book reviews

Book Review – Andy Weir’s “The Martian”

Last week I finished reading The Martian, a thrilling science-fiction story involving human survival on planet Mars.  Written by Andy WeirThe Martian is a hauntingly realistic look at just how a person can survive living on the Red Planet, should such an emergency occur.

Andy Weir — The Martian

Set in the year 2035The Martian begins with a tremendous sandstorm on Mars.  The crew of NASA’s Ares 3 mission had just landed on the planet a few days ago, but the strong storm forces them to abort their mission.  The fierce winds are dangerously close to tipping over the rocket that ferries them back to their orbiting spacecraft, Hermes.

As the astronauts are walking to their rocket, a gust of wind breaks loose an antenna, and astronaut Mark Watney is hit and knocked away, His vital signs go offline and the crew believes that he’s dead.  They make an attempt to find him, but the storm is simply too strong and they’re forced to blast off.  They do so unable to recover Watney’s body.  The crew reaches the Hermes, and they begin their long trek back home to Earth.

However, Mark Watney is still alive.

The broken antenna and his blood created a seal around the hole in his spacesuit, and Mark is able to make it back into the habitat and treat his injury.  There’s no communication with NASA as the antenna was destroyed in the storm.  Watney knows that his chances of rescue are incredibly bleak, but he’s forced to analyze his situation and figure out a way to survive as long as possible.  Watney finishes each day by logging his thoughts, ideas and plans for the next day in a journal.  He hopes that one day the journal will be recovered and people will learn what really happened to him. Read more…


Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 9, 2017 at 9:48 am

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Book Review — James Rollins’s “Amazonia”

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Amazonia, a thrilling adventure novel written by James Rollins.  Amazonia takes readers into the heart of the Amazon jungle, and a wide assortment of threats including some of the deadliest creatures that you can imagine.

Amazonia begins with the sudden appearance of U.S. Army Ranger Agent Clark in a small village deep in Brazil.  The man is barely alive and unable to speak as his tongue is missing.  He’s also covered in strange markings that cause local people to run away in panic.  Clark dies during the night, and soon a deadly disease begins affecting children and the elderly in that same village.

The U.S. government is fascinated by the reappearance of Agent Clark because he was lost and presumed to be dead as he was part of an expedition that vanished in the Amazon some four years ago.  What makes the government even more interested is that before joining the expedition, Clark had lost one of his arms from a combat injury.  When he reappeared in the village, Clark had both of his arms.

James Rollins — Amazonia

The brunt of Amazonia follows a new expedition into the Amazon led by Nathan Rand.  Nathan is an expert when it comes to biology and the jungle, and it was his father who led the ill-fated expedition four years ago.  With the emergence of Agent Clark, there’s new hope that other members of the expedition might also still be alive, somewhere deep in the jungle.  Experts are brought together, and another team of special forces soldiers provides the security.  They quickly enter the jungle and try to follow Clark’s path before the monsoon rains wash away the trail. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 2, 2017 at 10:40 pm

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Book Review — Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”

Last week I finished reading The Da Vinci Code, the second story in the Robert Langdon series of novels by author Dan Brown.  I finished reading it right before Easter.

Taking place about a year after the events in Angels & DemonsThe Da Vinci Code begins with the sudden murder of a museum curator in Paris, France.  Specifically, the man murdered was Jacques Sauniere, the curator of the Louvre.  He was shot in the abdomen by Silas, an albino Catholic monk.  Before succumbing to death, Jacques positioned himself in a unique position designed to get the right kind of attention.  He also left behind a note that included the line, “P.S. find Robert Langdon.”

Dan Brown — The Da Vinci Code

Thankfully, art historian and religious expert Robert Langdon is in Paris on a speaking tour, and that very evening he was scheduled to meet with Jacques, although Langdon didn’t know the specific reason why Jacques wanted to meet with him.  He presumed it had to do with a new book that he was getting ready to publish.

