I have no words to speak of war.

Here, BulletHere, Bullet by Brian Turner

A series of poems about the author’s experiences as a soldier in Iraq, which together sum up the price of war and this war in particular.

‘In the Leupold Scope,’ where the narrator is looking through a spotting scope at a woman hanging laundry

She is dressing the dead

The narrator, by inference, just hasn’t shot the people who will wear those clothes yet.

In ‘AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem)’, a wounded soldier dies on her way to Germany

a way of dealing with the fact
that Thalia Fields is gone, long gone,
about as far from Mississippi
as she can get, ten thousand feet above Iraq
with a blanket draped over her body
and an exhausted surgeon in tears…

In ‘2000 lbs.’ Turner writes of a suicide bombing in Mosul using multiple viewpoints, beginning with the bomber

his thumb trembling over the button.”

followed by a taxi driver

…he regrets how so much can go wrong in a life,
how easily the years slip by…

a National Guardsman

…it’s just as well his eardrums ruptured
because it lends the world a certain calm…

and others, coming full circle back to the bomber

who may have invoked the Prophet’s name,
or not…

‘2000 lbs.’ is better at showing you what a suicide bombing is like than any photograph or video you ever saw.

In “Night in Blue’ Turner says

I have no words to speak of war.

You may beg to differ when you read this book.

One cranky note, because you know that’s how I roll: Here, Bullet is all free verse, with nary a sonnet or even any blank verse (Yes, I scanned some.) to be found. What ever happened to form in poetry?

View all my reviews

I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the sky on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Keep marching forward.

What I’ve learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized. For even a coin weighted toward failure will sometimes land on success. Or as the IBM pioneer Thomas Watson said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

–Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk


Books! Books! Books!

As promised, here are all the books we talked about on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning. Quinton, Terry and I had a blast like we always do, and thanks to everyone who called in!

Click on the photo below to listen to the audio of this morning’s show:

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)


11.23.63 by Stephen King (which Quinton hasn’t actually read, but he gave it as a gift to his father, who loved it. Quinton is now officially the favorite son.)

The three of us got to talking about books everyone has heard of that we feel like we are the last to have read, and in that category Quentin recommends The Giver by Lois Lowry and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. He also liked the Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here by Karima Bennoune, and Pink Martini lead singer Storm Large’s memoir, Crazy Enough, which he says is an emotional read while at the same time an easy read, and he could not put it down.


Terry, now that he has completed his degree, is delighted to report that he gets to read in a less structured way, as in whatever he wants whenever he wants to. He’s still big with the history, recommending Edmond Morris’ trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt, which he says improves in craft as it goes along, as it well might given it was twenty years between the first and second books. He also recommends Lynn Olsen’s Those Angry Days, when FDR and Charles Lindbergh went head to head over entering into World War II. He was chilled to the bone by Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. In fiction, he just finished Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history which explores the possibility of the Allies losing World War II and a post-war US occupied in the east by Nazi Germany and in the west by Japan. He says there is a twist at the end that he did not see coming. Sounds like Philip K. Dick to me.

And from our callers–

The History of Love by Nicole Krause
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercranz

Two Great Courses audible books, The Barbarians of the Steppes (there was a Genghis Khan theme going on this morning) by Professor Kenneth W. Harl, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, which he made sound like a how-to book, my favorite kind.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne.

Teresa called in from the Homer Public Library, where she coordinated this year’s “15 in ’15” event, and from which list I got some of my favorite reads this year (see below). She reports that the event was so successful that they’re doing it again next year, whoop!

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.05.22 AM


The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Ms. Marvel, Volumes 1-3 (and a fourth one is due out the first week of December, yay!)
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

PS–I’ve been reading great fiction, too, like The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb and the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, but we didn’t have time to get to them on the air. Check out my reviews on Goodreads for more.

The first book in the Silk and Song Trilogy is now only 99 cents!

