Friday, May 29, 2020

Review: INTO BONES LIKE OIL by Kaaron Warren

First off; I've got to address the title - I Simply love it. Add to that, the cover is just perfect and captures one of the key elements of the story. I'm big on first impressions (I DO judge a book by its cover - at least when trying something new that catches my eye) and INTO BONES LIKE OIL by Australian horror scribe Kaaron Warren certainly makes a great first impression. 

Also - a big tick for me is the fact that Kaaron Warren is a fellow Aussie; I've been wanting to branch out into reading more horror from my home country (see ROO by Alan Baxter); the stage was set high from the get-go.

Luckily, this novella doesn't disappoint. 

INTO BONES LIKE OIL is moody, atmospheric, and full of emotion. In the short span of 81 pages, the characters shine through just as much as the creepy and overt ghostly themes which spread their cold caress across the page.  

Set in a haunted rooming house near the beach, the occupants, past and present, share a deep connection with the ghosts of a shipwreck. No only can the rooming house inhabitants see their ghostly neighbors but, when asleep, they can become the vessel to which these ghosts communicate with the living. Pretty creepy stuff. 

Ghosts aside, it the character's unique and depressing backstories which capture the emotion and provide depth to the story. Sure the apparitions and voices of the dead are highlights, but I like my horror with some humanity - and this has it. 

Other relevant links of interest

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Review: LOOKING GLASS by Christina Henry

Looking Glass comprises 4 novellas set in the dangerous and distinctly grown-up world of Alice; a child's story turned on its head by talented author Christina Henry.

Each of the novellas are must-reads for fans of the duology (which features the fantastical horrors Alice, and Red Queen). Not only does this collection breathe new life into Alice but expands on the stories previously told in the full length novels whilst adding a little more to the broader continuity (I thinking about the novellas LOVELY CREATURE in particular here).

My favorite (though only just) is the novella in which we learn more about Hatcher's backstory in WHEN I FIRST CAME TO TOWN. I knew Hatcher's past was stained blood red, but, reading this puts everything into perspective and makes Hatcher more than a simple sidekick along for the muscle; he's a bona-fide star of the duology in his own right. 

GIRL IN AMBER is perfect for the dangerous and dark world of Alice and serves as the singular most 'horror-like' novella in the collection. I won't spoil by going into detail but will say that this novella has some serious nightmare-inducing qualities. 

The collection is rounded off with THE MERCY SEAT which felt more 'fantasy' to me than the previous three novellas. I liked this and thought it was a fitting way to end the collection. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Pick Up A Pulp [68]: 77 RUE PARADIS by Gil Brewer

77 Rue Paradis (originally published 1954) is a slight departure from other books written by Gil Brewer. Sure there's a dark and brooding leading man, wanton women, and pure pulp bit part characters (I'm thinking of a pair of secretaries moonlighting as armed guards in a top secret government facility who could easily have been created by Quentin Tarantino), but the essence of the story is espionage. 

Baron is a guy who is down on his luck; forced to leave the country to hide from the media and his former colleagues following the sharp downfall of his plane building empire. He swears he's a victim of sabotage and that his planes weren't faulty - yet the deaths of many due to the less-than-standard aeronautical engineering of the planes produced by his company cast a long shadow of doubt. 

The novel starts with Baron wallowing in self pity in a dark hotel room with an attractive 'lady of the night' with whom he's starting to fall in love with. After wading through a few pages of this, and an indulgent amount of introspection, Baron's lady friend heads out and is promptly kidnapped - followed shortly thereafter by Baron himself being kidnapped. From there, it's spy on spy action until the somewhat Bond-ish action packed good verses evil ending.

Some parts of 77 Rue Paradis were entertaining, others not so much but then again that's pretty standard when it comes to pulps; the kidnappings and broader complexities of the plot were a pleasant surprise but I'm not sure the ending worked - same for the all too easy manner by which Baron and co. found themselves just where they needed to be at the exact moment they needed to be there. 

