Friday, May 27, 2011

Sworn to Silence

By Linda Castillo

I'll admit:  I'm not an avid reader of murder mysteries, although I tap into one now and again.  I picked up this particular book based on my interest in it's setting - Painters Mill, OH - a small, rural town set in the real-life landscape of mid-Ohio Amish country, a place not too far from my own small farm in Ohio.  I was curious about the descriptions I might find about the daily lives of Amish folks.

First Criticism:  This book is not a pleasant read about rural country life, flouncy skirts, pink cheeks, buggies and farms.  It is not a book that provides a quick peek into the private lives of the Amish.  The Amish lifestyle, and the people who associate as Amish, are not examined in any depth at all...plain and simple, this is a story about a Serial Killer and a cop who once-was-Amish.  It is a murder mystery so graphic and horrific in parts that I began to hesitate to continue reading it. After the first murder scene I read through, I woke up with nightmares.  Squeamish reader beware.  However, the good news is you can easily skim over those sections and not miss a beat of the book, which is what I quickly learned to do.

Also, I had some trouble swallowing the basic premise, or backdrop of the story.  A young girl now under a "bann" from the Amish, who has long since shucked off her bonnet and skirts for a badge..she is now a well-liked, albeit cursing and boozing Chief of Police, with a past laden with hard secrets....AND she coincidentally now presides in the same town that she was raised in - AND there just happens to be a serial killer on the loose...AND her own secrets just happen to align in a mysterious way with the serial killer.  I find the application of any one of these elements hard to swallow, much less all of them - this heroine character and events are so unlikely to occur in a small, rural Amish town in Ohio that it borders on fantasy.  All that said, if you can rise above the implausibility and the gorey yuck, you will be glad you did - it is a small price to pay for the engaging and compelling story that follows. 

And that's the beauty of this book, or any book.  A book can live in a place where few rules apply - it is a story, and Linda Castillo reserves the right to make it interesting.  Her crafty skill at story telling and character development make me want to believe the unbelievable.

And I do believe this book is now in the works to be a movie.  If I'm assured that I can cover my eyes during the murderous scenes and prolonged, slow panning of dead bodies, which I luckily will know in advance are coming since I read the book - count me in!

This review was submitted by Linda  - Linda is a busy professional and part time farmer who lives in the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.  In Linda's spare time, she reads a lot of farming and agriculture books, and tries to find novels that weave those themes into them.  Linda's current hobby includes collecting old time recipe books, and trying to learn how to bake from scratch again.

Click to purchase Sworn to Silence

False Witness

By Randy Singer
Author Randy Singer has been called the Christian John Grisham.  He lives up to this moniker in his new release, False Witness.
Clark Shealy and his wife Jessica are professional bounty hunters.  Repossessions and chasing down men and women who skipped out on bail are a way of life for the two.  Then one day, during what should have been a routine pick-up, the rug is pulled out from under Clark.  He is hired to track down an elusive professor for the ultimate price:  the life of his wife.  Using his limited resources and connections, Clark is in a race against time, a race which can only end in death.  The question is: whose?
Fast forward four years.  Third year law students Jamie Brock and Isaiah Haywood spend part of their time working for a free legal aid clinic.  Each are approached by clients with a hidden past and a perilous future.  Who are these clients? Who betrayed them? and just as important Who is after them?   The course Jamie and Isaiah start will take them (and the readers) on a dangerous adventure.  At the heart of the matter lies a seemingly impossible math equation with unprecedented value. The federal government, the Chinese mafia, the witness protection program and a law professor with a checkered past all play roles in this must read thriller. 
False Witness was previously released under the same name several years ago.  This new (and improved?) version includes changes geared at bringing a certain group of people to the minds of his readers:  the Dalits of India, the lowest in an unofficial caste system.  Just as his some of his characters do, Mr. Singer is seeking to aid these people with profits from sales of False Witness. Included in the book is information pertaining to the Dalits and their situation, as well as ways in which to help.
False Witness is a legal thriller with a subtle, yet present religious overtone.  The nature of the book goes a long way to prove that a good story can be accomplished and published without the usual coarse language and sex present in most popular thrillers of today.  Readers will also appreciate the fact that at the end of the book no questions are left remaining, no loose ends are overlooked. The story is complete, and readers will find themselves waiting in anticipation for Singer’s next release.
This review was submitted by Kristin  - Kristin is a wife, mom and the founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review over 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.
Click to purchase False Witness

