Friday, February 05, 2016

Booknote: Given to the Savage

Natasha Knight, Given to the Savage. Stormy Night Publications. ISBN: 9781517044589. (Link to Amazon as not available on WorldCat). 

Genre: fiction
Subgenre: erotica, erotic fiction, BDSM, non-con, fetish, postapocalyptic fiction.
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

From the book's description:

"In the aftermath of a plague which brought civilization to its knees and left most of the world's female population sterile, the few women who remain fertile have become a precious commodity. They live in relative comfort, but upon reaching adulthood they are tasked with bearing children to carry on the species.

Twenty-four-year-old Rowan knows the role she will be expected to play now that she has come of age, but when she dares to resist her fate, the penalty is severe. After a shameful, public chastisement and a thorough medical examination, Rowan is given to a savage from outside the community--a huge brute of a man named Silas.

Against all expectations, Rowan finds herself drawn to her new keeper. Brave, ruggedly handsome and even kind at times, he is everything the men she has known before were not. When the time comes for him to mate with her, despite the circumstances, something deep inside her begs for him to claim her as his. But while she soon finds herself longing to be his forever, Rowan knows that one day those who gave her to him will try to take her back. When that day comes will Silas fight to keep her at his side even if it means risking everything he loves?"

In addition, the publisher does offer a warning note: "Given to the Savage is an erotic novel that includes spankings, sexual scenes, extensive medical play, anal play and more."

The book in some ways was reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale in terms of the status of the breeders in the society of this novel, and in the fact that Knight's work is a piece of dystopian fiction. The similarities end there as this is a dystopian erotic romance. The warning is proper, and this is not a novel for the those with a faint heart or on the prudish side.

The plot is as described above. Much of the more graphic elements of medical play happen at the beginning of the novel when Rowan is being examined before she is given to Silas. She is given to Silas as part of the deal the settlement man made with an official of the colony. Colonies are the "civilized" towns and settlements are anything else outside that. They depend on each other, but relations are tense. As the novel opens, Silas arrives to get Rowan as part of some deal he has made to get supplies and medicines for his village.

As in any good romance, Rowan soon falls for the brutish Silas, who turns out to be harsh but also have a soft side. In addition to the romance, we get a story of resistance as the settlers are planning a rebellion against the colonies. There will be a confrontation, and I leave it to readers to find out if they succeed or not. As I said, this is a good romance, so readers of that genre can probably know where things are headed.

Knight builds a pretty good story in terms of the erotic elements and the dystopian fiction elements. We get both the erotic romance, which can be very graphic and extreme, but she balances that with the softer elements of the couple falling in love. Around that we have the story of the dystopian society led by the Commander where some women are kept as nothing more than breeders. Other people think the breeders have a high place in society and live in comfort. Nothing could be further from the truth as they are often tortured and tormented to keep them in line. The plot moves at a steady pace. Knight drops readers right in the middle of the story from the beginning, and then she reveals details of her world as the narrative moves along. By the time we are a bit into it, we get a sense of how the world is built. Readers will find themselves rooting for the couple and hoping that the Commander and his henchman get what's coming to them.

Readers of the romance genre will likely enjoy this one. However, this is not a light or cozy romance. This is a strong piece of erotica with graphic elements, including some of non-consent. If that works for you as a reader, then this will be enjoyable. I mentioned Margaret Atwood's novel above as I think this book has some appeal elements that go with that novel. Also readers of works like Y:The Last Man and The Children of Men may find this to have similar appeal elements in terms of the sterility angle for humanity. The key difference is this is a work of erotica.

Though I enjoy this type of erotica just fine, I am not a huge fan of the dystopian genre. For me, seeing the similarities to other works sort of made some of it predictable for me. However, I did find myself liking this one. I think readers who like both dystopian fiction and erotic romance with strong BDSM and non-con elements will enjoy this one as well. If this is your genre, I would say to give this author a chance; you may find yourself rating it higher. It was a good read overall, and I would take another chance with this author.

