Monday, March 12, 2018

Camel Club and Wish You Well by David Baldacci

July 1, 2011 from my  other blog, copied here .  The other blog was before I set this one up just for books. 

I finished reading a few more books to add to my side bar.  Just last night, I turned the last page 435 on one of my go to author's David Baldacci, an excellent story teller, "The Camel Club."  I have not ever had a disappointing read by him and in this book different yet again, I think he must be meeting with another of my favorite authors, Vince Flynn.  The Camel Club published in 2005 introduces Oliver Stone and his friends who exist on the fringes of Washington, DC to seek the truth about the country's business.  This is a mystery, thriller, terrorist, suspenseful novel at it's best.  Until I read this,  my  favorite Baldacci  read years ago was "Wish You Well."  Now it is a toss up.  Somehow I had jumped sequence because I first read the second in this venue,  which is not a series,  with the same four characters, charter members of the club, Oliver, Caleb Shaw, Reuben Rhodes, and Milton Farb but in this they join forces with Alex Ford, a secret service agent against a sinister plot of terrorists and ideologues that threaten the stability of the nation and the world.  I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, but this twister kept me glued to the pages and in today's topsy turvy  world with  repetitive crises in the Mid east, this work of fiction could be predictive.

Oliver, whose true identity is revealed in this book, claims they chose camel because camels have great stamina and never give up, but Reuben, reveals  page 432",, in the  1920's there was another Camel Club and at each meeting the members raised their glasses to oppose Prohibition to the last drop of whiskey."   As always Baldacci writes well and introduces spectacular characters. Besides the four, there are ever so many more characters such as Djamila,  a Muslim nanny, an Iranian posing as an Egyptian undercover of her peaceful job;  two sided  secret service agents who bring the country to the brink of the unthinkable; the ideologue Muslims who have infiltrated and settled into unsuspecting areas of employment waiting their moment; Brennan, the President of the United States, who is from a small town outside Pittsburgh, PA where terror manifest,  North Koreans, Carter Gray  the US Intelligence Czar appointed by the President  (this book was written before we had Czars...) and more officials and agents.  Camel Club is suspenseful and  kept me guessing to identify who are the villains and who are the champions and that suspense kept me reading.   Pg.154...."..he became Oliver Stone, a man of silent protest who watched and paid attention to important things...."  Pg. 40 describing the issues faced today, ..."not a war of professional armored battalions vs. turbanned rabble in the streets toting rifles and RPGs.  And it was not simply  a difference of religions.  It was a  battle against a mind-set of how people should conduct their lives, a battle that had political, social, and cultural facets melded together  into an exceedingly complex mosaic of humanity under enormous strain."    Pg. 69.."ignorance and intolerance, in pairs, never  one without its evil twin."  Pgs 100-101  well describe the history of the Muslim and  mideast turmoils  from the Syrians, Chechniyans, Mindanos, Kuwait, Lebanon,  Afghanistan, Morocco, Kurds, Iraquis, Baathists, Taliban, Mali and Senegal and more.   Baldacci has  summarized the escalation of problems the world faces today.   I fully recommend this thriller and as I said, I hope it is not predictive.    

The Collectors by David Baldacci

I posted this on my other blog in February 2010 and copied it here, one other very good Baldacci novel.  The Camel Club characters in action. 

"The Collectors"  by David Baldacci published in 2006, was my latest Baldacci read, completed on our RV trip west.  How Baldacci twists and melds  divergent plots so that the interwoven interesting characters keep me on the edge of the pages, always amazes me. In this dual different tales, the first centered on deaths in the Library of Congress' antique book section involving librarians and collectors of  famous old antique  books and  the second a very upscale con artist, Amanda Conroy and her troupe of merry men who avenge her con-father's death on one of Atlantic  cities top dogs by bilking him out of  more than $40 million.  It's a fascinating read how these two settings with unique  characters meet and become responsible  for unraveling a plot of selling top US secrets to unfriendlies. Oliver Stone, alias of a man who has been with special forces and intrigue services internationally for America  but who now works as a caretaker in  a cemetery although still maintaining his skills in security and resolution and who with Milton Farb, Reuben Rhodes and Caleb Shaw  forms the Camel club, an informal watchdog organization to keep the US government accountable to the people.  When Caleb, who's a librarian at the  Library of Congress discovers his mentor dead and is named  by the will to assess and oversee sale of the dead man's antique priceless book collection, the Camel Club becomes involved.  It's a must read  for those who like mystery, intrigue and characters, all Baldacci traits.  This novel though has one of those endings that assure purchase of the next novel, as the wronged Atlantic city mobster is left coming after Amanda who has now partnered with the Camels.  Gotta see what happens in that novel which is likely already published by this prolific author.  Baldacci books never disappoint me.