Anyway, the French police quickly locate Langdon in a nearby hotel, and he’s taken to the Louvre to help examine the uniquely positioned body of the late museum curator.  The police show him that Jacques also left behind other notes as well as a sequence of numbers.  What it all means though is rather puzzling.

Police cryptographer Sophie Neveu arrives and she secretly tells Langdon that his life is in danger.  She helps him ditch the police and sends them on a wild goose chase, allowing Sophie and Langdon privacy to examine the crime scene.  It turns out that not only is Jacques Sophie’s estranged grandfather, but he was also the leader of a secret society.  On top of that, he was known for his puzzles and riddles, and he frequently used words and phrases with double meanings. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 21, 2017 at 11:20 am

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Book Review – Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons”

Last week I finished reading Angels & Demons, the first book in the Robert Langdon series of books written by Dan Brown.

Over ten years ago I got caught up in the craze and read The Da Vinci Code right before Hollywood made it into a movie.  While I don’t remember the details of the book, I do remember that it was an interesting story and that I enjoyed it.  After waiting for too long, I finally decided to go back and read this series of books, starting with the first one, Angels & Demons.

Dan Brown — Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons begins with the murder of one of the top scientists at the CERN research facility in Europe.  Physicist Leonardo Vetra was brutally murdered and his chest was branded by a symbol once used by the Illuminati, a secret organization that waged war against the Catholic Church hundreds of years ago.  To help him investigate the murder, CERN director Maximilian Kohler flies in Robert Langdon, an expert on artwork as well as religion and secret societies such as the Illuminati.

Langdon quickly discovers that the symbol is authentic, and that it appears that the Illuminati are back.  Leonardo’s daughter Vittoria was called back to CERN after the discovery of her father’s murder.  She arrives just as Langdon and Kohler are analyzing the Illuminati symbol.  When the three of them examine Leonardo’s office, nothing seems out of place.  Vittoria informs them that her father had a second laboratory at CERN, a place where she was helping him research antimatter.  They access the second lab and discover that a canister containing antimatter is missing. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 6, 2017 at 9:51 pm

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Book Review – John Douglas & Mark Olshaker’s “Journey Into Darkness”

Back in late February I finished reading Journey Into Darkness, another set of brutal and horrific true crime stories from famed FBI Special Agent John Douglas.  This book goes along with his previous book, Mindhunter.

Just like MindhunterJourney Into Darkness takes a look at a few bloody and brutal cases that John Douglas either worked on personally, or that he had heard about during his time with the FBI.

John Douglas & Mark Olshaker — Journey Into Darkness

This time around, authors John Douglas and Mark Olshaker seem to be generally focused with sex crimes and the murders that accompanied them.  The book begins with a short story of a man abducting and killing a young lady in the Marine Corps, told from his point-of-view.  We later learn that the story is what Douglas believes happened as he helped investigate the crime and placed himself in the killer’s shoes, searching for his motive and methods in an effort to later capture him.

Like in MindhunterJourney Into Darkness has several true crime cases.  Most of these tend to showcase the murders of women and young children, and most of them were sexually assaulted as well.  Some of it is quite graphic as we read about what monsters can do when they strike and release their rage. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 1, 2017 at 3:34 pm

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Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “Cemetery Dance”

Last week I finished reading Cemetery Dance, the ninth story in the Special Agent Pendergast series of books by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  The events in this story take place in New York City.

Loosely following the events in The Wheel of DarknessCemetery Dance begins with one-year anniversary of the marriage between newspaper reporter William Smithback, Jr. and anthropologist Dr. Nora Kelly.  When Nora steps out of their apartment for a moment to get an “anniversary surprise,” a neighbor, Colin Fearing, enters their apartment and uses a knife to brutally murder Bill.

It’s a horrific and bloody scene.  When Nora returns a few minutes later, Colin attacks her as well.  Her life is spared when her cries of help are heard by her neighbors.  Colin flees the scene and escapes into the city.

