7 Westerns that are Amazingly Good

If you like reading about or need to create characters who are strong and passionate, who value justice over anything else, who respect the difference between right and wrong, who live by their wits and their ability to think problems through to successful conclusions, you might consider reading westerns. That is their core. A book in the western genre without these traits just wouldn’t make it.

So no surprise that during the lockdown, I powered through a bunch of Westerns. With their hard-driving heroes who tolerated lots of problems both from nature and man, they seem particularly suited to the angst I felt. Here’s a long list of books I read in this genre during April-May 2020:

  1. Rising Fire–a new generation of Jensen’s get themselves in trouble–just like their parents
  2. Die with the Outlaws–Matt Jensen agrees to help a friend of a friend herd horses to markets; that’s harder than it sounds
  3. They Came to Kill–Preacher and Jamie MacCalister help the transcontinental railroad clear the way for their tracks
  4. North of Laramie–Buck Trammel, former NY cop and former Pinkerton and current bouncer at the Gilded Lily, find trouble
  5. Pray for Death–Will Trammel finds out that a quick job to complete prior to his wedding day isn’t
  6. Buzzard’s Bluff–what does a long-time US Marshall do for excitement? Run a saloon in a small town.
  7. Ambush Before Sunrise–set in today’s western ranch with all the Old West plot points
–all received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Rising Fire

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In Book 3 of the Jensen Brand series, Rising Fire (Pinnacle Books 2020), Smoke Jensen’s son and daughter are in Europe where the doctor’s who keep his son’s illnesses in check can take better care of him. While taking a tour of the civilized centers of the various countries, Smoke’s daughter, Denny, falls in love with a Count who unfortunately turns out to be after her money. She finds out just in time, dumps him, and returns to the family ranch in Colorado. Fast forward ten years and to Denny’s surprise, the Count steps off the train in her town. Hoodlums try to gun him down and Denny saves his life before realizing this is the cad she once loved and now wants nothing to do with. He pretends his presence there is simply coincidence but Denny is suspicious, especially when he again acts as though he wants to court her which makes the US Marshall who quietly loves Denny pretty annoyed. It gets a lot more complicated from there. Lies are told. Innocents are accused of crimes. People are killed. And out of it all, a new love is born.

Another great story for the Jensen ecosystem. I love this series.


Die with the Outlaws

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In Die with the Outlaws (Pinnacle 2020), Book 11 in the Matt Jensen/Last Mountain Man series, Matt Jensen, the adopted son of Smoke Jensen, is an itinerant wanderer, cowboy, former-Mountain-Man, and reliable friend to those he cares about. He’s a hard worker but simply can’t make himself put down roots. When a friend of a friend needs to get a herd of horses to market, Matt agrees to help. He is between jobs and this is just the type of job that appeals to him. It should be quick, easy, and safe, except it turns out to be none of those. To get the horses to market he must first stop the rustlers trying to steal them and fix the town law that isn’t fixing the problem. Really, not that hard for a Jensen.

Though not Smoke Jensen’s blood, Matt Jensen in every way is the hard driving strong willed talented member of the Jensen family. He can’t turn his back on injustice and will always be there for a friend in need. His adventures always make for great reading. Highly recommended for fans of the Western genre.


They Came to Kill

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

I love Preacher stories. He was my introduction to the survivalist world of the old west’s mountain men, Americas hardy never-quit folks who lived off the land, got along with the Indians, and respected a life that was one with their surroundings. The mountain man called Preacher does that better than anyone. Preacher’s friend, Jamie MacCalister needs the old mountain man’s help. Jamie is as much a legend as Preacher:

“There’s no better fighting man west of the Mississippi. . . or east of there, either, for that matter. Jamie Ian MacCallister is one of the best-known frontiersmen in the nation, spoken of in the same breath as Kit Carson and Jim Bridger.”

The army wants Jamie to help them build the transcontinental railroad through the Apache-infested west. He agrees and puts together a team of tough folks–mostly mountain men and including Preacher–to do the job. Jamie knows that for one General, this is about more than the railroad. His son disappeared on a scouting expedition in that area and he fears he’s been taken by the Apaches. He knows if his son is still alive–however unlikely–MacCalister is the General’s best chance to bring his son home.

