Book Review: Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

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EVERY FIFTEEN MINUTES
by Lisa Scottoline

Statistics show that one in 24 people is a sociopath. Sociopath’s are unable to have true emotions. They can only mimic what they have seen. They also have no conscience. Many sociopaths are highly intelligent, but that intelligence is often used for evil purposes. They are master manipulators and no one realizes they’ve been used until it is too late. In Every Fifteen Minutes a clever and skillful, but evil sociopath has devised a detailed plot designed to ruin Eric Parrish, Chief of the Psychiatry Unit at Havemeyer Hospital in Philadelphia.

The reason for the ruinous plot is well hidden and it is hard to understand why anyone would be wanting to ruin Dr. Parrish. He is a dedicated psychiatrist who loves his work, cares about his patients, and has never been in trouble in his life. Things begin to go awry when his wife files for divorce and makes it very difficult for him to see their daughter Hannah. The only thing he loves more than his work is Hannah.

Then he does a consultation in the ER for a dying woman, but it turns out her 17-year-old grandson, Max, is really in need of psychiatric help. He has an anxiety disorder and severe OCD. In fact if he doesn’t perform his ritual every 15 minutes he can’t cope (Thus the reason for the title.). Max also has a fixation on a young woman he tutors and has nightmares of strangling her with his bare hands. Dr. Parrish takes Max on as a patient and then things begin to spiral out of control.

Eric is so bent on helping this teenager, that he crosses professional boundaries, and does things he normally would not do, none of them criminal, though they could be construed as such. The young woman has been strangled to death and he is accused of stalking and killing her. One of the patients on the psych unit goes berserk and Eric intercedes by tackling him and giving him shots. His wife decides to sue Eric. A beautiful med student, Kristine, comes on to him, and though, he rejects all of her advances, she files a sexual harassment claim because he has rebuffed her. Max disappears which worries Eric even more.

The circumstantial evidence against Eric is piling up. He has no proof nor witnesses to back up his behavior. The antagonist has been so good at setting up everything, Eric is suspended from the hospital, he loses privileges to see his daughter, he is in the news, and none of it is good press. Even though he is intelligent, he has no idea why this is happening and doesn’t even suspect that he is the target of someone’s plot. He decides to investigate the murder of the young girl on his own in order to clear himself. Again, everything he does could be construed as inappropriate behavior.

I could not put this book down, except to sleep. I didn’t want to miss a moment of the action. The story was spellbinding, and while I figured out the answer to some things, the ending certainly was not anything I could have foreseen. Sociopaths are clever and ruthless, as well as very good actors. Trying to figure out the identity of the sinister character did not work. This is a book you have to read to the last word to tie everything up. I have never read any of Lisa Scottoline’s other titles, and this one was picked up in passing. As we were book browsing, my daughter picked it out thinking that I would really like it. She was right. It was well worth the read. I also really liked the fact that she could write a wonderful novel with very, very few swear words and no skin showing or gratuitous sex scenes. It is possible to write a great story without all of that other junk. Thank you, Lisa. Of course, 5 of 5 stars is the rating this book gets from me.

After reading this, it kind of will leave you wondering who is a genuine person, and who is a sociopath. Maybe it is better if we try not to figure it out…

Happy Reading!

Something to Think About Mischief

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The mother of mischief is no bigger than a midge’s wing.
~ Author Unknown

Book Review: The Camel Club by David Baldacci


THE CAMEL CLUB
By David Baldacci

Area 51 (where the military is hiding a captured alien), the reptilians (I just heard about this a couple of days ago, so I am not sure who they are.), UFOs (according to Muldur and Scully – “the truth is out there”), the Illuminati, (a real group of scientists like Galileo and Da Vinci who did not oppose the Catholic Church but felt that science had a place in the world as well. The Catholic Church considered them to be heretics, so they met secretly. By the way, Beyonce calls herself a high priestess of the Illuminati. There is no such thing, but with an ego and a bank account the size of Beyonce’s, I guess she can be whoever she says she is.), 9/11 (Some folks actually believe the US government participated in the plan in order to get the public outraged so they would support a war in the Middle East.). All of these are some of the favorite topics for conspiracy theorists and late night talk radio show hosts.

