Thursday, January 28, 2016

True Crime: A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle

A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle
More an author memoir than true crime,  A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle is not what I expected - in a bad way. Rather than writing a book about the murder, investigation, court room battles, and interviews with subject matter experts close to the crime, the author launched a self indulgent tirade which lacked relevance to the subject matter and bored this reader with a tale of a stock standard middle-income male growing up in suburbia, moving away then boasting an intellectual superiority to his peers when he returns of which he also casts the murder victim, Rebecca Ryle (who happens to be the core of the book, though the reader wouldn't know it) among his ilk despite not conversing or KNOWING her aside from third party information.

This book is about the way the author felt about the murder and his own perception and conclusions in-conjunction with his brothers thoughts and insights (him, having known the killer in a somewhat limited capacity) - some eight years after the tragedy.

It's not until the Afterword that the author mentioned he wanted to write a true crime book that emphasized the family aspect and the hardships of moving on as opposed to the crime itself that the theme started to make sense. Had this been consistent, and not derailed by the authors free rein to talk about himself, I may have felt differently - may have. 

What the Afterword doesn't do, is justify the need to write about the author listening to NWA, picking fights with kids 4 years his junior, touching upon Perth's race gangs, attending or commenting on teenage house parties, or why including the his own correspondence with the Ryle family via Facebook was necessary (it didn't add any context or substance). 

I also found the over stimulated vocabulary a constant blight that served no purpose other than to impress upon the reader, the author's ability to over-use and under sell his sentences. Rarely does a book leave me feeling so underwhelmed.  

I was given a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

A Murder Without Motive: the killing of Rebecca Ryle is available from 27 Jan 2016. 

Rating: 1/5

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

L.A. Noir - The Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy by James Ellroy

Blood on the Moon (Lloyd Hopkins, #1)The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is a dark, and at times, disturbing collection of crime noir fiction that takes the reader on a journey through the seedy LA underbelly and the corrupt blue line of justice. The series protagonist is tainted yet redeemable, his adversaries, formidable; these characteristic aspects form key elements to the trilogy. In a rarity for me, I read all three books back-to-back, whereas usually I'll take some time in-between delving into different books by other authors. I'm glad I 'red-lined' L.A. Noir.  

BLOOD ON THE MOON

(Crime / Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy #1)

Rating: 5/5

A dark and multi-faceted crime noir that oozes Ellroy; elaborate crimes and a deadly depiction of humanity lay the foundation for novel driven by sex and death. Ellroy's characters really come to life in BLOOD ON THE MOON but none more than the protagonist. Det. Sgt. Lloyd Hopkins is not a nice man; his moral compass is skewed, his sense of right and wrong often blur into one another yet he's got a bullish determination to protect the innocent (particularly woman) - it's this tainted view point to the LA Noir trilogy's first book that paints the protagonist in such an interesting way that you cant help but want to read to see how Hopkins' train-wreck personality pans out. BLOOD ON THE MOON is captivating and a true page turner.

Because the Night (Lloyd Hopkins, #2)BECAUSE THE NIGHT

(Crime / Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy #2)

Rating: 5/5

Had a 'villain of the month' flavor with series protagonist Det Sgt Lloyd Hopkins squaring off against a manipulative criminal mastermind with a penchant to kill by proxy. Weaving a complex game of cat and mouse, Ellroy layers the depravity in a densely woven tale that is all about the crime and little about Hopkins - a far cry from the previous book, BLOOD ON THE MOON. More enjoyable if you're familiar with the series, but still serviceable if you're jumping into the L.A. Noir series at book 2. BLOOD ON THE MOON is a very good read that resonates long after the story ends.

Suicide Hill (Lloyd Hopkins, #3)SUICIDE HILL

(Crime / Lloyd Hopkins Trilogy #3)

Rating: 5/5

In SUICIDE HILL, James Ellroy puts the emphasis on a wayward bank robber and his delusional dream of converting a junkie into a rock star prone to tricking to feed her habit, rather than the tainted series protagonist Lloyd Hopkins which gives the last installment in the Lloyd Hopkins trilogy a distinctly unique feel to its predecessors. Hopkins, is once again a man on a mission to deliver justice by any means. His sense of right and wrong, while slightly warped add an air of unpredictability to the book which is a stable in this highly readable noir trilogy. The story is sorrid, bloody, and complex in both a police procedural and psychological sense. What else would you expect from James Ellroy?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Recent Reads - January 2016 Kick-off

The Mad SculptorJanuary has gotten off to a pretty decent start in reading terms. For the early part of this year I'm paying more attention to my tbr and devoting time to books that have sat on the shelf for far too long. Here's my thoughts on my recent reads:

THE MAD SCULPTOR by Harold Schechter

(Non-fiction / True Crime)

Rating: 5/5

Entertaining throughout with enough pulp sentiments to detach the reader from the horrific nature of the murders described within the bloodstained pages. Each character read as if crafted by fiction rather than fact such was the easy manner and heavy pulp overtones used to tell Bob Irwin's story and that of his unsuspecting victims. As a pulp enthusiast I lapped this up and will look to read more from this author.

Target for their Dark DesireTARGET FOR THEIR DARK DESIRE by Carter Brown

(Pulp / Al Wheeler series)

Rating: 4/5

A strong opening stanza introduced all the key elements of a dime store pulp; an attractive victim, a dame in distress, a hero cop, and a list of shady suspects conveniently written in the victim's diary. The mystery; a soupy mix of everything pulp. Unfortunately this book was marred by a juvenile police chief whose characterization was unbelievable and his dialogue cringe worthy. Also the later stages of the mystery introduced one too many elements; had Carter Brown kept it simple and focused on the call girl death mystery, TARGET FOR THEIR DARK DESIRE would've been much better. Complaints aside, this is a decent Al Wheeler book and a must read for Carter Brown fans.

