Book Review: Honor at Stake by Declan Finn

Honor at StakeHonor at Stake by Declan Finn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars should be allowed.
First off, let me say I loved the book over all and eagerly look forward to the sequels.
I was watching for this book with great anticipation. I follow the author’s blog and have always found him to be articulate, charming, and entertaining. I promised to pick up a copy of this book when it came out and provide an honest review. Here goes.
It was off to a rocky start when, at location 65 (Kindle edition, no page numbers) Declan first describes our heroine, Amanda Colt. Her eyes, Frangelico brown; her skin, Siberia pale; her hair…red-gold. Am I seriously the only person who remembers Nancy Drew’s Titian blonde hair? I was so cheesed off, I had to put the book down for a while and read something else as a palate cleanser. Or, to explain it another way, the lack of parallelism threw me as a reader out of the flow of the story completely.
When I felt I could come back to the story with a less hostile eye, I picked it up again. On the blog, Declan said the book started years ago as a Buffy the Vampire fanfic with his sister. For the first 37% (again, thank you, Kindle), the fingerprints of this are all over. Amanda seems poorly sketched and Marco by contrast is almost a caricature of himself compared to how he develops later in the book. It is so heavily telegraphed about his archaic ways and his fascination with Amanda’s neck that I was tapping my toe to ‘get to the reveal twist already’. Marco’s mother is mentioned twice (locations 115 and 1176), but she is given no description, dialogue, or presence. I wonder if she will be pulling a Chuck Cunningham?
The action, once begun, never really stops. The evil vampires are truly evil. The Vatican ninjas kick butt (subtly, of course. They’re ninjas!). The development of a central bad guy comes along nicely, with hints of an even bigger bad guy behind him guaranteeing sequels. (Per Declan, book 2 is with the publisher and book 3 is in progress now.) The rest of the book is excellent. It is engaging, drawing you into the story, making you want to know more about the characters. I was captured and seduced without realizing it, the best way. The book transitioned from a slog to a safari. I became invested in them as persons, not just pixels on a screen. Declan’s philosophical discussions on The Vampire in His Natural Habitat are well-paced and not info-dumped. He writes intelligently and expects his readers to keep up without writing condescendingly, yet keeps the navel-gazing to a minimum such as is only necessary for character development. The romantic tension between Amanda and Marco is developing slowly, which is a welcome relief. It is a co-plot that braids into the main plot, but doesn’t overpower it and works to strengthen their ties as partners. Courtship. Seduction.
I was intrigued by the introduction of the Kraft brothers. Merle (Merlin), Dalf (Gandalf), and Tal (Taliesin), half-brothers all dealing with the supernatural, each in his own demesnes. Spin-off novelettes?
One last complaint. The book really needed an epilogue. It had a prologue. Something leading into book two a little better than our intrepid heroes sitting in the living room licking their wounds.
All in all, after a slow start, a very good urban vampire story and I can hardly wait for the next in the series to come out.

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Review: Limitless, the new TV show

I was excited when I saw that CBS was putting a show in their schedule this fall that was a follow-up to a pre-award Bradley Cooper/Robert De Niro film from 2011 about a loser who becomes a super genius when his ex-brother-in-law turns him on to a “new experimental drug”. I loved the film. Cooper’s running, stream-of-consciousness commentary is perfect as dry, wry asides to the action on screen. I had high hopes for the show when I discovered that Cooper was the executive producer of the TV show, as he had been on the movie. Director Neil Burger also reprises for an unspecified number of episodes.
At the end of the film, we see Cooper running for a senate seat. In the opening scenes of the pilot, we see posters for his re-election campaign in the background as our intrepid loser stumbles along from temp job to failing music gig. He also has the introspective wry running inner dialogue that I found such a bonus in the movie. His father, played beautifully by the great Ron Rifkin suddenly falls sick from an unknown illness. When Brian (Jake McDorman) offers to move in to help, his dad gently asks what would he have to contribute?
Brian goes back to the temp job and runs into a former friend/bandmate who has become the picture of success. The friend, Eli, gives him one tablet of NZT, our little miracle drug. Adventures ensue. Bradley Cooper arrives in time to keep Brian from bleeding to death from a gunshot wound in a cheap hotel room. He takes him to a secret warehouse and offers him the deal of a lifetime. A way to prevent the NZT from turning him into a burnt out shell in exchange for becoming a useful member of society. One catch, the conversation never took place or Senator Morra will leave Brian to die in the most painful, drawn out way he could ever imagine.

Hmmm…which one do you think he chooses?

