Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: The Weird Tales of Conan the Barbarian

25759733This collection of short stories originally published in Weird Tales from 1934 through 1936 serves as a great introduction to the Conan sword and sorcery epics. 

Magic, bloody battles, dark arts, and a healthy dose violence and adventure populate each of the short stories and that of the novel, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON which rounds out the collection. Whilst there is an element of repetition to each of the stories, they are all entertaining, with THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE and RED NAILS being standouts.

Conan, more a king than barbarian for the most part cuts his way through all manner of enemies in search of a damsel in distress, a Jewell that hold magical power, or a kingdom in need of taking. There's not a lot of depth and, novel and RED NAILS aside, little by way of supporting characters. This is ok though, Conan isn't meant to be a deep and meaningful read - it's meant to be greedily consumed whilst loosing yourself in the fantastical world he resides and conquers. 

I've used the term 'popcorn pulp' many times in other reviews and THE WEIRD TALES OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN is just that, albeit a little more meaty given the number of short stories and bonus full length novel readers are treated to. 

I was provide a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

This Just In!

Who doesn't love getting new books? Here are a couple that have come my way recently thanks to a pair of awesome publishers! Better yet - they are written by two authors are very talented and always write a good yarn. Hit up the search / tags of this blog to read reviews of their early works.


Written by Andrez Bergen

Publication Date: 30 June 2016

Publisher: Open Books

The Blurb:
An unnamed city, in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power...
'Black Sails, Disco Inferno' is a retelling of the classic medieval romance of Tristan and Isolde, turning things on their head by reversing the sex of the chief protagonists and placing them in a '70s pulp/noir world — amidst a sensual, disco-infused narrative overflowing with shady schemes, double dealings, cruel brutality and a spellbinding mystery. 


Written by Andrew Nette

Publication Date: 12 September 2016

Publisher: 280 Steps

The Blurb:
A heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark's Parker, Garry Disher's Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.

Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job sees him in Queensland working for Dennis Curry, an aging Surfers Paradise standover man. Curry runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Frederick 'Freddie' Gao.

While the job may seem straightforward, Curry's crew is anything but. Frank Dormer is a secretive former Australian soldier turned private security contractor. Sophia Lekakis is a highly-strung receptionist at the hotel where Gao stays when he visits Surfers. Amber is Curry's attractive female housemate and part of the lure for Gao. Chance knows he can't trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry's plan goes wrong.

Do yourself a favor and pre-order these!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Review: NOD by Adrian Barnes

25733548Nod explores the slow disintegration of humanity through sleep deprivation. Reality is distorted as the conceptual fiction of the world of Nod turns fact in the eyes of the Awakened. A harsh insomnia overthrows the daily grind, replacing it with a hazed infused horror fun-house that strips the characters down to their basic need to just survive.  

While I was expecting a different story, Nod delivers in establishing a truly atmospheric semi-dystopian infused survival horror. 

Yet the most endearing element comes from the death of a long term relationship between Paul (one of the few Sleepers - people who are able to maintain nightly sleep) and his is partner Tanya (one of the many Awakened, those in a perpetual state of insomnia). Their close bond pre the end of the world balances on the edge of ending before falling over the void into nothingness. Add cult-like theorists and an easy manipulation of will, and Tanya and Paul's life together was going to always take a turn for the worse. Not forgetting the fact that the Awakened have a vastly shortened life span as it is. 

I can understand while some readers are put off by Nod. The story ends without providing full closure and there are a couple of plot holes that aren't filled. I didn't find these complains overbearing and still enjoyed the book for the most part. 

I was provided a copy of Nod by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Thoughts on The Passage trilogy pre reading THE CITY OF MIRRORS

30241499Today I finally got my hands of the final installment to Justin Cronin's epic The Passage trilogy in The City Of Mirrors. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait to delve in. So much so that I'm putting my current read on hold (something I rarely do). 

I read The Twelve in October 2012 (the 18th through to 25th - thank you Goodreads) so I'm a little hazy on the action that's taken place to this point. What better way to get reacquainted with the story than to re-read right? Well, one look at that rather large page count (including the 1st book, The Passage) and I had second thoughts. The next best thing? Revisit my review of The Twelve, familiarize myself with the landscape and prepare to jump back in. 

