Book Thoughts

A place for me to give my thoughts on books, history, and their influence on my life.

Review of White Noise by Don DeLillo

White Noise - Don DeLillo

I have a really hard time with these types of books.  It had no real plot.  It just sort of meandered along with all of the characters being hopelessly cynical about life and death.  I felt like the author could have made his point in 100 pages rather than three times that many.  Maybe it is me - I just don't enjoy a book where the characters take no real joy out of life.  Especially when that seems to be the point of the book.  

Review of North and South by John Jakes

North and South - John Jakes

I had heard great things about John Jakes but for whatever reason, I had not read one of his books before.  Epic historical fiction is usually right up my alley, and I enjoyed this first book of the famous North/South trilogy.  I don't know if this is the best comparison, but this book reminded me of Wilbur Smith, with the action of a Smith novel replaced with political discussions.  I don't mean for that to sound negative, as I enjoyed the discussion of slavery and states' rights that would have dominated social culture in the 1840s and 1850s.  I think parts of the novel were stretched out a bit too long, and (like Smith) some of the characters were either too good or too evil, but overall I enjoyed the read and look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

Review of Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution by James McPherson

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution - James M. McPherson, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincol

I enjoyed this short book of academic essay by the most famous Civil War historian James McPherson.  The essays look at specific aspects of Lincoln as President including his use of metaphors, his single-minded focus on complete victory in the War, and his views on liberty.  Great read for people with a deep Civil War or Lincoln background, but probably too heavy for anyone interested in a popular history.

Review of Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee

A great many reviewers that I respect rated this book 4 or 5 stars and I hate to be the contrarian, but in this case, I really did not like this book.  It is my first read of Coetzee, and his writing style was impressive.  But for this book, I found nothing to enjoy.  The main character was simply dreadful as a person, and the people that were a part of his life had few redeeming qualities.  I kept waiting for some happy moment or some personality turnaround, but it never happened.  The story itself never truly built to a climax - it simply just kept moving along.  I don't want to say much more because I don't want to give anything away, but I finished this book feeling frustrated.

Review of Star Wars: Darth Vader Volume 1

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol. 1 - Salvador Larocca, Kieron Gillen

This graphic novel tells the story of Darth Vader following the destruction of the first Death Star. I thought the story was fantastic, and it fills in a few holes in the gap between the Episode IV and Episode V movies. The art was great, and the story was true to Vader's personality. Looking forward to the next one.

Review of Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Doctor Sleep - Stephen King

It had been a while since I had read a Stephen King novel.  As always, I enjoyed the story a great deal.  King has a way of writing and building characters that is second to none, and I can't recall ever reading his work and not coming away entertained.  This novel is a sequel of sorts to his famous book The Shining, but it certainly stands along as its own story.  I cannot say much that has not already been said about this book, but I would recommend it and I think that it shows King has not lost a step.

Review of The American Spirit by David McCullough

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For - David McCullough

I really love David McCullough.  This book is a series of speeches he had given over the years at college graduations, historic places, and to political leaders.  McCullough's love of history and every part of our American culture from the past is a true inspiration.  After every speech, I wanted to go track down new books on the topics he addressed.  I want to read great literature, I want to travel, I want to improve myself as a learner and as an educator.  I will be returning to this short volume many times in the future.

Review of Iron Dawn by Richard Snow

Iron Dawn: The Monitor, the Merrimack, and the Civil War Sea Battle that Changed History - Richard Snow

There were parts of this book that were great, and other parts that really dragged for me. This book seems to be a fan favorite of history readers, so I am probably in the minority on this one. I usually love the asides in a history book where the background of historical persons are discussed, but it did not work for me in this book. I felt that there were too many people, and too once a person was discussed, he often didn't come back for a while. While I enjoyed some of the buildup to the actual battle of the Merrimack vs. the Monitor, it went on for too long, and the detail was not interesting enough for me to keep me engaged. 

With all of that said, I did learn a lot about the navies of both sides during the Civil War, and the the actual action at sea was fascinating. Good book, but for me at least, not great.

Review of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book - Geraldine Brooks

A new favorite! It is such a fantastic surprise when you start a book with no expectations and it becomes a top read. I had never read any of Geraldine Brooks' books before, but I am very much looking forward to the next one.

