new releases

A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey

A Promise to Kill by Erik Storey, eARC from Netgalley, Scribner, August 2017, 320p

Previously reviewed titles in this series:
Nothing Short of Dying – 5 stars

4.5 stars

Clyde Barr is back! and is still as gifted at making enemies as before. Nothing Short of Dying was one of my favourite reads of 2016, so I was hotly anticipating the sequel to the first Barr novel, and boy, has Erik Storey delivered with A Promise to Kill.

Barr fits the stereotypical drifter protagonist prototype in so many ways, but the way Storey writes the characters in this novel enables their backstories and relationships to really come alive. Barr has a difficult time maintaining relationships, and that really does come through in A Promise to Kill. Barr finds himself helping the Ute people, who are a group of Native Americans, to protect themselves from a group of outlaw bikies that have blown into town. Things quickly escalate and get out of control, and Barr is forced to go to war to protect his new found friends.

The plot in A Promise to Kill is interesting, but nothing too out of the ordinary. There were no surprise twists or unanticipated endings, but an action packed, adrenaline filled sequence of battles and complications that kept the reader engaged and thirsting for more. Storey navigates his plot in a succinct manner, only providing brief snapshots of setting and characterisation and focusing heavily on action and driving the plot. To me, that’s fine, because I’m here for the thrills.

Although A Promise to Kill can be read as a standalone novel, I highly recommend starting this series with Nothing Short of Dying, which in my opinion remains one of the best debut thrillers out. It really helps connect the reader to these characters and especially Clyde’s backstory, if you know what happened in the previous book.  If I hadn’t read the first book in the series, this book would have been less enjoyable, as some of the comments and actions that Clyde makes can seem a little strange unless you understand where he is coming from.

I’m hotly anticipating the next book in the Clyde Barr series – and definitely will be reading it when it comes out. I’d recommend this series to fans of Lee Child, C.J. Box and Ace Atkins – the readers of those long standing series will really enjoy the plot, setting and style of the Clyde Barr novels. Just remember to start with Nothing Short of Dying.

Review: Off Reservation by Bram Connolly

Off Reservation by Bram Connolly, Paperback, Allen & Unwin, July 2017, p. 336. RRP: A$29.99

4.5 stars

Off Reservation is the second book that follows Australian Commando Captain Matt Rix on his adventures. I read the first book in the series, The Fighting Season, last year when it was just released and it was one of my favourite books of 2016. Needless to say, I have been waiting for the follow up to Bram Connolly’s debut novel with bated breath.

In Off Reservation, Matt Rix finds himself in a world of bother after a training exercise goes wrong and he ends up being booted from the team and gets himself involved in an international terrorism plot. Rix is sent out on to watch escaped Taliban Commander Faisal Khan, and things just get more complicated from there.

Off Reservation is action packed and a thrilling read. The plot is interesting and kept me guessing until the very end. Connolly writes taut and exhilarating scenes that race from one crisis to the next, that were fresh and different to most military thrillers currently published. There is real authenticity to Off Reservation, although the plot is far fetched and unlikely to happen, Connolly writes with such ferocious pace that you are locked in for the ride and you don’t question that these events could happen. The dialogue in Off Reservation is believable and punchy, and the Australian accent can really be heard when these Australian men are talking to one another, which is fun.

The characters in the Matt Rix series are great, and I love the character of Rix. He’s strangely relatable and doesn’t read as a cardboard cut-out action figure. Rix isn’t perfect, and he sometimes misses important clues and doesn’t always sort everything out himself. He’s certainly fits the mould of Special Forces protagonists, but he’s not a carbon copy of well known characters.

There is a romance subplot in Off Reservation, which is normally a turn-off for me when I am reading military thrillers, so I approached the novel with some trepidation. However, this subplot was not on the nose, and the conclusion of this plot was one of my favourite aspects of Off Reservation. 

