Freewheelin’ It with Bob Dylan


When I run, I have a rock and roll playlist streaming on my iPhone. Today’s selection included “Highway Sixty One Revisited” by Bob Dylan. This piece was one of his first, after the famous folk singer went electric. The song includes this memorable scene:

Well, Mack the Finger said to Louie the King
‘I got forty red, white and blue shoe strings
And a thousand telephones that don’t ring.
Do you know where I can get rid of these things?’
And Louie the King said, ‘Let me think for a minute, son.’
And he said, ‘Yes, I think this could be easily done:
Just take everything down onto Highway Sixty One.'”

Another fun song he wrote around this same era is “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.” I recommend you check it out.

I don’t like Bob Dylan’s voice. He makes me shiver with nausea and indignation. Bob Dylan delivers his music with all the tunefulness of a steroid injected goat. Yet, despite his bleating, his lyrics are filled with vivid characters and imagery. They can be fun, especially if you don’t try not to listen to him and, instead, listen to it. Occasionally the images come a bit too fast and you just drown in his mental thrashing about. I’m thinking of the words from “Like a Rolling Stone”:

You used to ride on a chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat.
Ain’t it hard when you discovered that
He really wasn’t where it’s at,
After he took from you everything he could steal.

Huh?

And of course I’m running with Bob. Yeah. This was a blog about running. At least, that’s where this whole thing began when I started writing this morning. I’m at the end of my second week of actual running. In the early part of the Couch to 5k plan, the online coach calls for you to run for two minutes, and walk for two minutes. I end up running for twelve, and walking for twelve. Then I have a five minute cooling off period. Since I walk around the lake in a big loop, I occasionally spot folks headed the other way. Sometimes I see them twice, which defies some kind of mental logic. How can I see the same old person twice and the same Irish setter twice, and they don’t want something either time? I guess I’ve been working in the service industry too long now.

And the two minute alternations? That’s where I’m at physically. I’m taking it easy, wanting to make a lifestyle of this, sort of like what I’m trying to do with writing. I realize I need to lose a bunch of weight, and working my butt off is the only way I know how to do it.

Oh–believe it or not, I’m still writing, although my schedule has been sketchy. I’m a morning person. I like to wake up, and get things done before my mind or body realize what kind of torture I’m putting them through. I’m not a horrendously evil guy, but on occasion my body thinks so. Still, I’m throwing 750 words, or sometimes just a paragraph or two, onto the computer every day, even if you don’t see anything.

Apparently I have old knees. They’re older than the rest of my body–with the possible exception of my ankles–by about fifteen years. The rest of me ages correctly, but my knees and ankles put up stiff resistance every time I try to move. I guess I could probably do low impact exercise like swimming, but this costs money, and requires squeezing my giant hairy body into swim trunks. Also, I need to face facts: I’m not quite there aerobically. Even my twenty four minute sprint walks tend to heighten my breathing until I’m sometimes not sure I’ll make it home.

Speaking of breathing, did I ever mention I use an inhaler for asthma? It’s not a bad condition like some people, but I do require an inhaler. It can be incredibly tedious to have your lung capacity diminish to the point of each wheeze sounding like Minnie Mouse.

As for diet? I just spent the last forty five minutes chopping up vegetables. I’m trying to make a serious attempt at eating more healthy food. This is going… Well, it could be going better. Most days I do well for breakfast and lunch, then when it gets to be dinnertime, I blow it horribly. For breakfast, banana, cherries and yogurt. For lunch, an assortment of veggies, and a dressing I made from yogurt and some variety of spices. I’m pretty much cutting carbs and fat out of my diet in the form of bread. I guess when it comes to it, I’m trying hard to eat things that improve potassium levels.  Avoiding cramps is a good thing. I ate dried apricots, but they had an awful lot of sugar. The other day I bought some prunes. They remind me of the cabin my grandparents owned in Wright’s Lake, way up in the Sierra Nevadas in California.  Great Grandma always had a big glass jar of dried prunes, and she’d dole them out slowly so we kids wouldn’t poop like seagulls. They were always a delicious snack that I’d really enjoy. Oh, and radishes too. I bought a bunch of radishes.  My Farmer grandparents always seemed to have radishes. They grew them in their huge backyard garden. I bought a few dozen of them today, washed them up and threw them in my veggie tray. I guess that’ll be my healthy dinner.

