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November Book Reviews: A Little Bit of This and That

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By Gini Rainey

“Up At Butternut Lake” By Mary McNair

In the first book of her Butternut Lake Trilogy, Mary McNair introduces her readers to the small town of Butternut Lake and the people who live there. The overall story is simple enough and tells the tale of a recent widow that sets out to start over and reclaim her life with her young son. She goes to a family cabin in Minnesota and settles down to begin her new life, but not before catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, and regaining her sense of self. Along the way we meet a host of people that could be your true life neighbor and hear of the trials and tribulations of life.

The main character is Allie Beckett who is returning to her family’s cabin on Butternut Lake with her young son after experiencing the loss of her husband. She is seeking solitude and privacy but she winds up reconnecting with her old friend Jax plus makes new friends. Jax’s story is secondary but is just as heartfelt as she currently deals with the choices she made in the past. “Up at Butternut Lake” is themed with the concept that you cannot move forward until you deal with the past. It reads like a mix of contemporary romance and women’s fiction/chick-lit. It’s a light read with relatable issues and likeable characters.

Although romance plays a role in this book and contains a few sensual passages that might be seen as a bit gratuitous, overall all, romance isn’t the theme of the book. I was impressed with the delicate inclusion of romance/sex in this book. While leading the reader to the brink, a thin veil would drop over the graphics, leaving much to the imagination, which seems to be an unusual, but welcomed treatment of sex in literature in this day and age.

Through incredible character building and scene definitions, McNair transports you to a special place, with people who you will come to really care about. With McNear’s excellent prose and sensual descriptions, she perfectly captures Butternut Lake’s ambiance. You can almost smell the pine trees and hear the water lapping against the dock. You won’t be disappointed in this book as it flows beautifully. The conflicts and problems that Allie, Walker, Caroline, and Jax wrestle with are gripping and serious. But in the end, just like in real life, it’s the people we love who pull us through.

This is one trilogy that I intend to complete. I can’t wait to find the time to read the second and third books.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2014 – William Morrow Paperbacks

“Confessions of a Surgeon: The Good, the Bad, and the Complicated: Life Behind the O.R. Doors” By Paul Ruggieri, M.D.

Dr. Ruggieri is a practicing board-certified general/laparoscopic surgeon who has been operating for over 20 years. He received his surgical training at the world-renowned Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes Hospital, in St. Louis. He then spent three years as an active duty general surgeon in the U. S. Army.

“Confessions” tells the story of a very honest, concerned surgeon responding to the stresses of challenging and medically fragile patients, exhaustion, threat of lawsuits, and the overwhelming number of regulations hovering over his shoulders in the OR. A Wall Street Journal review that was printed before the book was available to the public, generated a number of attacks against Dr. Ruggieri, as this short review supported typical stereotypes of surgeons. In my opinion, the reviewer should have read the complete book prior to offering to the public his opinion of surgeons in general and not necessarily the image that Ruggieri presents in his book.

Dr. Ruggieri covers a broad swath in his book. One thing you’ll learn is that a critical factor, a factor that unfortunately you as a patient can only tease out indirectly, is the ability of your surgeon to recover from the inevitable surprises and complications during a surgery. Fixing problems is huge. Furthermore not all surgeons are cut from the same cloth, and even though hospitals collect statistics on complication rates, the patients are never allowed to see this. Dr. Ruggieri also talks about the changes in training in the time since he went through his, the impact of lawsuits on how doctors view their profession and treat patients, the grueling hours, and much more.

If nothing else, reading this book will change your mind if you hold physicians and surgeons in the elevated position of gods. These men are only human, and although highly trained and experienced, they never know for sure what surprises might be waiting for them under the blade of their scalpel. “Confessions of a Surgeon” is one of the most honest, straight-from-the-heart works of nonfiction that I have read in quite some time. Dr. Ruggieri reveals his personal insights and emotions in such a way that I found myself drawn to every page of his account. “Confessions” will give you a personal insight into the real world of medicine and surgery that you won’t find anywhere else.

His last chapter, “Will Your Surgeon Be There?” is a must read and could easily be changed to: “Will Your Physician Be There?” Physicians are now starting to retire at younger ages; not as many talented college graduates are applying to medical school; medicine has become a business and not a calling or profession; easier subspecialties with better work hours, more income, pleasant lifestyle, and time to sleep are causing a troublesome shortage of physicians in general surgery and primary care (internal medicine, pediatrics, and primary care.)

