Giveaway! – 5 signed copies of “Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D” by Gina Pera

We’re going to be giving away one signed copy of Is It You, Me, or Adult A.D.D? by Gina Pera to 5 lucky entrants. All you have to do is enter your name and email! Contest ends November 12th, but don’t wait… enter now!

Coming soon is an interview with the author herself, so keep your eyes plastered to this blog until then!

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Final Exam: A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality by Pauline W. Chen

final exam

 

Final Exam was a book I picked up myself from the library. It was on my own personal reading list, which I haven’t been really able to get to these days. This is not a new book; it was published in 2007, but the ideas that Dr Chen speaks of should be relevant and in use today.

The mission of all doctors is to maintain life–by performing surgery, by prescribing medication, by encouraging life changes such as dieting or quitting smoking. But–everyone eventually dies, no matter how brilliant the surgeon was, or how much weight a patient lost. Many doctors gloss over this fact and prefer to focus on living and making a better quality of life.

Who will champion a better quality of death? No, Dr Chen is not  going to talk about euthanasia, or discuss funeral services. She is going to bring to the forefront a subject that has been assiduously avoided in human medicine for a long time: death is very much a part of life, and it should not be spoken of in hushed tones or pushed to the back of one’s mind. To truly care for your patients, you must realize that death is truly part of life.

No one wants to consider their own mortality, especially someone who is going to the hospital for an operation.  Dr Chen postulates that all doctors can give better care by embracing their own personal feelings and fears about death, and listening to what their patients are telling them, either with words or what their body is saying.

There is a great deal of explicit description in Final Exam:  of medical procedures and people struggling to die, those with sickness or those who have developed complications after surgery. Dr Chen starts out with her own personal experience with a cadaver in medical school and brings us all the way to her visceral reaction when a good friend of hers dies.

This book’s message is a powerful one, and not for the faint of heart. I thoroughly applaud Dr Chen for suggesting that doctors make themselves more emotionally available and vulnerable. Too often a patient’s death is couched in a sense of failure, of medicine gone wrong. A delicate balance needs to be attained, and I hope Dr Chen has started a dialogue by writing this book.

I loved this. You can pick up your own copy here.

Flawless by Jan Moran

flawless

I received this book from author Jan Moran in exchange for this honest interview.

Flawless is an easy, breezy type of read. Set in Beverly Hills, it oozes opulence and glitters wonderfully. The plot is fairly simple: Verena Valent, head of a family owned skincare company, is dealing with money problems. The economy is not what it was, and her big launch in Asia is threatened. Her boyfriend Derrick is pushing her to sell the company, but Verena’s family ties are too strong for this to be an easy decision. To top it all off, she is starting to develop feelings for a man she just met: Lance, the executive chef of the Beverly Hills Hotel. She wants to stay loyal to Derrick, but his actions are pushing her away. As money gets tighter, her family and friends cannot give her all the answers she seeks. Only Verena can be the master of her own destiny. Can she save her beloved company from the sharks?

This book made me feel as if I were sitting along Verena in the boardroom, in the spa, on a jet, and in Paris. Each detail is accurate and adds to the luxury of the story. In fact, if I knew more about the skincare world, I might think this book could be a roman a clef. It’s that authentic.

Verena Valent is a strong woman, even is she is unsure of what she wants, or needs. Her loyalty to her family is strong and refreshing. There is just enough romance in the book to add that warm feeling without overpowering the plot or reality….and what woman wouldn’t want a guy like Lance?!

The bad guys hold the purse strings, and there is a good deal of merger/acquisition/banking talk going on–but not so much that it bogs you down. This book will  appeal to those who want romance, and those who want to read a twisty plot with some thorny intellectual problems to solve.

The character’s attitudes are not entitled or exclusionary; rather, they are real and understandable. Granted, most of us don’t have million dollar companies, but Verena and her grandmother are easy to identify with and root for, as you turn the pages and hope that their financial worries will be rectified. No spoilers here; but the ending was satisfying and left the door open for many different paths for Verena’s life to take.

Jan Moran is an expert in the beauty field, and it shows here in Flawless.  I would definitely read book two of the Hostile Beauty series, just to see what Verena and her friends have accomplished. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

The Savant Of Chelsea by Suzanne Jenkins

savant

 

The blurb for this book made it sound like it was going to be all about a surgeon with a severe psychological issue, and how she interacted (or didn’t) with the outside world. The first half was great–it was dark, and scary, and heart rending; when she told her story in graphic and disturbing flashbacks of how she was abused as a child, I shook my head in disbelief. It was all downhill from there.

