Book Review: The Shell of a Person by Lance Pototschnik

Probably my favorite cover of the year (so far)…



This book is absolutely hilarious.  I think I woke up my husband a few times laughing my ass off.  Here is the synopsis:

“Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica! Come and experience our diverse wildlife. Exhume nests of dead baby turtles and stay up all night while mosquitoes elicit blood from your very soul! Indulge in the local cuisine. Eat rice and beans until the malnutrition engenders hallucinations! Travel west to Guanacaste, to the peninsula that pokes into the Pacific like a fang. Lose yourself on the remote, cocoa-dust beaches, where rare sea turtles drag themselves from the seething ocean to nest. Camp beside the water to leave civilization and all its cheerfulness behind. Burn bucketfuls of used toilet paper, shiver in an infested bed and pump your bathing water from a putrid hole…every single day for weeks!”

Lance Pototschnik and his friends must have booked their trip with that agency. Their incredibly affordable “vacation” was meant to be a relaxing time to meditate on the direction of their languid, aimless lives. Instead, they are introduced to hell and the insane diversity of its tortures.

Marooned on a remote sea turtle conservancy with a handful of fellow unanchored souls, Pototschnik, in his hilarious debut memoir, ponders who he essentially is, and what he is likely to become. But he speaks to all of us. In Pototschnik, those who have fallen prey to the desolation of broken dreams, the young and the listless, finally find a voice with the talent to cast out demons and turn them into laughs. Through his own outrageous tale, Pototschnik offers the questions of the brooding, the concerns of the anxious and the hopes of the hopeless in a witty, irrepressible voice that will not shame them. 

Beneath its shell, this rollicking, episodic story is also a treatise about finding your purpose, realizing your full potential and learning to love your own life. Pototschnik’s very personal book happens to be the story we have all been hoping for. The Shell of a Person is one of the best books by an emerging author this year.

The hilarity.  The humor is fantastic.  The descriptions of his fellow turtle rescuers is priceless.  They come from all over the world and he mainly refers to them by their country of origin.  And then there are the physical descriptions:

She seemed as miserable with herself as us three incomers, and her face was slightly reminiscent of Eduardo, the fetal pig I dissected in college lab. 

The description of one of his chores in the camp literally made tears roll down my face.  But aside from the humor, the author really examines this time period in young adulthood:

All of us at the rescue, whether we all knew it or not, were shells, skin puppets, waiting for something to crawl inside and animate us, and only now, with the example of the possessed French woman, did I realize that, all this time, the evil things had had as good a chance of finding the hollow as the good things.

Very thought-provoking, excellently written.  He also provides a pretty good description of what I think life might be like in this part of the world.

Many of my “reading wishes” were answered: excellent writing, fantastic descriptions of places I have never been to, humor and a deeper meaning.

A short read and highly recommended.

Book Review: Djinn by Laura Catherine



Ohhhh….I really liked this book.  Really, really, liked it.  Read in one day, liked it.  Here is the synopsis:

Kyra’s life is far from normal.

She’s been on the run for as long as she can remember and her father is the only stable thing in her life, but everything changes when the people pursuing them finally catch up.

Kyra is abducted by the handsome and mysterious, Will. He takes her to a secret compound where she is told the truth: She’s a Djinn, a genie-like creature with super powers and a love of dogs.

Kyra has to adjust to the Djinn and their rules, but her new life is far from perfect. Everyone is hiding something and the one person Kyra cares about most is forbidden to her.

There are secrets around every corner and more dangers than Kyra could ever imagine as she struggles to find herself and be with the one she loves.

Very different from the normal “vampire and werewolves” fare.  That is why I was drawn to this book.  I recently read the Forbidden Trilogy by Karpov Kinrade(I may do a post on it soon), and this kind of reminds me of that series mixed in with one I love, but have yet to finish, called The Significance Series by Shelly Crane.

Kyra is a very strong character.  Very strong-willed, smart, resourceful.  She analyzes her situation and tries not to get too emotional.

I don’t want to give any of the twists and turns away at all, but this is probably one of the least predictable YA novels I have ever read.  You think you know where it’s going and WHAM! a new twist.  That is probably why I was up until 3 a.m. last night finishing this book.  Characters aren’t stereotypical, events aren’t what they seem.  Very refreshing in this genre.

I found myself wishing this book was longer.  I wanted to know more about the Blooders, the history of the djinn and their wars.  I guess if this is going to be a trilogy, there is more to come.

I also like the social commentary.  Most of the time I try to ignore that, but the commentary in this book was written in such a way that it wasn’t preachy, it wasn’t political.  It was just part of the story and events weren’t contrived to get the point across.  It was woven more naturally into the story.

This is strictly YA fare as well, I would be comfortable recommending it to a younger teen.  I wish books like these were written when I was younger!!!

