, and Bob Ewell got taken out the way he was supposed to whether he did it or Arthur Radley handed it to him, but that is it.  It can be good to read this kind of reality, even if it is grounded in a fiction novel, I feel it was the reality in the world and mind of Harper Lee.

Do I believe that it should remain on the list?  Absolutely, everyone should read it.  My next trip to the bookstore will be to turn it into the next thing that lives on my shelf.

The other thing I will be doing at this time will be to at the same time create my own list, just to see how much work goes into this, and to see what I learn, and am willing to give up along the way.  It will all take years, and I hope some of you are along for the ride.  I suppose this calls for a new permanent notebook…we will see, but the first book on Bjorns list of everyone has to read it, is To Kill A Mockingbird.  I hope you all enjoy it, and if you read it back when that you will go back to it.

 

The Cold War: A New History,By John Lewis Gaddis

**REVIEW AFTER THIS LONG INTRO AND PICTURES**

This blog entry will be my first post in quite a while as I let all extra things drop off during a school semester.  As you can tell from my earlier posts, I enjoy book reviews, and since I had to do one for school this semester, I will post that here.  The book was The Cold War: A New History, By John Lewis Gaddis.  Gaddis is, in my opinion, the historian of the Cold War currently and this book should be required reading for anyone entering the modern American history or Cold War history fields.


My copy, as you will see has seen a little time in service.  I bought it for an assignment, we were told to pick a book dealing with the topics at hand; the class was U.S. history 1945 to present, and themes were plentiful, but the professor also had a list available for us.  I am a Cold War junkie, and at the top of the Cold War pile sat this gem.  Our second son was born during this semester, and the professors were all very understanding and accommodating, thank you Framingham State University.  However, you cannot stop all work for two weeks and still come out on top, so this book was my reading material while in the hospital.  Whether it is due to being an excellent work on my favorite topic, or because it is now sentimental, it will be found on my shelf.

 

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.

 

In The Cold War: A New History, John Lewis Gaddis has created a concise history of the Cold War for a new generation of readers, synthesizing the already available work on the Cold War into a cohesive volume, incorporating updated and newly available information, arguing the need for the Cold War and the outcome of it, becoming an introduction to the subject, and expertly organized thematically to best cover the major events and themes of the Cold War.

John Lewis Gaddis intended for the title of this monograph to serve as the statement of purpose, in that it was a to be literal new work on the subject. He did not intend to reargue the entire history of the Cold War; he has already argued more than once over the course of his career; rather he was motivated to create a concise and updated account of the Cold War. His hope would be that this work could serve as an introduction to some, an overview of the subject of the Cold War at a basic level to new readers. This edition is what it should be, weighing in at 266 pages not including notes it is a detailed, but brief introduction to the cold war that will not intimidate the new reader. With many college students being people who have no memory of the Cold War an edition written with the new generation in mind was appropriate, even necessary. Gaddis is well informed as to the needs of students studying the Cold War as he is one of the professors who specialize in teaching it.

Gaddis does not intend for this work to replace any of the existing work on the Cold War, or to disagree even with any of these works. The author believes this monograph has a place at the front of the reading line about the Cold War, and could serve as the gateway to more challenging and in-depth texts once the reader has a grasp or interest in the topic. Gaddis himself being the author of several of the books that retain relevance in the academic classroom allows him to see the need for a brief and cohesive narrative. He openly informs the reader, and other historians, he has no intention of arguing against their works, in fact, he cites the established works of other historians often, as well as his own work.[1] This drives home the point that new readers should not look for this work to occupy a particular niche, and should feel open to using it as a basis for their Cold War knowledge at the beginning of their academic career, and can appeal to the casual reader for the same purpose of creating a firm foundation of knowledge on the general subject of the Cold War. Gaddis himself believes that the topic covers such a long timeline and took place in enough varied locations, with their own political arenas and motivations that a book could be written from any angle that you can imagine, even from the viewpoint of the smallest third world participant, and it would be relevant and occupy a prominent place within the narrative. This work represents the extraordinary challenge of creating a meaningful summary longer than an encyclopedia entry under the heading “Cold War.”

