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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: November 2015

Guest Post by Kevine Walcott, author of INSTITUTIONALISED

 

Vas Constanti - Book Cover - 1 A (background)

Kevine Walcott was a successful businesswoman living a peaceful, prosperous life in the United Kingdom. In 2009, she opened a YouTube account and joined the social media world. She didn’t realize that this innocent decision would unravel her happy life.

Walcott, who was once a devout Christian, posted videos about her faith and viewed some clips about ancient Egyptian religions. Suddenly, vile and threatening messages from mysterious people flooded her YouTube in-box. At first, she asked the harassers to stop. Then, she simply ignored the messages. When they began posting videos about her and sharing her real name and personal information, Walcott turned to the authorities for help.

Ironically, seeking assistance would be her greatest mistake. Walcott discovered links between government agents, the National Health Service, and the cyber attacks. Soon, the attacks would make the leap from cyberspace to the real world, and Walcott would end up in a government psychiatric ward.

Her explosive new book exposes the terrifying dangers of unchecked government control, antiquated mental health laws, and the corrupt ties between the two.

Walcott’s discovery of the links between the NHS and law enforcement almost got her shut away for life. With the release of Institutionalised, she’s fighting back.

 

What if you wake up one day and find yourself at the centre of online trolling (abuse), and only months and years later to be told you are mentally ill when talking about your experience? What happens when the only witness of what goes on in your home is you and your perpetrator? When the police, intelligence services and doctors are in bed together there is no end to your suffering. Being told it is all inside your head and having no place to run and no one to turn to for help. These scenarios may sound like a nightmare, but for victims of government harassment these experiences are real. One in four of the population will suffer from a mental health condition at least once in their life, but to have mental illness being used as a punitive psychiatric policy is too much to stomach.

I was once a globe-trotting business owner; confident, happy and seemingly untouchable. However, after becoming the victim of YouTube cyber-attacks, I found myself institutionalised at an NHS facility and under the control of the country’s medieval mental health laws.

In ‘Institutionalised’, I bare all. Most shocking is that the cyber-attacks were not initiated by teenage trolls or a disgruntled former lover; but agents working for the UK Government. Prepare to learn about a shocking new form of modern oppression, because I have one searing story to tell.

My shocking and frightening new memoir describes my online victimisation at the hands of UK Government operatives, leading to my being institutionalised under the British government’s punitive psychiatric strategy. Fusing a memoir with activism, I pull no punches when exposing the illegal relationship between intelligence services and the NHS, while calling on readers to spread the world and end this new digital form of Governmental oppression.

 

“It is vital that the NHS separates and distances itself from Police and Intelligence Services. Right now, they are virtually in bed with each other.”

“Health professionals cannot make correct diagnoses while Government agents are part of the process and abusing their powers for the sake of control.”

“As a result, I became involved in the judiciary in ways I could never have imagined, and that entire process was also moulded around the Government’s mandate to control. If any case appears to be exposing Government abuse or their illegal activities, the Court will throw it out. It’s unbelievable, but true.”

People with a story to tell may also come under fire simply for putting pen to paper but these stories of truth must be told.

“They threatened to institutionalise me again just for wanting to tell my story. I now live my life treading on egg shells; a far cry from the beacon of confidence and independence that I was before. My advice to everyone is to watch your movements, be careful what you seek out online and – above all – trust nobody.”

Want your own copy? Click here.

About the Author:

Kevine Walcott is a property professional with a masters degree from University College London. She had found herself at the centre of an online hate campaign after accessing videos on ancient Egyptian religion on YouTube. She had discovered that some of her harassers were government agents. She had fought with her harassers who took their campaign offline and onto the streets and into her home. She had documented her experience in this thrilling memoir where the accounts are frightening. She told how her experience left her institutionalised by those using mental health as a disguising veneer to cover up abuses by law enforcement and the intelligence services and the role religion and history places in these unfortunate events.

