Review of Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman


22609593In Green On Blue, Elliot Ackerman portrays the savagery of war and the terrible consequences suffered by the countries and people caught within its grip.

Aziz and Ali are young brothers growing up in the small Afghan town of Sperkai. Their lives are simple, but happy, until war invades – “The war that came after the Russians but before the Americans…”- and makes them orphans, changing their lives forever.

Ali is injured, and permanently disabled. To pay for his care, Aziz joins the special U.S.-funded army to fight against the Afghan group which bombed their new village. Aziz experiences the true ferocity of war as he battles to gain vengeance for Ali, thereby winning him honor.

But everything Aziz thought he knew about his cause and comrades, his life itself, is shattered by what he learns in his struggle to fight. The line between the good and the bad is no longer black and white, but a blurry shade of gray.

Elliot Ackerman served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so his knowledge of the country and its people is first-hand. As a soldier, Ackerman experienced the complex political system that has been held hostage by fighting factions, with its people trapped in the crosshairs of battle.

I’m not sure why, but I had a very hard time reading this book.  It’s very well-written, almost lyrical at times, but it was still hard for me to connect with the characters and their hardships.

Is it that the Afghan culture is so totally foreign to me that I can’t feel the proper empathy? Or maybe, it’s because Ackerman’s honest prose portrays a situation that is so devastating and uncomfortable that the reader can’t help but feel unease and hopelessness from its pages. I don’t know.

(Note: Provided to me by Scribner for review)


Originally posted on Scribe:


By Stephen Romano

Published in 2015 by Pocket Star.


Reviewed by K.L. Romo.

Metro, by Austin, Texas native Stephen Romano, is an electrifying thriller – just think Pulp Fiction and Three Days of the Condor sucked up by a Texas hill-country tornado and slammed into each other on the way down–but on steroids.

…cultures that break their waves on the dazzled face of the new America in the mid-1980’s are radical and colorful, unlike anything that’s come before, overhyped, hair-sprayed and full of shit, flashy and flaky and shimmering in gaudy imperfection, like half-formed illusions masking the most significant changes that modern civilization has ever experienced…

And FYI – the book has nothing to do with subways.

Jollie, Andy, and Mark are three friends living in a house together in Austin, Texas – The Kingdom – where parties are non-stop. Mark is a small-time drug dealer who…

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Book Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

23492613It takes 800 grapes to make a bottle of wine. But what does it take to make a family? And keep it?

Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes is a wonderful family drama that explores the intricacies between members of a family, and what it takes to keep them together. The feel of the story is reminiscent of The Family Stone movie from 2005.

Georgia Ford’s upcoming wedding comes to a crashing halt. She runs from Los Angeles, back to her home in Sonoma County, where her family has operated a boutique vineyard for the last thirty years. Georgia needs the comfort of returning to her roots, but is shocked at what she finds when she gets there. Her once close-knit family is turned inside-out. Estranged twin brothers, parents unsure of what they want from life. Secrets kept from her at a distance now stare her in the face, tilting her equilibrium. Georgia thought she knew what she wanted her life to be, but now everything seems uncertain and disjointed.

The theme consistently running through the novel is the synchronization of events.  Unlike fate, everything must be ready.

Synchronization – the coordination of events to operate in union….systems operating with all their parts in synchrony….the interrelationship of things that might normally exist separately. In physics: It’s called simultaneity. In Music: rhythm. In your life: epic failure.

This was an interesting concept to consider. How many of us have been in situations where we thought we were ready for a particular event in our lives, only to find that for some totally unfathomable reason, our stars just weren’t aligned, our universe not ready? Or the opposite – when it’s right, you feel it, way down deep?

The book also explores the choices we all make in our lives, especially involving relationships. Georgia’s mother warns her to be careful what you give up. You many never get it back. And Georgia comes to realize how true her mother’s words are.

I enjoyed Laura Dave’s writing style – very introspective, and eloquent in all the right places. If you like a good family drama, I recommend Eight Hundred Grapes.

MEMBERS REVIEW: 2014 Book Award Winners

Originally posted on Scribe:

As we open submissions for the 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards, we’re still celebrating our 2014 honorees. This year, in addition to our toast at the Texas Book Festival, we’re honoring this year’s winners with a special review written by a Writers’ League member.

Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin was this year’s winner in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category.

By Nikki Loftin

Published in 2014 by Razorbill.


Reviewed by K.L. Romo.

