Archive for the Book Review Category

[Book Review] The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

Picture Courtesy of Hard Case Crime.

I stumbled upon the publishing company known as Hard Case Crime roughly a year ago. Ever since, I’ve ordered/found several titles that I enjoy. The company has an artist collection both new and established, some alive and other deceased. Titles range from re-prints to new and exclusive. Whatever the case may be, I haven’t found a title yet that I’ve read and didn’t enjoy!

The Gutter and the Grave by Ed McBain is one I recently finished. A quick and pleasant read ringing in at only 217 pages. The story revolves around the main character named Matt Cordell, who just happens to be a washed up private investigator with an alcohol problem. He has seen better days…but none of them recently. He gets wrapped up in an old-fashioned who-done-it via an acquaintance from the old neighborhood in New York to look into a small problem of register theft. However, it doesn’t take long for the character and the story to spiral out of control and into the realm of homicide and classic would-be celebrity greed.

We follow along with the character as he delves into his unofficial investigation, through lies, betrayal and physical punishment. This title screams noir. A little bit of mystery with a little bit of cheese, and the end result is a pulp fiction read I found quite enjoyable. Although nothing comes from the left field, the story had more than enough to keep me interested and turning the pages. McBain managed to do wonders in allowing the jazz scene of the era to ooze from within. Many of the scenes in the book have that same flavor and lend to making this a strong, if short, title.

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[Book Review] The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 1, 2013 by Casey Hutton

I tend to stick to what I know I’ll enjoy. I’m a fickle reader and it’s a rare occasion when I do branch out and actually read something outside of my genre of choice (which, by the way, is science fiction/fantasy). I walk the new release aisles and table at my local literature conglomerate, and most often when I do pick up something outside of that normal scope…it sits, and eventually gets packed away with the spine hardly being cracked. However, when a title comes highly recommended by someone I respect…well…I make a little extra effort.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

Photo Courtesy of Dutton Books.

In this case, The Fault In Our Stars by John Green was thrust in my hands one afternoon. It’s sat on my nightstand ever since. I’ve started it multiple times, and time and time again, it was put back down. It has nothing to do with the author or his style of writing. In fact, it’s more or less as simple as the subject matter hits a little close to home. But, all it takes is time and with its bright blue cover staring me in the face day after day, I finally sat down and read it from cover to cover. And then…I read it again.

The story is about a young woman named Hazel, her coping with cancer, it’s treatment and then a little something in her life changes, altering her perspective.

John Green is a strong writer. Hazel has a life of her own, and he has a way to incorporate hope and humor into a situation that really…well…has none. Once I was able to set aside my qualms about the subject matter, I found myself turning page after page. Once I reached the end…I was more than just hopped up as I usually am about a title. I don’t get emotional often, but this book had me on the cusp the entire time…wanting to read more as my senses tingled with anticipation. Green drew me in, made me attached to the main character and had me reeling with each and every page.

This title is one that will be a part of my collection. Not just one I’ll put into a box when my annual bookshelf cleanup occurs, but, one that I’ll keep out and push into guests hands when they want a recommendation. If you haven’t read the title…do it, even if you’re like me and it’s not something that would normally be found on your plate. In a reader’s world full of knights, dragons and adventure…well…The Fault In Our Stars still managed to find a place close to my heart.

So to that friend who bought another copy just to lend out to me…thank you ever so much. It’s been some time since a title hit me where it counts, and for that, you are the greatest.

[Book Review] Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2013 by Casey Hutton
Ten Little Aliens

Photo Courtesy of BBC Books.

I have been a fan of the Doctor Who television series for as long as I can remember. I grew up watching re-runs on the local PBS station on the weekends and once it was announced the series was making a comeback some years ago, I’ve been living in a world of not-so-old Doctors.

It might be worth pointing out that the Fourth Doctor, portrayed by Tom Baker, is the one and only Doctor for me. Although I find the newer actors and their portrayals interesting, no one before or after has been able to compare. So, going into picking up Ten Little Aliens by Stephen Cole from my local bookstore, I already had a bias (as it depicts the First Doctor, played by William Hurtnell) against the character as well as a bit skeptical in reading Doctor Who, rather than watching it. It caught my eye originally because it was the first in a series of 11 titles meant to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the good Doctor, and I’m rather anal retentive about reading a series in succession (i.e. I have to read the first three books to get to my favorite of all).

