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Earlier 2018 Book Reviews

Review of Sphere

The author, Michael Crichton, presents a story about a spaceship found in the middle of the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 1000 feet. The “Encounter Team” is made up of civilian scientists, but headed and supported by U.S. Navy personnel. For the most part, the story unfolds through the perspective of a psychologist, Dr. Johnson.

It is assumed that the spaceship is of alien origin, but it becomes clear that it is actually a U.S. spacecraft from the future, at least 100 years in the future. Thus, all hopes of meeting an extra-terrestrial biological entity (EBE) collapse and the unraveling of the mystery becomes paramount. Adding to the conundrum is the fact that the spaceship appears to have been embedded within the coral beneath the sea for 300 years. Therefore, themes of astronomical significance, like black holes, are discussed by the characters.

Be it known, an entity (alien) is encountered within the spaceship–the sphere. Not to give away any secrets of the novel other readers may enjoy, I will leave it at that.

I found the scientific discussions and facts interesting. The characters all seemed to be quite juvenile, despite being leading scientists in their fields. Overall, 3 stars.

Posted on June 3, 2018

aliens, award-winning authors, fiction, Sci-fi, stories, thriller, ufos

fiction, intrigue, psychology, sci-fi, stories, technology, technothriller, UFOs


Review of Origin

Once again, Dan Brown delivers a riveting story in the next adventure of his erstwhile symbologist, Robert Langdon. For me, the previous story, Inferno, was absolutely breakneck thrilling. Origin takes us to a new setting-Spain-where the advocates for science face-off against those of religion, especially the Catholic Church and some factions thereof.

In this novel, Brown has ramped-up the technology aspect with a supporting character named Winston, a highly evolved artificial intelligence computer created by Edmond Kirsch, a brilliant computer scientist and inventor.

The story is much too complex to do it justice here, but suffice it to say that Kirsch plans to prove in a global broadcast presentation that God does not exist by showing that life on Earth was created by pure physics interactions. Heady stuff, to be sure.

However, before he can finish his presentation he is assassinated, which sends Langdon and the future queen of Spain, Ambra Vidal, on the usual race for answers and truth, if not resolutions.

The pace of the story is a bit slower than previous ones, but that gives the reader time to absorb the complex issues posed about the origin and fate of humanity.

Well worth a read! 5 stars.

Posted on May 1, 2018

 architecture, cathedrals, fiction, legends, mysteries, nature, science & technology, stories, technothriller, thriller

action-thriller, adventure, architecture, Barcelona, beauty, Catholic Church, Dan Brown, fiction, Gaudi, intelligence, intrigue, Langdon, mysteries, nature, Sagrada Familia, Spain, stories, technology, thriller


Review of Rennes-le-Chateau: Saunière’s Secret

Many would-be treasure hunters and real-life mystery enthusiasts will find Jean-luc Robin’s in depth look at the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau and the priest fascinating. The author explores and dispels many legends, myths, and truths about Rennes-le-Chateau, France and Abbé Bérenger Saunière. In fact, there are so many of these stories that I couldn’t possibly do them justice.

In essence, the mystery revolves around Saunière, a country priest assigned to the church located in Rennes-le-Chateau in the late 1800s, and who becomes extremely wealthy almost overnight. The author explains clearly how some of that wealth may have come with firsthand knowledge derived from living on the premises of the church and contact with descendants of those who served Saunière.

It makes for an intriguing tale and shouldn’t be missed by anyone who is curious. It will also clear away many of the rumors and falsehoods that have abounded since Saunière set foot in Rennes-le-Chateau region. But, be warned, it does not answer all the questions. 4 stars.

Posted on April 2, 2018

architecture, historical, legends, mysteries, myths, non-fiction, stories

Austria, Catholic Church, Habsbourgs, historical, intrigue, investigations, Mary Magdalene, mysteries, non-fiction, Rennes-le-Chateau, Sauniere, stories, treasure


Review of Dragon Teeth

Once again author Michael Crichton weaves a tale that blends fiction and historical facts to make a fascinating story. (Sadly, Crichton passed away in 2008-truly one of modern greats.) The novel centers around a Yale student of wealth and privilege, William Johnson, who decides to go West on a bet with another student. The venture West to the Dakota and Montana Territories of 1876 is fraught with danger and led by Othniel C. Marsh, a professor of paleontology.

