Read “Barn Find” for the photos

Barn Find Road Trip

3 Guys,

14 Days,

1,000 lost collector cars discovered

And 35 pictures of the author’s vehicle

Author Tom Cotter and two friends set out for a two-week drive through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to see how many rusting relics of the glory days of the automotive industry they can find. Turns out, they can find plenty. Over 1,500 cars discovered along backroads, inside old gas stations, hidden in bamboo fields, and tucked behind houses in overgrown backyards. I liked the accounts of the people they met along the way, the stories of the men who are saving, restoring and collecting these vehicular gems. Though, I must say it makes me sad to see fields of cars that have been abandoned and neglected by collectors who have too many projects. At one time, they saved these cars from the crushers and the scrappers only to “unsave” them through years of exposure and neglect. Sell these cars to someone else who does have the time so they can be saved before it is too late!

Cotter and friends dislike chain restaurants and, therefore, the readers are treated to local dining and brewery tips along the way. I liked that the author gave these places some ink so that they too can prosper from his road trip. But what I didn’t care for was the excessive amount of photos of the author’s own car, his 1939 Ford Woody which he drove on the trip. While it is great that Cotter’s own barn find participates in the mission to find other forgotten vehicles, I didn’t need to see 35 photos (not including pictures where the Woody is just in the background) of that one particular car. About two photos would have sufficed and would have freed up space to include at least 33 pictures of other cars they found along the way.

Overall, it isn’t a bad read, and the photos of the cars (other than the Woody) are worth it.

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J.R. Ward’s latest book doesn’t suck

Now there’s a blog title I never thought I’d write. If you’ve read this blog before, you know I think the last five installments in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series have gone from bad to worse to deplorable to not worth reading, so when I heard that Ward was going to start a spinoff series called the Black Dagger Legacy that would go back to the original Black Dagger brothers, I was all kinds of skeptical. I mean, seriously Ward, do you even remember your original characters? But since I am a total masochist, I picked up Blood Kiss and started reading…and was pleasantly and shockingly surprised.

Unlike all the other nobodies (Autumn anybody?) Ward introduced into her initial series, I actually liked Paradise and Craeg (yes, she still does the misspelled name thing). Paradise was interesting in that she was a young product of the Glymera who had no interest in being a perfect little wifey to some pedigreed male peacock. Craeg was interesting because of his tragic past and his future goals regarding that past tragedy. In fact, most of the training class was intriguing, and I cannot wait for Axe’s book, and I kept wondering which if any of them may end up with Saxton as Ward has said on her blog that he would get his HEA in a forthcoming book. Axe would certainly be a hell of an entertaining mate for the pristine male. I guess we’ll just have to see.

But I digress…

As promised, original characters made appearances. Butch and Marissa are front and center in this one, and their relationship is on the rocks. At first, I found it hard to believe that the couple went from total bliss at the end of their book to barely speaking in this one, but as the plot developed, I thought we finally got to know the real Marissa. She was very strong and had some real growth as a character. Sometimes, the way Ward writes the shellans makes them seem like wallflowers who do nothing but wait for their males to come home from the fighting. This was definitely not the case in Blood Kiss.

And now for some things that didn’t improve…

Lassiter. What the hell is the point of this guy? He has these moments of true purpose and guidance (BDB books 6 and 10) which are few and far between and the rest of the time he is this comedic idiot who is so unfunny it is almost painful to read. The banter between him and the brothers is stale and repetitive and has been for the last five books involving the Brotherhood. Ward either needs to get to his purpose or get him out of the series.

The Brotherhood. A group of seriously manly warriors who fight the vampire race’s mortal enemies. Remember them? No? Neither does Ward because they are still acting like a bunch of recently castrated steers every time they spend more than two minutes away from their shellans. So annoying. What happened to the brotherly camaraderie? The scenes of the guys just chilling together? The bromance? Hell, even the team lesser fighting? Remember when two or more brothers had scenes together that did not involve all their shellans? Can we please get back to that? Butch and V have a nice little scene in Blood Kiss (emphasis on little) which triggered memories of how much page time and dialogue those two used to share, and I miss it and want more of it. That’s what made the initial series so good, so if you, Ward, are getting back to the original brothers, how about getting back to what made them brothers to begin with?

