Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia

By Jessica James

In a nation where Northerners and Southerners alike still occasionally need to be reminded “Do not re-fight the war,” it is apparent that echoes of a war fought nearly 150 years ago still linger. It is rare, then, to look upon the war and see beyond the issues to the people, the flesh and blood, whose lives and loyalties were tested in a bitter and deadly upheaval of American history. Yet author Jessica James, in her novel Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia or Tale of the War for Southern Independence in the Old Dominion, has developed a portal, if you will, that enables her readers to peer into history and do just that.

Virginia in 1862 sees a well known Confederate officer, Captain Alexander Hunter, along with his small yet loyal group of soldiers, strike fear and awe into the minds of the Union army. Virginia also hears echoes of rumors of an unknown yet crucial Union spy named Andrea Evans, who serves as a continuous source of frustration and irritation for the Confederacy and for Captain Hunter in particular. The war soon deals the two sworn enemies an interesting hand that will change the course of their lives forever.

Bound by a deathbed promise to a mutual loved one, Alex and Andrea soon find themselves in uncomfortable territory. Equally strong in their convictions and loyalties, each are determined to defend their country and home. These two seemingly opposite individuals, forced to keep uncomfortable company, must somehow find a way to reconcile or, at the least, come to an understanding of terms if either are to survive the war with lives and hearts intact. As their unwelcome truce lingers, both Alex and Andrea must look beyond the uniform, beyond the issues, and beyond the flags. They begin looking to the shades of gray where the stark humanity, the pride of home, the love and laughter that reside in each lie.

Readers will be drawn to Andrea’s passion and Alex’s fierce (though sometimes quiet) devotion to the land that he loves. The anger and fear depicted in Shades of Gray is at times almost palatable, the intense sorrow, frustration, and ultimately love seem to transcend the pages to settle in the very marrow of the reader’s bones.

Jessica James has produced a tremendous and wonderful saga about love, loyalty and honor for which she must be lauded.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

The Winter Rose

By Jennifer Donnelly

Los Angeles Book Review Prize winner Jennifer Donnelly met with great success in her work, A Northern Light. It should be no surprise that her new work, The Winter Rose, also holds its readers captive in a “breath-taking, page-turning” fashion from beginning to end.

When India Selwny Jones graduates from the London School of Medicine for Women, she embarks on a journey and a life that will take her far from the aristocracy, wealth, and comfort that she has always known. Though she fully intends to take on London’s “medieval” style of practicing medicine and reform women’s healthcare, will she be able to truly leave all that she’s ever known in order to delve into the dredges of London?

As one of the few women doctors in London at the turn of the twentieth century, India faces skepticism and chauvinism on the part of would-be patients and fellow doctors. As she dreams of opening a women’s clinic for the impoverished of London, she becomes painfully aware of the inadequacy of the training and background that she has received when it applies to the city’s poor.

Chance finds India treating and ultimately saving the life of the infamous Sid Malone, a notoriously ruthless yet charming London gangster. Having previously found themselves at better ends, the two seemingly ill-fitted people, surprisingly find themselves seeking each other’s company and skills before ultimately falling deeply in love.

Sid shows India the people of London in a way and depth she had never before imagined, forcing her to see the people rather than simply treat them. In return for this special gift, India gives Sid the opportunity to dream, perhaps for the first time, of a better life, one far from the violence and danger he has always known.

Disaster strikes the couple when a string of crimes rock the city of London. When a newly elected Member of Parliament is shot in an apparent assassination attempt and the body of a former mistress of Sid is found murdered, all believe that Sid Malone has gone on a murderous spree. Can the young love that has already had to conquer an ocean of differences survive this catastrophe? Or is true that once a villain, always a villain?

Aristocracy meets the impoverished. Politicians meet constituents. Good meets evil. Greed meets self sacrifice. Donnelly has taken all of these colors and has painted them on the canvas of London in the early 1900’s. Painting imagery with an accuracy in detail, Donnelly transports her readers to a different time and life. She has painted a masterpiece of mystery, love and heartbreak that will capture the imagination and hearts of her readers. Lovers of historical fiction will agree that The Winter Rose should be recognized as one of the best books to be published in its genre in recent times.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase The Winter Rose

The Shadows of Nikki

By Christine D. Patterson

It was once said  that “child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.” There are thousands of children being abused or neglected every year. While there are systems and policies in place to protect the children, sadly too many slip through the cracks and are either returned to or left in abusive situations or simply never receive the help, protection and love that they so desperately need.

When author Christine Patterson met a troubled young woman called “Nikki,” she had no idea the tremendous impact it would have on her life. In an effort to make the public aware of the tragedies that plague the system, using personal journals and government documents, Patterson takes her readers back over four decades in her new book The Shadows of Nikki. It is here that the sad and horrifying story of a little girl named Nikki begins.

Adopted from overseas in what appears to have been an illegal adoption, little Nikki first came to live with the Taylors at a very young age. In a family with many children, possibly 10-12, initially it appears Nikki was lost in the crowd and blessedly overlooked. Struggling with the language barrier she soon made friends with one little girl she called “Little Sister.” Horrible sounds and screams fill their nights as the other children would be beaten mercilessly. One tragic night Little Sister was severely beaten by Mrs. Taylor. Horribly sick and in pain, Little Sister is taken away by Nikki’s older brothers and sisters and never seen nor mentioned again.