Looking forward to the next few books…

Book Review: She Has Your Eyes by Elisa Lorello

I don’t always read chicklit, but when I do, it is always Elisa Lorello…


I stumbled upon Faking It a few years ago.  I eagerly awaited Ordinary World and wasn’t exactly disappointed like other readers.  And when I heard she was writing another Andi and David story I couldn’t wait for it to come out.

Yes, you should definitely read the other two books.  That helps to know Andi and David as characters and how much they have grown as people in the last decade.  It also helps the reader to understand their particular relationship and their past.

I’m getting ahead of myself, here is the synopsis for this book:

Andi and David have settled happily into Andi’s Northampton home, but David wants more. He wants them to get married. Their discussion is put on hold when Wylie, a fifteen-year-old girl, shows up in their backyard, bearing news that takes David’s mind off the future and sends it spiraling into the past. Reeling from David’s news, Andi receives a startling announcement of her own, one that leads to a relationship with her estranged mother. As Andi and her mother get closer and Wylie weaves her way into their lives, Andi finds solace in an old comfort: her ex-fiancé. With the past threatening to eclipse their future, the timing for a wedding is all wrong. But if Andi knows anything about timing, it’s that there’s no time to waste.

The things that are different about the Andi and David books are that they are so…..real.  So tangible.  Andi is a college professor.  David is impressive, he isn’t quite ordinary, but he’s not a gazillionaire or a vampire or a zombie slayer.  They have a unique relationship.  Neither one of them is perfect.  And well into their 40s, they are still figuring it out.  I guess that is what makes them so appealing.

Despite my differences with Andi, 10 years in age, completely different geographical location, motherhood, vocation, I do feel a kinship.  I have mommy issues.  I have self esteem and body image issues.  I’ve had several issues with unfaithful exs.  I get her.

But on some levels she infuriates me.  She can be a bit self centered.  She constantly overestimates her emotional capacity.  But that is what makes her very real as well.

The few romance books that I do read outside of vampires/zombies, dystopian and erotica paint most of the female protagonists as flawless with the exception of self esteem issues.  They feel that they don’t deserve the adoration or attention of their partner.  But they are rarely portrayed as selfish, self-absorbed, uncaring.  Not that this is Andi, but in some of her situations, she can be that way.

I absolutely loved the spotlight Ms. Lorello put on cancer and end of life care.  I am a hospice nurse.  Everything portrayed was 100% accurate.  I especially appreciated the incident portrayed of the patient refusing to prolong treatment and the reaction of her family to such a decision.  That is VERY common.

I have seen both sides of the coin.  Patients that hear the diagnosis, go through one or two treatments and decide not to spend the time they have left vomiting, and their family gets upset or supportive.  I have also seen patients hold out and fight to the very end and some of them die the day of their last treatment.  I loved the very realistic, very warm and honest events detailed in the book.

These series of books are a different type of chicklit, a different type of romance.  Various themes are explored throughout the ten years that cover these books.  These two characters have grown immensely, and not in a time that is associated with phenomenal personal growth.  I love that these characters are older, that they have histories and varied pasts.  That they were completely different people when they met and culminate as  better, stronger, healthier.

Themes of loss, regret, moving on, living life to the fullest are explored.  The characters are excellently fleshed out, very real, very three dimensional.

Recommended to all women.  You will find some aspect of yourself in Andi regardless of your situation in life.  You will be captivated by the story of Andi and David.  A very satisfying end (?) to their story.

Now can I get an Adulation sequel?

Book Review: Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith


I chose this book because it appealed to my whimsical nature.  Snow White was the first Disney movie I ever saw, in the theater, for it’s re-release.  I now have my own daughter, and she loves the Disney Princesses, although her fav is Belle.  Snow White was always my favorite princess until I discovered Princess Leia.  I do have to point out that I know absolutely nothing about where these fairy tales come from.  Outside of the sanitized Disney versions, I haven’t read any literature about the origins of these stories.  Now I want to.

Despite my very eclectic tastes in reading, I am always a sucker for the “happily ever after”.  Always have, always will be.  But I understand that “happily ever after” can have different meanings.  That was one of the things that drew me to this book.

