Book Review: David Weber & Eric Flint’s Cauldron of Ghosts

by Kathy Davie

Cauldron of Ghosts (Honorverse: Wages of Sin, #3)Cauldron of Ghosts by David Weber
Series: Wages of Sin, 3
My rating: 7 of 5 stars

Third in the Wages of Sin sub series within the Honorverse overall series and revolving around Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki against the Mesan Alignment. It’s inciting revolution time! I reckon this one merits a “7”.

My Take
Omigod. I don’t know if it’s just been too long since I’ve read an Honorverse story or if Weber and Flint are having too much fun with this story. I chuckled and laughed through at least the first half before it got serious. And, yeah, there are parts where I cried. There were also sections where I cheered and hoorayed! And gnashed my teeth and…

Victor is having too much fun with his new persona, and you’ll enjoy reading his assessments of too-gorgeous and too-ugly being quite useful for the same reason. Listening as he plays and with his accent toy and his brutal, to-the-point analyses.

The first part reminds us of Victor and Anton’s actions when they first drop in on Mesa with some analysis of their characters and abilities and includes some buildup around the hatred Manticore and Haven have for Manpower and company. It then segues into Victor and Anton having way too much fun stirring up the seccies on Mesa. Yep, it’s a revolution in the making with fewer funny bits, more drama, and more crying — on my part at least.

“Sadly, military propriety took another hit.

You heard the Old Lady,‘ Sydorenko’s voice came over every listening com. ‘Let us now do unto others as they have wet dreams of doing unto us.‘”

It’s strange because there is so much that happens in Cauldron of Ghosts, and yet, in many respects, this is a bridge story. Anton and Victor certainly kick things up a notch, but it’s more of a kicking over the anthill kind of thing. A really BIG anthill.

Excellent point about who donates what: the poor give to anyone poorer than they are while the rich “give” to institutions that put their name on the buildings.

Maytag, Whirpool, Suds Emporium…

Weber/Flint do spend a lot of pages explaining various aspects of the Honorverse. How prolong affects attitudes about families and marriage. It does sound like an ideal society for families, with all the support there is in raising kids. There are some good arguments for it. Why Torch hasn’t got much of a navy along with discussions of the various ships and their uses. The seccy society in Mesa. Why including Thandi on this mission is a good idea as well as why it won’t impact the Torch army. How the educational system works on Beowulf. How Erewhon really works, which actually sounds pretty good. A bit more on how and why Old Earth died. Greater depth on why the medical establishment on Beowulf split and one chunk became the Mesan Alignment. How the seccy buildings are constructed, life in the neighborhoods, and their own social interactions. Then there is Sharon’s belief about the Manticoran coffee…hmmm…

Now that Manticore and Haven know about the Mesan Alignment, they’re discussing how they set things up to escape detection all these centuries. And makes me despise them even more. Lots of philosophizing about society.

Vickers is so stupid, he thinks Al Capone is an ancient Roman gangster. Nor is he the only idiot running around loose. I don’t think much of a society that thinks indiscriminate violence with collateral damage amongst its population is a “job well done”.

Ooh, I like how Honor describes Victor, as being the “closest thing a human can come to a treecat”.

Omigod…crack me up over Yana’s “disguise”! Poor baby.

“‘I plan to hold that grudge the rest of my life.’ … ‘Mind you, it’s likely to be a short life,’ she said. ‘I’m bound to topple over and kill myself the moment I get distracted.’

‘It’s a status symbol in a number of Verge cultures,’ Kham elaborated. ‘And the wealthier you are, the — ah — more voluptuous you are.’

Steph and Andrew studied Yana a little longer.

‘So what do we call you now?’ Andrew asked. ‘Midas?'”

Ah, jesus, the lengths the Mesan Alignment will go to further their agenda. You’ll cry. You won’t be able to help it. You’ll be stunned, mouth-open, gobsmacked, stunned. And Weber/Flint just stretch that trauma out!

Oh, you will crack up! A Talking Head who actually makes sense! One of ‘em is foaming off at the mouth about what a sociopath Victor was during the gunfight — the one that saved Anton’s kids?? The other is asking what Victor should have done? Give them a lecture? Crack me up…!

Interesting developments in this for some Mesan employees as they begin to see those they looked down upon, those they treated as scum, as being human beings worthy of respect. All these saps who begin to understand the truth, and it’s too late.

Duhh, did the Mesa security people really think the seccies were going to roll over when they saw what they’d be facing? From the start?

The newscasters keep talking about “cowardly and vile attacks”, and naturally I’m thinking he’s referring to the government forces. Since that’s the truth. Silly me.

There’s a legend building on Mesa, a brave story of Thandi Palane, Jurgen Dursek, and Bachue the Nose.

And, dammit, Weber/Flint have ended this all wrong!!! I wanna know what happened after the ships of the wall descended. No, no, no, noooooo. What happened…?! Seriously, as writers, they did brilliantly. As a reader, well, hmph…

The Story
Trajan is thrilled to be getting rid of that wild card, Cachat! As far as Haven is concerned, any possible cover Victor had was blown between his antics in helping Torch becoming independent and his actions with Anton on Mesa.

Those antics include Anton, Yara, and Herlander, and they’re all being sent to Manticore to the queen.

It’ll be a new mission and they’re sending Victor, Anton, Thandi, Yana, Steph, and Andrew in their new DNA sheaths into certain death.

The Characters
Anton Zilwicki, a former Highlander from Gryphon, was a spy and is married to Cathy Montaigne, the Countess of the Tor, his common-law wife, and a leading figure of the Liberal Party on Manticore. Helen is his natural child while Queen Berry of Torch and Lars are Anton’s adopted kids, and as far as Anton is concerned, there’s no difference. They’re alive because of Victor.

The modest, unassuming Special Officer Victor Cachat of the Republic of Haven is the most flamboyant agent, lol. They’ve given him a nickname his actions merit: Black Victor. And, hoo boy, do they ever have fun with that one! Yana Tretiakovna is a Scrag who’ll be turned into a buxom, decadent, incredibly wealthy Hakim. She and Anton will travel on Brixton’s Comet. Herlander Simões is the scientist they rescued from Mesa.

The Republic of Haven is…
…the former enemy of Manticore, well, okay they’re working on a treaty and an alliance after the news about Manpower and the war breaking out against the Solarian League Navy. Kevin Usher is head of the Federal Investigation Agency, Haven’s top domestic police force; Ginny Usher is his wife. Wilhelm Trajan is the head of the Republic’s Foreign Intelligence Service. Eloise Pritchart is still president.

Erewhon is…
…a planet made up of robbers and thieves who have civilized themselves, somewhat. It’s a quadrumvirate that actually runs the planet and consists of Tomas Hall, Alessandra Havlicek, Jack Fuentes, and Walter Imbesi, head of the Imbesi family. Sharon Justice is the Haven representative on Erewhon, and Victor is her boss. Yuri Radamacher is the new high commissioner and envoy extraordinary from the Republic of Haven, and he would dearly love to marry Sharon.

Rear Admiral Luis Rozsak of the Solarian League Navy gave a number of ships to Torch in Crown of Slaves, Wages of Sin, 1. Kept his hands clean and made him look good. He’s the commanding officer of Maya Sector’s fleet. The Solarian Lieutenant Commander Jiri Watanapongse is his intelligence specialist. Oravil is one of the League’s OFS sector governors.

The Star Empire of Manticore
Duchess Honor Alexander-Harrington is Grand Fleet’s CO; Nimitz is her treecat (and she’s his human). Captain Spencer Hawke, a Grayson, is Honor’s personal armsman. Hamish Alexander-Harrington is Honor’s husband; his treecat is Samantha and she’s Nimitz’s mate. Empress Elizabeth was a childhood playmate of Cathy’s; Ariel is her treecat. Beatriz is one of her aides. Lieutenant Tengku is one of her bodyguards. The Manticorans involved in this decision include William Alexander, Baron Grantville and prime minister; Sir Anthony Langtry, foreign secretary; and, Admirals Sir Thomas Caparelli (First Space Lord) and Pat Givens.

Captain Lewandoski, a.k.a., Anton Zilwicki, is brought through by Lieutenant Commander Waldemar Tümmel, Honor’s flag lieutenant on the HMS Imperator. Lieutenant Commander Harper Brantley is her staff communications officer. Admiral Gloria Michelle “Mike” Samantha Evelyn Henke, Countess Gold Peak and commanding officer of Tenth Fleet has a very naughty message for the empress.

