Monday, June 24, 2019

Review: IN THE SCRAPE BY James Newman and Mark Steensland

Publisher Silver Shamrock Publishing
Length 108 pages
Format ebook
Published 2019
Series standalone
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

In The Scrape is a fast paced novella easily consumable in a single sitting. The story is engaging and draws the reader in with it's well defined characters and heartfelt domestic struggle involving two young brothers forced to live in an adult world driven by violence and blanketed in despair. 

Jacob and Matthew live with the knowledge that their absentee mother didn't want them and their father doesn't care for them. Then there's the group of bullies at school who torment the two, leaving mouths bloody and self-esteem scared. Life isn't great. The only way out is to run away with little more than shirts on their backs and a bag of golden age comic books to sell. Of course it's easier to plan than to do, which the brothers soon learn...

In The Scrape is a story of persistence, resilience, and unexpected twists. Anchored by domestic drama, the themes will hit home with fathers/mothers who can't help but feel for the brothers struggle.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

- - - - -

In The Scrape is due to be published 1 July 2019 by Silver Shamrock Publishing. Head over to their website to find out more about this book and other upcoming titles. 

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Review: THE LOST LEVEL by Brian Keene

Publisher Apex Book Company
Length 186 pages
Format ebook
Published 2015
Series The Lost Level #1
My Copy provided by the publisher

My Review

Adventure, horror, and science fiction in a lost land devoid of time and unique in it's flora and fauna. 

The Lost Level reads like an ode to the iconic comic hero Sheena and men's adventure mags, Brian Keene's pulp-tastic tale set in a unique place-setting is a nerd's delight - I mean, how could it not be? There's a freaking T-Rex battling a giant killer robot in an high octane earth-shattering epic battle scene. Add a touch of Alien (greys), a dash of X-Men (think Beast), and a harrowing hint of the occult and The Lost Level quickly becomes something special.

The story follows occult enthusiast Aaron Pace as he attempts, and then succeeds in opening a doorway to other dimensions. Able to step back in time, to the future, to alternate realities and back to present day Earth, Aaron eventually walks through a one way door leading him straight into the fabled lost level. It's here author Brian Keene delves into his bag of tricks to cleverly craft a tale loaded with adventure, intrigue, danger, and a hint of romance. 

The Lost Level is fun, pure, unadulterated escapism for adults. I highly recommend picking up a copy and getting lost in the madness that awaits.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.  

Find out more about The Lost Level and where to buy a copy from the Apex Book Company webiste

Also, check out Brain Keene's website for more information about the author and his other, equally awesome books. 

I'll be posting a review of the follow-up, Return to the Lost Level soon!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp [51]: RED-HEADED SINNERS by Jonathan Craig

Red-Headed Sinners, on the surface, is meant to be a psychological crime drama, spruced with all the period pulp staples - and it delivers - for the most part. What's missing is the element of surprise, complexity, and deep character engagement despite some marred attempts. 

The plot follows a damaged and dangerous police officer with murderous tendencies towards women with red hair due to an incident which occurred in his youth in which a red-haired woman was prominently featured. 

As the struggle to suppress the murderous urge intensifies, the thin blue line between law and unlawful becomes blurred - to the point of being irrelevant. With lust taking over, the plot boils over into a murder frenzy with seemingly no way out. Any character with red hair is a certain target - for the reader, the only devil is the detail in which the author crafts each characters end. 

Personally, I enjoyed this pulp, first published in 1962 and brought to life again in 2013. The story holds up well despite the passing time yet it doesn't quite deliver everything I wanted; namely some element of suspense or mystery; characters pop up, die, and then it's on to the next one. Whilst this is fine, it does become tedious by the fourth victim.

I'd rate this pulp a solid 4 stars despite my misgivings. Red-Headed Sinners is an easy and enjoyable well written book which puts it a touch above most pulps published around the same period I've previously read. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Review: MY PET SERIAL KILLER by Michael J. Seidlinger

Publisher Fangoria
Length 464 pages
Format paperback
Published 2018
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it 

My Review

"She winks at him. There's a killer on every corner, even if they don't know inside if they have what it takes. She'll show them how."

My Pet Serial Killer is unlike any novel I've read before. Flipping the script on the traditional method of storytelling, the book really throws the reader in at the deep end. Concentrate or capitulate. 

Alternating between sequences of pure violence, pick-up schemes, study, and filmography, My Pet Serial Killer maintains a consistent rapid fire pace in which the reader never quite knows what to expect next.   

