What I Read … Part 9 – Heywood, Crowley, Benchley etc.

for parts 1-8 in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts
or use the search box for “what I read”

A good deal of variety for you this time.

I’ve been interested in muscle cars since I was a teenager, and every once in a while I get the urge to read about the topic. So these three came from the library last March. Several hours of fun reading, though some of the contents were repeated book-to-book.

Harder Ground by Joseph Heywood – After reading, at the suggestion of Jeff Meyerson, Heywood’s very good story collection Hard Ground, I was delighted to find and read this follow-up. Though I thought the stories in this one were a little weaker, it was worth the read. I plan on trying Heywood at novel length soon.

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables by Catherine Reid – I came across this at the Timber Press website and couldn’t resist the beautiful photography and extensive biography of Montgomery.

Ka by John Crowley – After reading several reviews of varying opinions, I decided to try this fantasy about a young man and Dar Oakley, a very, very ancient crow, who tells the story of his life. It’s a long book, fascinating in it’s many details, there’s a lot of social anthropology, but mostly the book is about character. It’s really the story of both characters, man and crow. There were some slow spots, but I couldn’t seem to put it down for more than a day before wanting to get back to it. In the end, it’s a book I’m glad I read and one that has stayed with me.

Goodbye, Piccadilly by Cynthia Harod-Eagles – I’ve read some of this author’s Bill Slider police procedurals and enjoyed them, and have more unread I must get to one of these days. So I thought, “what the heck, why not try this one?”. “This one”, in fact, was a fairly typical English family saga which begins in 1914 and thus has a lot to do with the First World War. It’s part of a series. While the book was okay, I found myself skimming to the end. Not really my type of thing.

Jaws by Peter Benchley – I don’t know what put me in the mood to read this, but I got that itch and the library provided the scratch. I realized that though I’d seen the film several times, I hadn’t read the book and discovered there are several differences. An enjoyable summertime book, even if I didn’t read it in Summer.

A Serpent’s Tooth by Craig Johnson – This is the only Longmire I read during this period, and it’s one I started, paused, and finished nearly a month later. I was busy with other things, and somehow I kept looking at it and thinking I’d read it another day. I don’t know why I hesitated, maybe it was the snake on the cover (there aren’t any snakes in the book, the title comes from King Lear). When I finished it, I found I’d liked it a lot, as with all the Longmire books.

That wraps it up! I did read some other books while I was away, but those will be for Friday Forgotten or other posts. I hope you enjoyed this series of posts about what I was reading while the blog was on pause. I know I enjoyed looking back, and catching up.

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What I Read … Part 8 – Farjeon, Burke, Himes, and others

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts
or use the search box for “what I read”

I think we’re only one – maybe two – of these summaries, and I’ll be current. Here we go.

Thirteen Guests by J. Jefferson Farjeon – On a fine autumn weekend Lord Aveling hosts a hunting party at his country house, Bragley Court. Among the guests are an actress, a journalist, an artist and a mystery novelist. The unlucky thirteenth is John Foss, injured at the local train station and brought to the house to recuperate. Soon events take a sinister turn when a painting is mutilated, a dog stabbed, and a man strangled. Death strikes more than one of the house guests, and the police are called. Classic golden age country house mystery. I enjoyed it.

Semiosis by Sue Burke – An interesting SF novel. “In the 2060s, a group leaves Earth to create a new, peaceful society. They arrive 158 years later on a planet they name Pax. The botanist, Octavio, knows that planting seeds from Earth, without symbiotic microorganisms in the soil, would be futile, but Pax is already teeming with plants. He tests a persimmon-like fruit growing on snow-white vines and finds it safe to eat—but later, three Pacifists die after eating the same fruit from a different vine that’s now, somehow, poisonous. The deadly crop, he discovers, comes from an identical snow vine that’s competing for space with the vines closer to the colonists. He knows the chemical alteration is too fast to be mere ecological adjustment, and when the deadly vine changes its chemistry again to destroy a field of grain the colonists planted, Octavio begins to understand that the poisonous vine sees them as a threat. The plants of Pax are able to think and plan ahead—and the colonists must learn to communicate with them in order to survive.” – Kirkus

