Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Review: THE CHAIN by Adrian McKinty

Publisher Apex Book Company
Length 10hrs 9mins
Format audiobook
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Promoted heavily (at least by the twitter folk I follow anyway) as Jaws for parents, The Chain is every parent's nightmare and certainly fits the 'Jaws for parents' analogy. 

Using a clever take on kidnapping, The Chain turns everyday parents into ruthless criminals who'd do anything to protect their love-ones, in turn, providing the mastermind behind the Chain complete anonymity ultimately rendering law enforcement null and void. From the depths of a mothers despair and out of pure desperation, a reluctant and apprehensive protagonist arises to combat this presumably times-old criminal enterprise; the result is nothing short of breathtaking.

This is the kind of book that hooks you in early and never lets go. The suspense, drama, and tension builds and builds to near boiling point, completely consuming the reader and enveloping them in this plausible underworld of terror.  

My rating: 5/5 stars. I can't say too much about the story because I know I'll accidentally give away spoilers, but suffice to say, The Chain could be the best crime fiction novel of 2019.    

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Review: MASTER OF PAIN by Wrath James White & Kristopher Rufty

Publisher Death's Head Press
Length 226 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019

Series standalone

My Review

Fifty Shades of Grey this is not. 

Master of Pain is a deadly mix of erotic, horror, and to a lesser extent crime fiction which focuses on the beauty in brutality, in-turn providing the reader a glimpse into the world of kink and the darker side of obsession and desire. 

There's a lot of blood; some spilled willingly, some, not so much, so reader beware, the content is not for the faint of heart.  

The book centers around a master who has a thing for murdering his submissives, but only once he's performed unspeakable acts of debauchery, debasing his victims (whilst they go to him willingly, once in the master's web, there's nothing consensual about what transpires) to shadows of their former self.  

The characters are well written and there's some decent backstory to help the reader develop a connection with them (be it master, or sub). Despite not reading erotic fiction, I lapped this one up and was pleasantly surprised by the quasi crime fiction and horror elements. 

My rating: 4.5/5 stars. Thanks to the Brian Keene podcast, The Horror Show for promoting this book, otherwise I would've never heard of it. 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: HOLE IN THE WORLD by Brian Keene

Publisher Apex Book Company
Length 276 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series Lost Level #3
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

Hole in the World in the third book in the Lost Level Series which pits displaced humans from a swath of multiverses into a land out of time, a unique place which doesn't confirm to any period or time-stream; aliens are as much at home as dinosaurs and giant futuristic robots.   

In the previous books (The Lost Level, and Return to the Lost Level) we followed the escapades of men's adventure magazine hero Aaron Pace as he 1), establishes himself in the Lost Level, 2) sojourns across the dangerous landscape in search of a loved one, and 3) kicks the a$$ of any comic-book creature which comes his way. Cool stuff. 

Hole in the World transports the reader, much like the characters of the book, into a time before Aaron Pace's current adventure, where the sheen of this mystical place isn't yet tarnished by the blood of battles fought and haunted by the ghosts of characters passed. It's a prequel of sorts which adds to the continuity and compliments the other two books.

The action is pretty intense at times with some truly memorable moments; for instance, how the wheelchair Aaron stumbled across made its way to the Lost Level, and a *spoiler alert* cameo of a character featured in the other books. 

Despite the larger cast of characters this time 'round, there's enough depth and backstory to make you feel each trial and tribulation; when a character succumbs to a bloody fate, the wounds cut deep. It's because of this great characterization, the absence of Aaron Pace isn't missed as much as he could have been. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. If you've read the previous books, I strongly suggest picking this one up, heck, even if you haven't read them, grab this one anyway.  

Monday, August 12, 2019

Pick of the Month [July 2019]

My July physical reads stack

I read 13 books in July, most of which were horror with some crime and sci-fi thrown in for diversity.

My pick of the month for July goes to Chop Shop by Andrew Post, published by Flame Tree Press. If you're into hard hitting dark crime fiction which has a touch of humor then this is for you. Reader beware, its defiantly not one for the squeamish. 

I also Returned to the Lost Level to continue my love affair with this excellent horror/sci-fi/fantasy/adventure series from Brian Keene and Apex Books. As previously mentioned in my reviews, these are a geeks delight. 

Other highlights include a quartet of vampire novels inspired by books featured in Paperbacks from Hell, The Need by Helen Phillips which was a real surprise packet and the strange and wonderful Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff (the audiobook was a tad hard to follow at times, I'll have to give the print edition a try). 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Paperbacks from Hell! Vampire Edition

Readers of this blog and those who follow me on Goodreads and Twitter will know how much I love the incredibly awesome Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix, therefore it comes as no surprise that I'm dedicating another blog post to some of the books featured in that penultimate horror collectors guide of sorts. 

This time 'round I'm taking a look at some vampire themed novels, one of which is widely known thanks to a certain movie staring Brad Pitt, whereas the others, not so much (at least to this reader anyway). I'm also including a couple of books not featured in Paperbacks from Hell which still fit the theme, 1. they have vampires , 2. were published in the 80's by TOR Horror (who are responsible for loads of cheesy b-grade horrors), and 3. cheesy cool covers! 

The House of Caine by Ken Eulo (mass market paperback, published 1988 by TOR Horror)

This book features a nasty hive of bloodsuckers who wreak havoc on a town community. Spreading fear by stealth, these creatures of the night delicately pick and choose their prey, preferring to remain out of sight to keep the gravy (blood) train following year after year. Having these creatures on the peripheral allows the author to focus on story and character and while this won't suit everyone, it does add to the suspense and real-world feel of the book. 

