hankrules2011

Just trying to make it, a day at a time…

Surgery, Birthdays, Etc.

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 17, 2014

I had another surgery on Monday. A little neurological thing (two actually) called a Gasserian Ganglion Block and a Radiofrequency Ablation. I’ve had them before, so no biggie, right? Wrong. They couldn’t knock me out! The anesthesia wouldn’t work. I laid there for 15 minutes with the anesthesiologist telling me to breathe deeply the whole time and nothing happened. Finally they said that I would have to go through this procedure awake. This procedure involves putting a hole in my face, inserting a long needle, finding a socket in my skull where a tendril of my trigeminal nerve (the biggest nerve in your brain) resides, and then burning the shit out of it. I’m not staying awake for that! Finally the surgeon came in and they asked him and he said under no circumstances was I to be awake — I was to be asleep for the duration. So, it took another five minutes, but I finally went under. And woke up awhile later, good as new. It always takes me a long time for the anesthesia to wear off, so I’m woozy for a few days and tired, but I’m glad to be done with it. I had another one done at the end of July. These are done because I have Trigeminal Neuralgia, an incredibly rare and very painful disease impacting the face. Not much can be done about it. You have to live on Percocets and hope for the best. It gets old. Hopefully these surgeries will help diminish the pain for awhile. How long? Who knows? I’ve had them last as little as 18 days and as long as several months. Someone asked me once why I don’t just get them done every month, but the easy answer to that is they’re not free. They cost thousands and even though insurance covers a good part of that, I still have to pay a chunk and I can’t afford unlimited procedures.

Meanwhile, this coming Friday is my birthday. Normally I’m a little depressed about it, but this year, I’m actually slightly excited — and I don’t know why! Maybe it’s cause it’s not a milestone birthday. My wife is making me a requested lasagna dinner and the next day, we’re going up to Knoxville to hang out with Mom. Apparently I’m getting a couple of presents too.

On a side note, we’ve been trying to sell our old house since February. The first buyer’s credit fell through. We got a second buyer though and things looked good. The house has been off the market the past two months as we headed towards closing — or so we thought. Closing was to have been last Thursday, but Wednesday night, the buyer’s lender said they had to delay it — they were still working through some things. Finally, today, they denied the buyer their preapproved loan. Why? Cause they’re foreigners and they don’t lend money to certain foreigners. WTF??? If that’s the case, why couldn’t they have figured this out in Week 1 and saved us all the hassle??? Why drag us all through this? Now, we’re back at square one and who knows when we’re going to sell this damn house. It’s a real nightmare. I had already turned off all the utilities, so today, I had to turn them back on again, and the gas company charged me a $225 nonrefundable deposit, even though I just terminated my account with them last week and was never late on a bill. Bastards. What a nightmare.

In the meantime, I’ve been sick and I’ve given it to my wife. Nothing too serious, hopefully, but enough to be aggravating. Speaking of the wife, she wants a new cat. The problem is, we don’t know how our current cat, Henry, would get along with one. He’s very territorial. I’d hate to get one and then have to return him a few weeks later. That wouldn’t be good. Not sure what to do. We do miss Toby though and the thought of getting a new cat is attractive….

I guess that’s all for today. Cheers!

 

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A Review of Soft Target

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 11, 2014

Soft Target (Ray Cruz, #2)Soft Target by Stephen Hunter

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If I wanted to read right wing politics, I’d pick up Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck, etc., but not Stephen Hunter. Yet under the guise of a “thriller,” we have Hunter’s view of Obama and the left and it’s not pretty. Int his tale of a Somali terrorist takeover of the Mall of America in Minnesota, where they kill people at random and have about 1,000 hostages, we have the beginnings of an interesting story. Until we get to Colonel Douglas Obobo. I’m not making that last name up. He’s a charismatic black man, who has risen to the top of the Minnesota State Police without ever having fired a shot, through his charisma, seemingly, as the press love him, as do the people. He always seems to know the right things to say. However, the men in the field can barely contain their hatred of him. The SWAT commander wants to go in firing, and Obobo will have none of that, so he sends him off to write reports. The FBI man wants action, but Obobo will have none of it and sends him off for logistical support. Here’s a passage from the book that describes Obobo’s mindset at work:

“Finally. He swaggered to the phone. This was his moment. His whole life he’d been able to synthesize arguments, turn them around instantly, and reiterate them in cajoling tones, until his opponent had agreed with him. It was his strength. He knew he could do it now, brilliant synopsizer, genius of empathy, purveyor of mega-earnestness. Colonel Obobo looked around, saw Renfro standing close by, giving him encouragement through sympathetic, even moist, eyes.”

