Power and Empire by Marc Cameron

Power and Empire by Marc CameronPower and Empire by Marc Cameron
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on November 28th 2017
Genres: Thriller, Politics
Pages: 582
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

A newly belligerent Chinese government leaves US President Jack Ryan with only a few desperate options in this continuation of the #1 New York Times bestselling Tom Clancy series.

Jack Ryan is dealing with an aggresive challenge from the Chinese government. Pawns are being moved around a global chessboard: an attack on an oil platform in Africa, a terrorist strike on an American destroyer and a storm tossed American spy ship that may fall into Chinese hands. It seems that President Zhao is determined to limit Ryan's choices in the upcoming G20 negotiations. But there are hints that there's even more going on behind the scene. A routine traffic stop in rural Texas leads to a shocking discovery--a link to a Chinese spy who may have intelligence that lays bare an unexpected revelation. John Clark and the members of the Campus are in close pursuit, but can they get the information in time?

Ever since the passing of the great Tom Clancy, there have been a steady stream of ‘co-written’ books by a number of other authors, some with major readerships of their own, and some lesser-knowns. They can be a bit hit and miss, and while I particualrly enjoy the work of Mark Greaney in this series, I am always open to trying new blood. Power and Empire is set in the Jack Ryan universe, although most of the action centres around his son Jack Jr, and the operators of The Campus.

I find it challenging to describe the plot, without revealing too many spoilers, but I really felt there were too many moving pieces in this book. The Campus operators are investigating some generic bad guys for basically unspecified Bad-Guy-ness, when they are drawn into a combination child smuggling ring, Chinese Triad, and Mexican drug cartel angle. There is a hell of a lot of head-hopping between the various actions going on around the world, from Chinese politics to games of brinkmanship in the South China Sea, all of which seem to have no connection with each other.

I suppose this is almost more of a political mystery story than a true action thriller as some of the other book in this series have been. There are glimpses of Lee Child-like actions here, as it was trying to tell this very small human story while the rest of the action, and the world events go on around it. Which I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with, but I think the author allowed himself to get too carried away with the sub-plots. When the proverbial excrement hits the fan, I want all my pieces in the right place. Something I also noticed is that the main characters seem to do an awful lot of communication over radio. It sounds kind of silly, but I felt this was a metaphor for just how disconnected everything felt from each other. After this many books in the series, the characters are very well-developed in the mind of the reader, and I just felt like there was not that same voice that I knew and loved.

Overall, I would say that Power and Empire, as a first outing for the author in this universe, is a competent enough book. I think that it was a story that could have any set of generic good guys to go with the strange mix of bad guys and it would have been the same story though. Definitely not my favourite Clancy-verse book, but still a decent read, if you are prepared to follow the rabbit warren of plots.

three-stars
Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
three-stars
Writing
three-half-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars

Being Watched by Jeffrey L Vagle

Being Watched by Jeffrey L VagleBeing Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance by Jeffrey L Vagle
Published by New York University Press on December 5th 2017
Genres: Politics
Pages: 170
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

A riveting history of the Supreme Court decision that set the legal precedent for citizen challenges to government surveillance The tension between national security and civil rights is nowhere more evident than in the fight over government domestic surveillance. Governments must be able to collect information at some level, but surveillance has become increasingly controversial due to its more egregious uses and abuses, which tips the balance toward increased--and sometimes total--government control.This struggle came to forefront in the early 1970s, after decades of abuses by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies were revealed to the public, prompting both legislation and lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of these programs. As the plaintiffs in these lawsuits discovered, however, bringing legal challenges to secret government surveillance programs in federal courts faces a formidable obstacle in the principle that limits court access only to those who have standing, meaning they can show actual or imminent injury--a significant problem when evidence of the challenged program is secret. In Being Watched, Jeffrey L. Vagle draws on the legacy of the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Laird v. Tatum to tell the fascinating and disturbing story of jurisprudence related to the issue of standing in citizen challenges to government surveillance in the United States. It examines the facts of surveillance cases and the reasoning of the courts who heard them, and considers whether the obstacle of standing to surveillance challenges in U.S. courts can ever be overcome. Vagle journeys through a history of military domestic surveillance, tensions between the three branches of government, the powers of the presidency in times of war, and the power of individual citizens in the ongoing quest for the elusive freedom-organization balance. The history brings to light the remarkable number of similarities among the contexts in which government surveillance thrives, including overzealous military and intelligent agencies and an ideologically fractured Supreme Court. More broadly, Being Watched looks at our democratic system of government and its ability to remain healthy and intact during times of national crisis. A compelling history of a Supreme Court decision and its far-reaching consequences, Being Watched is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the legal justifications for--and objections to--surveillance.