I recommend that fans Chris Ryan, Andy McNab, Brad Thor and Vince Flynn pick up a copy of The Fighting Season, the first novel in the Matt Rix series. Read that excellent novel first, and then graduate to Off Reservation. The only reason Off Reservation did not rate 5 stars is that it is too short. I could have done with more description and buildup to the climax of the novel, to make the thrills even more intense. Bram Connolly has the makings of a epic military thriller series in his protagonist Matt Rix.

Buy The Fighting Season here. 

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the review copy of this novel. 

Review: A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride, Paperback, HarperCollins Publishers, May 2017, 608p

4.5 stars

 

I’m a huge fan of Stuart MacBride’s McRae and Steel series and although A Dark So Deadly doesn’t fit into that fictional universe, it certainly will appeal to fans of that series.  The characters in this novel are entertaining, well-drawn, and a real credit to the author. A Dark So Deadly has cemented MacBride as one of the best thriller writers I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and is fast becoming one of my go to recommendations for family and friends when they want a twisted crime read.

For fans of either the McRae or Henderson series by MacBride, the setting will be blissfully familiar: the Scotland that inhabits this novel is wet, miserable and full of various butties. One of the best things about this book is that you really get a feel for where the action is taking place, similar to the writing in the first three or four Logan McRae novels.

The characters of A Dark So Deadly are certainly interesting. The plot follows DC Callum MacGregor, who has recently joined the ‘Misfit Mob’ because he’s apparently rubbish at his job. The remaining members of the crew are colourful, there’s DI “Mother” Malcolmson who is recovering from a massive heart attack, DS McAdams who is dying of cancer and insists on constantly talking in verse, DC Franklin, the latest addition to the team who seems to have a stick stuck up somewhere, DS ‘Dotty’ Hodgkin, who is confined to a wheelchair and is one of the few likeable characters in the novel, and DC Watt, who is one of the least likeable characters of any novel ever written. Watching these guys try and crack a rapidly evolving case is part comedy, part tragedy, but 100% entertainment.

While not believable, the plot is certainly twisted – with red herrings and misdirection aplenty. I was sure I had worked out what was happening about three quarters of the way through the novel, and while I had guessed some things correctly, other parts of the conclusion floored me. It’s one of MacBride’s strengths, being able to keep his reader guessing until the last.

I’m tempted to classify this book as a comedy – although with such dark content it certainly would offend some lovers of that genre – MacGregor’s life just gets worse and worse and you can’t help but feel sorry, and you certainly spend a good amount of the book laughing at him and his antics. This novel is long, but the combination of the killer plot, humour,  and excellent characters, you’re happy to stick around to the last page. 

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who likes dark, twisted stories of any variety. Certainly, to people with strong stomachs. This is a standalone novel of the highest order, one where you get to bond with the characters in a manner normally found in series. A Dark So Deadly is a great place to start if you are wanting to pick up MacBride’s writing: although you might find yourself addicted, just like I have.

Review: The Mayfly by James Hazel

The Mayfly by James Hazel, (Charlie Priest, #1), Paperback, Zaffre Publishing, June 2017, 408p.

4 out of 5 stars

James Hazel’s The Mayfly is a shockingly good debut, and certainly not what I was expecting. For a first published novel, this book was very well written and quite tight in its execution of a somewhat complex plot.

Charlie Priest (which is an awesome name for a protagonist) was a detective and left the police force to be a lawyer. Priest, as a character, has some very interesting premises: he suffers from dissociative disorder, has an angry ex-wife, and appears to think he has no social skills. The way Hazel includes dissociative disorder in The Mayfly is excellent – Priest doesn’t seem to suffer from ‘multiple personality disorder’ which is the cliché I was expecting when I started this book, but rather descends into a sort of parallel reality in his head and becomes pretty much useless. What he does during this period is not revealed to the reader, but is hinted at through Priest’s brother, a serial killer with the same condition.

