Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Thriller/Mystery Gift Recommendations

These books will make great gifts on Christmas morning for the reader in your family. 

1. Billy Boyle by James R Benn

Great murder mystery that takes place during WWII.  If you're a fan of mysteries or the WWII era, you'll really like this book.

Plot Summary:  Billy Boyle is the youngest member of the Boyle clan in the Boston Police Department. A tightly knit Irish family, their fierce loyalties extend little beyond each other, Ireland, and the police force where Billy’s father and uncles also serve. The year is 1941, and they have paved the way for Billy’s promotion to Detective through the time-honored traditions of politics and patronage. Then World War II breaks out. The family’s political connections secure Billy a commission and post with a distant relative of Mrs. Boyle’s, a general serving with the War Plans Department in Washington D.C. where Billy is to safely sit out the war. Unfortunately for the Boyles, that unknown general is Dwight David Eisenhower, who whisks Billy off to England when he is appointed Commander of U.S. forces in Europe . This is definitely not what Billy expected, nor is really qualified for. He must rely on his native wits to keep himself alive and avoid humiliating his family as he conducts his first investigation into the death of an official of the Norwegian government in exile (

2.  American Assassin by Vince Flynn

Prequel to Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series.  If you haven't yet read any of the Mitch Rapp series this is a great place to start.  Espionage, assassins, terrorists and more make this one of Vince Flynn's best yet.

Plot Summary:  Before he was considered a CIA superagent, before he was thought of as a terrorist's worse nightmare, and before he was both loathed and admired by politicians on Capitol Hill, Mitch Rapp was a gifted college athelete without a care in the world.....and then tragedy struck (

3.  The Athena Project by Brad Thor

Ladies and men alike will be interested in this latest installment by Brad Thor.  

Plot Summary: 
From behind the rows of razor wire, a new breed of counterterrorism operator has emerged. 
Just as skilled, just as fearsome, and just as deadly as their colleagues, Delta Force’s newest members have only one thing setting them apart—their gender. Part of a top-secret, all-female program codenamed The Athena Project, four of Delta’s best and brightest women are about to undertake one of the nation’s deadliest assignments. 

When a terrorist attack in Rome kills more than twenty Americans, Athena Team members Gretchen Casey, Julie Ericsson, Megan Rhodes, and Alex Cooper are tasked with hunting down the Venetian arms dealer responsible for providing the explosives. But there is more to the story than anyone knows (

Go ahead and pick one of these books up for the thriller/mystery reader in your family.  I promise they won't be disappointed finding one of these novels under the Christmas tree.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

I have finished reading The Girl series, and I can say that they definitely stand out as great thrillers.  Here is my review of the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Plot Synopsis:

Lisbeth Salander is wanted for a triple murder. All three victims are connected to a trafficking exposé about to be published in Mikael Blomqvist’s magazine Millenium, and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are on the weapon.

Lisbeth vanishes to avoid capture by the justice. Mikael, not believing the police, is despairingly trying to clear her name, using all his resources and the staff of his magazine. During this process, Mikael discovers Lisbeth’s past, a terrible story of abuse and traumatizing experiences growing up in the Swedish care system.
When he eventually finds her, it’s only to discover that she is far more entangled in his initial investigation of the sex industry than he could ever imagine (

Once again Lisbeth Salander stands out as a stunning character who you like the more you learn about her.  This book does go more in detail about her past and you learn how she came about to be the enigmatic personality that she is. 

On its own The Girl Who Played With Fire was captivating but not quite as good as the first book in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  There is murder involved and a growing conspiracy possibly involving the government, but just not as stunning as the first. 

The main issue I had with this installment was the same I had with the ...Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Played With Fire could definitely have used a few more rounds of editing.  There is more detail and backstory than is needed that contributed to an over 500 page read.  That may turn people off who are into a much faster paced thriller.

However, I definitely enjoyed it and would recommend picking it up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Top Ten Thrillers of All-Time

Here are my Top Ten Thrillers.  In my opinion these were the best of the best and if you haven't read them then you definitely should if you're a fan of the thriller genre.

10.  The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker (2010).  This was an excellent read with great characters, disturbing plot, and startling twists.  Great make-up of a top thriller.  I also have to admit that since I recently finished reading this one it's still fresh in my mind and made the list.   

9.  Along Came a Spider by James Patterson (1993).  All thriller lists will usually have at least one title of the hundreds that Patterson has written.  He is certainly one of the best writers of the thriller genre in modern times.  This was adapted into to film starring Morgan Freeman.

8.  The Hound of Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902).  Great Sherlock Holmes book that I read as a kid.  One of the books responsible for making me a fan of thrillers.

7.  State of Fear by Michael Crichton (2004).  Chrichton created a niche for scientific thrillers.  Here he didn't disappoint as he delved into the world of environmentalism.  As a result of this book he once appeared before Congress to testify on the possibilities and consequences of conducting policy on what he viewed was "junk" science. 

