Round two of mini-reviews. Check 'em out and go support these passionate authors:
Mountain Home by Bracken MacLeod
MOUNTAIN HOME is a thrilling debut from Bracken MacLeod. The shock and awe of the first few pages will have you hooked. Parts siege, character study, revenge thriller, real-world horror reminiscent of Jack Ketchum, a hint of supernatural and more, all wrapped into a tightly paced package. And while the plot is superb, it's the characters and setting that bring it home for me, pun intended. MacLeod crafts real and relatable characters that you'll find yourself caring about, all the way to the bitter end. Highly recommended.
Lost in Transition by Errick Nunnally
Before I read Nunnally's Lost in Transition, I would occasionally read the comic strips in the Sunday paper. Now I can't get enough. Lost in Transition is the perfect combination of dry and witty humor. If you've ever worked in an office or, better yet, had The Man get you down (and who hasn't?) this is the perfect book for you. Hoping for more!
Broken Branch by John Mantooth
BROKEN BRANCH is a wonderful companion to THE YEAR OF THE STORM. Like an appetizer before the main course, Mantooth treats the reader to a little taste of the magic one finds in THE YEAR OF THE STORM. I won't spoil the details as I think the story is best discovered on its own, but it is well worth your time. It was interesting to read BROKEN BRANCH after having read THE YEAR OF THE STORM. I look forward to going back to them again in the future and reading them in order. Great prose, layered characters and well paced.
The Wheel Man by Duane Swierczynski
I recently tackled two novels by Swierczynski in preparation for a class of his that I'm taking at LitReactor this summer. The first, THE WHEEL MAN, is a wild ride and fun read. The near non-stop action is very cinematic and Swierczynski's style incorporates many character POVs to keep the ramped pace sparking. While this might bother some readers, (there are 2-3 main POVs, with additional minor characters who cut in for sometimes a paragraph or less) I found each voice to be unique and carefully planned to add value. The tone varied from serious crime thriller to cartoon-y/over the top - even some shockingly dark moments. That brings me to....
Fun and Games by Duane Swierczynski
...FUN AND GAMES, the first novel in the Charlie Hardie trilogy. Like THE WHEEL MAN, FUN AND GAMES is action-packed, quickly paced, and told through multiple POVs (though less than THE WHEEL MAN, spending more time with the protagonists, Charlie Hardie and Lane Madden). The novel reminded me a bit of Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series, and got me wondering if Swierczynski is placing all his novels in the same world. FUN AND GAMES was a bit more fantastical in places than I was expecting, but I bought into it - and it has a great sense of humor. I won't spoil anything, but Swierczynski handles difficult, brutal scenes with a deft hand. Looking forward to finishing the trilogy.
Hey, That Robot Ate My Baby Vol.1 (Zelmer Pulp)
The crew at Zelmer Pulp has found a groove rich with wit, dry humor, incredible visuals and strong writing across five stellar tales. Time travel with Ayn Rand, alien abductions, entrepreneurial hackers, grit-infused futuristic paradise and more. HEY, THAT ROBOT ATE MY BABY VOL.1 has got something within its pages that should appeal to both scifi and non-scifi fans alike. I'm eagerly awaiting future Zelmer Pulp releases.
Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas
Excellent collection of dark fiction (and I mean dark) that lives up to its title. The short length of many of the stories surprised me, but I think impactful work is sometimes best served in short bursts (as it is here). Some of the standouts for me were the more fantastical tales - "Maker of Flight," "Transmogrify," "Victimized," and "Underground Wonder Bound" (LOVE that title). Take some time with each story. I've already reread a few of them and came away with more than I did after the initial read-through. I'll definitely be going back for more.
Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling by Donald Maass
Probably the best book on writing that I've come across (and I've read a few.) Everyone learns differently - a book that works for one may be terrible for another, but HIGH IMPACT really connected with me, especially the "21st Century Tools" at the end of each chapter. These tools are designed as a series of questions and ideas created to push writers to look at their work differently - to break it down, rework it and make it better. Published in 2011, it was refreshing to see Maass take full advantage of citing both classic and very recent works in his examples.
I still have a full plate of books on deck, but here are a few more I've added to the mix:
Condimental OP by Andrez Bergen
Junkie Love by Joe Clifford
The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig
Home Invasion by Patti Abbott
Slow Burn by Terrence McCauley