#BookReview: Ragnarok by Jeremy Robinson

If you like globe trotting action (ala PULSE or THRESHOLD), you’ll love the first half of this book. If you like more one-location action (ala INSTINCT), you’ll love the second half/ final battle of this book. If you want to know what happens with the Chess Team spread all over the planet, each off doing their own thing, and how they come back together, you’ll love this entire book. If you love action mixed with a bit of sci-fi, you’ll love this entire book. If you like balls to the wall action, you’ll love this entire book.

Robinson is quickly gaining more and more space on bookshelves, both in bookstores and in personal libraries, and this book is yet another masterpiece. Seriously, about the only people that won’t like this book are those who prefer more Nicholas Sparks style books. If you like action and mystery, this book is for you. And even if you think you know what’s coming…. you don’t. Filled with in references to Jeremy’s other books even outside the Chess Team series, any fan will have plenty of laugh out loud moments – and anyone new to the series will have plenty of references to track down in Jeremy’s other works.

Brief plot synopsis: The Chess Team is spread all over the place. Rook is where we left him in his novella, Bishop and Knight are in Uganda taking down a splinter cell of the LRA, Queen is tracking down Rook, and King is…. stumbling across a bomb plot at Disneyworld while trying to take his new family on a much deserved vacation.

Suddenly, mysterious glowing balls start showing up all over the place, taking everything that was inside them with them when they go – and unleashing mucho devastation while they are here.

King and Deep Blue are sent off to examine one globe, Knight and Bishop are sent to handle another…. but where is Rook? And where is Queen? One Chess Team member alone is devastating. Any two are deadly. But if they are going to solve Ragnarok, they will need the full force of all five members (and then some!) to tackle their biggest enemy yet.

This review of Ragnarok by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on October 19, 2012.

#BookReview: Seven Principles of Good Government by Gary Johnson

I’ve been following the Governor since some friends started talking about him a couple of years ago when he launched the Our America Initiative. Honestly, before that point, I’d never heard of the man.

Even though I’ve been following him for a couple of years and know quite a bit about him and his positions, this book revealed far more that even I didn’t know – and convinced me even more that this is the man that America needs in the White House.

For example, while I’ve always known him to be forthright, I didn’t know to the exact extent he held himself until reading the chapter about honesty. Truman once famously said “The Buck Stops Here.” Johnson lives that statement, even when he knows the honest answer may wind up hurting him, as it did in New Mexico a time or two.

And I had never known about his program as Governor to allow any citizen of his State 5 minutes at a time to talk to him about anything they needed or wanted to speak to him about. For a few hours every evening, he set aside time to hear directly from the people. Not the various lobbying groups that haunt all Capitols, but the people directly. I personally think that made him a better Governor, and I would challenge all Governors to emulate that program (apparently his immediate successor, Bill Richardson, did at least for a time). Can you imagine how in tune a President would be with the American people if he had such a program? No more lobbyists in the Lincoln bedroom, no more “Celebrity President”, simply average Americans telling their President exactly what is on their mind.

Along the way through this book, you meet both the man and his ideals. You learn about the very human, very pragmatic side of the man who became known as Governor Veto – and you learn exactly why he vetoed so many bills.

In an age of increasing polarization of the electorate, this book stands as a shining example of a man who is well respected by all sides, even those who oppose his views. As he sometimes says on the campaign trail, he is the only candidate for President who the residents of his state wave at him with all five fingers, not just one.

This review of Seven Principles of Good Government by Gary Johnson was originally published on August 24, 2012.

#BookReview Resurrect by Kane Gilmour

RESURRECT is Kane Gilmour’s first work, and I would EASILY put it up there with other first works such as Dale Brown’s Flight of the Old Dog, Clive Cussler’s Mediterranean Caper, or Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October. Yes, this book is THAT good – or better.

The action starts with a plane crash in a remote region of China near Tibet, picks up with the survivor and her rescuers being chased through a mountain by people trying to blow them up, and reaches a finale with the group battling their adversaries INSIDE St Peter’s Basilica.

Along the way, we meet Jason Quinn and Curtis Johnson, our heroes and best friends who work together at ARGO – a group reminiscent of Cussler’s NUMA or David Golemon’s Event Group – who will be featured in at least Gilmour’s next work. Johnson is the practical, friendly side kick to Quinn’s friendly yet mysterious do-whatever-it-takes hero.

Gilmour is an author Jeremy Robinson has taken under his wing, and it shows. In one more blatant way, in the weapons used by the bad guys. This is not a bad thing at all, but fans of Robinson’s CHESS TEAM novels (and novellas, the latest of which, CALLSIGN: DEEP BLUE, was cowritten by Gilmour) will recognize them as probably the only other novel they’ve ever read that feature these particular cutting edge weapons.

