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text 2018-02-28 12:00
February 2018 Reading Wrap Up
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land - Monica Hesse
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country - Kathy Roth-Douquet,Frank Schaeffer
The Great Silence - Juliet Nicolson
Dark in Death - J.D. Robb

Challenges

BL/GR: 17/52 (32%)

PS Reading Challenge: 11/50 (22%)

COYER Winter Switch, Phase 3: 4 books

 

Read and Reviewed

1. American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse - 4 stars

2. AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service - and How It Hurts Our Country by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer - 3.5 stars

3. The Great Silence 1918-1920: Living in the Shadow of the Great War by Juliet Nicolson - 4 stars

4. Dark in Death (In Death #46) by JD Robb - 4 stars

 

DNFs

5. Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality by David Boies and Theodore B. Olson

 

Set Aside for a Future Reading

6. Gambled Away anthology by Various Authors

7. A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

 

Currently Reading

8. Women Heroes of the World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn J. Atwood

9. Forgotten Voices from the Great War by Max Arthur

 

Hours Volunteered at the Library

January: 13 hours, 5 minutes

February: 12 hours, 55 minutes

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review 2018-02-25 18:20
Dark in Death (In Death #46) by JD Robb
Dark in Death - J.D. Robb

The last two books in the series I rated a 1.5 and a 2.5, so I guess someone in Roberts'/Robb's professional circle saw that the readers of the series are less than impressed with the writing lately and made an effort to actually edit the work Robb is handing in. The quality is so much better than the last few books, so I guess a couple of ghostwriters are out of a job.

 

This book is a police thriller inside a police thriller - a take on inception a bit. Eve and Peabody respond to a murder that took place at a movie theater...turns out that was murder number two, as a previous unsolved murder her Homicide squad picked up a month ago is somewhat tied into this new murder. And away we go....

 

So let's talk characterization - seems Peabody is back to being an actual detective again and not the damn airhead who squeals over make up and clothes and hates on her body/weight like we saw in previous books. In fact, Peabody really gets to be Eve's partner in the detective work, and Eve consults Peabody on the craft/supplies/tailoring angle as Peabody's hobbies is all things crafts. Seeing the joy in Peabody at the mega-craft store made her relatable, but her use of terminology and asking the right questions of the craft store personnel made her really a part of the investigation. Roarke had the best one-liners in the book, and thankfully took a back seat in the investigation to handle his own business empire. He showed up when he was actually needed and wasn't around when he wasn't needed. Mira gave a brief profile of the killer, then seemed to vanish. Nadine was helpful as well as Mavis & Leonardo (him more so than her).  I feel like the gang is really back to themselves again.

 

Writing - we got actual humor back, mostly verbal but an actual fight with living garden gnome too. What I really liked in this book was that the drudgery of police work was balanced with the action-adventure of police work. I also liked how Eve got something wrong and got a little frustrated over it, but not enough to stop thinking through and using this failure to tweak her thoughts and actions in the investigation. No sudden brain farts as to who the killer was, it was methodically revealed over the course of the book.

 

Overall, a really good read that shows the great parts of the series and why so many of us are still sticking it out. I still feel an ending coming soon (maybe #50 will be the last one), but this one I think could go on the In Death re-read pile.

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review 2018-02-25 16:57
The Great Silence 1918-1920: Living in the Shadow of the Great War by Juliet Nicolson
The Great Silence - Juliet Nicolson

My Great War reading list got off to a decent start with this book. Nicolson is the grand-daughter of Harold Nicolson, a British representative at the Treaty of Versailles negotiations. She has written about the Edwardian period before, so she is well versed in this era of British history. She takes the decidedly social history angle to the war, in particular how the British (and to some extent the French and Americans) dealt with the massive numbers of the dead and injured and the grief that just wouldn't go away.

