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Friday, December 8, 2017

Cry Wolf

I love Patricia Briggs’ books.  So I was pretty excited to start reading Cry Wolf, the first book in her Alpha and Omega series.  I got through the prologue, which dealt with a random character, then got thrown into the story at a point that most definitely wasn’t the beginning.  Annoyed, I charged my Kindle, bought and read the novella that takes place before this book, then went back to it.  Now everything made sense (and I knew who all the wolves in the first chapter actually were).


Once I got through that hurdle, I found I had a hard time putting the book down.  I’ve stayed up way too late over the last few nights reading it (I started it at 2am on the 7th, and finished it a little before 4am today).


Cry Wolf is about werewolves Charles and Anna.  Charles is a two-hundred year old very dominant alpha wolf (second to his father, who is the alpha of all the wolves in North America).  Anna is a rare omega wolf, who is sort of like a medicine woman; she exudes peace and can calm the rage of other werewolves.  Anna was turned into a werewolf against her will and brutalized (that all happened in the novella).  She falls outside of pack structure, so dominance doesn’t actually work on her (alpha wolves can normally command more submissive wolves to do things; those commands just slide right off of her).  In her old pack, she was kept ignorant of her powers and was told she was a useless submissive wolf.  With Charles and his father Bran, she starts to realize that she is neither useless nor submissive.


Charles’ wolf decided as soon as he saw her that Anna was his mate.  This is super strange for him as well as her because he’s never had a mate before.  Suddenly he finds himself not only determined to protect her (from danger as well as potential rivals like Asil, an ancient wolf who is almost as old as Charles’ father), but also able to let down his guard and relax (thanks to her Omega powers).


The story alternates between their two viewpoints.  Neither one really talks to the other one (sometimes because they aren’t given the time, other times because they’re afraid to express their feelings).  When they get to Charles’ home in Montana, Anna is overwhelmed and feels like she doesn’t belong.  It doesn’t help that Bran’s mate Leah comes over to make a power play with her, and that Charles keeps wanting to leave her behind on things because he doesn’t want to subject her to seeing him possibly kill again.  Charles is also injured (from the novella - he got shot three times with silver bullets, and one of the bullets wasn’t properly removed).  But he isn’t given a chance to heal because there’s a werewolf attack in the nearby mountains.  As his father’s enforcer, it’s his job to deal with it.  Normally that would mean killing the wolf, but with Anna coming along, there’s a chance they can bring him in peacefully.


But the rogue lone wolf is not the actual problem - he was a man changed when he defended a student in the mountains from an attack.  It seems there’s another wolf running around.  And it looks an awful lot like Asil’s mate who died two hundred years previously. Died to a witch....

This book didn’t do anything amazing, but I still had a lot of fun reading it (like I said, I stayed up waaaay too late while reading it).  I’m looking forward to reading the next one in the series (after a break to catch up on sleep though!)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Alpha and Omega: a Companion


I started reading Patricia Briggs Cry Wolf, the first story in her Alpha and Omega series. But I felt like I was in the middle of the story over the first few pages. So I looked it up on Goodreads and sure enough, there's a novella that happens first. Thankfully it was available on Kindle. So I bought it, charged my Kindle, and read it.

This novella is the story of how Charles and Anna met, and what exactly happened to her. She was changed against her will and told for three years she was a useless submissive wolf. Charles is the one who tells her the truth: she is not a submissive, she's an Omega. Omegas has are rare and fall outside of the regular werewolf hierarchy; Anna wasn't submissive, her pack had to beat submissiveness into her.

Together, Charles and Anna confront her pack. Unexpectedly, Charles' wolf claims Anna as it's mate (after knowing her for only a few hours). Together they discover why Anna's pack was so sick. And now she agrees to accompany Charles and the Marrok back to Chicago.

That was a bit annoying, but now I'm ready to actually read Cry Wolf.

Note: I didn't read the version in On the Prowl, but I like the cover better than what the Kindle version had.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Integral Trees

Wow was this a bit of a rough read.

