Black Lives Matter

How many of you are familiar with Trae Crowder, otherwise known as The Liberal Redneck? I started following him years ago, when something he said struck a chord with me (also, possibly hit my funnybone, because his brand of snark is RIGHT UP MY ALLEY).

So here’s the thing. I grew up in a very VERY small town. A very WHITE small town. Moved there when I was 11, I think? Though in all honesty, it wasn’t much different from the OTHER small *white* town I moved from. So while I did NOT grow up in the deep south (though I’ve lived there, when my husband was still enlisted), I can absolutely relate to a lot of the points he makes. And the best part is – he has a way of making those points that really encapsulates the stupidity, while also educating the listener. All, as I said, with a VERY healthy dose of snark.

My favorite short videos of his were always his porch rants. And this one, well…it hit home. Again, I didn’t grow up in the deep south, but I GUARANTEE that a large portion of the people I grew up spent a fair amount of time hiding shenanigans from the cops. Difference was, in that teeny-tiny WHITE town, that they weren’t gonna have their skulls bashed in or be killed “accidentally” for it. So. Without further ado – The Liberal Redneck and Black Lives Matter.

And if you are curious to hear/see more, here is his YouTube channel.

So. There should be no question on where *I* stand, either. Black Lives Matter, and until we all get behind that, and work to change the built-in, systemic racism that literally BUILT OUR COUNTRY…then no lives can *truly* matter.

Review: The Great Influenza

“In ten days – ten days! – the epidemic had exploded from a few hundred civilian cases and one or two deaths a day to hundreds of thousands ill and hundreds of deaths a day.
Federal, municipal, and state courts closed…Physicians were themselves dying, three one day, two another, four the next. The newspapers reported those deaths – on inside pages with other obituaries – even while continuing to minimize the epidemic. Health and city workers wore masks constantly…
And city authorities and newspapers continued to minimize the danger.”

Reading those words above, it feels *easily* like something you might read in a newspaper or see on television right now, doesn’t it? There are states in our current pandemic that have continued to downplay COVID-19, saying, “It’s just the flu.”. But those words are related to history, and unfortunately, history is something easily dismissed or…altered…for those who prefer not to be *inconvenienced* by the lessons to be learned. Those words come from the book, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry.

I’ll be honest – I’ve had this book sitting on my shelves for a while now. I tend to be an emotional reader, one who has traveled with not only 3 or 4 books – but a Kindle as well, JUST. IN. CASE. But once we really started seeing not only COVID’s effects, but the absolute *refusal* of many to understand how much damage it can do, I was curious to read about the *other* pandemic – the one so many people are comparing *this* one to.

“It takes special trains to carry away the dead. For several days there were no coffins and the bodies piled up after something fierce….It beats any sight they ever had in France after a battle. An extra long barracks has been vacated for the use of the Morgue, and it would make any man sit up and take notice to walk down the long lines of dead soldiers all dressed and laid out in double rows…”

The interesting thing about this book is that Barry doesn’t just discuss the pandemic itself. He *also* talks about the scientists working feverishly on a vaccine, ANY vaccine, that might help somehow. He talks about the mindset of our country at the time – in a war, with a President who had no qualms about bending the laws to make sure every single citizen supported his goals. He gives a history of the science at the time, demonstrating both *how* and *why* the pandemic became as bad as it was. This isn’t to say that the book is boring – far from it. Barry does a good job tying all of this threads together in a seamless way, and it doesn’t drag along or get overly complicated.

“The disease has about reached its crest. We believe the situation is well in hand. From now on the disease will decrease.”

If you get a copy of this book to read, PLEASE do yourself a favor and get the updated version with the new afterword. It’s haunting to read about all the things that were put in place by our government and others after the H5N1 virus emerged, and to know that literally *none* of it was used during this current pandemic. It was also fascinating – and infuriating – to learn that even as China lied to the world about COVID, they had done the same thing with SARS.

“On September 28, marchers in the greatest parade in the city’s history proudly stepped forward. The paraders stretched at least two miles, two miles of bands, flags, Boy Scouts, women’s auxiliaries, marines, sailors, and soldiers. Several hundred thousand people jammed the parade route, crushing against one another to get a better look…It was a grand sight indeed…
The incubation period of influenza is twenty-four to seventy-two hours. Two days after the parade, Krusen issued a somber statement: ‘The epidemic is now present in the civilian population…'”.