The Sacred Journey

By Charles Foster
Get up.  Go.  Experience life as one only can on the road, stripped of responsibility, pressure and the burden to conform.  In this, in pilgrimage, can one only truly come to understand the Lord and gain a closer relationship with Him and with others.  This is what appears to be the message of The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster.
Based on conversations, literature and his own vast experiences, Mr. Foster presents a motivational book that challenges his readers to simply “go and seek.” See the world through new, child-like eyes.  Experience life with all of your senses and without the blindness and complacency of everyday living often brings.  See people for who they are rather than what they have to offer you.  Who would not want this?  Who would not want to simply be grateful for breath and for life without any other complexities?
The Sacred Journey takes its readers through the nomadic experiences of Abraham to Medieval crusades and modern day pilgrimages.  At its conclusion, Mr. Foster thoughtfully included questions for each chapter geared to motivate his readers to think and to absorb what he has written and shared.
This is a very well written book, however it is one that will likely offend many of its readers.  The thought that God prefers nomads to urban dwellers and that the sin of Sodom was their settlement will possibly be enough to cause some to stop their reading in the first half of the book.  Thoughts regarding the cities the Bible declares the Lord commanded to be built will enter the minds of some and will likely color their perspective as they continue to read.
Although many will not be able to simply get up and go on a pilgrimage due to responsibility and physical limitations, The Sacred Journey may still have some impact.  The idea of stripping away all the gloss and all the filth to reach the true being in each of us…the idea of giving and sharing even among strangers…the idea of seeking a relationship with the Lord without any barriers…all of these are worth dwelling on and seeking out.  The Sacred Journey may be the motivation some need to simply do these things.  Others who continue to the book’s end may find themselves challenged simply by looking at life from a previously unknown perspective.

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

Click to purchase
The Sacred Journey: The Ancient Practices

Spyder Hole

By Bob Nesoff
On a warm July morning, on a quiet beach on the Red Sea, gunmen appear and methodically kill everyone, including women and children, who had the misfortune of being on the beach.  Only one man survived.  Two months later, in a busy metropolitan city in the United States, over 3000 people are killed as terrorists hijack planes and use them as enormous missiles aimed at the heart of the city. Now, five years later, it is going to happen again.
In his new book Spyder Hole, author Bob Nesoff takes us into the world of the military’s elite. Combined forces of Israel’s Mossad, Britains SIS, and America’s CIA and special forces must piece together bits of information concerning a nuclear attack before it is too late.
Dan Halevi, an Israeli Mossad agent is haunted by the knowledge that although he had the information, he was unable to figure out what was going to happen in New York City until it was too late.  He is committed to not allowing that to ever happen again on his watch.  On his team, as his top aide, is Hesh Whitman, the lone survivor from the beach massacre at Eliat.  Hesh is blinded by a need for revenge after watching the murder of his bride on the beach.  His rage may prove to be a distraction and ultimately a stumbling block in this new race against time.
Information has been intercepted indicating a nuclear attack is imminent both on American and British soil.  With terrorists airing their demands, Haveli and his international team must find a way to get one step ahead in order to stop what promises to be a devastation unlike the world has ever seen before.  Indeed, the fate of an entire nation may hang in the balance.
Readers will find themselves holding their breath throughout the story’s twists and turns, only to let it out and have to hold it again in anticipation.  Rife with action, danger and nearly depleted countdowns, Spyder Hole is one book lovers of military thrillers will not want to miss.

This review was submitted by Kristin  - Kristin is a wife, mom and the founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review over 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.
Click to purchase Spyder Hole

The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We Have Stopped It?

By T.H.E. Hill
The Berlin Wall is perhaps one of the most abhorrent things constructed in recent times.  Dividing a nation, a city, and most of all, families, the wall stood as a beacon of despair, fear and hatred.
Nearly thirty years after its construction, the world watched and cheered as the wall finally came down on November 9, 1989.  What if the wall had never been built?  How would history have been changed?  How would the lives of those affected been different? What if we, as Americans, could have stopped the construction as rumors have long suggested?  That is the premise T.H.E. Hill explores in his new book The Day Before the Berlin Wall.
Marc Logan is a spy.  As an American counter intelligence agent, his job is to cross into Berlin on  a regular basis to pick up communications and information from his various undercover contacts.  It was a fairly routine life, although certainly fringed with danger.  All this changes one morning when he finds himself lying on the flood, head aching, covered in blood and wanted for a murder he knew he did not commit.  On top of this, he finds himself in possession of a key piece of information regarding a wall the German government has declared they never intend to build.  His intelligence relays information affirming the construction of a divisive wall as well as information detailing how the American forces, with very little effort, could prevent that construction from ever taking place.
Cat becomes mouse as Marc must now run a dangerous gauntlet to get the information into the right hands.  Wanted for murder, his face is everywhere and the police on all sides are looking for him.  As the deadline approaches, will he succeed or will the lives of everyone he knows and comes to meet along the way be changed forever?
The Day Before the Berlin Wall is a very interesting read.  That Mr. Hill has spent time in Germany is evident as he writes as one familiar with the layout and language of the land.  Those unfamiliar with the territory, may find themselves a bit confused by words such as Straβenbaun or Straβe, but the author thoughtfully provides a brief dictionary to aid the reader.  Odd punctuation and a cacophony of voices in Marc’s head prove to be a distraction at first, but as the story moves on, it all seems to work somehow.  A great twist of an ending caps off an intriguing work of historical fiction, leaving the reader wondering “What if…?”
This review was submitted by Kristin  - Kristin is a wife, mom and the founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review over 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase The Day Before the Berlin Wall: Could We Have Stopped It?: An Alternate History of Cold War Espionage

