Review: Oxygen

December Manic Mommies Book Selection

About two weeks after I finished reading this book someone in my family needed surgery. It was interesting to observe how the doctors interacted with the patient. The anesthesiologist spent as much time with my family member as Dr Heaton does with the patient in this book. 

From author’s website: Carol Wiley Cassella majored in English Literature at Duke University and graduated from Baylor College of Medicine in 1986. She currently practices anesthesia in Seattle and is a freelance medical writer specializing in global public health advocacy for the developing world. She lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington with her husband and their two sets of twins, and is working on her next novel.

Quick Take: It’s been a while since a book has stayed with me like Oxygen. I read this book in two sittings, I had to know how the story would end. I can’t wait to discuss this book with the MMBC and the author on December 16.

A little girl dies while in surgery, and the anesthesiologist might be to blame. As the investigation continues we follow Dr Heaton as she tries to make sense of what has happened. Marie keeps thinking and rethinking the events leading up to surgery and what happened on the operating table. Asking herself, how could this have happened? Who thinks about the anesthesiologist, we don’t see them on TV, nor do they impact our decisions to have a procedure or surgery. This is Dr. Marie Heaton’s story. Yes the patient and her family play in important part of the story but as a reader you are following the Doctor’s side of this case.

Click here for discussion invite and details

Carol answers our questions:
Tell us a little about yourself: I am currently wearing lots of hats, so where do I start? I am first and foremost a mother. My husband and I have two sets of twins (I’ll go ahead and answer the question you’re asking—yes they are natural! Set two was quite the surprise!) That alone has made for an interesting life. I’m also a doctor. I started my medical career as an internist, but I wanted a bit more time at home with my family and changed specialties to become an anesthesiologist. I really do love my work, and I’ve never regretted making that change. Anesthesia is challenging, intense, creative, FUN (often) and still does give me lots of patient contact.

Then there is the writer. That was actually my mission in life from the time I was very young, but I kept getting involved in other things (medicine, babies) and never devoted the time and dedication that serious writing takes until I was in my forties. That’s not to say I wasn’t writing—I have drawers of partially finished manuscripts and I worked as a science writer for a few years. But it took a completely different level of commitment to finish a novel. It was much harder than I expected, but also much more rewarding. Other details? I grew up in Texas, lived in the Northeast for few years and then discovered the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Hard to think I’ll ever leave!

Do you write daily? I can’t write daily. Until my children are grown and I work less at the hospital , I’m afraid that will be impossible. But I highly advise all writers to try. Writing fiction, and probably non-fiction as well, is a bit like maintaining a dream while awake. Much as a dream can feel tangible and unforgettable right after you open your eyes, it’s often forgotten by the time you brush your teeth. I try to remember that whatever I would have written today will never make it onto the page unless I make time to put it there. What I write tomorrow may be just as good, but it won’t be the same.

Click here to read the rest of the interview

Type: Fiction, 290 pages, Trade paperback

Dr. Marie Heaton is an anesthesiologist at the height of her profession. She has worked, lived and breathed her career since medical school, and she now practices at a top Seattle hospital. Marie has carefully constructed and constricted her life according to empirical truths, to the science and art of medicine. But when her tried-and-true formula suddenly deserts her during a routine surgery, she must explain the nightmarish operating room disaster and face the resulting malpractice suit. Marie's best friend, colleague and former lover, Dr. Joe Hillary, becomes her closest confidante as she twists through depositions, accusations and a remorseful preoccupation with the mother of the patient in question. As she struggles to salvage her career and reputation, Marie must face hard truths about the path she's chosen, the bridges she's burned and the colleagues and superiors she's mistaken for friends.

A quieter crisis is simultaneously unfolding within Marie's family. Her aging father is losing his sight and approaching an awkward dependency on Marie and her sister, Lori. But Lori has taken a more traditional path than Marie and is busy raising a family. Although Marie has been estranged from her Texas roots for decades, the ultimate responsibility for their father's care is falling on her.

As her carefully structured life begins to collapse, Marie confronts questions of love and betrayal, family bonds and the price of her own choices. Setagainst the natural splendor of Seattle, and inside the closed vaults of hospital operating rooms, Oxygen climaxes in a final twist that is as heartrending as it is redeeming.

Review: The Girl who Stopped Swimming

The Girl who Stopped Swimming is the third novel written by Joshilyn Jackson and the second novel I have read by this author.