The Twelve is vastly different from The Passage in terms of plot focus and central theme. Apart from being set in the same world as its predecessor, The Twelve reads as an entirely different book - conceptually. The virals and humanity's struggle to thrive in a limited existence was bound to evolve; yet it may have been to the detriment of all that the author had achieved in The Passage. 

Where The Passage excelled in elements of survival horror, post apocalyptic dread, horrific creatures and a truly depressing and desperate setting, The Twelve is more thriller, action, almost special ops orientated. This approach, while decent in its own right, paled in comparison to the The Passage. I was hoping for something that picked up the bloodied pieces of the shocking conclusion and maintained the same horror of the first installment.

The Twelve in turn, focuses more on the human dynamic and less on the virals themselves. Amy, the mysterious thirteenth test subject becomes something much more than an everlasting, slow ageing viral cousin so to speak. Her story is one of the highlights, along with the expanded sub plot given to Alicia Donadio. 

You could easily be excused for thinking The Twelve was written by Stephen King. All the hallmarks of a popular King horror are present throughout. Characters are given ample time to develop, past and present conflicts morph as one, the slow burning plot cruises along leisurely at times taking a back seat to dialogue or less critical narrative, and the overall feel is in tune with Kings' craft. 

If not for The Passage, The Twelve would read much better (given the expectations and overall theme of the preceding story). That said, The Passage is essential in defining the world and establishing the core characters. As much as I enjoyed The Twelve, I couldn't help but think it would've been much better if had resembled The Passage more. 

I rated The Twelve 3 stars on Goodreads, and have little doubt The City of Mirrors will surpass that. 

Check back on the blog for my review of The City of Mirrors soon-ish. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Review: THE EMERALD LIE by Ken Bruen

28818951As with the previous books in this series, The Emerald Lie reads more as a character study than crime novel, with Jack, the glue that binds Bruen's noir enriched world of fiction together. 

Well known for being a drunkard and not one to shy away from drugs and violence, Jack once again dons the tried and true persona to great effect. His nonchalance customary to the crimes he takes as cases, yet he yields results inadvertently by virtue of proximity, luck, and shear will. The Grammatical killer, the antagonist with a not so obscure link to Jack, is the latest niche serial killer to wade into the cross-hairs.

A character I particularly like is Em, the dangerous femme fatale from The Green Hell who provides some crazy to complicate Jack's life and compliment the story. Along with her, Bruen writes well to maintain and strengthen the series continuity including references to some of the very first cases Jack worked on. I like this element which bodes well for long time readers while simultaneously dropping hints to new readers of what's happened to Jack along the way.

Bruen has written some great books, many of them featuring Jack Taylor, the PI who isn't, yet The Emerald Lie sits atop the pile. It's a book written for book lovers. It's a story tailor made for noir aficionados. It's a damn fine read with a cracker ending that makes you want to flick back to page 1 and start the ride all over again.

I was provided an advance copy for review by the publisher. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: THE MICHIGAN MURDERS by Edward Keyes

29870198Late in the 1960's Michigan saw a spate of extremely violent murders targeting young women. Each of the victims was sexually assaulted and murdered in a horrific and confronting manner which is hard to read let alone comprehend.

Local law enforcement struggled to link the murders; miss-stepping and a lack of early collaboration hindered the search for the killer. As the bodies piled up so did public ridicule. The author clearly articulates the frustration at not being able to obtain a clean cut conviction. It's a ride for the reader that's not easy to digest.

80% of this book is utterly engaging; reading more like graphic crime fiction than true crime. Such is the grisly manner of the murders, the reality doesn't set it until the long and somewhat drab trial proceedings; unfortunately this part did take something away from what is a well written book.

Each chapter gives ample time to the procedural aspects of the investigation as well as ensuring the victims' untimely murder is depicted in sufficient detail; a well rounded and written account is achieved.

For readers of true crime who have yet to check this out (originally published some time ago) I strongly recommend snapping up a copy.

