Book Review : Primelife – Utopian fiction

Primelife by Robert Golino

Why I read:  Interesting sci-fi.  Utopian future and VR.

Book blurb: “Can humanity survive in the perfect world? New drug Primelife promises heaven on earth: Unending life and a society where everyone’s needs are provided for. But things are not quite as they seem. Stuart Deadman is a brilliant theoretical physicist, but virtual reality is offering him something the real world can’t. Sofia Nicoletti is a woman desperate to have a child in a society that forbids them. Her strong maternal instincts ultimately prevail, but not as she imagined. Ben Donaldson is an ordinary citizen thrust into the center of a political crisis. And Karla Hoffman is an enforcement detective investigating an unsolved double murder. As she peels away the layers surrounding the case, she uncovers a disturbing government secret. The unintended consequences of Primelife are slowly emerging, and the promise of utopia may not be enough to save the world from tearing itself apart..

 

 

My review

One of the reasons I love reviewing books is that I get to read books by smaller publishers.  Unusual little gems like this one which enrich my reading experience.

Primelife gives us a glimpse into a Future Utopia.  PrimeLife drugs  stop the ageing process allowing people to live indefinitely and the corporation that produces them promises a world where all needs are taken care of.  The main sections of the book are told via a report which gives backstories to the books main characters and tells how the society evolved, the benefits and the problems within it.

Its fast paced and easy to read and kept me engaged throughout.  An unusual sci-fi which examines a wide range of themes including immortality, the right to have children, population control, keeping in touch with nature, virtual reality and utopian ideals.  Brainfreeze is a fascinating  mental health side-effect causing an apathy to life which some people suffer from years after taking Primelife drugs.   Its a book that makes you wonder about the desirability of longevity.

I’d recommend to fans of: sci-fi, utopia, dystopia, future science, future drugs and speculative fiction.

****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

 221 pages
ISBN
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Book Review : The Good Samaritan – Prime November Pick

The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for November

Book blurb: “She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?

The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.

Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.

But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?

The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to…

Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.”

 

 

““For the more vulnerable out there, once the darkness falls, so do their barriers. Night-time is their enemy, because with fewer visible distractions there’s more opportunity to dwell on how hopeless their lives have become.”
― John MarrsThe Good Samaritan

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Good Samaritan is a tale about Laura,  a help-line volunteer who encourages her callers to commit suicide.  Most of the book is duel narrative between Laura and Ryan the husband of a woman who commits suicide who suspects Laura’s involvement in her death.    Its a true roller coaster as they take each other on, pushing the limits to unravel each other.  The main characters are complex, multi-layered and well written.  Laura is a deeply unlikable character and unreliable narrator.  Sections narrated as her is a glimpse into a truly disturbed mind.  But it was also hard reading Ryan’s grief and the stages he goes through after loosing someone he cared about to suicide.   Although some of his actions I just could not agree with I sympathised with why he was driven to them.   I don’t want to give away any of the plot as its filled with many twists and turns. Its original, clever and griping,  a really exciting read.

I felt the author captured the feelings of despair, the vulnerability of a depressed mind and the isolation of depression really authentically.  I’ve battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years and although each persons battle is individual this book portrayed the downward spiral of this illness really well.    I could easily relate to the people who called Laura at the End of the Line and that she got such pleasure from their pain was sickening.  Being inside her head was a horrifying place to be.  As many of the topics in this book are potentially triggering I’d recommend reading it only when in the right head space.

The dark nature of this book, with a killer targeting victims of depression pushed me to my limits whilst reading.  But I enjoy unsettling reads and this book brought it by the bucketfuls. Its horrific and disquieting but I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to know how it all ended.    However the author didn’t tie it all up at the end but like life left speculation and possibility of what else could happen.

Overall I found the book a fast read, brutally dark and full of exciting and clever twists.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads,  psychological thrillers, serial killers and dark unsettling topics.

