Tag Archives: new release

Book Review: The Silent Corner

The Silent Corner fits into that rarest category of books – the literary thriller – and introduces readers to Jane Hawk, a strong female protagonist thrust into a good vs. evil fight against overwhelming odds.

If the product description feels like a rehash of past Dean Koontz books – hero faces off against Big Brother, End of Times, and Shadow Government conspiracies – well, you’re not wrong. But while those familiar themes are present, they are not unoriginal.

In The Silent Corner, Hawk, who is on extended leave from the FBI after her husband commits suicide, discovers that nano-technology is being used to systematically eliminate a segment of the population that doesn’t share the world view of a few powerful people bent on shaping the future according to their ideals.

Koontz is, as usual, observant and insightful with regard to the current state of affairs in the world – and he creates a story with purpose and meaning that goes far deeper than entertainment.

In her journey to face-off with the man responsible for her husband’s death, Hawk encounters a series of like-minded individuals and behind the scene heroes who not only help her but also give her hope. It’s not just good storytelling. It’s also allegorical, and what I believe Koontz wishes for his readers.

This is an amazing book. It’s an edge-of-your-seat mile-a-minute thriller that’s written by a master storyteller at the top of his game.

I highly recommend it for fans of mystery, thriller and literary fiction.

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From the Fields to the Garden II: “Killer”

The best new book of the holiday season for MMA and boxing fans is From the Fields to the Garden II: A second chapter in the life story of legendary cutman Jacob “Stitch” Duran.

In a few days, I’ll be posting an exclusive interview with Stitch.

Here’s an exciting excerpt from the book — with special thanks to Stitch and co-author Zac Robinson for permission to post it on my blog.


“Killer”

We made our way through Camp Morehead and chatted with almost everyone there. One young man asked me if I ever heard of Danny “Little Red” Lopez, WBC Featherweight champion. Of course I had. “He was a great Latin fighter in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” I said.

Turns out, Danny Lopez was his grandfather. I could see the pride in his eyes knowing that I remembered him. Moments like these are what made our tour special because we were able to give these American Heroes some positive memories.

Another great story while in Bagram happened at the chow hall. I was sitting next to a soldier from Poland. He said, “Stitch, you know, I studied Brazilian jujitsu and that has given me the calming effect to accept death. As I hear these bullets buzzing by me, I tell myself, if I go, I am taking you with me.”

Strong words from a soldier that was there as part of the coalition. I was mesmerized by his comment. What mental strength these soldiers have to have in order to survive in the battlefield.

Another time, Amir, Jake and I were walking around the market on base. A soldier from Croatia recognized us and wanted to take a photo. We took one, and then he turned to Jake and Amir, “No offense to you guys, but I want to take a picture with Stitch.”

I guess he recognized me wrapping the hands and working the corners of Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, the famous MMA fighter from his home country. As we had our arms around each other and ready for a photo, he glanced up at me and said, “I’m not a fighter. I’m a killer.”

I believed him. These soldiers deal with life and death on a regular basis.

By the end of the tour we were all feeling quite important as we flew from base to base in Blackhawks. Our next visit was NKC, which is the home to ISAF. ISAF is a NATO-led security mission. I felt like I was in the movie Blackhawk Down as we closed in on our destination. The compound is located in Kabul. Once again, we flew over the area and I kept my eyes open looking for any unusual movement. I did have the complete confidence in the gunners, but I couldn’t keep myself from scanning the ground.

Our scheduled landing was in the center of a soccer field, and there was a game going on as the choppers approached. The athletes ran to a safe place before the two Blackhawks landed and blew dust everywhere.

When we approached the field, armed guards rushed to their positions and ushered us into a safe place where we would meet and greet with soldiers who came to support us.

I’d wrapped so many hands by now, but I saved enough tape and gauze to wrap the hands of a couple soldiers who had covered our backs throughout the tour. It was my way of showing them my respect and appreciation for taking care of us.

One was Major Hood, a man who took pride in his uniform and was the one who made things happen for us. He always kept a stern face, so I made it my goal to make him smile. I gave him the knockout wrap, and we posed for a picture with both of us smiling.

Working with so many fighters in the past, I have learned how to read their eyes. Eyes say everything! Sergeant Perkins was one of these fighters. He’d been with us during the whole tour. He had seen me wrap dozens of soldiers’ hands. He walked up to me with his M-16 hanging over his shoulder. “Can I ask you a question,” he sheepishly asked.

