Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Garland, by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, ISBN 9780345530745, October 2012

Thomas Pitt's Special Branch boss, Victor Narraway, wasn't always the head of Special Branch. Long ago and far away, he was a twenty-year-old British Army lieutenant in India during the Mutiny. As the youngest officer, and new to the unit he's now in, Lt. Narraway gets assigned a fairly nasty task: defending an Army medic charged with a horrible murder.

The medic was well-liked, but so was the guard who was killed. And this killing took place as part of the escape of a prisoner, who after escaping also slaughtered an Army patrol. Also, there's no evidence against the medic except that everyone else's location is positively accounted for at the time of the murder. He's the only one who could have done it.

It's an altogether nasty situation, and Lt. Narraway knows he's expected to not make too much trouble as the defense, and let the situation be resolved with no more pain than is absolutely unavoidable.

But it bothers him that there is no actual evidence against his client, and that his client is very, very convincing when he says he didn't do it. With less than two days to work with, Narraway starts investigating.

It's a clever mystery with an unexpected but convincing resolution.


I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

What's a Dog For? The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man's Best Friend, by John Homans

Penguin Press, ISBN 9781594205156, November 2012

There's a lot of interesting material here, and yet in the end I am deeply frustrated with this book.

Homans gathers together in highly readable form much of the most recent research on dogs, their ancestors, and their relationship with us. Teasing out the history of dogs, just barely genetically different from wolves, has been a tricky business, not least because early dogs and proto-dog wolves would not have been physically different from their wolf relatives in any way that shows up in the fossil record. It's a fascinating story, and almost as fascinating is the story of how hard it has been to get any real research on dogs. Dogs, you see, were until the last couple of decades too mundane and familiar for research on them to be "respectable." Homans has studied the research, interviewed the researchers, and attended the academic conferences, and has a lot of good information to impart.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Fox Tracks, by Rita Mae Brown

Random House, ISBN 9780345532978, November 2012

Jane Arnold rides again, this time in pursuit of a killer riding with her own hunt.

The first signs of trouble are far from Virginia, in New York City, where "Sister" Jane Arnold, her lover Gray Lorillard, and two of the young ladies recently graduated from Custis Hall, and now attending Princeton, are attending the annual Masters of Foxhounds Association dinner. During this New York interlude, Jane and Tootie visit a tobacco shop to buy a gift for Gray, and meet a charming, Cuban-born tobacco merchant.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What Matters in Jane Austen, by John Mullen

Bloomsbury Publishing, ISBN 9781408820117, November 2012

Mullen gives us a wonderful trip through Jane Austen's novels, including the unfinished Sanditon, looking at obvious, non-obvious, and "I never thought to ask that!" questions about Austen's world, daily life, the behavior and relations of the characters.

What people call each other seems a simple and obvious detail, but it reveals a wealth of information about status in a class-conscious society, relationships between characters, and the formality that governed relations even between husband and wife. When characters violate the rules, it's not a throwaway detail. It reveals important information about the characters and their relationships. In Persuasion, Anne Eliot's sister Mary and Mary's husband are a rare case of husband and wife addressing each other by their given names. This isn't the norm as it is for us, or the sign of marital intimacy it is later in the 19th century. Instead, it's a symptom of the disrespect and frustration the couple feel towards each other.

Another aspect of daily life in Austen's world that's mostly alien to us now, where we don't have the same assumptions that Austen and her original readers did is in both the formality and the ubiquity of mourning. Strict rules governed what people could do and what they could wear when recently bereaved of their near and not-so-near relations and connections. Death was all too frequent, could come as the result of what started off as apparently a minor cold, and failure to observe mourning for family, connections, friends, etc., could cause offense and long-lasting ruptures between different branches of a family or formerly close friends.

This is a clearly written, engaging exploration of Austen's world, her fiction, and of what a daring and even experimental writer she was, creating major innovations in story-telling that are with us today.

If you enjoy Austen and enjoy going "behind the scenes" to see what makes a novel work, this is a fascinating, rewarding read.

