Saturday, September 28, 2013

Drug Muggers

Kasey Cox

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When I was 19 (I am now 41), I began taking prescription medications that I would continue taking for the rest of my life. At the time, I hated the idea of being “dependent” on medication for my health. Sure, I’d taken prescription medications before – mostly penicillin-type drugs to treat bronchitis and the like – but somehow, this felt different. Strep throat is just an infection that kids get. You take the prescription, and it goes away. Occasionally, the penicillin I’d take would be a little harsh on my stomach, but it was only a week or so, and I’d feel normal again. These new meds, however, were to ‘regulate’ my symptoms, long-term. I was diagnosed with a chronic disease: I would learn to live with it, by moderating it with medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. The need for the medication felt like weakness. It felt like failure.

Now, I thank God all the time that I was born in an era where my combination of medications is readily available to me, and that researchers figured out how they help me. If I had been born even twenty years earlier, none of the meds I take would have been available to me. So many people suffered in silence; self-medicated with all kinds of other substances; lived a shortened life in an institution; or walked into a river with stones in their pockets, to escape the illness that I have daily relief from. So am I grateful for prescription medications? You bet I am! I’m thankful for the anti-seizure medications, the anti-depressants, anxiety meds, blood pressure prescriptions, insulin, synthetic thyroid hormone, blood-thinners, epi-pens, nitrates, and all the other medications which help people with chronic, life-threatening illnesses live fuller, healthier, more comfortable lives.

Nevertheless, none of these medications comes without a cost – and I’m not talking about the monetary figures or amount of time behind the development of these drugs, although they are obviously significant. For this article, I’m focusing on the side effects of medications. Like most people who need prescriptions, choosing which meds I ultimately stay on is a decision based on weighing the side effects against the benefits. For me, coming up with the right “cocktail” combination of medications has been, for the large part, about figuring out which medications give me the results I need to stay healthy with either no noticeable side effects or side effects that I can learn to live with. Often, for mental health meds, it’s difficult to achieve a balance like this: so many people go off their prescriptions because the meds that help can also cause sleepiness, weight gain, acne, hand tremors, excessive thirst, thyroid or liver damage, constipation, and more. Once I found a balance of meds that help my symptoms but bring me few of these side effects I’d experienced before, I felt like my life, and my illness, were finally manageable. I’m really satisfied with my drug regimen, and believe me, that means for me, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

So, I found myself completely surprised to learn that I still might be missing a large piece of the puzzle. A well-informed friend recently recommended I read Drug Muggers, by respected pharmacist Suzy Cohen, RPh. Cohen is the author of five books, and is known as “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist”, with her syndicated column, “Dear Pharmacist.” With Drug Muggers, Cohen turns her impressive twenty plus years of experience and research to the problem of how medications, over time, can deplete the body’s ability to make or use certain important nutrients. I’ve kept up with how my meds might affect my thyroid, my kidneys, my liver – the doctor has me monitor this with lab work – but for some reason, I never thought about their interaction with basic vitamin messengers in my body.

For Cohen, it’s just chemistry. Citing extensive studies, Cohen helps the reader understand that, too often in modern society, we feel ill and doctors throw another pill at us. As a pharmacist, Cohen passionately believes in the power of prescriptions to help people. Her focus in Drug Muggers is not to convince people to stop taking medication! Instead, she reminds us that people who regularly take medication need to keep in mind that a new symptom doesn’t necessarily mean a new illness or an untolerable side effect. Many symptoms or “side effects” can be mitigated or even banished by taking a vitamin B supplement, magnesium, vitamin D, or by augmenting certain vitamins through simple diet changes. It’s important to note that “regular medication” doesn’t just mean prescriptions: Cohen explains that constant use of over-the-counters like antacids, Aleve, Ibuprofen, and laxatives can also deplete the body of important nutrients.

Satisfied with your medication regimen? Great, but learn more about your body chemistry with “America’s Most Respected Pharmacist”. Most doctors don’t have to take many credits dealing specifically with nutrition. Unhappy with your medications, because you’re suffering a lot of side effects? Run to your local bookstore or library and check out Drug Muggers. No, it’s not a substitute for a doctor, but it’s a great resource, which ultimately – like the supplements Cohen recommends – can advance your health and well-being.

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Tale Told Plainly

Kevin Coolidge

I enjoy a good story most anytime, but a ghost story should only be told at night. A man named William Stone knew this. He recalls a spooky tale in his autobiography, The Tale of a Plain Man. As a child growing up in Wellsboro, John Ainsley told young William Stone the story of Death’s harbinger, and he never forgot.