Did I forget to mention the brother who is a serial killer? Another thing that’s going on with Charlie Priest, his brother is incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital for murder. He suffers from the same condition Charlie does, and it seems to be the cause of his murderous past. William Priest was a psychologist and seems to enjoy playing games with the people in his life. I would love to see more of William and Charlie interacting in future books, their relationship seems complex and interesting.

Some aspects of this novel are predictable. I had guessed the rest of the plot about half way through and while the characters are all interesting, sometimes it seemed like every character was just too special. However, The Mayfly is still a gripping and intense crime novel, so although I had an idea of what was coming, I stuck with it to see if it was as insane of a plot as I suspected. I was not disappointed.

If this review seems to be negative, it is only because as I was reading it I was looking for weaknesses – and of course found some. Hazel has delivered a wonderful, albeit slightly flawed debut novel. I read it in a single day, and found the writing to be perfectly balanced between action and description. As the opening stand of a series of novels, it perfectly introduces all the characters and intrigues the reader as to what shenanigans are going to happen in the next instalment. I will certainly be picking up the next book by James Hazel, and if you are looking for a fresh voice in the crime fiction genre you should take a look at Charlie Priest.

Thank you to Zaffre Publishing for a review copy of this novel.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best 2016 Releases so far

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday’s topic (hosted by The Broke and The Bookish) is best 2016 releases so far in 2016. As I’ve been focusing on reading classics and catching up on some backlist series, I haven’t been as focused on reading new releases in the first half of this glorious year. As a result, I’ve only read 5 – and so I’ve selected my favourite 3 to share with you all in this Top Three Tuesday. It’s still a TTT, so chill.

  1. Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey

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Have I raved about this book enough in the past month? Trust me, the answer is NO. This book deserves all the accolades and applause (and even then deserves more). I’m really looking forward to Storey’s next work. For a debut, this sure felt like it came from the pen of a seasoned thriller writer. Sharp, vivid and thrilling, it has all the stuff I love – great characters, excellent setting and non-stop action. It’s not even published yet… and I’m SO excited. I feel like I should hold a baby shower for this damn thing – it’s become such a part of the family.

2. The Sandpit by Stephen Leather

the sandpit Oh Spider Shepherd, how I love thee. Of course the latest release in the Spider Shepherd series made this list. It’s only a novella, but if you read it twice that’s novel length, right? It’s a prequel to Hard Landing that I never realised I needed so bad. Life is beautiful now I have my own copy. You know you love a book when you get a netgalley copy but still buy a copy just so you can own it. Also, I don’t want Stephen Leather to starve to death (not that I think we’re in danger of that) so I need to keep supporting him. It’s important to feed and water your favourite author.

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3. In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride

In The Cold Dark Ground is a favourite from early (like the first days of January) 2016. Logan McRae’s latest outing is such a great novel – it draws so much of the drama from the last arc to a close and opens new doors for McRae to walk through. Not that I’m saying he’ll manage, most likely he will find himself locked in a cargo container being shipped to the other side of the world, while trying to keep a beautiful woman from bleeding to death and realising that all the crates are filled with venemous snakes that just want to be close to him. Or he’ll eat one of his victims. You never know with Stuart MacBride. This is why I don’t write books. My ideas are shite, but I’m content with that because I let the experts, like MacBride, do the heavy lifting for me. Pick up this book. It is worth your time. I purchased it in hardcover and had to have lentil soup for the next two weeks to afford it.

 

Upcoming Releases: February

There are so many exciting books being released in February… I’m already feeling like 2016 will deliver some lifetime favourites.

Here is a short selection of the books I am excited for, and a blurb shamelessly stolen from Amazon.com.

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Rough Justice by Brad Smith 

Series: Carl Burns #1

Publication Date: February 1, 2016

Carl Burns returns to his hometown to uncover a viper’s nest of corruption and dark secrets in this tense and twisting novel of suspense: first in a brand-new series.

After ten years’ absence and a spell in prison, Carl Burns has returned to his hometown of Rose City to offer support to his estranged daughter Kate, currently one of four witnesses testifying against former Mayor Joseph Sanderson III, who stands accused of multiple counts of underage rape.