Overall, 77 Rue Paradis is a serviceable pulp and well worth reading for Gil Brewer completists. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Review: HONKY TONK SAMURAI by Joe R Lansdale

The great thing about the Hap and Leonard books (aside from Hap and Leonard themselves) is the accessibility to new readers. It's been a while since I last read a book in this series and in no time at all, I found myself in familiar territory - this, despite having not read Devil Red, the book set prior to Honky Tonk Samurai (I do plan on correcting this asap). 

The ninth book in the series continues the exciting escapades and brotherly banter of the perennial protagonists amid the dangerous sh!t they so easily find themselves knee deep in. 

Working for a detective agency, the brotherly duo are hired to track down a longtime missing granddaughter of a cranky old woman. With little to go on, aside from a few hints at some nefarious activity and a picture of the missing granddaughter, they end up at a car dealership - sleuthing for answers whilst trying to determine if cars are the only thing on offer at said dealership...spoiler alert; the dealership is an elaborate front for blackmail and prostitution! But, this being a Hap and Leonard book, that's just the tip of the jagged iceberg.  

Honky Tonk Samurai is loads of fun; from the colorful characters to the high octane action scenes, the pace never lets up. Its refreshing that a series, nine books in, can still provide character and emotional depth whilst maintaining a distinct sense of continuity without sacrificing plot. 

I loved every moment and am looking forward to reading what happens in the next installment, Rusty Puppy

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Review: WE DON'T TALK ABOUT HER by Andersen Prunty

We Don't Talk About Her is a creepy stalker story with a disturbing twist. 

Stella is the object of the Clint's affection; he watches her at work, he fantasizes about her, he makes love to his mother thinking about her - wait what! Yep, things go from standard creepy to balls to the wall batshit crazy creepy in the blink of an eye. 

Making matters worse is Clint's mother isn't exactly into 'it' with her deranged son...Because she's a rotting corpse; dead to the world for an innumerable amount of time - all we know is she stinks to high Heaven and leaks bodily fluids. Clint doesn't seem to mind, until Stella arrives unexpectedly at his home after finishing her shift at the coffee shop one night.

Now, why would a seemingly 'normal' young woman want to visit her stalker? A stalker who happens to wear toilet paper for pants on occasion - and in public, whilst stalking? Well, I won't spoil that barrel of crazy for prospective readers, needless to say, a simple stalker story this is not. 

We Don't Talk About her is a one sitting read not for the squeamish. It's a bizzaro kind of horror which would appeal to readers who enjoy shock value - of which there's plenty. Personally, I liked it, even though I cringed pretty much the whole way through reading. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: THE SCENT OF TEARS by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Shadows of the Apt is one of the most creative and well crafted fictional universes I've had the pleasure of reading. The decalogy features some of the best fantasy print to every caress the page; full of interesting and dangerous landscapes brought to life by equally interesting and complex characters.

The Tales of the Apt books; short story collections set in the same universe are the cream on top of a very rich cake.

The fourth installment (and hopefully not the last) sees a bunch of authors given licence to delve into the world of the varied kinden and breathe new life into some of the lesser-knowns from the series proper while also introducing new characters to the fold. 

Some of my personal favorite characters in Totho, Uctebri, and Dephos all make some form of an appearance throughout the collection of stories which serves as nice Easter eggs for longtime fans of the series. 

Whilst I generally enjoyed all the stories, particular highlights include; OLD BLOOD and THE GOD OF PROFOUND THINGS by Adrian Tchaikovsky, THE MESSAGE by John Gwynne, THE PROMISE OF A THREAT by David Tallerman, and THE MANTIS WAY by Peter NEWMAN. 

Be it Wasp, Sea, Mole, Beetle, Bee, Mosquito or Mantis kinden - there's a story for every Shadows of the Apt fan. 

Thursday, May 7, 2020

A Paperback From Hell! BLOOD MIST by Robert James

Well, that sure was something...

