Friday, May 29, 2015

Catching-up: WALTZ OF SHADOWS by Joe R. Lansdale

Waltz of ShadowsSadistic killers, a misguided young man, and a whole lot of murder amount to an entertaining read from Joe R. Lansdale. 

WALTZ OF SHADOWS should come with a graphic content warning - the images this book conveys through explicit and clever writing are heinous to say the least; the book of the dead, those unfortunate characters who are immortalized in gruesome detail via Polaroid invoke the darkest aspect to the mad - and that's exactly what a couple of unassuming characters (as least one is unassuming at the beginning of the book) are: madmen with a murderous appetite. 

After joining the Disaster Club, Billy, finds himself involved in humorous stunts that push the boundaries including fornicating in front of a group of people while tired to a train track, kidnapping, and general risky shenanigans. It's the kidnapping caper that unleashes the violence that turns Billy's world on its head. Gone are the laughs and dangerous stunts, replaced by cops and killers alike all looking to nab him. 

As the novel progresses WALTZ OF SHADOWS changes direction rather than evolves. By that I mean the earlier aspects, compared to the later stages of the book have a rather separate focus; switching from Billy and the Disaster Club to his uncle and the tracking of a killer. 

WALTZ OF SHADOWS is a pretty good read if your tastes lean toward the darker and more violent side of fiction. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Re-Read: THE LAST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins

The Last Quarry (Quarry #7)THE LAST QUARRY sees series protagonist Quarry take on one last assignment, one that he falls into by way of professional curiosity. Having spotted a rival mob guy at a store, Quarry follows him back to his place of residence only to discover a damsel in distress - a kidnapped young woman, naked and tied-up to prevent her escape. 

After taking care of the mob guys, and having returned the young woman to her wealthy father, Quarry is asked to take on one last assignment.

Quarry's latest target is a curvy and unassuming librarian. The reason for the murder contract isn't made clear early but delivers a delicious twist in the later stages of the novel.

Not one to shy away from the opposite sex, Quarry, during a routine follow op blows his cover by coming to the aid of his target when her abusive boyfriend makes a very public scene at a local watering hole. It's at this point the novel takes a turn and evolves into a more complex crime novel with motives and mystery at the forefront. 

THE LAST QUARRY packs a hell of a punch, more impressive given the small page count. I love books that are fast paced, full of character and are concise; THE LAST QUARRY delivers on all fronts. 

Hardcase Crime are reprinting the earlier Quarry books, you can read my blog post about them HERE

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Re-reading Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: PRODIGAL SON (book #1)

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)I've now read PRODIGAL SON three times since it was published in 2005 and despite my continued literary journey, exploring new genres, themes, authors, and series since that first read, PRODIGAL SON still works for me some ten years later*. 

Dean Koontz's Frankenstein series builds upon the classic book by Mary Shelley, using both Frankenstein and his monster as near immortals who each have lived in plain view of the public yet are hidden by the fictitious account of their evolution in the original book. As to not discard the concept, rather enhance and modernize it, the characters transition into a new landscape. Koontz maintains a thread of continuity while writing a new and fantastical setting for the monster and his creator. 

PRODIGAL SON is a blend of horror, police procedural, and thriller and serves as a great introduction to a diverse cast of characters. 

The plot largely revolves around a serial killer who takes parts of his victims and then evolves into a gruesome horror story with abominations walking the earth with strange abilities.

There really is no good verses evil typecasting in PRODIGAL SON as Koontz (and Kevin J. Anderson as co-author) establish the key players, each with their own motivations; just some more murderous than others.    

PRODIGAL SON is a quick read (something that I've found during all three reads) and really establishes this new take on Frankenstein quite well. Don't expect the same story as Mary Shelley, this series is new and follows a rather different path. 

Much like Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series, I intend to re-read all the books in this series (excluding the graphic novels). Next up will be CITY OF NIGHT. 

