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Book Reviews: Historical Fiction

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 |

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

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Historical Fiction > Women’s Fiction

“Are you ever afraid?”

“Yes, just like everybody else. But only after the danger is done—before that, fear is an indulgence. Welcome to the Alice Network.”

Based on real characters and events, The Alice Network is a historical novel about two women who meet in 1947. Eve had been a spy in World War I. Charlie is a pregnant American in search of her cousin, Rose. Everyone assumes Rose died during WWII, but Charlie wants proof, which leads her to Eve.

The story weaves back and forth between 1915 and 1947. Eve was a talented spy because she kept her ability to speak German a secret. Also, she has a stutter, so everyone assumes she’s dull witted, an advantage when you’re trying to learn enemy secrets.

Both Eve and Charlie are likable women, although when Charlies meets Eve, Eve drinks whiskey for most of her meals and is a little bit crazy.

It’s an admirable novel about two women facing challenges and discrimination because of their gender. Highly recommend.


Daughters of the Night Sky by Aimie K. Runyan

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Historical Fiction > Women’s Fiction

Runyan has a gift for writing historical fiction about strong women that aren’t taught about in history class. In Daughters of the Night Sky, we learn about women who become pilots in the Red Army under Stalin in World War Two. I never knew that Stalin essentially advocated for something like equal rights for woman. They still faced discrimination and the dismissive attitudes of men, and they were not required to fight. They could return home at any time, unlike the men. Also, they had to be better than their male counterparts. They had to be flawless.

Through the point of view of Katya, we learn about how the women of the Red Army faced danger not only from enemy gunfire, but also sometimes from male soldiers they were supposed to be fighting alongside.

Runyan did a great job with research on what it was like to be a pilot during that era. You really feel like you’re in the cockpit with those women, facing uncertainty not just about your own life, but about everyone you care about and even strangers. Fans of historical fiction will definitely want to add this to their to-be-read list. RELEASES JANUARY 1, 2018.

Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union for the opportunity to review an advanced copy of this book.

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Book Review: Nonfiction

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 |

I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi

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Nonfiction

I found this nonfiction book hard to put down. It’s about Eric Garner and his death at the hands of overzealous police, but it’s also about all the lawyers and judges and policies in place to protect police officers and encourage the harassment of black and brown people.

Garner comes off as a sympathetic though flawed individual. The police officers and other members of law enforcement do not come off looking good at all. This is not about good cops; it’s about the bad ones who go unpunished.

I’ve been a fan of Matt Taibbi’s journalism for years, and this book cemented my admiration for his work. He criticizes liberals and conservatives alike for allowing this sort of discriminatory policing to be encouraged. Garner was a large man and an easy bust, and because of various quotas police officers were given, he was often arrested for his petty crimes. He didn’t get worked up when he was arrested for actually committing a crime, but they harassed him when he’d just be doing his laundry at the laundry mat or something, too.

The man who took the famous video of Garner was also harassed endlessly after the video went viral the world over. Some of the minor crimes he did commit, but many of the busts were entirely fabricated to get him to cop to a plea.

The descriptions of police brutality are hard to read. What this book is more concerned about, though, are things like why the prosecuting attorney Dan Donovan brought in 50 witnesses and yet failed to bring an indictment against the officer who did the illegal chokehold. (Daniel Pantaleo is still a police officer despite numerous abuse allegations, including completely unfounded strip searches conducted on the street in broad daylight.) Moreover, countless lawyers tried to get the grand jury information unsealed, to no avail. What did they have to hide? Donovan successfully ran as a Republican to fill the seat by congressman Michael Grimm, who’d been indicted on twenty federal counts. You may remember him as the lovely man who told a reporter (while a TV crew was filming) that he’d throw him over the balcony.

The reason the Garner case made so much news is because it was all caught on video. “Absent the cellphone videos, in other words, nobody would like have heard how Eric Garner really died.” But in this way his case was the exception.

I was shocked to hear all the obstacles a person has to go through to get a substantiated abuse charge against a police officer. All we, the public, ever hear about are the families who get million-dollar settlements. They represent virtually none of the cases actually alleged.

This is an important book about race and policing—not just individual police officers but the system as a whole. I could quote huge passages from this book. Highly recommend.

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