Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: FURYBORN by Claire Legrand

Publisher Sourcebooks Fire
Length 501 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series The Empirium Trilogy #1 
My Copy provided by the publisher

Reading Furyborn, I'm immediately reminded of the 1980's pop song 'Send Me An Angel' by Real Life as the underlying thematic soundtrack to both Rielle's and Eliana's somewhat reluctant / apprehensive journey to Queendom. 

Separated by over a thousand years, these two powerful character story-lines converge in a storm of revelations as the once fabled Sun and Blood Queen lineage is forged in violence and world breaking magic.  

Distinctly young adult, the story will appeal to the broader fantasy audience. Sure, some of the dialogue is loaded with a teenage-angst feel but this is balanced out by some interesting world building and a solid platform of fantastical elements incorporating the stereotypical and more inventive genre hallmarks. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Furyborn is a solid start to the Empirium Trilogy which reads as a complete novel with enough plot threads and burning questions to lead into book 2. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: SUNBURN by Laura Lippman

Publisher Isis Audiobooks
Length 8hrs 1min
Format audiobook
Published 2018
Series standalone 
My Copy I bought it

Sunburn is the kind of book which hooks the reader with mystery and suspense while questioning the authenticity of the main characters motive and purpose throughout. 

Thought provoking with an simmering level of intensity which feels like its threatening to boil over at any moment, Sunburn reads equal parts Lisa Lutz (The Passenger) and James M Cain (The Cocktail Waitress) - suburban noir at its finest. 

At its heart, Sunburn tells the tale of a woman scorned, searching for a better life who isn't afraid to bury bodies in the wake of her passing through. Author Laura Lippman devilishly adds complexity to the main character in Polly, by infusing her backstory with seemingly murderous and heartless wrongdoings but balances that out by providing her with a likable firecracker quality, equally dangerous and exciting  

A note on the audiobook: Regina Reagan's narration compliments the book perfectly. Her tone and style matches the sass and general nature of the character exceptionally well. 

My rating; 5/5 stars. I couldn't get through this fast enough and loved every minute. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: FURY FROM THE TOMB by S.A. Sidor

Publisher Angry Robot
Length 320 pages
Format ebook
Published 2018
Series The Institute for Singular Antiques #1
My Copy provided by the publisher

Horror, adventure, the supernatural, and Egyptology seasoned with a spice of the wild-west fuel this journey into the unknown. 

Romulus Hardy, an eager Egyptologst is commissioned to travel to Egypt to unearth the tomb of a mysterious yet powerful Pharaoh - he ultimately succeeds but success comes at great cost with the band of men on his expedition loosing their lives. 

On bringing the sarcophagus back to America, his mysterious benefactor remains aloof, communicating only by letters and messages passed down by minions. Promptly re-routed from New York, his journey lands him and his precious cargo on a train heading towards LA, only for it to be hijacked by a criminal gang but that's only the start of the horrors. 

There's a lot to like about Fury from the Tomb, however I really enjoyed the character dynamic the most; there's a gunslinger, a young and fierce companion, the attractive Evangeline daughter of the benefactor, a ghoul who adds a comical element and the sorcerer himself; they all complement one other and bring a little something to the broader story. 

This Indian Jones pulpy adventure circa 1888 won't appeal to everyone but it does have loads of tense and horror-infused moments that are a joy to read. 

My rating: 5/5 stars, reading well as a standalone, I'm interested to see what direction future installments take. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: NORMANDY GOLD by Megan Abboot and Alison Gaylin

Publisher Hard Case Crime / Titan Books
Length 152 pages
Format trade
Published 2018
Series Normandy Gold (#1-5)
My Copy I bought it

Normandy Gold is a small town sheriff who is thrust into the violent underbelly of crime in 1970's Washington DC following an ill-fated telephone call from her younger sister. 

The call, strange in itself, given Normandy and Lila hadn't spoken in while, gets a whole lot stranger when Normandy overhears her sister become involved in a violent confrontation with a man. The only clue echoing on the ghostly end of the line; the name Sel. 

The dead silence births loud fears as Normandy envelopes herself in a shroud of criminal grime, grit and gore on a violent path to destruction at once reckless and righteous.

The graphic novel by authors Megan Abbott and Alison Gaylin is pure, unadulterated noir; there's no greater good or subplot device aimed at exposing political corruption or making the world a better place; Normandy walks among the sullen and grey, and that's where this story rightfully resides. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Ask Normandy for sunshine and rainbows, and get a serrated knife to the solar plexus. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


Publisher Hard Case Crime / Titan Books
Length 128 pages
Format individual comics / trade
Published 2018
Series Minky Woodcock (#1-4)
My Copy I bought it

The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives at PI firm, Woodcock & Sons with one thing on his mind, to expose Harold Houdini for what he really is - a competitive and vindictive spiritual medium. Sir Doyle firmly believes Houdini has occult powers, after having witnessed him walk through a brick wall during one of his performances.

