Books and Reviews — Retirement Avocation


I am luxuriating in the broad margins of my retired life, in awe of the me that could teach six classes a day and complete six errands on the way home.  I recall warning students with a notice on the board to “Be considerate.  Your tired teachers were at parent conferences until 9 p.m. last night,” and with their help making it through the day’s classes.  One wag snuck up and added, “Teachers be nice to students.  We have been dealing with tired, cranky teachers all day.”  I have fond memories of those students, but love my status as human be-ing rather than do-ing.  My last week, I raised a fist to declare, “as God is my witness, I’ll never set my alarm for 5 a.m. again,” and my first period students applauded . . . 7:25 a.m. is too early to start school. 

I do give a storytelling workshop every spring for MOAEYC Early Childhood educators, and get some exercise and crafting in at the Y, but my main avocation now is what delighted me during all those summer vacations — reading!  I have also been writing reviews for those I love, on Goodreads, Bookbub, NetGalley, and (until recently) Amazon.  (Their policy now is to only allow reviews from those who spend $50/year on “non-promotional” items, whatever that is.  Their sandbox, their rules. Bah, humbug!)

I will be posting some of my reviews here, beginning with a few of the more recent ones, and I encourage others to write reviews also.  It’s a way to let authors know they are appreciated and help ensure there will be more of the books we love.  


Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles

I thoroughly enjoyed the Full Cast Audio performance of Bruce Coville’s Unicorn Chronicles.  It’s a splendid tale, complex, with compelling characters, and the drama is so well done! Even the credits at the end are presented in an interesting way. ❤  There are three additional short stories, “After the Third Kiss,” “The Guardian of Memory,” and “The Boy With Silver Eyes,” which helped ease the pain of separation at the end of the saga. I loved the world of Luster. 


Victoria Thompson’s CITY OF SCOUNDRELS 

captured my full attention and wouldn’t let go.  Cheating a widow of her livelihood is low, as is selling shoddy goods to the army, and that’s just the beginning of why “they had it coming.”  Justice comes in many guises, and it’s fascinating to follow the workings of a successful con done for a good cause.  There are nerve-wracking moments also, at the mercy of evil, greedy persons or facing the less personal but deadly flu virus and war.  Love, honor, concern for others are the antidotes . . . of which we are in need.  Elizabeth might be a “counterfeit lady” but she’s a genuine good person, as are her co-conspirators.  I’d join in, if I thought I had the talent.  Meanwhile, I hope to read more wonderful books in this series.  Thought to ponder:  “When she became a wife, a woman gave up all rights . . .” Scary!    Book 3 of a series . . .and they just keep getting better!


Julia Spencer-Fleming’s HID FROM OUR EYES 

The tri-part plot reminds me of a three-ring circus, or perhaps Flora Joy’s Trispective: the 3-n-1 Quilt, in which the picture changes with a change in viewer’s position.  I did have to remind myself which plot was which, but dates and clear writing helped.  At the end, I slapped my forehead with an “I should have seen that” reaction, clues there but not obvious, just as I like them.  

Besides the triple murders, decades apart, there are other issues to complicate life.  Caring for baby makes it hard to schedule work obligations, and the doctor suggests that the erratic routine and stress might be upsetting baby Ethan.  Perhaps the new intern, who brings her own problems, can help lighten Clare’s schedule?  In addition, the town is dealing with a proposal to eliminate the local police department, and there is pressure from wealthy, powerful persons to replace Russ as Chief, (just another example of the way the rich and powerful treat others as less important, disposable). Kevin’s back, bringing a new set of problems and a lawsuit from Hadley’s vicious ex. Most delightful, we get to see Margy as more than just Russ’s firebrand mother.

I love the twisty plot, the interactions of caring characters, the descriptions (I almost felt summer’s heat despite the cold and snow here in the “real” world).  I do not love cliffhanger endings.  If you don’t either, save the Epilogue to read when the next book comes out . . . already anticipating that happy event. 


Homicidal Holidays

Holiday . . . Cheer?  From Groundhog’s Day to Christmas, there are multiple ways to go astray, make trouble, get in trouble, and face justice.  I enjoyed reading favorite authors’ work and meeting new ones.  I confess to a special liking for the four-legged accomplices, cat, groundhog, tamandua, even the occasional toad.



I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure with Agatha Raisin and associates.  Agatha may have been upstaged by Wizz-Wazz the brave, loyal, cranky, smelly donkey, but in true Agatha fashion, she makes the best of every opportunity.  There are mysteries to solve, and mistreated people (and donkey) to stand up for, and an environment to protect.  Electric cars are only as good as their batteries, and a longer-lasting one would increase range of car, but something is amiss. Agatha is called in to project the factory from industrial espionage and sabotage, but all is not as it seems. Agatha, AKA the donkey lady puts all her skills to work in the “Wizz-Wazz is innocent!” campaign.  How could she not?  The adorable, cranky donkey clearly loves and trusts Agatha — kindred spirits?  This is one of my favorites in this series, #30, but you don’t have to read in order.



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