Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: AUTHORITY by Jeff Vandermeer

Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, #2)From the back of the book:

For thirty years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X—a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the twelfth expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (aka “Control”) is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves—and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve.

My Review:

The Southern Reach trilogy is fast becoming one of my favorite reads of 2014 and I’m not yet at the conclusion. In ANNIHILATION, we were exposed to the strange and dangerous other world of Area X – terrain cut off from the rest of land by some mysterious event. We followed the latest exhibition consisting of a biologist, surveyor, psychologist, and anthropologist into the unknown and watched the breakdown of sanity in big brother-like live streaming. In AUTHORITY, the ambiguity is as abundant as it was in ANNIHILATION yet the characters are a little more personable. Chiefly, they have names not just titles (Note. I do like the concept of ‘Control’ if nothing more than the ironic elements the nickname brings to the character) which add another layer of depth to what already is a deep spanning mystery.


Right from the get-go author Jeff Vandermeer unleashes a big reveal that adds perspective and context to ANNIHILATION. I won’t delve into that as to not spoil prospective reader experiences other than to say I loved it – and the revelations (for lack of a better term) continue throughout the book as small puzzle pieces are formed and jaggedly dropped together.  

***

Monday, October 20, 2014

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. Having been a long time reader of multiple blogs where the ‘It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?’ post is prevalent, I thought it a natural progression I’d add to the mix.

Last week I posted the following reviews:

HER LAST CALL TO LOUISE MACNEICE by Ken Breun (noir)

CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS by Anonymous-9 (crime/noir)

PRIMARY FAULT by Sharon Kae Reamer (fantasy)

I've also finished AUTHORITY by Jeff Vandermeer (sci-fi/fantasy) and will have a review up shortly for that one. Here's my review of book 1 in the Southern Reach Trilogy, ANNIHILATION, in the meantime. It too is fantastic - really loving these books. 

This week I thought I'd focus exclusively on my tbr (so no review books or recent purchases) as I've largely ignored one of my 2014 New Years Bookish Resolutions to dwindle down my tbr. 

All of my reads are crime fiction this week, however, as you'll see below from the book descriptions, they are quite diverse. 

El GavilanEL GAVILAN  by Craig McDonald 

The news is full of it; escalating tensions from illegal immigration, headless bodies hanging off bridges, and bounties placed on lawmen on both sides of the border. New Austin, Ohio, is a town grappling with waves of undocumented workers who exert tremendous pressure on schools, police, and city services. In the midst of the turmoil, three very different kinds of cops scramble to maintain control and impose order.

But the rape and murder of a Mexican American woman triggers a brutal chain of events that threatens to leave no survivors.El Gavilan is a novel of shifting alliances and whiplash switchbacks. Families are divided and careers and lives threatened. Friendships and ideals are tested and budding love affairs challenged. With its topical themes, shades-of- gray characters, and dark canvas, El Gavilan is a novel for our charged times.


Straits of FortuneSTRAITS OF FORTUNE by Anthony Gagliano

Ex-cop Jack Vaughn, the best thing to happen to crime fiction since Chandler's Philip Marlowe hung up his holster, moved from the gritty streets of New York to Miami to work as a personal trainer. The sun, sand, and tanned bodies of Miami are a welcome distraction from the haunting memory of another cop's death in New York. But when he becomes involved with millionaire businessman Colonel Patterson, he realizes his newfound peace is short-lived.

The Colonel offers Jack a hundred grand to do a seemingly simple favor. But getting involved with the Colonel also means getting involved with his daughter, the exotic wild child Vivian, who once broke Jack's heart. Jack had sworn to forget her, but this memorable cast of characters lures him back into their double-dealing circle.

The deeper he gets, the more Jack finds himself entangled in an ever-expanding web of lies, lust, and violence. A dark, hard-boiled look at the dangerous underbelly of glamorous Miami, Straits of Fortune is an unforgettable debut novel. 


HushHUSH by Anne Frasier (I'm nearing the middle of this one. Reads as mainstream popular crime fiction.) 

It's criminal profiler Ivy Dunlap's job to unravel the psyches of the most dangerous men alive. None haunts her dreams more than the killer who took her son's life sixteen years ago, then silently disappeared into the dark. Now an urgent request for help from the Chicago police has reawakened Ivy's greatest nightmare.

The Madonna Murderer has returned to fulfill his calling. This time Ivy understands the killer instinct. She knows what man is capable of. This time she's ready to confront her deepest fear, face-to-face. For the very last time. 

Catching up on crime: HER LAST CALL TO LOUIS MACNEICE by Ken Breun

Her Last Call to Louis MacNeiceFrom the back of the book:

She’s hot, well read, and absolutely mad—and she won’t let him go.

