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Book Review: Compulsion

Compulsion, by Jonathan Kellerman

An elderly woman is stabbed to death outside her home when she goes out to grab her morning paper.  A young woman disappears on her way home from a nightclub.  At first, there is nothing similar about these two cases.  But soon enough, investigators begin to ask, how are these two crimes connected?  

Compulsion (Alex Delaware, #22)

Detective Milo Sturgis and Dr. Alex Delaware, a psychologist who gets pulled in to assist with investigations, dive into the case, trying to connect the dots in a series of murders that seem to have nothing in common except flashy, black cars.  Will they make it in time to prevent another murder?

This book was a quick read with plenty to keep you entertained.  

3 stars.

Book Review: A Higher Call

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II, by Adam Makos

A Higher Call is the true story of two World War II pilots, German fighter pilot and Ace Lieutenant Franz Stigler, and American B17F bomber pilot Second Lieutenant Charles Brown.  These two men fought for separate countries, in a war where brutal losses occurred.

A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II

The two men’s lives intersected by chance after an American bombing raid on Germany a few days before Christmas 1943.  Both men’s lives were forever changed by a few moments of compassion shown over the skies of Germany.  Neither man could talk about the experience during the war, but each of them remembered it, and decided to try to find each other more than 40 years later.

The book shifts back and forth between Franz and Charlie’s story, detailing their experiences during their childhoods, and the war.  These stories are not for the faint of heart.  Both men witnessed, and were involved in, well, a war.  They watched men shot out of the sky, burned alive, shot while trying to escape, and saw the devastation inflicted upon the civilians in the war-torn countries of Europe and North Africa.  In a word, it was horrific, and there were multiple times I broke down in tears listening to the retelling of their experience.  

If you have any interest in history, or any interest in understanding the complex experience of war, which led one man to show compassion for his enemy, you will want to read this book.  

5 stars. 

Book Review: The Charlemagne Pursuit

The Charlemagne Pursuit, by Steve Berry

This is another in the series following Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department agent, who owns a rare book shop in Copenhagen.  But somehow he keeps managing to get pulled back into the adventures he tried so hard to leave behind.

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone, #4)

Malone brings it upon himself this time, as conversations with his son lead him into a new desire to learn the truth behind his father’s death in 1971.  He knows that he died in a submarine accident in the North Atlantic, but what went wrong?  

Malone asks his former boss to get him a copy of the still classified file, which leads him on a pursuit he never expected.  His father, in fact, did not die in the North Atlantic, but instead while on a mission in Antarctica.  But why?

Malone learns that as he is trying to learn why his father died, there are powerful men who want to ensure that the secret never comes out.  His pursuit to find out the truth leads him to uncover the ancient secrets that his opponents don’t want him to know.  

As usual, this is a fast paced book with several twists and turns.  Unfortunately, I feel like this novel sort of fell flat on the believability index.  It was disappointing, because I never really bought it since the story is just a bit outside of the realm of reality.  That said, it was still an interesting read.  

3 stars.

Book Review: Bones

Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman

Bones is a murder mystery; the story of the search for the murderer of a woman with a bright future.  She is a musical prodigy, working as a tutor for a rich family whose son possesses the same bright talent.  She is discovered murdered in a bird marsh in Los Angeles.  The investigation uncovers several additional bodies buried in the marsh; they are all local prostitutes.

Bones (Alex Delaware, #23)

Detective Milo Sturgis calls in assistance from psychologist Alex Delaware; the different types of victims are providing a challenge.  Together, the two of them, along with assistance from a new detective in training, must find the killer.

It was an interesting murder mystery, full of twists and turns, where you never quite know who did it.

3 stars

Book Review: The Alexandria Link

The Alexandria Link, by Steve Berry, read by Scott Brick

This was another book in Steve Berry’s series featuring Cotton Malone, a retired Justice Department Agent who moved to Copenhagen to open a rare book shop.

