Review: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser

Title: The Hunted

Author: Gabriel Bergmoser

Published: August 5th 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

+++++++


My Thoughts
:

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was not what I was expecting. Less a thriller than horror novel in my opinion, I’m a little lost for words.

After a blood-soaked young woman stumbles from a car into a remote, outback roadhouse, owner Frank, his teenage granddaughter, Allie, and a handful of unlucky customers are caught up in a horrifying night of violence not all of them will survive.

Unfolding from several perspectives over two timelines that eventually meet, The Hunted is fast paced, action packed and suspenseful. My first instinct is to describe it as a cross between the films Wolf Creek (2005) and Deliverance (1972), and I think this would do well if adapted to the screen.

But had I been aware of the explicit incidences of torture and violence that occur in this novel, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. At least twice I was uncomfortable enough to consider not finishing it, but to be fair to Bergmoser I was equally uncomfortable not doing so… I needed to know how it would end for the characters, particularly Frank, Allie and the story’s anti-hero, Maggie.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say I liked The Hunted, but that’s a matter of genre rather than any particular flaws with the book. If horror is your thing, I think you’ll love it.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Title: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Author: Grady Hendrix

Published: April 7th 2020, Quirk Books

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Quirk/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

It was the title of this latest release from Grady Hendrix that caught my eye, and having enjoyed Horrorstör (published in 2014) I was willing to give The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires a chance.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is set during the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s in an affluent, traditional suburb of Charleston where Patricia Campbell lives with her doctor husband, two children, and ailing mother-in-law. Her only respite from her role as a dutiful ‘southern’ wife, mother, and caregiver is her attendance at the not-really-but-kind-of monthly book club with a small group of local housewives who all defected from the Mt. Pleasant Library Guild. Instead of stuffy classics, Patricia and her friends -Grace, Slick, Kitty and Maryellen- rebel by reading a mix of true crime and popular novels, adding a frisson of excitement to their lives.

Thrills are in short supply for these five women, whom Hendrix presents as southern housewife stereotypes with good-ole-boy husbands of one type of another, so when Patricia begins to suspect a new neighbour, James Harris, is not who he seems, the book club members tentatively investigate, but James always seems to be one step ahead, and they have no idea what a monster he really is.

Accurately described as Steel Magnolias meets Dracula, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires is an ambitious mashup of suspense, social commentary, horror, and satire that presents as ‘women’s fiction’.

At face value, there is so much wrong with this book, from the plethora of sexist stereotypes to the marginalisation of the PoC characters but keep in mind that it’s intentional, and it all makes a strange kind of sense. As the story develops Hendrix subtly highlights, undermines and challenges the status quo, and his female characters slowly exceed expectations.

Schlocky, subversive, clever, and dark I actually think The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires would make a fun cult movie a la The Witches of Eastwick. It’s not a bad read either.

++++++

Available from Quirk Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Indiebound I Book Depository I Booko

 

Also by Grady Hendrix reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco

 


Title: Wicked As You Wish (A Hundred Names for Magic #1)

Author: Rin Chupeco

Published: March 3rd 2020, Sourcebooks Fire

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

While browsing for a novel to suit the SwordsNStars challenge, the publicity tagline for Wicked As You Wish by Rin Chupeco caught my attention.

“An unforgettable alternate history fairy-tale series about found family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.”

The story begins in The Royal States of America, where Prince Alexei of Avalon is in hiding from The Snow Queen, waiting until he is found by the Firebird, so that he at last will have the power to renter his lands and claim his throne. When the Firebird finally appears, Alex, along with his best friend Tala – who has a rare ability to repel and negate magic – and a group of other young magic wielders, set out on a dangerous journey to Avalon to reclaim it from the Snow Queen’s deadly magic.

There’s a lot to like in Wicked As You Wish. It offers plenty of fast paced action, a diverse cast of characters, humour, intrigue, and a unique mix of political and cultural elements taken from both the modern world and the world of fairytales and legends.

But the world Chupeco has created is very ambitious and to be honest I struggled to make complete sense of it. Eventually I just had to sort of overlook the finer details and simply go along for the ride.

