Friday, May 30, 2014

Broken Ties (Prequel to The Mentalists Series) Book Review

I really liked this prequel to The Menalists series by Kenechi Udogu. The author has a way of drawing on the reader's emotions that really brings you into the story. My only compliant is that this is a teaser. It was much, MUCH too short. It leaves a cliffhanger that does make you want to read the rest of the series if you haven't done so already. Great writing. I'm looking forward to The Keepers, the third installment in The Mentalists series.

Rating 5/5

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dead(ish) Book Review

Dead(ish) is a short work by Naomi Kramer about a ghost named Linda who’s lost her body. As the story progresses from her boyfriend’s point of view to the viewpoint of the private detective (who dead Linda hires), we find out that it’s not a simple case. The language is rough and the plot shocking. But it has a great twisted sense of humor to carry you through. I’m rating this R for Restricted. If you’re not easily offended, check it out. It also offers a preview of the next book in the Deadish series: “(technically) Dead.” Linda is back and it’s too funny.

Rating 3/5

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Saving Raine

Saving Raine

Frederick Lee Brooke

The Drone Wars, Book 1

About the Author: (Amazon)

Frederick Lee Brooke launched the Annie Ogden Mystery Series in 2011 with Doing Max Vinyl and following with Zombie Candy in 2012, a book that is neither about zombies nor sweets. The third mystery in the series, Collateral Damage, appeared in 2013. The first book in Fred's entirely new series is due in November 2013.
A resident of Switzerland for the last 20 years, Fred has worked as a teacher, language school manager and school owner. He has three boys and two cats and recently had to learn how to operate both washing machine and dryer.
When not writing or doing the washing, Fred can be found walking along the banks of the Rhine River, sitting in a local cafe, or visiting all the local pubs in search of his lost umbrella.

Summary: (Amazon)
"Matt, Raine went to California because her parents thought it was safe. It’s not. You’ve got to get her out as soon as possible. She could die, Matt." 
When 19-year-old Matt Carney gets a cryptic message from his father telling him to go to California and save his girlfriend, Raine, he doesn't hesitate—he grabs his AK-47, revs up his blue pickup, and gets ready to make the 2,300-mile roadtrip. 
But cross-country travel in 2021 isn't easy—or, sometimes, even possible. The U.S. has become a near-military state: 17,000 checkpoints severely restrict interstate movement, Predator drones target innocent civilians without cause, and explosions rock cities daily. Matt and his stepbrother, Benjy, face deadly attacks from a corrupt government, ruthless local law enforcement, and bloodthirsty terrorist groups as they embark on their trek. They're about to find out that their trip is much more than a private journey, and their success could change the face of the country—forever. 
Can Matt and Benjy outrun the drone missiles raining down on their heads? Can they avoid assassination by government officials hell-bent on taking over what little is left of the country? Can they outsmart the deadly schemes set in motion against them? 
Break the rules. 
Save the girl. 
He only gets one chance before she's gone forever.

I'd Recommend to:
High School / Young Adult

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

For starters: This book has several plots going on at once. I understand the reasoning for about 3 of them (Matt obviously, President Jeffers/Amanda Jeffers, and the ex-convicts) but I don't understand the need for the other ones, such as the hog farmers or Claire. I know they are already partially connected to the others and that they will be more intertwined in the following books in the series but I just don't feel they were necessary for this book. It's not good to confuse the readers too much in the first book of the series. Now before I deeply confuse you all, let me give you the basics about the plot.
Matt lives with his evil stepmom and his dad. When his dad "gets arrested" and Matt can't handle it anymore he decides to leave. He finds a video from his dad saying to get his girlfriend out of California so that's where he heads, with his stepbrother, Benji. As Matt makes his away across the country from Chicago, things happen. After all the country is in the middle of a sort of civil war. The journey is long and difficult with many deaths involved. To find out if Matt ever makes it to save Raine, read the book! 
I did like the ending. I won't tell you what happens so I don't spoil it but it was a very nice ending - nice not being like "awe that's sweet", but more like "it can end there and I'm okay with it". If readers want to read the next book they can and if they don't one problem in the war is solved. It doesn't leave you needing more, but you certainly might want more. 
So, yeah. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Real Thing - Play Review