The Talking Heads who are used include:
Charlene Soulliere unofficially represents the Progressive Party and Florence Hu is the Liberal Party voice on the first panel with Yael Underwood, the moderator for The Star Empire Today. He outed Anton as a spy with the help of “Mr. Wright”, a.k.a., Guillermo Thatcher, a recently retired Special Intelligence Service agent. Macauley “Mack” Sinclair is planted by Cathy on the second panel, replacing Hu, and sweeps the floor with Charlene. Woo-hoo! Oh, yeah, Anton reckons he is “so getting laid tonight”.

The Hauptman Cartel is a huge space-wide corporation led by a man who used to hate Honor.

Beowulf is…
…a one-star system and a member of the Solarian League — the enemy. Um, the Solarian League, not Beowulf… Third Director-at-Large of the Planetary Board of Directors of Beowulf Jacques Benton-Ramirez y Chou is Allie’s brother, which makes him Honor’s uncle. He’s also Beowulf’s unofficial (and hidden) liaison with the Audubon Ballroom. He’s just been assigned a new bodyguard: Bark Chewer’s Bane, a Blue Mountain Dancing Clan scout. Chairman of Beowulf’s Board of Directors Chyang Benton-Ramirez is his cousin. Henry Kham is with the Inter-Agency Development Team. Omigod, there’s a Department of Chaotics on Beowulf…only them…

The Biological Survey Corps (BSC), an elite special forces military outfit, has sent out a team to begin the Mesa sweep-up and includes Colonel Nancy Anderson and Commander Loren Damewood, her XO. Colonel Donald Toussaint‘s job is to liaise between the Torch officers and its rank. Others include Major Arkaitz Ali bin Muhammad; former Scrag, Major Anichka Sydorenko; and, Lieutenant Commander Loriane Lansiquot, a Havenite advisor. Jeff Gomez is Anicha’s orderly.

The Hali Sowle is…
…a tramp freighter which rescued Anton and Victor from Mesa. Seemingly. It’s captained by an old granny, Elfriede “Ganny” Margarete Butry, a.k.a., Ganny El, who has got some mouth on her. The ship is partnered up with Beowulf to snooker the bad guys. Andrew Artlett, one of Ganny’s nephews, was the masterful mechanic who kept the Hali Sowle alive and roaring back to the good guys. Steph Turner ran a restaurant on Mesa where Anton worked. Nancy is her daughter and the leverage they’ll use to talk Steph into going back with them. She’ll set up a safe house for them. Geronimo and RTNS Bastille are some of the ships that Hali Sowle is hauling.

Torch is…
…a newly created star nation on the former Verdant Vista and populated by former slaves and former Audubon Ballroom members. General Thandi Palane, Mfecane-born, a.k.a., the Great Kaja, is Victor’s lover, a former Solarian marine, and the current commander of the Royal Torch Army. Captain Anton Petersen is a Manticoran advisor sent to help Thandi train up the Torch army. Princess Ruth Winton, Elizabeth’s niece, is a “spook assistant”; Anton is the chief “spook” for Queen Berry. Queen Berry Zilwicki is one of Anton’s adopted daughters and the ruler of Torch; Hugh Arai, a former Manpower slave, is her boyfriend, er, um, consort. Shai-gwun Metterling, a former colonel in the Andermani Empire’s intelligence service, is one of Torch’s intelligence officers who immigrated in due to his political idealism. Jeremy X is the former head of the Ballroom, and he played a crucial part in the gunfight in Old Town on Terra. Now he’s Secretary of War in the Torch government with Web du Havel as prime minister.

Parmley Station is…
…a known, unofficial transit hub for the slave trade. The original plan for the station was to be an amusement park — Great Uncle Michael Parmley‘s idea. Now it’s likely to become Beowulf’s central hub for covert ops against Mesa and Manpower. Lieutenant Colonel Ayibongwinkosi Kabweza, another former Solarian marine, is the commander of the Torch assault troops aboard Parmley Station. Sergeant Supakrit X, Private Mary Kyllonen, Corporal Ted Vlachos is a slob, and Corporal Bohuslav Hernandez are some of the Marines.

Grayson is…
…a religious planet which adopted Honor and made her a duchess. Benjamin Mayhew is its Protector. Katherine and Elaine are two of his wives.

The Andermani Empire is…
…a powerful star system that is keeping a careful balance between the Solarians and Manticore. Jwei-shwan Anderman is Emperor Gustav Anderman’s nephew and second in line for the throne.

The Audubon Ballroom is…
…a terrorist group of ex- and escaped slaves who are, for some reason, anti-slavery. Saburo X was in charge of Ballroom activities on Mesa, and how he’s in charge of Queen Berry’s security force.

Captain Sebastian Vandor of the Pygmalion liner owes his daughter-in-law’s life to Beowulf. Tobias Lines would have been most unhappy if news of the CEO’s dead brother using company assets to cover slave shipments inside the League had gotten out.

Balescu Station is…
…part trading depot, part slave handling facility. The station also handles space traffic coming through its system; Debrecen is its only habitable planet. In fact the station had been deteriorating until Jessyk bought it up. Csilla Ferenc, Béla Harsányi, Tabitha Crowley, and András Kocsis are traffic controllers, and the first two are questioning the sudden uptick in traffic. Zoltan Somogyi is Csilla’s boss, and he knows the Mesan Alignment exists. Sophie Bordás is the station’s sensor officer. Jeremy Binford is in charge of security on the fatal shift. Corporal Laski is ordered to guard the console. Aatifa Villanueva and Alexi Grigorev are partners and battling it out with Liang MacHowell and Constance Mastroianni who is way too paranoid.

Luigi Pirandello is the slave ship captained by Roldão Brandt. Genora Hinkley is his second officer. Jürgen Acker is the com officer. They’ll have to put Voigt and Ingraham in irons. Janice Wendel is one of the guards sent to retrieve them. Prince Sundjata is another slave ship with important passengers. Captain Caroline Bogunov is in command; Tabitha is an astrogator. Davenport is handling gravitics. Mason Scribner is the sensor officer. Mitch is engineering.

Lieutenant Wat Tyler is the commanding officer of the platoon assigned to Kabweza’s shuttle. Lieutenant Commander Tunni Bayano is in command of the RTNS Denmark Vesey. Lieutenant Marcos Xiorro is leading a boarding party on the Pirandello.

Mesa is…
…the enemy of all decent human beings. The planet itself is composed of four different social levels: slaves are the lowest and count for nothing; the seccies are the descendants of slaves who, quite a few years ago, were freed — they’re on the same level, really, as slaves; the middle class are actual citizens who expect their rights; and, the true rulers are the Mesan Alignment.

François McGillicudy is Mesa’s Director of Security as well as a senior board member of Atkinson, McGillicuddy, & Shivaprakash, an investment firm with branches in many of the Solarian League’s major star systems. Grace Summers is one of his assistants. Aidan Crowder is a colleague. I think Zeno is a secretary. Bryce Lackland is the director of Culture and Information. Brianna Pearson is about the only one on the board who argues against retaliation; she’s vp of Operations (Mesa) for Technodyne Industries and has experience with public relations. Regan Snyder is officially the director of Commerce, but is Manpower Inc.’s representative and a vp of Operations. Brandon Ward is the CEO of Mesa; Andrea is one of his senior aides. Jackson Chicherin is an academic and vp of Research and Development for the Mesan Genetic Consultancy. Gannon‘s at Industry, Barbara Suchein‘s at Foreign Affairs, and Anson Ceáculo is at Treasury.

Mesan Internal Security Directorate (MISD, a.k.a., Misties) is…
…a division of the Office of Public Safety (OPS) and is the primary suppressive arm of the Mesan government. Skylar Beckert is the director of Domestic Intelligence Analysis. Commissioner Bentley Howell is the commanding officer and a right twit. Colonel Teodosio MacKane is the CO of the 4th Regiment, and they’ll be heading to Neue Rostock. Eventually Colonels Perelló and Metz will join him. Major Randall Myers commands 2nd Battalion while Major Camelia Brockmann is CO of 1st Battalion.

Alpha Company was led by Lieutenant Meryl Rodman. Oops. Lieutenant Leandro Wallace leads 1st Platoon.

Bravo Company is commanded by Captain Gavin Shultz; Lieutenant Connor Ferguson commands its 2nd Platoon and is a stickler for rules and procedures. Lieutenant Marilyn Kalanadhabhatla is his replacement. Section Sergeant Kayla Barrett is part of 2nd Platoon and thinks he’s too much of a goody-goody. More details on soldiers…Trooper 1/c Jubair Azocar, Irena Gnoughy, Márton Neveu, Matheson, Kirsten van Noort, and Sugase seal the deal against any seccy. Brad Kempthorne‘s 2nd Section. Timmons. Kimmo Ludvigsen and Brock Sanchez fired into kneeling prisoners — 10- and 12-year old children. Platoon Sergeant Loretta Frasch won’t ever speak to Barrett regarding Ferguson’s issue. Corporal Denise Malden leads the second fire team.

