July Reading List

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” —Dr. Seuss


Welcome to my July Reading List. I am late with the blog post this month, but I have an excellent reason—work was crazy with a new fiscal year and spent time with my family. Reading and writing time has taken the back seat during this period, but I am back on track now. We all deserve a break right.

As we move into mid-summer, this is where we usually take a family vacation, often traveling back to my mom’s place in Michigan where the kids have so much to do on the ranch. This summer we find ourselves amid a pandemic that is getting worse. No news to you, I am sure. I don’t want to complain about having to stay at home, because I recognize we are in a good situation compared to many others in our country. I feel for these people and I hope we, as a country, can help our fellow citizens through these hard times. We as a family have been shopping more at the local farmer’s market and trying our best to shop local establishments instead of the big chain stores. We’ve tried to find elderly people in our neighborhood who may need help, but that isn’t easy without violating their privacy. Or Postal Carrier Bill has been a good liaison, but he has to be careful of violating people’s privacy as well. I wish this would bring our country together, as it has when we faced challenges in the past. Unfortunately, like most things these days, opportunities to bring us closer as a nation are brushed aside in favor of dividing us further. This isn’t what this post is about, so let’s wrap this side trip up by saying, instead of looking for villains, look for opportunities to be kind.

The kids and I have been home basically since mid-March, with only the occasional running of errands around town. This gave my wife and I the incentive to pull the trigger on something we have wanted to do for sometime. We bought a 22 foot Forest River Travel Trailer. With the pandemic rearing its ugly head again, and the possibility of going away anytime soon, we figured now is as good a time to as any to join the ranks of the RV weekend warriors. It gives us a safe way to get away for a trip and to make memories with our kids before they leave the nest.

Being newbies to the RV’ing lifestyle, and because of how my brain works, I have spent a ton of time researching and watching RV videos. So much so that I drive my wife crazy with it all. Not to mention when you buy a travel trailer, there are many accessories you need to get to get started. Who would have known? You got to have a ‘stinky slinky’ among other necessities.

Anyhow, our first two overnight trips went great and we are looking forward to many more trips. You can see more photos of our excursions on my Instagram. It was great to sit by the campfire and get some reading and writing done under the stars. I didn’t get as much of either done, but I am hoping with future trips, as we get settled into the normality of RV camping, that I’ll get more time to write and read when we are getting away from the bustle of life.

How’s that for a transition?


Before I get to the reading list, I want to share a format change for these blogs posts. I will share what I am reading or planning to read during the month, and share the published blurb for the book. If you would like to see what I thought of the book and my review, please consider following me on Goodreads. Going forward, I will post reviews there.


JULY READING LIST (non-RV related)

NON-FICTION

“DARK TERRITORY: THE SECRET HISTORY OF CYBER WAR” BY FRED KAPLAN

The never-before-told story of the computer scientists and the NSA, Pentagon, and White House policymakers who invented and employ the wars of the present and future – the cyber wars where every country can be a major power player and every hacker a mass destroyer, as reported by a Pulitzer Prize-winning security and defense journalist.

I choose this book for research for my current work in progress, a dystopian thriller trilogy. What are government is doing with cyber warfare almost writes itself as a dystopian setting, but more so, I can’t imagine writing a dystopian story set in the near future that doesn’t include a cyber componet.

FICTION

“THE PASSAGE” BY JUSTIN CRONIN

IT HAPPENED FAST.
THIRTY-TWO MINUTES FOR ONE WORLD TO DIE, ANOTHER TO BE BORN.

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.

As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. Wolgast is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors, but for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—toward the time a place where she must finish what should never have begun.

I don’t remember who recommended this trilogy, but I looked interesting and worthy of a read. I am listening to it on audio book and this one is about 36 hours long. Plenty of listening time to fill the day as I plug along filling out spreadsheets to keep my part of the world running during a pandemic.