*my reading habits ten years ago didn't constitute the vast sum of books I read now and were limited to mainstream crime fiction and the odd horror for diversity. I'd read in the vicinity of 20-30 books a year, whereas now, I'm likely to read between 150-180. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Catching-up: COMPLEX 90 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Mike Hammer: Complex 90Despite being a direct sequel to THE GIRL HUNTERS (a book I've moved to the top of my tbr now), COMPLEX 90 reads well as a standalone and does deviate a little from the traditional Mike Hammer PI novels earlier published by Spillane. 

COMPLEX 90, at times reads like a hard man's James Bond, in a good way. Mike Hammer, no longer just a PI in New York has been assigned a high security clearance by one of the secretive US alphabet agencies giving him immediate access to classified documents and personnel, it also puts him in the cross-hairs of international espionage and danger. 

Assigned as a body guard following the untimely death of his predecessor, Hammer accompanies an American politician to Moscow. It is there he is kidnapped by the KGB and has to fight he way back to US soil. 

COMPLEX 90 then establishes the continuity link with THE GIRL HUNTERS with enemies being revisited and themes from the previous book re-established. However, there is a little more spice to COMPLEX 90, with the mysterious namesake drug coming into play.   

Complex 90 is a medical breakthrough of sorts, one that has the potential to protect astronauts in space from contracting earth born viruses. The Americans want it for themselves, while the Russians, via the KGB are doing everything in their power to gain access to it. Hammer finds himself in the middle of this tug of war and in traditional Hammer fashion, lets the fists fly just as readily as the bullets from his cannon. 

COMPLEX 90 is a multi layered Mike Hammer novel that ties diverse elements together to form a well rounded and enjoyable tale featuring one of the best fictional characters written. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: REDBONE by Matt Phillips

25530357Calvin G. Redbone lives in a trailer park, works a steady job, and has a small group of friends. He's also got a baseball bat - which happens to be the tool of choice for Redbone's one way ticket to self destruction.

When his closest friend Mister is found dead in his trailer. Redbone can't accept the cause as suicide; Mister had to have been forced to eat his gun and Redbone is determined to prove the police wrong.

Enter Mister's estranged son looking to cash in on Mister's death, an out-of-town real estate developer with plans to build a mall on land Mister may or may not have owned (there is some debate about this), and Redbone's own boss who has ties to the out-of-town developer. Forming a connection of coincidences, Redbone sniffs a conspiracy and sets out to cause casualties.

The linear plot follows the main character in Redbone with little deviation from his grief stricken madness. He losses everything, interacts with some peripheral characters and causes mayhem. I kept waiting for a killing spree or some twisted turn that would compliment Redbone's state of mind, however the additional content, despite being teased (the land ownership and Redbone's boss's gambling problems to name a few) didn't come to fruition. Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy the book, I did, I just think it would've benefited from having more depth to compliment the plot. 

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 are my picks for this week:


Mike Hammer: Complex 90COMPLEX 90 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (book #19 in the Mike Hammer series)

Hammer accompanies a conservative politician to Moscow on a fact-finding mission. Arrested and imprisoned by the KGB on a bogus charge; he quickly escapes, creating an international incident by getting into a fire fight with Russian agents.

On his stateside return, the government is none too happy with Hammer. Russia is insisting upon his return to stand charges, and various government agencies are following him. A question dogs our hero: why him? Why does Russia want him back, and why was he singled out to accompany the senator to Russia in the first place?


The Last Quarry (Quarry #7)THE LAST QUARRY by Max Allan Collins (perhaps my favorite of the Quarry novels. This book continues my re-reading of some of my favorite books in my collection.)

The ruthless professional killer known as Quarry long ago disappeared into a well-earned retirement. But now a media magnate has lured the restless hitman into tackling one last lucrative assignment. The target is an unlikely one: Why, Quarry wonders, would anyone want a beautiful young librarian dead?
And why in hell does he care? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review: BORDERLINE by Lawrence Block

Borderline (Hard Case Crime #115)
From the back of the book:
On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide - with fatal results. You'll meet  

MARTY - the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with... 