Here is the synopsis:

What happens when “happily ever after” has come and gone?
On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven’s wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven’s fiancé, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White’s own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:
The king is dead.
The queen has been in a moribund state of hopeless depression for over a year with no end in sight. It is only when, in a fit of bitter despair, she seeks solitude in the vastness of her own sprawling castle and climbs a long disused and forgotten tower stair that she comes face to face with herself in the very same magic mirror used by her stepmother of old.
It promises her respite in its shimmering depths, but can Snow White trust a device that was so precious to a woman who sought to cause her such irreparable harm? Can she confront the demons of her own difficult past to discover a better future for herself and her family? And finally, can she release her soul-crushing grief and suffocating loneliness to once again discover what “happily ever after” really means?
Only time will tell as she wrestles with her past and is forced to confront The Reflections of Queen Snow White.
There were so many things I like about this book.  First being the writing style.  Very fitting of a book about a fairy tale, the writing is very elegant and proper without being nauseating.  For example, when describing Snow White’s throne room in comparison to the rest of the castle that is preparing for the wedding, Mr. Meredith writes:
The cavernous chamber appeared a bleak island of melancholy set adrift upon a sunny, celebratory sea.
The writing helps to transport the reader to the castle, to Snow White’s side, through the visions she sees through the mirror.  The writing also helps define the depth to her suffering:
Snow White had said she wanted to be alone, but that was not really true.  She simply was alone, whether there were any other people about to witness it or not.  now that she was by herself in the large room however, the queen was not at all sure what to do next.This of course was her regular dilemma.  It seemed difficult to do anything anymore but sit around feeling miserable and sad.
That is pretty much depression in a nutshell, whether it stems from grief or from illness.  Well done.
I love the use of the magic mirror to prompt Snow White to examine her life.  This is usually what is done in therapy, but being that therapists weren’t around in that time period and that cures for things pertaining to mental illness probably involved using leeches, I guess a magic mirror would have to do.  Here the mirror describes his role succinctly:
I simply do that which mirrors do.  You look in.  I show you a reflection of yourself- Nothing more.  Your stepmother thought herself beautiful, but I showed her the ugliness that dwelt in her heart as well.  She asked me then who there was more beautiful that she and again I showed her.  Some people are frightened of their own reflection, I’ve found.  They do not want to examine themselves too closely, for fear of what they will see – For fear of what others might discover.
Through the mirror, Snow White sees several events from her past, ranging from her stepmother’s abuse to her life with Charming.  Some of the events are terribly traumatic.  Some of them are very tender and emotional.  All of them serve a purpose as the mirror again counsels:
You know there is no forgetting, not really.  What happens, happens.  The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you!  Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind.  Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present..
I have found this especially true in my own personal life and my issues with domestic violence.  Leave it to a magic mirror to put it so plainly.
That noted, there are elements of abuse, especially surrounding her stepmother’s treatment of her.  It may trigger.  That was one thing I remember from all the Disney movies.  The absolute cruelty of the stepmothers featured.  I think that is why I refused to be referred to as a “stepmother” to this day.  I would rather my bonus son call me by my first name than his “stepmother”.  Thanks, fairy tales!!
This book is also not rated G.  It is not rated X either, but Snow White and Charming do get it on….in detail.  That was kind of refreshing.  For two reasons 1) it is a departure from the sanitized Disney versions of the fairy tales we have been force fed for the past 70 years. Yes, I know they are for children, but you rarely ever see the characters kiss…and in the next frame they get married?  And 2) these scenes were written by a man and they are very tender and not gratuitous.  Not something you associate with a man writing a sex scene.  Especially the one featuring the night of their wedding night.  Good job!!
It is a very short read and is well worth the $1.99 it is going for right now on amazon.
I really enjoyed this book.  Immensely.  It captured my imagination.  It spoke to that little girl in me who loved fairy tales but is now grown up and is now aware of the issues that face adults.  Excellent concept, excellent execution.  Highly recommended.

A Shade of Vampire Series


Good Lord, I am addicted to another one of these “vampire romance” series.  I stumbled on this series as part of my Kindle Lending Library benefits, and probably as intended, I was sucked in and bought the rest of the series.  And I am now eagerly awaiting the sixth book.

Here is the synopsis for the first book:

On the evening of Sofia Claremont’s 17th birthday, she is sucked into a nightmare from which she cannot wake. 
A quiet evening walk along a beach brings her face to face with a dangerous pale creature that craves much more than her blood. 

She is kidnapped to an island where the sun is eternally forbidden to shine. 
An island uncharted by any map and ruled by the most powerful vampire coven on the planet. She wakes here as a slave, a captive in chains. 

Sofia’s life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn when she is the one selected out of hundreds of girls to join the harem of Derek Novak, the dark royal Prince. 

Despite his addiction to power and obsessive thirst for her blood, Sofia soon realizes that the safest place on the island is within his quarters, and she must do all within her power to win him over if she is to survive even one more night.

Will she succeed? …or is she destined to the same fate that all other girls have met at the hands of the Novaks?

What I like about this series is that is is more….realistic? than the other vampire series.  The other “we are vegetarian vampire” series.  Vampires are historically monsters.  They feed off of humans.  And this series is no different.  Derek Novak fully intends to murder Sofia at first sight.  But there is something special about her, something different.  And that is why this series, and those like it, appeal to teenage girls.  They want to feel special.