Cotton Comes to Harlem by Chester Himes – This is considered a classic, featuring Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones in a war against scams and racism in Harlem. “Reverend” Deke O’Malley, a conman, is selling shares at a Harlem rally, for the purchase of a Back-to-Africa movement ship to be called The Black Beauty. During the rally, several masked gunman jump out of a meat truck and steal $87,000 in donated cash from the back of an armored car. Two Harlem detectives, Gravedigger Jones and “Coffin” Ed Johnson chase the car, and a bale of cotton falls out of the vehicle, unremarked at the time. Uncle Budd, a scavenger, finds the bale of cotton and sells it for $25 to a junk dealer, not knowing the money is hidden inside. This is rough, tough cop fiction.

Origin by Dan Brown – I’ve liked some of Brown’s books, and others have left me wondering why I spent the time. This one falls somewhere in between, as I liked most of it, but was dissatisfied with some of the choices Brown made late in the book in wrapping things up. Still,  in spite of criticism from many, I find his books readable and a nice break from tough mysteries or war in space.

The Complete Psychotecnic League, Volume 1 by Poul Anderson – And speaking of war in space, this is the first volume in the series presenting the complete stories in Anderson’s Psychotecnic League history. Though not my favorite set of his works, these are good solid stories. I especially liked “The Big Rain”, which I remembered reading in Astounding Science Fiction when it was a cover story.

Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel – I’m not sure how I came across this cozy series by Steel, this being the first book, but I got it for Kindle for next to nothing and found it to be a quick read, light, interesting setting of Nuala, Ceylon in the 1930s.

Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades by John Scalzi – I was in the mood to re-read these, the first of the Old Man’s War series. In thinking they were the better of the series, and better than his more recent books, I was right.

The Long Arm of the Law edited by Martin Edwards – British Library Crime Classics are a series of novels and short story anthologies by golden and sometimes silver age authors. They are published by Poisoned Pen Press here in the U. S. and I think I’ve gotten just about every one of them.

In this one, the stories are, as the cover states, “classic police stories”, and they’re good ones. I had read a couple in other anthologies over the years, but most were new to me.

That brings us to the middle of March. Next time, Raoul Whitfield, maybe some muscle car stuff, some Sherlock Holmes stories and a novel by John Crowley, which will bring us to the middle of April. Almost caught up!

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What I Read … Part 7 – Leslie Charteris, Rex Stout and more

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts

At last we’re in the current year. Before you and I know it, these will morph into Current Reading posts (with many less books per week!) and some Friday Forgotten Books as well. So let’s get started with January 2018.

Sherlock Holmes in Montague Street Volume 1 by Arthur Morrison & David Marcum – It is Marcum’s opinion that the Martin Hewitt books written by Arthur Morrison are in fact Sherlock Holmes stories. Thus he has “edited” those stories into Holmes tales, and he published three volumes of them, of which this is the first. The covers for the 2nd and 3rd volumes look the same except the volume number. I prefer the originals.

Pioneer Girl Laura Ingles Wilder – This is a biography/autobiography )a little of each) and I found it very interesting to read the combined story of the writer and the books.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – The classic, which I got a yen to read for no particular reason, and enjoyed more than I expected.

The Saint – Wanted For Murder, The Further Adventures of Simon Templar by Leslie Charteris – I enjoy a Saint book now and then, and this one really hit the spot, as the saying goes. If you haven’t read one of these, recently, or ever, this would be a good time to pick one up and try it, and this is a good one.

Suddenly At His Residence by Christianna Brand – An Inspector Cockerill mystery. I know a lot of people like her books, but this is the last go for me. I liked Green For Danger, disliked the Crippen & Landru collection of her short stories, and I disliked this. Boring characters endlessly talking, Cockerill does no detecting. I felt the end was a cheat (I won’t say more, it would be a spoiler).

