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We stand in the sun and look back in our tracks
An image of self in grays and in blacks
Laughter and joy hold us in their sweet thrall
But even in wonderland shadows must fall

Book Review: “Court of Nightfall” by Karpov Kinrade

March 21, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy | By

Court of Nightfall (The Nightfall Chronicles, #1)Court of Nightfall by Karpov Kinrade
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Below is my original review for the first, non-extended, version of the book. I recieved a free copy of the extended version in exchange for an honest review. Sadly, the extended version did not improve the book at all in my opinion – in fact, it took what had been a 4-star novel and turned it into a 2-star mess. The problems included ooccasionally inconsistent characteizations, some new material that felt a bit more like filler than a vital part of the story, and a few times where the plot snuck across the line of suspension of disbelief, but I could forgive a lot of that. What ruined it for me were the incredible inconsistencies in the timeline.

Starting with the event that changes our heroine’s life irrevocably, the time frames in which things happen are shockingly muddled. Things are presented in chronological order, but the characters switch back and forth between referring to the event as having occurred the previous night and as them having been a week ago. And while just the sheer amount of things that happen between the event that caused her to flee Montana for New York and her return to her home would probably need a week, it’s the 24-hour time frame that’s mentioned the most often.

The writing itself was good, and the story has many interesting twists and turns. Unfortunately, the confusing time references had me going back to check things over and over again, trying to sort out the whole mess, that I really wasn’t able to enjoy the strengths the book has.


4 stars

I have to admit, the reason I initially picked up this book is simply because my husband’s nickname is Nyghtfall, and it made me curious about the book, so I had no real expectations for the story. I ended up liking it quite a bit. I usually have 3 or 4 books I’m working my way through at any given time, but this one was interesting, fast-paced and good enough that I read it almost straight through.

The story is set in an alternate, dystopian reality where society is primarily controlled by the Knights of the Four Orders: Templars, Teutonics, Hospitaliers and Inquisitors. In the not-too-distant past, humanity had fought a war against the Nephelim – a race of half a human / half-angelic beings that essentially function like vampires with wings – which ended with the destruction of the Nephelim. Also in the mix are humans with “parapowers” known as Zeniths. Because their powers are feared, Zeniths are socially ostracized and politically oppressed. Against this backdrop we meet Scarlett Night, her uber-cool parents and her best friend Jax. When her parents are attacked, however, Scarlett learns that not everything is at it seems, and finds that she and Jax are no longer safe. With that our story its off and running.

Though the initial setup follows a well-worn path, once the action begins, the story really starts to come into its own. The world-building is nicely done – and done without any excessive infodumps. Meeting with the heads of the Four Orders gives an idea of what each Order is like, and the general atmosphere is communicated by how people act and what our heroes observe. The history of the war its likewise presented more through dialogue without just tossing a big history lesson into the middle of the action.

I really only had a couple of issues with the book, none of which are major, but they did have an impact on my enjoyment.. I’m not a big fan of vampire stories – in part because there are just so many of them coming out these days. When I realized the Nephilim are, for all intents and purposes, vampires, I felt a bit “tricked” by the authors. I suppose in some ways its not a bad approach, since I might have skipped the book if is known that’s what they were, but it still irked me a bit. I will say, though, that the Nephilim seen to be without some off the typical vampire tropes that have led to my disliking them: They aren’t automatically evil, nor are the overly sexual. Personality-wise, so far, at least, they seem mostly like normal humans, which is rather nice.

There are several references to a Nephilim named Nyx. Most references to Nyx use a male pronoun, but at least once the female pronoun is used. Nyx is also referred to as both a god of the Nephilim and the name is also described as being “used” by their leader, so perhaps the god is one gender (traditionally, Nyx is the Greek goddess of night) and the leader is the other, but it really wasn’t clear.

Lastly, I found myself surprised when the book ended. It felt like like the players had just gotten all of their pieces set and were about to begin the game when the emcee came out, thanked everyone for a lovely evening and invited us all back in a few weeks for more.

As I said, they’re really fairly minor issues and I will certainly be tuning back in when the game continues. Overall is a fun read and I’m very interested to see where the story will be taking us.

