On the nightstand

Book Blog

June 9, 2019

Don Quixote (Book 1) (Review)

was actually stunned, a few weeks ago, when I mentioned to someone I was reading Don Quixote and the person had no idea of the reference. Really? Good heavens but I didn’t think a 500 old book, one of the building blocks in what is now the modern novel, would be so forgotten. Well, for those who don’t know, Don Quixote is a tale of an old gentleman, a threadbare noble, living in a small hacienda in the Spanish countryside. To pass his idle time, he reads books of chivalry, of knights, the tales of adventure and nobility (wildly popular […]
June 2, 2019

The Stolen Village (Review)

seem to be on a non-fiction kick these days. This one was a loaner from my brother, the story of the village of Baltimore, Ireland, and what happened when two ship-loads of Barbary pirates landed on night and marched most of them off into slavery. I was aware that something like this had taken place – it’s fictionalized in the Sabitini yarn The Sea Hawk. In this historic recount, we have the events of the night when the raid took place, the events of the long cruise home (can you imagine forty days in the hold of a slaver?). And […]
May 26, 2019

The Aquariums of Pyongyang (Review)

e tend to see North Korea in terms to its threat to us, such as its steampunk nuclear rockets and its last-generation military. And we see various solutions, from MAGA to Hollywood (i.e. The Interview). But we don’t see it from the point of view of its people. Kang Chol-hwan was a Korean kid living in Japan with a leftist grandmother who bought North Korean propaganda and thought taking her family to North Korea would be the right thing to do. And it was. For about ten minutes. From this personal history of her grandson, we see a family shaken […]
May 19, 2019

Hello Universe (Review)

kay, I’m going to sound like a hipster, but since this is a kids’ read I’ll tell you the magical way I came upon this book. My wife and I were having a leisurely ride on our tandem in a tree-covered neighborhood and found a little book box curbside. You know, where are the places where you can add or take books, just a place to swap. Most of them were kid books and this was no exception. Sight unseen, I pulled it. The universe must have been directing my hand. So this story runs between three main characters (and […]
May 12, 2019

Pines (Guest Review)

ecret Service agent Ethan Burke is on a mission. No, not, protecting the president – Secret Service agents do more than that. He’s looking for agents who went missing in a small town called Wayward Pines.  The story begins shortly after Ethan arrived in Wayward Pines.  He wakes up with a splitting headache after a car crash.  He’s missing his wallet, keys, badge, gun and even much of his memory.  As he limps into town, he meets the locals who seem friendly, but strangely not very helpful. While investigating the missing agents, he also wonders what is going on in […]
May 5, 2019

The Case for Christ (Review)

kay, so here’s the thing. Faith is faith. If you believe in some version of the Christian Christ, in Allah, or even a blue elephant-headed god, that’s yours. Nobody tells you to do it and your personal conviction will determine the strength of your faith. You can’t will it to be. You can convince yourself to make it stronger. It just is. So the “story” behind this novel is that real world Lee Strobel is having a stirring of faith. When his wife announces that she’s turning to Christ, this supposed neutral author gains a new hobby, that being traveling […]
April 28, 2019

Affair in Araby (Review)

’ll admit that I was in the middle of a religious book that was as tedious as a sermon on a rainy afternoon. Had a bus, train and cycle ride home and I wanted to read something fun. So up goes good ol’ Project Gutenberg, where I found this wonderful tale of truth and virtue and pluck and right, written way back in the twenties, a little thing that plays counter to the actual dreariness of history. So three gentlemen of adventure, Ramsden, Grim and Jeremy (the burly Australian) (oh, and Narayan Singh, their loyal Sikh) bounce back from the […]
April 21, 2019

Cibola Burn (Review)

his one’s the fourth book of the series that would turn into TV’s Expanse, a sprawling space saga that deals with humans, their curiosity (or greed or lust for power, something like that), leftover weaponizable alien goo from a long-dead race, a star gate, a virgin planet, and the crew of the Rocinante. In a nutshell – refugees from the war over Ganymede cooked through the jumpgate opened at the end of book three. They claim (i.e. they land on) a planet in one of the newly-opened system. Turns out its also a planet a corporate has claimed, and their […]
March 10, 2019

Bluff (Guest Review)

ot every magician is a Houdini or David Copperfield, but with lots of practice and a bit of misdirection some can be great.  It all starts with “Pick a card.”  From there this enjoyable tale of a not particularly successful female magician twists and turns.  Get ready to read about magic tricks and card cheats – throwing cards, cutting cards, controlling cards, false deals, dealing from the bottom, and even rigged cuts. Natalie Webb was a child protege winning the World of Magic competition for close up magic (sleight of hand with common objects) when only eighteen.  Then something happened […]
March 3, 2019

Altered Carbon (Review)

pen admission – I saw the Netflix version of this before reading it. Like The Expanse, it was better in some ways and worse in some ways. But Altered Carbon is still a great book, smooth as brandy in a detective noir tale (of which this pretty much is). In our nasty future, you can cheat death by being installed into another body (re-sleeved). Hey, isn’t that nice? But trust the author of this wonderful gritty tale to bring up the lousy way this could work out. For example, you get put away for a crime? Someone else can use […]