Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Year in Reading - 2015

I read 119 books in 2015, my lowest since 2010 and also the first time I've dropped below 150 (since 2010). The drop-off is largely attributed to time - simply not having enough to indulge in my favorite pastime and, wading through a higher than usual number of books that just didn't work for me. 

On the plus side I read a bunch of very entertaining books by some new and familiar authors. 

2015 also saw a change in my preferred reading medium with a pleasant return to physical books. In the past couple of years my reading has been a 50/50 split between physical and ebooks whereas this year around 80% of my reads were physical. There's just something about having a book in hand... 

I also dabbled in audiobooks for the first time earlier this year but found they didn't really 'do it' for me. 

Here are some of my top reads of 2015, as usual it's an eclectic mix (click on the link to read my review):

    

PERFIDIA by James Ellroy

THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett

CANARY by Duane Swierczynski

    

THE RING OF IKRIBU by David C. Smith (Red Sonja)

THE FAT MEXICAN by Alex Cane

ALL THE LITTLE PIECES by Jilliane Hoffman

    

ZER0ES by Chuck Wendig

BROTHER by Ania Ahlborn

BAT OUT OF HELL by Alan Gold

Happy reading! 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review: THE DIRE EARTH by Jason M. Hough

The Dire Earth: A NovellaTHE DIRE EARTH is a prequel to the Darwin series (of which I've not yet read) and tells the story of an outbreak across Earth that threatens to end mankind, turning all bar a special few (at this stage a mere handful) into zombie-like beings hellbent on killing the uninfected. 

Darwin, Australia, is the only place of refuge by virtue of a mass alien space elevator which seems to generate an invisible barrier around the city sprawl keeping those within the vicinity safe from the mysterious disease corrupting mankind. 

While the alien structure is mentioned, there's a whole lot of backstory missing as to how it got to Darwin and where the aliens are who brought it there. Also, there is little by way of rationale behind the structures ability to prevent the disease from entering Darwin. I presume these plot threads are addressed in the series proper (this novella was published in ZERO WORLD as a 'bonus' and appears after the Darwin books) but it would've benefited the novella to at least touch upon these aspects, if only in passing as part of the broader Darwin plot design.

As far as a prequel goes, THE DIRE EARTH is okay. It introduces (what I assume to be) key characters who play a part in the novels and gives them a real three dimensional feel; each feels unique and 'real' with their own motives, strengths, and sense of self. 

I've added the Darwin books to my 'watch-list' and hope to check out the first installment soon-ish to see where this is all heading. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Review: ZERO HOUR by Jason M. Hough

Think Bond mixed with sci-fi and action on steroids and you'll have a good idea what to expect in the pulse pounding outer space thriller by Jason M. Hough.

Caswell is an assassin for hire, one who has the luxury of not being haunted by his kills thanks to a unique ability that induces memory lapses directly after the completion of an assignment.

His handler, the mysterious Monique, acts the puppeteer pulling Caswell's strings. She's the Earth bound glue keeping the space roving assassin grounded. Until she isn't. Hmmm, let that marinate.

ZERO HOUR brings more complexity to the narrative than perhaps what was needed by virtue of an elaborate space build and multiple concepts of humanity and their various iterations of evolution. It's good stuff that does, however, detract from the assassin angle of which I found the most enjoyable aspect to the novel.

Caswell is a Bond-like character yet he's unique and almost robotic in the way he goes about his assignment. There's a distinct separation from personal interaction with others yet the introduction of one character in particular tests the self imposed boundary.

ZERO HOUR is a lot of fun to read and is clearly the first chapter in a series/trilogy planned in this setting. It builds a lot of the framework but doesn't provide enough closure at the end of the book to satisfy this reader. That said, I will definitely check out the next book as I need to know what happens with the threads that were left dangling at the end of ZERO HOUR.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: Random Books I'd Like To Reread

Title says it all. Here are some of the books I've been thinking about delving back into. As usual, my eclectic taste in fiction is key to the selections. 

Fireproof  The Almost Girl (The Almost Girl, #1)

Beautiful, Naked & Dead  Fun & Games (Charlie Hardie, #1)

Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1)  Blood of Paradise

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Book That Doesn't Reach Expectations

Sometimes the premise is better than the execution. Whilst the plot may be entertaining, there is a little something left to be desired, something that is just a little off the mark of pushing a book from simply readable and good to greatness; of being one of those rare five star reads that warrant re-reads. 