Do you like conspiracy theories? Then The Camel Club might be a good book for you. I am not a conspiracy theorist and enjoyed the book, so you don’t have to be one to read this book.This novel is about a government conspiracy that reaches all levels of the US Government, except the president. The president has a key role in the novel, but doesn’t know it. Meet Oliver Stone (not the famous movie director) who is homeless but happens to camp out in his tent across from the White House so that he can keep tabs on the action, Milton who is brilliant, but suffers from a really bad case of OCD, Caleb who works with rare books at the Library of Congress, and Ruben, a giant of a man who is ex-military. These are the members of the Camel Club. They are conspiracy theorists and watch dogs of the US Government. Toss in a Secret Service agent, Alex Ford, a federal attorney, Kate, and some crooked government officials and you’ve got the makings for a really good story.

The Camel Club has a late night meeting on the government-run Teddy Roosevelt Island when they witness a murder made to look like a suicide. Milton goes into a panic and starts repeating numbers over and over. Ruben is shot in the arm. Caleb panics and hides in the bottom of the boat. Oliver is urging Ruben to row faster. All are in fear for their lives. As they escape in a row boat from the island, the assassins see them fleeing, but because of the fog they can’t make out the features of the Camel Club members, but their hunt is on.

Oliver, Milton, Caleb, and Ruben are in fear for their lives, but feel that they can’t go to the police. They try to solve the murder on their own, but can’t do it without Alex Ford’s help. Alex knows these guys and is friendly to them, but he only has 3 years left in the Secret Service and would rather spend them away from a lot of trouble that could endanger his record and retirement plans. His conscience won’t let him coast along, and his boss assigns him to look into the murder of the government agent killed on Roosevelt Island. In addition to this the US president is kidnapped from his own home town.

All of this makes for an interesting conspiracy that is fast paced and has more red herrings than a fish cannery. I really enjoyed this book, and sometimes stayed up past my bedtime reading it. It was hard to put down, but also hard to wake up in the morning for work. The story bogged down, in my opinion, in regards to the celebration that was to happen in the president’s home town. Some of the details were repeated a few times, and I didn’t enjoy the repetition. I felt it was overkill and so I gave the book 4.5 stars out of 5. I would recommend this book as it is a very good read, and will keep you on the edge of your seat waiting for all to be revealed. David Baldacci weaves a great web of deceit, with some surprising heroes, too.

Happy Reading!

Something to Think About Productivity

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Nothing makes a person more productive
than the last minute.
~ Anonymous

Book review: Absolution by Murder by Peter Tremayne

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Absolution by Murder
By Peter Tremayne

Say these names 10 times fast: Tuaim Brecain, Streoneshalh, Eanflaed, Alhflaed, Seaxwulf, and Deusdedit. Can you do it? I think it would be easier to repeat “she sells seashells by the seashore” 10 times. (That one always trips me up.) If you can say the above names with ease, then you must be adept at reading middle English. Good for you! I did figure out that the halh in Streoneshalh means hall. These names figure prominently in Absolution by Murder.

It is the year 664 and the King of Northumbria has called for a synod between the Celtic Church and the Roman Church. They each teach Christianity a little bit differently. The purpose of the synod is to have followers of both sides come to an agreement on the items in question and determine the future of the church. Christianity is new to the Saxons and Angles and an appeal to the experts is made. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop from Rome, as well as Celtic nobility, are present for the synod held at the Abbey of Streoneshalh. Among them is an Irish nun named Fidelma, who has also trained as a legal advocate, is there to help decide on matters of law. Her friend, Abbess Etain, is the main speaker for the Celtic Church.

Sister Etain does not show up to speak and is instead found with her throat slashed in her cubiculum (cell). The council is in an uproar and Sister Fidelma is called upon to use her talents to find the murderer. A helper from the Roman side, Eadulf, is assigned to work with her to solve the murder and restore normalcy to the synod or civil war will erupt.

The writer did a lot of research into the medieval days of the British Isles, and there is a lot to be learned about the time period while the reader is trying to find the culprit along with Sister Fidelma. And for those of us who are descendants of the Anglo-Saxons, don’t be too proud. They were an uneducated and violent lot.

Once I got past the strange names, it was a real pleasure to read. The clues were hidden very well and though I thought I knew the murderer, I had my doubts because of all the conflicting details. I would give this murder mystery 5 of 5 stars. Take a walk on the medieval side and enjoy a good read.

Happy Reading!