Divine Justice by David Baldacci

Read this novel in February and will be passing along to Library sale, but another as always excellent Baldacci read.  It is an old one from 2008, 387 pages,  recently acquired at a sale and like all Baldacci can be read out of order, although his one continues with the characters of the Camel Club and Oliver Stone.  This could very well have been written or be applied today.  It high lights coal mining, the lives, hills and folks who live there and  the timely horror of rampant prescription drug abuse, opiods of today.  

From page 150, " There was right and wrong.  Although those lines got blurred all the time.  Justice and injustice too were often all over the place, he knew.  There were no easy answers and whatever road you took, be it the high, low or more likely somewhere in between, half the people  would hate the result and half would applaud.  And the hell of the thing was in a way they'd both be right."

Page 213, " Experience without cynicism was a sure sign your brain had dry rotted and you hadn't bothered to notice.  He went into every high level meeting these days knowing there were at least three agendas and also knowing he'd only be told one of them."  Sounds like bureaucracy and governmental politics of today, some things do no change. 

This is another 5 *****.  A page turner that I read to get a break from another book that I have been struggling to finish and needed a break in reading.  Sometimes I do that, set one aside and  pick up diversion.  Baldacci never disappoints.  

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bess W Truman by Margaret Truman

Cover Leaf
Read this November-December 2017, another from my shelf, another book sale find, another keeper for my Presidential shelf ,another book proving that there are plenty to read from past years, no need to buy new.  Hardback, published in 1986, 432 pages.  The introductory paragraph on the leaf, "the untold story of Bess and her love for her husband.., as only their daughter could tell it."  In my opinion it is as much about Harry as Bess, often using his letters written over the years to Bess and his mother and his journals. Perhaps Margaret could not help herself with so much already written about Harry there are some things she disputes that other authors have written, I am inclined to believe her.  I enjoyed every page having long been a fan of Harry Truman.  What makes it endearing are the letters that he wrote to Bess over the years, from a young man, to World War I, to his Senate and Presidential Days when they often lived apart, Bess in Missouri and Harry in Washington.  

One of the precious letters is the anniversary letter Harry wrote to Bess June 28, 1957 where he details each year anniversary beginning June 28, 1920, "One happy year" , June 28, 1937 "Grand time in Washington", June 28, 1940 "Senate fight coming.", June 28, 1944 "Talk of V>P> Bad business", June 28, 1949 "President again.  Another happy day.", and ending with June 28, 1957, "Well here we are again, as Harry Jones (an old friend) would say.  Only 37 to go for the diamond jubilee!"  

Pages 128-129 detail from Harry's reflections the airmail he faced deciding to run for the Senate and his continuous fight against corrupt politicians, some of who tried to befriend him, some  in his party, some not. He summarizes the major events of his life from meeting Bess Wallace in kindergarten through his struggle on the farm to joining the army in World War I. He would maintain a lifelong respect and friendship with the men with whom he served.    "My mother and sister came to see me at Camp Doniphan.  My mother was 65 years old but she never shed a tear, smiled at me all the time and told me to do my best for the country.  But she cried all the way home and when I came back from France, she gained ten or 15 pounds in weight.  That's the real horror of war.  I believe that the great majority of the country were stirred by the same flame that stirred me in tose great days.  I was a Gallahad after the Grail and I'll never forget how my love cried on my shoulder when I told her I was going.  That was worth a lifetime on this earth."     Page 129  he philosophizes "I have always believed in Santa Claus I guess.  It was my opinion...that most men had a sense of honor.  Now I don't know.......Who is to blame for the present conditions but swindling church members who weep on Sunday, play with whores on Mondays, drink on Tuesday, sell out to the Big Boss on Wednesday, repent about Friday and start over again on Sunday...And now I am a candidate for the US Senate. ...I am going to pray as King Solomon did, for wisdom to do the job."  Bess was not with him when he wrote his lonely sounding meditation.  Margaret writes, "But even the closest, most enduring marriage is not always idyllic.  Perhaps the difficulty of perfect union between a strong man and a strong woman, even the impossibility is an important truth--it might even be the central truth of this book.  Perfect union suggests that there has to be a surrender of one self to the other self, usually the woman to the man.  Bess Truman never did that.  But she never forgot the promise she had made to Captain Truman in 1919."  
Margaret, Harry and Bess victory, VP nomination. 

