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Reviews of what you should be reading next.

Month: May 2015

The Nurses by Alexandra Robbins

 

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In this lively, fast-paced narrative, New York Times bestselling author Alexandra Robbins digs deep into the subculture of nursing, drawing readers into a brilliantly captivating in-depth investigation of the extraordinary working lives of nurses and the shocking behind-the-scenes secrets that all patients and their loved ones need to know.

The Nurses is told through the real-life stories of four women in different hospitals: Molly, funny, well-loved, and confident enough to quit a longtime job after her hospital ramps up its anti-nurse policies. Lara, a superstar nurse who tries to battle her way back from a near-ruinous prescription-drug addiction. The outspoken but compassionate Juliette, a fierce advocate for her patients. And Sam, a first-year nurse, struggling to find her way in a gossipy mean-girl climate she likens to “high school, except for the dying people.”

Readers will root for these bedside heroes, who operate in a world filled with joy and violence, miracles and heartbreak, dark humor and gripping drama. It’s a world of hazing—“nurses eat their young.” Sex—not exactly like on TV, but more prevalent than many imagine. Drug abuse—disproportionately a problem among the best and the brightest. There are true-life archetypes—the handsome, suave doctor, the patient brought back from death, the hunky male nurse. And bullying—by peers, by patients, by hospital bureaucrats, and especially by doctors, an epidemic described as lurking in the “shadowy, dark corners of our profession.”

The result is a riveting page-turner, insightful and thought-provoking, that will leave readers feeling smarter about their healthcare and undeniably appreciative of the incredible nurses who provide it.

Thanks to Net Galley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Alexandra Robbins is familiar with bringing the reader into a closed society; she is the author of Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. Her research is exhaustive, thorough and massive. For THE NURSES, she has interviewed hundreds of nursing professionals, active and retired, along with intensive reading of healthcare related books.

The plot is exactly as described–we are following the stories of four nurses as they navigate their way through their workdays at different hospitals. The workplaces are vastly different; one is in a low income area and very dangerous, another is in a better area but understaffed, yet another employs a staff that is closeminded and cliquey.  Each chapter covers a different subject, such as interpersonal difficulties, healthcare in general, the physical danger to nurses, availability of loose drugs and therefore the potential to become hooked, and the doctor’s and healthcare industry’s attitude towards nurses in general.

As I read, I simply could not believe what I was seeing. My perception of nursing changed 180 degrees as I made my way through the book. Discard your vision of a glamorous, overpaid, angel in white. Be prepared to hear about nurses getting fired for following doctor’s orders, drunk patients wreaking havoc and causing serious permanent injury, staff surfing the Internet and being “too busy” to give aid to their coworkers, and the overwhelming, constant burden of having too many patients under your care.

The more I read, the less I want to be anywhere near a hospital.

Gore and lengthy descriptions of medical procedures are not a part of this book. Rather, there are recountings of conversations, incidents, and situations that these nurses found themselves dealing with on a daily basis.  The book is detailed and can be a bit long winded, just a bit, especially with some of the statistics that seem to go on for a while, but they are relevant and serve to educate the reader.

I’m interested to see what the nursing community has to say about this book–will there be an outpouring of agreement, or is Robbins sensationalizing the truth? Either way, THE NURSES is well written and thrusts you into a world most of us don’t normally see. Most of us probably aren’t even aware that this shady underbelly of medicine exists. Kudos to Robbins for bringing it to the forefront.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

 

 

Matronly Duties by Melissa Kendall PLUS GIVEAWAY!

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Hundreds of years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and sent it into a new ice age, what remains of the human race lives on in underground sanctuaries. Now, as the bicentennial anniversary of the impact approaches, a new leader prepares to take her place at the head of the government. At least, that’s what she thinks.
Bethanie Greene’s life has been planned out for her since the age of thirteen. Beautiful and intelligent, she’s spent the last twelve years training to become the next Matron of the underground nation of Oceania. But when Bethanie is kidnapped by rogue extremists just six weeks shy of taking office, her world is turned upside down by the handsome stranger who rescues her.
Howard James’ life has been the polar opposite of Bethanie’s. Struggling to survive in a world where those in power wished he didn’t exist, he harbors a deep-seated resentment of the government and all its representatives. Together with his unconventional family, he shows Bethanie a life she never knew was possible, while at the same time, opening her eyes to the injustices of the government she is meant to lead. But can she trust a stranger? And can a few days change everything she believes and desires? Against all odds, Bethanie must decide if her heart and her duties can coexist.

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The office of Matron is the highest a girl can aspire to—but Bethanie learns that she is just a puppet of the government. Darkly manipulative and suspenseful, MATRONLY DUTIES is a book about learning to trust and learning to love.

