Mitch Rapp and the book ‘Kill Shot’

Earlier this week I wrote about Vince Flynn‘s book American Assassin with this post on the Matt Lynn Digital blog. Here today I offer feedback on the second book sequentially in the Mitch Rapp series, which is the book Kill Shot. Kill Shot is the second and currently final prequel in what is now a 17-book series of books created by Kill Shot author Vince Flynn.

American Assassin 2 - VInce Flynn(Kill Shot author Vince Flynn)

Unlike American Assassin, this book has not been made into a movie.  The book Kill Shot picks up about a year after the telling of American Assassin, continuing the concept of the all-star off-book CIA assassin Rapp working through a covertly sanctioned mission to kill terrorists acting amorally either directly as terrorists or through the abetting of them.

The well-executed intrigue of Kill Shot puts the Mitch Rapp character in Paris in furtherance of the above mission when, in Paris, a scheme is perpetrated against a Rapp mission that leaves him in Paris, France blamed for the deaths of a Libyan oil minister, four unidentified men, and three innocent civilians. Mitch Rapp is assigned the blame while the reader sees the larger play. Beyond knowing he’s been setup and wounded, Rapp is left to puzzle through the mystery, clear his name, and figure out whom to trust in a clandestine world filled with secrets, half truths, and legitimate worry that looks like paranoia.

Others are working for and against him, and looking to offer a just result to the larger questions of justice while adjudicating the facts. That the French General Directorate for External Security as well as the French National Police are on parts of the case, too, only serves to raise the intrigue and extend the mystery. The read was entertaining, engaging, and enjoyable.

Overall, I rate this read at 3.5-stars out of five (5).

Matt – Saturday, June 30, 2018

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Mitch Rapp and the book ‘American Assassin’

Those familiar with the political thrillers of writer Vince Flynn will know that the character Mitch Rapp was first introduced to the world in the book Transfer of Power in 1999. Many will also realize that American Assassin (2010) and Kill Shot (2012) were introduced later to fill in some history to Rapp through Flynn‘s last novel, The Last Man (2013). Flynn died at the age of 47 in 2013.

American Assassin 2 - VInce Flynn(Vince Flynn)

Since then, Kyle Mills has released three novels that extend the Mitch Rapp story. This reviews gets into the chronologically first book in the Rapp universe, namely Vince Flynn‘s book American Assassin. The chronological order to these books is accessible here.

In the book American Assassin, the audience is introduced to Rapp, Cold War veteran Stan Hurley, CIA Deputy Irene Kennedy, CIA Director Stansfield, and a host of other characters after the Pan Am 103 attack over Lockerbie Scotland of December 1988. Rapp feels the sting of this intensely, according to the recruitment details that set a course of the career that will become Rapp‘s fate as well as a CIA anti-terrorism approach.

The book tells the tale of how Rapp and others were recruited into a new program for the CIA, how the training for the recruits occurred, and the personality and professional disagreements among Rapp, Hurley, Kennedy, and Stansfield through the course of training. Things are tense and difficult, ultimately continuing from there as realities in the larger story take the reader into the details of Rapp’s first action in the hypothetical “real world” of this fictional tale.

American Assassin 3 - Movie(The movie American Assassin (2017) is based on the book with some subject matter changes).

The growing tensions of forced political decisions overriding intelligence-level opinions are introduced as a motif that is visited in later books in the Rapp line, with at least something of a genesis to the trope taking root from the earliest experiences of Mitch Rapp as a professional assassin. The larger story of this book takes the reader into Beirut, Lebanon where the force that we’ve seen in later Mitch Rapp books proves decisive from the beginning. The origin tales of Rapp‘s talent, skill, and training are all executed fairly well. In giving me another Rapp story as a prequel to his origin story, I appreciate the work done in American Assassin by Vince Flynn.

I’ll leave it to the reader to determine if Mitch Rapp was successful in this opening tale for the beginning of his career. The story was not the most brilliant origin story ever written, though in giving me some easy reading of a known formula, I must rate the book at 3.5-stars out of 5.

Matt – Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Take flight with David McCullough and ‘The Wright Brothers’

The Pulitzer Prize winning author of United States presidents John Adams and Truman, David McCullough wrote about the men from Dayton, Ohio who taught the world to fly by learning to build and pilot machines capable of sustained flight while under the control of a human pilot. The book The Wright Brothers (published in 2015) tells a story of the brothers learning to fly, sell, and acquire buy-in from the world that they had in fact developed piloted-flight with their Wright flyer of 1903.

Wright 4(Wright flyer of 1903)

The story of the Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright begins with their background in southwest Ohio not as highly funded and advantaged men of prestige with access or privilege. The Wrights were industrious, intellectually curious, and brilliant in the application of physics to flight combined with mechanical ingenuity, to say but two things.

