Read Books This will provide a list of the books I've read with a brief review. Users are blocked, contact me for access. I welcome discussions, but I'm tired of spam.

May 10, 2024

Calico Joe by John Grisham

Filed under: Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 2:41 pm

May 4, 2023

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Filed under: Fiction — Tags: — Randolph @ 9:45 am

This book has been on my reading list for a long time, and I was somewhat disappointed. The story is of a teenager dealing with getting dropped out of another school. He wanders about, avoiding his parents and going through a few adventures.

The story is told from a first-person perspective. His language is crude and uses a lot of mild vulgarity, but this doesn’t make it difficult to read. Through his adventures, the real story is told through backstory, we meet his friends and family and learn about his values.

It seems to be a type of travel story, I kept expecting him to grow up. There is a suggestion at the end that that could come to pass, but it’s not clear that he has learned anything.

The title is a reference to his one desire, to save children, the catcher in the rye being a person to keep children from falling off a cliff. This could be an allusion to his one good family relationship to his younger sister, who dotes on him and believes in him despite any evidence to the contrary.

Throughout his adventures, we never meet any family members except his sister. He does have adults he respects, who have opportunity to advise him, but who have their own faults, real or imagined.

The book itself is short and easy to read. I’m not sure why it has such acclaim.

October 23, 2022

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C. S. Forester

Filed under: Fiction,History,Series — Tags: , — Randolph @ 2:08 pm

This is the first book in the Horatio Hornblower saga, being written as a prequel. It is a series of short stories telling his tale from arriving at his first post through his promotion to Lieutenant.

The author shows his knowledge of tall ships in its handling, manning and in damage. I found it useful to keep a nautical dictionary at hand, but the details are not needed for a full appreciation of the stories.

I found the stories interesting, well-paced, well-told and hard to put down.

October 13, 2016

Sword Song: The Battle For London by Bernard Cornwell

Filed under: Fiction,History — Tags: — Randolph @ 6:44 pm

Sword Song: The Battle For London by Bernard Cornwell

The book is set in the late 9th century England and involves several of the primary historical figures of Wessex and Mercia. The characters are well-done, they have depth and are interesting. I can’t speak to their historical accuracy, though.

The book gives a very good feel for the time period. The characters strong, their actions are immediate and often cruel by our standards. The culture really comes out.

The story hinges around the fight for London between Danish Vikings in the north and the Saxons in Wessex. King Alfred gives his daughter’s hand in an attempt to solidify his hold on London.

I found the fight scenes very detailed and convincing. Their descriptions reveal well-thought out tactics and formations. You can almost smell the sweat and gore.

I hadn’t realized it was part of a series. It makes a good stand-alone book, though. It helped to solidify my understanding of that period in English history.

March 17, 2014

The Monk Who Vanished (Mystery of Ancient Ireland) by Peter Tremayne

Filed under: Fiction,Mystery,Series — Tags: — Randolph @ 7:34 pm

The Monk Who Vanished (Mystery of Ancient Ireland) by Peter Tremayne

This story begins with an attempted assination of two princes, one being the brother of Sister Fidelma. It appears to be an attempt from a neighboring kingdom, one with which they have poor relations. In another event, a monk disappears with a holy relic. As Fidelma investigates, things get much more complex. In a story full of conspiracies, feints, and hidden agendas, it is difficult to discern exactly what is going on. During a court session, in a classic ending, Sister Fidelma clarifies and explains all the events.

These stories are good at teaching about life and the times of 7th Century Ireland. This story explores life in a small town, a monastery, and a little about courts and legal processes. In addition to being a great story, this is a good book for any mystery lover, and particularly those interested in historical settings.

January 16, 2013

The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Filed under: Fiction,Humor — Randolph @ 7:10 pm

The Inimitable Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse

Another collection of stories about Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves. It is enjoyable to watch Jeeves master every situation that Bertie can get into, whether due to his own bumbling or the machinations of his relatives. In this case, Aunt Agatha who is trying to set Bertie up for matrimony. Of course this would destroy Bertie’s character and may even require him to fire Jeeves. In story after story, Jeeves executes the most unexpected solution to a seemingly impossible problem.

The book got off to a slow start, but did provide the expected surprises and humor to make for an enjoyable read. This book, unlike the other stories (that I’ve read) is a novel as opposed to a collection of short stories, but feels like short stories with recurrent and common themes. As with the others, this book is a light read and fairly quick, and worth the time.

May 14, 2012

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

Filed under: Fiction,Humor — Randolph @ 11:24 am

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand: A Novel by Helen Simonson

This book is the story of Major ernest Pettigrew, retired. It is set in contemporary England. The Major is a bit stuffy, everything has to be proper and just so. The book has a lot of subtle (to an American) British humor scattered throughout in the situations the Major encounters and his prim and proper reactions to them.

The Major is a bit materialistic, especially when it comes to a pair of guns, a pair of Churchills. These were given to his father for an account of bravery. These were split on his father’s death. one going to each of his sons. The Major wishes to mount them so he can impress people of higher status than himself.

The book opens with the brother’s death, now the second gun comes back to the Major and the two are reunited. The death leads the Major to come acquainted with Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani and owner of a grocery.

