Wednesday, November 30, 2011


40 Days to Better Living - Depression is the third in a series of books from the Church Health Center in Memphis, TN. If you missed our review of the previous books in is this helpful series, you can find the first one, Optimal Health, here and the second one, Hypertension, here. Each volume of the series is devoted to a specific health issue. Using the personal stories of several individuals who have availed themselves of the clinic’s resources, the books offer commonsense advice that will benefit the average person. Though each volume focuses on a particular wellness issue, the Church Health Center’s always treats the complete person.

Studies show that about 10% of American adults suffer from depression and 40 Days to Better Living: Depression provides clear steps to help you to manage the stressors in your life through life-changing attitudes and actions. With just a few pages, they pack a lot into each day. Each morning begins with quiet reflection on God’s power in your life. Then comes tips on strengthening your faith life along with simple and easy to follow health advice. The books include a built-in journal where you’re encouraged to examine your feelings and track your progress. Through frequent check-ins you’re offered insights and tips on Faith, Health, Mobility, Emotional Well Being, Family, Friends, and Nutrition. And each day wraps up with an evening pick-me-up.

Never preachy, but always helpful, the 40 Days to Better Living series offers the encouragement most of need to get out of that recliner and develop a healthier life style. Many volumes are now out addressing a variety of health issues. Devoid of the glitz and glib formulas of so many self-help books, these little volumes are just what the Doctor ordered.
- E G Lewis

From the time Scott Morris was just a teenager, he knew he would do two things with his future—serve God and work with people. Growing up in Atlanta, he felt drawn to the Church and at the same time drawn to help others, even from a very young age. It was naturally intrinsic, then, that after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia he went on to receive his M.Div. from Yale University and finally his M.D. at Emory University in 1983.

After completing his residency in family practice, Morris arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1986 without knowing a soul, but determined to begin a health care ministry for the working poor. He promptly knocked on the doors of St. John’s Methodist Church and Methodist Hospital in Memphis inviting them to help, and then found an old house to refurbish and renovate. By the next year, the Church Health Center opened with one doctor—Dr. Scott Morris—and one nurse. They saw twelve patients the first day and Morris began living his mission to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and spirits.

From the beginning, Morris saw each and every patient as a whole person, knowing that without giving careful attention to both the body and soul the person would not be truly well. So nine years after opening the Church Health Center, he opened its Hope & Healing Wellness Center. Today the Church Health Center has grown to become the largest faith-based clinic in the country of its type having cared for 60,000 patients of record without relying on government funding. The clinic handles more than 36,000 patient visits a year while the wellness center, which moved to its current 80,000-square-foot location on Union Avenue in 2000, serves more than 120,000 member visits each year. Fees are charged on a sliding scale based on income.

We thank Audra Jennings at B&B Media for providing us with a copy of 40 Days to Better Living – Depression in exchange for an honest review.

Product Details
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-161626-266-2

Monday, November 28, 2011


The Mirror of N’de is a fantasy. I thought it sounded similar to The Chronicles of Narnia or the Harry Potter books, and was eager to read it. Presented as a book for young fantasy readers, I thought it might appeal to my 13-year-old granddaughter, especially since the heroine in it is 13.  

L.K. Malone’s imagination is certainly in full gear with this novel. It is peppered with weird, strange creatures like none described elsewhere. As a Christian allegory, I wasn’t certain who was representing whom for a while. However, it all eventually became clear. 

Young Hadlay Mivana is part of a poor race of people called the Ramash. Her people are kept subservient to the Oresed who live better and often abuse their poor neighbors. In an unusual twist of fate Hadlay and some of her friends are chosen to work in the Tower of the Emperor. It’s there she is lured by luxury and extravagance into accepting things she should avoid. She has more than her share of problems, one right after the other, but ultimately becomes a special friend to the Emperor’s son.   

Her strange dreams of a beautiful Being leave her puzzled until nearly the end of the novel when the Being reveals himself to her. It is up to Hadlay to fight evil and rescue her people. The Being assures her with his help, she will.  

The book is a page turner right up to the end. However, the ending feels unfinished to me. I wanted a satisfying conclusion.  But, since it is an allegory, perhaps writing an ending that has yet to happen in our world, would be inappropriate. The Being assures Hadlay she will reach N’de when the time is right, although he also warns that she still has many things yet to endure. 

I haven’t decided whether to share this novel with my granddaughter or not. I am troubled by some of the animal and human mixing that occurs within the book. It is suspenseful, and succeeds with good triumphing over evil. But, many of the creature mixes are eerie. Perhaps that attests to L.K. Malone’s skill at description.  This tale was written by a competent writer. 

We are grateful to Amy Lathrop at Litfuse Group, and Kregel Publications for providing us with a free copy in exchange for an honest review. 
- Gail Lewis

Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (October 28, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825426677
ISBN-13: 978-0825426674

Saturday, November 26, 2011

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS by Sara Gruen, An audio book read by David LeDoux at 23, and John Randolph Jones at over 90

Some books lend themselves well to audio and this is one of them. I’d not read Water for Elephants, but even if I had, I’m sure this audio version would still be highly enjoyable. 

As I spoke about this novel to friends, I was surprised how many have already read Water for Elephants and loved the print version.

The book begins with Jacob Jankowski as an old man in a nursing facility. As he looks back on his life, we meet him as a young man whose personal tragedy drives him to leave college before taking his final exams to become a veterinarian. He hops a train and finds himself with a traveling circus. Fortunately, they can use a veterinarian and don’t care that he didn’t take his finals.

Circus life during the Great Depression is presented in a fascinating way. Life with the circus wasn’t often pretty, and could be dangerous. Because so many are struggling to simply live, people stay with the circus in spite of inequality and abuse. This novel is filled with suspense, but it is also a love story. You will cheer for Jacob and Marlena, and boo the bad guys.  As for the elephant, Rosie, she will make you laugh and cry. She’s not as dumb as everyone thinks.

