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“Postcards from Cookie” by Caroline Clarke

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Among the usual fliers, bills, and donation requests in the mail last week, there was something you haven’t seen in ages: someone sent you a greeting card.

It wasn’t marking any special occasion. No, it was sent as a pick-me-up from a friend, a nice surprise at a time when mail usually has an “e” in front of it. But, as you’ll see in the new memoir “Postcards from Cookie” by Caroline Clarke, some snail mail can make your heart zoom.

She was only looking for medical records.

As an adoptee, Caroline Clarke knew she had the right to learn at least that about her birth mother, but health data was only part of the unhidden information in the sealed records. There were lots of clues in what Clarke was told on that chilly afternoon; enough to help her figure out who her biological mother might be. The shocker was that Clarke had known her birth mother’s family for years.

From the time she was almost 8-years-old and learned that she was adopted, Clarke told everyone that she wasn’t interested in finding her birth mother.  Secretly, though, she dreamed of making the woman proud and fantasized about accidental, happily-ever-after meetings. She loved the parents who raised her – adored them, in fact – but “all adoptees are curious about their beginnings,” and Clarke was no exception.

Her Daddy was shaken by the news. Her Mommy said to contact the woman. Clarke’s husband was excited for her, but she sat on the information until she couldn’t stand it any longer.

So she mustered up the courage and called Carole “Cookie” Lane.

Cookie was the eldest (adopted) daughter of Nat “King” Cole and, while away at college, had become pregnant. It was 1964 and that sort of thing was scandalous – especially since the father was a white Jewish boy. Maria, Cookie’s adoptive mother, sent her away to a home for pregnant girls. Cookie was 20-years-old.

As Cookie and Clarke excitedly began to erase the years they’d missed, and as they shared “synchronicities” through phone calls and huge boxes of mail, they also got “on each other’s nerves.”
Clarke craved Cookie, but they obviously irritated one another – enough to make Clarke wonder whether their experience was “going to have that fairy-tale ending after all.”

Though adoption-reunion stories are becoming commonplace due to social media, author Caroline Clarke’s is unusual in that there were some amazing coincidences that led her to Cookie, before and after. Obviously, Clarke is awe-stricken about those and yes, I was pretty impressed, too.

And yet, “Postcards from Cookie” has a bit of a Peeping-Tom element: this is a very personal story of adoption and love. While I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, it’s easy to feel uncomfortable watching two vastly different personalities dance around one another, trying to get along.

So, ultimately, do they?

I’m not telling. You’re going to want to read this book. No, seriously - you’re going to want to read this book because “Postcards from Cookie” will send you away satisfied.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“A Wanted Woman” by Eric Jerome Dickey

A Wanted Woman Book Cover

If there’s one thing you’ve learned in life, it’s that the Boy Scouts were right: Always Be Prepared.

Look ahead and get ready for what’s next. Don’t leave your guard down. Cover all bases and expect the unexpected. Still, as you’ll see in the new novel “A Wanted Woman” by Eric Jerome Dickey, there are some things you simply can’t foresee.

She was known as MX-401.

It wasn’t always that way; when she was born, she was named Goldilocks to spite her father, who refused to think a Bajan man and a black woman could have a white child with yellow hair. And yet, it was he who laid claim to her when her mother died, and it was he who taught her to fight with hands, feet, and brain. It was he, known as Old Man Reaper, who reluctantly allowed her into The Barbarians, an organization feared around the world.

Few men had earned the M or the X before their agent numbers, but MX-401 had. She was a “woman with a thousand faces,” she was the best of her father but with her own style, much to the chagrin of her superiors. To them, she was a loose cannon but they sent her to Trinidad to do a job nonetheless.

It was supposed to be an easy kill. Intel placed the target – a high-ranking politician – at a party held by the Laventille Killers, a gang of ruthless drug lords who practically ran the island. MX-401 had her orders – to eliminate the target at all costs - but things went horribly awry.

The target wasn’t where he was supposed to be and she had to kill him in broad daylight, along with three others, including two LK guntas. She knew it wasn’t sanctioned. It wasn’t according to plan, which would anger her superiors, but she didn’t know just how angry they were until they hid her in Barbados - and left her there.
Barbados was purgatory. It was an island-prison, and the Barbarians refused to send help. What’s worse: Barbados was a short Jet-Ski ride from Trinidad, and the LK would never let things slide…

Whooo-eee. “A Wanted Woman” is one of those books that gets so under your skin that you’re compelled to turn to the last sentence early, just to reassure yourself that the main character lives. (And don’t bother. You can’t tell).