Office of Public Safety (OPS)
Commissioner Fran Selig is Bentley’s boss and CO of OPS. Sergeant Amos Barkley, Corporal Toby Qorolas, and Gunther Srekha‘s section are some of the. many OPS troopers

Mesan Office of Investigation (MOI)
Harriet Caldwell is a security analyst and one of the few intelligent people willing to question. Anthony Lindstrom is her supervisor. Janine Riccardo is his boss, the director of this elite police organization.

Mesan Planetary Peaceforce (MPP) is…
…intended to respond to threats of seccy or slave unrest as well as MISD problems. General Caspar Alpina is in charge. Lieutenant General Gillian Drescher hates Howell’s guts and is commander of the Capital District. Colonel Byrum Bartel is her chief of staff. Brigadiers Edson and Hanratty get their orders. Corporal Thomas Crunn comes to realize the seccies are more than he’d ever considered right along with Troopers 1/c Claire Shwang and Andries Benkô and Corporal Aldokim de Castilho, and more.

Lajos Irvine, a.k.a., Carlos Huygens, part of a genetically engineered specialty line designed to infiltrate amongst genetic slaves, hates his new boss, George Vickers (an alpha line) who is assistant director of the Central Security Agency with delusions of intelligence; Lajos much preferred his old boss, Jack McBryde — who killed himself and destroyed Mesa’s Gamma Center. Borisav “Bora” Stanković and Freddie Martinez are the muscle Vickers sends along. Officer Mendez is tasked with finding children’s body parts. Lieutenant Jernigan is her boss. Juan Morris is the one who expedites the culling.

Zachariah McBryde was Jack’s brother, and he’s hauled off by the Gauls (the Genetic Advancement and Uplift League) — A. Zhilov and S. Arpino — who serve the inner layer of the onion as their special enforcers. Christina is his mother and Arianne is his younger sister. Chief Scientist Lisa Charteris is Zachariah’s boss and his friend. Jules Charteris is her husband; he’s not slated for Houdini. Gail Weiss is a security analyst. Stefka Juarez is a task force director.

Cary Condor, Stephanie Moriarty, and Karen Steve Williams are all that’s left of a seccy revolutionary group that escaped Mesan security forces after the explosion that David Pritchard set off at Green Pines, and Karen’s lost her legs below the knees. Nor is there any way to get her medical help. Carl Hansen had been the leader of their group. Every day, Cary or Steph ventures out to check the dead drops Angus Levigne (Victor) set up. Now he’s Philip Watson and was also Daniel McRae. But hey, only on this planet…

Seccy Neighborhoods are…
…run by crime bosses. Neue Rostock is run by Jurgen Dusek‘s organization. Triêu Chuanli is Dusek’s chief lieutenant; he also deals in body parts. Stefan is a bodyguard. Ambros/Thanh is one of the children who guide visitors in and out of the maze. Tamara Hess and Henry Copper are part of the gang as are Noel, Aaronson, Serengeti, Athanasios Diasall, Sammy, Luca, and Truong. Rudrani Nimbakar had some bootleg medical training. Nolan Olsen is Neue Rostock’s building superintendent. Nine-Finger Jake and and Jenny the Hand are technically independents but throw in with Dusek.

Lower Radomsko is still a free-for-all neighborhood, and everyone suffers for it. Willi the Chin led a brutal gang. Naturally, this is where Victor, a.k.a., Achmed Buenaventura, a.k.a., Achmed the Atrocious, starts. Thandi, a.k.a., Evelyn del Vecchio, is his thug. Teddy and Calantha “Callie” Patwary are all that’s left of the hijacking attempt. Bertie Jaffarally is the cabbie. The Baker Street Irregulars are led by Hasrul Goosens, a young boy desperate to get medicine for his mom and includes Lily Berenger and Magda Yunkers.

Bachue “the Nose” Emmett runs Hancock Tower. Fred Trujillo, Merriwell, Levi Andrade is the Tower’s building supervisor, Pablo, and Patterson are some of her people.

Shasta McGuire is one of Maysayuki Franconi‘s enforcers in the Sukharov Territory. Other neighborhoods include McLeod‘s in Wister Haven and Ayacucho.

The government departments that keep an eye on the neighborhoods are the Tableland Auditor Board (TAB) and Interservice Verification Agency. Phuong Wilson is a TAB agent who oversees Neue Rostock.

The Jessyk Combine is…
…one of Manpower’s many subsidiaries and owns the Ramathibodi. Ondøej Montoya is the com officer. Captain Marième Tsang is in command. Takahashi Ayako is one of the slaves aboard the Ramathibodi.

The Mesan Alignment is…
…a shadowy organization that has been hidden for hundreds of years plotting to take over humanity with its genetic superiority. Think Hitler with his master race plans. Leonard Detweiler was its first leader. Albrecht Detweiler is today’s leader. Benjamin is his oldest son and commander of the Alignment’s navy. Collin Detweiler. Isobel Bardasano was Jack’s boss. Janice Marinescu is Isobel’s replacement and a senior wet work specialist. Kevin Haas is Janice’s partner.

Houdini is an evacuation plan that will remove anyone from Mesa who could reveal the onion’s inner workings. Melissa and Jeffrey Vaughn are indulging in a sailing voyage from the past on the Magellan. Bea Henderson and George Couch are flying an empty run by special request for Knight Tours. Fabulous how computer records can tell you anything. Mark Lewis and Sheila Dawson shouldn’t have gone to Franklin Tower’s Hugh de Vries Park. Numerous full-citizen neighborhoods, parks, and small towns including Dobzhansky and Saracen Tower, get their own bombs as well.

Xavier Conde is a second tier newscaster in the Solarian League. Vittoria Daramy is his producer. Alex Xu is their recording tech. Audrey O’Hanrahan is one of the Solarian League’s best investigative journalists and is the lead reporter for The Truth Will Out, and she’s worked hard to be believable. She’s also a Mesan alpha-line. She’ll hire a couple bodyguards from Lee Seagraves at Cerberus Security. Kyle Fraenzl is a Mesan public information officer who’s not doing too well.

Scrags were created by Ukranian Supremacists to be super soldiers on Old Earth. The Asian Confederacy had their own version.

The Deneb Accords are much like our own Geneva Convention about how to treat enemy combatants. KEW are kinetic energy weapons — think Starship Enterprise blasting cities from space. The Eridani Edict is applied in acts of war, and I think it forbids wholesale slaughter of a planet’s population.

The Cover
The cover is a metallic gold background of the silhouetted city of Mendel on Mesa with Victor front and slightly off-center (hmmm, how appropriate!) wearing a long duster and holstering his weapon (I think). The squat, dwarfish, leather-jacketed Anton is behind him, ready to rumble while the rest of the team is scattered behind them. A narrow black band across the top features the authors’ names in blue while the title is below it in red.

The title is what the Mesan Alignment intends to do, create a Cauldron of Ghosts.

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Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language

KD Did It:

I do adore Bill Bryson, and I can’t think how I missed this one! It is of course a topic close to my heart, lol.

Originally posted on Between You and Me:


I’ve just been taken on an armchair tour on the history of English via Bill Bryson’s entertaining book Mother Tongue: The Story of the English Language. I explored this genre a little bit when I wrote my post on the Gift of the Gob but this book goes into a lot more fun detail about the origins of English into its ultimate status as the world’s most spoken tongue. This book was published a while back so some of the notions do seem rather dated and erroneous as they seem to have been sourced from places you could not rely on as factual authorities. It is still an entertaining read.

Bryson first explores the ambiguities of English as understood by a foreigner. For example in English, one tells a lie but the truth, the sentence “I could care less” is equivalent to “I couldn’t care less” and the phrase “all items…

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Word Confusion: Because Of versus Due To

by Kathy Davie

Image courtesy of GMAT Club

I sure opened up a can of worms. I’m not sure why I got the bug to explore because of versus due to, but it has been a confusion of words, for sure. Y’all will love it as it leaves options wide open for ya. Follow Merriam-Webster and you can do anything you like. Pay attention to GMAT Club or Marjorie Skillin in Words into Type, and you’ll be parsing like nobody’s business. Hmmm, let me think which way most of you will choose, lol.

To give you a chance to make the right choice for you, Merriam-Webster is one of the dictionaries preferred by publishers and editors, so it carries a lot of weight. GMAT Club is an interactive MBA community that serves as a central point for business school applicants to improve their chances of getting into an MBA program. Words into Type is a go-to reference book for editors.

I have to confess I’m partial to Merriam-Webster for fiction and the other two when it comes to non-fiction. Hope this helps!