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Book Review: Muddy Waters by Sara O. Thompson

March 12, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Fiction, Urban Fantasy | By

Muddy Waters (Otherwhere #1)Muddy Waters by Sara O. Thompson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.

I was really impressed with this book. When I started reading it, initially I was struck by several similarities between this book and the “Black Dog/Gemini/Lorimar Pack” books by Haley Edwards in that – like them – it too deals with a rip between our world and another where creatures of exist, and stars a half-human/half-other law enforcement officer dealing with cases that affect both realms. As I got further in two the story, however, I found similarity was only superficial, and that “Muddy Waters” is quite original in plot and in the structure of the universe in which the story takes place.

I really enjoyed the characters in the story, and Thompson has created an interesting and likable team to center the plot on. I also very much appreciated the balance she maintained between the mystery that forms the meat of the book’s plot and the overarching mystery that – presumably – will be further explored in the next book or books in this series.

The central mystery of this story is full of twists and turns and yet the pieces make sense when the puzzle is put together. As for the overarching mystery that will connect all the books in the series, rather than just offering a few cryptic dribs and drabs here and there, Thompson digs into the meat of this larger plot and brings it to an initial resolution while still ensuring there is enough left to keep you interested in and curious about what’s going to happen next. I just hope it won’t be too long before we get to find out.

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Goodreads | Kriselda Gray’s review of Ice Girl

March 9, 2017 | Posted in Book Reviews, Paranormal Romance | By

Ice Girl by Andy Mulberry My rating: 3 of 5 stars<br

Source: Goodreads | Kriselda Gray’s review of Ice Girl

Ice Girl (A Tale of Witches and Wolves, #2)Ice Girl by Andy Mulberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second part of Andy Mulberry’s “Of Witches and Wolves” series, and it’s a decent follow-up to the first volume, if a bit more flawed – something that isn’t all that uncommon with the second part of a series. The first part introduces us to the characters and familiarizes us with the world the story takes place in, while also setting up the pieces of the plot and putting them in motion. With all of that to accomplish, first tend to be pretty strong stories with just enough dangling threads to lure you back in for more. By contrast, second books serve more as bridges – picking up those threads and moving the plot pieces to their next place on the board before laying out some new threads to be picked up in the next book, fleshing out and evolving the main characters a bit, and maybe shining a bit more light on some secondary characters. Because they have less to accomplish, second books can end up feeling a bit weak by comparison. Unfortunately, “Ice Girl” suffers a bit from that.

In my review of “Fire Girl” I’d noted the romance seemed a bit lacking because one-half of the couple was under a spell that compelled those feelings, and I’d expected the romance to be more vibrant in this volume. Sadly, it wasn’t. We didn’t really see our main couple together that much, and both were feeling quite insecure about their relationship because they were making assumptions rather than talking to each other. We got to revisit some of the side characters from the first book, but in some ways, their appearances felt a bit like cameos. A few new characters were introduced and seem promising, though a couple didn’t have a whole lot to do besides establishing that they are a part of the story.

As for the story itself, it started pretty slow, but once it got going, it was one heck of a ride. Things went from bad to worse very quickly, and it was in figuring out how to resolve the situation that we really got to see how strong of a bond our main characters have, which was really nice.

So, even though it may be a weaker book overall – largely due to “second-part-itis,” there was certainly enough to hold my interest and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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Priorities

February 17, 2017 | Posted in Immigration, National Security, Politics, Russia | By

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Trump’s Campaign (already??) Rally…

February 17, 2017 | Posted in Fact Checking, Just to Clarify, Politics, Trump | By

Craigslist ad purporting to offer payment for people going to Trump rallySome common sense thoughts on the Craigslist ad floating around purporting to pay people for showing up at Trump’s Florida “campaign event.”

In particular:

First off, there have been a tremendous amount of unverified claims from both the left and the right that supporters/protesters are being paid to show up to political events. These claims have been made since the beginning of the last election, since Donald Trump descended down his escalator, and not one instance has been proven.

[…]

However, in this case, overtly saying they’re going to pay supporters with gift cards and cash vouchers, at a very public event, is so incredibly dumb it can’t possibly be real.

