Jack Reacher A Novel: Tripwire by Lee Child

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Jack Reacher is the main character in Lee Child’s book, Tripwire. This is the 3rd book, in at least 23, that Child has written. I was not familiar with this author before this book, but I was left feeling glad that I had found him.  He is “Jim" Grant, best known by his pen name Lee Child, a British author who writes thriller novels, and is best known for his Jack Reacher novel series.

Reacher is in Key West, digging pools by hand and working a 2nd job as a bouncer for a topless bar. A private investigator, Costello, comes looking for him but is killed. He was hired by a Jody Garber who turns out to be the daughter of General Leon Garber, Reacher’s mentor father from his past in the Army.

It had been 15 years since he had last seen Jody, then she was 15 years old and he was 24, and they loved each other then, and it blossoms again, this time for real. He starts to help her work on the General’s last project and that leads them to Victor Truman "Hook" Hobie who has a big secret that goes back to Vietnam.

An early warning system has been a way of life, for over 30 years, for Hobie, and it consists of two “tripwires” that notify him when he has to get ready to move.  The first is eleven thousand miles from home and the second is six thousand miles away and for the first time both alerts arrive on the same day.

Reacher and Jodie follow Costello's trail and information on her father's last project. It leads them to the National Records Center in St. Louis and to the Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii and into looking at forensic remains of solders.

Victor Hobie is a moneylender, and he takes his customers for everything they have using torture and violence to enforce his terms. His current customer and targets, Chester and Marilyn Stone, represent a very big payoff for Hobie if he can close the deal before he must leave town. He draws Jodie into the closing using attorney status as a pretense and he hopes to take everyone out before he leaves, including Reacher.

It is hard to write a review for this book because so much happens that it is just exciting to be surprised at. It is a book you will not want to put down and will be anxious to get back to.

Lee Child (Left) Stephen King (Right)

Ok, I will have to tell you why I read this book. Stephen King has said that we ought to always have something to read with us. Apparently he meant it since he is reading at this Red Sox Game. I noticed the book and likewise noticed he had read most of it and bought the book. Great book. I had never read this author before. I was impressed with his writing style. 

The Red Earth Poems of New Mexico, by Alice Corbin

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“Pretentious As It Sounds” wrote Tony Hillerman, “and tough as it is to prove, there does seem to be something about New Mexico which not only attracts creative people but stimulates their creativity”.

The poems of this book pull from and involve communities from throughout the state. The pictures follow the same approach and reflect a wide diversity. Alice Corbin was inspired by the people and the cultures they encountered especially from Northern New Mexico.

Alice Corbin was considered a modernist poet in the early part of the twentieth century with a national reputation. She lived and worked in Chicago and was a regular contributor to the Chicago Tribune and the Saturday Evening Post but her best poetry was written after for health reasons she moved to Santa Fe New Mexico.

Red Earth: Poems of New Mexico was first published in 1920 and reflected the poetic techniques of Native American myths and Hispanic culture. A newer edition including a biographical sketch of Corbin’s life and contributions to art and culture. 

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This poem also included in the poetry section

The Basic Works of Aristotle by Richard McKeon

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Aristotle focus in “The Basic Works of Aristotle” is that “all men suppose what is called wisdom to deal with the first causes and the principles of things.” These causes and principles are the subject matters referred to as “first philosophy.” Considered to be one of the first true scientists, he created an early version of the scientific method to observe and draw conclusions. The approach begins with reviewing the opinions of others and even the history of thought. 

He drew distinctions between things that are “better known to us” and things that are “better known in themselves,”. He said we start with what is best known to us and then move to things better known in themselves. 

Aristotle’s said “the study of being qua “is frequently and easily misunderstood, because it seems to suggest that there is a single subject matter—being qua being. The subject matter of “being” included within it three things: (1) a study, (2) a subject matter (being), and (3) a way the subject matter is studied (qua being).

Much of Aristotle’s teachings were preserved by Arabic mathematicians and canonized by Christian scholars. His works have shaped Western thought, science, and religion for nearly two thousand years. Richard McKeon’s The Basic Works of Aristotle is the one-volume source for understanding this scholar. 

The books approach is especially useful in comparing him to Plato. Plato's world was one of changeless things assigned for lofty contemplation and for Aristotle, as we are told in the introduction, it was a world for empirical investigation. Aristotle had a fascination with living things.