The search is for dinosaur bones hidden within the vast amount of rock.

Fairly quickly Johnson is abandoned in Cheyenne, Wyoming by Marsh due to unfounded suspicions that he is a spy for another professor of paleontology, one Edward Drinker Cope.

In reality and within the story, these two professors had quite the rivalry and enmity between them.

Fortunately for Johnson, he finds himself recruited by Cope and aids him on his excavations.

Johnson’s story is a vehicle to tell of the incredible finds by Cope in the wild and dangerous Badlands of Montana. Not to spoil it for you, suffice it to say Johnson does return East, a changed man. 5 stars.

Posted on March 15, 2018

award-winning authors, fiction, historical thriller, legends, stories, thriller

action adventure, adventure, Crichton, dinosaurs, dragons, fiction, historical, stories, thriller, Wild West

2017 Book Reviews

Review of The Dante Club

This is a fantastic novel by Matthew Pearl. It offers the reader an interesting and captivating mystery that must be solved by the members of the Dante Club (a real group)–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J.T. Fields. These real historical figures are perfectly positioned to solve a series of murders around Cambridge, MA. because all assist Longfellow on his translation of Dante’s masterpiece into English. The macabre crimes replicate scenes from Dant’s Inferno, which leave the Boston police baffled.

The author makes the inclusion of these real men, all primarily professors or related to literature, come alive with well-researched historical facts, settings, and dialogue of the Civil War era. Any reader that enjoys a riveting mystery, whether knowledgeable about Dante’s works or not, will delight in this wonderful story. 5 stars.

Posted on December 12, 2017

award-winning authors, classic, detective, fiction, legends, literary, mysteries, stories, thriller

Beatrice, classics, Dante, Divine Comedy, fiction, Harvard University, historical, intrigue, investigations, Italy, James Russell Lowell, literary, Longfellow, mysteries, Oliver Wendell Holmes, stories, thriller, Virgil


Review of The Mysteries of Chartres Cathedral

Readers of history with an interest in factual mysteries will truly enjoy this non-fiction book by Louis Charpentier. I have waited to read this book for a long time.

It took a long time to finish because it is detailed with important information about the famous cathedral and because of delays from my work schedule.

Gothic cathedrals have long been a fascination of mine, so to finally read this book was an utter thrill. Even though published in the 1960’s, the author presents critical information about Chartres that many historical presentations overlook.

Furthermore, Charpentier offers some answers to the mysteries of the cathedral and Gothic architecture in general. However, some mysteries remain unanswered, such as where did the technological knowledge come from in order to build these magnificent structures? Who provided the funding? Why did it take decades to build? (The Forbidden City in China, another marvel of construction, took a mere four years.)

If you are curious, then by all means read this book. Overall, it is fantastic and enlightening.

Posted on November 9, 2017

Categories architecture, cathedrals, Gothic, Knights Templar, legends, mysteries, myths, non-fiction, science & technology, stories

Tags architecture, cathedrals, Chartres, China, construction, Gothic, historical, intrigue, investigations, Knights Templar, mysteries, non-fiction, Paris, technology


Review of The Club Dumas

Literary and mystery readers will probably enjoy this novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I have enjoyed several other novels by this author. This one is steeped in the works of Alexandre Dumas, especially the characters of The Three Musketeers.
For me, I found times where the narrative thrilled me and others not so much. The former usually came from the story of the subplot relating to the Book of the Nine Doors of the Kingdom of Shadows. That storyline is the basis for the movie version of this novel, The Ninth Gate, starring Johnny Depp.
The story is far too complicated to explain (sorry). If anything I’ve written here has piqued your interest, then take the plunge and begin reading.
Overall, an intriguing read.
Now onto another Club–The Dante Club.