If you are willing to do the same, I expect you’ll enjoy Wicked As You Wish, as I did, but I think it’s fair to say it won’t be for everyone.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

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Review: The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

Title: The Last Smile in Sunder City (The Fetch Phillips Archives #1}

Author: Luke Arnold

Published: January 28 2020, Orbit

Status: Read February 2020, courtesy Hachette Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

Imaginative and entertaining, The Last Smile in Sunder City is the first book in an urban fantasy series from debut novelist Luke Arnold.

“The magic had vanished and the world that magic had built was tearing itself apart…”

Six years ago, a war between The Humanitarian Army (representing the humans) and The Opus (representing the world’s magic creatures) destroyed magic. Known as The Coda, the event resulted in catastrophe in Sunder City. Without magic to sustain them, Elves rapidly aged and died, Were’s were left as half-transformed freaks, Vampires withered as they starved, while other creatures shed scales, or fur, or skin, and to the disadvantage of all, machinery and technology, once infused or forged with magic, stopped working. Arnold has created a bleak, gritty and imaginative world, with ‘Man For Hire’ Fletch Phillips at its center.

Fletch Phillips embodies the traits of a traditional noir P.I. in that he is a morose, down-on-his-luck, functional alcoholic who sleeps on a fold down bed in his dingy office. An orphan who lost his parents in horrific circumstances, Fletch once lived in a caring but closed community which he fled at eighteen to explore the wider world he half-remembered. He is terribly flawed, but not quite yet irredeemably, and I found him quite likeable. His journey from curious runaway teen, to guilt-ridden Man For Hire sporting three significant tattoo’s on his arm, is the subject of several flashbacks through the novel, which also eventually explains his role in the death of magic.

It’s not (metaphorically speaking) a blonde bombshell that walks into Fletch’s office to launch the story, it’s the headmaster of a local school searching for his friend and colleague – a centuries old, and ailing vampire. Fletch’s search leads him through the seedy streets of Sunder City, occasionally getting in they way of the police, (whom mostly despise him), and generally making more enemies than friends. I thought the mystery was fairly well plotted, though not particularly complex, and I would have preferred Fletch investigate more actively than he seemed to. I was also perhaps a little disappointed with the lack of action in the plot overall, but am prepared to forgive that given the need for Arnold to create the foundation of both the setting and character.

The Last Smile In Sunder City is a robust beginning to what I believe has the potential to be a popular fantasy series. I found it to be an easy and engaging read.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Read an Excerpt

Review: Infinity Son {Infinity Cycle #1} by Adam Silvera

Title: Infinity Son {Infinity Cycle #1}

Author: Adam Silvera

Published: January 20th 2020, Simon & Schuster Au

Status: Read January 2020, courtesy Simon & Schuster Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

Infinity Son is Adam Silvera’s fifth book, but his first foray into the fantasy genre. It’s the beginning of a trilogy titled Infinity Cycle, featuring brothers Emil and Brighton caught up in a magical war.

The physical setting for Infinity Son is based in urban New York, and while the population of Silvera’s fantasy world is human, a small percentage are known as Celestials, who may act as Spell Walkers, whom are born with inherited powers that usually manifest during childhood, or Specters, who may act as Blood Casters, whom gain their abilities with alchemy derived from murdering magical creatures like hydra’s, basilisks or phoenixes.

In New York at least, the Celestials and Specters are enemies, and both groups are generally reviled by the current government, who seek to imprison or control them, so when Emil unexpectedly manifests extraordinary powers in defence of Brighton when attacked by a Specter, the brothers, along with their mother and close friend, are forced into hiding with a group of Spell Walkers.

There are more shocks in store for Emil, and he struggles to accept his new role, especially as the situation with the Specters escalates. Meanwhile Brighton, desperate to contribute, uses his social media savvy in an attempt to restore the Spell Walkers reputation, but the reflected glory is not enough to satisfy him long.

Though Emil and Brighton are the central characters, Infinity Son unfolds from a number of other viewpoints, including Spell Walker, Maribelle, and Ness, a Specter. It’s a diverse cast, which includes male and female queer characters, and persons of colour, who I enjoyed getting to know, but I do think it was perhaps a little ambitious of Silvera to introduce so many. There is a general lack of nuance, where the characters are defined by a single trait, rather than having a well-rounded personality.

The plot is fairly simple, Silvera utilises the familiar ‘chosen one’ trope with the inevitable battles between good vs evil. There’s a touch of sibling rivalry, a suggestion of star-crossed lovers, and unexpectedly for the genre, a whole lot of social media. Infinity Son also offers plenty of action, and the story is generally fast-paced.

