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Thought for the Day

Good night, stars
Good night, moon
Good night, howling voice of doom

Time to sleep in my bed
Time to let my pillow meet my head
Time to pray against the walking dead

Tomorrow brings another day
The sun’s bright rays will light the way
While I keep the hordes at bay

So, good night, stars
Good night, moon
Hope I don’t meet my fate too soon

Musings

  • Going back to work after a little over a week off was just as much fun as it sounds.
  • For some reason, I got a hankering to watch a police procedural.  I ended up purchasing the first two seasons of Law and Order.
    • I’m 10 episodes into the first season.  There are 22 episodes in the first season alone.  It’s hard to remember when a TV series had more than 10 or 12 episodes to a season.
    • I’d forgotten just what a shit-hole pre-Giuliani New York was.  Looking back, it was almost as bad as large cities in California are now.
    • I’d also forgotten about the clothes and hair from that time.  Some of it made me cringe, some of it made me wish it hadn’t gone away.
    • The acting is as good as I remember it.  I’m especially liking Michael Moriarty’s role as Benjamin Stone.  To be honest, I don’t plan to continue to watch the series much after that character leaves.
    • It’s interesting that many of the issues discussed in this 30 year old television program are still with us.
      • Drugs – The focus is on cocaine and the crack epidemic.  Now, we’re worried about meth and heroin.
      • Guns – This comes up several times in the first few episodes.  There’s a serious bias against civilian ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, in the plots of these episodes.  After 30 years of progress in gun rights ebbing and flowing, I wonder how these same sequences would be written.
      • Race Relations – Honestly, the friction I see between white and black characters from 30 years ago could be lifted, updated with new fashions, and reshot almost word for word.
    • One subject that appears several times is AIDS.  It’s easy to forget that HIV and AIDS were a death sentence back then.
  • The search for a new house is starting to ramp up.  Irish Woman and I have discussed our must-haves, wants, and can’t-haves.
    • Since putting Boo through private high school in a few years will cost more than it would to send him to college, we’ve decided to move somewhere the public schools are better than the holding pens Louisville calls their schools.
    • So far, our biggest points of disagreement are subdivisions (me no likee), the amount of land we want (I want more), and the existence of a pool on any new property (me also no likee).
    • She wants a nice house in a nice neighborhood with lots of nice kids so that Boo can make nice friends and have someone nice to play nice with.
    • I want a few acres of mixed woods and open fields, with a creek running through it, and clear fields of fire out to the main road.
    • I keep pulling up listings for North Dakota, Arizona, and Texas, but She Who Shall Not Be Named is not interested.

Movie Review – Jumanji: The Next Level

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

Following up on 2017’s Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle, Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black, and Kevin Hart return in Jumanji: The Next Level.  They are joined by Danny DeVito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina to round out the cast of this enjoyable romp.

If you’re looking for high cinematic art, look elsewhere.  If  you’re looking for a great couple of hours eating popcorn and laughing until it hurts, this one is for you.

Just as in the last movie, a group of friends are pulled into a video game world and have to defeat the game in order to go home.  A twist on the theme happens when one of their grandfathers and his elderly friend come along for the ride.  There is a ton of slapstick comedy and a lot of heart-warming sequences slathered on the storyline like melted butter on a $10 bucket of popcorn, but it works.

The plot moves along pretty quickly, with a few slower parts to allow the characters some interaction that didn’t include screaming or running.  I certainly didn’t notice the 123 minute runtime.

If you saw Welcome to the Jungle, you know what the acting is like.  Dwayne Johnson and the rest of the cast seemed to enjoy themselves in this one.  The part of Ruby Roundhouse, played by Karen Gillan, gets more screen-time than in the first installment, so we see her character develop a bit more.

The visual effects were about par for the course for a modern movie.  The animals and settings they portrayed were realistic enough, but also cartoonish enough to remind you that the movie is set inside a video game.

While there is a bit of rough language in the dialogue, I wasn’t uncomfortable with it.  It did seem to be more prevalent than in the 2017 movie.  Both movies are rated PG-13.

Overall, I’d recommend The Next Level for families with older children or teenagers.  It made for a great mid-winter evening getaway.

A Yuletide Missive

Ruarin, Lady of Eyre and loving wife to DaddyBear the Minivandian, considered the broad sheet of vellum laid out before her.  She absently ran the feathered end of her quill under her chin as she carefully chose her words.  Then, with a sigh, she dipped her pen in a well of irridescent green ink and began writing.