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, January 29, 2016

Signs the Economy is Bad: January 29, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Signs the Economy is Bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is the semi-regular (as in when I have time and/or feel like doing it) feature where I scour the Internet in search of the oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. Sure, pundits may say things are getting better, but what do they know? And to show not all is bad, once in a while we look at how good the uber rich have it.  

The holiday season is now over, and many people are doing their best to recuperate from the excessive spending they did over the holidays. The New Year has come, and with it, the bad economy continues. Let's see what's been going on.

  • One of the big news that came with the new year is that Walmart is closing a bunch of stores (story via Bizmology). Apparently, even the megagiant can't keep all those stores open. Although I am willing to bet it may also have to do with the fact in some places the minimum wage went, and well, you've got to keep those profits in place, so time to lay off some people to compensate (not that would really lose much, not to mention it is not like they pay their employees well, but hey, it's a corporation. Caring about people is not a priority for them). Plus you know things have to be bad when even the poor people Walmart built its empire on cannot afford to shop there.
  • Overall, Americans are not feeling well about the economy according to a new survey (story via The Atlantic). So, no matter how well Wall Street does or how much the pundits try to push the narrative of stuff getting better, the reality is that wages for the most part as still stagnant, and the conditions for the average person are just not that good.
  • And Americans have reason to feel the economy is bad. 45 million of them are living in poverty (story via AlterNet). Just don't try to figure that out from watching the news. The media could not care less.
  • Then again, with few exceptions, Americans in general are assholes when it comes to taking care of their own. The prevailing attitude, especially among Republicans and the Right Wing, is everyone for themselves. Between their attitude of "me first, fuck you" and electing officials who go on ahead to cut safety nets, Americans are pretty much rushing to leave the poor behind (Story via TruthDig).  I guess they are taking that line about decreasing the surplus population seriously.
  • Meanwhile, around the world, there are millions of hungry people, and the statistics often underestimate the problem (story via Yes! Magazine).
  • There are also millions of homeless children in the U.S,, including Florida (story via Equal Voices).
  • College students are often poor and food insecure (a.k.a. hungry because they do not get enough to eat. Story via Inside Higher Ed). College students are a special case. Most privileged, usually Right Wing, asshats think college students cannot possibly be poor. I mean, they get scholarships and loans, right? Many have jobs? (maybe). But the reality is not as simple as some rosy eyed view people with privilege (many of whom likely got a college education under much better deals than the current generation) make it out to be. Going to college for many can be a struggle. I know. I see it everyday at the college I work at in our corner of Appalachia. Maybe those asshats ought to shut up and pay us a visit to see how the other half lives. 
  • Now some of you may think that once a kid manages to graduate from college, there will be a job lined up waiting for him. Not quite. You see, in the bad economy, jobs after college are not really there. There are a lot of graduates who for a variety of reasons cannot find employment after college. And a lot of them have to move back in with their parents. So much for that empty nest and the idea of turning junior's room into a sex dungeon or tiki bar. Now, so you do not say I do not offer something positive, here are some tips for parents of college kids coming back to the nest; actually more like a plan to kicking them back out as soon as possible because if there is anything Americans hate is their adult kids living with them (story via The Christian Science Monitor). It is something that always makes me wonder about Americans. In Latin America, including Puerto Rico, adult children living with their parents after college or even as they are employed is not uncommon and in fact it is pretty normal, especially if they are single. The kid has a place to live until he or she can really stretch out their wings (or gets married), and the parents do have someone to keep helping around the house, etc. But that is another story. 
  • Staying a bit more on the topic of poverty and hunger. Some of you clueless out there may say, "hey, those poor people can go to a food bank. They got food there." Yes, food banks have food. However, the quality and quantity varies, not to mention the degree of restrictions. Not all food banks are as free as one would think. Some have very restrictive rules about who can or not use their services. Then, there is the food you may or not get at that food bank. But do not take my word for it. The author of the blog Poor as Folk has taken the time and effort to find out from actual poor people what they actually get from food banks. You ever wondered what people get at food banks? Here is your answer. If you read only one story from my post today, read this one.

