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Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Update November 2017

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Book Review
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Update by Natrakorn Paewsoongnern
Book Review

Update Saturday, Nov. 25 - Dec. 1, 2017

Crew of the Oregon fights most ruthless villain yet

Jeff Ayers

Juan Cabrillo and his elite crew of the ship the Oregon fight their most ruthless villain yet in “Typhoon Fury” by Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison, the latest addition to the Oregon Files series.

Cabrillo receives a request to assist with paintings thought to have vanished long ago that recently have been spotted.  The paintings are in the control of a man named Locsin, who has escaped capture.

Locsin and his allies have found a hidden stash of drugs developed by the Japanese during World War II that can turn someone ordinary into something extraordinary.  Maintaining these superpowers requires continuous use of the drug. Locsin has a medical team trying to isolate and recreate the effects synthetically.  To pay for it, and his attempts at an insurgency in the Philippines, he plans to sell the stolen art.

Cabrillo has his hands full trying to stop a madman who literally might be unstoppable while also recovering the art and keeping others from discovering the truth about the drug.

Cussler and Morrison deliver a story that could easily be the basis for three books.  The Oregon crew continues to be fleshed out as compelling characters and the descriptions of the ship make the journey worthwhile.

Villainy on land, sea and air — what more could an adventure fan ask for? (AP)

Update Saturday, Nov. 18 - Nov. 24, 2017

New Lee Child novel is bold and mysterious

Jeff Ayers (AP)

Author Lee Child delivers another classic Jack Reacher tale with “The Midnight Line.”

Reacher’s curiosity is piqued when he gets off a bus and wanders into a pawnshop.  Inside the shop he spots a small class ring from West Point stamped with the year 2005 and engraved with the initials S.R.S.  He immediately questions what could have happened to the owner of the ring to force her to sell it.  Reacher assumes the owner was female because of the look and size of the ring.  He purchases it and asks the pawnshop owner who brought it in to sell.  The answer sends him on his journey.

The first name leads him to a town, and that person leads him to another somewhere else.  In usual Reacher style, he never gives up or wavers, this time not to see justice being served, but to simply answer the question of what circumstances could possibly force a cadet who rightfully earned the ring to give it up.

What Reacher discovers isn’t quite what he was expecting.  The ring is just a tiny part of a vast criminal enterprise that crosses state lines.

Child has written another compelling and moving novel featuring the iconic American hero who never stops until he’s satisfied with the results.  While the story is bold and mysterious, the empty landscape with few individuals living in the area spotlights Reacher’s loneliness.  They were choices he made a long time ago, but he might come to regret not settling down and establishing a lack of roaming life.

Update Saturday, Nov. 11 - Nov. 17, 2017

John Grisham explores student loan debt in latest novel

Jeff Ayers

John Grisham explores student loan debt and the sharks that profit from it in his latest novel, “The Rooster Bar.”

Mark, Todd, Zola and Gordy are students at a mediocre law school that doesn’t produce many successful lawyers.  Most fail the bar exam, and even more find menial jobs at best.  Gordy uncovers a sinister truth about the university when he learns that the students aren’t accepted based on grades, but rather to supply money.  The school is one of several owned by a New York hedge fund that also owns the banks that finance the student loans.  It’s a gigantic scheme and the scam is generating millions of dollars.

Gordy snaps and commits suicide rather than face the problems associated with what he learned.  His three friends decide to fight back, and rather than succumb to the payment schedules and graduate to less-than-stellar positions in various agencies, they change their names and create their own fictitious law firm.  Soon they are hanging out at the courthouse and sweet-talking their way into taking on clients who pay cash for their services.  They have to stay one step ahead of the authorities so they aren’t discovered, and by quitting school, they can work on exposing the scam and try to save people from crushing debt.

Grisham knows how to tell a story, and he also enjoys showcasing the shady side of the law profession.  Mark, Todd and Zola are hard to like at times due to the methods they utilize as they try to defeat the system.  Their motives are sound, but it sometimes comes with a cost as they end up not really helping the clients after they take the cash and supposedly the court case.  Even with that in mind, readers will still make this another blockbuster best-seller from the master of the legal thriller. (AP)

Update Saturday, Nov. 4 - Nov. 10, 2017

Author tells story of female codebreaker in ‘Smashed Codes’

Kim Curtis

Her story is so surprising it’s not only hard to understand why most people have never heard of her, but it’s somewhat of a challenge to believe it at all.

In “The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies,” journalist Jason Fagone recreates a world and a cast of characters so utterly fascinating they will inhabit the psyches of its readers long after the book has been read.

Elizebeth Smith, a Quaker girl from a small town in Indiana, first fought against societal norms by earning a college degree against her father’s will.  When she was 23, she railed against a presumed lifetime of teaching, followed by marriage and children and headed to Chicago.  Through happenstance, she met George Fabyan, a wealthy and eccentric businessman who owned a compound named Riverbank.  There, scientists, inventors and intellectuals holed up to study and learn, experiment and discover — all funded by Fabyan’s inherited fortune. Fabyan hired Smith as his assistant.  “Will you come to Riverbank and spend the night with me,” he asked upon first meeting her.  Stunned and confused, yet intrigued, Smith agreed.  It was 1916.

And so it begins.

During her four years at Riverbank, Smith met and married William Friedman.  Initially, they were assigned to seeking encoded messages that Francis Bacon supposedly embedded in the works of William Shakespeare.  Their work quickly expanded when they learned they had unprecedented and unmatched codebreaking skills.

Fagone chronicles the couple’s lives and accomplishments against the backdrop of the birth and growth of the modern intelligence community.  His research is exhaustive and his storytelling, spellbinding.

Much like Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race” or “The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II” by Denise Kiernan, Fagone sheds light on a too-long-overlooked story of a remarkable woman and her accomplishments. (AP)



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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Crew of the Oregon fights most ruthless villain yet

New Lee Child novel is bold and mysterious

John Grisham explores student loan debt in latest novel

Author tells story of female codebreaker in ‘Smashed Codes’


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