Sunday, May 19, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp: Two for One Gil Brew novels

Publisher Stark House
Length 286 pages
Format paperback
Published 2008
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
A DEVIL FOR O'SHAUGNESSY

An okay pulp which lacks any real punch to the plot. 

The reader is dropped knee deep in a con, with Tolbert O'Shaugnessy lured into a desperate game of deception by the lovely Miriam who has murder and money on her mind. With her elderly Grandmother still going strong and steady, the chances of inheriting a cool quarter of a mill any time soon are slim, that is, if Miriam is willing to wait and let nature take its course - which she isn't. Enter Tolbert and a scheme which tests his conviction for the con. 

This was just okay. There are some nice characters and minor complementary story-lines which were fun but overall, the plot was dull and failed to deliver much by way of mystery or entertainment. 

In a desperate pitch to change things up, author Gil Brewer added a dose of the supernatural which, if anything, contributed to the books downfall in my opinion. 

My rating: 2.5/5 stars. 

THE THREE WAY SPLIT

Buried treasure done the pulp way. 

The Three Way Split was a treasure trove of fun, containing a small cast which made a big impact. 

Jack Holland lives on the sea, his work sustains his oceanic lifestyle and his beautiful girlfriend warms his bed at night. He's carved a niche existence which, minor cash flow problems aside, generally keeps him content. However, a visit from his estranged father soon sees Jack wading through deeper waters than he'd imagined, ones where blood mixes with salt water, and dangerous currents threaten to pull him under for a long slept among the fishes. 

The linear plot is breezy and free flowing while the pacing reflects situation; manic. This is a great example of a pitch perfect pulp in holiday mode. 

My rating: 4.5/5 stars. Definitely the better of the two novels in the collection. 

DIG THAT CRAZY CORPSE

Hard boiled PI story complete with all the genre staples. Nothing especially memorable about it but the narrative did have a nice clear flow and the linear plot made for easy reading. I wouldn’t mind reading more of this PI who hints at the unconventional bordering on atypical. 


3/5 stars.

LOVE... AND LUCK


Short sexy noir about a (presumably) promiscuous married woman and her former flame who’s in town to wreck her marriage and boy does he! 


4/5 stars

INDISCRETION 


A sexy housewife who loves to cheat on her husband with strange men. Abused and misused she craves more, her husband unsuspecting all the whole. Erotic noir. 


5/5 stars

Overall this is a solid collection which fans of Gil Brewer and pulp in general will not want to miss. I'd give this collection 4/5 stars. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Review: BOXED by Richard Anderson

Publisher Scribe
Length 275 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Richard Anderson is fast becoming one of the best crime fiction writers to take on the Aussie Outback and conquer it with cleverly crafted tales about hard working average Joe's (or Dave's, as is the case here) who find themselves involved in situations they've only seen on the television during prime time viewing; murder, mayhem, mobsters, and... accidental heroes. 

Dave Martin is a farmer struggling to overcome the breakdown of his marriage following the untimely and accidental death of his teenage son. The farm is on the steady decline and his drink is on the steep incline, the only thing he has to look forward to is the mail delivery. However, it's this one highlight in his week that introduces him to lowlifes and dangers not typically seen outside the big city.

Boxed is a lot of fun; the characters are great and distinctly Australian, while the place-setting envelopes the reader in a unique rural Australian farming community, complete with cattle, dust, utes, and local firemen. I loved the unassuming hero angle and found myself eagerly turning the pages hoping for light at the end of the darkness for Dave. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. 

You can read my thoughts on Richard Anderson's other novel I reviewed last year, Retribution by clicking on the link below:


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Review: VULTURES by Chuck Wendig

Publisher Saga Press
Length 416 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Miriam Black #6
My Copy I bought it


My Review
"Everyone dies around me". Her very presence is like a taste of slow poison. She's radioactive; a walking, talking, singing, dancing slice of Chernobyl.

Chuck Wendig sure knows how to mess with his readers emotions. The conclusion of the Miriam Black series is satisfying and loaded with tantalizingly tasty twists, especially as the curtain closes on Miriam Blacks' continually dark chapter.


The Trespasser, Gabby, Louis/Not-Louis, Wren, Miriam's curse; it all comes to a close here as Miriam confronts her arch nemesis (sounds a little superhero like but this is much too macabre for Marvel). Along for the ride is on-again, off-again lover Gabby and some suits from the FBI who just can't let go of Miriam as they continue the push to recruit her to help them crack cases - but Miriam's more Suicide Squad than Shield so things aren't exactly going to be easy for the Feds. 