And so starts one of the best of this series. As usual, it’s filled with bits of old west wisdom:

“An unloaded gun might as well be a hammer, except you can’t drive a nail as well with it.”

“Santa Fe The streets, or so the old saying went, were laid out by a drunkard on a blind mule.”

“They were a nomadic people but didn’t travel much by horseback. He had been told by an old-timer that the Apaches trusted their own legs not to give out more than they trusted those of horses. They could run all day when they needed to.”

If you are a Preacher fan, or a Jamie MacCalister devotee, you’ll love this book.


North of Laramie

by William Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

The Johnstone ecosystem of western heroes is vast, deep, and ever growing. I’ve read quite a few of the standalone and series but here is another new one. North of Laramie (Pinnacle 2020), first in the Buck Trammel Westerns series promises to be an excellent addition. Buck Trammel is a down in his luck former New York cop, former Pinkerton detective who ends up a bouncer at a small-time saloon called the Gilded Lilly. That changes when he defends a gambler accused of cheating and ends up killing two sons of a local big shot rancher. To this enraged father, it doesn’t matter that the gambler wasn’t cheating or that his sons pulled their guns first or that Trammel just defended himself. He just wants revenge. Trammel flees town, taking the gambler with him–otherwise, he would be killed. The two form an unlikely partnership that works well enough that they survive and make a fresh start. Well, at least for a while.

Another great story from the clever minds of the Johnstone crew. Keep em coming.


Pray for Death

by the Johnstones

5/5

In Pray for Death (Pinnacle 2020), Book 6 of the Will Tanner Westerns series, Will Tanner, US Marshall, is supposed to get married on Christmas. He loves his fiancee but planning this wedding is like pulling porcupine quills out of his foot so he jumps at the chance to help an Indian policeman, Jim Little Eagle, with ruffians who are shooting up his Nations-based town. It doesn’t take long to stop them–

“There was not enough intelligence between the two drifters to fill a whiskey glass.”

…but these two are part of a larger group that are themselves part of a town–Muddy Boggy Creek–created by not far from the Nations with the express purpose of supplying the Indians with liquor and owl hoots with a safe place to stay when pursued by the law. Will realizes he must clean out this town–the source of the problem–or he won’t have solved anything. That will take longer but Will is sure he can take care of it before his Big Day (well, pretty sure) and that’s what he sets out to do. Being Will Tanner, he won’t quit until he succeeds and he always has clever ways to face problems.

The first sentence of this book sets it firmly in the old west genre I love. Read this:

“Jim Little Eagle reined his paint gelding to a halt on the bank of Muddy Boggy Creek about fifty yards upstream of the log building bearing the crudely lettered sign that identified it as MAMA’S KITCHEN.”

This is another in the excellent Johnstone Old West saga. I am so happy it is a series.


Buzzard’s Bluff

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In the Johnstone’s Buzzard’s Bluff, part of their newest series, Ben Savage Saloon Ranger, Ben Savage is an excellent US Marshall, has been for twelve years, but when he inherits a saloon from a fellow retired US Marshall, he decides to travel to the small town of Buzzard’s Bluff, check out the saloon, and see if it is time to settle down. With the unlikely name of Buzzards Bluff, he takes over managing the Lost Coyote Saloon, making the current female manager a 50/50 partner. He quickly ends up in a battle with the other saloon on town for supremacy. This isn’t what Ben wants. His desire is to simply run a good business that is good for the town, but this other saloon has a different goal: to drive the Lost Coyote out of business.

This is another excellent Western you won’t want to miss from the Johnstone’s.


Ambush Before Sunrise

by B.J. Daniels

4/5

In Ambush Before Sunrise (Harlequin 2020), JoRay “Jinx” McCallahan must take over running her family ranch when her father dies. She hopes her new husband, T.D. Sharp, will help her to do this but he ends up to be lazy, uninspired, and a gambler. She files for divorce and he fights her every step of the way including making it impossible for her to hire wranglers to move her herd to their summer range. She manages to hire the nephews of her mothers friend, Angus and Birk as well as their cousin, Emily. When TD sees his plan foiled (to prevent her from the drive), he tries something else, and this more deadly.

