Book Reviews: Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, An Anthology

First, I should say, I have had the very great pleasure of meeting and talking with a few of the authors in this anthology in real live person.  Some of them are very dear friends.   I have also been reading the Joe Ledger series since the first book came out (and there’s a story behind how I got introduced to the series that will be its own post later on) and the idea of an anthology in the canon with the characters I love so much made me ecstatic.

Unstoppable cover (taken from

Now, if you have no idea who Joe Ledger is and you like weird thrillers with extremely plausible science (the type of ”no wait, that’s a real thing that is plausible and could happen…oh crap”)  then hie thee to a library or to your favorite bookseller.   They start off with a bang and just get better and better from there.   I’ve heard them  described as “comic books in novel form” and there’s some truth to that.   Jonathan Maberry is amazing at what he does and how he structures his books and it’s the best kind of thing to pick up one of these books and go for a ride down a fantastic, all too plausible rabbit hole.  He’s written an introduction to Joe and his world in the beginning of the anthology in case you want to pick up the anthology first for a taste of what the Ledger books are all about.

The anthology itself spans over the entire timeline of the canon novels and even includes a couple of crossovers with other book series, a thing that has added a few new books to the list of to be acquired.     These stories made me laugh, cheer, and in a couple places, cry (Three Times, by Jennifer Campbell-Hicks). All of the short stories in this anthology are amazing, but I wanted to focus on two of the stories that stayed with me the most.   The first being Mira Grant’s  Red Dirt, which is a short that takes place after the events of the second book in the series, The Dragon Factory, and if you know Mira’s writing…it’s flawless in how the prose grabs you and sucks you into the story she’s weaving.  You don’t read this short, you experience it.   Her sense of place is magnificent.   You can feel the despair and the heartache and the way that red dirt sticks to everything it touches.   It’s gloriously executed and a perfect coda to the second book.  It also made me sniffle for the remembering of certain events.

The second is actually my favorite out of all of them and it’s written by Keith DeCandidoGanbatte, features a member of Joe’s team, Lydia Ruiz who is one of the first members of an all-female SEAL fire team.   She is easily one of the most badass characters in the series and this story gives us a snippet into how she got to be a member of Echo Team.   Lydia is a hell of a martial artist and Keith’s own expertise in that field shows in this story.    It also touches on a sensitive topic around one of the people in Lydia’s life and while the situation is an all too real one, the outcome was one that I appreciated the hell out of as much as I simultaneously wished that situations like that would really end that way in actual life.    Just like with Mira’s story, you don’t read this one so much as you experience it.   You feel the wind in your hair, that smell you only get when driving on the overseas highway.  It’s easy to get into Lydia’s head, to see what she sees.   Ganbatte deepens your understanding of Lydia Ruiz as a character and a person.

So all in all, this anthology was exactly I wanted and hoped for.  Some of my favorite authors writing in one of my favorite series.   Definitely a book worth picking up if you haven’t already.  Get it here from your favorite indie bookstore!

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Wednesday Reads (On Thursday)

Because I like to be a rebel and Wednesday was  full of preparations for this early Thursday morning and also troubleshooting cable issues ( apparently all the channels decided to change and that disrupted a lot of things).

So what am I reading, what have I currently read, and what’s still upcoming from the To Read Pile?

Well, glad you asked.

What I’m Reading:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – which has been recommended to me by many places and people and I am happy to report that they were all correct. This book is fascinating for many reasons. It will draw you in with the dialogue and ease of reading and keep you by the narration of the life and viewpoint of a very well known man in one of British history’s most well known periods. The prose is captivating and Hilary Mantel weaves the historical details into a narrative that is easily understood. I haven’t yet seen the PBS Masterpiece Special they’ve based on this, but if they’re true to the book, then it will be fantastic I’m sure.

Fading Suns: RPG book – because this will factor into Christmas gifts and I am making sure that I am familiar with the system and requirements so that modules can be built.   I’m dipping more into GMing which will be fun.

