NATCHEZ BURNING

August 30, 2018


This is the first book I have read from Greg Iles and I can certainly state that he is an excellent writer—a marvelous word-smith.   In looking at the product details, you can see that this is a HUGE book.  Eight hundred (800) pages of detailed, descriptive material with many fascinating characters and multiple story plots. This translates to approximately two hundred thousand (200,000) words.   I had to really concentrate to get into this book and follow at least half a dozen story lines that travel back in time then move forward.  You will see from several reviews below, this is not a book always enjoyed by every reader.  A compilation of scores may be seen as follows:

PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Series:Penn Cage Novels (Book 4)
  • Hardcover:800 pages
  • Publisher:William Morrow; First Edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0062311077
  • ISBN-13:978-0062311078
  • Average Customer Review:4 out of 5 stars   3,939 customer reviews
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank:#429,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

I always like to know something about the author feeling it helps me understand his purpose in writing and specifically writing the book I’m discussing.  Mr. Ille’s very brief biography is given as follows:

BIOGRAPHY:

Greg Iles was born in 1960 in Germany where his father ran the US Embassy medical clinic during the height of the Cold War. After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1983 he performed for several years with the rock band Frankly Scarlet and is currently member of the band The Rock Bottom Remainders. His first novel, Spandau Phoenix, a thriller about war criminal Rudolf Hess, was published in 1993 and became a New York Times bestseller. Iles went on to write ten bestselling novels, including Third Degree, True Evil, Turning Angel, Blood Memory, The Footprints of God, and 24 Hours (released by Sony Pictures as Trapped, with full screenwriting credit for Iles). He lives in Natchez, Mississippi.

STORY LINE:

Penn Cage is shocked to learn that his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is about to be charged with murder in the death of a local woman, a nurse who worked with Dr. Cage back in the 1960s. Stymied by his father’s refusal to discuss the case, Penn digs into the past to uncover the truth and discovers long-buried secrets about his community and his own family. Natchez Burning (the title is surely a nod to the infamous “Mississippi Burning” murder case of the 1960s, and others like it) is the first of a planned trilogy. The story ends in mid-stride, leaving us on the edge of our seats, but that’s not a criticism. This beautifully written novel represents some of the author’s finest work, with sharper characterizations and a story of especially deep emotional resonance, and we eagerly await volume two. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Several of Iles’ thrillers have found their way to best-seller lists, but his new publisher is touting this one (his first novel in five years) as a breakout book and seems ready to put marketing dollars behind that claim.

When reviewing a book I have just read, I like to indicate comments from other readers.  A few of these are as follows:

REVIEWS:

CONCLUSIONS:

I can certainly recommend the book but you really need time for completion.  Also, the ending carries a big big surprise.   GO FOR IT.

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Space Exploration Technologies Corp., doing business as SpaceX, is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX has flown twenty-five (25) resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA. As you all know, NASA no longer undertakes missions of this sort but relies upon private companies such as Space X for delivery of supplies and equipment to the ISS as well as launching satellite “dishes” for communications.

BACKGROUND: 

Entrepreneur Elon Musk, founded PayPal and Tesla Motors is the visionary who started the company Space Exploration Technologies.   In early 2002 Musk was seeking staff for the new company and approached rocket engineer Tom Mueller, now SpaceX’s CTO of Propulsion.  SpaceX was first headquartered in a seventy-five thousand (75,000) square foot warehouse in El Segundo, California. Musk decided SpaceX’s first rocket would be named Falcon 1, a nod to Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon. Musk planned Falcon 1’s first launch to occurring in November 2003, fifteen (15) months after the company started. When you think about the timing, you must admit this is phenomenal and extraordinary.   Now, the fact that is was an unmanned mission certainly cut the time due to no need for safety measures to protect the crew.  No redundant systems needed other than protecting the launch and cargo itself.

In January 2005 SpaceX bought a ten percent (10%) stake in Surrey Satellite Technology and by March 2006, Musk had invested US $100 million in the company.

On August 4, 2008 SpaceX accepted a further twenty ($20) million investment from Founders Fund.   In early 2012, approximately two-thirds of the company was owned by its founder Must with seventy  (70) million shares of stock estimated to be worth $875 million on private markets.  The value of SpaceX was estimated to be at $1.3 billion as of February 2012.   After the COTS 2+ flight in May 2012, the company private equity valuation nearly doubled to $2.4 billion.

