Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review: MIAMI REQUIEM by J.B. Turner


Miami RequiemMiami Herald reporter, Deborah Jones is a rookie, new to journalism yet brimming with single minded determination to pursue the truth and provide it to the newspapers readership. Her first ‘real’ assignment, one more of her own violation than an order from her superiors, sees her traverse to a correctional facility to visit William Craig, a death-row inmate waiting out his last days in a cramped cell for the murder of a Senators son of which he accused of raping his granddaughter eleven years ago.
As she investigates the allegation, the wounds of Deborah’s past are reopened , splashed across her workplace serving as a nightmarish reminder that what’s done can never be undone regardless of time.
Senator O’Neil’s son may be dead but the ramifications of his actions live long. Craig’s granddaughter, Deborah Jones, and others are directly impacted by that horrific event eleven years ago. Only this time round, it’s the Senator’s questionable relationship with a mob boss and his unlawful friend’s desire to keep a lid on their secret deals and murderous intentions.  
I’ve read other reviews which liken J.B. Turner’s work to James Patterson. Whilst it has the same mainstream allure, it doesn’t encapsulate the McBook rush-to-print, two dimensional feel of Patterson’s newer works. MIAMI REQUIEM is character centric, well plotted and paced, with an engaging cast thrust into believable circumstances. I’m surprised this book isn’t published by one of the major crime imprints as I see it appealing to the well seasoned and occasional reader alike.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Review: A1 THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMICS Volume 1


A1 AnnualA hardcover collection of short, strong, and sharp factoids and fiction focusing on coffee and the comic book medium. Some of the world’s greatest and imaginative comic artists/storytellers appear in this anthology that gives true meaning to A1 moniker of the coffee table book.

Opening with ISLAND IN THE SKY, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s glimpse at space exploration shows the early development of the formative alien superhero and sci-fi centric storytelling within the comic medium. It’s one of the best stories in this collection and leaves the reader craving more.

TALES OF OLD FENNARIO by Sandy Plunkett is another of the standouts. This tale of a Victorian era criminally inclined town shines a spotlight on police corruption and a gritty local government. Plunkett’s writing it top shelf, as is evident by the following passage:

Fennario is a warren of back alleys and narrow streets; a byzantine maze not built by so much as grown from the blood and fevered sweat of each succeeding wave of immigrants. It’s a labyrinth as dark and as cryptic as the minds of the people who constructed it.

WIERD’S FINEST, a satire taking aim at Batman and Superman tells a condensed heart-to-heart tale between Zuberman and Batguy as Zuberman battles with his image while Batguy complains of his perceived public demeanour – largely due to the colours of his costume. Author illustrator Bambos Georgiou captures the essence of send up humour without going over the top. One of my favourites.

Others that stand out from A1 volume 1 include the violent blood thirsty world of the MELTING POT by Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley (the dark splatter feel art really worked for me in this one), EMILY ALMOST by Bill Sienkiewicz (poetic, depressing, beautiful), and FROG – a complex yet simplistic idea that moves the reader in a way few pieces of fiction do; it’s a still frame pictorial that can be read anyway conceivable and still deliver an interesting, thought provoking read. The follow-up essay was icing on the cake.  

However, it was MR MONSTER by Alan Moore and Michael T Gilbert that was the most fun to read. Mr Monster is a protagonist that screams pulply D-grade horror. His cheesy dialogue is great and fits the character perfectly. The art was complementary giving Mr. Monster the look and feel of a superhero with the chiselled angels of a dime store pulp. I’ve got to track down more of this character.

Interspersed amongst superheroes, space travel, death, murder, and crime are interesting facts of that alluring and addictive coffee bean to break things up and remind the reader to fill their cup before continuing with the stories in the collection (it worked for me).

Overall A1 THE WORLD’S GREATEST COMICS Volume 1 was a great way to read some diverse fiction presented in comic form by some of the best that ever did it. Fingers crossed for a volume 2.  

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Review: THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


The Prisoner of HeavenExpanding upon the literary universe set within the fictional landscape of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN focuses on one of my favourite characters, Fermin, and his seemingly unjust imprisonment prior to forming the bond he now shares with bookstore owners Sempere Snr and son Daniel.

