Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, teaching and anything else that interests me


I had really expected it to be hard. For so long I have worked so hard, with almost no time off, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to fill my time if I didn’t go to work anymore. (I was always more than a little driven!) Turns out I was wrong! I am quite happy not going to work. I manage to keep busy – even if mostly it is with reading. But I am cooking more and writing more and feeling a lot more relaxed.

It was definitely time, I guess!

July reading, part 4

One thing about reading so much: it leads to lots of posts!

Speculative fiction:

  • The Gift of Battle by Morgan Rice taught me a lot. First of all, it taught me that 17 books in a series is too many. Rice was obviously tired of these characters by the time she got to this book. She even says that she will tell the story of one of these characters, a baby, later on – definitely a ways in the future. The editing was sloppier, too. The book was much longer than any of the others, chapter lengths were more erratic, and it just seemed like she was trying too hard to finish the series so she could be done with it.  In all honesty, I wish I had stopped reading after about book 12 – definitely before book 16. But I finished the series and on some levels, I am glad that I did. If I were reviewing the series here rather than just the final book, the review would be glowing. Reviewing the final book, I have to say I am disappointed.
  • Talon by Michael J. Ploof was a very good story. The characters are well-drawn and the story is filled with action.  It is part of a series that precedes another series, Whill of Agora, but it definitely stands alone quite well. That being said, I just downloaded the first Whill book and plan to read it soon!
  • Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice is the frist in another series by Morgan Rice. The story seemed a little familiar to me at times, being similar to the series I just finished, but it seemed better, more developed, better edited. I don’t know that I will read the rest of the series unless I get it for free somewhere, but reding this one reminded me that Rice is a good writer and a goos storyteller.  I had lost that idea with the end of the other series.
  • Snake Heart by Lindsay Buroker is the second in the Chains of Honor series. I like the characters and I am enjoying the story. Buroker, as I have mentioned before is probably my favorite author. This book is a good demonstration of why. Hers are books that I am not afraid to buy; I know that I will enjoy them!
  • The King’s Assassin by M. M. Brownlow was another good book. The idea of an assassin from one nation assigned to protect the ruler of another was an interesting idea that led to even more interesting events. There are two more books in this series, it seems, and I hope to read them all.
  • The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer was an excellent story. I had read The Medium by Archer, and I liked it enough to search out others by her. I am glad I did. There is an element of romance in her books, but it isn’t so much that I cannot justify reading it. (I am not a big romance fan, but who doesn’t like a little romance from time to time?) Archer has written many series, including some that are more romance, so I probably won’t even try all of them.  These two series, Emily Chambers Spirit Medium and The Ministry of Curiosities, are interesting enough that I will try to continue reading them.
  • Dragons Lost by Daniel Arenson was the first in the trilogy Requiem for Dragons.  I read all three books in the space of about 5 days. I had read Requiem’s Song previously but that neither helped or hurt the reading of these three books. While they take place in the same world, the two series take place at vastly different times. There are actually several Requiem series in between these two. I hope to read all of them!
  • Dragons Reborn by Daniel Arenson is the second in the trilogy. I cannot recommend these books enough!

So now we are a week into August. I’ve read 3 books and a novella. Not bad! Let’s see if I can sustain the pace!

July reading, part 3

I read two non-fiction books last month:

  • The Coffee Date Guide to Freelance Journalism: A Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Freelance Writer by Leslie Patrick was an interesting book. It really got me thinking about freelance writing. It helped me come up with some ideas that I might pursue. But that is probably as far as I will go with it. It isn’t the book’s fault; it was very encouraging and informative. I am just lazy, I guess.  But if you want to pursue freelance writing, I recommend this book.
  • Weinberg on Writing: the Fieldstone Method by Gerald M. Weinberg was another encouraging, informative book. Weinberg’s suggestions were largely things I had already known about but, through laziness, had kind of forgotten about. I did many of the exercises in the book as I read it, and it was definitely useful.  As a result of reading this book, I have started a notebook of “fieldstones” – words, phrases and quotes that appeal to me on some level. I used to do that, getting the idea from Kim Stafford at a Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project writing marathon in New Orleans. I am glad to be doing that again. So the book was good. It took a little while to get into, I will admit, but overall I found it quite informative.

