Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays 6.29.10

Teaser Tuesdays is an interesting, fun, bookish meme, hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

My Teaser:

'I believe I have been able to get this far without further damage to my own emotional, mental and physical condition because of my faith in God, something I understood even as a very young child - something that, though it was not taught to me or my siblings, and I had never attended church, I just "knew". And part of what came with that knowing, that God was and would always be there, was the inherent understanding that, with faith, came the absence of blame - not acceptance - just the blessed comprehension that it was never my place to judge or blame, despite even the worst of the horrors that I went through.'

I Will Not Be Silent by April Maley (p.22)

Anyone can play along! If you'd like to participate, Just do the following:

*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their
TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

*And, finally, don't forget to link your post to MizB's at
Should Be Reading. If you don't have a blog, simply share your "teasers" in a comment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Book Review: Critical Care by Theresa Brown

Title: Critical Care
Author: Theresa Brown
ISBN: 978-0-06-179155-0
Pages: 208
Release Date: June 1, 2010
Publisher: HarperStudio
Genre: Non-Fiction; Memoir
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

At my job, people die,” writes Theresa Brown, capturing both the burden and the singular importance of her profession. CRITICAL CARE chronicles Brown, a former English Professor at Tufts University, on her first year as an RN in medical oncology and the emotional ups and downs she encounters in caring for strangers. In contrast to other medical memoirs that highlight the work of doctors, this book focuses on the critical role played by nurses as health care providers.

Brown walks readers through the rigors of chemotherapy, reveals the odd things that can happen to people’s bodies in hospitals, and throws in some humor with her chapter titled, “Doctors Don’t Do Poop.” During her first year on the hospital floor, Brown is seriously injured but her recovery allows her to take a new perspective on the health care system, giving her a better understanding of the challenges faced by her patients.

Ultimately, Critical Care conveys the message of learning to embrace life in times of health and sickness. “The antidote to death,” Brown says, “is life.” Brown writes powerfully and honestly about her experiences, shedding light on the issues of mortality and meaning in our lives.

My review: People repeatedly ask Theresa Brown why she left her career as an English Professor at a prestigious University to become a nurse. The simple, concise answer is she wants to help people. To take care of them. She felt strongly about this right after her children were born. Brown knew she wanted to care for people the way midwives had cared for her during the birth of her daughter. That's what a nurse does but a good nurse, one who likes her job and truly cares about the people she comes in contact with, does much more than take care of a patient as Brown learns in her first year in the medical oncology ward where death is normal.

I was extremely interested in reading this book as soon as I saw it in the Shelf Awareness newsletter. I have spent a lot of time in hospitals and been cared for by a lot of nurses. Thirty-six surgeries and numerous other hospitalizations for various health concerns means a lot of nursing care. Some nurses are fantastic, some are awful, most fall somewhere in between. It matters enormously for the patient's comfort, peace of mind, and more. Trust me. I've wanted to read a memoir by a nurse for a very long time because I always thought it would be interesting to see things from their perspective. Until now, I haven't been able to find one. Hence my extreme interest in Critical Care.

I admire Brown's dedication to her second career choice. It took her six years to get her bachelor's degree in nursing because she had to switch schools when her husband changed jobs and the family moved. Despite how long it took to earn her degree, Brown never wavered in her decision to change careers. And she displayed this same dedication when she finally started working in a hospital her first year as an R.N.

Doctors enter a patient's room in a hospital, examine them, ask some questions, scribble notes on their chart, hand it to the nurse and leave. Nurses attend to almost all the rest of the patient's needs and wants from helping them to use the bathroom, inserting an IV line and/or dispensing the patients medication. As Brown quickly discovered, a nurse's work is never done or, at least, that's what it felt like. During her first year, Brown seldom finished her work by the end of her shift and usually ended up staying late at the hospital.

