letter 44 v1What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.

In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.

This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.

Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!

Recently, I met best-selling author Brad Meltzer in a Chicago book store.  Naturally, I picked up an autographed copy of his newest novel, The Inner Circle.  (He had a large following — I had to wait in line a long time!)

The book revolves around Beecher White, a young archivist who loves his job at the National Archives.  When his childhood crush, Clementime, shows up seeking help in tracking down the father she never knew, he takes her on a private tour, and even shows her the secret vault used only by the  President.  Within moments ( is it by accident or plan?) they discover a priceless artifact hidden under the President’s chair.  Minutes later, the security guard who admitted them to the vault is found dead.  In hours,  Beecher is on the run, unsure who he can trust,  yet frantically trying to stay one-step ahead of his pursuers by successfully decoding concealed messages.

This is a fast-paced read and those interested in political conspiracies or action-packed thrillers will be entertained with all the unexpected twists and turns.  Initially, I wasn’t certain about the ending, but then it made more sense when I read that  Meltzer has a sequel planned, using  Beecher again as the primary character.  He is a rather lovable archivist, after all.

For those who may be further intrigued by the mysteries of symbols and codes, check out the author’s show on the History Channel, Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.

lincoln-railsplitting2Lincoln and Darwin had vastly different childhoods.  We know that Lincoln was born dirt-poor and was largely self-educated, whereas Darwin was born to wealth and privilege, privy to the best education money could buy. Still, even 200 years later, both have left their mark upon our world.  Unfortunately for both, that mark, or legacy, has become somewhat limited over time.

In the words of Adam Gopnik in his “Twin Peaks” article for the February, 2009 issue of the Smithsonian, ” With the usual compression of popular history, their reputations have been reduced to single words . . . “Evolution!”  for one and “Emancipation!” for the other.”  How true this is.  Both were complex individuals who contributed in many other ways to our relative societies.

One of Lincoln’s legacies, of sorts,  is the vast amount of literature that has been written about him.  At least in the Western world, it is estimated that there have been more books written about Lincoln than any other individual (save possibly Jesus and Napoleon).  And still, writers and researchers are uncovering new information and reformatting the old into numerous intriguing titles about Lincoln.  Check out some of these new tomes about our legendary 16th President:

In Lincoln’s Hand: his Original Manuscripts

1864: Lincoln at the Gates of History by Charles Flood

“They Have Killed Papa Dead”: the Road to Ford’s Theater, Abraham Lincoln’s Murder and the Rage for Vengeance by Anthony Pitch

Giants: the Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer

Looking for Lincoln: the Making of an American Icon by Philip Kunhardt

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief by James McPherson