It’s Die-Hard-meets-Jackie-Brown-meets-Chuck-Palahniuk, but with rocket launchers. It’s fast-paced, gruesome, and violent with wry veins of surprising humor and one of the smartest secret agents you’ll ever meet. Author Eric Jerome Dickey excels at making his thriller heroines over-the-top resourceful and steel-tough, and MX-401 is no exception.  This book had me at the introduction, and it’s a miracle that I didn’t rip its pages because I was turning them so fast.

You should’ve already figured out that this isn’t Beaver-Cleaver territory; “A Wanted Woman” is filled with bloodshed and profanity, but there’s nothing iller than a thriller like this. If an action-packed book is what you need, grab it – and be prepared.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“Vintage” by Susan Gloss

The sweater is like an old friend.

Once upon a time, it was your mother’s favorite garment. Back then, it was sophisticated and elegant, with beads and bangles that must’ve made her feel terribly chic. 

Today, it’s a little beat-up. It’s missing beads, is worn on one elbow, and it’s as far from haute couture as you can get, but you really don’t care. Wearing it makes you feel warm, inside and out and, as you’ll see in “Vintage” by Susan Gloss, new friends can give you that same feeling.

Ever since Violet Turner got divorced, left her small Northern Wisconsin hometown, and moved to Madison, life was almost exactly what she’d envisioned.

Hourglass Vintage, the clothing boutique Violet owned, fulfilled her dream of a career in fashion, which was something she wanted practically her whole life.  She loved her business and her customers - but as for the dream of raising a family, well, at thirty-eight and divorced, Violet figured that dream was dead.

April Morgan would never wear the 1950s-era wedding dress she got from Hourglass Vintage. For one thing, at five months’ pregnant, she’d never fit into it.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. She and Charlie were in love, but his parents didn’t approve of an eighteen-year-old whose mother had been mentally ill. They wanted their only son to marry a society girl, and they’d withheld funds for Charlie’s medical school until he came to his senses. That kind of stress wasn’t good when you were just starting out, and an unplanned baby didn’t help. Charlie couldn’t take the pressure, and now April was alone.

Amithi Singh’s daughter didn’t want her mother’s colorful saris – Jayana didn’t want anything to do with tradition – so Amithi brought the clothes to Hourglass Vintage. She wasn’t sure why she’d kept the saris in the first place but it was time to get rid of them, just like she’d get rid of her cheating husband.

Forty years ago, when her arranged marriage was new, Amithi put aside her hopes and followed her husband to America. So much had happened since then. Could she again change her life as easily as she changed her wardrobe?

You know that “ahhhhhh” feeling you get when you come home and slip into your favorite around-the-house clothes?  Yep, that’s the kind of comfort you get when you slip into “Vintage.”

Starting each chapter with a clothing description to set the tone, author Susan Gloss tells a story of friendship, dream-keeping, and great outfits.  It’s a cute tale with likeable-enough characters and it’s light on the drama – but here’s where I think the appeal of this novel lies: it’s as familiar as an old sweater, in a good way. Reading it is like wrapping yourself in coziness – and isn’t that why you love novels like this?

I think if you’re tired of heavy drama, screaming plots, and unbelievable characters, this book is the perfect antidote. Grab your sweater, grab a chair and grab “Vintage.” You might find that it’s just your style.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“Scared Stiff: Everything You Need to Know about 50 Famous Phobias” by Sara Latta

You are one incredibly brave person.

Fearless, actually: that’s you. You take risks, climb high, jump far, and you laugh at safety equipment. You ain’t afraid of anything.

Except, well, that one little thing that makes you scream, causes your hands to sweat, gives you nightmares, makes you almost faint. Yeah, except that – and if you read “Scared Stiff” by Sara Latta, you might find a name for it.

So you freak when you speak in public. The thought of a snake makes you quake. It’s the rare person who’s not frightened by something because fear is “an important survival mechanism” that actually comes from your brain.

Most people can handle or hide phobias quite well, while others are debilitated by their fears. A fear isn’t a phobia, by the way, until it “interferes with your ability to function…”

Let’s say you’re afraid of heights, which is a common phobia. You can’t go past the first floor of a building without feeling shaky and you can’t bear to look out of high-rise windows. That’s acrophobia, and it’s an ancient fear that even babies suffer from. Scientists think it has to do with balance and sight.

