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Review – Learnedly Familiar

Alma Boykin’s 17th book in her Familiar Tales, Learnedly Familiar, continues a series that I can’t put down.

Where do you file a Missing Meister Report?

Something is moving. Arthur Saldovado, Lelia, and André defeated ancient evil, but mysteries remain. And worse – Arthur’s name-sake is learning how to drive! Who needs abyssal creatures when you have teenagers, school-yard spats, and retail woes to worry about? Certainly not Lelia Chan Lestrang.

When André’s mentor disappears, Lelia braces for the worst. Trouble’s coming, as bad perhaps as the evil that drew her and André together. But she has a few surprises of her own now, including allies in very strange places. With very strange senses of humor.

Return to a Familiar world, full of adventure, bad puns, dark music, magic, shedding lemurs, and domestic chaos.

Like the rest of the Familiar Tales, Learnedly Familiar is a character-based story centered around Lelia Chan and the people who make up her world.  Her husband and soulmate, Andre, continues to be the rock upon which her life is built.  Her children are growing up and discovering their own magical abilities.  The extended clan of old-world hunters that adopted her continues to develop as a cohort of new characters, enriching an already powerful gaggle of personalities.

And, hey, if a wise-aleck lemur, a pack of demented ferrets, and an oversized skunk with a Scarlett O’Hara accent don’t catch your attention, what will?

Ms. Boykin weaves a comfortable plot that has a thread of tension in it that grows until the very last scenes.  Story arcs that reach back several books continue here, but new patterns start to develop in each addition to the Familiar Tales tapestry.  The continuity throughout the series, coupled with fresh faces and adventures, keeps me coming back for more.

If you’re a fan of stories that pull together family, life, and just enough magic to keep things interesting, then Familiar Tales is a great series.  Start at the beginning, but be prepared to devour them until you’re caught up with Learnedly Familiar.

Today’s Earworm

Musings

  • I should know better than to let Irish Woman loose in a farm supply store with a well-stocked seed display.
    • Apparently “Let’s start small” means I’m going to be creating at least half a dozen raised beds to accommodate her ‘small’ garden.
    • Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash, herb garden, strawberry bed, blackberry and raspberry canes, and six blueberry bushes in planters made from whiskey barrels.
  • Irish Woman should know better than to tell me to go away in a farm supply store with a semi-stocked gun counter.
  • There were no modern sporting rifles to be had, but there were some AR-pattern shotguns, a few hunting rifles, and a very nice Ruger American in .22LR.  They also had quite a few pistols under the glass.
    • There was low-end buckshot, some slugs, and some bird shot.  A small stack of .22 was present, but was dwindling as I looked at it.  No centerfire rifle or handgun ammunition at all, although the nice lady working the counter said that they’d gotten some and had it bought in the first hour of being open that morning.
    • There were also cases of MagPul AR and AK magazines, which surprised me
  • I had a nice internal conversation while standing at said counter.
    • Note to self – That .22 bolt action uses the same magazines as my 10/22.
    • Note to self – Boo turns 13 in a couple of months.
    • Note to self – A boy needs a rifle all his own
  • So, to go with his Mossberg 20 gauge, Boo now has a .22 bolt action.  I think that’s a good start.
  • Note to self – Dogs do not care that you were up until 4 AM working.  5 AM is time to go out and read the newspaper, and 7 AM is breakfast o’clock.
    • I was letting Irish Woman sleep in this weekend.  Poor thing got her second Covid19 shot, and it’s made her a bit puny.
    • I’ve been a bit of a grouchy zombie all day, but that’s been par for the course around here.
  • We got between 4 and 6 inches of snow on top of about 2 inches of ice over the past week or so.  I was the weirdo in the neighborhood who was out shoveling while it was still coming down.
    • Better to move a little snow 2 or 3 times than to move a lot of snow once.

Review – Showdown on the River

J.L. Curtis has started what I hope is a new western series. It’s a great beginning that starts fast and never stops.

Rio Bell is leading a cattle drive up the Goodnight Loving Trail to Fort Laramie. It’s his first time as trail boss, but with trusted hands and hard work, he expects to be back in Texas by late September though fire, flood, or rustlers bar the way!

He didn’t count on a range war.

They didn’t account for the Rio Kid…

And he sure as hell didn’t count on the girl showing up!

