Every Minute is a Day: A Doctor, An Emergency Room and a City Under Seige by Robert Meyer MD

5 stars Nonfiction

I know, I know, I know.  People are tired of hearing about Covid but I really wanted to hear from someone different.  Someone who actually worked on the front lines, in an area different than my own and I wanted to hear his own words about what he experienced and witnessed with his own eyes.  I really enjoyed this book, in fact, the book exceeded my expectations.  At first, I hesitated on reading it, afraid it might contain difficult medical jargon but the book was very down-to-earth.

This book centers on Montefiore Health System in Harlem which serves about 1.5 million people annually.  With their staff including their medical students, their facilities including their modern equipment, they feel that there’s no better equipped hospital to serve Covid patients than their building.  Within one month of receiving their first Covid patient, the hospital gets control of the situation but there’s no end in sight.  They were able to manage the shortages that came with the demand of this illness while still providing what they could to their patients and staff.  The hospital experienced highs along with the lows while they provided care for their patients, those highs amongst all the chaos and despair provided hope and strength for another day. 

There were many references that I enjoyed in this book, remarks that stood out as I read them.  The first one referred to how the hospital dealt with the crisis.  This state of mind continues today as officials examine the booster vaccine.  The doctors learned as they go. They learned about the illness from others, they learned from doing something different, and they learned from going outside-the-box. This illness is new, it’s something our society has not dealt with before.  This is a new crisis- there are no set rules, there is no handout to follow, no set procedures in place.  We are creating the handout and the rules as the days on the calendar move forward and unfortunately, as people get sick, die, and refused to believe that this illness really exists.  The second comment that stuck with me was how the medical staff put everything on hold while they dealt with Covid. How will that effect our future?  What will happen if we encounter another untreatable illness?  I stop and think about the implications of this time?  What has this done to us as a nation and to us around the world? Has this united us or tore us apart?  According to a few surveys, our children’s education has suffered.  That’s our future.  How long will we continue to argue and battle what is “right?”

There was a wake-up moment in Harlem when other colleagues in other areas of the hospital started to offer their help.  Months earlier they’ve been too scared to help but now, they see how things are not letting up and they feel the need to pitch in but how? They don’t have the training to work in the ER.  The emergency doctors took them, they trained them on something/anything that they thought they could do, they needed another pair of hands, someone to provide some relief.  These newly trained ER staff members thought they were scared before, well working on the front lines now, they’re realizing just how bad Covid really is.

I didn’t expect a happy story and I found myself crying a few times while I read this book, the emotional toil and the personal stories hit me.  You never knew how things would turn out.  An image that stayed with me as I read this book was the person lying in the hospital, just waiting, all alone.  Imagine yourself lying there, alone, isolated, no TV or entertainment, all you hear is the constant beeping of the monitors all around you and the noises of the staff as they scramble to assist the others that are lying nearby.  How do you feel?  Sick, helpless, defeated, worried, deflated…..

It’s a crisis that’s hitting every continent and not everyone is able or willing to stop/control it.  You need to be able to live your life, not just survive but live.  We need to remember all of those who have died, what we have learned through these individuals, and we need to honor those who have helped us along the way. 

It’s a great read and one that I highly recommend.  I appreciate the two cousins getting together and sharing this story with us and although, I haven’t witnessed it firsthand, I have heard enough stories from friends and loved ones that I don’t want to nor do I need to, to understand how serious this crisis is. Emergency medicine is constantly changing and you have to remember that no one has all the answers yet. Stay well everyone.  5 stars

Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

4.5 stars Fiction

I got lost inside this book, in a good way.  I found myself caught up with all the drama that happened within this family.  I could see why everyone wanted to be around the famous Rivas, as their lives were full.  Each of the family members were a little bit different and they each brought something to the family when they all got together.  The annual Riva Party was the event, the social event that you didn’t want to miss but this year was going to be epic.