The concept of privacy in the modern world is an interesting one. People casually give away great swaths of personal information to large corporations in return for useful apps and games, but for most people, the idea that their government is spying on them is – at the very least – disturbing. What is interesting is that in recent years the concept of the government casually invading everyone’s privacy has been normalised in the name of national security, and as the bar shifts, many people’s ideas of what is acceptable has also shifted.

Being watched is a history of the extensive legal challenges throughout the past century to the encroachment of government surveillance – particularly in the form of the National Security Agency – into the private lives of citizens.

I must admit that while I find the subject matter both fascinating and disturbing, I found this book to be a very dry tale. I had initially overlooked the fact that it was focused on the legal side of things, and was expecting more of a history of, or modern look at government surveillance.

There are certainly other books out there who cover this sort of material, although this was one of the more indepth looks at what it does focus on. I found this book kind of depressing, which is my reaction to most of the way the world has gone in recent years.

This is probably one for those with a serious interest in the topic, as it is not written for general consumption.

I received a review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

three-stars
Rating Report
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Overall: four-stars

Gallipoli by Peter Fitzsimons

Gallipoli by Peter FitzsimonsGallipoli by Peter FitzSimons
Published by Random House Australia on November 3rd 2014
Genres: History
Pages: 824
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars

On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in present-day Turkey to secure the sea route between Britain and France in the west and Russia in the east. After eight months of terrible fighting, they would fail.

Turkey regards the victory to this day as a defining moment in its history, a heroic last stand in the defence of the nation's Ottoman Empire. But, counter-intuitively, it would signify something perhaps even greater for the defeated Australians and New Zealanders involved: the birth of their countries' sense of nationhood.

Now approaching its centenary, the Gallipoli campaign, commemorated each year on Anzac Day, reverberates with importance as the origin and symbol of Australian and New Zealand identity. As such, the facts of the battle – which was minor against the scale of the First World War and cost less than a sixth of the Australian deaths on the Western Front – are often forgotten or obscured.

Peter FitzSimons, with his trademark vibrancy and expert melding of writing and research, recreates the disaster as experienced by those who endured it or perished in the attempt.

This is one of those history books that should get one’s blood boiling. Fitzsimons takes a detailed look at the deeds and misdeeds of the ANZACs, and their commanding generals, who took part in the battles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. There has been a tendency to mythologise, or lionize the ANZAC ‘legend’ in Australia, and while there are a great many valourous actions which took place there, it does those fighting men and women a disservice, I believe, to examine the events through rose-coloured glasses.

Fitzsimons takes us back to an era which seems almost impossible to conceive of by today’s standards. The young men of Australia were signing up in droves to go and fight in someone else’s war, in a far off land, just because mother England came calling. Fitzsimons does an excellent job of capturing the palpable atmosphere which was present at the time, and as a reader you get a sense of the camaraderie which existed.

The story begins long before the landings at Gallipoli, and follows the men as they journey first to England, and then on to Egypt where they spend a great deal of time training, drinking and carousing with the locals. I think one of the most enjoyable parts of listening to an audio book of this story were the very-Australian accents which were performed by the reader. It reminded me that you can take an Australian out of the bush, dump him in a far away place, but you can never take the bush out of an Australian.

In reading other non-fiction works about the first world war, I have long-since come to the conclusion that it is some sort of miracle that anyone won the war. There are countless anecdotes of incompetency, mismanagement, and sheer disregard for the lives of the fighting men by an officer class who often weren’t even on the scene. The sheer ignorant madness of some of the orders given, which resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds and thousands of Australian soldiers is so infuriating in hindsight.