Nikki’s childhood was filled with repeated physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect at the hands of her adopted parents. She was bounced back and forth through the system, being alternatively placed in foster homes, Juvenile Hall or back at home with the Taylors. A series of tragedies mark Nikki’s life: at a young age she was removed from the Taylors and placed for three years with a family who welcomed, cared for and protected the young girl. At the end of three years she was removed from the home and given back to her parents due to State law. As a teenager, it was difficult to find a loving home due to her age. A variety of group homes did not work out and Nikki ended up spending most of her teen years in institutions such as Juvenile Hall.

This is a difficult book to read. The subject of child abuse and the effect it has on children’s lives as they become adults should never be easy or comfortable. The author wisely placed warnings on several chapters noting that the material within the chapter was graphic and not suitable for those under 18.

Aside from the subject material, the author’s personal comments were difficult to read as well. Primarily because of her outrage, it would seem, attention was not focused on grammatical or punctuation rules. This may well have been intentional given that part of the theme was the question of insanity. Overall, The Shadows of Nikki is a dark book that effectively draws much needed attention to the very real problem of child abuse.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase The Shadows of Nikki

Tales of New York: Some Will Surprise You

By John Keatts

What does the Eiffel Tower have to do with New York City? Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb? What is a Knickerbocker? These questions and more are answered in John Keatt’s new book Tales of New York.

Keatts, a long-time resident and professional tour guide of New York City, fascinates his audience with little known facts and tidbits about the city and its interesting history.

Explore the Lower East Side, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, Soho and Harlem with a resident’s eye. Learn how the Staten Island Ferry got its start from the imagination of a poor, humble sixteen year old farm boy. Enjoy the competition and rivalry between the designers of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, forcing each to build higher and higher.

From the United Nations to the Bowery to Central Park to Ellis Island, Mr. Keatts takes his readers on a captivating tour of the Big Apple. (Why is it called that, anyway?)

Tales of New York is a great read. The book is so well written, the reader will begin to feel as if they are actually seeing New York City. This city already captures the imagination and ambition of millions around the world; this book adds depth, character and appeal that is heretofore unknown to outsiders.

Written in short, easily digestible chapters, Tales of New York can be read straight through chapter by chapter or, if one prefers, a short perusal of the table of contents will direct the reader to a particularly interesting segment of the book. While the chapters rarely exceed seven or eight pages in length, they are jam packed with history and information delivered in a fashion that leaves no doubt that John Keatts loves “his” city. The depth of knowledge and wealth of information is sure to leave ever reader exclaiming “That is really interesting!”

Anyone planning a trip to New York City wanting more than the usual tourist experience would do well to read and learn from Keatts’ years of experience and knowledge. History lovers will enjoy collecting the little known facts that saturate the pages of this book. Tales of New York would be a wonderful addition to the library of anyone wishing to broaden their horizons and learn about one of the most famous cities in the United States of America.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

The Rainforest Grew All Around

By Susan K. Mitchell

What is a rainforest? Who lives there? Children, aged 3-7, are invited to take a closer look at the rainforest of the Amazon in Susan Mitchell’s award winning new book, The Rainforest Grew All Around.

Written as an adaptation of the childhood favorite The Green Grass Grew All Around, Mitchell leads children deep into the jungle. Along their way, children will meet a variety of animals from the jaguar to the snake, ants to the sloth, frogs to the toucan and more.

Children’s attention will be captivated by the easy cadence of this book. Additionally they will find themselves fascinated by the beautiful and intricately detailed illustrations drawn by Connie McLennan. Children will be especially fond of the unique rainforest bugs and butterflies that can be found on every page.

Parents and teachers alike will appreciate the additional information about the rainforest and it’s inhabitants included in the book. Sidebars on every other page give detailed information about both plants and animals found in the rainforest. Special attention is given to jaguars, emerald tree boas, leafcutter ants, sloths, poison dart frogs, and bats as well as to kapok trees, liana vines, and bromeliads. Questions and activities, including a recipe for Rainforest Cookies, designed to make young minds think, can be found in a special section in the back of the book titled “For Creative Minds.”

 The Rainforest Grew All Around was awarded Learning Magazine’s 2008 Teacher’s Choice Award as well as the Honor’s Award from the 2007 National Parenting Publications Award (NAAPA). This wonderful book will be especially appreciated by teachers and parents alike looking for that extra “something” that makes learning fun and unique.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

It's a Brand New Day!

By Donald Leslie Slater and Kenny D. Shaw

Children are reintroduced to the beauty of nature found all around them in the new book It's a Brand New Day by Donald Leslie Slater and Kenny D. Shaw.

This book is aimed at Christian parents and grandparents who are wanting to turn the attention of their young loved ones to "God's creation on display."  Filled with beautiful photographs of nature scenes and wildlife, It's a Brand New Day is a refreshing yet simple reminder of the beauty that can be found if one takes the time to be still for a moment.