“ESCaLATON” (MAELSTROM RISING BOOK 1) BY PETER NEALEN

A Storm is About to Break… 

The mission was straightforward enough. Infiltrate civil-war-torn Slovakia, rescue the hostage, then get out undetected. 

Except that it’s not Matt Bowen’s first rodeo. He and his teammates know well just how badly things can go once the metal meets the meat. 

But even these hardened combat veterans aren’t ready for what’s about to go down… 

A coordinated surprise attack. Massacres in the countryside. The next world war might have just kicked off, in a storm of blood, fire, and betrayal. 

This one has been on my list for a while and I thought it was about time to get to reading it. It has a good rating on Goodreads, so I am sure it will be an excellent read.

“THE WALKING DEAD COMPENDIUM 1” BY ROBERT KIRKMAN

Introducing the first eight volumes of the fan-favorite, New York Times Best Seller series collected into one massive paperback collection.

In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman’s Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, The Governor.

I bought this on kindle for my son to read on our recent camping trips. I didn’t realize they packed so much of the story into this first volume. Since we had it, and I like the television series, I read it myself. It is a cool read in graphic novel format, and I like the way how you can scroll by each box (I am sure I am not using the right terminology for that—please share in the comments what you call the boxes in a graphic novel so I know for next time) of the graphic novel. I am enjoying it more than the television series. I wish it was in color, but the black and white graphic novel is cool as well. It is pricy for a kindle purchase, but you get so much for the price, it is worth it.


What are you reading? What are your suggestions? Share in the comments.


In 2038, the civil war had stalled. Fighting contained to border skirmishes between what remained of the United States of America and the Union of Reformed States. Corporal Caleb Thompson, 111th Mortuary Affairs, URSA, faced the hardest decision of his young life. Searching for deceased soldiers after a recent battle, he found himself in a situation he never expected. Would he help his lifelong friend or follow the orders of God and Country?

June reading list

Please note that some links below are affiliate links that may pay me a small commission. There is no extra charge to you, but it go towards helping fund this blog. Thank you.

Wow. After three crazy months of being at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, June has just said hold my beer. These are crazy times we are living in for sure. On top of an ongoing we now have most major cities in America hosting protests to support Black Lives Matter, black people who have been needlessly murdered by police and the need for police reform. With this all going on, I have watched way more news than I should be watching. Because of that and being hooked on MasterClass, my reading/listing time for books has taken a serious hit. I’ll post more about MasterClass at a later date.

If it weren’t for audible, my reading list would be far shorter. It would be great to have more time to read with a book in hand, but that is difficult with kids and everything else going on in our busy lives. I love being able to listen to books while driving, working, mowing the lawn or cooking. It took a bit to get used to listening to books, but after a bit you get used to the format. Once used to it, you can even bump up the speed of the play, having the choice of multiple listening speeds. When I first raised the playback speed it was odd, but I quickly became accustomed to it. I especially enjoy this option when listening to non-fiction, as many of the narrator talk so so slow. I like to bump the speed up to 1.2 – 1.5 times for non-fiction books. I do the same thing when listening to podcasts.

Let’s get down to what I have read and what is on my short list to read in June. My non-fiction is focusing on military memoirs and stories about resistance and espionage during world war II (this is research for my WIP writing projects).


Non-fiction

“Fascism: a warning” by MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT

This book should be on everyone’s list, especially when we are fighting the rise of fascism and authoritarianism in the United States. It is profound the similarities of actions taken by governments in the 1930s and what we are currently seeing in America and many other countries around the world today. This book is a delicate blend of personal stories and in-depth analysis from the rise of Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy, through Hitler’s rise, to today’s fascist leaders. Much of the 20th Century has been a battle between democracy and fascism, and once again the fight is on our home soil. This is a warning, a warning disregarded by far too many.


“Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris by Alex Kershaw

I have been interested in reading about resistance and espionage during world war II, as research for my dystopian thriller trilogy. I love world war II history, but I have been lacking in my knowledge of the resistance movements. Recently, I watched the PBS television series “World On Fire”, which has characters involved in the Polish resistance. This storyline was very interesting and gave me the idea to look into WWII resistance movements.

This book is about an American, Dr. Sumner Jackson, his Swiss-born wife, Torquette and their son Phillip’s involvement with the French resistance. Avenue of Spies gives a thorough insight into Paris during the Nazi occupation. I look at the courage of this family and the other resistance fighters and wonder if I would have the same courage as them. If it were just me, sure no problem. But risking my wife and kids, I don’t know if I could risk them. I will note, it was Torquette who was first recruited by the French resistance. Dr. Jackson took his own actions out of a sense of duty, being a veteran of WWI. When Phillip found out about his parents’ resistance actions, he took part in his own right. They all made their own decision to resist, and all faced their own persecution for involvement. The fortitude of these people is inspiring. It is cause for personal self-reflection.


fiction

“Path of the Assassin” by Brad Thor

Brad Thor has quickly risen to the top of my favorite author’s list. I am enjoying the Scot Harvath series, and I am excited to jump into the third novel of the series “State of the Union” soon. I am all-in for this series. Goodreads synopsis of the book is:

Navy SEAL turned Secret Service agent Scot Harvath follows bloody clues to silver-eyed elusive ruthless terrorist Hashim Nidal, who intends to topple Israel and America, and can be identified by only one person – Meg Cassidy. Across four continents, from Macau, Jerusalem, Chicago, Libya, Capri, and Rome, the deadly puzzle tests their limits and growing bond.”

If you like spy/military thrillers, this is a series for you. Brad Thor is one of the best author’s in the genre. 


“The darkest path” by jeff hirsch

I don’t remember where I came across this YA novel, but since I am working on a trilogy set in a second American Civil War, such as this book, I gave it a read. On a side note, I end up reading more YA than I care to admit, because that seems to be where the dystopian readers and writers focus. I would like to read more adult dystopian, and that is what I plan to write. (Share any adult dystopian you recommend in the comments). That said, I went into this book with low expectations and it surprised me to find a good read that kept me engaged. The story starts with two young brothers as prisoners of a religious sect that has taken over much of America. Circumstances lead to them escaping the camp and making a run towards their home across the country in New York, with one brother’s new found dog friend in tow. The younger brother has totally bought into the Glorious Path, and heads back to the camp, leaving the older brother and his dog to escape the war and return home. It is a quick and entertaining read, which is followed by another book written by Jeff Hirsch called The Darkest Path: Bear’s Story, which is written from the dog’s perspective. If you don’t mind YA perspective, and you want a quick read, this is an excellent option. I recommended my son add it to his summer reading list.


What am I reading the rest of june?

Currently reading “Savage son” by retired US Navy Seal jack carr.

Deep in the wilds of Siberia, a woman is on the run, pursued by a man harboring secrets – a man intent on killing her. 

A traitorous CIA officer has found refuge with the Russian mafia with designs on ensuring a certain former Navy SEAL sniper is put in the ground. 

Half a world away, James Reece is recovering from brain surgery in the Montana wilderness, slowly putting his life back together with the help of investigative journalist Katie Buranek and his longtime friend and SEAL teammate Raife Hastings. Unbeknownst to them, the Russian mafia has set their sights on Reece in a deadly game of cat and mouse. 

In his most visceral and heart-pounding thriller yet, Jack Carr explores the darkest instincts of humanity through the eyes of a man who has seen both the best and the worst of it.


“The War of Art” by Steven pressfield

Think of The War of Art as tough love… for yourself.

Since 2002, The War of Art has inspired people around the world to defeat “Resistance”; to recognize and knock down dream-blocking barriers and to silence the naysayers within us.Resistance kicks everyone’s butt, and the desire to defeat it is equally as universal. The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.Though it was written for writers, it has been embraced by business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, military service members and thousands of others around the world.


