Still Wading Through My TBR List: Part Seven

It’s another free week, and since there’s really nothing new in my life, I thought I’d share the books I’ve read since my last free week. In June I named only three because I have a deadline and knew I’d be struggling to meet it, but I managed to read two of the three I’d planned on, along with three others. Apologies to Katherine Bone – I promise I will read Duke by Day, Rogue by Night soon!

So here are the books I managed to read. Click on the book covers to see my reviews on Goodreads.

The PilotThe Pilot by Diane Burton. Diane was a guest here a while ago, sharing her science fiction series called the Outer Rim. I read the third book in the series a while ago and finally went back to read the first two. The pilot is full of action, and I loved Celara, the spunky heroine who needs to deliver her cargo in order to pay off debts incurred by stolen cargo. Since the starship is her home, she stands to lose everything if she fails to deliver.


The Chameleon CoverThe Chameleon by Diane Burton. After finishing The Pilot I immediately downloaded the second book in the series. Jileena, the heroine in this book, was someone I really enjoyed. She’s intellectual, but interacts and relates well to everyone around her. She’s wealthy, but has compassion. Her father sends her to a distant planet to check out a much-needed mineral reported to be found there – but he also insists that her “fiance” goes along. And the fiance is someone who really doesn’t want to be there!


Determined HeartsDetermined Hearts by Diana Stout. Like Diane Burton, Diana is a member of my local RWA chapter. I’d read an earlier edition of Determined Hearts several years ago, and she asked me to read and review her revised edition. Jennifer Frost is a tough heroine – she seems to handle the transition from city life to the wilderness with ease. And the Hawk Hunter, the hero, is just plain yummy. I’m looking forward to reading more of Diana’s books.


Masked LoveMasked Love by Nicole Zoltak. Nicole was my featured author here a few weeks ago. This book has all the usual romantic trappings of the regency period – but it’s told from a servant’s point of view. Isabella is a lady’s maid and her hopelessness in loving a noble is real, as class differences was a major conflict. The way this conflict is resolved is quite unusual. This is a nice short book, and reading a holiday romance on a hot summer day can be quite refreshing.


CavanaughThe Cavanaugh House by Elizabeth Meyette. Elizabeth is yet another member of the Mid-Michigan RWA chapter. She writes historical romances set during the American Revolution, but The Cavanaugh House is set in the 1960s in New York and follows Jesse Graham as she tries to uncover the truth about what happened to her Aunt Helen in the house Jesse has inherited. I don’t usually read ghost stories, but this mystery is solved through Jesse’s hard work – not through ghostly intervention. Elizabeth and her husband travel to her book locations for research and inspiration – he takes the photographs that she uses for her book covers!

So – for next month I will DEFINITELY read Duke by Day, Rogue by Night because it’s been on my list for three months. I’m also reading a steampunk romance (a first for me) called Besotted. Other than that… we’ll see!

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(Not a) Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On

This week we are asked if we have ever experienced an earthquake or other natural disaster.

Fortunately, my experiences with such phenomena have been limited to near-misses or lucky outcomes.

As for earthquakes, the only one that was truly earth-shaking and got everyone’s attention didn’t have mine…I was asleep.

Suffice it to say that I was ‘large with child’ and taking a nap. We were living in the Denver area and as it happens in many parts of Colorado, the weather changed rapidly; the streets were clear, the sun was shining brightly and the temperature wasn’t very low.
I woke up when I heard a “SCHLUMP!”; it was the sound of the several inches of snow that had fallen a day or so before, sliding off of the roof. The mother and daughter neighbor team checked on me; “Did you feel the earthquake?!”

“Is THAT what that was?”

Shook their heads at me.

A couple of years later, we were living in a house in another suburb. During a very big and windy storm, a fast cloud went right over us with a ROAR; we and the neighbors assumed that we were lucky that a tornado didn’t take us to Oz.

A few years after that we encountered a day of tornadoes, but that is a long story and sometimes a funny one. I’ll save that one for other day, as I am pressed for time this week, and traveling to take my grandson to live with my son two states away, (so if I don’t get back to answer your comments right away, please bear with me).

