Cornell Woolrich, quit staring at me

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Cornell Woolrich.

The streets get gritty and mean. Cold shadows keep the sun from hitting the pavement and those passing by bump into you with a snort and no apologies. If you’re lucky you see a set of bleak eyes staring out from under a shaded hat, piercing you with desire, and not the lustful kind, but the kind that makes you move your wallet from your back pocket.

Back in the day, those eyes might have hung from the face of Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich was NYC in and out. Born there. Buried there. Barely left town. Barely left his place. Who cares that he might have had a mental blemish or two? Who cares he lived with his mother? The dude was killer.

Marihuna
One of the many William Irish novels written by Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich had a way of storytelling unrivaled in his time. Hitchcock fell into the spin of his yarns and shot Rear Window as a result. He wrote a ton, and tons were made into movies, including his novels, “I Married a Dead Man,” “The Phantom Lady,” and others. He may have written under the name William Irish for a while, perhaps thinking the pseudonym sounded more badass than Cornell, but these days we all know it was him. Yet he remains one of New York City’s, and the world’s, best and largely uncelebrated crime writers.  At least he made the name Cornell a cool one.

Being a hermit, the man seemed more content to stare at the world without engaging in it, but he had a knack for people nonetheless. He could populate a story like no one’s business.  And if you were in New York in his time, say between 1926 and 1968, the year he died, you might have fallen under his gaze.

Count yourself lucky.

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REVIEW: Steampunk boils beautifully in The Gaslight Girl by Hargrove Perth

Steampunk is a subgenre to behold in the science fiction and fantasy world. It’s the stuff of clockwork wonder and corseted amazement and, for many; it’s something readers can’t get enough of. Many, however, don’t quite get it. Exactly what is steampunk?
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The best way to describe the steampunk life is to imagine a futuristic world with fantastic mechanical creatures, airships and weaponry, but rather than advance technology, picture it made with iron and copper, gears and cranks, and powered with steam. Picture men and women of the future, but in a setting more closely comparable to old London, of the time when Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper skulked around.

Author Hargrove Perth has steampunk down. In her fast-paced novella, The Gaslight Girl, she’s taken a story familiar to all of us and injected hot steam in its veins. The Cinderella story, full of despair and ugly-on-the-inside stepsisters, forms the bare bones in this the story of young Halloran Frost. Cinderella she is not, for this girl is armed, corseted, and chock full of attitude, not to mention the heir of her father’s gas company and his dark secrets. The Gaslight Girl has all the gears, mechanical creatures, airships and steam-fueled spirit that have enamored readers to the genre across the world.

Perth’s novella is part one of the Decisive Devices series, with more excitement sure to come. This exciting ride is surely not over yet.

For those with a taste for authors such as Gail Carriger and Kevin J. Anderson, not to mention the classics by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, you’ll want to get to know Halloran Frost and Perth’s Decisive Devices novella.

Learn more about Hargrove Perth here.

Order The Gaslight Girl here.

Review: Abandon All Hope grabs you by the throat

Abandon-2Abandon All Hope: Gate 1: Book 1, by Lizzi Cruz and Royce Steele, is a grabber with blue collar hands.

The book features an assortment of nine fast-paced rural horrors, similar in spirit to the early tales of Stephen King, but with a dash of Joe R. Lansdale thrown in for good measure, not to mention a few modern themes.

Hosted by the quirky, fiendishly funny Nefaris Rouge (think the Crypt Keeper), Abandon thrusts readers into a gripping, dark adventure chock full of screams and gore. Be prepared for anything in this short, dynamic read. The first in a planned nine-part saga (there are a lot of gates when it comes to horror, or levels, or whatever Dante-esque terrors ones prefer to call it), book one is a captivating start to what looks like a promising new horror series. I particularly enjoyed the short story “Mutha Bugga” for its simple exposition, memorable (and idiotic) main character, and that damn blue chair. It took a while for the heebie-jeebies to clear my mind after reading that particular short.

This is a book that aims to shock and aims to please fans of old school fright.

Cruz and Steele do a damn good job of it.

Buy the book here!

