Sunday, May 22, 2011

The 6th Man vs. Jake Ransom & the Howling Shinx by @mrneil98

In the two weeks since my last post, I have read The 6th Man by David Baldacci and Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx,  by James Rollins, often bouncing back and forth between the two. They are both excellent additions from New York Times bestselling authors but going between the two made me a little punch-drunk which gave me an idea….
            (Enter the Ring Announcer) 
            In the Rollins corner, wearing the “Tae Kwon Do gi” and a red belt is Jake Ransom. Fresh from his last bout with the Skull King, which ended in a draw. Jake has been working hard in hopes for a rematch. His last bout transported him through time and space to the mysterious land of Pangea, inhabited by “lost tribes” from every age and corner of the world. Jake and his sister Kady were following the trail of their missing parents but found only their timepiece, which aids in opening another portal. They are reunited with Pindor, Marika and Back’uuk from their first adventure in Pangea, this time transported to a desert world where they a captured by Nerfertiti and battle dinosaurs and other exotic creatures. Following clues left by their mother, they  help uncover the mystery of the Howling Sphinx.
            And in the Baldacci corner, making the journey from Virginia to Machias, Maine are the tag team of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell. Former Secret Service agents, now private detectives, this is their fourth bout together and heretofore their best. Called by their former mentor, King and Maxwell head to desolate Maine to help with the trial of accused serial killer Edgar Roy. When his mentor is murdered, King and Maxwell become the only hope for uncovering the truth surrounding Roy. In true Baldacci fashion, this book and every character in it are not what they appear. There are cover-ups, National Security conflicts, and mysterious characters that keep you guessing right to the final chapter. (Announcer leaves the ring).
            With Jake Ransom, James Rollins has created a character that captures the awkwardness of tweendom with the cunning intellect to wriggle out of every dangerous situation. The alternate worlds that exist in Pangea are the perfect setting for an “anything can happen and usually does“ feel. As varied as the supporting cast is, each has a distinct personality that is appealing and endearing to the reader. The only character I would personally have tweaked is Kady. Her boy-crazed, cheerleader  persona comes off as too cliché at times, although she is handy with the sword.            
            With King and Maxwell, David Baldacci has walked that fine line between partners and lovers and navigates the tensions created by loving their work equally. As a reader, you believe in their emotions and their actions. I even found myself caring about Edgar Roy and his relationship with his sister. Although their back story may be a bit worn, Baldacci is able to surprise even his most loyal readers with an unexpected twist.
            Who wins the match between Jake Ransom and The 6th Man? You do, if you get the opportunity to read these fine books. Don’t be dissuaded from the Young Adult title of Rollins book, just enjoy the adventure. One word of caution, read one at a time or you’ll end up in a rope-a-dope.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Wrecker" by Dave Conifer, Guest Review from @egtalbot

Guest review from Edward G. Talbot (@egtalbot).

Let's get one thing very clear from the beginning. The title character, Wrecker? You don't want him anywhere near you. Oh at first he comes off as the strong silent type, a little more sensitive than average. But he's damaged goods in more ways than one.

Wrecker isn't an action thriller, it's a psychological one. More Harlan Coban than James Rollins. A fairly normal middle class family thinks they've got a great thing going when they find a handyman to work on the cheap. The family has its own difficulties, and getting the painting done without incident might as well be a gift from above. Soon, they wish they had made a different choice.

It's hard to go into more details without giving it away. Wrecker has a reason for everything he does, and we discover that Steve, the husband in the family, may have a secret of his own. The book builds towards the expected climax, but still has a couple of serious twists near the end, twists that you just knew had to be coming but couldn't figure out before they happened.

The best thing about the book IMO is how the writing just flows. The phrase "page turner" could have been coined for this one. It's a thriller, but it has some strong elements of a drama as well. Think of the movie Fatal Attraction, and you'll have a good sense of it. If you like thrillers, you'll like it. If you like dramas, it's a great book for testing the waters.

It's no coincidence that Wrecker has been tearing up the Amazon ebook charts most of the year. It is currently available in both paper and ebook formats, and at 99 cents, the ebook is a steal. You will not be disappointed.

