Rudy wants to be a doctor, and more than that, he wants to be the best. As a fourth year med student about to start a clerkship, he is certain that he has his future planned to perfection. However, when dealt a last minute change in his placement, Rudy begins to face the idea that sometimes life doesn’t run exactly as planned. Immersed in the eye-opening reality of a pediatric oncology ward, he begins to doubt his plans for the first time. Instead of the studying he expected to get done, Rudy soon finds himself learning lessons about life and humanity that could never be taught from a book.
Chasing Rabbits, by Rodolfo Del Toro, is a book that is by equal turns both uplifting and heartbreaking. Del Toro, who is a physician himself, vividly depicts the stark realities of the oncology unit with unflinching authenticity and drives the story forward by doing so. Although Rudy is the narrator, the children are easily the strongest characters, written with a depth and maturity that reflect the acceptance of their own mortality. In contrast, the adults seem to lack a similar depth.
If this book could be said to have a theme, it would be one of gratitude, learning to feel it and learning to embrace it. Rudy, and the others on the medical staff, quickly learn the importance of embracing the moments and people who matter most. The book leans heavily on the idea that children are far more wise than the adults around them, but does so in such an endearing and well-written way that never feels trite. There is a fine balance between expressing that idea well and taking it to the point of absurdity–Del Toro finds that balance.
I simply could not put this book down and became deeply invested in these children and their lives. Del Toro has created them as wonderfully sympathetic and empathetic little beings who absolutely stole the show from Rudy and every other adult in the book. Chasing Rabbits, by Rodolfo Del Toro, was delightfully wholesome and enjoyable.
Pages: 222 | ASIN: B085X4S7QT
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The Lethal Elixir by Dennis Ross is a mystery romance novel that follows the events of a strange outbreak at Deaconess Hospital in Chicago. First, a man is brought in ailing from an unknown disease, prompting the staff to call on Dr. Maggie Hamilton, one of their Infectious Diseases specialists, for a diagnosis. Unfortunately, it is discovered the man has an altered strain of Ebola. Soon more people are found with the strain, sending the hospital into an outbreak scenario. In their search for answers to the origins, Maggie teams up with the FBI, led by Agent Matthew Johnson. As the pair investigate the possible source of Ebola, they uncover a nefarious plot on the nation and possibly find love along the way.
I find Maggie to be everything I’m looking for in a leading lady: a smart, stand on your own kind of woman. She’s the head of her field and quickly takes charge. Matthew Mack, to most people, is a great leading man. He’s described as strong and handsome, but he’s also not afraid to show his creative side in things like dancing. These are unique characters who compliment each other well. I also liked the medical side of the story. It was well researched for that genuine “I could believe I’m in a hospital right now” feel. I also loved that we saw from the villains’ side of the story. It kept me interested in reading and wondering if our pair would stave off the dark plot we saw unfurling.
While the concept of the novel is stellar, I didn’t feel like the mechanics of the story succeeded in conveying that concept in a way that was equally compelling. I felt that the dialogue could have used some of the creativity that went into the plot to breakup the otherwise stiff writing. This is a medical thriller so there is a lot of technical medical jargon that is being used, which provides an authentic feel to the story, but I would have liked a medical term dictionary at the back of the book to help me understand the technical terms.
This fast-paced novel is an instalove romance. The characters fall in love quickly, and given that they are rushing to stop an epidemic, this feels plausible. The high-stress conditions, and working closely with someone you find attractive, set them up for romance while still getting their job done. The relationship adds to the drama of the plot rather than overtaking it.
The Lethal Elixir is a dramatic medical mystery novel that feels realistic. The attention to detail with the medical conditions adds credibility to the story. In addition, readers will get caught up in the whirlwind romance of the characters as they work to stop a worldwide epidemic.
Pages: 280 | ASIN : B09CD4669N
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Type B is set in Cincinnati in 2006. Courier John Davis has worked as a Biological Fluid Courier for Christ Hospital for twenty years. When John began noticing unusual activity, he starts paying attention to the increase in blood tests at the lab. What follows is the discovery of the Sanguis virus, which is responsible for the disease called BARD – B Antigen Resistive Disease. Anyone with a blood type other than type B could die from this disease. John comes up with a daring plan to save his family while the impact of BARD is felt by the entire world.
