Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3)

0425171884.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Shadow Watch by Jerome Preisler
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The 21st Century from its inception has been bloody and prone to new security risks with UpLink International seemingly connected in some way, then the Space Shuttle explodes on the launch pad. Shadow Watch is the third book in Tom Clancy’s Power Plays series written by Jerome Preisler that sees UpLink and its Sword security forces come up against a different type of adversary that sees Roger Gordian’s idealism as a threat to his black-market businesses.

The Space Shuttle Orion catches fire and explodes on the launch pad killing its commander as Roger Gordian is an eyewitness as UpLink is the major contractor of the ISS that Orion was to begin construction. Several days later a mercenary force attacks an UpLink run ISS related facility in Brazil, which makes the next ISS-related launch by the Russians seem like the next target. Which is what Harlan DeVane and his mercenary leader want not only UpLink but the Russians to believe as well. But DeVane wants the “attack” to be a diversion so that his mercenary chief can plant a device on the ISS component to turn it into a weapon he can attack and blackmail governments with, however UpLink’s new Sword operative sniffs out the plan and prevents the device from being installed though the mercenary agent escapes. But DeVane gives UpLink its due but moves on to the next project.

Unlike the two previous books in the series, this one is pure setup for the future installments because it introduced several significant characters though at the expense of a focused story that all the plotlines easily connected with one another. The book bounces all over the place from Cape Canaveral to Brazil to San Jose to Maine to Bolivia to Albania to Kazakhstan with a specific plotline (or several) in each location that related to the main plot but honestly some could have been scrapped. Preisler dedicated an entire chapter to a Brazilian train disaster caused by a smaller version of the device that DeVane planned to install on the ISS component, but it was separated into about five different points-of-view that just made it weird and essentially seem like filler. The feel of the entire book was just setting things up for future books.

While Shadow Watch isn’t necessarily a good book, it’s alright and frankly meant to introduce many characters that will prove pivotal to future installments of the series. Once again dealing with creating a story around a computer game, Preisler did a passable job but not as good as either of the two previous books in the Power Plays series.

Power Plays

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Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland

1536209414.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain & Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchanged for an honest review.

Created to entertain one night and retold over the years then centuries, folktales came down to the early modern times in oral form before being written down before they were lost forever. Between Worlds: Folktales of Britain and Ireland by Kevin Crossley-Holland is collection of nearly 50 tales that cover a variety of fantastical territory. Amongst the titles that I personally liked “The Dead Moon”, “Fair Gruagach”, “Mossycoat”, and “The Dauntless Girl” while the entire section entitled “Wits, Tricks, and Laughter” was a waste. While the primary audience is for middle school children, as an adult I did have a nice time reading the book overall though there were some stretches where I was just making it through several stories until a decent one came up.

The Silmarillion

0544338014.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The creation of Middle-earth and its First Age is presented in both mythical and historical accounts that set the stage for The Lord of the Rings in the world’s Third Age. The Silmarillion is the posthumously published collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s worldbuilding tales concerning the creation and history of Middle-earth focusing on the First Age but also delving into the relevant history leading to the War of the Ring.

Middle-earth was created through song by the Ainur, though one of their number—Melkor—attempts to disrupt the tune three times but it overpowered by Eru (God). Eru then showed the Ainur a vision of the world and offered them the chance to enter it and rule, many took up the offer including Melkor. While many of the Ainur, the more powerful Valar and lesser Maiar, attempted to create a world for the Elves and Man, Melkor repeatedly destroyed their work and seduced some of the Maiar to his side, including Sauron. The book then shifts into the Tale of the Simarils, which were three jewels crafted by the Elf Feanor that glowed with the light of the Two Trees that were the only source of light before the Moon and Sun were created by the last remnants after their destruction by Melkor who then killed Feanor’s father and stole of the Simarils. Feanor long duped and corrupted by Melkor’s lies leads the Nordor Elves out of the West to Middle-earth to regain the jewels and do terrible things while Feanor and his sons make a dark oath to recover the jewels. Over the next 500 years, the various Elven groups in Middle-earth battle the now entitled Morgoth and his minions while later to be joined by Men. But the curse of Feanor devastates the Nordor and all that become related to them or allied to them or that touch the Simarils. Eventually a Elf-Man, Earendil arrives in The West to beg for help against Morgoth and the Valar with those Elves that hadn’t join the Nordor attack Morgoth and overpower him but the Simarils are lost in Space, the Sea, and the Earth until the End of the World. The book then gives an overview of the Second Age and the time of Numenor, their glory and fall by the lies of Sauron who’s defeat by the Last Alliance ends the Age and disperses his power for a time. And finally, the book ends with the overview of the creation of the rings of power and the Ring by Sauron then an overview of the lead up to and through the War of the Ring as seen in The Lord of the Rings.