Now, Ten Little Aliens is not an original story in the sense of it being a re-release for the new series. It was originally released in 2002 and is now repacked with a new cover and introduction. However, having not read any previous Doctor Who title, it was all new to me.

The story itself was enough to captivate my attention. It follows along a group of soldiers on an elite training mission. The Doctor and his companions (Ben and Polly in this incarnation) land on an “asteroid” in which these solders end up. Not wanting to give anything away to those interested, the usual Doctor’s interference, slight comic relief and saves-the-day antics ensue. It reads similar to an episode, which is the point…or at least, I believe is the point.

Stephen Cole’s writing style is genuine and engaging. As per the introduction, he originally planned it to be based around another Doctor entirely, however, in the end it was the First Doctor that ended up being his focus. I honestly feel he captivated the First Doctor’s character rather well (and if it was once written as another, I could not tell). The character’s mannerisms, pattern of speech and general attitude match what I remember of the original Doctor. Although Doctor Who enthusiasts might disagree, I haven’t had much exposure to Hurtnell’s character.

One technique that threw me for a loop is the almost choose-your-own-adventure scene. Cole brought me back to younger days with this addition. Although it was merely flipping from character to character, it drew me into the action and what was happening in the pages. Keep in mind this uses up plenty in terms of page count and could be a waste if you skip through fast enough. But, if you have the patience and don’t mind some page flipping, it’s worth milking it for all it’s worth.

In conclusion, Ten Little Aliens is worth picking up and giving it a read. Even if you’re like me and only want to read to get to the Doctor that you love the most, it’s worth starting from the beginning and although I’m anxious to get to the fourth title, Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris, I have hopes for the two titles that stand in between (Dreams of Empire by Justin Richards and Last of the Gaderene by Mark Gatiss, respectively).

[Book Review] False Negative by Joseph Koenig

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Anyone that has read this blog knows my infatuation with pulp and noir-style reads, whether they be in the form of novels of comics. Suspense-thrillers with gritty imagery has always won over my heart. So, when I heard about Hard Case Crime I took a look at their website. Sure enough…it was a plethora of books by various authors that had me from the get go. Their selection consists of noir, old and new, by some writers well-known within other genres.

FalseNegativeCoverMy initial head-first dive into their titles consisted of False Negative by Joseph Koenig. From cover to cover, Koenig has put together one of the more interesting reads I’ve gotten my hands on in quite some time. He was a great understanding of the genre and the time period his novel is placed, and as we follow along with his main character (named Adam Jordan), the seedy-side of Atlantic City comes alive.

The book is a legitimate page-turner and in general remains consistant until the end. The story involves a reporter that commits a serious foopah in the journalism industry and ends up getting the boot out onto the street. Having no where else to turn and no other talents, he ends up writing for a magazing dubbed Real Detective. Koenig has us following along as Jordan stumbles from story to story, always seeming to come back to the one case that haunts him, and as new murders ensue he can’t help but become involved.

For three-fourths of the novel, I was kept guessing who was behind the killings involved with the main storyline. With Koenig throwing in side-stories of Jordan earning a living, it kept me engrossed and turning the pages one after another. So much so that I sat aside several other books I was reading (I usually have 3-5 going at the same time) to focus on this one.

What can I say negative about this particular title? Not much. I felt the killer was revealed (even though not necessarily outright, but enough they were singled out quickly) too early. More attention to the main plot could have added to the ‘chew’ of this title. Keep in mind, there wasn’t a lack of main story…I just felt some of the skipping around might have taken away a bit here and there, and in some places had me scratching my head thinking I was missing a page or two between thumbing to the next. And lastly, the final two pages could have been removed entirely and the story ended with ‘Chapter 13.’

