Misdiagnosed: One Woman’s Tour of- And Escape from-HealthCareLand by Jody Berger (3 out of 5)

•September 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Jody Berger is a 43 year old woman with a fulfilling career, athleticism, and a new outlook on life after a divorce and subsequent meeting of someone who isn’t a shoe thief. Life is going well until she decides to seek treatment for a slight tingling in her hands and feet. The first doctor diagnoses her with multiple sclerosis after one MRI, really doesn’t answer any of her questions or sidesteps her concerns with indifference, gives her four pages of probable drugs that she can go on to alleviate symptoms, and that’s the beginning of her nightmare. Specialist after specialist after specialist all give her different answers, attitudes, drugs, and some, outright indifference, to her questions and concerns about her health. It is, after all, HER HEALTH. This is not a book for those who believe in shiny, happy healthcare systems to read. It will wake you up, and fast. Personally, I have a number of friends who have been misdiagnosed with any number of ailments and illnesses through the years, been put on ridiculous amounts of drugs, and met with nothing more than a slew of new symptoms brought on by the treatment of the illness that got them there in the first place. One friend of mine in particular, has been put through the ringer with doctors, missed diagnoses, and even surgeries that were not completely done. To see them go through that, you feel so powerless and no amount of advice can help them, and that feeling was brought back reading this book. It is a honest, straightforward look at how doctors often stop at the easiest diagnosis and often don’t bother to truly LISTEN to their patients. If Jody Berger had one doctor who actually stopped and listened, she would not have gone through years of hell with misdiagnoses, multiple medications that brought on unnecessary side effects, and the emotional tumult that resulted from that. Her story is incredible and nauseating all at the same time.

Perhaps the most nauseating part of this is that she’s right on the money and it’s happening everywhere. Jody finally gets her illness correctly diagnosed (and by a doctor that she finds, no less) and begins the long road back to health. Thankfully, she has a great support network and a new man in her life who can help her navigate the treacherous road from medical mayhem to eventual healing. A support system is key to the entire process of one who’s been misdiagnosed. Jody also talks about those who thought they were helping with unwittingly stupid remarks that only made her feel worse. There’s a lot of straight talk all the way through this book, and you’re grateful for that fact. You’re also grateful that she gets her health back in her hands by the end of the book. Multiple sclerosis? Not the culprit. When you read what is, you’ll never believe what they put her through to get to that diagnosis. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s had a healthcare system fallacy. I also recommend reading it at the hospital while your father is being admitted. The looks on the faces of the doctors? Priceless. As is Jody’s story.

Stalkers by Paul Finch (4 out of 5)

•September 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I found out about this book and Paul Finch via Goodreads. These are just now being released in the United States, this is the first in a series of books with DS Heckenburg, who I guaranteed will be on your characters TBW (to be watched, I just made it up. Steal my copyright and I’ll club you like a soda) list. Not sure why, but the entire time I was reading this, I was thinking if they ever cast it as a movie or television show, Adam Baldwin of Firefly fame would be a great Heckenburg. Or if they are going with a younger age, then perhaps JGL. If you get to the end and expect a smooth resolution, well, this is not a book you can expect that from. It’s pretty obvious from page one that this isn’t a normal suspense novel, meaning it’s like a “Nordic Noir” and there is no end to the violence, bloodshed, death, and adult situations. Language is a big four letter word throughout the book, so if you’re a Harlequin romance reader, stay the hell away from this one. You will not walk away unoffended. Overall, I loved this first book in the DS Heckenburg series and cannot wait for the next (Sacrifice, February, 2015) installment.