Type B is a thrilling and fascinating novel that provides readers with detailed scenes, intriguing characters, and uniquely unusual events. Author Steve Mitchell provides a visionary look at what could happen if the world is struck by a fast-acting and lethal disease.
I enjoyed Steve Mitchell’s writing style because it is fast-paced and succinct. I found myself wanting to read more and it was hard to put this book down as it was eerily relatable to current events. Johns character felt authentic and his family also felt realistic. This helps ground this otherwise wild story and propels the story forward in a way that feels like it could happen.
John’s character is intense but he can also be caring and I feel like he really pulls the reader into this thrilling novel. John’s children are also believable characters as they are innocent and unaware of what is going on in the world. It is through them that the reader gets to experience what it would be like to risk family members in such a catastrophe. This brings a surprisingly emotional aspect to a novel that is overtly intense.
There are many scenes throughout the book that are very detailed. If you are a reader that enjoys detailed scenes then you will enjoy the visuals the author creates of the events taking place. The reader is able to feel the intensity and the stress that this virus brings to Cinncinati as the characters in the story either take it seriously or don’t.
Type B is a fascinating and fast-paced medical thriller. In a dystopian society, readers will feel the suspense as John and his family fight for their very survival. This novel is best for mature audiences due to the nature of some of the scenes.
Pages: 285 | ASIN : B08Z738LW2
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The Empathy Academy, by Dustin Grinnell, follows Montgomery Hughes on his journey of discovery as he questions his morality. A school was built for those who test positive for genes that affect empathy, and even though Monty tests negative, he finds his way onto Nantucket Island to enroll.
Montgomery “Monty” Hughes is a terrific kid, intelligent, and constantly questioning if he is doing the right thing. When he discovers his father profited on a fake cancer drug, he decides to enroll in the Empathy Academy, which is run by Dr. Sonja Woodward. Monty uses his friend’s test results to get into the academy so that he can escape his father’s wrongdoings.
Monty has been intrigued by medicine and wants to become a doctor; however, he does not want to make his father’s same mistakes. As Monty goes to the academy for the summer, the FBI places his father under house arrest while awaiting trial for the biggest fraud committed in medicine. His father, Richard Hughes, marketed a drug that was supposed to cure cancer and ended up being harmful. There is some irony in the story as his father was diagnosed with terminal Pancreatic Cancer.
The writing style and tone of this book are a balance of science and questioning morality. Are our genes responsible for our behavior and empathy, or does our environment also play a role? Throughout this book, Grinnell accurately captured human nature and the fine line between right and wrong. Some characters in this book know what they are doing is wrong but move forward because they are scared the outcome would negatively impact them. Other characters believe what they are doing is just and right but blind themselves to the true nature of their actions. Monty is inherently good but feels he needs help because of his father’s mistakes.
This captivating novel was interesting to read. Each character had a unique development, and you could see the inner workings of human nature. The underlying plot of the fake cancer drug could elicit some strong emotions from those that have been impacted by cancer in their lives. Cancer is a touchy subject, but I believe the author handled it well throughout the book.
The Empathy Academy combines science fiction and ethical philosophy into a riveting fantasy novel. If you question right and wrong, love deciphering morality, and would like to dive into human nature, then this book is for you.
Pages: 209 | ASIN : B09RTSZ7PQ
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Finding Grace by Gary Lee Miller is an inspirational story about Judith Lee, a young girl who faces many challenges growing up in poverty and lacking resources. Throughout childhood, she struggles with fitting in and is often bullied, though her intelligence and savvy business skills give her a significant advantage later in life. Judith Lee conquers all odds to become wealthy and successful in business.
The author details Judith Lee’s struggles from the beginning of the book, which begins at a quick pace. You’ll pick up and follow Judith through an intense and emotionally-resonant journey across the country with a sense of adventure and excitement embedded in the story that is effortlessly mixed with a sense of uncertainty. This story carefully details her travel across each state and town by bus, where she encounters new people and experiences, which give her a new way to embrace life and its challenges.
Judith Lee’s tale is a thought-provoking personal story that provides readers with a compassionate, down-to-earth account of one person’s relentless journey to strive for the best in life. This story offers an extraordinary tale of personal transformation with a whirlwind of emotion, excitement, and struggles along the way. I loved the story because things were always moving forward, never feeling stale, but without feeling like we’re being rushed. This speaks to the fantastic writing ability of Gary Lee Miller. When the twists come, they’re exciting, but still feel grounded.
