War of Eagles (Op-Center #12)

0425199622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_War of Eagles by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A series of explosions around the globe has two Chinese rivals at each other’s throats and a launch of a plutonium-powered foreign-made Chinese satellite looks to be the next target, but which one and why is the question a suddenly restructured Op-Center must answer. War of Eagles is the twelfth and last book of the Jeff Rovin authored Op-Center series’ original run as Paul Hood is suddenly replaced by a three-star general as Director of Op-Center but as newly appointed intelligence troubleshooter for the new President, only to find himself working with his old command in the middle of China.

Explosions aboard a freighter in Charleston, a sugar refinery in Durban, and then at a night club in Taipei reveals a battle between the head of the Chinese secret police Chou Shin and the top general Tam Li. Yet early in the emerging situation, Paul Hood is called to the White House to become special intelligence envoy for the new President while his replacement General Morgan Carrie is on her way to takeover Op-Center. Both Hood and Carrie quickly assert themselves in their new positions much the consternation to the White House Chief of Staff and the remaining personnel of Op-Center especially Bob Herbert. After learning from Mike Rodgers that his company helped build a new Chinese communications platinum-powered satellite, which would benefit the military, the President sends Hood to China to speak with Prime Minister Le Kwan Po and expects Op-Center to help him in every way. Le, whose main job is keeping political factions at peace or the President will find someone who can, has a meeting with Chou and Tam that Chou leaves early makes Le think the Chou might target the satellite which happens to be the working theory that Hood, Rodgers, and Op-Center have as well. However, Tam plans to blow up the rocket killing Le and other Chinese ministers and bureaucrats as ruse to attack Taiwan then later “learn” it was Chou’s fault. Chou notices the unusual military activity Tam ordered and goes to investigate only for Tam to burn Chou’s plane on the runway. After meeting with Le, Hood goes with the Prime Minister to the launch while Rodgers meets with a team of Marines undercover in China to infiltrate the facility as a security team for his company. Upon learning of Chou’s death, Le becomes suspicious of Tam and decides to talk with his soldiers at the facility only to be conned by the General only to learn they’ve fled the facility. Outside the facility Rodgers helps capture the soldiers and relays where the bomb is that’ll destroy the rocket which Hood and the Marines help destroy preventing disaster. Le orders Tam arrest while Hood’s success gives the President a victory that upsets General Carrie’s superior who orders her to fire Herbert who worked outside the chain of command.

After a nice, arguably slow, setup at the beginning of the book Rovin quickly got the plot off and running along with some interesting subplots that complimented the main plot. Given this was thought to be the final Op-Center book, it was necessary to get the three big players of the organization fully out and the solutions to get Hood and Herbert gone were interesting to say the least. The three main Chinese point-of-view characters were well written and creating an intriguing counterpoint to the America POVs. Though only a secondary character, General Morgan Carrie was well written and would have been an interesting character to have led the series if it had continued, though to be honest if it had she wouldn’t have existed. While one of the better written books there were several big miscues that couldn’t be forgiven. The first was Mike Rodgers independently going after Tam escaping soldiers and not getting shot by other Chinese soldiers chasing after them as well and the second was the decision that Dr. Liz Gordon, Op-Center’s psychologist, to be a creepy lesbian—she starts formulating a plan to seduce a married General Carrie—instead of just simply a lesbian which had been hinted at earlier in the series.

War of Eagles wasn’t the best book in the original Op-Center run that was mostly lows with occasional highs, but after the awful previous installment at least Jeff Rovin sent it off well.


Treasure (Dirk Pitt #9)

0586074724.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Treasure by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A late Roman ship locked in Greenland ice changes history, but a wax tablet describing its journey could bring the treasures of the Library of Alexandria back to the world. Treasure is the 9th book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series as the titular hero goes from searching for a sunken Soviet sub to searching for a missing cruise ship with foreign heads of state and then looking for the fabulous remnants of the Library of Alexandria in Texas near the Rio Grande.