Readers familiar with the series will welcome to continued nod towards continuity with characters once again appearing/being referenced from previous books. I really picked up on this in The Raptor & The Wren and it was great to see it here again. The overall series plotting is pretty tight and Chuck Wendig does a great job at making everything flow seamlessly from one book to the next. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Great series with a fitting ending. I know it's unlikely but I'd love to see this character (and some of the bit players) in some form fiction post Vultures. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Review: PET SEMATARY by Stephen King

Publisher Hodden & Stoughton
Length 15hrs 41mins
Format audiobook
Published 2018 (originally published 1983)
Series standalone 
My Copy I bought it


My Review

Spooky, suspenseful, and brutally emotional, Pet Sematary is classic Stephen King.

I won't recap the plot outline as many readers will already be familiar with the concept of this book (and revised film), hey, the title kind of gives it away anyway, but will say that this book is more than just a scare-fest with the stock standard horror elements.

There's a deeper darkness lurking within the pages of Pet Sematary which casts a swollen storm cloud over the reader throughout; an omnipresent force leading to consistent apprehension, knowing full well something is coming, some turn about to break bad, but feverishly reading anyway.

One of the things that really impressed me with Pet Sematary is the subtle and slow build. Stephen Kind is known for horror infused tomes but I particularly liked the way this story evolved. The characters were key and that's where King focused the bulk of the book. Plot and gore were secondary, and that's fine by me. 

My rating: 3/5 stats. The rating sounds low, even to me writing this, but I think it's a true reflection of how the book connected with me. I loved the concept and slow build but would've relished some more action.     

Review: SECOND LIVES BY P.D. Cacek

Publisher Flame Tree Press
Length 253 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Second Lives takes the reader down an emotional and heart-wrenching journey through 8 characters, all of which have dedicated chapters written about them, detailing key events in their lives as well as their eventual deaths, and for some, reincarnation.

Whilst the early portion of the book read like a literary short story collection, introducing 8 characters with seemingly no relation nor connection to one another, the pay-off is in the perseverance, because once the you come out of the dark place of death and into the supernatural elements associated with spiritual displacement, things get very interesting. 

By no means for the faint of heart, Second Lives is the epitome of the 'tear-jerker'. 

Choc full of interesting and well defined characters who read as real as the people you know, all with their own unique voice and story to tell, once the characters align, the story really takes shape. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Not the book I was expecting but a very entertaining read. 

Friday, May 3, 2019

Review: THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT by Graham Masterton

Publisher Leisure
Length 385 pages
Format paperback
Published 1995 (this edition, 2000)
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review


The House That Jack Built goes beyond the typical haunted house horror formula, sure its pages are seeped in the blood of horror staples (ghost-like figures, sex, violence, cults, the supernatural) but it's the plot on the peripheral which gives this novel it's meaty feel, coupled with characters which are both deep and interesting.

The House That Jack Built captures the readers attention and maintains it in a vice-like grip through to the murderous end. 

The long abandoned, secluded and notorious mansion that is Valhalla is as much as a character as Craig and Effie Bellman, the two unfortunate souls caught in Valhalla's curse. Its carpeted halls, hidden rooms, and shadowy figures glimpsed from the corners of eyes instill an omnipresent sense of dread which kept the hair raised on the back of my neck and the goosebumps on my arms standing at attention.

My rating: 5/5 stars. Tailor-made for haunted house readers who like their horror gory and loaded with interesting characters and equally interesting backstories.  

Sunday, April 28, 2019

A Paperback From Hell! MANTIS by K.W. Jeter

Publisher TOR
Length 281 pages
Format paperback
Published 1987
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Mantis is not the kind of 1980's horror book you'd expect, certainly not from the synopsis, nor the sample at the beginning of book which invokes horrifying images of a female mantis devouring her mate shortly after copulation. 

Rather, Mantis, is an intense psychological horror derived from madness and a warped sense of reality, thanks to a schizophrenic subtext and an unreliable narrator. 

Michael Turner is a graphic designer of sorts who seems to have over capitalized on his business venture, with clients slowly departing for his competitors and his estranged wife making things difficult with their son, Michael turns to the red-light district for some escapism from the daily grind. 

It's among the street walkers, pimps, and thugs who own the night that he becomes obsessed with a couple of bar hoping regulars; his namesake, Michael (a tough guy with a penchant for killing women), and Rae (a boyish woman on the night who likes to live on the knife edge between life and death). It's this obsession which leads him into oblivion.

