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Writers Digest Book Review

Recently Writers Digest reviewed ‘Officer Down, Man Up’. below is the judges commentary:

I liked the way the author started his memoir by demonstrating his rotten attitude as a teen and his rebellion against his parents and society by joining the Marines. It is a beginning that will warm the heart of other Marines, as anyone who is related to one will attest. Still, Todd Lentocha struck me from the beginning as an unusual guy, loving boot camp, for instance.

While the extent of his tragedy is difficult to read about when the reader considers that this individual laid everything on the line for the safety of society, it is also information that needs to be out there. People will not appreciate what they have unless they know about the sacrifices being made. Ignorance breeds complacency. I appreciated this book from that perspective as well as from a psychological point of view. How Lentocha manages the rest of his life will be as influential to everyone he knows and all who hear of him as how he dealt with criminals as a police officer.

Readers are likely to find the writer as interesting as I did. I liked his admission of his bad moods and his depression. I hope he follows this book up with a sequel, and I think other readers will wish the same. My bet is that this high-stakes achiever will find something further to write about. Officer Down, Man Up is aptly titled, well written and formatted.

The cover picture is of a mangled car that no living human would be expected to emerge from. I am glad to have had the honor of reading this memoir.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: “Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story” by Jewel

For those of you have been visiting this blog let me thank you. I appreciate it and I hope you enjoy it. Second, this book is a little different than some of the books I listen to. I do like to change things up a bit.

Part of the audio book experience is the narrator’s voice. A great book can be read by a narrator you just can’t envision reading it, and this will absolutely ruin the story for you. So before you buy an audio book, make sure you listen to the preview. It will help you save time and money. Now the flip side of this reasoning is just as true. A mediocre book can be absolutely delightful with the right voice. This is just one of those books.

I am not going to say that this book is mediocre. In fact Jewel’s life is anything but. It is very interesting. If you do have healthy eyes, don’t read it; listen to it. Jewel is the narrator.

Even though I love music I have never been a huge fan of Jewel. I mean I like her stuff. She has a beautiful voice and she is a talented song writer, which for me is a window into a person’s intellect. But I love Jewel’s narrating voice. I was actually sad when the book ended. She sounds like an angel. I know some people throw this around but it is true. I just fell in love with her voice. It is truly unique–sweet, with just a twinge of sad. Yet it is not depressing at all. Probably because she is such a tough person– hardscrabble and perseverant. Smart and Hardy. I just wish I was smarter so that I could come up with more adjectives to describe her.

So, don’t read her book. Listen to it and fall in love with that voice. It is a voice that seems to always be singing to you. Enjoy.

AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: “Day of Wrath” by William Forsten

Once in a while you come across a book that will grab your stomach and twist it into a knot. Once doing so, the story keeps twisting, literally making your heart whip in your throat like a never-ending roller coaster ride. Even if you‘re not yet a fan of this author and his works, notably “One Second After,” you will have to trust me, and let me be very clear here: you HAVE to read this.

The events of this story will not come as a surprise to people who have made it their life’s work to protect the populace. For some the story will be an apocalyptic fantasy only imagined by those crazy people who “cling to their guns,” as once noted in a political speech. Reading this book left me wondering how the fictional events haven’t happened yet. Thank God they haven’t!

For those who don’t believe that such a thing could happen in this country, you have to read this. You will have to acknowledge the apparent ease at which the event unfolds. It will scare the SHIT out of you and it should.

Shortly after the attacks of 9/11, there was a rumor that leaders in this country asked some of the creative minds of this country–authors, entertainers and the like–to conjure such scenarios. I’m sure that if this consultation actually happened, such an event might have been thought up. Its simplicity is startling. Maybe it wasn’t posed because it was too horrific.

You are probably asking: what could be more horrific than the attacks on 9/11? How about fifty schools being attacked by terrorists? Then a second wave of terrorists roaming the highways, gunning down those parents who are making their way to rescue their children.

For some this is a far-fetched scenario. For those who make a living protecting the populace and have studied such attacks that have happened in other parts of the world, it isn’t far-fetched at all. In fact, it is a fairly short leap into this sort of nightmare.

