Thursday, September 28, 2017

Review: THE UPLOADED by Ferrett Steinmetz

Publisher Angry Robot
Length 448 pages
Format ebook
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review
In a world riddled by disaster, a teen with a pony finds a way to rid the shackles of the dead to breathe life back into the living. 

The Uploaded, set in a distant future, sees the surviving populace serve as little more than slaves to actual ghosts in machines. The dead don't really die in this new world, rather, their living memories and sense of self are uploaded into a vast and wondrous server which renders their death irrelevant unless they are one of the few unlucky ones who have been judged by the dead to pass into the void - real death, as a result of their criminal acts. 

This book has a great concept that builds as the story wades deeper into steadily crumbling real world, and ever expanding technological advancements of the virtual space. It's a young adult-ish book that will find a place among readers of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Permutation City Greg Egan.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars. The protagonist, Amichai took a little while to grow me. I thought the world building was great and some of the concepts scarily real. A completely different novel from the author of Flex, The Flux, and Fix (which I highly recommend checking out). 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review: PHASMA by Delilah S. Dawson

Publisher Random House Audio
Length 12 hours 14 minutes 
Format audiobook
Published 2017
Series Star Wars
My Copy I bought it

My Review
This book breathes new life into Phasma, a character who had little more than a bit part on The Force Awakens. This is both a good and a bad thing. Now that Phasma has become a bona fide character in the Star Wars cannon, what role she is set to play in The Last Jedi is very important; given the momentum generated in this book to build her up as a ruthless career soldier with high ambitions and the Marvel comic (of which I’ve not read) it’s obvious there are plans to break the ‘Stormtrooper as cannon fodder’ typecast and have her develop into an important figure in the First Order along with Kylo Ren, Snoke and Armitage Hux.

While this book is all about Phasma and her adventurous origin story, it’s the use of characters such as Cardinal, Vi Moradi, Siv and Brendol Hux which make this book as good as it is. I thought the storytelling aspect was a great way to add lore to the legend that is Captain Phasma. The book largely centers around captured rebel spy Vie as she tells the story of how Phasma came to be a vital member of the First Order. Through an unconformable interrogation at the hands of Cardinal, a Stormtrooper decked out in red who is responsible for brainwashing and training the next generation of Stormtroopers, Vie spills all she knows when harshly asked to do so under sufferance. He sees Phasma as a threat and uses Vi as a means to end Phasma’s rise in the ranks.

The world building is exceptional; Parnassos, a world ravaged by nuclear disaster is as important as the characters themselves, listening to the audiobook this world really came to life thanks to great storytelling, pitch perfect narration (thanks January LaVoy) and some nifty special sound effects. 

There's also a nice easter egg for readers of the new cannon with one of my favorite characters in Rae Sloane (A New Dawn, Aftermath trilogy) being mentioned in a nice nod to continuity. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Great all the way through and introduces a handful of characters I hope to see more of in either film/novels. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Review: THE PERFECT COUPLE by Lexi Landsman

Publisher Penguin / Random House
Length 400 pages
Format paperback
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review
Fame, family, lust and limelight. 

The Perfect Couple sees archaeologists Marco and Sarah Moretti make the discovery of a lifetime; the San Gennaro necklace, once thought lost undersea is found only to be lost again in the most suspicious of circumstances. 

Shortly after the discovery Marco had been working towards for the better part of a decade, his wife is involved in a car accident and has no recollection of the discovery nor does she remember seeing her husband in the arms of another woman on that fateful night. 

Given the couple hadn't gone public with their find, the decision to hide the necklace at the dig site until morning proves to be fatal - and not just for Marco's career, as come morning the necklace is gone, and Sarah is in hospital. 

