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Tsubute

bookrev: Tsubute by R.J. Archer

Continues the Adventure where Tractrix left offTsubute

Tsubute continues the adventures of the NWIDI team where Tractrix left off. Frank Morton and his collegues this time journey to Japan, with the initial intent to investigate a mysterious pyramid off the island of Yonaguni, the westernmost island of Japan.

As with his last novel, Archer interweaves facts with his fiction: in the late 1980′s, divers found underwater archeological ruins similar to the pyramids of Egypt, Maya and other ancient civilizations, much older than previous indicators of ancient civilizations in this area. In Tsubute, the NWIDI team’s investigation of this phenomena is mixed with an attack on one of their own, where they discover a tsubute, an ancient Japanese ninja weapon, that appears to have originated from the same island of Yonaguni.

Tsubute continues to follow the theories of Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods, etc.) but that is not the main theme of the story, as it was in Tractrix. These theories are integrated in with the action, investigation and subversive plot.

The book establishes more of the characters of the team members, and has quite a bit more action than the previous book. I thought it ended too soon though, with some loose ends not quite tied up (why was the fake PI spying on the team? what happened to Aya?)….and there is a nice setup for book three, where perhaps all will be answered.

Again, highly recommended for Clive Cussler fans, and all fans of Graham Hancock’s theories.

bookrev: Hawaii (Eyewitness Travel Guide)

2 stars: Too short, too high level

We own about 15 of the DK Eyewitness Travel guides, and have dogeared the pages over several trips. They are amazingly useful.

But this one is not their best effort. Hawaii is a very diverse place, and to try and “hit the highlights” in a travel guide is a mistake. This book is right at 200 pages, but almost 80 are about Honolulu, Wakiki and Oahu, leaving only 120 pages for all of the other islands. Even the pieces about Oahu (with little info about the west coast/Makaha and just a mattering on the North Shore) and Honolulu (with a few measly paragraphs on Pearl Harbor) is scant.

As I said, I love the DK Eyewitness series, it is the first travel book we get when going someplace new. But for Hawaii, there are several other books more in-depth. If you are going to Maui or The Big Island, I suggest getting Maui:Revealed or Hawaii The Big Island: Revealed (each 300 pages, pictures, maps, etc.)

bookrev: The Silk Code by Paul Levinson

5 stars: LARGE ideas, excellent first novel

Paul Levinson mixes LARGE ideas, from Amish scientists manipulating genetics the old fashioned way, to immortality and worldwide encoded plagues and immunities. The novel focuses for the most part on Detective Phil D’Amato, who is trying to determine why seemingly healthy people, including some Neanderthal-esque folks, are keeling over to violent allergic deaths.

There is a detour that takes us back in time to Neanderthal’s, the Silk Road and some further clues. This break in the narrative threw me at first, leading me to see this first part as one short story and this as a second. But the last half of the novel moves quickly and pulls all of the ideas together nicely, while leaving events open for a follow-on story (I haven’t yet read the rest of Paul’s books, don’t spoil it for me!).

Excellent hard-core sci-fi, especially in describing the Amish scientists doing in-depth gentics without lab equipment. The lanterns are especially cool.

Skipping ahead to read Paul’s “The Plot to Save Socrates”, then back to the other Detective D’Amato books.

tunrev: The Essiential Plus – Miles Davis

5 stars: Excellent music collection, great bio on DVD

There have been many Miles Davis “best of’s”. And while it is near impossible to capture the depth and sheer numbers of his recordings, this collection goes a long way towards capturing the breadth of the diversity of styles that Miles Davis created and traversed over his long and bountiful career. Selections from be-bop, the cool, fusion and many other styles are included, along with the obvious list of heavyweights that Miles started out with (Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie) and played with along the way.

But the bio pic on the DVD makes this collection worth the price of admission. Over two hours and 49 chapters of exhaustive detail of his life, including interviews with his family (wives, children, nephews), band mates, producers and Miles himself. Starting from his birth and childhood, through to his first trumpet in the high school band, to playing with Parker and Diz, through the heroin addictions, to the birth of cool, Kind of Blue, Sketches of Spain, fusion and his later years, his story is well presented through many perspectives.

An excellent combination of music and video. Highly recommended, for serious Miles fans and listeners new to jazz.

bookrev: The Journey of Socrates by Dan Millman

4 stars: Enjoyable Russian background, good story, sprinkling of Peaceful Warrior philosophy

This novel, though written later, is a prequel to Way of the Peaceful Warrior and Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior. As with those novels, there is much debate on what is fact and what is fiction. From my perspective, that debate doesn’t matter…this is an enjoyable read, which echoes the leanings and lessons of the first two novels.

For pure reading enjoyment, I would rank this one with the Way of the Peaceful Warrior. The Journeys of Socrates is a better story, with less lecturing/preachiness of the original Peaceful Warrior, while the Way novel laid out Millman’s personal philosophies in more detail.

I also enjoyed the Russian history and culture included in this novel. Insights into both Russian Jewish plight and livings and Cossacks are provided.