Read this book and be prepared to view our relatively safe society in a way that you may never view it again.

Audiobook Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Have you ever dreamed of finding a pile of money? The pile of gold at the end of the rainbow that will solve all your troubles? Of course you have. This isn’t a unique concept. Hell, I can’t count how many times I have hoped this would happen to me.

There have been other books written on this very subject. That’s okay, really, because this “winning the lottery” scenario just sounds so cool. I actually know a guy that this sort of thing happened to. Not a hundred dollar bill blowing around a sidewalk kind of a thing but a real find. I am not completely clear on all of the details but the amount found was in the thousands, like nearly six figures, or so I am told.

So this begs the question, what would you do? Really. Forget the hypothetical here. Think about it for a minute. No big ideas? Don’t feel bad. I would have figured out a way to keep it as well. The guy I am talking about didn’t but that is something he has to live with. I can tell you with some amount of certainty that not only would I have kept the loot but just about every friend I have would have kept it as well. I mean, no law was broken here. You didn’t steal anything. You FOUND the money.

I have always liked Stephen King. The dude is a friggin genius. Some literary snobs out there would disagree and that is ok. For me and for most writers, success is much more important than awards. I think that more than one writer would quietly admit that they too wished that they enjoyed that sort of success. I know I would.

Ok, you probably have figured out the premise of this book. No, I am not going to tell you that King has reinvented the wheel or anything, but Finders Keepers is downright entertaining. It was really great. Not only were the characters great but for the writer in me, it stirred up the creative juices. For you writers out there, I bet it will for you as well.

The premise of a kid finding money is not new, nor is the bad shit that happens at the end of the book. It is the story that happens in between that is interesting.

Since this blind guy can only read and blog on audio books now, I don’t know how Finders Keepers reads, but I will tell you that audio book is first rate. The narrator, Will Patten, is a well know actor. For those of you who don’t know who he is, he was Bruce Willis’s best friend in the movie “Armageddon”. (Of course he has been in a lot of things but that is the one that comes to mind here.) He knocked this one out of the park. A good narrator can make a book more enjoyable. The ability to change voices for different characters and to inject feelings and empathy in the characters is the hallmark of a good narrator of an audio book. Not everyone can do it but Mr. Patten did.

So if you are one of those people who make your living driving across this country and are sick of listening to talk radio, buy or rent this audio book. You will love it.


AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Out There, A Story of Ultra Recovery By David Clark

While searching for new things to listen to on my IPhone, I often grab a book from the Travel and Adventure section. I have to say that there are some real gems in this category. The Sex Lives of Cannibals,  AWOL on the Appalachian Trail, and just about anything written by Bill Bryson is a treat. It is also a very entertaining way for a blind guy to experience the world beyond what sometimes feels a very limited world view.

Ultra Recovery is one of those “overcoming adversity” books that I have really become hooked on in the last few years.

Author David Clark starts us off with a glimpse into his younger years of college, but the book really takes off during his early adult years. The amount of booze this guy consumed is absolutely mind- boggling. For example, two liters of scotch along with a six pack of beer along with a handful of Vicodins. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a sometimes occurrence but a nightly occurrence. One will wonder how he is still alive.

He takes us on this painful journey with an honesty that is crucial to any book like this. Most of us will not be able to relate. Some of us will. For instance I know someone who can polish off a bottle of Smirnoff easily on a daily basis. I good friend died of renal failure after consuming the sort of booze David Clark did. So this story isn’t completely foreign to me. Hell, I like to drink as well but, as my wife reminds me, I am already walking around like I am drunk. As a result of this condition, I am now limited to two beers (well, sometimes three if no one is paying attention). So I do have a hard time imagining what it was like to drink as much as the author was able to. That is only one of the shocking things about this guy and his book.

The other thing is his incredible road to recovery.