To be honest, the magic structure of the world feels like a slightly messy mash up of Harry Potter, X-Men, and (CW channel) superheroes. I think in part this is because Silvera provides very little in the way of exposition, and I struggled at times to connect, and make sense of, the scattered information. I’m fairly sure I figured out the basics, but there were a few elements that remain inexplicable.

Despite its flaws, I did enjoy Infinity Son, and I think the Infinity Cycle trilogy has potential as long as Silvera (or his editor) can rein in the obvious enthusiasm, which is what has led to this somewhat scattershot result.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Aurora Rising by Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

 

Title: Aurora Rising {The Aurora Cycle #1}

Author: Amie Kauffman and Jay Kristoff

Published: May 6th 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read December 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

Nearing the end of 2019 I realised I had not read any sci-fi during the year. To be honest it’s not a genre I gravitate towards but I usually try to step out of my comfort zone and read a handful. I chose Aurora Rising because it’s written by two Australian authors, and it was described as “fast-paced, action-packed, wickedly humorous and fabulously entertaining.”

Happily, I found the description accurate, and I really enjoyed Aurora Rising. Set in 2380 it begins when graduating Aurora Academy student Tyler Jones saves the only survivor of a starship that had disappeared over two hundred years earlier, and in doing so tanks his dream of leading an elite peacekeeping squad. Saddled with a group of misfits, his first mission goes awry when he discovers the girl he rescued, Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, hiding on his ship, and the secret branch of the Global Intelligence Agency demanding they turn her over.

The story unfolds from the perspectives of each crew member – Tyler, his twin sister, Scarlett, pilot Cat, engineer Finn, tactical officer, Kal, and stowaway, Aurora. I loved the banter, and the development of the dynamic between the disparate personalities.

As promised there is plenty of fast-paced action as the squad suddenly finds themselves pursued across the galaxy without really understanding why. The team has to learn to trust one another if they are going to stay one step ahead of the GIA, and figure out what is going on.

Despite its length of nearly five hundred pages I found Aurora Rising to be a quick read. It’s definitely YA, so probably not one for serious sci-fi readers, but it has a Guardian of the Galaxy vibe which suited me.

Aurora Rising is the first book in The Aurora Cycle Trilogy, the second, Aurora Burning, is expected to be published mid 2020, and I’ve already added it to my TBR.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

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Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

 

Title: Sorcery of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Published: June 4th 2019, Margaret K. Elderly Books

Status: Read July 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”

Raised in the Great Library of Summershall, foundling Elisabeth Scrivener has grown up with no other desire than to become a Warden in service to the Collegium, to wield an iron sword, and protect the kingdom from the powerful grimoires that line the shelves of the six Great Library’s of Austemeer.

“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque—but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.”

But Elisabeth’s dream is shattered when she is accused of a deadly act of sabotage that results in the death of her mentor, the Summershall Director. Ordered to stand trial in the Capital, she is escorted by Nathaniel Thorn, a young Magister with a fearsome reputation, and his demon servant, Silas. Raised to believe the worst of sorcery, and those who wield it, Elisabeth doesn’t expect to even survive the journey, but she will face a far greater danger at her destination, where the real saboteur waits.

“She saw no way out of the trap he had built for her. Escape wasn’t an option. If she attempted to run, he would know that she suspected him, and the game would come to an end. She would lose any chance she had left to expose him, however small.”

Sorcery of Thorns is an enchanting young adult fantasy novel offering adventure, suspense, humour, and romance.

I thought Rogerson did a great job of character development.

Elisabeth quickly sheds the innocence of her sheltered background, but not her idealism. She proves to be intelligent, resourceful and courageous, and is determined to end the threat to Austemeer, no matter the cost to herself.

Nathaniel is a bit of a tortured hero, with a tragic backstory. I particularly enjoyed his sense of humour.

The romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel is not too rushed, and I found it sweet.

Silas, with his impeccable manners and yellow eyes, almost steals the show.

I loved the world building, the settings are easily imagined, from the home of Nathaniel to the halls, and secret passages, of the Great Library. And what reader can resist the idea of a library where books grumble, and sigh, and sing, and whisper? A book provoked, becomes a Malefict, a terrifying monster that has the potential to maim and kill. Iron and salt are weapons that keep them bound.

