- Books, Literature, and Writing
What Books Have You Read Recently?
My Recent Reads
I was recently in the hospital for some time. My library access was limited to whatever the volunteers had on their cart. Most books I read were at least 10 years old. Some 20 and 30. The simple fact that the books were dated was not a problem. No matter the age, the books still took my mind off my illness and away somewhere out of my room.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Angels & Demons is a bestselling mystery novel by Dan Brown. Published in 2000, it introduces the character Robert Langdon, who is also the principal character of Brown's subsequent, better-known novel The Da Vinci Code. It also shares many stylistic element with the better known novel, such as conspiracies of secret societies, a single day time frame and the Roman Catholic Church. The story involves a conflict between an ancient group, the Illuminati, and the Roman Catholic Church.
A review by review of books.com
Like the majority of readers, I read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown after reading The Da Vinci Code. I would venture that most people reading this review are asking the question, "How does Angels & Demons compare to The Da Vinci Code?" The short answer is that they're very similar. If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, you should enjoy Angels & Demons.
Angels & Demons introduces the character of Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and art history at Harvard University. As the novel begins, he's awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN, the world's largest scientific research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. One of their top physicists had been murdered, with his chest branded with the word "Illuminati." Since Langdon is an expert on the ancient secret society known as the Illuminati, he's asked to help solve the murder. A high tech X-33 plane transports Langdon from Massachusetts to Switzerland in a little more than an hour.
The murder victim is Leonardo Vetra. Not only is he one of the world's leading physicists, he's a Catholic priest. He's a priest who has adopted a daughter, Vittoria, who is also a scientist at CERN. This was the largest suspension of disbelief for me, a man who is a priest, a father, and a top physicist, but accepting it sets the rest of the story in motion. Vetra and his daughter were using the world's largest particle accelerator to create antimatter, and then suspend the antimatter properly in canisters so that it doesn't interact with matter. If a canister is removed from the electrical system which keeps the matter and antimatter separated, then backup batteries will serve the same purpose for 24 hours. When those 24 hours expire, the two will collide in an instantaneous explosion of unprecedented power.
Lenoardo Vetra created the antimatter to simulate the Big Bang. In his mind, this would show proof that God exists, being able to create new matter and antimatter in the same way God created the universe. Vetra's murder, though, allows one of the canisters to be stolen. The question of who stole the canister and what they planned to do with it is soon answered. The canister is quickly found on a security camera in Vatican City, with its LEDs counting down the time until the batteries run out. The security camera, however, is nowhere to be found, leaving the canister's whereabouts a mystery too. Langdon and Vittoria Petra are quickly sent off to Rome and Vatican City, to help find the canister and return it to CERN before it explodes at midnight.
Not only does the canister threaten to destroy Vatican City, but with the recent death of the Pope, the cardinals of the Catholic Church are all within the city for the conclave to choose the new pope. They are all about to be locked within the Sistine Chapel where, according to church law, they must remain until a new pope is chosen. They are awaiting the preferiti, the four cardinals from four different European countries who are the preferred candidates to become the new pope. While Langdon and Vittoria are trying to convince the captain of the Swiss Guard and the camerlengo, the Pope's chamberlain who leads the church until the new pope is named, that the antimatter bomb is real, a phone call is received from a man who claims to be from the Illuminati. He has the four cardinals, which he will murder one by one, and then allow the bomb to destroy Vatican City, which houses not only the church hierarchy, but also its possessions and wealth. He has no demands; his only wish is the destruction of the Catholic Church in retribution for the church's treatment of scientists and the Illuminati over the centuries.
Langdon and Vittoria Vetra are in a race against time. They dig through archives and ancient mysteries to find clues, which also requires an extensive background in art history and religious symbology. This makes Robert Langdon the expert tour guide through all this arcane knowledge with his congenial and scholarly fashion, doing his best to educate without seeming superior with his own intelligence. Much like The Da Vinci Code, Langdon understands enough about each mystery to go in search of the missing pieces necessary to solve each puzzle, which leads him to the next one. Vittoria is beautiful, tough, intelligent, and determined to avenge her father's murder and keep the canister from exploding. The two of them are constantly one step behind the Illuminati, and once it's clear that the Swiss Guard and Vatican City have been penetrated by the ancient society, they don't know whom to trust. This leads them through churches, fountains, crypts, forgotten passages, secret passages, and catacombs. Death stalks them at every turn, in one form or another.