A fair portion of the story is devoted to the process of learning to fly through experiment, application of learning from the results, knowledge procurement through writing campaigns for information, and the like. Solicitations ran afoul of some others who also, simultaneously, were pursuing the end result of flight without sharing fact based information.

Wright 2(Wilbur Wright)

Per this biography, the next step after proving capable of sustained and piloted flight was for the brothers to commercialize the effort and gain recognized acceptance for the accomplishment. This would prove more difficult than one would think because self-interest and a rash of disbelief that actual manned-flight had been accomplished. Efforts to sell Wright flyers to the United States military fell on indignantly skeptical members of the US military apparatus. Forced elsewhere, warmer receptions were found primarily in France and Germany.

Wright 3(Orville Wright)

Much of the remaining biography gets into the effort to prove that flight was real, the Wrights becoming celebrities in France of the first sort seen since the time of Benjamin Franklin more than 100-years before. In my effort to suggest that you read The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, let me suggest that the fame there was both an interesting story for the brothers, the extended family back home in the United States, and also for the way the story of who the buyer became actually gained resolution.

Wright 5(David McCullough)

I found the read quite entertaining and worth my time. I enjoy history, people, and stories of how things that hadn’t existed came to exist. That there is something of an underdog story here with two men in a bicycle shop gaining success in Ohio, North Carolina, and places where the advantages of culture say that they should not. My rating for the book is 3.5-stars out of 5-stars.

Matt – Saturday, May 12, 2018

The memory of a life scholastic – Jean Marzollo

The writer of more than 150 books for children has died. Jean Marzollo wrote books for the Scholastic Publishing brand of education and media that has thrived through my childhood and for a long run before and after. Marzollo’s life is captured in this New York Times article from April 13, 2018.

Marzollo 2(Jean Marzollo)

Ms. Marzollo passed at age 75 in New York state after a fulfilling career writing books for children. Her I SPY series of books were written in rhythm and rhyme. The notion of this trait was to “lure and excite the ear,” as Marzollo said in the biography on her website. “Children love rhythm and rhyme, and so do I.”

Marzollo 3(A book in the I SPY series)

While many of the books by Marzollo were accompanied by images or illustrations with collaborators such as Walter Wick, the I SPY series that began in the early 1990s also led to other works.

Marzollo 5(My First Book of Biographies)

Per the piece in The New York Times, Marzollo became editor of Let’s Find Out magazine in 1972. The monthly magazine for kindergartners led to Marzollo’s first book in 1978, Close Your Eyes (illustrated by Susan Jeffers). The book was about a boy having trouble falling asleep. Other I SPY books really cemented Marzollo‘s reputation.

Marzollo 4(A book in the I SPY series)

The book In 1492 is a biographical book for kids that describes the first voyage of Christopher Columbus into the new world. The point here is to show that Marzollo‘s literary themes for kids ranged from the fanciful to factual, words used in The New York Times article.

Marzollo 6(The book In 1492 by Jean Marzollo)

Jean Marzollo lived a life that aimed to educate children. Her recent passing at 75 years of age, while sad, reminds us that she left us with much of a fanciful yet factual world that educated children and adults alike in the concept of raising the literacy of children. There is much to respect and remember in this life’s aim to inspire a love for reading and literacy.

Matt – Friday, April 20, 2018

Maya Angelou knew why the caged bird sang, and it was good

Ninety years and eight days ago, Maya Angelou was born to parents that would divorce three years later. Forty-one years later, the autobiographical fiction book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was published in 1969. It is on the occasion of Angelou‘s birth that I choose to review my experience of having read the book.

Caged Bird 2(Maya Angelou)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings gets into Angelou’s the harsh reality of growing up to the age of 17 as a black female in the racist America of the 1930s and 1940s. The book gets into difficult assaults on the main characters of Maya and her brother Bailey as they are shuttled between households across the country, suffering brutal attacks on personal dignity, racial and gender identity, ownership of innocence and the right to say yes or no AS CHILDREN in matters of intimate physical contact, and much more.

Caged Bird 3(Angelou‘s poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

The emotional and visceral feelings of consternation raised by the cruel and severe treatment of Maya and Bailey as children are unmistakable, autobiographical, and in raising commentary about the injustice and then later ramifications are unmistakable. In underscoring these indignities as well as the importance of family, fair racial treatment, and the longing for a less-trying background, the narrative structure not only exemplifies the reality yet drives home a notion that the human spirit still can flourish in the presence of events that would embitter people of lesser quality.

