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A Potpourri of Reads: Reviews for “Ghost Boy,” “Working Stiff,” and “On the Island”

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By Gini Rainey

“Ghost Boy: The Miraculous Escape of a Misdiagnosed Boy Trapped Inside His Own Body” By Martin Pistorius

This international best-seller is the sad yet ultimately victorious story of Martin Pistorius from South Africa, who at the age of twelve was stricken with a mysterious disease that left him a quadriplegic and unable to speak. When the doctors felt nothing more could be done for him and that he was probably severely brain damaged, he was institutionalized during the day while both of his parents worked to support their family.

Martin spent 10 years either in a wheelchair or on cushions on the floor, virtually a prisoner in his own body, unable to communicate in any way and hating his existence. At the mercy of his caregivers, he was unable to move or speak, tell anyone he was hot or cold, or uncomfortable. He had no way to tell them what he wanted to eat, drink, or what he wanted to do. He was abused mentally, physically, and even sexually by his caregivers. Unable to verbalize, he was not able to tell anyone about the abuse, so it continued.

Fortunately for Martin, one of his caregivers recognized a glimmer of awareness in his eyes and sensed that he was very much aware of the world outside his body. At her encouragement, Martin’s parents had him tested and discovered for themselves what Martin had known for a few years – he had a fully functioning brain. After a series of trials and errors, and with the incredible and patient assistance of his parents, Martin was able to finally communicate with those around him.

Now able to communicate, Martin’s life started to become better. He got a job and because of the technological communication advances for people such as himself, he was in high demand as the voice for the voiceless at seminars and symposiums for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

Perhaps the greatest moment of Martin’s life, though, was when he met Joanna, a friend of his sister who was living in London. They met online, and although they lived on different continents, they pursued a relationship with each other via SKYPE. Joanna was very kind, caring, and loving and accepted Martin exactly as he was. After 6 months of SKYPE-dating, they finally met in person and it was not too long after, they were married.

Martin’s story could be anyone’s story. What happened to him could happen to anyone, but I think what makes his story so amazing is that he had the courage and determination to fight for his life while faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. It also is an amazing story of the love and dedication of his parents who fought against the odds to help their son become all that he could become.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2013 – Thomas Nelson

“Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner” By Judy Melinek, M.D. and T. J. Mitchell

You knew it was just a matter of time before I would pull out another medical forensic book, didn’t you? Well, this one is a bit different from my usual Patricia Cornwell fare – this one is real. “Working Stiff” is extremely rich in medical detail, so if you choose to read it, be prepared for grisly, uncensored descriptions of the cases Dr. Melinek witnessed or was involved in.

Dr. Melinek moved to New York from California to study to become a forensic pathologist. Based out of the medical examiner’s office in the Bronx, she sees it all in one form or another. Of particular interest are the sections that recount her experiences in the aftermath of both the 9/11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center and the American Airlines Flight 587 crash in Queens. Most of us witnessed these events via sterile viewings on our televisions, but Melinek takes her readers right into the nitty gritty of it and introduces them to the incredible efforts made by heroic people during the aftermath of these mass-casualty disasters.

Although Melinek jumps around a bit in time, her writing is suffused with her personality, character, and her dedication to her profession. There are times when you might feel that the medical personnel are a bit irreverent, but then you will realize that this is a survival technique for people who deal with not-so-neat death on a daily basis.

As Judy tells her husband, T. J. after he complains that listening to her daily stories of her work will cause him to wear gloves and a mask when he is out in public, “Staying alive is mostly common sense.” There are a lot of folks out there who are doing some pretty stupid things and she’ll unabashedly tell you their stories. Certainly the stories she shares can be gruesome and cause you to wonder how they will die, but then she reminds the reader that a pathologist gives you the last physical exam you will ever have.

One strong point that Judy makes is that an autopsy is really a medical discovery. To be a pathologist you have to want to be a detective, albeit a cautious one, for the pathologist’s word and cause of death is the last word.

Dr. Melink’s stories are sometimes funny, but they are always filled with the knowledge that comes from someone who truly knows her profession. This book is definitely one of the best of this genre and it is extremely well written, with just the right amount of medical terminology, and the translation of what could otherwise be a very grisly topic is tastefully handled.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2014 – Scribner

“On The Island” By Tracey Garvis Graves

This book could easily be renamed “The Blue Lagoon Meets the Nanny Files.” Anna Emerson, a thirty year old English teacher looking for adventure, has been worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a personal relationship that is going absolutely nowhere. She literally jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen year old T. J.