Bank robber Cooper picks her up at the supermarket, where he spies her shoplifting and warns her that the store detective is watching her. She puts the stolen food back, and he buys her lunch. It’s the worst mistake he’s ever made. What this pretty young American girl is doing in South London is a mystery to him. Her name is Cassie, and she acts sane until they get home. She’s normal as he takes her clothes off, normal for everything that follows, normal until she tells him that now that he’s touched her, he can never have another woman. He thinks it’s a joke until he wakes up and finds her note, which explains that she drugged him and left with his pistol and some of the money he’s made holding up banks. Only death will keep her away, so death it must be.

My Review:

Bruen’s early voice in HER LAST CALL TO LOUISE MACNEICE reads like Duane Swierczynski by way of Ray Banks, yet the addictive and unique style that forms to create renowned PI Jack Taylor is still prevalent as Bruen so effortlessly engulfs the reader in his world of noir through his lead character Cooper and femme fatale Cassie.

Cassie is crazy and Cooper a criminal. One night of lust turns Cooper’s already troubled life upside down. Fatal attraction to say the least. There’s also the matter of a robbery gone horribly wrong which results in the murder of a bank teller and the subsequent hunt for Copper by the law and lawless alike. Being wanted is a distant second to living in isolation for Cooper. 

HER LAST CALL TO LOUISE MACNEICE gives the reader everything you’d want from a pulp-noir story. It’s train wreck following train wreck following train wreck as Cooper wades through the proverbial in an attempt to rid the stench of failure as much as find higher ground to ward off all those pitchforks.


I had a lot of fun reading this. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS by Anonymous-9

Crashing Through MirrorsFrom the back of the book:
Bern Aldershot, former bass player for the legendary band Aldershot is attacked in a dark parking lot. His 1965 Rickenbacker bass is stolen, and that's not all. Desperate to avoid publicity Bern refuses to tell the police or anyone. Big mistake. Three months later depression has him staring down the barrel of his own gun. When his attacker resurfaces there is no one to help or confide in except one: a 16-year-old fangirl named London. Together they play cat and mouse with Bern's assailant across Los Angeles, piecing together clues from a series of rapes and murders, challenging disbelieving cops and pissed off bikers in a wildly unusual chase.

My Review:
Wow, first off let me say CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is one heck of story. For a novella it packs a punch most novels should be jealous of.

Bernd Aldershot, a rock and roll legend whose star is slowly fading is the victim of a heinous crime in the early hours of the morning in an abandoned parking lot. Keeping the attack secret, his life starts to deteriorate to the point he's willing to end it. Which he very nearly does.

This is where we pick up his story.

The shotgun lays idle, the shower curtain dishevelled, girlfriend sent away. All that remains is the quiet solitude of pending suicide.

Anonymous-9 constantly produces quality (check out HARD BITE and BITE HARDER) and CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is no exception. The dialogue is sharp, the characters are believable, and the story is dark yet with a touch of trade mark humour to keep things balanced.

I loved the way Aldershot is portrayed. There is something so real about this character that makes him jump off the script and land in reality, likewise his teenage 'accidental friend' London.

Without delving too deep into the events of CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS, I will say that it's one ride that you wont be able to get off, nor will you want to until the last word is read - one of my top crime fiction reads of the year.

***

Other books I've reviewed by Anonymous-9

HARD BITE

BITE HARDER

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: PRIMARY FAULT by Sharon Kae Reamer

Primary FaultMy Review:
An intriguing concept, and early, reminiscent of Stephen King; a pure blend of everyday life and crime lightly seasoned with the other worldly.

Author Sharon Kae Reamer, has, with PRIMARY FAULT, brought to life a secondary reality that's mysterious and omnipresent in the lives of her characters.

For Caitlin, her perception of reality is stretched to the limit, yet remains oddly intact despite her internal self-quakes that take her to places only plausible in fantasy.

Central to proceedings lies a crime that threatens to tear Caitlin and her brother, Gus, in half. Accused of assault and murder of young women, Gus goes missing leaving the authorities to automatically assume his guilt, Caitlin, with a couple of convenient accomplices diligently works to clear his name and prove Gus has a doppelganger, one that is responsible for the crimes.

The deep fantasy aspect was secondary to the plot though an integral part to dictating the characters actions and providing some rationale without fully enveloping the reader in other worldly realm. I thought this balance was good but could've been better served by providing the reader with more background to the fantasy side of the equation.

As an initial book in a series, the scene is well established with revelations promised in further instalments. Unique enough to warrant further reading and mysterious enough to captivate the readers attention.
  