So it's time for the comparisons of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. In some ways, Angels & Demons has a more suspenseful storyline with the antimatter bomb and the race to prevent the destruction of Vatican City. Both share a hired assassin, a tough and beautiful woman as Langdon's sidekick who's mourning the murder of a loved one, and mysteries that require extensive knowledge of art history, religious symbology, and secret societies. Robert Langdon is a protagonist that you can't dislike in any way, with just enough vulnerability to go along with his intelligence and right amount of charm. Angels & Demons is a looser story. It takes longer to get going, each new puzzle takes longer to solve, and too much character background is given for too many characters. While Dan Brown's writing style will never be called literary, he's obviously matured as a writer between the two books. The chapters in The Da Vinci Code are shorter, tighter, and the suspense is never allowed to wane.
While some judicious editing might have made it a tighter and more focused novel, Angels & Demons is still a highly enjoyable read. For those who love plot-driven novels, and for those who love thrillers and mysteries full of strange bits of information that tie everything together, grab a copy of Angels & Demons and find a comfortable chair. It's time well spent.
Sea Leopard by Craig Thomas
A cold war thriller pitting British Naval Intelligence against the Russians
A review by Rottenbergs Rotten Book Reviews
"Sea Leopard" refers to a revolutionary device for immunizing submarines against detection. When the novel opens, it's already been loaded on the RN submarine Proteus. It's the cutting edge for submarines, but the British believe the system virtually compromised - thinking that the Russians have already kidnapped its inventor. The black-joke is on the British - the Soviets haven't nabbed Leopard's creator yet. Instead, they plan to grab both the scientist and his invention simultaneously - the latter in an act of unprecedented piracy below the waves."Sea Leopard", set within the same continuity as "Firefox" is a great CT novel - it's fast, and has his trademark deft character descriptions and terse dialog. Though not a submariner, Thomas gives "Leopard" a great feel for its surroundings - the forbidding wastes of the North Sea, the close confines of a submarine, the situation rooms of either side (where digital symbols dance on Perspex screens like fireflies) - making you feel like you're a part of the action, even if much of the action seems to stretch credibility. "Sea Leopard" is solid reading, cover-to-cover.
- Amazon.com: Sea Leopard: Books: Craig Thomas
Amazon.com: Sea Leopard: Books: Craig Thomas by Craig Thomas
Friendly Fire by C.D.B. Bryan
a story featuring Norman Scwartzkopf and how his units were hit by US artillery then the deaths covered up.
All the material in this book not derived from my own firsthand observation of the events is taken from historical texts, public or official records, original correspondence, journals kept by a participant or extended inter views with those persons directly involved. All interviews with the major participants were tape recorded. Transcripts of these interviews were then submitted to those individuals to provide them an opportunity to make corrections. In those few instances of disparate recollections or failing memory, I have had to rely upon the majority opinion and my own judgment in determining what actually took place.
In reconstructing those conversations which I was not present at, I have assumed that if an individual recalled what was said and this recollection was confirmed by a second individual and there was no obvious advantage to be gained from a depiction of the conversation as recalled, then a reconstruction using the dialogue as remembered might be accepted as true. In most instances with the Mullens it was possible to reconstruct their conversations through corroboration by a third party, notes taken by Peg Mullen at the time of the event and the consistency of details as recalled.
The reconstructed "Mission" chapter at the end of the book was achieved through separate interviews with Lieutenant Colonel H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Captain Tom Owen Cameron, Abraham Aikins, Martin L. Culpepper, Gary Samuels and Willard Polk, each of whom had either taken part in the planning of the operation or been present on the hilltop when Michael Mullen died. Each man received a transcript of his interview and subsequent reconstructed version of the mission for review and correction. Although Willard Polk's court- martial transcript was valuable for details of subsequent events, I naturally had to rely on the men's memories of that night. I am most grateful to them for their cooperation and the dedication with which they assisted me in getting the story right.
This is also as good a place as any to express my gratitude to certain other individuals who have been instrumental in this book: Carl D. Brandt, Harvey Ginsberg, William Shawn, Martin J. Baron and Sam.
I have taken the liberty of changing the names of some of the minor participants in this book.