Written in both English and Spanish, the words in each short sentence correlates to the song of the same name available on an optional companion CD. As the lyrics of the song repeat, so too does the wording in the book. Initially it might be distracting to see pages repeated, however when realizing it correlates to music, the book will actually seem to flow rhythmically.

An interesting section extolling the virtue of and value of mothers, fathers, grandparents and veterans is located at the end of the book. Each short section is accompanied by a page to write down ideas of ways to honor each. Additionally, the words to three of Shaw’s songs, “Lord of Love,” “Master of the Universe” and “A Song That Has No End“, are also included within the pages of the book and the optional companion CD.

Children and adults alike will enjoy the imagery and simple message found in this short unique book.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

The Fatal Bullet, the Assassination of President James A. Garfield

By Rick Geary

Rick Geary’s new book The Fatal Bullet The Assassination of President James A. Garfield explores an important event in American history in an unusual yet effective manner.

To summarize: the nation, which in recent times had dealt with the horrors of President Lincoln’s assassination, was once again shaken to its core the summer of 1881. On Saturday, July 2 in the near empty waiting room of a train depot, the twentieth U.S. President, Republican James Abraham Garfield was shot in the back. It would take a grueling two months before the President would succumb to his injury.

The assassin, one Charles Guiteau, was quickly apprehended. He announced that he bore no ill-will toward the President but that his death was a “political necessity.” During his trial Guiteau defended himself proclaiming to be an agent of deity. He would go on to state that the President’s physicians should bear the burden of his death. He reasoned this because of the fact that they had decided the wound the President had suffered was not, in fact fatal and that he would soon recover. Guiteau was convicted of the assassination by a jury and was executed by hanging on June 30, 1882.

What sets Geary’s book apart from other historical works is that it was written as a graphic novel. With illustration reminiscent of a comic book, Geary’s book sets out to explore the Garfield assassination as well as to take a closer look at the events leading up to this significant point in the two men’s lives.  Geary examines certain similarities in both lives. Some of these included are in regards to their home regions, the fact that both were the youngest in their family, both considered clergy as a career and that both were drawn to the law and politics.

Robert Frost wrote of two roads that diverged in the wood. This would certainly be applicable to the life paths taken by Garfield and Guiteau. While their lives bore some resemblances they each took different paths. Garfield had a “happy prosperous life” with a strong marriage and a “reputation for honesty, loyalty and fair dealing.” Guiteau, on the other hand, took the “downward path” with a bitter and brief marriage and a reputation as a “cheat, charltan and hum-bug.”

Geary’s book is very interesting and unique. To take a piece of history put it in comic form and stay true to the serious nature of the event is quite the feat. This book will appeal to those young adults and teens who may otherwise have little or no interest in history. Teachers would do well to include this book in their curriculum.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

A Broad Abroad in Thailand: An Expat's Misadventures in the Land of Smiles

By Dodie Cross

Living abroad in Thailand is not always all it is said to be as author Dodie Cross quickly realized. The result of her near year-long adventure? A “laugh out loud must-read memoir” called A Broad Aboard in Thailand An Expat’s Misadventures in the Land of Smiles.

When newly widowed Dodie first met and became involved with Dick, she had no idea what lay in store for her. When Dick is offered an incredible job opportunity in Thailand, there is no question that Dodie wanted to go along. Pushed into a quick marriage, the two soon set off for lands unknown.

Their first experiences in Thailand were luxurious. If only the same could be said for the rest of her stay. Dick and Dodie are soon moved into a new company-owned home and begin to realize very quickly that this wonderful opportunity came with some serious strings attached.

Dodie is fortunate to find many allies and friends. Faithful Pon, Dodie’s live-in housekeeper and friend very quickly earned a place in Dodie’s heart, as did the “beautiful orphans” Dodie considered herself fortunate to work with at the Pattaya Orphanage. The ladies from the Pattaya International Ladies’ Club (PILC) also played a large part in comforting Dodie and helping her to keep her sanity but at the same time were part of an on-going problem Dodie had with the boss’ wife, Mrs. Anorexia or Mrs. A for short (named changed to protect the guilty).

While the area and the friends Dodie made would endear Thailand to her forever, problems followed her almost from the beginning of this fateful journey. The primary problem Dodie faced was Dick. Dick suffered from an addiction and had, at times some extreme issues. This would be a large part of their undoing. Competing with Dick for “problem of the trip” was the insufferable control freak Mrs. A. While not an employee of The Company, Mrs. A issued many rules regarding nearly every aspect of the lives - both public and private - of the employees and their wives. To cross Mrs. A or to break one of her and her husband’s rules was to earn an instant trip back to the States. Unfortunately for Dodie, she and Mrs. A were at cross purposes almost constantly. Medical problems, a near fatal accident and probably countless blunders in dealing with the Thai people all plague Dodie as well.

