Book Review: Catling’s Bane

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I just finished reading Catling’s Bane by D. Wallace Peach (which is the first book in the Rose Shield series) yesterday around noon. And let me tell you: this book was WONDERFUL! It was one of those that was impossible to put down… every time I picked it up we would spend at least an hour or two together and I stayed up later than I should a couple nights. I got ahold of this book because I regularly read the authors blog and she announced that Catling’s Bane would be free this past weekend. I had been wanting to read her work so I jumped on the opportunity. Plus, I am a poor cop at the end of the day and free always works well for me! Unfortunately for me, I loved this book so much and am so invested in Catling’s story emotionally that I will have to spend money and read the other books now…

I read it on the Kindle app on my MacBook Pro so I didn’t see the cover art in person but, I am looking at pictures of it as I write this review and I must say that it is simple yet stunning. The back cover of the book describes Catling’s Bane in the 51ymwORAwSLfollowing, “In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world. A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. Most of the guild wish her slain. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner?” The author describes it as part fantasy and part science fiction, which I think is accurate. But those who aren’t fantasy fanboys or girls need not shy away from this book. In a world where money and status mean very much and everyone is seeking to use powers for their own sake, I think there are lessons and moments in this book that all fans of literature will like. Catling is really an amazing heroine. She is easily relatable and I began sympathizing with her nearly immediately. She is a tragic protagonist. It seems throughout the book Catling experiences heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak and I was left feeling sorrow in her sad moments and becoming upbeat at her victories.

During the read, I think you will also come to know and love a few other characters. The characters are all dynamic and none are flawless, which I like. I don’t particularly like books that create characters without struggle or flaw and Peach does a great job of keeping her characters believable and real, even in a fantasy world. The book is well written and the grammar and spelling is on point. I can’t recall any issues there off the top of my head and you can tell it has been well reviewed and put together.

D. Wallace Peach says she began writing late in life as other demands in her life diminished. She lives in Oregon with her husband, two dogs and Pinky the cat in a log cabin (where’s the invite?). She says that she didn’t love reading at a younger age until she got ahold of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R. Tolkien. I would argue that Tolkien’s influence is clear on her work in that the world she creates in Catling’s Bane is vibrant and you can tell there is a lot of depth and thought that went into making it be well mapped. As I said earlier, I have read Peach’s blog regularly. Whether a blog post, a comment or, now, one of her books, I am always impressed with her kindness and desire to make the world a better place that is apparent in her attitude and writing. She has a great rhythm to the way she writes, if that makes any sense, and while reading the book the words and the way they met together just flowed and “sounded” nice in my head.

Similar to the author, my love at a young age was blossomed by science fiction and fantasy as well. The first book that truly got me into reading was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Later, I found the works of Tolkien and others that fed that love of reading even more. The last five years or so, however, I have gotten more into reading non-fiction and especially military history stuff. But Catling’s Bane reminded me of every reason why I loved fantasy so much. Thank you, D. Wallace Peach for rekindling my smoldering embers of love for this genre and I am so, SO excited to read more of your books.

For those of you curious, you can find D. Wallace Peach’s blog Myths of the Mirror if you click on the hyperlink. There, you can read more about her and there is a section detailing her other books as well.

Book Review: Rogue Justice – The Making of the Security State

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Let me start off by saying this so you’ll hopefully read the rest of the review… I just finished reading Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State written by Karen J. Greenberg. The book is about the torture programs and domestic spying that took place and the legal battles behind these programs that happened post 9/11. That being said, by its very nature, I think it will ignite some political grand standers from both sides of the aisle. In fact, I glanced at some reviews at Amazon that accused Greenberg of creating this book as leftist propaganda and bashing her for the content. As a fairly moderate conservative, I did not find that to be the case at all and found the book very interesting. I just add that as a warning because, while I believe every American SHOULD read this book, I would not recommend it if you find yourself on the extreme right or left and can’t at least learn about and consider things that may not fit the narrative that was fed to you by your specific political party. But again, the book is a really good read and I think, as a citizen of the United States of America, people should really take time to read this book and understand their Constitutional rights and the infringements that were made on them during a time of great fear. As an aside, I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. I am not being compensated in any other way and have not been paid or asked to give this book a good or bad account.

