Monday, December 14, 2009

The Judas Ride

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views

"The Judas Ride" is a very complex and dark tale of a number of young people, most of them from underprivileged families, their choices in life and their daily struggles to survive and in some cases try to "do the right thing." It is filled with a veritable menagerie of diverse characters - some of them are menacing and violent, some are borderline crazy, others simply abused and sometimes abusive as well, and here and there are some do-gooders who do not always succeed quite as well as they would like to.
The book opens with a series of scary scenes between an unwed teen mother-to-be, Sonia, and two possible fathers of her baby. Xavier, a slightly hesitant Christian, is trying to "do the right thing" and protect Sonia from the other man in the picture, Vader, as well as from her oftentimes self-destructive tendencies. Vader, abused and abusive, does not hesitate to hurt those around him, including the ones he should be protecting, including the mother of possibly his child, Sonia. In the first fifty pages alone the reader is confronted with senseless violence, destruction of property, severe beatings, verbal and physical abuse, rebellion against parents and other authoritative figures, abuse and dealing of drugs and more. This pace of violence and evil continues, with rape, molestation, murder, suicide and a few other assorted violent acts.

While it is clear that there are people trying to "do the right thing" in the mix, most notably Pastor Manny and Xavier, the overwhelming feeling one is left with is that life for the young people nowadays is pretty grim, free will and choices notwithstanding.
 I definitely want to commend Ms. Yarber on writing a story that shows the young people of today that their choices and actions have tangible consequences.

3 Aces

Reviewed by Beverly Pechin for Reader Views (11/09)


I was pleasantly surprised with the writing style of Richard Ide as he so easily weaved the lives of truck driver Abner Weaver, lost and complicated soul Dawn, and a mutt of a dog into a story that keeps your attention at every turn of the page.

The easy-reading style glides the reader through the pages of the book as if you were watching it on the big screen, flowing quickly and intensely as the lives of Abner and Dawn draw together into an amazingly tender relationship that's totally unexpected of this Viet Nam Vet and a gambling-addicted, hard-shipped mother of a beautiful young girl who can't understand why her own mother seemingly can't give her the love she so strongly desires. As with most any story, you add the undying love of a mutt dog and there's bound to be a bit of choking up, laughing, and even feeling amazement as the story takes twists and turns throughout - never quite giving you an assured ending until literally the last few pages.

Abner Weaver works for Groff Trucking, probably the scum de la scum of trucking companies, and suddenly realizes that not only is this company going under but it's going under fast. He needs to find answers and a way to keep afloat but more than that, his way of life on the road keeps him from going nuts; the one thing he fears most as a post-war vet of Nam. Suddenly he meets up with a young woman whom he has absolutely no intentions of taking along with him for the long haul, let alone falling in love with but then again, even the best of intentions can be altered in the blink of an eye. Suddenly this lost soul of a woman, beautiful and smarter than she sometimes lets on, finds her way not only into his truck but into his heart and mind. She can even quickly talk this hard-core loner into not only saving a struck dog on the highway, but allowing him to become part of what quickly becomes a team.  As they run the roads together, growing and learning, they both realize that they aren't the loners they thought they were but can truly depend upon and rely upon each other to get make their lives complete. Abner even takes on the idea of owning his own rig, especially now that he has a "partner" to help him out and it all seems to look pretty darn good on the books. But how long will it last? How much can they handle? And what happens when an addict, like Dawn, gets pulled into the world that ate her own life up as a child only to lure her as an adult again?

One of the most tender moments of the book to me was when Abner realizes how much he cares about Dawn, making sure he never sleeps with her in the sleep cab for weeks and finally realizes he has to "come clean" why he fears allowing her to sleep next to him. His post traumatic stress syndrome plays a huge part in why he has remained a loner for so long and his fear of hurting her during a night terror or flashback during his sleep truly seems to be the moment when you, as the reader, are brought into the realization of how very sweet and kind-hearted this gruff and grumpy man really can be. You flounder back and forth, questioning her intentions at time, while at other moments there's no doubt the love that she holds deep in her heart for this man who has given her a chance in life to make the change she needs. The question is, will she blow that chance all for a game of chance or will she learn to walk away?

Intense, endearing and dramatic, this story, "3 Aces" by Richard Ide will bring a lump to your throat a few times throughout the reading. And in the end, you will question exactly how strong love can really be when you hook up a loner, post-traumatic vet truck driver, a gimpy mutt of a dog and a woman with more baggage than a freight train.  Sometimes the stakes are just higher than you can imagine in that last draw of the card.

Short White Coat: Lessons from Patients on Becoming a Doctor

Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (11/09) 