I knew what he wanted and beat him to the punch. I stopped him in the middle of his question. “I would be honored to wrap your hands.”

I did wrap his hands, and this became one of those special memories from my trip. These two soldiers gave us everything they had and that was a small way for me to thank them.

We finished the stay at ISAF when the staff ran flags up the pole. Each flag was used during a combat mission. Together, we folded them in military style and then they were gifted to us as a token of their appreciation.

It was such an honor to receive the flags.

The Blackhawks had arrived earlier than scheduled to pick us up and take us back to Bagram. The fear of being parked too long in the middle of the soccer field was a major concern because of incoming mortars. We had to cut our tour short and rush to the two Blackhawks.

As we ran towards the choppers, it was dark and all the lights were off. Despite being there for over a week, from time to time I still slipped into civilian mode. We strapped in, and during the lift off I decided I wanted to take a photo of the gunner manning his 50-caliber machine gun. I realized that our tour was basically over, and I think a part of me wanted to hold onto it. I gave it no thought and made a huge mistake by taking the photo. Both gunners had their night vision goggles on. The flash screwed up their night vision. Though I could not see his eyes, his body language said it all.

The lights were off because of the fear of having incoming directed at the two choppers. At that moment I recognized what a dumb thing I just did. I’d screwed up their vision for a few moments, and even worse, I could have given our position away. With my headphones on and listening to Santana, I just sat there like a little kid, punished for screwing up. Thankfully, we were able to fly out of there without incident.

“Explosion”

Another incredible part of our trip was when we got to meet USMC four-star General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Dunford who at the time was Commandant of the Marine Corps International Security Force. As of writing, he is Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff. You don’t get much higher than that.

He was at Camp Phoenix for a ceremony where the base was changing hands from one General to another. Security was extremely high because of all the dignitaries present. I could see guards on rooftops and around the perimeter of the event.

After the ceremony, we were invited to meet the General. At the party, there was a long line of officers waiting to meet him. We picked a place to wait, loaded our plates with food, and chatted with some of the guests.

Soon we were escorted to the front of the line where we met and talked to General Dunford. Our presence there meant so much to the troops’ morale that the General thanked us personally for taking the time to visit. We finished by taking pictures with him and many others.

During our three-day stay at Camp Phoenix, we had a chance to relax a bit, see the base, and spend time with the troops. Goze also managed to get enough of a strong signal to host MMAJunkie live. I’m sure it’s the only MMA show to ever be live from Camp Phoenix.

On our last day in Bagram, we had some free time. While Jake was shopping at the market by the entrance to the base, there was a huge car explosion. Jake ran back to meet with us near the bunkers, and said he felt the blast and the tin roofs of the market were shaking and rattling.

Sergeant Perkins and his team immediately assembled. They were the first responders and quickly reported to the scene. It turned out that the explosion had killed something like ten people. It doesn’t make sense to me. One moment people are walking around shopping, and the next they are killed in an explosion. It just isn’t fair.

We were relieved to see the team come back safe. We asked Sergeant Perkins what happened. He simply replied with, “The Special Forces have neutralized the situation.”

I don’t know what that exactly meant, but knowing the capability of the Special Forces I understood that it didn’t look good for the bad guys.

We had met some wonderful people on our tour, and our sendoff was an unexpected surprise. A group of supporters that we had hung out with had set up a festive area leading up to the flight line with lights and music. They had learned that I was a big Santana fan, so they had his music playing in the background. We hugged everyone that came to say good-bye and thanked them for having such a wonderful time.

With flak vest and helmets on, we boarded the C-17 with hundreds of soldiers who had finished their tours in Afghanistan, and headed back to Manas. We were proud to be flying home with these heroes and looking forward to our two beers and watching the Cain Velasquez/Junior Dos Santos fight with them.

We all assembled at the main Rec Center/bar to see the fights. It was a festive night as the soldiers enjoyed their two beers.

UFC 166 was held at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, and transmitted to all the Armed Forces worldwide. What a night of fights. The one that stole the show was Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez. I’d worked with both fighters, so I knew it was going to be a barnburner, and it was. Gilbert won the decision in an all-out battle. After that, Daniel Cormier took a decision over Roy Nelson setting up the main event.

