Review: Don C Reed – Stem Cell Battles

Stem Cell Battles : Proposition 71 and Beyond: How Ordinary People Can Fight Back Against the Crushing Burden of Chronic Disease
Don C Reed

Stem Cell legislation in the USA has been here and there for many years. This novel is now slightly out of date, but it still provides an accurate picture of how legislation for and against stem cells has developed. In fact, I might take that back. It could still be current – legislation can take a long time to change, even if the science tries to keep moving forward.

27187830This book was actually enjoyable. I was hesitant. As I say though, Reed is from the people angle. After his son’s accident, he’s one of the people who have pushed forward from the ground up to make a difference in politics to change ordinary people’s lives. As a geneticist, this gets into all sorts of ethical ideas and messes, some of which are discussed here.

I recently taught a class on stem cells (three of them actually, all the same but with different students). This was a book I wanted to bring in and get them all to read. In Australia, the stem cell laws are just as annoying as far as I can see. There is so much potential in them (but also many hazards).

I received this novel a very long time ago now, and it was a Galley Proof, not for sale. I’m really not sure why I put off reading it for so long. I think I was sick of science, and didn’t want to read more about it in my free time! This is less about the science, and more about the people though.

Non-fiction, I’m not rating it. But if you have an interest in science, please go and get yourself a copy. It’s pleasurable reading, even for people who hate laws.

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Review: Sheila O’Flanagan – The Crystal Run

The Crystal Run
Sheila O’Flanagan

While running from bullies, Joe finds himself thrown into a new world where he is likely to actually be killed. Joe’s hearing isn’t so good normally, and his ability to understand the new language is even worse. What he does work out is that the Carcassians are mislead from top to toe, but there isn’t much he can do about it.

29078428I’m not sure what I was expecting from this novel. I wanted something fantasy because I was sick of teenage drama. No fear here – a scrap of ‘isn’t she pretty’, but otherwise fantasy running wild. Very satisfying and light to read.

What I liked about this novel was that the main character was flawed in a way that younger readers are going to be able empathise with. There is nothing like a protagonist that could be a regular person, and really isn’t anything special. It makes people feel like they will be travelling with them.

It has been a while since I read a true teenage or early tween novel and I had forgotten that they are usually plot driven. That being said, I didn’t put this novel down. I was intrigued by the things that were going wrong, and honestly, pretty mad at the Carcassians. Sticking your head in the sand isn’t going to solve anything!

I’m going to compare this to The Dragon of the Month Club, and suggest that the latter has more to offer in terms of character development. However, it no doubt could be difficult to source in Australia.

I’m going to err on the side of niceness here and give it 4 stars, even though I tossed up giving it 3. I don’t want to short change a nice new offering that thinks about power solutions in a way that tweens are going to understand. The environment matters!

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Review: Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen

Red Queen
Victoria Aveyard

Mare is a lowly Red servant, right up until the point that she meets a prince. Then she finds herself thrown into the world of the Silvers with her in the middle of a battle that seems to have been going for a long time, despite Mare only just waking up to the fact that she is going to have to be more proactive about making the Silver’s pay for the Red’s miserable lives.

22328546Whiplash! The ending took me completely by surprise. Phew! My head may have literally flipped backwards. I couldn’t believe it. I just had to keep reading, but in fact, it was in a course of a couple of pages that the whole thing ended up on its head.

He he, Mare is weaker than her makeup. Other reviewers found that odd or poorly written, I actually got a little giggle out of it. Her being obsessed with her weakness? Well, she’s a girl isn’t she? I actually found where she wasn’t sure about how to kill people or care about them quite endearing. It’s perfectly ok to have characters who change their minds about major things like MURDER.

It hardly seems worth it to review this novel, GoodReads has over 20k reviews. However, I’m going to anyway, just for my own records. I picked this novel up for free from #YAmatters, a Victorian State Library event last year that talked about 2016’s novels to come.

I was going to give this 4 stars, but man this is a polarising novel! People seem to love or hate it, depending on what other novels they have read. Reading their reviews has highlighted to me a couple of other novels I might enjoy. As it is, I haven’t read those, so I thought this novel was good.


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Review: Amy Tintera – Ruined

Amy Tintera

Em’s family has been either captured or killed because of their powers. Em has been in training since it was found she was useless – no powers to speak of. While her heart is filled with fury and a desire to free her sister, that slowly leaks out in favour of a hint of love and a lot of confusion. Why can’t people get along without killing each other?

28562419Em had to kill to get her new position in the court. I wonder whether some people are looking down on her as having ‘cheated’, and in fact, some of the dialogue is about revenge and trying to hold down sensible ideas after killing people. It’s something I’ve been contemplating lately, with all the fiction I have been reading. It does sound like sometimes the easiest solution is to kill the figurehead!