***1/2

Kindle Edition, 390 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
ASIN B0728K48N8

Book Review : White Bodies – psychological thriller about twin sisters

White Bodies by Jane Robins

3 star read

Why I read:   Dark, psychological thriller with unreliable  narrator

Book blurb: “Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?”

 

 

My review

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about two twin sisters obsession with each other. When Tilda meets Felix, charming but with controlling tendencies, Callie becomes fearful for her safety.    Callie narrates so we see the story unfold through her eyes and observations,  occasionally delving into the past to shed more light on their entwined lives. I found the relationship between the twins fascinating  and it kept me hooked throughout the book. With its themes of love, manipulation and violence.  Jane Robins writes the sisters characters brilliantly, neither are particularly likeable, they are flawed, weird and interesting to read about.  Tilda’s narcissism and Callie’s compulsion to consume things that belonged to Tilda demonstrate how their mental states distort their reality.  Which creates a dark book full of clues, red herrings, twists and suspense that keep you reading and guessing.

Overall White Bodies is an enjoyably unsettling page turner.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: psychological thrillers, unreliable narration, twisting storylines and sibling relationship drama.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

297 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone
ISBN  1501165089

 

Book Review : The Unremembered Girl – Prime October Pick

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for October

Book blurb: “In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

“The stray thought occurred to him that if it weren’t for women, in all their cloaks of unfathomed mysteries, men would lead very boring lives.” ― Eliza MaxwellThe Unremembered Girl

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Unremembered Girl  is a tale about a dysfunctional family living in the backwaters of Texas and what happens to them when they encounter a feral girl Eve.  The story mostly focuses on Henry, his views and the decisions he makes and his relationship with Eve.   We are fed bits and pieces of information as the family discover more about  Eve.  There were many twists and turns and just as you think things can’t get any worse something else is thrown into the mix.

There’s a lot of dark and unsettling themes running throughout the book including human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and murder.  Most are just there as an under layer never fully explored.  The book is filled with sadness and tragedy with a few hopefully moments thrown in. The plot jumped around a bit but  the language and writing style was easy to understand and skim through so it was a quick read.   The setting for the book was really well written and you got a real feel for small town politics and values and got drawn into the swampy Texas scenery.  I’m normally a fan of doom and gloom but the book lacked the full emotional dimensions to pull me totally  in.

Eve was extremely damaged, and I felt the family did not do much to understand her.  It seemed more they wanted to shelter and protect her. Eve does not say much and throughout seems to just be a pretty one dimensional “damaged girl”.    Henry was a much better written character and you see many layers to his thoughts as he battles with decisions of what is best for himself, his family and for Eve.  Henry’s mother Caroline was a likeable character, a women holding a family together.

There was some unrealistic romance  which to me seemed more of Henry having an obsession with Eve.  With a seemingly instantaneous “love connection” sprouting from out of no-where. The author seems to be trying to tell this as a love story, but it just  felt like Eve was a prop for Henry to try and save.

Overall I found the book a fast read but the sheer amount of tragedy just made me feel sad.   Its not a book for the faint-hearted  but there are few dull moments as the plot keeps hurtling along.  I  settled between 2 and 3 star rating.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads, dark tragedy themes.

**1/2

 

Kindle Edition, 334 pages

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Book Review: Shattered Minds – Futuristic cyber-punk thriller

Shattered Minds  by Laura Lam

Why I read: Near-future technological thriller staring a female “Dexter”.  I was intrigued by the “brain-mapping” ideas and cyberpunk themes.

Book blurb: “She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons.

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever. “

The book is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as False Hearts.  (I haven’t read False Hearts so I don’t know if there are any spoilers for that book within this one).