Dr. Ruggieri tells the truth in this highly readable and remarkable book. Surgery is a contact sport with life and death outcomes.

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2012 – Berkley

“The Abduction of Mary Rose” By Joan Hall Hovey

The main character of “Mary Rose” is Naomi and her story begins at the hospital with her mother, who is dying of cancer. The author’s description of the ward where the dying patients are being cared for gives the reader a feeling of being there and also a sense of the despair of death that hangs in the air.

After her mother passes away, Naomi learns from the obituary that her vindictive aunt had written that she is adopted. She and her adoptive mother had been very close, and Naomi is devastated that her mother hadn’t trusted her enough to share that information.

She discovers that her biological mother, Mary Rose, a teenager, was raped and left for dead. After eight months in a coma, Mary Rose gave birth to Naomi a few days before she died. Naomi becomes obsessed with finding the rapist/killer, and after researching the very few almost 30-year-old newspaper accounts of Mary Rose’s abduction, she asks the local newspaper to run a story about her discovery, hoping to bring a very old cold case to the front.

Becoming frustrated with the lack of interest on the part of the police, Naomi decides to take things into her own hands. From there, the suspense builds as Naomi collects more evidence, and a game of cat and mouse between her and the killer, who has read the newspaper story, ensues.

Joan Hall Hovey has the incredible ability to get inside the killer’s head and show his thoughts and feelings. It gave me chills to think, as portrayed in the novel, that we can be in the same area as a rapist/killer/criminal, and not realize that we also could become a victim, through no fault of our own, but because the killer may be frustrated with the victim he really wants, and views us as an easy target.

In the last chapters of the book, confrontations between Naomi and the killer escalate and at times I wondered at the choices made. The final showdown is incredibly exciting and nerve wracking. You will find yourself literally on the edge of your seat because of the excellent understanding of suspense that Hovey uses in her writing.

An exciting and suspenseful ending wraps up this incredible novel. If you like murder mysteries, spine chilling suspense, a reason to lock your doors and watch who is behind you on the road, then this book is a must read for you!

Rating: 5 of 5

Copyright 2011 – Books We Love, Ltd.

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Ride ’em Cowboy!

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By Gini Rainey

My dad was quite the jokester.  It seems like he was either pulling off a prank or thinking up one to do.  I remember one time, when I was about 4 or 5, my mom had some of her friends over to play bridge and dad decided it was time to trim my bangs.  So, dad takes the trimmings, glues them to my chest and sends me downstairs to say “hi” to my mom’s friends, who were completely taken by surprise at a little girl with hair on her chest.  Of course, my mom was mortified and promptly hustled me out of the room.  With that in mind, I have often wondered exactly who it was that my dad introduced me to as Hopalong Cassidy when I was around 8 years old.

I was pretty much a tom boy growing up and was madly in love with anything that had to do with cowboys and horses.  My favorite TV shows were Fury, Rin Tin Tin, The Rifleman, The Lone Ranger, and of course, Hopalong Cassidy.  I remember my dad coming home one day, picking me up and the two of us going to the Moorhead Country Club to meet Hopalong Cassidy (whose real name was William Boyd) and his beautiful white stallion, Topper.

If I remember correctly, dad said that Hoppy had moved to Moorhead and was a friend of his.  Now, the internet rabbit hole I have traveled down trying to figure this one out has provided me with only one connection of Hoppie to Moorhead.  Seems there was a disc jockey at a local radio station (KVOX) named Arlyn Lang who used the air name of Hopalong Cassidy for the 25 years he was on the air, beginning in 1984 – the math doesn’t work into this quotient.  So, the question remains: Did I meet the real Hopalong Cassidy that warm day back when I was a kid? Or was it just another one of dad’s pranks?  I guess I’ll never know for sure. Too bad it wasn’t the Lone Ranger, then I could be saying “Just who was that masked man?”

All of that to say, I picked up a really neat cookbook recently, named “The All-American Cowboy Cookbook: Home Cooking on the Range.”  Written by Ken Beck and Jim Clark and published in 1994 by Rutledge Hill Press, this book is filled with over 300 recipes from the “World’s Greatest Cowboys,” and one of them just happens to be, you guessed it, Hopalong Cassidy.  If you are a lover of anything cowboy, you will definitely enjoy this book that is loaded with a ton of trivia and black and white photos.  In fact, it’s so full of fun facts and photos,  you might almost skim past the recipes.

