The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2)

5b2a8a55b5bc20e597750735951444341587343The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

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.

Dirk Pitt

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The Mallards and Their Neighbors (Old Homestead #2)

159ad30170cde40593479555251444341587343The Mallards and Their Neighbors by Neil Wayne Northey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 Bluebirds and Their Neighbors

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War

0195055446-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War by Michael F. Holt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

2018 Reading Plan (October Update)

Hello,

September saw a lot of ups and downs in my reading as I complete 5 books, which is my lowest monthly total of the year.  However I officially read my personal record breaking 63rd book on 16th with Red Rising which unfortunately was a disappointment (see review via the link below).  So the numbers for the year are as follows:

Overall Total: 64 (142.2%)
Original List: 35 (77.8%)
Total Pages: 21084 (329.4 per book)

Before I continue with my activities in September I need to go back to August. I forgot to thank everyone who gave me recommendations for Women Authors.  So thank you ErikSavageStooge, and YouKneeK for all your help.  And Stooge, you should know that I purchased an omnibus of all of Jane Austin’s novels for less than $8 from my very well visited used bookstore.  As for how I’m going to read them, I’m thinking of having them be “home reads” as part of a cycle and getting them through my local library but more on all that later.

The reasons that September was my “least successful” month are several, but the biggest has been that my “at home” reading has been none existent save for The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors.  The other is that within the first two weeks of the month, I completed four books but since then I’ve been working on The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party which while listed at 1296 pages but only 985 is actual text of which I’m only 489 of the way through (basically halfway).

Overall I think this means I won’t make it through my “original list” of 45, but that was probably going to happen anyways because after my dislike of Red Rising I decided to sell it and the other two books in the trilogy to a coworker so I only have 43 books from my “original list”.  I had been thinking about replacing them, but given that I might not even get through everything I might it probably won’t matter.

As for my plans for October, foremost is getting The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party completed. The second is getting back into my “home reads” which means completing the half finished Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives then going to another history book, probably Tacitus. I’m going to continue reading the Old Homestead series on the weekends, save for when I’m reading Light Bearers. Finally I’m going to start skimming through Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions, I won’t finish it this month but I’ll get a lot of it done. This is my reading plan for the month, as for my movie watching don’t know what’ll happen but I will be on vacation at the end of the month so maybe I’ll get that back started.

Well that’s a lot for this Update, so talk to you in a month.

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael
How’s Inky? (Living Forest #1) by Sam Campbell*
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
Beowulf
Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett
Too Much Salt and Pepper (Living Forest #2) by Sam Campbell*
Mirror Image (Op-Center #2) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight
Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo–and Still-Mo (Living Forest #3) by Sam Campbell*
Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37) by Terry Pratchett
The Wars of Gods and Men (Earth Chronicles #3) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too (Living Forest #4) by Sam Campbell*
Politics by Aristotle
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2) by Isaac Asimov
On Wings of Cheer (Living Forest #5) by Sam Campbell*
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett
Games of State (Op-Center #3) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Moose Country (Living Forest #6) by Sam Campbell*
The Rise of the West by W.H. McNeill*
The Wonder That Was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
Second Foundation (Foundation #3) by Isaac Asimov
The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake (Living Forest #7) by Sam Campbell*
Snuff (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett
The Lost Realms (Earth Chronicles #4) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Loony Coon (Living Forest #8) by Sam Campbell*
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight
The Martian by Andy Weir
Fiddlesticks and Freckles (Living Forest #9) by Sam Campbell*
Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson*
Acts of War (Op-Center #4) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Beloved Rascals (Living Forest #10) by Sam Campbell*
Sweet Sue’s Adventures (Living Forest #11) by Sam Campbell*
Calamity Jane (Living Forest #12) by Sam Campbell*
Agricola and Germany by Tacitus*
Organizing for Mission and Growth by George R. Knight*
City of God by St. Augustine
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville
The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41) by Terry Pratchett
Genesis Revisited (Earth Chronicles #4.5) by Zecharia Sitchin
Orbit of Discovery by Don Thomas*
Myths in Adventism by George R. Knight*
The Stuart Age by Barry Coward
Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5) by Brandon Sanderson*
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Balance of Power (Op-Center #5) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Abraham’s Other Son by Philip Samaan*
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
The Histories by Tacitus*
The Book of Acts by Wilson Paroschi
Jedi the Last (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part the Eighth) by Ian Doescher
Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry
Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard- REREAD
Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard- REREAD
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
Laying Down the Law by Keith Augustus Burton*
The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury
Lamarck’s Revenge by Peter Ward
Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler
When Time Began (Earth Chronicles #5) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors (Old Homestead #1) by Neil Wayne Northey*
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party by Michael F. Holt
The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2) by Clive Cussler
Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwartz
State of Siege (Op-Center #6) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3) by Clive Cussler
Divine Encounters by Zecharia Sitchin
Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

* = home read

The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors (Old Homestead #1)

a399e30aee12cdb59346d555251444341587343The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors by Neil Wayne Northey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

The Mallards and Their Neighbors

Silver Thread, Hammer Ring (Tales from the Eternal Archives #1)

0886778239-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Silver Thread, Hammer Ring by Gary A. Braunbeck
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The legendary John Henry battles the steam-drill driven by a mythical creature as part of a rivalry between two other legendary individuals in a world in which alternate history and myth combine. The night before his hammers battle a steam-drill driven by a bullheaded man, John Henry recounts the events that led him to the railroad construction company owned by Mr. Daedalus in the Confederate States of Mexico, led by President John Brown. After proving himself to the foreman Captain Tommy, Henry becomes the crew’s best worker until one day a Mr. Minos and his bullheaded assistant block the tunnel and demand the crew use their steam-drill then kill one of Henry’s co-workers. Henry challenges the machine and later meets with Mr. Daedalus who relates that Mr. Minos and he were once partners but they had a falling out as Minos only wanted money and Daedalus wanted to create for everyone. Years later, Daedalus’ son Icarus and Minos’ son, Perdix, got into a fight and Icarus beheaded Perdix but Minos caught him and chained him to the Gates of Hell that Daedalus had constructed. Incidentally the path Henry will be tunneling will lead him to said Gates and Daedalus asks him to rescue his son. Henry agrees and the next day using hammers that Daedalus says is loaned by a Mr. Thor hammers his way to the Gates of Hell, releases Icarus, and after they escape Henry returns to the contest and bests the bullheaded man and the drill.

Besides the earlier story of Odysseus, this is one of the most fantastical stories of the collection so far. The intertwining of alternate history, Greek myth, American folklore, and other bits of world mythology are expertly combined to create a great story that was slightly ruined by the somewhat out of nowhere happy ending dealing with Henry’s dead younger brother who turns up alive.

Red Rising (Red Rising #1)

034553980x-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Red Rising by Pierce Brown
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

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.