Oct 20, 2017

Review: Ivan the Terrible: A Life From Beginning to End

Ivan the Terrible: A Life From Beginning to End Ivan the Terrible: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is very handy to know about Ivan IV also known as Ivan the Terrible. Ivan's grand father managed to free Russia from the Mongol horde. When Ivan was 3 years old he became the Grand Prince of Moscow.

Though he became the King at very young age, the country was ruled his regents. He was made to starve by them. After attaining the rightful age Ivan punished those who tortured him.

Much information is provided how Ivan came to known as Ivan the Terrible.

A good book recommended for history buffs.

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Oct 9, 2017

Review: Mayan Civilization: A History From Beginning to End

Mayan Civilization: A History From Beginning to End Mayan Civilization: A History From Beginning to End by Hourly History
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Less information about the Maya's. The book is good at getting basics about the birth of this civilization. Not much is given about the kings also.

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Oct 3, 2017

Fallen Eagle - Book Review

First of all I have to thank Thistle publishing and Net Galley for giving me a copy to read and review this superb book written by Robin Cross. 

The book has an exhaustive account about the last days of the Third Reich. From the reading we can understand how much the author has took pain in collecting the relevant information of the Second World War, the heroes & zeros of the war, types of war machines used and in depth detail to the Corps level. 

Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress (daylight bombing) picture comment from Wikipedia, B-17 Flying Fortresses from the 398th Bombardment Group fly a bombing run to Neumunster, Germany, on April 13, 1945, less than one month before the German surrender on May 8

The author's description about Hitlers status is riveting "In the summer of 1942, Hitler had sat at the centre of a vast communications web stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Caucasus. Now his links with the outside world had dwindled to a switchboard of the size required to run a modest hotel, one radio transmitter, and one radiotelephone link with the OKW headquarters at Zossen, fifteen miles south of Berlin".

Avro Lancaster RAF bomber (most successful of the night bombers in World War II)

The author has cleverly placed journal entries, letters and documents, which gives an authenticated look but sometimes they might turn a bit odd and feels us to skip. I like to quote one account given by Janina Bauman, who had escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943 and was living on a farm when a German soldier was hiding in her farm.

…. Just before dusk I went out to fetch some wood. In the semi-dark shed, crammed with logs and tools, something stirred. I sensed a human presence. I pushed the door wide open to let more light. Only then did I notice a flap of field-grey military coat sticking out from the between two logs. Calmly, I locked the shed and ran back to the cottage. In the kitchen, Mrs.Pietrzyk, tired and worn after the restless night, was busy cooking. Gasping for breath, I told her what I had seen. But she was not surprised. She already knew. Staring full in my face with her ancient, all knowing eyes, she said, as if quoting from a holy book, 'Whoever comes under my roof seeking shelter, no matter who he is, no matter what he believe in, he will be safe with me'. In a flash I understood. Shocked, I watched her fill a tin bowl with hot dumplings and pour pork fat over it. 'Hold it child', she screeched in her usual way. "Take it to him'. As if mesmerized, I blindly obeyed and went back to the shed. It seemed as deserted as before, even the field-grey flap had disappeared. I stood benumbed, the hot dish burning my fingers and filling the air with a strong smell of food. There was a brief commotion behind the pile of logs and unkempt head suddenly popped out. I saw the pale face of the German, a boy rather than a man, staring at me in terror. He grabbed the steaming bowl from my hands and fell on the food with unspeakable greed. He was still trembling from hunger and fear. For a long while I watched him blankly. I felt no pity, no hatred, no joy. 

The author Robin Cross has given vivid account on the rivalry between Zhukov and Ivan Konev and how Stalin utilized their rivalry for his goal. 

Zhukov: In World War II he participated in multiple battles, ultimately commanding the 1st Belorussian Front in the Battle of Berlin, which resulted in the defeat of Nazi Germany, and the end of the War in Europe.

Ivan Konev : He was a Soviet military commander who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, and helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin.

Cemetery Heidefriedhof in Dresden

A soul stirring account of the bombing of 7th largest city in Germany, Dresden, was provided in the book. The author has mentions the people behind the operation and ends that chapter with quotes from cemetery Heidefriedhof in Dresden:

"How many died? Who knows the count?; In your wounds one sees the ordeal; Of the nameless who in here were conflagrated; In the hellfire made by hands of man".

North American P-51 Mustang picture comment P-51D of 374th Fighter Squadron, with under wing drop tanks.

The book ends at 88% and the remaining 12% is about Appendix 1 Key Items of Weaponry, Appendix 2 Notes on Personalities (which is more important as some might find difficultly in finding who the person the author mentions about) and select Bibliography.  

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, with 500 pages this book is must for World War II enthusiasts. 

Sep 30, 2017

Dirk Pitt Collections

Two decades back I read Inca Gold from a lending library, I was hooked into Mr.Clive Cussler's writing, but those days it is difficult to know and find what other books the author has written and I have no idea about the continuation of Dirk Pitt.