It’s interesting as well that Barry discusses those in authority and the truth, particularly considering the current environment, where even simply wearing a mask has been politicized. One of the biggest faults found, looking back, on the governmental response to the 1918 epidemic was the way Wilson had co-opted messaging to the entire country, and how it did not allow for the truth to be shared. Rather, newspapers and governors all over the country (with the notable exception of San Francisco) kept to the party line – which only *increased* the fear felt by so many.

Society is, ultimately, based on trust; as trust broke down, people became alienated not only from those in authority, but from each other…

Those in authority must retain the public’s trust. The way to do that is to distort nothing, to put the best face on nothing, to try to manipulate no one. Lincoln said that first, and best.”

Overall, COVID or not, this is a book worth reading if you have any interest in the politics of healthcare, history, bacteriology, science, or influenza specifically. So many disparate pieces that make up the whole, and it truly does give a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of science, which seems to be similar to the pieces of a puzzle – only by turning those pieces just the right way, and just in conjunction with the pieces around it, will it snap into place and be what is needed at that moment.

“This was influenza, only influenza.”


Well. 2020 is shaping up *nicely*, wouldn’t you say? And by “nicely”, I mean it’s this:

And every. single. time I think it can’t get worse? It does. But the latest thing, well…I don’t know that *anyone* saw this coming. Let’s chat about Mango Mussolini (MM) and #bountygate, shall we?

I served. My husband did 25 and retired. We have friends and family from all the branches spread out all over the place. BUT EVEN WITHOUT ALL THAT – the idea, the *possibility* another country would offer literal BOUNTIES for the lives of American and allied troops is (or SHOULD BE) abhorrent. Sickening. Wrong at the highest levels. That this administration has apparently known about this since *2019* is something I’m literally having trouble wrapping my brain around. Why? Because in the meantime, MM and Putin have chatted on the phone like besties, the Taliban (the actual killers in this insanity) were invited to Camp David, Putin was invited by MM back into G8…AND NOTHING WAS DONE ABOUT OUR PEOPLE. Not even a sternly worded tweet.

The excuse that he didn’t know isn’t gonna wash. Either he knew and decided he’d once again go with his BFF’s word over our (and our allies’!) intelligence agencies, *or* he’s such a fool that they were afraid to tell him.

People. I shouldn’t have to say this, but – NEITHER OF THOSE OPTIONS IS GOOD. And the sickening part, to me, is that there were some bounties collected. At last count – that I know of – at least three. Three Marines whose families will never have their sons, their brothers, their husbands, their daddies come home again. Three Marines who signed on the line to risk their lives, but NOT to be PURCHASED LIKE MEAT.

And the GOP? They’ve enabled this. Every step of the way.

Look. The long and short of it is this – if you’re a veteran, or active duty, or have family that are, and you’re still supporting MM after this? You really need to evaluate why. What is that support getting you? Because cheering on another country that is literally paying to kill your people is…sickening. Un-American. Disloyal. Possibly even traitorous. And THAT shouldn’t need to be said, either.

And yet. Here we are.

It’s my B-B-B-BIRTHDAY. Almost.

Miss Addie & Nyx

Good morning! So those two yahoos up above? They are the two dogs I’m currently fostering for an organization called Northwest Battle Buddies (NWBB). By now, we’ve *all* heard the statistic: 22 veterans PER DAY end their lives. PER DAY, PEOPLE. These are folks suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), and not seeing any other way out of their pain but to end their lives. It’s horrifying that this number is as high as it is, though ANY number other than ZERO is too high. Here’s where NWBB comes in.

Nyx likes bean bags. On couches.

This amazing group, led by a multiple award-winning dog trainer, trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD. The veterans DO NOT pay for their dogs. The org covers the costs, fueled by donations and fundraisers. These pups get more training than *any other* PTSD service dog program, culminating in a 6 week training session with their new partners.

Addie gets herself…stuck. Again.