This memoir, though thick, is very difficult to put down. Dodie Cross has achieved a great accomplishment: her readers will feel an almost immediate connection to her. They will feel her anxiety, her stresses, her amusement and most certainly with groan along with her at the mere thought of Mrs. A.
Mrs. Cross is to be applauded.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Shattered Dreams, My Life as a Polygamist's Wife

By Irene Spencer
Imagine marrying your sister’s husband while your sister is not only living, but still married to him. Now imagine that through the years, your husband would take an additional eight wives and father a total of 58 children. In her book, Shattered Dreams, My Life as a Polygamist’s Wife, Irene Spencer spins a tale so foreign that it would be unbelievable if one was not assured this was her true life’s story.
The story opens with a young Irene running off to be with her new husband, Verlan LeBaron, and his first wife, Charlotte. The product of four generations of polygamists or “Fundamentalists,” Irene has been brought up with the concept of the Principle, or polygamy, instilled in her. The Principle taught that men were to have as many wives and children as possible. At the conclusion of their lives, they would reap eternal benefits and rewards based on their adherence to the Principle. “Polygamy was all about future glory.”

Giving up the love of a man who loved her desperately in order to follow the Principle, Irene embarks on a life far from what she had envisioned. She shares her first home, consisting of two bedrooms and a primitive kitchen, with her husband, his first wife, and their child. Within a matter of a couple of years, a third wife joins them.
Through the next several years, Irene endures countless moves while fighting poverty, loneliness and depression. She raises thirteen children of her own, while working communally to help the entire family survive. At one point, she is solely responsible for the care of twenty-four children while her sister-wives and husband work outside the home. Eventually Irene makes the decision to no longer share the husband that she loved, telling him “I was a beautiful green plant when you married me, but you neglected me! All I ever wanted, all I ever asked was to be watered with your love.…I’ve been threatened with Hell for so many years, I’m not afraid anymore. No one can send me to Hell, because I’m already there.” Taking her small children with her, Irene leaves Verlan for three years before eventually returning to him.
This is a heart-wrenching tale. Spencer relays her story so vividly that her readers can feel her frustration and her loneliness. Her despair is evident as she asked again and again to give her husband yet another wife, each of whom will take her husband further and further away emotionally.
Shattered Dreams... is an excellent book. The story would have been stronger if the epilogue had been left out, however it is interesting to read what becomes of Irene and her children after the death of Verlan. Spencer’s motivation behind the writing of this book was to “tell it like it is.” In this book she did exactly what she set out to do in a very thought-provoking manner.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World

By John Wood

WARNING: If you are not willing to be challenged or motivated to act, do not read John Wood’s new book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

In the late 1990’s Microsoft Marketing Director John Wood took a three week vacation in order to go trekking in the Himalayas. At the time Wood had no idea that the 200 mile walk would be the beginning of a radical change, not only in his thinking but in his very way of life.

On his first day of trekking, Wood meets a middle-aged Nepali named Pasupathi, the man responsible for finding resources for 17 schools in the rural Lamjung Province. Invited to join him, Wood soon found himself greeting students in an overcrowded Nepali school. Not only were the students crammed on long benches, they lacked desks, an accurate world map, and most striking, a lack of books in their small library. Four hundred and fifty students were without something as simple and important as books. The headmaster of the school then issued to Wood a challenge that would forever change his life: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”

On completion of the three week trek, Wood sent out a challenge to over 100 people asking them to help the children of Nepal by donating books. Expecting a couple hundred books to be donated, Wood was overwhelmed to find that over 3,000 books were donated as a result of this single mailing.

Back to work at Microsoft, Wood realized a lack of fulfillment in his work. Statistics of illiteracy haunted him. After a second trip to Nepal, Wood knew what he had to do and wondered if he would have the courage to do it. He planned and implemented a radical shift in his life: that of moving from being a well paid corporate executive to an unpaid CEO of a nonprofit company who set up libraries in developing countries.

As a result of John Wood’s courageous decision, the nonprofit organization, Room To Read, has now established over 5,000 libraries, built more than 400 schools and has awarded long-term scholarships to over 3,000 girls enabling them to continue their education. Partnered with the local villages, Room to Read has by donations funded schools in libraries in Nepal, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka and India.

It is said that education is the key to escaping the cycle of poverty. The mission of Room to Read is to “provide under-privileged children with an opportunity to gain the lifelong gift of education.” This book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, encourages its readers to reflect on the impact education has made on their lives, dares them to imagine a life without books, and challenges them to make a difference in the life of a child.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children

Quit Bugging Me

By Karen Laven

Thirteen year-old Emily Lockhardt thought that having her older brother Bud always around bugging her was bad enough. Now though, she has to write a school report on creepy crawlers and Bud is actually trying to help. When he gives Emily a new book about bugs things really start to get out of hand.

With bugs on the brain as she falls asleep, Emily wakes up to the creepy sensation of millions of legs crawling all over her face and body. Thinking the millipedes to have been just a dream, Emily tries to put it out of her mind. The happenings of the next evening, however, makes her realize that something is very wrong and dangerous about the book her brother gave to her.

That night red fire ants attack, biting and leaving welts that surprisingly disappear when adults come near. The next night thousands of horseflies attack, again biting Emily wherever they can. When locust swarm Bud's room devouring everything in sight, he admits that he too was beginning to think something was very strange about the book. His friend, Peter, gave the book to him after telling him the spiders were after him. Bud thought he was teasing, but now that locusts were eating this prize possessions, he was having second thoughts. To make matters worse, Peter has gone missing.

