Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lisa Kleypas is one of my autobuy authors for historicals, and I enjoyed her contemporary romances as well. Ever since her debut she's been releasing well-researched, satisfying stories and with Hello, Stranger she continues to hit the mark. I especially enjoyed the blood-and-guts aspects of the heroine, Dr. Garrett Gibson, performing surgeries. Kleypas' extensive research into Victorian medicine was fascinating.

I look forward to the next Ravenel novel and all future stories by Ms. Kleypas.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

The Joys of Research

Dr. Murray rose and reached up to the railed bookshelf attached to the bulkhead over his desk, his hand resting on a thick volume.
“Take this with you, Miss Alcott. Study it. You will find it useful.”
It was a worn copy of John Woodall’s The Surgeon’s Mate, and Charley took it, clasping it tight to her bound bosom.
“I have heard of this book but my father did not have a copy. Thank you so much, Dr. Murray!”
He looked at her steadily.
“I am not gifting you with this volume to make you happy, Miss Alcott. I am hopeful that the solid medical advice and common sense for treating men at sea will keep the numbers you kill to a minimum.”
--Sea Change

I spent a day of research and fun in New York City recently thanks to my darling son, who knows his mother very well. Instead of doing the usual tourist things (been there, done that, got the Statue of Liberty hat) he arranged a visit to the library of the New York Academy of Medicine.

The NYAM is an amazing facility and I could easily have spent weeks in the library reading old medical books. Mind you, I'm not a physician or an RN or anything else related to medicine, but since my books feature battles and diseases in a historical context I love the research. The Academy is housed in a classic early 20th C. mansion on the Upper East Side and you can view books in the library by appointment.

Thanks to the 21st c. links at the library website I was able to check out the library's extensive collections and reserve books on naval medicine, including the classic The Surgeon's Mate by John Woodall. First published in 1617, the volume became the standard for naval medicine for many years. It contained instructions on the treatment of disease and wounds, and some common sense advice for the prevention of disease aboard ship. For example, he strongly emphasized properly weighing and measuring ingredients to achieve optimum results.

Woodall tried to cover most or the situations which could arise at sea, including childbirth and, naturally, the treatment of scurvy, as well as recipes for invalid diets. One recipe for the comfort (not treatment) of a plague sufferer sounds surprisingly tasty:

"Lemon or good Citron" stewed in rosewater with cloves. When it's "half-stewed", add powdered "cynamon". Woodall pronounced this "A singular good cordial so taken."

Another volume I (carefully) leafed through was a manual for shipboard medicine by Gregg & Hollis from the 1820s, much used by whaling captains. It was slim and easy to understand, a must for the civilian population who didn't have the background of a ship's surgeon.

The 1881 US Public Health Service Handbook of the Ship's Medicine Chest discussed the serious health issue of constipation. The captain might have a "seat of ease" in his cabin, but ordinary seamen were expected to hang off the bow, even in bad weather. Not surprisingly, this wasn't fun and blockages could result. The Health Service instead wanted installation of a porcelain bowl with a spout "set to discharge through the scuppers" that could be easy washed out with sea water.

 A British guide from 1845 on "The Scale of Medicines With Which Merchant Vessels are to be Furnished" included simple directions on how to stock the ship's medicine chest, with numbered instructions in the manual. Here's a photo of the page on treatment of "clap":

This is an illustration from Woodall's Surgeon's Mate, followed by his instructions on treatment of scurvy:

 Another Woodall illustration on trephining skulls to relieve pressure and swelling of the brain.

As I said, I could easily have spent days leafing through the volumes. My thanks to NYAM librarian Arlene Shaner for arranging my visit, and to my son's girlfriend, who initially said to him, "This sounds like something your mom would enjoy."

She was absolutely right and I hope to return on a future visit to New York City. You can keep your Broadway shows and shopping, just bring me the books!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Light It Up

Light It Up Light It Up by Nicholas Petrie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Peter Ash books continue to satisfy as the war veteran deals with his PTSD and returning to a more normal life. Of course, it's complicated. Peter's on a security detail for a cannabis operation in Colorado when things go south, big time. Now it's up to him to uncover why his team was hit and solve the puzzle behind the robbery.

As Bob Lee Swagger and Jack Reacher age out of their action/adventure years it's good to know we've got new over-the-top heroes like Peter Ash to keep us entertained.

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Monday, February 26, 2018


Greetings from sunny North Central Florida and my little dogwood tree. I was sure this one was lost a few years back, but it's hanging in there, even if it's a bit lopsided now from lost limbs.

I know it's springtime not just because of the increased level of sneezing and sniffling around town, but because I had my first sighting this week of a flock of Bare-Chested Buff Running Hunks. They're best spotted early in the morning but worth it. Who needs caffeine when you've got eye candy? (Note to self--restock snack bars and Gatorade in the feeder.)