My review

In a dark and malevolent futuristic world, a drug-addicted ex-neuroscientist Carina satisfies her urges to kill within drug-fueled dreams.   Within her mind sections of data are planted which she can only unlock by recalling her early memories.  So she bands together with a group of hackers in order to take down an evil corporation.   The writing is fluid and vivid, often darkly violent and brilliantly portrays a frightening high technology near-future. I loved the blend of crime, psychology, sci-fi and futurism.  The world-building and technology are awesome.

Carina was an interesting character, she had a hard edge with violent compulsions she struggles to control but also a softer more likeable human side.  She fights against her addictions and her past so she can expose Sudice Inc.  These many facets to her personality made her a believable “bad girl”. Its certainly a book for people who enjoy complex female leads.  Dax (her love interest) is a trans-male hacker and another fascinating well -written character.   I enjoyed how their story played out.

The narrative jumped around between different people, past and present to unfold the complicated story.   I had to pay attention to the heading at the start of each chapter to ensure I knew whose perspective it was written from and where on the timeline it was occurring.  So  it took a bit longer for me to read.  But don’t let you put this off.  Its well worth the attention.

Recommended if you enjoy: strong female characters, technological sci-fi, futuristic crime fiction, cyber-punk elements.

****

I received an ARC from Netgallery in return for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781447286905

Hardcover, 384 pages   (NB I read a pre-release PDF version)
Expected publication: June 15th 2017 by Pan Macmillan

You can read an extract of the book on the publishers website  

My little Jackshund dog decided I needed a reading break in the middle of this book:

 

 

 

 

Book Review: An Oath of Dogs – A Thrilling Ecological Sci-Fi

An Oath of Dogs – Wendy N. Wagner

Why I read:  I was intrigued by the description of eco-sci fi.  Biology fascinates me and the blurb mentioned conspiracies and  sentient dogs.  This sounded different to anything I had read lately.

Book blurb: “Kate Standish has been on Huginn less than a week and she s already pretty sure her new company murdered her boss. But extractions corporations dominate the communities of the forest world, and few are willing to threaten their meal tickets to look too closely at corporate misbehaviour. The little town of mill workers and farmers is more worried about the threat of eco-terrorism and a series of attacks by the bizarre, sentient dogs of this planet, than a death most people would like to believe is an accident. When Standish connects a secret chemical test site to a nearly forgotten disaster in Huginn s history, she reveals a conspiracy that threatens Standish and everyone she s come to care about.”

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My review

An Oath of Dogs is a wonderfully unusual sci-fi thriller that fuels your imagination. Kate Standish arrives on Hugin and discovers a town threatened by eco-terroism, killer sentient dogs and suspects her old boss has been murdered by the corporation she works for.

I loved the world building, the unusual biome filled with fungi and strange alien creatures and the dogs. The book had a good pace throughout to keep the pages turning as you discover more about the planet of Hugin, its inhabitants and the corporation Songheuser. Vivid descriptions bring the world to life. Diary excerpts from the first settlers and book passages add an additional layer of history and intrigue.

The Songheuser corporation came across as a sterotypical greedy firm with no care for the destruction it causes in order for them to achieve maximum profit. But the book explores questions of how corporation, environment and government interact and what balance is right for the planet and the people on it. How humans impact on the environment and how the strange alien world effects them.

The characters are an interesting mix including members of the Believers of the Word Made Flesh (a cult of New Age Mystics who focus around farming), Corporation Staff, and a whole wide range of different personalities. Peter Bajowski, an inquisitive biologist made observations of the alien species which fascinated me. But Kate Standish especially is a brilliantly thought-out character and a relatable heroine. She battles her anxiety with the help of her therapy dog as she unearths the conspiracy giving her a balance of weakness against strengths. I really liked this positive portrayal of someone battling with their mental health. I found myself cheering her on and really cared about what happened to her throughout the book.

An enjoyable eco-sci-fi read I’d recommend to any one who enjoys sci-fi, biology and thrillers.

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

****

 
432 pages
Expected publication: July 4th 2017 by Angry Robot
ISBN