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review 2017-11-29 20:08
Too good to win
"The Best Men": Liberal Reformers in the Gilded Age - John G. Sproat

John G. Sproat's book offers a critical analysis of the politics and achievements of college-educated independents during the Gilded Age. He identifies these liberal reformers by their shared characteristics: their belief in classical liberalism, a moral code firmly based in their Protestant faith, independence from parties in the political process, moderate reform goals, and their confidence that their intentions made them truly the "best men" in the political process. Those objective was to create a small, technically efficient government run by themselves, which would allow them to reduce taxes, encourage individualism, and curtail public services so as to allow each man regardless of their social origins to use their talents to benefit society without warping natural laws.

 

Yet for all of their earnestness these reformers more often failed than succeeded in attaining their goals. Sproat attributes their failure to their inability to come to terms with the times in which they lived. In spite of their open-mindedness in terms of social progress, they proved too fixed in their social and moral standards and rigid in their economic and political ideas. Their unwillingness to compromise their ideological purity, along with their elitist rejection of involvement with mass movements, effectively limited their impact by depriving them of the opportunities to gain power that would have allowed them to implement their agenda.

 

Though published nearly a half-century ago, Sproat's book remains the best work available on this prominent group of Gilded Age activists. Its endurance is in no small measure credited to Sproat's acute analysis, which continues to define how these men are understood today. As such it remains required reading for anyone wishing to better understand Gilded Age politics and the limits of contemporary efforts to reform government.

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text 2017-11-26 12:48
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square 10: Pancha Ganapati
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup
William Pitt the Younger: A Biography - William Hague
Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney,Ovid,David Raeburn
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
Treffpunkt im Unendlichen. - Klaus Mann
Making History - Stephen Fry
Gilded Needles (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Christopher Fowler,Michael McDowell,Mike Mignola
Risiko: Roman - Steffen Kopetzky

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR– Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!

 

Inspired by Murder by Death's post this morning, I've pondered over my morning coffe which reads qualify as myfavourite books this year. Although there is still time for a truly great read to come up in the next month (I am looking at you, Winter by Ali Smith), below is my list of 5 (or, erm, 6) favourite books of 2017 (I have not considered re-reads for this, btw.):

 

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf.

Although, I knew of Humboldt (and his brother), I had no idea of the extent of his influence on the sciences and of the adventures he went on to gain the deep understanding of the world that he did. I am still amazed at both. I am still amazed at the difficulties he faced. I am still amazed at everything I learned about his and his times from Wulf's extraordinary book. 

 

A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.

I love the works of Agatha Christie and I also love a good bit of science mixed with history - and this book had all of it. What is more, I particularly enjoyed how this book started a discussion with my mom (a retired chemical engineer) about all things chemistry and how scientific discovery changed crime fiction. For that alone, this book deserves 5 stars.

 

William Pitt the Younger by William Hague. 

One of the biggest surprises this year, not because of the subject (Pitt had been on my radar for quite some time) but because of the author. What I learned from Mr Hague's excellent account of Mr Pitt and the political landscape of Georgian Britain is that I may not agree with the author on everything (especially political outlook) but that this doesn't lessen my appreciation for the excellent work he has produced with this book. The sheer amount of research that must have gone into this is staggering. 

 

Metamorphoses by Ovid (tr. by David Raeburn)

This is the book that has taken me longest to read this year, but it is a book that demands a slow and deliberate read. Becoming reacquainted with the myths and legends of Ancient Greece and Rome has brought home how far we've come as a society, how much we still face the same issues, and how much I miss reading the "classics". 

 

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

As it turns out, my 2017 seemed to be geared towards a history side - and I loved it - with a mix of murder mystery thrown in for balance. Tey's book takes both and showed how a good "vintage" mystery can actually take a serious turn. Tey loved history and it shows when she used her laid-up Inspector to investigate not just the murder of the Princes in the Tower, but also how history itself is subjective and prone to be re-written for the benefit of propaganda ... and how easy it is to fall in line believing anything by virtue of it being repeated as truth over and over. 

A timely read for 2017.

 

Treffpunkt im Unendlichen by Klaus Mann.

I've been a fan of Klaus Mann's for a while, and in this book he shows how spot on his powers of observations were when he wrote about the times he lived in. Treffpunkt is one of the best books I have read to bring to life the Lost Generation in the late 1920s / early 1930s. Loved it.