No mention of Qhuinn and Blay. Seriously??? Every other character from the BDB series gets mentioned in Blood Kiss: John and Xhex, Manny and Payne, the Shadows, Rehvenge and his lady, the butler, Nobody, oops, I mean Autumn, but not our favorite redhead and hothead? They seriously better get some ink in this series. They sure as hell never get enough in the original series!

But despite all that, this book was good. Not great, but certainly better than the crap Ward has been churning out in recent years. And as much as I wish I could snuff it out like a candle flame, there is this teeny, tiny flare of hope buried deep in my heart that this spinoff may return to the Brotherhood and the Ward writing that I once loved. And I can honestly say for the first time in a very long time that I am looking forward to the next Ward book. And that’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!

The Lion of Sabray tells Lone Survivor from the POV of an Afghani hero

25110926As I was reading Lone Survivor, the amazing story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s survival of Operation Redwing, I wondered about the incredible, brave, and heroic Afghani who risked his own life and his own village to save the wounded American. So, I was very pleased when I learned that the story of Mohammed Gulab would be told in The Lion of Sabray. As Luttrell did for Lone Survivor, Gulab teamed with Patrick Robinson to share his account, and it does not disappoint.

Gulab is indeed a lion. Fierce, protective, and willing to fight to defend himself, his home, and those who Allah puts in his care, such as a severely wounded Texan found half dead on Gulab’s mountain. The story of this incredible Afghani’s life before, during, and after his encounter with Luttrell is shocking and fascinating. From a pre-teen machine gunner to a mujahideen field commander, Gulab is a warrior, a survivor, and a protector of Sabray.

Though Gulab does not speak a word of English, Robinson, through a translator, perfectly captures the voice, presence, and faithfulness of a man who, by the age of eight, was training for war, and who later risked everything to defy the Taliban and save the life of a fellow warrior. Robinson clearly explains the Pastunwali code of honor that Gulab lives by and reveals recently declassified facts about Luttrell’s rescue that could not be included in Lone Survivor. He also makes one thing perfectly clear: Marcus Luttrell would not be alive today without the fierce determination and unflagging faith of the Lion of Sabray.

By saving the life of a complete stranger, a man many of Gulab’s own countrymen would label an enemy, Gulab made himself an enemy of the Taliban and a target of their vengeance. He lost the home his family had known for generations, the timber that served as his biggest source of income, and the security of his village. Since his valiant rescue of Luttrell, Gulab has been attacked by terrorists and shot in his own home. I hope this heroic man and his family find peace and security and may someday return home to Sabray.

Gardner’s ‘Fast Horse’ is a fast, informative read

6909729There have been dozens of books written about Billy the Kid, so why pick up To Hell on a Fast Horse? Because of Mark Lee Gardner’s meticulous research which, in my opinion, gives far more substance to this subject than so many others written about the famous outlaw and the sheriff who hunted him down. The last 80 or so pages are all source notes because Gardner seems to have combed through every newspaper, journal, personal diary, and interview that ever mentioned William Bonney, Pat Garrett, and anyone in New Mexico who had ever known, set eyes on, or spoken to either of the famous men.

Gardner does not paint The Kid as some kind of romantic hero the way many accounts of the outlaw are written. One doesn’t read this book without understanding that The Kid aka Antrim aka Bonney was a coldblooded killer who stole horses, cattle, and lives. He was charming, lovable, and deadly. And, thanks to Garrett, dead at 21.

Garrett was the most interesting part of Gardner’s book for me. In all the books I’ve read on the subject, few commented on Garrett other than to brand him a killer for the way he killed The Kid. But as Gardner puts it, you can’t have one without the other. Whether he wanted it to or not, Garrett’s killing of the infamous Billy defined him for the rest of his life. Friends of Billy (and the outlaw had plenty) labeled Garrett a murderer and a coward for killing the outlaw without warning. Citizens who’d lived in fear of Bonney’s blazing guns called Garrett a hero. Many awarded him with money for removing a terrible threat from their community. But Garrett was no golden boy either. He had a lifelong addiction to gambling which placed his wife and eight children in a constant cycle of being flush then poor and forced Garrett to spend most of his time separated from his family while trying to earn money through mining schemes, horseracing, and outlaw hunting. His life after killing The Kid was a slow downward slide until he himself was murdered. Unfortunately, there were no Pat Garretts  around to hunt down his own killers.

Gardner collects a wealth of information and shares it in a way that is informative and engaging. Just as he did with Shot All to Hell, Gardner takes a popular subject that has been frequently rehashed and makes it fresh and new. A must read for fans of the American West and American history.