Parts of this book reminded me of BREEDER by KB Hoyle. However, the government in this book is more threatening and controlling, and the romance aspect is detailed thoroughly, with quite a bit of love scenes. At times these scenes slowed down the action, but I can understand why the author created the plot this way; to develop Bethanie’s growing feelings and to show the reader how she is growing as a person who thinks for herself.

There are close calls as the renegades are hunted by the government, and moments when we are unsure if Howard will come back alive. The world that Kendall creates is bleak and delightfully dystopian, with rules in place that control childbirth and love. Sex is viewed as “fornication” and taboo, and we see how Bethanie goes from prim and proper Matron, to a girl who falls in love, the old fashioned way. I found myself cheering for the family of Traditionalists who help Bethanie learn what life really means.  They were truly an oasis for the struggling girl, losing sight of everything she believed in for so many years.

I felt that there could have been a bit more character development when it came to Bethanie’s office mates–her bodyguard and secretary. She seemed to trust them without question, and I waited for them to double cross her as she shared all her thoughts and hopes with them. No spoilers here–read the book to see how it all ends!

A fairly solid outing from Melissa Kendall, MATRONLY DUTIES is a quick read, one that will make you think about figureheads and the sacrifices they may have made to be where they are.

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2 TWCS-Blog-Tour-Banner Thanks to The Writer’s Coffee Shop for offering this book to me!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

You can also visit the author’s page here.

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Reagan’s Ashes by Jim Heskett PLUS GIVEAWAY

 

Reagan Darby crams her dad’s urn into an overflowing backpack. His last wish: deliver the urn to Rocky Mountain National Park and release his ashes into Lake Nanita. To find closure, she’ll hike the same route they completed after her latest involuntary stay at the hospital.

But not alone, as she’d hoped. Her cousin Dalton surprises her at the trailhead and insists on tagging along. Soon, his eerie stares and half-volume mutterings set her on edge. As they trudge further into the mountains, dodging moose and lightning strikes, she catches him rifling through her backpack multiple times. She confronts him but he shrugs it off. His claims that he came along for support wear thin, but she’s too deep into the park simply to turn around.

When Reagan discovers a hidden compartment in the lid of the urn, a tiny silver key tumbles onto the floor of her tent. But there’s no telling what lock the key might open. More unsettling, however, is that her lithium has gone missing. With only a meager Swiss Army knife for protection, she’ll have to fend off her cousin, resist the creeping mania, and escape the forest to find the lock. If the man Dalton works for locates it first, he’ll reduce Reagan to the same pile of dust and ash.

A mix of wilderness survival thriller and amateur sleuth mystery, Reagan’s Ashes builds to an unforgettable climax.

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Many thanks to author Jim Heskett for gifting me this book in exchange for an honest review. He’s also generously donated a copy for giveaway–click the link at the end of the review!

This book is a combination of hiking primer and introduction to the bipolar mind. The descriptions of the national park are breathtaking, and the reader will be able to discern the author’s personal experience with the great outdoors at once. I learned many quick facts about how to prepare for a trip up a mountain, and gained a new appreciation for those that hike on a regular basis.

Reagan is a sympathetic character right from the start. Her emotions at losing her father threaten to overwhelm her, and Heskett paints their relationship beautifully through memories that pop up in Reagan’s mind throughout. You can understand the stability that he brought to her life, via camping, as her recollections alternately overwhelm and reassure her.

As Reagan’s medications begin to wear off, she slowly returns to her disabling manic state, complete with grandiose ideas and racing mind. I was wondering what turn the plot would take from here; would the author leave her in the wilderness, raving and eschewing humanity?

Thankfully he lets the character join the world again, and the story moves on. Reagan and her boyfriend Spoon clash with the evil cousins and other relatives, all searching for the item that the silver key will open. Greedy family members are painted realistically, and the suspense ramps up as the end is in sight. There is a twist that made me exclaim “oh NO!” but then we see what really happened.

Heskett’s writing style is easy to digest and creates interest on every page. The portion that takes place in the park is authentic and full of tension, as a bit of evil is juxtaposed against the beauty of Nature.  The plot is a simple one, but Heskett creates tension and emotion in a satisfying way.

You have an opportunity to get your hands on a soft cover edition of the book here! As always, our giveaways take almost no time at all to enter!

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Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

We’re having an honest-to-goodness TWO WINNER book giveaway! (hard copy signed by the author, and ePub version)

Alice of the Rocks

What book is it this time? The one we just reviewed, of course! Kyle had an awesome time reading Alice of the Rocks, and we’re hoping that you’ll enjoy it as well. I’m a hardcore advocate of digital books, but that doesn’t mean I’m against paper. Sometimes there’s nothing like holding a dead tree version of a great book while you enjoy the story. Enter below, and you could have your very own dead tree edition of Alice of the Rocks in no time!

