2017 Reading Plan (End of Year Update)

Hello everyone,

2017 has come to an end and I was able to read the most books I have in a year, 62, thanks to 9 books finished in December.

The stats for my year as follows:
Overall books: 62 (personal best)
First reads: 54
Rereads: 8
Total pages: 24,894 (2nd best [2016])
Total Posts: 148 (most)
Total Views: 1204 (most)
Total Visitors: 878 (most)

My blog numbers this year was very impressive as a I reach 100+ views in a month four times this year (all four in the last 5 months of the year), including in December with my second most views a month ever (October). I began improving my blogs overall appearance and connecting reviews to one another as well as getting images attached to previews for each post.

I began doing more film reviews to go along with my book reviews and hopefully next year I’ll be able to add some television series reviews as well.

The only thing I failed to do was read and comment on post on several blogs I follow as I wanted to be more active online. So one of the big things I want to do next year is interact more to people I follow.

I’m going to wrap 2017 by listing my completed books for the year and see you all tomorrow when I unveil my 2018 Reading Plan.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavendra
The Acts of the Apostles by Ellen G. White*
Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer
Dangerous Women 1 edited by George R.R. Martin (The Princess and the Queen)
The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White*
In Search of the Golden Rainbow by Charles Armistead*
Lighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson*
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2 by Edward Gibbon
A Bold One for God by Charles G. Edwards*
Scars of Independence by Holger Hoock
Blood Stain (Volume Two) by Linda Sejic*
Herald of the Midnight Cry by Paul A. Gordon*
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld #28) by Terry Pratchett
Home to Our Valleys! by Walter Utt*
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Hinges #4) by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
Prairie Boy by Harry Baerg*
Blood Brothers by Philip Samaan*
The Millennium Bug by Jon Paulien*- REREAD
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson*
National Sunday Law by A. Jan Marcussen*
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3 by Edward Gibbon
The New World Order by Russell Burrill*
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Sabbath Roots by Charles E. Bradford*-REREAD
Night Watch (Discworld #29) by Terry Pratchett
The Antichrist and the New World Order by Marvin Moore*
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin (The Rogue Prince)
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Tell It to the World by Mervyn Maxwell*
The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30) by Terry Pratchett
Mysteries of the Middle Ages (Hinges #5) by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
Heretics and Heroes (Hinges #6) by Thomas Cahill
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems
Spy Schools by Daniel Golden
Monstrous Regiment (Discworld #31) by Terry Pratchett
The 12th Planet (Earth Chronicles #1) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith*
Christianity by Roland H. Bainton
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32) by Terry Pratchett
Op-Center (Op-Center #1) by Jeff Roven- REREAD
The Republic by Plato
Gilgamesh
500 Years of Protest and Liberty by Nicholas P. Miller*
Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett
Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte & Dacia Palmerino*
William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher*
The Stairway to Heaven (Earth Chronicles #2) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Blood Stain (Volume Three) by Linda Sejic*
The Division of Christendom by Hans J. Hillerbrand
Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M.N. Eire
They Came for Freedom by Jay Milbrandt
Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey- REREAD
Romans: Salvation for “All” by George Knight*
Thud! (Discworld #34) by Terry Pratchett
Wintersmith (Discowrld #35) by Terry Pratchett
Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz
Ancient Mysteries by Rupert Furneaux
World Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner

* = home read

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Western Civilization to 1500

WC1500Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The story of Western Civilization centers in Europe but begins over 8000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt and seems like a daunting task to cover in less than 300 pages even if one only goes to the end of the Middle Ages. Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of society from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt through the Greeks and Romans, the Middle Ages, and the beginning of the European Renaissance.