I've read a few of these kinds of books but the most recent, THE LONELIEST by Stacey Cochran holds true to the above, perhaps more so than others - irrespective of this being the most recent read to fall into the grey category. 

THE LONELIEST is a-grade horror encapsulating all the elements expected from the genre yet falls short by way of some amateurish-like writing (easy for someone who can't write a novel to say I know) in the early stages only for the writing to improve and the characters personalities to shine through, however, this being too late in the piece to redeem some questionable dialogue turn of phrase. 

THE LONELIEST is a blend of Stephen King and Scott Nicholson, which, conceptually plays out perfectly - the writing style, particularly early on is what stops this book from progressing further from an average read. 

The complexity inbuilt into the story is highly enjoyable and maintains a question mark over the central characters state of mind whilst inducing bone chilling moments of unadulterated horror which really could've taken this novel places. 

Almost there - but it just missed the mark for me unfortunately. Equal parts praise and castigation.     

Review: BAT OUT OF HELL by Alan Gold

Bat out of Hell: An Eco-ThrillerWow - simply wow. I loved this book. When I read the blurb of BAT OUT OF HELL being an Eco-Thriller, I wasn't sure what I was going to get - something that would lead to an extension level event, something that would morph into a walking-dead like survival horror? BAT OUT OF HELL could've turned into anything and I'm sure, author Alan Gold would've done a great job irrespective f the plot direction. 

From the blistering opening stanza of death, decay and mystery I was hooked. And then the tact turn different - the narrative pulled and pushed into new directions that weren't at all what I had expected - in a good way. 

BAT OUT OF HELL follows the unconventional path of politics, human activists, Hollywood, and vigilantes to drive a plot centered around a colony of bats responsible for spreading a seemingly incurable disease across the world (in this instance, the spread is more isolated to contained pockets rather than all out black death).  Sounds a little too real doesn't it? Which is what makes this book so plausible and more menacing. 

The writing is crisp and the dialogue captures the uniqueness of each character - be it the President of the United States in Nat Thomas or scientist Debra Hart (the two lead characters). Not to mention, that ending - one of the best I've had the pleasure of reading.

Review: THE AMERICAN by Nadia Dalbuono

The AmericanFrom the back of the book
Detective Leone Scamarcio is called to an apparent suicide on the Ponte Sant Angelo, a stone’s throw from Vatican City. A man is hanging from the bridge, his expensive suit suggesting yet another businessman fallen on hard times. But Scamarcio is immediately troubled by similarities with the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, dubbed ‘God’s Banker’ because of his work for the Vatican Bank.

My review
The second book to feature the Italian detective Scamarcio builds upon the dark nature of the character touched upon in THE FEW; the clean cop who wants justice, yet one who is willing to venture into the badlands of the other side of the law to get it. His close association with a prominent underworld figure is key as Scamarcio fights politics, corruption, and religion to solve two murders. 

THE AMERICAN is a crime mystery swathed in unpredictability. Author Nadia Dalbuono never lets the reader get too comfortable as motives, corruption, and lies move like the undercurrents of a murky river camouflaging the truth. 

I love reading international crime fiction and THE AMERICAN provides a nice avenue for adventure into other parts of the world; a mechanism to explore, if only from a birds eye view the procedural aspects which intertwine fact with fiction to formulate a complex narrative that is as readable as it is believable across different continents. 

THE AMERICAN is a well paced book that outshines its predecessor, THE FEW, and has an explosive ending that is sure to send ripples throughout the later books in the series. I really liked this one. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Review: RESURRECTION BAY by Emma Viskic

Resurrection BayCaleb's world is turned on its head following the gruesome discovery of his friend (and policeman) Greg's dead body at a murder scene. His last contact with the deceased, a text message asking for help and the mention of the mysterious 'Scott'; an name which bares no meaning to Caleb. 

Enlisting the services of close friend Frankie, the two set off to catch a killer. However, the police, just as much as those directly responsible for the original murder prove a constant hurdle. Further complicating matters is Caleb's deafness, which in itself make daily interactions difficult despite his well established lip reading and communication abilities.

Caleb's employment is a little ambiguous with the author not defining the circumstances behind Greg's death and the corresponding moonlighting he'd been doing for Caleb's company. Was it a detective firm, onsite security or some thing else all together? Perhaps I just missed it. 

Frankie is a character who just didn't work for me; a 57yr old former cop with a drinking and drug habit who also has a shady secret. She's at one point described as passing for a 16yr old then later likened to Caleb's mother. Inconsistency that dims the definitive descriptive nature of the character.