This series is darker.  It is more violent.  I would put it at 17+.  And there is also sex.  The heroine does not remain a virgin until her wedding night.  But it is not particularly graphic.  It is not Fifty Shades of Vampire.  Although an adult version wouldn’t be a bad idea.

I do like the magic interspersed throughout the story.  The magic of the island, the travel.  The prophecy.  The intriguing love triangle.  I love how the island has been cut off from the rest of the world for centuries.  That creates a completely unique element.

As the stories progress, I love the twists and turns it takes involving vampire hunters, Sofia’s family ties, Derek’s past.  I am looking forward to see how it ends.

My only complaints?  The books are too short, probably as intended, and Sofia is way too good.  Too perfect.

Here is the list of the books in the series.  I seriously devoured them in a few days:

  1. Book 1: A Shade of Vampire
  2. Book 2: A Shade Of Blood
  3. Book 3: A Shade Of Vampire 3: A Castle Of Sand
  4. Book 4: A Shadow of Light
  5. Book 5: A Blaze of Sun

I also read Bella Forrest’s Beautiful Monster.  That two book series was absolutely phenomenal.  Her writing is excellent, her ability to change the rules of her universes are extremely unique.  I also recommend those books as well.

If you are looking for an escape into an interesting teenage vampire world that is a bit different, give this a try.  But make sure you have some time because you WILL get sucked in and you won’t be able to put them down.

Book Review: Master’s Journey and Master’s Return (The Mastery) by Simon Seth Reede

mastery1 mastery2

Ah yes. A bit different from the paranormal romance, but paranormal just the same. I do have an interest in meditation, and may have experienced a bit of out of body “travels” myself. I am immensely interested in lucid dreaming, past lives, etc, so this definitely tripped my trigger. Here is the synopsis for both books. And I hope there will be a third:

For the Master’s Journey:

Sid Solomon, Grand Master of the centuries-old organization of occult practitioners known as The Mastery, sets out on a journey to the far reaches of the astral plane to investigate signals from an unknown source that threaten to spark a devastating war with the Astral Powers. His journey derails in ways he cannot understand, leaving him terrified of astral travel. And although war has somehow been averted, Sid alone knows that his journey remains unfinished, that his time as Grand Master was a sham, and that one day, his destiny will catch up to him.

Dr. Bob Taylor, prominent psychiatrist and developer of a foolproof technique for treating multiple personality disorder, encounters a woman impervious to his procedure. His secretive attempt to salvage the case using an unconventional and unproven method backfires, and he begins to experience the same terrifying nightmares as his patient. Paralyzed by insomnia and teetering on the brink of insanity, he seeks out Sid Solomon’s help.

Tim Wake, a bright young research fellow on Taylor’s psychiatric unit, pursues a woman who insists he join her at a class in telepathic zenzing. But in the practice session, he’s paired up with Gwen, a temptress who seduces him telepathically and then, after becoming lovers, persuades him that the Mastery is responsible for the horrid dreams he’s been experiencing. Her true agenda remains hidden, and it could cost him his life—or worse.

All three are caught up in a web of inter-dimensional intrigue that will tie their fates together on the earth plane and the astral realms in ways they never could have imagined.

Master’s Journey is the first book of The Mastery, a trendsetting new series that trounces conventional genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy in its fast-paced romp across the astral plane. Astral travel, demonic possession, brain-wave technology, dark tantric sex, power objects, the sculpting of thought-forms, and the after-death realms—all feature prominently in this unique and innovative metaphysical thriller.

And Master’s Return:

Master’s Return is the sequel to Master’s Journey and the second book of The Mastery, a trendsetting new series that trounces conventional genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy in its fast-paced romp across the astral plane. Dream-shields, alternate realities, the origin of the gods, the nature of time, and the purpose of consciousness itself—all feature prominently in this unique and innovative metaphysical thriller.

Both are extremely well written.  It is hard for my brain to wrap around abstract ideas sometimes.  For me to envision other dimensions for which I have no frame of reference.  Like the author says in the beginning of Master’s Journey:

The human mind needed to impose its own familiar parameters onto the inherent formlessness of the astral.

Yep.  That’s me!! But this author makes it extremely vivid, his descriptions of the astral and astral travel, zenzing, and the like are absolutely amazing.  It is more than a physical description.  The reader can actually FEEL the words that are on the page.

The author uses the vehicle of the Mastery and their mission to seek out others with talents for astral travel as a way to more accurately explain this world.  They hold classes for the public, kind of like mindfulness classes or meditation classes to find recruits.  The teacher of the class explains zenzing in this way:

To understand zenzing you have to revise your beliefs about what it means to be human.  If you think of yourself as a physical body that moves through space and encounters things out there via the senses, then zenzing will never make sense to you.  Instead, try thinking of yourself as a field of elastic energy.  It surrounds your body, but can extend outward much farther than that.  Some call this the aura, or auric field.