MEG - the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds... 

LILY - the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by...

CASSIE - the redhead with her own private agenda... 

and WEAVER - the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket,  on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!


My Review:
The aforementioned diverse band of characters collide in a bloody fury that, while expected, is still satisfying. With a character like Weaver, a true degenerate and dangerous member of society, his life consumed by lust and driven by murderous thoughts, BORDERLINE was always going to end up on the darker side of sleaze pulp. The other characters all have a penchant for the illegal things in life making them easy targets to fall within Weavers cross-hairs. 

Readers of this blog and my reviews will know I'm a fan of Orrie Hitt, and BORDERLINE will instantly appeal to others with similar tastes. While the sleaze pulp element is prevalent, it doesn't overshadow the characters, if anything it's a critical component to their make-up. 

Each of the separate situations the characters find themselves are as interesting as it is unique to their predicament and what led them to the border in the first place. I found this subtle yet highly effective back-story complimentary to the core plot.

The short stories, I can take or leave; THE BURNING FURY was a quick firecracker of violence while A FIRE A NIGHT told the brief tale of a murder cover-up by arson. THE STAG PARTY GIRL was the longest piece of short fiction (clocking in  at 50+ pages) and read like a Mike Hammer story. The murder mystery at a bucks show was good and the characters had depth. A pulp told at a cracking pace.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Catching Up: DISINTEGRATION by Scott Nicholson

DISINTEGRATION is a twisted thriller with a killer ending. It's a book built on pain and tragedy which morphs into murder. 

Lust conquers loves as Jacob, a successful businessman and wife Renee gradually slip away from one another following the unfortunate deaths of their two children through separate horrific events. It's at this juncture in their relationship that Jacob's thoughts turn to a former flame - though the flame in question may not be as enamored in Jacob as he is in her. Enter the deranged twist that derails all preconceptions of the book.

Through a less than inspired act of introducing Joshua, Jacobs 'evil' twin, author Scott Nicholson, eventually turns DISINTEGRATION into a pretty decent read. One that I would've liked much more had there been a natural progression of storytelling to introduce this element. Renee's discovery of Joshua, the twin previously kept hidden from Renee by Jacob didn't feel right to me - perhaps I missed something. Either way, it took a while for me to get over it and enjoy the spate of event proceeding his arrival. However, once established, Nicholson does a great job at making this character memorable.

DISINTEGRATION is a book worth checking out, I found the beginning good, middle a little average, and ending great.   

Monday, May 18, 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.

This week I'm aiming to read 4 books, sounds a little daunting, however I've pretty much finished two of them:


25530357
REDBONE by Max Phillips (recently finished this book - this morning actually so it only just makes the Monday Reads post)

You can only take so much from a man before he has nothing left to lose... 

Calvin G. Redbone, veteran, is a simple man with a simple routine. He lives in a travel trailer, details cars, takes practice swings with his Louisville Slugger. Most days he faces nothing more complicated than deciding whether to doctor his morning coffee with a splash of bourbon. His weekdays are always the same. 

Until his simple world begins to change. Until his best friend winds up dead. Until Calvin realizes that nothing is as simple as it appears on the surface. Maybe not even Calvin G. Redbone himself. 
As he begins to unravel the truth about his friend’s life and death, the question becomes: what’s Calvin going to do about it? 

Borderline (Hard Case Crime #115)BORDERLINE by Lawrence Block (think Orrie Hitt sleaze pulp and you get a good idea of what to expect from this book. I'm enjoying it.)

On the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, five lives are about to collide - with fatal results. You'll meet  

MARTY - the professional gambler who rolls the dice on a night with... 

MEG - the bored divorcee who seeks excitement and finds... 

LILY - the beautiful hitchhiker lured into a live sex show by...

