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). 


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Review: BAD LUCK CITY by Matt Phillips

28999463Bad Luck City is a family crime drama of sorts, soaked in whisky and noir that doesn't shy away from the brutal realities of criminal enterprise. 

Quasi PI, Sim Palmer, a journalist by trade with long links to life on the other side of the blue line courtesy of his father's less than lawful past (albeit from a bystander viewpoint), finds himself immersed in a world of bullets and beatings as he helps a stranger search for a missing young woman; one who could be tied to a people trafficking story Sim had written some time ago. 

The all too easy manner by which Sim goes about his business didn't work all that well for this reader. Killing reads as second nature for someone who, prior to this event, lived the relatively non-threatening life of a journalist; warring with words for a local rag over putting people in actual body bags (as a youth he'd witnessed his father taking a beating and toting a gun but Sim himself hadn't dabbled in violence until this event).

There's also the case of the bartender working for a Hotel tycoon wannabe in Gloria, who appears throughout the novella only to be forgotten in the latter stages. What happened to her? I think the action and blood letting took precedent to her plot angle in this instance.  

While not adding anything new to long term readers of the genre, Bad Luck City is a pacey read with a plot laced with a constant stream of action and enough character back-story to make the twists, ebbs and flows work. 

I was provided a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Review: Hap and Leonard (short stories) by Joe R Lansdale

Hap and Leonard (short stories)This collection of short stories is a great way to get introduced to Hap and Leonard, two colorful characters that jump off the page and hit you like a ax handle the chops (read the book, you'll appreciate the statement). They're the private detectives who aren't quite private detectives; rather a pair of daring and courageous hard men with a moral compass who moonlight for a PI firm when they're not undertaking menial day jobs. They care for one another, those close to them (Brett for instance - Hap's longtime girlfriend) and take extreme measures to keep loved ones from harm - they're not afraid to shed blood and ask questions later - Leonard in particular.    

Not being overly familiar with the series of books, having only read VANILLA RIDE, I wasn't sure what to expect. Lucky I was treated to a novella and short stories that each read like a longer form of fiction. Author Joe R. Lansdale managed to pack a hell of a punch in each story. Well executed plotting, character depth, and a pleasant mix of humor and serious violence to balance things out. 

I can't name a favorite which is a rare thing in a collection such as this but each story was equally enjoyable. My advice to fans of the Hap and Leonard books - this is one you've got to have in your collection, and for those readers who aren't familiar with the series, I strongly recommend checking this out as a great starting point. 

I was provided a e-copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review: Paper Girls Vol.1

Synopsis:
In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 2-yearold newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

My thoughts:
First off I want to make mention of the perfectly suited art and colors which are match-made for the storytelling. The characters have a distinct early teenage look and the setting is eerily early morning bathed in few colors to create an atmosphere that truly heightens the reading experience.

The plot is one that evolves as the book progresses. Introducing the key players early on via a standard job for teens undertaking a paper-route followed by a standard boys v girls teenage face-off before turning towards the fantastical when a couple of strange and mysterious people covered in robes appear, while others, namely adults, disappear  without a trace. 

Snappy dialogue and a distinct teenage voice drives PAPER GIRLS towards the upper echelon of 'blended fiction' - one that comprises elements of teenage drama, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. Never missing a beat, author Brian K Vaughan evolves his characters in-line with his clever plotting as the unbelievable becomes more prevalent. 

From beginning to end, I was hooked. I love it when books/graphic novels surprise me and PAPER GIRLS certainly did that. With the time travel aspect looking to play a large part in the next volume I can't wait to see how the story pans out.  

If you get a chance, go check this one out.

I was provided a copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: HOLY DEATH (Billy Lafitte #4) by Anthony Neil Smith

Holy Death: A Billy Lafitte Novel
(crime / noir / Billy Lafitte #4)

Rating: 5/5

How much punishment can one character sustain? In the case of perennial bad a$$ and former cop (nee prisoner, biker, and outlaw) Billy Lafitte - a whole world of it, and them some. 

The fourth Lafitte novel is pure action; brutal and beautiful. 

Characters from the earlier novels feature while new character Melissa adds an exciting element to an already melting pot plot as Lafitte attempts to survive these threats and his own demons along, what is, another top notch read from author Anthony Neil Smith.

I love the different looks applied to Lafitte over the course of these books and this latest incarnation is pure terminator - as mentioned in the story itself. 

If you read noir, you need to be reading these books. 


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Review: BURN PATTERNS by Ron Elliott

Burn Patterns
In BURN PATTERNS, author Ron Elliott has Australia's answer to popular international female crime fiction protagonists such as Kay Scarpetta, Tempe Brennan, and Sara Linton to name a few in Iris Foster aka The Fire Lady - a therapist in a city psychology practice who aides the police and fire service profiling arsonists. 

BURN PATTERNS pits Iris against a serial arsonist determined to ruin lives of the vulnerable by targeting schools, zoos and churches all filled to capacity. It's a classic race against time crime thriller that blinds the reader in a smokey haze of misdirection as things aren't what they seem. I found myself questioning Iris' mental health and motives on a couple of occasions based on her risky take charge manner and equally haphazard judgement calls - all for the betterment of the story. 

"There were always people who visited their damage on others. If the damage involved fire, Iris would keep trying to put them out." 

Iris is the kind of flawed character I like to read about and is perfect for this kind of semi procedural crime. I hope to see her in many installments to come.

BURN PATTERNS comes out in June 2016 and is published by Fremantle Press.