Tag Archives: book review

Tripwire (Jack Reacher, Book 3) by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A very typical Jack Reacher story by Lee Child and another good one at that! Reacher is the former military man who retired and has spent his life traveling the United States with no money in his pocket. He has a retirement account in the bank and draws out some cash as he needs it. But most of the time he works at odd jobs, picking up enough cash to pay for his room and something to eat as he travels.

He hitchhikes most of the time or sometimes rides a bus or even a train on extreme occasions. His claim to fame is that no matter where he goes he runs into some sort of crime and he usually solves it by himself. He is meaner than a one-eyed mountain lion and can pretty much whip any individual who thinks otherwise.

In Tripwire he though working in south Florida ends up again traveling pretty much all over the country. And he does it this time with a young lady named Jodie Garber. Jodie is the daughter of General Leon Garber who not only was Reacher’s commanding officer at one time but also his best friend and best life trainer that anyone could have. It turns out that Jodie who had an insatiable crush on Reacher years ago is looking for him to help her with a problem. Reacher was also somewhat infatuated with Jodie years ago but being she was the general’s daughter and fifteen years younger than Reacher he did not explore it.

Endless Incarnation Sorrows: A Spiritual Odyssey of Mortal Imprints on Earth by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Endless Incarnation Sorrows is a daring literary feat of an intergenerational tale that closely follows a soul across its rebirths. Triggered by true events, Lucia Mann shares her personal insights into what was and what might come to be. Following repeated resuscitations, she starts un-forgetting her previous selves. Thus many seemingly disconnected lives scattered across time and space are connected by an invisible string that pulsates throughout the pages of the book. Lucia Mann takes us on an inspirational inward journey, by unveiling the darkest corners of her past and present.

One of the features that makes the read stand out is how gripping all the characters are. Since, the main players shift between the scenes of this play of life, the reader has a narrow window of opportunity to become emotionally invested. Yet, Lucia Mann successfully outlines convincing and enticing personages that faithfully act out their destiny in front of our eyes. And through these harsh lives we can see and to a certain extent even feel some of the hardships that plagued humanity and continue to do so. The first incarnation, Lala bares the burden of her parents’ incest and her desert exile ends in enslavement; Lyveva surpasses her victim status branded upon her by Vikings to become a healer; Lucja experiences the lowest and highest of humanity within the Auschwitz fences.

The sands of time uncover various taboo subjects, ushered away by our consciousness, such sensible subjects that we would much rather turn a blind eye to. While these practices are presented in a contextual fashion, as an integral part of a certain period in history, some survived into our present under various forms, themselves being subjected to a string of reincarnations. Behind the front narrative of survival and redemption of a lost soul, there is a strong underlying outcry for the incarnation of social practices that embrace numerous souls.

All in all, Endless Incarnation Sorrows is hard to put down; there is always an immediate sense of peril or surprise on the next page. While, the subject and the writing style makes the read appealing to a wide audience, there are some details that steer the direction toward an adult or young adult group. Lucia Mann does not shy away from topics that are now deemed taboo and this piercing truthfulness might just be the secret ingredient that keeps the reader on this magically painful and eye-opening journey that the author initiates.

Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free by Suzanne Harris and Paul Brunetta

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Often easier said than done, quitting smoking can be one of the more daunting experiences that someone can face in life and while there is an abundance of guides on the market, it may seem like when you have read one, you read them all. However, within the text of Learning to Quit: How to stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free, readers/potential quitters become empowered by virtue of its expert authors, encouraging tone, motivational success stories, a bevy of resources and easy to manage exercises. Co-authored by Suzanne Harris R.N. and Paul Brunetta MD, this book is more than just another guide to quitting smoking; it is more like the bible for quitting smoking.

