Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Book Reviews for a Winter's Night

I'm not a fan of Winter, and I live in a warm state! I can't imagine what it would be like to be snowbound, though there are some great books written about that very thing. I am ready for Spring and to welcome back the Sun!

One good thing about this time of year: there are some wonderful books coming out in the next few months. And what better way to spend a cold, dreary day than curled up with a good book!

Speaking of cold, one of my favorite reads recently, The Current, by Tim Johnston, was just published yesterday. The author does a great job with the setting in this novel, and it's shiver-inducing!

In the middle of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, two young women are pulled from a river. One survives, and in her grief over losing her friend and someone else close to her, she realizes that her accident is linked to an unsolved murder that happened 10 years before.

This book has a lot of characters, and the POV of the narrative switches frequently. That, along with the sentence structure makes this a challenging read, but I found it really hard to put down. The narrative is so propulsive and immersive that I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I do like to be challenged as a reader and appreciate it when authors take risks that work.  It will stay with me a long time. More than a mystery, it is also a meditation on love and loss and grief and memory. When I turned the last page, I felt I had been in the hands of a master. It has gotten really good reviews, and I hope that it reaches a wide audience. Not everyone will find it to be their kind of read, but it sure worked for me. Thanks to Algonquin and the library marketing division at Workman Publishing for the early galley of this excellent novel, which was also a January LibraryReads pick!

Another book celebrating a Book Birthday yesterday is The Woman Inside by E.G. Scott, the pen name for two long-time friends, one a publishing professional and the other a screenwriter. I would say this book has the feel of Gone Girl and The Woman in the Window in terms of characterization and narrative, so if you are a fan of those books, you will probably like this one. It has messed up characters and unreliable narrators, a trend that is still with us!

Deliciously twisty, with impeccable plotting, this one took me by complete surprise.  The scenes with the detective characters were some of my favorites, and the authors have told me that another book is in the works with them in it! With its jaw-dropping ending that didn't turn out at all the way I expected, this one will linger - and maybe make me question what my own spouse has been getting up to. I would recommend this psychological thriller to those who enjoy complex thrillers that mess with your head! I appreciate Dutton and the library marketing division of Penguin Random House for early access to the galley!

Though not normally a big fan of historical fiction, I appreciated so much getting a print galley of Woman 99 from Sourcebooks. It will be published in early March. This novel ended being an interesting read, especially after researching the true historical figure of Nelly Bly, upon whom the book is based. (And I just saw recently that there is a Lifetime Movie coming out about the same subject matter). 

When Charlotte Smith's wealthy parents send her beloved sister, Phoebe, to a private asylum for women, she cannot accept the fact that her sister is insane. Going undercover as a mental patient herself, Charlotte gradually comes to understand that some of the women really do need help, and others have been unfairly committed. But into which category does Phoebe belong?

The characters are distinct and well-developed, the descriptions of the settings in the novel are vivid, and the situations that are described are quite often harrowing. The ending was quite satisfying, always a big plus. I would recommend this one to fans of historical fiction with strong female characters.

Finally, there are a number of additional yet-to-be-published books I am working on right now, but haven't finished:

I will let you know what I think!

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Dr. Arthur Spohn: Surgeon, Inventor and Texas Medical Pioneer ~ Lone Star Literary Book Blog Tour *Excerpt*

DR. ARTHUR SPOHN: Surgeon, Inventor, and Texas Medical Pioneer

Genre: Non-Fiction / Medical / Texas History / Biography
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication Date: September 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 352 pages. 
78 b&w photos. Map. 4 Appendices. Index.

In this first comprehensive biography of Dr. Arthur Edward Spohn, authors Jane Clements Monday, Frances Brannen Vick, and Charles W. Monday Jr., MD, illuminate the remarkable nineteenth-century story of a trailblazing physician who helped to modernize the practice of medicine in Texas.
Arthur Spohn was unusually innovative for the time and exceptionally dedicated to improving medical care. Among his many surgical innovations was the development of a specialized tourniquet for “bloodless operations” that was later adopted as a field instrument by militaries throughout the world. To this day, he holds the world record for the removal of the largest tumor—328 pounds—from a patient who fully recovered.
Recognizing the need for modern medical care in South Texas, Spohn, with the help of Alice King, raised funds to open the first hospital in Corpus Christi. Today, his name and institutional legacy live on in the region through the Christus Spohn Health System, the largest hospital system in South Texas. This biography of a medical pioneer recreates for readers the medical, regional, and family worlds in which Spohn moved, making it an important contribution not only to the history of South Texas but also to the history of modern medicine.