For those of you who love a conundrum…

Correct Incorrect
The board meeting was canceled because of flu season.

Because of modifies was canceled, the action, in the preceding clause and indicates why the meeting was canceled.

The board meeting was canceled due to flu season.

Due to modifies was canceled, an action, in the preceding clause, so it’s not correct.

The cancellation of the board meeting was due to the flu season.

The cancellation of the board meeting was caused by the flu season.

Due to (and caused by) modifies cancellation, the noun.

The board meeting was canceled caused by flu season.

Replacing due to with caused by doesn’t make sense.

Poor quarterly results were due to rising energy costs.

Poor quarterly results were caused by rising energy costs.

Both sentences make sense, so due to is the right choice.

Poor quarterly results were a result of rising energy costs.

A result of modifies a noun phrase, poor quarterly results, and it’s only allowed to modify verbs.

Quarterly earnings decreased because of rising energy costs.

Quarterly earnings decreased as a result of rising energy costs.

Because of and as a result of both work in each sentence, so that’s a quick okay; a deeper look indicates that each phrase modifies the verb, decreased.

It’s an evolving list, these Word Confusions, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better. If you’d like to track it, “Because Of versus Due To” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Because Of Due To
Credit to: Merriam-Webster: because of and due to
Part of Grammar:
Phrase: Conjunction + Preposition Phrase: Adjective + Preposition
On account of
By reason of
As a result of

There is a conflict between authorities, Merriam Webster is flexible while others are more particular.


  • Verbs only
  • Entire clauses:
    • Use to present reason for an action in the clause – it answers why

(GMAT Club)

I ran across a tip suggesting that if due to can be replaced by as a result of, use because of.
Caused by or ascribable to
* Because of
** Owing to

There is a conflict between authorities, Merriam Webster is flexible while others are more particular.

As an adjective, due only modifies:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns

Being compound prepositions, you may not use:

  • Owing to
  • Because of (although, because is a conjunction, so I dunno)
  • On account of

(Skillin, 371)

GMAT provides a tip for determining if due to is the correct choice by suggesting replacing it with caused by. If the sentence doesn’t sound right, due to is the wrong choice.

* Merriam-Webster lists because of as a synonym for due to

** Merriam-Webster accepts due to as an acceptable usage in place of owing to and states that it has been “recognized as a standard for decades”. The original argument against this began in the 18th century, claiming that due is an adjective.

They moved here because of the baby.

They were late because of the snowstorm.

The roads were slippery because of the rain.

Unemployment due to automation grew steadily.

Due to the rains, crops are rotting in the fields.

He had to withdraw due to a knee injury.

Skillin, 371, provides examples of the preferred forms:

  • His failure was due to insufficient study.
  • He failed owing to insufficient study.
  • He failed because of insufficient study.

GMAT Club provides examples demonstrating because of and due to:

  • It is cold in Arizona because of the westward storm coming from the Pacific.

    • Because of modifies the clause presenting the reason why it is cold in Arizona.
  • It is cold in Arizona due to the westward storm coming from the Pacific.
    • Due to cannot be used to explain why it is cold as it is only allowed to modify nouns or pronouns, NOT verbs.
  • GMAT’s tip on interchanging due to and caused by:
    • Arizona’s cold wave is due to the westward storm coming from the Pacific.
    • Arizona’s cold wave is caused by the westward storm coming from the Pacific.
History of the Word:
First known use: 14th century First known use: 1897

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

Kathy Davie is an author, educator, and artist with a BS in Technical Writing & Editing with minors in Digital Media and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing including an online tutorial in Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool, words commonly confused by authors and Punctuation and Formatting Tips.

Contact Kathy for various writing and editing services.

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Book Review: Andre Norton’s Tales From High Hallack, Volume 3

by Kathy Davie

Tales from High Hallack, Volume Three: The Collected Short Stories of Andre NortonTales from High Hallack, Volume Three: The Collected Short Stories of Andre Norton by Andre Norton
Series: High Hallack, 3
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Twenty-one short stories of fantasy, and for the most part, I did not enjoy them. There are a few in here I did like, primarily because I could understand what the story was about. I didn’t have to work hard to figure it out. And that’s sad. I suspect I got so focused on the struggle to understand that those I enjoyed suffered by comparison.

This ARC was provided by NetGalley and Open Road Integrated Media in exchange for an honest review.

The Stories
Auôur the Deepminded” is a convoluted tale of a warlord’s surviving family about to be routed by his enemies. Seeing ahead to the future, Auôur has commanded a ship to be built to take them to safety. I think they’ve gone to Iceland.

No Folded Hands” is one of those stories where I felt dropped in and scrambled, trying to figure out what was going on. I think it’s a philosophical difference between free natives and the white man’s preference for regimentation and rote thought. Difficult to read and understand. Norton has a brief bit at the end where she discusses her beliefs, and she’d have done better to not be so obtuse.

Bard’s Crown” is a quick drop into the life of an Irish village and the damage a ruling idiot can have on his people. It was an interesting if frustrating tale with lots of lovely words telling of a horrible situation but not much information.

Frog Magic” is cute enough and does a twist on the frog prince being kissed by his princess. In this case it’s warring wizards. Only Norton has some holes in this that left me spending more time wondering about those than on the tale itself.

Herne’s Lady” was cute with an interesting twist on Herne and inheritance when the Honorable Olivia Farrington inherits Oaksleigh Manor from her Great-aunt Lettice. It’s the villain of the neighborhood who helps her learn the underlying secret of Oaksleigh. It’s a touch of Little Red Riding Hood visiting her granny and the wolf who comes to visit. The best story I’ve read so far, although whoever proofread this knows nothing about Regency slang.

The Outling” is, wow, it’s a wonderful story. I suspect because I can understand it on a first reading, lol! A rescue of a newborn baby followed by humanity’s fear and need to blame someone. It’s a nice try at pointing the finger at our need to make a world to fit our own preferences and throwing out what we don’t understand or hate. Certainly a story to make you think.

Stonish Men” made me think of Clive Cussler stories with its myths of stone men who could not be injured. In truth it’s a small group of Knights Templar who have escaped the massacre set by King Philip and the pope. They find a tiny refuge and build a stone fort to protect the treasure. I do wish Norton had provided a sign of some sort that we were switching from one time to another in this. A tiny blip in several ages of lives with an ending you must imagine for yourself. Rather unsatisfying.

Churchyard Yew” finds that something evil lingers in Hex House, and it’s Dr. Ilse Harveling who is determined to root it out. Sad and slightly scary.

Root and Branch Shall Change” is another confusing story. It starts out with confrontation and accusations, an interesting beginning with her memories of past lives. It is, however, all entangled in a bunch of words that left me confused as I struggled to figure out what it’s about, as if each paragraph were its own piece. It finally begins to make a form of sense, and my curiosity rose as she moves further into this collapsed mountain hold. I’d be curious to read if Norton wrote any more of Merlin and Nimue’s adventures, but not if it’s as convoluted as this was. Jesus, Norton can really twist the words around and make them archaic sounding.

White Violets” is just nasty. The story is nicely written, it’s the content of it. The start of it provides the fear that will follow you into the next part of the story. Thank god at least Mackie had good sense!

Needle and Dream” is very different with its isolated village of dreamers. Thankfully, it was easy to read.

Procession to Var” was a switch-up. All the stories so far have had a medieval feel to them. This one is very sci-fi with a little Lara Croft/Indiana Jones thrown in for that archeological artifact excitement. Norton is very careful to keep us in suspense as to who the interesting parties are.

Set in Stone” is a science fiction horror story of a young man enslaved by cruel people and the very strange way in which he “escaped”. Norton does leave you wondering at the end.

Ravenmere” is about an artist who creates images using beads. It sounds absolutely beautiful, and I got the itch to try it myself. Only, this is a different sort of a fantasy horror story as the artist is forced to work without stopping. A fascinating interpretation of the Ladies of the Lake, Merlin, and their magics. And, as usual in this collection, Norton leaves me wanting.

Three-Inch Trouble” is an interesting combination of sailor and space ship with a sense of the 18th century in it with a fun story. It has its own horrors and it takes a cat to fix it.

The End is the Beginning” is another odd one, almost a Red Dwarf of a story with cats who have evolved. Norton keeps us in the dark until the end, at which point we’re in a different kind of dark with all sorts of questions unanswered.

The Familiar” is another fantasy involving a cat and I think the familiar is his. It’s a short blip of a day in the life when invaders are storming the city, and suddenly, the cat is regretting all the days he let slip away without training his familiar.

Red Cross, White Cross” is another Knights Templar story of so many betrayals and the honor of one horribly injured knight desperately trying to fulfill his duty. Easy to understand.