CASSIE - the redhead with her own private agenda... 

and WEAVER - the madman, the killer with a straight razor in his pocket,  on the run from the police and determined to go down swinging!


Waltz of ShadowsWALTZ OF SHADOWS by Joe R. Lansdale (This has been sitting in my tbr for far too long. Looking forward to reading it despite the dark nature of the book)

Bill, a jobless 24-year-old, is in desperate trouble. He’s being framed by some very unsavory acquaintances for a series of sadistic murders, and is in possession of a particularly gruesome photo album. Backed into a corner, he calls his uncle Hank, and in the process draws the mild-mannered family man into a dark world of unspeakable horror, where people with names like Fat Boy and Snake trade in child pornography, rape, arson and murder. Suddenly Bill’s problems have become Hank’s, and, with everything on the line, Hank and his estranged half-brother Arnold find that they only have each other to rely on. 

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, #1)PRODIGAL SON (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein #1) by Dean Koontz (this will be the third time I've PRODIGAL SON. I just love this book)

Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing in himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself–and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more—and less—than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac—but his deranged maker.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: On Picking A 'Relative Unknown'

Recently I picked up a copy of HOLLYWOOD MOON by Joseph Wambaugh. Having not read anything by the author previously despite having a passing awareness of his books, this was not on my radar in pursuit of reads.

So what made me pick up this book? More broadly, what makes me pick up a book and give it a try?
  • Cover blurb - I'm big on these. This one had a quote by David Simon. Sold.
  • Cover art - I know, you can't judge a book by its cover, but it's often the interesting covers that first attract me to a relative unknown.
  • Goodreads reviews - ok, this is a little hit and miss. I tend to look at the overall average rating and the number of reviews/ratings then read some of the 3 to 4 star reviews. If the book seems to be on the right track I'll then glimpse the lower rating review to get a well rounded idea as to whether the author has written something I'd likely be in to.
  • Blogs - If I really want to do my due diligence I'll check out of few of my trusted blog sites to see what my fellow reads think of said book.  

Hollywood MoonSounds like a lot of leg work to pick up that relative unknown but I don't subscribe to the above in all instances. When I find a book that seems too good to pass up I may use all of the above or a combination thereof - or none at all - depends on the book. 

In my bookish speak a relative unknown is a book/series/author that I've only a minor awareness of. 

About HOLLYWOOD MOON:

Hollywood Station isn't your typical police division, but in 'Hollywood Moon', the cops of that surreal place seem called upon to deal with an even greater share of weirdness than normal. A prowler has been violently attacking women, and officers Nate Weiss and Dana Vaughn are in hot pursuit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Review: DARK WATERS by Deborah Sheldon

Dark WatersDARK WATERS is a brief yet bloody glimpse at life inside the criminal element of the fictitious and notorious Melbourne biker gang - the Overlords. Author Deborah Sheldon tells this tale of violence, redemption, love, and death while looking over the shoulder of veteran biker  Danny Boy - a longtime member of the Overlords who suffered a near death experience which ultimately made him want to start a new chapter of his life - one that takes him far away form his brothers on bikes. 

Much like RONNIE AND RITA, Deborah Sheldon's Aussie noir novella, DARK WATERS packs a punch in a short space of time, thrusting the reader head first into the underbelly of crime while also establishing Danny Boy as a likable character with loads of reason to redeem. 

Throughout the course of the story Danny Boy rekindles his relationship with his ex-wife and is reunited with his young son. At the same time he's beating up rival biker gang members and collecting protection money from tattoo parlors. It's an interesting double life; one that comes to a head on collision by the books end. 

DARK WATERS is a triumph through tragedy; a dark and uncompromising noir-like tale that is as much about the violence as it is about one man trying to escape it. 

Links:

Review: RONNIE AND RITA

Interview: author Deborah Sheldon 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Finds (15 May 2015)



Friday Finds is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading where you share the book titles you discovered or heard about during the past week. These can be books you were told about, books you discovered while browsing blogs/bookstores (physical or online), or books that you actually purchased. I think this is a great idea and a way to share my enthusiasm of discovering new books.