J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. He is a survivor of cancer and is ready to get back to his normal life, but his parents insist that he spend his summer in the Maldives catching up on all of the school work he has missed while taking cancer treatments.

So Anna and T.J. board a private plane to fly to the Callahan’s summer home. Well, of course, the unthinkable happens as they are flying over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands – their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they are stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first their only thought is about survival, but as the days turn to weeks, and then months, they encounter plenty of other obstacles. Violent storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return make life in the Maldives more interesting than Anna or T. J. ever thought it could be. Oh, and then there is the fact that T. J. is on the cusp of manhood.

Sarcasm aside, this really is a lovely story about two people thrown together who learn to depend on each other to survive. You would think that a romance between the two would seem very unlikely, but with the sensitive and powerful way the story is told, it just seems to make good sense that this would happen. Not told from just one point of view, but from both, you are able to get inside Anna and T.J.’s heads to see their thought processes and how their relationship evolves.

This is a great romance novel and an easy read. Additionally, it is one of the better self-published books I have read in quite a while and I would recommend it for a great way to spend a rainy afternoon during the upcoming spring.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2012 – Plume

 

Books

Duck! Here It Comes!

By Gini Rainey

For those of you who have been paying attention to the general theme of my cookbook collection, you may have noticed a trend towards those written by or about celebrities and or famous people.  That was one of my initial criteria when I started picking them up and mostly still is, unless I come across one that’s weird, unusual, or cheap!  Every so often I’ll go to my favorite eBay store, thriftbooks, just to see if they have anything new that fits the bill.  The cookbook I have in front of me today is one of those.  It’s “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” by Kay Robertson with Chrys Howard and was published in 2013 by Howard Books and was written by a celebrity and was cheap!  Score!

So, then I got to thinking “whatever happened to Duck Dynasty.”  I was never a viewer of the series – but I have the T-Shirt that my husband picked up for me in West Monroe, Louisiana on one of his many treks to Florida. I did watch a portion of one episode at one of my daughter’s following a family gathering.  About all I can remember about it was her family never missed an episode and were really into it.  I think that particular episode had some bird-hunting/killing/plucking/slicing/ dicing/cooking involved in it.  My other daughter and her family (who just happen to be vegans) had a hard time sitting there watching all of the carnage and eventually turned to other things to do and talk about.

The Robertson’s have pretty some strong family values and have actually built quite a financial empire over the past 30 plus years with their clothing line – Duck Commander.  Even though she spent a great deal of her time working along side her husband, Miss Kay raised a family and filled them, not only with good food, but also a stern hand nicely blended with warmth and love.

Her cookbook is filled, not only with great, rib-sticking recipes, but also with quite a few biblical references, anecdotes, and family photos.  Sharing that she uses a cast iron skillet or dutch oven to cook most of her recipes, she explains it’s because they can either be used on the stove top or in the oven and they heat up quickly. It’s also not terribly surprising that several of her recipes call for Duck Commander seasoning!

Well, if you’re lucky enough to own a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, here’s a fairly easy recipe to try out on your family.  First, heat your oven to 275° and season about 1 pound of tenderized round steak (tenderized round steak usually comes 4 to a package and I generally cut those in half to make 8 pieces) with salt and pepper and lightly sprinkle both sides with flour.  Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in your cast-iron Dutch oven (or cast-iron skillet, or ovenproof casserole dish) and brown the steaks on both sides and drain off the excess oil.  Add 2 celery stalks chopped in large chunks, 1 onion chopped in large chunks, 1 chopped garlic clove, 1 bell pepper chopped in large chunks, 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes and 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce to Dutch oven along with the browned steaks.  Cover and bake for 1 ½ hours and serve with steamed potatoes or egg noodles.  You may not be a Duck Commander, but this meal will have you eating like one!

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Books

Programs Blooming at the Library

New April Programs for All Ages at the Library:

Introduction to Finch Robots & Book Signing for “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending”

The Tyler Public Library is located at 201 S. College Ave., Tyler. Most events are free. For more info call (903)593-7323 or go to tylerlibrary.com.

Children

All storytimes will be in Taylor Auditorium.