Since nature is reminding us today that winter is not done with us east Texans, it just seems like a Chili kind of day, and this book has several versions of that hearty soup.  Ernest Borgnine, who was in several westerns before he joined “McHale’s Navy,” shared his “Ernie’s Tex Chili.”  In a large pot, brown 3 pounds of ground sirloin or ground round in 1 stick of butter.  Pour off ½ cup liquid from the meat and use it to sauté 3 chopped green bell peppers, 3 chopped onions, and 3 minced garlic cloves in a separate skillet until tender.  Add to the meat mixture and stir in ¼ cup chili powder, 2 tablespoons salt, 1 ½ teaspoon pepper, 3 teaspoons cumin, and ½ tablespoon cayenne pepper.  Add 3 1-pound cans of chopped tomatoes, including liquid.  Simmer covered for 1 hour, remove lid and simmer for at least 30 more minutes.  Topped with chopped onions and grated cheese, this makes great meal for the wild bunch!

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Love to Read!

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By Gini Rainey

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

In a New York Times best seller, Rebecca Skloot tells the story of a black American’s struggle with cervical cancer, whose cells were taken from her without her knowledge or permission, were named HeLa, reproduced by the billions in labs, and have been used over the years since her death in 1951 as vital tools for the development of the polio vaccine, cancer research, cloning, gene mapping, and much more.

That being said, Skloot also faithfully recorded how the family of Henrietta Lacks, an indigent recipient of state-of-the-art cancer treatment, believes that Lacks was horribly exploited by the physicians/scientists whose training and skill were able to extract value from her excised tumor.  And while Skloot succeeds in establishing that they (the family) are terribly aggrieved, she fails to make sense of the high degree of distress they experienced as a result of the scientists’ having studied and used what otherwise would have been thrown into the hospital’s waste bin.

With so much medical advancement made possible by the “harvesting” of Henrietta Lacks’ it would be fitting to remember that the goal of her treatment was to save her life, not to harvest her cells for experimentation.

3 of 5 – Copyright 2011 – Broadway Books

Cover of Snow

by Jenny Milchman

Put on a sweater and grab a cup/glass of your favorite beverage because, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to put this one down and there’s plenty of snow flying around in this book.  Setting her story in the Adirondaks in the fictitious village of Wedeskyull (which I must admit drove me crazy every time I mentally tried to pronounce it!), which must be the coldest, iciest, snowiest place around, Milchman tells a tale full of family and village secrets.

Definitely a page turner, Milchman does such a superior job of character-building you will be able to visualize everyone from the autistic Dugger to the smarmy chief of police Vern to the heroine Nora and everyone in between.  Beginning with the inexplicable suicide of Nora’s husband, Brendan, this book is one emotionally suspenseful roller coaster ride right up to the very last page.

With plot twist after plot twist, romantic intrigue, and characters you both love and want to smack up aside the head, what’s not to like about this book!  Another nice thing about this book is that by being a member of web sites such as, with daily email offerings, I was able to purchase the ebook version and enjoy it for only $1.99.

5 of 5 – Copyright 2013 – Ballentine Books

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Ella Reid Public Library Collection

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Library to Host Ella Reid Public Library Collection for Black History Month

Beginning Feb. 1, the Tyler Public Library will display the Ella Reid Public Library collection for Black History Month. Named in honor of a highly respected church and community leader by the African American community in 1961, the compilation contains many books and artifacts unique to the collection.

“The first recorded beginnings of the Negro Public Library date to the World War II era,” said Chris Albertson, retired City librarian. “In July 1941, the Negro Public Library was chartered and located in the basement of Bethlehem Baptist Church.”

The Tyler Public Library is honored to house this compilation, which boasts a charter, correspondence, librarian’s monthly and annual reports, financial reports and budgets, circulation records and registers of borrowers, accession records, property and equipment inventories, minutes of a Board meeting, a field visitor’s report on the library by the Texas State Library and other miscellaneous items. In addition, some of the records are on microfilm in the Local History and Genealogy room of the Tyler Library.

“We are excited to feature the Ella Reid Public Library collection for Black History Month and encourage the public to visit and learn about this wonderful collection of Tyler literary history,” said Connie Greer, reference librarian.

The display will be located on the first and second floors of the Library during the month of February.

For more information about this program and other Library events, please contact the Tyler Public Library at (903)593-READ (7323).

About the Tyler Public Library

 The Tyler Public Library is a department of the City of Tyler. The Library helps meet the information, education and recreation needs of Tyler’s diverse and growing community by providing a full range of print, audiovisual and digital resources along with assistance and programming to promote the use of those resources. To learn more, visit

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