2019 Book Haul #4 “Birthday Edition”

DSC00706
Retailer Amazon

So unless I go completely crazy in the last few months of the month, this will be my last haul of the year and basically it was a birthday present to myself because why not.

So let’s begin at the top. Both books are by Dr. Steven Collins that I decided to purchase after seeing YouTube videos about the topics these books are about.  The first is Let My People Go!: Using Historical Synchronisms to Identity the Pharaoh of the Exodus, which is pretty straightforward as Collins makes the case for a Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty (not the 19th Dynasty’s Ramesses II) being that of The Exodus.  The second is Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City that Collins recounts his digs in Jordan and evidence he believes that he’s identified where Sodom was located.  These two book will be read in-between the Adventist Pioneer biographies I read on weekends.

The middle book is The War of Wars by Robert Harvey, subtitled The Epic Struggle Between Britain and France: 1789-1815, thus obviously covers the wars of Revolutionary/Napoleonic France against all those coalitions that Britain-led through it’s purse and later militarily.

The bottom are a part of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, his graphic novel series White Sand Volumes 1 & 2.  These two book will be the first read, given their short length, so you might see them appear sometime this week or next.

Advertisements

St. Thomas Aquinas On Law, Morality, and Politics

448838On Law, Morality, and Politics by Thomas Aquinas
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Combining the Neo-Platonist influenced theological and political thoughts of St. Augustine with Aristotelian influenced reasoning, St. Thomas Aquinas drastically changed medieval theology and political thought which would far-reaching consequences ever since. On Law, Morality, and Politics is a selection of excerpts from Aquinas’ Summa Theologica and two from On Kingship that provide the reader a glimpse at his thinking.

Of the roughly 280 pages in this collection, almost four-fifths of dedicated to the exploration of law and justice in various facets. The minute differences between types of law (divine, natural, and human) that Aquinas discusses in full then the various types of justice is a mind-numbing exercise of reading that almost makes one throw away the book. The final fifth of the book of selections features a little morality but mostly on politics from leadership to church-state relations of various types. With exception of the two selections from On Kingship, Aquinas’ style of listing objections to the points he is about to make then stating his opinion and finally replying to the previous objections is rather self-aggrandizing. Yet save for a short introduction, there was no commentary to help the layman reader to understand what Aquinas was saying—though in the last fifth of the book it was easier because Aquinas’ thoughts were straightforward compared to the law and justice sections—and making it hard to keep reading.

On Law, Morality, and Politics by St. Thomas Aquinas is a collection of excerpts, with two exceptions, from his most famous work yet only the last fifth of the book is clear cut and straightforward. The lack of commentary to help the read understand what Aquinas is trying to make clear and why it is important makes understanding the thinking of the man hard.

Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth

0544337999.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The legendarium of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is vast and not everything was fully written out, however that doesn’t mean the incomplete material isn’t interesting. Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth is a complication various stories begun and partially revised by J.R.R. Tolkien then edited into a somewhat readable fashion, along with alternate versions, by his son Christopher that reveal backstories from all Ages of Tolkien’s world.

The first two-thirds of the book covers the First and Second Ages with focuses in the former on Tuor journey to Gondolin and more details to the Children of Hurin while the latter focused on various elements of Numenorian history and the history of Galadriel and Celeborn. The last third of the book focuses on the Third Age with background stories and histories to various events and people that feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings from the disaster at Gladden Field when Isildur dies and the One Ring is lost to the foundation of the friendship of Gondor and Rohan to the Battles of the Fords of Isen and Gandalf’s view of the Quest of Erebor and the Nazgul’s hunt for the One Ring. And on top of those backstories are histories on various people and items featured in the four books, namely the order of the Wizards.