I'm still not sure why Caleb's ex wife is put at risk either, a beautiful Aboriginal woman named Kat. Having had no direct involvement in the cigarettes heist / murder shes plays a pivotal role towards the end of the book without clear cause. Despite this, the ending was action packed flowed at a frenetic pace.

This had the makings of a good book but it just didn't work for me. RESURRECTION BAY has a blistering opening and a great ending so all is not lost.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Review: FOUR DAYS by Iain Ryan

Four DaysFrom the back of the book
BRISBANE, 1984. Jim Harris is a hard-drinking Australian detective on his way to a nervous breakdown. Every day, he works alongside corrupt cops and dangerous crooks. That is, until a brutal murder case unravels his career, bringing past indiscretions to light. Alone, afraid, and out of control, Harris makes a pact with himself: Four days to locate the killer. Four days to take revenge. Four days to find redemption

My review
A dark and brooding noir which cuts a bloody trail across the streets of Brisbane and Cains in the 1980's. Corruption runs rampant and self destruction is a given as the characters of FOUR DAYS battle criminals, comrades and their own inner demons. 

Buried beneath the underworld facade is the murder of a prostitute and the disappearance of a policeman begging to be solved and a lone detectives determination to issue justice. Complimenting the core story is Detective Jim Harris' background, misguided love interest and strange family relations which provides readers with a nice side bar to the main event.  

FOUR DAYS is a quick read and easily consumable in a single sitting. A nice addition to the growing catalog of dark Australian crime fiction. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ed McBain's Matt Cordell Private Eye

So Nude, So DeadFormer Private Eye Matt Cordell is wasting away in a bar when he's approached by a man seeking help for his drug addicted son so he can get the care needs. No sooner had Cordell rebuffed the case offer than the man is gunned down in that very bar. 

Professional curiosity leads Cordell to flip through the dead mans pockets and identify him as D'Allessio. Not one to let murder stand idle, Cordell conducts his own manhunt to find the son and perhaps, the killer - could they be one in the same? 

The story DIE HARD is published in the back of SO NUDE, SO DEAD (2015, Hardcase Crime) and is a quick-fire PI novelette that provides action, sex, murder, and violence all wrapped up in a nice twist that reads like a complete story. 

The Gutter and the Grave (Hard Case Crime #15)Naturally the novelette got me wanting to read a longer form of fiction featuring McBain's PI, in THE GUTTER AND THE GRAVE (2005, Hardcase Crime). This is the second time I've read the book, and, like most re-reads I found it just as, if not, more enjoyable the second time round. 

Reluctantly involved in a murder mystery, the perennial drunk PI Matt Cordell finds himself front and center of a traditional dime-store pulp. With dames throwing themselves at him and cops throwing fists, Cordell catches nothing but trouble in this fast paced case. 

Ed McBain builds a lot of back story into Cordell's failed relationship, run in with the law to provide context to his present day predicament all the while keeping the focus of the novel clearly on the whodunit theme and the quest to clear his friend's name.

There's a lot of back and forth switching between suspects until the twist reveals all providing a satisfying ending that makes this pulp ode surprisingly deep. 

THE GUTTER IN THE GRAVE is the only full length novel to feature the PI, however there are a few short stories from the 1950's floating around (DIE HARD mentioned above being one of those).    

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Trade Paperback Tuesday: BOOK OF DEATH

The Book of DeathTrade paperback Tuesday is an initiative of Previews World, a comics and associated paraphernalia magazine/catalog/online news resource which promotes the hottest trade paperbacks newly collected and published in the comic book industry. I'm borrowing the theme to focus on regular reviews of my favorite trades and/or comic story arcs.  

Title: BOOK OF DEATH
Writer: Robert Venditti
Artist: Robert Gill, Doug Braithwaite 
Published: 2015 (singles) / 2016 (trade publication)
Contains: Book of Death (mini-series) #1-4

About
The Valiant heroes. X-O Manowar. Bloodshot. Ninjak. The Harbinger Renegades. Unity. This is how they lived. This is how they died. Now we know. The Book of the Geomancer has recorded it all. But only a young girl the last in a line of the enigmatic mystics who protect the Earth known as Geomancers has seen this future come to pass, from the coming cataclysm to the dawn of the 41st century. Alone with her sworn protector, the Eternal Warrior a soldier battle-forged across five thousand years of combat the duo must defy their allies to stop the Dark Age that now threatens to eclipse our world. Together, they are the number one target of every hero and villain on Earth. Either the Eternal Warrior hands her over or they take him down. But can even he single-handedly protect one child when the entire Valiant Universe wages war against him?