Here’s where YOU come in. I’m doing a fundraiser on Facebook (don’t @ me, please) for my birthday – and you can donate! When COVID showed up, all training had to stop, and you can imagine the pain this has caused all of us involved. Donations have slowed as well, making their job just that much more difficult. And here’s the thing:
Some of these veterans, that get these dogs? They may have barely left their house FOR YEARS. These dogs give them a freedom that they can barely remember, and a HOPE that they’ve long been denied. These brave folks helped to ensure *we* have our freedom, so now it’s OUR turn to help them have theirs. And YOU can directly take part.


Another donation option is their new drive, Operation Never Quit. $22 a month. $1 for each veteran who dies. Here’s the link:

For more information, I *highly* encourage you to visit their website and watch their 5-part Vision of Hope video series. Each video is short, but gives a great overview of their mission, and very powerfully shows how their mission is making a direct impact on the lives of struggling veterans.

My dear friend Phil, with his NWBB service dog Rimfire

Not everyone is suited for battle, but we can ALL make a difference in the life of someone who made the decision to write that blank check for their country.

And how can you deny THIS:

Happy Monday!

Well. It’s been…a while…hasn’t it? I have felt for quite some time like I was just in survival mode, and really struggling to read and to want to write. I’m *slowly* creeping out of that, though I firmly believe we’re DEFINITELY still in *crisis* mode. I’m reading a really great book, I’m facing the fact that I may never get my beloved job at Powell’s back, and…I’m feeling like functioning is something I can do again. πŸ˜‰

I honestly don’t know how creatives are functioning AT ALL right now. All I have to say to that is – KUDOS TO ALL OF YOU. Seriously. To the authors and the artists and the graphic designers and the songwriters…and to everyone else I didn’t name that relies on a creative outlet…I salute you. And I also *beg* you, please keep creating for the world. Because we all need you and the amazing journeys you can provide, like this squirrel needs to find a better spot to hide his nuts.

So having said all of that – I will absolutely try to be more regular in my posting. I haven’t read any books that have set my hair on fire (literally *or* figuratively) lately, though that may be changing…and it will probably continue to be a mix of book reviews, random thinky bits, some yelly bits…my regular. But for those of you who have stuck around, and for those of you who have reached out – thank you! And it’s off to the races we go…

Review: Deal with the Devil

So…I haven’t been much in the blogging mood. I know I’m not the only one that this quarantine is sitting heavily on. I haven’t been doing a ton of reading, either, for the same reason. BUT – I did reach for a book yesterday, one of the many in my stacks, hoping to find something I could enjoy for a little while. What I got instead was a book that kept me up until a little after 1am.

So, straight up – Kit Rocha’s books are not something in my typical reading list. I am NOT a romance fan. Period. The last romance I read, under duress from a co-worker, was one of the Honey Badger Shifter books by Shelly Laurenston. I will admit to highly enjoying that series, because there was very little actual canoodling and more snark and humor. But I couldn’t turn this one down – MERCENARY LIBRARIANS, PEOPLE.

This is definitely a dystopian read. It takes place in 2086, when everything has changed. There were the Flares, which did damage – severe, but recoverable. However, immediately following those came another threat – and the infrastructure of the U.S. was so weak, that much of civilization as we know it just…collapsed. This particular story takes place around the area of what used to be known as Atlanta, GA – a place where biotech and medical companies took over and basically own all essential services. Food, water, safety – they control it all, and they use hacked soldiers to do it.

Nina is an information broker – she steals the information, and gets paid for doing so. She’s also what passes for a librarian during a time when books have essentially all been destroyed. An ignorant populace is a controllable populace, and so every effort has been made to ferret out and get rid of anything related to books. She does her best, along with her team, to help those around her with the knowledge that she gains – even knowing she risks all their lives doing so. When she’s presented an opportunity to track down one of the fabled Rogue Libraries of Congress – a treasure trove of documents and books, hidden since the Flares – she’s thrown in with a group of AWOL “supersoldiers” with a hidden agenda. Let the games begin.

This is a fast-moving book. Once things kick in – and it doesn’t take long – it just *hauls*. There were a few times I looked up at the clock and thought, “Hm. I should go to bed.”. But I just couldn’t drag myself away from the book. At one point, it was about 11:15pm – the next time I looked up, as I was turning the last page, it was almost 1:30am. Which honestly was great for me, because again – having a hard time finding something that really captured my attention and let me think about something else for a while.