Unlike The Silmarillion in which Christopher Tolkien edited his father’s writing into narrative chronicle, he left his father’s work unfinished and supplemented them with alternative versions that his father hadn’t rejected. This decision made the first two-thirds of the book a chore to get through or simple something to skim, however in the last third of the book the tales and histories were essentially complete with only some details not decided upon by the elder Tolkien before his death thus making for a better read. Frankly it’s this final third which is the highlight of the book especially anything related to the elder Tolkien’s most famous works, in particular is “The Quest of Erebor” that connects The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings together than just the One Ring.

Like The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales is for hardcore Tolkien enthusiasts that want every detail they can get from J.R.R. Tolkien. Though the final third of the book has material that general readers might enjoy if they loved the author’s two well-known books, it might not be worth the money to buy this book new for it.

Tolkien

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush

1400067650.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Coming to the Oval Office at a critical time in foreign and domestic affairs, the Presidency of George H.W. Bush was filled with successes and failures but guided by a steady hand. Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham brings together independent historical research and interviews from the former President and numerous family members as well as political colleagues and advisories to bring the life and career of the 41st President to readers.

Meacham begins the biography with a family history of G.H.W. Bush’s father and mother showing how their lives were shaped that would influence their second son and made him the competitive though ego suppressing individual he was. Though Meacham gave overall historical background for certain situations, this was a book focusing on the life of G.H.W. Bush and what he did throughout his life from his post-war decision to forgo an easy career on Wall Street to join the oil business to Texas and being his own man in politics and not agree with everything his father Prescott believed while serving in the Senate. A political career that had as many defeats as victories, G.H.W. Bush’s path to the White House was through public service, especially throughout the 1970s especially in the diplomat sphere that would later impact his handling of foreign affairs of his Presidency. Meacham covers the Vice Presidential and Presidential terms in detail which cover over half the book before ending with the former President’s unique retirement as elder statesman and father of a serving President of the United States and an analysis of his relationship with his son during those years.

Taking roughly a decade of research, interviews, and writing Meacham presents a thoroughly well-rounded view of the 41st President, Barbara Bush, and their relationships with their children within reason. The elder Bush and Barbara allowed Meacham a free hand in written and this is evident in their attitudes to individuals being put in print and Meacham analysis of various controversies particularly Iran-Contra scandal. If there is one drawback is that at the time of publication the 41st President was still alive with several years left to live and express his views on things, but also a biography after the subjects death allows time afterwards to fully analyze their lives and that difference was evident.

Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush is a very written and thorough biography of the 41st President of the United States. Like his other biographies, Jon Meacham’s research and analysis give a vivid description of his subject and his family. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in the 41st President or the particular time in the 20th Century when he was in office.

2019 Reading Plan (October Update)

70341381_10156522618307031_1267761409614151680_o
What are you looking at?

Hello,

September was a surprising reading month as I completed four books for the month, which pushed me past my overall goal for the year.  But before we go into specifics, let’s look at my stats.

Overall Total: 47/45 (104.4%)
Original List: 32/45 (71.1%)
Total Pages: 21427 (455.9)

Once again I’ve achieved my overall goal for the year with plenty of time to spare, now I’m going to attempt to get my “original” list done or as much of it has possible. But on to that later.

So while reading my longest book ever and really making progress in Aquinas, I decided to read Nostradamus Predicts by Rene Noorbergen at home. Let’s just say, I’ve renewed reading Aquinas with a better appreciation in comparison but I’m also a bit worried for the future because I have two other books by Noorbergen (not about Nostradamus) on my shelf. I completed my longest book ever, Three Kingdoms a classic Chinese historical novel that covers the period before and during the titular time in Chinese history and frankly I enjoyed it even though it was 2339 pages over four volumes. I changed things up with the next Dirk Pitt book, Cyclops, which was a nice installment. The last book I completed was Call to Treason, or Jeff Rovin was told the series is ending after the next book so he doesn’t care and it showed.

This coming month I’ll first being reading Destiny and Power, the 2015 biography of George H. W. Bush by Jon Meacham, which I started at the end of last week. I’m actually progressing in Aquinas and so I’m optimist that I get it done in October. I believe I’ll time to read Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales before I go on vacation on the 19th.  And stated previously I will be reading The Curse of Oak Island before November 5, so I expect to start reading that sometime this month.