Then I chased a grumpy Alex away from the computer and began this blog. Nothing is earth-shattering today. I, ran, I shopped, I ate a little, I chopped vegetables, and now I’m writing. Work happens in an hour.

Oh, and Bob Dylan. He ties things together with his free-wheelin’ness. May your days be informed by his advice:

Look out kid!
Don’t matter what you did:
Walk on your tiptoes,
Don’t try “No-Doz”–
Better stay away from those–
That carry around a fire hose,
Keep a clean nose,
Watch the plain clothes.
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows.

Blessings and donuts to all of you.

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The Farmer’s Market


Yesterday I went to the Farmer’s Market. Judi was having a good morning, which is somewhat rare for a Saturday. I had just finished my run and once I finished a half hour of spacing out and sweating, I jumped into the shower and we made our way to the market. We left the boys at home. We will bring them them out and get them air later in the week. Anyway, Every Saturday at our Farmer’s Market, people from all around the area plant square awnings, weighted by gallon milk jugs filled with sand so they won’t fly away, and sell us arts and crafts, fruits and vegetables, meats and cheeses. There is usually live music. Yesterday it was a bluegrass band. It starts every year around Memorial Day, when you can buy leafy green vegetables and strawberries, and continues until the last week of October when it’s dark as they set up their wares.

I dropped Judi off at the corner of the Market so I could look for parking. This can take a bit of time as you circle the lot with the dozens of other cars who had the same idea that we did. Today we had a pretty easy time of it though, and I located a spot within ten minutes. I soon located Judi through the hundreds of people milling about. She was shopping through the arts and crafts booths. There were five or six folks selling handmade jewelry. Several people were selling loose-fitting clothes at way-too-high a price. There was lots of batik and tie-dye. There was plenty of homemade knickknacks–the woman from Newport Oregon had a wooden sign that identified her as “The Oregon Gal”.  The sign had a beaver on it. There’s no accounting for taste. She made wine shelves from pallets she tore apart. She had made a few cork trivets, she announced, with corks contributed by local vineyards, and from trash of her wino neighbors. The woman to whom she had related this story just raised a chilly eyebrow and walked on. Maybe she had wino neighbors too. Oregon Gal crocheted little kitchen scrubbing pads out of wedding tulle. We bought a couple of them.

An Indian woman really wanted Judi to buy a flowy white, sleeveless cotton sun dress. Judi wasn’t interested. Not for $70. She couldn’t pass up socks with cats on them. I admit, those were pretty cool.  The weavers who hand-make dish towels and washcloths occupied the same spot they always do. There’s a woman, presumably the weaver; and a man, who is always silent, and is always wearing a tee shirt that says things to the effect of “I just do what my wife tells me.” A girl was selling handmade soap and candles in dozens of colors.

And there were two booths, one manned by local republicans, right across the alley from their democratic rivals.  The republicans had a plate of free cookies. “Come to the dark side,” said the balding man with a wink. Okay, he didn’t actually say that, but he *should* have.

There was a trailer that sold kettle corn. They did a popping business. yukyuk. No, really. There was always a line for gallon plastic bags of kettle corn.  There were two, or maybe three, meat vendors there.  The meat was all stored in coolers full of ice. One had an “All meat in this cooler is 50% off” cooler. It was filled with veal, which doesn’t appeal to either Judi or me, so we moved on. Another vendor proudly sold “Rabbit, duck, and water buffalo.” It sounded like a Looney Toons presentation.