Kirchner spends less than 30 pages covering the Fertile Crescent and Egypt through 3500 years of historical development before beginning over 110 pages on Greco-Roman history and the last 130 pages are focused on the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. This division clearly denotes Kirchner’s focus on Europe in this Western Civilization survey, though one cannot fault him for this as even now knowledge of the first three and half millennia of the historical record is nothing compared to the Greco-Roman sources, yet Kirchner never even mentioned the Bronze Age collapse and possible reasons for its occurrence. The highlight of the survey is a detailed historical events of Greece and Roman, especially the decline of the Republic which was only given broad strokes in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college. Yet, Kirchner’s wording seems to hint that he leaned towards the Marxist theory of history, but other wording seemed to contradict it. Because this was a study aid for college students in the early 1960s, this competing terminology is a bit jarring though understandable. While the overall survey is fantastic, Kirchner errors in some basic facts (calling Harold Godwinson a Dane instead of an Anglo-Saxon, using the term British during the Hundred Year’s War, etc.) in well-known eras for general history readers making one question some of the details in eras the reader doesn’t know much about. And Kirchner’s disparaging of “Oriental” culture through not only the word Oriental but also the use of “effeminate” gives a rather dated view of the book.

This small volume is meant to be a study aid for students and a quick reference for general readers, to which it succeeds. Even while Kirchner’s terminology in historical theory and deriding of non-European cultures shows the age of the book, the overall information makes this a good reference read for any well-read general history reader.

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Ancient Mysteries

Ancient MysteriesAncient Mysteries by Rupert Furneaux
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The enigmas of history have spawned theories, either scientifically based or plain conjecture. In Ancient Mysteries, Rupert Furneaux attempted to answer timeless questions covering the world through the use of science.

Furneaux covered over 30 “mysteries” that covered such subjects as Atlantis, several monumental architectural structures around the world, Biblical mysteries, several ethnic groups and cultures, mysteries centered in Britain and the Americas, hoaxes, and “soon-to-be” 21st-century enigmas. Through all of them Furneaux attempts to give a description of why the topic in question is a mystery and then over the history of theories before giving as “definite” answer as possible.

Unfortunately for this book, Furneaux used scientific conclusions 20 years old by the time the book was published which are even more out-of-date today. Yet, not all of his answers were based on science through they were not far out theories which he pretty much attempted to dismiss as much as possible. For several topics, Furneaux attempted to straddle the line between “scientific consensus” and far-out theories, so mixed success at best and just plain bad at worst.

The background information Furneaux gives for each of the topics he writes about, though definitely not up-to-date, is the best part of the book. However, the out-of-date science, the occasional stretch of the science that Furneaux, and sometimes condescending tone the author uses in some topics makes he want to caution people away from this unless they are really well read in history.

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You Only Live Twice (James Bond #5)

YOLTYou Only Live Twice
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

After four consecutive films in as many years, there was a two year wait before You Only Live Twice arrived in theaters. While sharing the title with the eleventh novel written by Ian Fleming, this film was the first to diverge completely from the written material mainly because one of the main storylines of the book could not be covered because it had not occurred in any previous film.

An American spacecraft is hijacked from orbit by a SPECTRE spacecraft resulting in the United States accusing the Soviets, who deny it. The British suspect Japanese involvement since the unidentified craft landed in the Sea of Japan. Upon faking his death, James arrives in Japan to investigate meeting with Aki, the MI6 station chief, and then Aki’s boss Japanese secret service chief Tiger Tanaka. Bond identifies Osato Chemicals as being a part of the plot, meeting with Mr. Osato and his security Helga Brandt, and identifying a suspicious cargo ship owned by Osato. After a failed investigation of the cargo ship, Bond almost killed by Brandt but is able to escapes death but results in Brandt being killed by the head of SPECTRE who orders Osato to kill Bond. Then SPECTRE hijacks a Soviet spacecraft resulting in the Soviet Union to blame the Americans as tensions rise. While investigating an island the cargo ship had passed, Bond battles helicopters confirming the island’s importance. Tanaka develops a plan to crash train Bond as a ninja, disguise him as a Japanese fisherman to be married to a local woman, and search for the base so Tanaka can attack with a force of 100 ninjas. During the process, an Osato henchman kills Aki making things personal for Bond. Bond proceeds with Tanaka’s plan and with his “wife” Kissy discover the SPECTRE base, Kissy goes to inform Tanaka while Bond infiltrates the base. Discovering the missing Astronaut and Cosmonauts, Bond attempts to get on board the SPECTRE spacecraft but is spotted by SPECTRE’s mastermind Ernst Stavro Blofeld. While meeting Blofeld, Tanaka’s forces attack the base and a timely intervention by Bond allows some into the base. Blofeld retreats killing Osato and orders a henchman to kill Bond. Bond defeats the henchman and is able to destroy the SPECTRE spacecraft before it can hijack another American spacecraft. Blofeld’s sets off the base’s self-destruct forcing Bond and Tanaka’s forces to escape through a former lava tunnel to be rescued by Japanese and British maritime units.