I listened to this book on audio and I highly recommend that you go this route.  I feel that the narration brings an additional element to this book.  Although I enjoy adding my own emotions and attitudes to characters in books that I read, I enjoyed these characters immensely.  I didn’t care for all the characters in this book, oh no!  But I thought that their voices and attitudes were spot on.  I like to listen to books while I do other busy work and I found myself paying more attention to this book than anything else.  The anticipation of a few of the scenes made me stop what I was doing until I could breathe again.  Although this book consisted of only one day, flashing back into their lives, the story covered a lot of ground.  I thought about not reading this book but I’m so glad that I did as I really enjoyed it.  4.5 stars

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

4 stars Historical Fiction

So, how does one really become a ghost? I can’t imagine that everyone that leaves this earth, is sent in this direction.  Does Isaac come back as a helpful ghost or a ghost that has unfinished business to attend to?  A casualty of the Trail of Tears, Isaac narrates for us, how he became a ghost in 1830, while living in the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, which I found entertaining and interesting.

Isaac begins his story as a 10-year-old child living with his family. His best friend is his dog which he does everything with.  Treaty Talk. When Isaac overhears his parents talking about the subject, he remembers that Treaty Talk and Nahullos go hand-in-hand, a serious situation for the Choctaw Nation.  Mother leads Isaac on a series of walks that day as he witnesses important events that are being held by his community.  Gracious!   What Isaac witnesses with his very own eyes is totally different from what his own mother sees, who is standing right beside him. Good heavens, Isaac is a young child and he sees this!?!  I’m with Isaac when he questions his mother about what he’s seeing, yet her response is not what I’d expect from his very own mother.  This Treaty Talk has a shattering effect on their town and the individuals inside it. 

I had a few questions as I read this book, perhaps it was because I analyzed what was happening too much instead of just going with the flow.  Why were some individuals shape shifters, some ghosts, some……?  Did that have to do with lineage?  Didn’t Isaac think it was strange as a child to hear a dog talk? Didn’t he once read in a book that dog’s go, bark, bark? Did he realize when he was little, that he was unique?  I liked learning about the Choctaw traditions and practices.  I enjoyed the relationships that Isaac built in the book and how he accepted his fate and assisted others.  There’s an engaging story inside this short book. 

“Choctaws never say “good-bye.” There is no word for it. We say “chi pisa la chike, which means, “I will see you again, in the future.””

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

4 stars Historical Fiction YA

What I enjoyed the most about this book was how the stories of the book came together.  Although the story is mainly about Val and her twin brother Jamie, there are little stories that thread throughout the book that give the story its strength.  Val had an agenda and she was determined that what she wanted was best for everyone involved.  I had to laugh a few times while I read, when Jamie’s insight was better than hers.  Was Val only seeing what she wanted to see?  Was it possible for Val to admit that Jamie might know something about their own family? 

Val was a great character but she also needed the individuals around her, to shape and mold her.  From Mrs. Sloane, to the passengers, to the circus manager, all these individuals pushed and encouraged her which allowed her maturity, within the pages of this book to grow.  She was a determined, passionate individual but her mannerism wasn’t the greatest when she approached the gangway to board the Titanic.  With her attitude, was it possible for her, to persuade her brother to return to their previous occupation? America was supposed to be the land of opportunity and that is where she wanted to go but now, the Titanic was her playing field.

While I thought this book might be centered on the sinking and the life-saving that accompanied this vessel, I was surprised these events occurred at the end.  I learned about the Chinese Exclusion Act and how that effected many individuals, which was new to me.  I really enjoyed this book as it provided something different about this time in history.

“Life is a balancing act. You could be killed walking down the street, but you don’t let that fear stop you. You just practice until the fear is no longer part of the equation.”

“An afterlife without one’s loved ones doesn’t seem like a place I’d want to go. Maybe that’s why Jamie likes to study the stars. Whatever the answer is, surely it’s written up there.”

The Radium Girls: The Scary But True Story of the Poison That Made People Glow in the Dark by Kate Moore

5 stars Nonfiction Middle School/YA

I have already read the adult version of this book, so when our book club decided that The Radium Girls was going to be this month’s selection, I opted to read the young readers version of the story.  I was anxious to read this book as I read lots of books geared towards young readers and I hoped this one was as great as the adult version.  I had hoped that they hadn’t taken this incredible story, watered it down and condensed it.  Had they changed the storyline and make it more reserved for these young minds?  This book really surprised me as I began reading.

This was fantastic!  This book was condensed but the author had not watered it down.  This was as great as the adult version only; it didn’t go into as much detail as the adult’s version.  It had been a few years since I have read the adult version but it all came back to me as I began reading and I fell in love with it all over again. 

