Excellent Adventure Starter. For those who like their adventures to be Indiana Jones type – including both going into the jungle and facing down Nazis – well, have I got a book for you. This combines that basic style with Grumley’s usual science/ science fiction bent to produce much more nuanced characters who have much bigger personal stakes than his “breakthrough” series, to great effect in the closing moments. About the only negative is that the final confrontation… isn’t really there. At least not what could have been the *really* cool parts. Still, while I’m not as intrigued about this new series as I was in BREAKTHROUGH by the end of its first book, I definitely want to see where Grumley goes with this. Very much recommended.
Action Packed Quick Hits. This is a collection of short stories and a novella that work well to both allow long time fans of the series to have a bit more fun reading about the team’s adventures (mostly alone or with just Maddock and Bones) and to allow new readers a chance to sample the overall style of the universe without necessarily committing to an entire book to get a complete story. Overall truly a fun, quick read and great for when you maybe only have a few minutes at a time to read.
A note for those familiar with Wood’s other recent book, SERPENT: VENOM is the novella here, which features the same creature as SERPENT… except it is the same creature in name only. The entire characterization of the creature, from the way it looks to the way it behaves to the secrets behind it, are entirely different between the two tales, and indeed really the only similarities at all are that Bones is in both, they are both set in the same general place on the planet, and they feature a giant snake they both use the same name to denote. So don’t be afraid to read *both* stories. 😀
Excellent collection, and very much recommended.
Another Excellent Maddock and Bones Adventure. This is yet another episode in the sprawling universe that is Maddock and Bones, one with at least a few callouts that won’t be obvious unless you’ve read the entire universe of these stories to this point. That noted, it can indeed work reasonably well as an entry point into the series, as most of the callbacks are more tangential than essential. (And the essential ones are explained well, but are slight spoilers for previous books – for those that particularly care about such things.) Overall a fun romp through the Amazon and Inca lore, and very much recommended.
This was yet another excellent example of Wood and Ellis’ abilities to take seemingly somewhat random real world mysteries and impressive sceneries and combine them into an action tale with just the right combination of adventure, intrigue, and guns blazing action. The intrigue here centers on the real life Tsarichina Hole, and Wood and Ellis truly do an excellent job explaining the real world mystery in the context of the tale, then spinning their own tale around that real world mystery.
Filled with the action and humor long time fans have come to expect from this universe, this is also a good enough entry point for people new to the series – at somewhat shortish (under 200 pages), it is a fairly quick yet highly entertaining read, perfect for trying to squeeze in another book or two at the end of the year to hit some numerical reading target. Very much recommended.
As always, the Goodreads/ Amazon review:
Continue reading “Featured New Release Of The Week: Destination Sofia by David Wood and Sean Ellis”
Over the last week or so in Booklandia, one hasn’t been able to escape the controversy over Nicholas Sparks. This particular controversy – unlike the one almost exclusively within Booklandia where if you’ve read one Sparks novel, you’ve read them all – revolves around a school he created over a decade ago and a now former headmaster he hired nearly a decade ago and then later fired, who then sued him in 2013 or so. And in its particulars, well, Sparks doesn’t exactly come out looking like the squeaky clean author of A Walk To Remember.
And that is bad, don’t get me wrong. I am not apologizing for nor defending Sparks’ views on race and sex in any way. Indeed I personally think his views are idiotic at best, but are also views that having grown up in South, I shared long ago before my own eyes were opened via various life experiences.
But that actually isn’t what I want to discuss here, as it is being heavily dissected elsewhere. What I want to discuss here is more akin to the actual Booklandia controversy around him, and in particular the claim that “he isn’t a romance author”.
Now, I’ve gone to war several times – including over the last week – with Romance Writers of America (RWA) (and regional variants) Board Members over this, but the sheer simple fact is that they will not change me, nor will I change them. For many various reasons both deep seated internally and economically, they have their particular views about exactly what is “in” as a “romance novel”, and because of those particular reasons they will never truly get what I am saying here.
