Thursday, September 17, 2020

Pick Up A Pulp [77]: CONAN by Robert E. Howard

This collection of short stories is the perfect place to start for readers new to Conan. Not only does the book provide bite sized morals of the violent sword and sorcery the long running fantastical protagonist is renowned for, but it also introduces all the key elements outside of the core themes prominent in the larger forms of fiction; monsters, magicians, thievery, the undead, friendship, deceit, and battles a-plenty. 

I must admit that I've not read many Conan stories so my praise for this short story collection can be taken with a grain of salt. That said, this book just worked for me; be it Conan taking on a job as a thief and winding up battling a serpent or taking down a giant slug which had destroyed a  castle and its surroundings, to rescuing a damsel in distress near naked and bloodied on a battlefield, each story was rich in Hyborian lore and cleverly intertwined into the broader continuity. 

Another thing that appealed to me in these stories was the references to other adventures/places/characters, notably the Sword of Skelos which coincidentally, is the only Conan novel I've read. 

I couldn't draw myself away from these stories until I'd finished the book, enjoying each of them equally. It's rare that I rate a collection so highly but CONAN was surprisingly consistent throughout. Highly recommend. 

Book of the Month [August 2020]


I read some very good books and some very bad books last month with little in between. It was one of those strange periods of reading where I either loved or hated (perhaps that's a too harsh a word - disliked) whatever I picked up. On a positive note, I didn't record a DNF. 

The standouts were all very different from one another, which, as an eclectic reader I appreciated; THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN by A.J. Hackwith (fantasy/horror) , THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES by Grady Hendrix (horror), and, my choice for this months' book of the month, STALKERS by Eileen Ormsby (true crime). 


STALKERS is a real winner for true crime junkies. Readers of this blog and my reviews on Goodreads, will know that I rated Eileen Ormsby's THE DARKEST WEB very highly so won't be all that surprised by the praise I heaped onto this one:
Dark, disturbing, and near unbelievable - Stalkers by Eileen Ormsby reads like crime fiction at its finest - only it's not. Comprising four stories of seriously creepy stalkers complete with information about each stalkers sub category for added context and insight into the mind of the maddened, author Eileen Ormsby provides a peak behind the curtain of normalcy to showcase a world so twisted it's difficult to comprehend. 
Yeah, it's a good one that's for sure.

Despite my up and down reading month, there was plenty to get excited about. Fingers crossed September's between good and bad reads isn't as big as this months.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Review: THE SOUTHERN BOOK CLUB'S GUIDE TO SLAYING VAMPIRES by Grady Hendrix


I don't know what it is about this book but there's just something about 90's suburban housewives kicking vampire ass while balancing family, friends and book club - and doing it all in style, that works on so many levels.

The thing that really stands out for me, is the ease of horror into the everyday life of the characters. The proverbial blood-spatter on the white picket fence doesn't feel out of place, in fact, it's like its always been there; an evil skulking behind the garbage bins at night patiently waiting for its prey, salivating for something succulent to sink its achingly hungry teeth into - and sink its teeth it does!

The plot feeds off the paranoia of one housewife in particular, Patricia, thanks largely to her genre of choice when it comes to book club; true crime. When children start to act strange, or even go missing, her knowledge of predators, gleamed from the pages of true crime books sparks her inner detective. From there it's goodbye dirty dishes and daily chores and hello conspiracy theories and monster hunting. 

While there are plenty of gory moments, The Southern Book Club's Guide To Slaying Vampires isn't all about that Dracula blood-drinking night life. I found it to be a character centric tale which emphasis the nature of neighbourly love, friendship, family, and the deep rooted behavioural to protect ones patch (while, you know, taking out vampires). 

The Southern Book Club's Guide To Slaying Vampires is a perfect blend of well written mass market paperback horror (yes, there are some from the 80's and 90's which are actually worth reading (though I do love those highly collectable covers)) and a more realistic take on the themes prevalent in Desperate Housewives. I can't recommend this book enough! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Review: STALKERS by Eileen Ormsby

Dark, disturbing, and near unbelievable - Stalkers by Eileen Ormsby reads like crime fiction at its finest - only it's not. Comprising four stories of seriously creepy stalkers complete with information about each stalkers sub category for added context and insight into the mind of the maddened, author Eileen Ormsby provides a peak behind the curtain of normalcy to showcase a world so twisted it's difficult to comprehend. 

Whilst it would've been easy to write a book featuring high profile public figure harassment/stalker cases spattered across mainstream media, Stalkers delves a little deeper, both in timeline and victim. Sure there's one story featuring an up and coming young actress but the others are about normal, everyday people, including a shocking case featuring two teenage boys which, honestly scared the living daylight out of me, as did one about a deluded author who sought out a book reviewer who posted an unfavourable review on Goodreads! (yikes...). 

