Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Finds (31 Oct 14)


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.

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted a 'Friday Finds' - been a little light on in discovering new books. Well, that changed this week. Below are my recent finds (wishlist and review books) and as usual, it's an eclectic mix of genres and themes. 

Added to my wishlist:

The Forgotten AddictionTHE FORGOTTEN ADDICTION by Michael Lion (I still rate THE BUTCHER'S GRANDDAUGHTER as one of my all time favorite noirs and am excited to hear about this long waited second novel from Michael Lion - publication date 20 November 2014) 

LA, 1993. The City is burning itself down. Murder is king. And Bird is back, right in the middle of the blaze. Still blaming himself for the death of the Butcher's Granddaughter, Bird is holed up in his girlfriend's apartment and trying to keep the demons at bay. But the City won't leave him alone, won't let him grieve. When the desperate father of a missing UCLA co-ed finds Bird and pleads with him to help find his daughter, Bird sees a path to personal redemption and takes it. It may be the last mistake he ever makes. From penthouse office suites to strip club poker games, Bird soon learns that the girl's disappearance may have been of her own making. But somewhere along the way she drew the interest of L.A.'s darkest corners, and in them Bird will have to choose between his own life and that of a woman he has never met.

The World of Ice and FireTHE WORLD OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin (A must have as a fan of the epic fantasy series).

The never-before-seen history of Westeros and the lands beyond. With hundreds of pages of all-new material from George R.R. Martin.

If the past is prologue, then George R. R. Martin’s masterwork—the most inventive and entertaining fantasy saga of our time—warrants one hell of an introduction. At long last, it has arrived with The World of Ice and Fire.

This lavishly illustrated volume is a comprehensive history of the Seven Kingdoms, providing vividly constructed accounts of the epic battles, bitter rivalries, and daring rebellions that lead to the events of A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO’s Game of Thrones. In a collaboration that’s been years in the making, Martin has teamed with Elio M. GarcĂ­a, Jr., and Linda Antonsson, the founders of the renowned fan site Westeros.org—perhaps the only people who know this world almost as well as its visionary creator.

Collected here is all the accumulated knowledge, scholarly speculation, and inherited folk tales of maesters and septons, maegi and singers. It is a chronicle which stretches from the Dawn Age to the Age of Heroes; from the Coming of the First Men to the arrival of Aegon the Conqueror; from Aegon’s establishment of the Iron Throne to Robert’s Rebellion and the fall of the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen, which has set into motion the “present-day” struggles of the Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, and Targaryens.


The definitive companion piece to George R. R. Martin’s dazzlingly conceived universe, The World of Ice and Fire.

Black Science, Vol.1: How to Fall ForeverBLACK SCIENCE VOL 1: HOW TO FALL FOREVER written by Rick Remender, art by Matteo Scalera (the art alone makes me want this - luckily the story looks good as well)


Anarchist scientist Grant McKay has done the impossible! Using the Pillar, he has punched a hole through the barriers between dimensions, allowing travel to all possible universes. But now Grant and his team are trapped in the folds of infinity, the Pillar sending them careening through a million universes of unimaginable adventure, sanity-flaying danger and no way home...

Presenting the first mind-warping chapter of the critically acclaimed sci-fi epic by superstar creative team of writer RICK REMENDER (Uncanny Avengers, Captain America) and artist MATTEO SCALERA (Secret Avengers).

Collects BLACK SCIENCE #1-6.


Just in for review (many thanks to the respective publishers in Mysterious Press and New South Books):

Robin Williams: When the Laughter Stops 1951 - 2014  Everybody Goes to Jimmy's: A Suspense Novel

Top-5: Books for Halloween



This series of blog posts is a top 5 topical 'best-of' list for all things bookish - be it true crime, fiction, novels to novella etc. - pretty much whatever topic I want to post about on a given day. The aim being to reintroduce myself with some old favorites (books/authors) and also take a look at some books/genres I'm yet to read much of. This is a more casual series of posts as there is no defined scheduled unlike my regular Friday Finds and Monday Reads, feel free to join in and post your top-5 all things bookish and provide a link in the comments. 

This entry looks at books to get you in the mood for Halloween. While Halloween is steadily gaining momentum each year in Australia it's certainly not as popular as in the US. Irrespective, it makes for a great opportunity to showcase some of my favorite horror reads and hopefully introduce new readers to these spooky stories! 


Off SeasonOFF SEASON by Jack Ketchum (cannibalism) 

When Off Season, a novel about horror and cannibalism in modern-day Maine, was first released in 1980, it took readers by storm and sold over 250,000 copies. However, the original edition was edited and content was removed from the story at the publisher's request. The whole effect of the book was deemed too intense, particularly the ending. The Overlook Connection Press has released the novel in its original unexpurgated state for the first time anywhere. The author's original vision can now be read. 

September. A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River—off season—awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall...

And before too many hours pass, five civilized, sophisticated people and one tired old country sheriff will learn just how primitive we all are beneath the surface...and that there are no limits at all to the will to survive.


White Flag of The DeadWHITE FLAG OF THE DEAD by Joseph Talluto (zombie)

Millions died when the Enillo Virus swept the earth. Millions more were lost when the victims of the plague refused to stay dead, instead rising to slay and feed on those left alive. For survivors like John Talon and his son Jake, they are faced with a choice: Do they submit to the dead, raising the white flag of surrender? Or do they find the will to fight, to try and hang on to the last shreds or humanity?

From my review: 'White Flag of the Dead' is much like every other zombie novel out there - a virus originating in a densely populated metropolis infects thousands before spreading to suburbia where the numbers turn seven digits before crossing borders and continents to turn the world into one giant meat market. What makes this tired old tale fresh is the sense of community among chaos. In the middle of a broken world, one man, John Talon stops surviving and starts living. Delusions of grandeur? Perhaps, but I like the idea of mankind taking a stand and fighting back; a slight deviance to the traditional survival horror genre zombie books so comfortably fit in.

