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Book Review – Knowingly Familiar

Alma Boykin’s latest in her Familiar Tales series continues its unique blend of family and magic in Knowingly Familiar.

When Ghosts Walk . . .

Something moves. A Mesopotamian curse sends ripples through the magical community of Riverton. Mages André and Lelia Lestrang find themselves fighting ghosts from their past. The battle draws them closer to Master Saldovado and the clans, closer perhaps than Lelia’s heart dares to go. How long before Patrick Lee and Riverton’s other magic users demand answers about the clans? The Familiars are keeping the secret. For now.

But breaking ancient spells comes easily for shadow mages. Juggling parenthood, budgets, car repairs, school schedules, and a six-year-old daughter’s desire for a pet unicorn? (Or a house dragon, preferably pastel pink.) That’s difficult!

Lelia Chan and her family continue their adventures in life, love, and keeping the forces of ancient evil at bay in Knowingly Familiar.

The story follows the day-to-day happenings in a family that is inextricably intertwined with magic and its impact on the world. They do laundry, meet with teachers, and prepare to defend themselves against the wrath of ancient evil.

Like the rest of the series, this is a narrative driven by the relationship between the unique characters that Ms. Boykin has created and fleshed out. Lelia’s family life includes budgeting, juggling schedules, and teaching her older children about their magical talents. Her relationship with Arthur Saldovado becomes closer with each book in the series, and a very sweet, moving sequence in this book cements his role as her father figure.

Knowingly Familiar is a quick, easy read that will hold onto the reader until its last page. This far into the series, you really ought to start with the first book, but if you’ve enjoyed the other Familiar Tales, you’ll love this one.

Quote of the Day

“Dear God! Ammo’s become more expensive than a hooker!” – My Darling Irish Woman, walking out of a gun store where I spent a whole lot of money on not so many boxes of ammunition.

Giving Thanks

For those of us in the United States, today is Thanksgiving.  It’s our annual post-harvest festival where we gather to feast on turkey and all the trimmings, watch some TV, and just spend some time together.

Hopefully, we also take a few moments to reflect on the past year and give thanks for what we have.

Right now, even with everything going on in the world, my family has a lot to be thankful for.

I’m thankful that we are all healthy and whole in a year where that is not a given to too many people.

I’m thankful that both Irish Woman and I are employed and that our son does not have to go without in a year where that is not a given to too many people.

I’m thankful that I live in a country where we contest elections with words and legal filings, not with bullets and machetes.

I’m thankful that we’ve realized our goal of moving to a new home.

Finally, I’m grateful that I have this outlet and the many friends and family that it’s brought to me over the years.  Y’all are a bright spot in a dark world, and you’re much appreciated.

So, for all of you out there, thank you.

Musings

  • After filling half a freezer with various pieces of cow, I can now attest that Oreo-Cookie Cows, raised on Kentucky bluegrass, are mighty tasty.
  • When your wife comes home to a pan-seared, 2 inch thick boneless ribeye, homemade (sort of) macaroni and cheese, and a running dishwasher, yet is still run down and tired, you know that she had a bad day at work.
  • The new gun safe has arrived.  Luckily, the combination was not locked inside when it was delivered.  The instructions on how to open it with said combination, however, were.
  • Due to an increase in Covid-19 cases in the area, Boo’s private school leadership decided to do off-site instruction for the next couple of weeks.
    • I got “The Look” when I commented that there was a perfectly good public school right up the road that wasn’t letting our kid go to school just as well as the multi-thousand-dollar-a-year private school wasn’t letting our kid go to school.
    • Actually, I’m rather impressed.  Boo has video-conference classes starting at 8 every morning, has daily assignments that must be completed and uploaded to the school’s website on time, and has a rather heavy homework load.
    • I’m told that I am not allowed to fulfill the role of creepy, but wise, janitor for him, nor may I act out my vice-principal disciplinarian dreams while he matriculates in our kitchen.