Author Carlos Ruiz Zafon has once again written a book for book lovers. Like the previous instalments in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books universe, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN envelopes the reader in the velvety mist of Barcelona circa 1930’s and 1940’s whilst the narrative waxes poetic the allure and intimacy a cherished/sought after book has on a reader.

There’s secrecy, mystery upon mystery, and multi faceted storytelling yet the glue that holds it all together is the rich and vibrant characters Carlos Ruiz Zafon has steadily built into his Barcelona. Whilst Fermin’s back-story and involvement with a mysterious visitor to the bookstore is the highlight, there are also delicious revelations about Daniel and co that are sure to satisfy fans of this series of books.

As the third book, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN reads well as a standalone yet, having read THE SHADOW OF THE WIND (twice) and THE ANGEL’S GAME, THE PRISONER OF HEAVEN is that much more enjoyable. If you like books – irrespective of genre, this is a must read series. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: THE CORMORANT by Chuck Wendig


The Cormorant (Miriam Black, #3)The foul speaking, ass kicking heroine, Miriam Black, cursed with the ability to peel back the curtain of the future to witness the death of anyone she has physical skin-to-skin contact with, returns for a third and very gratifying instalment in THE CORMORANT.

After a violent encounter by which she tries to save a man from a street kid’s gun, Miriam’s hired by a mystery man from an ad on Craigslist. Miriam is naturally guarded and is sceptical of the man’s ad – 5K to know how he dies – but is in need of cash and a place to crash so she makes way to Florida Keys for what could be an easy injection of wealth. It’s not.

Author Chuck Wendig employs and interesting approach to telling Miriam’s tale of murder, vengeance, and, to a degree, heroism by alternating chapters between present day and past events. It aids in forming a well articulated and multi dimensional look at Miriam’s life, her trials, and tribulations.

The traumatic events of the previous books still haunt Miriam, only this time round; they try to kill her too. Additionally, her growing arsenal of abilities are further expanded upon and put to good use within the context of the story. THE CORMORANT relates more to Miriam’s journey as a person, as it does the progression of identifying and nullifying her curse.

With THE CORMORANT readers get pretty much what they can expect – simply put; more of the good stuff.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Review: THE OTHER TREE by D.K. Mok


The Other TreeChris graduated from university four years ago yet finds herself rooted to the campus. Despite her degree she finds herself undertaking menial tasks with little fulfilment – until, she’s accosted by a corporation that has ties to her mother’s death to aid them on a mission to discover a cure for death; the promise of immortality.

She turns them down only to take up the challenge on her own accord. Wanting to ensure this powerful and world changing discovery doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

There are multiple factions involved in this globe spanning adventure; SinaCorp, a military like corporation determined to find the tree of life for the purpose of profit, while a secret group whose purpose is to protect the worlds hidden wonders puts up dangerous roadblocks at each stage of the journey. The unlikely duo of botanist, Chris, and Luke, a priest at Chris’ university want to find Eden, while for slightly different reasons, their ultimate cause is more humanitarian than SinaCorps.

Containing religious and scientific elements, neither is overbearing and each equally contributes depth and justification for the protagonists’ pursuit of the tree of life. A liberal dose of humour keeps the dialogue fresh and removes some of the heat from the serious/more violent encounters the likable protagonists find themselves involved in.  

My only gripe is one of practicality over the suspension of belief. Chris and Luke don’t have the never ending resources (gadgets, personnel, cash) at SinaCorps disposal, yet their globe spanning would run a sizable bill – while author D.K. Mok mentions of multiple occasions that Chris and Luke don’t have a never ending pile cash, the logical part of me wanted them to not be able to traverse the globe, rather just the key (and more localised) points on the map. That said, this is still a good form of escapism and one that is best summed as a Mix of Dan Brown and Indiana Jones.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Review: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS by M.R. Carey


The Girl With All The GiftsMelanie is a 10yr old girl with a unique and terrifying gift; one that challenges the status quo and threatens to change her way of life – and not for the better. In a dangerous post apocalyptic new world, this seemingly innocent and kind hearted young girl finds herself one of the most significant and important people on Earth. Within her lies the hope and bloody end to mankind in its present day incarnation.

Author M.R. Carey really grabs the reader with such a young and vulnerable protagonist who is  thrust into a violent world where normalcy consists of scavenging for live food – be it human or animal whilst trying to outwit the ‘hungires’ and ‘junkers’ alike. Aided by a group of uninfected humans in Dr Caldwell, Sergeant Parks, and Helen Justineau she confronts horror upon horror – and not all necessarily amongst the decay of abandoned cities and burnt landscapes. This survival horror has the survivors on equal billing as those who hunt them.

