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December 2015

Book Review - Sidney Sheldon's "Reckless" by Tilly Bagshawe

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

9780062304056_p0_v2_s192x300Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless, by Tilly Bagshawe, is a suspenseful thrilling novel. For the past six years Bagshawe, contracted by the estate, has carried on his well developed characters and writing style. This book brings back one of his most beloved heroines, Tracy Whitney, first introduced in the novel, If Tomorrow Comes.

Bagshawe told blackfive.net, “I want to try my best to stay true to his writing. With that said, I am not him so it can’t be identical. There also must be considerations for the changes in the world. I want to strike a balance between his voice and mi Writing her character came easy, but I had to rewrite and rework the plotting. It was challenging to make the world she operates in believable, workable, and modern, since she came on the scene in 1985. I needed to find an interesting and real story for this great character as well as to have her grow. I feel incredibly lucky to write these books and to carry on these characters.:

This plot begins with Tracy’s decision to give up everything, settle down in Colorado, and devote herself solely to raising her teenage son, Nick. But her world seems to end after she receives the tragic news of her son’s death. Tracy decides to package her guilt into finding who is responsible. At the same time she is asked by the FBI and CIA to help hunt down a notorious environmental terrorist who sent an encrypted message mentioning Tracy by name. She wonders if there is a connection and her thirst for revenge propels her to help the national security agencies bring these terrorists to justice.

The multiple themes of revenge, greed, finding the truth, and grief drive the story in this novel. Anyone who has lost a loved one can relate to the powerful quotes in the book. Bagshawe has hit it head on for those who experienced and dealt with grief. “Human loss was not a team game. Each person dealt with tragedy differently…The need to be distracted… Don’t shut it out. That only gives it more power. But don’t let it consume you.” While the revenge portions have fast-paced, action scenes, the passages dealing with grief will tug at the reader’s heartstrings.

The author drew on the experiences of her husband who “had huge losses in his life, losing both parents when he was young. As a result he was put into foster care. I am married to someone where grief is a part of his life. I have watched others who have experienced it try to cope and survive.”

Fans of Tracy from the previous Sheldon book will not be disappointed in how she is portrayed in this plot. She is still beautiful, intelligent, and a survivor. Yet, she has a sadness to her after losing the love of her life, her hopes, and in some ways her freedom.

Sheldon’s legion of fans should relish the return of Tracy Whitney. Yet, those who have never read a book featuring this character will enjoy this fascinating heroine. With the heart-stopping sub-plot and breathtaking action, Reckless is a book to be read by the fireside on a cold winter night.

Book Review - "Doomed to Succeed" by Dennis Ross

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

9780374141462_p0_v2_s192x300Doomed To Succeed, by Dennis Ross, is an extraordinary book for anyone that wants to understand how US Presidents from Truman through Obama have reacted toward Israel, their policies, and the reasoning behind them. Dennis Ross has been a direct participant in shaping U.S. policy toward the Middle East, and Israel specifically, for nearly thirty years, participating in two Republican and two Democratic administrations. This is not a history of Arab-Israeli peace efforts but rather a discussion of the evolution of Israeli-American diplomatic relations.

In reading this book people will learn how the different Presidents have viewed the relationship with Israel. For example, JFK was the first President to sell arms and talk about the special relationship, Eisenhower and LBJ were preoccupied with other events such as the Cold War and Vietnam, and that the reason Nixon supplied Israel with arms on the eighth day of the Yom Kippur War was because no cease fire was accepted, the Russians were resupplying Egypt and Syria, and he did not want it to be seen in the context as Soviet arms defeating US arms. The chapter on Bill Clinton is also very insightful in that Ross views this President as the only one who “did not see Israel as a problem and refused to have public discourse with Israel.”

One of the most important points to be made in the book is that Presidents, such as Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Bush 41, and Obama, were not successful when they chose to redefine the relationship with Israel in order to gain with the Arabs. Yet, those Presidents who cooperated with Israel did not have the expected negative fallout with the Arab countries. Ross emphasizes in the book, “As the scope of US strategic and military cooperation with Israel has grown to unprecedented levels, the US presence in a number of Arab Gulf states has also dramatically increased.”

He directly noted to blackfive.net, that the recent Iran Deal is the perfect example. “What I say in the book is that the Arab leaders are focused on their regional rivals who see it as a direct threat to their security and survival: Egypt in the 1950s and 1960s, Saddam and Gaddafi the 1970s and 1980s, and today with the Iranians. Specifically the sanction relief that will allow them more resources to cause trouble.” He also makes an interesting premise, that the Palestinian issue is not a priority for the Arab leaders

Regarding the Palestinians, President Obama, according to Ross, “sees them as too weak to criticize and therefore reserves his criticism for Israel. The problem is when you give them a pass it becomes difficult for them to compromise because they also see themselves as the victim. If you always give them a pass and never hold them accountable why would they change their behavior? I remember commenting, if they are too weak to be criticized, to weak to be held accountable, then they are too weak to have a state. Those in this administration that feel that there must be a peace accord between the Palestinians and Israelis do not understand that nothing is going to change what is happening in Syria, or with ISIS.”

He explained directly, the reason he entitled the book Doomed To Succeed, “Although we may have differences from time to time what binds us is so much stronger than what divides us. Our relationship is rooted in shared values of being governed by the rule of law, civil liberties, separation of powers, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and respect for gay rights and women rights. There is no other country like Israel in the Middle East. It has retained its democratic character even with all the threats it faces.”