From the authors website: New York Times Bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson was born in the Deep South and raised by a tribe of wild fundamentalists who taught her to be virtuous and upright. Unfortunately, it didn't take, and Ms. Jackson dropped out of college to pursue a career as an actor. She worked in regional repertoire, wrote plays, and traveled the southern third of the country with a dinner theatre troupe.

Quick Take: This is a lovely novel that combines all of the must haves for readers, great character development, suspense, and a solid storyline. The story is addicting. It's a mystery, but also a study in families and relationships and how the past affects the present.

I found this next comment on BN.COM and thought it was thought provolking... In the reading group guide and notes, the author notes that "at it's heart, this book is about poverty". As well as the literal translation of fiscal poverty, emotional poverty plays a key role.

Type: Fiction, 311 pages, Hardcover

Laurel Gray Hawthorne needs to make things pretty. Coming from a family with a literal skeleton in their closet, she's developed this talent all her life, whether helping her willful mother to smooth over the reality of her family's ugly past, or elevating humble scraps of unwanted fabric into nationally acclaimed art quilts.

Her sister Thalia, an impoverished "Actress" with a capital A, is her opposite, and prides herself in exposing the lurid truth lurking behind life's everyday niceties. And while Laurel's life was neatly on track, a passionate marriage, a treasured daughter, and a lovely home in lovely suburban Victorianna, everything she holds dear is thrown into question the night she is visited by an apparition in her bedroom. The ghost appears to be her 14-year-old neighbor Molly Dufresne, and when Laurel follows this ghost , she finds the real Molly floating lifeless in her swimming pool. While the community writes the tragedy off as a suicide, Laurel can't. Reluctantly enlisting Thalia's aid, Laurel sets out on a life-altering investigation that triggers startling revelations about her own guarded past, the truth about her marriage, and the girl who stopped swimming.

Richer and more rewarding than any story from Joshilyn Jackson, THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING is destined both to delight Jackson's loyal fans and capture a whole new audience.

Review: Easy on the Eyes

I really enjoy reading Jane Porter’s novels, they are smart, fun, flirty and so much more. The women are strong characters, who own their life. This is what keeps drawing me back for more.

From the Author's website:  Jane Porter, a former English teacher, holds an MA in Writing from the University of San Francisco, and loves talking books and working with aspiring writers. Jane continues to work with writer friends all the time, developing the craft and discussing good books. For more on the craft of writing, check out Jane's workshop descriptions.

Quick Take: This book surprised me – in a good way. Not only does Jane deliver another solid book but she weaves philanthropy into the story bringing exposure to a must needed organization. This book warmed my heart. I can’t wait to discuss it with her in the next few weeks. I will post again after the discussion.

With so many of my must read authors releasing books this fall I have been trying to slowly read their books, knowing that I will have to wait at least a year for another book to be released. I didn’t plan to read Easy on the Eyes this week until I read that Jane is hosting an online book discussion. Click here for more information, the call was postponed so it’s not too late to join us!

Easy on the Eyes is the story about Tiana, a TV anchor in her late 30’s who has been told she should consider plastic surgery. With a younger co-anchor waiting in the wings Tiana is forced to re-evaluate her options knowing that management would like to add the younger anchor to the show to boost ratings. In addition to dealing with career decisions (should she hold true to her values), Tiana must come to terms with some personal baggage she has been holding on to, she’s attracted to someone she thinks is all wrong for her and some life changing decisions need to be made soon.

Be sure to visit Jane’s Blog to keep up with her

Type: Fiction, 332 pages, Trade Paperback

Synopsis:At 38, Tiana Tomlinson has made it. America adores her as one of the anchors of America Tonight, a top-rated nightly entertainment and news program. But even with the trappings that come with her elite lifestyle, she feels empty. Tina desperately misses her late husband Keith, who died several years before. And in a business that thrives on youth, Tina is getting the message that her age is starting to show and certain measures must be taken if she wants to remain in the spotlight. It doesn't help that at every turn she has to deal with her adversary—the devilishly handsome, plastic surgeon to the stars, Michael Sullivan. But a trip away from the Hollywood madness has consequences that could affect the rest of her life.

Review: Run at Destruction

It’s not a secret that I’m a runner and love to run so when Pump up your Book Promotions asked me if I was interested in this title I jumped at the chance to read it.