This softcover book has been SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR.

Even if you don’t win the softcover, you may still win an ebook version. This giveaway will have two winners. Please state your preference in your entry.

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Alice of the Rocks by E. Graziani PLUS GIVEAWAY!

 

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“Promise that you will come back.”

Born in 1495 and raised in 2012, Alice Ferro’s life has been anything but normal. The only problem is, she doesn’t know it. As a 17-year-old in 2029, she has an ideal life, complete with loving parents, the latest technical gadgets, and a summer vacation in Italy. Upon arriving in Florence, sensations of surreal memories begin to surface, leaving her puzzled and confused.

Knowing that reconnecting with his lost love could be dangerous for both of them, but willing to take the risk, Claudio Moro seeks out Alice in her new world. His very existence in 1512 is at stake! Having been accused of both treason and murder, he needs Alice to help clear his name and redeem his family’s honour. The question is, will Alice remember their love and care enough to leave her perfect future to redirect his doomed past?

 

 

Many thanks to the author for gifting me this book for an honest review and a giveaway. The link to enter the giveaway is at the bottom of this post.

ALICE OF THE ROCKS is many books at once: it’s a romance novel with time travel, with some history and suspense thrown in for good measure. We are thrown into the world of Leonardo Da Vinci and the grasping and evil Medici empire, mixed with present day Italy as Alice enjoys a summer vacation. The two worlds collide when Alice becomes enamored of a hotel employee. Her strong feelings confuse her, and when she learns she is just a scullery maid, running for her life in 1512, she is forced to make a decision that will not only affect her, but many other lives–both in 2029 AND in 1512. Lots of responsibility for a teenage girl!

Alice is mature for her age, even as she is thinking about where to go to college and how to tell her guy back home the relationship isn’t doing anything for her. All she’s trying to do is enjoy her time in Italy this summer with her parents and aunt and uncle. When she meets a boy her own age, and she starts feeling deja vu, she wonders what is happening. They get a bit closer, and promise to spend more time together. As she and the handsome Claudio tour Italy and see the sights, the truth becomes revealed to her slowly, and she is then given an opportunity to set things right in 1515.

The character of Alice is a strong one, and I enjoyed that. She is a girl with emotions, yes, but she is also imbued with a sense of responsibility and the desire to consider other’s feelings as well. She’snot your typical spoiled rich girl. In fact, her sense of justice is what makes the ending of this book so heart rending. The author paints a picture of two star crossed lovers, with time running out on them (both in the past and in the present). The emotion between them is strong, yet chaste–there are no awkward scenes between them to slow the action down.

Graziani’s knowledge and description of Italy, then and now, is superb. I could see the countryside before me, smell the air, taste the wine. She outdoes herself with the story of Da Vinci and Claudio Moro—there is intrigue, lust, and gossip going on behind those castle walls! Claudio’s relationship with his mother is delightfully familiar, and the manipulative Clarice is well written. She is my favorite “evil” ingenue.

The story moves back and forth from the past to the present, and after a few chapters I found the transition to be fluid and appropriate. The story builds and builds, and then at last Alice is empowered to make things happen. Time seems to speed up, and the suspense and action multiplies. This is the bast part of the book, when things come together and then the ending is dropped on you like a ton of bricks.

The author told me she is working on a sequel–and I’m happy to hear that. I really need to know what the future holds for Alice!

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

Here is the link to the giveaway: there is a signed hard copy and an ePub version–so–TWO winners for this one! Good  luck!

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DIVISION: A collection of science fiction fairy tales by Lee S Hawke PLUS GIVEAWAY


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BEAUTY. GRIEF. MINDS. EVERYTHING IS DIVISIBLE.

From LEE S. HAWKE, author of The Changeling and the Sun (published by Ideomancer Speculative Fiction Magazine) comes DIVISION: A COLLECTION OF SCIENCE FICTION FAIRYTALES.
Featuring 7 original, fairytale-inspired science fiction short stories, this collection explores the division between mind, body, technology, and humanity in Hawke’s trademark haunting style.

Inside:
A chronically ill civilian discovers that his immune system may be the key to human survival.
A schoolgirl tries to escape her demons through levels of virtual reality.
A data analyst falls in love with a software coder during a forced government assignment.
A young boy is confronted with a horrifying truth about his constructed world.
A jaded medical technician rediscovers the meaning of beauty.
A girl scrambles to escape a horrifying alien invasion in a futuristic dystopia.
And a spaceship engineer struggles with the death of her only daughter.
Metaphysical and visionary, this collection of fantastic fiction combines humor, wonder, horror and humanity to create an enduring anthology of fairy tales for adults.