Sow’s Ear — Silk Purse” is an odd story of a maiden who would rather be ugly than be forced to marry. Definitely different with a twist and a most unexpected ending.

The Cobwebbed Princess” is a twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale with a cat as her waking prince. Somehow it twines in with the goddess Bast, and she’ll have another task for her kitty. Cute enough, but why? What was the purpose of this sleep spell?

Faire Likeness” was fun and scary, combining a huge family property with the Renaissance Faire and witchery. It’s a friend come to help out who is given no information and yet left in peril. Norton pulled me in to this contemporary tale — I suspect because of its shards of normalcy. Intriguing and terrifying, and it will leave you wondering about the Faire folk.

The Cover
The cover is purple and white conveying a sense of fantasy and doom. A tiny castle perched atop a high hill, cliffs and trees encroaching on all sides.

The title is somewhat generic with its Tales of High Hallack, Volume 3. It’s at least easy to keep track of.

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Book Review: Jill Shalvis’ At Last

by Kathy Davie

At Last (Lucky Harbor, #5)At Last by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor, 5
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fifth in the Lucky Harbor romance series and revolving around Lucille, the matchmaker of the town — nothing and no one gets past her gimlet eye. The couple focus is on Amy Michaels and Matt Bowers.

My Take
The start of At Last is too funny with a humiliated Amy getting rescued by the man she’s attracted to. The man she doesn’t want to be attracted to, and Matt is happy to tease her along. Shalvis cracked me up with Matt getting heated up at the thought of Amy wearing nothing but her city-girl boots. The cliché is for men to get turned on by those high, high heels, but it makes so much sense that the nature-loving Matt would get turned on by hiking boots. It only made me love that boy more.

One of the many things I enjoy about Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor is the snark. I love how the characters call on each other and won’t let each other get away with anything. It’s all in love and loyalty, friendship and caring — yep, even the guys! Hmmm, now that I think about it, I think the guys do the best snark…

“‘You keep going at each other like that,’ Josh said, ‘and you’ll end up in my ER.’

Breathless, Matt rolled to his back. ‘Sorry, I only play doctor with the ladies.’

Then there’s ‘…I could have been with Mallory, and dinner with Mallory includes things you’ve never offered to do for me.'”

Riley is an interesting addition and a useful technique, oops, character, to bring out Amy’s introspections about her own past. Thoughts that will find her confessing to Matt about her past and why she closed off to emotion. Matt, too, finally spills the beans about what happened in Chicago to make him quit SWAT.

Reading about the efforts Matt and his fellow rangers have to go through to deal with people who ignore warning signs makes me appreciate why so many search-and-rescue services now charge for a rescue. There ought to be fines for people who don’t practice safe nature techniques and ignore those efforts intended to keep them safe. Like that jerk’s dad who wants to sue the park service because his son is such a cocky brat.

I am impressed that Amy keeps such careful track of Matt that she can see how much sun he’s gotten on any given day. Ahem.

Damn, Shalvis knows how to get through my heart. Amy’s grandma was only seventeen when she made this journey with a dying and much-loved husband. It’s a sad twist at the end that will find you reaching for a tissue.

I’m missing something. How can Matt be sued for vandals removing the lock and ignoring an earlier warning that the trail was closed, AND they’re under the influence? Nor do I understand how Matt will miss his 8 a.m. inquiry. All he has to do is climb back down the trail and get in his truck.

This is a town where you get your life back on track. Where people care about others. Where the sex is great, lol. It’s not overly erotic, but it is romantic and hot. It’s a series you want to buy, just so you’ll have it on hand for those days you need to snuggle up for a warm and cozy read about great people.

The Story
Amy is in Lucky Harbor on a mission to trace her grandmother’s path through the journal she had written fifty years ago.

Matt’s mission is to get to know Amy a lot better. It’s a slow assault requiring Matt to spend many meals at the Eat Me Café. A plan that gets sped up when he finds a homeless girl on the mountain and wants to help her. Help that will include Amy.

The Characters
Amy Michaels blew into town one day and started waitressing at the Eat Me Café. That’s about as much as anyone knows about Amy, well, besides her loving chocolate with her fellow chocoholics: Mallory Quinn (Lucky in Love, 4) and Grace Brooks. Her mom got pregnant too young and dumped Amy off on her mother, Rose, who raised Amy until she died when Amy was twelve. Grandpa Scott Barrett had died when Amy was five. Turns out Grandma was married before. To Jonathon Stone. The one with cancer.

Matt Bower, a.k.a., Ranger Hot Buns, was searching for peace after a tumultuous time in Chicago SWAT and found it as a forest park ranger in Lucky Harbor. Shelly is the ex-wife who never did get it about his job.

Riley Taylor is just eighteen and squatting in the woods, stealing to survive. Troy is her “stepbrother”.

Dr. Josh Scott and Ty Garrison (he hooked up with Mallory in Lucky in Love), another former SEAL, are Matt’s best friends in Lucky Harbor. Josh has two kids he’s responsible for: his twenty-one-year-old sister Anna who’s in a wheelchair from the car accident that killed their parents and his five-year-old son, Toby.

The forestry service
Mary is the dispatcher. Candy is a ranger-in-training.

Lance and Tucker Larson are brothers who run the ice cream shop on Lucky Harbor pier. Lucille is not your poster grandmother, but she cares for everyone in town while she runs it, her art gallery, and her many friends, posting most of it to Facebook. Mr. Swanson is Lucille’s current swain. Jan owns the Eat Me Café, and Henry is the new cook after Tara left. Lucky Harbor’s mayor Jax Cullen and former world sailing champion Ford Walker run the Love Shack, a bar and grill. Sawyer Thompson is the sheriff.

Trevor Wright is the teenage son of Allen Wright, a successful builder who thinks he’s God’s gift. Caleb Morrison is one of the five boys on those illegal ventures, and he’s stupid enough to brag on Facebook.

The Cover
The cover is an impassioned, khaki-clad Matt in a white button-down kissing a clinging Amy in a floral bustier sundress in Sierra Meadows on a beautiful summer day.

The title is of their various bogeyman laid to rest and Amy and Matt together At Last.

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Book Review: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg’s “Pros and Cons”

by Kathy Davie

Pros and Cons (Fox and O'Hare, #0.5)Pros and Cons by Janet Evanovich
Series: Fox and O’Hare, 0.5
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short story prequel in the Fox and O’Hare romantic suspense comedic series and revolving around FBI Agent Kate O’Hare obsessed with capturing her arch-nemesis, Nicolas Fox.

This short story was in the back of Evanovich’s Top Secret Twenty-One, 21, (the hardcover).

My Take
Outré and funny with Nicolas posing as a wedding planner, setting up every little detail to make it easy to do a smash-and-grab on Royce’s possessions. Fox has way too much fun setting this up, and Caroline and Milton are way too stupid to get his jabs. They do deserve everything they get, or don’t, as the case may be.

Poor Kate, she’s always a day late and a dollar short when it comes to nabbing Fox. He’s always several steps ahead, no matter what conspires against him.

The Story
It’s the wedding of Caroline’s dreams and a huge drain on Milton’s pocket book, but it’s perfect for what Merrill Stubing has planned as the perfect capper for this wedding.

The Characters
Kate O’Hare is with the FBI and has been hunting this guy down for years. And fighting her attraction to him.

Nicolas Fox is a clever thief, and he’s been on Kate’s hot list for years. He likes to pick out aliases from old TV series.

Ryerson. Cosmo Uno is a short, very annoying FBI agent with a terrible sense of humor in the cubicle next to Kate. Carl Jessup is the Special-Agent-in-Charge. Reginald Gunter is Kate’s FBI contact in Chicago.

Caroline Boyett is about to get married, and her wedding planner, Merrill Stubing, aka Fox, who’s planning to rob the bunch of them during the ceremony. Milton Royce is her fiancé. The minister is part of Fox’s crew. Hoppy Howard, a pickpocket, is one of the servers at the wedding.

Jerry Bodie was a swindler who sold timeshares to people who couldn’t afford them. He was also targeted by Fox for his cars. Fox’s persona then was Tod Stiles from Route 66.

The Cover
The cover is a swirl of anger in its red, orange, and yellows while Fox stands in a cocky, confident stance, his legs spread, hands in pockets, casting a shadow, a metaphor for how much he looms in Kate’s mind.

The title seems to be all Fox. His crew are both “Pros and Cons”.

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Word Confusion: Be versus Bee

by Kathy Davie

I suspect this is another instance of the oblivious spellcheck, as I cannot imagine an author not understanding the difference in this word “confusion” of be versus bee. The to be is ubiquitous and flavors almost every sentence written. If you don’t believe me, have a peek at the the variety of words in the list of conjugations below!

