The hummingbirds are here!

Well, that might be a slight exaggeration, but we have a pair of birds coming to our feeders.  Everyone told us it was too early to put them out, but we decided to do it on April 2nd.  Earlier this week my husband saw a female, and today we have seen both male and female.  We haven’t been able to identify them yet, but they are coming around enough that we are hopeful.  It is so nice to see them!

Since this is our first spring in Deming in southwestern New Mexico, this is going to be fun.  New hummingbirds! Hurray!

March Reading

I read two non-fiction books last month:

  • Off The Grid Living- How To Raise Chickens, Survive Without Power, and Live Off The Grid by Ben Night was a very brief, superficial overview of living off the grid. At times it seemed like it was directed to preppers and at other times not so much.  Not being a prepper, I was glad for the other times, but it wasn’t very satisfying or informative.  Maybe I know more about the subject than the intended audience (Although, as I said, I am not exactly sure who that would be.), but it didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t know.  Perhaps, though, if you were totally clueless about living off the grid, there would have been enough information to encourage you to study the issue more deeply — or to completely scare you away from the idea.   So it might be an OK book — just not for me.
  • The Technique of the Mystery Story by Carolyn Wells was a very good book about writing mysteries.  The author provided a lot of interesting information.  Since this is an old book, written more than 100 years ago, its references are to Poe and Doyle and other writers of their time, not to anyone currently writing mysteries.  For some that might be a drawback, but to me it made it all the more valuable.  The authors she talks about are classic mystery writers.  I can learn a lot from them.  She also talks about the struggle to have mysteries seen as literature — a fascinating topic.

Six novels got added to my list in March:

  • Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet was an easy read, just what I was looking for at the time.  It was funny and, perhaps to some, somewhat sacrilegious.  I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me.  I would consider reading others of her books, but I am not rushing out today to get them.
  • Walking with Ducks by Martin A. Nalitz Jr. was great.  Of all the books I read last month, this was my favorite.  From the first page I was into the story because I knew the author knew what he was talking about.  Having worked in a prison and knowing a fair number of people who have been incarcerated, I recognized the truth of it.  Aside from that, it was an excellent story told very well.
  • A Touch of Ice by L.j. Charles was another fun read.  It is a romance disguised as a mystery, but I enjoyed it on both levels.  There are so many books out there now with heroes who have special powers that they use for good, solving mysteries, righting wrongs, whatever that they often run together in my mind.  This was a good one, though, and I would enjoy reading more in the series.
  • The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner was historical fiction, well-told.  The story comes through loud and clear; the history is there to add interest.  You don’t get bogged down in a lot of unnecessary details.  I enjoy reading books set in other times and other places, so this was a treat for me.  Captain Lacey is a very interesting character who sweeps you up into his adventures.
  • Paint Me Gone by Molly Greene had me confused for a long time.  In a good way.  It had lots of layers, and they were all interesting.  I know almost nothing about art or artists, so there was something to be learned there in addition to solving the mystery.  I would enjoy reading more by Ms Greene.
  • Worse Than Being Alone by Patricia M. Clark  was really enjoyable. I couldn’t stop raving about this book, and now my husband is reading it, too.  While I love reading books set in other places and times, I also love books set in places I know well — in this case the St. Louis area.  When one of the main characters travels to Cape Girardeau to talk with a professor at SEMO, I was in heaven!  The story was excellent, and while I wanted to tell the main character to hurry up her investigation before it was too late, I really have no complaints about the book at all.

I read two short stories: “The Sargaso of Space” by Edmond Hamilton  and “The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe.  Both were good.  I read Poe before reading much of the Carolyn Wells book on writing mysteries, so I was familiar with the story before she kept referring to it.

I listened to two audiobooks this month:

  • Trees of Pride by G.K. Chesterton
  • Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I have to admit I would never have read either of them.  Having them available to listen to as I drive down the road made them much more accessible to me.  I have enjoyed Chesterton’s short stories but had not read anything longer than that.  It was a good story but not gripping.  Maybe it would have been better if I had been sitting down with the book in my lap reading it in longer chunks.  I am not convinced it would have been, though.  Phantom of the Opera is, well, Phantom of the Opera.  I knew I should want to read it, but I couldn’t make myself do it.  Listening to it was a joy, though.  I will probably continue to listen to books like this that I wouldn’t otherwise read.

Well, we are several days into April and I have read a couple books already.  Let’s see how it goes!

Spring Break

A week off… I am really happy to be in Deming with my husband for a few days at least.  Pretty soon I will be here full time, but there are still a few more weeks before that can happen.  I am getting impatient.

February Reading

I read a lot last month, but I got busy and haven’t posted about it until now.

The only non-fiction book I read was #Houston70: The Miracle Journey of Apollo 13 by Phillip Gibson.  It is the second book like this by Gibson that I have read.  I really enjoy the format – presenting history in a series of tweets.  It makes the event accessible to almost anyone, I think.

I read a few novels.

Calamity by Bob B. Bernstein was a good detective story.  I enjoyed the fact that the detective was a boat captain, too.  This was, as are most of the books I read anymore, a book I got for free for the Kindle app.  I would have been willing to pay for it, though!

Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs was another free ebook.  It is a romance/mystery and a very light read.  I enjoyed it a lot, though; the story was good.

Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery is the second thing I have read by M. Louisa Locke.  I liked this because the story was good and also because it  gives a pretty good picture of like in San Francisco in the late 1800s.

Double Ugly by Jim Murray was a much better book than I expected it to be.  It took a while to get into it, but once I did, it was really good.  The main character, an Irish policeman, gets a heart transplant that changes his life in many ways.  It is a mystery — a little darker than I usually read, but good.

I read a lot of short stories, old ones but well worth the time.   I recommend them all.

  • “2br02b” by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
  • “The Man with the Twisted Lip” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Adventure of the Crooked Man” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Mystery of the Solitary Cyclist” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “All Cats Are Gray” by Andre Norton
  • “The Gallery”  by Rog Phillips
  • “Mr. Wong Rights a Wrong” by M. Louisa Locke

Also, I started listening to audiobooks in the car this last month.  I downloaded them from Librivox.org.  I recommend all of them.

  • The Amethyst Box by Anna Katherine Green
  • Boston Blackie by Jack Boyle
  • The Man Who Fell through the Earth by Carolyn Wells

I especially enjoyed The Man Who Fell through the Earth.

The Future

This will be my last year at my present job.  I am currently commuting 35 miles each way every day and 210 miles each way on the weekend to be with my husband.  It’s just too much.  I am exhausted!  But I don’t know what will come next.  I cannot really afford to retire yet — not for another year.  So I am trying to look for work down in Deming, where we live, while living in Belen and working in Albuquerque.  I have seen some jobs with the school district down here that I wouldn’t mind having, or I could probably piece together something with the college in town, but it is too early to really put anything in place.  And I would like to know I have something for the fall before it gets here.  I am trying not to be impatient, but…

Most of all, when I think of the future, I am really looking forward to it.  It will be an adventure.  Let’s see how it plays out!

January Reading

This month I got quite a bit of reading done.  I am pretty happy about that!

Non-fiction

  • Freedom Summer by Bruce W. Watson was an excellent book.  I am too young to have participated — or even really to understand that is was happening — but I have always wished I could have been there.  Reading this book was extremely educational.  I now have a much better understanding of what happened, and I can honestly say that I am not sure I could have done what those people did.  I was especially interested learning about what some of those people did later, how they affected the later ’60s.

Fiction

  • Uncommon Grounds by Sandra Blazon was a quick read — a mystery with some romance thrown in.  It was fun, and I will probably read more by this author.
  • Romance & Revenge by Laina Turner is the ninth book in the series, so there was some history that I didn’t have.  That didn’t make it any less fun to read, though.
  • A Matter of Trust by Lis Wiehl was excellent.  The plot was very well developed and really interesting.  The book had a depth that some of these others don’t.  I enjoyed reading it.
  • St. Valentine’s Day Cookie Massacre by Elisabeth Crabtree was another fun read.  I have to admit it was a little difficult to believe a successful Miami investigative reporter would return home and take a job as a food critic. Once I got past that, though, I enjoyed the story.
  • He Needed Killing Too by Bill Fitts was quite good.  I liked the main character, a former computer science professor turned private eye.  He stumbles along and ends up providing the police with a lot of information leading them to an arrest.  The book was a good one.

Short Fiction

  • “The Variable Man” by Philip K. Dick was wonderful.  It made me appreciate the creativeness of individuals.  I read “Beyond the Door” last year and understood that it maybe wasn’t the best of Dick’s work to start with.  This was much easier to read and I really enjoyed it.
  • “A Scandal in Bohemia” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a Holmes story I had never read.  It made me realize how simple these stories are — kind of the way Watson is amazed at how easy Holmes makes his deductions appear.  As a fan of Elementary with Johnny Miller and Lucy Liu, I decided to read some of Doyle’s short stories.  This one included Irene Adler and a good description of Holmes’ feelings for her.
  • “The Red-Headed League” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was fun.  I know I had read this one years ago, but I honestly couldn’t remember the ending until I was almost there this time.  I am going to be reading more of these stories as the year progresses.

February is going to be a busy month, but I hope to get a similar amount of reading done.  We’ll have to wait and see how that goes.

PARCC protest

We are struggling with how to help prepare our students for the PARCC math tests.  We have started taking the practice tests and have been stunned by how language-heavy some of the math tests are, how difficult that will make them for English-language learners. We also know that many of our students do not have the necessary math skills to do well on the tests.

While we sit around school and complain about the new test our students have to take this year, a student at another area school has decided to take action.

There is a petition on change.org asking Governor Susana Martinez to Cancel or make all PARCC testing optional for students.   KOB4 in Albuquerque reported on the petition, started by Derrek Sena, and I can only hope that the report will encourage people to sign.

When I did a search for PARCC on change.org, I learned that this is far from the only petition of its kind.  I doubt that anyone in authority anywhere is going to listen, but these petitions are a way to demonstrate that there is a lack of support for this test.  I hope you will sign one!