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Vol 3 edited by David Marcum – The third in this excellent series of new Holmes stories. They are true to the originals, nothing out of place or time, no being “clever”. There are several more already published and on my shelf, but I am going slowly and savoring these.

I really recommend these if you’re in the mood for some Holmes but want something other than the Doyle stories.

Railroad Stories #1 by E. S. Dellinger – I found out about this collection of pulp railroad stories through James Reasoner’s blog Rough Edges. These were a lot of fun, and for me railroad stories are enjoyable as I’ve had an interest in railroading since I had an American Flyer model railroad set as a kid. Fun, light.

And now we come to a set of novels I read at the end of the month, after seeing a Friday Forgotten post on Yvette Banek’s blog. It’s the three Rex Stout novels that feature Nero Wolfe’s nemesis Arnold Zeck.

And Be A Villain by Rex Stout – This one introduces Arnold Zeck. Though Archie had never heard of him, and was curious as to why the man is, Wolfe tells him to forget he ever heard the name.

The Second Confession – Thinking Wolfe was interfering in his affairs, Zeck gives a dramatic warning, having the top floor orchid houses on Wolfe’s house machine-gunned. Wolfe decides it’s time to leave the brownstone and disappear.

In the Best of Families – Archie, on his own, tries to discover what’s going on, while threatened by Zeck’s thugs. Will Wolfe come back, or stay in hiding? These are terrific books, highly recommended.

Next time, Jefferson Farjeon, Sue Burke, Chester Himes, and more. We’re catching up!

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What I Read … Part 6

for earlier parts in this “What I Read” series, scroll down to previous posts

Continuing with my reading during the Blog Pause of last year with the rest of 2017. As you’ll see, I read a lot of lighter stuff at the end of the year.

Star Wars: Tales of the Jedi – Golden Age of the Sith and Tales of the Jedi – The Fall of the Sith – Every now and then, and there was one last month, too, I reread a SW graphic novel for the fun of it.

Horror In Gold by “Kenneth Robeson” (Will Murray) – The second in the series of The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage. “It began with an uncanny encounter on busy Seventh Avenue. Two men pass each other in the street, walking along calmly one minute – struck down the next by a horrific fate. All over Manhattan, soundless detonations cut down prince and pauper alike. No one is safe. Only one man, Doc Savage, can penetrate the eerie enigma that threatens to bring the mightiest city on Earth to its knees. From the besieged canyons of New York to the rugged coast of Alaska, Doc Savage and his men race to solve the riddle.” I’m way behind on this series, but enjoy them once in a while.

The Aisiles Have It by Joseph Turow – Not that I was surprised by much of what I read here, and we all know this sort of analysis goes beyond the scope of this book in our internet-drenched times, but it was interesting.

The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain – An enjoyable little book about the finding of a red notebook and the finder’s efforts to locate it’s owner. I liked it when I read it, and liked it more as I considered it later.

Morningstar – Growing Up With Books by Ann Hood – For a book reader and lover, this was like eating cake. Though I didn’t read the same books as a youth, nor do I read the same ones as the author does now, I liked discovering her taste and attitudes about books, and the attitudes of those around her in her life. Recommended.

Death By Dickens edited by Anne Perry – an anthology that I expected to be somewhat holiday-themed, but was not. I enjoyed about half of the stories.

Holmes for the Holidays edited by Anne Perry – after wading through the previous book, I decided to re-read a favorite holiday season anthology also edited by Anne Perry, but one I always enjoy. This is a perennial favorite.

That wraps up 2017. Next week I’ll start 2018 with some Sherlock Holmes, Laura Ingles Wilder, Christiana Brand and Rex Stout.

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What I Read … Part 5

Continuing with my reading during the Blog Pause of last year with the rest of October.

Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson – As I said last post, I really got caught by the Longmire books and just kept going on one after the other. This one has many long flashbacks to Longmire’s, and Henry Standing Bear’s, time in Viet Nam, all tied neatly with current events in Wyoming. I liked this one a lot, though Barbara didn’t like it as well.

Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic by Armand Baltazar – I was so enthusiastic about this that I raved in a blog post (HERE) last October. My opinion hasn’t changed, as I re-read it with great pleasure a couple of months ago.

The Black Camel by Earl Derr Biggers – This is the fourth in the Charlie Chan series, published in 1929. I was working my way through the series when I got to this, and I find the Chan mysteries always enjoyable, as opposed to the films which I’ve never managed to warm up to.

The Hotel Under the Sand by Kage Baker – This interesting little fantasy was recommended to me by my friend Andrea Johnson, who is a particular fan of Baker. I enjoy Baker’s writing too, though this is a bit atypical. One of my favorites of hers is The Bird of the River. This is a fun book.

Star Wars: Crimson Empire by Richardson and Gulacy – graphic novel – I read a graphic novel every now and then, and at one time bought a great many of them, so it’s easy to pluck one off the shelf for a quick break from novels. I’d read this before, but it was fun to cruise through it again.

The Dark Horse by Craig Johnson – Another Johnson, and we’re not done yet. Longmire is such a strong character, and the cast around him keep me interested as well. In this one he is called to what appears to be a murder and arson, but as usual in these, there is a great deal more below the surface than is initially suspected. I really like these novels, and I’m trying to pace myself, but it’s hard.

Above the Timberline written and painted by Gregory Manchess – Manchess is a very favorite SFF artist, and I was delighted when I read he was creating this beautiful oversized book. My delight was doubled when I finally got the book in hand. The story is pretty good and the artwork is very good indeed. What a wonderful thing it is that such books exist.

Junkyard Dogs by Craig Johnson – Yes, another Longmire novel, and another good one, perhaps my favorite in the series to this point. I know I’m not doing much in the way of plot summaries in these “what I read” posts, but I just want to show you what I read while the blog was dark last Fall and Winter. Trust me, this is a good one, but the series really does need to be read in order.

Unquiet Spirits by Bonnie Macbird – This is one of those books that grow on you. When I first finished it, I thought it was okay, but I recalled it more positively as time went on. This is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, as is probably obvious by the cover, in which Holmes and Watson journey to Scotland to investigate what seems to be sabotage at a distillery there. Yes, Scotch is the drink, and there is much skullduggery afoot.

That wraps up October, and I see from my lists I read less in November, and even less in December. So another post and we’ll be through 2017.

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What I Read During Those Months Part 4

scroll down for previous parts of this series

Continuing with my reading during the Blog Pause of last year with the rest of September 2017 and a peek at October.

Elon Musk – Tesla, Space and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Vance Ashlee – I think Musk is a fascinating person, and at one time I considered buying a Tesla, but decided it was too expensive. But I wanted to find out more about the man. An interesting book.

The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson – After seeing Johnson on a panel at the Monterey Left Coast Crime, I bought this book and it sat in the TBR area for a long time. I then read his Wait For Signs short story collection and liked it a lot, but still didn’t start this one. Finally one day I thought “I need to read that” so I did. I loved it! It started me reading a run of books by the author, as you will see.

The Khufra Run by Jack Higgins – Though I have several of Higgins’ books sitting around, I’d never tried one until this paperback. It was pretty good, but not terrific, and I’m unsure if I’ll try another or donate them to the library.

Death Without Company and Kindness Goes Unpunished by Craig Johnson – I read these back to back, and, after a break for some short stories, kept on in the series, as you’ll see next post. I really got hooked on Longmire. If you’re wondering, no, I haven’t watched the TV adaptation, and have no interest in doing so. I have the characters in my head and don’t want to see a casting director’s version.

Motives For Murder – Stories by the Detection Club for Peter Lovesey edited by Martin Edwards – A tribute anthology to a fine writer. Though I found it a bit uneven, as is often the case with books like this. Edwards did a fine job of editing, but the Lovesey connection was weak in some cases.

Next time, the rest of October 2017. I’m catching you up, as quickly as I can. There’ll be more Johnson, and a variety of others; some may surprise you. Until then, be well.