However, we did experience an incredible weather phenomenon, again, while in Colorado.
We had joined the wonderful, large Natural Museum that is in the city. We were living then in a northeastern suburb. Our kids were young and at that time my husband’s work schedule was flexible, so going out mid-weekday was a plus. It was a beautiful clear day.
We were all set to go for a museum visit but suddenly, we decided to stay home and put a movie on the VCR,(yeah, that long ago.) We never remembered why, or how we made that sudden change, or even whose idea it was…nor why the other of us did not question the decision, nor why the kids just accepted it, (they loved the museum).

We no sooner settled in when the wind whipped up and the sky turned black. We went into tour townhouse basement and prayed; it sounded like the sky was falling. When it subsided and we came up to find FEET of hail, blocking the doors and clogging the deep causeway which ran water well below us, causing a flood. Everyone’s car was dented; people were hurt in the hail, some were caught completely unaware at local amusement parks and were stuck up high on rides during the storm. A friend, who was at that time heavy with her own child, went to lie down in a basement bedroom and had a window crash in on her, dumping rain and hail on her.

I prided myself on the small front garden I cultivated at that time. In fact, our homeowners association’s monthly newsletter often mentioned ours among others as inspiration to keep the complex beautiful. My next-door neighbor had told me how lovely it was that very morning and I told her to go a few doors to see another neighbor’s beautiful, varying plants in the front garden I was watering while she was out of town. I said, “Go see Barb’s. It is so full of greens, it looks like Ireland.” Afterward, it looked like the Bikini Atoll after a nuclear test.

Almost everything in our gardens were shattered. I could never find the exact colors of flowers that I had before, but I nursed a high-bush cranberry back to health by feeding it through its few remaining leaves. We moved a year or so later and I told my neighbors not to tell me if the new owners removed the bush.

Yet, we were safe, because some Guardian Angel whispered into one of our ears and the others’ Angels made us listen…because we never had an answer as to why we made such a strange and quick decision, no questions asked.

I think we’ve covered blizzards and ice storms in the past here, but another great story for another day is also from Denver, just weeks after we were married. That storm came from nowhere and unlike other times in Colorado, it crippled the area, and it happened right on Christmas Eve. Another time.

Many of of us in the U.S. are experiencing extremely high temperatures this week. I am not crazy about the idea of traveling in it, but we are not supposed to encounter rain,(thank Heaven), since we are hauling things by way of pick-up.

Stay safe, Everyone!

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Stormy Weather

… is not just a moody, old song

By Jeff Salter

Yes, it’s also a terrific song, and the best version, in my opinion, is the one with Lena Horne.
But it has also been recorded by Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, and Billie Holliday (among others). However, we’re not here to talk about songs.

I’ve seen some bad weather, folks.

During my year in the Arctic, I went through a Phase Four snowstorm in which we were confined to whatever building we were in, until it passed. I happened to be in the barracks at the time. If anyone was somehow out of doors when Phase Four conditions were reached, the base (Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland) was ringed with what they called Phase Shacks… which contained a small heater, some water and food, and blankets. One of the problems during Phase Four was that you had no visibility and could not determine direction… so there was a danger of wandering out onto the glacier and (well, you know). If you could stumble into a Phase Shack, you could survive there until the storm ended.

Just about four years ago, here in Possum Trot, our house was struck by lightning… with my wife standing on the front porch! It ruined our roof, fried most of our electronics, set the stove on fire, and had my wife “charged up” for several days.

During the powerful and destructive Hurricane Camille (August 1969), I was about 80 miles from the Gulf of Mexico and we had little more damage than trees down. But my Aunt Luna and Uncle Edgar lived half a block off Biloxi Beach, in an old, old former hotel-turned-apartment-house. They rode out the hurricane in that three story wooden building… while the “modern” Buena Vista Hotel, hardly 50 yards distant, was wiped out. Camille was the hurricane which swept large boats onto shore and sucked numerous structures out into the Gulf.

When we lived in Bossier City LA for 26 years, we had at least one really bad rainstorm which backed up the city drainage system so much that the north part of our neighborhood held some 18 inches of water. The kids and I paddled around the block in our canoe.