That was when the terrorists were about to talk to him for the first time, but they wouldn’t play ball and it left him completely unnerved. He’s viewed as a dunderhead by his all knowing staff, and his decisions get others in trouble.

Okay, enough! I realize not everyone out there likes Obama — hell, I can barely tolerate him, even though I voted for him twice. I just think he’s by far the lesser of two evils. But to rip the president like this under the guise of fiction, no of a thriller, is just too much to take and I gave up on page 178. I’ve read some Hunter before and enjoyed him in the past, so I *might* give him another chance, but if I see this crap again, he’s gone, history, see ya. What an asshole. Not recommended, unless you’re a right wing bigot.

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Random Stuff

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2014

Hi. I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last wrote here! I just feel like I have nothing of value to say. I’ve also been feeling very unmotivated lately too and I’m not sure why.

Well, what’s going on in my life? I’m having another minor neurological  surgery a week from Monday. Hopefully it will help my pain. After my last one in July, it helped on one side of my head, but pain exploded on the other side of my head, so here’s hoping this will clear things up, at least for awhile. TN sucks. I also have a birthday coming up soon. I’m going to be OLD! I’m trying not to be too depressed about it. My youngest step-son is celebrating his 21st birthday this Monday, so that’s cool. Additionally, you know how we’ve had our old house on the market for months? And we’ve had to keep coming down in price? Well, we’re finally selling it — at a loss, which irritates the hell out of me — and the closing is next Thursday. And we’re going to use part of the proceeds of that to pay of all of my student loans, which will be a real load off my mind. Seems like I’ve been paying on those things forever and I still had about 15 more years to go! It’ll be good to get rid of them.

Do you remember our beloved cat, Toby? The one we had to have put to sleep the week we moved in February due to kidney failure? Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I really miss him so very, very much. I never thought I’d miss him this much. I find myself crying at the most insipid thing, thinking about him. We’ve talked about getting another cat, but the remaining cat, Henry, is very territorial and barely put up with Toby and we’re not certain he’d do well with another cat. We think he likes being an only cat. My wife also wants us to get a dog, perhaps a beagle. That’s something else altogether. That’s a lot of responsibility. Sure, they bring a lot of joy to the house, but we take trips up to Knoxville to visit Mom and what would we do then? We don’t know anyone who could come care for the dog. I just don’t know….

I’m all excited about sports these days. My Pirates are tanking, of late, but are still in position to get into the playoffs if they could just go on a winning streak. My UT Vols just won their second game of the year today and have looked pretty good so far. Much better than the past few years. So far, we’re 2-0, but next up we travel to #4 Oklahoma, so that will be a real test of how good or not good we are. The Steelers finally start their regular season against the Browns this weekend. I’ve been looking forward to this season for months, thinking we had drastically improved the team, but our preseason was so damn dismal, that I’m already depressed thinking about the upcoming season. Finally, hockey season starts in a little over 30 days and I’m anxious to see how the new look Penguins do this year. It’s all very exciting!

I’m still poetry editor for Ray’s Road Review, but I haven’t been motivated lately and I’ve been completely overwhelmed by submissions. They come in all the time. I always seem to have dozens and dozens of them and I’m always behind in reading them. Most of them aren’t very good, but some are fairly decent and those are hard to make decisions about. It’s rare that you get one where you know immediately it’s good enough for publication.

My mom is doing kind of okay on her own. She’s going to her doctor practically every week, with what I think are imagined problems. She’s scared of everything, has severe anxiety problems, and depression as well. She wants to see us every weekend, but that’s not possible. We went up a week or two ago and went to the Knoxville Zoo with her, where we all had fun. It was hot though. She wants us to take a vacation with her, but we don’t know about that. She can be a very trying person and the notion of spending a whole week with her is daunting, to say the least. But I’m proud of her for doing so much on her own with Dad gone now. She’s holding up, so that’s good.

Last weekend, I went to a local gun show. I took my S&W Bodyguard to sell and sold it in less than five minutes after my arrival. And I went looking for a specific gun — a Sig Sauer P938 subcompact 9 mm. And found a few. And got one. But because of arm problems, for which I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for the past few months, I have yet to fire it. It’s killing me too! I’m going to fire it at the shooting range next weekend if it kills me!  Or my arm, I guess. It looks and feels very good. I hope it’ll be everything it promises to be.