I found this book to be an excellent, inspiring read. It’s the ideal story to enjoy over a relaxing weekend or on your next commute to work. Judith Lee’s tale gives readers a sense that anything is achievable, even in the most challenging situations. It’s a very touching, human story interlaced with a strong determination for success and connection.
This book is a must-read if you are looking for a feel-good boost and emotional experience. Finding Grace by Gary Lee Miller is a well-written, captivating story of human triumph and finding your way in a complex world of challenges and uncertainties.
Pages: 282 | ISBN: 1631956590
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Health Reformation follows a relatively healthy man on a journey through a dystopian healthcare system that is supposed to be perfect but turns out to be a nightmare. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
As 2020 opened with the pandemic, and life around the country deteriorated, I wondered about how emergent diseases might change our lives and institutions. Buried beneath the sorrow and the mayhem, a nascent idea started forming about how healthcare might evolve in the future, but in a provocative and entertaining way. This effort meandered and flowed through much of January and February. But I only decided to write this story once I determined the name of one of the main characters. That lightning strike propelled this curiosity from a possible future project into something that deserved my immediate attention, and the mere mention of that name to those in my inner circle reinforced that assessment. Energized by the feedback I received, I started writing in March of 2020 and released it in November of the same year.
But I also didn’t want it to be “about the pandemic.” The various fictitious viruses in the story provide a background against which the characters venture into a revamped healthcare system. The inspiration was thus multifaceted: the 2020 health crisis, the repeated calls for free universal healthcare, the ubiquitous push for ever more automation and the loss of jobs to overseas labor markets. Furthermore, people nowadays have to fill their own gas tanks and go through self-checkout lanes at supermarkets—and at some restaurants. Robots build more than people do. And trying to get customer service over the phone is a maddening descent into insanity. This story is not a commentary or analysis of any of those topics, though. Those were the ingredients and the viruses were the oven that helped bake this morsel into a darkened future that looms all too possible.
Jason is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
He’s a young man with a new bride and big plans for his future. The pandemics are just background noise for him. Looking back at 2020, I think a lot of people had big objectives that got dashed by the advent of covid-19. But imagine when we collectively get past the lockdowns, quarantines and business closures, and things open up again. Dreams will flourish anew. People will want to travel again. Jason encapsulates all of that optimism. And he’s generous. He sees the best in people, and he didn’t care that his wife was convicted of murder and has a trail of dead husbands in her wake. But he also has some flaws that are exposed as the plot advances.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
The military has a saying: “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” Likewise, intentions get twisted by reality, whether it’s because of cost, greed, unexpected delays or something else. I wanted to expose a healthcare system that was born from the finest intentions, but fails to deliver actual value. It’s an extrapolation of what we see around us today. Among the hindrances that deform this imaginary healthcare system are the regulations that helped create it.
The second main theme revolves around the offshoring of jobs. As Jason emerges from the hospital, and the hidden costs of “free” becomes apparent, he has to face a new nightmare. In this situation, I chose an entire industry that employs thousands and eliminated it outright from the national scene. For Jason, that has dire implications—but it does give him that chance to finally travel abroad, albeit not to his ideal destination.
But there were also tertiary themes at play, too. Protests were a staple of 2020, and there’s a vociferous march demanding change in the book. I also wanted to showcase a reality where gangs peddle access to unemployed doctors instead of selling illicit substances, stores have disappeared from city streets, and hospitals have built-in furnaces.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
At the time I started writing Health Reformation: Murder, Medicine and Rehab in the Age of Pandemics, I was already in the finishing stages of what will now be my next book. Peace through Purpose is a Book Zero (or prequel) for my next series, a galactic epic that will provide [fictional] answers to the big questions that have always vexed us. Why are we here? What is humanity’s future? How will life on Earth end? What role will artificial intelligence play in the future?
Peace through Purpose is a collection of six tales that introduce an alien utopia before it is destroyed by an unforeseen enemy. Each enjoys a distinctive flair while also building upon a unifying foundation, with topics ranging from resettling refugees to raising a family to eradicating threats that imperil the ongoing harmony to managing planetary ecosystems. The main series will take place in the aftermath of the aforementioned apocalyptic event.
Like Health Reformation, this galaxy-spanning civilization is not perfect despite the ideals espoused by its governing authorities. Scratch beneath the agencies and the mantras, and universal peace is, as it is on Earth today, within reach but always beyond our grasp.
