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Skyborn: A Book With Wasted Potential

Skyborn (Seraphim, #1)Skyborn by David Dalglish

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. I absolutely loved the world building, and the action scenes made me super giddy.It was good, and it kept me reading to the very end, not wanting to do anything other than read, but it was disappointing. I felt like the characters didn't receive the development they deserved. The two main characters had some minor development, but the secondary characters all seemed really shallow. There was one character in particular who I feel was only really in the book to provide Bree a reason to snap and act rashly, causing the events in the book to be able to move forward.
The other big problem I had with this book is that the big mysteries that were hinted at very early in the book were left unresolved. In one of the first few chapters, you're left wondering what's so special about the Skyborn twins that makes the government take interest in them, but you don't even get a small hint of it during the course of the book.
I enjoyed this book, and I want to read the sequel, but I hope Dalglish puts a little more effort into developing the characters.

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To Use a Fork (First Draft)

Sho Min put on her best silk gown in preparation for dinner. She would be eating with the rulers of Lexaria, and she needed to make a good impression. Her homeland had run out of copper, and they had appointed her a diplomat via letter on the way to Lexaria. She wasn’t sure she could do it; she was there to study the culture, not secure a trade deal. Sure, she would establish a good relationship with her hosts, but she was planning on doing it at her own pace, learning their culture bit by bit.
She had been so excited to go to Lexaria, to learn about this strange land where the people valued courage and strength more than honor and willpower. They had just barely opened up their borders to foreigners, having recently had some researchers come back and laud the value of learning other cultures. Sho Min had just finished her training as an anthropologist when they had gotten the missive inviting people from other countries. She had used her family’s connections to receive the authorization to go and study this new culture. Unfortunately, it seemed as though her methods of acquiring this appointment had backfired.
When she had received her appointment, others had enjoyed telling her stories of how barbaric the customs of the nations to the west were. “They don’t cook their meat. They stab their food to eat it. They fight each other for sport. They wear the skins of their grandparents.” She had found out upon arriving that the Lexarians didn’t wear the skins of their ancestors; they didn’t wear much in the way of animal skins, either. She just hoped they cooked their food. Just as she was about to leave her rooms, she went back to her bags and searched through them, finding her set of chopsticks and slipping their case into her sleeve, just in case.
As she walked through the palace toward the dining hall, Sho Min reflected on the stone walls. Almost every building in her native Aludara had been made of wood; stone buildings had a nasty habit of collapsing on the inhabitants during the nation’s frequent earthquakes. It was the earth’s way of reminding them of the beauty of a simplistic lifestyle. Anything they built that was too grand was destroyed within a matter of years, torn apart by its own weight. Who are these people, she mused, that even the ground on which they stand has been beaten into submission.
When Min got to the dining hall, she was required to give her name. When she did so, the man at the door opened it, stuck his head in, called out her name and position—diplomat from Aludara—and waved her through. Once again struck by the oddity of her hosts, Min walked through the door, getting her first glimpse of the dining hall.
It was an excessively large room, capable of fitting hundreds of people. There were only a hundred or so people in the building at the time. She had been told that dinner tonight would only be the people who were staying in the palace. She had a hard time believing there were this many people living here at any given time. In Aludara, there were small households, with the larger ones barely reaching thirty people.
When Sho Min entered the room, Charles, the king of Lexaria, called her over to the table where he was seated and pointed her seat out to her. She walked over to the table and saw, to her horror, that the people weren’t using chopsticks. Instead, there lay next to the plate a knife and an interesting contraption with a handle with points on the end. The people here were indeed stabbing their food with the things, cutting off bites with their knives as they ate. Min sat down, dread rooted in her breast. How was she supposed to eat with these utensils? Would the Lexarians be offended if she couldn’t eat like they were? Would she be able to pass off using her chopsticks?
When the servants—yet another strange concept: servants—brought around the food, she looked down to find a plate of fish and some sort of root. Upon inquiring of the person sitting next to her, she learned the root was called a potato. She dared not ask the name of the eating utensil. After a few minutes of futilely trying to imitate the locals in their way of eating, holding the odd utensil in one hand and the knife in the other, Min decided to risk offending her hosts and slipped her chopsticks out of her sleeve, trying to be as discreet as using them as possible. Thankfully, the potatoes were cut into small pieces, and the fish was pliable enough that she didn’t have to use the knife in public, which she was not sure she could have managed.
As she sat there eating, she noticed that Charles and a few others occasionally shot her amused glances. Min just hoped that they truly were amused and that she wasn’t offending anybody. She couldn’t afford to make any mistakes with these people. If she were just seen as an anthropologist, she would be more at ease, but these people saw her as a representative of her government. If she in any way offended them, her people might not get the trade deal they needed.

After the dinner had ended—long after everybody had finished eating—Min was walking back to her rooms when she heard someone calling out behind her. Turning, she saw that it was Charles.
“Sho Min,” Charles said, coming up to her, “I couldn’t help but notice those sticks you were using to eat. I had been told that other peoples had different ways of eating, but I had never before believed it was true. You must tell me more about your people and land.”
From this encounter stemmed a series of meetings with the ruler of Lexaria in which he asked Min endless questions about Aludara and their customs. At first, she thought that Charles was truly intrigued by her people, but then she got the feeling that he was more amused. If I can’t adapt to their customs, she reflected, than how can I expect them to take mine seriously?

