Random Thoughts

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

I couldn’t be happier!

I wrote about how my Kobo had died, so I wanted to give you an update and give credit where credit is due.

In spite of my misgivings, I decided to contact customer service. I hated to do it because of all the really, really bad experiences I have had with them since I got my first Kobo in August, 2011. But I did it because… Why not?

I completed the online contact info and was told to call. So I called.  I was told that the wait was more than 50 minutes and that I could hold or leave a call back number if I preferred. So I did. That was yesterday early afternoon, and 24 hours later, I had heard nothing. (I guess I should be grateful I hadn’t decided to hold all that time! I would have been really tired!) So I called again.  And again I was told it would be more than 50 minutes or I could leave a call back. So I did. Again!

And then I checked the email I had gotten from them after I had initially contacted them online. It gave me a chat option. So I clicked. And waited several minutes to get someone to chat with. But finally I did.

At first I thought I was going to be really irritated because he wasn’t listening to me. But I went through all the steps he asked me to — even though I had done all of them several times prior to contacting Kobo in the first place. We ended the chat because I had to charge my ereader for an hour and then try all the steps we had gone through again.  I charged and tried, and I still had no luck.  So I started another chat.

This second chat went much better. We tried a couple m things that resulted in absolutely no change in the status of my ereader.  And then he said I qualified for a replacement. So I said, COOL!

Actually, they are more than replacing my ereader. They are being very generous.  And once again, I am glad I have a Kobo.  Or I will be as soon as the new one arrives!

So what did I learn from this?

  1. To try to solve issues rather than just giving up
  2. To try to contact them (and maybe all customer service people) by chat rather than phone because it is less frustrating
  3. That typing gave me time to temper my usual somewhat harsh responses when dealing with customer service people who are just doing their job and have no way of knowing I am a competent adult who has already tried every possible solution she could find online

So when I get my new Kobo, I will tell you all about it!

 

 

When you read a really good book…

you know it. There is a depth, a complexity, a simplicity that can’t be ignored.

One such really good book is the one I am reading now, Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. I am less than half way through the 736-page novel, but I have to say I love it. There is a depth to it that I haven’t encountered in a book since the last Tor.com ebook club selection I read.

I know some people would say that is only natural, that a traditionally published book is bound to be better than an independently or self-published one. I don’t believe that is true. Weber is an experienced author. His work is bound to be better than someone writing her or his first novel.

Another aspect of this, too, is that he is writing science fiction, and science fiction at its best tells us about ourselves and the world we live in.  This book definitely does that.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying this book. And I want to encourage you to go to the Tor.com ebook club page and sign up for next month’s selection.  If you like speculative fiction, you won’t be disappointed!

I’m so sad…

My Kobo died this morning. I am trying a couple things, but so far there has been no luck.  From my dealings with Kobo Customer Service a while back with my old Kobo, I know better than to try to talk to them about this one.

I can read all my Kobo books on my tablet or my phone, but I really like using dedicated ereaders. I won’t buy another Kobo, in spite of how much I want to like them.  Actually, I like them. I just don’t like their ereaders anymore, and I HATE their customer service.

There aren’t a lot of other options out there, so I will probably just make do with what I have. But I won’t be happy about it!

 

A nice thing happened the other day

After I posted my December reading, I got a nice comment from Adam Croft, the author of one of the books I had read, Exit Stage Left. He thanked me for my review of his book and offered to send me the others in the series. We made the necessary arrangements, and I got the three other books yesterday. I just finished the first one, The Westerlea House Mystery, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. As Mr. Croft had promised in his comment, we learn a little more about Hardwick in this one. I will write my review at the end of the month, as usual.

What I wanted to do today is to acknowledge Mr. Croft’s kindness in contacting me and sending me three free books. Yes, he knows I will read them and post my reviews. But I have posted reviews of hundreds and hundreds of books since I started doing this in 2009, and no author has ever contacted me. I thought it was a really nice thing for him to do. It isn’t like I have thousands of followers, but he took the time to acknowledge my existence and the existence of this blog. I really appreciate it!

And so, to repay him for his gesture, I just wanted to encourage you to check out his books.  He has written a lot of them, and they are available from all your favorite retailers.

 

Tor.com’s ebook club

I have written about it before, but I just wanted to mention it again. Tor.com’s ebook club allows you to download one of their titles for free each month. It is for a limited time (7 days) and the title is one of their choosing. This month’s selection is Off Armageddon Reef by David Weber. I have read some of Weber’s Honor Harrington books, and I am excited to read this book in his Safehold series.

I highly suggest you check out Tor.com’s ebook club if you like science fiction and fantasy. You only have to give them an email address and country and agree to get emails form them, but that is an extremely small price to pay to get some great books!

2016 Reading

I read a lot in 2016! For one thing, I was only working part time for the first half of the year and not at all for the last half. I had a lot more hours to fill each day, and reading was how I did it.

I read 20 non-fiction books. 9 of them were about writing. Not working full-time gave me more time to devote to my writing, so it was natural that I would be drawn to books about writing. I learned a lot from all of them, and I tried to put that new knowledge to work. (I am happy to say that the first novel is in final edits and the second one is about 2/5 of the way through the first draft. Actually it is draft 1.5 as it has gone through major revision since I started it about 5 years ago!)