Understanding Girls with ADHD by Kathleen Nadeau, PhD

 

adhd

First written in 1999, the new edition of Understanding Girls with ADHD is better than ever.
In this expanded and updated book, Kathleen Nadeau, Ellen Littman, and Patricia Quinn rise to the occasion and deliver a comprehensive, up-to-date, and readable book that illuminates the complexity of ADHD in girls and women, both across the lifespan and across multiple domains of life (e.g.,
home, school, the workplace, close relationships). Blending clinical examples, case material, and a masterful synthesis of research findings around the world, the authors reveal the roots of ADHD in females during the preschool years, also summarizing relevant causal factors, and display the highly individualized journeys through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that these girls and women face. The book’s latter chapters make use of the information on ADHD and development and provide a synthesis of the kinds of treatment strategies needed to intervene with the complex issues faced by girls and families who struggle with ADHD. The authors’ working through the executive functioning deficits experienced by so many girls with ADHD―and their deployment of vivid examples of right vs. wrong ways of approaching such problems―will be of great importance for large numbers of families. Even more, the authors emphasize that ADHD rarely exists in a vacuum and that understanding and treating co-morbid disorders is essential.

Understanding Girls with ADHD does not shy away from key areas of controversy. How, for example, can a family know whether it’s ADHD or another set of problems that’s the primary issue? How does one deal with the potential use of medication, which is plagued by bad press and abundant myths but which can, as part of a multi-faceted treatment plan, provide great benefit if the right dose is found and if the doctor works with the family to monitor positive effects and side effects carefully? What about longterm risk for eating pathology, substance abuse, and other difficult areas of impairment of salience for girls? How can girls and their families break through the thicket of negative expectations and sometimes-toxic family interactions to pave the way for a different set of outcomes?

Clearly, ADHD does not look the same across different individuals, especially girls. Understanding Girls with ADHD emphasizes the multiple ways in which ADHD can manifest itself across different people, families, and ages.

Always sensitive, and without hesitation in providing an authoritative tone, this book will empower girls and their families in ways that are sorely needed. Its emphasis on gender-specific manifestations of ADHD and its inclusion of practical means of attacking the executive-function deficits that plague girls and women with ADHD will ensure its continued status as core guidebook.

Written with compassion and sensitivity, and full of the clinical wisdom that accompanies years of experience on the front lines, Understanding Girls with ADHD is the go-to book for those needing guidance, support, and knowledge about female manifestations of ADHD.

Many thanks to the author for gifting this book to me. We were introduced by Gina Pera, eminent ADHD advocate and educator. I was sure this book would provide useful information, and I was not disappointed.

Nearly all the books I’ve read about ADHD skews heavily towards males. Everyone is familiar with the stereotype of the energetic little boy, jumping out of his seat in school, and throwing tantrums in the restaurant. However, girls can have ADHD too, and the signs may not be as obvious. This book aims to educate parents and teachers about girls with ADHD and what signs to look for.

Nadeau’s tone is just right. There is no endless scientific posturing, no glib New Agey solutions; just honest talk and positive thinking. She also discusses the different way girls are affected by ADHD. For example: the hormonal changes of puberty, famous for wreaking havoc on the most stable female’s world, may cause ADHD symptoms to be seen for the first time. This is important because “these girls do not meet the DSM-5 requirement that evidence of ADHD problems must exist prior to 12 years of age in order to receive and ADHD diagnosis”.

Using case studies and real life examples, Nadeau provides short vignettes of life with an ADHD girl. These serve well to illustrate the point being discussed and parents will be able to see that Carly is not just being a typical teenager, she may have undiagnosed ADHD and need help.

Each chapter builds upon the last one, starting from grammar school all the way up to college. The chapters are further broken down into easy to grasp sections, with titles like “What Teachers See” and “Gender Role Expectations”.  A typical tomboy may be a girl struggling with hyperactivity or impulsivity, and the girl everyone knows as a sweet, quiet dreamer may have inattentive ADHD and need help with focusing on her schoolwork. Girls are also at risk for developing secondary issues such as anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse.  Nadeau offers advice on managing co-morbid syndromes along with the ADHD, using a complete therapy approach–utilizing family and school together. She speaks to the parents, saying not to despair, but to provide an organized environment that will work for a girl’s psyche–don’t just adapt a treatment plan constructed for the male brain. One of her tenets is that ADHD treatment should address quality of life, not just aiming to reduce ADHD symptoms. The two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Societal pressure on girls to “have it all” affect them deeply. The quiet, dreamy girls may need help asserting themselves, while the outspoken ones with seemingly no filter will have to be taught how not to alienate their peers. Nadeau is wise to address the minefield that the school years bring to females, who generally have a harder time as they proceed through puberty. She truly is a champion for those that need it the most.