Overall, the book presents a full-spectrum view of the multilayered and quietly intimate process of taking back your life from smoking. Both well-written and thoroughly organized, the book text is divided into two halves; the first half of which explores and delves deeply into an intriguing series of questions concerning smoking which also are the same questions that smokers looking to quit should challenge themselves with answering; for example, Chapter 1 queries “What Moves You to be a Non-Smoker? ” followed by an overview of the issue and original documented experiences told from the experiences of several past patients. The connection to their struggles comes easily as their stories ring as relatable, candid, and insightful with the ultimate outcome of their eventual successes bearing a gift of motivation.

Also, there are included pictures of the patients which adds an additional dimension of realism to their included testimonies. Each chapter ends with a reiteration of key points, action steps and also includes a space for personal notes. Additionally, within this half of the book, Chapters 9 and 10, amply provide a blueprint to be implemented for embarking on your personal smoking cessation sojourn.

Consequently, as a whole Learning to Quit: How to Stop Smoking and Live Nicotine Free brims with inspiration and powerfully important information presented in an attention-grabbing multi -perspective view of a life-threatening habit that to some (myself included) seems almost impossible to overcome. Entirely, this was not only an intriguing read but a necessary read for any smoker period. As you move through the content, your mindset becomes altered as you stop and take pause while wallowing in the fact that when you smoke, you have lost authority over yourself, your life and your health. Anytime is a good time to start taking it back, as a matter of fact, the sooner the better as proven by the many success stories within the book, including the authors. One aspect of the book that I found particularly interesting was the poignant look at the difference between fear-based and desire-based motivation. Also, the authors offer access to a multitude of helpful resources through their website Learningtoquit.com. Ultimately, this book is a must-have for anyone thinking about or determined to quit. It is an eye-opening and mind-altering call to take back your power.

The Precipice: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries Book 6) by Paul Doiron

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A very good read by Doiron using Mike Bowditch, a Maine game warden. Doiron uses Bowditch quite often probably because not only is he a Yale graduate living in Maine, he also is a Maine Registered Guide and lives on a lake in the area.

In The Precipice Bowditch gets very involved in hunting for two lost women who were supposed to be making the hike along the Appalachian Trail. They disappeared in the Hundred Mile Wilderness which is the most remote stretch of the AT. They had been seen in various spots along the trail but now have seemingly disappeared.

As Bowditch and others who travel this area many things can happen. There are some very steep hills that have to be gotten over and some of them have drop-offs that lead down to various types of water areas. Some believe they may have dropped into one of those and then drowned. But others feel some type of animal may have gotten to them. Strangely most feel they are out there and need help.

Kensington: A Memoir About Friendship, Love and Life in a Small Town by Robert Haydon

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Kensington: a memoir about friendship, love, and life in a small town is a fascinating recollection of Robert Haydon’s life in the 40’s and 50’s that also includes enthralling ancestral stories along with entertaining anecdotes involving animals. Haydon’s family moved from Kensington, Maryland, to Dallas, Texas, in 1957. Haydon not only shares some of his unforgettable memories of Kensington through engrossing stories but also writes about the tough scenario the family faced that prompted the move to Dallas. During Haydon’s teen years in Dallas, music became an important part of his life, especially after he met Steve Miller, a fellow classmate, who shared his love of music. This friendship led to the formation of a band that included other fellow classmates, and the group named themselves “The Marksmen Combo.” This was the beginning of Haydon’s performing career, which brought him into contact with some of the greatest musicians of all time, who are mentioned in the book.

This memoir grabs readers’ attention from the very beginning with the wonderfully written prologue that sets up the story, which is told in the stylistic tradition of a novel. The Haydon and Mann families joined together through marriage and had different outlooks on life. The Haydon’s led a rural lifestyle, whereas the Mann were city folks. Haydon shares intriguing snippets about his ancestors along with more specific details about the lives of his grandparents and immediate family members. Pivotal and historical events in the lives of both families that are touched on by Haydon connect with readers’ emotions. Haydon also uses vivid, sensory details along with realistic dialogue to draw readers in and keep them invested in continuing to turn the pages. The black and white photographs sprinkled throughout the book not only help legitimize the story but also help readers visualize the people that are an inherent part of it and the places where events have taken place.

