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October 2013

Book Review: The Memorial Edition of Chris Kyle's "American Sniper"

The following book review is a special provided for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062306708_p0_v7_s260x420The Memorial Edition of American Sniper by Chris Kyle with Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen has just been published.  This Memorial Edition reminds Americans that there are true heroes that need to be remembered. Re-reading this book will enable people to understand why it has been on the New York Times Bestseller list since its release in January 2012. 

This edition still has the moving first-person account of Chris’ extraordinary battlefield experiences when he became the top American military sniper of all time.  There is something for everyone in the book: technical details including why a certain gun is preferred in a certain situation, types of guns used, plenty of combat action, and a discussion on relationships with fellow SEALs as well as his wife and children. His story is at times funny, scary, sad, and intense.

Kyle once stated to blackfive.net that he never saw himself as a “killer but as a Guardian Angel for our troops on the ground, and that he never apologized or regretted what he did because my shots saved several Americans whose lives were clearly worth more than the enemy savages who tried to take those lives. I don’t worry about what other people think of me.” This is exemplified in the book quote, “People fighting in Iraq were fanatics.  They hated us because we weren’t Muslim.  They wanted to kill us…because we practiced a different religion than they did.” His brother Jeff, a former recon Marine, who now is the owner of a weapons training company, www.tetatx.us.com, concurs, “SEALs, Rangers, Green Berets, those in recon, were happy with the book because Chris showed how we take on our roles to protect as many people as possible. He pulled the trigger for the right reason, to bring everyone home alive.”

The book also includes the insights of his wife Taya, what she had to endure as a military spouse.  What it was like to be left at home for months on end, having to be a single mom, worried wife, and someone responsible for the finances and upkeep of the home.  She recently commented to blackfive.net, “Chris laid it on the table, both our flaws and good qualities that people can relate with.” The co-author, Jim DeFelice also thinks American Sniper is an important read because it showed the other side of a warrior, that of a husband and father.

What the Memorial Edition does have that the original American Sniper did not is the more than eighty pages of remembrances by those close to him including his wife, brother, mother/father, children, fellow veterans, fellow warriors, and lifelong friends.  In this portion of the book readers will see his life after retiring from military service and the person he became.  Taya noted, “I hope people see these recollections as an understanding of what people will say about someone who has passed away, how they are touched personally. In addition, anyone who wants to continue to learn about how the family will carry on Chris’ torch can go to www.chriskylefrog.com.”

Although this Memorial Edition brings back the sorrowful death of someone who died way too young, it also allows Americans to openly remember the warrior and the regular guy who decided to share his life, views, and personality.  He did not only touch those who personally knew him but readers as well.  The Memorial Edition of American Sniper is a thrilling eyewitness account of service and sacrifice and a heartfelt recounting of the man.

Book Review - David Laskin's "The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century"

The following book review is a special provided for BlackFive readers by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

51MauJtqkXL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_David Laskin’s book, The Family:  Three Journeys Into The Heart of the Twentieth Century, is a gripping tale that traces the roots of his ancestors.  Although it is a non-fiction book it reads more like a novel, with characters who are interesting and well developed.  Any American will enjoy this story since it is really a history of the period from the late 1830s to the late 1940s.  Amazon has chosen it as its book of the month for October.

The story begins with the birth of Laskin’s great-great-grandfather in Russia.  It traces how the family separated into three branches. One branch immigrated to America, including a former Russian revolutionary who ended up founding the Maidenform Bra Company.  Another branch went to what was then Palestine and participated as a pioneer in the birth of Israel.  The third branch, seventeen members, unfortunately remained in Europe and was killed during the Holocaust.

Laskin told blackfive.net, “My family reflected these movements of the early twentieth Century.  It is a book of how history swept up my family and changed us.  I believe every family has a story like this.  I hope the readers care about the individuals and see how they were touched by history.”

The book will remind readers of the “Fiddler on the Roof ” story, especially with his great aunt Itel who became a revolutionary and feminist, making sure she chose her own husband.  She is by far the most interesting character because of her many different views.  After coming to America she maintained her socialistic ideology while becoming a very rich industrialist, the owner of Maidenform.  In explaining the quote, “Itel, the socialist capitalist,” who eventually bought a house that he described as a palace, Laskin commented to blackfive.net, “Itel was a socialist in views but a capitalist at heart.  She is not utterly consistent, but that is how many people were back then.”

Besides the interesting characters Laskin also fascinatingly describes how different historical events affected his family.  The description of World War I as seen through his family’s eyes is very potent. Hyman, a great uncle, became an American GI who was attacked with mustard gas, and luckily lived to tell about it.  This scene was described with great thought-provoking detail.