A twelve-year-old boy who is barely surviving the emotional trauma caused by his little sister’s death. A mistreated ten-year-old foster girl who optimistically waits for the return of her parents. In Nightingale’s Nest, Nikki Loftin tells an enchanting story about tragedy, purpose, and the hopeful belief of a better life to come.

Little John Fischer hates trees – all trees. As he sees it, they were the source of his family’s misfortune…

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Originally posted on Scribe:

As we open submissions for the 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards, we’re still celebrating our 2014 honorees. This year, in addition to our toast at the Texas Book Festival, we’re honoring this year’s winners with a special review written by a Writers’ League member.

Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace by Michael Morton was this year’s winner in the Nonfiction category.

Don’t forget to join us at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, October 17, to toast our honorees at the Writers’ League of Texas booth (#420-421) at noon!

GETTING LIFE: An Innocent Man’s 25-Year Journey from Prison to Peace

By Michael Morton

Published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

Getting Life

Reviewed by Michael Sirois.

The plight of the innocent in prison has been given a great deal of press lately, but I have to confess it wasn’t something I thought much about until I…

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How I Changed at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit 2015…

photo 2Attending the O & E Summit was a profound emotional experience for me.  The orientation began by announcing that the Summit was a “safe place.” This was a very powerful statement – the unspoken implication that many places weren’t safe, weren’t places where people felt comfortable being themselves. But within the confines of the Summit, everyone could be genuine. Without the fear of judgment, without the fear of discrimination, without the fear of retaliation. How many times have any of us been in an environment where this was true?

The thing that struck me most at O & E was the strong sense of community among attendees. Of the approximately 3,200 people there, from 31 countries, I would guess at least 80% were Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, or Transgender (LGBT). And I’m guessing most of these 2500 LGBT individuals had gone through hardships that only the LGBT community could truly understand.  Although the details may have been different, each had experienced the isolation and pain of growing up LGBT, and the struggle to come- out, and be accepted in a world that isn’t always kind.

Another amazing thing was the candor and authenticity of the people I spoke with. So many shared their very personal stories with me: the inner struggles they’d experienced growing up, rejection by their families, difficulties they’d had in telling the world they were different, the fight to gain the respect and acceptance of friends, family, and coworkers. I was so impressed by their openness, their willingness to share their most painful experiences so that others might gain a better understanding.

And of course, I was in awe of, and inspired by, their courage.

Rainbow DoritosThe conference was also filled with so much humor – Gay jokes flying left and right.  The special Rainbow Doritos that had been made by Pepsico (a major sponsor) for the occasion were dubbed “Gay Doritos” – hilarious!

I took my 17-year-old daughter to the Gala dinner on the last night. Same-sex couples held hands, transgender women dressed in stunning evening-wear. The comfort of belonging was a palpable thing; the fellowship of being with like individuals.  Only months ago, my daughter revealed to me that she’s a lesbian. I belatedly learned of her inner grief and struggles through her childhood. I’m ashamed that I’d unknowingly contributed to her pain. But she’s now embracing who she is, who she’s always been. At the dinner, she told me that even though she didn’t know the people there, she felt so comfortable.

She was home.

And I think that’s the way many feel at OES – Home.

2015 Out & Equal Workplace Summit…

From Out & Equal Website

How would it feel to bring only part of yourself to work every day?

How would it feel to leave your personal life at the door when you walk into your office?

Or maybe you could just try not discussing the gay part of you?  But how would you maneuver the explosive minefield of possibly mentioning your same-sex partner or spouse? You decide its much safer and easier to just stay silent about your personal life altogether.

How horrible to leave the best part of yourself at home!

Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are, who they really are. Everyone deserves to feel secure enough to bring their entire selves to work every day.   Corporate policy is one thing, but attitudes are quite another.  Eliminating “closeted-employment” is what the Out & Equal Workplace Summit is all about.

I’m fortunate to be able to participate in the 2015 Out & Equal Workplace Summit this week.  EY is a major sponsor, so I will also be co-presenting a workshop discussing Allies & Friends.  The Summit will take place at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas, and promises some very interesting workshops and panels. Many focus on not only LGBT employee equality and initiatives, but strengthening active allies & friends of the LGBT equality movement.  Respecting and empowering every individual, gay or straight. Bringing a better understanding of our differences by understanding our similarities.  Teaching us how to actually walk the talk.

Exciting and interesting?  More to follow.

To keep up with the O&E Summit on social media, please see:

@outandequal, #oesummit, #eyunity