Caged Bird 4(A Kathy Coleman Jones poem inspired by Maya Angelou)

In the novel, the character Maya learns in her teenage years while living in San Francisco that consolation for grief from the past can be overcome. The transformation of Maya is the maturity and insight gained by self-love and the insight of friends that the character Maya finds within the pages of books. Maya professes a love for literature in general and classic writers and William Shakspeare specifically. Over the course of the work, the beauty that shows itself is the overcoming of the cages of racism, rape, an inconsistent family life, and other challenges in coming to the realization of choosing love, expression, deeper feelings. Maya the character frees her feelings to sing of the beauty she sees for herself and in others to move from the shackles of a cruel upbringing to the joyful singing of beauty, love, and depth.

Caged Bird 5(Maya Angelou)

In the reading of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I felt the sting of suffering with the characters of Maya and Bailey. I felt the confusion of adolescence with these two, as well as the longing for stability of consistent family, place, and justice. The humanity growth of Maya’s choosing love, literature, and the higher callings of our human family were redeemed, for a book from 1969, worked for me. It is for these reasons that the book rates 4.0-starts-out-of-five.

Matt – Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go

As some of you that read this blog know, I joined a communication, confidence, and leadership growth group in January of 2016 called Toastmasters International. A gentleman there took a risk by affording me the opportunity to practice my leadership skills.  He offered the challenge to be uncomfortable for awhile in supporting not only myself and my club. He allowed me to serve the people of five clubs in an area of my city that I hadn’t really explored much during the first roughly 40-years of my life.

I was first introduced to the gentleman, Mr. Tay, in April 2017. This friend reads two to four books on leadership each year to keep current with new ideas that can help him in his career. Mindful and continuous improvement are cornerstones of the advice that I have received from Mr. Tay. This approach brought me to the book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want.

Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni co-wrote Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, a book that gets into a concept that Goodreads calls “surprisingly simple.” The notion underpinning the book is that “frequent short conversations with employees about their career goals and options integrated seamlessly into the normal course of business” will help keep employees growing, engaged, and happily productive within your organization.

Grow or Go 2(Beverly Kay)

The framework that Kaye and Winkle Giulioni voice clearly in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go includes talks about understanding your own hindsight, combining it with foresight into department, company, and industry trends, and then joining the two with context to gain insight.

Much of the book indicates what it will tell you and then did. Chapters three and four get into the notion of hindsight to determine who you are, where you’ve been, what you love, and where you excel. Foresight in chapter five looks to have managers help employees look forward, outward, and toward trends, changes, and the big picture. Chapters six through eight focus on leveraging insight from the convergence of hindsight and foresight.

Grow or Go 3(Julie Winkle Giulioni)

Career-oriented books about leadership and development are definitely not the material for everyone. Conversations about a Toastmasters career further are not the types of information that will excite folks. Taking concrete action to lead and grow through direct action within clubs, and then more passive reflection and thought to shape further action, is further not the thing folks want.

In combining the two and reviewing a book well at 4.0-starts out of 5.0 stars, know that I received insight that I wanted while getting to practice the techniques within. Thanks, Mr. Tay, for sharing the opportunity to read this and apply it in the real world.

Matt – Thursday, March 22, 2018

Book Review: Simon Sinek starts with why over how or what

Simon Sinek introduced the highly influential concept of The Golden Circle in his book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. This book appeared in my sphere when a retired business owner in one of my Toastmasters International public communication clubs brought up the notion of marketing the club based on why we do things rather than what we do or how we do them.

Start With Why 2(The Golden Circle)

The book gets into the notions of moving from why to how to what, which is the system that Sinek called The Golden Circle (18-minute video here)Simon Sinek makes the case that his system of communicating on why and through beliefs mirrors biology.

Biology underpins The Golden Circle, per Sinek, because it follows the notion of biology by clarifying similarities to the way our brains function. The newest and outermost section of the brain (the neocortex) processes sensory information, higher level reasoning, and communicating through language. This part of the brain also corresponds to the question of what.

Start With Why 4(The biology of the theory)

The middle two sections deal in the limbic system, which gets into our feelings, memories, moods, and behavior. The limbic system addresses the questions of how and why humans behave the way we do. In other words. our feelings, memories, moods, and behavior controls a larger portion of our means for making decisions than does the neocortex.

Start With Why 3(The Celery Test)

A simple test (or framework) for effective use of is the notion of The Golden Circle is The Celery Test. This four-minute Celery Test video moves from a results-based why into a purposeful, belief-based means for action. The Celery Test gets to the notion of acting consistently with your belief system in living your beliefs.

Start With Why 5(Simon Sinek)

There is much philosophical satisfaction that I take from Start With Why, and for that my inclination is to rate the book as 4.5-stars out of 5.0. The notion that the book could have been a more concise pamphlet or video is not lost on me, though the larger benefit of The Celery Test and the comparison to biology in the book were satisfying parts of the reading journey for me. I recommend this book to those wanting a self-help book for your own edification.

Matt – Tuesday, March 13, 2018