There are some real lessons here, lessons that would be valuable to just about everyone. The most important (and one I agree with) is that David shunned victimhood. “Own your own shit” is how he puts it. David owned his and figured out a way to make his life better, fuller. It is hard to imagine that he didn’t affect everyone he came in contact with. He actually ran his way into recovery, eventually running ultra marathons on a regular basis. These races aren’t for the faint of heart: he cramps, hallucinates and pukes his way through 100-mile races.

For anyone who loves to run or to exercise, this too is a must read. The light and positive nature of the human spirit is on display here. It is not a story you will forget anytime soon.


AUDIO BOOK REVIEW: Fiasco: The American Adventure In Iraq, 2003 to 2005 by Thomas E. Ricks

For amateur history buffs, this is a must read. Written nearly a decade ago, it is (in my never to be humble opinion) an honest, sincere, and unbiased account of the Second Iraq War. The book is even more important now than when it was published in 2007.

Like all history books that are read with the benefit of hindsight, Fiasco has an accuracy that is rarely seen or heard in our 24-hour cable news environment. While this book could be deemed critical of the George W. Bush administration and its approach to the war, for me and for this blog, the criticism is secondary. Bear with me, gentle reader; let me explain.

While I did not serve in this war, I did serve as a Marine. It is from that perspective that I approach this book’s subject. Whether you agree with the reasons the United States invaded Iraq is irrelevant. To the many who lost loved ones, the reasons are irrelevant. What is relevant is that the soldiers are gone. Never to be hugged, kissed, talked to or depended upon again. I wish to address here the sacrifice that they and their families made for their country, for something bigger than themselves.

Ricks’ book is a cautionary tale that all leaders and future leaders–college and high school students–should read and take notice of. Our mistakes and missteps are too numerous to acknowledge here, and that is why reading or listening to this book is so important.

It is also the reason that the sacrifice that so many made is more important than blame-laying.

I’m sorry for repeating myself here, but I tend to do this. Follow me as I get back on track. When I was an active-duty member of the Marine Corps, I wore this T-shirt that read “when the wolf is scratching at the door, call the United States Marines Corps”. Essentially the message here is that young men and women will answer the call to defend their country. Their reasons will be wide and varied, but the result of this volunteerism is what keeps this country free. Yes, we are free.

Why do so many people of every creed and color and ethnicity try so damn hard to get into America?

Whether on a foreign or domestic policy level, republics make mistakes. The last decade will be something this country and its elected leaders will be learning from for years to come. (One hopes, anyway.) Those lessons learned will make it possible to better serve those who choose to serve us.

I am loath to get political here but I must make a point or two. The subject of this book is about the actual conduction of the war and the aftermath, and the criticisms are correct, in my view. The initial reasons for the invasion are suspect. Furthermore, those reasons are often clouded by post-911 politics. The attacks on that day were strategically successful, in that they clouded the minds of many of our leaders–not just in the White House, but also in the halls of Congress. Let’s not forget that majorities in both Houses gave the Bush administration permission to invade Iraq. Nary a one has been held accountable for that decision, unless one considers Hillary Clinton’s loss to Obama in the Democratic nomination process.

While the conduct of the war is rightly blamed on the administration that controlled our armed forces, we need to look at the lack of “A Profile in Courage” on Capitol Hill. Most important, the politicians’ incompetence must never reflect on those men and women who answered the call when their country called. They sacrificed their lives, limbs and sanity to do what they believed was right: to protect their country from further attacks. For that they should be held in high esteem.

Read Fiasco. It is extremely important to the future of this country and to those we ask to defend it. Will done, Ricks.


Audio Book Review: One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War

By Bing West

Once you get to reading some authors’ work, all you want to do is read the rest of their books. And never finding yourself disappointed in their writing, you can’t help but tell everyone you know about their work. Bing West is that sort of author.

Looking up his bio is very difficult for a blind guy so I will let you look him up. Prepare to be impressed.

A lot of his books have that quality that makes you feel as if you are there and have somehow become personal friends with the people he writes about. I don’t know, maybe that is a bit of hyperbole on my part. Maybe it is simply because I too am a Marine and even a quarter of a century later, recognize the personalities he describes in this book.