Our book begins with Louise Jennings, an attractive young lady, leaving work. She believes she’s being followed, but manages to get to her car and drive most of the way home, but almost there, has a freaky car accident. When she goes to get back in her car, her tires are shredded and there’s a mysterious man in the passenger seat who knocks her out cold and drives off with her in the trunk of another car. We see Louise again, but the next scene that plays out is not a pretty one and quickly sets the tone for what’s about to follow. DS Heckenburg (Heck for short) has been investigating for years now “cold cases” of missing young women, thought to be a serial killer. Except that it doesn’t fit the normal MO of a serial killer; the women who are missing are all well-to-do, intelligent women who have absolutely nothing weird going on that would send up a distress flare over their disappearances. No bodies are found, no trace evidence to be found, and it’s a dead end. Heck’s superiors are tired of no new leads and no progress on the old ones; the lack of a concrete lead is taking its toll on him and he’s not only wasting away, but smarting off to the lead investigator of the department doesn’t do him any favors. Gemma, his ex and co-worker, breaks it to him that he’s “off the case” and on holiday, and the case is on hold indefinitely. Heck doesn’t go quietly, nor does he go, continuing to investigate on his own. He finds a couple of leads and ends up at a pub, where he meets a young lady, Lauren, to whom he’s instantly drawn, and who after he turns her down, follows him when he’s on a fact finding mission and breaks it to him that she’s been following him and knows he’s investigating the case and her sister is among the missing. Heck finds himself with a new partner that he didn’t ask for, but before long, he realizes he and Lauren make a good team, and they finally start to make headway. Heck also realizes that the people behind the missing girls are a well connected, super intelligent and well funded group of militants who are also operating in other countries as well. The leads lead to bodies, and Heck and Lauren find themselves framed for a number of them, and end up on the run. This all leads to the last 50 pages of the book being nonstop action, when the “Nice Guys Club” (the group behind the disappearance of the thirty women) come out in full force when Heck and Lauren get the breaks they need, and the final confrontation is fierce, bloody, stunning, and the ending? Well, I had hoped for a bit more of a resolution than is ultimately delivered in the end, but I am counting on the 2nd book in the series delivering a stealth ninja kick to tie it up a bit more.

Overall, not a complaint coming from me, except for the way it ends. However, as I said, I believe that Finch set the ending up to lead into what will no doubt be a riveting follow up to this enthralling, gory, and stunning debut. And I, for one, cannot wait.

The Happiest People In The World by Brock Clarke (5 out of 5)

•September 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I was sent an advance of this by Lauren at Algonquin Books (thank you again, Lauren- you rule!). Don’t rush to your bookstores just yet, friends, this one isn’t out until November 4, 2014. I’m familiar with Brock’s previous titles, Exley and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes In New England.  If you’re not familiar with them, for shame! Pick up his other titles and hunker down for a lot of hilarious, unusual writing with great, unforgettable characters. One of my favorite authors who doesn’t write nearly as quick as I’d like (one a year would be great!), but when he does, well, he never fails to bring traces of the strange, absurdist situations you would never believe- if you didn’t read it.

This one takes place in what I can only describe as the “boonies” of Denmark. Yes, Denmark. This is the place, one is to guess, that houses the “happiest people in the world”. However, there’s a band of political cartoonists in Denmark who put Muhammad into their political drawings, and ignited a band of outrage that began with but wasn’t limited to threats, protests, and assassination attempts(based on a real-life incident, by the way).Jens also pays a personal price as the job and then his marriage go belly up as a result of the furor. The CIA intervenes and houses Jens, one of the cartoonists, in an upstate New York town, and relocate him as a high school guidance counselor. Jens just can’t seem to walk the straight and narrow line when he falls in love with the principal’s wife. Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly, the principal is getting over his own little affair with the CIA agent who placed Jens at that job. I can’t give enough credence to the entire scenario by saying it’s hilarious and like one of those screwy rom com movies starring Matt Perry that you saw in the 90’s while drunk on Zima with a guy who looked a hell of a lot like Matt Perry. It’s wacky, it’s hilarious, and I’m not joking when I say that there were entire parts of this book where my side hurt from laughing at the ensuing situations this quartet gets themselves into. This tiny New York town also gives one the impression that just about every single person in the town is a spy and that no secret- including Jens’ real identity- is safe. Nothing is sacred, nothing is safe, but oh hell, nothing is pretty damn hilarious! Jens ends up on the move again, eventually ending up back in Denmark… but should he have stuck it out in New York? Or is he safer back where the frying pan gave way to the fire, where the happiest people in the world live?

