All the mothers in my book club are making their daughters read this book.

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A comprehensive history of the single woman in America, well researched and densely written. The student of women’s studies will find much that is familiar and much more that is new. I think Traister begins with a slight bias against marriage which over time grows into a realization that it isn’t marriage per se so much that keeps ’em barefoot and pregnant down on the farm, it’s early marriage and she’s got the studies and statistics and interviews to back it up.

I was unaware of how far women including single women had come before World War II and well aware of how relatively hard and fast their power fell immediately afterward. It’s almost like someone flipped a switch. It would be worthwhile to pinpoint that moment in time when Rosie the Riveter was booted out of the C-47 factory all the way back that nice ranch-style home in the suburbs, where the newly invented washing machine and dryer were going to be enough to keep her happy popping out babies one after the other. Those women must have been just enraged, and no way to show it without violating social, religious and even governmental shibboleths right, left and center. No wonder the women’s movement hit so hard in the 60s, there was bound to be a backlash from all that suppression.

All the mothers in my book club are making their daughters read this book. The best thing is the recognition of all the different paths now open to women, if only the women are aware those paths (and traps, because there are still massive traps) still exist. Recommended. My only quibble is where the hell is the index?

All my Goodreads reviews here.

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And a little popular fiction shall lead them.

“And what would you say, Royal, to those listeners who reply that in these dangerous times, it should be ‘Wizards first’?” asked Lee.

“I’d say that it’s one short step from ‘Wizards first’ to ‘Purebloods first,’ and then to ‘Death Eaters,'” replied Kingsley. “We’re all human, aren’t we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”

–J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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“I paid attention. I really did.”

The Los Angeles Review of Books asked me to amp up my Goodreads review of Douglas Preston’s fabulous book, The Lost City of the Monkey God, for publication on their site. I was happy to comply.

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To read my review in full, click here. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

The trouble with this whole family is, we got Lebruns on the brain.

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Jesse Sutherlin comes home from the trenches of World War I, where

…we captured us a handful of them soldaten and one of them spoke a little American. You know something? He didn’t have any more idea why he was at war than we did. We all had a laugh at that, I tell you.

This perspective leaves him less than inclined to pursue the generational feud between his family, the McAdoos, who occupy the west side of Buffalo Mountain, Virginia, and their sworn enemies, the Lebruns, who occupy the east side. Until his cousin and fellow soldier, Solomon McAdoo, is murdered tending to their grandfather’s still. His entire family, beginning with grandfather Big Tom McAdoo, is ready to fetch their guns and start shooting every Lebrun they see but Jesse says hold on now.

The trouble with this whole family is, we got Lebruns on the brain. Something goes wrong in our lives, it must be the Lebruns causing it. We lose a two bit piece, the Lebruns must have stole it. A tree falls down in the road, Lebruns pushed it over. Bad as they are, man and boy, they ain’t the only skunks in the woodpile. I want them to be guilty as much as the next man, but I want to be sure it’s them before I start throwing lead their way.

And then there is a near miss of a lynching, and another murder, and a third, peaking finally in a high noon showdown on top of Buffalo Mountain that will either reveal the murderer or leave a lot more bodies on the ground.

Ramsay evokes a time and a place so vividly through Jesse’s voice that I didn’t read this novel so much as savor every page. It doesn’t hurt that Jesse’s courtship of Serena Barker (a shirttail member of the Lebrun family, gasp) is charming from beginning to end.

“Women don’t go in for any of those thing except maybe the coins. We’d rather have a pocket square, a book, or a sprig of mint.”

“And they give y’all the vote. Lord have mercy.”

And there is a cameo appearance by itinerant peddler Samuel Schwartz, I’m guessing the grandfather of the hero of Ramsay’s Ike Schwartz series. He sells Jesse a hat Jesse didn’t even know he wanted for every last coin in Jesse’s pocket. Fun.

The Luidaeg, one of the Firstborn and my favorite character is back.