One of the reasons the author gives for having written this is the simple and justifiable release of new information from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the Chinese during the Cold War period. New data must be taken into account, to ignore such resources would be academically negligent. However, the sheer amount of new information available can be compared to money flooding a market and causing inflation. The volume made available is Akin to that which has been previously written in that it can be intimidating to attempt to digest. Gaddis has applied the seasoned judgment of an expert when selectively incorporating this information into his current and concise volume. This is clearly seen when he deftly includes official Soviet Missile counts during the Eisenhower years; not overwhelming the reader, but transforming the speculative argument that Khrushchev boasted about their power into a quantifiable piece of fact.[2]

This new evidence held in context with the work previously accomplished by historians, Gaddis included makes for a subtle, but compelling argument. Gaddis combines primary sources that are placed well within context. Rather than Reagan or Khrushchev being quoted on events that are similar to the instance being described, Gaddis has provided—when possible—the thoughts of the figure on events specifically. It is very convincing to have evidence pulled from a radio address Ronald Reagan gave, or even better Khrushchev’s thoughts on the bluster shown in regards to Soviet missile capabilities. Memoirs looking back—like those of Khrushchev and George Keenan—combined with evidence recorded at the time show the professional historian at work, giving insight into the minds of leaders during the Cold War, and where we are fortunate enough to have it, a look at what they thought of those same events looking back. It is wise to remember however that Gaddis wishes you to celebrate the United States victory in this conflict and will be using the words of Soviet memoirs to cast a light that makes it appear they accepted this outcome in the end.[3] Gaddis is fair when he quotes, as he balances his optimism with evidence against United States actions, such as pointing out (despite the argument) George Keenan’s regret in hindsight of the CIA black operations conducted during the Cold War.[4]

The reader should exercise a note of caution when reading this review. The idea of Gaddis not replacing or rearguing his work or the work of others may give the false impression that this work contains no argument at all. This is untrue, and if the reader is not careful, they may miss it entirely and absorb it as presupposed fact. The argument being made is the idea that the Cold War was inevitable and having occurred the world was made a better place. The world being better for the Cold War is contingent upon whom the author believes to have won it: the United States and her allies. Part of what makes this book such an easy read is that it is celebratory of the Cold War’s outcome, the argued victory of the United States. For many the idea of American victory is not an arguable point, the dissolution of the Soviet Union is a matter of historical fact. However, academics even beginning students understand the idea of objectivity, and Gaddis’s boldly un-objective argument may be perceived as biased by some studied readers, reducing the credibility of the entire work. It should not be the case that the work is impugned by this argument, but it is not unthinkable, and one could not blame anyone who described it as biased.[5]

Gaddis believes there is no way to create a single, simple chronological narrative of the Cold War, and has chosen to organize this work thematically. However, the work flows smoothly enough that the reader almost believes there is a chronological order at work. The author believes in attempting to only be thematic or chronological would fail to encompass the magnitude of the Cold War properly. With this in mind chapters are thematic, moving chronologically, but with some overlap between them. While this sounds like it is more complicated than needed, the idea came off well and made for a surprisingly easy read. Chapter one will set the stage for the Cold War, immediately following World War II, not merely the events, but why each side had fought the Second World War as well and how this contributed to their Cold War stance. Moving forward Gaddis will address conflicts between the first and second worlds while showing the factor everyone knows about the Cold War—the threat of atomic and nuclear war—and will explain not just how close we came, but why nuclear war never came. Having established the Soviet Union as a credible enemy, the reader must be shown when we feared them enough to be concerned, particularly in the context of such an optimistic outlook on America by the author. Superpowers having been explained Gaddis chooses chapter four to explain why these great powers had difficulties controlling their “allies” in the third world, which created some of the messiest conflicts of the age. This moves rather logically and quickly as each theme is explicitly addressed within the proper context and time frame.

Whether you are someone with mild curiosity, a seasoned Cold Warrior, or a student breaking ground on the subject for the first class, this book is a must have. Allow yourself to read it once easily and caught up in the celebratory tone it sets, and then look back a second time for a critical review. Whether you agree with Gaddis’s argument or not, this books should prove invaluable for the information it contains. The concise nature, updated information, and hindsight took in the fourteen years between the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the publication of this work, as well as it’s ability to be an entrance to weightier volumes on the Cold War make it indispensable.

[1] Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin Press, 2005, XI

[2] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[3] Gaddis, Cold War, 69.

[4] Gaddis, Cold War, 164.

[5] Greenstein, Fred I. “The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis.” Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 321-322.

Brandon Bledsoe, “Hrolf The Ganger”

Aftermath: Journey to the Force Awakens: Star Wars

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This book by Chuck Wendig is a part of the new Star Wars canon.  As I have said before, I am glad that they are giving the new movies a newly ordered canon.  I know many people are angry that the novels that were perviously canon are now just classified as legends and are no longer a part of the official storyline.

This book takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.  It is part of a series that will lead to the new movies and clear up how the galaxy laid out after Return of the Jedi.