I got Larry Niven's The Integral Trees back a few years ago, at a Toronto convention.  Someone had ranted and raved about it, then I found a copy of it on the trade floor. After I finished reading Witchling, I wanted something different.  I debated between The Integral Trees and Ringworld before ultimately choosing The Integral Trees.

The Integral Trees takes place on this world that has no real ground: the atmosphere is a giant smoke ring in orbit around the neutron star, Voy.  In the smoke ring, the thickest part of the atmosphere where life can exist, there's clumps of water and plants.  Most of the plants are fragile and thin; the exception are the huge integral trees, which grow hundreds of kilometers long.  It's on these that humans, the descendants of a starship mutiny, now live.  With the exception of the humans, all the life in the smoke ring has evolved to fly because there is no ground; even the plants are capable of moving about to some degree.  The humans have only been here about 500 years, but they too are adapting: they are now taller than us (because they grow up with less gravity) and some have prehensile toes which are capable of gripping things as another pair of hands. 

I'll admit, I didn't figure out about the height of the humans until it clicked when they were talking about a dwarf character - the dwarf was small enough to fit into a spacesuit meant for one of us....he was small because he was our height.

So anyway, the humans live in the tufts of the giant trees.  The trees have no root structure, just a tuft of branches at either end.  The humans who live in Quinn Tuft have sent a party of people, made up of cripples and people the Chairman of Quinn Tuft doesn't like (like Clave, his rival and son-in-law, the Grad, who is the Scientist's apprentice, and Gavving, who just happened to go on an ill-fated hunting expedition that got the Chairman's son killed), to go on an expedition.  Their village has been in a drought and they are sent to gather food and renew the tribal marks along the trunk.  our adventurers find evidence that the other side of the trunk has another tribe who is still alive; the two sides get into a fight.  During this time, the tree cracks in half, sending Quinn Tuft out of the smoke ring, and the other side back into the smoke ring.  Most of our party, plus one of the women from the other side of the fight, manage to jump free of the trunk.  They collect everyone and sail through space on a piece of bark hooked to a flying alien whale.  The whale leads them to a jungle, where they see two different peoples fighting.  Most of the Quinn Tuft people get captured by the side who has an ancient spacecraft (but one lady who is crippled and Clave, who had a broken leg, get left behind).  The Quinn tribe are further separated at their captor's tree - they are put into slavery and separated based on whether they are men, women, or pregnant women.  The Grad ends up going to the new tree's Scientist (at the Citadel), where he is made a second Scientist Apprentice (much to the annoyance of the current Scientist's Apprentice).

While the Quinn Tuft slaves think of rebellion and try to organize themselves (which is tough because they are separated), Clave and the jungle people plan an attack on the tree.  The entire jungle can move once every 20 years, and the time is now.  They attack the Citadel and manage to capture the spacecraft (thanks in part to the Grad being in the spacecraft at the time and murdering the Scientist).  They save who they can, then accidentally take off into space. The AI on the original spacecraft manages to make contact with them briefly, telling them what to do to get back into the smoke ring.  Then everyone in the spacecraft (which includes a couple of jungle people and a few people from the tree that took everyone captive) settles on a new, younger Integral Tree.

Niven is a hard-science fiction writer.  I wasn't really prepared for what that would mean.  In this case, the first few chapters were really front loaded with heavy hard-science.  There were some helpful pictures to aide in understanding what the world was like, but it still took me a bit to get some of the science.  But that's okay, I understood the basics well enough.

Then the actual plot started happening.  There were way too many characters with similar-sounding names.  In the main group alone there was Jinny, Jayan, and Jiovan; I kept getting confused about who was talking (although in the early part of the book, it was pretty much always Jiovan).  There were also just way too many characters.  The main group that started out from Quinn Tuft had like ten people.  While people came and went, the final group who colonize the new tree had like twelve.  There were also random people coming and going through the rest of the book; keeping everyone straight (while juggling similar-sounding names) was rough.