News Roundup

From the “That Didn’t Take Long” Department – Spain’s Prime Minister has announced that he sides with Germany in a disagreement over how the European countries should plan their mutual defense.  France has suggested that the Europeans should provide for their own safety, while Germany and other ‘allies’ believe that continued reliance on American NATO funding coordination was most economical important.  The Prime Minister went on to say that he hopes that now that the American election is over, the two sides of the Atlantic alliance can ‘reestablish a positive agenda’.  By this, of course, he hopes that the flow of American money and blood will return to pre-Trump administration levels, giving a positive upswing to the coffers of the various European governments who have been pressured to pay for their own defense since 2017.

From the “Butter, not Guns” Department – The European Union expects to be self-sufficient in the production of batteries for electric vehicles by 2025.  Sales of electric cars on the Continent are rising even as overall automobile sales slump.  It’s amazing how much can be done when you can rely on Poland and a few thousand American soldiers to keep Vladimir Putin from receiving deep-tissue foot rubs by Angela Merkel’s cute great-grandniece on the evening news without having to break the bank or get your own hands dirty.  No official word yet on other European energy plans, although this reporter has been advised that they include truckloads of money thrown into huge furnaces at former coal power plants.

From the “All Animals Are Equal” Department – China has announced that it has eradicated extreme poverty within its borders.  Their criteria included an average daily income of less than $1.52 a day and lack of access to basic services such as involuntary experimentation healthcare, constant monitoring over all public and private activities, and easy access to prison camps educational facilities.  The Communist government claims that it has elevated 93 million of its people out of poverty in the last decade.  In totally unrelated news, the government announced that its goal to provide 93 million inexpensive factory workers to the wealthy portions of its country has been achieved.  In addition, Beijing unveiled a new plan to provide cheap land to wealthy investors in recently discovered, unpopulated areas in the Chinese hinterlands.

From the “Adventures in Gardening” Department – A Massachusetts man recently got a bit of a surprise when he unearthed a mortar shell while digging in his yard.  Authorities were alerted, and the object was removed and destroyed safely.  No word on how it came to be buried on the man’s property, but he now has the best excuse known to mankind for not doing yard work.

Book Review – Judiciously Familiar

Alma Boykin continues her unique and enjoyable Familiar Tales series with  Judiciously Familiar:

“By the Pricking of my thumbs/ Something wicked this way comes!”

“Caw! Caw!”

A raven the size of an eagle appears in Riverton. When it begins haunting Familiars, Lelia and André Lestrang have to decide if it needs their special attention. Lelia, battling fatigue and postpartum depression, juggles family, magic, and working at Belle, Book, and Blacklight. Her employer, Arthur Saldovado, too wonders about the raven and its meaning.

Something from the past stirs, something dark and deep. A new sorceress and the raven hint at dangers hiding in the shadows. Shadows perhaps too dark even for shadow mages to master.

The main character of the series, Lelia Chan, has come a long way since her introduction as a troubled teen trying to get her life together.  Now, she’s a full time mom, wife, and shadow mage.

When Lelia got married and had her first baby, I was worried that Ms. Boykin would have to move on to another character to center these tales around, but she has done a masterful job of letting Lelia evolve and grow as the series progresses.  We get to meet her new sons and see how being a mother has made her stronger and more dedicated than ever.

As I found in the rest of the series, a gentle humor runs through Judiciously Familiar.  Additionally, the plot has a tension to it that builds to a crescendo in the third act.  The pacing is not overly swift, but Boykin’s writing keeps the reader’s attention throughout. I worked my way through the book in a few hours of dedicated reading, but you can definitely take your time and savor this one in small bites, if you wish.

You definitely need to have read the rest of the series before starting this one, as Judiciously Familiar includes many characters and situations from earlier books that fit together in an intricate mosaic.  By now, the Familiar Tales world is well fleshed-out, so treat yourself and enjoy them first.

News Roundup

From the “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Department – A village in Japan has installed several large robotic wolves to help deal with a rash of bear incursions.  The animatronic wolves make noises and flash red from their eyes when something triggers their motion sensors.  No word yet on how many of the local people have soiled themselves after setting these devices off while taking a late evening stroll.