Those types of explanations interspersed throughout both books, both from the perspective of someone just learning about this plane of existence, Bob and Tim, and those reviewing what they already know, Sid Solomon and Master Thomas, went very far, at least to this reader, to make the novels so real and tangible.  I think I honestly tried zenzing my husband a few times.

The story itself is a page turner.  Absolute thriller.  Excellent characters all around.  It was very difficult to get into at first, but once the story got rolling, it didn’t stop.  Two days to read both books.  Two days.

I also appreciated how the author wove two seemingly different threads of a story, Sid Solomon, Bob Taylor, Tim Wake, and finally made a cohesive tapestry.  It took awhile, but it all coalesced at the end.  It all made sense.  And it was fantastic.

At times, especially in book two, the entire “oceans of possibility” thing went a bit over my head, but I was able to at least grasp at the meaning to the story.

I also admire how the author was able to set a book 15 years in the future and make virtually no mention of future technology or society.  The focus was obviously on the story and the characters and not on the possibilities of the iPhone 15 or whatever incarnation Facebook would be in in 2029.  Excellent job!

I do want to mention that there is an element of hardcore sex to at least the first book and some in the second.  I do know as a nurse with some psych training that ritualistic sex is used in some cults, and the author does make use of this especially when discussing the brain wave work with Dr. Bob Taylor and his dissociative disorder patients.  It really didn’t trigger me, however, but I just wanted to make potential readers aware.

I love how the author used myths and gods from various religions and histories from around the world in this story.  His take on everything was fascinating.

Overall, a fascinating read.  Truly stoked my interest in this type of metaphysical teaching.  I always enjoy books that make me think.  This was definitely one of them.  I do hope there is another book in the works.

Book Review: The Nun’s Dragon (with bonus novella Lilith) by Christine Emmert



If you have read this blog with any regularity, you know I am a HUGE HUGE HUGE fan of Stant Litore and his Zombie Bible series.  So when he asked me to review a book written by a friend, I gladly obliged.

I didn’t exactly know what to expect, a nun and a dragon?  But it is the “Eclectic” bookworm, so I gave it a shot.  And I was pleasantly surprised.

Here is the synopsis:

A friendship between a dragon and a nun? 

It’s certainly one unwelcomed by the Church. And when Sister Agnes Dei is found dead, crushed beneath the convent’s water wheel, those who knew her are left with troubling questions. Why did Agnes Dei die? Why does a great wyvern grieve at her grave site? What is holy and what is not? 

Soon the nun’s dragon will return to the convent, and the secrets that stir at his coming will shake everything this convent believes. 

This book includes two thrilling works of fiction by Christine Emmert, author of ISMENE. In the novella LILITH, an artist must defend her infant son against the darkest of predators. In the novel THE NUN’S DRAGON, one sister’s love for a wyvern changes the shape of her world. 

With an afterword by Stant Litore, author of The Zombie Bible.

Lilith is up first.  And as a mom, it truly freaked me out.  Even though my child is seven, and isn’t in danger of being scooped up by a barn owl any time soon.  While reading this book, my daughter was learning about eagles and owls in school and would run up and down the halls screeching and pretending to swoop down and snatch her prey.  Freaky.

I know absolutely nothing about Genesis or the story of Lilith.  Like Mr. Litore’s novels, I am now propelled to find out more about this mythical creature:

Lilith was the first woman, wife to the fallen Adam.  She did not cause his fall.  Before he could tumble from Paradise, she rejected it.  All of it.  The wifely submission even in lovemaking.  She had  a hunger for angel babies.  Flying up to heaven she devoured the infant cherubs while God was busy finishing off the last touches of the Universe.  In denying Adam his spousal rights she became a renegade.  For a time she stayed close to Lucifer, but she lacked his audacity.  She was on her own.

Ms. Emmert builds the suspense, the near hysteria of the main character’s obsession with Lilith.  And abruptly it crashes down.  An amazing skill of writing.  And with that memory of Lilith and the garden in your mind the reader moves on to The Nun’s Dragon.

I grew up Catholic.  But I know absolutely nothing of the church prior to Vatican II.  I know nothing of cloistered nuns, their lifestyle, their beliefs.  Even less about this lifestyle during the middle ages.  And my knowledge of dragons stems from Smaug in The Hobbit (the movie, not the books, I know it makes a difference because my husband says so).

The author employs a very different writing timeline.  She starts with the present, with the death of Sister Agnes Dei, and then hops back and forth.  In some novels, the only thing this does is create confusion.  But it works with this book.  The reader gets to know the young woman who became Agnes Dei.  You find out first person how she came across her dragon and how their relationship developed.  It is enough information at the right time to successfully build and keep interest in the story.