I guess that’s it for now. Thanks for putting up with my rambling. More book reviews are on the way. Cheers!

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A Review of The Odessa File

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 26, 2014

The Odessa FileThe Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book by Frederick Forsyth, following on the heels on the Day of the Jackal, which I also really enjoyed. I’ve waited several days to write anything about it because for some reason I don’t feel like I have anything of value to say about it. For some reason, words escape me. But I guess I’ll mention a few things. The book is about a German journalist named Peter Miller who, on the day of JFK’s death, discovers the suicide of a Jewish death camp survivor. He doesn’t think much of it until his detective friend gives him the man’s diary to read and he finds it both compelling and horrifying. The man had been at Riga, in Latvia, one of just a few hundred survivors out of over 80,000 Jews who were killed there. The camp commander was one Captain Eduard Roschmann, aka the Butcher of Riga. He was a horrible murderer. The concentration camp survivor had stayed alive long enough to see this man brought to justice, but when it became apparent 20 years later that he wouldn’t, he killed himself.

Miller made it his mission to find Roschmann. He found the old man’s friend, who confirmed he saw Roschmann leaving the opera just a few weeks previously. Miller started making inquiries and was warned off. He finds out about a secret organization called Odessa comprised of ex-SS men that exists to shepard endangered SS men to safety, to give them new identities, to defend them in court, etc, etc. Miller is contacted by the Mossad, although he doesn’t realize it’s them. They want him to infiltrate Odessa, though they warn him it’ll be very dangerous. They’d already had two men killed who’d tried to do this. He wants to do it though, so they set him up as a fake ex SS man with documents and a fake story that he’s trained on and he’s interviewed and sent to get new ID papers. He does all of this so he can get to Roschmann, who is still alive and living as someone else, rich, and in charge of a factory with scientists helping Egypt discover the means to send rockets to destroy Israel, a side story to the real story. The ending of the book is pretty climactic, although I’m knocking it down from five to four stars because the stated motivation for Miller’s obsessive search for Roschmann hangs on just too much blind luck, in my opinion, and just wasn’t very believable. This book allegedly merges fact with fiction, which makes it all the more fascinating, but this was one instance in which it had to be fiction.

The book had a pretty good pace to it. You got a good feel for Miller and got to know his girlfriend too. You didn’t really get a good look at the other characters, but that’s alright. It’s an exciting book to read with an interesting premise and even though it’s a little dated, it didn’t feel too dated. By the way, they made a movie of the book several years ago and I watched it yesterday. It’s pretty good too. It stars Jon Voight. If you’re interested, you might want to check it out. Recommended.

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A Review of Small Gods

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 17, 2014

Small Gods (Discworld, #13)Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Small Gods is an excellent book, a great stand alone Discworld novel that is hard to put down. It’s a great satirical take on organized religion and it has a lot to say about it. Pratchett handles it as deftly as he handles other serious subject matter, with humor and grace. The man’s a genius!

Brutha is a novice in service of the Great God Om in the land of Omnia. With all of the priests and bishops and forced devotion to Om, along with the evil Quisition, it’s meant to be a satire of Catholicism, as well as probably some other religions too. One day Brutha is gardening when he hears a voice. No one else can seem to hear it, but hear it he does. Where is it coming from? A tortoise. What is the tortoise? The Great God Om. Yep. Everyone thought that when Om presented himself to humanity, it would be in the form of a bull or lion or other fierce creature, since there’s a lot of smiting in Omnia, but nope, he’s a tortoise and none too happy about it. And so an adventure begins. Brutha is the only person who can hear Om and also the only person who actually believes in him, as it’s become second nature to everyone else and they no longer truly BELIEVE. And then there’s Vorbis. Vorbis is the leader of the Quisition and as such is dreaded and feared by all. He truly loves torture. He sends an Omnian “brother” to a neighboring country, gets him killed, and uses it as an excuse to go attack said neighboring country. He takes along Brutha for his fantastic memory. Things don’t go as planned and Brutha is forced to flee along with the other Omnians. He and Om wander through the desert with Vorbis, who knocks Brutha out and carries him into Omnia, where he’s going to be crowned the eighth Prophet while declaring Brutha a bishop. Meanwhile, there’s an underground movement ready to attack, and all of the neighboring countries are sailing to Omnia to wipe it out once and for all. Justice is served when Vorbis dies, but Brutha convinces everyone else to lay down their arms and seek peace. One of the classic scenes in the novel occurs when the dead Vorbis “awakes” to see Death and the following exchange takes place:

Death paused. “YOU HAVE PERHAPS HEARD THE PHRASE, he said, THAT HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE?