That fight left no question that Cain Velasquez was indeed a true Mexican warrior. He stopped Dos Santos in a grueling fight that had Cain connecting on 274 total strikes to Junior’s 62. The punishment that Dos Santos took was hard to watch as his face turned into a swollen mess.

It was a huge win for Cain, as it was almost two years earlier when dos Santos had taken the belt from him at Fox’s debut event in Anaheim.

It was a high-energy night that we finished by taking pictures with the soldiers. It was a nice way to end our trip.

After eleven days on tour, we would be returning home with a new respect for the men and women in uniform. They sacrifice their lives so that we can live in a free nation.

Months later, our newfound friend and now brother, Jim “Silverback” Mahurin, attended our annual MMAJunkie gathering in Las Vegas. With approval from Lieutenant Colonel Moses, he surprised George, Goze, and I with a (CIB) Combat Infantryman’s Badge that is worn by soldiers who have seen combat. In front of all the MMAJunkie family, we proudly received our pins. Along with my Autism pin, I proudly wear my CIB pin on my cornerman jacket in honor of the men and women we met and all the men and women who fight for our country.

***

Use this Amazon affiliate link to pre-order From the Fields to the Garden II for Kindle.

Book Review: Back Blast

I have read and enjoyed this entire series and there is no question that Mark Greaney is a terrific thriller writer—however, this book is a major disappointment.

The premise is that Court Gentry, who has been on the run from the CIA for years, has finally returned to U.S. soil to try and clear his name. This has been building of course for the entire series, and I was looking forward to reading Back Blast to get all the answers about why Gentry had been targeted by the CIA.

Three things bothered me about this book:

It’s length—at 500-plus pages there is way too much nonsensical filler that completely derailed the pace and flow. If the story had been 100 pages shorter then the writing would have been much stronger and enjoyable.

The action bordered on absurdity. In fairness it’s what you expect from a series where the main character is on the run from CIA assassins in every book—but the way he evades his pursuers has become more and more ridiculous. In the past it’s been smart and the violence was in clever, tech-savvy ways. In Back Blast it did nothing but frustrate me.

The last and biggest problem I have with the book is the actual answer as to why Gentry has been on the run all these years. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but suffice it to say the motivations and actions of the people pursuing Gentry and the final resolution were major letdowns after all the time invested in reading this series.

I feel like most longtime fans of the series will want to read it anyway—and I’ll definitely read the next installment because I am a big fan of Mark Greaney—but I don’t think I would recommend Back Blast to anyone. Instead I would suggest the earlier books in the series. They’re much, much better.

I received a free digital edition from Penguin Random House First to Read in exchange for a honest/unbiased review. Use this affiliate link to read more about Back Blast on Amazon.

Book Review: Try Not to Breathe

This is an astonishing debut novel. The promotional blurbs and editorial reviews are comparing it with The Girl on the Train, but honestly … it’s better, at least in the quality of the writing.

Holly Seddon has created an incredibly flawed protagonist in Alex Dale, a female reporter who has lost her marriage and career to alcoholism, but continues to drink even though it’s killing her.

But Alex finds one thing that might save her—a fifteen-year-old story that quickly becomes an obsession.

Seddon effortlessly spins two tales—one of Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years; and the other of Alex Dale, who has been just as lost as Amy, but in her pursuit of Amy’s attacker might just find her own salvation.

The writing is fast-paced and sharp, and the dialogue is insanely good. The setting and tone and female protagonist are definitely similar to The Girl on the Train, but the writing in Try Not to Breathe is so much better.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense novels, then read this book: 5/5 stars.

I received a free digital edition courtesy NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest/unbiased review. Use this affiliate link to read more about Try Not to Breathe on Amazon.

Book Review: The Crossing

There are very few books I look forward to more than a new Michael Connelly novel – especially when it features both Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. The Crossing is excellent and I think fans of both Bosch and Haller will really enjoy it.

The plot has Haller defending a client who is accused of murdering a cop’s wife. But Haller truly believes his client is innocent, and after his PI is injured in a motorcycle accident he persuades his half-brother Bosch to take a look at the case.

The title refers to two things that really are the crux of the book – and for me it illustrates why Michael Connelly is the best working author in this genre. The first “crossing” is what Bosch refers to as the point where the lives of the victim and perpetrator intersect. Bosch asserts that if he can find that point, then he will understand everything about the crime. The second “crossing” refers to Bosch – who is now a retired LAPD detective – changing sides and working for a criminal defense attorney.