The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone, #2)

In The Alexandria Link, Cotton Malone is drawn into the chase when his son his kidnapped.  The kidnappers want information related to a previous case Malone worked on, and that only he possesses.  Making sure his son is safe will require him to revisit the previous case, and make sure what has been hidden remains that way.

And what is that secret information?  Well imagine for a moment that the Holy Land as named in the Bible is not actually in Israel and the region of Palestine?  What if Israel, as created after World War II, is not actually located where today’s version of the Bible says it is?  And along those lines, how would you prove it?

The adventure sends Cotton Malone on a search for the lost library of Alexandria, the huge research library of the ancient world, that was supposed to have been located in Alexandria, Egypt.  The library was said to have contained scrolls of the Old Testament prior to their translation into modern languages.  And those scrolls would hold the key to whether the location of the Holy Land, as described in the Bible, was within the modern state of Israel.

But why would that matter?  Because…  Modern day Christians, Jews and Muslims all make claim to the Holy Land.  But if it were in the wrong location, what do that do to the already tense situation?  Would an all out war ensue?

Berry’s writing style keeps the reader engaged throughout the whole book and his creative interweaving of history and hypothetical scenarios makes you think.  Plus, Scott Brick is one of the best narrators out there!

4 stars.

Book Review: Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

This was an unusual choice of audio books among my Dad’s collection, in that it was not a thriller.  Perhaps my mom chose it. I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces years ago before the controversy about him making up the story and then selling it as a memoir.  That hubbub seems to have died down.

Bright Shiny Morning

This novel, if you can call it that, details a series of stories about people in Los Angeles.  The down and out, the rich and famous, the ones who are trying to escape their pasts and build a new life.  The downtrodden and abused, the up and coming, the ones who have nothing but hope in LA. 

In between the characters’ stories, Frey details the history of Los Angeles, its fun facts, its troublesome violence, its natural disasters.  Honestly, no book has ever made me want to visit a place less than this book.  I’ve been to LA, and don’t really see the appeal, but this really solidified that I cannot understand why anyone would want to live there.  The only thing it has going for it is sun. 

Still I found myself interested in the stories, and intrigued by Frey’s unusual writing style, which frequently annoys readers based on his reviews.  The narrator, Ben Foster, is excellent.  He narrates with different accents, and changes his pitch, tone, speed and volume to vividly portray the stories in the book.  However, if you are looking for a happy ending, there doesn’t seem to be one in Los Angeles.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

4 stars. 

Book Review: Empire and Honor

Empire and Honor, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
So what would happen if in the waning days of World War II, some German officers and troops escaped from the crumbling Reich?  What if they made their way in German U-boats to a neutral country, where they could rebuild and try again?
Empire and Honor
Empire and Honor explores this very premise, that officers from the Third Reich made their way in U-boats to Argentina, with cash and uranium for nuclear weapons. And Americans working for a new intelligence agency are charged with finding these defectors.
I really wanted to like this book.  I enjoy World War II history, and am intrigued by the theories that there were German officers who escaped from Germany at the end of the war to make a new life, and wait for a new opportunity to bring the Reich to life again in Argentina.  The book started out so promising, with stories of the refugees trying to cross the German border at the end of the war.  With stories of the fledgling secret intelligence agency of the US Government.  With stories of the Germans who were helping the allies.  And stories of romance.
But ultimately this novel never got off the ground for me.  Stories ended in mid-air, never to be picked up again.  Characters were not distinguishable from each other.  Characters became focused on petty grievances instead of the big picture of saving humanity.  And how the hell did Juan Peron fit in?  Yes, the later President of Argentina.  The point of his character was vague, and his story line was one that dropped off mid-story.  It was confusing and annoying.
I ended up wondering why this audio book was 16 CDs, because it seemed like they could have wrapped it up in 4. 
2 stars. 