The fictitious surgeon in the novel is torn apart when her illegitimate baby is taken from her one day. The rest of her life is spent thinking about her and wanting to find her, but afraid to because of a threat her mother made to her. After her mother dies, she goes back to her native Louisiana and tries to find closure.

From that point on, the book deteriorated into an obsession with children and a hard to believe personality change. In the beginning, this woman didn’t speak to anyone and was unable to dress herself or interact normally…she had assistants take care of things for her. She was driven to the hospital by a car service, did surgery like an automaton, and then spent her free time jogging on the streets of NYC to keep her demons at bay. After she returned to her native state of Louisiana, and certain events occurred (can’t tell you without spoilers), she essentially became a normal person. Vey hard to believe.

The story then takes on a ridiculous twist, and the ending is abrupt and eye-rollingly impossible. Well, I suppose it’s possible, but highly unlikely in the real world.

Suzanne Jenkins touts the book’s ending as something that will galvanize the reader, either it will make you think, or not. Personally, I thought the book could have been shorter, especially all the stuff that took place after her mother died, and I was highly unsatisfied how the character of the surgeon changed from an unstable and fascinating person to a boring, seemingly “cured” normal functioning woman. It seemed as if there were two books with different people melded together. The premise was so brilliant, and the story was such a waste once the plot took that turn for the worst.

You can pick up a copy here. Please, tell me what you think. And if you haven’t done it already, download the Kindle reading app.

 

The Cost of Cutting by Paul Ruggieri, MD

cost of cutting

 

 

The Cost of Cutting was a book I picked up for a pleasure read from the library. Ruggieri also wrote Confessions of a Surgeon, which I enjoyed very much. The difference between the two books is that Cost is mostly about the money, and directly blames healthcare/insurance/government for the woes of doctors, and Confessions is mostly about activity in the hospital; more medicine oriented.

Cost will preface each chapter with a medical case and then peel away layers, explaining what the patient needs, how he is supposed to pay for it, how much profit the hospital will make (or not), and then Ruggieri ultimately rails against the system. I found this style of writing to be both good and bad.

I’ll admit, I picked this book up to gain some insight into hospitals and learn more about medical billing. There were a lot more facts and figures about healthcare than surgery, and this made for a rather flat book at times. That being said, I did learn a lot of interesting and scary things, such as: medical equipment sales reps may be INSIDE the surgery suite, guiding the surgeon as he uses robotic arms or the DaVinci system for the first time! Also: Medicare and Medicaid pays such small amounts for hospital stays that doctors can “cherry pick” which cases they will take…or not. The needs of the patient fall by the wayside if that person has no insurance at all, and with the passing of the Obamacare /Affordable Health Act, hospitals are forced to give up profits to handle cases, thereby forcing doctors in turn to take cases regardless of patient needs or wants.

For example: A woman needs surgery, and her doctor sends her to a specialist. The specialist has operating privileges at 2 hospitals. The hospital accountants/powers that be are pushing more surgeries towards Hospital One for profit. thus the surgeon tells the patient she will be going to Hospital One. This woman is upset because she heard bad things about the place, a friend of hers got awful care, and refuses to go there. The surgeon is caught in the middle between his patient’s wish and his boss. In the book, the patient wants to go to her preferred place, Hospital Two, and the surgeon gets upbraided for it. He strongly advises thw woman to choose Hospital One, and she does, reluctantly. I’ll let you read how things work out yourself…no spoilers!

This is not how I’d like my surgery/medical care to be handled–would you? And let’s not even get started on hospital billing–how obscure codes control how things are handled by the insurance. Medical billing is a lucrative practice, a long cry from the “old days” when a doctor would give you a handwritten bill. We have all heard about the $300 aspirin or $1000 bandage billed to someone who has been in the hospital.

Ruggieri offers up solutions on how to make things better, and explains why hospitals are all about profits instead of medicine. Even if you have no interest in medical stories, I urge you to read this, simply to gain more awareness of how to protect yourself should you need surgery. Leave everything in the doctor’s hands? The implications are truly frightening.

You can pick up your copy here.

Also, if you haven’t already, download the Kindle reading app here.

Interview with Ellie DeFarr (author of the Hera Hunter mystery series)

Ellie DeFarr is the author of two books in the Hera Hunter Mystery series:  Haunting Memories from a Troubled Past and Melancholy Manor, which was just released September 6th. She is currently at work on her third novel, which you can read more about in this exclusive interview. Please visit her website at elliedefarr.com.