Not only is One Million Steps a step back in time, it is also a window into the future of the Marine Corps. I have had conversations with others over the years in which I explain, or try to explain, what it is that makes the Marine Corps different from the other branches of our armed forces. I will be fairly simplistic: Marines don’t fight for the Flag, Mom or Apple Pie. Marines fight for the Marine next to him or her. They fight to honor those who came before them, and they fight to set the example for those who follow them. It is a culture that fights to exist. Essentially, Marines fight for the Corps. They are prepared to die for their fellow Marine and Corps as well. It’s not the preferred course of action but it is an accepted fact. Marines fight and Marines die. As long as there is a Marine Corps that honors its history and legacy, then those who do perish on the battlefield will live on in the hearts and minds of his or her fellow Marines, and in the annals of the Corps itself.

Bing West is that sort of Old Breed who makes sure that our traditions live on. He does this by getting his ass out there on patrol with men who could easily be his grandchildren. He spends time in the trenches, lives without showers, eats bad chow and shares the misery that comes from living in a combat environment.

Bing West takes us along for a tour of combat in one of the deadliest places on this planet, Helmand Province in Afghanistan. It is where Third Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment (3/5) took the fight to the Taliban and became legends.

Of course you have probably never heard of the battles that the third platoon, Kilo Company, waged nearly every day while working to pacify this region, a region that previously had been occupied by a unit from the British armed forces.

The contrast between the two units is striking. West details the passive, non-committal strategy that was adopted by the British and the results that transpired. When the Marines came in, it was if they were forced to start all over. Forced to confront an enemy that went unmolested for years. The Marines battled for every step. I cannot fathom the thought of every patrol being led by a Marine with a metal detector, yet that was what was necessary. Even still, the amount of IED’s that the Taliban planted were so numerous that it was simply impossible for every one to be discovered. Many were discovered by Marines and Corpsman the hard way, with the ramifications being a ride home in a body bag. More, and I mean many more found themselves missing limbs, crippled for the rest of their lives.

Yet with the competent leadership so prevalent in the United States Marine Corps, third platoon kept taking the fight to the enemy. In doing so, they left a somewhat safer battle zone for the Battalion that relieved them after their tour was complete.

This is the in-depth story of the sacrifice made by these men. You probably won’t find it talked about it in any newspaper or cable news program. You should, but you won’t. Buy this book. If you do, maybe someday, the story of these brave warriors will be told on the big screen as all Heroes’ stories should be. Let’s make their names known throughout every household in this country. It is an honor that has been earned in blood.

Semper Fi.

Audio Book Review: Among Heroes by Brandon Webb

Last night I finished listening to Brandon Webb’s book Among Heroes. It an anthology of stories about eight men, fellow Navy SEALs he had considered dear friends. These men died in freak accidents, training accidents or in combat, essentially doing what SEALs do–live large and hard, accomplishing all the things that make them who they are, America’s elite.

Webb prefaces each chapter with a commentary in his own voice and ends with a reaction from that fallen soldier’s loved ones. Each story is as different as the person whom that chapter profiles. Webb’s narration is moving and provides a true example of a man who cared about and misses his friends. It is not a sad book; in fact it is filled with crazy stories and daring feats that give the reader, especially those who haven’t had the privilege of knowing such men, feel as if they now know these heroes. Their inspiring stories made me want to be a better person. I don’t know is this was Brandon’s intent but this is the effect it had on me.

Over the years I have become acquainted with numerous veterans who have been wounded in war–life threatening wounds that leave one wearing prosthetics for the rest of their lives. Most of these vets rarely, if ever, complain. I am sure that in the privacy of their homes with the ones they love or with others who have suffered from these same catastrophic injuries, the vets may feel more freedom in voicing their frustrations. I have not suffered the way some of them have, so it is certainly not my place to judge. I do want to say that I have been inspired by these people, in how they have confronted their adversities and how they continue to move forward.

There are a lot of young men and women who have perished in the last fourteen years. Each and every one has a unique and sometimes comparable story. The stories should all be told. Well done, Brandon. Keep doing what you are doing. Later.