No, this is not my in-laws’ house, but it gives you an idea of the type damage

But of all the storms I’ve experienced, the one which most sticks out (for whatever reason) is from late 1974 in Covington LA. We lived in town, in my grandmother’s former house, and my in-laws lived in Tchefuncta Estates, a country club south of town, toward Madisonville. There was an awful storm – back before every puff of wind got its own name from Jim Cantori at the Weather Channel – which resulted in several small tornadoes in the area, including many houses in Tchefuncta. Power was out when we got their phone call early that morning — a massive old pine had fallen across their house and plunged thick limbs though the roof into the two back bedrooms. Those were the rooms formerly occupied by my wife and her little sister when they were girls.

On our slow and careful drive out to their house, we had to navigate around many huge limbs which littered the highway and entrance road to the Estates.
My mom-in-law made some coffee on a camp stove and that’s the only thing I recall eating or drinking for much of that day. I followed my father-in-law around to inspect the damage — first at his house and later in that vicinity. Many massive old trees were down, several houses were badly damaged; chainsaw crews worked non-stop for days to clear things up. That experience generated this poem some eight years later.

After The Storm
[South Louisiana]
By Jeffrey L. Salter

After the winds and the rain
(and the darkness all day into night),
after the edge of the storm had passed,
it was quiet.

Dawn brought bright sunshine,
apologizing for the tempest
like a recalcitrant lover.
The men began early
checking their own damages;
if the lines weren’t down, they’d call in.
Most would stay out all morning:
jumpsuits, overalls, and hard hats
replacing business suits and briefcases.

They would joke and scratch, chew and spit,
and move their feet in the soaked grass.
In a smooth, but un-patterned manner,
like hungry grazing steers,
they’d reconnoiter the neighborhood
and digest all the damages.

Men with no storm damage stayed indoors,
for they’d not met the enemy
and were not bloodied.

Climbing over fallen trees and debris,
they milled through the neighborhood.
The owner of each would detail his damage
as if it were prize bull at state fair.

So there were smiles, jokes,
clucking and spitting
as they proudly swapped damage tales
among the other men
with whom they had not spoken
since the last hurricane.

1988 Northwest Louisiana Writers Conference Contest (Second Place cash award)

Written:  September 1982
Revised:  March 2005

Have you ever been in some awful weather? What was it like?

[JLS # 290]

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The Big One?

I went to the University of Washington to get my masters degree in library science. The university has a beautiful library called the Suzzalo library. It has the soaring ceilings and beautiful woodwork required of old libraries. Before I attended there, the library school was housed in the basement of this building. How cool would it be to go to class here everyday?


Alas, it was not to be.

Oh, I still went to grad school, but my classes were not in the Suzzalo library. They were mostly in a white-painted cement cavern of a classroom in another building.

We weren’t even allowed in the Suzzalo library.

You see, Seattle is in an area that does occasionally have earthquakes. Not very often, but geologists do predict that a ‘big  one’ could hit the Puget Sound area some time. So the Suzzalo library was closed to be retrofitted for earthquake tremors.

I was about three weeks from finishing my degree when I read about the geological history of the area and likelihood of a big earthquake hitting the area. While it would be interesting to experience an earthquake, I would gladly pass on the big one. Since we were planning to move back to the relatively safe Midwest as soon as classes were done, I was pretty sure we would miss any large quake.

About a week later, I had just turned off the shower when I heard a rumbling. Two large labs lived in the apartment above us and their running could shake the floor. At first I suspected that they were playing, but then I realized that the tub itself was flexing. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was an earthquake. I grabbed a towel and dashed for the bedroom, where the blinds were swaying parallel to the window as the building rocked back and forth. The rolling seemed to last forever, but it was probably about thirty seconds.

Since we were packing to move, we no longer had any pictures on the walls and suffered no damage. The library I worked in at the university had one book fall off the shelves. Another campus library had several shelving units tip over.

The quake at the epicenter was a 6 on the Richter scale. It had probably diminished to a 4 where I was. It was enough to get the experience of an earthquake without the panic and terror.

My husband was closer to the epicenter which was on the south end of the Puget Sound and was also in the bathroom during the trembler.