What I’ve Finished:

The second Mitch Rapp book, (chronologically) Kill Shot by Vince Flynn was a hell of a sequel to American Assassin. Mitch gets himself into and out of trouble with a little bit of help from Irene and Thomas and we see Stan Hurley and our good old friend Victor again. It was overall a fairly satisfying read and I’ll be fascinated to see if this is the next Flynn novel to get movie treatment.  I have a lot more feelings about this book, but they are all massively spoileriffic so if you’ve read it,  poke me in the comments and we can flail over it together.

Church Refugees by Ashleigh Hope and Josh Packard

This was an interesting book that I was reading, partly for research and partly for personal reasons.  It’s amazing and also painful.   It talks about the Dones, people who are followers of a certain religious path that are for one reason or another, done with the Church as the institution we are familiar with, but not done with their faith. It takes a sociological look at this phenomenon  and though both contributors are themselves believers in this religion, they try and minimize their internal bias to only focus on the data gathered.  Their academic and scientific standards have been top notch and I want to throw this book at every pastor and missionary I know.   Because I believe it will be that helpful, because I think it will be able to express things in a way that will make sense and be better able to communicate why precisely there are a lot of people leaving the church in order to serve God more.

Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie’s amazing novel about a murder on a train and the detective who has to solve the mystery while the train is stuck in the snow. One of the more interesting character novels, as it provides a great insight into Hercule Poirot’s mindset and personal set of ethics.

What’s Next:

Old Man’s War – my first Scalzi novel! I’m excited to read this.

The King in Yellow – Robert Chambers – this one is for research purposes, but I am so curious about it.  I’ve heard so much about it here and there.

What are you reading?   Share in the comments!

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Renaissance Research: Book Edition

A friend asked me what were some good books to read if one wanted to do more research into the Renaissance. I assembled this list for her and thought it might also be of some use to people reading this blog!   So here you go – if you want to research the Renaissance, this is where I would start.   This is not an exhaustive list, but it’ll give you a good comprehensive grounding on some of the ins and outs and how to structure any further research you choose to do.

Margaret King’s The Renaissance in Europe
This is a fairly good informative textbook – King works more or less thematically through the Renaissance and it gives you a nice grounding in just about everything. It is definitely the book I would go to first before delving into more heavier researching.

Gene Brucker’s The Society of Renaissance Florence – A Documentary Study
My Renaissance and Reformation professor made a comment once in class, that just about everything that ever happened in the European Renaissance – you could find an example of that happening in Florence. He’s yet to be proven wrong. Florence is an amazing case study for the Renaissance as a whole, and that’s due in no small part because Florence is obsessively well-documented. Where the rest of Europe will have a hundred documents or so total – Florence (not to mention the rest of Italy) has thousands upon thousands of documents. Like King, it is organized thematically – but the documents that Brucker has selected give a very good picture of what day to day life was like.

Kenneth Atchity’s The Renaissance Reader
This compilation gives access to selections from the important literary, artistic, social, religious, political, scientific and philosophical texts of the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Louise Labe, Bruni, Dante, Chaucer, Villon, Malory, Copernicus and Shakespeare, as well as illustrations representing the work of Giotto, Donatello, Bellini, Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael and Brueghel. It also provides first-hand encounters with the Renaissance in the form of letters, diaries, poetry and art.

Michael Baxandall’s Painting and Experience in 15th century Italy 2nd Edition.
The Renaissance was a highly material and visual culture – there are social cues and codes incorporated into the paintings of the time. This book is both an introduction to fifteenth-century Italian painting and as a text on how to interpret social history from the style of pictures in a given historical period, this examines early Renaissance painting, and explains how the style of painting in any society reflects the visual skills and habits that evolve out of daily life. Renaissance painting, for example, mirrors the experience of such activities as preaching, dancing, and gauging barrels. The volume includes discussions of a wide variety of painters, including Filippo Lippi, Fra Angelico, Stefano di Giovanni, Sandro Botticelli, Masaccio, Luca Signorelli, Boccaccio, and countless others. Baxandall also defines and illustrates sixteen concepts used by a contemporary critic of painting, thereby assembling the basic equipment needed to explore fifteenth-century art. This new second edition includes an appendix that lists the original Latin and Italian texts referred to throughout the book, providing the reader with all the relevant, authentic sources. It also contains an updated bibliography and a new reproduction of a recently restored painting which replaces the original.