The oddity is that Colin Fearing committed suicide two weeks ago.  He’s supposed to be dead and buried in a graveyard.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — Cemetery Dance

The NYPD immediately begins to investigate the murder.  NYPD Lieutenant Vincent D’Agosta is examining the apartment when he discovers that FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is also examining the scene of the crime.  He’s collecting blood samples and has noticed that the “dead” murderer made it a point to clean himself and his knife before departing the apartment.  It’s also quickly discovered that at no point did Colin Fearing attempt to hide his face from his neighbors or the building’s security cameras. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 1, 2017 at 9:03 am

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Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “The Wheel of Darkness”

A few weeks ago I finished reading The Wheel of Darkness, the eighth book in the Special Agent Pendergast series of books written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Following the events in The Book of the DeadFBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and his ward, Constance Greene, have made their way to western Tibet.  Their destination is the remote Gsalrig Chongg monastery, a place so distant in the mountains that very few people know of its very existence.  This is the same monastery where Pendergast received his training many years ago.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — The Wheel of Darkness

The two of them arrive at the monastery.  At first the monks are reluctant to allow Constance inside to seek guidance and train in meditation because she’s a woman, but that changes when the leader of the monks sees Constance’s resemblance to Green Tara, allegedly the mother of all Buddhas.  They accept her into the monastery and she begins her training.

While he’s in the monastery, Pendergast makes his way into a secretive inner monastery and learns of the Agozyen, an item so powerful that it can allegedly destroy the entire world.  It’s been in the monks’ possession for hundreds of years.  The problem is that it was recently stolen by a visitor.  The monks ask Pendergast to track down the Agozyen and return it to the monastery. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm

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Book Review – Michael Crichton’s “Timeline”

Around a month ago I finished reading Timeline, a thrilling time-travel adventure story written by Michael Crichton.

This was my second time reading this book as I once read it about ten years ago.  I remembered it being interesting, but forgetting the details about how things worked in the story.  After reading it again, I can certainly say that, along with Jurassic ParkTimeline might be one of Crichton’s *best* stories.

Michael Crichton — Timeline

Set in modern time (1999), Timeline begins with a couple traveling through the Southwest and discovering a man wandering around in a desert.  There’s no explanation for him being there, and he’s dressed in Medieval clothes.  The man is rambling and obviously injured, so the couple drives him to a nearby clinic.  Unfortunately, he soon coughs up blood, goes into cardiac arrest, and then dies.  What’s even more puzzling to the doctors is that the x-ray and CT scan show that basically all of the man’s organs, bones and blood vessels are slightly offset within his body.

It’s soon revealed that the man is an engineer for ITC, a high-tech company located in an isolated part of New Mexico.  To make matters more interesting, the man had a diagram for an ancient French monastery that was destroyed hundreds of years ago.

Over in Dordogne, France, American professor Edward Johnson is leading a small team of archaeologists and historians in an excavation of two towns separated by a river — Castelgard and La Roque.  The area being studied was known for being a battleground between English and French forces. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 23, 2017 at 9:22 am

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Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “The Book of the Dead”

Following the previous posting, another book that I read within the past year was The Book of the Dead, the next novel in the Special Agent Pendergast series of thrillers written by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Set immediately after the events in Dance of DeathThe Book of the Dead begins with a strange package arriving at the New York Museum of Natural History.  The package contains not just ordinary dust (or anthrax as originally suspected), but rather the museum’s former diamond collection pulverized into grit.  This was the work of Diogenes Pendergast.

The press quickly learns about the diamond dust, and the museum’s director needs to find a way to distract the public from this embarrassing moment.  The answer quickly arrives in the form of a telegraph by a mysterious person named Comte Thierry de Cahors.  In exchange for a donation of ten million euros, de Cahors wants the museum to renovate and reopen the Tomb of Senef, an old Egyptian exhibit that was part of the museum’s originally collection of exhibits.  The director quickly agrees and anthropologist Dr. Nora Kelly is tasked with not only getting the old exhibit ready for the public in only six weeks, but making it a spectacular experience as well.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — The Book of the Dead

Meanwhile, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast is being held in the Heckmoor Federal Correctional and Holding Facility until being sent to trial for the murder of FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Mike Decker.  He’s placed in solitary confinement and FBI Special Agent Spencer Coffey wants to make sure that Pendergast suffers, both physically and mentally.  Coffey is also leading the charge to get Pendergast placed in a death penalty trial. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - at 6:24 am

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Book Review – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child’s “Dance of Death”

A while back (so long ago that I cannot remember) I read Dance of Death, the sixth book in the Special Agent Pendergast series of novels written by authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  The events in Dance of Death take place immediately after the previous book, Brimstone.