The contents list a Preface, Introduction, Bibliography, Organon (logical treatises), Physica, DeCaelo, De Generatione, Parva Naturalia, Historia Animalium, De Partibus, De Generatione, Metaphysica, Ethica Nicomachea, Politica, Rhetorica, and De Poetica.

In the preface it tells us that this book is an aid to understanding the man and his thoughts. A study of an ancient writer. The re-discovery and assemblage of useful items of information and knowledge and inquiry into truths whose specifications do not change with time. “The Basic Works of Aristotle by Richard McKeon” is a must-have book to understand and have a useful reference for understanding this important scholar.

Quotes

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ” 

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”

“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” 

“It is not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.” 

“The more you know, the more you know you don't know.” 
 

Rattlesnake Lawyer by Jonathan Miller

See the latest books by this author at Rattlesnakelaw.com

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"Watch for Rattlesnakes" reads the sign at the first rest stop within New Mexico's "Fighting 14th district. Young attorney Dan Shepherd has been fired from his mothers prestigious Washington law fir, and now must must make it among the rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnake Lawyer is best described as a Southwestern Novel, set in Southern New Mexico, it captures the geography and the small town setting very well. The Hispanic influence is the norm here and this one-time big city lawyer is the one that is out of place.

The justice system in this small town doesn’t work well but Miller brought some interesting twists to the plot. Young independent Attorney Dan Shepherd is in new town trying to get started with his legal work and finds it hard to make ends meet. The first case that comes his way, however, is anything but promising.

Shepherd is assigned the task of defending a memorable character, Jesus Villalobos, who is accused of a murder. Though his family and friends have nothing bad to say about Jesus, the State seems determined to send him to the gallows. What follows is Dan's quest to secure justice for his client and the bond that forms between the lawyer and his unusual client leads to an exciting courtroom drama.

Jonathan Miller was a new author back in 2004 when this his first book came out, and he is a practicing attorney. His expertise in law and courtroom procedure serves him well in Rattlesnake Lawyer and the novel reads like a well-prepared brief. A good book worth reading.

 

Laughing Gas, by P.G. Wodehouse

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P.G. Wodehouse was referred to by an English journalist as “the most influential novelist of our age” and a master of “the Great English Joke”. This meant the teasing of all people who take themselves too seriously.

Wodehouse said, “I had just begun to write this story, when a literary pal of mine who had had a sticky night out with the P.E.N Club blew in to borrow bicarbonate of soda, and I thought it would be as well to have him vet what I’d done, in case I might have foozled my tee-shot.” He tells him he can read some of the story and is told, “If you must” and he replies: “Right ho”. 

The story starts with Reggie and Joey sitting I the dentist office. Reggie is the Third Earl of Havershot, he started at the bottom and worked his way up to Third Earl, also an accomplished boxer. He has been asked by his family to go to Hollywood and save his cousin Eggy, the family black sheep, who is planning to marry a Hollywood bimbo. On the way he meets a famous movie star and his long-lost love, April June, but he is surprised to learn that she is the one his cousin Eggy plans to marry. 

Reggie, in the dentist office, finds himself sitting next to Joey Cooley, a 10-year-old child film star and they are both under laughing gas anesthetic and somehow, they find that their identities are swapped, and each is in the others body. 

Trouble follows. Young Joey has lots of resentment for his manages and even for his co-star, April June. Joey with his new 6-foot body plans to give his past tormentors a punch in the snout. Reggie now in the body of a child wants to warn those that may be punched. 

Eventually Wodehouse finds a way out for Reggie and Joey. Reggie as his mature self gets an opportunity to approach Ann Bannister. He is at first hesitant because he knows his true face looks like a gorilla. 

This is a small comic novel, 286 pages, first published in the United Kingdom in 1936 and then in the United States. The story is set in Hollywood in the early 1930s. This story is a satire on Hollywood full of facades, and the story is a farce. 

Quotes

‘Haven’t you ever heard of Sister Lora Luella Stott?’ ‘No. Who is she?’ ‘She is the woman who is leading California out of the swamp of alcohol.’.............................‘Good God!’ I could tell by Eggy’s voice that he was interested. ‘Is there a swamp of alcohol in these parts? What an amazing country America is. Talk about every modern convenience. Do you mean you can simply go there and lap?’ Laughing Gas (1936) 

“And she's got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.”

“It has been well said that an author who expects results from a first novel is in a position similar to that of a man who drops a rose petal down the Grand Canyon of Arizona and listens for the echo.”