Sir Doyle is greeted by the firms secretary, Minky, her father, the PI being out of town, and the son, not really into the whole PI gig is elsewhere too.  Not wanting to hide in the shadows of her fathers footsteps, Minky Woodcock uses her sexuality and intellect as equally deadly weapons to win Sir Doyle over. 

However, the case soon turns sour when Minky learns that Houdini is anything but a 'spiritual medium', rather he's dedicated to debunking spiritualists, mediums and other fakes; A passion project for the popular escape artist after having outed Sir Doyle's favorite medium during an ill fated seance in which the medium claimed to have made a connection with Houdini's deceased mother.   

Minky manages to place herself inside Houdini's inner circle as an assistant and sometimes-friend to his wife Bess. It allows her to be close to Houdini but she misses a crucial moment which ultimately leads to the death of Houdini in sinister circumstances.

Who wields the murderous touch? A crew of spiritualists in England? A nurse who weaseled her way into Houdini's entourage? Or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself?  

The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is a visual treat for fans of pulp art and a good old fashioned murder mystery. Author and artist, Cynthia Von Buhler's slice of noir is evocative and moody; art and writing creating a cohesive narrative across the 4 issues which span this story arc. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. PI Minky Woodcock is just what comics and the Hard Case Crime line need; a sexy yet dangerous private investigator complimented by strong dialogue and great art.

Note - I read Minky Woodcock, The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini is single issue format as they were published and then again when the final installment was published. For me, the flow and overall narrative work better in a single sitting. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Books to read if you like Black Mirror

Black Mirror is an anthology TV series which explores the use of technology in a generally futuristic society albeit one not far removed from the modern world we live in. 

The concepts are plentiful and thought-provoking and, mostly entertaining if not a little creepy. 

Like any TV series that takes my liking, I tend to scour the internet looking for books related to the subject matter. Here are some of my recommendations for readers who are looking for Black Mirror-esque reads: 

Permutation City by Greg Egan 

A life in Permutation City is unlike any life to which you’re accustomed. You have Eternal Life, the power to live forever. Immortality is a real thing, just not the thing you’d expect.

Life is just electronic code. You have been digitized, scanned, and downloaded into a virtual reality program. A Copy of a Copy. For Paul Durham, he keeps making Copies of himself, but the issue is that his Copies keep changing their minds and shutting themselves down.

Limitless by Alan Glynn 

Imagine a drug that made your brain function with perfect efficiency, tapping into your deepest resources of creativity, intelligence and drive. A drug that can help you learn a foreign language in a day. A drug that can help you process information so fast you can see patterns in the stock market.
Just as his life is fading into mediocrity, Eddie Spinola discovers such a pill: MDT-48, Viagra for the brain.
For decades, scientists have speculated about the untapped potential of the human brain. Now, neuroscientist Chuck Brenton has made an astonishing breakthrough. He has discovered the key—the crucial combination of practice and conditioning—to access the incredible power dormant in ninety percent of our brains. Applying his methods to test subjects, he has stimulated abilities that elevate brain function to seemingly “godlike” levels.
Remembrance of the Earth's Path Trilogy by Liu Cixin

Liu impressively succeeds in integrating complex topics—such as the field of frontier science, which attempts to define the limits of science’s ability to know nature—without slowing down the action or sacrificing characterization. His smooth handling of the disparate plot elements cleverly sets up the second volume of the trilogy." —Publishers Weekly

The Uploaded by Ferrett Steinmetz

In the near future, the elderly have moved online and now live within the computer network. But that doesn’t stop them interfering in the lives of the living, whose sole real purpose now is to maintain the vast servers which support digital Heaven. For one orphan that just isn't enough – he wants more for himself and his sister than a life slaving away for the dead. It turns out that he's not the only one who wants to reset the world..

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: DARKEST WEB by Eileen Ormsby

Publisher Allen & Unwin
Length 288 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone 
My Copy I bought it

Online investigative journalism at its finest. 

The Darkest Web delves deep into the deprave's darkest desires bringing to light heinous acts of cruelty better left in the shadows of humanity. 

The topical nature of the non-fiction peak-behind-the-curtain account of dark web warriors is not for the squeamish. The structure of the book leads the reader down a rabbit hole of murderous and unspeakable acts growing progressively darker as the digital depths of disgust unfold.