Curtis is one of his generation’s best storytellers, and his talent really shows in Showdown on the River.  The author fills the wide open spaces of the American West with bigger-than-life characters.  We have cowboys, mountain men, bad men, and a fiery frontier woman who isn’t afraid of anything. If you enjoyed the glory days of Western dime novels, you’ve met all of these people before, but Curtis puts his own twist on them and makes them even more human.

Showdown on the River follows a cattle drive from Texas to the Mountain West, then follows Rio, the main character, as he stumbles into a range war.  Rio has a dark past, and Curtis does a great job of showing the bad things that can happen when a good man is pushed to violence.  The plot starts at a brisk pace and gradually picks up steam before going full tilt through the final act.  Along the way, we meet and get to know Rio and his cowboys, along with a bunch of cantankerous mountain men.  Curtis throws in a strong-willed, beautiful woman, giving Rio one more thing on his mind as he tries to survive doing the right thing.

Showdown on the River is a quick read, especially after the book’s midpoint.  Once the table is set, Curtis treats us to one great plot sequence after another.  He keeps the reader’s attention throughout by including enough historical detail to be interesting, but without delving too deeply.

I’d definitely recommend Showdown on the River if you’re a fan of old-fashioned spurs-and-six-guns Westerns.  If you’ve never tried the genre before, this would be a great place to start.

Today’s Earworm

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Response from Senator Paul

February 14, 2021

Dear Mr. Bear,

           Thank you for contacting me regarding the 2020 election, Congress’s vote to certify the election, and the attack at the capitol. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the issue.  

          When I was sworn into office, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States that is why I voted in favor of certifying the election results. Under the Constitution, Congress is tasked with certifying the electors that the states send to them. A vote against certifying the election is a vote in favor of overturning the election. The founding fathers never intended for Congress to be able to overturn state certified elections. Voting to overturn state-certified elections would be the opposite of what states’ rights Republicans have always advocated for.  

          My oath to the Constitution doesn’t allow me to disobey the law. I cannot vote to overturn the verdict of the states. Such a vote would be to overturn everything held dear by those of us who support the rights of states in this great system of federalism bequeathed to us by our founders. The electoral college was created to devolve the power of selecting presidential electors to the states. The electoral college is, without question, an inseparable friend to those who believe that every American across our vast country deserves to be heard. 

          Again, thank you for contacting me. It is an honor and privilege to represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the United States Senate, and I hope you will continue to share your views with me.  

 Sincerely,

Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator

Today’s Earworm

Musings

  • Now that the latest round of political silliness is over in Washington, I’m looking forward to previews of next season. Here are some leaks that I’ve been able to make up from whole cloth get from insiders:  SPOILER ALERT!
    • That crafty Jill Biden (Secretly a doctor, not sure if witch or otherwise) is going to do an homage to Weekend at Bernie’s, except this time, Bernie Sanders is actually going to be helping her wheel her husband around the West Wing.  Hijinks will ensue as Kamala Harris continually tries to find, fix, and fornicate her way to the top.
    • Nancy Pelosi will start a major subplot as she desperately searches for a virgin, or at least someone of semi-questionable virtue, in Washington DC to sacrifice on the altar of eternal decrepitude.  Mitch McConnell will play the part of a greek chorus as he stands by and clucks his tongue at her.
    • Kamala Harris, safe from Pelosi’s machinations, will continually up her game as she tries to knock Joe Biden out of the White House.  This will be filmed in a series of shots where she talks directly to the camera and describes her latest scheme to bump the old man off.  Think Scooby Doo meets Spy versus Spy meets Pinky and the Brain meets Dirty Jobs.
    • The Christmas episode will be fantastic.  Dr. Jill and the entire White House press corps will decorate Grandpa Joe, with Jen Psaki circling back around to place a bright red star on top of his pointed little head.  Kamala Harris will feature heavily in this episode, as Willie Brown appears as the “Sugar Daddy of Christmas Past”.
    • The season finale will be off the hook.  Literally.  The episode will center around Joe losing the nuclear football and ripping the red phone to the Kremlin out of the wall during a tantrum started when he is denied a second pudding cup after his morning nap.  The entire cast will search the White House high and low as a clock counts down to when a badly-worded Groundhog’s Day presidential proclamation will unleash nuclear armageddon.
  • I’d like to thank the National Weather Service for announcing a winter weather advisory at 3:11 in the morning.  I’d like to thank the local emergency announcement program for alerting me, via text message and robocall, to the coming descent of white death onto the hellscape of the greater Louisville area at 3:12 in the morning.
    • For various reasons, my mind equates “phone ringing at 3:12 AM” as “somebody is hurt, someone has died, or work is on fire”.
    • After acknowledging both the telephone call and the adrenaline dump, I fell back into a stress-dream-filled sleep for a few hours.  There’s no sleep like “Hey, you remember that one time something happened and you can’t even tell a therapist about it?” dreams.
  • Irish Woman is trying to set me up.  “I don’t need anything for Valentine’s Day” indeed.
    • I know my darling wife is likely to be involved in my death somehow, but I’m not going to make her inevitable acquittal that easy.
    • For the record: pearl stud earrings, pearl and diamond pendant necklace, and lavender roses.