Fitzsimons has a gift for story-telling, and through the use of primary sources, along with some likely fabrications, has woven an eminently readable tale of courage and tragedy. Although the battles at Gallipoli were a sort of coming-of-age for Australia, this is not just an Australia tale, as we are taken behind the scenes and trenches of the Turkish lines. As much as this is a tragic tale, there are also moments of humour, and humanity, and comradeship between the opposing sides in a way that would be unthinkable today.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to those who wish to learn more about the Gallipoli landings, and who are looking for more than just a recitation of the old legends. It is a hard book, that is sure to stir up emotions, as it did with me, but a worthy read nonetheless.

I also highly commend listening to the audiobook, which is available through Audible.

five-stars
Rating Report
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Overall: four-half-stars

What does this button do by Bruce Dickinson

What does this button do by Bruce DickinsonWhat Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography by Bruce Dickinson
Published by Dey Street Books on October 31st 2017
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 384
Format: Ebook
Goodreads

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A long-awaited memoir from the larger-than-life, multifaceted lead vocalist of Iron Maiden, one of the most successful, influential and enduring rock bands ever.

Pioneers of Britain’s nascent Rock & Metal scene back in the late 1970s, Iron Maiden smashed its way to the top, thanks in no small part to the high-octane performances, operatic singing style, and stage presence of its second, but twice-longest-serving, lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden’s front man—first from 1981 to 1993, and then from 1999 to the present—Dickinson has been, and remains, a man of legend.

But OTT front man is just one of the many hats Bruce wears. In addition to being one of the world’s most storied and well-respected singers and songwriters, he is an airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, novelist, radio presenter, and film scriptwriter. He has also competed as a world-class level fencer. Often credited as a genuine polymath Bruce, in his own words (and handwritten script in the first instance!), sets forth many personal observations guaranteed to inspire curious souls and hard-core fans alike.

Dickinson turns his unbridled creativity, passion, and anarchic humour to reveal some fascinating stories from his life, including his thirty years with Maiden, his solo career, his childhood within the eccentric British school system, his early bands, fatherhood and family, and his recent battle with cancer.

Bold, honest, intelligent and very funny, his memoir is an up-close look inside the life, heart, and mind of one of the most unique and interesting men in the world; a true icon of rock.

I’m an unabashed metalhead, and die hard Iron Maiden fan, so when this book came out I was utterly fascinated by the story of its (sometime) lead singer, and all around badarse, Bruce Dickinson. So often we see the very public persona of musicians, but this book is a very heartfelt, personal look at the journey that Bruce has taken in his life. This is the story of a working class upbringing, the trials and tribulations of his youth, and his multitude of attempts at breaking into the music industry.

While a great deal of the book is given over to his life as part of Iron Maiden, the stories are about the relationships with his fellow band members, and the very interesting process of creation of the Irons’ music. There is some descriptions of the drama which went on at various points, but I never felt as though Dickinson was trying to sensationalise events for the sake of a good story. One of the other long-running themes and tales were his efforts to obtain various pilot licences, and his flying commercial airliners, as well as Ed Force One. As if being the lead singer of one of the greatest bands in the world was not enough, Bruce’s Boys Own adventure had to include flying all kinds of planes around the world.

Dickinson never falls into braggadocio, despite his many accomplishments, and is not afraid to own up to many of his shortcomings. Perhaps it is apppropriate that the book seems to be gaining momentum when it is all brought to a screeching halt when he is diagnosed with throat and mouth cancer. This section is him at his most vulnerable, and his most intimate. And it reveals that – no matter how famous, or rich you might be, you are just another human being when it comes to a battle with cancer. I’m not going to wax lyrical about how his journey was inspirational, etc etc; but the last few chapters were definitely the hardest, and the most encouraging to read.

I am sure that hardcore Maiden fans will be all over this book. It is written in a smooth, and ultimately readable style, as one might expect from such an accomplished lyricist. What does this button do? is an entertaining and engaging look inside the personal life of a very ordinary man, who is living an extraordinary life.

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor BrownGods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 20th 2018
Pages: 304
Goodreads
two-stars

In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood - a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains - a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing - Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.

With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

I found this book a really frustrating experience to read. I really had no idea what was going on for most of the book, and although there is plenty of dramatic tension, and the sort of atmosphere you can chew on, the underlying plot doesn’t reveal itself until near the very end of the book. This is a kind of slice of life book if it was written by Stephen King, with a family of moonshiners living in the backwoods, doing their rednecky witchy things, competing against the forces of modernity which want to intrude on their happy little universe.