 

Your author bio states you have a Master’s in a scientific field. Tell me more about how you started writing.

From the time I learned to read, there has always been a book waiting for me on the bedside table. Like so many avid readers, I dreamed of writing a book that would bring enjoyment to others, as so many books have done for me. That dream began to unfold with the embrace of the internet.

Instead of calling long-distance friends, I emailed them. Soon, I started each letter with a short story, usually an anecdote about some wild animal that had crossed my path. Eventually a good friend encouraged me to write a book, repeatedly. I tended to ignore his advice. Occasionally I sat down to write an outline of a tale that piqued my imagination, but I soon bored with the outline and abandoned it.

Still, the encouragement continued. Then one day I began typing on my computer without any previous thought for the story that was instantly unfolding. I realized then that this unfettered approach was more natural and rewarding for me. From that moment on I never stopped writing. And I never wrote another outline.

 

Describe your writing routine. What is a typical day in your life?

I write in the afternoon, when most of the day’s demands are met and my home and neighborhood are at their quietest. I am content when I write. But putting together a story does not come easy for me. I have to work at it. I turn on soothing music, so low that it cannot be heard outside the room. And I like a cup of coffee, sometimes a glass of wine, at my fingertips. I suppose these familiar comforts calm me and ready my mind to enter the story.

I write six days a week, allowing a day off for my mind to rest and engender new story ideas. Each day I write a scene, which will end up as six to eight single-spaced pages in the final book. Once the scene is written, I start at the beginning and carefully edit it. Each sentence must consist of the fewest words necessary to express its idea. And all words must be the most commonly used. I check for sufficient detail throughout the scene to plant pictures in the mind of the reader. I’m not talking here about page after page of description, but a couple sentences or a short paragraph to make the reader see what my character is seeing, and in that way make the reader feel they’re in the midst of the action.

I am finished for the day when the scene is clear, fast paced, and moves forward smoothly, while adding to the story. If there’s still time left in the afternoon, I grab a good book and let someone else entertain me, even if it’s for just fifteen minutes.

 

Did you intend the Hera Hunter character to be a continuing story, like the Nancy Drew mysteries you used to read as a child?

I love a good whodunit. I grew up reading them. And a mystery series featuring the same interesting characters is even better. Also, book series seem to be popular with readers. So yes, from the very start I wanted to write a continuing story.

However, I intend that each book can be read as a standalone story. The murder mystery is unique in each book. But each book will also continue one or two subplots that were seeded in the previous book. I think that the experience will be richer if the series is read in proper sequence, since it will provide a fuller background for each story. But reading the books in order isn’t necessary.

 

The inclusion of Lucky is so unusual. Not many authors give a dog a supporting role in a novel. Is there a real dog that you draw inspiration from? How did you choose his character?

I can’t imagine life without a dog. They need attention and affection, so I’ve always spent considerable time with my pets. It seemed only natural that my leading character, Hera Hunter, should have a pet and pamper it, too. I’ve witnessed with my own dogs most of the situations that involve Lucky. So, I’m drawing inspiration from all of my past and present pets. Also, dogs are so entertaining that they’re a useful means for adding humor to a tale.

My characters tend to come from the fringes of society. They are flawed. Lucky should be, too. He has to be small, so as not to be physically cumbersome to Hera, since he’s always with her. She can’t carry an eighty-pound dog while she climbs to a second-story balcony. And since he prefers to hide when danger is at hand, there must be plenty of places in his surroundings for him to squeeze into, not so easy for a larger dog.

But although he is timid, he is not a coward. In the first book, Hera is strangled from behind by a hired assassin who’s dragging her backward, denying her any purchase to fight back. Lucky attacks the man’s ankles, distracting him and giving Hera just enough opening to change the outcome of the assault.

This little dog will always come through for Hera whenever she needs him to.

 

What is next for Hera & Co? I can’t wait to read the next installment!

The third book of the series should be available around August of next year. In it a young runaway named Paperback Rose falls to her death. The police deem it a suicide.  But Calamity Jane, another street child, claims she saw someone with Rose when she fell.  Hera isn’t sure she should believe Jane, since Jane’s a known thief, pickpocket, liar, and peeping Tom. But when Rose’s mother hires Hera to find out what happened to her daughter, it falls to Hera to discover what evil is brewing in her town that would give reason for throwing a child off the top of a three-story building.

Melancholy Manor by Ellie DeFarr

melancholy

 

Many thanks to author Ellie DeFarr for gifting me this review copy! This is book #2 in the Hera Hunter series.

