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Barbara M. - Reviews

1 to 7 of 7
Arc of Justice : A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age
Review Date: 3/4/2013


I learned a great deal by reading this book: the active political presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Michigan in the 1920's; the extent to which housing segregation was promoted by realtors, city officials, police, and banks; the rock star aura of Clarence Darrow. The book is written from an historian's point of view: footnotes refer to extensive research in the local newspapers of the time, court and police records, and private letters.


Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights
Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights
Author: Susan Straight
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 7/12/2013


Given that this is fire season out west, this book is an especially good read. The main character is a seasonal firefighter for the state of California--and while he loves the work (which makes him odd, according to the other men on his team), he can't make a year round living doing only that. So he tries to find work that will support him, his wife and child, and will leave him with dignity--not a victim of the streets like so many of the men and women who live in his poor neighborhood on the edge of LA. His solution is to play the race card in reverse--to supply nervous white Angelanos with safe, "Asian" lawn care, keeping his own identity secret.

I really liked the way Straight presented race--complex rather than simple.


The Hearts of Horses
The Hearts of Horses
Author: Molly Gloss
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 63
Review Date: 3/4/2013


I read this against the backdrop of "Downton Abbey" which covers the same period of time, yet with a wildly different cultural context. The contrast between the books heroine and the Crowley sisters is really interesting--I learned a lot about early 20th century American West, and about the roles available to women. While "Downton Abbey" chronicles the lives of the privileged, this book shows readers ordinary people--less pretty, more physically hardy, less bound by class--but equally challenged to find a way in their world. Among other things I learned in this book was that condoms were illegal in the early part of the century. Who knew?


How I Live Now
How I Live Now
Author: Meg Rosoff
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 69
Review Date: 9/25/2013


Cut to the chase: yes, this is an interesting book, worth reading. I would recommend it to a friend.

There are some caveats, however. First, this is not a happy story. Like much YA fiction (think Hunger Games), the future the writer imagines is bleak. And, given the drum beat of news this summer from Syria, Kenya, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., that future is not unimaginable. From the perspective of the 15 year old narrator, terrorists have taken over England by guerilla means: a few well placed bombs in big cities, poison in the water supply, destruction of electricity-generating facilities. The people are forced to live by their own resources, mostly in the countryside, scrabbling for food. The narrator says she has no idea who the terrorists are, what they represent, or why they have done what they have done. And that sounds depressingly familiar.

Some have objected to the sexual love affair between the two cousins. Pshaw. Yes, they fall in love and have sex. But the author refrains from anything remotely explicit. It is very tame stuff, and not beyond the bounds of believability. After all, these cousins, one British, one American, have never met before the beginning of the book, and have no history together that might make their relationship smarmy.

Others have noted the limitations of a limited first person narrator. Yes, that's true. Sometimes the reader wishes for more detail, or more insight--neither of which Daisy, the American, has--not for herself, and not for us. This is especially clear in the ending of the book where the characters are left in a somewhat unsatisfactory limbo. No spoilers, here.

Anyway--this is a quick read, worth the time, and strangely unsettling given the state of the world today.


The Rape of Shavi
The Rape of Shavi
Author: Buchi Emecheta
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/1/2013


Allegorical tale about the European encounter with Africa. Emecheta weites with strong feminist flair. An interesting companion story to Achebe's classic " Things Fall Apart."


Tenth of December: Stories
Tenth of December: Stories
Author: George Saunders
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 8/21/2015


If you don't appreciate this book, you are not reading enough modern fiction. Saunders' characters are damaged, but linger in the imagination. Like all story collections, some of thw work will appeal to you more than others. Glad I read this.


The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic (Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic, Bk 1)
Review Date: 8/30/2015
Helpful Score: 1


Some people seem to have been disappointed by this book. Not me. Reminded me of Charlaine Harris' vampire books, but with less overt sex, more literary quotations, and less gruesome violence. I was mildly amused by the parallels between writing a dissertation (and reaching for that intangible result the most obtuse and elusive dissertation advisors want you to magically produce, even if they themselves don't really tell you what they want) and learning magic. This isn't the best read of the year, but it was imaginative and entertained me for a week this summer.


1 to 7 of 7
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