#BookReview: Deep Green by Rick Chesler

Breathless Adventure With A Ripped-From-The-Headlines Hook. This is one of those adventure tales that doesn’t sound like it would be an adventure tale… until you read it and realize it is an adventure tale. ๐Ÿ˜€ Ostensibly, this is a near-future tale of the race to find a full-on *cure* for COVID-19. Not just a drug or vaccine to alleviate some symptoms, but an actual cure for the disease. Along the way, we get quite a bit of real-world commentary smoothly rolled into the overall plot so that even while it really *is* kind of preachy… it doesn’t actually *feel* like it is kind of preachy. There is quite a bit within these sections that some readers will be more familiar with than others, but which anyone outside of academia generally and Big Pharma specifically will likely learn a touch about how things actually work. Which is always interesting to see in fiction. Ultimately the single star deduction here was not for the quality of the tale – it really was excellent – but instead because Chesler uses the race for a *COVID-19* cure, rather than literally any other disease. It is an excellent attempt to tap into the current zeitgeist (though one might argue a race for a cure would have been even more buzzworthy in 2021, prior to full vaccine rollouts), but I am waging a personal war against any book that mentions COVID for any reason at all, and the automatic one star deduction is really the only tool at my disposal in this war. Very much recommended.

This review of Deep Green by Rick Chesler was originally written on May 6, 2022.

#BookReview: Eden Quest by David Wood

Tropical Adventure Turns Mystical / Fantasy. This is one of the rare books from Wood (in this series, he does have a pen name that is more pure fantasy) that has any level of actual fantasy in it, and even here it is more of a mystical bent that *could* be read as more scifi – though it is certainly on that boundary, in a similar place as roughly half of Ted Dekker’s Circle Quadrilogy.

What starts out as a tropical vacation quickly turns into a race to find and obtain priceless artifacts which leads to the mystical/ fantasy payoff – meaning that prior to the fantasy section, this is a pretty standard Maddock Adventures book, with the usual elements – various people showing up from prior adventures, Bones showing up where he isn’t “supposed” to be, Bones wise cracking and cracking bones, Maddock outsmarting most everyone and being all chivalrous while doing so, etc. The things that long time fans know and love, but done in a way such that newer readers won’t be lost – but will be enticed to go back and read about these prior adventures with the various connections.

Overall a fun and quick – just under 200 page – read, and thus a good actual beach read. ๐Ÿ˜€ Very much recommended.

This review of Eden Quest by David Wood was originally written on May 16, 2022.

#BookReview: Golden Dragon by David Wood

Another Great (And Short) Maddock Adventure Perfect For Longtime Fans And People New To The Universe. This book is pretty much exactly what I said in the title here – long time fans are going to enjoy this new Maddock tale, and at not quite 70 pages it is about as minimal an investment as it gets for people looking for a new world to explore. And if you do like it… there are a LOT of books to read after this one, including several adventures referenced within this tale with varying degrees of spoilers (for those concerned with such things). Fun, satisfying, and quick ride -the literary equivalent of a theme park rollercoaster, in other words. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Very much recommended.

This review of Golden Dragon by David Wood was originally written on February 18, 2022.

#BookReview: The Anomaly by John Sneeden

Fun Read That Veers Close To Christian Fiction. This is another quick and fun adventure/ scifi read that long time fans of this series will enjoy, and yet still works on an “episode” basis for even new readers to come into the series. (Fairly minimal connective tissue here to prior books. This is mostly a Zane tale with a couple of appearances from Carmen.) The action mostly revolves around a possible mole in the mission, with a bit of creature feature thrown in to pay off the build up to that very event – and the ending seems to set the next book in the series directly in motion. A couple of characters in particular have conversations almost never seen outside of a church, weekly church attendee gatherings, or Christian Fiction books, but those are generally no more than a page or two, and likely barely 5 pages – of the 308 here – contain these discussions. So if you’re someone who is hyper-opposed to such talk for whatever reason, know up front that it is here… but also know up front that it is nowhere near a main focus of the story, and can be fairly easily glossed over the few times it does come up. Overall a great new episode in a truly excellent series. Very much recommended.

This review of The Anomaly by John Sneeden was originally written on November 11, 2021.

#BookReview: Alamo Gold by David Wood

Another Fun Bonebrake Conspiracy / Action Tale. Secret societies. Texas history. Haunted graveyards. A Knight’s Tale reference. Battle inside a Duck Boat. And even some cave diving to boot. Seriously… what more do you want in 120 pages of fun action/ adventure? This one has it all, including a couple of hot/ steamy scenes… both in the naked sense and the literal one. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Another wild romp, this time through a fair swath of Texas, and featuring Bones’ usual witty banter and bone-shattering physicality. Very much recommended.

This review of Alamo Gold by David Wood was originally written on August 27, 2021.

#BookReview: The Last Monument by Michael C Grumley

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.

This review of The Last Monument by Michael C Grumley was originally written on August 1, 2021.

#BookReview: Legends by David Wood

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. ๐Ÿ˜€

Excellent collection, and very much recommended.

This review of Legends by David Wood was originally written on December 16, 2020.

#BookReview: Serpent by David Wood

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 review of Serpent by David Wood was originally written on November 28, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Destination Sofia by David Wood and Sean Ellis

This week we’re looking at the latest entry in a long running and expansive universe. This week we’re looking at Destination Sofia by David Wood and Sean Ellis.

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”

On Diversity in Writing

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.