Highly recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Scholastic Audio, ISBN 9780545003636, March 2007

Georges Méliès was a magician who became a legendary early French filmmaker, the first to use complex special effects to tell imaginative stories that did not reflect the real world. He then lost nearly everything, including his films and his automata, due to business and financial reverses and the development of film beyond where he had taken it. This is a fictional story of Méliès in his later years, and the young boy who helps to pull him out of his decline.

Hugo Cabret is the son of a clockmaker who runs his own shop, and also works at a local museum, repairing clocks, automata, and other machinery. In the attic of the museum he finds an amazing automaton, a man sitting at desk, holding a pen, poised to write. It's in terrible shape, but he shows it to Hugo, and starts work on repairing it during his spare time at the museum.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution, by Harlow Giles Unger (author), William Hughes (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781441779120, February 2011

This is a clear, highly readable, and fascinating account of the Boston Tea Party, what led up to it, what followed, and how this became the spark that created the American Revolution.

Many things have been said and repeated about the Tea Party that simply aren't true. It wasn't about the tax on tea making tea unaffordable; the tea duty had been cut to the point it was undercutting the smugglers bringing in Dutch tea. It wasn't an act of vandalism by drunken thugs. the Tea Party crew were all responsible citizens, small merchants, professionals, farmers, and skilled craftsmen of Boston and the surrounding countryside. They were extremely careful to do no damage except to the tea, and to cause injury to no one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), by Betty White

Penguin Group, ISBN 9780142429365, May 2011

This is a delightful meander through memories and daily life by the delightful Betty White. It's organized topically rather than chronologically, and covers the wide range of Ms. White's interests, including acting, writing, her family and friends, and of course her dedication to helping animals.

Some of the reminiscences included are working on the three hit tv shows that have defined her acting career--The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Golden Girls, and Hot in Cleveland. She also talks about her entirely unexpected and at first not entirely welcome guest host stint on Saturday Night Live, as the result of a spontaneous, popular Facebook campaign. In the end she enjoyed the experience, but initially she dreaded it, because she's just not accustomed to the kind of comedy that defines SNL.

Ms. White's many fans in the animal rescue world will be pleased that she also includes several reminiscences about her own pets and some of her pet rescue activities--although in a typically modest way that belies her impact.

It would be wrong to say anything more about this book. It's an enjoyable read, and if, as I did, you listen to the audiobook, Ms. White herself reads it in her own thoroughly engaging style.


Thursday, October 4, 2012

We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Change Their Lives Forever, by Benjamin Mee (author), Gildart Jackson (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781441789365, June 2011

In 2006, Benjamin Mee and his extended family bought a broken-down, failing zoo in the English countryside, the Dartmoor Wildlife Park. If that isn't odd enough to get your attention, the reason should: Mee's father had died, his widowed mother could not maintain their big house on her own and would not be happy in a smaller home where she couldn't have all her children and grandchildren visit regularly.

And several members of the family, including Benjamin Mee and his mother, had a dream of running a zoo. That's right. They bought a zoo, in part, to be a family business, and in part, to be a retirement home for their elderly mom.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Virgins, by Caryl Rivers

Diversion Books, May 2012

This is the re-release of a delightful mid-80s novel of mid-50s Catholic school girls coming of age.

Peggy Morrison, her friends and classmates Con and Molly, seniors at Immaculate Heart of Mary High school, and her neighbor and boyfriend, Sean McCaffrey, a senior at Sacred Heart of Jesus High School, struggle with the challenges of growing up and entering adulthood. Peggy and Con dream of being writers and journalists and living a glamorous life in New York City. Sean plans to be a priest, and will be entering the seminary after graduation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Packing the Court: The Rise of Judicial Power and the Coming Crisis of the Supreme Court, by James MacGregor Burns (author), Norman Dietz (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400162116, June 2009

This is an intentionally opinionated history of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Burns brings his considerable historical knowledge and literary skill to bear on what has sometimes been the most respected institution in American government, and at other times derided as partisan and backward-looking. As he traces its development from the words in the Constitution and the brilliant, energetic, ambitious, and forward-thinking John Marshall, through to today's Roberts Court, it becomes clear that Burns considers the latter view to be correct for most of the Court's history.