From the “Adventures in Parenting” Department – A school in France has asked parents to stop throwing their children over a locked gate and into the schoolyard when they arrive late to school.  Apparently, the teachers have been mistaking them for German paratroopers, which disrupts instruction as they tear down the tricolor and start waving their handkerchiefs.

From the “Cabin Fever” Department – A family in California has devoted their time in Covid-19 lockdown to creating a smaller version of the DisneyLand Matterhorn attraction.  They worked from March to July on the ride, which features 400 feet of track.  A crack team of Disney legal ninjas has already been dispatched to the scene, while Governor Newsom will be holding a press conference announcing a closure of the ride next week.

From the “Et Tu, Brute?” Department – A gold coin, minted to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar, sold at auction for $3.5 million.  No word yet on the amount that the commemorative coin for 2020 election shenanigans will go for.

Musings

  • Diamonds may be forever, but rubies put fire into Irish Woman’s eyes.
  • The restaurant manager at dinner last night spent almost as much time discussing the method for cooking my steak as I did eating it, and that was not an insignificant hunk of cow.
  • Putting most of my books onto bookshelves made the new house start to feel like home.
  • Today we picked up a used table-top PacMan console.  Boo was almost as excited to see it as he would have been to see a new Xbox.
    • It goes into the corner of the basement reserved for Irish Woman’s toys.  The jukebox, other video game, pinball machine, and air hockey table welcomed it with open arms.
  • Note to self:  When the instructions for the fire pit tell you to make a circle 49 inches across, they mean 49 inches across.  Not 48, not 50.  49.
    • Addendum – Having to unstack 36 concrete pavers so that you could adjust to an even 12 pavers per layer, instead of the 13 you put into the first two layers, is considered suboptimal performance and a failure of the in-process quality control system.
  • Scraps of kiln-dried cedar paneling are almost explosively flammable. Old pallet wood that’s been sitting on an outdoor shelf at BIGBOXHARDWARE for a couple of weeks, not so much.
  • Apparently, a field mouse and her family hitched a ride in the bed of my truck in the pallet of pavers from BIGBOXHARDWARE.  I informed Miss Mousie that she had to vacate the premises by the time I was done building the fire pit.  If she did not do so, I would be forced to introduce her to Crash, the Psychotic, and his fascination with ‘playing’ with things small and fuzzy.
  • Sitting next to the fire, enjoying the warmth and a few moments of sanity, was worth the rather rushed scramble to get the fire out and and everything put away when the cold front, with its gusts of wind and abrupt rainstorm, washed over us.

Today’s Earworm

Book Review – Tales Around The Supper Table

Some of my favorite writers have joined forces to publish an exquisite collection of short stories – Tales Around The Supper Table – An Anthology of Texas Writers:

This collection is from ten different Texas authors. There was no ‘world’ or set up for the stories. It was up to the individual authors to write their stories, so you get a wide variety! Vampires, dragons, werewolves, enchanted swords, runaways, SciFi, and cowboys… Stories for everyone in this collection of Texas authors!

Like the blurb says, there is something in this one for everyone.

Alma T.C. Boykin’s Pigmintum Regium tells the sword and sorcery tale from the dragon’s perspective, while Monalisa Foster’s Caliborne’s Curse is some of the best, and funniest, romance I’ve ever read. Dorothy Grant’s story, Business Not Bullets, gives us a peak into a universe I hope she explores. LawDog’s Bad Night in Falls Town gives the reader excellent urban fantasy, while Peter Grant returns to the Old West in his unmistakable way of setting the table and serving up a great yarn.

What I wouldn’t give to sit at that table, listening to these master storytellers plot out their latest works, go over details, and offer advice and knowledge to make each other’s stories just that much better. Westerns, sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, crime, and everything in between fill the pages of Tales Around The Supper Table.

The stories are well written, each one intriguing in its own way. The authors all take their time to grab the reader, hold on for 8 seconds, then pass the reins to the next storyteller. I had to ration my reading time with this one, or I would have burned through it in a night.

If you’re looking for something different, Tales Around the Supper Table is definitely recommended.

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