Altamont Augie

By Richard Barager
“Sex, drugs and Rock-n-Roll” is the usual description given to the turbulent decade known as the ‘60’s. While this moniker certainly brings to mind the culture found in America at that time, it leaves out three key elements: Vietnam, protests and rioting. Enter Richard Barager’s new book Altamont Augie.
Caleb Levy is doing research for a new movie he hopes to pitch that is aimed at ripping apart the 60’s and everything his absent father held dear. In his research he uncovers a story that will change his life as well as relationships he has with those he holds dear.  It is the torrid and troubled story of David Noble and Jackie Lundquist.
Caught in a world of tense and often volatile situations, David and Jackie must make difficult and often painful decisions as their two opposite viewpoints collide and clash.  As she joins the protests to become the face of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), he joins the Marines to fight the war in Vietnam.  As they each seek something…as they each fight for their deeply held beliefs and views, the question remains: will their love stand the test of time, or will they too become casualties of a decade gone mad?
Coarse language, promiscuity, drug use and violent images are a staple in this book.  However, given the era, it is perhaps part of that which makes the book, although fiction, ring true.  One could very easily see the events depicted actually happening.  Mr. Barager does well to give a name and a multi-dimensional face to a difficult and different time in America’s history.
This review was submitted by Kristin  - Kristin is a wife, mom and the founder of The Book-Trotter.  She wrote her first review over 20 years ago and has been reading and loving books ever since.

Click to purchase Altamont Augie

Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Science

By Susan Hughes
What happened to a missing Israeli submarine?  Did Anastasia really escape the murder of her family? How did an ancient pharaoh get lost and why did an airplane disappear minutes just before its scheduled landing?  These questions and more are discussed and answered in Susan Hughes’ new book Case Closed? Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science.
Using traditional and modern methods, nine mysteries are solved in this easy to read book.  Geared toward older children and young adults, Case Closed? presents its cases in a way which will fascinate and pique the interest of its readers.
Information on the background of the case (such as the history of Queen Hatshepsut), the investigators and the methods used to solve the mystery are given, aided by colorful and detailed illustrations and photographers.
Readers will learn about CAT scans, Shuttle Imaging Radar-B and computer simulations.  They will learn how tree rings, space shuttles, satellites, lab testing and more have all contributed to finding the answers to some of the history’s most interesting mysteries.
Each case is closed with a page-long summary of the conclusions reached by investigators.  In an effort to encourage the reader’s continued curiosity and interest each case is left with a new mystery to consider.  Where is “so-and-so’s” mummy?  What happened to the missing ships? Could someone have beaten Columbus to America?
Case Closed? would make a perfect gift for any history buff, arm-chair detective or budding scientist.  Parents be warned: your children may soon be talking of the fascinating science of DNA or begging to perform their own investigative experiments.

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

Click to purchase
Case Closed?: Nine Mysteries Unlocked by Modern Science

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Doctor's Journey

A Doctor's Journey: A Collection of MemoirsBy Dr. Frederic Mendelsohn

In “A Doctor’s Journey,” Frederic Mendelsohn shares memories of decades of his life and work as a neurosurgeon.

Broken down into several short, easy-to-digest essays, Mendelsohn’s memoirs take readers inside the hectic life of a surgeon and into the operating room, where we meet patients and their families as well as the people fighting to keep them alive.

Although television dramas and reality shows allow us to see the chaos inside a hospital, Mendelsohn’s descriptions of his real-life experiences allow us to understand the effects of the profession on the doctors and their families. 
Called into the ER on Thanksgiving to help a young epilepsy patient who has fallen on a carving knife during a seizure, he has to leave his family to save a life and inform his patient that changes in her condition mean the state will take her driver’s license. He weaves the tale of a young man injured in a waterskiing accident with his own story of saving a relative from swimming into the wake of a Coast Guard vessel. 

Mendelsohn also shares part of his journey into medicine. As a young man, he desperately wanted to play jazz – to have his instrument be an organic extension of his body and to be able to improvise the notes without even thinking. Although he never became a great jazz musician, he attended college on a music scholarship before discovering his knack for medicine. In neurosurgery, he says, he found the art he had been looking for.

The memoirs also introduce readers to patients they can relate to and pull for, from the story of a family who experiences a miraculous recovery only to wind up back in the ER facing a heartbreaking loss, to the story of a young boy who suffers a brain tumor to descriptions of a terrifying condition known as being “locked-in.”

While not technically perfect, Menelsohn’s writing is honest and turns complicated medical terminology into easy-to-understand layman’s language. “A Doctor’s Journey” is a quick, interesting insight into a profession often depicted in television but not as realistically or honestly.

This review was submitted by Jobetta  - Jobetta is a journalist and bibliophile from Oregon. Her addiction to bookstores and sales keeps her shelves well-stocked.

Click to puchase A Doctor's Journey: A Collection of Memoirs