The last head of the Library of Alexandria finishes his inventory of the treasures he’s taken to be preserved in an unknown land only for his mercenaries to anger the local barbarians that attack and kill nearly everyone, except for the librarian and one ship that didn’t trust him cast off leaving him behind. Almost 1500 years later, archaeologist Dr. Lily Sharp finds a Roman coin in Eskimo village in Greenland while off the coast Dirk Pitt and Al Giordino help the U.S. Navy find a sunken Soviet sub when suddenly a commercial airliner with the UN Secretary General onboard flies overhead and crash lanes into the ice. The archaeologists, Pitt & Giordino, and the Navy personal launch rescues but find three survivors with most dead by poison but the 1st and 2nd officers killed by the missing pilot, one of the best assassins in the world. Using the equipment on the Navy ship, Pitt finds a late Roman vessel trapped in the ice with the crew preserved along with a log of the ship’s journey and why they were there. But Pitt, Giordino, and Dr. Sharp are sent to Colorado to talk with a Library of Alexandria expert and end up in a car chase after rescuing the UN Secretary General Hala Kamil from another assassination attempt, though an inept one, wanted by an Islamic cleric in her native Egypt because of her popularity. The Egyptian cleric, in an alliance with a Aztec religious fanatic in Mexico, orders his expert assassin to abduct the Presidents of Egypt and Mexico from their cruise ship at a Third World economic conference in Uruguay. The addition of Kamil who wanted to confer with both Presidents and Senator George Pitt, Dirk’s father, which the expert assassin views as both finishing his airplane job and leverage against the United States in the search. Pitt, Giordino, and Rudy Gunn takeover a NUMA ship in the south Atlantic and figure out that instead of sinking the cruise liner, a Mexican freighter was sunk and the cruiser made to look like the freighter for the benefit of satellites then wrapped in plastic that was covered in water so as to look like an iceberg to hide in the Strait of Magellan. U.S. Special Forces raid the ship, killing the Mexican terrorists who had secretly left with the VIP hostages to an old mining operation on a nearby island that the NUMA people were left only to be defeated by Pitt and others barely though the hostages saved. The expert assassin, blinded thanks to Pitt, wanting revenge kills the Egyptian cleric for setting him up for failure while he sends his deputy to kill Pitt. The NUMA computer using a map outline from the Roman ship and the journey log’s description locates the landing spot in Rome, Texas near the Mexican border. The Aztec religious fanatic inspires the poor citizenry of Mexico to gather at the border then invade the town of Rome only to be confronted by Pitt at the dig site then killed along the deputy assassin in a three-way fight before an explosion supposedly destroys the treasure and sending disappointed Mexicans back across the border. It is revealed that treasure was buried in another of the seven hills around the Texas town and that the Egyptian and Mexican religious fanatics were brothers from mixed race marriage of a three generation old crime family with tentacles around the world along with another brother who was being groomed to takeover Brazil.

Cussler takes a cue from era of the book’s publication, late 80s, and eliminates the Cold War cliché subplots instead going for Third World populism as well as religious fanaticism subplots that worked better from a story standpoint, yet the White House political and policy scenes felt like a drag to the story as a whole. If anything the Library of Alexandria element was probably the weakest subplot since beginning with Julius Caesar’s accidental partial destruction of the Library nothing from the original was left by the time Cussler’s “last librarian” buried the treasure in Texas and Alexander the Great’s mummy had probably been moved to an Alexandrian church under the false belief it was the Apostle Mark—and is probably in St. Mark’s in Venice if it was smuggled out by merchants centuries after the Muslims took over. As for the characters, the main antagonist was the expert assassin who was very formidable and almost got Pitt killed from the grave while the two religious fanatics were the typical “evil overlords” who were more secondary villains than anything else. Pitt was an over-the-top ladies’ man, having sex with both Kamil and Sharp, but got beaten up with all the fighting done over the course of the novel. However just because they had sex with Pitt doesn’t mean Kamil and Sharp weren’t interesting characters and showed an improvement of Cussler’s writing.

Treasure improved in areas over the previous Pitt installment through went back in another, but it’s overall quality was on par with Cyclops and the overall story was better. This a great adventure story with everything from treasure, assassins, political intrigue, and daring feats which is well worth your time if you’re interested in a light read over a few days.

Dirk Pitt

Secrets of the Lost Races

147960500x.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Secrets of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The seeming roller coaster of the rise and fall of civilization is made even more questioning with “out-of-place artifacts” through into the mix. Secrets of the Lost Races by Rene Noorbergen examines these items and accounts from across the globe of modern-day technology to theorize that these are leftover knowledge from an antediluvian civilization that was slowly lost.