On Thursday April 17, 2014, I got the chance to experience Tom Stoppard’s play The Real Thing. Directed by Patrick Cribben, Chesapeake College’s Division of Arts & Sciences presented this production. This play is designed to portray what love is truly like, rather than the fairy-tale Disney stories most people believe it to be. Through the writing of Henry and the whorishness of Annie and Charlotte, it is discovered that love is not as magical and wonderful as often witnessed in movies. Although the play failed miserably at entertaining the young girl I am, for a more mature, relatable audience it certainly would achieve its purpose in bringing forth the truth about love while entertaining the audience in a couple unromantic comedic acts.
            Henry writes plays. He is married to Charlotte and together they have a daughter named Debbie. Annie is married to Max. Charlotte and Max are both actors in Henry’s plays; it is believed that Charlotte and Max are having an affair. It is known that Annie and Henry are having an affair. In this web of affairs it is hard to distinguish who truly loves whom and who just enjoys some of the fun they might get out of the relationship. Due to the romantic aspect of Henry and Annie’s affair, instead of just the fun aspect Charlotte has with her several other partners during her marriage with Henry, Charlotte and Henry separate and Henry marries Annie. But Annie is still preoccupied with other men, including her brother, Billy, and the arsonist soldier, Brody, who is currently serving jail time for burning a protest wreath. All of these love relationships, affairs, and infatuations cause for a very confusing and sophisticated web that supposedly mirrors the relations of love in the real world.
            Straight from the beginning, one is forced to critically think about what is going on in this play. The first scene, one that is later found out to be a play within the play, vastly differs with the second scene, although the characters appear to be the same people. In scene one, Max and Charlotte are preforming one of Henry’s plays, whereas, in the second scene, they are simply being Max and Charlotte. During Henry’s play, the audience gets a deeper look into Henry’s mind as his play reflects his inner thoughts about an affair occurring between Max and Charlotte. In the first scene, Max confronts Charlotte about her possibly being in an affair. The very first thing to happen on stage is the collapse of a house of cards, symbolizing the collapse of trust within the household. The relationship between Henry and Charlotte is barely standing, as if it itself is a house of cards, and when the symbolic house of cards collapses in Henry’s play, so does the fragile house of cards keeping Henry and Charlotte together. Although this symbol carries through from Henry’s play into Henry’s life, the rest of the scene clearly contrasts with Max and Charlotte’s lives, giving the audience a very confusing and shocking twist straight from the get-go. From the very beginning the audience is forced to consider what is real and what is false. This sense of reality versus appearances is not only surface deep like with the play within a play first few scenes, but extends on a much deeper level to what is real and what is simply a misperception when it comes to love. What love is real and what love is simply for appearances sake? It is up to the audience to decide.
            Throughout the play, this concept of reality versus appearances as well as simply what is real versus what is sometimes fake is hard to separate. It is clear that Charlotte and Henry’s love is not “The Real Thing”, but is Henry’s love with Annie any clearer? If Henry and Annie do exhibit true love, then why is it that Annie seems to be having other affairs as well? Although assumed, it is not unknown that she connects with both Billy and Brody on some deeper level than she connects with the average Joe passing by. Henry realizes this, but seems more troubled by his writing and musical taste than he does by his relationship during any given point in the play. If his relationship seems so worthless to him, how could it possibly be considered true love?
            These are the types of questions Stoppard wishes for audiences to consider. In his production of the play, Cribben does a fabulous job of making sure these questions come up in everyone’s minds. His casting of characters and the development of said characters lead to the audience questioning what in the world is going on and how it might apply to life. Because older audiences might have experienced some of these crazy situations during their lifetime and understood the play much better than the youngsters, they seemed to be greatly enjoying the theatrics. Younger audiences, such as myself, were mostly greatly confused, however upon further examination of the play and consideration of the aspects brought up by the outrageous characters, these developments of figuring out truth and concept come to light.
            The lighting and music also led to confusion then realization as the play progressed. Between each bright, well-lit scene, the area went completely dark. This lighting difference foreshadows that more change than just some simple change in scenery is about to occur. Each scene, though all connected through the advanced web of relationships and a common theme, were relatively different from the others, as evident by the drastic change of lighting between them. Also between scenes, music would play. Often this music was happy, upbeat music which contrasts with the corrupted view of love and the intense drama happening on the stage through the affairs and intermingling of the characters. The dark light yet happy music in between the well-lit yet intense scenes also makes one think about which is truly happening – well-lit, music-filled happiness or dark, intense action – since both occur at the same time. Lighting and music create an atmosphere that help to transpire the same theme throughout the play without the use of what was written – a great call made by Director Cribben.