I guess if there’s a natural disaster in our area, you’ll know where to find us.
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After the Storm…

This week we are sharing our personal experiences with natural disasters. Here in the Midwest we experience lots of storms, so I had to think about specific weather events that stood out in my memory.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

After our harsh Michigan winters, spring is always welcome, but sometimes along with that warm weather comes some dangerous weather. On April 21, 1967 a tornado ripped through all the Great Lakes states, and directly through Grand Rapids. I remember spending the evening in our basement with my grandmother, my parents, and my brothers. According to articles on the internet, it was a Friday, so I would have been in school that day – I don’t remember being sent home early, so perhaps the warning came later in the day. Our transistor radio was on, and as the evening progressed and the threat of the tornado increased, mom set out our sleeping bag and blankets so that we could get some sleep. The next morning I couldn’t believe how sunny the skies were. It was Saturday, so we played outside. I imagine my parents would have been busy cleaning up debris in the yard. But on our way to church that Sunday we discovered that the South Congregational Church (which was only a half mile from our church) had been sliced in half! Surprisingly, I wasn’t able to locate a picture of the damaged building, but it made such an impression on me about the power of storms. I said my prayers in earnest that day.


Our house, January 2014

Snowstorms are a fact of life in Michigan, and some of those storms are worse than others. I consider myself fortunate to work in a profession that shuts down when the weather gets dangerous for driving. Teaching in a rural district nearly twenty miles from my home, I appreciated not having to drive through blizzards, except when they started while school was in session. There were a few times when the half hour drive home turned into an hour-long ordeal. One day began with the sun shining and no snow on the ground. By the time school let out there was so much snow on the ground I wasn’t able to get my car out of the parking lot! Fortunately, another teacher with an SUV saw me trying to dig my way out and invited me to spend the night at her house. Her husband and son went over later and pulled my car out so I could go home the next day.


The Grand River, April 2013

Large piles of snow can cause problems when they melt – especially if we get a large rainstorm. In Michigan we are never more than six miles away from a body of water, so flooding is a frequent springtime nuisance. During the spring of 2013 the Grand River overflowed so badly that the news showed ground floor office windows looking into the river rather than over it! I attended a faculty workshop at the university’s downtown campus and my usual lunchtime walk had to be rerouted, since the sidewalk along the Grand River was completely underwater.


Public domain photo on Pixabay

But by far the most unusual experience I’ve had with weather was when I visited my relatives in Japan during the summer of 1985. I remember the newscast at lunchtime was full of the word “taifoo” which my mom confirmed meant typhoon. Apparently, the area was preparing for one the following day. It amazed me that no one in the house seemed particularly concerned. My aunt (who is only six months older than me) said she would go to work as usual, and her son would go to daycare. I had concerns, knowing that a typhoon is the eastern hemisphere’s version of a hurricane. And Yokohama is right there on Tokyo Bay. But my uncle assured me we would be all right. As the day progressed, the skies got darker and the air got more humid. Definitely not a good sign. We ate dinner together and went to sleep with the rain pouring. The next morning, bright blue skies greeted us. There was absolutely no sign of any damage or devastation. Had the storm diverted? Had it been a false alarm?

I asked my mom what happened to the typhoon.
“It came last night, just after midnight,” she told me.
“Really? How can that be? I never heard a thing,” I said.
“That’s because it hit the other side of the house.”

I’m still trying to figure out the logic of that answer.

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Guest: Author Tracy Weber

Today I would like to welcome author Tracy Weber.

Author and Yoga Instructor Tracy Weber

Author and Yoga Instructor Tracy Weber

I met Tracy online through mutual friends and bought her first novel for my yoga instructor… Why? Because my instructor and I had a conversation about how she found herself solving mini mysteries around her, and Tracy writes a mystery series which features a yoga instructor! And on top of it all, the books are called The Downward Dog Mystery series, and judging by how many times we are put in that position by my instructor during class, the Downward-Facing Dog is my instructor’s favorite position!
Tracy herself is a yoga instructor, although that was not her first career choice. She grew up on a dairy farm in Montana but went to college in Seattle, where she received a BS and became a chemical engineer and later became an organizational consultant after receiving her MBA.
Congratulations on the upcoming FIFTH book of the series, Tracy!
Thank you so much for having me here today! I’m writing book 5 right now, but the next one to be released will be Book 4, A Fatal Twist. It will release in January of 2017. It’s so exciting!Fatal Twist final
You’ve made a couple of big life-changes! When did you get interested in yoga and when did you become an instructor?

