Book Thoughts

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

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.

Review of Duma Key by Stephen King

Duma Key - Stephen King

It had been a while since I read a Stephen King book and I forgot what I was missing.  This was a classic King horror tale that was not only scary but also very human as the main character was recovering from a terrible accident.  I believe King wrote this as he was recovering from his accident, and I imagine it was a very cathartic experience for him.  My only criticism was that I thought it took a bit too long to really get into the main horror plot, but or me at least, it was worth the wait.

Review of Way Station by Clifford Simak

Way Station (A Collier Nucleus Science Fiction Classics) - Clifford D. Simak

This was a Hugo Award winner and a book I would never have looked for but it was on sale as an ebook recently and I thought I would give it a shot. I am glad I did as it was an enjoyable read. It was a slow burn type of story that has a main character acting as the gate keeper of a way station on earth that aliens use as a stop on their travels through space. The main human character is the only person on earth who knows about this and much of the story revolves around his thoughts on his role in the universe and alien cultures. Worth the quick read.

Review of Papi by David Ortiz

Papi: My Story - David Ortiz

As a life-long Red Sox fan, I of course am a huge fan of David Ortiz. Some of my greatest memories as a fan involve his clutch hitting and larger than life personality. I was excited to read this book to get a behind the scenes look at the Ortiz and his life.

 

I enjoyed the book and feel like I learned a lot about Ortiz's personality and motivations. I don't think the book went deep enough in many places and I definitely wanted to read more about specific baseball games and situations. I would recommend this for Red Sox fans or hardcore baseball fans.

Review of Firehouse by David Halberstam

Firehouse - David Halberstam

This David Halberstam book is a short look at the fireman of one of the famous firehouses in New York City that was called into action on the horrific day of 9/11/2001.  It was not really a story of what happened on 9/11 (although that is a part of it) as much as it is the story of the many people who worked at the firehouse and their families.  I saw the book as more of a tribute to the men who were heroes on that day, but also a tribute to the firefighters community and how close knit they can be.  It was sad to get to know these men through this book while at the same time knowing that most of them didn't make it and left loved ones behind.

Review of The Soul of America by Jon Meacham

The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels - Jon Meacham A very timely book that looks at the historical challenges of race and domestic issues throughout United States History. The idea of the book is to say without saying that as challenging as the issues are that we are facing right now in our country with President Trump and race/immigration sentiments, we have dealt with these issue before and have always come out better for it. I think the author was perhaps a bit too kind to the racial views of Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (especially Wilson), but overall I enjoyed the optimistic view that leaders, despite their personal views, can rise to accomplish the greater good that is a country that is inclusive to all no matter what their background.

Review of the Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

The Pagan Lord - Bernard Cornwell

Another exciting entry in the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell.  While his books have certainly become formulaic in my opinion, they are still filled with great adventure, story-telling, and battle descriptions that are second to none.  Cornwell really is one of the best in historical fiction.

Review of The Choice by Edith Eger

The Choice: Embrace the Possible - Edith Eva Eger, Edith Eva Eger

This was a beautiful and thoughtful memoir by Dr. Edith Eger.  The first half of the book tells the story of her childhood and then horrific experiences at Auschwitz and struggle to physical recovery after liberation.  The second half of the book examines her life after the war and how she mentally and emotionally dealt with her experiences.  Dr. Eger gives us a glimpse into her thoughts and feelings and she does it in a way that is positive and helpful.  I think anyone that has struggled with any serious thing in their lives could benefit from reading this book.  She never pretends she has all the answers or that there is a cure to tragedy, but she explains methods of how she and others have tried to use their emotions in a way that leads to healing.  Cannot recommend this book enough.

Review of Twilight at Monticello by Alan Pell Crawford

Twilight at Monticello: The Final Years of Thomas Jefferson - Alan Pell Crawford

This book looked at the years of Jefferson's life after his Presidency (after a brief review of his life up to that point).  I don't feel like there was much new here that I did not already know outside of the extensive discussion about his children, grandchildren, and other family members.  I particularly enjoy getting a feel for early 19th century Virginia planter society.  In the end, the last years of Jefferson's life were rather depressing as he struggled in terms of both money and health.

Review of Why I Write by George Orwell

Why I Write - George Orwell

This was my first non-fiction read of George Orwell.  He is an outstanding writer with a clear style.  The main essay in this book looks at the character of English people and English society during the time of World War II.  I have read quite a bit about World War II, but the insights from a key commentator and figure of the time about British society was fascinating.  I will be looking to read more of his work moving forward.

Review of Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee

Waiting for the Barbarians - J.M. Coetzee

This was my third book by J.M. Coetzee and it was the best of the three I have read.  This book looks at a magistrate for the British Empire living in a frontier settlement of an African nation.  The book examines his anti-colonialist views at the end of a long life and career, and it also has a deeper look at his personal thoughts about the local people and his age.  I won't say much more as to not give anything away, but I would say this is a dark story that probably is not taught enough in history classes today.

Review of The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad - Colson Whitehead

This was a fascinating and deeply emotional novel - one of the best books I have read in quite some time.  It is difficult to review without giving too much away, but this story presents an alternative history to slavery and the Underground Railroad.  It is not too far out there with the "alternative" piece, but I thought the social constructs to be possible and they clearly relate to many of the racial challenges our country still faces today.  Highly recommended with the caveat that there are some disturbing scenes and images about the hardships faced by slaves in early America.

Review of Assegai by Wilbur Smith

Assegai - Wilbur Smith

I love Wilbur Smith books - they are my guilty pleasure. The characters and the plot are not terribly realistic, but I think they are fun and I enjoy the way he writes. The historical pieces to his books also are generally well done.

This book dragged a bit for a Smith book in the sense that the overarching plot never really took off for me. I still enjoyed the read, but I would not recommend this for someone new to Smith - there are many others that are much better.