Brain on Fire: my Month of Madness

From Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Susannah  Cahalan
Brain on Fire: my Month of Madness
Brain on Fire is the story of a 20-something who contracts a rare type of encephalitis. Due to the rarity of her physical illness, the symptoms are initially chalked up to mental illness. This is an interesting story, with one feature I found a little bumpy in the telling. She will, in several places, give a little anatomical/physiological/pathological explanation, which can be somewhat educational, but doesn’t seem, IMHO, to transition smoothly with the rest of the text.

Scary note: If someone living in New York City, and being hospitalized in a prestigious place like NYU Langone, must seemingly wait ages to be properly diagnosed, what might happen to someone with the same disease who does not have access to these resources?

All Gone: a Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments

From  Margaret Mezzacapo
Author:  Alex Witchel
All Gone: a Memoir of My Mother’s Dementia. With Refreshments 
This book chronicles the author’s mother’s journey through stages of Alzheimer’s, from an active, vibrant, educated woman to a completely different and debilitated person. This journey impacts not only the patient, but many others as well. Witchel uses food as an illustrative device to chronicle her younger years as well as the present, and includes recipes for the dishes that serve to illustrate her life.

I enjoyed this book and its style. Before starting any Alzheimer’s support group, I’d recommend reading this book. It shows that those who are mourned are not necessarily deceased.

Unwanted: A novel

From  Eileen  Effrat
Author:  Kristina Ohlsson
Unwanted:  A novel
In Sweden,a mother leaves her six year old daughter sleeping on a train while she slips off the train to make a quick telephone call. The train leaves without her and the daughter disappears. The child’s body is found hundreds of miles away with the word  “UNWANTED” scrawled on her forehead. In quick succession, 2 other child abductions occur with the same M.O.. What follows is the pursuit of a ruthless child killer.  This is a police procedural from a new Swedish  author. If you enjoy Nordic noir, give this a try.

Six Years

From  Rosemarie Jerome
Author:  Harlan  Coben
Six Years
A broken hearted college professor, Jake Fisher, watches is ex-lover, Natalie, marry another man, Todd. He tells her that he loves her and she makes him promise that he will never contact her again. He keeps that promise for six years until a momentous event occurs, he sees Todd’s obituary online. Jake attends the funeral but another woman is the grieving widow. Where is Natalie? His search for her unearths lies, secrets, conspiracies and violence. His world and reality is destroyed but he knows that he must discover the truth about the woman that he loves.

The narrator of this suspense, Scott Brick, is a master storyteller who navigates the listener through these plot twists and draws you into the story. His intense delivery captures you from the very beginning and he gives each character their own distinct voice by just using a subtle change in tone, pitch or dialect. His narration is very natural, never over the top, but you really get to know the characters by their (his) voice. I loved the characters with attitude like our hero.

Candle in the Darkness

From  Ginny  Pisciotta
Author:  Lynn Austin
Candle in the Darkness
Caroline Fletcher is the daughter of a wealthy slave owner in Virginia.  Unlike her family and most everyone around her, she has always thought of slaves as people and friends rather than property. Her feelings against slavery grow stronger as she witnesses the horrific injustices  against slaves in both her own city home and on her uncle’s plantation.  After the death of her mother she is sent to live with relatives in Philadelphia where she meets abolitionist  Rev. Nathaniel Greene and becomes convinced she must help the abolitionist cause.

She eventually returns home, falls in love and becomes engaged.  Before she can get married, Virginia secedes from the Union and war breaks out.  Her fiancé, and other loved ones go to fight on the side of the Confederacy.  She does her part to help care for the thousands of injured Confederate soldiers.  When she is contacted by a cousin from Philadelphia who is now a prisoner of war near her home, she visits him. Knowing her feelings about slavery, he asks her to help him and other union soldiers to escape, and also to act as a spy giving the North whatever information she finds out.

Caroline has a difficult and dangerous decision to make.  Should she act as a spy for the north to help bring freedom to the slaves, but betray the man she loves, family and friends?  If caught she would most likely be hung.   People are already suspicious of her because of her views on slavery.

Candle in the Darkness is a riveting novel that asks hard questions, vividly portrays the horrors of slavery and of war, and shows how quickly lives and lifestyles can be irrevocably changed .

This is the first title in the Refiner’s Fire series.  The other 2 are Fire by Night and A Light to My Path.

My Stroke of Insight

From: Margaret  Mezzacapo

My Stroke of Insight

Author: Jill Bolte Taylor

I had read Ms. Taylor’s book several years ago from my viewpoint at the time as an EMT and member of the Fire Department, which I still am. But reading it now from the viewpoint of having had a stroke myself at a relatively young age, it takes on a whole new meaning and perspective. There were times when this book was almost uncomfortably close to home. Ms. Taylor chronicles everything spot-on. I’d recommend this to all audiences.

Picking Up

From: Margaret Mezzacapo
Picking Up

Author: Robin Nagle
Having always had an interest in how things work, I had a feeling I’d like this one, and I was right. Ms. Nagle, an anthropologist, became a New York City sanitation person in order to immerse herself in the culture of garbage, which is a lot more entertaining than it sounds. She dwells a little lengthily on the history of trash, but still I was very entertained and learned a lot.

Four Tenths of an Acre

From: Margaret Mezzacapo
Four Tenths of an Acre
Author: Laurie Lisle
This has a similar theme to Margaret Roach’s And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road (2011). A single woman “escapes” city life by fleeing to a country setting and becoming an obsessive gardener. Ms. Lisle becomes totally possessed, and IMHO uses the garden to avoid human interaction.

There are a few jarring notes/questions I had:

  • Without a job, how is she paying for all this? Unless she got one boatload of an inheritance!
  • She mentions her dog – and somehow chronicles sixteen years with her – yet always refers to her as “my dog” and not once gives her name. Then again, she only names one of her three husbands.

Overall, an entertaining read, though.

Budapest Noir

From  Eileen Effrat
Author:  Vilmos Kondor
Budapest Noir
Set in 1930’s Budapest, this is the first book in an Hungarian crime series featuring  Zsigmond Gordon, a crime reporter for a Budapest newspaper. The world is on the eve of war and fascism is on the rise in Hungary. The murder of a wealthy young woman  in a seedy part of the city leads his investigation to the highest echelons of the Hungarian government.  This is the first Kondor book translated into English.  I will be anxiously anticipating the others in the series to be translated—A Spy in Budapest, Sinful Budapest, and Budapest in Ruins.  For an authentic flavor of Budapest back alleys,cafes, and daily life in the 1930’s,this is an excellent choice.