Posted on October 12, 2017

Categories fiction, literary, mysteries, stories

Tags Beatrice, Dante, Dumas, fiction, Johnny Depp, literary, metafiction, mysteries, stories, The Ninth Gate, The Three Musketeers


Review of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

SciFi fans and devotees of the movie Blade Runner will be interested in this unique novel by Philip K. Dick. I had been wanting to read this novel for many years, but finding a reasonably priced copy proved difficult. As a fan of Blade Runner I wanted to experience the original source material for the movie–this novel.

Quite a surprise.

The story finds Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter for the San Francisco Police Dept., living in a post-apocalyptic Earth after World War Terminal. Most everyone of means and ability have departed the forsaken Earth for colonies elsewhere in the solar system.

A group of eight rebel androids have escaped one of the colonies and have come to Earth illegally. Rick’s job is to hunt them down and kill (retire) them. Actually, a superior bounty hunter within the department had been assigned the task, but was horribly wounded by the third android he’d tracked down. Thus, the job falls to Deckard.

The key delineation between humans and the current sophisticated Nexus-6 androids lies in the body’s unconscious responses of empathy, which are elicited through a battery of questions-the Voight-Kampff test.

Deckard must first go to Rosen Associates, the maker of the androids, and make certain the Voight-Kampff test will work on the Nexus-6. At company headquarters he meets Rachael Rosen, the supposed niece of the founder, and Deckard shows that she is an android, much to the discomfort of Rachael and the elder Rosen.

Then, the hunt begins.

Empathy, especially for animals, plays a strong underlying theme within the story, which is much more philosophical, and perhaps spiritual, than Blade Runner. Also, in the novel, it is Deckard, not Roy Baty (android leader), who undergoes a significant transformation in his character.

There are many more differences between the movie and the novel, some nuanced, others quite huge.

Not wanting to provide any spoilers, I must admit that I was baffled by the ending chapters. I guess I’m not smart enough to comprehend what Mr. Dick was trying to convey.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the read. 4 Stars.

Posted on August 31, 2017

Categories award-winning authors, classic, detective, fiction, myths, Sci-fi, stories, technothriller, thriller

Tags action adventure, Blade Runner, classics, fiction, Philip K Dick, sci-fi, stories, technology, technothriller


Review of Rules of Deception

Thriller fans and readers may be disappointed by Christopher Reich’s first book in the Jonathan Ransom series, Rules of Deception. The premise of the story is that Ransom’s wife dies in a mountaineering accident with Jonathan, but he soon finds that she is not who she seemed to be when alive. His decision to investigate this oddity, though only a medical doctor, thrusts him into the dark world world of espionage, terrorism, counter terrorism, and fanatical religious zealots.

It all appears to be a good recipe for a great thriller, except for several points. First, there are way too many implausible plot points. Second, at least for me, none of the main characters are very appealing or likeable, except for a Swiss policeman named von Daniken.

Decide for yourself. I give it 2 stars and that’s being generous.

Posted on August 18, 2017

Categories CIA, espionage, fiction, political thriller, spy, stories, technothriller, thriller

Tags action adventure, action-thriller, CIA, espionage, fiction, government, intelligence, intrigue, investigations, Ransom, Reich, spy, stories, technothriller, thriller


Review of A Dance with Dragons (GOT5)

Fantasy adventure #readers, especially fans of #GOT, will rejoice in the fifth installment of George R.R. Martin’s acclaimed saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. The master storyteller returns to the beloved characters of Jon Snow and his merry band of Black Cloak wearers, Dany the Queen of Meereen, and Arya Stark, the girl of many names. For me, this book moved along much better than the last (GOT4). The plots have diverged quite a bit from what was shown on the HBO series Season 6, which is ahead of the novels. While I understand the plot changes made for television, I prefer Martin’s progressions.

Nevertheless, GOT fans will certainly enjoy either or both, as the case may be. 5 stars. Now, I await The Winds of Winter and Season 7.

