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Book Review – The LawDog Files

Like I said the other night, LawDog has published his first book, The LawDog Files. As the title suggests, this is a collection of the best stories from years of writing on his website.

Each chapter is a separate vignette from the author’s career as a deputy sheriff in rural Bugscuffle, Texas.  We meet the critters, both human and otherwise, that kept him on his toes, along with the folks he worked with.

Each story will bring laughter to your lips, tears to your eyes, and thought to your mind.  While this is a quick read, it’s not bubble gum.  Be wary of outbursts of laughter that will draw strange looks from family and co-workers, and enjoy the collection of outstanding yarns in The LawDog Files.


LawDog, one of the finest raconteurs I’ve ever read or met, has published his new book, The LawDog Files.

Here’s the blurb:

LawDog had the honor of representing law and order in the Texas town of Bugscuffle as a Sheriff’s Deputy, where he became notorious for, among other things, the famous Case of the Pink Gorilla Suit. In THE LAWDOG FILES, he chronicles his official encounters with everything from naked bikers, combative eco-warriors, suicidal drunks, respectful methheads, prison tattoo artists, and creepy silent children to six-foot chickens and lethal chihuahuas.

This is something I’ve literally been wishing for for years.  I just downloaded my copy of the ebook, and my reward for getting a couple things finished writing-wise is going to be a pot of good coffee and reading this book cover to cover.  Look for a review to follow.

New Yarn Hits the Street

Jim Curtis has a new story out, The Morning the Earth Shook.  

Here’s his description:

A year after Calexit, the last US bases in Southern California are under siege, with their power and water cut off. Their perimeters are under constant probes by a now hostile nation. There is intelligence the government of California is planning a final all-out action to overwhelm the last bases and claim the spoils of victory for their own…

But the men and women in uniform aren’t going to let their bases be overrun, especially after the murder of their dependents. This is their story, a novella of the last military withdrawal from California. And if there’s one thing the Sailors and Marines are not going to do, it’s go quietly!

I’m a couple chapters in, and I’m having to force myself to put it down because sleep.  Curtis is an excellent storyteller, and this promises to be a pageturner.  If you like military fiction that grabs you and doesn’t let go, give this one a whirl.

Everything Must Go!

Well, actually, I only have this one thing, but it’s a pretty good thing.  And it must go! Somewhere.  Preferably on your e-reader.

So, in order to make this easier on everyone,  “Tales of the Minivandians” is on sale now through the 26th.  Yes, for the low, low price of $1.99, you can get a good e-book to wile away those boring, empty days just before Christmas.  Hey, it’s not like you have anything else to do.  Download the book, get yourself a little holiday cheer on the rocks, and settle in for a few hours of buckles being swashed, tales being told, and axes being swung.

Audiobook Review – Medieval English History

I recently listened to two offerings from Audible’s Great Courses series, “The Story of Medieval England:  From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest” and “1066:  The Year That Changed Everything“.  Both are lecture series given by Professor Jennifer Paxton, and were both entertaining and informative.

“The Story of Medieval England” is a good survey of English history from the late Roman period through the end of the late Middle Ages.  Professor Paxton spends about 3/4 of her time going over the timeline and personalities of the period, but intersperses information about society and life for both commoners and kings.  These vignettes are sometimes separate lectures, but more often are woven into a lecture about events.  If you’re looking for the roots of American history and history, you need to start here.

“1066” delves deeper into the 100 years before and the 100 years after the Norman Conquest.  Where the other series was a survey of almost 1000 years, this course goes into detail about the people, events, and cultures that molded England in the 10th and 11th centuries.

If you’re a history nerd like me, you’ll enjoy these lectures.  Professor Paxton is obviously an expert in her field, but she also has the rare ability to present her information in a way that is informative and interesting.   Between the two courses, you get about 22 hours of lecture. To be honest, I was disappointed when they were done, because I wanted to learn more.

