FOLIE? A novel published, copyright and written by M. S. Barnes.

In order to provide further understanding of the substance of the book, immediately following the title these words are set forth; “noun, plural fo-lies [faw-lee] /fo’li/. French. Madness; insanity”. This is to explain that the referenced word is French and describes a particularly disruptive syndrome where delusional beliefs of one person may be passed to another (folie a deux) and even beyond to many, as in folie pleusiers (mass hysteria). The plot centers around a young psychiatrist who recently has completed her training and takes a job offer in an aging, poorly staffed and poorly maintained psychiatric institution in a remote section of Tennessee. It is in the time when the profession was only very slowly evolving from insulin and/or electric shock, lobotomies and other of the early experimental procedures. Armed with all of the latest knowledge available to the profession, Dr. Lee was sure she would be able to change the thinking and treatment procedures long espoused by all of the older staff members who she assumed were long removed from newer information. The story begins to accelerate when she spies a newly arrived patient whom she feels she must personally treat. The Chief, along with other members of the staff, believe she does not have the experience to handle this patient, but with reservations, give in to her insistence. She suddenly discovers she has a case beyond her abilities and turns to her mentor, a prominent professor/author and otherwise long recognized as most prominent in the profession. Providing further details would be a disservice to the prospective reader. Suffice it to say, that the tale gradually evolves into a horror, ghost (?) story of huge proportions, similar to, but more sophisticated than those shared in scary surroundings by youngsters.

Discussion: The author has set forth a most interesting tale of two particular basic features of addressing treatment of individuals with any health problems and especially those dealing with the mind. One is the ever present, but largely hidden, difference in the beliefs of medical practitioners and academicians. The former hold the latter in distain with belief in the old adage “Those who can (treat patients), do; those who can’t, teach.” Whereas, the latter, are just as strongly entrenched in the belief that without their discoveries and dissemination of the new treatment modalities, the practitioner would still be employing ineffective methods. Obviously much can be said in support of both beliefs. The second probably supports the first contention much more strongly because a really huge risk is associated when treating patients with mental problems. If the physician has any hidden, unknown or unrealized instabilities within, it can make him/her highly vulnerable to some action, word or thought pattern exhibited by the patient being treated. This is why psychiatrists themselves, after their extensive training beyond medical school and internships, may themselves undergo analysis and all invariably have a mentor with whom they consult when needed. Dr. Lee just picked the wrong type of mentor for her activities – an individual well versed in all phases of psychiatry EXCEPT the practical aspects and worse, an individual with a completely suppressed, devastating personal memory.

Summary: This book’s tale is spun by an author knowledgeable of the story’s basic elements. Thus, it presents an interesting dichotomy of choices – 1. An interesting read about a somewhat bizarre case of mental disintegration 2. To reiterate, an interesting horror, ghost (?) story similar, but much more sophisticated, than those shared by youngsters in scary surroundings.

5* Particularly interesting for two different tiers of readers as described.

Acts of Faith

ACTS of FAITH, a novel published copyright and written by Martin Elsant.

In this “Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy”, an initiating statement by Archibald Bower, Authentic Memories Concerning the Portuguese Inquisition, 1761 reads “An Auto de fe is not so much an Act of Faith, which the words would impart, as of the hypocrisy of Inquisitors, who thus make a mockery of God and man, by abusing the venerable name of religion, and forcing the secular judges to become their butchers.” An author’s note follows explaining that, as a teenager, he had found an account of an undisputed miracle that involved Diego Lopes of Pinanocos at his “auto de fe’ in Coimbra, Portugal, and more than 50 years later actual records of the man’s trial. (Both books referenced as additional reading.) However, a discrepancy existed between the trial records discovered and reported by Bodian and the public perception reported in the Roth book discovered so much earlier. The author’s intent in this book simply is “to add a component of human involvement to a process that they (individuals of the time) believed required only Divine intervention.” The story then introduces the young Portuguese Divinity student Aristides and the other characters of greater or lesser importance as it presents the quite specific procedures initiated and employed by the dominant figures in the Inquisition, as well as the surprising number of those attempting resistance, along with his new ‘element’.