“Hhhh” by laurent binet

HHhH: “Himmlers Hirn heisst Heydrich”, or “Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich”. The most dangerous man in Hitler’s cabinet, Reinhard Heydrich was known as the “Butcher of Prague.” He was feared by all and loathed by most. With his cold Aryan features and implacable cruelty, Heydrich seemed indestructible—until two men, a Slovak and a Czech recruited by the British secret service, killed him in broad daylight on a bustling street in Prague, and thus changed the course of History. 


Short stories

“The Trash Collector” by monica shaugnessy

When objects begin to disappear from porches, Lydia Strichter suspects the neighborhood hoarder, Dale Kreplick. He’s a strange man with an even stranger habit of digging through people’s garbage. But when she sets out to prove the “Trash Collector” is behind these thefts, she discovers more than the culprit. She discovers some things can’t easily be discarded. A heart-warming story of tolerance, grief, and the persistence of memory.


“Space walk: a apocalyptic sci-fi story with a side of dark humor” by tammie painter

Maya has convinced her husband Joel to forego their usual holiday to take her own idea of a trip of a lifetime. The company SpaceWalk promises adventure, unparalleled views, and, for those who purchase the Enhanced Package, a chance to take part in an actual space walk.

Eager to experience the final frontier, Maya spends all of her and Joel’s savings on the enhanced package. But when she ventures outside the ship for her first walk, Maya soon discovers she’s not alone. Not in the depths of space, nor within her spacesuit.

What starts out a dream vacation quickly turns dangerous, not only for the passengers and crew, but, thanks to corruption from within SpaceWalk, for all of humanity.

If you like a little snarky humor with your apocalyptic terror and aren’t squeamish, you’ll love Space Walk.

“Testing the waters (A mythic short story)” by tammie painter

You can get away with many things in Port Athens. Breaking contracts is not one of them.

The founders of the prosperous fishing village of Port Athens have each agreed to give up certain luxuries and a great deal of power to settle into a new life.

So when one of the founders, Eli P. Marin, returns from the city with a suspicious purchase, the rumor mill churns into action. Is he only showing off? Is it even real? Most importantly, will Eli break their contract and reclaim his former influence despite knowing how harsh the punishment might be?

Find out today as you wander the quaint streets and meet the mysterious founders of Port Athens in Testing the Waters. 

If you’ve ever wondered how the Greek gods would behave in the modern world and what tricks they might get up to, you’ll love this quirky tale of temptation, rules, and rivalry.


Don’t forget “We were Like brothers” a dystopian short story is available on kindle and free on kindle unlimited.

In 2038, the civil war had stalled. Fighting contained to border skirmishes between what remained of the United States of America and the Union of Reformed States. Corporal Caleb Thompson, 111th Mortuary Affairs, URSA, faced the hardest decision of his young life. Searching for deceased soldiers after a recent battle, he found himself in a situation he never expected. Would he help his lifelong friend or follow the orders of God and Country?

STILL HOME – STILL READING

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Here we are in mid-May 2020, and I have been working from home for a solid two months. It sounds like I will work from home until the end of June 2020, though upper management states it may be longer than that. I work for one of the largest counties in Oregon (my day job). Before joining the county, I worked from home for several years, so the transition has been mostly seamless. What is different this go around, is the schools are closed, as you know,  thus I have to work and home school my children (my wife is a registered nurse who is still seeing patients). Frankly, this is a major pain in the ass. I have always appreciated teachers, and feel that they are under-paid, and this last couple of months has only confirmed this understanding of what they provide for our children. Thank you teachers! Side note: my daughter’s teacher stopped by the house today to see how she was doing and to drop off her supplies she had in her desk. How awesome is that? She rocks!