I read these books on writing and get inspired. Somehow or other, though, I am doing more reading than I am writing. I hope to correct that this month.

I’ll try to get to the speculative fiction later today or tomorrow.

July reading, part 2

On to the mysteries and thrillers!

I read a lot of them last month:

  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie is a classic, of course.  I may have read it 30 or 40 years ago when I got on an Agatha Christie kick, but I certainly didn’t remember the story. It was a good one. I didn’t know until I just got the link off Amazon that this was the first Poirot book. Maybe I will try to read them in order. That would keep me busy for a while! I am sure anyone reading this post is familiar with Christie’s mysteries, but if not, you should check them out at once.
  • Tin God by Stacy Green was a good book. Some reviewers on Amazon didn’t like the main character, but I found her to be someone I could relate to – although our lives bear no resemblance. As is true of many of the places I have lived, including the South, everyone is connected to everyone else, so things get a little messy from time to time. It confused me a little at first, trying to keep it all straight in my head! I hope you’ll give this book a try.
  • An Aria of Omens by Patrice Greenwood is actually the third book in this series, of which I had only read the first one, but that wasn’t a problem. The story definitely stands well on its own and doesn’t even provide too many spoilers about what happens in the second book. I like this series because it takes place in Santa Fe, and even though I am not part of that New Mexico by any stretch of the imagination, it is fun to read about. I know lots of people who go to the Opera and would fit right in these stories. Some reviewers on Amazon didn’t like the ending, but it didn’t bother me. These are fun books to read!
  • Raspberry Jam by Carolyn Wells is an old book, but I enjoyed it. I hadn’t realized just how old the book was until just now. Wells died in 1942, having been born during the Civil War, so it is no wonder that her “science” is a little dated! It is a locked room mystery, and Fleming Stone and his assistant are finally able to solve it. It was a fun, easy read.
  • The Grave  Man by David Archer is the first book in this series, and I am really sold on it! Sam Prichard, a medically retired cop turned PI, is a likable character and the story was good. Many reviewers on Amazon weren’t so happy with it, though, so I cannot guarantee you will be. But I hope you will give it a try.
  • Death Sung  Softly by David Archer is the second book in the series. I am trying to read them in order, but that may not happen. I got the first three free, so I know I will read the third book, but then the next one I got is 5, I think. We’ll see if I want to hold out and get 4 before I break down and read this one. This story makes Prichard out to be even more amazing – maybe almost too much. But he solves the case and he gets to live happily every after. I am going to keep reading these. I hope you will, too.
  • Mean Woman Blues by Julie Smith is another Skip Langdon book. #9, actually. I am reading them really out of order, but that’s OK. I love Skip, and I love books about New Orleans. If you like female cop stories, you will love this series. This particular book was excellent, bringing an end – I hope – to one of the bad guys who have been plaguing Skip. But I’m not worried; I am sure there is someone else ready to take his place.

OK. That’s it for the mysteries and thrillers. I still have speculative fiction and non-fiction to cover.

July reading, part 1

Last month I read 20 books and 2 pieces of shorter fiction. I listened to an audiobook, too. Obviously, that’s more than I am going to post about all at once, so I’ll start with the easy ones.

The audiobook was the third book in the Demon Wars Saga by R.A. Salvatore, The Demon Apostle. Each of these books is done in three parts, with 5-6 hours of audio per part, so this constitutes a serious investment of time. But they are worth it. This one didn’t end the way I would have liked – or any way that I might have been able to tolerate, but my son was quick to point out that Salvatore is not known for his happy endings. The story was wonderful and the audio production flawless. (They are done by Graphic Audio. Unfortunately, they are no longer available from them.  I got mine as part of a Humble Bundle.) I still have a lot of this series to go, but I will definitely be reading Salvatore after I am done with these.  Unfortunately, his ebooks are as expensive as paperbacks, so I will probably just try to dig out my son’s old copies. They are around here somewhere!