I’m tempted to say this novel is a page-turner, but instead it was a Kindle-pressed-to-my-head audio. It went almost everywhere I went, never wanting to put it down. The only drawback is the volume on my new Kindle will not go high enough to hear when there’s any background noise. This is a criticism of Amazon’s Kindle, and not the book. I’d like to unload the dishwasher, or walk on a treadmill and listen to Kindle, but it isn’t possible. The volume won’t go high enough. I have good hearing, by the way, so it isn’t that… And, yes, I did raise it as high as it would go.  

An audio book, unlike the printed version, has the advantage of allowing you to move about and complete other mindless activities.  Audio books on CD do let you raise the volume to an acceptable level.

This audio book is exceptionally well read. David LeDoux, as 23-year-old Jacob, uses skillful voice inflections that change with different characters. He makes listening to this book enthralling. John Jones’ interpretation makes the elderly Jacob very likeable too. Both men’s vocalizations are clear and easy to understand.

I’m currently listening to another audio book that, unfortunately, is not as clear and enjoyable as this one. It emphasizes to me how truly good the audio version of Water for Elephants is. I highly recommend it!  

This outstanding novel was offered free as an introduction to audio by Amazon for my new Kindle. In spite of my issue with Kindle’s volume control, it was one of the best audio books I’ve ever listened to.
−Gail Lewis

Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1256 KB
Print Length: 465 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1616200715
Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (May 1, 2007)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English

CLICK for Amazon's Audio offer of WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

Thursday, November 24, 2011


A story twenty years in the making, A Heart for Freedom tells the story of Chai Ling a young woman who participated in China’s Tiananmen Square Protests. Overnight she became a wanted fugitive and went underground to avoid capture and death at the hands of the Chinese government. She was eventually smuggled out of China and came to the United States. She attended and graduated from an Ivy League college, married, and became a successful entrepreneur.

Her life changed the day she attended Congressional hearings on the effects of China's One Child Policy in November 2009. Hearing firsthand the story of brutal forced abortions, she became convinced that only God could stop such brutality. Through the encouragement and prayers of friends and mentors, Chai Ling converted to Christianity a month later and at last found meaning in the violence and tragedy she’d experienced. She founded All Girls Allowed, an organization that lobbies for women’s rights and tries to put an end to China’s forced abortions and sterilizations. She testified before Congress in October, 2011during hearings on human rights abuses by China’s government.

Filled with page-turning action, this fast paced book holds nothing back. Ling shares her failures and bad choices alongside her joys and successes. She continues to fight for the future of China and, interestingly, she believes that China’s next revolution will be fought on the battlefield of the human heart and mind. Her story is a rousing testament to the transformational power of the Gospel, and the hope of Christ in a broken and sinful world.
We thank Tyndale House Publishers for providing us with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
—E G Lewis
Product Details:
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 344
Publisher: Tyndale House
ISBN-13: 978-14143-624-6-5
Online Discussion Guide Available

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

LOST by E.G. Lewis

In LOST, Mr. Lewis treats us to glimpses of the past, present, and a possible future, and ties them together in an intriguing tale that juxtaposes deception with integrity, and grief with hope.

The story opens with an engaging monolog by a minor − or at least, not-as-major − character, who sets the stage with a glimpse into the past and its application to the present. Then we're off and running...

A brief visit to Delhi, India, where a top-secret scientific breakthrough launches us into the initial foray between deception and integrity. Dr. "Derek" has invented the capability every military commander in the world covets. Today, that translates to untold billions of dollars for the firm that can bring it from the laboratory to the battlefield. And Mr. Winston Ridgely of the RCI Corporation intends to do just that.

Skip to Pine Crest, Oregon, where Vietnam veteran, now newspaper owner/editor, Tom Jenkins and his wife, Marty share a quiet life − a life that is about to be turned upside down. Marty embarks on an Alaskan cruise as a member of a singing group. Then, only a couple of days out, the ship runs afoul of RCI's field-testing their newly acquired capability.

Enter grief vs. hope. The Coast Guard gives up on the chances that there are any survivors, but Tom can't let go of the feeling that Marty is still alive. His conviction sends him on a mission that ranges from the cruise line's home office in London, England, to Oregon's backwoods. Driven by his obsession, he ignores the sentiments piling up against him by well-meaning friends who counsel him to move on, that he must reconcile himself to his wife's death. He just can't do tha t− oh, did I mention his granddaughter was also on the cruise? Yeah. Now you see.

But who is right: Tom or everyone else? What really happened to the Paradise Voyager, its passengers and crew?

Mr. Lewis toys with mysticism, but not too much; flirts with science fiction, but doesn't cross the genre line. What he does is produce a unique story that pits the staying power of love and devotion against the forces of 'fate' manipulated by the intervention of greedy men.

Well researched and thoughtfully written, this is a story you'll ponder well beyond the final page.

− Bruce Judisch

  • Paperback: 324 pages  

  • Publisher: Cape Arago Press (August 6, 2011) 

  • Language: English  

  • ISBN-10: 0982594941  

  • ISBN-13: 978-0982594940

  • LOST Trade Paperback or e-Book, click here to be connected to
  • Monday, November 14, 2011

    Win a Free Copy of A SOUND AMONG THE TREES.

    FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN A FREE COPY OF A SOUND AMONG THE TREES, MAKE A COMMENT before December 1. Make it either here, or at the bottom of the Wild Card review below.

    Contest is open to all USA or FPO, APO residents only. The winner, chosen randomly, will be contacted for their mailing address. A new copy of A Sound Among the Trees will be shipped to the winner. Good Luck!

    Our Review:

    From beginning to end, I didn’t want to put this book down.

    A Sound Among the Trees is actually two stories in one novel. A contemporary heroine from Phoenix, Marielle, meets her future husband on the internet. She marries the widower with two children and moves into Holly Oak, an aging Virginia mansion. It belongs to his first wife’s grandmother, Adelaide, who lives there too. Although the two women get along well, ghost stories and old Civil War mysteries abound regarding the mansion and its former occupants.