A little about Lynda Drews: Even though this is Lynda’s first book, she has inside knowledge about the victim and the accused. One of the book’s themes is the impact her best friend’s mysterious death has on Green Bay’s close-knit running community. Lynda and her husband, Jim, a retired teacher and guidance counselor, helped launch the local running movement. Green Bay now hosts the nation’s fifth largest 10K, attracting more than 15,000 participants.

I really enjoy reading memoirs and true stories – I have read so many stories about runners and running, they motivate me. This book is a little different – it’s less about running and more about friendship and community. A suspicious death rocks the group, and several members are asked to testify against a member of the running group. The author presents us with four unique scenarios of her friend's death - she refuses to reveal which one she herself accepts which keeps you wondering and longing for more.

A solid review from BN.COM: Lynda Drews was a close friend to Pam Bulik and they shared a love running-along with their husbands and friends. In 1984 when Pam failed to show up for a race, many begin to worry about her absence. It was later found that she was killed the very morning of the race she missed.

Run At Destruction goes through the days, weeks, and months after Bulik's death as seen through the eyes of a close friend. Drews gives a close look into the past of the Bulik marriage that was marred by infidelity, lies, and deceit. This is a no holds barred look into a marriage that was falling apart, the murder of a friend, and the suspicion aimed at her husband, Bob Bulik.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was so different from other true crime books in that you are reading in through the eyes of someone who knew the victim. Knew of their struggles and their highs. Lynda Drews paints a clear picture of the turmoil not only in her own family but in the runner's group both her and Pam Bulik belonged to as well as the entire town.

She paints a picture of what going through a trial feels like for all involved. Drews shows how the court system we all trust may be a bit flawed. If you like true crime books, I highly recommend this book. You will find yourself becoming attached to the author and the people of this book. This is a great read!

This book is getting 5 stars on BN.COM

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m a Wisconsin native that’s been running for forty years and relishes the outdoors, whatever season. Now, with eight marathons under my belt, the sport remains one of my passions. My husband, Jim, and I helped start Green Bay’s local running movement where the city now hosts the fourth largest 10K. My former marketing career was global, allowing me to accumulate air miles. During each of my two son’s middle and high school years, I let them pick a one-on-one trip with just their mom. Yes, that was me, sitting in the first five rows of those 15 Dave Mathew’s Band concerts! As a freshman in college, I’d loved two basic studies courses – creative writing and introduction to computer science. In the seventies, the latter was an emerging field. Encouraged, I became the first graduate and was hired by IBM, putting my writing passion on the backburner until I retired in 2004. As a child, I’d been enamoured by any sort of mystery. I’d immediately turn to the High Life Magazine picture to discover the hidden objects on the page. I loved surprise balls - unrolling the ribbon of tissue paper to gradually reveal the trinkets inside. The Nancy Drew mystery series was my favorite and Clue was my game of choice. So it wasn’t surprising that after my best friend and running partner mysteriously drowned in her bathtub, I’d been bothered ever since. Recently I gave the commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, my Alma Mater. One of the lessons I shared was to “journal your life.” When I retired, I followed my own advice. Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle is the outcome.
What do you think of the electronic book (kindles and such)? I personally don’t own a kindle, though many of my friends do. People that travel seem to like this format, so they don’t have to lug books around. My book came out in Trade Paperback and also on Kindle. My sales on Amazon have been decent in this format. The Kindle version is actually much more lucrative for both my publisher and me since there are no print costs involved.

What is one tip that you can share with aspiring writers? To find a publisher, you must be passionate and tenacious and, most importantly, willing to change. Take the constructive advice from the seemingly endless rejections to rework your book proposal and/or manuscript and resubmit again. In any profession, it is those people that are willing to adapt and even relish change that can defy the odds.

What are you reading now? One Thousand White Women – The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. I Love reading books about strong women who break social constraints.

Lastly, share one or two of your all time favorite novels read, excluding classics: My favorite reads are Pillars of the Earth, Lonesome Dove, The Stand, Presumed Innocent, and The Pact.
Just for fun:- Favorite Season: Summer – still dressed in sweaty clothes from a run, I love to relax on our screened in porch, an ice tea within reach, while editing a manuscript and listening to the sounds of the river.
- Morning or night: Why do I have to pick? I love both… I’ve always been able to exist on a limited amount of sleep.
- Favorite ice cream flavor: Vanilla mixed with maraschino cherry juice poured from the jar. This is a childhood ritual established with my dad.
- If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go: I would love travel to the countries that spawned me – it’s quite a mix! My paternal side journeyed in the 1600s from Holland to help found New Amsterdam, and my maternal side migrated from Ireland where an ancestor was head of the Protestant Church.
Synopsis:Deeply immersed in the close-knit culture of long-distance running, Pam and Bob Bulik were avid competitors. To all appearances, they were also a happily married couple, devoted to each other and their two young children. Then, Bob made a fateful decision. He began an extramarital affair that led to his wife's tragic death and to one of the most sensationalized and heavily attended trials in Green Bay's history.