Most importantly, it’s impossible to know if this ad is real or fake without attending this Saturday’s rally, which we will be doing. And if we see people getting paid to go this rally, we’ll let you know. To be honest, that would be an amazing story.

There are also rumors being circulated that this rally is actually a plot to make Trump protesters look like violent thugs with agitators prepared to attend the rally and stir up trouble. Unless someone has actually seen evidence of such plotting, though, it’s hard to know if it’s true or not. I think skepticism is warranted here as well.

The suggested way of dealing with this is for peaceful protesters to hold their counter-event some distance from the rally itself. While that certainly sounds reasonable, it won’t do anything to stop agent provocateurs from causing trouble in the name of the Resistance movement, and it could render any protest more-or-less invisible, since it will be out of sight of both the Trump supporters and the media. If one were given to conspiracy-style thinking, one might be concerned that this could be propaganda from Trump supporters to help minimize the appearance of dissent, but I wouldn’t know about that…

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Don’t Panic

February 16, 2017 | Posted in Congress, Fact Checking, Guns, Just to Clarify, Politics | By

Mental illness and gunsI’ve been seeing this article getting passed around on social media, but the situation isn’t as alarming as some think. The bottom line is that the rule they want to repeal went into effect in December of last year – only 10 weeks ago. Even if the regulation is repealed, anyone who would would have been blocked from buying a gun 3 months ago will still be blocked from buying one.

As for the rule itself, what it did was require Social Security to notify the FBI of anyone receiving disability checks who had been determined to be too mentally ill to manage their own affairs, so that they could be flagged during background checks. While this would make it easier to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks, we will still have all of the other ways we’ve used to screen out the mentally ill from gun ownership. That won’t be changing.

So, yes, it’s a good regulation, but it’s repeal won’t mean that we’ll suddenly be flooded with mentally ill people buying guns unchecked or anything like that. It’ll just be going back to how we handled it as of November.

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Bowling Green “Massacre” was no slip of the tongue

February 7, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump Surrogates and Spokespeople | By

Kellyanne Conway has been trying to blame her claim of a massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on a slip of a tongue, but today we learn that it wasn’t the first time shed made mention of it. So, either the comment was a pre-planned lie, or Conway needs to see a doctor about all the excess oil in her mouth that keeps making her tongue fall off-track.

I’m betting it’s the former option, personally.

As I mentioned previously, neither of the excuses Conway has made for her verbal banana peel make any sense. First she said that she meant to say they were the “masterminds behind the BG Massacre” but how does one “mastermind” a terrorist? You don’t. You mastermind the plot. Her second excuse – that they were the masterminds of the BG Massacre plot” – doesn’t work either as there was no plot by these guys to kill anyone in Bowling Green.

Getting caught in a lie won’t do anything goes to deter her, though. Lying is her natural language, and it helps her client boss by tossing convenient – if false – excuses to his base so they can better ignore the actual facts.

While some journalists have been saying they have to keep interviewing Conway – that they have to take what the White House gives them. I strongly disagree.

If journalists refuse to interview Conway, Trump will eventually have to start sending out someone else because he needs the mainstream media, whether he likes them or not. If he truly believed he didn’t, he’d stop sending anyone out to speak with them. So legitimate journalists have some leverage here. “Give us some one else, or you’re side of the story goes untold.” Granted, whoever came next might be no better, but s/he could hardly be worse.

Kellyanne Conway said she misspoke “one word” on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last week. But it turns out that she had mentioned the made-up “Bowling Green massacre” at least once before.

Cosmopolitan’s Kristen Mascia reported Monday that Conway brought up the “masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre” in a January 29 telephone interview. Cosmo didn’t print the quote at the time.

 […]

“I was trying to mow through a list of fact checking and follow-up questions that day and had little time to follow her down her usual rabbit holes,” Mascia wrote on Facebook Monday.

Later, working with her editors, “we made an editorial choice not to churn out misinformation into the atmosphere without doing proper digging,” she wrote.

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Subtle, eh?

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump | By

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Humpty-Donnie Sat on a Wall…

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump | By

Wall photo is for illustrative purposes only. This is not the actual wall.

