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review 2018-12-22 16:19
Building a progressive majority
The Revolution of ’28: Al Smith, American Progressivism, and the Coming of the New Deal - Robert Chiles

Al Smith is best remembered today as the first Catholic to win the nomination of a major political party. In doing so his campaign overcame considerable opposition from within his own prejudice-bound Democratic Party, and though he fell well short of winning the White House in 1928 he is credited with winning for them the support of the millions of ethnic voters who would go on to become an important part of the "New Deal coalition" that made the Democrats the dominant political party in America for a generation. While his appeal traditionally has been credited to their identification with his ethnic and religious background, in this book Robert Chiles makes the case that this obscures the real source of his appeal, which was the unabashedly progressive agenda he advocated in that race, one rooted in the policies he pursued throughout his career in New York politics.


As Chiles explains, Smith was drawn to progressivism through his interactions with settlement house activists in New York City in the 1910s. Though them he gained a greater awareness of the issues facing immigrants and urban workers, which he sought to address through government policy. As a state legislator and governor he pursued reforms on issues ranging from conservation to government efficiency, all of which were central to his platform as the Democratic presidential candidate. This won him the support of many ethnic voters, whose political identification at this time was in a state of flux. Drawn to the candidate of a party who addressed their concerns, they maintained their allegiance for his successor, Franklin Roosevelt, who drew upon much of Smith's progressive legacy when formulating the policies of his own administration during his time as president.


By highlighting Smith's progressivism, Chiles contributes both to our understanding of this important politician and his long-term impact upon American politics. In the process he also helps to explain the under-appreciated origins of a political shift that shaped the nation in which Americans live today. Together it makes for a book that no student of the era or of American political history more generally can afford to ignore.

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review 2018-11-30 21:03
Fun romp
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Very easy and fast read. It would have been the type of book I would have adored as a kid in that liminal space where high reading skills put you beyond children's books but maturity does not really afford you adult reads. So yeah, classic adventures for the win.


The devise of telling the story from the third limited of a character other than the Scarlet Pimpernel allows for a show of his BAMF qualities that would have sounded boastful otherwise, so that's another good bit.


Most of my gripe comes from the ever moronic woman (I'll leave the political and racial alone this time). We are constantly told she's the cleverest woman in Europe, but either that's a huge fail of informed quality, or the author was taking the mickey on it by drawing a contrast of what the world says of a characters intelligence vs what happens behind curtains of a person's life. Still, the fact that she's absolutely useless and most times an obstacle, continued to bother me. I thought the story would redeem her when she decides to go to France, that we would be shown her being resourceful and clever and see her save the day right alongside the Pimpernel. Hell, for a bit there I was prepared to be blown out of my mind by a turn of the XX century female author writing a woman saving the hero. Alas, no dice.


The other bit that is a bit weak (beyond several un-reveals, duh), is the constant over explaining. Orczy does an excellent job of showing the pieces so that you can puzzle it out. It is a pity she wastes pages and belittle her readers intelligence by spelling it all out yet again in expository dialogues and what not.


Anyway, if you are not nit-picking like I've been, it is good entertainment.


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review 2018-11-26 19:40
Historical figures: Awesome ladies edition
Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation - Cokie Roberts

This book was just what was needed to pull me out of a reading slump. Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts is an account of the women who supported and helped shape the development of the democratic government in the United States. While I initially thought that this would yield minimal new information considering how heavily this period of time was covered during my schooldays I discovered just how wrong (and ignorant) I was especially in regards to the women. I realized that it had never occurred to me to wonder just how long the absences of these women's husbands were during the creation of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution (including the Articles of the Confederation), and the U.S. government as a whole. Not to mention how absolutely strong-willed and informed these women were about the affairs of state (which was beneficial as they passed on the latest news to their husbands through extensive letter writing). Best couple award goes to George and Martha Washington who were the most well-adjusted and steadfast couple of the lot. Martha went everywhere George went including Valley Forge where she was instrumental in keeping the morale of the men up (and getting them to stay at all) as well as organizing other women into organized sewing groups to keep the troops clothed. Favorite woman of the many discussed was hands down Abigail Adams who not only had the keenest mind but also the sharpest tongue. She had no problem telling John where to go and letting him know that just because he was away didn't mean that the romance in their relationship needed to suffer. In fact, theirs was the most strained relationship of all as John was in high demand and for the majority of their marriage they were separated as he worked tirelessly in his work as a member of the Continental Congress and then later as the Vice President. If you, like me, love reading about confident women and relish learning new things about a slice of history you thought you had thoroughly mapped then I must point you in the direction of Founding Mothers. 10/10


PS Benjamin Franklin was the worst.


What's Up Next: Mary B. by Katherine J. Chen


What I'm Currently Reading: Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond


Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2018-11-15 01:09
The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch
The Revolution of Marina M. - Janet Fitc... The Revolution of Marina M. - Janet Fitch

A special thank you to NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Fitch amazed me with Paint in Black.  I listened to the audiobook that was read by Jennifer Jason Leigh and it was mesmerizing—Audible cast this book perfectly, Leigh was brilliant and her delivery  was flawless and was exactly what the character embodied.  I also read and thoroughly enjoyed White Oleander when it was the Oprah's Book Club selection.  Fitch is a powerful and poignant writer and has such purpose and thought throughout her novels.

This was quite the undertaking at 816 pages and it took several attempts to not only get into it, but to stick with it.  Hear me out...  Fitch did an extraordinary job in her research and retelling of the Russian Revolution but at times this was the only redemption. I struggled with the main character, she was completely void of depth and was surprisingly underdeveloped for such an intricate story.  

The last almost quarter of the book was completely unnecessary—I'm not even going to try to understand why it was included, it should have been edited out.  Especially because this is apparently volume one of two.

The beginning was the best part, and then...it's like Fitch had to include every single detail and every bit of research and it's not necessary.  Is she looking for validation for her years of work?  The story then just becomes a linear piece of writing which begs the question, should this have not been a historical fiction book but rather an actual book on the Russian Revolution?  I think so.  

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review 2018-10-23 16:26
Rock Chick Revolution by Kristen Ashley
Rock Chick Revolution - Kristen Ashley

Ally was my least favourite Rock Chick from the start. But this book showed her in a new light. She had brains and knew when to back off and let the others help. She still got in my nerves from time to time and there were too many sex scenes in this story, but I actually liked the last book of the series quite a lot. 4 stars.

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