This gives way to all sorts of questions- are the Danes the happiest people in the world, despite having a spy around every corner? Will Jens ever reclaim his life? Will he get a second chance with his soon to be ex wife, or with the principal’s wife? Does she follow him, and does it bust up the happy little high school? Exactly how much do total strangers on the street know about you? How much can they claim to know you, when you draw a cartoon, which is a running form of satire, and it results in you losing your normal life, to go on the run as a whole new person? Are the Danes getting a secondhand pot buzz from Amsterdam? How real are the people encountered in the book? Does everyone have a secret agenda?

Clarke has taken something that happened in the real world and whipped up a madcap, somewhat satirical look at what would happen with a whole different cast of characters, different locations, and more tellingly, with a lot more intelligence and paranoia covering everyone like a smoke bomb. What results is unexpected, offbeat, and as I said, side splitting funny in parts. I did also like Jens and feel he was a sympathetic character, even as he does several things that made me smack my head and go “Really, dude?” . The supporting casts of riff raff persons add more hilarity to the story. Seriously, do yourself a favor. If you need something funny, yet with moments of biting commentary that echo what’s happening in today’s world, pick up a copy of this book when it’s released on November 4th, 2014. And better yet, recommend the hell out of it to anyone who likes to laugh. That’s what I intend to do.

Fiend by Peter Stenson (4 out of 5)

•September 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I guess I’m shortchanging it by calling it a “zombie book”. It’s also a book about the evils of meth addiction, lost chances and second chances with love that missed the first go round, and the end of your friends, fears, and life as you know it. It’s definitely a twisted mix of The Walking Dead meets Breaking Bad meets any Simon Pegg movie (for the humor aspect). I like dark humor, and this has a lot of really dark scenes. If you don’t have the stomach to think of a little blond girl disemboweling a dog in the first chapter, well, then don’t pick this book up. There’s a high up on the gore level, and it doesn’t bother me. That doesn’t mean it won’t bother you.

Chase, a junkie, and his friend Typewriter, a fellow junkie, are strung out on meth when Chase happens to look out the bedroom window and see a little girl doing the annihilation station act on a Rottweiler. When their attempts to figure out if this is legit or not, the little girl hurls herself through the window, into the house, and it’s obvious she is one of the walking dead. They manage to outwit her enough to kill her with a typewriter (irony in its darkest form), Chase and Typewriter wig the hell out (who wouldn’t?) and get out of the house posthaste, and go on the run. Everywhere they go, everyone they love, every place they go, the story is the same. Dead bodies piling up, the junk that they have with them can’t erase the horror of what’s happening in front of them, and to those they love. While they were getting high for 168 hours, the plague infested the population and corpses begin reanimating. Before long, Chase and Typewriter realize the only people who survived this are meth addicts. Chase ends up finding his lost love, KK, because she’s still grappling with the demon addiction and therefore, still alive. Chase ‘dreams’ of a normal life, but we know that’s not going to happen. Not only because of what is going down at that moment, but because he really doesn’t want to stop doing drugs.

Peter Stenson does such a great job riding the line between zombie and meth addicts. It’s metaphorical, no doubt, based on Chase’s seemingly continuing love affair with meth. The group of meth addicts who survive and try to stay alive amidst this zombie infestation, are really some dark, but interesting characters. He really fleshed out (no zombie puns intended, I swear) the characters so well. I did like Chase, I did like Typewriter, and even Derrick. I didn’t like KK, the ex girlfriend. She drove me nuts. When is there going to be a cool girl in a zombie book? The girls always ruin the fun. I wanted her to go away in the worst way. I also wanted Chase to drop kick her into a zombie killing machine. The ending? Well, that’s quite the thing. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending to this, so I gave it four stars instead of five.