            This play shatters the happily-ever-after fairy-tale ending so many Hollywood and Disney movies seem to portray about love and romance. This play claims to be more “real”. Yet, what is real and what is not when it comes to love? Who is to determine this? The Real Thing does a wonderful job of making the audience consider these different aspects of not only love, but of life. I do not recommend such young audiences to see the play, as they will not understand it as well. However, I do recommend it to older people; perhaps it would be entertaining and the comedy it was intended to be for audiences 40 and up. Either way, it makes one think, something audiences should do more of instead of just wasting time seeing a useless play or movie. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kit Brennan Interview!

1.  What's the main message you want readers to get from Whip Smart?
I’d like readers to be amused and excited by the adventures that Lola gets herself into, and then—because she’s a flawed heroine, full of contradictions and temper and headstrong desires—caught up in the sometimes dangerous but often brave ways she tries to free herself, or save the day, or learn from her mistakes. As Helen Keller wrote, “Life is a daring adventure, or nothing.”

2. What inspired you to write Whip Smart?
I’m a mad fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman series, reading and rereading them throughout my teenage years and on. I love the way he made Victorian history come alive: I could learn so much about it, the events and the personalities, and also laugh and shake my head at the antics on the battlefield and in the bedroom. Brilliant comedy! A fictional nineteenth century character jammed into real events taking place all over the world, present (somehow) at every battle and piece of skullduggery throughout the Victorian empire. Flashy is a womanizer, a coward, and yet decorated as a hero—wonderful fun, sexy shenanigans. I always wished for a female version—and now, of course, I think that Lola Montez fits the bill!

3. Do you prefer coffee or tea?
I love both. I drink coffee in the morning and then have to desist. I switch to tea for lunch and a cup in the late afternoon, for a pick-me-up. And then, if I can’t sleep, I like the sleepy teas…

4. How long did it take you to write Whip Smart?
The first novel (Lola Montez Conquers the Spaniards) took quite a while because I was writing it in between other writing projects (I’m a playwright)—maybe three or four years. I had to learn how to tell a story in fiction rather than as a stage play. I also had to find Lola’s voice, and play around with how much comedy, love and lust, and action-adventure should be in the books. Finally I went with my instinct, which was: lots!
Once the publisher, Astor + Blue Editions, backed the idea of Whip Smart as a series, the pace increased. I wrote the second novel (Lola Montez and the Poisoned Nom de Plume) in about twelve months from working outline to final editing. The third (Lola Montez Starts a Revolution) will be about the same length of time. The good thing is that I know the character so well now, and I’ve been close to this research material for an even longer time—I’ve loved Lola Montez since I first read about her in George MacDonald Fraser’s second Flashman book, Royal Flash, at age eighteen.

5. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
A great piece of advice from American playwright Marsha Norman goes something like this: Don’t write about your present, write about your past—write about something that made you angry or afraid, and that, in all the time since it happened, you haven’t been able to forget. There’s power in those strong emotions. She’s right in that if we write about something that’s happening to us in the present, we often don’t have enough perspective on it and the writing will get vague and mushy, or sentimental, or trying to conceal something (perhaps from ourselves) and therefore not truthful.
Another ingredient I think you need in order to really fire yourself into and through the enormous effort it takes to write something big, is that you’ve got to be passionately interested in it over a long, long period of time. You’ve got to want to spend time with these characters, day after day after day, through all the rewrites as well as the initial inspiration. They’ve got to be that fascinating to you. You’ve got to be in love with them—the bad guys as much as the good. You can hardly wait to see them again tomorrow!

6. If you were a color, what color would you be and why?
After this long, hard winter, I have to say: green. A fresh, clean, newly-budded green—because it makes people happy, and just looking at it encourages you to stretch out your muscles and take a deep breath. I love green, all the different shades of it. Green also is one color that looks good on me; I have green eyes, maybe that’s why. I love yellow, but can’t wear it or I look jaundiced; I love red too, and purple, but I think I’ll stay with green for my answer.

