ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Cost of Freedom” by Katherine Zartman (Fiction)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Is it the cost of missing legs, arms or sight, or is it something more valuable…

Walk through the dark halls of our VA’s, filled with damaged men and the one woman who brings light back to their traumatic days and nightmare-filled nights. Arlene, a very experienced nurse, touches the lives of all she cares for. John, an armless vet in love with Arlene but unable to fulfill his dreams. Lars, another maimed vet, tall, blond, a damaged Viking, fragile, sensitive and falling in love with this sexual woman who knows his most intimate thoughts and body. Warriors stalled on distant battlefields and the woman who can stop the bullets with words of love and compassion.

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press book listing.

REVIEW:

There is nothing more beautifully sincere than a book by someone who has lived and loved (and in this case, lost as well) the kind of people that it paints so clearly and sympathetically. Such is the case with Cost of Freedom by Katherine Zartman, who was both the daughter of a WWII Colonel and a Vietnam veteran, declares in her book biography that she felt “well acquainted with the problems veterans face” and wrote this book (and its sequel) in the hope of “help[ing] readers gain a deeper understanding of the pain and trauma involved as vets transition back to civilian life.”

This, she certainly accomplishes–and then some.

Zartman’s book may be a work of fiction, but it is characterized by a rawness of emotion that quickly made me forget the occasional rawness of form. Even without the more romantic elements of this book (love triangles galore for those who seek out books specifically for them) I found myself cheering for our main character, Arlene, and celebrating her fineness of character. I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the tropes and tools of the romance genre, but from what I could tell the relationships were the realistic kind that can form in only specific situations and under the kinds of extreme pressures and stresses that VA hospital work and recovery can bring. I knew I was in safe hands as soon as Zartman started fleshing out Arlene’s world with the kinds of little details that only someone who’s been through that kind of experience would think to include in a book, like the intricacies of helping an injured or incapacitated soldier maintain his dignity in the bathroom when in need of assistance, or the careful management of patient safety by way of checks, balances, and a guy named Mike. (You’ll see what I mean when you get there.)

This is a book that really ticks along. It’s not terribly long, really–I suppose you might call it a novella in respect to length, and recently I’ve been reading a lot of novellas. They’re short, sweet, and to the point–and they feel as rewarding and compelling as novels without being as daunting. With so many people (including myself) struggling to move through our TBR (to be read) piles at our usual paces, I think it’s important not to undervalue the importance of a book that knows where it wants to go from the first page and gets there in under 200 pages. It’s also a testament to Zartman’s eye for story that she knows exactly which scenes to share in order to make Arlene’s days feel both full and rich in detail.

I’m excited to have discovered that there is a sequel–Cost of Freedom II–that is already out in the world. While this first novella feels complete in and of itself, I wouldn’t mind spending more time learning about the minutiae and emotional weight of Arlene’s work within the VA hospital, particularly her interest in assisting those with PTSD. A number of my friends struggle with varying forms of this disorder, and it can be difficult to learn more about how to be the best possible friend to them without re-traumatizing them. Accessing some of the complexities of PTSD through a fictional set of characters and circumstances (some of them inspired by Katherine’s own experiences, I think) provides a safe place for me both to learn more and have a conversation about it that doesn’t require them to revisit their own traumas and possibly trigger an episode. “So I was reading this great book the other day, and one of the characters goes through something really interesting and I would love to hear your take on it …” is always a great way to tackle tough subjects, in my opinion.

Sorry for rambling a little bit here about my personal life! I just think it’s an incredibly important subject (or a collection of very important subjects, since this book really tackles quite a lot) and one that I am truly excited to have an insider perspective on, even if fictionalized.

IN SUMMARY:

Inspired by her own life and experiences, Katherine Zartman introduces readers to Arlene, an experienced nurse at a VA hospital, who carefully and thoughtfully seeks to navigate the inner worlds and outer bodily needs of patients who may or may not be more than a little bit in love with her. Inflected with just enough romance to add a bit of spice, this novella-length work knows exactly what it’s doing.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Cost of Freedom wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Katherine Zartman’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

It’s been quite the busy month around here, and I have no doubt it’s equally busy for everyone else! I have been working steadily to bring in the fall harvest from my overgrown and overwhelming garden, which is more or less entirely sunflowers, squash, and misbehaving greens (like kale and collards) at the moment. My cherry tomatoes have finally ripened, but I’m still waiting on my regular ones–and the weather is already getting down too low for my comfort at night. So I’ll be staving off frost and such for the next little bit, but I promise to bring you more bookish thoughts in two weeks! Watch this space.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Got Knee Pain?” by William Ruch (Self-Help)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

There is little rational care for knees, yet bad knees are often a factor in falls, one of the leading causes of death for older people. Surgeons do not realign the bones during surgery. Physical therapists do not care that the tibia is out of place in rehab exercises. Yet aligned knees provide stability and ease of movement.