The story itself was also kind of boring.  The stakes at the beginning didn't seem very high - the only person who suspected the tree was dying was the Grad, and he never really shared much information except under extreme duress - everything was classified).  None of the characters had real character (in the example of Jiovan, he didn't really sound different to me from any of the other characters.  His distinguishing feature was that he had only one leg.  That's not at all helpful in dialogue). 

All in all, I felt that you read this book for the science and worldbuilding, not for the actual story, which makes me sad.

Oh, as a side note, I discovered that this is Book 2 in Niven's series about the State.  I had no idea there was a book that came first.  The first book has nothing to do with the smoke ring though, so that's probably why people were talking about The Integral Trees instead.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Witchling

I actually remember buying Yasmine Galenorn's Witchling, many many years ago. The second book in the series, Changeling, was the one that caught my eye. But Witchling was the first book in the series, so in the end I decided to buy it.

Witchling and Changeling are the first two in Galenorn's series about the three half-human half-fae D'Artigo sisters. Camille is a witch whose powers only work some of the time (I'm not really sure why either....because she's a half-fae?) Delilah is a werecat. And Menolly is a vampire.

The three sisters are Otherworld agents working on Earth. When their fellow agent is murdered, they start an invedtigation that leads them to demons. It seems Shadow Wing, a powerful and dangerous demon, has taken over the Subterreanean Realm; now he wants to conquer Otherworld and Earth, too. He's looking for the nine spirit seals; if he finds and reunites them, the worlds will merge back into one. So it's up to the D'Artigo sisters (and pretty much everyone they meet) to stop him!

When I bought Witchling, I found it in the fantasy section of Chapters. From the back of the book, I thought it was an urban fantasy. It was, but it was more of a paranormal romance. I was a bit disappointed by that fact because that wasn't what I wanted to read. But I'd already started it, so I kept going.

For book 1 in a series, I really felt like it started in the middle of the story. Characters showed up from the past, and you'd get a big chunk of text telling you what had happened (how they got here, who these people all were, how Camille managed to figure out the solution to their problem, etc). That was actually a huge problem through the entire book - very little showing seemed to happen. Camille would just give you a narrated info dump, you'd get a bit of dialogue, then onto the next info dump. Because of all of this telling, none of the characters seemed to have any real depth, which was unfortunate; I think they could have been much more interesting than they all were.

The amount of characters introduced in this book was also kind of staggering. By the end, there are potentially three very attractive and dangerous men wanting Camille. There are guys interested in both of her sisters (but only one per sister at this point). They also managed to find Titania, queen of the faeries, three demons (which were all rather easily killed), Tam Lin, and a cute baby gargoyle.

One more gripe: everything seemed so easy all the way through the book. As I mentioned, Camille quickly thought through their problem and arrived at the easy solution - this was in the "final boss fight" at the end of the book, which took less than six pages to conclude from initial description of the demon to his conveniently easy death. This example is the most obvious one since I just finished reading Witchling, but it was by no means the only time this sort of thing happened in the book. As a result, the stakes never, ever seemed very high (even when the book was trying to tell me how scared everyone was or how frightening the big bad was).

While those were a lot of cons, the bokk had some definite positives. For one, the world was very interesting. I liked Galenorn's Otherworld, and some of the strange creatures in it (like the Corpse Talker, she was really interesting). I liked the idea that when the Earth and the Otherworld split apart, some beings chose to stay (like Titania or the vampire Dracula). And the Otherworld itself seemed really interesting (even though I didn't get much of a chance to see it, just whatrver Camille told me and a very small glimpse at the end).

Witchling is also a quick read, so that was a plus. I don't think I would've finished it otherwise.