Disclaimer:  I received nothing for doing this review, and I purchased both audiobooks myself.

Deal Alert

Peter Grant’s book, War to the Knife, has been picked up as Amazon’s Deal of the Day.  I reviewed the book earlier this year, and if you haven’t read it yet, now’s a good time to pick it up.

Book Review – The Grey Man: Payback

In a follow-up to last year’s Vignettes, Jim Curtis, who blogs at Nobody Asked Me, has come out with “The Gray Man: Payback“.  This novel picks up a few months after the end of Vignettes, with John Cronin and his family getting ready for the marriage of Jesse, his granddaughter, and Aaron.  Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Deputy Sheriff John Cronin and his granddaughter, Jesse, are preparing for Jesse’s upcoming wedding to her Marine when the Cartel decides to murder some South Texas cops as a payback for arresting their drug smugglers. They send a hit squad to kill Cronin, Jesse, and everyone close to the family. The only problem?

They missed the old man.

Leaving his badge behind, John Cronin, Francisco and a few others head south to teach them a lesson about what old school western justice really means.

Yeah, it’s a story of revenge, and Curtis does an excellent job telling the yarn.  This book is better than the first one, and I loved the first one.  The characters of John Cronin and Fransisco are especially well done, and as the story goes on, they become more and more three-dimensional.

This book is a page turner.  Don’t be surprised if you read it in one sitting.  The story flows very well, and Curtis does an excellent job at tying up the story threads in the end.  I give this one of the highest compliments I can when I say that I would feel comfortable giving this book, which is in no way geared toward children, to my teenagers.  Curtis makes the story real and gritty without being vulgar or graphic.

If you’re looking for a good book to read while you enjoy a couple of fingers of bourbon on a cool night, try this one out.

Disclaimer:  I have known the author for several years, and consider him a friend.  I was a beta reader for this book, but I also bought the final copy that I used for this review.

Book Review – The Book of Barkley: Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever

The Book of Barkley:  Love and Life Through the Eyes of a Labrador Retriever, by L.B. Johnson, is a memoir that tells the tale of her experiences raising a puppy and letting it become her companion and protector.  The story Mrs. Johnson tells is at different times funny, introspective, and sad.  From the adventures of teaching a labrador puppy manners and housebreaking him, to the final trip to the vet that all pet owners dread, but know will happen someday, this book gives us a window in to the love and trust between a woman and her best friend.

Mrs. Johnson is an outstanding writer, and the amount of thought that went into this work really shows.  When she describes a scene, such as when Barkley chases a miscreant away from her yard, I could see it playing out in my mind’s eye.  Her descriptions of environments and people are excellent, and her writing evokes emotions on every page.  To be honest, I laughed out loud at a lot of this book, and I shed tears at times.  I can’t say that about most things I read.

However, while this book was not difficult to read, it is not a fast read.  Cover to cover, it took me two weeks to finish it.  This was due to a need to set it down and give myself time to ruminate over the chapter or two that I had just finished.  Like I said, the author is a master at setting a scene and transporting you to a time and place she wants to describe.  After doing that for a while, I needed to think about what she was trying to say and the message she was trying to convey.

One of the best things I can say about any book is that I plan to read it again and that I plan on giving it to my children to read.  The Book of Barkley has found a permanent home on my bookshelf, and once Girlie Bear and her brothers have found a space in their school reading lists, they are going to be encouraged to experience Mrs. Johnson’s story.

In other words, this is a book in which I think everyone will find something that will touch them.  If you’ve ever had that special pet that was your constant companion, you will connect with this story, and I heartily recommend it.


Book Review – Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Reader Dennis the Librarian Shusher asked for the recipe for Irish Woman’s Apple-Cinnamon-Bourbon preserves, but since it’s a variation on a recipe from a book, I thought I’d just tell you about the book.