Women have either been getting shortchanged by being told that “girls don’t get ADHD” or forced to fit the description of the male ADHD pattern. Nadeau has done a great service by realizing that girls are different (Mars vs Venus, anyone?) and thus their ADHD will manifest differently as well. The more educated parents are about this quirk of neurobiology, the better off they, and their daughters, will  be.

Want  your own copy? You can pick it up here.

How The Art Of Medicine Makes The Science More Effective by Claudia Welch

art of medicine

Does the art of medicine matter? Does it really help us become better doctors and improve results? Dr. Claudia Welch explores how the effectiveness of a physician extends far beyond the ability to prescribe correct treatments, and how mastering the art of doctoring can make the medicine more effective.
Drawing on Eastern medical traditions and experience as well as on Western science, Dr. Welch examines how we know what we know, the mechanics of doctor-patient emotional contagion, and the degree to which a patient’s sensory experience in a medical office affects their experience of treatments delivered. Dr. Welch also offers practical steps that doctors can take to cultivate more refined perceptive abilities and improve results.

Dr. Welch’s book will be essential reading for all health care practitioners interested in understanding the art of their practice and how it can enhance therapeutic outcomes, including doctors of Ayurveda, Chinese medicine, Naturopathy, as well as western medical professionals and other complementary health practitioners.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for offering this book for review!

I was pretty excited to see what this book would have to say about combining the tenets of Eastern and Western medicine, for there are certainly values to both. However, I was consistently underwhelmed by the author’s ideas, and some of them seemed way out there.

Perhaps it’s instinct to me that a physician cares for his patients, that he takes care of his own health, that he provides a welcoming and healing atmosphere for them. Apparently this does not always happen, as Welch puts forth all these suggestions in the book. I will say, that the idea of making waiting rooms a little quieter and mellower with soft colors and quiet music sounds wonderful. HIPAA laws force sick people to sit in rooms with the TV blaring away, lest we overhear sensitive health information belonging to other patients. There has got to be a better way, and Welch outlines this in a way that had me in full agreement. (See chapter 12, Healing Through Environment.)

However, the rest of the book was not captivating to me at all. Her suggestions for communication between doctors and patients were all spot on, but again common sense for me. Do all doctors talk the same way to everyone? I thought they were more empathetic, seeing the patient’s personality and using a method of communication modified to each person.

Another suggestion is to have longer appointments and sit quietly so the doctor can feel the patient’s vibrations and let the body tell the history. In today’s hustle and bustle double booked appointment schedule, there is probably no way any doctor will be able to sit quietly with a patient and take their pulse for 15 minutes, and look into their eyes and their soul and figure out if their Qi is unbalanced. I’m sure a little dose of slowing things down would be immensely helpful, but that’s not how it’s done in Western medicine. Perhaps this is one area that would benefit from the author’s suggestions.

Welch also talks about doctors keeping an optimistic outlook for very sick patients, saying that multiple studies have proven the effect of positivity. (Chapter 19, Choosing Hope.) That is also a no brainer for me, and seems to be the norm in my dealings with my own doctors. I’ve never had one tell me things were hopeless, and I’m also sure doctors who treat people with cancer are as supportive as they can be.

In Chapter 32, Reflections on Part III,  the author talks about the benefits of dexterity; not solely physical, but mental and emotional as well.

Practicing dexterity keeps our thinking flexible and our minds open and receptive to possibilities beyond our ability to predict. This can only further refine our confidence, humility, communication, empathy, and diagnostic accuracy, and result in better outcomes for our patients. (I)t would not be amiss to add dexterity to the list of qualities central to the art of medicine. 

This may be all I found germane in this book. Throughout the pages can be found stories  that strain credulity; such as the tale of how a guru healed a boy after all else failed, simply because the guru was leading a purified life and had disciplined thoughts. There is another story of how the author’s sister was in labor, ACTUAL labor two months early, and the power of positive thinking stopped the labor. I found that a bit hard to believe. (Or else it was Braxton-Hicks contractions, no matter what Welch says.)