Set primarily in New York CityDance of Death begins with a sudden and traumatic death of a college professor.  One moment he’s well and lecturing to his students, and the next he’s violently ill and then dead, right there in front of his students.

Meanwhile, NYPD officer Vincent D’Agosta is one of many people dealing with the aftermath of FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast‘s apparent death at the end of Brimstone.  Vincent and fellow NYPD captain Laura Hayward are officially a couple and now living together.

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child — Dance of Death

Out of the blue, Vincent receives a note that instructs him to visit Pendergast’s mansion outside of the city.  When he arrives there, Constance Green, Pendergast’s female companion and apprentice, gives him a note that Pendergast wrote shortly before he disappeared.  In the note, Aloysius warns Vincent that his brother, Diogenes, is planning on committing a terrible crime on January 28 — about a week from that point in time.  There’s no clue as to what Diogenes has planned, but Aloysius knows to take his estranged brother’s arrogant warning very seriously.

In order to attempt to stop Diogenes, Vincent takes a temporarily leave of absence from the NYPD.  One of his first stops is to visit Pendergast’s great-aunt.  The elderly lady tells Vincent about the early days of Aloysious and Diogenes, and that there was a turning point when Diogenes developed a deep hatred towards his brother. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 18, 2017 at 10:22 am

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Book Review – Stephen Baxter’s “Ark”

Recently I finished reading Ark, an interesting science-fiction / space travel book written by Stephen Baxter.  The book is a direct sequel to Flood.

In Flood, readers were introduced to a frightening vision of a near-future scenario where vast underground chambers of water stored in the Earth’s mantle were released, unleashing an unending surge of water that, over the course of many years, flooded the entire planet.  As the waters continued to rise, countries were destroyed and people were forced to keep moving to higher ground and fighting to survive.

At one point in Flood, some of the characters witness a rocket launching into the sky, carrying what’s rumored to be the fate of humanity in search of a new home.  That’s what brings us here today.

Stephen Baxter — Ark

Ark begins with rising flood waters and a partially flooded planet.  There’s no end to the flooding in sight, and scientists are tasked with finding a way to ensure that at least part of Earth’s humanity will survive, should there be a worst-case scenario of the planet being completely submerged.

Ships and rafts are easy solutions, but maintaining them (and their occupants) years later could be a challenge.  It’s not a permanent answer to humanity’s survival.

In Ark, it’s decided that humanity will have to find a new home in outer space.  The only catch is that the closest planet that might be able to sustain human life is several light years away, a distance far too great for today’s conventional rockets.

Regardless, plans begin immediately for a rocket, an ark, to carry a small part of humanity off this planet and to a new home somewhere in the stars.  Children of the scientists and engineers are selected to become part of a rigorous training program to prepare them for their destiny in space.  These children are known as Candidates. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 8, 2017 at 9:20 am

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Book Review – James Rollins’ “The Judas Strain”

Today we’re taking a look at The Judas Strain, the fourth book in James Rollins‘ thrilling SIGMA Series novels.

Released in 2007, The Judas Strain takes readers on an adventure as a team of specialized scientists and warriors tracks the origins of a deadly plague.  It’s a quest that circles around the world and dates back to the travels of one of Europe’s most celebrated explorers — Marco Polo.

James Rollins --- The Judas Strain

James Rollins — The Judas Strain

The Judas Strain begins with a brief prologue in the year 1293.  On the island of Sumatra in southeastern Asia, a terrifying disease wipes out most of Marco Polo‘s crew and companions.  It’s a disease so horrifying that its discussion was carefully removed from Marco Polo’s journal after he returned to Italy two years later.

