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review 2017-04-10 16:53
Podcast #42 is up!
Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties (Culture, Politics, and the Cold War) - Thomas M. Grace

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Tom Grace about his book on the infamous Kent State shootings in May 1970 and the events that led to them. Though I didn't review the book, it was an interesting one, not least because Grace was one of the victims that day and infuses his book with the familiarity born of the intimate knowledge of the campus and its culture at that time. Enjoy!

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review 2017-01-28 19:44
White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties (v. 2) - Dominic Sandbrook

'The stock exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children's holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of all recognition and yet remain the same.'


This history ends with the above quote from George Orwell, after 794 pages of fantastically written social and political history. The main premise of Sandbrook's volume is that despite the 1960s being billed as an age of social and cultural revolution, much of British society, its values and behaviours remained consistent with previous decades. He argues that the counter culture of the late 60s was a small milieu of upper-middle class youths that, for the most part, were able to rebel because they had a financial safety net to fall back on and a path back into regular society. The introduction of the birth control pill that, it has been claimed, brought on the sexual revolution and the age of free love is often highly overstated. Sandbrook argues that British sexual practices remained largely conservative and the majority sought monogamy.


Now Sandbrook it would seem, is a conservative and the argument can be made that he went into this work with a preconceived notion of what he wanted to find about the 60s and wrote his book around that. I'm sure there is an element of truth to that, nevertheless I felt that for the most part he was fair with, for example, the Labour party and Harold Wilson's government. He was sympathetic to the economic position the previous Conservative government had left behind and the challenges that Wilson's government then faced. Even though the over riding conclusions were ones that promoted a political narrative, I'm not so sure it's a false one.


I could tell after around a hundred and fifty pages that the author is passionate about modern British history, his writing was engaged, witty and in depth. There are a lot of gems. One of the things I took away that I hadn't known, was that the Labour party managed to get the bill outlawing the death penalty passed against the tide of popular opinion. In 1964 popular support for abolishing hanging sat at just 23 percent, yet the abolition passed through parliament at votes of 343 to 185. The 60s was also the decade that abortion, homosexuality and suicide were decriminalised and in that sense it represented tangible, progressive change in law in the UK. Sandbrook argues that this was a culmination of decades of campaigning rather than a sudden break in traditions coming from youth culture and I suspect here he is correct. 


The political commentary was broken up with chapters on the formation and success of acts like The Beatles. I'll admit, perhaps controversially, that I'm not particularly a fan of The Beatles. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed Sandbrook's version of their story. He seemed to wish to exonerate McCartney, who in his view, is often billed as the less talented song writer when put up against Lennon. One draw back of the sections on the band is that Sandbrook often portrays the darker sides of Lennon's character and again, this may be in part down to politics and the idea that Lennon is often seen as the hippy in the band and the one who was most in tune with the counter cultural excesses of the late 60s. However this in my opinion doesn't take away from highly informative, interesting chapters.


If you can accept the possible political overtones of the author what lies beneath is a riveting history of Britain in the 60s, an accomplished body of work and one that I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in history.  

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review 2015-05-25 20:21
Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin

I consider myself to be a pretty big horror junkie, so naturally I read a good deal of horror fiction. However, somehow I never read Ira Levin's 1966 novel Rosemary's Baby before now. 


By now almost everyone knows the plot of this one thanks to the famous movie adaptation starring Mia Farrow: a young couple, Rosemary and Guy, move to an old apartment building in the upper part of New York City despite its horrific reputation. After living in their new apartment for a few months and becoming friends with several of their neighbors, the two conceive and eagerly await the new baby. Rosemary becomes suspicious of her doctor, the neighbors, and even her husband -- she becomes convinced they are all part of a cult bent on using her baby in satanic rituals. 


I was blown away by Levin's writing abilities -- quite simple on the surface, this book has a lot that doesn't meet the eye. The author writes with a deft hand, never allowing the story to become bogged down or silly (and with the plot of Rosemary's Baby, that would have been very easy to do). Instead, the story carefully toes the line between believable and outrageous, paranoid and reasonable. Levin never forces the plot to sway one way or the other, and the story is all the stronger for it. 