Dearest friends and family,

I pray that this missive finds all of you in good health and better cheer. As the year draws to a close, it is time to reflect on the blessings and adventures we have all encountered over its course.

My younger son, Elsked, continues to grow like a weed.  He will most certainly surpass me in height before this time next year.  He does well in his studies, and has been granted permission by Sister Maeve to read selected tomes from the locked section of her library.

Ruarin paused for a moment to consider the consequences of allowing her son to peruse books with such titles as “Fire Salve in the Care of Drakes and Wyverns” and “Tie a Rope to the Stars:  Astronomy for the Experienced Cyprian Mage”.

Elsked is preparing to ascend from the Corps of Adventurers to the Forest Guides after the New Year.  He and his friends have enjoyed spending time learning the ways of the Adventurers, but all look forward to the true adventure that lies ahead of them.  Their leader, Master Ryoan, is an accomplished fire mage, and has taught them most of the ways to start and control a flame that do not require magical ability.  Elsked has worn me out with his inquiries on how to initiate and use fire with his magic, but for the sake of all of our sanity and shrubberies, I am waiting until he is a bit older before beginning that instruction.

The memory of her son returning from a campout with burned spots from embers on his uniform brought a smile to her face.  The memory of missing spots in his father’s beard made her chuckle even now.

Lytterin continues her studies in Tenochtitlan.  We hope that she will complete her theoretical courses and begin practical instruction in the spring time.  For those of you who have not heard, she has changed her concentration from the healing of wounds to the safeguarding of those in peril.  I understand that her advanced studies will send her to many new places, and I hope to be able to tell you about her quests by this time next year.

Dozhevir and I are both doing well.  He recently returned from a trip to the far North, where he assessed the possibility of repopulating his homeland.  His gift of a fine snowstag pelt and a necklace made from the teeth of an ice drake were wonderful surprises at Christmas.  Elsked and I are considering which enchantments to place in the necklace.  Currently, the most popular choice is a spell which will make the wearer comfortable, no matter how hot or cold the weather gets.

Ruarin ran a hand over the fur blanket across her shoulders and sighed at its warmth.

I continue my work to catalog the healing herbs that grow wild in the hills above our home.  I was shocked to find that several unique, useful examples of kossaki death olive and goldwart grow here, but have not been reported to the community of Healers at large.  The descriptions of the plants and how they are to be prepared and used for different maladies is done, although I continue to work on the illustrations.  It’s just so hard to get gold leaf to lay correctly.

To her right, a bunch of dried goldwart twinkled in the candlelight.

In the coming year, my husband and I plan to take Elsked to Eyre for his first meeting with the High King.  He is excited at this prospect, although I expect he shall be even more so once he learns that the King’s enchanter will be blessing Elsked’s sword while we are there.

Ruarin stopped to dip her quill once more.  She made a mental note to have the master-at -arms work with Elsked on his sword handling.  The blessing would come after the boy had demonstrated that he was ready to wield it, and Elsked seemed to take after his father in favoring the axe.

As the year closes and we look forward to the promise of the new year, please remember that we keep all of you in our prayers and hope to see you all soon.  Take care of one another and please write to let us know how life goes with you.

Love always,

Ruarin, Dozhevir, Lytterin, and Elsked

The Lady of Eyre read through her letter, then nodded as she found it to be acceptable.  After sprinkling a bit of pollen from the goldwart onto the ink to set it,  she raised her hand over the vellum.

Mittere,” she whispered, feeling a touch of magic flow through her fingers and into the paper.  It fluttered is if it were about to take flight, then multiplied into many sheaves of paper.  With a rush of wind, each of the copies flew from the window and out into the night.

“I never get tired of watching you do that,” a deep, gentle voice came from the doorway.  Ruarin turned to see her husband leaning against the portal.  He wore the sweater she and Elsked had made for him as a Christmas gift.  She was pleased to see that it did, indeed, go well with his green eyes.

“Everyone will get it by morning, my love,” she said quietly. “I expect to see a few replies before the next feast day.”

“Good, good,” the Minivandian said as he offered her his arm.  “Now, let us take a rest together. Your son plans to keep us both up very late tonight to welcome the New Year.  Would you honor me with the first dance after the feast?”

The Lady of Eyre smiled and winked at him, then took his arm.