Bee, of course, is another familiar word, although there may be some definitions with which you won’t be familiar. I’ve been involved in sewing and quilting bees, but the whole nautical aspect was an eye-opener for me.

It’s an evolving list, these Word Confusions, and sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better. If you’d like to track it, “Be versus Bee” can also be found on my website. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Be Bee
Credit to: be and bee

Image courtesy of

Beryllium is quite pretty, isn’t it?

A bee pollinating a flower

Image by OliBac from FRANCE [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This bee is taking a bath in pollen.

Part of Grammar:
Abbreviation; Noun; Prefix 1;
Verb 2, intransitive & linking

See Conjugations below.

Abbreviation; Noun 1, 2, 3, 4
Symbol for chemistry
B/E; b.e.

See “abbreviations” and “prefixes”

1A native English prefix formerly used in the formation of verbs

  • [From nouns]:
    • To surround completely
    • Cover on all sides
    • To affect completely or excessively
    • To consider as or cause to be
    • To provide or cover with
  • [From verbs] At, for, against, on, or over

Verb, intransitive:
To exist or live
To take place; happen

  • Occur

To occupy a place or position

To continue or remain as before

To belong

  • Attend
  • Befall

Used as a copula to connect the subject with its predicate adjective, or predicate nominative, in order to describe, identify, or amplify the subject

Used as a copula to introduce or form interrogative or imperative sentences

[Used in the perfect or past perfect tenses only] To pay a visit

  • To go

Verb, linking:
Used with the present participle of another verb to form the progressive tense

Used with the present participle or infinitive of the principal verb to indicate future action

Used with the past participle of another verb to form the passive voice

Used in archaic or literary constructions with some intransitive verbs to form the perfect tense

[BEE] A government policy aimed at encouraging and supporting shareholding by black people

1 Any hymenopterous insect of the superfamily Apoidea, including social and solitary species of several families, as the bumblebees, honeybees, etc.

The common honeybee, Apis mellifera

2 Also called bee block

[Nautical] A piece of hardwood, bolted to the side of a bowsprit, through which to reeve stays

[Obsolete] A metal ring or bracelet

3 [Nautical] A small sheave with one cheek removed and the pulley and other cheek fastened flat to a boom or another spar, used for reeving outhauls or stays

4 A social gathering for a specific purpose, as to carry out a communal task or hold competitions


[B/E] bill of exchange, bill of entry

[B.E.] Bachelor of Education, Bachelor of Engineering, Bank of England, bill of exchange, Board of Education, barium enema

Belgium (and its country code)

See “abbreviations” and “prefixes”


  • [From nouns]:

    • befog
    • bedazzle
    • befool
    • befriend
    • bejewel
  • [From verbs]
    • become
    • besiege
    • bedaub
    • bewail
    • berate
  • Verb, intransitive:
    “To be or not to be.” – Shakespeare

    “I think, therefore I am, not all that is can be understood.” – Shakespeare

    The wedding was last week.

    The book is on the table.

    Let things be.

    May good fortune be with you.

    Martha is tall.

    Is that right?

    Be quiet!

    Don’t be facetious.

    Have you been to Spain?

    My birthday was last Thursday.

    Verb, linking:
    I am waiting.

    She is visiting there next week.

    He is to see me today.

    The date was fixed.

    It must be done.

    He is come.

    Agamemnon to the wars is gone.

    [B.E.E.] Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

    [BEE; in South Africa] Black Economic Empowerment

    I’m allergic to bees.

    Bees pollinate flowers and produce honey.

    A cheek with a sheave in it is secured on the top side of the bees, on each side, to form a lead for the fore guys.

    Plant a pollinator garden, build a bee block, or simply reduce your pesticide use.

    a husking bee

    a spelling bee

    a quilting bee

    Conjugations for Be
    Infinitive to be
    Present Singular
    1st person am
    2nd person are
    [Archaic] art
    3rd person is
    Present Plural are
    Past Singular
    1st person was
    2nd person were
    3rd person was
    Past Plural were
    Present Subjunctive be
    Past Subjunctive Singular
    1st person were
    2nd person were
    [Archaic] wert
    3rd person were
    Past Subjunctive Plural were
    Present Participle being
    Progressive Participle being
    Gerund being
    Past Participle been
    Perfect Participle been
    Imperative be
    History of the Word:
    1 Middle English, Old English be-, bi-, unstressed form of bī

    2 Old English beon, beom, bion meaning be, exist, come to be, become, and happen come from the Proto-Germanic biju-, a b-root, meaning I am, I will be. This “b-root” (from PIE root bheue- meaning to be, exist, grow, and come into being) is represented by be and the am/was verb (itself a conglomerate). Both were two distinct verbs which merged to become the modern verb to be and has caused the to be being the most irregular verb and the most common in Modern English.

    1 First known use: before 1000

    Middle English be

    Old English bīo, bēo. It’s related to Dutch bij; Old Saxon bī, bini; Old High German bīa, bini; German Biene; Old Norse b&ymacr;; with other suffixes: Lithuanian bìtė, OPruss bitte, OCS b&icaron;chela, Old Irish bech.

    2 First known use: before 1050

    Middle English beh meaning ring, Old English bēag, bēah. It’s related to Old Frisian bāg, Old Saxon, Middle Low German bōg, Old High German boug, Old Norse baugr, Sanskrit bhoga-

    3 Old English bēag is related to Old High German boug meaning ring, Old Norse bogi meaning a bow

    4 Perhaps from dialect bean meaning neighborly help, from Old English bēn boon

    C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?

    Kathy Davie is an author, educator, and artist with a BS in Technical Writing & Editing with minors in Digital Media and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

    A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing including an online tutorial in Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool, words commonly confused by authors and Punctuation and Formatting Tips.

    Contact Kathy for various writing and editing services.

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    Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s Midway Relics and Dying Breeds

    by Kathy Davie

    Midway Relics and Dying BreedsMidway Relics and Dying Breeds by Seanan McGuire
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    A short story on with a dystopian flavor and revolving around a green circus.

    My Take
    This was cute and cry-worthy with McGuire creating a dystopian world obsessed with maintaining the environment — even Billie has a right to vote! It was clever all the inventions McGuire came up with that allowed the carnival to continue to perform, merging the old-fashioned with the very high-tech. I’d like one of those tents, although I think I’d be more careful than Cousin Mae.

    McGuire kept the old-fashioned going with the sociopathic Davo’s patriarchal demands and underhanded maneuverings.

    For all that it’s short, McGuire created an entire story with lots of show.

    The Story
    Ansley loves the freedom of the circus — it’s about the only place where Billie fits as well. The only downside is Davo, the newest Big Man, and the need to prove it.

    The Characters
    Ansley is in charge of the animals, especially Billie, a genework Indricothere, a 9-ton land mammal and a precursor to the rhinoceros. Her grazing license is as a firebreak. Uncle Ren helped Ansley acquire Billie as a baby.

    The Big Men, the men in charge of deciding where and how the circus will move, the ones making the money decisions, are Cousin Davo, Seresa, and Marcus. Marcus is in demand in most of the sites where they perform for his awesome weed while Seresa and his people are amazing musical performers. Davo, well, Davo wants to own everything and everyone, even if they do refuse to marry him.

    Cousin Carrie keeps the Ferris wheel turning; Cousin Bay has delusions of grandeur.

    Angelo Freeman is Ansley’s grandfather; Davo’s father had been his eldest son. Grandmamma is sick with one of those engineered diseases. The Bone Yard seems to be the retirement community for circus people.

    The Cover & Title
    The cover is a splotchy oil in bright colors of Billie towing a balloon through the trees.

    The title is too true for this circus is a blend of “Midway Relics and Dying Breeds”.

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    Book Review: D.W. Raleigh’s Shiloh’s True Nature

    by Kathy Davie

    Shiloh's True NatureShiloh’s True Nature by D.W. Raleigh
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I suspect this could be the start of a fantasy series for middle-grade readers, and it could be fun! I get the impression this is set in Massachusetts.

    This ARC was provided by Hobbes End Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

    My Take
    There are rough edges in Shiloh’s True Nature, and the over-emphasis on the environment is a message that got hammered in well before Raleigh ended the story. I did, however, enjoy reading this one. It’s a unique twist on magic with a strong dash of socialism. One of the few instances where it actually works. How cool is that!

    I like the relationship Shiloh’s parents have. His mother is supportive of her husband, and she doesn’t hesitate to throw out the cheeky comments, lol. Crow’s commentary on how his people view his gift is quite sad.