Book Review: Deception Point

Deception Point, by Dan Brown

I hadn’t read Dan Brown since I read the DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons almost 20 years ago, but this was among my parents audiobooks.

Deception Point is a political thriller, with plenty of action, deception (hence the title) and murder…

Deception Point

Rachel Sexton works in the National Security Office of the President, writing briefs for the President on various topics of national security.  Until one day she receives a call from her boss, letting her know that she’s been summoned by the President.  She is taken in a White House helicopter to begin the most bizarre and dangerous 24 hours of her life.

As it turns out, NASA has discovered a meteorite, buried deep within the ice of the Milne Ice Shelf in the Arctic.  It’s incredible all on its own, but then she learns that this meteorite has the potential to be the biggest scientific discovery NASA has ever made…  But why has Rachel been summoned to see a mysterious meteorite in the Arctic?

Like other Dan Brown novels, this one is fast-paced, leading the reader down multiple twists and turns, and barely letting you catch your breath before the next plot twist comes along. 

It held my interest, and I appreciated the scientific discussion that is present throughout the book, but it didn’t have the same allure as the DaVinci Code.  My biggest disappointment was that I found myself not being satisfied with the motive of the villain in the end; it wasn’t clear why that character was the one behind it all…

That being said, I still found it to be an easy, interesting read. 

3 stars. 

 

Book Review: Edge

Edge, by Jeffrey Deaver

Officer Corte is in an interesting line of work. He works as a “shepherd,” a term created by those who work in his under-the-radar government organization. He is charged with protecting people whose lives are at risk due to being targeted by a “lifter” or “hitter.” Euphemisms that essentially mean people who are hired to kidnap people in order to extract information, or kill them.

Edge

Corte has been assigned to guard the Kessler family, consisting of a police officer, his stay-at-home wife, their daughter and the wife’s sister.

The book contains a series of plot twists, and the reader never quite knows who is being targeted and by whom. The bad guys go to huge lengths to get their target, including kidnapping and torturing innocent bystanders to make them do the dirty work.

I have never led a life that would lead me to needing protection by these agents, but I found myself fascinated by the intricate dance they do to move people to safety and make sure they are still alive to get to their depositions, or court dates, or whatever other thing is so important that they not attend.

Nobody in this family is who they seem, and the plot progresses as Corte tries to discover who wants the Kesslers, and why.  The book has its share of gunfire, explosions and other things that will keep the reader on the edge of their seat until the very end…  I listened to the audio version, and the narrator, Skip Sudduth, was excellent!

4 stars.

Book Review: History Decoded

History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, by Brad Meltzer

Have you ever wondered about the famous events of our history and whether there are conspiracy theories associated with these events?

History Decoded: The 10 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time

Author Brad Meltzer has long held a curiosity about conspiracy theories and reached out to readers to compile a list of the ones that most interested them.  And boy did they deliver!  His book goes into detail on ten different historical events and their associated conspiracy theories, including some that I had never heard of. 

It was really interesting and I learned about the Georgia Guidestones and the mystery surrounding their construction.  What happened to the money from the Confederate treasury at the end of the Civil War?  I also learned about the missing cornerstones from the White House and the Capitol Building and the alleged connection to the Freemasons. 

Other tales included were historical conspiracies that I had heard and read about, including two of the most famous in U.S. history.

Did John Wilkes Booth survive and escape after the assassination of President Lincoln? 

The assassination of President Kennedy is one of the most investigated and documented events in history.  And it is rife with conspiracy theories.  Did JFK’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, really act alone?  And did Jack Ruby, who murdered Lee Harvey Oswald a few days later, act independently or was it part of a larger plan?

Overall, I felt this book was a fascinating deep dive into this less explained area of history.  Meltzer did a great job of dissecting each conspiracy theory, presenting the evidence, and discussing where the evidence fell short.  In reality, these are all theories, but who knows, maybe one or more of them will be proven true. 

4 stars.