On finding greater happiness

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We are blessed with so very much. And yet it is sometimes difficult to view the problems and permissiveness around us and not become discouraged. I have found that, rather than dwelling on the negative, if we will take a step back and consider the blessings in our lives, including seemingly small, sometimes overlooked blessings, we can find greater happiness.
~ President Thomas S. Monson

More summer safety and wellness tips

summer

“Summertime and the living is still easy…” And we sure would like to keep it that way, right? Here are a few more tips for a great summer.

If you are traveling out of the country and want to sightsee instead of spending your time sick with Montezuma’s Revenge, aka the “toilet trots,” watch what you are eating and drinking. Vomiting and diarrhea aren’t conducive to long strolls at the Parthenon or Machu Picchu.

Traveling abroad carries some risk. Poor and inconsistent standards in food preparation and sanitation can make water and foods unsafe to eat and drink. Remember this simple rhyme from the World Health Organization, “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”

To be safe when it comes to drinking water, boil it first or disinfect it with chlorine or iodine. If you want milk and it’s unpasteurized, boil it before you drink it. Make sure the bottled water is unopened before partaking.

Stay away from raw foods bought from street vendors unless it is fruit or veggies. Be sure to wash your produce thoroughly and peel it before enjoying.

At a restaurant choose meals that are piping hot when the food is placed in front of you. Watch street vendors cook anything you plan to buy. In both cases, if you didn’t see it being prepared, don’t get it.

Stay away from ice cream and other milk products as they are commonly contaminated. These items include raw or undercooked eggs that are used in such items as mayo, Hollandaise sauce, or mousse.

A hidden culprit – ice cubes. Think about it – ice cubes made out of water you didn’t boil will possibly be from unclean water sources.

In addition to being wary of some foods, some folks suffer from motion sickness. Did you know that more than 50% of Americans experience nausea and dizziness at some point from motion sickness? Here are some causes: hitting air pockets while on a plane (Does anyone really enjoy air turbulence at 30,000 feet?); windy roads when in the car, especially if you are a passenger; or waves when you are out on the water. Try these simple things to keep the nausea and dizziness away.

Motion sickness happens when your brain gets conflicting info about motion and your body’s position at the time. Your balance control mechanisms are located in the inner ear. If they are not in sync the motion sickness symptoms will set in. Here’s what to do:
In the car, drive or sit in the front seat with your eyes fixed on a distant point. (And hope your driver isn’t like my dad who would drive around twisty mountain roads with his eyes fixed on a distant point! Scary!)

In a plane, sit over the wing in the window seat. (Let’s hope there aren’t a bunch of other people who suffer from motion sickness, or there might be a fight over who gets the coveted spots, and there are only two!

On a boat, go to the top deck and gaze out at the horizon when seasickness hits.

And last but not least, watch out for the power of suggestion. Stay away from smoke and others who are experiencing motion sickness because seeing a green face may just cause a sympathetic response. Avoid odors, spices, or foods that aren’t agreeable.

In the event that you are still worried about being sick, there are OTC meds that can help, ie. Dramamine or meclizine. Try peppermint or ginger to settle your stomach. Ginger ale can be useful. Sometimes acupressure bracelets can help. Or just breathe in some cool fresh air.

Enjoy your vacation!

Mama Vicky Says … My Chihuahua is a troublemaker

Marley was NOT the world's worst dog...

Marley was NOT the world’s worst dog…

As our readers know, we have a rodent of a dog named Mr. Pete. He happens to be a Chihuahua which is a breed I swore we would never own. They are yappy ankle-biters with bug eyes. To me, Chihuahua’s look like rats, and that is why I call our dog a rodent. Leave it to my daughter/GM to get a Chihuahua. I have told you before, and it is true that my children don’t listen to me.

I really like animals, so don’t get me wrong, but I could have lived my entire life very happily without a Chihuahua. (Pug dogs are also really low on my list, too, because they snore so darned loud.) I was tricked into getting this dog. First of all, my daughter, and as many of you have probably experienced, is an expert at the doe eyes and sad, droopy lips pleading face that make me give in when I don’t want to. (My granddaughter has become an expert with this technique. I think she even does it better than Daphne does.) Second of all, I thought the dog was a baby Lab. I really like Labs. Mr. Pete was six weeks old and didn’t have the bug eyes. Nor did he make a yappy sound when we encountered him so you can see why I believed he was a real dog. So, pleasing my daughter (which is often a mistake) and thinking I was getting a $200 Lab, we got the dog. Imagine my shock when the dog turned out to be a Chihuahua! I wanted a refund and to return the dog, but we didn’t have a receipt with an refund policy, and there wasn’t a way to find the people who sold this dog to us by standing on a sidewalk holding him up for my daughter with the animal radar to see. (Daphne and I are really against puppy mills, and would rather have gotten a pet from the animal shelter. We have done that before, but honestly, I wasn’t in the market for a pet.) However, Daphne gave me that look and the dog looked sickly, she said, which he did somewhat, and her idea was that if he was going to die, he at least ought to die at a home where he would be cared for. (I have come to learn that children are masters at making you believe what they are saying.)