There were several vendors who sold salsa, sauces, and pickles. But two booths actually made a business from it. We bought gnocci and pesto from a woman who made her own. There were two or three creamers, selling goat cheeses, ice creams, and yogurts. There was a woman selling strawberry, chocolate and vanilla milk.

And of course there were fruit and vegetable vendors. Several varieties of squash and cucumbers were available. It was a bit early in the season for tomatoes, but there were a few. We bought some apples and strawberries.

The new addition to the farmer’s market was the food vendors. It used to be just the popcorn guy, but now four vendors sold tacos, barbecue (Uncle Fred’s barbecue to be exact), empanadas, and pulled meat sandwiches. I grabbed a couple because by 11AM, after my long sweaty run, I was getting quite hungry. Then we loaded our vegetable treasures into the bag and left.

I think I wore Judi out. I hope she’s okay, because today is our 23rd anniversary, and we need to do *something* to celebrate. We have enough vegetables now. I’m sure we can think of something fun to do with them.

Coffee, Jiffy Lube, and Old Victrolas


Today is warm and overcast, but I have my coffee and I am willing to get going on life.  I drove Judi into work and had her grab me a large coffee with the online ordering system. Don’t look at me that way–I’m a well-behaved gentleman and get my own coffee most of the time.  She got TWO large coffees and a sandwich so she wouldn’t have to make a second trip from her office (where there is lousy coffee) to the coffee shop (where there is much better coffee and a long line). At 6:30 AM, these are the sacrifices you have to make.

Next, I drove the car to the Jiffy Lube. They don’t open until 8AM, and I got there at 6:45 so it was sort of a mess-up.  I need to get the oil changed (not sure I’m capable of doing this task by myself anymore) and have the tires filled with air.  When we drove to Alexander’s birthday dinner last night, it seemed quite bumpy with 1000+ pounds of “cargo” in the automobile. I think we might have a slow leak in one of the tires anyhow, so this is just a stopgap measure, until I can buy some new ones, maybe later this summer.

It is 8AM and I was listening to Spotify for the last hour. Today’s playlist was from 1940. I assembled it a few months ago, when I was watching that Ken Burns documentary about the Roosevelts, and the second documentary about World War II.  Glenn Miller’s “In The Mood” was popular that year. So were “Tuxedo Junction” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,”.  It seems 1940 was full of Glenn Miller. The United states was still a couple years from entering the war, and the Depression was gripping us. I guess we needed something go make us believe in ourselves again.

Next, I listened to old wax cylinder recordings from the turn of the last century.  I’m coming to realize that I have missed loads of music that may have been really important to our history. The music is muddy, of course, with scratches and cracks. I guess when you record on wax, it’s bound to happen.  My Granny and Grandpa Spurgeon had some friends when we were growing up. I remember this place well, because Joe and Esther Moser had two different recording devices that played wax cylinders. One was Edison make, and the other was a Victor. In those days, the music was controlled by the manufacturer of the device it was recorded on.  Edison had its own stable of musicians and recordings, which would *only* be playable on Edison’s machines (not to mention player pianos) It’s not like today, when every song is easily purchasable on any device you’d like to listen to it with.

Anyway, the Mosers had all these machines, and a catalpa tree in his back yard, that grew big long beans. He let me visit his son’s room. The son had died a few years earlier in a car accident. He owned a trumpet that he played in the high school band. Joe kept the room exactly the same as she had left it. Joe showed the trumpet to me, but wouldn’t let me play it. I was perhaps 12 years old so I wasn’t surprised he never allowed me the chance to put my own spit into his memorial tribute. My mother tells me Joe had a couple *really* old cars and would occasionally take them out for a spin. I don’t remember old cars. This was the first place anyone let me touch a typewriter. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever thing. I guess Joe Moser liked his gadgets.