When I read about a patient that had chronic yeast infections and it was determined that “astrological influences” were causing the infections, and all the woman had to do was continue taking the medication for 6 months (until the influences passed), I was ready to close the book and be done. The gap between Eastern and Western medicine is perhaps due to thinking like this.

Finally (yes, I kept reading) I reached a point where the author was talking about herbs and plants to heal. (Chapter 42, Potency.) The chapter progressed from information about biological responses, such as when plants secrete a noxious substance to protect themselves from insects, to a statement about being respectful to plants so as to preserve their healing qualities.

I agree we need to respect the Earth and treat our surroundings carefully; but I don’t feel that

If we are indifferent or violent to plants, they may alter their qualities and actions — their very chemistry — in an attempt to protect themselves from us. This may initiate a chain reaction, altering kindred plants, other species, and the environment.

At this point, I gave up reading. I felt I had nothing else to learn from the book. There are certainly practitioners and patients that will benefit from the ideas put forth in these pages, but I can’t say I agree with it all.

HOW THE ART OF MEDICINE MAKES THE SCIENCE MORE EFFECTIVE is well written, thought provoking, and does have ideas that will aid a thoughtful physician in his practice. But not everyone will agree with the Eastern medicine way of thinking.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

e-Murderer by Joan C. Curtis

e-Murderer

 

 e-MURDERER is a race to find a psychotic killer before he kills again.
On this anything but typical Monday morning Jenna Scali, who works part-time for a shrink, opens an email that depicts the brutal death of a young girl. On that same day the police uncover a dead coed two blocks from Jenna’s house. The e-murderer’s description creepily echos the death described in the newspapers.

 

Thanks once again to author Joan C. Curtis, who also wrote THE CLOCK STRIKES MIDNIGHT, for gifting me this book for review.

 

Jenna Scali is a reluctant participant in the events taking place around her. She gets an email out of the blue that describes a murder, and thinks nothing of it. But when the emails keep coming, and the body count around her starts rising, she realizes that the common thread is her and she’s got to do something before she’s the next victim.

The tone of E-MURDERER is different from CLOCK in that it’s a bit lighter –  the main character hasn’t got a time limit of three months left to live – and so that sense of urgency isn’t in the forefront. However, Curtis does a great job of creating drama with a light hearted touch by including her wonderful Southern humor.  For example: Jenna’s friend and co-worker Starr says  (about digging through patient files on the down low) “We can go through these files like my mama used to go through my diary”. Curtis is also a master of describing odious characters clearly, with descriptions that will have you cringing (oniony breath, yellow teeth–ugh!). It’s always easy to develop a picture in your mind when you read her books, which is a quality I value in an author.

Jenna’s pal Starr is a true outspoken Southern girl and tells Jenna the truth with no holds barred. I just loved all her pithy sayings and sassy attitude. Compared to Starr, I found Jenna a bit wishy washy, when she kept hesitating to go to the police because she didn’t want to cause trouble at her job by possibly violating patient’s privacy. I also wondered at her boss’s seeming lack of concern for Jenna. He seemed mildly interested for a few moments whenever Jenna would try to explain things and talk about murder, then he would brush her off and resume work. I began to get frustrated with both him and Jenna for being so passive. Eventually the danger becomes too much to handle for Jenna and she is off and running, taking matters into her own hands despite her fears.

Plot twists begin to pop up towards the middle of the book, and the action picks up. Jenna begins sleuthing in earnest, and starts to develop feelings for the handsome policeman handling the case. She is also trying to convince her boyfriend that she needs more space, a concept he is having trouble grasping. Once again, Curtis’ character development is dead on, as the clingy boyfriend becomes more and more irritating.

Some of the supporting characters start to appear guilty, but it will not be obvious who the e-murderer is until you get near the end. Curtis gives you just enough information to tantalize you with a hint of suspicious behavior, and then another character seems like a better candidate!

