A lazy Sunday afternoon at a U.S Air Force base on a quiet Greek island is shattered when a WWI-era German fighter attacks and then finds itself in a dogfight with a WWII-era seaplane. The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler was the first published book featuring Dirk Pitt and started off a four decade long series of books that sold millions of books and multiple times on the bestseller list.
Dirk Pitt and his best friend Al Giordino, heading to the Greek island of Thasos on a special assignment to a NUMA vessel, fight off a WWI German fighter attacking a nearby U.S. Air Force base in a WWII-era seaplane. The next morning Dirk takes an early morning swim and meets Teri von Till, niece of a reclusive shipping magnate who lives on the island. After meeting with the NUMA vessel’s captain, Pitt goes to meet Teri’s uncle Bruno for dinner and finds out he was a German pilot in World War I with a model submarine in his study. Von Till attempts to kill Pitt with his dog, but Pitt escapes and the next day with Giordino invade von Till’s mansion and kidnap Teri only to be detained by a member of an INTERPOL drug task force. Pitt and Giordino learn that von Till is a suspected drug smuggler and are ordered by the NUMA director to aid INTERPOL in stopping a massive shipment of heroin from reaching the U.S. After boarding the suspected cargo ship with the heroin, Pitt figures out how von Till hasn’t been caught. Pitt then leads a group of scientists to look for and find a massive cave in which they find several submarines, though caught by von Till and a mole from the INTERPOL task force it’s an elaborate trap as Giordino, several INTERPOL agents, and military personnel had raided von Till’s mansion and listened in on Pitt explaining to von Till everything he had figured out including that he was actually a Nazi war criminal which von Till didn’t deny.
This is a quick pacing book and has numerous cliché elements that one would expect to find in an early 1970s adventure novel with the main character notably inspired by James Bond. While I could knock the disjointed narrative flow or the weak character development of some of the other characters given the time period it was to be expected, the biggest eyesore is Dirk Pitt himself. The term “jerk” is a cleaned up way to describe Pitt’s interacting with anyone in the book including his best friend, Al, and his way to make a woman interested in him, slapping her for still mourning her late husband. This is not the same Pitt that appears in Pacific Vortex! or later in the series and would be a definite turn off for anyone encountering the character for the first time.
The Mediterranean Caper is a quick adventure that is sometimes fun, but today has a lot of problems. Though Clive Cussler’s portrayal of Dirk Pitt has improved over the last four decades, I would not recommend this book for those either interested in reading or listening to a Dirk Pitt novel. If you have read or listened to later books then be warned this is not the same Dirk that you’ve encountered.
The Mallards and Their Neighbors is the second of four volumes of Neil Wayne Northey’s Old Homestead series. Like the first volume, this is a quick and pleasant children’s book that follows the lives of numerous animals that inhabit the area around the Duck Pond though the titular Mallards with brief appearances by Mr. Bluebird. Although this is the second book of the series, it can be read before the first volume and still provide enjoyment to young children either reading on their own or being read to by their parents.
The antebellum period saw the formation and destruction of the second party system in U.S. politics between Andrew Jackson’s Democrats, which survived to the present, and their rivals the Whigs that did not. Michael F. Holt’s magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, details how the Whigs emerged from all the anti-Jacksonian forces to their disintegration in the mid-1850s due to the factional and sectional divisions.
Beginning in the mid-1820s, Holt explains the origins of the anti-Jacksonian groups that formed and later coalesced to form the Whig party in the winter of 1833-4 in Washington, D.C. then how it eventually branched out and formed in states. Through thorough research from the national down to the state, county, and local levels Holt explored how the Whig party was planted and grew throughout the country and competed against their Democratic foes. Yet this research also exposed the intraparty feuds within state parties that affected conventions on all levels, platform fights, and Election Day enthusiasm. Exploring a political relationship between state politics and national politics that is completely different than that seen in the second half of the 20th-century and early 21st, Holt shows how this different political paradigm both rose up the Whigs and eventually destroyed them.