It's been a while since a true crime book has given me serious goose bumps. Not since I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara has a non-fiction book left such a lasting impression and that's exactly what Stalkers has done - especially the fourth story about a young women who falls victim to a Craigslist rape fantasy which honestly feels like it was written for the silver screen and not ripped from police files and public news reports. There's so many twists to this torrid tale I couldn't believe how it turned out. 

If you're a true crime junkie and/or a fan of the The Dark Web books by Eileen Ormsby this is a no-brainer, pick up a copy from Amazon right now.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Review: THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN by A.J. Hackwith


Who doesn't love reading books about books? The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a long time favourite of mine, so naturally I couldn't wait to delve into this book-book with a supernatural edge (I immediately thought of Fireproof by Gerard Brennan). 

The Library of the Unwritten does a fantastic job at merging the devilish elements of hell and fallen angels with the timeless allure of libraries. The characters who populate this sojourn into the many realms of belief are equal parts bookish and demonic - yet not without their redeeming qualities (Claire, and Hero are particular favourites). 

Whilst I'm touching upon characters, I need to make mention of how diverse and unique each one is. Claire, Hell's librarian is vibrant, tough, and not without her darker moments, whilst Brevity, the head librarians muse, is a perfect ying to Claire's yang. Then there's the damsels, Hero and Brit; characters who exist only in the minds of their authors until the unfinished manuscripts hit the stacks in Hell's library - these characters are cleverly crafted and critical to the core plot. You've also got the stock standard demons and angels too stuck in eternal conflict, which I won't go into detail as to avoid spoilers, needless to say, there's a lot going on in this book and each character is given their time spotlight. 

The Library of the Unwritten reads like a fantasy adventure book complete with a meaningful quest for a loyal band of heroes and plenty of dangers and pitfalls in their way. Ultimately the mantle of each character is put the test with some passing and others making the reader form completely different opinions of them from when the book started out. As you can gather, this story is heavy on character growth and development with the story happening around them (don't get me wrong, the story is a pretty good one). 

Overall, I really enjoyed The Library of the Unwritten and can't wait to see what's next for these characters.  

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Book of the Month [July 2020]

I read 7 books last month which was my lowest amount for any given month this year, but, whilst July wasn't plentiful in volume, it was in quality. 

After languishing in my TBR for years I finally read CONSOLE WARS by Blake Harris and I loved it. The teenage me couldn't help but lap up that Nintendo and Sega dose of nostalgia. Despite some flaws (there seemed to be a distinct Sega bias) I couldn't put the book down and had a blast (from the past?) reading it form beginning to the end. If you're a 90's kid/teen who played video games, I strongly recommend CONSOLE WARS.

RUSTY PUPPY by Joe R Landsale was another highlight but then again I come to expect this with any Hap and Leonard book I read. You can read my 5 star review HERE

I've been dipping in and out of the world of 4000AD and Judge Dredd and was generally pleased with the collection of novellas printed in Judges: Volume One, edited by Michael Carroll. The premise of the collection focuses on the judge program as it's being rolled out across America, so not much Dredd but a whole lot of interesting and action packed story. 

However, there can only be one book of the month and that lofty award goes to BROKEN by Don Winslow. I listened to this one on Audible but wish I read it in print (I'll likely pick up a print copy at some stage). This collection of novellas is just great. A perfect balance of crime and comedy featuring characters from series across Winslow's back catalogue of fiction. In a word: Excellent. 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Pick Up A Pulp [76]: THE GIRL, THE GOLD WATCH AND EVERYTHING by John D MacDonald


I'm glad I researched this book before delving in otherwise I think I would've been thoroughly confused. 

Renowned for crime fiction, The Girl, Gold Watch and Everything deviates from John D MacDonald's bread and butter in favor of b-grade sci-fi which oozes pulp.

Published in 1962 (my edition 1968), the story holds up pretty well; time travel by virtue of a gold watch which, when the hands are turned backwards, temporarily suspends time to allow the watch holder to move freely around unbeknownst to everyone else. 


Naturally this power is used for monetary gain and to enable the protagonist, Kirby to escape some pretty dicey situations, however the primary purpose of this great power is comedy. Yep...Kirby and his girlfriend use the suspended time to prank innocent bystanders as well as those who want to get possession of the watch themselves. Whilst I didn't mind this approach, the humor quickly grew adolescent (15yr old me would've loved it)

There are a few plot holes and 'easy-outs' throughout the book which dampened my enjoyment - and the attempted scientific rationalization of the gold watch's abilities I could've done without but overall I liked the book and would certainly recommend anyone picking this up in the dollar section of a used bookstore (I wouldn't recommended actively seeking out a copy as, honestly, it's not worth it). 
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