I liked Mantis but did find the reading tough going in the earlier stages of the book. It takes some time getting used to the writing style and then to understand that the book's narrator isn't to be relied upon. However, once everything clicked into place, Mantis didn't disappoint.

My rating: 3/5 stars. Mantis won't appeal to everyone, however I enjoyed the different aspect to 1980's horror this book brought. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Review: THE RAPTOR & THE WREN by Chuck Wendig

Publisher Saga Press
Length 274 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series Miriam Black #5
My Copy I bought it


My Review
"You do not forgive.You act. You change fate. You move the world, one degree at a time. One life saved, another taken. Forgiveness is passive - it is taking your hands off the wheel and letting go. But you never take your hands off the wheel."

Mayhem continues to follow Miriam as she contends with a copy cat killer mimicking her murders; however, this is no run-of-the-mill serial killer, each murder is deftly reconstructed in explicit detail, mirroring Miriam's own grisly encounters with the grim reaper. So much so, that Grosky, the FBI Agent from the previous books, takes an interest in the killings and tries to track down Miriam, hoping she can shed some light on the plague of darkness surrounding her. 

The fifth installment in the Miriam Black series is one of the best; Miriam continues to grow as a character, and her adventures continue to be exciting and unpredictable. 

The continuity with the previous books is strong with characters, either those on the peripheral or adversaries or acquaintances being referenced or making an appearance throughout the course of the book. A degree of familiarity with the earlier books is must, unlike some of the other installments in the series, The Raptor & The Wren does not read well as a standalone.

My rating: 5/5 stars. If you're not reading Miriam Black, you're missing out on a great series of books.

You can read my review of Thunderbird, book 4, HERE


Thursday, April 18, 2019

Review: MY BEST FRIEND'S EXORCISM by Grady Hendrix

Publisher Quirk Books
Length 332 pages
Format paperback
Published 2016
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
There's something about horror in the 80's.

On a dark and eerily still night out by a lake house, a split decision results in a teen's life being turned upside down, with trauma resembling PTSD following an ill-fated stumble through dense woods, naked, dazed and disorientated, only to be discovered by her friends in a long ago abandoned and crumbling hunt.

She wasn't there alone. 

Satan has spawned a seed in the bowels of Abby's life long best friend Gretchen - it's up to Abby to save her from eternal damnation and protect her close circle of friends from demonic wrath. 

My Best Friend's Exorcism is a hell of a read, complete with gore and splatter staples of the genre and a group of impressionable teenage girls trying to make sense of this strange world called puberty - oh and one of their members happens to have a demon insider her, minor detail.

The characters are crisp, clean and (as far as this reader can tell), perfect renditions of teens in the 80's. Their emotions are worn on their sleeves, while their insecurities remain hidden behind the warpaint they use to conceal acne. A somewhat coming of age story rides Abby's exhaust fumes, however it's the horror and 80's nostalgia which really steals the show. 

The linear narratives allows for a quick read which never misses a beat. Each chapter is short, punchy, and straight to the point - there's a lot to like. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Highly recommend.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review: THUNDERBIRD by Chuck Wendig

Publisher Saga Press
Length 336 pages
Format Hardback
Published 2017
Series Miriam Black #4
My Copy I bought it


My Review
"So violent. Like a feral cat. We like that about you Miriam. You get things done. We hope you stay on board with us for a long time. We'd hate to see you go. Though we do have one helluva severance package for you when the time comes - " 


Miriam's plight to purge her curse takes a turn for the worse when her world and that of an 8yr boy, collide, causing a ripple effect sure to permeate throughout Miriam's remaining days. 

Supernatural and urban-fantasy elements steadily become more paramount in the fourth installment of the foul speaking, ass-kicking Miriam Black series, yet the undertones of horror remain strong - there are some truly gut churning scenes thanks to Miriam's strengthened ability to share conscience with her avian allies. 

There's a bit of back and forth as the plot pushes and pulls Miriam between salvation and slaughter progressively building towards a draw-dropping ending more akin to a punch in the face than a full stop at the end of a sentence. Wow. 

My rating: 4/5 stars. Such a fun series. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Review: OUR LADY OF THE INFERNO by Preston Fassel

Publisher Fangoria
Length 376 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review


For those with loose morals and cash in their pocket, the Deuce in the 80's was an adults playground. 