So yes. Overall Witchling wasn't really my kind of book. So I probably won't go looking for Changeling now. :( But that's ok. I'm glad I gave the series a shot. :)


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Equal Rites

My original plan after finishing Warbreaker was to read Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay.  But with how epic in proportion Warbreaker was (and suspecting that Under Heaven may be of a similar scope), I decided to look for something completely different.  What I decided on was Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett.  Equal Rites was an odd choice, especially considering I wasn't very fond of Guards! Guards! earlier this year.  But I knew that I wouldn't have to take it at all seriously.  Besides, it is the first Discworld book featuring the witches.  I read Wyrd Sisters years ago and enjoyed it; I was willing to take a chance on this one.

Equal Rites is the story of Eskarina Smith.  She's the eight daughter of an eighth son.  A wizard passes his staff onto her at her birth, believing she is the eight son of an eight son.  He only realizes his mistake too late to change it. 

For the first several years of Esk's life, nothing remarkable happens.  Granny Weatherwax, the village's witch, had attempted to destroy the wizard staff to no avail; wizards are men, witches are women; there's no such thing as a female wizard.  So instead, it was forgotten in a corner of Esk's father's blacksmith.  But when Esk is threatened, it is quick to come to her rescue.  And with Esk suddenly exhibiting magic, Granny convinces Esk's parents to let her train the girl.  Unfortunately, Esk's magic proves to be the wizarding kind.  And so the two of them set off to try to convince the Unseen University to properly train Esk in wizardry.

The first half of the book is pretty great.  Esk is a very willful girl, who refuses to let anything stop her from getting to Ankh-Morpork.  It leads to some hilarious adventures, like when she goes up to a caravan leader and ends up asking the way to the city when he refuses to let her come with him.  When he realizes she is going to walk on the dangerous, bandit-laden roads on her own, he hurriedly goes after her to let her come with the caravan.

Unfortunately, once Esk makes it to the Unseen University, her story really loses its charm.  She was laughed at by the wizards, so she seems to take their words to heart.  She actually throws her staff away into the river at one point, after it hits her friend, Simon (she doesn't realize it, but the staff saves her and the University from him).

Luckily Granny Weatherwax is there for the rest of the book!  Granny Weatherwax is rather like the older version of Esk - she is determined and won't let other people stop her.  She barges into the University's dining hall (where women are NOT allowed) and ends up in a wizarding battle with the Arch-chancellor.  They have to break off their battle when other students tell them Esk has left her body in an attempt to rescue Simon (he had never woken back up after being hit by Esk's staff).  So they form an unlikely friendship trying to save the two young people.  I don't really know what Granny Weatherwax's feelings were on the matter, but the Arch-chancellor definitely found himself admiring Granny's figure and otherwise being somewhat tempted away from his celibate life.

Although it sort of lost it in parts, Equal Rites was a pretty fun romp through the Discworld.  I definitely preferred it to Guards! Guards!, although I don't think it was as much fun as either Wyrd Sisters or Reaper Man.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Warbreaker

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson is a book I've been interested in reading for a long time. Earlier this week I hurt my head and was told to limit my screen time. So I've spent the week reading (which is why this is the third book I've read this week already!) I decided to read Warbreaker because my copy is a hardcover; since I'm not going far this week, it seemed like the perfect time to read it.

Warbreaker is about the two Idrian princesses, Vivenna and Siri. Their father signed a treaty with Hallandren years ago, promising a Hallandren princess would be wed to the Hallandren God King at Vivenna' s 21st birthday. Everyone is surprised when their father sends Siri instead of Vivenna. Vivenna has spent her entire life training for this. Siri has not. So Vivenna decides to go to Hallandren to rescue her sister.

Siri is woefully unprepared to deal with the politics of the priests and pantheon of Hallandren. In Hallandren, they worship the Returned as gods and goddesses. The Returned are people who come back after they have been killed; they're believed to have visions of the future in their dreams. So they are pampered - having servants and a priesthood dedicated to providing for their every wants and needs. In their turn, the Returned are expected to give up their divine Breath to heal someone eventually.

