Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Axmann Conspiracy by Scott Andrew Selby

book cover
The Axmann Conspiracy
by Scott Andrew Selby

ISBN-13: 9780425252703
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Berkley Hardcover
Released: September 4, 2012

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
A trusted member of Hitler’s inner circle, Artur Axmann, the head of the Hitler Youth, witnessed the F├╝hrer commit suicide in Berlin—but he would not let the Reich die with its leader. Evading capture, and with access to remnants of the regime’s wealth, Axmann had enough followers to reestablish the Nazi party in the very heart of Allied-occupied Germany—and position himself to become dictator of the Fourth Reich.

U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Officer Jack Hunter was the perfect undercover operative. Fluent in German, he posed as a black marketeer to root out Nazi sympathizers and saboteurs after the war, and along with other CIC agents uncovered the extent of Axmann’s conspiracy. It threatened to bring the Nazis back into power—and the task fell to Hunter and his team to stop it.

The Axmann Conspiracy is the previously untold true story of the Nazi threat that continued in the wake of World War II, the espionage that defeated it, and two fascinating men whose lives forever altered the course of history.

My Review:
The Axmann Conspiracy is about what happened in Germany after Hitler committed suicide and how American Counter Intelligence officers uncovered and defeated the attempt by high-level Nazis to reestablish Nazi influence after the end of the war. Though Axmann was the one who got it all started, he was in hiding after the fall of Berlin. It was his fellow Hitler Youth officers--following his initial orders--that did most of the secret rebuilding of Nazi power.

The book started with Hitler committing suicide and the attempt by some of the surviving Nazis to escape Berlin before the Russians could capture them. We also got a biography of Axmann and of Hunter. The story continued with how the American CIC found out about the "Axmann Conspiracy," what they did, what Axmann was doing, what the Nazi group was doing, and how it all came together in the end.

It's clear that the author did his research and that he wanted to share all the interesting things he learned. The story routinely sidetracked from the main point or action into interesting but unnecessary detail. For example, we're told the names of all the medals Axmann had received and what they were for as a part of his biography. But we're also told what each medal looked like, which served no purpose in the overall story. This slowed the pacing, so don't expect a fast-paced, action-focused story.

The author also jumped from one group to another to tell what each was doing at that time. He gave a recap of who was who and what they had last being doing to make sure the reader didn't get confused. While useful, it creates a lot of repetition for those who are able to keep track of everything. Overall, though, the information included was very interesting and the action was suspenseful due to all the things that could go wrong.

There were 27 black and white photographs and charts included in the center of the book. They showed what people looked like, what places looked like, and otherwise illustrated what was going on in the text.

I'd recommend this book to those interested in the aftermath of WWII in Germany and to those who like to read about real Intelligence work.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Healing at the Speed of Sound by Don Campbell, Alex Doman

book cover
Healing at the Speed of Sound
by Don Campbell,
Alex Doman

ISBN-13: 9781594630828
Hardback: 288 pages
Publisher: Hudson Street Press
Released: September 29, 2011

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Based on over a decade of new research, Don Campbell, bestselling author of The Mozart Effect, and Alex Doman, an expert in the practical application of sound and listening, show how we can use music and silence to become more efficient, productive, relaxed, and healthy.

Each chapter focuses on a single aspect of everyday life, providing advice, exercises, wide-ranging playlists, and links so readers can use the music they love to create the perfect soundtrack for any goal or task.

My Review:
Healing at the Speed of Sound is a scientific look at how music and noise (and silence) effect our emotions, our health, and even our ability to learn. They talked about managing noise, protecting your hearing, and using the music you like to influence your day (on waking up, for exercise, traveling to and from work, at work, in the evening, and before bed). The advice was pretty basic, and the "soundtrack for your day" is very much based on what you like. So you notice what songs effect you in certain ways and use them to wake up your mind instead of coffee, help you to keep going when exercising, relax when stressed, etc.

They also talked about how listening to certain types of music, playing music, and making music as a group can help us to learn and remember things better as well as other positive health benefits. They also talked about how music can effect a baby's development before birth and brain development problems or a brain injury after birth.

There was a chapter on using music to tap into "spiritual experiences." They treated all religious music or chanting practices (from witch doctors to Buddhism to Christianity) as equal in positive effects. The way they phrased things made me think they believed spiritual experiences are completely brain-induced. All I'll say is be careful what you play with or you might end up getting more than you expect.

Throughout the text, there were links to free songs and further information on their website. Much of the "further information" was an expert saying the information given in the book, but some gave more in-depth information. One link was to a blog where a lady was blogging about how great one of their music therapy products was, but she made it sound like the music was a mind-altering drug--she's stressed, so she grabbed their relaxation music to calm down, etc.--rather than something that made a lasting change after the music was off. This left me a bit confused about which music has a lasting effect or for how long an effect lasts.

Overall, it was fun to see scientific evidence for things I'd already noticed about music and it did make me more aware of my sound environment, but I didn't really feel empowered by the book. Except in regards to exercise, the advice tended to be so unspecific and subjective ("go with what you like!") that I'm at a loss as to what to play from the large variety of choices that I have. Also, my day is not routine, so what I "need" to listen to and when would vary from day to day. So I haven't actually made any changes in my daily routine.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.