 

 
 

The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir Review

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Kao Kalia Yang tells us in her book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir Review, about the Hmong people, who beginning in the 18-century migrated south from China, first to Laos, and then Vietnam. They became allies to America helping with the Vietnam war even before it was on the radar for most Americans. When the war ended they fled the country across the Mekong River into Thailand where they waited years before they were able to come to the United States. 

Yang tells us about her Grandmother and what really is a love story of sacrifice for her Mother and Father. Once they arrive in America her parents and all their extended family live for each other, but especially to help their children benefit from being Americans. She tells us that the Hmong are in the end Americans first and Hmong in heritage. 

Yang was born in a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand in 1980. Her grandmother had wanted to stay in the camp, to make it easier for her spirit to find its way back to her birthplace when she died, but it wasn’t possible. The Hmong left the jungles of Thailand to fly to America and then they settled in Minnesota and California. Like many immigrant groups before, the adults worked two jobs, so the children could get an education. The Hmong were different, having come from a non-Christian background, and a rain forest and jungle culture with no homeland to return to. People in America didn’t know anything about them, and when their kids studied the Vietnam War at school, their lessons never mentioned that the Hmong had been fighting for the Americans in that war.

Yang story of family and the death of her grandmother is touching. The Hmong’s sacrifices truly qualify them as pioneers and their story ought to be required reading for the insight into the strength of their family values and how they have grown through their hardships. This book is important, and America needs to know this story. 

More On Hmong

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As many as 20,000 Hmong soldiers died during the Vietnam War. Hmong civilians, who numbered about 300,000 before the war, perished by the tens of thousands.

From 1959 to 1973, the CIA trained Hmong tribesmen to fight against Communist insurgencies in Laos.

At the end of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s about 130,000 Hmong made their way to United States. Another 50,000 to 100,000 stayed in Thailand. About 400,000 remained in Laos.

 

Candide, by Voltaire

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Voltaire was a French Enlightenment writer who embraced the ideals of a free and liberal society, along with freedom of religion and free commerce. His book, Candide, was a satire, funny, well done and relevant to the times but Voltaire’s purpose was to use wit to make his points.

He made fun of the teachings of the Church, but he was pushing for religious freedom. He had strong opinions and Candide was a tool to presenting his thoughts. The book is one of the most significant works of Western Canon due to its portrayal of the human condition.

The story is intended to satirize the idea of optimism. The approach was developed in the events of a trip which allowed the author to interchange the tragedy and the comedy within the various situations that occurred. This was a unique approach but provided a way to look at good and evil, as well as the role of God and Government in people’s lives. The satirical approach allowed him cover to focus on criticism.

A simple story, a young man leaves his home because he has been caught kissing the wrong person. Sill optimistic he joins the army. He is flogged and later almost burned alive. He continues to believe that he is indeed living in the "best of all possible worlds", as he was taught growing up, and sets out to see the world. Nothing goes well with one tragedy after another. Funny but sad. Then, after what seems to be an endless ordeal, he returns and settles for life in a garden. Even so, still optimistic perhaps, he says that "we must cultivate our garden".

Voltaire’s book, and his story, challenge the idea that "all is for the best" in a world where it is often assumed that things "work out for the best".

Quotes

“Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable. For my part I read only to please myself and like only what suits my taste.” 

“Optimism," said Cacambo, "What is that?" "Alas!" replied Candide, "It is the obstinacy of maintaining that everything is best when it is worst.”

 “If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?” 

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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Ivan Denisovich Shukov was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1943 and he later escaped and returned to his own troops. He admitted that the Germans has captured him, and that became his crime. He was assumed to be a spy. He was forced to confess to being a spy to avoid being shot, but then went to a soviet prison.  

The others in the prison also seem to have little logical reason for being there. One mans crime was being a Baptist. Many were there for being spies. Survival meant stealing, lying, and anything it took to stay alive. In prison they were not able to call the guards comrade but had to call them “Citizen”, removing their hats five steps before approaching them, and keeping it off until they had past two steps beyond. An inmate said that survial was "by the law of the taiga," or as we would put it, the law of the jungle.

Ivan says of the time "How can you expect a man who's warm, to understand a man who's cold?" The goal is to live through just one more day. On this "one day" Ivan is lucky when he was awakened by the sound of a hammer clanging against a steel rail, Ivan thinks he is sick guard pretends to take him to the punishment cells, but he only wants Ivan to mop the floor of the guardroom.