 

The book is broken down into three sections, with each section starting with the Armistice of 1918 or its two anniversaries. Although the author is from the upper classes of British society, she took great pains to bring people into the history of this grieving period from all the socio-economic classes (although not from any racial or religious minority groups). All people mentioned had a connection with the war in some way, from the young Pam Parrish at 3 years old and now fatherless to King George. The social and economic unrest and how the joyous pictures of Armistice Day we have in our heads often have a ugly, hollow underbelly. With the end of the war, the emotional labor had to really begin and I really liked Nicolson's writing and the concepts she talked about. I didn't know much about King George and in this book I was able to get a much better picture of him as both a person and monarch (his son Prince David also got quite the profile in this book as a "other side of the coin" to his father - and this was all pre-Wallace Simpson).

 

However, there was one chapter that didn't need to be written or put into this book; it was titled "Hope" and was about the extramarital affairs of bored upper crust ladies who didn't get enough attention from their husbands - no one or idea had any connection to the war or its aftermath, so it didn't need to be in here. If you read the book, skip this chapter completely.  

 

One striking piece of historical trivia that I should have known but never figured on was the feelings King George had toward his cousins during and after the war (yep, it never dawned on me that WWI was one big old family feud, as the Kaiser, King George, and Tsar Nicholas all had the same grandma - Queen Victoria). George grieved over his Russian cousin's death at the hands of the Bolsheviks and he hated the Kaiser, especially when the Kaiser abdicated the throne after the war. He blamed the Kaiser for the war and for taking Nicholas' focus off domestic unrest that resulted in the Russian Revolution.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed the book that takes a long look at the aftermath of war, death, and grief on both an individual and country level. Recommend (just skip that one chapter)!

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review 2018-02-25 16:29
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service - and How It Hurts Our Country by Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country - Kathy Roth-Douquet,Frank Schaeffer

This short book raises some very serious questions about how sustainable the all-volunteer force that makes up the US military really is in light of today's geopolitical sphere. Originally published in 2006, I think the problem is worse now then it was when the book was first issued. Some of the root causes and issues around the all-volunteer military stems from the Vietnam War and is explained why in detail.

 

However, a lot of their writing comes from their personal experiences dealing with the military and how others perceive them. Roth-Douquet is married to an Army officer; Schaeffer is the father of a Marine. While they are military-adjacent, they are not military and therefore there is a certain "sit down civilian" feeling I had towards the authors, such as when R-D goes on and on about deployments and the toll it takes on the service member. Both authors are very status-concerned and worry about how others in their admittedly upper class tiers look at them. There is also the Odd Couple sense to the authors; R-D worked in the Clinton administration and Schaeffer is a self-identified Republican that leans Liberitarian. This difference in politics comes up frequently, as if they were in a musical adaption of the book. 

 

Both authors serve up some solutions to re-balancing the all-volunteer force, and bringing back the draft is such a big item that it gets it's own debate; R-D is all for bringing it back with a few tweaks and Schaeffer is for using a draft as an absolute last option.

 

Overall, a serious discussion was raised about the state of our military that should be talked about more in our media and homes. I am glad I read this book and thank the authors for bringing this to my attention. It just needed some editing and more voices, especially from those who have worn the uniform. 

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review 2018-02-25 16:10
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land - Monica Hesse

American Fire is about a rash of arson committed by a local couple. Simple direct story found in the crime beat section until the author digs into the area's history, especially its heyday and then decline. She also goes into the history of the couple: Charlie, a native of the area with a solid reputation and a rap sheet (mostly due to his drug use) and Tonya, also a native without such a solid reputation and a need to set things on fire. The author also profiles the local volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officials who had to clean up the messes Charlie and Tonya caused without the resources of suburban town or urban center. That is what really spoke to me, as I grew up in an area with only volunteer firefighters and EMTs - the resources and manpower can be overwhelmed very easily, but the level of dedication of those volunteer units can't be found in a lot of places.

 

I would recommend this book to true crime readers or those who like a closer look at rural towns and their problems and the people trying to solve them.

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