Well that pretty much covers it.

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
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

Call to Treason (Op-Center #11)

0425195465.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Call to Treason by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The death of a British financial giant after attending a party hosted by a U.S. Senator that’s ready to start a third-party run for the White House grabs headlines then a suddenly downsized Op-Center gets a call from Scotland Yard. Call to Treason is the eleventh book written by Jeff Rovin of the Op-Center series as a suddenly out-of-work Mike Rodgers is recruited by Senator Orr to be apart of this third-party run for the White House when Op-Center begins investigating the death of a British financier who’s business ideas opposed those of the Senator thus forcing Rodgers to make some hard choices as events unfold.

General Mike Rodgers attends a party thrown by Senator Don Orr and finds himself being recruited to join the Senator’s team for a run for the White House, also at the party is British financier William Wilson who hours later is killed in his hotel room by an unknown woman with an injection underneath his tongue. The next day Rodger’s learns from Paul Hood that Op-Center’s budget has been slashed and he is out of a job which makes his decision to join the Orr campaign easy but then Darrel McCaskey gets a call from Scotland Yard to take a look at the Wilson’s death he finds the injection site with he coroner and suddenly Op-Center is investigating the death and having to investigate Senator Orr’s party guests and his staff making Rodgers be in a tough spot. Orr’s soon to be Vice Presidential candidate Admiral Link, a former head of Naval Intelligence and director of covert ops at the CIA, thinks this is Hood trying to get Op-Center’s funding back and is hostile to Rodgers. Then a American businessman is murdered the same way as Wilson making it appear like a serial killer, but McCaskey’s wife Maria Corneja sees it as a way to distract from Wilson. The two hit the pavement and the misdirection gets them to focus on Link and Orr’s staff, which results in Link sending an E-bomb to Op-Center that knocks out all their electronics and kills someone. Though he had told Hood he was resigning that day, Rodger’s is pissed at the death of a coworker and tells Hood he didn’t official change his resignation date and will join the investigation. McCaskey and Corneja find out that a Washington detective was being blackmailed then using information that Rodger’s remember from his interaction with Orr’s staff arrest the killer while Rodgers realizes he’s being had at the third-party convention in San Diego when suddenly Link is kidnapped. However, Rodger’s figures out that the target is Orr and stops his abduction then locates Link who admits that he had the second victim killed to keep his plan to discredit Orr and force him out of the race especially after Orr had Wilson killed. Orr and his staff are arrested the next day and Rodgers effectively kills the newborn third party.

From the beginning this book was a mess, the first thing was slashing Op-Center’s budget in the era of Homeland Security and the War on Terror which were referenced in the book when the exact opposite would have happen especially given Op-Center’s record of taking out terrorists. The downsizing was essentially a vehicle to get Rodgers on Senator Orr’s team to make his conflict of interest to add to the story, only it became frustrating since it rolled back character development of several books. But the worst part of the book was the unreliable narrator device Rovin used for two character POVs to create a surprise twist at the end of the book, however given that over 10 books and every other POV in this book he had never used this device before thus making it’s inclusion problematic at best or just plain lying to readers at worst. The only good thing I could say about this book were the McCaskey’s interacting with one another.

Call to Treason is the penultimate book in the first run of the Op-Center series, but it’s probably the worst. Since finishing the book my view of it has diminished a lot as it seemed that Jeff Rovin was told that the series would be ending after the next book, War of Eagles, and he decided to just call it in. The result was a insult to readers who were teased with a potentially interesting political thriller and were instead given a Swiss cheese novel with glaring plot holes and diminished characters.

Op-Center

Cyclops (Dirk Pitt #8)

0671704648.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Cyclops by Clive Cussler
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Off the coast of Cuba is a small isle and a shipwreck unconnected with one another until a wealthy financier off treasure hunting in his blimp disappears, soon they’ll connect everything from the moon to a lost Amazonian treasure. Cyclops is Clive Cussler’s 8th Dirk Pitt book in which his titular character flies the skies in an antique blimp, escapes then returns to a secret Soviet base, and save the city of Havana from a fiery fate.