I read 56 mystery/thrillers, 57 if I count Under the Surface as a mystery. Traditionally, that is the genre I always read, and I really love it. Most of the mysteries I read anymore are cozy mysteries because I don’t like the violence found in thrillers and many “regular” mysteries. I really enjoyed the books I read by Patrice Greenwood, Roger Stelljes and Julie Smith. But as I write that, I think, What about the books by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, Randall Reneau and … The list could go on and on. There were very few mysteries that I didn’t enjoy, although there were obviously some I liked better than others.

There are 61 titles in my speculative fiction list for last year. My favorite authors here are Lindsay Buroker and Daniel Arenson. I seem to have read much more fantasy than science fiction lately. That kind of goes in spurts, fueled in no small part by the books I can pick up for free.

I read 20 historical fiction titles. Most seem to be set in medieval times. Again, this is largely a result of which books are offered for free. The one exception to that are the Paul Bannister Forgotten Emperor books. I have actually purchased most of the ones I have because I got hooked on the idea of King Arthur as a “real” emperor and not a myth.

And in audiobooks, I have a list of 21 titles. Hands down, the Demon Wars Saga books by RA Salvatore and produced by Graphic Audio were my favorites. I absolutely loved them!

As I have said earlier, most of the books I read were ebooks I got for free. I obviously don’t “buy” all the titles available for free, but I have thousands of books that I have gotten that way, some on my Kobo ereader and others on my Kindle. But I have also bought books by the authors I have come to enjoy through reading their free offerings.

If my fast mental math is right, I read 158 fiction and non-fiction books and listened to 21 additional titles. 2016 was a great year for me as far as reading goes. I have a feeling 2017 will be just as good!

December reading, part 3

I spent most of the month reading speculative fiction, it seems!

The first of these is a Retrieval Artist novel and the second is a novella set in that world but not including an actual retrieval artist. Retrieval artists are people who search for people who have disappeared, often to avoid some sort of legal problem. In Extremes we meet retrieval artist Miles Flint, a former cop. He and his former partner, Noelle DeRicci, are investigating two sides of the same crime. It is a great detective story with enough science fiction thrown in to make it a wonderful book! I highly recommend it! It is the second book in the series but the first one I have read.

Inhuman Garbage is set in the same world but does not involve retrieval artists. Noelle DeRicci is on her own to solve this murder! The problem is, it isn’t really a murder to anyone but Noelle. A clone, you see, is property not a person. This is a great story and Noelle is a very determined detective. I loved this book!

I cannot recommend this series of books enough. Whether you read mysteries or science fiction, you’ll find a lot here to love!

This book was really engaging. Not a pretty story, by any means, but it really kept me reading. A virus has changed the world, and Christian Black has to find a way to take care of his family. It is a very short book and, therefore, a very quick read. I enjoyed it in spite of myself!

I enjoyed this vampire book, but it had me confused from the very beginning. Geoffrey is obviously a vampire with a history, but he has forgotten all of it. We never learn why. Or if we did, I missed it. This is part of a series, so maybe the answer lies elsewhere. For a long time, though, I kept expecting to find out why in this book. Geoffrey is a multi-faceted character, and that is what kept me going. I will probably read more in the series to see if I can figure things out a little better.

These are books 2-6 in Ching’s Soulkeepers series, which I started reading in 2013. I will admit to having to skim through book 1 again to remember what is was bout before starting these. The series is really more religious fiction than I usually read, but there was a good story in there, too. It is definitely young adult, and it was more noticeable in these books than in many other young adult books I have read. It wasn’t bad, just a little simplistic. There was definitely a lot of action. I really cared for the characters that appeared in the fist book, but I wasn’t as sold on the ones that came in later books. They didn’t seem as well-developed. All in all, though, I am glad I read these books.

I read a couple pieces of short fiction (in addition to Black Virus).

 

This was a very short story, and usually I don’t really enjoy short stories. But this was an exception. It is about murder at a wedding chapel, but that is about the only predictable element in it. I can’t say much about the actual story because I don’t want to give it away, but it was hilarious. Some reviewers on Amazon objected to it being a short story because they thought it would make a great novel. I tend to agree. I really recommend it.

This is the prequel to McDermotts’s Prosperine Trilogy. I know nothing of that series and may or may not read it, but I have to say I really enjoyed this book! Some artifacts found in Turkey lead to war on Earth. The People’s Crusade is taking over governments all around the world, causing problems for the UN, the Catholic Church, and others. This was a quick, easy read, and I highly recommend it.

 

So that wraps up my December reading.  It was a pretty good month as far as reading goes, at least!