Sergei/Socrates experiences enormous heartache and challenges, some violently so, mainly to drive home the point of Mr. Millman’s “peaceful warrior” teachings: martial artists/warriors train not to fight, but to gain peace through self-control and deeper internal understanding. By having half Jewish/half Cossasck Sergei experience and witness loss, feel revenge and work at overcoming those violent feelings, Millman drives home this point in a way that the setting of the first two books would not allow.

I also enjoyed the views into the Russian “martial arts”, without mentioning Systema. The concept of “bracing” (dousing yourself with cold water everyday to build up strength and immunities) and breathing methods are well weaved into the fabric of the story of Sergei’s training.

I would have enjoyed more detail on the “world council of martial artists” that is mentioned a few times towards the end of the book. A potential fourth novel, Mr. Millman?

Final note: there is a certain amount of violence and loss in this novel, some scenes which may bother some readers.

tunrev: Back in Black (Dual Disc) – AC/DC

5 stars: Great album, nice mini-DVD story line

I bought this (finally) as a replacement for the old worn out LP, after giving up that AC/DC will ever be on iTunes. The album speaks for itself as one of the greatest metal albums of all time.

But the DVD, though short, is great. I saw both the Bon Scott fronted and Brian Johnson fronted AC/DC at live concerts (yeah, showing my age). The history review, of the long overdue success brought on by the Highway to Hell album, Bon’s death from drinking (so they say), and the Back in Black themed album “tribute” featuring Johnson is well done, though I wish it were longer. Comments by Malcom and Angus are great, it’s kinda scary to see Angus looking normal without his schoolboy uniform and back pack.

And, it is strangly reassuring to see that Angus’ receding hairline matches my own!

Highly recommended, and used to continue my 15 year old’s education into my world of Rock N Roll.

Tractrix

bookrev: Tractrix by R. J. Archer

Meticulously detailed, scientifically imaginedTractrix

In Tractrix, the first novel in the Seeds of Civilization series, R.J. Archer develops a story set in modern times, with the added premise that highly developed civilizations were on Earth many thousands of years ago (ala Graham Hancock et al). His story develops as a scientific mystery, with the just-forming NWIDI team (like yet unlike Clive Cussler’s NUMA team) racing and researching to solve the mystery of black spheres with Mayan (or older) writings on them, an adventure which takes them through Mayan/Olmec ruins and Area51 (or is it?). Modern Mayans are dying as they bring these spheres from their homeland to Nevada, and the NWIDI team tries to discover what motivates them to bring them, how they are getting them there and what is killing them, while keeping various government agencies close (but not too close).

The Clive Cussler parallels continue with Frank Morton, the main hero of the book, who is more educated that Dirk Pitt but also has a military background. Frank recruits ancient scholars, researchers and his former military buddy to help him chase down this mystery.

Mr. Archer’s writing is meticulously detailed, reminding me with his descriptions of engineers I know, how they work and the actions they take. His characterizations are well done.

I look forward to reading Tsubute, the 2nd novel in the series. Highly recommended for Clive Cussler fans, those interested in ancient civilizations or anyone looking for an entertaining read with likeable characters.

bookrev: Aztec Rage by Gary Jennings

3 stars: Great history, good story, uneven writing

Aztec Rage is the fourth in a series of Aztec Novels by Gary Jennings, including co-authors using Mr. Jennings’ outlines after his untimely death.

The history depicted in Aztec Rage is fantastic. From the descriptions of discoveries and meaning of ancient Mayan, Aztec and Olmec ruins, to the Spanish/French guerilla warfare, to the initiation of the Mexican revolution by Father Hidalgo in 1810, the book dances from novel to non-fiction history work. The depiction of the historical events in all of these arenas were by far my favorate part of the novel. (Note: personal prejudice in this area, as my own first novel includes Mayan culture as well and is an area of personal interest).

The story, revolving around the fictional character of Don Juan de Zavala, is intertwined with these fictional events. His life, changing from caballero of the ruling class until he is fighting with the Mexican revolutionaries, takes him to vantage points enabling him to participate and view history. While I did not find Juan a particularly sympathetic character, there were several other characters in the book (some fictional and some historical) that were well described and well presented, some that I will remember.

The life of the different peoples (indios, crillos, etc.) is also imaginatively portrayed.

My only complaint was that this was obviously a collaborative work, and the writing style and quality bounces. The initial chapters of the book were a struggle for me to complete; but once the story moved to Spain, the pace and caliber of the writing picked up dramatically, and the story drew me in more. Writing from a deceased authors outline and notes I would imagine is quite difficult, so I applaud the co-authors in this.

I look forward to reading the other books in this series.

bookrev: Tepper isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillian

4 stars: Amusing big city satire

When someone knows the minutiae of parking laws, times and places, and wants to get the absolute most out of time on the meter, they are definitly from the big city and probably from New York City. To those of us that travel there, it is a confusing set of signposts that may often result in an encounter with NYC Parking Po-lice. To Murray Tepper, it is a well known, well marked (mostly) and well travelled map.

Tepper Isn’t Going Out is amusing satire, laugh out loud in a few places. Great characterizations (other than Murray himself, the mayor, the pollster, and many of the people on the street) and a plot that borders on ridiculousness while still taking bits and pieces from today’s newspaper headlines.

Highly recommended, would make a nice read for a long plane ride or weekend vacation.

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