    Part of why I think Raleigh plans this to be a series is all the loose threads flapping around in Shiloh’s True Nature. Why doesn’t the gray flower ever get explained? I kept reading and reading… I kinda thought we’d get confirmation on why the farm is doing so well. And what happened at the end? Where are his parents? Why is his dad so hostile to Doc? What was with the hostile harvesters on the road? Why is Luther so obstinate about getting his toe fixed? Doesn’t anyone ever make the connection between the farm doing well and then not, the Stone Balloon, the improvement in the water? Or am I jumping the gun with my overactive imagination? Hmmm, considering what happens to Bryce, I must be… Why is it so important that the Eternal Flame is in only one spot? If the farm is doing well, why can’t his dad pay his farmhands?

    Hmm, Doc has a good philosophy about presents. And too true I’m afraid.

    “Everything new can seem magical until you’ve learned about it. Then it becomes as real as everything else you already know…”

    While most of the rough edges are in those loose threads, others include what I think of as a rough flow. For all his demands to go home, by the second day, he’s smirking about those demands. And it isn’t until later that we learn why he’s changed his mind. It’s symptomatic of other instances in which the characters tend to jerk forward. I guess I don’t like having the cart before the horse. Then there are the norms that I would expect to be observed — and I can’t say what they are without giving away the ending — and is another example of those rough edges. I must be getting old.

    Their utopia, Fair Hill, sounds lovely and all those gadgets…oh, yeah, I wanna get my hands on those! The houses sound intriguing with trees as the corners of a house or as the house or growing up through it. Did I mention the electricity? There isn’t any. It’s a throwback to a more idyllic time when kids got to be kids and everyone is cherished. And they are kids with all the mischief that kids can get up to, and since it’s Fair Hill, some of that mischief can be…quite…unique.

    It’s a bit harsh, that you can’t visit unless you’re a Mover. Seems this will be Shiloh’s last chance to visit his grandfather in his own home.

    Can’t get too excited about playing Atmosphere, although the effects sound amazing. And Waterfowl sounds boring.

    Seems Movers are inflicted with idiots to the same ratio as Normal people. Idiots who think their abilities entitle them to what they want.

    It’s a fun, kids’ story in a remarkable village of warm and caring people with just enough conflict to create a storyline. I also suspect it could be a good teaching book for parents who want something fun to read to their kids and incorporate discussions about the environment, Native Americans, and friendship. There’s a great opportunity to discuss bullying, and an even better series of comments about each person being important for what’s in his heart and head.

    “The foundation of all knowledge is the realization that you don’t understand something.”

    The Story
    Shiloh is a sweet boy of twelve with the dreams of such a young man: swimming with his friends, playing games at the carnival, just kickin’ it. Then he spends an eye-opening two weeks with his grandfather, Doc.

    It will be Brinda’s insistence on payback that starts the crash for Shiloh, and Haines’ greed that puts a finish to it.

    The Characters
    Shiloh Williams is a farm boy with two weeks of vacation to look forward to! Lovie and Cheepie are the cats his grandfather gave him years ago. Joe and Mary Williams are his parents, and they refuse to give in and sell their farm to bullies. Rikki and Peco are the unpaid farmhands, who live in the old horse barn.

    Doc is Joe’s father, Shiloh’s grandfather, with a gift for healing. What with one thing and another, well, it’s been years since they’ve seen each other. Peggy and Isis are his winged horses. Screaming Crow is his grandfather’s best friend and always seems to be around for meals, lol. His gift is interaction with animals. There are two ravens who keep on eye on the world for him.

    Fair Hill is…
    …a community of Movers, people with magical gifts. Regina is the town magistrate. Saige runs the local bookstore, Jeremiah’s (do read the description of the storefront — too much fun!), and she gifts Shiloh a copy of True Nature. Luther and Martina Miller are Bud’s parents. Luther specializes in knots, puzzles, devices, and fixing the Stone Balloon. Henrietta makes the best preserves, but has arthritis with one of her hands. Jasper and Jasmine Jackson are farmers with a sick horse, Lucky.

    The kids
    Bryce is Saige’s teenaged son who shows Shiloh how to play Atmosphere. Harmony is Bryce’s cousin. Brinda (her gift is water, and she lives with Mina and Maximo, the twins who talk funny), Bud Miller (air is his gift; Jace is his older brother), and Kaz, oops, sorry, Kazuhiro Watanabe (he came to live with Regina, his godmother, so he could learn to control his gift of camouflage), are more friends Shiloh makes.

    Arcadia is the games center in Fair Hill. Deer Park is a restaurant in the treetops that overlooks a park filled with friendly deer. The Stone Balloon is an acoustic sundial.

    Acacia Street is…
    …where the Haines family lives. Avoid it if you want to live. Samuel Haines is the jerk who operates the factory next to the Williams’ farm. Junior is his son. The Mothman is part moth, part man, and works for Haines.

    Movers manifest on their thirteenth birthdays, the age of ascension, with the most outward sign being two differently colored eyes. Each has a special gift, and many prefer to live in Fair Hill where they aren’t persecuted. “The Prime Mover was a special Mover who lived long ago and saved the world from total destruction.” The Eternal Flame is an actual flame of unknown origin with everyone having their own ideas about it.

    Prodigian Ostriches are the largest birds in the world with an odd gait in their locomotion. Cyclopean Beetles also serve as vehicles. Mondo Frogs can put you to sleep. Moon Whales. Present Trees provide what you need. Torchbugs eat mosquitoes and provide light. The Crosskut Caves are said to be dangerous. A Funus is the Movers’ funeral rites; the Revenant is a carved wooden boat used much like a Viking funeral.

    The Cover
    The cover is lurid in deep colors of red, orange, and green with the Eternal Flame centered on the cover above the grass. Four objects surround it in the sky, metaphors for events within the story. Be wary, however, of those bi-colored eyes lurking deep within the grass.

    The title is what both books are all about, Shiloh’s True Nature.

    Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

    Book Review: Nalini Singh’s Shield of Winter

    by Kathy Davie

    Shield of Winter (Psy-Changeling, #13)Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh
    Series: Psy-Changeling, 13
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Thirteenth in the Psy-Changeling paranormal romance series revolving around changelings and psychics, and for the first time, a spirit of cooperation between changelings, psy, and humans. The couple focus is on Ivy Jane and Vasic.

    You should read Heart of Obsidian, 12, before reading this one as it will make the exchanges between Krycheck and Sahara more meaningful.

    My Take
    Whoa. I don’t know how Singh does it! Her books keep going from better to better.

    “Flaws make us who we are, Ivy. Without them, we might as well be made of plas, featureless and indistinct. Never ever be ashamed of your flaws.”

    Be prepared, I cried a lot. There’s the back history on Vasic and Aden’s past. And the horror of it made me alternate between rage and weeping for such cruelties. Zie Zen talks about the introduction of Silence, and how it affected the Psy, those too old to go into Silence, the Es. That sociopaths and psychopaths would find it so much easier to hide within the Psy. That horrible decisions were so easily made. Seeing people as tools to be discarded when they no longer functioned as required. There’s talk of the evil side of the E designation. Whew. There are also revelations, as people think back, that others were in the know about Es but chose to leave people in ignorance.

    It is balanced by all the sweet moments. The healing that begins in Shield of Winter. Kaleb and Sahara’s interactions prove that man is fractured! Lol, it cracked me up when Ivy came out to see her small dog sitting at attention at that big wolf’s feet. Vasic is learning how to tease, and it’s so beautiful. He didn’t even have to find a manual on it, lol.

    It’s gotta be the slowest foreplay, as these two people unaccustomed to experiencing emotion try to keep from frying their brains. Then there’s the moment when they actually do make love, and Vasic parrots back the Arrow mantra — “…repetition and practice until the basic skill is honed…” — and you realize they both are virgins. Seems Vasic’s teleportation skills go to pot when he’s excited, lol.

    This is such a change-up for the Arrows. When they learned the truth about Silence, how the Councilors were using them, they fought back in their own ways. They’ve become an independent group under no one’s command. Now they’re struggling to determine where and how they can fit in this new world. It’s Vasic’s meeting with Ivy that will flip his whole world over, and another comment from her that makes him stop and think: the Arrows are like pack.

    Sahara Krychek’s definition: “Good governance is acting for your people rather than for your own gain.”

    Kaleb Krychek’s definition: “…do nothing that would make you ashamed to be mine.”

    Reading of what Silence did to people, oh god. I have to wonder what was so awful before that made continuing with Silence seem the right thing to do. A race of people who range from an excess of the sociopathic to the sheep. I wonder if the Psy had to go through all this — Silence, the Forgotten Ones — as part of an experiment to learn what would really work for them?

    “An expert is simply someone who know more than those she’s teaching.”