While Tolkien did have some wonderful worldbuilding ideas, the mix of mythical and historical tales were hit-and-miss with a lot of dryness poured on. While there is a somewhat narrative framework to the book, there is no narrative flow. Though some of this can be attributed to the intermixture of tales that bent towards the mythical or the historical, they weren’t meshed together very well and that is probably because of the posthumous nature of the book as Tolkien’s son Christopher put the book together and added sections using his father’s notes to bridges things within a large framework but there was a randomness to things.

Overall The Silmarillion should be seen a collection of mythical and historical tales within a large framework, but one that doesn’t mesh well and at times is disjointed. This is a book for hardcore Tolkien fans not general readers who would be stratified with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien

The Ghost, The Owl

1632293595.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Ghost, The Owl by Franco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One night a ghost of a little girl appears dancing across a lake getting the attention of an owl, while other animals ignore her the owl decides to help her. Using little bits of information that each has and their own pasts, the two discover why the ghost appeared along with a threat to the owl’s forest home. Despite threats from others, the owl continues to the help the little ghost who can protect the person that brought her spirit out from the grave to wander the woods that she did when alive. The Ghost, The Owl is a 48-page book wonderfully written by Franco and beautifully illustrated by Sara Richard, but it is the latter’s drawing that makes this a must buy and read.

The History of England (abridged)

f019e13e6b24a025969336e6741444341587343The History of England by Thomas Babington Macaulay
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The progress of history is ever moving forward, away from superstition and autocracy towards free-thought and greater liberty, at least that what Lord Macaulay believed. In his The History of England (from the Accession of James the Second), Macaulay brings forth “the Whig interpretation of history” for the first time that changed how history was interpretation for the next century.

This abridgment of Macaulay’s five-volume history of events leading up to the Glorious Revolution during James II reign through the death of William III begins with Macaulay’s purpose for his work. The first half of the abridgment covers how James II began his reign by slowly alienating his traditional supporters in the Anglican Church and Tory county squires by putting Roman Catholics in high positions and supporting the Irish against Anglo-Scot colonists. Even though he survived one rebellion early in his reign, James kept on escalating his efforts until both “Exclusionist” and Tory politicians—including moderate Roman Catholics—joined forces to invite William to take the throne. The second half of the abridgment covers William’s invasion and the Revolution in all three Kingdoms, not just England. While the English portion was political rather than martial, it was not the same in Ireland and Scotland as battles between those supporting James and William took place in bloody fashion though mostly in Ireland. Another bit of history was the religious aspect of the Revolution, while in England there was more toleration in practice which included Roman Catholics it was a different matter entirely in Scotland were Presbyterians retook control after suffering under Restoration policies for over 30 years. Finally, the effects of the Revolution on finance and Parliamentary corruption are examined before Macaulay’s final summing up.

While Hugh Trevor-Roper did an admirable job in selecting portions over five volumes into approximately 550 pages, it is also the main problem with the book. With such a reduction of Macaulay’s prose, the reader gets glimpses of his thoughts and intentions but without consistency the reader doesn’t get the importance of the overall work. As for the work itself, Macaulay’s bias of excusing his hero (William III) and aggressively character assassinating those he dislikes (Marlborough), is one of the biggest flaws.

