Post Delayed

really wanted to get a post up this week on a specific topic – but I’m researching and with the past few weeks real-life-work has been in the way (my husband can attest… seriously awesomely insane).

So this is just a post to tell you that I am working on post! But I am trying to make it really awesome (and with my self-set standards… yeah)

Review: The Bees

I have to admire an author who tackles something truly alien. Sci-fi writers have to really take an alien species and make them different. Some do this well, some don’t.  I would argue it’s even harder to take something real and make it familiar while also keeping it’s truthfully alien nature consistent.  I give kudos to Laline Paull for attempting this in The Bees.

The overarching plot is about a beehive where an unusual worker bee is born. Initially supposed to be in sanitation, she has the honor of working a variety of jobs through her hive; nursery, foraging, even tending the queen and the males in their aristocratic arrogance.

So the good and the bad are laced together in this book: Paull tackled a monumental task of trying to anthropomorphize a creature which is incredibly alien to human behaviors. Honestly, I have to give a lot of leeway just on the courage to even attempt it!  It isn’t perfect, there are some fudges with what their society is like, why some bees seem to have some individual personality while others don’t.  But really, trying to mesh human emotions onto a hive mind – well I think as far as Herculean tasks go Paull did about as well as I think anyone could! It wasn’t perfect, but damn there were some really good parts.

Honestly, my favorite parts were probably when Flora 717 was acting the most like a bee: foraging for nectar. Some of this is in the description of navigating the world. The threats and relationships between ants, bees, wasps, and spiders – the entire thing could have just been about this and I might have enjoyed it! The dancing to describe location and the sense of storytelling in the dancing… first off it made me remember my childhood experiences on field trips where we got to see the inside of a hive and watch the dancing.

I think the description of the hive itself was the weakest element. It was too human. There were halls and canteens and quarters… and I think I know what Paull was going for, but there sometimes was a break from the immersion as a bee because Flora 717 talked about a “gleaming hall” or something of the sort.

The reviews on Goodreads seemed like they were all either 5’s or 2’s and I can see why. This was an ambitious task and Paull tried really hard to walk the line between creating an anthropomorphized adventure and giving insight into how bees might live if they were just a little more human. Personally, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to anyone nerdy enough to tackle knowing about bees.  But go in with an open mind. Don’t expect humanity and don’t expect them to be like real-life bees either. Paull hit somewhere in the middle.

Overall: 3.5/5

SCOTUS: Upcoming

Ok, my nerd is coming out again. I really like the times when Supreme Court hears cases… I know, it’s weird! But the court does a lot more educated responses to some of the important questions of our legal system – our laws, the process, all of it.  Unlike politicians who just say whatever will get them ratings – I mean votes – the Supreme Court Justices put time and thought into their responses.

Supreme Court of the Unites States (SCOTUS) is listening to arguments beginning today.  I am a little stoked about some of the questions they are looking at:

  • If someone is charged monetary penalties when convicted of a crime, but it’s later overturned/reverse – should the state then require the person prove innocence or have to reimburse the monetary penalty? (Nelson v. Colorado)
  • Is it legal to require merchants to communicate the higher price via credit card as “discount” and not a credit-card “surcharge” instead? Is this unconstitutional restriction of free speech? (Expression Hair Design v. Scheiderman, Attorney General of NY)
  • What level of education is required to be delivered to disabled children per Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? (Endrew v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1)

(click on the name of the case to see more from SCOTUSBlog)

These are the three of the five cases being heard next week that I am curious how they will turn out – and not just in the immediate decision but some of the long-term implications.

The first one is directly related to due process – in Colorado apparently when your conviction is overturned, in order to get back the monetary penalty you paid, you have to prove you were innocent.  So the big argument being presented is that this rule is in violation of constitutional due process; especially because in order to get their funds back, the person has to go to civil court – so no guarantee of help from an attorney (they would have to pay out of their own pocket for council).  The implications of allowing states to arrest/imprison someone, charge them fines, reverse the charges, and still get to keep the money they charged?  Kind of terrifying actually.  I know I hope the SCOTUS votes heavily on the side of “pay the people back the money which you shouldn’t have taken in the first place!”

The second one is interesting because I have been annoyed by this so much – gas stations especially will do a “discount” if you use THEIR card or cash.  Really it’s a “+$.03 per gallon” up-charge because they get charged fees by the card-swiping providers.  Knowing that doesn’t make me happier to see it marketed as a “discount” – it’s not. Not in my world. (FYI, there is a provision in Frank-Dodd to help keeps these fees in check, so if F-D gets tossed out by the current legislation – this up-charge might become greater!).  I really hope SCOTUS throws these laws off the books. Pretty much universally, the laws are written so it doesn’t make the card-companies look bad (don’t say we [card companies] charge you more! But if you wanted to call it a discount instead… well, then we aren’t the bad guy now are we!).  I love the free speech argument (let us be truthful!), but apparently the other side is using regulating economic conduct as their basis – which might have some legitimacy.

The long-term consequences both in terms of Free Speech and economics have this case (a) in high contention and (b) creating some really interesting amicus briefs… (I know, I’m a nerd!)