Dead on Ice (A Lovers in Crime Mystery), by Lauren Carr

Acorn Book Services, ISBN 9780985726737, September 2012

This is the third mystery involving Hancock County (WV) Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton and Pennsylvania State Police homicide detective Cameron Gates, though the first that I've found and read. They are also a couple. When crime spills over the border between their states, sometimes that helps them work together, and sometimes it creates an uncomfortable conflict of interest. They're both widowed; Cameron's husband, also a PA state cop, was killed in a traffic stop gone bad, and Joshua's wife died after many years of marriage and several children, only the youngest of whom, Donny, is still at home.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Drop Dead on Recall (An Animals in Focus Mystery #1), by Sheila Webster Boneham

Midnight Ink, ISBN 9780738733067, October 2012

This is a really fun mystery, set in the AKC dog world--in this case, the dog obedience circuit.It captures in a fun way both the nutty obsessiveness and the genuine love of animals that so often characterize the competitive dog world.

Janet McPhail is a professional photographer who competes, for fun, in dog obedience with her Aussie (Australian shepherd), Jay. On one fine, sunny morning, they're at a competition, and a far more serious competitor, Abigail Dorn, falls to the ground, in obvious distress--and dies in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. As one of the first to Abigail's side, along with her husband Greg Dorn, and the person who takes home her dog, Pip, and cleans up the food at the Dorns' crate set-up, Janet becomes at least officially a "person of interest" for the police, when they determine that Abigail was poisoned.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, by Kathryn Joyce

Beacon Press, ISBN 9780807010709, March 2009

Kathryn Joyce takes us on an alarming, enlightening, startling journey through an American subculture most of us are unaware of. Most of us are aware of the influence of the "Christian right" in Republican politics. What's less obvious is that a significant part of that "Christian right" are not our run of the mill evangelical Christians, people who may be more supportive of morality- based laws, and less supportive of sex education, contraception, and teaching the facts of evolution, but who aren't all that different from the mainstream, especially the mainline Protestant mainstream. That's not the "Christian right" that Ms. Joyce is writing about.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Great Cake Mystery:Precious Ramotswe's Very First Case: A Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Book for Young Readers, by Alexander McCall Smith

Anchor, ISBN 9780307743893, April 2012

This is exactly what the title says: an absolutely charming story of Precious Ramotswe's first case, her first impulse to be a detective and solve a problem someone brings to her.

Precious is just a school girl, and this very first case concerns who is stealing the special treats the children bring to school, to eat in the school yard after the plain, nutritious lunch provided by the school. These treats are important to the children, and when they start disappearing, they are eager to identify and punish a culprit. Precious is troubled by the fact that there is no real evidence against the accused boy, and she starts asking questions and looking around, trying to find a way to identify the real thief.

This is a fun little book, and I while I think the intended age group will enjoy it, it will be an enjoyable read for their parents who enjoy the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, as well.


I borrowed this book from the local library.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes (author), Gildart Jackson (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, ISBN 9781455114320, June 2011

This is a fascinating account of the growth of science in Romantic Age of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Holmes looks at the period through the lives of ground-breaking scientists, and illuminates the intersections between science, literature, and art during the period.

Among the scientists discussed in detail are Joseph Banks, William and Caroline Herschel, Humphrey Davy, Michael Faraday, and a collection of truly nutty but ground-breaking (or is that, and ground-breaking) balloonists.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Copyright Gone Mad: DMCA and the Drive to Make a Pay-Per-View World

Expanded from my Google+ post earlier today

YouTube Flags Democrats' Convention Video on Copyright Grounds | Threat Level |

'via Blog this'

Another demonstration of the insanity and destructive nature of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act.) If you have newsworthy content and upload it, automated software will decide it is copyrighted, flag it, and it will automatically be taken down. This time, it's the Democratic party's video of its own convention. A few days ago, it was the livestream of the Hugo Awards ceremony. A few weeks ago, it was NASA's own livestream of the Curiosity landing.

The Alexander Cipher:A Thriller (Daniel Knox #1, by Will Adams (author), David Colacci (narrator)

Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 9780446404709, March 2010

Once again, I listened to the audiobook, but because of Amazon's peculiarities, the link is to a paperback edition. The narrator is excellent.