Audiobook Review – The Vikings and Their Enemies

If you’re looking for an excellent overview of European culture and warfare during the Viking era, The Vikings and Their Enemies – Warfare in Northern Europe, 750-1100 by Philip Line is an excellent resource.

A fresh account of some of history’s greatest warriors. The Vikings had an extraordinary and far-reaching historical impact. From the eighth to the 11th centuries, they ranged across Europe – raiding, exploring, and colonizing – and their presence was felt as far away as Russia and Byzantium. They are most famous as warriors, yet perhaps their talent for warfare is too little understood.

Philip Line, in this scholarly and highly interesting study of the Viking age, uses original documentary sources – the chronicles, sagas, and poetry – and the latest archaeological evidence to describe how the Vikings and their enemies in northern Europe organized for war. His graphic examination gives an up-to-date interpretation of the Vikings’ approach to violence and their fighting methods that will be fascinating listening for anyone who is keen to understand how they operated and achieved so much in medieval Europe. He explores the practicalities of waging war in the Viking age, including compelling accounts of the nature of campaigns and raids and detailed accounts of Viking-age battles on land and sea, using all the available evidence to give an insight into the experience of combat. Throughout this fascinating book, Philip Line seeks to dispel common myths about the Vikings and misconceptions about their approach to warfare.

The Vikings and Their Enemies is a well-organized, thorough treatise on the culture, technology, and military art of the Viking era.  A good general knowledge of the history and geography of the 9th and 10th Century is probably necessary for the reader to be able to follow both the narrative history and the discussions of the Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian cultures of that time.  Even with that, I found myself occasionally having to check the map file included with the audiobook and looking at other information sources to fill holes in my knowledge.

Robert Fass’ reading was clear and easy to follow.  He was able to keep my attention throughout the book, even when the material became rather dry and detailed.

For someone who has had a life-long interest in the Vikings and European history in general, this was a key addition to my bookshelf.

Review – The East Witch

Cedar Sanderson returns to Underhill in The East Witch:

Anna’s rescue training kicked in when she tripped over the injured elf. Getting him home? No problem. Getting herself home again? That’s going to be a little more complicated.

Trapped Underhill, in the land of the fae, Anna has to remember everything she knows about fairy tales. Not the sweet happy ones: the stories where Baba Yaga boils you alive and giants grind your bones for bread. Her skills as a hunter and her good manners might be all that keep her alive. At least, if she can keep the Wild Hunt at bay!

Fans of the other books in this series are in for a treat, and so are new readers. 

Mrs. Sanderson uses her exquisite talent for painting settings and characters to good work when she introduces us to Anna and her companions as she tries to find her way home.  I quickly became entranced by the adventures, paced just right, that she and Ivan, the elf, go through as they try to navigate the treacherous and twisty byways of Underhill.

Along the way, they meet and befriend everything from giants to magical carp to Baba Yaga herself.  All of the main characters are well fleshed out, and the author has me hooked enough to hope that they reappear in future stories so I can learn more about them.

Like I said, the story is well paced.  Where necessary, the author slows down to let us get to know the characters and the world they live in, but when the story calls for action, I found myself reading as fast as I could to find out what happens next.

While The East Witch is part of a series, it is enough of a stand-alone story that a new reader could pick it up and be able to enjoy it just as it is. Readers who enjoyed the other Underhill stories will find this one as easy to slip into as a warm sleeping bag on a cold night.

If you’re looking for a good book to curl up with in front of the fire, The East Witch should be on your short list.

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