The Perfect Couple reads like a family drama with some nicely placed criminal elements delicately dropped into the lives of the Moretti family; a dangerous cat among the pigeons. I particularly enjoyed this family drama dynamic, notably the way Daniel (Marco's son) interacted with his father, which in turn, gave the book more depth and complimented the darker side of the story. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. An enjoyable read for the most part, however the story did feel a little repetitive at times, but this is a minor gripe. The use of multiple points of view was a good move and provided the reader an insight into the characters, in turn generating a more well rounded feel to the story. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Review: Sydney Noir: The Golden Years by Michael Duffy & Nick Hordern

Publisher New South
Length 330 pages
Format paperback
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review
Sydney Noir is a book that tells a lot about a group of criminals and corrupt cops as they deal in underworld activities throughout the prosperous nightlife years of Kings Cross circa 1966-1972; a period in Sydney's time made more alluring to criminal enterprise thanks to a bounty of American serviceman frequenting the city of sin for rest and recuperation before being shipped off to the Vietnam war. 

It's during this period in which nightclubs, gentleman's bars, brothels, illegal gambling dens, and mafia-ties are made and cops are paid and paid well if the sums in this book are somewhere in the vicinity of being accurate, especially the select few in Krahe, Kelly, and Phelan who had multiple fingers in many criminally crusted pies. 

Shirley Brifman the prostitute turned madam turned whistleblower provides much of the rouge-colored and rose-tinted glasses these stories are told through giving the male oriented crime factory a deadly true life diamond in the rough, who, like near all of the 'noir personalities' in the book, ends up on a cold steel table after committing crimes, now and back then considered near unspeakable (read the book for this, I won't spoil it). 

Whilst there are a lot of personalities spattered throughout the book, there's an easy flow from chapter to chapter (each chapter focuses on crimes/criminal events committed for each year of the golden years 1966-1972) which provides a nice sense of continuity, after a while the reader develops some familiarity with these peoples lives so the volume of said personalities doesn't become overbearing. 

The book is not without its flaws but I tend to think these are more selective to the individual reader, depending on where your interests lie. Naturally the politics of the time play a part in the criminal proceedings be it on the prophetical or in the thick of it - that's fine, I enjoyed it, what I didn't find particularly interesting was the last chapter in the book where too much emphasis was placed on a question 'was he or wasn't he corrupt' and the lengthy critiquing of other peoples work on the matter - it didn't feel necessary, then again other readers may lap this portion up. 

Overall Sydney Noir: The Golden Years is an enjoyable book that shines a light on the seedy side of Sydney circa 1966-1972 and provides some interesting insight into the criminal, law abiding, and political personalities of the time. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Pick Up A Pulp [24]: THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler

Not really a book I consider a 'pulp' but The Big Sleep kinda fits the label as some of the more prominent genre troupes are present throughout. What separates the first Phillip Marlowe from other books in my Pick up a Pulp series of blog posts is the writing. Commonly refereed to as a form of hardboiled literature, The Big Sleep contains smart plotting, well formed characters and a deep and engrossing story that encompasses many shades of grey - there are a lot of angles to this sharply written detective story but they all work - and they all draw blood.

The Big Sleep introduces the world to Private Eye Phillip Marlowe, hired by a wealthy man nearing his death bed to look into a case of extortion and gambling debts incurred by one of his daughters. 

What follows is a complex series of crimes interlocked with the linear plot which shines a light on the darker side of the wealthy man's homestead, notably, the activities his daughters are involved and their ties with the underworld. 

Murder is easy in The Big Sleep, I was surprised at the sheer volume of deaths and impressed at how seamlessly they fitted the narrative. None are used for shock value, rather puzzle pieces forming the big picture case Marlowe's to solve.

My rating: 4/5 stars, a book I can see myself rereading.    


Publisher Tor
Length 144 pages
Format paperback
Published 2017
Series Ray Electromatic Mysteries #1.5 
My Copy borrowed from the library

My Review
Earlier this year I reviewed Killing Is My Business, the second book in the Ray Electromatic series, and while Standard Hollywood Depravity doesn't quite reach the same heights as that book, it's still a fun quick read that serves as an appetizer  to the full length novels in the series. 

Standard Hollywood Depravity reads well as both a standalone and introduction to the last robot detective (or hired killer as is the case here) while also linking in nicely with the other books. For readers familiar with Ray and Ada, there's a fair amount of repetition as author Adam Christopher fills in the blanks of Ray and Ada's back-story and some of the unique elements that make Ray the robot that he is - i.e. his limited memory, former occupation, and working arrangements with Ada (the supercomputer who assigns his cases). 