Yes. Yes, of course.

Death nodded. IN TIME, he said, YOU WILL LEARN THAT IT IS WRONG.

Classic. Vorbis can’t stand to be alone and now he’s in a deserted desert for eternity. Very funny. There are lots of other funny parts too. One of the songs Brutha sings early in the book is called “He is Trampling the Unrighteous with Hooves of Hot Iron.” Hahahaha! Also, lots of instances of things happening in church history and of certain writings. To wit, “In the Year of the Lenient Vegetable the Bishop Kreeblephor converted a demon by the power of reason alone.” “There was the crusade against the Hodgsonites….” “And the Subjugation of the Melchiorites. And the Resolving of the false prophet Zeb. And the Correction of the Ashelians, and the Shriving –” — well, you get the picture. Utterly hilarious. Makes Christianity look completely absurd, but in a fun way.

There’s a lot about belief in this book, and a lot about God and gods. The more people believe, the greater the god. Brutha finds that his devoted belief is shaken, by his god, no less, as well as other so-called believers. And it does him a world of good. So I guess the lesson is we shouldn’t take everything we’re fed too literally or at face value. The philosophers in this book are the true thinkers and yet they are doubters. Pratchett’s good. This book is both serious and hilarious at the same time. It’s a great Discworld novel and I strongly recommend it.

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A Review of The Third Bullet

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 6, 2014

The Third Bullet (Bob Lee Swagger, #8)The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book. It was a real adventure to read and even though it plodded along at times (I wouldn’t call it a “thriller.”), I guess it was kind of a suspense novel. Bob Lee Swagger is a former Marine sniper who gained fame in Vietnam. Now, he’s approached by the widow of a writer who was murdered in DC, potentially because he was on to something new with JFK’s assassination. So Bob takes this on, goes to Dallas, and starts snooping around. And almost immediately is the target of an assassination attempt, which he thwarts through some good shooting. Ah, the author is a gun man. He’s knows his guns and even though at times it feels like he’s nearly arrogant about his knowledge, he does make things seem realistic. Since the dead assassin is Russian, Swagger goes to Russia to look into some things and is attacked there. He escapes through some good shooting and the help of a colleague, a fellow sniper. At this point in the book, the author does something odd. He starts narrating chapters through the “diary” of the mastermind behind JFK’s assassination and it adds and takes away from the story. It adds, because we find out how it was actually accomplished and it’s fascinating reading. It takes away because it’s not entirely believable. As we go through the course of the story and Swagger gets closer to the truth, the diarist starts writing in “real time,” which obviously can’t be happening in real time. It stretches the imagination. Oh, there was indeed a second shooter, in a neighboring building. And there was a support team. And Oswald was a puppet. And the author is good. This really reads like nonfiction. Every tiny little detail is laid out for inspection, and then related to the reader as plausible, and it really works. While Swagger is debunking conspiracy theories, the author essentially creates a new one which is the best one I’ve heard/read yet. It’s really possible, or so you’re led to think. Of course, our hero — Swagger — has to track down the culprit and the final pages are action packed, so perhaps it’s a bit of a thriller, but the book has a largely satisfying ending, so that’s good. I’ve read a lot of reviews that say this book doesn’t stack up to other books by Hunter and some that have problems with the mastermind’s diary, like me, but I’m able to overlook that and enjoy, for the most part. Still, I’ve got to knock it down from five to four stars for that. However, it was a very detailed, well thought out book and I heartily recommend it.

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Sports Update

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 2, 2014

I grew up a huge baseball fan. Specifically a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as I lived there during the 1970s. I enjoyed seeing the team win two World Series during that decade. I followed the team religiously until the early 1990s, when they broke up a great team led by MVP Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, and Andy Van Slyke. They stopped winning circa 1992 and went into a 20 year losing streak unseen in any sport. They gave away all of their best players every year and didn’t even try to win. It was disgusting and it really turned me off to the team and the sport. However, last year, the Pirates fielded a competitive team and had their first winning season in over 20 years and made the playoffs — and I suddenly discovered my enjoyment of watching baseball. And I’ve been watching a lot of baseball this year. Currently the Pirates are 57-51 and three and a half games out of first, behind Milwaukee. However, I also enjoy watching the Orioles play, mainly because that’s my wife’s team. When we were in Baltimore in April, we went to a home game there and it was very enjoyable. The stadium’s nice and the fans are great. So I’ve now been to baseball games in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Atlanta, St Louis, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. And I’ve been to minor league games in Knoxville and Chattanooga. Baseball, for me, is still kind of boring, especially compared to hockey and football, but it’s still nice to be getting back to liking it.