Chapters written from multiple points of view provide a depth to the perspective; seeing the struggle to survive through the eyes of soldiers, educational professionals, scientists, and a young girl shine a unique light on the predicament this diverse cast of characters so find themselves. This is horror from multiple angles, each as heart pounding as the last.

I greedily consumed THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS, wanting to taste that bitter end for we all know full well these post apocalyptic stories don’t end in sunshine and rainbows – and this is no different. That said, M.R. Carey’s take on the ever growing extension-level-event genre and it’s shock and awe ramifications doesn’t stick to the script nor conform to norm – it’s heartfelt, emotionally evocative and visually vivid. One of the ‘must read’ books of 2014.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review: THE PRESIDENT'S VAMPIRE by Christopher Farnsworth


The President's Vampire (Nathaniel Cade, #2)BLOOD OATH introduced readers to a dark underworld consisting of covert ops, conspiracy, national security, and elements of the supernatural. The bumps in the night are real and the President of the USA has the weapon to abolish these unearthly abominations – a vampire, Nathanial Cade, bound to protect and serve his President for the good of mankind; keeping the other side at bay one monstrosity and evil genius at a time.

In THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE, author Christopher Farnsworth pits Cade and his politically inclined sidekick Zach Barrows against ‘snakeheads’; monsters created for the purpose of devising a superior race – one limited in numbers though big on violence that will reshape the world through one man’s demented view of a better way of life.

The vampire lore and government conspiracy theories are built upon heavily in the second Cade instalment. Each chapter dares readers to question what they know with clever snippets of Cade’s cases and supernatural conspiracy imbedded into real world events headlining the start of each chapter.

THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE reads more as a thriller with double crosses commonplace and underworld warfare rampant. While I prefer BLOOD OATH, THE PRESIDENT’S VAMPIRE scratches a different itch, one that caters for the adrenaline junkie as well as those who like their horror full frontal.

The third book in the series is RED, WHITE AND BLOOD – I’m interested to see what Farnsworth has install for Cade and Burrows.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Interview: Charles Lambert (author of THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER)

Credit: Patrizia CasamirraCharles Lambert was born in England and educated at Cambridge, but has lived in Italy for more than twenty years.

His short fiction has been shortlisted for the Willesden Short Story Prize and his story 'The Scent of Cinnamon' won him an O. Henry Prize.

His most recent novel ANY HUMAN FACE was described by the Bookseller as 'immensely impressive ... holds you completely enthralled throughout' and in The Telegraph Jake Kerrdige described it as 'a slow-burning, beautifully written crime story that brings to like Rome that tourists don't see - luckily for them.'

THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER and THE FOLDING WORLD continue this suspenseful exploration of Rome's dark side. (bio from Exhibit A website: http://exhibitabooks.com/authors/charles-lambert/)

Charles was kind enough to stop by the blog to answer some questions about THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER (Dec 2013, Exhibit A) and what to expect from him later this year.

*Read my review of THE VIEW FROM THE TOWER*

(Josh) All the characters (Martin, Helen, Giacomo, Federico etc.) are complex and multi-dimensional - a rarity in fiction for so many to be so deep and interesting. How did you develop these characters and what makes them so fascinating to read?

(Charles) First of all, thank you! I certainly wanted my characters to hold the reader’s attention, ideally as much as they held mine as I wrote the novel. Although the basic mechanism of the book is that of a crime thriller, with a murder and the subsequent search for a murderer, what really drives the action is the net of relationships the characters form with one another, and if relationships are to be successful, in life and in fiction, there has to be a level of complexity – and mystery - that keeps those involved on their toes. As a writer I found myself letting the characters lead me where they needed to go, as one draft followed another. I worked harder on this novel than on anything else I’ve written, and this is entirely due to the demands made on me by the people in it, and by their interactions. If that hadn’t been the case, of course, I wouldn’t have written (and re-written) the novel at all. 