Blood Mist is one of those 80's mass market horror paperbacks which struggles for identity and purpose. Is it a Fog-like story of a deadly substance sweeping across the country causing havoc and death to all it covers with its mysterious vapor? Or is it a weird bizarro-monster b-grade tale of vicious clawed beasts seeking the tender meat of humans? Or, is it a vampire tale with elements of the occult hidden underground for millennia only to surface in the most macabre manner? 

It's kind of all three; at least it is by the time the author figured out what kind of story he wanted to write. 

The book reads as though the author decided to change direction mid plot, keeping the core themes (something scary killing random people yet loosely tied to the main character (a former cop/PI turned real-estate magnate)), but pushing the broader tale in another direction. 

Whilst it actually worked out pretty well in the end, the shift is clearly noticeable. 

Blood Mist is a fun book and well worth picking up if you see a copy patiently waiting in the darker corners of a secondhand bookstore. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Pick Up A Pulp [67]: THE SWINGERS by Carter Brown

Hollywood fixer and sometime-private-eye Rick Holman certainly has his hands full (in more ways than one) in this sleaze/crime pulp by perennial pulp author Carter Brown

Cults and cunnilingus, ordeals and orgy's, lies and lust, bribes and bondage - that pretty much sums up The Swingers (published 1980), the entertaining and surprisingly well-written sleaze pulp which, manages to channel some of the 'better' works of infamous Orrie Hitt.

Holman is hired by a movie studio to look into a case of blackmail of one their high powered execs by a bunch of 'degenerate sex addicts'. What Holman soon realizes is the exec is running on the same fumes as those who are trying to blackmail her and before long he's consumed by a wealth of wanton women, naked bodies, and all the copulation he cant stand (or lay, as it were). 

There's a nice amount of depth to what otherwise would've been a relatively shallow plot with hired guns, the mob, and a couple of tasty twists to turn the story on its head more than once.  

Unlike some of my recent Rick Holman reads, this book feels like a true Holman mystery and is certainly one of the better ones written by Carter Brown. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Book of the Month [April 2020]

April has come and gone and that means it's time for me to pick my favorite book of the 11 I read during April. 

While my numbers were down (each of the past 3 months this year I'd read 13 books), I did read more 5-star books than any month. 

As the image on the blog post suggests, April was a month of Paperbacks from Hell! which continues my deep dark journey into the world of 70's and 80's horror mass market paperbacks. 

The re-issue of LET'S GO PLAY AT THE ADAMS' by Mendal W. Johnson was a welcome (and somewhat disturbing) distraction from reality whilst WALKERS by Graham Masteron and BLOOD MIST (review forthcoming) by Robert James were fun entertaining reads. However, it was CANNIBALS by Guy N. Smith which took out my book of the month. 

From my review:
The stars of the show, those crudely malformed and murderous mountain dwelling cannibals, are truly menacing. Everything about them screams scary. 
From the book blurb:
Deep in the mountain caves of Blair Long lurks a band of monsters - half-human creatures hideously mutated after generations of inbreeding. This is the dark secret of a remote Highland village - a secret kept safe until a local fisherman builds some holiday chalets to attract tourists. Then the shameful conspiracy of silence is shattered at last - as the horrendous creatures shamble from their lair to mutilate and kill the unsuspecting visitors.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Review: THE RAVEN by Jonathan Janz

The Raven is a veritable monsters ball of action horror which doesn't let up from the first pulse pounding fight scene to the epic bloodbath of a conclusion.

Dez is a latent living in a world of mythological creatures made real thanks to a near extension-level-event caused by a group of rouge scientists who released airborne pathogens into the atmosphere - either killing or transforming the worlds human populace. However, a select few survived in their 'native' state, and that's where The Raven comes in. 

The book is largely a dark and dangerous search and rescue mission with survival horror and action themes as Dez travels far and wide in search of his partner Susan who had been taken by force by a band of marauders. 

Along the way Dez encounters werewolves, cannibals, a telekinetic, and a bunch of other mythical creepies; dispatching some with brutal efficiency while taking licks from others - the fighting is relentless. 

The setting is intimidating and intriguing and the concept allows for further exploration of the new world inhabitants and their stories. Fingers crossed this is the start of something much larger. 
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