It seems that there are a number of Republicans who aren’t all that eager to spend money on Trump’s wall, and not just because it’ll be expensive and it’s highly unlikely Mexico would ever “repay” us for it.

One big problem is that not many in Texas actually want the wall. For one thing, it’s not clear how useful it would be, and for another, the “squiggliness” of the border presents its own challenges. As Vox notes:

Trying to literally conform a border wall to this fractal terrain would be ridiculous. Any feasible construction project is going to need to be straighter than the actual border, which is going to mean using the federal government’s eminent domain powers to take privately owned land and basically redraw the border. This has been a flashpoint between Trump and elements of the ideological right in the past, since he’s an enthusiastic proponent of using eminent domain to benefit private economic development projects, which many conservatives regard as unconstitutional.

A border wall — unlike a parking garage for an Atlantic City casino — is pretty clearly meant to serve a public function, so the constitutional issue wouldn’t necessarily arise. Nonetheless, it’s generally the case that people don’t like it when the government comes in and takes their land. And it’s easy to imagine they particularly wouldn’t like it if the government came in to take their land so that the president of the United States could avoid admitting that one of his campaign promises was kind of dumb. Moreover, it’s questionable it even would serve its stated purpose . Unauthorized immigration from Mexico has already slowed to a trickle (indeed, by most estimates more people are leaving than arriving), and the un-walled area in particular has almost no border crossings since it’s in the middle of nowhere.

It’s worth noting that the sections of Texas where fences have been built in the past report that it’s inflicted hardship on the area, and when the Texas Tribune surveyed the state’s 38-member congressional delegation it found that none of them wholeheartedly supported the border wall scheme. (Emphasis their’s)

It’s good to see some members of Congress actually listen to their constituents, and that there are some who recognize what an utter folly Trump’s wall plan is.

The article also discusses some of the financial challenges the wall project will face. Since Trump promised that Mexico is going to pay for it, Representatives and Senators from both parties may be able to use that in varying ways to justify not voting to fund the wall or to balk at using deficit spending to do so.

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The Problem with Kellyanne Conway

February 5, 2017 | Posted in Politics, Trump Surrogates and Spokespeople | By

Kellyanne Conway

 

In a recent Reliable Sources e-mail from CNN Money, Brian Statler asked for feedback on whether journalists should continue interviewing Kellyanne Conway or not. Here is the response I sent him:

Networks should *absolutely* quit interviewing Conway. While it is common for most politicians and their surrogates to try and spin anything negative or controversial to minimize any repercussions, Conway – and to a great extent Sean Spicer – take it to new levels of malignancy, creating false scenarios and impressions that will far outlive any effect a correction might have.

The problem with giving Conway more airtime is that she never contributes anything to understanding a situation, policy or action. Her comments serve only to mislead the American people. Given that the goal of journalism is to expose and clarify the truth, journalists have an obligation to avoid spreading information that seeks to confuse or mislead the public. Since this is essentially the only think Conway does, interviewing her actively thwarts the purpose of journalism and violates the duty of the journalist.

I have little doubt, for example, that within a couple of months – if not sooner – well be hearing from conservative extremists (a better description of what they are than ” alt-right” which really doesn’t mean anyrhing) about the Bowling Green Massacre and how it was so thoroughly covered up to avoid making “Muzzies” look bad that you can hardly find any coverage of it at all.

The proffered excuses for her “mistake” make no sense. The first one I heard was that she meant “Bowling Green terrorists,” but she had called the two men the “masterminds” of the massacre – saying they were the “masterminds of the Bowling Green terrorists” makes no sense, since they were the only two involved. Calling someone a mastermind implies that the person came up with the idea for a larger group. You just don’t call *every* member of a group the “masterminds.” And aying, as she said later, that they were the masterminds behind a Bowling Green massacre plot is even more ridiculous since no such plot existed.

Continuing to give Conway a platform only rewards her for her lies and gives Trump’s followers an excuse to dismiss concerns about his actions, policies and beliefs. Given the administration’s complete disregard for the truth, journalists should be doing all they can to counter the spin, not help spread it.

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