Craig Harbison’s The Mirror of the Artist – Northern Renaissance Art in its Historical Context
This book looks at the Northern Renaissance and how that transformed differently from the Southern (Italian) Renaissance – it places the art inside the historical context of the time and overlaps with the Reformation. Fascinating reading and has some amazing pictures of the kinds of Northern Art that existed or developed.

These last two names are more along the lines of primary source material, but both are rather essential for sort of understanding Renaissance-era thought.

Niccolo Machiavelli – The Prince and Discourses I & II (Free)
Machiavelli wrote more than just the Prince -which should be required reading for everyone, everywhere, but I digress. His Discourses are also very valuable readings with regards to political thought – and he was more than a simple theorist, being the foreign minister of Florence in the early 1500s–until thrown out of office and tortured by the Medici in 1513–his Discourses and the Prince illustrate Renaissance Italy’s dangerous political environment, on which Machiavelli drew for his insights on political conduct.

Baldassare Castiglione – “The Art of the Courtier” (free)

This book is amazing. It addresses the constitution of a perfect courtier, and in its last installment, a perfect lady. It is the definitive account of Renaissance court life. The book is organized as a series of fictional conversations that occur between the courtiers of the Duke of Urbino in 1507 (when Baldassare was in fact part of the Duke’s Court). In the book, the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with beautiful, elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures. At the same time though, the courtier is expected to have a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities, Classics and fine arts. Over the course of four evenings, members of the court try to describe the perfect gentleman of the court. In the process they debate the nature of nobility, humor, women, and love.

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Dewey’s Readathon!

Wow.  This October marks the 10th anniversary of Dewey’s Readathon, and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I urge you to check this link out.    It’s an amazing thing that I look forward to every time it rolls around.    This year they are doing 30 Days of Readathon leading up to it and it looks like a blast.   So here’s the chart if you want to keep up with me.


I’m a few days behind, but I’ll try and catch up as quickly as possible, when life allows me to.  Being a writer with a day job does have it’s downsides.

30.  Favorite Book

Gosh, that’s like trying to pick a favorite child or pet.  My library isn’t 2500+ strong because I’m not really a big reader.  There are a few that I habitually go back to, some that I own in several formats, and then there are some that I continually buy and re-buy because I keep flinging them at people (Good Omens, if you’re curious. I’ve bought it about 19-20 times by now).  So I will talk about one of the books that I re-read frequently.   It’s an old book, written by Edgar Rice Burroughs back in 1912 and it’s the first in the Barsoom series.  I’m talking, of course, of A Princess of Mars.   You might be more familiar with the movie based on it that Disney put out years ago, titled John Carter.  The movie itself is excellent and a fairly decent adaptation of the first two Barsoom books.   This book mixed my love of fantasy and history with my love of space and gave me exciting adventures

Cover (taken from

on a far away planet. It gave me a heroine that wasn’t the traditional damsel in distress.   She’s a competent adventurer, fully capable of defending herself and surviving the wilds of Mars without John’s help.  The movie made her the leading scientist of Helium, which was something I adored.   It gave me a healthy romance pairing and aliens who weren’t humans in funny costumes.  It gave me a world that felt alive and lived in.

It’s the first out of a long series and overall, it’s one of my favorite reads and re-reads because it’s all around a great story.

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Book Review: The Ice Orphan of Ganymede

Book two in the The Jupiter Chronicles, The Ice Orphan of Ganymede kicks off with a bang.  The Jovians are free from Phobos, but there’s still a lot of cleanup to be done and a civil war that is threatening to erupt.    First Petros’ popularity has taken a hit and one of the Jovian General is advocating for his replacement.