This was a throbbing fantasy novel that pulled me in, turned me around, and then spat me out the other end. This had the suspense that I needed, and just a hint of romance but mostly revenge. Yes, the storyline has probably been done lots of times, with falling in love with your assassin etc, but I didn’t mind.

Cliffhangers! Arg! It’s killing me at the moment. Almost all of the novels I review at the moment I receive directly from the publisher, and I’ve been able to tighten up my budget by taking out the buying books part. If the publisher doesn’t send me the next novel, there’s a good chance I will never read it, and that’s just sad.

Is this high fantasy? Mm, depends how you define high fantasy. For me, this is ‘just’ regular fantasy. No extreme worldbuilding or explanations of magic systems that I would associate with epic fantasy. But you know what? I didn’t go into this expecting that (it’s not a Brandon Sanderson after all), and I really enjoyed it. I’m giving it 4 stars, and I can’t wait for the next novel.


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Review: Lisa Beazley – Keep Me Posted

Keep Me Posted
Lisa Beazley

Cassie and Sid were the closest sisters ever, right before their lives and marriages got in the way. When they decide to reconnect through letters, their lives may not be the same (or at least, Cassie’s life won’t be).

29152393This should have been called The Slow News Sisters instead of Keep Me Posted. What’s wrong with using a catchy term, even if it is later used in the novel? Not to mention it would have been a heads up for the progress being glacial.

Well, I set out reading this with an expectation and fear that it would all be written in letters of EVERYTHING about the sisters’ lives. Instead, I found myself immersed in the selfish Cassie’s life, and pitying Sid as a long distance relationship only can.

Honestly, I really didn’t feel much for either of the sisters. Cassie was pretty pathetic, and became more so as she went along. Sid is living a life of luxury. Her husband might be cheating on her? Get over it! It happens! Call him out. You can afford it.

The blurb: ‘Cassie’s made a big mistake – one that their relationship, not to mention their marriages, may not survive’. I was most of the way through the novel waiting for this momentous occasion to take place. When it finally happened, I was just like, wow, get over it. People have these issues all the time. It’s not just you Cassie.

Grow up Cassie. Get over yourself. I wanted this outcome from the beginning, but in the end it felt like it had gone completely full circle. Unsatisfying mess.

This novel obviously wasn’t for me. I think I’ll tag it down as ‘Women’s Fiction’ and call it a day. I don’t feel like being charitable today, so it’s only getting 2 stars, even if it could be a 3.


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Review: David Dyer – the Midnight Watch

the Midnight Watch
David Dyer

John Steadman is a body man. His reporting for the Boston American newspaper involves finding those bodies, and writing a story of them that brings their lives back. When he gets caught up in the story of the ship that watched the Titanic sink, he finds himself losing himself in the story – to the loss of his own job.

25666052What I loved was that the blending of fact and fiction made me feel at home in the novel. I didn’t object that I never really understood everything behind Lord’s motives. I didn’t mind that there was no happy ending.

I did feel a little confused towards the end, when John’s story of the Titanic is published. There is a disconnect between John’s words and the story, despite this being in chronological order as far as I could see. I felt that John’s newspaper story could have come at the very end of the novel, and I still would have been happy – as I would have seen it as an overall conclusion.

Confession – I’ve never seen The Titanic! Nor do I ever hope to have to sit through it. As far as I can tell, it’s a ‘classic timeless love story’ and I barely have the patience to sit through one of those in novel form, let alone a movie!

Giving this beauty 4 stars. It was surprisingly gripping, despite already knowing the major outcome (pretty much everyone on the Titanic died). Kudos to Dyer for this fantastic and well written novel, and my absolute condolences on it being from your Doctorate!


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Review: Estelle Laure – This Raging Night

This Raging Night
Estelle Laure

Lu has bills to pay, a kid to babysit and high-school to go to. Wait. Aren’t those first two supposed to be done by your parents? But Lu has noone else to turn to, and it’s up to her to keep her little family together and stop Wren going off into care.

25787863When will I get tired of extreme-situation teenage novels? Maybe some time soon. I’m feeling an end of my sympathy for idiots that let love get in the way of all things! But real life problems? Yes, I’ll take those. This novel isn’t too far off course for things that could happen. Who knows how many people are having this problem, and it’s just not picked up?

I liked the ending of this novel, because it was ambiguous. Doesn’t sound like me, does it? But after the whole novel being so uncertain, it just felt like it was the right way to end things.

Therapy, therapy, therapy. Every other novel at the moment is promoting therapy. Guided therapy that is, not just going off for a wander (ie. Lu and Wren’s mother). I can’t agree with what Lu and Wren’s father did, but I am all about Lu kicking her father’s butt when it was required.

I received a copy of this novel at a promotion event I went to at the Victorian State Library #YAmatters. I was late, since I was coming straight from work and there weren’t actually any samples left. Instead I got this beauty, which had a cut to its dust jacket. I let it sit on my shelf for months, then I decided to make the huge decision of tossing the dust jacket. Just seeing the fresh hardback got me in to reading it! Reminds me of the Raven Boys actually.