Books yet to be published:

GESTAPO MARS by Victor Gischler (due to be published in September 2015)

Carter Sloan is a bioengineered agent in the far future, abandoned in deep freeze until the Nazi government awakened him and gave him a last assignment which will require him to fight and screw his way across the galaxy. Explosive and pulpy science fiction with lots of sex and even more swearing.

Vampirella: Feary TalesVAMPIRELLA: FAIRY TALES (due to be published in August 2015)

Nancy A. Collins (Swamp Thing, Sunglasses After Dark) has called upon some of today's finest creative talents - including Gail Simone, Steve Niles, Joe R. Lansdale, Devin Grayson, Stephen R. Bissette, and many more - to celebrate Vampirella's 45th Anniversary by crafting an anthology of twisted tales, bizarre bedtime stories, and fearsome fables in the tradition of the original Warren magazines, each featuring everyone's favorite sexy, kick-ass vampire-turned-monster hunter. And, boy, have they delivered! While exploring the Transylvanian castle she's recently inherited, Vampirella discovers a strange old book of "Feary Tales" that seems oddly familiar. Upon opening it, she is sucked inside its pages and lands in a weird alternate reality, where she is compelled by a disembodied voice calling itself 'The Storyteller' to live out each of the 'feary tales' if she ever hopes to return to reality. Collects the five-issue Vampirella: Feary Tales comic book series, with a complete cover gallery.

Newly published:

25530357REDBONE by Max Phillips (out now from Number 13 Press)

You can only take so much from a man before he has nothing left to lose... 

Calvin G. Redbone, veteran, is a simple man with a simple routine. He lives in a travel trailer, details cars, takes practice swings with his Louisville Slugger. Most days he faces nothing more complicated than deciding whether to doctor his morning coffee with a splash of bourbon. His weekdays are always the same. 

Until his simple world begins to change. Until his best friend winds up dead. Until Calvin realizes that nothing is as simple as it appears on the surface. Maybe not even Calvin G. Redbone himself. 

As he begins to unravel the truth about his friend’s life and death, the question becomes: what’s Calvin going to do about it?

Catching up: THE FAT MEXICAN: THE BLOODY RISE OF THE BANDIDOS MOTORCYCLE CLUB by Alex Cain

The Fat Mexican: The Bloody Rise of the Bandidos Motorcycle ClubAn explosive and tragic opening which reads more like crime fiction than fact yet is very real sets the theme for this true account of life inside the bloody underbelly of a criminal organisation.

As is evident by the opening line, this book is the bloody truth of biker gangs:

"Jamie Flanz was scared, but he didn't stop scraping his broom back and forth across the blood-stained barn floor."

Author Alex Cain worked as an undercover operative who managed to infiltrate the Bandidos motorcycle club in North America. His intimate knowledge of the biker life is splashed across the pages of the book in honest and brutally clear quality.

Using sources, public access material and accounts from various court proceedings, Cain is able to craft a scarily insightful look into the murder and mayhem that takes place within the inner sanctum of criminal bikie gangs.

Using a fiction writers adept skills to polish these horrendous facts makes for enjoyable if not cringe inducing reading. The topical nature if this book wont suit all readers but is nonetheless hard to put down.

What starts with a mass murder ends in similar fashion - linked to the Canadian massacre of the Toronto Bandidos chapter,  making for a continuous thread of related stories throughout the book. This was a clever way of formatting the fact into an easily readable book akin to crime fiction.

Monday, May 11, 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.

This week I'm going with a bikie themed reading week: 


Dark WatersDARK WATERS by Deborah Sheldon (Readers of this blog know I loved Sheldon's Aussie noir novlla, RONNIE AND RITA and DARK WATERS looks to be more of the good stuff)

*You may read my review of RONNIE AND RITA HERE.