I thought this was going to be my kind of book, and in the end I was sadly mistaken. There are some excellent characters in the book, particularly the matriarch of the family – Granny – but I never really got the sense that the book was going anywhere. By the time I got to the explanation of the catalyst in the story, I was ready to be done with the book. If I was not reading it for review I definitely would have abandoned this well before the halfway mark.

I am sure that there are readers who will enjoy this sort of thing. I was expecting some sort of quasi-mystical redneck tale set in the backwoods of America, and I really don’t know what I got instead.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

two-stars
Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
three-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars

Mississippi Roll by Various Authors (edited by George R R Martin)

Mississippi Roll by Various Authors (edited by George R R Martin)Mississippi Roll by George R.R. Martin, Stephen Leigh, David D. Levine, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn
Published by Tor Books on December 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Perfect for current fans and new readers alike, Mississippi Roll is an all-new, adventurous jaunt along one of America's greatest rivers, featuring many beloved characters from the Wild Cards universe

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin, Mississippi Roll features the writing talents of Stephen Leigh, David D. Levine, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Cherie Priest, and Carrie Vaughn.

I feel as though I should open with a disclaimer, that while I have read some of the books/anthologies in the Wild Cards series, I have by no means read all of t hem. In saying that however, I do understand the world that He (being George R R Martin) has created in conjunction with the other authors who contribute to this shared world. Mississippi Roll in a collection of interwoven stories set on a paddle steamer named the Natchez filled with colourful and intriguing characters who really jump off the page.

I have always appreciated Martin’s sense of place, and the unique settings he has created, although some of the stories that are told within that setting are not as interesting as others. One of the major threads in the stories in Mississippi Roll seems to be a discussion of the morality, and worthiness of taking in illegal immigrants, and while I can take or leave the politics of this, I really had no interest in the story being told. The plot with the ghostly captain? That was a much more emotional, ripping yarn. As a consequence, I found myself reading this book in fits and starts.

The publisher notes that this is suitable for newcomers to the Wild Card series, but I believe that to do so would be like being thrown in the deep end, without any context of the politics and environment in which these stories are set. The authors take some steps to explain the origins of the Wild Card virus, but you have to have a basic understanding of a lot of the terminology used. There were several times I found myself running to the wiki for clarification on some points.

For fans of the Wild Cards series, this latest collection is more of the same of what they have enjoyed in the past. Whether some of the messageyness of the stories suits your brand of politics, or can be overlooked, that’s up to you. This is a solid addition to the Wild Card universe.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars
Rating Report
Plot
three-half-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Cover
three-half-stars
Overall: four-stars

Breaking Van Gogh by James Grundvig

Breaking Van Gogh by James GrundvigBreaking van Gogh: Saint-Rémy, Forgery, and the $95 Million Fake at the Met by James Ottar Grundvig
Published by Skyhorse Publishing on October 4th 2016
Pages: 280
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

In Breaking van Gogh, James Grundvig investigates the history and authenticity of van Gogh’s iconic Wheat Field with Cypresses, currently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Relying on a vast array of techniques from the study of the painter’s biography and personal correspondence to the examination of the painting’s style and technical characteristics, Grundvig proves that “the most expensive purchase” housed in the Met is a fake.

The Wheat Field with Cypresses is traditionally considered to date to the time of van Gogh’s stay in the Saint-Rémy mental asylum, where the artist produced many of his masterpieces. After his suicide, these paintings languished for a decade, until his sister-in-law took them to a family friend for restoration. The restorer had other ideas.

In the course of his investigation, Grundvig traces the incredible story of this piece from the artist’s brushstrokes in sunlit southern France to a forger’s den in Paris, the art collections of a prominent Jewish banking family and a Nazi-sympathizing Swiss arms dealer, and finally the walls of the Met. The riveting narrative weaves its way through the turbulent history of twentieth-century Europe, as the painting’s fate is intimately bound with some of its major players.

Everyone loves a good scandal, especially when it comes from the rather pretentious world of high, and expensive art. Breaking Van Gogh seeks to uncover one of the examples of a scandal in plain sight, which is a fake Van Gogh which may or may not be hanging in a prestigious museum.