Overall, I really did enjoy this, but if you like happy-go-lucky zombies, this is not the book for you to start with. You’d probably want to start with those zombie take off parodies of classic books (Jane Eyre and Zombies, etc). This is a dark, bleak look at stone cold reality and addiction. I really love the parallels that Stenson is able to draw between the darkness of addiction vs the darkness of life as a zombie. It really makes you think. And yes, there are some truly inspired humorous moments here as well, and any other time, I would not care for Chase, but I think he’s got some true sympathy lying in that husk of a body, and Stenson’s writing makes it easy to tune into that. Like I said, great book, dark humor, and the ending left something to be desired, but overall, a really great “zombie’ novel.

*I received a copy of this book for a honest review through Blogging For Books. *

Of All The Gin Joints by Mark Bailey; Illustrated by Edward Hemingway (4 out of 5)

•September 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment


This was a great, fun little read. The authors go back to the silent screen era of cinema and beyond that. I’d like to see these gents dissect the little miscreants of today’s youth misbehavior squad (Bieber, Cyrus, Minaj, etc) next. Anyway, this was a lot of fun to read. You could set it down and pick it back up hours later, ready to be entertained again. I loved reading about all of the silent film era stars who I wasn’t real familiar with. I felt like I learned some eyebrow raising history lessons, but totally worth it. And fun. Mostly fun.

The authors went through and dissected Hollywood’s movers and shakers (mostly shakers, not stirred). You get a little history of their careers, and a lot of great anecdotes that I’m pretty sure have never been published prior to this. The cocktails are a great added bonus. They tie in with the chapter and the actor/actress that preferred that drink. You also get a great history of Hollywood’s great bars, restaurants, seedy hotels (I never knew Elizabeth Taylor spent six of her honeymoon stays at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I’ve read tons of biographies of her), behind the scenes of quite a few iconic films that were almost jettisoned by the troublesome behaviors of the drunken stars, and many more surprises. Honestly, I can say I laughed at the sheer gall, not to mention the staying power of the livers of some of these drinking marauders, of some of the stars when they were drunk as a skunk. There are a few sad stories in this collection (Frances Farmer, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard), but plenty of raucous, fun tales as well. I mean, you not only get actors and actresses, but also the other side of the camera, with producers, studio heads, authors, and directors. A well-rounded history of shame, celebrity, and spirits. A hell of a lot of fun, this book. It would also be a great stocking stuffer for cinema fans for the holidays. Throw that in their stocking, and some of their favorite spirits, and voila! instant holiday gift.



Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards (4 out of 5)

•September 8, 2014 • Leave a Comment


I have a confession, friends. I am new to the Who…the Doctor Who phenomenon. This is the first Doctor Who book I have read. Thank you to whomever it was at Random House who sent me and my coworker copies of the new titles coming out September 9,2014. This is the first one I read, recommended by F-Zero because “Justin Richards is the bomb” (or something similar, I don’t recall the exact wording). It’s been a rough week and harder to read than usual, so this was exactly what I needed to read. I really enjoyed it. And yes, for those who wonder or actually care, I DO really like Peter Capaldi as the good Doctor.