The setting, as I mentioned, the good USofA – though in a vastly different time and with very different circumstances. Having said that – there were times when I read something and recognized it as a possible future from where we are now. Frightening and instructive, all in one. Rocha did a great job really allowing the reader to get a feel for both the changes and the similarities, both in the city and out of it, which truly helped to feel more immersed when dealing with a time so far ahead of our own.

However, in all of that speed, Rocha did not neglect the characters. Nina and Knox – the leaders of their teams. One honest and idealistic, one convinced there’s nothing good left. These are our main characters, both struggling with demons they try to hide from their teams – and from each other. Both are fleshed out more and more as the book goes on, as well as the people around them. I was thankful by the end that this is a series, as I’m anxious to learn more about them all, and while Knox and Nina were central here, it didn’t feel like any of them got shortchanged.

Ok, so the story. Yep – there’s romancey bits. Yes, there’s sex. But honestly (and thankfully for me), none of it felt gratuitous or over the top. I wasn’t reading pages upon pages upon pages of mooning or innuendo or descriptions of body bits doing things with other body bits. Remember – I’m *not* a romance reader. In fact, when I mentioned to a co-worker that I had gotten this arc, I thought she was going to die laughing – she IS a romance reader and knows my tendency to shy away. I think to some degree, the action and adventure toned down the romance some? And the focus wasn’t the romance itself, but the story in which there happened to *be* some romance. If that makes sense? Anyway, there were unexpected twists, there is *definitely* more past to be revealed, and I’m pretty sure there’s a secret person doing hidden deeds in the background and possibly coordinating from a bigger picture than anyone knows? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES! Short version? The sequel will be an insta-buy next year when it’s released.

I’m really glad I focused on the “mercenary librarians” part and NOT the “romance”, because this was a fun, quick, entertaining read that really let me step out of my own brain for a while and enjoy someone else’s. And really – isn’t that what reading is all about? Living – and learning – vicariously, as we journey with someone else?

One last thing – I’m just going to throw this here as a small…clue…to the story. No spoilers, but it’ll make sense after you read the book. Which, by the way, is due out July 28th of this year – so add it to your TBR lists, peeps!

Thank you to Tor for the arc. And if you click on the link under the cover at the top to pre-order, it will take you to – a great way to support indie bookstores everywhere!

Review: Sixteenth Watch

Coast Guard in space. That’s *literally* all it took to get me excited about reading this. Full disclosure? I spent seven years in the Coast Guard, most of them as…well, first I was a Radioman, then they changed it to Telecommunications Specialist, and they were in the process of changing it yet AGAIN when I left. Basically? I was the one that was on the other end of the radio, answering mayday calls, and keeping comms with the small boats, the helos, and whoever else happened to be out there. I was that voice that let everyone know they’d be ok, and made sure my crews had what they needed. But, it didn’t end there – when I got out, I got married to a Boatswain’s Mate, who eventually retired as a Chief. So…what I’m saying is…I have a perspective on the Coast Guard that many of the novel’s readers may not. Most people are labeling Sixteenth Watch as military sci-fi. And, well – they’re not wrong. But for me, while reading it, it was simply exactly what got me hooked – Coast Guard in space.

Sixteenth Watch is also, at its heart, what the Coast Guard is – about its people. The stories, the people, the adrenaline, and the job. Here, we have Capt. Jane Oliver, who suffered a horrific tragedy and is just biding her time until retirement. However, in the age of space, the Coast Guard’s natural mission is being taken over by the Navy, with disastrous results. Jane ends up heading a team destined to try and win the latest and greatest reality show, Boarding Action, in the hopes that their position will be reevaluated. Jane is flawed, but absolutely human. She is that rarest of CO’s – one who trusts in, and believes in, her people. She’s also still haunted by her tragedy, and that comes into play as well.

But it’s not just about Jane – Myke Cole does an *exemplary* job conveying the TEAM that is at the heart of the Coast Guard. Jane’s XO, and the sailors she is training, are more than just words on a page. They are as human as any characters I’ve read, and as the reader goes through the book, the highs will have them cheering and the lows will have them gasping.

