Pinkerton’s Great Detective

Pinkerton’s Great Detective

Review by Travis Starnes Pinkerton’s Great Detective follows the life and exploits of James McPharland, one of the most famous investigators of the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency.    Involved in major episodes in US history, McPharland was a key player in taking down the Molly Maguires and chasing down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Riffenburgh is a very detailed writer and has done his homework on McPharland.  I will admit that although I was familiar with the Pinkertons and many of the situations described here, until I read this book I was not aware of McPharland.  Although I have little to judge it against, Riffenburgh seems to have completely cataloged McPharland’s life and there seems little left out.  It is quite amazing how many major events in the late 19th century that the detective was involved in. The writing is well done and easy to read.  Those expecting a true… Read more »

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Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.

Rob Delaney: Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage.

Review by Travis Starnes Rob Delaney, a comedian who broke out through his well-received twitter account, wrote a tongue and cheek look at his life. The book is sort of a rambling series of funny events or thoughts strung together very loosely in a narrative.  That isn’t a knock on his writing in any way.  Think of it as the literary equivalent of a stand up set, and that is essentially what this book is.  I am not sure if we work shopped the material prior to putting it on paper, but most of the bits are very funny and work well.  Delaney is a funny guy and it shows.  As with most comedians most of the shots he takes are at himself and he masterfully turns the art of self-deprecation into entertainment. While the book is very funny, and worth reading on that merit alone, there is also some fairly… Read more »

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King and Maxwell

King and Maxwell

Review by Travis Starnes King and Maxwell continue the story of two ex-Secret Service agents.  This time they are helping out a teenager with the mystery surrounding his fathers reported death in Afghanistan.  As they begin looking into what happened it quickly becomes apparent there is a lot more to the mans reported death. This is book six in a series that, until reading this book, I had not heard of.  Thankfully Baldacci makes this book accessible for people who have not read the other titles in the series.  While there are often mentions of previous events, these are either explained or done with enough contexts so they are not confusing.  I did not feel my understanding or enjoyment of this book suffered at all from not having read the series. I have read a few books from Baldacci in the past but this might be the best book of… Read more »

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American Statecraft

American Statecraft

Review by Travis Starnes American Statecraft is, as the subtitle proclaims it to be, the history of the US Foreign service.  I was genuinely interested when I picked this up, as this arm of the US Government is quite possibly the least covered of any I have read about. After a brief intro Moskin starts at the beginning of the service during the Revolutionary war and makes his way forward, hitting all of the major and a couple of minor points along its history.  He examines the agencies leaders and key players in its developments as well as notable events that in some way helped shape the service into what it is. It should be clear that this is a pro-foreign service book.  As with most books that in some way examine part of our government, Moskin has a point of view.  It is clear he is a fan of… Read more »

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The War That Ended Peace

The War That Ended Peace

Review by Travis Starnes The War that Ended Peace looks at the pre-war politics that lead up to World War I.  It examines in detail the politicians and military leaders, notable events and attitudes of those involved and how a world that seemed set on a lasting peace fell into one of the bloodiest conflicts the world has ever seen. McMillan is both a talented research and historian as well as a skilled writer, a combination that you really appreciate when you later read a history book where only half that equation is true. My first impression of the book is that he made some interesting conclusions.  Other fairly notable works on the period talk about how eager many of the leaders were to go to war, and how many saw it as a forgone conclusion.  Her focus on the various peace movements and beliefs of many that it was… Read more »

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Tell Me When I’m Dead

Tell Me When I’m Dead

Review by Travis Starnes Tell Me When I’m Dead is a fairly straightforward zombie tale of a small down overrun by the undead.  I am both the perfect audience for this book and a somewhat biased reviewer because I read lot of zombie fiction and love the genre.  This book does several things right with the genre and a bunch of things wrong. I will start by saying the book is competently written.  The zombie outbreak and how it works is all well-reasoned and the books pacing is solid.  Following the main character David through the various hurdles he faces in living in this world and keeping his family together is totally liner and not hard to follow.  I liked the addition of the military contractor akin to Black Water and the local opposition to them.  The one problem with zombie fiction is it tends to become a one track… Read more »

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The Garden of Stones

The Garden of Stones

Review by Travis Starnes The first book in the Echoes of Empire series, The Garden of Stones is an epic story of a civil war, a madman’s vicious path to power and the noble warrior that stands in his way. The description of the book made me eager to get a copy and start reading.  I have to say from the outset you can tell how intent Mark Barnes is to build this world.  It is obvious on every page how much care and detail he put into the world, the politics, the people and the language.  Generally I admire when an author really builds out the world the story is set in.  For me it is what elevates The Lord of the Rings from a good read to an amazing novel and the keystone all fantasy books should follow. Unfortunately, Barnes does not successfully pull of the world building the way Tolkien did. … Read more »

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Abominable Science!

Abominable Science!

Review by Travis Starnes Abominable Science is a look at several major staples of cryptozoology (read that as the study of Bigfoot, Loche Ness and the like) by two experts, one a scientist the other a professional skeptic.  The authors tag team throughout the book with one author taking up Bigfoot for example while the other looking at the Loche Ness Monster. I find the area of cryptozoology infinitely fascinating.  Although I am a non-believer in such things, the myths, history and legends behind the seemingly endless search for these creatures is like the very best Saturday afternoon television.   While one is a scientist and the other is clearly versed in the science behind these claims, this is more of a historic and anthropological examination and debunking of the myths.  They spend a lot of time talking about how the claims came about, the morphing of the legends and the… Read more »

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Lincoln in the World

Lincoln in the World

Review by Travis Starnes Lincoln in the World looks at an area generally ignored by most of the books on one of the US’s most famous presidents.  The book examines Lincoln’s foreign policy and his place in global diplomacy; specifically how his actions on the world stage kept foreign governments from recognizing the Confederacy or stepping in on the side of the south. When I heard about this book I was intrigued.  There have been a lot of books written about President Lincoln and I feel like I have read most of them.  So I was happy to hear about an angle on the president I had not read before.  Getting into the book it became clear Peraino certainly did his research.  The world of international diplomacy can get pretty convoluted real fast and he manages to steer the reader through that world effectively. I particularly liked how he decided to… Read more »

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Undead Chaos

Undead Chaos

Review by Travis Starnes Undead Chaos is set in a world where the mystical and supernatural are real and live side by side with the “normal” world.  It follows the wayward son of one of the great magical houses as he gets pulled into a mystery that will rock the entire supernatural community. I will start by saying I generally am not a fan of the urban fantasy genre.  I have been talked into reading several of the major works in the genre and almost universally disliked all of them.  Thankfully this book broke that streak, although maybe that is because it didn’t step on the same landmines that so many of the books in this genre hit.  Most importantly this isn’t a romance novel dressed up to be science fiction or fantasy.  It is closer to a fantasy novel dressed up as a mystery, a fusion of two genres… Read more »

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