    I found myself hanging on every word. Surely the author wouldn’t espouse the existence of ghosts, would she? Yet, there were strange goings on.

    The second tale begins after Marielle discovers a journal from her predecessor, Sara, and has a surprise visit from Sara’s mother, Caroline. It is Caroline who holds the key to solving all the mysteries and setting things back in order.

    You will enjoy reading Civil War letters from Susannah, an ancestor of Adelaide, Caroline and Sara. Susannah’s involvement in the Civil War has been speculated and gossiped about for decades, and all of it intrigues Marielle. Susannah’s letters reveal many truths about Holly Oak and her life there. The italics used to print her letters in this book, however, caused me some eyestrain. They are approximately 1/3 of the novel. However, it was worth the reading in spite of blurry vision afterwards. This is the other tale told in Ms. Meissner’s book, and the one I especially relished.

    We highly recommend this exciting novel and are grateful to Waterbrook Press for providing a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. We will be watching for more novels by Susan Meissner.
    —Gail Lewis

    Product Details:
    Paperback: 336 pages
    Publisher: WaterBrook Press
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0307458857
    ISBN-13: 978-0307458858

    A SOUND AMONG THE TREES by Susan Meissner

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

    You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

    Today's Wild Card author is:

    and the book:

    WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
    ***Special thanks to Laura Tucker of WaterBrook Press for sending me a review copy.***


    Award-winning writer Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her novels include The Shape of Mercy, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the Best Books of 2008. She is a pastor’s wife and a mother of four. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

    Visit the author's website.


    A house shrouded in time. A line of women with a heritage of loss. As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.

    When Marielle Bishop marries into the family and is transplanted from the arid west to her husband's home, it isn't long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.

    With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must sort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak— and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.

    Product Details:

    List Price: $14.99
    Paperback: 336 pages
    Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 4, 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0307458857
    ISBN-13: 978-0307458858



    The bride stood in a circle of Virginia sunlight, her narrow heels clicking on Holly Oak’s patio stones as she greeted strangers in the receiving line. Her wedding dress was a simple A-line, strapless, with a gauzy skirt of white that breezed about her knees like lacy curtains at an open window. She had pulled her unveiled brunette curls into a loose arrangement dotted with tiny flowers that she’d kept alive on her flight from Phoenix. Her only jewelry was a white topaz pendant at her throat and the band of platinum on her left ring finger. Tall, slender, and tanned from the famed and relentless Arizona sun, hers was a girl-nextdoor look: pretty but not quite beautiful. Adelaide thought it odd that Marielle held no bouquet.

    From the parlor window Adelaide watched as her grandson-in-law, resplendent in a black tuxedo next to his bride, bent toward the guests and greeted them by name, saying, “This is Marielle.” An explanation seemed ready to spring from his lips each time he shook the hand of someone who had known Sara, her deceased granddaughter. His first wife. Carson stood inches from Marielle, touching her elbow every so often, perhaps to assure himself that after four years a widower he had indeed patently and finally moved on from grief.

    Smatterings of conversations wafted about on the May breeze and into the parlor as received guests strolled toward trays of sweet tea and champagne. Adelaide heard snippets from her place at the window. Hudson and Brette, her great-grandchildren, had moved away from the snaking line of gray suits and pastel dresses within minutes of the first guests’ arrival and were now studying the flower-festooned gift table under the window ledge, touching the bows, fingering the silvery white wrappings. Above the children, an old oak’s youngest branches shimmied to the tunes a string quartet produced from the gazebo beyond the receiving line.

    Adelaide raised a teacup to her lips and sipped the last of its contents, allowing the lemony warmth to linger at the back of her throat. She had spent the better part of the morning readying the garden for Carson and Marielle’s wedding reception, plucking spent geranium blossoms, ordering the catering staff about, and straightening the rented linen tablecloths. She needed to join the party now that it had begun. The Blue-Haired Old Ladies would be wondering where she was.

    Her friends had been the first to arrive, coming through the garden gate on the south side of the house at five minutes before the hour. She’d watched as Carson introduced them to Marielle, witnessed how they cocked their necks in blue-headed unison to sweetly scrutinize her grandson-in-law’s new wife, and heard their welcoming remarks through the open window.

    Deloris gushed about how lovely Marielle’s wedding dress was and what, pray tell, was the name of that divine purple flower she had in her hair?

    Pearl invited Marielle to her bridge club next Tuesday afternoon and asked her if she believed in ghosts.

    Maxine asked her how Carson and she had met—though Adelaide had told her weeks ago that Carson met Marielle on the Internet—and why on earth Arizona didn’t like daylight-saving time.

    Marielle had smiled, sweet and knowing—like the kindergarten teacher who finds the bluntness of five-year-olds endearing—and answered the many questions.

    Mojave asters. She didn’t know how to play bridge. She’d never encountered a ghost so she couldn’t really say but most likely not. She and Carson met online. There’s no need to save what one has an abundance of. Carson had cupped her elbow in his hand, and his thumb caressed the inside of her arm while she spoke.

    Adelaide swiftly set the cup down on the table by the window, whisking away the remembered tenderness of that same caress on Sara’s arm.

    Carson had every right to remarry.

    Sara had been dead for four years.

    She turned from the bridal tableau outside and inhaled deeply the gardenia-scented air in the parlor. Unbidden thoughts of her granddaughter sitting with her in that very room gently nudged her. Sara at six cutting out paper dolls. Memorizing multiplication tables at age eight. Sewing brass buttons onto gray wool coats at eleven. Sara reciting a poem for English Lit at sixteen, comparing college acceptance letters at eighteen, sharing a chance letter from her estranged mother at nineteen, showing Adelaide her engagement ring at twenty-four. Coming back home to Holly Oak with Carson when Hudson was born. Nursing Brette in that armchair by the fireplace. Leaning against the door frame and telling Adelaide that she was expecting her third child.