Unlike the previous installment, You Only Live Twice set a narrative pace that was steady throughout the film keeping the viewer engaged in the film. Setting the film nearly all the scenes in and around Japan was a departure from previous Bond films, however it helped keep the film focused while still giving spectacular background visuals throughout the film. Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay with collaboration from director Lewis Gilbert, resulting in a singular vision of the film that helped the overall product. Yet the film isn’t without some flaws, some unfortunate and others detrimental. The most unfortunate is the running time, which could have been cut in several places including some action sequences that ran just a tad too long. The other was the reliance an formulas, some of which Dahl commented on in later interviews that he was told to include while being given free rein over the rest of the story, that over the course of five films were getting stale. But the biggest flaw was Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who made his debut as a little, scarred, bald man played by Donald Pleasence. With three of the previous four Bond films having involved SPECTRE, the reveal of Blofeld is somewhat of a letdown considering that both Dr. No and Emilio Largo were both more intimidating and overall more impressive antagonists for Bond to faceoff with. What does not help is that Pleasence’s Blofeld is the go to megalomaniacal villain that parodies of all Bond and spy genre films go for.

You Only Live Twice is a fun, good paced film but when compared to the previous four films of the Connery era there are problems that an observant viewer can pick out. Although this was meant to be Connery’s swansong as the titular character, he didn’t call-in his performance but there are issues that hurt the overall product that were out of his control. Overall it’s a nice film, nothing better or worse.

James Bond Film Page

Atlantis: The Eighth Continent

AtlantisAtlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Frambach Berlitz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Atlantis has tantalized Western culture for millennia, but only since the 19th century has the topic of its existence become a touchstone of controversy between “believers” and “deniers”. Atlantis: The Eighth Continent by Charles Berlitz is a book in support of the mid-oceanic Atlantis over Mediterranean candidates or being a legend. Purporting to use the latest scientific and archaeological evidence—albeit in the mid-1980s—Berlitz looks to give strong proof that Plato’s Atlantis was real.

Bringing forth ruins and cultural evidence from both sides of the Atlantic, Berlitz began his argument by attempting to show a shared connection between numerous cultures across the world that seemed to be influenced by the same source. Then he became chronicling the scientific discoveries of unwater ruins, dismissed by scientists as natural phenomena, that prove ruins of an ancient civilization having existed in the mid-Atlantic. While a surface reading of this material is thought-provoking, Berlitz’s misunderstanding of geology undermined the book back in the mid-80s. The science of plate tectonics is the biggest problem with Berlitz’s book and the fact that his understanding is so wrong would make you shake your head.

While there are a lot Berlitz’s theories that just don’t stack up, he did expression layman ideas that surprisingly have begun to be debated within the scientific community though for reasons close to Atlantis. The first is that cataclysms can and do occur within the geological record, but his thoughts and evidence are nothing compared to Dr. Robert M. Schoch’s. The second was suggesting that an impact event occurred at the end of the last Ice Age that caused a sudden melting of ice, while scientists are beginning to believe an impact did occur it actually resulted in sudden cooling instead of heating. Yet these two ideas do not make up for all the incorrect assumptions Berlitz’s writes.

Atlantis: The Eighth Continent is packed full of cultural information from around the world that is its major appeal along with two ideas by the author that are now being debated by scientists but not to prove Atlantis. Frankly the evidence doesn’t prove Atlantis in the mid-Atlantic, but it’s a curious read nonetheless.