So yeah, absolutely go pick up this book, and while you’re at it, go ahead and pick up DEEP BLUE. Based on Robinson’s past work and the strength of RESURRECT, I’m confident in telling you that you won’t be disappointed in either purchase.

This review of Resurrect by Kane Gilmour was originally published on December 10, 2011.

#BookReview: Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow

I finally finished reading David Murrow’s “Why Men Hate Going to Church (updated)”, after having put it down for a couple of months while I read other books and worked on other things.

The best I can say about this book is that it is a gold mine, in the truest sense of the term. You see, my wife watches Gold Rush on Discovery Channel, so I wind up watching quite a bit of it with her. On that show, various crews move around literally TONS of earth, searching for a few specks of gold. That is EXACTLY what you will be doing reading this book – searching through tons of detritus (to put it gently) for the occasional HINT of something worth noting.

To say I was disappointed in this book would be a statement in contention for understatement of the year, at least. Upon seeing the title and even a couple of the other BookSneeze reviews, I actually requested BookSneeze make this available in eBook format, which is how I read all my books now. I was hoping for something as mind blowing and concrete as Shaunti Feldhan’s seminal work, For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men. Instead, the “research” in this book at one point literally consisted of the author standing outside an Alaska sporting goods store and asking 97 men what they thought was masculine or feminine about church.

And that is the most glaring flaw of this book – little to no actual research to base the author’s claims on. Instead, he draws on what he personally sees and how he personally feels. Which is fine, if the title would have been “Why Me and My Friends Hate Going to Church”. But in purporting to talk about a genuinely real crisis, the author falls flat on his face due to so little research on the topic. Add to this the guy’s blatant homophobia and misogyny – he dislikes any song that mentions a love of Jesus, because it sounds too gay – and you pretty much have a recipe for disaster. Indeed, one of the reasons I put the book down for a couple of months was because of the sheer number of times I was almost ready to destroy my Kindle just to get this book away from me. But I agreed to participate in the BookSneeze program (a truly great program, btw), and I didn’t want to review the book without completing it, so here I sit, having now done so.

Overall, I’d give this book 0.5 stars out of 5. It has enough good in it that if you’re DESPERATE for something to read and can get your hands on a free copy, I’d say it is better than nothing – but not by much. Had I paid for the book, I’d be demanding my money back.

This review of Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow was originally published on December 6, 2011.

#BookReview: It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong by Andrew Napolitano

I just finished reading Judge Andrew Napolitano’s It is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom, and the Insta-Review is simple: If you claim to love the Constitution, If you claim to love Liberty, If you claim to love America, If you claim to love God, if even a single one of the previous fits you, READ THIS BOOK!

Even as a former Libertarian Party official and founder of my own somewhat influential libertarian leaning political blog, I was not overly aware of the Judge’s positions prior to reading this book, even though his work is frequently cited among my political allies and genuine personal friends. The reason is simple: I detest talk radio and TV pundits with a passion – I don’t watch ANY of them, not even ones I would agree with, as it seems I would with the Judge.

In this book, the Judge starts by explaining what the concept of “Natural Rights” and the “Natural Law” are. Quite simply, they are the innate rights we all share as individual humans, whether you believe – as the Judge explains – that these rights came from our Creator or simply because we are human.

From that foundation, the Judge proceeds to tackle a wide range of issues, from cause celebres of the right (immigration, abortion, gun rights, etc) to cause celebres of the left (unions, free speech, privacy, etc), and a whole lot of stuff in between. In each case, he explains what the relevant Natural Law is and how government in the United States actively infringes upon that Law. In other words, this is a book that is bound to have some chapters that will piss off dang near everyone in the country, other than those of us with a pre-existing commitment to Liberty, pure and simple. (You can typically, though not exclusively, find us in the Libertarian Party.)

And because of this, it is a book that every single American needs to read.

Quite simply, the Judge makes the case for freedom in some ways I’ve previously discussed within my own activism, but also ways I had never thought of before, such as when he presents the case for immigration as a property rights issue or when he quotes the man I personally recruited into political blogging at my former website, Tom Knighton (now of Laws-N-Saugages.com), regarding prostitution and the idea that [..]ALL men pay for sex somehow, someway – whether it be cash or a wedding ring.