7. How much like Lola Montez are you?

That’s a funny question for me. I would have to say ‘a lot.’ People always comment that Lola is “so different from you, you’re so quiet and reserved.” In fact I’m not, once you get to know me—or if I’m in a situation where I feel free to be myself. When I was an actor, I had more opportunity to release my inner clown, perhaps, and teaching at a university has probably made me seem more serious: we all take on roles, in our lives, and that is one of mine. But Lola’s irreverence and her spiky argumentativeness are definitely traits that I share with her. Her need for physical action and exercise is mine as well. Also her talent for getting lost!
I asked my sweetheart the question, and here’s what he said: that my often hidden but kooky sense of humour is front and centre in Whip Smart. Also, that my love of nature and of other creatures in the world vs. my unease with human/urban evil or artifice is very much there too.

8. If you were remembered for a quote, what would the quote be?
“When you ride the tiger, white man, you ride it forever.” It’s a quote from my play Tiger’s Heart, and is based on an African story. I just love it. It’s a warning as well as a promise.
Another favorite one is one I give my students. It’s from Goethe, and is great for writers. “Do not hurry; do not rest.”
From Whip Smart, some friends say the quote they love best is “Fuckity fuck!”

9. What other authors/books do you look up to the most?
One of my favorite writers is Rose Tremain. I admire her novels so much. She’s always trying different things. I love Restoration, The Road Home, Music and Silence and (wonderful) The Colour. Her books are beautifully researched, gloriously imagined.
Other favorites are Small Island (Andrea Levy), Slammerkin (Emma Donaghue), Knowledge of Angels (Jill Paton Walsh), Jack Maggs (Peter Carey), Gilgamesh (Joan London), Life of Pi (Yann Martel), The Outlander (Gil Adamson), The Law of Dreams (Peter Behrens), Garbo Laughs (Elizabeth Hay), The Many Lives and Sorrows of Josephine B (Sandra Gulland).
And very recently, I absolutely fell in love with Jonathan Grimwood’s The Last Banquet. It’s stunning with imagery, strange adventure, outrageousness of all kinds, taking place in France just before the French Revolution. Wonderful.

10. Thank you! Is there anything else you'd like to say?

I hope your readers will be intrigued by my version of Lola Montez, and enjoy the adventures!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Deadly Patient-Care Errors Excerpt

Thriller Explores Biggest Medical Nightmare:
Deadly Patient-Care Errors

"A thriller that only a doctor could have written. Wyler's sense of the worlds of the hospital and operating room are unsurpassed. You'll feel as if you are right there."

--Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of Miracle Cure and The Sisterhood

Deadly Errors is a wild and satisfying ride! This is an ‘up all night’ pass into troubled places that only hard-working doctors know about, a turbulent world of trusting patients and imperfect humans struggling with the required image of perfection.”

--John J. Nance, author of Pandora’s Clock and Fire Flight

A comatose man is given a fatal dose of insulin in the emergency room, even though he isn't diabetic.  An ulcer patient dies of shock after receiving a transfusion of the wrong blood type.  A recovering heart patient receives a double dose of medication and suffers a fatal heart attack.
Brain surgeon Dr. Tyler Matthews suspects that something is seriously wrong with the hospital’s new “Med-InDx” computerized medical record system. But he doesn't suspect that there’s something murderously wrong with it.

As Matthews begins to peel back the layers of deception that cover the deadly errors, he crosses powerful corporate interests who aren’t about to let their multi-billion dollar medical record profits evaporate. Now a target, Matthews finds himself trapped in a maze of deadly conspiracy, with his career, his marriage, and his very life on the line.

Once again, Wyler blends his unparalleled expertise as a world class surgeon with his uncanny knack for suspense to create a true “best-of-breed” medical thriller. Deadly Errors is a lightning-quick action procedural that is destined to win new fans to the medical thriller genre.