Whitehurst’s Top Reads of 2016

From tripping out with Tarzan and the Ant Men, to starting Marie Kondo’s book on tidying up, it’s been a year of diversity and perhaps a bit of quirky inclusion. My print book collection grew in 2016, which came as a surprise due to my Kindle attachment issues, and the number of books started and not finished (sorry, Kondo) grew as well. This means 2017 will be the year of finishing things I started. Fingers crossed.  I did, however, manage to finish 14 books. Below are the top five books I couldn’t stop thinking about after reading the last page.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

There’s a little book shop off Alvarado Street in downtown Monterey, California, that reminds me of this book whenever I walk by the place. With a splash of fantasy, a squirt of Da Vinci Code, and a bit too much techy talk, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore features a mysterious society, the depths of Google, and the wonder of musty old books stacked high to the ceiling. Set in San Francisco, but with a trip to the Big Apple thrown in, former techie Clay gets an adventure of a lifetime when he leaves his web design gig for a job at a dusty old book shop found next to a skanky strip club. I looked forward to this book every time I sat down to read. You might too.

Find the book here.

Mentats of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert

The second book in their “Schools of Dune” trilogy continues the spicy space opera adventure begun by Brian’s father, Frank Herbert. While the writing style in the new Dune books (and there are a lot of them) differs from Frank’s style, I look forward to each and every one. So much so I read them in doses, so not to run out of material. Anderson and Herbert have penned a number of standalone novels and trilogy novels that fill out the intensely vibrant cosmos found in the Dune universe. With the conclusion of the Schools of Dune trilogy, their work in the universe will end. At least for now. I, for one, am already looking forward to their return. Mentats of Dune features the story of Vorian Atreides, who works to make peace with his family’s sworn enemies in House Harkonnen. Characters from the other trilogy novels also make appearances, such as the villainous Erasmus and zealous Manford Torondo, as do the Fremen of Arrakis, not to mention sandworms. It wouldn’t be awesome without a sandworm or two of course. If you like Dune as I do, then get into these books.

Find the book here.

Inferno by Dan Brown

Just in time, since I missed the movie in theaters and still had a few weeks in 2016, I snatched the latest Robert Langdon (number four in the series, number three in the movie series) from my book shelf and set to work before the movie hit the digital rental service. It wasn’t hard to devour this one. Like Da Vinci Code (number two in the series, number one in the movie series), I had a hard time putting this book down. Langdon is back in killer nerdy, confused form in this one, only getting the clues but not the bullets and action smacking the walls around him. He’s knee deep in Dante lore, in Florence, in Venice, in death masks, and in plagues. This equated to a page turner in my book. I ended by Googling when Brown planned to pen the next in the series (number five in the series, maybe number four in the movie series, depending whether or not Howard gets around to doing The Lost Symbol), so that means it was good.

Find the book here.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling

I wasn’t sure I was ready for a new Harry Potter story (popularly called HP, right?), especially not one that would read weird. I was sure it would too, being that it was a play and not a novel at all, but after finding the rhythm of the story, I totally fell in love with it. I was back in the world of magic and Muggles in a flash. Being that I was already an adult when the series began, reading the Cursed Child made me feel like a younger adult. The story itself, with time travel and Harry’s kids, kept me enthralled until the end, definitely a worthy addition to the HP canon. I have to add, however, that I would love to see this made into a film. The fanboy in me, though I understand Rowling’s motivations and wishes, prays she will pen another novel in the series, because I would flip out.

Find the book here.

The Irish Bride Series: The Innocents Book 1 by Jaime Lorie Goza

Say hello to Grace, a young and innocent Irish lass (not to mention a new face to add to the grand tradition of Irish literature), whose life is rough, but also quirky and amiable at times. While not one who devours everything Irish, being Irish myself has led me to more than my fair share of books set in the Emerald Isle. This book fits into that collection quite well.  This book served as a fun distraction for reading time and makes for a good addition to anyone’s shelves, whether or not they’ve touched that goofy Blarney Stone thing.

Find the book here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Innocents by Jaime Lorie Goza

goza-1Irish literature holds a special place in my heart. It’s likely my own Irish heritage plays a part in that love, being that I have an undisclosed helping in my DNA. But it’s not just that. Everyone loves reading about the simple things, the struggles born of poverty, and the quaintness of rural life – narratives not restricted to those with Irish eyes of course. But Irish literature has all this, and Jaime Lorie Goza, the author of The Irish Bride Series, nails it in her prose.