This show gets off to a great start. I can’t wait to see how it develops.

Drag racing neurons

I don’t know if it’s the hormones or a rush from getting things organized and starting my new class How to Write an Essay, but I haven’t been sleeping more than 2-3 hours a night for the past 2 weeks.
I wake up 3-5 times a night, not always from night sweats, although those happen, too, but my brain just won’t shut off. I can fall asleep listening to podcasts of The Catholic Geek set on a sleep timer, but I don’t stay asleep and I wake up from vivid dreams that fall into the borderline category of “was it live or was it Memorex?” I was jerked awake at 3:54 this morning with the irresistible compulsion to grab a pen and paper so I wouldn’t forget “chest #5 and Walter Grant”. I jumped out of bed (or as close to it as I can manage) and wrote it down in the notebook I am keeping to track whether the hormones are controlling the hot flashes or not. I have no idea why, because as soon as I wrote it, I couldn’t remember the dream that generated the phrase.
Even when I do sleep, I’m only ‘submarining’, cruising at periscope depth, ready to surface at the slightest hint. When morning comes, I lie in bed, just thinking or looking at Facebook on my phone, no motivation to get up. And when I do eventually get up, having been guilted into it by the starving cat stares, I don’t feel like getting dressed. I am enjoying the class and doing the work. It is starting with the basics of grammar and sentence structure because it is aimed at ESL students.
My aide hasn’t been here this week, first on Sunday because of the holiday, then on Wednesday because of a sick child.
My skin is starting to break down again. I have an open spot that started to bleed after my shower on Wednesday. I really need to talk to my new Primary about things when I see her for the first time next Wednesday, which my aide will also miss because of the holiday. I did call to schedule the ride with TMS today, so I’m not completely dysfunctional. I am just dragging but at the same time buzzed. It almost reminds me of when I was on Prozac, vibrating like a car with the engine revving in neutral.
The nurse was here this afternoon and he said I should call the OB-GYN who put me on the hormones before my next appointment with him in the first week of October. I don’t think I will simply because I see the new PCP on Wednesday.

The Dead Cannot Speak For Themselves (A Challenge)

Tha-doom, Tha-doom, Tha-doom.
The drums beat to simulate the beating of a heart.
The Old Ones say that is the last sound they hear.
And so it is the sound we use to call their hearts.

Tha-doom, Tha-doom, Tha-doom.
The old women begin to wail and scream.
The Old Ones say this is what they hear at the end of battles.
And so it is the sound we use to call their spirits.

Tha-doom, Tha-doom, Tha-doom.
The children bang the pots and pans.
The Old Ones say this simulates the weapons they hear during the Great Battles.
And so it is the sound we use to call their bodies.

Tha-doom, Tha-doom, Tha-doom.
The piper stands alone to pipe each man’s sign into the darkness between the worlds.
The Old Ones say this is how they were drawn to the line of battle to face the enemy.
And so it is the sound we use to draw their minds.

Tha-doom, Tha-Doom, THA-DOOM.
We call their hearts.
We call their spirits.
We call their bodies.
We call their minds.
THA-DOOM! THA-DOOM! THA-DOOM!
We call for justice on the beat of the drum,
Because the Dead Cannot Speak For Themselves

Poetry Fragments From the Past, Take 1

I’ve mentioned before that I’m going through stuff, and purging and organizing things. I came across one of those “empty books” that used to be so popular (I don’t know, maybe they still are) in which I’d written some things, a few free verse poems, some journal entries, some quotes I liked, general stuff. I thought I’d share some of the poetry stuff here. Keep in mind, some of this reflects a time when I was deeply depressed as well as times when I was in an upswing.

_______________________________

Whisper of the Starwind

There is a wind so sweet and fair. It blows the stars on a straight and even course. Scientists say it is merely a flow of electrons. I say it is much more. It brings the sweet song of the stars down to the dreamers of hope. It brings laughter and life to the loving poet, who transcribes the music of the stars into language even the non-dreamers can understand if they try, or rather if they don’t, for it is a language that is not understood but believed, not heard, but felt. The language of the heavens. The words God used when He brought the universe into being. The words of power and strength. The words of salvation and truth. Words that even a child can comprehend if he is allowed to. It is a soft, gentle wind, but it holds the stars in place and carries the echo of their song.