The book starts at and just after 9/11. It then follows the various legal parameters and battles surrounding the domestic spying, “enhanced interrogation”, indeterminate detention of prisoners, the drone strike “kill list” program and so much more. It follows decisions by both the Bush and Obama administrations during these time periods and I think Greenberg does an ample job of presenting the short falls of both groups. At least to me, she did not show favoritism to one side or the other but was equally critical. Generally, I found that I was sympathetic to the issue that Presidents Bush and Obama faced. I think they both felt morally bound to keep America safe first and they were willing to go to great lengths to do so. In the mean time, many Constitutional safeguards were rolled back, often times illegally as it turned out, in order to achieve this “safety”. A little spoiler: the US government collecting all of its citizens metadata and information and the torture program both proved to be ineffective and, in fact, likely were detrimental to our image both locally and internationally. The book also details Edward Snowden’s revelations and how they fit into the legal landscape and helped expose spying on US citizens. One thing that Greenberg does well with this, is that she presents what Snowden did and how it fit into the picture at the time but doesn’t force you to form an opinion one way or another. If you view him as a whistle blower and a true Patriot that was trying to help Americans, as I do, or you view him as a traitor, your view will not likely be changed but maybe you will appreciate an alternate perspective. The book is heavy in legalese, so to speak, and it can drag if you are not mentally prepared for that, but I do feel like Greenberg did an ample job pushing the narrative along as well as can be done with that in mind.

A little background on Karen Greenberg is that she is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law and she has also authored The Least Worst Place: Guantanamo’s First 100 Days. As a side note, her disdain for Guantanamo and what happened there and what it represented is apparent throughout the book. The book was well reviewed and I did not personally notice any grammatical errors and only one typo jumped off the page at me.

Again, the book is a good read. If you can put your political leanings aside and approach the book with an open mind, I think you can learn a lot from this book and it will make you more aware of your rights and how they were quite fragile and trampled upon. As a law enforcement officer who swore to uphold and protect the Constitution, it is amazing to me to see some of the things that the Federal government got away with and I am certainly grateful that many of the programs described in the book are beginning to be reigned in or done away with. I am a Constitutionalist myself and believe that we can effectively fight the War on Terror while not sacrificing our rights or the rights of others in the name of safety. I truly believe that both can coexist and Greenberg does a wonderful job presenting this argument in the book.

One of the most poignant moments in the book comes as Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan is making a ruling and issuing an opinion on a particular case in the book. He says, “The Court has not reached this conclusion lightly. It is acutely aware of the perilous nature of the world in which we live. But the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand.”

May we always rely on that rock which makes America truly great and not make decisions based only on fear. Truth and justice will always prevail over fear and deception.

“Good, better, best…

… Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome

My son, Ethan, is really, really into baseball. I know every parent of every baseball kid ever has said that, but this is different. Given the choice to go outside and throw or play video games, it’s baseball. When asked what do you want to watch on TV, the answer is always baseball. He can tell you who is good and who is slumping. He knows players in the MLB that I have never ever heard of. We always offer him to choose what sports he wants to play and he keeps coming back to baseball. As part of that, about a year ago, he began taking thirty minute lessons once a week at a local facility from a man we affectionately call Coach Doug. And to give you some more context, Ethan is a very sensitive and compassionate kid. He cares very much about what others think of him and wants to be the best at everything he does. I keep telling him that he just needs the best “him” he can be and that it is physically impossible to be the best at everything… after all, life quickly teaches us there is always someone a little bigger, faster, stronger or smarter, right? So, giving you that glimpse of Ethan, he normally will leave a really good practice or game wanting his play to be confirmed and validated. The dad in me plays along with it because I love my son and want him to love baseball to build his confidence but the coach in me always wants to be instructing and critiquing and helping him to become better. I try to always let dad side win in the moment and save my criticisms for the next practice or a better opportunity so that I don’t spoil his moments. I’m not always successful, but I do try. In addition to everything I’ve fed you so far about Ethan, is that he has been working on learning to be a catcher. For those of you not versed in either baseball or softball, the catching position is a very difficult one on the baseball field. Baseball in itself is a very difficult and technical game which is not only physically tough but is very mentally strenuous as well. Playing the position of catcher takes that up to a whole other level. It is dirty, hot, hard and, most times, thankless (a good catcher’s job is to make his pitcher look good). It is very technical and hard to learn, however, I have often heard many coaches say that a catcher can make or break a team.

All that being said, Ethan did some catching work at his lesson and did quite well. As we were walking out, I patted him on the back and told him he did a really good job. His response was not typical of an eight year old, especially him, and, hopefully, was indicative of a perspective shift within him that left me speechless.

He said, “I think I did pretty good… but I’m going to keep getting better!”

I think we can all learn a life lesson from that little nugget. When we are complacent or we get too comfortable in what we are doing, we become vulnerable to mediocrity. Whether it is in our jobs, as spouses or as parents, we should always strive to be better than the person we were the day before. If we pick one or two things that we didn’t do as well the previous day or week and focus on those, we can be a better person tomorrow. By saying this, I am not saying that you should always focus on your short comings and dwell in negative thought. In fact, this pathway would be totally contrary to what needs to be done as it will leave us idle and miserable. What I am talking about is positive growth… the day to day steps that leave us reaching a little higher and running a little farther. Every runner that has ever gone from “couch to 5K” will tell you that they did not just wake up one day, lace up some running shoes and go run just over three miles because they wanted to. No! They started by running a little… then a little more… and a little more until one day they could do it. That is the same approach we have to take in all aspects of our lives.

