Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: VENGEFUL BY V.E. Schwab

Publisher Titan
Length 575 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series Villains #2
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

Eli Ever has the power to regenerate; he doesn't die and he doesn't age. Victor Vale has the power to hurt, to turn people into living puppets he can bend to his will - at least physically. The two resume hostilities in an wholly entertaining and enthralling story.

Vengeful picks up where Viscous left off, so if you've not read that book, you'll be a little lost here. 

Continuing to build upon the superhero mythos introduced in the previous installment, Vengeful expands on the extra-ordinary characters (EO's) to give the book an added layer of depth. One character in particular, June, a shape-shifter, is perhaps one of the best characters in the book. I love the way V.E. Schwab is able to introduce a new character while also providing significant backstory that doesn't detract from the core plot. 

Spanning multiple timelines yet maintaining a cohesive narrative, Vengeful is well plotted and wholly addictive. I hope we see a lot more books set in this interesting and diverse fictional landscape, V.E. Schwab has so deftly crafted. 

My rating: 5/5 stars

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Review: UNNATURAL by Mirka Andolfo

Publisher Image
Length 112 pages
Format trade
Published 2018
Series Unnatural (#1-4)
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Unnatural echoes sentiments of Black Mirror with elements of real-world totalitarian plausibility exemplified through birth and mating control, as well as overtaxing those few who dare to be different, stretching the populace into poverty. 

While this all consuming and thought provoking story draws comparison to current day events and spotlights the strength of diversity, it's a fun and wholly entertaining light erotica with fantastical elements which steadily build each chapter into an epic crescendo of violence and the other-worldly. 

The protagonist, Leslie Blair, is a pig girl, who dreams of a wolf-man lover; something forbidden in this animalistic world where its citizens are made to procreate with 'their kind', if not on their own accord, then at the hands of a Government controlled match-making service called Real Love, a subsidiary of the Reproduction Program Office. 

Unsure as to why she's constantly at the mercy of these 'unnatural' dreams, Leslie confines in her roommate, Trish for support, seeking method to the madness.

What follows neither of the young women sees coming - and certainty not this reader.

My rating: 5/5 stars. Unnatural is a great read complimented by some stunning art. Over the course of the 4-issue volume, the graphic novel establishes a new world, concept, characters, and a heartbreaking backstory while setting up the next installment. I can't wait to read volume 2.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: DARK SACRED NIGHT by Michael Connelly

Publisher Orion Publishing Group Limited
Length 10hrs 39mins
Format audiobook

Titus Welliver, Christine Lakin
Published 2018
Series Harry Bosch #21 / Renee Ballard #2)
My Copy I bought it

My Review

More Bosch than Ballard, Dark Sacred Night teams up Michael Connelly's longtime protagonist with his latest to create a well balanced and entertaining police procedural bathed in the darkness of LA's nighttime underworld.

Bosch has a case which haunts him; the murder of an underage prostitute he's never been able to solve. The case eats away at him. Every day he's reminded of his failure, in part due to the dead prostitutes mother who shares his personal residence - their relationship purely platonic.

Ballard, perennial member of the 'late show' aka the night shift in LA's police department, catches cases only to throw them to other detectives when the sun comes up. There's a decent smattering of small time cases for her wade through in Dark Sacred Night but it's when her world and Bosch's collide, do things get really interesting. 

I enjoyed Dark Sacred Night. Personally, I was hoping for some more Ballard-based books; the character does well to hold her own without the need for a heavy hitter to push the book into 'best-selling territory' but Connolly makes the duo work; their chemistry is natural and the multi-POV methodology fits seamless into the narrative (this made more apparent with the changing narrators in the audio version).