    Right there Sara had done those things while Adelaide sat at the long table in the center of the room, empty now but usually awash in yards of stiff Confederate gray, glistening gold braid, and tiny piles of brass buttons—the shining elements of officer reenactment uniforms before they see war.

    Adelaide ran her fingers along the table’s polished surface, the warm wood as old as the house itself. Carson had come to her just a few months ago while she sat at that table piecing together a sharpshooter’s forest green jacket. He had taken a chair across from her as Adelaide pinned a collar, and he’d said he needed to tell her something.

    He’d met someone.

    When she’d said nothing, he added, “It’s been four years, Adelaide.”

    “I know how long it’s been.” The pins made a tiny plucking sound as their pointed ends pricked the fabric.

    “She lives in Phoenix.”

    “You’ve never been to Phoenix.”

    “Mimi.” He said the name Sara had given her gently, as a father might. A tender reprimand. He waited until she looked up at him. “I don’t think Sara would want me to live the rest of my life alone. I really don’t. And I don’t think she would want Hudson and Brette not to have a mother.”

    “Those children have a mother.”

    “You know what I mean. They need to be mothered. I’m gone all day at work. I only have the weekends with them. And you won’t always be here. You’re a wonderful great-grandmother, but they need someone to mother them, Mimi.”

    She pulled the pin cushion closer to her and swallowed. “I know they do.”

    He leaned forward in his chair. “And I…I miss having someone to share my life with. I miss the companionship. I miss being in love. I miss having someone love me.”

    Adelaide smoothed the pieces of the collar. “So. You are in love?”

    He had taken a moment to answer. “Yes. I think I am.”

    Carson hadn’t brought anyone home to the house, and he hadn’t been on any dates. But he had lately spent many nights after the children were in bed in his study—the old drawing room—with the door closed. When she’d pass by, Adelaide would hear the low bass notes of his voice as he spoke softly into his phone. She knew that gentle sound. She had heard it before, years ago when Sara and Carson would sit in the study and talk about their day. His voice, deep and resonant. Hers, soft and melodic.

    “Are you going to marry her?”

    Carson had laughed. “Don’t you even want to know her name?”

    She had not cared at that moment about a name. The specter of being alone in Holly Oak shoved itself forward in her mind. If he remarried, he’d likely move out and take the children with him. “Are you taking the children? Are you leaving Holly Oak?”


    “Will you be leaving?”

    Several seconds of silence had hung suspended between them. Carson and Sara had moved into Holly Oak ten years earlier to care for Adelaide after heart surgery and had simply stayed. Ownership of Holly Oak had been Sara’s birthright and was now Hudson and Brette’s future inheritance. Carson stayed on after Sara died because, in her grief, Adelaide asked him to, and in his grief, Carson said yes.

    “Will you be leaving?” she asked again.

    “Would you want me to leave?” He sounded unsure.

    “You would stay?”

    Carson had sat back in his chair. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea to take Hudson and Brette out of the only home they’ve known. They’ve already had to deal with more than any kid should.”

    “So you would marry this woman and bring her here. To this house.”

    Carson had hesitated only a moment. “Yes.”

    She knew without asking that they were not talking solely about the effects moving would have on a ten-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl. They were talking about the strange biology of their grief. Sara had been taken from them both, and Holly Oak nurtured their common sorrow in the most kind and savage of ways. Happy memories were one way of keeping someone attached to a house and its people. Grief was the other. Surely Carson knew this. An inner nudging prompted her to consider asking him what his new bride would want.

    “What is her name?” she asked instead.

    And he answered, “Marielle…”

    Excerpted from A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner Copyright © 2011 by Susan Meissner. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    1 STEP AWAY by Eric Wilson

    Why didn't I think of this? What a great premise—one that every Christian should consider; a book every American Christian should read.

    Mr. Wilson has taken the age-old story of Job and turned it on its head. What if—just what if a man who had very little in the way of material wealth suddenly came into a fortune? How would it affect his faith? Could this windfall do to him what the deprivation of wealth failed to do to Job? And what if the same spirit who was behind Job's story were also behind this one? You see where this is going? Uh-huh.

    The Vreeland family is being watched. Their 'doom' is being plotted. They have little to their name, scraping to make ends meet, until...well, until $6,000,000 is unexpectedly dropped into their laps. All the expected emotions emerge: wonder, excitement, perhaps a little trepidation. But emotions are only the vehicles that transport action. What will they do with this fortune? What will it do with them?

    Mr. Wilson covers all the angles, as the pressures of a sudden shift in socio-economic status takes its toll on the family of Bret and Sara Vreeland. The decisions they make in the face of this pressure will not only determine the future of their family, but reveal the substance of their faith.

    Interesting? Sound like a nice, but rather linear plot? It might be in the hands of a lesser author than Eric Wilson. But what I haven't told you is the one-two punch poised before the Vreelands' noses, the seemingly apparent plotline that suddenly diverges into two threads, and what you thought was predictable is anything but that.

    This is not only an entertaining novel, it's a study in human nature worthy of individual contemplation and group discussion. 1 Step Away offers a lot in 379 pages. You can't help but put yourself in the place of the Vreelands, and instead of asking yourself, "Man, what would I do with all that money?" you ask "Man, what would I do about all that money?" 1 Step Away may surprise you with your own answer.

    Highly recommended. Get the book.
    —Bruce Judisch

    Product Details:
    Paperback: 383 pages
    Publisher: Bay Forest
    ISBN-13: 978-1613280140

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011

    LETHAL REMEDY by Richard L Mabry M.D.