My thoughts
Reading this story in monthly increments doesn't do it justice (the trade isn't out until next year) - the pace seemed off and the middle issues (#2 and #3) felt like set-up issues rather than crucial center pieces to the Darque/Geomancer conflict. However, read in a single sitting the Book of Death's pacing, plotting, and overall feel of is so much more enjoyable.

The reader gets a true sense of the impending doom, death and destruction the world over is to experience should Darque not be stopped. Standing in his way is the Eternal Warrior, protector of the Geomancers throughout time, and Tama, the Geomancer from the future. 

Despite all the ripples of time and outcomes of the Valiant heroes glimpsed in these beautifully drawn pages by Robert Gill/Doug Braithwaite, Book of Death is Tama's story, plotting her growth from a timid and semi vulnerable girl to someone brimming with confidence and a true protector/speaker of Earth. The title may center around death yet it's life that prevails as the story reaches its satisfying conclusion. 

There are a number of enjoyable cameo's too with Punk Mambo's brief appearance in #3 and #4 a perfect set up for the upcoming Ninjak arc (Operation Deadside). While Unity don't get actively involved in the Darque conflict, their battle with the Eternal Warrior is crucial to the outcome of the book and paves the way for the future look of the team (The Unity ongoing title ends at #25 and I hope we see more of Valiant's answer to the Justice League/Avengers).

Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects to Book of Death is the subtle shift in the Eternal Warrior's character, from being pure brawn to battling with heart and emotion. Each battle is full of tension with the outcome hinging on his selflessness and genuine desire to be the protector of the Earth. 

Book of Death reads as though it was written for trade and that's he way it should be read to fully appreciate what this creative team have come up with. I'd rate this a solid 4.5 out of 5 - Valiant sure know how to write 'event books'.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: SO NUDE, SO DEAD by Ed McBain

So Nude, So DeadEd McBain's debut novel is a fun, quasi PI read.

Ray Stone is an addict. A former pianist who has succumbed to his vice. It's while indulging in this deadly habit that he finds himself chief suspect in the murder of young nightclub singer Eileen; the naked blonde who was dead his dead with two bullet holes in her belly.

In order to clear his name, Ray conducts his own drug addled investigation to prove his innocence and find the murderer. As his dependency for his drug of choice dissipates his clarity increases. The pieces of the puzzle form to display a portrait of an unsuspecting murderer.

I really liked this book. The different take on the PI theme is refreshing (despite being originally published well over 50yrs ago) and Ray is a likable protagonist despite his addiction. The pacing is quick and straight to the point and the characters leap off the page. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Catching Up: NICK'S TRIP by George Pelecanos

Nick's TripNICK'S TRIP is a booze soaked road trip into the underbelly of greed and deceit. What looks to be a simple enough missing persons case turns complex when Nick's high school friend casually omits portions of the truth to travel with Nick down memory lane, all the while building lies and laying the foundation for murder. 

Unlike A FIRING OFFENCE, Nick Stefanos is a fully fledged PI working in a bar to supplement his chosen career. This allows him to pick and choose his caseload. So when an old high school buddy shows up asking for help to track down his missing wife, Nick agrees. 

The story largely centers around locating the missing wife, but is peppered with chunks of another case - the murder of one of Nick's friends. This additional case proved a little distracting at times and didn't seem like it was needed with the core case enough to sustain an entertaining narrative.

Other reviews liken the Stefanos books to James Crumley in style and I'd have to agree. The later books by George Pelecanos are much better but NICK'S TRIP is still worth a read.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Catching Up: A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE by Lawrence Block

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse (Matthew Scudder #9)From the back of the book
The police can’t prove that socialite Richard Thurman arranged the rape, torture and murder of his beautiful, pregnant wife. The dead woman’s brother thinks Matt Scudder can.
During his ongoing battle with the bottle, ex-cop, ex-boozer Scudder left a little bit of his soul on every seedy corner of the Big Apple. But this case will drag him deeper into the mire than he’s ever been before – launching him on a lethal tour of New York’s ‘snuff’ film, sex-for-sale underworld…where an innocent young life is a commodity to be bought, perverted and ultimately destroyed.

My review
The world is an unforgiving place and for Matt Scudder, it's the very bottom of humanities pecking order that helps him ply his trade. Wallowing in the pits of despair, reformed alcoholic and ex-cop Scudder gets knee deep in the criminal underworld of exploration, false promises, and broken dreams as he tries to solve a rape and murder of which the key suspect is the victim's husband. The case leads him down a dark rabbit hole that shines a light on the snuff film trade.  