 

 

 

Of course, there are some honourable mentions too:

 

Making History by Stephen Fry. 

 

Gilded Needles by Micheal McDowell (I'm still in love with basically every single book of McDowell's that has crossed my path.)

 

Risiko by Steffen Kopetzky 

 

 

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review 2017-11-03 00:18
This was good...like really, really good...
The Gilded Scarab - Anna Butler

While I really enjoy steampunk, I have to admit I'm kinda' picky about what I  read. I've had this book for a while now and I kept doing that thing where I squirrel off to this and that but when I saw that a second book was being released I decided that it was time to buckle down and get it done and I am more than a little happy that I did.

 

'The Gilded Scarab' is my first time reading a book by this author and let me just say 'not only is this Ms. Butler's wheel house she is in the driver's seat' and before the end of the first chapter I was more than a little confused as to why I didn't read this sooner.

 

I was totally enamored with both the world building and the character development. The world building in this story was huge which can sometimes be an obstacle for me because I admit I can become bored in spite of the fact that world building especially in genres like scifi, fantasy or steampunk can be as crucial to the story as the characters and plot but  Ms Butler has created a story here that perfectly mixes the development of plot, characters and world building both getting and keeping my attention no matter what the story focus was at the time. 

 

Rafe Lancaster is the main character and the focus of much of this story and he's awesome.  Rafe became a fighter pilot in an effort to remove himself from his families influence and basically because flying is his passion. Unfortunately the resulting injury from an accident forces Rafe out of the Aero Corps and into making some life changes...one of which is his return to Londinium. 

 

Rafe's return to the place of his birth also brings him under closer scrutiny from  his house...houses are the social system that this society functions under and their influence over the individual members is both considerable and unwanted by Rafe.  

 

When Rafe takes his maiden journey back into society he meets one Ned Winters. It's just suppose to be casual, no attachments, an evenings dalliance. But as their evening progresses each man realizes that they want more than one night and how much they enjoy each others company...unfortunately Ned is an Aegyptologist and about to leave for Aegypt for a few months separating him and Rafe before things can really even start between them. Rafe's efforts to reintegrate himself into society and rebuild his life goes from challenging to more than a little complicated as new people enter his life and old friends re-emerge.

 

With Ned gone Rafe throws himself into rebuilding his life and becomes the owner of a coffee house...how can you not love a man who appreciates coffee? Personally I'm not even going to try and honestly I just like Rafe. He's someone I'd sit down and have coffee with. With the successful launch of his coffee house Rafe again ventures out into society looking for company and finding an entanglement that may be a whole lot more than he'd bargained for...especially once Ned returns. Things begin to get more than a little bit complicated and interesting as Rafe and Ned are reunited and realize that one night months ago was only a small sample of what they could have and despite the obstacles both men want more.

 

I was so enchanted with this story it's twist, turns and complexities drew me in and kept me both interested and wanting more.  This is neither a simple nor easy story it's filled with twist, turns and complexities as the story unfolds while this story contains two plots the first one being an over all arc that begins with this book but continues, the second plotline is contained within this book but still connected to the overall story arc and the growing relationship between Rafe and Ned. 

 

As the first book in Anna Butler's series "Lancaster's Luck"...'The Gilded Scarab' undertakes a big task setting the scene for a series that's filled with a diverse group of characters, it's own unique settings, social structure and story lines that take the reader to a different place and time, but it's a task that's been accomplished and has left this reader wanting more so I'm definitely on board for whatever comes next at the Lancaster's Luck Coffee House...anyone care to join me for a little adventure and a cuppa'?

 

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review 2017-10-11 20:01
Gilded Needles
Gilded Needles - Michael McDowell

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! What a vicious revenge story! The novel starts slowly, but the pay off in the end has been brilliant.

 

Besides being a great and captivating read, the very last page made my day:

 

[...] she was the darling of a small but elegant hotel on the bleak coast of the North Sea at Dagebuell, near the German border with Denmark.

 

Dagebüll is about a 20 minute car drive away from my parents house.

 

Imagine Black Lena Shanks having lived in (almost) the same place as I did.

 

[Source]

(spoiler show)

 

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text 2017-10-11 06:23
Reading progress update: I've read 79%.
Gilded Needles - Michael McDowell

Some of these characters are so gullible. Unbelievable.

 

 

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