Having said all of that – what really had me going in this story is that, as a former Coastie whose life was tied to the Guard in one way or another for almost 20 years? I *felt* that action. I lived it along with the characters on the page. Sure, they’re in space, so some details are necessarily different. But the overall pieces? The search-and-rescue, and the boarding teams? The communication and the nitty gritty? IT’S THE SAME. I did some boardings before I went to school while stationed in Florida – and that tense build-up, waiting to see if the ship you were hailing is going to follow instructions? Nailed it. And even *after* I went to school, I promise you this – the one on the radio is just as tense in the station as those on the boat. Because if shit goes sideways, it’ll be the radioman calling for more units to assist – or ambulances to meet at the dock. Cole really took his Coast Guard experience and was able to capture the feels, and the emotions, and the teamwork that ENCAPSULATES the Guard and its mission to the core.

Not only that, but to be honest? Cole captures the competition between the services as well. It’s no secret among the military that Navy and Coast Guard compete. Generally the Marines like the Coasties – but much of the Navy has little use for us, and vice versa. There’s A LOT I could go into on *that* subject, but…suffice to say that there is no shortage of inter-agency rivalry going on here. Definitely ratchets up the investment in the action.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, honestly, though I hoped it would just be a good read. It was far better than I hoped, and now my hope is that it will give others who read it a better idea (or even *some* idea) of what the Coast Guard is about. Far too many people are unaware of just how broad their mission is, and this seems like an excellent way to help bring awareness in a fun and engrossing way. It’s a fast-paced read, and anyone simply looking for basic military sci-fi will certainly get that here. But anyone who has any background in the Guard will feel right at home – even on the moon.


Another week in paradise, right? And by paradise, I mean weird snows in April, desperate people cutting their own hair (or, in my case, cutting my daughter’s), and finding SOMETHING to cook for the 13,000th meal in quarantine. So, that brings us to our weekly update of *actual* good things – stories that make us smile, or laugh, or giggle, or maybe even tear up a little bit. Truly happy things, because we all need that right now – maybe even more than ever. So…here we go!

First up, straight up “awwwww” power. Because WHO DOES NOT WANT TO BE THIS LITTLE MAN RIGHT NOW?! Dogs – animals in general – can be the best comforts around, and this little boy *knows* this.

Amidst all the talk about illness and death – it’s easy to forget that some of those who are very, very ill DO survive. Those patients mean *a lot* to the hospital workers who have helped care for them – I’m certain it’s got to be emotionally and mentally draining to have people dying left and right. So when a patient survives, and is actually well enough to be discharged? It seems a party is in order!

What needs to be said about this, other than ALL THE FEELS. This gentleman, in his suit and flip-flops, is a DAD. His daughter will remember this moment for the rest of her life – while many of us barely remember the *actual* prom, she will always have this memory. And she will NEVER doubt that she is loved.

And to close us off today, what was it Mr. Rogers said? Look for the helpers? Here’s a great story about one of those very people – a man who never went out of his way to be a helper before, but has stepped up now. Even better? He’s planning on continuing when all of this is over.

It can be hard to see the good through the ever-present cycle of bad news, but that just means we have to try a little harder. I hope that at least one of these strikes a chord with you, because we all need that little extra bounce of joy. And remember – be kind to others, but also be kind to *yourself*.

Re-Evaluate The Connection

It’s day 1,634 of quarantine, and people are getting tired. You have folks like the wannabe Walking Dead in Michigan, protesting the governor’s attempts to keep them safe. You have folks that are trying to do their job, and can’t because said Walking Dead *were blocking the hospital*. This gentleman was not exactly eloquent, but I ABSOLUTELY appreciate his passion:

You have folks who have lost friends and loved ones to COVID-19, and truly understand the toll it takes, knowing those people died very sick and all alone. You have folks like my family – *extremely* lucky to live in a state that was reasonably proactive, and who – to the best of our knowledge – do not know anyone who has been ill or died from this virus.

But through it all, we have people trying to work from home. People who typically work in an office setting, where they can hold regular meetings, and where the internet connections are generally SUPER reliable. Folks who assumed that their home connections were “just fine”. And, reader – they may have been, Before COVID-19. But now? We’re seeing just how NOT fine they really are.