Filled with hope and opportunity the girls began working at the watch dial factory.  They were teenage girls, working with the “wonder element,” the miracle wonder that was treating cancer and helping with other illnesses.  This “liquid sunshine” was incorporated into toothpaste, butter, and skin products as everyone wanted to benefit from its greatness yet only wealthy could afford to indulge in these.  Radium, the glow-in-the-dark paint, was expensive in the late 1910’s.  

Working in the factory, the girls sat and they painted.  Holding watch faces, the girls manually painted the watch dials onto each one.  It was delicate work that relied on a steady hand and the perfect tool.  With the factory suppling the brushes, the girls took their brushes and created the perfect tool.

Lip-dip-paint. The girls did lip pointing as they painted their watch dials.  Since the girls were paid based on the number of dials they painted, they needed to work quickly and efficient.  By wetting the end of the brush in their mouths to make a tapered end, this technique made their jobs easier.  Lip-dip-paint.  There would be no rinsing of the brush between each dial, there was only a minimal amount of radium on the brush at all times while she painted, and she had been told that the radium was safe.  She was set to make millions, right?  It sounds right but these girls were doing this every day, all day, and the number of times that her brush touched their lips each day was high, for she painted hundreds of dials each day.    

It wasn’t until years later, that things started to change for the girls and they started to realize that perhaps this “liquid sunshine” wasn’t as safe as they were led to believe.  I marveled at how this book didn’t shy away from the facts. The trips to the dentist had me squirming in my chair. I’m not fond of dentists but they had to go. Their pain was so bad but their diagnose was worse than cavities. The girls had enjoyed working in the factory, they’d made lots of cash and enjoyed their new lifestyle but now, was it worth it?  

As more girls were getting sick, more individuals were getting involved and it irritated me that no one was working together to solve the issues.  Hired individuals, doctors, lawyers, family members, everyone was a witness but what was the cause?  How can they move forward?

This book is not for the weak, as the author tells it like it was.  As I thought about what these girls had to endure, it made me cringe.  The pain, the frustration, and the emptiness they must have felt, had to be exhausting.  It’s sad and horrific that the girls had to battle this.  To have to fight for their lives and also for support.  That’s so frustrating.  These girls are heroes for what they went through and how they shaped our future.  I’m glad that this book was written for young readers so they can read how these young women fought for others and themselves.  They weren’t quitters, whinners, or looking for a handout- they did it by believing in themselves and moving forward.  A great book that should be read by mature young readers (middle school).  

“After her jaw was gone, an important discovery was made. Knef had always hoped that by removing a tooth or a piece of infected bone, the progress of the mysterious disease would be stopped. “

“Her mouth, emoty of teeth, empty of jawbone, empty of words, filled with red, hot blood instead. It spilled over her lips and down her stricken, shaken face.”

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps the Floor by Cherie Jones

4 stars Fiction

Oh, Lala! Why, oh why?

Pregnant Lala desperately tries to find her husband, as she struggles to stand up walking along the sandy beach.  It’s not a good sign, for the baby not due yet and Lala needs to go to the hospital now.  As Adan runs out of the house, Lala knows whatever happened inside that house wasn’t good but right now, they need to go. Recovering inside the hospital, Lala feels alone.  Adan abandoned her, as he felt the risk was too high for him to be inside the hospital and the baby that she once carried inside her, is now being cared for in the ICU. 

Lala, oh Lala. If only you could see the future.  But yet I wonder, if you could see the future, would you really change anything?

I had to draw a character map of this story, even though there weren’t that many characters because I felt the connections between the characters got confusing as I read.  When the story changed characters, I felt that I was confused at how the characters were connected or associated with each other and I didn’t want to miss this. 

This is one that you’ll want to pick up and enjoy.  I thought it was more of a deep fictional story with layers and not a mystery as some individuals have labeled it. 

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei

5 stars Graphic Novel

This book is a true account of George Takei’s experience in internment camps during WWII.  I read a lot of WWII books and it was shocking to read about these camps here in the U.S. 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, the President signed a proclamation stating that every adult Japanese citizen in the United States was now an Alien Enemy.  This meant that George’s father, after living 23 years in the U.S., was now an Alien Enemy and under strict rules.  Speaking to Congress, the President declares War not long after that.  California’s Attorney General decides that he’s going to start excluding Japanese individuals around certain areas.  He begins to round them up and house them together.  This made me angry as I read about his agenda, as there was no reason behind his actions, besides his own agenda. Many individuals were stripped of their own possessions and they were left with nothing. How was he able to do this?  The restrictions became tighter and tighter as he pulled on their reigns.