A U.S. ship named Cyclops is carrying a legendary gold statue from a fabled Amazonian city when a rogue wave sinks the vessel in 1918, roughly 70 years later financier Raymond LeBaron with his two men crew goes searching for the ship in his antique blimp and disappear. Several weeks later, Dirk Pitt’s sailing race is ruined when LeBaron’s blimp reappears on a crash course towards a beach front hotel that Pitt stops thanks to help from people on the beach. But instead of LeBaron and crew in the blimp, there are three dead Soviet Cosmonauts that Feds quickly get from the Miami police after they learn from Fidel Castro that he put them in the blimp in a secret communique because he wants to separate from the Soviets. This is just something more on the President’s plate as he has just learned that a group of industrialists, government officials, and military officers had for two decades planned, constructed, and ran a colony on the moon with the colonists about to return after six years. Unfortunately for the secret group, the Soviets have found out about the colony and attempt to capture it only for the colonists to kill the Soviet soldiers who had only five days to prepare. Pitt is recruited by LeBaron’s wife to find her husband, but Mrs. LeBaron plans to fly to Cuba to give Castro the President’s answer but the Cuban military attacks the blimp resulting it in crashing into the sea close to the site of the Cyclops demise but they find the treasure is missing after diving the wreck but find a body of a old time diver. Pitt, Mrs. LeBaron, Al Giordino, and Rudy Gunn then make their way to a nearby isle off Cuba only to stumble upon a secret Soviet base. This base is a top secret listen station as well as the headquarters from a planned Soviet takeover the Cuba to install a puppet Communist government while planning the Americans. Pitt escapes, but the CIA spreads the story that he is dead as disinformation to the Soviets as they plan to attack the base and knock it out. But they move up the timetable after they learn the Soviet government wants to use the base to get a suddenly stuffed Space Shuttle to land in Cuba to take all the information from the moon colony. Pitt and the CIA capture and destroy the base just in time for the Shuttle to land in Keys though Raymond LeBaron dies, but on their return to the CIA transport Mrs. LeBaron puts a gun in Pitt’s gut and forces him to head to Cuba and Castro. The two make their way to Havana and the Swiss Embassy where they’re informed of the Soviet plan to assassinate Castro but they can’t find the supposed low yield nuclear, but after learning what the cargos of the three ships the Soviets sent to Havana were Pitt figures out the plan to firebomb the city. Pitt and roughly two dozen CIA agents hijack two of the Soviet ships and get them out as far as they can out of the harbor before the Soviet’s destroy them hours early that results in roughly 3000 casualties instead of essentially the entire city. Castro survives and kicks the Soviets out while accepting aid from the U.S. under the Red Cross then gives Pitt a ship with a crane after figuring out where Raymond LeBaron, who had found the Amazonian treasure to start his financial empire and killed his partner 30 years before, left it.

Unlike the previous two books, Cussler steered clear of Constitutional issues which was a welcome development however there were major chronological issues in connection with events in the last two books but that didn’t really matter much overall. Although due to the time period when this and other novels in the series were published, the Cold War aspect along with the horrible cliché Soviet characters and Communist world takeover agenda just drags down the enjoyment of the novel especially since real life showed that this was a paranoid American idea. Cussler’s characterization of women improved overall, though there were one scene which was gawd awful, with Mrs. LeBaron especially in relation with Pitt. As to the main character, Dirk came off as incredibly lucky throughout the novel though did have moments of brilliance that didn’t come off as Gary Stu.

Cyclops improves in quality over its predecessor as Clive Cussler works together three different story arcs into a fun, intriguing novel. Though the Cold War aspect and associated stereotypes connected with it got annoying, it didn’t ruin the book. Overall this is a fun action-adventure novel for anyone wanting to spend a few days reading.

Dirk Pitt