*Click to read my interview with Deborah Sheldon.
Brendan Reilly, a.k.a. Danny Boy, is a veteran of the Overlords, a Melbourne outlaw motorcycle club. 

A near-fatal accident leads him to an epiphany: he is determined to quit the life and reconnect with his ex-wife and son. 


At the same time, the Overlords are preparing for war against a rival gang, the Golden Jackals, and with Brendan’s loyalty in question he is pushed further into the war when all he wants is a way out.


Dark Waters is an exploration of love, duty and redemption played against the backdrop of Australia’s criminal underbelly.


The Fat Mexican: The Bloody Rise of the Bandidos Motorcycle ClubTHE FAT MEXICAN: THE BLOODY RISE OF THE BANDIDOS MOTORCYCLE CLUB by Alex Caine

The compelling story of the rise and rule of one of the world's most feared outlaw motorcycle gangs - in the bestselling tradition of Dead Man Running and The Brotherhoods.

Having infiltrated the Bandidos for three years in a landmark police operation, Alex Caine is uniquely positioned to tell the untold story of the Hells Angels fiercest rivals, the Bandidos.

Started in the mid-sixties by a group of Texas malcontents and ex-military who idolized the Hells Angels, the Bandidos now operate in almost every country of the world and are especially potent in Europe, Australia, the US and Canada. The Fat Mexican unearths the violent criminal history of the Bandidos: their four-decades-old battle with the Hells Angels, the terror their global expansion has caused rivals and innocents alike and the internal politics and rivalries that drive them to this day.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: HOLD THE DARK by William Giraldi

Hold the DarkFrom the back of the book
Wolves have come for the children of Keelut. Three children have been snatched from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old son of Medora and Vernon Slone. Wolf expert Russell Core arrives in Keelut to investigate the killings and learns of the horrifying darkness at the heart of Medora. 

When her husband returns from a desert war to discover his boy dead and his wife missing, he begins a maniacal pursuit that cuts a bloody swathe across the frozen landscape. As Core attempts to rescue Medora from her husband’s vengeance, he comes face to face with a dark secret at the furthermost reaches of American soil.


My Review
William Giraldi easily holds place alongside great authors such as Daniel Woodrell, Megan Abbott and James Ellroy in terms of being able to recreate the dark nature of man and convey it with compelling conviction. Through a blanket of fine white snow, this cold heared yet warm blooded rural-like noir breathes life into the deathly disassociated community of Keelut.

The closed cabin compound is breached by an academic in search of  answers; Core, riddled by internal torment, having lost a child to wolves is called upon by Medora, a local women with a husband at war, to find the body of her son, another presumed victim of the wolves - those eager hunters in ever need of a full belly.

There is a real sense of remoteness in HOLD THE DARK that envelopes the reader in its atmosphere. The cold, dark woods that surround the isolated community and the distinct 'us against them' mentality of the Keelut residents is as scary as it is sacred. Not even murder among their own is pursued by the out of town police with any passion by those directly affected.

On the surface, HOLD THE DARK looks relatively straight forward. However, this is far more than a search for remains or a bloody quest for retribution against one of the animal kingdom's most deadly and skilled pack hunters. HOLD THE DARK is a violent and visually stunning story of misdirection and misguided meaning set in a place where curses are real and nightmares invade reality.

HOLD THE DARK is an exceptional read and will certainly feature as one of my top reads of the year. 

Review: BURN CARDS by Christopher Irvin

Burn CardsFrom the back of the book
Set in noir-rich Reno, Nevada, Burn Cards is a dark crime novella inspired by Christa Faust's Money Shot and Megan Abbott's Queenpin.

Mirna Fowler believes she has been cheated in life, growing up in a broken home alone with a drunken and gambling-addicted father. Now she works at a small hair salon in Reno, doing her best to survive while she saves money for school. Hoping to get a degree that will take her places.