Also notable are the characters -- all seem very real and down-to-earth, like folks you'd meet on the street or at church, thus making the revelations in the final chapters all the more shocking and gut-wrenching. I especially enjoyed the nice old couple in the neighboring apartment -- Minnie's nosiness made for some funny dialogue and observations on Rosemary's part, and Roman's tales of traveling the world were quite intriguing. With those two, the reader is led one way up until the end and then the rug is ripped out from underneath. Quite big pieces of work, those two. 


Rosemary's Baby more than deserves its status as a classic horror novel. It sets the reader up only to be knocked down and it terrifies to this day, almost fifty years after its publication. I knocked off half a star because the ending seemed a tad bit rushed (or maybe that's just me being selfish and wanting more more more!), but other than that I couldn't find anything wrong here. I don't know why I waited so long to read the tale of poor Rosemary and her baby, but I'm sure glad I did. 

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text 2015-05-24 23:16
Reading progress update: I've read 127 out of 302 pages.
Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin

Why did I wait until now to read this book?

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review 2015-01-15 04:26
Lies That Bind
Lies That Bind (Maeve Conlon Novels) - Maggie Barbieri

By Maggie Barbieri 

Series: Maeve Colon #2

ISBN: 9781250011701

Publisher: St. Martin's Press 

Publication Date: 2/17/2015 

Format: Other

My Rating:  5 Stars 


A special thank you to St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Witty and talented Maggie Barbieri returns, with her second installment of suspenseful and humorous (Maeve Conlon series), with LIES THAT BIND, where Maeve discovers some dark family secrets.

In Once Upon a Lie (Maeve Conlon #1) , we met Maggie, a single divorced bakery owner with two teenage daughters, and a former husband now married to a younger woman with a baby, and her retired cop father, Jack with Alzheimer’s, and a childhood of abuse from a cousin, now dead.

The drama has not slowed down, as Maeve still harbors dark hidden secrets within the walls of her suburban life and bakery, The Comfort Zone. Her dad, Jack dies of a heart attack and she is sorting out his affairs, when she discovers a shocking secret, she has a sister? Why would her father keep something like this from her? She has to find information from his friend. Someone has to know the whereabouts of her sister.

Of course, she is not thrilled with the Haggerty sisters, (some bad blood, and ill will since childhood) who happens to be hiding this information and she hates they know something she does not. She begins to search for her sister, and not stopping with blackmailing a cop to help with the search (Jo’s new husband has a wandering eye and she is pregnant).

There is always drama at The Comfort Zone, the bakery, when she learns her landlord is growing pot, raising the rent; she hates her daughter’s boyfriend and dislikes her secretive attitude, someone broke into the bakery and leaves a severed finger in the freezer, and her three thousand dollars has been stolen. (her insurance settlement).

She begins working with Cal, her ex-husband in trying to solve their daughter’s issues while continuing her search for her sister. She learns her sister, Aibhlinn was disabled and was placed in Mansfield, a mental hospital in the 60s, and was closed years ago, due to abuse and poor conditions. While she continues her search, she joins a support group, and of course, more drama and suspense. To make things more interesting the cop investigating her breakin, has a fondness for more than Maeve's muffins.

Maeve is a fearless, witty, edgy, and rebellious character, hiding behind her suburban lifestyle (she colors outside the line, which I love) with sarcasm and dark humor, making for an engaging read.

This was my first series by the author, and enjoy her style for an entertaining, mystery suspense series which will keep you laughing for hours. I will say, I missed Jack (as loved his character); however, it was fun catching up with his past and his friends.

A good exploration of life in the 60s with families of disabilities with limited choices and an emotional story of strong family bonds. Looking forward to reading more by this author, who seems to have real life experience with her own cop father!
 Once Upon a Lie - Maggie Barbieri


Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1093769577
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