Tuesday, October 13, 2015


This was the longest book on cd to which I've listened, and I admit that the 28.75 hours were at times difficult because the pace of the reader was almost droning. Fortunately, the material on Josef Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, was fascinating and kept the listener willing to put the next cd in place.

How does a mediocre scholar, from a poor family, who has a narcissistic personality ( thought he was quite a ladies man), and sees himself as a somewhat flawed, tragic hero with a physical imperfection (he had a limp caused by a physical disability), become a power within the Third Reich? How does one man become a conduit for anti-Semitism, and channel it across airwaves, newspapers and all existing forms of media in support of his Fuhrer?

Many of the answers are found in Goebbels' own diaries. Historian Peter Longerich draws upon these to show Goebbels as the Nazi henchman in support of an ideal world that only he and Hitler seemed at times to truly envision. Perhaps it was a shared delusion on the part of both men.

Well worth the listen for history buffs and for anyone who wonders "why and how," the Nazi's could have gained a foothold in Germany after WWI and how it lead to WWIII and the Holocaust. From the psychological aspects of Goebbels personality to his cruelty and inferiority complex, to his narcissism and political life as a spinner of tales for the Nazi’s, Goebbels becomes a multidimensional figure rather than just a name in a history book.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini and an attractive middle aged Bostonian physician’s wife, Mina Crandon, turned medium, square off in this intriguing book that focuses on the age of spiritualism that captivated the US and England following WWI (then known as the Great War). The Witch of Lime Street, Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World, written by David Jaher explores the time period and the overwhelming need for many families to communicate past the veil with their loved ones in the next world – those lost to the Spanish flu epidemic or to the Great War. It was a time of table knocking, spirit trumpets, flying tables, ectoplasm and charlatans posing as mediums with a direct line to the spirit world – and Houdini was committed to defrocking the imposters. 

The friendship between Sir Arthur and the illusionist Harry Houdini (and contortionist/escape artist) is well documented in a number of other books.  This book is different because it focuses on the popular Scientific American magazine contest to find a true medium who could produce physical phenomena – such as flying objects or ectoplasm…mental mediums need not apply. If it could be proven that trickery was not involved (and a panel of judges including Houdini who had made it his life’s work to unmask frauds) then the prize was $5000.

And the chase to find a real medium was on ----and Mrs. Crandon was just learning that she indeed seemed to have psychic powers. As the book progresses the author does a good job of introducing historical figures and debunking the frauds. It is a good read and if mediumship, magic and history interest you, a very entertaining read. It is also very sad – how many people were (and still are taken in by fraudulent claims). But, I'll let you read and discover for yourself if  Mrs. Crandon was declared a winner by Scientific American after all the other claimants to the title were defrocked by Houdini.

I received an advance copy from the publisher

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Hurt and fear, are not things we want children to experience. We don't expect healthy children to be test subjects in medical experiments that can physically harm them for life.  Kim Van Alkemade's ORPHAN 8, historical novel, is based on New York City's Home for Hebrew Infants and the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, where in the mid-1900's into the 1920's children were used as test subjects for a number of medically questionable studies. Radiation exposure left some children bald for life and probably gave them serious physical side effects that may have caused other issues in later life.

The author's Great-Grandmother worked at the Asylum and raised (or at least saw) her two sons while she was employed at the facility.  Van Alkemade was fascinated by the stories. When looking through records of the Home she found reference to buying wigs for children who'd had x-rays, and thus it became the basis for her novel.

The novel is fascinating for it's writing and the journey the reader takes with Rachel, the main character from terrified child to adult. From little Rachel at home to a scared child in an overwhelming institutional environment, to an adult suddenly faced with the woman who experimented upon her body.

Now the tables have turned and Rachel is the medical professional. She has the opportunity as the nurse assigned to a case to see the physician who scarred her for life - what will Rachel do to the elderly woman now in her care? The ethics at play are almost unbearable - the psychological nuance between the two women, one elderly, quite ill and unrepentant, the other still emotionally fragile from her childhood.

It's a book that is as intriguing as it is readable. Well written and fascinating, it draws the reader into the shadows of Rachel's thirst for revenge and her opportunity for forgiveness. How she chooses, and what she chooses make for a captivating novel. I was pleased to review this novel thanks to Harper Collins for the free book!
Go to the author's website for more historical information and her bookstore appearances....

This is the ultimate beach, plane or just for fun read. A Hollywood romp chronicling the romance of a young actress and an older, superstar actor with interesting quasi-religious leanings, who sweeps her off her feet. This faux memoir sounds suspiciously familiar and will strike PEOPLE magazine readers and those who peruse the tabloids  as  familiar - a relatively recent star studded duo on an impossible mission to keep a marriage intact.

The novel shares the unique lifestyle of the celebrity circuit, where illusion is reality and romance is as scripted as a film. Getting it wrong can leave you up a creek as our heroine discovers  about her lover and his religion. It shreds any Tinseltown dreams most readers might have and exposes the lives of the haunted and photo hunted of the 24 hours news cycle.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Greg Iles' second book in a trilogy featuring Mayor Penn Cage of Natchez, MS
What a thrill to receive this book early to review before its release. Picking up right where the first book Natchez Burning finished, this second book immediately takes the reader to the heart of the south and long buried but not forgotten hate crimes, assassination plots, Klan activity, Mafia mayhem and a swamp that may hold a key to chilling history. 

Mayor Penn Cage of Natchez is fighting on the side of the angels, but as usual he is 
collecting soul debts by bargaining with the devil - trying to save his family, fiancee and an out of control situation that seems headed to a high body count in this book. 

With names like JFK, MLK, Oswald and Marcello and enough law enforcement including the FBI, State Police, sheriff and local yokels, this is not a book to relax with - you'll be glued to your chair and turning pages all night long. And at over 800 pages it can be a long night or two. 

But as with any Greg Iles book, it's worth its weight in reading gold. So many twists and turns that you'll want to cry and laugh and cheer - perhaps all  in the same chapter. Another great read that will leave you begging for the final installment of the trilogy.