One victim is found in their study, with a metal letter opener between the shoulder blades. A piece of paper on the victim’s desk bears the name “Madame Vastra”. The crime itself is curious, not just because of the paper and the manner in which the killing occurred, but the fact that there is also a locked door and no signs of forced entry. The second victim, Bellamy, is a bruiser type who happens to be drinking in the same pub as Strax, the Sonatarian. Bellamy ends up having the life sucked out of him in an alley. There’s a Frost Fair going on in London, and the Carnival of Curiosities is where Jenny, Vastra’s wife, looks for answers. That’s where the good Doctor and Clara end up as well. The Doctor is intrigued by a brief interaction with Silhouette, an enigmatic woman whose secrets may hold all the answers to what’s going on.They also keep seeing Empath, an undertaker (or a dude who looks a hell of a lot like an undertaker). You also get a brief introduction to other supporting characters who end up having a part in this story: Michael Smith (although I kept misreading it as “Matt Smith”. Wonder why), the “Strong Man” at the Carnival of Curiosities, Oswald and Jim, Festin, Affinity, and last but certainly not least, Milton Orestes, a wealthy man who’s apparently at the center of all of this somehow(in true fashion, with the many characters, remember, nothing is as it seems). Orestes has secrets galore and an agenda that doesn’t become real clear until Vastra and Jenny are imprisoned, more people are killed, and then the whole evil plan makes itself known. Orestes is a wanted man by the Shadow Proclamation for various crimes, and he’s hatched this diabolical plot to destroy London and escape from his death sentence. Reading the character of Orestes, the dialogue and apparent villainy, reminded me a lot of Durand- Durand, the mad scientist who traps Jane Fonda’s Barbarella character into the Orgasmatron, in Roger Vadim’s cult classic film Barbarella. If Milo O’Shea were still alive and they turned this novel into a Doctor Who episode, he could have played Milton Orestes.


Sorry, I got off track there…but I had already cast half the characters in this novel, so that means I really did enjoy it. I don’t often do that with books, but I did with this one. Now, the question is this- can the good Doctor and his merry band of associates solve the crimes, get Vastra and Jenny freed, get their hands on Orestes before he flies the coop, and save London from being obliterated by a cloud of hatred? All questions will be answered, but first you must read the book. Which I strongly encourage you to, dear reader.



An Italian Wife by Ann Hood (2 out of 5)

•September 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment



Ann Hood’s last book, The Obituary Writer, was one of my favorite books last year. I was hoping it would be a 1,2 punch. Instead it was a kick in the gut. Her extraordinary skills to show the passage of time effectively continues, as do her unforgettable characters. The problem is that there are some characters you would like to forget. As usual, she paints her characters with a great deal of colors, which isn’t the problem. The problem is that some of these characters need to be drawn from scratch, for redemption of their entire character is unheard of and unlikely, given the actions they choose to take in this book. It just did not live up to the expectations I had placed upon it, based on how much I loved the previous one.

This time, Josephine Rimaldi, a fourteen year old girl living a dream-filled life in Italy, is thrust into an arranged marriage with a man she has never met. You aren’t too surprised, as this was the way of many Italian marriages back in the 1900’s. She marries Vincenzo, who really doesn’t do much except treat her reasonably and give her seven children. Josephine’s lack of true emotion toward her husband and their marriage undergoes a test when she engages in a passionate brief affair with the ice man, which ends in her pregnancy. She confesses all to her priest, a man who thinks nothing of asking her to “give her all to God”, meaning letting him suckle her breasts, after she confesses she’s lonely in her marriage and doesn’t want more children. Yes, you read that sentence right. She gives birth in secret to Valentina, her illegitimate child with her now-disappeared lover, and gives her up for adoption, a decision that haunts her the entirety of her life and the book. Her husband Vincenzo passes away from the Spanish Influenza and she has to be the head of her family. She continues to fight with her conscience over giving up her child for adoption, but now she has to concentrate on her children. One of them returns from WWI permanently scarred and not all there mentally. Another of her children is developmentally slow. Another of her children takes Latin lessons from the same priest who told Josephine to give her “all to God”, and that daughter secretly lusts after the priest. Another of her daughters wants to be a nun, at the young age of eleven.  The younger children are the only ones who aren’t touched by some fleeting emotional scars. Overall, Josephine has her hands full with raising her kids. Her granddaughters end up messing with drugs in the psychedelic era. It never seems to end. Just when you start to connect with Josephine, you end up wanting to scream at her or her kids for their actions. The book takes us from the 1900’s to early 2000’s, as Josephine grows older and more frail, you get to see how her and the kids’ stories play out. I did enjoy seeing it to fruition, but it was missing a lot of somethings.

I wish I had liked this one more. I was truly hoping it was going to win my heart like her previous title. Not the case, unfortunately.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,900 other followers