Using the early chapters of Genesis and very peculiar fossil finds, Noorbergen makes the case for the Biblical Flood then uses the same early Biblical chapters to make a case for a highly advanced civilization that the Ark survivors remembered enough to reboot civilization that would slowly decline as thousands of years past as the knowledge was slowly lost. Throughout the book Noorbergen tackles various issues from potentially ancient sourced maps of the globe before European explorers created their own, the apparent physical evidence of nuclear war in the ancient past along with texts describing it, and the supposed concurrent existence of Stone Age cave men and various civilizations that were suppose to be thousands of years apart.

To give this book a chance one must believe in the Biblical Flood or be willing to be open to it as well as be open to Noorbergen’s interruption with it; one also has to account with the fact that this book was originally published over 40 years ago with looking at the evidence especially since further research has discounted it (the Zeno brothers) or more of a question mark. Noorbergen is very insistent that the theories of von Daniken or Sitchin that advanced technology is from extraterrestrials doesn’t make sense even though his book is very much in their vain. Yet in trying to fit in so much in around 200 pages, Noorbergen misses out on better analytical explanations.

Secrets of the Lost Races is an intriguing use of evidence that “ancient astronaut” theorists have brought further to a different purpose. While Rene Noorbergen’s interest in the Flood and Noah’s Ark is various obvious, it doesn’t take away from his theory but adds emphasis to it. If you’re interested in an alternate view of history this is something you might be interested in.

To a God Unknown

858732a8bb6246d597a6b445451444341587343To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Belief in things seen and unseen is different for everyone, yet how one acts on that belief has ramifications to others and yourself. To a God Unknown by John Steinbeck follows newly arrived Joseph Wayne has he begins a family ranch believing his father’s spirit inhabits a tree that protects the land which scares religious individuals in and around the ranch.

Joseph Wayne receives the blessing of his father, John, to leave Vermont and go to California. Upon arriving and purchasing land, Joseph receives a letter from his religious brother Burton about the death of their father but after reading the letter Joseph feels his father in a huge tree next to the house he’s building. Joseph’s three brothers and their families arrive months later and start a growing cattle ranch with Joseph always interested in the fertility of the land and his cattle while giving reverence to the tree which gets noticed by Burton. The nearby town receives a new teacher which gets every single male’s attention, but Joseph somehow gets her to be his wife and the two have a “interesting” marriage that results in a son, young John, and ends with his wife’s death at a sacred rock that is on Joseph’s land. After the ranch hosts a fiesta in which Joseph’s behavior towards the tree alarms the local priest and Burton. Burton decides to leave for a safely Christian town but removes a ring of bark around the tree leading to its death. Almost immediately the weather turns and over the next year drought devastates the ranch leading to Joseph’s brother leading what cattle he can to greener pastures while Joseph’s stays with the land. Then as he watches the last water dry up from around the sacred rock. Joseph cuts himself and sees his blood moisten the ground then thunder in the distance. He then sacrifices himself for the land and feels the rain in his dying moments.

Belief and how it affects people is the central theme of the novel, though the connection between farmer/rancher and the land goes hand in hand with it. There are also clashes of belief, from Joseph’s paganism to the Christianity of Burton and the local priest who is also in conflict with local Indian beliefs. This theme is the essential to the entire book as every character has their beliefs which make them unique and how they relate to everyone else. But while Steinbeck goes into character beliefs, it doesn’t mean they’re all well rounded characters especially the women though Joseph’s sister-in-law Rama comes close.

To a God Unknown is the last of Steinbeck’s early works before his commercial and critical success but gives a glimpse of his later more well-known works. As my first non-school related (The Pearl) Steinbeck work, I found this thought-provoking and intriguing but still a tad “rough” in style. However, if you’re interested in getting to Steinbeck try this book and see if like myself, you’re figuring out which other Steinbeck books you’ll want to read.

Bio-Strike (Power Plays #4)

0425177351.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Bio-Strike by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

In the already bloody and terror stricken 21st Century, another nightmare of biological warfare is looming thanks to Harlan DeVane who wants to show off his new “product” be getting revenge on UpLink International’s CEO Roger Gordian. Bio-Strike the fourth book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler sees UpLink’s top brass and Sword security force at first figure out what is wrong with their boss then who did it and finally how to cure it all with time slowly whittling down.