I suppose one can never be satisfied that one has asked all the questions one might have asked, double-checked all the details one might have double-checked, seen all the people one might have seen. But because all the major people in this story have read the finished manuscript and have expressed their agreement with the incidents as described, I am confident that what I have written is true and that the events, scenes and conversations took place as depicted.Page ix-x Bryan gives his method.
"We can talk about this some more if you'd like,but we'll just keep going around in circles and end up with my having to defend the military, the governments, the system or whatever, and this is not what I came back out here to Iowa to do." I sat there for a moment looking at them. Gene was angry with me; Peg was -learly upset. "I thought if I could find out the truth for you," I said, "if I could learn what had happened to Mfichael, how he had died, what had caused the shelf to explode over his position. . . ."
The Mullens' expression did not change.
"I guess," I said, "I guess I don't really know what you want from me anymore."
"What we want from you?" Gene said indignantiy. "The whole thing is this: when you came out here., you wanted something from us!”
"What do you mean?" I asked, surprised. "What do you think I wanted from you?"
"You wanted a story," Peg said.
"You wanted the story, and you wanted the truth," Gene said.
They were right, of course.
I never wanted to be in this book. I had intended only to be a journalist: unbiased, dispassionate, receptive to all sides. I knew my only chance for articulating the tragedy of this war, the only way I could explain, as I had set out to do, the people's estrangement from their government, their increasing paranoia and distrust, lay in limiting my focus.By concentrating on one specific incident, the death of Michael Mullen, but restricting myself to this one isolated Iowa farm family's story, I had hoped somehow to encompass the whole. This technique, I later came to recognize, was not a journalist's but a novelist's; and it led inevitably not only to my own participation and inclusion in the Mullens' story but also to that awful sadness and disappointment I now felt. I knew because I thought them wrong about Schwarzkopf, they believed I had passed judgment against everything they had done. I knew they were wondering whether they could trust me, or had I, too, become a part of the conspiracy to hide the truth? Vietnam did that to us. It dragged us all in, made us choose sides. Had not Peg herself said, "There's only one side when you lose your son"?
That I disagreeed with them about Schwarzkopf was beside the point. I did agree with them on principle: Michael's death was an unforgivable tragedy--as Schwarzkopf, too, would have been and was among the first to agree. The colonel further recognized, however, that their opinion of him was a symptom and consequence of the injuries they had received. He was the one who said, "But it's an even more terrible thing that has happened to the Mullens themselves."They, like their son, like the nation itself, had become casualties of the war. And my sadness lay in knowing nothing I could say or write could change that, just as nothing they could say or do could bring back their son.
Gene had said, "You wanted the story, and you wanted the truth."Well, that's what he's getting," Peg then said.
"Now I'm not going to like, the truth if it isn't in my favor--"
"Oh, Gene!" Peg laughed.
"You can understand that," he said, ignoring Peg.
"Yes, but I also understand that the truth is neither in your favor or their favor," I said. "It's somewhere in between."
"The truth is in their favor?" Gene asked, beginning to get angry all over again.
"Gene, of course, doesn't want the military ever to look good," Peg said. "We have a very slanted bias. A hatred for the military. And there's nothing that will change that, I suppose."
"I can understand that, too," I said, but I think it's important for you to know that both Schwarzkopf and Captain Tom Cameron, your son's company commander, were fine officers. Fine men."
"'Well, I don't buy it," Gene said. "I don’t buy Schwarzkopf, and I don't buy the military."
"Here's the whole thing," Peg said. "The military didn't want us to think our son had died simply because somebody, his own men, had shot a gun at him. How do you explain this? They don't want to admit how many boys were killed by their own troops. And thousands of them died, you know, not just Michael.
"There was a picture in Time magazine about three weeks ago showing the First Air Cav being combat assaulted. The photograph showed three boys being airlifted into battle. I cut it out and sent it to Mr. Nixon, saying, 'Maybe you'd be interested in the faces of these three young men. 'What strikes me most,' I wrote, 'is that none of these young men has a father who is a President or a Senator or a Congressman . . . . But"-- Peg shrugged-"of course I get no response to any of this mail anymore because I’m a 'crackpot.' I still wonder about those boys. They lost two or three boys a week out of that outfit for the past two months, and I worry about those three boys. I really do."
"We know we're not getting the right casualty count even now," Gene said.