“I would be honored, my lord,” she purred.  “It’s not often that we dance anymore.  We should make a habit of it.”  Her husband patted her hand as they walked down the stairway to the great hall.

“Perhaps, my love, perhaps.”

Book Review – Eerily Familiar

Alma Boykin wins the 2019 “Best Use of a Knock-Knock Joke in Urban Fantasy” award with Eerily Familiar.

Something hunts the hunters . . .

Something waits in the shadows, watching. Lelia Chan and her Familiar, Tay, hear vague rumors of trouble among the shadow mages. Everyone’s heard rumors before, and keeping her boss happy is more important. Then a painting tries to capture her friend. When her mentor and good friend André and his Familiar Rodney both go missing, Lelia has to take charge.

She’s not ready. No shadow mage ever is. But she’ll find a way or die trying.

Things worse than than death hide in the shadows. And they LIKE meeting over-confident young mages

After setting the table over the course of her last two or three books in the series, Alma Boykin serves the main course in Eerily Familiar.  We swing back to concentrate on Lilia Chan and her Familiar, Tay in this one, but all of the other main characters in the series make an appearance.

Even as Ms. Boykin continues her exquisite development of Lilia, we also get to know other characters, such as her boss Arthur and Andre the shadow mage, better.  I think that the depth of Boykin’s characters, regardless of which of her books you’re reading, are my favorite part of her writing.

The plot has a delicious tension running through it from cover to cover.  Eerily Familiar isn’t a thriller, but keeps a steady pace that is easy to slip into.    I read it in one sitting, but it could also very easily be broken up into several quiet evenings.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where this series goes.  Several plot lines point toward further adventures in the series.  If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, you’ll enjoy Eerily Familiar.

Book Review – Distinctly Familiar

Distinctly Familiar, Alma Boykin’s latest collection of short stories in her Familiar Tales series, reunites us with old friends and introduces several new ones.

Temptation lurks in marshes between the land and the sea…

Lelia and Tay discover a new puzzle…

Fundraising collides with a spell gone awry…

A mage discovers the impossibility of arguing with almost two-thousand-pounds of Familiar…

There’s something distinctly familiar, and Familiar, about these urban fantasy short stories, set in a world like our own, almost.

Merging excellent storytelling with a wry wit, the author brings us back to Lilia and Tay Chan as they make their way through life, as well as introducing us to new characters.  These include mages in Europe and an American geologist who has an octopus as a Familiar.  All of the stories in Distinctly Familiar are entertaining, but Power and Pivo was my favorite.

The artistry that Ms. Boykin uses to draw characters, both old and new, across multiple books is amazing.  By now, I know exactly how Lilia Chan and Tay look and sound, but even new characters such as Barbara and Magda immediately come to life as you read the first few pages of their story.

Go back and read the rest of the series, then enjoy Distinctly Familiar.

Book Review – Clearly Familiar

Alma Boykin’s fifth book in her Familiar Tales series, Clearly Familiar, fills out the series’ characters and the world they live in.

Wandering wolverines, catfish in the sky, owls that can’t fly straight… Welcome back to the Familiar world, where magic and the mundane coexist (and collide).

These short stories introduce some new characters and revisit familiar (and Familiar) ones, including Morgana and Smiley Lorraine, Dr. William Lewis and Blackwell, and Shoshana Langtree. Sorcerers gone mad, heavy weather, and the thin line between insanity and magic, all standard fare in this Familiar place and time.

All of these short stories are engaging and entertaining. However, the story dealing with Shoshona, an artist with a link to the supernatural, was my favorite.  We also learn how Morgana met Smiley, and meet more of the magical characters who inhabit this world.

You need to start at the beginning of this series in order to understand a lot of the links in the web that Ms. Boykin is weaving through this series. However, that’s not a bad thing.  Clearly Familiar is merely the next in a line of excellent collections that I hope stretches well into the future.