The thing that most distinguishes a nurse from a doctor, who tends to treat a specific ailment or part of the patient's body, is that a nurse, at least one who is good at their job, treats and cares for "the whole person". In reading the stories about Brown's experiences with various patients its obvious that she quickly understood that her job isn't to just take care of the person on the physical level, but to communicate with them, understand what's troubling them mentally, to allay their fears and make them comfortable as possible in all ways. Brown displays a remarkable understanding of people as patients and their different attitudes and personalities. Rather than take personally a teenager's obnoxious quips or the cranky mutterings of an elderly woman, Brown puts herself in the patient's shoes and thinks about how they must feel being admitted to the hospital for the 6th time in 3 months or entering the hospital for a minor procedure only to learn they have an aggressive form of cancer. Brown empathizes with her patients, understands them and tries to interact with them in a positive way hoping to reduce, rather than exacerbate, their stress.

Critical Care is filled with stories about the patients Brown cared for and the nurses, doctors, technicians, visitors and others she met during her first year as a nurse working in a hospital. Each chapter is pretty intense and filled with graphic realities about health, life and death, as well as hospital politics and the bureaucracy one is often up against. Brown has written the chapters as if each is an individual essay relating an aspect of her nursing career instead of providing us with a long narrative. In writing her memoirs in such a way, Brown has made it more interesting and enjoyable because she's provided us the opportunity to digest the information in each chapter before moving on to the next.. I found it much easier to read 7-10 pages, put the book down, think about and absorb what I read and return to the book when ready.

As mentioned earlier, Brown spent her first year in the medical oncology ward. The result is that she saw many of her patients die. She learned a lot about death and dying, passing much of it on to her readers through stories about the different patients she cared for during that year. Some of these stories involve some graphic imagery and aren't for the feint of heart. Some are extremely sad. Caring for the dying and in comforting their families Brown learned the value of life and not to wait for tomorrow because it may not come. Through her memoir she reminds her readers how important it is to live our lives and to tell our loved ones how important they are too us before it's too late.

This is clearly a book for anyone who's wondered what its like and what it takes to be a nurse, as well as for those who, at one time or another, have needed a nurse, which is almost all of us or our loved ones I'd imagine! Critical Care is an honest, well-written account of Theresa Brown's first year as a nurse written with a mixture of empathy, humor, poignancy and compassion that speaks to anyone who cares and who's willing to listen.

I received this book from the Publisher, HarperStudio through Shelf Awareness.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Movie Monday 6.21.10

Feature Presentation...

Today's movie topic is time travel. Molly from The Bumbles Blog was thinking that a time machine would make life so much easier...and she is soooo right! If you can think of any great movies about time travel, jot them down in your blog and then head on over to The Bumbles wonderful blog and post a link there!

Time After Time (1979) a great movie in which Michael McDowell ,cast as H. G. Wells, uses his time machine to chase after Jack the Ripper!

Time Bandits (1981) The screen play for this movie was written by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame who is also the writer and director. It's about a young boy who travels through time with a pack of dwarves using a map of space and time, meeting various historic notables such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood, as well as Agamemnon, while being watched by Evil who wants the map for himself.

12 Monkeys (1995) also directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeleine Stowe and Christopher Plummer. The earth has been contaminated by a deadly virus and everyone is forced to live underground in order to survive. Brad Pitt plays a criminal who, in the hopes of obtaining a pardon, agrees to attempt to travel back in time to try to collect information about the virus, thought to be released by a terrorist organization called The Army of the 12 Monkeys, and a pure sample of the virus, if possible, in order that a cure can be made.

Donnie Darko (2001) a psychological-thriller/fantasy about a troubled boy, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is plagued by doomsday visions and ideas, some delivered to him by a life-size menacing-looking rabbit, which he attempts to find the reasons and meaning behind. The movie also stars Mary McDonnell, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wylie and Maggie Gyllenhaal It's a strange, great movie!

Primer (2004) a very low-budget, fantastic movie about an accidental discovery of a way to time travel. The movie was written, produced and directed by a mathematician and former engineer, Shane Carruth. It's a sophisticated and complicated movie. I really enjoyed the movie, but admit that I didn't understand all of it and, apparently most people don't! But it's still a great movie and won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in 2004!

Monday Musings

This was supposed to be my "Sunday Salon" post but yesterday just got away from me so I'm posting it today!