Dark MatterDARK MATTER by Michelle Paver (ghost story)

January 1937. Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely, and desperate to change his life, so when he's offered the chance to join an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it. Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year, Gruhuken, but the Arctic summer is brief. As night returns to claim the land, Jack feels a creeping unease. One by one, his companions are forced to leave. He faces a stark choice: stay or go. Soon he will see the last of the sun, as the polar night engulfs the camp in months of darkness. Soon he will reach the point of no return--when the sea will freeze, making escape impossible. Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks there in the dark...

From my review: I couldn't put ‘Dark Matter’ down; one can’t help but feel what Jack is going through and shudder at ever bump, groan and scrape in the night. Paver used subtle horror to perfection instilling a constant sense of dread and hopelessness. The extra content on the ‘real’ dark matter complimented the fiction nicely. In a word – excellent, 5 stars.


BreedBREED by Chase Novak (vampire)

Alex and Leslie Twisden told each other they would do anything to have children. The price didn’t matter. But the experimental procedure they found had costs they couldn’t foresee.

Adam and Alice Twisden’s lives seem perfectly normal. Except that, every night, without fail, their parents lock them into their rooms.

And the twins know that the sounds they can hear are not just their imagination. They’re real. And they’re getting louder...

From a new name in horror, Breed is a stunning thriller in the vein of Rosemary’s Baby, brilliantly written, daring, and unforgettable.

The Birthing HouseTHE BIRTHING HOUSE by Christopher Ransom (haunted house)

When Conrad buys a big old house in Wisconsin, his wife Jo doesn't share his enthusiasm, reluctant at the idea of leaving their LA life. But Conrad's new purchase is not all that it seems. Soon Conrad is hearing the ghostly wailing of a baby in the night, seeing blood on the floor & being haunted by a woman who looks exactly like Jo.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Catching up on crime: STRAITS OF FORTUNE by Anthony Gagliano

Straits of FortuneFrom the back of the book:
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 new found 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.

My Review:
STRAITS OF FORTUNE is a fun book to read. It’s noir with a nod to the Carl Hiaasen style of storytelling. The dark humour mixed with violence makes for a well-balanced cocktail of drama and suspense.

In Jack Vaughn, author Anthony Gagliano has created a likable protagonist who fits the Miami Beach noir mode to the fullest. He’s buff, fit, and an ex-cop turned personal trainer. His clients love him and it’s this connection that compliments the plot, making his actions and interactions plausible (at times Vaughn needs to rely on a gangster rapper and lawyer to help keep his head above water – in some instances literally).

Opening with a pulp style act 1, STRAITS OF FORTUNE quickly morphs into a much larger monster as bodies pile up and blackmail and family secrets come to surface.


I haven’t seen any other books out that feature Vaughn, hopefully this isn’t the only novel to feature him as I can’t help but think we’re just getting started. 

Monday, October 27, 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:


AUTHORITY by Jeff Vandermeer (sci-fi/fantasy)

HUSH by Anne Frasier (mainstream crime)

El GavilanEL GAVILAN  by Craig McDonald (I had intended to read this last week but time just got away from me. Am 50-odd pages through and can tell I'm going to like it.)

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.


The Cost of Doing BusinessTHE COST OF DOING BUSINESS by Jonathan Ashley

In Jonathan Ashley's dark humor debut crime novel, a Louisville bookstore owner leaves his used volumes of Yeats behind to get into the drug trade and make some real money.

Jon Catlett, a misanthropic literary obsessive, is facing the loss of the only thing in the world he loves; his used bookstore, a haven for fellow weirdos, outcasts, misunderstood geniuses and malcontents. Jon has several other problems, the least of which are his love affair with a bi-polar femme fatale heiress to a thriving northern steel company or the exponentially growing opiate habit he has developed.

When Jon, during a deal gone wrong, accidentally kills a fellow drug addict, getting away with murder turns out to be the least of his worries. The steps he and Paul, the obsessive-compulsive manager of Jon's store, must take to cover up the killing result in the two cornering Louisville’s blossoming heroin trade.

From West End gangbangers to dirty cops and crusading narcotics detectives, Jon and his unstable partner in crime must dilute their morals and thicken their skin if they are to have any hope of surviving the lucrative but deadly life they've stumbled upon.

Catching up on crime: HUSH by Anne Frasier

HushFrom the back of the book:
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.

My Review:
HUSH reads like the mainstream popular crime fiction commonly associated with Karin Slaughter, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson etc. yet it’s enjoyable and gripping from the get-go, largely due to a seriously messed up antagonist whose thirst for murder is as unquenchable as is the limitless lengths he goes to in order to destroy the lives of his victims and their family.

The ‘Madonna Murderer’ murders mothers, punishing them for their sins while claiming to ‘save’ their babies by subjecting them to the same fate.  

Criminal Profiler Ivy Dunlap is a sole survivor, having been moved into witness protection and given a new identity; she resurfaces at the request of the police to aide in the hunt to catch the killer some years after surviving the attempt on her life.

It’s an interesting dynamic; to couple a victim with an ongoing investigation and have it work despite the obvious trepidation of both parties involved. I liked the almost covert way Ivy was instilled into the investigation while keeping her true identity secret - you could see how this affected her with much of her action being driven by the constant pressure to maintain this false identity.

HUSH is a crime thriller, one that has all the hallmarks of the popular genre of modern crime fiction; unfortunately that includes some filler content and inconsequential scenes of semi domestic life and two dimensional character building. Despite this, I still enjoyed the book (even though pop crime fiction isn’t my genre of choice).

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.