  • Leeme un Cuento/Read to Me Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Mondays at 10:30am
  • Lap & Play Time (babies up to 18 months) features stories, songs, and playtime with developmental toys at 9:30am every Wednesday
  • Toddler Explore Storytime (children under age 3) is on Wednesdays at 10:30am
  • Read Aloud Crowd Storytime (children 3-6 years old), Thursdays at 10:30am

April 7th (2-4pm) – LEGO® Block Party – Children ages 3 and up, bring your imagination for an afternoon of building and playing! LEGO® and Duplo Blocks are provided.

April 14th and 28th (2-4pm) – Makerspace – This continuing STEM education for children and teens will feature April 14th: Introduction to Finch Robots and April 28th: We’re at the Maker Faire. This will be held in the Library Treehouse.

April 21st (10:30am) – Movie Matinees – Families are invited to watch a fun feature length films in the library’s auditorium. A different movie will be shown each day. Pillows, blankets, and carpet friendly snacks welcome.

Teens

Every Tuesday (4:30-5:30pm) – Teen Tuesdays – If you are in Middle School or High School you’re in! The Library will have games, activities, and fun just for teens. Earn volunteer hours completing special projects. Descriptions for weekly activities can be found at library.cityoftyler.org/Programs/Teens. Events are:

  • April 3rd: DIY Calming Glitter Jars
  • April 10th: Intro to Coding with Finch Robots
  • April 17th: Robots cont. – Navigate a Maze
  • April 24th: Robots cont. – Draw with a Robot

Adults

April 7th (10am-12 noon) – EastSide Fiber Artists – An open gathering of all things fiber. Whether you quilt, knit, crochet, weave, spin, needle felt, etc. Bring your current or completed project and make some new friends.

April 13th (11:30am) – “Pass Along Plants” with Andie Rathbone will be presented as part of the Smith County Master Gardener Series.

April 14th (11am-12:30pm) – “MOM LIFE: Perfection Pending” Book Launch & Signing – Along with selling and signing copies of her new book during her stop at Tyler, Ethington will be discussing various parenting topics and opening up for a Q&A.

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Books

Historically Speaking

eguide ben wheeler tx

by Gini Rainey

I was thinking this morning about all the incredible advances in technology that I have seen in my lifetime, and how much my dad would have loved all the gadgets we seem to have surrounded ourselves with the past 50 years. For example, just in my lifetime, I’ve seen telephones go from shared party lines with rotary dials to the incredible iPhone (virtually a computer in your hand) that not only can be used for staying connected, but takes a whole lot better photograph than my once treasured Canon SLR.

So, then I got to thinking about all the advances in the kitchen that have helped make the home maker’s life infinitely easier and how many of the old gadgets that I grew up with are now items of speculation in antique shops and vintage stores.  Sometimes just standing back and listening to people trying to determine their use is half the fun of spotting one “just like we used to have!”

Just for fun – can you name these gadgets?

So speaking of vintage, today I’m looking at The Martha Washington Cook Book and is the product of historian Marie Kimball who received special permission from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania to study the original manuscript that was used by Martha Washington for 50 years and then was passed down mother to daughter for nearly 100 years.  The original cookbook was published in 1940 by Coward-McCann, Inc., and the copy that I have was published in 2005.

With nearly 50 pages of historical background regarding the state dinners at the White House and the meals hosted at Mt. Vernon, Kimball has succeeded to paint a rather lovely picture of Martha Washington, who was the over-seer of all of meals prepared for family and dignitaries.  While we might not find many of the recipes included in the book to be something we might consider preparing, such as Marrow Pie, Lettuce Tart, Roasted Hare, or Stewed Calves’ Feet, Mrs. Kimball has fully adapted Martha’s cookbook for practical, modern use.  All the recipes have been proportioned to the current practice of a formula for serving six people, and she says that all of the recipes have been tested and taste great!

One of Martha’s recipes that jumped out at me was for apple fritters sounds absolutely yummy: Heat 1 cup ale and add ¼ cup white wine and the yolks of 4 eggs, the white of 1 egg, well beaten.  Mix together 1 cup flour, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cloves, and ¼ teaspoon mace and combine the two mixtures.  According to Martha Washington “Your batter must be no thicker than will just hang on the apples.”  A little more or less flour may be needed.  Cut the apples into rounds – or what ever shape you please – and deep in the batter.  Drop in deep fat and fry a golden brown.  Drain on a piece of clean linen, (I bet you can use paper towels!) sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, and serve.  Oh, my, nom-nom!

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