Doomed to Succeed offers compelling advice for how to understand the priorities of Arab leaders, Israel, and how future administrations might best shape U.S. policy in that light. This book is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the US-Israel relationship.

Merry Christmas! Be Careful Out There

Happy Holidays to All!  

Today is the shortest day/longest night of the year, and to my Norse/pagan/other friends who celebrate the Solstice tomorrow, a good one to you.  To my friends of a a different faith, a belated Happy Hanukkah.  If you celebrate something different, the blessings of that to you.  

Please be careful out there.  Today is also the anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, and if you think the timing wasn't deliberate, well...  There is a lot going on, and if we get through the next couple of weeks without a major incident, I will be surprised and pleased.  The propane tanks and cell phones in the news are but a small part of things.  There are reports out in the open about Middle Eastern males checking out Bagnell Dam in Missouri; not-in-the-media reports of Middle Eastern males checking out a National Guard armory in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  There was a (mild, thankfully) poison/toxin attack on a synagogue just south of Paris that hasn't gotten a lot of attention.  For those paying attention, there is a lot going on and Daesh has continued to issue calls for attacks here and abroad.  

This time of year offers the chance for maximum impact and to target religions and groups that are hated by Islamists.  Others too, but if you don't think Daesh and other Islamist groups are the prime threat... 

For me, I say Sod Them.  Enjoy your holidays, and enjoy them without fear.  Just be alert and be prepared.  

Merry Christmas! 

Photo - Insertion and Extraction Training

151119-M-KR317-591Marines are being lifted to a height of over 350 feet in the air to avoid any possible obstacles before flying around the area during insertion and extraction rigging training on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 19, 2015. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Briauna Birl


151119-M-KR317-528Marines land on the airfield after taking a ride during Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction rigging training on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Nov. 19, 2015. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Briauna Birl

Photo - Operation Toy Drop 2015

151207-F-TE668-569A U.S. Army Special Operations Forces parachute team member descends toward Luzon drop zone during the 18th Annual Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop on Camp Mackall, N.C., Dec. 7, 2015. Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest combined airborne operation during which service members help provide children in need with toys for the holidays. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis

Book Review - "Bone Labyrinth" by James Rollins

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

9780062381644_p0_v5_s192x300Bone Labyrinth, by James Rollins, is a thriller that tugs at the reader’s hearts.  There are two plots, one historical and one scientific.  This novel explores many important current topics including animal experimentation, the relationship between the guerilla and man, as well as the genetic make-up of a human’s brain. 

This 11th Sigma Force novel has Painter Crowe, the director, assigning Commander Gray Pierce, to investigate an attack on a group of scientists exploring a massive cave in the mountains of Croatia. One of the scientists, geneticist Lena Crandall, along with her twin sister, Maria, is attempting to find the origin of human intelligence. Maria’s research centers on her work with a three-year-old male lowland gorilla, Baako, who’s a hybrid of gorilla and Neanderthal genes. After Maria and Baako are kidnapped, the action-packed story begins. 

The story is told in alternating chapters involving two sets of protagonists. The first group is comprised of one of a pair of twins, an American scientist studying the evolution of human intelligence, a Catholic priest and some Sigma Force members assigned to rescue them after things go bad in a cave in Croatia. This piece is more of a historical quest. The other group, who wind up in a vast, underground science facility in China, is comprised of the second twin scientist, some other Sigma Force members, and Baako, the young gorilla who is the subject of the twins' research. Many readers will be drawn more to Baako and his story, turning every page as they wonder what will be his ultimate outcome. This sub-plot involves more of the science and genetics piece of the story as the Chinese scientists attempt to harvest some of the DNA of the animals to engineer a stronger solider. 

There is a powerful scene in the book where Sigma operatives Monk Kokhalis and Kimberly May are embedded in a Chinese zoo.  Rollins commented to blackfive.net, “I spent a week in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.  I joked with my editor after I finished the book I will never be allowed back in China.  This scene is taken from my reaction.  I was appalled, some of which, could not even put in the book.   For example, I found out that fifteen years ago, at the zoo restaurant, they would serve animal body parts.  I was shocked how the patrons of the zoo treated the animals, banging on their cages, throwing things at them, and as I describe in the book pouring a coke on top of a Mongolian bear.”

Rollins noted he did extensive research from watching clips of the Lion, Christian, who was released into a reserve after having been a pet for years.  When his human handler finds Christian in the wild the lion charges, hugs, and plays with him.  He also read about a pet gorilla that was also released into the wild, was found, and brought the family over to meet the human handler.

The reason Rollins chose to write about a gorilla instead of a chimp is explained in the book: from a genetic viewpoint 98% of the Chimpanzees are like us whereas gorillas are 97%.  Yet, from an intelligent and thinking standpoint gorillas are closer to humans than Chimps. The author’s description of how Baako looks at the world seems very plausible, having a sharper sense with a very emotional understanding of the past, present, and future.  The best scenes are between Baako and Maria, which mirror a mother/child bond.

The Bone Labyrinth blends intense action with thrilling plots that are sprinkled with interesting historical and/or scientific facts. A fabulous adventure that is heart wrenching and action packed.

Rollins also wants those who live in the Southern California area to know he will be doing a book signing at Camp Pendleton and he would love you to come bye and say hi!