Allen Wyler is a renowned neurosurgeon who earned an international reputation for pioneering surgical techniques to record brain activity.  He has served on the faculties of both the University of Washington and the University of Tennessee, and in 1992 was recruited by the prestigious Swedish Medical Center to develop a neuroscience institute.
In 2002, he left active practice to become Medical Director for a startup med-tech company (that went public in 2006) and he now chairs the Institutional Review Board of a major medical center in the Pacific Northwest.
Leveraging a love for thrillers since the early 70’s, Wyler devoted himself to fiction writing in earnest, eventually serving as Vice President of the International Thriller Writers organization for several years. After publishing his first two medical thrillers Deadly Errors (2005) and Dead Head (2007), he officially retired from medicine to devote himself to writing full time.
He and his wife, Lily, divide their time between Seattle and the San Juan Islands.

November, three months later, Seattle, Washington
Trauma Room Three, Maynard Medical Center Emergency Department

“Is this how you found him?” Robin Beck, the doctor on call, asked the paramedic as she quickly ran the back of her fingers over Tyrell Washington’s skin. Warm, dry. No fever, no clamminess. Black male. Age estimated in the mid-sixties. Half open eyes going no where. Findings that immediately funneled the diagnosis into the neurologic bin. 
“Exactly as is. Unresponsive, pupils mid position and roving, normal sinus rhythm. Vital signs within normal limits. They’re charted on the intake sheet.” Breathing hard, the paramedic pulled the white plastic fracture board from under the patient, unofficially consummating the transfer of medical responsibility from Medic One to Maynard Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
“History?” Beck glanced at the heart monitor as that the nurse pasted the last pad to the man’s chest. Heart rate a bit too fast. Was his coma cardiac in origin?
A respiratory therapist poked his head through the door. “You call for respiratory therapy?”
She held up a “hold-on” palm to the paramedic, told the RT, “We’re going to have to intubate this man. Hang in here with me ‘til anesthesia gets here.”
The tech nodded. “You called them yet?”
“Haven’t had time. It’s your job now.” Without waiting for an answer she rose up on tip toes and called over the paramedic’s head to a second nurse plugging a fresh line into a plastic IV bag, “Glenda, get on the horn to imaging and tell them we need a STAT CT scan.” Better order it now. The scan’s status would be the first question out of the neurologist’s mouth when asked to see the patient. Nervously fingering the bell of her stethoscope, she turned to the paramedic. “I need some history. What have you got?”
“Nada.” He shook his head. “Zilch. Wife’s hysterical, can’t give us much more than she found him like this.” He nodded at the patient. “And, yeah, he’s been a patient here before.”
A phlebotomist jogged into the room, gripping the handle of a square metal basket filled with glass tube Vacutainers with different colored rubber stopper, sheathed needles, and alcohol sponges. “You call for some labs?”
“Affirmative. I want a standard admission draw including a tox screen.” A screen blood test for coma producing drugs. Then to the paramedic, “Did the wife call 911 immediately?”
He shrugged, pushed their van stretcher over so his partner standing just outside the door could remove it from the cramped room. “Far as I know.” He paused a beat. “You need me for anything else?”
“That’s it? Can’t you give me something else to work with?” She figured that under these circumstances a hysterical wife was of little help in giving her the information needed to start formulating a list of possible diagnoses.
His eyes flashed irritation. “This was a scoop and scoot. Alright? Now, if you don’t need me for anything else…”
She waved him off. “Yeah, yeah, thanks.” She wasn’t going to get anything more from him now. At least knowing the patient had been treated here before was some help.
She turned to monitor. Blood pressure and pulse stable. For the moment.
She called over to the lead nurse. “We got to get some history on him. I’m going to take a look at his medical records.
At the work station, Beck typed Tyrell Washington’s social security number into the computerized electronic medical record. A moment later the “front page” appeared on the screen. Quickly, she scanned it for any illness he might have that could cause his present coma. And found it. Tyrell must be diabetic. His medication list showed daily injections of a combination of regular and long-lasting insulin. Odds were he was now suffering a ketogenic crisis caused by lack of insulin.
Armed with this information, Robin Beck hurried to the admitting desk where Mrs. Washington was updating insurance information with a clerk.
“Mrs. Washington, I’m doctor Beck… has your husband received any insulin today?”
Brow wrinkled, the wife’s questioning eyes met her. “No. Why?”
Suspicions confirmed, Beck said, “Thank you, Mrs. Washington. I’ll be right back to talk to you further.” Already calculating Tyrell’s insulin dose, Beck hurried back to Trauma Room 3.
“I want 15 units of NPH insulin and I want it now.” She figured, Let him start metabolizing glucose for an hour before titrating his blood sugar into an ideal level. For now she’d hold off calling for a neurology consult until assessing Washington’s response to treatment.