Haydon does an excellent job of using anecdotes that pull readers into the heartaches and celebratory moments experienced by individuals in this well-researched narrative that also provides readers with opportunities to form their own opinions about some of the material presented in this historical account. The honest and genuine telling of moments and events that encompass family and friends will appeal to readers, especially anyone who is interested in influential rock music icons and a real insight into what it was like growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. Kensington is an enjoyable, moving, and enlightening memoir that covers historical junctures and personal incidents of a time period in history that was far different than today’s culture.

Breaking Point: A Novel of the Battle of Britain by John Rhodes

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

I had a feeling I might enjoy this book. It was published on my birthday. Which is, I admit, entirely beside the point but one looks for, or is looked at by, signs, nicht wahr?

I finished reading Breaking Point last night at about 1 a.m. I wasn’t planning to finish it; for the last two weeks, I’ve been enjoying it in snippets. Vignettes, if you prefer. And often it was a lot to take in, mentally and emotionally, if you became invested in the characters, the situations, and the stakes, which I did.

The story is essentially told through the perspectives of an RAF pilot and a girl he once knew in college who early on in the book becomes a key player in Britain’s development of strategic defense. They are both quite young—in their twenties, if I read right—and both under a tremendous amount of strain, albeit of different varieties. Eleanor has been tasked, due to her extraordinary brain and capacity for applied mathematics and logic, with assisting the powers that be in their analysis of the Luftwaffe’s attack on southern England. John Shaux is tasked with flying his Spitfire, killing as many of the Luftwaffe as he can, eventually leading his squadron (of which most perish with alarming regularity), and staying alive.

Only the first of these comes easily to him; the man does love to fly.

I read a review of this book on Amazon that poo-poo’ed it because it contained too much romance, too much love. This from a reviewer who admitted plainly he had not read the book (!). And there was romance, I agree. But not of the sort one would expect. Sure, Eleanor and John end up together in some fashion. I ruin nothing for the reader by including that spoiler, however, because their romance is incidental. Instead, the central romance in this book occurs between the author and Great Britain. This story could not have been told without a deep, passionate love of country, not to mention history, and an unwavering admiration for the few humans who defended, against insane odds, the most heinous military power this world has, to date, ever seen.

73 Things To Do Before I Kill Myself: A Love Story by Doc Longfellow

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

There are at least 73 reasons to read Doc Longfellow’s book, but I will only stop on the highlights. 73 Things To Do Before I Kill Myself: A Love Story is a witty and suspenseful account of a man’s downfall and his struggle to pick up the pieces and reconstruct himself.

Everyone knows a Duncan Jones, he is your friend, colleague or neighbor; he is also the main protagonist of the novel. A pretty nice guy, by all accounts, blossoming in all areas of life: love, career, friendships… or at least until the unimaginable happens and he quits his job and ends a relationship with someone that should have been the one.

So, what next?

Nothing. There is nothing to keep Duncan going.

But as he succumbs to his early end he stumbles upon a bucket list from his childhood. While, this will not be a sufficient incentive in itself to change his mind, at least he postpones the due date until the completion of the list. Although there were originally 100 items on it, as you might have guessed from the title, only 73 remain. It has it all: stealing a street sign, bungee jumping, the Simpsons marathon… but one entry in particular poses a great challenge to Duncan, asking out his first love. For this, he must return to his hometown, revisit friends and console the past with the present.

Choice Cut (The Cut Series Book 3) by Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Book three in his penetrating “Cut” series, Choice Cut by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt dispenses to readers yet another fast-paced, and intensely exciting addition to his well-received crime thriller series, within which, he capably continues to delve into the activities of the criminally debauched in Yonkers, New York, and the skilled team of detectives that pursue them and bring them to justice.