With almost 1300 pages of text and notes, Holt thoroughly explored the 20 year history of the American Whig party from the national to the local level within every state of the Union. Throughout Holt’s assertion that the Democrats always controlled “the narrative” of the Whig’s history and how that played on the Whig intraparty feuds which eventually was one of the main three causes of the party’s disintegration. The focuses on Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, party traitor John Tyler, party destabilizer Zachary Taylor, attempted party savior Millard Fillmore, and slew of other prominent Whigs gives the stage to historical actors who shaped history. Throughout the text, the reader sees how events if changed just slightly might have allowed the Whigs to continue as a national party and the effects that might have had going forward but ultimately who personalities and how some decisions out of the party’s control resulted in fatal wounds occurring.
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party is not for the general history reader, this tome is for someone dedicated to an in-depth researched book that shifts from the halls of Congress to the “smoke-filled backrooms” of state conventions in states across the nation to election analysis in various congressional districts across the young republic. The work of an academic lifetime, Michael F. Holt gives insight into political party that ultimately lost in history but that still had a lasting impact to this day in modern American politics.
The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors is the first of four volumes of Neil Wayne Northey’s Old Homestead series. A quick and pleasant children’s book that follows the lives of numerous animals, but mostly the titular Bluebird family, around the Old Homestead that will provide enjoyment to young children either reading on their own or being read to by their parents. From the outset this book makes it clear that is coming from a Christian perspective and uses that to make comparisons for the traits animals show to that of humans in their sinful nature. However given that this book was first published in 1930, it should not be surprising and should not deter some from reading this.
Beneath the surface of Mars human mine gases that will eventually lead to the terraforming and colonization of the red planet, but they have been lied to. Red Rising by Pierce Brown is a dystopian young adult novel following a member of the lowest caste in humanities future attempting to position himself within the highest caste to lead a future rebellion for the betterment of all.
Darrow, a member of the lowly Reds, within days sees the end of his dreams of family and success in mining in his colonial town underneath the surface of Mars and is ready to die only to be dug up and shown the surface of Mars full of cities and vegetation that was said to be centuries away. Feeling betrayed by his society not only for the injustice against himself but his people as well, Darrow agrees to undergo numerous surgeries to appear as a member of the highest caste in society, the Golds. Through training and education he is able to pass the entrance exam of The Institute of Mars where young people of the caste compete to prove their potential as leaders so they can govern the Society in the future. Darrow makes friends only on the first night is forced to kill one or be killed himself in The Institute’s first test. What follows for the rest of the book is not only Darrow but every Gold at The Institute learning what it means to rule the Society that has lasted for centuries, but through he makes mistakes Darrow learns and is able to become a leader amongst the students and eventually is able to emerge as the competition’s victor in an unorthodox manner especially as outside forces attempt to have another student win for personal pride.
After waiting years to read this book, it was about 40% into the book that I realized that Red Rising was essentially “The Hunger Games in space” with elements of Divergent and other young adult dystopian series thrown in for good measure by the time I finished. I realize that authors borrow elements from other authors, but Brown rips off of The Hunger Games is so blatantly bad that it hurt. Frankly the mixture of so many things from other series could have worked if they were written well, but in this book it wasn’t. On top of that, what Darrow goes through to appear as a Gold seems to be stretching credibility especially since the Society’s “Quality Control” performs tests on him, including blood which has DNA that should show he wasn’t born a Gold. Though the action in the book was the best feature, the plot just didn’t live up to the hype especially after realizing how much is borrowed and not written in an interesting way from a new angle.
Red Rising might be enjoyed by numerous readers, but I’m not one of them and frankly while I got through the book I’m not interested in seeing what happens next. So I’m selling this book and the other two books in the first trilogy to a friend who is really into young adult dystopia and hope he enjoys it more than myself.
The mysteries surrounding Stonehenge have filled countless books, but what if there were other ancient megaliths just like it around the world? When Time Began is the fifth book by Zecharia Sitchin’s of his The Earth Chronicles examining the correlations between the calendars from cultures around the world and how they all appear to be related to beginning around the same time period, culminating in Mankind entering its first “New Age”.