As George’s family was moved around, the illustrations in this graphic novel did an excellent job portraying the author’s attitude at what was happening in his life. Just looking at the illustrations, you can sense how things are with the family as they try to adjust.  Mother carried with her hope, as she made her way to the camps.  Her forbidden item had to be heavy as she lugged it around but she was determined to bring it.  She did, “not want to leave it behind” and she was also looking out for her children.  I liked how his father stepped up and made the best of his situation at the camps also.  His family was definitely a bright spot in the camp.  I found this graphic novel very interesting and educational. It one that you should look into if you like this type of book.  I appreciate George sharing his story with others.  

How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace by Carole Boston Weatherford

3 stars Chilren’s Biography

This wasn’t what I thought this book would be like, but it’s a start.  This song was a favorite of my grandmothers and it’s also one of my mother’s favorite songs, when I saw the cover, I knew I had to read it.   I wondered what the song’s words came from and what they meant as it’s sang a lot at funerals and religious services. 

The song began with John Newton aboard a slave ship.  He’s a passenger as the ships being tossed about, during a stormy night.   John hears the crew complaining as he worries about the ship going down with the storm.  As the storm whips around him, John reflects back on his life. 

John’s father was a sea captain and his mother stayed home and took care of him. She took him to church and John was a good Christian boy.  When she died, John put on his sea legs and went with his father to the sea, where he got into trouble and he became a wild fellow.  This was the time that he also met his wife, Mary.

The storm grabs John’s attention as the boat is being torn apart.  Everyone fears the worse and hopes the best.  The illustrations capture the fear that these individuals felt. Fortunately, they do eventually find land and John later retires.  Once an individual who transported slaves, John now preaches to end slavery.  I had a few questions about things that were happening here as it seemed rather choppy.  John now writes the first lines to this famous song.  Those lines travel across sea and land where other individuals sing them and add their own words to them until ……..we have a song.   What?  Yep!  There are Author Notes at the back (which I highly recommend you read), Additional Reading and Info, and Amazing Grace (the song).

I feel that the illustrations captured the energy of this book.  They were bold, colorful, and the individuals presented were nicely done. I was surprised at how much of the book was devoted to the life of John and how much of the book was devoted to the song, itself.  Then, to find out that he only wrote the first lines to the song.  That was a huge surprise to me!   The Author’s Notes at the back of the book need to be read as I found them very informative.  They helped answer some of my questions and put the book together for me.  I also liked having all the verses of the song together in the back, with the nice illustration in the background, that was a nice touch.  I was disappointed that not more was written about the rest of the song though.   

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

4 stars Historical Fiction

I never would have picked up this book had it not been for bookclub.  I almost didn’t read it because it really didn’t look or sound like something I would like YET, wow, what a story!  It was a wonderful story built on strong female relationships and determined individuals.  

Jacob was the one we all know about, the one whose name rang a bell with me.  Anita writes that Jacob has 4 wives and 10 sons. Jacob is mentioned just a bit i

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n this story but it’s the women’s lives who take over the pages.

Rachel was one of Jacob’s wife who was a midwife. She gives birth to Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah.  The Red Tent which is the book’s title refers to the structure where women would go when they’re menstruating or when they’re having a baby. Dinah though, was able to go into the Red Tent anytime, to learn from the women who were inside there. 

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I liked how the women went inside the Red Tent monthly, for just a few days, to rejuvenate themselves. The outside world would continue on, while she held herself up, inside that structure with the other women, until she opened up the door and walked out. I thought this was powerful but then, this also had to do with their religion. 

Reading this book was interesting but later, I located a guide to use with this book and that was an eye-opener.  It had me analyzing situations and yes, I could see what they were addressing but I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Had I not read this guide; this concept never would have crossed my mind. I hadn’t thought this much about historical or biblical times. Wow, this was a lot to think about and it started to make this reading material, deep. I was starting to see that there were some complex issues going on. One of my issues with this story had to do with keeping track of all the names of the characters as they made their journey.  

I’m glad that I read this story. 4 stars.