“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”

I was enthralled by the Sorcery of Thorns, though near 500 pages long, I found it a quick read. Charming, exciting and entertaining, the novel is written as a stand alone, but I’d love to return to this world.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster AU

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(a very special) Guest Review: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol. 1 by Jody Houser and Rachael Stott

 

Today I’m thrilled to host a review written by my oldest son, Makyah. He is a huge fan of all things Doctor Who so when I was offered this graphic novel for review, I accepted on his behalf.

Today’s release date also happens to be the date of his 15th birthday…I’m so proud of him!

Title: Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor: A New Beginning Vol 1

Author: Writer: Jody Houser, Artist: Rachael Stott

Published: May 7th, 2019 Titan Books

++++++

 

Makyah’s Thoughts:

“You know when you’ve seen your favourite film dozens of times? What’s the one thing you can do to make it feel brand new again?” Show it to someone who hasn’t seen it before.”

That’s what this is. A reimagining, a new take on the thirteenth doctor in all her timey wimey glory.

Temporal distortions aside this new story featuring our favourite TARDIS team is ingenious in its use of new aliens that follow well defined motifs despite the brevity of the medium. The images do well to express feeling and emotion in each of the characters and I believe this adventure perfectly encapsulates the positivity and boldness of the latest season of Doctor Who.

Numerous nods to past Doctors ensure fans of the series can enjoy the unique continuity of out time travelling hero (now heroine) as he (now she) shows to us the wonders of travel through time, space and the minds of people like Jody Houser who masterfully captured each character’s dialogue and opinionated natures with her writing and credit to Rachael Stott with Giorgia Sposito and Valeria Favoccia for

their incredible artwork throughout the volume. A brilliant addon to season 11 and an example of what creativity and passion can achieve.

“What’s the point of knocking around the universe if there’s nothing new to see?

++++++

Available to Purchase via

Titan Books I Titan Comics I Book Depository

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© Copyright Titan Books, shared with permission.

Stuff on Sundays: 2019 Hugo Award Finalists Announced

Best Novel

• The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor)

• Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

• Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga)

• Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan)

• Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga)

Best Series

• The Centenal Cycle, by Malka Older (Tor.com Publishing)

• The Laundry Files, by Charles Stross (most recently Tor.com Publishing/Orbit)

• Machineries of Empire, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)

• The October Daye Series, by Seanan McGuire (most recently DAW)

• The Universe of Xuya, by Aliette de Bodard (most recently Subterranean Press)

• Wayfarers, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager)

Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book

• The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton (Freeform / Gollancz)

• Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi (Henry Holt / Macmillan Children’s Books)

• The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black (Little, Brown / Hot Key Books)

• Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland (Balzer + Bray)

• The Invasion, by Peadar O’Guilin (David Fickling Books / Scholastic)

• Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman (Random House / Penguin Teen)

See more Hugo Award Finalists

Who would you vote for?

Review: Smoke and Iron by Rachel Caine

 

Title: Smoke and Iron {The Great Library #4}

Author: Rachel Caine

Published: Berkley July 2018

Status: Read July 2018

++++++

My Thoughts:

Smoke and Iron is another fabulous instalment in Rachel Caine’s The Great Library young adult fantasy series, following Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill.

“The Archivist made us into an ugly thing,… A thing that used fear to control the world. But we are not what he made us. We are more. We stand, unafraid. And together. Because we are the Great Library!”

In a world where book ownership is forbidden, the rebellion determined to free knowledge from the Archivist’s Iron grip, and save The Great Library, is about to spill in to war.

The story picks up almost immediately following the events of Ash and Quill. This instalment unfolds from the viewpoints of Jess, Morgan, Khalila, and Wolfe. While Jess (impersonating his twin brother, Brendan) endeavours to learn the Archivist’s secrets, Morgan has returned to the Obscurist’s Iron Tower seeking vulnerabilities she can exploit. Meanwhile Wolfe struggles to hold onto his sanity deep in the cells of Alexandria, and Khalila does her best to keep her friends, and their mission, safe and on track.

The plot is fast paced and tension filled. Each member of the rebel group has an important part to play in preparation for the coming Feast of Greater Burning, the stakes are higher, and the risks greater, than ever.

The final book in this series, Sword and Pen, is not expected to be published until 2020. Such a long time to wait!

++++++

Available to Purchase from

Penguin US I Murdoch Books AU or your preferred retailer

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