I was reminded of the quote or saying "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" as I sat down to write up this blog post....finally! In my last post, almost a couple of weeks ago, I hinted at big plans to get my blog up and running again on a daily basis. I also planned to make some improvements to it. Alas, what I didn't know is that the antibiotics I took for bronchitis did a great job of wiping out the bronchitis but did nothing for the pneumonia making its way to my lungs. Fortunately, I didn't get a very bad case of pneumonia but it was bad enough that it exhausted me and put me out of commission for more than a week. I think I slept more in the last week or so than ever in my life. I just couldn't seem to sleep enough. It was kind of scary, especially because I don't sleep a lot, I prefer to read! But I had no choice those days! I tried to keep up with work-related things I needed to do including letters and emails, as well as research I had to do. I was able to take care of most things, luckily. I really wanted to post in my blog but after visiting some blogs and posting a comment or two, I was always wiped out! Ugh! So much for my plans! But, the more time I wander through this blog community again, stopping at different blogs and reading bloggers posts and comments and discovering interesting books I wasn't aware of before, I realize how much I miss this place and want to make it a part of my life again.

I started my blog last July but considering as I've taken a "break" of almost 6 months from my blog, I'll probably delay my 1 year blogiversary until late fall or winter. I had great plans to participate in some cool challenges and get to know this community much better. But those plans had to be scrapped. Hopefully I'll be able to resurrect them for 2011. After being away from my blog almost completely for close to 6 months, I feel, in some ways, that I have to attract followers/bloggers to my blog again. Some of you have been wonderfully loyal and I appreciate that so very much. Your loyalty is what's convinced me to make the effort to keep my blog going. I suppose, on the one hand it shouldn't matter to me how many people visit my blog and comment on my posts, but on the other hand, since I am going to be reviewing ARCs I've received from publishers, I feel I should try to bring followers back to my blog and try to attract new ones. I think this is a blog issue I see discussions about from time to time. If any bloggers have opinions or advice, whatever it is, please share!

While spending much of the time in bed with the kitties for company - they loved it, of course! - I was able to get some reading done. I read mostly enjoyable, lighter stories that didn't require me to think too much! I am hoping to review
A Soft Place to Land by Susan Rebecca White, The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano and Critical Care by Theresa Brown this week!
I'm reading
My Name is Memory by Ann Brasheres and will start I Will Not Be Silent by April J. Maley this week. I am feeling better and stronger so I hope to be able to post regularly on my blog this week.

I hope you all have a good week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Thoughts!

I just wanted to say hello! It's been quite a while since I posted regularly on my blog and I miss it and all of you Bloggers. I was hoping to get back here about 2 weeks ago and start posting again but the day after I posted my review of "Orange is the New Black" I woke up sick and ended up with Bronchitis, a fever etc. When you have asthma and pulmonary hypertension, bronchitis really knocks you down! Fortunately I slept a lot because daytime TV isn't what it used to be at the time of Happy Days! LOL! TV wasn't so good then either! But finally, here I am, Take 2!! lol

I'm still trying to get some consistent work by which to pay the bills and such. It's not so easy, especially when it's been 9 years since I worked. There are many organizations and online websites that purport to assist disabled people in looking for work or in finding an actual job but they don't seem to really do much. I have learned, for the most part, that disabled people are given little help with finding jobs and housing, or paying for housing, bills and even food. And if you get help from one place, department, organization, government branch, no matter how little the help is, forget getting help from any where else, unless you can pay it all back in a year! But I'm still looking! Fingers crossed!!

It's a bit of an eye-opener for me, this disability-related stuff. I suppose that sounds a little ridiculous since I have been disabled since birth. But I was raised to believe and behave as if I was an able-bodied person not disabled. I was encouraged to push myself to do whatever was necessary to get ahead or to compete beside and sometimes with other able-bodied kids. I was taught to never expect society to conform to or accommodate me. I did whatever I had to do to fit in with society and accommodate myself to society. There's advantages and disadvantages to this approach just as there is to growing-up as a disabled person who needs society to accommodate them and needs to be cared for.