The story of Bess reveals her athleticism and sense of competition as a young girl and her absolute devotion to her mother, widowed by Bess' father's suicide, and to her brothers.  Harry is usually always optimistic, Bess could be more realistic.  She was with him all through his political ups and downs, a counter balance to some heavy weight influences and often more skeptical and a better judge of people and their unstated motives than Harry.  Bess also tried to shun a lot of campaigning and reporters in particular.  Sometimes she merely refused to talk with them.  Still her political instincts were amazingly astute and very helpful to Harry over the years.  Pg 229, "..there was an invisible line in their partnership that Bess never crossed--a line that divided a wife's power over her husband between influence and control.  Bess never hesitated to try to influence...decisions.  But she never attempted to control him, especially in those lonely moments when he confronted his deepest self, the instinct that drove him to risk the pain and sacrifice of meeting history head on. While Bess had adjusted and become content with being the wife of Senator Truman she dreaded the vice presidency but she did not try to dissuade Harry from accepting responsibility.  It would change history or perhaps history indeed changed them.   Pg. 230 Margaret describes that Bess could barely get a smile for the photo above, "She was losing the serene, comfortable life of a senator's wife, which she had worked so hard to master.  She was fifty nine years old and all her life she had been making sacrifices for people, putting herself and her concerns second to her mother's peace of mind, her brothers' welfare, her daughter's health her husband's career.  " 

Page344 summarizes Bess' major accomplishments as first lady.  In 1949 Denmark invited the US to send a company to perform Hamlet at Elsinore Castle.  Bess facilitated the way for Blevins Davis a former Independence Missouri English teacher who became a successful Broadway producer and a wealthy widower, to gain State Department approval.  Blevins production which included a previously unknown actor, Ernest Borgnine and the  tour was a hit. In the mid-1950's the State Department created a division to routinely send artistic companies abroad.    In the 1948 campaign Bess met Florence Mahoney wife of a relative of a newspaper publisher. Mrs. Mahoney suggested that the National Institutes of Health(NIH) become the center  of a massive effort to conquer major diseases such as cancer.  Bess was fascinated by this and went to work making it a reality by urging Harry to increase funding for the NIH  By 1952 when Harry left the presidency the budget for NIH had increased to $46 million , twenty times what it was when Harry first became president.   

Pg 179 describes how he disliked FDR whom Harry believed was not able to keep his word and not interested in doing so.   Pg 214-215 summarizes the Truman Committee investigation of the Navy Bureau of ships in 1942, the contract for the Higgins boats and his concern over corruption especially in the war effort. .  I could write on and on about this book, but will stop here.  It is a worthy read for a history on politics, how perhaps the country changed and how things were still the same.  Another 5 ***** read. 

Cover jacket flaps

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Term Limits by Vince Flynn

Before 2018 gets along much farther, here is another book I read in 2017, but just now posting a review.  The late Vince Flynn has been one of my favorite political/espionage/thriller authors.  "Term Limits" published in 1997 by Pocket Books, Simon and Schuster, although I find that comical as my copy picked up at a book sale somewhere the past year or so, is a hardback, hardly pocketbook size and 403 pages of another excellent read.  I saw on the front page another reader, initial "B" read it January 2016.  I will also initial and then donate along  to the local Goodwill or Salvation Army because the local library doesn't have the where-with-all nor space to maintain and offer much selection of decent older books for their monthly sales.  Pity as this is a good read and rather timely today as much as when written.  That is a phenomena of Vince Flynn, sometimes his novels were predictive. But you can research him yourself.  This book came without a cover so there is no scan photo. 

 As with every Vince novel I give this 5 stars *****.

I scanned three pages to share here, the first, page 91 deals with the difference between politicians and commandos, or the military especially Special Forces and politicians.  The discord is understandable, the distinction between these two professions is an understatement.  "Commandos live by a warrior's code honor and integrity and politicians say whatever will keep them in office. ."  

To give a better brief idea of the story line in Term Limits, I copied this paragraph, review from the Goodreads site,
"In one bloody night, three of Washington's most powerful politicians are executed with surgical precision. Their assassins then deliver a shocking ultimatum to the American government: set aside partisan politics and restore power to the people. No one, they warn, is out of their reach—not even the president."

A joint FBI-CIA task force reveals the killers are elite military commandos, but no one knows exactly who they are or when they will strike next. Only Michael O'Rourke, a former U.S. Marine and freshman congressman, holds a clue to the violence: a haunting incident in his own past with explosive implications for his country's future ..

And copied this from the Vince Flynn site.  
"What if America's leaders were held accountable for their broken promises -- and made to pay for their corruption?   Vince Flynn brings to life a chilling scenario of Washington under siege -- in the provocative, edge-of-your-seat political thriller that stormed onto national bestseller lists..."

Pg 197 reflects interesting thoughts  about the complicated corrupt political system system we have endured.  And I believe this is why men and women with good intentions, honor, integrity do not make it in today's politics, in fact they avoid it like the plague. 

