Book Thoughts

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

Review of Time for God by Jacques Phillipe

Time for God - Jacques Philippe

This was a nice short book that looks at the central features of Catholic prayer. It was nice book to read a little at a time to take a moment out of the busy day and think about faith and prayer.

Review of Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear

Journey to Munich - Jacqueline Winspear

This was another enjoyable book in the Maisie Dobbs series.  Common criticisms of the series point to how Maisie's character has lost some of her positive personality as she deals with tragedy in her life.  I understand that overall this was a shift in the tone of the series, but I like how it makes her more real and I enjoy how the author deals with important personal issues while keep the "mystery" of each novel realistic.  For this book I thought the dark days of late 1930s Germany were portrayed very well.  Looking forward to the next one.

Review of The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

The Moviegoer - Walker Percy

This was a 2.5 star book for me.  It dragged and I did not like any of the characters in the story.  There really was not much of a story to be honest, and it was more about the main character looking for meaning in many different parts of life.  Overall I found it to be a big depressing and certainly not a page turner.

Review of The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit - Michael Finkel

This was an interesting book about a man who was able to live and survive in the woods for more than two decades in Maine. He had to steal food and supplies to survive but he claims he never had a conversation with another human being in all of those years. This book is half about his story, and half about the science/history/study of what being alone can do to a person physically and emotionally. I wish there was a bit more to the story itself to be honest, but I think the author stretched it out as it is.

Review of Mightier Than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer

Mightier Than the Sword (The Clifton Chronicles) - Jeffrey Archer

I could copy the review I wrote for the previous book in the series and use it for this one.  Another entertaining page turner of a story, but shallow in terms of character development.  With few exceptions, the main characters are either all good or all evil.  However, the plot never slows down and I never want to stop reading.  It ends with another cliffhanger so I look forward to the next one.

Review of Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer

Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer

Another entertaining read in the Clifton chronicles by Archer. I still think the original book in this series was the best as it spend a lot of time on character development. This book was a bit better than the last in my opinion as it spent some time focusing on new characters, but it still was not as well done as the original. The story moves at a frenetic pace that keeps the reader turning pages, but I feel like there are almost too many incredible things that happen that defies reality.

 

So I guess I am saying that I find these books entertaining but don't classify them as great literature. With that said, I have already started the next one.

Review of I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot - Isaac Asimov

Well it turns out that other than having robots and the idea of the Rules for robots, the movie had little else in common with the book. It reminds me of World War Z and how other than having zombies, the movie had nothing in common with the book except the title.

 

The book was not what I expected. It was more of a study of what could happen if society created robots/machines with specific rules like they cannot hurt people. Each chapter was like a scenario that humans would have to figure out why machines were acting the way they did based on the established rules. It ends with a scenario where a robot has been perfected to the point where humans cannot decide if it is a person or a machine.

 

I enjoyed the thought exercise. It was my first Asmiov book and while I didn't think it was great literature, I enjoyed it enough where I will certainly read more of his work in the future.

Review of John Quincy Adams: American Visionary by Fred Kaplan

John Quincy Adams: American Visionary - Fred Kaplan

John Quincy Adam has become one of my favorite historical people to read about. He lived a fascinating life and served his country for longer and in more places than just about any other American in history. He was far from a perfect character, but his lifelong passion to improve himself and to stick by his principles and morals are inspiring to this day.

 

I thought this particular biography did a great job looking at his personal drive for excellence, but it came up short in a couple of areas. I didn't think en0ugh time was spent looking at his family life and interactions, and I think in places (especially his role as Secretary of State) the story was not told in enough detail.

 

With that said, it was well written and I recommend it to anyone interested in Adams or the Antebellum period.

Review of The Last Palace by Norman Eisen

The Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House - Norman Eisen

This was an interesting book that looked at Czech history through the lens of the people who lived in and around the palace. It took the history from the early 1900s all the way through the present. I liked the stories even though many of them were sad and dark due to the awful history of Eastern Europe during the World War II era.

Overall a good read about a part of Europe I should know more about.

Review of Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor

Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice - Joan Biskupic

This books was one part biography and one part a racial history for Hispanics in the 20th century in America.  While I certainly learned a great deal about a subject I should know more about, I never felt that this was easy reading.  It was repetitive in places and it never seemed like the author ever truly warmed up to her subject.  She has great respect for what Sotomayor was able to accomplish, but there was always an asterisk about how she approached the job.  While the author didn't directly criticize the judge, she always seemed to throw in criticism of Sotoymayor by others - but it was the same criticism year after year and it was distracting for me as a reader.  I don't expect these types of books to be hagiographies every time, but this book spent too much time trying to show that it was not.  I enjoyed Sotomayor's memoir much more than this book.

Review of Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov

Wow did I struggle with this book. I had never read anything by Nabokov and this book had many positive reviews, but it did nothing for me. It was a challenge to follow the storyline and the many random asides did not click for me. I have a hard time with poetry, and the four cantos that set up the main part of the story did not stick with me. I think reading this as an ebook negatively impacted the experience because I didn't have the freedom to easily turn back and forth to reference the poem while reading through the notes. A big disappointment for me.

Review of First: Sandra Day O'Connor by Evan Thomas

First - Evan Thomas

One of the better biographies I have read in a while. I knew very little about Sandra Day O'Connor other than the fact that she was the first female Supreme Court Justice. I really enjoyed learning about her life in the Southwest and appreciated her approach to work and success. She never made excuses, was direct in her approach, was disciplined in her habits, and she expected others to be the same in these areas. She was tough on her clerks, but also tried to mentor and look out for them. In her decisions as a Justice, she would often look at the real life impact of the cases, and also stayed away from making definitive rulings in an effort to allow the states, legislatures, and society work out difficult moral issues. Her love with her husband was special to read about, and his eventual death to Alzheimers was sad and tragic. A fascinating life and I highly recommend this book to all readers.

Review of Sharpe's Prey by Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe's Prey - Bernard Cornwell

This is the fifth entry in the Richard Sharpe series and the first I had read in quite some time.  Cornwell is one of the best at action-adventure historical fiction and this book did not disappoint.  The story has Sharpe working covertly for the British on a mission in Denmark during the English wars with the French.  There is gallantry, death, and a beautiful woman as in all of these stories.  It was a fun read and I look forward to the next in the series.

Review of Do Androids of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick

This was an interesting read.  I have never seen the Blade Runner movies so I only had a vague notion of what this book was about.  Basically this sci-fi story takes uses the plot to discuss what it means to be alive.  I really want to see the movies now.

Review of The Landlady by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Landlady - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett

This novella was a bit of a letdown after reading The Double.  This story was a short romance, but it did not have the depth of insight into the characters that other stories of Dostoyevsky have.  The story basically is just a boy falling madly in love with a woman he hardly knows, and then finding out that there is more to her than he knew but he doesn't care.  Then it pretty much ends.  Dostoyevsky still writes beautifully so I am glad to have at least read this.

Review of The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Double (Dover Thrift Editions) - Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Constance Garnett

This was my third Dostoyevsky book and I found it to be powerful.  This short novel basically follows a man who is slowly having a mental break.  You can't help but feel empathy for the man and want to reach out and help him.  Dostoyevsky does an incredible job of showing what is inside his characters' minds and I found myself to be moved by this story.  I would have liked a bit more resolution at the end for this to be a 5 star read for me, but overall highly recommended.