Or let’s say you can’t bear to be in a room with a spider. Again, researchers believe it’s an evolutionary fear. They say that spiders are more afraid of you than you are of them - but who wants to test that theory?  Not J.K. Rowling, Justin Timberlake, Johnny Depp… or me!

If you’re a nomophobic, you’re afraid of being out without your cell phone. Your mother might be happy if you had ataxophobia (the fear of messes) or mysophobia (the fear of germs). And if you have dentophobia, you join “up to 80 percent of adults in the United States” in your fear of dentists.

Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck are both afraid of flying. Christina Ricci says she’s afraid of houseplants. Johnny Depp is afraid of clowns and Kristen Wiig fears blood. Boxer Sonny Liston would rather fight than face a needle. Matt Damon is terribly afraid of snakes. And believe it or not, Barbra Streisand and Carly Simon have both suffered from fear of performing!

Huh. There’s nothing in this book about bibliophobia, or the fear of books. That’s just as well, though, because “Scared Stiff” will still leave you plenty to worry about.

Indeed, author Sara Latta includes in her book phobias that you’ve probably never heard of, and she’ll make you glad you don’t have them. Here, you get an overview of fifty phobias, a bit of info on how each might bloom, and gossip on famous folks who fear. And if that’s not enough, Latta gives you an in-depth section on what you can do to conquer the phobias that plague you.

This book is respectful and serious but lighthearted, too, and includes trivia, sidebars, and plenty of resources. It’s great for the curious and the terrified alike, but beware: give “Scared Stiff” to your 12-to-17-year-olds, and I’m afraid reading is all they’ll want to do.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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“Heimlich’s Maneuvers” by Henry J. Heimlich, MD


Good job. You’ve done well for yourself. You deserve the Gold Star, a standing ovation. There’s a raise in your future, a bonus for work done right. You deserve a pat on the back – except if you’re choking. And in the new book “Heimlich’s Maneuvers” by Henry J. Heimlich, MD, you’ll find out why, from the man who invented the lifesaving measure.

From the time he was a small boy growing up in New York, Henry Heimlich wanted to be a doctor. His parents were role models: he watched them help others, and he noticed that they never turned anyone away. He wanted to be like them – and he started down that path at age 21, when he assisted the victim of a train wreck until rescuers arrived. That was the first of “hundreds of thousands” of lives Heimlich would save.

While in college, Heimlich led the ROTC band then, as required, enlisted in the military.
After graduation, he was called for duty and served in the Navy on a special mission to China during World War II. There, he taught Chinese soldiers first-aid basics and, because anti-Semitism was rampant in America, he taught fellow soldiers that the myths they believed about Jews were largely wrong.

That bias against Jews almost cost the doctor his career: Heimlich had a hard time finding a residency position after the war ended, but he knew he was in a good spot when he landed at Bellevue in New York. He had his sights set on becoming a thoracic surgeon specializing in the esophagus and, ever the tinkerer, Heimlich began looking for ways to improve old methods of treatment.

Back in China, he’d developed an easier way to treat trachoma and save the eyesight of sufferers. In the 1950s, he developed the reversed gastric tube operation (though he later learned that he wasn’t the first to use it). During the Vietnam War, he developed a way to drain post-surgery chest wounds.

And in 1972, he gave the world a life-saving hug…

There’s so much delight in “Heimlich’s Maneuvers” and so many surprises to uncover while reading this book. Too bad there’s one big thumbs-down.

First: I was overwhelmingly charmed by author Henry J. Heimlich’s story, and by the jaunty way he tells his tales. Heimlich writes with an obvious sparkle in his eye and it’s a worthwhile trip we take with him, back to his childhood, his young marriage, his early career, his keen eye for invention, and his battle with the Red Cross. Even his World War II tales held excitement.

Unfortunately, it seemed to me that this book sometimes descends into infomercial territory, in which Heimlich uses his memoir to promote his inventions. I thought that marred the feel of this book – not enough to make me want to quit reading, but enough to make me notice.

I think that if you ignore the commercials, you’ll like what you ultimately find here. If it’s a good memoir you want, “Heimlich’s Maneuvers” has that down pat. 

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Author: Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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