I started practicing yoga around 1998 to help rehab a back injury that I had sustained in a car accident six years earlier. I didn’t really expect yoga to help (nothing else had) but it dramatically decreased my stress, so I kept at it. About a year after starting to practice, I was relatively pain-free for the first time in seven years. I knew I had to share these teachings with others. I started training to become a yoga instructor in 2000 and opened my studio, Whole Life Yoga, a year later.

What is the most rewarding part of your teaching yoga?

Seeing my students grow and transform, which is most evident in my yoga teacher training program, where we’re together as an intact group for almost a year. In the West, people think of yoga as a tool to transform the body, but it was originally designed as a practice to transform the mind. I love seeing my students find greater confidence, creativity, and peace.

Please tell our readers the charming story about the first man you met at college.

My college dorm was co-ed, which wasn’t nearly as common then as it is today. I lived on the 6th floor of Terry Hall at the University of Washington. The 7th floor was a male floor. The two floors shared a common community area and held lots of joint activities.
The day I moved in, I was both nervous and excited. As my parents and I stepped off the elevator, I saw a man I soon learned was named Marc. He took one look at me and said “Well, if it isn’t another social butterfly moving onto the 6th floor!” Twelve years later, I married him. So I can honestly say that I moved to Seattle and married the first man I met.

When did you first get interested in writing? When did you feel you could ‘really do this’ and write/publish a mystery novel?

The idea came to me on a rainy evening about five years ago, while in the middle of a brutal workout at my favorite health club. I was pedaling away, reading a Susan Conant novel to distract myself from the evil exercise bike, when a quote from Black Ribbon about crazy dog people made me burst out loud laughing. I knew I’d found my author soul mate. Someone who truly got me.

I went home, looked her up on the web, and stumbled across a site about cozy mysteries. As I read about hundreds of other wonderful cozy series, I began to wonder: What would happen if a yoga teacher with a crazy dog like mine got mixed up in murder? Kate Davidson and Bella popped into my head a few days later. The rest is history.

Will you tell us the process you went through to get published?

My process was pretty traditional. I wrote the book (no small feat!) then hired a private editor named Marta Tanrikulu to help me get the manuscript in the best shape it could be. (She’s fabulous, by the way. I highly recommend her.) I pitched agents both blind and live at the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. My agent, Margaret Bails of Inklings Literary Agency signed me and pitched the book to publishers. Midnight Ink bought the series, and the rest is history![Anyone named “Marta” is going to have something going for her…that just happens to be my middle name! My birth certificate reads:Tonette Marta Joyce]

Do you think that you would be interested in writing in another genre?

Mysteries are my love, but I do have a few other novels rattling around in my brain. One is a romance and two are dystopian. I also have ideas for two other cozy mystery series. Now I just have to find the time to write them!

Can you tell us a little about your day-to-day life?

My typical day involves lots of chaos. My dog, Tasha, can’t walk up and down the stairs of my three-story house anymore, so my hubby and I live, watch television, work, and sleep in my first-floor office. The setup makes things a little crowded and a lot cluttered.
I’m also very easily distracted. Here are a few of the worst offenders:
• Facebook
• Email
• Tasha-dog. She’s even been known to push my hand off of the keyboard.
• The demands of my “real job,” which include teaching yoga, designing and teaching a yoga teacher training program, and managing my yoga studio, Whole Life Yoga.
Honestly, I’m my own worst enemy. When I’m focused, you can’t tear me away from the keyboard. The rest of the time? Not so much. Unfortunately, I focus best after ten at night, which makes for some crazy late writing nights.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers?

Haven’t I already prattled on enough? I guess the only other thing I’d say is that my Downward Dog Mysteries are feel-good, crime-solving, human-animal love stories. How can it get better than that? I hope your readers give the series a try and love it!
Oh—and I love to get to know fans! Friend me at

or join my mailing list at

How can they learn more about you and your books?