 

Thanks to Erica at Blind Mirror Publishing for offering me DIVISION in exchange for this honest review. Also, thanks for providing the three digital copies of the book that we’re giving away in the raffle below! Entering is easy, so you have no excuse not to do it.

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Short stories are always good to read in between longer books, because they serve as a palate cleanser and give you things to think about in a small package. DIVISION was awesome to read because the sci-fi wasn’t overly technical; the stories were all basically dystopian and mostly believable; and there was just enough of an odd twist to make you take a breath and consider the possibilities of what you just read.

The twist is not always glaringly obvious–you need to read the story (or parts of it) over again to grasp what Hawke is saying. In the story about the boy trying to get beyond the giant gray Wall that surrounds his town, the descriptions of the road become more and more detailed, until you realize what, exactly, the road is made of. That’s when you get that chill in your heart and know you are dealing with a writer with talent. Short stories are hard to create–you have to have a hook, interesting characters, and a plot that wraps up just as things get going. Hawke has constructed some fine work here, for sure.

Perhaps my favorite one was the story about the forced interaction between the data analyst and the software coder. Appropriately dystopian and government controlled, I thought it would be a lot darker than it turned out to be–but still satisfying nonetheless. Maybe I liked it because it was the most benign one of them all. Remember what I said: odd twists and hints of darker things that sometimes lurk in the basement, or in the far reaches of our mind, where we don’t want to go.

If you like sci fi or dystopian work, you will enjoy DIVISION. All the stories have characters that you can sympathize with, and situations that will ring true. Excellent job by Lee S. Hawke on this collection, and I’d love to see more.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

CORSONIA

 

Can two teenage girls save a town?

When Loren Cofton and Tracie Marinez visit the remote hills of northeastern Nevada on a cross- country drive celebrating their high school graduation, the fun vacation quickly morphs into a perilous adventure.

After photographing an abandoned gold mine, Loren swipes a bottle of water from an eerily robotic man stocking bottles in the only occupied store of an otherwise deserted shopping center. The water’s effect on Loren leads the pair to investigate the strange little town of Corsonia–despite threats from the local sheriff. And when Loren and Tracie befriend a child named Boy 11, who tells them about his curious life and upcoming fate, the girls become even more determined to figure out what is going on.

As the relentless teens uncover a horrifying trail of evil, they put their own lives in dire jeopardy. Will the girls be able to rescue the people of Corsonia–or will Loren and Tracie become the town’s next victims?

 

 

Many thanks to the author for providing this free review copy to me!

CORSONIA starts out with a benign trip; two best friends are exploring ghost towns and complaining about the heat. As the blurb notes, drinking some local water opens the girls up to unspeakable evil being perpetrated. Loren is a strong willed girl who takes it upon herself to bring justice to the townspeople, much to Tracie’s dismay.  The girls concoct a plan to sneak back into the town and gather information, solving problems and escaping danger time and time again.

This book was a pretty straightforward read: girls discover problem, girls try to solve problem, girls run into trouble. I enjoyed very much how the main characters were portrayed as strong women with character and intent, not ditzy females clamoring about boys and makeup. As Tracie must make decisions for herself more and more, you can see her persona develop and she comes into her own at the end. The girls solve their own problems and take responsibility if things don’t go as planned.

There is minimal backstory for Loren and Tracie, but that was fine–I enjoyed reading about this single chapter in their lives and didn’t wonder much about what happened before they went on their road trip. Their relationship is solid and their teenage dialogue reflects close friends, complete with eye rolling and awareness of what the other will do in any given situation.

The author does well to paint a picture of bleak existence; the inhabitants of Corsonia are robot like and appropriate. I could feel the dust blowing in my eyes and needed a drink of water myself, as I read about the girls trekking aross the deserted city.

Later on in the book, there is a confrontation between the bad guys and Tracie—there is a great deal of violence, which surprised me. It seemed different from the rest of the story somehow. The plot advances with the action, but the bloodshed was disconcerting; and I found a lack of emotion at times in Tracie’s reaction (or non-reaction).  It almost seemed surreal as the bodies piled up. That is the only complaint I have about CORSONIA; otherwise there is some quiet humor and sly little details that are quite funny, such as Tracie complaining about her fake beard itching (they disguise themselves at one point) or the immense cupcake consuming capacity of the evil Merlynn. It also seemed that most of the men weren’t able to make decisions on their own; the women are the leaders all through the book. That’s a refreshing change, for sure.

The strength of the book is the tenacity and nerve of the lead characters. They are good role models, as girls who have the courage and desire to help those less fortunate. If Tracie and Loren showed up in another book, solving another mystery, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Want your own copy? You can pick it up here.

 

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