My rating: 4/5 stars. Dark Sacred Night has a decent plot at its core complimented by enjoyable supplementary cases the two protagonists find themselves entangled. Bonus points for reading perfectly well as a standalone in its own right. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Review: WRECKED by Joe Ide

Publisher Orion Publishing Group Limited
Length 10hrs 52mins
Format audiobook

Narrator Sullivan JonesPublished 2018
Series IQ #3
My Copy I bought it

My Review

Isaiah Quintabe (aka IQ) can be likened to a modern day Sherlock Holmes, such is his superior intellect and heightened powers of deduction which are comparable to the renowned PI of early crime fiction. While his sidekick, Dodson isn't quite Sherlock's Watson, he's a great character and a perfect fit for IQ; both in his ability to help (and at times hinder) an investigation while also providing a humorous outlet for the often dire situations the duo find themselves in. 

In Wrecked, the third IQ novel, author Joe Ide dumb downs IQ a little which casts the urban sleuth in a new light; showcasing his insecurities and vulnerabilities, which ultimately transforms the character into something more real-world. His struggles and failures are gains for the reader and the supporting cast who pay a more pivotal role in the plot (this being Dodson, Gloria, and the bad guys). 

Wrecked reads perfectly well as standalone but is much better with the added context of the previous novels in IQ and Righteous.  

My rating: 5/5 stars. This series continues to grow from strength to strength. Highly recommended. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: FUGITIVE RED by Jason Starr

Publisher Oceanview
Length 304 pages
Format softcover
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review

There's just something about a Jason Starr novel that separates his writing from the rest. Be it the personal narrative surrounding his characters, the easily plausible accidental murder of his killers, or the intense family centered dynamic - all of it jells just right to form a unique blue-collar domestic noir - with a twist. 

Fugitive Red is perhaps one of the best yet.

Jack Harper is a struggling New York real estate agent, married to Maria, a successful corporate worker. Their son Jonah is the glue which keeps them together.

When Jack shows an apartment to a former band buddy, his thoughts of a bountiful commission give way to the lure of infidelity. Jack's onetime friend plants the seed of escaping the daily marriage grind by indulging in internet hookups - specifically, hookups for unhappily married people. 

The first time is the last time for Jack as his life spirals out of control after finding the woman going by the internet handle 'Fugitive Red' naked and very dead at their designated meet-up spot. 

Prime suspect, deadbeat husband, homeless, and attempted kidnapper are just some of the labels he dons during the course of the novel - but nothing is worse than the twist which turns everything on its head. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. I can't recommend this book highly enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: THE FADE OUT (ACT ONE) by Ed Brubaker and Scott Phillips

Publisher Image Comics
Length 120 pages
Format single issue
Published 2015
Series The Fade Out #1-4
My Copy I bought it

My Review

It was always little things that unlocked the blackout doors. Details... the lipstick makes him remember a smile. The smile leads to a voice...then a face. And that's how Charlie realized whose house he'd woken up in...right before he found her lying dead on the living room floor.

Bars, blackouts, limelight and lowlifes. The Fade Out is A-grade noir set in the Hollywood's golden era of film, where stars shone their brightest and studio cover-ups were commonplace - it was a time where murder was more hindrance than heinous . 

When screenwriter Charlie Parish stumbled upon starlet Valeria Sommers lifeless body less than twenty feet from where he was sleeping off 'the night before' in a bathtub, his first thought was to cover his tracks, his second thought, was the studio, the third - panic, for last night was drowned out in a watery wall of booze.

What follows is a murder mystery, a studio cover-up to make Sommers' untimely death a suicide, and the introduction of a bunch of seedy bit players all with something to gain by ignoring the murder.    

The only thing holding The Fade Out (Act One) back is the incomplete ending. Rather than tying loose ends, the story progressively evolves as the fictitious Hollywood branches out into new character side stories - each interesting enough but given this arc ran for 4 issues, the core plot element is largely left unresolved. 

A brief note on the art: Fantastic, moody, perfectly captures the essence of noir soaked Hollywood. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. As mentioned early, The Fade Out (Act One) lacks a conclusion and fails to deliver a single cohesive and self contained story, rather, continuing to build an elaborate and intrinsically linked cast of characters with backstories as dark as the back-alleys they deal. I loved this story arc, but think it would've been better with an extra issue or two, conceptually - 5/5.   
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