Now, we know that not everyone does badly in the bad economy. Certain businesses and companies often do well exploiting the poor, the vulnerable, the stupid, so on in the bad economy. If  scrupples are not a concern, and you lack a conscience or basic human decency, you can probably make money in the bad economy. For example, we have the following:

  • The gun and firearms industry is doing great in the bad economy. Not only are they getting rich while people die left and right from their products (story via AlterNet), but heck, they can even expand because cities and towns are more than willing to give the death merchants tax breaks so they will come to their localities (story via Mother Jones). Now, I am all for your right to bear arms responsibly. I am certainly not for the right of every idiot to be armed in order to go around showing off their penis compensator, bullying others, and more often than not either doing something stupid with the gun or just going on a rampage for perceived slights. There is a difference, and if your devotion to your fetish blinds you from it, you are probably part of the problem while enriching the firearms industry. 
  • By the way, it is not just selling guns. Very often you need accessories to carry and use the gun. You know, things like a kit to clean and maintain your gun. You want to carry your gun it is probably a bit more practical to do so in a holster than just shoving it in your pants. And if you are lady, well, the lady bits often make carrying your concealed gun a bit more difficult. Not to worry, there are whole industries arising to meet all the needs of ladies wanting to pack heat (story via NPR). Someone saw opportunity, and they jumped on it to make a few bucks. By the way, it is not just about having a holster that fits better on your waist or can go under your bra. Women are fashion conscious, so that holster better have some lace, and if it is pink, that would be nice too. 
  • The prison for profit industrial complex also does well in the bad economy. Their latest make money scheme? Trying to make money off electronic messaging from prisoners to their families (story via TruthOut). No, it is not really e-mail as the racket they run would be an insult to actual e-mail.
  • And then, there are people begging for money. In the bad economy, many may turn to begging for money on the streets for a few pennies. Now, you know things are really bad when rich people are the ones doing the begging. Since this is the 21st century, rich people do not beg on the streets. They go online and set up one of those "give me funds (for some cause/issue/actual need)" accounts. For instance: 
    • Porn actress and reality star celebrity Tila Tequila apparently did not quite manage her earnings well. She recently set up GoFundMe campaign to beg for money (story via Radar Online). The thing is it actually worked. Plenty of suckers out there sent her money. 
    • And then there is this rich brat, for lack of a better word, who also used GoFundMe to beg for money to get a new car.
  • Perhaps we can console ourselves with a donut. However, I have to get my donuts at the corner mom and pop for a few bucks a dozen (damn good donuts too; they are a rare treat for us). On the other hand, if you can afford it and your tastes are a bit more extravagant, and you happen to be in Brooklyn, you can always get this fancy $100 donut (story via The Week). By the way, that is the price for one single donut. 
And that's the world we live in the bad economy. 

Booknote: Happiness A-Z

Louise Harmon, Happiness A-Z: the Gleeful Guide to Finding and Following Your Bliss. Berkeley, CA: Viva Editions, 2015. ISBN: 9781632280077.

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: quotations, inspirational
Format: paperback
Source: Online contest win; book provided by publisher

This is a nice heartwarming collection of quotes to bring you some good feelings and happiness. I am one of those readers who enjoy books of quotations, so this book was a welcome addition.

The book features a foreword by June Cotner; she describes the book as a collection of perspectives on happiness from classic writers to contemporary figures. She also states this is an "easy-to-use happiness guide." That is about right. Need a little pick me up? Flip through the book and find a nice quote or two. After the foreword, we get the author's introduction. She suggests that a lot of happiness is internal work. She writes, "the inner work of happiness is that of thinking about you live your life and how your thinking is foundational."

The rest of the book is arranged as A-Z chapters with concepts such as "Bliss," "Kindness," and "Wonder." Each chapter opens with a short inspirational passage from the author to set up the theme. This is followed by the quotations from various writers and thinkers. There is quite a bit of diversity in the selections.

In the end, this is a book I really liked. It's the kind of book that I will keep handy when I need some comfort reading. It makes a good selection for public libraries due to its light inspirational element.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Booknote: Me of Little Faith (Audiobook edition)

Lewis Black, Me of Little Faith. New York: Penguin Audio, 2008. ISBN:  9780143143369.