SATELLITE LAUNCH:

The latest version of SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the second time on July 22, lighting up the skies over Florida’s Space Coast in a dazzling predawn launch.  The “Block 5” variant of the two-stage Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:50 a.m. EDT (0550 GMT), successfully delivering to orbit a satellite for the Canadian communications company Telesat.     Less than nine (9) minutes after launch, the rocket’s first stage came back down to Earth, a with a successful landing aboard the SpaceX drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” a few hundred miles off the Florida coast.  The Falcon 9 may be seen with the JPEG below.

The Block 5 is the newest, most powerful and most reusable version of the Falcon 9.  Musk said the Block 5 first stages are designed to fly at least ten (10) times with just inspections between landing and liftoff, and one hundred (100) times or more with some refurbishment involved.

Such extensive reuse is key to Musk’s quest to slash the cost of spaceflight, making Mars colonization and other bold exploration efforts economically feasible. To date, SpaceX has successfully landed more than two dozen Falcon 9 first stages and re-flown landed boosters on more than a dozen occasions.

The only previous Block 5 flight occurred this past May 2018 and also involved a new rocket configuration.  The satellite lofted is called Telstar 19V, is headed for geostationary orbit, about 22,250 miles (35,800 kilometers) above Earth. Telstar 19V, which was built by California-based company SSL, will provide broadband service to customers throughout the Americas and Atlantic Ocean region, according to a Telesat fact sheet.

The booster’s first stage, sporting redesigned landing legs, improved heat shield insulation, upgraded avionics and more powerful engines with crack-resistant turbine hardware, flipped around moments after falling away from the Falcon 9’s second stage and flew itself back to an on-target landing on an offshore drone-ship.

It was the 25th successful booster recovery overall for SpaceX and the fifth so far this year, the latest demonstration of SpaceX’s maturing ability to bring orbit-class rockets back to Earth to fly again in the company’s drive to dramatically lower launch costs.

CONCLUSION:

I think the fact that Musk has taken on this project is quite extortionary.  Rocket launches, in times past, have represented an amazing expenditure of capital with the first and second stages being lost forever.  The payload, generally the third stage, go on to accomplish the ultimate mission.  Stages one and two become space debris orbiting Earth and posing a great menace to other launches.  Being able to reuse any portion of stages one and two is a great cost-effective measure and quite frankly no one really though it could be accomplished.


I don’t subscribe to the magazine Gentlemen’s’ Quarterly so I never actually read the publication but one news story really caught my attention.  GQ has published an article entitled “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read”.  To their credit, they do indicate what books would be preferable for each of the twenty-one removed from the “reading list”.  Let’s take a look:

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
  • Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Ambassadors by Henry James
  • The Bible
  • Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Life by Keith Richards
  • Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

I was really surprised to see the Bible on the list even though this is a “progressive” magazine.  Here is the logic behind removing it and basically indicating it is of no use to “modern man”.

The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned. If the thing you heard was good about the Bible was the nasty bits, then I propose Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough. The subtlety and cruelty of this story is like that famous sword stroke (from below the boat) that plunged upward through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower. —Jesse Ball, ‘Census’

This is one man’s opinion but certainly not mine. Eric Metaxas and G. Shane Morris of Breakpoint.org state the following relative to the GQ article: “Seldom have I seen an example of the blind leading the blind as blatant as this article.  Condemned were such classics as “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and the “Lord of the Rings”.  The magazine’s editors describe these beloved titles variously as racist, sexist and just really, really boring. “

The average number of books each person reads on a yearly basis is twelve (12)…but that number is inflated by the most avid readers. The most frequently reported number was four (4) books per year. Of course, there’s plenty of variation among demographics. Certain groups read more, or less, than the country as a whole. Here’s what the data showed:

Educated, affluent women read the most.

Women tend to read more than men. About seventy-seven (77) percent of American women read at least one book in 2015, compared with sixty-seven (67) percent of American guys. Also, the average woman reads fourteen (14) books in a twelve-month span, while the average man read only nine.  Across both genders, readership also went up with education and income. About ninety (90) percent of college grads read at least one book a year, compared to thirty-four (34) percent of people who haven’t finished high school. Also, the more money they earned, the likelier they were to be readers. It’s hard to say whether education and income are causes of this trend, since people who go to college probably grow up reading more anyway, and income correlates with education. But the bottom line is that educated, high-earning women sit atop the reading pyramid in America.

