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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-01-09 00:40
Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan || Cirque Du Freak #3
Tunnels of Blood - Darren Shan

4/5 stars



When Darren hit the city with Mr.Crepsley and Evra, the fun quickly disperses when bodies are discovered in the city. Is Mr.Crepsley to blame? Can Evra and Darren stop these horrid things from happening or will they lose their lives saving the innocent?





I love Darren Shan. This is only the third book I have read by him, but his writing is amazing. His writing is simple, fast paced, and well thought out.  While you can tell that this is more of a middle grade series, the gore is still there. Whether Darren is in a slaughter house or watching a murder happen, the simplistic details are still fairly graphic. 



I thought that this book was very well thought out. There were so many little plot twists. For example, the intro of this book almost gave me a heart-attack! I love Mr.Crepsley's character and the thought of him purposely killing humans? NOOO!  


I enjoy that Darren's character doesn't blindly accept everything. He understands that even the undead need to have morals, or even THEY can become disrespected and cast out. I like the realistic struggles he has. It's not been an entire year and of course, the pain of missing his life is still a huge hole. Meeting Debbie was good for Darren, and I'm a little heart broken that he had to leave her...like that. It was sweet for him to decorate the tree and leave her with this last reminder of him. To let her know he listened, he cared. 



Speaking of Debbie.... her character was very enjoyable. When we first met her I was sure that her character would be some kind of trick meant to distract Darren or possibly even kill him. They had an instantaneous friendship, which is completely realistic. You meet new people and sometimes you just....click.


Debbie helped Darren keep his cool. She accepted Evra and I feel that given time, (even immediately) she would have accepted him as well. She was a very down to earth character who helped to show Darren that compassion for others is something you shouldn't lose, It can make you weak, but it also makes you feel alive. Everybody deserves someone in their life that shows them that it's okay to hurt and that it's okay to care.

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review 2014-06-07 14:55
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today - Thomas E. Ricks

I am in no way well-versed in military history. My curiosity about the generals involved in WWII was piqued by my recent reading of The War. So, when I came across this work by Thomas E. Ricks, I thought it just might fit the bill. While I was able to follow Ricks’ overall thesis (which I'll get to momentarily), in reading the sections on the Korean War and even Vietnam, I felt like I was in a class for which I had skipped the pre-requisite coursework. Though, as mentioned, I haven't exactly “studied” modern warfare, but my having been alive for the campaigns in the Gulf etc. felt sufficient for following the later sections. So, do with this information what you will. Onward!


Dismissals and Mistakes

The military of the United States is (as is perceived to be) a different creature today than it was in the era of World War II. That, unto itself, isn't much of a thesis statement, and there are a preponderance of factors, technological, geopolitical and sociological alike, that have contributed to this stark contrast. However, Ricks gives us a cohesive narrative by tracing the changing role of dismissals and its impact on the tactical and bureaucratic environment of the American military. 


General George C. Marshall set the bar pretty high when it came to the rate at which leading officers were relieved while he was in command starting in September of 1939.


Marshall center with staff 1941


Though some may have seen this as "cold blooded," Marshall knew that unity had to come first in the course of coalition warfare. It was with this in mind that Marshall accelerated the promotion of Dwight Eisenhower , a man seen by the British forces as being a "strategic lightweight," but whose strength lay in his ability to prioritize and implement tactics, and who took seriously his charge from Marshall that he was to maintain cohesion among the Allied forces.


Eisenhower and Company E England 1944


So where are all the pink slips? Well, there are certainly a bunch of names I didn't know prior to reading this that I could list who were ousted. Likewise, though not a "dismissal" per se, Marshall wasn't wed to formulaic promotion by seniority. If he had been, George S. Patton would have been in front of Ike in line for promotion.


Lt Gen George Patton Sicily 1943


Patton may have been good at a lot of things, but keeping a coalition together was not one of them. Furthermore, Marshall wasn't running a sort of run-and-gun, once you're out you're out, hang your head in shame firing environment. In order to give commanders the independence they were afforded in the field, they had to be in the right environment. Dismissals often gave way to reassignments, which, as it turned out, was a really good thing. The American army made many mistakes, but it was also adaptive, something that was noted by the British who had an experiential head start due to the United States' late entry into the war. 


Mr. MacArthur Goes to Washington

Ricks gives General Douglas MacArthur the ignominious award as the "most overrated" man in the U.S. military (also, in his blog post, The worst general in American history?, he gives MacArthur the no. 1 spot). In addition to his general insubordination to a trifecta of presidents, MacArthur also resurrected the politicization of "the General." 


General Douglas MacArthur Korea 1950


While having generals in political office, unto itself, is not problematic, MacArthur is portrayed as a symbol for the worst possible relationship between the POTUS and military leadership. 


What's to be done?