Pimps, prostitutes, horror movies, drugs, comic books and murder all play a part in the melting pot of life on 42nd street in author Preston Fassel's debut novel.  

Our Lady of the Inferno hooked me right off the bat. First with that cover (which has some nice ties to the story itself) and then with the characters who populate this prominently polluted and perverse playground, which, unlike most genre-tales, showcases its horrors in broad daylight. 

The protagonist (prostitute and mother-hen to her pimps' gang of streetwalkers) Ginny Kurva is the glue that binds the noir elements to the horror. By virtue of this dangerous profession, her brood unwittingly put themselves at risk of gore splatter slaughter; prime targets for a sacrificial ceremony by the hand of an unstable and unsuspecting serial killer. 

Macabre, intense, and beautifully written, Our Lady of the Inferno is a must read for horror enthusiasts.

My rating: 5/5 stars.  

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Paperback form Hell! THE NIGHT TRAIN by Thomas F. Monteleone

Publisher Arrow
Length 337 pages
Format paperback
Published 1987
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Lacked cohesion and identity. Started out resembling a ghost story following the ill fated disappearance of train and its passengers in early 1900's deep in the catacombs of the New York subway system only to morph into a battle against hell incarnate. 

Despite it's shortcomings Night Train is a lot of fun. The cast of characters is diverse yet familiar for 80's horror with a cop, a reporter, and a specialist of the occult, banding together to ward off the eternal evils dwelling in the bowels of the city. 


The combination of crime and horror worked really well to give the story an added layer of depth with a semblance of realism; short-lived but appreciated.

Published in 1987, the Night Train left the door ajar for more horrors beneath the city that never sleeps, but I can't find anymore by the author directly relating to this particular cast of characters/concept.


My rating: 4/5 stars. If you like 80's retro horror, this one ain't bad.  



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review: ALICE by Christina Henry

Publisher Titan Books
Length 304 pages
Format ebook
Published 2015
Series The Chronicles of Alice #1
My Copy I bought it


My Review

A Harrowing and horrifying re-imagining of the popular children's tale.

Through a labyrinth of lunacy in survival-like horror, we follow the perilous plight of Alice and her asylum acquaintance and muscle-bound protector Hatcher as they traverse and contend with the many dangers present in the Old City, a place where death lurks around every cobbled corner and every stranger in the street lusts for that slick-edged slice of reality to take the pain away. 

Alice is a dark book which takes all that is nightmare-ish and turns it into a linear free flowing narrative with a fragile yet resourceful protagonist who immediately captures the heart and mind. Each trial and tribulation, each bump in the road and fight to the death is felt by the reader as Alice and Hatcher steadily make their way through innumerable horrors. 

I thought this retelling was a great concept. The play on characters is perfect and the story feels larger than just Alice which gives the book a meaty and 'complete' feel.  

My rating: 5/5, this wonderland isn't for children. Highly recommend. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Pick of the Month [March 2019]

Continuing with my genre of choice for 2019, 8 of the 10 books I read in March were horror. Which, coincidentally, is the blood-spattered, nightmare inducing genre of which my pick of the monthly rightly belongs...



Make no mistake, this book is not for the faint of heart and its all the better for it. I was craving something straight from a nightmare to rattle me and scare the goosebumps right off my skin and Brian Kirk certainty delivered with his terrifying tale of a book of death. 


In other books, I earlier deemed March 2019, to be my Miriam Black March Madness Month - the plan was to reread the first 3 books in the series before delving into the second 3 which were waiting patiently on my tbr shelf. Despite my good intentions, things didn't quite work out but I did manage to reread the first 3 books in Blackbirds, Mockingbird, and The Cormorant, all 5-star reads and a hell of a lot of fun, perhaps even more-so the second time around. 


Perhaps the most surprising (in a very pleasant way) book I read in March was the incredible sci-fi novel by Charlie Jane Anders, The City in the Middle of the Night published by Titan Books (2019). Not since 2018's Blackfish City by Sam J Miller has a novel captured my imagination and enveloped me in a complete shroud of the other worldly as The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders by virtue of its intricate and epic world building. 

Other notable reads included a Paperback from Hell, The Sphinx by horror grand-master Graham Masteron, A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, and an Australia dystopian novel by Marlee Jane Ward, Prisoncorp, published by Seizure (2019).   