Posted on June 12, 2017

Categories award-winning authors, fantasy adventure, fiction, saga, stories

Tags adventure, Dany Targareon, fantasy, George RR Martin, GOT, HBO series, Jon Snow, Lannister, Starks, Winterfell


Review of A Feast for Crows (GOT4)

Readers of #fantasy adventure, especially #GOT, may differ with me on this fourth book by George R.R. Martin in the saga A Song of Ice and Fire. For me, this book was more tedious. Maybe that was due to the lack of characters that I care about. It offered a good continuation of the ongoing story narrative within the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, but told from the point of view of previously minor characters. Wherever a chapter arose with Sansa or Arya or Jon Snow I was delighted.

Nevertheless, all the fine word craft and storytelling skills that readers have come to expect from Martin are in this book, so that is not lacking. I am eager to move on to the fifth book. Overall, this one I give 3.5 Stars.

Posted on March 14, 2017

Categories fantasy adventure, fiction, romance, saga, stories

Tags action adventure, fantasy, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, GOT, HBO series, Jon Snow, Lannister, Seven Kingdoms, Starks, stories, Tolkien


Review of The Day After Roswell

Readers and fans of UFO, alien, and ancient aliens theories will find this a very interesting book. Col. Philip J. Corso (Ret.) offers the story of what transpired (his facts) from the point of the “alien vehicle” crash near Roswell, NM in July 1947 up through the mid-1980’s.

There is tremendous detail of the U.S. Army and the Foreign Technology unit that the author worked within, as well as many tangents from that. At times, the timeline and narrative facts get lost in the tangents and self-congratulatory prose.

Sadly, other than his word, Corso does not present any tangible evidence (for the doubters). In fact, the U.S. Army purposely chose to hide the advanced technology harvested at the Roswell crash site by sending it to tech companies, such as Hughes and Bell Laboratories, whereby these companies incorporated the alien technology into their ongoing projects. Thus, the true source of their innovations was hidden forever. All of this was orchestrated by the Army’s Foreign Technology unit, which was run by the author in the early 1960’s.

Another peculiar aspect about Corso’s story comes in the form of strong statements that aliens were threatening the U.S., especially military installations, as well as Earth and its inhabitants. However, the only evidence offered is reference to cattle mutilations and human abductions, along with what sound like alien recon activities. (To my mind, if the aliens wanted to attack or destroy us, then wouldn’t they have done it by now, certainly with their superior technology, especially prior to 1960.)

Much of what he relates about aliens visiting Earth matches what I’ve seen from other credible sources-some secret.

One extremely interesting tidbit Corso relates pertains to the development of the transistor. For details on this:

http://rense.com/ufo/amcompgift.htm

or

http://beatriceco.com/bti/porticus/bell/belllabs_transistor1.html

Overall, I am glad I read the book. 4 Stars.

Posted on February 22, 2017

Categories aliens, legends, mysteries, myths, non-fiction, science & technology, ufos

Tags aliens, government, historical, intelligence, investigations, mysteries, non-fiction, Roswell, technology, UFOs
 

2016 Book Reviews

Review of A Storm of Swords (GOT3)

Readers of fantasy adventure, especially GOT, will certainly delight in George R.R. Martin’s third novel in the saga, A Song of Ice and Fire. Once again, Martin weaves a masterful tale with ingenious plot twists, tragic characters, and incredible suspense. While a blow-by-blow of the story is impossible with a novel this long and entwined, suffice it to say it is brilliant. Numerous characters meet a pointed end, and others, few to be sure, gain some slight cessation in their suffering.

Martin’s writing craft continues to sparkle as the narrative carries through various points of view of key characters. Fans of the HBO GOT series will find some divergence from the story shown on screen. I’ve enjoyed the TV series, an avid fan for sure, but found Martin’s to be clarifying in many places, as well as satisfying. One the whole, the two are pretty similar, with Martin’s being the original. Overall, a spectacular series. 5 stars. (Only 6 typo errors in over 1100 pages.)