Genre: Audiobooks
Subgenre: humor, comedy, memoir, religion
Format: CD
Source: My local public library.

Let me begin by saying that much of what I wrote when I reviewed the print version of this book applies to my experience reading the audiobook. Here is what I wrote back in 2010 when I read it:

If you like Lewis Black, whether from his stand-up comedy or from his work at The Daily Show, then you will probably like this book. I did not rate it higher because it does slow a bit at the end. However, it is worth reading. Black combines humor with memoir and commentary to reflect on his relationship with religion. More importantly, he reminds us of the importance of humor, especially when it comes to religion. The deity, whatever form it takes, must have a sense of humor, so we should have some sense of humor as well when it comes to religion. The early part of the book is the best part. Along the way, we get a look at politics, G.W. Bush, Muslims, Christians, and even Mormons; Black pretty much covers a lot of territory in this book. I did like it overall, and I think a good number of people should read it. Maybe it would help them be less uptight. 

I picked this to go with my audiobook challenge because I do enjoy the comedy of Lewis Black, and he does read the book. He reads it in his unique voice, though at times he can be a bit less angry than when he performs, which adds a nice warmth to the listening experience. His healthy skepticism is still very much present in the book. A big point of the book is that religion and comedy can be very similar.

The end segment of the book, something I had forgotten about from reading it in print, is the performance piece. It does have some confusing moments, and it reminded me why it seemed to slow down the book overall. It's an addition to the main text, like a radio play with music and all. Listening to it was better than just reading it, as the music and singing they do in this segment does add a bit more entertainment to the book.  

In the end, much of the audiobook is the book as I remember it when I read it in print. However, listening to Mr. Black reading it does enhance the experience. 

3 out of 5 stars. 

On a side note, a couple of good thoughts from the book I want to remember: 

"Anything that takes itself too seriously is open to ridicule." 


For the next one, I also agree with it. I may be a heathen, but it does not mean I should be a dick about it: 

"I may not believe, but I believe if you are in the presence of believers, you should show a little respect for their beliefs."

Now, extremists, those deserve no respect and will get none from me. 

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Additional Reading Notes for The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

For books that engage me and make me think deeply, I often take additional notes on points I wish to remember. I usually include those notes in my reviews. However, this book packed so much that I felt a need to write out a second post on it to put out the additional concepts and thoughts I wanted to remember and reflect upon. You may want to read my review of the book first before you keep reading here in order to get the full picture.

* * * * * 

The Tea Party is not really that "revolutionary":

"When we explore the passions of Tea Partiers in detail, we will see that they are new variants of long-standing conservative claims about government, social programs, and hot-button social issues" (11). 

The media, especially right wing media, basically inflames and helps keep the Tea Party alive, even with misinformation:

"From Fox News to right-wing radio jocks and bloggers, media impresarios have done a lot to create a sense of shared identity that let's otherwise scattered Tea Parties get together and feel part of something big and powerful. Media hosts also put out a steady diet of information and misinformation--including highly emotional claims-- that keep Tea Party people in a constant state of anger and fear about the direction of the country and the doings of government officials" (13). 

This is a book written by social scientists. It is written in accessible language, but it is still grounded in evidence. The evidence includes public records, news reports, national social surveys, and questionnaires to Tea Party members as well as extensive field interviews with tea partiers.

Traits of Tea Party members (the majority of them), according to the book:

  • Middle aged or older, often seniors. 
  • Better, well-off economically, but not "wealthy." 
  • White.
  • Many are regular church goers and more likely to be evangelicals. 
  • At least some college education.
  • Many are or were small business owners or other professional occupations. Many are retired. 
  • Given that they are disproportionately older whites, they tend to have higher incomes than typical Americans. 
 And tea partiers could not really care less about reaching young people. They see themselves (arrogantly so, I might add) as "older and wiser."

"Despite occasional efforts at intergenerational outreach,  Tea Partiers do not seem anguished about their upward-tilted profile" (25). 