BombshellBOMBSHELL by Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins

(Historical-Fiction mash-up / Semi-thriller)

Rating: 2/5

Marilyn Monroe foils an assassination attempt on Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev circa 1959. Blending fact with liberal fiction, the authors craft an okay read that pits the proverbial bombshell against bullets in an internal affair which threatens to start WW III. Whilst both Khrushchev and Monroe are well characterized and easily readable BOMBSHELL suffered from too many pages with too little progressive content. BOMBSHELL wasn't a book I wanted to keep reading unfortunately - drab despite an interesting concept. The authors also focused far too much on Monroe's intellectual prowess which did everything but enforce that element of her as a character in this book. I get where the authors were taking this but it just missed the mark for me.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Books I'm Looking Forward To (2016 Edition)

With a new year comes new books. Below are some of the books scheduled for publication in 2016 that I can't wait to read:

REVOLVER by Duane Swierczynski

Three generations torn apart--by bullets fired fifty years ago. On the streets of Philadelphia in 1965, two street cops--one black, one white--are gunned down in a tavern robbery gone wrong. The cold-blooded killing stuns a racially-divided city. One of the fallen officers, Stan Walczak, leaves behind a 12-year-old boy, Jimmy. Thirty years later, Jim Walczak becomes a Philadelphia Homicide Detective. His father's killer--who was supposed to be sent to the electric chair--has been released from prison. Weeks later, Howard Lee Tate is found dead from a drug overdose. Did Jim do it? Fast-forward to 2015. Jim Walczak's daughter Audrey, studying forensic science in graduate school, investigates her grandfather's 50-year-old murder for her dissertation. As Audrey digs deeper, she comes to a realization: the man convicted of killing Stan Walczak--Howard Lee Tate--didn't do it.

YOU WILL KNOW ME by Megan Abbott

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate.

QUARRY IN THE BLACK by Max Allan Collins

With a controversial presidential election just weeks away, Quarry is hired to carry out a rare political assignment: kill the Reverend Raymond Wesley Lloyd, a passionate Civil Rights crusader and campaigner for the underdog candidate. But when a hate group out of Ferguson, Missouri, turns out to be gunning for the same target, Quarry starts to wonder just who it is he’s working for.

PIMP by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr

Ruined and on the lam, former drug kingpin Max Fisher stumbles upon the biggest discovery of his crooked life: a designer drug called PIMP that could put him back on top. Meanwhile, a certain femme fatale from his past is pursuing a comeback dream of her own, setting herself up in Hollywood as producer of a series based on her and Max’s life story. But even in La-La Land, happy endings are hard to come by, especially with both the cops and your enemies in the drug trade coming after you...

THE CITY OF MIRRORS by Justin Cronin

In life I was a scientist called Fanning. Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died. I died, and then I was brought back to life...Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards to one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future. What she finds is not what she's expecting. A journey into the past. To find out how it all began. And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.

MURDER NEVER KNOCKS by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

A failed attempt on his life by a contract killer gets Mike Hammer riled up. But it also lands him an unlikely job: security detail for a Hollywood producer having a party to honor his beautiful fiance e, a rising Broadway star. But it's no walk in the park, as Hammer finds violence following him and his beautiful P.I. partner Velda into the swankiest of crime scenes.In the meantime, Hammer is trying to figure out who put the hitman on him. Is there a connection with the death of a newsstand operator who took a bullet meant for him? A shadowy figure looking for the kill of his life?





Friday, January 1, 2016

Review: BATMAN ARKHAM NIGHT by Marv Wolfman

Batman Arkham Knight: The Official NovelizationDark, violent, and action packed; the novelization of the computer game is true to the medium following a game-made script with some added introspection and character background that breaks up the fight-centric narrative.

Batman endures both a physiological and physical battle to retain his sense of self and save his city from the Scarecrow and his minions following the villains rise to power in Gotham after the Jokers death. .

The action is full frontal and dose tend to read same-same boarding on drab at time - but this is a batman book so action scenes are pivotal  to the Bats' plight despite them being tedious at times. 

ARKHAM KNIGHT is pretty entertaining from start to finish and has an ending that leaves the Batman story open ended while completing a violent chapter in the Dark Night saga.

Fans of the computer game and general Batman fans will enjoy this novelization. 

2016 New Years Bookish Resolutions

Welcome to 2016! Last year was an up and down year of reading for me. I read 119 books which was a lower tally than previous year but still had a lot of fun reading some very entertaining books over the year. 

This is the third year I'm posting my New Years Bookish Resolutions.

You can read last years post here: 2015 Bookish Resolutions.

Looking back I didn't quite achieve all I had set out to (again) but that's part of fun of it.

Below are my 2016 bookish resolutions:



  • Read my own damn books - I have a lengthy TBR pile which means less focus on review and library books and more on reading the books I spent time acquiring.
  • Read the books I want to read - I go through phases reading what I think I should be reading (for review mainly) rather than reading books I WANT to read. Time to change things up in 2016!
  • Continue re-reading my favorites - I love re-reading and returning to some of my previously read books was a constant theme in 2015. More of the same in 2016.
  • Read slower - I want to enjoy and savor my reads. This will lead to less books being read in 2016 but I think it will help rekindle my love of books. 
  • Goodreads Challenge - I was thinking of not having one in 2016 but I know I will so, inline with my earlier resolution, I'm setting the bar at 50. This is half of my 2015 challenge.
  • Read bigger books - I have some meaty reads in my TBR which I haven't delved into, in part because of my high Goodreads Challenge, with that changing I look forward to spending time with these bricks of books. 

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!