Discussion: This is a fascinating and most informative story that should appeal to a rather diverse population of readers. Historians certainly will find much to learn as will those interested in beliefs of Judaism and of Catholicism of the era. A story of unrequited love is included, as are numerous references to bits of understanding of facts about the anatomy and functions of the human body as well as initial, perhaps surprisingly advanced, thoughts about surgical cleanliness available at the time. Thus, as readily admitted by the author, although tenuous, the tenets upon which certain of his actions are based are technically and scientifically feasible as well as the actions of Jews and Christians in this time of religious chaos arising from greed and ignorance. A most interesting and relative ‘Postscript’ is included as are suggestions for ‘Further Reading’ that history devotees will find extremely helpful. A somewhat unique aspect of this volume that may appeal particularly to readers who do not enjoy ‘cliff hangers’ where the protagonist or similar is left in a precarious position, resolution of which awaits the succeeding book, this first of a trilogy is a ‘stand-alone’ volume. However, sufficiently well done to make the reader anticipate the next in the series.

5* Historical fiction engagingly presented for reasons described.

Let’s Pretend

Let’s Pretend a book published by Amazon, copyright and written by Christian Hagesth III.

The opening passages of this book induce a reader to believe the author has set forth a fantasy novel loosely based on the ‘genie in the bottle’ theme. The protagonist, Peter Andresen  is a retired psychiatrist whose wife died several years ago in an accident and he has two grown sons who are ‘too busy’ to bother seeing him. He believes he is in his sixties, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has been bankrupt and now “scrapes by on Social Security and V.A. Benefits.” He is alone and lonely and walking aimlessly on a beach with no person or even buildings in sight. He spots a corked empty bottle that has drifted ashore, picks it up and sees a note inside. Amused by remembrance of the old tales, he attempts to remove it. The task is difficult so bringing it closer a faint voice seems to emanate from its depths requesting release. Shocked, he rapidly reverts to remembered Marine Drill Sargent’s marching orders continuing until encountering a lovely young woman. She greets him with no hint of a sexual come-on, which would be useless anyway because his Parkinson’s long ago had removed the possibility of any such activity. They do however, acquire what seems to be a deep mutual understanding and attachment, so continue walking together and the young woman appears to be able to provide all manner of ‘good things’ out of nowhere. Thus, the tale’s subtitle “A tale of Mind, Imagination, and Healing” quickly is recalled. Holly is able to cause welcome sleep, wonderful breakfasts, fine dining with all of the amenities, sessions of swimming with whales, functioning as partner of a raptor and of an entire flock of birds and more. She also facilitates visits with his Aunt Nora, participation in conversational gatherings with historical medical figures such as Hippocrates and Galen, another non-religious individual from whom he learns that “God needs to be experienced, not dissected”, and other pertinent individuals.  But eventually from this non-physical reality where everything he needs is provided by his mind because it is not limited in the more usual manner by attention to material reality, the reader witnesses the evolution of a physically ill individual, additionally suffering from a degree of PTSD, who ultimately re-emerges in the ‘real world’ as a truly empathetic individual who is a true ‘healer’.

Discussion: This is an engaging book. It literally forces a reader to return to the too-often forgotten thoughts first provided on the importance of the mind on bodily action centuries before Sigmund Freud. As quoted by the author, Hippocrates stated “It is more important to know what patient has the disease than what disease the patient has” i.e. the mind’s content fundamentally is the important factor in treatment. As an extension on his theme, the author provides examples of the many psychological burdens carried by the protagonist. Included are early strange thoughts arising from the child’s bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, being recognized as a hated other young boy instead of as her son by his mother just being returned from a psychiatric facility, thoughts about shooting himself in college and a horrifying experience after being shot down on a mission over enemy territory. Many more compelling features of mind-body interrelationship along with additional pertinent details and thought compelling reaction are included. A reminder of medicine’s mortal conflict with ignorance not only is legendary but particularly relevant again today by the recent resistance to immunization and the cautionary admonition “The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism” necessitating the cautionary remark “Be careful talking to people about your understanding of the infinite mind…you know it will be distorted. It will be seen as both heresy and gospel.” But enough! This is merely a review by a relatively knowledgeable reader who has been impressed by the author’s ability to bring forth, in a rather succinct manner, a basic tenet of the mind-body-disease relationship that, as stated, has appeared to have been lost for centuries. Granted, Freud, Jung and others resurrected a piece of it which H. Flanders Dunbar and others expanded to a degree. However, this particular treatise reestablishes the basic tenets and does so in a quite charming fictional tale that is highly recommended both as a simple fantasy, but even more importantly as a book to enjoy analyzing and absorbing its message.