Using a genetically modified hantavirus, Harlan DeVane plays to sell the bioweapon to both sides of various conflicts across the globe but wants to take out Roger Gordian for his own pleasure due to the failure of his space terror plan several months before because of UpLink’s Sword security. The Sword operative that was the unknown mole in the previous book is forced to administer the activating viral agent that sends Gordian into intensive care and doctors scrambling to find the cause, while UpLink’s Sword leadership begins their own investigation which eventually leads to the mole who directs them to his boss a southern California drug lord in league with DeVane but suddenly finding himself in escalating situation with a cross border rival. The two drug lords have a meeting where one is killed sooner than his rival wanted, but he then dies via car bomb planted by the free agent informant who set the two drug lords up against one another. The informant then hands over a copy of a conversation between the mole and the drug lord talking about the viral activator to a Sword operative who was scouting the drug lord meet up. Based on the conversation, the Sword team is able to track down DeVane’s lab in Canada and strike at it while getting the medical samples to nullify the bioweapon and save Gordian’s life from the virus. Out tens of millions of dollars and having pissed off his clients, DeVane isn’t a happy man.

Overall the book is good, however in the overall series the story in this book appeared too soon especially after how Shadow Watch ended. DeVane went with being fine with being stopped to wanting to kill Roger Gordian in a span of months, which given that the DeVane arc will continue for several more books it seemed like a big escalation since it’ll calm down over the next few books. One of the annoying things in the book was that the President-elect of Bolivia was assassinated via the virus, but later in the book he was from Brazil and later Peru so a big editor failure. Yet despite issues I talked about earlier in this paragraph, this is probably the best book of the series as the primary plot and the various subplots were well connected resulting in very good quick read that results in time well spent.

Bio-Strike is potentially the best book of the Power Plays series, even though Jerome Preisler had DeVane’s grudge against Gordian go from 1 to 10 just like that was a weird decision it didn’t undermine the overall story. After the let down of the previous installment of the series, this book really picks things up and makes you interested where the series will go from here.

Power Plays

The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt

0802126936.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Curse of Oak Island: The Story of the World’s Longest Treasure Hunt by Randall Sullivan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The riddle wrapped in a mystery inside the enigma that is a small island just barely off the shore of Nova Scotia has tantalized and tortured people for over two centuries. The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan covers the history of the longest treasure hunt from the individuals involved in the hunt to the theories of what is or isn’t on the island including the History Channel reality series of the same name.

Building upon the Rolling Stone article he wrote 13 years before, Sullivan was invited back to the island by the producers of the reality show to write this book, appear on a few episodes of the show, and interview the Lagina brothers. Starting with the historical backdrop of the Oak Island area, Sullivan goes over the often-told discovery of the Money Pit but thorough research finds out that the named three discoverers is not agreed up as well as their biographies. Throughout his 220 year history, Sullivan goes into the numerous lead searchers as well numerous theories of who made the Money Pit and what they believed was buried in there from pirate/privateer treasure to French Royal Jewels to possessions of the Knights Templar to cultural treasures connected with Roger Bacon. The history of the last 60 years on the island which focuses on the now-deceased Fred Nolan and Dan Blankenship with their rivalry and how they joined the Laginas search as well as how the titular reality series came about is covered extensively compared to the earlier history as Sullivan had first-hand access to the participants.

Given the murky history of Oak Island, Sullivan did an excellent job and navigating everything connected with the long story of the Money Pit. However, the biggest grip I had was with the intertwining of the history and the various theories, I personally felt that it would have been better to break up the history of the search in two and have all the theories discusses in-between. Sullivan actually goes against the show’s narration of events several times in relating the history of the island and previous searchers, however he never discusses “the legend that seven must die” which is hinted at being the “curse” in the show’s open for the first four or five seasons.

The Curse of Oak Island is a fine look at the history surrounding the search of the Money Pit and the men who’ve dug on the Nova Scotia island. Randall Sullivan gave the reader an idea about the individuals who kept the search going and what they believed they were searching for while also showing the toll it took on them and the island itself. Overall it’s a fine book, but not laid out very well.

2019 Reading Plan (November Update)

What? I’m not doing anything…yet.