So, why am I telling you about Mr. Pete? Because once I realized that I had been robbed and fooled, I should have had an inkling that this dog was going to be nothing but trouble. I read the book Marley and Me. The author claimed that Marley was the worst dog in the world. Ha! I’d tell Marley to move over, except he is in heaven. At least the makers of a movie about dogs insist that all dogs go to heaven. (I am telling you that Mr. Pete won’t be going there. Ralph Kramden from the old TV series, The Honeymooners, has a better idea of where Mr. Pete is going – to the moon, Mr. Pete!)

Mr. Pete is awful and he is spoiled, too. But I would argue with Marely’s owner and say that Mr. Pete is the world’s worst dog. (I’ve been thinking about writing a book about him because he has some odd behaviors.) And on top of that, he is the most expensive. While I don’t approve of Obama care, I think there needs to be an Obama care for animals. We could call it Dogama care. (I am not just referring to dogs, but I won’t go into my politics. My father always said not to discuss politics and religion with others.) We have a doggy wellness plan for $42 dollars a month, but it doesn’t cover doggy emergencies. Mr. Pete has turned 8 years old, which is 56 in human years. Many of us start to break down in our late 50s, so I guess he is age appropriate for health problems. I just wish they weren’t so expensive. By the way, we have had a few pets in our lives, and none of them had the problems or the expenses that Mr. Pete has given us. (I knew that dog was a bad seed when I first laid eyes on him and saw that he had a small circular bald spot on his side. He had a birth defect! And I get tired of each new vet asking if he had a biopsy or cancer there. I quickly tell them that we just have a defective dog. Thank you very much, Daphne!)

About 6 months ago, the “rodent” began to vomit and have the diabolical squirts of the blow hole. He’d eat and a few hours later, throw up. (And it is true as the Bible says, dogs do return to their vomit. That is just so gross!) Then he’d have diarrhea just running from the opposite end. And since he is the world’s worst dog, he wouldn’t go on his potty mats. He’s just let it rip all over the carpet. I really did feel badly for him. He’d lie around all listless-like. Then he’d have a few good days before the cycle started all over again. He has been to the vet several times in the last few months. He’s been on antacids and antibiotics and probiotics and expensive special diets. Again, he’ll be fine for a few days, and then bombs away! Recently he had an XRay off his abdomen for over $200. This just showed swelling of the lining of his lower intestines. (Truthfully, XRays are not really meant for soft tissue. They are the best for filming bones.) Of course, the XRay was inconclusive.

A couple of nights ago, he was so sick that we took him to the pet ER thinking that it was time to put him down. The vet didn’t agree and came up with a treatment plan that was going to run $1700 to 2 grand if they kep thim over night, gave him IV fluids, and sent him by doggy ambulance to another office for an ultrasound. What in the world? Of course, I have a car to repair and a root canal to get done, and I can’t see spending two grand on a dog anyway. (Remember, I like animals.) We ended up going home with multiple different meds and having the ultrasound on an outpatient basis.) The vets recommended an ultrasound! An ultrasound? I guess veterinary medicine is moving up to high tech. $445 dollars later, the diagnoses is Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). I even told the vet and my family that this was what was ailing Mr. Pete before any Xray or ultrasound was done. Oh, by the way, the ultrasound showed possible diagnoses and a group of vets had to sit around and confer on the diagnosis.

So, on the way to the poor house, a rotted tooth, and a car that won’t pass the smog test, we know Mr. Pete has IBD. He goes back to the vet this afternoon to get a special allergy-free diet (which no doubt will cost more than a meal at Red Lobster) and B12 shots. Some humans get B12 shots. Gee whiz! What will the veterinary world think of next?