Always enthralling and often amusing, E-MURDERER is another fun and fast read. Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Q&A with Lisa Becker, author of Clutch

clutch cover final

 

Clutch is the laugh-out-loud, chick lit story that chronicles the dating misadventures of Caroline Johnson, a single purse designer, who goes through a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships she compares to various styles of handbags – the “Hobo” starving artist, the “Diaper Bag” single dad, the “Briefcase” intense businessman, etc.  With her best friend, bar owner Mike by her side, the overly-accommodating Caroline drinks Chardonnay, puts her heart on the line, endures her share of unworthy suitors and finds the courage to stand up for the handbag style that embodies what she ultimately wants – the “Clutch” or someone to hold onto.

 

We are proud to present this Q&A with author Lisa Becker. The idea of “men as handbags” is a really funny and unique one, and I’m sure we can all identify with it one way or another! Enjoy this post, then go out and buy her book – click here to purchase it.

 

1) Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m fortunate to have had a series of wonderful careers outside of writing including being a wife, mom, PR professional, college professor and community volunteer.   CLUTCH: A NOVEL is my 4th book.  The book actually started out as a screenplay that was optioned by a production company housed at one of the major movie studios summer 2014.  Unfortunately, it fell out of development.  I was eager to have this fun story with some of my favorite characters told, so I turned it into a short novel earlier this year.

 

2) What inspired you to write CLUTCH?

When I was writing the Click Trilogy, (Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click) I was obsessed with NCIS reruns and would have the show on in the background as I wrote.  There was an episode when one of the characters mentioned that men were like purses – something useless to hang on a woman’s arm.  I started thinking about how men are like handbags and the idea grew from there.

3) What advice do you have for women in search of their clutch?

In the modern classic film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” Tim Robbins’ character, Andy Dufresne, says to Morgan Freeman’s Red, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  That quote comes to mind when I think about searching for the clutch.  If you feel like it’s not going to happen, then just give up.  You heard me.  GIVE UP!   Just surrender to that notion that you’ll end up alone.  If that is truly the case, do you want to spend the next 30, 40 or even 50+ years wallowing in misery?  Sitting around and lamenting your singleness?  Or are you going to get busy living?  Buy your own home!  Travel to all of the places you want to visit!  Adopt a child!  Write that novel!  Engage in hobbies and activities that bring you joy!

Chances are, when you start focusing on what will make you happy – not who will make you happy – you WILL be happy.  Happiness is evident and infectious.  Happiness makes you more interesting and more attractive to someone else.  And when that happens, you are more likely to meet the right person who is going to complement the amazing life you’ve created for yourself.

 

4) What are your plans for the future?

In addition to promoting the new book, I’m looking into making connections within the motion picture industry to try and get a movie version made.  I’m eager to see if there’s interest from someone else on bringing this fun and quirky story to the big screen.  So if you happen to be a well-to-do movie producer looking to make a new romantic comedy, please get in touch!

 

5) How can readers connect with you?

lisa becker

 

Lisa’s Books: Click: An Online Love StoryDouble ClickRight Click and clutch: a novel

Find Lisa: Facebook | Twitter  | Pinterest  | Web  | YouTube

 

 

 

 

 

Silk Legacy by Richard Brawer

silk

In early twentieth century Paterson, New Jersey, dashing twenty-nine year old Abraham Bressler charms naïve nineteen year old Sarah Singer into marriage by making her believe he feels the same way she does about the new calling of a modern woman. He then turns around and gives her little more respect than he would a servant, demanding she stay home to care for “his” house and “his” children.

Feeling betrayed, Sarah defies him and joins women’s groups, actively participating in rallies for woman suffrage, child welfare and reproductive freedom. For a while she succeeds in treading delicately between the demands of her husband and her desire to be an independent woman. Her balancing act falters when a strike shuts down Paterson’s 300 silk mills. With many friends working in the mills, Sarah is forced to choose sides in the battle between her Capitalist husband and his Socialist brother, a union leader who happens to be her best friend’s husband.

Jealousy, infidelity, arrogance, greed—the characters’ titanic struggles will catapult you into the heights of their euphoria and the depths of their despair. Who will triumph and who will be humbled is not certain until the last page.

Thanks to the author for giving me this book in exchange for a review.