The last case is the most emotional in my opinion and speaks to some of the greater issues which are going on: education.  The specifics of the case have to do with a boy with Austim not making much progress in public education so his parents put him in private school.  “Suddenly,” he made significant progress (almost like the private school put some effort into it…).  His parents wanted some reimbursement for the cost of the private school tuition (you know, because public school might have failed their kid) and were denied.

I won’t lie, I am really struggling on this case. On the one hand, I pretty much 100% believe the public school did a shitty job helping this kid actually learn/improve.  NOT because public schools are inherently bad but because they tend to have the lowest paid staff, the least assistance from external sources, and the fewest resources (books, games, etc.) to help them with anyone “outside the box.” So yeah, I bet a private school who could specialize or utilize unique resources did a better job.

On the other hand, I hate the idea of draining more money from a school system. See my list of WHY the school failed the kid in the first place… now his parents want to take money from supporting the other kids in that system for their special-little-snowflake (and he is! I need to write a blog about snowflakes and how in my world that both is-and-is-not an insult…).  If this precedence gets set that parents get to set the “expectations” for their disabled kids and if schools don’t meet it they get to get into private schools on tax-payer dollars… (ok, I know i’m exaggerating… I said it was an emotional case for me!).  I know it’s a small percentage of the population, but it is still a precedence I am not sure I want to see set.

In Summation: So the first two I have opinions on how the court rules. The third…. I am not sure what I want the court to do because I’m not sure I like either result! The problem is that the underlying issue (public schools are horribly funded & managed) can’t get fixed by SCOTUS and it doesn’t look like the current powers-that-be nationally have the slightest interest or inclination to even try….


Writing: Plots and Twists, Oh my!

So I have a plot idea where the main character has to make a choice. She will not have good options.

Option #1: she uses the magic to cure herself of a curse which is painful, incites danger around her, and probably killed her master. BUT her family is missing (and possibly being tortured and/or enslaved because of HER) and will probably NEVER be found if she does this… AND has a chance that it might expose the flaws in the “protections” of her homeland… might.

Option #2: free her family. BUT she will have to continue living with a curse that most likely will destroy either herself or any kind of friends or family. AND will definitely expose her homeland to very-likely invasion.

Option #3: run-away and try to “escape” the curse – or at least stay ahead of it. Protects her homeland but her family will remain “lost” (and presumed to be in terrible torment).

There are no good options. Once she understands the plight and the costs… she must choose and no matter her choice there will be consequences of a dire sort. I am deciding exactly what choice she will make and envisioning what each one would make as far as book 2  – does she quest for different answers and seek new magic; does she have to fight the invasion of a horrible army (not actually that horrible – they have pretty damn good reasons to hate her people!); or does she free herself of the burden of her own curse to try to protect her homeland (which will fail) so she can use her own considerable magic to attempt to prevent invasion…..

I almost want to write the book with all three endings and then write all three sequels. Would definitely be something new and different….

Review: The Emperor’s Arrow

The book The Emperor’s Arrow was a short, simple read – something to help me relax and not have to think too much.  And it was perfect. It is about and Amazon – sorry “Amazzi” warrior/noble woman who has been sent by her people as their representative in the emperor’s search for a bride. What she doesn’t know before arriving is that emperor needs her help – his empire is seething with resentments from the wars he has fought and the nobles plot against him.

The style is third-person limited omniscient and the author (Lauren D.M. Smith) uses it well. There were a few times I wish I had been following someone ELSE, but overall that just made me want to go on to the next chapter where I might find out where that other character went.

It is an idealized Alexander The Great/Caesar emperor that is referenced in the title “conquered the world before thirty” sort of dude. Only he didn’t die. He came home and had to rule the damn mess.  I kind of feel sorry for him in that way, but on the other hand it is fun to read these idealized hero-types.  He is stereotypical: a warrior with that tragic moment in his past that makes him cut out relationship – until SHE shows up. As long as you aren’t looking for a new kind of man, he’s a good character. Realistic within his world.

The politics were a both a little heavy-handed in a few places and yet the wording itself was at times confusing (so wait, he cut the loyal females from the bridal competition?) I’m not quite sure because you are trying to be vague about WHO is the possible villain… By the time he narrowed down to ~5-6 contestants, there were really only about 2 possible ones.

That said, Smith threw a nice little twist towards the end I hadn’t expected – so total kudos for surprising me with an accomplice I didn’t anticipate!

As I said in the beginning, this wasn’t supposed to be a life-altering book. But it was fun and it kept me turning the pages. I thought Smith did some thing very well: consistency in her tone & language.  Especially when she uses her own personal measurement system for time and distance – this is no small thing.  I would have liked more depth on what various ranks meant: what is the difference between a Princep and a Rector? It wasn’t unbearable and it didn’t per say detract from the overall tone, but I love those details and wanted more.

If you want an easy, escapist read – this is a book I can recommend.  Beware, it is a PG-13/borderline R rating (imo) due to sexually explicit content & graphic violence. It isn’t the worst I’ve ever read of either concept, but it is not a children’s book (probably not really young-YA either – like college-age YA sure).