“Mama, what’s happened to Papa?”
Erma Washington stopped wringing her hands and rocking back and forth on the threadbare waiting room chair. Serena, her oldest daughter crouched directly in front of her. She’d called Serena – the most responsible of her three children – immediately after hanging up the phone with 911.
“I don’t know, baby... I just don’t know.” Her mind seemed blank, wiped out by the horror of what life would be like without Tyrell.
Her daughter reached out and took hold of both her hands.  “Have the doctors told you anything yet?”
“No baby, nothing.”
“No, wait…” Amazed that she’d completely forgotten. “A lady doctor came, asked had Papa been given insulin today.”
Insulin? Why’d she ask such a thing, Mama? Papa doesn’t take insulin!”

In November 1999, the Institute of Medicine concluded a study entitled, To Err Is Human: Building A Safer Health System. It focused attention on the issue of medical errors and patient safety by reporting that as many as 44,000 to 98,000 people die in hospitals each year from preventable medical errors. This makes medical errors this country’s eighth leading cause of death — higher than motor vehicle accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. About 7,000 people per year were estimated (at that time) to die from medication errors alone. In spite of efforts by health care providers to decrease the rate of these preventable errors, they are still a cause of morbidity and mortality.

How can you, as a consumer, limit your risk of becoming the victim of an error? Numerous studies have shown errors to be lower when using computerized medical records. Does your doctor use a computerized system? Also, errors occur more commonly during “hand offs,” when care is passed between providers. Examples are: a change of shift for hospitalized patients, or when doctors refer a patient to a specialist. Always make sure your personal health information is passed accurately between providers. You might consider keeping a copy of vital information such as your prescription drugs and thier dosages. Always be sure to check prescriptions when accepting medications from pharmacies, especially if receiving generic drugs. If a pill doesn’t look familiar, verify with the pharmacist the does and drug. Although errors are unlikely to be reduced to zero, consumer vigilance by lower the rate to more acceptable levels. 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Frozen Movie Review

Frozen (The Disney Movie)

*Possible Spoiler Alert*

I took my children to see Frozen at the theater. Like all Disney movies, it was a great experience for them. I, on the other hand, was disappointed. I left the movie with too many questions. Maybe I thought too hard about it, after all it's a kids' movie, right?

I am a great Disney fan but when I started to write this review, I had in mind all the things I didn't like about Frozen. I decided that would be too many. So I'll write what I did like instead.

Disney continues to put together visually pleasing animation, whether it's digital or traditional. It's colorful and fanciful. My favorite characters are Olaf and Sven, the snowman and reindeer. The songs were nice. Of course the favorite is Let It Go sung by Elsa. The actress Idina Menzel in the movie sang her heart out in that song. However, the songs had a Broadway feel to it. Instead of dialog, they sang...a lot. A kid in the theater actually said, "Don't tell me she's going to sing again." But Disney came to their senses and cut down on the songs considerably toward the end of the movie. I have no aversion to Broadway, it was just different than what Disney usually does with its songs.

The setting was appropriate (mountains and snow tend to go together) yet its culture didn't come through as well as in the movie Brave. I believe Frozen is set in Norway (I had to look it up). The characters' names tipped me off to the general location. But other than that and the one guy with an accent, I wouldn't have known.

Frozen's theme was endearing. It was about love.

The movie is about two sisters. The oldest, Elsa, has kept a secret from her sister Anna. She can create/control ice and snow. Incidently everyone finds out when Elsa accidentally brings eternal winter to the land during the summer. Elsa runs away because she's afraid, Anna goes after her. The plot loses focus after this, somewhere in the middle. 

I have seen Disney do a lot better when it comes to plot and character. I liked the concept but, there is just something off about the story. But it's Disney, so the movie is worth a look.

Rating 3.5/5
Update: I read the trivia on This movie had major changes made to it pertaining to the sisters' characters and plot line. I could tell.