It is the second crossing that provides much of the conflict in the story: Bosch vs. himself, his daughter, his former colleagues, and even Haller.

But ultimately it comes down to one thing for Bosch: if Haller’s client is really innocent, then an actual killer is on the street and someone needs to bring him to justice.

This novel is incredibly well written. It is fast-paced with sharp dialogue, and I would highly recommend it to readers of mysteries/thrillers/crime fiction: 5/5 stars. Use this Amazon affiliate link to see more information about The Crossing.

Book Review: Make Me

This is a smart, fast-paced thriller by an author in top form. It has the same feel as some of the best books in the series—such as Echo Burning, 61 Hours and Worth Dying For—as Reacher finds trouble in a small Midwest town … but at the same time, this one is different.

It begins when Reacher steps off a train and has a chance encounter with a woman. Soon they are allies in a fight with no rules against a town they don’t understand.

Reacher has always been a cerebral brawler. If that’s even such a thing. He uses logic and deductive reasoning to solve problems just as easily as he uses his fists and patented head-butts, and he has morals that are simultaneously complicated and black-and-white.

It makes for one of the most compelling ongoing characters in thriller fiction—but here we see an older, evolved and more vulnerable Reacher. He even uses the Internet on a mobile device.

But long-time readers needn’t worry that older, evolved and vulnerable in some way diminishes his black-and-white mindset that so often leads to snarky dialogue and violent confrontations. I assure you it’s still in play, as illustrated perfectly by this exchange with his ally Chang:

Chang said, “When will he wake up?”

Reacher said, “I have no idea. Somewhere between two hours and never.”

“You hit him very hard.”

“He hit me first.”

If you are already a Reacher fan, then chances are very good that you will love Make Me.

If this is your first time reading a Reacher novel, then you are really in luck: this is number twenty in the series, and now you can look forward to reading the other nineteen.

This is an emphatic 5/5 stars and I highly recommend it for any reader who loves thrillers/mysteries. You can use this Amazon affiliate link to read more about Make Me.

Book Review: The Hanging Girl

This is the sixth book in the Department Q series by Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen. The series is set in Copenhagen and Department Q is essentially a Cold Case Unit.

This is a terrific series. However, this is also the second book in a row in this series that was a disappointment. THE MARCO EFFECT was abysmal and nearly unreadable. THE HANGING GIRL was moderately better.

The plot is centered on a hit-and-run that left a teenage girl hanging upside down in a tree. Her case has been unsolved for nearly two decades even as it has ruined the personal and professional life of the police officer that discovered the grisly scene. This beat cop made it his life work to solve the case, but his investigation became an obsession and the only thing he accomplished was to alienate his family and colleagues. As a last ditch effort, the cop calls Department Q.

As usual, Rose is determined to take the case, Carl is reluctant to get involved for fear it will cut into his sleeping-on-the-job time, and Assad is burning coffee and making camel jokes. All of that is fine, it’s part of the allure of the series—a likeable band of misfits that solve decades old crimes—but the actual impetus that compels Carl and his crew to tackle the case is unbelievably absurd.

And even once things get rolling along, there is simply nothing to root for as the reader. There is no urgency to the case. There is nothing dramatic or compelling to pull you in and make you take an interest.

Instead Carl, Rose and Assad attempt to identify a man who seemingly had an affair with every woman in town twenty years ago—and they know he was into fringe religion and sun worship and that he was charismatic and had a great many followers and astoundingly good looks … but no one seems to know where or who this man is today. And we have to read about this for 300-plus pages before he’s finally identified, and it wouldn’t have been so frustrating, except the man they’re looking for isn’t exactly hiding … he’s got a religious compound with a website and everything, and if Department Q had done a simple web search for the man then we could have been spared 300-plus pages of mind-numbing meaningless interviews with “witnesses” who don’t want to help.

But of course then we wouldn’t have a book.

There is also a sub-plot about a woman at the religious compound who is an obsessed follower of the leader and wants to have his babies. As a villain she’s laughable.

I still love this series and I think many readers will find worthwhile entertainment with THE HANGING GIRL—but temper your expectations because it is not up to the standard set by earlier books in this series such as THE PURITY OF VENGEANCE and THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES.

3/5 stars

I read a free digital edition courtesy Penguin Random House First to Read. I use Amazon affiliate links.