A month after her arrival, Min left for the dining hall, leaving her chopsticks behind. When the servants brought the food around, she noticed that they had once again cut her food into small pieces. They had started doing that not long after noticing her eating with chopsticks. She had been observing how the Lexarians ate with their knives and forks. She had discovered what a fork was called not long after starting to meet with Charles. He had been asking about chopsticks, and was surprised to discover that Min had never seen a fork.
Having observed the locals use a fork for a month, Min felt like she had a basic understanding of the technique. She held it in one hand and stabbed her food with it, picking it up and putting it in her mouth, using her lips to pull it off. It felt strangely civilized, eating chunks of meat in this manner. When she started to eat the rest of the plate, she needed to once again observe the others at the table. In the situation she was in, of not being able to spear anything else on her fork, the locals used their forks as a sort of shovel, pushing food onto it with a knife held in their left hand. Upon managing this feat, Sho Min felt a sense of elation, having finally discovered how to eat using a fork.

Months later, upon arriving back home in Aludara, Min was greeted by a large group of people, all eager to learn about the Lexarians. She had secured the trade deal, after making them respect her by showing she could adapt to their customs. Everybody was grateful for this, but they knew Min to be an anthropologist, so they asked questions about the strange customs of the people in the west.
“What are they like? Do they really stab their food? Did you see them fight each other for sport? Did you bring home a coat made from their ancestors?” The questions were endless, and they reminded Min of how absurd some of the notions she had had upon leaving were.
Min reached into her sleeve, grabbing what was hidden in there, next to her chopsticks. “Let me tell you a story,” she said, bending down to be closer to the young children closest to her, those most energetically asking the questions, “about when I learned how to use a fork.”

Where Has Thanksgiving Gone?

In 1621, after having arrived in the New World, the Pilgrims at Plymouth held a feast to show their thanks for what they had. During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday in November to be Thanksgiving. This tradition has continued on through the years, with the day changing to the fourth Thursday in November. This provided a regular day every year on which to focus on what we’re thankful for.
Nowadays, however, there is quite a disturbing trend. I have noticed that, every year, retailers start advertising for Christmas sales earlier and earlier, going so far as to replace the Halloween seasonal section with Christmas decorations days before Halloween. Where Black Friday was traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season, with companies starting their big sales on that day, it is creeping into Thanksgiving. Now, it is not uncommon to see people needing to work in retail stores on Thanksgiving itself, being forced to sacrifice their Thanksgiving Day with their families to satisfy the needs of retailers and the masses to earn money and save money, respectively. There is much less talk of Thanksgiving now than there was merely ten years ago, with people preferring to speak of Black Friday instead of Thanksgiving. Those who prefer to take one major holiday at a time are being pushed to the back, while everybody camps out through Thanksgiving to get a “good deal.”
What ever happened to taking Thanksgiving off and spending it with your family, focusing on your blessings for which you are grateful? Now, people spend Thanksgiving sitting in camp chairs outside of Best Buy, forcing others to work on this day so that they can get a cheap TV. It’s disgusting how Americans have stopped focusing on things for which they are grateful, and instead focus on probably the worst part of the holiday season: commercialism.
Don’t get me wrong. I love saving money. I love being able to make people happy with a well-thought-out gift. What I despise, however, is forgetting a national day of Thanksgiving simply to focus on money and getting more. Please, don’t make others work on Thanksgiving Day to satisfy your own selfish needs. Take a day off, spend time with your family, and focus on all the blessings that God has given you.

NaNoWriMo, 2013, Day 3

5064. This goes a lot more smoothly when you know what you're going to write.

NaNoWriMo, 2013, Day 1

1718 words as of the end of day 1. This is going well so far.

Polaris Installment 4

No sooner did the noise from the bomb die down than my suit’s sensors detected the ominous clicking of an Altarian’s legs on stone. I got out of the tunnel and headed immediately for my ship as fast as my suit could go. I joined the stream of traffic, weaving my way between the ships and looking toward Bob’s house, or where it used to be. Walking just above the path of the tunnel, there was an Altarian soldier. It’s four pointed, legs were what was making the clicking, but that wasn’t the most dangerous part of the alien. That was by far the big, red energy gun being held in its claws. I’d previously seen what those things could do, and I didn’t want to be around when it started using it.
The alarms on my suit went off, warning me about a lock on me. I veered off in another direction, just as a beam of pure energy whizzed past me, vaporizing a bird in its path off in the distance. I put more power than recommended into my jets, trying to make the most of its recharge time to get out of effective firing range. My suit was state-of-the-art, so I only had to dodge one more shot before I got out of range. Great, I thought. Now that we’ve made a scene, I need to get away from all prying eyes before going back to my ship.
Because we were in a suburban area, it would be hard to get back to my ship without everyone brought by the blast being able to identify my ship. I didn't have anything to hide from the authorities, but anything they put in the police report--including a ship leaving the scene of the crime, was available to any Altarian capable of hacking into the system, and I couldn't have that happening.
Back to the narration, I flew off to the woods on the edge of the city, which were expansive enough to allow me to get out of view of the city. As soon as I knew I was safe from any fire, I slowed down to normal speeds, allowing my suit to recover from the strain I'd put it under earlier. It didn’t take long before I was diving down and weaving through the trees, using the computer in my suit to program a rendezvous with my ship, curving away dramatically from the route I was following when I dove down. After a while of maneuering between the trees, I made it through the woods and saw my ship waiting down low, keeping out of sight.
When I got to my ship, I found the door heavily locked down against intruders. Somebody had tried getting into my ship.


More Polaris coming soon

I know it's been a while since I've posted pretty much anything, but I promise another installment of Polaris is coming soon. I have a decent enough amount, but I just need to hit a good point for a break.

NaNoWriMo: Day 25

47,001 words. I'm hoping I can hit 50,000 tomorrow. I might even be able to finish the story this month.

P.S. Yay Thanksgiving. :)

NaNoWriMo: Day 22

40,930 words right now. The big confrontation between the protagonists and the antagonists is coming up. I wonder how I'm going to do it.