6.  The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon (1959).  What's there not to like?  Political thriller where a corporation brain washes a former Soldier to be an unwitting assassin.  Adapted to film twice, first starring Frank Sinatra, and then again starring Denzel Washington.

5.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005).  Great characters and a disturbing plot helped this thriller make the list. 

4.  The Charm School by Nelson DeMille (1988).  DeMille has written so many great books.  This one in my opinion topped them all.  Russian spies trained to infiltrate the United States.  I couldn't put this one down.

3.  Term Limits by Vince Flynn (1999).  This was Flynn's debut novel that he originally self-published that went on to make the NY Times Bestseller List.  Fed up with your Senators/Congressmen?  So were the characters in this book and they made the "Distinguished Gentlemen" pay.

2.  The Pelican Brief by John Grisham (1992).  The king of legal suspense hit a home run with this thriller.  Assassinated Supreme Court Justices, and a grad student's thesis stirs up a great book with a lot of twists and turns.  The book was definitely better than the movie that starred Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.

1.  The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (1988).  How can this not be considered the greatest thriller of all-time?  A sadistic serial killer, a locked up cannibal, and a trainee FBI Agent combine to set the standard that all thrillers can only hope to live up to.  The movie with Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins was great, but it still didn't come close to the chills you get from reading the novel. 

In my opinion those are the Top Ten Thrillers of all-time.  Let me know how your list would differ.  Did I miss any good thrillers that make your top ten? 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Political Correctness Killing Free Speech?

After reading the Washington Post this morning I learned that National Public Radio fired Juan Williams for the comments he had made on the Fox News Channel.  Are we at the point where political-correctness is killing free speech?

I can understand collecting a paycheck from a private company and being terminated for remarks that I may publically make that would reflect poorly on that company.  The 1st Amendment guarantees government cannot infringe upon our free speech, but NPR is partially funded through our tax dollars.  Also NPR, is a radio station that greatly enjoys its 1st Amendment Rights.

The comment that Williams made as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor was, “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I've got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Are they right to terminate an employee who is voicing their opinion?  I'm interested in knowing what you think.  Read the Washington Post article for yourself and let me know.  Should Juan Williams have been terminated?  Should NPR, which is partially funded by tax-dollars, be able to terminate one of their employees who were expressing their 1st Amendment Rights?

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Being the fan of thrillers that I am, I don’t know why I kept putting off reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  It has spent week after week on the New York Times Bestseller List, mostly at number one. Last week I finished reading it and I’m glad that I did.
Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate the disappearance of Vanger’s great-niece Harriet. Henrik suspects that someone in his family, the powerful Vanger clan, murdered Harriet over forty years ago.
Starting his investigation, Mikael realizes that Harriet’s disappearance is not a single event, but rather linked to a series of gruesome murders in the past. He now crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, a young computer hacker, an asocial punk and most importantly, a young woman driven by her vindictiveness.
Together they form an unlikely couple as they dive deeper into the violent past of the secretive Vanger family.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo turned out to be a phenomenal thriller that really did keep me glued to the pages.  Larsson’s characters are amazing and force you to sympathize with them almost from the opening pages.  Lisbeth Salander will probably go down as one of the greatest fictional characters conceived as you find yourself almost wanting to protect her but learn that she doesn’t really need help nor would she ask for it. 
The plot and its stunning conclusion didn’t disappoint as well.  The twists, turns, and discoveries will have you dropping your jaw and turning the page at a breakneck pace. 
The largest drawback I’d say the novel has is its length.  It takes about 100 pages of back story and superfluous details before you really get into the heart of the story.  The other negative is trying to follow the family members of the Vanger family.  At times you feel like you need their family tree charted to keep up. 
A word of caution; there are some very graphic and disturbing scenes in this book so it is not for the faint of heart.  However, if you’re like me and tend to gravitate towards the graphic and disturbing in stories, then I highly recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Nook Review

One of the best products I bought this year was the Nook from Barnes and Noble.  The Nook is an e-reader that is sleek, light-weight, and has a lot of great features.
One of the best features that I like is the free 3G connectivity to the online B&N bookstore.  I’ve never had any connection problems and an entire bookstore of e-books is available at my fingertips.  This has been one of my favorite features because as soon as I finish reading one book I’m disappointed if I don’t have another one lined up ready to go.  Not a problem for me now.
With a touch screen menu you can go to your library which holds all of your e-books, check your favorite daily blogs (like this one!), shop for more books, play games, connect to the internet and more.
When I pitched the idea to my wife it was an easy sell.  I have so many books taking up shelf space (and floor space in some rooms) in my house she was excited at the prospect of shoring up some space on the walls. 
But what if I just want to borrow a book from somebody?  If anybody else has a Nook and recommends a book to me, they can lend it to me and vice versa.  So the e-book would go from their Nook to mine. 
The craziness doesn’t stop there.  Go into any Barnes and Noble and through the free Wi-Fi feature you can read any book that Barnes and Noble offers as though you’re reading a book right off the shelf. 
I researched both the Kindle and the Nook before I made the decision for the Nook.  Honestly, they’re not that far apart in features.  The main ones that separated the Nook in my mind were the touch screen menu and the ability to borrow/lend e-books to others.  I think both are great products though. 
Typical e-books run anywhere from the low price of free, to as high as $12.99 for new releases still in hardback. Most books are $9.99.
The Nook with 3G and Wi-Fi currently runs about $199.  The Nook without 3G but has Wi-Fi runs about $149.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Thriller Recommendations