    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

    You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

    Today's Wild Card author is:

    and the book:

    Lethal Remedy

    Abingdon Press (October 2011)

    ***Special thanks to Julie Dowd (Abingdon Press) for sending me a review copy.***


    Richard L. Mabry, MD, is a retired physician and medical school professor who achieved worldwide recognition as a clinician, writer, and teacher before turning his talents to non-medical writing after his retirement. He is the author of The Prescription for Trouble Series, one non-fiction book, and his inspirational piesces have appeared in numerous periodicals. He and his wife, Kay, live in North Texas.

    Visit the author's website.


    An epidemic of a highly resistant bacteria, Staphylococcus luciferus, has ignited, and Dr. Sara Miles' patient is on the threshold of death. Only an experimental antibiotic developed and administered by Sara's ex-husband, Dr. Jack Ingersoll can save the girl's life.

    Dr. John Ramsey is seeking to put his life together after the death of his wife by joining the medical school faculty. But his decision could prove to be costly, even fatal.
    Potentially lethal late effects from the experimental drug send Sara and her colleague, Dr. Rip Pearson, on a hunt for hidden critical data that will let them reverse the changes before it’s too late. What is the missing puzzle piece? And who is hiding it?

    Product Details:

    List Price: $13.99
    Paperback: 288 pages
    Publisher: Abingdon Press (October 2011)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1426735448
    ISBN-13: 978-1426735448


    No one knew the man’s name. White male, probably in his late seventies, found unresponsive in an alley about two o’clock in the morning and brought to the emergency room. Just another homeless derelict, another John Doe.

    “Pneumonia, late stages,” the intern said. He yawned. “Happens all the time. Drank himself into a stupor, vomited, aspirated. Probably been lying in that alley for more than a day. Doesn’t look like he’ll make it.”

    “Labs cooking? Got a sputum culture going?”

    “Yeah, but it’ll take a day or two to get the results of the culture. The smear looks like Staph. Guess I’ll give him—”

    “Wait. I’ve got access to an experimental drug that might help. Let me start him on that.”

    The intern shrugged. It was two in the morning. He’d been on duty for more than twenty-four hours straight—why’d Johnson’s wife have to go into labor today?—and he was bushed. The bum probably didn’t have a snowball’s chance of surviving anyway. Why not? “You’ll be responsible?”

    “I’ll take it from here. Even do the paperwork.”

    “Deal,” the intern said, and ambled off to see the next patient.

    Three hours later, John Doe lay on a gurney in a corner of the ER. An IV ran into one arm, a blood pressure cuff encircled the other. Spittle dripped from his open mouth and dotted his unshaven chin. His eyes were open and staring.

    “Acute anaphylaxis, death within minutes. Interesting.” He scratched his chin. “Guess I need to make some adjustments in the compound.” He picked up the almost-blank chart. “I’ll say I gave him ampicillin and sulbactam. That should cover it.”

    * * *

    The woman’s look pierced Dr. Sara Miles’ heart. “Do you know what’s wrong with Chelsea?”

    Chelsea Ferguson lay still and pale as a mannequin in the hospital bed. An IV carried precious fluids and medications into a vein in her arm. A plastic tube delivered a constant supply of oxygen to her nostrils. Above the girl’s head, monitors beeped and flashed. And over it all wafted the faint antiseptic smell of the ICU.

    Chelsea’s mother sat quietly at the bedside, but her hands were never still: arranging and rearranging her daughter’s cover, twisting the hem of her plain brown skirt, shredding a tissue. Sara decided that the gray strands in Mrs. Ferguson’s long brunette hair were a recent addition, along with the lines etched in her face.

    Sara put her hand on the teenager’s head and smoothed the matted brown curls. The girl’s hot flesh underscored the urgency of the situation. Since Chelsea’s admission to University Hospital three days ago, her fever hadn’t responded to any of the treatments Sara ordered. If anything, the girl was worse.

    “Let’s slip out into the hall,” Sara said. She tiptoed from the bedside and waited outside the room while Mrs. Ferguson kissed her sleeping daughter and shuffled through the door.

    Sara pointed. “Let’s go into the family room for a minute.”

    “Will she be—?”

    “The nurses will check on her, and they’ll call me if anything changes.” Sara led the way into the room and eased the door closed. This family room resembled so many others Sara had been in over the years: small, dim, and quiet. Six wooden chairs with lightly upholstered seats and backs were arranged along three of the walls. Illumination came from a lamp in the corner. A Bible, several devotional magazines, and a box of tissues stood within reach on a coffee table.

    This was a room where families received bad news: the biopsy was positive, the treatment hadn’t worked, the doctors weren’t able to save their loved one. The cloying scent of flowers in a vase on an end table reminded Sara of a funeral home, and she shivered as memories came unbidden. She shoved her emotions aside and gestured Mrs. Ferguson to a seat. “Would you like something? Water? Coffee? A soft drink?”

    The woman shook her head. “No. Just tell me what’s going on with my daughter. Do you know what’s wrong with her? Can you save her?” Her sob turned into a soft hiccup. “Is she going to die?”

    Sara swallowed hard. “Chelsea has what we call sepsis. You might have heard it referred to as blood poisoning. It happens when bacteria get into the body and enter the bloodstream. In Chelsea’s case, this probably began when she had her wisdom teeth extracted.”

    I can’t believe the dentist didn’t put her on a prophylactic antibiotic before the procedure. Sara brushed those thoughts aside. That wasn’t important now. The important thing was saving the girl’s life. Sara marshaled her thoughts. “We took samples of Chelsea’s blood at the time of her admission, and while we waited for the results of the blood cultures I started treatment with a potent mixture of antibiotics. As you can see, that hasn’t helped.”


    Sara wished the woman wouldn’t be so reasonable, so placid. She wished Mrs. Ferguson would scream and cry. If the roles were reversed, she’d do just that. “While we wait for the results of blood cultures, we make a guess at the best antibiotics to use. Most of the time, our initial guess is right. This time, it was wrong—badly wrong.”

    “But now you know what’s causing the infection?” It was a question, not a statement.

    “Yes, we know.” And it’s not good news.