Fast forward to today.

SIGMA Commander Gray Pierce is spending some time in Maryland with his parents when he’s suddenly paid a visit by a dangerous advisory from his past —- Seichan, a member of The Guild, a dangerous international terrorist organization.  She’s been shot, her pursuers are still in the area, and Seichan is carrying a very important artifact, an artifact that has already cost a person his life back in the Vatican.

Gray is forced to allow his parents to join him as he tries to drive Seichan to a safe area.  Their car is pursued by Seichan’s attackers, but Gray is able to lose them in a forest.  He takes them to a SIGMA safe house in the nearby area.  Things aren’t what they seem as The Guild (disguised as an ambulance crew) tries to ambush the gang.  Gray, Seichen, and SIGMA operator Joe Kowalski are forced to flee as Gray’s parents are captured and taken prisoner. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - August 3, 2015 at 12:12 pm

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Book Review – Larry Bond’s “Red Phoenix”

Recently I finished reading Larry Bond‘s Red Phoenix, a military novel depicting the outbreak of open war on the Korean Peninsula.  The war involves North Korea crossing the demilitarized zone and attacking the South Korean and American military forces stationed throughout South Korea.

First published in 1989, the action in Red Phoenix takes place in that same time period.  Naturally, when reading the book today, you have to remember which types of weapons were available back then as a lot of technology has changed throughout the military.

Larry Bond --- Red Phoenix

Larry Bond — Red Phoenix

Red Phoenix begins with the discovery of a North Korean tunnel passing underneath the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and reaching into South Korea.  To the surprise of the Americans and South Koreans, this tunnel is one of the largest ones yet.  The tunnel itself is as wide as a road, and numerous tanks and other army vehicles are being stored there.

It’s thought that the vehicles are being positioned for an invasion of the south.  Before the soldiers can investigate too much, the forces encounter a patrol of North Koreans.  There’s a brief but bloody gun battle as the two sides engage each other.  The South Koreans scramble to wire demolitions to the tanks and vehicles just as a larger company of North Koreans attacks them again.  It’s a quick dash back to the surface before the explosives are detonated, destroying the vehicles, the tunnel, and all of the North Koreans still underground.

Although the North Korean vehicles were unable to be captured, the message of discovering them was still clear —— North Korea is planning on invading South Korea, and the invasion may happen very soon.

That’s just the action-packed introduction to Red Phoenix.

The first part of Red Phoenix is mostly politics as a U.S. Congressman schemes to gain political power by taking advantage of civil unrest and college students protesting throughout Seoul, South Korea.  The protests are being instigated by North Korean spies, and the South Koreans deal with the protesters harshly.  This only further motivates the U.S. Congressman to put political pressure on the U.S. President, and begin a withdraw of the U.S. military forces stationed in South Korea.

When it looks like the U.S. is beginning to remove its military forces from South Korean, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il launches an all-out war against South Korea.  It’s viewed as a war of “liberation” for their fellow Koreans living south of the DMZ.  North Korean terrorists strike at key targets throughout the south as the main brunt of the North Korean army rolls across the DMZ and attacks everything in sight. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - June 16, 2015 at 11:23 pm

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Book Review – Larry Niven’s “Lucifer’s Hammer”

Today I finished reading Larry Nivven‘s post-apocalyptic novel, Lucifer’s Hammer.

Co-written by Jerry Pournelle, Lucifer’s Hammer is a haunting tale of survival after the Earth is hit by a comet.  Billions of people are killed instantly, and the survivors are forced to fight for their own survival in ways that they never imagined.

Larry Niven --- Lucifer's Hammer

Larry Niven — Lucifer’s Hammer

Lucifer’s Hammer begins with the discovery of the Hamner-Brown Comet, named after an amateur astronomer and a kid who was using a telescope and looking at the right place at the right time.  The comet is approaching the inner part of our solar system.  According to astronomers, the Hamner-Brown Comet is going to pass by the inner planets, swing around the sun, and head back out into space.  The odds of the comet striking the Earth are so small that it’s not even worth mentioning.

