25 July 2012

Review: Living Proof by Kira Peikoff

Living Proof is set a in a world where the church and the state are closer than ever. In a very religious society the progress made by 2012 in stem cell treatment has all but been forgotten; embryos cannot be used for experimentation or treatment, only their use in procreation is allowed. However even in this world there are those who remember the potential benefits of stem cell treatment, people like Arianna, a fertility doctor with a personal motive to continue the research, no matter what the cost. But will her new boyfriend be a blessing or a curse to her cause?

The subject matter of Living Proof is very relevant in today’s society and the book portrays both sides of the controversy. It is obvious the author favours science, as at times the religious argument is put across in a somewhat flippant manner through the way the religious characters are portrayed.  I personally didn’t like this, as a constant thread though the book was essentially that the religious characters were extremists and almost stupid because of their beliefs. I did however enjoy the way Trent, who works for an enforcement agency protecting embryos, questions his faith in an intelligent and fascinating way which came across as very real because you could feel his confusion. From the science side, which I personally support, some arguments were ‘preachy’ and very run-of-the-mill. I would have preferred, from both sides, for characters other than Trent to have more varying opinions and degrees of belief; this would have made the characters more interesting and complex.

There is a romantic sub-plot in this thriller. Whilst I’m not normally a fan of romance, it was done well and I did find myself routing for the couple by the end. Again, this is something that could have been taken further, and whilst there was some conflict, this could have been more complex to make it more interesting and less predictable.

The book was somewhat let down by the drop in pace in several parts which detracted from the suspense and left me slightly bored. Despite these slow parts, usually where characters were introduced or explored, there were still some characters, such as those in Arianna’s lab team, that I felt I didn’t know by the end of the book. Along side this there are small plot problems that make Arianna less believable as a character – why would she trust Trent so fast? Why does her MS progress so quickly in a matter of weeks?

Overall this book is an interesting look at a possible and realistic future. I enjoyed reading it, as I think other science/medical thriller fans will, due to the ethics involved. The plot does take a backseat to the pro-choice agenda and this may put some readers off. Christians and those who are strongly pro-life will also probably want to avoid this due to the characterisation of religious people; whom in this book are definitely the bad guys. I would especially recommend this for book clubs and school groups due to the discussions it will spurn, in fact I would have liked to see a ‘questions for discussion’ section or similar, which can often be found in similar books.

Living Proof is available from Amazon UK for £16.41 (hardback) and £5.08 (paperback), hopefully an e-book version will be released soon. 

[A review copy was provided by the publisher] 

18 July 2012

Review: Momentum by Saci Lloyd (YA)

Momentum paints a picture of a future world, where the UK is critically short of energy. There are two main groups of people – the rich, who can afford to pay for energy, and the poor, who form communities generating their own energy. Some of the poor, the Outsiders, have risen up to rebel against the rich (Citzens), even resorting to sabotaging nuclear power plants. This had led to great tensions between
the communities and even greater segregation.

The story follows Hunter, a citizen and Uma, an outsider, who meet when Hunter helps Uma to hide an important code from soldiers during a raid. They then have to watch each other’s backs whilst being betrayed by those they trusted.

The story is very fast paced, with lots of action and a very detailed future world with concepts such as Jee-uh (a website similar to Facebook) and the RETscan (a futuristic Smartphone that is implanted in your eye).
There’s even a bit of romance. I personally really like the references to sustainable energy and the problems of not having a sustainable energy network in the future, and found the concept very realistic.

Momentum is available from Amazon UK (£4.49) and from Waterstones (£6.29 - paperback)

11 July 2012

Review: Confessions of a Male Nurse by Michael Alexander

Confessions of a Male Nurse follows in the footsteps of books like Confessions of a GP and Life and Death on the Streets to chronicle the real-life experiences of a male nurse while he worked in both the UK and New Zealand. The book is split into short chapters dealing with one patient or one setting, and this makes the book very easy and quick to read. Perfect if you don’t want to be tied to reading a book for several days; it’s also easy to put down and pick up again without having to go back over parts of the story.

Whilst I enjoyed reading Confessions of a Male Nurse, it wasn’t as humorous as I would have liked it to be, especially considering it’s marketed as “frequently hilarious”. There were some points when I had a little smile but nothing caused me to laugh out loud. There was also a lack of deep, emotional stories; at no point did I feel that the nurse was particularly affected by what he had seen on an emotional level. He did show frustration at the state of the NHS and some of the situations he was put in but if you are looking for a tell-all on the state of the National Health Service this isn’t the book for you.

Overall Confessions of a Male Nurse was an enjoyable quick read. I would recommend it if you like similar books in this genre or fancy something light to read but if you are looking for real humour or an expose, you are going to be left wanting.

Confessions of a Male Nurse can be purchased from Amazon UK for £2.99 or from Barnes & Noble for $4.99. 

8 July 2012

Free E-Book: Requiem by Ken McClure

Another great Ken McClure medical thriller is up for FREE on Amazon this week - Requiem. The offer is valid till Tuesday and I urge you to take advantage of it if you've never tried Ken McClure's work before. Don't be put off by the cover, Requiem is a fantastic thriller and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

3 July 2012

Review: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf

“He has a gun.”
                                                        “Who? Tell me, who has a gun?”
                                                                                                                                      “I love you mum”

This book cannot be accused of taking things slow, One Breath Away immediately throws the reader into the heart of the action. On page one we are confronted with a bed-bound mother, receiving the phone call all parents dread, her thirteen year old daughter on the phone telling her that there is a gunman in her classroom. From this running start, Heather Gudenkauf does not let up; the reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride though this nightmare scenario, the short chapters helping create pace. This was literally a book I could not put down, starting reading it at 8am and finishing it before 12.

In the style of Jodi Picoult in My Sister’s Keeper, the story is told by several different characters: Holly – the mother, Augie – the daughter, Mrs Oliver – the teacher, Meg – the police officer and Will – Holly’s father. This gives a wonderful emotional varity to the book, as you look on the situation from a number of perspectives. I was originally concerned that with so many characters telling the story it would be hard to follow or I would find it difficult to get to know all the characters (like Julia in My Sister’s Keeper) but this was not the case. Not once did I have to check which character was speaking and the back story was so wonderfully woven into the narrative of each character that you easily got to know the characters. Apart from the first chapter, Gudenkauf avoids using a non-linear timeline – which also helps to allow the reader to get to know the characters and follow the story.

The characters are believable throughout, helped by how the author acknowledges their faults and weaknesses. I especially connected with Mrs Oliver, the grade-school teacher, and was moved to tears by the love she had for her students, and her love for her husband, whom she imagines speaking to her for much of the novel. Also impressive was the way the plot deviated from the typical school-shooter plot – there was no depressed and angry teenager, instead the identity of the shooter came as a complete surprise. It was also refreshing to see a small rural town not being portrayed as being full of hicks, with an inept police department. No predictability here.

Overall, an engrossing, well conceived story told in a beautiful and compassionate way, with great characterisation. Having never having read Heather Gudenkauf before, she is now a must-read author for me and I look forward to checking out her previous work. Highly recommended for fans of authors such as Jodi Picoult or for those who prefer more ‘cosy’, but emotional thrillers.

One Breath Away can be purchased as a hardback from Amazon UK, and is available on Kindle for £6.29.

[A review copy was provided by Mira]
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