I thought I would have more free time during the pandemic stay at home, but in my case this has not been the reality. I haven’t been unproductive, in fact I have been working on several projects around the house. Besides trying to tame my wild yard during Oregon spring (way too much growth), my wife and I have been working on re-landscaping our backyard to fix some seasonal issues, add a fire pit with seating, and an outdoor living space for summer. There have been several hours of final edits and preparation to publish my dystopian short story, We Were Like Brothers” (now available on Amazon). Rounding out my non-reading activities, I’ve been binging Master Classes. A couple of writing courses by Judy Blume and Joyce Carol Oates and a cooking course by Gordon Ramsey. As a life-long learner, I love Master Classes, and I can’t wait to take classes by some of the best writers of our modern age, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, James Patterson, and others.

So what have I been reading the last six weeks? Since February, my reading list has been fiction heavy, so I have worked more non-fiction into my reading rotation. I usually try to have one non-fiction book in play, a fiction audio book, and a fiction eBook. Not that my opinion matters, but as Stephen King says, to be a talented writer you need to be a diligent reader (or something to that effect). I’ll take it one step further in saying that you need a balanced approach to reading, non-fiction and fiction. I read non-fiction to gain insight into people or influential persons. To understand people is not only fascinating, but helpful in writing characters.


I don’t know about you, but with everything going on in my life, I find I am listening to more and more audible books. I can listen in the car, while I mow the yard, or while at work. I have been listening to Audible for several years now, as well as downloading audio books from my local library using OverDrive. If you can’t get the book you want at the library, check out Audible. (Full disclosure … I get a cup of coffee if you use this link.)


Non-Fiction

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London” by James L. Haley

Click for Synopsis.

Wow! Jack London lived an amazing, though brief life. I admittedly didn’t know that much about Jack London. What an interesting person, full of adventure and overcoming setbacks. Before he turned twenty, he had experienced life well beyond his years. There are things in this book, that by the author’s account, aren’t in other biographies about Jack London. I’ll let you read the book to find out for yourself. I will say this about the book. The author seemed to drag out some periods of Jack’s life that could have been told in a more concise manner. That sums up the book, lots of significant information and stories about one of the greatest American authors, that could have been told in a less drawn out fashion. It was hard to stay with the slow parts, but Jack London is larger than life and that motivated me to press on.


Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom” by Thomas E. Ricks 

Click for Synopsis.

I enjoyed the comparison between these two men Winston Churchill and George Orwell. I knew little about Winston Churchill, so learning about him, beyond the generic brevity of information, was intriguing. George Orwell has been a favorite author of mine since I was a teenager. I wish he lived longer, as he was just into his best work before he died in his late 40s. I didn’t know his actual name was Eric Blair. As I mentioned earlier, the comparison between these two men, during the lead up to WWII, the war itself, and post WWII was fascinating.


Fascism: A Warning” by Madeleine K. Albright. [Currently Reading]

Click for Synopsis.

I don’t have a lot to say about this book as I am still reading it. I will say I am enjoying the book, and the description of Benito Mussolini’s rise to power and mannerisms remind me of someone who occupies the White House. It concerns me about the similarities between the 1930s and our current situation.


Fiction

Path of the Assassin (Scot Harvath #2)” by Brad Thor 

Click for Synopsis.

I am only two novels into the Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor, but I am totally hooked. What a brilliant character and intriguing storylines. I will definitely ride this series to the end. There is something that sits with me as… well, silly. That is the best way I can describe it, but it is also common for books of this genre (unless written in the last few years). Scot Harvath (which you have to attribute to the author and it has been in both books) constantly thinks about how the female character he has teamed up with on the mission is the ‘most attractive woman he has ever seen’. I think we all recognize and enjoy seeing an attractive person, but it seems over the top. Other than that, two books in, I really am enjoying this series.


The Darkest Path” by Jeff Hirsch. [Currently Reading]

Click for Synopsis.

I am only about a third of the way into this novel, so I’ll talk more about it in another post. I will say I like the story so far.


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