I read two pieces of short fiction:

I know that I do not really enjoy short stories very much because they are short and it is hard to write good ones, but these were a little longer than short stories and I had hopes. But I was disappointed.  Vampire Dead-tective #1 had an interesting premise: a bond between a human and a vampire as long as the human is wearing a ring. I didn’t like the characters very much, and that made it difficult to get into the story. Maybe the other installments (There are 5; this one was 83 pages, so all together they are a longish novel.) would change that for me, but I am not counting on it. Also, the writing was filled with cliches. It seemed like laziness more than a conscious decision to include them. This book was OK since it was free on Amazon, but I won’t shell out $2.99 for any of the other installments.

A Gift of Shadows was part of a 15 book set I got through Kobo that is no longer available. I cannot find any evidence of Nick Webb writing a series that this would fit into. The story was good but too short. I assumed it was like a prologue to a series, so I was OK with that. But now that I can’t find the series, I am a little disappointed. I found The Maskmaker’s Apprentice by Endi Webb (who looks just like Nick Webb!), and so I guess that is what is leads into.

I read three historical novels:

I didn’t like this Cash Laramie as much as the first one I read, but it was still good. I really liked the interplay between Laramie and Miles in the first one, and this book didn’t feature Miles nearly as much.

The Good Knight was a “Medieval Mystery” that kept me interested and taught me a lot about the times. I really enjoyed it. The mystery was good, and the characters were engaging. I hope to read more of this series.

I read Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen some years ago, and at first that was a problem for me with this book. But this Soldier’s Heart is every bit as good in its own way. I struggled with the connection between soldier’s heart and this story for a long time because the book is more about the families of the soldiers than the soldiers themselves. But the families became people I cared about. The story is based on fact and written by a descendant of the families in question, so that makes it even more interesting to me. If you like Civil War stories that aren’t all about the killing, this is the book for you!

OK… That’s all for now. I’ll be back later with more!


Big changes ahead

Well, I did it. Yesterday I received an offer to teach part time this fall and I turned it down. I have been thinking since May that I was ready to retire, but I wasn’t convinced I would have the guts to really do it. But I seem to have done it. 

    I am afraid I will miss teaching a lot, but I know it was creating a lot of stress that I really don’t need. Most of the stress was self imposed, but that’s who I am. The only way to avoid the stress that I could see was to quit. And right now, at least, I am really relieved. 

    I did leave myself a little bit of an out, though. I told them I might be available in the spring. I hope by then I am so happy being retired that is don’t want to think about it. But just in case I’m not…

    Lots of reading and not much else!

    I don’t know about where you live, but here in southwestern New Mexico it has been exceptionally hot.  We have had way more 100°+ days this year than last year, for sure, and everyone says it’s way more than normal.

    We don’t have air conditioning in our RV, so we have been sitting in front of fans a lot lately. There is generally a good breeze, and fortunately, we really like hot weather. But even so, we wouldn’t mind a break!

    As a result, I have really gotten a lot of reading done this month – 8 books so far. It is just too hot to do much of anything else. Sunday is the first chance of a sub 100° day, so for at least the next 5 days, I expect the reading to continue.

    It will definitely take more than one post to report on all of my July reading!

    June Reading, part 2

    OK, on to the speculative fiction:

    • Warrior Mage by Lindsay Buroker is the first book in this series. I have enjoyed every single book by Buroker that I have read, and this was no exception.  The characters are interesting right from the beginning, and the action keeps you reading. I highly recommend this book — and everything else by Lindsay Buroker!
    • A Dream of Mortals by Morgan Rice is the 15th book in the series.  If you have been following my reading, you know I am reading this series in order but not one right after the other. This was another great story. Please do yourself a favor and read the series.
    • Death Never Sleeps by E.J. Simon is one of the books that I started reading in my Kindle app and then lost for some reason. When I got my Kindle, I started trying to finish the books that I had abandoned, and this is one of the first. It was a pretty good story, although the main character is not someone I am sure I really like. But the concept was interesting, and that kept me going. If you are into technology and thrillers, you would probably like this one.
    • The Medium y C.J. Archer was a fun story. Emily is a medium, and she falls in love with a ghost. As you can imagine, it is complicated! But the romance is only part of the story; the couple has to try to wrangle a shape-shifting demon back into the spirit world. And that is no easy task. The story was good and it was told well.  If the premise sounds even remotely interesting, give it a try; it’s free for the Kindle.
    • A Joust of Knights by Morgan Rice is number 16. I have to admit I don’t like these last books as much as I did the earlier ones, but that is probably because I don’t think the story is going to end the way I want it to. I am also seeing more typos and such. But the story is a good one. I am reading the last book in the series right now; I’m not sure what I am going to do when it is over. I have been reading and enjoying these books for a long time now!