Excerpt from the introduction by Kenneth L. Mattox, MD
Distinguished Service Professor
Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Baylor College of Medicine
Chief of Staff and Surgeon-in-Chief
Ben Taub Hospital Emergency Center and Trauma Center

In 1868, when a twenty-three-year-old Dr. A. E. Spohn became a public health officer in Corpus Christi, there were no hospitals as we know them, no antibiotics, no laboratory tests to assist in diagnosis, no X-rays, and a poor understanding of bacteriology or virology. Immunology and vaccinations were not yet developed. Perhaps more than the scourges of war, fights, raids, and interpersonal violence, infectious diseases were the most common causes of death. Particularly deadly were yellow fever, scarlet fever, diphtheria, smallpox, cholera, rabies, and tuberculosis. Although some symptomatic treatments were often tried, quarantining was the general approach. Throughout this book, continuing development in combating infectious diseases is traced. Another malady faced by the Texans was the venomous snakebite, particularly that of the western rattlesnake. Again, this book follows new approaches added by Dr. Spohn to treatment of snakebites. Although his skills, interest, and aptitude eventually made Dr. Spohn an administrator and surgeon, this book is an important documentation of the pre-antibiotic and early vaccine era of the treatment of infectious disease.

During the life of Dr. Spohn, the large port cities of the East and West Coasts were well known around the world. The midwestern cities of Chicago and Milwaukee were population centers. In Texas, by 1900 the port city of Galveston was the largest Gulf Coast city in the South, a statistic changed by the unnamed hurricane to hit the city that year. Land routes to the west went through San Antonio and El Paso, or farther north, to routes through the Rocky Mountains. Corpus Christi had fewer than twenty-five hundred citizens when Dr. Spohn settled there. Citizens during his lifetime were often killed by epidemics of infectious disease. Corpus Christi was not the easy port that New Orleans, Mobile, and Galveston were. Corpus Christi was literally a bit off the beaten path. This book becomes a social registry as well as a history of the governmental and cultural development of Corpus Christi and will, in the future, serve as a foundation for the history of this unique city of Texas for the time that Dr. Spohn was one of its principal citizens.

This is a book about organization, leadership, planning, and management. Although the skills of physicians, soldiers, ranchers, farmers, and sailors are repeatedly emphasized throughout, one of the most fascinating aspects of this writing is the integration of the planning and management efforts of a relatively few persons in taming and developing this land and its people. It is a lesson in successful leadership and strategic planning. As has often been the case in changing the course of a society, a relatively few strong and intuitive individuals are part of that effort, and their collective focus and energy are in harmony with each other. This book very clearly demonstrates how a relatively few persons in and around Corpus Christi shaped the course of Texas and even the continuing development of the United States.

Dr. Arthur Spohn received his medical and surgical education prior to the Flexner report. Medical school education was non-standardized. Curriculum was variable from school to school, and the curriculum and technical training to be a surgeon were nonexistent in the United States. Yet, a focused and driven Dr. Spohn received some of the finest medical and surgical training from medical educators in Canada, Michigan, New York, and even Europe. He was an apprentice under some of the most famous names of his time and in some of the best hospitals in the Western Hemisphere. He read extensively and did research, as well as developed surgical instruments. By the end of his career, the American College of Surgeons, Texas Surgical Society, and even the standardization of undergraduate medical education, as well as the beginnings of specialty boards, were developing. Dr. Spohn had the genome of a surgeon but could have received certification in any one of several specialties of medicine, including public health, infectious disease, general surgery, emergency medicine, military medicine, trauma, family practice, toxicology, and obstetrics and gynecology. He pursued both basic education and technical skill sets in each of these areas. This book shows the movement from untamed rural crude medicine in the United States to a structured and progressively evidence-based environment.

Dr. Spohn was an innovator and created adaptations to aid his surgical practice. Throughout this book, those inventions and ideas are recorded. He developed a concept of “staged” operations to make the ultimate outcome better and safer. He devised treatments that must be classified as providing immunotherapy for various conditions. He created a tourniquet to be used in the operating room to reduce blood loss. He defended his invention when others tried to claim it as their own, and he progressively made improvements to this invention and faithfully reported it at meetings and in the literature. Dr. Spohn was a Renaissance man of his time. The authors have painstakingly researched many resources, from newspapers to personal letters and telegrams, to community, church, and school records. The referencing of these resource documents is presented in detail. Although written to memorialize the life of Dr. Arthur E. Spohn, this is a book of great interest to many whose interest in history involves many previously described areas.


The chapters in the book are mesmerizing...the photographs in the book are priceless and probably cannot be seen by the general public except in this book. This is much more than a biography of Dr. Spohn and his medical triumphs. It is a book about life in South Texas from 1865 to the 1920s and beyond. Dr. Arthur Edward Spohn was part of that history and his contributions to medicine and the development of South Texas have guaranteed his legacy for years to come. This book is the proof.
-- Dr. Manuel Flores, Texana Reads
This is no dry medical text. Even if you have little interest in the medical field, you'll be astonished at the life of this accomplished physician and surgeon. 
-- Allison Ehrlich, Corpus Christi Caller Times

JANE CLEMENTS MONDAY is the author of numerous books and coauthor, with Frances Brannen Vick, of award-winning Petra’s Legacy: The South Texas Ranching Empire of Petra Vela and Mifflin Kenedy and Letters to Alice: Birth of the Kleberg-King Ranch Dynasty. She has served as chair of the Texas State University System Board of Regents and mayor of Huntsville, Texas. She resides in Huntsville. 

FRANCES BRANNEN VICK is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Petra’s Legacy and Letters to Alice. She founded E-Heart Press and cofounded the University of North Texas Press. Vick has served as president of the Texas Institute of Letters, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. She resides in Dallas. 