Again with Lilith, the themes about the role of women in the world are forefront.  Agnes Dei is beautiful.  She is cloistered in the nunnery because she is beautiful.  It is said of her, by the priest that visits them “Her face is sin itself…like that of Eve”.

I had a very hard time with the different characters in the nunnery.  Especially Sister Clare.  My image of nuns growing up were of little old ladies who prayed a lot and looked like penguins.  Very different from that of my mother’s, when nuns were allowed to beat children for misbehavior.  I don’t know why I was shocked at the cruelty of Sister Clare.

Even without all the mythology and dragons, it would be an amazing story.  Christine Emmert makes the drama in the nunnery interesting.  Something that I never thought possible.  She injects intrigue, ulterior motives, questioning loyalties, and a little bit of romance into a place where none of the above are said to exist.

The writing is also exquisite.  Extremely well written.  Almost lyrical like the author of the afterword, Stant Litore.

I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect this.  Very well written, wonderful story, excellent drama and emotions.  And Lilith scared the hell out of me.

Book Review: Pot, Inc. by Greg Campbell


This is one of my library finds.  I have to add a little bit of a disclaimer here.  I have been a nurse for 10 years.  The last four spent as a hospice nurse.  I am well aware of the benefits of cannabis, especially to patients that are struggling with pain, the side effects of chemo, or the myriad of symptoms that occur at the end of life.

So I’m not one that needs to be convinced.  What made me go out and pick up a book was this horrifically misinformed opinion posted on FB by a friend from high school:

Where the hell is this country headed??? Comparing pot to booze, seeing it as the same. What ever happened to the ‘Just say No’ campaign, why do people accept defeat so easily? Why don’t we just legalize the rest of the shit too.

Yeah.  That made my blood boil.  So instead of providing dubious information  like her husband did to support her views:

I my self have treated people who got to “high” on weed when I was working on the ambulance. Weed is just a mind altering drug that is not good in any way it affects you brain damages your lungs esphougaus and the rest of your respiratory system.

My response was to looked the shit up myself.  And the result was reading this book.  In two days.

This book isn’t written by a stoner.  The author is a journalist.  He has written books about the diamond trade.  He just happened to live at the epicenter of the “green rush” at the end of 2009 aka Colorado.  And this book was written BEFORE full legalization.  So it made sense to start here.

The author is hilarious.  He uses his own personal experiences with pot (and he is one of those who gets the full blown paranoia) to illustrate his points.  After experimenting in his early 20s, he decided it wasn’t for him.  Which adds more credibility to his stance.  His description of how he was helped by cannabis during a severe injury is enough to convince people that cannabis needs to be available in every ER. Vaporized of course to prevent damage to the lungs and “esphougaus”.

The book explains a bit of the history of the outlawing of cannabis.  He carefully explains the few government studies that were initiated in the 60s and 70s and were quashed by none other than Richard Nixon.  He highlights current cannabis legislation that can lead to hefty jail time for non-violent offenders.  Some who weren’t even selling it, just using it to ease their pain from disease have spent hard jail time because of their “crime”.

He explains what those of us in medicine have known for years.  It is hard to quantify pain.  As a trained medical professional, I know what to look for i.e. elevated vital signs, guarding, fist clenching, grimacing.  But some with chronic pain (including myself) are so used to daily pain that there are hardly any outward indications that we are suffering unless it is REALLY bad.

I remember my first job as a nurse.  I worked in pediatrics at a very well-known children’s hospital.  I took care of tons of kids with sickle cell anemia.  That is where your blood cells aren’t formed correctly and they morph into a “sickle” shape.  Not only do they inadequately distribute oxygen, they clog up the small capillaries (the tiny blood vessels) and cause IMMENSE pain.  At young ages, these kids are on hard narcotics.  And yet, they are so used to it, when you ask them to rate their pain (or point to the frowny face) they will tell you they are having extreme pain, even while calmly playing video games.  Are these kids lying?  Are they attempting to score more drugs to get “high”? Do they even know what “high” means?  Probably not.  They probably just want relief from the pain wracking their little bodies.

My point is that pain is a nebulous entity.  I was trained to believe that “pain is whatever the patient says it is”.  But one of the big problems that people have with “medicinal marijuana” is that they can’t PROVE they are in pain.

Back to the book.  Mr. Campbell decides to do an experiment for his writing.  He decides to get a medicinal marijuana card and grow it himself so he can better understand the controversy.

I do agree that the way he obtained his card was kind of shady.  But in the fall of 2009 in Colorado, it was completely legal.