Hera Hunter is a private investigator with secrets. She comes from a troubled past, which drives her to create more justice in the world.  I’ll admit, in the first few pages where the author introduces Hera’s friend, Gwen Oates, as a “cat burglar” in a completely not-tongue-in-cheek way, I was intrigued. Other colorful characters are Toby, who is her Man Friday and expert computer hacker; Billy, Hera’s sister, who owns a brothel; and Lucky, Hera’s faithful canine sidekick.

Lucky is an unusual addition to this book. I can’t recall ever reading any novel where a little dog was a part of a mystery–at least, not a book where it wasn’t dog-centric. Hera and Lucky travel around together, and he chimes in with a bark here and there to brighten up even the most tense of scenes. Kudos to the author for writing him in! As I read along I could easily picture him in my mind, and it was a pleasant image.

Back to the plot; two women are found dead in Hera’s home town of Centreville. A man named Kyle Dunham is accused–by his own sister Zoey– of being the murderer, and their mother hires Hera to discover who the real killer is (declaring Kyle innocent in the process). Kyle’s sister Zoey is a choleric woman, and her mood swings are legend.

There are a few subplots going, as well. A homeless man is seen in the park and looks uncomfortably familiar to Hera. Gwens’s mysterious new boyfriend is asking a lot of questions. And why are there ghostly voices emanating from the basement in the Dunham mansion?

The characters are written well and the dialogue flows. I was eager to see how everything was tied together, as sometimes I can figure out a mystery’s ending well before the book is finished. The author does a great job of bringing things together, while giving us Hera’s backstory and building up the characters without being intrusive.

As a reviewer, I am always reading 3 or 4 books at a time, and the ones I reach for first are the ones I’m personally enjoying. Melancholy Manor was one of those books. I was truly curious to see what would happen next. Each subplot had a purpose; too many books have things going on in the first third  and then you never hear from the characters again. Ms DeFarr’s minor characters are sprinkled throughout the entire story–some with a purpose, nefarious or otherwise; some are there just for color and depth.

The only issue I had was that there was a little too much written about people pouring coffee, choosing what to wear, or driving. Many times Hera was in her vehicle and each and every street name and turn was documented. That really doesn’t take a lot away from the story, but I’m just suggesting that the book could’ve been made tighter by cutting some of that out, as it seemed like filler to me. Otherwise, I have no other complaints about the writing style. All in all, I’m definitely recommending this book. You don’t need to read book #1: Haunting Memories From a Troubled Past, to jump right into Hera’s world, as there were no cliffhangers in that story–but why not? In a series it’s always best to start at the beginning.

Book Three of the Hera Hunter mysteries will be out in 2015, and I’m eager to see what Hera & Co will be up to. I’ll also be posting an EXCLUSIVE interview with author Ellie DeFarr soon–watch this space! In the meantime, why not pick up a copy of Melancholy Manor? You will really enjoy it.

The Last Encore by Julia Butler

the last encore

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is apparently based on a true story, regarding an obscure psychological phenomenon. I had not thoroughly read the synopsis and so I kept expecting the book to take a different path. On the surface it is about two people finding each other after a life of disappointment and struggle. The bizarre twist, however, is something that made me cringe.

Katherine Konovka is born with a special talent for music, and she is a gorgeous creature as well. She is married, unhappily, with two children that are her entire life. One day she encounters Daniel, a man a good deal younger than she is. Immediately they have a connection that is ethereal and intense.

Daniel has been searching all his life for a fantasy woman, one that appeared to him (or did she?) as he walked through a forest. He is unable to bond with a woman completely, and goes through life bereft and longing…until he meets Katherine. At that point, their worlds collide and they fall into an erotic and sensual whirlwind, each learning from the other.

Then, tragedy strikes, and events unfold which will affect both of them deeper than they could ever have imagined. I didn’t see the twist coming, and it was, as I mentioned above, cringe-worthy. I can’t tell more without spoilers. For those of you who will get to that point and want to stop reading–keep going. Trust me. It’s worth it to continue on.

This book held my interest and was fairly well written. There were a few instances of awkward/stilted conversation, and scenes that seemed to be written in haste. Other parts of the story seemed to go back and forth in perspective from the present time to the past, and I had to go back and reread a few paragraphs to figure it out. The characters seemed real, and very likeable.

The descriptions make it easy to see in your mind the character’s surroundings, whether it is opulence or poverty. The author shines in showing the reader, rather than telling. Whether it is emotion, room decor, or an outdoor scene, Butler’s choice of words is clear and appropriate.