Sitchin began with a recounting of “the beginning of time” according to his research when Nibiru entered the solar system then later when the Anunnaki arrived on Earth and finally after the Deluge. Then focused turned to Stonehenge, its construction and astronomical alignments along with when they occurred. He then transitioned to showing other circular astronomical designs from around the world, beginning in Sumer but also in the Americas before turning his attention to their significance to the politics of the Anunnaki especially concerning the numerous separate exiles of Thoth and his brother Marduk/Ra. Building off the his work in The Wars of Gods and Men and The Lost Realms, Sitchin explains that the events leading up to the end of the Sumerians were caused not only by the politics but astronomy and religion which were one and the same. And the aftermath was not only the end of the Sumerians, but also that of a “unified” religion and the birth of national deities.
Unlike the previous books, Sitchin mixed his usual academic approach at the beginning of his books with his own theories and explanations creating a different feel this book compared to his others. Another aspect is that this book felt more of a “continuation” of the two previous mentioned books as Sitchin adds more evidence for this theory on the colonization of the Americas as well as give more details leading to and the aftermath of fall of Sumer. Yet this last aspect is where the flaws of the book are the most pronounced as, even without an added quarter-century of archaeological discoveries the errors are hard not to miss take notice of with or without an open mind.
The information and theories proposed in When Time Began have stuck with me since I first read it and caused me to misremember things in other books. Zecharia Sitchin continued to build his theory on the foundations of his previous books, but unlike them the errors were a little harder to ignore in this particular installment. If you have read his previous volumes by all means read this one as well, however be warned that some conjectures and theories are simply incorrect unlike others that can be reasonably debated.
A mysterious area at sea just off the coast of paradise, a missing advanced Navy submarine, and a dashing Air Force pilot that loves the sea and women just seems like adventure. Pacific Vortex! by Clive Cussler was the sixth Dirk Pitt book published, but was the first story written by Cussler featuring Pitt that he finally relented in having published and as all the classic elements that signify a book in the series.
A new advanced Navy submarine is taking its shakedown cruise when its commander decides to investigate an anomaly of both weather and sea floor, the sub disappears and resulting search finds nothing. Six months later, Dirk Pitt is on vacation in he spots a communication capsule from the missing submarine and after delivering it to Naval base is seconded from NUMA to 101st Salvage Fleet and learns of titular Pacific Vortex in which 38 ships have disappeared. Bringing both a fresh expression and information he’s learned from a local native Hawaiian, Pitt deduces that everyone has searched in the wrong area and a potentially lost island might be near where the ships are. In the resulting search, Pitt and the Navy find the sub but can’t begin salvaging because they are attacked forcing them to retreat. The attack continues on Oahu as the daughter of the admiral heading the 101st is kidnapped and Pitt almost murdered by the leader of the mysterious group. The Pentagon decides to strike the area with missiles to destroy not only the sub but any threat from the area in the future, but Pitt mounts a rescue mission for the admiral’s daughter and the sub before the strike. Unfortunately his plan fails, but luck allows both the rescue of the sub and admiral’s daughter to workout but not without a sacrifice on Pitt’s part.
Overall this is a quick paced book that keeps the reader engaged with its action and doesn’t slow down even when exposition occurs in the text. While Pitt himself is fleshed out, other characters are for the most part two-dimensional though given the type of book this is. Obviously there are a lot of clichés throughout the text, but even Cussler is smart enough to flip some on their head especially when book’s antagonist chides Pitt for thinking he can trick him into telling him his evil plan. The classic car and legendary location that connects to the sinister plot are the primary motifs that this series is known for that make major appearances showing that from the beginning were always there. The biggest flaw is that given what occurs later in the series about events taking place in this book, there is a major plot hole.
Pacific Vortex! is good adventure story that has shades of James Bond, but is very much something completely different. This first adventure of Clive Cussler’s character Dirk Pitt, it does not have to be read first or sixth but whenever you decide to if you’re reading any books in the series. If you’re into adventure, thrills, and quick books to read this is one to consider.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program in exchange for an honest review.