Meanwhile, football season is coming up and I’m excited! I’m actually probably more excited about the NFL season than I am college football, which never happens to me. But I’m a Steelers fan and we’ve made a lot of personnel moves during the offseason and had a good draft, so I’m hoping we can improve on last year’s 8-8 record and I think we will. I think we’ll make the playoffs again, which is where the Steelers belong. My college team is the Tennessee Volunteers, as I’m a UT alum. We’ve been down the past few years, which has been tough, especially after seeing a spectacular 1990s decade with Peyton Manning and a national championship. However, second year coach Butch Jones had a good recruiting class and I’m hoping we will be better. Actually, I think we’ll be better, but we won’t have a better record because our schedule’s so brutal. We have to go to #3 Oklahoma for the second game and we’ll get creamed. We have to play Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, etc., etc., and we’ll be lucky to win one or two of those games. So even though we should be better, I think we’ll still have a pretty rough record…. It doesn’t help that we don’t have any decent quarterbacks.

And of course I’m really excited about the upcoming hockey season. I love hockey. I think hockey players are the best athletes there are. They have to be strong, tough, fast, graceful, durable — they’re amazing. And they often play into their 40s. I don’t know how they do it. My team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. We’ve been making the playoffs every year, but ever since we won our last Stanely Cup in 2009, we’ve had great regular seasons and have tanked in the playoffs, so the team fired the general manager and coach and hired new ones. Hopefully this will help. We also got rid of 11 players, including several very good ones I had hoped we would hold on to, and have imported a number of new players, although none that are great, like I had been hoping for. We need a top line goalie, as our goalie is good, but not great. However, we signed a backup goalie, which really ticks me off. We need someone better than that. You can only go as far as your goalie takes you and I’m not convinced with can win with Fleury in the playoffs anymore. Oh well. Still, I’m stoked about hockey season and can’t wait for it to start. Even my wife has gotten into watching it with me, which is very cool.

I guess that’s it for today’s post. Just thought I’d share my excitement with the world. Cheers!

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A Review of Clans of the Alphane Moon

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

Clans of the Alphane MoonClans of the Alphane Moon by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book had some good ideas, but PKD asks the reader to make too many leaps of logic to be able to give this book a decent score.

CIA agent Chuck Rittersdorf splits from his psychiatrist wife, Mary, who’s a marriage counselor. She prompts this and she’s really portrayed as an evil bitch, so I have no idea why he was so intent to get back together with her later in the book. Meanwhile, Chuck picks up a writing gig with famous TV comedian Bunny Hentman, and starts taking uppers to hold both jobs down at the same time. These drugs are supplied by an alien slime mold who has telepathic powers and apparently wants to help Chuck as he orients himself to a new lifestyle in a downgraded conapt (apartment). He even sets Chuck up with a love interest, of sorts.

Well, Mary is hired by the feds to go to Alpha III M2, a moon of some type, to start therapy on groups of former psychiatric patients who were abandoned many years ago by Terra (Earth) during their war with Alphane, now over. These former patients have set up clans on the moon, made up of various psychiatric types — ie, Deps (depressives), Mans (manics), Paras (paranoid schizophrenics), etc. However, the CIA is interested in this venture, so they create a simulcra to go to the moon with Mary and others on this mission, and Chuck will be controlling it from Terra. So he decides to kill his ex-wife through this android-type being.

Crazy, yes? Well, that’s standard PKD fare. It starts getting out of control when Benny, his new employer, has a brainstorming session with the writers — and Chuck — during which time they decide to write a new act about a CIA agent who is going to kill his ex-wife through a simulcra on another planet. Just like Chuck has planned. Bizarre coincidence, or is it?