Check out my website, http://,
friend me at the Facebook link above or follow my author page at http://
My Twitter handle is @TracyWeberTypes, but I’m not as active on Twitter as I am on Facebook. And your readers can also always e-mail me at

Thank you for joining us, Tracy Weber!

Thank you so much for having me! Chatting with you was a blast!books-available-480x181[1]

Tracy Weber is the author of the Agatha Award nominated Downward Dog Mysteries series featuring yoga teacher Kate and her feisty German shepherd, Bella. Tracy loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.
Tracy and her husband live in Seattle with their challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house.
You can find out more about Tracy and her series at her website

Posted in agents, author interview, authors, big plans, book covers, careers, characters, Guest, Guest author, interview, Life, Preparing for writing, publishing, Tonette Joyce, traditional publishing, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

History Comes Alive


Jeff Shaara Writes Like He Was There

By Jeff Salter

Having always loved history and biography, I’m chagrined to be several years late discovering how well Jeff Shaara can bring both to life. He’s likely best known for his Civil War books, which I hope to tackle after I read through his WW2 series and a few others.

Enjoying history and biography as much as I do, it’s only natural for me to love historical fiction and – assuming Shaara’s other work is as superb as this first exposure – I’m sure I’ll become a devoted Shaara fan.

It’s been decades since I was a young student, but my current impression is that there’s a disturbing trend to de-emphasize history in general and American history in particular. With some of the “outcome-based” teaching strategies, too many students (I fear) are not learning what happened and what it meant… but are merely memorizing answers to the selected history questions on their high school exit exam.

Too may students dodge history courses with the prejudice that it’s boring. I could tell you horror tales of dry textbooks which succeeded only in withering any potential interest of the student – whether in fifth grade or college. I could also name some instructors – like Paul Lacroix in eighth grade – who made history come alive for me. But that’s not my focus today.


I’m here to tell you about Shaara’s Rise to Rebellion, the first of a two-part series on the American Revolution. This one takes us from March 1770 to summer of 1776 — and I fear most citizens will recall of that period little more than a few of the more notable names and perhaps three or four of the major events.

Shaara, however, primarily through the eyes of four principals, takes us on a leisurely tour of the places and events… and we understand (perhaps for the first time) the significance of those info fragments we somehow retained from school.

There are way too many to recount here, but let me offer two brief examples:

** everybody (hopefully) comprehends the topical reference to the Boston Tea Party, but in Shaara’s novel, we learn what led up to it, why the British monopoly on tea imports was so crippling to the colonists, and how the colonists managed to stage this monumental protest without the loss of life.

** everybody (hopefully) remembers the imagery of two lanterns in the church tower and Paul Revere’s ride, but in Shaara’s novel, we learn where the British were, why they were there, where they were going, what their mission was, and how the colonials assembled their defenses.

The primary individuals, through whose eyes we see these events unfold, are Ben Franklin, John and Abigail Adams, George Washington, and British General Thomas Gage. Skillfully weaving in the letters, journals, speeches, and other historical documents of these individuals, Shaara delves so deeply into his characters that he admirably conveys what they were probably thinking and likely feeling. He does this so authentically and seamlessly, that it appears Shaara was a fly on the wall during most of their conversations and a contemporary confidante of each of the principals.

I have little patience for long books and this one, at 548 pages, could otherwise make a great doorstop. But I was completely engrossed and can’t wait to read part two, which picks up the story just after the Declaration of Independence has been drafted, signed, and published (in both England and America).

Despite the authentic historical feel of this book, let me say a final word about the difference between history and a novel. In fact, I’ll just quote Shaara from his two-page intro called “To the Reader” —
“By definition, this is a novel. As painstaking as I try to be in telling you this story through the voices of the characters themselves, in their own words and through their own experiences, the dialogue and thoughts must be read as fiction.”
And later, in that same essay:
“I have tried to show how each of these characters responded to his or her time, how they witnessed and experienced and impacted the enormous changes unfolding round them.”

Folks, if I were teaching a class in American History, I’d be tempted to dump the boring textbooks and just assign half a dozen of Shaara’s novels. I think the kids would learn a whole lot more about their country and they’d become INTERESTED during the process.


Have you read any of Jeff Shaara’s books?
What author of historical fiction do you most enjoy?

[JLS # 289]

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