The slow progress of Darwinian evolutionary theory seems to be lacking evidence in the fossil record, but a paradigm shift maybe in the offering as epigenetics might explain why evolution happens so fast that potential fossil specimens can’t be put in the strata. Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics in Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present by Peter Ward attempts to show that epigenetics should be incorporated into the understanding of current evolutionary paradigm thanks to new evidence thanks to various disciplines.
Ward puts forth that Jean-Baptiste Lamarck first described what is now being call “epigenetics” in his explanation of the inheritance of acquired characteristics, but do to unfriendly colleagues and later Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection Lamarck became a scientific laughingstock for over a century and a half. However, Ward states that as DNA became to be understood and brought into consideration in its role in evolution the ideas of Lamarck began to return to study and now needs to be incorporated into the paradigm of the theory of evolution. Ward then goes through the history of life, especially focusing on the sudden expansion of life and body forms after the great mass extinctions, as well as the history of humanity from the Ice Age through today and our possible future.
Unfortunately instead of a straightforward emphasis on Lamarck’s ideas, epigenetics, and how it can be seen in how evolution has progressed for a general audience, Ward decided to hero-worship Lamarck so much and attacking several scientists but particularly Darwin that the first quarter-to-third of the book was slow grind until he finally focused on epigenetics and discussing evolution through that prism. However because of the amount of pages spent deifying Lamarck—Ward literally, though admittedly with sarcasm said Christians should worship Lamarck not God—and demonizing Darwin that Ward had to rush all over the place in explanations about how life evolved and developed while implying assertions without backing them up.
Lamarck’s Revenge while giving this reader a better knowledge about how the history of the world is seen through evolutionary theory, is nothing more than a book by an agenda driven author akin to current political pundits and lowest-class of pop historians. If fact because of Ward’s bias, I don’t even know if my new knowledge is actually accurate but in any case my new limited understanding of epigenetics would have been better served if he had decided to focus on that instead of wasting page space on the deification and demonizing of long-dead scientists. As a general reader I don’t recommend this to others.
Throughout the Middle Ages priests and theologians pondered the great questions about the Christian faith and this is a compilation one of the major thinkers of the time. The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury brings together all of the important works—and some fragments of miscellaneous writing—of this Doctor of the Church on numerous issues to make sense of his faith.
Containing 11 works, this volume explores such questions as relating to the Christian faith. However except for Anselm’s first major work, “Monologian” in which he sets out to prove God exists through reason than faith, almost everything in this book is either bordering on heretical or barely comprehensible at best. Such works as “De Grammatico”, “The Truth, and “Free Will” quickly make no sense in their dialogue form while “On the Fall of the Devil” appears to indicate that God created evil which is frankly should have resulted in a one-way ticket bonfire for Anselm. Anselm’s attempt to better articulate his thoughts of the “Monologian” in the “Proslogion” were a disaster of incomprehensibility. The three works “On the Incarnation of the Word”, “Why God Became Man”, and “On the Virgin Conception and Original Sin” were insightful in a few spots though exposed the fallacy of original sin even though Anselm might have thought he had validate it. The two other major pieces were so disappointing that it is best not to mention them by name.
After reading St. Augustine’s City of God, I hoped for a clear understanding of medieval theological thought in this book as well. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement, in fact even though “Monologian” was tougher than I expected I wasn’t discouraged but as I continued reading it became harder to read. On top of that, the rise of so many unbiblical theological statements that Anselm “proves” through reason then “backs up” through scripture was getting hard to take. In fact, the worst part of “Monologian” was Anselm attempting to prove the immortality of the soul and failing completely. The only other positive thing I can say, except for my general liking of “Monologian”, is that any notes of the text were put in the footers and not in the back of the book like other Oxford World’s Classics editions I read have done.
The Major Works contains serious theological and philosophical works by Anselm of Canterbury that the honest reader will find barely comprehensible and at times almost heretical. Do not waste your time with this book unless you are a very serious scholar.
