Book Review | Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley
Travels with Charley

I may have said this before, and if so, it is still true as before.  You can’t go wrong with Steinbeck.  Maybe it is because I’m a California boy myself, but for practical damn good books, Steinbeck is the man!

I read Travels with Charley the best possible way.  While I was unable to recreate the journey that Steinbeck takes in the book, I was able to listen to the audiobook while traveling up the California coast.  The best part of my trip, aside from listening to some great writing was that I got to stop at the Steinbeck museum.  That’s right, he has his own museum.  He is the only American writer to have his own museum in America.


Rocinante is what Steinbeck named his truck that he traveled in.  It is also the name on Don Quixote’s horse.  The museum in Salinas has his truck on display even including a replica of his dog Charley in the front passenger seat.  You can also see the inside of the camper (shown below):

Rocinante Inside
Rocinante Inside

The book was marvelous.  I heartily give it a 5/5.  Again, it follows Steinbeck on a trip across America.  A trip he felt he needed to take to reacquaint himself with the American people.  He felt he had lost his relationship with the common man and the trip was a way to rekindle that relationship.

About Video Creation

I did it!  I finally did it.  Last night I watched a video from Peter Likes Books.  In the video, Peter convinced me to just jump in.  The video is shaky and you can see me glancing at my notes.  It is also heavily edited which I know will come across as you watch it.  I have a tripod and a good DLSR that does video, but I didn’t use it.  On the next video, I will try to use that setup, especially if I will just be standing there talking to the camera.

For this video, I used an iPhone 7 Plus.  It’s shaky because I’m holding it myself the whole time.  While I do have a Kindle Oasis unboxing out there on youtube, it is not on my Jason Reads channel, which I did research to figure out how to start today.  Recording the video only took about 5 minutes.  I did write up some notes before I started.  This may have backfired as I kept looking down at them.  It probably took me about 30 minutes to edit the video.

If you have tips for me to implement for my next video please leave them in the comments below.  I will for sure be using a tripod if the next video permits.  That should help a lot.  If you liked the video please subscribe and give it a thumbs up!

Here is Peter’s video which convinced me to just do it!  Thanks, Peter!  You’ve got a new subscriber!

Book Review | Utopia


Utopia was a very difficult book for me to read. Every sentence was a run-on. And the writing was at a time so removed from modern writing it was arduous to read. So much of what was written felt like a high schoolers attempt to make a paper longer. Way too much detail that did not propel the story along. I found reading Thomas More’s Wikipedia article much more fascinating. He was a very strange man!

Thomas More
Thomas More

Look at this guy!  He is not a happy man. More wrote Utopia way back in 1516.  It later became the forerunner of the utopian literary genre. After he refused to accept the king as head of the Church of England, he was convicted of treason and beheaded in 1535.  He was canonized by the Catholic Church as a saint in 1935.

I read the book because it was the start of a whole fiction and fantasy genre, but the book is very stale, duh, it was written in 1516.  The book only earned 2 stars with me.  The real interesting story here is the author.  What a character!

Book Review | The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

I found The Romanov Sisters to be a little dry.  I know this is a very niche history book, I get it really.  At 381 pages it’s not that long, but it was just too much detail for me.  I did fear from the beginning that it might be a little slow for me, so I started “reading” this book via Overdrive a tool that my local library subscribes to which enables me to download an audiobook to my smartphone where I can listen to it.  I had I think 10 or 12 days to finish the audiobook.  But I just couldn’t do it.  I had to re-borrow this audiobook again after a forced period of absence.  It was on hold by other patrons, so I had to wait my turn in the queue again.

I’m glad I finished the book, but this would not be one that I keep in my personal library even if I had purchased it.  I’m glad for the free lend from the library in this case.  I gave the book 3 stars.  I was interested in the mystery of how the family was murdered, but the story was all about how they grew up and even quite a bit in the beginning about their parents.  If you have a deep interest in this family, you will probably appreciate the thoroughness of this author.  If like me you are just interested in the mystery around this family, this book will probably bore you.

Book Review | The Importance of Being Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest
The Importance of Being Earnest

An Oscar Wilde classic that was made into at least two films in 1952 and 2002.  I had not read this book before but I am familiar with Wilde’s other works.  The Importance of Being Earnest is a short 76 pages that is a funny one-sitting read.  When I think of this book I have trouble not remembering the 2002 film.  It seemed to be on of those shows that were on TBS or TNT a lot.  While reading the book I remembered a film very much like the book then when researching for this post, I understood why and finally made that connection.

This book earned 5/5 stars with me mostly because it was a quick laugh.  Hard to find something to dislike in such a short and funny little story.