Posted on December 13, 2016

Categories award-winning authors, fantasy adventure, fiction, saga, stories

Tags action adventure, fantasy, fiction, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, GOT, HBO series, Jon Snow, Lannister, Starks, stories, Tolkien, wildlings


Review of Contact

Readers of sci-fi will most likely enjoy this novel by esteemed scientist Carl Sagan, even if it is a bit dated by current standards. Written in the mid-1980s, the story revolves around Dr. Ellie Arroway and her connection to mathematics and the stars. These interests lead to a career in radio astronomy, especially working with the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), a field that the author worked in as well.

When a signal is received from the Vega star system by Ellie and her team, the forces for and against the revelation of more intelligent life forms in the galaxy shape up quickly and intensely. Some of the story parallels the 1997 movie version and parts of it were dropped or altered in the film. Overall, it offers a good exploration of the human reaction to such a discovery (assuming that this has not happened already, but is kept secret).

However, I found the book’s ending/resolution to be somewhat weak. Also, I am divided on whether I like the book or the movie better. Enjoy! 3 Stars.

Posted on September 26, 2016

Categories award-winning authors, fiction, mysteries, myths, Sci-fi, stories

Tags action adventure, cosmos, ETs, extra terrestrials, galaxies, government, intrigue, mysteries, NASA, Sagan, sci-fi, secrets, SETI, stars, stories, UFOs


Review of A Clash of Kings (GOT2)

Readers of fantasy adventure will know that author George R.R. Martin continues A Song of Ice and Fire in this second novel of the series. Much of the narrative, as told from the point of view of key characters, focuses on the forces of the various proclaimed kings in the realm of Westeros and beyond. The King in the North, Robb Stark, appears to be having success in skirmishes against the Lannister forces, while Renly and Stannis Baratheon argue over which of them is rightful heir to their dead brother’s throne in King’s Landing. Meanwhile, Dany struggles in distant lands, seeking help for her quest as Queen. And her dragons are growing. Jon Snow, while no king, faces trials of his own as he and the men of the Night’s Watch venture far north of the Wall. Of course, much more is happening.

Martin’s writing craft is excellent as he cleverly weaves the tale through the POV of key characters–not an easy feat in any work, especially a long one. Fans of GOT on HBO will find differences between the novel’s storylines and those of the TV series. For me, I found the novel’s storylines bring about clarity for some aspects that were unclear on the HBO series, such as the sudden appearance of Meera and Jojen when Bran and Rickon escape Winterfell. Overall, tremendously enjoyable series! 4.5 stars.

(Only three typo errors in such a big manuscript, too)

Posted on September 2, 2016

Categories award-winning authors, fantasy adventure, fiction, saga, stories

Tags action adventure, Dany Targareon, dragons, fantasy, fiction, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, GOT, HBO series, Jon Snow, Kit Harrington, Lannister, Starks, Tolkien


Review of A Wolf Called Romeo

Readers of stories about nature will certainly enjoy this bittersweet tale by Nick Jans. The author tells the true story of a remarkable wild black wolf that decided to be quite social and friendly with the residents of Juneau, Alaska, especially their dogs.

It all began one night in the dead of winter, December 2003, when the author, his wife, and one of their dogs have a close meeting with a young black lone wolf on Mendenhall Lake, part of the Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area near Juneau. Over the next seven years, until 2009, this wolf purposefully and regularly engaged with the residents and their dogs in that area, mostly in a playful manner.

Jans, a former hunter, including of wolves, and a photographer, shares the details of this wild wolf and his life (the parts that are known) in beautiful fashion, mixing in key information about this top predator species and its battle for existence on our shared home–Earth.

Humans continue to amaze me with their extreme displays of compassion and cruelty, wisdom and ignorance. In the famous words of Chief Seattle, “the Earth does not belong to us; we belong to the Earth”. 5 Stars.

Posted on July 17, 2016

Categories environment, legends, myths, nature, non-fiction, stories, wildlife

Tags Alaska, attacks, dog training, dogs, hunters, K-9, myths, Nick Jans, non-fiction, playful, romance, true story, wolves


Review of A Game of Thrones (GOT1)

Readers of fantasy adventure sagas certainly don’t need me to tell them how fantastic this first book in the series is. Author George R.R. Martin launched a tremendous series, A Song of Ice and Fire, which offers the reader an incredible story littered with numerous characters, families, and histories. It is vast in its scope, and yet the small details are not forsaken. In fact, Martin showcases his formidable story craft and writing prowess, as one would expect from such a writer.