_______________________________

To sleep, perchance to dream….For who knows what manner of dreams come in that eternal sleep.
To sleep and rise no more. To dream in Heaven’s glory: not to enter th’eternal couch in fear and dread, but as a queen coming to her coronation bed.
I have no fear of death nor any dread of my death dreams; for in death I shall live forever. I shall not be lonely, for I shall be part of each one left alive. I will float on eagle’s wings, run and not grow weary. I will be part of the star song that is carried along on the wind from the sun I will never again see sunshine, but will eternally see the Son. I will be snuggled to the breast of Mother Earth. I will be enfolded in her loving arms. She will stroke my kittenish back. She will tickle my cattish ears and will open my eyes to the wonders she reserves for her own.

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There ain’t no more people to kill

Guns and armies fighting a war,
Machines pushing buttons continue to destroy.
There ain’t no more people to kill,
There ain’t no more people to kill.
From the deserts of Arizona to the steeples of Westminster,
From the Arctic Ocean to the Dead Sea.
There ain’t no more people to kill,
There ain’t no more people to kill.
No birds to fly on the nuclear winds,
No more plants or animals to breathe the burning air,
No fish to swim the radioactive seas.
There ain’t no more people to kill.
But, the machines keep on pushing buttons, recording damages done to the great cinder that was once a planet with people left to kill.

______________________________

Quote:
“It is as much a presumption to think you can do nothing as to think there is some critical place which just you and no one else is made to fill. The latter folly supposes that God exhausted Himself when He made you; the former folly, equally impious, supposes that God made a hopeless blunder when He made you.”
– Phillips Brooks

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WELTANSCHAUUNGS

Life is like a forest, full of pathways. We each travel our own path and we must travel alone. Sometimes the path of another may cross ours. Sometimes, they overlap for a ways. Some may come close but never quite touch. Some paths are easier to walk, being dry, clear, and well-traveled. Some are dark, muddy, and isolated.
Sometimes the path we are on comes to a dead end, or what appears to be one. Sometimes, it is just an overgrowth to test our strength, but sometimes it is a true end. Then we must find a new path. Sometimes we can do this easily alone, sometimes others help make it easier. Sometimes we must do the difficult alone. This makes us stronger. Occasionally, we can look ahead and see, through a break in the trees, where we believe our path will lead, only to cross a hill and discover a sudden turning to lead us from where we thought to go.
Sometimes the paths that seem to be less traveled are best, for they lead to hidden expanses of beauty. Unfortunately, this is not always so. We must take care in choosing our path and constantly be on guard for warning signs left by those who’ve traveled before us.
We should never fear to change the direction we take, for each step forward is in the direction of growth and strength.
As the far edge of the forest draws near, as it must, for the forest moves as well we, we will gain a clearness of vision and be able to better see the path before us, as well as the path behind us. We cannot changed the path once we have traveled it, but we can understand where we have traveled, the hills and valleys, the brambles and the meadows. This can help to choose the path to follow in the future, or even if we need to cut our own.

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Go away!
I’m running.
Leave me alone!
I’m scared.
Bug off!
Help me.
I’m independent!
I need a friend.
You’re trespassing!
Love me anyway.

People cause pain. Love hurts. Only the strong survive and I’m growing weak. I cannot stand alone, but none will stand with me.

Don’t talk to me!
Listen instead and hear my dreams.

It is hard to reach and touch someone who is facing the other way.
It is impossible to hear when you’re only waiting to speak.

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I’m coming!
Don’t run.
I understand!
Don’t be afraid.
I care!
Let me help.

Yes, life is pain. God has used my weakness to show His strength. He has taught me the worth of His joy at the price of my tears,

I’ll be your friend!
I’ve been hurt, too.
Talk to me!
I will listen.

I have asked God to reach to you through me. His hand and mine are extended. He will never turn His back and He will listen forever. Let us look together to see His plan for your dream.

Introducing Sad Puppies Four: The Bitches are Back

Cry Havok and Release the Puppies of SFF!

madgeniusclub

(also the Embiggening, and the Embitchening, given that I, Kate the Impaler, am Queen Bitch and I am ably seconded by Sarah, the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess, and Amanda, the Redhead of Doom, and we are all more than capable of going Queen Bitch when we need to).

Sad Puppies 4 RoboButch final

And thank you to the wonderfully talented ArtRaccoon (Lee Madison) for his fantastic artwork. The new puppy’s name is Robert. His three creators are Isaac, Frank, and Ray. Yes, those names do mean what you think they do. You can find more of his artwork on http://artraccoon.deviantart.com/gallery/ Contact me, Sarah, or Amanda if you want to give him money and we’ll send you his PayPal.

The Hugo awards has entirely too small a voting and nominating pool. Five thousand votes is the largest number ever received? Two thousand nomination ballots? That’s piddly. For a field loved by millions, it’s nowhere near…

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