But in the wake of her father's death, Mirna inherits his extravagant debt, an amount of money she can never repay. As her fractured world begins to crumble, the search for the truth sets her on a path where life hangs on her every move.


My Review
"The sky has grown dark by the time he dumps me inside the trunk of the sedan. A rough interior lining scrapes against the exposed skin of my shoulders and arms, leaving bloodless scratches crisscrossing a yellowing bruise." 

BURN CARDS deals the reader an irresistible hand, introducing pain and punishment without cause; curiosity from the cruel to pull the reader straight into a flush of flesh encrusted with blood, battered and bruised; noir with naught for reason.   

I love books that draw me from the get go and that's exactly what BURN CARDS did. 

Readers familiar with Christa Faust's MONEY SHOT (Hardcase Crime, Angel Dare #1) will immediately drawn comparisons yet BURN CARDS quickly treads down a vastly different path. Author Christopher Irvin (FEDERALS) has written a character driven, emotionally rich noir novella that packs a lot of heart and ache into a small page count (my print copy clocked in at 124pgs). 

The thing that resonates long after reading is the overwhelming sense of hopelessness compounded by  the elusiveness of that 'happy-ever-after' ending. Mirna enters the scene as a victim as leaves as one. 

My only gripe relates to the characters; there is little movement in terms of emotional growth which is difficult to achieve in a novella, perhaps if BURN CARDS was written as a full length, Mirna would've come to life in a more three dimensional way.

That said, I enjoyed BURN CARDS. It's a fast paced read that will appeal to readers of noir and those who like darker crime fiction. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Monthly Reader Statistics: APRIL 2015


This series of blog posts is as the title suggests; monthly statistics for the latest completed month with a year to date summary of my reading. I actually look at my reader stats every so often, more out of curiosity as opposed to using them to achieve a goal. I like to know how many of the books I've read are for review verses how many I have read just 'cos (those I purchased or borrowed) or the difference between physical books and kindle ebooks. As I don't tend to make a conscious decision to read an ebook verses a physical book or read a book given to me for review verses something from my tbr, it's just what attracts me at the time - I thought these statistics would prove a useful 'nice-to-know' and an interesting footnote in my 2015 reading journey. 

Monthly Reads (books completed reading): 6

Re-reads: 0
Review books: 3
Audio books: 0
*Just 'cos reads: 3
Kindle: 2
2015 published: 3


Year To Date Reads: 49

Re-reads: 5
Review books: 21
Audio books: 3
*Just ‘cos reads: 19
Kindle: 14
2015 published: 16

- - - - -
*doesn't include re-reads/audio
- - - - - 

Best Reads of April:


The Ring of Ikribu by David C. Smith

Review Links:

THE RING OF IKRIBU - Red Sonja #1 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Catching up: SHIBUMI by TREVANIAN

ShibumiFrom the back of the book
Half German, half Russian, Hel was raised by a Japanese general and survived Hiroshima to become a mystic, a master of the senses, and the most deadly assassin in the world. 

Nicholai has left his past behind him to live a life of isolation in a remote mountain fortress, determined to attain a state of effortless perfection known as shibumi. Then Hannah Stern arrives at his door. 

Hannah needs protection from a sinister organization known as the Mother Company. But, as Hel knows all too well, they are not easy to escape. And now they're coming after him too. The battle lines are drawn: ruthless power and corruption on one side, and on the other...shibumi.


My Review
After finishing Don Winslow's SATORI, the authorized prequel to SHIBUMI, I was excited to delve into the murky waters of the most skilled assassin in the world Nicholai Hel. Despite my initial enthusiasm, it's been 3.5 years since I read SATORI; perhaps this is a contributing factor for me not enjoying SHIBUMI as much as I thought I would. 

The pacing of SHIBUMI really hampered the reading experience. Whilst I like well fleshed out characters, author Trevanian went to the extreme in crafting a deep back-story for Nicholai Hel plagued by over descriptive narrative and character interactions that did little to progress the story or develop Hel into the assassin (retired) he is in the present day setting (I should say that many were relevant).