But that’s not all,  Ian back on Earth is sick and getting sicker.   Nothing on Earth is able to help him, so Callie tries to take him back to Jupiter to see if they can cure him.    What they find is a mess of a situation and a possible lead in the Book of Ganymede.     Except the Book of Ganymede is missing so Ian and Callie have to go off to find it first.  In doing so, they find much more than just something to help Ian.

The second book in this series ably builds on the framework set up by the first novel and opens up more the intriguing universe set up by the author.   We learn more about Jupiter and its inner workings and the plot twists are delightful.   I can hardly wait to see where the next book takes us.

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Book Review: Invisible 3: Essays and Poems about Representation in SF/F

So as a quick disclaimer, I was always going to buy this book.  I was always going to make it part of the library of both digital and dead-tree format books that I have.   I personally know one of the people featured in it and Jim Hines as an editor was a huge selling point.    I have met him in person and while they say never meet your heroes, I was not disappointed in the slightest by meeting him.   He also gives super awesome hugs.   I had also heard great things about  Mary Anne Mohanraj who co-edited it with Jim.

I was always going to buy this book.   I knew I would read it and I had a feeling I would love it.  I knew from the premise that it would probably emotionally compromise me and I was not wrong there.  My tears are good tears, because this collection, while it points out where SF/F has failed or where we can do better as a genre with regards to representation for POC  and people with disabilities and alternative sexualities, it’s ultimately hopeful.

Cover of Invisible 3 ( taken from the Amazon page)

It starts conversations that we need to have.   Points out viewpoints that maybe we hadn’t stopped to consider before.   The essays and poems presented here are some of the finest writing I have seen and what each piece contributes is priceless.  The knowledge, the wisdom, the heart behind each piece is invaluable.

I can’t pick a favorite piece.  I’ve re-read this book twice now and I love all of them.   I will be purchasing it in every single format that it is released in because I want to support the people in it, because I want to support what they are after in producing such a work, and because I lend books freely to people and I need to have it accessible in whatever formats someone might need it in.  It is a wonderful collection that is both brilliant and necessary.

So if you have means, pick this up.  You won’t be disappointed at all.   And if you don’t have the ability to grab it or the library doesn’t have  it yet,  drop me a line and I am happy to lend it to you or send it to you.

Here is the link to the Kindle format on Amazon:  Invisible 3    The editors, Jim Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj are both on Twitter and elseplaces at @jimchines and @mamohanraj

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Book Review: The Bishop of Port Victoria

One of the great things about conventions is that occasionally people hand you things once they know that you a) read and b) review things.   This was the case with this book, the author and I have floated around similar circles for a while, both being writers and local to the Nashville area.    So I was handed this novel and wow what a ride it’s been.

Picture a world where a super serum transforms three college students into heroes.   Superheroes that took to the street and fought crime and racked up a body count that the mobs could only dream of.   What if you had someone who was dedicated to ending this experiment by any means possible, to wiping out anyone tainted with the serum permanently.

The titular character of this book is such a person.  And I will tell you that this book is gripping and well-written.   Alan’s craft is solid and good, the imagery is incredibly vivid.    This character, however,  this Bishop who’s alternate persona of a goodly local priest… Eric Raven is a horrible human being.

Because this book, this series of interconnected short vignettes, is about the rise and eventual fall of Father Eric Raven, The Bishop of Port Victoria.     A man who hates the supers so much that he will murder babies in their sleep to prevent the super bloodline from propagating.    He is the worst kind of human and just like a horrific car crash happening in front of you on the freeway, once you pick this up, you’ll have a hard time looking away.

It’s not an easy read by any means, and it hits especially hard, given the current climate of fear and hatred that permeates our country at the moment.   Father Raven is the embodiment of the darker uglier sides that exist in this country.   I was not sorry to see how he eventually winds up.