I’ll add in just a couple of quotes from the book that I sent out via my Kindle, and I’ll close:

Drugs and victimless crime:
A prime example of a victimless crime is the private consumption of alcohol, or any drug for that matter. These substances surely affect one’s person, but in what way are they invading or assaulting another’s body, rights, or property? One might argue that they lead to dangerous behavior when one is in an altered state, but until a person whose judgment is impaired actually invades or assaults another’s body, rights, or property, he should not be punished, and the act of consumption itself should be free from regulation as an application of the right to do to one’s body as one chooses

Guns on school property:
The lack of media coverage on the advantages of guns on campus feeds into the ignorance of Americans with regard to firearms in government-owned schools. Just fifteen years ago, many states allowed concealed-handgun permit holders to carry guns on school property, and there were no major incidents.

Minimum Wage and Illegal Immigration:
Alternatively, if the minimum wage were eliminated, the opposite effect would occur; employers would pay people who live here legally fair market value–not the government-mandated amount–for the work they do. And as a result, immigrants would be less inclined to move here for fear of not finding work.

Prostitution, aka “Austin 3:16 writ large”:
I can rent my body to the owner of a coal mine for thirty years, who will use my work to strip the earth of natural resources, but a woman cannot rent her body to the same coal mine owner for a few hours of private time? Why? Because the government says so, that’s why.

In conclusion, YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK. I don’t care what your political beliefs are, this book WILL challenge them. (For example: I tend to be skeptical of many of my friends claims about the Fed and more specifically, “sound money”, but the Judge makes a compelling case for that as well.)

And I leave you with two final quotes from the Judge:

Do we have a two-party system in America today? I think not. We have one Big Government Party. It has a Republican wing that prefers war, deficits, assaults on civil liberties, and corporate welfare; and a Democratic wing that prefers war, taxes, assaults on commercial liberties, and individual welfare. Neither wing is devoted to the Constitution, and members of both wings openly mock it.

No longer shall Americans sit idly by at home and accept the status quo while injustice surrounds us. It is time to start peacefully fighting the injustice that takes place in our state legislatures as well as in Washington, D.C.

This review of It is Dangerous To Be Right When the Government Is Wrong by Andrew Napolitano was originally published on October 20, 2011.

#BookReview: With by Skye Jethani

Skye Jethani’s With: Reimagining The Way You Relate to God was my first book through the BookSneeze review program, and I’m honestly glad I found the program and this book on it. You see, this is one of the more mind blowing books I’ve ever read – which is saying something, considering I’ve read books such as Ted Dekker’s Circle Series and most books Bill Myers has put out.

If you want to quit reading this review now, I’ll leave you with this: READ THIS BOOK. You will NOT regret it.

Some details:

Mr. Jethani – an editor of a leading Christian magazine – uses the first half of the book to talk about the four basic ways most of us relate to God:

Life UNDER God is basically what I call “Talibaptists”, though Mr. Jethani never gets CLOSE to using that word. These people believe that we must live life strictly by the Bible and that if we don’t, we’re doomed.

Life OVER God essentially uses the Bible as a divine “how to” manual, nothing more, nothing less. These are the people that keep the “self help” authors in business.

Life FROM God sees God as a divine bank account that can never run out. This is the consumer culture variant of Christianity.

Life FOR God sees life as a mission. These people will go to Outer Mongolia at the drop of a hat – and still miss the point.

In each of the first four chapters, Mr. Jethani delves into each of these first four ways of relating to God, and shows both their strengths (yes, they have them), and their critical weaknesses.

In the remainder of the book, Mr. Jethani describes a life WITH God, what it looks like, and why it is the epitome of a Biblical understanding of our relationship to God. While I’ve tweeted a lot of amazing quotes from this book, you’ll just have to read it to see them for yourself, as well as the remaining treasure trove I simply couldn’t tweet out for many reasons.

In my Kindle edition, the appendices began at roughly 80% or so, and included both a discussion on some “how to pray” techniques as well as a brief discussion guide for the book. Overall, the only weakness that I saw – though it was a bit glaring – was that when I hit the appendices, I was still looking for a more succinct summation chapter than the one we got.

Overall, a VERY strong book, and I would give it a 5/5 without any hesitation at all.

This review of With by Skye Jethani was originally published on September 27, 2011.

#BookReview: Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer

I don’t care who you are, where you are from, what you are doing, or what your religious or political beliefs are – you NEED to do yourself a favor and read this book.

The author is a former Southern Baptist preacher who one day woke up to the realization that perhaps much of what he had been taught and was teaching about Jesus was wrong. As he began his own journey to truly discovering Jesus and all the implications of Him, he stumbled across some dramatic discoveries that would shake him to the very core. He founded InternetMonk.com, where he began writing about this journey, and eventually wrote this book.

I literally wound up highlighting about half the book on my Kindle. It was THAT mind blowing.