One of the most contentious issues debated between Christian theologians is “the Law” and its place within Christianity. In Laying Down the Law, Keith Augustus Burton looks at the misconceptions surrounding God’s Law and puts the spotlight on it’s real meaning, love. Through 157 pages Burton tackles such topics as legalism, dispensationalism, the meaning of Paul’s writing on the Law, and so much more over 13 chapters using Bible verses, the culture of biblical times, and personal stories that begin and end each chapter to illustrate the topic covered. After reading this book, one will see God’s Law in whole new light.
The hope of a prosperous future of human colonists on an alien world who for generations have believed they were looked out for and ruled over by the gods, is one named—among other things—Sam. Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny follows the struggle of one individual to throw off the tyrannical rulers of a colonized world posing as Hindu deities that he’s known for years and the strange allies he makes along the way.
The deathgod and technological mastermind Yama finds the soul of Sam from the ionosphere of the colonized planet that remnants from Earth settled centuries before. Sam has through numerous names and plans slowly undermined the rule of ‘Heaven’, those crewmembers who over the centuries have fought the indigenous lifeforms of the world to make a place for man and then ruling them as gods as they used genetic manipulation and technology to gain powers. Though not originally opposed to his fellow crewmembers, their sudden radical shift from benevolence to tyranny makes him rebel. Through the years, Sam becomes the Buddha and as a way to undermine the hope of rebirth, then he unleashes the Rakasha that he had bound through his powers, then when given the opportunity he spreads his message in the Celestial City of the gods before being “killed”, then after stealing a body from another god about to be reincarnated he kills two high leaders then leads an allied army to battle the gods in which he loses and his soul is sent to the ionosphere. After his return Sam leads another army, this time in league with the gods to face an insane crewmember with a zombie army that ultimately leads to Sam’s goal of the colonists allowed to determine their own fates.
Zelazny’s story explored some really big ideas of technology, politics, and religion throughout the book that intertwined with one another as the narrative progressed to build the world. Yet at many times the world wasn’t built enough and leads confusion at important parts of the story that hurt the overall quality of the book. While Sam and a few characters are developed, many others really aren’t which hurts the overall quality of the book as well. But the biggest personal frustration was that the two big battles of the book aren’t impressive as the language wanted to give the impression of, it was a letdown after the long buildup of Sam’s plan. These three issues are both good and bad for the book, which makes me feel that if this book had been longer to develop more of the characters, the description of the technology, and more battle details.
Lord of Light is based on the imaginative idea of human colony being ruled by fellow humans who pose as Hindu deities and a man who decides to let the colonist develop on their own. Roger Zelazny’s writing style isn’t perfect and while I have problems with the book, if I had choice to reread the book.
The Barton High Tigers’ head coach is injured and everyone is worried who’ll be the coach for Friday’s upcoming game, enter the student manager. Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard follows Beano Hatton as he is propelled from nobody student manager to acting coach with all the pressures of school work and getting players to follow his lead, all while figuring out how to actually coach and prepare for a game.
Except for the first chapter, the narrative follows Beano Hatton beginning for being called to the principal’s office for the first time in his life—though not the last he’d have that week—and being asked to coach the Tigers football team against rivals Carterville. Except for telling his best friend Danny to cover for him as student manager, Beano keeps quiet until the Principal gives the team the news and hands it over to Beano. What follows is an awkward, stressful week as Beano figures out how Coach Pritchard scouts and makes up game plans while at the same time attempting to get the team to follow his lead, easier said than done with the star quarterback having an issue with him. But once Friday night comes and the ball is kicked, Beano has to manage the game.
From kickoff to the final whistle, Dygard writes a convincing flow of a football game which after the narrative build-up before and through the game of Beano making coaching decisions makes for a thrilling last third of the book. The first two-thirds of the book reads like a made-for-television young adult movie, but actually good. Though some of Dygard’s dialogue and words choices are a little off, they would be far superior to what one would hear and see on the aforementioned movie. The only other fault would be Dygard basically not having Coach Pritchard not have any notes on upcoming opponents which sounds far-fetched even for a little town high school coach with a staff of one.