One of the current pantheon is Lightsong the Bold. He completely refuses to believe in his own divinity. He does everything he can to shirk his divine duties (and is very much annoyed that no matter what be does, people seem to follow him and believe in him anyway). 

Lightsong crosses paths with Siri in the court. He is the one to realize that she is truly unprepared for where life has sent her - she is as naive as she looks. 

And of course, Siri being Siri, she starts to assert herself in hee own way. Which leads to a surprising development with the God King.

Meanwhile, Vivenna arrives in Hallandren and discovers she is woefully unprepared for life in the colourful city. She makes the acquaintance of some mercenaries, Denth and Tonka Dah, who agree to help her try to rescue her sister. And as war between Hallandren and Idris seems to loom ever closer, they help her try to disrupt the war to give her outnumbered people a better chance.

And I loved how people of one faith  (generally Vivenna from Idris) interacted with people of another faith. For example, Vivenna found out that one of the mercenaries, Jewels, gave her Breath to the God King when she was a child. Vivenna pitied her, believing it was a horrible thing and that she had to have been coerced or otherwise forced into it. But no, Jewels is proud of giving her Breath away. Confronted with that, Vivenna tries to rationalize it with her own faith....and can't. This sort of thing happened with Vivenna over and over again, always in different ways. It was a fantastic way of showing how different people viewed the world and how someone's beliefs can challenge your own. And the beliefs all came naturally from the world Sanderson built. I loved it!!!

Oh, I haven't really touched on the mystery in the book either. Lightsong takes interest in a murder that happened in one of the other goddess' palaces. Everyone else takes no notice of it. But he does, investigating and interviewing witnesses. He finds he's quite capable, which leads him to investigate what else he might be good at - what other memories came back with him from his life before he Returned (which he can't remember).

Oh and I need to also mention Vasher and the mysterious sword he carries, Nightblood. Nightblood is sentient and completely hilarious (which is the exact opposite of Vasher, who is stoic and says very little). The sword has no real understanding of time passing, and seems to think everyone is talking to it almost all the time. It was great.

Another interesting duo were Denth and Tonka Fah. They were always spouting off "mercenary humour," complaining about why no one like mercenaries. They (mainly Denth) were the ones who started to open Vivenna eyes about the way she looked down on the people around her (even though her religion said not to, and she is extremely pious). Sanderson's treatment of them was fantastic - their betrayal hit me like a punch to the gut in much the same way it hit Vivenna.

The God King was another interesting character. Siri discovers he has no tongue and is largely ignorant of life in general. But he is gentle and has a large intelligence in his eyes. She teaches him how to read and write in secret; as they begin to communicate, they end up truly falling in love. 

So yes. Warbreaker gives us political intrigue, war, mystery, love, betrayal, a fantastic plot that keeps you guessing, great characters, a fantastic world and an incredible magic system that revolves around colours and Breath. I absolutely loved this book! It is hands down the best fantasy I've read since Naomi Novik's Uprooted. Loved it, loved it, loved it!!!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Harley Quinn

Over the last few months, I read all of the Harley Quinn graphic novels I could get my hands on.  I didn't mark them down on Goodreads because I didn't feel like using them for my reading challenge.  But I thought I should say something about them on here. 

I started with the three Harley Quinn rebirth volumes that are out so far (#4 comes out in January).  I think that was back in September when I started them.  Then when I finished those, I started in on the series that came before Rebirth (which had six volumes). Most of the volumes are available on Hoopla, so I read them there.  But two of them weren't; luckily I was able to get them from the library.

I don't remember why exactly I started reading these, but I really enjoyed them.  Harley herself has a heart of gold - she's just a bit misguided in her means.  These stories also aren't your typical super-hero stories: she does kill people without remorse when they break her code. 

I really liked the Rebirth series....but it was a little confusing at first because she's already got all her friends and her building and her Gang of Harleys.  So it was good to go back and read the series before Rebirth because it explained everything that happened to get her to that point.  I'm really looking forward to the next volume in the new year. :)