The story is pretty straightforward, Ray is hired to take down Honey, a go-go dancer at a club full of mobsters. Why? He doesn't know, but that's nothing new for Ray. As the story unfolds Ray learns that there's more to this job than meets the eye and the simple hit on Honey is anything but. It's a nice side-bar to the series' full lengths and adds another notch to Ray's belt. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Review: GWENDY'S BUTTON BOX by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

Publisher Cemetery Dance Publications 
Length 175 pages
Format hardcover
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy borrowed from the library 

My Review
12yr old Gwendy is an average girl, slightly plump but working it off over school break by running up and down a case of suicide stairs - aptly named after someone jumped from the stairs to their death, when she's approached by a mysterious yet seemingly harmless stranger who offers her a button box.

Dressed in black  this stranger convinces Gwnedy that the box with buttons on it will forever change her life - and she believes him, albeit reluctantly. After getting a treat out of the box and later a rare and valuable coin, Gwendy becomes infatuated by the box, not only for it's never ending supply of rare coins and sweets but because of the power it gives her. Each button represents a continent, all she's to do is press down on any one and the people of that continent will suffer in some way, shape or form - it's a lot of responsibility that on face value reads completely ridiculous but King makes it so damn easy to fall into his story and believe that this box, now owned by a pre-teen in Castle Rock can really change the world.

From there the story goes through a time lapse showcasing the highlights of Gwendy's life through to her graduation along with the Box's influence on her actions. At under 200 pages, Gwendy's Button Box is a 1 sitting read that is completely absorbing; Gwendy is a lovable character who leaves an impression while the bit players also add a little something here and there to Gwendy's life with the box.

As a long time Stephen King reader, his style is prominent here. It reads like a full-length novel, only more concise. 

My rating: 4/5 stars, a must read for Stephen King fans and those in need of a quick form of escapism from the daily grind.       

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Elmore Leonard Books Are Cool

I recently finished reading Glitz, a book about a Miami cop named Vincent Mora on sick leave in Puerto Rico who happens to fall hard for one of the local hookers, Iris. His infatuation, in part, is the glue that binds him to recently released criminal and convicted rapist  Teddy Magyk (pronounced Magic). Teddy has a hard-on for Vincent, after all he's the cop who caught him and helped put him behind bars for over 7 years. Through a blaze of comedic crime the two come together in a hail of bullets and body bags. It's a great book full of great characters with snappy dialogue and interesting back stories. It's one of Elmore Leonard's more memorable books from a catalog of memorable reads. 

Elmore Leonard was renowned for his dialogue and off-center crime fiction. Some of my other reviews of books by Elmore Leonard include:

Out of Sight - Like any novel written by Elmore Leonard, the dialogue is crisp, clever and straight to the point – you won’t find any filler content in OUT OF SIGHT. The plot is multifaceted; from the original prison break to the two robberies that play out leading to Karen and Foley’s reunion – a lot happens but it’s written in such a way as the reader doesn’t get lost in the different perspectives. 

Read the full review of Out of Sight here

The first Carl Webster book, The Hot Kid, is another of my favorite reads, unfortunately the follow-up, Up in Honey's Room was quite as good but to be fair the tone of that book was vastly different from The Hot Kid. 

The Hot Kid - Chronicling the kills of Carl Webster, a gun toting prodigy working as a US Marshal, THE HOT KID pits wanna-be gangsters and bank robbers (and some reluctant gun molls) against a man who is as much legend as the revered outlaws of the time. 

Read the full review of The Hot Kid here

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Pick of the Month [August 2017]

I read 16 books in August and 2017 continues to be a great year for reading new release crime fiction. All three of my top reads for August are newly published in 2017. Despite the genre-branding, these books couldn't be more different: 

The Force by Don Winslow is an epic cop drama set in New York, 

Read my review of The Force here

Castle Danger - Woman on Ice by Anthony Neil Smith is a character-centric tale of self discovery set in a small town full of atmosphere, 

Read my review of Castle Danger - Woman on Ice here

and then there's The Pictures by Guy Bolton which has to be one of the best audio books I've listened to this year set in Hollywood 1939, it's a book all about glitz, glamour, movie studios, power, and murder. 