Book Review | Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Ah, Mr. Márquez, how your years of solitude challenged me!  That book with its 457 pages was so drawn out.  But he really did develop those characters and boy can the man write.  His prose is beautiful.  But, Chronicle of a Death Foretold is a different animal altogether.

Its a quick book at only 120 pages, so the story is forced to move quickly.  You still get invested in the characters because the character development doesn’t seem rushed and magical prose is still there in this work just as it was present in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez from Flickr User: Ver en vivo En Directo

The astonishing part about the story is that everyone sees what is going to happen before it does.  The way that Márquez weaves the story is just amazing.  Following the story from one character to the next without stuttering, so smooth.  This novel earned a 4 out of 5 stars.  Not bad because after Solitude, I wasn’t sure I would read any of his work again.  Márquez is one of those authors that I fear, I just don’t get and there may be so much more to his writing that I’m just not able to grasp.  Lucky for me he as written more.

Book Review | The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain from Flickr User: Wolf Gang

The first one was better.  Could I end my review there?  Maybe.  But I won’t.  I really love the image of this guy above, this is sometimes how I see Bryson in his traveling books.  Bryson is a local guy, an American, but he moved to England for some time and has written about different locales all over the world, my favorite still being A Walk in the Woods.

To me, The Road to Little Dribbling, sounds like it could be a book about a baby that drools.  I’ve never understood why the names are themselves funny in England, I guess we have a lot of those in America too though.

Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson by Flickr User: The National Churches Trust

Bryson is a funny and engaging travel writer and I have read many of his books.  There hasn’t been one that I disliked.  All of them have been entertaining enough.  This is the only book that I know if that is a sequel to one of his other books, Notes from a Small Island. I gave both of these books 3/5 star rating.  Not great, but in no way bad.  Still entertaining and I will keep them and re-read them at some point in the future as well.

The only reason they got a low’ish’ rating is that there are a lot of inside jokes that only Englishmen will get.  Not being one a lot of references to people and places went over my head.  Maybe this is why I liked A Walk in the Woods so much.  Since that book takes place in the Application Mountains it’s a little closer to this California boy than England is.

Book Review | The Stranger in the Woods

Stranger in the Woods
Stranger in the Woods

This may have been my favorite book I read in 2017.  I just let go of The Stranger in the Woods and gave it to my brother-in-law to read.  It is the fascinating story of a hermit who lived by himself outside year-round in all the weather of Maine.  It is a fascinating story!

I ate up this story!  Of course, it is all true and amazing.  Ther hermit is eventually busted for breaking an entering and hauled off to jail.  Feeling incredibly ashamed of his crimes he pleads guilty yo more than one-thousand break-ins.  After several months they released him to the custody of his family.

I found the writing style and the story engrossing. Have you ever taken a long time to read a book, not because you didn’t like it, but because you didn’t want it to end? This is how I read this book. I could have finished it in a sitting or two, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to savor the story. I wanted it to last.  It earned a 5/5 rating from me!

Book Review | Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

This book!  First, it was great!  I only gave it 4/5 stars probably because of the depressing nature of the discussion the authors start with the reader.  However, this is exactly what the book sets out to do and he doesn’t sugar coat things.  Everything is laid out here and it is much worse than anyone thinks.  There is a very large portion of our America that can’t make rent and are either provided with unsafe housing for partial rent or evicted.  Then you see they have a record of missing payments and have an impossible time finding a place.  If they can find a place the new landlord knows that they can take advantage of this person because they have very limited options.  The vicious circle starts and never ends for these people.  It is not a small group, but it is a group and a problem that is easy for many of us to ignore.

Matt does a great job bringing these problems to the forefront by interviewing many people and living in the same conditions as many of them.  You can see how it was difficult for him and you feel for the people in his stories.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (22.9K reviews, 4.47 avg rating) has won more awards than you can shake a stick at:

  • Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (2017)
  • PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction (2017)
  • Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Current Interest (2016)
  • National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction (2016)
  • Andrew Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction (2017)
  • Kirkus Prize Nominee for Nonfiction (2016)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Nonfiction (2016)

Book Review | The Five Orange Pips

The Five Orange Pips
The Five Orange Pips

This is the fifth book in the Sherlock Holmes Adventures.  This list from goodreads is the one I’m using to read them in a certain order.  I really enjoy these and they are very short, but I have a hard time remembering to read the next one because I switch around so much on the series that I am reading.

This particular adventure, The Five Orange Pips,  is another fun one.  At 40 pages, it made a great read for the summer reading program because it was a very fast read, but still enjoyable.  I can’t tell you much about this one as it is so short, to talk about it gives away a lot, but it involves the KKK in London.  A good albeit short read.  I recommend it as I do all of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  I rated this story 3\5 stars.