In his book Got Knee Pain? Where Is Your Tibia? William Ruch shares a key finding of his decades of chiropractic work: the tibia misaligned with the femur is a common cause for knee pain. Got Knee Pain? does three things: guides readers to where the tibia is, gives a procedure to realign the tibia, and guide readers about what not to do.

Got Knee Pain? benefits people with injured knees. If you have knee pain, and it is interfering with your life, then you need this book.

REVIEW:

Got Knee Pain? by Dr. William J. Ruch, D.C. is a chronicle of ways in which bodies can go wrong, if by “wrong” we are talking about unnecessary pain above and beyond what’s useful to stimulate reflexes and prevent further damage. But as its semi-humorous subtitle (Where is your Tibia?) indicates, this book is also designed to provide easy access to the principles of pain management for those who, like me, are not exactly medical experts themselves.

I say “semi-humorous” because the question of “Where is your Tibia?” is actually quite a serious and recurrent one in Dr. Ruch’s years of working in chiropracty. He opens his introduction by noting that he is continually “appalled by the lack of rational care provided for knee injuries. In my clinical experience I find that in the majority of my patients I encounter with knee pain as a symptom or complaint, the Tibia is not properly aligned with the Femur.” I don’t know about you, but that’s a rather strong start to a book about pain. One of my major bones may not even be lined up correctly? And my orthopedist, physical therapist, chiropractor, and other medical specialists aren’t looking for that first off when I come in for treatment? I’m glad to have heard this can be a thing before I encounter major knee pain myself, knowing that it’s very definitely in my future given the kinds of temporary strains and stresses and aches that I’ve experienced since childhood and how they tally up in respect to my body’s future.

It is, as Dr. Ruch himself points out, somewhat shocking that so many specialists could have received so little training on this one specific issue. But as he also points out, “Evaluation of knee problems requires direct palpation of the joints and bones to fully understand the displacement. You have to have someone, even if it is you, feel what is going on.” If I have one big takeaway from this book, it’s that––not to live in fear of educating myself about my own body, bones, and muscles, and to pursue the kind of hands-on medical care that will get at root causes.

Dr. Ruch repeatedly encourages his readers to consider whether or not they are receiving “rational care,” care that treats causes (injuries) and not just their most disruptive symptom (pain). He sets out to put the power for positive change back in the patient’s hands (sometimes literally) in a world which seems increasingly to divorce patient and power. As Dr. Ruch puts it, “You are the most convenient, and motivated, person available to perform these maneuvers” as laid out in this book.

The maneuvers themselves are simple, straightforward, and easy to understand for a novice like me. Because they require the pain-sufferer to examine the actual position of various bones in relation to one another, they are difficult to get wrong (i.e. to use them incorrectly). They are also rather gentle, at least compared to the kind of chiropractic work I have personally experienced myself (in the wake of a car accident several years back). As long as a reader understands that they should never feel additional pain as a result of these maneuvers, and doesn’t overdo it, I see no danger of additional injury. My only warning would be for those who are from the same school of thought as several of my own relatives who don’t think it’s “working” unless it feels like the body has been strongly worked on. (These are the type of people who emerge from a massage with bruises. I love them very much, but I don’t think added pain is a marker of success in the pursuit of pain management.) I was able to determine that my knees are at present not terribly misaligned, but that I may have a tendency towards one of the displacements illustrated by Dr. Ruch. I’ll have someone I trust double-check me, but I thought it was really interesting to have that confirmation.

I would like to point out as I tidy up this review that I am *not* a medical expert, and my reading of Dr. Ruch’s book probably reflects that. Any mistakes in terminology or concept in this review is entirely mine and does not reflect at all on the quality of Ruch’s writing!

IN SUMMARY:

Not to put too fine of a point on things, but Dr. Willaim J. Ruch, D.C. has been practicing and teaching as long as I’ve been alive, and when it comes to muscular and skeletal issues such as knee pain, experience really does show. Got Knee Pain?: Where is Your Tibia? is the summary record of this experience, and gave me much food for thought as I move into the critical time of life when much of my body’s long-term health will be determined. For those who experience chronic pain in the knee area, this is definitely worth a look before pursuing expensive (and sometimes ineffective) treatments.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Got Knee Pain? wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Patrick McLean’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

For my next review, I’ll be tucking into Katherine Zartman’s Cost of Freedom, a novel set in a VA hospital and following the lives and loves of both the soldiers returning from the battlefield and a nurse who knows more about them than even they do. I rarely read romance or war novels (I’m keenly aware of how easily books touch me emotionally, and tend to steer clear), so this should be an interesting experience!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “Tales of Invasions and Empires: Our Place in Time (c. 1100-1400)” by Kent Augustson

(POSTING TO SPA April 17th) Tales of Invasions and Empires

cipa evvy award

2019 CIPA EVVY Award

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This is the first book in a trilogy offering an original interpretation of our place in time that makes the discord of the current day more comprehensible. This is accomplished using three devices.