Monday, October 13, 2014

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. Having been a long time reader of multiple blogs where the ‘It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?’ post is prevalent, I thought it a natural progression I’d add to the mix.

Last week I posted the following reviews:

ANNIHILATION by Jeff Vandermeer

CLARIEL by Garth Nix

Primary FaultPRIMARY FAULT by Sharon Kae Reamer

Geophysicist Caitlin Schwarzbach, out of work and weary of small-town Texas, leaves home. For good.

Separated from her beloved brother Gus at age seven when their parents divorced, she moves to Cologne, Germany to be with him.

Instead of meeting her brother upon her arrival, a Gus lookalike attempts to kidnap her by pulling her into a wall of glass. His accomplice: a curvy Nordic beauty dressed in black taffeta and lace and swarmed by ravens. Caitlin believes her experience to be a product of jet lag and disorientation.

Later that evening at a university reception, Caitlin learns her seismologist brother has included her in a research project with Hagen von der Lahn, amateur archeologist, stylish aristocrat, and dangerously attractive.

After Gus is called away by an earthquake, the deranged Gus doppelganger again tries to drag her away. Hagen rescues her and spirits her to his castle near the Rhine.



Authority (Southern Reach Trilogy, #2)AUTHORITY by Jeff Vandermeer (I wanted to get into the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy quickly after devouring ANNIHILATION last week. Looking forward to this.)

For thirty years, a secret agency called the Southern Reach has monitored expeditions into Area X—a remote and lush terrain mysteriously sequestered from civilization. After the twelfth expedition, the Southern Reach is in disarray, and John Rodriguez (aka “Control”) is the team’s newly appointed head. From a series of interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and more than two hundred hours of profoundly troubling video footage, the secrets of Area X begin to reveal themselves—and what they expose pushes Control to confront disturbing truths about both himself and the agency he’s promised to serve.

Her Last Call to Louis MacNeiceHER LAST CALL TO LOUIS MACNEICE by Ken Bruen (this one has been sitting in my tbr for a while. It's one of the few Breun books I'm yet to read. Feels a little like Duane Swierczynski early on.)

She’s hot, well read, and absolutely mad—and she won’t let him go

Bank robber Cooper picks her up at the supermarket, where he spies her shoplifting and warns her that the store detective is watching her. She puts the stolen food back, and he buys her lunch. It’s the worst mistake he’s ever made. What this pretty young American girl is doing in South London is a mystery to him. Her name is Cassie, and she acts sane until they get home. She’s normal as he takes her clothes off, normal for everything that follows, normal until she tells him that now that he’s touched her, he can never have another woman. He thinks it’s a joke until he wakes up and finds her note, which explains that she drugged him and left with his pistol and some of the money he’s made holding up banks. Only death will keep her away, so death it must be.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review: CLARIEL by Garth Nix

Clariel (Abhorsen, #4)From the back of the book:
Sixteen-year-old Clariel is not adjusting well to her new life in the city of Belisaere, the capital of the Old Kingdom. She misses roaming freely within the forests of Estwael, and she feels trapped within the stone city walls. And in Belisaere she is forced to follow the plans, plots and demands of everyone, from her parents to her maid, to the sinister Guildmaster Kilip. Clariel can see her freedom slipping away. It seems too that the city itself is descending into chaos, as the ancient rules binding Abhorsen, King and Clayr appear to be disintegrating.

With the discovery of a dangerous Free Magic creature loose in the city, Clariel is given the chance both to prove her worth and make her escape. But events spin rapidly out of control. Clariel finds herself more trapped than ever, until help comes from an unlikely source. But the help comes at a terrible cost. Clariel must question the motivations and secret hearts of everyone around her - and it is herself she must question most of all.


My Review:
I've been waiting for another novel set in the world of the Old Kingdom for a long time now, and, despite having moments that brought back the enjoyment of LIRAEL and SABRIEL, the long ago prequel to SABRIEL doesn't quite live up to expectations.

CLARIEL leans heavily towards the YA styling's of Garth Nix's other fantasy series targeted at that demographic. The toned down storytelling is evident, as is the teenage angst and constant reference to love despite Clariel's predicament (even though she shows no interest in her male suitors, it's a constant theme throughout). 

Clariel, sees her family decimated before her eyes, travers the Old Kingdom in search of the Abhorsens for sanctuary from the threat of the Belisaere governor. Here, readers of the series are treated with a familiar character and further elements of Free Magic as Clariel slowly builds towards realising her path and takes the first tentative steps towards justice for her slain family.

I really liked the last third of CLARIE. It had everything I'd come to love from the Old Kingdom trilogy before it (mages, free and charter magic, bells), yet the set up is what let CLARIEL down.