Maintaining the pace of excitement, drama, and thrills author Grünwaldt artfully continues the general storyline from book two, populated with most of the same characters, particularly the resilient and tough, Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock and members of his general assignment squad. With a challenging mystery brewing, the story moves quickly and flawlessly into new and twisted scenarios calling for Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to move into action.

This time, the story starts out with members of the general assignment squad finding themselves coming to terms with the end result of their previous investigation which led to the nearly fatal shooting of a revered fellow officer and the unfortunate and temporary loss of another valued officer. However, the thrills and twists are just beginning with the discovery of a recently deceased male who may possibly be the casualty of a serial killer known as “The Butcher” whose victims are referred to as “one of the butcher’s cuts.”

A Dangerous Duet: A Novel by Karen Odden

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

This novel is a romantic thriller of sorts, set in London in 1875.

It concerns the comings and goings of one Nell Hallam, a young pianist whose chief desire is to study piano at the Royal Academy. At story’s open, she is employed three evenings a week at the Octavian, providing accompaniment for the various acts (magicians, jugglers, singers, trapeze artists, etc.), disguised as a man named Ed. As a woman, she’d be paid for less to play, if she were allowed to play at all.

Her position permits her access to a host of shady characters, some of which might not the scrutiny of her family physician, who fears for her mental health (her mother was manic-depressive), or her older brother, who is employed as a detective by Scotland Yard. Her daytime world bears little resemblance to her gig at the Octavian, and Nell does her dear best to keep these worlds apart, with, as one might expect, dwindling levels of success as we get deeper into story. Organized crime, corrupt coppers, sniveling schemers, sympathetic rogues, and several Dickensian tropes hop about, all bent on ruining Nell’s days and Ed’s nights.

The yarn pulls one along, no doubt. Odden deftly navigates London of the time with the confidence of a tour guide, reminding me at times of a certain Irish author whose creations stumbled and bloomed about Dublin, those they were notably burdened by a relentless ineluctable cavalcade of proto-post modern modalities and odysseys the likes of which Odden chooses to eschew. Instead, she strides forward and through in the manner of perhaps Ann Radcliffe and the Inimitable Boz himself. Her sense of place, of putting in a scene, made me wish to act (as I sometimes badly do) in a production with her as the director or at least set designer. The specificity of imagery is at times remarkable. The actions are equally excellent.

So Long As We’re Together by Glenda Burgess

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

The first thing that comes to mind here is, add a star or maybe two if you’re a fan of country music. I happen to be, very much so, such a fan. Raised on Cash, Cline, Willie, Merle, Don Williams, Conway Twitty, and then them nineties with Strait, Black, Travis, Whitley…you get it. Or maybe you don’t, and if you don’t, I find myself wondering how this book would read to you. Seems to me people have some very strong feelings about country: love, hate, hate more.

But we cannot know what we cannot know, and I can only review the text as me, so to speak. The more nods to Merle and friends, the better. Alan Jackson and Reba too. I enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys reference too, and could even hear them sing “what have I done to deserve this” as Mama Donna flings their cd into oblivion during one of the many flashbacky scenes included in Burgess’ novel.

So Long As We’re Together is a tale having mostly to do with closure. There’s romance, and some mystery, and some ugly stuff I wasn’t entirely sure belonged (particularly when ugly is still hanging around towards the end of the book, menacingly menacing but then just…disappearing). And there’s old friends and professional rivalry and lamentation about roads not taken. But ultimately, this yarn is about closure and the strength its manifestation imbues on the bearer.

I am not a massive fan of first person narrator, having been schooled in the bludgeoning such characters can deliver by way of their oft-touted unreliability. I believe an author binds herself up in choosing the first person because either she must dive full-fledged into the doubts and debacles of that unreliability (a la Dostoevsky), or she must somehow justify the depth and breadth of her character’s observations and insights (a la Nabokov). The former is a difficult choice of course but the latter often borders on impossible.