The History of England is a glimpse into the larger work of Lord Macaulay that really doesn’t give the reader a constancy to see why it was such an important piece of historical literature. If given the choice, I would have chosen five books of the total work over a short abridgment.

A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier

0828025622.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier by George R. Knight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the pivotal figures during the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference session on the debate about the Adventist view of righteousness by faith, he become one of the most influential leaders of the church for a decade before his extreme leanings lead him into apostasy. George R. Knight’s A.T. Jones: Point Man on Adventism’s Charismatic Frontier follows the life and career of one of Adventism’s most important figures for both good and ill as well as how he went from almost being General Conference President to be disfellowshipped in less than a decade.

Bringing decades worth of research and materials, Knight essentially begins his biography on Jones with his conversion to Seventh-day Adventism and the beginning of his ministerial career months later. He talent and ability got him noticed by the Whites and other denomination leaders allowing him to go to California to begin teaching at and editing denomination periodicals, including those focused on religious liberty. While in California, Jones met and studied with E.J. Waggoner forming a partnership that would last the rest of their lives during which they would oppose “the establishment” in the denomination beginning in the lead up to Minneapolis in 1888 and continuing even as they got General Conference leadership positions. After following the ramifications of the Minneapolis, Knight continued chronicling Jones’ life and career including his need to go to the extreme in his logic, arguments, and beliefs which would eventually lead to his battle against the denomination’s organizational structure that would force him against A.G. Daniells and joining the side of John Harvey Kellogg that would see both disfellowshipped from the church.

Given Jones controversial place in Adventist history, Knight was clear on which positions and theological developments that Jones championed are still with Adventists and which were too extreme officially but still have an influential strain even today. A part of this divide is how Ellen G. White reacted and corresponded with Jones on his thoughts and beliefs as well as the relationship between the two over the course of two decades. Unlike his colleague Waggoner, Jones’ family life was unfortunately not covered much but as Knight pointed out he late in his biography it was because he was never home to be a real father and husband or lived in the same state as his family during important periods in his life.

A.T. Jones gives a detailed view into the life, teachings, and career of one of the most important individuals in Adventism at the turn of the century. George R. Knight covers the ups and downs of Jones’ life as well as explaining his positions and how he developed them, but in a very readable and understandable way for lay readers without getting too technical. A highly recommended book for those interested in Adventist history.

2019 Reading Plan (August Update)

DSC00507
Just Leave Me Alone

Hello,

July was an unusual month for my reading, but I was able to finished four books including three that were completely read in this past month.  As a result I’m four-fifths of the way to my yearly goal and am almost three-fifths of the way through my original reading list.  Here’s the stats:

Overall Total: 36/45 (80%)
Original List: 26/45 (57.8%)
Total Pages: 15780 (438.3)

My first finished book of the month was a home read, The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. One of the classics of history and though he could be a bit dry at times, Thucydides was a master historian who died before he completed his work but he inspired others to finish his account of the war (which I’ll read at some future time). My first complete book of the month was Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner that was novel composed of seven short stories that fizzled. Then came the next Dirk Pitt book, Deep Six, that was fun adventure read but the Cold War element (published in the 80s) was just tiresome. And finally the last book I finished was a reread, Sea of Fire, which was the tenth book of the Op-Center series and the last of the original run that I had read (I purchased books 11 & 12 but didn’t read them…college and all).

This month is shape up to be interesting. Early on (the 2nd or 4th) I be finishing the book I’m currently read, The History of England (see list below). Next will come J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, the book of legends surrounding the history of Middle Earth. Then comes a reread of Shadow Watch, the third book in the Power Plays series, which so far is holding up better than the Op-Center books did early on. And finally the biggest book of the year at 2339 pages, the four volume Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong (translated Moss Roberts). Also there will be miscellaneous books from weekend reads to short graphic novels.

Anyways that’s what has happened and what the plan is. Talk to you later.

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
The History of England by Lord Macaulay
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Shadow Watch (Power Plays #3) by Jerome Preisler- REREAD
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
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

On Law, Morality, and Politics by Thomas Aquinas
The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

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