Bud and Emily work together, trying everything they can think of in order to get rid of the book and hopefully the bugs along with it. But it is no use. Moths, killer bees, mosquitoes and cockroaches all continue their torment of the two siblings. When Bud, like Peter, disappears, Emily knows that somehow the book and its bugs are responsible.

Small clues began to surface making Emily realize that not only did the bugs carry Bud off, but that now he is actually inside their cursed book. Understanding that no one would believe this wild tale, it is up to Emily to try and save her brother.

Allowing herself to be carried off, Emily finds herself in a frightening living nightmare. Giant bugs roam free in a world where tarantulas rule and children have been lured or carried off to for centuries. It is up to Emily, armed with little but her spunk and ingenuity to find a way out of the book if she and Bud are to survive.

Karen Laven's new book, Quit Bugging Me, is one that children 8-12 years old will easily get caught up in. Narrated solely by a series of emails, Laven has created a unique and modern way to spin a story from different perspectives without disrupting the flow of the story.

Readers will feel the terror of Emily and the worry of her best friend Joel. While not wanting to admit to being creeped out they, like Joel, will never look at a book in the same manner again. They will be swift to put away any book with the potential to become hazardous. Who knows what book might come alive next!

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Quit Bugging Me

The Gold of Thrace

By Aileen G. Baron

An adventure in the dark side of archeology and ancient antiquities is to be enjoyed in Aileen G. Baron's new book The Gold of Thrace.

Archeologist Tamar Saticoy is distressed to find that an ancient mosaic floor recently discovered at her dig site in Kilis, Turkey is missing. The overnight theft of the valuable mosaic is a reeling blow as it follows closely on the heels of the recent Ephesus murder of one of her staff members.

Determined to recover the mosaic before it reappears as a collector's prize, Tamar traces the mosaic to Basel, Switzerland. Posing as a museum curator looking for new articles for the museum, Tamar soon finds herself in the company of antiquities dealer Gilberto Dela Barcolo.

Meanwhile one of Tamar's British colleagues, Chatham, is hot on the trail of a horde of ancient Thracian gold. While traveling by train through Bulgaria he is approached by the gold's current owner and intrigued by images and pieces of the treasure. Leaving the train, Chatham spends several days cataloguing the beautiful treasure in order that it might be displayed on loan at the British Museum. Double crossed on his way to the museum, Chatham learns, too late, that all is not what it seems.

When Chatham and one more staff member tracing the mosaic is murdered, Tamar also begins to realize that things and people are not always as they seem. The murderer soon sets his sights on Tamar. After several narrow escapes, it becomes apparent that she has entered a deadly game of cat and mouse where the huntress has now become the hunted.

The Gold of Thrace is an entire novel of smoke and mirrors. Few characters other than the heroine herself are what and who they initially appear to be. Trying to unravel this mystery and its players is like following a single thread of a spider's web to it's origin.

The Gold of Thrace flows along at a quick rate and its lightening fast climax does require careful reading if one does not want to be left scratching their head. Understanding who is who is critical at this point as all is revealed and the smoke and shadows are quickly removed.

This fast paced adventure is one difficult to put down. Anyone with a passing interest in archeology and ancient history will enjoy this book and its long hard look at the black market of antiquities and the intrigue that surrounds it.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Gold of Thrace

Bad Karma, Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia

By Tamara Sheward

In some, there is a deep desire driving them to escape the masses and to travel into the unknown. Born of this desire, Tamara Sheward and her best friend, Elissa, jump at the rare opportunity to spend three weeks backpacking in a foreign land. Their destination: Southeast Asia. Bad Karma Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia, as told by Sheward is the result of their travels.

Without any planning and certainly without any preparation but for the purchase (and theft) of some rather useless travel guides, the two set off on a haphazard adventure. This adventure would take them through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; countries ill-prepared for these two Australian guests. It would be an adventure they, nor the reader, will soon forget.

Almost from the very beginning of their “vacation,” trouble seems to follow the pair. Unwelcome as farang (or foreigners) at seedy hotels, their first night was a foreshadow of what was to come. Characters such as a Train Nazi, the Kip Kid, and Mama Hahn and her floating party dot the landscape of their journey. Prescription-free Valium, a flight only the stoned could appreciate and a slew of religious cults and varieties also played prominently. Accidentally cursing a host family with a death curse, hitchhiking in a bootlegger’s truck and getting stuck in a Viet Cong secret sniper hole are all characteristic events found within the pages of this account.

Surprising no national incidents were sparked along the way. While the two were not invited to leave (the majority of the time), it is not likely that they would be a welcome sight by many who encountered them. Determination ear-marked their travels and, as Sheward put it, they found that “with a lot of harassment and a large vocabulary of abusive language you can achieve anything.”

This was a hilarious book. Chapter titles range from “The Annoyance of Being Earnest” and “Hello to What Unfortunately Is” to “Please Don’t Do Anything Weird.” The accounts would be horrifyingly embarrassing to most people, yet the realization of what continued to occur to this pair keeps the pages turning.

The very premise behind the book is intriguing. Who wouldn’t want to spend several weeks traveling with one’s best friend, rambling wherever the map took you? No outside worries, or distractions - just whatever the journey handed you! Unfortunately constant use of crude and abrasive language, drunkenness and drug use, continued to a point of severe distraction, ruined what could have otherwise been a great book.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Bad Karma: Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia

The Stolen Child

By Keith Donohue

If you are looking for a fast paced, yet unusual book, The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue may be the book for you.