Sixteen-year old Johanna flees Cambaluc in 1322, following the murder of her father and the murderous intentions of her step-mother, accompanied by her foster sister and wise woman Shasha, and by Jaufre, an orphan of the Road who has been raised to be her companion and who hopes to become more. Together they take to the Road, that storied collection of routes that link the silks of Cathay, the spices of the Indies and the jewels of the Indus to the markets of the western world. Their destination? Venice, that fabled port of the Middle Sea, and the home of Johanna’s her grandfather, the legendary Marco Polo.

But first they must survive treachery, betrayal, a war of conquest waged by an ambitious Mongol general, a long separation, and a Road beset by thieves and robbers emboldened by the steady deterioration of the Mongol Empire. They meet a Buddhist monk, an Assassin, a goliard, a Knight Templar, and two refugees from the harem of Sheik Mohammed of Talikan, but in spite of these new friends it is still a long and difficult journey, at the end of which they arrive in Venice only to discover Marco Polo on his deathbed.

The Land Beyond, the third and final book in the Silk and Song trilogy, opens in Venice in 1324, where Johanna and company must find a new patron, a new way to earn their living, and above all a new home. All of this is complicated by a cunning kidnapping, a daring rescue, a tragic death, and a brush with royalty that catapults Johanna and Jaufre and all their friends into the most danger they’ve seen yet.

Download your e-books by clicking on the covers below:







The trade paperback edition of The Land Beyond publishes on December 5, when I will be signing all three at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. Click on the links below to pre-order your copies now:

Everything Under the HeavensBy the Shores of the Middle Sea cover artThe Land Beyond cover art

I think what grabs so hard in this book is that the good guys really are good guys, especially Stark.

If I Should Die (Joseph Stark)If I Should Die by Matthew Frank

One of my favorite reads of 2014.

Joseph Stark serves in the Territorial Army in the sandboxes of both Iraq and Afganistan and returns home wounded (and how is in itself is a long, slow and positively delicious reveal). Honorably discharged as physically unfit for duty, he becomes a constable in training for the CID in Greenwich. His first case begins as a series of vicious muggings of the homeless, and one of the things I loved about this plot is that the cops know immediately whodunnit. Cops usually do, in fact real police work isn’t much of a mystery, but don’t think for one moment that that fact makes this narrative any less absorbing. They know, all right, but they can’t prove it at first, not even with all the cell phone cameras of modern life and CCTV-laden public spaces of the UK at their disposal. Then the most recent victim dies, and now they are looking for murderers. The tension amps up excruciatingly, especially when the perps escalate their offenses while infuriatingly keep slipping through the grip of the police.

In the meantime Stark is going through physical and psychological rehab (with the best shrink character I’ve ever read), he is exacerbating his healing by acting as if he can chase down perps like any healthy copper, the Army keeps calling with steadily increasing exasperation about his last action in the field, he’s falling in love with his hydrotherapist, and his DS is the nosiest, most prying detective living. I would have popped her one at least once, superior or no, but then I’m not a good soldier, and Stark is the very definition of one.

I think what grabs so hard in this book is that the good guys really are good guys, especially Stark. He was an exemplary soldier and he’s going to be an exemplary CID detective, once he gets over his absolute refusal to ask for help when he needs it, the idiot (one of the nicer things his DS calls him). Detective Sergeant Fran Millhaven is just one of the best women copper characters you’ll ever meet between the covers of a book, and DCI Groombridge is a boss to be admired and emulated. The action scenes, too, are terrific. Stark is not your ordinary, everyday soldier. He was very, very good at what he did, and there is a riveting scene where he could really have put the hurt on a perp and consciously, coolly decides not to because of a conversation he had with Groombridge about the difference between violence in the field against the enemy and violence at home against a suspect. In that moment he crosses over from soldier to CID detective. It is beautiful to behold. (And you’ll love the cane.) Given recent headlines here at home, this book ought to be required reading for every cop in the USA before they’re allowed to carry a weapon.

But Stark is the heart of this narrative. I am so looking forward to meeting him again.

View all my reviews

“11 alive…need small boat…Kennedy.”

Another fabulous letter memorialized by Letters of Note.

Click here to read the full post.