Whilst the subject matter isn't for everyone, I really enjoyed The Darkest Web. The writing was easy flowing and the structure of the book gives the reader plenty of 'outs'. Author Eileen Ormsby doesn't shy away from the confronting nature of the book and clearly defines sections of the book which contain the escalating 'darker' material.   

My rating: 5/5 stars. If you've got an interest in learning more of the web outside the world we live in, this is for you.   

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Pick of the Month [March 2018]

I read 16 books in March which includes 7 books published this year. This month is probably the hardest so far to select just ONE book to be my pick of the month - seeing as this is my blog, my roles (fluid as they may be), I'm selecting a few of my top picks. 

Of the 16 books read, I rated a whooping 8 of them 5 stars on Goodreads - what a great strike-rate for top reads! Some were re-reads (Blind Faith by Ben Elton), some had been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for a very long time and were also on my Mount TBR Challenge (Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go by George Pelecanos), while others were newly/soon-to-be-published books such as The Fighter by Michael Farris Smith and The Cyclist by Anthony Neil Smith.  

The cream of the crop goes to a couple of audiobooks in IQ by Joe Ide narrated by Sullivan Jones, true crime novel Black Dahlia Red Rose by Piu Maeir Eatwell narrated by Jeff Harding, and the newly published Australian non-fiction novel Ice Nation by Jason Bray published by Bonnier Publishing Australia which looks at a gang of Ice traffickers in rural parts of Victoria and New South Wales. 

As always, happy reading. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Review: THE SINNER by Petra Hammesfahr

Publisher Bitter Lemon Press
Length 338 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018 (first published 1998)
Series standalone 
My Copy provided by the publisher

The Sinner is a complex and intense psychological crime novel which highlights the unpredictable nature of repressed memories when combined with underlying violent tendencies. 

Having watched the Netflix series, I was interested to see how much the adaptation deviated from the book. The answer? Not much. 

That said, author Petra Hammesfahr's book does provide a richer narrative with the focus near exclusive on Cora, everything else, including Policeman Grovian, and Cora's husband is mostly background noise; don't get me wrong, those characters play their part, but the attention is as it should be - on Cora as she slowly unravels her past while confronting the present. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. The Sinner is a highly evocative book; gripping and intense, the story sure to keep churning around the readers head long after the last page is turned. 

Review: DON'T BELIEVE IT by Charlie Donlea

Publisher Bantam
Length 342 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone 
My Copy provided by the publisher

Don't Believe It is a perfect fit for true crime documentary and podcast buffs; the novel has all the hallmarks of an addictive TV show playing out in real time, and is enhanced by an easy flowing narrative which not only captures the case as it unfolds but also captures the character of those involved, either directly or indirectly. 

Grace Sebold sits in prison for a crime she claims she didn't commit. Sidney Ryan, renowned for her true crime documentaries which had previously resulted in the release of two people wrongly convicted for crimes they didn't commit is convinced Grace is innocent and sets out to prove it using the combined power of television and investigative journalism. 

Much like The Girl Who Was Taken, Don't Believe It is crafted in a web of delicately built lies balanced with poisonous truths and murderous deception. 

My rating: 5/5 stars, Charlie Donlea has a knack for writing thrillers which plummet the reader head first all the way down the proverbial rabbit hole into a world where nothing is as it seems. 

Don't Believe It will be published on 30 April 2018. You can read more about the book from the publishers website

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pick Up A Pulp [33]: THE CASE OF THE COUNTERFEIT EYE by Erle Stanley Gardner

The murder of a wealthy client who had previously hired the services of lawyer extraordinaire Perry Mason to look into the wide spread theft of his finances by an employee leaves the unconventional lawyer in a bind; not only was Mason representing the now deceased client, but that of the alleged thief too. 

Further complicating matters is another one of Perry's clients, a man with a false eye who hired the services of the renowned criminal lawyer to protect his interests SHOULD he find himself on the list of suspects for a crime he didn't commit. 

Already the fingers point towards the client with presumption of guilt but, as this is a Perry Mason book, nothing is as simple as what it seems. 

I didn't think The Case of the Counterfeit Eye had the same polish as the other Perry Mason book I've read but it did have all the courtroom antics and complicated plotting of which the author, Erle Stanley Gardner was renowned. Additionally, the court room thriller aspect was cleverly executed and not laden with legal jargon, as is a staple of these books. 

My rating: 3/5 stars. To me, it felt like each character introduced had a sinister motive which immediately turned them into a suspect for Perry Mason to consider; this made the book feel more complicated than it needed to be. 

I much prefer The Case of the Curious Bride, the fifth book in the Perry Mason series. You can read that review by clicking on the link below:

Pick up a Pulp [28]: THE CASE OF THE CURIOUS BRIDE by Erle Stanley Garnder

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