The great thing about thrillers is that they have plot twists and distortions that throw you off and keep you guessing.  This week’s recommendations either came close to throwing me off or did so brilliantly.  If you have not yet read any of these then you should definitely pick one up today.

1.  Executive Privilege:  Political Thriller by Phillip Margolin.  Private Detective Dana Cutler is hired by an attorney with powerful connections.  The assignment is simply to trail a pretty college student and report on where she goes and whom she sees.  The trouble arises when Dana follows her to a secret meeting with the President of the United States in rural Virginia.  The following morning the student’s dead body turns up and Dana has to run for her life. 
-Tim’s Note:  After a certain point I started to see where this one was going, but the ride there was excellent.

2. The Third Option: Espionage/Spy Thriller by one of my favorite authors Vince Flynn.  Battle-scarred protagonist Mitch Rapp returns to take on a sensitive new assignment in Europe, only to have things go awry when his two CIA colleagues turn on him following the assassination of a wealthy German count that has been selling arms to Saddam Hussein. Rapp survives their double-dealing, but he is forced to go underground to decipher the labyrinthine chain of political connections and to learn who was trying to have him killed. Back in Washington, a similar game of spy-versus-spy is being conducted by the elderly, dying director of the CIA and his chosen successor. Rapp eventually surfaces to help his bosses, but things get personal for the ace counterterrorist when Rapp's bride-to-be is kidnapped as part of the ongoing political maneuvers (from Publisher’s Weekly).
-Tim’s Note:  Mitch Rapp makes Jack Bauer look like a little league tee-ball player. Author Vince Flynn actually became a guest writer for the show 24.

3. The Lions of Lucerne: Action Thriller by another one of my favorite authors Brad Thor.  Thirty secret service agents are executed on the snowy slopes of Utah and the vacationing President of the United States is abducted.  Former Navy-Seal turned Secret Service Agent breaks all the rules to avenge his fallen agents and to recover the President
  -Tim’s Note:  Again, if you’re a fan of 24 this book is right up your ally in a violent way. 

4. The General’s Daughter:  Military Thriller by Nelson DeMille.  This book was adapted to film starring John Travolta.  The movie was good, but as usual the book was far better and much more thrilling.  US Army CID Agent Paul Brenner investigates the unusual murder of CPT Campbell, the daughter of the General who commands the post. 
-Tim’s Note:  I read this back before the movie came out and the ending definitely threw me off.  I never saw it coming.  If you’ve never seen the movie nor read the book, definitely pick it up.

5.  The Bride Collector:  Supernatural Thriller by Ted Dekker.  FBI Special Agent Brad Raines is chasing a serial killer who murders beautiful young women and leaves behind a wedding veil.  Unable to catch the killer, Raines recruits the help of a young woman who has the ability to experience the final moments of a victim’s life by touching their body.
   -Tim’s Note:  I’m currently halfway through this one.  The characters are excellent and I’m clueless as to how this one will end.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Platform

Thanks for checking out my first blog!  The reason I created this site is because I'm writing a political/thriller novel.  I’ve researched how to get published and the number one thing I’ve learned is the need to have an established platform.  A strong platform is necessary for many literary agents or publishers to give your manuscript a chance regardless of how good it may be. 

The majority of first-time novels lose money for publishers so they have been less and less willing to give first-time authors a chance.  They basically want to see that you have already established a base of readers and people who will support your book.  Thus, my blog!

Have you ever read a novel and said “I could have written that?”  I do all the time and have multiple story ideas in my head.  So I'm finally going to put it down on paper (technically Microsoft Word but paper sounded better) and see how I do.  So far I’ve completed five chapters of my first draft. 

 In future posts I'll give updates of my progress and a synopsis of my novel.  If you’re also a book fan, I’ll be posting book reviews of my favorites and not so favorites of various genres.  From time to time I’ll give my two cents on current events, music, and various other items of interest. 

I'll be writing a few posts a week so be sure to check them out.  Thanks, and be sure to visit often and to tell your friends and family too!  My goal is to have at least one-thousand followers by the time I have my final edited manuscript, ready to send off to literary agents. 

So that’s the big idea behind me creating a blog!  Hopefully I’ll be able to say someday, you all helped me get published.