Musings

  • Many thanks to everyone who’s purchased or read A Woman Scorned.  If you enjoyed it, please leave an honest review on Amazon.
  • Well, the annual season of insanity is in its home stretch.  So far, I’ve only been an unhinged maniac on one or two occasions, but Irish Woman has helped me cope with much love and lavish application of The Look.
  • Yet again, my protestations that I neither needed nor wanted anything for Christmas were ignored.
    • Mistress has given DaddyBear clothes.  DaddyBear is a free elf!
    • I have extracted promises that there will be no presents for my birthday.  I am hoping that they will be kept.
  • Boo got his first shotgun for Christmas.  We took a trip out to Knob Creek to test it out.  I am proud to say that he knocked clays down on 2 out of 5 tries.
  • I also got out the single-shot .22 rifle and worked on the basics with him.  I’m also proud to say that my 11 year old, who has his father’s stubbornness and his mother’s… ahem… sarcastic attitude was attentive, obedient, and safe on his first trip to the range.
    • His marksmanship wasn’t bad, either.
  • I don’t know how it is on things like driving ranges, but the range safety officer, as well as the two gentlemen shooting on either side of us, were absolutely tickled at the presence of a first time shooter.
  • The gentleman on my right was sighting in a Thompson Center Long Range Rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor.   I looked at some pictures of his targets.  That’s definitely a rifle that will wear out the ten ring at 300 yards.
  • The other gentleman was shooting a 1911 in .22 TCM.  The fireball was impressive enough to make Sergei Mosin look down from heaven and nod approvingly.
  • After several days of eating food that is doing its best to kill me, I tried very hard to be good today.  Even started off the day with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of black coffee.
    • Then I saw that there were still a few Christmas cookies in the kitchen.  I mean, I already had a cup of coffee to dunk them in, so what was I supposed to do?
    • I backslid even further when Boo asked if we could get tamales for lunch.  I couldn’t say no.  It’s Christmas, after all.  And if you’re going to go to the Mexican restaurant, you don’t want that basket of nice, hot tortilla chips to go to waste, do you?
    • I’ll do better tomorrow.  That is, of course, unless Irish Woman cooks.  In that case, all bets are off.

Book Review – Deep Pink

Sarah Hoyt’s newest work, Deep Pink, takes a sharp left turn into strange territory and entertains us as its main character tries to find his way back to the main road.

Like all Private Detectives, Seamus Lebanon [Leb] Magis has often been told to go to Hell. He just never thought he’d actually have to go.
But when an old client asks him to investigate why Death Metal bands are dressing in pink – with butterfly mustache clips – and singing about puppies and kittens in a bad imitation of K-pop bands, Leb knows there’s something foul in the realm of music.
When the something grows to include the woman he fell in love with in kindergarten and a missing six-year-old girl, Leb climbs into his battered Suburban and like a knight of old goes forth to do battles with the legions of Hell.
This is when things become insane…. Or perhaps in the interest of truth we should say more insane.

The work of a master storyteller, Deep Pink explores the adventures of a man who is offered a second chance, but has to fight to win it.  As always, Hoyt’s characters are engaging and entertaining.  The worlds Leb finds himself in are drawn in Technicolor, and I found myself chewing through this story just to find out what happens next.

This is a fast read, but it grabs you on page one and keeps hold until the last sentence.  I’m hoping Deep Pink is the beginning of a new line of stories from Sarah Hoyt.  If you enjoy light-hearted paranormal fiction, this one is for you.

Book Review – A River of Horns

Peter Grant brings us a meticulously researched and expertly narrated, true-to-life western in A River of Horns.

Walt Ames and his Texas partner, Tyler Reese, know that the U.S. Army is bound and determined to push the Comanche and Kiowa tribes onto the reservation for good. Once the Texas Panhandle is pacified, millions of acres of land will become available. They aim to be among the first to set up a ranch there – but that’ll take money… a whole lot of money.

How do you raise money for a cattle ranch? By selling cattle, of course! Buy them where they’re cheap, sell them where they’re dear, and use the profits to bankroll your project. It sounds simple – until storms, floods, fires, cow thieves and stampedes show up. They’ll have to buy their cattle in blood, as well as money…

A River of Horns is a departure from other westerns where you either get a Snively Whiplash (kids, ask your parents) or treacherous Indian out to destroy the hero.  Grant tells the story of people working against the elements and the odds as they gather and drive a large herd of cattle across the Texas prairie.

You can tell that this series is a labor of love for the author.  Every detail is researched and explained in a way that makes even the casual fan of the western genre pay attention.

A River of Horns doesn’t read like a page turner, but I was surprised to find that I had read it cover to cover in just a few hours.  The plot is steady as the wind across prairie grass, but moves along smoothly enough that the reader doesn’t get bored.

If you enjoy good westerns, this one is for you.  Take some time and read the rest of the series, then have fun with A River of Horns.

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