In my listening, I heard an old song that I hadn’t recalled in years.  My grandfather used to bounce me on his knee and sing it to me: “Pony Boy, pony boy… Won’t you be my Pony Boy?” went the chorus.  And he would bounce me harder and harder when the lyrics turned to “Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, whooooooa!” He was a good man, my grandpa, and loved to sing.  That song is over 100 years old now.  When I knew him I don’t think there was a single record in the house. He listened to talk radio. It’s funny how things will change.  If you give a person a Victrola, they’ll be interested in music for awhile. But give them a song to sing, and that song will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Alexander’s Graduation Dinner


Some days, no matter what you do, your days just don’t go the way you think they will. I got up, sat at the computer and told myself a dozen times, “I won’t be spending all day on genealogy. I won’t be looking over my grandparents and great grandparents’ files and fooling around.” This ploy of mine didn’t work even the tiniest bit. Instead, I looked up at 3:45 and I was *still*, after eight hours, plodding along with “hints” on ancestry.com. The trouble is like my old friend Mike, playing Civilization. At three in the morning, his wife calls him to come to bed. “But Joyce, my people *need* me,” he complained. Yeah. They don’t need me all that much.

Today was Alexander’s High school graduation dinner. About 2 PM, I realized we had this planned, and that we had completely forgotten this was happening. He wanted to go to a place called Memsahib, up in Rockville, Maryland. we got there in good time, considering we left during rush hour. It took about 45 minutes to take a spin up the beltway. If Highway 495 is the clock circling Washington DC, Rockville is at about 11:30. We had reservations but were early.

The bonus was finding a used bookstore, a quite good one, in the strip mall where the restaurant is. People may not know this, but I adore bookstores. I love the smell of them. I love the chatter of the staff with the customers. I love how you can buy 400 pages of paper for $2, and feel like you’ve got the better side of the deal. I love that you aren’t online when you walk into a bookstore, and I love most that the rest of my family loves them as much as I do. If we didn’t have to get back for our reservations, I would have spent another hour there.

But alas, Daniel’s bladder was full. We walked in at seven PM and the restaurant was empty, except for the staff. They ignored us while they talked for a couple minutes, planning their night or whatever. There was a sign that told us to “Please wait to be seated” even though, well, we could have sat anywhere we liked. Daniel made a bee line for the men’s room and the rest of us sat on couches honeycombed around low tables. The woman explained that the meal is *prix fixe*, five courses were served, and that she washed our hands with an ewer and a basin. Fingers are our utensils, you see. All the food was served on gigantic (3′ diameter) plates and the only silverware we encountered were nutcrackers and big serving spoons for the entree. We ate goat for dinner. And tandoori chicken. We had a rice pudding. we enjoyed a fruit and nut course, and three cold salad appetizers (eggplant, carrot, and cucumber). There was lots of bread, and I had a gigantic bottle of Indian beer. It was quite a night, and we left the restaurant stuffed and gassy.

Here is a part of the night’s conversation. Alex asked me “Dad, what are the three unities that Aristotle talks about that makes perfect drama? There is unity of place, unity of time and… what is the third one?” Daniel said: “Nobody cares. Aristotle was wrong. Besides, he thought vultures had three testicles.”

Bollywood dances were showing on the big screen television. Swirls of greens and reds and oranges and whites. I am pretty sure there is not any sort of plot in a Bollywood song; although the videos *want* you to believe there is one. Just lots of swirl and improbably cute dance moves and fast cutaways to make sure you never see the dancers sweat. Extremely hot women and men spinning around in loose-fitting clothes. Except the women. They get midriffs bared and generally tighter fitting clothes than the men. It’s addictive to watch them dance. I admit, I am the sort of guy who, if cricket is playing on the television at a restaurant, I will watch, even thought I know nothing about cricket. We all noticed a dark haired actor/dancer with a white goatee, who seemed both young and old at once. He was in about three of the videos. His eyebrows were jet black, like Daniel’s. we noted that Alex sports invisibrows, and is rapidly getting an invisible hairline as well.

Daniel was pleased to find that someone put a pine tree air freshener in the bathroom urinal.