I was fascinated by his growing experience.  I honestly had no idea that so much went into cultivating a plant.  I have managed to kill every plant given to me, and I can’t imagine all of the prep, the money, the time and effort that goes in to creating high quality marijuana.

Throughout the entire book, the author makes it clear that what he was doing could land him in jail. Even if it was legal from the point of view of the state.  He references the “Ogden memo” of 2009 that led to the green rush.  It basically stated that from the federal side, they would not make a priority to bust medical marijuana users.  It wasn’t a blanket defense to sell marijuana, but it  gave some hints as to the intentions of the Obama administration.

I also appreciated how the author investigated the various pro-marijuana (and anti-marijuana) groups in the country.  Very helpful knowledge.  These guys aren’t degenerates, although some have records.  Many are lawyers, businessmen, other “respectable members of society” who admit to using marijuana on a regular basis.  Obviously they aren’t drooling in the corner from the insanity caused by reefer.

Overall, a fascinating read.  Like I said, my mind was already made up as to the benefits of cannabis.  But this book helped me gain knowledge and different perspective.

I also want to end with a final note.  I once had a patient, 27 years old, mom to two kids.  She had a very rare form of bone cancer.  Because she was poor and didn’t have insurance, her cancer was diagnosed way too late.  She did one round of chemo, which nearly killed her, and was told there was nothing they could do.  Her massive tumor was located in her hip bone and spread to her liver and other internal organs.

When I got her as a patient, she wasn’t ready to give up yet.  She still would go to the free cancer clinic three hours away to try and find a cure.  I had many conversations with her oncologist about how best to help her.

She had horrific pain.  I mean, searing, knife going through your bones, pain.  It was agony watching her.  We tried our best to control her pain.  She had a “pain pump” and I was frequently called out to adjust her pump so she wasn’t writhing in pain on her bed.  But the pain was just part of it.

What a lot of people don’t realize about chemo is that is forever changes your body.  Even people that “beat” cancer are left with horrific side effects as a result of the poison pummeling their bodies.  Many are left with intractable nausea that still occurs months (even years) after their last round.  Some are left with neuropathy, that is pain along the nerves.  One of my good friends, a breast cancer survivor, has permanent swelling in her legs as a result of the chemo.  And most every patient, friend, acquaintance I have come across that has taken chemo has ended up with “chemo brain”.  Think of it as a combo of forgetfulness and ADD.

My patient was no different.  Despite the fact that she had stopped chemo months before, she was still experiencing nausea.  She would take one bite of food, one sip of water and it would come up.  She didn’t want to go on a feeding tube, but she actually entertained the idea.  The meds that we provided for nausea were ineffective or put her in such a fog that she couldn’t spend time with her children.  Her brother pulled me aside one day and asked about marijuana.

As a nurse, I couldn’t say “yes, go up the street and score some illegal street drugs for your sister”.  But I told him the benefits and the risks.  I also obtained for her a prescription for Marinol, the synthetic THC pill.  I was warned by the doc that it probably would cause more harm than good because of the side effects, and that she would have to actually swallow the pill and keep it down for it to work, but the family elected to do this first rather than do something illegal.

And predictably, she suffered horrible side effects.  She hallucinated, she couldn’t sleep.  And that was the times that she could actually keep the med down.

So the family elected to go in another direction.  I don’t know for a fact that they obtained marijuana for her, because my own grandfather died soon after my last visit and she died before I was able to return to work.

I have seen the benefits of this natural plant on people who are greatly suffering.  This book didn’t need to convince me of that.  But what it did do was open my eyes to legalization, the current archaic laws of this nation, and the actual data involved.

I am a much improved advocate for marijuana after reading this book.

Book Review: The Prophecy (Secrets of Shadow Hill) S. P. Cervantes


I reviewed the first book in this series last week.  I liked it so much that I asked the author to send me the second book.  I am now anxiously awaiting the third..

Ava Fox has spent the past year acclimating to her new life as a wizard of Shadow Hill. Over the past year, her connection with Dalton has only grown stronger. They share a bond she has never known before and can’t explain. 

The danger is still there, even after the Sabatino coven was defeated, and Ava’s future is anything but sure. Her powerful relationship with Dalton continues to make others wonder about the Prophecy, and their place in it. Time and again Ava’s loyalty and strength will be put to the test as she fights for those she loves. 

There are many more secrets of Shadow Hill that will be revealed.

No sophomore slump here, this book was as good as the first.

Again, I loved reading about the magic of Ava and Dalton, how they have grown as a couple.  But like the first book, there are other wizards out there that do not use their magic “for the greater good” and want to use Ava’s power themselves.

I loved reading about other covens around the world, their powers, their people.

And again, the love triangle is front and center.  This one has the added bonus of being written from three different points of view.  Not too many authors can pull that off with each character sounding distinct from the others, but Ms. Cervantes does it very well.