Daniel Knox is an archaeologist who, due to some unfortunate events a few years previously, is currently earning his living as a dive instructor, currently employed by an  Egyptian gangster, Hassan. When he gallantly, if foolishly, rescues a young woman the gangster is raping, he finds himself on the run and in hiding, and is quickly abandoned by the young woman he "rescued," since she has figured out that she's slightly safer if Hassan doesn't think she wanted the "rescue."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Harper, 1st Edition, ISBN 9780062067753, June 2012

This collaboration between Pratchett and Baxter seems more Pratchett than Baxter, though a bit more serious in tone than most of Pratchett's solo work.

We start with two vignettes of people unexpectedly displaced--a young British soldier in France during WWII, and a young, very pregnant woman who lives in a Catholic orphanage in Madison, WI, somewhat closer to the present day. The young soldier finds himself in a place that looks very like France except for the total absence of any evidence of war or, indeed, human habitation. He meets up with some rather odd-looking people whom he concludes must be the Russians he's heard tell of, and finds that they are friendly, helpful, and great singing companions.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Fistful of Collars: A Chet and Bernie Mystery, by Spencer Quinn

Atria Books, ISBN 9781451665164, September 2012

Chet and Bernie are back, with a new case to solve, their ongoing financial difficulties, and a challenge in the form of a wonderful job offer for Bernie's girlfriend Susie, that will take her far away from Chet and Bernie.

Oh, and we also get a revealing new look at both Bernie and his ex-wife, casting fresh light on exactly why Leda took Charlie and left. Bernie's a great guy, but there are reasons Leda sometimes wants to do violence to him.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Wizard of London (Elemental Mages #5), by Mercedes Lackey

DAW Hardcover, ISBN 9780756401740, October 2005

I listened to the audio edition. Amazon continues its foolishly short-sighted practice of not allowing linking to Audible editions, even though they own Audible and presumably make money from the sale of Audible editions. So, I'm linking to a print edition.

I hadn't read any Lackey in quite a while, having grown tired of what I thought of as her typical output. A friend recommended this, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Violinist's Thumb:And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code, by Sam Kean

Little, Brown, and Company, ISBN 9780316202978, July 2012

This is a fascinating look at the history of genetics, both the science itself and the often quirky and peculiar personalities who moved it ahead. Sam Kean starts off with the story of his own parents--Gene and Jean Kean--and how their accidentally punny names both afflicted and fed his own interest in genetics.

That's merely the appetizer, though; the main course consists of the major breakthroughs in genetics, starting with Gregor Mendel, a wildly strong personality whose major work ground to a halt when he was elected abbot of his monastery, and whose notes (but not his published work, blessedly) were burned after his death, to avoid further scandal related, not to his scientific work, but to the tax dispute between the monastery and the Austrian government.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Democrat & Diplomat: The Life of William E. Dodd, by Robert Dallek

Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780199931729, November 2012

This biography of William E. Dodd, American Ambassador to Germany during the years leading up to the start of World War II, was originally published in 1968. As such, it reflects not only the era it's about, but also the era its author grew up in. Consequently, there are times when commentary on race relations in he US will read oddly and be a bit shocking to modern sensibilities.

That gave me pause at certain points. However, while it's well to bear such limitations in mind, this is overall an excellent book.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7), by Jacqueline Winspear (author), Orlagh Cassidy (narrator)

Sound Library, ISBN 9780792771203, 2010

Maisie Dobbs is once again working on a mystery with potentially explosive consequences for a family. Dr. Charles Hayden, the American doctor she met during the war and has continued to correspond with, has referred to her some Boston friends who want to know what happened to their son. Edward Clifton, the son of a major British shoe manufacturer, left England for America as a young man, and made his own fortune in America. In 1914, his youngest son, Michael, a cartographer, bought some land in California and then, hearing of the start of World War I, travels to England to enlist in the British army. He never returns, and his body, along with the rest of his cartography unit, has just been found now, twelve years after the end of the war. Because he was "missing," the family has been unable to resolve his estate; more importantly, Michael's journals and letters he had received and saved show that he had met and fallen in love with a young woman. His parents would like to find her, to close the circle on their son's life.