Overall, this is a good story with a nice balance of western ranching and budding romance. The problems in today’s ranch are similar to those you’d find in the old west including horses, cows, stampedes, a chuck wagon, bad guys with guns, a black bear, and broken hearts. My only complaint might be that the writing gets a bit repetitive in some parts, sharing backstory, but not so much I didn’t keep reading!


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. 

2 More NetGalley ARCs–1 Great, 1 Good

Here are two more great novels you won’t want to miss that I got from the wonderful NetGalley:

  1. Into the Fire— next in the Nowhere Man series and maybe the best
  2. The Deserter — a personal tragedy turns an amoral criminal against his own kind
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Into the Fire

by Gregg Hurwitz

5/5

In Hurwitz’s latest in the Nowhere Man series, Into the Fire (Macmillon 2020),  Max Merriweather engages Evan Smoak, aka the Nowhere Man, aka Orphan X, when Max’s cousin is brutally murdered after giving Max an envelope to turn over to the press should said cousin be killed. Max resolves to fulfill his promise but the reporter has also been murdered. He tries to figure out what to do next but has no idea where to even start.  To say he is desperate is like saying the Mona Lisa is a nice painting. So, he turns to a stranger recommended by another stranger he serendipitously met in a coffee shop.

When Evan Smoak gets Max’s call, he wants to complete one last case before retiring his Nowhere Man persona, the hat he wears to solve unsolvable problems for ordinary people. Unfortunately, every time Evan thinks he’s secured Max’s safety, another threat arises until the final one is far too personal for even the Nowhere Man.

If you like brilliant crime solvers that have no quit in them, if you like clever stories that make you think, if you like smart people not afraid to use their brains, if you are a fan of Hurwitz’s Nowhere Man series, this is the novel for you.


The Deserter

by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille

4/5

Nelson DeMille’s latest novel and first in a new series (co-authored with his son), The Deserter (Simon and Schuster 2019), as we have come to expect from DeMille is a spine-tingling, fast-moving, complicated story of international intrigue. Chief Warrant Officer and Army CIS officer Scott Brodie and his partner Maggie Taylor are tasked with finding a Delta Force Officer, Kyle Mercer, who deserted his post in the Middle East for no known reason. When soldiers die searching for him, it changes his desertion from odd-but-probably-explainable to how-could-he-do-that. Despite the Army’s best efforts, Mercer disappears, finally showing up in an underage whorehouse in Venezuela two years later. Brodie and Taylor are sent to bring him back to America for trial.

Brodie is a wise-cracking smart-aleck while Taylor is a by-the-books investigator. Once they arrive in Venezuela, they go through innumerable problems, solved cleverly with lots of death-defying confrontations in what has become a lawless nation. Each step gets them closer to not only the deserter but unraveling the conundrum of why a patriotic kid from Iowa who achieved the highest level of trust the Army could offer–Special Forces–would dump it all to seemingly aid the enemy.

When I got this book I was worried. So often great authors like Nelson DeMille can’t deliver the same spectacular level of storytelling when working with another writer, even if it’s their son. I could give examples but I’ll keep them to myself. In this case, I needn’t have worried. The Deserter is true DeMille from its blistering pace to its nuanced understanding of the environment and its well-developed characters. I also worried whether I would like this character as much as I liked, say, John Corey. Again, I shouldn’t have. The author’s voice for Brodie is friendly with enough humor to soften serious issues while Taylor plays his foil expertly. Check these out:

“I have eyes in the back of my head.” “But your head is up your ass.”

Taylor asked, “Are you very cool in a dangerous situation, or do you just not understand what’s going on around you?”

“Mr. Brodie. Enjoying Caracas?” “Not even slightly.” “It grows on you.” “So does toe fungus.”

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”

The only negative of this book is the endless hammering about the destruction wrought in Venezuela by their government and how heavily it weighs on its people. I appreciated the education the first time he built it into the story, didn’t mind it the fifth time, and wished I could hide from what is an impossible humanitarian nightmare by the fifteenth time. I started feeling guilty that I was reading fiction instead of doing something productive to help these well-meaning people.

Anyone else read this and feel that way?