Irish Woman and I use the “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving“, edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine, for a lot of our home canning recipes.  The book has everything from basic techniques for water-bath and pressure canning, to charts for how much product you will get out of a given amount of fresh produce, to recipes for sweet, savory, and spicy foods that can be canned.  Irish Woman took their “Apple Pie in a Jar” recipe, removed the raisins, and added a bit of bourbon into the recipe*.  It’s an excellent reference if you’re an old pro, or a great way to get information on getting started.  It has several recipes for pasta sauces and salsa that I have used, as well as a ton of jam and jelly recipes that make your mouth water.  The section on pickles came in very handy last summer when I over-planted cucumbers.

The layout of the book is logical and easy to use, and the index is outstanding for when you need to search for a topic or recipe.  Directions are laid out in an easy-to-understand way, and they are given in a way that ‘s useful to both the neophyte and the old hand.

If you’re gardening, hitting the farmers’ market, or just noticing good sales at the grocery store, and want to try your hand at canning, give this book a shot.


*OK, more than a bit.  She put about half a cup of cooking bourbon into the mix while it was cooking, then put a dash of it in each jar before adding the jam for canning.

Book Review – War to the Knife

Peter Grant has debuted his newest book, War to the Knife.  If you enjoyed his “Maxwell Saga” books, you’ll like this even more.

This book takes place in the same universe as the Maxwell series, but centers on the small, backwater planet of Laredo.  The planet has been invaded and conquered by the Bactrians, but resistance continues.  The Bactrians are a despicable breed, and are either killing or enslaving what is left of the planet’s population to make it into a new possession.  The story centers around efforts by the resistance to hurt the Bactrians, until an opportunity to mortally wound them comes along.

This book is a page turner, and you will find it hard to put it down.  Since the setting doesn’t encompass an entire galaxy as it did in the Maxwell books, Peter was able to concentrate on describing the people and places on Laredo in detail.  The action comes early, and is frequent, but there are also a lot of places where the story is carried along with conversation.  This is not a thriller by any means, but neither is it a bunch of talking heads going on for 100 pages at a stretch.  The story is compelling and grabs you in the first few pages.  Don’t be surprised if you finish it in one sitting.

If you’re looking for  Tom Clancy techno-babble or a Star Trek “everything works really well and happens pretty quickly in space” book, then keep looking.  Grant asks that you believe that faster-than-light travel is possible, that fusion reactors and energy weapons work, and that space travel within star systems is common, and that’s about it.  He makes an attempt to stick with at least a bit of Newtonian and Einsteinian physics when it comes to space travel, in that you can’t just drop into hyperspace at the drop of a hat or get across a star system or between star systems in a few hours.  Communications between systems are handled via messages on ships, and everyone is restricted by the speed of light when it comes to space combat and communications.  It makes the story longer when you have to say “The missile will get there in six hours”, but I find it more realistic.

The principle characters in this book, both good and bad, are straight out of central casting.  The gritty, honorable resistance fighters, true to their last act, are there.   So are the despicable Bactrian security forces, who are even called the “SS”.   Some of the more interesting characters are in the Bactrian army.  Where the black-suited security guys are sadists and villains, the brown-uniformed professionals of the army seem to be honorable and fair, even if they are part of the forces repressing and destroying the Laredan population and culture.

War to the Knife can probably be enjoyed by anyone from teenagers to senior citizens.  It’s not a children’s novel, but it definitely can be enjoyed and understood by younger readers.  There is a bit of language and implied sex in it, but it’s not flagrant.  I would definitely allow Girlie Bear or Little Bear to read it.I wouldn’t suggest starting this book after dinner, because you’ll be up late finishing it.   Like I said, it’s a page turner.  Get in the hammock with a cool beverage, tell the kids to leave you be for a few hours, and enjoy.

Disclaimer – I was a beta reader for this book, and Peter gave me a gift card to Amazon to thank me for my help.  However, I used that gift card to purchase a copy of the book once it was published, and I received nothing for this review.

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