This book earns two and a half to three stars.  The characters are forgettable (perhaps further books will redeem them) and the plot is slow moving, but that is the point.  The books treasure lies in the fact that the main story is just a pretense for putting in all the details about the larger Star Wars universe.  The entire purpose of this book (and probably the others) is to lay out the state of the New Republic, The Empire, and The Alliance and how we passed the time between movies.

With that in mind it gets the three stars for appealing to information, canon, and lore junkies like myself, but still remains mediocre at best.  It is not supposed to tell a good small story–and with the exceptions of the escapades of the droid Mr. Bones–it does not tell a good small story, it is supposed to be filler material.  It does enrich the viewing of The Force Awakens if you thought the movie was just a copy of episode four, but beyond that it is a mediocre at best book.  I really only recommend it to true junkies.  2.5/3 stars.

Hrolf The Ganger

Tarken By: James Luceno ** Book Review **

 With the new Star Wars movie on the way a question quickly arose.  Since the movie is taking place after the original trilogy, what happens to all of the books and such that were written about that time period?  Well to the great anger of many, and my personal joy the answer was simple.  None of those books count any more.  Not even a little bit.  Unceremoniously booted out of the canon.  This makes me happy.  There are a ton of those books, and given that a lot of them came out when I was in elementary school or before, it simplifies my life to have a whole new canon that also reflect the newer movies.  Here is your canon now as I understand it.  All the movies, the clone wars, the Star Wars comics currently being published by Marvel (awesome if you wanted to know), Rebels, and when I started this there were four novels.  It is about one of those novels that I am here to review now.

Tarken is a story set before the events of Episode IV: A new hope.  It centers around a time when the Death Star (not yet named) is being constructed under the supervision of Moff Tarken.  James Luceno has done a splendid job of fleshing out the life of Wilhuff Tarken.  Taken bought the big chicken dinner at the end of Episode IV, so he has always been one of those great characters that there was just not enough of.  Taken crops back up in Clone Wars here and there, but with this novel we finally get the full dose of Moff We were hoping for.  If you account for the fact that he spends the book running around with Darth Vader, well to an Imperial fan thats just plain awesome.  As with all of the Star Wars novels (new ones) I’ve gotten through so far the story is really just filler.  The entire book is an excuse to tell Tarken’s life story and allow you to see it applied to a filler story.  I am more than a little ok with this.  Whoever Tarken applies the Imperial justice too is fine by me really, it is the history I am after.

Final words:  in no way does this book disappoint, Easy A+ for me.

Hrolf The Ganger

**Note** with school and such keeping tabs on my time, I listened to this on audio book from audible.  The Narrator Euan Morton was great.

The Billion Dollar Spy, By David E. Hoffman. **Book Review**

 This blog is called Books Brass and the Bear for a reason.  If you have seen the pictures of (or been inside of my home) you will know that, well…books.  All the books.  Books by the ton.  BOOKS.  There is obviously not a bear in my house, thats just my rather high opinion of myself (I’ve come to terms with it.)  Heaven help you when we get to the part of brass…

Anyhow lets talk books again.  Books.  I am sorry I just enjoy saying the word at this point.   BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKSSSSSSSSSSSS….

Here is your actual review.  Now that I am sitting here, it occurs to me that I am uncertain of how to write a general book review without giving it all away or just saying here read this.

While perusing the local Barnes and Noble history section recently I encountered this.  Here are a couple of facts about me.  I love first edition hard backs, my wallet is not as crazed about them.  It prefers to wait for a soft back, to buy used on eBay, or try a particularly shady book out with a free credit generated monthly by my audible account.  This book did not meet the criteria of “save money and do not take me home right this moment.”  This book was ripped from the shelf and taken home and I was not disappointed.

The book centers around Adolf Tolkachev, and the time he spent as a spy for the United States during the cold war in The Soviet Union.  This book was extremely well researched and not only covers the events described (and holy wow they have pictures) but does a marvelous job of setting the context for what it took to be a spy or an American intelligence operative inside of The Soviet Union.  There is not a single loose detail in this book and it was hands down one of the most satisfying reads I have had in a while.  Satisfying like a ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of coffee is supposed to be.  I do not want to give it away, but I will say that if you enjoy Tom Clancy, you will love this, and it is non fiction.  I will also say that this book should leave you believing the world to be a little less bright for the loss of some of the people in it and the contributions made for the fight against the red menace.  It details not just how Tolkachev turned and what he did, but his motivations, the lengths he went to, his great love for his family, with tidbits thrown in about actual spy gear, and the fact that every American combat aviator who ever had to fly against a piece of Soviet designed air power, owes their respect, and their lives to Adolf Tolkachev.

The Bear’s rating on this book, A+.

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