5* Riveting dual level tale; enjoyable fantasy; crying for deeper analysis.

The Thin Gray Line

The Thin Gray Line ISBN: 9781098740139 assumed published, copyright and written by Michael Kenneth Smith.

This is a story of the Civil War between the states of the newly expanding democracy. The protagonist, Luke Pettigrew was little more than a boy when he is forced to leave his home on a hardscrabble farm in Tennessee by his seemingly uncaring father. He joins the confederate Army, is severely injured and attempts to make it home, when Clyde, a trader, finds him struggling, lifts him into his wagon and gives him a ride to his burned-out home a short distance from his own. Worried about him, he returns to find Luke passed out, takes him to his home where, with Joanie his wife’s help, he removes the partially destroyed leg above the knee because any medical help is at least 50 miles away and he won’t be able to make it alive. As he begins to recover, Clyde’s young sons Timmy and Tommy start asking him questions and he tells them his story. Luke had been assigned to the Ambulance Corps where he had met Col. Bedford Forrest, had performed heroically in battle, had fought at Shiloh, had joined Jeb Stuart where his horse had been shot from under him resulting in the badly injured leg that had required amputation. From this initial activity, Luke continues an interesting and quite serendipitous journey through the war-torn south as he engages in numerous activities dictated by the time and his abilities – care of the wounded as well as amputees specifically, a group with communicable disease, racial concerns, impact of the war on social relationships and more. The characters include several important and even notorious figures of the time as well as a number of fictional heritage.

Discussion: Although presented as a most interesting fictional tale with appealing characters, the author has set forth a fascinating history of some of the first and little known successful attempts made to supply functional artificial limbs to amputees. A man by the name of James Hanger initiated the procedures and lived until 1919 but his company continues today “as a world-wide leader in the development and manufacture of prosthetic devices with branches around the world. During WW I, the company received contracts from the U.K. and France and vaulted them to the top of their field where they remain today.” The only unfortunate aspects of the story are the manner in which the proof readers have let the author down and just a passing but haunting thought of what happened to Luke’s ‘long-sustaining true love’.

5* Heart-warming Civil War tale providing interesting historical details.

Future Women

    Future Women ISBN: 9781950336104 The Books Factory copyright and written by Chrissa McFarlane.

Sub-titled “Minority entrepreneurship and the fourth industrial revolution in the Era of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency”, the author is the Founder and CEO of Patientory, a company whose purpose is to  “Create a health industry servicing patients in ways that would make every medical record easily assessable by healthcare providers by using Blockchain and cryptocurrency.” She explains that the use of these technologies can eliminate one specific problem of enormous size. She recalls that in 2017 “Wannacry” ransomware crippled UK’s National Health Service & affected over 150 countries and in 2018-19 hackers broke into Singapore’s gov’t health data again causing wide-spread damage. She says “Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology and doesn’t require third-party interventions.” Thus it can help healthcare systems reduce the risk of hacking because it would take too much time/energy to hack all of the nodes within a network to infect the system. Users either can own their own information by joining the chain or by helping to secure the servers and distribute the data on a network and that variations of the system are being used in numerous countries already. Her establishment of a company that can aid in dissemination of personal medical records properly by the owner to the proper agency more expeditiously, with lower cost and far greater security is a tremendous advancement for an industry that is struggling with massive problems and huge, often totally unnecessary, expenses as well as the absolute essential requirement of keeping safe intimate personal facts. As one of the very few women of color in such an elevated position, she seeks to provide a framework for, and instruct others how to proceed to enter the ranks of successful entrepreneurs. After the usual disclaimer, dedication and introduction, the Table of Contents lists numerous chapter headings with explanatory sub-headings widely ranging from a most helpful explanation of blockchain and its many advantages as well as of Cryptocurrency and how they function; through Minority and Mindset; need for flexibility in all thinking and activity especially when seeking financial empowerment; and a host of other pertinent subjects with much biographical and autobiographical material that should serve well as instructive to the individuals she is urging to attempt to pursue an entrepreneurial path.