What Dr. Hayden and Mr. Clifton know from the French autopsy, but Mrs. Clifton hasn't been told, is that Michael didn't die from the shelling that killed the rest of his unit. His skull was crushed by a blow from behind, before the shelling.

As Maisie works through the evidence, looking for Michael's killer and his lost love, she quickly learns that the killer may be nearby. The Cliftons are attacked, Maisie is knocked down and her document case stolen. This isn't just a dozen-year-old crime; the danger is real and present.

Meanwhile, Maisie's personal life is getting complicated. Maurice is very ill. Billy Beal's wife Doreen is home from the hospital (due to events in prior books), but still very shaky. Andrew Deane is married, but her friend Priscilla introduces her to a jourmalist friend of her husband's, who is very interested. And James Compton is back from Canada to stay, and inviting her to go to a car race with him.

Maisie is juggling a lot here, but she does it with charm, grace, and intelligence as usual. Another worthy entry in the serious.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Hex (Coyote #6, by Allen Steele (author), Tracy Sallows (narrator)

Ace, ISBN 9781937007515, April 2012

I listened to the unabridged audio edition; however, Amazon will not allow me to link to that, so I've linked to the paperback edition.

Andromeda Carson, captain of the Coyote merchant ship Montoya, is getting bored with standard commercial runs where, due to the fact that humans aren't yet fully accepted or trusted in the Talis, she and the crew rarely even get to disembark, much less explore. She's beginning to reluctantly contemplate retirement when her boss, Ted Harker, approaches her with an unexpected proposal. The most mysterious race in the Talis, the danui, have indirectly approached Coyote with an offer of a human-habitable planet in their home solar system.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Allies and Enemies:How the World Depends on Bacteria, by Anne Maczulak

FT Press, ISBN 9780137015467, July 2010

Most of us mainly know about the bacteria that are bad for us--with good reason. Harmful bacteria can be very harmful indeed, so it's natural that they capture most of our attention.

And that's too bad, because harmful bacteria are a tiny minority, and many of the remainder aren't just harmless. They're vital to such basic functions as digesting our food. They play essential roles in making Earth habitable. The earliest bacteria played a crucial role in creating the free oxygen that made life as we know it possible.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow

Crown Publishing Group, ISBN 9780307460981, March 2012

This isn't a perfect book, but it's an important one. Maddow covers some important history that we've largely lost track of: all the effort that the Founders went through to make it hard for us to go to war.

The Founders recognized the attractions of war for the executive, and that if it was easy for one person to commit the country to war, the temptation to do so would be powerful. You can't make war by committee, and command of the armed forces was vested in the executive--but the power of declaring war, as well as funding it, was vested in Congress. They also had a strong bias against a standing army, on the grounds that an available army will be used. That bias became a part of our political culture. Each war required enough popular support that Congress would declare war, and Americans would enlist in the armed forces in large numbers to fight that war.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1), by C.J. Sansom (author), Steven Crossley (narrator)

Recorded Books, November 2011

The cover image is a link to the abridged edition, because Amazon for some reason won't let me link to the unabridged. However, I listened to the unabridged edition.

This is the first of Tudor-era lawyer Matthew Shardlake's adventures, several years earlier than the book I previously reviewed. He's not quite as established and prominent as in the later book, and the household and strong network of friends we see there has not yet come together. And Matthew is still deep in politics, working for Thomas Cromwell.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Class War?: What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality, by Benjamin I. Page, Lawrence R. Jacobs

University of Chicago Press, ISBN 9780226644554, April 2009

Page and Jacobs argue that there is, in fact, no "class war" brewing in America--that in fact a philosophically conservative American public, in a natural fidelity to fundamental American values of hard work, independence, basic fairness, and equality of opportunity, broadly favors some pragmatically "liberal" government policies. Those policies include public education, progressive taxation, food stamps, and other economic support programs that make it possible for the poor to maintain themselves and those born into poor families to have a genuine opportunity to achieve better lives. Merely saying, "you can do it if you work hard enough," is not enough. For our egalitarian values to mean anything, they have to be backed up by access to the tools that a talented and determined young person can really use to achieve success.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Tricks (Andy Carpenter Series #7), by David Rosenfelt (author), Grover Gardner (reader)