The CIA finds out about Chuck’s drugs and fires him. As soon as he’s fired, so does Benny, presumably because he no longer has Chuck as a CIA insider to work with. However, the CIA goes after Benny for his doings with Alphanes, and he escapes on his own rocket. Chuck finds himself on the moon, where Mary is. Coincidence? Easily done? Yes. Here’s one area that was really too hard to buy — the Para leader is given an ultimatum by Mary (with all of the clan leaders) to return to their former lives or face military action by Terra within four hours. So of all of the alternatives they come up with, the ONLY one is for him to *obviously* go to Mary’s spaceship and seduce her and talk her out of it. Huh? Excuse me? WTF??? What kind of warped idea is that? But that’s the obvious choice, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t go and seduce her on her ship. But she turns out to be more than he bargained for and turns into a sexual beast who nearly kills him in her passion. Only Dick can write this stuff. When he wakes up from his sex-induced coma, she’s gone and Terra is on the attack.

I’m not going to give away the ending, but it’s surprisingly upbeat. Maybe that’s because Dick was probably struggling with all of these issues in his own life — his marriage woes, job and finance woes, his worries of mental illness — so he wrote a good ending so he could expect one in his own life. That’s my two cents, anyway. It’s not a bad book, but it just leaps to conclusions that no rational person would draw too many times and I just can’t eagerly recommend it. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably like it. If you’re new to the author, I wouldn’t start with this one.

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It’s Been a Year

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 30, 2014

My father died one year ago today. He died unexpectedly, mowing my grass. He collapsed and died, just like that. It was a huge shock. And it’s been difficult to get over. I can still see him rolling around on the ground, can still sense the futility I felt as I tried to aid him. I still remember his funeral several days later back home in Knoxville. A lot of people came to that. My wife says it feels like it just happened yesterday for her, but it actually feels a lot longer to me. Like it’s been two or three years. So much has happened between now and then. Our former house was broken into and robbed. Our beloved cat Toby died. We looked for a new house, moved into in, and put ours on the market. Mom decided to move back to Knoxville, so we put her house on the market and helped her find a new condo. It’s been very time consuming. And I’ve gone back and forth between Chattanooga and Knoxville probably 60 times over the past year, virtually all to help Mom out. It’s been draining. So it’s been a year, but if feels like several lifetimes ago to me. I wish Dad could have been around to help out with our moves. I wish he was still there for Mom’s sake — she really misses him. Of course, we’d like him around for our sakes too. Sad. Tragic. Mom got some flowers today and put them at Dad’s grave. I wish we could have gone up to see that. I sometimes still talk to him. I enjoy thinking of him up in Heaven, if there is such a place. I hope he’d be pleased with how we’re all coping without him, how we’ve moved on. I hope he would approve. I really miss him. RIP Dad.

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A Review of The Faithful Spy

Posted by Scott Holstad on July 25, 2014

The Faithful Spy (John Wells, #1)The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Faithful Spy was a very exciting book to read. I like spy/thriller novels, although I actually don’t read that many of them, and this was among the best I have read.

John Wells is a CIA agent who has successfully penetrated al Qaeda. He’s been with them for years, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, he hasn’t been in touch with his CIA bosses for years and they don’t even know if he’s still alive or if he’s still on their side. See, Wells has converted to Islam and learns to deplore America’s superficiality and arrogance. That said, he makes contact with Special Forces in Afghanistan after 9/11, which he didn’t foresee, and shortly after, he’s plucked from his Pakistani village by al Qaeda leaders to go back home to America for a hugely important mission, one they don’t fill him in on. Meanwhile, the head of al Qaeda’s nuclear “program” is captured in Iraq and, through torture, fills the US in on potential plots in the US and on John Wells.

Wells comes home and goes to the CIA, where he is given a hostile greeting by the director. However, his handler, Jennifer Exley, still believes in him. He’s put in a virtual prison, but escapes because he wants to stop al Qaeda from whatever it is they’re plotting. What follows is an exciting series of challenges, chases, biological warfare, and confrontations, ultimately with Omar Khandri, John’s al Qaeda handler.

When I read reviews of this book, I was shocked to see how many people viewed it as more of the same. They deplored the love story in the book and thought the middle part of it was boring. I couldn’t view it more differently. I thought the love story was great and really enjoyed the ending. I also thought some of the “boring” parts allowed the characters to be flushed out pretty fully, so I had no problem with that. Just because Wells has to wait to be contacted by his handler doesn’t mean it’s boring, sorry. I thought the terrorism scenarios painted by Berenson were horrifyingly realistic and well thought out. I think he did a great job with this book, and even though it shares some similarities with Frederick Forsythe’s The Afghan, it’s a really good book that stands on its own. Strongly recommended.

View all my reviews

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