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Don’t Believe It–an unexpected murderer

Don’t Believe It

by Charlie Donlea

Don't Believe ItThere is so much to recommend in Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea. The initial setting is exotic: Sugar Beach in St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. This mystery begins immediately with action and suspense. The main character, Sidney Ryan, is a smart, talented, ethical filmmaker. The documentary she is producing is presented almost in real time: the audience gets to learn the results of Sidney’s investigations and interviews in the same week they occur. Out of appeals, an old friend who has been incarcerated for murder for ten years in St. Lucia asks for Sidney’s help in drawing attention to her case as Sidney has done in three prior films that resulted in each instance in freeing the accused.

The story effectively jumps around to various locations and times and uses a variety of styles to convey the events. Designations for places and times  are clearly and helpfully added to the first of each chapter. The inclusion of documentary episodes based on interviews is very effective as a storytelling tool.

Don’t Believe It is fast-paced, and the author knows just where to break the chapters so the reader wants more. The mystery is engaging and suspenseful, and the various threads all come together in the end. There were a lot of plot inversions and surprises. I would rate this mystery highly until the end when the crime puzzle is solved, but there is no closure to two major threads. What is the point? Is the author being artsy by leaving the reader dangling? Perhaps he is letting the reader mentally finish the book according to the way the reader wants it to end. Maybe this open-endedness is preparation for a series. Whatever the reason, I was a happy reader for most of the book, disconcerted by but accepting of a sudden change in direction, and then unsettled by the ending. Charlie Donlea proved he has good skills as a mystery writer, and I would like to read more of his work to get a comprehensive feel for his talents.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Some swearing

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

The detectives did exactly what they’re trained not to do. They picked a suspect first, and then looked for evidence that supported their theory. And the problem with investigating a crime in that manner is that any evidence they came across that didn’t support their theory was ignored or discarded.

But she had found over the years that inmates, deprived of just about every luxury in life, possessed a great deal of patience. They never expected anything to happen quickly, and took news of delays in much the same fashion as finding the bathroom stall occupied. They simply took a breath and waited.

If I could start my career over and take a path that more closely represented my interests, I’d do it in a second.

Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

by Meredith Shafer

Mad CowDespite its subtitle, Meredith Shafer’s Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story is not a mushy romance.  It is the hard-hitting tale of a woman who has lived in the trenches and struggled to scramble out for her own survival and that of her children and her husband nicknamed Mr. Wonderful in the book. “Mad Cow” does not refer to the feared Mad Cow disease; it is the nickname Meredith has given to the struggle her husband faces every day. He is a veteran retired on a medical disability and Mad Cow is a triangle of asthma, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury and all of the associated problems that often accompany these disorders including issues with depression and sobriety. 

Mad Cow is not a timeline biography, and it does not detail Mr. Wonderful’s war injuries or his specific medical issues. Instead, this memoir shares the struggles of this hot mess, circus-like, crazy family of six, led by a spunky mama and a wounded warrior as they navigate life, crises, and the VA medical system. We learn of financial struggles and family issues.  We discover how survival fueled by faith, trust, and God’s love becomes more important than a perfect house, after school activities, and productivity.

Meredith brings her background as a musician, lawyer, mom,  writer and speaker, a devotee of leopard, shoes, coffee and bling, and most especially a lover of Jesus to this book. She shares openly from her heart; there is no fakeness in this book. You will find humor scattered liberally throughout. There is one particularly funny chapter called “The Casita” which describes how the family of six lived temporarily in a 150 square foot house. Under the humor though is the pain of trying to save a husband who is past being able to save himself. Under the humor is a woman’s heart as she leans into her Father relying on Him to restore her family.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Memoir, Christian Nonfiction

Notes: You can find my review of Meredith Shafer’s first book, My Pink Champagne Life here

Publication:  2016

Memorable Lines: 

You can’t really go back, though. You can only move forward, which we are trying to do with generosity of spirit and good humor and grace, a whole truckload of grace. Wow, that’s hard.

I’ve decided that potty training a fiery redheaded she-child is kind of like training a wild tiger to dance to show tunes. It’s a delicate yet frightening process that requires infinite patience, a death wish, and multiple costume changes.

I guess thirty days off and three counseling appointments post deployment aren’t nearly enough. The military way, though it’s not written in any of their field manuals, is to soldier on. Self-medicate with alcohol if necessary as that is the acceptable method of of soldiering on.

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