The Tea Party does often use violent rhetoric, and as a result has attracted some extremists into its midst, which the rarely if ever repudiate. This can include the presence of Oath Keepers and members of the John Birch Society. However, fiery rhetoric and extremists aside, most tea partiers are fairly ordinary other than using aggressive language and activism (let's label it of the gadfly variety for the sake of being charitable).

While a lot of tea partiers are evangelicals and social conservatives, a good number are libertarians. However, as secular as they claim to be:

"In our fieldwork experience, the many rank-and-file members who hold heartfelt Christian conservative views set the tone for the Tea Party as a whole. Libertarian members tend to accomodate the social conservative view, at least to some degree" (37).

So libertarians in the Tea Party, much like in real life, are pretty much useless and worthless. This accommodation, which if you think about it means sacrificing many of their "principles", does allow the Tea Party to survive a bit longer.

Now tea partiers hold reverence for the U.S. Constitution, but it is clear that for all they flaunt it, they have barely read it. Heck, they barely understand it and more often than not are ignorant of the document's history and context:

"Despite their fondness for the Founding Fathers, Tea Party members we met did not make any reference to the intellectual battles and political compromises out of which the Constitution and its subsequent amendments were forged, let alone to the fact that key Founders were Deists, far from any branch of evangelical fundamentalism. Nor did they realize the extent to which some of the positions Tea Partiers now espouse bear a close resemblance to those of the Anti-Federalists-- the folks the Founders were countering in their effort to establish sufficient federal authority to ensure a truly United States. The Tea Partiers we met did not show any awareness that they are echoing arguments by the Nullifiers and Secessionists before and during  the U.S. Civil War, or that their stress on 'states' rights' is eerily reminiscent of dead-ender white opposition to Civil Rights laws in the 1960s" (50).

This collective ignorance also goes along with their cherished idea that anyone can read and interpret the Constitution. The above evidence clearly points to the contrary. Add to this their anti-intellectualism and disdain of experts, and this makes a recipe for national disaster.

And for all their anti-government whining, there is this piece of irony:

"Ironically, many organizers and leaders of local Tea Parties are supported in part by Social Security or veterans' pensions, and also enjoy health benefits from Medicare or veterans' health care programs. U.S. taxpayers subsidize their incomes and well-being, and hence give them the time and capacity to organize protests and Tea Party groups" (93). 

This also goes along with their selfish mentality where they "earned" those benefits while everyone else is a "moocher." It is flat out selfish hypocrisy.

Bottom line, their tent can be so big at times to include all sorts of extremists and other right wing idea pushers because of hating on enemy:

"If an organization seems to be against Obama and liberals, Tea Partiers are trusting to the point of gullibility" (118). 

Clearly, critical thinking of any kind is not happening among tea partiers.

More bottom line:

"All in all, Tea Party citizen engagement in the democratic process-- a positive thing-- is married to a level of out-group intolerance and refusal to contemplate compromise and give and take that are surely worrisome for U.S. democracy" (201). 

This is where I do not agree with the authors. Tea partier engagement has not been a positive thing. Their bigotry and intolerance of diversity, outright ignorance, and often aggressive violent rhetoric are not positive things, and if anything, have added to the toxicity of the political environment in the United States. People who would readily take away the rights of those who they see as different are not worthy of applause just because they "engage in the democratic process." If anything, they pervert that process to the detriment of the nation as a whole. That is far from "a positive thing."

Booknote: The Illustrated Guide to Tarot

Jane Lyle, The Illustrated Guide to Tarot. San Diego, CA: Thunder Bay Press, 2011. ISBN: 9781607104308.(Amazon record, as WorldCat is just sketchy).

Note: book is included in a package set, "The Tarot Box." 

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: game systems, Tarot, self-help, spirituality.
Format: paperback
Source: Holidays gift

I received a deck of Marseilles Tarot cards as a holiday present; I collect playing cards and some other card decks, mainly for the art. In addition, this past year, I attended an event at the public library where a local Tarot card adviser/reader gave a presentation. If you are interested in the rest of that story, you can read more in my commonplace blog. Otherwise, just note that the cards came with a book, and I am reviewing the book in this post.