Candidly written by Pam's best friend, Run At Destruction exposes the irresistible human passions that make us so vulnerable and the ultimate price we pay for choosing to act on them. You'll relive every detail of the crime and the exhaustive police investigation, and watch the courtroom drama from a front-row seat as a major homicde case unfolds in a small town where everyone knows all the players. Then, when you've heard all the evidence, you can decide for yourself - was Pam Bulik's death a terrible accident, intentional suicide, or premeditated murder?

Review: Off Season

This is the first novel I have read by writer Anne Rivers Siddons. She has written seventeen fictional books and has had a long career in writing and film.

From the author’s site: Off Season, is an examination of one woman's life and the loves that shaped her. It began a long time ago, when my goddaughter asked, "Where does love go when it dies?"

I've been thinking about that for a long time, and I have come to know many things about love between a man and a woman: that it is both tender and terrible, sweet and stormy, hurtful and healing, heartbreaking and heart-lifting. But the thing I'm surest about is that love endures. For a few special people, it does not die.

That's what I wanted to write about in Off Season, and I hope with all my heart you're going to like it. I think that Lilly's journey will speak to many of you one way or another, and it pleases me greatly to introduce her to you.

When Lily’s husband dies unexpectedly, she decides to spend the summer at their cottage to mourn on her own terms. We follow Lily as she reminisces of her youth, setting the foundation for her strong personality. Meeting Cam, trying to get her father’s approval and setting up a life for themselves are important to the story.

The book was a little slow paced for me and it was hard for me to come to terms with Lily having conversations with her cat (who talked back). It is just a book after all, I need to get over it!

I was reading reviews on BN.COM this morning and I agree with a few of them, the book should have concentrated more on Lilly and Cam's life together, since there are missing years we know nothing about.

Type: Fiction, 384 pages, Trade paperback

Synopsis:For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly—happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past—to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety— to try to figure out her future.It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.

Review: When She Flew

Thank you Jennie Shortridge and Penguin for sending me a copy of her new book. I was first introduced to Jennie earlier this year when the MMBC read Eating Heaven (one of my favorite books read this year).

From article: ...Portland is also the place where Shortridge found the inspiration for her new book, "When She Flew." It's set in a lightly fictionalized version of the city she calls Columbia and is based on a father and daughter who lived in Forest Park for several years before being discovered in 2004.

Like many people, Shortridge was "completely mesmerized" by the story of a man and his 12-year-old daughter, clean and well-behaved, who lived in a hidden camp and went into town for food and supplies. They were taken to live on a horse farm in Yamhill County by Michael Barkley of the Portland Police Bureau but slipped away after the man complained of media intrusions and worried that his daughter would be teased at school. Their whereabouts are unknown.
When She Flew is a fictional story, based on true events… twelve year old Lindy is spotted in the woods by a bird watcher. The novel follows a police search for Lindy and her father along with the aftermath of said search. As you read this book you not only read Lindy’s story but you also read the story from the view of Officer Jessica Villareal. The search and rescue forces Jessica to think through some life changing events in her own life and she starts to make some decisions about her future.

I absolutely fell in love with Lindy as she processed the events of the day and days after being found. You feel like you are in the woods with her as she describes her home, her cherished belongings, love for her father and the woods.

Take your time reading this one – Lindy is one of my favorite characters read in a long time.

Links worth visiting:- Interviews with Jennie
- Click here to read the MMBC discussion of Eating Heaven
Author Q&A

Type: Fiction, 352 pages, Trade paperback

Police officer Jessica Villareal has always played by the book and tried to do the right thing. But now, she finds herself approaching midlife divorced, estranged from her daughter, alone, and unhappy. And she's wondering if she ever made a right choice in her life.

But then Jess discovers a girl and her father living off the radar in the Oregon woods, avoiding the comforts-and curses-of modern life. Her colleagues on the force are determined to uproot and separate them, but Jess knows the damage of losing those you love. She recognizes her chance to make a difference by doing something she's never dared. Because even though she's used to playing by the rules, there are times when they need to be broken...

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