And the last page I scanned pg 222 below has a very true statement that is useful in many areas of life and could be remembered.  The through that it is easy to say you understand something but the truth is you cannot really understand unless you have experienced it.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Brutal Feeling by Louise Penny 2017 read

Read and absolutely enjoyed this in October, 2017, sent to me by a friend who found it at a booksale.  Louise Penny is a new author to me, but one very familiar to Canadians although she is an American.  I have ordered another of hers on my Kindle.  This was published in 2009.  I look forward to reading more.  I do not know when I have been so delighted readingan excellent mystery.  

Although  classified as a mystery this novel has intrigue,  enjoyable plots and revolves around excellent characters.  Chief Inspector Gamache is a central character in several of her books but it is not necessary to read them in any particular order.  I was immediately fascinated with the setting and the characters in this story set in the wilderness outside of Quebec, Three Pines, a fictitious village that has seen better times but now some newcomers hope to revive it as a tourist spot.  A tramp is murdered and left in the local bistro.

Back cover
A local character, Ruth Zardow with her pet duck is fond of leaving clue via poetry.  Page 58, "Are you deaf? "she shouted at Gamache, Beauvoir and Clara. " Dinners getting cold get inside."   Beauvoir felt his rectum spasm as he hurried past her.  Clara followed Beauvoir to the dinner table, but Gamache lingered.  It took him a moment to realize he wasn't alone.  Ruth was standing beside him, tall rigid, leaning on her cane, her face all reflected light and deep crevices.  "A strange thing to give Oliver, wouldn't you say?"The old voice sharp and jagged cut through the laughter from the village green.  "I beg your pardon." Gamache turned to her.  "The dead man.  Even you can't be that dense.  Someone did this to Olivier.  The man's greedy and shiftless and probably quite weak, but he didn't kill anyone.  So why would someone chose his bistro for murder?"  Gamache raised his eyebrows, "You think someone chose the bistro on purpose?"  "Well it didn't happen by accident, the murderer chose to kill at Olivier's Bistro.  He gave the body to Olivier."  ...."Nothing I ever gave was good for you," quoted Gamache. "It was like white bread to a goldfish."  Beside him Ruth Zardow stiffened, then in a low growl she finished her own poem.  "They cram and cram, and it kills them, and they drift in the pool belly up, making stunned faces and playing on our if their own toxic gluttony was not their fault. "......Was Ruth right?  Had someone chosen the bistro on purpose?  But this meant Olivier was somehow implicated.  Had he brought this on himself?  Who in the village hated the tramp enough to kill him and Olivier entough to do it there?  Or was the tramp merely a convenient tool?  A poor man in the wrong place.  Used as a weapon against Olivier? 

I could not determine who would be guilty and changed my mind several times reading this through until the last page, 372.  From the very beginning the author builds a character and then has a twist, the first being the relationship between Gabri and Olivier two men.....

 I readily give this one 5 *****

Monday, November 27, 2017

Silken Prey by John Sandford

I read this in July, although it was published in 2013, I found it at a book sale and could not pass it by.  I have read several of John Sanford's Prey series featuring investigator Lucas Davenport, all set in Minnesota and most on my Kindle.  I seldom include a review of my kindle reads here.  the entire 406 pages reads along nicely, and true to Sandford, I can never figure out the way the crime will be resolved. In this a MN political "fixer" is kidnapped.  Davenport is investigating another case when the trail leads him to the disappearance and then back to the Minneapolis Police Dept.  A treacherous dangerous female  with grand political aspirations including running for president with specific ideas of how the world should be, is central to the story.  Ruthless does not adequately describe the character Taryn Grant. Pg 123, "..she had the money wrapped up, she looked terrific, she had a mind that understood the necessary treacheries, a silken Machiavelli." 

A few quotes, pg. 16,  "You're saying the media is dangerous, immoral, and antidemocratic?"   "Well,,,,yes" Henderson said.  "They don't recognize it in themselves, but they're basically criminals.  In the classic sense of that word."  I am not a fan of mainstream media and found that appropo. 

pg. 135, "She wore it like a gown.  He'd seen it often enough in government work, people who felt that they were better than their job, and better than those around them; a princess kidnapped by gypsies and raised below her station."

Pg 399...lameduck session and complain all he wanted about Taryn Grant, but nothing would be done, because Grant was a winner.  In Lucas' opinion, a good part of Congress seemed to suffer from the same psychological defects that afflicted Taryn Grant......
their bloated self-importance, ther disregard of anything but their own goals, their pre-occupation with power..."  Oh another fitting description of Congress.

Another winner by Sandford,  5  *****.