There are bedroom scenes which are fairly explicit, but not annoyingly so. I’ve seen this book compared to 50 Shades, and it’s NOTHING like it. No BDSM, and the sex does not go on and on. It’s pretty tastefully done and complements the story line.

The Last Encore was a wonderful, quick, enjoyable read. I’m recommending it. Want your own copy? You can pick up The Last Encore here. If you haven’t already, download the Kindle reading app here.

Is It You, Me, or Adult ADD? by Gina Pera

you me adult add

 

After I read The ADHD Effect on Marriage, I searched for similar books. This one kept popping up and seemed to be highly regarded, so I gave it the highest compliment I could: I purchased a copy.

This book is put together very well, and operates under the premise that ADD is not “so much of a disorder of attention as it is a disorder of self-regulation”, according to psychologist Russell Barkley, who wrote the foreword.  The theme of the book is the ‘roller coaster’ that both ADD’ers and non experience on a daily basis, and so the chapter headings are related to our favorite amusement park rides.  There are three parts; first, what is ADHD and how it affects you/your partner, second, what happens when you hit rock bottom and either decide to get treatment (or not), and three, how to succeed in building your relationship back with different strategies.

As you read, you get the sense that you are part of a support group, as you read other’s stories and get to know what lessons they have learned along the way. The difference between this book and the one I mentioned above, is that this goes into much more detail, with explanations as to WHY these things happen, and HOW to fix them. I found myself highlighting sections, seeing how there are common threads among ADD’ers and their significant others, and even learning more about brain function.  Each chapter contains a few ADHD Partner Snapshot graphs, which show the results of surveys taken from 162 responders.

There are chapters devoted to denial, medications, finances, therapy, co-existing disorders, sex, coping skills, and more. Understanding the spectrum of ADHD takes patience, time, and teamwork, and that is the author’s intent. Where The ADD Effect On Marriage told me about the emotions that ADD’ers experience, this book goes deeper. I learned in real people’s words how they dealt with frustration and despair, and how most (but not all) took steps to regain the love and trust they once felt.

I highly recommend this book, as it gives you strategies and sources for help, without being preachy or too glib. The book concentrates on getting help for both the ADD and non ADD partner, without being too touchy feely. Solutions for issues are discussed from all sides, and are eminently able to accomplish.

Interested? You can pick up a copy here.

Even In Death by Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

even in death

 

Many thanks to the author for gifting me this review copy!

Even In Death is a collection of 10 short stories, eminently readable. Her prose is achingly beautiful, as evidenced in this line from “A Fine Winter Day”: “Mark began to pluck the feathers off my innocence six years ago, when I was thirteen and he was twenty-one”.

Or this snippet from “What’s Really There”: “We live in the country, 300 miles from the closest beach, and yet their sadness crashes precisely like waves against the shore. My husband David and I felt their presence early on, within a few weeks of buying their home. At first it was tolerable, although a bit cramped: two people and three ghosts sharing 1000 square feet. But we got used to them; footsteps in the attic, windows creaking open in the dead of night, occasional sighs and sniffles, but that was before they started touching us.”

There is a bit of the surreal, of anger and love, of things that are just-not-quite-right in each of these little gems. It’s hard to tell a good short story without making the reader feel like they have missed something, or fumbling the ending and leaving the reader unsatisfied. Not here.  There is the right amout of detail, of character exposition, with nuances of language and color and emotion that grab you right away. Each story has its quirk, to make you think and to make you feel.

Which story didn’t I like? “What Caught My Senses”, a tale about a writerly couple in search of money, so they concoct a scheme to invite a group of authors to their villa under the guise of offering a writing retreat. Towards the end, there is a lot of activity and people just got jumbled up in my mind as I tried to keep track of who was doing what to whom. It was written as well as any of the other stories, I just didn’t enjoy the plot and how it unfolded. The fact that I didn’t like Katie and Mick, the unscrupulous writers, didn’t help either.

My favorite was “The Collector”, about a girl whose mother is a hoarder. Sammie describes her mom’s stuff as ‘collectibles’ to her first grade friends, until the kids discover for themselves that it’s just all garbage. Every time Sammie or her grandmother try to clean, Mom always distracts them with food or a trip into town. What happens to Sammie at the end is both sad and uplifting at the same time, while the essence of a hoarder mentality is captured perfectly.

I hope that Ms Gillespie has another book of stories in her. Want your own copy? You should! Pick it up here.