This prequel to the upcoming series should be available later in 2021.
Posted in Interviews
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The Stars That Govern Us follows a young surgeon who struggles with his own fallibility as many lives hang in the balance. What were some sources that informed this novels development?
When I was working on my first novel, Five Fathoms Beneath, I decided the main character’s father would be a heart surgeon. I ended up doing a lot of research into early pediatric congenital heart surgery as background for that character, but very little of that material actually made it into Five Fathoms Beneath. The story of the development heart-lung machine wouldn’t leave me alone, however. It was such an incredible achievement, and it had every element to make a great drama. I was surprised no one had tried to write a novel about it before.
I ended up settling on creating two fictional surgeons who are best friends (I think the term “bromance” applies to Alec and Pete), building them historically accurate backstories, and fitting them into what was happening in 1956 as realistically as I could.
Alec’s character was intriguing and I enjoyed how you developed him throughout the story. What were some ideals that guided his character development?
Alec is very much an #ownvoices character. An #ownvoices character is a character from a marginalized group who is written by a member of that group (in this case mental health). Characters with mental health issues are typically represented in media and literature as stereotypes — and harmful ones at that, such as those which equate mental illness with violence. With Alec, I hoped to force the reader to reconsider what, exactly, mental illness looks like. I drew heavily off my own experiences in dealing with generalized anxiety disorder and a mood disorder in writing Alec’s character. The thought helixes he experiences, and the crippling self-doubt he feels, are things I wrote from the heart. (Being an author with an anxiety disorder isn’t exactly easy.)
In terms of Alec’s arc in the story, many early cardiothoracic surgeons did leave the field, just as Alec seriously considers doing. These surgeries were incredibly dangerous and many, many children did not survive. For Alec, his inspiration to endure and continue on as a heart surgeon comes from his making peace with the fact that someone must do this work, as difficult and as painful as it is.
I enjoyed the medical drama in the story and found it very compelling. What research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate in your book?
I did a huge amount of research into the medical aspects of the story, to the point that I actually bought a cardiothoracic surgery textbook from the early 1960s to try to get a better understanding of the techniques. I probably read at least two dozen books and articles on everything from surgery to the heart-lung machine to some of the personalities who appear in passing.
Otherwise, this was a place where networking with other authors really paid off. My friend, Dr. Brandon Beaber, author of Resilience in the Face of Multiple Sclerosis, volunteered to read the manuscript for me. Although he is a neurologist not a heart surgeon, Dr. Beaber’s help was invaluable.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m in the planning stages of a novel set in 1962 that is positioned between my first book, Five Fathoms Beneath, and The Stars That Govern Us. It is designed to tie the two stories together. My working title is The Sweetness of Adversity.
Posted in Interviews
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Bill Mccausland’s Now It’s Inescapable depicts the psyche of a drug-addicted physician. Through his main character, Glen, he tells a relatable tale of how easy it is to slip into addiction, especially if you’ve lived a life full of adversity.
From the outside, Glen seems to have an incredible life. With his own practice and a beautiful wife, he appears to be the epitome of health and success, a stark contradiction to his real circumstances. As we read from chapter to chapter, his life unravels right before our eyes.
The author doesn’t depict Glen in the best of light. In many ways, he seems to be the villain of the story; reckless and unaffected by the way his addiction impacts those closest to him. On the other hand, his wife Julie is painted as the ever-supportive but highly enabling spouse. However, ultimately it is revealed that the two of them have a dangerous codependency that only births destruction. Interestingly, neither is purely evil nor purely good; each one has their own demons to fight.
This story mirrors real life by attempting to explain the complex multilayered nature of the human soul. By telling the story through the main character’s perspective, the author seems to bring us so intimately into his life. We not only see what Glen does but also why he does it and the mental process that leads to his decisions. Great details are given about all drivers of Glen’s addiction, giving us a fuller understanding of him.
However, the book contains some grammatical errors and inconsistencies that make it hard to get through this otherwise interesting story. There is also a lot of use of grandiose terms and long winded dialogues that don’t feel natural.
That aside, I do acknowledge that the author does a great job of expressing important themes through the book. The outstanding ones are the role that family dynamics play in adult dysfunction and the cyclic nature of life. Ultimately, I do believe that with a little bit of polishing, this story has the potential to be a fan favorite.
Pages: 245 | ASIN: B07GC72TTL
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