Life continues as the comet continues on its path.  But when scientists continue to monitor it, and when a TV documentary gives it more attention, people can’t help but wonder just how close the comet will be when it passes the Earth a second time when heading back out into space.  It’s not going to hit, right?

As the days pass, more and more people believe that the comet is really going to impact the Earth and wipe out everybody, just as an asteroid ended up killing off the dinosaurs.  Some people see this as a sign from above.  Others begin to stockpile supplies to help ride out whatever happens.  A smaller percentage think that since everybody is going to be killed, then nothing at this point matters, and it’s okay to commit crimes.  And still other people believe that nothing will happen and that everybody else is crazy.  Those people cannot wait for the comet to pass so that life will get back to normal again. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - May 2, 2015 at 9:09 pm

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Book Review – Vince Flynn’s “American Assassin”

The other day I finished reading American Assassin, Vince Flynn‘s twelfth book, and the eleventh in his series of novels featuring Mitch Rapp.

American Assassin is a prequel to the other books in the series.  We all know that Mitch Rapp is a fearless killer who enjoys outsmarting his enemies, but how did he get started in the CIA?  This book showcases Mitch Rapp’s training at a secret CIA training center, and then his first mission as a covert ops warrior.

Vince Flynn --- American Assassin

Vince Flynn — American Assassin

American Assassin begins at a secret training center near Lake Anna, Virginia.

CIA agent Irene Kennedy drives recent college graduate Mitch Rapp to the training center.  There he is to survive the intense training and compete with six other candidates to be a member of Orion Team, a secret band of covert warriors in a program designed by CIA Director Thomas Stansfield.

Of course, he has to survive the training first, and that’s not an easy task.  Immediately upon arriving at the training camp, the lead instructor, Stan Hurley, challenges Mitch Rapp to a fight.  The fight is brutal, and just when Mitch is about to win, Stan cheats and defeats his opponent.  What Stan didn’t know is that Mitch is highly skilled in martial arts, and that he’s far more dangerous than he looks.

The other candidates discover that as well.  Mitch Rapp has superior intelligence as well as athletic abilities.  The only thing he doesn’t know how to do is shoot a gun, but that’s overcome with some simple instructions by the camp’s instructors.

Mitch’s biggest challenge during the training is when competing against a candidate named Victor.  From the beginning, Victor is a loudmouth who keeps testing his fellow candidates.  He tries to fight them, and he tries to get them kicked out of the unit.  At one point he even breaks a fellow candidate’s nose during a routine fighting session.  Mitch figures out Victor’s secret (he really an instructor) and ultimately fights him, getting the best of the arrogant jerk. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - April 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm

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Book Review – Erik Prince’s “Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror”

When the War on Terror was launched in 2001 following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, it wasn’t just the United States’ CIA and military that later invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unknown to many people, there were a number of private companies that also deployed to those war zones to help support the combat troops along with the diplomats and other dignitaries.  While the military primarily carried out the attacks against the enemy, many times it was the private companies who helped transport cargo and provide security for many areas as well as people.

Perhaps the most famous (or infamous according to politicians and the media) private company involved with the War on Terror is Blackwater USA.

According to the media and many politicians, Blackwater’s workers were reckless cowboys, people who used too aggressive of tactics, rode around like maniacs, they overcharged the government for their services, and they were allowed to kill anybody they wanted.

Of course, there’s another side to the story of Blackwater USA and what *really* happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Erik Prince --- Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror

Erik Prince — Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror

And that story is told by Erik Prince, the founder and former CEO of Blackwater USA.  His book, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror, tells a completely different tale of the company, a tale that most people have never heard.  Until now.

Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror begins with a brief biography about Erik Prince.  The books covers his father’s dedication to his business and how that developed into a large and successful company, and how those traits were passed down to Erik Prince.  Prince went on to join the Navy and he succeeded in becoming a Navy SEAL, an elite warrior.