Lawrence Block doesn't deviate from the dastardly nature of the disturbed mind, coupling rape and murder, snuff films and corruption into a noir soaked story that is nothing short of addictive.

Despite being a private eye book at it's core, A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE does read as a traditional police procedural, such is the Q&A platform. The dark nature of the plot instills a truer sense of noir which differentiates it from the sub crime genre.

A DANCE AT THE SLAUGHTER HOUSE reads well as a standalone (I read the first 3 series books some time ago, this being book 9) and is new reader friendly, something I look for when wanting to give a series a try. 

I highly recommend picking this one up, irrespective if you're familiar with the character.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Catching Up: OUT OF SIGHT by Elmore Leonard

Out of SightForbidden romance, a prison break, necessary violence, and a score too big to ignore – Jack Foley, a career bank robber has his hands full in Elmore Leonard’s OUT OF SIGHT.

On the run following a successful prison break, Foley, dressed as a guard runs into US Marshal Karen Sicsco just as he breathes the faint scent of freedom. In no time Karen’s bounded up in the truck with Foley as his getaway driver makes for greener pastures. The two get to talking and an instant rapport is formed that plays out as the novel progresses – even after the two are separated by circumstances both of which they control their connection is continually referenced and forms a large part of the broader plot mechanics.

Like any novel written by Elmore Leonard, the dialogue is crisp, clever and straight to the point – you won’t find any filler content in OUT OF SIGHT. The plot is multifaceted; from the original prison break to the two robberies that play out leading to Karen and Foley’s reunion – a lot happens but it’s written in such a way as the reader doesn’t get lost in the different perspectives. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Returning to the scene of the crime: LEMONS NEVER LIE

Lemons Never Lie (Alan Grofield, #4)From the back of the book
When he's not pulling heists with his friend Parker, Alan Grofield runs a small theatre in Indiana. But putting on shows costs money and jobs have been thin, which is why Grofield agrees to listen to Andrew Myers' plan to knock over a brewery. Unfortunately, Myer's plan is insane - so Grofield walks out on him. And you don't walk out on Myers...

My review
This is the fourth novel to feature thief Alan Grofield in his own series (he makes a couple of appearances in Starks' more well known Parker books) and the first Richard Stark novel to be published by Hardcase Crime. 

For a relatively short novel Stark packed a lot of punch into this one. The story evolves from a failed attempt to lure Grofield into a shady snatch and grab planned by inexperienced and unprofessional crooks. Little did Grofield know that his very public stance by walking out on the deal would lead to him dodging bullets as well as throwing his own in turn.

LEMONS NEVER LIE is very enjoyable and easily readable for both Parker/Gorfield newcomers and those who are well read in either series.

This was my second time reading LEMONS NEVER LIE.   

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trade Paperback Tuesday: BLOODSHOT REBORN VOL.1

Bloodshot Reborn, Vol 1: ColoradoTrade paperback Tuesday is an initiative of Previews World, a comics and associated paraphernalia magazine/catalog/online news resource which promotes the hottest trade paperbacks newly collected and published in the comic book industry. I'm borrowing the theme to focus on regular reviews of my favorite trades and/or comic story arcs.  
Title: COLORADO
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Mico Suayan (#1-4), Raul Allen (#5)
Published: 2015
Contains: Bloodshot Reborn #1-5

About
Bloodshot’s nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit — a private contractor trafficking in violence — very well. Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self-imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving head-long into the violence that nearly destroyed him.

My thoughts
(review of collected issues) BLOODSHOT REBORN shows just how good a series reboot can be whilst still maintaining a solid semblance of character continuity. 

The opening issue of COLORADO sets the tone for an all new yet familiar hero who claims he's anything but while also introducing Bloodsquirt and Kay as unconventional sidekicks of sorts. Bloodsquirt adds a creepy comedic spin to Bloodshot's typically violent sojourn throughout the Valiant universe, while Kay, the late Geomancer who died fighting the Immortal Enemy in THE VALIANT serves as a reminder to Bloodshot aka Ray Garrison of what he's lost and the broken path of self destruction that's led him to a sleazy hotel in the middle of nowhere. 

The middle issues (#2-3) don't do much to progress the story, rather showcasing the violent and brutal side of Bloodshot that readers have come to expect - albeit a slightly skewed take with Project Rising Spirit replica Bloodshots causing murder and mayhem across the US. It's a natural way to progress Bloodshot, as a character from being more than a mortal man to the evolution of the killing machine he's destined to return to. 

