Category Archives: Book Review

Books I Am Currently Reading

As some of you already know, about a month ago I bought myself a Kindle DX. I have subsequently stopped reading printed material (except perhaps for rereading some of the 800 printed mystery and sci-fi titles in my personal library). I really like the ability to purchase a title in the Kindle store and begin to read it in a matter of minutes — no more trips to the bookstore. (I will have much more to say about my Kindle experiences in another post.)

I will confine myself here to titles that I have read since I acquired the Kindle. I started with a science-fiction story: the last volume of a tetralogy, the first three of which I had read in printed form. The transition from the printed-word to the Kindle-word was relatively seamless. After reading that last book: "Strength and Honor", I went on to read "Stormbreaker" the first book in the Alex Rider children’s series.

I often find juveniles to be entertaining — I, like many others, really enjoyed the Harry Potter books, and there are several other juvenile series that I have enjoyed. From this I moved on to "Point Break", the second in the Alex Rider series. Both were enjoyable enough (and certainly the pacing is quite breathless) but the characterizations and their ongoing development  was fairly simple — so I probably will not continue with the series.

I should point out that when I read for pleasure, the stories and the plot are less important to me than the characterizations of the principals, and their evolution throughout the life of the series.

Next up was a Heinlein juvenile that I had read before: "Space Cadet", which was enjoyable, and I will probably read other of the Heinlein titles available in the Kindle store (since Heinlein is long dead, these are quite reasonably priced).I have never found a Heinlein story not to be enjoyable (although I prefer the earlier titles to the later).

I then turned to more current fare: "Pursuit of Honor" by Vince Flynn, a series I have been reading for about a year or so. This author is much praised by Glenn Beck (I won’t, however, hold that against Mr. Flynn). I then bought a book that Amazon was giving away for free, and it was okay — but you get what you pay for.

When browsing the Kindle store from the Kindle device itself, it is quite easy to click on the "buy" button, and, if you’re not careful (especially when the Kindle store is responding a bit slowly), to hit the "confirm purchase" button as well. This happened to me, and I ended up as the proud owner of: "Vintage Cheever" a collection of writings by John Cheever. I was initially quite annoyed because this was not a genre (I thought) of fiction for which I had any fondness. After a bit I realized that I had been confusing John Cheever with John Updike (Cheever has been long dead; Updike died only recently). Anyhow I decided to take a look at what I had so inadvertently acquired: mostly a collection of short stories and novel fragments — apparently Cheever was noted more for his short stories than anything else. Scanning down the table of contents my eye snagged on one title: "The Swimmer". Not too long ago I had been sort of watching a movie of the same name starring Burt Lancaster about a man at a party in the suburbs of New York City who decides to swim home swimming pool by swimming pool — a distance of about 7 miles. I was (as is my wont) switching back and forth from this to another movie to avoid commercial interruptions, and so I came to the end of "The Swimmer" a little bit confused as to what had happened. So I figured ah hah! Here’s a chance to read the story behind the movie and learn what was behind it all — after all the book is always longer and more detailed than the movie. Boy was I wrong. "The Swimmer" is a short story of perhaps 10 pages in length very spare, and to my mind a metaphor of a man passing through his life from vigorous youth to somewhat decrepit old age; whereas the movie comes across as a story of a deluded man who thinks he is a well-to-do suburban bon vivant, who was ultimately forced to face the reality that he is a somewhat deranged bankrupt.  The movie, which it turns out was made by the producers of "David and Lisa" has stuck with me, and while a small thing, I would nevertheless not hesitate to recommend it should it again be shown on cable.

Back to browsing the Kindle store, where I made a marvelous discovery: many complete works out of copyright, in the public domain were available for a dollar or two. I was thus able to acquire 33 Wodehouse novels, all of the Jeeves stories, and "Piccadilly Jim" for less than five dollars. Wodehouse never ceases to provide chuckles and much merriment. If one were ever to create a top 10 list of the funniest novels in the English language, number one on the list would probably be: "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome (written in the latter part of the 19th century). Evelyn Waugh would perhaps scrape on in position 10 with: "Decline and Fall" — all of the remaining eight positions on the list would have been written by PG Wodehouse.

Lastly, we come to the original Tom Swift series (which I have mentioned in a previous post), and the whole of which can be bought in the Kindle store for the ridiculous sum of one dollar. I have just finished rereading "Tom Swift and His Motorcycle", which is interesting less for the story, more for the background it paints of what everyday life was like circa 1910. The state of technology, and its prevalence within the society depicted is interesting — I will probablywrite a post about technology as a backdrop to life in the 20th century at some later time. One minor warning: much of the dialogue and attitudes expressed in this first Tom Swift outing are far from what today would be regarded as "politically correct".  One other note: the action takes place in and around the fictional town of  "Shopton" in upstate New York.  Shopton is on the shores of "Lake Carlopa", believed by many to actually be Lake George. I, with some of my brothers and sisters grew up for a time in Ticonderoga,NY — which is also on the shores of Lake George.