Alex complained when, back in his high school days, he used the word “divergent” in a paper and the teacher circled it, telling him he used it incorrectly. He used it precisely right, of course, in the mathematical sense of the term. When a curve nears infinity but never quite reaches a line, this is divergence. He used it to describe Apple’s profit margins. He also talked about asymptotes, that sicko.

We lasted until 9:30, an entire 2 1/2 hours from the time we walked into the restaurant. It was fully dark when we left, and it rained off-and-on as we drove back.  Everyone was too full to talk much so we listened to 80s music to help our digestions.

Moments before we arrived home, Daniel announced to everyone in the car “You know? Skeletons can’t play trombones, because they don’t have lips.”

And truer words were never spoken.

FOFMG Goes For a Run


FOFMG stands for Fat Old Frappuccino Maker Guy, of course. And you read it correctly! I went for a run! Two in fact.

I can’t believe I missed yesterday’s writing. Oh well.  I was a time-waster, to be sure.  I should have found withing myself some extra umph, as it were. But I didn’t. I spent the whole day doing genealogy on Ancestry.com, and the whole night playing Minecraft on my cell phone.  That’s how lazy I was.

During this time, I was recovering from my run the day before.  Yep, you heard me right. I’m running again. Well, to be generous, it should be called a lope.  It doesn’t even warrant calling it a jog.  I was waiting until I could walk 3 miles before I bought my running shoes. That milestone came after 3 1/2 months of work. It took me all of springtime, plus another 20 days, to get from waddling to running. That’s how out of shape I was.  But finally, last Friday, I marched around the lake, and did part of another loop (I measured it out), and got to 3 miles without too much self-torture.

And so on Father’s Day, the last day of Spring, I went out and got my “running shoes.” I tried earlier in the week–I went to Modell’s Sporting Goods here in town, after doing a fair bit of research on the kind of shoes I need.  Funny–“running shoes for fat guys” doesn’t figure into Modell’s R&D budget.  What they have instead is called “shoes with stability tread.” They’re for two demographics–folks with weak ankles, and fat guys like me.  Modell’s didn’t have shoes for either of us.

The guy even told me so. He gave me a look, and ran his hand through his bristly black hair and said, “Ohhh, we only have shoes for regular people. Sorry.”  Want to try these?  He brought out two big orange boxes with a swoosh on the side, and one with… God only knows what the symbol is for Asics. It looks like a flattened pigeon head or something. My size? Thirteen. Neither shoe fit, which is weird because I’ve always worn a twelve on my left foot, and a thirteen on my right, because I was born that way. They were so tight, I couldn’t even get my feet all the way inside them, even with the laces pulled fairly loose.  I said “Wow. This is a first.  Have you got any size fourteens?”  He just gave me that look again, and ran his hand through his bristly black hair again, and said “Sorry. We only have shoes for regular people.” So I left. I was a bit grouchy because I thought I was regular people, just large.

Then I went to the specialty shop. It’s called “Potomac River Running.” They take cash in exchange for rich people shoes.  Some of these shoes are upward of $8-900. Built in GPS in them. Chips that talk to your smartphone (or smartWatch). Not even kidding. All that aside, I like that store. I didn’t want rich people shoes. I just wanted fat people shoes.  This was a different kind of shop than Modell’s.  It was lots of neon, and short-fitting ankle socks and fanny packs with built in water bottles.  It was crowded when I got there.  Probably 25 customers. But I asked the guy, after about 30 minutes of window shopping, “Got any fat people shoes?”  And they did! He just smiled as he brought out 4 boxes. All in size 14.  I settled on New Balance (860v6, in case there are any shoe geeks out there), because my old balance hasn’t been all that great for me. They’re blue and white, and black.  Nothing lime green or clown-nose orange about my new running shoes.  I walked out $120 poorer. I expected the hit. I’d been saving up my tips for the last 4 weeks.