Yes, I'm skipping a whole bunch of wars, but there is a point to all of this. These days the dismissal (or whatever you want to call it) of a general is a big, CNN-covered deal—one filled with shame and often associated with human rights abuses and/or sex scandals. Ricks argues that relief from command should not terminate a career, and, furthermore, should be seen as a sign that the system is working. Ricks cites the responses of soldiers who have left the force in his closing arguments (the most common reason for leaving, as it turns out, has to do with frustration with bureaucracy). We have come to a place, Ricks argues, where we are institutionalizing mediocrity. Incompetence is tolerated, and excellence is insufficiently rewarded.


My take

I admit I sort of three-star enjoyed this book, but feel like much of that was due to my lack of background knowledge. Basically, I feel under-qualified to dock additional stars. 

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review 2014-05-08 23:32
If you only read one book on the Persian Gulf War....
The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf - Michael R. Gordon,General Bernard E. Trainor

....this should be it. Granted, I had to read this book as it was a textbook (along with Rick Atkinson's Crusade), but I devoured the book rather than index read. There is politics, international chess play, and military maneuvers that are explained in a way non-military historians/buffs can understand. The number of people involved is quite a lot, so I made a list of people and their jobs (especially when the author was describing cabinet-level meetings); however, President Bush, CJCS Colin Powell, Sec of Defense Dick Cheney (yep, that one) and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. are the ones that are the major players. There was no real villain or hero; the authors took great pains to ensure they represented the people as humans, with warts and genius ideas. Persian Gulf War is also known as Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.


Unlike the American foreign policy of today, the Persian Gulf/Middle East region was not such a hot topic in the minds of Washington in the late 1980s/early 1990. With the fall of the USSR, American policy makers were concerned about the break up countries and possible outbreak of hostilities as ethnic groups fight for their independence (well hello, dear future UN peacekeeping missions); there was also a focus on the Far East and certain African states that had the potential for failed state status (again, hello 1990s UN peacekeeping missions). Gordon and Trainor travel back to beginning of the war to 1979 and a report from a bipartisan committee that forewarned of possible trouble in the PG/ME region....and that no one heeded because USSR! USSR! Gordon and Trainor also detailed how the Iraq/Iran war was a factor in dealing with Hussein.


Gordon and Trainor detailed people, events, geography, and analysis so thoroughly, but wrote to make it accessible and engrossing narrative. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in political science, foreign policy, ME studies...well anyone. I wish more attention was paid to PGW and its consequences, especially by more recent policy makers and political elites. 5/5 stars.


P.S. Atkinson's book is also very good and so recommended, but is written for the military member/military historian. There is an emphasis on weapon systems and military assets and how we won PGW. You may need some background knowledge before jumping into Crusade.

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review 2013-12-08 20:50
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today - Thomas E. Ricks

This book fully lives up to its billing. It begins by highlighting the state of the U.S. Army as it was upon the outbreak of the Second World War and the promotion of George Catlett Marshall as Army Chief of Staff. Marshall, while not a West Point graduate as were many of his contemporaries, had made a name for himself as a "brilliant planner" on the staff of General John J. Pershing in France during the First World War. Indeed, it was Marshall's grasp of logistics, of breaking down complex problems to their simpler elements and developing means of resolving said problems that would prove instrumental in the U.S. Army's victories in the Battles of Saint Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne. Marshall was a deeply principled man who devoted his life to making the Army adaptive to the changing needs of the nation and the evolving nature of war. 

As Chief of Staff throughout the Second World War, Marshall "devoted much effort to finding the right men for the jobs at hand. When some did not work out, they were removed quickly - but often given another chance in a different job." This came to be known as the "Marshall system", which created a generally well-led, cohesive Army instrumental in ensuring a resounding Allied victory in 1945. 

In subsequent years and wars (Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), this book shows how this system was gradually abandoned, and the largely negative impact that this abandonment had on the evolving philosophy, education, culture and ethics of the officer corps. 

In summing up, Ricks opines that "if the military... fails to restore the traditions of accountability, then it seems likely that the current trend will continue: When generals don't fire generals, civilians will. Thus it is really not a question of whether to relieve but of who will relieve them. As unhappiness with the conduct of a war increases, pressure will build to get rid of someone. That is the message of the historical record of the past sixty years. Since the Army lost the tradition of relief in the Korean War, each conflict has instead been marked by the firing of top commanders by civilians: MacArthur in that war, Harkins and Westmoreland in Vietnam, Woerner before Panama, Dugan during the Gulf War, Wesley Clark after Kossovo, Casey in Iraq, McKiernan and McChrystal in Afghanistan. These ousters are necessarily clumsier and tardier than internal military moves would be, because they are less like routine maintenance and more like blowing the safety valve on a boiler. But, as with a boiler under pressure, even a late move generally is better than the alternative of doing nothing."

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review 2012-11-18 00:00
The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today - Thomas E. Ricks Ran across this article written in 2007 that presages, I suspect, some of the content and concerns of Rick's book.

We'll see.

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