The book is a basic guide to the card meanings and how to read the cards, including some basic card spreads. The book is arranged into four chapters:

  • Introduction. This gives some of the lore and history of Tarot cards. As someone who enjoys history and trivia, I found this part interesting. The chapter also  goes over some of the influences on the Tarot such as Jungian psychology and archetypes. 
  • The Major Arcana. This chapter provides a description for each of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Each card section includes myths and symbols, and interpretation for when the card is laid straight or reversed. Note that not all readers read reversed interpretations according to the book. As I learn to read them, that is a decision I will have to make. Furthermore, each card is also identified with a planet or zodiacal sign, bringing in the symbolism of astrology as well. Each card gets about two pages of material.
  • The Minor Arcana. This chapter covers the remaining cards, divided in four suits: wands, cups, pentacles (or coins), and swords. As the author writes, "while the Major Arcana embodies large, universal concepts, the Minor Arcana weaves amongst them, filling the details" (67). there are 56 cards in the Minor Arcana. This chapter also looks a bit at influences such as the four elements, Jungian archetypes, astrology, and correspondences. After that, it goes over each card by number: aces then each aces, so on. The explanations here are more brief, but you still get straight and reversed interpretations. The chapter ends with a small note on combinations, say if you get four aces in a spread. 
  • A step by step guide to reading the Tarot. The chapter starts with a few words on choosing a deck, how to handle it, and a bit on developing your intuition along with learning the cards. This chapter goes over some basic spreads and how to read them. It then provides six spreads with explanation of how to set them up and read them plus reasons to use a particular spread. The chapter ends with two sample readings explained to illustrate how the process works. 

Though the book came with a Marseilles deck, it also uses Rider Waite card illustrations.  While Rider Waite is a popular deck, often used as inspiration for other more modern decks, it seems the book after a while favors the Rider Waite illustrations a bit more for the latter part of the book, which makes me wonder if that is a reflection of the author's preference or bias. Or it could be due to the fact that the Minor Arcana in a Rider Waite is better illustrated with more symbols and details compared to the basic suit depictions of a Marseilles deck.

In addition, the book features various illustrations in color of other historical Tarot cards and decks as well as other historical symbols and images, such as classical paintings. These add some historical context and show the rich tradition of the cards.

For a small book, it packs a lot. While it is far from definitive, the book provides a good, basic start for people who wish to learn how to read the Tarot for personal  meditation and focus. Depending on where your studies take you, you may wish to explore other books to expand your knowledge such as books on Tarot or other areas like astrology and even numerology.

In the end, it is a utilitarian book. Though I liked it, I know that I will be supplementing it with others down the road. Still, the book is an easy read that is accessible and easy to use, so I will likely keep consulting it as needed.

A brief note on the cards: they are about 5 inches tall by 2 3/4 inches wide on a standard card stock. As mentioned, the Minor Arcana card are suit cards, very much like modern playing cards. In fact, they remind me of Spanish playing cards (naipes). In fact, it is clear this art style crossed various card decks in Europe over time. 

3 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, January 15, 2016

Booknote: The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism

Theda Skocpol and Vanessa Williamson, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-19-983263-7.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: politics, history, United State politics, U.S. political parties, media
Format: hardcover
Source: My library has this book. 

A lot of what Skocpol and her coauthor write, reporting on their research, confirms what many of us already know about the Tea Party in terms of it being white, older, and extremely conservative. As I have often said, you've got to give the devil his due; the Tea Party members are very good at organizing politically and mobilizing, a lesson the Left seems to consistently ignore at its own peril. However, no matter how genteel the authors portray many of them, the fact that so many of them espouse extremist views and are outright bigots, due in large part to the strong social conservative presence in the party, simply cannot be ignored. Add to this a fairly strong and selfish libertarian presence, which is often at odds with the social conservatives, and the tea partiers do make a fairly toxic element in American politics. What the book does then is provide a mostly objective view of the Tea Party and its members. A strength of the book is that the authors let tea partiers speak for themselves. More often than not, these folks provide the best evidence of why we need a progressive sense of public good and caring for each other in the United States.