Excerpt:

Sarah pushed aside the muslin curtain on her bedroom window and stared at the sidewalk.  She was glad her father had invited him after dinner, rather than in the daytime.  The shops had closed.  The streets were empty of commercial traffic.  Most people had settled into their evening rituals of reading, sewing, playing a game of cards or checkers in their parlors, or sitting and gossiping on the building’s stoops enjoying this splendid May evening.  Even in the flickering light of the gas street lamps she would have no trouble spotting him coming down the sidewalk.
She first noticed him across the room at her best friend’s wedding.  When their eyes met and he smiled, her heart fluttered and she almost swooned.  He was so handsome, so distinguished with his sweeping handlebar mustache.  He carried himself straight and tall, sure of himself, not like the other men in the congregation who cowered when they walked, as if they were trying to draw themselves into a cocoon they thought would protect them from the outside world.
She ached to meet him right then and there, but women weren’t allowed to mix with men at weddings.  That Biblical edict did not stop her from discretely inquiring as to who he was.  When she learned he was the groom’s brother, she was overjoyed.  Her father had to know him.  He had taught all the Bresslers.  On their walk home from the wedding she asked her father about him.
Before her father could answer, her mother cut in and said, “He’s no one you are to concern yourself with, Sarah.”
“Why?  What’s wrong with him?”
“Nothing,” her father said.  “He was one of my best students.”  Looking quizzically at his wife, he said, “I invited him to our house Wednesday evening.”
Delight engulfed Sarah.  But her brief moment of ecstasy crashed into desolation when her mother shrieked, “You didn’t!”
Her father cowered at the rebuke, and offered his daughter no help when her mother told her, “You will be confined to your room.”
“Why?” Sarah cried.
“Because I said so.  That is all you have to know.”
Despite her mother’s forbidding, Sarah readied herself anyway in hopes her mother would have a last minute change of heart.  She put her hair up, and dressed in the white linen shirt-waist with flowing sleeves and ruffled cuffs trimmed in pink satin ribbon.
“Sarah, come away from the window.”
Startled by her mother’s voice, Sarah withdrew her hand from the curtain as if she had grabbed the hot handle of a skillet.  “Why won’t you let me meet him?” she asked.
Her mother crossed to the bed, sat down and patted a place next to her.  “Come, sit by me.”
Sarah obeyed and fidgeted with a strand of hair that had escaped from her bun.
Taking her daughter’s hand, her mother said, “He’s not right for you, my darling.  He’s too old.”
“But he’s only ten years older than I.  Father is twelve years older than you.”
“That’s true, but your father is a learned man—a scholar, a teacher.  He is counting on you to carry on for him.”
“And I will.”
“Not if you were to become attached to Mr. Bressler.”
“Why?  Mr. Bressler is an educated man.  He knows the value of learning.”
“Does he?”
“Father said he taught him.”
“But it does not mean he learned anything.”
Confused, Sarah stared at her mother.
“You know all the places you read about and are aching to see—the Eiffel Tower, Rome, the Great Wall of China?  You will never see them if you marry Mr. Bressler.”
“How do you know that?  My friend, Cecelia, Mr. Bressler’s sister-in-law, told me Mr. Bressler makes a wonderful living from his business.”
“Yes, a saloon.”
“He’s not a shiker?”
“His father is.”
“But he’s not a drunkard?”
“Not that I know.”
Sarah sighed with relief.  “Then why won’t you let me meet him?” 
“Sarah, please.  You knew the Bressler family back in Latvia.  The father is a carouser.  The uncle is an azes ponim—an arrogant man.  You are aware the uncle tried to get your father fired for teaching the writings of Karl Marx?”
Sarah didn’t answer, thinking, yes the father did neglect his family, and the uncle lorded his riches over everyone.  But that did not mean Abe was like them.  Her best friend, Cecelia—Abe’s new sister-in-law—said her husband was a wonderful man.
“You do know what a sow is?”  Sarah’s mother asked.
“Of course.  Trayf.  Not kosher.”
“There is a saying I picked up in this city of silk which fits Mr. Bressler very well. ‘You cannot make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.’  Let him go.  He will stifle you.”

