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.

Shocking Secrets of American History: 115 Surprising and Amusing Tales

bed9a0ebf5ac105597241716b77444341587343Shocking Secrets of American History: 115 Surprising and Amusing Tales by Bill Coate
My rating: 0.5 of 5 stars

Shocking Secrets of American History is a collection of 115 anecdotes over the course of history from the colonial period to the 20th Century written by Bill Coate. Subtitled as “115 Surprising and Amusing Tales”, this was anything but as nothing was shocking, surprising, or amusing. Besides that, there were incorrect historical information, typos, and at least one incorrect photo. For an author who taught history for sixth and eighth grade as well as college, this isn’t good product.

J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers

0828026629.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers by Brian Eugene Strayer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Advent preacher when he joined the embryonic Seventh-day Adventist movement in 1852, John Norton Loughborough would spend the next 72 years as a preacher and administrator before being the last of the pioneers to pass leaving lasting legacy to the denomination only behind Joseph Bates and the Whites. Brian E. Strayer’s J. N. Loughborough: The Last of the Adventist Pioneers is the first major biography of influential preacher, missionary, and Church historian that was a little man who cast a long shadow.

Strayer begins with an impressive family history that gives background not only to Loughborough but how he was raised, including the influence his grandfather had on his spiritual life, and how in his youth he was influenced by the Millerite message. Loughborough’s resulting spiritual wandering in the years after the Disappointment before deciding to become a “boy preacher” at age 17 among the Advent Christians then his introduction to Seventh-day movement and later conversion to Sabbath were give significant time as well. Yet 85% of the book took up Loughborough’s 72 years among the Seventh-day Adventist movement covering his time as a preacher, president of numerous conferences, missionary to fields both domestic and foreign, and finally Church historian who was the last link to the “early days” for 3rd- and 4th-generation Adventists in the late 1910s and 1920s. Throughout Loughborough’s relationships with other important and influential denominational leaders was examined including Ellen White whose admonishments were welcomed by Loughborough in contrast to other Adventist leaders some of whom would later leave and attack not only the denomination and White. Strayer covered in detail Loughborough’s fight against apostacy and his role as the first Church “historian” as well has the lasting influence he had in both areas among Adventists.

Given the place in denominational history that Loughborough, Strayer used a wide range of sources to give a thorough look at his subject including what surviving letters he could find (Loughborough burned his own) and Loughborough’s own diaries (that was saved by a nurse instead of destroyed upon his death). Unlike the only other biography of Loughborough that followed the subject’s own apologetic look at Adventist history, Strayer brought a critical eye to his subject including Loughborough’s Church history books that influenced Adventist historiography for half a century.

J. N. Loughborough is a well-written, well-researched look at the last pioneer of the Seventh-day Adventist movement. Brian Strayer showed the large footprint and long shadow this “little man” had had until this very day. This is a highly recommended biography for anyone interested in Adventist history.

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.