Carl is determined to get justice for Kate, whatever it takes. But with his former sister-in-law Frances his only ally, he finds himself incurring the wrath of powerful enemies as he attempts to uncover the shocking truth beneath the layers of corruption and lies which engulf the town.

Rough Justice seems to be in the genre that I love – I seem to read and love lots of books in which the protagonist returns to their hometown and finds everything in crisis. The big difference about Brad Smith’s new series is that it is set in Canada. I read NOTHING Canadian, which should change.

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First Response by Stephen Leather

Publication Date: February 25, 2016

London is under siege.

Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause.

Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison.
Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today.

But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way?

Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known.

But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?

Um… It’s Stephen Leather, so chances are, I will enjoy this one! I’m excited to read his latest protagonist, Mo Kamran. It’s been a long time since a standalone of his has been traditionally published, so I’m wondering if this is going to remain a standalone or be spun out into a series. I’ll find out more in late February, I suppose.

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The Wrecking Crew by Taylor Zajonc

Publication Date: February 23, 2016

In exchange for his freedom from a secret Moroccan prison, deep-water salvage diver Jonah Blackwell agrees to lead a covert search for a missing research team in the dangerous coastal waters of Somalia, an area plagued by pirates and a deadly red tide killing all marine life within its reach. But when his expedition threatens the ambitions of billionaire industrialist Charles Bettencourt, Jonah’s survival depends on hijacking a hostile submarine and assembling an unproven crew who must simultaneously investigate the source of a mysterious oceanic plague and face down Bettencourt’s commandos.

A thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in the world’s last frontier, THE WRECKING CREW will resonate with James Rollins and Clive Cussler fans alike.

So, I’m pretty much trash for any type of naval thriller. This one has Somalia (PIRATES), a submarine (IT GOES UNDERWATER!) and a mysterious oceanic plague (Oh, MY GOD WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!) I have this sneaking suspicion that this book could beat my naval love evidenced by the hashtag #iloveoilrigs. I might tweet this book with #ilovesubmarinesandoceanicplagues it’s a bit long, I’ll have to come up with something a little more catchy.

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Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

Publication Date: February 2, 2016

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Doyle and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.

Jennifer Doyle, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Jennifer find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

This book seems to be genuinely scary. Also, very recently my sister was a victim of a vicious facebook hack in which very private photos of her were shared on the social media site, using her account. Family members, friends and colleagues all saw these X rated photos, and she is now dealing with the mental fallout. They were only online for two hours, and they certainly didn’t go viral. It can happen, it does happen, and I think Fitzgerald’s exploration of these themes is timely and topical.

Top 15 of 2015

It’s the end of another year! I can’t believe how quickly this year has passed. There have been some great moments and some not so great moments, but I am ready for 2016! I’ve read some great books in 2015, and I have compiled a list of the 15 best books, according to me. I’m surprised by how many new releases have made my list, most years I usually work my way through author’s backlists, but now I am actually caught up with quite a few of my favourite series. Anyway, onto the list! I’ve linked to my reviews, if I happened to review them!

 

15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.

I really enjoyed this novel, I read it so that I could teach the short story at school, but found myself wishing I could just teach the novel. It brings to mind so many questions about morals and disability.

14. Kingdom of the Strong by Tony Cavanaugh

Such a great book! So tense and well plotted out. My first foray into Cavanaugh’s work, but I’m going to go hustle up some copies of his backlist.

13. Lockdown by Sean Black

I chose to include the first book in this series in my list, despite liking book 3 just as much. I discovered this series in 2015, and I am loving it. Lock is such a great character and I love his tough-cool sidekick, Ty.

12. The Sniper & The Wold by Scott McEwen and Thomas Koloniar

Yet another series I started this year, this series follows Gil Shannon who is a sniper. I love the way Ewen and Koloniar mixes political, military, action and family drama to create really involved storylines.

11. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad

One of the better classics I have read, this one had a really great twist at the end and kept me reading through a readathon!