The number one enemy in our marriages and our families is complacency. The number one enemy in our workplaces is settling for mediocrity. So… make a decision today to be a better employee. On your way home from work tomorrow, make a choice to be a better parent and spouse. And by making a decision, don’t just give it a flippant thought… make an actual, actionable choice about what you are going to do better that day. It’s easy to say I need to be a better employee in your head. But what the heck are you ACTUALLY going to do to get there? Think of specific things that will make you better. Specific, actionable tasks. And then make a commitment to yourself to follow through and do them.

Bit by bit, little by little, we can become better than we were yesterday… even if we did pretty good there is always room for improvement. And as we do that, not only will we become happier and more productive, but we will also make those around us better and we will make the world a little bit better place.

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Book Review of American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant

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I just finished reading a book that was very good a couple days ago. It is titled, American Spartan: The Promise, The Mission, and the Betrayal of Special Forces Major Jim Gant. The author is Ann Scott Tyson who is uniquely qualified to give us a intimate and gripping insight into Major Gant as she is his lover and, now, his wife.

The book details Major Gant’s revolutionary vision for how to fight the war in Afghanistan and how, as a Green Beret, he carried that vision out during the Afghanistan troop surge. The Major came out with a paper titled One Tribe at a Time and the eventual commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, recognized its value and sought to have its author at the center of its implementation. What entails brings a new perspective on the Afghan people, particularly the Pashtuns of eastern Afghanistan, and will leave you wide eyed over both the brilliance and heroism of Major Gant and the men that served under him, and the total ineptitude of the United States Military to understand the war that they found themselves in the middle of. Also enthralling and heartbreaking is seeing throughout the book how invested Major Gant was in the effort and the toll that his investment took on him both psychologically and professionally.

As a Pulitzer Prize-nominated war correspondent, Ann’s ability to write is never in question. The book is well written and flows extremely well. It is one of those works of literature that is very hard to put down when its time for bed. Typically, I would say that something in this genre would only appeal to fans of military history or those learning about the war in Afghanistan but this book transcends that and I think that people who love reading in general will find it both thought provoking and entertaining. One thing that Ann does really well is bring the Pashtuns of the various tribes they met and came to love into a new perspective. Most military books I have read about Afghanistan to this point leave you wondering two things: why are the Afghans so inept and what in the world are we doing there. This book showed me that while Pashtun culture is brutal and simple, it is also beautiful and honorable, wrapped up in the ancient code of Pashtunwali. It also makes the Afghan people truly humanized and made me love them in a deep way. I sympathize that they are simply doing as they always have, surviving, and we, as American’s, simply are not addressing the conflict there in a way that relates or helps a large portion of the Afghan people. This is no slight to our brave men and women in the Armed Forces that have served there, but is a indictment on our politicians and leaders and the strategy that they have employed there. The book does bounce around chronologically a bit, to help the reader gain a greater understanding on Major Gant and the things that shaped his view on war and life, but it remains very easy to follow and read.

I like my heroes to be flawed and imperfect. It makes them human to me. And Major Gant is the embodiment of that. He is not only brilliant and a great American but struggles with demons that many Americans do and struggles to deal with the effect of war on his mental and physical well being. Despite his flaws, he is an American hero and it is disgusting and fascinating to watch how egos and politics totally unravel and, eventually, undue him.

If you are even remotely interested in the sacrifices our service members are making Afghanistan or in the war there, this book is a must read. It has everything a good story needs: excitement, adventure, betrayal, a strong protagonist, a myriad of antagonists that you wouldn’t expect and love from a variety of sources and contexts.

What Will Become of This?

Well… I’m not really sure to be honest with you. My dear wife is a blogger and has used it as a means to both share her knowledge and insight about children as well as her passion for reading and reviewing books. Since we share the passion of reading, all though different genres, I decided I would give it a go as well and use this platform as a way to share my opinions on books that I am reading or have read in hopes that someone will find that useful. I guess the official term is a “review” but that seems so formal and stuffy.

Something happened though when I began setting this up and working on this. I thought to myself: that just seems so dull by itself. Not to insult anyone who has a single purpose or book review blog, because I have read some and find them quite enthralling, I just don’t know that a single purpose blog like that really fits who I am or how my brain works. So… what will this blog end up being about?

Again, I’m not really sure. There will be a healthy dose of book reviews and possibly some poetry. There will articles and opinions on coaching children both young and old, possibly with some guest quotes and interviews. I will post things of historical interest to me that I think you might find value in learning about. And, occasionally, there may be a quick bit of jibber jabber on a current event or two or on law enforcement related matters.

Either way, I hope you find the information thought provoking and interesting. After all, a blog won’t get many “clicks” if there isn’t at least a modicum of entertainment value, will it?