September 4th, 2017


Books 38-40

38.In The President's Secret Service, by Ronald Kessler. This was a fascinating read, but fair warning: might want to have a fluffy comic chaser afterwards, or some episodes of West Wing on hand for later. This will pretty much destroy your faith in the country's leadership. Kessler relates the lives of the past presidents and their immediate families through the eyes of the people sworn to protect them: the Secret Service. What is revealed is frequently less than flattering. There are a few bright moments (George H.W. Bush's cookie hunt was cute and made me chuckle) but they are rare. I think the most shocking stories were about Carter. Kessler also goes into the history of the Secret Service (there's a lot of irony surrounding its start), and its significant present day problems. This book was published in 2009, so I had held out hope that perhaps some of the issues had been resolved. After reading about how the Secret Service was tapped out financially, that was probably wishful thinking. So, yes, I do recommend this book but prepare to be outraged, for more than a few reasons.

39. The Art and Politics of Thomas Nast, by Morton Keller. The Tammany Tiger. The image of the Republican Elephant and Democratic Donkey. The modern depiction of Santa Claus. The lady Columbia. Pioneering political cartoonist Thomas Nast either created or popularized these and other figures we recognize today. Keller's book organizes Nast's large body of work by time period, which mostly covered the Civil War through the end of Grant's presidency. Through this chronology, the reader sees the changes in Nast's works and his views of the world: at first highly idealistic, then more nuanced and even contradictory. What amazed me was the amount of detail in Nast's works; even when he is skewering someone, there's beauty in them. Keller does a commendable job setting up the history, or many details would go unnoticed, or would leave the reader scratching his or her head. History buffs and those interested in political cartoons should certainly check this out.

40. Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs. The third and *sigh* last book in the Peculiar Children series by Riggs. The good news: It's a fantastic finale. The bad news: It's the final book. Drat. What a ride, though. In this final installment, Jacob, Emma and Addison are trying to find their friends, who were kidnapped by the sinister Caul in the previous book. In the process, Jacob discovers another peculiar gift, one that unnerves him. Through the story, Jacob comes to realize that even in the Peculiar world, reality and legend sometimes intertwine in unexpected ways. This book is well-paced and the ending (since there had to be an ending) most satisfactory. Loved the symbolism (such as with Sharon), and the third book also introduces an intriguing character in Bentham. I'm going to leave things there, since I do try to avoid spoilers. Fans of the previous two books will not be disappointed.

Currently reading: Half the Sky, by by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.