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

WWW Wednesday - Welcome to Library Collection Development - and more!

Image result for wednesday clipart
Librarian Stuff:

With the beginning of this fresh new year, I have taken over selecting all the Fiction and Romance titles for our library system. I have a significant budget increase, which is wonderful, but also a bit overwhelming when you think about how many books are published in those genres during the course of the year. Within fiction, you find: literary fiction, women's or contemporary domestic fiction, Urban fiction, historical fiction, Christian fiction, psychological thrillers, legal thrillers, and some dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. In Romance, you find: contemporary romance, historical romance, Christian and Amish romance and romantic suspense. Oh, and short story collections, too! My eyes are crossing and my blood pressure is rising just reading that list!

Our collection development policy requires there to be at least one positive review from a professional review sources, such as Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, or Kirkus. We order from a company that has a database that allows us to create lists of books, read reviews and place orders, all on the same site.

 In making decisions on what to purchase each month, I have to look at our current collection carefully: if a title is part of a series, do we have the rest? How well have the other books circulated (I have to have our ILS, or integrated library system, open to check this frequently - if an author or series hasn't circulated well, I have to decide whether to continue to buy those). If there are no reviews, but it's a popular author, I may look at GoodReads or Amazon and take a look at the top positive and critical reviews to see what other librarians or published authors think about a book (if those are available). 

All this being said, I now spend quite a bit more hours on collection development, in addition to  editing two book review newsletters, my regular hours on the Reference Desk and planning and facilitating library programs for adults. Still, I love it all!

As I settle into this new role, I find that I am not reading as much, for my own pleasure. I read so many book reviews during the day, it almost feels like I've been reading books for hours! And I haven't felt really very motivated to write book reviews on my blog, either!

Now onto what I have been able to read, or am currently reading:

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Kim Michele Richardson
May 7, 2019

Image result for the book woman of troublesome creek

I won't give an extensive review of this title because it isn't being published until May. I found out about it a couple months ago, and the author was so kind to send me an advanced reader's copy after I expressed a lot of interest on social media!  Book Woman was the first book I finished in 2019, on New Year's Day, in fact!

Shining a bright light on a dark era of Kentucky history in the 1930's, this novel tells the fictionalized story of a people and an organization that actually existed at that time. In Eastern Kentucky, there was a group of people who had a medical issue that caused them to have blue skin. You can Google this and see images of some of the actual family members who lived with this condition. They were reviled, ostracized, and treated with great suspicion because of their skin color and were actually referred to as "colored" in the same way as African Americans were during that era. 

As part of the New Deal in the 1930's, the government employed women and some men to deliver books to the people who lived very distant from the towns, and did not have access to books. These pack horse librarians were mainly admired and welcomed, but also treated with reservation by some of the secluded families who lived separated from the rest of their communities. The author created a character, Cussy Mary Carter, who was a "Blue" and also a pack horse librarian. It is an incredible story, with a gentle and sympathetic main character who just stole my heart. It is also a hard read at times because of how the Blues and some of the other characters were treated by the white community.

The author has done an incredible job of giving a voice to both the Blues and the brave and fierce pack horse librarians who rode mules and horses into the mountains, at great risk to their lives, to deliver books, magazines, scrapbooks and even food to the poverty-stricken people of that time. I hope everyone loves it as much as I did. As I turned the last page I found myself wanting to be more kind, compassionate, tolerant and charitable as I began a new year.

Currently Reading

Transcription: A Novel by [Atkinson, Kate]

I was having a bit of trouble getting interested in a book after finishing Book Woman, and was starting to get a little worried that I was getting burned out on reading. Not to fear! I just had to find the right book(s). 

Mentioned by a librarian colleague, I was immediately sucked into the story in Bring Me Back, by B.A. Paris, about a man whose girlfriend goes missing at a rest stop in France - only the narrator tells you that he isn't being completely honest. I don't like him much, but it's been hard to put this one down - unreliable narrators still abound! This was published last June.

When All is Said is a debut by Irish novelist Anne Griffin and will be published in March. Thanks to the marketing division at Macmillan for this galley! "One night, 5 drinks, 5 toasts." This one has Irish charm in spades! I love the way the author expresses the dialogue and inner voice of the main character, 84 year old Maurice Hannigan. According to the description, over the course of one evening, Maurice will raise his glass in five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories, the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare. 

And because I cannot imagine wasting any "book reading" time, I am also listening to the audiobook of Kate Atkinson's newest novel, Transcription. I am a fan of this author's Jackson Brody series, but am finding it a little hard not to let my mind wander while listening to this one. I keep having to rewind to figure out what is going on! Juliet Armstrong worked for the British secret service during World War II, and thought she had put the horrors of war behind her. 10 years later, while working for the BBC, shadowy figures from her past come back to haunt her. We will see if it keeps my interest on my commute over the next few days.

I do have a whole stack, both physical and digital, of galleys that I need to read, courtesy of the wonderful publishers who work with Librarians. Its a great problem to have - having too much to read, yet not enough time - so I'm grateful!

Happy Reading!