    Humans are not as touch-needy as the changelings, but I still can’t imagine a life with none at all. It becomes morbidly fascinating to read as Ivy considers touch, how lucky she was to have parents who allowed it, and now she’s considering more. More lessons arrive with Vasic needing to learn how to not keep information from a woman.

    Vasic is so literal! It’s a great way to show how Silence has affected him. His thoughts, his curiosity, his decision to explore more time with Ivy shows the thawing of his shield. The comment Sascha makes about “the myriad quiet intimacies” when she realizes how much Silence has cost the Psy is another great example of showing.

    Sahara’s right about society needing “disparate voices” to prevent a group becoming too homogenous.

    “I want to make mistakes with you, learn how to be in a relationship with you.”

    There’s a fine line between excessive repetition and creating a real sense of breaking someone’s conditioning, and there were times when I got pretty annoyed with Singh’s harping on and on about Vasic’s beliefs about himself.

    “We all have to live with our past, but it doesn’t have to define us.”

    Gawd, Singh really knows how to tear your heart out. I don’t think I’ve cried so much over a book before. This is definitely a buy!

    The Story
    The NetMind is infected and great swathes of the world are failing, causing the minds linked in that area to go mad. It’s a massacre, and the Arrows and Krychek are scrambling to figure out how to stop it. How to treat the infection and save their people.

    It may well be too late as Silence stomped out the Es almost to extinction before the Psy Council realized its mistake. But there has been no one to teach the Es how to use their skills.

    Vasic believes there is nothing left of the man he was, and in that spirit, he volunteered to a trial, a penance, perhaps a sentence. He feels stained by what he has done, believing it was necessary only to learn it was flawed.

    It takes field testing to ramp up the Es honing their skills, coming to understand what they can do.

    The Characters
    Ivy Jane is a low-level telepath and an empath. Rabbit is the dog she saved and who saved her right back. Gwen Jane is Ivy’s mother; Carter Hirsch is her father. In spite of Silence, they love her and disappeared to keep her safe. They run a large, moderately successful farm in North Dakota.

    Vasic Duvnjak is a Tk-V Arrow, a born teleporter, a man who is discouraged by his past. Aden is the one man he considers truly his friend. Patton was the only other Tk-V Vasic had ever known, his mentor.

    Kaleb Krychek is a dual Cardinal Tk, a teleport-capable telekinetic. He leads the Ruling Coalition after taking down the Psy Council. He’s psychically bonded and in love with Sahara Kyriakus, Faith’s cousin. Anthony Kyriakus is Sahara’s uncle and a member of the Ruling Coalition as well as a former Psy Councilor. Her loving father is Leon Kyriakus. Nikita Duncan is Sascha’s mother, the head of her family, and a ruthless businesswoman. She’s also a former Psy Councilor and a member of the current Ruling Coalition. Zie Zen is a Tp, a telepath, and a Psy elder. Samantha, a.k.a., Sunny, was his wife, a powerful E, an empath.

    Ming LeBon is a combat-grade Cardinal Tp, a former Psy Councilor, a military mastermind, and a psychopathic madman. Tatiana Rika-Smythe is a former Psy Councilor whom Kaleb has imprisoned. And I love it!

    The Empaths (E) are…
    …endangered among the Psy as their purpose within the NetMind was not understood. As Sascha says, “an empath is as social a creature as a pack-minded changeling”. Now the entire Psy race is endangered by their few numbers. Chang, a scientist, is a cardinal empath from Kenya. Concetta Galeano‘s home base is Paraguay where she helps in the family business. She’s felt the rot in the Net, but feels forced. Dechen is from Tibet. Isaiah is from Niue and refuses to believe his Silence is cracking. Jaya‘s home base is the Maldives, and she’s paired with Abbott. Lianne is from Kuala Lumpur and must have missed that clause in the contract. Ray Faison is her cousin. Dara Faison is the head of the family. Penn is from Scotland and believes it makes sense to have a designation that can work with psychic injuries. Terri‘s home is in Houston. Brigitte is a German based in Amsterdam who had a terror-filled experience.

    The Arrows were…
    …a squad of assassins aimed by the Psy Council, directed by Ming
    Aden is a Tp, Vasic’s friend, and the leader of the Arrows who is always thinking ahead to the Arrows’ futures. He’s also a medic gifted at delicate work. Abbot is teetering on the edge, Nerida, and Stefan (he’s figured out the key to those erotic shifts) are Tks. Cristabel Rodriguez is a sharpshooter and one of the best teachers in the Arrows. Amin and Ella are Arrows on whom Ivy wishes to try an experimental bond.

    The breakaway Venice Arrows
    …want active duty. They’ve been a clandestine op made up of officially dead Arrows. Zaira is their leader.

    Zaid Adelaja was the first Arrow; he set the squad up to protect Silence and to give Psy with certain abilities a home. He also fought to keep their money their own. Zie Zen, Vasic’s great-grandfather, is their financial manager. Dr. Edgard Bashir is the current team leader on the biofusion gauntlet project. The creator, Dr. Samuel Rain, was a robotics expert. Now they believe he’s either dead or disappeared. Clara Alvarez, a former Justice-Psy runs Haven, a home for the psychically damaged.

    Ida Mill is the leader of Silent Voices, an organization that is full of bigots refusing to believe the Es are needed. Her son is a Tk, eight years old, and already drafted into the Psy black ops teams.

    Surviving victims
    Silver Mercant is Krychek’s very able assistant, and her skills will be handy at handling people and logistics. Eben is an E, but it didn’t save his father Phillip Kilabuk; Marchelline and her mother, Christiane Hall; and, Miki Ling was the cousin who babysat and died were in Anchorage. Harriet and Miguel Ferrera, a commercial telepath, in Manhattan.

    The Forgotten Ones are…
    …Psy who defected from the PsyNet when Silence began. Devraj Santos is its current leader. He’s married to Katya Haas. The ShadowNet is their biofeedback link that keeps them saner than those under the PsyNet.

    SnowDancer Wolves
    Hawke Snow is the Alpha, and he’s mated to Sienna Lauren, a Psy with X abilities, lethally psychic. Indigo Riviere is a lieutenant. Judd Lauren, a Tk who can manipulate living tissue, is a former Arrow and now a member of SnowDancer as a lieutenant — and a favorite of pups and cubs! The Arrows see him as hope. He’s mated to Brenna and uncle to Sienna, Toby (a cardinal Tp with very little E), and Marlee. Walker Lauren, a Tp, is Marlee’s father and Judd’s brother, and another Psy member of the pack. Julian, a.k.a., Jules, and Roman are Tamsyn, the SnowDancer healer, and Nate‘s twin terrors. Ben is a cute little pup.

    Dr. Alice Eldridge is a human scientist who had been placed in a forced cryonic suspense a century ago. It’s the extensive sociological and anthropological study on The Mysterious E Designation: Empathic Gifts & Shadows that is so desperately needed now. A book systematically destroyed wherever it could be found. Awake now, Alice’s memories are mere fragments, and she’s healing now as part of the pack.

    DarkRiver Leopards
    Lucas Hunter is the Alpha, and he’s mated to Sascha Duncan, a Cardinal E. They have a daughter, Naya. Faith NightStar has the gift of Foresight (F) and is mated to Vaughn. She’s also Sahara’s cousin; Anthony is her father. The newly pregnant Mercy Smith is a Sentinel mated to Riley Kincaid, a lieutenant. Kit is a soldier whose best friend is Cory. The twins, both Psy, both former Council scientists, Amara Aleine is a true sociopath loving only her twin while Ashaya Aleine is mated to Dorian Christensen, a Sentinel and sniper, and they have a Psy child, Keenan.

    The Silence Protocol is the price the Psy believed they must pay for the psychic gifts they have. While it helped many, in truth, it’s doomed them. The Psy Council once ruled the Psy, but no more. The Ruling Coalition has taken its place and includes the Arrows. The DarkMind is the dark side of the NetMind, all the emotions the Psy tried not to feel. Both are “neosentient psychic entities said to be the guardian and librarian of the PsyNet, which holds the Psy race together. Jax was a drug LeBon used to amplify Arrow abilities while removing their ability to tell right from wrong.

    Sunshine Station is in Alaska and was the first area to be hit with the virus. The Pure Psy are nut jobs. Psy who will violently refuse to allow Silence to fall. The Empathic Collective is an E-Psy union that will look out for their membership. The Honeycomb Protocol will be a miracle.

    The Cover
    The cover is a snowy background of gray-greens and whites with Vasic in his uniform of black, hands on hips, appearing determined yet relaxed.

    The title is what protects Vasic. If the Shield of Winter ever falls, if his protective instincts collapse, he will die.

    Posted in Book Reviews, Urban Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment