Book Thoughts

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

Review of The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

Well this novel certainly lived up to the hype.  What a beautiful, and heart-breaking story of two adult sisters living through the German occupation of France during World War II.  Kristin Hannah has a beautiful way with language, and her ability to create believable characters is outstanding.  Highly recommended for any lover of history, Europe, or just a really great story.

Review of The Pearl by John Steinbeck

The Pearl - John Steinbeck

This was a novella from Steinbeck that was honestly very depressing. Without giving any of the story away, the book looks at depressing poverty and the influence that the chance of riches can have on a family's life. Worth the read for any fans of Steinbeck.

Review of A Murder of Quality by John le Carre

A Murder of Quality - John le Carré

My second George Smiley novel in as many days.  This books was not a spy-thriller, but was more of a simple murder mystery.  It was a quick story, and while I enjoyed the read, it certainly is not a classic and was not one that I imagine will be memorable.  I look forward to the more famous of Le Carre's spy novels that are coming up in this series.

Review of Call for the Dead by John le Carre

Call for the Dead - John le Carré

I had been meaning to read John le Carre for quite some time, and decided that my week on vacation was the perfect place to start.  This is the first book in the George Smiley series that many people I follow on these sites rave about.  I enjoyed this first novel and its simplicity.  It basically follows how the spy craft game works in 1950s England while working through a suicide case.  There is very little action so to speak, and the enjoyment is reading about how they came to resolve the case.  It was a very quick read, and I will continue on to the next one.

Review of The End of All Things by John Scalzi

The End of All Things - John Scalzi

This was the sixth book in the Old Man's War series and as always, I enjoyed the read.  This book continues the story from the previous books, and it once again takes on the form of multiple novellas rather than one continuous novel.  That part frustrates me a bit as the last three books in the series were either collections or a retelling of a previous story, but Scalzi does a great job of writing about characters and relations between groups of people.  I am caught up on this series for now, but will certainly continue reading if and when the next book comes out.

Review of Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States by Daniel Ruddy

Theodore Roosevelt's History of the United States - Daniel Ruddy

I loved this book! What a neat idea to take pieces from Teddy's Roosevelt's writings (and he wrote more than most mortals) and turn it into a history book of the United States. Fascinating to read his thoughts and opinions, especially about individuals he did not like. Very interesting to see that he loved Lincoln, Washington, and Root and that he despised Jefferson and Bryan. Highly recommended read for anyone that is a fan of TR!

Review of The Birth of the Republic by Edmund Morgan

The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89 - Edmund S. Morgan, Daniel J. Boorstin

A classic history of the American Revolutionary Era.  I think this book would be more appreciated by someone being introduced to the time period, but even as someone who has read a great deal about the Revolution, I appreciated this book and its perspective.  It does an excellent job telling the big picture story, while providing the important facts that make the time period such a great story.

Review of Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin

Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America's Independence - Carol Berkin

A fantastic short book focusing on women during the American Revolutionary period of history.  Carol Berkin is one of the top authors of the period, and I really enjoyed this look into the many roles women played from many different backgrounds (economically and ethnically).  There were no real deep biographies of any specific women of the period, but the stories of many women were returned to and flushed out.  This is an important book for students of the time period to read.

Review of American Spring by Walter Borneman

American Spring: Lexington, Concord, and the Road to Revolution - Walter R. Borneman

A solid retelling of the six months that started the Revolutionary War.  I have read quite a bit about this period, and I did not find anything really new here.  The author acknowledges that he wrote this to bring a popular history to the general public, and I think he did a nice job telling the story.  It had been a while since I read about Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill and all the events surrounding them, so I enjoyed taking a mental walk through the time period.

Review of the Human Division by John Scalzi

The Human Division - John Scalzi

This fifth book in the Old Man's War series was a collection of short stories.  I read many reviews that criticized the lack of cohesion in the many stories, but I did not find that to be the case.  I thought each story added to the world building, and as a group, advanced the storyline of the series.  I enjoyed getting to know some of the characters and am glad to see that they will make a return in the next book in the series.  Another fun read in my first series dealing with space science fiction.

Review of Grit by Angela Duckworth

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - Angela Duckworth

Overall an interesting look into a topic that has become more and more popular in public education.  The idea that grit and perseverance can be one of the most important character traits to have and develop for all people, but especially young people, is fascinating and makes a great deal of sense.  This book really breaks down that idea and combines simple explanations of the research with examples and interviews with famous people from all walks of life.  I think this book was stretched from what could have been 100 pages into a book of almost 300 pages, but I enjoyed the many anecdotes.  Good to read for parents and teachers.

Review of The Quartet by Joseph Ellis

The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 - Joseph J. Ellis

Another great book on the Founding period by Joseph Ellis.  I have read most of his books at this point, and they never disappoint.  This book looks at four of the major figures of the period who were most responsible for promoting the idea of a nation as opposed to separate colonies and states.  The four were George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.  It also looked at other important figures like Robert Morris and Gouvernor Morris who played key roles.  The overall thesis of the book that most of the leaders and states had no interest in becoming a nation was not entirely new, but it was presented in a thought-provoking way and there were many nuggets of information that were new for me. Recommended for any lover of the period.

Review of Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi

Zoe's Tale - John Scalzi

I really enjoyed this quick read. I might have rated it higher if it was a story on its own, but this fourth book in the Old Man's War series tells the same exact story as the previous book, but from the point of view of a different character.  I loved the read from this new perspective, but there was little drama as to how the story was going to work out so that took a bit away from the enjoyment.  Either way, I look forward to the next book in the series.

Review of The Meaning of Michelle by Veronica Chambers

The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own - Veronica Chambers

This was a bit disappointing to be honest.  Maybe I was not truly aware of what I would be reading, but most of the essays in this book were written by authors who had either never met Michelle Obama, or had simply been introduced to her.  While the themes of the essay were interesting and socially important in our time, none of them were very deep and many had very little if anything to do with Mrs. Obama.  I am a big fan of the Obamas, and I was hoping for more insight into their lives.

Review of The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House - Louise Erdrich

I have discovered a new author that I enjoy very much.  Louise Erdrich's novel won the National Book Award, and sometimes that can be a big hit or miss with how much I enjoy it.  This one was a hit for me as I loved her writing style, character development, and the fact that she did not necessarily shoot for the happy ending throughout the book.  The look into Native American culture of the upper Mid-West was also very well done and I felt immersed in the setting.  I look forward to reading more of this author in the future.

Review of Being Nixon by Evan Thomas

Being Nixon: A Man Divided - Evan Thomas

A solid biography of President Richard Nixon - my first book about this particular President.  I think the book itself and the writing were strong.  I had a hard time getting through it because I really couldn't warm up to Richard Nixon the person.  Reading through his life story, particularly his Presidency, had me feeling bad for him as a flawed personal character.  He could never, right up until the end, get out of his own way.  Reading through many of his decisions and the difficulties with Watergate, I couldn't help but think of the parallels between Nixon and our current President.  That may have been a a bit of my personal bias influencing these thoughts, but I could easily see many similarities.