Book Thoughts

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

Review of March by Geraldine Brooks

March - Geraldine Brooks

My second novel by Brooks and I am still in love with her writing.  There isn't much to say that has not already been said about this book, but I loved the reality brought to life in this story.  Outside of the clever way that Brooks told the story of the March family from Little Women, this story shows the harsh reality of slavery in the Civil War.  She does an outstanding job of showing the reader the ideas and flaws of abolitionism in the North as well.  Historical fiction at its finest!

Review of the Conquering Tide by Ian Toll

The Conquering Tide: War in the Pacific Islands, 1942-1944 - Ian W. Toll

Ian Toll is one of my favorite writers of history.  His book Six Frigates on the founding of the United States Navy rans of one of my all timers.  This book is the second of what will be a trilogy focusing on the U.S. war in the Pacific during World War II.  I liked the first book better because I think I enjoyed the background stories of the major players and the countries more than I enjoyed the descriptions of the military battles.  Also, Pearl Harbor and Midway were very interesting stories for me.  I enjoyed this book, but felt that most of the battle blended together and it was difficult to distinguish them in my mind.  The writing was still outstanding, and the background stories were still the best part, but there were fewer of them as most of it was covered in the first book.  Still highly recommended and I am looking forward to the final book in the trilogy in the next year or two.

Review of Blowback by Brad Thor

Blowback - Brad Thor

Another solid entry in the Scott Harvath series.  The action in this series is decent, but I feel like the books lack some depth that other series like the Gabriel Allon series has.  With that said, this is a good escapist read and I always enjoy turning pages.

Review of The World at Night by Alan Furst

The world at night - Alan Furst

Another solid entry in Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series.  This novel follows a movie producer in France who has to deal with the German invasion and occupation.  His story takes him through possibly being a spy for both sides, and as always, a Furst novel is mostly about the character building.  I am always impressed by Furst's ability to make the reader feel like he is living in World War II Europe.  Great series.

Review of Conducting Research Literature Reviews

Conducting Research Literature Reviews: From the Internet to Paper (Volume 4) - Arlene G. Fink

This was another book required for my class where I have to write a Literature Review. This is a one star book for excitement, and a five star book for its applicable content. If you have to write a Lit Review, this is the book for you.

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.