Being used to behaving or acting as if I wasn't really disabled in any significant way made things more difficult when I had no choice but to face and acknowledge that I am disabled. When I was a child in elementary school, my mother's encouragement and support made it easy for me to act like an able-bodied individual and push myself to do whatever I had to do to keep up with the other kids - if there was a big flight of stairs I would climb it some way, some how, even if it meant sliding up the stairs on my butt! lol As I got older and more independent it's more difficult to accommodate myself to society, particularly as my disability has worsened and my health problems accumulated.. When I first moved into NYC in my early 20s, it really hit me that I was disabled. NYC and the surrounding boroughs are not built to accommodate the disabled, it's an older city with many stoops and steps, no curb cuts on some sidewalks, small aisles in the stores. It's difficult for a physically disabled person to get around easily. I know there are disabled people who need accommodations at work, and to go out in society and function as a member of the community. Many disabled people need to be accommodated. That's something I would like to help with. I have to figure out how to get involved and advocate for disabled people and humanize them. If anyone has any ideas about this, please drop me a line, all are welcome! Alright, enough with this tangent...! I meant only to say hello! lol

I want to get involved in the blogging community again, at least several days a week if not every day. I'm very sad I missed BEA and BBC especially living practically next store to it! I have been enjoying bloggers posts about the fun they had in NY This community has been wonderfully supportive even though I have only been a member for less than a year. I've really missed posting and blogging, and I apologize to any bloggers who commented on my posts and reviews and I didn't reply. I don't want that to become a habit. I love getting comments from bloggers and leaving comments on bloggers posts. I know I missed everyone who responded to my review of "Orange is the New Black" by Piper Kellerman as I was hit with bronchitis that night. I want to acknowledge those bloggers and thank JoAnn from
Lakeside Musing, Avisannschild from she reads and reads, Jen from Devourer of Books, Kathleen from Boarding in My Forties, Elisa from Pesky Cat Designs, Clarity from Clarity in Wonderland, Molly and Andy from The Bumbles Blog, Kathy from Bermudaonion's Weblog, Lisa from Lit and Life , Jenner from Find Your Next Book Here and Julie P. from Booking Mama and always Kathy from Purple Flowers and Esme from Chocolates and Croissants who I can always count on! These are wonderful bloggers with great blogs. If you don't know them yet, be sure to visit them!

Enjoy Your Weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: The Executor

Title: The Executor
Author: Jesse Kellerman
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons, April 2010
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 3.0 out of 5

Summary: Things aren’t going well for Joseph Geist.
He’s broke. His graduate school advisor won’t talk to him. His girlfriend has kicked him out of her apartment, leaving him homeless and alone. It’s a tough spot for a philosopher to be in, and he’s ready to give up when an ad in the local paper catches his eye.

The ad reads: "Conversationalist wanted”.

Which sounds perfect to Joseph. After all, he’s never done anything in his life except play with words. And the elderly woman behind the ad turns out to be the ideal employer: brilliant, generous, and enchantingly old-world. Before long, Joseph has moved in with her, and has begun to feel quite comfortable in her big, beautiful house.
So comfortable, in fact, that he would do anything to stay there—forever.

From the author of The Genius, a dark parable about the choices we make, and the consequences they bring.

My Thoughts: Jesse Kellerman has written an intense and riveting story built upon an unusual and very unique premise that kept me reading well into the night, reluctant, at least initially, to put The Executor down. The lead character, Joseph Geist, is an intelligent, rational, moral, quiet and reserved, thinking and stoic character. His up-bringing was very unpleasant, rendering him unsure about himself and life in general. Getting through the day is difficult for him but he's so likeable and introspective that you find yourself rooting for him.

And then everything changes! The first two thirds of the book is unique and realistic, odd and interesting at the same time. The stage is set for an intense showdown between Joseph and his nemesis, Eric, but the book seriously disappoints when Kellerman, rather suddenly, veers off track into utter nonsense the last third of the book. It's really a shame because Kellerman created wonderful three-dimensional characters in Joseph as well as his "new" boss, Alma, her nephew, and Joseph's nemesis, Eric and Joseph's on-again, off-again girlfriend, Yasmina , who leap off the page. Therefore, when Joseph behaves in contravention to the Joseph we've come to know, this inconsistent transformation and the subsequent actions he undertakes are totally inconsistent and unbelievable.