Agent Festival is a nice addition in the middle of the story arc and adds another dimension that's been strangely absent throughout a lot of the Valiant books - providing a law enforcement element focused on tracking down the 'red circle killer'. 

Issue #4 introduces Magic, a little know character who looks set for a big role not just in Bloodshot Reborn but possibly the broader Valiant universe. The narrative teases her influence though the reader only catches a glimpse of her as a damsel in distress of sorts. 

Mico Suayan's art on issues #1-4 is flawless and took me back to the first Bloodshot (2012) iteration written by Duane Swierczynski. 

Rounding out the arc is the Bloodsquirt feature issue that is a nice change of pace and is a little psychedelic as the Bloodshot is thrust into the world of BloodSquirt. I really liked this more having reread it as part of reading the arc in its entirety. The art here deserves special attention, Raul Allen does a great job at inking a definitive look and feel to the change of pace intermission. 
   
COLORADO is a point of no return for Bloodshot, a very enjoyable introduction to a new path that pays tribute to what's come before and teases the future.

While COLORADO can easily be read without having prior knowledge of the character below are some comics which add that little bit extra and make COLORADO all the more enjoyable: 

    

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey. In order to get some consistency to my posting I thought I’d jump on board this great idea. As a self-proclaimed bookaholic, I love talking about my books and finding out what others are reading.


Here's my picks for this week:


Bloodshot Reborn, Vol 1: ColoradoBLOODSHOT REBORN: COLORADO by  Jeff Lemire (re-read for Trade Paperback Tuesday post. Originally read as collected issues #1-5)

Bloodshot’s nanites made him a nearly unstoppable killing machine. His enhanced strength, speed, endurance, and healing made him the perfect weapon, and he served his masters at Project Rising Spirit — a private contractor trafficking in violence — very well. Now, Bloodshot is a shadow of his former self. He lives in self-imposed exile, reeling from the consequences of his past life and the recent events that nearly drove him mad. But when a rash of shootings by gunmen who appear to look just like Bloodshot begin, his guilt will send him on a mission to stop the killers, even if it means diving head-long into the violence that nearly destroyed him.

Lemons Never Lie (Alan Grofield, #4)LEMONS NEVER LIE by Richard Stark (re-read)

When he's not pulling heists with his friend Parker, Alan Grofield runs a small theatre in Indiana. But putting on shows costs money and jobs have been thin, which is why Grofield agrees to listen to Andrew Myers' plan to knock over a brewery. Unfortunately, Myer's plan is insane - so Grofield walks out on him. And you don't walk out on Myers...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: GATOR BAIT by Adam Howe

Gator BaitSmitty is a womanizer, piano player and opportunist who finds himself faced with a score too good to pass up; a dame to kill for, and bucket load of cash to run away with. The only thing standing in his way? The husband and owner of said cash, not to mention the monstrous gator lurking in the swap surrounding the Grinnin' Gator - the hotel/bar Smitty works (which is also owned by Croker - said dames husband). 

GATOR BAIT is a delicious dip into debauchery; a swamp pulp that perfects the prohibition period setting, playing homage to the pulps of yesterday. 

Smitty is a character that you either love or hate. His actions are brass and not without consequence yet you almost feel like he's the one being played - a puppet to his very own perversions taken advantage of by Croker's wife, Grace who knows how to get what she wants or make others get it for her.

GATOR BAIT is a fast paced read that doesn't waste a word exploiting the plot for all its worth and then some. 

Fans of Gill Brewer and Elmore Leonard will spot the similarities in dialogue and character and enjoy every bite sized chunk of GATOR BAIT. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review: BROTHER by Ania Ahlborn

BrotherMichael Morrow is a displaced young man living a macabre life of murder and cannibalism. Having been kidnapped as a child, Michael grew up in a secluded family home that lived off the land - their game meat being unsuspecting travelers, junkies, and loners who would be little missed by those who know them. His mother, father, sister and brother all in on the family killing desensitized him, making murder a normal and accepted practice. He was forced to act on impulse and under the guidance of his 'loved ones'. 

Then came Alice, a record store clerk who immediately struck a chord with Michael's heartstrings. She was someone he could see a future with, a future that left behind the murder and mayhem he'd known so freely all his life. But Rebel, Michael's twisted and sadistic 'brother' had other plans. Plans that would turn Michael's life and everything he thought he knew on its head.