Edward G. Talbot is the pen name for two authors. Ed Parrot lives in Massachusetts and has long been fascinated with turning ideas into written words. Jason Derrig lives in Maine and likes to tell stories, especially about conspiracies. The two authors have collaborated to create a brand of thriller that keeps the stakes high while not taking itself too seriously. They have released one conspiracy thriller novel, New World Orders, as well as a terrorism thriller half-novel "Alive From New York." Their second novel, 2012: The Fifth World, will be out in June 2011. Later in 2011, Talbot is teaming up with Jeremy Robinson, author of numerous thrillers including the Jack Sigler series featuring the Chess Team. The collaboration is on a novella set in the world of the Chess Team, focusing on the Chess Team character Rook. For all the latest on Edward G. Talbot, check out their web site: 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mainstream vs. Indie Authors by @mrneil98

A quick intro before I start my first official blog. My name is Rob Neil and I am a father, husband, math teacher. I am also a musician who has played publicly in bands and solo, a wanna-be writer and, most importantly for this blog, a reader. I will be contributing twice a month to Thrillers Rock (2nd and 4th  Sundays) and adding some tweets about books I’m reading during the week. Most of the posts will be reviews but some will be observations of 40+ years of reading, first sci-fi (Vonnegut, Heinlein) then horror (Saul, King) then mystery (Hillerman) and finally thrillers (Rollins, Berry, et. al.)

In noting the changes to the publishing world over the last six years, I cannot help but see the parallel to the music industry of the 90’s. With drastic advances in the availability of recording equipment and ability to burn CD’s any band could create, record and produce their own songs. There was no longer as great a need for a “label” to get your music to fans; you simply record your songs using a program like garage band, burn a CD and distribute it at your gig.

Today, the e-book explosion has turned the publishing world upside down and has allowed many struggling writers the opportunity to get their work to a potential audience. It is no longer necessary to submit your manuscript and receive numerous rejection letters (I won’t say countless because you always keep count). With self-publishing programs available and support from social network groups like IBC, this method is cost effective and allows the writer to “sell” their work for a fraction of what a publisher would charge (we are talking anywhere from $3.99 to FREE). For less than the cost of a drink at Starbucks you can receive hours of thrilling entertainment.

My first e-book was Cristyn West’s Plain Jane which I purchased for $1.49 after a discount. This is an exhilarating serial killer/detective story better than two of the last three Alex Cross books by Patterson. I was hooked (or should I say nooked since I now own one). This was followed by Pentecost by Johanna Penn, non-thriller A Walk in the Snark by Rachel Thompson and 30 Pieces of Silver by Carolyn McCray, a religious thriller on par with Rollins, Berry and Brown.

Has the torch of thriller writing been passed to a new generation of indie writers? I don’t believe so. Berry has Jefferson Key being released May 17th, Rollins has The Devil Colony out June 21 and Dan Brown will have a new book out sometime this decade. I think of these great authors as a box of matches passing out sparks of inspiration to ignite the flame of desire to write and entertain (hokey but true). When I played Cat Stevens covers in a coffee house I wasn’t trying to replace him, just  entertaining those around me with a different spin on a classic song. These authors should be honored, they inspire us to read, they inspire us to write.
In the future there will be far more book reviews and less ramblings. If you have any title suggestions, let me know. I will “write back at  you” in two weeks but in the meantime, I’ll tweet ya later.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Book of Souls" by Glenn Cooper

A little bit of mysticism.  A lot of history.  A ton of twist and turns.  Enough tension to strangle an elephant.  Yeah.  This was a good read.

Cooper plows in to his sophomore novel with a basic premise:  second novels don't have to suck.  And wow, did he find a receptive audience in me.  His first novel, Secret of the Seventh Son or Library of the Dead was a humdinger.  He lives up to that novel's potential with the sequel, Book of Souls

For those of you who love Rollins (and come on... how could you not?) or Berry or Brown, this novel should fit comfortably... but excitingly... into that groove.  You get the puzzles, you get the reinterpretation of history and historical figures (Shakespeare and Nostradamus, anyone?).  You get the flight and fight to save the world.  Good stuff.

If you're still on the fence about the thriller genre, this is the kind of novel that could change your mind.  Getting started with a thriller that incorporates history and puzzles in addition to the adrenaline-packed punches that are the mainstay of the genre can really ease you into the fun and adventure that can be found here.  So, I guess what I'm saying is... give this one a shot!

Book of Souls can be found right here.