The interesting plot device invokes reader participation as a voyeur to the characters violence. This method makes for a unique perspective as we follow Claire, a professional chameleon, as she sates her bloodlust vicariously through serial killers under her control. 

Claire doesn't have relationships. She has pets - and we're not talking fluffy cats and timid dogs, we're talking dangerous humans who revel in the demise of others in the most macabre manner they can fashion. As the story progress it becomes apparent Claire isn't as put together as she makes out... 

There's an unreliable narrator theme which poses a constant question about the stability of Claire and the gruesome events which take place in her apartment, at night clubs, on the side of highways, and in prison. The omnipresent instability heightens the reader experience as you never know what level of debauchery (true or imagined) lays in wait on the next pages. 

I thoroughly enjoyed My Pet Serial Killer, in part because of the unique storytelling but more-so due to the complexities of Claire and the horrors she so willingly brought to life.

My rating: 5/5 stars.  

You may also like:

Our Lady of the Inferno by Preston Fassel (also published by Fangoria)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Pick Up A Pulp [50]: THE NAKED LIGHT by James Moffatt

When I picked up The Naked Light at a secondhand bookstore, I thought I was getting another title from Grady Hendrix's Paperbacks from Hellthe synopsis leads the reader down a path of horror involving satanic ritual, human sacrifice, and seedy starlets in a perverse Hollywood drug scene.    

A horror novel this is not. 

The Naked Light is pure pulp circa 1970's complete with wanton women, chauvinistic men, and a plot with murder and sex at its core. What's missing is the stereotypical lone wolf private eye who drinks too much and beds too few (for his liking), instead, we're treated to an overtly sexual and highly intellectual Hollywood film studio publicist in Lucy Christian who has taken it upon herself to kinda find out who killed who. 

Which brings me to the killing bit. 

The book opens with a satanic ritual of sorts but it's really an excuse for a bunch of Hollywood stars to dabble in debauchery by virtue of a mass orgy. If anything, the cult angle is tokenistic at best; the means to an end in a half hearted effort to make the reader think there's some otherworldly sinister shenanigans at play. Its here, among the river of bodily fluids and naked mounds that a mass murder takes place.

With Mermaid Pictures loosing some of its most billable stars, Lucy is sent to semi-investigate the deaths of behalf of the studio, but moreso, to spin a cover-up which will posthumously turn one of said seedy starlets into a martyr. Why? So the studio can release pre recorded films starring the dead actors without any major fan backlash due to their questionable hobbies of the flesh. 

Think of every kind of pulp character stalwart and you'll find it here (excluding the private eye). It's as if author James Moffatt swallowed a bunch of sleaze pulps and vomited out a single story which attempted to contain every single element without really mastering any given one. 

Now I know, this review paints the book in a bad light, and, truth be told, I rate it a solid 2.5/5 stars but it's actually not that bad. I like pulps and didn't mind this one. Lucy is a great character and by far the highlight of the book. Had the author focused more on condensing the threads, this could've been much better. 

Other pulps with similar themes include:

Pick Up A Pulp [18]: The Passionate Pagan by Carter Brown 

Pick Up A Pulp [48]: Devil, Devil by Michael Avallone

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Pick of the Month [May 2019]

My May reading stack

I read 16 books in May and am right on target to reach my Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge of 150 books. I will make it clear though; I much prefer quality over quantity, the fact that I'm able to consume so many books in any given month is a bonus :-) 

Once again my selection of books catered to my eclectic tastes, ranging from supernatural/horror by Chuck Wendig in Vultures, to Australian outback crime in Boxed by Richard Anderson

I rated 7 books 5 stars; a pretty a decent strike rate if you ask me but there can only be one pick of the month! (well sometimes I pick two) and this month its the forthcoming horror/sci-fi/noir from Apex Book Company Coil by Ren Warom. What I can say? This book blew me away with its vivid imagery, complex characters, and storytelling depth - it's a book which caters to a wide audience with a slant towards those readers who like their fiction with a double shot of darkness. Brilliant. 

Other highlights include the compulsively crazy, This Body's Not Big Enough for Both of Us by Edgar Cantero which features a private eye unlike any other. An incredibly clever and well written book, I strongly recommend for fans of books like Secret Dead Men by Duane Swierczynski (a personal fav of mine, and a book I actually reread in May), Cold Moon Over Bablon by Michael McDowell - a moody and evocative murder mystery with some serious horror overtones, and the slasher Endless Night by horror stalwart Richard Laymon
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