At the age of seven, Henry Day disappears. A short time later he is brought home safe and sound to his father, mother and twin sisters. Or is he?

The boy accepted as Henry Day is not the youngster who ran away from home and hid in the hollow. Rather the boy taken into the Day's home is a changeling who has waited a hundred years for the opportunity and the right child with whom he could change places with to come along. Fashioning himself in the exact image of the Henry Day and using knowledge gained from extensive observation of the Day family, the changeling enters the world of humans and attempts to live Henry's life in his stead.

But what of the real child, Henry Day? While the imposter took his life, Henry Day, renamed Aniday, enters the world of the changeling. Ageless, with the appearance of wild children, the small tribe Aniday is adopted into lives deep in the woods. The changelings, or hobgoblins as they are known, venture into town only for the theft of supplies, general mischief and the observation of select children. As Aniday slowly becomes accustomed to his new life, he loses all memory of his former life, retaining only the ability to read and to write.

The book is told from the point of view of both the changeling Henry Day and of Aniday in alternating chapters. Over twenty years lead the two in very different directions in life, yet they have one thing in common: an obsession regarding who they were in their former lives. For Aniday, the obession is in the longing to remember life with the Days as a human child, before he was kidnapped and became a changeling. For Henry Day, the obsession takes him to Europe and back over 100 years to a German boy he scarcely recalls. Additionally Henry Day struggles with the fear that his past would be discovered, that he would be revealed as the imposter he is. Henry's fears grow progressively wilder as he becomes a father and imagines the changelings will try and snatch his own son, as he had snatched the real Henry Day years before.

The Stolen Child is a unique blend of fantasy and reality. Initially the alternating narratives were confusing, but as the story unfolded the two blended together in an effortless harmony. This book can easily be considered an adult fairy tale. Donohue has centered in and struck at the heart of every parent's worst fear: that their child will be stolen from them. What he has created is perhaps even worse: a child is stolen and an imposter returned in his place to unsuspecting parents, while unbeknownst to them, their real child suffers elsewhere. It is no wonder that has chosen The Stolen Child for it's first ever film rights.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase The Stolen Child


By M.L. St. Sure

M.L. St. Sure has created a haunting melody in the new novel Evensong, as it takes its readers back in time to the terrifying era when Hitler and his cruel army threatened to change the world forever.

Veteran Joseph Cross is simply trying to make a life for his family in the unforgiving farm land of Missouri. Wanting more for his children than he could provide, he trains his daughter Christina to sing the beautiful arias of the opera he himself could no longer sing. When tragedy strikes, young Christina falls back on her training and through the guidance of her benefactor Senator Liam Caradine, sets out to raise her family out of the poverty in which they lived.

Christina takes to the stage where her voice will soon be recognized around the world. With her young sister Nicolette, Christina moves to Paris, France to live with her uncle Phillippe Petain. When Hitler's army invades, her uncle becomes the Premier of France and orders Christina to sing and entertain Hitler and his high-ranking Nazi officers. Having already been recruited by the resistance leader Laurent de Gauvion Saint Cyr, Christina refuses to sing, earning the wrath of Hitler.

Christina, with Nicolette by her side, aids the resistance until young Nicolette is kidnapped. It is discovered to everyone's horror that Nicolette has been taken to the dreaded kinder camp, also known as the "Devil's Palace." Laurent risks all, including the very lives of those under his command in a suicidal mission to rescue Nicolette and return her to the sister he has fallen deeply in love with.

Meanwhile during her own attempt to rescue Nicolette, Christina is apprehended and given to an angry Nazi officer known for his cruelty. Realizing who his captive is and her relationship to Laurent, whom he despises, the officer takes great delight in his torture and humiliation of Christina.

Forced to sing for her captors, Christina faces a grave and pivotal decision: sing the Deutchland-Lied, or "Song of Germany," or taken a final stand in her allegiance to the resistance.

Evensong brings to mind a great tragedy. Not only are the cruelties of the Nazi party unveiled and laid bare, but so too is the cruelty of a deep love in a time when love cannot be afforded. This is a moving story, one worthy of the attention of any interested in historical fiction.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Evensong

A Halloween Story: a frightfully-delightful tale, by a 5-year-old for other little monsters, everywhere

By Alberto Fernandez

     After a fun-filled evening of Trick-or-Treat and Halloween fun, footsteps in the night waken a young boy. Is it a vampire? A mummy? A giant scary monster? What could it be? To find out, you need to read Alberto Fernandez’s new book, A Halloween Story.

     Written at the age of 5 as part of a school project, young Fernandez has created a short story which children will want to hear and read again and again. Black and white illustrations lend to the overall simplicity of the book. Drawn as if by a child’s hand, the pictures help bring the story to life as a child would view it. 

     Children not only enjoy the story but also the variety of activities found at the end of the book. Readers are encouraged to “Help the mummy-pup reach his Halloween treats” by working through a maze which spans three pages. Story starters are also included in the book in an effort to help children use their own imaginations. Simple sentences start stories told from the point of view of a spider, a mummy and the man beneath the stairs and give children the opportunity to create stories in a similar fashion of A Halloween Story but with their own ideas and words. This would make a fun fall project for elementary students.