After the SEAL team, Prince left the Navy and created the company Blackwater USA, a company that initially focused on training soldiers, police officers, and other warriors in various combat tactics.  Blackwater saw success after incidents like the Columbine High School massacre and the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole proved that everybody from police officers to soldiers and sailors needed specialized training for newer types of warfare.  The company also saw success by selling custom targets to help riflemen become better shooters and marksmen.

Blackwater saw slow but steady growth during those early years, but it would quickly grow exponentially and make a serious name for itself shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the resulting War on Terror. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

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Book Review – Lincoln Child’s “Terminal Freeze”

Continuing with the cold theme in Stephen King’s The Shining, today we’re taking a look at Lincoln Child‘s Terminal Freeze, a thrilling novel set in the frigid Arctic.

First published on February 24, 2009, Terminal Freeze tells a tale of scientists discovering a terrifying creature frozen in ice in the Arctic.  Their discovery leads to a television documentary crew arriving to film the process of thawing the prehistoric animal.  When the ice melts quicker than expected, and the prehistoric creature turns out to be alive and well, Terminal Freeze becomes a monster book that pits scientists, a television crew, and a few soldiers against a menacing creature that is impervious to bullets and kills people with the greatest of ease.

Terminal Freeze takes place in Alaska at a fictional decommissioned military base north of the Arctic Circle.

Lincoln Child --- Terminal Freeze

Lincoln Child — Terminal Freeze

Terminal Freeze begins north of the Arctic Circle in Alaska as a small team of scientists analyze a retreating glacier in hopes of studying the causes of global warming.  Leader of the scientists is Evan Marshall, a paleoecologist; person who studies ecosystems of the past.

One day as the team of scientists is about to gather new samples uncovered by the retreating glacier, they notice that a large chunk of ice broke free from the glacier and revealed an ancient lava tube inside of a nearby mountain.  They cautiously enter the frozen lava tube and quickly discover some sort of prehistoric creature buried in the ice.  The scientists cannot see all of the creature, but they believe that it might be a Smilodon populator, a type of saber-toothed cat.

Considering the magnitude of their discovery, the scientists report their finding to their corporate sponsors, Terra Prime and Blackpool Entertainment.  They quickly receive word to not touch the creature or enter the lava tube as a production team is being rushed to their location.  The production team will recover the frozen creature, thaw it, and reveal the prehistoric animal as part of a grand documentary.

It sounds simple enough. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - March 3, 2015 at 3:42 pm

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Book Review – Stephen King’s “The Shining”

Last week I finished reading Stephen King‘s The Shining, a classic tale of horror involving isolation and madness at a haunted hotel during the winter.

It’s a great story to read on these coldest of winter nights, especially when it’s snowing outside.

First published in 1977, The Shining tells a tale of Jack Torrance and how he and his wife and young son take over the caretaker duties for the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies.  The catch is that the hotel is isolated, and when the heavy snow arrives, the small family will have to fend for themselves for quite some time.  That wouldn’t be a problem if the hotel wasn’t haunted with evil spirits.

Stephen King --- The Shining

Stephen King — The Shining

The Shining begins with Jack Torrance interviewing and being accepted for the position of winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel.  The Overlook is a prestigious hotel nestled in the Colorado Rockies.  It’s primarily a summertime destination as winter storms can (and will) block the mountain roads and render them impassible.  The Overlook’s previous winter caretaker succumbed to cabin fever, literally went crazy, and killed his family and himself.

Jack himself is a recovering alcoholic and a person with some problems in his past.  He’s an accomplished author and has been off and on writing a play.  Jack was also fired from his previous position as a college English instructor after he lashed out and attacked one of his students.  Jack’s temper and sometimes uncontrollable violence have caused him to also hit and injure his young son, Danny.  All of those events continually haunt Jack as he tries to get his life back on track. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 20, 2015 at 10:28 pm

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Book Review – Herman Melville’s “Moby-Dick; or, The Whale”

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Herman Melville‘s classic novel, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale.

