Book Thoughts

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

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  Many of these came from unpublished sources, and told great anecdotal stories about Lincoln that even I had never heard.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.

Dissolution by C.J. Sansom

Dissolution - C.J. Sansom

I really wanted to love this book, but I never fully warmed up to it. This is the first in a series that follows Matthew Shardlake, a lawyer/investigator for Cromwell during the reign of Henry VIII. What I liked about this book was the writing style, and the way Sansom weaved the history of Tudor England into the novel. What I didn't like was any of the characters, and how the story seemed to really drag on far longer than necessary.


I will give the series another shot and will pick up the second book at some point. It seems to be a favorite of people I follow on this site, so hopefully the series picks up for me.

Review of Kanan: First Blood by Greg Wiesman

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 2: First Blood (Star Wars (Marvel)) - Greg Weisman, Pepe Larraz

My second graphic novel and the sequel to the first about the Jedi Kanan.  Another good story that continues to fill in the back story of Kanan and how he came to be both a Jedi and a Rebel.  Great artwork and the story was realistic to the Star Wars Universe.  Recommended for Star Wars fans.

Review of Francona by Terry Francona

Francona: The Red Sox Years - Terry Francona, Dan Shaughnessy

I absolutely loved this book. I am a baseball guy (played and coached for most of my life) and a Red Sox fan, so this book is about as good as it gets for me. It terms of my enjoyment, this is a runaway 5 star read. Trying to be more objective, this is probably a 3 star read for anyone that lives outside of New England.


This book gives an inside look at the years that Terry Francona was the manager of the Red Sox. I loved relieving those magical seasons, and the stories from the clubhouse that I never knew were gems. I also loved Francona as a manager - his style and his ability to handle professional athletes was second to none. This is highly recommended to Red Sox fans. I can't believe I didn't read this years ago.

Review of The Burning Land by Bernard Cornwell

The Burning Land - Bernard Cornwell

I had not read a book in this series in a few years, and I now regret waiting so long.  I was sucked right back into the world and actions of Uthred and enjoyed this story very much.  Cornwall's ability to mix history with fun adventure and exciting (if not unrealistic) characters is outstanding.  Looking forward to the next one.

Review of American Lion by Jon Meacham

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House - Jon Meacham

I came away disappointed with this book.  I had read two other books by Meacham (biographies on Jefferson and H.W. Bush) and really enjoyed both.  This book seem disjointed to me and spent far too much time focusing on the family and social drama around Jackson during his Presidency.  I understand that much of that was important, but it seemed like just as things were picking up with important political or foreign aspects of Jackson's administration, there would be a side bar about who was and who was not accepted in Washington society.  I have never been a big fan of Andrew Jackson, and this book did nothing to change my opinion.

How Much has America Changed?

I started reading a new book last night, and there was a passage in the prologue that really struck me. This description of America in the 1820s -1830s could describe the America of today or the last 20 years really...


"The America of Andrew Jackson was a country that professed a love of democracy but was willing to live with inequality, that aimed for social justice but was prone to racism and intolerance, that believed itself one nation but was narrowly divided and fought close elections, and that occasionally acted arrogantly toward other countries while craving respect from them at the same time."


From American Lion by John Meacham

Review of A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets - Jacqueline Winspear

Anther great entry in the Maisie Dobbs series.  This book has Maisie branching out and working for the secret service in addition to her own private investigation practice.  This book also moves forward the history of the series and there is now a great deal of talk about the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and beyond.  I loved the background stories and the actual murder mystery of this episode.  Highly recommended series.

Review of Hitler: Ascent by Volker Ullrich

Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939 - Volker Ullrich

This is a difficult book to rate. It is obviously an incredibly detailed look at the life of Hitler and his rise to power up to the German takeover of Czechoslovakia. The problem for me was the details. They were overwhelming. There were hundreds, if not thousands of names in this that I did not recognize and had a hard time following. At some points it felt as if this book was dealing with issues one day or one week at a time. It also focused almost exclusively on Hitler. Many history books would take a few pages as an aside to introduce important side figures. That was not the case here.


With all of that said, the story is fascinating. The knowledge of the author is simply incredible. I learned a great deal and feel like I have a deep understanding of the Hitler of the 1920s and 1930s. In terms of the history presented, this rating should be 5 stars. I gave it 4 stars because I just had a hard time slugging through many parts of it.

Review of Rubicon by Tom Holland

Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic - Tom Holland

A great book that tells the story of the end of the Republic in Rome.  In many ways this book reads as a novel, and it covers all of the major players.  Ancient history is one of my weaker areas, and this book filled in many gaps for me in a way that was exciting to read.  I imagine that there is probably not a lot new here for someone really into Roman history, but for someone with only a basic knowledge, this is a great place to start.  Recommended and I look forward to his "sequel" that deals with the Emperors of Rome.

Review of Hero of the Empire by Candace Millard

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill - Candice Millard

Another exciting book by Candice Millard.  This book tells the story of Winston Churchill and the Boer War.  Millard always does a nice job of intertwining the story of late 19th century British history and their involvement in the Boer War, South African history, and the story of Churchill and his actions during the War.  Millard is a master at finding relevant yet obscure historical facts to help her narrative move along (the origins of the terms "sniper" and "trench coat" to name two).  A nice quick read that helped improve my knowledge of a war and country I knew little about.