    Hope tinged Mrs. Ferguson’s voice. “You can fix this, can’t you?”

    I wish I could. “The bacteria causing Chelsea’s sepsis is one that . . .” Sara paused and started again. “Have you heard of Mersa?”

    “Mersa? No. What’s that?”

    “It’s actually MRSA, but doctors usually pronounce it that way. That’s sort of a medical shorthand for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacteria that’s resistant to most of our common antibiotics.”

    Mrs. Ferguson frowned. “You said most. Do you have something that will work?”

    “Yes, we do. Matter of fact, when Chelsea was admitted I started her on two strong antibiotics, a combination that’s generally effective against MRSA. But she hasn’t responded, because this isn’t MRSA. It’s worse than MRSA.” She started to add “Much worse,” but the words died in her throat.

    Sara paused and waited for Mrs. Ferguson to ask the next question. Instead, the woman crumpled the tissue she held and dabbed at the corner of her eyes, eyes in which hope seemed to die as Sara watched.

    “This is what we call a ‘super-bug,’” Sara continued. “It used to be rare, but we’re seeing more and more infections with it. Right now, none of the commercially available antibiotics are effective. These bacteria are resistant to everything we can throw at them.”

    Mrs. Ferguson’s voice was so quiet Sara almost missed the words. “What do you call it?”

    “It’s a long name, and it’s not important that you know it.” Matter of fact, we don’t use the proper name most of the time. We just call it “The Killer.”

    “So that’s it?”

    “No, there’s a doctor at our medical center doing trials on an experimental drug that might work for Chelsea.” No need to mention that Jack is . . . No, let it go.

    “Can you get some of this? Give it to Chelsea?”

    “I can’t, but the man who can is an infectious disease specialist on the faculty here at the medical center. Actually, he helped develop it. Notice I said ‘experimental,’ which means there may be side effects. But if you want me—”

    “Do it!” For the first time in days, Sara saw a spark of life in Mrs. Ferguson’s eyes, heard hope in her voice. “Call him! Now! Please!”

    “You realize that this drug isn’t fully tested yet. It may not work. Or the drug may cause problems.” There, she’d said it twice in different words. She’d done her duty.

    “I don’t care. My little girl is dying. I’ll sign the releases. Anything you need. If this is our only chance, please, let’s take it.”

    Lord, I hope I haven’t made a mistake. “I’ll make the call.”

    “I’m going back to be with my baby,” Mrs. Ferguson said. She stood and squared her shoulders. “While you call, I’ll pray.”

    * * *

    “Mr. Wolfe, you can come in now.” The secretary opened the doors to Dr. Patel’s office as though she were St. Peter ushering a supplicant through the Pearly Gates.

    Bob Wolfe bit back the retort he wanted to utter. It’s Doctor Wolfe. Doctor of Pharmacology. I worked six years to earn that Pharm D, not to mention two years of research fellowship. How about some respect? But this wasn’t the time to fight that battle.

    He straightened his tie, checked that there were no stains on his fresh white lab coat, and walked into the office of the head of Jandra Pharmaceuticals as though he had been summoned to receive a medal. Never let them see you sweat.

    Dr. David Patel rose from behind his desk and beamed, gesturing toward the visitor’s chair opposite. “Bob, come in. Sit down. I appreciate your coming.”

    Not much choice, was there? Wolfe studied his boss across the expanse of uncluttered mahogany that separated them. Pharmaceutical companies seemed to be made up of two groups: the geeks and the glad-handers. Patel typified the former group. PhD from Cal Tech, brilliant research mind, but the social skills of a tortoise. Patel had been snatched from the relative obscurity of a research lab at Berkeley by the Board of Directors of Jandra Pharmaceuticals, given the title of President and CEO, and charged with breathing life into the struggling company. How Patel planned to do that remained a mystery to Wolfe and his co-workers.

    Patel leaned forward and punched a button on a console that looked like it could launch a space probe. “Cindy, please ask Mr. Lindberg to join us.”

    Steve Lindberg ran the sales team from an office across the hall. Lindberg could memorize salient scientific material and regurgitate it with the best of them, but Wolfe would bet the man’s understanding of most of Jandra’s products and those of its major competitors was a mile wide and an inch deep. On the other hand, Lindberg had his own area of expertise: remembering names, paying for food and drinks, arranging golf games at exclusive clubs. No doubt about it, Lindberg was a classic glad-hander, which was why he had ascended to his current position, heading the marketing team at Jandra.

    Wolfe hid a smile. Interesting. The President of the company and the Director of Marketing. This could be big. The door behind Wolfe opened. He deliberately kept his eyes front. Be cool. Let this play out.

    “Hey, Bob. It’s good to see you.” Wolfe turned just in time to avoid the full force of a hand landing on his shoulder. Even the glancing blow made him wince. Lindberg dragged a chair to the side of Patel’s desk, positioning himself halfway between the two men. Clever. Not taking sides, but clearly separating himself from the underling.

    Wolfe studied the two men and, not for the first time, marveled at the contrast in their appearance. Patel was swarthy, slim, and sleek, with jet-black hair and coal-black eyes. His blue shirt had a white collar on which was centered the unfashionably large knot of an unfashionably wide gold-and-black tie. Wolfe wondered whether the man was five years behind or one ahead of fashion trends. He spoke with a trace of a British accent, and Wolfe seemed to recall that Patel had received part of his education at Oxford. Maybe he wore an “old school” tie, without regard to current fashion. If so, it would be typical of Patel.

    Lindberg was middle-aged but already running to fat—or, more accurately, flab. His florid complexion gave testimony to too many helpings of rare roast beef accompanied by glasses of single malt Scotch, undoubtedly shared with top-drawer doctors and paid for on the Janus expense account. Lindberg’s eyes were the color of burnished steel, and showed a glimmer of naked ambition that the smile pasted on his face couldn’t disguise. His thinning blond hair was combed carefully to cover early male pattern baldness. The sleeves of his white dress shirt were rolled halfway to his elbows. His tie was at half-mast and slightly askew.