But honestly, no piece of work is perfect. What makes a piece of writing great can be in the eye and mind of those who read them. In my opinion, False Negative is well written over all, and what little it does lack is made up for in that need to keep turning the page. If the catalogue of Hard Case Crime is anywhere close to this (and with big names like Stephen King on the bill…) I should say this publishing company is going to be just what the doctor ordered for my noir and pulp fixation.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 Gingered Digits.

Verdict: Character Development (1/1), Climax (0.5/1), Entertainment (1/1), Plot (1/1), Story (1/1).

[Book Review] Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Green

Posted in Book Review with tags , , , on January 28, 2013 by Casey Hutton

SomethingFromTheNightsideIn my lifetime, it’s very hard to come across a book that fails to meet my literary expectations but still end up loving it. Not only that, but, for the most part, loving the entire series.

In Simon R. Green’s Something From the Nightside, I found a book I couldn’t help but hate to love.

The book, which is the first in an ongoing series, came out in 2003. I read it when it was a new release…and I’ve read it once more after that. This time around having been my third. While perusing the ‘New Release’ shelves in the science fiction section at my local book store I saw that Green had released yet another in the series. Having been out of the loop for a while, I decided to start over again rather than pick up the new title and miss out on previously released back story.

The story revolves around a private eye with special talents name John Taylor. You won’t forget that name because it’s repeated about 1,000 times within the title’s 230-ish pages. Having been in the “normal” world now for a few years, a damsel in distress draws him back in to the seedy side of London, a completely dark and sadistic side of London known as the Nightside. The Nightside is also a name you will not forget, as you are constantly reminded of its name with every turn of the page.

This damsel has Taylor following her daughter into the bowels of this unearthly, supernatural part of town. A place where magic is real, time has no real meaning and the cars can eat you.

Overall, this title is what I would consider ‘Popcorn’ reading. It’s light, fluffy and quick. At only 230-ish pages, it doesn’t take much time to go from cover to cover. But the real kicker is, with all the poor grammar, gaps in story and just in general mind-numbing amount of times the Nightside is mentioned…I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.

The story lacks in several areas…and in general lacks enough to sink your teeth into for long. The character development, although present, isn’t enough to really help you feel for the characters involved in the storyline. The climax was ok…not great or anything spectacular…just borderline on almost being disappointing, but not in the end.

What the story does have is a feel. By that, I mean it screams noir. Modern noir, but noir nonetheless. Green utilizes the Nightside in such a way that the world of today is shoved aside and a grittier side of reality is revealed to us. A place where a futuristic spaceman walks shoulder to shoulder with a knight in shining armor. Unbelievable, yes…but still one heck of a good time!

Give this one a shot. It’s short and well worth the time. Even if you can’t get into it enough to follow along by delving in the rest of the series, Something From the Nightside will most likely have some aspect to tickle your fancy.

Rating:  5.5/10 Gingered Digits.

Reasoning: Character Development (0.5/2), Climax (1/2),Entertainment (2/2), Plot  (1/2), Story (1/2).

[Book Review] Broken Blade

Posted in Book Review with tags , , on October 15, 2012 by Casey Hutton

Broken Blade by Kelly McCulloughI have a serious case of A.D.H.D. when it comes to books. If something doesn’t capture my attention in the first 15-20 pages, chances are, It’ll be put down and never picked back up again.

Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough is a novel that caught my eye. Actually, it’s sequel, Bared Blade is what drew my attention. Naturally, the local bookstore giant I found it in didn’t have the first in the series, so I had to order it on my eReader.

Broken Blade is about a has-been assassin. His order was snuffed out and the few that remain dispersed. The character, Aral Kingslayer, does just enough to keep a bottle of booze sitting cozy on his table.

It’s a book about redemption. It’s a book about the past coming back to haunt you. It has it all, and is a pretty impressive feet given Kelly McCullough’s newness to the published world. Everything from backstabbing former companions to the undead to even a love interest.

If you like fantasy, this book is definitely for you. There are some shortcomings, don’t get me wrong. Some pacing issues are there, as well as spots where the premise and plot runs a little thin. But, I found myself easily immersed and wrapped into the character. I couldn’t put it down, and whenever I could, I found my nose pressed up close to my eReader screen, excited when it was time to move on to the next page.

Rating: 7/10 Gingered Digits.