There was a man named Richard Duryea who lived alone in a large white house on the Dean road. He had been a sailor and was believed to have been a pirate. He had boxes and relics of the sea, and his profanity was legendary.

You could hear him singing Three Dead Men and a Bottle of Rum on warm summer nights. He never went to church, never mingled with his neighbors, and was thought to be in league with the devil. He was a man to avoid.

One day he fell ill. The old woman that cleaned his house reported his sickness to John Ainsley and Andrew Kriner, who decided to go up to his house and see if they could do anything. They found him close to death, and insisted on a doctor, but Duryea would not have one.

The visitors held vigil as Duryea lay upon his deathbed. It was a warm June night and they sat in a room adjoining his. The door into his bedroom was open, and the door opening to the porch was open. They had dozed off, but awoke as the clock struck twelve.

They were startled when a large black beast with sharp eyes walked into the house, and straight into Duryea’s room. Duryea screamed, and the beast left. Duryea was dead, and Ainsley believed the devil had come to claim his soul…

William Alexis Stone (April 18, 1846 – March 1, 1929) became the 22nd Governor of Pennsylvania, from 1899 to 1903. He was born right here in Tioga County, just outside Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, in Delmar Township. In The Tale of a Plain Man, this man of humble origin writes of his experiences.

His earliest memory was being hustled out of his bed early in the morning by his brothers to see Santa Claus as he galloped over the hill. Santa did not bring him much, just some candy and some doughnuts, but it was enough and he was happy.

He recounts his home life. His family was poor, but honest. His mother made all their clothes. Nothing but tea, coffee, salt and pepper was purchased. The farm furnished their living. His father even cobbled their boots before the old-fashioned fireplace.

His father was a quiet and reserved man, and William only discovered that his house was an Underground Railroad station when his mother told him to keep out of the spare room. He slipped outside and saw his first colored person when he peeked through the window.

Soon after he read Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and spent many a night weeping at the wrongs. It made him anxious to answer Lincoln’s call, but he was too young until later in the war. He started his military career as soon as his father would allow him, and quickly rose in rank.

After the war, he decided to get an education, and attended what eventually became Mansfield University, then followed law practice, and public office. I enjoyed how he won over a hard-headed Scotsman on a jury by quoting Robert Burns, and how he broke up a fist fight in Pittsburgh by claiming to be John L. Sullivan, a boxing champion of the time.

The Tale of a Plain Man is a straightforward account of the inspirations and decisions of a modest Pennsylvania leader. He wrote his memoirs at the request of his children, grandchildren, and a friend. Five hundred copies were printed, but there was such a demand that a publisher in Philadelphia published a second edition of this man who strove “not so much to sustain his own prestige as to preserve the public peace, credit and prosperity.”

Plain? Or Fancy? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? It’s not hard to catch up, just go to Looking for a book about a cat from Wellsboro? You need go no farther tham “Hobo Finds A Home” about a cat born in Tioga County that went on to become Wellsboro’s most famous cat…

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reach for a New Hero: Lee Child and Elizabeth George's mysteries

Read the Printed Word!
(originally written for the Gazette in Feb. 2013) by Kasey Cox
In winter, I tend to read a lot of mysteries. Even the most well-written mysteries are still brain candy, a plot meant to engage our minds, a story spun to draw us in. Perhaps this is the reason I love mystery series this time of year: TV doesn’t offer much; Hollywood saves the big blockbuster releases for the holidays and for summer; and I don’t do winter sports, so mysteries take me away, just like Calgon in the 1980s.

I’ve noticed a lot of bookstore customers working their way through a mystery series or two right now, just like I am. This past week, a man asked me for a recommendation from that section of the store, and I asked him if he liked police procedurals. When he said yes, I suggested Elizabeth George’s books about Scotland Yard cases in modern-day England. Honestly, I was a bit taken aback with his response – “No, I don’t want any of those mysteries written for women.” Certainly, there are many authors who write a cross-genre approach with the “romantic suspense” theme, but I would never classify Elizabeth George as one of them. As we talked further about it, I realized this man meant that he didn’t want “all that relationship and psychological stuff”. George’s characters have complicated pasts, elaborate motives, and, yes, intricate relationships with each other. George delves deeply into the psychology of the cast of characters she has created, for both the detectives, the killers and their victims.

Since my best recommendations come from books I’ve read personally, I mentioned that I’d just recently starting reading Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. The customer’s face lit up as he told me he’s read every book. While I couldn’t sell him a Lee Child book, at least I knew we were on the same page.