Discussion: There is a considerable amount of repetition in this book. However, because presentation of this and similar material no doubt serves as basic for lectures, it is not unusual. Thus, this presentation is highly recommended for the author’s target audience and parenthetically the quite clearly set forth explanations of blockchain and cryptocurrency can be most enlightening for all individuals so frequently being introduced today to these and other technological terms.

5* Excellent for target audience; highly informative for all readers.

The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection


The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection ISBN: 9781535616027 Book Fuel Copyright and written by Afshan Naheed Hashmi, PhD, C(ASCP), RAC.

The author opens the book with a quote from Donald Trump, then proclaims that “I feel safe and healthy in America. (Thus) This book is dedicated to all Americans and to the Movement: “Make America Great Again.”” Congratulatory statements follow on “this beautiful publication” by Nilima Mehra, Executive Producer and President Global TV Network, “the first Indian American (Executive Producer of GTV, Washington, D.C.) to broadcast her TV productions on a National TV”, and flattering brief description of the contents of the book by (Retired) Ambassador and former India University president, Har Swarup Sing, PhD. A formal dedicatory statement appears followed with a significant number of acknowledgements, a list of the numerous characters in the story. A lengthy introduction explains “My Story – How The Outbreak of a Monstrous Infection Came to Be” and is followed with further discussion “About the Book.” Finally, at Location 233 (of 935 total) or 22% of the total narrative, Chapter One begins the actual tale. The plot centers on a deliberate release of an infectious element known to be highly destructive upon a world-wide collection of notables attending a lavish wedding. The reason seemingly stemming from jealousy. Subsequent tenacious investigation ultimately manages to unravel the complicate means taken by the perpetrators to avoid detection.

Discussion: The story is an admixture of suspense and various aspects of medical science combined with an extravagantly luxurious life style beyond any that easily can be conjured up by the average American reader, even though occasionally being introduced to articles about the extravagancies in which mostly Hollywood residents engage. Admittedly, this reviewer acquired some understanding of the extent to which these luxuriously appointed activities can rise from a slightly extended stay in India a few years ago. Consulting on an allocation of research monies with the Assistant director of the Tata Research Institute in then Bombay, I was introduced to the father of a graduate student of mine in the States. Another of his sons was a rising star in the early developing Bollywood. We were entertained quite lavishly, shown several properties being considered for an extravagant dinner to be held in the following months. One, the Asoka Hotel in New Delhi, reputedly at the time was able to seat 1000 people for a formal dinner. Thus, the immense wealth attributed to the characters in this present novel are not totally beyond belief. However, the existence of such huge numbers being held by so many in the medical profession alone, does raise some measure of credibility. With respect to the verbalization and mechanics in general, a ‘stiffness’ in action and conversation seemed to pervade and material with regard to investigative activity was far too inadequate for this reader as well, no doubt, as for most crime story devotees.

Conclusion: The praise for this author’s first book on business affairs seemingly have been sufficient to establish her as quite a good writer. Perhaps she should continue in this area of endeavor, or if wishing to enter the field of fiction writing, acquainting herself more thoroughly with the area, along with attempting to find a good editor would be most helpful.

2* Regrettably and apologetically to an apparently fine author of non-fiction.