In the age of internet the task become simpler. After joining goodreads I started to add the books authored by the Grand Master of Adventure Clive Cussler. I was obsessed with the charming, charismatic and dare devilry of Dirk Pitt. 

Below are the 12 books I have collected out of 24. Half way, hope I will collect the rest of the adventure series. 

1. Dirk Pitt Series #4, Raise the Titanic! published in 1976.

2. Dirk Pitt Series #6, Night Probe published in 1981.

3. Dirk Pitt Series #9 Treasure, published in 1988.

4. Dirk Pitt Series #10 Dragon, published in 1990.

5. Dirk Pitt Series #11 Inca Gold, published in 1994.

6. Dirk Pitt Series #12, Shock Wave, published in 1996.

7. Dirk Pitt Series #16, Valhalla Rising, published in 2001.

8. Dirk Pitt Series #17, Trojan Odyssey, published in 2003.

9. Dirk Pitt Series #18, Black Wind, published in 2004.

10. Dirk Pitt Series #22, Poseidon's Arrow, published in 2012.

11. Dirk Pitt Series #23, Havana Storm, published in 2014.

12. Dirk Pitt Series #24, Odessa Sea, published in 2016.

13. Clive Cussler And Dirk Pitt Revealed, published in 1998, the book is about Dirk Pitt, the recurring characters and other characters that have appeared in his novels and brief synopses of the Dirk Pitt novels from Pacific Vortex to Flood Tide.

Sep 19, 2017

LXG - Review

  The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Kevin O'Neill

The year is 1898, the Empire is under threat, upon the orders of mysterious "M" Campion Bond recruits Mina Murray and Captain Nemo to find Allan Quatermain who is addicted to opium and lives pathetically in Morocco. Both Nemo and Murray retrieve Allan from the opium den. Then they round up Dr.Henry Jekyll (Mr.Edward Hyde equivalent to Hulk), Hawley Griffin (Invisible man, I liked his part), these five rather six including Jekyll's alter ego Hyde all comprise "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman".

Image from momentofmoore.com

The empire is planning a lunar expedition before the dawn of 19th Century, but the anti gravity material 'cavorite' was stolen by a warlord from orient known by name as Doctor who has established himself as the crime king of London's East End. With Nautilus submarine the league members infiltrate and capture the cavorite and hands it to Campion Bond, but their superior "M' has another plan to bombard East End. Did the league members stop the atrocious act of 'M'? And who is this mysterious "M" are all answered in the remaining panels.
The art work is good the panels are explicit with violence and bloodshed. Some might not like the gory parts detailed in such a manner. The story is awesome and entertaining with adding backstories for some characters.

Sep 12, 2017

Cyclops - Book Review

My 10th outing with Dirk Pitt Adventures

Plot 1: March 9th 1918, Caribbean Sea, a collier ship, Cyclops carrying 11,000 tons of manganese, more than it can carry sinks with treasure and a soul, American consul general to Brazil, Alfred L.Morean Gottschalk.

Plot 2: Raymond Le Baron and some of his friends who goes in search of the legendary El Dorado in his blimp Prosperteer goes missing. After a couple of days the blimp passes over Florida where our hero Dirk Pitt is taking part in a race stops the blimp and later the body inside the blimp are not of Raymond Le Baron.

Plot 3 : The President of United States comes to know the fact that there is a Moon base called Jersey Colony developed behind the ruling elite by the Inner core consisting of brilliant young scientists, corporate businessman, engineers and politicians. Raymond Le Baron, General Mark Fisher, Clyde Booth, Irwin Mitchell, Steve Busche, Dean Beagle, Daniel Klein, Leonard Hudson and Gunnar Eriksen are the nine members of the Inner Core. As the Soviet Union sends men to land on moon they come to know about the moon base. And the Soviet plans to take over the Jersey colony. The astronauts in moon base skillfully evades the Soviet attack and tries to return to earth. Then the Soviet plans to abduct the space shuttle and make them land in Cuba. In other words "An American space shuttle in Soviet hands the greatest intelligence coup of the century".

Plot 4 : Taking over of Cuban Government by Soviet Agents, assassinating Fidel Castro and placing a Soviet Union loyalist, close confidante of Fidel a charming charismatic, having total backing of the Cuban military, Alicia Cordero the Secretary of the Central Committee and Secretary of Council of State, the operation is code named 'Rum and Cola' according to the plan Havana has to be blown by three ships which are docked in Havana harbour thereby killing Castro.

The author Clive Cussler brilliantly intertwines all the plots without any confusion and finishes off the book in style. An enjoyable Dirk Pitt adventure.