Yet, those in his family who remained in Eastern Europe had to endure the Russian Revolution and a war fought in their backyard.  People forget that the Germans of WWI were not the Nazis of WWII.  After the peace treaty with Russia many of Laskin’s family fell under German control.  They were treated with more respect, did not have to endure the Russian reign of terror, and for the most part had their Jewish customs accepted.  Laskin hopes to show, “The Germans in WWI were more tolerant.  The Pogroms, attacks on Jews, came from the Russians.  Also, Jews were able to climb up in the German and American armies to become officers which was not permitted in the Russian army.”

In tracing the backgrounds of his family from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries Laskin captures the historical significance of the eras.  The Family enriches the reader to see how history plays a role in many amazing and disturbing ways.  It reminds people that the past should never be forgotten with a very riveting story.

Photo: Huey still in it

1035258A U.S. Marine Corps UH-1 Huey lands at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Shukvani before a sandstorm in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2013. The Huey was flying in support or 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Sean Searfus/ Released)

Read more: http://www.dvidshub.net/image/1035258/huey-landing#.UmAXIVBwrTo#ixzz2i03EiHBU

Iranians almost certain to finish their nukes

The follies that are talks with the Iranians about their nuclear weapons program are ongoing and just as substance free as ever. The chances are near zero that the Ayatollahs will give up their decades long plan to become the second nuclear power in the Middle East. But if you listen to the reports from poolside at some four star hotel, you might be fooled again.

For the first time in a long time, the news out of negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, which took place Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, was extremely positive. 

In a statement at the close of talks Wednesday—the first ever such joint statement from the Iranian and P5+1 delegations (the permanent five UN Security Council members plus Germany)—European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif hailed “two days of substantive and forward looking negotiations.”

“I've been doing this now for about two years, and I have never had such intense, detailed, straightforward, candid conversations with the Iranian delegation before,” said a senior U.S. official after the talks. “And I would say we are beginning that kind of negotiation to get to a place where, in fact, one can imagine that you could possibly have an agreement.” The official continued, “I think if you talk to any of the P5+1 members–and some of them have been doing this for a lot longer than I have… they would tell you the same thing.”

Let's play count the weasel words in that statement from one of our poolside pantywaists. "beginning", "get to a place", "one can imagine", "possibly have an agreement" Oh FFS, I can begin to get to a place where I can imagine that I could possibly have an agreement to be King of Siam, but that don't make it even the remotest of a real possibility. Just because one or more of these formalized liars in formal wear commented on the dashing cut of the tux of another doesn't mean the Mullahs aren't still building bombs. Those centrifuges are spinning faster that all the jaws at these talks are flapping and they are going to actually create something real, and real dangerous.

The fact that the Iranians are saying nice things to the toothless dogs we send to these soirees is more likely a sign that they are close enough to boom that they want to divert attention. That these clowns think this is a sign they have reconsidered their cunning plans to dominate the region and maybe the globe, shows just how naive they are.The clock is ticking and since there is no chance the West will do a damn thing, expect an Israeli action of some sort. They won't get fooled again.

Photos: MOH Awardee U.S. Army Captain Will Swenson and the Marines who fought like hell

Hires_1301016-M-EV637-500Former Army Capt. William D. Swenson embraces a Marine with whom he served in Afghanistan during the ceremony to induct him into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2013. Swenson received the medal for his efforts during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Sept. 8, 2009. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

Hires_1301016-M-EV637-406Marines who served with former Army Capt. William D. Swenson applaud during the ceremony to induct Swenson, Medal of Honor recipient, into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

Hires_131016-D-HU462-094Medal of Honor recipient former Army Capt. William D. Swenson, facing back, applauds Marines with whom he served during the ceremony to induct him into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon, Oct. 16, 2013. DOD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp


Book Review - Andrew Kaplan's "Homeland: Carrie's Run"

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the far right sidebar.

9780062281722_p0_v4_s260x420Andrew Kaplan’s latest book, Homeland: Carrie’s Run is based on the hit TV series.  After reading these books it becomes obvious that he should be writing the scripts.  This book is much more realistic and has the feel for a thriller while keeping intact the essence of the characters. While the series begins in 2011 this story takes place in Lebanon during 2006.

He told blackfive.net that this book came about when Harper Collins and the studio decided to have a joint project to tie a book in with the television series.  Kaplan became the obvious choice since he has written a similar series whose main character is an independent operative, Scorpion, and he worked in AMAN, Israel’s military intelligence.  After gaining complete control over the storylines he agreed to the assignment.