Much more thrilling that the first one, much more development of Ava as a character.

Again, very YA.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this installment.  looking forward to the next.

Book Review: Balls of Leather and Steel and A Gordian Web by Guy Butler

Two things drew me to this series: 1) the author shares the same name as my husband and 2) it’s WWII themed.

Here is the synopsis:

Balls of Leather and Steel

This is a story with BALLS! The leather and steel kind. 

balls Since the day he was born, Malcolm McClain has led a charmed life. By his mid-twenties he was a household name throughout Europe, recognized as one of the finest professional soccer players on the planet. At the start of World War II, Malky joins the Royal Air Force to great fanfare – a national treasure doing his part. Then he’s shot down over Yugoslavia and captured by the Nazis. 

Adolf Hitler now plans a scurrilous propaganda campaign to demoralize the British by claiming McClain has betrayed them by becoming a Nazi. 

Chez Orlowski is an unwanted orphan in Poland after first his mother, then his father dies. As a teenager, he’s protecting his sister from his abusive stepmother when he finds himself arrested and thrown into a Nazi hard labor camp. After dodging death every day, he finally escapes with only one goal in mind: to cause mayhem as a Polish freedom fighter. Chez is clever, relentless and utterly fearless in his crusade to wreak havoc and terrorize the Nazis occupying his country. He becomes a hero to the Polish people, who call him The Spider. 

When the Yugoslavian Partizani get wind of Hitler’s plans for Malcolm McClain, they vow to wreck them. Their best option involves persuading The Spider to use his special talents to extract McClain from Stalag 306 and whisk him back to safety. 

But the story does not end there…..

And for A Gordian Web:  

gordianWhen Germany invades Poland in 1939, the Nazi regime tosses dissidents into labor camps to break the will of the 
people. Every day Czeslaw Orlowski, an orphaned teenager, fights for his life in the camps then escapes to become a thorn in the side of the oppressors. By the time the Nazis retreat to Berlin, the young Pole has instilled hope in his countrymen through the exploits of the legend known as The Spider. 

With the pending Allied victory in Europe, Poland becomes a pawn played by the Soviet Union against the West. At the top of the NKGB’s agenda: find and crush The Spider. Hiding in plain sight on a farm in Western Silesia, for Czeslaw, his new bride and family it’s only a matter of time before the Russians close the noose around them. 

The Spider has only one hope—to ask the British for help. In response, a covert Special Forces Squad—The Black Widows—is launched in a clandestine extraction attempt behind Russian lines. 

In return, Czeslaw will be asked to contribute his special talents to a personal mission for Winston Churchill. 

The Spider then confronts a Gordian knot: must he keep his promise to the Prime Minister by slicing that knot—or cut the throat of his arch nemesis?

Both books captivated me.  I loved the characters, the action, the audacity of the author to plant the seed in the mind of his readers that WWII history might not be what it has been portrayed.

The first book started out a little slow, it took awhile for me to get into it, but it picks up speed around the time WWII breaks out.

I will caution those students of WWII, read this book with the suspension of reality.  The historian part of me wants to find any true accounts of these characters, but after I did find the author’s father on wikipedia, I decided to just read it with an open mind.

I truly, truly, truly enjoyed the story.  Mainly because I love all the WWII espionage, secret mission type of books and because this book is clearly written with love.  The author’s admiration for these characters is palpable.

In the second book, there are some grammatical/spelling/formatting errors, and at times the actual “plot” that Chez overhears toward the end of the book isn’t exactly clear, at least in my mind, but the aftermath is crystal clear.

Also the German/Russian/Polish interspersed throughout the book is a little confusing.  I think the author tries to provide a translation in English in the same sentence, but at times it is confusing.  I don’t know if this is because I, like most Americans, only speak English.  I had the same difficulty reading a similar book, It Never Was You by William E. Thomas, that employs German and a very vibrant portrayal of a Liverpudlian accent (scuse?).

One thing the second book does very well is to portray the difficulty faced by the Polish people toward the end of WWII.  They had suffered tremendously under the Nazis.  But after they are finally rid of the Nazis, Stalin and his boys come to town and set up shop.

Prior to reading this account, I have never truly given much thought to the Eastern Front.  I have read about Stalingrad, but in terms of these types of character driven accounts, I have been ignorant.  Mr. Butler clearly portrays the absolute horror felt by those who survived the Nazi occupation, only to suffer under another, more brutal master.

As a result, I am now reading “The Fall of Berlin 1945” by Antony Beevor.  I love it when books make me think about something I haven’t considered much before.

I also love the romance story featuring the main characters and their eventual wives.

Overall a great read.  Recommended to anyone who likes this part in 2oth century history, who likes adventure and espionage.  Very well done.


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