    Patel, the geek. Lindberg, the glad-hander. Different in so many ways. But both men shared one characteristic. Wolfe knew from experience that each man would sell his mother if it might benefit the company, or more specifically, their position in it. The two of them together could mean something very good or very bad for Bob Wolfe. He eased forward in his chair and kicked his senses into high gear.

    Patel leaned back and tented his fingers. “Bob, I’m sure you’re wondering what this is about. Well, I wanted to congratulate you on the success of EpAm848. I’ve been looking over the preliminary information, especially the reports from Dr. Ingersoll at Southwestern Medical Center. Very impressive.”

    “Well, it’s sort of Ingersoll’s baby. He stumbled onto it when he was doing some research here during his infectious disease fellowship at UC Berkeley. I think he wants it to succeed as much as we do.”

    “I doubt that.” Patel leaned forward with both hands on the desk. “Jandra is on the verge of bankruptcy. I want that drug on the market ASAP!”

    “But we’re not ready. We need more data,” Wolfe said.

    “Here’s the good news,” Patel said. “The FDA is worried about The Killer bacteria outbreak. I’ve pulled a few strings, called in a bunch of favors, and I can assure you we can get this application fast-tracked.”

    “How?” Wolfe said. “We’re still doing Phase II trials. What about Phase III? Assuming everything goes well, it’s going to be another year, maybe two, before we can do a rollout of EpAm848.”

    “Not to worry,” Patel said. “Our inside man at the FDA assures me he can help us massage the data. We can get by with the Phase II trials we’ve already completed. And he’ll arrange things so we can use those plus some of our European studies to fulfill the Phase III requirements.”

    Lindberg winked at Wolfe. “We may have to be creative in the way we handle our data. You and I need to get our heads together and see how many corners we can cut before the application is ready.”

    Wolfe shook his head. “You say this drug will save us from bankruptcy. I don’t see that. I mean, yes, it looks like we may be in for a full-blown epidemic of Staph luciferus, but we won’t sell enough—“

    Lindberg silenced him with an upraised hand. “Exposure, Bob. Exposure. If we get this drug on the market, if we’re the first with a cure, our name recognition will skyrocket. Doctors and patients will pay attention to our other drugs: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes. Our market share will go through the roof in all of them.”

    Wolfe could see the salesman in Lindberg take over as he leaned closer, as though to drive home his point by proximity. “We’re preparing a direct-to-consumer push on all those drugs, ready to launch at the same time we release Jandramycin.”

    The name didn’t click with Wolfe for a moment. “I . . . Well, I’ll certainly do what I can.”

    “Do more than that,” Lindberg said. “Jandra Pharmaceuticals is hurting. We’re staking everything on Jandramycin.”

    That was the second time Wolfe had heard the term. “What—“

    “Stop referring to the drug by its generic name,” Patel added. “From now on, the compound is Jandramycin. When people hear the name Jandra Pharmaceuticals, we want them to think of us as the people who developed the antibiotic that saved the world from the worst epidemic since the black plague.”

    Lindberg eased from his chair and gave Wolfe another slap on the shoulder. “This is your project now. It’s on your shoulders. The company’s got a lot riding on this.”

    And so do I. “But what if a problem turns up?”

    Patel rose and drew himself up to his full five feet eight inches. His obsidian eyes seemed to burn right through Wolfe. “We’re depending on you to make sure that doesn’t happen. Are we clear on that?”

    * * *

    Sara leaned over the sink and splashed water on her face. The paper towels in the women’s rest room of the clinic were rough, but maybe that would put some color in the face that stared back at her from the mirror. Her brown eyes were red-rimmed from another sleepless night. Raven hair was pulled into a ponytail because she could never find time or energy for a haircut or a perm. Get it together, Sara. She took a deep breath and headed for the doctor’s dictation room, where she slumped into a chair.

    “Something wrong, Dr. Miles?”

    Sara turned to see Gloria, the clinic’s head nurse. “No, just taking a few deep breaths before I have to make a call I’m dreading.”

    Gloria slid into the chair next to Sara. The controlled chaos of the internal medicine clinic hummed around them. The buzz of conversations and ringing of phones served as effectively as white noise to mask her next words. “Is it one of your hospital patients? Got some bad news to deliver?”

    “Sort of. It’s Chelsea Ferguson.”

    “The teenage girl? Is she worse?”

    “Yes. The cultures grew Staph luciferus.”

    Gloria whistled silently. “The Killer. That’s bad.”

    “The only thing that seems to be working in these cases is that new drug of Jack Ingersoll’s.”

    “Oh, I get it. That’s the call you don’t want to make.” Gloria touched Sara lightly on the shoulder. “When will you stop letting what Ingersoll did ruin the rest of your life? I can introduce you to a couple of nice men who go to our church. They’ve both gone through tough divorces—neither was their fault—and they want to move on. It would be good for you—”

    Sara shook her head. “Thanks, but I’m not ready to date. I’m not sure if I can ever trust a man again.”

    Gloria opened her mouth, but Sara silenced her with an upraised hand. No sense putting this off. She pulled the phone toward her and stabbed in a number.

    * * *

    Dr. John Ramsey found a spot in the Visitor’s Parking Lot. He exited his car and looked across the driveway at the main campus of Southwestern Medical Center. When he’d graduated, there were two buildings on the campus. Now those two had been swallowed up, incorporated into a complex that totaled about forty buildings on three separate campuses. Right now he only needed to find one: the tall white building directly across the driveway at the end of a flagstone plaza. The imposing glass fa├žade of the medical library reflected sunlight into his eyes as he wove past benches where students sat chatting on cell phones or burrowing into book bags. He paused at the glass front doors of the complex, took a deep breath, and pushed forward.

