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review 2018-03-28 04:43
Forcefully revises misconceptions about Britain in World War II
Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War - David Edgerton

When it comes to the Second World War, the British historical imagination is defined by the image of 1940: a plucky little island, standing alone against the Nazi juggernaut that had just rolled over western Europe.  The underdog status suggested by this image magnified both the heroism of the Battle of Britain and the subsequent victory scored over Germany five years later. Yet such a view, as David Edgerton stresses, is wildly inaccurate. Contrary to the popular myth, Britain stood at the head of an empire of nearly half a billion people, with the resources to wage war quite easily. Moreover, it was a war waged with an advanced and heavily mechanized military effort, one even more so than that possessed by their enemy.  Edgerton details all of this in his revisionist analysis of the war, one that takes a bulldozer to many longstanding misconceptions to give readers a better understanding of how the British waged, and won, the war.


Edgerton begins by describing the considerable economic resources Britain possessed during the war. Theirs was an imperial economy capable of tapping a range of resources from foodstuffs to oil, as well as the manufactures and skills provided by the colonies. This was connected to the home country by a merchant fleet which also gave Britain access to the economic might of the United States and which actually grew over the course of the conflict.  Edgerton describes the good use to which these goods were put, noting the improvements in diet for millions and arguing, again contrary to the popular myth, that the war materiel produced was of equal or even superior quality to that of their enemies and often of their allies as well.  All of this was managed by a state that gave considerable support to its scientists and technicians, many of whom developed the advanced weaponry which Britain used to win the war.


Forcefully argued and backed by a wealth of statistics, Edgerton’s book provides a powerful corrective to many misconceptions about Britain’s war effort.  Yet in some respects Edgerton deploys his arguments too broadly, often glossing over or ignoring the flaws that served as the basis of contemporary criticisms about the quality of British weapons (such as in naval air, which is mentioned only once and in passing). Moreover, his analysis raises an interesting question that is left unaddressed: if the British war machine outclassed that of the Germans in both quality and quantity, then why did the war last as long as it did?  Edgerton suggest Japan’s entry (which deprived Britain of the resources of her east Asian colonies) as a key factor, but this is only a partial example and begs further analysis.  Such an examination would have added greatly to the value of this already important book, which should be read by anyone with an interest in British history or the Second World War.

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review 2017-01-17 06:19
Possibly the most important book you'll read about writing

Most writers would agree the beginning of a story is the most important part. That's where the reader gets "hooked" and continues read on or abandons the book.


In Les Edgerton's book,  he describes in broad strokes, fine strokes and with examples how to achieve what his subtitle proclaims.


According to Edgerton, you can't write the opening until you know in significant detail who your protagonist is and what the story is about. To do this you must first identify your hero or heroine's "storyworthy problem", that would be the problem that is just below the surface and is gradually revealed as the story unfolds.


From that discovery, and Edgerton urges you to drill deep to find out what's really bugging your protagonist, comes the inciting incident. This is where the story begins, the moment where the status quo is upset and the protagonist sets about to resolve it.


The inciting incident presents the first indications of the bigger issue, the storyworthy problem.


Don't start with backstory - bringing the reader up to date on your protagonist's life, start with "trouble" - an incident presented in an action filled scene that incites your protagonist and reader to carry on to resolution.


A provocative opening sentence, an exciting inciting incident giving a glimpse at the storyworthy problem and you're on your way.


Complicated? Maybe, but Edgerton hammers it home again and again (with examples).


Hooked may very well be the most important book you'll read about writing. Edgerton writes in non-academic, easy to understand language, includes entertaining examples and even gives agents and editors the last word on the most common mistakes made in the manuscripts they see and, you guessed it, a bad beginning ranks right up there.


Edgerton's prescription on how to come up with a good story opening is actually more than that, a lot more. It's the formula for a sound story structure.






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text 2016-10-01 08:02
Books read (or not!) in September
Rivers of London: Body Work - Ben Aaronovitch,Luis Lobo-Guerrero,Lee Sullivan Hill,Andrew Cartmel
Those Above - Daniel Polansky
An Accident of Stars - Foz Meadows
The Kraken Sea - E. Catherine Tobler
The Obelisk Gate - N.K. Jemisin
Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 - Teresa Edgerton
Of Sorrow and Such - Angela Slatter
A Case of Possession - K.J. Charles
Night Broken - Patricia Briggs
Dark Horse - Michelle Diener

Books started: 13 (including the 2 I'm currently reading)

Books finished: 11

Books not finished: 1


Genre: Pretty much SFF, with one foray into historical m/m where there's magic so that probably still counts as SFF too. 


What progress on Mount TBR?: Got a few finished off, added a few... 


Book of the month: As you would probably guess, the stand-out book this month for me is The Obelisk Gate. Like its predecessor, one of the best things I've read all year. 

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review 2016-09-18 15:26
Goblin Moon - Teresa Edgerton
Goblin Moon: Mask and Dagger 1 - Teresa Edgerton

First of a two-part series (concluding in Hobgoblin Night), there's nothing particularly ground-breaking going on in Goblin Moon but what's there is done so competently you find yourself not caring about that. 


Like many fantasy novels, Goblin Moon is set in a faux-Regency world of heiresses, mysterious guilds and masked balls, but one where dwarves and fairies (known as the Fee) live alongside humans in relative harmony. For much of the book there are effectively two story-lines running parallel, linked by the people involved: Jed, who starts off scavenging from the river with his great-uncle, and Sera whose grandfather is that great-uncle's best friend. Jed ends up bettering himself by landing a job with a dwarf glassmaker, while Sera is the companion to a young woman who everyone is trying to either control or marry off (or both!). Meanwhile their relatives have got themselves into trouble with something that Jed helped pull from the river at the beginning of the story...


There's also an element of the Scarlet Pimpernel going on here, with a nobleman character going about in (not always very good) disguise righting wrongs, who naturally falls for our main female character. I'm a little disconcerted whenever 'all he needs is the love of a good woman' comes up as a way of changing someone, but we'll see how it all works out in Hobgoblin Night before I start worrying about Sera. At the moment, she's a strongly-written and competent character who is quite capable of rescuing herself most of the time, unless the odds are truly stacked against her. 


Anyway, though I can't remember how it was I even came to download this particular book (thanks to whoever it was who first recommended it to me!), the sequel is now on my wishlist and will doubtless turn up being reviewed here at some point...

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review 2016-06-13 09:37
Hobgoblin Night: Mask and Dagger 2 - Teresa Edgerton

The sequel to Goblin Moon, it was originally published as The Gnome’s Engine. To be frank, I don’t understand the change of name. Personally, I felt the original title is more relevant to the main thrust of the plot.


The story continues where the previous book left off. The sorcerer Thomas Kelly and the Duchess separately hunt Sera, Elsie and Jed. Meanwhile the parchment originally stolen  from the Duchess proves to be the key to unlocking the secrets of the drowned continent of Panterra. Meanwhile, Shelbrooke is busy hunting white slavers.


The world expands a good deal in this second volume. The writing is full of engaging detail and subtle wit.The main plot points are resolved but there are some new questions raised and avenues opened which I suppose adds to the verisimilitude and probably were originally intended for a sequel. Some of the minor characters from the first novel feel kind of underused, perhaps for similar reasons, but overall, the novel was very satisfying.


The novel includes three short stories which either relate to the world of the novel or share the same sensibilities. I particularly enjoyed Titania or The Celestial Bed which was a very clever story setting some of Shakespeare’s characters in the eighteenth century.

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