October was a successful month of reading as I finished five books, three of which were from my original list thus knocking that down as well.  Unfortunately, they were either very good or bad but I’ll discuss that after the stats:

Overall Total: 52/45 (115.6%)
Original List: 35/45 (77.8%)
Total Pages: 23812 (457.9)

The biography of George H.W. Bush by Jon Meacham was my completed book of the month and was excellent, a must read for anyone interested in Presidential biography.  The next book was Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien, which unfortunately is only worth the read for the last third when it covers events and persons related to the Third Age.  The next completed book was St. Thomas Aquinas On Law, Morality, and Politics which was home read that took forever because the first four-fifths of the book was excruciating and the last fifth covered really important things short and sweet.  My next completed book was a biography of J. N. Loughborough which was a weekend read and an excellent major biography of the Adventist pioneer.  My last book of the month was Shocking Secrets of American History that was shockingly awful.

Besides the five book reviews, I also made another Book Haul post about what I bought myself for my birthday via Amazon. My plan was to have read one of the books while on my vacation, but my aunt gave me a birthday present that unfortunately was awful. For those interested in my Seventh-day Adventist books, I made a page for them and put a link on the Top Level next to “Series”.

As for this month, I’m going to finish The Curse of Oak Island today so expect a review this weekend.  I’m already reading Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, don’t know if I’ll finish this month but it’s a whole lot easier to read than Aquinas.  This weekend I start a new weekend read which will be short so look for a review this month as well.  I believe I’ll get to Bio-StrikeTo A God Unknown, and Treasure from my list below this month but beyond that will just depend on how fast I read those three books.  And that’s all I got for this Update…

Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe by Chris DeRose
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation by Gilbert M. Valentine^
Soldier, Sailor, Frogman, Spy, Airman, Gangster, Kill or Die: How the Allies Won on D-Day by Giles Milton#
Raise the Titanic! (Dirk Pitt #4) by Clive Cussler
The Cosmic Code (Earth Chronicles #6) by Zecharia Sitchin
Divide and Conquer (Op-Center #7) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz^
The Histories by Herodotus*
Miracle at Philadelphia by Catherine Drinker Bowen
Shadow & Claw (New Sun #1-2) by Gene Wolfe
The End of Days (Earth Chronicles #7) by Zecharia Sitchin
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
The Political Writings of St. Augustine*
E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to the Agent of Division by Woodrow W. Whidden^
Women Warriors: An Expected History by Pamela D. Toler#
Vixen 03 (Dick Pitt #5) by Clive Cussler
Line of Control (Op-Center #8) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Peace and Turmoil (The Dark Shores #1) by Elliot Brooks+
World Mythology by Donna Rosenberg
The National Team by Caitlin Murray#
Sword & Citadel (New Sun #3-4) by Gene Wolfe
Politika (Power Plays #1) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
Night Probe! (Dirk Pitt #6) by Clive Cussler
Mission of Honor (Op-Center #9) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Lewis C. Sheafe: Apostle to Black America by Douglas Morgan^
English Constitutional Conflicts of the Seventeenth Century: 1603-89 by J.R. Tanner
Dune by Frank Herbert
Rebellion and Redemption by David Tasker^
ruthless.com (Power Plays #2) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The British Are Coming (The Revolution #1) by Rick Atkinson+
The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides*
Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner
Deep Six (Dirk Pitt #7) by Clive Cussler
Sea of Fire (Op-Center #10) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight^
The History of England (abridged) by Lord Macaulay
The Ghost, The Owl by Franco & Sara Richard+
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland#
Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
Redemption in Genesis by John S. Nixon^
Nostradamus Predicts The End of the World by Rene Noorbergen+
Three Kingdoms: Classic Novel in Four Volumes by Luo Guanzhong
Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8) by Clive Cussler
Call to Treason (Op-Center #11) by Jeff Rovin
Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George H.W. Bush by Jon Meacham
Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
On Law, Morality, and Politics by Thomas Aquinas*
J.N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian E. Strayer^
Shocking Secrets of American History by Bill Coate+
The Curse of Oak Island by Randall Sullivan+
Bio-Strike (Power Plays #4) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
To A God Unknown by John Steinbeck
Treasure (Dirk Pitt #9) by Clive Cussler
War of Eagles (Op-Center #12) by Jeff Rovin
Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Cold War (Power Plays #5) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
Dragon (Dirk Pitt #10) by Clive Cussler

The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

*= Original Home Read
^= Home Read
#= Giveaway Read
+= Random Insertion