 

This novel alternates chapters between the main character who examines and repairs historical books, and the stories of how the book came to the main character throughout history. A wonderful concept that reads as a series of short stories in many ways. I loved the history, the writing style, and the character development throughout the book.

 

Highly recommended.

Review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

A difficult book to rate. First let me say that I now understand why my high school students all talked about not enjoying this book at all in their English classes. I feel like it would over the top of their heads with its philosophy. I also was surprised to see the amount that sex and open relationships were discussed considering this is required reading at many high schools. I am not saying it should be censored, but it is interesting that it is a book of choice for many high school classes.

 

The book itself if a classic so there is not much more I can say. I felt the plot was simply a thin way to expound on various social ideas and philosophies. In some of the later chapters, there is simply a conversation discussing philosophy of the fictional world compared to the beliefs of what would have been the author's contemporary world.

 

Interesting concepts to think about, but not a page-turner.

Review of Research Methods by Sherri Jackson

Research Methods: A Modular Approach - Sherri L. Jackson

Wow was this a tough read.  I would give it a 5 star rating for the content and the exhaustive coverage of the topic, and I would give it a 1 star rating for how interesting I found it.  Best I could do is split the difference with a 3 star rating.  With that said, if you are taking a research class or need to do formal research, this book is an outstanding resource.

Review of Lincoln As I Knew Him by Harold Holzer

Lincoln as I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies - Harold Holzer

A neat little book that is a collection of reflections by people who had met Abraham Lincoln.  Many of these came from unpublished sources, and told great anecdotal stories about Lincoln that even I had never heard.  Harold Holzer was the editor and did a fine job organizing and explaining the sources for each reflection.  Recommended for fans of Lincoln.

Review of Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

Eva Luna: A Novel - Isabel Allende

I have always been a huge fan of Isabel Allende Her writing style is beautiful and her characters are memorable. This novel certainly included the things I love about her books, but it was not one of my favorites. I enjoyed the writing as always, but the plot for this story never really took off for me. The story alternated between the back story of the main character and other characters in a way that let the read know the stories would all meet at some point. I was good with that, but there was no real suspense for me in the build up to those meetings. The narrative also alternated between first and third person and that threw me off a bit.

 

Overall I enjoyed the style, but do not think this was up to the high standard I see in other novels of Allende.

Review of Louisa by Louisa Thomas

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams - Louisa Thomas

It has been quite some time since I added a history book to my favorites list, but this book has earned a spot!  A fantastic biography of Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams who lived a fascinating life.  From the England of her childhood, to Germany, Russia, France, and the United States, Louisa had experiences with her husband, and without, that could fill up two lifetimes.  The author does an outstanding job of using Louisa's writings and diaries to tell her story and show her grow into a confident, intellectual woman who struggled with and overcame multiple miscarriages and the deaths of children and family members.  I cannot do this story justice and will simply say that anyone who loves a great story or early American history should read this book.

Let's share book love!

Reblogged from BookLikes:

 

February was all about love, book love. But let's face it, in book lover's world the book affection lasts 24/7 all year long. If you've missed BookLikes bloggers book love stories, here is your chance to sneek peek into the pieces once again. Read all readers' testimonies and get the insights of book bloggers' reading preferences and favorite genres.

 

We'd love to read your Book Love Story!

Tell the world why you love reading books and we'll be more than happy to spread the word, feature and interview you on the BookLikes blog!

Remember to add why I love tag to your post :)

 

Why I love fantasy books#1 Book Love Story: Why I love fantasy books

A guest post by YouKneeK

Anybody who has followed me for more than, say, a week could tell you that I love science fiction and fantasy books. Of those two genres, fantasy is my favorite. Unlike many fantasy readers who could regale you with tales of their childhood favorites that inspired a lifelong love of fantasy, I didn’t get addicted until my early twenties. It all started with a computer game called Betrayal at Krondor. It was a role-playing game in which the text was actually written like a book, and the player feels like a character in that book.  I loved the game and wanted more.  When I learned that it was based on a series of books by some guy named Raymond E. Feist, I decided to try them. I started reading Magician: Apprentice, and I’ve been hooked ever since... read more

 