"Short White Coat" by James A. Feinstein, MD, is a collection of wonderfully heart-warming stories about real life experiences of a third year medical student and the time he spent in the trial-by-fire environment dealing with real patients in different clinic and hospital settings. Ranging from frankly scary to truly uplifting, each of the stories teaches a lesson about listening, learning and growing. Written in a fluid, easy-to-read style, those stories are approachable and easy to relate to.
James Feinstein's clinical year took him from internal medicine through ob-gyn, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery to emergency medicine. In each of the new settings he encountered new challenges and worked alongside a variety of very different personalities, and all of those experiences must have been very helpful in shaping his own view of the profession he eventually joined as a practicing pediatrician. Occasionally funny, oftentimes sad, always very personal and displaying touching honesty and vulnerability, those stories are eye-opening for a variety of reasons. Dr. Feinstein does not white-wash the reality of the medical profession or the training for it. He speaks frankly about the grueling pace the overworked hospital staff has to keep up with, the frequently infuriating limitations of the system, the different lessons the patients themselves taught him about how to handle them with the proper respect and allow them to keep their dignity, the dangers of assumptions and quick conclusions, but also about the joy of seeing somebody get well and observing a good doctor making a real difference in somebody's life. Dr. Feinstein describes doctors with hearts, those who know the healing power of touch and a warm word, as well as a few of those we all encounter all too often and wish we would have not; that is the superstars who are great technically, yet lousy human beings, and those who have no respect for patients and whose words cause more hurt than their actions would cure.
"Short White Coat" by James A. Feinstein, MD, should be required reading for everybody thinking of medical school as well as everybody working in the medical field. In addition to those, I believe that anybody close to those people as well as any patient would greatly profit from reading this wonderful collection of stories. Since that covers most anybody, particularly in the so-called "developed" world, let me simply say that I do believe reading "Short White Coat" would be a good idea for anybody who wants to understand more about doctors and doctoring. Judging by this book, Dr. Feinstein understands what makes a good doctor, and I sincerely hope more of his colleagues take his lessons to heart as well.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Humanizing Psychiatry: The Biocognitive Model

Niall McLaren, M.D.
Future Psychiatry Press (2010)
ISBN 9781615990115 
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views

Author of "Humanizing Madness," Dr. McLaren predicts that within the next twenty years, worldwide, psychiatry, as we know it, will cease to exist.  The numbers of psychiatrists, and people in training to become one, are rapidly decreasing.  He reiterates that this extinction will occur unless there is a radical change within the profession.  He notes that there is currently a lack of humanity in psychiatry and the training for it.  This lack will continue to dissuade talented individuals from pursuing psychiatry as a profession. 
He recognizes there is a conspicuous lack of direction from leaders and that the bureaucracy has also added to its evolvement into something more like a dehumanizing pseudoscience.  Dr. McLaren states, "...unless psychiatrists come up with a proper model of mental disorder as the basis for daily practice, teaching and research, then things will only get worse for the mentally ill."  In a world filled with increasing rates of suicide, alcohol and drug addictions, and post traumatic stress disorders, this is really scary for people needing treatment.
Dr. McLaren feels that institutional psychiatry and its related publishing industry do not have a "formal, agreed model of mental disorder."  In "Humanizing Psychiatry" he outlines a biocognitive model that might be able to fix this issue and save psychiatry. He describes this model as "…the most complex and far-reaching model in the history of psychiatry."  McLaren developed this model so "It restores humanity to psychiatry by integrating the biological, psychological and cultural aspects of psychiatry."   Once the industry agrees upon a specific model, then a means for objectivity, accessibility and accountability needs to be created.
Once again, Dr. McLaren has written an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking book about the subject of psychiatry.  It is obvious a great deal of research and thought went into creating the biocognitive model that is extensively discussed in the book.  I found reading this book incredibly interesting and also scary, because if we don't do something to correct the problems that we are faced with in Psychiatry, we will be in huge trouble, especially people who have mental health disorders and the people who are dealing with them. I highly recommend that people currently working in the mental health professions and students studying Psychiatry read "Humanizing Psychiatry" Niall McLaren, M.D., so that their eyes can be opened.

The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

Fiona Ingram
iUniverse (2008)
ISBN 9780595457168
Reviewed by Dylan James (age 13) for Reader Views Kids  
Are you ready for Egypt?  In "The Secret of the Sacred Scarab," Adam's Aunt Isabel invites him and his cousin Justin to go to Egypt with her on a vacation. They go, expecting excitement, but what they get is way overboard!  The boys discover something sinister after an archeologist vanishes.  He was trying to find the tomb of the Scarab King, a king hidden away with all his riches.  Criminals, ancient artifacts, and the wonders of Egypt combine to give Adam and Justin an experience that comes along once in a lifetime.
I can say, without a doubt, that "The Secret of the Sacred Scarab" by Fiona Ingram is exciting.  It is an exhilarating adventure, with strange mysteries and dangerous criminals. It has a great storyline, keeping me enthralled throughout the whole book.  Boys and girls around ages 10-12 will enjoy this book the most. Boys will probably understand Adam and Justin's emotions better than girls and so may have a better reading experience.
The one bad thing I noticed considerably was the realism. The things the characters say and do sometimes contradict each other.  For instance, although the characters are turning thirteen in a few weeks, they act nothing like teenagers. They act like eleven-year-old boys.  If the characters had been eleven, it would have been more realistic.  Also, when the adventure really starts, the characters are really in mortal danger.  People try to kill them and steal from them several times.  Yet throughout all this, the boys do not tell any adult.  They keep silent.  And even when Aunt Isabel found out about the situation, she simply lets the boys wander through a strange town unsupervised directly after saying they were going straight home.  No matter how unsuspicious the people around you look, no adult in their right mind would do that.  Luckily, though, the whole book does not contain these incidents.  Only specific parts were like this.  If you are not reading with a reviewer's eye, you will probably not even notice them.
Overall, I loved "The Secret of the Sacred Scarab" by Fiona Ingram and I am glad I read it.