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What I Read During Those Months Part 3

Continuing with my reading during the Blog Pause of last Summer-Fall-Winter. This time it’s September 2017, which – as I did with August – I’ll have to split in half due to numbers.

Glass Houses by Louise Penny – I’ve read all of the Three Pines / Chief Inspector Gamache novels, and I’ve enjoyed them all, though of course there are favorites. This 2017 book is the latest, until this coming Fall, and picks up plot threads from previous books. Though these books can be read as stand-alines, I really think it’s far preferable to read the series in order. This one has the ongoing battle between the Sureté and drug runners. An especially exciting ending, with a bit of a cliff hanger, making me eagerly look forward to the next one (coming this Fall).

Bag Balm and Duct Tape by Beach Conger, M.D. – When young Dr. Beach Conger accepts an appointment to a hospital in rural Vermont, neither party knew a thing about the other. Conger envisioned living out the rest of his days splitting wood, healing the sick, and being adored as a kindly country doctor. His new patients figured they had their work cut out for them, breaking in this whippersnapper from Berkeley, California. I found it entertaining, but I wish Conger’s narrative voice had been friendlier to the reader.

Marked For Murder by “Brett Halliday” (Davis Dresser) – Shayne’s close friend news-paperman Timothy Rourke takes center stage for most of this one. In the past week, three murders have been committed in Miami Beach, and the only person who sees the connection is Rourke. As the mayor and the chief of police deny rumors of political dirty doings and an apparent crime wave, Rourke hollers from page one: Organized crime has taken over Miami, and the bloodshed has only just begun. Rourke is beaten to a pulp for exposing the mob’s dirty dealings, and then he discovers a hot-eyed blonde in his apartment packing a .32. The situation is spinning out of control, and only one man can save the city from itself: Mike Shayne. I like these a lot, and this was a very good one.

Canoeing with the Cree by Eric Sevaried – In 1930, between high school and college,  Sevaried and his best friend Walter C. Port decide to take a long and difficult canoe trip. The two novice paddlers launched a secondhand 18-foot canvas canoe into the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling for an ambitious summer-long journey from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay. Without benefit of radio, motor, or good maps, the teenagers made their way over 2,250 miles of rivers, lakes, and difficult portages. I found this account fascinating.

Not So Wild A Dream by Eric Sevaried – The author’s first-person account of a young journalist’s experience before and during during World War II, including his youth in North Dakota, his decision to study journalism, and his early involvement in radio reporting during the beginnings of World War II.

Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie – At a Hallowe’en party held at Rowena Drake’s home in Woodleigh Common, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds tells everyone attending she had once seen a murder, but had not realised it was one until later. When the party ends, Joyce is found dead, having been drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. (What a way to go.) I found this to be one of the weaker of Christie’s Oliver / Poirot novels, and I saw the solution coming, something I usually can’t do with Christie.

Next time: Elon Musk, Craig Johnson, Jack Higgins, and more. See you then.

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What I Read During Those Months Part 2

Finishing with August 2017, which includes some “forgotten” books.

Rex Stout – I read both The Final Deduction and Three Doors to Death in re-enjoying some Nero Wolfe. It’s always a pleasure to read about Nero and Archie, no less so in these two stories.

William Kent Krueger – Sulfer Springs, Krueger’s new book for 2017, the 16th in the series. I enjoyed it, as I do all of his books, though I don’t think it is one of his best. Still, any Krueger is better than no Krueger.

In this one he travels to the Southwest in search of his new wife’s son, who has been working as a counselor in a well-known drug rehab center. When they arrive, they learn that Peter was fired six months earlier and hasn’t been heard from since. So they head to the little desert town of Sulfur Springs where Peter has been receiving his mail. But no one in Sulfur Springs seems to know him. They do, however, recognize the name Rodriguez. Carlos Rodriguez is the head of a cartel that controls everything illegal crossing the border from Mexico into Coronado County, Arizona. Pretty good one.

Truman Capote – In Cold Blood. I’d heard a lot about this book, perhaps I saw a made for TV movie about it, or documentary or something, but I’d not read the book. Deciding it was time to do so, I got a copy from the library. At the time it created a sensation, but these days, with so much violence and killing almost a daily occurrence, it had much less impact.