–published first on Today’s Author

More thrillers

3 More Thrillers–Loved these

The Cuban Affair

3 More NetGalley Mystery-Thriller Wins


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Recharging

A couple of months ago I reintroduced myself, after a long sabbatical hiatus vacation holiday break absence.  Since then I’ve been trying to work my way back into some semblance of a writing habit.  Based on the crowd I’m writing to, you all no doubt understand that this is not easy.  That’s OK, I didn’t expect it to be.  I’ve done this before–I’m sure we all have from time to time–so I expect this to be a long-haul kind of life change.

Breaking or creating habits is generally a struggle.  First there’s the struggle just to keep the change in the forefront of your mind.  It’s hard to get in shape if you don’t remember to go to the gym until you’re getting ready for bed.  On this front I’ve been making myself use a bullet journal everyday–even weekends.  And at least 3 times each week (scheduled in my bullet journal) I must do some sort of creative writing.  I make myself do it in a particular journal, even if I intend to use it online.  And this is where the next step has been rearing it’s head.

My creative battery is very nearly dead.

tattly_christoph_niemann_low_battery_web_design_01_grande

The occasional companion to Writer’s Block–at least for some of us–is Reader’s Block.  Much of the reason for my writing drought is because I let the rest of life suck up the time I used to set aside for writing.  My reading time was not immune from this same gluttonous beast.  I’m not saying I haven’t been reading over the last few years, but my intake of creative material has nearly dried up. Social media makes it easier than it used to be to keep up with science articles, and I read plenty of programming and technical articles for work, but my busy schedule has proven to be anathema to sitting down with a novel or a decent collection of shorts.

And creating something new is frightfully hard if the creative well is dry.

So while I continue to force myself to write–and so far the only way for me to keep up is to force myself–I’m going to try to focus some energy on recharging my battery.  Decades ago one of the authors that lit the fires of writing and wordplay within me was Terry Pratchett.  And in the last few months I’ve been working to complete my collection of Discworld novels.  So I’ve decided that’s where I’m going to start.

books-pratchett

I’ve recently started rereading The Colour of Magic, and when I finish that I’m moving on to the other 40 novels in the series.  I’m not structuring this too much.  I’ve no plan to read them one immediately after the other–I will mix in other books as my whims dictate.  Nor am I giving myself a deadline.  I’m trying to retrain myself to enjoy and absorb good writing and wild creativity–not hurry through a book that is a chore.

What books recharge your creative batteries?

The Writers Circle: Favorite Books

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

Reading is a critical part of a writer’s life. Today we’d like to discuss the favorite books, stories, poetry or other works you have read. What is it about these works that you found so exciting or compelling? Did any of these books inspire you to start writing?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

14 Websites to Read Free Digital Books

For all of us addicted readers, we know that the cost of the ereaders that curate our ebooks is minor compared to the cost of the ebooks we are reading. The books of many best-selling authors cost just as much if you purchase them digitally as print though there is no cost of paper, machinery, distribution, shelfspace–all that. Still, I am getting used to digital books and like them better for a lot of reasons–I can write on the pages without getting arrested, I can bring ten books in case I don’t like the first five, they are light-weight, the font can be enlarged (that’s a new appreciation as I get older).

But, it’s increasingly difficult to find affordable ebooks. Thankfully, the library now offers Kindles (or similar) with the digital book on it at no cost. I know over time, they’ll get a bigger selection but right now, they’re just getting into it. Here’s a list of free book sources I like:

Bookopolis

Bookopolis is a large collection of fiction and nonfiction books for ages 7-12. Here, students can read, get ideas for new books, comment on books, and earn badges and points to reflect their love of reading. Educators sign up with a Teacher account and then set up classes and accounts for students. Students can practice persuasive writing, comprehension, and typing skills by completing reviews, reports, and reading logs online. Parents can sign up home accounts to help students keep track of favorite books. Available books include Newbery Award Winners as well as many other reader collections. Kids can even watch book trailers before making a selection.

Books can be read online or on most mobile devices.

