29 August 2011

Review: Confessions of a GP by Benjamin Daniels

I do like a good, reality-based laugh and whilst not explicitly marketed as humour, with a blurb stating the book is very funny and when linked with books such as Trust Me, I’m a (Junior) Doctor, the reader would be justified in expecting a good few laughs. Unfortunately this is where the book was disappointing, there were a few humorous stories, a patient having pornographic dreams about Tom Jones, to name one, but there was an overall lack of humour. Perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but this book is distinctly less funny than other examples of the genre.

What was refreshingly different about Confessions of a GP there was less angry ranting than similar books, although it still exposed the short falls of the system. Dr Daniels himself comes off more a someone who is frustrated with a system that he sees is failing his patients and not sticking the NHS ethos, rather than an man who is opinionated just for the sake of it.

Overall, whilst I did find the book a bit of a let down in terms of humour, it did give an accurate, non-ranting look at the life of a modern GP and was enjoyable to read. 

Confessions of a GP is available from Amazon UK for 99p, from Amazon US for $1.64 and from WH Smith for 99p.

22 August 2011

Review: Maddie - A Verdade da Mentira [The Truth of the Lie] by Goncalo Amaral

I don’t believe in banning books, unless they are written from a criminal wanting to profit from his crime, as such I was shocked to find out that Goncalo Amaral’s book, Maddie: The Truth of the Lie, written by an investigator who worked on the case, had been banned following a law suit by the missing child’s parents. As of October 2010, that ban has been lifted (see here) but the book still has not been published in English. As a follower of True Crime accounts, and having reviewed two previous works, mainly focussed on the abduction theory of Madeleine’s disappearance, I decided to read and review Amaral’s account of the investigation, which whilst following the various hypothesis that his team came up with during the investigation, settles on the hypothesis that Madeleine was accidentally killed in the apartment.

The book is written in such a way that you truly feel that you are following the developments of the investigation, only occasionally jarred out of this by a retrospective comment. You feel both the excitement and frustrations of the team at critical points in the investigation. It is also the only book on the topic in which I have found significant information on the case that I was previously unaware of, such as the descriptions of a man carrying a child away from the hotel by an Irish family. Amaral also addresses, indirectly, some of the questions and accusations raised in Danny Collin’s book Vanished: The Truth about the Disappearance of Madeleine McCann (review here).

One major downside to the book is the formatting and occasional use of strange sentence structures seen in the English translation. However, it is quite possible that this is due to the book being translated and copied onto the website, rather than errors in the original copy, but it is something to be aware of. There is also a factual inaccuracy in an early chapter where Amaral talks about the possibility of Madeleine being drugged by Calpol. In fact Calpol itself does not contain an anti-histamine as alleged in the book, and so does not have a sedating effect on children, which would explain the described confusion and denial by Kate McCann that Calpol could have been used to sedate the children. A form of Calpol called Calpol Night, which is not as frequently used in the UK as regular Calpol, does contain an anti-histamine so could make a child drowsy, through it would not truly sedate them. It is unknown if this inaccuracy, which is misleading and presented badly in the book, is due to a true error on Amaral’s part, a translating issue, or an attempt to deceive.

Amaral’s book is full of anti-British statements, not surprising considering that this was suggested to be the reason he was removed from the McCann investigation in the first place. The anti-British statements come in two forms, those directed at the police and politicians of the UK and those directed at English culture in general. The former are hard to verify, and revolve around the lack of information and cooperation given to Portuguese investigators, the latter, are quite offensive to me as a Brit, suggesting that British parent’s regularly drug their children and prefer to off-load them on others rather than looking after them themselves. These offensive statements seem to have evolved through both cultural differences and misinformation, although they perhaps do apply to the situation in question, they are certainly not true representations of British parenting and Amaral should not have generalised in this way. I have to admit these statements where quite off putting for me as a reader, and distracted me from the point of the book, I fear this could be particularly distorting and distracting for those who are unaware of British culture, and could misinform their views of the case.

Overall, a detailed and compelling account of the investigation into this tragedy. All hypotheses’ are covered, according to the importance given to them by the original investigation, and evidence is explained clearly and linked to each hypothesis. I was surprised at the number of times that Amaral acknowledged the shortcomings of the investigation, almost in a apologetic way, and although there is a clear prejudice developing near the end against the McCann’s, the book is definitely less bias than the other two accounts I have read, and the accusations are justified and backed up, although sometimes minimally, by evidence.