But I’m a guy that doesn’t even believe all life *must* be carbon based, that allows for the possibility even among the most bedrock of scientific principles that there is a *possibility* that we are wrong in some minor or major way and that “reality” isn’t thus what we currently believe “reality” to be.
In matters of style – and all writing is *completely* a matter of style – I am far more open. There literally are no set rules. What is popular today might not be popular in 10 yrs. What sells millions of copies now may struggle to sell tens of copies in a century. And a good story is a good story, no matter what rules it breaks or follows.
My own definition of a “romance novel” is any novel wherein the love story in the book is the primary driving narrative. The RWA purists insist that at minimum it include a Happily Ever After (HEA), and since Sparks never includes an HEA, he is by their definition not a romance author. And in truth, the case could in fact be made that since a romantic *tragedy* is almost always how Sparks’ books turn out, that he is actually a tragedy author. But when was the last time you heard of a book marketed as a tragedy selling what Sparks has?
But romance novels aren’t the only ones that have their “rules”, they’re just the only one I know of to officially “codify” them. (Though some have attempted to codify Christian Fiction as well, I am unaware of any agency within Christian Fiction that is similar to RWA.) Most any genre has a general arc somewhat specific to that particular genre. An adventure novel is almost always going to have some small team looking for some historical artifact in some remote region and facing some form of bad guy also after the same artifact. A military technothriller is almost always going to open up with some battle or some test of some new hardware and proceed into a full scale battle to save the world from some enemy that is always at least a step behind in some way.
And RWA types (and to almost as bad of an extent, Christian Fiction types in at least some circles) are the only ones I’ve seen to be so exclusionary – indeed, they are as exclusionary of other works as Sparks himself is of other people. In most other genres, if you want to say “My book is this, but it has these other features”, they’re largely going to say “awesome, you do you bro”. In romance world, if you try to say “My book is a love story, but it doesn’t end well”… prepare for the torches and pitchforks.
Which is a shame, because while books that fit within the “rules” can be great, in all honesty after a while they start bleeding together and it becomes difficult to tell one book from another or in some cases even one author from another.
Have enough courage to at least spill outside the mold a bit. Give us *some* wrinkle we’re not going to find with anyone else. And if you can have the true bravery to absolutely shatter the mold – as I have indeed seen some authors do – even better.
White Peak is a book from “debut author” (at least under this pseudonym) Ronan Frost that starts out with a literal bang and becomes an adventure race across much of the northern hemisphere. As of this post, it releases in just a couple of days, on May 21, and can be preordered from any of several outlets via this link.
My Goodreads/ Amazon review shows a few of my thoughts on this book:
Who Knew A Fictional Character Could Write This Well? In this debut work by fictional character Ronan Frost, we get a solid action/ adventure tale of a man haunted by being on the other end of the phone when his wife is killed in a mass shooting being recruited to find a mysterious map for one of the world’s wealthiest men. The action is taut, the mystery is compelling, and the locations include some rarely if ever used in novels before. Truly an outstanding work. Particularly for a fictional character.
Here’s hoping we get a sequel from this new author far faster than we got the sequel he appears in. 😉
Yes, Ronan is fictional and a pseudonym for a real-life long time friend. Ronan is actually one of the primary characters in a book that has been reviewed on this very blog last year, though for now I’m still playing into the mystery and choosing not to reveal him (even though it isn’t an actual secret). All will be revealed on Weds, May 22, when I post a Q and A #HypeTrain post about this same book with the real life friend… that we conducted through St. Martin’s Press’s official channels, as said official channels are actually where I was invited to this blog tour from. 🙂
For now, how about I let you check out the explosive first chapter of the book that I describe in the review above?
Continue reading “#HypeTrain: White Peak by Ronan Frost”
Whodathunk that an uncontacted Amazonian tribe would have the key to saving humanity, and that one ecologist would have to race around the globe to secure humanity’s future? Rick Cheaper did, and wrote a fast paced action with much intrigue to tell this tale. Highly entertaining, and highly recommended.