As far as inspiration for specific characters goes, Martin, as I first conceived him, was loosely based on a journalist I had the privilege to work with once in Rome, but developed very much into his own man as the writing progressed, while Federico and Giacomo began as contrasting types  (rationality vs passion, Apollo vs Dionysus, bureaucrat vs buccaneer) and were startled into a more three-dimensional life through their relationships with Helen and each other. What’s interested me is the number of people who’ve found Helen unlikeable, but enthralling. It’s a gratifying indication that she lives for the reader, even if they might not want to have her as a friend. I’m very fond of her myself and, no, she isn’t based on anyone I know!

The View From The Tower
The murder mystery element plays second fiddle to the relationships Federico has with the respective cast, was this always the intention or did it evolve throughout the course of writing the book?

See above! More generally I’ve never been able to plot a book much beyond the immediate future of the end of the current chapter, and I’d get bored – and give up - if I knew how the novel was going to end in any more than the vaguest way. In the case of The View from the Tower, I started without the faintest idea who might have killed Federico. What I needed to explore was how a person might feel if her long-term partner died while she was having sex with another man, and, even though I felt the various parts of the novel fall into place when I did realize who was responsible, I still had a lot of surprises ahead of me - I was still primarily driven by the web of emotions that bound together the group of people I was writing about. The balance between plot and character is one of the greatest challenges in the genre, such as it is, of literary thriller – too much character stuff and readers get bored, too much action and characters become ciphers. My way of trying to achieve that balance is to let the protagonists reveal themselves, their motives, through what they say and do, and hope that what they say (and don’t say) and do (and fail to do) are exciting enough to grip the reader.


I enjoyed the pacing of The View from the Tower and was particularly interested to read the flashback sequences involving a younger Helen and Giacomo. How important are these sequences for the present day setting of the book (circa 2004)?

One of the things that gives the characters depth is the sense that they have a past, but the sequences in Turin also thicken the ethical broth. The central issue of the novel is the classic dilemma of means justifying ends, and how far this can be taken, and I was interested to look at how that dilemma plays out in two very different periods: a period of idealism and consequent violence, and a more recent period (the present day) in which terrorism is seen as the ‘other’ rather than as a realistic alternative to oppression, as so many people thought at that time. I remember chatting once to a telephone repairman who said that Renato Curcio (the jailed Red Brigades leader) would have squares named after him one day. That hasn’t happened, but it didn’t seem so unlikely in 1980.

I found the writing of the novel salutary in a personal sense too, as someone who lived through the ambiguities of the late 1970s in Italy in a state of (un)holy innocence, and now lives, as we all do, with the consequences, for good and bad, of those years. It made me realise – and face up to - my own ambiguities, something that Italy hasn’t entirely done. It’s still extraordinary to me to see how many people who flirted – and often slept - with terrorism three or four decades ago now occupy positions of institutional or cultural power here. Moving between the two periods sets up a perspective that throws this weird shift, I hope, into relief.


Politics play their part in proceedings; did you undertake much research when writing the book?

Not really. Helen’s experiences in Turin in 1978 more or less mirror my own, as far as the politics goes (my love life wasn’t quite as lively!). Even the figure of the knee-capped trades unionist is based on fact; he really did get sent to the Fiat plant in South Africa, though what happened to him after that I have no idea. One of the things that struck me (as it did Helen) is just how politicized Italians seemed to be then. After 20 years of Berlusconi and a general TV-driven dumbing down of political consciousness, that’s no longer as general a truth as it was, and one of the ironies of contemporary Italy is that it may be the only country in the world that depends on Rupert Murdoch (Sky) for relatively impartial TV news reporting. But people are still aware of the nitty-gritty of political horse-dealing in a way that’s unusual in English-speaking countries. So all the political background in the novel is the kind of stuff people simply pick up just by living here, from the air around them; and so is the level of cynicism that some characters in the novel sometimes display. There’s an Italian word – dietrologia (literally, behindology) that describes the tendency to look for the real reason behind anything, the skeleton in the cupboard, if you like, and people here generally have a probably healthy conviction that the truth about most things – from kickbacks to assassinations - will never come out.

Having said that, it’s also true that living and working in Rome means that I’ve had the chance to meet, and have as friends, people who are involved in politics at national level, or to know people who know them. I’m one or at most two degrees of separation, in Kevin Bacon terms, from at least three Italian presidents!


If you could describe The View from the Tower in one sentence what would it be?