I must confess that I had not heard this particular story before, and while he takes a somewhat long-winded approach to it, the author does a good job of weaving an interesting tale. It certainly paints a sordid picture of how the art world functioned in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

The author lays out his case very well, and manages to keep it interesting enough for someone who does not have a great deal of knowledge about the subject. As I mentioned before, there are times when it felt like he was belabouring the point, and going over the same material, but one doesn’t need to read everything. While this was something of an expose, I suppose, Grundvig puts the information out there but it lacks a certain punch.

Breaking Van Gogh is a generally-enjoyable narrative non-fiction book that I found informative, and intriguing, and covered a subject I was not previously aware of in a way that was easy to understand.

three-stars
Rating Report
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars

Violated by Carolyn Arnold

Violated by Carolyn ArnoldViolated by Carolyn Arnold
Published by Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc on April 28, 2016
Genres: Thriller
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
one-star

Sometimes the past should stay there…

The murder is one of the most heinous FBI agent and profiler Brandon Fisher has ever seen. But that’s not why he and two members of the team are rushing to California. The Bureau is interested because the prime suspect is one of their own, Paige Dawson.

But Paige didn’t go to Valencia to kill anyone. She had set out on “vacation”—her new lover in tow—only to confront the man who raped her friend twenty-some years ago. While the hands of the law are tied, she wants him to face the fact that he destroyed a young woman’s life and know that, as an FBI agent, she’ll be watching his every move. Yet, instead of accomplishing her goal, she wound up in the back of a police cruiser.

Now Paige must face off with a hard-nosed detective determined to stick a murder charge to a fed. But with the trained eyes of the FBI on the case, it’s becoming more and more obvious that the evidence lends itself to a serial killing, not an isolated incident. And as long as the local authorities are focused on Paige, the real murderer is still out there, possibly waiting to strike again…

Violated purports itself to be a police procedural/thriller novel, but quite frankly is a weird love triangle dressed in sheep’s clothing. There are so many things wrong with this book that destroys any credibility that it might hope to achieve.

Paige is an FBI agent who is arrested in the process of casually breaking an entering someone’s house. She is charged with murder, because that person was found dead, murdered in a weird kink scene. She uses her one phone call to call her FBI partner, who happens to be her ex-lover, who for some reason is allowed to inject himself into the investigation. In what world outside of plot convenience would this be allowed to happen, I ask? This destroyed any sense of realism right off the bat.

A whole lot of largely pointless plot connivance happens, Paige’s current love interest gets involved. I really lost interest in what was happening, and when the View Spoiler » angle started, I was done with this novel. There was a serious lack of subtlety with this novel.

As I said at the beginning, this is pure daytime television drama nonsense, and attempts to take itself far too seriously for the fluff and nonsense that it is. There is a lot of overt violence in the novel, but this feels like window dressing to the real story, which is the love triangle.

If that’s what you’re looking for, have at it, but don’t sell me mutton dressed up as lamb.

one-star
Rating Report
Plot
half-star
Characters
half-star
Writing
half-star
Pacing
half-star
Overall: half-star

Hellraisers by Axl Rosenberg, Chris Kovatin

Hellraisers by Axl Rosenberg, Chris KovatinHellraisers: A Complete Visual History of Heavy Metal Mayhem by Axl Rosenberg, Chris Krovatin
Published by Race Point Publishing on October 24th 2017
Genres: History, Music
Pages: 288
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars

A pair of metalheads well versed in everything from Anthrax to Zeppelin take you through the metal halls of history in Hellraisers. Time to crank the volume and throw the horns!

Take a journey through the history of metal music from its earliest roots with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to its popular modern incarnations like experimental black metal, stoner doom, and djent. Get incredible looks at modern prog metal musicians tearing up the fret board, or remember some of your favorite, old 38s from years gone by. Everything from AC/DC and Anthrax to Meshuggah and Mastodon is on display in this superfan's-eye-view exploration of metal’s most innovative and hardcore sounds that can be heard around the world.

Co-authored by Axl Rosenberg and Chris Krovatin of the hugely popular blog metalsucks.com, this is a visually dynamic history, complete with exclusive band interviews, over 200 full color photos, genre-by-genre playlists, and plenty more to keep you throwing horns all night long.