Fair warning though: No matter your beliefs – and my own were relatively similar to the author’s going into the book – be prepared to be challenged, perhaps in ways you never considered. To me, that is perhaps the greatest value of this book.

This review of Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer was originally published on September 10, 2011.

#BookReview: Callsign: King by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis

I’ve read every single book Mr. Robinson has put out so far, though Mr. Ellis is new to me. So I have a pretty good feel for Mr. Robinson’s writing…

… and like the title says here, I couldn’t tell that there were two authors involved in this project. It flows just like any other CHESS TEAM book, though the only member of the Team that appears in this one is the titular leader.

The story is GREAT – basically 1/5 of a full-team CHESS TEAM book, full of the same type of action, adventure, and ancient mystery that series is becoming known for. Overall, this novella adds to the overall mythos in a surprising (based on the prior mythos) yet refreshing way, and portends even more adventure for the Team in the face of the new twist. While having read the prior CHESS TEAM books will give a richer depth to the story, this novella could also serve as a good intro to the overall style for those hesitant to commit to a full book, and thus can be recommended for both fans of Mr. Robinson as well as people looking for new action-adventure authors.

I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing where Mr. Robinson and Co. go with this novella series – 2011 just got a lot more interesting!

This review of Callsign: King by Jeremy Robinson and Sean Ellis was originally published on July 11, 2011.

#BookReview: Insomnia by Jeremy Robinson

Overall, the short stories in this collection are just that – short. Yet Robinson still manages to tell distinct, engaging stories in each. The explanations after each are rather interesting as well. For example, the motivation for the actual ‘Insomnia’ short story was Robinson’s own battle with a disorder he has given a character in one of his actual books and how it typically keeps him awake at night longing for sleep.

This project was something Robinson has called a “test bed” of ideas, and many of them worked well.

Going down the list:

‘Insomnia’ could very well be made into a 1984-type long form book, and the possibilities there are intriguing.

‘The Eater’ was intriguing in short form, as the story of three young brothers who deal with an unknown black substance, but I think a long-form treatment would have to go a more horror route, which I’m personally not a fan of.

‘Harden’s Tree’ could very easily be made to fit into an almost ‘Chess Team’ style book, and was another solid short story.

‘Star Crossed Killers’ was a Mr and Mrs Smith style story that worked well in this collection.

‘Counting Sheep’ could be very interesting as one scene of a much longer story.

‘Hearing Aid’ was probably my least favorite of this collection, but I appreciate that Robinson is stretching what he normally does.

‘Dark Seed of the Moon’ could be another potential book for Robinson, and maybe even an ANTARKTOS level series if played right.

Overall, the collection was very solid and a refreshing look at an author actively working to test and refine his craft.

This review of Insomnia by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on Jan 26, 2011.

#BookReview: The Last Hunter (Collected Edition) by Jeremy Robinson

This book was originally published in 5 parts. Here are my reviews in order:

DESCENT:

I’ve been speaking with the author over the past couple of days about this book, and my trepidation of buying it even though I am an avid fan of his work. The reason for my trepidation is one factor alone: the Young Adult classification.

But I bit the bullet and bought the book last night – and even though it didn’t arrive on my Kindle until 12:01a, I’ve already finished it. It is that good. I don’t know how Kindle lines translate to pages, but as far as length goes this was 4K or so lines compared to 6K or so from Lee Child’s Worth Dying For, which was the first book I bought on my Kindle.

TRUST ME: Buy this book! It is from the ANTARKTOS RISING universe, and as its title implies, it is set up to be a multi-part series. That fact – that you can feel throughout that it is destined to be a multi-book story – is the ONLY drawback to this book. It is set at least a few years prior to the events of ANTARKTOS RISING, as the creatures are still buried under the ice.

The story is intense. Shortly after his 13th birthday, a young boy travels to Antarctica – the land of his birth – with his parents. While there, he is abducted, taken underground, and broken. He is forced to learn an entirely new way of life, encountering myriad strange creatures. He is nearly killed several times, and comes face to face with many of the entities and characters from ANTARKTOS RISING, many of which are terrifying. Along the way, he becomes a strong, stealthy hunter – the last hunter.

It is at this point that he learns what is truly expected of him – and that there is much more to him than even his captors realize.

This story takes the ANTARKTOS RISING mythology to a whole new level, and I’m going to have to re-read that story now! Truly looking forward to seeing how this new series comes out, and how it dove-tails into the ANTARKTOS RISING story line. This is truly Young Adult in name only, and while it is debatable as to whether this is truly among the author’s best work – or maybe even the best (a claim he made yesterday), if you’re a fan of Jeremy Robinson – or Matt Reilly or David Golemon – you’ll be THRILLED with this latest addition.

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