Lee Child is the yang to Elizabeth George’s yin. As Child explains in his new author’s introduction to his first book, The Killing Floor, Child created his main character, Jack Reacher, to be the anti-hero of his day, the opposite of the sensitive, vulnerable male protagonists who were the height of popularity when Child started writing in 1995. Jack Reacher’s archetype hearkens back to John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, a cowboy who rides into town, smashes the heads of the bad guys together, gets the pretty girl, but then, inevitably, must ride off into the sunset. Many readers have called the Jack Reacher books a modern take on the Western, an ironic situation where British writer Lee Child creates the epitome of an American hero. (Elizabeth George, by the way, is an American author who writes so convincingly about England and Scotland Yard that many Brits don’t realize she’s an American.)

Jack Reacher is ex-military, but he’s the perfect example of how you take the man out of the army, but you can’t take the army out of the man. Born on an American military base, carted around the world with his military father’s job, Jack and his brother moved right from being military brats into being military men in their own right. After the Cold War ends, Jack finds himself honorably discharged in a downsizing military, and at loose ends. An American who has hardly spent any time in the United States, Jack decides to carefully spend his pension to travel as far as it will take him. His parents are deceased, he’s estranged from his brother, and he has no ties to any place in particular.

When I say Reacher is ex-military, a cowboy figure who rides into town and cleans up the bad guys he happens to run into, don’t confuse Reacher with Rambo. Reacher doesn’t spit out great one-liners while humping ridiculously huge weapons through the jungle. Though Lee Child’s plot lines are occasionally a little contrived to get Reacher into an exciting situation, his learning curve as a writer is impressive. Each book in this series is more sure-footed, the plot twists more complicated yet less forced, Reacher’s back story slowly but solidly filling in to create a character who really takes up residence in your brain, leaving you wanting more.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lee Child may be the perfect brain candy for you and readers you love. Hero and protagonist Jack Reacher isn’t sweet, but he is satisfying and that satisfaction lasts through an ongoing series of seventeen books, many of which have won awards in the crowded mystery-and-thriller genre.

Brit or Yank, woman or man? Hobo never tells. Dance the Lynley, or Reach for the gun? Send Hobo your opinion at Watch for Hobo’s new mystery, Paws to Find the Missing Tuna Fish, coming soon to a bookstore near you.

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summer Reading Selections 2013

Kasey Cox

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When I was a kid, one of the best parts about summer was going to the Green Free Library to check out a bunch of books, and then curling up in bed with them. My parents still made me go to bed at a “reasonable” hour in the summer, but I was allowed to read for a while, as long as I stayed in my bed. (Now I understand this rule a lot better: it was not just for my health. This was for my parents’ health – their mental health, mostly.) Some nights I read while the “heat lightning” illuminated the horizon and thundered boomed way off in the distance; other nights, I listened to the peepers down in the marsh across the road, or listened to big “June bugs” ping off the screens in my bedroom windows. Although those sounds made an impression that lasts in my memory to this day, they were still background noise: all the rest of my attention was sucked into whatever story I was reading.

The trouble with growing up in the 1970s and 1980s was that there wasn’t enough “young adult” literature to satisfy a voracious reader. Certainly, there were many excellent books written for children, stories we think of as “classics”, as well as a long list of Newbery Award winners, but like many bookworms I know, it was still possible to devour everything in the library deemed “appropriate” for my age, and still want more.

Obviously, and thankfully, this is no longer the case. The market is now on fire with children’s books, for both younger “reluctant readers” and for older “young adult” readers. There are so many great stories being written for children and teens that more adults are boldly going into the “children’s section” of both bookstores and libraries. This makes it easier for us adults to be able to recommend books to the kiddos in our lives – now, more than ever, we’ve read the books, too.

I’ve been on a big “young adult” book kick this summer. Most recently, I read and reviewed Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, a meticulously-researched historical fiction about young women in England and France during World War II, and the jobs they did. A month later, I’m still asserting that this is the best damn book I’ve read in at least the last six months. With the new teen book club at the bookstore, I’ve read the book-of-the-month for June and for July – Shatter Me, by Tehereh Mafi, and Love, Aubrey, by Suzanne LaFleur, respectively. Shatter Me is another dystopian novel for young adults, but has some plot devices which set it apart from what has become a crowded field. Love, Aubrey is appropriate for some “middle readers” with mature emotional sensitivities, and is definitely a great read for teens and adults. Eleven year old Aubrey is trying to cope on her own, having recently lost her father and younger sister in a car accident, living with her mother who has broken down in the wake of such a terrible loss. Aubrey goes to live with her grandmother for a while, facing not just her own grief, but a move to a new school, and her mother’s inability to care for her. This tender, intense novel seems like Jodi Picoult for a younger generation, dealing with painful issues with beautifully-drawn characters.