There are some nice scenes but this feels largely like a daytime movie. The threat of horror is omnipresent yet it doesn't really come to fruition to satisfy that scare craving you want from 80's mass market horror books. As for the vampires themselves, Ken Eulo prefers to leave his creatures of the night in the dark, shadows with a hint of realism to put just enough fear into his non-bloodsucking characters.

Overall, The House of Caine is enjoyable and easy to read. However, it just wasn't dark enough to quench my thirst for blood.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Black Ambrosia by Elizabeth Engstrom (mass market paperback, published 1988 by TOR Horror)

A different kind of vampire novel which substitutes outright blood and gore for implied and subtle horror; leaving the acts of violence to the readers imagination and ultimately making the book more scarier. 

The gentle slant towards horror at the beginning of the book holds the remainder in good stead as Angelina, the unassuming vampire slowly builds and comes to accept her lust for  blood. The transformation from a helpless child to hardened killer is executed perfectly with the end result nothing short of breathtaking.

One of the more enjoyable aspects to Black Ambrosia is the fact that this is a lone wolf (vampire) story. Angelina doesn't have like-minded nightmarish ghouls to hang out with so the book and story is all about her; her struggle, her travels, her desire for a sense of place. 

Despite starting off in young adult territory, there are some seriously dark moments in this book which fans of horror and darker fiction in general will enjoy. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Side Note - Black Ambrosia is set for a reprint from Valancourt Books as part of their Paperbacks from Hell series. 

Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice (mass market paperback, published 1994 by Warner Books (originally published 1976)

Perhaps the most well known story of the gothic romantic vampire. The sophisticated, wealthy, and attractive rendition of the creature of the night is at the forefront of Ann Rice's original (and somewhat tedious and wordy) vampire novel which adopts an interesting method in telling what is a decent and dangerous tale of Louis, a newly 'born' vampire, set predominantly in New Orleans and later, Europe.

Using an interview as the primary method to deliver a wordy yet engrossing story, the interviewer (an inexperienced and naive reporter - at least that's how he seemed to me) and interviewee (Louis, the vampire) slowly paint a picture of pure darkness complete with taboos, violence, and a hint of madness.

While the story and premise are solid enough, the delivery drove me to distraction; some sequences are far too wordy, consuming copious amounts of print to barely progress the story. I largely skimmed the second half of the book and enjoyed it more for doing so. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

Side Note - I've not seen the movie to comment on which is better or how accurate the adaptation compared to the source material. 

Blood Hunt by Lee Killough (mass market paperback, published 1987 by TOR Horror)

True to the title, Blood Hunt, features Garreth Mikaelian, a police officer turned vampire on the hunt for the timeless beauty of the night who sunk her fangs deep into his throat in search of companionship to end her dark and isolated eternal solitude. 

For Mikaelian, the endless dark holds no allure nor does the womanly pleasures of the seductress who turned him. With any semblance of normalcy gone, he turns his sights on a blood thirsty quest for vengeance in search of the solitude which had evaded him in his previously life as a middle grade police officer. 

More crime fiction than horror, Blood Hunt, really is a police procedural with supernatural elements (vampires) thrown in. Largely on the peripheral, the bloodsuckers play a supporting role that isn't essential to the story proper. You could easily substitute the vampire element for a criminal on the run being pursued by a rouge cop and get the same result. 

The book was 'ok', there's nothing new from ether crime nor horror and the story did meander a little during Mikaelian's road trip/blood hunt, however, I generally found myself turning the pages fast enough to see how everything played out. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. 

Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: CHOP SHOP by Andrew Post

Publisher Flame Tree Press
Length 288 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

Chop Shop is a dark and delicious slice of violence embedded with an equally dark sense of humor and complemented by a tantalizing cast of outcasts full of life in the face of death. 

This book is breakneck. The speed at which the macabre escalates is pure entertainment. Rarely does a book grab me in a choke-hold and make me want it to squeeze harder than this quirky story involving mobsters, an unlicensed 'mob' doc, two funeral owners and a whole lot of dismemberment. 

From the outset, Chop Shop promised something special and for me, it 100% delivered. I like dark and violent crime fiction, the sort of stuff you won't see on daytime or even prime time TV - and Chop Shop hit all the high notes; this an after-dark midnight special which will leave you blood splattered and smeared - and maybe a little queasy... 

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Visit the Flame Tree Press website to learn more about their current and forthcoming books, and while you're there, check out the links of where to purchase a copy of Chop Shop.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: RETURN TO THE LOST LEVEL by Brian Keene

Publisher Apex Book Company
Length 207 pages
Format ebook
Published 2018
Series Lost Level #2
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

The return is just as good as the arrival. 

As with The Lost Level, author Brian Keene has me once again geeking out over the fantastical creatures and dangerous plant life which inhabit this fanboy's delight; an extravagant form of escapism for the escape-driven enthusiast. 

The dangers of The Lost Level are well documented, thanks to the journal-like method used in the original book, yet the element of surprise never fails as action/accidental hero Aaron Pace and co face off against some truly menacing foes. There's one particular scene in which Aaron is forced to fend off a pterodactyl at feeding time which really sticks out thanks to the sheer brutality and edge-of-your-seat action. Then there's the hunt through the Lost Level's ominously dangerous jungle towards the home of the snake-men Anunnaki...wow, I wont' spoil it but man, this book begs to be read.

There's a distinct sci-fi/fantasy/adventure pulp-ish feel to these books which makes them all the more readable; nothing is ever truly what it seems (a triceratops as a pet anyone?) and any element of comic-book imagery could materialise at any moment - and it does for a little extra gravy on top.

My rating: 5/5 stars. As you can tell, I love these books. 

Order a copy online from the publishers website or Amazon, you won't regret it. 

You can read more about Brian Keene HERE

You may also like:

The Lost Level by Brain Keene, the first book to feature our hero Aaron Pace.