In all of his books, the Homeland and Scorpion series have very believable characters, plots, and tactics.  Carrie’s Run begins when she attempts to hold a clandestine meeting with a new contact, code-named Nightingale.  Suspicious that security has been compromised she barely escapes an ambush.  Because of a confrontation with the station chief she is sent back to Langley.  To prevent a terrorist plot she acts insubordinately to uncover it and the connection between Nightingale and the leader of Iraqi Al Qaeda leader, Abu Nazir.  The sub-plot is very interesting in that Kaplan reveals the compelling untold backstories of the main character.

The book tells Carrie’s story of growing up in Maryland and shows how she became a solitary figure.  Kaplan portrayed her as a long distance runner during Carrie’s college years.  “I decided to make that a metaphor since she has a ‘long distance run’ to find the terrorist plot in addition to her actual run for her life when she has to escape the terrorists in Lebanon.” 

Both series discuss the culture of the Middle East.  In the Homeland book he makes it very clear how women are subservient figures with the quotes, “Many men in the Middle East believed Western women were all sluts anyway,” and a recruited asset’s “husband, Abbas, abused her nonstop because she had painful endometriosis that prevented her from having children… and had once beaten her so badly with a tire iron.” 

Kaplan stated to blackfive.net, “I want to show how there is so much deception going on and there is a need for our intelligence community to find the truth.  I also want to show in all my books how that area of the world is very complicated.  For example in Scorpion Deception I show how the Iranians have factions within factions who are fighting for power.  I will also show this in my next Homeland book when I have Carrie travel to Syria for clues.  Basically, there are two worlds.  On the outside, the one the world sees, there are the Mullahs, women in chadors, and men shaking fists against America.  Then there is behind-the-curtain where everyone drinks Johnnie Walker and women take off their rusaris and they watch American television.”

Carrie’s Run is a very suspenseful political thriller that can be enjoyed by readers, even if they do not watch the “Homeland” TV series.  Unlike this season this novel’s plot is very realistic and riveting.  The setting of the Middle East, the tactics of the CIA operatives, and the examples of the Islamic atrocities are very believable. Maybe in addition to writing gripping thrillers he can write for the television series because they surely need good ideas for plots.


Photo: Sea Supply

The U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS George Washington, bottom, conducts a replenishment with the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Yukon in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, Oct. 14, 2013. The Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force to protect and defend the maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Trevor Welsh

Book Review: "Storm Front" by John Sandford

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right side bar.

9780399159305_p0_v1_s260x420John Sandford’s latest book, Storm Front, is a “fun thriller.”  It is a Virgil Flowers novel, which always has a lighter plot than the Davenport series, but this one can be classified as more of a satire.  The multiple storylines emphasize deceit and poke fun at those novels that use religious artifacts for covers of ancient global conspiracies.

The book begins with an archeological dig in Israel that turns up a stele, an inscribed piece of stone, that can have a supposed profound effect on the history of the Middle East.  Elijah Jones, a college professor who is dying, steals it to sell on the black market.  This is where the plot takes off, becoming a cat and mouse chase to see who will end up with the stone. Virgil must deal with the bumbling ways of mercenary Turks, Mossad agents, Hezbollah terrorists, and Texas reality show hosts.  There is also a sub-plot that involves a woman who is selling fake antique lumber.  Sandford is able to weave these two plots together in a suspenseful way with many twists and turns.

Sandford told blackfive.net, “It was intended to be a fun read.  I wanted to write about a bunch of foreign rednecks that are running around trying to find an object of power.  I had a good time writing this thriller where no one actually gets killed.  I hope my readers appreciate the skepticism of the story.  Since there are so many arguments today over politics and religion I wanted to show the problem when combining politicians and crazies. I decided to start it with an archeological dig because it was a serious hobby for me.  I would go to Israel for six weeks every summer for a dig.”

He also gave a heads-up about his next book, which is a 180-degree turn from Storm FrontIt will be a throw back to the earlier Davenport books whose antagonist is a violent crazy killer.  The plot involves women who disappear from Minnesota once a year.  No one knows their whereabouts until two high school sweethearts go to a “lover’s lane” field where they encounter a really bad smell.  After mentioning it to a policeman an investigation is started where twenty skulls are found. 

Comparing his most recent books, Sandford’s Davenport series is more serious and gripping, while the Flowers series includes more humor surrounding the mystery.  He noted that Storm Front “was not intended to be a hardcore thriller.  I think it is more realistic than a lot of the novels surrounding religious conspiracy.  The main plot has people running around chasing after a sacred object.  Flowers questions if it has mystical powers, but soon realizes it is just a rock.”  Storm Front is a novel that includes an exciting plot, a lot of satire, and a good cat and mouse chase.