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: “Integrity Based Policing” by Dan Barry (Memoir)

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

Experience firsthand policing in America’s Playground. This book contains stories that are based on my thirty-year career with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Despite all my “peaks and valleys,” I never lost my love of policing, or passion for the people I served. While many of my experiences are amusing, they also are enlightening for people considering a career in law enforcement. My most important lesson learned is that decisions must be based on ethical soundness, as opposed to other motivations.

The challenges facing American police officers have never been greater. Besides the dangers from criminals, they also need to navigate through administrations that are often more concerned about tomorrow’s headline, than providing true leadership. As opposed to considering ethical soundness, agencies are often most concerned with only the politically popular path.

My prayer is for police agencies to work in partnership with the citizens they serve in making our neighborhoods a safer place. For this to be achieved “Integrity-Based Policing” must become the new standard for all agencies to adopt.

REVIEW:

This is the year, and this is the book, my friends.

Dan spent thirty years in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and in those years, he saw many things: the rise and fall of Community-Oriented Policing (COP), the development and erosion of trust within the department’s command structure, and the unfolding (as well as conclusion, in some cases) of careers as those he worked with rose through the ranks and came into their own. He worked in a number of assignments, from serving as a patrol officer to commanding the Organized Crime, Criminal Intelligence, SWAT, and Patrol bureaus. Basically … he’s seen it all, and he’s probably worked almost every possible position within the LVMPD in order to write a memoir that is also, in many ways, a call to action to re-orient the direction of policing in the United States.

Have I mentioned that this book is timely yet?

The elephant in the room here has to be addressed: There are presently numerous calls to “defund the police” as a result of widespread protests associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. I’ve spent some time over the last few weeks attempting to understand what exactly this means, and while there are likely a range of opinions all being voiced under the umbrella term, the general idea seems to be not so much “get rid of all police, all police are bad” but rather “let’s reroute some of the funding currently going toward policing into community-based programs that aim to eliminate the root causes of crime.” And while I’m sure some would say that’s a very gentle interpretation, I do think it’s one that in many ways is relevant to the work Dan Barry did within the LVMPD, the changes he witnessed, and where he hopes to see policing go in the future.

Barry emphasizes ethics time and time again throughout Integrity Based Policing, drawing a line under the fact that much of the leadership he saw was warped by appointees jockeying for perks and power within the police hierarchy. From the first page to the last page of this memoir, Barry argues in favor of Community-Oriented Policing (COP), which I probably can’t do justice to in summary but which seems fairly well defined by its name. Throughout his service, he privileged what he called “face time” in the community, with officers stationed within the communities they served so that they could better serve their needs before a crisis situation could develop. He describes several examples of COP in action during his time commanding various bureaus, and the erosion of public trust that took place every time a unit was taken from his command and required to move away from the COP mentality. And trust is a big deal to Barry, to the point where it is actually his central mantra and service motto:

  • Truth
  • Respect
  • Understanding
  • Stability
  • Transparency

To Barry, all five of these elements must be present in order for a police unit to be effective, and these five elements do seem to be exactly what many of today’s protesters most want (particularly transparency and respect, I think). Whatever else we think of the BLM movement (I don’t want to get hung up on that for the purposes of this review), I am grateful that conversations around trust and community policing are back in the public dialogue. And I’m even more grateful that we have Dan Barry’s thoughtful, experience-based memoir as well. I think that readers of all demographics and political perspectives will find something useful and compelling here, whether it’s Barry’s dedicated pursuit of eliminating corruption among the city commissioners, his years promoting policing as something more than just once-and-done interactions with the public, or his growing exhaustion after years–decades–of pushing back against all of those who used the police bureaucracy to promote their own personal agendas. His calm and fact-based writing keeps readers invested, and more importantly, keeps readers’ trust.

As in policing, so too in writing.

IN SUMMARY:

Dan Barry stuck with his vision for ethical policing through thirty years of difficult policing, and continues to do so in his memoir, Integrity-Based Policing. He provides exactly the kind of experience-based evidence that point toward effective means of reforming police departments across the country and winning back public trust–and it centers on being part of the community, of being in the community, and being of the community. His emphasis on preventative measures and face time are a refreshing change from the charged dialogue currently dominating the news; change can be made, should be made, and here are some additional, practical ways to bring it into being.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find Integrity Based Policing 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?

I’m going to completely pivot directions and take a dive into some health-related writings next time!

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

* Courtesy of Outskirts Press 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: The Realistic Optimist – A Collection of Essays by Ellie Bushweller

457827 Ellie Bushweller cover

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

This book was written by a person who has a full and active life as a wife, mother, grandmother, nurse, counselor and freelance writer. She has been a keen observer of many aspects of human interest.

It is a collection of essays that are concerned with a wide variety of topics. The essays are insightful, informative, humorous and hopeful.

This book should appeal to all those who are intrigued by all the joys and concerns that impact people’s daily lives.

REVIEW:

There are many essays out there in the world, and books like The Realistic Optimist are the best possible kind of persuasion I need to read more of them. Like many readers, my main exposure to the form came in college–first, as an undergraduate learning the basic definitions and structure, and then as a graduate student experimenting with genre expectations and strengthening my sentences. There were essays on supersonic planes, on oranges, on eclipses, on eating unprocessed foods, on shopping every store in the Mall of America, on sports, on hunting, and the list goes on. What there wasn’t, for the most part, was a collection of essays from a single author that captured my interest and felt like something more than a couple of really good works surrounded by filler.

Until now.

For most of a decade, Ellie Bushweller essayed for her local South Burlington’s The Other Paper. Her columns chronicled the daily lives of not just the people she met and the scenes she witnessed, but also the comings and goings of squirrels. Of seasons. Of one’s fellow bench-mates in the park. Of the tools and technologies that pass through our lives. Of time itself. Each of the roughly one hundred essays in this collection were written with conviction and heart, and while the occasional line indicates an essay’s origin in a newspaper column, the collection does not suffer from the change in delivery method.

It is fitting, I think, that The Other Paper would cover this collection of essays which it helped bring into the world with warmth and affection. There’s simply no reading of this book … and no encountering of Bushweller herself … without feeling touched by sunshine. One can easily see why and how she developed a loyal following among the newspaper subscribers of South Burlington.

Which isn’t to say that Bushweller hasn’t walked through some valleys and shadows and maybe even done dark alleys. After a childhood in Brooklyn, she grew into an adulthood as a nurse working to care for children and adults in a dilapidated city housing project. Still, despite life’s hardships witnessed and experienced daily, she clearly never closed her heart to the possibility of doing some good simply by being … a realistic optimist.

IN SUMMARY:

Come for the squirrel stories but stay for the bittersweet authenticity of a life lived with gusto and conviction, gentleness and generosity. The Realistic Optimist is rich with spirit and a balm in tough times. It is also a love letter to a decade of life in a specific time and place–South Burlington–that deserves witness.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find The Realistic Optimist wherever good books are sold, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also find out more about Ellie Bushweller’s work on the book’s Outskirts Press author page.

WHAT NEXT?

I’ll be going back to one of my wheelhouses, which is to say novel-length works of memoir and nonfiction. (Although frankly, I can fall in love with any genre if the writing is strong.) I’m working on a memoir of combat in Vietnam: God, Me and the Blackhorse by Barry Beaven. I tend to be deeply affected by stories of war, so I’m taking it slow and checking in and out of some other, lighter works … but I think Beaven’s will be the next book to make it into my reviews. You can catch those thoughts on Beaven’s book in two weeks here on Self Publishing Advisor.

 

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.