Game Plan is one of those young adult sports books that is simply a good read that can be done in a day because it draws you in and frankly is nearly perfect for a book of its genre. Thomas J. Dygard hits all the right narrative keys to make this book keep the reader interested in how a nobody student manages to gain enough confidence of the football team to lead them through the last game of the season.
A small-town basketball team is playing against teams from the big cities looking to shock the state of Arkansas. Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard follows a little Class B team that’s decided to play against the big boys of Class A for the state championship, unfortunately not only do they have those teams to contend with but also their own internal struggles.
Taken from the perspective of their 23-year old rookie coach Floyd Bentley, the Cedar Grove Falcons arrive at Talbott State University trying not to be overawed by the big arena or facing the defending state champions in the quarterfinals. But after their upset victory, season-long tensions among the players boil up to the surface after Floyd’s inexperience with such a big event occurs. Over the next two days, Floyd attempts to get everyone back on the same page on the team even as they achieve another upset and then battle for the state championship that comes down to the final shot.
While the game action is well written, the basic set up at the beginning of the book—primarily how a team could go up a Class and the tournament still have the correct amount of teams—quickly raised questions followed closely by Floyd’s “mistake” which didn’t make much sense if you looked hard at it. The internal divisions were not bad, but they did strain the narrative somewhat.
Overall Tournament Upstart had a good premise but the young adult narrative quickly falls apart if looked at too closely. It’s not bad, but I’ve read other of Dygard’s work that I better.
Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry is a 96-page concise reference book about the monarchs of England, Scotland, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. Though is primarily focused on the monarchs of England (and successor unions) with each ruler getting their own individual article from 1066-to-present, while the Scottish monarchs were only briefly covered in comparison. Not all the information given in monarch articles is correct, at least to those readers well versed in history, but overall the book is a good reference book.
The fallout from the First Order’s destruction of the New Republic’s capital and the Resistance’s destruction of her enemy’s superweapon even as they look to bring Luke Skywalker back in William Shakespeare’s Jedi the Last by Ian Doescher. Beginning almost immediately after the previous film, the middle installment of the sequel trilogy finds the First Order looking to takeout the remnant of their opponents only this adaptation is not on screen or a book but on the stage in Elizabethan prose as Shakespeare would have written.
Adapting The Last Jedi was definitely the hardest Star Wars film that Doescher had to deal with because of the how awful the Rian Johnson written-direction film is. There is only so much Doescher could do to make this adaptation to make it readable, unlike The Phantom of Menace in which he only had to develop Jar Jar Binks. He had to salvage so many poorly written characters, including those long established like Leia and Luke as those newly introduced, that to even have this published in a timely manner meant he could only polish them so much. Since this is a review of the adaptation and not the film, I will applaud the excellent work Doescher did in making the at times bad dialogue into some more passable, the continuation of footnoting translations of Chewbecca’s few lines, and great narratives for the fight scenes. However I must also commend Doescher for the wonderful easter eggs in reference to James Bond, Rogue One, and yes the sly acknowledgements that Johnson underdeveloped or ruined so many characters in particular Rey.
Jedi the Last is the most controversial film of the franchise and Ian Doescher did the best job he could in making it into a passable stage play in the style of William Shakespeare. As a result my rating is celebration of Doescher’s hardwork and like the rest of the Star Wars fandom we look for to what he must deal with in Episode IX.
The Acts of the Apostles follows the men who in three decades totally changed the world by spreading the gospel of Christ first in Jerusalem then Judea and Samaria and finally to the entire world. Wilson Paroschi’s The Book of Acts is a supplement for the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (3rd Quarter) of the same name and at 128 pages is not intended to be commentary on Acts, but it is a valuable study guide regardless if you starting the Bible with or without the corresponding Sabbath School Quarterly. And for further study, Paroschi ends the book with a list of recommendations for further study of not only Acts and the events that take place but the early Church as well.