Wednesday, December 27, 2017

"You're in the Wrong Bathroom!": And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions about Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People

I saw this book awhile ago and was interested in reading it.  I have a close friend who is trans and didn't want to burden her with all of my questions.

You're in the Wrong Bathroom! is exactly what it says it is: the book goes through 21 myths about trans people and gives you the real facts.  A few myths in I was kind of laughing to myself - the facts invariably for every myth are that people are different and no one's experience is the same.  That's true of cisgendered people; why wouldn't it also be true of trans people?

You're in the Wrong Bathroom! was a really fast read.  My major complaint was that it is an American book and focusses mainly on things in the States (although it does bring up some statistics and anecdotes from the rest of the world).  I would be interested in knowing more about how things are in other countries (although it does cover a bit of that, particularly in Myth 19).  All in all, I learned a bit and am glad I read it. :)

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.