If you are a fan of the HBO series, GOT, as I am, then you know the appeal. And, I would encourage you to read the books in the series, which will further enrich your GOT experience, and relive the TV shows as well. Yes, the books are hefty, but well worth it. 5 Stars. Onto A Clash of Kings!

Posted on July 6, 2016

Categories fantasy adventure, fiction, saga, stories

Tags action adventure, fantasy, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, GOT, HBO series, Lannister, romance, saga, Starks, Tolkien, Tyrell, Westeros


Review of Eldest (Book Two of Inheritance Cycle)

Readers, the fantasy adventure saga continues in Eldest by Christopher Paolini. Eragon progresses as a Dragon Rider and gains fame for killing a Shade at the battle of Farthen Dur, the realm of the Dwarves. But the Shade wounds him deeply, so his victory is a mixed blessing.

With Arya and Orik, a Dwarf companion, Eragon goes to the Elves hideout in Du Weldenvarden to further his training as a Rider. He and Saphira encounter both enchantments and troubles with the Elves. This narrative also gives the storylines of his cousin, Roran, and of Nasuada, the daughter of Ajihad, who now leads the Varden.

I found this book slower and more unevenly paced than the first, yet overall it held my interest. It is certainly written for young readers, as opposed to the Game of Thrones series. Nevertheless, it is an amazing accomplishment for the author in its scope and imagination. 3 Stars.

Posted on April 23, 2016

Categories fantasy adventure, young adult

Tags action adventure, Christopher Paolini, fiction, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, other worlds, Terry Brooks, Tolkien


Review of Eragon (Book One of The Inheritance Cycle)

A remarkable debut novel of epic fantasy adventure from Christopher Paolini, who was only a teenager when he wrote it. The story centers on Eragon, a teen, who, unbeknownst to him, is destined to become a Dragon Rider. Dragon Riders were the stuff of legend, but have not been seen for centuries in Eragon’s country, Alagaesia. Now, the empire is ruled by a wicked sorceror-Galbatorix.

Upon finding an egg that hatches a dragon, Eragon is thrust headlong into a world that he is not entirely prepared for, nor accepting of the responsibility that it brings.

Overall, despite some uneven pacing, the story moves along with action, mystery, and good character development. Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, grow through the help of supporting characters and dangerous situations encountered.

It is hard not to compare this work with Tolkien, Brooks (Shannara series) and C.S. Lewis (Narnia), the legends of the genre. Nevertheless, I think it stands up well and has many unique elements in its own right. Bravo Paolini! 4 stars. Now onto Book Two-Eldest:-)

Posted on March 1, 2016

Categories fantasy adventure, fiction, legends, stories

Tags action adventure, Brooks, C.S Lewis, dragons, dwarves, elves, epic, fantasy, fiction, Inheritance Cycle, magic, Narnia, Paolini, Shannara, sorcerory, stories, Tolkien, Urgals


Review of The Cairo Affair

Readers of thrillers, this stand alone novel by award-winning author Olen Steinhauer takes place a few months after the Arab Spring. An American embassy official is murdered in Budapest and may figure into a CIA plan to meddle in Libya’s growing revolution. The wife of the murdered official, Sophie Kohl, wants to know who killed him, despite not being the most faithful spouse. Sophie and four other characters, mostly in the intelligence circles of the U.S. and Egypt, each tell their version of the events leading up to the murder. Then, there is betrayal, the devilish element that runs rampant throughout the story, which makes it a character in and of itself. Presenting a story from different points of view makes it harder to follow, at times, but is entirely effective in spinning an intriguing espionage tale. Certainly in the vein of Graham Greene, but falls a little short. 3.5 Stars.