Read my review of The Pictures here

With such a solid bunch of books it was hard (as usual) to pick the best of the bunch but The Force narrowly wins out through sheer size and the capacity to completely envelope the reader into a crooked cops world. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Review: KILLER TEASE by Danny Hogan

Publisher Pulp Press
Length 113 pages
Format paperback
Published 2009
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review
Eloise is a burlesque dancer; a take-charge, kick-ass protagonist who draws comparisons to the femme fatales who spread blood across the noir soaked pages of author Christa Faust’s books (Money Shot, Peepland, Hoodtown to name a few). In Killer Tease, Eloise finds herself out of a job after smashing a glass into a customer’s face as a result of his wandering hands wandering to places they shouldn't go. While drowning her sorrows at a pub shortly thereafter, she’s approached by a creepy looking guy who promptly offers her a job at a newly opened gentleman’s club. Having nothing to lose, she accepts and later meets with the club’s owner – only to find out that the job is a far cry from burlesque.

Killer Tease is a quick one sitting read clocking in at just over 100 violently entertaining pages. Eloise is a great character; strong, clever with a take-no-prisoners attitude. As the story unfolds the reader is thrust into an undercover world of torture, violence, and murder with Eloise dishing out as much as she gets. Pure noir from the outset.

My rating: 5/5. This was my second time reading Killer Tease, the first being 7 years ago (thanks Goodreads) and it is still as violently shocking the second time round. Highly recommend it – particularly if you like your noir pitch black. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Pick Up A Pulp [23]: THE BIG CLOCK by Kenneth Fearing

The Big Clock is a book where the concept was better than the execution. 

Originally published in 1946, the book focuses on George Stroud, a senior manager at a publishing firm, married with a young child; the book alludes to him being somewhat of a womanizer with a history of adultery. It's his loose morals that lands him in hot water when the girlfriend of his boss is found brutally murdered moments after he last saw her. 

Sounds like a very good book - perfectly dark and oozing that noir atmosphere I love being enveloped in, and in a way it is a good book but unfortunately there's a lot of filler content which detracts from the pacing - a real let down considering the page count it relatively low (144 pages).

There's a distinct cat and mouse feel to The Big Clock as the world closes in on George as he tries to maintain his innocence while keeping his affair secret. The later stages of the book capture his frenetic scheming to great effect, a real highlight of the book.  

My rating: 3/5 stars. I would recommend this to fans of early American noir. It's a book that reads better if you read slowly and get through big chunks in each sitting.  

Friday, September 1, 2017


Publisher Subterranean Press
Length 200ish pages
Format ebook
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review
"From now on he felt there would always be a hole in his head from which the logic fled." 

Bubba and the Cosmic Blood Suckers is a prequel to the somewhat infamous Bubba Ho-Tep, a book I'm yet to read but is in my TBR pile. Focused around Elvis, his manager The Colonel, a person assistant (sort of), and a band of unlikely warriors brought together to save the world from all manner of ghosts and ghouls, Bubba and the Cosmic Blood Suckers requires the reader to suspend their hold on reality and binge on the surreal.  

The 'once-human-things' which now resemble balls of human flesh, bone and gore that inhabit a junkyard are the probably the most enjoyable and horror-ific elements of the book. From the opening sequence author Joe R. Lansdale lets the reader know that these are bad, bad things set the scare the crap out of character and reader alike. 

Elvis, the team leader of this band of warriors is well written and adds an interesting dynamic to the cobbled together crew. He's not a take charge leader whose proverbial doesn't  stink, rather, he's self absorbed and a jerk at times.

This is the kind of book like doesn't take itself too seriously, there's loads of darkly humorous moments among the bloody carnage that takes place throughout the b-grade horror. 

My rating: 3/5 stars.   
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