SILK LEGACY is two stories in one–a romance and a Capitalist/Socialist struggle pitting brother against brother. The first part of the book goes by smoothly, as we are introduced to the Bressler family. As the years go by the struggles surface, and while I was firmly in Sarah’s corner (as she struggles against the mighty thumb of opppression wielded by her husband, Abe), I was not sure who to support regarding the labor wars, Abe or Solomon. Both sides are equally represented, and the author paints a wonderfully accurate picture of working class struggles in burgeoning Paterson, NJ.

This book was written so well, I had to stop to double check the author’s name on the front! It could have easily been composed by Ken Follett or Colleen McCullough. There is history, romance, intrigue, and the setting is authentic. I especially was moved during the suffragette’s parade in Washington, as I read about their high hopes and what actually took place.

It is always interesting to see how an author handles a roman a clef, and Brawer intersperses real and fictional characters seamlessly. The dialogue flows smooothly and there are no awkward transitions that are the hallmark of a less talented author.

The only caveat I have to note is that the plot is taken over by the politics and labor talk, to the exclusion of everything else as the story progresses. It started to seem a bit unbalanced and I found myself becoming less enthralled with the story. Just as things move away from the union struggles, the book comes to an abrupt ending. It was a bit hard for me to see how Solomon would have acted the way he did, given his previous behavior, but there it is. That was the only stutter in an otherwise wonderfully written novel.

There is a great deal of history in these pages—anyone with an interest in how the unions came to be will want to pick this up. You can get your own copy here.

 

From The Mouths of Dogs by BJ Hollars

 

from the mouths of dogs

What is it that dogs have done to earn the title of “man’s best friend”? And more broadly, how have all of our furry, feathered, and four-legged brethren managed to enrich our lives? Why do we love them? What can we learn from them? And why is it so difficult to say good-bye? Join B.J. Hollars as he attempts to find out—beginning with an ancient dog cemetery in Ashkelon, Israel, and moving to the present day.

Hollars’s firsthand reports recount a range of stories: the arduous existence of a shelter officer, a woman’s relentless attempt to found a senior-dog adoption facility, a family’s struggle to create a one-of-a-kind orthotic for its bulldog, and the particular bond between a blind woman and her Seeing Eye dog. The book culminates with Hollars’s own cross-country journey to Hartsdale Pet Cemetery—the country’s largest and oldest pet cemetery—to begin the long-overdue process of laying his own childhood dog to rest.

Through these stories, Hollars reveals much about our pets but even more about the humans who share their lives, providing a much-needed reminder that the world would be a better place if we took a few cues from man’s best friends.

 

Thanks to the University of Nebraska Press for providing this ARC!

Author BJ Hollars has a unique writing style, at times wonderfully evocative,  and at others somewhat cloying. He is great at describing the scene, whether it’s a dreary shelter or a well furnished blind woman’s home (he realizes that the decorations are for the sighted visitors, in an “aha” moment that pulled me up short, as did him).

He is also unashamed to describe his deepest and most secret emotions as well–he is very moved by the euthanasia of a shelter dog and shares with the reader his reticence to witness the event. Towards the end of the book, when he is recounting his road trip to scatter the ashes of his family pet that died many years ago, he lays bare his grief in a way that encompasses his family, his journey through life, and the love for his dog, even though she has been gone for years, her ashes gathering dust on a shelf in his parent’s home.

There are also times when he seems too glib for his own good, as he belabors the point of a bulldog’s gas, or saying a desceased dog was “found deflated” in a bedroom. These moments are few and far between, thankfully. Most of the book is filled with touching moments and “lessons” learned from his interactions, such as live your life with hope and don’t judge a book by its cover.

Dogs and people share space equally in this book; as we see how canines enrich the human lives and vice versa. Not all told here is sweetness and light, however. Hollars manages to take some of the darkest things we know: death, disability, and aging; then spin them into a story that will leave you with respect for the bond between a dog and his person.  He is not afraid to cover touchy subjects, such as a dog sentenced to death for killing a cat (and how the shelter subsequently handles that situation).

I’m thinking that the readers of this book will come away with new knowledge and respect for both dogs and the humans that love and care for them. The stories are easy reading and can be read one chapter at a time without losing your place. Definitely a winner.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

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