First, recognizing that human history is the history of civilizations, we have identified four civilizations that, with their spread, account for about 85% of the world’s population today. These are Confucian China, Hindu India, the Muslim Middle East, and the Christian West. To gain an appreciation of these four is to know well today’s world and to glimpse where we are heading.

Second, we provide a unique time frame for the progress of these civilizations which expands upon German philosopher-historian Karl Jasper’s well-regarded argument for an Axial Age relating to love, morality and wisdom in the centuries surrounding 500 BC. We postulate a new Axial Age in our day that speaks to power.

Third, we make our simple but powerful hypothesis accessible by avoiding complex reasonings and endless accumulations of data. Rather, presented perceptively in each book are seventeen memorable tales about the civilizations that link to one another, interact with one another like a long novel of four families out of which our theme evolves. Beginning with 1100 AD when these civilizations start to meaningfully interrelate, the books cover three centuries apiece. The final chapter in this work provides a summation of how events in the 12th to 14th centuries directly relate to the present day.

REVIEW:

QUICK NOTE AT THE TOP: The world has changed somewhat since this book came out in 2018; in the last month alone, twenty million United States citizens have lost their jobs in one of the biggest economic downturns of all time, a reality that is echoed and magnified on a global scale. Whatever else COVID-19 does, it has done much to lay bare the systems of power that underpin daily life. And the fragility of our “modern” world. Augustson has dealt with several chunks of history in his books, including the 2014 publication of Our Place in Time: The New Axial Age and the Pivotal Years (2015-2020), which would be a better place to dig for his predictive insights into what’s happening now.

To return to this particular book: I’m always deeply appreciative when authors can manage to do three things: show their authority (and expertise) on a subject, make plain their personal bias without it compromising the book’s value, and produce a readable book. Augustson doesn’t lead with his thirty years in government affairs; I had to delve into the authors notes and so forth at the end. But it becomes pretty clear from early on that he knows what he’s doing so far as crafting a persuasive argument and backing it up with curated information that’s digestible to the common reader. There are charts. There are maps. There are structured chapters. But there’s also a kind of playfulness and a clear voice to the work which keeps it from feeling overwhelmingly textbooky.

Augustson starts with seventeen chapters about seventeen intersecting lives. Fair warning, though: he takes it for granted that readers are familiar with some terms that I personally hadn’t seen before (“Jaspers Age” being one, and “Axial Age” another). A little quality time with le Googl brought me up to speed, but it’s well worth taking a pause after the introduction to study the initial charts and timelines and lock in some of those terms before going further. I was set up well for this book by reading Keay’s history of China last year and having started Dalrymple’s The Anarchy more recently. (Not to mention all the Western Civ courses I took through high school and college, getting both the Commonwealth (Australian) and individualistic (American) takes on that third of Augustson’s four cornerstones. Once I finish Dalrymple, Augustson has inspired me to look for a book specifically on the history of Islam and Muslim culture; then I will have a better understanding of his four cornerstone civilizations.

Augustson’s grasp of the facts of history is one thing, but his ability to draw together the different threads of history in very different parts of the world by focusing on the intersecting lives of one or two individuals per chapter is what sets this history apart. Whatever you personally believe about the threefold ages Augustson argues in favor of, it is worth reading this book simply for the pleasure of seeing so many otherwise disparate lives wound so cleverly together. The fifteenth chapter, which deals with “Global Cold and the Black Death” is both hard and valuable to read on its own.

IN SUMMARY:

Augustson’s experience in government affairs is put to work in this mammoth installment of what could safely be called history with a bent towards interpretation, and he makes an interesting argument for the realization of humanity in three ages. Fair warning: This book weighs over a pound, so make sure to have set aside some serious reading time.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Tales of Invasions and Empires wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Kent Augustson’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

Regrettably, the far-reaching effects of the current global pandemic prevented me from finishing the book I had intended to review two weeks ago, so you can look for that review next Friday. It has been worth the extra time, however.  I’m speaking of Barry Beaven’s God, Me, and the Blackhorse, a hard-hitting memoir of war. (I know, I picked light subjects to review in a time of global unrest. Comforting.) I’ll see you all back here next week, then, and in the meantime I hope you stay safe and healthy.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Amazon book listing.


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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.