Classic Literature

A free collection of the most popular public domain pieces in classic literature (Shakespeare, Jane Austen and more)

Great Books Online

By Bartleby. An extensive collection by the preeminent internet publisher of literature, reference and verse providing students, researchers and the intellectually curious with unlimited access to books and information on the web, free of charge.

Gutenberg Project

This site provides thousands of digitized books, audio recordings, DVDs/CDs from the public domain (or out-of-copyright). This includes Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Sherlock Holmes, A Tale of Two Cities, Heart of Darkness, and more. These are great for all ages to not only read but research topics that might have been well-covered years ago but not so much now (like primitive tribes).

You can read them online, on a mobile device, or download them.

International Children’s Digital Library

The ICDL offers over 4,600 digital children’s books in over 59 languages that exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages, and ideas. Books are made available from a variety of sources including the Library of Congress. Readers search by title, author, country, or category (or several other options such as ISBN). By setting up an account, readers can add tags to books and organize them according to their preference. Many ICDL books are classified as “activities” meaning they are perfect for digital story times, scavenger hunts, and creative writing exercises.

Most books are only available through the website or a link to the website.

Internet Archive

Internet Archive offers over 12,000,000 freely downloadable books and texts. There is also a collection of 550,000 modern eBooks that may be borrowed by anyone with a free archive.org account.

Librivox

Free public domain audio books that can be listened to on computers, iPods or other mobile devices, even burned onto a CD.

Loyal Books

Free public domain audiobooks and ebooks in many genres, for all ages.

Many Books

Over 33,000 ebooks that can be browsed by language, author, title.

My Books

My Books is an app that includes over 51,305 free books of various genres, even nonfiction. You can read online or download and read offline. There are also 5,199 audiobooks. 

Online Books Page

Listing over 2 million free books on the Web that can be searched by author, title, series, and keyword. They also offer news and other special features.

Open Library

Open Library is a curated list of over 20 million books (and growing) that are available worldwide to all age groups whether from the public domain or under copyright protections. Once you find a book, you access a scanned version (if available, say from Project Gutenberg) or purchase it at a linked bookstore. 

Access this catalog via the website.

Read Any Book

A wide collection of genres included, for all ages.

World Cat

World Cat is a comprehensive curation of books, CDs, articles, videos, and more available at all libraries in a geographic area or around the world, for all age groups. This includes not only public libraries but colleges and universities. Once you’ve located a resource, you check it out from that local library. You can get help from a librarian, leave comments and reviews, even factual notes (much like Wikipedia).

World Cat only includes libraries that have joined the World Cat group.

More on reading

Forget Summer Reading. The Classics are Timeless

National Poetry Day

Unconventional Research Sites for Writers

My Research at the Library of Congress 


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the upcoming Born in a Treacherous Time. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

Why I Love Goodreads

goodreadsI joined Goodreads as a digital way to keep track of the books I read. Over time, it has grown to a community where I chat with like-minded bibliophiles who love books, words, and anything related. Here are some of the activities I pursue on Goodreads:

Chat with those who read the same book

There are lots of ways to connect with like-minded readers, starting with Discussion Groups. I get a lot of feedback from Goodreads’ members on reviews I post which I always follow up on. If it sounds like we have similar interests, I reach out, say hi, comment on their reviews or book choices.

Get recommendations in my genre

Most authors I like only write a book a year so I’m always looking for new writers. Goodreads is a great place to find those.

Add and read reviews

Before I read a book, I check out what Goodreads members are saying about it. Then, when I’m finished, I share my review and always enjoy the feedback I get from others.

Connect with authors I like

Goodreads’ authors are amazingly accessible. Often, when I review one of their books, they drop in on my Goodreads’ stream or my blog to say thank you or chat. Who would think? When I become famous, I’ll do the same.

Receive free preview copies by great authors

Lots of authors offer free books on Goodreads through promotional giveaways. Truth, I have never won one of these, but lots of others have because I see their comments all the time. These are both Indie authors and NYT best sellers. So, I keep applying (and getting turned down).

Promote my books

Goodreads offers a variety of ways to promote your books such as giveaways, free sample chapters, and Ask the Author. I haven’t taken advantage of these yet. Anyone have experience with this sort of advertising? Results?