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Wintersmith (Discworld #34, Tiffany Aching #3)

WintersmithWintersmith by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The turn of the seasons seems like a dance orchestrated by nature to be both seamless and purposeful, but what if someone cuts in when she isn’t supposed to? Wintersmith is the 35th book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and the third in the subseries featuring witch-in-training Tiffany Aching. Unfortunately for Tiffany she finds out that when you succumb to the rhythm of the music, you find yourself in a Story and have to see it through.

Tiffany has been training with 113-year old Miss Treason, who uses subtle “special effects” to impress people, when she is taken to witness the dark morris one night. The dance that welcomes the winter draws on Tiffany and she joins in, unfortunately she comes face to face with the Wintersmith—winter himself—and he falls in love with her believing she is the Summer Lady. The problem is as time progresses, Tiffany starts exhibiting traits of the Summer Lady while the Wintersmith believes to successfully woo her, he must become human. Unfortunately Miss Treason isn’t able to help Tiffany through things as she passes away and Tiffany goes to train with Nanny Ogg as well has help Annagramma figure out how to be an actual witch in taking over for Miss Treason. In the end, Tiffany realizes she has finish things with the Wintersmith with a kiss to finish the dance.

Throughout last several books in the Discworld series, Pratchett has delved into various themes that touch upon real world issues except in the Aching books. Like the previous two books of Tiffany’s subseries, Wintersmith focuses on characters, world-building, and plotting. Although a tad older Tiffany’s continued development is seen throughout, Pratchett spends time growing the character of Annagramma while also enhancing the reputation of Granny Weatherwax. Even though this is the 34th book in the series, Pratchett is still able to world-build the Disc with elemental forces and psychological dispositions of people in various parts which are different and also the same. And finally the plotting which was well executed writing that began with a bang then suddenly took you to the quiet beginning of the story and progressing steady as you waited to find out how Tiffany was going to “end the story”.

The Tiffany Aching subseries is Pratchett giving young adults an introduction to the Disc with is interwoven strains of fantasy and humor. Wintersmith is a fun, easy read that gives even adults a fresh look at their favorite series.

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Discworld

Thunderball (James Bond #4)

ThunderballThunderball
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Coming off the huge success of Goldfinger, the fourth Bond film had the unenviable task of following it a year later with high expectations.  Based upon the eighth Bond novel by Ian Fleming which was itself a novelization of a unfilmed screenplay, Thunderball was a mixture quality action sequences and slow pacing that created just a bit of a letdown from the franchise’s previous installment.

After killing a high ranking SPECTRE operative, James Bond is recuperating at sanitarium where he unknowingly interactions with SPECTRE agents that are beginning the organization’s latest project of stealing two atomic bombs and ransoming NATO.  After the successful theft of the bombs, Bond is called to London for an emergency 00 conference and after looking at the dossier, convinces M to send him to Nassau.  Soon after his arrival, Bond meets SPECTRE’s Number Two Emilio Largo who masterminded the operation and arouses Bond’s suspicions.  Bond joined by Felix Leiter and MI6 agents in the Bahamas begins searching for the missing NATO plane while also playing a cat-and-mouse game with Largo and various SPECTRE agents.  Upon finding the missing plane and confirming Largo has them, Bond along with U.S. Coast Guard divers battle SPECTRE off the shore of Miami to secure one bomb.  Then infiltrating Largo’s ship, Bond is able to stop the man’s attempt to get away with the last bomb.

While Thunderball was the most financially successful Bond film until Live and Let Die, comparing it to earlier films and looking at it critically there were significant issues that affected the overall presentation.  The first and most importantly was the pacing at the beginning of the film, especially when Bond was in the sanitarium.  The slow beginning could have been tightened in numerous ways while not losing important plot developments.  The second were the numerous underwater sequences, save the battle off Miami, which simply took too much time each without equal story development.  Connery’s performances was once again top notch, Adolfo Celi’s Emilio Largo was an impressive villain, and Luciana Paluzzi’s femme fatale Fiona Volpe were stand out performances throughout the film.  But the highlight and most memorable part of the film was the climatic underwater battle, which was skillfully choreographed.

Thunderball, while not close to mediocre, doesn’t not compare to its predecessor.  While unfortunately dragged down by a slow beginning, the great acting and a fantastic climactic battle makes this a solidly good film.

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