#2 Book Love Story: Why I love horror books

A guest post by Charlene from Char's Horror Corner

When I was young, there were very few children in my neighborhood, so I spent a lot of my time reading. The Bookmobile would come around once a week and I would check out as many books as I could hold. Back then, (only allowed to check out children's and young adult books), it was Agatha Christie, Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Conan Doyle that tickled my fancy. Poe-especially. I remember reading his story The Black Cat and getting a delicious case of the shivers-and so my love of horror was born!... read more

 

#3 Book Love Story: Why I love non-fiction books

A guest post by Mike from Book Thoughts

I am very excited to have a chance to share my passion for reading history with you all. I have had a life-long love of history, and grew up in a house where my father spent all of his free time either reading or talking about history.  I have always been fascinated about the past, and my childhood experience led to what is now a career reading and teaching history.

I have taught history at the high school and community college level for 15 years and my love for history has only grown during that time.  Too many adults think back to their history classes when they were in school and remember being bored and having to memorize facts and dates.  History is so much more than that!  To understand where we came from and how the world we live in was created by those who came before us is fascinating... read more

 

#4 Book Love Story: Why I Love Comic Books and Graphic Novels

A guest post by Grimlock ♥ Vision

I remember was first introduced to comic books by one of my first boyfriends, whom I indulged. It was, by the way, the death of our relationship: he took me the store, and reluctantly handed me She-Hulk I dumped him within a week, hoarding my own stack of X-Men. He probably looked at the comics, looked at me, and asked, ‘But why?’ He underestimated me, and I couldn't abide by that. It killed the relationship, but struck up a life long love of comics. I’ve always loved books as well as movies and TV, so the cinematic flair of the visual aspects combined with storytelling just works for me in comics... read more

 

#5 Book Love Story: Why I love historical fiction

A guest post by Susanna from SusannaG - Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

I love historical fiction. I love it in so many of its forms, from fictionalized biographies of long-dead monarchs, to stories about "normal people" of the past, to historical mysteries, time travel stories, and historical romances.

Why do I love historical fiction? I read in order to be taken on a trip to places I would otherwise never visit, and historical fiction is the gateway to the past.  And I love and am interested in the past - I trained as a historian.

I confess I can be a bit picky about historical fiction. There is nothing more likely to take me out of the flow of a book I'm enjoying than to run headlong into a "fact" that's wrong.   My next reaction is undoubtedly going to be "well, if they got that wrong, what else did they get wrong that I didn't catch?"  But good historical novel can give you a feel for another time and place in great ways.  You can feel like you've been there yourself... read more

 

#6 Book Love Story: Why I love romance books

A guest post by Cat's Books: Romance

I unabashedly love Romance Novels.

I love them as at the center of the best ones are optimism, human connection, and feminism. The Happily Ever After promise allows the reader to explore very dark themes at times wit the knowledge that there will be hope and love no matter what. 

Because the main stay of romance is the find of a partner, the question of how to build a lasting connection and all the psychological l complexity of that quests shapes every romance. Most every romance is female centered. Female desire and viewpoints control the narrative... read more

 

#7 Book Love Story: Why I love writing books

A guest post by Ned Hayes

Storytelling is a calling: we manufacture meaning out of events through the act of storymaking. After all, the human experience doesn’t really make sense on a day to day basis. Story is a fabric laid transparent over the bumps and bricks of random occurrence, a map showing the past and the future. It is as if we weave a web of story, from inside ourselves, like a spider, and live in it, and call it world.

I believe that story is in fact all powerful in our lives. To be truly human is to tell stories. Without stories – without that rhythm of beginning, middle, and end, without that hopefulness of meaning being given by seeing the pattern of a story – I believe that we become less than human. I believe that storytelling is what makes us human. We are homo storytelli or homo sinificans, the storytelling creature... read more

 

Let's share book love!

Review of The Audacity to Win by David Plouffe

The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory - David Plouffe

As a big fan of President Obama, I really enjoyed reading this book that gives the behind the scenes history of the 2008 primary and Presidential campaign. It brought me back to a campaign I had followed closely and it was fascinating to read about the strategy and decisions made by those guiding the process. I also loved the behind the scenes peaks at President Obama and the complete respect and admiration his people had for him (although I wish there was more focus on him as a person in the book).

 

If you are a political junkie you will like this book no matter what your politics are. If you are not a political junkie, I would only recommend this if you are a fan of President Obama.