On a side note, the book The Elephant in the Room, which I read back in 2009, discusses the tense blend between libertarians and social conservatives in the GOP; some of the insights from that book are applicable here.  If you have read that book, much of what the authors of The Tea Party say on the topic will be familiar ground.

If nothing else, this is a book that serves to understand the rise of the Tea Party in American politics, the kind of people it attracts, and why it remains such a strong influence in the GOP. For progressives who may not be as well informed on the Tea Party, this book makes good basic reading. Skocpol and Williamson lay out where those people are coming from, why they enjoy varying degrees of appeal, and how they play a long term game for right wing power. Progressives who are clueless or complacent need to read this book, then get to work, or risk losing more of the progress we've fought so hard to gain.

Part of the book can be skimmed as the authors can get a bit repetitive on some points. While it does reveal some aspects of the Tea Party that are not commonly known or seen in the media, we also see their rhetoric is firm right wing conservatism in a newer package.

The chapter on billionaires and larger organizations was interesting in revealing the relationships of convenience between the PACs and lobbying groups, desperate to their right wing often extreme messages out, and local tea parties who do not want to be tainted and want to remain "independent" but are often starved for content and substance, even if that content is often inaccurate just as long as it fits their worldview. There is a serious cynicism going on as groups such as FreedomWorks know tea partiers would not readily accept their most radical ideas. Yet tea partiers accept them just as long as such groups keep concepts just vague enough so as not to be unpalatable. More often than not this is not innocence; it's selective understanding often sustained by a heavy degree of selfishness. They've earned their benefits, so everyone else who comes after them be damned. For instance, as long as they can keep their Social Security, which they "earned," they do not care much if those who come after them, "entitled" moochers in their eyes, get it as well. And this is exposed in their own words. The authors' extensive on the ground interviews and research reveal all this. It does so in a straightforward way. There is no need to spin here. The authors simply present the evidence, and the evidence of the Tea Party's toxicity on American politics becomes clear.

The book is also interesting to read in light of how things have turned out over time. For example, as powerful as Glenn Beck was in helping shape an image of the Tea Party for the media and influencing tea partiers, it has to be noted that he no longer works for Fox News. The authors cover Beck's dismissal from Fox News in the final chapter of the book. Howard Kurtz, previously CNN's media critic who pointed out how Fox News practically co-sponsored Tea Party events, took a rightward turn and went to work for Fox News. Events in these instances moved faster than the book's content, which illustrate how swiftly things can turn in media and politics.

Yet as loud as they can be, the authors also revel that they are not as big as the media make them out to be. However, given juggernauts like Fox News backing them, they do remain a dangerous influence. Yet, as the 2015 elections showed in places like Kentucky, the Tea Party can, along with other Right Wing ideologues, still pack a punch. The GOP is still stuck with the Tea Party. The key still remains whether progressives will turn out to vote in 2016 in contrast to their failure to do so in 2015.

The research in the book is documented by ample notes in the back of the book. The book is divided into six chapters that look at topics including who are the Tea Partiers and their beliefs, their relations with PACs and other political groups, the role of the media, and where they stand on American democracy.

Overall, the authors are pretty charitable at times, probably in the interest of politeness. Still, the book gives a pretty clear picture of what the Tea Party really is and stands for; disjointed as Tea Party groups can be, they do all share some core self-centered values in common. If nothing else, a big lesson is to not underestimate them.

For students of American politics and current U.S. politics, this book is essential. Academic libraries will want to acquire this one, especially for students writing on topics such as Obama's presidency, the contemporary Republican Party, and of course the Tea Party. It is not always riveting reading, but in this day, it is necessary reading.

3 out of 5 stars.

Note: Given this is a pretty lengthy post, and that the book just packs so much, I am putting my additional reading notes on a separate post (coming soon). If you are interested in learning more, read that as well.

Also, Skocpol, one of the authors, visited my college recently. You can read my notes from that event here.