A brief note on shopping.  Ever notice how, when you just want to look over merchandise, you can’t get a salesperson to leave you alone, but when you want to find a shopkeeper to assist you, they’re nowhere in the store? They’re sitting in the back, drinking coffee gloating about how they sold that last guy those fat people shoes, but he called them stability treads and made a bundle.

So on Monday, the first day of Summer, I took them for a spin. I took them for my second jaunt about 45 minutes ago. I’m following one of those couch-to-5K training plans where I do walk-run intervals, and gradually increase the number of miles until I can run 3.1 miles. I can walk that far.  The plan says, barring injury, I should be able to attain a 3.1 mile run in 8 weeks.  I think I can do this. I have my fancy shoes now and I’m ready

Sometimes, even even a Fat Old Frappuccino Maker Guy can do something right!

Blogging for the Future


Here is how I find my most productive place to write, during a chaotic day.

First, I shut my eyes, and then I try to take a few deep breaths. That’s right folks: I type with my eyes closed. Then I focus on what the sounds are that are running through my head.There are so many other sounds here in the living room. Alex grunting on the couch; the cat yowling at my feet (apparently we starve the poor guy); and Judi watching the Outlander program she loves so much. Outlander is loud, with people speaking in English/Scottish accents. It’s so compelling. It’s hard to type when Scottish people are compelling.

And then I feel the pressure of the keys against my fingers. They just feel right somehow, the way right things should feel: the pad of my fingertips know the way to go, to produce the messages I want to say, when there is one. sometimes there is just no message though. Sometimes there is just nonsense.

Today, I am thinking about my family history.

I have been thinking of my past; specifically of the old folks I knew, but I didn’t really bother to learn from. Uncle Stanley and Aunt Elizabeth. Wilma Walker. Uncle Bob and Auntie Millie. Enid Hurst. Elma Ismert. My grandma Myrt’s sisters, Elanor and Wanda. These folks were all uncles and aunts and distant cousins. But almost never did I take the time to sit down and have a really good chat with them. Not to discover basic family facts, like birth dates, nor even deeper facts like what their schoolhouses looked like. But what I lament is that I never got to learn if they were sarcastic, or loving (I’m not entirely convinced these two are opposites), or angry, or prideful, or covered in some secret emotion nobody has discovered yet. My list is long. I knew so many of these people ,but I didn’t really know them. I mowed their lawns and did odd chores around their houses: (my great grandmother’s sisters Aunt Gladys & Aunt Mabel, for example) but I let all those opportunities slip past.

It’s too late to complain now. I’m doing what I can to gather up information about them. But how do you really know a person?

Here’s an example of something. My Grandpa’s grandfather was shot and killed by his son. He died in the hospital in Auburn, California. I just found this “Admitted to Placer County Hospital March 12, 1905, Age: 45. Resident of Lincoln. Gunshot Wound – shot by son Claus, age 14. (Doesn’t mention if it was a accident.)” Was my great great grandfather a kind man? the one picture I saw of him and his wife, they seemed happy. She was touching his arm a bit more intimately than you usually see in pictures of that era. But who knows if this is really what he was like? Was he a violent drunk? Was he abusive one moment, and charming the next? Maybe it really was an accident and my Uncle Claus was totally innocent.

And there was another great grandfather, who died around the turn of the century. He joined the Union army in Iowa, marched with his company down to a swamp in Arkansas, got sick, and was shipped home a couple months later. He was given a tombstone by the government for his service. But what service?

This is, partly, why I write blogs today. I don’t want my grand-descendants to say “Who was that guy?” I’d be a series of dates and nothing else. There is a bit of pride involved, but more than this, I feel like I have something to say sometimes. Or do I? I mean, look at today’s blog. It is pretty inconsequential, and I’m typing with my eyes closed, for goodness sake. What kind of information can I push to forward generations with my eyes closed? So that’s my fixation with Genealogy. Maybe one or two people will even remember my name in 2115. Even if I am a footnote, as long as I can leave some kind of imprint on the earth, I guess I can live what that.