John Steinbeck – This was the third (fourth?) time I’d read Travels With Charlie, and I may have enjoyed it even more than the previous times. This insight-filled account of Steinbeck’s travels around a large portion of the U.S. in a semi-homemade camper with his standard Poodle, Charlie, is full of characters, place descriptions, and observations on human nature. I’d forgotten a lot of what’s in the book and enjoyed it immensely. This is just flat a wonderful book.

Bill Bryson – The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Bryson is a talented writer and I’ve read several of his books, each about entirely different subjects. This humorous story was just “okay”, a book I enjoyed but was glad I got from the library instead of shelling out the cost.

Charles Portis – I’ve seen the film of True Grit several times, the John Wayne version being my preferred one, but I’d not read the book. This was a time of thinking it was time I read certain books, I guess, the Capote, this one. So again – thank you Multnomah County Library System – I got this. I guess I expected something slightly different, or perhaps I was overly influenced by the films, but I found myself finishing the book and wishing I’d watched the movie instead.

Paul Horgon – The Great River, the Rio Grande in North American History (no image). Don’t ask me why I decided to try this dense, scholarly history of the Rio Grande in American history, because I’m unsure now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I did read over half of it before it kind of overwhelmed me. Vastly informative, but…did I say dense? Absolutely.

That wraps up last August, next time it’ll be September, when I get back to mysteries and adventure. Louise Penny, Brett Halliday, Agatha Christie and more!

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What I Read During Those Months – Part 1

I put the blog on “Pause” almost nine months ago, and haven’t been posting my Current Reading posts since. However, it’s time I got back into posting more often, and I’m starting with a lot of catch-up posts to fill readers in on what I read during the time. I’ll do a month or two each post until we’re current.  These posts won’t included Barbara’s reading. It’s my plan to then keep going with the weekly post.

Bruce Catton – I’m going to start with August 2017. Barbara and I re-watched Ken Burns’ The Civil War because I wanted to see it again, and after seeing it I read The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton, followed by The Terrible Swift Sword. The two books comprise his Civil War duology.

Alan Dean Foster – I followed that with a science fiction novel, Icerigger,  by Alan Dean Foster. This was a book suggested by a Friday Forgotten Book blogger; it may have been Bill Crider or James Reasoner, I no longer remember. It was an enjoyable, if light, SF novel of humans crash-landed on a low-civilization planet, using their engineering “smarts” to cross wide expanses toward possible escape at a space port. There is a sequel which I have but haven’t yet read.

M. C. Beaton – Then I got into the mood for a cozy. I don’t read many, but when the mood strikes I will. Itmay have been a friend of my wife mentioning she liked these, but whatever the reason, I started with the first of M. C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth mysteries, Death of A Gossip. I then went on with the series in order: Death of A Cad, Death of An Outsider, Death of A Perfect Wife, Death of A Hussy, Death of A Snoop and finally Death of A Glutton. That was enough of Beaton for me, – there are many more – though I did enjoy both the character, Macbeth, and setting, a small village in Scotland.

Bill Crider – For a special Friday Forgotten Books on Bill Crider, I picked a collection of his Sherlock Holmes stories, as I wanted to contribute something different. All eight had appeared in other places, but it was nice to have them gathered together in this ebook. These are terrific Holmes stories, by the way

Erle Stanley Gardner – Then I was in the mood for some Perry Mason, so I read the double paperback including The Case of the Runaway Blonde and The Case of the Hungry Horse. I especially liked the latter, though both were good. It’s always good to revisit the Mason novels.

That’s enough for this first look back, next time I’ll cover the rest of the month, including William Kent Krueger, Rex Stout, Truman Capote and more.

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Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Today Barbara is mumblety-mumble years old. Happy birthday!

We had plans, but she has an infected, root canal situation, so it’s antibiotics, tepid soft food and plenty of rest.

We’ll watch the NFL draft tonight and see what happens, then early to bed. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

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