If you like darker fiction and the gritty pulp styles of writing, give this a try.   If you are at all sensitive to racial/religious violence and/or violence against women, I’d stay away from it.  It can get triggery in places.

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Book Review: The Secret of the Great Red Spot.

So this past weekend, I was at a convention.   Hypericon 2017, which is the localest of local cons to me and one that I will likely attend in the future as well.    I mention this because I had the honor and pleasure to meet Leonardo Ramirez while I was there.

Hearing him speak about his works was honestly inspiring and he has a series that involves Jupiter (and later on, Mars, I am given to understand) and I was increasingly intrigued by that, so I picked them up while I was there.

The Jupiter Chronicles: The Secret of The Great Red Spot.

I was delighted by the first book in the Jupiter Chronicles.  It is a Young Adult book, specifically targeted for young chapter readers, so parents don’t be afraid to hand this one to your kids.

The Secret of the Great Red Spot was engaging and I loved the way it read.   It was simple to understand without feeling patronizing or like it was being dumbed down for kids.   I wish I had had something like this when I was smaller.

The two main characters, (Callie and Ian Castillo) were deeply amusing and I could clearly picture them and their antics in my head.   The  book also lends itself well to being read aloud, which is pretty awesome.   There are fantastic space battles, awesome hijinks, and a farting robot.

It’s not often that I find myself saying this, but I really hope this gets picked up by a kids network and made into a show or movie.   I think it would lend itself really well to that kind of medium as well.

This is a great first book and I’m looking forward to where this series goes next.

You can find this book and Leonardo’s other works here:  The Leonardoverse 

If you’ve read this book and want to chat about it, leave a comment below!

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Book Review: Kent State by James Michener

This is  an older review done for a college class a long time ago, found again as I was organizing some of my files this weekend.  I’m putting it here in case it will inspire more people to pick it up.  It was definitely one of those books that will leave an imprint on you.  DJG

Michener, James A. Kent State: What Happened and Why. New York: Random House Inc, 1971. Pp. 559

Kent State. A tragedy that shook the nation and caused several hundred universities and colleges to close their doors; a clash between two competing lifestyles resulting in students who openly discussed revolution and their parents who couldn’t understand it and took up arms against the younger generation. James Michener wrote this book in an effort to understand the events that took place on that fateful weekend at Kent State University, and more importantly, why they happened. In doing this, he tracks the lives of five students at Kent (Allison Krause, Bill Schroeder, Jeff Miller, Sandy Scheuer, and Doug Wrentmore) during these first four days of May 1970. He also explores all of the different facets of Kent State, the factors, motivations, and decisions that all contributed to the tragedy that became Kent State. The shootings themselves happened on Monday, May 4th, but the events leading up to it began with the rioting and trashing of Water Street on Friday the 1st.

The events that took place on Friday started in the late evening, with a group of rioters defacing Water Street property and then blocking traffic with a human-chain barricade. The police were alerted with news that a riot was in progress around 11:21pm, but it took another hour before they marched forth to start clearing the streets (52). By that time, the serious rioting had started, with the piles of garbage burning in the streets and the smashing of windows along Water Street. By 12:15am, the riot police slowly moved towards the affected area, at 12:35, Mayor Satrom declared a state of emergency, and at 12:57am, the Mayor was driven to the center of town so that he could announce the state of emergency and read the riot act. It took until 3am for the students to disperse and return to campus, at least those that had escaped being arrested. There were several reasons given for Friday’s rioting, it was spring and the students had gotten carried away with spring fever, it was President Nixon’s announcement that more troops going into Cambodia that had inflamed the radicals. It was organized by upperclassmen, it was organized by outsiders, the opinions of people who were present differ wildly. Michener suggests that it was a combination of both, a spring prank gone bad and a reaction to the speech Nixon had given. What is agreed upon by the majority of people present is that neither drugs nor alcohol was a factor (135). Out of 1000 rioters, only 14 arrests were made (136).