The next book on your to-buy list? Alternatively (though I don’t like it nearly as much), ‘A gripping and moving novel about friendship, love, complicity and betrayal, and the damage done when ideals and human lives come into conflict.’


What’s next for Charles Lambert?

I have two books coming out later this year. The View from the Tower is the first in a trilogy of novels set in Rome (entirely or in part) and dealing with corruption and malpractices in one field or another of public and private life. The second novel in the trilogy - Any Human Face - came out three years ago (blame the vagaries of publishing!). The third, entitled The Folding World and due in November from Exhibit A, sees the return of Martin, Alina, and the two main characters from the second novel, and looks at sex-trafficking. It's dark! In the meantime, in late May this year, The Friday Project (HarperCollins) will be publishing a work of autobiographical fiction called With a Zero at its Heart, composed of 241 120-word texts and talking about pretty much everything: money, love, death, sex, clothes, music, and so on. I'm excited to be able to say that Vaughan Oliver, the brilliant graphic designer behind so many CD covers in the past thirty years, has designed the cover and the layout of the book. It should be a thing to treasure!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Revisiting the scene of the crime: Harry Bosch #2

The Black Ice (Harry Bosch, #2)Bosch gets wind of a fellow officers alleged suicide and isn’t happy about being left out of the loop. On call on the night of the tragedy, his superiors bypass Bosch in favour of expediting the investigation. Naturally this doesn’t sit well with the lone wolf lawmen and he quickly embeds himself in the thick of it; showing up at the crime scene and assuming next of kin duties. Shortly he’s assigned a handful of murder cases to solve in order to boost Hollywood Division’s stats, little did he know, a couple of those cases would tie in with the suicide.

The second Harry Bosch book lacks the same seedy atmosphere of the Hollywood underbelly as THE BLACK ECHO. Additionally, the way Bosch forces himself into the case didn’t set all that well with me – voluntary jumping into a case that’s not supported by his superiors, nor part of his caseload felt a little too farfetched. I get that Bosch is headstrong and determined but this was almost Spillane-like; finding cases rather than cases finding. As the story progresses it makes sense for Bosch to be on the case(s), I would’ve liked more rationale at the beginning of the novel to justify his actions.

THE BLACK ICE is all about drugs, cross boarder distribution, corrupt Mexican cops and deadly cartels with a few nice twists thrown in to keep the reader guessing. As you’d expect the characters are all well written and realistic. Interestingly I didn’t recall Bosch being such a lady killer; here he manages a couple more notches under his belt.
As a reread, THE BLACK ICE (1993) ages well with the procedural aspects and PI-like persona relevant in today’s modern crime fiction. I look forward to continuing the cases that comprise this series.
You can read my review of first Harry Bosch book THE BLACKECHO here.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Review: WHEN ONE MAN DIES by Dave White

When One Man DiesWhen a bar regular is killed in a hit and run, private investigator Jackson Donne is asked by the bar’s owner to look into their friends death. Additionally, a wife suspecting her husband of cheating wants Donne’s services to provide proof of adultery. With two cases back to back, Donne finds himself suddenly busy, bruised, battered, bribed, and bloody – it's a tough gig being a PI.

Jackson Donne is one of the best articulated and distinctly three dimensional private investigators I’ve read in crime fiction. Like many fictitious PI’s he conforms to the stereotype yet brings a little something more the table. His past is present and future. The drugs and people he used to converse with are paramount to his investigative work in the PI business.

A sickly blood splattered web of lies entraps Donne in the midst of multiple homicides, both of his own violation and vocation, as well unwanted and unwarranted heat from his former employ.  Martin, Donne’s former partner whilst on the force is determined to bring Donne’s life crumbling around him. Venomous and vindictive, his snake-like coil poised to strike for the purpose of self satisfying a belated grudge, harboured in secretary, growing in resent.

For Donne, his respective investigations showcase a history and tarnished past best left in the rear view. Yet, as a the cases develop and Donne learns some hard and fast truths, the plot comes full circle proving coincidence is void when murder and power are on the table.

WHEN ONE MAN DIES is a fluid, easily consumable read in one or two sittings. I look forward to reading #2 THE EVIL THAT MEN DO.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hardcase Crime Wishlist

Hardcase Crime has a diverse and highly collectable catalogue including greats like Mickey Spillane (DEAD STREET), Max Allan Collins (Quarry novels), and David Goodis (The WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN) to name a few. As an avid reader of the imprint and the hardboiled/pulp/noir in general I thought I’d compile a list of books/ideas I’d love to see from Hardcase Crime one day

QueenpinMegan Abbott to become the third female author to be published by Hardcase Crime, following on from Christa Faust (Angel Dare novels) and Elissa Wald (THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN). A story along the lines of Megan Abbott’s QUEENPIN would be a perfect fit the line.

A Danny Boyd Carter Brown double feature (similar to Robert Bloch’s SHOOTING STAR/SPIDERWEB). The debonair private eye is my favourite character from the Aussie pulp master and it would be great to see a couple of his cases reprinted with fresh new cover art by Glen Orbik. 

An anthology collection of short stories from past greats to new talent. Hardcase Crime have one short story collection via Subterranean Press, Lawrence Block’s CATCH AND RELEASE but it would be great to read a hardboiled crime collection that includes shorts from the likes of Hammett, Westlake, and Max Allan Collins through Allan Guthrie, Josh Stallings, and Vicki Hendricks.

The Max (Max & Angela, #3 - Hard Case Crime, #47)Another Jason Starr/Ken Bruen co-authored book. Their Max and Angela novels BUST, SLIDE and THE MAX were perfect; the authors really had a chemistry and eye for satire and black humour that followed through to their writing.

A new John Blake mystery from Hardcase Crime editor Charles Ardai (aka Richard Aleas). LITTLE GIRL LOST and SONGS OF INNOCENCE were some of the best and most shocking novels of Hardcase Crime (the former in particular). Given the way SONGS OF INNOCENCE ended I’m not sure this could happen, but in the world of fiction, anything is possible.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Catching up: PHASE FOUR by Gary Carson (2011)

Phase FourPHASE FOUR is an intense thriller than lends itself towards the post-apocalyptic without reaching into the nether realms of the surreal.

Drake, a member of a covert government agency is embroiled in a conspiracy that has dire ramifications for mankind, only he doesn’t know it.

When a highly dangerous substance is high jacked from a suspicious convoy, Drake and his team are brought in to find those responsible. Thoughts of terrorists and chemical warfare are immediate yet the focus of the investigation leads Drake straight to the President of the United States at a function he’s attending in San Francisco. From there he’s to track down the head of the transportation company, presumed to have leaked details of the convoy to a known terrorist. Before long hell’s broken loose and reality shifts to the unreal.

PHASE FOUR is well paced and reads like a big budget action thriller. The characters are believable if not a little too conveniently  placed at times and a tad bit stereotypical. Despite this, I found myself connecting with Drake and his adversaries – the others not so much.

The notion of a government wanting to change the world to serve a better purpose without delving deep into a whole new genre was smart. Author Garry Carson keeps the action full throttle while slowly drifting his characters towards his end game – one that I hope includes further exploration of the world post the events of PHASE FOUR.

Most Anticipated Books of 2014

With 2014 still relatively fresh I thought I’d turn my bookish brain towards some of the books that I’m excited about that are scheduled for publication this year. I’ve no doubt I’ve left off many great books but the below are some that spring to mind immediately. I’ve sourced cover images where possible.

The Girl With All The GiftsTHE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS - M. R. Carey. Thanks to Boomerang Books (Aus Online Bookseller), I won an advance copy of this intriguing book. I’m eagerly anticipating the package in the mail. Will be an instant read.

The Burning DarkTHE BURNING DARK - Adam Christopher. HANG WIRE (2014, Angry Robot) was fantastic and the premise of THE BURNNING DARK looks to deliver more quality fiction from Adam Christopher.

DEPTH CHARGING ICE PLANET GOTH - Andrez Bergen. Andrez Bergen is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. His WHO IS KILLING THE GREAT CAPES OF HEROPA appeared in my 2013 top 10 books published for the year and I may have already had a sneaky peak at his new one due mid-year.

The Fever: A NovelTHE FEVER - Megan Abbott. It’s always a moment to celebrate when Megan Abbott publishes a new book. Instant 5-star reads all the time. One of my favourite authors.

CITY OF MIRROR’S – Justin Cronin. The last instalment and follow-up to THE PASSAGE and THE TWELVE. Feels like I’ve been waiting a long time for this.

HERE COMES THE DOGS – Omar Musa. This Australia hip-hop verse novel due out from Penguin is appearing of loads of most anticipated lists. I’m curious and will definitely be looking for it.

STALK ME – Richard Parker. Last year Exhibit A published SCARE ME and wow, did it pack a punch. If STALK ME is half as good then Parker is onto another winner.

REPENTANCE CREEK – Leigh Redhead. I’ve been waiting for so long for another full length by Aussie crime writer Leigh Redhead. Her website lists she’s currently working on REPENTANCE CREEK so we may not see it this year. It’s on the list in hope of a 2014 publication.

The Seal of the Worm (Shadows of the Apt #10)
THE SEAL OF THE WORM (Shadows of the Apt #10) - Adrian Tchaikovsky. Shadows of the Apt is my favourite fantasy series so the publication of any book set in this unique and utterly enthralling world is a big deal.
 
PERFIDIA – James Ellroy. Much talked about novel. Ellroy is an acquired taste and I can’t get enough.

The Broken Eye (Lightbringer, #3)

THE WINDS OF WINTER (A Song of Fire and Ice #6) - George R.R. Martin. Like REPENTANCE CREEK (above), may not (in George RR Martin’s case– highly unlikely) be published in 2014. Is on the list out of hope more-so than expectation.

THE BROKEN EYE (Lightbringer #3) - Brent Weeks. After the events of THE BLINDING KNIFE (#2), THE BROKEN EYE cant get into my hands quick enough. I loved Brent Weeks’ Dark Angel trilogy (and novella) and the Lightbringer series is no different. Quality.

Catching up: WOOL by Hugh Howey (2013)

WoolNever has a post-apocalyptic novel been so gripping, full of intrigue and suspense with an overarching sense of impending doom as Hugh Howey’s WOOL. The world within the silo supports humanity, constrained by a series of iron clad rules and regulations. Time has all but discarded life prior to the underground fortress with the inhabitants going about their day-to-day lives without thought nor fear for the way things are.

WOOL’s world is set post an extension-level-event, hundreds of years after the fact. However, Jules, a skilled mechanic working in the deep down of Silo 18 bucks the trend, questioning the Silo’s means and confronting the decision makers. She’s one woman who has the potential to end life on Silo 18 as its inhabitants have come to know it.

This is one of those rare books set in what has become an over indulged genre that sets itself apart by virtue of a brilliantly well paced plot, a desolate and overtly dangerous and mysterious landscape that captures the readers imagination, and a protagonist you can’t help but like.

I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough – this one has it all and will no doubt be on my ‘best of’ reading lists at year’s end. Now onto SHIFT...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Review: EAT THE DARK by Joe Schreiber


2130387EAT THE DARK is an intensely rich and deeply satisfying survival horror.

Serial killer Frank Snow is transported to Tanglewood Memorial Hospital for an emergency brain scan. Accompanied by a police escort and a handful of hospital staff for the MRI he finds himself in the bowels of a near fully evacuated hospital as Tanglewood officially closes its doors with Snow, the last patient.

MRI Technician Mike Hughes is on hand to assist Tanglewoods last and most famous patient undergo the final form of healthcare provided at the decommissioned facility. He’s soon visited by his wife and young son who show unexpectedly – it’s a surprise that could end in tears and bloodshed as Snow escapes the shackles that so tentatively corrupted his free will allowing him to once more bathe in the blood of his victims in the darkened halls of Tanglewood.

Terror at every turn, heart pounding suspense in every chapter, fear and violence omnipresent throughout – EAT THE DARK is a great fast paced supernatural/survival horror.

Author Joe Schreiber encapsulates all that consists of nightmares – ghosts, serial killers, claustrophobia, thick dark, and the unexplained, into a tightly wound bundle of madness. Despite having read EAT THE DARK previously, I still couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Review: BONESHAKER by Cherie Priest (2009)

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)There is an omnipresent sense of doom and dread that follows the pages of BONESHAKER as mother and son Briar and Zeke struggle to find one another and survive inhuman-like horrors as they each make their way through a post apocalyptic Seattle circa late 1800’s.  

Steampunk, zombies, and survival horror interlock with what turns out to be a family drama of sorts with the main characters on a path to self discovery, unearthed secrets, and rekindled bonds.

Briar is the target of torment and ridicule. Her deceased husband the harbinger of the post apocalyptic Seattle walled off from the outer community thanks to a drilling machine dubbed the ‘Boneshaker’. The powerful piece of equipment is thought to have been the cause of a poisonous gas escaping from deep beneath earth turning people into zombies and eroding buildings and all manner of life. Since escaping, she, and her teenage son have had to endure a constant stream of hateful bullying-like behaviour from the other survivors.  Zeke decides to search for the truth, something that will exonerate his father and grandfather’s name – he heads over the wall from torment to hell itself.

I love the concept of BONESHAKER though did struggle to get my head around steampunk. Personally, the story would’ve worked better in a modern day setting where the sort of technology mentioned in the novel could actually seem plausible. That said, Priest did a good job at fleshing out all the contraptions and their uses/design.

The plot itself was pretty straight forward and essentially turns out to be a story of a mother and son rekindling their relationship with the son finding out the truth behind their taunting and way of life and the mother breaking free of her silence. Throw in some zombies and other interesting bits and pieces along the way and it becomes a dark and dangerous read.

Team Robot Blogger Award! - The Bounty

Late last year I was fortunate enough to take home the authors choice award from Angry Robot -Team Robot Blogger Award. *see earlier post here*

After some delays over the Christmas period the very cool award arrived along with my selection of three titles which could've been picked across one of imprints in Angry Robot, Exhibit A, or Strange Chemistry.

Having recently finished HANG WIRE, the forthcoming novel by Adam Christopher (and loved it), I decided to get his back catalogue (EMPIRE STATE, THE AGE ATOMIC, and SEVEN WONDERS). *see my review of EMPIRE STATE*

Below is a pic of the trophy and book bounty set amongst some highly recommended books from Angry Robot, Exhibit A, and Strange Chemistry.

 
Once again, I'd like to thank the authors and everyone at Angry Robot for this very cool (and unexpected) trophy and selection of books!

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Review: THE ALMOST GIRL by Amalie Howard

The Almost GirlRiven, a seventeen year old commander is ruthless, skilful, determined, and dangerous. In her homeland of Neospes, she’s feared and revered by friend and foe alike. She’s responsible for leading the Vectors, a band of deadly military personnel who are both alive and dead. A mix of the biotic and robotic – killers with violent intentions and zombie-like attributes that keep them singularly tasked. In order to lead this brigade of death and torment, Riven would have to be their superior, her ability above and beyond those she commands – luckily she is. However, her command doesn’t last all that long, she defects and leaves her world for Earth, the alternate universe living parallel to her devastated and war torn homeland. 

Enter her primary mission target Caden, a clone of the prince required for ‘parts’ to aide his ailing counterpart through ill health, high school teen drama, Guardians – protectors of travel, everting (travel between universes), and a sinister game of cat and mouse that will leave Riven questioning everything she’s ever known – including the face steering back at her in the mirror.

I love Neospes – it’s a well articulated place that instantly conjures images of the post apocalyptic landscape, both desolate and dangerous. The nooks and hidden communities of the outer realms are space-aged yet believable within the setting author Amalie Howard has so devised them. My only gripe is that it didn’t feel as though enough of Neospes was explored – despite the second portion of the novel being set there.

Being a Young Adult book there is a degree of teenage angst that creeps into the daring protagonist – this, while I understand the rationale for it being there, did seem to portray two conflicting sides to Riven. Irrespective of that, the story and the strong sense of more to come (book-wise), more than makes up for this in my books.

Overall, THE ALMOST GIRL is a solid form of escapism that transports the reader off Earth and back again.  

2014 New Years Bookish Resolutions

Read a more diverse range of fiction with a focus on the surrealist and other worldly.

Re-read the Dark Tower (7th book in the series). One of my goals in 2013 was to re-read this fantasy series; I managed to get through them all expect the final instalment.

Catch-up on the backlog of Hardcase Crime books (I think I’m only a handful away from achieving this)

Make an effort to dwindle down the TBR (I fully expect to NOT achieve this by year’s end)

Finish reading the Harry Bosch books by Michael Connelly (such a great crime series that I’ve neglected over the years)

Re-Read more (not out of necessity, more-so as a means of appreciating some of my favourite books – of which there are a lot)

Lastly, read more books by Aussie authors. This past year I’ve read some excellent books by home-grown authors (David Whish-Wilson ZERO AT THE BONE, and Amanda Bridgeman AURORA: DARWIN both made my ‘best of 2013’ list)