    There was a directory inside for anyone trying to negotiate the warren of inter-connected buildings, but John didn’t need it. He found the elevator he wanted, entered, and punched five. In a moment, he was in the office of the Chairman of Internal Medicine.

    “Dr. Schaeffer will be with you in a moment.” The receptionist motioned him toward a seat opposite the magnificent rosewood desk that was the centerpiece of the spacious office, then glided out, closing the door softly behind her.

    John eased into the visitor’s chair and looked around him. He’d spent forty years on the volunteer clinical faculty of Southwestern Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine. For forty years he’d instructed and mentored medical students and residents, for forty years he’d covered the teaching clinic once a month, and today was the first time he’d been in the department chairman’s office. He swallowed the resentment he felt bubbling up. No, John. You never wanted to be here. You were happy in your own world.

    John couldn’t help comparing this room with the cubbyhole he’d called his private office. Now he didn’t even have that. The practice was closed, the equipment and furnishings sold to a young doctor just getting started. John’s files and patient records were in a locked storage facility, rent paid for a year.

    He wondered how many of his patients had contacted his nurse to have their records transferred. No matter, she’d handle it. He’d paid her six months’ salary to take care of such things. What would happen after that? He didn’t have the energy to care. Things were different now.

    For almost half a century he’d awakened to the aroma of coffee and a kiss from the most wonderful woman in the world. Now getting out of bed in the morning was an effort, shaving and getting dressed were more than he could manage some days. Since Beth died . . . He shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs that clogged his brain. The knowledge that he’d never again know the happiness of having a woman he loved by his side made him wish he’d died with her. What was the use of going on?

    But something happened this morning. He’d awakened with a small spark of determination to do something, anything, to move on. He tried to fight it, to roll over and seek the sleep that eluded him. Instead, he heard the echo of Beth’s words: “You’re too good a physician to retire. People need you.” He remembered that conversation as though it were yesterday. She’d urged, he’d insisted. Let’s retire. I want to get out of the rat race and enjoy time with you. Retirement meant the travel they’d put off, the time to do things together. Only, now there was no more together.

    This morning, he’d rolled out of bed determined that today would be different. It would be the start of his rebirth. As he shrugged into a robe, as he’d done each day since her death he looked at the picture on their dresser of him and Beth. She’d been radiant that spring day so many years ago, and he wondered yet again how he’d managed to snag her.

    He’d shaved—for the first time in days—with special care, and his image in the mirror made him wonder. When did that slim young man in the picture develop a paunch and acquire an AARP card? When had the thick brown hair been replaced by gray strands that required careful combing to hide a retreating hairline? The eyes were still bright, although they hid behind wire-rimmed trifocals. “You’re too old for this, John,” he muttered. And as though she were in the room, he heard Beth’s words once more. “You’re too good a physician to retire. People need you.”

    Fortified with coffee, the sole component of his breakfast nowadays, he’d forced himself to make the call. He asked his question and was gratified and a bit frightened by the positive response. John dressed carefully, choosing his best suit, spending a great deal of time selecting a tie. He’d noticed a gradual shift in doctors’ attire over the past few years. Now many wore jeans and golf shirts under their white coats. But for John Ramsey, putting on a tie before going to the office was tantamount to donning a uniform, one he’d worn proudly for years. And he—

    “John, I was surprised when I got your call. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Dr. Donald Schaeffer breezed into the office, the starched tails of his white coat billowing behind him. He offered his hand, then settled in behind his desk.

    “Donald, I appreciate your taking the time to see me. I was wondering—”

    “Before we start, I want you to know how sorry we all are for your loss. Is there anything I can do?”

    Perfect lead-in. See if you can get the words out. “As you know, I closed my office four months ago. Beth and I were going to enjoy retirement. Then . . .”

    Schaeffer nodded and tented his fingers under his chin. At least he had the grace not to offer more platitudes. Ramsey had had enough of those.

    “I was wondering if you could use me in the department.” There. Not the words he’d rehearsed, but at least he’d tossed the ball into Schaeffer’s court.

    “John, are you talking about coming onto the faculty?”

    “Maybe something half-time. I could staff resident clinics, teach medical students.”

    Schaeffer was shaking his head before John finished. “That’s what the volunteer clinical faculty does. It’s what you did for . . . how many years? Thirty? Thirty-five?”

    “Forty, actually. Well, I’m still a clinical professor in the department, so I guess I have privileges at Parkland Hospital. Can you use me there?”

    Schaeffer pulled a yellow legal pad toward him and wrote a couple of words before he pushed it aside. “I’m not sure what I can do for you, if anything. It’s not that easy. You have no idea of the administrative hoops I have to jump through to run this department. Even if I could offer you a job today—and I can’t— I’d have to juggle the budget to support it, post the position for open applications, get half a dozen approvals before finalizing the appointment.” He spread his hands in a gesture of futility.

    “So, is that a ‘no’?”

    “”That’s an ‘I’ll see what I can do.’ Afraid that’s the best I have to offer.” Schaeffer looked at his watch, shoved his chair back and eased to his feet. “Coming to Grand Rounds?”

    Why not? John’s house was an empty museum of bitter memories. His office belonged to someone else. Why not sit in the company of colleagues? “Sure. I’ll walk over with you.”

    As the two men moved through the halls of the medical center, John prayed silently that Schaeffer would find a job for him. With all his prayers for Beth during her final illness, prayers that had gone unanswered, he figured that surely God owed him this one.

    Our Review:
    Richard Mabry has done for Medical Suspense what John Grisham did for the Legal Thriller. Lethal Remedy has all the components of a great novel: evil corporate executives, a egotistical medical researcher, a courageous doctor who risks his life to save others, and a team who are trailing the bad guys as they unravel the tangle of clues. He tops it off with an unidentified double-crosser who appears just often enough to keep the reader guessing. There are only four possibilities, but Mabry structures his story to make you wonder about all four. The last shoe doesn't drop until the final pages of the book. I'd rate this a must read. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down!
    -E G Lewis