Saturday, May 2nd saw the burning of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) building. At 7 pm a small crowd started to gather around the campus’ Victory Bell. As the crowd grew, the radical leaders started to circulate handbills speaking against ROTC. Around 8:10pm, the mob started to hurl rocks at the ROTC building before moving to an impromptu battering ram and tossing flares at the building. By 8:30, the building was ablaze. It was not a bad fire, easily extinguished, if the firemen had been able to make their way through the mob. All attempts to get through had been stopped by the students, who stole the hose nozzles, punctured holes in the hoses themselves, and in one case, had a hose hacked to pieces by a machete (195). Both extra police from neighboring cities and the National Guard had been called out. The presence of the Guard did help to prevent the burning of several other buildings. An 8pm curfew for town and 1am curfew for campus were initiated. No arrests were made.

Sunday, May 3rd was a day of contrasts. The morning and the afternoon, there had been a carnival like attitude among the students and National Guard. People were laughing and joking and having a good time. Sunday night saw more rioting, less flamboyant, but it was the watershed of the weekend, according to Michener. After the events on Sunday night, it was inevitable that some kind of conflict would happen on Monday.

Monday, May 4th was a bright sunny day and students were milling in the commons area in between morning and noon classes. By noon, there were between 800 and 1100 students gathered in the commons area. Tear gas was fired into the crowd. The order was given for the Guardsmen to regroup back at the ROTC building. At 12:24pm, with their escape route clear to the ROTC building, some Guardsmen trailing behind their colleagues, suddenly turned around, and brought their rifles up to the ready position. A single shot was heard and then a entire volley sounded. Twenty-eight Guardsmen fired, but only a few of them fired into the crowd. Many of them fired into the air instead. When the dust settled, thirteen people had been shot, four died of their wounds. The four who died were Allison Krause, Bob Schroeder, Jeff Miller, and Sandy Scheuer, students that Michener had tracked throughout the course of the book (411).

Unlike his other published works, this book doesn’t read like a novel. It is a sober piece of nonfiction writing, a well researched scholarly history complete with footnotes. Michener is careful to present not to spin the story to one side or another. He simply gives it to the reader as it was given to him, and what analysis he does do, he clearly shows the reader how he arrives at that point. Each section is divided up into explaining some of the backstory, the history behind certain movements, clarifying terms like “lifestyle” and “revolutionary.” The book has seven chapters, beginning with a brief view of Kent, Ohio and ending with a chapter dedicated to the significance of Kent State, not only for Ohio, but for the nation as a whole. For each event, there is an opening statement that simply gives the facts of what happened. There is no whitewashing, no attempts at justification, no analysis. It is a simple description of what happened when. After this opening statement, Michener includes several different viewpoints and interpretations of the events that unfolded, several of them contradictory. It is up to the reader to evaluate them and decide which they believe to be true (49). At the end of each chapter, Michener offers up what he considers to be his reasoned analysis of what happened. I enjoyed this structure, it gave me a very good grasp not only of the events that occurred, but also of the mindset of the various people involved.

This book is a product of research done in and around Kent State University from July to December 1970. The sources that the author used were all real people though some of the names were changed, and in every instance of that being the case, Mr. Michener states it plainly in the text. His sources came from the people of Kent, students, faculty, townspeople. Some of these sources were better than others. All of the dialogue in the book is as accurate as memory and notes can supply, and where there is instance of testimonies conflicting with one another, the contradictions have been allowed to stand as they are. Mr. Michener writes beautifully, his prose flows in an easily understandable way, and the organization of the book itself was very well thought out.

This book is very valuable. It provides a decent, if not troubling account of what happened during those first four days in May 1970. Every step along the path is outlined and explained and analyzed for a greater understanding of what took place and why it took place. In the foreword, Michener writes, “…You need to know what happened to you, so that you can prevent it from happening again” (viii). Kent State was a tragic accident and by becoming aware of it and what caused it, we can better understand how to avoid a recurrence of it.

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