It should be noted that this review is based on an English translation by Anna Andress and not the bound, published version of the book.

15 August 2011

Review: Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner by Raymond Birdsell

The premise of Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner was admittedly a little strange, it is purely the true tale of one family’s experience of a rat problem in their home, and would’ve been blog-fodder in the days before self-publishing. Still I gave it a go.

Despite my scepticism Ratticus is actually an amusing and fast paced read. The frustration of the householders is palatable, especially when trying to find the mysterious creature that was destroying their white goods. The author’s vivid description gives an hilarious mental-picture of all out war between him and the rat. At times it felt more like fiction than non-fiction, not a bad thing at all.

I like the idea of a blog providing extras to the book, something that has been suggested for several years in order to add value to e-books. In this case however I do not feel the minimal blog content actually adds to the account, and could have benefited by being linked to certain events/pages in the book.

Overall, whilst short (a ten minute read at most), it is a hilarious and well written account of one man's battle against a smaller, but quicker mind. It may be lacking real information (for a non-fiction book) or a complex plot (as a piece of fiction) but this does not affect the enjoyment for the reader, as long as the reader does not expect too much.

Ratticus: A True Tale from Critter Corner is available from Amazon UK for 86p and from Amazon US for $1.38. It is also available in a range of formats from Smashwords priced at 99c.

[A review copy was provided by Raymond Birdsell]

8 August 2011

Review: TAG by Simon Royle

In the TAG universe everyone is monitored via a device called a dev stick which monitors a person’s every move. When Jonah, an arbitrator, is called to interrogate a prisoner, he discovers a disturbing plot to wipe out two-thirds of all humans, and knows he must stop it. But can he save the majority of the population, when his own life is being de-constructed around him.

TAG is set 100 years in the future, with a very detailed and believable universe. Rather than recreating everything from scratch, the author has allowed a natural evolution of technology and behaviour which gives the book a very realistic feel, and as such it is not a ‘strong’ sci-fi, which is great for readers like me who like sci-fi elements rather than full on, hardcore science-fiction. The plot its self is more of a thriller than a sci-fi and has a very Orwellian theme running throughout. Whilst fully formed, the plot takes a while to get going, particularly with the wordy writing style and the author’s focus on the intricate details of the character’s life, and the true suspense does not kick in to near the end of the book. It is however, an enjoyable read and the characterisation is, like the universe, very believable.

The book was let down by the addition of some very explicit sex scenes which did not contribute to characterisation nor the plot. I’m not a prude, but do not like to see sex included just for the sake of sex, which I believe is the case in this novel. It is definitely not a book for minors.

To conclude, a perfectly formed and well-thought out universe is presented in this novel and provides the backdrop for a believable and entertaining thriller. The book is affected by a slow pace in the first half and the inclusion of unnecessarily explicit sex.

TAG is available from Amazon UK for 70 p and from Amazon US for $1.14. 

1 August 2011

Review: Transfection by David Gaughran

When GM food is linked to animal cancer, scientists start racing to find the reason. Dr Peters discovers the cause of the cancer and an even more shocking truth.

Transfection for me was a let down – the cover was perfect, the blurb intriguing and concept exciting but the execution – just didn't live up to the promise. Transfection is a short story of only 5,700 words, I have nothing against short stories but hold them to the same standards as a full novel, and that was where Transfection failed for me. The whole book reads like a proposal for a novel, it is very descriptive, as if you are being told the story rather than reading it. In addition the story seems to jump in time at several points with little signposting which made the book feel disjointed and even more of a ‘proposal’. The characterisation was good, especially considering the length of the book, although at times Dr Peters’ character undergoes quite dramatic shifts that are not fully explained or explored, although perhaps this is due to the length of the book.

Overall, the premise was excellent and had the promise to be an excellent example of the medical thriller genre and I hope Gaughran continues to come up with such interesting plots. However, the execution was sub-standard, and the book felt more like reading a proposal for a new novel, rather than a stand-alone story its self. There was too much ‘tell’ on the part of the author and at times the story jumps around which disrupts the flow although it does mean that the story is pacey. This story could have easily been much longer, and it was ambitious for Gaughran to attempt to fit such a full plot into such a small number of pages.

Transfection is on sale at Amazon UK for 70p and at Amazon US for $1.12, it is also available from Smashwords priced 99c . On his blog the author talks about a bundle release of 5 books for $2.99, so watch this space. 

[A review copy was provided by the author]
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...