This novel is about seeing the good in people, but also standing up for yourself. It flies firmly in the positive spectrum for me, when compared to Beautiful Liar, which I read shortly before this one. I think I actually feel strongly enough about it to give it 4 stars.


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Review: Alexandra Curry – The Courtesan

The Courtesan
Alexandra Curry

From a treasured life as a loved Courtesan’s daughter, Jinhua takes a step back into the dregs of where courtesans are made – from feet binding to orifice rape. This is her story from misery to misery.

29908433You’d think that since I was up until 1am finishing this book (and doing some other writing) than means I enjoyed it. Honestly, I’m not sure that I did. There were huge time gaps and gaps in Jinhau’s memory that made me fall out of the novel time and time again.

The violence, particularly sexual violence, seemed not to add very much to the story. I would have been far more excited if the rape had lead to death, rather than just another one occurring. By the end, I was basically no longer worried about it – they’d easily get out the other side. Rape just became part of the landscape. Isn’t that a horrible thing to say?

Perhaps it could have meant more to me if I was familiar with the historical period it was set in. I have to say my grasp of China’s politics, in addition to its geography, was very slim on the ground. All countries have a horrific past, and some are still that way (I’m an Australian, and i can tell you that horrible things are still going on). This one was nothing new.

I think it takes courage to write a novel like this one, where it is based on a well known (to the Chinese) folk/fairy tale / legend. That doesn’t mean I loved it. Jinhau just gave me no reason to love her. Her best friend seemed just as weak. What am I to say of weak though? I admired the woman before Jinhau – at least she was sensible enough to put herself out of her misery!

Why couldn’t I love this? Was it the detailed writing that put me off? The graphics of everything that made it difficult for me to get into the story? I don’t know. But I’m reassured to see that some other people didn’t love this novel either. I’m tossing up between 2 and 3 stars – I did at least finish it afterall.


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Review: Marina Go – Break Through

Break Through
Marina Go

Marina started out as editor of Dolly at age 23. From then on, she worked her way up the ranks of editor of various magazines to the Chair of boards that she is on today. This is a snapshot of the stages of her journey there, and her advice to other young women who want to be major players in the working world.

break-through-9781925183542_lgAs always, I preferred the personal stories rather than the advice given in this novel. I think if you are going for a more ‘traditional’ career (not a university and teaching focussed career like mine) this novel is going to be perfect for you. I’d choose it as a gift for someone just starting out at their first job.

This is in line with inspiring next generation leaders – even if it is aimed at young women, young men might appreciate it (if they have open minds) in order to realise what it is like is a still male dominated business ‘the old boys’ club’. I can think of many cases where this novel will be something that someone needs, without even knowing they need it.

If I got anything about having a career about this novel it was to not be afraid, stand up for yourself, and be driven! Just because you are a woman doesn’t mean you should stand for anything less, and that you should prove yourself better than a man.  Go on and ‘smash those stereotypes’!

I didn’t have any strong feelings either way after completing this novel. I had intended to read a chapter each night, and try and think about the contents of each, but I didn’t manage that. I did one night of 2 chapters, then the next day I binge read the rest. I’m not sure exactly what that means about quality!

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Review: Lucinda Riley – The Storm Sister

The Storm Sister
Lucinda Riley

Ally and her five sisters have just lost their adoptive father, Pa Salt. Each of them were adopted at birth, and now it is up to them to decide whether they want to know their pasts or not. Ally has always loved Sailing, but perhaps her history says that she should be more musically inclined.

25800847I put off reading this novel for a very long time, because I knew it was the second in the series. Finally, in a bid to cull down the number of older novels I had sitting on my shelf, I decided to pick it up. A quick google of the first novel in the series seemed to suggest that I didn’t need to read the first one – this was definitely the case.

The blurb promises that Ally is beginning to question where the 7th sister is, but I didn’t get that vibe from her at all in the novel. She was too busy wrapped up in her own things to think about her sister(s) at all for what I could tell. Ally seemed very selfish to me, considering that she was considered the most practical of the sisters.

When I sat down to this, I found that some parts were far more compelling than others. Take the ‘real world’ for instance, where Ally is grieving for lost loves and yet hunting her background at the same time. In the past, read as a journal / biography / translation by the reader, things are far more exciting and real.

Jesus. Ally. Could you be any more dense? You’ve JUST read the story of Anna, and you’re too dumb to work out your own life? Oh woe is me. For someone who was just passionately in love, you’re certainly turning your eyes to someone else pretty quickly! Ugh. I couldn’t love you, and I couldn’t wait to move on from reading about you to someone else.

It was fine for reading. But just fine. Not fantastic, or anything new for the majority of the novel. 3 stars.


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