The Executor opens when Joseph seems to have hit rock bottom. He's broke, he has no job, his girl-friend dumps him and he has no place to live. Quite by chance, he gets a job as a "conversationalist", meeting with Alma, an elderly woman, apparently having fascinating discussions about philosophy and who knows what else. Literally. Kellerman doesn't let us in on any of the conversations, only saying that they are stimulating and seem to keep both Alma and Joseph going, giving Alma a reason to keep living despite her ill health, and Joseph despite his struggles with relationships and school.

As one who has studied philosophy, not to mention any reader who at some point in their lives has contemplated the "big" questions, it's a major letdown never being privy to any of these discussions. I found myself frustrated and crying out for just a snippet of Joseph and Alma's conversations here and there, no matter how small. This omission, I soon learned, is a foreshadowing of further omissions and disappointments that come upon later in the book.

Soon after Joseph is invited to move in with Alma as a housemate and companion, he meets her freeloading nephew, Eric, who quickly becomes the bane of Joseph’s existence. Eric is a lazy, unconscionable leech. A user, moocher and manipulator. Eric is the "anti-Joseph". Joseph is a good person, a "moral agent" (in philosophical terms), who thinks things through and acts rationally. Eric doesn’t work, doesn’t go to school and only cares about himself. Eric becomes the only source of friction, if not outright disagreement, between Joseph and Alma.

Joseph feels free and at home with Alma in her house, it's as if he has "come home". He has overcome a pedestrian and blue collar family life and upbringing that tried to dissuade him from living a life based on introspection and study, denying the very essence of what Joseph has made of his life. Eric threatens the stability and comfort that Joseph has finally found in Alma‘s home. It's surprising, to say the least, when Joseph's character suddenly begins to change. He becomes a selfish, self-centered, greedy, aggressive, reacting-without-thinking person whose morals either take a back seat or are reasoned away. All too quickly Joseph is completely different than the man we were rooting for to the point that we no longer recognize him. It would have been more believable had he used his faith in philosophy, hard work and thoughtfulness to take care of the "Eric problem" Not to mention that at this point in the book there is a huge drag as we're sucked into page after page of the first of several of Joseph's rants, rambling incoherently, paranoid and distrustful, trying to come to terms with his new found wealth provided by Alma

Without giving major parts of the story away, suffice it to say that the book fails from the moment of Joseph's bizarre and totally uncharacteristic way of taking care of the conflict with Eric. It really is a shame that the author felt the need to suddenly turn the book into some kind of pseudo thriller story as it becomes impossible to continue to "root" for Joseph once he has broken from who we were made to think he truly is. (I find myself tempted to compare Joseph's descent to Annikan Skywalker's conversion to the Dark Side of the Force.) If Mr. Kellerman thinks he is presenting some unique situation where we are at odds with ourselves, wanting to root for Joseph but unsure of whether or not to do so, he is mistaken. The shift in Joseph's character and actions themselves are too hard to swallow, too drastic to believe. At times it almost seems as if there are two Josephs, just as if it seems that two different people authored this book. Anyway, I can't help but wonder if it was Mr. Kellerman's intention that we continue to support Joseph, hoping he escapes from his self created debacle unscathed? I think it's safe to say that to entertain the notion we would still be rooting for him is completely out of the question.
Why the author went down this road is a mystery to me. The Executor began with such promise. There are so many other ways Joseph could have gone about handling the situation he found himself in, so many ways that were more reasonable, more in tune with his character, that we are stuck like a broken record asking "why", time and again as Joseph goes from one inconsistency to the next in thought and action. Had Kellerman followed through with the book's initial premise and permitted Joseph to behave consistently with his character I believe it wouldn't have diminished the entertainment value of the book because the story's believability would have been maintained. The type of audience initially attracted to this book, would have thoroughly enjoyed reading along as Joseph solved, with intellect and cunning, a seemingly unsolvable quandary and didn’t resort to Hobbes-like violence.

I have not given up on Mr. Kellerman and will read some of his new or already written books with the hope that they present a unique premise with an equally unique resolution!

I received this book from the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, for review.