     Children are not the only ones who will enjoy this book. Adults will enjoy seeing their children’s expressions as they get deeper and deeper into the story and hearing their surprised “Oh!” at the ending. The book will also invoke fond memories of their own Halloween fun and scares as a youth.

This fall, A Halloween Story is a definite “must read” for children.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase "A Halloween Story; a frightfully-delightful tale, by a 5-year-old for other little monsters, everywhere."

Life's a Ball with Billy the Baseball

By Mark Cervasio

Billy enjoys a simple life as a cork, spending his days hanging around with his friends Frankie, the football, B-Ball the basketball, Doc the medicine ball and a golf ball named Nick. Billy dreams of great things but his friends all believe that that is all there is to it: dreams. Then one day, the life of this little cork is changed dramatically. In an exciting turn of events, Billy goes from being just another cork in a factory to being proudly displayed in a new home: the Baseball Hall of Fame. Children of all ages are invited to travel with Billy on his journey in Life’s a Ball with Billy the Baseball by Mark Cervasio.
Readers will share in Billy’s initial trepidation, his wonder and excitement along his incredible yet realistic journey. Told from the point of view of the baseball, this is an attention grabbing story filled with information for the young (and not so young) baseball fan. Facts about the weight of major league baseballs, their circumference, the number of stitches they boast and how long their baseball career lasts are all effortlessly weaved through the narrative. Fans will learn interesting facts about how balls are transported, inspected and used as well as a very interesting tidbit involving New Jersey mud.

This is a great book. Young audiences enjoy hearing the story from a unique perspective and are captivated by the story and the accompanying illustrations. Adults will appreciate the wealth of information, easily understood due to the simplicity of the book.

Baseball fans old and young alike will want this colorful and fun book on their library shelves.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Torina's World, A Child's Life in Madagascar

By Joni Kabana

    A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, but the pictures in Joni Kabana’s new book Torina’s World, A Child’s Life in Madagascar is worth far more than words. Kabana treats her readers to a child’s view of her life and culture through the eye of a camera.

   Meet Torina, an eight year old Malagasy girl from the island country called Madagascar. Torina shares with the audience different aspects of her life through text and photographs under the headings: We Live!, We Grow!, and We Feel!.

   By reading and exploring this book, children have the unique opportunity to view and examine life in a developing country. Simple sentences and questions on each page of text provoke children to compare and contrast their lives with that of Torina. Statements are fashioned in a way that when read, the similarities between Torina’s world and that of a Western child’s are very obvious.

   Only when coupled with the photographs do children see the various differences. For example, one page states “We wash our clothes together. How do you wash your clothes?” A child may realize that just like Torina, her clothes need to be washed and that maybe she helps her mother with that chore. It is only when the picture is viewed that the child realizes washing her clothes in a washing machine is very different from washing clothes in Madagascar.
When read to a four and six year-old audience, the children were fascinated by the story. They enjoyed the way the book involved them, eagerly answering each question and pointing out the differences they saw in the pictures. Most importantly, the children asked questions about what they were seeing.

   While Torina’s World, A Child’s Life in Madagascar is intended for children, adults can appreciate this book as well. The remarkable photography and the detailed glimpse into the “humanity” of the village brings to life this foreign world. A short discussion at the end of the book gives the reader general information regarding Madagascar. Included are the size and location of the island, the population, and a brief look at the varied beliefs held by the Malagasy people.

   This is a beautiful book whose depth goes beyond the simplicity of its text. Torina’s World, A Child’s Life in Madagascar opens up the world to children in a manner that is non-threatening and exciting. This book belongs in the library of any child whose parents’ hope for them is to have an appreciation for the world around them, as well as that beyond the borders of their own country and culture.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?

By Joy Smith

    Joy V. Smith has written a delightful new children’s book, Why Won’t Anyone Play with Me?. This book is a short and sweet story that teaches, like most good childrens’ books, an underlying lesson.
    Meet Kallie, a sad and lonely little kitten. None of the animals at the big red barn will play with her. Wanting desperately to have friends, the sad little kitten sets out to find other animals to play with and to befriend. In her search along the pond by the woods, Kallie encounters Kevin Kroaker, Topper Turtle, Tazi Treefrog, Salli Salamander and Lily Ponds. Kallie cannot understand why none of these animals want to play with her. All of them run, jump or splash away at her every attempt to play with them. By the end of this short story, a soggy and tearful Kallie learns that she must change the way she plays with smaller animals if she hopes to ever have friends. When she learns this lesson, Kallie is able to play and enjoy new games with her brand new friends.
    This story, with its animal characters, is especially appealing to younger children. Parents would like this story as it deals with a young one who is having difficulty understanding the need to play gently with smaller creatures. Why Won’t Anyone Play With Me? would be a great story for children with smaller siblings, especially for those who, like many, have a tendency to play too rough.
     Unfortunately, the illustrations in this book leave much to be desired and take away from the overall quality of the book. Blurry pictures that seem to have been enlarged, cut and pasted fill each page. Cut-outs in the back of the book, great for children to act out the story, are fuzzy. Many parents or grandparents would probably forego a purchase of this book based on it’s cover alone. However the sage advice of “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes into play well here. Smith’s simple story is one that 2- to 4- year old children will love to hear again and again.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

 Click to purchase Why Won't Anyone Play with Me?