Posted on January 18, 2016

Categories award-winning authors, CIA, espionage, fiction, mysteries, romance, spy, stories, thriller

Tags action-thriller, Arab Spring, CIA, Egypt, espionage, fiction, Gadhafi, intelligence, intrigue, investigations, Libya, mysteries, Olen Steinhauer, spy, stories, thriller 

2015 Book Reviews

Review of The Templars: The Secret History Revealed

Readers, this is a must read for anyone that has delved into the myths and mysteries of the Knights Templar. The author, Barbara Frale, Ph.D, is a Vatican Archive historian. In the course of her work she discovered an important lost text relating to the Templars. The Chinon Parchment had been lost for 700 years amidst the vast holdings of the Vatican Secret Archives. Earlier this year I was privileged to view and examine in depth a replica of the original lost texts, held in Czech Republic. I bought Frale’s book after that and she does a superb and concise job on the history of the Knights Templar development and on the context in which they lived, as well as clearly de-mystifying the legends about them, such as how they became so wealthy.

The Chinon Parchment reveals several important aspects: 1) the Knights Templar were falsely accused of heresy. These fabrications were part of a larger scheme of duplicity orchestrated for years by King Philip (the Fair) of France.

2) Some of the perversions that the Knights Templar were accused of were true. However, these were taken out of context in regard to initiation into the order.

3) Most important, all of the Knights Templar were forgiven of all charges in an official Papal Bull (Granting Forgiveness) issued by Clement V, the Pope. Furthermore, the order was abolished by papal decree. Nevertheless, King Philip managed to twist the false charges into witchcraft and thus burnt some of the Knights Templar, including the Grand Master Jacques de Molay, at the stake.

This book, at long last, lays to rest all of the myths and lies about the fate of an extraordinary order–Knights Templar.  5 Stars

Posted on December 13, 2015

Categories Knights Templar, legends, mysteries, non-fiction, stories, Vatican Secret Archives

Tags Clement V, history, investigations, King Philip the Fair, Knights Templar, legends, mysteries, non-fiction, stories, truths revealed, Vatican Secret Archives


Review of The Divine Comedy: Paradiso (3of3) 

Readers of classics, I found this last section of Dante’s great work the least interesting, though the most poetic. Dante is accepted into the circles of heaven, each of which offers greater brilliance of illumination as he ascends. His account of his journey is deeply influenced by the teachings of the Greek philosophers and the Catholic Church. For this third part, I give 2 stars, which gives an aggregate rating of 3 stars for the entire work.

Posted on December 6, 2015  

Tags Aristotle,   Beatrice,   Catholic   Church, Dante,   Divine   Comedy, fiction,   heaven,   Italy,   literary,   Paradiso,   Plato,   stories,   Virgil


Review of The Complete Sherlock Holmes 

Readers and lovers of mysteries should certainly enjoy all the stories of the famed detective penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Most are narrated by Dr. Watson, the faithful sidekick of Sherlock, and provide insights to the detective’s methods of detection and resolution. I like the longer stories better, as they offer more character development, more action, and better plot points. My favorite story is The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of four “novels” that feature Holmes and Watson. 4 Stars.

Posted on November 3, 2015

Tags classics, detection methods, detective, Dr. Watson, fiction, Great Britain, intelligence, intrigue, investigations, mysteries, Sherlock Holmes, stories


Review of An American Spy 

Readers of spy thrillers will enjoy this one from Olen Steinhauer. The twists, turns, and intrigue continue in the third installment of the author’s Tourist trilogy. Milo Weaver, the reluctant spy extraordinaire of the first two stories, is thrust back into the world of espionage when his friend and former boss goes missing (after using one of Milo’s blown cover names). The stakes ramp up when a Chinese intelligence operative threatens Weaver’s wife and daughter, unless he does their bidding.
Overall, a satisfying end to a delightful and superbly written series. 5 Stars

Posted on October 27, 2015

Tags action-thriller, China, CIA, espionage, fiction, intelligence, intrigue, spy, thriller


Review of The Nearest Exit

Readers of spy thrillers, Olen Steinhauer’s second installment in the Tourist spy thriller trilogy, The Nearest Exit, surpasses the first (The Tourist). It is a masterfully written work. Milo Weaver, the moody and recalcitrant CIA spy for the Department of Tourism, continues the story from The Tourist. He must reluctantly re-enter the world of Tourism for the CIA to hunt down a mole within the U.S. government, who is feeding vital intel to the Chinese. This story is both a page-turner and profound.
Steinhauer’s writing remains superb and sublime. He may be the best spy thriller writer of the current age. Certainly, he ranks up there with the likes of Graham Greene, at least to me. 5 Stars.