BROTHER is a great book. Author Ania Ahlborn's characters are emotionally deep and equally terrifying - she makes you care for Michael even though you know he's committed horrific acts of murder and dismemberment. Rebel is just plain bad - the personification of nightmares - a pitch black darkness to Michael's drab gray light. Reader beware, BROTHER is not for the faint of heart. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Trade Paperback Tuesday: RED CITY

Red CityTrade paperback Tuesday is an initiative of Previews World, a comics and associated paraphernalia magazine/catalog/online news resource which promotes the hottest trade paperbacks newly collected and published in the comic book industry. I'm borrowing the theme to focus on regular reviews of my favorite trades and/or comic story arcs.  

Title: RED CITY
Writer: Daniel Corey
Artist: Mark Dos Santos (#1-2), Anthony Diecidue (#3-4)
Published: 2014
Contains: Red City #1-4

About

In the wake of a system-wide civil war, hard-nosed interplanetary investigator Cal Talmage is given a simple mission to find a missing ambassador s daughter in Mars Central, aka RED CITY. The routine case quickly complicates as Cal finds himself in the midst of rival alien mobs, street vendettas and political conspiracies. He struggles with personal demons as he discovers that another war is brewing, and the lives of an entire race hang in the balance.

My thoughts
(review of collected issues) RED CITY is a cool concept let down by the complexity of characters and conflicting plot threads all vying for a slice of the readers attention. There is just too much going on too soon with the chief pitfall of RED CITY being the decision to cram, what actually is, a very interesting story into a 4 issue arc. 

The plot revolves around Cal Talmage, a former Mars PD Officer and decorated war veteran who has fallen from grace and is now seen as an expendable solution to a budding political problem between the Mercurians and the Neptunians. He's tasked with tracking down Talia Jalen, missing daughter of Ambassador Jalen and pivotal spokesperson for the Mercury / Neptune peace treaty. Sound the dime-store PI routine.

Cal's diagonal is pure pulp and Angel, his sexy sidekick is the femme fatale stereotype true to form in pulp/PI novels. The chemistry between the two didn't leap off the page despite some good but fleeting moments. As for the broader cast - each individual issue provided a run down of the key players which certainly helped but it was still too difficult to get into a story where there are many rival factions both political and military as well as underworld organisations all vying for the readers attention in a 4 issue story arc. Again - a great premise, just executed too quickly. 

The art from #1 and #2 are great and compliment the story nicely. Cal, Angel and the supporting cast are drawn well while the backgrounds are detailed and make the reader feel like they are on another planet. Anthony Diecidue tool over for #3 and #4 and it just didn't work. Each panel lacked background, preferring to focus on the character which is okay but too big a switch from the opening 2 issues. 

I've read RED CITY a couple of times now because I like where writer Daniel Corey was going with this, unfortunately the compressed storytelling and almost too easy path to Talia let down what could've been a very good read. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


This is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey. In order to get some consistency to my posting I thought I’d jump on board this great idea. As a self-proclaimed bookaholic, I love talking about my books and finding out what others are reading.


Here's my picks for this week:

Gator BaitGATOR BAIT by Adam Howe

Prohibition-era 1930s… After an affair with the wrong man's wife, seedy piano player Smitty Three Fingers flees the city and finds himself tinkling the ivories at a Louisiana honky-tonk owned by vicious bootlegger Horace Croker and his trophy wife, Grace. Folks come to The Grinnin' Gator for the liquor and burlesque girls, but they keep coming back for Big George, the giant alligator Croker keeps in the pond out back. Croker is rumored to have fed ex-wives and enemies to his pet, so when Smitty and Grace embark on a torrid affair…what could possibly go wrong? Inspired by true events, Gator Bait mixes hardboiled crime (James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice) with creature horror (Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive) to create a riveting tale of suspense. 

BrotherBROTHER by Ania Ahlborn

Deep in the heart of Appalachia stands a crooked farmhouse miles from any road. The Morrows keep to themselves, and it’s served them well so far. When girls go missing off the side of the highway, the cops don’t knock on their door. Which is a good thing, seeing as to what’s buried in the Morrows’ backyard.

But nineteen-year-old Michael Morrow isn’t like the rest of his family. He doesn’t take pleasure in the screams that echo through the trees. Michael pines for normalcy, and he’s sure that someday he’ll see the world beyond West Virginia. When he meets Alice, a pretty girl working at a record shop in the small nearby town of Dahlia, he’s immediately smitten. For a moment, he nearly forgets about the monster he’s become. But his brother, Rebel, is all too eager to remind Michael of his place.