As far as the story itself goes, the present day spy verses spy theme was a clever mix of humor and action. Trevanian writes an interesting plot that pits the inept against the professional. As for Hel himself, he can do no wrong; an expert killer, bilingual, has a proximity sense, and can ruin any female for subsequent suitors with his expertise in the art of lovemaking - its a delicious pulp mash-up that combines all the elements of the action hero in one - and it works.

After finishing SHIBUMI I was left both satisfied (as the story itself is quite enjoyable) and dissatisfied (too many deviations from the plot) which makes this a slightly above average read for me.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: WATCHED by CJ Lyons

Watched
From the back of the book
In a world where web cappers can hack any cellphone or computer webcam, no one is safe-including Jesse


Jesse seems like a normal sixteen-year-old, but he isn't. He is a victim of King-a ruthless web capper who has been blackmailing Jesse with incriminating screen photos and videos. So far, Jesse's given in to King's demands in order to protect his family. But now King wants something that's too horrible to contemplate-and if he doesn't get it, King will kill Jesse's little sister.

Terrified and helpless, the answer to Jesse's prayers arrive in the form of a plain manila envelope. Inside there's a phone number and a note: I can help.

My Review
WATCHED is a gripping and insightful read into the little known world of cyber bullying and the severe extremes it can push individuals of any age to. In this instance, the focus group is teenagers, specifically those who are either filmed or photographed undertaking a private innocence misinterpreted as sleaze by the trolls on the internet and those unfortunate souls led down the destructive path of abuse for profit. 

Author CJ Lyons doesn't write with a focus on the moral compass which she could have easily done, rather letting the characters tell their story while embedding an underlying message of  awareness of the unknown. The world isn't a safe place and computers, laptops, mobile phones etc put the young (and not so young) at risk of cyber smart predators 24/7. 

I learnt a lot from reading WATCHED, both from a shock horror tech awareness (smart phone cameras being controlled remotely by people miles away for one) and from a humanist perspective. Little do adults know of the teenage world. It's an ever changing landscape that has evolved into a very dangerous place. For the protagonists of WATCHED, they embrace this danger to bring down a predator, taking a stand to save themselves and others at risk from the 'King's' cyber spell. 

This has got to be one of the most readable books I've read this year. The pages didn't seem to turn quick enough; time ceased to exist, I was utterly consumed by the world as depicted in WATCHED. A true rarity that really is a 'must-read'. 

Review: THE BROKEN EYE by Brent Weeks

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer, #3)THE BROKEN EYE (Lightbringer #3) by Brent Weeks 

From the back of the book:As the old gods awaken, the Chromeria is in a race to find its lost Prism, the only man who may be able to stop catastrophe, Gavin Guile. But Gavin's enslaved on a galley, and when he finally escapes, he finds himself in less than friendly hands. Without the ability to draft which has defined him . . .

Meanwhile, the Color Prince's army continues its inexorable advance, having swallowed two of the seven satrapies, they now invade the Blood Forest. Andross Guile, thinking his son Gavin lost, tasks his two grandsons with stopping the advance. Kip and his psychopathic half-brother Zymun will compete for the ultimate prize: who will become the next Prism.


My Thoughts:
THE BROKEN EYE is a frustrating read. Despite the interesting premise and well defined characters, the third installment in the Lightbringer series meanders through its 750+ page count slowly progressing the story at a snail pace. 

Reading more like a bridge between its predecessor and the next installment, THE BROKEN achieves what it sets out to do. The characters find themselves in new situations that demand the reader to follow their story in future books. It's a hell of a build up that is overshadowed by the inconsequential dialogue and over descriptive fight scenes that are littered throughout the book.

I struggled to maintain interest, which is a shame as I really enjoyed the previous two books. Despite my negative feelings towards THE BROKEN EYE I do want to read what happens to Kip, Gavin, Karris and co next.