Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Save the manatees!

The manatee swam closer and bumped up against the boat, threatening to swamp it. Julia held on to the sides and rocked with the boat, but the manatee was not put off by the collision, and instead swam back a few feet and watched her placidly, looking for all the world like, well, like a large wet cow blocking her path.

“Shoo, shoo.” Julia took off her bonnet and waved it at the creature. The manatee must have considered it an invitation, for it swam back to her and before she realized such a monster could move so quickly, snatched the bonnet out of her hand. Soon the calico was being chewed alongside the greens, a colorful sea salad.
“Aaargh! Go away, you beast!”

“Now, that’s not a polite way to say good morning, darlin’.”

--Smuggler's Bride

Today is #ManateeAppreciationDay, though I like to think in Florida we appreciate our official state mammal every day. Manatees are gentle creatures, a valuable part of our ecosystem. Sadly, their biggest threat is from humans, especially human boat propellers.

Some years are better than others for the sea cows, but we're hopeful that with enough (human) education and protection of their habitats that the manatee will be with us for many more years.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Review: Hellbent

Hellbent Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another non-stop roller coaster ride featuring "The Nowhere Man", Evan Smoak, and his unique still set. Part Batman, part Jason Bourne, Smoak dropped out of the blackest of black ops agencies and left behind his Orphan X identity. Now he helps people in desperate need when the call on The Nowhere Man.

But the Orphan Program isn't done with Evan, and he's pulled back in when his mentor leaves him a mysterious package to protect.

Orphan X has become my new favorite suspense series and I love how Evan tries to interact with regular people in the normal world, with limited success. When it comes to stopping the bad guys though, there's no one who can compare with The Nowhere Man.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Review: The Infernal Battalion

The Infernal Battalion The Infernal Battalion by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Shadow Campaigns comes to a satisfying conclusion with The Infernal Battalion as the battlefield is filled with existential forces of good and evil for the soul of humankind. Secrets are learned, friends are lost, some old friends reappear--all the elements that make for a rousing good story.

If readers are looking for a fantasy based on the Napoleonic wars rather than the overdone medieval milieu they'll enjoy The Shadow Campaigns. The world-building is satisfying and the battle scenes are mapped out so well you can practically see them from overhead. Highly recommended for fans of military fantasy.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Review: Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lisa Kleypas is one of my autobuy authors for historicals, and I enjoyed her contemporary romances as well. Ever since her debut she's been releasing well-researched, satisfying stories and with Hello, Stranger she continues to hit the mark. I especially enjoyed the blood-and-guts aspects of the heroine, Dr. Garrett Gibson, performing surgeries. Kleypas' extensive research into Victorian medicine was fascinating.

I look forward to the next Ravenel novel and all future stories by Ms. Kleypas.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

The Joys of Research

Dr. Murray rose and reached up to the railed bookshelf attached to the bulkhead over his desk, his hand resting on a thick volume.
“Take this with you, Miss Alcott. Study it. You will find it useful.”
It was a worn copy of John Woodall’s The Surgeon’s Mate, and Charley took it, clasping it tight to her bound bosom.
“I have heard of this book but my father did not have a copy. Thank you so much, Dr. Murray!”
He looked at her steadily.
“I am not gifting you with this volume to make you happy, Miss Alcott. I am hopeful that the solid medical advice and common sense for treating men at sea will keep the numbers you kill to a minimum.”
--Sea Change

I spent a day of research and fun in New York City recently thanks to my darling son, who knows his mother very well. Instead of doing the usual tourist things (been there, done that, got the Statue of Liberty hat) he arranged a visit to the library of the New York Academy of Medicine.

The NYAM is an amazing facility and I could easily have spent weeks in the library reading old medical books. Mind you, I'm not a physician or an RN or anything else related to medicine, but since my books feature battles and diseases in a historical context I love the research. The Academy is housed in a classic early 20th C. mansion on the Upper East Side and you can view books in the library by appointment.

Thanks to the 21st c. links at the library website I was able to check out the library's extensive collections and reserve books on naval medicine, including the classic The Surgeon's Mate by John Woodall. First published in 1617, the volume became the standard for naval medicine for many years. It contained instructions on the treatment of disease and wounds, and some common sense advice for the prevention of disease aboard ship. For example, he strongly emphasized properly weighing and measuring ingredients to achieve optimum results.

Woodall tried to cover most or the situations which could arise at sea, including childbirth and, naturally, the treatment of scurvy, as well as recipes for invalid diets. One recipe for the comfort (not treatment) of a plague sufferer sounds surprisingly tasty:

"Lemon or good Citron" stewed in rosewater with cloves. When it's "half-stewed", add powdered "cynamon". Woodall pronounced this "A singular good cordial so taken."

Another volume I (carefully) leafed through was a manual for shipboard medicine by Gregg & Hollis from the 1820s, much used by whaling captains. It was slim and easy to understand, a must for the civilian population who didn't have the background of a ship's surgeon.

The 1881 US Public Health Service Handbook of the Ship's Medicine Chest discussed the serious health issue of constipation. The captain might have a "seat of ease" in his cabin, but ordinary seamen were expected to hang off the bow, even in bad weather. Not surprisingly, this wasn't fun and blockages could result. The Health Service instead wanted installation of a porcelain bowl with a spout "set to discharge through the scuppers" that could be easy washed out with sea water.

 A British guide from 1845 on "The Scale of Medicines With Which Merchant Vessels are to be Furnished" included simple directions on how to stock the ship's medicine chest, with numbered instructions in the manual. Here's a photo of the page on treatment of "clap":

This is an illustration from Woodall's Surgeon's Mate, followed by his instructions on treatment of scurvy:

 Another Woodall illustration on trephining skulls to relieve pressure and swelling of the brain.

As I said, I could easily have spent days leafing through the volumes. My thanks to NYAM librarian Arlene Shaner for arranging my visit, and to my son's girlfriend, who initially said to him, "This sounds like something your mom would enjoy."

She was absolutely right and I hope to return on a future visit to New York City. You can keep your Broadway shows and shopping, just bring me the books!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Review: Light It Up

Light It Up Light It Up by Nicholas Petrie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Peter Ash books continue to satisfy as the war veteran deals with his PTSD and returning to a more normal life. Of course, it's complicated. Peter's on a security detail for a cannabis operation in Colorado when things go south, big time. Now it's up to him to uncover why his team was hit and solve the puzzle behind the robbery.

As Bob Lee Swagger and Jack Reacher age out of their action/adventure years it's good to know we've got new over-the-top heroes like Peter Ash to keep us entertained.

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