I was provided an e-arc by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Most Anticipated Upcoming Reads 2016

I'm always adding books to my ever growing TBR and wishlist for new reads. Below are some fantasy / sci fi books that I'm really excited about that will be published later this year:

DEATH'S END by Cixin Liu

Publication date: 
October 2016

About the book:
Half a century after the Doomsday Battle, the uneasy balance of Dark Forest Deterrence keeps the Trisolaran invaders at bay. Earth enjoys unprecedented prosperity due to the infusion of Trisolaran knowledge. With human science advancing and the Trisolarans adopting Earth culture, it seems that the two civilizations can co-exist peacefully as equals without the terrible threat of mutually assured annihilation. But peace has also made humanity complacent. Cheng Xin, an aerospace engineer from the 21st century, awakens from hiber-nation in this new age. She brings knowledge of a long-forgotten program dating from the start of the Trisolar Crisis, and her presence may upset the delicate balance between two worlds. Will humanity reach for the stars or die in its cradle?

Why I want to read it:
I loved the two preceding novels in The Three Body Prolem and The Dark Forest. This complex and thought provoking sci-fi is fast becoming one of my favorite series (if any genre). 

23302838GOLDENHAND by Garth Nix

Publication date: 
October 2016

About the book:
Lirael is no longer a shy Second Assistant Librarian. She is the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, with Dead creatures to battle and Free Magic entities to bind. She’s also a Remembrancer, wielder of the Dark Mirror. Lirael lost one of her hands in the binding of Orannis, but now she has a new hand, one of gilded steel and Charter Magic.

When Lirael finds Nicholas Sayre lying unconscious after being attacked by a hideous Free Magic creature, she uses her powers to save him. But Nicholas is deeply tainted with Free Magic. Fearing it will escape the Charter mark that seals it within his flesh and bones, Lirael seeks help for Nick at her childhood home, the Clayr’s Glacier.

But even as Lirael and Nick return to the Clayr, a young woman named Ferin from the distant North braves the elements and many enemies in a desperate attempt to deliver a message to Lirael from her long-dead mother, Arielle. Ferin brings a dire warning about the Witch with No Face. But who is the Witch, and what is she planning?

Why I want to read it:
The 5th book in the Old Kingdom series is finally upon us! Sabriel (book 1) is one of my most read fantasy books and I just love the concept and the world building in this series. 

LIFE DEBT: AFTERMATH (Star Wars) by Chuck Wendig

Publication date:
July 2016

About the book:
The Emperor is dead, and the remnants of his former Empire are in retreat. As the New Republic fights to restore a lasting peace to the galaxy, some dare to imagine new beginnings and new destinies. For Han Solo, that means settling his last outstanding debt, by helping Chewbacca liberate the Wookiee’s homeworld of Kashyyyk.
Meanwhile, Norra Wexley and her band of Imperial hunters pursue Grand Admiral Rae Sloane and the Empire’s remaining leadership across the galaxy. Even as more and more officers are brought to justice, Sloane continues to elude the New Republic, and Norra fears Sloane may be searching for a means to save the crumbling Empire from oblivion. But the hunt for Sloane is cut short when Norra receives an urgent request from Princess Leia Organa. The attempt to liberate Kashyyyk has carried Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a band of smugglers into an ambush—resulting in Chewie’s capture and Han’s disappearance.
Breaking away from their official mission and racing toward Kashyyyk, Norra and her crew prepare for any challenge that stands between them and their missing comrades. But they can’t anticipate the true depth of the danger that awaits them—or the ruthlessness of the enemy drawing them into his crosshairs.

Why I want to read it:
Aftermath introduced some great characters into the Star Wars new canon universe and I can't wait to read of them again. Sloane, who also features in A New Dawn is a character of note. Aftermath read true to the original trilogy feel and I hope Life Debt is able to once again replicate the experience. 

SPIDERLIGHT by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Publication date:
August 2016

About the book:
The Church of Armes of the Light has battled the forces of Darkness for as long as anyone can remember. The great prophecy has foretold that a band of misfits, led by a high priestess will defeat the Dark Lord Darvezian, armed with their wits, the blessing of the Light and an artifact stolen from the merciless Spider Queen. Their journey will be long, hard and fraught with danger. Allies will become enemies; enemies will become allies. And the Dark Lord will be waiting, always waiting… Spiderlight is an exhilarating fantasy quest from Adrian Tchaikovsky, the author of Guns at Dawn and the Shadows of the Apt series.

Why I want to read it:
While Spiderlight is a standalone fantasy novel, it looks to have a similar feel to the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series which is hands down my favorite epic fantasy series (yes, better than Fire and Ice).