So what is the point of all this, besides complaining? Just this, if you are thinking of getting a pet, 1) may he/she not be as troublesome as Mr. Pete, and 2) make sure you have a money tree growing in your backyard because you are going to need it, or even better than suggestion #s 1 or 2, #3 – Just don’t get a pet and don’t listen to anyone who gives you the “look”, the pleading sad eyes and the curled lip. You’ll be better off. And if your family asks why they can’t have a pet, tell them that Mama Vicky said so.

Blog You Later!

Sugar and Spice Advice on how companionship helps forge good habits

Exercise buddies

Exercise buddies

The notion in the quotes I just posted that companionship and energy can work together for something better is really true. What relationship does companionship have to do with energy, exercise, and well-being? In this Sugar and Spice Advice article, we’ll find the tie-in.

Research has shown that working out alone gives a person time to think which is very beneficial in our noisy, busy, high tech lives, but exercising with a partner has many benefits as well. The benefits of marital bliss or even friendship include combatting illness, depression, and high blood pressure. A couple of other benefits of working out with a pal are healthy competition and camaraderie. The relationship one has with her/his spouse or buddy will deepen. That’s a good thing, right?

What helps a person who is trying to break old habits that aren’t the best for one’s health and happiness or one who is trying to develop good habits? Some folks do well solo, but for many people having a buddy improves their ability to succeed. Breaking a bad habit or starting a good one takes effort and determination to overcome obstacles. The more support a person has the greater the chances of success. Asking a friend, spouse, or coworker to join the campaign for health provides encouragement and accountability along the way. This is one reason weight loss programs have counselors. The counselors not only advise, but they provde support and ask the client to be accountable for their decisions by monitoring how she/he is doing.

Change takes time. Set reasonable goals and report to the buddy. Enjoy small successes together. Set milestones and reasonable rewards. Maybe for a certain amount of weight loss or weeks without smoking earns the person a book shopping date with the buddy, or visiting a museum with one’s spouse.

Personally, and as my MediFast counselor will say, when a person is making healthy changes the success rate is higher when partnering with someone who is working on the same change. This is because each person can support and encourage the other one on the road to success. I love research-based studies so it was great to learn that when partnering with a pal, each person lost more weight than if they had gone it alone. And a good partner/pal can be a trustworthy and cheap therapist. I know when I talk things over with my sister, who happens to be my best friend, I see things more clearly and I feel her love and support. (It is great having a big sister, isn’t it?)

Let me cover the benefits now.
Cordial rivalry supports exercise by helping one share her/his goals and be self-disciplined to achieve them. Knowing someone else is watching the progress can give the person the extra umphh needed to succeed.

Walking or exercising together provides solidarity. The person and her/his buddy can be mutual cheerleaders and coaches. Take turns coming up with new challenges to include in the exercise routine. Maybe tomorrow one of the pair can suggest a different walking or biking trail that includes an incline as opposed to the same level course that has become the routine. Conversation during exercise helps pass the time so they may walk farther than previously done or at least it will seem that the exercise time has flown by.

As side notes, here is more information on making and improving relationships:
1) Talk, don’t type. E-mails are efficient and are inexpensive ways to keep in touch with those who may not live close by. However, it’s not always the friendliest way to enjoy a relationship. Now and then pick up the phone or go somewhere (it doesn’t have to be expensive) and have a real conversation. This strengthens relationships more than an e-mail. Again, some research has shown, regular chats with loved ones, friends, or acquaintances can boost one’s health as well as exercise can. Do remember that talking is great, but does not replace physical activity. Rather it’s a boost to the exercise.
2) Want to find a new buddy or someone who is on a similar diet or exercise program? Try joining a club that caters to one’s hobbies or favorite sports. Volunteer for an organization that is a pet concern. Daphne and I volunteer at the local library and we have met some wonderful folks who love and talk books, something Daphne and I are passionate about it. (We’ve also been introduced to some new authors and books that we might not have known about or tried before.) Being in a group with like-minded folks gives a person the opportunity to connect with others who have the same concerns and values.

Simon and Garfunkel had a famous song which had the lyrics, “I am a rock. I am an island.” Going solo is acceptable at times, but not being an island unto one’s self and having a spouse or pal along for the ride can make things much more fun and improve success. Give it a try and see what you think.

Wishing you health and happiness!

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a home-based company that makes quality hand-poured soaps,
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Something to Think About Joy and Energy

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To get the full value of a joy,
you must have somebody to divide it with.
~ Mark Twain

The world belongs to the energetic.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson