Monday, September 29, 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.

This week I'm going for 4 books, up from my usual two-three weekly reads. It's an eclectic mix and contains a couple review books, a new purchase and a book that's been sitting in my tbr for far too long.

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)ANNIIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer (The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy)

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.


 
HustleHUSTLE by Tom Pitts (This book has top billing by Les Edgerton, author of THE BITCH as a new sub category of noir. Early signs are really good for this book - enjoying it so far.)

Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they've chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer's. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney's life and Dustin has plans for the old man.

The Genuine Imitation Plastic KidnappingTHE GENUINE IMITATION PLASTIC KIDNAPPING by Les Edgerton (I was lucky enough to nap an e-arc of this from the publisher)

The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping is a mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings. The reader follows the comic mis-adventures of Pete Halliday, busted out of baseball for a small gambling problem, Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man, and Cat Duplaisir, a part-time hooker and full-time waitress. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette's outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost.

Fans of Tim Dorsey's character Serge A. Storms, and readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Carl Hiassen will enjoy this story.



American PsychoAMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Eastern Ellis (My first Bret Eastern Ellis read is his most accomplished novel. Really looking forward to getting stuck into this.)

Patrick Bateman is twenty-six and he works on Wall Street, he is handsome, sophisticated, charming and intelligent. He is also a psychopath. Taking us to head-on collision with American's greatest dream-and it's worst nightmare- American Psycho is bleak, bitter, black comedy about a world we all recognise but do not wish to confront.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Catching up on classics: LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov

LolitaRarely does a novel evoke such strong reactions from readers; the provocative and overwhelming inappropriateness of the topical nature of LOLITA and the misguided and delusional paedophile Humbert Humbert at its controversial centre radiates loathing and disgust.

Irrespective of the uncomfortable themes explored in Vladimir Nabokov's classic depiction of a weak middle aged man and his prepubescent unofficial ward nee unwilling lover, LOLITA is as difficult to put down as it is to read.

The unreliable narrator (the pompous, self righteous and unlawful Humbert Humbert) provides insight into a mind meddled with madness and consumed by a child concubine. Through turn of phrase and clever word play, author Vladimir Nabokov attempts to breathe reason and rationale only to portray Humbert Humbert in the deeply distributed darkness of which he rightfully resides.

Interestingly, English isn't Vladimir Nabokov's first language, yet to the uninformed, LOLITA reads beautifully, written by a highly competent author well versed in the use of the English language.

I really did enjoy LOLITA and I'll seek other novels by Vladimir Nabokov, the only downside is that LOLITA has set such high expectations that I hope his other novels can compare.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Friday Finds (26 Sept 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.

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)ANNIIHILATION by Jeff VanderMeer (The first book in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I ordered this online and it arrived this week. As a bibliophile I love physical books and the perfect paperback edition is a joy to look at. I cant wait to read this (will likely feature in my Monday Reads post next week)).

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.

This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.


UNDERCOVER - A Cormac Kelly Thriller by Gerard Brennan (The latest crime fiction from one of my fav authors in Gerard Brennan looks to be just as good as some of his previous works. Was published this week.)

Undercover - A Cormac Kelly ThrillerWhen undercover detective Cormac Kelly infiltrates a ruthless gang bent on kidnapping and extortion, he is forced to break cover and shoot his way out of a hostage situation gone bad. Tearing through the dangerous streets of Belfast with a twelve-year-old boy and his seriously injured father in tow, Kelly desperately tries to evade the gang and reconnect the family with the boy’s mother, football agent Lydia Gallagher. But she is in London, unaware of their freedom and being forced by the gang to betray her top client. As Kelly breaks every rule in the book and crosses the line from legit police officer to rogue cop on the run, the role of dapper but deadly ex-spook Stephen Black means the difference between life and death…

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Review: THE AGE ATOMIC by Adam Christopher

The Age AtomicFrom the back of the book:
The sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.

The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.

Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.

As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.
My Review:
The sci-fi pulp feel of THE AGE ATOMIC along with the engaging and unique characters make this a really fun book to read. While different to THE EMPIRE STATE, THE AGE ATOMIC continues some of the themes prevalent throughout its predecessor while maintaining its own identity. I like it when sequels are distinct works in their own right and author Adam Christopher certainly achieves that here.

The impending threat of invasion by a sinister robotic army constructed in the basement of the Atoms For Peace headquarters lead by the villainous Evelyn McHale (a delicately crafted mix of the supernatural and superhero) looms over the Empire State, who, in-turn forge their own army of half humans in response.

The King of 125th street, a charismatic character with flare and a furious temper - his method in madness defined throughout the course of proceedings, Harlem may be frozen but hell is hot, he has the power of the fissure to create his army of robots. It's these robot 'gangs', misfits and part people on the streets that lead Rad (private investigator of the hardboiled tradition) and Special Agent Jennifer Jones, in search of her missing naval brother and on the trail of those responsible for creating a robot army to the King's doorstep and ultimately to the fissure itself.
 
Action abounds and a villain’s quest is articulated; the rationale and conceptual plot elements fleshed out with each chapter and verse, culminating in an explosive ending that closes the age atomic while preparing readers for more stories in this well-defined and immense world.

Monday, September 22, 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 was on a surreal kick with a sci-fi and steampunk.

- Review: AURORA MERIDIAN by Amanda Bridgeman

- Review: THE BURIED LIFE by Carrie Patel

This week I'm continuing the surrealist theme with THE AGE ATOMIC while also delving into a classic I've had on my shelf for far too long in LOLITA.

Here are my intended picks for the week including what I've got on the go at the moment:

The Age AtomicTHE AGE ATOMIC by Adam Christopher (The sequel to EMPIRE STATE. This one has more of a traditional sci-fi feel with a touch of classic comic book plotting. I love the world building here and the characters are a geeks delight. I'll have a review up in a day or so.)

The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.

Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.

As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.


American Supernatural TalesAMERICAN SUPERNATURAL TALES edited by S.T. Joshi (I've read about 150 pages of this 500+ page collection of short stories spanning back from the 1800's through to now. It's a diverse and deeply enjoyable collection of dark and disturbing fiction by some of the greatest authors in history. Some are quite literary while others are pure horror in all it's b-grade splatter mess glory. This week I'm using this collection as a bridge between THE AGE ATOMIC and settling in for a read of LOLITA.)

*As a side note, this edition is perfect, from the black edged pages to the hardcover with the hand held heart art work - the appeal was initialling on the fa├žade, the contents just as good.

The ultimate collection of weird and frightening American fiction.

As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only grown since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. American Supernatural Tales celebrates the richness of this tradition with chilling contributions from some of the nation's brightest literary lights, including Poe himself, H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and-of course- Stephen King. By turns phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic, this is a frighteningly good addition to Penguin Classics.


LolitaLOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov (I originally started reading this back in 2010 (thanks Goodreads for being my reading memory) but put it down midway through. The subject matter isn't for everyone but it's one of those books that just needs to be read. Am looking forward to jumping back in.)

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English & published in 1955 in Paris, in 1958 in NY & in 1959 in London. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist & unreliable narrator, a 37–38-year-old literature professor, Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. "Lolita" is his private nickname for Dolores (both the name & nickname are of Spanish origin).

After its publication, Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known & most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name "Lolita" has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious girl. The novel was adapted to film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, & again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. It has also been adapted several times for stage & has been the subject of two operas, two ballets & an acclaimed but failed Broadway musical.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: THE BURIED LIFE by Carrie Patel

The Buried LifeFrom the back of the book:
The gaslight and shadows of the underground city of Recoletta hide secrets and lies. When Inspector Liesl Malone investigates the murder of a renowned historian, she finds herself stonewalled by the all-powerful Directorate of Preservation – Ricoletta’s top-secret historical research facility.

When a second high-profile murder threatens the very fabric of city society, Malone and her rookie partner Rafe Sundar must tread carefully, lest they fall victim to not only the criminals they seek, but the government which purports to protect them. Knowledge is power, and power must be preserved at all costs...


My Review:
There is a surrealist steampunk dystopian feel to THE BURIED LIFE. Cover quotes like the book to Cherie Priest (BONESHAKER) and it definitely has that vibe.

Set predominantly underground, THE BURIED LIFE evokes feelings of the tightly cobbled Victorian streets at night time. Fully embodying that omnipresent dread prevalent with the unknown lurking around the corner, the anticipation of crime and wrong doing is heightened.

Initially starting as a murder mystery in the traditional whodunit frame, THE BURIED LIFE quickly evolved into a political scheming and inner conspiracy tale where the Government kept secrets hidden from the populace while another outfit threated to overthrow life as the inhabitants of Recoletta knew it.

As one half of the books central focus, for struggling laundress Jane, her occupation provides glimpses of the wealthy life; responsible for fixing the garments of the 'whitenails' (or wealthy inhabitants of Recoletta) she often sees the brighter side of 'cave' life while also being privy to some of the Councils (the controlling government body) inner secrets - the walls talk and their messages are deadly, this Jane discovers all too well when she comes across one of her clients dead, another in a string of high profile whitenail murders.

One of the most enjoyable aspects to THE BURIED LIFE was the place-setting and mystery surrounding 'the catastrophe' - both elements I hope are continued to be explored in the second series instalment.

Review: AURORA: MERIDIAN by Amanda Bridgeman

Aurora: MeridianFrom the back of the book:
Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within ...

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley's cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.


My Review:
The Aurora series is probably the most character driven sci-fi series I've read and MERIDIAN continues that theme. With Carrie off the Aurora ship and fractured from her team in more ways then one, the tough and resilient Corporal Welles could've gone two ways; one succumb to her predicament and put her troubled past behind her, or two; fight back - and fight back she does.

One of the great things about the Aurora books is the notion of ultra humans, super soldiers known as 'jumbos' - evolved/created in secrecy by a shadow branch of the UNF. These jumbos are paramount to proceedings in MERIDIAN as it's these menacing and unpredictable soldiers Carrie willingly places her life in the hands of all for the purpose of taking theirs. Given what transpired in PEGASUS, it makes for an interesting dynamic that's nothing short of page turning.

As Carrie's personal mission becomes known by her former team, Harris, Doc and co turn their attention to getting Carrie back and subsequently taking out the rouge jumbos. As their plight gains momentum, both opposing sides suffer loss while Carrie gains both literally and figuratively - there as some explosive events in MERIDIAN that change the face of this series.

As with the previous two books, having finished MERIDIAN I cant wait for the next instalment. Author Amanda Bridgeman has added another crucial chapter to the characters of the Aurora series while establishing a dangerous and unsettling future for them in further instalments.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Review: LEAVE ME ALONE by Murong

Leave Me Alone: A Novel of ChengduFrom the back of the book:
Three years after graduation, Cheng Zhong works in a dead-end job as a sales manager for a motor oil company. He remains friends with two former classmates from his university days; Li Lang, who has quit his job and become rich gambling the stock market; and Bighead Wang, who is the head of the local police station.

All have put aside the lofty dreams of their youth in their scramble to strike it rich in the newly capitalist China; 'We lost our minds in the struggle to be first; lost our way because we were crazy for cash.' Despite their aspirations, the trio's lives are mired in drinking, drugs, and whoring, and beset by boredom, disillusion and gambling debts.


My Review:
A contemporary Chinese noir, LEAVE ME ALONE had all the hallmarks of a great book yet it fell short on a number of levels. I'm not sure if something was lost in translation or if the author was a little lose with the writing as the style was jumpy, often switching gears from urbane poetic to grade school in a matter of sentences.

The story of a slowly depreciating young man living a life of deceit and sin who has little sense of self despite the at times overbearing narrative attempting to illustrate the opposite is a constant draw back and contrary to what the novel was to deliver rather than complimentary - in my view.

The lead character starts with a good job, professional prospects, a close knit circle of friends and a loving wife - by the end of LEAVE ME ALONE all this things are little more than words in the wind.

The premise is definitely something I like reading and could be vaguely compared to a Jason Starr white collar noir (without the murder) yet there was always this limitation to the expanses LEAVE ME ALONE could reach.

Monday, September 15, 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.

This week I'm only listing the one book and it's a good one!

Aurora: MeridianAURORA: MERIDIAN by Amanda Bridgeman (the recently released third book in the Aurora sci-fi series)

Their hardest battle will be fighting the enemy within ...

Captain Saul Harris has found himself at a crossroads. Haunted by dreams of the dead, he fights to keep his soldiers safe as events spiral out of his control. But has his search for the truth led him to discover there is more to this mission of chasing Sharley than meets the eye?

Meanwhile, Corporal Carrie Welles seeks revenge. Consumed with demons from her past two missions, she goes rogue in the hope that her actions will end all the pain and suffering the Aurora team has endured. But will facing the enemy free them all from Sharley's cruel grasp, or has she condemned herself to a suicide mission?

As the mystery of Sharley and UNFASP unfolds and lives hang in the balance, Harris and Carrie are forced to search deep inside themselves, and what they find will shock them.


***
You can read my reviews of the previous books in the series below:

AURORA: DARWIN (book #1) by Amanda Bridgeman

- AURORA: PEGASUS (book #2) by Amanda Bridgeman  

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: SKINJOB by Bruce McCabe

SkinjobSet in the presumably not too distant future, SKINJOB centres around a terrorist event in which an adult manufacturer of robotic sex dolls (lifelike for the purpose of adult entertainment and little much else) sees one of its establishments blown up, killing the patrons and staff inside. With little to go on, the police search video footage via some highly sophisticated 'big brother' CCTV imagery to track the culprit.

I really liked the idea behind author Brue McCabe's SKINJOB; the political and religious ramifications/differing viewpoints, boiling pot discussion over right and wrong, moral and just etc. yet I felt this was somewhat overshadowed by the omnipresent cat and mouse mystery behind the person or persons responsible for the bombing.

Perhaps what got me offside was the fact I'd guessed early on who was responsible and then had to read a number of chase sequences, political grandstanding and police work that didn't feel like it always contributed to the steady flow of the story.

As far as the two lead characters go, I thought FBI Agent Madsen was well rounded and a decent enough prototype protagonist; one up against the bad guys and comrades alike. While San Francisco cop/surveillance expert Shari was just shy of being the secondary lead I had hoped for, despite the promising start she felt a little more real than the dolls of DreamCon.

SKINJOB shows a lot of promise and I hope Bruce McCabe ventures into this interesting landscape again. I got the feeling this book was just touching the surface of the religious factions in this future day setting and the power they're to wield over Government.

SKINJOB is a good thriller that could've been a really good sci-fi.

Top-5: Must Read Valiant - Greatest Hits Vol.2


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 favourites (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.

Today I'm listing my top 5 comics that I'd like to see collected in a trade paperback edition from the ever expanding library of characters/titles from Valiant. 

Valiant are making some great comics and have recently announced via twitter that a second collection could be in the works combining a selection of their best and most engaging comics since the original Must Read Valiant trade was published (which is brilliant).

This got me thinking about what comics I'd like to see collected in trade paperback. My choices below have the new reader in mind, so I'm looking at new arcs or ends of arc/moments that change the broader Valiant U which would act as a good jumping on point for readers not familiar with the characters.

In order:

1. UNITY #5 (written by Matt Kindt, art by Cafu)

From the solicitation:
Coming off of the earth-shattering repercussions of their first mission, Ninjak is leading the newly formed Unity team right back into the trenches to face the Valiant Universe's next colossal threat – the enigmatic Dr. Silk and his high-tech terror cell: WEBNET! With the fate of untold millions on the line, can this team of cutthroat heroes uncover Silk's endgame – and his connection to Ninjak's shadowy past? Move over, Harada – Matt Kindt and Valiant's next superstar artist, CAFU (Action Comics), are about to bring the world's next A-level enemy down on Unity with the force of a hundred hydrogen bombs.

Why:
Introduces a history to the concept of a united team of super powered heroes spanning back decades if not longer. Also marks the return of perennial bad guy Dr. Silk who looks to be more than a one arc nemesis for Unity and the broader Valiant U. A great jumping on point before ARMOR HUNTERS.

2. BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #23 (written by Duffy Boudreau, art by Al Barrionuevo)

From the solicitation:
The six men and women of H.A.R.D. Corps are all that stand between Bloodshot and everything he’s ever wanted – the total destruction of Project Rising Spirit. The clock is ticking down to zero, the stakes are life-or-death…and no one in this fight has anything left to lose.

Why:
The end of the uneasy alliance that was Bloodshot and Project Rising Spirit sets the tone for a new status quo for Bloodshot while also providing a glimpse at a future incarnation of the HARD Corps. I really liked the writing and hope we get to see more from Boudreau on Bloodshot at some stage in 2015 when the character (fingers crossed) returns to his own title post THE VALIANT.

3. HARBINGER #23 (written by Josh Dysart, art by Clayton Henry)

From the solicitation:
Dead. Means. Dead.

Why:
That short, sharp solicitation really says it all. The Renegades are changed forever following Dysart's HARBINGER #23. Dysart consistently produces quality writing on this series and this issue is one of the finer examples.

4. SHADOWMAN: END TIMES #3 (written by Peter Milligan, art by Valentine De Landro)

From the solicitation:
The curse of the shadow loa is a terrible cross to bear…and Jack Boniface is about to be crushed by it.

As an army of voodoo invisibles makes war on Shadowman, the tortured spirit inside Jack will begin to consume his soul – and force a final confrontation with his greatest enemy, Master Darque…once and for all.

Why:
Much like BLOODSHOT AND H.A.R.D. CORPS #23, this issue sets the tone for the troubled and constantly conflicted hero known as Shadowman following an alliance with the darker side of the Valiant U. I can't wait to see how this new direction for the character plays out and hope we get to see a SHADOWMAN vol.2 #1 in 2015.
 

5. RAI #1 (written by Matt Kindt, art by Clayton Crain)

From the solicitation:
The year is 4001 A.D. – led by the artificial intelligence called “Father,” the island nation of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific and into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. With billions to feed and protect, it has fallen to one solitary guardian to enforce the law of Father’s empire – the mysterious folk hero known as Rai. They say he can appear out of nowhere. They say he is a spirit…the ghost of Japan. But when the first murder in a thousand years threatens to topple Father’s benevolent reign, Rai will be forced to confront the true face of a nation transformed…and his own long-lost humanity…

Why:
This far reaching futuristic tale set in the year 4001 is exceptional and perhaps the most fun I've had reading a comic in a long time. The art by Clayton Crain is just phenomenal and should be seen to be believed. As the arc progresses we get to see some linkages with past Valiant heroes to add a broader sense of continuity to RAI despite being set so far into the future which makes it all that much more enjoyable.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Top-5: Stephen King novels


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 favourites (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.

The first topic in my Top-5 is Stephen King novels. Now, before I get started, I should confess I haven't read  some of his more popular titles in IT, CARRIE, PET SEMATARY, though I've pretty much read everything else, including his latest mainstream crime novel MR MERCEDES (which you find on this list).

Rose Madder1. ROSE MADDER (probably my most read Stephen King book. It's an unorthodox choice but remains my fav book.)

Roused by a single drop of blood, Rosie Daniels wakes up to the chilling realisation that her husband is going to kill her. And she takes flight - with his credit card.

Alone in a strange city, Rosie begins to build a new life: she meets Bill Steiner and she finds an odd junk shop painting, 'Rose Madder', which strangely seems to want her as much as she wants it.

But it's hard for Rosie not to keep looking over her shoulder. Rose-maddened and on the rampage, Norman is a corrupt cop with a dog's instinct for tracking people. And he's getting close. Rosie can feel how close he is getting . . .


The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2)2. THE DRAWING OF THREE (Dark Tower #2, this is where the series really finds its character. Sure Roland was introduced in the GUNSLINGER as was Jake but this is the best entry for character development and showed a broader imagery to the unique fantasy that is the Dark Tower)

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, The Last Gunslinger, is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America. Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies

Cell3. CELL (One of the best zombie books I've read. Like most on the list I've read this multiple times and will likely revisit it again soon.)

Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He's just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family by making art instead of teaching it. He's already picked up a small (but expensive!) gift for his long-suffering wife, and he knows just what he will get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay is feeling good about the future.

That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone's cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization's darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature...and then begins to evolve.

There is really no escaping this nightmare. But for Clay, an arrow points home to Maine, and as he and his fellow refugees make their harrowing journey north they begin to see crude signs confirming their direction. A promise, perhaps. Or a threat...
 


11.22.634. 11.22.63 (What can I say about this book? I just loved it.)

WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? WHAT HAPPENS WHEN a young teacher from Lisbon Falls, Maine, 2011, gets the chance to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting JFK in November 1963 is the premise of the brilliant new novel by STEPHEN KING: 11/22/63, the date that Kennedy was shot - unless . . .

King takes his protagonist Jake Epping, a high school English teacher, on a fascinating journey back to the world of 1958 - from a world in 2011 of mobile phones and iPods to a new world of Elvis and JFK, of Plymouth Fury cars and Lindy Hopping, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life - a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.


The Stand5. THE STAND (Epic, grand scale King in all his greatness. THE STAND is one of those books that just doesn't date.)

First came the days of the plague…

After the days of the plague came the dreams.

Dark dreams that warned of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of Evil.

His time is at hand. His empire grows in the west and the Apocalypse looms…

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Finds (12 Sept 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 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.

Mike Hammer: Complex 90COMPLEX 90 by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (#18 in the Mike Hammer series. I love Max Allan Collins writing Mike Hammer since Spillane's passing - he's maintained a seamless link with Spillane's rendition of the character and has brought his own hardboiled style to compliment the PI. I missed this one when it was originally released but have ordered a copy.)

Hammer accompanies a conservative politician to Moscow on a fact-finding mission. Arrested and imprisoned by the KGB on a bogus charge; he quickly escapes, creating an international incident by getting into a fire fight with Russian agents.

On his stateside return, the government is none too happy with Hammer. Russia is insisting upon his return to stand charges, and various government agencies are following him. A question dogs our hero: why him? Why does Russia want him back, and why was he singled out to accompany the senator to Russia in the first place?


The Old School
THE OLD SCHOOL by P.M. Newton (somehow I missed this and the following book - compared recently on Fair Dinkum Crime as Australia's crime fiction answer to THE WIRE I had to add both titles to my 'wishlist'.)

Sydney, 1992. Nhu 'Ned' Kelly is a young detective making her way in what was, until recently, the best police force money could buy. Now ICAC has the infamous Roger Rogerson in the spotlight, and the old ways are out. Ned's sex and background still make her an outsider in the force, but Sydney is changing, expanding, modernising, and so is the Job.

When two bodies are found in the foundations of an old building in Sydney's west, Ned is drawn into the city's past: old rivalries, old secrets and old wrongs. As she works to discover who the bones belong to – and who dumped them there – she begins to uncover secrets that threaten to expose not only the rotten core of the police force, but also the dark mysteries of her own family.


Beams FallingBEAMS FALLING by P.M. Newton (the follow-up to THE OLD SCHOOL)

On the inside, Detective Nhu 'Ned' Kelly is a mess. Stitched up after being shot, her brain's taking even longer to heal than her body. On the outside, though, she's perfect, at least as far as the top brass are concerned. Cabramatta is riding high on the new 'Asian crime wave', a nightmare of heroin, home invasions, and hits of all kinds, and the cops need a way into the world of teenaged dealers and assassins.

They think Ned's Vietnamese heritage is the right fit but nothing in Cabra can be taken at face value. Ned doesn't speak the language and the ra choi – the lawless kids who have 'gone out to play' – are just running rings around her. The next blow could come from anywhere, or anyone. And beyond the headlines and hysteria, Ned is itching to make a play for the kingpin, the person behind it all with the money and the plan and the power.


The Martini Shot: A Novella and StoriesTHE MARTINI SHOT : A NOVELLA AND SHORT STORIES by George Pelecanos (Any book by Pelecanos is an instant buy. This comes out Jan 2015)

George Pelecanos gets inside the minds and hearts of a cast of indelible characters: from the adoptive parents of Spero Lucas trying to expand and redefine their family, to a young boy involved in a drug deal gone bad, to a 1930s immigrant dishwasher facing down a corrupt Pinkerton agent. In the novella, "The Martini Shot," Pelecanos takes readers behind the scenes of a cable TV cop show, where a writer gets caught up in drama more real than anything in a script. Crackling with energy, these stories bring readers to a new understanding of humanity, modern life, and circumstances that stack the deck against people who are just trying to make a decent life for themselves. Gritty, sexy, fast-paced, humane, THE MARTINI SHOT is Pelecanos at his very best.

Wow - this was a great week of discoveries for me and I didn't even list them all! Loads of great books to look forward to.

Happy reading.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview: Amy Dale (Author of THE FALL)

Amy Dale was born in Sydney is the Chief Court Reporter for the city's highest selling daily paper, The Daily Telegraph. She reported the Simon Gittany case from his arrest in August 2011. After reporting on every day of the trial and its dramatic verdict, she travelled to Canada to speak with Lisa Harnum's family and friends. She joined the paper as a journalist in 2006 and in that time has reported on sport, police and business. She became the senior court reporter in 2011 and covers the state's most high profile trials and anti-corruption inquires.

Amy was kind enough to stop by the blog to answer some questions about her book THE FALL.

- Read my review of the excellent true-crime book, THE FALL, here. Out now!

(Josh) What was it about the Gittany case that made you want to write a book about it?

(Amy) I decided quite early on in the case that I wanted to write a book about it. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, who I work for, gave the trial very prominent coverage but I still felt there was so much more to be written. The level of public interest in Lisa Harnum’s tragic ending and Simon Gittany’s intense control over their relationship was astronomical. It was so much more than I had ever seen in any criminal trial I had covered previously. Having covered the case against Gittany from the start I thought I was in a good position to go behind the headlines and delve further into the story.

THE FALL goes beyond the courtroom and the crime to expose some of the prolonged torment partners experience as victims of domestic violence – be it physical or emotional. How important was it to lift the lid on Lisa’s turbulent time with Simon prior to and in the events leading to her untimely death?

I felt it was extremely important and one of the most crucial parts to include in the book. I think so many of Lisa’s loved ones hope that if anything is to emerge from the intense coverage of her death it is a greater knowledge of the warning signs of domestic violence.  I wanted the book to paint a picture of Simon and Lisa’s relationship from the very start, to show how he drew her into his world and kept her there until it was too late for her to escape from his clutches. While the trial explored some parts of their relationship in its early stages, obviously it focused mainly on the final few days (and the events which formed a part of the prosecution case). Yet clearly the alarming signs that Lisa may be in danger started to form much earlier than that. For those who loved Lisa, I think they hope her story serves as a cautionary tale for those who may be in a similar situation themselves, or know somebody who is in an abusive relationship.

The Fall: How Simon Gittany killed Lisa HarnumI liked the matter-of-fact retelling of the case. The delivery was without prejudice and allowed the reader to formulate their own opinion without being told which side to pick. As the evidence was complied and the trial progressed, the witness statements and judicial process paved a clearly cut path leading to the guilty verdict. Knowing all that you did prior to writing the book, how important was it as an author to maintain this almost neutral ground throughout the writing process?

This was actually not as difficult for me as I first imagined it would be. I think it’s because I’ve been a court reporter for more than four years, so am very used to remaining neutral in all cases I cover. This can be hard at times, especially the longer you report on a trial and get to know the people involved, but it’s the most important part of my job to provide balanced coverage of what is said in court, and only that. That being said, it was really enjoyable to write in a style that is so different to my everyday reporting structure.

Lisa’s iPhone was critical in providing insight into her troubled relationship as well as showing a strong bond with her mother. Was it always your intention to provide both sides of the iPhone evidence? The good with her mother, the bad with Simon? How do you think this helps to balance Lisa’s character?

I wanted to include every piece of evidence possible in the book. This also meant presenting the defence case, and Simon’s steadfast denial that he essentially kept Lisa his prisoner inside their apartment. As Justice Lucy McCallum said in her verdict, there were periods in the relationship when both Lisa and Simon Gittany placed restrictions on the other’s movements and interactions, and these constraints were willingly accepted by the other. I also felt the text message exchanges showed the difficulties Lisa’s family, especially her mother, faced in trying to get a handle on the struggles in the relationship when they were living so far apart. As a reporter covering the trial, I found the text message exchanges between Lisa and Simon incredibly insightful and occasionally quite heartbreaking. In some of them I really felt you could hear the pain and despair she was feeling in her wish to be completely accepted and understood by him. I found some of Simon’s replies quite telling. In some of the messages you could see she was trying to reach out to him for an affectionate reply, but instead she would be met by a cold and cruel response.

If you could sell THE FALL in one sentence, what would it be?

It goes behind the scenes of one of Australia’s most captivating court cases, and tells the chilling story of a woman betrayed by the person she wanted to trust most of all.

Given the broad exposure to true crime you have, are you thinking of writing any more books?

Absolutely. I have a few ideas presently floating around in my head. Writing The Fall definitely confirmed my love for books, and while the days around deadline were very stressful, and swimming in content like this quite draining, I found the entire process incredibly worthwhile.

I thought, in THE FALL, you showed great promise for writing courtroom thrillers – do you think you’ll try your hand at crime fiction at some stage?

That’s very nice of you to say! I would certainly love to give fiction writing a go in the future. Writing is one of my greatest loves in life, and the part of my job I take the most joy from. I certainly hope there are more writing opportunities on the cards.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Review: BROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters"I opened them up to let the dreams out, and then I made them into the dreams they wanted. That should have been enough."
 
BROKEN MONSTERS is a police procedural that exemplifies the deranged and mentally afflicted mind of a demented serial killer beyond redemption. Through Detective Gabriella Versado, the reader gains an insight into the world of policing in Detroit amidst a proverbial media shit storm following the unearthing of some macabre art involving a young boy and animal remains.
 
Despite having her hands full with tracking down the killer, Detective Versado also has to contend with her too-smart and cop-savvy daughter, Layla who unwittingly finds herself deeply involved in the case. 

Author Lauren Beukes does a great job at writing her lead heroine in Detective Versado as both a parental and public authoritative figure. BROKEN MONSTERS isn't just about a serial killer, it's about relationships and the broader impacts of policing on families and the community (by virtue of an over enthusiastic blogger, Jonno).

Readers are treated to a break in the narrative by virtue of blog entries, differing perspectives and a look at way social media and texting impacts/implicates the cast of characters. I also liked the idea of some of the more ghostly spiritual references, notably the use of some rather spooky doors drawn into the walls and floors of abandoned buildings. These secondary elements really enhanced the core premise of the book.

I think BROKEN MONSTERS caters to a broad reader base and will appeal crime and horror junkies.   
 
"Was it real?"
 
"Yes. It was all real . It lives in me now. If you've seen it, there's a splinter of it in you too. We can change the world. You just have to open the door."

Monday, September 8, 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 read and reviewed the following:

- GO GO GATO by Max Everhart

- THE FALL by Amy Dale

- A CRY IN THE NIGHT by Whit Masterson

Here are my intended picks for this coming week, including what I’ve got on-the-go today:

Broken MonstersBROKEN MONSTERS by Lauren Beukes (I had originally hoped to read this a couple of weeks ago but didn't get the time. I'm nearing the end of it and am enjoying this disturbed police procedural - the serial killer is twisted and the topic macabre - look for a review soon). 

In the city that’s become a symbol for the death of the American dream, a nightmare killer is unravelling reality. The new thriller from Lauren Beukes, author of The Shining Girls.

Broken city, broken dreams.

In Detroit, violent death – along with foreclosure and despair – is a regular occurrence. But the part-human, part-animal corpses that have started appearing are more disturbing than anything Detective Gabriella Versado has ever seen.

As Gabriella works the case, her teenage daughter Layla embarks on a secret crime-fighting project of her own – hunting down online paedophiles – but it all goes horribly wrong…

TK has learned how to make being homeless work for him and his friends, but something evil is threatening the fragile world he’s constructed on the streets…

Ambitious blogger Jonno is getting desperate. The big four-oh isn’t that far away, and he’s still struggling to make his mark. But then he stumbles across some unusual and macabre art, which might just be the break he needs to go viral…


SkinjobSKINJOB by Bruce McCabe (e-arc provided by the publisher)

SOCIETY IS DIVIDED

Silicon Valley has taken virtual sex to the extreme, encouraging men to act out their darkest and most violent sexual fantasies. Militant feminists and churches are bitterly opposed. Powerful corporations battle for market control. In the midst of a fierce protest campaign, a bomb goes off in San Francisco.

TWELVE ARE DEAD

Daniel Madsen is one of a new breed of federal agents armed with a gun, a badge, and a handheld lie detector. He's a fast operator and his instructions are simple: find the bomber before he strikes again.  

A NIGHTMARE AWAITS

Madsen plunges headlong into a sleazy, unsettling world where reality and fantasy are indistinguishable, exploitation is business as usual and the web of corruption extends all the way to Washington, only to discover the stakes are higher than he could ever imagine.