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review 2017-04-23 01:19
A first-rate resource on the subject
British Cruisers of World War Two - Alan Raven

Among warships cruisers may lack the power of battleships and the mystery of submarines, but their combination of speed and firepower made them vital components of most major navies for much of the twentieth century. Though ostensibly about the Royal Navy's cruiser force during the Second World War, Alan Raven and John Roberts provide in this book a far more comprehensive compilation, one that begins with the pre-First World War Arethusa class and concludes with the postwar completions of wartime programs. Its coverage is encyclopedic, detailing their design histories, the construction and trials of the warships, and the modifications they underwent over the course of their service lives.


Supplemented by numerous tables and generously illustrated with photographs and line drawings, Raven and Roberts's book is an invaluable technical resource for anyone interested in the subject. Yet where the authors fall short is in detailing the war service of these vessels. Such coverage is actually provided in the early chapters, which describe the cruisers that served in the First World War. This makes the absence of similar coverage for their successors in the Second World War -- the titular focus of the work -- particularly glaring. Readers seeking a more comprehensive analysis would do well to supplement this book with Norman Friedman's more recent British Cruisers: Two World Wars and After which, while not as well supplemented with pictures, nonetheless provides a more useful narrative analysis of its subject.

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review 2017-04-19 04:17
My forty-third podcast is up!
The Second Line of Defense: American Women and World War I - Lynn Dumenil

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Lynn Dumenil about her new book on the experiences of American women in World War I. Enjoy!

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text 2017-04-18 20:43
ARGH! Read 50 out of 352 pages
We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese - Elizabeth M. Norman

The story of these nurses is one I have been eagerly wanting to read. The women profiled (20 of the 99 original POW nurses) are starting to blend into one another - all farm fresh-faced, glossy hair, cute, perky, boy/man-crazy. These women have such an important story to share and the author is focusing on the most trivial crap in these women's lives - all while under enemy fire/invasion! I just feel like their story should have better writing than what is here...I am going to finish this book because the story needs to be told, but the book itself is going to probably get a low rating due to the awful writing.


On top of author's choices in what to write about and how she wrote the story, it is very academic - dry, textbook, with no sense of creative non-fiction storytelling. And the graphic descriptions of injuries/surgeries/piles of amputated limbs and jungle animals crawling on nurses/patients in the night are starting to get repetitive and certainly not needed in the amount that is present.

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review 2017-04-13 04:18
Working within the limits
Warships After Washington: The Development of the Five Major Fleets, 1922-1930 - John Jordan

The Washington Treaty signed in 1922 represented the major effort by the victorious powers from the First World War to halt a budding and prospectively expensive naval arms race between them. Ratios and displacement limits were set for all major types of warships, which shaped construction for the rest of the decade. John Jordan's book is an account of how the navies of the five signatories -- the United States, Britain, Japan, France, and Italy -- developed and built warships within the confines of these limitations. This requires Jordan to define not just what those limitations were, but the often differing missions each navy set for themselves and how they attempted to develop vessels that would fulfill them, which he does in chapters that examine them by the type of ship, which makes for an effective means of comparing both the missions and the respective design choices. Supplemented by photos and sketches of the warships described, it makes for a useful study of a key period of warship development, one with important ramifications for the Second World War that shortly followed.

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text 2017-04-02 18:14
Gives the who, what, where, and when -- but not the why
Japanese Cruisers of the Pacific War - Eric Lacroix,Linton Wells II

Eric Lacroix and Linton Wells's book is an encyclopedic study in the truest sense of the term. The authors spent a half-century tracking down every detail about the design, construction, and deployment of the cruisers of the Imperial Japanese Navy, which they describe with a generous supplement of photographs, charts, and line drawings. Nor did they confine themselves to just the major classes in service during the war, as they provided chapters covering specialized designs and older vessels that were scrapped even before World War II, an inclusion which better demonstrates to readers the evolution of designs over time. All of this is supplemented with appendices detailing the organization of the IJN, the equipment used aboard the vessels, and the heads of the shipbuilding section. Together they make for a work that is absolute must-reading for anyone interested in these fine warships, the history of the Imperial Japanese Navy, or cruiser design generally.


And yet in spite of all that the authors have done to compile and present this truly impressive body of material, this book can be frustrating for what it leaves out. What Lacriox and Wells have done is given readers all of the who, what, when and where of Japanese cruiser design and construction, but not the underlying reason why these ships were built. Any consideration of the specific purpose envisioned by the design of the ships, the strategic doctrines they were created to fulfill, or even the missions they were sent out to address is absent from its pages. The decision makes the book into a massive, lovingly-crafted technical manual that must be read in conjunction with other works (such as David Evans's and Mark Peattie's Kaigun) to utilize fully the wealth of information between its covers. Perhaps it's an ungrateful assessment considering the sheer amount of labor that went into this book, but in the end the incompleteness of its scope is really more a tragedy than anything else considering how much the authors must have learned about their subject over the course of their decades-long endeavor. To have come up short in this one crucial aspect is nothing less than a missed opportunity have produced a truly definitive work on the subject by the undisputed experts in their field.

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