On a whim, I picked up Maureen Johnson’s young adult novel, The Name of the Star, and found myself surprisingly riveted. What I thought would be a lark ended up being a race through the first book, and its sequel, The Madness Beneath, whereupon I now join the group of fans shouting, “No!!!! I can’t believe I have to wait for the next one! How could you leave us here?” The series is named “the Shades of London” for the band of super-secret police agents assigned to deal with ghost-related crimes. Think “Ghostbusters” meets “The X-files”, without the corny ‘80s music, one-liners from Bill Murray, convoluted alien abduction themes, or the Smoking Man. Replace these things with hip teen characters who attend a private London boarding school, an American girl who begins to see ghosts, the legends of Jack the Ripper, and a series of copycat murders stumping the London police. Author Johnson’s friends and contemporaries are award-winning writers such as John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska), Cassandra Clare (the “Mortal Instruments” series), and Libba Bray (A Great and Terrible Beauty, The Diviners). Now that I’ve read her “Shades” books, I can see how Johnson is “write” at home with these movers and shakers in teen lit. I wish these folks were writing when I was younger, but many of them weren’t even born yet.

No matter that I’m no longer that kid, listening to peepers and reading my library books on long summer nights. The new young adult literature transports me back to good memories from those summers, and keeps me up late reading now, listening to the rain while I’m absorbed in images of rainy London streets.

Teen angst or hipster adventures? Inquiring bookstore cats want to know. June bugs or July showers? Hobo reports the c
urrent conditions, at his facebook page: Looking for a great children’s book? You know which one Hobo recommends! (Cats have no problems with self-confidence or with self-promotion!)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Going Dutch

Kevin Coolidge

Writing, it’s hard work. The best make it look easy. It’s not. There are rules. Elmore “Dutch*” Leonard knew them all. He should. He wrote Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing along with 45 other books, including the best selling novels Get Shorty, Glitz, and 3:10 to Yuma and one children’s book, A Coyote’s in the House.

He died last week. He was 87, and he was still writing. He showed rather than told what was taking place in a story. He also never opened with weather, avoided prologues and exclamation points, and avoided detailed descriptions of characters.

Some writers use pretty language, or sing a song with words. Some just like the sound of their own voice. Leonard wrote in a sparse, slick style that kept him out of the story, and the reader in it. He cut to the essence of character. He made it real.

He was the last of the great pulp novelists. Although he was best knows for his cops and crooks, he began writing fiction while working in advertising. It was the early 1950s, and western fiction was selling. He sold over 30 short stories, even though a literary agent once told him, “Don’t give up your job to write.”

The western genre declined and he turned to crime fiction. It was eight years before he sold his first crime novel, The Big Bounce. Published in 1969 and shortly followed with a Hollywood movie staring Ryan O’Neal, neither was a success. In fact, he never hit the bestseller list until he was 60 years old with Glitz, but he was just getting started.

Many of his novels went on to become bestsellers and successful Hollywood movies, including Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Out of Sight and Hombre. 3:10 to Yuma, based upon a short story by Leonard, was adapted into a film twice: first in 1957, then again in 2007 starring Russell Crowe, and the movie version of The Switch will be debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

In 2010, the writer with the smart, cool dialogue was hot once again with the television series Justified, starring Timothy Olyphant as the U.S. Marshall. The TV show was first inspired by the novella, Fire in the Hole. The U.S. Marshall who plays by his own rules also appeared in Pronto, Riding the Rap, and Raylan.

He last novel was published in 2012, and debuted at No. 7 on the New York Times Bestseller List. He was 86. He was writing the day that something exploded in his head, the stroke that would ultimately kill him three weeks later. The book was to be called Blue Dreams, and the main character was his guy Raylan Givens, the good guy with an edge.

Writing is hard work, but Leonard made it look easy. All you really have to do is leave out the part readers tend to skip. Sometimes words just get in the way, and if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. Now endings, they aren’t as easy as they look…

*His nickname Dutch was taken in honor of baseball pitcher, Emil “Dutch” Leonard.

Ride the Rap? Or get out of sight? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Go to and catch yourself up. Be sure to look for Hobo’s (bookstore cat) new revisionist Western involving werewolves, death rays, and dancing gophers. Town’s not big enough for the two of us…

If you'd like to buy this book, why not buy it where you tried it? Simply click on the photo below, or the title, highlighted throughout this post, to purchase the book at From My Shelf Books & Gifts, and to support the writers of this fine blog ;) We thank you!