Father’s day Wishes, and 4 More Book Reviews


I need to recognize my fathers in this post before I do anything else, both of whom are constantly in my thoughts. My first dad was the one I was born to. The second one raised me from age of seven. They are both precious to me, and have affected me in ways they will never know. One gave me a crazy sense of humor. One gave me a crazy sense of honor. One taught me to love music and books. One taught me to love the countryside where I lived. One is in Arkansas, one resides in Oregon. If I could find the words, I’d give them much more thanks than I am now, but I can’t. All I can say is Happy Father’s Day to both of you.

*****

Maggie Stiefvater. The Raven King series I read all four books in short order this May. It’s about a country girl in Virginia called Blue, who was told by her psychic mother that the first boy she kisses will die. This boy is an unlikely prep school lad, Richard Campbell Gansey III. His fixation on finding the remains of an ancient Welsh king drives the plot. The novels have an ensemble cast of three other prep school kids, Gansey’s best friends: Angry-all-the-time Ronan, hard-working Adam, and pale, ghostly Noah. This book is about magic, but also about relationships. It works quite well. The fourth book fell flat, with lots of loose ends that Stiefvater didn’t tie up to my satisfaction. She has a wonderful command of prose, although she occasionally tends to ramble. Blue is a snappy, sometimes comical, always interesting protagonist. Stiefvater manages to make me happy in ways that Cassandra Clare couldn’t seem to do, even though they are writing the same genre, with characters the same age. 4 Stars of 5 for the whole series.

Jim Butcher. The Aeronaut’s Windlass. The first new series by Jim Butcher in a long time, since he has been writing his Dresden Files novels for a lot of years. People live on gigantic spires that stick wayyyy up in the sky. They move between these spires on airships. It’s kind of a cross between Horatio Hornblower and steampunk action. Oh. And there are talking cats of course. It’s in third person point of view, and jumps between characters. Butcher is skilled at his craft, and knows how to tell a story. It’s not an awful book by any means, but it’s not as compelling as either the Dresden Files, or his earlier Codex Alera series. Yet. The man has definitely proven that he knows how to make us care about his characters. 3 stars out of 5, but I’m hoping for more good stuff to come in future installments.

Naomi Novik. His Majesty’s Dragon. Temeraire series; book 1. this is another work of magical fiction set in 1810s England. It’s odd how I’ve read several of these recently. This one has dragons. No magic per se, except what the dragons bring. The creatures have been fully integrated into all cultures across the world, and are fighting in the war against France. Our protagonist, Will Laurence, is a navy man, and he uncovers a dragon’s egg in a captured French ship. When the egg hatches, Laurence bonds with the dragon and is forced to leave his commission. It turns out the egg was bound for Napoleon’s army and the dragon inside, Temeraire is quite powerful. The book is interesting but not so compelling that I have rushed to pick up the second book in the Temeraire series. The aerial battle scenes are exciting. The story arc is done well, but no real surprises jump out at us. Maybe it gets better? Maybe I’ll jump back into this world some day. 3 stars out of 5.

Naomi Novik. Uprooted. Another Novik novel. This book was published recently (2015). Every ten years, in Novik’s alternate version of Poland, a girl must be sent to live with a cranky old wizard called The Dragon. He is scary. But our protagonist, Agnieszka, learns to love him. The whole novel is a a take on the Beauty and the Beast tale, really. Also, there are two different kinds of magic going on; the Dragon’s magic is quite different than the earthy magic (Baba Yaga style) the protagonist finds so easy to do. Agnieszka evolves and becomes stronger. The Dragon is a sourpuss until the very end. I liked the story okay, but nothing leapt out at me and made me want to shake someone by the collar and shout “Read this now!” I don’t find myself wanting to immerse myself in her medieval Slavic world again. 3 Stars of 5.

Books and Writing, Linguistics, Christianity and whatever else I feel like talking about at the time…

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