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Review: STRANGER THINGS: WORLDS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN

Publisher Century
Length 223 pages
Format Hardcover
Published 2018
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
Essential reading for fans of the popular Netflix TV series who want to take a peak behind the curtains to see how the show is produced and learn about the actors who make the characters so enjoyable to watch on the small screen. 

Focusing on the first two seasons with a sneak of what's to come in season 3, Worlds Turned Upside Down is a great source of information. It delves into the writing, production, and post production process to give the reader a well-rounded look inside the hive mind that birthed the nostalgic horror/supernatural 80's throwback series. 

Accompanying the facts are some interesting footnotes of the influences which contributed to the look and feel of the series, but one of the real strengths of this book is the art; locale photos, action shots (with detailed explanation about the filming process), costume design, and storyboards to name a few. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. Worlds Turned Upside Down is a fun, easy to read coffee table companion to the series proper. A must read for fans. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Paperback form Hell! The Sphinx by Graham Masterton

Publisher Star
Length 207 pages
Format paperback
Published 1978
Series Standalone
My Copy I bought it


My Review
The Sphinx is b-grade horror, full of cheesy dialogue, strange-acting characters, and an unbelievable plot-line - yet it's a whole lot of fun if you can suspend your belief. 

This is 1970's horror at the height of its over-the-top powers.

Gene Keller is a Washington based politician who falls for an attractive and busty young women, named Lorie, the daughter of a former French diplomat, at a party. He's immediately smitten by her emerald necklace, feline features, and perfect body, shown-off by a form fitting dress which leaves nothing to the imagination. It's love at first sight (or bite, as it turns out). 

Following her initial rebuff, Gene quickly assumes the role of a stalker, using his political clout to find her where Lorie works, her phone number, and even going so far as to break into the mansion she shares with her equally beautiful and mysterious mother, coming equipped with tools to scale the property walls and a gun of all things.

This is the mind of a perfectly sane and rational man (at least that's the way Gene is portrayed in the book) - after all, he's single and attractive, why shouldn't Lorie immediately fall head of heals for him? Something must be up and it's Gene duty as a man, dammit, to find out what's going on! 

Turns out something is going on - Lorie's hails from a once banished Egyptian lineage called Ubasti; half man, half lion. But that doesn't stop Gene from pursuing her, and in no time at all (3 weeks to be exact), they are married and living in Lorie's mansion. 

Needless to say Lorie's urges get the better of her and Gene finds himself in mortal danger! 

My rating: 3/5 stars. The Sphinx is a great form of escapism which doesn't take up a whole lot of brain power to process. The plot is linear and the characters near cardboard cutout but it all works. Don't expect high end literature with this one, but you can expect a good time.  

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Review: WILL HAUNT YOU by Brian Kirk

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


My Review
Will Haunt You is pure unadulterated horror.

Through a Haze of distorted reality, the reader becomes part of the story, following a steady progression into madness along with the characters.

For Jesse Wheeler, a retired band member of an almost famous rock group, the horror begins with an unfortunate incident which results in his young son sustaining injuries leaving him permanently disabled. Despite being able to salvage his marriage and continue caring for his son, Jesse’s mistakes fail to remain in the rear-view, thanks to a mysterious and dangerous book which threatens to take everything from him.

Will Haunt You is a truly terrifying tale with every turn oozing horror; nightmares in basements, dread lurking in hallways, science experiments hunting in forests, faces behind secluded cabin windows peeking through glass at their prey, etc. 

Some of the vivid dream-like imagery is so elaborately macabre my stomach churned and the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention – exactly what I want from my horror fiction. 

My rating: 5/5 stars. One of the best horror books I've read this year, if not all time. I loved it. 

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Review: THE CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT by Charlie Jane Anders

Publisher Titan Books
Length 482 pages
Format paperback
Published 2019
Series Standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher


My Review
Not since 2018's Blackfish City by Sam J Miller has a novel captured my imagination and enveloped me in a complete shroud of the other worldly as The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders by virtue of its intricate and epic world building. 

Set many years into the future, mankind has taken to the stars in search of a new home. In January, they've found one, but the planet has a dark side; one which bathes half its surface in perpetual darkness while the other endures a never ending cycle of daylight.

There is so much to like about this novel; complex and well defined characters, interesting and dangerous landscapes (both political and physical), and some serious cool biological science fiction. The only downside is that the story had to end somewhere; both good and bad, as it left me wanting more.

My rating; 4/5 stars. I really like this novel and have my fingers crossed we'll see more of Sophie, the Gelet, and others (who I won't mention as to avoid spoilers).