    I am convinced that purchasing the Kindle, after purchasing the Kobo in May, is the reason I am reading so much. My old Kobo was frustrating and didn’t work well any more. So I tended not to read much on it. Getting the new Kobo really helped get me reading more again. Then getting the Kindle meant I didn’t have to use the app on my tablet, not a hard thing to do, but it was too easy to get distracted. Plus I have rediscovered a number of books that I wanted to read but “lost” as the app kept adding new books until I couldn’t find the old ones anymore.  (I know, I didn’t have to buy them all, but since the vast majority were free, I couldn’t resist!)

    If I am correct, then July should see a lot of titles read, too. Let’s see how it goes.

    June reading, part 1

    I got a lot of reading done last month, so here is a start on the list!

    First, the mysteries:

    • The Flinck Connection by Estelle Ryan is the 4th book in this series, which I am trying to read in order.  I really love Dr. Genevieve Lenard! If you haven’t read any of these books, I cannot recommend them highly enough. The characters are wonderful and the stories are very well told.
    • Death by Lotto 5 by Abigail Keam was a little bit of a disappointment to me.  I really enjoyed Death by A Honeybee, the first book in the series, but this one didn’t have the same appeal.  It could be because I didn’t read the three books in between.  Whatever the reason, it was an OK book – not bad but not anything I got real excited about.
    • Murder in the South of France by Susan Kiernan-Lewis is the first in this series but the third one I have read.  It maybe took away some of the suspense about Laurent, but there were no real problems with reading this one so out of order. The series is quite enjoyable.
    • Shot of Tequila by J.A. Konrath has been in my Kindle account since 2011, but I just now got around to reading it.  All in all, I have to say I enjoyed it. I don’t think I am really the demographic for this book, but it had enough appeal that I never questioned finishing it. I like the main character, Jack Daniels, so I will probably try to read more of the series.
    • The One You Love by Paul Pilkington is another book I’ve had for a long time but had never read until now.  It was a good read. It was darker than most of the books I read anymore, but I enjoyed it. I don’t know if I will read the others in the series or not, just because it is dark, but if you are more into thrillers than I am these days, you would probably enjoy them.

    The non-fiction book I read was Harry Truman: The Man Who Divided the World by Jack Steinberg. It was nothing spectacular, but for a quick, easy peek into the life of Truman, it was OK. My main objection was the inclusion of entire speeches in the text; excerpts and then more discussion would have been better for me.  It was a little superficial.

    The only historical fiction I read was Light of the Western Stars by Zane Gray. It was one I had purchased back when my dad got his kindle and didn’t know how to purchase books for it.  I walked him through the process over the phone by buying a free book that he was interested in. It worked. And I finally got around to actually reading it. My dad always talked about what a great writer Zane Grey was, and I always nodded my head. But after reading this book, I am definitely going to read more. He was a very good writer! This book, taking place in my part of the world, was especially interesting.

    The only audiobook I listened to last month was The Demon Spirit by R.A. Salvatore.  It was excellent! I am a good ways into the next book in the series now.

    No time now to do justice to the fantasy and sci fi books I read last month, so I’ll come back and discuss them later.

    A somewhat strange request

    I know this has nothing to do with the usual content of this blog, but I am going to post this anyway.

    My daughter is doing research for her PhD and is looking for the stories of women between the ages of 18 and 24 who have breastfed their children.  Below is information about her study:

     Did your baby exclusively receive breast milk for at least the first 3 months of life?
     Are you still breastfeeding or stopped within the previous 12 months?
     Are you 18 to 24 years old?
     Do you reside in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, or Texas?
     Are you interested in participating in this study?

    Consider telling your story.

    Please see the flyer below of you meet the criteria above.



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