A cautionary tale about traditional medicine that’s heavy on advice but short on storytelling.

Jane Doe : Gutted

A DEMENTIA STORY

A former attorney discovers her current dementia is linked to past multiple surgeries and a lifetime of poor nutrition in Briones’ (Jane Doe Overdose, 2015, etc.) novella, part of a series steeped in science.

Doris Finley is an “everywoman” who experiences cognitive decline after losing her appendix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and gallbladder to a series of medical procedures. The surgeries, which began when Doris was just 4 years old, came fast and furious, and in most cases, doctors didn’t tell her about alternative treatments and neglected to provide proper follow-up care. She nonetheless proceeded through life, falling in and out of love, raising her children, and building a career. But as she aged, she continued to be dogged by poor health. As the novella opens, a confused Doris has just shoplifted from a gift store owned by retired nurse Grace Gallagher, who’s privy to many of the details of Doris’ medical history. An ensuing trip to the emergency room offers a ray of hope that Doris, now in her 60s, will finally receive the care she deserves. Briones doesn’t pull punches in this work. As a certified physician, she has the medical knowledge to make a convincing case that organ removal, poor post-surgical care, and a penchant for high-fat foods play a role in dementia. The story pinpoints cause and effect with precision; readers learn that Doris’ first operation, the removal of her appendix, likely reduced the amount of good bacteria in her gut—essential probiotics that could have helped her avoid a later health issue. The story posits that Doris’ hysterectomy, meanwhile, likely harmed her brain by depriving it of hormones that aid in mental acuity. The author is at her best when she sticks to problem-solving, and she offers intriguing medical insights—first through the character of Nurse Grace and later, through the eponymous Dr. Berta Briones, “a maverick in her field,” who appears in the final chapter. The story built around this central diagnosis, however, is easily forgettable and includes little character development. Readers interested in learning more about dementia could consult several nonfiction books that provide answers in a far less circuitous manner.

A cautionary tale about traditional medicine that’s heavy on advice but short on storytelling.

Pub Date: March 15, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 13, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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