10. Black Ops by Stephen Leather

Leather’s Spider Shepherd series is my favourite series – and Black Ops was a solid addition to it. I get so excited to read these books when they are released, then power through all 500p in less than a day. This was a fun read, but doesn’t feature higher up the list because other books have been more memorable.

9. Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin

The first in the Charlie Berlin series – Diggers Rest Hotel is a historical mystery set in the 60’s and 70’s Melbourne. It is really interesting and the characters that McGeachin has created are second to none. This whole series is worth checking out.

8. Sandakan – Paul Ham 

Sandakan took me AGES to read – about 3 months. It was too heavy to read for prolonged periods, but I felt so compelled to know more that I kept picking it back up, reading for ten pages, and then putting it down in disgust. Not at the author, but at what happened. This is one of those non-fiction reads that made me angry (also, how could I have not been told about this in my many years studying history at university) and will stick with me for a long time.

7. Death Force – Matt Lynn

I’ve read all four books in the Death Force series, and they rate up there – each one earning at least four star ratings. My average on Goodreads is 3.2, so that tells you something about how many 4’s and 5’s I award! The big difference about these military thrillers is that it surrounds a team or mercenaries who are completing dangerous jobs not for queen and country, but for their bank balance. It adds a different element. I also like the way that these books feature a very strong ensemble of characters, from all over the world. The last book in the series would be my favourite, but I’ll always be thankful to Death Force for hooking me.

6. In The Cold Dark Ground by Stuart MacBride. – Review to come in 2016

I had MacBride’s other novel The Misisng and the Dead at number 8 in this list, but I read In The Cold Dark Ground at the very end of December and it deserves its place higher up this list. I’m a total fangirl for McRae – I love him and his boss/friend/annoyance Roberta Steel. This would be one of my favourite books of the series, I won’t give anything away but… so much happens. The ending is UNBELIEVABLE, and it made me cackle like a mad old witch.

5. Hellfire – Chris Ryan

The Danny Black series is strong. It was made stronger in Hellfire through an amazing plot featuring Caitlin. She would have to be my favourite character of the year – she was strong, capable and realistic. She was not introduced as a love interest, and although she ended up hooking up with someone, it certainly added depth to her character – not his! Hellfire was riveting, fact paced and Chris Ryan at the top of his game.

4. The Call of The Wild – Jack London

I read the whole of The Call of The Wild in my ophthalmologists waiting room. It was sensational, I loved its exploration of the similarities between beast and man. After I finished it, I was talking about it for weeks. I’ve also just built a unit plan around it and cannot wait to teach it (hopefully in 2016!)

3. The Devil’s Anvil – Matt Hilton

The Joe Hunter series is one that has cemented its place in my bookshelf and heart. The first few books in the series were good, but a bit formulaic. They combine the hunting down a serial killer trope with the action man character. That’s great, but in the past few books the plot has deepened and the characters have become more engaging. I also have an obsession with the banter between Hunter and Rink – it is so witty and hilarious.

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Damn, Wilde can write. I know, that’s not news, but I hadn’t known. I wasn’t ready and I was blown away. The storyline is so well known, so how can you be surprised? I need to hunt down more Wilde now, but I haven’t squeezed him into my classics club list, so it will have to be additional to my monthly classics club read!

1. Fortress by Andy McNab

This surprises me. I like Andy McNab books, and I’ve probably read close to a dozen. They are always enjoyable, but somewhat mindless action romps in which the hero does remarkable things to save the world/the girl/the company and then proceeds like it is no big deal. Not so with Fortress. I was emotionally invested in Buckingham’s situation. I identified with his background and where he was coming from. The exploration of politics and moral issues was deep and complex, with a delicate handling of racism and right-wing extremists. I have put off reading the next book in the series because this book was so good, I can’t imagine that anything will top it, and as such, it will be a disappointment. I’ve never felt like that about a book before.

As such, Fortress by Andy McNab is the best book I read in 2015