Posted on October 19, 2015

Tags action adventure, action-thriller, China, CIA, espionage, fiction, intelligence, intrigue, spy, thriller


Review of The Tourist 

Readers of spy thrillers this is absolutely brilliant story. This aptly describes Olen Steinhauer’s novel, The Tourist. A wonderfully crafted tale of Milo Weaver, “a tourist” for the CIA, an operative doing off-the-books assignments. The disloyalties, manipulation, and deceit inherent to espionage are all intricately interlaced and, for Weaver, ultimately bittersweet. Well worth a read. Head and shoulders above LeCarre. Compares with Deighton, but modern. 5 Stars.

Posted on October 13, 2015

Tags action adventure, CIA, espionage, fiction, intelligence, spy, thriller


Review of Red Sparrow 

Readers of spy thrillers will most likely enjoy this debut novel by Jason Matthews, a former officer of the CIA’s Operations Directorate (now the National Clandestine Service-NCS). Matthews writes with authenticity, for sure. The story centers around the development of a Russian intelligence officer (spy) named Dominika Egorova. She is the daughter of parents less than loyal to the regime. However, at first, Dominika is highly nationalistic, until the Russian Federation’s spy handlers begin to piss her off by: 1) sending her to Sparrow (seductress) school, and 2) using her in a high level murder cover-up.

Thus begins her unconscious conversion, which becomes conscious upon assignment to trap a CIA officer, Nate Nash, who runs a CIA mole within the Russian intelligence service (SVR).

For me, Matthews offers competent storytelling, but the writing craft needs some work. His style appears to be run-on sentences (like Ludlum’s sentence fragments). 3.5 Stars.

Posted on October 6, 2015

Tags action adventure, CIA, espionage, fiction, intelligence, network, romance, Russia, spy, technology, thriller


Review of Trident K-9 Warriors 

Readers, lovers of dogs, Mike Ritland offers an enjoyable adventure into the world of Military Working Dogs (MWDs), and all that they have done for our country. The rambling narrative wanders, like an MWD doing detection work, shifting from anecdote to history to facts all involving the training, use and service of MWDs. The author, Ritland, is a former SEAL and currently develops and trains dogs for service with Special Operations Forces. If you would like to honor these extraordinary dogs, please visit the author’s nonprofit: Warrior Dog Foundation. 4 stars

Posted on August 17, 2015

Tags Belgian Malinois, dog training, K-9, Mike Ritland, Military Working Dogs, MWDs, SEAL Teams, service dogs, SOF, Special Forces, Warrior Dog Foundation, warrior dogs, working dogs


Review of The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio (part 2 of 3) 

Readers, I have made it through Dante’s Purgatorio, where with each ascending circle a “P” is removed from his forehead.This denotes the cleansing of a sin (peccata in Italian. Again, the tale is filled with personal encounters with friends or enemies (annotations help). Virgil has been replaced by Beatrice, as his guide. She represents a former true love, as well asDivine Wisdom. 3 stars (as it was more tedious).

Posted on August 13, 2015


Review of The Divine Comedy: Inferno (part 1 of 3)

Readers, I’ve decided to break the review of Dante’s famous classic story into 3 parts, since I am progressing at a snail’s pace. The first part, the Inferno tells of the protagonist’s travels into the depths of Hell, albeit at his request (for some reason). His guide for this adventure is the famous poet, Virgil, who Dante idolizes. In truth, the traverse through the nine circles of Hell presents a terrifying journey.

Pre-2015 Book Reviews

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