The Adventures of Traveling Bear, Vol. 1, 2, 3

By Christian Hainsworth

The Adventures of Traveling Bear is an exciting new children’s book series. Each of the fourteen books in the series focuses on “positive values and winning attitudes.”

Complete with a read-along CD, these fun books will encourage young readers as they improve their reading skills while teaching and gently reinforcing important life lessons and values.

Once one of these books is picked up and read for the first time, parents will know without a doubt this is a series their children are going to love. Colorful illustrations and catchy story lines combined with good clean fun make this one of the best new children’s book series to come along in recent years.

Volume 1: Traveling Bear and the Drive-Through Safari

Traveling Bear and his friends are off on an adventure as they tour a drive-through safari. So many eye-catching things greet them on their journey. Was that an elephant waving its trunk at the bus? Traveling Bear finds himself full of questions and learns the value and pride that goes along with finding answers for yourself.

Volume 2: Traveling Bear and the Yellow Flipper Roller Coaster

It’s the end of the day at the amusement park and Traveling Bear and his friends find themselves in a very long line for an exciting roller coaster. Should they wait in line, enjoy the ride and risk being late and in trouble or is there a better way for this day to end? With a little thought, Traveling Bear and his friends learn the value and reward of thinking ahead.

Volume 3: Traveling Bear and the Search for Treasure

Treasure hunting with his grandmother and grandfather will lead Traveling Bear into a big, dark and scary cave. Obstacles such as skinny planks needing to be crossed, black screeching bats and ghosts all make Traveling Bear think about turning back and giving up. With encouragement and determination Traveling Bear learns the value of not giving up and achieving his goals.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Eyelike Colors

From the everyday colors such as purple and blue to the more uncommon pearl and iridescent, nature's wide array of colors are displayed for all to see in Play Bac Publishing's new book Eyelike Colors.

Green is no longer just green; red is no longer just red. Each two to four page spread in this book is devoted to a single color, or rather to a spectrum of shades of color. For example, readers see that sunflowers, grapefruit, ducklings and daffodils are all different shades of yellow. Flamingoes, pigs, raspberries and cherry blossoms are all differing shades of pink.

Each page, without exception, is filled with bright vibrant pictures of colors found in nature. Even the sections devoted to black and to white are eye-catching and vibrant in their own right. The photography is such that one could very easily flip through this book without pausing to read the short sentences and still take away much from the experience. The words are very clearly secondary in this colorful book.

Children will love looking at this book and seeing items of varying colors and shades. They will enjoy seeing their own favorite colors displayed in nature and may even be encouraged to discover these colors on their own as they play and explore the great outdoors.

Parents will not regret purchasing this book, nor is it one that is likely to be found in a used book store anytime soon.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click here to purchase EyeLike Colors

Being Frank with Anne

By Phyllis Johnson
    In 1942 a young Jewish girl living in Amsterdam moved with her family into a tiny secret annex above her father’s office. Over the next two years the young teenager and her family hid from the German Nazis in an unsuccessful attempt to wait out the war safe from the horrors of the concentration camps. Throughout her time in hiding, Anne recorded events of daily life, hopes, dreams and sheer frustration in her valued diary. After twenty-five months of hiding, the Frank family was discovered and sent to concentration camps where Anne would die of typhus at the age of fifteen, just two months before the end of World War II.

  Published in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the world’s most read book and has captivated is audiences for generations. Rare is the young girl who cannot relate to some of the dreams and hopes that Anne writes of or the frustrations of growing up. Rare also is the one in this generation who can relate to and fully understand the horror of what the Franks were hiding from.

  Phyllis Johnson’s new book, Being Frank With Anne, attempts to put the contents of the famous diary into prose. Johnson strives, through her poetry, to bring a deeper emotional understanding of “Kitty” (as Anne fondly referred to the diary) to all her readers.

  Each poem correlates with a dated entry in Anne’s famous diary. Johnson’s poems are dated in order that readers may cross-reference them with the diary. Johnson’s poetry stands well on it’s own. Readers can get a good understanding of what was going on in Anne’s mind and world. It is when combined with the diary itself, read side by side, that the remarkability of what Johnson has done really sinks in.
   The Diary of Anne Frank is a historical work, read and loved by millions. Heralded by some as a strong reminder of the horror of the era as it humanizes the hunted Jews. Johnson has successfully attempted to bring this well known work to a much more emotional and personal level: to bring heart the reality of Anne’s world and the consequences and toll that that reality took on a vibrant young lady.
   This is not a “happy” book, but is yet a wonderful one, written in order “to honor Anne and her legacy of remembrance.” The emotion, the anxiety, the wonder - readers will experience Anne’s world in a way previously unknown. Johnson is to be applauded for the depth to which she leads her readers.

This review was submitted by Kristin Pace. Kristin is a wife and mother and founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Being Frank With Anne