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The tenth and so far best of McGuire’s October Day series about a fully realized Fae world living next to the real world of present-day San Francisco, which allows Toby to make Ewok jokes even if her squire Quentin, aka the heir to Faerie’s High King and Queen, doesn’t get them.

In this installment a cure has been discovered for elf-shot and a Fae conclave is summoned to decide if it should be used or not. Many pure bloods are against change of any kind and despise changelings like Toby anyway, never mind that she is a Hero of the Realm, and they are willing to murder to maintain the status quo. Toby is tasked to find out the murderer(s) and keep the conclave on track, and then has to double down when fiance Tybalt, the King of Cats, is attacked.

The Luidaeg, one of the Firstborn and my favorite character is back

“What happened?” she asked.

“The same thing that always happens,” I said. “We were having a perfectly nice evening until it got ruined by a corpse.”

Her smile was full of teeth. “Oh, good,” she said. “I was worried that it was something serious.”

and Toby is as salty as ever

The kingdoms of Copper and Painted Skies both spoke fondly of him, mostly in the sense of “and nobody ever died because he was bored.”

Recommended, the whole series.

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I’m trying to remember the last time I enjoyed a police procedural this much. I think it was Ice by Ed McBain. This book is that good.

Alan Fletcher fought in the Falklands and war changed him from the youngest and most promising adjutant in the Welsh Guards to a man who upon returning home failed at soldiering, failed at hosting a B&B, failed at property management, failed at marriage, failed at everything until he ended his life with his hands tied behind his back, forcibly inhaling brick dust, suffocation leading to a fatal heart attack. Enter DI Nick Dixon (love the name), who is called in when Fletcher’s body is found in a WWII pillbox by the side of a canal. It’s definitely murder but with no suspect, no motive and no obvious clues.

Boyd is one of those rare crime fiction authors who make you feel like you’re on an actual case with an actual detective. It is a long, patient, painstaking teasing out of the details of Fletcher’s lives, the one lived in Devon and the one lived at war, and then the bodies begin to pile up all over southern England. There is plenty of misdirection and red herrings (I was so sure I knew what was going on and I so didn’t) and you get a real feeling for how frustrating so much of real police work must be and how many dead ends must be driven up their very last mile before the right track is the only one left. I am reminded of a Michael Gilbert quote

[A murder investigation] is a system which involves an enormous amount of work for a large number of people, and has only got one thing in its favor. It is nearly always successful in the end.

It is here, too, and the writing is excellent, direct, spare, never a needless word, with wonderful little bits of dialogue that do nothing to detract from the narrative and everything to illuminate the life, job and character of the professional policeman.

“And what about you, Inspector? Do you believe?”
“It’s difficult, Father, when you see what I see,” replied Dixon. “D’you mind if I sit for a while?”
“Not at all. So you do believe in God?”
“Let’s just say we have an understanding.”

and

He spotted the spyhole in the front door just in time and turned his back. Better still to give Colonel Byrne no time to compose himself.

and

“…there are three sides to every story…The two sides and then the truth, which is usually somewhere in the middle.”

I like the way Nick uses his cell phone to google everything, I like that in this time of so many books being written about veterans coming home from the Sandbox that Boyd chose to write of a Falklands veteran (it may have been a little war but men still died), and the first chapter is so creepy it hangs there like a ghost in the back of your mind, impossible to ignore, until the author exorcises it with, yes, another murder.

This is the sixth in the Nick Dixon series and I am definitely going to read the first five. Recommended.

***Spoiler:

Here’s how to say mesothelioma, because a six-syllable motive for murder is a fine thing and we should give it its due by pronouncing it properly. I bet Boyd created a macro so he wouldn’t have to write it out every time he used it.

 

Some book!

 

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There is something, well, rather sweet about a children’s book written about the guy who wrote one of the greatest children’s books ever. Illustrated with photos of and drawings by E.B. White himself and mixed media by the author, with liberal use of quotes from White, there is a smile on every page of this book. You don’t have to have loved Charlotte’s Web or live by The Elements of Style, this is just some book all by itself. Read it aloud to yourself, your spouse, your children, anyone who will sit still for it. They will all love it.

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