Midwest Book Reviews

“Officer Down, Man Up: Putting a Life Back Together Again” is the personal story of Todd Lentocha, a former U.S. Marine who became a police officer and, after five years of service, was blinded in the line of duty in January 2012. Todd Lentocha has faced traumatic brain injury and permanent blindness with humor, determination and support from his loved ones. It is interesting to note that Lentocha utilized a voice-recognition computer program to write the account of his struggle with the editorial aid of Pegi Deitz Shea (a former journalist, publicist, and the author of many children’s book). More than just another ‘comeback’ book about struggling with a disability, “Officer Down, Man Up” is a compelling testament that draws from informative interviews with Lentocha’s neurosurgeon, therapists, and fellow police officers, and reflects what can be accomplished even when confronted with the most dire of circumstances with the right kind of medical, familial, and social support system. As a side note, with the current national dialogue over police misconduct, “Officer Down, Man Up” will serve to remind us all of the sacrifices our policemen and women make in their efforts to secure our peace and safety. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, “Officer Down, Man Up” is very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.

Midwest Book Reviews, June 2015

Police Officer tells story of Recovery, Faith

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – No one would tell the East Hartford police officer he was blind. After all, he was supposed to be dead.
Todd Lentocha told this personal story – and signed copies of his just-published book – May 6 at the Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics & Spirituality Conference at the College of the Holy Cross.
He talked about what happened after a pickup truck traveling 73 miles per hour slammed into his parked cruiser. The cover of his self-published book, “Officer Down, Man Up,” features a photo of that mangled car.
His nurse Marie Romagnano, her voice breaking, showed the photo of the accident – and one of how he looked when she first saw him in the Hartford Hospital. She told listeners what most impressed her was how his wife, Alison, said, “No matter how he is, we want him.”
“I got the first draft of this book,” said Ms. Romagnano, conference organizer, a member of St. Joseph Basilica in Webster and a catastrophic injury registered nurse for her company, Med-Link Inc.
“And I got, ‘You’ve got to clean that up,’” Mr. Lentocha said of her response to his rough language.
Mrs. Lentocha, a registered nurse in ambulatory surgery at Manchester Hospital in Connecticut, spoke about the spiritual efforts made for her husband.
He introduced himself as a 45-year-old, married nearly 21 years, with three children, a former Marine, and, as of April 30, a published author.
Mr. Lentocha said his story started Jan. 4, 2012 when he was working overtime, looking for a burglary suspect. Hit by a speeding truck, he was knocked unconscious.
Mr. Lentocha said more than 90 percent of people with head injuries like his die. He was taken to surgery and for the next 30 days his wife didn’t leave the hospital.
Then he awoke and asked his wife what happened. She was shocked; as a nurse she understood the extent of his injuries. The next day he was sent to a rehabilitation hospital.
His short-term memory was horrible and he didn’t know he was blind, he said. He could distinguish shapes and colors and figured that, once off medication, he’d regain his sight.
Seventeen days after he started rehabilitation he went home, but didn’t recover his sight. Exams revealed his eyes and optic nerve were fine but a big piece of his brain was missing, he said, joking, “In the police business we call that a clue.”
But “I kept hope alive,” thinking, “Maybe the vision rehabilitation will get me to the point where I can do some things,” he said. A doctor told him, “Most people with this injury don’t make it; those who do are not like you.”
Mr. Lentocha said that statement “removed the burden of hope.” He’d been hoping his old life would return. He realized he had to move on.
He turned to writing, with help from a program that taught him to type, and listened to audio books by people who’d suffered adversity. Years before, he’d written a novel he never published. He found writing about his recovery therapeutic and wanted to show his children he didn’t quit when knocked down.
Mrs. Lentocha said the first person to reach her husband after the accident was passerby Rev. Mark Santostefano, pastor of The Worship Center in Hebron, Conn. He prayed for her husband there and visited daily at the hospital, praying in the room and waiting room.
Someone gave her a “Mary medal” which she wore, and each day she blessed her husband with holy oil. Sometimes she’d say, “I don’t know if you believe in this, but I do.” She said he was not religious, but they were raising their children Catholic.
At her church, a friend lit all the prayer candles for him, she said. And people gave her prayer shawls.
At a Mass that their priest said for her husband at the hospital, she thought about how to plan his funeral; his body was shutting down from medications used to keep him in a coma to rest his brain.
When the coma-inducing medications were stopped, he wiggled a toe. When she brought their children in, he started to cry, she said, adding, “I saw he was inside there.”
Now, she says, she’s sad for his losses and the losses she and their children have suffered.
“The good news is he’ll always see me as 39 years old,” she quipped, adding that she’s grateful they still have him. She also expressed gratitude for others’ support, mentioning cards, gifts, money and food.
“My faith in God … people … was restored” through this accident, she said.
Ms. Romagnano concluded the presentation, holding up the Divine Mercy image and saying, “This is what we had in the ICU.”

