Book Thoughts

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

Review of Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin's Apprentice  - Robin Hobb

That was a fun story that had me turning pages - especially in the second half of the book.  This is a classic fantasy story, with a bit of magic mixed into a medieval world setting.  I thought it took just a bit too long to really get going, but I couldn't stop turning pages toward the end.  The story itself wrapped up nicely, but obviously left enough to continue what has become quite a long series.  Looking forward to the next one.

Review of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen, Anna Quindlen

I can't believe it took my until age 39 to read my first Jane Austen.  I enjoyed the read even though it wasn't exactly in my wheelhouse for books I usually enjoy.  There is literally no plot outside of who is going to marry and fall in love with whom, but the story was a fascinating look into upper-middle class Victorian England.  I can see why Austen is so popular as a writer.

Review of Jefferson the Virginian by Dumas Malone

Jefferson the Virginian: Jefferson and His Time, Volume 1 - Dumas Malone

This was the first in a six volume series on the life of Thomas Jefferson. This was a wonderful read that took us from Jefferson's birth to the day he left for Europe following the Revolutionary War. The detail was incredible, but it was written in a way that it never felt overwhelming and the story never felt stale. The reader develops a real appreciation for how Jefferson later became the famous and even legendary American figure.

My only criticism would be that I felt the book did not look at Jefferson's personal life in enough detail, but as a political history, this will be a series to treasure.

Review of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Elaine Hedges

This was a short story told from the point of view of a woman who was suffering what we would today call postpartum depression.  Her husband and family force her to stay on bed rest in a strange room where she slowly loses her mind based on her surroundings - especially the wallpaper in the room.  While short, the story does a nice job making the reader feel for the main character, and gives us a glimpse of what it might be like to suffer from that type of depression.

Review of the Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian - Andy Weir

This is one of those very rare times where I enjoyed the movie more than the book.  That might not be fair considering that I saw the movie first, but I thought the movie truly brought to life the size and scope of the book.  In addition, I thought the movie gave more personality to the characters than the book did.  The book was solid, with a major focus on the science part of the story.  Perhaps I would have enjoyed the book more if I did not already know how the story was going to end.

Review of The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Dead Zone - Stephen King

I always love returning to Stephen King.  This was one of his earlier novels and I had not heard too much about ti.  Apparently there was a movie made out of it many years ago.  I think this story has aged well.  It is classic King with his ability to tell a story, foreshadow, and really get into the minds of his characters.  This novel follows a person with supposed psychic abilities, and while fantastical, the story does seem plausible.  I enjoyed the read. 

Review of Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit - Chris Matthews

First book of the year! I love Chris Matthew's passion for politics, and I find his enthusiasm for the Kennedy's to be infectious. I enjoyed this short book through Bobby Kennedy's life, and while I don't think there is anything new here, I do think that Matthew's does a nice job showing the excitement and emotion running through America during the political times of the Kennedy leadership. I will certainly be reading additional books on Bobby and have a greater appreciation for his role in John F. Kennedy's success.

Review of The Birth of Britain by Winston Churchill

The Birth of Britain: A History of the English Speaking Peoples, Volume I (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading) - Winston Churchill, Michael Frassetto

I was not sure what to expect with this, but I really enjoyed this book.  Churchill writes descriptively, clearly, and with unique personality.  The historical stories were well told, and he took a time period that could be a bit dry (at least for me) and made it interesting.  There were a few times when there were a few too many names for me to follow - medieval England is not a strong area in terms of my history knowledge - but it helped me learn a great deal.  Highly recommended and I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Review of Compelling Evidence by Steve Martini

Compelling Evidence - Steve Martini

I really, really enjoyed this book.  It has been years since I read a legal thriller and I don't know why I waited so long.  After some research, I saw many positive reviews for Steve Martini's series featuring Paul Madriani and this first book did not disappoint.  It was a true page-turner and I loved all of the courtroom drama.  There were enough clues tossed around that kept the mystery interesting, but not too obscure that you couldn't figure out more or less what was going on.  Very much looking forward to the next in this series.

Review of Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Elegy for Eddie - Jacqueline Winspear

Another winner in the Maisie Dobbs series. This installment spends more time having Maisie examine her motives and path in life, and the mystery starts the series heading toward the threat of World War II in Europe. I always enjoy these stories and am looking forward to the next one.

Review of Star Wars: A New Hope by Alan Dean Foster

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope - Alan Dean Foster, George Lucas

This book was the novelization of the original Star Wars movie.  I have not seen the movie in quite some time, but other than a few very minor points, I think this followed the film completely.  It was entertaining to read and as books tend to do, it had the reader look more deeply into the thoughts of the major characters.  

Review of Einstein by Walter Isaacson

Einstein: His Life and Universe - Walter Isaacson

This another book that I have a hard time reviewing.  Isaacson is an outstanding writer who certainly knows how to tell a story.  However, I was simply not gripped by this one.  Even with the layman's breakdown, I still had a hard time following much of the science explanations dealing with Einstein and his ideas.  Also, I did not care at all for Einstein the person.  I felt he was condescending toward women and terrible to women closest to him.  He never even met his first child and was distant and incredibly selfish in his attitude toward his other children.  I know he did great things in science and was a cultural icon for his time, but I could not get past how little he cared for his family.

Review Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

Last Night in Twisted River - John Irving

I love John Irving as an author.  This is only my third novel of his, but he is a magical writer.  His books are very character driven, and are what I can only describe as a slow burn.  The plots of his novels are not really page turners in the traditional sense, but slowly tell the story of his unique characters.  In many ways, this book describes how Irving writes a novel through the story of the main character who is a writer.  I would have given this five stars, but I thought there were a few parts that dragged a bit, and I did not love the ending.  Great read though and looking forward to another Irving novel.

Review of A Race is a Nice Thing to Have by Janet Helms

A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life - Janet E. Helms

This was a book that looked at how White People view themselves in society and how that can often lead to a natural racism.  It is an academic text and to be honest, it was not easy to get through even though it was short.  There were many important points in here, but I feel like I have read them all in many other places.

Review of Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust - Immaculee Ilibagiza

This was a fascinating look at the genocide that took place in Rwanda. I knew very little about the history or this part of the world and really enjoyed learning about such an important event. The author, Immaculate Ilibagiza, is an extraordinary human being who somehow found it within herself to forgive the murderers of her family and fellow tribe members. Her story is inspirational as a human story, but also as a religious story as her Catholic faith has carried her throughout her life. Recommended for all.

Review of Th Accidental President by A.J. Baime

The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months That Changed the World - A. J. Baime

This was a great book that covers the first four months of Harry Truman's Presidency. Truth be told, the first 100 pages of the book covers Truman's rise to the Presidency but they really set the stage for the monumental task he faced at the end of World War II. The author clearly loves Truman, but I thought he was fair overall. This was my first book on Truman, and it has inspired me to want to read more about this controversial president.