Whether you're waiting for the lilacs up North or for the cooler autumn temps Down Under, I hope you get the weather you're longing for. In the meantime, I'll keep an eye open for the Running Hunks.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Review: The Lucky Ones

The Lucky Ones The Lucky Ones by Tiffany Reisz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What does it mean to have a family? For Allison, being taken from unsatisfactory foster homes to live in The Dragon, an old mansion on the Oregon coast, meant she had a family of brothers and sisters who loved her and a father who was a world-famous surgeon.

But it all ended when she fell down a flight of steps and was whisked away "for her own safety" according to her aunt. It's an episode she can't remember and she's never had contact with her Oregon family since. Until now, over 10 years later.

I couldn't put The Lucky Ones down. It was at times poignant, funny, horrifying and sexy. It also deals with the tough questions of medical ethics, atonement, choices, mental illness and what it means to have a family that one isn't born into, but that's every bit as real.

Reisz is best known for her erotic Original Sinners series, but she's equally adept at writing engrossing mysteries. I look forward to her next book, no matter the genre.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Greetings!

            Julia sniffed. “I am impressed you can recite poetry, Washburn. Rather like a counting pig at the fair. One watches in amazement, wondering how an animal can do that.”
            “Now that hurts! I can say pretty things, too.”
            He crossed to where she stood beside the bed, and took her hand in his. His touch was warm, and she gave an involuntary shiver having nothing to do with the night air.
            He stroked the ball of her hand with his thumb, soothing over the nicks and calluses raised by the chores of daily farm work. He took his other hand and lifted her chin, looking deep into her eyes.
            “Y’know how when you whack the woodpile, and all them big ol’ palmetto bugs come scamperin’ out? Your eyes are just as brown and shiny as a palmetto bug runnin’ in the sunlight, darlin’.”
            Julia made a strangled noise and pulled back on her hand, but Washburn was holding it tight, a smile dancing in his eyes despite the soulful tone of his words.
            “It is clear that pretty words are not your forte, Washburn. Best you stick to smuggling salt. And you can fetch your pallet after you let go of my hand.”
            “Aw, now I’m gettin’ warmed up. Let me think on it.”
            Washburn moved in closer, and still holding on to her hand, moved the other down her back until it rested on her backside. He began stroking her, a slow circular caress that seemed to facilitate his thinking if his furrowed brow was any indication.
            However, it was putting paid to her thought processes.
            “Your eyes are like pecans, Julia. Brandy brown, and like the nuts, you’re hard on the outside, but buttery on the inside. It’s a chore getting to that good stuff, but that’s part of the fun, workin’ your way past the shell to the rich meat. And when you crack a pecan and the nut comes out whole, have you ever noticed how it’s like two lips, plump and tasty and just waitin’ for the right someone’s mouth to enjoy all the pleasure trapped within?”
            A faint smile at that one. “Better, but not quite Byron.”
            “How ’bout this then?” He moved in even closer, and released her hand, running his finger along her eyebrow down to the outer corner of her eye, where he feathered it over the soft skin at her temple, a touch as light as a moth’s wing passing in the night. The hand behind her back pulled her in until she was standing between his legs, and could feel how seriously he was taking this wordplay.
            “Your eyes are the smoky bronze of coffee, rich and deep. It settles in your belly and warms you from the inside out. Hot, and able to get a man up in the mornin’, and keep him up all day. Without coffee, the day is dull, flat, lifeless. But with that first taste of the stimulatin’ brew, you know you can face anythin’. It makes your heart beat a little faster, and the colors all seem sharper, the air brighter.”
            Her mouth was dry as she swallowed. “Much better.”
            He angled his head toward her, his own lips a fraction from hers. “Jamaican rum,” he breathed against her mouth.
            She pulled back and looked at him, one eyebrow raised.
            “Your eyes are like Jamaican rum, darlin’, golden dark and potent. It goes down smooth but it has fire to it. A man has to be careful, too much can make him lose his head, drownin’ in honeyed dreams.”
            “Don’t lose your head,” she whispered.
            “Too late.”

--Smuggler's Bride

Happy Valentine's Day! Whether you're celebrating with your sweetie or taking a day to pamper and love yourself (and that's very important), remember that love and the words of love come in all forms. You don't have to be a poet to say "I Love You", and sometimes the simplest sentiments are the most heartfelt.

And don't forget, an entertaining romance is a delightful gift any day of the year. Treat yourself or treat someone you love. Hint--they go well with chocolate.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Review: The Wanted

The Wanted The Wanted by Robert Crais
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Robert Crais' Elvis Cole novels don't come out that often, but they're well worth the wait. Ever since The Monkey's Raincoat I've been a fan of Elvis and his partner/bestie Joe Pike.

The Wanted is another winner. Snappy dialogue, interesting characters, a solid mystery and a climax full of surprises you won't see coming, this one has it all. It's not to be missed by Crais' fans, but it also works well as a stand-alone for those new to the series. However, for true reading pleasure, I recommend starting with the first book and enjoying the ride.

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