"That first week a little while ago when they had a casualty count of only two?" Peg said. "Well, we had three deaths in Iowa alone. I wrote Jerry Friedheim--they were all listed as nonbattle, see--and I said, 'Well, you'll just have to do a little better job on your home- work. Three bodies returned to Iowa, but only two died nationwide.' I had a two-page letter from him saying the news media had goofed in Saigon."Gene started in on Schwarzkopf again- -he colonel had had time to change his story to suit himself; he was interested only in making general; he had spoken with the Mullens because he was "scared." Nothing good had been accomplished in Vietnam. We were being white-washed by the Army. Schwarzkopf had been pulled out of Vietnam. He was finished because of his back injury. Finally, Peg said, "You two have been at it long enough." Pages 377-379.
Iced by Carol Higgins Clark-a fun whodunit set in Aspen Colorado
From the authors website
Solving a crime at a ski resort can be all downhill! P.I. Regan Reilly has high hopes for her Aspen vacation—such as meeting an unmarried man! But a mystery soon has the chic detective snooping rather than skiing. Million-dollar paintings have been disappearing, and an old friend of Regan's—a folksy ex-con named Eben Bean—has vanished, too. Everyone except Regan believes Eben has gone bad...again. Her hunt to find him leads away from the tourist crowd into the founding families of this former frontier town. She never expects to get in hot water with a wild and woolly seventy-something lady who has a shocking secret she'd die to keep. Or get in over her head trying to save a famous portrait a dangerous criminal would kill to steal. Now the snow is falling, the plot is thickening, and Regan may be learning a new winter sport—trying to catch a killer while running for her life!
The Art of Sensual Massage
Strike Force by Dale Brown
From Publishers WeeklyBestseller Brown (Edge of Battle) takes the subject of his latest from current headlines—the rapprochement between Iran and Russia (the former wants to secure nuclear technology, the latter a new foothold in the Middle East). The emergence of an Iranian nuclear arsenal sets off a crisis, which the usual high-tech weaponry and clean-cut American flyboys (and now girls) deal with as effectively as ever in Brown's fictional world. The author presents his Iranian characters as more than cardboard villains, skillfully showing the influence of Islamic culture on their motivations. Of course, Brown also provides plenty of fast action and exotic hardware, like the XR-A9 space plane, plus such nice touches as a U.S. president who wants to make a space flight. Techno-thriller fans and aviation buffs will be well rewarded. (May) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Book Description
The Battle For Control Of Iran . . . Begins In Space
When a disgraced former Iranian military chief of staff engineers an insurgency that threatens to destroy the theocratic regime in Iran, a new era appears to be dawning in the Middle East. But one must be wary of old enemies . . .
On the run from the Pasdaran, the theocrat's terror army, and unable to count on support from his friends in the regular army, Iranian rebel leader General Hesarak al-Kan Buzhazi desperately turns to his old nemesis, U.S. Air Force Lieutenant-General Patrick McLanahan, for help. Unwilling to commit American forces in an Iranian civil war, and with time running out, the U.S. president authorizes McLanahan to utilize a new, top-secret fleet of globe-crossing spaceplanes, the XR-A9 Black Stallions, led by test pilot and astronaut Captain Hunter Noble. Within hours, McLanahan's Air Battle Force turns the tide, possibly changing the course of history in the Middle East for generations.
The advent of almost instantaneous global reach, along with the reactivation of America's first military space station, Silver Tower, has rekindled fears of a space arms race, and the growing insurgency in Iran is threatening to erupt into a worldwide jihad. But McLanahan finds himself embroiled in even more bitter battles at the White House, between those who support his space-based military initiative and those who are working secretly to undermine it. When McLanahan is forced to concentrate on his political and personal battles back at home, it's left to Hunter Noble and his team of young American space engineers to keep the fires of freedom in the Middle East from exploding completely out of control.
Filled with the latest cutting-edge weaponry, geopolitical intrigue, high-flying suspense, and a colorful cast of characters, Strike Force is New York Times bestselling master Dale Brown at his best.
More Recent Reading
My Recent Reading List
I don't have much time to read, so I have a couple books in progress.
Duma Key, by Stephen King
Dead or Alive by Tom Clancy
I was back in the hospital for a couple weeks, so more time to read, between sleeping.
This time I read...
An oldie but goodie,
Time after Time, by Karl Alexander.