Whereas our hero Dirk Pitt in search of Raymond Le Baron in the blimp is chased by Cuban and gets caught and interrogated by the Soviet officials in Cuban soil. I think around 30 to 40% of the book Pitt is confined and was tortured by the cruel Foss Gly (the hit man from Night Probe) The most tense part in the story is the clever and brilliant plan of Pitt using an old bathtub and a motor from the deflated boat to escape from Cayo Santa Maria. (My standing ovation to Clive Cussler) Pitt a daring action hero who is unable to perform any action as the situation is very less favourable in Cayo Santa Maria. His best friend Al Giordino badly injured and in confinement, no help from his trusted side kick, as the chapters roll by Pitt situation changes from bad to worse until he gets the chance of getting out of the building. The chapters relating to the torture chamber in Cayo Santa Maria, the author cleverly uses Pitt's wit and sarcastic comments to mask the unpleasant situation.

Did Pitt finds out the treasure from the Cyclops? How did Pitt saves Jessie Le Baron, Al and Rudi Gunn from Cayo Santa Maria, did Pitt take revenge on Foss Gly? Did the Astronauts of Jersey Colony land in Cuba? Did Pitt saves Fidel Castro in time? all these are answered in the following chapters of the novel. 

My artwork for Cyclops novel the blimp named Prosperteer
Pitt's humour: (As usual one liners from Dirk Pitt)

1. An old antique like the Prosperteer must have required a couple hundred thousand cubic feet of gas to get her in the air. After a week, enough would have leaked out to keep her grounded. Do you follow?

Victor had the look of a man about to be baptized. What are you suggesting?

That you look for a friendly neighbourhood service station that can pump two hundred thousand cubic feet of helium. (Explaining to Victor that Prosperteer should have been grounded and re pumped with helium before it landed into Florida)
2. Find Angello and tell him to show this gentleman out. Pitt's green eyes glinted mischievously. I seem to have a talent for spreading ill will. Do you wish me to go peacefully or cause a nasty scene?

I think peacefully would be best.
(Pitt in Jessie Le Baron's party)

I'll send the chauffeur to pick up. If it's all the same to you.

I'd prefer to drive my own car. I get claustrophobic in limousine. (When Pitt was asked to meet Mrs.Le Baron)

3. Hullo, Dirk. All dressed up and no place to go? 
The party's hostess decided I was persona non Grata and made me walk the plank.

4. Jesus, its dark, he muttered to himself, his mind crawling from a woody mist. Pitt knelt beside him and said. Welcome to the land of the walking dead.

Giordino raised his hands and touched Pitt's face in the darkness. Dirk? In the flesh. (after castaway in the shores of Cayo Santa Maria)

5. I'm President of Central Intelligence Agency. My board of directors and I thought it would be a great promotional idea to charter a blimp and drop redeemable coupons for toilet paper over the length of Cuba. I'm told there's an acute shortage down her. Unfortunately, the Cubans didn't agree with our marketing strategy and shot us down. (Pitt sarcastic and dry humorous reply to Velikov in Cayo Santa Maria torture chamber)

6. How did you destroy the patrol helicopter? Velikov asked suddenly. We threw our shoes at it. Pitt fired back testily. What did you expect from four civilians, one of whom was a woman flying a forty year old gas bag?
(Pitt sarcastic and dry humorous reply to Velikov in Cayo Santa Maria torture chamber)
7. Crazy clown – Jessie Le Baron's remark about Pitt.

8. The man must be either indestructible or very lucky – Presidents remark of Pitt, his act of escape from Cuba using a cast iron bath tub with a outboard motor.

9. Brogan said, I hear you've had a rough trip. Not one I'd recommend to tourist. Pitt replied. (makeshift boat - bathtub with motor)

10. Followed a higher law, said Pitt with a sardonic grin. And what law may I ask, is that? Comes from the old West something they called self preservation (answer to Brogan)

11. Pitt flashed his best politician's smile and said. I beg your pardon, may I borrow your phone?

If you work here you know that using an unauthorized phone is against agency regulations.

Then I'm safe, said Pitt. I don't work here. (Pitt conversing with a white hair man in Brogan's office)

12. Quintana subsided into silence. His precisely conceived landing plan began to crack and shatter before his eyes. Our computers should have thought of that, he said bitterly.

They don't create what they are not taught, Pitt replied philosophically (about the attack plan on Cayo Santa Maria)

13. Pitt held up a wooden shaft in one hand. A baseball bat. What do you need that for? You are issued an AK 74.

It's a gift for a friend.

14. You Catholic? Yes. Why?. Then call up the saint who guides lost souls and pray this thing is already set on the shuttle's frequency. (Control room in Cayo Santa Maria when Pitt tries to save the space shuttle before it land in Cuba.)

15. Pitt hesitated, then he said. There is this taxi driver named Herberto Figuero. If I were to find him a restored Fifty Seven Chevrolet in the States and have it shipped, do you suppose you could arrange for him to take delivery. Herberto and I would both be very grateful. (Pitt uses Herberto's Chevy which becomes damaged at the end)