Review: THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS by Lesley Conner

The Weight of Chains
Murderous acts hidden in smoke and mirrors provides a foundation of lies for a brutal truth that shrouds the populace of Machecoul, a small town where boys never grow old. 

Gilles de Rais is an eccentric living in a old castle that casts a very deadly shadow over Machecoul, only the residents don't know it. Seen more as a martyr than murderer, Rais kidnaps the youth and turns them into his playthings until their last breath escapes their tormented corpse, for once he's decided to indulge his lust, the unfortunate are already dead. All the while, the parents of these children are led to believe the disappearance is as result of them being shipped off to gain an education and a chance at a better life. 

If I were to compare the writing I'd liken author Lesley Conner to Laura Benedict (who also writes atmospheric character driven horror stories). The unique place-setting and depth the each character make for an entertaining yet cringe-worthy read as Rais' terrors are realized in the fullest. 

THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS is a classic character driven horror that compliments the gore with clever storytelling and a slow and steady plot which builds tension as the story progresses towards a blood thirsty finish. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Monthly Reader Statistics: SEPTEMBER 2015


Best Reads of September:

A Crucible of Souls (Sorcery Ascendant Sequence #1)  Zer0es (Zer0es, #1)  Hellhole Inferno

A CRUCIBLE OF SOULS by Mitchell Hogan

ZER0ES by Chuck Wendig

HELLHOLE INFERNO by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

- - - - - 

Monthly Reads (books completed reading): 8

Re-reads: 0
Review books: 4
Audio books: 0
*Just 'cos reads: 4
Kindle: 2
2015 published: 6


Year To Date Reads: 97

Re-reads: 11
Review books: 41
Audio books: 3
*Just ‘cos reads: 41
Kindle: 23
2015 published: 37

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Review: STAR WARS AFTERMATH by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
STAR WARS AFTERMATH manages to blend elements from Rebels, the original trilogy, as well as instilling a new trilogy feel to it - quite a feat to incorporate the full breadth of Star Wars into a single novel. 

The end result? A mix mash of fan favorite feel that readies the reader for the journey to The Force Awakens. 

AFTERMATH centers around a rag tag group characters new to the extended universe cannon. Initially this didn't work for me. I wanted a Stars Wars book that showed me what Luke, Han etc had been up to since Episode VI. However, once I got to know these characters I really started to enjoy the book.

The new characters in Rebel pilot Norra, reconditioned battle droid Mister Bones, Norra's son and all-round tinkerer Temmin, ex-Imperial Loyalty Officer Sinjir, and assassin for hire Jas all get sufficient page time to make the reader form an impression and care for them.

The plot, despite the many and varied elements, is essentially about the Empire's struggle to regain a shade of its former glory in the confusion and disassociation of ranks following the loss of Vader, the Death Star and a number of high ranking officials. Enter Rae Sloane, Admiral in the Empire and chief antagonist who has a special something about her. She's brought together the last few serious contenders to the Empire's throne to form a united front in the battle to reclaim the Empire's stranglehold on the universe. On a little known plant this gathering should go un-noticed - yet it's not. 


The interludes teased a broader story across the universe focusing on some well known and not so well known characters/place-settings, however these bite size chunks of story were side sub plots rather than essential companion pieces to the AFTERMATH plot (in terms of the characters this novel showcases). Despite this, there was synergy with the epic star wars story in that everything centers around the aftermath (as per the aptly named title of the book) of the Death Star's destruction. Author Chuck Wendig showcases political, military, and social elements to the aftermath via these snippets while also teasing some brief cameos of well known characters (notably Han Solo and Chewie).  

Some well known ancillary characters from the movies have prominent roles in AFTERMATH, notability Wedge Antillies - the rebel pilot on a solo mission who stumbles across a secret meeting of Empire elites (or what constitutes 'elites' in the wake of the Death Star's destruction) on outer rim planet Akiva. And Admiral Ackbar who is head of military operations for the Rebel Alliance. Both pictured below:





Side note (Cannon EU): I'm also reading THE SHATTERED EMPIRE (a mini series of 4 comics set in the same period as AFTERMATH) and had hoped to see these two reads linked but, timeline aside, they are distinct reads from one another (as of #1). 

Rae Sloane features in A NEW DAWN (the prequel novel to the Star Wars Rebels TV series), given she was one of my favorite characters in AFTERMATH, I'll be bumping A NEW DAWN up the tbr list. 

Final thought: Whilst not what I was expecting and certainly not as enjoyable as the Thrawn Trilogy, AFTERMATH is a solid entry into the new Star Wars cannon.