Police officer shares story of surviving trauma


Link to Video from WFSB


Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability for those ages 18 to 25, which is why doctors recognized those who have survived with National Trauma Survivors Day.

On Wednesday, doctors recognized those who have survived the life-changing events, such as an East Hartford police officer who survived the unimaginable.

It was a crash that almost took the life of East Hartford Police Officer Todd Lentocha, when his police cruiser was hit by a pickup truck over two years ago.

“Bad things happen to people all over the world. Some more traumatic than others. And when they do happen it tends to close off your world,” Lentocha said.

He suffered severe brain injuries and was in a coma, and many people, including his own doctor didn’t think he would live.

“Dr. (Inam) Kureshi didn’t expect me to make it. My wife didn’t expect me to make it,” Lentocha said.

But he beat the odds at the only level one trauma center in the Hartford area, which is at Hartford Hospital.

“He is very fortunate. Not everyone has the same outcome as he would have,” said Kureshi, who is the chief of Neurosurgery.

The crash happened on Route 2 in East Hartford, where officers were staking out the area trying to catch a suspect involved in a string of burglaries.

The cruiser was parked on the shoulder of the highway when it was hit.

“I never saw it coming and I woke up 33 days later,” Lentocha said.

After a long road of recovery and losing his eyesight, Lentocha managed to turn his loss into a gain.

He wrote a book, which is not on store shelves, and has advice for those who are fighting the good fight.

“That handicapped is something no one ever wishes upon themselves, or others and you don’t know how to deal with it. But know it will get better if you want it to but you have to figure out a way to do that,” Lentocha said.

Copyright 2015 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Former East Hartford cop speaks out for trauma survivors

FOX News

Fox News CT – Video Segment

Posted 6:33 PM, May 18, 2015, by

TOLLAND– Wednesday, May 20 is National Trauma Survivors Day, an initiative geared to draw inspiration and support for survivors of traumatic injuries and to elicit support for their caregivers.

In Tolland, former East Hartford Police Officer Todd Lentocha is helping to amplify the message of trauma survivors.

Lentocha, a seven-year veteran of the East Hartford force, had his career cut short in January 2012 when an out-of-control driver slammed into his cruiser on Route 2. He was working a burglary case when the incident happened.

Lentocha ended up in a coma for a month and suffered, among other things, a depressed skull fracture. With the help of the neurosurgical team at Hartford Hospital, Lentocha survived, but he is legally blind.

However, he continues to count his blessings. “I’m still around enjoying my children,” the father of three said. “Everybody goes through bad things in their lives, some more serious than others,” Lentocha said. “The question is what are you going to do about it. For me it’s all about staying positive for my family.”

Lentocha has recently written a book titled, “Officer Down, Man Up,” which he hopes will enlighten others who are effected by traumatic injury.

“What is important for people to know is that serious trauma in your life isn’t the end of your life,” he added.

Dr. Inam Kureshi, director of Neurosurgery at Hartford Hospital and Lentocha’s doctor, said, “He had such a severe injury that we didn’t expect him to survive, much less if he did survive for him to have the function that he enjoys. It is these rare miracles that keep us doing the best we can everyday.”

Letocha is busy promoting his book and also is involved with a first responders group called “In the Line of Duty”.