This was my first time reading Moby-Dick.  Although this book tends to be a required reading for high school students (or, at least it used to be), I never encountered it as a student.  I had heard of the book and its characters, but that’s about it.

To be honest, I had never really expressed any interest in reading Moby-Dick until recently.  Something changed and all of a sudden I had a desire to read the book.  That’s what bring us here today.

Herman Melville --- Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville — Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

First published in 1851, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is considered to be a prime example of Romanticism and the American Renaissance.  I really don’t care about analyzing books to that level, so that’s the last you’ll hear of that terminology.  We’re here to focus on the story and its strengths and weaknesses.

“Call me Ishmael.”

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale is an American whaling story narrated by the character Ishmael, a man who has the yearning to go to sea.  Ishmael arrives in New Bedford, Massachusetts where he meets Queequeg, a Polynesian harpooner from the fictional island of Rokovoko.  Despite their clash in backgrounds, Ishmael and Queequeg quickly become friends.  The two of them seek a spot on a whaling ship, and they eventually are hired to work on the Pequod.

The adventure begins when the Pequod sails on Christmas Day and begins its ill-fated journey.  The crew is manned by Starbuck, the first mate, Stubb, the second mate, and Flask, the third mate.  In addition to Queequeg, the other harpooners include Tashtego and Daggoo.

As most people know, the captain of the Pequod is none other than Ahab, a man hell-bent on seeking revenge against Moby Dick, a white sperm whale that removed one of Ahab’s legs from the knee down.  To help him walk, Ahab has an artificial leg that was created from the jawbone of a whale.  Ahab promises a doubloon (a gold coin) to the first man who spots Moby Dick. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - February 16, 2015 at 1:44 pm

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Book Review – Clive Cussler’s “Shock Wave”

Today we’re taking a look at Clive Cussler‘s Shock Wave, the thirteenth book in Cussler’s main series of books.

The events in this story loosely follow those from Inca Gold and the previous books.

Clive Cussler --- Shock Wave

Clive Cussler — Shock Wave

Shock Wave begins with a prologue that takes place in 1856.

Captain Charles “Billy” Scaggs is one of the top naval captains in England.  He’s in charge of the Gladiator, a transport carrying a cargo of prisoners bound for prisons in Australia when his ship is hit by a storm while sailing through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and southern Australia.  When the ship doesn’t arrive in its destination two weeks later, it’s presumed to be permanently lost at sea.

In reality, the Gladiator survived the storm but it was badly damaged.  The captain ordered the remains of the ship to be converted into a raft.  The prisoners and as many provisions as possible were transferred to the raft before the remains of the ship finally sank.  Captain Scaggs set a course for New Zealand, but it was an agonizing slow pace.  Food and fresh water began to run low, and the prisoners grew restless while sitting in the hot sun all day.  It was just a matter of time before they rebelled and tried to attack Captain Scaggs and his crew.  The rebellion was stopped, but most of the prisoners were killed, and nearly all of the captain’s crew was either killed or injured.

The remains of the raft and its crew finally land on a deserted island.  It takes two years before Captain Scaggs and a couple of able-bodied men can build a strong enough raft to sail to Australia.  Two of the convicts, Jess Dorsett and Betsy Fletcher, get married and remain behind on the island.  They have a couple of kids and discover a source of valuable diamonds.  Their sons ultimately receive passage to England where they both receive top educations, and Jess and Betsy begin a trading business with passing ships.  In time, their company will ultimately expand into the diamond exchange and become one of the richest companies in the world.

Fast forward to January of 2000.

The cruise ship Polar Queen has dropped a load of passengers off at Seymour Island, an island off the coast of Antarctica.  Led by marine biologist Maeve Fletcher, the small group of people go sightseeing at an old whaling station.  When they enter a cave that was used by the whaling crew, suddenly they’re hit by a mysterious “disease” that causes tremendous pressure on their head and ears.  The attack ends just as mysteriously as it began, and everybody who was inside the cave soon recovers.  However, the few people who were outside of the cave had died from the strange attack. Read more…

Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by Dan - December 11, 2014 at 8:57 pm

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