Listen & Live Audio, ISBN 9781593164249, August 2009

Andy Carpenter is a lawyer in the happy position of being rich enough that he only has to take cases that interest him, and over the last few years he has come to be mainly interested in animal welfare cases. So it's not much of a surprise when a judge calls him in and appoints him to represent, and take temporary custody of, a dog who is the subject of a custody dispute between his deceased owner's son and widow. It seems a minor additional complication that the deceased owner was murdered.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Cerebellum: Brain for an Implicit Self, by Masao Ito

FT Press, ISBN 9780132623087, August 2011

This was an unexpectedly challenging read, due to a simple misunderstanding on my part. I was expecting popular science of the brain, aimed at the educated lay person. In fact, this is not "popular science" at all. It's aimed at the advanced student or young researcher, gathering together in one place the current state of the research on the cerebellum, and Ito's judgment about what it means, as well as next questions to be addressed in future research. It would be beyond foolish for me to attempt a detailed review of this book.

Nevertheless, I found it impressively readable given the distance by which it outpaces my knowledge in this area. Ito has a clear, straightforward style and a gift for explaining complex ideas. I finished this book with a sense that I have in fact increased my understanding of the cerebellum, the role it plays in the overall working of the brain and body, and what it means for the role the cerebellum in creating our sense of identity.

Recommended to the knowledgeable or the fearless.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Singular Woman, by Janny Scott (author), January Lavoy (reader)

Riverhead Trade, ISBN 9781594485593, January 2012

Barack Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, is an almost forgotten figure in the public story of his life. She died before his political career really took off, but she was still alive when he wrote the memoir, Dreams From My Father, that focused more on his feelings about his absent, and by then deceased, Kenyan father. Her impact on her son, though, was profound, and Scott gives us a fascinating picture of this strong and important woman.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Snuff (A Discworld Novel), by Terry Pratchett (author), Tony Robinson (narrator)

Corgi Books, ISBN 9780552166751, June 2012

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition of this. However, I am linking to the paperback because Amazon won't permit me to link to the correct audio edition.

Sam Vimes, Commander of the Watch of the city of Anhk-Morpork, is not happy. In fact, he's deeply, deeply unhappy. He's about to undergo a terrible ordeal, due to a terrible betrayal by his beloved wife, Lady Sybil.

He's going on vacation. To the country. To Lady Sybil's family lands, which he now owns.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Politics of Voter Suppression: Defending and Expanding Americans' Right to Vote (A Century Foundation Book) , by Tova Andrea Wang

The Politics of Voter Suppression 
Cornell University Press, ISBN 9780801450853, August 2012

Wang gives us both a history of voter suppression tactics in the USA since the end of Reconstruction, and a strong case for the illegitimacy of voter suppression as a means of partisan competition.

Some will remember at least some key facts about the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent African-Americans from voting in the post-Reconstruction era. Even those readers may be startled at the extent of the suppression and the strength of its effects, as well as parallel efforts in northern states to limit the votes of "undesirables" there. Wang follows the evolution in both tactics and in who was interested in suppressing whom.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revelation (Matthew Shardlake Series #4), by C.J. Sansom (author), Simon Jones (reader)

Macmillan UK, ISBN 9780230531932

Matthew Shardlake is absolutely, totally retired from politics. He's not really cut out for the rough play of Tudor politics, and is now devoting himself to his legal career, with the status and distinction of being appointed to practice in the Court of Requests, along with the handicap of being a hunchback. The monasteries are dissolved, Matthew has lost his past fervor for reform--and those now in ascendance at Henry VIII's court are pushing the old, papist ways with as much vigor and brutality as Thomas Cromwell ever pushed Reform. Matthew is glad to be out of it, and happy to agree to his friend Roger's proposal of a fund to create a new hospital for the poor in London, replacing the services once provided by the now-dissolved monasteries.

Then on his way to work at Lincoln's Inn the morning after that conversation, Matthew finds Roger, dead, in the fountain. His throat is slashed, he has bled into the water turning it red, and he has a strangely peaceful look on his face.