The Heavy Metal genre of music is quite a broad church, and trying to capture even the current state of the industry, let alone the origins of it is an ambitious task the authors have set themselves. You may well argue that they have taken some missteps along the way, and not everyone is going to agree with their categorisation of various bands under the umbrella term “heavy metal”, but I think they have done a sterling job at hitting the right notes along the way. This book is obviously written by people who are passionate about the topic, and their knowledge and appreciation of the music and bands really shines through.

As a fan of the genre, or probably more accurately, certain sub-genres of heavy metal, I found that the authors did an excellent job of hitting the key points of each phase in the development of the music. The book starts off as a history lesson of the birth of rock and roll, and wends its way through the history of hard rock, and how it developed into heavy metal. The latter half of the book is given over to the various sub-genres of metal, although inevitably I am sure it misses some of the more obscure. Some of the more entertaining parts were the descriptions of the starter kits required, which often described in painfully-accurate detail the fans of the period or sub-genre. For those readers looking for an introduction into a particular era or there are helpful lists of artists and songs suggested at the end of each chapter.

This is a book that you can easily drop in and out of, pick and choose what interests you or want to learn more about. Frank Zappa is often quoted as saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, and in some ways this book is trying to fill a number of spaces. It is part history, part encyclopedia, and part love letter to a genre of music which is often derided, and its fans mistreated or misunderstood.

Hellraisers is an attempt at writing a reasonably comprehensive history of Heavy Metal, and in that aim, I believe it has succeeded. As a fan of metal, I found myself nodding along to a lot of the descriptions, as this book is clearly written by authors who “get it” which I find is rare.

This is a very entertaining read, although not for everyone, and the latter third might well carry a warning of disturbing material, but that comes with the territory.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

four-stars
Rating Report
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: four-stars

Abduction by Alan Baxter

Abduction by Alan BaxterAbduction by Alan Baxter
Published by Ragnarok Publications on November 1st 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 388
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-half-stars

The past often catches up with you, but when it's Alex Caine's past the results can be deadly.

Alex Caine has been suffering the weight of the world, and some days it's hard to even get out of bed. Alone one night, a band of Fey overwhelm him and steal him away from the mortal realm. Silhouette, desperate to save her lover, calls in Armour, but the organization seems reluctant to help. 

Claude Darvill, his fragile alliance with Alex at an end, is still searching for the remains of his father, Robert Hood. In frozen wastes of Iceland, Darvill is driven by a deep-burning grudge and a need for revenge. His efforts are backed by all the considerable resources of Black Diamond Incorporated.

Silhouette must overcome her greatest fears and use all her skills to locate Alex. Even if she can find him, that's just the start of their problems.

In this third Alex Caine book, sequel to Bound and Obsidian, old enemies and new share a common goal. Alex Caine hates to be the center of attention, but he and Silhouette need to pull together as the world is threatened once more, and only Alex can save it.

Where do I begin with the Alex Caine series? Abduction is the third in the series, and I highly recommend following this story from the beginning, as Alan Baxter has crafted an excellent, modern urban fantasy that is laced with a fantastically dark sense of humour.

I am reminded of an old website called They Fight Crime, which randomly generated a crime-fighting duo. In some ways the main characters Alex Caine and Silhouette feel a bit like one of those random pairings. He’s a martial artist with the ability to anticipate his enemies moves, she’s a half Fey who likes to eat things, they fight crime!

Silhouette discovers that someone has abducted Alex from his home, and launches a rescue operation that is just the start of a battle against enemies who will stop at nothing to succeed in their dastardly plans. I think that a hero is only as good as the enemy he is pitted against, and the great thing with Alan Baxter’s novels is that – honestly – the really bad guys don’t fuck about. Baxter does a great job of developing his bad guys as credible threats, and they are in keeping with the dark and gritty nature of this novel.

It is hard to talk about this novel without going into the details of what has come before in the series, but I cannot recommend this author highly enough. It is easy to draw comparisons to authors like Jim Butcher and Benedict Jacka, and this is series which would be enjoyable for fans of those authors. However, the Author has brought his own unique take and taste to this genre. New readers should start at the beginning, but this is an excellent edition to Alex Caine series.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

four-half-stars
Rating Report
Plot
four-half-stars
Characters
five-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Overall: four-half-stars