I’d love someone to do a thorough polling or study of how many people who are trying to hold Zoom meetings have struggled with it dropping or slowing down to the point of ridiculousness. How many people who are working on something and suddenly notice their internet has…disappeared. AGAIN. Mine did just as I started working on this. Essentially – how many Americans are finding, suddenly, that their “just fine” internet service is not really just fine, and certainly can’t hold a candle to places like South Korea. And I know for a *fact* it can’t hold a candle, because we had an exchange student from there who simply could not understand how AMERICA had slow-ass internet. I guess they didn’t talk about that at orientation…

Look, this is definitely a first-world problem. But here’s the thing – WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A FIRST-WORLD COUNTRY. And good, reliable internet connection is – these days – a necessity. Numerous studies have been done on why this is so important, particularly in rural communities. Here is an article that discusses some of that:

My hope is that people all over this country are complaining – to their local government, to their state government, and ESPECIALLY to their internet providers, about just how terrible they’ve discovered their service really is. I hope people in rural communities are doing the same, because with so many libraries closed, they are really struggling right now. Looking for jobs, ONLINE SCHOOLING (which we’re *all* struggling with to one degree or another) is virtually impossible. Accessing services for health right now, when so many clinics and offices are doing virtual calls for basic care means they’re left out. So many things that so many of us are taking for granted right now, that have moved to virtual out of necessity, are struggles still for far too many people. Which naturally means that, when the country begins to try to get back on its feet, they’re going to struggle even further with delays and difficulties.

So, people – YOU HAVE PERMISSION TO COMPLAIN. Long and loud, if you please. And if you’re so inclined, please reach out to groups like the one listed below to find out more about how you can help!

Events in the Time of COVID

While COVID is a scary thing (well, more scary than it should be, based on the level of “expertise” at the helm), there *is* one kinda cool thing to come out of it as a reader. So many author events and festivals and Cons have gone virtual, which means – I can actually “go” for the first time. Now, as a bookseller, I get that this is less than ideal – particularly for debut authors. Which is jut one reason why I’m doing my best (especially on Twitter) to help get the word out. However, as a reader, there’s a new equal opportunity availability that just wasn’t there before. And it’s been super exciting to see how different folks have stepped up and really helped to not only get the word out about upcoming titles, but to create these amazing virtual festivals. Talk about lemonade out of lemons!

One of the ones I’m *most* excited about just released their schedule yesterday. And I am NOT ASHAMED to say that I already signed up for a majority of the panels. And honestly, that is another thing that has – by necessity – changed with the virtual setting. Rather than having to pick and choose between panels, because there are usually at least a couple happening at a time, we can attend them ALL. I’m wondering (hoping?) if someone, somewhere isn’t taking note of this, and even after life starts getting back to normal, at least one large virtual con becomes the norm. I WOULD EVEN PAY FOR THIS, PEOPLE. *ahem* Just sayin’.

Anyway, Y’allWest has become Y’allStayHome, and I AM HERE FOR IT. Considering the amount of panels I signed up for, I mean that quite literally. But there are some REALLY awesome panels and authors and books on the two days that this is happening. There are even some giveaways that are gonna happen! I know that something like this is a *lot* of work, and I give the HIGHEST kudos to the folks that decided to make it a thing. And it’s not just this one, either! Here’s just a partial list of virtual bookish events:

Y’allStayHome 2020
April 25-26 –

NOVL CouchFest 2020
April 20-24 –

Virtual Con
April 24 –

Social Distance Book Fest
April 25 –

Random House Book Club: April Happy Hour
April 29 –

Even CoNZealand is going fully virtual, though they’re still working out the details –

Basically – it’s a whole new world out there, and I hope that once COVID has become less of a threat to the world and organizers are working on planning their next year’s events, they really take a step back and pay attention to what was able to be accomplished virtually during this time. Give some thought to those of us who may not be able to travel to all these awesome events, but would certainly LOVE to sign up for a virtual panel (or…umm…13). It *is* possible to have in-person WITH virtual, and that would be such an exciting bonus for those of us who will be able to get all dressed up but have nowhere to go.