The relationship between Jasmina and the Major grows through the book, blossoming into a romantic relationship.

The two guns seem to be symbolic of the Majors own emotional state, or perhaps his relationship to Jasmina. Early in the book, the one acquired from his brother is poorly maintained, as is the Major. He takes to cleaning it, and his own state improves as his relationship to Jasmina develops. The loss of the second gun seems to occur as the relationship solidifies, suggesting the two would be united.

the story explores some predjudism through the relationship between the Major and Jasmina.

The Major’s son also plays prominently in the book. He is a bit rude and lacks the refinement of the Major. The Major admonishes the son for characteristics that he does not see in himself.

Although reasonably well written, I found the book difficult to get into. It took half the book before I found the Major likable and was able to appreciate the humor in the book. I don’t regret the time reading the book, but I think I would have enjoyed others more.

April 23, 2012

The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

Filed under: Fiction — Randolph @ 2:13 pm

The Lacuna: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver

 From Latin lacūna (“ditch, gap”), diminutive form of lacus (“lake”).

lacuna (plural lacunae or lacunas)
1 A small opening; a small pit or depression; a small blank space; a gap or vacancy; a hiatus.
2 An absent part, especially in a book or other piece of writing, often referring to an ancient manuscript or similar.
3 (microscopy) A space visible between cells, allowing free passage of light.
4 (linguistics) A language gap, which occurs when there is no direct translation in the target language for a lexical term found in the source language

The story is about a writer by the name of Harrison Shepherd, and how he experiences history. He has an American father and a Mexican mother, the first portion of the book takes place in Mexico. His first “lacuna” is the discovery of a cave off the coast that leads to some bones, it hints at an early interest in Aztec history. His first experience with history happens when he has an opportunity to mix plaster for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. He becomes a cook for Trotsky, here he encounters the Russian Revolution and relates that to the reader through the eyes of Trotsky.

Frida sends him to the US to escort some paintings. Here he finds his father. Through Harrison’s eyes, we see the wars, politics, and finally McCarthyism.

The book is told in vignettes, mostly part of Harrison’s diary. some of these stories are good, some are not. They are glued together by general references to events in his past, but this breaks up the flow of the book. It didn’t have the feel of a real diary. Although the books span a lot of the 20th century, but the style doesn’t change with Harrison’s learning, age, or stresses in his life.

My summary demonstrates my feelings about the book. Harrison is a passenger through history and a storyteller. Nothing more. He doesn’t seem to make his own decisions, the events happen to him and he reacts, little more. I did find some of his experiences as a writer to be of interest, and his tribulations in the McCarthy period.

I don’t understand the vast interest in this book. It is well written, but not interesting enough for me to recommend.

April 9, 2012

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

Filed under: Fiction,Mystery — Tags: — Randolph @ 8:23 pm

V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton

This is the 22nd book in the Kinsey Millhone Mysteries. The books are holding up, but the setting is lagging behind real time. The book mostly takes place in 1988, starting for Kinsey when she notices a small-time shoplifter. In the typical Grafton style, Kinsey gets wrapped up in the events and must look into things. The shoplifting leads her into a big-time racketeering ring.

I have two complaints about the book, first is that Sue Grafton is moving the series away from traditional mysteries. Starting with the previous book, U is for Undertow, it seems to be moving more toward adventure, as the reader knows so much more about the crime than Kinsey does. The book wanders through three different plots that ultimately intertwine. But the reader cannot play detective and try to solve it as Kinsey does.

The second issue is that Kinsey neglected to check surveillance tapes from the scene of the initial shoplifting. Although she had reason not to be interested in them initially, events changed and she seemed to forget about them for too long. It was a plot device to help build suspense, but in my opinion, was inappropriate. This did not detract from the enjoyment of the book.

Overall, it is an enjoyable book and left me looking forward to the next installment.

March 25, 2012

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One by George R.R. Martin

Filed under: Fantasy,Fiction — Randolph @ 4:05 pm

A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One by George R.R. Martin

Although I found the book enjoyable, I also found it difficult to follow. There are too many characters. A list would have helped immensely. Most of the characters aren’t developed, but it takes a bit to see which are which.

The setting is fantasy, but has few fantastic elements to it until the end. Several times the story suggests the onset of a long (several years long) winter looming, presumably this unfold in a future volume. Their seasons do not seem to be regular intervals. There are also a lot of allusions to dragons.

The story is rather violent. Although far from gratuitous, it seems to convey a feeling for the period. It is gruesome at times.

The story focuses on power grab for the throne of Winterfell, the story has strong allusions to the War of the Roses. There are two houses vying for power and contrasting each other in a very simple good vs. evil story. First is the Stark family, lead by Eddard. He is the epitome of honor. This house if countered by the Lannisters who use trickery to attain their ends when it forwards their goals.

The book is told from a number of viewpoints. To make this a little easier, the focal character of each section is identified as a title. The rapid shit from viewpoint to viewpoint and the cast of characters makes it a challenge to follow at times.

Overall, the story is good. I enjoyed the intrigue, the plots and counter-plots. I think some of the characters could have behaved more intelligently, but it didn’t detract too much from the story.

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