 

 

December reading, part 2

I read five mysteries last month:

 

  • White Gold by Rachel Amphlett is filled with intrigue and deception. It starts with a bang and keeps up the pace until the very end. Parts of it were a little more technical than I would have liked, but it wasn’t bad. Dan Taylor is hiding out from the world and gets called in to help his friend’s ex-wife solve his murder. In the process he gets his life back on track. It is a good, fast-paced story and well told. I think I will read more in this series.
  • Dirty Little Secrets by Liliana Hart kept me interested until the very end. JJ, a former emergency room physician, runs a mortuary and serves as county coroner. Interesting, right? The murder happens in her small town where everyone knows everyone, and solving it is not an easy task. As you would expect, there is romance involved here, but even the romance keeps you guessing. I’ll read more in this series!
  • The Eleventh Hour by Anina Collins almost didn’t get read. The lead, Poppy McGuire, is a little too curious, a little too clueless. At least that’s how she starts out. Looking for help in solving a murder, she goes to the house of a man she has met once and had a negative experience with. He doesn’t answer the door, so she goes around back. And then she is shocked and angry when he points a gun at her! It gets better, Poppy gets better, but she is almost too silly for me. That being said, I read the whole book and enjoyed it. I just had to let Poppy be Poppy and not worry too much about it. I plan to read more in this series.
  • Exit Stage Left by Adam Croft has kind of a Sherlock Holmes vibe to it. Kempston Hardwick watches as a performer drops dead and, for some reason, decides to investigate. (That took me a while to accept.) He gets another bystander, Ellis Flint, to assist him in the investigation. Of course, the pair solve the mystery — after first convincing the police that is it indeed a murder. This is a novella and the first book with this main character. I enjoyed it in large part because the duo seemed so familiar to me. But really, this is more than a knock-off. The story was a good one.
  • Bought the Farm by Jeff Shelby was a fun story about a mature woman who decided to start living the life she wants to live, much to her adult daughter’s dismay. (No, this really has no relationship to my life except for the “mature woman” part.)  Of course, there are some bumps along the way — like a pile of bones and a burned building at her new farm. The mystery was fun and the ending was not exactly what I expected. It is, as some Amazon reviewers said, a little formulaic, but there were enough unique details here to make it interesting. If you like cozy mysteries, you’ll like this one.

OK. Back tomorrow with the rest of last month’s reading, I hope!

 

December reading, part 1

I think I will be doing this in several batches over the next few days  because I seem to have a lot going on. But I’ll get started now, at least!

I read 3 non-fiction books.

  • Blind but Now I See: Biography of the Music Legend Doc Watson by Kent Gustavson was a fascinating book about Doc Watson. I knew of him prior to reading this book but I knew almost nothing about him. I liked the fact that there were lots of anecdotes from musicians and others who knew Doc. That helped me to see him as a real person. Another thing that I liked was that he didn’t try to make everything sound perfect. He talks about life on the road in the 1980s and about how his son’s death changed Doc. Looking at the reviews on Amazon, I know not everyone liked the book, but I did.
  • Plot & Structure: Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Scott Bell was probably the best  non-fiction book I read all year. Maybe it was just the right book at the right time, but it is having a huge impact on my writing and the progress I am making on the second novel. In addition to great explanations, there are exercises to get you to use the ideas you have read about. Sometimes the exercises in books like this don’t appeal to me, but this time I did most of them and really could see that I benefited from them. I borrowed this book from Amazon through their Prime Reading program, and I am seriously thinking about buying my own copy.
  • Hollyweird Science: From Quantum Quirks to the Multiverse by Kevin R. Grazier and Stephen Cass was a really interesting book. It talks about the “science” found in science fiction movies and TV shows and then the “real” science. Sometimes it got a little too caught up in the real science and math for me, but overall, it was a good book. When it talked about shows I watched (like Eureka and the Stargate franchise) I was especially fascinated. The book explains some of the reasons for the scientific inaccuracies and shows how the science is getting better as we get better science. I really enjoyed it and learned a little bit of science along the way.

In historical fiction, I read The King’s Cavalry, the fourth book in the Forgotten Emperor series by Paul Bannister. As with the earlier ones I have read, I enjoyed this one. This book has Arthur dealing with Constantine, a situation made more complicated by the fact that Arthur had killed Constantine’s father. Aside from the military matters, this book deals with the relationship between the Christian and pagan religions at the time. It is presented as being a lot more complicated than I was ever led to believe as a child. I have a feeling it is a lot more accurate, too! I am continuing to read this series and I a continuing to enjoy it. The books aren’t perfect, but I feel like I am getting a new perspective on history.

I listened to one audiobook, The Highwayman: Saga of the First King by R.A. Salvatore. I loved this book as much as the Demon Wars books, and I am sorry that I do not have more of this series on audiobooks. I am sad that I don’t have them as ebooks, too. I may end up buying the rest of them because I really want to know how the story ends. This is a prequel to the Demon Wars books. I highly recommend this book.

OK, I’ll be back later with more!

 

Happy New Year, everyone!

I don’t usually worry about staying up to see in the new year anymore, but I was finishing up a book at 11:30 and decided I might as well give it a try. There were firecrackers going off in the neighborhood, but that was about it. All that did was make me think of our dog Gabby, who died in November. She always cowered in bed with us when the fireworks or firecrackers started. I missed that this year.

Anyway, I hope 2017 is a great year for one and all. We deserve it!

P.S. I’ll be back to cover my December reading today or tomorrow. I promise!

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