Enter competitions

Every year, I try to predict how many books I’ll read the upcoming year. Goodreads has a widget that will track my progress. I can stick it in my blog’s sidebar so visitors can check how I’m doing. Here’s an image of how I did this year:

goodreads

I can’t believe how many people participated this year and all the books they read:

goodreads-2

How about you–do you use Goodreads? If so, let’s link up!

More about the love of reading:

What did I write today?

Why do I Write?

I’m in Love With NetGalley


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for Summer, 2017. Click to follow its progress.

The Writers Circle: What Are You Reading Now?

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

We often hear that a critical part of writing is reading.  So today, we’d like to know what you are reading currently, what you just finished reading and what you plan to read next. Do you stick to specific authors, genres or styles when you read?  Do you prefer to read works that are similar to what you write?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

I’m in Love With NetGalley

love readingThose who follow my WordDreams writing blog know I read constantly–far too much, but it’s not something I can control. I curl up with a good book, start on page one (or the preface), lose track of time, and suddenly I’ve finished the book and am looking for the next. As I roll through book after book, the cost has become a big issue. I used to buy them on Kindle, but these days, they’re $9-$12 each with Indies when you can find them $2.99-$3.99. That quickly became too expensive so I switched to library books. I set up an online account at my local branch allowing me to search the virtual stacks of all county libraries. When I find a book I want, I have it delivered to my local branch and pick it up for a small service charge of $.25. There’s even a section for ‘New Titles’ so within a week of publication, I can get the latest offerings of my favorite authors. I have never exceeded the 70 book checkout limit, but regularly pick up 5-10 books at a time. The problem with this is they don’t carry all books (of course they don’t) and there are times I’ve waited months for a book to become available.

Another way I defray reading costs is through Amazon Vine. As a Vine Voice, I have a personalized online queue that provides items they think interest me. I can select up to five at a time and add more as I review them. The problem with this is, there are less and less books on my list and too many items I’m barely interested in. For example, right now my queue includes nail polish, books on art, earbuds, yogurt, placemats, dish towels and baby items. Since the law now requires they charge me (albeit at a discounted rate) for items I order, I only pick what I really want, which BTW isn’t any of the ones I listed.

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed many of the bloggers I follow review books they’ve gotten for free from NetGalley. At first, I thought the choices would be limited so it took me a while to check it out. When I did, I found a long list of books from authors I have enjoyed (LG Sellers, James Patterson, Ben Coes–NYT best-selling authors like this). All you do is set up an account and request a copy.

That sounded easy enough, so I did just that. First, I had to set up my personal writerly profile, which I did, filling in as little as possible because I’m always in a hurry. Within a few days, I got a rejection of my request, suggesting I add more detail to my profile. What they wanted me to do was sell my qualifications as a reviewer, blogger, writer. OK. Any author knows how to do that, so I spent about twenty minutes fleshing out my creds. Within a few days, I started getting approvals on almost all the books I’d selected (a few had limited availability and I was too late). Now, I have four books on my NetGalley dashboard. I can read them on my Kindle, either in the native format or as a ‘doc’ that downloads to my Kindle app. There were a few geeky steps that took me way to long and now I’m  all set up. With this collection of books, I can’t imagine running out of reading anytime soon.

How do you fill your reading queue affordably?


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

The Writers Circle: Writing Book Reviews

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

A lot of authors rely on readers to provide an honest and (hopefully) positive review for their books on sites like Amazon, Goodreads and others.  Do you do this on a regular basis or only if asked?  Do you do it only if you really loved the book or really hated it? How many plot details do you go into during your review and how do you come up with a rating for it?  As an author, do you look for or ask for reviews?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.

The Writers Circle: What Are You Reading?

TWC
One of our goals here at Today’s Author is to help all of the writers among us to do what we love to do: write. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by talking to each other and learning from each other.  Our Writers Circle series is designed to do just that – provide a chance for us to discuss writing, editing and publishing questions.

This week’s topic is:

One thing we writers are often told is that if we want to be better writers, we need to read. A lot.  Today, we want to discuss what it is you are reading right now. Do you generally read within the genre you like to write or do you read outside of that area?  Do you find that reading more helps you write more (or better)?

Let’s discuss this in the comments and see what our community thinks.