If you want the Irish experience, to bask in the warmth of simpler (and a tad bit crazier) times, you can’t go wrong with this series.

She dives right in with “The Innocents,” book one of the series, by introducing us to Grace, a young Irish lass on the verge of learning that which we readers know full well – that being Irish is full of mental and physical anguish. It’s tough and it hurts, but whimsical and quite charming at times. There’s magic in every breath we take and every move we make, as someone once said. That magic can be found in the first of Goza’s memorable series when we delve into the story of Grace, Jacob, and her very Irish family.

Those who love all things Eire will find much to love in this fictional tale, just as they’ve loved others in the genre, from Claire Fullerton’s “Dancing to an Irish Reel” to, yes, Frank McCourt’s seminal “Angela’s Ashes.”

Check out the book here!

See Goza’s website here.

Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Book Review: An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn)

Fantasy is that genre that always sticks with you. It’s a brain freeze that never quite thaws, a Starburst fruit chew that glues itself to your teeth, and a pair of kick ass slippers that never gets tossed – no matter how many times you’ve slipped your smelly bare feet into them.

Wands dripping with sexy magic are one reason why that taste never leaves, as are iron swords and sparkly elves, mystical lands readers will never actually set foot on, and dreams of conquering boiling evil; they’re all reasons why we get turned on by the genre. In those worlds, which many authors actually map out, readers find spells, prophecies, elves, ogres, fairies and all the rest. And it’s the best.

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In Rue’s recent fiction novel, “An Average Curse (Book 1 of The Chronicles of Hawthorn),” readers will find almost all of this, including a map. Unlike other fantasy tomes, however, (where 25 pages go toward describing the local fauna), this is efficient fantasy – punchy and light, but never missing a beat. While written for the young adult crowd, it’s not a bad read for grownups either. Most of us adults have revisited Harry Potter, Narnia, the Hobbit, at some point. This is that kind of fun, especially for those of us into stories of youth and experience.

In the first Hawthorn book, readers are introduced to Flynn, Hazel and Po. These three friends always seem to have something going on, and find themselves knee deep in the thick of trouble before too long. The book is a magical trip inspired by New Zealand’s Maori culture – and deftly navigates fiction, mythology and reality. You can tell Rue did a bit of research here.

And, thanks to her, the fantasy realm is another spell richer.

Those who like fantasy, with a hot helping of magic wands included, and strong female leads ala Hunger Games and Vampire Academy, will find An Average Curse a worthy addition to their genre bookshelf.

Check out the newly released second book in the Chronicles of Hawthorn, “Key to the Journey: A Magical Adventure,” right here.

BOOK REVIEW: The Hunted by Kristy Berridge

Vampires drain a new vein

OR

Don’t judge a blood sucker by its coffin


Vampires are not uncommon in the realm of fiction. They’re not uncommon in the realm of reality either, in a way. Lots of people douse themselves in the lifestyle. Fang implants are a thing. Vampire fiction, therefore, is a genre all its own.

In vampire fiction, dark beings sparkle, they become rock gods, they attend special academies, and so on. Some are monsters, creepy things to be feared and hunted, while others just want to find their one true love and live happily forever after. There’s private eye vamps, doctor vamps, southern vamps, queen vamps and everything in between. You’d think it would get old, but it doesn’t. Even the old Marvel Comics series, Tomb of Dracula, is fun to read.

And some vampire stories suck you in better than others, while others just plain suck.

In Kristy Berridge’s pleasurable novel “The Hunted,” vampires aren’t the only creatures around. There’s the Vanators (werewolves) and a fair share of magic. Not only that, but the novel’s Australian setting and first-person narrative, while not unheard of in vampire fiction, creates a sense of rich creativity that other vampire books lack. Add a flair for sarcasm and you’ve got a damn peppy story.

Here’s a personal aside; I could tell the author had a fun time writing Elena’s story, as that sense of energy and excitement is obvious to the reader. This is never a bad thing.

And like any thrilling tale of vampiric prowess, Berrdige’s novel is the first in a series of stories. If a strong mix of violence and humor sound too good to be true, then you haven’t sampled this mix. Fun, easy, and creative, The Hunted would be a good addition to any blood sucking freak’s gory red library.