He did not have to work in the 20 below zero wind, and even got to stand in a warm place, while his guards discussed the wall his gang would have to make. He tricked the lunch staff and got an extra bowl of mush. He worked on building a wall and mistakenly put a long steel shaft in his pocket and he thought for sure he would be caught with it at the days, end when he remembered it was there, but then he was successful in getting the metal blade through the check station without being caught. He gets an extra meal ticket at dinner standing in line for a wealthy prisoner.

The day ends with Ivan sharing his story and talking about God with the Baptist prisoner.  The is the end of the book.

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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was specifically mentioned in the Nobel Prize presentation speech when the Nobel Prize in Literature awarded the prize to Alexksandr Solzheitsyn in 1970,    

"Solzhenitsyn's One Day: The book that shook the USSR". BBC. Moscow. -Steve Rosenberg Nov. 19th 2012  / Vitaly Korotich declared: "The Soviet Union was destroyed by information - and this wave started from Solzhenitsyn's One Day.

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Salem's Lot by Stephen King

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Salem’s Lot is small town America. The pace is slower, it seems quiet, but feelings are deep and just under the surface.  The townspeople still take care of their own. Stephen King has created this world for us and we find ourselves a part of it, anxious to read the master story teller’s tale.

The novel, Salem’s Lot, was Stephen King’s second novel published in 1975. King in two separate interviews, said this book was one of his favorites.  It is set in in Maine, of course, with a cast of interesting characters. We know King is not afraid to kill off his good guys and girls, so we start to care about, and root for them, when they must fight to stay alive. 

Marsten House sits on a hill above the town, a cemetery is just down the hill, and no one has lived in the house for years. The house has been recently purchased by Kurt Barlow an Austrian immigrant and his partner Richard Straker. Ben Mears, a writer, remembers the terror he felt in this house as a boy ,when he arrives back after 25 years, as a successful writer and planning to write about this house.

Ben makes friends with Matt Burke, a high school teacher, and with Susan Norton, a young college graduate. Danny Glick has just become the town’s first vampire but his brother Mark escapes.  Ben, Susan, Matt and Mark seek help from the local Catholic Priest. Holy Water, Crosses, and wooden stakes follow. Encounters with the master vampire follow. Some die of fear and many are turned into vampire followers. Mark, only a young boy, proves to be a challenge to the master vampire who at one-point spits in his face, but he loses his entire family to the vampires. 

The story seems like it might be predictable, but it holds us on the edge of our seat. This may well turn out to be one of your favorite Stephen King novels, if you have not read it yet, so I have not detailed out the ending but do highly recommend the book. 

Reviewing and reading a book written in 1975, considering it was made into a miniseries, may seem questionable to some? Why read this? My reason is that I never tire of the skill I find in Stephen King’s ability to tell a story. 

Quotes

“The town has a sense, not of history, but of time, and the telephone poles seem to know this. If you lay your hand against one, you can feel the vibration from the wires deep within the wood, as if souls had been imprisoned in there and were struggling to get out.” 

“Alone. Yes, that’s the key word, the most awful word in the English tongue. Murder doesn’t hold a candle to it and hell is only a poor synonym…”  

“The basis of all human fears, he thought. A closed door, slightly ajar.”

 “If a fear cannot be articulated, it can’t be conquered.” 

 

A Brief History Of Time by Stephen W. Hawkings

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Stephen Hawking has sold over 10 million books of Brief History of Time translated into 35 language since it was published in 1988. The book discusses the “big bang”, black holes, string theory indicating a universe with 10 to 26 dimensions, quantum mechanics and more in a way that most readers are able to follow. The language is a pleasant surprise for the lay reader. Hawking’s approach is broader than many scientists in the questions he asks. “Up to now, most scientists have been too occupied with the development of new theories that describe what the universe is, to ask the question why. On the other hand, the people whose business it is to ask why, the philosophers, have not been able to keep up with the advances of scientific theories.”

It seems clear that after the universe came to be, that finding out what happened is a focus that is still being understood.

Hawking’s asks, not just how but “why does it exist”, and then tells us in the final statement of the book that if we could answer that we would “know the mind o God.”

It also seems clear that Hawking’s is not trying to tell us what or who God is, adding: "An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job!" 

It is interesting how educated minds open up to consider God.  Albert Einstein harbored a belief in, and reverence for, the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws.

 

Quotes

 

"There should be no boundary to human endeavor."  

"Equations are more important to me, because politics is for the present, but an equation is something for eternity."   

"I am just a child who has never grown up. I still keep asking these ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions. Occasionally, I find an answer."  

"An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when he might have carried out his job."