Older people read less.

One notable aspect of the data is that people tend to read less as they age. Fully eighty (80) percent of 18–29-year-olds reported reading at least one book, compared to sixty-nine (69) percent of seniors sixty-five and older.

I was told years ago—ALWAYS READ THE GOOD BOOKS FIRST.  The classics and those authors that can really “pack a punch”.  There are several great books not on the list.  The twelve novels considered to be the greatest novels ever written are:

  • Anna Karenina
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Great Gatsby
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • A Passage to India
  • Invisible Man
  • Don Quixote
  • Beloved
  • Dalloway
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Jane Eyre
  • The Color Purple 

I’m really happy GQ has given us permission to read the twelve books considered to be the best ever written.  Give me hope in the future 😊

As always, please give me your opinion.

THE GIRL IN THE WOODS

May 15, 2018


A teenage schoolgirl is found on a nature hike being taken by a group of grammar school children.   They found a severed human foot wearing pink nail polish.  Gruesome but invaluable clues that lead forensic pathologist Birdy Waterman down a much darker trail to a dangerous psychopath whose powers of persuasion seem to have no end.  Only by teaming up with sheriff’s detective Kendall Stark can Birdy hope to even the odds in a deadly game of hide and seek. It’s a fateful decision the killer wants them to make and the only manner by which Birdy and Kendall can find their way to the murderer who is ready and willing to kill again.

Details on the book are as follows:

  • Series:A Waterman & Stark Thriller (Book 3)
  • Mass Market Paperback:416 pages
  • Publisher:Pinnacle (October 28, 2014)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:0786029943
  • ISBN-13:978-0786029945
  • Average Customer Review from Amazon:0 out of 5 stars 

I always like to know something about the author so here is a very brief biography of Mr. Olsen.

BIOGRAPHY OF GREGG OLSEN:

New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author, Olsen has written nine nonfiction books, nine novels, a novella, and contributed a short story to a collection edited by Lee Child.

The award-winning author has been a guest on dozens of national and local television shows, including educational programs for the History Channel, Learning Channel, and Discovery Channel. He has also appeared on Dateline NBC, William Shatner’s Aftermath, Deadly Women on Investigation Discovery, Good Morning America, The Early Show, The Today Show, FOX News, CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, CBS 48 Hours, Oxygen’s Snapped, Court TV’s Crier Live, Inside Edition, Extra, Access Hollywood, and A&E’s Biography.

In addition to television and radio appearances, he has been featured in RedbookUSA TodayPeopleSalon magazine, Seattle TimesLos Angeles Times and the New York Post.

The Deep Dark was named Idaho Book of the Year by the ILA and Starvation Heights was honored by Washington’s Secretary of State for the book’s contribution to Washington state history and culture. His Young Adult novel, Envy, was the official selection of Washington for the National Book Festival.

Olsen, a Seattle native, lives in Olalla, Washington with his wife, twin daughters, three chickens, Milo (an obedience school dropout cocker spaniel) and Suri (a mini dachshund so spoiled she wears a sweater).

This book is the first in the Waterman and Stark Thriller series linking two ladies into a crime-solving team.  Dr. Birdy Waterman is a forensic pathologist and Kendall Stark is the Chief of Police for a very small town in the Pacific Northwest–Washington State to be exact.  The book is definitely worth buying and reading although I have several wishes I feel would be very helpful.  These are as follows:

  • I would love to see Mr. Olsen give more, maybe much more, background information on the characters. I feel he missed a great opportunity to explore their characteristics and how they came to their respective professions.  He does not do them justice but simply “plops” them down to solve the crime mentioned. Since “GIRL IN THE WOODS” is the first in the series, it would have been very helpful and would have set the stage for succeeding books.
  • Olsen is a good writer but not really a “word-smith” or at least for this novel. His writing is very straightforward with few flairs and embellishments.  There are no “trick”—memorable phrases in this book.  That’s OK with me but I feel his capabilities are there but not demonstrated in this book.
  • The ending is brief with no real explanations. It just ends.  I would like to see more descriptive information that he has given.

REVIEWS:

We are all different so I would like to give you several independent reviews of others who have read “Girl in the Woods”.

CONCLUSIONS:

As you can see, the reviews are mixed but all-in-all it is a book worth reading.  I feel you are either going to love this book or put it down after several chapters and go on to another author.  Just my thoughts.

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